The final chapter.
For a second, nobody moved or spoke. Then, Kairi broke the silence. "Sora," she said.
I continued to stare. I couldn't help it—I had seen her die. I had held her dead body. How could she be standing here?
She took a step forward. "Sora, it's me." She reached out a hand, still moving forward. "It really is."
Her hand touched my face, and I felt myself start to come out of my daze. "K-Kairi…" I reached up with one of my hands and took hers. Was it her? Could I dare to hope that, somehow, by some miracle, she was alive and standing here in front of me?
"Sora!" She let out a sob and threw herself into me, almost making me lose my balance. "Oh…sorry!"
I straightened myself. "I-I'm fine." I looked at her. She looked just as I remembered her, except for the lack of her vampire characteristics. Her skin, while still light, was no longer noticeably pale. Her teeth were no sharper than mine. And her eyes, instead of red and foreboding, were the same color of blue that I had seen right before her death. (Or, at least, what I had thought was her death.) She was the most beautiful being I had ever laid eyes on.
I felt my knees get weak. It was her. It had to be. "Kairi!" I said, and wrapped my arms around her, tears flowing from my eyes. She did the same (including the tears). We stood there, together, and I felt as though I never wanted to let her go.
That is, until Cloud cleared his throat, and I remembered he was there. I didn't want to separate from Kairi, but I needed to know what had happened. Gently easing myself out of our embrace, I looked at him. "How did you do this?"
I raised an eyebrow. "Gal what?"
"Stimulation through electricity. I used the lightning storm to revive her."
I blinked. "You what?"
"It's a long story." He gestured towards my door. "Do you mind if we discuss it inside?"
I didn't mind. After unlocking the door, we went inside. I had to let go of Kairi to use my crutches, but she kept a hand on my arm, and it comforted me. Upon sinking onto the couch, however, my hands were freed to hold her as she curled up next to me.
Cloud sat down on one of the chairs. "So, you want to hear how this all came about?" I nodded. "Well, I first got the idea before you guys left, which was one of the reasons I wanted you to leave her behind."
I frowned. "Why didn't you tell me what you were trying to do?"
"I didn't want to give you false hope," said Cloud. "I knew that my plan did not have a high chance of success, and I didn't want to give you a hope that would be snatched away, and leave you more desolate than before."
I blinked. "That was thoughtful of you."
"I'm not entirely heartless, Sora," he said, with a hint of a wry grin. "Besides, I knew where you were coming from." He looked at Kairi, then back at me. "So, after cutting up Sephiroth's body to further reduce his power, I took Kairi to the top of the house, and managed to use one of my swords as a lightning rod. The storm was close enough for me to attract bolts of lightning, and after a couple struck, her heart started back up again."
I gaped. "I didn't know that was possible."
"Sure. You ever hear of a defibrillator? Or the story of Frankenstein? It's fictional, but it has some basis in fact. Electricity can, to some degree, be used to restart the human heart."
"Wait a minute," I said. "If you were able to revive Kairi so easily, why did it take you so long to get her here?"
He held up two fingers. "Two reasons. One, I had to deal with Sephiroth's remains. If I left them as they were, he would revive himself—it would take time, but, as you may know, vampiragas are exceptionally hard to kill, and if they're not killed, they can regenerate and heal their wounds. I needed to burn his bones, and the only place I knew of where that was possible was a furnace back at my house."
"Where do you live?"
I frowned. "That's not too far away. Did it really take you all this time?"
He shook his head. "No, only a couple of days." He smiled triumphantly. "But I did it. Sephiroth is gone for good."
A sense of victory filled me, too. We had done it. We had really taken down a perfect vampire. But… "Then why did it take you so long to return?"
"That's the second reason." He looked at Kairi. "The lightning restarted her heart, but she was still comatose. I had to take her with me, and wait for her to wake up. She did only a few days ago, and it took her until today to recover enough to be healthy to travel." A shadow of a grin crossed his face. "And of course, when she did, we had to come here right away."
He had done all of this for us? I let that thought sink in. Then, I said, "Cloud, you have done so much. You are really an amazing person. I had pegged you wrong, and I apologize for that."
He shook his head. "You don't need to apologize. I did the same with you. I thought you were weak, because you didn't want to kill. But I've come to realize that it's your compassion that makes you that way, not weakness." He smiled at me, and I took note; that might have been the first time I had ever seen him really smile. "This was a good experience for me, Sora, and not just because I ended up finally taking down Sephiroth. I learned some things, and I have you to thank." He turned to Kairi. "You as well. You were the first vampire I've seen that actively helped humans. You've made me reevaluate some of my opinions. Not to mention that it was all thanks to you that we were able to defeat Sephiroth at all."
She smiled. "I'm glad I could be of so much help."
"You have." He looked at us. "Well, I think it's time for me to head off."
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"Well, just because Sephiroth is dead doesn't mean this world is safe from all threats. I figure I can just keep doing what I'm good at."
"Do you want to help us out? We can always use another investigative partner."
He looked for a moment like he was considering it, but then said, "I think I'll pass." He rose. "I've got my own things to do. But…" He looked around. "You have a pen and paper?"
I nodded and pointed. "Should be some in the corner."
He walked over, picked up a scrap of paper and a pen, wrote something down, and walked back. "Here," he said, holding out the paper. "If you need my help, you can reach me at that number."
I took the paper. "Thank you. I'll keep you in mind."
"Well then…" He held out his hand. I tried to rise, but he said, "Don't. You can rest."
I grinned and took his hand. "I'll see you around."
He gave me a half-smile. "Yes, I think you will."
"And thank you again for all that you've done."
"I just do what I can."
He held out his hand to Kairi, too, but she enveloped him in a hug instead. He seemed surprised, and unused to it. "Thank you," she said, in a slightly teary voice.
His expression became satisfied, and he half-returned her hug. Then, with a final smile at the pair of us, he left.
After spending some quality time with Kairi, I called Donald and Goofy and told them what had happened. Both wanted to come over upon hearing the news, which I agreed to. Then, after a moment's thought, I called Lea, too, and told him what had happened, as well. "Wait," he said after I was done. "So, your vampire girlfriend, who you thought was dead, was brought back to life by that vampire hunter using lightning. And…why is she no longer a vampire, again?"
"Sephiroth removed her vampire blood," I said. "Somehow, he was able to control his own blood within her body, and he brought it all into one place and sucked it out."
"And that was what killed her, right?"
"Yeah. Shock and blood loss took their toll."
"Okay…I think I get it. No, wait, I don't." He sighed. "Man, this is complicated."
"Do you want to come over and meet her?"
"Meet her?" I could imagine him scratching his head, like he often did when he was unsure of something. "Well…are you guys up to anything?"
"No. Actually, Donald and Goofy are coming over, too."
"Oh, all right. Uh, okay, then, I'll come over."
I smiled. "Great. See you in a bit!"
"Uh, yeah. Bye."
I hung up and turned to Kairi. "Well, I think he's still a little uncertain, but he'll be here."
She nodded. "I picked up that much."
I found myself staring at her for the umpteenth time that day. "What are you staring at?" she asked.
"I just…can't believe you're really here."
She smiled at me. "Well, you'd better believe it. And get used to it, because I don't plan on going anywhere."
Goofy was first to arrive, being the closest. After he enthusiastically greeted me and Kairi, I began to tell him what had happened, but was interrupted by Donald's arrival. Not wanting to start my story again when Lea arrived, I asked the pair of them to wait for him to come. Goofy, accommodating as always, didn't mind. Donald grumbled, but eventually agreed. So, for about five more minutes, we sat in an awkward silence, occasionally broken by Goofy's attempts at making conversation. But they didn't really go anywhere.
Finally, though, Lea arrived. "Hey, Sora," he said, hugging me, and greeted Donald and Goofy similarly. Then, he turned to Kairi. "And you must be Kairi."
She nodded and got up. "And you're Lea."
"That's my name." He smiled as he shook her hand. "Well, I'm certainly eager to hear all about you. You're the first vampire—or, I guess, ex-vampire—that I've ever met."
Kairi nodded. "Sora told me he just told you about his line of work a couple days ago."
"Yeah. Had no idea, and I've even helped him out on some of his cases. Who'd have thought Sora would be so good at keeping a secret?"
"Thanks," I said sarcastically. "Well, do you wanna hear what happened?"
Of course, they all did. So Kairi and I related the story, from me leaving her with Cloud to Cloud's revival of her to our reunion (though we did keep out a few of the more intimate details).
When we had finished, Lea scratched his head. "Sounds almost too good to be true," he commented.
I smiled. "Well, sometimes the truth can be miraculous."
"Yeah." He looked at Kairi. "So, what's your story? How'd you even become a vampire in the first place? Sora mentioned that it was that Sephiroth that did it, but I don't know anything else."
So Kairi told her what had happened to her, describing her past life in Minnesota; how Sephiroth had found her one night and transformed her; how she had, at first, attempted to live her life as a vampire peacefully, but how she had been driven to violence. I couldn't help but admire the way she admitted that last part; she didn't lump all of the blame on others, and actually made it sound like it was largely her fault. Lea's eyes darkened at this, but gradually softened. "Well…" he said after she was done, "that's one hell of a story." He paused. "Can't say I approve of the killing, though…"
Kairi shook her head. "No. It was a terrible thing that I did. I doubt I'll ever be able to forgive myself." She took a deep breath. "And…and if you feel that…that you need to…to take me in…I'll understand."
I blinked. It hadn't occurred to me that Lea would want to arrest Kairi. Surely he'd realize this situation was different? Couldn't he believe in her remorse?
"Huh," he said, as if he hadn't expected Kairi to say that, either. "Well, in a normal situation, I probably would." He paused, and my heart raced. "But…this is no normal situation." He shook his head. "I'm probably…actually, I'm definitely breaking all sorts of rules, but, hey, I'm a generous guy. You can stay where you are."
"Are you sure?" asked Kairi.
"Yep. Sure, you did some bad things…" He looked closely at her. "…but I get the sense that that wasn't really you who did them. Besides…" He nodded at me. "I'd hate to break poor Sora's heart by taking you away."
She looked relieved. "Thank you, Lea."
He grinned. "Yeah, I don't always play by everyone else's rules. That is, when I can get away with it."
Kairi laughed, and the rest of us found ourselves joining in.
The rest of the night passed very favorably. With Lea's jokes, Goofy's antics, and Donald being…well, Donald, everyone had a good, fun, relaxing time. However, there was something that weighed on my mind a bit, which I had thought of soon after Kairi had told Lea about her home in Minnesota. What was she planning to do, now that she was human again? Would she want to go back home? I mean, if she did, I would support her decision…it was just that we wouldn't see each other as much.
And, it might have been my imagination, but something seemed to be bugging her, as well. Several times during the night I saw her glance at me, a concerned expression on her face. I thought about asking her about it, but figured it was better to wait until after everyone had left.
They ended up staying for a while, and we found ourselves eating dinner. This was the first time that I had eaten with Kairi, and everyone surreptitiously turned their attention to her as she ate. Her response was favorable; she said that she had forgotten how good human food tasted.
The three stayed for a couple hours after dinner, but eventually, Lea took the initiative to leave, saying that he should get a bit of work done, but that it was great to see me and meet Kairi. Donald and Goofy left soon afterwards, citing the time and the need to work the next day. Finally, it was just me and her.
I turned to her, sitting next to me on the couch (I had barely gotten up the whole evening, on account of my leg). "So," I said, "that was fun."
She nodded. "Yeah." She sounded bright, but there was something in her tone that suggested that she was worried about something.
I frowned. "Is something the matter?"
She blinked. "What makes you ask?"
"You seem a little worried about something."
"Well…it's just…" She sighed. "When I told Lea about all the people I killed, I was worried that it would bring back unpleasant memories and feelings for you. If…if you're no longer comfortable with…with us, then…"
I blinked. "That's what this is about?"
For a moment, I said nothing. Then, I leaned forward and kissed her. "Kairi," I said, after ending it, "it didn't bother me before, and it doesn't bother me now." I smiled. "Besides, as someone very important once said to me, you may have done something bad, but the fact that you realize that it was bad speaks volumes. You have emotions, which everyone does, but you also have a conscience, which not everyone does." I reached up to touch her face. "You're a kind and caring person. That is how I view you. And that is how I will always view you."
She smiled, and I could see tears forming in her eyes. "Sora, did I ever mention that I love you?"
"A few times."
"Well, let me say it again." She drew closer, right up next to me. "I love you, Sora. I love you so much."
"And I love you, Kairi," I said. "More than anything in the world."
That night, we slept together. And this time, I don't just mean in the literal sense.
The next day, I slept in a bit, and, when I woke up, found a message on my answering machine from Goofy, saying that if I wanted to take the day off, he and Donald could handle the work for that day. After calling him and taking him up on his offer, I returned to Kairi, who had also woken. As I looked down at her, I felt a sense of euphoria come over me. Kairi was here, safe. We had found a solution to her problems. We could be a normal couple—or at least, relatively normal.
I got back into bed. I wasn't quite ready to leave just yet.
That day was a lazy one, which I enjoyed—to an extent. I did have a broken leg, after all. Fortunately, Kairi was always on hand and willing to help me out with whatever I needed. Besides, just being with her was enough to make me forget my pain and just feel great. Though the question of what Kairi wanted to do now—stay with me or return to Minnesota—did occupy a presence in my mind. So, after we had read a couple more chapters of Harry Potter (old habits die hard, and besides, we enjoyed it), I posed the question. "So…do you have any idea what you want to do now?"
She frowned. "Hm. I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought. I mean, I'm not sure how I would get a job." Her frown deepened. "It's going to be difficult to reintegrate myself into the world. I mean, how do I explain an absence of almost thirteen years?"
"We'll find something," I said. "But…"
I trailed off. "But what?" Kairi asked, raising an eyebrow.
She grinned. "You remind me of me, last night. Come on, Sora. If I can tell you my worries, you can tell me yours."
"Well, I don't want to say it's a worry…"
"Tell me, Sora."
"Okay." I took a breath. "Do you want to stay in New York, or head back to Minnesota?"
She raised her eyebrows slightly. "I hadn't even thought of that," she admitted. "I mean, my life in Minnesota is pretty much over. My parents are dead, and my friends have thought I was dead for over twelve years. They…they've probably moved on."
"But you could see them again," I said.
We sat in silence for another few moments. "You don't have to answer now," I said. "You can think about it for a while."
She nodded. "Okay."
A while later, I gave Donald a call to see how he and Goofy were holding up. "Fine," said Donald. "Nothing we can't handle. How are you?"
I grinned broadly. "Excellent."
He chuckled. "I bet I can guess the reason." He changed the subject. "Hey, Goofy and I were wondering what happened to Roxas."
Roxas. I had completely forgotten about him, what with Kairi being taken by Sephiroth and then dying. "I don't know. Was he not there when you left last night?"
"No, and it got us wondering."
I thought. "Cloud did say that he ran off." I frowned. "Some friends we are. We haven't even checked on him."
"We've been busy," said Donald. "We haven't really had time. Besides, how would we check on him? We only ever see him at the door. We don't know where he lives or anything."
I frowned. "That's true…" I thought. "I wonder what the people at the front desk have to say."
"You wanna ask them?"
"Yeah, I'll do that." Something else occurred to me. "Oh, and as long as we're on the subject of things we've forgotten, we need to tell Lea about Will Turner."
"The guy who went missing in my apartment."
"What about him?"
Oh. I don't think I had mentioned that detail. "Sephiroth killed him."
"What? How do you know?"
"He told me, in the lobby. Said that…" I thought back to our conversation. "He said that he was listening in on me and Kairi and was interrupted by someone who matched Will's description."
There was a pause on the other line. "That's terrible."
"Yeah. But Lea should know."
"What's he gonna tell the police?"
"Hm. I dunno. But we can discuss that later."
"I guess." Donald sighed. "Poor guy."
"I know. But at least Sephiroth is done hurting people."
"Yeah," he said, with a note of satisfaction in his voice. "Well, we'd better get on that."
"Right. And I'll ask the front desk about Roxas."
"Sounds good. Take it easy, and see you later."
"All right. Bye."
I hung up. "What about Roxas?" asked Kairi, who had been listening to what I was saying.
"He's disappeared," I said.
Kairi frowned. "That's not good. What happened to him after…you know…I left with Sephiroth?"
I nearly winced at the memory. "He ran off while Cloud was watching him." Suddenly, a horrible thought struck me. "Uh, could Sephiroth have done something to him?"
"I doubt it," said Kairi. "Sephiroth was with me for most of the time in between our meeting in the lobby and your guys' attack."
"Then let's find him." I reached for my crutches. "Can you help me down to the lobby?"
Several minutes later, I had managed to talk with Roxas's boss—or ex-boss, as I soon found out. According to her, Roxas had come to his shift on the night of the eleventh—the night after Sephiroth had come to the apartment building, and the night that we had attacked him. He had seemed nervous, and after only a few minutes of standing at his position, he had broken down, barely got out that he couldn't work there any more, and ran away. His boss had tried contacting him to find out more, but all that he would say was that he couldn't return for unspecified personal reasons. She had had no choice but to let him go. I asked for his number, but, given that I wasn't a close friend or relative, she did not give it to me, citing employee confidentiality. I recognized her perspective, but was still annoyed.
Well, I wasn't finished. I promised myself that I would find Roxas and explain what happened. I would just need a way to do it right, so he wouldn't think I was crazy or anything.
After returning to my apartment, I got a call from Lea, who wanted to know the details about Will Turner. I explained to him what Sephiroth had told me, and tried to convince him that it all made sense. "Yeah, but what am I supposed to say?" said Lea. "I can't just tell Leon or Isa, 'Hey, Sora told me that a vampire killed Turner.'"
"We'll come up with something," I promised him. "I've been creating cover stories for years."
"Well, then, I'll leave things in your capable hands."
I blinked. "Hold on. This is a team effort, Lea."
"Hey, I wasn't assigned to this case."
"But you said you'd help me out with anything I needed, remember?"
He paused. "Heh. I guess you got me. All right, let's brainstorm ideas and confer tomorrow, huh?"
That night, Kairi and I ate dinner—just the two of us, for the first time. We had had breakfast and lunch earlier in the day, but this was a more formal meal, which required more preparation. For our first dinner together, I had wanted to create a romantic atmosphere, but my damn leg prevented me from doing much. So, I enlisted Kairi's help (removing the element of surprise, but, then again, it was a small apartment, and she would have been able to see what I was doing anyway), and, together, we made a simple pasta dish and set up candles. Surprisingly, the pasta was quite good, though I attributed that to Kairi's doing—I can barely cook to save my life.
After dinner, she offered to do the cleanup. I would have liked to do it myself; I felt pretty useless with my broken leg and crutches. "Something the matter?" she asked, noticing the frustrated look on my face.
I grimaced. "I feel so useless," I said. "I want to help you, to do something for you, instead of making you do everything for me."
She raised an eyebrow. "What, you think I don't like helping you out? You think I don't feel the same?"
"Sora, you can't imagine what you've already done for me. You pulled me out of the darkness almost entirely by yourself." She shook her head. "I'll never be able to repay you for that."
I frowned. "Hey." I reached over and took her hand. "Do you know how happy you've made me? Do you have any idea how much I love being with you?" I smiled. "That's payment enough for anything."
She smiled warmly. "Thank you, Sora."
After Kairi finished cleaning, we read another few chapters of Harry Potter, a leisurely and fun activity. But we had to stop eventually. "It's getting good," I said as I closed the book. "Well, it was already good, but…you know what I mean."
"Mm-hm." She seemed lost in thought.
"What are you thinking about?"
For a moment, she didn't answer me. Then, she turned to me and said, "I'm staying here."
I blinked, then realized that she was answering my question from earlier in the day. "You-you will?"
She nodded. "What is there for me back in Minnesota? Just memories, and old friends who will ask questions. They have accepted me as dead. They've gotten used to it." She smiled at me. "But here, what is there for me? Some good friends, a place to live…" She paused for a moment. "And you. Someone who I can share all my joys and troubles with. Someone who will stand by my side, whatever I end up doing. Someone who will make my life brighter than it's ever been before." She took my hand. "I love you, Sora. And I want to stay with you."
For me, there were no sweeter words in the English language—or any language, for that matter—than the ones she had just spoken. "I love you, Kairi," I said. "And I'm very happy that you chose to stay with me."
And at that moment, the future had never looked brighter.
Well, that's my first story, The Darkness Hunter. I have a sequel in mind, but I'd like some feedback: Should I do it? Is there anything that you'd like to see me do differently, or the same?
I also would like to thank everyone who read and reviewed. Writing stories is something that I really enjoy, and I was glad to see that there were other people who were enjoying my story, too.
Thank you for your support, and keep reading!