Welcome to chapter three, first things first, I do not own Kingdom Hearts, or any of the characters and properties therein. If I did I would be on an Island somewhere. Please support the official release.

Now with that out of the way, As with IHS, which at the time of me writing this story is being released sans my full editing process. As such it will be a bit rougher than many of you have come to expect from me. Finally at the end of the chapter I have a question for all of you.

Outside Ul'dah, South Thanalan, 10:00 LT, One Week Later

Aqua and Kairi

The air was filled with the sound of wood against wood. Aqua had wanted to start Kairi on the basics of how to handle a keyblade and had managed to cobble together a pair of wooden swords. While Momodi had given them the first week free, everything Aqua wanted or needed to do required money and greater knowledge of the area than she had. So after giving her new apprentice basics of the history and duties of a Keyblade wielder, Aqua had gone out and started completing jobs for the guild. For Aqua, almost all of what had been asked of her was fairly easy. And Momodi had offered her more difficult jobs. But those would have taken her away from Kairi.

Momodi had seemed like a reasonable woman and so Aqua had made an agreement where if she completed six jobs in a week, then she wouldn't have to do any the following week. Even without her magic, Aqua had found the jobs to be so easy that she had finished twelve of them, securing their lodging for the next month. The remaining money had allowed Aqua to purchase the wood and other much needed supplies, like clothes appropriate to the climate. Both girls now wore loose fitting tunics and pants that gave them freedom of movement but that kept them safe from the harsh light of this world's star.

As Aqua continued to run the younger girl through the various drills so that she could build up the muscle memory to make using them like second nature, her thoughts turned to the girl in front of her. Kairi had taken the shaking of her understanding of the universe exceedingly well. Master Erauqs had pounded the lesson of what could happen if the knowledge of the existence of other worlds got out on the wrong world. A technology advanced world like the one where she had met Stitch might take the information in stride.

But a world like the one where she had met Hercules and Zack would not. Master Erauqs had made it clear that societal collapse was the best-case scenario. Still, the young girl had soldered on and was proving to be a quick study on the basics of swordplay. Still, it was best not to overtire themselves, so it was time to move on to the other part of their training. "Kairi stop."

The young girl stopped mid swing and asked curiously, "Is there something wrong Master Aqua?"

Aqua shook her head, "No, it's just time we move on to other parts of your training.. Go grab a drink from our supplies and then meet me over by the trees."

Kairi looked at Aqua and asked, "What are we learning?"

We are going to work on meditation. We both need to bond with our Keyblades, to do that you need to learn how to commune with it. Eventually, when you have bonded with it enough, it will change into the form that best suits you. The other part of this is that by bonding with your Keyblade, it will teach you skills and abilities that only it can." Aqua summoned and showed Kairi her Keyblade. Right now I have almost no connection to Masters Defender. Even if I could access my magic, I couldn't do a fraction of the things that my master could do with it. I hope that eventually, some of what he could do will be available to me."

Kairi merely nodded and went to do as instructed while Aqua sat down by the tree. After a moment, Kairi returned holding two cups of water and handed one to Aqua. After both girls had finished their drinks, Aqua started to speak. "The first part of meditation is clearing your mind. Do you know how to do that?"

When Kairi shook her head, Aqua recalled the lessons Master Erauqs had taught her what now felt like a lifetime ago. "To clear your mind, start imagining the place where you have felt safest, felt protected. Recall the sights, the sounds and the smells. Think about how that place felt to you."

Kairi did as her master instructed. Almost instantly, her mind went to the island back home that her friends and she had played on for years. In her mind, she could feel the sun on her face, the sand beneath her feet, and the wind against her skin. She could hear the waves crashing against the shore. She could smell the ocean, it brought a smile to her face. Suddenly, she heard Aqua's voice. "Do you have your visualization?"

In her head, Kairi nodded before realizing the other girl might not see it and said "Yes, Master Aqua."

"Good. Now visualize a lit candle and let me know when you have that in place."

It took Kairi a moment, but soon she was looking at a candle. "Master Aqua I have the candle in front of me."

"Good, now before we continue, I want you to remember how this place makes you feel. And then focus on the candle." Kairi did as told and after a minute, Aqua continued speaking. "Now slowly remove everything from your mind but the candle."

Kairi started to do as asked. The first to go were the sensations, then the smells, and finally the sights disappeared, leaving just Kairi and the candle. After a moment, a voice said, "Now slowly open your eyes."

As Kairi opened her eyes, she felt a peace that she couldn't remember feeling in a very long time. She saw that Aqua was now seated in front of her and she was smiling. "That, Kairi, is clearing your mind."

Kairi could only say one word. "Wow."

Aqua nodded. "It's an amazing feeling the first time you do it. Now are you ready to move on to meditation?" Kairi nodded and Aqua continued, "Good, now summon your Keyblade." As Kairi summoned the blue and silver weapon, Aqua spoke again. When you meditate, I want you to put your mind into this state and then focus on your Keyblade, focus on how it feels in your hands. Focus on the sensations it gives off. Typically, a Keyblade is an extension of your heart. It is you and you are it."

Kairi nodded, and after a bit of effort cleared her mind and started to focus on her Keyblade. For a long time nothing happened, but then she thought she heard something. "My name is-"

Kairi's eyes immediately opened. "Master Aqua, My Keyblade is trying to tell me its name!" She said excitedly.

Aqua smiled. "That's a very good first step. While I told you its name last week, telling you its name is very important to your bond. So go back in and let it."

Kairi nodded, and this time she descended into her meditative trance much quicker. It was another long wait before she heard the voice again. This time it was slightly louder. "My name is, My name is Starlight."

Kairi smiled. Hi Starlight, my name is Kairi. Instantly, Kairi felt a wave of happiness pass through her. She giggled as the sensation passed over her. "It's nice to meet you. I hope we can get to know each other and be friends." Another wave of happiness passed through Kairi, signifying Starlight's agreement.

Kairi didn't know how long she was with Starlight, but suddenly, she heard the voice of her master. "Kairi, it's time to come out." causing Kairi to frown slightly.

With a tinge of sadness in her voice, she spoke to Starlight once again. "My master is calling me, so I need to go now. But I promise I'll be back soon." Kairi felt a wave of regret, sadness and understanding pass through her. With some effort, Kairi returned to the real world.

When Kairi opened her eyes, she noticed that the sun had moved quite a bit since she had started. Curiously, she asked. "How long was I out for?"

"I believe it is 14:00, You've been out for nearly four hours." replied Aqua

"Wow, is it always like this?" asked Kairi, amazed and concerned by the length of time she had communed with her Keyblade.

Aqua shrugged, "It can vary a lot, Master Erauqs once told me that those whose Keyblade were destined to transform into magical Keyblades often spent more time in communication with their Keyblades while those whose Keyblades were to become more physically inclined spent a lot less time communing… Like my friends Terra and Ventus. During our training under our master, Terra would finish extremely quickly. He wasn't shirking his training. It wasn't his style and Master Erauqs wouldn't stand for it. It's just that his Keyblade was like him, all action.

Ventus, on the other hand, took a good bit longer. Part of it was that he was a little younger than me. But part of it was that his fighting style was balanced between magic and physical combat. "

As her master explained, Kairi noticed that whenever the older woman talked about her master or her friends that she looked wistful. "Master Aqua, are you okay?"

The blue-haired woman shook her head quickly as if trying to ward away a bad thought before she smiled at her apprentice. "Thank you Kairi, I'm okay. My master has been gone for a long time and I haven't seen my friends for a long time. But I have faith that I will see them again."

For a moment neither of them said a word, then Aqua smiled and said "We still have some daylight left so lets get back to drills"

Kairi groaned lightly but stood up to get started.

Aqua and Kairi's room, The Quicksand, Ul'dah 00:00 LT

Aqua woke up with a muffled cry. It had been a nightmare. In fact, it had been the same nightmare she had been having for the last week. It always started with her meeting up with Terra and Ven in Radiant Garden. It always involved her telling Ven to go home and admitting that she was all but spying on Terra for Master Erauqs. The last thing that she heard before things faded to black was Ventus telling her that she had let her new position go to her head. 'I just wanted to keep them safe!'

The next scene was that wasteland of dead Keyblades. And her being told that their master had tried to kill Ventus, and that Terra had helped Xehanort kill their master. She felt the judgemental words come out of her mouth. "What else is darkness but hate and rage? Xehanort is feeding the dark fires within you, making you fight. You'll go astray again." Aqua shuddered as she saw the effect that her words had on her friend.

What followed was the disaster of a battle with Ventus's heart shattered, leaving him comatose. And Terra possessed. Then, when she had taken Ventus to the Land of Departure, she had been attacked by a hooded stranger. Amid everything else that had happened, she had barely survived. That had paled compared to the fight she had had against the thing that had possessed Terra.

Finally, at the end of her nightmare, when she was falling into darkness, she saw a duplicate of herself saying, "What is Darkness but hate and rage? What makes a person light or dark? What does Light and Darkness mean to you?"

For what felt like an eternity, Aqua sat on her bed trying to understand. "What does it mean.?" After all, while she deeply regretted the effect her words had on Terra, What was the darkness but hate and rage? Master Erauqs had taught her and the others that those who used the Darkness were evil, weak or ignorant. "But what makes a person Light or Dark?"

Aqua closed her eyes and dived into her mindscape, only when she opened her eyes instead of finding herself in the void she found herself in whenever she had tried to commune with Masters Defender, she was in the Great Hall of Master Erauqs's castle, staring at a near identical set of eyes. When aqua stepped back, she saw she was standing in front of a near perfect duplicate of herself. The only difference Aqua could see was that her duplicate's eyes were slightly lighter than her own. It was a deeply confused "What" that escaped her lips.

The other Aqua smiled a very unpleasant smile as she retorted, "An absolutely witty response, I can see why you were made a master… Still, you finally figured out there was something to the dreams I've been sending you the last week"

"The dreams you've been sending me? Who are you?" Aqua responded with far more calm than she actually felt.

The duplicate favored Aqua with a look that she instantly read as 'Are you serious?' "Since you seem to need the answer handed to you Master Aqua let me give you some hints about who I am, I was there when Xehanort gave your master that scar on his face. I was there when your masters master sent a bunch of half trained children to die, and I have been with you every step of the way for nine years."

Aquas eyes lit up with realization. "You're Masters Defender!"

"Ding Ding Ding, give the girl a prize. All it took were a trio of hints so large that a 'Large Body' could fit through.

Aqua found herself getting extremely irritated by how Masters Defender was speaking to her. "Why are you insulting me and your past wielders?"

Master Defender took a deep breath before she responded, "Because my last couple of wielders, yourself included, have had some screwed up notions about Light and Darkness. And I have gotten sick of it. So until you figure it out I am going to continue to block your magic abilities"

Aquas' eyes narrowed at the revelation. "You're the one blocking my magic? How? Why?"

Masters Defenders voice suddenly became much colder. Because as a welder I am inexorably tied to your magic, and because every time, every damn time I have let bullshit slide, people have died needlessly and I will not let it happen again. If you want your magic back, let alone any of the skills I gave your master, you are going to learn what I have to teach you." The Keyblades voice warmed up considerably "Now I'm in a good mood right now so I am going to start you off with the easiest of the three questions. And if you manage to figure it out tonight, I'll throw in a skill that you can use and teach to your little apprentice and her baby Keyblade." Masters defenders voice became deadly serious, "The question is, What makes a person Light or Dark? And before you answer, I am not looking for anything as simple as using the use of their darkness. That kind of dogmatic thinking is what I am trying to avoid."

Aqua nodded, "Will I be allowed to ask questions?"

The personified Keyblade nodded, "You can ask anything but I might not always answer."

Aqua nodded, having no choice but to accept the answer she had been given. For several minutes Aqua was deep in thought before she looked at her doppelgänger who stood waiting patiently. "Since merely using one's darkness isn't an answer you'll accept, It comes down to choices. A person who is Light defends others while a person who is Dark attacks.'' The frown that appeared on her duplicates face made her have second thoughts.

"That is the type of dogmatic thinking that I would expect from one of Erauqs apprentices. And at best it is a partial answer."

Aqua nodded before responding. "If Ven and Terra were telling the truth, then Master Erauqs tried to murder them. And Terra was defending Ven and himself. By the definitions I just used, that would make Master Erauqs the Dark one and Terra the Light one. But if I am understanding the question. Then that is wrong too." Aqua looked at the Keyblade who was now nodding.

Ater a moment Aqua asked "Can you tell me about what Master Odin did?"

Masters Defender nodded before it spoke again. "Master Odin was the kind of man who in the fullness of time I can admit was far worse than your own master. Whereas Erauqs's actions were driven by fear and paranoia, Odin's actions were driven by a desire to destroy the Darkness by any means necessary. For all his expertise, one of the things Odin never understood was the true nature of Light and Dark. I hope that by the time we are done, You will understand something that your master and his master did not.

But back to what Odin did. He orchestrated a plan whereby he caused one of his apprentices to be sacrificed to the Darkness and in doing so sacrificed the lives of almost all of his other students and caused the survivors to follow paths that lead to what happened to you and your friends."

"But wait," Aqua interrupted, "Hasn't everything you have been telling me been about how the Dark isn't evil."

"That Master Aqua? The Keyblade drawled "Is what we call nuance. Because throughout history there have been beings of malicious darkness. who have sought to destroy. And there have been many throughout history of many worlds who have lost control of their own inherent darkness and committed atrocities, such as that noblewoman you met on Cinderella's world. But particularly with Odin that is not what happened he fell prey to a saying that one of my earlier masters heard on a distant world. 'Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.'

Erauqs for all the problems he caused directly and indirectly understood his eros at the end of his time on the material plain."

Aqua nodded thoughtfully. "So what you are saying is that what makes a person Light or Dark has more to do with a mixture of one's actions and their motives for those actions. Using the power of Darkness to save a life isn't inherently Dark because you used the Dark, while using the power of Light to take a life for the sake of what that person thinks is a good cause does not make the act itself Light.

An atrocity committed in the name of the Light, no matter how well intentioned, is just as evil as if it were done in the service of the Dark. while at the same time an act of good committed through the power of Darkness is as good as it would be if performed through the power of light."

"You're close, Truthfully for most people trying too hard to be Dark or Light can limit your growth as a person and as a Keyblade wielder. For those like your apprentice, having no darkness inside you can be as much of a bane as it is a boon."

So taking that into consideration, It is a detriment to try to force one side or another and that rather than prejudge we should look at each person or group on a case-by-case basis and judge them on their own merits."

Master Defender smiled widely. "Congratulations Master Aqua! You have learned a concept that evaded my last two wielders. The next two questions are going to be more difficult to answer but use what you learned now to answer those questions. Now I said I would give you a new skill and I am a Keyblade of my word." Before Aqua could move, Masters Defender was standing in front of her with her right hand extended and poked her in the head with her index finger. In an instant Aquas mind was flooded with the knowledge of a new skill.

Masters Defender smirked, That Master Aqua is the Keychain Whip. It is not dissimilar from the chains that Erauqs used. It has a great many uses that I am sure that a Keyblade master such as yourself can figure out. Feel free to teach it to your apprentice and her Starlight when you think they are ready. Now go we have been at this for a while and you need to sleep more if you are going to be useful for anything tomorrow"

In a flash of light, Aqua was thrown out of her mindscape and opened her eyes with a gasp back in her and Kairis room. The clock told her that she had been meditating for nearly two hours. The stiffness in her back as she lay back down confirmed what the clock had said. "I need to figure this out. I think I am going to give Kairi the day off tomorrow and check the bookshops for any info on the subject."

The next morning found Kairi walking around the city. Master Aqua had told her that there were some things that she need to handle so she had given Kairi the day off. The only directions she had been given was to stay out of the alleys and avoid staring. She had also been given a few thousand Gil to for anything she needed.

As Kairi walked through the bazaar, she was having a hard time not staring. She and her master had been on this world for over a week and everything was still so fresh to her. But as she watched the merchants sell their wares or in some cases actually create them. She couldn't help but think back to the bazaars on other islands that her dad had taken her too when she was younger. 'I guess no matter where you go, some things are always the same."

That thought brought a tear to Kairi's eyes. According to her master, her adopted world had been consumed by Darkness. Almost everyone that she knew, Almost everyone she cared for or loved was gone. Master Aqua had said that there may be a way to restore it, but they were stuck on this world for the time being. The only thing that had kept her together during the last couple of days had been the fact that despite everything, she could still feel Sora and Riku. She didn't know what this feeling meant, but it had helped her hold on. She had faith that she would see them again and then they would bring back the Islands. Until then, she would do her best.

Shaking her head to bring her thoughts back to the present, Kairi started looking at some stands more intently. If Master Aqua was telling the truth, they were going to visit a lot of worlds and Kairi wanted to have something to remember from each of them. More to the point, she wanted something to give Sora and Riku when she saw them again.

After a while, Kairi gave up. She had seen many things that caught her attention as gifts for her friends, but all of them were outside of the gil she had on hand. With a disappointed sigh, she thought, "Well, there's always next time.

As Kairi made her way out of the bazaar, she looked for a place to sit. While Master Aqua had given her the day off, Kairi wanted to spend some time with Starlight. Finding a nice seat near the Steps of Nald, Kairi closed her eyes and entered her mental plain. She was surprised when instead of the empty void she was used to; she was back home on the beach where she and her friends had played for so many years. Standing in front of her was a near duplicate of herself the only difference was that her duplicate was still wearing the outfit Kairi had been wearing when she arrived on this world.

As Kairi tried to process what was going on, the duplicate spoke. "Hiya Kairi, do you like what I've done with the place?"

It took Kairi a moment to realize who the other girl was. "Starlight?"

"Yep, Yep, Yep! I just figured out how to alter the appearance of your mental plain when we meet."

Seeing her home again, even if it was just as mental projection, brought a tear to Kairis eyes. Starlight, however, misunderstood. "What's wrong Kairi, is this making you sad?"


Kairi shook her head and smiled. "No, no Starlight. I'm just really happy to see home." Then quick as a flash she wrapped her arms around the manifestation of her Keyblade and hugged her tight. "Thank you."

Starlight smiled at its wielder and said, "you're welcome, Kairi." As the two separated Starlight said. "I have a gift for you, I can't teach you any really cool abilities yet, like Masters Defender is probably teaching Master Aqua," the Keyblade said with a frown. "But I can give you something to protect yourself." Before Kairi could offer a response, Starlight embraced her tightly and suddenly Kairi had new knowledge flooding into her head.

As the two separated Starlight spoke up. That is called 'Barrier. With it you can use my power to protect yourself and those physically close to you."

"Than-thank you Starlight!" Kairi stammered "How does it work?"

Starlight smiled a smile that Kairi had to admit looked really good on her face. "That's simple silly, just will it. Of course if you want you can put an arm out or give me a wave as a way of giving mental focus. But it is really unnecessary. Why don't you try it."

Kairi nodded and focused on forming a barrier. Putting both of her arms up with her palms outward, she was amazed when she found herself surrounded by a spherical barrier that looked like a beehive. She was so amazed that she nearly missed what Starlight said next. "As we get stronger and you learn more about magic, you will make the barrier stronger and even expand it to push people attacking you away."

Kairi smiled, "That's amazing! Thank you Starlight!

Their conversation would continue well into the afternoon.

The Next Day, Ul'dah 14:17 LT

As Aqua made her way through the afternoon crowds, she thought about the rumors she had heard this morning at the quicksand. One patron had mentioned that a newcomer to Ul'dah, a brown skinned Rava Viera woman, had been joining most of the guilds that made their home in the city. Supposedly she had joined Gladiators, Pugilists and Thaumaturges and was planning to join goldsmiths, weavers, alchemists and miners.

It had been the mention of the word thaumaturges that had gotten Aquas attention. So she had inquired and had learned that their guild used what many called black magic. She wasn't sure if the magic used by the group was compatible with what she used but the term black magic made her think it might be connected to the question Masters Defender had asked her. She had also learned that there was a group that dealt with what they called white magic but that guild was in another city called Gridania that was more than a day's trip from Ul'dah on foot. Aqua wanted to make sure Kairi was at least competent in defending herself before they made any sort of trip. So it would have to wait.

In the meantime she was considering signing up Kairi for the Gladiators. While she had yet to move Kairi to spars with her. Only having one opponent for training would mean that bad habits might be overlooked. Having others around to point out flaws in Kairis forms would be beneficial.

Soon Aqua found herself in front of the doors to the Thaumaturgy Guild. As she entered she saw that the building was full of books. Standing at a raised desk near the door was a dark-haired, light-skinned female human or Hyur as they were referred to on this world. The woman took a moment to notice her before she plastered a smile on her face and said with obvious fake cheer. "Welcome to the Thaumaturgy Guild, How can I help you?"

Aqua looked at the woman and said "I am considering joining your guild with my apprentice and I wanted to know if there was any literature I could read regarding who you all are and what you do.."

The woman was about to respond when a small figure in a red robe appeared and in a voice that Aqua was sure was an attempt to sound grandiose. "Did mine ears deceive me or has someone inquired about our illustrious guild? "

Aqua just a bit put off by the verbosity of the Lalafell before her merely nodded.

With even more energy than before and with a wave of his hands replied." Well then milady, Allow me to introduce myself. I am Cocobuki Lolobuki, one of the masters of this guild. What pray tell brought us to your attention."

It took a moment for Aqua to translate the Lalafells words before she responded carefully. "Sir as I was telling your attendant, I have heard a lot about your guild and I wanted to see if you had any literature I and my apprentice could read to see if we wish to try joining your Guild."

Cocobuki nodded a few times before he responded "Your wisdom exceeds your years. Tis a wise idea to understand what you are getting into before you leap into the abyss." Turning to look at the attendant he said. "Ayumi! Grab the basic primers on Thaumaturgy volumes one through five!"

The woman quickly stood to attention with a "Yes Guild-master!" before she ran out of sight to follow her instructions. Aqua found her attention returning to Cocobuki when he cleared his throat. "As I find myself in an agreeable mood, I will allow you to borrow these tomes for three days to allow you to make an informed decision. If at the end of the three days you choose to join us, you will be allowed to keep them. Should you choose not to join us but keep the tomes regardless, then you will face the full fury of our guild."

Part of Aqua wanted to gape at such a small person making such a big threat, but she kept her face passive and said with a slight bow. "Yes, sir."

There was a moment of silence before the attendant Ayumi returned with the books. Aqua was a bit surprised at the size of them. Each book was a few inches thick. "Looks like I know what I am doing for the next couple of days."

Two days later, Aqua finished reading the books. Thaumaturgy was about manipulating the darkness inside oneself, what was locally known as an umbral aspect to manipulate the aetheric elemental forces aligned to it, namely fire, ice and thunder to attack..

This stood as opposed to Conjury, which used the Astral aligned aethers of air and earth to defend and heal.

This brought Aqua to a mental quagmire. She had used a variety of magic all throughout her time as a Keyblade wielder, more than Ven, Terra or even Master Erauqs. She used magic as a key component of her combat style. "Have I been using the Darkness all this time? Does the Keyblade act as a filter? Keeping the taint of the Darkness from infecting us? And what about Ven? There was no Darkness within him, yet he could use the spells that the Thaumaturgist use with no problem.

And none of these addresses the big question, What is the Darkness?"

So Aqua was once again making her way toward the Thaumaturgy guild, She had more questions and hopefully they could answer. As she made her way into the building, she saw that the Hyur woman, Ayumi from before, was in the same place as before. When the woman took notice she stood up straight and said "the Guildmaster has been expecting you. I will go get him." Aqua couldn't help notice that the woman's attitude was far different from the other day. But she put that aside for the moment.

After a few minutes, the diminutive Guildmaster returned followed by his subordinate. "Milady, it is so nice to see you again, and so quickly at that! Have the books that we have lent you answered your questions?"

Aqua nodded slightly, "Some of them Guildmaster. But I still have more questions as to the influence that the Astral and Umbral aspects have upon those who practice the disciplines of Thaumaturgy and Conjury."

Cocobuki nodded his head in understanding. "Once again your words show your wisdom. Alas, that is an area of study that neither I nor my brothers have much expertise in." Aqua couldn't hide the disappointment on her face, before Cocobuki spoke again. "However, there is a practitioner of Conjury who is knowledgeable in our arts who has done a great deal of study in that area. However, she rarely finds her way to Ul'dah."

Feeling a bit of home that she would find the answers she needed Aqua asked excitedly "What does she look like and where can I find her?"

Cocobuki looked thoughtful for a moment before he replied "Her name is Y'shtola Raul, She is a Miqo'te with short platinum hair. She is often seen around Vesper Bay. a settlement nearly a day's travel on foot."

Aqua smiled, "Thank you Guildmaster, I will have your books returned to you by tomorrow."

Cocobuki looked thoughtful for a second. "I've decided that you may keep them for your apprentice. While I sense your path will lead you in another direction. Perhaps your apprentice will choose our path."

Aqua nodded and bowed, grateful for the unexpected gift. "Thank you Guildmaster. You have given me a lot to think about." Before she turned on her heel and took her leave. "It's time to up Kairi's training."

The Next Day, Outside Ul'dah, Western Thanalan, 08:00 LT

Aqua watched as Kairi went through her morning routine, slowly going through the forms that she had spent the last couple of weeks teaching the younger girl. Aqua smiled as she saw Kairi was picking up speed as she became more confident in her moves. It seemed that the girl had spent some of her off time practicing. "I will need to talk to her about that. Some extra practice is fine. But at this stage of her development, taking time to rest is just as important to her growth as practice is."

As Kairi finished up her routine, Aqua spoke up, "Kairi, come here I have something we need to talk about."

With apprehension that was clear as day to Aqua the young girl approached. "Yes, Master Aqua."

Aqua smiled and tried to reassure her apprentice, "Don't worry Kairi. You're not in trouble." She watched the tension on the young girls face drop at those words before she continued.

"That being said, as a part of my own training to restore my powers I need to travel to a settlement called Vesper Bay. The trip there and back is longer than a day and I don't want to leave you by yourself that long. We have been lucky so far and there have been no Heartless attacks but that worries me. So I want to bring you with me. But before that I want to make sure that you are ready. So starting tomorrow, you will be joining me on Adventurer guild jobs." Aqua waited a moment for Kairi to whoop at the news. She had been the same way when Master Erauqs had let her travel to another world for the first time for training.

As Kairi calmed down Aqua continued, "But before we do start with that, I want to see where you are at in your training. So we are going to have a spar." Aqua watched as Kairi's eyes moved towards the wooden swords a few yards away. "But not with practice swords this time." Aqua summoned Master's Defender and held it up. "We are going to use our Keyblades. I want you to come at me with everything you have."

Kairi audibly gulped

The sound of metal hitting metal filled the air. Aqua observed as Kairi moved around her. "She seems to favor sweeping strikes. Not necessarily a bad thing but she needs to develop some variation in her moves or she'll have trouble against a smarter opponent." Almost as if Kairi were reading her mind, the girl charged forwards with a series of quick stabbing strikes that reminded Aqua of her own preferred attacking style. With years' worth of practice, Aqua dodged and blocked every strike her apprentice attempted.

Deciding to test the girls' defenses, Aqua spun around to deliver her own sweeping strike. Aqua found herself impressed when Kairi put up a barrier that deflected her blow, before using the opening the deflection created to continue her own attack.

"Lets see how she handles this." Aqua launched her Keyblade at Kairi, controlling is approach to make it come at the younger girl from the side. Kairi rolled forward dodging the weapon and preparing to counterattack.

Aqua smiled and caught Masters Defender in a reverse grip, using the momentum to make her spin, calling forth the Keychain Whip as she did. When she ended rotation, the whip wrapped around Kairis legs causing her to lose her footing.

As Aqua stalked towards Kairi, ready to deliver the faux finishing move, she watched as Kairi closed her eyes and concentrated. "What's she doing?" Aquas question when in a burst of light Kairi activated her barrier causing the whip to disperse into light particles. Aqua smiled, impressed at her apprentice's inventiveness.

As Kairi stood up and prepared to continue, Aqua put a hand up to stop her. "That's enough for right now Kairi, You did well."

As her master complimented her, Kairi fought hard to not break out into wild cheers. Sending a quick mental Thank your to Starlight, Kairi refocused on what her master was saying." When we get back from Vesper Bay, I want you to spend some time training with the Gladiator guild."

Kairi felt one of her eyebrows rise as she looked at her master and inquisitively asked "Why?"

Aqua looked thoughtful for a moment as if trying to figure out how to answer the question before she said. "Two reasons really, the first is that just training with one opponent who uses a particular style is going to make noticing any bad habits you might develop harder to see. The second is that learning a variety of fighting styles can help you create variety in your own style."

Kairi nodded, It made sense. "So what do we do now, master?"

Aqua responded quickly "Lets rest up and go one more round. After that we are going to go get you some gear for doing guild jobs and for the trip. Now lets take 20 minutes to rest and then we will get started again.

Kairi nodded and said "Yes Master."

A/N The Keychain Whip is based upon the X-raid Combo mod for Kingdom Hearts 3 (which itself is based on the scene from the Kingdom Hearts 4 teaser from a few years back.)

Now to the question I mentioned at the start. Do you prefer the chapters to follow only a single character or set of characters as this chapter did.

Or would you prefer the chapters follow all three characters or set of characters. As was done in the first two chapters.

On one side the first option allows me to dive into deeper detail without making the chapters tens of thousands of words long.

On the other hand It means that getting to the more meaningful parts of the story will take longer .

I am good with either option. But depending on what is said I will have the next chapter either follow Sora or it will follow Sora AND Riku on their respective plotlines.

As Captain Planet used to say, "THE POWER IS YOURS"