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Chapter XVIII: One Step Closer

Sarlix and Xymgrel stood by a dark corner on the plains and watched as the Sierra took off into the night sky. Evidently, the warriors they were supposed to seek out had just departed from the world. Almost without hesitation, Sarlix focused her powers on a random member on the Sierra, attempting to pry into the hapless victim’s mind.

On the Sierra, Cloud suddenly felt his mind convulse and his balance slipping away. He tried to shake away the odd feeling and sat down on one of the chairs in the pilot’s cabin. Cid was piloting, so he did not notice Cloud’s peculiar facial expression. The rest of the group were scattered around the cabin, each person minding their own business. Cloud remained seated and rubbed his head, a bead of sweat sliding down the side of his face.

“You don’t look so well,” Vincent murmured as he passed by. “Sick?”

“I don’t think so,” Cloud responded, still massaging his head. “Where are we heading to first?”

“I wouldn’t know. Ask Cid.”

“The Radiant Garden, of course,” Cid yelled from the front.

Of course, Cloud thought. That place is like a second home to all of us. With that one thought, the odd feeling in his head vanished and his mental being returned to normal.

“What the hell…” he muttered.

“What is it?” Vincent questioned.

“Nothing. I just had this strange feeling in my head before. It just disappeared all of a sudden.”

“Huh,” Vincent grunted in response as he continued on his way.

The Sierra broke through the world’s atmosphere and gradually warped out of sight and into the void, well on its way to the Radiant Garden.

“Nice. First time I’ve seen actual space,” Barrett remarked.

“Technically we’re in the void, but it’s pretty satisfying sometimes. Let’s hope those Heartless don’t screw up our world again while we’re gone,” Cid replied.

Back on the plains, Sarlix dropped her focus and turned to face Xymgrel. She put her hood back over her head and motioned for him to follow her. The Radiant Garden, Sarlix noted to herself. She opened a dark portal and stepped into it.

“We’re going to the Radiant Garden, come on.”

Xymgrel followed. “How did you find out where they were going?”

“I have my ways.” The figures of the Nobodies disappeared from the plains as the dark portal slowly closed and dissipated into the air.

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“Sora? Do you wish to begin now, or would you prefer to call it a night and we start tomorrow morning?”

Sora looked to the old wizard and gave the choices a thought. The fires were dying out and the brilliant moonlight could be seen shining through the windowpanes. It was well into the night, but still a few hours off midnight. Sora decided to take up some magic refreshing courses with Merlin right away.

“Let’s start right now and work a few hours,” Sora suggested.

“Good! Very ambitious. We will start now and we will review tomorrow morning,” said Merlin.

Sora nodded. Kairi yawned.

“If you guys don’t mind, I think I’ll call it a day for me,” Kairi said tiredly. With a smile, she lied down on the couch with her head on the armrest.

Merlin stroked his beard and started mumbling to himself. “Ooh, err, oh yes, ah…” his wand flashed once and the light faded. “Done! Sora, please show Kairi upstairs to the first room on the right. Perfectly suitable for a princess of heart.”

Man, she looks tired, Sora noted. He poked Kairi’s arm and got her to open her eyes.

“C’mon, Kairi. I’m gonna show you to your room,” he said.

“Oh, okay… thank you,” Kairi responded with a yawn, somewhat dazed.

The two started upstairs through a small, cliché, winding staircase that, for some reason, seemed like all sorcerers or sorceresses had. The entire second floor was wooden, and seemed centuries old. The ancient, antique-like appearance of the second story for some reason also instilled a sense of luxury and refuge. Eagerly, Kairi jolted awake and followed closely behind Sora. They approached the first room on the right in the hallway and pushed open the door. Indeed it was fitting for a princess of heart. There was a grand-sized bed in the far corner of the room, with quality tapestry spread all across the walls. The moonlight shone through the great windows that covered the furthest side of the room. The moon itself could be seen glowing in the night sky.

Kairi squealed with glee and Sora found himself staring at the majestic room. This kind of room was the last thing he would expect in Merlin’s tiny, simple hut. Sora wondered if this was even Merlin’s room to begin with. It seemed very… feminine. Perhaps it was because of the pink blankets and light-pink pillows that were distributed about the large, fluffy bed. Sora raised his eyebrow as he humorously thought of this room as Merlin’s.

Sora felt something pulling at his arm. It was both of Kairi’s hands tugging at him.

“Sora, come on! Aren’t you in any way excited about this room?” Kairi continued squealing excitedly.

“Believe me, I definitely am! But, aren’t you tired? You did look really tired a while ago. Why don’t you get some sleep?” Sora suggested.

Kairi gave Sora a mischievous look. “Hey, I was faking it…”

“Faking it?” Sora asked, surprised.

“Mhm,” Kairi smiled.

“What for?”

Oh great! Kairi thought. How could I not see that question coming? Of course Sora would ask that question. He’s too curious.

“Kairi?”

Quick, think of something to say, anything! Get him to stay...

“Kairi? Hellooo…”

“Hey, Sora! Whenever you’re ready, come on down and you and Merlin can get started!” Mickey’s voice sounded from a story down.

“Okay, Your Majesty! I’ll be right there,” Sora hollered. He whispered lightly, “Get some sleep, Kairi. I guess I’ll see you in the morning?”

Kairi pouted, upset that Sora was leaving. “Okay, fine. Go play with your little magic...” I’m being so selfish, Kairi thought to herself, a teardrop collecting at the tips of her long eyelashes. Half of her wanted to slap herself for being upset for such a dumb reason while the other half was still a-hundred percent ticked off.

Sora was already at the top of the staircase ready to head downstairs when Kairi said that and Sora did not understand what she was upset about. He stopped and looked back at Kairi, who had her back turned to him. He sighed and returned to her.

He saw the teardrop tremble at the corner of Kairi’s eye, ready to drop any moment, and he did the only thing any good, concerned friend could do. He took his thumb and gently wiped off the one teardrop and looked into her eyes. They were moist, but not showing any signs of bursting out tears.

“How are you feeling? Kairi, what’s wrong…” Sora finally asked.

Kairi tried her best to shake off the remnants of her inexcusable selfishness. She took a deep breath, held it, and let out a long, heavy sigh that surely drew Sora’s attention.

“I just needed a good night hug… that’s all,” she lied.

Sora showed Kairi a crooked smile and offered her his hand. Kairi smiled back and let herself fall gently into Sora’s embrace. She firmly wrapped her arms around her dear friend and rested her head on his chest. For a moment, Kairi wished she could just fall into an eternal sleep right there, listening to Sora’s heartbeats and gentle breathing.

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“Gawrsh, what do you think is takin’ Sora?” Goofy wondered.

“Ah, Goofy. Let those two have some time to themselves. Our lesson could wait a few more minutes, it is not too big a deal,” said Merlin.

“I’m here,” Sora called from behind the group. Donald and Mickey peeked over the heads of Goofy and Merlin.

“Oh, dear, you scared me there, Sora. Ahem! Well, now, are you ready? Shall we get started?” Merlin asked.

“Ready when you are, Merlin!”

Merlin nodded. He summoned a spell that enchanted a large table in the middle of the room.

“Hop on, Sora!”

Sora did as he was told and he and Merlin were elevated into the air by the floating table. They then traversed into a different room: a circular room with numerous household objects and appliances. Sora recognized this room as the room where he first trained under Merlin in Traverse Town. It was the exact same room.

Merlin took out his wand and cast a few spells that animated the bowls, plates, drawers, and cupboards around the room. Sora summoned his Keyblade and awaited the first magic drill…

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