"How can I be substantial," he asked, "if I fail to cast a shadow?
I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole."
She was about to track her father down and suggest they start dinner when she heard an "Aha!" from the library.
"Dad?" Kairi called, leaving the stairs and making her way down the hall.
"I found it!"
"Found what?" she asked, and then stopped short in the doorway.
Her father was enthusiastically wiping dust off of an oversized black book. "I thought it was lost for good, but it was here all along! Back there," he added, gesturing to a large, heavy bookcase that had been pulled forward slightly and had one shelf removed. The plank, and the halves of a broken peg that had previously been holding it up, were lying on the coffee table. "How on earth I lost it there I don't know, but I found it!"
She wrapped a hand around the edge of the door. "Which book is it?"
Her father finished plucking away the worst of the dust bunnies and turned around, showing off the blank cover. "Do you remember that odd encyclopedia I could never find a matching dialect for, the--"
Kairi took a step back.
Her father paused. "The one...found in the trees near where you...." He looked down at the book, then back at the shelves that hadn't been moved for nearly a decade. Kairi shifted, placing more of the doorframe between herself and the room.
"Ah," her father said. He let his hands drop, sliding the book behind him. "Er...."
"Are you hungry?" she asked. "It's getting close to dinner."
"Yes," he said. "Yes, that sounds good. I'll--meet you in the kitchen in a moment."
"Okay," Kairi replied, and left.
Dinner was a little awkward.
She slept badly that night, trying more than succeeding, and finally shoved the sheet back and went down the hall to her father's room.
Kairi curled up in the armchair by the lamp and the stray stack of books, hugging her legs to her chest, and watched him sleep. She didn't release the breath she'd been holding until she was sure his chest was rising and falling under the light blanket and it wasn't a trick of the darkness.
She probably should have burned it.
But she hadn't wanted to for some reason . . . the smoke, maybe? Had she thought it would pollute this new world's air, that the ashes would ruin the ground? Something like that; it was hard to remember the logic behind those old fears.
Kairi closed her eyes briefly, resting her cheek on her knees; but she soon had to open them again, to lift her head and make sure her father was still breathing, still alive, still there.
She knew there was no reason to worry. He was healthy, pretty young for an adult, not so worn out from being mayor that he didn't make things worse by staying up too late reading--and she knew he was back, he and nearly everyone had come back, Sora and Riku had made terrible sacrifices to bring them back, but still.
The fact that he was back meant he'd been lost in the first place.
Even if she understood now what had driven Riku into the darkness then, and had forgiven him because he'd done so much to make it right again, it didn't mean she could forget it. It was too big a loss, too familiar of one, to ever be fully forgotten--not by her, or himself, or Sora, even if the three of them laid blame differently.
She should have burned it.
Maybe she still could; maybe her father wouldn't say anything if it disappeared again, the way he'd stopped asking if she remembered anything about her old home the day he officially adopted her.
But she'd run away from the dark before, and it'd kept her from seeing things she needed to see. This time she couldn't run.
...What does it say? Naminé asked. It was the first time the other girl had spoken, though Kairi had felt her hovering closer ever since her reaction to the codex had attracted her attention.
I don't know, she replied, after a long time. I couldn't read that young.
Ah, Naminé murmured.
Kairi exhaled in a long, silent sigh, and watched her father for a little while longer.
Finally, after enough time had passed that the shadows had moved across the floor, she uncurled from the chair and returned to her room.
Her father must have studied the codex in his own room at first.
But just two days later, Kairi saw that it was back in the library, open again to the same old page: the one with a drawing of a stone containing both the codex's language and a second one, as incomprehensible as the first. Dictionaries of the other islands' dialects and old notebooks written by travelers slowly piled up beside it over the week, the same as before.
It was a fruitless quest, his efforts to unlock the language; she knew that. It would come to nothing, so it was safe to let him try.
She'd been wrong about the Door being sealed, too, but this time there was no way....
Maybe she could sneak it out with her when they left this world again; she could take it to the king and ask if there was anywhere he might store it. Or, Sora had said in Beast's Castle there was a library so huge it was as tall as houses stacked on top of each other--that had to be enough books for one to get lost forever.
No, that would be unfair to Belle and Beast. She would take it to King Mickey, whenever they finally returned there.
A lot of things would hopefully get better once they went off-world again. She wanted to try limit breaking, and Sora was getting antsy about falling out of practice; and Riku had started staring at the horizon again when he didn't think they were looking.
At the end of the week, Sora went home with her after school to work on their history assignment together. Riku had left on a trip with his parents after school.
It was kind of pointless for Sora to keep doing the homework--he'd told them just yesterday that his mother wanted him to leave school and join the family business after summer break--but it was an excuse for him to come over.
The trip Riku had gone on was a matchmaking one. His mother was considering a girl whose father owned a rubber-making plant on one of the southern islands. He'd asked her not to tell Sora until he was back; officially, his family was just going in order to attend the festival there. Kairi had shaken her head but promised.
She wasn't allowed to work in her bedroom with boys any more, and the kitchen was a lot closer to the room her father used as his mayoral office; so when Sora suggested the library Kairi bit her lip briefly but nodded.
They actually got some of the questions done before he started fidgeting and wound up noticing the codex.
"Hey, I remember that book!" Sora abandoned his journal and moved to the desk, tugging the codex out of its surrounding dictionaries and flipping through the pages. "It had all those cool pictures."
"Yeah," Kairi agreed, shutting the treatise on the last land wars of eighty years ago.
"I thought your dad lost it," he added, pausing and grinning at an illustration of a table set on a slant with wedges attached that were holding dishware. To the best they'd figured out as kids, it was so people could eat while the crumbs slid off automatically. "Where was it?"
"I hid it behind that bookshelf," Kairi replied, pointing at the one with the newly repaired shelf as she stood.
Sora blinked and looked over at her.
"Huh?" he replied. "Why did you do that?"
Kairi started to put the treatise back on the shelves. "The day after we looked through it, you said you had nightmares," she explained, voice growing quieter. She kept her fingers on the spine of the book for a few moments, before adding, "And Riku was already drawing on the cave by then."
Sora looked back down at the codex in his hands. "But . . . then, what is this?"
"I don't know," Kairi replied. "I can't read it. I grabbed it because it was the closest thing when the darkness opened up, but I lost hold of it--" She stopped abruptly, then pushed away from the bookcase, rocking on her heels before folding her hands behind her back. She didn't look over at Sora, even though she knew he was staring at her.
"I thought you didn't remember anything about your old home," Sora finally said.
Kairi half-smiled. "I was trying not to," she replied. "They're not so different."
When he didn't reply, she took a breath and turned around. "Come on, Sora," she said playfully. "Why did you think I told everyone my boat flipped and I didn't see what happened to you two?"
He scratched the back of his head, the codex dangling at his side. "I thought you were thinking on your feet."
"Heh." Kairi glanced down. "No. 'Talking about the darkness brings it to you.'"
"That's what they used to say." She tucked her hair behind her ear. "I thought they meant literally, but now I think it meant Xehanort was already doing those experiments, and talking too much would attract the wrong attention." She shrugged. "But I wasn't going to risk it, not until you were both back. So I lied more."
"Kairi...." Sora dropped the codex on the desk and came over. "Are you okay?"
"I will be," she answered, and shrugged a shoulder again before reaching out to take his hand. "At least it worked."
Does Riku know it's back?" Sora asked abruptly, looking up from the next question on the list.
Kairi shook her head. "He hasn't been here since Dad found it."
Sora frowned at that, but if it bugged him that she hadn't told either of them before now, it wasn't enough that he said so. "So when he gets back...?"
"I'll tell him," Kairi said. She fidgeted with her pencil. "The rest of it, too."
Sora glanced at the codex again, and then tapped his pencil on his paper. "We should tell everyone soon. Our parents at least, and the gang...."
"It's hard lying," Kairi agreed. "Do you think that'll make it easier to go off-world?"
Sora gave her a surprised look, and Kairi responded with a smile that let him know that yes, she knew exactly which expression of Riku's he'd been thinking of.
Sora chuckled sheepishly, and flipped the pencil over, tapping the eraser. "Maybe. Eventually, when they get used to it.... Maybe before the end of summer, at least."
She crossed her fingers. "Hopefully!"
"Is there anywhere you wanna go?" Sora asked. "The more we talked about it, the more places came up, but there's no way to go to them all." He paused, then snickered. "I really want to see Riku as a demon in Halloween Town. You've gotta help me drag him there."
Kairi laughed and looked up. "He's a demon?"
Sora nodded. "He said so! He wouldn't tell me what kind, but it's not one that looks like Shock."
"The devil kid?"
Kairi snorted and started to ask how Riku had responded to being compared to that boy, but then she noticed that the tips of Sora's ears were pink.
She raised an eyebrow, and then asked sweetly, "How did it come up?"
The pink quickly deepened. "We were talking about stuff. And...stuff. It was kinda related to something else. Before other stuff."
"Uh-huuuuuh," Kairi drawled, and propped her chin on her hands. "Wanna tell me some of this stuff?"
Sora, if possible, got even redder. Kairi watched him start to speak, stop, and scratch awkwardly underneath his ear; and she realized her cheeks felt warm.
They heated more at the sidelong look he gave her a moment later, and the slightly embarrassed half-grin that went with it. "Okay."
The real reason Sora had suggested the library was because the floorboards between it and the mayoral office creaked. They heard her dad coming while he was still down the hall. Kairi slid off his lap and straightened her uniform collar while Sora jabbed their homework into a state that looked like it hadn't been abandoned for the last twenty minutes.
"It's getting late," her dad said, leaning into the room. "Shouldn't you be heading home, Sora? Did you finish all your homework?"
Kairi gave the half-empty question sheet a dubious look, but Sora nodded. "Enough, yep."
She saw him to the front door. "Tell your mom hi for me, okay?"
"Sure," he agreed. "--Hey, wanna have dinner with us?"
Kairi knew he was trying to be more considerate of his mother since coming back to find her safe and whole, but in some ways he was still kind of bad at it. She remembered the meals from their childhood where she had dropped in unannounced for dinner, often along with Riku; she had finally caught on the one time Sora's mother had just put down two plates for them and said she ate earlier. Kairi had started inviting Sora to her home instead after that.
She grinned. "Thanks, but if I don't make sure Dad eats he'll just growl over that book all night."
Sora looked down the hall at the library.
"...I could probably read it," he said, quieter. "If I have the keyblade out. The letters still look funny, but I understand them anyway."
"Really?" Kairi asked, interested despite the situation.
"Yeah. It's really noticeable in Olympus Coliseum--their alphabet's all pointy, and it takes a couple seconds, but I can read it. Donald said it was probably the keyblade, since he didn't do a spell."
"Neat," Kairi mused. "I want to try that."
"Okay!" Sora folded his arms behind his head and started to say something else, but then her dad called "Kairi?"
She gave him an apologetic look. Sora sighed, and dropped his arms. "Bye, ma'am," he said to the photo of Kairi's adopted mother, and then called "Bye!" down the hall.
She checked behind her that her father wasn't in sight, then leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss. "See you tomorrow."
"See you then," Sora said with a grin, but it faded a few moments later. He glanced back at the library before looking at her. "Come over if you want to," he said. "The window's open."
Kairi was about to point out that if she got caught doing that, she'd be the one grounded for a month this time; but then she changed her mind. She shook her head briefly before giving him a grateful smile. "Okay. Thank you."
He nodded, eyed the library again, and then--when her dad came out into the hall--waved and left.
"I'll be there in a minute!" Kairi promised, which sent her father harrumphing back into the kitchen.
Kairi paused at the library doors as she passed, and then leaned against the frame. She cupped a palm around her elbow and felt the itch of the keyblade beneath it as she stared at the codex, sitting askew on the desk where Sora had dropped it.
I shouldn't be acting like this, she thought. I said I was going to do more from now on.
Bad memories are hard to return to, Naminé replied. They take more time.
Kairi stared at the codex for a while longer.
When her father called her name again, she rubbed her palm hard against her skirt and pushed away from the door. "I'll be right there as soon as I change!"