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Ventus’ heart had been sleeping for a year when the consequences of the shift in the air lead to a burst of darkness and a girl falling into this world. Her name was Kairi, and her heart was pure light. But that light was also a slightly muted light, as if… part of it was missing. Interesting… Sora decided it was a familiar light as well, much like Ventus’ light. Maybe he would be able to place the light eventually, but for now, Riku and Sora would look after Kairi. Kairi very quickly became friends with Riku and Sora.

What was most fascinating… was Kairi’s language skills. Like everyone in this time, Kairi knew the common tongue, but what was most fascinating was her knowledge of Daybreak Common. Sora still spoke Daybreak Common, it was something of the past to cling to. His mind thought in Daybreak Common too, which made it harder to communicate since he first had to translate in his head what he wanted to say before he said it, so that it didn’t come out as a mess. The modern common was not an easy language either. That Kairi somehow knew Daybreak Common was interesting.

Riku wanted to learn.

Actually, Sora’s two friends wanted to learn many things, they wanted to join Sora’s experiments. So it became a game. Masters Ira and Invi became teachers of swords and magic, Masters Aced and Gula taught aspects of strength and speed, and other useful tactics, and Master Ava shared stories of histories that were long forgotten into legends. Kairi and Riku thought they were just stories that Sora created. It was their game.

Riku enjoyed swordplay and was determined to be the best. Kairi was determined to surpass Sora with her magic, to the point where she even managed to create her own spells. It was amazing how his friends were improving with their respective choices of combat, Sora was proud of his friends. He did wish, however, that they would realise that they couldn’t just use what they were practicing with now. At some point, Sora knew too well, Kairi would discover the need for a melee weapon, and Riku would discover that magic was intrinsic to wielding a Keyblade. They would learn.

Today, four years after Kairi had arrived, Sora was waiting for his friends on the beach, wooden sword in hand. A smile was on his face while he looked out over the ocean. He wondered… about the Great Ocean that his father had spoken about. Ever since Lucien had first mentioned it, Sora had tried to glean more information from him, but his father was even more tight lipped about it than anything about his past. All that Lucien had added since then was to tell Sora that he had used the Great Ocean to get to the Destiny Islands.

That told Sora a lot about his father. But still nothing about the Great Ocean.

“Sora!” A voice called, and the running steps on the sand behind him told him that Kairi was approaching. “Are we going to train with Master Gula or Master Ira today?? Or maybe with Master Ava!”

“You just want to hear Sora come up with another story,” the voice of Riku called out with a laugh. Sora and Kairi looked up and started laughing with their friend. The brown haired boy reached out his hand and did what he only dared to do around his best friends - he cast a spell, summoning a ball of light. He then grinned and pointed to the side where he almost summoned an illusion.

“Well, Master Aced wanted to test us today,” Sora grinned. “Maybe Master Ava will tell us a story after we are done.”

The game was relatively simple, just destroy the ball of light. Riku would attack it with his sword, pulling out every move he had worked out and created with Sora and Kairi, while Kairi would cast Malefic over and over, practicing the spell again and again. She had a large reserve of magic which would compliment Riku’s growing strength in a few years time. Sora meanwhile was experimenting with a few things, mainly enhancing his weapon with elemental magics. He wasn’t succeeding as well as his friends… that that was alright with him. It wasn’t too long until the ball of light was destroyed.

The three kids shared a high-five, Kairi immediately launching into praise over how cool they were. Sora smirked and listened. As they fell into a conversation together, Sora, Riku and Kairi started to walk towards the water’s edge. High above in the sky, clouds were starting to form. Well that was convenient, it gave Sora the opportunity to try something new.

“Hey, Kairi, Riku,” he called, stopping their conversation. “I have an idea, let’s head to the tidepools!”

“What for, Sora?” Riku asked, looking curious. “There seems to be a storm coming.”

“Yeah, but… Master Ava has a good story for us by the tidepools, if we’re brave enough!”

Sora’s response radiated mischief, a mischief which was quickly matched by Kairi. Both of them looked at their silver haired friend, tauntingly.

“Come on, Riku,” Kairi snickered, in Daybreak common, Sora realised, as did Riku. “Are you chicken?”

Riku wasn’t fluent in Daybreak common yet, but he still understood the gist of what the girl had said. He made a face and then turned heel and ran towards the tidepools.

“Last one there is a crayfish!” he called with a laugh. Kairi and Sora exchanged a glance before they gave chase. Laughter trailed after the three, none of them were afraid of the storm.

◇◆◇◆◇

The trio of friends made it to the rocks of the tidepools just as it started raining, and Riku was just starting to suggest that they walk back when suddenly a glowing mist started to form around the water and rocks. From the mist stepped a young woman whom Riku and Kairi had never seen before, purple and white robes with a pink cowl over her head. Silver eyes framed by red-tipped black hair peeking from underneath the cloth. In this woman’s hands was a silver and blue fox mask.

It was the fox mask which allowed the pair to recognise the woman. Kairi’s violet eyes widened as she ran a few steps closer.

“Master Ava!” she gasped, once again in Daybreak common. “You’re here?”

The kids sat down on the rocks, and looked up at Ava. Sora then waved his hand and the image of Ava began to move, she walked forwards, hands raised, to tell a story. The story she told was spoken in a voice that wasn't hers, but for all that Sora could remember what she looked like, he could no longer remember her voice.

“In the age of fairytales, each of the Foretellers led a union. Master Ira was the leader of Unicornis, patient and slow to anger, but a storm of fury once there. He sought to guide his students fairly and to teach them that strength isn’t always in one’s sword arm. Master Aced led the union of Ursus, protective and fierce. He would teach his students that there was no greater duty to a warrior than to protect those weaker. Master Invi took the wise and cunning under her wing in Anguis. She taught her students to refrain, to look for the best opening, then strike. Master Gula took Leopardus, slower to give trust, but always true friend once you have it. And finally, Vulpes, my union, creative, tricky, I would like to even say… fun. I would teach my students to be creative in their solutions.”

Riku and Kairi were leaning forward, listening to the story with rapt attention, a wide grin on Kairi’s face, while a thoughtful smirk was on Riku’s. Ava stepped forward through the mists and clasped her hands together, smiling kindly as she continued her story.

“Upon turning thirteen, every child in Daybreak Town would choose a union, learn from their leader, and grow with the other children in their unions. With the help of Chirithy, it was an age of light, hope and happiness. The children guarded that light in their hearts for a long time. But now, their light has passed from them unto you, Kairi, Riku, … Sora. I hope you guard it well.”

The pause before Ava spoke Sora’s name was barely existent, only noticeable by Sora himself. After her story finished, the illusion dissolved into the mist and Ava faded from view. For a few moments all was silent. Suddenly Riku spoke up with a thumb jabbing in Kairi’s direction.

“Kairi would be in Vulpes,” he said with a smirk. “She’s tricky enough.”

The girl in question was nodding along before she paused, an affronted look crossing her face.

“Hey!! I’m not tricky!!” came her indignant exclamation, causing both Riku and Sora to start laughing. “If I’m Vulpes, then you’re Unicornis! Cause you're dull and boring and practical!”

“I believe that is called making sure you and Sora don’t throw yourself into the ocean during a storm,” Riku said primely. Sora and Kairi both squawked indignantly and playfully shoved their silver haired friend. The trio’s laughter cut cleanly through the stormy air. They were standing in pouring rain now, they hadn’t noticed the rain falling harder while they had been listening to Ava. Now they could see the ocean starting to toss up larger waves. The three exchanged glances and started the run back across the beach. Sora was glad they hadn’t tried to place him in a union!

When they were reaching the path back into the village, there was a cry of panic, from somewhere back across the beach. Riku looked up the fastest before he shoved Sora and Kairi towards the path. He spun on his heel and ran in the direction of the sound.

“Get back to the village you two!” he called over his shoulder as he ran. “See if you can get an adult down here. I’ve got this, but I might need help.”

Sora and Kairi exchanged a glance and shrugged. Riku knew what he was doing, they trusted him explicitly, and knew that their friend would go get more help too if his own wasn’t enough. Riku was the smart one of the trio. So Sora and Kairi started running to the village, intent on following Riku’s request. As it turned out though, Riku didn’t need that help. When Kairi and Sora were running back to the beach with Riku’s dad, Sora’s dad and the woman who ran the general store on their heels, the group encountered Riku holding one of the younger kids at his hip and leading another by the hand. The silverette boy was soaking wet, as were the younger kids, but they were safe; Riku had found them hanging onto a tree, about to be washed away by the waves crashing around them, and he had saved them.

Riku was ten years old when he earned his tattoo for his bravery.

◇◆◇◆◇

There were many traditions on Destiny Islands, some were familiar to Sora, but others he had never seen before. But one of the traditions that all the children on the world looked forward to and spoke excitedly about in conversations was earning their tattoos. It was a recognition of a child coming of age and maturing, usually earned upon the child’s sixteenth birthday. There were some instances, like Riku, though, where a child could earn their tattoo early, as a recognition of a particular strength or achievement. Kairi was bouncing on her heels on the play island a week after the storm, waiting eagerly for Riku to appear with his new tattoo. Sora sat on the sand behind her, watching the girl bounce.

It reminded him of someone… who’s name he couldn’t quite remember. He could almost imagine the silhouette of someone else, someone older, bouncing on heels, in Kairi’s place. Before he could remember however, Riku walked up grinning.

“Couldn’t wait, Kai?” he asked, placing his hands on his hips. Immediately obvious was Riku’s missing shirt, which made both of his friends grin.

“You got it on your back?” Sora snickered. Riku rolled his eyes, but spun around anyway, showing off the new design decorating his skin. Kairi let out a gasp of awe. And she was right to do so too. There were no words to describe just how amazing the tattoo was, and Sora knew a lot of words. It was simple black ink, creating storm waves which crashed outwards towards Riku’s shoulder blades, curling inwards as if to break back down his back. It left a blank space between his shoulders, but somehow it looked right… there was something else that was supposed to go in that spot, it just wasn’t time yet. Despite that however, Sora and Kairi were immediately on their feet and inspecting the tattoo closely, amazed compliments falling from their mouths.

“I want mine…” Kairi gasped, her eyes wide. “I can’t wait till all three of us have ours!”

The older boy reached out and ruffled Kairi’s red hair with a smile, gaining an indignant squawk from her.

“Well then, if you want yours faster, you better impress everyone before you turn sixteen,” he laughed. Sora snickered and threw his arms around his friends’ shoulders catching them. The three of them started laughing together before they ran off to play on the island. Today they would revel in Riku’s achievement, tomorrow they would do as they always did - enjoy their life as children before they had to grow up.

Besides… Sora knew Kairi was talented enough to follow after Riku and gain her own tattoo early.

She did too. A month after she turned eleven, the children were participating in a weekly surfing lesson which they had begged for about two years prior. Sora had just fallen off his board again and was trying to get back on, his mother, Sakura, trying to help him, when Riku suddenly called out a warning. A massive wave was swelling further out. Kairi was further out as well because she was better at surfing than her two friends. Riku was better than Sora, but the two boys had nothing on their best friend. So much so in fact that as Kairi watched the growing wave, neither boy was worried about her.

A faith proven when Kairi started her paddling to catch the wave, before jumping on her board at the right moment. It was amazing to watch the girl guide her board across the massive wave. Sora grinned, he could hear his mum’s gasp of shock and something about how big the wave was, but his eyes, and Riku’s, were watching their friend.

When they all came back to shore, Riku and Sora were telling Kairi just how awesome she had been, while the girl rubbed the back of her neck, trying to play it off. That day Kairi earned her tattoo for her unwavering determination in the face of one of the biggest waves in recent history. She may not be from Destiny Islands, but no one could deny that Kairi had a soul of the ocean. A true daughter of the sea. As such, her tattoo was a wave which started on her hip and curled over her back, a few flowers scattered in the waves.

◇◆◇◆◇

Sora was just shy of eleven himself when he had his first nightmare. Not just any nightmare either. Over the years it would come to be known as The Nightmare, named by his friends. But that first time he had it, Sora was scared out of his wits. He saw… Daybreak Town. His siblings… and they were… taunting him…? No… they were… asking him why he just watched as they died in—

“No-! I didn’t want-!”

Sitting up with a start as he cried out to his the dream apparitions of his lost family. But they were gone. Sora’s hand was outstretched, grasping for something that wasn't there. His hand dropped into his lap, before he raised it to his face.

… tears?

A sob ripped from his throat.

“Ira… Aced… Invi… Gula… Ava…” he whispered in Daybreak common, mind not currently in the right place to remember how to speak in the modern tongue. “I’m sorry… please…”

Lucien and Sakura came into his room and saw him crying. His parents came over and pulled him into a hug. Neither knew what had upset him so much, but they comforted him nonetheless, murmuring reassurance to him. In the morning, Sora chose to tell Kairi and Riku about his nightmare, leaving out anything that tied it to him as a memory.