Sora slung the Kingdom Key forward through the air, proudly grinning as he tested the weapon's weight and heft with a quick flick of the wrist. It felt just as light as ever, and as he brought it to rest on his shoulder he couldn't help but wonder how he'd managed to get so lucky. Sure, there were dark times and technically he only needed the thing because there was an immeasurable amount of darkness out there. Sure, it was a legendary weapon meant to smite evil... sure, okay, yeah, technically it wasn't a toy, either.
It was, however, his, and he was more than good at wielding it. He'd proven himself a master of the keyblade an almost insurmountable number of times, having conquered threats large and small, cosmic and local. So why, then, wasn't he qualified to be a keyblade master?
According to Yen Sid, it was something to do with his heart. According to Donald, it was because he was just a kid, and, as Goofy so helpfully chimed in at the time, kids weren't masters. Standing in Yen Sid's tower, across from the old master himself, Sora couldn't help but wonder whether or not he'd been accurately measured. It wasn't a pride thing, as it could've been — but a curiosity born from wonder and impatience. He wanted to be strong enough to protect the people that mattered, and he couldn't do that if he wasn't strong enough to be a master.
Yen Sid, as if reading the boy's mind, held up a stoic hand.
"Patience, Sora," he said, stroking his beard with his free hand. "Your friend will be here soon."
"Huh," Sora replied, tilting his head a little. "My friend?"
"Yes," the old master patiently asserted.
"Wait, you mean — RIku's coming?"
When Yen Sid nodded, a big, silly grin spread across the boy's face like a sail unfurling in the breeze. He'd been training on his own for so long that he'd forgotten what it was like to have an actual sparring partner! Yen Sid let him know the night before that he'd be training with someone capable... but he would've never thought of Riku!
Riku was arguably the most skilled fighter Sora knew, but still! How could the old man hide something that awesome? He could totally take Riku! On a good day... if the other boy was having a bad day... and he got a little lucky.
"That's awesome! I can't wait to see him," Sora said, remembering their time in the Coliseum. Ever since seeing the other boy fight, he'd been eagerly thinking about how far they'd both come. Now, it seemed, was the time to find out. "Am I gonna be sparring with him, then?"
Sora waited, impatiently, for the slow speaking wizard to continue.
"There are any number of tests I may ask of you," he continued. "Sparring may be included, but there are more aspects to mastery than strength. Riku's strength of heart, his understanding of his purpose, these are two of the keys to his strength. While you are certainly brave and kind, you lack durability... or rather, your heart is currently feeble, weakened by darkness."
Sora blushed a little, remembering his last attempt at the Mark of Mastery exam. Today wasn't a second one or anything — but it was hard to forget how awfully he'd failed there. He was proud of how well he'd done getting to the end of things, but Yen Sid was right. Sora needed to do more than rely on just his brute strength and fighting skill.
The boy fidgeted a little, tapping his feet. What was it that Riku could possibly show him that he didn't already know about his heart? Or was there something else to it that let Riku carry on being... well, himself?
"Patience," Yen Sid cautioned. "He should be arriving soon."
Riku stepped out of a swirling black portal at the steps of Yen Sid's tower. He was called here for a singular purpose; training. Not for him-- not necessarily-- but for Sora. He was always happy to help out his friend, so that was why the young Master found himself here, called from his patrol of the worlds to help his friend in his training. Riku was always aware that he was the more capable of the two, so when he was named Master and his best friend was not, he decided to do his best to make sure that the next time Sora took the Exam, he would pass. This was the first step.
Giving himself a determined nod, Riku walked through the giant doors of the tower and began his ascent to Yen Sid's study. Stepping through the door, the silver-haired teen smiled briefly and waved to Sora before approaching the wizard's massive desk, giving him a respectful bow. "Master Yen Sid." He greeted the tower's master before turning his attention back to Sora. "Yen Sid wanted me to help with your training. Lucky you, huh?" He playfully punched Sora on the arm. "Just so ya know, i'm not going to go easy on you." He crossed his arms before turning back to the wizard and speaking to him once more.
"So, Master, i'm at your service. What kind of training did you have in mind for today?" He hoped it was some sort of spar. He hadn't gotten a chance to thrash his old buddy in quite some time. At this point, he couldn't even remember the score. Then again, Sora was more the type to keep closer track of that than he was. All the young Master knew was that he was usually ahead.
The stars hanged from the night sky, glimmering like diamonds, each one a world, a fragment of a greater whole that was no more. It was a beautiful spectacle but also a tragic one. Back then, stars had been things of legend, thought to be an omen of a great destiny lying ahead. Although of humble birth, his mother had told him that on that night at dawn, the brightest (and only) star she had ever seen shone over Daybreak Town.
But now they were nothing to him but reminders of his failure. The light was now scattered all throughout infinity, all because neither him nor his brothers and sisters could protect it. Now only he remained, chosen by providence among his peers to do battle at the final hour, for the second Keyblade War was upon them and with it, the end of this dying realm.
Now was the last chance for redemption, not just for him, but for all of his kin. He would wield their strength, their faith and put an end to this downward spiral of misery. And to that end, he would go as far as he had to and endure the unendurable. His fellows would have said he had gone mad, but this was the price to do the impossible and his mind was made up.
There was a twinkle in the sky and from it a falling star fell onto the ground, stopping just short of crashing before dropping gently. The glow subdued and the figure of Morne emerged, a white warrior in silver armor, In a way similar to others the boys had seen before, such as Lingering Will's or the Ventus Armored Nightmare's, however, this one was far more archaic than any they’d ever seen.
He had come here after finding the trail of one young man called Sora. Supposedly he was to be one of the warriors for light in the coming battle. He couldn’t help but to wonder what sort of person he’d be, surely he had a strong heart like few others if he had been handled such a crucial task.
And yet, even though he may very well be an extraordinary one, as the Old Man had told him, he would damn this whole reality should he fight. It was high time he stopped this madness.
Approaching the oddly shaped tower, his body turned into sunlight, filtering through the door. Once inside, he looked up the long, winding stairs, knowing that they were probably aware of his presence. This was a wizard's tower after all, surely it had measures against uninvited guests. Not that he ever intended to hide.
Going up the stairs and through the mist, he appeared in a magical domain, with stairs that appeared and disappeared in thin air, "Heroes of Light, I shall not make you wait". His hands then joined in prayer, and as he did his feet lifted off the ground, shooting towards the top of the fortress, landing on the topmost flight of stairs. He could tell there were others just beyond the door.
He had sworn to destroy the lights and darknesses destined to do battle, but he couldn't help but to hope there was still another way, one that didn't involve massacring the heroes of this epoch.