No matter where we are, our hearts will bring us together again.
Nothing. That was what Sora has seen and felt, ever since he sacrificed himself to resurrect Kairi. A great infinite expanse of bleak nothingness, where his consciousness drifted aimlessly within the empty void, barely clinging onto wakefulness. A place where all lost souls ultimately end up, and perhaps that was where Kairi would go had he not interjected.
…No, he firmly denied. Kairi is a Princess of Heart, a chosen protector of the worlds. She would most likely rejoin Kingdom Hearts upon her passing.
That still doesn't make it any less tragic for her life to be cut short so suddenly. Kairi deserved to be happy, to live a long life. And Sora was more than happy to grant it, even at the expense of his own life. Even if it means wandering here for eternity, lost and forgotten.
He didn't mind at all. At least, that was what he told himself.
Truth to be told, Sora was beginning to feel restless as time flew past. It was impossible for him, as a formless spirit, to be able to check the time. And certainly in a blank void like where he currently was, time has no meaning. Centuries could very well have passed in the outside world, where his friends were all at. Or maybe no time had passed at all, and they had all moved on from the epic battle against the Thirteen Darknesses.
He wondered what had occured in the outside world, in his absence. What of Donald, Goofy, Mickey, and the rest of the Guardians of Light? How was Master Yen Sid? Did the Heartless activity finally dwindle to the point of near non-existence? Were there more Keyblade Wielders now? Were the worlds now safe from hostile world travellers?
So many questions, yet no way to answer them.
Sora let out a drawn-out, forlorn sigh. He glanced up, admiring the stunning starry sky in the Final World. A shooting star crossed the dark backdrop, leaving a trail of silver in its wake. He thought of his innocent days, back in Destiny Island, where they would sometimes sneak out to the Play Island at night to gaze at the stars. It often ended up into speculations of what lies in the worlds beyond their own, and fun banters.
His heart clenched wistfully, and he forced himself to tear his gaze away.
"At least they are all safe now…" he said to himself, continuing his purposeless walk in the void of sky and sea.
Hands in his pockets, Sora walked. And walked. And walked. That had been his routine since his arrival, and it was unlikely it would change anytime soon. Upon his entry, Sora had tried to open a Gate to leave. Keyword being tried. To his immense horror, he was unable to summon his Keyblade. No matter how much he concentrated, the fabled weapon simply refused to heed his calls.
Maybe it was disgusted at Sora's disregard for the laws of the universe, and had abandoned him for a better wielder? Well, it wasn't as if he hadn't expected that. Mickey, Chirithy, and so many others had warned him of the dire consequences that arose from abusing the Power of Waking. He had turned a deaf ear to them, and so he must face them.
An out-of-place colour caught Sora's eye. Snapped out of his reverie, he turned his sight towards the odd sight. A grey and white… spot? It was difficult to tell, with the dull lighting and the long distance between them. Curious, he ran over to its direction, hoping to get a better look. Something sprung forth within him, an emotion akin to scorching liquid fire that raged inside his heart. Sora couldn't put a name to it. It wasn't unpleasant, and it somewhat reminded him of the blood-boiling battles that he fought before.
That sense of urgency. The rush of pure adrenaline coursing through his veins. And most importantly, of the first time he saw the Ocean Between. What was it again… excitement?
"It IS a card!" whooped Sora, when he was finally at arm's length to the oddity that he spotted. Carefully, he scooped it out of the rippling watery ground, and examined it. "I wonder how it got here?"
The card looked frustratingly familiar. Its back was covered in motifs that looked like white crosses attached to an inverted heart, in a grey and black background. Sora initially couldn't place a finger to the symbols on the card, his mind muddled by god-knows-how-long he had been stranded on the Final World. He squinted his bright blue eyes at the motifs in deep concentration, finally widening when he recalled what it was, and who it once belonged to.
"Hey, isn't this… Luxord's wildcard?" he mused curiously to himself, remembering the card Luxord had given him in his last moments. He flipped the card, but the other side was blank.
"Huh? There's nothing-"
Before Sora could finish his sentence, he was immediately enveloped in a blinding golden light. Startled, he yelped, instinctively brought out his arms to shield his eyes from the light. His world plummeted into inky darkness, and an odd sensation of weightlessness seized him. After a few brief moments of what felt like drifting in a dark ocean, he was suddenly forced into a very tight rubber tube by a hand who clearly had no regard to him.
The former Keyblade wielder wanted to scream, to struggle, to make his indignation known, only to no avail. He could not open his eyes, as if some sicko had glued them together. It felt as if his lips had been sealed shut, and his vocal cords clamped shut so to prevent him from producing any sound. Around him, a voice reverberated through the dark void. Sora did not recognise who this voice belonged to, although he found himself admitting that it was very pleasant to hear, much like his mother's back when he was younger.
The voice, at first, was distorted. Sora could discern no intelligible words from it. To him, it was something of an accompaniment choir; they sang no lyrics, only humming to harmonise with the main melody. Bit by bit, he could begin to hear small parts of the voice's words. Sora knew they were words, but they were in a language he could not understand.
Language barriers had never been an issue for Sora when he was gallivanting the worlds, or for any Keyblade wielder for that matter. One of the weapon's mystical properties was that it translates the language spoken by a foreign world's inhabitants into one the wielder can understand, and vice versa. Something to do with allowing the Keyblade wielders to be able to do their jobs smoothly, if Sora could recall correctly. Now that he was unable to summon one… it was obvious as to why he could not understand a thing.
The claustrophobic sensation went away, and Sora found that he could move his body once again. Blearily opening his eyes, the first thing that he saw was a wooden ceiling, and him laying on something soft. By reflex, he sat up, and the next thing he noticed were his hands. They were a lot smaller, one that most likely belonged to a child no older than five or six. Confused, he brought his 'shrunken' hand closer to inspect it.
"Did I shrink or something?" he wondered aloud, only to stop short when he heard his voice. It wasn't the adolescent voice that he was accustomed to; it was childishly squeaky and high-pitched.
'Wait a minute…' he thought, with gradual horror as a realisation dawned upon him. 'Where am I?! Why am I a kid?!'
It was too much for poor Sora to take. He screamed. A long, absolutely terrified shriek. His screams were soon eclipsed by the thundering stomps of frantic footsteps rushing into the room Sora was in. Before he knew it, a woman with lilac eyes came into his view, flustered and anxious. A young girl barely four years of age clung at the woman's side, her dark red eyes shining with obvious concern.
The woman opened her mouth and spoke, but Sora couldn't understand a single thing. She sounded very worried, for reasons that the teenager-turned-boy didn't know.
Did she know him?
Sora certainly didn't recognise her. Or the young girl beside her for that matter, but he didn't like that he was somehow making them upset.
So, he turned his lips up into a reassuring smile, even though he didn't know what was said to him. Right on cue, a flash of splitting pain tore his skull, eliciting a pained cry and panicked reactions. Images forced themselves into his mind, appearing and disappearing before he could even acknowledge their existence. Then, as quickly as it began, it stopped. Panting, Sora faintly felt a comforting hand on his back. The boy stilled momentarily at the abrupt contact, before turning his eyes to where the hand came from.
"Tanjiro, are you alright?" asked the woman, her brows furrowed in concern. Her eyes looked weary, yet gleamed with light. Her eyes were mesmerising, but still it did not distract Sora from finding a discovery.
'I can understand her now… how?' he thought, amazed, averting his gaze downwards. 'Wait, what did she just call me?'
"Um… I think so," he replied carefully, rubbing both of his temples to drive away the lingering embers of his headache. "My head hurts."
"It must be the fever," she said, placing a hand on the boy's forehead.
Sora stared at her, awestruck, as foreign memories spilled into his mind. Among the mental images, he could hear snatches of a fiery-haired man and the lilac-eyed woman calling him… Tanjiro? Was that the owner of these memories's name? And he-no, Tanjiro, calling them father and mother respectively. The woman fussing over him was Tanjiro's mother? And if memory serves him well, she had called him Tanjiro.
His heart stilled at the conclusion that he had drawn out based on the assumptions he had made. Had he… by some phenomenal stroke of misfortune, accidentally displaced an innocent boy's heart out of his body? He badly wanted to clarify his situation, but memories of a certain duck mage screeching 'Order!' and whacking him on the head with his staff made him hold his tongue. He winced at those recollections.
Regardless, it was his responsibility to maintain the World Order, even when he no longer gallivanted the realms beyond. Most importantly, how can he break the news to them? Sora may have Tanjiro's memories, but he wasn't their son. And he didn't have the heart to deliver this crushing news to this weary but kind-looking woman.
"Are you alright, onii-chan?" asked the girl, looking up at him with those mesmerising dark red eyes.
Sora said nothing. He wondered who she was, and as if hearing his unsaid question, echoes of a voice identical to his current one whispered in his mind, accompanied by flashes of the red-eyed girl smiling, all of them calling the young girl 'Nezuko'. He assumed that this was Tanjiro's younger sister. If he squinted, the former Keyblade wielder thought he could see a bright aura of light enveloping the girl that the memories call Nezuko, resembling the sun that so often shone on his homeworld on sunny days.
She looked distraught that Sora did not answer her. That wouldn't do. Sora hated seeing people upset, especially when he caused it.
He bared her a comforting grin. "Don't worry, Nezuko! I'm feeling better now, see?"
"No, you're not," said T-no, his mother, frowning slightly. "Your forehead's freezing up! You're staying in bed, no excuses."
Sora let out a childish whine in protest. Nezuko giggled in amusement, her hand reaching out to pat him on the shoulder.
"I'll stay here with you!" she chirped, seemingly happy that her brother was feeling better. "Then you won't feel so lonely anymore."
The older boy had to resist the urge to give her a head pat. Seriously, she was so adorable! Instead, he settled for an appreciative smile. Thoughts of breaking the cold, harsh news to them dissipated in his mind. Sora really couldn't bear to tell them the truth, no matter what.
For the moment, Sora supposed he could play along for now. Really, though, figuring stuff out was never his thing. Riku was better at him when it comes to making the connections. It almost made him wish that he was with him…
For the moment, he'll just have to play by ear, and rely on the original Tanjiro's memories to get by.