Hunt for the Castle of Memories [AQUA] | World Destiny
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!
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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.
She had never wanted to come back here before, but sometimes one's hand was forced. The darkness of the Black Reach responded to the portal that had opened up, looking for an escape into the realm of light, a way to freedom. It slithered away, back to the rest fo the shadows, as Xion stepped through and lowered her hood, looking around.
"Fancy ending up here..."
She walked to the edge of the expanse of ocean that was so familiar to her, a border to something darker, and let the water lap on the edges of her boots as she stared out over the water. Aqua was supposed to meet her here, but they hadn't left at the same time, and she wondered if staying put was her best bet, or if she should get moving to avoid the Heartless.
With a sigh, she sat down in the sand, and just waited.
With the coming of the Nightfall, most every world among the stars had been swathed over with Darkness. That was the story that Aqua had heard, at least.
But if that was the case, then what exactly had led her to Twilight Town? Was it all really just a matter of convenience? Had the veil between Darkness and Light grown so thin that she’d gone tumbling through without so much as an effort, or had some other, outside force strung her along until she found her way to where they’d wanted her to be?
Her first thought was Xehanort, but if nearly a decade in the realm of Darkness hadn’t attracted his attention to her then she doubted that he’d be acting against her now. Especially not to bring her back into the Realm of Light. But if not him, then who?
She shook her head. Asking that question was pointless without more information than she currently had. What was important now was to take advantage of her situation and use it to fight against the Darkness. That was what she’d always done, and it was what she’d continue to do now.
Her gaze shifted skyward and the Master Defender flashed into existence in her hand. Pointing the weapon to the heavens, she willed the way to her and Xion’s chosen meeting place to open. The keyblade pulled at her heart, pooling her strength into a central point and releasing it in a beam that shattered the sky’s veneer and revealed what lied beyond.
Although she’d spent so long in the Darkness and had been back in the Light for only a short time, she felt herself falter slightly at the idea of returning to where she’d come from. Her heart was strong, but it was also broken. And the Darkness would have liked nothing more than to seep into the cracks.
But rescuing Ven was important. She’d promised him she’d be there to wake him up soon, and even if she was nowhere near on time she owed it to her friend to be there for him when he needed her.
She swallowed the fear and stowed her doubts. Memories of her closest friends would light the Darkness, and when her strength failed her she could always rely on them to be there.
Ven’s strength was failing him right now, so she needed to be there for him. Nimble jumps carried her off the sides of crushed buildings and up into the heavens. Xion was waiting for her, and beyond her was Ven.
Though she’d ascended into the portal, the beaches of the realm of Darkness opened up beneath her feet. Gravity shifted, carrying her down towards the sand and sea. Before she’d even landed, she felt Xion nearby. Good. That meant they could get started right away.
“Xion!” Aqua called, catching sight of the girl gazing out along the shoreline and walking to her with a quickened pace. “Thank you for coming. With you here, this should be much easier.”
Her eyes glanced out along the paths before them, and her hand found its way to the wayfinder in her sash's pocket. She gripped it to her chest, willing it to point her in the direction they needed to go. "If we can find the Land of Departure in all this Darkness, we'll be able to connect it to the teleporter back Twilight Town. Then, we can bring the others here with us and look for Ven."
The spell that Aqua had cast on her homeland using the Master Defender was potent. So much so that it could only be undone from the inside. They would have to traverse the maze she'd created, but as long as they had Master Eraqus' keyblade with them and her heart was linked to Ven's, everything would work out.
She lifted her gaze when she heard her name, looking up tot he Keyblade master approaching her with a sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness, I'm glad I'm not alone here anymore, I want to get this done as soon as we can. But everything's different again... You really think you can get us back to Castle Oblivion?"
She willed her own Keyblade to her, as if holding it would show her something she was missing. But everything was the same, and she looked around.
"Well, we're going to have to trust in your heart on this one, Aqua. Castle Oblivion may be my birthplace, but I can't tell you how the Organization were able to find it in this forlorn realm so easily. I'm at a loss of where to go, and I know what kind of nasty things lurk in the shadows. At least we seem to be at the best starting point, this shore has always been a good respite. So, which way shall we traverse?"
With pursed lips, Aqua took in their surroundings. This was almost certainly the Dark Margin, but what Xion had said about everything changing was true. The realm of Darkness was an ever-shifting place, and the people who wound up there would wander until they succumbed to it. She knew this all too well.
“I have to believe we can. With the Darkness growing like it has been, there’s not much time left until Castle Oblivion has been swallowed up by it entirely. Honestly, I’d be surprised if it hadn’t been already. It’s existed on the precipice between Light and Dark for as long as I can remember. Just like this place.”
Aqua gave one last look out to the water lapping at the shores before them. This had been a place where she’d found peace once. A piece of her – the part so scarred by the Darkness that it had almost become numb to it – urged her to stay. But Xion was here, and she didn’t want to show any weakness. She was a keyblade master, and that meant she had to at least act the part.
“Don’t worry,” Aqua smiled as Xion summoned her key to her side. “I’ve got something that will light our way better than a keyblade could.”
Aqua’s hand instinctively went to her Wayfinder. If the goal was to find Ven, there was nothing better to set their course than the thing that connecter his heart with Terra’s and her own. Still, at Xion’s mention of being born in Castle Oblivion, she nearly fumbled and lost her grip on the thing.
Being born in the castle should have been impossible. Master Eraqus had told her that the endless maze that the Land of Departure would turn into as part of activating its defenses would keep anyone and everyone at bay. Navigating it would be impossible, let alone any two people living there long enough to have a child.
Still, Aqua knew Xion had no reason to be dishonest about her birthplace. If she said she’d been born in Castle Oblivion, then she was born there. It was really just that simple.
“Say, Xion,” Aqua asked as she held the colored glass up to the pale moonlight before them. “Want to know a secret?”
As if responding to her will – or perhaps her heart – the glimmers of light through the Wayfinder sparked and trailed out along the shoreline for the briefest of moments. It was faint, but a feeling like a memory of Ven, Terra, the Master, and home began to worm its way inside her chest.
“Before it was Castle Oblivion, it was called the Land of Departure. It was a small place, nothing like the maze it is now. Just big enough for someone to train under a master with her best friends in the world.”
Not hesitating for another moment, Aqua locked eyes with the young girl and smiled. She reached out, fingers wrapping around the sleeve of Xion’s cloak as she gave a gentle tug and started walking along the shore in the direction she’d been called.
((It's been about two months since the last reply to this thread, so I'm going to be speeding it along here.))
The pale silver sands of the Dark Margin soon gave way to the purple, sinewy pathways and deep gray stones that made up seemingly the whole rest of the Realm of Darkness. Save for the occasional world caught in its grasp and in the process of being swallowed up, the terrain was rarely any different than this. However, something keener than the eye was guiding Aqua as she made her way deeper into the dark.
Occasionally, she’d stop to pull the blue, star-shaped charm from her side to confirm the direction they were going in was indeed correct. If she were being honest with herself, the gesture was largely ceremonial. She knew in her heart which way the glimmering light would take them next before she even tightened her finger around the silver brim of her Wayfinder. The part of her connected to her friends was always going to know the way back to them. Ven was not someone she was willing to lose, and so she wouldn’t. Not ever.
For Terra, things weren’t quite the same. She dared not think that her bond was any weaker with him than with Ven, but when she tried to focus on him she felt her heartstrings pulled in too many directions. First was the Keyblade Graveyard, the sight where she’d lost him to Xehanort’s influence for the final time. Then there was Radiant Garden – the place she’d reunited with him along their journey, and where she feared she’d lost his trust for good. There were other places, too. Directions to worlds she’d never been and people she’d never seen all reaching out for her and clinging onto the depths of her soul, threatening to pull her apart if she dwelled on them all for too long.
Aqua shook her head. Terra was strong; she knew that. He could survive wherever he was, even if he’d become lost in the Darkness of his own heart as she’d become lost in this realm. Of that much she had absolute faith.
Xion, for her part, had remained silent during their journey. Had it been something Aqua said about home? Did the girl not want to associate herself with the place she’d…come from? Been created? What exactly was her story, and why had Aqua not bothered to listen to it more in-depth from the best possible source before now?
“Xion,” Aqua dared. “Is going home…Is going back to the place you came from something you’re not comfortable with? If there’s anything you’re worried about, you can tell me.”
A forlorn smile graced the features of the blue haired Keyblade Master. It was all too easy to ruin things by not wanting to say things just because they were hard to put into words. She’d learned that all too long ago.
“It’s better to share your thoughts with other people. It’s…sort of like sharing the weight. When other people know, their understanding can take the burden off your heart. It’s important. Especially here. Burdened, lonely hearts can’t last in the long dark.”
She was silent after that, casting her gaze towards the sky and fidgeting with her Wayfinder one last time before shifting their direction slightly and continuing. They were getting closer now. It wouldn’t be long before they reached their destination. And beyond that, their goal.
"I... I don't know. It's where I woke up when I returned, but that was a darker time. The castle still scares me, to be honest. Though.. Knowing it was something before is a comfort, I just... Sorry. I'm worried that something's not right, that's all."
Alertness was half the reason for her silence, but the other half was quiet contemplation on the words of her elder. Her home had a purpose before being taken over by the Organization, a castle that was home to a powerful master becoming a perversion of memories and darkness... It was depressing, to say the least. It was all she could do to hope that they would find Ventus safe and sound, but she knew things were hardly ever that easy.
"It doesn't feel like much of a home when it was a prison for those the Organization wanted to keep in check. Let's just get your home back, and Ven too. I just hope we'll be able to do it quickly once we get there."
She felt something, too, when Aqua began checking her Wayfinder more, a shiver of familiarity in that dark expanse. It had to be close, it was as if something was pulling her towards it. Perhaps, as Aqua said, she was scared of her home, and feeling so drawn to it was enough to make her want to pause. Instead, she grit her teeth, and aught up to Aqua, no longer needing her to lead.
"We're close, I'm sure you've caught on. You ready?"
Home had never been something that needed to be feared or dreaded to Aqua. In fact, for the past impossible stretch of time, it had been the only place she'd hoped to return to. The Realm of Darkness had all but swallowed up her hope that she'd ever see home again.
While the Land of Departure set on the boundary between the Realm of Darkness and the Realm of Light, its location in the dark had never been something Aqua had familiarized herself with. Without her armor - sacrificed in order to save Terra - she hadn't wanted to risk diving deeper into the shadows than she could bear. The Master had always warned them that they may not fair well without it. Perhaps whatever Terra had become was what he'd been warning them against all this time. Regardless, however badly she'd wanted to see the Land of Departure once more it had amounted to nothing in the face of her trials throughout the previous years.
"I'm sorry," Aqua apologized. "I didn't mean to dig up any painful memories you might have of the place. I shouldn't have assumed you'd have all the same good ones I do, especially not after what I had to do there in order to protect Ven or whatever the people that came there after I left did to it. Calling it your home wasn't right."
With each word passing from her mouth, Aqua could feel Castle Oblivion drawing nearer. They'd be at the front steps before much longer. Even the roadways and surrounding Darkness seemed to have been riven from their path, leaving only room for the black emptiness of the void. It was around that point when Xion began running ahead, a look of determination on the younger girl's face as her new gait threatened to blow past Aqua's more relaxed one. If there was anything left to say, it needed to be said now.
Aqua lengthened her stride, falling into step beside the black haired girl. She was young - maybe a little younger than Ven, even. And Ven was never supposed to have been caught up in this mess to begin with. In spite of that, her experiences seemed to have given her heart all the strength it needed.
"Before I came to the Land of Departure, I used to live somewhere else, you know," Aqua started. "It's a place I don't have many memories of, and one that I don't think I'd have been nearly as glad to call home as the place I do today. I think that's the most important thing in a home; it has to be one you choose yourself. If there's a place like that - a place where your happy memories outshine the painful ones - then I think that's your home, Xion."
The soft smile that flitted over Aqua's face gave way to the sharp focus in her eyes as the castle came into view over an invisible horizon.
"That's it. When we get there, do you have what you need to allow the others to come to us? Once we get inside, we won't have long to reach Ven before the castle's defenses turn against us. And if anyone else is already inside, I don't want to give them more time to find him than we already have."