From the desk and mind of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts follower HeartofFyrwinde, comes an all-new journey, as three veteran Keybearers join in the conflict against Master Xehanort. The end…is now.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy franchises or their characters. This is a fan work dedicated in honor of the brilliant staff of Square Enix, who are the legal owners of these works. The only thing I own are the original characters.
Kingdom Hearts III
I never expected my dream to see what lay in the stars come true. Especially not in the way it did on that day. Years ago, now. I can still picture it; the sky lighting up with thousands of glimmering meteors. It was…well, I guess beautiful would be one way to put it.
But that was just the start. We weren't prepared for what happened next. We were chosen by weapons pretty much unheard of—well, on our world, anyway. Weapons thought to be nothing more than a myth.
The Keyblades are powerful key-like swords. They're able to bring peace or cause ruin. They're filled with an unwavering purpose, able to choose the ones who wield them. Each of us -my two friends and I- were granted that terrible, awesome power.
We've been charged with the same basic duties: first, to protect the Keyblade's Chosen One and the ones who'll stand beside him someday; second, to seal the Keyholes Sora hasn't gotten to in order to prepare for something called the Keyblade War; lastly, unravel the mysteries behind a powerful place.
Kingdom Hearts. "The heart of all worlds." According to legend, Kingdom Hearts was created when the original World was swallowed by darkness and split into the worlds we all know today. It's supposedly filled with immeasurable darkness…but in the deepest depths of it sleeps the 'true light'—pure energy that's waiting for something.
We don't know much else about it. Not even now. But what I do know…is that we had no idea just how far this battle across countless worlds would take us. Or just what we were fighting to protect. Who we would be fighting alongside of.
Sora. The kid's barely sixteen and he's gone through three huge adventures, trying to stop Xehanort's ambitions wherever they come. He's naïve, yeah, but not to the point of hopelessness. And he's powerful. Seriously powerful.
And then there's Master Xehanort. The old creep's been messing with the order of things for years—almost eleven years in the main Realm of Light, and probably more. He's got a new Organization made up of thirteen different 'copies' of himself. They were created specifically to forge something called the χ-blade—that's a pun of sorts, mind you. The χ-blade is an ancient and immensely potent weapon, created alongside Kingdom Hearts, apparently. And it's supposed to be able to unleash the full force of that place. Whoever wields Kingdom Hearts' power will be able to remake the worlds as they see fit.
Xehanort wants that power. At any cost.
He's messed with darkness, with nothingness…possibly even the fabric of time and space itself. It's almost sickening what lengths he's gone to.
We've gotta stop him before it's too late.
It's not gonna be easy. Everybody knows: even the worlds themselves know it. But none of us are going down easy. Not Sora, not King Mickey, not me, not my friends…and certainly not all the friends that one kid has made.
My name's not important right now, but I can tell you this. My friends and I have been around ever since Master Xehanort made his first big move. The reason? My world went through a time paradox about ten years ago. Nobody knows why...perhaps it means things are coming to a head.
I'm a member of the Radiant Garden Restoration Committee…and a full-fledged Keyblade Master.
I'll do whatever it takes to make sure Sora comes out of this. Remember this, though. This is the last quest; the last bid for fate.
We're gonna make the impossible a reality.
Radiant Garden, Date: X/XX/XXXX
In dark times, the brightest lights are often the first to be snuffed. For millennia, over and over again, whenever and wherever evil came to be, the first lights to be targeted were often a beacon of hope that others gravitated to. It was the case on the far-flung world of Earth over two thousand years ago, and it had been the same case in the Realm of Light when the Heartless had first risen in force: The first star they had nearly snuffed out was also the brightest of them all.
Radiant Garden: the City of Light. In its heyday it had been a wondrous, walled suburban city, surrounded by water and built around the base of a truly massive castle-a hollow bastion, since almost nothing as far as actual weaponry graced its towers. Dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and eventual peace, Radiant Garden overflowed with the gush of pure water and the scent from the flowers that bloomed in its vast community parks and plazas. But ten years ago it had been reduced to a sad and darkened ruin by evil forces, in a horrific event known as the Fall of Radiant Garden. Many had perished; others had met a fate worse than death, in a sense, as their hearts, their core feelings and memories, were stripped from them, and all humanity denied and ripped away by darkness. Everyone agreed, however, that the whole disaster had been planned from the beginning; orchestrated by a man named Xehanort.
But even in darkness, a speck of light can still be found. And Radiant Garden survived the onslaught of darkness, unlike countless worlds that followed.
Reduced from its former place as a blindingly proud beacon in the night sky, Radiant Garden was now the equivalent of a glowing, guttering fire on the hearth. It wasn't the paradise it used to be; far from it. Lush gardens and parks had been stripped down by the disaster, reduced to near-dead soil and rock. The towering bastion at the town's center was a husk of its former self, slowly recovering its old shape and regal air via vast construction efforts that dangled off its superstructure like clinging insects. Half the town lay empty, and shadows left over from the Fall ten years prior lurked in its warrens and cloistered streets. The Heartless scuttled about in seclusion and occasionally ventured out to attack those who still had hearts, and most people didn't dare venture out after dark. After all, Radiant Garden had been irreversibly changed. It wasn't exactly Radiant, nor was it even really a Garden anymore.
But the city and its inhabitants had learned their lesson, and the residents were slowly rekindling that still-glowing spark with the flames of a simple vow to make things right again, to help the Garden achieve rebirth just like the legendary phoenix.
Chief among these citizens were the ragtag team of men and women that made up the newly-renamed "Radiant Garden Restoration Committee". It certainly fit the bill. The Committee consisted of the "re-founders" of the city: they'd been the first to make it back to the world, and had tasked themselves with patrolling the ruins and heading salvage and reconstruction efforts. Recently, the original group's numbers had grown with the return of several beloved and well-known residents of the city.
Laguna Loire, the now-Acting President of Radiant Garden, had been one of them, and he'd managed to grind the attempts of a shadow-cabal of upper class bureaucrats (who wanted to capitalize on the city's reconstruction) into powder. He'd been a beloved political figure in Garden ten years ago, and he remained that way today. With the winsome President Loire at the helm again, and with his son Squall "Leon" Leonhart leading the Restoration Committee (leading being a relative term), reconstruction of the city was picking up speed.
Of course, that meant better business for a few members of the Committee, chief among them Tifa Lockheart. She had recently reopened her old bar Seventh Heaven, located in the town's small business district. Business, to nobody's shock, was currently booming. Today, however, had been rather quiet for Tifa. Two of her old friends had shown up; the rest were the usual crowd. Cid had shown up early for a glass of bourbon, grumping about how his airship's revamped left engine was acting up on him again. Leon had turned up a little later after his patrol shift, sweaty and tired but more than willing to talk…well, brood, actually, but not like he used to. He'd been distracted by Rinoa Heartilly—his girlfriend—showing up with a big smile and…it had sounded like something about "owing me a shopping trip" or something. As Tifa cleaned off the bartop she reflected that, despite his usual stoic grumblings, Leon had been compliant. A slight laugh passed her lips. Squall Leonhart, compliant? The guy's got a gunblade, for Pete's sake! Yuffie had some big adventure to plan—Tifa had phoned Merlin immediately after; no sense letting the hyperactive young ninja get away with it scot-free, oho, no.
She was distracted by the ring of the new telephone upstairs; the one in Cloud's office. Cloud…her burgundy eyes grew distant at the thought of him. Cloud had gone off on a mission to figure out where Sephiroth had gotten to, and he'd gone on Fenrir. Well, actually, the 'mission' was more of a hell-bent vendetta ten years in the making. She'd tracked him and he'd tracked Sephiroth. Now that they'd seen each other again, he'd made it back after disappearing in the middle of a duel-again. Geesh, can't he ever stay put? Apparently not, but this time, before he left, Cloud had made a quiet promise to come back. Still…it'd been two, three weeks now and no word.
"He's not here right now…" she muttered when the phone didn't stop its dulcet tones. Really, it was astoundingly grating- Cloud probably bought it just to annoy her.
Finally heaving a sigh, Tifa left her cleaning rag behind and strode into the area behind the bar. A flight of stairs led to the second floor, where she and Cloud had two offices (one for the bar and Cloud's delivery service and one for Committee matters), two bedrooms and a fair-sized bathroom. The wall leading up the stairs was adorned with photos taken over the years. Some were from before the Fall. Others were more recent. But Tifa disregarded the photos for now and turned her attention to their bedroom as she reached the landing. The bed lay empty, the sheets slightly rumpled from her fitful sleep the night before. She never slept very well when Cloud was gone like this.
Tifa turned towards Cloud's office as the phone continued shrilling on. "Guh, what now…?" she ground through her mounting irritation. Whoever it is sure is persistent, she thought. She stalked in and strode to the desk where the phone sat, looking innocently shiny and new amid the paperwork and a few pens and picture frames. With a sigh, she picked up the receiver and held it to her ear.
"Hello, Strife Delivery Service," she said, using the usual pickup line for Cloud's little side business. "You name it, we deliv…"
She was halted midsentence. "Hey, Tifa! Thought it'd be Cloud on the line."
A slight thread of irritation had Tifa putting her free hand on her hip; this wasn't what she'd expected. "May I ask who's calling?" she asked, her iron-hard temper lending an edge to her voice.
She smiled at the answer. Of course, t he voice had sounded a little familiar now that she knew the speaker's identity. "Hm," she laughed. "Yep, I remember you. How're things going out there?"
"So far so good. We're heading your way. Got a letter from Yen Sid about a day ago; he said something about, uh…Master Xehanort. Sora managed to survive his latest scheme, but according to Yen Sid he's on the move."
Tifa frowned. "Xehanort?" she wondered. "I thought Sora and the others…"
"Apparently not. Listen, he mentioned the Restoration Committee's got something planned for whatever's coming. We'd like to come check it out. Care to share the details?"
Now it hit her. "Oh! Oh, oh, yes. Leon said there's a meeting coming up tonight in the castle library. We've…" she paused for the right words, "…Well, you might not recognize some people, okay?"
"What're you talking about?"
Tifa smiled. "A few old friends of Leon's managed to make it back about a month ago. They're on the Restoration Committee now."
"Happy to hear it. Say, he's not being the usual lonely frumpy grump anymore, is he?"
The corny joke made Tifa giggle. "Not as much as he used to, no. But he can tell you more about it himself. How long before you get here?"
"Well…according to the map, about an hour and a half. Warp drive's been acting up a bit."
Tifa frowned. "Better coax out a little more speed, guys," she warned. "The meeting's an hour and twenty minutes from now, got it?"
"All right. Thanks. Oh, one more thing. Who else will be there, other than the Committee?"
Frowning, Tifa thought back to what Leon had said earlier that day. "Um…well, the King is going to try and be here; so are Donald and Goofy."
Tifa's brow furrowed. "Sora might make it, but I heard Yen Sid is going to show up. He's got some new information for us." She heard the voice on the other end chuckle slightly and cocked her head to one side. "Did I say something?"
"No, no. So the old man's out and about now, huh?"
Tifa nodded. "Yep!"
"All right. Anything comes up, you know what number to call. Bye."
"All right. See you soon." The line disconnected. Returning the phone to its cradle, Tifa pursed her lips in thought, still staring at the desk. Or, to put it differently, at one of the photos. It was a recent one that displayed the Restoration Committee. She'd dragged Cloud into it, and she noticed the confused and hesitant smile on his face. Not much of one, but it was and could be identified as nothing else. On a spur of the moment she pulled out her cell phone and speed-dialed Cloud's number.
"Hey, you've reached Cloud Strife. I'm busy right now, so leave a message and I'll call you back later."
"Hey, we got a call from the others; they'll be here soon." Tifa paused. "Cloud...hurry back, okay?" Having said what she wanted to, Tifa hung up the phone and left the room to finish cleaning up 7th Heaven for the day.
On a bluff not far from Radiant Garden...
A lone black motorcycle sat mute on the cracked and broken ground, parked on a low bluff overlooking the towering castle. It was bulky yet streamlined, a testament to almost brooding power. On its seat lounged a young man wearing a heavily modified black ensemble that slightly resembled a SOLDIER 1st Class' uniform. His bright blond hair-as spiky as a chocobo's plumage-waved slightly in the wind off the canyon rim. Mako-enhanced blue eyes were distant and inscrutable as their owner listened to Tifa's voice mail.
Bip-"You have no new messages." Sighing, Cloud flipped the phone shut and looked back up, scanning the landscape before he locked on to something that didn't quite belong. Stabbed point-first into the ground a short distance away was a gigantic sword. The Buster Sword. Its single-edged five foot blade was as wide as the hilt; at least a foot, and the tip tapered off into a single-edged point. Only a top-notch SOLDIER like Cloud could use the gigantic blade to any great effect. Cloud sighed slightly. He'd wielded this one for a while, in memory of the friend he'd lost ten years ago during the Fall. In fact, this spot was where an old friend had vanished without a trace ten years ago, leaving nothing but this sword behind. Cloud had never heard from Zack Fair again since that day. The memory of Zack's winsome, puppyish grin flickered in Cloud's mind. "Zack..." The sigh passed his lips along with a look of part-regret and part amusement. "It's been a while, hasn't it? Bet you're still wondering if you're a real hero, huh?" He paused to collect his thoughts. "I never exactly asked for the legacy...but I'm glad you chose me to carry it."
The wind held no answer, and Cloud fell silent as he stared at the rusting sword. Finally he sighed. "I'd better mosey. There's a meeting back to town, so..." He left the sentence unfinished. Turning away, Cloud cranked the motorcycle's engine to life with a crank of his wrist. Pausing momentarily to adjust his sunglasses, Cloud took one last look. Then he gunned the throttle and went rocketing off across the wastes in a screech of tires, leaving a plume of dirt and dust behind.
Behind him, the Buster Sword stood silent.
But as the growl of Fenrir dwindled into the distance, the wind over the landscape picked up, carrying on it a lone black feather and a quiet, sinister laugh.