Author's Note: Well, here's something I never thought I would be doing again. But, in the throes of depression and the desire to truly be creative again in some manner, I figured I would challenge myself with throwing my hat back into the proverbial ring. This story starts slightly before KH3, around when Dream Drop Distance happens. There won't be much in the way of crossing main characters in the beginning.

Heartbinding

Waves crashing. Sun Blinding. Sand beneath. The only things the young man could really sense at the moment, the only thing left he seemed to care about as he lay on the unknown island, limbs completely sprawled on the sandy shore. He had no idea where he was or how to get back, all he knew at the moment was that it really didn't matter. The one thing he cared about most was millions upon millions of distances away, somewhere in the vast abyss of the unknown.

'At least the weather's nice, relatively, for a deserted island.' he thought as he unconsciously reached out for his weapon lying next to him, the tool that was the catalyst for everything he had experienced the past year. As it gleamed in the shimmering sunlight, the castaway recalled how all of this actually started.

Rewind to the Beginning

Twilight Town was a bustling hotspot for tourists and local vendors alike. The beautiful orange glow brought about by the setting sun, combined with the shadows casted by the tall buildings gave every square in the town a cozy welcoming aura about it. The whole area from the Market Square to the Tram Common was alive with patrons, all either attending the back alley film screening, waiting for their table at the bistro, or just general talk about the contenders in the upcoming Struggle competition. All about the town, no one really paid any mind to the young man with bushy black hair and average build trying to maintain his balance as his plastered his last poster on the second story wall of a building, from the outside. He wore a navy blue collared shirt with a huge logo for 'McDuck Enterprises' on the back, and a smaller version of the same logo on the front breast. Along with the gaudy shirt, he wore loose fitting jeans and worker boots, more for function than any kind of aesthetic. He dipped his brush in the glue provided by his boss and carefully applied it to the wall from his perch, making sure not to take a wayward glance down. Once finished, he unfurled his last poster for the day.

'Okay. Eeeeeaaaasy does it.' he repeated to himself as he placed the poster against the adhesive, pressing gently so that it would stick evenly. Sweat was beading down his face like a window in the rain until finally...

"Done! Yes! Finally! WhoooaaaaoAAAHHH!" The boy had celebrated too soon as his center of gravity suddenly shifted and he felt himself falling back down to earth. Luckily, instead of hitting the cobblestone street below, he was able to cushion the fall with some nice soft garbage bags. With a soft thud, and some painful groaning, he lay there for a few minutes to compose himself, while also hoping no one was passing by at the moment to see him flop so stupendously. Unfortunately, a small boy and his mother happened by just a few seconds after crashing.

"Mommy, that man is asleep in the trash."

"Don't touch him billy, he's a vagrant and the world will forget him."

'I suppose that's as good a samaritan as I could find.' He thought as he hoisted himself out of the trash. Trying to shake off the excess scraps he slumped down the street to the bistro where his boss was waiting. He turned some heads as he approached his employer, who was a duck. A walking talking duck with a cane, coat, tophat, and glasses, but a duck all the same.

"Finished with the poster duty Mr. McDuck."

"Ay! Kishi mah lad! Another fine job ya dun. Though it looks like ya took a wee bit of a tumble laddy. Hee hee hee." The old duck joked while jabbing Kishi with his elbow.

"Yeah, that's hilarious sir. I fell about twelve feet into a dumpster." he replied sarcastically as he shook off more dirt and grime.

"Easy boyo! Yer gettin yer stink on the sidewalk outside me bistro! An' what's a few dozen feet a fallin gonna hurt? Why, in my day I would dive off waterfalls that were dry just to catch the pennies on the bottom. I earned my fortune by being sharper than the sharpies and to-"

"And tougher than the toughies. I know sir, I've heard it before. OW!" Scrooge bopped the worker on the head with his cane in response.

"You know not to interrupt me in my recollecting, you dimwitted dumpster diver. Now, you did good today, and not only do ya get yer pay, you also get a lesson in falling down." Scrooge reached into his pocket and tossed a small drawstring bag to Kishi. The tired worker gave it a small heft in his hands.

"This feels kinda heavier than it normally is, sir. You're not exactly one to hand out Munny without counting every single bit."

"Aye, you earned it lad. Consider it a laundry expense, with a bit extra."

"Are you sure you're feeling okay Mr. McDuck? You're not sick or dying or have a fever, are you?"

"Now who's the one with the jokes? Run along laddy, before I take that bonus out of yer next pay."

"Yes sir."

The walk back to his home was uneventful for Kishi. His feet dragged along the streets from exhaustion, and he tried his best to ignore the pungent odor coming from the garbage seeping into his clothes. The pain and aches of falling had finally caught up to his legs. Rounding a corner, he let his mind wander to try and take focus off of the pain.

'Sigh, I can't make mom wash this for me, this was my own mistake. But she's probably gonna be using the machine for the rest of the night. Maybe I'll take Mr. McDuck's offer on that laundry expense and go to the 'mat around the block after dinner. Man, I'm not gonna sleep until' "Oof!" Kishi's train of thought was cut off by him colliding with a tall figure wearing a red cloak. The two tumbled onto the sidewalk. Kishi groaned with an exhausted pain in his rear.

"uhhh. Sure. This might as well happen. Wait. OHMIGOSH! I'm so sorry, sir. Are you alright?" he said while regaining his composure and checking on the man he knocked into. The man was much older than was expected, with medium length gray white hair pulled into a tight ponytail. He had a full gray beard with stray dark hairs still clinging to the sides of his mouth. His bright green eyes had a piercing gaze, yet also held a tired look. Kishi could tell just from this look that this guy had a huge weight on him. Taking the offered hand, the elder showed his own hand was covered in bandages and scar tissue.

"Up we go. That's quite alright, young man. I've taken my fair share of licks. And, judging by your apparel, you have too." He said while giving his 'assailant' a quick glance over. His voice was deep, with a rough texture that had a stern but caring demeanor.

Kishi rubbed the back of his head nervously, "heh, yeah I took a tumble at work today. I guess I was still dazed on my way back home. Say, are you new around here, old timer? I haven't seen you in the neighborhood before."

"Respect your elders, boy. And yes, you could say that I'm new around here. I'm here in Twilight Town on important business. And rather than Old Timer, you may just call me Cleric."

"Cleric? That's an interesting name. But okay, as long you don't call me 'boy'. The name's Kishi, Kishi Hikari." he replied while offering his hand again, this time for introduction. Cleric gave a sensible chuckle as he shook his hand sincerely.

"And you say my name is interesting? Where I'm from, you would turn the most heads. But, while I am here, maybe you could aid me in finding a specific location?"

"Sure, I'll do my best."

"Well, I'm looking for a mansion. It's an old, seemingly abandoned estate, surrounded by trees."

Kishi blinked and tried to recall some of the local rumors. He thought about those three kids who always hung out together in the back alley and the sandlot, and he heard them talking about the Seven Wonders of Twilight Town one time.

"Well, there is an old mansion outside the city walls. Kids go there every summer and try to dare each other to explore it, since people keep claiming it's haunted. I haven't really bothered to go there myself, but it's probably worth checking out. Head back down the way I came to the Market Square. There used to be this big hole in the wall anyone could go through to get to the woods, but it was patched up last year after too many parent complaints. But, the runoff drain that goes into the sewers should bring you outside the city limits. Not exactly the relaxing scenic route, but if it's as important as you say, it's your best bet. Besides, you seem like the kinda guy who can handle some gross tunnel."

"An astute observation. Thank you, Mr. Hikari. I hope to see you again before I take my leave." The old man said, bowing his head slightly in thanks as he made his way down the street.

Kishi was left to reflect on the man. He had this aura about him that seemed important, like running into a familiar face that you don't remember. Was this feeling legitimate and there was some great fate around the corner? Or had he taken too many licks for the day and needed to rest? Probably the latter.

Entering his apartment building and climbing the stairs to the third floor, he breathed a major sigh of relief upon finally getting home. Opening the door he was welcomed into the small quaint living space with the smell of herbs and spices wafting in the air, as a shorter portly woman with curly brown hair was stirring a pot of curry. The woman, Aiko, heard her son come in and realized something was wrong by the way the door opened and slammed shut without a word. Usually her baby would at least announce his return.

"Welcome home Kishi. Is everything okay? What happened? Did those hooligans with the Struggle bats make you compete with them again?" she asked, worried about her child.

"It's nothing ma, I took a fall while hanging posters up, and some garbage bags broke my fall. Honestly, it could've been a helluva lot worse if it wasn't there." Kishi responded with a pained smile. Just then, a large black dog scurried up to him and jumped his front paws on his chest, knocking him to the floor.

"Ow! Kuro! Easy boy! I'm always glad to see ya, but please stop." Kishi exclaimed as the dog in question licked his face and then suddenly stopped, his resting goofy grin on his muzzle. Aiko managed to pull the large canine off of him by the collar.

"Honey, maybe you should go take a shower now. Dinner'll be ready by the time you're done with it."

"That was the plan, thanks mom." he said hoisting himself up using the kitchen counter.

Kishi dragged himself to his bedroom and undressed, feeling especially gross after everything that happened. He then went to his bathroom and turned on the shower. The hot water raining down on his aching muscles, or what few he had, felt amazing relief. He let out a low moan as he stood there soaking it all in. 'Don't fall asleep. don't fall asleep. don't fall asleep.' he repeated to himself as he leaned against the wall. After deep scrubbing every part of him to make sure there was no lingering smell, he got out of the shower and toweled off. After putting on his relaxing t-shirt and sweatpants, he noticed something was missing from his room.

"Hey ma?" he asked, entering the kitchen, "did you move my uniform? I was sure I tossed it on my bed."

"Oh yeah, honey, I put it in the wash. It was filthy."

"Mom, you didn't have to do that" Kishi complained as he sat at the kitchen table, "I made the mistake, it was my job, I should be the one to clean it."

"There'll be none of that now, Mister. It's not a problem, and you work hard enough already." Aiko said, ladling some curry onto the plate of rice in front of her son.

"Thanks. And thanks. Oh right, before I forget." Kishi fished into his pocket and pulled out the Munny pouch, dropping it on the table with a loud cling.

"Oh my, that's much more than Mr. McDuck normally pays. I didn't know he was so generous."

"Yeah, I was surprised too. But hey, I don't look a gift duck in the mouth. And we need the Munny." Kishi stated in between bites of his dinner. It was a fruity blend of sweet and spicy that made a great contrast going down.

"Kishi Hikari, I told you I don't want you to take a job just for the Munny. I'm proud of you for wanting to help with the funds around here, but what I want above all else is for you to be happy." Aiko said, resting a caring hand on her son's. "I want you to do a job that you either love doing, or one that can help other people."

Kishi smiled and patted the top of his mom's hand. "I appreciate it mom, I really do. But maybe I enjoy falling into garbage. Ever consider that?"

"...well, do y-"

"I don't, I absolutely don't. But... *sigh* you're right. I felt like helping bring home the bread would be enough to make me feel accomplished, but it really hasn't been. Mr. McDuck is a great guy...duck...thing...but I wanna reach out and help people more, like Cleric."

"Cleric, dear?"

Kishi related the encounter he had before getting home.

"Well, it sounds like this Mr. Cleric is involved in something that can help a lot of people. And he said he would come see you before he left? Maybe ask about his business and how to get into it before he takes off."

"Yeah, that sounds like a plan. Thanks mom. I hope you don't mind, I'm gonna hit the hay a little early. Love you." he said, getting up and stretching and yawning.

"It's no problem honey. Go get some rest."

Kishi went into his bedroom and Kuro followed, jumping onto his bed to curl up for sleep. The dog's owner followed suit, feeling the last energy reserves he had for the day leave him as he drifted into a sound sleep.

The next morning found Kishi waking up groggily and getting dressed in his newly cleaned and 'de-garbaged' uniform. Thinking back to his conversation with his mom, he wondered if he should tell Mr. McDuck that he wanted to find a new job. 'I probably shouldn't. Just in case that old man has nothing to really offer me.'

Heading outside, he took notice how the clouds were looking a lot darker than normal. 'The forecast didn't call for a storm, right?' he pondered as he walked down the street.

Once he got to the Bistro, he saw the restaurant was closed, and several workers were boarding up the windows. Overseeing it was Scrooge, telling them to hurry up and put their backs into it.

"Mr. McDuck? What's going on? You wouldn't close the bistro if a volcano erupted." Kishi asked, approaching his boss.

"Kishi, mah lad. This is no time fer jokes. You see the sky? This is something fierce coming. I feel it in me feathers." For the first time since meeting the old miser, Kishi saw pure fear in Scrooge's eyes. This wasn't something he could just gloss over. He noticed that the dark clouds had deepened from gray to almost black, and were starting to swirl into a vortex. Wind picked up, blowing papers and trash across the marketplace.

"Sir, what exactly is going on? We've had plenty of storms before. What makes this one so different? And why does it feel like you've seen this before?"

"Because I have, laddy. This isn't a force of nature like wind or earth, this be something much more treacherous. I'm closing up shop for the time being and I'm leaving town. I suggest you go make sure your mother is okay and hunker down at your home."

"What about Huey, Dewey, and Louie? Aren't they still in town?"

"Are ya daft? They're coming with me. Here," Scrooge reached into his pocket and pulled out a larger Munny pouch than what he gave Kishi yesterday. "Get whatever supplies ya need to stay inside and stay safe."

"You're really serious, aren't you? Sir...I can't accept this..."

"You can and you will, laddy. Consider it an investment. Yer a good worker, and I wanna make sure you bounce back from this." Scrooge gave Kishi a reassuring nod as he handed him the bag. Kishi held the bag close to his chest before suddenly realizing something.

"Cleric!"

"What was that, lad?"

"Cleric, he's an old man I met yesterday. Last I saw, he was heading for the old mansion. If this disaster is as bad as you say, I gotta warn him." Kishi started to set off when his hand was grabbed by his (former) boss.

"Don't go, ya daft dumpster diver! There's no time, and you gotta get home!"

Kishi looked at him, looked at the sky, looked back towards home, looked towards the sewer tunnel he mentioned, and back to Scrooge. "I'm sorry sir. But if I don't make sure he's okay, I might regret it for the rest of my life." He shook off Scrooge's grip and took off for the sewers.

"That boy's got quite a heart. I hope it'll be strong enough for the rising tide." Scrooge said to no one in particular before heading off to find his nephews.

Kishi sprinted down the tunnel as fast as his legs could take him, not caring the few times he slipped on the slick wet floor. As he continued running, the overhead lights in the tunnel sparked and flickered out. It was still visible in the tunnel, but just barely once his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Suddenly he felt a pressence and his blood ran cold.

Out of nowhere, pairs of bright yellow eyes suddenly started appearing and crawling out of the walls and ceiling. As the vague shapes creeped closer, it was more clear what the creatures were, and creatures was appropriate. They were completely black, save for the bright eyes. They were bipedal creatures, no bigger than a few feet, hunched over and wriggling in place. Their heads were perfectly round with no features save for a pair of insect like antennae. Kishi wanted to scream, but the air had already left his lungs. As they got closer, he felt a tugging sensation inside his chest. Looking for a solution as fast as possible, he picked up a rusty broken pipe and swung at a nearby monster. The swing connected and sent the creature flying into the wall, but it didn't seem to cause any kind of damage. Realizing this was an almost fruitless endeavor, Kishi took off running for the end of the tunnel.

Finally getting to the wooden hatch that led outside into the woods, Kishi stopped to breathe and collect himself. But it didn't last long, as he looked up and saw more of the shadowy creatures in the trees, dancing from branch to branch. He took a deep breath and charged through the woods, hoping that none of the creatures would take notice of him or manage to catch up. Making his way through the brush he crested a hill and found his destination, the old mansion.

In the darkness of the looming storm, the mansion appeared as a gothic nightmare of a structure, tree branches blowing in the wind almost acting as hands beckoning Kishi towards it. As Kishi approached the huge iron gate, he noticed the front door opening up. Hobbling out of the manor, covered in bloody cuts and bruises, looking out with one swollen eye, and using what looked like a giant key for support, was Cleric.

"Cleric!" Kishi exclaimed as he ran into the courtyard and helped the old man before he fell over.

"Young Hikari. *cough* you shouldn't be here. You should make sure your family is safe." the old man sputtered out as he sat down against one of the brick columns. Kishi saw that the big key he had was almost as long as he was tall, decorated ornately with golden stars and a radiant angel wing on the end.

"I had a feeling you were still out here. I wanted to make sure you were okay. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have told you where the mansion was." Kishi's eyes started to water as he saw all the injuries plagueing the elder's body.

"*cough* Don't be foolish, boy. You had no way of knowing. I always expected this to happen." Cleric put his hand on the young man's shoulder to help him keep his composure.

"You...you knew this would happen, didn't you? You were here to fight these things. These..."

"Heartless. They're called the Heartless, born from the darkness in people's hearts. And yes, to an extent. I anticipated that this was a possibility. I knew I had to seal this world's keyhole no matter the cost. I succeeded, but as you can see, it wasn't exactly a clean victory. hehe *cough*"

"This world? Hearts? Don't worry, I'll go get help."

"No, Kishi. It's pointless. These aren't normal injuries. They're the culmination of decades of diving into the darkness to combat it, and the wounds have run too deep. The only people that can save me now are far beyond your ability to reach, and even then it would be delaying the inevitable."

"You're serious. Just like Mr. McDuck was. You're really from another world. There are other worlds out there. You tried to save us?"

"I did try, yes. This world won't fall into darkness or become a sleeping world, but the Heartless will still attack now that they have gotten a taste of the hearts here. Most will scatter and leave in the coming days. I must apologize. This is partly my own fault. The Heartless will strike out of instinct at a Keyblade wielder."

"The Keyblade? This thing?" Kishi asked, attempting to lift the weapon. It was unsurprisingly heavy, which made him all the more impressed at the old man's rapidly dwindling strength.

"Only a chosen few can wield one. It's the ultimate tool against the forces of darkness if wielded responsibly, and can bring ultimate destruction if not. I've done all I could to protect worlds and the world order. My only true regret is not having a successor. My blade will die with me." In his one clear eye, Kishi could see all the sorrow Cleric held. He looked at the ornate blade and at the dark sky. With one less Keyblade wielder, that was one less person who could protect people from darkness. One less person to protect his mom, or Kuro, or anyone else in Twilight Town, or who knows how far out these worlds really go. Kishi felt himself hyperventilating until he felt Cleric's hand on his shoulder again. His hand was comforting, but it felt colder than before. There was no other option in this. No going back.

"Make me your successor."

"What? *cough* this is no time for jokes, boy. I barely know you."

"I told you not to call me boy. And I know, I get it. To you, I'm almost a complete stranger. But if you die here without an heir, then there's less of a chance for the people I love to be safe. I know I don't look ready, but I ran through a forest of Heartless to make sure you're okay. That's gotta count for something, right?"

"Young man, what you're asking for is a pathway frought with peril and dangers with almost no reward or even acknowledgement. You'll be considered lucky if you end up like me in a few decades. You have a strong heart, but is it strong enough to stand up to a whole universe of terrors? Can you look up at that, and make everyone still feel safe?" He asked, pointing at the massive dark vortex in the sky.

"Maybe. Maybe not. I honestly don't know. But I can learn as I go. All I can do is give you my word that I'll protect everyone I can. It's a leap of faith."

"You're really not gonna relent until I say yes, are you?"

"It's better than letting your legacy die with you."

"Hehehe *cough* oh man...You got guts kid. Okay, if you really think you can do this, I will be able to lift this weight off my heart. Come here."

"Yes sir." The dying elder held his keyblade out for Kishi to take. As he gripped the hilt of the blade, Cleric placed his hand upon him and looked into his eyes.

"In your hand, take this key. So long as you have the makings, then through this simple act of taking, its wielder today you shall be. And you will find me, friend - no ocean will contain you then. No more borders around, or below, or above, so long as you champion the ones you love."

After the reciting of this passage, light engulfed both of them. A huge column of light erupted from their position into the air, parting the dark clouds and bringing the sunlight back into the town. When the light dimmed, Kishi saw that he was holding the keyblade, but it was different. It was significantly less fancy, so to speak, than Cleric's. It looked like a basic silver pole with a large star on the end. On the other end was the hilt which was a deep cobalt blue, with a keychain coming off the pommel in the shape of another star. It was practically weightless in Kishi's hands as he held it aloft.

"That's the first keyblade I started with, the Starlight. It symbolizes the start of your journey. Young Hikari, you are beginning the most important journey of your life." Cleric said. It was at this point that bits of light started coming off of him and his form seemed to be fading.

"You're...disappearing!"

"I used the last of my strength to pass my arm onto you. Don't make me regret this, kid."

Kishi sniffled as his eyes started to leak again "I promise, sir. I won't let you down."

"Before I go, you'll need a Master to train you." He pointed towards the Mansion, "Out beyond the mansion. Follow the rabbit. Find Oswald. Tell him everything. If he remembers our deal, he will train you."

"I'm sorry it had to come to this... Master Cleric."

"Took you to the very last minute to respect your elders, eh?"

Cleric's form had almost completely vanished at that point. Kishi could only make out a whisper as he dissappeared completely.

"May your heart be your guiding key."

CHAPTER 1 END

Thank you for taking the time to check this out. Please don't be afraid to review and let me know where I messed up or where I could improve.