The Benefit of Being Selfish
Staring up at the cloudless blue sky, Aqua couldn't help but compare it to her current state of mind, realizing how much of a contrast there was. She felt like her mind was a raging storm, unrelenting and violent in its ways. She was worried, scared, confused, angry, and sad all at once, and he couldn't help but feel that she was utterly at a loss for solutions.
The wooded areas around the Castle of Dreams were much different during the daytime than they were at night, so in her wanderings, Aqua quickly lost her bearings. It was partially the fault of her distracted and restless mind, but there were other reasons as well. She was worried about Terra, who had been acting strangely for the last little while, and Ven, who had taken a sudden leap in his independence and set out on his own. Being who she was, she wanted to make sure they were alright, but she didn't want them to think she was babying them.
'They're not children, despite what I may think. Terra's old enough to handle himself, and Ven can compete with the best of us. I need to start thinking that they're mature enough, but I can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. Something doesn't feel right about all of this…'
Rustling in the bushes near her brought her back out of her thoughts and she stood ready, prepared to summon her Keyblade at a moment's notice. The rustling got closer and closer until Aqua thought she would snap, but when the rustling stopped and she was no longer alone, she relaxed, even if only slightly.
Her company was a boy around Ven's age, and she could almost instantly tell something about him was off, slightly unnatural. Unlike the formal male attire of the world, he was dressed in a baggy red t-shirt with long sleeves and loose black pants. Confusingly, he was covered in bandages, all of the visible skin of his arms to the tips of his fingers and up to his chin hidden in white, though it didn't look like he was injured. His eyes were a haunting color of yellow, and his mop-like black hair was slick and pushed back off his face, giving him a greasy appearance.
Though she was suspicious of him, he looked like he meant her no harm. "Can I help you?"
He smiled, a slimy one that looked like he was laughing at a private joke. "It looks to me like you're the one who needs help." His voice seemed almost familiar, but she couldn't place what it was or where she'd heard it.
"I don't need help at all. It's nice of you to offer, but…"
He was chuckling. "No, no, you look like you're lost. The woods around here are pretty confusing."
"Alright, thank you." Together, they started walking through the trees. The suspicious feeling was continuing to build in her chest as they walked, so she decided to try and guess at his intentions. "It seems like you know your way around here quite well," she commented. "Are you from around here?"
"Not quite," he answered, "In a way, I'm a lot like you, wandering around without purpose."
'I'll ignore the 'without purpose' comment for now…' "Then how do you know so much about this place?"
"I've met with some… friends of mine… who know the area quite well. They've done a very good job describing the layout to me."
Aqua almost smirked. "Maybe I could get them to make me a map."
"If only…" she thought she heard him whisper, but the wind in the trees was rustling the leaves, so she wrote it off as her imagination.
"So, how did you end up finding me like that? I thought I was pretty lost."
"It's pretty easy to find something you're looking for."
He gave her a shrug. "You were near a spot I was headed for, so it's just a coincidence."
"Oh… I-I'm sorry, then. I'm distracting you from your intended purpose."
"It's no trouble at all. In fact, this is much more interesting than what I had in mind."
"Torturing innocent civilians."
Aqua was unsure how to respond, not knowing if he meant it or if he was joking. Instead, she glanced off into the trees, trying to ignore the suddenly awkward atmosphere.
"You must think I'm pretty strange," he muttered, and she looked back in time to see him scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "A person like me, wandering through the woods…"
"Actually, I was wondering about the bandages," she said, "Not to be rude, but I'm curious as to what happened."
He seemed genuinely surprised. "These? Oh, they're nothing really. Just some old injuries that I'm somewhat embarrassed of. They… hurt a bit in direct sunlight, so I keep them covered."
"Sounds like something I could heal," she announced. "Would you like me to take a look at them?"
"No, I don't think you'd be able to. Not to insult your skills, but they're beyond the scope of anything that can be fixed. Besides, they're little more than annoyances. Nothing worth worrying about."
Though she felt the need to protest, Aqua shut her mouth and folded her hands in front of her. She was drifting back into her concerned train of thought when they boy spoke again, but she didn't catch what he said. "Excuse me?"
"I said, you look like you have a lot on your shoulders. Anything you'd like to share?"
"Huh? I… How did you?"
He smiled, another one of those slimy smiles. "It's painfully obvious from the look on your face."
"A-am I that easy to read?" she asked, embarrassed.
"Not at all. I've been told that I'm an expert at reading people, so I'm not at all surprised to be able to read you."
Nodding her understanding, she glued her eyes to her feet. "Well, I do have a lot on my mind at the moment, but I wouldn't want to bother you with the boring details."
"You wouldn't be bothering me. In fact, you might just be able to help me with a little problem of my own that way."
"Well, I'm worried about some friends of mine," she explained, staying as vague as possible as her suspicion started growing again, "One of my friends is acting strange. He's not acting like his usual self, and I'm starting to think that he's changing."
He shrugged. "People change all the time. It's a fact of life."
"I know that, but this is different. He's not changing for the better and… I don't know. It sounds silly, but I feel like he's not responsible for the change. I feel like someone is forcing him to change, and he's going along with it because he's confused about what he really wants."
"And the other one?"
"I'm worried about him because he's suddenly so independent. I feel like he's stepping too fast and I'm worried that he's going to hurt himself badly when he trips, if you understand my meaning."
"I see… Well, my only advice to you is this: be a bit more selfish."
Aqua stopped dead in her tracks. "What?" 'That… That reasoning makes no sense.'
He stopped a few steps ahead of her. "Something wrong with that?"
"It's just… I want to help them. Your advice of 'be more selfish' completely contradicts that."
"On the contrary, being selfish is very helpful. It has serviced me favorably throughout my entire life."
'Maybe that's why I don't entirely trust you…' "I'm sorry, but you'll have to explain that to me, because I'm really not seeing it."
He beckoned her to follow, and they continued walking as he talked. "You see, selfishness is thinking about yourself, but it's much more than that. Being selfish is about taking a step back and looking at things differently. You worry about your friends because you're very involved in their lives, and you see yourself as an important part of their lives. You are looking at the situations as such because you're thinking about how you see them. Being selfish allows you to look at a different perspective, one that ignores your relationship to them. Think about yourself. See yourself in the same situation, not thinking about your own emotional attachments to it, and see what you find out. You may gain some valuable information about what's going on in their lives. If you can figure that out, you can understand their motivations, and thus, a way to remedy the situation."
"That's… actually a good point…"
"Also, being selfish allows you to take a better look at yourself. If you look at yourself, you're bound to see yourself as others see you. By being selfish, you can look at yourself with an unbiased opinion and see where your strengths and weaknesses truly lie. Then, you will know how best to use your abilities to help the friends you're so worried about."
Though something about his words seemed strange, it made sense to her. "And you do this a lot?"
"All the time. In fact, I live by it."
Still, Aqua didn't feel convinced. "It's just… It always struck me as the wrong way to look at things. Doesn't being selfish all the time… get lonely?"
He gave it a moment of though, his eyebrows knit together in confusion. "I wouldn't know," he finally answered, shrugging.
"And why's that?"
"I've never had anyone else around, so I wouldn't know what being lonely is like."
She suddenly felt sorry for him, no matter how shocked she was. 'No one should be alone that even loneliness is foreign to them. What kind of life has he led?' Before she had a chance to ask, the trees parted and they arrived at the outer edge of the forest, the road leading into town sprawled out in front of them.
"Well," he turned to her, "This seems to be the place where we part ways. I'm sure you have other things to attend to, so I'll leave you to them."
"Are you sure?"
"Aren't you the one who's busy? You have your friends to help."
She smiled. "Right. Sorry. We probably won't meet ever again, but…"
"Are you sure? I have the feeling that we'll meet again very, very soon." He bowed. "Until then, I wish you luck." He turned and walked back into the trees, waving over his shoulder.
"Wait, I-" she started, but he had disappeared. She sighed. "I never got to ask him his name…" Shrugging, she called her armor, summoned her Keyblade, and left on her Rider.
Standing in the trees, he watched her leave, his glossy black helmet tucked under one arm. Inside, he was fuming, but he was smiling on the outside, suppressing laughter. "Maybe I should have told her my name… It might have left a better impression." He shook out his black hair, the long spikes flopping back into his eyes. "Oh well…"