Welcome to Kingdom Hearts: World Destiny! We are an AU Kingdom Hearts RP with no word count. World Destiny's story takes place post Dream Drop Distance, at which point we make considerable steps in our own story direction. Feel free to check out the Plot link to find out more!
All guests are welcome to drop in and say hi!
Nightfall: Chapter 2
Two years after the events of Dream Drop Distance, the Darkness became so great that it swallowed the worlds, locking them away within its merciless abyss.
Twilight Town, now covered in eternal night, stands as one of last Sanctuaries of Light. It is where players begin their journey.
Ever resourceful, the Moogles have created a safe place for refugees. They have charged the Denizens of Light with finding Castle Oblivion: it holds a key to the puzzle of the lost worlds.
But within the dark shadows of the sanctuary world a powerful dark force still looms, waiting to strike. Each survivor must choose whether to go to Castle Oblivion or stay behind to protect the world from the dragon that lurks in the shadows.
Mickey nodded, squeaked a thanks to the young girl, and glanced up at the sky as she skipped away. As expected, her excited version of events was little more than “There was a big boom and a bunch of people who built a ship and flew away!”
The reunion with the RGRUC members had been both a happy and a tense event. As glad to see their king as they were, the news he had to share set them on edge. But Leon and the others had almost more information to swap than he. Mickey had listened to the recounts of fallen worlds, strange observations, and odd happenings with narrowed eyes.
The Atlantis expedition crash in particular had caught his interest. He, unlike they, knew of the Lost City they referred to; as such, their depiction of the crash and following recruiting was unsettling. Atlantis was a well hidden but fragile world, and it held immense power. If Port Royal could fall. . .
He needed to know who these adventurers were, and who had been freshly drafted as part of the crew. So here he was. Interrogating people on the streets of Radiant Garden, again cloaked as a fugitive rather than a king. The going was slow, and he couldn’t shake of the pressing feeling that darkness was making its way towards the underwater world.
There was something else itching at the back of his mind, but this feeling was much more identifiable. Mickey wanted to go home to the Disney Castle, if only for a visit. He missed Minnie, Donald, Goofy. Chip and Dale. Pluto. Everyone he’d left when he set his duty as King as a priority. He had as much to tell them now as he had to tell the Committee and others of Light.
Mickey tore his large eyes from the sky, suddenly distracted from his thoughts. His gaze fell upon a quaint bookshop among the many others lining the streets. Maybe because his mind had just been on the Lost City, but he could have sworn he saw a slash of silver. . .
Last Edit: Nov 23, 2011 13:23:42 GMT -4 by Zephiris
Unbelievable, thought the silver-haired youth as he stepped into his shop. Been to every single stockist of old books and not even one has anything on inter-dimensional corridors or instantaneous translocation - not even so much as a mention of a Warp spell.
Kuu turned around briefly to flip the sign on the door from 'closed' back to 'open'. His shop had a reputation of staying open for long hours - after all, the books and curio on the shelves served not only as merchandise for retail but as a front for the information kiosk he ran over the counter, and who knew when someone would need to drop by for urgent intelligence. However, he noticed that the room appeared momentarily darker than usual for the time of day - summer had drawn to a close and the light of the day was slowly growing more scarce.
Hmm... that was nice. Not bad imagery, he mused. I suppose if one were to say that light was 'good', then its summer is also drawing to a close. With all this talk of Heartless, this expedition to Atlantis and the disappearance of Port Royal, you can't say the Light's having a great run so far.
He fingered two of the charms that hung from the chain at his side - an luminescent blue crystal and a silver coin marked with the emblem of the East India Trading company. Even though I stayed for only a year and almost died in the process, Port Royal didn't deserve to be taken like that. The thing is, people seem to know about it, but nobody who does wants to tell me. And I haven't been able to make any real contact with the RGRUC yet - they seem to be caught up doing all the things committee members are morally obliged to do. Something powerful enough to go around taking worlds - I guess that it's better for ordinary people to stay unaware and keep them from panicking. And to them, I'm just one of those ordinary people that have to be protected.
As he felt the coolness of the metal coin fade away under the warmth of his skin, he realised he was dozing again and shook himself out of his reverie. Taking the crystal in hand, he applied to variously-shaped lamps about the shelves - sometimes having to put in tiny sparks of his own magic due to the crystal's distance from its power source (heck, it was on a totally different world, and a lost one at that). After stepping on an ornate wooden pouffe to reach one of the larger ones hanging from the ceiling, Kuu looked out the window, and noticed that he had forgotten to ignite the main light above the door. Sighing in slight exasperation, he stepped back outside. Looking around briefly to make sure no-one's attention was on him, he held up his crystal (covering it with his hand just to make sure) and sent a small shot of magic through the crystal, allowing the magic to cover the distance between the crystal and the overhead light and making it burst into a pink-hued glow.
Kuu put down the crystal and looked up at the darkening sky. The nights were indeed growing longer, and as much as he knew that there was a world that had been his home that was no longer out there, he still found it in himself to fervently hope that the lengthening nights were not an omen of a greater impending darkness on something far greater and less fleeting than just the evening sky. He could almost feel on the edges of his vision a shadow beginning to slowly creep into view...
He gave himself a sharp slap, shaking his head vigorously. Darn, going to sleep again, he chastised himself. Gotta stop thinking too much about small things - it'd be a pain in the neck if something big comes around and I start snoozing.
Kuu gave one last look about the square where his shop stood. Although, what are the chances of something like that happening? With the Committee keeping everything in check, everything's quiet... and who knows, even if something does come this way, I'll probably disappear before I get to see it.
His gaze momentarily settled on a small figure, almost child-like, in the middle of the square. He wondered why he hadn't noticed it before - probably because of the figure's dark clothes, the dull light and his vision-defective glasses. Making a show of polishing his spectacles, he briefly glanced at the figure out of the corner of his eye, and his now sharp vision took in several intriguing facts - it was not human, judging by the ears and the tail (from the physical features, the closest he could attribute its nature to was that of an anthropomorphic mouse of some sort), its clothes were certainly not of the local design, which would indicate that it was not from this world, and that it was looking his way.
Deciding that the best course of action was not to dwell on it (after all, Radiant Garden attracted many world travelers, and he wasn't one to go up to strangers and start jabbing fingers and yapping questions), he stepped swiftly back into the safety of his shop, effectively throwing the ball into the strange creature's side of the court.
Wait, no, what court? What am I expecting? He's not going to come into the shop. He was just curious. I'm just going back into my shop - nothing strange with that. Whatever he decides to do his his choice. And when did 'it' become a 'he'? I guess he's a male, judging by his clothes and what I could gather from his mannerism. Maybe something about the ears - do mice have male/female differentiations by the shape of their ears? Can't remember reading much about them, and who knows if they'll apply to anthropomorphic mice? I mean, if he is actually a mouse. Could be a rat, I suppose. That tail is definitely mouse-like. Maybe it's something about the nose... doze... slumber.... sleep... zzz..
His eyes hadn't been playing tricks on him. The young man who had noticed (or, more accurately, whose hair had caught his eye) had stepped across the threshold into the small curio shop. The color was a white-silver, like the natural shade of Atlanteans, and his skin perhaps a shade like theirs, but there the similarities ended. There were no luminescent blue marks upon his person. His eyes were dark, not pale. Mickey took a moment longer considering him, but his mind already set upon the logic that Radiant Garden was as diverse as it was once beautiful; all manner of people traversed it's freshly rebuilt streets.
And before he could turn back with a small shrug of his mousey shoulders, call it a day, and prepare to depart for his next destination, the boy in the curio shop window began to light the shelf lamps with an Atlantean crystal.
He hadn’t spotted Mickey yet – understandable, considering he was three feet high and cloaked in black - though when he stepped outside to light the front of the store, he was obviously attempting to conceal the blue glow behind his hand from passerby. The King’s attention was fully on him now, brow furrowed as he tried to work out this conundrum. The fella isn’t Atlantean. But that’s a piece of the Heart of Atlantis, I’d bet my ears on it.
The young man stepped back inside the shop. Mickey wasn’t certain, but he thought the young man might have finally noticed him. There was only one course of action that seemed logical from there. Mickey checked to make sure his hood was still in place, and then his curiosity pulled him inside after the silver-haired youth.
More shelves lined the interior of the store than had been visible through the window. If his attention hadn’t been so utterly directed elsewhere, Mickey might have paused to peruse the library of books, items, and curiosities, for there were many inside the room. As it was, he did slow, but only because he had reached the front kiosk, where the boy from earlier seemed to be almost dozing.
Mickey paused. From up close, the roots of the silver hair were just barely visible. Dark. The hair was dyed. Why such a peculiar hue?
His curiosity could be held at bay no longer.
“Excuse me, sir,” the King chirped politely. He forgot for a moment that only his ears would be visible to the boy from behind the information desk. “Do you happen to have anything here on the Lost City of Atlantis?”
It was definite now. It was an anthropomorphic mouse. And it was here, in his shop.
After briefly waking from his reverie, he was treated to the surreal sight of two black vaguely circular shapes rising above the edge of the desk, which he identified the ears of the mouse he had seen earlier. So he had decided to come in after all. Game face.
An overgrown mouse is in my shop. Unprecedented. No, wait, I wasn't looking forward to this... well, maybe I was, but only a little. After all, you don't seen walking talking mice every day. Though he hasn't said anything, so the talking part isn't certain. Oh, he's right in front of me, and I can only see the tips of his ears. I wonder if they're furry? How in the world am I supposed to treat a customer like this?
A high-pitched, light chirping voice came from slightly below his navel - "Excuse me, sir..."
Speech confirmed - a definite walking talking mouse. With that resolved... oh man, what do I say? He even speaks like a mouse!
“Do you happen to have anything here on the Lost City of Atlantis?”
Kuu's current thought train stopped, and his expression stiffened. Atlantis. How long had it been since he had heard that name? Aside from brief mentions in books of myths during his time at Port Royal, it was word that had been left unsaid after he had left it many years ago. Only recently had the recent recruitment for the expedition to find it sent that word drifting though the air in Radiant Garden. Back then he'd thought that they would never be able to find it - even with the so-called Shepherd's Journal that they were talking about, he knew about the leviathan and the other dangers that would get in their way. He saw an ill-fated treasure hunt when he saw one, and he wasn't going to help a bunch of outsiders line their pockets at the expense of the innocent survivors of an ancient cataclysm.
And yet, here was another outsider, asking about it.
The mouse's first question had been about the Lost City only moments after he had used his crystal to light the lamp. This could not have been a coincidence - no-one would have been able to identify it as the work of an Atlantean crystal, unless they knew of it before. It was almost as if the mouse was testing the waters for venturing into a field of information he already knew existed. He knew that there was a connection between Kuu and Atlantis. This was not a common treasure-hunting fool - there was no way that anybody outside of Atlantis could have known about the crystals, especially when the secret to their power had been lost to even the Atlanteans themselves centuries ago. He could not treat this mouse normally.
Kuu stood up at and stepped around the kiosk to face the mouse on the other side of the desk. The mouse's head was now covered in a hood - evidence that he did not want to be seen. A behavioral habit common to either wanted criminals, runaways or public figures. A runaway would not be talking about Atlantis. A wanted criminal might very well search for a way to get rich, but there were faster and easier ways to do so other than trying to find a long-lost civilisation, so this was not a viable option. A public figure however... being the only other possibility meant that this mouse was somehow an important character - perhaps he was wealthy, looking to compound his wealth, or maybe a connoisseur in ancient artifacts, or possibly someone even more influential, even more dangerous than an individual acting on simple motives of greed.
The silver-haired youth bent down on one knee to the mouse's head height. 'Pardon me, sir, but I'm afraid that information concerning that subject is rather particular - it's not the kind which one would usually part with through a simple matter of monetary recompense,' he stated steadily. 'Forgive me for saying so, but you do not appear to be a treasure-hunting thug, but neither have I any evidence that my services in attempting to acquire the information you requested will not be abused. Therefore I must respectfully request... who are you, and what do you intend to do with the information I may offer?'
Cheerfully, the mouse pulled up a nearby seat and hopped in it, making himself comfortable. His feet dangled a good foot or two off the ground, but the height would be much more convenient for the human boy. No effort was made to restore the hood as it fell back to his shoulders.
He had considered the answer to the man's query already, of course. Earlier the intro he considered had run somewhat along the lines of him being a friendly, world-traveling mouse, really just here to ask about the recent expedition draft from a few days ago. . .
But it took only a few solemn, guarded words from the young boy before him for the King to find himself letting those not-quite-falsehoods fall gently away, like leaves fluttering off in a breeze. The human knew of the Lost City – by now he was sure of that. It was of utmost relevance that he had not yet said so. The boy, in his own way, whether he was conscious of it or not, was protecting the ancient secret.
Mickey beamed at him.
“Aw, no offense taken. I am Mickey Mouse, king of Disney Castle, friend of Ansem the Wise - once the king of this Garden. I asked regarding this particular matter because of a particular feeling that the thing we so particularly speak of is at risk."
The answer flowed swiftly, naturally. It surprised him to be able to give true voice to what lurked in the recess of his consciousness - a vague sensation that the underwater cocoon that protected the world would soon be breached by an unfavorable force. A shadow lurked on the edges of his features, waiting to betray his smile to hint at his worry and stress. Mickey held it at bay. It was his job to ensure the fears would never be confirmed.
"I might have come around to asking for your name, though, had we talked further," he mused contemplatively in the silence that followed. "Or how you came to obtain that crystal." His eyes swept to the man's chest. "Or that Star Shard."
In face of the apparent nonchalance of the otherworldly visitor, his introduction sent Kuu's usually carefully-maintained intellectual calm completely reeling. This mouse was a king - not just a member of the nobility, but an actual, living monarch. Had he simply said that he was the king of Disney Castle (wherever that was), he might just have been able to dismiss it as a nominal title of a small world, but he had mentioned Ansem the Wise - a name legendary amongst the history of Radiant Garden, but more importantly one that dated more than a decade ago. This King, this Mickey Mouse - he was not an ordinary world-traveller, and his age and knowledge far surpassed what he had originally thought to be. For Kuu, who prided himself on his skills of deduction and not judging by one's cover, to have underestimated the mouse standing before him to such a degree was a slightly embarrassing affair.
'Oh, er... ah...'
Heck, what do i call him? I can't call him Mickey, can i? Your Majesty? Your Lordship? Your Highness?
Such was his shame that he almost missed the second part of the King's introduction - that Atlantis was in danger. He focused on that aspect, and attempted to gather his wits back into a rational, detached frame of mind. The King apparently thought that Atlantis was in danger - by guessing, he was probably referring to the expedition, which, in light of the far wiser creature's input, seemed to have a much higher chance of succeeding than he gave them credit for. Now, looking into the King's eyes, he saw behind the ageless wisdom and child-like cheeriness the most minuscule dregs of tension, matched by a fleeting tightening of the jaw in his smile, so fast that without his superior deductive abilities, he would have missed it completely. The King was worried, and the fact that such a being was making an effort to hide it made it even more honest and graver than he could have initially thought.
For some reason, that vaguely put him at ease.
However, the last question slightly threw him. A Star Shard? What was that? Perhaps he was referring to the charm - the only keepsake of his mother, and his most distant memory. He had never even heard of a Star Shard in his entire life. Perhaps it was the name the King's world had for the jewel encased within it - after all, in Port Royal, it had been called a topaz, while in Atlantis it had been called a crystal. From the way the King had made such a particular motion of it, Kuu could surmise that it was an uncommon gem, even within the King's infinitely broad experience - he wondered why it was so particular.
But first things first.
The bookstore-owner bowed in the manner of Atlanteans - on one knee, the other folded behind it, with hands together tilting forwards, elbows resting on the raised knee with the head bowed reverently. An obvious choice of etiquette of the many he knew since they were talking about the lost city. 'Your Majesty, my current name is Kuu - formerly a resident of Radiant Garden, a denizen of Atlantis, a monk of Fabul, a scribe of the recently taken Port Royal, a citizen of Twilight Town, an inhabitant of Destiny Islands, and a cadet in the Chinese army of the Land of Dragons. As of now, I am merely the owner of this curio shop behind which I run a kiosk vending various pieces of knowledge of sorts.'
He stood up smoothly, and treated the King to a relaxed smile. 'Now that we've proven we both know who we are, I wonder if I could possibly entreat you to allow me to be slightly more lax on the formalities, and in turn let us be a little more honest with our intentions. I understand you are worried about the nature of the expedition to the lost city. Considering most of the crew on the said expedition are treasure-hunters and tomb-robbers, I think it's safe to say that I readily share your concerns. If it is more comfortable for you to do so, your Majesty, there is no need for restraint.'
Kuu fingered the charm around his neck as he asked the question that had been niggling his mind since the King had revealed who he was. 'Now that I've answered one of your questions, may I ask one of my own? This charm - a Star Shard, you called it? - appears to be unusual in some way to you. May I ask why you think that is so?'
He’d been right to share the full truth of his identity. Kuu relaxed his scholarly composure, a change invisible to the unobservant eye, and tore down the wall of formalities and hedging words to dive straight into the matter itself. They had come to one of those human conclusions where it was decided to let all pretenses fall. Mickey nodded in agreement with his words, appreciating the intelligence of the young man.
The part of Mickey that frolicked about with Pluto in his freetime and once captained the Steamboat Willie never was quite comfortable with the notion of being bowed to. However, the part of him that was a king responded in the appropriate Atlantean fashion, a short, gracious, but respectable gesture that he managed to pull off despite his small stature.
A few minutes ago, had Kuu bent before him with traditional Atlantean respect and told him of his many identities across the worlds, Mickey’s eyes might have widened wonderingly, and a good many more minutes might have been spent in an effort to understand how the boy knew such ancient customs. As it was, Mickey had spotted the boy’s Shard. He laughed lightly, for now he understood how Kuu had come to learn of Atlantis. It was the exact same way Mickey had.
“That crystal around your neck,” he answered, gesturing towards Kuu’s chest, “is a very appropriately named Star Shard. Every star that we see in the sky is a world - and that is a piece of one. A piece of a world’s barrier. It’s how you’ve been traveling from world to world, did ya know that?” Mickey chuckled.
“I didn’t know how to control it either. I landed on Atlantis eventually, too. I’m sure I don’t need to reiterate how I spent days there, fascinated with the whole society and their power source, ‘cause I can bet it was the same for you. But then, you’d also know how fragile they are.” Then his brow furrowed, the black above his eyes angling animatedly downwards. His words were more solemn now. Worry altered the pitch of his high voice slightly.
“Kuu, there’s much darkness in the Realm of Light right now. Some of it, my gosh, I hope you’ll never have to worry over. But almost more so than treasure hunters and mercenaries, I’m worried about the darkness reaching Atlantis. There’s not too many worlds that can match the strength of Atlantis’ Heart, ya know.”
There wasn’t too many that could match its outer defense, either. But if all those fathoms of perilous ocean could be traversed, and the various other protections subdued, the core of the world would be in immense danger.
As an afterthought, Mickey realized much of what he told Kuu wouldn’t make all too much sense. Mentioning Hearts and the Realms – the fella very likely didn’t understand much of such concepts, even if he’s heard of them before. He was thinking of the Dark XII, of course, when he spoke of darkness; them and the Organization. His thoughts kept returning to Port Royal. Did Kuu know that world had fallen? Would he make the connection?
The thought was saddening. He lingered for a brief moment on the thought of Disney Castle falling to the hunger for Hearts, or Radiant Garden, or Destiny Islands - all worlds that burned as brilliantly as Atlantis did. As always, the idea served to embolden him. They were only some of many who depended on the balance of the worlds; and that balance was his to maintain.
Kuu held up his childhood charm, staring at it in disbelief, mentally trying to cope with the act of associating the new information the King had given him with the amulet he had held dear to him as a memento of his mother for all the past years.
'A Star Shard. So this... this is the reason why I can travel across worlds. All because... all because of this, I..'
Because of this Star Shard, I don't have my parents. I don't have friends, I don't have memories, I don't have a home. Because of this, I don't have a self.
Holding the Star Shard in his hand, he was briefly gripped by a sudden, brutal urge to tighten his fingers over the silver amulet and crush it, but as soon as he came, his reason took over and told himself that no-one could have known. Even he hadn't known. Who could have foreseen that in a cruel twist of fate, the only thing his mother had given him to remember her by was the very thing that was destined to make sure he never saw her again?
'You know, your Majesty, I got this charm from my mother. She gave it to me saying that if I were to keep it, I'd be able to find my way back to her no matter where I was. Haha... it didn't quite work out that way, did it? Though I was saved from the fall of the Garden all those years ago, I never saw my parents again...'
Catching himself, Kuu shook himself out of his reverie and raised a smile to his face, painfully ignoring the freedom of expression he himself had proposed only moments before. King Mickey had just offered some incredible pieces of knowledge - here he'd been looking for information for almost half a year and getting nowhere, while suddenly, this diminutive mouse king was teaching him more than he had ever imagined. His theories of stars being other worlds had been confirmed, but the concept of inter-worldly barriers were intriguing. Perhaps these pieces could take other forms? If a Star Shard was a piece of that barrier and it allowed inter-worldly travel, perhaps the materials that formed the Gummi Ships were also of the same source? If so, then it was certainly an area worth some deep research - perhaps it could be engineered to allow other kinds of inter-worldly interaction, such as the transmission of data, or mapping of the universe, or an inter-world communicative network. A computer system that made use of such parts could prove to be revolutionary.
I can see why a Star Shard is so unusual, Kuu thought. A single gem can do what an entire ship is need to achieve. Channeling its power could unlock innumerable possibilities.
However, the other things the King mentioned could not be treated with quite the same degree of optimistic fascination. He had never seen such a power source during his time in Atlantis - sure enough, the power of the crystals were a phenomenon that could not be disregarded, but from the awe in the King's voice when talking of it, he could guess that what King Mickey was referring to and the crystal hanging by his side were not quite the same thing. The 'Heart' of Atlantis... a term which he recalled like the sensation of a distant wind in days long gone past.
And this 'darkness'. Sure enough, it didn't seem like the Worlds weren't without its share of problems, and the disappearance of Port Royal (along with the memories of many people who had encountered it) had shaken him, no question there. But once again, he sensed something a little deeper in the King's concerned tone than just a bunch of treasure hunters. Whatever the Heart of Atlantis was, even if he could only imagine the amount of power it held, the knowledge of its existence would no doubt ignite their greed and desire for it. And if some of these treasure hunters were somehow part of this deeper darkness that the King spoke of, then any end result he could theorize didn't look like it was going to be ending happily any time soon. And there was really nothing in his power that he could do to stop it - how many times before had the same story played out in his life?
Kuu readied himself to speak the heavy words of guilt to the mouse king.
'I'm sorry, your Majesty. I'm afraid that it seems that you know far more than I do. I'm truly grateful for telling me about the Star Shard, but... I can't see how my services can offer you any further aid. You already know all that I know, and beyond my information, I believe I'm quite incapable of being any more use to you. I consider myself to be an individual who bases his actions upon thought, perception and logic, and this darkness you speak of seems to be something beyond my current comprehension - there's very little I can do from here. Now that you know this, may I ask - more than ever - what could you ask of me, a mere bookstore owner?'
Alarmed, Mickey tried deciphering the emotions suddenly flickering across Kuu’s features. The young man was good at suppressing them. In the few moments before a mask clamped firmly on his expression, Mickey could only read a terrible new meaning the crystal in Kuu’s hand had taken on for the boy. To say the King was bewildered would be an understatement, but the stuttering of Kuu’s words and stunned disbelief lasted for only seconds. His dazed explanation that followed served as the only clarification Mickey needed.
Now there no doubt that Kuu hadn’t known his mother’s Shard was to blame for his chaotic lifestyle. Who was this woman, to have been in possession of a piece of a world barrier? According to her son, she must have known of its properties, or had the general idea. She had left him with so much pain. Mickey commented no further on the matter, for it was now something for only Kuu to bear or address as he saw fit.
The Star Shards truly were incredible objects, but during that one haphazard point in time when he'd taken one from Master Yen Sid - and promptly was transported all across the universe before he could manage to control it - Mickey had begun to understand how they could be crafted into a much more of a conventional form. He had dedicated many of the years that followed to the invention of the gummi ship, which unlike the Star Shard required only flight skills to master. His new ships were capable of slower but more reliable exploration of the worlds, rather than transporting the wielder either randomly across the universe or to a place they’d have to have visited before.
Kuu was speaking again, his weighted words easily breaking the King's train of thought.
”. . . Now that you know this, may I ask - more than ever - what could you ask of me, a mere bookstore owner?”
Mickey contemplated Kuu. He'd been wondering that himself. It was curiosity that drew him in the store, surely, but what had kept him here? He still felt inquisitive, but towards nothing that he wanted to address further. Quite simply, Mickey couldn’t bring himself to leave the store just yet.
His eyes fell upon the Star Shard again, and widened with a glimmer of an idea. He couldn’t visit Atlantis to confirm or act upon his suspicions, despite the fact that it made him restless and anxious, as if he was shirking a vital duty. Even if he could reach the City by gummi ship, to waste any more time for that journey would certainly prove perilous for the Realm of Light. Even with a Star Shard, he’d be more conspicuous than anyone else in the Lost City, which would do little good for a subtle warning or discreet sentry.
Kuu. though. Kuu was once one of them. He could go.
The idea startled the King. It wasn’t something he would normally ask a close friend, not to mention a new acquaintance, but there truly was no one better suited for the task. It would be his choice, of course. Mickey had an idea that just might make it worthwhile for the ‘mere bookstore owner’.
"Kuu," he began, slowly, but smiling again. "I can teach you to use that Shard. I can teach you how and be on my merry way, which I would be more than happy to do, and leave you to use it as you want.
"However. . . there is, probably, something that you can do to help, if you wanted. Perhaps if you felt the urge to visit Atlantis soon, you could spare a moment slip them a warning for me." Mickey's words held laughter, but were primarily light and honest; he had to make it clear that the choice was actually a very serious one, and was entirely Kuu's. "I mean, you may not get what you're really alerting them of - to be honest, I'm not too sure either - but it wouldn't hurt to get 'em on their guard. This Ulysses bunch may not be the best of news for the City, either." He shook his head as if in resignation.
From the look in King Mickey's eyes, the mouse king also seemed to have just about as much clue as Kuu as to why he was still standing in this store. And as he realised this, the young bookstore owner couldn't help but let out the hopeful breath that he didn't know he'd been holding. Of course there was nothing more he could do. The King had probably seen him use the crystal, and compounded with his distinct silver hair, it had drawn him to the store. There was now little reason to linger - the King's contemplative expression said as much.
Kuu leant back against the kiosk, and in the motion, almost missed the new-found glint in the King's eyes as he looked up at him. Combined with the gravity of the King's words, it was with no small degree of surprise when the King spoke:
"Kuu, I can teach you to use that Shard."
Kuu blinked, wondering if what he had heard was correct (his eyes were a little sharper than his hearing, after all) but then realised that it could have been nothing else.
'T-teach me? You mean... I can control it?'
Of course, why hadn't he detected it before? When the King had mentioned using the Shard himself, he had said that he 'didn't know' how to use it, which would indicate that he knew now. There was a method of control over it. This would make his most agonising problem his greatest asset in one fell swoop - the power to traverse worlds freely, and more importantly, to stay in one world as long as he wished, without the endless fear of being whisked away, lost and forgotten all over again.
And what better way to use that power to answer the King's request? In the space of an hour, the mysterious stranger who barely came up to his waist had become his greatest benefactor. The King wished to protect the worlds, and he was giving Kuu a way to help him. He couldn't help but wonder if it truly was him who was doing the aiding, or whether King Mickey had just unknowingly saved him from a despair that was lingering just around the corner.
An intense feeling of gratitude welled up inside the silver-haired young man, and he placed a hand on his forehead to hide the tear rolling down his cheek with his wrist.
'Ah... my apologies... not quite the look I go for speaking to my customers... how unprofessional. Haha...'
He wiped it away and took a breath to compose himself. 'Your Majesty, if you can teach me how to control my Star Shard, then I'd be more than happy to do whatever you wish. Frankly speaking, you can ask me anything you want and I'm at your call. As far as I'm concerned, you call the shots now, and whatever I have in my power to do, I'll be right on it.'
He hopped from his chair to give Kuu a moment of respite, perusing the fascinating colection of nearby articles as the young man hid is tears. Highly professional, my tail - I changed his life. Anyone with a Heart would be affected by that.
Mickey turned when Kuu began speaking again. Though the mouse knew he wasn't likely to call upon the young man after this favor, for that simply wasn't his nature, he appreciated the loyalty that was so gratefully pledged. It may come in handy in the future, when the Light would need all the help it could get.
"I can show you now, Kuu, if you don't mind. I'm needed elsewhere in a bit. Luckily this shouldn't take too long." He paused, and then added with a wink, "Although, please - I'm honestly much happier going as 'Mickey'."
Words of another friend always rung in his ears during these instances. A friend is a friend, but a status little more than a label.
"Alrighty! The theory isn't complex, just the execution. Star Shards recognize the bonds between strong Hearts and act on them. It's why you can only make them take you worlds you've already visited; your Heart has a connection to those. They become quite fickle when they can't pick up any bonds, or if one they feel isn't purposeful enough, and tend to act quite randomly. (They're rather unreliable things in general.)
"I always had a theory that when it begins to warp at whim, the Shard is acting on memories of previous bonds it has recognized, but who knows? Maybe it is truly random."
Then Mickey walked up to Kuu promptly and put a gloved hand on his arm. Time was short, so they might as well go on and take theory to practice. Kuu could learn fast enough. The next step may prove difficult, though. He isn't aware of his Heart. These concepts are abstract enough on their own, and teaching them to a scholar? "Now take the Shard," he instructed carefully, "and try to recognize your Heart's own connection it has with the Hearts of worlds you've visited. Try to strengthen a bond, or at least brighten it. Make it purposeful - the Shard needs to recognize you want to go back. There's little more I can instruct you aside from that; it depends on you.
"And don't worry," he chuckled, "I should tag along with you wherever you end up."
((Oh dear... where should we go? I'll leave it kind of open so that we can change where we go easily ^^))
'Wha - what, now?' Kuu said in a stunned voice. He'd only just found out about the Star Shard, and the King wanted him to use it straight off? But then again, the King had made it pretty clear that things were on a tight schedule, enough to get him worried.
In an effort to compose himself, he tried to recall everything the King had just said. So many concepts he didn't quite understand, talk of Hearts and Worlds that he felt he had a hold on, but couldn't keep it firmly in his mind. The mental grappling with these foreign ideas slightly slowed his usually extremely quick perceptiveness. 'Strong Hearts... so, like a soul? No wait, that can't be right... the way you seemed to talk about them gave the impression that they are part of a greater network, and a soul by definition is an individual symbiotic entity - well, at least spiritually speaking. So a Heart must be something else... if it connects to places and people, then perhaps something that defines relationships - perhaps feelings? And if the Shard is an item which calls upon the Heart as a navigator of sorts, then perhaps it picks up on connections made in the past - so maybe the Heart is an internal entity which governs emotions and memories?'
He stopped, realising that he was babbling. Colouring slightly, he placed a sheepish hand on the back of his head. 'Haha... sorry, your Ma- I mean, er... Mickey. I guess I must be more nervous than I thought...'
Kuu took strength from the gloved hand on his arm, and clutched his Star Shard.
Focus... remember that feeling you get when you recall something good. Like the smell of a late breakfast... or maybe just the thought of sleeping in, that's pretty nice... maybe a smile from a girl you like - wait, I never had one of those. Depressing... no, stop! Concentrate... a place where I've been, a place where I've always wanted to go back to... a place like home...
He felt the familiar rush and the brightness invading the edges of his vision, like falling unconscious into light instead of darkness. 'Hey, Mickey - if I kick the two of us in the middle of outer space, then I apologise beforehand... and in the case that we don't survive, I guess you may as well know that my real name is -'
Too late. The light engulfed everything and he felt himself fly - but for some reason, the usual feeling that he was being jerked unwillingly in an unknown direction was gone...
(( I say. . . China! No need to switch boards for now. And don't worry about it, we're already writing a novel with this thread as it is. ))
Mickey listened with amusement to Kuu's attempts to define a Heart, as he should have guessed he would. It was an attempt many philosophers have made. Some had come close, like Kuu, but it was improbable any one individual would ever know of the true properties of a Heart. Mickey himself could only theorize, even though he had bore witness to many strange phenomena in his lifetime. The existence of magic alone was baffling to those from worlds in which it was a thing of legends.
Kuu was concentrating now, hard. Mickey watched calmly, relatively sure it would take a few tries; he even considered the possibility that the task wouldn't be accomplished before he had to leave, and Kuu would have to try later on his spare time. He laughed as the youth apologized, flustered by his efforts to do as the King had asked - and then, to his utter amazement, both Mickey's merriment and Kuu's words were swept away in a flare of light. Mickey was almost caught off guard, but in the last second gripped Kuu's arm tighter and allowed all his being to be pulled along the Shard's new path.
Once color and darkness bled back into his field of vision, Mickey found them standing on a cliffside. Snow spiraled downward in cold, lazy drifts. Through the flakes he could see an encampment sprawled out beneath them.
After a moment of astonishment, Mickey let go of Kuu's forearm and promptly burst into applause. "My golly, Kuu, you mastered that exceptionally quick! Those flags. . . then, I assume we're in the Land of the Dragons?" Kuu's introduction earlier rang in his mind. The golden dragon spangled on the cloth above the camp gave it away if nothing else. Mickey shook his head in wonder.
He was both pleasantly surprised and relieved. If any notion of returning to Port Royal had entered Kuu's mind or Heart, Mickey wasn't certain what might have occurred. Would the Shard simply fail, and deposit them somewhere at random? Would they follow the Caribbean, into the Realm of Darkness or the End of the Worlds? He never believed they'd be stuck between the worlds, but the unknown factor had been enough to worry him slightly. Evidently there was nothing to feel cautious about.
"Where to now?" Mickey asked Kuu with a chuckle. They had time on their hands; the last thing he had been expecting was for a man with no concept of a Heart to manage to warp with it so soon. "We can go back, if you wish. Or try again."
((How serendipitous! I shall use this opportunity to perchance bring about a very slight intro to the possible Land of Dragons plotline! Feel free to leave unused and write it in a different direction if you feel it is unsuitable or premature.))
The sparkling light washed off his face as he was hit by a wave of cold, colliding with his senses with an impact that immediately caused an involuntary sniff to build up in his nose. Kuu only needed a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the whiteness of the new light and even less for him to realise where they were - he could recognise those peaks from a mile away (which was just as well, as they were actually several miles off anyway).
He was back in the Land of Dragons.
He'd done it. He had managed to pull off an intentional warp using the Star Shard. Although, he would have to learn how to control his thoughts a little better - he had been thinking of gonig back to Destiny Islands, but then he'd switched almost at the last moment to the Land of Dragons, thinking it might be a better target to make considering he could remember it a little clearer (if his theory on the Shard using memories as a navigational focus was correct). Perhaps that was why they didn't end up at the tea house he used to visit the most often while he was a recruit, and was dropped into the snow instead.
'I'm back,' he murmured, as if using the words to convince his voice that he was truly there. 'I... I don't believe it.'
Kuu turned to Mickey in a daze, and only half-heard the praise that the mouse king laid upon him. 'I did it, didn't I? I told the Star Shard where to go.'
He vaguely realised that he was speaking with all the extensive vocabulary of a five-year-old, but at that moment he didn't care. The snowflakes alighting on his fingertips proved with each freezing drop that he was in the mountains of China, and he could feel the euphoria building inside him, overflowing, unstoppable. An incredible energy seemed to ignite within his body, and he was filled with an incredible urge to scream, which he did - but his mouth remained closed and silent, while instead, a fierce wind whipped about him, spiralling in a minature snowstorm, but Kuu didn't care how or why, the most important thing was that he was here, now, and he felt like flying...
The summoned wind threw Kuu high into the air, and there, several metres up in the frozen sky, he finally let out a yell of pure joy - the glorious song of a crane newly-freed from its shackles except magnified tenfold in volume and intensity and height, and Kuu allowed himself to be lost within its echoing song. He opened his eyes and allowed himself to look at the land he thought he would never see again - at least willingly, at his own time, at his own pace. But what would hold him now? What would prevent him from seizing his time for himself? No-one, not the earth or sky, worlds of armies or those black shapes moving towards the encampment below -
Blinking, Kuu gradually snapped out of his reverie. From this height, he could see several dark shadows shifting about the whiteness of the snow, slowly but undoubtedly approaching the tents of the Chinese army at the bottom of the clifftop. And as the existence of these invasive figures began to dawn on his mind, his awareness of the fact that he was several feet up in the air also began to occur to him, and he only had the time to realise that he had unknowingly cast an exceptionally powerful Aero spell to launch himself into the air before he fell back out of the sky and towards the ground at a fantastic speed. Kuu barely managed to summon another swift Aero to cushion his fall, and landed in a kneeling position next to Mickey.
'Your Maje- I mean, er... Mickey, sorry... anyway, there appears to be something odd moving towards the camp below. The encampment looks small enough to be a scouting party, but far too well-armed... do you think there's something wrong?'
Or has there always been something wrong? came the unbidded, ominous thought. Perhaps the war with Shan-Yu wasn't quite as over as they had assumed... no, surely I'm over-thinking it. But if not Shan-Yu, then what?
And then Kuu was flying, soaring through the air as a songbird would hail dawn. If not the gusts of wind emitting from the young man, the sudden volume of happiness he excluded might have swept the King of his feet. As it was, Mickey was all too aware of the steep cliff his feet dangled over, and took a step back as he craned his neck to watch Kuu's exultations.
It took many more minutes for the young man to come to his senses, but Mickey waited serenely, a smile on his kind face. Kuu soon lurched to the ground. His following report was not what the King had expected; apparently, from that height, the silver-haired youth had been able to observe the encampment more clearly through the swirls of snow. Mickey found it odd that such a well-armed congregation would be set in the midsts of Chinese winter. Last he had visited the world all was at peace. The threats to China were but a shadow of the victory of the Fa family and, more importantly, of Li Mulan - for the Guardian spirits of the world saw to it that balance was restored.
The gold-spangled flags and tents of the army was definitely not good news. Mickey's eyebrows drew sharply downwards. Time was of the essence here, but this was the first he had been alerted to trouble in the Land of Dragons, as he had estranged himself from the vast news sources and archives of Disney Castle. His decision was made quickly.
"I do believe there is, Kuu. Come with me to check." With the first bounding leap in a series of many, Mickey began to jump from crag to prepice down the mountain incline. Kuu had moments ago soared through the air as if on wings; he would be able to catch up. Luckily the Shard hadn't deposited them too far from the encampment.
Once level with the proud, snow-battered flags, Mickey slowed. The dragons emblazoned on the cloths were the only sign he was going on to ensure the group they were about to encounter were friendly. And what if it hadn't been? What if they had born the saker wings of Hayabusa?
He answered himself a moment later, Then we woulda gone down all the same, to find out what has happened to disrupt the balance of the Land of the Dragons.
They had come near enough to be spotted by the sentries. "Do ya recognize anyone?" The King muttered, once his companion was back within earshot. "This is all very strange. We must try for peaceful negotiations, Kuu. If all goes well we may be able to figure out this particular squad's purpose."
And even if negotiations didn't go well with the soldiers of China, they at least had a prompt, albeit somewhat unreliable, means of exit.