Riku walked through the great hall, on his way to the next world.
I’m not scared of the darkness any more—there’s darkness, there’s light, and there’s me the way I am now.
“Riku—Riku…,” called a voice from somewhere.
Riku stopped walking and looked around. “Who’s there?!”
That voice is familiar. So is this smell.
“I’m sure you felt it. Me, dwelling in your heart. You opened your heart to the darkness, Riku.” The voice was coming from inside—the whisper of Ansem. “Yes… your heart will become all-consuming darkness itself.”
“I’m different from then!” Riku yelled.
From then—from when I lost in the battle against Sora, when I couldn’t accept that truth. I’m different in every way. Ansem’s tempting doesn’t make my heart tremble at all.
“Is that so?” Ansem shot back challengingly, and in that moment—Riku’s body floated up into the air.
“As your darkness deepens, my power is brought back along with it. Manipulating your body is easy,” Ansem said, and at the same time, Riku found he couldn’t make his body move at all.
“Dammit…,” Riku managed to grind out, and that instant, a white sphere of light floated down to Riku.
“Nugh!” Ansem grunted.
The white light circled round and round Riku, and shot a strong beam of light. That instant, Riku plonked to the ground on his ass.
Riku felt the smell of Ansem start to fade from the surroundings. He could already move his body freely.
“Gosh… I’m glad I got here in time. I think this will stop Ansem moving for a while,” came a voice from the white sphere of light, and right before Riku’s eyes it formed the shape of a person—and became the King. “I’m sorry I ran so late, Riku.”
The King looked at Riku, who still just sat there on the ground in disbelief.
“…Your Majesty… it’s you,” he voiced.
“Yep,” the King answered. Riku stood slowly, an uneasy expression on his face, and he reached out and touched the King.
“Wah?!” the King yelled. Riku kept touching him all the same. Being able to touch him properly made Riku happier than anything else. He pulled the King into a hug.
“What are you doing? Are you trying to tickle me?” he laughed, twisting around.
“Haha… I can really touch you this time. You really came to help me,” said Riku, releasing the King, only to sink weakly to the floor.
“I promised I’d come to you no matter what, didn’t I?” the King said clearly, looking at Riku.
“Ah, yeah… Sorry, I’m fine. I’m just so relieved. I’ve been alone for so long, and now I’m not, it’s like… I don’t know… warm, I guess.”
The King’s body was warm. It’s been so terribly long since I’ve been with anyone—my heart is beating like crazy.
Riku stood up slowly. “But how did you get here?” he asked, smiling shyly. “You were so far away.”
“A card guided me.” The King took out a card. “I was searching for a path in the Realm of Darkness, when all of a sudden, this card came to me—when I picked it up, I could see your heart beyond the darkness. And then I got here.”
Riku took the card from the King, and stared at it. A huge clock tower and a train were depicted on it. He’d never seen scenery like that before.
“The card probably wanted to come to you.”
“…Maybe,” Riku said, quietly, and he and the King exchanged glances.
The King’s face turned a little grim. “Well then, let’s go, Riku.”
“Yeah. Got it.”
Riku climbed the stairs, and held the card up before the door.
The setting sun shone beautifully on the neat rows of brick houses. Unlike the towns up until now, this place seemed filled with a gentle atmosphere.
“What is this place? I don’t remember it at all,” Riku said, looking out at a view he’d never set eyes on before as he turned to the King he knew was following behind him. “Your Majesty, do you know anything about it?”
But, the King wasn’t there.
Riku looked around, but the King’s figure was nowhere to be seen.
“The king is not here,” echoed a voice, and Riku turned.
Standing there was Ansem. Riku readied his Soul Eater reflexively.
“You will fight alone. Against my power of darkness!” Ansem shouted. But, Riku just quietly lowered the arm he’d raised. “What’s wrong, giving up? Will you submit to the control of I, Ansem?” he provoked.
Riku shook his head. “…You’re not Ansem. You smell different.”
Ansem narrowed his eyes slightly.
“The Ansem in my heart gives off a very powerful smell of darkness. But, you smell different. Not like darkness… like something else.” Riku took a deep breath, and stared at the person that was taking the form of Ansem. This smell—is not the smell of darkness. It’s another smell—kinder, right. It’s familiar. “I finally got it. You were the one who guided me in the beginning, weren’t you. You appeared pretending to be Ansem, and gave me the card. To make me fight the darkness.”
“That’s correct,” Ansem said, and something like fog wrapped around them.
The fog slowly cleared—and standing there was a man. His whole face was covered in something like red bandages, which made his expression hard to tell.
From a gap in the bandages, a single eye stared right at Riku.
“Call me DiZ. I’ve been watching you for a long time.” His voice was deep and calm.
“Who… are you. What do you want to make me do?” Riku asked, and DiZ crossed his arms.
“I want to make you choose.”
“Choose?” Riku returned.
“You are a special being. You stand right in the middle of darkness and light… in the twilight. Which is why you must meet Naminé and choose.”
He’d never heard that name before. “Naminé? Who’s that?”
“You’ll know when you meet her,” said DiZ, and he disappeared once more.
“Hey, wait!” Riku dashed over, but—the man’s figure was gone. Riku couldn’t even sense his smell.
“Naminé, did he say…?”
Riku looked down for a moment—then he slowly raised his head, and started walking.
There was no-one in the town. There weren’t any Heartless, either. But the empty town didn’t have an atmosphere like it was deserted, it felt warm somehow.
What a weird place, thought Riku.
In the wall surrounding the town was a large hole. Riku could smell something on the other side of it.
A slight smell of darkness—and something else. Is that the smell of Naminé…?
Passing through the hole, Riku found himself in a gloomy forest. He could see a light far away.
Riku broke into a run.
The Replica ran.
The town of twilight that Axel had guided him to was somewhat familiar. This was where Vexen and Sora had fought. And—this is probably where Vexen fell.
Axel said that if I defeated Zexion, I’d get new power. That even if I can’t be the real thing, if I get new power, I can be something other than a fake of someone.
Really? Is that really true? I don’t know.
Even with this new power, my heart still feels empty inside, the same as before. Nothing’s changed—If change is even possible, then it’ might be after I’ve defeated the real thing,thought the Replica. If I defeat the real thing—will something change?
The Replica passed through the hole on the edge of town—and ran through the gloomy forest.
Axel said I can meet Riku if I go to where Vexen died.
If I meet Riku—if I fight Riku, maybe something will change.
The setting sun shone on huge gates. A white mansion could be seen on the other side of them.
“…Is this where Naminé is?” Riku muttered, lowly.
Someone called out from behind him. “Don’t wait up or anything.”
Riku turned to find, staring right at him, the fake version of himself—the Riku Replica. The Replica was breathing hard as if it had run there.
“…You’ve changed, haven’t you. Last time we met, you were afraid of your own darkness, but now…,” the Replica said, slowly readying his blade.
“How do you know,” Riku asked, not bothering to ready his own Soul Eater.
“Because I’m you,” said the Replica, closing the gap between them very slightly.
“I’m me,” Riku returned, and the Replica stopped moving—and laughed a little.
“I’m me…? Makes me jealous, wish I was the real thing. That’s a line a fake like me could never get away with.”
The Replica made a huge leap, slashing out at Riku, who inhaled sharply, barely blocking the attack.
He’s strong—much, much stronger than the last time we fought.
“You might be a fake, but you’re going pretty hard at it!” He pushed with force and the Replica went flying back, but he span in the air, regaining his balance before he landed.
“Yeah,” he shouted as he stood up, “A fake—that’s me! My look, my memories, my feelings, everything! Even this new power!” A dark aura began to rise from him.
It was evil—and it smelled familiar to Riku. It smelled like the man Riku had been fighting just recently at Destiny Islands.
“I took that guy—Zexion’s—power for myself. But…!”
The Replica jumped again, bringing his blade down. The impact hit Riku through the Soul Eater with a bang. The face before him was exactly the same as his own. But, Riku thought, it was also different somehow.
“I thought if I got a new power I could be someone else, not just a fake of you! But nothing changed… I’m still so empty!” the Replica shouted, and he pushed their locked-together weapons until Riku was sent flying back.
Riku hit the gates, and slowly slumped to the ground.
“Everything of mine is borrowed. As long as you exist, I’m permanently your shadow!” the Replica yelled, panting as he thrust his blade at Riku.
“…So what. I’m me. I’m not just gonna sit there and let you do me in!” Riku deflected the Replica’s blade with his Soul Eater before lunging to grab at the Replica’s waist, pushing him down.
Riku pushed the point of the Soul Eater into the Replica’s throat.
“Are you gonna… destroy me?”
“If it’s gonna go on like this then… yes.”
“Huh—I’m not afraid of being destroyed. I’m just a fake after all,” said the Replica, expressionlessly. I’m not scared to be destroyed. I’m scared of what I’ll forget. And—of being forgotten. Sora will remember me, won’t he? Or will I get muddled up with his memories of the real thing, and be forgotten? “I don’t have a real heart. Even what I’m feeling right now is probably a lie.”
The Replica smiled just a little, and light began to wrap around his body.
“What are you feeling?” Riku asked, looking down at the Replica.
“Once I’ve been destroyed, where will my heart go? I wonder if it will fade away,” the Replica replied, staring up at the sky.
The sky in this town is beautiful and red. I’m glad this is the last thing I’ll ever see, thought the Replica.
“…Where, I wonder. Probably the same place as mine.”
The Replica’s mouth twisted into a smile at Riku’s words.
“Tch… Am I a copy of the real thing right down to that? …Well, whatever,” said the Replica. His voice was gentle and calm.
Then his body was wrapped in light, and he disappeared.
Riku picked up the Soul Eater from where it had fallen on the ground, and turned to look behind himself. The gates opened as if they were greeting him. Stepping slowly, Riku began to walk.
It was dusky inside the mansion. Riku couldn’t sense or smell the presence of anyone.
“Is this really the place…?”
Riku climbed some stairs from the hall to a second floor, and entered a room deep at the end of a corridor. The room was white, resemblant of those marble halls. There was no-one here, either. Riku stared at a piece of paper that was stuck to the wall. Sora and Riku’s smiling faces were drawn there on what looked like white paper torn from a sketchbook.
“Who drew this…?”
Riku reached out and touched the picture, and that instant, light shot from it.
Riku was wrapped in light—and when he came to, he was standing in a white room that overflowed with that same light. Before him stood a girl with blonde hair, watching him quietly.
“Are you Naminé?”
“Yes,” Naminé replied, smiling slightly. Her voice and smell were familiar to Riku.
On Destiny Islands, when I was about to be swallowed by the darkness, the girl’s voice that called out to me, and the smell—there’s no doubt that they belong to her, Naminé.
“…Oh. So it was you,” Riku muttered.
For a moment, Naminé gave him a weird look. “Huh?”
“No, nothing,” Riku answered.
Naminé tilted her head just a little, and said, “Um… please come this way.”
Beyond Naminé lay a huge device shaped like a flower bud. And inside, was Sora.
“If it isn’t Sora! What have you done to him!” Riku ran over to the giant device without thinking.
“It’s okay,” called Naminé, gently. “He’s just sleeping. It’s to bring back his memories.”
“Explain it to me.”
Naminé nodded, and began to slowly speak of all the things that had happened to Sora in this castle.
Naminé, having finished Sora’s story, gazed levelly at Riku.
Sora lost his memories here in this castle—and gained new ones. And he chose to throw those memories away again, and return to the way he was before he entered the castle. That’s everything Naminé told me.
“So Sora chose to go back to the way he was…,” Riku murmured, looking up at Sora.
“There’s a choice I’d like you to make, too,” Naminé said to his back. Riku turned.
“I didn’t have my memories stolen like Sora did.”
“Not your memories. This is about the darkness.”
“About the darkness…?” The moment Riku put that to words, he felt the smell of darkness in the air around them get heavy for a second.
“Where there’s darkness in your heart, Ansem dwells. He’s sealed up right now, but when he finally awakens, he’ll control you like he did before. That’s why you should use my power. With my power, I can put a lock on your heart. If I do, Ansem won’t be able to leave your heart.”
Riku looked back up at Sora. “What will happen to me, if you put a lock on my heart. Will I forget, like Sora?”
Naminé didn’t answer.
“I’ll forget, won’t I.”
“The memories would be sealed away inside your heart along with the darkness. You won’t even be able to remember the darkness. You’ll go back to the way you were, long ago. But you’re the one who decides. Riku… please choose.”
Riku, still looking up at Sora, smiled a little.
“That Sora… Look at his face. Not a care in the world… Will I sleep like that?”
Sora’s sleeping face was peaceful. Riku blew out a small sigh, then turned to Naminé again.
“This guy has done everything to suit himself since way back. Every time we do anything together he slacks off. Take the raft we built to leave the island. I was the only one who worked seriously on it.”
Riku closed his eyes, remembering Destiny Islands.
You’re mad too, right, Riku?
The stupid look on Sora’s face when Kairi turned and said that to him. Just remembering it makes laugher bubble up inside me.
“I’ve decided,” said Riku, opening his eyes. “I’m gonna chew this kid out once he wakes up. I told him to ‘take care of Kairi for me,’ so I’m gonna ask him why’s he here sleeping without a care in the world? But that wouldn’t look very good if I go sleeping too. I don’t need a lock on my heart. I’d rather fight Ansem than rely on something like that.”
“But, if you’re swallowed by the darkness that Ansem manipulates…,” Naminé said, a doubtful look on her face.
But, Riku didn’t have any more doubts. “If it does, then the darkness will guide me.”
Naminé grinned. “…So it will.”
“It’s like you knew what my answer would be, from the start.”
“I didn’t know. I just hoped. I wanted you to stand up against the darkness. Because you have the strength to do it,” Naminé said, clasping her hands in front of herself. Seeing it, Riku shrugged.
“So that’s why you helped me in that light. In Kairi’s form.”
“You noticed?!” Naminé said, shocked, and Riku smiled.
“I felt it when I met you. You smell the same as Kairi.”
Yeah—what I felt coming from Naminé was Kairi’s presence. I don’t know why Naminé smells like Kairi, but I don’t need to know right now, thought Riku.
Then, Riku reached out his right hand to Naminé.
Riku took Naminé’s right hand in silence, and squeezed.
“Take care of Sora for me.”
“Uh-huh, I know… let’s promise.” She squeezed Riku’s hand back.
“Yeah, it’s a promise.”
Riku looked up at the sleeping Sora once more.
Sora—let’s meet again.
On the other side of the door Naminé had guided him into opening, the King was waiting.
The King met Riku with a smile. “I see… You went with not sleeping after all.”
“How did you know?”
“DiZ told me,” said the King, turning to look at DiZ standing behind him. DiZ just stood there with his arms folded.
“Your Majesty… Have you met DiZ?”
The King tilted his head. “…I don’t know. It almost feels like I’ve met him before, but not…”
Riku walked over to DiZ. “Hey, who are you?” he asked.
“I’m nobody, and I can be anyone. You choose whether you trust me or not,” DiZ said in a low voice.
“You seem to like making other people choose things,” Riku provoked, but DiZ simply continued to speak without showing a hint of reaction.
“Your choice to reject sleep is the choice to confront Ansem.”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Riku said, and he could see DiZ’s slight smile through his bandages.
“Isn’t it the road you chose? I’m only here to watch.”
“You don’t like talking clearly, do you. Which meaning are we going with? Are you here to support me, or here to abandon me?” Riku asked, sounding displeased.
“That too is your choice. Believe in whichever meaning you choose.”
Believe… Riku stared at DiZ. That was something I couldn’t do, before I listened to Naminé borrowing Kairi’s form, and before I met the King.
The light won’t abandon you, no way.
Even if you’re in the depths of darkness, the light will reach you!
The King told me so from the start. But I could believe in his words. Now, I wonder if it’s the one thing I couldn’t do that Sora could. Now—it’s okay. I can believe in the King, in my own power, heart, light and darkness.
DiZ threw a card over to Riku. “This is a card that will draw the darkness inside your heart out into this world. Finish this matter with Ansem.”
“So if I use this, Ansem will come out.”
DiZ disappeared without answering.
Riku tried to chase after.
“Let’s fight, put our powers together,” called the King.
Riku turned slowly. “I’m sorry. I’ll fight alone.”
“Why?” the King asked with a surprised look.
“If I don’t settle this with my own strength, it’ll be meaningless,” Riku said, squeezing his Soul Eater. “Instead, I have a favour to ask you. If I lose to Ansem, he’ll use me as his tool. If that happens, Your Majesty, you have to use your power to destr—”
“Of course! I’ll save you no matter what,” the King interrupted.
“Huh? No, I want you to destroy Ansem along with—”
“No, no, no! I’ve already chosen. I’ll help you no matter what. I’m not going to change my mind. Or maybe you don’t believe me,” the King said, grinning.
“That’s my choice. I believe you, Your Majesty.
“I believe, too. That there’s no way you’ll lose, that is.”
If the King says so, then I know I won’t lose. I can definitely beat Ansem.
Riku nodded firmly, then held the card up to the door.
On the other side of the door, the smell of darkness—the smell of Ansem hung everywhere.
“Come on out, Ansem. I can smell you,” said Riku, and Ansem’s form slowly became definite.
Ansem laughed loudly. “You’ve shown me your power. It was a wonderful battle, you commanding the power of darkness,” he said, looking down at Riku.
“Still, I don’t understand. You’ve accepted the darkness, so why defy me? You and I are very alike. Both of us walk with the darkness to guide us. Yes… we exist the same, so why? Somewhere in your heart, are you still afraid of the darkness?”
“No. I just hate the smell of you,” Riku answered, readying his Soul Eater. I know that when I load up my strength, darkness overflows from me. But I’m not scared of that any more. Because, I just have to believe in my own strength.
“So you’ve chosen to fight… how foolish. I controlled you once. You should know the strength of my darkness.”
A huge shadow stood up behind Ansem. That is darkness itself—the darkness nesting in Ansem’s heart—no, perhaps it is Ansem’s heart.
The huge shadow, which could even be seen as a giant Heartless, took a human shape, and looming over Riku.
“Yeah, I know. Did you forget? Even with all your power back then I still couldn’t beat Sora. Your power isn’t exactly top shelf,” Riku said, running at Ansem.
“Very well. Then sink into my darkness!” Ansem yelled, as if he’d been preparing for Riku’s move. That instant, the shadow behind Ansem swung its’ fist down at Riku.
Riku stopped the shadow’s attack with his Soul Eater. It had dreadful strength.
But—it’s okay. The King believes in me. And, I believe in myself.
Riku thrust the attack aside, and jumped up over Ansem’s head. But the shadow planted itself there to protect Ansem, and Riku was sent flying back.
“I’m not afraid of such insignificant power as yours!”
“…Really?” Riku grinned, and darkness billowed from him. “I command the power of darkness. You—are just bound by it!”
Riku charged at Ansem.
The shadow swung its’ fist down in front of Riku. But, Riku jumped over the fist, and swung his Soul Eater from up above Ansem’s head.
The instant the Soul Eater hit Ansem’s body, a dark impact overcame Riku. Trying to avoid the impact, Riku blocked out his field of vision with both hands, and landed on the ground.
Riku had to have done a great deal of damage with that one blow. He got up from his crouch on the ground and ran at Ansem in one fluid move, swinging the Soul Eater from side to side.
“Ansem! It’s over…!”
“It’s… not… over!” Ansem yelled, even as he fell to his knees.
“I won’t lose to you—I won’t lose to the darkness!” Riku yelled, turning around, and Ansem also turned to Riku at the same time with a grin.
“I… gave you… your darkness… my shadow… fades… someday… someday… I’ll return!”
As Ansem’s body began to fade away, darkness itself shot out.
The whole area was suddenly wrapped in darkness.
That moment, a ball of light appeared in the air above Riku’s head.
“You said you’d ‘fight alone’. But, you wouldn’t mind this much help, right?” echoed the King’s voice. And then, a strong light shot from the ball of light. “Let’s go, Riku.”
And with those words—everything was wrapped in light.
“Did I… win?”
They were back in the great hall. Riku looked around.
“You won, Riku,” came the King’s gentle voice.
“But…” I can still feel Ansem’s smell around me.
“Hey, Riku. What are you going to do now? Are you going home?”
“…I don’t know. I can feel it. It’s very faint, but his smell…” Riku lowered his eyes a little, turning to the King. “I can’t go home until it’s gone. Maybe I’m still bound by his darkness.”
“Your darkness belongs to you. Just like your light, right?” said the King, and Riku looked up. The King continued, powerfully. “Up until now, I always thought that the darkness was something that shouldn’t exist. But, being with you has made me change how I think. Maybe the road you’ve chosen, Riku—light and darkness back to back—will lead to possibilities meeting in a form no-one’s ever seen. I want to try and see what’s at the end of that road, too. I want to walk there with you.”
No-one’s ever said anything like that to me before. That they want to walk with me—that’s.
“For you to say such a thing to me, Your Majesty, geez, I’m embarrassed.”
“And you’re making me embarrassed, calling me ‘Your Majesty’,” said the King with a smile, but Riku still scratched his head awkwardly.
At Riku’s words, the King—Mickey Mouse—gave a sharp nod.