Aoi Hyoudou: As you may or may not know this, my old computer couldn't connect to the Internet no matter what I do thanks to a computer virus, of some sort. Therefore, all my files are still inside the old (H)-drive. I don't have the cash to buy a memory drive to copy all the files. So, I have to redo all my updates from scrap again. Such a nuisance. And the worst part, my new computer, for some strange reason, don't want to run Microsoft Window Office 2010 60-day free trial. So, I have to use Notepad, as my last resort since I can't use Word or Word Processor, for that matter without the program, which totally sucks... And I don't want to spend 170.00 dollars just to buy the real one. Anyway, I'll try my best to post as much updates ASAP. For now, just enjoy this chapter that I work so hard to make up for lost time.


Radiant Garden

Part 2

{...}

Eight weeks. It'd been eight unforgivable weeks since Ash first woke up in Radiant Garden and accepted Merlin's offer. And eight grueling weeks since he started his training regime with Leon and co. It had been two painful months for the young ebony haired teen. The training sessions that Leon put him through each single day were unlike anything he had ever gone through within the six years of his career as a Pokémon Trainer. Each lesson was completely hellish, one after the next. And there was still more to come.

It was a living nightmare.

But somehow—Ash survived.

He endured it all. No matter how tough it looked or how intense it got when training with Leon or Tifa, not once did he ever throw in the towel and say, "I quit!" No. He continued to work hard until he pushed himself to his limits and beyond them, to prove to everyone that he was no pushover. That was his way and no one could change that - not Leon - not Tifa - and of course not even Aqua herself.

As for his progress after spending eight straight weeks training with the Restoration Committee and a Keyblade Master, it was actually going smoothly, with a few hits and misses along the way. His speed and evasion had gotten better since the beginning. Although... his sword skills still needed some work. It did improve in some areas, like attacking and parrying, but it still wasn't to the level of his two sword masters. However, the auburn eyed teen did learn a few new tricks from Tifa in the area of hand-to-hand combat, in case he needed them when he's facing off against tough opponents.

But still... even Ash knew that he still had a long way to go. He somehow got the feeling that he needed to proceed on his journey. With time running short on him and with Sora, Riku, Kairi's arrival approaching in less than two weeks, he needed to focus harder than ever on his training.

That is... if nothing distracted him along the way, of course.

"Haa...!"

CLANG!

In a shower of sparks, Ash's Oathkeeper and Leon's Gunblade clashed in a fierce deadlock, with neither of the two competitors backing down from one another. It was another day. Ash and Leon were engaging in a friendly but competitive sparring match with their friends, apart from Merlin who was currently missing and nowhere to be seen, watching them from the sides. The spar was taking place in the Borough district just outside of Merlin's place where the battle was starting to pick up.

Ash and Leon made eye contact with one another. Neither of them said a word. But by their body language they were telling each other to step up their game, which they gladly did.

The pair smirked at one another before breaking away from the deadlock and skidding backwards. Soon the novice Keyblade bearer made the first move and charged forward at his opponent while switching to the one-handed sword-style that he preferred. During his training he found it much easier to maneuver with than the more common two-handed style. Sure, the force of his attacks may be reduced, and Ash knew the other style was useful for situations such as the aforementioned deadlock, but that wasn't not going to stop him from finding ways to overcome that weakness. His Pokémon Journey had shown him that ingenuity and unorthodox thinking more often than not beat overwhelming power.

CLANG!

Easily, the experienced swordsman parried his student's clumsy attack and pushed the young teenager back. The scarred man tried to deliver his own slash but the ebony haired male quickly reacted in time and parried the blow, causing another set of sparks to fly. Soon the two warriors found themselves going back and forth, exchanging blow after blow and move after move while deflecting each other's attacks. Sparks continued to ignite after each collision of the two blades. There were a few notable moments in the struggle. One began with Ash doing a quick twirl in an attempt to attack his friend but it easily got fended off. And when he stopped one of the older male's attacks he leapt high into the air, did a mid-air front flip before diving straight down at the Gunblade wielder, where Leon of course blocked his move and pushed him back.

Leon had to admit that Ash was showing some pretty good moves. And it was more surprising that he was moving quicker than usual with each of his attacks becoming more swift and faster than before. But this was no time to be impressed. Their little spar was far from being over.

Ash might've had speed on his side, but Leon had more experience.

While the two combatants continued to go at it, Yuffie and the other members of the Restoration Committee couldn't help but smile at the former Pok mon Trainer while still focusing their attention on the match itself. It seemed like his training progress was coming along smoothly. It was no big surprise. He'd been working pretty hard since day one. They also knew that he would continue to do so as time went on. "That kid is something." Cid was the first one to speak amongst the group.

"You're telling me!" Yuffie said in awe as she couldn't stop watching the practice fight between her two friends. She saw Ash quickly ducking under one of Leon's attacks before swiftly fending off another. "Ash is actually holding his own against Leon this time around." She couldn't help but beam happily at that development.

"That may be true, but he still has a long way to go, Yuffie." Tifa had a different view about the situation. "Although—" The black haired woman had a small smile tugging against the corners of her lips. "—I have to give him some credit for lasting this long." she commented.

"That makes two of us." Aerith smiled brightly, agreeing with her friend.

Once an hour flew by, Leon decided to end his pupil's training for today. "All right, that's enough for now." the scarred swordsman ordered. "We'll start again first thing in the morning." he added.

Ash sighed in relief and relaxed.

"And Ash " The ebony haired teenager quickly looked forward and faced his instructor who was giving him a small smile. " you did a good job."

The Keyblade wielder blinked once, then twice, before returning the smile.

"Oh, my god! Do my ears hear it correctly? Did Squall actually give a compliment to somebody? That's shocking." Yuffie teased grinning as she and the rest of the Restoration Committee approached the pair.

Leon rolled his eyes.

Sometimes, Yuffie was just asking for it.

As soon as each member took the time to congratulate their young friend on a hard day's work in his training, a loud growling sound abruptly caught everyone's now undivided attention. All eyes fell on Ash, who was blushing uncontrollably and grinning nervously since it was his rumbling stomach that had made that disturbing noise.

"Uh-oh. It looks like someone's hungry." the black haired ninja teased her blushing friend.

Aerith giggled and suggested, "How about we all head inside? I'll cook something for all of us."

Everyone liked that plan including the former Pokémon Trainer. He was starving!

But before anyone could even step a foot inside Merlin's place, a puffy cloud of smoke suddenly cut them off and blocked their path. And once the smoke cleared, their dear old wizard friend Merlin appeared before them. "Merlin!" The old sorcerer earned a round of greetings from the party including an insult from Cid.

"Where the hell were you, you damn old coot?" the blonde Gummi ship mechanic asked in an annoyed voice.

Merlin completely disregarded that insult. He wasn't in the mood to deal with Cid right now. He had other important matters to attend to. And once he spotted Ash he quickly got down to business. "Ah yes. Just the young lad I want to see."

"What's up Merlin?" the black haired teenager said smiling at the old wizard.

"If I could have a moment of your time my dear boy, there's something I need to discuss with you." Merlin stated without any delay.

"Oh, what is it?" The young lad looked quite curious as to what it could be.

"It's..." But before the powerful sorcerer could even get a few words in, a familiar stomach growl immediately cut him off, causing the Keyblader to apologize for his accidental rudeness.

"Sorry—" he laughed nervously rubbing the back of his head embarrassed. "—but can we continue this after we get something to eat first?" he asked politely.

Merlin blinked. "Oh, why of course we can. I don't see any problem with that." he responded uncertainly.

Ash looked happy and smiled.

While the party was heading inside the house one by one, they were completely unaware that a dark figure in a black overcoat, one who was standing completely undetected by the locals on a business rooftop from afar, was looking on from its location. And once Ash and his group was out of sight, the figure's body was quickly enveloped by a dark portal and disappeared.

{...}

Meanwhile...in the world known as The World That Never Was, there stood a fortress that had once served as the headquarters of the now infamous Organization XIII, a group of humanoid Nobodies that sought to control the power of Kingdom Hearts. The witch Maleficent glanced through one of the windows in deep thought. There was no telling what was going through her mind as she was staring down below at her dark city of Heartless. But it was strongly hinted that she was waiting for her bumbling idiot right-hand man Pete to return from his recent assignment and and inform her about his findings. So far, there was no sign of his whereabouts.

That is...until now.

"Oh, Maleficent~! I'm back!" came Pete's annoying voice.

Her eyebrow slightly twitched but she remained calm in her composure as she didn't turn around and greet the big buffoon who was standing behind her with that stupid look on his face. "Well, don't just stand there like an insignificant fool. What did you find out?" It was more of a demand than a question.

"Your intuition was correct Maleficent. There is indeed another key brat out there and he's bound to be just as troublesome as those other two punks." the black cat quickly answered.

"Hmph!" The evil witch scoffed at the obvious news. Of course her intuition was right. When did it ever fail her? But now that her idiot minion had confirmed that her intuition was right about a new problem that was heading her way she couldn't help but clench her grip on her scepter. It was already bad enough that she was dealing with Sora and his little friends but now with a new Keyblade wielder on the horizon, her conquest for Kingdom Hearts was slowly slipping away from her fingertips. And that was not even the worst of it.

"And Xehanort?" Maleficent spat at the name of her old archrival.

"Still no sign of him." was Pete's response.

"Hmph! That old pathetic fool is up to something." The sorceress slightly looked over her shoulder to spare Pete a small glance before facing forward once again.

"What should we do?" asked her loyal follower.

"Let him be." Pete looked quite surprised. "His pathetic plan will fail and crumble. When it does Kingdom Hearts shall be mine." An evil smile tugged against the corners of her lips. "But for now, we must deal with the new key brat." She returned her focus back to a certain boy.

"Maybe we could try turning him into a Heartless." Pete suggested an idea.

That sounded like a good plan. But Maleficent had other ideas on her mind.

"No..." Soon the woman turned and faced her right-hand man with a wicked smile on her face. "I have a much better idea." she said coolly.

Her henchman didn't like where this was going.

What could be better than turning Ash into a Heartless?

{...}

Back at Merlin's place, things were starting to pick up where they left off. With the group finally full from their late-afternoon meal and Ash now in a new set of clothes which consisted of a long sleeved blue jacket with the zipper zipped halfway down over a black V-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of blue and white sneakers, Merlin wasted no time explaining his reason as to why he suddenly wanted to talk to the young Keyblader. Apparently, the old wizard had been given a special task by Yen Sid and King Mickey to inform Ash that his assistance was needed.

The news was...the Heartless were on the move again and this time they were targeting new worlds, they were even going after a few others that Sora had previously visited and protected. And with the three main Keyblade wielders currently inactive, it was up to the former Pokémon Trainer to take on the role as a 'chosen Keyblade warrior', going out and protecting those worlds from the forces of darkness. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. And since Ash was the only active Keyblade bearer at the moment who wasn't busy with an agenda what other choice was there?

"So, will you do it?" asked Merlin who had just finished explaining all the details to the party.

"Get the chance to travel in space and come across new worlds while fighting against the Heartless? Of course I'll do it!" Ash said with fiery determination in his eyes.

His answer put a smile on everyone's faces.

But soon the ebony haired teenager realized that there was a small hole in his plan. "But first...I need a ship."

A big grin grew on Cid's face upon hearing this. "Just leave that to old Cid here."

Ash blinked at the blonde Gummi ship mechanic and titled his head to the side in confusion. "Huh?"

{...}

Moments later, the party gathered around at the hangar where all of the Gummi ships in Radiant Garden were docked at and worked on by Cid himself. The ship dock was quite big, stretching on for what seemed like miles. After talking with Scrooge McDuck, a business-savvy duck that ran an intergalactic trading company, Ash could understand that a lot of ships were required to funnel goods, services, and even people between the various worlds. Everywhere he looked there was a Gummi ship, many of which Cid proudly mentioned that he had built himself. The Pokémon prodigy was pretty amazed as to how many ships his older friend had built, especially considering how much they varied in shape and size. And it was even more surprising that the man was actually going to let him borrow a ship on the condition that he promised not to crash it against an asteroid. Cid was still pissed off at Sora, Donald, and Goofy for damaging six of his ships fairly badly in their last adventure. It took even a master mechanic like Cid weeks to fix them!

Once Ash promised Cid that he'd be more careful than the last group, the blonde man showed him the Gummi ship that he was going to using on his adventure. "Well, here it is—" Standing before the Keyblade wielder was a ship of average size.

There was nothing too special about it at first glance. Its body structure was completely white with blue wings, a narrow cone extending from the front of the ship in a diamond shape, ending in a pyramidal tip. The cockpit had three seats, one in front and the other two mounted in a slightly higher position behind it. However, it did have Cid's face on the side to give it some character. But other than that, it looked like a simple-design Gummi ship. "—the Mark XII Shera-my latest creation. You can borrow her for the time being. Those weapons mounted above and below the ends of the wings are cannons known as Thundara-Gs. They can be fired separately, in pairs, or in bursts of four. I equipped this ship with four engines on the back; they should definitely be enough to keep you in one piece in a fight."

"Thanks, Cid." the Keyblade wielder said smiling. "And I'll promise to bring it back to you in one piece." he assured the older male.

"You'd better." The blonde man shot him a glare.

Ash sweat dropped.

"In any case—here!" Cid pulled out two devices from his pants pocket and held them out towards the young teen. One was his Pokégear and the other was...his Pokégear? "I made a few adjustments to your Pok-whatever the hell you call it. It can scan any sort of Heartless and input its information into the database system. Not only that it is also a communicator and a transporter." He gave all the details in a single sentence. "And in case you happen to break or lose your damn device I made ya a spare." he added.

Ash smiled again at his friend. "Thanks, Cid! I really appreciate it." he said before accepting the two Pokégears from him.

Cid hid a smile.

Once the former Pokémon Trainer carefully tucked away the two devices into the inside pocket of his new jacket, Merlin walked up and approached him. "Now then, do you know what your top priority is lad?" he asked while stroking his white beard with a hand.

"Not really, to be honest. Ahehehe." said the young male with a nervous laugh.

"It's all right my dear boy. I'll fill you in."

Ash felt rather relieved, he'd had his share of vague instructions before and regretted it every time afterwards.

"It's of the utmost importance that you find the keyhole in each world you come across and seal it away as soon as possible. It prevents the Heartless from consuming the world, plunging it into darkness." the old wizard instructed.

"All right," The raven haired teenager will keep that in mind. "Anything else?"

Merlin thought for a second until something struck his mind. "Oh yes, I do believe this might come in handy for you on your journey."

*POOF*

In a blink of an eye, a special yellow gem of some sort appeared before Ash's eyes and floated into his hands. It had a small lightning bolt emblem on it. "What is this?" asked the startled Keyblader while studying the yellow gem in his hands very closely.

"It's a Summoning Gem."

"A Summoning what?"

"A Summoning Gem," Merlin repeated. "It will come in handy when you need it." It wasn't much of an explanation. But Merlin had hinted that it was really important. "But for now, I suggest that you keep it safe somewhere." the man strongly advised.

"O...k..." Ash simply pocketed the magical gem into his jeans pocket.

"You will come across similar gems like that on your journey so keep that in mind." A nod came from the young male. "And you may also encounter people in different worlds that can teach you new spells." Merlin added.

"Like Cura and Fira?"

A nod confirmed it.

"All right, I'll keep an eye out for them as well." the Keyblade wielder smiled.

Merlin returned the smile and said, "Good luck on your journey, lad."

"Thanks. I'll do my best!"

Soon it was the Restoration Committee's turn to wish the former Pok mon Trainer the best of luck on his new adventure. Leon spoke up first. "Take care of yourself."

"Kick some Heartless butt for me!" came Yuffie's reply.

"If you ever get tired please stop by and rest. You're always welcome here." Aerith offered a warm smile.

Tifa might not have said something, but she did show that she wished him the best of luck in his journey with a smile.

"All right, enough horsing around. Get your damn ass out of here already. You're wasting time!" Ash laughed at Cid in amusement. That guy sure knew how to ruin a moment though his smile caused Ash to do the same.

Once the ebony haired teen said his good-byes to his friends, he boarded the Mark XII Shera Gummi ship and took his leave.

{...}

Space. It's really, really, really big and spacey - just like in the books. The stars were shining so bright, Ash couldn't help but compare them to Christmas lights. The galaxy itself was so empty and quiet, filled with many wonders. It was quite a sight.

Ash can't believe he was actually in space. It felt like a dream a child's dream, to be more precise. But here he was - traveling in a Gummi ship - through space - in order to protect the worlds from the Heartless. What a magical experience. If his friends and family were here with him they would've enjoyed the scenery too. But thanks to the Heartless such an idea was nothing more than a mere thought.

What a shame...

But this wasn't the time to dwell on the past. The Keyblade bearer had more important matters to worry about - one of which was to make sure that no other world would suffer the same fate as his.

Beep, beep, beeeeeeep! Beep, beep, beeeeeeep! Beep, beep, beeeeeeep!

In less than one hour, his Gummi ship's sensors immediately picked up a nearby signal. The monitor screen quickly popped up and displayed a world - a world that had a giant statue on top of it, in a form of a bald kid in a robe with an arrow-like tattoo on his head. "Hmm, so this is my first stop, huh." Ash mumbled to himself smiling. "All right, let's go check it out." He flew his ship towards the world.

{...}

Snow. The whole area was covered in snow. Ash didn't know where he was, but judging by the huge mountains and copious amounts of snow around him it was pretty obvious that he had landed in a polar region. He could feel the cold breeze touching his skin and the freezing temperature around him. But for some strange odd reason he wasn't affected by it all that much. Was it because he was already wearing a jacket? Or was it because he wasn't a natural part of the world? Whatever the reason he decided to figure it out later.

For now, he needed to decide where he should head off to. Judging by the snow environment he didn't have a lot of options to work with. Most of the routes were blanketed by the snow; Ash knew that sometimes the snow was much deeper than it appeared so caution was quite necessary. The only thing he could go by were his own instincts which sometimes...got himself lost or led him into trouble.

"I suppose I should follow this trail until I reach town." he said aloud knowing that he was the only person in the whole area. "That's the only thing I could do for now..." He didn't sound all-too confident with his decision, but he still went with it nonetheless.

With no time to waste, the ebony haired teen headed off, completely unaware that a mysterious figure in a black overcoat on a nearby peak was watching his every move.

Ten minutes later...

"Man...Am I going the right way?" Ash asked himself for the umpteenth time since he started his hiking through the snowy mountain range. He checked his surroundings, but everywhere he looked all he saw was nothing but snow, snow, and more SNOW! It was getting a little frustrating. He would've thought by now he would at least come across a town or a small village, but it seems Lady Luck wasn't on his side. There was no sign of civilization anywhere.

The Keyblader let out a deep sigh, watching his breath mist in the cold weather. He guessed that he still wasn't used to navigating his way without a map or a PokéNav just yet. Figures... Old habits never died.

But instead of beating around the bush about it the former Pokémon Trainer continued to move forward even if it was a lost cause and leading him nowhere. There was no turning back now. He was bound to come across something or someone eventually. He just needed to keep pushing forward.

After some more walking and...more walking... Ash finally stumbled upon a new area - a patch of woodland. It was a nice change of view. He had been growing tired of seeing mountains and snow. All the trees and all the branches were covered in snow. It wasn't surprising since it appeared to be the winter season in this world.

Once the Keyblade bearer entered the tree line he began hearing a sound. He couldn't make out what it was because he was too far off from where it was coming from. But as he continued to head deeper into the frosty woods the sound became louder and louder. It sounded like a growl, but not in a threatening manner. No. It sounded more like a desperate call for help and fast.

In a quick sprint, Ash ran forward towards the direction of the sound. He might not know what he would come across, but he didn't care. Ignoring a cry of help was not in his nature.

He ran and ran...until he stopped in his tracks when he reached his destination and saw something that caught his attention. Just up ahead was some kind of white furry creature that he hadn't seen before in his life. It had a large body of a Pokémon like Beartic, but its tail was similar to that of a Mightyena. He didn't know what type of creature was it, but it looked like it was trying to protect something or someone who was lying unconscious in the snow.

It was a girl - a young dark-skinned, brown haired girl who was close to his age - maybe a little bit older. She was dressed in some kind of tribe-like clothing with some areas exposing her mildly built but slender physique.

And by the looks of it...the dog-polar bear creature and the unconscious girl were completely surrounded by the...Heartless!


A/N: Sorry if this chapter was a little short. But at least I got it done! The next chapter will be much longer. Anyway, can anyone guess who was the girl and what world Ash's in? And like most of you supported I didn't add in Ash's training days but I did give you all a little sample between him and Leon. But don't worry, though. Some of the chapters will have flashbacks of Ash's training days with Final Fantasy cast. Just be a little patient with me. Please R & R! Thank you! I'm off to write the next chapter for PokéHearts so wish me luck!

P.S. - Give the proofreading and editing credit to my beta-reader, Vandenbz.

Aoi Hyoudou (formerly known as Johan07)