Over five hundred years ago, before Axrat had gained her mage powers, creatures known as Dark Essences were hunting down Axrat, thinking she was one of them. They sent one of their members to capture her. They took a baseball bat to the back of Axrat's head and knocked her out, then dragged her to their base at that time and chained her to the floor, removing the dark powers she had at the time.
Essences were human creatures that were pure of one alignment – light, dark or perfect twilight. They gained powers to go with this alignment, varying in strengths with the Essence.
Lonan was the Essence in charge of all the other Dark Essences. He was the strongest of them all.
"Why are we trusting him?!" Rahsax exclaimed. "He tried to kill you!"
"No, he tried to recruit me." Axrat corrected, rolling her eyes. "Slight difference."
"Remind me not to go to one of their recruitment drives…"
"Do you want Ven and Roxas to die?" Axrat spoke up. "If we don't trust Lonan, they will." She snapped. Hesitantly, Terra handed Ventus over to Lonan, and the Essence bolted back onto his black oversized bird, holding Ven.
"Imooto, Ja mata!" He called, spurring the animal to turn and bolt off into the trees.
"Come on." Axrat began to walk through the trees, in the direction the bird had gone. The group was quick to follow.
They came to a beautiful, medieval city in the middle of the forest, hidden in the shadows. In the middle of the town, Axrat knew, there was a beautiful fountain. No one in the city was poor, and the only one considered to be rich was Lonan, who lived in a four-story mansion with his adopted brother. The only ones allowed to know of the city were Essences, but they made an exception with Axrat, and now her friends. The city streets were cobblestone, the houses beautifully made from clean, grey brick.
Axrat led the group into the town square, pulling her hood down. She stretched, smiling.
It's the first time I've seen her smile in awhile… Rahsax realized.
"Well, well, well, look who it is."
Everyone turned to look at the fifteen year old. He had black hair, which was wildly spiked in every direction. His yellow eyes were outlined with black eye shadow, standing out against his pale as death skin. He was wearing a black shirt – Axrat remembered that the sleeves were torn off – with the Unversed symbol on the front in blood red. Over the shirt was a black, leather jacket with the Unversed symbol in purple on the sleeve. He also wore loose, leather pants with chains from the pockets onto the belt loop on the back. The bottoms of the pant legs were tucked into a pair of military-style boots. He had a spiked dog collar, with matching wristbands around either wrist.
It took Terra and Aqua a couple moments to recognize the individual.
"Vanitas?!" They exclaimed, shocked.
When Ven gained his Keyblade, his heart was artificially split into two by his Master at that time. Ventus became pure light, the pure darkness became Vanitas. Vanitas had tried to kill them and destroy the worlds at one point. Of course, back then, he didn't look punk/goth/emo.
"Hasn't it been awhile?" He remarked. "Hey, Nila."
"Hey, Vanitas." Axrat smiled.
"You seen Sunil?"
"He's saving your other half."
Vanitas choked. "I ain't married!"
"You know what I mean!" Axrat grinned, walking over to him and hugging Vanitas. "Good to see you."
"You, too." He responded, returning the girl's gesture. Axrat was shorter than Vanitas – even without the hair spikes – so she had to stand on her tip toes to hug him. After a couple moments, the two released each other. "Come on, let's get you home. I'm sure you haven't slept in a proper bed for awhile."
"I can't argue with that." Axrat turned to her old friends from Astu Regina. "Come on, I'm sure there's room for you at Sunil's house." She commented. "It's got nice, big, comfy beds with fluffy pillows." She added.
"Let's go!" Rahsax spoke up, liking the idea of a comfortable bed. Vanitas laughed, putting his arms around Axrat's shoulders as they started to walk down the street. They had barely walked down the street when the large, four-story mansion – themed in reds and blacks – became visible. It was surrounded by a black, brick wall about Terra's height. Vanitas pushed the large, black gates to the mansion open, and walked along the grey path. The rest of the group followed as he led them into the large, black doors.
There was a carpeted stair case in the middle of the hallway in front of them, two halls going off either side of it. To their left and right were two square arch ways, leading into two other rooms – the one to the right went to the lounge room, the one to the right into the dining room. The walls were red, while the carpet, wood flooring and ceiling were black. The railing for the stairs was a black wood as well. A light fixture was in the ceiling, dimly lighting the room.
Axrat glanced up as Lonan walked down the stairs, looking slightly tired. "The boy's fine." He spoke up. "The Siamese Soul will repair itself in time, don't worry." He assured Roxas. "Betwixt magic was used to block magic from being used on him." The Dark Essence explained.
Betwixts were creatures that started off as the children of two Nobodies, many millennium ago. Their race evolved rapidly, not aging past the age of their youngest parent. Betwixts born in an 'unsafe' environment aged at an incredible rate, while those who were born in a 'safe' environment aged a bit slower. Despite this, the Betwixts born into a safe environment still aged much faster than humans. They also had the ability to remove the magic from an area, preventing magic from being used there. They had other similar abilities, including preventing magic from being used on a person. This gave the Mages a great disadvantage against them. Essences were able to remove the Betwixt magic on an area or on someone.
"But, I'm sure you're hungry." Lonan spoke up, grinning in an almost cocky way. "I shall get us some dinner, and then you may retire to your rooms so you can get some much needed rest." He turned to Axrat, smiling at her fondly. "Nila, while I prepare dinner, would you show them where the guest bedrooms and bathrooms are?"
"Of course." She smiled. Lonan nodded to show his thanks, before walking off into one of the many rooms on the ground floor.
"First floor is kitchen, dining room, lounge, bathroom down the hall, Sunil's office – enter and you die – and such, all you need to worry about is the kitchen, dining room, lounge and bathroom. Second floor is the game room, library, green room, and so on. Third floor is the master bedrooms, and the fourth floor is guest bedrooms."
"We have to go all the way up there just to sleep?"
"Dinner's in a few minutes, so there's no point right now." Axrat shrugged. "I'll show you around up there after dinner."
True to her word, shortly after the group had crashed on the various couches and arm chairs in the lounge, Lonan came in to call for dinner. The group – who was just as hungry as they were tired – quickly made their way to where Axrat had told them the dining room was situated.
"What's for dinner?" Axrat asked Lonan.
"Your favorite," he responded,
"Ramen, of course."
"Your choice of miso, soy or chicken." He answered with a grin. "It's good to see you again, Imooto." The Dark Essence gave the girl a hug, holding her for a moment before he let her go. "I'm glad you managed to come home safely." Axrat nodded, smiling. Lonan and Vanitas always worried about her – she had suffered from mental break downs in the past, and because of this, the two didn't think that her life of travelling was at all good for her. "By the way, how's your heart?"
"It's adjusted." She shrugged.
"That's good to hear." Lonan hugged her again. He was always scared that the stress on the poor girl would be too much, and her heart would collapse. But there were other reasons for his concern, too.
"Come on," Vanitas spoke up, "before the ramen gets cold!"
Lonan laughed, releasing Axrat. The three headed into the dining room. Everyone else had sat down, leaving the three seats at the head of the table for Lonan – who sat at the very head – Axrat and Vanitas. Lonan, after figuring out which flavor of ramen everyone wanted, served everyone. He also gave the option of chopsticks or cutlery. He didn't bother asking Vanitas or Axrat, simply gave them what he knew they liked.
"Itadakimasu." Axrat spoke up before eating, echoed by Vanitas and Lonan. No one else was quite sure if they were meant to repeat it, but when no one said anything to them, ate anyway.
"What does 'itadakimasu' mean?" Rahsax whispered to Aqua, who was sitting beside her.
"It's something they say in Japan before eating." Aqua replied. "It's pretty much saying thanks for the food and blessing it…"
"Oh, okay." Rahsax went on eating, obviously unconcerned.
Terra shot a glare at Vanitas when the Unversed slurped his ramen. The Unversed glared back, and, after swallowing, shot a retort at the brunette.
"In Japan, it's [i]polite[/i] to slurp."
"Both of you," Lonan glared, "knock it off or I'll make you drink several cups of green tea each."
"Without those sugar candies."
Axrat gagged again. "That's torture." She shook her head. Japanese green tea was highly bitter, so often a special candy was eaten beforehand. It was very sugary and sweet. It was meant to counter the bitterness of the tea. Of course, that didn't work if you waited before drinking the tea, as Axrat had done onc.e. She regretted it later.
"How's Ven?" Terra asked, speaking the question that was on everyone's minds.
"Recovering." Lonan responded. "I went up to check on him before I got you guys. He's not in a state to come down. I'll take something up to him later. Or you guys can, if you want."
"Why would you bother poisoning someone close to death?" Terra muttered. Aqua hummed in agreement. Lonan smirked in amusement.
"You are smarter than Vani gives you credit." He remarked. Vanitas glared at him.
"You know I hate it when you call me Vani."
"And?" Lonan scoffed in amusement. Solita, who was curled up in the corner, grinned slightly, and Axrat let out a single laugh.
"Come on, Vanitas." She spoke. "You know that won't stop him from calling you that."
"Unfortunately…" Vanitas rolled his eyes. "Oh, Nila, there's a party down at the clubs tomorrow night, did you want to come with me?" Axrat pretended to think about it. In reality, he really didn't need to ask. Axrat didn't miss a party when she was in town. And it would be a good 'homecoming' celebration for her.
"What about us?" Rahsax pouted. Axrat only laughed.
"You don't want to get involved in Dark Essence parties. Who knows what'll happen to you outsiders." She remarked, a sly grin on her face as she stood – having finished her ramen, and took her bowl into the kitchen. She squealed. "Kali and Itzal are still here!" She exclaimed, returning to the room with a Hareraiser in one arm and a Flood in the other. "You kept them for me!" She exclaimed, bolting over to Vanitas and kissing him on the cheek. Everyone who had come with her from Astu Regina sat there, mouth agape, as she skipped back off to the kitchen. Lonan cracked up laughing at their expressions, and Vanitas couldn't help but smirk.
"You look surprised." He remarked.
"… Yeah." Was all Terra managed to say. Axel was the first to return to his food.
Aqua was the next one finished. She went to wash her dishes in the sink, but the Hareraiser – Kali – smacked her arm with its ear. She yelped. Axrat, who was still in the room, laughed at her.
"Watch." She took Aqua's bowl and placed it half in the water. Kali placed two glove-like dish cloths on either ear, then jumped into the water and began spinning her ears around the bowl rapidly, efficiently washing it. She tossed it to the Flood – Itzal – who had a towel in his hands. He bolted around the bowl rapidly until it was sparkling clean and dry.
Aqua was shocked, dismayed, astounded, any word along those lines you can come up with. This caused Axrat to laugh harder.
"How did you train them to do that?" She asked.
"I didn't. They saw us doing the dishes and wanted to help out." Axrat answered.
"How do you know they want to help out?"
"Vanitas taught me to speak Unversed!"
"…Unversed have a language?"
"Just like Nobodies!" Axrat exclaimed. "And Heartless, too, for that matter."
Aqua just turned and walked away, unable to believe what Axrat was telling her. When someone came into the kitchen, Axrat told them just to give their dishes to the Unversed. Everyone left in shock at the two Unversed. They were tame. Tame! Unversed and tame did not belong together, and yet, Axrat had two pet Unversed that were perfectly tame! They couldn't understand it. It was no less than a wonder, a miracle, whatever word you wanted to use.
Axrat figured their reaction would've been something along those lines.
Axrat was quick to return to the dining room. A girl – she looked like she was about ten – had bolted into the room. Her long hair was silver, with black streaks through it. Her clothing was rather simple. She was wearing black mini-shorts and a T-shirt, with sandals. Her yellow eyes seemed to light up when she saw Axrat, and she smiled. "Nila! Ogenki desu ka?!"
The girl laughed, before she seemed to remember why she was here. She had a golden colored scroll in her hands, which she handed to Lonan. He opened it and laid it out on the table. Vanitas got up and read it over his shoulder.
"So much for that party." The Unversed muttered.
"Why, what's happened?" Axrat asked, concernedly, as she walked over. She looked over Lonan's shoulder.
"It's a summons, from Akira."
"The Light Essence Priest?"
Lonan nodded. "Letitia, go and warn the Dark Essences." He ordered.
"It's signed." Axrat muttered. "Hikaru no yume. Dreams of Light."
"Whose call is that?" Vanitas asked her.
"Zahra, Azhar's heiress."
"According to this," Lonan said, "Akira is leading an attack on our city… he'll be here in…"
"Two days?" Axrat breathed.
"Vanitas! Go gather anyone able to fight!" Lonan snapped at the Unversed boy, who nodded and bolted off. "Nila, find Aludra."
"On it!" Axrat nodded, turning and bolting off.
"What's going on?" Rahsax asked. "This is in my kingdom, I deserve to know!" Lonan had to roll his eyes.
"If you must know, the Light Essences have declared a full war on us. Akira, the head priest of the Light Essences, is bringing an army to our town to try and obliterate us." He explained. "And the new moon's in three days. If they're here for that, they'll be obliterated."
"What's so bad about that?"
"Think of the scales." Aqua spoke up. "If the Light Essences are destroyed, then the Dark Essences have to die out to balance it out. Then the Twilight Essences follow."
"Precisely." Lonan confirmed. "If one side dies, the others are sure to follow."
"Why are you at war with each other then, anyway?" Xion asked.
"Well Eraqus was a prejudiced bastard who thought that the ultimate balance was pure light."
"Don't you DARE insult Master Eraqus!" Terra yelled at the Dark Essence. Eraqus had raised Terra, Aqua and Ven, and one could tell from their faces that the three were very annoyed by the way Lonan had referred to the man that was like a father to them.
"My point is," Lonan ignored him, "that the Light Essences share the same view. They think that the ultimate balance is light, they don't think Darkness has a place in the worlds."
"Bullshit." Rahsax muttered.
"Exactly my point." The Dark Essence responded. "I wish they would realize that… it's more stress than it's worth, really. It doesn't help that Dark essences have always been scattered. We don't have half the Dark Essence population here."
"And you're expecting to fight an army with this?" Terra raised an eyebrow.
"Do we really have a choice? The Light Essences won't listen to reason."
Things were about to get complicated…