Home Beyond the Sky

By Lynx (of Organization VI)

Rating: K

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or its characters; they belong to Disney and Squeenix, respectively. Please don't sue. While there are original characters in this story, I don't make any large claims to them. If you'd like to use them, just ask.

Summary: Another one-shot sequel to "Islands Like Glass Towers" and "The Locked Room." At the end of KH2, Sora and his friends finally return home...where his parents must deal with his return and departure once again.

Notes: Huh, I guess I went ahead and just rounded out this fic with their parents as a trilogy. XD This would be the last one for now, since it ties up everything that was dealt with in the previous fics and ends with where KH canon has ended for now. Hope dudes enjoy it...thoughts and reviews are greatly appreciated!

Emi had lost track of the days. They all blended into one another now...it was the same ocean, same sun, same wind, and same sky throughout time. They were punctuated only by the moon and stars of the night, like the world was breathing light. She began to feel like she was breathing with the world...day in, night out, sun in, stars out. Every moment was a calm endurance, watching the sunlight on the sea, and waiting. In many ways, she felt she may spend the rest of her life doing this...living each day just to wait for him to come home. She didn't think she minded it after all. If she had to watch this ocean every day until she died, then she would do so. The alternative seemed worse somehow.

Taro had reacted much different...since they'd first remembered their son again, he'd started counting the days. Sometimes he'd tell her how many days it'd been, but she never bothered to remember. She supposed it helped Taro to have structure like that...even if every day was a reminder that their son was still gone.

It was painful, and yet...sort of funny how it had changed them. She and Lana had always been friends, but since their children had vanished, they'd found new solace in each other. Talking about their memories of their sons helped even as it also hurt. They never seemed to run out of stories...and yet, more than anything, she craved new ones.

The afternoon sun burned bright as she sat on the docks, watching the ocean. Like everything in the world, it breathed evenly, never changing. She heard the distant sound of the schoolhouse bell, and knew she'd have to head back now...Taro would be getting home from work soon, and she wanted to be there for him. Sighing heavily, she stood up from her spot on the dock and brushed off her skirt. Whatever day it was, it was another day with an empty ocean and an empty upstairs bedroom.

But just as she turned to leave, a flash of light caught her eye.

She didn't quite see what it was, but it seemed to come from near the children's island. She strained to see, but the island was just far enough away that she couldn't tell what was there. She had to get closer.

He heart seemed to jump out of its normal beat and into overdrive; hoping or anticipating. It was suddenly different. She had to go see.

Emi took a couple of steps towards the boats before a thought occurred to her, and she turned and ran back for home. Her heart was pounding, and Taro needed to be there with her. If this was what she thought it was, Taro absolutely had to know. She ran all the way back home, only to realize he wasn't back from work yet. Without bothering to even close the door, she set right back out again, going in the direction of the fishery. With luck, she would catch him on the way.

And she did. He was walking back along the market stores, fishing gear slung over his shoulder, his eyes dark and heavy as they had been for months. She rushed up to him, breathing hard from the run. "Taro! Taro, come with me!"

"Emi? What's wrong?" He looked and sounded worried...probably no wonder, the way she was tracking him down like this.

"Just hurry up and come with me, Taro!" she exclaimed, grabbing his hand.

Understanding eventually dawned in Taro's eyes. He felt it, too...that hopeful pounding of the heart. He nodded and followed her without another word. Eventually they both just broke into a run, ignoring the looks and questions from other Islanders on the street. The trees and homes passed by in a blur as the two of them ran, all the way back to the docks, where the boats were waiting.

Emi scrambled onto the back end of the boat, and Taro just threw in his fishing gear and jumped in after her. She looked out towards the children's island, trying desperately to see. Taro grabbed up the two oars, pushed them away from the dock and started rowing. He had made this trip hundreds, maybe thousands of times throughout their lives, but Emi didn't think she'd ever seen him row faster than right now.

"I saw a light," she said as they hit the open water. Nothing else needed to be said...they both felt the same way. Their actions were driven by a gut feeling of hope.

It seemed to take forever for them to cross that expanse of ocean, even with Taro rowing as fast as he could. But finally, they pulled up to the single dock on the children's island. And here, they were finally close enough to see that there were people there...a group of six, to be exact. And there was one in particular that drew all of her attention..


Emi had imagined out this moment for months on end, down to the last detail. She imagined closing the distance between them, and what he would feel like, and whether she would laugh or cry. She imagined out all of these things because she was almost certain she'd never experience them in reality.

But now it was reality, and she barely noticed her footsteps on the wooden dock and then kicking up sand before she finally reached him, and without hesitation threw her arms around him and embraced her son.


He was almost completely different from the child she knew. His voice was deeper. He was taller, lankier, his face more adult. His hair had grown more and somehow had become lighter. His clothes were completely different...blue and black, studded with battle-knicked armor. He even smelled different, like fire and salt. But she knew it was still him, because she saw it in his eyes and felt it in her heart.

She didn't move, but just kept her arms around him, as if afraid that he'd vanish if she let go of him. She remained like that all he way until Taro caught up, where he just added to the mess of arms by embracing them both as well.

"Sora...Sora!..." She couldn't get past anything else but his name. It was too good to be real.

"Mom...you're kinda squishing me..."

"Oh!" She became a little more aware and managed to unwrap herself from him, pulling Taro away as well. Sora grinned as if he were almost embarrassed...there was a wet sheen on his cheeks, whether from ocean water or something else she wasn't sure. "Sora...you're home!" she exclaimed, her voice overflowing with both relief and disbelief.

"We all are!" Sora said, spreading his arms to indicate everyone. It was then that she saw the rest of them...Riku, who had also been missing for almost two years, and Kairi, who had vanished about a month ago. Kairi didn't look all too different, but Riku seemed to have grown considerably. There were three others that she didn't recognize at all, and they looked...very different. Sora seemed to catch her looking at them, as he added, "I've made a lot of new friends."

For some reason, this made her feel even better. Wherever Sora had been, he hadn't been completely alone. He'd been somewhere with others, where he could make friends. "Of course you did," she laughed. She would cry; she knew she would, but for now she was too overwhelmed with emotion to allow any tears to take hold.

The tall friend dressed in orange and green offered a broad smile. "I guess you must be Sora's mom n' dad, huh?" he said. His voice was the sort of tone that could make you laugh no matter how bad you were feeling. "Nice ta meetcha!"

"Yes...thank you!" Taro replied, looking and sounding a little overwhelmed.

"We went all sorts of places...but it's really good to be home again!" Sora said.

"Ohh..." Emi couldn't help it; she kneeled down and embraced her son again. This time, he hugged her back.

"We...didn't think we would see home again," Riku said, his voice quiet. He sounded like such a different person.

But it at least reminded Taro of something else important. "We have to get you back to the main island! Hoku and Lana and Kona need to know!"

"That's right!" Emi agreed, standing up. Riku ducked his head a bit, looking nervous. Kairi just smiled. Sora, however, looked back towards his new friends.

The short one with the large, round ears just smiled and waved at them. "You guys go on ahead! This is your home, after all. We'll stay here a little while, if ya need us."

Sora nodded, and smiled back. "Okay."

Taro and Emi escorted the three children back to their boat, waving goodbye to the three strange friends who'd opted to stay on the small islands. Time seemed to disappear into nothing as they started back...Emi and her husband assaulted the kids with questions about where they'd been and what they'd been doing. Not out of anger, but out of gratefulness. Sora, Riku and Kairi answered them with stories that seemed unbelievable, although Sora did most of the talking. Emi bared even cared about how fantastic his explanations seemed...just that he was here, just to hear his voice and see those excited expressions was enough to overwhelm her. It was different from what she expected, but the fact that she had it at all was enough for her.

They arrived back at the main island, and immediately headed for the islands' center so as to locate Riku's parents. Along the way, they began to accumulate more people...anyone working outdoors or even listening hard enough indoors soon discovered the source of the small commotion. They followed, eager to talk as well, to discover what had happened to the missing children. It only got worse as they made it towards the chain of stores...no matter what Islanders were doing, they stopped to greet them and celebrate their return. Emi found her heart swelling from relief to pride as the crowd grew by the minute. In the middle of it all, the kids endured it with exhausted smiles.

Eventually, someone located Hoku, Lana and the mayor, Kona. They reacted in much the same way as Taro and Emi...embracing their children, thanking everything that they'd come home, shedding tears of joy. Riku looked nervous when Hoku and Lana discovered him, but still returned their hugs. Emi felt almost as much relief to see Lana get her son back as she did her own.

By that point, there was really no reason for anyone to go back to work, or any aspect of their daily lives. Someone brought food, someone else made drinks, and even citizens not talking to the children just stayed around to party with their friends. The entire world went up in celebration, far into the night...the Islands were big and bright once again. Their children had come home.

"You sure they're still over there on the kids' island?"

"I think so. The King said they were going to leave today, but I don't think it was until the afternoon."

"All right."

Hoku focused his attention on the island gleaming in the sunlight as Taro continued to row them there. They were both skipping out on work, but this was something that had to be done. Two days later, and the three friends that had accompanied their children were leaving for their home world today. The two fathers had to catch them before they left. It was important.

"Which one is the King again?" Hoku asked.

"The one in red, with the ears," Taro replied. "You'll know him."


They made it the rest of the way without any further conversation, and brought the rowboat up against the dock. From there, they could see the King and his men starting to pack up what remained of their tent...it seemed they were leaving really soon. How they would get off the Islands Taro had no idea, but then again, there were many things he didn't understand.

Hoku climbed out of the boat and started toward the three at a brisk pace. "Your Majesty!"

The dog, duck and mouse looked up in surprise at the two men approaching them. It looked like quite a sight to Taro...Hoku was a broad-shouldered, burly, built man, due to years of working with lumber. He easily towered over the King, who now looked up at him expectantly. "Yes, that's me!"

Hoku stopped a few paces from the King, looking down at him with an expression that said a multitude of things he'd never say aloud. He seemed to hesitate. "Riku has told me about you."

"Oh?" the King said, leaving his question unasked.

And then, Taro saw something he'd never seen Hoku do before...that imposing, self-sufficient carpenter dropped down onto his knees and bowed his head.

"You saved my son's life," he said, his voice cracking a little. "If...if it hadn't been for you, I never would have seen him again. I can't thank you enough." He kept his head low, as if afraid to show his face. "I'm in your debt, sire. I'm forever in your debt."

Far from just accepting these declarations, the King looked almost embarrassed, as if people weren't supposed to treat him like royalty. "Gosh! Well...you don't hafta do anything. Riku's a good friend of mine. Of course I'd help him!"

Hoku looked up, but remained on his knees. "You don't know what this means to me. You saved my son. You brought him back here. If there's anything...anything at all you want from me, it's yours. I want to repay you some way."

"Ha, well, I..." the King still looked embarrassed, kicking his large yellow shoes against the sand. Then slowly, his expression changed to something more serious. "Actually, uh, there is something I'd like to ask of ya."


"Can ya make sure that, no matter what Riku tells you, that you forgive him?"

There was a long pause, in which Hoku and the King just looked at each other. Taro glanced between the two, surprised at the request. He felt there was a lot he was missing...months, years that he was missing. But finally, Hoku stood again.

"Yes. Yes, I will."

The King smiled again, ear-to-enormous-ear. "Thanks!" he said, and gave a bit of a chuckle.

"No...thank you," Hoku said, and stepped back a bit to compose himself. Taro took this as his cue, and he faced the King's companions, the knight and the magician. He swallowed, trying to think of where to begin.

"My son told me that you've been traveling with him the entire time he's been gone. That you've gone with him everywhere." Even during the period of Darkness...even during those horrible months when he'd been forgotten. He tried not to dwell on it, and just press on. "...Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking care of him. I would have lost him forever if not for you two." The thought made him choke up some, and he tried to swallow it down and keep his composure. "Just...thank you. I'm indebted to you as well."

The knight, Goofy, just smiled and scratched at his hat. "Gawrsh, we wouldn'ta gotten far without Sora, either! We really were a team!"

"Yeah!" Donald agreed.

He smiled, trying to imagine such a team and not quite able to wrap his head around it. "Either way...if you ever do come back here, you'll always be welcome at our home."

"A-hyuck, thanks!" Goofy replied.

Taro nodded, feeling like there was nothing more that needed to be said without him gushing his thanks more. They'd done what they needed to do...thank the people who had saved their sons. Even if simple thanks would never be enough.

Emi had never thought much past the day Sora would return home. She had always imagined that things would go right back to the way they were before; the way they should be. But now, even just a few days after he returned home, she noticed that things really weren't the same after all.

Sora's habits had changed. He ate less, even if he hadn't lost his taste for sweets. Several nights she found him sleeping on the floor in his bedroom, as if he were more comfortable on the ground than on his comforters now. She would catch him just staring out the window at the ocean, seemingly thinking deeply about something. He stayed up much later and woke up much earlier. He would constantly flex his right hand, scratching at some invisible itch. And while he told her endless tales of his adventures, she could tell that there were gaps in his story...parts that, for whatever reason, he didn't want her to know.

It was still Sora. And yet, the little boy she had known was gone forever.

But perhaps it hit her the worst one morning when she caught him exiting the bathroom, in the middle of changing. His shirt was off and he was in shorts. It was then that she noticed that his chest, arms and legs were crossed with numerous white lines.

They were scars.

"Sora!" She strode up to him, concern in her face but much more in her heart. "...Look!"

"Huh? What's wrong?" he asked, already reaching to put back on his shirt.

"Your..." She kneeled down next to him to look closer, as if he'd only just hurt himself. "You have all these scars..."

"They're just scratches, mom. It's no big deal." He tried to squirm away from her grasp and finish putting on his shirt.

But to Emi, it was a big deal. It was physical evidence that her son had been hurt, many times, and she'd never been there to bandage those wounds or make him feel better. "I...I thought you said that your friend fixed injuries with magic!"

"We did, all the time! Just, you know...sometimes had to wait awhile before we could use a cure spell. Or it wasn't strong enough to fix the cut, or..." He seemed to notice that her eyes were growing wider all the time, so he cut himself off. "It's really no big deal."

Emi wanted to believe him, but couldn't quite convince herself of it. Her desire to know more overcame her distress at seeing those white lines, so she pointed at one across his lower left arm. "How did you get this one?"

Sora groaned. "Do I have to say?"

She didn't respond, but didn't move, either.

Sora sighed, giving in. "That one's waaay old. A Shadow scratched me. I didn't even know what a cure spell was then."

She wandered down to a short one on his left side. "This?"

"Oh, I got knicked by a Sniper."

Emi suddenly found herself unable to stop asking, as she looked up to one just below his collarbone. "And here?"

Sora moved out of the realm of an annoyed child receiving a band-aid, and more into a warrior showing off his battle wounds to impress comrades. His tone became a little more prideful. "Almost got caught on a Behemoth's horn!"

A thin slice down part of his right leg.

"A Wyvern kinda clawed me."

A broad line across the back of his left shoulder.

"One of Xaldin's spears."

A curved line half-visible just above his hip.

"Actually...I don't remember where that one came from."

She had been listening with a picture growing darker in her mind with every scar, but that one somehow pushed her over the edge. Emi suddenly pulled away from him, standing up quickly. "I...Sora..."

Sora's boasting look softened a bit. "Hey, it's okay. I'm fine now, see?" With the extra space, he finally pulled back on his shirt.

"Yes...it's okay," she replied, her voice quieter than usual. Sora gave her a smile and headed for the door. He stopped and turned to look at her, as if he wanted to add something else, but just waved to her and left.

Emi found herself the nearest seat. She tried to hold it back, and almost succeeded, but still couldn't stop the eventual tears sliding down her cheeks.

Taro also noticed that their son had changed somehow. But as the days turned into weeks, and then nearly a month, it started to feel like less of a big deal. Sora was gone often, seeing Riku and Kairi or going to the kids' island, but was around often enough to quiet Taro's worries. He saw him at dinner and listened to him talk, and checked on him while he slept and knew he was okay. The important thing was that he was here, he was home, and Taro no longer had to worry about where his son was or what he was doing.

But he couldn't help a little worry one evening when they all sat down to dinner. Normally, Sora was his usual chatty self during dinner, talking about the friends he'd made and the places he'd seen. But tonight, he didn't say anything...just sat quietly and ate his food, avoiding the eyes of both his parents. Taro tried to read what he was thinking, but it seemed incomprehensible. He didn't look unhappy or angry...just sort of preemptively guilty. Almost the sort of look he gave when he was younger, asking for something he knew they would say no to.

And unfortunately, Taro's fears were confirmed.

Just as they were finishing, Sora stood up, swallowing something in his throat. "Hey mom, dad...I'm gonna have to leave."

"When will you be back?" Emi asked.

"No, I mean...I have to leave the Islands. I have to go to other worlds again."

There was an awkward silence. Taro felt something in his stomach tighten. "...What?"

"I found out about it yesterday, and I've decided. I have to go. Riku and Kairi are coming with me, at least part way."

An even longer awkward silence followed. Emi looked between the two of them as if somehow Taro could explain this. "But...Sora..."

"That's ridiculous," Taro responded, his tone a lot angrier than he expected. But he couldn't help but react that way...it was ridiculous. "You just got back home. There's no way you can just leave again."

Sora frowned. "I have to. There's people that need me." He put a hand to his chest, as if trying to remember someone.

"They can find someone else! Haven't you done enough? You belong home!" Taro declared, sweeping his arm out for emphasis.

"You don't understand!" Sora said back, his voice also cracking. "There's people that are really hurting, and I'm the only one who can save them! I can't just do nothing!"

Emi still hadn't gotten any other words in...she just sat, breathing hard, as if she were on the verge of panic. Perhaps Taro was too, but his fear was translating more into anger. He didn't have good rebuttal to Sora, however. "It's absurd. You can't leave."

"I promise I'll come back home, I just have to—"

"I don't want to hear any more about it," Taro said. He was putting his foot down.

But Sora didn't look like he cared one bit. His expression turned dark, but not angry or hateful, and he simply walked out of the kitchen without another word. After a moment, they heard the front door close. Taro started to follow him, as if afraid he would leave the world right this instant, but stopped himself. Sora couldn't possibly just up and leave whenever he wanted. Could he?

Emi still didn't move from her seat, slowly shaking her head. "Why...why does he have to leave again?..."

Taro spun back to face her. "Emi, he can't leave!"

Emi glanced back up at him, looking as if she wanted to have tears but couldn't muster any. "He will. The way he spoke, the way he's been since he got home...can't you see it? He's different, Taro, and I don't think we can stop him."

"But..." Taro looked towards the door again. He wanted to win this argument, but didn't know how. "It's not fair. After all this time not knowing what happened to him, and he wants to do it again?"

"How would you stop him, Taro?" Emi asked. It was partially a challenge and partially a plead.

"I..." Taro had no answer. There likely was no answer, and that just frightened him more. "But we can't just do nothing!"

"Isn't that what Sora just said?"

It was, and Taro realized that too late. He shook his head. "Emi...do you honestly think we would be okay with him gone, again?"

Emi put her head in her hands. "I don't know...I just know that he's made up his mind, and we can't do anything about it. Our son's grown up...and we never even saw it until now."

Taro struggled over Emi's words all throughout the night, and into the next day. He didn't want to let Sora go, and yet, something nagging at the back of his thoughts prevented him from remaining set on it. It tugged at his heart for many long hours, and he couldn't get it to stop until he met Hoku along the coastline the following evening.

Hoku was looking out at the ocean with that same sort of stare he held when their sons had been missing. There wasn't sadness or desperation, though...it was something else. The carpenter was normally easy to read, but right now Taro couldn't figure out what he was thinking. He approached him slowly, his footsteps soft against the wooden deck. "Hoku?"

After a long pause, his friend turned to look at him. "Hi, Taro." It looked like he had far more thoughts than he had words for.

"What're you doing out—"

"Riku told me already," Hoku interrupted him, as if he wanted to get this off his chest quickly. "How the kids are leaving again."

Taro's face fell. So Riku and Kairi were telling their parents about it, too? Was there really no way they'd be able to avoid this? "But they can't...did you tell him no?"

Hoku actually looked confused, as if "no" couldn't be a viable option. "I...I can't." He turned back towards the ocean, leaving another unnaturally long pause between them. "Riku told me more, too."


The waves lapped against the shore for almost half a minute before Hoku spoke again. "...It was him. Riku said that he let in the darkness that night that took over the Islands. Everything, gone...because of him."

Taro's eyes widened and his mouth fell open without a sound. No wonder he couldn't figure out what Hoku was thinking...he didn't know what to think, or feel. How could things be the same again, with news like that?

"What did you do?" he asked, his voice stiff and quiet.

"I did exactly what the King asked me to do." Hoku turned to face him again, his expression one of complete seriousness and resolve. "I forgave him."

Taro could only keep his gaze with Hoku for a little while before having to look away; the intensity of it was so great. He knew exactly what Hoku meant in that gaze: And you must, too. Such a great swell of emotions rose in his heart that he realized, like Hoku, that forgiveness was the only available thing to cling to.

"Taro...there's no time," Hoku continued, his eyes becoming softer. "I didn't realize it before, but I do now. There's no time to be angry. There's not enough hours in the day...not enough years in a lifetime to waste them being angry or hurt at our children. I wanted to be angry at Riku for what he did, and for leaving us again...but I can't be." He turned his gaze towards the ocean. "There's more important things."

Taro followed his gaze out towards the waves, and felt something sink deep into his chest. He knew, ultimately, that Sora would leave the Islands again to save people...in some ways, he had known for a long time. He'd known since the day Sora was born, when he saw the will in his eyes to cross the distant horizon, and felt the pull of an endless sky on Emi and he. It was inevitable, unstoppable. And he knew why he'd gotten angry at Sora, too...it was because he was afraid. The memories of the time he'd been forgotten and missing were still fresh in his mind, and more than anything he feared reliving them.

But there was no time to be angry. There was no time to be afraid. His son was leaving again.

Taro let out a long breath, trying to sort through the multitude of thoughts that overwhelmed him. He was beginning to understand how Hoku felt. "All right," he said quietly, waving to his friend. "I think I've got things to take care of."

Hoku followed him away from the shore without a reply.

Emi had her own things to take care of, but in a different way. She had also spoken with Lana, and learned of the other kids leaving. The two mothers tried to comfort each other, but didn't succeed much. They too remembered those awful months when their kids were missing...even though now wouldn't be exactly the same.

So two days after hearing Sora's announcement, she wandered up to his bedroom, searching for that elusive peace of mind she needed so desperately right now. The room had changed a little Sora had come back...no longer dusty and forgotten, but still a little messy. The window was cracked open, unwashed clothes lay on the floor, unfinished letters were scattered on the desk.

Emi peered closer at them, and her eyes widened. They were all addressed to Taro and she. It was like Sora was trying to write a goodbye letter but couldn't finish it:

Dear mom and dad—

I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but I have to

I promise I'll be back so don't worry about

I don't want you to be scared because

If you look up at all the worlds, there's so many, and I

I love you

Emi put the letters back onto the desk, squeezing her eyes shut tight. Her heart raced with emotion, and she tried to keep up with it. It filled her up with so many memories of Sora when he was young...always doing, always exploring, never wavering from what he felt he needed to do. That will had always been there, for as long as she could remember. And she realized she'd felt it, too...that desire of the heart to find other hearts, to connect with them. She'd felt it and not understood it at the time, but now, it was all becoming clear in her heart. It was inevitable, unstoppable...and it shouldn't be stopped. There was a sky full of stars out there that needed her son's help to shine bright.


Emi turned around to find him standing in the doorway, looking curious. Covered in scars she couldn't prevent, but smiling through them with a warrior's pride and duty.

"Sora..." She walked over and, after a moment's pause, embraced him. She no longer had to kneel to hug him.

Sora let out a breath. "Mom...I'm sorry, but...I have to go."

She pulled away from him again. "I know. I suppose you need to pack if you're leaving so soon, huh?"

Sora's eyebrows rose with surprise. "You mean...You're okay with me leaving?"

For the first time, she felt like she was. "I am. You said it was important, and I trust you."

"...What about dad?" Sora asked, a little hesitant.

"I think he's okay with it, too," a third voice came from the hallway. Taro walked in to join them, smiling through a hundred other emotions he couldn't seem to express. Sora grinned wide, and released himself from Emi long enough to give his father a hug, too. Taro accepted it, brief and teenager-ish as it was. "Just...promise me that you'll be back as soon as you can." His voice got a little quieter. "We couldn't bear to forget you again..."

"You're not gonna forget me!" Sora said with complete confidence. "You can't. Even if you do...those memories don't go away, and can be found again." He folded his hands behind his head. "And don't worry, I'll be back before you know it!"

It was strange to think so, but Emi did find herself comforted by his assurances. They had no way really knowing what was going to happen to their son, but Sora believed so strongly that things would be okay that she couldn't help but believe it, too. Things had turned out all right so far...they had to turn out all right in the future, too.

Sora's tone became a little quiet. "Just...thanks, for seeing how important this is."

Emi doubted that they could fully understand how important it actually was, but this was one area where they had to trust him. "Just always remember how important you are to us."

Sora met the eyes of both his parents, and nodded. "I will!"

And two days later, he was gone.

Taro, Emi, Hoku and Lana watched them all from the shores of the big island. Their children gave their farewells and rowed over to the kids' island, where there at last came a bright flash of light. The whole world seemed to ripple with light for a moment, and then the rhythm of the sea resumed.

Emi pressed herself tight against her husband, and he kept his arm around her. Her stomach tensed for a moment as it finally hit her...he was gone, again.

"I do hope they'll be all right..." Lana finally said, her voice tinged with that waver of someone fighting off tears.

"They will," Emi replied. She had been feeling strange about her son since he'd returned, but now, she felt more confident. Sad, yes, but confident as well. The sky above them was huge, but within it lay a million stars. And as far away as they were, looking up at that sky reminded her that perhaps they were closer than they first seemed.

Taro sighed, and Emi knew that this was just as tough on him. Still, she was proud of him for doing the most difficult thing either of them had ever done – let their son go. "So...what do we do now?" he asked.

For now, they had to wait. Although this was a different kind of waiting...one based on hope. Emi turned to face him, and squeezed his hand. "Maybe some lunch right now?"

"Yeah," Hoku said.

Lana chimed in with, "And let's just have it outside."

Emi nodded, and the four of them started back towards their homes. They all felt it, somehow...the sky stretching over them and beyond, and bringing the Islands with it. Their world felt bigger.