On the Way to a Smile – Episode: Denzel

Midgar was once divided into two different worlds. One was an upper city known as a plate, a land of steel high up supported by pillars below. Then there were the areas of the ground that never saw daylight because of the plate. The slums were full of life even though it was a chaotic place. Due to the planning of the company known as Shinra, this scene of light and shadow prospering separately seemed it was here to stay forever.

Four years ago, when the Lifestream came flowing out from the earth, many residents believed that it was the downfall of the Midgar. Those who tried to flee from the city with their possessions couldn’t leave the city. Maybe they had thought that they could once again dream of its prosperity once again if they stayed close. Before long, a city named Edge was built adjacent to the city of Midgar.

The main street of Edge stretched from the outskirts of Midgar’s Third and Fourth Sectors all the way to the East. The city itself was formed on this main street and expanded to the northwest. From a distance it seemed a magnificent city but, most of the buildings are actually built from Midgar’s scrap material. The city smelled of iron and rust.

Johnny ran a cafe in the main street. It was a humble establishment in a patch of open ground with a stall, some tables and a few chairs where he could do some simple cooking. The name of the shop was called Johnny’s Heaven. It was a name that was similar to the diner that once existed in the slums of the Seventh Sector. That diner’s name was “Seventh Heaven” which had a hostess that Johnny fell in love with. That girl’s name was Tifa.

Months after the incident when the Seventh Sector collapsed, Tifa reopened up a new Seventh Heaven in Edge. At the time, Johnny was moved by how Tifa could decide what she should be doing while the rest of the crowd was still indecisive. And so, with those thoughts in mind, she became a respected figure in Johnny’s heart.

I’m going to live just like Tifa. But how? I know! I’ll run a business too. I’ll give hope to those who have lost their way.

This was the beginning of Johnny’s Heaven. Customers who came to the shop were told the story of “Johnny Reborn” many times.

As a result of that, many of the public who wanted to see Tifa went to the new Seventh Heaven and became her regular customers. Without knowing anything about it, Johnny continued to open 6 days a week waiting for an audience who would come hear his story full of love and hope.

A customer arrived. It was a kid. It’s pretty rare for a child to be alone around these parts. It was Denzel, a young boy who was special to Johnny. He’s one of the people who respected Tifa. Johnny was going to give all his heart into his service for Denzel.

“Good day, Denzel.”, said Johnny who bowed deeply lowering his head. But Denzel only glimpsed at him for an instant before heading to the farthest table away from the stall.

“Come closer and sit over here.”

“No. I’m here to meet someone.”

He’s here to meet someone? He’s dating already? But he’s still a kid… Well, whatever. I’ll watch over him. This is all part of my special service.

“Is it a date? Good luck.”

“Coffee please.”

Is he ignoring me? Ah, he must be shy.

“Give me a shout if you’re stuck about what to talk about. I’ve got some interesting bits of news to tell you. You know just now…”

Suddenly, Denzel stood up from his seat. Was he angry? Johnny was watching Denzel but the young boy’s gaze was at the entrance.

A man in a plain suit was standing there. “Welcome”, Johnny greeted the customer as he turned his eyes towards him. It was Reeve. He was one of the original staffs of Shinra. It was the first time Johnny saw the man, who was now leading the WRO, at close range. He was famed for the smell of death around him.

What business does a guy like him have in my shop?

Reeve walked over while surveying his surroundings cautiously until he finally sat down at Denzel’s table. It seemed a habit of his. Something struck Johnny’s mind.

Reeve was inviting Denzel to join the army. I have to stop them somehow. If someone like that was to happen in my cafe then I wouldn’t be able to face Tifa again.

With that in mind, his expression remained calm as he glared at Reeve.

“Give me some coffee”, Reeve said with a sense dignity about him.

“Yes, right away.” Johnny answered firmly before running off back to the stall. Not an easy person to deal with.

Denzel was surprised that the head of WRO himself would come interview him and stood there unable to greet him.


That pulled Denzel back to reality again before he sat down nervously.

“So, Denzel. I don’t have much time so lets get straight to business”, said Reeve in a gentle tone as he began to speak.

“First, know that we are different from long ago. The time when we would welcome any recruit is long passed. If you just want to be a volunteer to help revive this place then just go contact the leader of this area. The WRO is now an army.”

“Yes, sir. I’m prepared for the dangers.”

“Prepared huh… Alright. Lets hear your background first.”

“My background? I’m only 10 years old so…”

“I know that. But even 10 year olds have some background right?”

Denzel was the only son of Abel, who worked hard in Shinra’s Third Business Department and Chloe, very social person and who was good at tending to the house. The three of them lived in a Shinra owned residence in the Seventh Sector, The Plate. Abel was satisfied that even though he was brought up in a poor village, he was able to have a family in the upper levels. However, he always thought that it’s important to have a goal in life so he aimed to live in the more superior residence areas of the Third Sector. When Denzel reached the age of seven, Abel was promoted to head of department. That meant that he had the qualities to live in the residence of the Fifth Sector. Hearing the news, both Chloe and Denzel prepared a party. With children-like decorations and extravagant food at the ready, they were going to welcome Abel home. It was a happy evening meal. While exchanging jokes with his good humored father, Denzel listened to his father’s stories about life.

“Denzel. You’re lucky that you’re born as my child. If you were born in the Slums then instead of chicken you would be eating rats.”

“They don’t have chicken?”

“They do but because everyone is so poor, they can’t afford it. Since there’s nothing else they can do, they catch rats with spears. Dirty grey rats.”

“Ewww… Sounds disgusting.”

“What does it… taste like hmmm?”, Abel said winking at Chloe. Chloe pointed her finger at Denzel’s plate.

“Well, Denzel?”, she questioned him. Denzel was worried and compared his own dish with his parents. His father was looking down, trying not to laugh. Just then Denzel remembered something that his mother Chloe said. There was no meaning to life without smiles.

They’re both trying to scare me again. “That’s why I don’t believe any of you!”

* * *

“What mean parents.”

“They just liked to joke. I didn’t mind being teased.”

“I’ll tell you this but, as far as I know rats weren’t eaten in the slums. The rats in the slums at that time were…”

“I know. I know about it well.”

“Oh? Did something happen?”

“…It’s a long story.”

* * *

When Denzel was looking after the house, the phone rang. It was Abel.

“Where’s your mother?” He seemed angry.

“She went shopping.”

“When she gets back, tell her to call me back right away. Never mind, I’ll call her.”

Knowing that something was wrong, I was worried. Since there was nothing I could do, I watched TV while waiting for mum to come back. It was showing how a group going by the name of Avalanche bombed the Mako Reactor the other day. That’s why I was nervous. It wasn’t because of me or my mum.

Just then, someone came back but it wasn’t mum. It was Abel.

“Where’s your mum?”

“She’s not back yet.”

“I’m going to look for her.”

Without finishing what he was saying, Abel left the house. Panicking, Denzel went after him. When they got to the shopping district, they found Chloe right away. She seemed to be talking with the butcher happily. Freezing there for a moment, Abel approached the butchers shop. Without a word, he grabbed his wife’s wrist and brought her back.

When Denzel heard his mother protesting, he felt the sound of his heart go thump.

“Let go of me! What’s this about?”

Abel looked around him and lowered his voice.

“The Seventh Sector is going to be destroyed. We’re going to evacuate to the Fifth Sector. There’s a new company residence for us there.”

“They’re going to destroy this place?”

“The ones who destroyed the first Mako Reactor is aiming for the Seventh Sector next.”

Denzel looked at both his parents’ face. They weren’t smiling.

“Is it true?”

With both of his hands, he grabbed hold of his parents and said “Come on, lets hurry and go.”

But they weren’t going to move.

“We can’t just run away. We need to let our neighbors and friends know too.”

“There’s no time, Chloe. Besides, this is classified information from Shinra. I’ve broken the rules even though I’ve become the head of one of their departments.”

Irritated, Chloe shook her wrist free and said to Denzel, “Go with your father. I’ll come soon. It’ll be alright.”

After giving Denzel’s hand a tight squeeze, Chloe left and started to run.

“Hey!” Abel ran a few steps after his wife but stopped. Seeing how much his father was suffering, Denzel’s heart ached.

He wants to chase after her but I’m being a burden.

“Denzel, lets go to the Fifth Sector.”

“No! We have to go after her!”

“Mum will be alright. We are a nice family after all.”

A tall man was dragging a suitcase along as he walked at the borders of the Seventh Sector and Sixth Sector. Abel called out to him. When the man realized who was calling out to him, he panicked and ran over.

“You’re still here, sir? The Turks are already making their move. They’re nearly done planting the bombs. My colleagues have organised some transportation.”

Denzel had heard from his father about this organisation that belonged to the Shinra. All their dirty work was done by the Turks.

What did he mean that the Turks had planted the bombs? Are the Turks the Avalanche? Just when Denzel was wondering about what they were talking about, he felt his father’s gaze and looked up.

“Could you take this child to the Fifth Sector? He won’t be much trouble.” Abel said as he looked at his son.

“No!”, Denzel cried.

“Daddy’s going to bring mummy back. Now you go with Mr. Arkham.”

“We’ll go together.”

“Is it alright with you, Mr. Arkham?”

“Of course it is, sir.”

“It’s the company residence in the Fifth Sector, number thirty-eight. Here’s the key. I’ll leave my son with it.”

Taking a key out of his inner shirt pocket, he forced Denzel to have it.


“I bought a new big TV. Watch that while you’re waiting for us.”

After giving Denzel’s hair a quick ruffle, he gently pushed Denzel over to Arkham and started running in the direction of the Seventh Sector. Arkham helped Denzel balance himself.

“Come, lets go. I’m Arkham. I’m one of your father’s workers. Pleased to meet you.”

Denzel was about to run off but Arkham stopped him.

“I understand how you feel. But I can’t go against what your father’s orders. For now, lets go to the Fifth Sector. After that, you can do whatever you like. OK?”

In the new company residence, nothing was there besides a big box with the TV. Arkham took the TV out and turned it on after connecting the cable.

The two of them watched the news. Once again, the explosion of the Mako Reactor in the First Sector was on. Denzel was wondering if Arkham would leave anytime soon.

“I’m hungry.”

“OK, I’ll go get something for us to eat.”

At that time, the house shook. They heard the sound of missiles somewhere. When Arkham opened the door, the cry of metal grinding together could be heard.

“Wait here.”, said Arkham as he left the house. Just as Denzel was about to follow, the TV announced something.

“An urgent news bulletin.”

A screen showed a collapsing town. Even though I knew it was the Seventh Sector we were in a few hours ago, it took a while before I realised it.

When the picture changed, the announcer said, “This is the current state of the Seventh Sector.” The Seventh Sector was no more. Denzel burst out the house. The streets were in chaos. People were running all over the place shouting that Fifth Sector will be next.

I wonder how long I ran for. Out of breathe, I reached the edge of the Sixth Sector. The soldiers were setting up barriers. I rushed on over to the barriers to look at the Seventh Sector. As if it had always been like it was, there was nothing there. Straining my eyes, I could see the Eighth Sector. The part that linked the Seventh Sector, could be seen.

“Hey, it’s dangerous over here.” a soldier said.

“Where’s your home?”

Denzel pointed out at the empty space.

“I see… That’s unfortunate.” The soldier’s voice was gentle.

“And your parents?”

Once again, Denzel pointed out at the space where the Seventh Sector used to stand.

The soldier let out a loud sigh and said, “It’s the work of Avalanche. Don’t forget that. Once you’re older, take revenge for them.”

The soldier turned Denzel towards the Sixth Sector and urged him away. Denzel walked away absentmindedly taking no notice of the people jeering and taking refuge around him.

Which place was going to be next? Dad! Will it be alright here? Mum! I won’t forgive those Avalanche scoundrels! What are the Shinra doing! Dad! Mum, where are you?

The miserable voice of one child wasn’t going to disappear. When I realised it was my own voice, I could walk no further. I was overflowed with tears.

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