Tears of Grief (Kingdom Hearts)
When the Wayfinder Trio come back to the Realm of Light for a break in their search, Terra decides to check up on Riku. It’s been a long time since Sora went missing and each new day Riku finds it harder and harder to cope. An entry for Whumptober under the prompt “Tears”
The great hall of the Land of Departure castle stood as it always had. For twelve years, this hall had remained empty, then it was filled with life once more when Aqua and Sora arrived to rescue Ventus, and then again, when the Wayfinder Trio had set about on their journey through the Realm of Darkness to find Sora.
Now, a few months later, a rift opened in front of the thrones once more and three armored figures stepped out. There was no sign of a fourth person with them, so their mission was a failure so far.
Still, they needed breaks, especially with Aqua as part of the search team. While it was true that she could take care of herself and she felt better about being in the Realm of Darkness with the others at her side, she still felt her trauma regarding that world rise up sometimes. Terra kept a close eye on her and when it got too bad, he suggested taking a break in the Realm of Light for a while.
This was one of those breaks. As soon as they stepped into the world of light, they summoned their armor.
Ventus stretched his arms above him, “Ah, It’s good to be home.”
“Yep…” Terra agreed, though this place held a few bitter memories for him.
Aqua just nodded her head.
“So, Terra, what are you gonna do?” Ven asked, “I’m gonna hang out with Axel and his group for a little bit.”
“I think I’m going to pay Riku a visit and make sure he’s not working too hard.” Terra replied.
“That’s a good idea!” Ven answered him, then he looked to Aqua, “What about you?”
“Me? Well… I think I’m going to check on Kairi. I can’t really talk with her the way she is right now, but I can at least see if they’ve found anything from searching her heart, and I can be there for her at least a little bit.”
“That sounds like a great idea, Aqua!” Ven started heading off down the hall, “Terra, how long do we have here?” He asked as he was walking backward slowly.
“I’m thinking we could take a whole week off to rest, since we’re spending months in the Realm of Darkness.” Terra replied.
Aqua spoke up beside him, “But Terra… what if Sora’s in trouble? Can we really afford to wait so long before going back?”
Terra smiled and placed a shoulder on Aqual’s shoulder, “If he’s held out for this long, he can wait a little longer.”
“Yeah… you’re right…” Aqua replied, though there was hesitation still in his voice.
“Cool, I’ll meet you guys back here in a week!” Ven replied, heading off on his own.
“Alright, see you then!” Terra shouted after him with a wave.
“By Ven!” Aqua shouted, waving as well
Terra and Aqua then parted ways to go do their own things.
Terra asked around about where Riku may be once he got to Radiant Garden and he didn’t like what he heard. Riku had holed himself up in the Library and was tirelessly searching for some way to bring Sora back. Nobody’s seen him leave, not even late at night when he should be heading home to sleep.
It seemed like he was just in time, Riku needed his help.
They boy had barely noticed when Terra slipped into the chair across from him, he was so focused on the book he was reading. When he did notice, he gave Terra a tired smile in greeting.
“When did you get back from the Realm of Darkness?” He asked.
“Just now, actually.”
“And your first thought was to visit me?”
“Yeah, after all… you are my successor. It’d be good to at least check in every once in a while.” Terra let his gaze wander to the paperwork on the table around Riku. Reports from the other groups searching for Sora, “I have a report for you, but I could just save you the paperwork. We didn’t find anything, not a single trace of Sora.”
Riku sits back in his chair and lets out a sigh, “Yeah, I guessed as much... “
“There was also something else I wanted to talk to you about. Your friends have told me that you haven’t been getting much sleep lately. If I can, well… I would like to take the burden off your shoulders so you can relax for a bit.”
Riku shook his head, shuffling through his reports. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m fine. Besides, nobody else but me can do this. Besides, you came here for a break. you deserve one.”
“You are not fine, Riku. I can see it in the way you move, in the way you talk… you’re about to fall asleep on your desk. I want to help, so let me. If you don’t want me to completely take over, just give me something to help with. I want to take some of the weight off of your shoulders.”
“I said I’m fine.” He said, almost bitterly, “I’ve got too much to do here already. Thank you for visiting but I don’t have time for guests.” He turned to one of the books on the table and flipped it open.
Terra sighed and stood from his chair, deciding that he’d visit later. Maybe Riku would protest less if he visited late at night, when he was really feeling the effects of his drowsiness.
He started heading out of the library, but just as he was about to leave, a voice echoed through the room.
“Ugh! No answers, again!” And then there was a heavy thump. The voice was Riku’s and prompted Terra to head back to where he was sitting.
When he caught sight of the table, he could see the book that Riku had been reading was now on the floor. Riku was half standing in his chair, a look of disappointment on his face.
“Something wrong?” Terra asked.
Riku looked at him owlishly and then tried to play it off like he hadn’t just thrown a book out of frustration.
“It’s nothing, Terra. I’m just….” He trailed off, unable to find the right words.
“Frustrated.” Terra filled in the blanks, “I understand. Riku, It can’t be easy for you to be going through this, to be looking so desperately for a friend…” Terra wondered if this was how Aqua felt about him when she was stuck in the Realm of Darkness and he was under Xehanort’s command.
Riku avoided making eye contact with Terra, “Yeah…”
“You want to talk about it?”
“I… don’t know how… I don’t even know where I would begin… I don’t want to trouble you with my problems.”
“Riku, I don’t care about being troubled. Trouble away if it leads to you getting something off your chest that you’ve held onto for a long time…”
Riku sighed, “Alright.” And then he paused for a few moments before continuing, “I miss Sora. I miss him so bad. I’ve been trying so hard to look for answers but so far my efforts have turned up nothing. The more time goes by, the more scared I am that something may have happened to him…”
Riku didn’t realize it at first, but after he was done speaking, he brushed his fingers against one of his cheeks and was surprised to find tears there.
Terra sat down across from Riku, a concerned look on his face, “You are, and I don’t blame you one bit. After all, you’re just a kid.”
“I’m not a kid.” Riku snapped.
“Yes, but you were when everything started happening to you… I wish I’d have known about that when I gave you the Keyblade… I might never have done it.”
Riku turned away from Terra, “I’m just that bad of a successor, huh?” His voice was monotone, despite the tears.
“What? No. That’s not what I mean at all. By giving you the Keyblade, I started everything. I do not know what it was that led to the downfall of your island and your subsequent fall into darkness, but I wish I could have stopped it.” He looked up at Riku, “Look at me.”
Slowly, reluctantly, Riku’s green eyes met Terra’ blue.
“You should not have had such responsibility thrown on you at such an early age. You’ve accomplished monumental tasks that fully grown adults would take years to do. You’ve fully submerged yourself in Darkness and made it back out. You’ve attained the rank of Keyblade Master. I’m proud of you for doing all that, but you didn’t deserve to have all of that put on you. ”
“My place is with Aqua and Ventus, looking in the Realm of Darkness for Sora, but if I could, I’d take all this responsibility off of your shoulders in a heartbeat. You should have time to grieve the loss of your friend, even if it is, hopefully, temporary.”
“Riku, I want you to know that I’m behind you every step of the way, even if I’m not physically there. You can always rely on me when you need someone who’ll listen, someone who can take the weight off your shoulders, even if it’s only for a little bit.”
Riku was stunned speechless by what Terra said, but he could suddenly feel the tears flowing faster. He tried to hide them by wiping them off on his elbow but they were falling too fast. He even tried using the heel of his hand to stifle them, but it didn’t work.
Terra stood and moved next to Riku, holding his arms out to the other, “You don’t have to do everything alone. You have me and so many others to help you..”
Riku stopped at that and looked up at Terra, hesitating for a moment before getting up and giving Terra a hug, burying his face into his mentor’s shoulder.
“It’s just… s-so many things remind me of him. I see him in Roxas, Ven and Xion and it’s been h-harder and harder for m-me to be around them without having to l-leave because.. because they remind me of him t-too much… I see him in everything… the bright blue sky, the sunshine, even other people’s smiles. I see how his heart has touched everyone… those lingering traces that only make my heart ache…”
Terra rubbed his back gently and let him talk and when Riku was done, Terra decided it was his turn to speak up, “That’s only natural. You miss him and you want him back..”
“I really d-do….” Riku replied before Terra could continue.
“I know, and if I could get him back for you, I would. We’re doing the best we can.”
“But what if it’s too late?” Riku asked, stepping away from Terra.
Terra didn’t have an answer to that. It’d been so long already, and by the time they found him, they definitely could have been too late, “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, it’s best not to worry so much.”
“I can’t help it…”
“I know.” Terra certainly did know what it was like to have that kind of worry gnaw on him, “You’ve got to take it one step at a time, and I think your first step is sleep.”
Riku let out a small laugh, though there were still tears on his cheeks, “I suppose you’re right. The tears made me even more sleepy. I think I might….” He closed his eyes and swayed in place.
“Woah!” Terra quickly caught him, “Easy there.”
“Thanks.” Riku replied, “I must have” He let out a yawn, “Drifted off.”
“Sleep. I’ll take you home. Then I’ll come back here to do some of your work for you.” He made a mental note to send a gummiphone message to the others, updating them on the temporary change in leadership.
“At this point, I’m too tired to argue…” Riku said, but there was a smile on his face as he drifted off.
As Terra walked home with Riku in his arms, he couldn’t help but think a little more about this boy that had become his successor. He’d grown so strong in such a short amount of time. He’d fought back against the darkness and, with the help of his friends, found harmony with it in a way that Terra hadn’t thought possible.
Still, when Terra looked at that face, he still saw the carefree young boy that he’d bequeathed the Keyblade to.
He was protecting what mattered, and now that the thing that mattered most to him was ripped from his grasp, he’d do anything to get it back. It reminded Terra startlingly of himself in the same way the original phrase had all those years ago. They were both protective to a fault.
Could Terra really blame him?
No, he couldn’t.