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Chapter XXI: Second Reunion

They seemed to like staring, since neither of them looked away from each other. Sora had his eyes locked on to Kairi’s. Kairi had her eyes locked on to Sora’s. The voices of new people could be heard from the floor below, but neither Sora nor Kairi cared about that. Their attention was on each other for the time being.

The last thing that was said was a simple “you’re welcome” from Kairi. But in a short time after the words, a strange, indescribable feeling engulfed the two teens. Something awakened. Something that Kairi felt in her dreams. As for Sora, the feeling was not entirely new to him, but it was surely a feeling that baffled him. What was this feeling? Kairi felt herself more and more mesmerized with each passing minute. Sora simply stayed still, not willing to budge nor say a word.

What has become of us? This is too weird for my liking, Sora thought to himself. Is this even what friends do? Just simple friends? What if Riku was right? What if Kairi…

I hate this, but I love it just the same, thought Kairi. This is happening way too often nowadays. I don’t want us to be awkward or anything. But I can’t help it…

While they continued to face each other without sharing any words of exchange, Sora and Kairi each mentally battled their own selves. As they spent their years with each other, day in and day out, their friendship grew stronger and stronger with each passing day. It seemed to be quite natural, as friendships do grow stronger in time. However, Sora’s and Kairi’s seemed to heading towards another direction: a deeper relationship more profound than that of a simple friendship. Sora knew it as well as Kairi did. Although Sora did care for her, he never knew how much he loved her. He was completely clueless, never giving a thought as to where Kairi and his friendship was heading. He never even suspected anything until recently.

As for Kairi, she had already secretly harbored feelings for Sora for a fairly long period of time. It all started on the first day she met Sora. The first few years they became acquainted with one another. Eventually they became closer than any two simple friends could become. With the first appearance of the Heartless, Kairi’s relations with Sora only improved. In time, she fell in love, but she could not identify her feeling. A year passed after their separation and Kairi still held onto the memories of Sora. Then she realized it. Sora mattered more than just a friend. At times, she wished the relationship to be of something more. But still, in self-conflict, she wished to simply remain as a close friend to Sora, nothing more.

Confusion choked Sora as well as Kairi. Little do they know that they each felt the same way about each other. Thus, they said nothing and did nothing. Sora looked to Kairi and Kairi looked back. Kairi smiled faintly and Sora smiled back.

I do think he’s cute, Kairi noted to herself. I don’t recall every saying that to him though. Actually, I don’t recall ever calling him cute, or handsome, or anything like that. She sighed.

She can even make sighing look wonderful, Sora thought sadly. One year without seeing her and I find myself staring. I don’t remember looking at her or even noticing her this way before.

“Kairi?”

“Sora?”

“Umm…”

“Hmm? Oh?”

“I, uh?”

“Er?it’s okay, uh…”

“N-no, go ahead…”

“Well?”

So much for progress, Sora and Kairi both thought. They both turned slightly pink and laughed.

At least we can laugh together, at each other or at ourselves.

“Hey, umm… maybe we should go downstairs? It seems like there are other people here…” Kairi suggested uncertainly.

“Yeah,” that was all Sora could muster in his reply.

Eventually they will have to talk about their awkward moments. Sora knew that Kairi felt the same awkwardness at times. Kairi knew that Sora was not entirely clueless. It was inevitable. Both of them knew that the two of them were in an uncomfortable stage. The only thing they did not know was how exactly do they both feel for one another. Still completely confused and lost, Sora and Kairi proceeded in leaving the room and making their way to where everyone else was.

Heads turned as Sora and Kairi made their way into view of everyone. Tifa, Aerith, Yuffie, and Cid all sat on one couch, Vincent, Cloud, and Barrett stood casually nearby, and Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Merlin were in the center of the room. Sora’s issues temporarily faded away as bliss overtook him.

“Y-you’re all back?” he asked excitedly.

Yuffie leapt from the couch and hugged Sora in a friendly greeting. Cloud, Cid, Tifa, and Aerith strolled over to Sora and greeted him.

“Gosh, you’re taller than ever,” Yuffie commented. “Well, that’s not really saying much. I’m just a bit short.”

“Heh,” Sora chuckled. “It’s good to see you guys again. Yuffie, Cloud, Cid, Aerith, Tifa.”

“Hey,” Cloud said to Sora calmly and coolly. “How’s it going with you, Sora?”

“I’m okay. Same old fighting-the-Heartless business.”

“I see,” responded Cloud.

Sora nodded and peered past Cloud at two male characters that he did not recognize.

“Are those guys your friends?” Sora asked.

“Yup,” Cid answered. “The really big guy with the mechanical right arm is Barrett. The weird, creepy man in the red cape is Vincent.”

Vincent scowled at Cid’s description of him. Sure, he appeared like an undead, with his ashy eyes, his ghostly long black hair, his left arm equipped with golden claws, and his ragged, red cape. He had a deep, monotone voice, not to mention his taste in sleeping in coffins, but he was one of the most philosophical party members and had a good heart.

Sora walked up to Vincent and Barrett and stuck out his hand. Barrett took Sora’s hand into his mechanical one and shook it in greeting. Vincent did the same with his gold, metallic left hand. Both men were at least a head or a head-and-a-half taller than Sora.

“Sora, huh?” Barrett grunted. “I heard a lot about you on our trip here!”

“Oh, really?” Sora asked. Instead of staying for a response, he turned around and ran over to Kairi, who was still standing timidly by the staircase. He grabbed her hand and led her into the room to meet everyone.

“Hey, everyone,” Sora continued. “This is Kairi…”

Sora was not sure what to add after that. Kairi, a friend of mine? Kairi, a good friend of mine? Kairi, a dear friend of mine? Everyone seemed to notice Sora’s unfinished sentence as his voice trailed off. He decided.

“…a dear friend of mine,” he finished.

Yuffie at once recognized Kairi as the young girl that Sora rescued and dropped off in the safety of Traverse Town over a year ago. Yuffie and Leon were there at the time and Kairi was temporarily placed under their care while Sora, Donald, and Goofy resumed their journey against the Heartless. She was fairly sure Kairi was the same girl.

“Kairi!” Yuffie exclaimed. “Do you remember me?”

Kairi nodded. “Yuffie, right? I remember you. You and Leon took care of me after Sora dropped me off in Traverse Town.”

Sora knew Kairi remembered that time, but still, he was very impressed with Kairi’s memory. Yuffie was equally astonished with Kairi’s superb certainty of her memories.

“You’ve definitely become one pretty girl,” Yuffie said, winking at Sora. Sora groaned silently and started observing his feet. Kairi giggled and blushed slightly.

Cid could have remembered seeing Kairi at least once before, but even if he did; he could not remember Kairi’s appearance. Cloud and Tifa were acquainted with Sora for some time, but they had never heard of or met Kairi before. As a result, Cloud and Tifa came forward to Kairi and exchanged a few greetings.

“I only know everyone’s names from the stories that Sora told me,” Kairi said as she shook Cloud and Tifa’s hands. “He told me you’re all very strong warriors too.”

“Sora said that?” Tifa asked amusedly. “Well, did he tell you that he is probably just as strong or even stronger?”

“Nope,” Kairi giggled. Sora was modest; he would never brag about any skills that he might have. Kairi knew that so she never asked.

When the greetings and humorous comments ceased, the darker, more serious matters arose. Every person again sat or stood attentively as Mickey came forth to initiate another meeting. If it had not been for Riku’s disappearance, or the failure to liberate Destiny Islands, all would still be going according to plan. Unfortunately, time was not an expendable resource and the search for Riku as well as the liberation of Destiny Islands must be postponed until later on. When Mickey announced this, he only faced protests from Sora and Kairi.

“The islands are our homes and our friends are still stuck there!” Sora complained.

“How long do you want our friends to live in fear there?” Kairi added angrily. “They cannot wander away from their shelters. Eventually they’re all starve or go insane!”

“I have no other solution,” Mickey answered sorrowfully. “Unless you wish to separate and one of you come with us while the other fights on Destiny Islands…”

Sora and Kairi did not answer. No way I’m leaving her, Sora thought.

No way I’m leaving him, Kairi thought.

Mickey stayed silent for a brief moment and resumed the discussion.

“We have two methods. Each with equal difficulty as?”

“Your Majesty, you have to let Sora and Kairi save their home world. Just as we have to save ours,” Cid interjected.

“We know what it is like to lose our homes and our friends,” Aerith added solemnly. “We already lost our world once and now it’s on the verge of being destroyed the second time.”

Mickey thought for a moment and sparked a new idea.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Come around, everyone!”

Everyone who was listening leaned closer to the center of the room to hear of the king’s new ideas. Sora and Kairi listened especially closely.

“Okay. My first method as I was gonna say before was to go from world to world, one by one, like Sora, Donald, and Goofy did on their previous journeys. Each world that is under attack from the Heartless must be cleansed and then locked by the Keyblade.

“My idea now is for us to go in two different directions. Sora and Kairi will travel alone back to the islands. They will fight the Heartless there and seal the keyhole. As for the rest of you guys, I will travel with you and help lock your world with my Keyblade. From there, we will journey from world to world, sealing the keyholes to every world open to Heartless attacks.”

“Sounds good,” said Barrett, as he grinded his knuckles. “When do we leave?”

“Now, Barrett, the journey will be much harder than it sounds,” Merlin joined in. “We are not just dealing with the Heartless, but with Nobodies too. And this time, unlike Sora’s previous adventure, the Heartless and Nobodies are on the same side.”

“Merlin’s right,” Mickey continued. “Everyone must be alert and ready at all times.”

The meeting was interrupted. A crash sounded outside the house. Screams could be heard from the frightened townspeople. Mickey inspected the sight outside through the window.

“Including now.”

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