Hey, guys. This chapter is a bit shorter than the more recent ones - but that works for me, because it means a faster update. :P
Here, we will see the identity of the man who appeared at the end of the last chapter being revealed. Off we go!
Up in her bedroom, Kairi was still sleeping soundly. She was still laying motionlessly under her duvet, having not from her bed since Sora had tucked her into it that morning. Her head remained on the pillow with her blue eyes shut tight, the teddy bear resting alongside her. Her deep, relaxed breathing continued to fill the room. The girl was far away in a peaceful slumber - which wasn't to last much longer.
Kairi didn't hear the front door being unlocked, nor did she hear it being pushed open. However, a deafening bang suddenly erupted through the whole house, leading the girl's eyes to shoot open as it woke her with a start. Bemusement flooded into her eyes when she saw she was in her room, having no memory of returning home or bidding farewell to Sora during the night before. As she frowned in her confusion, she listened out for whatever had made the noise downstairs and sat up wearily in her bed - before great surprise swept across her face as a voice suddenly bellowed out from the lower floor.
"Kairi?! Are you there?!"
Kairi gasped. She couldn't believe her ears, nor could she believe who had just stepped into her house. Forgetting how tired she was, she threw the duvet off of herself (too stunned to notice or realize she'd been sleeping in her regular clothing), then jumped to her bare feet and darted out of the room. She was anxious to see who had just shouted out for her.
The fifteen-year old didn't answer the calls for her. She just wordlessly raced across the landing towards the top of the staircase. She reached it quickly and swung around to step out onto the top stair - where she froze to a halt when she saw who was waiting for her at the bottom.
There stood the smartly-dressed man who'd just arrived at her house in the back of the black car. He had let himself in and had put down his briefcase. A wide smile was spread across his face. He appeared to be very pleased to see Kairi, who was gazing down towards him, slack-jawed and astonished.
"Dad?!" she exclaimed.
The man beamed. After spending so many weeks away from home on business, it felt good to let go of his duties as mayor for a while and be back under the roof of his own house again. Most of all, he was delighted to see the person he'd missed more than anyone else while he'd been away. He gazed brightly up at the girl standing at the top of the staircase, who he was very proud to call his foster daughter. "Surprised to see me?"
Kairi remained where she was for a moment, staring agape at her father. Then she bounded quickly down the staircase, throwing her arms tightly around him as soon as she reached him. She buried her face into his chest. Even though he'd not been on her mind while he'd been away as much as Sora had, she had still missed him a lot, so she was very happy to see him. She loved her father.
It was the mayor's turn to be surprised as he smiled down softly at his daughter. He embraced her back and kissed the top of her head. "You alright, sweetie?"
Kairi didn't answer. Despite how glad she was that her father was home, no smile formed on her face. All she could think of was what she was afraid would happen the following day. Her heart began to ache as she trembled in the mayor's arms. While he'd been away, she and her best friend had been dealing with the most horrible challenge they'd ever had to face in their lives - with the terrible outcome they both feared possibly happening in approximately twenty-four hours. She and Sora had been dealing with the fact they could possibly lose each other soon, and her father had not been there to help them through it.
"Where've you been all this time, Dad?" she murmured, finding her voice at last.
"You can't remember?" The mayor chuckled. "I've only been gone just over two weeks. Have you really forgotten that I've been away on business?"
Kairi looked down to the floor. The time her father had been away had been too much for her. She knew his job as mayor was very demanding and required him to be away from her a lot, but she felt she could have done with his support over the fact she had a chance of losing Sora. She appreciated every ounce of care her equally distraught friends had given her over the fortnight, but she was now realizing that having her father there for her as well was something else she needed.
"Sorry I've been gone for so long," the Mayor said, releasing her from his embrace. "I would've called you, only I never had any luck with phones. Would you believe not a single room in the hotel I stayed in had a phone in them? The staff there used excuse after excuse when I complained to them about it! They thought they could just simply dismiss me ... until they learnt who I was! You should've seen their faces..."
Kairi was not listening to her father's rambling. She was lost in her torturous thoughts as she turned around and stepped away from him. She walked out into the middle of the lounge, her face scrunched up in anguish. In her head was an image of a smiling, spiky-haired, blue-eyed boy - and her heart was being ripped up over the fact she may never see him again after that night.
"...I was staggered when I found out there was only one public phone in the whole hotel - and they'd had it ripped out to perform maintenance! Absolutely shocking..."
Kairi started to think back on all she and Sora had done together over the fortnight that had passed. Her mind rewound back to the evening when he'd sadly told her he had cancer and possibly had only a fortnight to live. Reminiscing it made her heart hurt as much as it had on that evening. She also thought of how Sora had promised he would spend with her what would perhaps be the final days his life with her. This led to her mind fast-forwarding through the memories of all the outings and activities she and Sora had been on together. Dancing in the darkness inside the Night Sky restaurant, travelling in the Gummi Ship to visit different worlds and being reunited with old friends, being king and queen of Disney Castle for a whole day, surprising Sora when he had come from the hospital to find a birthday party waiting for him at his house ... every one of those wonderful escapades she'd shared with him, Kairi treasured highly. It really moved her to think that Sora had arranged all those activities just for her (apart the birthday party, which she had arranged for him) out the kindness of his enormous heart.
"I walked all the way down the road to find a phone booth! I looked everywhere for one, and when I finally found one, it was only after I'd picked up the receiver and put my munny in that I found out it was out of order! Didn't get my munny back, though..."
The more Kairi thought about Sora, the more the agony in her heart deepened. She pressed her hand against it as tears began to build up in her eyes. She was devastated. All that precious time Sora had left since the day he'd caught his cancer was now almost gone entirely. They only had a few hours left to spend together before they had to face the chance of having to say goodbye to each other ... for a final time.
Kairi lifted her head upon hearing her father say her name in a concerned tone. She turned around to gaze at him, watching as horror filled his face when he saw there were tears in her eyes. She quickly diverted her broken look to the floor, knowing she was going to have to tell her father about Sora when she saw his feet marching towards her.
"Sweetheart, what's the matter?" the mayor asked sadly.
The girl kept her gaze down as her father stood before her. She felt him enveloping his arms around her and rested her head onto his chest. She sighed as he ran his fingers tenderly through her hair. How she would have loved her father to be with her over the last fortnight to give her this much compassion. "I wish you'd been here, Dad," she murmured.
"Eh?" The mayor looked down at his daughter in confusion, as well as growing worry. "What do you mean, Kairi? Has something happened?"
"It's..." As she lifted her head to look up at her father in her agony, a tear rolled down Kairi's cheek. "It's Sora."
"Sora?" The mayor exclaimed. He was well aware that the boy who lived a few days away from him was his daughter's best friend. They'd been close ever since they were both small, so for anything bad to happen to Sora would never fail to upset Kairi. He placed a hand on her cheek to wipe away the tear. "What's happened to Sora?"
The only sound Kairi made in response to her father's question was a soft sob.
"He..." Kairi whimpered, more tears leaking out of her eyes. "He's had cancer."
"What?!" The mayor's shocked voice filled the whole room. His eyes had gone wide, bursting with alarm and disbelief. He really was horrified to learn what Kairi's faithful best friend had caught. It was no wonder she was distraught and in tears. "You serious?!"
Kairi just wept on, her sobs becoming harder as she buried her face into her father's chest.
"It's okay. It's okay, honey, Daddy's here." The mayor held his daughter more securely. He treaded carefully backwards with her in his arms, leading them over to the couch for them to sit on it. He released her from his embrace and placed a hand onto her shoulder. "Now how did this happen to Sora? Could you tell me?"
Kairi sniffled. "He ... He'd been sleeping under the sun a lot ... and it burnt him..."
"The doctor diagnosed him with skin cancer ... and said..." The tears falling from Kairi's eyes ran even faster down her cheeks. "...if the cancer spread to the rest of his body ... then he'd only have a fortnight left to live..."
As Kairi continued to cry, the mayor looked on in his dismay over what he was hearing. It wasn't right that someone as young and friendly as Sora - who was always good to his daughter and had a mother who loved him - should be given such a deadly disease. He run his thumb lightly over Kairi's shoulder. "How long ago did that happen, sweetie?"
"Exactly thirteen days ago..."
"Thirteen d-" Now the stunned mayor was looking as though someone had just slapped him across the face. He was very aghast to learn that while he'd been gone, Sora's life had possibly been slipping away and was now almost completely over. "Has he had any kind of treatment? Have the doctors been doing anything to fight his cancer?"
"They gave him an operation six days ago," Kairi explained miserably. "They said that tomorrow would be the day when the results would get back ... although they also said ... tomorrow would be the day ... when he might..." She couldn't finish. She just lifted her hands to her face and sobbed into her palms.
The mayor pulled his daughter into another hug. He was distraught to see her so heartbroken. He knew Sora was a very special friend to her. He thought very highly of the spiky-haired boy, who had always done so much for Kairi over the years since their friendship had begun when they were small. The mayor had always been glad that Kairi had such a loyal friend like Sora. He did not want the boy to die and Kairi to lose him. He also did not want Nikkou (who he happened to be good friends with) to suffer the terrible agony of losing her beloved son.
As he stroked Kairi's soft red hair again, the mayor thought gloomily to himself of how she'd had to deal with all of this while he'd been away on his business trip, leaving her home alone. He felt so rotten. If he'd only had access to a working telephone during his trip so that he could have called her and learnt about what she was going through. He wouldn't have hesitated to pack up his suitcase and return home as quickly as possibly. He wouldn't have cared if he got into trouble for throwing aside his work, for it was not nearly as important to him as his daughter was.
"Have you seen much of Sora since this has happened?" he asked.
Kairi peered up at him, still cradled in his arms with tears continuing to stream down her cheeks. "A lot. Sora and I have been doing so much together over the fortnight. He's been taking me out on day trips and giving so much of his time to me."
"Really?" The mayor's eyebrows raised in surprise as he looked down at his daughter, managing to smile over what he'd heard. "You've been doing that with Sora while I've been away?"
As she nodded up at the Mayor, Kairi's lips managed to curl into a small smile. "Sora's been so wonderful to me, Dad. He's done so much just to make me happy." She rested her head onto her father's chest, her mind once again going over her memories of all she had done with Sora over the past fortnight.
"Where's Sora now?" the mayor asked. "What's he doing today?"
"I expect out he's out right now with Nikkou. I'm sure they didn't want me to be in the way of their mother-and-son day. They'll wanna make the most of their time together."
The smile on Kairi's face disappeared. Her mind had gone into wonder of how Sora and Nikkou were spending what could be their final day together. She knew the day would be just as difficult for the woman as it was for her son. She hoped they were treasuring their time by doing something wonderful together, which she felt sure she would have spoilt for Nikkou if she had been there.
While continuing to hold his daughter, a frown crept upon the mayor's face. He was rather staggered to learn that Sora had likely chosen to spend what could be the last day of his life going somewhere without Kairi. It was very bewildering indeed, considering how they'd been best friends since infanthood. Although he understood perfectly that Nikkou would want to use the day for a mother-and-son outing, which he saw nothing wrong with, he found it baffling that Sora would use most of what time he had left to take Kairi on outings and activities, then not spend his final day with her. He didn't want to say anything to upset her even further, however, so he remained silent as he went on stroking her hair.
He had no idea that Sora intended to spend plenty of his final hours with Kairi - while he would be asleep in bed and completely unaware of their late night outing.
Nikkou made her way around the many tables and passer-bys surrounding her. She was taking care not to make any of the contents on the tray she was carrying in front of her fall off. Sitting on the tray was a paper bag, inside which were cardboard containers that held warm, freshly-cooked food. Next to the bag were three drinking cups with plastic lids on top, two of them filled with a soft drink while the third held steaming hot tea. Nikkou was in Fry Land, the popular fast food restaurant down at the coastal town. She was looking around for Sora and Riku, who had both left her to find an empty table while she bought meals for the three of them.
"Over here, Mom!"
Hearing her son's voice call to her, Nikkou turned to her head left to find him with Riku. They were sitting opposite each other at a table which was right next to a large window. Peering out through it, Nikkou saw they had a magnificent view of the town's beach, which the restaurant had been built above. She took a moment to observe the countless yards of yellow sand and the sparkling ocean in the distance, then proceeded to carry the tray towards the table, smiling at the two teenagers.
"Here you go, boys, I got you your cheeseburger meals," she said, setting the tray down onto the table. She sat down next to Sora and pulled the paper bag towards herself. She fumbled her hand around inside it to pull out a square-shaped burger container. She reached out towards Riku to place it down in front of him, then dove her hand back into the bag to pull out a carton of fries.
"Thanks, Nikkou." Riku smiled as he watched her place the fries next to the box for his burger. "You really didn't have to spend your munny on me."
"Oh, don't be daft, Riku," Nikkou chuckled, lifting one of the soft drink-filled cups off of the tray to put it down with his food. "I couldn't just leave you out and make you go hungry." She turned towards her son, taking the burger and fries that were for him out from the bag. "Did you get straws and napkins?"
"We did, Mom!" Sora smiled, holding up a straw covered in plastic wrapping with one hand while using the other to pat some napkins lying near him on the table.
"Excellent," Nikkou said. She lifted the other soft drink to place it before Sora, then took out the last item inside the paper bag. It was another square-shaped container, but a bit longer and thinner than the burger boxes. She put it down in front of her and lifted the top of it. Inside was a baked roll, full of cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise. She grinned at the two boys. "Bon appetite."
Sora shot a wide grin back at his mother before diverting his attention onto the small box in front of him. The moment he hastily lifted up its cardboard lid, his eyes welcomed the sight of the delicious-looking cheeseburger inside it. His stomach rumbled loudly as its wonderful aroma rose into his nostrils. Sora picked it up and moved it towards his mouth to take an enormous bite out of it - when a loud cry suddenly came from next to him, making him hesitate with surprise. He turned back to his mother, noticing she was holding up her hot drink cup and frowning at it.
"You alright, Nikkou?" Riku asked.
"They've given me coffee! I clearly asked that person serving me for tea - and he gave me coffee instead!" Nikkou got up. "I'm going to go change it. I'll be right back, boys."
The teenagers watched as Nikkou strode away towards the ordering area, the cup still in her hand. They saw that she would have to wait behind three other people before she would get her chance to change her drink. They waited until she was standing behind the last person in the queue, then quickly turned to face each other, confident that she was far away enough to not hear what they were about to discuss.
"Right, go over again how we're gonna meet up tonight," Riku said in a low voice.
"Well, I'm gonna try and be out of my house at around midnight. It'll all depend on what time Mom'll go to bed, but that's what time I usually get out. Once I'm out of there, I'll collect Kairi from her house, then we'll row over to the smaller island in my boat. You row over there in yours once you've left your own house, and meet up with us on the shore."
"Alright, I've got that." Riku went over in his head what he had to do that night, then he gazed at Sora with a smile forming on his face. He was trying to hide the emotions he was starting to go through. "And ... what do you plan on us doing tonight on the smaller island, Sora?"
"Well..." Sora could tell what Riku was now thinking, which led to his own emotions going off inside him as well, a sad smile spreading across his face. "The only thing I'd really planned was to watch the sunrise with Kairi. I'd promised I'd do that with her some time ago. Aside from that, though, I didn't have anything in mind ... although I think it would be nice if we just did the things the three of us often did together on the island before the whole business of travelling to other worlds and fighting Heartless."
"You've got it," Riku said, giving Sora a nod. The sad smile remained on his face as he gazed at his spiky-haired friend, thinking of how he was going to make the most of the night ahead with him and Kairi.
Sora gazed back at him wordlessly. He held his smile, but inside himself, his emotions had built up into a tower that was on the verge of collapsing. He silently fought to keep them under control, not wanting to break down where the public could see him.
Seeing that Sora was not doing a very good job of hiding his emotions, Riku sighed, his own smile becoming smaller. "You know ... I'm really lucky to have had you as my friend for all these years."
Sora blinked, his smile slipping while his eyes widened over the moving words Riku had just said about him.
"And Kairi is really lucky to have you as her friend, too," Riku went on softly, "with everything you've done for her."
Feeling his cheeks turning red, Sora quickly looked down. "I've hardly done anything for her."
"Hardly done anything?!" Riku burst out, looking flabbergasted by what he'd just heard. "Are you mad?! After all you've done for her over the past fortnight?!"
Sora peered up modestly, but kept his head lowered. "It was nothing."
"Nothing?! You took her to other worlds, ruled a castle with her, you've even-" Riku stopped mid-sentence, checking over his shoulder quickly to make sure Nikkou was still in the queue and wasn't listening in on them before he continued to speak to Sora, his voice becoming lower. "You even snuck out at night when you were supposed to be in bed, just to take her out and make her happy. There's not many people who would go to those lengths for others, Sora. Don't tell me you really believe all you've done for her over the last few days has been nothing."
Sora said nothing, but his cheeks were now going even redder. He really was feeling humble about all he'd done for Kairi over the fortnight, as well as touched by the way Riku had described it.
"And not just over these last few days," Riku added, "but you've always been doing so much for Kairi ever since she came into our lives. Always been there for her whenever she's needed someone, always dried her tears whenever she's cried, always let her know that you care about her and you're there for her." He smiled admiringly at Sora. "I'm really thankful that you're in mine and Kairi's lives. To see how you always manage to make Kairi happy when she needs someone never fails to make me happy."
With his cheeks now burning intensely and his lips curling slowly upwards, Sora lifted his head to smile back at Riku. "You've managed to make Kairi really happy lots of times, too, Riku."
"But it's you who's most special to her, Sora. It's you who makes her the most happy with all your kindness and care. That's why you're her best friend in the whole universe."
Sora's eyebrows raised. "You really think I'm special to her, Riku?"
"No, Sora, I don't think you are..." Riku grinned brightly. "I know you are!"
With his face glowing bright red, Sora looked down again. He couldn't help having an enormous smile, which had spread from cheek to cheek. He was really amazed to hear Riku say he was most special to the girl he loved. A great warmth spread through his heart at these words, which he really hoped were true. The beautiful, red-haired girl was most special to him as well. More special than anything in the entire universe.
"We're gonna have an awesome night out, tonight," Riku murmured quietly.
Sora nodded slowly. He knew the night ahead was going to be very emotional and difficult, but he was determined to make sure it would still be full of fun.
Fun for the girl who he loved with all his heart - and for the silver-haired boy sitting opposite him.
"Oh, your mom's coming."
What Riku had whispered next made Sora lift his head, turning it towards the restaurant's payment area. He saw that Nikkou was now leaving it to make her way casually towards them. In her hand was a cup identical to the one she had taken with her to change for one filled with tea instead of coffee. Knowing he couldn't talk about the night ahead or give any hints about it while his mother was in earshot, Sora quickly erased all the emotions in his face. He did his best to look innocent as Nikkou reached the table.
"I managed to sort it out," she told them, facing Riku as she sat down next to her son, holding up the cup in her hand. "I changed the coffee for the tea they should've given me in the first place." She turned to smile at Sora - only to frown when she saw his cheeseburger in his hands, not having a single bite mark in it. "Is something wrong with your burger, Sora?"
Sora gazed down at his burger. Talking to Riku about Kairi and the night ahead had made him forget all about it. He shook his head. "No, Mom," he answered. "It's perfectly fine."
"Well eat up then," Nikkou said, putting her cup down before lifting her baked roll out of its box. "The sooner we've finished, the sooner we can go in the amusement park."
With one quick nod, Sora opened his mouth and took a huge bite out of the burger. He moaned and sank back in his chair, completely in ecstasy at how delicious it was. He chewed away contently and let its wonderful taste fill his whole mouth - while his head was secretly still filled with thoughts about the night ahead with Kairi.
So that's who the mysterious man was: the Mayor, aka, Kairi's foster father. I felt I ought to bring him in (or rather, bring in a version of him I created myself), seeing as we're nearing the end of the story, and while we've seen mothers I created for some of the other main characters, we've never once seen a parent for Kairi. I felt it was important to bring one in, especially with what Kairi has been dealing with since chapter fourteen.
Alright, the next chapter may take a while, but that's because there's so much to include in it - since it will be the last outing Sora has planned for Kairi - and it may turn out to be the final time these two lovers ever see each other.
If you've been following my story up to this point from the moment you read the first chapter (which I really appreciate if you have), make sure whatever you do, do not miss this next chapter.
Later, guys. :)