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Libertas

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Luxu’s awareness shifted almost the moment he had awoken. Almost at once, he was opening his eyes, but then falling into a deeper sleep. His new vessel… he could sense something was off… there was… no heart? Luxu was confused. What was this…? Where was this vessel’s heart? Light caught his attention, and Luxu moved towards it, hoping it was the heart of his vessel. Who was his vessel? He needed to know.

The light led him not to the heart he was looking for but the heart of another. A fractured heart, broken enough that it was at risk of fading. There was a boy here, his eyes listless and empty. This boy was one Luxu recognised. This boy…

“A missing Dandelion?” He asked. “The wind carried you this far did it… Ventus?”

His questions gained no visible reaction from the boy. Luxu took the time to inspect Ventus; he hadn’t changed much since the last time the Lost Apprentice had seen him. The boy who had been used for a long time.

“... who are you?” Ah, so the boy could speak! Luxu had been starting to worry Ventus would fade.

“Me? I’m probably what they call an ancient heart now,” the Lost Apprentice replied. “New body, old heart.”

"How did you get here?"

Now that was a difficult question to answer. Luxu wasn’t going to admit that he was chasing the heart of his new vessel…

“The light led me to you,” he answered. “And looking at you, I can see why.”

“Yeah…” Ventus agreed softly, looking down at what should have been a stained glass window. “My heart is fractured, and what’s left of it is slipping away.”

Luxu stopped and tried to spread his consciousness further, to try and find the missing half of this boy’s heart. It wasn’t too hard to find… Ventus’ heart halves were connected. The darkness that wafted off the other half was… familiar, Luxu almost flinched away, but he refrained… this… Luxu turned his attention back to Ventus.

“I can see that,” he hummed. He took a moment before he came to a decision. “Look kid… my own heart is battered already… but I think I can still help you and your other half.”

Even as Ventus made a sound of confusion, Luxu focused on his own heart and thought of making Ventus whole. It was the least he could do for Ava after all. If he could save the Dandelion, then he would. With little thought, he also sought out the other half of Ventus’ heart with the intent on making him whole too. Maybe that would remove a thorn in the Master’s plan…

“... there ya go,” he said, watching as Ventus looked around in awe. No longer fractured, the boy could heal. “Nothing else should slip now, and your missing half should be fine too. You should find him, kid. Time to wake up now…”

Luxu let himself retreat from Ventus’ heart. He had a different problem… his vessel’s heart. Where was it?

“...-ra.”

What? Who was that? This voice? Who was speaking?

“You will be a strong light, Sora,” the voice, a woman’s voice, cooed. “One day, I can see you going far…”

Sora… so that was his vessel’s name… and a newborn child? But… how? Where was Sora’s heart? Wouldn’t the child have died if he didn’t have his heart? Or… did Luxu become his heart? It was then, as Luxu returned to waking in his new vessel, that he understood.

“Without me…” he thought as he opened his eyes. “This boy… he dies? Before he gets a chance to live?”

Seeing the woman smiling warmly down at him, seeing the man off to the side also smiling, Luxu decided to accept that fact. He would give this boy, Sora, a chance to live in his parents’ lives. Luxu… would become Sora.

Sora raised his arm and giggled.

◇◆◇◆◇

There was something unique about having a vessel who never had a heart in the first place, and that was the fact that there was no personality there for Luxu to copy. Luxu became Sora and Sora’s actions became the actions of a young Luxu. Luxu, as Sora, could finally be himself again, after so many lifetimes, after ages upon ages of pretending to be other people, he could finally just be himself. Luxu found himself embracing this. He was Sora. The adults who cared for him were his parents, and they loved him. Sora was Luxu’s freedom, and that feeling was one that Luxu wasn’t letting go of.

The best thing about his new found freedom was friends that were friends because of who he was. Not friends because the vessel had been friends with them. Sora met Riku when he was three. Riku was four and a pretty smart kid, he was calm and he inspired people to follow him, while Sora was reckless and came up with crazy ideas. Riku was responsible, most of the time, while Sora was mischievous and always pulling pranks. The two boys became best friends.

Where Sora had ideas, the two boys would work together to flesh it out, Riku had the disposition to use these ideas. When Riku liked Sora’s ideas he'd latch onto them and roll with them until either it failed or it succeeded. Sora was quite happy to let Riku take the lead, because that left attention off of himself.

It was also around this age that Sora started to experiment with magic. He tried to do it in secret, but Riku found out. The silver haired boy wanted to try magic too, but when Sora lost control of one of his fire spells he changed his mind.

None of the adults ever learned how the fire at the docks started.

◇◆◇◆◇

“Sora!!!”

Riku’s voice was calling for him, but Sora didn’t make a peep as he hid in the tree near his house. Really it was an impromptu game of hide and seek which Sora had initiated and hadn’t told Riku they were playing, and had absolutely nothing to do with the coconut shell full of water that the three-year-old was certainly not holding ready to dump water over his friend’s head. Not at all.

“Riku, is that you?” Sora's mother asked, opening the door. “Sora is in that tree over there if you were looking for him.”

Sora froze, not expecting to have been noticed and called out by his mum. He had thought his hiding spot was perfect!! You’re slipping up, Luxu, Sora scolded himself as he raised his arm and shook it.

“Muuuuuum!!!” The three-year-old boy wailed indignantly. “My hiding spot was perfect!!”

… raising his arm was a bad idea. The water that was in the coconut splashed onto him. Riku burst out laughing at his friend, while Sora’s mother smiled.

“Sweetheart, Riku will be staying for dinner,” his mother smiled. “It would have been rude to have him sit at the table while drenched. Now go change so that you aren’t sitting at the table soaked. And try to dry your hair!”

Sora sighed and scrambled down the tree, pushing aside the thought that he could just drop from the branch and roll so he wouldn't hurt himself, but he was meant to be three. He shouldn’t know how to do that, so Sora crawled back down the tree. You need to step up your game, was the self-scolding thought. As he walked past his mother, she reached out and gently ruffled his hair.

“Don’t worry Sora,” she murmured in his ear. “Normally you would have slipped away, but I was keeping an eye on you this afternoon. Your hiding spot was perfect.”

Sora looked up at his mum with wide eyes and she winked at him before ushering him into the house. Dinner that night, as with most nights, was a joyous affair and Sora never noticed how his parents were giving him bittersweet smiles.

◇◆◇◆◇

Every month there was a boat race for the children, one that goes from the main island, to the smaller island where the kids played, back to the main island. All the kids teamed in pairs or threes to build a raft with the help of an adult, and then they would then drag their rafts into the water and hope that they would float. To participate a child had to be able to swim, and Luxu, throughout all his lives, never had. Sora had only just learned how to swim well enough to participate this month and he was teamed up with Riku.

Chaos ensured. Sora had no idea what made a raft, and Luxu’s old competitive streak was coming into conflict with his newfound confusion. Thankfully Sora’s mum, Sakura, was there as their supervising adult and she walked the pair through the steps of making a raft. It was one of the rare times that she was seen at the beach, since she was usually found at the markets. Sora was enjoying this. He liked the teamwork most of all.

When he and Riku finally had a raft and were sailing it, Sora found he was grinning widely, letting his hand brush the water as he laughed along with his best friend. The pair didn’t win that race, but the sense of freedom that the two boys felt was enough of a victory for them. In that moment Sora felt lucky to have a home in this World. When Sora ran back to his parents on the beach, he was bouncing on his heels, chattering about how amazing the ocean was.

“You know, Sora,” his father said that night as the boy was being tucked into bed. “The ocean around Destiny Islands can take you to other worlds. Some people take portals, others glide on ships through the In-Between. But we have access to the Great Ocean. Very few know how to sail it anymore… but I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

Sora blinked as his father, Lucien, ruffled his hair slightly before leaving the room. What had he meant by that? Did his dad know that….? No, there was no way. Pressing his head to his pillow, Sora let himself drift to sleep. That night his dreams were of sailing on an ocean between worlds.

◇◆◇◆◇

When Sora was four, he, Riku and the other kids on Destiny Islands were over on the small island climbing trees and rocks, when Sora fell from the rock he was on with a shout of panic, disappearing out of sight of his friends. He could hear Riku and Tidus trying to climb the same rock but they couldn’t find the footholds Sora had used to get up.

“Yo Sora!” Wakka yelled. “You alright?!”

“I’m fine!!” The four year old replied. “Just a few scratches. I can see a way back up, don’t worry about me!”

Sora didn't dare tell the group that he’d twisted his ankle, not as he quickly cast cure and proceeded to climb the rock again. Riku gave him this look as he got to the top again which told the brunette that his silver haired friend definitely didn’t believe him, but with only scratches to show, Riku couldn’t challenge Sora for lying. Sora smiled at Riku innocently before he carefully jumped down and ran after Tidus and Selphie.

Later, Riku dragged Sora to the side and asked him about it.

“I didn’t want them to worry about me,” Sora confessed to his friend. It was easy to tell his best friend these things. Because Riku already knew about his magic, he didn’t have to lie. “All I needed was a simple cure.”

“That’s…" Riku cut himself off, but Sora could hear what wasn’t said. That wasn't the point. But it was, that was exactly the point. And Riku knew it. The silverette sighed and punched Sora’s shoulder.

“Look, I know you’ve got some wicked cool tricks up your sleeve but try to be careful,” he said with a smirk, and in his cyan eyes, Sora could see he was forgiven. “I can’t cover for you all the time!”

The spiky haired boy laughed, and then both friends jumped up and ran back to Sora's house, joking with each other as they ran. It was a good day to be four.

◇◆◇◆◇

It was on the day Sora turned five that he realised that Riku would be the one to work out how to get off Destiny Islands. Because on the day Sora turned five, a brown haired young man by the name of Terra showed up… and performed the Keyblade Inheritance on Riku. Sora grinned wildly from where he was hiding, eavesdropping. His best friend would be able to travel the Worlds with him! They could train together, and Riku could save worlds while Sora hung back and offered support. Maybe… maybe Riku could help him too!

Sora was about to run out to invite Terra to the birthday party that was happening further into the town, when Riku spoke up again, in words more profound than something you would expect a newly six-year-old to say.

“There’s a poison that’s trying to eat you, take you from your family. You gotta talk to them so that they can understand. Being sad is okay, but only when your family knows too. If you can’t trust your family to be there for you, who can you trust?”

Sora had to fight to wipe a shocked look off his face as Riku hugged the stunned Terra. It seemed the young man didn’t know how to respond. Despite his shock, and ignoring how his heart ached, the brunette kid knew then that his best friend would eventually be a great Keyblade Master. Constructing a smile to cover his shock, Sora ran up to Riku and Terra.

“Hey mister!” he called cheerfully, throwing his hands behind his head. “Wanna come to the party? It’s my birthday today!”

“Is that so?” Terra asked, reaching and ruffling Sora’s hair. “And how old are you today?”

Blue eyes sparkling with the truth, Sora grinned widely and held up a hand with his fingers stretched.

“I’m five!”

The boy watched as Terra’s own blue eyes widened as though he had seen something he hadn't expected. But the expression didn’t remain long as Terra silently asked Sora if he could pick him up, and then actually placed Sora on his shoulders when the boy agreed. The boy laughed and Riku started laughing too. Terra gestured forward and Riku started to lead the way to where the adults were setting up the party.

“Five?” Terra asked in clarification as he walked, his smile colouring his voice with mischief. “And what do five-year-olds get for birthdays? Pretty dresses?”

Clearly Terra had looked at what the two boys were wearing to make his joke, definitely not dresses, they were islanders afterall, and internally Sora was grinning at it, but externally he made a face, a memory from another time coming to mind before he shoved it aside.

“As if!” he proclaimed indignantly, earning hearty laughter from the man who had him on his shoulders. “I want a pirate ship!! And one day I’ll travel the Great Ocean with it!! Riku will be part of my crew, right, Riku?”

The conversation became a friendly argument which Terra listened along to. All the while they were headed along the beach to where Sora’s parents were keeping the guests of the party entertained. Sora’s father, Lucien, looked up as Sora, Riku and Terra approached. His eyes widened when he saw Terra and he walked over. The five-year-old boy smiled widely and introduced Terra to his dad. He hopped off of the brown haired man’s shoulders and ran off with Riku, waving to Terra. Somehow Sora knew that the Keyblade wielder had sensed his heart. His suspicion of that fact was confirmed about an hour later when a blue haired young woman also came to the island.

Aqua’s eyes widened much like Terra’s had, but a question started to slip from her mouth.

“Your heart… how can it..?” Her voice trailed off, because Sora was staring at her with a smile. He could feel the threads of fate coiling around this woman and himself, he could see the strings of connection forming. Today was a day of fate it seemed. Aqua was promptly dragged over to Sora’s party too. She and Terra shared bemused and also concerned looks. Sora was grinning from ear to ear for ages, until he felt a shift in the air. This shift caused the two visiting Keyblade wielders to leave in a panic. No one at the party except Sora and Riku saw through the calm and apologetic façade. Something had happened.

The night after, in his dreams, Sora met Ventus again… and the lost Dandelion’s heart went to sleep within Sora’s.

“Don’t worry, Ventus,” Sora whispered to the sleeping teen. “I’ll keep you safe.”