Not to confuse anyone, here's the explination of what this story is:
When I wrote my PreBBS fanfics, my first part, Terra Firma, wasn't very popular. I posted all the chapters at once, and that was the reason why. The first part of the series, however, was the most important part, so I wanted to revive it and reissue some of the central ideas.
There are two differences between this and Terra Firma. The first is that the timeline has been fixed. The timeline for Terra Firma was very off, as MANY people told me, but that problem has been resolved. The second difference is the perspective. For Terra Frima, Aqua was the narrator, but for this, Terra is the narrator.
Anyway, hope you enjoy.
Chapter 1 - Hiding Behind Walls
Land of Departure, Nine years before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
As usual, it was a perfect day in the Land of Departure. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun shining down in immaculate golden rays that made the chained mountains gleam. The air was warm, not the sweltering heat that was usually associated with summer, a light breeze picking up the scents of the world and carrying them around: the sweet smell of flowers, the tangy scent of the trees, the shuddering feel that accompanied the earth-scented air that had been cooled in the shade of the mountains. Outside, birds could be heard chirping and gliding gracefully through the tranquil surroundings, obviously enjoying the pleasant weather as much as anyone.
And, as usual, Terra was spending the day inside, all alone.
It wasn't that he disliked the outdoors; in fact, he loved them more than anyone. Being outside reminded him of home, no matter how painful the memories were. The natural surroundings were part of who he was, a part of the fabric of his being. His aversion to the outdoors was being out there alone. The expansiveness made him feel small and, more than anything, reminded him of home. He didn't want to think of the things that had happened to bring him to the Land of Departure, the reason why his home world was an uninhabited rock.
It would have been a perfect day for training, but Eraqus had excused himself early from breakfast and had disappeared into the confines of the castle, obviously doing some work that he didn't want Terra to disturb. That was fine. Terra knew that whatever it was wouldn't last all day. There was still time for an afternoon training session, which gave him time for a cool down after his morning workout. So, his shower-wet hair sticking to his skin, he had made his way to the library.
The Land of Departure hosted a library beyond compare, making it one of the largest rooms in the castle. The walls were a celestial white, artistically tarnished golden vines snaking up around and between the bookshelves. Each bookcase was ornately crafted and each section was made out of a different kind of wood, the color and style reflective of the books it contained. Some were brown wood, their sides straight and varnished to a perfect shine, golden metal strips along the shelves adding glamour to their simplistic looks. Others were redwood, the sides and shelves thick and knotted, giving observers the impression that the tree itself had adjusted to accommodate the books. A large stand stood between a few of the more ornate shelves, prepared for the ancient tomes that couldn't be moved to better locations. A few tables were interspersed between some of the newer shelves. One end of the room was entirely made of windows, the curved walls giving a beautiful view of the world's splendor. The floor in that corner of the room was lower than that of the rest, giving way to a large fountain that lazily spewed water up and over its edge. The bottom half of the wall was lined by large, comfortable couches, their soft cushions practically swallowing up anyone how sat down on them.
Walking along the shelves, Terra had grabbed one of the heavier books at random, hefted it under one arm, and made his way to the couches. He had dropped the book onto the couch and opened a few of the windows, letting the refreshing breeze into the stifling room, and then proceeded to read. The library was one of his favorite rooms in the castle purely because of its homeliness. It was the kind of room that seemed to make time inconsequential.
He was partway into the book, "Legends of the Keyblade War", when he heard the large library doors open. Only one other person resided in the castle, so Terra went back to his book, not at all bothered by the interruption. Eraqus' armored boot clicked on the floor, setting a comfortable rhythm as he got closer.
"Terra, we have work to do."
Terra mentally groaned and rolled his eyes, the only outward display of his annoyance a slight twitch of his lips. He'd established a mask for himself over the past couple years, hiding all of his emotion away behind him. Eraqus frequently tried to coax him out of it, but the protective second face stuck to him like glue. He barely even remembered it was there, so used to the numb feeling in his chest that accompanied it. 'Work? Really? On a day like this? Guess I shouldn't be complaining. We haven't had any work in ages. I was starting to feel neglected.'
Eraqus sat down beside him, the cushion scrunching silenced by the gurgling fountain. "It's a routine assignment, just some Heartless. The usual stuff. It won't take long, but I want you to come with me. Get us out of the rigors of training for a day or so."
"Where?" he asked, looking at his Master over the side of the book.
"It's pretty far from here, so the trip alone will take the rest of the day. The world is a seaside country and the Heartless have been spotted in the capital, which lies right along the coast."
Terra cringed again. He hated water with a passion. 'But work is work. I'm not letting the Master leave me behind while he goes to fight Heartless.' "Alright." Recomposing his mask one more time, he wormed his way off the couch and returned the book to its place on the shelf as Eraqus closed the windows. Running one last organization check, they headed out.
Aqua's home world, Nine years before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
By the time they arrived, Terra was beginning to feel sore. Eraqus had neglected to mention exactly how far the world was from the Land of Departure. The trip took them the rest of the day, the sun skimming the watery horizon by the time they landed on the beach. The sand shifted under Terra's feet as he jumped off his Rider, burying him up to his ankles and sending sand trickling into his armor. He dismissed his armor and sat down in the sand, shaking the sand out from between his toes and his Rider shifted back into Earth Shaker, spraying sand as it made a crater in the beach.
"Already tired of the beach?" Eraqus asked, striding over as he dismissed his own Keyblade.
Terra only responded by glaring up through his hair, shaking the sand off his foot. The smell of salt had already started to make his nose twitch. Everything about the world was making him feel uncomfortable, but not just in the displeased sense. Something felt… different, a sentiment he couldn't place.
"You've sensed it too, then?"
Terra looked up at his master. "What is it?"
"A powerful light exists in this world. A powerful heart…"
"A Keyblade wielder?"
Eraqus shook his head, casting his eyes out towards the horizon. "Not yet. The potential is there, but it seems they haven't awakened to it yet. It's not a very strong potential now, so it'll hard to pinpoint, but it should become clear who it is soon enough."
"I want to see for myself," Terra announced after a few long moments of silence.
Master and pupil met glances before Eraqus sighed and nodded. "Meet back here in an hour. I'll find the person in charge of this world in the meantime. If you're late, I'll start the mission without you."
"I know." Attaching another keychain to Earth Shaker, it morphed into Terra Firma, a smaller, lighter Keyblade. Earth Shaker, with its massive size and weight, was too much for Terra's short, child body to wield. Though the weight was only reduced by a third of its total, the difference in size made it more manageable, even if it still required two hands to use. Dismissing that, Terra made his way down the beach, mentally beginning his tirade of complaints as he slipped and sunk into the sand. Eventually, the sandy beach gradually gave way to more rocky ground until Terra found himself clambering over rocks and having to use his arms to hoist himself up onto ledges. The rhythm of physical activity almost made him forget his discomfort of the environment until he heard a scratching sound and a scream. 'Heartless!' Reflex took over and Terra flipped himself up onto the ledge, summon his Keyblade the moment his hands left the rocky surface. In one swing, the four Shadow Heartless dissipated. Looking around, he couldn't find or sense anymore, but he made sure not to drop his guard.
"Um, e-excuse me?" a voice from behind him asked, "Did you see some odd black things around here? I-I'm pretty sure they were here just a…"
He turned slightly, looking over his shoulder. As their gaze met, the girl trailed off, staring at him in awe before her eyes drifted down to his Keyblade. She was about his age and looked very tomboyish, her vibrantly blue hair cropped short. In the second that their eyes had met, Terra felt his heart skip and a tingle run down his spine, but the feeling passed as suddenly as it came. 'She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting jumped by Heartless like that. Nothing new. …I'll be late if I don't leave now. I'm sure she'll be okay on her own.' Without another thought, Terra walked off, jumping off the ledge and dismissing his Keyblade as he jogged along the beach. The atmosphere was finally getting to him, the breeze coming off the water giving him chills as he started to sweat in his heavy clothes.
Eraqus was waiting when he returned to their section of the beach, water from the tide having filled the deep depression their arrival had made. "You just made it back in time. Any later and I was going to head off without you," Eraqus said, a small smile on his face.
"You know you wouldn't," Terra replied, lips twitching into a matching smile, an eyebrow raised, "You'd track me down out of guilt later, and that would be too much work."
"You've made your point. Find anything interesting on your stroll?"
Terra thought it over for a minute. 'No need to tell him now. Three or four stray Shadows don't make for a Heartless hunting mission.' "Nothing really. You found the leader?"
"Yes. He's the President of the country, which consists of most - if not all - of this continent. His office is his place of residence. It's on the other side of the city. I haven't gone there yet." It was Eraqus' way of saying that he had been waiting patiently for the right time. If they were to operate within this world, Eraqus wanted to make sure the world's leader was well-informed of the situation and of their activities.
As he had said, the President's office was more of a house, a large white building on the other side of the city. By the time they reached it and were crossing the front lawn, the sun had set behind the tall buildings surrounding it, casting everything into night. Something about the place stuck Terra as off, but he put it from his mind. The entrance to the building was guarded by two massive doors and led into a hallway. A staircase that dominated the entire wall facing the door lead up to the second floor. A desk off to one side of the entrance was attended by a secretary, who looked up at their arrival and, with significant confusion, stood up and met them. "Can I help you with something?"
"I'd like to speak with the President about urgent matters," Eraqus announced, shaking the secretary's hand calmly.
The secretary seemed only more confused. "I'm sorry, but the President's office hours are over. If you'd like, I can schedule you in for-"
"I'm afraid these matters can't wait until tomorrow. I promise these matters won't take long, abut this must be dealt with immediately."
"Uh…" The secretary seemed so dumbfounded that he couldn't reply in a proper sentence. He nodded and headed up the stairs and out of sight. He returned a moment later and waved them up the stairs and down the hall to another large set of doors. Inside was a man seated at his desk. In a formal suit and tie, his silvery hair combed back neatly off his face, Terra assumed he was the President. The girl he had met on the beach was sitting on the desk, surprise evident on her face at seeing him again.
Eraqus wasted no time in introducing himself. "I am Eraqus, Keyblade Master, head of the Keyblade order, and caretaker of the Land of Departure." He gestured to Terra and he responded with a respectful bow. "This is Terra, my apprentice. I thank you for agreeing to see us at such a late hour."
The President stood up from his desk and shook the Master's hand. "Not at all. I'm President Tatsuza Nozume, but if you're coming here on such important business, I'm sure you already knew that," he added with a chuckle. "This is my daughter, Aqua."
The girl sitting on the desk jumped down and curtsied in her shorts, the picture of a president's daughter. "Nice to meet you."
Terra, still neutral, tuned her out as the President began talking to Eraqus. "It's surprising that someone is so insistent to see me. I try to be very open with my citizens, but it's another thing when I get a request for an audience from the leader of another world. What can I help you with?"
Aqua, meanwhile, had walked in front of him, trying to be friendly and smile. This single gesture annoyed Terra and he tried to ignore her and listen in, but she stretched up on her tiptoes and reentered his line of sight. He cringed, the skin at the edges of his face scrunching together in his outward expression of annoyance. It seemed for a split second that she had dropped the idea until her hand was waving in front of his face, trying to get his attention.
He wasn't the only one whose attention she drew. "Aqua, don't do that. It's rude," the President reprimanded, sounding only slightly annoyed, a testament to his patience.
"Sorry," she blushed with embarrassment.
"Please excuse my apprentice," Eraqus explained pointedly, "He's not comfortable around people, so he pretends to ignore them to spare himself trouble." Terra directed a glare at his Master, one that very clearly expressed his anger, but Eraqus pretended not to notice.
Aqua apparently found the exchange funny, giggling out, "I just wanted to thank him for saving me earlier."
Both Eraqus and the President looked at Aqua in surprise before Eraqus directed his gaze at Terra. Eraqus had taken to communicating in public with Terra through facial expressions, a language they had both become fluent in. Eraqus' expression was almost smug in its understanding and question. Terra replied with an affirmative.
The President, however, was too busy confronting his daughter to catch the exchange. "What do you mean, Aqua?"
"I was at the beach earlier and I saw these little black things with yellow eyes," she explained, "They came at me and I… kinda got scared, and when I looked up, he was there and the black things were gone. So, I figured it was him who got rid of them."
"More 'moving shadows'," he sighed, before turning to Terra with an appreciate smile. "Well, it seems I owe you my thanks as well, for saving my daughter."
Terra, knowing better than to waste their chance by explaining that it had been an accident, kept his mouth shut and nodded. Eraqus placed a hand on his shoulder, pleased with his handling of the situation. "Though he may seem ungrateful, he also knows that it's his job. Those creatures, 'moving shadows' as you call them, are in fact Heartless, beings that we who wield the Keyblade are hunting. The power of the Keyblade is not to be taken lightly. Keyblades are very powerful weapons, designed to fight creatures, like the Heartless, who threaten the balance of the universe. Of course, Keyblades are very selective of their wielders, making their powers desired by many who cannot wield it themselves. We've come here to defeat the Heartless residing in your world, and to prevent them from coming back," he added, "With your permission, of course."
Though he seemed overwhelmed, the president nodded. "You have my permission, but we'll have to discuss the finer details before I let you go about your business. Politics and all that stuff; you know how it is. The discussions, I presume, can wait until morning?"
"Of course," Eraqus agreed, giving Terra a sideways glance, "We've traveled a long way to get here, and I'm sure my apprentice is tired."
Terra replied with a raised eyebrow. 'Tired? What kind of nonsense is that? I don't tire out that easily. He's just making excuses.' Eraqus confirmed this, mirroring the expression.
The President accepted the lie easily. "There's plenty of space here at my home, so you're welcome to stay here until you can find accommodations more to your liking." He stood up and led Master Eraqus out into the hall, explaining some details of the recent events to him. Terra cast one more glance back into the office, meeting Aqua's eyes before he turned and followed the adults down the hall. The President showed them to two rooms, wishing them a good night before he went back the way they'd come.
The smaller of the two rooms went to Terra, but Eraqus lingered, closing the door and sitting down on the bed as Terra looked around.
Terra looked over his shoulder at his Master. "Well what?"
"What do you think?"
"He's generous. I didn't expect him to invite us to stay here."
"And his daughter? You saved her."
"I stumbled across her. I didn't even notice her until after the Heartless were gone."
Eraqus let out a sigh. "You follow the doctrines too well. Terra, you're carrying all the burdens of the world on your shoulders when you don't need to."
"I don't need help. I'm fine."
"I know how you live, Terra. I know how you hide." Eraqus stood up. "Just don't let it hurt you too much."
Terra watched his Master as he left, leaving the young apprentice alone. Despite denying his fatigue earlier, it caught up with him suddenly and he lay down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Slowly and with great care, he dismantled his emotional mask, each layer making his chest ache. When the final layer came undone, Terra felt tears streaming from his eyes, feeling even more tired than before. He curled up on his side, hugging his knees, and fell into a deep sleep.