It's Kai, Not Kairi
"Now that we're all together," said a light voice, "let's negotiate."
The chair in the center of the room was no longer empty. Naminé twirled a pencil playfully in her hand and wore a smile that even angels would envy. She gripped her pencil gently between her fingers again and made some feathery movements across her sketchbook. After erasing a few stray marks, she looked up at her two prisoners.
Kairi's face was a mess; her hair was damp and clinging to the sides of her pale face, and her eyes were moist and swollen. She was vainly shouting and cursing words that were inaudible to Naminé. Sora looked like he was so close to death that he could smell its foul breath.
And they were both contained in glass jars. Helpless and hopeless. Trapped.
Naminé leaned back until the arch of her back touched the wood of her chair. She tapped her chin with the end of her pencil, slightly tilted her head to the side, and soaked in the joy she got out of seeing them looking so vulnerable. Then she focused her attention back on her drawing.
"But before we begin, I'll keep my side of the deal," Naminé said as she made one last pencil stroke.
And just like that, Kairi was no longer leaning on the sides of her prison, but on the warmth of Sora's back. They were back at the beach—or what looked like the beach.
Sora reached for whatever part of Kairi he could get and roughly pulled her into his arms, fearing that a glass wall will wedge in between them again any moment.
"Are you okay?" Kairi gasped.
"Yeah, I'm feeling fine. Are you?"
Of course he wasn't fine. Both of them knew that. And both knew Kairi wasn't "fine" either. But Kairi nodded anyway, knowing that this was what both of them needed to hear.
Sora sighed in relief and buried his head into her hair. He felt her heart beating against his chest in rhythm with the crashing of waves against boulders. For a moment, he forgot where they were, why they were there. The brunet didn't know where to start or how to begin telling Kairi his encounter with Naminé earlier. Finally, he kissed the top of Kairi's head and gently pushed her away at arm's length.
"Kairi, I remember everything," he whispered. "The Secret Place, Riku, Highwind…everything. I remember it all."
Kairi looked up at Sora with confusion.
Sora shook his head and smiled through sudden tears that had welled up.
"I don't know how. Naminé showed me a bit of my past, and that's all it took for me to remember the rest of it."
For a few more beats, Kairi's face remained motionless, then suddenly brightened as she threw her arms around Sora, knocking him down onto the sandy beach.
"I can't believe this! That means we don't need this witch's power at all!"
Sora couldn't help but laugh along with Kairi's happiness. But it only lasted for an instant.
"But we're still her captives," he pointed out solemnly.
Kairi's laughter ceased and she silently looked into Sora's eyes.
"We'll figure something out. Together," Sora said reassuringly. He pressed a light kiss on Kairi's lips. She smiled sadly and placed her head on his chest, then lifted it up again.
"What do you have in your pants? It's poking my leg," she commented.
She rolled off Sora as he sat up and dug through the contents of his pocket. His puzzled face suddenly stiffened as he touched the all too-familiar texture of the yellow star. He pulled it out—along with the one he found at the beach earlier.
Kairi recognized the yellow star from the amusement park. That day seemed like such a long time ago. It took her a bit longer to recognize the other item.
The thalassa shells, the pink smile, the blue edges…
Suddenly the foreign object looked so familiar in her eyes as she made the connection.
"That's my good luck charm," Kairi gasped. She gingerly lifted her hand and brushed her fingertips along the edges of the pendant.
Sora's eyes widened.
"This belongs to you?"
Kairi nodded, not taking her eyes off the star.
"I can't believe you found this…I made it for my brother--" Kairi quickly caught herself. She remembered that she never had a brother.
But if it wasn't for this brother Naminé created, who was it for?
Sora's voice interrupted her thoughts.
"I found it right here on this beach. I don't know why I picked it up. I never expected it to be yours."
"What beach?" asked a curious voice.
Kairi and Sora shielded their eyes at the sudden flood of light. They were back in the white room, and so was Naminé.
"You were listening to us," Sora said in disbelief.
"You were never even out of this room." Naminé said bluntly.
"I'm tired of your tricks and illusions, Naminé. Why are you even doing this to us?" Kairi asked in exasperation.
Naminé arched a brow, looking amused.
"Why am I doing this you ask?"
She tucked a few strands of silky hair behind her ears and crossed her arms.
"Is that supposed to be rhetorical?"
"Shouldn't it be obvious by now? I'm trying to get rid of you, Kairi. Why?" Naminé held up her chin. "Because I loved him."
At the last word, Naminé flicked her eyes towards Sora. Naminé's forced laugh sounded hollow, metallic.
"Because I gave him all the love I ever had for anyone, and because you were receiving all of his," she continued.
Tinkling bells were replaced with metal grazing against metal as the porcelain face scrunched up to resemble angry clay.
Naminé held up her sketchbook and shoved a picture at Kairi's face.
"This was us after I got rid of you."
Kairi made out a picture of what seemed to be Sora and Naminé looking at each other with such tender. Their hands were both enclosed on the yellow star pendant.
"And this…" Naminé straightened up and turned the sketchbook around to see it herself "…is how we were supposed to be."
For a few moments, the others thought Naminé was going to cry. But she only let out a small sigh and calmly closed the sketchbook.
"I'm more than just your average artist, Kairi. I can make things happen. My drawings can become reality."
She slowly sat back on her chair and crossed her legs.
"But I guess I need more practicing. My first memory wipe didn't go too well on Sora. He kept having dreams of you and eventually got the entire thing back."
Suddenly, a glass flower bloomed under Kairi and then swallowed her.
"Kairi!" Sora shouted.
He scrambled onto his feet and charged at the glass walls, thrusting his entire body against it—but his efforts were fruitless.
"I'm not patient enough to perfect my mind-wiping abilities, so I've decided to that terminating you will be the quickest way."
Water started to pool around Kairi's bare feet. It was icy and nipped at her flesh. The witch was planning to drown her.
"Kairi!" Sora shouted, banging his fists against the walls. The good-luck charm was still clasped in his hands and made innocent, tinkling notes as it was hit against the glass.
Kairi's eyes dilated with fright and she, too, hit the walls of her prison with her fists. The water continued to rise. It was up to her knees, then her waist.
Both knew that the glass was impossible to break, but Sora continued to hurl himself until the translucent surface of the bulb glistened with smeared blood. His knuckles were torn open.
The water was now up to Kairi's small chin.
Sora never felt so helpless. A wall of glass. That was it. A wall of glass was all it took to keep him from saving Kairi after all they've been through. He could do absolutely nothing, nothing but stand back and watch Kairi drown right before his eyes.
"Kairi, I don't know what's going to happen to you or where you're going, but I'll find you!" he shouted against the glass, hoping his heart out that she could hear him.
"No matter where you are, I'll find you," he said. "I promise."
And through the red-stained glass, a smiling, white-and-blue star pressed against the wall was the last thing she saw before she was no longer able to keep her head above the water.
Waves crash. Seagulls screech. Bare feet crunch sand.
Then somebody calls her name.
Grains of sand shifted under her as Kairi painfully rolled over to her side. Salty water pushed its way out of her throat and splashed onto the ground as she coughed and gagged. She desperately gulped for air and then peeled open her eyes.
Kairi clumsily wiped the side of her mouth and looked up at the silhouette blocking the evening sun.
"Selphie," she rasped. "What happened?
Her brunette friend bent down on her knees.
"I don't know what happened to you but I'll tell you what was supposed to happen. We were supposed to go shopping for the first day of school together! I was on my way back from the mall and saw you just lying here when I passed by." Selphie crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"I can't believe you decided to go to the beach without telling me."
Kairi motioned the talkative brunette to help her up. Selphie obeyed and pulled Kairi onto her feet.
"Sorry, I changed my mind," Kairi mumbled.
Tomorrow was the first day of school at Destiny High.
"Well, I'll forgive you because you look so pathetic right now. Here, come over to my house. I'll help get you cleaned up."
Kairi feebly nodded as Selphie started chattering about the new shoes she just purchased.
"And I wouldn't care as much if we weren't going to become high school students! Seriously, can you believe that?" Selphie exclaimed.
"Oh wow, you're right."
High school. New school, new teachers, new friends… It meant starting a brand new life.
For the next four years, Kairi attended the local public high school. She dated, ran for class president, joined track and field, and experienced nearly everything any average high school student would.
Life was simple and happy.
"Hey Kairi," Selphie called out in a hushed voice.
Kairi and Selphie were currently in the middle of Calculus. The brunette sat in front of Kairi, and both were parallel to the wide windows of the classroom.
Kairi pushed her shoulder-length hair behind her ears and looked up at her friend, who had to twist around in her chair to face her.
"What?" Kairi mouthed.
The brunette excitedly pointed out the window, her emerald eyes twinkling with delight. Kairi turned her head towards whatever Selphie was pointing at.
About a few yards away, a person was standing near the school entrance. He didn't look familiar, but he was around their age. She assumed he was from another school.
Kairi looked back at her friend and shrugged her shoulders, furrowing her eyes in confusion.
"What about him?" Kairi whispered.
"He is hot," Selphie replied a bit too loudly. Their teacher stopped lecturing and gave a disapproving glance at the brunette.
"Quiet down back there, ladies," he demanded.
Selphie winced and smiled sheepishly. Then she flipped to the back of her notebook, ripped out a piece of paper, and furiously scribbled words on it. She then folded it up and impatiently shoved it behind her towards Kairi's desk.
I think he's new, because I would've totally been able to pick out a hottie like him in any crowd. Let's go talk to him after school.
Kairi crumbled up the piece of paper and threw it at Selphie's head, but smiled.
School was out in five minutes, and Selphie flew outside before the bell even stopped ringing with poor Kairi being pulled by the arm right behind her.
"Calm down, Selphie," Kairi hissed. She rubbed the socket of her arm and leaned against one of the pillars that stood on either side of the school entrance. The boy was leaning against the other pillar.
"Kairi, this is our last year here. Let's make the most out of it!"
Selphie pushed Kairi away at arm's length and observed her. She brushed the auburn strands away from Kairi's face and brushed the rest of her hair with her fingers. After straightening her friend's ruffled shirt, she turned her around and pushed her out of their hiding place.
Kairi stumbled forward and frantically glanced at the boy. He was looking straight at her.
She cursed under her breath and shot a glare at Selphie, who was wearing one of her eviler smiles. Kairi had fallen into Selphie's tricks again. Ever since Kairi's last break-up, Selphie's been desperately trying to find Kairi a new boyfriend. Kairi thought it was all so very, very childish.
Kairi turned back to the boy and was surprised to see him walking towards her. Her eyes widened and she backed away towards Selphie. She grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the open school gates.
"Kairi! What are you doing, he's coming towards you!" Selphie whispered angrily as she tried to resist Kairi's grasp.
"Excuse me, miss," the boy called out. He grabbed Kairi by the wrist.
Selphie widened her eyes in surprise and glanced at her friend, who was just as astonished.
"Sorry if I startled you," he said as he instantly let go of Kairi. He awkwardly coughed into his fist and stuck his hands into his jean pockets.
"But I was wondering if I could talk to you for a moment."
"Do I know you?" Kairi asked hesitantly.
"I-I'm a journalist from Wataya High, and wanted to interview few of the students who attend here," he explained.
The heavy atmosphere of uncertainy instantly lifted as Selphie broke into a smile and clapped her hands.
"Oh, go on, girl! Help out the poor journalist!"
The high school journalist smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his head.
"School only ended a few minutes ago, so it's pretty loud here. Why don't you two go behind the school where it's nice and quiet?" Selphie slyly suggested.
Kairi rolled her eyes and turned towards the boy.
"There's a park nearby with a playground. It should be empty," Kairi said.
Selphie looked disappointed.
"That should be fine," the boy said.
"Stay here, I'll be back as soon as we're done," Kairi said back to Selphie.
Her friend nodded and waved good-bye.
The playground was small and only satisfied three-year-olds. Why it was built adjacent to a high school, nobody understood. But sometimes, it was nice to sit on the swings or sit under the palms. Kairi liked to come by in the late evenings and listen to the crickets chirp.
"What are you going to interview me about?" Kairi asked, trying to make small talk. They were heading towards the swings hanging on the other side of the playground.
"Wataya High is an all-male school, so our academic career probably contrasts with a lot of other high schools, which are co-ed like Destiny High. This month's paper is going to be about those contrasts."
His answer was precise, almost recited.
"I see," Kairi said.
They arrived at the swings and sat themselves down.
"First of all, my name is Sora, Sora Wataya," he introduced himself. He stuck out a hand.
Kairi smiled and shook it.
"I'm Kairi Narumi," she replied.
"I'd like to thank you in advance for taking the time to contribute to our paper," Sora said gratefully.
"Oh, no problem," Kairi said brightly.
"Shall we start then?"
The two spent the next thirty minutes discussing dress codes, teachers, and school discipline. During that time, Kairi observed how well this boy articulated his words.
She also noticed how blue his eyes were.
Without being too conspicuous, she studied his face whenever he jotted down notes in his notebook.
She wanted to know what was behind his professional act, wanted to know what was behind those blue eyes. She wanted to know him.
"I think that's it, Kairi," Sora concluded. "I greatly appreciate your time."
Kairi couldn't help but feeling disappointed as she got off her swing.
"I guess I can go now?"
The brunet didn't reply for a while, and then looked up at her.
"Not yet, Kairi. There's something I want to give you."
He dug into his pockets and pulled out a white star. It was chipped in places and dull with age.
And somehow, Kairi knew exactly what it was as the boy before her placed it into her hand.
"I kept our promise."
And Kairi knew.
He tried hard not to cry, really he did. But at that moment, it was so hard to just sit there and watch Kairi being drowned right before his eyes. He sat there and cried like a child, not being able to do anything.
It only took Naminé thirty seconds to kill Kairi, thirty seconds to make her disappear.
Sora never felt so much anger, so much hate as he faced Naminé.
"We had a deal, Naminé!" he shouted. "You were supposed to let her go, not kill her!"
Naminé furrowed her brows and her hands clenched into fists.
"Shut up!" she screamed.
"Revenge is a fickle thing, Sora. One moment you just can't wait to dig your nails in flesh and smell blood, and then you just want to be held and comforted the next. Can't you see, Sora? I'm doing all this—going through all this pain because I love you. Why can't you see that? Do you think I would really wipe out your existence?" Naminé paused to let it settle in.
"What does she have that I don't?" she went on. "What did she ever do for you? I've murdered people, Sora. I ruined lives. All so that I could get to you, Sora."
Her entire body shuddered and her breaths were heavy.
"And I don't regret any of it."
Sora stood frozen, lost for words.
Naminé was planning on keeping him here with her all along. All those options were mere tricks. Not even tricks. She was just playing with them.
"You make me sick."
Before he knew it, Sora felt the familiar, cool metal against the palm of his hand.
Naminé's eyes widened.
"You know you're not supposed to use that, Sora," she said, sounding frightened for the first time.
He swung the keyblade around to his other hand and struck the white floor with it.
"When did you ever care about breaking rules?"
Sora let out an exasperated sigh, "I'm tired of listening to your voice, but I listened to everything you said nonetheless. Now let me say a few words."
"You say you're doing this out of love," he began. "But you don't understand. We don't choose who we love, who we care about. Destiny does."
"Destiny? But I can control destiny. I can change it, and I did!"
She slowly sunk to the floor and buried her head in her hands.
"I could change it again…" she whispered.
Sora softly put a hand on Naminé's shoulder.
"You can start by letting me go," he said. His voice was soft, sincere. "And why not start fresh yourself?"
Naminé looked at him, confused.
"Go ahead, wipe me clean. Let us start over."
"I found Kairi once. I know I'll find her again. It might be tomorrow or years away, but I'll find her."
Sora could not read Naminé expression, but he knew everything would be alright. Even when Naminé silently picked up her pencil and notebook, even when his keyblade disappeared, even when the bulb bloomed from under him…he knew.
And he was right.