It's been ten thousand years with writers block but I come bearing a thing I whipped up in the last night --
Spoilers for Destati though, not completely, but just enough to reveal how Act 1 will end, which leads into a mid-point. So if you want to see how that turns out ( if I ever finish this meeting chapter, lmao ) then look here while I groggily rationalize Norwin's characterization as something other than a shitake mushroom.
Norwin hadn’t known how much she had detested herself until it had been forced to be addressed. Directly. When it had come to looking back and recognizing the actions she had taken throughout the course of her journey because of her envy, she had realized how much she had, well, made a mistake. She hadn’t wanted to at first, at least, that’s what she had told herself the first few days, when all was said and done, and the only thing she had as a reward for her atrocities had resulted in two-animalistic creatures eyeing her with nothing but contempt. It was because of her, after all, that the one they had deemed their light had dared resorted to trying to give the vessel she had called a friend her Heart to sustain his existence.
And for all her faults, Norwin could respect someone that had nothing to gain from such an altruistic act. Stupid kid didn’t have to go off and almost get herself killed, the vile thought caused something foul to settle in her chest and twist. Like a poison, it trickled through her veins, gnawed at her stomach, and left her feeling disgusted with herself. Her Heart felt…empty, weighed down with an oppressive sense of guilt that spurred her on into doing more. It wasn’t right, that she had to go out of her way to do this, yet here she was with a promise on her tongue – too late to take it back now, she reminded herself.
Up until the point where she had nearly had her Heart stolen away, Norwin felt that she had deserved her birthright. Even if it had refused her call, she had trained for it, she had pushed herself for it.
“ You must awaken to what lies in your Heart, before it comes to you, child.” Her Master looked at her with a scrutinizing gaze. They had settled outside their makeshift home, next to a fountain where they often came together to recount her lessons for the day. She took in his features, aged and grizzled, yet wise, patient, even as she gnawed at her bottom lip nervously. A habit she knew annoyed him to no end. “When you do so, you will be guided to the truth that lies within.”
“And what if I don’t?” Norwin bit back. Exhausted and angry and just…so, so tired of everything. There was so much work she had done. So much she had tried. Hours had been put into meditation, days had been put into mediation. Magical tomes were smuggled and studied beneath the light of her own flames, and yet…
“Then you must be patient. Your Heart will be the key that guides you, child…”
Actions spoke louder than words, though, and in the end, she had offered her fealty to someone that threatened to drown the Worlds in Darkness after centuries bathed in the light. And for what? ‘It won’t come to me if I don’t figure this out, The Master was right. I was too blind.’ Her pride had been the Achilles heel that led to her defeat time and again.
They had gone on to save the Worlds, while she… she stayed back. When the Worlds had restored themselves from being near drowned in oblivion, she had grown anxious over the comatose body they had in their custody.
‘It is your fault.’ The cat, Nyx, he had introduced himself to her so long ago, drilled her with a pair of eyes filled with such raw emotion that she was taken aback. He couldn’t stand her presence, and she could deal with neither of theirs. ‘If you were not such a fool, the burden of saving the Worlds would not have fallen to Suihei.’
It was just the two of them, secured away in a spare room. The woman who presided over the mansion, Lucina, Lumina, something, had offered them security in favour of helping her along with the process. Norwin hadn’t wanted to do it, but she had nowhere else to go. Thumper had nearly decked her in the face from hanging around like a ghost, but it was the Cat who had offered to take her aside and speak.
“So what do I do now?” And she couldn’t help the frustration that bubbled in her voice. The rage, malignant and festering, like a wound, swirled in her chest violently. Glancing towards Nyx, she saw that he looked a little more drained. A little less angry and, dare she say it, nervous. Afraid of something she couldn’t put her finger on. “What do you want me t’do? Feel sorry for you guys? Because it isn’t my fault-“
‘It is.’ Nyx whispered this with such certainty, such conviction, that again, she was taken aback. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and she had to bend out of the way of claws that carved into the wall next to her, shearing metal into nonexistence. ‘And you will listen, for I know that you have a solution to this. The envy in your heart has led you astray, so you will pay your debt now, or contend with having your life forfeit. An equivalent exchange.’
Norwin’s lips pinched together in disgust, disdain, and she looked aside with an ember of guilt fluttering in her chest. He wasn’t wrong. “Fine. I might know some way to fix this, but..I could di-“
‘Then see that it is done or the consequences will be Just. ’ He snarled in her face like an animal, eyes wild and fierce. His pupils were slit with rage, his lips were drawn back tightly, and his voice was thickened with the honeyed promises. He hadn’t needed to say anything else.
Norwin had offered her solution, and begrudgingly, he had accepted it.
In the end, Nyx had understood her, had trusted her, and allowed her the courtesy of doing so when his anger had simmered down. The small amount of trust he had even given her was telling. It was nice, but…Norwin had shrugged it off, the unspoken threat threaded between the both of them lingering even when she had packed her bags to return to her own homeworld, intent on gleaning as much as she could.
The Sea of Shadows had remained open, and, she recalled a time where her Master had spoken of Light requiring Darkness to remain in balance. Two birds could be hit with one stone, she realized, because the Realm of Darkness had championed keys for its own cause in the past. She had spent days in Illuminated Springs, pouring over the hidden notes of the old man in order to figure out just what she could do in order to make things right. In regarding the notes, her solution came clearly.
There was Light in Darkness. She just had to go digging for it.
The Realm of Darkness was a pervasive place that made her feel like a stranger in her own skin. She could taste the shadows in the air, and kept her wits about her. She hadn’t known, she hadn’t known that those snot-nosed brats had made it this far down ; the other side of the Realms was…eldritch at best. Indescribable colors and unnatural geography framed her at every turn.
As she delved deeper into the realm of shades, time, something she was normally something she excelled at, had crawled to a slow, and then to a stop. Death would have been uncomfortable in the silence that she surrounded by, and several times she had to strain her ears and extend her senses to ensure that nothing was deceiving her.
‘Norwin, must you be so insolent? So rash?’ She could feel her master’s breath on her ear, chastising her about sneaking into his archives. No, no, she was there. In front of the grandiose bookshelves, the Master leaning back with amusement as he watched her jump out of her skin.
“I’m sorry-“ She began, fully intent on apologizing. She whipped around, nearly tripping over her own two feet to meet jade eyes. Dust obscured her vision, and she reached out where she was sure her Master was, only to ghost her fingers through…nothing?
Nothing. There was nothing there. Nothing but darkness but a few feet away from her, and the crags that were speckled with cyans and blues that reminded her of the skies ( that weren’t there, there was nothing here for her, nothing nothing nothing nothing she was wasting her time ) that seemed an eternity away.
Disturbed by the turn of the events, Norwin lowered her hand, clenching them hard enough to bite into the flesh of her hands like blunted teeth.
Tha-thump, tha-thump. Her Heart was hammering against her chest hard enough that it hurt. She hurt.
( She hated it, she hated it, she hated everything… )
Heartless were stronger here too ; they sensed prey, something that was Other in their Realm, and Norwin had to draw on exhaustive wellsprings of strength far too many times tin order to fend for herself. Ease was not something she expected here, but the sheer numbers of them…
( Maybe she should have let them get her, rip her Heart out and feast on everything inside. Everything. Everything until there was nothing left. Because there was an ugliness inside of her that she wanted to claw out. )
“ You know, “ said her whispers, cruel and malicious. “ You could just leave them behind to fend for themselves. That girl stole everything for you. She’s just a copy. A stooge set up by the Worlds to dance to their own tune.”
( But if that were true, why did she have the Keyblade… )
“ Because you were weak,” Came the insidious response, dark glee dancing in a part of Norwin that she hadn’t known she had hated until now. “What kind of loser goes against the Master’s teachings?”
( Shut up. )
“You couldn’t listen. It’s no wonder you ended up clinging to some old fairy tale by an old man…”
( Shut up. )
“Nobody wants someone that can’t even keep their lessons close to their Heart. He should’ve thrown you out to the dogs when he had the chance.”
“SHUT UP!” Norwin yelled, fingers digging ugly trenches into her forearm. The sharp bite of pain, the sticky sweetness of blood in the air drew her attention, and listlessly, she watched the beads of crimson trail down her wrists and pool into her fingers. It was that Damned cat’s fault. He condemned her here, he knew what this would do to her. She hated him hated him hated him-
( He was right. )
Squeezing her eyes shut, Norwin did her best to push aside the foul whispers, did her best to ignore them, but…
“You know, a lot of your issues could be solved if you looked inward.” This voice was unfamiliar. Not like the ones that taunted her, that tantalized her like the devils and demons that ailed her at every turn. It was sweet, delivered with such warmth that it stole the breath from her chest and left her throat clenching in raw relief.
( How do I do that? )
“Mm?” Norwin could feel the smile in the voice ( female, middle aged, now that she listened closer ) almost as well as she could feel the hands over her eyes. (Fake fake fake, this was fake ) Pressure pinched at her nose from both nostrils, causing her to scowl. “Well, all you have to do is hear. Think. Feel.”
( What? )
“ Hear what your Heart must say. Think on why it says it. Feel them, and don’t lie to yourself.” There was a sternness to her tone that brokered no argument, and Norwin found her back going ramrod. She was uncomfortable, but…this wasn’t like the taunting before, where she dressed herself down emotionally and was left feeling raw and sad. That would just draw more attention to her, she had learned.
Norwin listened, ( She regretted everything, and wanted to tell her Master she was sorry. She wanted to make things right, because that was her duty to some snotnosed brat who got herself into something she shouldn’t have been involved in. She was roused to pity because of it, because all that kid wanted to do was go home… )
She thought ( there was a way, she knew it. In the darkness there was Light. It was why she was here, she reminded herself. There was a little of her in the lonely girl she saw every time they crossed blades. )
And she felt ( Light. There was Light just a little deeper than here, she just had to look. Darkness hadn’t drowned her yet, she was just letting it get the best of her because her guard was down. She just had to go a little deeper, she couldn’t give up. Not yet. )
At peace with herself, more than she had been in a decade, Norwin exhaled slowly, cracking open her eyes to reveal that the pressure had been nothing. Not hands as she had thought they were. ‘This place deceives me through the Darkness in my Heart…’ She realized, bringing a hand to her chest. No longer. Norwin would no longer allow herself to be a slave to her own Heart. Flicking her eyes to the abyssal skies, she exhaled, only to start in surprise at the unfamiliar scent. Like jasmine and flowers. One of the old books in the library that belonged to…
Norwin shook aside the thought before it could so much as take a form. “I won’t stop yet.” She told herself resolutely, peeking down the slope of the hill she had crossed into. In the distance she could make out a tower, a tower with a pinprick of something that she could see in a way she swore she couldn’t before.
Tch. Well, she needed to get back on it then.
There was no need for that prickly puss to make due on his promise and make her life Hell in this already Hellish landscape.
She was close to her goal now. She was sure of it more than anything.