- o - o - o -
Extended summary: Throughout his childhood, Riku was othered by the rest of the community because of his mother's mysterious past, and haunted by strange visions. The day the Door opened, Riku began unraveling the clues to the secret within him, and his role in the destiny of Kingdom Hearts. Surviving the wars and political upheavals of the Keyblade Years, Riku finds himself at the nexus of the universe's fate, privy to a side of the truth that no one else could see. As he realizes his true place in the universe, will he choose the path of darkness, or of light?
FYI before you read: This epic is so much more than just Riku's side of the story; with another side, comes another story. I have been working on this story since 2003, when I first saw "Deep Dive," and now I'm finally resurfacing it. It follows the canon for the first two games pretty closely while interpreting the Kingdom Hearts saga in a very different way. Any events from Chain of Memories, any "final mixes" or Kingdom Hearts 3 are not taken into consideration, as I have never played them. Furthermore, plotlines and characters from the movies Lilo and Stich and Treasure Planet, along with a splash of Sailor Moon, are pretty heavily integrated into this story, so knowledge of them is helpful (thought not entirely necessary). I have worked really, really hard on this. Ten-ish years of writing, here goes nothing.
Rating: T, tentatively.
Disclaimer: I own none of this, as you well know, and make no profit. I merely gain the artistic pleasure of working with this interesting fictional universe.
PART ONE: RISE
chapter one: falling stars
It began seven years before the Keyblade ever appeared on our island. It started the day of the meteor shower; the day Kairi came to us; the day I met the hooded man. Truly it began even before I was born, my fate written into the stars before my first breath of life.
It was summer on the islands. The ocean winds carried the sticky-sweet smell of ripe paopu fruit, and Main Street was lined with colored lanterns and covered booths for the summer festival. Like all kids, Sora and I were wild with excitement. Our heads swam with the anticipation of sugaring ourselves up on baked goods and stocking up on cheaply-made toys.
"Hurry! Riku, hurry!" cried seven-year-old Sora, bouncing up and down in my living room with a toy sword in hand. "I hear the music starting!"
"Aw, wait just a minute, Sora," I called back. I was in the sun room in the back of the house. Through the glass windows I could see all the way to the shore. The sun was just falling into the sea for the evening, and the room was murky with twilight. My mother sat curled up in a whicker chair in the corner. White-blonde hair poured over her face, hanging all the way down to her torso.
"Go on, Riku," she said softly. "Your friend is waiting on you."
"Aren't you coming, Mother?" I asked her, tugging at her arm. "You can't miss the festival! You have to come."
She reached out with a pale, delicate hand and ran her fingers through my long hair. "No, baby. I don't have the energy for the festival tonight. You go on, have fun." She reached into the folds of her white dress and produced a handful of coins. "Here. Visit a few extra booths tonight. Share with Sora."
I pocketed the coins and nodded. She leaned over and kissed my forehead. Had I been wiser, I would have taken a moment to simply watch my mother, sitting like an angel in the twilight. But with the new-found jangle in my pockets, all my eight-year-old mind could think of was how to spend my munny.
I rejoined Sora and we headed down the street towards the square. Even from my yard we could hear the high school band warming up. People of all ages and from every different neighborhood could be seen walking down Main Street. We saw several of our schoolmates and their families, eyes lit up like ours.
"Sora, where's your family?" I asked. I felt like the only person whose mother stayed in during town events.
"My dad's directing the band, and my mom helped set things up," he replied, bouncing around like a hyperactive child. "They've been in town all day already."
The town square came into view. Booths with sweet-smelling foods, mini-shows, and games lined the street endlessly. Nearly the entire town was milling about, and the air was heavy with excitement. To our small eyes, it was larger than life. We broke into a run, and my pockets started jangling again. "Here, Sora," I said, pulling out some coins for him. "My mom gave me some extra munny." He gladly took the extra coins, and we wasted no time in diving in to the festivities.
The night took its toll on us. After running around for several sugared-filled hours, we found ourselves completely depleted. When our pockets were empty, we climbed onto the cloth awning of one of the booths. From there we could see over the heads of all the grown-ups. We watched the band perform on the stage, and the majorettes in red leotards twirled their batons. It was nearly midnight at that point, and our eyes were beginning to feel heavy...
"Riku, wake up!" I heard Sora's voice cry some time later.
I rubbed my eyes and looked around, realizing I had nodded off. "What is it, Sora?" I asked.
He pointed to the sky. "Look! Look at all the falling stars!"
Cries of "oohs" and "aahs" erupted from the crowd below us as meteors poured from the sky. Hundreds of bright balls of light were raining all over the island. I was mesmerized by the shimmering skies, bewildered at where such things could have come from.
"Come on, Riku, let's go!" said Sora, beginning to climb off of the awning.
I pulled my eyes away from the dazzling sight above us. "Huh? Go where?"
"To where everyone else is going."
I looked down at the crowd once more and noticed everyone seemed to be moving to the park behind the bandstand. I jumped off the booth awning and walked with Sora behind the swiftly moving crowd. I heard scattered bits of conversation as we walked.
"...looked just like a person..."
"What do you suppose caused it?"
"...where did it land?"
"...never in all my days..."
I found my small legs unable to keep up with rest of the crowd. I looked around and noticed that somewhere along the way, Sora and I had been separated. I wriggled my way through the crowd, knowing I would soon be trampled if I tried to keep up. I returned to Main Street, which was now abandoned. I walked along the quiet road, littered with empty food containers, confetti, and fallen streamers, and wondered if I could get to the park another way.
I froze suddenly as one of the shadows ahead moved. A clutched my toy sword tightly, watching, waiting. The shadow moved again, and I realized it was not a shadow at all. It was man, wearing flowing black robes. All that was visible were a few strands of silver hair, falling out from beneath his hood. Destiny Islands was the type of community where everyone knew everyone, but I had never seen this man before.
"Who... are you?" I asked, finding my voice. I stepped closer to him.
"I am no one," said the man. "I am the Fallen."
"Where did you come from?" I found myself growing more confident, and I walked nearer to the stranger.
He turned to me, and I saw his face. It was mostly covered in shadows, but I could see that his eyes were covered by a blindfold. "I came from here... but that was long ago."
"What does that mean? Do you mean that you've gone to other worlds?"
The man nodded. "Yes. Many worlds. But, I never realized until it was too late that the answers were here all along. I've come to warn you of something, Riku."
I nearly jumped. "How do you know my name?"
"I know alot about you, Riku. I've Seen the future. Years from now, the Door to the outside world will be opened. You will have the opportunity to visit other worlds. You and your little friend Sora will both go on an adventure... but Sora will end up being the hero, and you will fall into darkness."
I raised a skeptical eyebrow at him. "Sora? A hero? No way. I'm much stronger than he is. He's a big baby; he still thinks there are monsters under his bed and everything."
He let out a soft laugh, amused but bitter. "It may seem that way now, but Sora is stronger than you in ways you can't imagine. Just listen to me. I need you to be strong, Riku. Don't let your heart fall into darkness."
I clenched my tiny fists. "That would never happen to me."
He reached out and placed his hand on my shoulder, almost urgent. "I mean it! Always be strong, Riku. Always have a strong heart. You were... you are supposed to be the one, Riku. It was supposed to be you. But it was Sora instead..." He drifted for a moment, lost in his own memories. "Be strong."
The mysterious man nodded his head to me and turned to walk away. I reached out, hoping to stop him. I had so many questions to ask him. But he broke into a run, climbing onto the rooftops and practically flying away. I stared down the dark road, awestruck. Did he really know the future? I thought to myself.
He couldn't be right. Sora could never be stronger than me. No way. But his premonition made me uneasy. Even as the incident faded in my mind from vivid memory to distant dream, the man's words rang deep within me. They stay with me still.
"Riku! Riku!" cried a voice. I turned and saw Sora running towards me. "Oh, you missed it, Riku! It was the coolest thing ever! It was a girl. A girl fell down from the sky, just like all those stars!" He bent over to catch his breath.
"Don't be stupid, Sora," I said. "Girls don't fall from the sky. Nobody just falls out of the sky."
"But... But I saw it with my own eyes!"
I sighed. "Sure, Sora. Just like that monster in your closet a few days ago."
Sora opened his mouth to argue, but no excuse came out. Adults started to return to their booths, cleaning up and heading home. I yawned, suddenly realizing how tired I was, and Sora and I walked home. My mind was buzzing with thoughts of the festival, the meteors, and the mysterious man, but by the time I got home and into bed, all of it bled together and dissolved into my childish dreams.
- o - o - o -
"I told you she fell from the sky," Sora whispered in my ear.
I merely shrugged, and busied myself with the lunch on my plate. I tried to pretend like I wasn't at all fascinated by the timid girl sitting on the other side of Sora. She hid shyly hide behind choppy locks of auburn hair. There was a bewildered look on her face as Sora rudely stared at her with childish curiosity.
On the other sides of the table, the grown-ups were talking to one another. I elbowed Sora in the stomach to shut him up; I was trying to listen to the grown-ups, to find out more about the girl's mysterious arrival. Song, the widow who lived next door, was telling my father about how she had been more than delighted to take custody of our little visitor when the mayor asked. My mother stood up from the table to get fresh rolls out of the oven. She brought them back to the table and placed one on everyone's plates.
The widow looked up at my mother and smiled. "Thank you, Mara," she said. "It was so nice of you to invite little Kairi and I here today." She looked over at Sora and I and winked. "I'm sure she's just thrilled to make some new friends."
My mother smiled in return, but it looked forced. It wasn't the smile my mother had for me, the smile that I knew. "It was our pleasure, Song."
Song focused her attention on my mother again, looking at her with dark eyes. "It's been so long since I've seen you, you know. You haven't made it out to town much lately."
"I've been under the weather."
My father glanced nervously between the widow and my mother as an awkward silence fell between the adults. The widow had a sly grin on her face. She nodded politely to my mother's response, but something in her eyes told me she didn't believe it. There was a coldness Song felt towards my mother, though I had no idea why.
"Can we be excused?" Sora said suddenly. Kairi and I both looked at him in surprise. "I thought we could go outside and play together."
"Of course," said my mother. "That is, if it's all right with you, Song?"
Song nodded, and Sora immediately bolted from his seat. He grabbed Kairi by the hand and led her out of the kitchen; she followed, timid but willing. I took a final glance at the adults. I knew there was a secret between them, but I was simply not old enough to understand what it was.
I followed Sora and Kairi through the sun room and out the back door. I was a little uneasy. I wasn't quite ready to accept the prospect of inviting a new member into our play group. Especially not a girl. But Sora's smile was unfaltering. He felt immediately the bond that he wouldn't truly understand until we were much older.
She turned out to be a decent playmate. She squirmed with discomfort whenever Sora or I asked her about the night she came, or where she came from. But whenever the topic was moved from away her mysterious arrival, she was fun to have around. When Song came outside sometime later to say that it was time for Kairi to leave, Sora was devastated and started to pout. I was disappointed, too, but being a whole year older, I knew better than to act like a baby like Sora.
Song promised us that Kairi could play with us tomorrow. From there, our days together began.
- o - o - o -
When school started, I walked home each day with Sora and Kairi. One day, near the end of autumn, the two of them were having a playful argument about Margu, the game of cards and marbles that the school kids played. I remained quiet, shaking my head at them. They were a grade below me, but I always ended up spending more time with them than with the kids my own age.
"You're both wrong," I said at last, grinning. "You play the card on your fourth marble."
The two of them paused, looked at me, and sighed.
"I knew it was something like that..." Sora muttered.
"Sure," said Kairi with giggle. "Whatever you say, Sora."
Sora's face showed embarrassment. "Yeah, well..." We reached his house. "I'll see you guys later. Hey, Kairi, bring your marbles to school tomorrow. Maybe we can trade some."
"Okay. Bye, Sora!"
He turned and ran across the freshly-cut green grass of his yard and into his house. Kairi and I kept walking, but it was much quieter without Sora. Our silence made me uneasy. Kairi had been with us then for four months. The community had adopted her, made her one of us in no time at all, but I still wasn't quite used to her. She radiated a uniqueness that left me puzzled. Dazzled, even. Hungry for an explanation.
"Kairi," I said.
She fixed her frighteningly innocent eyes on me. "Yeah?"
"Does this feel like home to you yet? I mean, do you like it here better than your last home?"
She frowned slightly, but only for a moment. It quickly melted back into her persistent smile. "This is the closest thing to home I know. I don't remember anything about where I came from."
From the moment she'd arrived, questions burned within me. I wanted her to remember, not only because I was so curious about other worlds, but because I knew the absence of memory was hurting her. That flicker of a frown was engraved in my mind. It was the moment when I realized that Kairi was holding things inside. Everyone else only saw the smile. But I knew there was more.
We parted ways, and I entered my house.
"Shhh!" was the first thing I heard as I walked through the door. I saw my father on the couch in our living room. He looked so tired. "Your mother is sleeping."
I nodded, and tip-toed through the house to my bedroom. Mother had been feeling even worse than usual lately. She spent most of her time in bed while my father tended to her needs. Days could go by and I wouldn't even get a glimpse of her. The house was always quiet. I wasn't allowed to speak or play or make any noise; Mother needed her rest.
The quiet killed me inside. I tried to stay out of the way of my father at all times. He was consumed by the stress of Mother's illness. Most days I would row out to the children's island to escape the quiet. I would swim, run, spar, grow stronger.
I needed to be strong, so that Sora would never be better than me. I needed to be strong, so I would never fall to sickness like my mother. I needed to be strong, so that I could rid all traces of a frown from Kairi's face. Be strong, a voice rang in my head. A voice that was distant yet familiar. Be strong.
The echo of those words would haunt me my entire life.