Everyone knew that Sora was a bit odd since he'd returned.
He'd been strange before, of course, with his oversize shoes and messy hair, but in the naïve little kid sort of way. Since he came back, however, his old friends had noticed a change. His clothes were darker now and he always had a dreamy look, as though he didn't live on the islands at all but somewhere beyond the horizon and the rising sun. They said he talked to himself, too, muttering in the hallways as he walked to class, speaking louder when he thought he was alone. He was talking to someone – Roxas, they'd heard him say. Whispers followed him and teachers sent worried notes to his parents, but nothing was ever done.
He didn't seem to mind that his classmates avoided him. He still had his closest friends, after all. Though, they had become a bit odd as well. Kairi suddenly began to enjoy drawing, filling sketchbook after sketchbooks with practiced ease. She had a reputation for talking to herself, as well. And Riku… Riku, with his long silver hair and slouching stance and rebellious voice, had the distant look even more intensely than Sora.
And they had a tendency to vanish. One morning, off the island entirely, not returning for several days — weeks even — with no explanation and no warning. Not even their parents could answer for the absences. But they always returned eventually, as mysteriously as they'd left. Their peers overheard them in the halls, speaking foreign names in hushed tones — the King, Donald, Goofy; Leon, Aerith, Cid — and many others that weren't even pronounceable to ordinary island tongues.
Days often found them on the barrier islands, together, Riku and Sora sparring with practice swords. Only it wasn't practice anymore, their skills were too swift and sure for that. One could almost swear they were honing skills they already possessed, keeping them sharp for their next battle.
Their old friends spoke in knowing tones of what had caused this. They used to be normal, they'd say. Then the wanderlust caught them. It was the night of the storm…
The three grew up and turned eighteen and graduated, and then vanished completely. One day, they simply disappeared, just like all the other times — only months passed, and they didn't return. Their parents refused to comment. The island elders shook their heads. It's a shame, they said, how bad things happen to good people.
The years passed and life went on, eternally calm. The children grew up and had children, and the parents passed away. A new generation of youth roamed the beaches, paddling in the waves and fighting mock battles, but none venturing to the mysterious barrier islands that had swallowed three of their own.
Then one day a stranger with brown hair and oversized shoes appeared on the main island, a young red-headed woman by his side. A child, no older than six, clutched her hand and looked out at the world through bright blue eyes. The island children watched with fascination as they approached the ruin of the house by the beach.
Where is the family that used to live here? the man asked them, his voice pleasant but rather unusual. It was a mixture of the normal island tongue and a touch of something exotic, like a traveler who'd been to so many foreign lands he'd lost his native accent.
Family? the children replied. Gone for many years. The legends say the boy disappeared and never returned, and the parents died several years later. No one's lived here since.
I see, he said. Would you tell me where I might find their graves?
On the barrier islands, they answered. We aren't allowed there anymore. The grown-ups say we might vanish too. But you can hire a boat there if you want.
The man smiled and nodded and thanked them, walking off to the docks with the woman and the child by his side. The silver-haired stranger who'd been lurking in the shadows stepped out to join them.
Who was that? the children asked each other, but no one knew the answer. The grownups didn't either, though a few of the elders watched with knowing eyes. But no one spoke and the strangers rowed out to the islands, disappearing from view. They never rowed back. The next night, their boat returned empty, under the light of a shooting star.
It's a shame, the elders said, how bad things happen to good people.
The strangers were spoken of in hushed tones for several weeks afterwards. Most wondered where they'd come from, where they were going, what business they had on the island. No one could find the answers. They'd left no names and no information, just fleeting smiles and a feeling of regret.
The elders shook their heads. Only one thing was certain.
They'd been a bit odd…
I couldn't help thinking the Trio wouldn't be content to stay home for long, now that they've seen the world outside.
They've grown up, after all.
Please tell me what you think.