Sora's a Heartless, and Riku's possessed by Ansem; someone has to wield the Keyblade. Kairi is forced to choose: Will she be a Princess, or a Warrior?
A Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction
By Jade Dixon
Kairi hesitated, then turned back to look the way they had come. She was torn, and she didn't know what to do...
Goofy called out to her from the bottom of the staircase, begging her to hurry, but still she paused.
Riku had told her to escape, and she knew that if she stayed, she'd only be throwing away Sora's sacrifice, but--
"I can't leave them behind!" Her best friends were lost, and instead of trying to help them, she was running away, and it tore at her heart, even as she knew what she must do.
"We can't stay here!" Donald scolded, even as she finally began to move--away from her heart's desire--down the stairs to meet up with the remains of Sora's trinity.
Goofy reached for her, to keep her from falling behind again she guessed, even as he reminded them all of what they ran from: "A Heartless is after us!"
But it was too late, it was /here/, and did Sora die for nothing if they all fell to the Darkness so close to freedom?
And they were all afraid, because it was only one heartless, but without the Keyblade could they stop it? Quickly enough that it wouldn't call for help?
Kairi could only watch as Donald stepped forward with a declaration that he'd finish off the monster, and began hitting it with his wand. She could barely make out his squawks of indignation as it just stood there, unaffected.
Unharmed, and unagressive.
A sinking feeling settled into her stomach as she looked at the creature, not with her eyes, but her Heart, and saw the very first and last thing she wanted right then.
"Sora," the redhead breathed, reaching towards the heart she'd shared unconsciously. "Is that you?" It didn't answer, but it swivelled its head away from where it had been glaring at the duck, and looked at her, almost in askance.
It was enough to give her hope, enough to raise her spirits--perhaps he still could be saved...
But then the others came: numerous Heartless intent only on harm, and the four of them were surrounded. Donald and Goofy didn't even hesitate. They charged into the fray, beating back the Darkness in efforts to protect her and her companion.
Kairi sheltered what was left of her friend behind her and watched the fight warily. "This time, I'll protect you." This time, you won't die because of me.
The King's friends were only two men, though, and the Heartless were dozens. Quickly, a swarm attacked, and she grabbed Sora close, protecting him with her own body. They piled upon her, and their claws tore at her skin, and she reached deep inside herself for her Light--the Light that made her a Princess of Heart, capable of holding back the Darkness. She gathered it up, and /pushed/, and the Heartless scrambled away--even Sora.
The others vanished back into the deep shadows, but Sora cowered away while still trying to remain close.
The girl sat panting, blood welling sluggishly from scratches on her arms, holding her Light desperately, knowing it was the only thing stopping them from being overwhelmed. She could hear her companions gasping for breath themselves, and knew she had to protect them, too.
Kairi gathered her strength and crawled to her knees, reaching out with one hand to Sora's Heartless, reaching out to /Sora/, only to watch him skitter away.
A sob broke loose from her chest at the hopelessness of the situation. If she released her Light, Sora would come to her, but so would the others. If she held her Light, Sora would only continue to flinch away from her touch.
She looked into his Heart, the shadowed captive within that belied the name "Heartless", and despaired.
And she was forced to face the echo of words said only hours ago, still cherished in her heart...
I won't let him go!
Proud words from the mouth of a scared child. No matter how much she disliked it, they were different now, polar opposites, and Sora wouldn't recognize her forever, couldn't hold out forever, and he just wanted an end...
Her solitary sob lead to a string of tears coursing down her cheeks and she finally lowered her hand to the floor, her face following--watching blankly as the tears bounced off the marble floor. She only knew one way to stop his suffering.
So she reached. Reached out like she had felt Sora do so many times, except it wasn't natural for her, was never meant for her, but she reached anyways and prayed...
you cannot be both
"I need this," she whispered to the ground. "The worlds need this," she expanded, hoping that a more altruistic approach would work.
"Kairi?" It was Goofy's voice, but it sounded distant, far away, or perhaps it was she who was far away.
you would give it up
Her voice grew stronger as she argued, knowing that she had to win this fight, or die trying.
"He wouldn't want it to end like this; he deserves better." Unnoticed her tears sped up and her voice grew breathy. "It's the only way I have left to save him."
you will be vulnerable
She closed her eyes, and tilted her head back, laughing morosely. A hitch gave her enough control to stop and grin bitterly. "No more than anyone else; I made a lousy Princess anyways."
"Who're you talking to?" Donald squawked, worry in his voice.
then take it
She felt something within her crumble, a wall that had been guarding her Heart since she'd been born. Darkness didn't rush in, like she half expected it would; she didn't feel any different, but she knew she was. Darkness could form in her heart now, just like in every other person except the Seven. It would take time, but it would come.
For now, she just /reached/.
She held out her hand, and sparks formed before resolving into the Kingdom Key. She looked at it blankly for a second before standing, brushing her skirt off with her free hand as she did so. She released her Light, the last time she'd ever be able to use it, and approached Sora.
She knelt down and embraced him in a hug, her tears disappearing into his Darkness. Her friend's voice was fading, quickly being consumed by the animalistic desires that drove all of the beasts.
"I wish there was another way. I love you. I'm sorry." Words for only his ears as she straightened again and smiled tremulously at him.
Her right hand swung in a sideways arc backwards, and then she joined her left hand to the hilt and swung it up, then down, just once.
It was the Heartless' last thought before the trapped Heart was released, and then disappeared.
More Heartless appeared then, and Kairi swung the Keyblade she was now Master of wildly, cutting them down to protect Sora's friends. Beast arrived, and gave them the opportunity to get away. They ran all the way to the Highwind and never looked back.
Upon reaching the cockpit, Donald and Goofy went about familiar tasks to get them under way. Once the autopilot was activated and taking them back to Traverse Town, they finally turned to look at the girl standing awkwardly in the doorway.
"I don't expect you to forgive me," she began, not looking at either one of them.
Goofy cut her off, not with words, but by gathering her into his arms. She stood still in shock, and for a moment--just a moment--she had the feeling that this was wrong somehow, that it was someone else's arms that should be around her...
And then she broke. She threw her arms around the knight and sobbed.
How could there be a happy ending now?
Donald never grew close to her, not near as easy to forgive as Goofy was, but he made it clear he didn't blame her. When they made it to Traverse Town and had to report Sora's loss to Leon, it was Donald who took up the story when she faltered, Donald who made it clear what she had done was merciful.
Leon simply nodded, but he wouldn't look her in the eyes, while Yuffie disappeared for a while, preferring to mourn in private.
Aerith was the one who took her by the shoulders and led her out of the house.
Led her away from the well-travelled streets, and into the underground waterway.
"It is the curse of being from that place," she said, her tone sad and hard.
"I worked in the castle when I was a little girl, and I remember you, Kairi. You're from Hollow Bastion. Just like us."
Kairi's eyes widened in shock. "Wait, you're all from Hollow Bastion?"
Aerith turned away from the former Princess, and went to the far wall of the cavern, picking up a metal rod leaning against the wall. She fingered it absently as she answered.
"Yes, and all of us have learned that in the battle against the Heartless, sacrifices must be made. Sometimes that means for the good of the many, you sacrifice the few..."
"How can you make that decision so easily?!" Kairi screamed, her heart aching from the thought, even knowing that she had done the same thing.
Aerith's eyes grew sharp, and her grip on the staff became more purposeful as she slipped into a battle stance.
"It's never easy/. It /must never be easy. The moment it becomes easy you have opened your Heart to the Darkness, and all is lost." And then she attacked.
Kairi called up the Keyblade on instinct--Sora's instinct--and blocked the stroke, feeling the vibration reverberate up her arms. Aerith stepped back and looked at her approvingly.
"Good. There is little time, and much you must learn. You are not Sora, but you're our only hope. Defend yourself!"
So Kairi learned to fight, in a luminescent cave, under a world that shouldn't exist.
She had chosen this path, and she would not lose.
And she didn't.
With Donald and Goofy by her side, Ansem was defeated, but Kingdom Hearts still stood poised to unleash its deep held Darkness into the Worlds.
Donald and Goofy pushed one door, while she strained against the other. No matter the effort, it hardly seemed to make a difference.
Then a gloved hand shot out from the other side and began to pull, aiding her own pushing. In her surprise, she slipped and lost her footing. Using the opportunity of repositioning herself to look at her helper, she couldn't help but wonder which of them was more surprised.
There was a question in his gaze, a question she couldn't answer, and was saved from answering by Donald.
"Quit staring and keep pushing!"
Then the King appeared, and he couldn't know everything, because he addressed the Keyblade Master who wasn't there, and Riku definitely didn't know anything because--
"Tell him I'm sorry..."
--and she had lied, said yes with tears in her eyes as she shut the door on her other closest friend, and felt as if she were killing Sora all over again--and it wasn't easy, was never easy--, and then the Keyblade was in her hands, and she couldn't see for the tears as she sealed the Door.
She collapsed to her knees and wept, for there may be a Door to the Light, like the King had said, but she was damned, no matter what Aerith had told her about necessary sacrifices.
Darkness claimed her then--normal and benign--, and she awoke with her Trinity on a world she had yet to visit, that Sora had never seen, with grassy fields as far as the eye could see.
The path was merely dirt instead of a yellow-brick road, but that didn't mean she couldn't wish to find her ruby-slippers at the end, and a way home.
Kairi doesn't remember finding a castle and climbing to its summit with Donald and Goofy. She doesn't remember the chains of her memories slowly coming undone.
She doesn't remember Namine's fierce desire to meet her Other, of the longing to be whole.
She doesn't remember fighting a replica of Riku, who hurled all the nasty, accusing words she feared her real friend would use if he ever found out what she had done.
She doesn't remember forgetting Sora, and not understanding why she burst into tears when she saw his imitation in the Fake Destiny Islands.
She doesn't remember Namine's final caution to reconsider having her memories restored--that she might be happier not knowing the truth about how she came to wield the Keyblade.
All she knows is that she went to sleep under the stars on that strange world, and woke up in a strange pod on a different world, her hair longer, and her clothes tighter.
She feels awkward walking around Twilight town, and is relieved when the good fairies give her wardrobe a makeover.
She wonders if it's a reflection on her change of Heart that has caused her clothes to become so much darker.
She wears a hooded short-sleeve jacket now, much like Sora's except in black, and she supposes that only makes sense--not every world is tropical like the Destiny Islands. A tank top doesn't always suffice. She still has one, though--a tank top, that is--; white and light, for the worlds when a jacket is too much. Her skirt has been lengthened to match her growth, and darkened to a deep shade of purple, matched by the sneakers that have replaced her sandals (much more practical for fighting in she quickly finds). Dark tights encase her legs, and she supposes that like the jacket it's more practical for the colder worlds.
Her accessories have been replaced with yellow wrist bracers, giving the support her solitary wrist warmer would not, and two bags resting on her hips (straps across her torso, then attached to the belt at her waist), giving her storage space she desperately needed.
With even her hair lengthened, the only thing that remains of the "old" Kairi is her battered locket, hanging around her neck. Nestled inside are the faces of people she doesn't remember, people she has always imagined to be her parents, but has never had someone to confirm for her. When the journey gets too lonely, she clutches it and pretends that they never tried to build a raft that fateful summer.
It is only after they have left Yen Sid's tower that she realizes the King hadn't batted an eyelash seeing her wield the Keyblade. If the King knew, Riku knew. Suddenly the King's reluctance to say anything about her friend's whereabouts takes on a much more sinister meaning.
She tries not to think about it too much. If she gives up her search, she'll have nothing left.
The first time she meets XIII, she feels as if something has reached deep inside of her, and /squeezed/.
He's blond, and flat in a way that has nothing to do with dimensions and everything to do with what he lacks, and the Keyblade he wields looks just like the one that Sora had used at the end.
He knocks the Kingdom Key out of her hand, and holds the wicked blade to her throat, and just looks at her, as if expecting something more.
Then he disappears in a plume of Darkness, and she can do nothing but stare blankly at where he had stood while a single drop of blood trails down to her collarbone.
Sometimes the Nobodies from the Organization call her Namine, especially that Axel guy, and she always responds instinctually before realizing they haven't called her by name. But her response is immediate, and it always bothers her in the back of her mind.
When they make it back to Twilight Town, trying to find a way into that strange misty world, Kairi makes a point to explore the mansion she'd woken up in so long ago. Only one room truly catches her interest.
It's white, or perhaps just pale shades of gray, but it's definitely bright and sterile looking compared to the rest of the dusty wooden rooms.
Splashes of colour dot the walls, coming from childish drawings that she distantly realizes are familiar.
But it's the figure who's standing there, gazing longingly at the pictures, that truly catches her attention.
Roxas. XIII. The Key of Destiny. Sora's Nobody. All that is left of her friend.
He looks over his shoulder at the group that has noisily entered the room, eyes like ice looking at them as if they were vermin.
Casually, he opens a path into the Darkness then disappears into it.
The portal doesn't close.
It's an invitation Kairi doesn't hesitate to accept.
She rushes blindly into the Darkness, Donald following immediately. Goofy and King Mickey follow more cautiously.
And so they enter the World that Never Was.
Kairi never gets a chance to look closer at those drawings, never gets a chance to realize that they're her own memories, reproduced.
Never realizes that Roxas was looking at the ones containing Sora...
When she finally meets Riku again, it comes with a lightening of her heart.
The Heartless are everywhere, and she can't see Donald and Goofy anymore, but she keeps fighting because it's fight or die.
Suddenly, the pressure's gone, there's a break in the onslaught, and she has someone at her back, fighting alongside her.
It feels /right/, and when she turns to see her friend, it all makes sense.
But she hesitates from going to him, sure he's only helped her out of a sense of obligation: to the king, to the worlds, to Sora.
He's wearing black, one of those strange coats all the Organization members wear, and she wonders where he got it. He hair is in desperate need of being cut, dangling in his eyes, hiding them--and perhaps that's why she didn't see his intent until it was too late.
He grabs her roughly, arms going around her back holding her tight, and he whispers apologies over and over again into her hair. There's a tremor in his voice that she fears means he's crying, but, when they pull apart, his cheeks are mercifully dry.
Riku never says the words, but she understands in that instant that he has missed her, that he never blamed her, that in some strange way he's blamed himself. That's he's been watching over her all this time, keeping his distance, in some strange method of atonement for his sins.
Kairi feels her heart break a little, and this time, she's the one to reach out to him.
She holds him just as tight as he had held her previously, and she whispers the words he needs to hear:
"It's not your fault, it was never your fault; I forgive you."
Riku's heart is a little lighter for the meeting, too.
They join Donald and Goofy, and continue to climb.
When she faced Roxas for the last time, it went nothing like how she had imagined.
Separated from Riku and the others, she faced him alone, and for the first time, the ice in his eyes cracked, and she saw the fire within.
His anger burned.
Heartbreaker crashed against the Kingdom Key, over and over, as Roxas screamed out his frustration.
"I did everything for you! I lived for you and died for you but you left me behind! You left me to this pseudo-existence, neither living nor dead!
"Why didn't you fix me?! Why did you leave me broken!?"
Kairi's wrists were hurting from the constant impacts, and she was constantly giving ground, but in the face of his fury, she could do nothing but try to hold him back.
"All I want is to... /be/..."
Finally, the intensity of his strikes lessened and the Keyblade Master took her chance to begin her counter-strike. Much like Roxas, it was as much verbal as it was physical, as she finally let loose some of her own frustration, anger that had simmered deep beneath her guilt and always hidden away where she could never see it.
"I gave up my Heart for Sora! I condemned myself to a shadow of an existence just for the small chance that I could guide him through the onslaught of Darkness swallowing our /home/!"
Overhead. Side. Leg-sweep. Parry. Lock.
"I didn't ask him to unlock his own Heart to release mine. I didn't want him to! I wish he hadn't!"
And then the words were out there, and they could never be taken back.
The combatants broke apart then and began to circle warily around one another.
Suddenly, Roxas' face dropped, and he lowered Heartbreaker to his side, dissipating it with a though. Kairi stayed in a battle-stance, wary of a trick.
"Namine," he begged, Sora's blue eyes shining with a deep-rooted sadness, "Can't you make me whole?"
Kairi's mouth moved, and her voice spoke, but the words were not her own.
"There is a way, Roxas."
Then the Kingdom Key moved in a single decisive swipe, cleaving through Roxas like a hot knife through butter. Kairi could feel the humming magic that had made the stroke so powerful, and somehow couldn't work herself up to panic over the sudden disconnection she felt with her body.
She watched as Roxas took one staggering step back, face frozen in betrayal--but they were enemies, could he really expect less?--before morphing briefly into a look of contentment.
I understand now his eyes said as they slid shut.
Thank you his smile said as his body faded into nothingness.
And then he was gone.
They defeated Xehanort.
It was over.
They didn't have a way home, Riku couldn't open the paths anymore, but they'd find a way. They had the time now.
Then Axel appeared, the one Organization member they had yet to face, and suddenly their celebration was ruined by a return to battle stances.
But his chakrams didn't materialize, and he was looking at Kairi intently.
"I want to talk to Namine."
Kairi released the Kingdom Key and threaded her hands through her hair in frustration. "Who's Namine?! I'm sick and tired of you calling me that all the time! My name is Kairi!"
Then Riku's hand fell on her shoulder as he stood just behind her, gentle and hesitant.
"Namine was your Nobody."
Which of course made no sense, for she had never been a Heartless, even when her Heart had been lost she'd still been a Princess...
Then something twisted inside, and the transparent image of a blonde girl in a white dress was staring at her. It was like looking into a distorted mirror where all the colours were off.
It was strange; Axel had always been the most emotive of the Nobodies she had met, but now his voice was flat. Kairi shivered. The difference scared her.
"Axel," Namine responded cordially, as if they were old acquaintances.
"Because it was the only way to give him what he sought."
The chakram appeared now, and fire licked at the edges of the redhead as his fury began to be written across his face.
"What gives you the right to make that decision for him?! We could have found another way!" One chakram was released, heading straight for the flickering girl, and Kairi reached out to pull the other out of the way.
But before she could reach the blonde, there was a flash of light, and the chakram disappeared, and small piece of paper fluttering to the floor in its place.
Axel snarled and released the second but it met the same fate. "Impossible!" he screamed, "This isn't Oblivion!"
"But your hearts are connected," Namine interrupted softly, gently, as if breaking disturbing news. "Have been ever since you allowed yourself to get close, to /care/."
"Give him back."
Suddenly, the half of the conversation she was missing made sense; Kairi realized they were talking about /Roxas/.
"It was you," she whispered, and Namine turned again to face her Other. "It was you who killed Roxas," she repeated, louder this time.
"It was the only way to give him what he wanted," Namine repeated her earlier answer, a look of pity on her face.
Axel had had enough. "Then undo it!" he shouted again, one desperate last attempt to get back the one person he cared about. Namine only turned back to him, and shook her head sadly.
"You know it doesn't work like that Axel. Even if I had Sora right here, right now, and split him into Heartless and Nobody: it wouldn't be Roxas who materialized--not the Roxas you remember. He's gone."
Something seemed to break in Axel then, and if she hadn't known better, if she hadn't known what made Nobodies different from everybody else, Kairi would have sworn it was his Heart.
"Then undo me."
Kairi didn't understand, but Namine did, just as she had understood Roxas. There were no questions to make sure that he understood what this meant, no last chances to back out.
Namine simply began undoing the chains of his memories.
With no resistance, the work went quickly. When she was done, he stood there, swaying slightly, a confused look on his face.
"See you again, in the next life," she whispered to him, the last kindness she could offer, before she released a brief blast of magic through his being, and his Existence began to break apart.
With no memories, nothing to produce the strong will that kept Nobodies "real" he was gone in moments.
Kairi looked at the spot where Axel had been in shock, then looked at the others. Riku, the King, Donald, Goofy; none of them seemed as affected as she was. She was trembling, and she lowered her head, allowing her hair to swing forward and hide her face, even as she clenched her hands at her side.
"Kairi, are you alright?" It was Riku, so concerned for her welfare, but he didn't understand--couldn't understand--what was the matter.
Then Namine spoke up, saying, "What's wrong, Kairi?", almost as if she were goading her.
Kairi's head came up with a snap and her blue eyes blazed with the same fury that had been in Roxas' eyes when they fought.
"They were your friends/," and even as she spoke it, she somehow knew it was true, in as much as Nobodies could have friends. "They were your friends, and you /killed them! You're not even sorry about it!"
"But they were a threat, and they asked for an end, so doesn't that make it alright?" Namine's head was lowered so that her bangs hid her eyes, even as her head tilted to the side to accent her question.
Namine began walking towards her then, but her eyes were filling with tears, and her vision was becoming blurry even as she continued her tirade. "Even if they're a threat, even if they want release, even if it's /merciful/, you should find another way! It's not right, it can never be alright," and somewhere along the way this had ceased to be about Namine, so she accepted the comfort when the girl pulled her into her arms, cried into a bare shoulder as she finished. "How can I continue on, knowing he's gone, and it's /all my fault/."
The others were silent, unaware of the poison that had been stewing within her for so long, but Namine had known, and she knew how the healing would begin.
"That's why you're better than me, Kairi," she told the girl in her arms with a gentle smile. "Because you feel pain and remorse; because guilt plagues you, even when undeserved. Because for you, it's never easy."
She pushed the redhead back to stand on her own, and gently wiped the tear trails from her face.
"I'm only half a person, incomplete, without the capabilities to feel properly. I feel no remorse for what I did to Roxas and Axel--but I want to. Will you let me?"
Kairi understood. Whatever had allowed them to be joined before could not be repeated without her permission. Namine scared her; Namine repulsed her; but she could fix Namine, like she couldn't fix Sora. Kairi nodded.
Instead of stepping towards her though, as Kairi had expected, Namine stepped back. She waved her hand, and behind her a Dark portal opened.
"My gift to you, all of you," she explained, taking in the whole group for the first time since Kairi's outburst. "Your journey has been long, and it's time to go home."
Kairi nodded, smiling slightly in gratitude, then held out her hand. Namine stepped forward, and took it in her own. They were surrounded in a blue light, and then Namine faded away completely.
"Strange," Kairi murmured, placing a hand over her heart. "I thought I'd feel different..."
Riku pulled her into a hug then, holding on tightly as he murmured into hair, "You're still you. You'll always be yourself, no matter what happens."
She understood what he was saying without saying it. She knew he forgave her, even if he had never blamed her in the first place.
"Let's go home."
Of course, it wasn't that easy.
No sooner than the King and his servants were gone through the portal had it closed behind them, leaving the two humans trapped.
They had fought Xehanort, /again/, and beaten him for good this time.
Now they were trapped on this strange dark world, watching the tide endlessly go in and out.
"I owe his parents an explanation..." Kairi murmurs, hugging her knees to her chest as she watches the waves.
She thinks she sees Riku looking at her through the corners of his eyes, but his bangs block her view so much that she's uncertain.
"It's as much my fault as yours," is all he says. It's his offer to go with her.
She smiles at him, hope blooming in her chest for the first time in a while; they're trapped here, but they will find a way home.
And light appears, brilliant and warm, and it's a /door/, and she remembers the King's words from so long ago...
There will always be a Door to the Light.
She grabs Riku's hand as she hurtles to her feet, and drags him unsteadily along beside her.
They enter the light side by side.
When they break the surface of the water, the salt air strikes Kairi's nostrils, and she knows they're home.
She tosses back a grin at Riku before swimming for the shore. When they reach the shallows, they find their feet and break into a run.
But no one is there to meet them. No mouse, no dog, no duck.
"Where is everyone?" she murmurs, the part of her that was Namine knowing that this is where the portal went.
"Waiting in the shack," came a voice from the dock pilings. The sun is setting, the shadows deep, and it's not a voice she recognizes, even as it continues. "They didn't want to risk the World Order by being seen."
She can sense Riku tensing behind her, without even looking, an she rounds on the voice, demanding, "Who are you?! Show yourself!"
"Geez, you forgot my name already, Kairi?" spoke the voice as its owner stepped into the light, grinning to take the sting out of the words.
Neither of them had anticipated this, couldn't have even hoped for it.
For there, his spiky hair making him instantly recognizable, stood Sora.
An older Sora, a Sora whose voice had cracked and deepened, but their friend, nonetheless. A friend who must have been restored along with the rest of the Destiny Islands when she had sealed Kingdom Hearts.
And dignity be damned, Kairi ran at him and threw both arms around him and held him tight, and she promised herself that this time, she'd never let him go.
"Never," she whispered, and it was both an answer to his question, and a verbal emphasis of her internal vow.
Riku, the impatient twat, didn't even have the decency to wait until she was done to get his own hug in. She couldn't really blame him, she planned to take a while.