Epilogue - The bonded path

Land of Departure, Three months before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Terra lay down in the grass, letting the cool breeze waft against his sweaty skin. It made him feel a bit cold, but it offset the burning in his muscles after a long day of training. Days in the Land of Departure usually went by like that; long hours of training starting early in the morning and ending late in the afternoon. Despite the strain it would put on a normal person, that was the daily routine, and years of this had made him accustomed to it. Closing his eyes, he folded his arms behind his head and took some time to relax.

Shuffling grass alerted him to his company, but he could tell by the strides and the way they walked that it was pleasant company, so he didn't complain. They sat down beside him, Ventus on his right and Aqua on his left, and lay back with him.

"Ven, what are you thinking?" Aqua asked after a moment.

"Why the sky is so blue," he replied dreamily, staring up at the subject of his interest. "I mean, there's blue and then there's blue. It's my favorite color."

Terra chuckled. "Which is obvious, airhead," he joked.

Ven smiled his usual bright, cheery smile. "Of course, isn't it?"

"The sky isn't actually blue," Aqua explained, trying to keep the seriousness in her voice, "It's black because empty space absorbs all light. The only reason we see the sky as blue is because the atmosphere that makes this world habitable consists of ozone and that makes the sky look blue."

"Not another science lecture, professor," Terra grumbled, rolling his eyes, and Ven laughed again.

They drifted back into a comfortable silence, relishing in the clear weather.

Terra opened his eyes again. "What are you thinking about Aqua?"

She smirked. "Master Qualification Exams."

"Don't remind me," he groaned, covering his eyes with one hand.

Ven sat up. "I thought you were looking forward to them."

"I'm looking forward to what comes after them," he explained, gesturing in the air, "Not about actually taking them. I'm tired of being tested."

"Just think. Only a few more weeks and we'll be Masters. We can do what we want, go where we want to, learn and focus on what we like. We'll be free to follow our heart's desires, so to speak," Aqua sighed wistfully.

"You'll come back and visit me, right?" Ven asked, sounding a bit distressed.

Terra smiled. "You bet. It'll get pretty boring without you around. That's the only thing I'll regret. That, and leaving Master Eraqus alone to deal with you."

Ven laughed, but Aqua elbowed the oldest apprentice. "I don't see how Master Eraqus handled you without me."

This got Ven laughing even more and soon all three of them were laughing, their laughter echoing through the rocks and trees around them. Eventually, they all had to stop and catch their breath, and they settled into silence again.

"Terra," Ven asked, staring at the sky again, "What are you thinking about?"

"An old friend," he replied, hurriedly adding, "Not that she's old, but we haven't seen her in a while. I was wondering how she's been doing."

Aqua sat up, staring out around them. "I was wondering about her earlier, too."

Ven was confused. "Who are you talking about?"

"Someone we met on a mission a couple years ago. We helped her out, and she was very nice to us, even when we didn't deserve it. She's a dear friend to us."

"Whether we want her to be or not," Terra added with a sly smile, and Aqua punched his chest, knocking the air out of him.

Ven smiled. "I'd like to meet her someday."

"You probably can. Next time we go there, we'll show her to you," he said.

Aqua stood up. "But before that, we have Exams. Exams that we still have to prepare for, so we need all the rest we can get. Let's head inside."

"Yes!" Ven shouted, jumping excitedly to his feet. "I'm starving. Race you to the kitchen!" He took off in a run.

Terra scrambled to his feet and followed, shouting, "You got a head start!"

Rolling her eyes, Aqua muttered, "Men," and took off after them.

Destiny Islands, Three months before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Demetra was in her kitchen, preparing dinner, when she heard the front door open noisily. She smiled, putting down her dishcloth as her son ran in. He was covered in dirt and sand, sticking to his sweaty skin, but he didn't seem to notice or care. A light was shining in his eyes; a look she understood meant he had something to tell her.

"Hi, Mom," he smiled, looking up at her, "You'll never guess what happened today! I got hit!"

She stared at him, an eyebrow raised even though she was smiling. "And you're happy about that?"

He nodded quickly. "Yeah! See?" He turned to show her his arm and she bent down to take a closer look. The skin on his arm was frayed, pale white where it bunched together to form a long scrape. Through all the dirt, she could see the little beads of blood forming on his skin.

Without a second thought, she grabbed the dishcloth off the counter and started wiping down his arm, hold his shoulder so he wouldn't move. He groaned annoyance and she gave him a sly smile, but he read the scolding in her eyes. Pouting, he held still, letting her work.

"I can't believe you got this dirty," she sighed, shifting to a cleaner section of the dishcloth. "What did you do? Play in a pigsty?"

He laughed. "I got really sweaty, that's all. But see? I'm getting stronger all the time."

"The stronger you get," she mused, "the dirtier you are when you come home. There," she smiled, satisfied with how she had cleaned his arms, even though it was the only clean spot on him, "how does that feel?"

"It stings," he frowned, staring indignantly at the floor.

She took his face in her hands and stared into his eyes. "But it means you can go play tomorrow. You won't get sick this way. And tell Sora to be more careful."

The boy scowled. "But that means he's getting better! He actually landed a hit!"

"He's only getting better if learns not to hit so hard," she pointed out, returning to her work. "Now, go clean up. I'm making your favorite."

He face lit up. "Yes!" He ran off, his noisy footfalls on the stairs echoing throughout the rest of the house.

"And Riku, don't forget to use soap!" she yelled after him.

"Alright Mom!"