Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts.
I wanted to tell you right away, about memories from the past that sleep within you, and about the pieces that will tie you to your future.
Sora, Riku, Kairi, the truth behind the Keyblade, has found its way through so many people, and now I know that it rests in your hearts.
Sora, you are who you are because of those people, but they're hurting, and you're the only one who can end their sadness. They need you.
It's possible that all your journeys so far, have been preparing you for this great new task that's waiting for you. I should have known there were no coincidences, only links in a much larger chain of events. And now the door to your next journey is ready to be opened.
Kairi relaxed on her bed leaning against the wall with her knees drawn up almost to her chest. The night of Destiny Islands outside her window was fairly quiet aside from the mild chirping of crickets. The stars were dimmer here on the main island than from the smaller island where she had spent so many days with Sora and Riku before everything happened.
But she knew now what those stars really were. Each one was another world, shining from the light within each heart that dwelt upon it. She wondered how Destiny Islands looked from those other worlds, if it was brighter because it was home to a Princess of Heart and two Keyblade bearers. She concluded that it probably was mainly because of Sora. She knew she was a Princess of Heart, someone with no darkness in their heart, but sometimes she felt like she couldn't hold a candle to Sora and the sheer force of light he brought with him wherever he went.
Her fingers found the chain again, as they did so often these days. She lifted up the star-shaped charm she had made and twirled it on its chain, staring at it. Since the day Sora returned, she had kept it with her always, except for one brief minute when she had asked Sora to show her the Oathkeeper Keyblade when she had been curious to see exactly what her charm had inspired.
She sighed and admitted finally to herself the thought that had been nagging at her all day, ever since she pulled that bottle out of the ocean. She didn't want him to go. She knew he would go, of course, and Riku would probably tag along as well, leaving her alone on the island once more. Oh, she had Selphie, Tidus, Wakka, and all her other friends. She had her parents. But it wouldn't be the same without them. Because, though he hadn't said anything all day and seemed uncertain, Sora was going to leave. She knew he had made his decision the moment he finished reading that letter, despite his apparent hesitation. A quick exchange of glances with Riku confirmed that he knew it too.
And she wouldn't stop him. She made that promise to herself and, in a way, to Riku. Sora had barely noticed their quiet exchange, where it once might have made him jump instantly to protesting jealously. But she hadn't really needed Riku's simple words to understand. Sora's hesitation wasn't about leaving. If he knew someone needed his help, there was nothing Sora wouldn't do to save them. No, it wasn't about leaving. It was about telling them he was leaving. To his friends, to his family, and to her. In a very fundamental way, this would be the first time Sora would actually have to say goodbye to those who didn't understand that he had to leave.
Sora had told her of all his adventures. Every time he left a world, somehow people had understood that they had to go or they had known about Keyblade and knew why he had to leave. But the people here, the residents of Destiny Islands, who had watched Sora and Riku grow up, would probably not understand. She knew Sora hadn't really given an explanation of where they had been. She had heard him and Riku talking, wondering exactly how much to tell everyone. She watched him struggle with that how. How exactly did one tell people that you were now one of the saviors of the worlds (which the others were a secret in the first place) when they knew you when you were a goofy little kid (because that is exactly what Sora had been).
Together they watched him with his struggle. Riku was content to watch Sora without telling him what he should do. Kairi didn't know whether that was because Riku didn't know or he just didn't want to say. Some days, Sora would slip away early in the mornings to the island. Kairi would find him, sitting on the paopu tree, holding the Keyblade in his lap, staring at it silently. She didn't know what thoughts ran threw his head and she didn't know how to ask. She was always the last to arrive. She would enter the shack and go up the stairs to the boardwalk. Riku was there, leaning against a tree, watching his friend. He would give her the briefest of glances and a nod before resuming his vigil. She had always wondered, but never asked, how Riku knew Sora was there, because Sora didn't go every morning, but every time he did, Riku was there. But then again she didn't quite know how she knew herself. The two of them had stood, watching their friend, until Kairi knew it was time (again she didn't quite know how she knew). She would walk across the boardwalk, and the Keyblade would disappear in a flash of light as Sora turned to greet her with his characteristic wide smile. Riku would join them and the day always moved on as if nothing had ever happened.
Kairi sighed as she let her hand holding the chain drop back to her side. She scooted off the bed and stepped to the window to stare at the stars again. As she looked, she tried to guess which one was Radiant Garden, her home world. Sora had told her all about it, and she was glad it sounded like it was so much better now than it had looked during her brief visit there last year. She didn't remember much of it, as she had only been four when it was first destroyed. There were only brief flashes of things: flowers, monsters (the Heartless, no doubt), and a kind voice—something about a magic spell. She remembered her grandmother now, thanks to her shared memory with Sora in the library when her heart rested in his. Since then, she'd wished to know if her grandmother had been restored now that Radiant Garden was back. She had been reluctant to ask Sora to find out, somewhat fearing the worst. She had met those other residents of Radiant Garden while she stayed in Traverse Town; Leon, Aerith, Cid, and Yuffie, but they hadn't known her and she didn't remember them. A world was a big place, after all, and it hadn't been surprising to find out that they hadn't known each other when they lived there. She wanted to ask Sora to take her there, and it had seemed like a good time to ask, now that the Heartless threat had apparently been over. But all that had now changed the moment she saw that bottle wash up on the beach.
She lifted the paopu-shaped charm and twirled it in her fingers again. Yes, he would go. And she would let him, despite her feelings. Because he would come back to her. She believed that fully with all her heart.
Riku watched his best friend silently, like he always did, as he waited for Kairi to arrive. The scene was familiar, except that it was sunset rather than sunrise, and it was Mickey's letter that rested in Sora's hands rather than his Keyblade. Riku had been surprised that it had taken Sora so long to come here, but he understood. He knew exactly what the struggle within Sora was about. He had known the moment Sora finished reading the letter and he saw the look on his face. Sora's eyes had moved briefly to glance at Kairi and it had been so quick that Riku wouldn't have seen it if he had blinked. Because of that, Riku was almost positive the glance had probably been subconscious with his friend unaware it had ever happened.
Sora had gone quiet after the reading, a rarity when he was around others. Despite rather introspective mornings that occurred upon occasion, Sora was not very much different around his friends than before everything. He had changed, no one couldn't after going through what they had, but Sora was essentially the same bright, cheerful boy he always had been. Somehow, it was easy here on the islands, where nothing had changed. It was easy for them to pretend that they didn't hold powerful weapons, ready to be called upon at a moment's notice.
And Riku was fine pretending for now, because it was what Sora wanted. Riku was willing to do just about anything for his friend. It was the least he could do after he went AWOL last year and tried to kill his best friend. Well, partly, some of that had been Ansem—Xemnas—Xehanort—whoever's Heartless, but it had been his fault to begin with. He had let the darkness in.
Sora was going to go (there was really only one thing that might stop him). It was in his nature, in the very core of his being. And Riku knew the source of his hesitation was not within himself but laid without. His memory replayed his very brief conversation with Kairi last night after their return from the island. Riku had gently grabbed Kairi's arm on the dock after tying their boats, just enough to stop her from walking. He let Sora walk a few distracted steps away before he whispered, "It's you…and them," he added waving his hand briefly to encompass the town.
Kairi's eye had gone wide with understanding and she had dropped her head and whispered, "I know."
"Please don't ask him to stay," Riku had stated, knowing that would be the only thing that would have even the remotest chance of stopping Sora from leaving. He had dropped his hand from her arm and used his long strides to catch up with Sora, who gave him the briefest of glances, full of distracted curiosity rather than jealously as they might have once been. Kairi's quick steps sounded behind them and a few moments later placed her on Sora's other side. Sora never asked and neither Riku nor Kairi explained, the matter dropping between them.
Riku was content to pretend for now. But he knew it was only a matter of time. He didn't belong on the islands anymore. Perhaps it was the destiny of a Keyblade bearer to belong to all worlds rather than just one. Riku was too different now to stay in a place that had remained the same. He had never truly been content here anyway, not since the day he had heard the story of the boy who left the islands. The arrival of Kairi had only spurred what was already there; she had only been the proof as the will and the want had already been there.
And it was slowly coming to dawn on Sora as well. His seemingly casual comment yesterday of the never changing island had been a hint of Sora's quiet discontent. Riku had smirked how Sora had eagerly pounced on Mickey's letter when Kairi held it out to him. Sora didn't really belong on the islands either and some part of him was beginning to realize it.
If he took the thought even further, Kairi didn't belong here at all. She was from Radiant Garden, after all, and Riku wondered if she was only there because of him and Sora. With them gone, Kairi wouldn't really have any reason to stay, beyond those she had grown up with as her friends and family. It might be too dangerous this time (despite that she could hold a Keyblade, Kairi was not really a trained warrior), but Riku wouldn't be surprised at all if one day she and Sora hijacked a gummi ship from Mickey and traveled the worlds together. Riku would follow them of course (Sora could get in tons of trouble without Riku to watch him).
The door to the stairs opened and Kairi stepped out. Riku nodded at her and she gave him a small smile back. They silently watched Sora, like they had so many times before. "We're going to go," Riku said to her.
"I know," Kairi replied simply.
"He'll come back to you," Riku said, looking down at her. She was fiddling with something in her hand. With a mild start, Riku realized it was the Oathkeeper charm. Which meant that Kairi had accepted that Sora was leaving and she was going to give him her charm again.
Kairi offered another small smile, but there was a wry cast to it this time. "I know that, too," was all her reply.
Riku gave her a knowing smirk before letting his feet take him almost silently down the boardwalk to Sora.
Sora sat in the paopu tree, thinking about the king's letter, watching the sun as it set along the horizon. It had been all he could think about since it arrived yesterday. He knew Riku had made his decision already; he had made it the moment Kairi had run up to them with the bottle in her hand. Riku didn't really think he belonged here anymore, not with everything that had happened to him over the past two years. But if Sora was truly honest with himself, he knew Riku hadn't really belonged on the islands long before that. Sora thought he himself probably would have been content to live on the islands forever before everything happened. As long as he had Kairi and Riku, he hadn't really needed anything else. The raft had been fun, but it had been mostly Riku's idea in the first place. Sora wasn't sure he had ever truly believed they would go anywhere on it.
It had been fun to dream of adventure and wish to go to other worlds. But Sora had to ask himself if he really would have been that disappointed if nothing had happened.
But things were different now. He thought back to Kairi's words before the world went crazy. Her quiet request for him not to ever change. And he thought, for the most part, he hadn't really. Yet, the Keyblade brought change wherever it went and he couldn't really help that. He still didn't quite understand all the particulars, but the Keyblade had chosen him. It had chosen him and Riku. That was something he couldn't just throw away.
A small smile crept across his lips. At least something he couldn't throw away without it coming back to him in any case.
He had been happy, ecstatic even, to see his family and friends. They had been so relieved that the three of them were safe, but he could see the confusion behind the relief and happiness. They didn't really remember the time during which the world had been destroyed. Then there was the year everyone forgot about him. Then Kairi disappeared on them as well; Sora still didn't know quite how long she'd been in the Organization's hands. And then they'd all just reappeared together, safe and perfectly fine, though with little explanation of where they had gone in the first place.
Sora didn't know how much he should tell everyone. He didn't want to exactly whip out the Keyblade and say, "Oh, by the way, I'm now a hero who saved all the worlds." It wasn't exactly a casual dinner topic. He could tell that they wanted them to explain (Riku seemed to be taking Sora's lead in this…for once…by not saying much anything either), but they were content for now to have them home.
Yet Sora was restless. He didn't quite belong here anymore. Maybe none of them did, except perhaps Kairi. Which was odd considering she was from Radiant Garden and not Destiny Islands in the first place. He didn't know if he could do it. He didn't know if he could just go back to school, hang out with his friends, and live with his family when he just itched to summon the Keyblade and wipe out some Heartless. So maybe he'd made his decision after all.
The King said people needed him, and he couldn't ignore that. He was the "key", whatever that meant. So he was going to go, because he was a Keyblade bearer now. It was what he had to do. He could even say that it was what he wanted to do. He would fight with the Keyblade until the worlds no longer needed him. Then, maybe, he would find some tower somewhere to hole up in, like Yen Sid, the King's teacher. The thought made him chuckle a little. Maybe he'd build one in Radiant Garden, and then Kairi could live in her home world. Maybe she'd be able to find her family, if they were still alive somewhere.
He heard soft footsteps along the boardwalk. Riku. It might have been inaudible to others, but Sora was used to listening for the soft shifting of Shadows or the quiet slinking of Dusks. "Sora," Riku called.
Sora turned to look at him, watching him approach, knowing that he was coming to see if Sora had made his decision. "Riku," he said, acknowledging his friend.
Riku stopped in the center of the small raised island. There was a pause between them before Riku asked, "Your mind's made up?"
Sora turned back to the sea. He should have known that Riku would have guessed that he would go. "Yeah," he said, nodding. There was another moment of silence between them.
Another pair of footsteps shortly interrupted a few seconds later. She must have been right behind him, or they had come together and she had waited for Riku to go first. "Sora," Kairi said. She just stared at him, a small smile on her face, her hands behind her back.
"Kairi, I…" Sora started to say, hopping down from the tree with his gaze downcast, trailing off his explanation as he realized that he didn't know exactly what to say. But she nodded and gave a small sound of agreement. Sora lifted his gaze, a little surprised that she seemed to know what he wanted to say without him having to say in. A small laugh escaped him. He walked over to her. "It's just…they really need me. I have to go. I am who I am…because of them."
Beside them, Riku let out a small laugh at his words. But Kairi just smiled and reached out to take his hand. She set something in it, something he hadn't seen with her hands behind her back. "See you soon," she said.
He looked down at his hand to see the Oathkeeper keychain. A smile burst across his face as his hand closed tightly around it. Maybe it didn't really matter that he didn't belong on the island anymore. Because wherever Riku and Kairi were, that was where he was meant to be.