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Chapter XLV: South American Paradise

“We’re dropping you off here,” Mickey announced as the Celsius began its landing on a strange tropical world, one that Sora could not recognize this time. It was not like a dense jungle like the deep jungle where he met Tarzan over a year ago. This place was more like Destiny Islands, just lacking the islands part.

“Do you think this world is under a Heartless invasion, King Mickey?” Kairi asked.

Mickey shrugged. “That’s up to you and Sora to find out.”

“Where will you guys go?” Sora asked.

“To another world, whatever world that may be in need of saving,” Donald quacked proudly.

“Well,” Mickey chuckled. “We haven’t locked any keyholes yet, the only worlds we landed on were Midgar, the homeworld of Yuffie, Cid, and the others like them. And we were goin’ to land in Port Royal, but we found you two first, so that one didn’t really count. We’ll be on our way now to another world.”

“Good luck, Sora and Kairi?” Goofy began to say.

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Mickey exclaimed all of a sudden. He rushed over to Sora and Kairi, who were already standing by the exit of the Gummi Ship. Mickey withdrew a small keychain.

Another one? Sora remarked to himself. This keychain, though, had a small Gummi Ship icon attached to it. It seemed interesting, so Sora couldn’t resist asking.

“What’s with the Gummi Ship symbol?”

“We stopped by the castle and asked for Chip and Dale to make something that can help us contact you or you contact us. That way we can stay in touch.”

“Kind of like a telephone, right?” Kairi noted.

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy exchanged looks, and then looked at Sora and Kairi.

“What’s a telephone?” Donald asked.

Sora wanted to break out in laughter, but manners forbade him. Kairi restricted herself to a small giggle. “Never mind,” she said.

The Celsius was still hovering over the trees of the new tropical world, its exit door wide open. Sora prepared to jump. Kairi’s eyes widened yet again.

“There’s nowhere to land, but you two can safely jump it,” Mickey said.

“Jump?” Kairi yelped.

“Kairi’s a little afraid of heights…” Sora said.

“Am not!” Kairi countered. “I just don’t like jumping.”

“But, Kairi,” Donald broke in. “I saw you jump down at least fifteen feet to save Sora back in Organization XIII’s stronghold!”

“Oh yeah,” Sora said to himself as he recalled being under the weight of a dozen Shadow Heartless and seeing Kairi leap down from over a railing and off a ledge to try to aid him.

Kairi face reddened just slightly. “But that’s different! I was trying to reach Sora, so I had to jump!”

“Oh, but of course,” Donald snickered. “All for Sora, right?”

Goofy covered Donald’s mouth with his giant hand to silence the yapping duck.

“Hyuck, go find the keyhole and lock it up, Sora!” Goofy said, while trying to maintain hold on the struggling Donald.

“Right. Come on, Kairi,” Sora said, grabbing hold of Kairi’s hand. “Just another jump, you’ll get used to it.”

“Ohh…” Kairi groaned before Sora dragged her out of the ship and into the trees.

The Celsius took off shortly and disappeared into the clear blue sky. Sora and Kairi slipped down the jungle trees and onto the forest floor. It was not a dense forest and actually felt pleasurably serene. Surely there could not be any Heartless about. The birds were singing, the crickets were chirping, and the frogs were croaking. Trees rustled with the light breezes, calm sunrays broke through the canopies and lighted up random regions on the forest floor. Life was everywhere and everything seemed just about perfect. Sora and Kairi walked through the forest, enjoying the sight, the smells, and the sounds.

Suddenly, multiple footsteps could be heard farther ahead of Sora and Kairi. Curious, but cautious, Sora told Kairi to stay still. Both of them stood their ground and had their backs to a thick tree trunk. In a moment, a yell could be heard, a panicky yell. This drew out Sora’s warrior instincts as he summoned his Keyblade. Kairi did the same, both Sora and she still holding their ground. The sounds of the footsteps grew louder as it drew nearer. And in a moment…

A llama? Or was it an alpaca?

Sora raised his eyebrows in the completely unexpected surprise. The llama was screaming? Sora wondered.

Kairi leaned past the blocking of the tree trunk to see the speedy llama charge through the forest. Without warning, Sora tackled her to the ground. Disoriented, Kairi raised her head to see a line of flying Heartless charge on the same path as the llama, apparently chasing it.

“Heartless,” Kairi noted.

“Yeah,” Sora said, helping Kairi off the ground. “Hey, sorry if I tackled you too hard…”

“No, it’s okay, I’m fine, you didn’t tackle too hard… anyway, those Heartless would’ve trampled me if you didn’t get me out of their way,” Kairi reasoned. “Now let’s get those Heartless and save that poor llama!”

Sora and Kairi pursued the flying Heartless. These Heartless were a new breed, Sora noted. They had four wings, flapping alternately like dragonflies do. And they did resemble dragonflies, with their long abdomen-like body structure… but their long legs were serrated with spikes and bristles, their antennae-like parts transformed into bent back horns, and the mouthparts simplified to dual-fanged mandibles.

A closer look gave Kairi the creeps, but she made the first bold move by cutting one down, causing the winged Heartless to burst into a black and purple puff of smoke. The llama still being chased was as confused as ever. First the Heartless chased after him, now there were two sword-wielding teenagers added into the chasing party. Alarmed, the llama increased his speed.

The Heartless were faster though and eventually caught up to the llama. However, Sora and Kairi had their own solutions for dealing with speed. Sora channeled the element of magnet, sucking together the four or so remaining Dragonfly Heartless while Kairi, now fully used to the workings of fire, incinerated the Dragonfly Heartless with a smooth, yet dense wave of fiery heat. Satisfied with one of their first proficient and well-organized team effort, Sora and Kairi approached the llama cowering with fear.

Apparently the llama was trying to hide behind his “hands.” When Sora stood only a foot away, the llama yelped and tripped back a few feet. The human-like attributes, the voice, the spastic behavior, the movements of the forelimbs and hind limbs, and the emotion in the eyes, intrigued Sora.

“Hey,” Sora said to the llama. “We won’t hurt you?”

“Sora, are you talking to a llama?” Kairi asked.

“Llama!” the llama cried out. “What! I’m a llama? No wonder I couldn’t run! What! W-what? Llama? What’s happenin’ to me? I-I?”

“Hey, hey,” Sora said, bending to hold onto the convulsing, twitching, and perspiring llama. “Calm down. What do you mean ‘I’m a llama?’ And ‘No wonder I couldn’t run?’ Didn’t you know you were a llama?”

The llama calmed down a bit, but was still panting furiously. He sighed. “You sure you two aren’t out to get me like those buzzy things?”

“You mean the Heartless? No, we’re the good guys,” Kairi said.

“Okay,” said the llama. A moment of silence passed and the llama turned around to face Sora and Kairi again. “Hi, I’m Kuzco.”

He extended his hoof-hand for a handshake. Sora hesitantly shook Kuzco’s hand.

“Umm, so Kuzco?” Sora started to say.

“No, no. I’ll tell you about me first,” Kuzco interrupted.

“But I was gonna?” Sora started again.

“I was human just this afternoon!” Kuzco exclaimed. “And then… Gah! My kingdom!”

“Kingdom?” Sora and Kairi asked at the same time.

“Yes, yours truly is Emperor Kuzco, thank you,” Kuzco stated quickly. “But how am I gonna go back like this!

In a moment, Kuzco began to bawl and pound the forest floor with his hoof hands and feet. Sora and Kairi just looked at each other in confusion. What is up with this guy? Sora and Kairi could just leave Kuzco alone in the forest and go on their business to find the world’s keyhole. Or, the two of them could be generous and help Kuzco come back to his senses.

“Kuzco, how were you a human one moment and now a llama?” Sora asked slowly.

“I don’t know!” Kuzco wailed. “I was having an early dinner at Yzma’s just a couple of hours ago… Ahhh! The sun is setting and I’ll never get home! Where’s my chair!”

“Does this guy have like… no attention span or what?” Sora whispered to Kairi.

“Well, if you got turned into a llama, wouldn’t you also go crazy?” Kairi suggested.

“I got turned into a Heartless and I was fine afterwards,” Sora said. “Never mind, that’s because I got changed back, heh.”

Kairi smiled and nodded. “So Kuzco needs some help getting home, right?”

“Yeah, I guess it’s up to us to help him back then,” Sora sighed.

Sora and Kairi turned their attention back to the emotionally unstable Kuzco. Kuzco was still sitting on his rear, kicking his feet like a spoiled child, still sniffing from the long bawling session. Indeed the sun was setting, as Sora ascertained by peering past the canopies. If Kairi and he wished to help Kuzco back to his kingdom, then they had to do it before the forest becomes a dark, pathless maze.

Sora and Kairi both put a hand on Kuzco’s sagging shoulders, one on his left and one on his right, just for showing a sign of support. The llama looked up with his tear-saturated eyes and quivering lip, forcing Sora to sigh and look away. Why does it have to be so… hard? he complained to himself. Why can’t he just gather himself up and not be such a baby? He sounds like he’s at least a young man.

“Hey, we’re gonna help you back to your kingdom. Just point out the directions,” Sora said.

“Nah,” Kuzco said. He stood up on all fours and shook the dirt off himself, spraying it all over Sora and Kairi. “I think I can walk home by myself. Shouldn’t be that tough. Toodles!”

Kuzco turned and left on the path where he came from, leaving the dirt and compost covered Sora and Kairi in the middle of the forest.

“What a jerk!” Kairi spat all of a sudden. “And to think that we were trying to be nice to him!”

Kairi patted her pink dress. The dirt was everywhere. Sora tried to clean himself up just the same, but, he and Kairi knew it, they were both filthy. Kuzco managed to kick up every piece of dirt on him onto Sora and Kairi.

“Well,” Sora said after giving up on trying to get all the gunk off of himself. “We better find our way out of here, maybe visit a resting stop outside or something if we can find one, then clean ourselves up.”

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