How did she get here? Where was her mother?!
Dilan looked down at the wobbling infant with great uncertainty. Her mother and uncle were in the parlor, how did she make it as far as the courtyard without anyone noticing her? He didn’t even know that babies could move that much on their own at such a tender age. He knelt down to meet her level with a small but uncertain smile.
“Uh...where is your mother, little one?”
Of course the child did not respond, she was looking up at him with an innocently sweet absentmindedness. A smile came to her face that Dilan found extremely endearing. Oh, why did the circumstances of her birth have to be so cruel? For all of them?
“Does she know you’re out here?”
She was holding onto anything her little arms could grab onto and was trying to stand. He didn’t know if he should help her, or even if it was allowed. But of course, there was something very strong burning in him to pick her up and embrace her. Even at a year old the child was already so much like him with her soft little head of black/brown hair and those round wide eyes that resembled two brilliant amethysts. She was wobbling again, about to fall and Dilan found he could no longer help himself.
He swept the infant into his arms as easily as picking up a feather, as it turned out this was a good idea and she began to giggle. How odd, he had never really been one for children yet this little one seemed to be working a strange sort of sorcery on his heart at that moment.
“We should probably go find your mother, little Kalai.”
But she evidently did not intend to be returned so quickly. She stretched her little arms towards the garden and the soft white flowers what were currently in bloom. Dilan could not help but chuckle a little at this.
“How interesting that of all the flowers here, those catch your eye.”
Gently he put her down, keeping a hold of her hand as she trotted towards the flowers, bending down a little to pluck some up in her plump little hand. The child giggled again.
“You like them, don’t you?” He asked. “I suppose you would. You know, they share your name.”
Dilan quickly brought his attention to the woman running towards them, the look of worry in her beautiful blue eyes quickly vanished when she caught sight of her child wobbling around in the garden beside the Royal Guard. Quickly he stepped back as she picked up the infant, but she regarded him with a small but tender smile.
“How did you get out here?” She asked softly.
The child made a cheerful noise as she thrust a small bunch of white flowers to her mother's hand. The woman laughed as she took them from her daughter. For a split second her eyes met those of the guard still standing a few steps away from them. She looked at the flowers thoughtfully before speaking again.
“Please forgive her.” She said. “I hope she was not a bother to you, Sir.”
No one is here but us. How can you still address me like that? He thought to himself. After everything we have shared? A sharp pang went through his heart but his tone did not change even as he bowed to her respectfully.
“Not at all, My Lady. Your daughter is very lovely and quite charming.” A small smile crept on his face as they locked glances with each other. “Just like her mother.”
An involuntary flush rose to her face and she quickly turned around to leave.
“Well thank you. My uncle, Lord Ansem is probably looking for us both. We’ll take our leave now.”
She did not notice how fast she was walking through the halls, nor did she notice how her child had started becoming fussy the moment they left the courtyard. All she could think of was the burning sensation in her heart.
Lovely and charming, like her mother. She thought. And even at a year old, determined and willful. Like her father.
Ten Years Later...
“The damn child resembles him a thousand times more than either of us combined!”
“She doesn’t belong here! She should have never been born!”
“She’ll be happier in the castle. Or not. It doesn't matter anyway.”
Memories of the words of cruelty continued to echo in her ears as she walked down the hallways holding the hand of the mysterious man who would now be her guardian. It seemed like cruelty was the only thing that Kalai had ever known in her eleven years of life. The only kindness she ever knew was from sympathetic servants in her family’s manor. Everyone else, even those who were supposed to love her most of all, had been toward her indifferent at best and harsh at worse.
Even her younger siblings refused to show her even the smallest measurement of respect. As if they also knew there was something very wrong with her that made her stand out within the family. No one had ever bothered to explain to her why she had dark hair and violet eyes, compared to the reddish gold locks and blue eyes belonging to her mother and siblings. No one had bothered to explain to her why out of all the children, her father seemed to dislike her the most while showing preferential kindness to her younger siblings. All that she knew was that something about her was wrong and for it, she was being sent away to live in a mysterious castle with a mysterious man whom she had only heard of in passing: “Ansem the Wise.”
It was nearly midnight when her mother finally bought her to the place that would be her new home. Ansem was already waiting for them outside the castle gates when they arrived. Kalai gazed up at him nervously, not knowing anything about where she was or who this man was. However, he wore a kindly look with gentle eyes and a small but welcoming smile and Kalai felt an unfamiliar warmth in her heart as he reached out to take her hand.
“Come, my child.” He said.
She obeyed him, turning back around briefly to her mother. “Goodbye, mother.” She said, hoping her voice didn’t sound as afraid as she felt.
But her mother simply turned around to leave, not bothering to respond or show even the smallest measurement of sadness at their parting. It didn’t matter anyway. She would never see her worthless bastard daughter again if all went according to plan; a child whose existence was a bitter reminder of a past better forgotten. A love forbidden from her, and the greatest indiscretion of her life.
Kalai was taken from her thoughts and brought back to reality at the stop of two double doors. Ansem opened the doors leading into his study and led Kalai in, still by the hand. Inside four men sat silently, staring at her with curious interest. Kalai studied them as well; one of the men was dressed in a white lab coat with long blonde hair and glowing green eyes that observed her with curious scrutiny. The other three men wore an identical uniform of dark grey with white gloves, among those three Kalai immediately noticed one of them staring at her with what seemed to be a look of shock. Kalai felt afraid under his surprised glance and did not look at him for longer than a few moments. But she did notice something peculiar, that he had the same violet eyes as her.
“Gentlemen.” Ansem finally spoke. “This is Kalai. She will be living with us from this point forward. I expect you all to be very agreeable to her and help her feel at home here.”
Sleep had never come easy to Kalai and tonight was no different. Though Ansem the Wise had went out of his way to make her new room welcoming, with walls painted in a soft pink and lacy bedding he felt would be appealing to a young girl, she couldn’t feel comfortable in her new surroundings no matter what she did. Anxiety was as natural to her as breathing. Now alone, Kalai had moment to think about her new situation and the anxiety she felt. Ansem had seemed kind, though she didn’t know much else about the other residents she couldn’t help but wonder if they would be cruel as well. As she thought this she heard footsteps in the hallway and sat upright on her bed as her visitor stepped into the doorway.
“Do you require anything, Miss?”
Kalai was silent for a long time as she stared blankly at the man with violet eyes, he was a large man with broad shoulders but he spoke with an indifference that sounded neither cruel nor kind and she didn’t know weather or not she should be afraid of him. But she stared at him all the same.
“I require nothing at the moment.” She replied at last. “Thank you but I wish to rest and be alone now, Sir.”
The man gazed at her with a look Kalai couldn’t read; it was sad, but strangely gentle. But he did not change the tone,
“Very well then.” He replied as he turned his back to leave. “By the way, my name is Dilan.”
“Goodnight, Dilan.” Kalai said. The faintest of smiles came to his lips, though she did not see.
The next morning Kalai awoke to find a small package laying at her feet wrapped in silver tissue paper. Inside was beautiful doll, similar to the one’s she had always envied that belonged to her sisters. Her father had never allowed one. Along with the doll was written a simple note, unsigned.
She will be your friend, she will watch over you, as I will always watch over you.
She had breakfast alone in her room and afterward dressed in the clothes Ansem the Wise had provided for her, a white blouse with a grey vest and a black skirt that went past her knees along with a white lab coat. She was told that she would spend the first hours of her day learning lessons with a man name Even, incidentally the same blond haired man she had seen the night before. She wouldn’t be alone though, there was also another child under the wardship of the castle a little younger than herself. A boy named Ienzo.
Children rarely enjoy their lessons, and the same was true for Kalai though she made it a point to listen to Even intently though he had a habit of talking on and on to the point everything he said sounded like a foreign language. During this time she couldn’t help but notice Ienzo staring at her interestedly and she wondered how long it had been since he had seen another child, let alone a girl. Even allowed lessons to end early that day so she could have more time to get familiar with her new home.
When the two children were allowed to leave Ienzo gazed up at her and without a word took her hand and began to lead her down the halls of the castle with a childish enthusiasm that was endearing to Kalai. She had a little brother at home, but he was a nasty and spoiled thing, as unlike this boy as night was unlike day. They stopped at another set of double doors, Ienzo pushed them forward to reveal a vast library. He smiled up at her and resumed dragging her by the hand through the maze of bookshelves until they came to one small corner of the upper level of the library hidden away by many shelves of books.
“This is my secret place.” He said, sitting down beside her and pulling something out from between two books in the shelf next to him. “The grownups don’t know about it. I like to come here sometimes after lessons. Sit down with me!”
Kalai obliged and saw that he held a wooden chest in his hands. Ienzo opened it to reveal a chess set.
“Do you know how to play?”
She smiled. “I’ve seen my father play it, but I’m afraid I don’t know the rules.”
The boy’s face lit up. “Oh! Then I’ll teach you and we’ll play! This is the only game Even will allow me to play but he always beats me! So maybe I’ll finally win a game against you!”
She couldn’t help but giggle, this was the first time since her arrival at the castle that she had begun to feel at ease. And so they spent a pleasant hour together as Ienzo taught Kalai how to play chess. As they played they spoke more and got to know each other. Kalai learned that Ienzo’s parents had died when he was a baby and so he had lived in the castle for most of his young life. The other’s in the castle all cared for him and Ienzo had come to see them all almost like family.
“Aeleus is my favorite.” He said. “He doesn’t talk as much as the other’s but he’s very nice. And…” smirking a little “I sometimes can actually beat him in chess.”
“What about the other’s in the castle?”
“Master Ansem, he’s also nice. Sometimes he takes me out for ice cream and let’s me sit in his study while he does his research. Even. whom you already know, talks a lot and can be kind of annoying but he’s also kind. Braig is okay. One day he was showing me how to play a new game with cards called ‘poker’. But Even found out and became angry.”
Ienzo shrugged. “He doesn’t speak to me much, except to order me to bed or keep me from going outside the castle gates. He mostly stays around Aeleus, guarding the front. And when he’s not doing that he’s sparring with Braig in courtyard.”
“So you don’t think he’s nice?”
“Not really, not like Aeleus.”
Kalai didn’t like this response. Out of all of her new guardians, it was Dilan who had caught her interest the most yet, at least according to Ienzo, seemed to be the most of a mystery. His intimidating appearance did not help matters either. She twisted a finger around a lock of her dark hair thoughtfully and was about to speak when suddenly they heard the large double doors open and someone walk in.
“Young Master, Lady Kalai. Are you two in here?”
Kalai froze as Ienzo quickly shoved the chess set back in the shelf. “See what you did? You talking about him bought him in here!”
How was that HER fault?
She didn’t have time to respond before Ienzo grabbed her hand again and led her quickly but quietly out of the shelves and pushed open another set of double doors on the upper level. Ienzo laughed and to her surprise, Kalai found herself laughing too.
“Ha! He won’t find us now!”
“No, but I can.”
The two children hardly had time to turn around before Braig grabbed them both by the collars of their lab coats, grinning mischievously.
“Oh? And who taught you how to speak like that, little one?”
“You did! Remember?”
“As if. Now why don’t you tell me where you two squirts were hiding all this time?”
Later that evening Kalai sat on her bed, contemplating the events over the past twenty four hours. She was holding the doll that had been left to her mysteriously the night before, along with the doll she had returned to her room that evening to find books waiting for her on the chair next to her bed. One of them was a children’s dictionary and the other was a beautifully illustrated copy of the fairytale The Blue Bird. This had been the first time she had ever really had anything of her own and it felt strange to her. Stranger still was that she naturally wanted to thank whoever had given these gifts to her but she had no idea whom that was. She thought the matter over many times before she heard a light knock at her door.
“I trust your first day in the castle was a pleasant one, Miss?”
She gave Dilan an uncertain smile and nodded.
“Very well then. Will you be requiring anything?”
Kalai hesitated before shaking her head. Truthfully she did require something, though she could not understand what it was or even how she would ask it.
Sleep came to her easier than it had the previous night and honestly easier than it ever had before. It was odd, when she had first been told that she would be sent to this strange new place, she had been under the impression that it was some sort of punishment. But it didn't seem that way now, she was actually beginning to feel like she could grow to like this castle and the people who resided in it. In Ansem the Wise she had found a caring guardian and in Ienzo she had found a friend. She still did not know much about the other’s but she had seen enough to know that she was more or less safe. Perhaps in time she could develop a sense of normality in her new surroundings.
Much later that night, as Kalai shifted peacefully in her sleep, a large shadow loomed over her. His footsteps were soft and Kalai not once emerged from her slumber she was holding her new doll in her arms and The Blue Bird was half opened next to her, as if she had fallen asleep while reading it.
Dilan smiled sadly and very tenderly patted her head, careful not to wake her.
Sweet little Kalai. He thought to himself. You don’t know who I am, perhaps one day you will. But you truly have no idea how much your daddy has missed you. And now that you're here I swear by the light of Kingdom Hearts I will always protect you. I love you more than words can say.
“Mmmm” Kalai sighed in her sleep.
He didn’t dare to stay a moment longer, placing a small vase of primroses on her nightstand before leaving as quietly as he had come.