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Chapter XVII: Frustrations of Like Minds

With the sun setting quickly, Merlin torched the logs in his fireplace and lighted a few oil lamps. Flicking his wand, Merlin powered a teapot to magically pour into a few mugs, which the mugs then floated to his guests, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, who all sat stilly on a large couch in silence. The murky-orange flames danced and crackled to add a feeling of mysticism in the room. Merlin stroked his long, white beard and paced around the room while his guests sipped their drinks and followed him with their eyes.

Merlin continued to pace around the room, stroking his beard, thinking, and mumbling.

“Merlin?” Mickey asked.

“Ah, err, oh,” the old wizard continued to mumble. “Oh, yes... I mean, no. No, I was just thinking of something.”

Donald shook his head in a lack of interest. Mickey sighed.

“If you noticed, the Heartless have not yet appeared in the Radiant Garden,” Merlin said. “And we do want to keep it that way, yes?”

“Of course, Merlin. But that’s not why we’re here,” Mickey said. “We need to know where we can find some help. We need to free the other worlds invaded by the Heartless?”

“And stop Maleficent and all her evil plans, hyuck!” added Goofy.

“Right,” whispered Mickey. “Got any ideas, old friend?”

“Ah,” Merlin replied quietly. He turned around to face the walls and resumed pacing around the room. The fires continued to sizzle, occasionally spitting sparks that scatter into the air. “Have you found Sora yet?”

“Yeah! He’s here with us,” Donald said excitedly, slurping his tea. “He should be at the marketplace.”

“Is that so? Well,” Merlin answered, turning around to face his guests again. “By all means! Bring him here!”

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“I knew it was something that made those other kids call us ‘cute!’” Kairi whispered to Sora.

“Yeah, that was really… interesting,” Sora said, laughing modestly.

“Yeah, pretty interesting,” Kairi supposed.

Had they realized they were holding hands the entire time when they strolled around the sidewalks, the little envious comments from the other teenagers in the marketplace would not have even been put forth. Yet, Sora and Kairi held each other’s hands while they strolled from one side of the marketplace to the other, browsing the shops, enjoying the little street performances, and simply relaxing. When a group of teenagers, relatively the same age as Sora and Kairi, passed by them, “aww’s” and “cute’s” and mesmerized sighs could be documented multiple times. At first, the two were slightly confused as to why the passing teens were winking at them and as to why one girl even said, “Why can’t you be that close to me?” to her apparent boyfriend. It was then they realized that they were holding hands and standing by each other much closer than they usually do and in a more than casual way. Exchanging a quick glance and an awkward chuckle, the two slowly and simultaneously released their hands.

“You know I was only holding your hand because I didn’t want you to get lost, right?” Kairi said, jokingly. Yeah, right, she thought to herself; she wanted to take her words back and say what she truly wanted to say instead. Self-control bid her to hold back.

“Yeah, same here,” said Sora a bit uncomfortably. What? he thought. Same what? Err…

Amid a state of awkwardness and mind-boggling personal thoughts, the two friends continued their way around the marketplace. Even with constant noises around them, such as the hundreds of civilian chats and discussions, clanging and clattering of props from street performers, and numerous other indistinguishable sounds, the uncomfortable silence between Sora and Kairi was deafening for them. Neither one had the will strong enough to initiate a conversation. The only things they could do were to sneak glances at each other when the other paid no attention or remain in their awkward situation in silence and frustration.

This is horrible, Sora grimaced. Kairi and I talk all the time with every chance we have. Why is it so different now? Are we just being silly or are we really changing? We just had to hold hands with each other!

I haven’t said anything to him for a while, Kairi thought miserably. What happened to us? Usually we can’t shut each other up, and now we can’t get each other to talk. I sort of wish I didn’t grab his hand before…

Just as Sora was about to open his mouth to speak, multiple footsteps sounded closer and closer to them. In a short time, Donald and Goofy appeared in front of them. They were panting since they ran a fairly long distance from the first borough to the middle of the marketplace.

“Sora, Kairi, c’mon!” Donald quacked. “You two need to get to Merlin’s right away.”

“Oh,” Kairi said. She looked at Sora and noticed his burning frustration. At least we still get to be miserable together. Not like we lost everything, she noted with little reprieve.

“All right,” Sora finally sighed, his shoulders sagging. “Let’s get going, then.”

Sora and Kairi walked past Donald and Goofy in silence and led the way. Donald and Goofy tagged behind them and stayed a fair distance away.

“Gawrsh, Donald, what do you think is goin’ on between Sora and Kairi?” Goofy questioned as quietly as possible. “They don’t look so good.”

“Who knows, I don’t understand kids these days,” Donald scoffed.

“You think maybe we should ask ‘em?” Goofy asked.

“Wak! No!” Donald shouted, drawing Sora and Kairi’s attention.

“Huh?” they both said at the same time.

Sora looked at Kairi for a brief moment and scratched his head, perplexed. “Is there something wrong? Something… on my head, Donald?” Sora asked.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Donald sputtered and waved his arms frantically. “Never mind.”

The sun completely set as the evening moon rose into the tourmaline blue sky by the time the group arrived at the door to Merlin’s house. The outside of the house appeared exactly the way Sora remembered it: small and simple.

“Good ol’ Merlin,” Sora said spontaneously, trying to lighten the mood.

The group entered the house together and was greeted by Mickey and Merlin instantly. Merlin once again magically enhanced a teapot to pour drinks by itself and had the tea-filled mugs float to the respective guests. Sora and Kairi bid “no thank you” to the tea and sat down together on a couch. The flames from the fireplace continued to flash with glowing intensity.

“Sora, m’boy! It’s good to see you again!” Merlin cheered.

“It’s good to se you too, Merlin,” Sora replied earnestly.

Merlin switched his attention away from Sora for a moment. “Ah, and dear Kairi.”

“Hello, Merlin,” Kairi greeted and smiled meekly.

“Good, good!” Merlin exclaimed, more to himself than anyone else. “We have three out of four Keyblade-wielders here. Then I must ask, where is the fourth?”

Sora’s smile turned upside down. “Umm, Riku’s… missing.”

“I do pray he is safe then,” Merlin said. “His help would be invaluable.”

“We all do,” Sora added.

Merlin nodded. “Well?” he started again, he looked towards Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, then back to Sora and Kairi. “Well, then. I assume you both know your magic?”

Sora and Kairi looked at each other in question and then shook their heads.

“Dear me,” Merlin mumbled. “Well, we best use our time wisely now.”

“Actually, I remember some of my spells out of nowhere sometimes,” Sora interrupted. “Like when Kairi and I were in trouble before in Destiny Islands, I used the Reflect, Fire, and Cure spells out of nowhere. That’s pretty much all I remember now.”

Merlin stroked his beard. “Hmm, intriguing. Then I think you’ll be fine with a little refresher lesson. And how about you, Kairi?”

“Heh, I don’t know any magic at all,” Kairi replied quietly, letting out a small giggle.

“Tsk tsk,” Merlin said, shaking his head. “A Keyblade-wielder must know some forms of magic! I will start with Sora and move you all along your journeys. I will leave Sora the responsibility to teach you the forms of magic. I assume you two will have plenty of time during your journey to practice magic.”

Sora sat up and his eyes bulged slightly in surprise. “Me? Teach? Really?”

“Of course. If you teach, I guarantee it will also help you remember the spells. Just so you won’t carelessly forget everything again,” Merlin lectured.

Another excuse to spend time together, Sora thought. How does everything always seem to go in one direction all the time?

Hmm, this could be interesting, Kairi thought. I wonder how this will turn out. Good? Awkward again?

She knew she loved the idea. She would’ve applauded and cheered with glee. One thing though, Kairi had her fears. What if Sora thought of her as nothing more than a good friend? That was Kairi’s main fear. Besides that, it was pain. Not physical pain, but emotional pain. At the moment, they were nothing more than close friends. An indescribable barrier had kept their closeness at bay, with neither person developing anything more. Kairi wanted to shatter the barrier and go forth. Yet, her final fear was the possibility of Sora dwelling behind the barrier for all eternity.

These were Kairi’s thoughts that she believed were well-kept secrets. Sora certainly does not have a remote idea how Kairi thought of him. He himself remained confused of where Kairi and his friendship was heading. If Sora had anything to fear, it would be the fear of finding out the answer to his question. Where is this friendship leading us? he asked himself.

For Kairi, she could only imagine and dream of where the friendship was heading towards. She hummed the one song that always kept her heart and mind tranquil.

Regardless of warnings,

The future doesn’t scare me at all.

Nothing’s like before.”

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