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Chapter XLVI: Village of the Sun

It was fairly easy for Sora and Kairi to find their way out of the forest. All they had to do was backtrack, following the track that Kuzco made when he tried to flee from the Heartless. Still, a walk is a walk, and the walk out of the forest was quite a long one. To pass time, Sora and Kairi had to find something to talk about.

“Since when were you uncomfortable with jumping, Kairi?” Sora asked. He was curious. Kairi’s constant state in disfavor of jumping was something he never knew about.

Kairi walked side by side with Sora, and she gave the question a thought. She shrugged casually.

“I don’t know for sure,” she said. “Maybe when I was little, maybe I was scared of heights.”

“But you’re not now, you’re just afraid of jumping,” Sora assumed.

“Mhm.”

“But what about what Donald said? When I saw you in the Castle That Never Was, Organization XIII’s stronghold, you did jump. To help me, right?”

Kairi smiled. “Yeah. I didn’t even feel my worry of jumping then. I was only worried about you.”

Sora put both his hands behind his head, continuing Kairi and his casual stroll out of the forest. It was gradually getting darker, but there were more than enough hours of light remaining in the day.

“Hey, Sora,” Kairi said. “What are you afraid of?”

Sora looked at Kairi confusedly, tilting his head. My fears?

“Umm…” Sora droned. “I dunno.”

“Aw, c’mon, Sora. Anything?” Kairi whined playfully. She giggled. “I won’t tell anyone.”

“Who can you tell?” Sora joked.

Kairi put a finger to her lips in thought. “I can tell Selphie…”

“Oh,” Sora sighed, slapping his forehead as a sign of sarcasm. “Not Selphie!”

Kairi winked and pointed to her heart. “I can tell Naminé…”

Sora waved his hands in lack of interest. “Okay?I was afraid of not finding you… you know, over a year ago. Then it was fine after I made sure you could go home safely. Then you disappeared again, which made me afraid again.”

Kairi was smiling, making Sora feel as if his little confessions were little more than jokes.

“Come on, Kairi!” Sora complained. “Wait, did I tell you this before?”

Kari shook her head. “I remember you said that you were worried about me. I thought it was sweet,” she said. She poked Sora’s shoulder. “What else are you afraid of? Don’t tell me you were only afraid of not seeing me again…”

“That’s basically it. You’re that important to me,” Sora said solemnly.

Kairi frowned and made a grab for Sora’s hand. Sora turned his head towards Kairi in surprise.

“Not lying?” she asked.

Sora shook his head. He could hear Saïx’s ominous voice again.

“Is she that important to you?’ Saïx asked him.

Sora just spurted his only answer out. Yes.

“Yeah. More than anything.”

“Show me how important,” Saïx ordered.

At that point Sora would have done anything to see Kairi again. Anything.

Sora bowed down. He leaned down. He knelt down to the floor into a begging position.

“Please,” Sora said.

Of course, Sora couldn’t tell Kairi that. What would she think? Not only could he not tell Kairi that she meant everything to him… he couldn’t possibly tell Kairi that he even begged Saïx to take him to her. Sora kept his answers simple.

“Not lying,” he responded. Kairi gripped his hand even tighter. She smiled a big smile, making Sora feel warm inside.

“Aww, how cuuute,” a voice sounded.

Sora and Kairi pivoted to see who was behind them.

“Hi again.”

A black llama poked its head out of the bushes. It was only Kuzco. Sora sighed.

“I thought you went on your way already,” said Sora. “What are you still doing here?”

“Eh, I fell in a mud hole,” Kuzco muttered. He raised his hooves one by one to display the dried mud coatings.

Sora and Kairi each made a face of disgust. The mud smelled horrible. Sora refrained from asking if the mud was actually manure instead. Kairi was thinking of the same thing. The mud definitely did not smell like mud.

“Anyway,” Kuzco continued. “Where are you two heading off to?”

Sora sniffled, trying to get used to the stench. “Uh, just anywhere out of the forest?”

“Gotcha, gotcha,” Kuzco said. “Wanna come with me? Hey? Uh-that-a-way, to my palace.”

“Are you sure you’re not lost?” Kairi asked.

Kuzco snorted. “Hey, missy. This forest is still part of my kingdom! I assure you?I know my way around my kingdom! Okay.”

With a camel-like “hmph,” Kuzco beckoned Sora and Kairi to follow. The carefree emperor-llama trotted down a random path, the hapless Sora and Kairi following closely.

What a mess, Kairi thought. Sora’s clothes and her clothes were filthy; there was a talking llama with manure-covered feet in front of them, the evening air made the forest feel terribly muggy, and not to mention the few days that passed without a decent shower… Kairi never thought of herself as a typical self-conscious teenage girl. Normally she felt fine with however she looked. But tidiness and cleanliness were on a list of things Kairi felt she would always maintain. If this mess dragged on for much longer, Kairi felt as if she would go insane.

An hour passed. Two hours passed. Three hours passed. The sun was down and the moon rose high into the air. As for Sora and Kairi, the two unfortunate teenagers were victimized by Kuzco’s lack of common sense and senses of direction.

“Ah! I think we’re almost there,” Kuzco declared.

Give up, Sora wanted to say. I think we would’ve been there by now if we made that turn hours ago…

Kairi was on the verge of going insane. She felt extremely unpleasant with the dirt and sticky perspiration all over her. Her feet ached too, even though she thought by now the traveling would have strengthened her muscles.

“Umm… your highness?” Kairi started to say.

“Give up, already!” Sora blurted out. Kairi shut her mouth to let Sora protest instead. “Come on! Even I know that ‘that way’ would have gotten us out of the forest!”

“Oh?” Kuzco hummed. He stuck his snout close to Sora’s face. “Then feel free to lead the way, O Mighty One.”

Sora groaned in aggravation. Out of all the worlds, Kairi and he had to end up on one easy to get lost in. Out of all the people on this world, Kairi and he had to get matched up with the most dim-witted, talking llama to have ever existed. Not that they met talking llamas everyday, but point given, Sora could not stand Kuzco any longer. He had to wonder, how do the people in the kingdom stand this emperor?

In less than thirty minutes, Sora successfully stepped on a surface other than moss and dirt. He smirked proudly at Kuzco, who simply ignored him. Kairi heaved a great sigh of relief. Before them lied the edge of a cliff, with a long wooden bridge that connected to another cliff, apparently to the nearest town or village. Eager to see some civilization of some sort, Sora and Kairi rushed past the bridge, leaving Kuzco behind. Sora could care less, but he took a few glances over his shoulder to check up on the llama that followed unenthusiastically.

Beyond the village were hills high and low. On the highest hill, however, settled Kuzco’s palace. At least they were out of the forest, a thought that pleased Sora.

“Okay, then,” Kuzco spoke abruptly. “I guess I’ll be on my way.”

He walked down to another path, evidently one that leads to the palace. Sora and Kairi still thought of Kuzco as a strange being.

“Oh yes,” Kuzco said after trotting off a few feet. “Enjoy your stay, err…?”

“I’m Sora and she’s Kairi,” Sora responded.

“Gotcha,” Kuzco said, making a clicking sound with his mouth. In a moment he departed out of sight.

Sora stretched his arms and took a deep breath.

“Pretty strange guy, huh?” Sora remarked.

“He’s so weird,” Kairi agreed. “But if we’re gonna stay here for a while, I bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of him.”

That was a logical conclusion, one that Sora did not prefer but had to accept. Kairi and he strolled off the dirt path that Kuzco took and entered the nearby village instead. It was a cozy appearing township, similar to the ones established across Destiny Islands. Destiny Islands did, though, have more urbanized regions. This world Sora and Kairi were in, however, seemed relatively primitive. The villagers, for example, wore nothing more than togas, robes, or, as Sora noticed one-man wear, a cotton poncho. The majority of the homes were huts or small cottages. Even the shops were small, most being just vendor booths with one or two people managing the small businesses.

Kairi wanted nothing more than something to clean herself up with. Soap would be a priceless item for her right now. On the other hand, Sora was more concerned with finding a place to stay. If need be, he would have to shell out his leftover munny from his previous journeys.

“We need to clean ourselves up, Sora,” Kairi stated. “Look at us.”

“Then we would need another set of clothes,” said Sora. “Temporary ones?”

“Maybe those,” Kairi said, pointing to a small shop selling robes, tunics, and other simple clothing. “Then we could blend in with everyone else too.”

It was a good idea, Sora had to admit. Just like when he traveled with Donald and Goofy, their attire had to match the styles of the residents in whatever world they were in, such as Halloween Town and Atlantica. Thus, Sora picked through his pockets for the polyhedral beads, the munny he collected through his adventures.

Kairi picked out a thin, ashen-pink robe and Sora chose a baggy-looking black and blue tunic. Curious, the clerk, who was working on some fabrics, could not help but interview Sora and Kairi.

“You kids aren’t from around here, are you?” the clerk asked.

Sora and Kairi shook their heads.

The clerk became aware of their soiled clothes. “What mess did you two get in?”

“Long story,” Sora answered. He put the robe and the tunic on the counter. “How much are these?”

“The robe is six hundred. The tunic is two-fifty,” said the clerk.

Sora raised his eyebrows at Kairi, who giggled in return. Kairi mouthed a sorry at the outrageous pricing. Even so, Sora spilled a wad of munny onto the counter, beads ranging from miniature singles to giant tens and twenties.

“Any idea where we can stay for the night?” Sora asked after paying for the clothes.

“Ask around,” the clerk replied. “You’re bound to find some kind soul somewhere. This is a friendly village. An old one that’s been around for quite a while.”

“Oh, are you two young travelers looking for a place to stay?” a woman’s voice sounded close by.

“There you go,” the clerk said to Sora before turning away to mind his work.

Sora and Kairi turned around to see a fairly tall woman carrying a bag of groceries. Odd, the woman was pregnant, but she was doing chores nonetheless. Her hair was tied back with a large green headband. On both her ears dangled a huge, red oval earring. She appeared welcoming, and seemed so after showing a friendly smile.

“If you would be so kind,” she said. “Would you mind helping me carry these bags to my cottage? In return, you two can stay for the night.”

Sora looked at Kairi for any suggestions. Both lacked any better ideas; they both shrugged towards each other.

“Sure,” Sora said at last. He handed Kairi the clothes while he picked up two large bags of food and other groceries.

“Thank you,” the woman said gratefully, wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead. “You can call me Chicha. Normally I would ask my husband to do the shopping and carry these, but he went on an errand earlier this afternoon.”

Chicha went on her way. Sora and Kairi stood around, looking at each other for answers. Sora shrugged again. If this lady is willing to offer them a place to stay for the night, then why refuse? Thus, Sora and Kairi followed Chicha further into the village, where most of the villagers’ homes were centered. It was still rather early in the evening, but it was growing dark enough that many working villagers were heading home for the day. Sora and Kairi followed Chicha to her home, a cozy looking cottage that looked just like the rest in the tiny township.

Chicha opened the door and out came two young children, a lanky girl and a small, chubby little boy. Both seemed incredibly hyperactive, just watching the two kids run around made Sora and Kairi tired. And to Sora’s surprise, Chicha was able to establish authority right away.

“Chaca, Tipo! Both of you,” she scolded. “Your father will be home later tonight. And look, we have guests, so behave yourselves.”

“Pee-yoo!” the little boy chirped. “You guys smell!

Sora raised his eyebrow and held back a chuckle. Kairi giggled at the little boy’s humor.

“Tipo!” Chicha yelled. “What did I say about behaving yourself? Back inside?now. Go on!”

“Yes, mommy,” the little boy chirped again before he scampered back into the cottage with his sister. Chicha sighed.

“Little kids, I hope Tipo wasn’t too offending…” Chicha said apologetically, sighing again.

Kairi giggled again. “That’s okay, he’s little. We don’t mind, right, Sora?”

“Uh, yeah!” Sora responded. “Hey, umm… Chicha? Is there any place we can wash our clothes?”

“Of course,” said Chicha. “In the back, there are scrubs, water, and soap. There’s some space if you would like to get changed too. Make yourselves comfortable while you stay here.”

“Thank you,” Sora and Kairi said together as they both hurried away. Sora dropped the bags of groceries on a nearby counter. He took the time to look around the cottage, noticing the simplicity of everything around him. Undeniably this was a nice, friendly little village, but the Heartless threat was probably still unknown to the villagers. Kairi and he had little time to relax.

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