Day 4: Flame Liberator

KH3 SPOILERS BELOW

Created as part of the 8 Days of Axel Challenge
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8

The Keybearer Tower wasn’t the most welcoming place ever, but at least it had some color to it. And people who weren’t in various stages of trying to kill him. Lea sat in one of the usually empty rooms in the tower, getting some R&R, when a familiar face walked in.

“Well, well,” Lea greeted him, smirking, “If it isn’t Riku. Come to check on my progress to Keyblade Master?”

“Something like that,” Riku said through a laugh. Gotta say, it was good to see him happy for a change. They met at kind of rocky times in both of their lives… And they both had to learn to put the past behind them, he figured. “How are you doing?”

“Huh?” This wasn’t a casual ‘what’s up’, if Riku could even ask a question lightly. Lea shrugged. “I’m fine.”

“Lea,” Riku scolded him warmly, like a friend. Guess they were friends, huh. “Kairi told me you started crying out of nowhere.” Crap. Lea scratched the back of his head, self-conscious and caught red-handed. Didn’t even slow Riku down. “She says you want her to call you Axel.”

No way outta this, was there? Kairi meant well, just like Riku did… So this is what it’s like to have friends with hearts. Almost forgot. “Ah, right. You’re here about that.”

“So.” Riku crossed his arms with a friendly smile. “I’ll ask again. How are you doing?”

Lea looked at his hands, sighing. Couldn’t this just a regular social call instead of all this heavy talk? “You ever think about how Keyblades get their names?” Riku watched, patiently waiting for the rest of what he had to say. A kid this young had no business being so smart, really, but here they were. “Flame Liberator. Got one thing right, I have a lot of people to save. Most of ’em, I put in an icky situation personally.”

“That’s right, you did.” Lea snapped his head up, surprised. He didn’t have to say it like that, not with that calm smile still on his face. ” And you’re here now to help them out.”

Oh, so that’s where this was headed. Lea sighed, leaning back and propping his feet up on the chair across from him. Yen Sid wouldn’t like that, probably, but hey. What the old man didn’t know, right? “Yeah, we’ll see how well I hold up. Haven’t exactly been lucky with that, if you haven’t noticed.”

“Which brings me to my next point.” Riku sat down next to Lea, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table. He looked like he was passing off somber news, the bad day-wrecking kind, and Lea wasn’t sure he wanted to hear it. “This isn’t just about saving them, Lea.”

Lea drew back, frowning at Riku. What did he take him for, anyway? “I know that! Look, if you think I’m gonna put myself first—”

“I know you won’t.” Riku spoke over him to be heard, not quite yelling, but it got Lea to shut up. For now. “That’s what worries me.” He rested back in the chair, crossing his arms again. With tells like that, he’d be terrible in a game against Luxord. “Mine was ‘Way to Dawn.’ I had to find my way back so I could help those I’d hurt.”

Lea was starting to figure out where he was going with this, but Riku was on a roll already. “Punishing yourself for the past isn’t the way to liberation, Lea. This is about penance.” Riku stood, resting his hand on Lea’s shoulder. A little awkwardly, had to admit, but hey— he still meant well. “Accept your mistakes. They brought you here, to a place where you have the strength to protect what matters.”

Lea’s heart sank. Strength to protect what matters? He wanted to think he had that now and Lea thought he’d been putting up a pretty good front so far. His gut twisted in a nasty little knot at how much he’d botched this already and everything on the line now. If he screwed this one up… He clenched his hands into fists to get himself out of his head. Nope, he didn’t need those upside-down tears anymore. No way. “It’s more than just that, I— I wasn’t just not there. I did a number on them, Riku. All of ‘em.”

“But you’re here to help now. You’ve learned from what you’ve done.” Riku took his hand away, stepping back. “If you don’t forgive yourself, Lea, they’ll never get the chance to.”

That… That made a lotta sense. Maybe there was something behind the names of the Keyblades after all. Lea smirked again, waving Riku off. “Alright, alright, I hear ya. I’ll free everyone, then.”

“Even yourself.” Riku tilted his head, a glint of a bad idea lighting up in his eyes. Didn’t take long to recognize that look and know they were all in for it when he saw it on Sora’s face at the same time. Riku breathed a laugh. “Got it memorized, Lea?”

“Hey, hey,” he sat up straight, jabbing at Riku playfully. “Get your own line!”

7 thoughts on “Day 4: Flame Liberator

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