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Chapter II: Endless Ocean

"When you get just a complete sense of blackness or void ahead of you, that somehow the future looks an impossible place to be, and the direction you are going seems to have no purpose, there is this word despair which is a very awful thing to feel."
—Stephen Fry

As I proceeded on a somewhat meandering route, I started to notice something odd... and when something seems odd to me, it's a safe bet that it's probably downright incomprehensible to mortal entities. The peculiarity in question was that either side of my path, there definitely seemed to be some kind of objects – perhaps foliage, or rocky outcrops – but no sooner did I pass by than I forgot what was there. After a short while, my suspicions had grown to the point where they outweighed my perception, and I firmly decided that there was no foliage, nor were there any outcrops. They were merely half-formed things, more like the mere idea of terrain, rather than an actual physical landscape. The instant after I had settled upon this conclusion, my surroundings obliged, vanishing completely and leaving a dark void all around me.

Alas, although this was a void, it was not even close to being the Void. Furthermore, there was still something about it that made me distrust the apparent emptiness. I know the scent, or essence, of Nothingness very well indeed, and this black space had only the barest whiff of it. I decided to try and force some sort of reaction by applying my utmost concentration, and was rewarded with a faint echo of a sound, and a slight glimmer of light in the distance. These stimuli lasted for perhaps half of a second before fading, but it was enough. I set off in the direction of the light.

After an indeterminate amount of time, I noticed that the emptiness beneath me had been replaced by jet black sand. I mused briefly on the possibility of it being volcanic, but this sand held the same weak trace of Nothingness that the void had, so that theory was quickly dismissed. More curious was the fact that there had been no transition; one instant I was lost in darkness, the next, I was on a beach. For it was a beach, and the sound I had faintly heard before was now recognisable as water gently caressing the shore. As I continued towards the sound, I started to pass by strange, misshapen things, almost like stunted and twisted trees, but with a texture not unlike melted plastic, or impossibly smooth stone. As the "forest" of the contorted branches thinned out again, I found myself suddenly at the shore. I felt the urge to turn around and look back at the way I had come, but every direction behind me was utterly identical to every other. The path by which I had arrived on the shore was untraceable, and the only direction that meant anything here was the one spread out ahead of me.

It was indescribable. I could not actually see very much of the ocean that met the land there, but I knew instinctively that it was of infinite extent. Around me were a few dull boulders, with curious veins of some glowing blue substance running across their surfaces. Gigantic versions of the strange branches rose out of the water and arced high overhead, more jagged and imposing than the smaller ones I had encountered on my approach. In the distance, straight ahead, was a pale blue light. It was neither a sun nor a moon, but it was the closest thing to either in this place, and I immediately recognised it as the source of the glimmer that I had followed.

A place such as this could have no name, but I can try to come close. How should one go about describing this narrow strip of sand, with nothing of any sensical meaning on the one side, and an infinite ocean on the other? It is an insignificant line, drawn between two dark and unfathomable regions. Yes, I think that is the best description possible. This place is the Dark Margin.

Of course, it's all well and good coming up with the best approximation to a name for it, but the fact remained that I was stuck there. I briefly considered trying to cross the ocean, but quite apart from it being infinite, the very thought of moving over the boundary, out of the Margin, filled me with a sort of unknowable dread. There was something inherently wrong about that ocean. I stared out over the water for some time; for how long, I do not know, and I suspect that it is meaningless to try and quantify time in the Margin. Eventually, I detected a miniscule shift in the atmosphere, and cast my gaze about in an attempt to pinpoint its source. After a few moments, I found it: lost in the heart of the blue glow that illuminated the Margin was an infinitesimal speck of another light entirely. I felt myself drawn to it, and through no action of my own, found myself speeding across the ocean towards it, drawn inexorably onwards. I could not suppress a shudder of revulsion to find myself over the ocean that so fundamentally horrified me, but there was nothing I could do to halt my motion. The blue glow, surprisingly, dimmed as I approached it, and at the instant it faded completely, I reached the speck of light at its core.

The experiences that followed were simultaneously bizarre and unremarkable. It seemed like everything turned inside out. Except that it also didn't. There was a blinding flash of light, and also, no flash at all. The half-formed ideas of a landscape that I had dispelled in order to reach the black void returned, flickered on the edge of perception, changed into a wild variety of monstrous forms, whirled all around me, disappeared, rose up dead ahead but melted away before impact...

Although such a thing is not actually possible, I fell unconscious.

"Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you reach your destiny."
—Carl Schurz

I heard the sound of waves, and there was sand beneath me. I didn't need to see my surroundings to know that it had all been for nothing, and I was once again trapped on the shoreline of the Dark Margin.

"Are you okay?"

The voice surprised me. I revised my decision to not bother looking around me, and immediately saw that I was on a proper beach. The sand beneath me was normal, and the light shining in the sky was a real sun. I turned to see who had spoken, and saw a tall youth standing nearby. His expression was caught between confusion, concern, and a little bit of fear. He wore a simple outfit, in shades of dark grey, consisting of a long jacket with tails, armbands covering most of his forearms, and a plain pair of trousers tucked into knee-length boots. His hair was styled into spikes and, unusually for one so young, was grey in colour, although it had a silvery quality to. After examining him, I was about to look at the landscape behind him, when I realised that he was speaking again. I turned my attention back to him, and realised that he had repeated his initial question.

I am... fine. Thank you.

Understandably startled to hear me speak directly into his mind, he stumbled backwards slightly. I saw, in his eyes, a flash of resolve. He did not retreat any further, and immediately started to ask me more questions. "Who, or what, are you? How did you get here?" He stammered slightly, but after a pause, he spoke more confidently, asking, "Did you come from the outside world?"

"I cannot answer if you do not give me a chance to speak," I said aloud. His relief at the change in communication method was evident, and he relaxed slightly as I continued, "I am... in a sense, I am nothing, or perhaps nobody. You may call me Sorceror Nobody, if you wish. I do not know exactly how I arrived here, although I must say I prefer it to the place I arrived from."

As I pondered how best to respond to his final question, he watched me warily, before turning away and walking down the beach, standing on the shoreline and gazing out over the sea. I thought of the Dark Margin, and decided to reply to his question with my own.

"What makes you think I am from another world, and if you'll pardon my asking, would you please tell me a little about this place, and perhaps yourself?"

He did not turn to face me, but he was not ignoring me. "My name is Xehanort," he said, "and these islands are my home. However, I am certain that there must be something more. This world is just too small; these islands are like a prison, surrounded by water. I feel trapped, my heart cries out for freedom, and I only wish I could find the strength I need to get out there... to understand."

I was astonished by his perception, and his determination. I could sense that, sooner or later, he would likely achieve the freedom and strength that he sought. I was about to tell him exactly that, when there was a sudden burst of light extending from his right hand. When the light faded, he was left holding an ornate object, which looked like some kind of weapon, although somewhere in my mind, it occurred to me that it also resembled some sort of key. Xehanort was as startled as me to see this mysterious key-like weapon in his hand, and looked at me.

"I'm as clueless as you, I'm afraid. I've never seen anything like this before," I said, answering his unspoken question, "but I can feel the power it holds. May I examine it?"

I do not think he was consciously aware of his reluctance to relinquish the blade, but I could tell that it was in some way bonded to him. After a barely detectable hesitation, he took the key end in his other hand, offering the handgrip to me. As I went to take it, I felt a peculiar resistance, but I was able to take it from him. Nothing happened for a moment, but then it seemed like the world froze. There was a blast of light, and a burning pain. This was disturbing, as pain is yet another experience that is utterly foreign to me, but I did not have time to consider this at length before I found my vision closing around me. The weapon vanished from my grip, reappearing in Xehanort's hand, and he was stunned for several moments, before reaching out to me as I writhed in the grip of an unknown influence. There was nothing he could do, however.

As I was torn from that world and flung between dimensions, I thought of only one thing: whatever that weapon was, it was anathema to me, and touching it had been a very bad idea.

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
—William Shakespeare

Xehanort watched, unable to help his new acquaintance. As the light that had taken the stranger faded, he looked down at the ornate blade he held, examining it more closely. Its colouration was entirely greyscale, apart from a blue jewel near the head, which resembled an eye. The shaft was split in two, joining together just below the jewel at the head end, and a representation of a demon with a horned head towards the handgrip. The face had tiny blue eyes, too, and its wild beard formed the upper part of the weapon's handguard, while the sides of the handguard had a design not unlike bat wings, leading down to a silvery chain. At the end of the chain was an intricate little emblem with a final blue gem at its centre.

He did not know what this weapon was, nor did he know where it had come from. Even so, Xehanort was confident that it was quite literally the key to escaping the world of his birth and gaining the freedom that he had craved for so long. He looked to the sky, making a silent wish that Sorceror Nobody would be safe. He certainly hoped that they would cross paths again. As the setting sun inched its way down towards the sea, setting the waves sparkling with beautiful orange-gold light, Xehanort wondered how long it would be before he could follow the self-proclaimed nobody, and make his own departure from the Destiny Islands.

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