AN:Hello, and welcome to Riku's side story! I knew he had to play some part in Court of Souls, but I realized that things would get crowded if he was with Sora. So, as a kind of compromise, he's going to help his friend by finding the lost Key Chains. But where are they? How can he get them?
All will be answered, but there is more to it than just finding them. There are some dark secrets and incredible revelations waiting just around the bend, if anyone has the patience to wait for them.
He, what a way to sell it, huh? There is actually quite a bit of reading and research going into this fic and the reason will become apparent by the end of this first chapter.
I hope you like it. ^_^
Dis:I do not take credit for Kingdom Hearts. It should also be noted that another disclaimer will be stated at the end of this section, mainly because saying it now would give away too much of the plot.
Of Many Hearts
"Now is the age of anxiety."
Chapter I: Dive
Riku felt himself falling…falling…into eternity…into darkness…into…
Apparently, falling into a rock. He tumbled off the top of what felt like a boulder, thoroughly peeved. This was the second time this'd happened, totally without warning after what had started out as a dramatic and graceful exit. These frequent, uncouth landings would not do at all.
As he struggled to his feet, Riku had to admit that there seemed to be nothing he could do about it. It had been his choice to go into the mirror, to follow after Sora's lost Key Chains. He'd made himself a promise; to find them and return them. Unfortunately for him, he had no idea how to do this. The only tools he had were his total faith (or so he hoped) in his own abilities and the Keyblade King Mickey had given him.
Riku looked down at it, still held firmly in his hand. He remembered the jealousy he'd felt upon seeing Sora with one and the obviously important mission he'd had to fulfill. He'd wanted to do the same, have the same kind of importance, but now, he realized that that might not have been such a good idea.
Sora had given up so much to save the worlds; was still giving so much. Riku wasn't sure if he was strong enough to do the same.
"But he was the one who was really chosen by the Keyblade. I won't have to make the same kind of sacrifice."
Riku may have said it aloud, but it would be a while before he would be able to make himself believe it. And he couldn't help the strange feeling that was coming over him. Like he was being watched and judged at the same time.
"Excuse me, but who are you, young man?"
Riku glanced sideways and decided that he hadn't been imagining it. He was standing on a slight rise, overlooking a small town some short distance away. Golden plains dotted with some green patches of trees extended all around him, a blue river that gleamed in the sun not too far from the town. A couple feet from the large rock he'd landed on was a slender young oak tree, planted within the last century or so.
Seated on a dozen or so white, wooden chairs under the hanging leaves were some dozen or so elderly women, books and papers clutched in their hands. The women were clothed in dresses that seemed kind of outdated in style, with full skirts and done in pale or light colors. They all had hats or head coverings of some kind, as well as delicate-looking gloves.
The woman who had spoken was nearest to him, standing by the small sign that read 'Atchison Women's Bible Study Committee'. Briefly, Riku wondered how he could read the sign; it was in a language he'd never seen before. Come to think of it, the woman—err, grandmother by the look of her—had spoken in a language he'd never heard before. But he'd understood and got the feeling that, as he answered, he was speaking in the language, too.
"I…I'm…my name is Riku…ma'am. Uh, where am I?"
The woman glanced over he spectacles at the sign and Riku laughed nervously.
"Yes, well…where is Atchison?"
"In Kansas, Mr. Riku, in the United States of America."
Riku felt really stupid as asked his next question.
"Um, which planet would that be on?"
Their stares seemed to become more prominent, and Riku shifted uneasily from foot to foot.
"Why, on Earth! Where are you from young man?!"
"Destiny Islands," Riku replied, backing up, "I…I won't be staying long, so don't bother yourselves with me. Just need to find something. So…um, I'll just be going now."
With that Riku turned around and beat a hasty retreat, leaving several shocked matrons in his wake.
"Why, did you ever see such a thing?!"
"I know! And that hair! It was so…so…"
The stern woman who was still standing by the sign raised a hand. "Obviously, the boy is disturbed. We should alert the town."
Being the leader, everyone grudgingly admitted she was right. A couple of the ladies muttered amongst themselves, though.
"My, such a strapping young man! My boys never attainted such an appearance."
"Too true, darling. Very odd clothing, though, and that cane or whatever he was holding was very curious. I wonder where he is from?"
"Some island somewhere, if I heard correctly. Maybe he uses the thing in rituals of some sort."
"Hmm, perhaps an uncultured native?"
"Probably has no restraint when it comes to women…"
Riku had decided against going into town. Judging from the reactions he'd gotten from those women, he wouldn't be too welcome. He had to be as inconspicuous as he possibly could, though that really required a change of clothes that he didn't have. He glanced at his Keyblade, the most obviously foreign thing about him.
Scratching his head, Riku tired to remember.
"How did Sora do that?"
Waving the weapon a bit, Riku finally searched inside himself. There had always been a place for the Keyblade to go, but where? It was a key of hearts, so maybe…
"Well, it's worth a try."
Riku spun the Keyblade in his hand, concentrating on the connection he felt between it and his heart. Light traveled on the path of the blade as it passed slowly through the air. Riku closed his eyes and a slight breeze started up, blowing his hair around his head. There came a flash of soft, pale blue light and the Keyblade disappeared, going deep inside to rest within his heart.
The wind died down and Riku opened his eyes, somewhat surprised that he'd been able to do it. Refreshed somehow, he scanned the surrounding area again, looking for a place where he had more of a chance of not being seen. He spotted a large, fancy house, two floors with several additions, with an orchard and stable nearby.
Deciding it was as good a place as any, Riku went for it, idly wondering how he was supposed to actually locate the Key Chains. He had no way of tracking or obtaining them. Basically, he was in the situation that usually drove him crazy; he hated not knowing what to do. At one time, uncertainty had been considered worse than actually choosing such a thing as the darkness.
Riku tried to shake off his dark thoughts; his past actions were the last things he needed to be focused on. What's done is done and there was nothing he could do to change it now. He had only to face the future and nothing else. He would do what he had set out to do, even if he had no idea how to do it.
He was just running into the orchard when he heard their voices; two little girls, somewhere inside the fruiting trees, laughing as they chased each other through the shadows. Riku hid behind a smooth trunk, trying not to be seen but to catch a glimpse of the children at the same time.
The girls ran by not five feet away, an older one with slightly tanned skin and long, curly hair, fair in color but not really blonde, followed by a younger one who looked basically the same. Riku guessed them to be sisters, maybe two or three years apart. They wore interesting outfits; it started out looking like a dress, but the ends of the skirts were gathered at their knees, giving them more freedom of movement and some slight relief from the increasing heat.
Riku felt it quite well and was beginning to think choosing almost all black to wear, as well as a long coat, had not been a good idea. He wiped one black-gloved hand over his damp brow.
"You'd think growing up on a tropical island would make me used to heat."
"You grew up on a tropical island?"
Standing abruptly upright, Riku turned to look at the two little girls standing directly behind him. A shaky smile spread across his face and he waved nervously at the older girl with the bright gray eyes.
"Err, yeah. We called it Destiny Islands."
"Islands?" The younger one asked, "There was more than one?"
Seeing that the girls were not going to go away and deciding that there was no better place for him to go, Riku sat down on the soft grass. The girls did the same, not at all bothered by the older boy in the black clothing with the silver hair.
"Yes, all of us kids actually lived on separate islands not too far away, but we always called the one we hung out at Destiny Islands."
"That's kinda silly," the older one said, "But that's okay. I'm Millie and this is my sister Pidge. We're staying with our grandparents until our Mum and Dad can buy a new house. What's your name?"
"I'm Riku," he answered.
"So, Mr. Riku, what was it like living on an island?" Millie asked, full of young curiosity.
Riku smiled, though it hid a little pain. It was always hard, thinking about how things used to be; how they could never be again.
"Well, we had a lot of freedom. When we rowed to the island everyday we knew that we had the whole place to ourselves. We built huge treehouses and piers for our boats. When we were younger we played all sorts of games and, when we got to be thirteen and fourteen, we would practice our battle skills against each other."
The girls' eyes were wide, watching him with awed wonder.
"What did you do? Was it like fencing?"
Riku's eyes got distant, remembering, "Oh, we all had different ways. Wakka—he was the same age as me—used a ball. He could throw it so hard it actually hurt when it hit and he sure did know how to aim. Selphie and Tidus, they hung around him all the time. Selphie had this jump rope she could twirl really well, while Tidus used a red pole he'd found as a sword."
Riku's face got sad as he continued, which was not missed by the girls.
"Kairi was the only other girl on the island. She didn't fight, but she liked to watch us. I guess she thought it was funny. And then…then there was Sora. He used a wooden sword, like I did. We were always competing against each other, not just in fighting but in everything else. I was always better than him until…until he had something worth fighting for."
Millie scooted closer to him on the ground, paying no attention to the grass stains on her clothing.
"What was he fighting for? You seem pretty strong. How could he beat you?"
Riku placed one hand over his heart, clutching at the cloth of his shirt.
"He fought for our hearts, not just on the islands but many other worlds besides it. He did everything I couldn't, everything that I tried to do and failed at. From saving the worlds to…to getting Kairi's attention. And even after I betrayed him, he saved me, came to help me even though I had aided our enemy in releasing the darkness. Just recently I saw him, losing everything all over again and me unable to do anything."
Eyes closed against the failure, Riku pulled in a shuddering breath. Admitting this was one of the most difficult things he could do, even to two little girls he hardly knew.
"Don't be sad Riku."
His eyes snapped open as a little hand patted his leg in a calming manner.
"Just be you and everything should be fine."
Riku looked at Millie with complete surprise, into the innocent gray eyes that held some kind of strange strength and courage. As well as…something else.
"You know, you're pretty smart for a kid."
Millie's grin gave Riku a view of perfectly even, white teeth and her wild hair bounced in the wind.
"Your friend is pretty amazing, but you are, too. I mean, what are you doing right now?"
"I'm looking for something he lost; his…Key Chains. He may need them and I want to…to help."
"There, you see?" Millie pointed out as Pidge nodded in agreement, "You can make your own accomplishments. You'll find these Key Chains, if only because you want with all your heart to help your friend. You just have to believe in yourself."
Riku smiled, a dazzling expression accompanied by the shine of his silver hair and the sudden brightness in his turquoise eyes. He felt a real lightness in his heart, a lifting of the weight that didn't seem possible.
It couldn't be that easy…could it?
There came a sudden flash of light, pink and yellow with just a tinge of white. It glowed softly, a gentle shine that emanated from Millie's chest. She looked down at it, surprised. It beat like a heart and an answering glimmer flickered in Riku's right hand. The Keyblade appeared and, with a will of its own, pointing straight at the opposite light.
A thin thread of blue and white connected the end of the blade with Millie's chest. It lingered for a moment, then withdrew, a shining object caught in a bubble of crystalline energy. It was a small playing card, an ace if Riku remembered correctly; the ace of hearts with a fine silver chain connected to one corner.
The Key Chain was drawn into the Keyblade, the pink and yellow light filling it for a moment. Then, with no other preamble, the light completely disappeared, save for a slight film that lingered a moment around his black/white Keyblade. He watched as it disappeared, noticing the subtle changes left in its wake. Everything on the weapon seemed finer, the junction of the blade and hilt a little narrower. It gleamed like glass and small, intricate swirls were engraved at the end.
Millie glanced over at him.
"Was that one of the Key Chains?"
Riku met Millie's gaze and smiled again, finally knowing what to do.
"Yeah. They Lady Luck, I think."
Millie and Pidge stood and Riku followed suit.
"I think the only thing I need to do now is find a way out of here."
Tilting her head in thought, Millie asked, "Where did you first…um, land? If you go back there you might be able to find your way."
"Thanks Millie," Riku replied, and was about to say more when he spotted a group of people approaching the house from the front. They seemed kind of upset and, leading them, was an old, stern-looking woman that was sort of familiar…
"Uh, I think it's time for me to go. Thank you, Millie, for helping me"
The little girl shook her head, her hair glinting in the sunlight, "You do not need to thank me, I was glad to help. Everyone needs a purpose; a goal or something for them to believe in."
Riku started to run up the rise, going backwards to keep the girls in view.
"You really are a smart girl, Millie! Good-bye!"
Millie and her sister waved heartily, oblivious to the group heading their way.
"Bye Riku! And Millie is only what my family calls me! My real name is Amelia! Amelia Earhart!"
Riku ran quickly back to the tree and the boulder. Luckily enough for him, the old ladies had packed up and left, leaving him free to work out the problem of getting off this world. He now knew that the Key Chains were hidden inside the hearts of people and that he could…well, he still wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten it out, but at least he had some sort of plan.
The feeling it gave him was incredibly light, and easy; he knew that, somehow, this was going to get more difficult, but he knew he could take it. He'd never been the kind to just give up; not even when he knew, on some level, that what he was doing was wrong.
But this time…he was on the right track. Riku grinned.
"I'll see you soon, Sora, with a big surprise."
His grin faltered a bit as he stood in front of the boulder, wondering what to do. The Keyblade he held seemed able to unlock hearts, revealing the light inside. Perhaps it was able to open the doors between worlds, too. Three years ago that might have sounded a little farfetched, but, after all he'd been through, it was totally plausible.
"I've seen Sora do it enough times, anyway."
Riku, with an almost nonchalant air, pointed his Keyblade to the air above the boulder. That thin thread of white and blue appeared, traveling to a Key Hole that materialized in the bright, sunlit air. The outline of an arched doorway formed around it, a silhouette that opened slowly, revealing intense light within. He found this a great improvement over that black mirror and the cold it brought with it.
With renewed purpose, Riku jumped onto the boulder and through the door, feeling inside him a foreign, almost…well, cheerful attitude.
It was kind of ridiculous; too much like Sora, really, but Riku could deal with that, too.
Laughter, real laughter, echoed back through the doorway as it closed, a click sounding as it locked behind him. No trace of Riku was ever found afterwards, but the people of Atchison did discover many small, black-tinged footprints, ice cold days after they'd been made. It was almost like a shadow had risen out of the ground and followed the silver-haired boy where ever he had gone.
It would be some time before Riku himself realized what was going on and, when he did, he would be forced to face a truth he didn't want to hear and find the courage within himself to accept what he'd always known.
The shadows would follow him until that time and forever, into eternity.
Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace,
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
From little things;
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
How can Life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul's dominion? Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the restless day,
And count it fair.
~ Amelia Earhart, 1927
Well, here's that other disclaimer I was talking about; I intend to use quite a few historical figures and I acknowledge and respect their lives and accomplishments. It should be noted that the people I consider 'historic' are those who affected our lives but are no longer among us. So this will include a few people who have lived within our century,
Formal stuff aside, I know this chapter was sort of slow, mainly to introduce what exactly is going on. The following ones will have Riku far more involved in the undertakings of…well, you'll find out. This side story is somewhat out of the realm of fantasy that Kingdom Hearts dwells in, but there is a reason behind it. That won't become clear 'till the end of the fifteen or so chapters that this is going to take, but it is vitally important to Court of Souls.
There are some big surprises hidden in this fic as well and I hope you'll stick around long enough to see them. I've already noted when I'll be releasing (so to speak) new chapters, but to you it will seem totally random. So, if you care what happens next, you'll have to keep an eye out.
He, he, so sneaky! ^_~
See ya again soon!