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fractalJester
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:28 pm
[ Yen Sid : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

The sorcerer nodded. "Many of you may have experienced the magic I speak of during your travels with the train or airship, as each contained a training chamber in which time could be compressed such that hours passed in minutes," he explained. "We will be doing so here, in a reserved wing of the castle. However, in this case time will be compressed in such a way that it will lose meaning; that is, time will both seem to stretch on for eternity, and simultaneously be frozen in point. You will not age, but you will grow."

"We will enter each morning after breakfast, and return each evening for dinner. And yet, though only half a day may pass in your absence, you will have experienced what may seem like weeks or months," he continued. "All living necessities will be accounted for, such as food and shelter. You will be trained in various subjects, from martial combat to personal magic tutelage to optimal teamwork. One day of this might constitute for a standard army's boot camp, but it is our hope that a few such days will bring you near mastery of your strengths and weaknesses, insofar as such may be achieved by those of your age."

"This will not only apply to you Earthlings, either," he said, looking farther down the table. "All those who wish to remain by the Earthlings' side will take part in this training. You will, perhaps, be finished much sooner than any of these newcomers, and you are free to go when that occurs. But you may be called upon to train them in what strengths you have mastered."

"I will not lie. Our ideal outcome is not simply a collection of valiant guardians, but an elite force that might stand alongside our Keyblade Masters, should a second Keyblade War truly break out," he said, solemnly lowering his head and stroking his beard. "And if that is not to your liking, then we understand; as always, you are under no obligation. But should you stay, know that we wish to do our best to make you into your best."  
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:05 pm
[ Song : Disney : Rooms -> Throne Room ]

Training? Well, Song certainly liked the sound of that even if she just barely kept up with everything else Yen Sid had said. It was reassuring to know that she would finally get some help in learning how to survive, that she wouldn't be expected to go out there and do things after only a short tutorial. She felt a weight lift from her shoulders, and for the first time since she arrived, she fully understood that the people in this building were her allies. Actually, not just allies. She would be living, training, and trusting her life with them from now on until who knows when. Maybe until the end of her life? Whether it was sooner or later.

An involuntary shudder ran through Song as she imagined her life ending sooner. <Ah. Scary. Scary. Forget about it>, she shoved aside her cowardice. A part of her, despite the high risk of death, still wanted to participate in this endeavor. It was that part of Song, whether it be foolish or brave, that kept her seated and remaining. Besides, she didn't want to lose the security of having some place where she belonged in this hazardous world.

Fingers fidgeting over each other, Song passively watched the back and forth between Yen Sid and Dawn. It was something about losing Garuda, which she assumed was a summon. The name sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it specifically, <Makes sense since it's probably Final Fantasy.>

The Feather's friend tried to join in to opimistic-ize the pessimistic Dawn. Song, for her part, couldn't help but be pessimistic, as her thought immediately after Dawn's encouraging words were, <Yeah, cuz you'll eventually end up dead if you're helpless. Ahahaha... What is wrong with me.>

Yen Sid then moved on to explain exactly how this hyperbolic time chamber shenaniganery was going to work. Clearly, everything had been thought out. Training everything that could be possibly needed and as a cohesive group so that no one would need to be left wondering if they really needed to cover a particularly awkward base of their's or if they can rely on a better suited companion to take care of it. It was going to be grueling, Song expected. She was already daunted by it, but... she felt too awkward to back out of it now.
(OOC: tl;dr Song watched the conversation passively, fiddling with her fingers as pessimistic and doubtful thoughts cross her mind. Thoughts about fun stuff like, you know, dying. She does appreciate the training idea, though. Likes how teamwork is also being emphasized.)

"What you ask for... is a little daunting," Song subconsciously tried to lower the expectations Yen Sid had of her, masking it from even herself as modesty rather than laziness, "I mean, I don't know about the others, but I'm not really a... fighter. Of course, I'll try my best but... you know... just so you know... I'm no Goku. Not even a hyperbolic space chamber may be enough to fix me up..." It was a blessing in disguise, the reference that Song let slip, because it stopped her rambling when she realized, <Ah, oops. Let an Earth reference slip.> Immediately, she set to fixing her mistake, "Ah, um. Goku is a fictional character back on Earth, not related to Kingdom Hearts at all. He trained in a capsule-thing where time moved faster than the outside, like what we're going to do. It was called the hyperbolic space chamber, I think... wait, that doesn't make sense. Maybe it was hyperbolic time chamber instead?". After saying all that, Song just... sighed. <Ah, what even am I doing?&gt; now that she had led herself into the corner of awkwardness she suddenly changed her mind on how she wanted to approach this training. Instead of continuing to set the stage for the failure that was a very real possibility, Song just asked, "Uh... Er... Nevermind everything I just said. Since we're going to be training from breakfast to dinner does that mean we're going to start... now?"
 

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:12 pm
[ Yen Sid : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

"Shortly after breakfast, yes," he said, nodding to Song. "And do not be concerned about your current state. We will be starting from the beginning, just as I had done with Sora two years past."  
PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:42 pm
[Kyla/ Axel : Disney: Throne Room Buffet]

"I was wondering... if we are going to be in time compressed state- how will be do research into our arts? You mentioned all living necessities will be provided-"
She looked to the book she took out herself sitting on the chair by her side.

"Say if one wished to gather information from your vast library, cross reference anything- would getting a book on the outside that could take moments- sacrifice months worth of time to return? Or will there be a way to this places knowledge from where we are?"

It was be surprising to her if something wasn't possible, but it never hurt to ask- assuming too much would be a bad idea.


"Welp- I'm in if no one's gonna complain- then again- how do we stand Fearless Leader on the work front?" Axel asked Leon from across the table. It made perfect sense to the nobody to get some leverage in his skills, and if the keybladers and earthlings were going to get all pumped up in strength, it seemed logical to keep their pace. Besides, things were changing between himself and them- he..wanted, to know where it was going.
 

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:58 pm
[ Yen Sid : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

"To leave the training location—we call it the Mirage Arena—for even one minute would sacrifice hours. To leave for an hour would sacrifice weeks. But we have planned for such things: the arena will have access to all manner of books and scrolls from our libraries," he explained. "In creating this training space, we will be replicating as much knowledge and information as we've come across. Any knowledge we have access to out here will be accessible within, so as not to sacrifice any additional time."  
PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:07 pm
[ Feather : Disney : Hallway ->Washroom->Hallway ]

"Wow, suddenly edgy Disney princess going there."

Feather muttered to themselves before shrugging, looks like he has it under control maybe.

Then Feather actually went to the washroom, like what they said they needed to do, and then back into the hallway to check on our singing edgy Disney princess one last time before heading back to drink more tea.  

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:25 pm
[Kyla: Disney: Throne Room Buffet]

The artist gave a visible sigh of relief, she wanted to gather as much info as she could, but not sacrifice the time spent training to...
improve..

She would be training with them- all of them! All of them?
Perhaps it was silly to not realize this emotionally by that moment, but it dawned on her then. As her eyes slid around the table, from person to person- she wondered if it was actually possible to reach that level of elite expertise that Yen Sid wanted from them.

Some people... Kyla blinked at with concern. It would take more time to get.. closer . Would it be possible if given enough time?
She hoped, and simultaneously dreaded. But it was natural right?
Like a patient taking their meds, sure it was bitter, maybe painful in some respects but you HAD to take it.

Kyla found herself looking at Joseph then, wondering, noticing he hadn't spoken very much...there was un-settlement even now- like something other then tension that just made it hard to look at him. She felt like apologizing more, and her eyes dropped down to the magical text in her hands. It didn't feel right, like the unspoken barrier that was between hers and others.
 
PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:28 pm
[Nicholas <> Disney Castle <> Castle Garden -> Throne Room]

After his angsty teenager moment, Nicholas rose to his feet from his comfy spot in the grass and began to make his way back towards the throne room. A pit of anxiety had settled in his stomach, dreading the conversation that was going to follow. The bard knew he had been a bit of an a** towards the elderly wizard, but he wasn't comfortable letting down the walls he had put up for so long. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the story would have to come out eventually. It might as well be on Nicholas' terms, rather than a fit of emotion blurting out everything. But first things first, he'd have to let one person in. Easy peasy, right?

Stepping into the throne room doorway, Nicholas immediately froze. His body refused to take a single movement further into the room, and he tensed up trying to force himself towards Merlin. It's just one conversation. So straightforward. Yeah, a simple conversation with a powerful wizard who holds the key to a piece of the you you could be. God, you're such an idiot. You had to be an a** to him, demanding this and that. Such a tool. All the masks to wear and you pick the stupid one. Bleh, let's just... get this over with.

Making his way quietly, quickly, and without eye contact at any of the other Earthlings, Nicholas would eventually stop in front of Merlin, trying to stand as poised as possible.

"Merlin, can we... talk?" Glancing to the side, his stomach began to flip again. "...Ideally, without an audience?"
 

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:37 pm
[ Company : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

Merlin raised a brow from his seat as Nicholas reappeared, walking down the length of the table; by the time he'd arrived in full, most of the conversation had come to a close or was otherwise heading toward the end.

It was mostly between Yen Sid and the others, anyway.

With the young man's response, Merlin hummed slightly, giving him a slight stare, clearly trying to decide whether or not to humor the boy after what happened. After a moment, he placed the dark charm on the arm of his chair and stood, motioning for Nicholas to follow him to one of the corners of the throne room; due to the hall's width, this was easily a good thirty feet away and out of standard earshot.

"Feeling better now that you've had some air?" he asked, his voice tense but neutral. He did not seek to jab at the boy, but would not coddle him with false unrequested forgiveness, either.
 
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 12:37 am
[Nicholas <> Disney Castle <> Throne Room]

"Heh. Yeah, I deserve that. Also, yes." Nicholas chuckled, then let out a sigh and stared at the floor for a moment. "Listen, I understand your position. Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was working with the side that's trying to end the world. I shouldn't be trusted. But I'm... I'm weak. I'm so utterly dependent on magic power, not having it for one night has driven me crazy to the point of lashing out at the slightest of provocations."

"Before I came here, life was simple back on Earth. I worked at..." Nicholas paused, a lump forming in his throat. He took a few deep breaths, then started again. "I worked in a fairly famous and populated vacation spot of sorts, and when Earth began to fall... It was bad. It was, pun not intended, chaos. Complete and utter chaos."

The bard gasped again, feeling his breath hitch in his throat and leave him silent. "I can't... talk about it. But, I want you to see it, somehow. I know the other Earthlings will... eventually know, but I'm not ready to bring it up with them yet. I'm struggling just to even speak about it in the vaguest of terms."

Nicholas paused, looking right into the eyes of the wizard.

"I'm scared, Merlin. I'd never admit it out loud, but I'm utterly terrified at what's going to happen next. I've seen what the Darkness can do, literally felt it pump through my body and the only comfort I had after leaving that castle the other night was I had magic to keep me safe from the Darkness now that I was free of it."

He continued to ramble, fists going white as he clenched onto air for some kind of support. "...I had never intended on living too much longer in this world, honestly. I had my ribs broken in the fight in Atlantis, made a magical contractual deal with Elleon to be healed, almost lost total control in Notre Dame due to Chaos trying to take me. I was literally counting the hours left until my mind was utterly lost. But then..." Nicholas paused, as if trying to focus on the memory.

"...I ended up meeting a guardian of the elemental crystals. Powerful Moogle, utterly defeated me in combat and helped me regain control. Some... some ancient kind of magic. Bound Chaos as long as I had the willpower to keep him held." He sighed again, his breaths beginning to quicken. "I chose to do something insane, despite feeling as close to myself I had for the first time in a week. I sensed Louis' spell getting stronger, deadlier, wilder. The temptation to bask in the Darkness was so ingrained in my mind, I almost let Chaos free again. After steeling myself and making sure he was held, I made my way to Jadis' Castle. I was going to kill Louis and Mateus, or die trying."

"As you can see as I stand before you, neither of those things happened. We saved Louis, and Chaos was purified out of my body with Noelle's help plus the Guardian's, maybe? I don't know. A lot of things have happened and I'm honestly this close to seeing if I can drown the past twenty-four hours in mimosas until it makes sense or I forget it. Anyway, Louis defeated, Chaos gone, but my past still haunted me. I hadn't planned on surviving, and it was just so... difficult to comprehend that I was free."

"...Then the castle started to collapse. My first thought was to just... let it fall. Bury me under rubble. Repentance by death for the things I had done. But the others were wounded, tired. And a small twinge of fear had settled in me as they- no, we- left. If one of them didn't make it out because I didn't help, it would have killed me. Well, the castle would have actually killed me, but accidental death would be more emot- I'm rambling again. Point is, I left with them, and joined along and here I am."

Nicholas began to rub his eyes, trying to keep the tears that he totally didn't have from falling out. "I realize I just spilled a whole lot of information that really doesn't mean anything. First, I owe you an apology for being an annoying little b*****d. Second, I want to help, but I feel broken. And I'm so terrified knowing what's to come. I want control of my magic back, Merlin. It's a crutch, a very selfish crutch but one I'm so desperate to cling to that I would do whatever it takes to never be as powerless as I was the day the Earth fell."

The last sentence the bard spit out, as if just even mentioning the day was acid in his mouth. His head hung low, arms wrapped around his frame as some sort of comfort or protection from the world

"Now you see, Merlin. The once 'mighty' host of Chaos, the guy who sneered at authority and did horrible things for control, is nothing more than a scared, broken young man now too afraid to fight for a cause he should."
 

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:36 am
[ Merlin : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

Merlin stood silent, listening. His expression was cautiously neutral at first, but as the boy went on, he couldn't help himself; his face grew interesting. Invested. Saddened. It was not exactly pity, but it was close, a sense of heavy sympathy for the young man who had to experience so much.

So much, he reminded himself, like the others.

And yet, like the young Louis-now-Steven, so much of it was forced upon him by powers so far beyond his control.

He frowned, eyes piercing Nicholas' with pure concern.

"I am glad you have come to me with this. Trusted me enough to tell me," he said, voice soft with a genuine affection. "Whether you can unconsciously grasp it or not, it takes tremendous courage to speak of such fears at all, let alone in your position."

He looked down briefly, contemplative. "It is a lot to go through," he admitted. "Still, as you have explained your tale, I must make my own stance equally plain.

"Noelle has vouched that you seek redemption, and we believe her, but the fact has remained that you were still quite guilty of aiding, in ways we cannot fully know, the same forces that seek to destroy us all," he said. "Until last night, you were an enemy. I do not know what acts you personally committed, only that you were at minimum present for the terrible siege of Atlantis, the destruction of Tortuga, and were spying for Xehanort's accomplices under false pretense. And while you have come over to our side, you must surely understand that our restricting your magic has valid cause: we are letting you, a confessed wielder of darkness, into the very heart of our security at a time when our defenses are at their weakest due to the Corner—the Guardian's awakening."

He hesitated, running a hand through his beard. It was clear he had more to say, but wanted to phrase it properly.

"Remember that last night, I left you by telling you it would likely be a one-time concern. This morning, I was reassured of this due to some private conversations with the Council. Sadly, your departure just now coincided with us breaking the news to the others," he continued. "You see, for the next few days, you Earthlings and your committed allies will be going into time compressed training—that is to say, for twelve hours out of each day, you will all be experiencing timelessness while we and other mentors train you to truly unlock your potential and ensure you can handle yourself going forward. Your... effective defeat last night, combined with the revelations of the Guardian's connections to you all, has shown us that you all need proper initiation.

"And yet..."

Merlin turned to look at the other Earthlings now, his brows furrowed with worry. He sighed before turning back and giving Nicholas an apologetic look.

"I'm afraid what you've just told me has me all the more concerned. You call magic a crutch that you are desperate for, that you would do 'whatever it takes' to retrieve... and given the very nature of our enemies, that is an exceptionally volatile state of mind," he said. "You will absolutely need your powers, and I will certainly unlock them again once training begins shortly after breakfast, but... now I fear I was wrong last night. We may have to try this state of magical lack again. You need to be of sound mind without your magic—especially since your foes may yet have access to technology that utterly suppresses magic."

The wizard once more looked back toward the group, remembering Kyle's outburst the night before upon hearing news of the stolen body. "And not just you. All of them, too. It happened to them before, on the high seas just two days ago. The replicas brought some magic-negating technology that rendered them entirely powerless."

He looked back to Nicholas. "And now you say this... I fear that you Earthlings, having gone your whole lives without magic, may be more susceptible to temptation than we first imagined," he said. He shook his head. "But that is neither here nor there. For the moment, simply be patient. You are safe, and you are far from powerless: your every action determines what path your future takes. If you cooperate with us, you will have your magic back soon enough, and in time, you will be completely free—particularly if what you say about this crystal guardian is true. It was always our assumption that Chaos wracked your heart and altered your identity, and that perhaps you simply saw the error of your ways. With that assumption, there was a great concern: if you changed so suddenly once, you might yet do so again. But if this guardian truly did what you say and gave you that chance, then you have shown your own light in immediately going to stop Louis and helping these others. That fact may change many opinions faster than you might think."
 
PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 1:52 pm
{Bobbi, Demyx, Zell, Nanaki, Yuffie.:. Disney Castle .:. Throne Room}

Bobbi continued to listen to the conversations happening around her, but what intrigued her most was Riku's reaction to the nickname of Repliku for his replica. It wasn't something she had thought about, if she was honest with herself. But Riku's reaction was a reminder that this was all real, and that everything that had happened in the games had also been real. And while she herself would have been able to take her replica being referred to as Replibobbi or Replibi or anything else along those lines, she could kind of understand why someone else might find it a bit weird. But at the same time...

.:"We never meant any disrespect or anything with the name Repliku, to either you or him,":. she sent to Riku over the charms. Private-mode, because the conversation had moved on and she didn't particularly want to back-track everyone else. .:"We never had anything else to call him. Does... did he have a name, though? Other than Replica Riku?":.

It only seemed right to her, to at least know what his name was if he had one. She could no longer see him as a fictional character, just like she could no longer see any of the "canons" as fictional. They were all real, as real as she was, and all of them—even the ones she hadn't met—deserved basic respect.

Her interest piqued again as Yen Sid made the announcement of training via time compression. She absently confirmed Song's correction of "hyperbolic space chamber" to "hyperbolic time chamber," and decided not to point out that in Japanese it was called the Chamber of Space and Time. This was largely because she wasn't sure if she was remembering correctly, and, well, don't correct someone if you're going to correct them incorrectly.

She was about to speak up and say she was so totally in on the training when Dawn blurted out that she didn't have Garuda. Bobbi's jaw dropped and all of her mental faculties seemed to halt. Dawn didn't have Garuda? Since when?! She hesitated a moment, trying to wrap her head around Dawn doesn't have her summon what the crap, but after that moment, she put her arm around Dawn's shoulders and gave her best friend a quick hug.

"Train with us anyway," she said, rubbing Dawn's back in a comforting manner. "Maybe she's just exhausted. We don't know how our summons really work, you know? There's probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for her seemingly to be missing. Seeming to be... You know what I mean. Anyway, even without Garuda, this training we're doing can only help you in the long run, and it certainly can't hurt."

"Oooooh, no! Nope. Count me out!" Demyx said immediately on mentioning of the training. "I'm done with all this combat nonsense! Train me in recon, sure, although I'm already pretty awesome at that. But I know you people, you're gonna be all about the fighting. Not my style. No thanks!"

"Yeah, well, I'm in," Yuffie said, glaring down Demyx like he was the scum of the earth. Honestly, all of his whining and complaining was irritating, and she was starting to think he was just a straight-up coward. "This is important. And I'm not gonna pass this up. If I can help, I'm gonna, no ifs, ands, or buts about it! Besides, I'm sure some of you rookies could learn a trick or two from little ol' me!"

Demyx pretended to ignore Yuffie's glare, and instead turned to face Axel, gesturing to the taller Nobody with a sausage skewered on a fork.

"And why are you going along with this, Axel?" he asked, one eyebrow raised and his mouth twisted with genuine confusion. "It's not like you're gonna get anything out of it."


Zell had been listening—he really had!—to the conversations around him, but hadn't felt any need to speak up. Although, anyone paying attention would have noticed some very interesting facial expressions from the monk at several points in the discussions. But, mostly, Zell had been stuffing his face. Sausages were like breakfast hot dogs, of course he'd be all over those. Wrap them in pancakes and they were extra awesome.

That being said, he had a mouthful of pancake and sausage goodness in the way at the one time he actually wanted to say something. He chewed as quickly as he could, swallowed, choked for a minute, but it wasn't too long before he had clear airways and enough mouth-room to talk.

"I'm in," he announced. "Not much good for anything besides punching stuff, but if you guys want me, I'll do it. Might even be able to help teach some of you new kids some hand-to-hand techniques, too."


"Yes, teach me how to punch things," Bobbi laughed, though she was quite sincere. "The more versatile combat-wise I get, the happier I'll be!"

Nanaki had expected Zell to volunteer for training, but was still considering it himself. He'd been helping out so far, but the more he thought about it, the more he wondered if this was a fight he really ought to be involved in. It was a much grander scale than anything he had known before, after all. However, this was clearly a battle to decide the fate of the worlds, and one he could not in good conscience ignore. If he could be any use in this endeavor, wasn't it his duty to assist? After all, the ultimate battle was to determine the fate of the worlds. By virtue of being a resident of at least one of those worlds, his very livelihood was at stake as well. It behooved him to take an active role.

His mind made up, Nanaki nodded, indicating that he, too, would undergo this training.
 

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:42 am
[ Yen Sid : Disney : Throne Room Buffet ]

Yen Sid took in some of the responses of the Earthlings' allies and stroked his beard.

"You will be trained to better master the skills you bring with you, yes," he said in response to Zell. "But there will also be ample opportunities to learn new skills and to hone undiscovered talents, for both these Earthlings and you all. If you have interests you have not had chances to explore previously, now is the perfect time do so."

"As for you, Demyx, fret not" the wizened man said, resisting the urge to reveal his amusement. "Reconnaissance is, in fact, a vital part of our efforts. If that is the role you wish to pursue, then we shall work with you to ensure you are as skilled at infiltration. It is true we will be training you to be competent in direct combat, but such is a required measure to ensure your survival in case such efforts fall short. After all, escape will no longer be as easy as you once thought, since the corridors of darkness will be ineffective and, in fact, more dangerous than ever. Should you get caught, you and those with you will have to escape by normal means."  
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:54 pm
[ Axel : Disney Castle : Throne Room Buffet ]

The nobody looked at the other with an equally raised brow, then scoffed at something he was surprised the other had not clued into yet.
He explained after Yen Sid did, that perhaps his role-play of emotion was interrupting the obvious from his notice.

The game, as far as the dancing flames was concerned, had greatly changed the moment they became come mouth piece of some crazy entity outside of their comprehension. All this freaky s**t started the moment they got tangled into this mess, and whilst Demyx wanted to play to form and run away, Axel, for all his falsified bravado and nonchalant airs—he was compelled enough to follow through if something was changing inside him.

The red head stuck a fork back out the sitar playing, holding a dueling piece of pancake to the guys sausage and challenged him, Axel challenged Demyx to admit if he did not, for just a moment—just a small, tiny fraction of a precious second—FELT something. Like he did.

It was closer then any other attempt so far, and right now it was better then nothing. Playing to form before did nothing for him. He lost friends, lost himself, and now only an idiot was going to waste this chance as far as he saw it. Maybe he was obsessed—maybe—but it was better then being empty. Besides, these guys were about to get THE best leg up to meeting the power about to come at them from all sides, and he wanted a piece of that too.

Yay free education!


(( sorry for the abstract way of doing this post. I CAN NOT use so many of the normal functions on my moms lap top right now. Everything from color editing, to normal quotation marks. It seems to be mapped for french teaching and I donèt know how to change it back, so please feel free to edit as u need too.))

[[ Kyle edit: I'm helping biggrin ]]  

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:05 pm
[ Narration ]


With most of the urgent questions answered, conversation around the table slipped into a small lull; switching from such a heavy topic to small talk was rather difficult. The task didn’t prove impossible, however, and easier for some, as Sora began to goof off and Genie put on a randomized performance due to his inability to withstand awkward silences. Nothing could completely dissuade the tensions, but nobody expected immediate acceptance of the new circumstances anyway. Between Steven’s appearance, Nicholas’ presence, the Guardian’s watchful eye, and the still-dour memories of the previous night’s events, there wasn’t really any feasible way to truly get everyone to relax and enjoy the breakfast.

And that was okay. Only time, experience, and guidance could dull the blades of trauma, and this would be the first of many days to come.

The Guardian sat quiet still. They answered what questions they could if asked, but otherwise remained in silent observation.


———————


The pale light from the great crystal had dimmed the night before, and it had since remained. Likewise, everyone’s general moods were less than pleasant—which, given some of their dispositions, was saying something.

Standing directly in front of the Cornerstone of Darkness, the Sun-Cryst, and staring into its depths was Xehanort, his hands held behind his back; five others—Kefka, Sephiroth, Ultimecia, Kuja, and Seymour—gathered at various spots in great hall, some standing at pillars, others loitering between. Seymour, of course, had been silent since the day before, since the judgment. He merely stood beside a column, yellow eyes blankly staring into the shadows. The others were also silent, however—waiting.

Finally, a seventh person strolled out of a shadow-bled corridor nearby, dressed in his standard Archadian robes.

“My apologies; time got away from Hojo and I,” Cidolfus said, his tone and volume particularly formal.

“Where’s mister emperor?” Kefka asked with suspicious sneer.

“Now that we’ve gathered, let’s begin with a progress report,” Xehanort said, unmoving until he turned his head just enough to glance back at Cidolfus over his shoulder. “You first.”

“Of course. I do believe we have the doctor and his corporation in our pocket now,” he began, adjusting his glasses. “With my manufacturing technology, he’s been able to successfully mass produce auracite of varying properties using geomantic magic, all easily harnessed even by a magical dunce. He calls it ‘materia’, and the doors it opens for us, alongside my nethicite production, are nigh-infinite. Further, one of the companies many expeditions uncovered what may have been some sort of… ancient quasi-biological superweapon from a land called Valley of the Wind. I’m not sure if the original ideal will bear any fruit, but the advances of his research may help solve that replication concern; I forwarded some research samples to Dr. Lugae for analysis, though it did take him awhile to respond.”

Xehanort simply turned back to the crystal as the man spoke, and after he wrapped up, he simply gave a small nod. “That would be because he was still recovering from yesterday’s jailbreak.”

An uncomfortable silence fell again as others tried to decide who would go next.

“The Land of Dragons and its surrounding neighbors have been fully assimilated into the realm,” Kuja said, looking bored but at least speaking directly. “Alexandria and the Mist Continent are also almost ready. The country’s navy aren’t as advanced as some of our other allies, but they have unique magic at their disposal not unlike the Spirans.”

The mention of Seymour’s world got an unrestricted snicker out of Kefka, which quickly stopped as Xehanort craned his head around to glare over his shoulder at the clown.

There was a longer moment of silence before Xehanort turned around completely, his yellow eyes flaring up even in the shadow of his silhouette with the crystal behind him. “Now is not the time for games. Indeed, we face our current setbacks because we treated the past month as a game. We had a month-long headstart, and where are we for it? A few armies, a few worlds, but they know. Our own tools are being used against us because we didn’t take the events seriously, and now, now, their Guardian is awake. In our arrogance, we sought to corrupt those last shards, hoping to please the Darkness when it awoke, and all we’ve done is given them time to grow. And now, now that they’ve nearly died, they’ll be more cautious, more prepared,” he declared, his deep bass of a voice projecting seamlessly through the hall. “The next chance we even have at them may be too late. They will be threats—to us, to our cause—especially with the other keyblade wielders to guide them. No more games. When next they cross our paths, there must be no mercy, no ulterior motives. Kill them outright or strip them of their hearts. Remember: all we need is seven lights. Any more is excess, numbers to hold against us. We cannot leave destiny to chance.”

The others remained quiet, though most by this point were simply uncomfortable or—in a certain swordsman’s case—bored. The keyblade master sighed, shaking his head, only for Ultimecia to step forward.

“In brighter news, the ritual is ready to complete,” she claimed, cautious but confident. “With the right material remnants, I should be able to traverse time once more and retrieve whoever you desire.”

“As far back as the first war?”

“If anything of the person’s still remains in our age.”

“Then we shall locate what you need,” he began. ”Fortunately, we may already have a lead. There’s someone you should meet.”

A corridor opened off to the side. First, strolling through was Dr. Lugae, hunched and grinning wildly; directly after him, however, came the sound of heels stepping against the stone floors. A tall, fair-skinned woman followed him through, her hair white as a cloud, barely dressed in a form-fitting scarlet one-piece with thigh-high armored crimson boots that had apparent shortswords strapped around the calves. Small wings sprouted from the sides of her head, poking out behind her, matching the much larger white wings that unfurled from her back.

“It would seem Dr. Cidolfus was correct; the samples Hojo discovered were a perfect biologic conduit for the raw power of crystallized darkness,” Lugae announced, stepping to the side and letting the woman spread her wings. “So as you requested, Xehanort, here she is.”

Xehanort smiled, but only barely; it was like gaining an inch after losing a mile. “So here you are, Ultima. Are you ready to fight for the Darkness once again?”

“Would they have saved me from erasure otherwise?” she coyly responded, her voice sultry.

“So it is, then, that the eighth eye is open; another vessel to our cause,” he said, breathing deeply and nodding. “Now then—will you help us retrieve our ninth?”

She smiled. “I know just where to start.”


———————


The group had been given half an hour after the last questions died down to finish their breakfast, relax for a while, and then meet in the western wing of the castle if they planned to stick with the cause. As hoped, everybody showed, including Mickey, Kairi, Donald, Goofy, and even others.

They, along with a number of potential mentors, were lead into an utterly anachronistic foyer, more futuristic technology than ornate castle, where Chip and Dale skittered this way and that at the controls and panels that completely covered the hall. From there, they entered a grand elevator and began a descent down, far below the castle. It had originally been the royal gummi facility, Mickey explained, but now that gummis were absent and otherwise useless, the chipmunks had been working with Cid Highwind, Merlin, and the Three Fairies to repurpose all the technology. After what seemed like a full minute of descent, the elevator doors opened up all around them to reveal a vast, empty domed structure, its walls riddled with circuitry and lights.

“Welcome to the Mirage Arena,” Yen Sid said, leading them away from the elevator, but only just far enough for so that they could spread out.

He tasked them with getting in a comfortable enough formation so that no one was inherently blocked, which largely ended up becoming a half-circle around him, and then he simply asked them to brace themselves; after a moment, a heavy, almost oppressive hum surrounded them as the great dome seemed to come to life, lights shining outward in small streams to create images of white tiles that covered every visible inch of the arena. Then reality began to twist, and they could feel the fabric around them distort and stretch, some dimensional force pushing and pulling at the world around them. The walls that were once only a couple hundred meters away seemed to suddenly flee to such a distance as to be immeasurable in all directions—including up. When the sensations of existential warping finally ceased, it would appear that they were in an endless white-tiled expanse.

With that settled, Yen Sid explained the various types of training they would cover—including periods of magic suppression, as well as required counseling, given their painful experiences—but also stressed that not every second in the arena would be spent training; like reality, they would go through lessons, practice, relaxation, food, rest, and all manner of normal life—just that without such regularized schedules, time would utterly lose meaning.

“This is where you learn what it is you are capable. This is where you learn your strengths, your weaknesses, and how you can synthesize them properly. This is where your time as survivors comes to a close—where you have chosen to start on the path to being a guardian of all we hold dear,” he said. He paused, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then glanced back out at them.

“Now, shall we begin?”


[ End Volume One ]
 
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KHBTD : Kingdom Hearts Roleplaying and OoC

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