The sun set and the blindingly white cities of Scala were at once shrouded in a blanket of dark, cold solitude. The streets were once more flooded with seemingly mindless creatures whose only goal was to corrupt and consume hearts; they moved in packs, searching for Hearts to feed on, Light to devour. When they got dangerously close to the pair though, there was no hope for them.
The one in the front didn’t even wield a weapon. He discarded his old coat and sported a much shorter leatherjacket complete with a hat and a feather adornment. He was followed by a one-eyed gunslinger who was all bruises and cuts, looking far too tired for that walk. Still he did not complain but wore a genuinely complacent grin on his face. “This will do” the Master of Masters decided as they reached a larger, open area unaffected by the battles fought within the city previously. He pointed at a chair and nudged Luxu towards it. “I’ll take care of this, don’t worry. I’m not that rusty!”
“Are you going to…—“
“Nope” he shook his head and began drawing a circle onto the ground with a piece of white chalk. “They had a good reason to run. Had it not worked out perfectly, all of this city would’ve been destroyed. Then again… it did! No surprise about that, though, I’ve foreseen it.”
“Master” Luxu echoed weakly.
“You keep sweating over the details. Don’t worry, I’ve got it all covered” the Master reassured him quickly and took a deep breath. The city smelled of destruction – dust and smoke and also magic; it was a weird smell, a bit similar to the scent of a rainy day. He kicked a smaller chunk of debris out of the way and began to create a detailed summoning circle, while Luxu just sat and kept watch. “You know, I never had any doubts about your loyalty” the Master added. “That is why you were given this task, and not someone else. See, the future is not carved into stone. Ever since I’ve obtained these eyes, I’ve been peering into the future, seeing small glimpses. But these are merely possibilities, roads we can choose to take or to abandon. I compiled the Book of Prophecies as a guiding post to you all, as a map with marked road.”
“You mean we could’ve ended up differently?”
“Oh, absolutely!” the Master nodded with a wide grin. “There were… I don’t know, trillions or something like that possibilities. Every hard choice you, the Foretellers, your friends and enemies, Xehanort or Sora made changed the future. Well, not changed; more like narrowed it down. And this is true still. But now I don’t need the sight so much, as I am here on the playing field myself.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Nothing, really” he shook his head, stood up and looked at Luxu. “We are here because of our efforts. They are paying Luxu, don’t worry. All that was promised and more will be fulfilled.”
“How did you achieve all this, Master?” the one-eyed Foreteller asked. He couldn’t contain himself so he got up and started pacing up and down, edging closer to the summoning circle bit by bit. For a while his Master did not reply, but continued working silently.
“I’ve studied the future” he replied plainly, with a matter-of-fact tone. “I watched every possibility, sought the best outcome for us, for me, and researched what road leads there. I knew Daybreak Town had to fall, that Maleficent would need to return to the past and back into the future. I knew about Xehanort, about your role, about Riku and Sora. I knew how Ventus would be the key that could spark a series of events. Everything I’ve done in the past was in favor of this outcome. And we are here.”
“But how did you know we would make the right decisions, that I would make the right decisions?”
“As I said, I watched it and knew the ending before it happened. Every other Foreteller would’ve failed in this mission, Luxu” the Master said, looking at his apprentice fondly. “I picked you, because you were the only one I could’ve entrusted with this mission.”
The Master of Masters took a step backwards and looked down at the summoning circle, inspecting his work. It wasn’t art, but it would do anyway. He summoned forth his Keyblade and felt a very slight shock running through his body as the weapon materialized in his grip. That familiar jolt, the weapon’s weight and the strength that surged through his body was something he had dearly missed. He had been without a Keyblade for far too long.
“Always remember. No matter how long it took you to get here, it took me twice as long in that damned city” the Master chuckled, but inside shuddered at the thought of spending another minute in any World similar to that one. Even though the World had no real effect on him due to his Heart being split in half, spending several lifetimes there left its mark on the Master as well. Had he not known of the brand and the Dreamers, he would’ve turned into one a long time ago. But knowing it helped to prepare: he split his heart and left half of it sealed away. It not only made his journey into Insomnia safer, but also provided as a waypoint for the trip back.
The summoning circle lit up and started buzzing loudly, blowing a warm wind towards the Master and Luxu. A sphere started growing above it, becoming larger and larger until it was long and wide enough for people to walk through it. And surely, a group of people stepped through the portal: Ira, Invi, Gula, Aced.
“Long time no see!” the Master waved at them playfully and raised his hat. The Foretellers in front of him were stunned but showed little emotion. “Oh, come on! Aren’t you even happy about me?” the Master teased them jokingly. “Who wants a big hug?”
“Are you really… our Master?” Invi asked carefully.
“Who else would I be? Oh… that Brain kid, right? You do know that he was an AI based on my appearance, right?”
“We’ve been told” Ira nodded and knelt down before his Master. “We are most glad to see your safe return, Master” the other three followed his example and knelt before the Master of Masters.
“Oh come on, stand up!” the Master clapped his hands. “Hm… wait a minute. Where is Ava my dearest?”
The Foretellers looked at each other and then at Luxu who scratched his head dumbfounded. “What do you mean?” Aced asked finally. “She didn’t come with us when Luxu summoned us forth.”
“Really?” the Master suddenly dropped the act and looked at Luxu. “Is this true?”
“Well, yeah. Is this a problem?”
“It is… unexpected” he acknowledged and shrugged. “But really, at this point it doesn’t really matter. She’s out there somewhere, I can feel it.”
“You can?” Luxu asked abruptly. He was quite visibly shaken by the sudden turn of events. His face faltered and he quickly sat down onto a chair, pushing his left hand against his forehead as if it had started to hurt suddenly.
“Yup. I bestowed parts of my Darkness into her; she is my greed after all” the Master of Masters said plainly. “Man, you kids have terrible memories. Ira, can’t you remember any of this either? Even though you were the first one?”
“I am… sorry bit.”
The Master sighed and shook his head. “Well, alright. Guess I can refresh your memories a bit. When you were a bunch of reckless kids I picked you all up at an orphanage and took you to Daybreak Town. I taught you how to wield a Keyblade and told you stories about—“
“About the Champions of the Light” Ira said quietly. He looked at the Master with realization in his eye. “I remember now! You told us about the Champions and how they were abandoned by the Light! You said you wanted to save the World from the corruption the Darkness and the Light and that you needed your own champions to do so.”
“Precisely” the Master nodded. “You would become my Champions and I would become your Light. But no man is without Sin, so I will need you to carry mine. And thus I passed my sins onto you, children.”
“So you know Ava is still around, because your Sin has not returned to you?” Invi guessed.
“Correct. Sharp as always” the Master nodded and gave her the thumbs up. “Ava is here, in this timeline, tucked away somewhere. Not that it matters. She betrayed us when she split from the group.”
“So what happens next? “ Gula asked, he seemed the most weakened amongst them all, probably due to the battle that was fought shortly before the Master’s return. “How do you want to become… this Light?”
“All in due time, Gula. For now, we need my Pride back” the Master said and turned around, looking into the distance. She was behind schedule which irked him slightly more than it should’ve. Leaving behind the rest of the group who were now discussing things amongst themselves, the Master stepped over to the side of the city and stared up at the pale, crescent moon.
For a while he stayed there feeling the evening chill, basking in the light of the night and listening to the distant echoes of the winds and the waves. When he finally heard the movement in the air and could smell the magic he opened his eyes and pinpointed the arriving figure. She wore a scarlet dress that turned dark purple at the hand and had a black feathery collar around the neck. Her legs were bare and darkened by the feet while the front of her thighs and shins were covered in tattoos depicting magical signs. She had long grey hair but wore most of it with a large headdress that made it seem like she had two horns on her head. A pair of black feathery wings grew from her back.
The Foretellers were at once silenced by the approaching witch and the one she held in her arms, wrapped in a blanket. Gula stepped forward summoning his Keyblade and taking up his battle stance. “She’s one of those witches” he remarked viciously, growling in anger. “Why is she here?”
“Down, Gula! Down! Bad boy!” the Master of Masters jumped in front of him and tried to pacify him playfully as if he was a dog. “She’s with us… now at least. Right?” he peered at her over his shoulder.
Ultimecia stood there silently, looking at the band of Keyblade wielders with a distant coldness. She let go of the body she was holding onto and it fell onto the ground unwrapping itself and revealing Ventus’ head.
“Ventus!” Luxu yelled his eye widened. He ran over to the body and the others joined him, surrounding the boy immediately. “He’s not breathing. Master, what is this about?” Luxu asked, half angry, half in despair.
“Brought us a gift, I see” the Master looked at Ultimecia instead. He stepped closer with much ceremony to his movement, letting his boot knock hard against the pavement, and looking down at Ventus with an emotionless expression. “Where did you fish him up?”
“Cut your games” the witch replied with a harsh rigidness. “Everything has gone according to your wishes: The Coven’s return, Mim’s betrayal, Walpurga’s demise.”
“She ain’t dead yet” the Master flashed a smile. “I’ve been saving her for you! Thought you might need a little extra power” he shrugged. “She’s somewhere amongst the ruins. You’re free to do what you want with her.”
“What about Ventus!” Luxu interrupted, looking up at the Master.
“He’s in a terrible shape, but don’t fret, he’ll live” the Master rubbed his palms against each other. “Stand aside children, time to mark the seventh.”
“What?” The Foretellers looked up at him in confusion, not completely understanding what he said. The Master however simply waved a hand and knelt down beside the boy and snapping his finger shrunk his Keyblade into the size of an actual key. “Seven hosts for the seven deadly sins” he uttered contemplatively, pressing the Key softly against his chest. “My wrath onto Ira; my sloth onto Aced; my greed onto Ava; my envy onto Invi; my lust onto Luxu, my gluttony onto Gula… and now my pride onto Ven… onto Superbia” he chanted and pulling the Key from his chest, pressed it to Ven’s.
The Keyblade lit up and then the light passed into Ven’s body. For a few seconds nothing happened but then abruptly Ven’s eyes and mouth opened and he gasped for air frantically. The Master of Masters took a step back and suddenly lost his footing. Ira and Aced grabbed him by the arm to keep him from falling. The others watched in awe as Ventus panted and coughed up water but slowly came to his right senses. “What… happened to me?”
“You had some serious injuries and managed to drown” the Master replied plainly. “But as I promised, your time has come. Rise now, Superbia. Rise, as the seventh Foreteller and the bearer of my pride.”
- O - O - O - O - O -
The sun hung low, covering the water’s surface in a reddish light and warming the sea-scented breeze. High in the sky the first stars twinkled pallidly over the small patch of sandy beached islands in middle of the sea, that Sora had always known as home. He was sitting at the ledge of the wooden pier, looking towards his friends who were busying themselves with trying to keep their small campfire alive and cooking their hard-caught fish for dinner. Riku and Roxas were just returning from the shed with a bunch of branches they could add to the fire, while Kairi and Xion were cutting up things for the salad.
Sora sighed sullenly; he wanted to help the boys out but both of them insisted on him staying put. He looked down at his arm – bound and dressed neatly – and shook his head in discontent. A whole month had already passed since their return from the Sleepless City and Riku recovered just as easily as always whereas Sora’s injuries remained and were unaffected by magic. He was healing of course, but the process was much slower than ever before. He hated sitting around, doing nothing… well ever since that fated night a couple of years ago. Before that he would’ve taken quite the pleasure in snoozing through the work. He looked back up at the others and saw peace and joy glimmering in their eyes. They looked so happy; Kairi, Riku, Roxas and Xion. They were finally at peace and Sora wished he could feel the same. In his mind, the last hours of his time spent in Insomnia played again and again like a broken record: fighting against Yozora, Brain taking his Keyblade and killing the man, and their miraculous escape. But the whole thing didn’t seem like it was the end of it. And he, Sora was equally frustrated and afraid of what was to follow.
“Sora!” Kairi waved at him, and he lazily waved back. She got up and hurried over with a small plate and a couple of bites on it. Cooked fish, potato and sauce made from herbs and garlic. “Want to give it a try?” she asked.
“Sure” he smiled and took one, dipping it in the sauce. “Delicious!”
“I do hope Hayner and the others will like it too” Kairi grinned. “They’ve been tutored by Little Chef, so I want to impress them!”
“They’ll love it” Sora chuckled and took another one.
“If you keep that plate too close, he’ll eat the whole thing” Riku pointed out as he arrived and took one for himself.
“So not true!” Sora pouted. “You two done?”
“Yup. All is good. I do hope the tents don’t give Hayner and the gang too much of a trouble though” Riku commented, looking at the distance where the trio were working on them even then. “I think I’ll give them a hand.”
“Want me to come?” Sora looked at him hopefully.
Riku looked back ready to reply but stopped halfway through the first sound. “Ye—ou should just stay here and test out the rest of the food. Yeah, that would be probably the best idea” he said and patted Kairi on the shoulder, nodding at her. “I’ll be alright. Be back in a bit.”
As Riku hurried off, Sora couldn’t help but think that for some odd reason he changed his mind about it. He looked at Kairi questioningly, who shrugged. “Don’t ask me” she said. “You know him the best. I’ve no idea what’s in his mind.”
“Neither do I” Sora sighed, his eyes falling. “Oh well, another bite then?”
“Come closer to the fire. You don’t have to sit here alone, you know” Kairi suggested. “Come on!”
Sora hopped off the pier and followed her back to the fire, where Roxas and Xion were holding onto each other, looking at the sea like the lovebirds they turned into. Sora rolled his eyes and grinned at Kairi but Roxas of course noticed and voiced his opinion in a now too kindly way.
“Be nice to each other” Xion warned them as she started cutting up a tomato.
“Hey, I haven’t done anything…—” Roxas fumed and pouted. “…yet.”
“Nah, you’d have to get through Riku to touch him” Xion snorted. “You think you can take him on?”
“Sure thing” he shrugged coolly. “Any day, any time!”
“What about me?” Kairi flashed a dangerous gaze at him, but winked jokingly after a few seconds. “Just kidding!”
Sora sat down beside the girls and looked into the fires and once more thought about Insomnia, about the Dreamers, about the Sandman, and about that man… Brain. What was his plan? How did he accomplish all that? So many questions remained and there were far too many coincidences. He had heard about the adventures Kairi and the rest went through in their absence and could only think about how the events were related.
“Where are Isa and Lea?” Sora looked up at Roxas. The boy ran his finger over the burnt scar on his face as he thought about the question. “I think… they are probably either in Radiant Garden or running an errand for Master Yen Sid.”
“Well, Lea took over the King’s role as Yen Sid’s apprentice-henchman business so he’s doing all sorts of stuff for him” Roxas tried explaining. “And he often takes Isa along for the ride; mostly because without Isa he’d get lost somewhere between the Worlds.”
“And how is Skuld?” Kairi inquired.
“Still in coma” Xion replied. “But she’s getting much better now. According to Naminé she should wake up soon. I’m more worried about Aqua and Terra to be honest. Haven’t really talked to them ever since… well, you know.”
“They’re strong” Roxas claimed. “They’ll be fine.”
“I hope so” Sora nodded and looked into the fire, thinking about all the bad things they had been through and truly wishing for them to find peace and happiness.
The girls continued preparing their dinner, while Roxas fiddled around with a knife and a thicker piece of wood, trying to carve something. Sora merely watched the fire for some time, then lay down and watched the star-spangled sky unwrapping itself above them as the last rays of the sun shrunk beneath the waves.
The scent of their simple yet delicious dinner filled the air and the colder winds were evened out by the warmth of the fire. Sora closed his eyes and just listened to the crackling of the fire and the crashing of the waves. It felt so good, so tranquil. Still, his heart was wounded by the events of Insomnia. The constant danger, the loneliness and hopelessness — it really changed him. As much as he wanted to remain that playful young boy, the city changed him forever. He was still him, but different.
“Hey!” Xion exclaimed after a while. “Ready with those tents?”
“You bet!” Pence answered. Sora opened his eyes and sat up to see the trio arriving. They sat down around the fire, joining Xion, Kairi, and Roxas. Hayner brought a guitar with him and started attuning it, playing a few tunes and humming along with it.
“Oh, you could play music?” Roxas looked at him, eyes widened with surprise. “Since when?”
“Since like forever!” Hayner laughed. “I just don’t have it on me all the time. And besides, I’m not that good!”
“Say, where is Riku?” Kairi looked around, searching for the boy.
“He’ll be here in a bit” Olette replied. “He said he wanted to be alone for a bit.”
Since dinner was ready the group didn’t wait any longer and everyone was free to dig in. Sora himself grabbed some drink and got up to stretch his legs out. He started down the sandy shore and Kairi soon joined him. They walked quietly, straying further away from the rest until the others shrunk into distant dots beside a globe of fire.
“What’s the matter?” Kairi asked, nudging the boy softly.
“Cause I can see” she winked playfully. “I’ve known you for a bit and you’re easier to read than Riku.”
“Well, what do you think then?” Sora smiled at her. It wasn’t a truly honest smile, more like a sad and shameful one.
“You’ve really changed” Kairi said, more to herself than to Sora. “And don’t take that as a… criticism, because it’s not. I just see it in your eyes; the way you speak, how your mind drifts away. It must’ve terrible.”
“It was” he said honestly, calming his mind before it could begin to overthink it. He ended up crying a few times already, just thinking too much about it and even now his breathing was becoming more rapid and uneven. “But… that’s not. I’m sorry Kairi.”
“Don’t be” she smiled and pulled the boy into a hug. They stayed like that for a whole minute with neither of them speaking, nor moving. Finally, the steps of a third person broke them apart.
“Did I interrupt?” Riku asked, and Sora quickly wanted to reply but Kairi was even faster.
“Not at all!” She looked at Riku, and then at Sora. Their eyes met for a second and even though Sora never said anything to her, she gave a short encouraging nod. “Alright, I’m heading back!” And before Sora could’ve said or done anything she was running back towards the campfire and their friends. The brown haired boy looked at his friend, who stared back at him, and gulped.
“So… how are the tents?”
“Fine I guess” Riku replied and sat down into the sand, facing the sea. Sora waited for a few moments before joining him. He sat on his left and watched the currents quietly, trying to figure out what to do or say. But neither of them did anything. They just stayed and watched the sea and listened to its endless tale. What seemed like hours were actually more like five minutes, and yet during those minutes Sora felt more at peace than before. Just like in Insomnia he was calmed by the aura of Riku who sat beside him like some sort of loyal guardian.
“Do you often think about it? I mean, about Insomnia, Brain, or Yozora.”
Riku didn’t reply for a while. He watched the relentless waves with a fierce gaze, probably contemplating what answer was fitting. “I do” he admitted. “Always. I dream about it, constantly.”
“Me too” Sora said, blinking a few times. “Do you think we’ll see him again?”
“Brain? I’m sure. If what I think is true, he will be connected to those Foretellers.”
“Can he be their Master?”
“I’m quite sure he is” Riku nodded. “It would align with everything Luxu said to me. But don’t worry” he added, looking at Sora and putting an arm around his shoulder. “We’ll take care of it when the time comes. We have a lot allies, a lot of friends.”
Sora agreed and glanced sideway at Riku, but when he looked back at him he turned away. “We should go back” he proposed, feeling his mouth going dry. “I could use a drink.”
“Alright” Riku said and got up. He turned and offered a hand to Sora, and pulled the boy up. “Let’s go, can’t wait to grab a bite…”
- O - O - O - O - O -
When Riku got up the following morning, the tent he shared with Pence and Roxas was already abandoned save for him. He ruffled his hair and climbed out into the sunlit morning. Hayner and Pence were yawning over a coffee and Sora was sleeping in a sitting position under a tree. Not far from them Xion, Kairi, and Roxas were taking a swim, enjoying the water. Olette was pretty much still in the tent, sleeping.
Riku stretched and yawned lazily, looking for a glass to fill with something to drink. It took him a couple of minutes but he succeeded and joined the tired duo at their makeshift table, which was actually a large log. He sat down and took a sip. “Morning” he grunted.
“Same, but good” Hayner nodded, barely being able to keep his eyes open.
Without further comments they tried keeping themselves awake for several minutes – Hayner managed to doze off in the end – when a keyhole-like portal opened in the middle of the beach and a pair of men stepped through.
Isa and Lea stood there, their faces bearing grim news for a cloudless and sunlit morning like that. Riku stood up and walked up to them and saw the trio emerging from the water at once as well. “What brings you two here?” Riku asked.
“Distressing developments” Isa replied and looked at the Keyblade wielders. Xion and Kairi exchanged a worrying look, and Roxas touched his injured cheek with his left fingers. “As much as I hate to do this, we really need your help, everyone.”
“We’re going!” said someone behind Riku and he didn’t even need to turn around to know who said it. The brown haired boy stepped beside him and he could imagine the determined look he gave as he stood there.
“Not you” Lea shook his head. “Master Yen Sid knew all too well you’d blindly waltz into the battlefield, but he warned us not to take you.”
“Cause you are injured, Sora” Riku looked at the boy. The defiant look on Sora’s face made him resemble a puppy that was far too fierce for his own good and Riku couldn’t help but give a small smile. Still, he also had to steel his heart and say things he knew he’d regret. “In your current state, you would hinder the group. I know this, because I’ve fought them”
“How would you even know what we are facing?” Sora complained angrily, clenching his fist. “Am I in the way?”
“Right now, yes you are” Riku replied promptly and plainly. “And if any of us gets injured because they are trying to save you from certain death, that won’t be good for of us.”
“Fine then” Sora took a step back, measuring up the others, none of who objected Riku’s harsh words or stood by his side. Fuming and sulking, Sora slithered off. Riku’s eyes fell even though he was prepared to give him this speech weeks ago. He turned back towards the pair and sighed loudly. “So… let’s hear it.”
Lea and Isa exchanged a glance and after a moment of hesitation the latter nodded and the former stated the obvious: “The Foretellers are back.”