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Chapter LIII: Keep Faith

“So, you lied to me.”

“I did?”

Kuzco, in his human form, and Pacha were both standing by the scaled-down model of Pacha’s village. It was the same scene as when Pacha first received his summons to the emperor’s palace.

“Yeah,” said Kuzco. “You said, when the sun hits this ridge just right, these hills sing.”

He looked at Pacha for a moment before continuing. “Well, pal, I was dragged all over those hills?and I did not hear any singing.”

Pacha still did not know where the conversation was heading. Thus, Kuzco went on, lifting up his model summer home off of Pacha’s village. “So I'll be building my summer home on a more magical hill.”

Pacha couldn’t believe his ears. “Thank you,” he said, rubbing away loose tears.

“Couldn't pull the wool over your eyes, huh?”

“No, no, I'm sharp,” Pacha said, still rubbing an eye. “I'm on it.”

Kuzco smirked. “Looks like you and your family are stuck on the tuneless hilltop forever, pal.”

“You know, I'm pretty sure I heard some singing on the hill next to us…” Kuzco seemed alert once again. Pacha smiled. “In case you're interested.”

Miles away, back in the village, Sora and Kairi stood by the hilltop, channeling fire, lightning, and ice in various shapes and light arrays. It was Kairi’s first attempt at mastering another magical element besides fire. Sora admitted to himself that Kairi’s Fire spell seemed to be far superior in comparison to his own. Eventually, Sora thought, Kairi’s magic capabilities should surpass his. It might take a long time though, as Kairi struggled to keep her lightning bolts from striking Sora and herself.

Periodically, Sora would shoot off a Thunder spell in demonstration. Kairi would follow, but would either channel the spell incorrectly and misfire the lightning bolt or simply emit harmless static from her Keyblade. Personally, Sora would rather Kairi charge up a strong lightning bolt and misfire it than hastily charge up weak static.

“You’re almost there, Kairi,” Sora said. Kairi continued to charge up a large lightning bolt. “Okay… okay! Now hold it there.”

Sparks leapt out of the glowing, yellow orb as Kairi strained to keep the energy under her control.

“See those rocks down there?” Sora asked, pointing to five small rocks scattered at the bottom of the hill. “Try to direct your energy at those rocks. Picture the lightning going there.”

Kairi closed her eyes and fired off her Thunder spell. This time, the bolt surged vertically into the air before splitting up into multiple bolts. Sora had to dodge out of the way as one thunderbolt struck an inch away from his foot. One of the rocks Sora mentioned was shattered into grains. A few, random holes were also blown from the hillside grass. Kairi scowled.

“Ugh,” she muttered, wiping a bead of sweat from her eyebrow. “That was?”

“Great!” Sora exclaimed as he jumped over to Kairi to embrace her. He picked her up and swung her around once. “That was so much better than before!”

“Thanks,” Kairi said as Sora put her back down. She blushed a bit. “I guess… it was some progress.”

“It was a lot of improvement,” Sora said excitedly. “I… never thought that I’d have a knack for teaching.”

“Thanks for teaching me, Sora,” said Kairi.

Sora smiled cheerfully. “You’re welcome.”

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The sun rose and began to set with Riku still, immobile, sitting on the roof of the garden. The serenity cleared his mind. But for what purpose? Riku thought. The hours are vital, in his opinion. Each passing hour could be spent well in searches, problem solving, or for doing anything in favor of his cause. Riku extended his imagination a bit, picturing himself actually preventing the Heartless from striking this world at all. He pictured himself using the hours he had just sat through to locate the keyhole.

Riku looked beyond the horizons at the setting sun. There was still time. Riku stood up, stretched his arms, legs, cracked his neck, and prepared to leap for the land below.

“Plan on leaving already?”

Riku leaned back from the edge and turned around to Leon.

“Do you still insist on doing this yourself?” Leon asked.

Riku looked away. Maybe.

Leon pulled his Gunblade out and detached a chain from the hilt. He offered the silver ornament to Riku.

“What is this?” Riku asked as he took the chain in his hands.

“It’s the Griever keychain,” Leon explained. “I usually keep it as a necklace. But if you attach it to a weapon, a sword in this case, Griever can make the blade lighter. It makes it feel smoother, makes your motions faster. To top it off, your magic capabilities will be at its peak.”

Riku examined the keychain carefully. He slowly attached Griever to his Keyblade.

“Why are you giving me this?” Riku asked.

“If I’m not around, then I might as well pretend I’m around,” Leon answered. “Just return it to me later.”

Riku nodded and called off his Keyblade. The Griever keychain itself looked intimidating. That along with Riku’s Way to the Dawn combined into a formidable looking weapon. Riku trusted that the keychain would be potent, but he was confident enough in his own abilities to hold his own that he paid no further attention to Leon’s gift. Riku waved his palm briefly to bid goodbye, tilted towards the edge of the roof, and dropped out of sight.

The steadfast Leon remained where he was, uncurious of Riku’s agendas. Leon spoke just loudly enough for himself to hear.

“Are you fighting for your friends, Riku? Or are you fighting your darkness?”

“Don’t be hard on him, Squall,” Rinoa’s voice sounded from behind.

Leon felt a hand on his back, firm, yet gentle and light as a falling feather. In a moment, Leon thought of the questions he just asked. Did he fight for his fallen homeland and his friends? Or did he fight due to vengeance? His darkness? The question never occurred to him until now, even though it did not seem to matter if he knew the answer or not. Still…

“Did I,” Leon started solemnly. “Did I fight for us? Or for myself…?”

Rinoa’s hand turned into a stiff point as she roughly poked Leon right in the middle of his back.

“Your heart is light, Squall,” Rinoa chirped, giggling afterwards. “Stop being so disturbed! Have more faith in yourself and everyone else.”

Faith…

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