The Empty Sea

Chapter 1: The Start of a New Journey

"Thinking of you, wherever you are. We pray for our sorrows to end, and hope that our hearts will blend. Now I will step forward to realize this wish. And who knows: starting a new journey may not be so hard, or maybe it has already begun. There are many worlds, and they share the same sky - one sky, one destiny." — Kairi


That was what he was now. A Shadow of his former self. No, he was not even that. He was less than a Shadow. No feeling, no emotion, no caring. But he didn't quite fit in with the rest of his kind. The rest of those that had lost their hearts. He didn't feel jealous of those with hearts or even just want to attack them on instinct. The emptiness was something familiar to him. It was like an old friend. Something he knew of well before his empty glass was filled. Filled with such wondrous, tender love, friends, and adventure. Those had been the best days of his life, despite the multiple times he nearly died. He couldn't remember those emotions very well. Or even most of the memories. Not anymore. Those days were long past, his Journey over. He had saved them all. If this was to be his fate, so be it. He could not feel regret anyways. And even if he could, he wouldn't feel it. He was sure of his path. It was something his sins had rewarded him with.

Things had been good a long time ago. He had been making progress. He had almost found a way home. He knew his path home lay within the Heartless, the strange, dark beings that could move from one world to the next instantaneously. He knew now that it was an area of research better left untouched. He had been transformed into the very being that he had experimented on so many times in the past. He hadn't even known what they were at the time. Nobody had been kind enough to tell him. And this was where it got him. A shell of a shell. It was almost funny, the irony of it. The race of Heartless he had turned into was classified as a "Shadow". It was a term the Heartless had too deeply carved into him to forget. He had seen monsters as tall as buildings and fought them, grown strong enough to wield the powers of the gods and used them to fight in a time that no one knew existed for the people who would never know their savior.

But then he had won. It was not a happy ending for everyone. It was not a happy ending for him. The hero always fought for the side of good and righteousness. The hero always wins. Always gets the girl. Always goes off into the distance to live happily ever after. The Heartless knew there was no happily ever after, but still he had tried to reach it. And, if given the opportunity, would continue to try. No matter how many years he would have to spend as a Heartless.

He wandered down the street, his small shadowy form moving nearly aimlessly, drifting from one side to another. He passed by people in the street. They did not seem surprised by his appearance or by his passiveness. He nodded in acknowledgement to them occasionally. They would nod back to him, occasionally even smiling or patting him on the head, for they knew the Heartless that never attacked. One woman would always give him cookies and milk. He was like the town pet or mascot. He was loved for his peacefulness, "cuteness" and his ability to ward off other Heartless. Not like he could feel or even understand the idea of love anymore. He tried to remember, for his memories were very vague, but the only image he could associate with love was a blond head of hair. He decided not to try to remember anymore, for it would get him nowhere. He continued to walk to the Usual Spot. A particular group of teens had taken to him. Playing with him, feeding him, hanging out with him. He didn't know why he went to them. He was Heartless. He wasn't supposed to feel anything. He was supposed to be the bad guy. The monster that attacked innocents.

He was supposed to kill and be killed, his presence forgotten an instant after its disappearance. His existence was fragile and meant to be broken, meant to be destroyed or to destroy. He was going to die a sad, pitiful death alone. But fate had other plans.

Standing in front of the entrance to the Usual Spot was an unusual man dressed in a white suit with an equally unusual butterfly mask adorning his face. He looked down at the short Heartless and smiled, his long ponytail hair moving slightly in the wind. The man was intimidating. He radiated an aura of power at the short Heartless. Something the Heartless had not felt from anything in recent times.

"Good day, young man. I am Philemon, a drifter between the realms of conscious and unconscious. You may have met some of my… associates in the past, though I doubt you remember them. Today, I have a very interesting offer for you. A new Journey, a new Contract. Think of it as a renewal. A chance to regain what you have lost. Most nearly everything. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line." The man spoke joyously, as if he were delivering the best news in the world. And the Heartless was inclined to believe him. The Heartless had lost many things.

He read the Contract, the parchment warming underneath his hands.

"I, _, do hereby solemnly swear to take responsibility for my actions and to do all in my power to save this universe and all the worlds in it. I will wholeheartedly accept the consequences of my actions, be they good or bad."

The Heartless thought it was possible and easy. He believed that he could once again gain the power to change fate. To forever save the people from that which threatens them. And during his Journey he could recover what he had lost. What could be harder than that which he fought in the past? Nothing. He had sacrificed everything already. He had nothing left to lose. He signed the contract with the warm, blue pen gifted to him by the mysterious stranger. The Heartless was very familiar with the process. He signed his name.

'Minato Arisato.'

It was a name he had long forsaken, instead choosing an alias for the longest period of time, though he could not remember what it was, nor why he had originally chosen to use the alias in the first place. Specifics escaped him more often than not. It was merely another part of his curse.

"Good. Now just remember this: Follow the Keyblade, and you will complete your contract and find what was once lost." He took back the contract. The masked man smiled before vanishing in a flash of light that blinded the small shadowy figure's golden eyes. The Heartless was perplexed, but dismissed it quite easily. Stranger things had happened to the Heartless, even if he couldn't remember exactly what they were.

The Heartless continued into the Usual Spot. The Usual Spot was the hangout area for a certain group of teens, hidden at the end of an alleyway. Much like something else in the Heartless' past, but he could only faintly recall the memory of the blue door. Past the curtain that acted as a door, it was an area with a couch and all sorts of random junk lying around.

"Darkey!' An excited girl ran towards the Heartless and picked him up easily, like a stuffed animal, and hugged him to her chest before going back to sit in the couch, still holding him to her bosom. She nuzzled her cheek against him as if he were a pet. The Heartless did not try to escape her vice-like grip. The Heartless could almost feel her affection. He had, after all, been the one to save them from other Heartless when they had been attacked. He wasn't very strong, but had skill and smarts.

The girl's name was Olette. She had bright green eyes, soft peach-colored skin, and brown hair. Her hair stuck out on the sides and two strands of hair fall from either side of her head, just long enough to drape over her shoulders. Her clothing had a "Summer" feel to it, consisting of an orange tank-top with a white floral design at the bottom, khaki-colored capri pants, and orange socks with white hems. She also wore cream, black and yellow shoes with black laces. Olette also wore a beaded, sky blue bracelet on her right wrist and a black necklace decorated with a spherical, sky blue charm. She was often tomboyish, but seemed to break that around the Heartless.

"Darkey? Is that what we're calling him now? Hey, he's not trying to break free like last time."

The other voice came from one of the other teens in the room. His name was Hayner. Hayner had brown eyes, light skin, dark eyebrows, and spiky, blond hair. He wore baggy, camouflage-print capris pants, a short, sleeveless, grey vest, and a black muscle shirt decorated with a white, crudely drawn skull and crossbones. His shoes were the same camouflage pattern as his pants, but also sported white tips, grey soles, and each had two intersecting, black belts in place of laces. Hayner also wore a white necklace with a yellow "X" charm on it and a brown bracelet on his left wrist with several silver pins in it. He was the reckless leader of the group. He was really just bored and always seeking adventure. He reminded the Heartless of a ball cap wearing person in his past sometimes.

Hayner walked over to wear Olette was sitting with the Heartless in her lap, hugging him like a teddy bear. Hayner leaned forward to inspect the dark creature, apparently finding something off about its behavior. Olette turned away, protecting her "Darky".

"You're just jealous he likes me more!" Olette said in a teasing tone. Hayner grimaced. It was true. He was horribly bored in this town and as soon as something strange and mysterious comes into town and saves the day, Olette grabs him. Why was it never him that had a cool and awesome pet/friend?

"Calm down, guys. Let's just go get something to eat. I'm starving," another voice said. That was Pence. Pence was a rather heavy-set boy with light skin, brown eyes, and black hair and eyebrows. Pence held his hair up using a black headband with grey lining. He wore a short-sleeved, white shirt with dark cuffs underneath a red jersey with black and white lining. He also wore blue pants, blue and white shoes with grey soles, and a purple bandana around his neck. He was the smart, nerdy friend every group needs. He seemed like someone else in the Heartless' past, though he could not remember.

"I don't have any money."

"I'm not hungry."

Olette look at Hayner incredulously.

"How do you not have any money?" She asked suspiciously.

"Impulse buying," he said nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders as he did so. Olette glared at him. It was a usual occurrence. Normally, Hayner would suggest something else to do after-

"We… could… do some… odd jobs… right?" A hesitant, timid voice filled the silence of the room. Everyone looked at the Heartless, flabbergasted. The Heartless himself was amazed. "I talked? I thought I was just thinking. How did I do that?!"

"You can talk, Darky?" Olette asked the Heartless in her grip. He nodded slowly, unsure of what the revelation made do to them. Olette squealed, hugging the Heartless even closer. The Heartless felt her warmth and the softness of "certain things" on his back.

"That's so awesome! This is like some sort of dramatic story! Take that Hayner!" Olette stuck her tongue out at Hayner, a rather juvenile action, but it got the point across. Hayner scowled.

"Are you okay?!" A guy's voice sounded as he emerged from the curtain that acted as the "door" for the Usual Spot. The boy was strange. He held a giant key in one hand and wore red and blue clothes too small for him. His brown hair stuck out in all directions. His blues eyes locked onto the Heartless and his large yellow shoes stepped back as his mouth gaped open. A large anthropomorphic dog with a shield and a large blue clad duck with a staff burst in as well. They both wore rather silly hats and seemed… cartoonish.

"That's a Heartless! He's very dangerous, miss! You don't hug Heartless! They're evil!" The boy exclaimed. The other teens scowled and glared at him. The intruder seemed to falter under the pressure.

"Who the hell do you think you are to bust into our hangout and insult one of our friends? Huh, punk? This "evil" fellow saved our lives before! Who are you to pass judgments?!" Hayner was pissed at the strange boy. The boy seemed even more surprised. He must never have met a passive Heartless ever. Nor a Heartless that saved others. That would require it to have a heart, right?

"Darkey is my friend! Don't you dare mess with him!" Olette was angry as well. The Heartless felt the warmth from her embrace and the softness of her gentle touch. Her grip wasn't just vice-like. It was protective and all-encompassing.

'She's protecting me? I'm… worth protecting?' The Heartless was confused by the strange feeling that began to rise in his chest. It felt nice. He actually felt it. That startled him. It was warm and seemed to just… melt him with its sheer, pleasant warmth. It began to cause something to stir in him like a storm about to form. Were they emotions? Memories?

"Yeah, get away from our friend!" Pence felt he had to say something as well.

'I'm… their friend. They all accept me… was I denying it? I.. I..' The Heartless was overcome with something that he was quite vulnerable to. Raw emotion. It was overpowering, overwhelming, overflowing. He didn't know what to do with it. The storm began to form quicker. Thunder and lightning began to rage inside the Heartless.

"Thank… you," he said quietly, overcome with… joy? He did not know. It was as if he was feeling for the first time. He almost cried ruth there, but he lacked a body with the capabilities to do so. The friends of the Heartless looked at him, their expressions softening before glaring even harder at the strange boy. This was their precious friend! There was no way this boy would get away with insulting him! They stuck together forever!

The strange boy was shocked. Heartless never spoke, never felt the emotion this one seemed to exude. Was this truly a Heartless? The boy had slayed many of his kind. Could they all develop into caring beings that could speak? The he remembered when he had temporarily turned into a Heartless. The boy felt sick to his stomach. Downright queasy. If that was true, he was a murderer of the worst kind, killing underdeveloped beings akin to newborns. But, he had no choice…. right? It was to save everybody. No, it was to save Kairi… who he still had to find once again, as well as Riku. Well, there was only one thing left for him to do here…

"I'm sorry! My name is Sora and this is Donald and Goofy. We heard screaming from here and thought it might be a Heartless… well, it was, but we didn't know he was good! I didn't mean to insult your friend, honestly!" The boy, Sora, seemed truly apologetic, even going so far as to bow down, as he introduced himself and his colleagues. The glares didn't even lessen a smidge. Sora seemed nervous and fidgety. Donald and Goofy seemed to be much the same.

"It's… all right guys….he apologized," the Heartless said to his friends before managing to free himself from Olette's grip (a miracle he doubted he could repeat) and waddled over to Sora. He looked straight into Sora's eyes, his own golden ones seemingly burrowing into Sora's soul, searching for an Answer. The storm which had begun to brew inside the Heartless was barely contained now, held back by a thin barrier that needed to be broken.

"Is that a Keyblade?" The Heartless asked, pointing at the large key still in Sora's grip. The trio of teens that were the Heartless' friends were perplexed as the trio of invaders seemed shocked. Sora nodded. The Heartless decided on something right then and there.

"Can I come with you on your Journey?" The Heartless asked, somehow he was more sure of himself, his speaking no longer had gaps in it. This boy would lead him to his Journey. He had to stick close to him. Hayner, Pence, and Olette seemed too shocked by his sudden request to the boy who called him evil to respond. Unless there were other Keyblade wielders…

Sora seemed shocked. A friendly Heartless that wanted to join him? He was of the weakest class too. Sora didn't know what to do, but this Heartless was kind, saving these kids. Sora felt the need to help him as well. Goofy and Donald looked at him expectantly, having not spoken the entire time. This decision could very well change everything in the future. Would Sora be willing to trust a creature that he had slayed many times before in the past?

"Yeah, sure. I don't see why not," Sora said, smiling and giving the Heartless a thumbs up. Then, as an afterthought he added, "But I'm going to have to protect you, there are a lot of stronger guys out there that could easily defeat you. No offense, but your class, the Shadow, isn't the strongest Heartless," he finished with a worried tone in his voice.

The storm in the Heartless broke through the barrier and began to fill the inside of him. And then it rained, filling the previously empty sea of the Heartless' soul with an explosive downpour. It was a tsunami of the accumulated feelings and emotions over the years he had spent as a Heartless. The Heartless laughed. It was a joyful, high-pitched sound that made one want to laugh as well, but frightened the individual. Sora raised his Keyblade nervously. What had he done? The Heartless continued to laugh. He laughed and laughed and laughed until the world froze.

Then the most wonderful thing happened.

"Thou art I… and I am thou. Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create Persona of the Fool Arcana."

A familiar voice brought to the surface nearly all the memories of the Heartless, before they quickly disappeared. However, he had grabbed a small portion of his memories. He finally understood what it was he had to do. He felt a fraction of his heart return to him, and the sea of his soul filled slightly. He was no longer Heartless.

Time began to move forward as the familiar card of the Fool disappeared from the Heartless' vision. Bright light consumed the room, blinding everyone in it as the sound of a television being smashed resounded throughout the room. A mature voice came from the source of the white light.

"You are right and wrong, Sora. I am a Shadow. The true self. But I'm no longer a Heartless. Thanks for the Social Link. It really helped."

A blue-haired boy stepped out of the light. He was wearing a black school uniform with a red armband on one of the arms. It read S.E.E.S. in black lettering. His long blue hair covered one eye, but revealed a golden, glowing eye on the other side, the only remnant of his earlier form. He was taller than Sora, taller than even Goofy. In his right hand, he held a katana that emanated pure power. His left held a small gun. He took a step forward and bowed, bringing his left hand to his chest and keeping his right hand at his side.

"Call me… Minato. It will be a pleasure to be traveling with you on this Journey. I doubt I will be as easy to kill as you believe me to be," he said politely with a smile and a small head tilt.

Olette fainted.

A/N: Nice side project for me here. I don't want to get pooped out on my other story. Thanks to Twin Judge of Gemini for the idea. Seriously, thank him. It was a good idea. I'm adapting it to fit my tastes and your guys' tastes as well. Chapters will be longer than this, but I had to get an intro out there. I'll update this when I can. If it's really popular, it will get more updates sooner. :D How will Minato change everything? Read and find out.

Now REVIEW, FOLLOW, FAVORITE. Pretty please with Roxas on top?