CHAPTER THREE

I walked Marlene home after a long day at school.

"Ugh, can't believe coach made us do fifty lifts," I complained while stretching my body in exhaustion.

Today's academics was not the funniest. Coach had us boys do fifty and then jump into the water right afterwards. We didn't even have time to rest. He gave us a direct order to work on our blitzball skills. My muscles were close to collapsing if academics had gone on longer.

"Coach is crazy," said one of my fellow students.

The painful workout made many of us complain.

"This is too much. I will not be taken to this abuse."

"Give me freedom!"

"Just let me off the hook! I don't care if it's gonna be on my grades, I just wanna rest."

Difficult. Painful. The coach ignored our complains.

"Don't be such a whiner and get back to your workout."

They complained on their loudest tones, but the coach kept ignoring them. I knew my complains would only be unreachable to him, so I could only ignore the difficulties and do as I was told. Anything to get the day over with.

Marlene looked over my sore shoulder as I stretched.

"Did you blow the steam off the coach?" she jokingly asked.

"No, he was already blowing off steam," I answered jokingly. "I was just one of the victims of his wrath."

She laughed at my little joke.

"He was probably in a bad mood."

"Like he always does when he puts us through the sorrow of his wrath."

There was nothing funny about it, yet she bursted into louder laughs like I made a really good crack out of it, and a moment later, a blissful laugh came up my throat as if her laughter was contagious. All that burden was suddenly lifted from my shoulders.

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow then," Marlene said after we reached her home.

"Y-yeah!" I replied with a wave of hand.

She turned toward the door. Once she was inside, she gave me one last glance before gently closing the door behind her. I guess you could say it's nothing special, because we can always see each other, but… I just felt anxious to depart from her. There was nothing sorrowful about not seeing her, but every time I saw her at school, I sort of wished we could see each other more often. Hope that the day would never end. Her smile was enchanting to me; as if the whole universe has only one hold on me, it bended me, my eyes were on that person only. Aside from my family, she's above everything else that was precious to me. And our friendship was mutual: Marlene was my number-one friend.

The road home wouldn't take long, but I didn't want to go home yet. Suddenly, I felt the urge of going to the beach, it didn't have to take much time, just for a little while.

I followed the path until I reached the horizon. The sunlight was warming, equalled by the gentle breeze that sooths the heat covering my body. Colors of the orange sky above the Small Island lit up the horizontal area, even the waves looked beautiful. The sound of the waves came toward me with the wind. I closed my eyes, focused on feeling the breeze and hearing the waves.

"Figured you might come here."

The familiar voice grabbed my attention from the waves. I turned to the direction where the voice came from, and there was my father, looking far out to the little island that he used take me to when I was younger. After I turned ten, we stopped visiting that island, but Sora still liked to look at it from the beach. My mother Kairi liked to look at it from here too. They said that the island carried most of their happy memories, and those memories had become part of themselves. I wonder, did my memories begin from there too? My parents told me that it was the first place they brought me to after I was born. I was only seven days old then.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"Just had a feeling of coming down here," he asnwered simply. "And somehow I figured you would come too."

"Why is that?"

"Because this is where we always come to when we want to watch the island."

I looked at the island again. Yeah, he was right. Every time I came, I wanted to see the island. The gleaming shine of the sun made it look like a gigantic diamond that emitted a soothing aura that causes my tensions and frustrations to fade away. It had a life of its own.

"Dad," I started after our long moment of silence. "You're right."

He looked at me with his kind and simple blue-colored eyes. My eyes.

"Let's go home, I think your mom is gonna worry if we don't get home sooner."

I nodded in agreement. Yes, mom and dad were always secretive about their teenage years and their journeys. Every time I asked them about it, they just shoved me off. Though it was really frustrating to be kept in the dark sometimes, I felt in my heart that I was surrounded by their love, and I was giving them the same. We began to turn back toward the village and head home.

"First at the door gets a kiss from Mom, Dad," I exclaimed and sprinted toward the road. I wanted to fire him up and feel the excitement of racing, like we always did.

"Huh? Hey!" I heard him call after me as we rushed. I didn't turn around to look, but his footsteps were loud enough to alert me that he wasn't far behind.


In another world, Sora's best friend and Sarox' godfather, Riku and the white duck, Donald Duck, headed into the throne room where they were waited by a little mouse named Mickey Mouse, ruler of the Disney Castle; and Goofy, captain of the Royal Knights. Riku and Donald bowed in front of him in royal respect to the mouse king.

"Your Majesty, what brings the occasion?" Donald asked.

"Donald, Riku," the king replied. "Something has happened to the worlds. Something terrible."

Riku is the first to look up. He had already noticed the worry in his tone.

"Mickey, what's going on?"

"I don't know, but I sense a great darkness approaching. It's much greater than the ones we've faced before, and I'm afraid we won't have enough power to stop it."

Donald looked up in shock.

"Huh? But Your Majesty, what're we going to do then?"

"We fight," Riku replied. His voice was overflowed with courage and confidence.

"Fight we shall, my friend," the king pointed. "But to do it, we need more than just our collective power. The darkness I sense is much vaster, much deeper than we've ever encountered. The only possible way for us to win is to awake those hearts that're still asleep in the scattered worlds."

Donald didn't bench his worried heart.

"How do we do that, Your Majesty?"

Mickey's face lightened up by an inch as he thought of the solution to Donald's trouble.

"The Keyblade is our hope."

The Keyblade, Riku thought. He held out his arm and summoned his Keyblade; "Way to the Dawn", a weapon that stood for light and darkness combined. Then, King Mickey held out his arm in unison and summoned his Star Seeker Keyblade.

"Those hearts connected to the Keyblade is our hope," the king added. "But you see, each world has at least one special guardian. And each of those guardians holds the potential to use the Keyblade. Just like me and you, Riku. And of course, Sora, too."

"Sora," he mumbled.

"Unfortunately, the worlds need their guardians right now, and we can't leave them unprotected. That's why I can't leave the castle and neither can Sora leave his world."

Riku looked down on the ground as he thought of Sora, his best friend, and a master of the Keyblade. With his homeworld needing to be guarded, Sora could not leave to battle the swarming dark force. If Sora couldn't do it then he must take up the role of superhero and rescue the universe once more.

"I'll go," he said. "I'll fight."

"No," the king replied immediately. He jumped down from his throne to approach Riku. "There's another place that needs you more."

"But…" Riku began to argue.

Goofy stepped forward and interrupted the conversation. His cheerful smile made Riku realize that he was the only one in the room who was wearing a happy face since they entered.

"Riku, what His Majesty is requesting is for you to go to Radiant Garden and help Leon guard the Final Keyhole located in the castle's basement. He worries that whatever darkness is beckoning might be related to that place."

Goofy's interpretation slowed him down.

"But Your Majesty," Donald began. "If we stay behind, then who will stop the darkness?"

"Don't worry," he replied quickly, cheerful as always. "I know I have just the right person to do it."

In an instant, he turned his attention to Goofy who was standing right next to him.

"Goofy, I need you to send your son to the Gummi Hangar right away."

"Max?" he wondered.

"M-hmm."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

He turned to Donald.

"And Donald, I need you to send your apprentice to the Gummi Hangar right away too."

Donald bowed to his king.

"Yes, Your Majesty. – C'mon, Goofy."

Donald turned around and began to sprint toward the exit with Goofy closely behind him, leaving only behind Riku and King Mickey.