A/N: I wish this chapter was longer... *sigh* Oh well. That's what I get for giving you something early. Again. stare I'm glad I'm managing to plug through this, though! I'm also glad to add a new person to the list of readers: kuubyyimaster! If you can remember waaaay back in the prologue, I mentioned that he was the inspiration for one of the characters who will most definately be introduced soon. In other news, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I've been trying to wash out this fan-fiction's mouth with soap. I think I'm maturing. Anyhow, I'm trying to stop dropping f-bombs and reduce the frequency of other curse words used to Final Fantasy IV levels. I'm at least going to attempt to make it so you can tell the difference between my characters and Bruce Willis. whee Anyhow, enough rambling. On with the show! TsugumiAngelus, NekoKingdomHeart, health drink, and good night!
Chapter 21: Serendipity
Mia had the uncomfortable feeling that Cid had, for her first world, dropped her in a deep, dark forest with very little explanation or advice simply to give her, as Paine had said nine hours previously, the ‘same frosty welcome all newbies deserve’, and, since Paine had already given Neko and Halo said welcome, he was not required to do the same again.
Mia had several reasons for suspecting this. For one, he actually handed Neko and Halo their cell phones--exactly the same as Mia’s, except different colors (Neko’s was dark purple while Halo’s was the same turquoise as the stripes on the sleeveless hoodie she always wore). For two, he actually gave them directions, telling them to make due east from where he dropped them off and look for a ‘city of some sort’.
She was peeved, but knew it was no use griping to Neko and Halo.
Anyway, the place where they were warped down to was, once again, in the middle of a forest, but a much friendlier-looking and much better-lit forest than the one Mia had popped up in. They were also much higher, towering above the girls by what Mia (who, mind you, was not good at guessing distances) felt must have been hundreds of feet. A soft breeze made the branches whisper and strange birds piped out their gorgeous songs above. The light filtering down to the forest floor proclaimed that it was midmorning.
Using the sun as a guide (Halo’s idea), they headed east as Cid had instructed, eventually exiting the trees into a huge field with grass up to their hips. They waded through at a leisurely pace, chatting as they traded stories and jokes. It was during this time Mia told her own story for the fourth time--and not, she sensed, for the last. They proved to be good listeners, remaining silent through the whole thing and both extending their sympathies for her lost world.
But it wasn’t all bad. Mia found to her delight that, though lacking an inner filter, Neko had a fun sense of humor and unfailingly cheerful outlook. Halo was someone Mia knew she could look to for a pat on the back and a soft, understanding smile. Already she felt some of her pain easing as well as some of the prejudice she felt towards them--or Neko at least--for attempting to eat her (something the vampiress had not yet apologized for and, Mia suspected, probably never would).
The city they were looking for practically sprung out at them. One moment, Neko was forging a path through the grass, the next she had vanished, fallen clean off a bluff hat had been hidden by the great weeds. Luckily it wasn’t too high, so the only injuries she suffered were a scraped knee, a scuffed hand, and a slightly bruised pride.
But they had stumbled on something interesting.
A meter or so beyond the bluff Neko had fallen off was a straight-drop cliff, and beyond that was a huge town.
The houses were mostly multi-floor Asian-style apartments, with curved red and green roofs. There was an oddly-shaped building that seemed almost carved from a gigantic tree stump, with brightly colored banners and oriental text none of them could read. Beyond the building another cliff rose, and into that cliff were carved five faces--four male, one female, all very stern and magnificent-looking. Halo commented it looked a lot like something called Mount Rushmore.
They decided that this was the town that Cid had told them about and, after Mia had managed to heal Neko’s knee, they set about searching for a way down. Eventually Halo identified a steep, narrow path, and they descended into the strange new town.
The girls found it to be a busy sort of place, with open-air restaurants emitting good smells, food carts selling strange food on sticks, and merchants hawking every imaginable kind of ware on every corner. The people passing (and there were lots of these) gave no sidelong glances at Mia’s no doubt strange clothes and the sisters’ stranger eye colors. Mia guessed that they saw people from very far out of town very often, so had learned not to question people dressed oddly.
Wandering around for a while (sticking very close together for fear of losing each other in the occasional wave of people), they started to notice many people wearing strips of dark blue cloth with a metal plate with a mark engraved on it in the shape of a leaf. Neko guessed they were part of a guild or faction of some kind, while Mia put forward the suggestion that it was simply a fashion statement.
Needless to say at this point, nothing got done.
Until suddenly, walking down a tree-lined street Neko stopped in her tracks and pointed, open-mouthed and wordless.
Mia looked back. “What is it?”
She seemed to be pointing to one of the restaurants they had seen. “I recognize that!!”
“What, the restaurant?” Halo asked.
“No, the symbol on the sign!”
“What’s it say?” Halo asked sardonically. “Keyblade Master here?”
“No,” Neko breathed almost in reverence. There was a dramatic pause and then suddenly, out of her lungs ripped a high-pitched shriek that sounded something like “Raw men”. Without any further explanation she charged into the shop. Her voice came out faintly. “PLEASE, GIVE ME A BOWL!!”
Mia blinked blankly. “She wants a bowl of raw men? Is that a vampire thing?”
Without explanation, Halo only groaned and sprinted into the shop. Mia trailed after them confused, pushing aside the short curtain thing that separated the bar-like counter and the outside. Neko had already plunked herself down at a seat and had out the coin purse that Cid had given them to share. Halo stood beside her, hands on her hips.
“Neko, no!” she said scoldingly.
“Yes!” she insisted. “I’m hungry--I haven’t had anything to eat in forever. If I can’t have what I want at least let me have some ‘raw men’!”
“You know how that stuff makes you sick!”
“Sure, but do I stop you from stuffing yourself with chocolate ‘til you puke? No. Give me this one, pretty please?”
“That’s different. That’s only on Christmas. And you make yourself ill on marshmallows every day.”
“You never let me have any fun. Just one little bowl of ‘raw men’!”
Mia had to figure out just what was going on before she saw something she couldn’t unsee or threw up from the mental image of a street-side vendor selling men in bowls. “Excuse me. What’s all this talk about raw men in bowls…?”
Neko and Halo looked around and blinked. Neko’s jaw dropped. “Don’t tell me your world doesn’t have ‘raw men’!! Sit down, I’ll buy you some.”
“No, no,” Mia said quickly, trying to figure out how to say that she wasn’t a cannibal without sounding like a moron, “I don’t want any--”
Before she could finish or Halo could stop her sister, Neko had flagged down a black-haired guy in a chef’s coat that had just appeared out of the back, ordered two bowls of raw men (one with Kits who neigh or something like that) and paid.
Raw men turned out to be noodles in soup.
“It’s pronounced ramen,” Neko explained through a mouth full of noodles and what she said was fried tofu. “It’s a traditional Japanese dish and OHMIGOD this is the best I’ve ever tasted!!!”
“We make it the best here!” the guy in the chef’s coat. “You enjoy!” He vanished off into the back.
“You’re going to regret it later…” Halo sighed at her sister and sat down.
Mia tasted it and smiled. “It’s good.”
“Told you you’d like it.”
They ate in silence for a while.
Neko looked at Mia. “How are we supposed to find the new kid anyways?”
Mia stared at her half-empty bowl of ramen. “Who knows? I just bumped into you guys by pure luck. Unless this new guy has been kidnapped by vampires as well, I don’t think it’ll be quite as easy.”
“The system we’re using now isn’t exactly productive,” Halo sighed. “Seriously, how hard can finding a kid who uses a key for a weapon be…?”
“We didn’t even know we could use them when Mia and the Orgy found us, though…” Neko commented.
Mia choked. “ORGY?!” she spluttered, unable to process what Neko was talking about.
“Yeah,” Neko said as if not really knowing what the word meant. “Because ‘Organization XIII’ takes a while to say.”
Halo smirked a little, covering her mouth to hide her laughter. “Sure, but let’s not call them that to their faces, okay?”
The blond looked at her bowl again. “Anyway, what you’re saying is is that it’s gonna be difficult.”
The vampiress shrugged vacantly. “It’s not as if we can walk up to people and say, ‘Hello sir or madam! What a fine day we’re having! How are you? Good? Wonderful! Us? Well, not so pleasant, unfortunately. You see, we’re looking for a certain person. He--or she! We don’t know, actually--wields a key for a weapon. But it’s not an ordinary key, no-sir-ee-bob! It’s a magical giant key, a key blade! And you know, he--or, you know, she--probably doesn’t even know it yet, so could you please tell me where he--or she--could be locate--’?”
The three jumped and looked around.
The girl who had spoken had short, light pink hair and green-blue eyes. She had a dark magenta sleeveless shirt with high Chinese-style collar. She had a strange grayish-pink overskirt split down the middle (presumably for ease of movement) under which tightly fitting black shorts could be seen. She wore heavy black sandals and tight black legwarmers that came up just below her knees. She had light pink bands that covered her elbow, black gloves, and a dark blue pouch strapped to her right thigh. She had one of the blue cloth bands that they had seen some of the other people around wearing, but hers was dark purple and she wore it as a hair band. She didn’t look much older than they were.
“I’m sorry for eavesdropping,” she said. “But you said you were looking for someone with a key, right?”
Mia nodded, barely daring to hope.
The girl smiled. “I think I know who you’re looking for.”
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Keys to the Kingdom
A Kingdom Hearts fanfiction. The fate of the universe lies in the hands of six new teenaged keyblade masters... scared yet?