Treading Dawn

Summary: Before summer vacation ends, Sora, Riku, and Kairi visit the city of Treading Dawn, home to the prestigious Crim Academy and its not-so-nice delinquents. Unfortunately for Kairi, she'll start seeing more of Crim Academy than she would like to. (Kaiaxel)

Kingdom Hearts © Disney & Square Enix

It wasn't everyday that Kairi and her two best friends Sora and Riku would go to the city of Treading Dawn. Having grown up in a neighboring town off the coast, the city was almost like a whole other world to the three. The flashing lights, the bustling cars passing by, and the crowded sea of people was a strange thing to see for them. Their hometown – Destiny Islands – was a simple and peaceful place in comparison. But there was something almost mystical about the uncharted waters of the city that stood before them.

"This is amazing!" Kairi exclaimed at the sight of the city before them. "Oh, I wish we'd brought Selphie along. She would have really loved to shop here!"

Sora grinned. "I'm sure we can bring her back a souvenir," he suggested with a shrug. "We can bring her along next time. Along with Tidus and Wakka too."

"Come on, you two!" Riku called from ahead of them. "We only have a few hours here until the afternoon ends! We should make the most of it."

Sora and Kairi nodded and hurried after Riku.

Riku was right. For one thing, getting tickets to Treading Dawn wasn't what you'd call cheap. They each had to save munny they received from Christmas and their respective summer part-time jobs in order to get enough munny for a ticket to and from Treading Dawn and of course, for shopping. With school returning soon in a week, now was the best time for them to visit the city before classes begin. Parental consent was another thing. Sora's and Riku's parents were more-or-less lenient with the idea, but Kairi's parents were a little reluctant to let "the only daughter of the mayor" gallivanting in a city she'd never been before. To get their approval, Kairi had to promise them she'd visit Crim Academy while she was there. Crim Academy was a private institute in Treading Dawn that Kairi's mother had been trying to get Kairi transferred into recently, much to Kairi's secret dismay. Sure, there were beneficial perks that went a prestigious school like Crim Academy, Destiny High had her two best friends, and that's what mattered to her most.

"I heard they had this thing called sea-salt ice cream here," Sora mentioned. They had just finished their shopping and were relaxing in a nearby park that was desolate of people. It was the perfect place for the three to hang out at in peace. "It's supposed to be popular in Twilight Town."

"We just had crepes, Sora," Kairi said sweetly. "Aren't you even a little full?"

"You know Sora," Riku teased as he leaned against a light pole. "His appetite could go on for miles!"

Kairi giggled and stood up, patting her skirt. "Well, then. We should hurry and find that sea-salt ice cream before our time runs out!" she decided, smiling.

Riku grimaced. "But don't you still have to visit Crim Academy too?" he reluctantly reminded her. "You promised your parents you would."

Frowning, Kairi began swaying left and right. "I-I guess we could go there first, b-but…," she muttered as she looked around, trying to remember how they were supposed to get out of the maze Treading Dawn had as a park. "Do you guys remember where the entrance was? Mm… I think… if we go this way, then maybe–"

Just as she went by the next corner of the park, someone had bumped into Kairi, causing her to stumble and fall.

"Ouch…," Kairi muttered as she tried to stand up to apologize to whoever she had bumped into. As she did so, a surge of pain in her ankle made her wince. She bit her lip. Jeez… Don't tell I sprained it… Riku quickly kneeled beside her and took Kairi's hand, helping her up. She tried to balance herself by leaning against Riku.

Riku stared at her with concern. "Are you all right?" he asked her.

"J-Just peachy," she reassured him wearily. Kairi blinked, sensing something was off. "Wait… w-where's Sora?"

The two looked ahead to find Sora confronting the person who had bumped into her. That was when Kairi took notice in just who she had bumped into. It was a tall, young man who seemed at least a year or two older than her with spiky crimson hair and emerald eyes. He had tattoos of tiny diamonds under both of his eyes and wore a different uniform from Destiny Islands High School – he wore a white collared shirt, black pants, and matching black shoes.

Beside this boy were two other peers, each wearing similar uniforms. The first was a young man with a light brown mullet who wore exactly what the crimson haired young man was wearing except that he wore a red blazer over his white collared shirt and a black tie. He was carrying a guitar case in his right hand. The second peer was a blond haired girl, who wore the exact same as well except a red and black plaid skirt replaced the black pants and she did not wear a blazer or tie. The former held a nervous expression at the sight of conflict while the latter appeared more amused by Sora's boldness.

Kairi flinched, recognizing the uniforms. N-No way… They… They're from Crim Academy…, she realized.

"Get a load of this kid, Demyx!" the girl mocked, giggling as she went in between Sora and Axel. "He thinks he's some sort of knight in shining armor!"

"W-Why don't you run home, kid?" Demyx – the boy with a mullet – attempted to persuade Sora. "You're barking up the wrong tree by going after Axel."

"Aren't you going to apologize?" Sora argued, ignoring the two. His hands balled into fists. "You just bumped into my friend!"

The crimson haired young man called Axel tilted his head, staring down Sora. He glanced up over Sora, his eyes flickering as they focused now on the girl he had bumped into, the auburn haired girl named Kairi. Seeing this gaze, Riku glared and went in front of Kairi defensively.

"Sora, these guys clearly aren't going to apologize, so let's just leave…," Riku muttered sternly. "… They aren't worth it."

Sora spun around in disbelief. "But–"

"–If she fell, it's her own fault," Axel finally decided, crossing his arms with a shrug, "It's not our fault your girlfriend's a little klutz."

"What did you say?" Sora growled, charging towards Axel. "Take that back!"

"Sora!" Riku yelled, but Sora ignored him.

Baffled by his newfound entertainment, Axel took Sora by the collar with ease. "Picking a fight? That's not quite wise of you, kid," he said, grinning. He glanced at Kairi. "Hm… I'll tell you what. That girl of yours is pretty cute… Why don't we call it even if–"

Sora glared, gritting his teeth together. "–Not a chance!" he yelled before Axel had the chance to finish. Sora tried to punch Axel, who evaded it and simply tossed Sora aside.

Kairi's eyes widened. "Sora!" she cried. She tried to go after him, but her sprained ankle caused her to falter and fall to her knees. She winced again. Why now… Why did this have to happen now…?

Sora was about to fall when Riku caught him by the arm. "Stop it, Sora! Don't stoop to their level!" Riku reasoned with him. "I want to hit that guy as much as you do, but we both know it won't solve a single thing!"

Axel took slow steps forward towards them. "When will you ever learn…? You're a small boy with big words, Sora," he mused slyly."And guys like you… always end up getting burned."

"You… You leave my friends alone!" Kairi snapped.

Before her mind could process her actions, Kairi had jumped up, made a dash towards Axel, and pushed him away without hesitation.

The street suddenly fell silent as the beating of Kairi's heart slowed, and she realized what she had just done. Axel stumbled backwards and stared at Kairi with initially skeptic eyes. Kairi could only look at her trembling hands as she felt her legs wobble and cave in, her ankle increasing in pain. Before she could fall, Axel regained his composure and caught Kairi by the arms. She gulped, not quite certain what she had just gotten herself into. Kairi gritted her teeth together and braced herself as she looked at Axel. Their eyes met. But his expression wasn't what she had expected. There was no anger or bitterness on his face. Kairi wasn't sure if she was seeing things, but Axel almost looked… impressed.

"It's… Kairi, right?" Axel murmured with a smile, leaning in towards her. "… You've sure got guts, I'll give you that."

Swiftly, Axel took a step from Kairi the moment Sora and Riku hurried to her side. He chuckled, still amused by the gutsy girl and her two companions. The crimson haired young man turned around and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Let's get moving," Axel ordered Larxene and Demyx, "We've wasted enough time as it is."

"W-We're leaving?" Demyx asked, surprised. "But you've barely left a scratch on them…"

"And as much as I would love to, I don't really feel like making Roxas and Xion wait for us."

Larxene's jaw dropped open. "Are you serious?" she demanded, enraged by Axel's fickleness, "Since when did you grow soft, Axel? If you aren't going to thrash them around, then I'll–"

"–We have a meeting with the Superior, Larxene. But if you wanna test his patience, then by all means. Go ahead."

"Why, you… Hmph, fine. Have it your way."

The trio watched the Crim Academy students leave as silence passed between them. Axel stole one last glance at Kairi, and she could have sworn she saw him smirking.

"You okay?" Sora asked as he sat beside Kairi. "I… I saw you twisted your ankle."

Kairi smiled in order to reassure Sora and as rubbed her ankle. "I-I'm fine. Really, Sora," she lied sweetly, knowing full well that standing up to Axel without thinking had hurt her ankle probably wasn't one of her most brightest ideas in the world. "I-It was just a scratch!"

"I don't care. That guy was a jerk."

"Mm. He sure was, but it can't be helped."

Riku jogged back to the two, bringing a drink from the vending machines. "Here, Kairi," he said, handing her the drink.

Kairi smiled and took the can in her hands. "Thanks," she replied as she opened her drink and took a sip of the soda.

Sora scratched his nose. "But, you know… You were pretty cool back there, Kairi," he commented sheepishly as he placed his hands behind his head. "I mean, I never expected you to stand up to that creep Axel like that."

Kairi blushed, slightly embarrassed. "I-I never expected me to do that either. The guy just got on my nerves, acting like he was so high-and-mighty. Someone had to show him his place," she admitted, frowning. "To be honest, I'm so glad I never got into Crim Academy… I bet it's a nightmare with that guy around…"

"Why did your mom want you transferred there in the first place anyway?"

"Crim Academy is a private school. They have honor classes, a plethora of extra-curricular activities, and even dormitories. It's very expensive, but the school looks good on your credentials and stuff. My mom's been trying to get me enrolled there for a while now, but I'm kind of glad I never got in. I'd much rather stay in Destiny High with you two."

"Well, that's where we want you to be."

Kairi tried to smile to please her two friends, but she ended up sighing as she watched a train to Traverse Town leaving the station. "I-I'm sorry… If I had never gone ahead and bumped into that guy, we would've been eating sea-salt ice cream right now…," she muttered. "Instead, we're sitting at the train station and going home early because of me…"

"You got hurt, Kairi…," Sora tried to find the right words to cheer her up, "It's a bummer, b-but… we can't eat sea-salt ice cream like that. You… You gotta understand."

Riku patted her on the shoulder. "I think what Sora's trying to say is that we'll eat sea-salt ice cream together once you're injury-free," he added, smiling. "We want to see you smiling when you take your first bite of ice cream, Kairi."

"H-Hey, I was going to say that!"

"Yeah, like you'd say something cool."

Kairi smiled warmly at them. "Thank you… both of you."

"We leave you alone with those boys for one second, and now you've come home with a broken leg…"

"Mom… It's not a broken leg. It's just a sprained ankle."

Kairi sighed. She should have expected how her parents would react at the sight of her harmed, but with the nostalgic company of Sora and Riku, Kairi had forgotten the very idea of it on the train ride home. She watched as her mother paced around the living room while her father sat in his recliner, tapping his index finger against the arm of the recliner.

"Just what kind of shenanigans did those boys get you into this time?" her mother muttered. "They seemed like such a delight as children, but now that they're teenagers, those boys will surely start getting you into all sorts of trouble…"

"Those boys have names. Sora and Riku," Kairi pressed on. "And there were no shenanigans of any kind, Mom. I just tripped and fell."

It wasn't that Kairi's mother had a natural dislike for her daughter's two best friends. Kairi remembered times when her mother wasn't so judgmental of them. She actually liked that Kairi was making friends so quickly when she was still adjusting to life in Destiny Islands as a child. It was only when Kairi grew older that her mother came to fear the idea of her precious daughter being best friends with two "hormone-stricken, teenage boys."

Her father tilted his head as he weighed the conversation over. He didn't have quite the same impression of Sora and Riku that his wife had. "If Kairi says she tripped and fell, then we should believe her. Don't you think you're overreacting?" he asked. The moment he did, Kairi's father realized the mistake he had just made as Kairi cringed, bracing herself for another one of her mother's worrisome rants.

"Overreacting? Our daughter just got injured who-knows-where and who-knows-why! If anything, I think you're underreacting!"

Kairi didn't know what to think or say. Ever since she was adopted by the mayor and his wife, her adoptive mother felt a strong bond with the child she never had. It was natural for her to worry. It was natural for her to care. She was her mother after all. Kairi supposed she understood how her mother felt as if she placed herself in her mother's shoes. But Kairi wished her mother would tone down her parental instincts by just a smidge.

"Wh-What Dad's trying to say is that I'm all right, Mom," Kairi hastily went to her father's defense. "And I really am all right. My ankle will get better and we can put this behind us."

Her mother placed her hand on her cheek and shook her head. "Really, Kairi… Sometimes I wonder if it's wise for you to be so friendly with those two boys," she said. "They influence you far too much for my liking."

"I've been friends with Sora and Riku for as long as I could remember."

"Exactly. You had more than enough time to make more sensible friends."

"I told you already… It's not their fault I sprained my ankle, Mom."

"Well, then. Either way, it's a good thing Crim Academy finally got you transferred into their school this fall, so you won't have to deal with those boys. Those boys mean well, but they clearly can't keep an eye on you."

Kairi sighed. "Keep an eye on me? Mom, they're not my babysitters…," she muttered, exasperated. "Sora and Riku are my best friends—wait… what did you just say…?"

a/n: In all honesty, this wasn't my original idea for a Kaiaxel fanficcy. I had another different school idea all planned out, but I started getting sidetracked while writing it, focusing more on introducing every single person rather than even barely hinting at any romantic developments at all. Then, this idea came out of nowhere, and I just started writing it because it all flowed out so easily. It was pretty awesome. If I have anyone to think for keeping me on task, that'd be my IRL friend LPfanatic102. We were obsessing over Kingdom Hearts recently (me replaying COM and him replaying KH and KHII), and I gradually started liking Kaiaxel after reading several fanficcys on out of curiosity because the pairing seemed intriguing (and now I like this couple more than Rikukai, which is surprising for me). My friend was skeptic of Kaiaxel at first, but it started to grow on him too (let me make a note that we agree and disagree frequently when it comes to KH-pairings). But anyway, it's all thanks to him that I even finished this chapter, so yayyy. :3