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Chapter XX: The Gathering, and Another Step Closer

At dawn, Kairi woke up from her satisfying and vitalizing sleep. At first, she couldn’t remember whether she pulled the curtains together the previous night or not, or if she did snuggle and tuck her blankets all around her. Kairi shrugged off her questions and proceeded in getting out of bed. She examined her still torn clothes and decided to ask Merlin if he could mend the clothes with magic.

After she put on her clothes, Kairi was alarmed by a sound in the room. However, relief overcame her as she saw Sora’s figure flopped on a couch on the opposite side of the room. He held his Keyblade upright, making him appear as if he was awake and alert. Yet his eyes were closed and he let out calm snoring sounds. Kairi smiled and decided not to wake up her sleeping friend. She tiptoed out the door and into the hallway.

Being that it was awfully early in the day (the sun was barely showing over the horizon), Kairi did not expect to find many of her companions up and awake. Conversely, the door of the house was wide open when Kairi arrived on the first floor. Someone must be awake.

Kairi found Donald and Goofy still slumped on the sofas and couches, both sound asleep. Then it could be either Mickey or Merlin who was awake and quite possibly outside. Thinking, Kairi decided it would also be good to stretch and get some fresh air outside before the day truly started. Still, she wished to find Merlin, just so she could perhaps have her dress fixed up…

Luckily for Kairi, Merlin was indeed awake, but he was indoors. Caught by surprise, Kairi let out a small yelp when Merlin appeared in front of her through a puff of blue smoke.

“Now, now, you mustn’t be alarmed, Kairi,” Merlin chuckled. “I often tend to travel via blue smoke. Anyhow?eh, you seem to be confused, Kairi. Are you looking for something?”

“Yeah, actually, I was looking for you, Merlin,” said Kairi. “I was wondering if you have any way of fixing up my dress.”

Merlin tapped his feet and stroked his beard in thought. “Undeniably, magic can do amazing things. Come, come, Kairi! Let me demonstrate!”

Merlin and Kairi entered another room nearby. It was a small room with nothing but a single round table placed in the center of the room. Merlin bid Kairi to sit on the table and relax while he prepared a simple “fixing” spell.

Kairi shut her eyes as a white beam of light flashed from Merlin’s wand and struck her in the chest. She imagined pain, but there was none. All Kairi felt was a blanket of warmth enveloping her body. Slowly, she opened her eyes and found the fading white light coating her clothes. When the light fully dissolved away, her original pink dress was no longer torn. Everything looked brand new again.

“That was very cool. Thank you, Merlin!” Kairi cheered.

“You are very welcome, Kairi. I couldn’t possibly have you traveling in worn out clothes, now could I? No, you must be comfortable while traveling! It is as simple as that.”

Kairi thanked Merlin again and turned to make her way to the staircase and return to the second floor. Indeed she was much more comfortable in her clothes, now that it was no long torn, smudged, and battered and didn’t feel gross to her anymore. She stuck her head into the room she was sleeping in and heard Sora’s continuous snores.

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At the Postern, much further into the Radiant Garden, Mickey awaited for a ship’s landing. He saw it before the sun even rose into the sky, a small light shining still hundreds of miles above the atmosphere. Friend or foe, Mickey wished to investigate.

His fear of meeting up with more enemies gradually disappeared as he heard somewhat familiar voices from the descending ship. Although he could not recognize the voices from the booming engines of the ship, he knew the voices belonged to people he knew. The ship landed, the cabin roof lifted, and Mickey beamed. He immediately recognized Yuffie, Cid, Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith.

“You guys came back!” he exclaimed.

“Yup!” Yuffie cried back as she lifted Mickey off the ground and swung him around in a circle.

“How’s everythin’, Your Majesty?” Cid asked briskly.

Yuffie put Mickey back on the ground. “Well,” Mickey said, clearing his throat. “Everything’s goin’ pretty well over here. Hey, how does your world look? Is everything fully restored?”

Mickey remembered the time when they all fought against the Heartless near the very location they were standing in. It was one of the greatest Heartless sieges he had ever dealt with and was extremely glad that Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and Yuffie were in the front lines with him battling the Heartless.

“Everything was restored,” Aerith said. “But it wasn’t long before the Heartless attacked us again. Even some of the Nobodies?”

“You met Nobodies?” Mickey asked, exasperated.

“Cid and Barrett did,” Yuffie pointed over. “Barrett’s the big guy.”

“Err… nice to meet ya, Barrett!”

“Hey, you’re a king? Then it’s an honor meeting you!” Barrett chuckled, shaking Mickey’s hand.

Mickey felt dizzy from the heavy shaking from Barrett’s great strength. He shook his head to wake himself up. “So, Barrett… Cid. I wonder, what did these Nobodies look like?”

“I couldn’t really tell,” said Barrett. “They were two of ‘em. And they were in these blank cloaks?”

“That’s what I was afraid of…” Mickey sighed.

Not a single person changed since their last encounters. Cloud still had his blonde, spiky hair and his enigmatic look. A gargantuan sword was strapped to his back. Tifa still appeared slender and had her long, silky black hair and her black, leather attire. Aerith still donned a red bow over her brown hair, wearing her pinkish, red dress. Cid still wore a simple t-shirt with jeans, along with a set of pilot goggles placed casually across his forehead. Yuffie dressed in her typical ninja uniform, headband and all, with her humongous shuriken slung over her back. Cloud, Tifa, and Vincent leapt off the Sierra and landed next to their comrades. Mickey greeted them and was then introduced to the melancholy-appearing Vincent.

“Vincent, huh?” Mickey asked.

“That’s correct,” said Vincent.

Mickey nodded. “Oh, that’s right,” he said suddenly. “Sora and Kairi are here! They’re waiting at Merlin’s.”

“Merlin’s! Hah, he better not have screwed up my computer,” Cid roared happily.

“Kairi? Who’s this Kairi? You didn’t mention any Kairi, Yuffie,” Barrett wondered.

“Oh, if I recall, Kairi’s this sweet girl that Sora hangs out with,” Yuffie replied. “I think I’ve only seen her once and I haven’t seen her for a very long time. I wonder if she’ll remember any of us?”

“I’ve never met her,” said Cloud.

“Me neither,” Tifa added.

“I don’t think I even remember her,” Cid followed.

“Well, then!” Mickey cut in. “That gives us more of a reason to hurry back. Kairi would be more than happy to meet you guys. And I know Sora would be more than happy to see all of you again.”

“Than let’s go!” roared Barrett. “I wanna see how tough this Sora kid is!”

“Just don’t mess with him,” Cloud grunted.

“Yeah, yeah, spiky, I swear I won’t…”

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Soraaaa…

Sora, wake up…

Hey, Sora!

“Huh, what? W-who?” Sora sputtered, kicking his legs into the air and flailing his arms in every direction.

Kairi giggled and peeked into Sora eyes from above him. Sora rubbed his eyes and sighed.

“Oh, good morning, Kairi. How long have you been up?”

Kairi didn’t answer and instead began dancing around the room and made it obvious that she was trying to show off her mended dress. Sora chuckled amusedly.

“Okay, I see it, Kairi. Did Merlin fix up your clothes for you?”

“You got it,” she said as she stopped dancing. “Hey! Wake up!” Kairi slapped Sora’s cheeks playfully. Sora sputtered again and Kairi giggled in response.

“Ahh, I’m tired, Kairi! I was up all night practicing magic…”

“No, Sora, you’re lazy!” Kairi smirked and changed her tone. “Hey, did you pull the curtains over and tuck me in last night after I fell asleep?”

Yeah, and I don’t know why I did it, but I sure felt like I had to, Sora said to himself.

“Yeah, that was me. You didn’t mind, did you?” he asked.

“No way,” Kairi said softly. “I thought it was sweet… and cute.” Cute? I think Sora’s “ cute” now?

Cute? Sora thought. Since when did I become “cute?”

“Umm, thanks… I guess?” Sora mumbled incoherently.

“Mm… you’re welcome,” Kairi hummed, giving Sora a sincere smile.

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Seven warriors and one mouse-king trekked through the first borough. Early morning risers peered out their windows or simply over their shoulders at the amazing sight. What could they be doing here? Is the town in trouble again? Even with paranoid questions breezing through the townspeople’s minds, the sight of the warriors did provide a sense of security; like patrol officers do for other towns and villages.

“These people are lookin’ at us funny,” Barrett commented.

“Relax, people always do that when they see folks from another world,” Cid said.

“Yo, but?”

“Shut up,” Cloud retorted. “We’re here.”

The group appeared before Merlin’s small, cottage-like house. The door was still open from when Mickey first left before sunrise. Mickey stepped in first while the others stood waiting by the doorway. Donald and Goofy were still asleep, but Mickey soon changed that fact.

“Donald! Goofy! Sound the alarms!” Mickey yelled out.

“Wak! Oh no, no, show yourselves and I’ll take ‘em all down!” Donald randomly screeched, flapping his arms wildly and blindly.

“What’s happenin’!” Goofy cried out and leapt up from the sofa he was sleeping on, followed by spastically tripping across the room.

Mickey had no choice but to laugh at his friends. Donald and Goofy scrambled to stand up straight and then saluted to their king.

“Calm down, fellas, I just wanted to get you guys to wake up. We have visitors!”

Donald and Goofy looked to the doorway and were instantly filled with joy. Mickey beckoned the group to enter the house. Yuffie sprinted in first and hung onto Donald and Goofy.

“Gawrsh, it seems like it’s been forever since we last saw each other!” Goofy remarked.

“Yeah, it’s good to see everyone again once in a while,” said Donald.

The sound of chatters disseminated around the room, everyone exchanging a few words of greeting. Merlin, carrying a tray of breakfast, stopped and stared at all the people in his living room. The chatter gradually quieted down as many heads turned in the direction of Merlin.

“My, my, if I knew I was going to have so many guests, I would have whipped up some more breakfast!” Merlin exclaimed. Then he saw Cid. “Cid! Your computer has been untouched since you all left, so no need to worry!”

“Good to hear that, old man,” Cid shouted above everyone else.

Merlin would have preferred something besides “old man.” He knew he was older, but he hated the fact that Cid always called him an old man. Nothing like a thunderbolt from his wand couldn’t fix.

“Old, huh? Would you like to eat lightning instead of breakfast, Cid?” Merlin asked, chuckling.

“Oh, he’s got you beat,” Barrett said, mocking Cid.

“Eh, well… dang,” Cid grumbled.

Accepting the humorous mood, everyone in the living room began talking freely again. Yet, on the floor above, Sora and Kairi were still in the bedroom, ignoring the voices below them. There was something that was triggered between them that morning. Something neither of them had truly felt before. It may quite possibly be something that will affect them for the rest of their time together. A strange silence surrounded the two of them, yet it was a silence that neither of them wished to break.

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