I love hypothetical stuff like this, taking one character and removing them in the most dramatic ways to see how characters react. I'm sort of evil like that, so I did something drastic: I killed off Sora for my own entertainment and watched as the world collapsed around everyone else. So here's a story with Riku as the main character.
Many thanks and praise go to my super perfect beta reader, Psychic Genius, who made this possible through the hard work of correcting my grammar and making this sound glorious. Thank you so much!
Chapter 1 - The Funeral
The morning of the funeral was bright and sunny, white fluffy marshmallow clouds in the sky. The air was warm for a spring day, but the breeze wafting off the ocean made it just right. A perfect day for going out and enjoying the lush scenery the islands had to offer. The mood on Destiny Islands, however, was the exact opposite. Nearly everyone on the tiny islands was dressed in black, many weeping and turning to each other for comfort. Not a single smile could be found among the throngs of people as they made their way to the beach, the site of the funeral being held for the young man they respected so much.
The funeral for Sora.
In an almost ironic way, Riku was the only one not attending. Instead of joining his family and friends in remembering Sora's life and mourning his death, the older teen had retreated before sunrise to the play island. He watched the sunrise from through the trees and then made his way into the cave, ducking his head under the roots that protruded from the cavern's ceiling. The dampness of the cave in the utter blackness clung to his skin like a thick coat, smothering him until he collapsed to his knees, pressing his forehead into the dirt while he struggled to catch his breath. Memories swarmed up in his mind, memories he forced into the back of his head and promptly ignored. He didn't want his memories of Sora creeping up on him, forcing him to face his friend's smiling face again, forcing him to watch it distort into something much more painful. When his breathing had returned to normal, he stood up again and walked to the large door that loomed in the darkness, placing his fingers against its wooden surface, feeling the grain of the wood and feeling out every imperfection. The beams of light radiating in through the small cracks in the walls made their way across the floor, illuminating the dust that filtered in.
Riku stood until he felt his legs start to go numb. He shook them out, letting his mind focus again as he wiggled his toes to get the blood flowing through them. As he collected himself, he ran his fingers onto a lower part of the door, feeling out the miniscule indent in its surface that made the Keyhole. 'A Keyhole can be opened or closed with a Keyblade,' he mused, 'and only by one. Only a Keyblade can… so this door is still unlocked. It was unlocked and opened, but never locked again…'
Kairi's voice startled him and he spun around in shock, covering the door as though hiding something embarrassing from her eyes. She was wearing a modest black dress with long sleeves, but it somehow managed to hang off her curvy figure in an attractive manner. Though her face was composed and free of tears, Riku could see the frayed emptiness in her eyes and the redness around them. He knew she'd been crying for Sora.
"You didn't come to the funeral," she commented blankly, looking him over once. Unlike her, he was dressed in his regular clothes, preferring his loose jeans and sleeveless shirt and vest to the uncomfortable-looking black attire his mother had organized for him.
He shifted backwards, pushing more of his weight against the door. "Can we… not talk here?" Her flat, lifeless tone of voice made the damp air around him swirl, looking for another way to crush him with guilt. More than that, the memories of the last time they had met in the cave still haunted him.
Riku had no idea how he'd gotten to the island that night or why he was there at all, but an ominous feeling radiated from all around him, seeping into his bones and making him shiver. Though the situation made him scared, he knew there was something behind it: he was finally achieving his goal. He was finally going to leave his island prison behind. He was going to see other worlds. He would acquire the power he had longed for his entire life. The cave, scribbled all over with their childish drawings, beckoned him back in, making him turn back around to the door.
The door, which had forever remained closed, was finally open, slightly ajar, the yellow keyhole that had always lingered in the corners of his vision staring back at him like a blank eye. Drawn towards it, almost hypnotically, he reached out and grabbed the edge, taking a good grasp of it and then…
Kairi's voice behind him made his heart skip a beat, filling his chest with uncontrollable malice. "Do you want something, Kairi?"
"This isn't a good place to be," she said quietly, her voice filled with genuine terror, "Can't you feel it? It's almost… evil…"
He glanced over his shoulder at her, narrowing his eyes at her innocent face. "And?"
"What do you mean by that? We should get out of here. Please, Riku."
"Please? You're just afraid, Kairi. There's nothing frightening about any of this."
Her eyes widened a bit. "You're… you're the one…?"
"Yes. I opened the door. I'm the one who's taking the initiative and doing what's right."
"How is any of this right?" Kairi whispered, looking down at the floor.
An angry scowl formed on his face. "Don't try to play the perfect little princess, Kairi. I know what you want. You want it to be only you and Sora. You want to leave here with him and only him. I know all about your feelings for him."
"Riku… I never…"
"Save it! I've heard enough excuses. You're afraid, both of you. I don't care what I have to do. I'm not being left behind while you go out and live your fantasy life. I'll go and find the power that's mine, and then you'll see." He spun around to face her, closing the gap between them in a second. "Then you'll see that I'm better than Sora."
"Riku, wait! This isn't you! Don't-" Kairi called after him, but he turned back to the door and wrenched it open, the ominous darkness spilling forth from its depths in physical tendrils. He lightly felt Kairi's fingers ghost across the skin of his arm before it disappeared and he blacked out.
Kairi didn't question his request. "Alright. We'll talk outside."
Together, they walked back out onto the beach, where the sun hung low in the sky, close to setting but not yet there. Riku tried to mentally calculate the time he'd spent alone, but gave up as soon as he started. He tromped down to the shoreline and stood in the surf, feeling the waves lap up against his ankles. Kairi stopped behind him, most likely for the sake of her wardrobe.
"You didn't come to the funeral," she repeated quietly, barely audible over the sounds of the island.
He glanced over his shoulder at her, letting out a silent sigh. "I understand the point you're trying to make, but you know how I feel about all of this. Sora wasn't the one who should have died; I was."
"That doesn't mean you can't show up for his funeral. He's your best friend…"
"I know!" he snapped, his feet splashing water as he spun around. "Everyone keeps reminding me that he's my friend, but no one realizes that I, of all people, know this better than anyone! Just because I didn't show up for the stinking funeral doesn't mean I don't care."
Kairi shrank back a bit, seeming to shrink back into her younger self. "I know, Riku. It just… I worry about you." She walked down the beach to stand in front of him, her eyes glued to his face. "Not once in this whole ordeal have I seen you cry. I want to make sure you're not holding these things inside. If you let things build up, they're only going to hurt you when they force their way out."
'I'm not keeping my emotions from anyone. I just… I can't really understand what I'm feeling right now. Of course I'm sad; of course it hurts, but I can't let it out. Not because I don't want to, but…' "I not. Maybe it's because of how I feel or because the reality of it all hasn't set in yet, but for me… Sora isn't dead."
"And the funeral, to you, wouldn't have felt right?"
He nodded, looking back out at the ocean. "I keep wrapping my head around the idea, but my heart doesn't want to accept it. It's funny… I never really trusted my heart much 'til now, but now I just can't ignore this feeling."
"Stop trying, Kairi. You're only worrying about me because you're used to worrying over Sora, but we're different."
She walked out beside him, putting her hand lightly on his arm. His skin tingled nervously under her touch, but he did his best to ignore it. There was an uncomfortable tension between them, something he wanted to overcome. "I know that. I know how different the two of you are. I grew up with you two, remember? Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm only worrying about you so much because Sora isn't around for me to worry about." She took a moment to compose herself again. "Maybe that's how it'll be from now on. That doesn't mean I never worried about you before, though, or that I'm not grateful for having you around. You've saved me a number of times from some pretty dangerous situations. I just want you to know that I want to be here for you like you've been there for me, that I'm ready to back you up should you need it, and that you can talk to me if you need someone to talk to."
A smile tugged at his lips. "You don't have to force yourself to be strong, Kairi. I know you're the one who feels like crying the most. I know you've cried more than everyone else combined. You don't have to put on a brave face for me. I'll be the strong one. I'll look after you… I know Sora wants that."
"Thank you, Riku," she squeaked out through tight lips. Looking over at her, he saw the tears streaming down her face. Cautiously, he put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her, pulling her into a hug when her knees started to wobble and her cries turned into painful sobs. She cried against his chest and he did his best to comfort her, staring up into the sky and wondering what he was going to do from here on out. She felt like she was falling apart in his arms, that she would shatter into a million pieces if he said even one little thing wrong, her entire world collapsing in on itself like a house of cards in the wind.
"I'm sorry if I'm interrupting," another voice spoke hesitantly, breaking the relative silence.
Riku felt some of the tension in his chest dissipate before realizing that it was Kairi pulling herself back together, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Sorry, Your Majesty," she said quietly, her voice sounding raw.
King Mickey Mouse shook his head. "No need to apologize. I know you've got a lot on your plate right now." He turned to Riku. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, Mickey," he replied, feeling more comfortable now that his friend was there. The two had grown close during their adventures together, and they shared mutual respect for each other. The last time they had spoken was just after Sora's death, when neither was quite sure what to say. "Just fine."
"I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but you missed the funeral," Kairi added quickly, "It ended a few hours ago."
"I wish I could say that was the reason I'm here, but it's not. I have other important business I'm here for."
Riku arched an eyebrow in confusion. "Important business? With who?"
Mickey let out a stressed sigh. "Yes. Master Yen Sid wants to talk with you about Sora's work. I think he wants you to continue it."
"No." Riku felt his heart rate pick up, pounding painfully in his chest. He took a step back into the water. "No. I can't."
"I can understand that there's some bad memories associated with it, but someone needs to do it," he said reluctantly, glancing down in shame, "and I'm not suited for this."
"That's not it. I can't." They both stared at him for a minute before he sighed and answered, "I can't use my Keyblade."
Mickey met his eyes with surprise. "You can't?"
"I've tried. It won't come when I call it." He couldn't explain it: whenever he tried to summon the blade that had become his dear partner, its familiar power faired in his hand and in his mind before sputtering out like a candle in the wind.
"Are you sure you've been trying, Riku?" Mickey asked.
Riku snapped against his will. "What do you want from me? No matter how much any of you would like it, I'm not Sora and I never will be! Stop trying to throw all your hopes and all your expectations of him on my shoulders! I may have been chosen once, but that time has passed. I can't be the kind of hero that he was! I can't… I can't do it…"
"Riku, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it sound like I doubt you." Mickey shook his head, eyes to the ground. "I can admit that all of this has taken its toll on me as well. You know I trust you, Riku, and that you're one of my closest friends. I trust your abilities and I trust you with my life. I'm not trying to pressure you into anything you don't want to do. Right now, all I'll ask of you is that you at least speak with Master Yen Sid. It doesn't have to be now. Whenever you're comfortable with it is fine. Just… let him say his piece. If you decide then that you still don't want to, no one will hold it against you, especially not me. This way, I can at least tell my master in good faith that I tried."
Riku took a deep breath, letting the cool air wafting in off the ocean quell his anger. The sun had set, leaving only an orange haze on the horizon, the sky dark above them. Only a few stars were visible along the edge of the tree line, the others blocked out by the light that had not yet faded from the sky. 'Why… do I feel like those stars?' Riku wondered in a state of lethargy. 'Right now, Sora's gone, and no one can really see me in the light he left behind. I'm there, but I'm invisible to them. I'm invisible to everyone. I can't… even be me anymore…' "I'll give it some thought," he replied finally, feeling the tension in his chest tighten up, knowing he was already committing himself to it. All he wanted to do was go home.
Riku wanted some time to himself to think, but he was too tired to do anything about it. Kairi offered to take Mickey home with her, as the King had resolved to be around if Riku needed him. Thanking both of them out of force of habit, Riku worked his way through the island towards home. He could almost feel eyes watching him from every house that he passed, eyes that judged and scolded. He ignored them out of habit as well.
Ever since they had first returned home after Xemnas' defeat, people had looked at them differently. All of the islanders viewed Sora as some kind of interdimensional hero, a protector of the peace and a warrior of justice. Adults respected him, despite the fact that he was just a kid, and children looked up to him as a role model. Sora had never let it get to his head, but Riku could tell that his friend was enjoying the attention, even if just a little. Riku, on the other hand, was viewed as an enigma. He had changed a lot, he admitted, but everyone started avoiding him. The only ones who had never treated him any different were his friends, who knew some of what he had gone through, and his parents, who loved and cared for him unconditionally. Everyone else avoided him at all costs, like he was infected by some kind of plague, and he kindly returned the favor. To him, it made no difference. No one else had seen the things he'd seen. No one could understand what he had gone through to get where he was. It was as simple as that.
The door was locked when he got home, which meant that his parents were still out. The island was peaceful enough that no one found the need to lock the doors when they were home, except when they were asleep. He made his way into the kitchen, knowing he needed to eat something before he passed out in bed, and found a note on the table. He read it and then tossed it in the trash, let out a sigh of relief. His parents had gone to comfort Sora's parents, who they had been close friends with for many years, leaving him the rest of the evening to himself. He grabbed some things out of the fridge and made himself a fairly large sandwich, cleaning up and grabbing a bottle of water before he headed up to his room.
Riku kept his room neat, which wasn't a hard job since he didn't have many things to organize. His bed was pushed up against the far wall, looking out on the far side of the island. He could see the waves washing up against the beach from there, their rhythm uninterrupted by docks or boats. His view was an uninterrupted horizon, blue water that merged into blue sky that now twinkled with a million white stars. Across the room was his desk, where he dumped his plate and uneaten meal on a stack of books before kicking his shoes off and dropping down on the bed. He stared up at the ceiling for a while, wondering just what he was going to do.
He must have drifted off to sleep, as it pitch black outside when he awoke… or he thought it was. The stars were still out, flowing across the black sky like a white paintbrush drawn across a black canvas, but there was a light emanating for somewhere in his room. He was sure he hadn't left a light on or anything. He sat up and cringed, withdrawing from the powerful light, hiding his face behind his arm. The light wasn't bright, a muted whiteness that washed over everything in the room, but it was powerful, making the darkness in his heart radiate waves of terror through him. Riku, despite the pain, sensed a presence within the light and slid into a fighting position, attempting to summon his Keyblade and failing before he held out his fists in an awkward fighting stance, still shielding his eyes.
The voice that replied was a soft female voice, gentle as a spring breeze and unpredictable as the sea. "Fear not, great warrior. I mean you no harm."
'Well it sure doesn't seem like it.' He winced. "Show yourself or I won't hesitate to attack."
"You certainly already have," she answered, "but I will do so to put you at ease."
The light faded slightly, the pain ebbing with it, and Riku lowered his arm, taking a look at his unwelcome guest. She was a thin young woman with an hourglass figure and a beautiful face. Her skin radiated so much light and warmth that it glowed, her long white dress sparkling in her light. She had long hair that looked like fire, wafting around her head in an invisible breeze that seemed to only touch her. Her emerald eyes refracted the light in way that it hurt Riku's eyes to look at her, though he could be sure if it was the brightness of her light or the power of it that pained him.
"Who are you?" he asked, stealing glances at her until his eyes stung.
"Someone who desires to see your choice."
"You are an anomaly. Your presence is something that should not exist. No one can exist as you are, and that makes you of interest."
Riku snorted his annoyance. "That's new. I'm interesting because I'm a freak. Never heard that one before."
"You are now the one upon whose shoulders the world rests. You have taken a step towards it. Now you must shed off your skin of doubt, for you shall never earn the right to wield your sword until you are resolved."
"What?" That threw Riku off balance, feeling slightly angry. "I can't summon my Keyblade because I haven't decided?"
"Yes. You must choose to accept the challenge before you if you ever desire to fight again. Accept your quest and you shall find the answers that your heart seeks, if you desire to find them. Only then can you regain your right of combat."
Riku pulled himself together, managing to look her in the eyes, see past the light to her face. "Who are you?"
He saw her smile, her full, pale lips curling up her face. "I am a messenger of fate, O Dark Warrior. I shall look forward to your cooperation and your silence." She raised one hand, dainty fingers splayed out in the air, her soft hands radiating even more brilliant light. "Sleep, and become awakened."
Riku sat bolt up in bed, breathing hard. He looked around the room, squinting in the light. The sun was shining in through the window, casting warm rays and cool shadows through the room, sparkling off the water outside and the water in the water bottle lying on the bed next to him. His entire body felt stiff, but he managed to drag himself to the bathroom, clinging to the walls before he threw himself down in front of the toilet, emptying his stomach of nothing. His stomach rolled and he hurled again, yellow bile forcing it way up his throat to dance amongst the water in the toilet bowl. It took him a while to pull himself together, rinsing his mouth of the vile taste left behind before he managed to drag himself downstairs, able to walk by the time he entered the kitchen.
Kairi and Mickey were sitting at the table, both treated to a plate of bacon and eggs. His mother, her long slate grey hair tied up in a bun, was standing at the stove, the warm greasy smell of the bacon filling the air. Riku managed to blink, clearing some of the sleepy confusion from his eyes, to see the remains of his mother's cooking, plates and eggshells and plastic wrap cluttered up in one corner. It struck him how ordinary everything seemed, despite the pit in his stomach and his heart, despite that fact that he felt so out of place in his own home.
Kairi turned to the door as he entered. "Morni-What happened to you?" She cut off, her eyes widening as she saw him, looking concerned. She made to stand up, but Riku waved her off, moving to drop into a chair.
His mother caught him just before he could sit, placing the plate in her hands down at his place before taking his shoulders in her hands. "Take it easy," she said simply, looking her son in the eyes before she let him sit down. Riku was told many times that he was very much like his mother. She was strong and independent, a woman who could take care of herself, who knew when to listen and when to talk. She was one of the few people who let Riku do what he wanted and never questioned him when he didn't want to answer. She was also very good at sensing the mood of a situation, and she could probably sense Riku's unease.
"Something wrong, Riku?" Mickey asked. He looked concerned, almost enough for Riku to tell him about his visitor, whether she was a dream or not, but he decided against it.
He shook his head. "Didn't sleep well," he lied, digging into his food. He wasn't too hungry, thanks to his meeting with that woman. Her power of light had disrupted some of the balance of power within him, which had made him feel sick, but he ate, knowing he would need the energy later, crunching his bacon slowly in thought. "What are you two doing here?" he asked after he had managed to get enough in his stomach to stop it from twisting violently.
"I-We were worried about you, so we decided to come over and see if you were alright," Kairi explained, carefully spearing a small piece of egg on her plate with marksman precision. She smiled over her minor victory and stuck the little piece in her mouth, where it vanished from sight. "We gave your mother quite a scare."
His mother chuckled, washing dishes at the sink with her back to the table. "Scare is an understatement. It's not every day that a large talking mouse comes to the door."
"I apologize. I certainly never intended to frighten you," Mickey exclaimed, his shoulder drooping.
"No apologies necessary," she replied, giving him a kind smile. "Most people on the islands aren't used to some of the things that seem normal on other worlds. Besides, any friend of Riku's is welcome in my house – and it is my house until my husband gets home. So feel free to come back any time, Your Majesty."
"Mom." Riku spoke up, having been staring at his plate in thought. His visitor and her message had been preying on his mind since he sat down. 'She wants something from me. She wants to see what I'm going to do. But why…? Why does she care about what I do? I can't figure that out by sitting around here. She said I needed to accept my quest to find answers. There's nothing else I can do but try.' "I'm going."
"Take care," she said, still doing the dishes, the noise of water sloshing around in the sink the only other sound breaking through the silence.
"I mean that I won't be coming back for a while."
"I know that," she said, turning around, dishcloth in her hands. "I know you, Riku. I've raised you for years. I know that you'll do whatever you need to do and I'm not going to stop you. I'll only ask two things of you, and I'll only ask because I care about you."
Riku felt himself smile, instinctively knowing that she would make her point in the most entertaining way possible. He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, meeting her eyes. "And those would be?"
"First of all, don't hesitate to come home. I don't want you pulling another 'I-am-an-agent-of-darkness-and-I-won't-come-home-until-my-friends-are safe' shtick," she ranted. She put one hand on her waist, wet dishcloth slapping against her thigh, and waved the other hand in such an exaggerated way that Kairi broke out into a fit of giggles. "There's nothing wrong with you coming home for a visit once in a while, you know. It'll cause a lot less of a problem for people here at home if you do."
"And the other thing?"
"I already said it," she smiled. "Take care of yourself."
"I will," he replied, standing up to dump his plate in the sink.
His mother gave him an almost pained smile, holding the dishcloth so tightly in her hands as she looked at her son that water was dripping through her fingers to puddle on the floor. "Don't die."