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Chapter XXVI: Simple Answers

As the last few remaining Heartless and Nobodies vanished, Maleficent faded back into the darkness and Sarlix and Xymgrel departed through their portals. Once again, the streets of the Radiant Garden were silent. At daybreak, the same silence dominated over the town. A great portion of the town, especially the first borough, the bailey, and even parts of the marketplace and the old restoration site, were ruined, charred by fire-based spells, or completely razed. Over a year of repairing and restoration was gone to waste.

Yuffie, Cid, and Aerith were among the committee that stayed behind in the old Hollow Bastion. Their efforts revitalized the glorious Radiant Garden and led the town to its expanding and bustling civilization. Now the three looked down from the Sierra at the crippled town. The Radiant Garden was not their home world, but it was still like a home to Yuffie, Cid, and Aerith. When their world was taken apart by the Heartless the first time, they ran off to Hollow Bastion (the Radiant Garden).

Tifa was worried about their home world. She was worried about the condition of Midgar, her bar, and the two children entrusted in her care, Marlene and Denzel. Cid was still cursing the Heartless while roughly gripping the airship’s steering wheel.

“Damn them! Our hard work for nothin’. Comin’ around and bashin’ the place up and then leave like it was nothin’. Screw it, I’m done,” he spat and took a shot of liquor.

“We can always come back and fix the place up again,” Aerith suggested.

“Yeah? And have it trashed again? Count me out of it.”

Aerith sighed. She, the others, and Mickey, Donald, and Goofy were on board the Sierra while Sora and Kairi have departed on the Highwind back to their islands. The Sierra had its coordinates set for landing in Midgar while the Highwind was set for Destiny Islands. Both sides will only temporarily leave the Radiant Garden in its current situation, as they agreed to make their return at the end of their journey. All but Cid, who was too disconcerted to agree to anything.

“Cheer up, Cid. We still have our world to save,” said Yuffie.

Cid did not respond. He took another chug from his shot glass and continued to steer the ship.

“I hope my little girl’s safe,” Barrett mumbled randomly.

“She should be. I told her and Denzel to stay in their rooms and not step out into the streets,” Tifa responded.

“Yeah, that’s good. But if anythin’s gone wrong there, I swear I’m gonna hang some serious Heartless pelts on my wall.”

The journey would be a long one, as the Sierra encountered many Heartless crafts on the way back to Midgar. With only limited weapon systems installed on the ship, Cid had to rely more on speed and maneuverability to ensure the group a safe trip.

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Kairi was having trouble keeping track of everything that was happening around her. It was just too much for her to comprehend at times. Her lack of knowledge of the previous journeys that Sora and Riku took on was a great factor in her perplexity. Sora had a better understanding of the ongoing events, though it was still very complicated even for him.

The circumstances were adding stress to the two friends. And what made matters even more stressful for both Sora and Kairi was the fact that it was just the two of them traveling now. There was no one else around them for hundreds, thousands, millions of miles. Even when they do arrive back on Destiny Islands, it was still just the two of them surrounded by water and sand. Alone…

The thought sent a shiver from the base of Sora’s neck to the lower part of his back. There had to be something Kairi and he could do or talk about that will occupy their minds for some time and block out the awkwardness. But with the conditions around them, any other ideas seemed all too fabricated or unexciting. What was it that they used to talk about when they were living the carefree life on the islands? Sora recalled mostly nonsense when he, Kairi, and Riku did nothing more than simply splash around in the cool ocean water, toss sand at each other or into each other’s hair, and other simple activities like climbing trees and setting up races.

Sora opened his mouth to say something, but thought otherwise and abruptly shut his mouth again. Kairi noticed Sora’s looks of doubt and decided to do something to relax him. By moving up next to him, Kairi put Sora on the defensive. For no apparent reason, Sora chuckled feebly and stared forward into the void.

“What were you going to say, Sora?” Kairi asked.

“Uh,” Sora mumbled. “Uh, nothing, really.”

“What’s nothing?” Kairi asked again.

Kairi tried her best to ease the mood of the Gummi Ship cabin, but Sora was oblivious to Kairi’s attempts. It was just as hard for her to say anything and just as hard for her to remember what Sora and she talked about whenever they were alone in the Secret Place together. They talked, but what did they talk about? Back when they were little, when Kairi first moved to the islands, all Sora wondered about was what Kairi’s life in another world was like.

Then Kairi remembered they really didn’t talk about anything interesting back then. To this recollection, Kairi laughed quietly to herself, though the laugh could not escape Sora’s attention.

“Hmm? What’s so funny, Kairi?” Sora speculated.

“Oh, just thinking about what we used to talk about at home.” Kairi answered.

“Like what?”

“Like…” Kairi thought a bit, raising her head towards the ceiling and tapping her chin with her finger. “Like what’s for dinner, why we can’t grow taller than the trees, why the sky is blue, why Wakka is obsessed with his ball, where does the sun go when the moon comes up?”

Kairi paused for a moment and giggled at Sora’s gaping mouth. Evidently he was surprised at Kairi’s superb memory.

“Stuff like that. See how silly we were? I mean, why is the sky blue? Really, haven’t we learned anything in school?” Kairi joked.

“Wow, Kairi. I can barely remember any of that,” Sora commented. “Maybe it’s because I haven’t been home for so long. And why is the sky blue?”

Kairi giggled again. “The water, Sora. Reflection?”

Oh, Sora thought. “So… if a place has a sea of green water, the sky over there would be green?”

“No!” Kairi laughed. “Think of the entire world! It’s more blue water than green.”

“Yeah, but Kairi,” Sora argued. “There are other worlds. What if a world has only green water?”

And Kairi was defeated. She stuck out her tongue at Sora’s bombardment of hypothetical or questionable scenarios and gave up. Even if it was for five minutes, that short conversational burst undeniably alleviated the tongue-tied mood. Trying her luck, Kairi decided to get some more words out of Sora. Whether or not it was talking for just five minutes, Kairi refused to retreat back into the awkward phase.

“So, Sora?what do you remember?” she inquired.

Playing along, Sora gave that question another thought. Honestly, he could not remember too much. All the quiet, calm moments were with Kairi while all the rough, instinctual moments were with Riku. Sora decided to wing it.

“I remember… I dunno, having a good time.”

“A ‘good time?’ Aw, c’mon, Sora. That’s so vague!” Kairi exclaimed.

“A good time’s a good time!” Sora said while laughing.

“What do you mean, ‘a good time?’ A good time where and how? When? With who? Why?”

Sora was distracted by Kairi’s barrage of questions and lost control of the Highwind. Spinning out of control in the empty space, the Gummi Ship crashed onto a large meteor-like object and remained there. Inside the ship, Sora and Kairi were tossed like ragged dolls onto the floor of the cabin. They were next to each other and they knew they were not going anywhere too soon.

Groaning in dizziness and sudden shock, Sora stood up and checked the Gummi Ship’s control system. It was not damaged. Sighing in relief, Sora sat down on the floor next to Kairi, who was lying on her back and staring at him.

“So,” Kairi began. “How’s everything looking for us?”

“Ship’s fine,” Sora answered.

“Well…?”

“Well, what?”

“You haven’t answered my question, Sora!”

“Oh.”

“Well?”

“Huh? Oh, you want me to answer your question?”

“Sora!”

“Okay, okay!” Sora sputtered as Kairi began slapping his arm. “Um…”

Sora held Kairi’s hand in one of his, which surprised the girl. Sora actually did not know what he was trying to say. Or going to, for that matter. Kairi did not know why she was so interested in Sora’s currently nonexistent answer. Curiosity in the one boy she was interested in her whole life? Quite possibly, and Kairi knew that. Sora played around with Kairi’s hand for a moment, and receiving no resistance in return, Sora took Kairi’s other hand into his.

“Can I say…” Sora started, with a tone of uncertainty and experimentation in his voice. “That… all the good… moments at home were… with you?”

Kairi blushed fervently and tried to hide by turning around to face the wall, but could not since her hands were held by Sora. Sora’s face was slightly flushed, but not with the same intensity as Kairi’s.

“What makes you think that, err… or say that?” Kairi whispered softly after giving up in trying to hide her face.

“I dunno. It just is,” Sora said plain and simply.

“I guess some things are that simple,” Kairi murmured and Sora looked at her with wonder.

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