The Before: Before they called it a war and made it glorious it was survival. As such it was cruel, but sometimes a mercy of sorts crept in.
The Before: Childhood acquisition
Despite what others might think, even Nobodies had childhoods. For the non-sentient it was a moment. Like that flicker between existence and none, it was a span where everything was taken in with wide eyes, overwhelmed senses. Then came the Pall, that grey tinged illumination that settled over everything. Snapping up splendor and shock and awe all in one move.
In its place came the rudimentary. The "how"s of how to take orders, follow orders, a means to understand, and the instinct to know who to follow when.
It wasn't much, a few seconds for most. But such was the vast majorities of a Nobodies childhood. There today, gone tomorrow on fast forward. In truth, per personal perspective and a multitude of cliché, there was no difference. In this one regard Nobodies and
Somebodies were quite similar.
Bemused by thoughts far disassociated with the dust before him, but akin in texture and scent, Zexion heaved a sigh. From wry musings, to dust, to dusty subject, such was his lot. He stood before Vexen's love (one of many, the true scholar was anything but monogamous with his passions) and his bane. Mathematicians, and it was something a mite more advanced than "x plus a variable equals y, what is x?" that he'd grown to hate his Somebodyhood ago.
A smile pulled on his lips, one corner mind. He could still hear Vexen's irate, grating voice twist to a howl. Belittling his Somebody, and circumstance that had roped such an ignorant Nobody and himself to work side by side. This "mission" was a sham. But indulge one step to the side, listen to the clink-a-link of a wallet bulging with munny, the sound scarcely muffled by his thick black robes, and then reconsider the circumstances.
Yes, he'd been sent out with biting words and scorn…
But he'd been given more munny than he could count, no time limit, and access to a bookshop with orders to get what he needed.
Then there'd been that glimmer to Vexen's eyes. Anger had dimmed, as they'd looked upon each other, one scholar to another. Understanding shared, munny had passed hands, and that had been that.
Still, choice bits of his telling off lingered, playing when he got bored with looking at the covers of his bane.
Of all the blasted memories to retain, you recall all of your knowledge of literature, history and humanities, rudimentary as it is, but nothing, nothing past elementary algebra!
He almost smiled, almost, but the void in his existence swept out from the emptiness of his heart to rake his features with clawless hands. It went in stages, his loss. First the comprehension of how to smile fled. His lips slackened into a tell nothing line. Up it went steeling the mirth from his eyes. Then ever insidious it slipped in the space behind his eyes into a mind. Sliding between contradictions, existent non-existence was the crux, but there were others, all subtle in their shades of madness.
One blink, another, then he wondered, had to, what he'd thought was so… so… amusing? One blink, another, and even wonder was gone.
Pulling one book, requisite, it summoned a yawn that the nothingness within couldn't check, he flipped open the first page. Like any other pretentious text, the front had chapters, and each chapter was marked with a roman numeral. Fourteen numbers, and had he actually known of certain facts the irony would have been funny. As it was the idea of it being off by one digit irritated.
Still Vexen would do more than irritated if he didn't come back with at least one book.
Twiddling orders, with expectations, against temptation, was a handful. Well two digits shy, but enough to occupy his mind. The tides and ebbs of nothing could do little against such sterile thoughts, so he was allowed to flip through the text, not quite understanding what he skimmed but sure that with effort he'd comprehend the worst of it by perusals' end.
Tucking the text under his arm, it joined a kin more loyal than any mundane book. Black and silver script glinted in Twilight Town's chancy light, seemed red and orange. Still such changes were only cosmetic and a quick half step back from the window would assure Lexicon's return to gloomy normalcy. Another side: Hallucination the title had caught the bookstore's owner eye and guaranteed the shoppers solitude and inspired a not-so-subtle check of said shop owner's tea cup when Zexion had passed.
Really, as if he'd poison a Somebody.
While a tempting little experiment he much preferred magic induced mind plays, thank you.
Also, screaming mad Somebodies tended to draw attention.
On the other side, (that thought summoned an idea, something about curled lips and irony, but that was beyond him now), it was nice to be feared, despite its present misplace. His aura on a pleasant day was to quote the crudes of the thirteen that weren't "Fuck off, I freakin' bite." Personally Zexion found the descriptor apt if flawed. Profanity was so… clumsy… especially when used gratuitously.
Hmm perhaps he'd get a dictionary for Axel, the man desperately needed one.
Ghosting past one window he drifted to the stores back. Bookshelves, all faux wood and shined by a gloss of fakeness that felt homey Zexion wandered up and down the small grammar section. While he was at it, perhaps he'd get a speech therapy book for Xemnas.
Imagining those orange eyes sizzling holes into his own complements of a laser blast from said tangerine hued peepers Zexion shelved the book he'd found and the suicidal idea in one move. Dictionary in one hand, (the thickest he could find, his gift would be a projectile, it's flight calculated per means of his first book to make sure it wasn't flawed in some way) Lexicon keeping Math company, he went to the counter. The bookshop's owner, a boring Somebody hardly worth noticing, noisy and grating as all their kind, so painfully vibrantly alive that the details boiled down to male, oldish, and nothing more, was out.
As in; I'm still checking tea, and the contents of the refrigerator, I'm not coming out, sort of out. Rolling his eyes at the mundanely of it all he set his purchases on the desk top and waited. One flash of light made him pause, the binding metallic threads of his robe were swaying, tinkling, and catching the illumination to flare with unseemly brilliance. Snapping his free hand over the swaying luminance he snarled.
Something behind the door beyond the counter whimpered.
Another sound kept his temper from snapping. Voices, a scuffle. Leaving desk behind he slipped to the nearest window, pressing against shadow of a bookshelf to better hide himself from the not so oblivious onlooker.
"Come on freak, say it!"
There was a cluster, smears of color. Reaching out he swiped a hand over the gritty plane, able to see clearer he contemplated the circle of Somebodies. There was something or rather someone, amongst their midst being shoved back and forth. Proof of the last was given via thumps and a patch of spiky blond that struggled back and forth but never broke free from the crush.
"Come on Zombie boy, say it, say it… Braaains."
No grunt, cry of help, or any other response was given. The shoving got worse, and some of the weaker ones, specifically a short girl amongst the gathering, were pushed aside.
Just long enough for him to see a frame. Small, waif incarnate, a boy, blond hair, bruised. There and gone.
He'd not have care, really, but the boy with those dead, wide, blue eye brought back memories. Memories of birth, of growth, of the feverish moments after being Nothing.
"Come ON, Creeper, say it!"
Hissing in recalled pain he stepped to the counter, took what he wanted, leaving nothing behind, and stormed out. They were as he expected. Sad adolescent brats lost in the throes of cruelty, shrouded in clashing baggy clothes that were what their deluded minds perceived as "cool".
If he was right, if his hunch, that glimmer of a seeing was correct he'd be more than happy to inflict Vexen on the lot.
And Vexen would be more than content to have Somebody to play with. The academic loved studying the heart, he'd like some fresh –if shriveled- ones to play with.
And what Xemnas didn't know wouldn't hurt.
Oblivious, they played on, never mind how his approach was louder than hell and his cloak billowed and all those other things the intelligent would note in his coming. But, perhaps all was not lost. The girl, sore from her last jostle, was less interested in her sport. She turned at his snarl, and despite the fact his fingers were flicking through Lexicon for the right page she picked up something from his approach and translated it to "busted". With a whimper she stepped back into the tallest of the brutes. The white clad boy grunted a "Wha'?" further flaunting his stupidity by not being able to articulate.
"Wha's it?" The punk snarled then he turned and smiled, seeing a short man coming up. Like most intellectual lackards he equated short with young and weak. "Aw lookit, another short stuff kid to play with!"
Flipping open the book, page assured by touch and a memory that was most definitely OCD driven he showed off the text. Now, in most cases a flashing of a few pages was nothing. Just paper and ink bared to the world. Depending on whether there were pictures, or a good enough point to said flashing, a Somebodies reactions varied from either jerking off, laughing, or wrenching the book form your hands.
Lexicon however was no ordinary text. It was, as its title indicated, illusion incarnate. Hallucination was hardly benign, and this chosen one was the worst of the worse. Tailored to give each person a personal viewing of their innermost nightmares a few minutes could drive one and all mad.
Suffice to say, it was his favorite.
Screaming, they scattered, those Somebodies. Leaving victim to the clutches of a madness wielding malicious "shortie". Growling a few profanities at his least favorite nickname Zexion shut the book. Dead blue eyes, a cache of blond rumpled hair and a smattering of bruises (some seen, most not) greeted him.
The poor Nobody didn't blink. Probably didn't know how yet. So suffice to say there wasn't much words to the younger Nobody's greeting to his elder. Which present immersion with Somebodies considered, wasn't such a bad thing.
Hand offered, he beckoned, hoping the Nobody could walk somewhat. He'd been "shuffling" so his moniker suggested. The boy had also stood through a series of shoves without falling.
There was a hope that this wouldn't require touching the newborn Nobody, if his cards were right (curse Luxord and all his influence, no more poker night, never again!) the Nobody would just shuffle right up. Which, after a long pause passed, the boy started to do so.
With his free hand he waved at the air behind him. Black spiraled form his fingers, thin ribbons of which spun round and round, thickening, conjoining into a door sized void at his back. Once the portal was fully formed and rippling with violet flames about its top, Zexion turned to consider the Nobody.
There'd been three steps traversed, perhaps four. Worse the boy was dripping red. Add cuts to bruises then. A flick of his hand changed the destination, To Vexen's lab it was then.
Five minutes later, one extra step, and the Schemer snapped.
"Oh for Kingdom Heart's sake!"
Stomping down the curb, he stormed up to the boy, snapped up an arm and once assured by the fact there was no pulse and this really was a Nobody and not some brain dead Somebody he hauled the brat behind him.
They left Twilgiht for darker paths and were spit out upon a span of pristine white. Vexen's voice crackled off, stilling his rendering (not rendering, as there were notes dying and hordes of Unversed being spawned with every verse) of some nonsensical song by some random singer cut off with a squawk.
Smiling, spite warming his spine if not his heart, Zexion shoved the wide eyed boy before him. Malice was one of the few things his heartless existence didn't deny.
"Number Four, meet Thirteen."
It also didn't forbid the occasional foray into melodrama.