Kairi gawked at the wide, lush fields of grass, speckled with the tallest trees she had ever seen. It was a bright, sunny day with hardly any clouds in the sky and a gentle breeze. She looked back to Sora, smiling brightly.
"Sora...this place is beautiful!"
"I'm really glad you like it." Sora beamed back at her, then grabbed her hand.
"Come on! There's some friends of mine I want you to meet."
Kairi giggled as Sora pulled her forward.
"Ok, but quit tugging at my arm so hard!"
"S-sorry! I'm just excited..."
"So am I, but there's no rush. I want to take everything in." Kairi lifted her head up to the sky, a warm smile still visible on her mouth.
It's almost like a dream, just being here...a dream I might've had before.
Sora approched a small, cozy-looking cottage that was inside a tree. The name "Mr. Sanderz" was on the top of the doorway, which made Kairi a little curious. Sora stepped over the log in front of the cottage, then knocked lightly on the door.
"Hello? Pooh, are you in there?"
Sora knocked a second time, only to stop when the door creaked open on its own. He tilted his head and crushed down to get a better look inside. Kairi crouched down beside him and gasped.
"...What a mess!"
Several honey pots were on the ground. Some were cracked, while some had completely shattered upon impact with the ground. The wooden planks they used to be on top of appeared to have unhinged on one side. A single pot was left on the unsteady plank, teetering on the edge. Sora cautiously crawled through the front door and placed the pot onto Pooh's table. Sora crawled back out, then sat down on the log. He scratched his head.
"What could have happened here...?" Sora's eyebrows furrowed with concern.
Kairi opened her mouth to say something reassuring, but was cut off by several screaming voices. Just as they stood back up, Sora was tackled by a bright orange blur.
"Sora!" Kairi stared down at her friend in shock. A small stuffed tiger with a torn portrait around its neck was clinging onto Sora's chest for dear life, shaking the boy frantically. Kairi yelped as more stuffed animals ran past her and surrounded Sora.
"Sora, ol' buddy ol' pal! Thank goodness you're here!!!" The small tiger sobbed loudly, blowing his nose onto Sora's shirt.
"...Tigger, please don't use me as a napkin."
"Whoops!" Tigger rubbed Sora's shirt to the best of his ability, then hopped off. Sora sat up, looking quite perplexed.
"Sorry about dat. We was just so scared, I didn't know what ta do!" Tigger put his hands behind his back.
"With good reason, of course." Rabbit let out an exasperated huff. "We're very sorry, Sora."
Sora shook his head, smiling at them.
"No worries. Mind telling me what's going on?"
"Oh, it was t-t-terrible!" Piglet quivered. "It scared me right out of bed!
"My life flashed before my eyes!" Tigger dramatically placed a hand on his forehead. "...And ta top it off, my most favoritest family portrait is gone! I searched everywheres for it, too..."
Sora shook his head. "Tigger. Could you hold still for a sec?"
"Eh? What for?"
"Just trust me."
"Well alright, if ya say so..."
Sora kneeled down and popped the portrait off of Tigger's neck.
"...Is this the portrait you were looking for?"
Tigger scratched his head.
"...Yeah, dat's the one! Only, it had a little less Sora in it..."
Sora and Kairi stifled a laugh. Sora handed the portrait back to Tigger. He seemed satisfied to have it back, despite the giant hole in it.
Pooh hummed. "See? For all us, It was an unpleasant experience. I almost lost some of my honey from all the shaking."
"Oh, oh!" Roo raised his hand. "I heard this neat, trumpety sound! I-"
"-That's nice, Roo." Rabbit cut him off. "But we need to tell Sora cold, hard facts about this dilemma. Not make it sound like a fantastical experience! Far from it, mind you."
"Oh. Sorry..." Roo shuffled his feet, appearing a bit disappointed.
"It's alright, Roo. You can tell me your side of the story in a bit." Sora winked at the small kangaroo, who smiled back at him.
Sora looked over at Pooh Bear.
"Pooh, I went to your house with my friend Kairi and it was all wrecked. What happened?"
"It was?" Pooh waddled over to his front door and poked his head inside.
"Oh, bother...it seems it came to my house and ate some of my honey."
"What did?" Kairi inquired, finally speaking up. The group of animals gazed at her curiously.
"Is this your friend, Sora?" Pooh asked. "The one you always talked about along with that Riku fellow? You would always say she was very special to you, too."
Both Sora and Kairi blushed. Sora laughed nervously, fumbling with his fingers.
"Y...yep. This is her!"
"Oh!" Pooh smiled and approached Kairi. He extended his arm up to her.
"Then it's quite nice to meet you, Kairi. Though I can't say it's been a rather nice day so far."
"Nice to meet you too!" Kairi nodded. "Is there anything I can do to help too?"
Pooh glanced back at Rabbit, who nodded and approached her.
"Of course, Miss Kairi. You see, we're all frightened because the Heffalumps have come to the Hundred-Acre Wood. It's the first time something like this has happened."
"A Heffalump? What's that?" Sora inquired.
"You've never heard of a Heffalump?!?" the animals yelled unanimously.
"It's a massive creature, with fiery eyes and a tail with a spike!" Rabbit exclaimed.
Piglet nodded vigorously. "It has c-claws on its paws!"
"And wing-a-ma-jigs on its back!" Tigger bounced up and down, flapping his arms to emphasize his point. "...Oh, and dey also got horns, three above and eleven below. Spooky stuff."
Sora rubbed his arm awkwardly.
"...Neither of us have heard of it. Right, Kairi?" Sora turned his eyes to Kairi, who appeared to be lost in thought.
"Huh? Oh!" Kairi shook her head. "No, I haven't. Sorry. I just...spaced out for a minute there."
Sora frowned. "Kairi...."
"I'm fine, really!" Kairi waved her hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it."
"If you say so..."
It was clear from Sora's tone that he was worried, but Kairi's attention had already gone back to Pooh and the others. She placed her hands on her hips.
"So! What should we do about those 'Heffalumps'?"
"Rabbit here had a great idea about going on an expetition! Why dontcha share it, buddy?" Tigger nudged Rabbit's arm, was appeared mildly annoyed by the gesture.
"An expedition. To a place even you have never seen before, Sora."
Sora's eyes lit up with intrigue.
"Really? What's it called?"
Rabbit cleared his throat, paused for dramatic effect, then slowly pointed out into the distance where the faintest silhouette of other woods could be seen.
"...Heffalump Hollow. We're going to go in there and capture the Heffalump, so it can terrorize the 100-Acre Woods no longer!"
"Yeah!" the others cheered.
Kairi crossed her arms, contemplating Rabbit's plan.
"What are you going to do with the Heffalump after you catch it, though?"
"Simple! We're going to....to....errr...." Rabbit's ears drew back, noticing the others staring at him.
"...I...haven't thought that far yet. But we'll get to that once it's captured. Pooh! Tigger! Piglet!"
They straightened up. Rabbit put his arms behind his back, marching back and forth.
"You three will will go collect materials for the expedition! Sora, Kairi, you're welcome to help them."
"Ooh, ooh! What about me?" Roo bounced up and down excitedly.
Rabbit and the others exhanged a distressed look. Rabbit sighed.
"...Roo, I'm afraid you can't come with us."
"What?! Why not?!?" Roo pouted.
"A Heffalump expedition is no place for a small Roo like you. It's far too dangerous!"
"But..." Roo frowned. "But Piglet is small like me, and Sora and Kairi are kids like me, and they're going! So why can't I???"
Rabbit rubbed his temple. "Unlike Sora and Kairi, you can't defend yourself. It's just not a good idea! What would your mother think?"
Roo lowered his head. Unfortunately, Rabbit made a good point. His mom would be very worried if he got lost or hurt because of the Heffalumps. Maybe he was just better off not going. It upset Kairi to see how distraught the little kangaroo was.
"...Are you sure he can't come with us? Me and Sora can keep an eye on him."
"Out of the question!" Rabbit snapped. "We don't know how large a Heffalump we'll be dealing with, let alone how many! You have to consider Kanga's feelings in all this." He crossed his arms.
"Roo! Roo Dear!"
Sora and the others looked in the direction of the light, female voice. A larger stuffed kangaroo appeared at the top of a hill. She waved one of her arms.
"Come home, Roo! Dinner's ready!"
"I'm coming, mama!" Roo shouted. He turned back to his group of friends. His ears drooped slightly.
"I...guess I better get going."
Sora kneeled down and patted Roo's head.
"It's ok. You can come with us next time. I'm sure you'll be bigger by the time we go again."
"Do you think I'll be a grown-up by then?" Roo kicked his feet. "So that...they can treat me like one?"
Sora tilted his head.
"...Well...I can't say for sure. It takes a while to grow up. But trust me when I say that being a kid will pass right by, in the blink of an eye. So just...enjoy the time you've got as a kid now, ok?"
"...Ok. I guess."
Roo scrunched up his nose. "Hey...you're still a kid, though!"
"Heh heh." Sora rubbed his nose. "Growing up is more than just age and looks, y'know."
"Sora has a point." Kairi kneeled down beside Sora, nudging him.
"But even for as big and strong as he's gotten...he's still a total dork."
Kairi and Roo laughed at Sora, making his face turn red. He stood up, looking mildly annoyed.
"Can...can we go get the Heffalumps now?"
"Goodness, no!" Rabbit huffed. "It's far too late now. We'll go first thing in the morning, so come back tomorrow."
"Alright, works for me!" Sora grinned. "...In that case, let's go, Kairi."
Kairi rose back up and bowed politely.
"It was nice to meet all of you. See you tomorrow!"
Pooh and the others waved goodbye to Sora and Kairi. Roo bounded towards his mother to head back home, and all the other creatures from the 100-Acre Wood did the same. Rabbit, Tigger, Pooh, and Piglet's dreams were filled with excitement, adventure, and illusions of grandeur from successfully capturing a Heffalump.
And as Roo drifted off to sleep from hearing his mother's lullaby...he dreamed the same thing.
Kairi shot up from bed with a start. She groaned, rubbing her eyes.
"...That dream again...why can't I ever remember what happens in it...?"
Kairi sighed and got out of her blankets, slipping off the side of her bed. She raised an eyebrow at the sound of a snort. Kairi turned her head towards the door to see Sora, already dressed.
"...You're up early. That's a first. Were you training with Merlin?" Kairi yawned.
"A little." Sora rubbed his arm. "...But...since it seemed like you were gonna be late for the expedition...."
"You came here to wake me up?" Kairi grinned mischievously. "That's so sweet. It's almost like you love me or something."
Sora turned his head, his cheeks turning a faint shade of pink. He smirked.
"I'll be waiting for you. Oh, and by the way...nice cowlick."
"Wha-?" Kairi looked in the mirror next to her bed. Her hair was sticking out in all directions, with the most prominent one at the top of her head. Flustered, she grabbed a pillow and threw it at Sora.
Sora laughed and closed the door before Kairi's pillow landed. Kairi grunted in mild irritation. She went to her closet and yanked her new outfit off the hanger. She stopped for a moment and stared at it, gaze softening.
"The three of us match now...."
A faint smile crossed Kairi's mouth.
"....I hope you're being careful, Riku."
"I wonder if they're ready."
Sora approached Pooh's house, with Kairi trailing behind him. He overheard her humming a tune he didn't recognize.
"...Hey, what are you singing?"
Kairi blinked. "Huh?"
"That song you were humming. It was nice."
Kairi furrowed her brows, deep in thought. Sora stopped and turned around.
"...I...just made it up. I think."
"You think or you know?" Sora appeared concerned.
Kairi shook her head.
"It's fine, honest. I've just been feeling...nostalgic lately. This place makes me feel that way for some reason."
"....I guess I could see why." Sora curved his lips.
"But if something else is bugging you...you know you can tell me."
Kairi nodded. "Yeah, of course. Thanks."
Sora nodded back, smiling brightly at her.
Sora and Kairi jumped at the sound of a familiar voice screaming. Sora turned and saw Piglet barreling towards him.
"Sora!!! Kairi!!!" Piglet reached Sora's leg and hugged it tightly, trembling.
"Hey, hey...!" Sora bent down to face Piglet more directly. "What's wrong???"
"Pigleeet!" another voice cried out. Kairi looked past Sora and Piglet. Pooh was running as fast as his stubby legs could carry him, panting. By the time he reached them, the poor bear was out of breath.
"...Just...give me a moment..." Pooh gasped. "...I'll...explain..."
Sora and Kairi waited patiently for Pooh to recover. Sora rubbed Piglet's back in the meantime so he would calm down. Once he was good and ready to speak, Pooh cleared his throat.
"...There were footprints in front of Piglet's house today. Very large footprints. Footprints that could only belong to one creature. It gave Piglet such a fright that he ran away without his things for the expedition. I went after him, but I'm simply not as fast."
"...The Heffalumps..." Kairi placed a hand on her chin, thinking.
"Why do you think they came so close to a house this time?"
"Maybe they were curious." Sora looked down at Piglet. "...I'm sure they wouldn't have hurt you. We don't even know what they're like."
Piglet sniffed, peeking up at Sora.
"Y...you really think so?"
"Of course!" Sora smiled. "It's not a bad thing to want to see the good in people, Heffalumps included. And even if they are scary...just try to be brave when you face them."
"B-b-but...what if w-when we go to Heffalump Hollow we get separated? And I end up all alone, and the Heffalumps f-find me??? Oh, d-d-d-dear...." Piglet buried his face into the bottom of Sora's pants again.
"I-I-I don't think I can be brave all alone..."
"...Piglet..." Sora patted his head.
"You won't be alone. Even if we do get separated, we'll still be connected in our hearts. And think about it." Sora tapped the side of his head.
"...If we weren't, I wouldn't be here right now. Friendships are more than just being next to each other. It's the invisible bonds that keep us together."
Piglet slowly pulled away, wiping tears from his eyes. He then placed a hand on his chest.
"I knew you would come around, Piglet." Pooh placed a hand on Piglet's tiny shoulder. "We should get ready for the expedition. And don't worry; like Sora said, we'll be together the whole time."
"That's right!" Kairi gave Piglet a thumbs up, which made him perk up a bit.
"...Th-thank you...Pooh, Sora, Kairi."
Sora chucked. "Let's go get your stuff. Rabbit's probably getting impatient."
"Too true, Sora." Pooh laughed a little as well.
The small group headed towards Piglet's house. Kairi looked up at the sky, admiring the clouds. She blinked when she suddenly heard the tiniest noise of something rustling.
"Hmm?" Kairi looked around until her eyes fell onto a bush that was moving.
"Hey, Sora." Kairi tugged at his sleeve, then pointed in the direction of the bush.
Sora turned his head to the bush, seeing the leaves jostling more than before. Piglet hid behind Pooh, trembling a bit.
"...Pooh, Piglet. Go on ahead without us. We're gonna check it out."
"Are you sure you don't need help?" Pooh inquired. "...I do have a Heffalump-catching rope."
"We'll be fine. But you two should go. Better to be safe than sorry!"
Pooh hummed, not entirely convinced by Sora's words. He couldn't help but feel worried about one of his best friends.
"...Alright, but please be careful. Let's go, Piglet." Pooh spun around and waddled away, holding Piglet's hand. He rubbed his belly with the other.
"...Perhaps a bit of honey will help soothe our nerves."
Sora and Kairi waited until Pooh and Piglet were out of sight. Once they were gone, the two teens looked at each other and nodded silently. They slowly crept up to the bush. Sora cautiously reached out towards it. A single leaf brushed against his fingers.
Sora fell back as something leapt out of the bush at high speed. His eyes widened when he heard Kairi scream.
"Kairi!!!" Sora pulled out his keyblade, ready to strike down whatever had attacked her. But as soon as he turned around, he lowered his weapon.
A stuffed, purple elephant larger than any of the stuffed animals they knew was standing on Kairi's chest, nuzzling her cheek and giggling. Kairi's face was filled with complete and utter confusion.
"You found me! You found me!"
"...Huh?" Kairi gently grabbed the elephant and placed him back on the grass, so she could sit up.
The elephant laughed and pranced around her. They saw Roo hop out from the bush, scrambling for a rope that was tied around the elephant's neck.
"H-hey! You can't just keep running away from me!" Roo stomped his foot. "I captured you!"
The elephant stopped. He walked back to Roo, a bit embarrassed.
"Sorry! I was just so happy to see my old friend."
Roo tilted his head. He looked between Kairi and the elephant.
"...Kairi...is your friend?"
"Wait, wait. Back up." Sora raised his hands. "...Roo, who is this?"
Roo motioned for Sora to get closer. Sora got down on his knees.
"...He's a Heffalump. I actually caught one!" Roo whispered in his ear. "...I left home a lot earlier than you and the others to find one. But, um...just call him Lumpy. He prefers that."
Sora looked between Roo and Lumpy, who was still excitedly circling around Kairi. He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling uncomfortable at the sight of the rope around the Heffalump's neck.
This...is really a Heffalump...?
Sora stood up. "...Hey! Lumpy, right?"
Lumpy glanced over at Sora.
"....Actually, my full name is Heffridge Trumpler Brompet Heffalump, IV. But I say 'Lumpy' because it's easier for people to remember!" Lumpy smiled.
Sora smiled a little. He walked over to Lumpy, extending his arm forward. Lumpy lifted his snout and shook Sora's hand.
"It's nice to meet you."
Lumpy wagged his tail excitedly. "Do you want to be friends with me, Kairi and Roo, too?"
Lumpy turned back at Kairi, who seemed distressed.
"...What's the matter, Kairi? Oh! Did you want to play a game?" Lumpy sat down.
"We can play the name game, just like before! Or we could play tag, or this new one that Roo taught me where we skate across a la-"
Kairi placed a hand on Lumpy's mouth.
"Please, slow down."
Lumpy gradually calmed down. His expression shifted to confusion as Kairi lowered her hand.
"...You've been acting very strange, Kairi. What's wrong? Are you hungry? Do you want some honey or Rumperdoodles? I'm sure my mum wouldn't mind giving you some."
"It's not that."
Kairi clenched her hands, taking a deep breath. She looked Lumpy straight in the eyes, struggling to recall where she had seen him before.
....But...there was nothing.
Kairi lowered her head.
"...I don't....know who you are."
Lumpy was quiet as the words came out her mouth. He slowly processed what she said. His floppy ears drooped, his eyes showing a mixture of shock and sadness.
"You...." Lumpy stood up. "You....forgot?"
Kairi averted her eyes, clasping her hands together.
"...I'm sorry. I really am." Kairi reached out to him.
"But maybe...we can start over?"
Lumpy backed away, shaking his head.
"...You...you promised..." Lumpy sniffed.
Lumpy spun around and ran away.
"Lumpster! Wait!" Roo chased him into Heffalump Hollow. Sora almost went after them, but stopped himself when he noticed Kairi.
She hadn't moved a muscle, staring blankly at the ground. Sora could see her hands trembling.
She turned her head away from him.
"...I hate this."
Sora's eyes widened.
"What do you....mean?"
Kairi lifted her head. Sora winced at the sight of tears welling up her eyes.
"...The fact that I can't remember anything. I don't know about my own family. I don't really know where I came from. I just know it exists. And for a little while...I even forgot you." Kairi's voice quivered.
She covered her face with her hands.
"...I...I don't even know who I AM...!"
Kairi rubbed her now red, swollen eyes, then let her hands fall to her sides. She rubbed her arm awkwardly.
"...I'm sorry. You didn't need to hear about this. Any of this. You have too much to deal with already. Things that are way more important. I don't want to add to i-"
Kairi turned to Sora with wide eyes. His usual smile was completely gone. The light in his eyes that usually accompanied it was dull.
She'd never seen him so...serious before.
Sora rushed over to Kairi and hugged her, taking her by surprise.
"...I told you...to tell me if something was bugging you."
Kairi shut her eyes in shame.
"Don't apologize." Sora cut her off. "It's okay. I understand. But..."
Sora pulled back, gazing into her sky blue eyes.
"...Please don't ever think that you're not important enough. I'll always make time for you. And...please don't cry anymore. It makes me feel bad. Like I'm doing something wrong." Sora forced a smile.
Kairi laughed a little, a few more droplets falling from her eyes.
"...You should talk! You're crying too!"
"C'mon, Kai...I said to stop!" His smile became more genuine, tears streaming down his cheeks. "I want you to smile and be happy."
Kairi sighed, closing her eyes for a moment. Once she opened them, the nicest smile had formed on her mouth.
"...Is this better?"
"A lot better." Sora blushed. "...Thank you."
Kairi shook her head. "As long as you're happy too, you lazy bum."
The two of them stopped hugging, then looked in the direction of Heffalump Hollow.
"...You wanna go after them?" Sora asked.
Kairi nodded firmly. She placed a hand on her chest.
"I need to set things right. And hopefully...remember what's missing."
Kairi and Sora followed Lumpy's footsteps into the forest. They didn't have to after a while as the sound of soft sobbing got closer.
They stopped dead in their tracks. Lumpy was inside of a wooden trap. Roo was circling it, occasionally kicking it with the full force of his tiny legs.
"C'mon, Lumpster!" Roo grabbed the wooden bars, struggling to squeeze his head in. "We've gotta get you back to your mama!"
Lumpy remained inconsolable, ears drooping over his soaked eyes as he breathed in and out with a shiver. Despite looking discouraged by this, Roo continued to try and free his friend. Kairi clenched her hands into fists and ran towards the cage, much to Sora's surprise.
"Let me help!" Kairi kneeled down next to Roo and started to pull at the bars with all her strength. Roo's ears perked up with enthusiasm at seeing her.
"Kairi!" Roo looked back to see Sora approaching, then joining them in his efforts.
"You're both here?"
"Of course! We couldn't let you do this on your own." Sora smiled, then started pulling at the cage as well.
Seeing that just pulling at it alone wasn't enough, Kairi inspected the cage. Her eyes landed on the very top of it, where a rope was tied to all the planks of wood. If she loosened the knot holding it all together...
"Guys, hold on." Kairi stood up. "I want to try something."
Sora and Roo stopped pulling, then watched as Kairi reached up to the knot. She grabbed the end it of and yanked at it. She gasped and stepped back as the large sticks fell to the ground. Lumpy lifted his ears, looking around in confusion. He made eye contact with Kairi and immediately cowered away from her.
"...Thanks for helping me. All of you." His voice was barely above a whisper.
Kairi winced. She cautiously inched her way towards the young Heffalump.
"Please....can't we just talk about this?"
"Do you remember me yet?"
"N...no." Kairi bit her lip.
"...Then I can't say anything." Lumpy turned away.
"It's not her fault."
Lumpy raised his head, staring at Sora.
"...When she came to the island I live on...she didn't remember anything about who she was or where she came from. All she had was her name. The mayor took care of her, and she had me and Riku, too. But....none of us were enough to restore her memories."
"Whatever happened to Kairi before...messed her up. But it doesn't mean that she's changed for good. I'd like to think that she's always been this nice."
"So don't be sad, Lumpy." Sora kneeled down amd placed his hand on the Heffalump's shoulder.
"...Even if she doesn't remember you, she knows who you are in her heart. So just...give her a chance to make up for it, please? And maybe the memories will come back."
"Sora..." Kairi smiled warmly at him.
Lumpy looked between Sora and Kairi. He teared up, then rushed over to Kairi and gently placed his head on her chest.
"I'm sorry. Even if you forgot, I was being a lousy friend. I didn't mean to...."
"It's ok." Kairi wrapped her arms around Lumpy. "I'm sorry, too."
"...Can...can we still play a game later?
Kairi chuckled softly. "Sure."
As the evening fell upon the Hundred-Acre Wood, and Kairi held her old friend close, she hummed a small lullaby to Lumpy and herself.
...For a moment, she thought she could hear someone else singing it to her. Someone...that felt like home.