Chapter 1: First Chain
Life in Radiant Garden was not easy for Rika Itonami. With a name like "Radiant Garden", one would assume the place was a rather peaceful and serene setting. But no, it was not. The world always seemed to be attacked or under some sort of threat of disaster or danger. Rika sighed as walked through the bustling stone cobbled streets, lugging four plastic bags of groceries. It was quite frustrating for Rika. Whenever she went out to go shopping, a shadowy being known as a Heartless would sometimes appear out of nowhere and attempt to take her heart. It had gotten to the point where she had to carry around a weapon to properly defend herself. Speaking of which, people were staring at the long iron chain wrapped around her shoulder. She shrugged it off. It happened enough that she grew used to it, with the occasion explanation. Luckily for her, the Heartless were no longer the massive threat they once were. Years ago Heartless used to swarm en masse all through the various worlds in the universe, stealing the hearts of their habitants. Not actually their still-beating hearts, mind you. Rather, hearts that were one of the three parts that comprised the making of a living being. The other two components were the body and soul. It was rather vague as to what was so special about them, Rika thought; but they apparently were the embodiment of a person's emotions and desires. The Heartless themselves were corrupted hearts that fell into dark inhibitions, taking on an entirely new state of being with various forms that resembled creatures one would find in a Japanese role-playing game. Their only goal: Living off its instinct of corrupting more hearts.
However, the Heartless have long since diminished in threat level after the resurfacing of the Keyblade wielders. Despite their rather ridiculous name, Keyblades were legendary weapons that only the chosen few were allowed to hold; being the only weapons that were capable of destroying Heartless permanently and releasing the hearts they have stolen. It all began when the young boy Sora No-Last-Name-Given first received his Keyblade during the destruction of his home world. Sora, along with his companions and friends, fought through many battles and obstacles before finally ridding the worlds of the one responsible for the creation of the Heartless: Xehanort. Sora was knighted, and a statue was even erected in his honor with a golden nameplate displaying his name and the title "Hero of the Worlds".
Rika snorted. That name still sounded ridiculous. Rika rested against the base of that statue, dropping her bags and crossing her arms. Sora though, realizing that the dangers of darkness can never truly be wiped out, cofounded the Keyblade Academy: A self-explanatory school dedicated to training the future Keyblade wielders in the battle against darkness. Sora did not have much of an imagination when it came to names. The Academy was situated on Radiant Garden, the world that Sora always considered a second home for himself; and was the Garden's pride and joy, next to its famous castle, Hollow Bastion. Rika glanced up the huge flight of stairs behind Sora's statue that lead up to the school, a colossal building that resembled a domed Roman temple with its towering marble pillars. Despite being the cofounders, Sora and his friends and compatriots very rarely resided in the Academy. They were always off exploring for more worlds and possible new threats. Rather negligent, Rika personally thought. The Academy was, instead, tended to by lost Keyblade Masters that Sora encountered in his later exploits.
Not that it mattered much to Rika. She was only there waiting for her two Keyblade apprentice friends. The sound of the dismissal bell rang; and, almost instantaneously, the student body exited the school like a flood of confused pubescent hormones. Rika smiled and waved to two of them, Kai Higure and Ashi Kiyomeru. A massive grin developed on Kai's face as he spotted her. He was taller than the other two, and had short dark hair that had a bluish shine to it that was covered by a backwards blue baseball cap with a red "N" insignia on the front. He dressed in a red sleeveless shirt with two breast pockets and gold trimming, black sneakers, and a pair of white cargo pants that seemed a bit too large for him.
Ashi looked positively energized as he waved back to Rika vigorously. He was the shortest of the trio, and had golden blonde hair that arced over his forehead. Ashi dressed in black denims and a more traditional, yet loosely hung and unbutton at the top, silver dress shirt with its sleeves pushed up. Underneath were a black t-shirt and a golden necklace chain.
Rika herself had auburn hair that she had tied up in a ponytail with a blue ribbon, while leaving bangs hang over her eyes a little. She dressed in a white t-shirt with blue short sleeves and a hood, and a pair of blue jeans. What could she say; she liked the color blue and keeping things simple. "How were classes?" Rika asked.
"I believe the proper term is 'torture sessions'," Kai said, blowing a raspberry upon approach.
"He's just upset that he failed Agility," Ashi said with a smirk as he threw his arm around Rika's shoulders. "You should've seen it, Rika. He just had to do a simple dodge roll, but ended up crashing into the bleachers and they were behind him!"
"They know I'm more of a magic guy, so why do I even have to take the stupid class?" Kai said, snatching off his hat and began twisting it irritably. "It's bias, I tell you. Bias! Just because you can swing your Keyblade harder or faster than others and magic use aside from healing is near nonexistent doesn't mean it's the only thing that matters!
"Oh, suck it up, you big baby," Rika said. She held up her grocery bags up to their faces. "So are you going to help a lady carry her bags, or do I have to dope slap the two of you?"
"You're a lady?" Ashi deadpanned.
"Dude!" Ashi rubbed the back of his head, glaring in disbelief. "What the hell?"
Kai mumbled, "No reason."
As per their routine, Rika, Kai and Ashi entered the local Quick Stop convenience store. "I can't believe my friend has betrayed me on such a level," one of the two clerks behind the counter said to his co-worker. "Never before in my life have I ever been so offensively slighted in such a manner."
"Randal, I just think Attack of the Clones wasn't that bad," the other said.
"Blasphemy!" Randal screamed, throwing his hands up in the air. "All the Prequel movies suck, and you know it! Repent, Dante Hicks! Repent!" Dante slapped his hand over his eyes. "And now you're pulling the Picard maneuver? You're dead to me."
Dante groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, as Ashi moved toward the register and set down a soda bottle. "That'll be a dollar-eighty-five," Dante droned.
"A dollar-eighty-five? Are you kidding me?" Ashi said. "That's outrageous! What happened to the days of a dollar a pop?"
"Hey, I don't choose the prices, kid," Dante said lifelessly, as Randal pulled out a magazine with a cover of a woman revealing quite bit of skin out of his pocket and proceeded "reading" it.
"I wish to speak to the manager!"
"Calm down, man!" Dante said, holding his hands up defensively. "It's just an extra eight-five cents; it's not that big a deal!"
"Yeah, so just pony-up the dough or beat it," Randal added, poking Ashi in the nose with his rolled up magazine.
Ashi reached down into his pocket, produced the amount in coins, and tossed it on the table bitterly. "I'll have this establishment torn down, brick-by-brick!"
"Yeah, I'd like to see you try it, blonde-y!" Randal sneered.
Rika grabbed Ashi by the ear and tugged him roughly out the store; Kai followed closely behind. "Must you always cause a commotion wherever we go?"
"It's a sense of pride, Rika!" Ashi declared in as noble a tone he could muster. She merely tugged harder. "Ow! Ow! Ow!"
"Same time tomorrow, guys?" Kai asked as he slurped from his frozen blue-berry drink.
"We do hope you enjoyed your shopping experience here at the Quick Stop," Randal said with surprising competence and decor, before unfolding the three page spread from his magazine and grinning perversely.
"We get all the weirdoes, don't we?" Dante sighed.
"I wouldn't say that," Randal said, reclining in his chair.
Suddenly, the Quick Stop's door was kicked open. "What up, Clerks!" a tall, blonde delinquent wearing a black tuque shouted. He pumped his fist in the air, running in and knocking over a snack stand without a care. His stout, silent partner in crime stepped in after him, shaking his head.
"I wasn't even supposed to be here today
" Dante lamented, burying his face in his hands.
As the trio continued along their trek home, Ashi was attempting to convince the others of an idea of his. "And don't forget how it'd deal with any infestations we might have," Ashi said. "It'd be able to alert us to where they're coming from and we can prevent any future Heartless attacks
"For the last time, Ashi, we're not getting a lethal laser-grid computer security system," Rika said, resisting the urge to slap duct tape over his mouth.
Ashi, looking defeated, pushed his index fingers together haplessly. "It was just a thought."
"We wouldn't even have a Heartless problem if it wasn't for you two being Keybladers," Rika muttered.
Kai and Ashi exchanged glances, and turned to study Rika's moody expression. "Um, are you all right, Rika?" Kai asked.
"Sure I am," she said, forcing a convincing smile. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, you seem a bit
"You look depressed," Ashi finished.
"What? Who? Me? Perish the thought!" Rika laughed awkwardly and waved her hand dismissively. "I'm fine! Peachy-keen! Never better! I feel like a million munny!" Kai and Ashi each raised an eyebrow. Rika smile shrunk slightly. "Okay, maybe I'm a little annoyed," she said, avoiding their stares.
"Is it that you hate that our Keyblades give you trouble?" Kai asked.
"Are you kidding me?" she said. "Of course not; I think it's really cool that you two are Keyblade wielders. Never think otherwise."
"Is it because you're jealous that you're not one yourself?" Ashi asked, leaning far too close to Rika for her comfort with an arrogant smirk.
Rika snorted, and pushed him away by the forehead with her index finger. "Dream on, buddy. Nah, it's none of that. I just
kind of feel left out." She sighed heavily and stopped walking. "You two get to be part of this grand and prestigious school, while I'm left at home alone doing housework. It's not that I even want to be a Keyblade wielder. Before you two were chosen as Keyblade trainees, we used to be together twenty-four-seven. But now we barely have time to see each other, what with your classes and random emergency training sessions."
The boys frowned, looking unsure as to what to say. Rika sighed again and started laughing. "Would you listen to me? I sound like a mother to you two!" She punched Kai and Ashi's shoulders. "Seriously though, don't sweat it. I'm fine. I really am happy for the two of you." Rika smiled brightly. She swiped the grocery bags from the two and sped off down the street. "Come on! We've got dinner to prepare."
Ashi scratched the back of his head uncomfortably as Kai frowned. "Rika
Before the two could think another thought, Rika dropped her bags. "Heartless!"
"Heartless?" Kai gasped.
"What you two just said!" Ashi shouted.
The boys rushed before Rika, a long, bright flash of light emerging out of their hands. Once the lights faded, a Keyblade resided in Kai and Ashi's hands. Ashi's was a dark red color, with a silver hilt and black guard. Its blade was relatively short, but very sharp, with its key's teeth resembling daggers. Its black keychain was also short, extending from the hilt, and ended with its token being twin blades crossed over a shield. Kai's Keyblade had a yellowish blade, with a purple hilt and white guard. Unlike Ashi's, Kai's blade was far more jagged and crooked, and its teeth more ovular. Its keychain token was that of a black top hat with a magic wand over it.
The two boys raised their weapons toward the Heartless. Rika had never seen a type of Heartless like this one before. It looked like one of those velociraptor dinosaurs that she saw in a film once, but was entirely bleached with dark stripes and barely taller than their chest height. Its eyes were an electrifying blue, darting around erratically as it inspected its three preys. Something felt incredibly off about it for her. Heartless were already off-putting as it were, but this one was different. She felt as if her very soul was being yanked out of her.
"Keep back, Rika," Kai said, assuming his battle stance of raising his Keyblade over his head as if about to cast a spell.
"No need to tell me twice." The Heartless remained where it was, staring at the three as if it was curious. After a few breathless seconds, it opened its mouth and a ghastly shriek erupted from it. Rika, Kai and Ashi threw their hands over their ears, almost dropping to the ground from agony. It was as if a thousand glass shards were being dragged across a chalkboard. Rika thought her ears were going to explode. "Kill it already!" she screamed.
Ashi struggled to his feet and charged with his weapon underhand. He swung his Keyblade for the beast, but it ducked and quickly head-butted Ashi in his midsection, knocking the wind out of him. "No!" Kai shouted. He stabbed his Keyblade forward. "FIRE!" Flames emerged from the end of his weapon, and exploded toward the Heartless in a ball of fire. The Heartless spun around and whipped its tail at the fire magic, batting it back toward Kai. Caught off guard, he was unable to react in time to knock it aside; and Rika was still behind him. Kai formed a guard position with his Keyblade, and blocked the fireball from getting near Rika.
"Kai!" she gasped, ember rushing all around her. Once the flames finally subsided, Kai had taken the bulk of the power from his own fire magic.
He chuckled weakly. "Guess I should've dodged."
"No!" Rika caught Kai as he collapsed. "Wake up, you," she growled, shaking him by his shirt. She glanced toward Ashi ;the Heartless was drawing near his hurt body. Ashi attempted to raise his Keyblade again; but the Heartless grabbed it with its teeth, tugged it out of his hand, and tossed it aside with a clatter. "Get away from him!" Rika shouted, unraveling her iron chain and swung it like a lasso at the Heartless. It wrapped around its snout and Rika tugged hard, snapping its jaw shut. She smirked. "Woo, get along, little doggie!"
However, the Heartless proved stronger than she anticipated as it jerked its head back, pulling Rika off her feet. Rika grunted as she landed on the ground, refusing to let go of her chain. "Rika, get out of here," Ashi shouted as he dragged himself to his Keyblade. "You can't fight that thing off with just that!"
"No way," she said, tightening her grip. "I'm not leaving you guys alone with this thing while you're hurt." Unfortunately for her, the Heartless had other plans. It whipped its head, creating a jolt in the chain that knocked Rika in the chin and caused her to finally release the chain. The Heartless used its clawed feet to remove the chain and sprinted for her.
"Rika!" Ashi shouted.
Rika quickly snatched up her chain once more and held it up before her. The Heartless' jaws crashed into it, driving Rika across the ground while on her back. She was barely able to keep the beast at bay. Her strength was failing her and the Heartless was soon going to tear her apart. But she was not thinking of that. Her thoughts drifted back to Kai and Ashi, their sometimes goofy antics, the silly chats they had, and the three of them together way back when.
Looks like we won't be together again, she thought. A small smile formed on her face and she closed her eyes. A tear dripped from each eye. It was good while it lasted.
Her tears fell down upon the chain and a blinding light exploded from it, forcing everyone around the area to shield their eyes. Ashi lowered his arms as the light vanished, and could only gape in awe. "Good King Mickey."
Rika opened her eyes, a Keyblade in her hands and between the Heartless' jaws. Its blue blade was more curved than Ashi's, but not as crooked as Kai's; and its teeth were also curved but split in the middle. Its hilt was brown and the guard green. Its keychain was far longer than necessary, about as long as Rika was tall, and it ended with its token being a blue pair of wings.
A thought drifted through her mind: Life's Bend. "I suppose I should take that as your name?" she asked her Keyblade, barely addressing the ferocious monster mere inches from her. "Kind of lame, but I'll get over it." She smiled at the Heartless. "Oh, wait. Sorry. How rude of me. Let me give you the proper attention you deserve."
Rika kicked her keychain upward, caught it, and jabbed it into the Heartless' left eye. It cried out in pain, releasing the Keyblade, and staggered backwards. Rika stomped on her keychain, and began spinning her Keyblade around with her hand. The Heartless' one good eye followed it, trying to keep track of it, but the Keyblade was moving too fast as Rika began alternating hands with her weapon and juggling it. Finally, she tossed her still spinning Keyblade at the Heartless. It passed by the Heartless and spun back toward Rika, who caught it by its handle. For a moment, it seemed as if she had missed, but the dinosaur-like monster's severed head finally dropped off from the rest of its body and the Heartless dissipated into nothingness. Rika had expected a pinkish glowing heart to emerge and disappear back where it came from; but, instead, a silvery ball of a misty substance floated from where the Heartless once was and vanished just as it came.
Pushing it to the back of mind for the moment, Rika helped Ashi to his feet. He was unable to take his eyes away from the weapon in Rika's hand. He opened his mouth to speak but words wouldn't form. "Later," she said. "We've got to get help." Rika rushed toward Kai, inspecting his injuries. Ashi nodded and quickly fished out a cell phone from his pocket. "Why didn't you use that earlier?" Rika asked as she lifted Kai's arm over her shoulders.
Ashi thought briefly, looked to the ground, then at Rika, and finally up to the sky. "Plot makes you stupid," he said ultimately.