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I made this and I'm not really sure what else to do with it, so I guess I'll just post it here. It's a KH story about an original character I made up called Ziemia (Polish for earth, trying to keep up that trend) and her apprenticeship. Set pre-BBS. I originally meant for it to be longer but I decided I'd leave it hanging here. The context of the story should imply their fates. Hope you like it. ----- Ziemia sat quietly reading in her chair while her Master studied at the desk opposite her. While Ziemia filled her head with loosely fictional stories passed down through generations, her Master worked hard at unravelling the truth from the long-forgotten past. Ziemia highly admired that about her Master. He was so knowledgeable already, but he’d stop at nothing to learn even more. Meanwhile, all she ever did was drink in tales and fables even though there was still so much to learn. She didn’t mind that too much. She was still learning a lot from her Master every day and as long as she enjoyed her novels, did it matter that they weren’t real? Anyway, Ziemia found that she could learn a lot about herself by absorbing the views and thoughts of her authors and their characters and assessing them. Sometimes she did this with her Master, although that was hard to do since he didn’t see much point in them. Still, Ziemia was learning about herself through books and about the worlds around her through her Master. She was content. Yet as much as she tried to convince herself of that, she envied her Master too much to avoid comparing herself to him. His criticisms of her cut deep and her flaws were so apparent in their training against his perfections. She didn’t wholly like her Master and she certainly didn’t agree with him all the time, yet still she longed to have his power, his wisdom and above all his confidence. Whatever her differences with him were, there was nobody she respected more. Ziemia turned the page, almost at the end of her chapter. Most of the books she read were based on accounts of the heroes and villains of the Keyblade War, sometimes by surviving participants and other times by observant witnesses. They often weren’t accurate accounts (and when they were, her Master would take more interest), but Ziemia was only interested in the characterisations and stories. She loved it when one story portrayed light as the ultimate force against darkness, while another displayed darkness as the greatest power a warrior could ever wield and both would have convincing ideals behind it. Between both sides, Ziemia felt like she was learning more about light, darkness and the war than she ever did in her lessons. Her Master was quick to remind her that experience was the most valuable way to learn, but encouraged her to keep an open mind about light and darkness. Master and pupil had spent many sessions discussing the advantages and disadvantages of both light and darkness. To her Master’s disappointment, Ziemia was unwilling to utilise the darkness in her heart more than she was comfortable with. She’d never push it to be more than a dark corner of power she could weaponise in controlled bursts, afraid to try and unleash it any further. “Light and darkness are a balance,” her Master would say. “Unless you learn to balance the darkness in your heart with your light, how do you expect to reach your full potential?” “Forgive me Master,” she had replied once. “But if I’m not careful, the darkness will consume me. Many past warriors fell to their own power because they thought they were above it. Who’s to say I won’t corrupt myself? Someone could even use my own darkness against me!” “You think so?” Her Master stroked his chin, which was lately growing a small beard. “Darkness is difficult to master, yes. But once you accomplish that task, you need not ever fear it again. And you’ll never master it as long as you fear it.” “Of course, Master. But I need time. Under your tutelage, I know I’ll get there one day… It’s just not today.” “Ziemia…” He turned his head in thought for a moment. “There are times when people must take risks in order to proceed. Safety will not help you learn anything.” Yes, but it might help me live longer, Ziemia thought to herself but didn’t retort. She knew her Master was referring to her armour, which she still wore when they travelled through the lanes. Her Master was familiar enough with darkness to travel without it but she didn’t have faith that she’d cope that well. She hesitated before she next responded. “So have you mastered your darkness already, Master?” She felt nervous about the question but the old man smiled and answered easily. “Yes. But it’s not something I accomplished by cowering from it, Ziemia. You’ll understand one day.” “Of course,” she replied as she bowed. “Thank you, Master Xehanort.” *** Ziemia finished her chapter and put the book down. Her favourite character had just been killed. She always needed time to think when that happened. He’d trusted the wrong person and lost everything right when it counted. It was a dramatic, sudden and unfair end to such a worthy person. Sometimes life and death were equally cruel, but at the end of the day it was always their decisions that brought them to their close. Nobody was more at fault than their own selves. Ziemia wondered what legacy she’d leave behind; what lessons would her life set an example for teaching? She had no doubt her Master would leave greater ones, but she still hoped to match him in some way. He encouraged her to follow him in everything, but she wanted to be known for her own accomplishments and her own dreams. Characters that lived and died as somebody else’s number two were never respected and hardly loved. Besides, she knew from books that following too strictly in the footsteps of another was dangerous. If you follow the wrong person, their failures become yours. Indeed, Ziemia sometimes wondered if she was following the right person. Her Master’s knowledge was unrivalled, but his methods and ideals were highly unorthodox. She was unlikely to find a better Master anywhere else, but perhaps she should be more concerned about finding a good Master than a great one. For all his criticisms of her cowardice, she’d already taken a big risk in her life by siding with him and following in his footsteps. The pupils and teachers of her old school had been unnerved by him, but she decided to give him a chance and asked to become his apprentice. In some ways, she was glad that she did. She’d learned so much more since leaving her home and she’d never really fit in with the others anyway. There were times that she missed someone that she’d been close to, but still she’d always felt like an outcast. A friend that was never needed and rarely missed. Not that she’d come to Xehanort seeking companionship, but perhaps that was for the best. She didn’t know how to work well with people and so she was probably better off alone. All the same, Ziemia couldn’t figure her Master out. She’d lately been reading books that took time to write about character motivations: what these people were after, why they were after it, how far they’d go to get it and why they failed to achieve it. Sometimes she tried to apply this to her Master. What was he hoping to get out of all this learning? And why did he never feel the need to teach all of this history, even to her? If she didn’t understand where her Master was going, how could she claim to understand why she was following him? Master Xehanort stood up from the scrolls he was reading, a slight air of frustration around him. For some time now, they’d been spending their days travelling to whatever storehouses of records or banks of knowledge they could find. All to learn about the Keyblade War, which Xehanort appeared to already know inside-out. The more Ziemia thought about it, the more she wondered what the point was. Each time, Xehanort would absorb another vault of words, only to leave in disappointment or annoyance and repeat the process. Only now did Ziemia realise that he must be looking for something but whatever it was, he wasn’t finding it. “Ziemia, we’re leaving.” It was all he needed to say. Ziemia rose obediently, packing her book into her bag as she did so. Together, they headed out the door and into the open air, where Master Xehanort summoned his keyblade to open a gateway. Ziemia couldn’t resist a glance back at the little hut they’d just left. It seemed to have some kind of historical significance to Xehanort but even so, he had no real need of it. It was a cosy place though; the closest thing the two of them had to a home. They moved around so much, Ziemia didn’t consider anywhere a home anymore, but they stopped at this little place more frequently than others, usually just as a rest stop where the two of them would catch up on some reading. Ziemia was growing fond of it. It made her miss having a real home. Part of her even longed for a real friend, despite how much she tried to dismiss that gap in her heart. She turned back to her Master, who was waiting by the gateway. He looked at her with the anticipation of disappointment that he typically did while he waited for her to equip her armour. Ziemia was already reaching for her shoulder guard, about to summon it, when she hesitated. Maybe it was her latest reflections, maybe she was still sore from the loss in her book or maybe she was just sick and tired of never knowing what to do. Ziemia didn’t know for sure, nor did she really care. All that concerned her in that moment was stepping up and making a difference in her life. She wanted to grow beyond her Master’s shadow, to evolve as a keyblade warrior and as a person. It was a sudden spontaneous urge, a flash of desire, an impulse that meant the difference between order and chaos, light and darkness or life and death. It didn’t last, but neither did it refuse to leave a mark. Ziemia felt caught in a gravitational pull while she held on for dear life. She was struggling with the logic and sense of knowing her limits while respecting the dangers and the imbalance and ego within her that was pushing to defy her limits and make a difference in her life. She found herself at war with herself and no amount of inspirational words from the people she’d read about could put it right. There were too many factors and too many opposing sides to bring her to peace. She looked at the only real factor present, raising her eyes to meet those of Xehanort, looking to see what his reaction was. Her hand was frozen, hovering inches away from her shoulder guard; her hesitation was extremely obvious. Xehanort could see it and from the look he was giving her, Ziemia thought he looked intrigued yet doubtful. He raised an eyebrow at her, giving her the barest of smirks, as though daring her to make a move, not once saying a word, simply watching to see what she would decide. Ziemia was torn, but looking at Xehanort’s face made her lose focus. She could already see his face falling when she hit her pad; she could picture him shaking his head in shame as she passed through the portal wearing the protective gear that he loathed so much. She’d put up with his gripes at her reluctance for so long that in that moment, her annoyance took hold. She made her decision and lowered her hand. Master Xehanort’s slight smirk became a wide grin as Ziemia spurned her armour and stepped forward to travel without it. Even so, he never raised his brow, as though he were taunting her even now. As Ziemia came to a stop in front of him, staring at him with resolve, he still said nothing. He merely nodded his approval and stepped into the lanes between. Ziemia held back for a couple of seconds; one last hesitation of nerves forcing her to ask herself what she was doing. But there was no going back now. Even if she wasn’t ready, she had to make this choice. Ziemia summoned her keyblade and stepped into the darkness.