Author's Introduction:

I would like to begin with a massive shout-out and even more massive apology to fanfic user LegacyReturns.

Legacy was one of the most supportive readers of A Flickering Light while it was going up, and actually wrote me a review the length of a book report at the end. I went to them for advice almost a year ago when I was trying to finish this story. Now, two years after I finished the original series, I proudly present the conclusion of A Flickering Light.

Casting Shadows is where I leave the current state of the Kingdom Hearts games behind to tell a new story. This is Ignus's story. I look forward to seeing what you all think. Since it's been two years coming, the writing is a little strange. My writing style has changed drastically over the past two years, and pieces of this book come from different stages of that development.

Either way, I hope you like it. This one goes out to Legacy.

May your heart be your guiding key.

-WolfWing


Aqua exited the portal and landed in the middle of the courtyard, her glider vanishing into her hand as she stepped off it. Aqua's armor faded as she looked around her. "Everything seems to be alright…"

Ignus landed roughly next to her, key-shaped wings beating heavily. They folded behind him and faded into his clothes with his armor. His odd premonition had led them to Radiant Garden, but he still wasn't sure why. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the city of gardens and towers, but it didn't sit right in his mind. "We should take a look around. Keep your eyes open."

Aqua nodded, and the two set off through Radiant Garden. Aqua smiled as she surveyed the area and enjoyed the sun on her face. It had been a while since she'd been back here, and the reconstruction of the city had progressed a lot in the time between her visits. It wasn't exactly how she remembered it, but there was a tone, a feeling to the city rising back out of Hollow Bastion. It was a feeling of tangible hope in the air.

"Hey, they rebuilt it." Ignus tugged on her arm and pointed. "Remember that spot?"

Aqua smiled. "How could I forget? It's where I met Kairi."

Ignus acted like he'd been stabbed in the gut.

"And where I met you!" Aqua laughed.

"That was a low blow, Aqua." Ignus shook his head.

Aqua smirked. "I didn't forget about you." She looked around as they kept walking, but her eyes drifted back to Ignus. Since the fall of Xehanort, Ignus had been changing. He'd become more quiet and subdued when he was on his own. He kept his usual tone around the others, even her, but it vanished when he thought no one could see him. He tended to look fatigued, stressed, maybe even sad. She hadn't found a way to ask him about it yet. Even so, there was something different about the way he was today. Today he seemed actively tense. "Ignus, what exactly are we looking for?"

"I'm not sure. Something feels very… I don't know, just wrong here. But I can't put my finger on it."

Aqua looked up and down the street. People were walking around, children played in their yards, birds flew overhead. The city was quiet. "The whole place seems fine. I don't sense any darkness at all."

"Me neither." Ignus stiffened. "That's what it is! There's no darkness in this place!"

"How is it supposed to be?" Aqua asked.

"Balanced, Aqua." Ignus took a closer look around him. "Light and darkness need to be balanced in everyone, in every world. There is no darkness here, no chaos."

"We're keyblade masters, Ignus. We're supposed to fight darkness and chaos."

"We're supposed to fight for balance, Aqua." Ignus corrected. "For a long time, that meant fighting darkness. But with Xehanort gone, the game has changed. Too much order is just as bad as too much chaos. There, look." He gestured down the street. "There's one kid in every yard. Every single one of them has the same ball. They're all bouncing at the same time."

Aqua looked around. The children were barely moving. The bright red balls all bounced from the hands of the children. Down, up, catch, a perfect unison like a drumbeat.

"What's causing it?"

"I'm not sure. But if it's hunting darkness, maybe I can draw it out…" Ignus extended his hand and Inferno appeared in it. Immediately, the children all froze, rigidly straightening. The bouncing rhythm of the balls stopped.

"Ignus." Aqua instinctively stepped to guard his back. "What did you just do?"

As one, the children all turned to look at Ignus and Aqua.

"I think I got its attention."

The children's eyes began to glow, light streaming from their faces. Columns of light shone through the front and back of their heads. Their bodies began to shine, then a translucent image of each child stepped out of the body. The children collapsed, and the light images hardened into glowing outlines of not-quite people. Wings of light exploded behind them as they moved forward.

"Well that's different…" Ignus breathed.

The bright creatures leapt at them, shrieks splitting the peaceful silence. Aqua's keyblade appeared, and she swung it over her head, summoning a barrier around the two of them. The creatures clawed at its boundary, wildly smashing at the spell.

"What are they?" Aqua called.

"Master Hurayas mentioned something like this once. Some sort of monster, born of light."

The barrier started to crack and Aqua focused harder on maintaining it. "Can we fight them?"

"I think we're about to find out." Ignus nodded to her and set Inferno ablaze. Aqua's barrier vanished and she jumped as Ignus drove Inferno into the ground. "Inferaga!" Ignus called, summoning a burning eruption around the pair. The light beings were thrown back, but quickly regained their feet, shrieking again. Aqua landed and both readied their keyblades.

Ignus moved first, striking through three of the creatures with a powerful blow. Aqua leapt over him, spiraling in the air and tossing a flurry of ice spells to cover Ignus. Ignus reached up, grabbing her hand and pulling her behind him. She struck at a light directly behind him as he shot a fireball into another in front. Ignus crouched and Aqua somersaulted over his back to take the front and cut aside two more. She pushed out of the pack, Ignus launching into a backflip with a wave of fire to stand next to her. They both hopped back for more distance. Most of the pack was still standing, but approaching them more cautiously now.

"Are you alright?" Aqua panted lightly. Fighting beside Ignus here brought back old memories. It felt so natural to work with and around him, launching spells to cover his movements, combining their attacks without a word, trusting each other in every moment of vulnerability. All it took was a touch and their love.

"Ready when you are." Ignus nodded.

Aqua tapped his back and charged her keyblade. He stepped back as she swung it, a blade of energy slicing through the creatures. It passed through them like air. Aqua froze in confusion as Ignus counterattacked to cover her.

"It didn't work?" Aqua balked as she jumped back.

"Light magic." Ignus landed beside her. "Maybe because they're creatures of light, it doesn't affect them. My fire still works, so try to stick to elemental spells." He shot a V of flaming columns to either side of the creatures, forcing them to gather. "Finish them off!"

Aqua nodded, gathering her power and directing her focus on the tight pack in front of her. She raised her keyblade and her voice. "Thundaza!" A storm of lightning burst from the keyblade, coming down on the lights with a momentous crash of thunder. They wailed, then faded.

Aqua straightened and her keyblade vanished. Ignus was still in his combat crouch, his grip tight on Inferno, thin purple mist leaking through his fingers. He was slipping. She looked around for more threats, finding none, and set a hand on his shoulder. He jumped, looking back at her, then his expression softened. He closed his eyes softly and breathed, Inferno vanishing. He laid a hand on hers and nodded slowly before opening his eyes. His body relaxed and he stood. No thanks was spoken.

Aqua led the way to the nearest unmoving child. She stirred as the two approached.

"Are you alright?"

"I think so…" The girl rubbed her head. "My eyes hurt though. What happened?"

"You were attacked." Aqua said. "They're gone now. You're safe."

"Thank you. What attacked me?"

"We're…" Aqua looked to Ignus.

"We're not sure yet." Ignus smiled reassuringly. "But don't worry. My girlfriend here's a keyblade master. She'll figure it out."

The girl's eyes widened at Aqua. "Woah…"

"Ignus!" Aqua protested.

The girl giggled. She looked over at the boy in the next yard over. "My brother!"

"Go. Take care of him." Aqua helped her up and the girl ran over. The children were waking up all over the street.

"They seem to be fine." Aqua turned to Ignus. "You said your master had told you about those things. Might there be something in the library?"

"Probably, but shouldn't we stick around? It doesn't feel right to just leave like this…"

"We'll do more for them by finding out what those things are."

"Still…"

"We can call the others. They can keep an eye on Radiant Garden while we work." Aqua said.

"Right." Ignus agreed. "I'll call Roxas's team, they'll handle it." Ignus and Aqua summoned their armor. Ignus's wings appeared, and Aqua mounted her glider. They flew into the sky and entered Ignus's portal.


Author's Note:

Ignus's light/dark philosophy will be the driving force behind these new enemies. We'll get to that. Extra points to whoever can recognize the literary reference in this chapter.

As an aside, I am currently also uploading another story on a different Square Enix property, the Final Fantasy VII remake. It's called Where Lightning Strikes. If you're interested, I'd appreciate you checking it out. Updates come Wednesday and Saturday.

This story is fully written, I'm just not sure how I want to schedule uploads. Maybe I should keep the three-times-a-week thing I did for the rest of A Flickering Light. Let me know. Otherwise, expect a new chapter by Wednesday.