A note from the Hime no Argh herself–
Hello all! Welcome to the third and final part of There Will Always Be. Thanks for following this far, hope you enjoy!
"Darkside!" Sora gasped.
The giant Heartless who had been Sora's first foe stood among the advancing army. "He isn't like your Darksides, Sora," Riku said grimly as he pressed back to back with Sora and Mickey. "The Heartless here are much stronger than the ones in the worlds outside."
"So this is why they avoided our camp for so long," Mickey said, waving his Keyblade back and forth as though to shoo away the advancing Heartless. "They were planning this."
"We'll beat 'em," Sora said with a kind of grim confidence that he didn't feel. "All of 'em."
"That's right." Mickey grinned at Sora. "Remember, Sora? There will always be–"
"A door to the light!" Three voices finished the intonation as three Keyblades attacked.
Sora gave himself over to his Keyblade once again. His mind went blank and a peace as deep as the oceans of Atlantica settled deep inside his soul. Wave after wave of Heartless attacked but Sora drove them all back with his Keyblade, fighting faster and harder than he ever had in his life. Heartless attacked from above, but Sora leapt into the air to cut through them, spinning like a cyclone, and struck down half a dozen before his feet ever touched the ground.
Riku was all speed and steel and sharp edges, hacking and slicing mercilessly. Mickey darted back and forth between their feet like lightning; his size made it easier for him to elude attacks. The three never once fouled one another's movements; they covered each other, taking down the Heartless the others had missed. Even in his calm, detached state Sora marveled at the deadly precision and perfect synchronicity with which the three fought, their hearts inexplicably linked through their Keyblades.
"We've got to get Darkside," Riku said grimly, slicing a Heartless in two with a quick slash. "He'll just keep summoning more."
He was right. Darkside had a pool of inky black shadows at its feet from which more Heartless rose. Darkside bent forward slowly to plunge a hand in the inky black muck, and Riku made his move. Cutting through the Heartless, he darted up Darkside's arm to plunge his Keyblade into its forehead.
The giant Heartless bellowed in pain, jerking back and forth in an effort to dislodge Riku, but he somehow maintained his balance on Darkside's shoulder. Riku yanked the Keyblade from Darkside's forehead and swung down as if to strike the Heartless's empty chest–
Then one of Darkside's hands struck Riku, flinging him like a rag doll into a waiting swarm of Heartless.
"RIKU!" Sora dove into the swarm as Mickey threw himself at Darkside.
In an entire swarm of Heartless there was no room for his Keyblade, so Sora simply clawed through the shadows, desperately seeking Riku. He felt a set of Heartless claws, then a second, third, and fourth sink into his chest and he gasped in pain. It was like so many of his nightmares, and he felt his energy being drained away–he was here only in heart, the Heartless were devouring him–
No. He would not give up. He and Riku would fight. They would live.
Sora gave a desperate lunge, blindly seeking, and his hand gripped another–warm, solid–it was Riku's. He clawed through the Heartless toward a glimmer of silver. "Riku!"
Riku was worse off than he–no less than half a dozen Heartless had their claws sunk into him; his face was bloodless and shining with sweat, his green eyes frantic, but he was fighting. Sora sensed it rather than saw it. Mickey entered the fray, hacking and slashing through the Heartless with his Keyblade, and the three gathered at the heart of the swarm.
Riku gritted his teeth in pain and determination. "Not again. I won't give into the darkness–not again!"
And without hesitating, without thinking, without knowing why, Sora, Riku, and Mickey brought their Keyblades to bear and joined them at the tips. Light exploded from the ends of the Keyblades in a great wave that shuddered through the army of Heartless, throwing all of Kingdom Hearts into sharp, blinding relief.
Then the light was gone, the Heartless with it.
Sora had to blink several times before his vision finally cleared of the spots the great light had left. He didn't like to think what damage that light would have done had he been in his real body, after hours spent in near-darkness. He found Mickey beside him with a hand tightly covering his eyes. "Mickey?"
The mouse let his hand fall and looked around. "They're all gone," he said reverently, then looked at Sora. "Good thing I thought to cover my eyes, huh? With that light..." He shook his head. "I could be blind right now."
Blind... Sora felt a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Riku," he muttered, casting about for his friend.
Riku lay on his side a few feet away, his eyes tightly shut. Sora shook his shoulder gently. "Riku? You okay?"
Riku gripped Sora's wrist suddenly and his eyes flew open. They were still as bright and green as ever, but they had lost the sharpness that always made Sora feel as though Riku were staring right through him. Riku's eyes sought him out and found his face, and the sinking feeling in Sora's stomach grew tenfold. Riku was looking at him, but not seeing him.
"You're blind," Sora said softly.
Riku's grip on his wrist tightened, and a ghost of his old grin fluttered across his features. "Yeah," he said shakily, "but I still have my heart."
* * *
Sora seemed far more depressed about Riku's loss of vision than Mickey or even Riku himself. "Don't be so glum, Sora," Riku told him as Mickey fastened a makeshift blindfold over his eyes. "It's not that bad. I don't need eyes to fight; my Keyblade'll guide me."
"Riku's loss of sight may not be permanent," Mickey added, tying the blindfold with a tight knot. "After being in near-darkness for two years, his eyes were damaged by that incredible light. But if he protects his eyes and keeps them covered, his vision may come back."
But Sora was still upset. "Why didn't you look away, Riku?"
"Because I haven't seen real light for two years," was the quiet reply. "Because it was a thousand times more beautiful than painful. I don't regret looking for a second, blind or not."
Sora was momentarily distracted from Riku's eyes. "What was that light, anyway?"
Mickey chuckled. "I'm surprised you even have to ask that, Sora. After all, wasn't it you who said that Kingdom Heart is light?" He indicated the shadowy world around them with a sweep of his hand. "This place is the heart of all worlds, a place of shadows. But Kingdom Hearts exists not just here, but inside all of our hearts. Even in the blackest heart there is a light shining that will never die. We called that light to us. We found Kingdom Hearts inside of ourselves."
Sora was quiet, mulling this over. At last Riku broke the silence.
"Well," he said in a brisk tone, "the Heartless won't try anything like that for a while, that's for sure. Which means it's time for you to go, Sora."
"Are you joking?" Sora demanding. "An army of Heartless attack, you go blind, and you expect me to just waltz off and leave you and Mickey here alone? I don't think so."
Riku sighed. "Mickey, would you mind giving me a minute alone with Sora?"
"Not a problem." Mickey smiled at Sora. "So long, Sora. We'll meet again."
Sora frowned after the mouse as he walked off. Mickey talked as though he knew Sora were leaving, despite all his protests. "I'm not going," he said firmly, turning back to Riku. "You need me."
Riku smiled. "I told you, Sora, I have my Keyblade to guide me." As he spoke the weapon appeared in his hands, and Riku lovingly ran his hands over the silvery-black blade. "You remember my Keyblade, don't you, Sora? Yours has the power to unlock doors–" Riku turned toward Sora, his smile broadening, "–and mine has the power to unlock hearts."
Sora stared at him. "Yeah, I remember..." Abruptly it hit him, and he gasped. "Riku, don't!"
Too late. Riku thrust the Keyblade forward and through Sora's chest.
Sora staggered back as Riku let go of the handle with a strangled gasp. There was no pain, only a warmth that spread from the Keyblade through his veins, followed by the indelible feeling of slowly drifting away. He tried to grip the stem of the Keyblade to pull it out, but his hands merely passed through the metal–they were transparent and fading fast. Only his heart existed here in Kingdom Hearts, and Riku had just released it.
"Go back to your body, Sora," Riku said quietly. "Go to where you belong."
Sora tried to reach for him, tried to call his friend's name, but he no longer had a voice with which to speak. The shadowy world around him dissolved–he was fleeing Kingdom Hearts, returning to his physical body in a whirl of color and light.
* * *
Sora groaned and stirred, holding a hand to his forehead, which was aching sharply.
Only one voice was that grating. Sora opened his eyes and scowled up at Donald. "D'you have to be so loud?"
"Sora!" Donald and Goofy threw themselves onto Sora's chest, hugging him so tightly he could barely breathe. Just as suddenly they let go and pulled back, and Sora realized he was lying on the bed in his hotel room–exactly where he'd left his body when he projected himself into Kingdom Hearts.
Donald looked furious. "WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?!"
"Donald–" Sora began.
"WE COME BACK AND FIND YOU HALF-DEAD–"
"NO EXPLANATION, NOTHING, WE THOUGHT A HEARTLESS HAD GOTTEN YOU–"
"DONALD!" Sora bellowed. "Will you calm down and listen?!"
Donald shut up with an angry hiss, and Sora explained as thoroughly as he could. When he was done, Goofy blinked at him, looking mystified.
"Ya mean you actually went to Kingdom Hearts?"
"No, just my heart. And then Riku..."
Donald waved that aside. "That means we can all go! We can help the king and your friend!"
Sora shook his head. "We can't, Donald. Our bodies will still be out here–and who would find and open the door to Kingdom Hearts?"
"Oh," Donald said, looking put-out.
"Well, we'll just have t'find that door," Goofy said brightly. "C'mon, let's get going!"
There was another reason Sora couldn't return to Kingdom Hearts–Riku. He would never let Sora stay, no matter what happened. Sora knew that now. Because if he had a stubborn streak a mile wide, Riku's stretched across the vastness of worlds, and his devotion to Sora went even further. Sora knew that because his own devotion to Riku was the same, and he would not stop moving, he would never rest, until Riku and Mickey were free from Kingdom Hearts.
There will always be a door to the light.
"Yes," said Sora, smiling. "Let's go."