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It was a sign she was still a little out of the loop that Kairi didn't learn what happened until class the next day.

She and Riku didn't walk to school with Sora as often as they had those first few weeks, because Tidus and Wakka had decided that Sora was way too smug since coming back and their ball practice had recently taken on elements of guerilla warfare. Sora thought it was great practice, aside from having to remember to only use his hands and bookbag to fight; but Kairi couldn't afford to scuff up her own bag as much or her dad started asking questions. Plus, Wakka didn't throw quite as hard if she or Riku were there, and Sora could afford the occasional dose of humility.

So it hadn't been that strange not to see him on the path to school that morning. Otherwise, she would have realized sooner.

It was a little strange not to see Riku in class when she arrived. Usually he was out of his house as early as he could justify, arriving when the school gates would be unlocked; but he might've been dragged into one of those ball 'practices' by Sora. It had to happen eventually.

Selphie, though, that was weird.

"Did he say why he did it?" was the first thing she asked when she arrived, bee-lining through the desks to where Kairi was taking out her books.

"Huh?" Kairi replied.

Selphie gave her a look, and then sat on the desk. "Didn't you hear what Sora did?"

Kairi dropped the last book on her lap. "What happened?"

Selphie leaned closer, dropping her voice. "He beat up these three seniors yesterday on the beach. You know, that mean one and his friends? Really bad, I heard he could've broken one guy's arm if Riku hadn't shown up and dragged him off."

Kairi tightened her fingers on the spine of the book. "...Did he say why?"

"That what I want to know!" Selphie replied, starting to kick her feet in the air. "Apparently he said it was because they ruined these kids' sandcastles, but come on, it's Sora! Since when was that a big deal?" Selphie gave her a pointed look. "I figured he or Riku might have told you the real reason."

Kairi shook her head, and moved over to the window. "No..." she said slowly. "I didn't know."

"Oh," Selphie replied.

It wasn't surprising that Riku had noticed. Kairi knew his use of the dark had changed him some; he could smell where she and Sora were now, and even tell if they were more themselves or their Nobodies--and Sora knew using even a little of his real strength on the people here was a horrible kind of cheating, so whatever made him do it must have sounded in the darkness in his heart, and of course Riku would have felt that.

But it was still frustrating that parts of their lives still came to her through hearsay and not from being there.

"Hey, Kairi?" Selphie asked, pulling her out of her thoughts.

"Yeah?" she replied without turning away from the window.

"Did they really just disappear on that raft?" Kairi could see Selphie's reflection in the glass; her feet had gone still, though she was keeping her voice light. "That didn't sound like Sora at all."

She knew Selphie could see her reflection too, so she fought down a frown as she lied. "That's all I know. They said they were going to test it at night, and the next morning, they were gone."

"Yeah," Selphie agreed, "but sometimes what you remembered changed."

Kairi chuckled. "Everyone's memories were a weird for a while, weren't they?"

"...Yeah, I guess," Selphie finally conceded. Kairi felt bad about lying yet again; but the three of them hadn't figured out a way to tell their parents and everyone else most of the truth while leaving out the parts one or all of them didn't want to mention--like most of Riku's story; like Destiny Islands ending. So it was still necessary.

Then she saw Riku come through the gates and pushed the feeling away. Kairi unlatched the window and shoved it open, sending a warm breeze through the classroom that ruffled her and Selphie's skirts and sent the pages of the book she'd dumped on the desk fluttering.

Riku looked up, and Kairi leaned out over the sill. He paused, then pointed at the roof. She nodded and shut the window.

But the teacher came in before she could leave, so she was stuck at her desk. Riku arrived just before the bell rang, after he must've realized that she wasn't going to make it.


Sora's desk was empty through homeroom and all the classes into lunch. Kairi wasn't the only one who glanced at it, or at Riku, who stared forward at the chalkboard with such deliberate focus that it made two teachers stutter.


When lunch started, Kairi and Riku snuck up onto the roof, and Riku locked the stairs' door behind them with his keyblade.

"What happened?" Kairi asked, sitting far enough from the door to thwart any eavesdroppers. Riku had picked up somewhere that their classmates had a bet going on which one of them she was dating, and there was no reason to make it easy for the two eventual winners.

"...He laid into these guys who wrecked some kids' sandcastle," Riku answered, sitting next to her. "When they refused to apologize."

"Selphie said that," Kairi agreed. "But she didn't believe it. What was wrong?"

Riku rested his forearms on his legs. He still had Way to the Dawn out on the concrete in front of him; his fingertips brushed the ridges as he talked. "In the Land of Dragons, this guy--one of the enemies, Shan Yu--he burned down a village. Sora said he and Donald and Goofy, and another person he was with were in it, and then they left for a while and came back to it ruined."

Kairi pressed a hand over her mouth. "Oh...."

Riku shrugged. "It made him mad."

She dropped her hand back to her lap and stared out over the roof, at the town and the ocean in the distance. The play island was just visible through the haze of the warm day, but there was no way to pinpoint the Secret Place on it from here; and even if there were, the Door was hidden from sight.

Kairi briefly tried to recall when she'd started thinking of it capitalized. Probably when it'd begun to feel like a living thing.

"So what do we say?" she asked a moment later.


Sora still wasn't in class after lunch.

It turned out he'd been suspended for three days, and grounded as well. His mother chased Riku off with a mop when she caught him sneaking out of Sora's window, and met Kairi at the garden fence and firmly turned her away. When he was allowed back in school two days later, he first had to apologize to the boys he'd hurt.

Sora sounded sincere when he told them he was sorry, but when he asked if there were no hard feelings, his smile showed too many teeth.

As Kairi was brushing her hair in front of the bathroom mirror that evening, she wondered whether, even though she'd asked Sora not to change, it was inevitable. He was still Sora, but Sora who'd been broken in half and put back together; and maybe after something like that, there was no way to line the edges up perfectly anymore. Kairi hadn't felt like half a person over the last year, but she knew she'd changed anyway, and then changed more after that. So maybe it was just a new part of life now, like the keyblades and the magic and the knowledge of light and darkness.

You never were half a person, Naminé said, startling her. Your heart went away for a little while, but you didn't lose it.

Kairi set the brush down on the sink, and then touched her fingers to the mirror, below her eyes.

But something still changed, she replied.

That's what growing up is, isn't it?

...Maybe, Kairi agreed, after a long period of thought. Then she smiled faintly at her reflection. Let's find out, okay?

Naminé's agreement was wordless, but there nonetheless.


Flashbacks of old memories.