Dream of Hearts: Chapter One.

Sora’s sick of this place.

Okay, that might be an overstatement. He’s not actually sick, not literally or figuratively. He’s tired, maybe.

It’s not that the Destiny Islands aren’t nice. Actually, they’re straight-up idyllic. The weather is balmy, the nights are cool; the flora is thick, the water is clear; the neighbours are friendly, the wildlife keeps to itself. White sands, clear skies and dazzling sunsetsthe place is, without a doubt, a vacationer’s paradise if there ever was one. It’s just a quiet little suburb and a quiet little city, under the shadow of a mountain range, surrounded by nothing but quiet little cays and skerries, and the open ocean.

It’s just a pity that there isn’t much to do.

Again, from a vacationer’s perspective, there’s a lot of appeal: there’s a mountain to climb, a beach to lounge on, islets to explore. The city has a museum, and a concert hall, and also (supposedly) a pretty good nightlife. If you organised your stay well enough, no doubt a family could get a good two or three weeks out of it.

But Sora hasn’t been here for two weeks—he’s been here for fourteen years. He’s already climbed that mountain and lounged on that beach and explored those islets. Sure, the nightlife will probably be nice, but he’s still got half a decade to go. That’s a long half a decade of not having anything new to do.

And even then, going to a club isn’t exactly the kind of adventure he’s looking for.

Sora wants to go on an actual adventure. The kind with new places and new people, new sights and smells and things to find and foods to eat. The kind of with monsters and magic, too, if any of that exists, but if it doesn’t, then he’s fine with that. He’s fine with anything, really.

Becausewell, let’s face it. This island is just too small.

——

If there’s anything worse than living on a fantasy getaway island that has nothing to it, it’s school.

In one way, Sora feels like he should be thankful. It keeps him away from staring off into the horizon, and hides the nooks and crannies of the island, and sometimes even talks about how there actually is a real world out there that they’re all just missing out on due to being stuck on a fancy rock in the middle of nowhere.

On the other hand, does it really have to take so long?

By the time they get out at three o’ clock, Sora’s already half-asleep. Then, there isn’t much time left to get to the beach, which is already an hour away from the inner city. Then they have to row boats both ways, which takes ten minutes a trip just on its own. It’s a good thing Riku’s such a good rower, or they’d have even less time to hang out.

Riku’s a good everything, actually. He’s gets good grades, he works out, he’s dependable. Sora kind of wants to be like Riku when he grows up’, if that ever happens.

It could happen. They’re not that different.

For example, Riku’s just as sick of everything as he is.

“If we don’t get ourselves moving, nothing’s ever gonna change. If we just sit here, we’re only ever gonna see the same stuff. That’s why I’ve been thinking, someday, I’m going to the outside world. Maybe if I do that, things will be different. Maybe things’ll make sense, you know?”

“Yeah, I know. So why are you studying?”

They’re lounging about on the play islet as usual, trying to keep both ignorant and aware of the time. Sora’s enjoying a good lie down, as usual, and Kairi’s busy clacking seashells together, but Riku took his textbook out from his satchel the moment they landed and has been making notes ever since.

Riku fixes him with an icy look. Not entirely on purpose; his eyes are naturally cyan. “Do you want to get off the island someday, Sora?”

“Sure.” Sora nods. “Someday.”

“Well then, that’s why.” Riku gestures to his notes. “To get a ticket off this island, you need money. To get money, you need a job. To get a job, you need to graduate. To graduate, you need to pass your classes. To pass your classes, you’ve gotta study. It’s as simple as that.”

Sora groans, and falls back into the sand. “That’s too complicated.”

Riku raises a finger to be pedantic, but decides against it. “It’ll take a long time, but it’s the best option we’ve got.”

“But it’s not the only option you’ve got,” says Kairi, walking over, dropping seashell into her bag.

“I don’t think we’re getting adopted,” Riku replies.

“No, not like that! I mean” She sits down gingerly, pushing her school skirt underneath her. “You know, more likethe raft.”

Riku bristles.

“Remember? Two summers ago, we built a raft. It’s on the other side of this island, isn’t it?”

Riku crosses his arms. “The raft was a bad idea.”

“The raft was your idea,” Sora points out.

“I know it was my idea. It was a bad idea.” Riku shakes his head. “What was I even doing, thinking a little raft like that could carry us seven hundred miles across the ocean?”

Sora looks out at the ocean. It’s about one mile to the main island’s shore, and from here on the sand, it already looks far off in the distance. If the nearest mainland is seven hundred miles away

Actually, he can’t begin to picture it.

“Hm” mumbles Kairi, sitting down. “But I really wanted to use it someday.”

Riku bows his head. “Maybe, when summer vacation hits and the homework’s out of the way, we’ll take it for a tour of the coast.”

Reeeeally?” Kairi breaks into a heart-skipping grin. “Thank you, Riku.”

“Yeah, yeah” He returns to his notes, quiet again.

Kairi hums a happy noise. “It’ll be nice getting to see the island from the other side, you know?”

Already re-immersed in his studies, Riku can only offer a slight nod for an answer. Sora gives a vaguely non-committal grunt for his, then, after a moment of deliberation, suddenly pushes himself to his feet.

The hair does a good job of hiding his eyebrows, but it’s hard to miss Riku’s eyes going wide for a second before he composes himself. “Where’re you going?”

“Stretching my legs,” Sora replies, and walks up the shore to the path.

It’s not really a lie. As much as school tires him out emotionally over the course of the day, just sitting here in the afternoon sun. staring out at the ocean has always been enough to recharge his batteries. Even if he doesn’t tend to use that charge all that much.

Of course, it’s not really about that, but right now Sora kind of wants to think about the true reason a little less. He feels a lot less left behind that way.

Sure, there’s certainly something of the old spark still left in Riku; he wouldn’t be working so hard if he wasn’t as passionate about leaving the islands as he used to be. The younger Riku, however, would balk if he ever saw the obedient young man he was going to become.

It’s far too early to feel old, thinks Sora, but it’s almost like the best years of their life are already behind them. With high school starting to rear its head in the distance, the workload is getting heavier and the pressure already mounting. There isn’t going to be as much time as there used to be.

At the very least, he wishes Riku didn’t ignore it.

He walks past the waterfall with the intention of heading for the shack, when the sound of creaking suddenly emanates to his left. Sora freezes on one heel, turning around.

There’s a cave in the islet where they used to hide as young children, and its entrance is situated just here, in the wall, behind a curtain of ivy. They haven’t used it in quite a long time, though.

Sora looks back to the beach, where Riku is still holed up in his notes, and Kairi sits oddly tense toward the ocean, then gets on his hands and knees, pulls the ivy curtain to the side, and crawls into the cave.

The tunnel is long, and only just large enough to fit him now that eight years have passed, but he makes it through without incident, saved for scraped knees and a root threaded through his hair for a split second. It lets out into a circular chamber, the walls covered in exposed roots from the palm trees growing above. Despite a few large rocks, however, it’s empty.

Just his imagination again, then. It had to be. It wasn’t like anybody was going to just hide in this cave, waiting for him.

He turns and heads for the tunnel, ready to crawl back outside, when he hears the creaking again.

It’s coming from the back of the cave. Curious, Sora walks up to the wall, running his hand over the stone.

It’s already cool here, in the darkness of the cave, but for a second he feels it get colder in one of the cracks.

Then, under his touch, the stone moves.

He withdraws his hand quickly. He can’t continue to put pressure on the wall if it’s like this, or it might collapse. It’s already full of roots pushing and shoving for sustenance. Maybe one of the trees has finally begun to upset something.

“Sora!”

He jumps, and turns around. Kairi is sticking her head out from the tunnel. “Oh, uh

“Is something wrong?” she asks.

“No, it’s fine,” Sora replies.

“Are you sure?” She cocks her head, staring at him with big, jewel-blue eyes, but then shakes it. “Come on. Riku’s already thinking of turning back. Exams soon, right?”

Fine” Sora groans, and gets down to follow her.

He needs to get out of here.

In more ways than one.

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