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Chapter XIV: Bailing Out

Sora started to stack a few chairs on top of each other so he could reach the window’s ledge. He wasn’t short, but he wasn’t exactly a ten-foot pole either. He reached for the window’s lock, but falling a few inches short. Kairi was mending her pink dress, which was to some extent torn or soiled in certain areas. Sora just kept staring at Kairi instead of further attempts at opening the window.

He eventually broke himself off from his stupor and looked at the window again.

“Hey, Kairi, do you think you can reach the lever on the ledge?” Sora asked.

Kairi stopped her activity and looked up at Sora. “Umm, I’m sort of shorter than you. If you can’t reach it, how can I?”

“I’ll give you a boost! Come on up.”

“Okay then…”

Though it was just the two of them in the room, it was an awkward, clumsy sight. Sora helped Kairi up the first few chairs, which gently shook at the new weight. However, when Kairi climb onto Sora’s shoulders and reached for the window lever, she forgot what exactly she was wearing: A short, tight dress, which was, not to mention, also slightly ripped at the edges. Sora, unconsciously looking up to check on Kairi’s progress, turned brick red and almost tripped off the chairs.

Kairi screamed at the sudden loss of balance, but calmed down after Sora regained it. “Don’t scare me like that!” she yelped.

“Err, I, umm, uh, y-you… oh man,” Sora sputtered, looking towards the floor instead.

“What’s wrong?” Kairi asked, confused.

Sora turned red again. “Uh, nothing. N-nothing!’

“You’re weird,” Kairi said while giggling, evidently not understanding what Sora was blushing about. “I almost got it.”

“Good,” Sora said, looking up. His eyes widened and he nearly tripped again.

“Sora!” Kairi yelled in a panicky tone. “Why are you?”

She met Sora’s eyes and turned pink just the same as Sora did.

Oh no, Sora’s heart started to beat furiously and he began to fret. He barely breaks a sweat fighting the Heartless, yet he was perspiring profusely at the moment.

“Sora, were you looking up my dress!” Kairi asked curiously, hiding her embarrassment.

“It was an accident, I s-swear!” Sora explained spastically like a five-year old. “Honestly, I l-looked up to see how you’re handling things, and… y-yeah, you know.”

Boys, Kairi thought. She sighed, “Well, I guess it’s kind of my fault for wearing a short dress.”

“I, uh, w-well you, no, umm?” Sora stammered. Shut up! he told himself.

“Shh, it’s okay,” said Kairi quietly, putting her index finger on Sora’s lips. “I mean, we’re close friends, right? So it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.” Then why am I still blushing?

Sora sighed. He was lucky Kairi was one of the nice girls. Why, why, why? he asked himself. That was so stupid of me, ugh, why! He shut his eyes to prevent any further mishaps. He wanted to kick himself, but Kairi, who continued to work with the levers that maintained the window’s locks, was still standing on his shoulders. Sora held back and limited himself to simply cursing his previous actions.

With a click, the locks loosened and fell off the window’s hinges and Kairi cheered. She pushed open the window and allowed the breeze, which had a scent resembling sea salt, to flow into the room. She gasped.

“Sora, look!” Kairi pointed out the window and to the sky. “There’s something up there!”

Sora stood on his toes and tried his best to get a decent view of the outside. He couldn’t see the land, but he could see a good portion of the sky. Incoming was a small dot, which Sora could not discern what it was. But as the object closed in, Sora and Kairi were overjoyed. The Celsius halted right by the open window with its cockpit facing the two. Inside, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy waved their hands. Mickey mouthed something and turned the Gummi ship to its side, with an open door awaiting Sora and Kairi. Eagerly, the two teens hopped onto the window’s ledge, Kairi helping Sora up, and both of them stepped into the ship.

Panting with relief, Sora and Kairi instantly found two seats behind Mickey, Donald, and Goofy and threw themselves into them. Donald was the first to speak.

“Wondering how we found you two?” he said, quacking semi-intelligibly.

“Yeah, tell us, please,” Sora and Kairi pleaded.

Donald motioned to Mickey, who was piloting the ship.

“Well,” Mickey began. “We got to the Radiant Garden quite quickly, so we decided to check up on you guys. In little time, we landed on Destiny Islands on the same spot you guys landed the Highwind. We figured where you guys went by followin’ your footprints. But then, your footprints disappeared in a dusty town, so we lost the trail. We realized somethin’s gone wrong when a bunch of Heartless started showing up outta nowhere! So we ran back to the shores and took our ship to check around the islands from the air, but we still couldn’t see you guys. Then we decided to check out Costa Island, right here. Luckily for you two, we came here as quickly as we could.”

Mickey stopped and furrowed his eyebrows. “Where’s Riku?”

“We got separated, King Mickey,” Sora began. “This Nobody, named Sarlix, I think she captured Riku. But we don’t know where she is…”

“Gee, Silra, huh,” Mickey said, thinking at the same time. “She was a friend of Gylmer’s. Now they both became Heartless beings and Nobodies.”

A period of silence took over the ship, not one member of the party spoke or moved. As the Celsius passed through the void, the only sounds that could be heard were lasers blasting away a few scattered Heartless ships. Taking a glimpse out the closest window, Sora caught the sight of a few gateways that served as routes for ships like the Gummis.

Warping through one of the gateways, the Celsius appeared on another side of the void with a certain world directly ahead of it. The Radiant Garden. Although it wasn’t too long since Sora set foot in the township, he felt as if it had been ages since he was last here. He was eager to see some of the familiar faces there. Turning to Kairi to alert her about their upcoming landing, Sora noticed she was sleeping soundly, and left the sleeping girl alone for a few more minutes instead.

“Your Majesty,” Sora said finally. “Who’s still at the Radiant Garden right now?”

Mickey thought for a couple of seconds. “Hmm, we only saw Merlin at his house. I bet everyone else went back to their worlds.”

So everyone went home, Sora thought. Leon, Yuffie, Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, and Cid.

“Are Donald’s relatives still around the marketplace?” Sora asked.

“Nope,” Donald replied. “They all went home.”

“Home…” Sora said, more to himself than anyone else. “Destiny Islands is still in trouble. Do you think we can go back there soon, King Mickey?”

Donald and Goofy looked solemnly at Sora, then at Mickey.

“We’ll try our best, Sora. Don’t worry,” said the king. “Oh, we’re here.”

Sora nudged Kairi gently. She slowly stretched her arms and yawned peacefully. Opening her eyes, Kairi noticed Sora first, who was looking back at her. Kairi could feel herself turning pink again so she quickly closed her eyes and rubbed her face.

“How long was I asleep for?” she asked.

“Not too long. Maybe an hour,” Sora answered. “Hey, wake up. We’re landing.”

“Where are we?”

“The Radiant Garden.”

“The Radiant Garden…”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, my birthplace…”

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