Part Five: Challenge

Today felt strange.

I looked out the window, trying to figure out what feels so odd. Everything was normal, or as normal as it could be in almost summer. This was the time of the year where everyone started going a little crazy and started doing bizarre things. I closed my eyes.

No, that wasn't why I didn't like summer. The real reason… was because everyone started to tell scary stories in summer.

"Ehhh, Kairi, are you listening?" Selphie demanded from next to me and then I felt a blunt circle shoving hard against my cheek. OW! I yawned and glared at the younger girl, though all she did is laugh. Little brat… that really hurt…

"Yeah, I'm listening," I muttered before leaning forward and giving her my utmost attention. She grinned cheekily, pulled out a notebook from her book-bag, and flipped it open to a new page. "Good, cause I have a new one for you involving the little spirit!" Selphie cheered.

I groaned. Out of everyone in the class, Selphie was the one that was the most obsessed over ghost stories. She collected them in that stupid notebook and for some reason, she liked telling them to me. I've told her to stop but she never listened. Because of that, I knew them all down to the very last detail. I watched her as she tapped the page and began reading a column of her handwritten notes out loud.

"He waits in the darkness, letting sad victims hide,

The boy waits in the shadows with spirits to guide,

This is the ghost that awaits with the people who've died,

He takes them to a new place, a new side."

A poem? That was rare… most people didn't tell Sora's story in rhyme like that… it was almost refreshing to hear another version like that. Sora as a guide for dead spirits... it almost made him sound like a good ghost. Usually he became one of the monsters that brought children to hell. The poem was much more like him! I spun my pencil around my fingers as Selphie put the book down and looked over at me for approval. I couldn't really think of anything else to do but I gave her a thumbs up.

She immediately blushed and began moving that much faster. Oh great, she was excited. "Thanks, Kairi! I found it on one of the new chatrooms for the little spirit. A lot of people are talking about him on the web cause he's being really active this year; lots of people have seen him! I hope I get to see him, too!" Selphie preened and she sighed in happiness, her eyes looking off into the distance as she daydreamed.

I swear that she was the only one in the entire class that thought it was would be fantastic to see a ghost, especially the little spirit that everyone was so terrified of.

I ran my finger down my wrist, playing with the dark brown ribbon I tied there. I wore it almost all the time now, because of all of the stories about him. It was strange… but for some reason… Sora was on my mind almost all the time now, too. I turned my wrist to look at the small triangle at the end of it. Like he was haunting me too…

"Don't you two get tired of that?"

I looked up just in time to see Riku steal one of the chairs from another desk, spin it, and then sit down in front of me. A smile slowly crossed my lips as he stared at Selphie, disapproval already firmly in place on his dark expression. Selphie immediately turned red and started babbling hysterically to me, shocked that Riku, the top-tier Riku, was sitting with us while we waited for class to start.

I hadn't talked to him in years, but somehow it felt like he had never stopped being my friend. As he gave me a smile, it was clear that he hadn't stopped thinking of me like that, too. "Tired of what?" I asked him as I spun my ribbon around my arm. His eyes dropped down to it and his mouth set in a hard line.

"Those stupid ghost stories," Riku declared before reaching out and grabbing the end of it. "Don't you get sick of them?" He asked as his fingers found the leather charm at the end of it and toyed with it, turning it this way and that way as he looked it over.

But just like when he was little, there was a different question in his eyes. Riku could never truly express his emotions… a lot of the time, Sora said it was because of all the pressure put on him because he was so smart and strong. Everyone saw what they wanted to see in Riku and no one saw the real him… so he never learned how to ask what he really wanted to know.

But Sora and I always knew how to figure it out; Riku always had the same expression in his eyes when he asked questions. This time… I could guess what he was thinking almost to the letter. He had been the one that had been hurt the worst by our friend's disappearance and never really got over it. In fact, the reason why we stopped being friends was because of his disappearance. Because no one seemed to remember Sora had been a little boy once, not a warped legend.

It was pretty clear what his real question was to ask if I remembered that he had been our friend.

I put my hand over Riku's and nodded. "They're not real," I confided in him and I watched as the dark look in his eyes slowly got a bit brighter. He had needed someone else to say it and I was more than happy to let him know I was on his side. "They're just dumb stories to explain why kids disappear here."

He nodded. "There are a lot of strong tides, caves, and stuff where kids can get lost," Riku explained in irritation. I chuckled; it sounded like he had thought hard about it. "That's where those kids went, not to hell… or wherever people think that he's taking them. There's lots of kids who went missing that came back." He added when Selphe glared at him.

The girl huffed and crossed her arms in anger. Uh oh, here we go… "The little spirit is real!" Selphie declared as she slapped down her notebook in emphasis. "If he wasn't, then where are all the stories coming from?"

I watched as Riku shook his head. "Tragedy boosts creativity," He sighed softly. After a moment, he turned to look at me. "Everyone wants to believe that it's something horrible instead of something normal. They make monsters out of ordinary events in order to let them feel better about something they couldn't control..."

A pain twisted in my heart as Riku shook his head again. He was right; it was easier to blame something you couldn't control… over admitting you were wrong or that you hadn't had done enough to stop something.

We had been kids then. My hand tightened over Riku's and he unconsciously turned his around to cup mine. We had been kids then… but we hadn't been able to save Sora. He had been human once, but all the stories ended up demonizing him for being gone…

As Riku stood up, I noticed an interesting smile on his face. "Well, if that's what you feel about it, Selphie…" He said in a cold voice, staring down at Selphie in distaste. He flipped his hair back and snatched up her ghost stories notebook. "Then let's expose the truth once and for all." He waggled the notebook in front of her; as she tried to grab it, he yanked it back up with a laugh.

Oh no... From the mischievous grin he had, I already knew what Riku was thinking. He had never been satisfied with just taking someone's word for it as a kid, he always had to actually do the experiment himself...! He couldn't be thinking of trying the legend out himself, could he?

"Let's go see if we can catch a ghost!"