On the Way to a Smile – Episode:Nanaki

* * *

Yuffie’s friend was a young boy named “Yuri” who had suddenly caught an illness in Midgar. It was a horrifying illness that had a black substance running down his legs as if he was going to die. Apart from repairing the damages in Midgar’s towns, the illness was a much bigger problem. Nanaki heard that it was infectious but Yuffie was in contact with Yuri as if she didn’t care. He started to worry. Maybe she should have thought about that. However, while talking to her about it, he learned that Yuffie already knew that the illness was possibly infectious. What’s with this carelessness? No wait, realised Nanaki. It’s not carelessness. It’s kindness. Yuffie—I don’t know how close they are but— she couldn’t just give up on her friend. His thoughts turned to hate towards Yuri. He just couldn’t understand how Yuffie could be kind when she knew she could get infected. Somehow, it makes me angry. However, there was nothing Nanaki could do. It was Yuffie’s friend after all. But as if to get revenge, when Yuffie talked about using materia to heal the illness, he told her bluntly there wasn’t such a thing. Yuffie was angry. He was expecting that. However, he never expected the sadness he saw in her eyes. Nanaki deeply repented and regretted what he just said to her.

Soon, they reached Wutai and stayed there for several days. Yuffie began to look after the patients that were quarantined there. Nanaki would help whenever he was ordered to but usually he would just be observing the illness. He thought he should keep it within his memories too. It was part of life.

“Hey you. Is it true you can really speak?” asked one of the patients.

“That’s odd. Why would Shinra create something like him? They must have made a mistake and gave him a heart. Don’t you think it would have been better if they created something for humans?”

“Hmmm—” At that moment, Nanaki realised it. He realised that being able to have the same feelings and thoughts as most humans was surely to allow him to understand them. It was his errand to let his people know in the future how humans have evolved. Now I’ve learned another thing, thought Nanaki.

* * *

Nanaki wanted to stay with Yuffie longer in Wutai so that he could watch over the situation in Wutai and its patients but, Yuffie ordered him to go gather information regarding the illness and so it was he left Wutai behind him. As he was about to enter a hollow from which Wutai would be out of his view, Nanaki turned back and gazed at the town. He was sure he’ll be able to see Yuffie’s little figure working at the small hut built before the town. It looks like he had gone further into the hollow than he had expected.

“Oh well. I’ll just have to come again sometime,” thought Nanaki but at that instant he could feel a sudden shock inside his heart. Gilligan. It appeared again. This time Nanaki concentrated on Gilligan to ascertain its true identity. The black soul vibrated and before long something floated to its surface. It was the faces of the people from Cosmo Canyon. Their faces looked at peace but before long, they disappeared as if they were sucked back inside the black surface. Those faces just now—huh? When he realised he couldn’t remember their names, he started to tremble all over. The trembling was so severe he couldn’t stand and had to lie down. Remember, remember their names. Nanaki encouraged himself. Not long afterwards, Yuffie’s face floated to the surface of the black soul. She looked calm but her expression was of one he had never seen before. Then her face too disappeared as if it sunk back into the black sea. Suddenly, the image of death floated to the surface. Were the people of the valley going to die? Fear attacked him.

“Help me!” cowered Nanaki on the ground, his body trembled as he called out to the stars for support. Just as he was going to call out to Yuffie, Gilligan disappeared. Nanaki struggled to get up and stood looking around him. He ran up the sides of the hollow and saw Wutai. He saw Yuffie working away there too.

One day, Yuffie will grow old and die. And there are many elders amongst the people of the valley so they too will disappear even earlier than her. It was sad just thinking about it. As he shed tears, there was no doubt it was going to take him a long time to calm down. But why did Gilligan release fear inside him when it made him think of death?

Was Gilligan’s true form the fear he felt when everyone dies? Nanaki shook his head and forced the misfortunate idea from his mind. One day the time will come but even so, I don’t want to think about my friend’s deaths, he thought.

Nanaki changed the plans for his journey and decided to investigate the “Midgar illness” Yuffie and the others had mentioned.

The best place to gather information about it was Midgar itself. The more information he had, the more confused he will probably get. However, Cloud who thought about everything deeply and the intelligent Tifa were there so if he was to spend some time there, he had no doubts that he may learn something.

* * *

Making his way round Mount Nibel, Nanaki entered a forest that he didn’t know existed and ended up lost. At first, he continued through on foot relying on his animal instincts but the forest appeared to be deeper than he had imagined. Even so, he continued to search for an exit thinking it was nothing to be worried about. It maybe a deep forest but, just by looking up he could tell which direction he was going in from the movements of the sun. Nanaki walked on using the knowledge about directions he acquired from humans. He should be exiting from the east of the forest soon.

A gunshot was heard. Nanaki couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from because of the echoes from the woods but he ran in the direction that he guessed it came from. He found a ten year old boy being attacked by a monster. The monster was in the shape of a bear with a long tail. No, perhaps it was a bear. Its body was covered in a grey rusted metal colour and its front legs were bleeding.

It must have been shot. The wounded monster circled around the boy who had fallen back sitting scared. It appeared it was thinking what it should do with the boy. Before long, it went berserk, its eyes burning red with rage as it slowly approached him. Nanaki leapt out from the undergrowth he was hiding under and biting onto the boy’s clothes, they left the area together. After taking the boy to a safe thicket, he stood facing the bear. As if the bear didn’t care about who his new enemy was, it naturally ran towards Nanaki. The claws on its two paws could be seen under its fur. I’m going to be in trouble if I get slashed by those, thought Nanaki.

“Nibel bear’s throats are their weakpoints! Go, Red!” The boy suddenly said. Nanaki was perplexed by the command but, it was true that many beast’s weakness was their throat so he focused his attacks on the Nibel bear’s throat. It’s been a long time since Nanaki roared, raising his voice as he intimidated his opponent. The Nibel bear froze in its tracks and for the first time, was trying to gauge its enemy’s strength. They glared at each other.

“What are you doing! Go Red!”

Stop saying whatever you please, thought Nanaki. Humans shouldn’t say anything in battles where the beasts have no weapons but their own bodies. The forest is a beast’s place.

That moment, he heard another gunshot. At the same time, blood burst out from the Nibel bear’s throat as its massive body fell to the ground. Immediately out of the thicket came a human—it looked as if he was a hunter—jumping towards the fallen Nibel bear and firing a finishing shot. The Nibel bear stopped breathing.

The hunter then turned round and aimed his gun at Nanaki. It looked as if he was just on his guard and didn’t intend to shoot yet.

“Dad, don’t shoot. It saved me. It’s fate. God has granted him to me. I want to bring Red back home with me,” said the boy as he cut in between Nanaki and the hunter.

“‘Red’ you say?” the hunter asked back.

“Yeah. He’s red so he’s ‘Red’.”

What a disgraceful name, thought Nanaki. It reminded him of the mad man who once gave him the same name. He raised his voice and gave out a roar to show his dissatisfaction. The father and son backed off a few steps cautiously.

“You can talk, can’t you?” the hunter said with his gun still aimed at Nanaki. “Long ago the Shinra Company put a load of prize money on your kind. A giant wolf-like appearance. Red fur and a tail that burns. Damn! If I had caught you one year earlier I would have been rich!”

“Red can talk?”

Yeah, it’s true that I can talk. And I am most likely more wiser than you two too. But I don’t want to open my mouth to the likes of you. Those that leave their guns poised and say whatever they feel like can’t be friends. Nanaki turned round and made a little jump into the thickets.

“Damn it!”

Gunfire. The round bullet grazed pass Nanaki’s ear. See, you fired in the end. You’re the kind of humans that would throw me in a cage if you caught me. Then you would try to force me to talk. And you thought you could get along with me.

After putting some distance between him and where the hunters were, Nanaki checked and found they didn’t pursue him any more. He returned to where the father and son had been. They were still there and had started to dissect the Nibel bear’s corpse.

“Dad, I want Red.”

“Yeah—Looks like he would make some money. Shinra maybe over but we can put on an exhibit with him. Might be best if we took him to the Golden Saucer.”

“No, I want to be friends with him.”

“Don’t be silly,” the hunter said as he used his knife to cut off the Nibel bear’s tail. “It’s not a cat or a dog. You won’t be able to tame it.”

You can’t tame me either, thought Nanaki.

“Right, now to get some people here.”

“What are you going to do?”

“The only things that’s been of use to us are the Nibel bear’s tails right? The Shinra bought it from us at high prices because they used them as stimulants for the soldiers. But from now on, the bear’s meat will be of use too. It’s not tasty but it doesn’t really taste horrible either. Depending on how you cook it, it can be pretty good.”

“Oh! So we’re going to eat it!”

“Yeah. The world’s going to be lacking food. I don’t know it will go on forever or end soon but I’m sure we can make money from this opportunity.”

The father and son left the Nibel bear’s corpse as it was and went away. That hunter wasn’t a bad person. He was just staying strong so that he could survive in these times. If Nibel bears can be mankind’s food then it can’t be helped. All living things had to eat or they would starve.

Once Bugenhagen had told Nanaki something. What differentiates between animals and monsters is the way they treat their opponent’s corpse. Animals kill others to eat but, monsters only kill. Then they find their next prey. When you think about this difference, humans are close to monsters. If the Nibel bear’s tail was all that hunter was after then you could probably call him a monster. But it’s a different story if he must eat it to survive. It’s kind of unfair that he possessed a gun but, this was how the food chain worked. Even the father and son shouldn’t be allowed to do as they please but I can’t get involved in the problem, thought Nanaki. Nanaki has spent much of his time with humans since he was very young and for that very reason he didn’t hunt much. So little that he had tried it when he thought about hunting. When he thought about how he was going to take his prey’s life not because he wanted to eat it, he had thought of himself as a monster. Yes, thought Nanaki. I’m not one to judge them. Many humans are unconsciously taking the lives of other animals and eating them to live. Even if they were conscious about it, they would avoid thinking too deeply about it besides the ones that made a living hunting for food. Nanaki too was the same. There no point puzzling over matters here. Even if there was a correct definite form of behaviour, he probably wouldn’t be able to arrive at that answer just now.

“Geeeeee!” An ear deafening high pitched sound came from two small Nibel bears as they came running to the dead corpse. All the smaller animals ran away panicking. The small Nibel bears snuggled up to the corpse—most likely their mother—and nuzzled their nose and paws against it. They’re probably trying to wake her up. Nanaki just gazed at them helplessly. Then he remembered. That hunter said he was going to get some people here. If those cubs stay here they will be in danger too. The idea to just watch over the situation suddenly disappeared from Nanaki’s mind. He left the thickets and appeared before the cubs.

“I understand how you feel but it’s dangerous here. Come, this way.”

Nanaki jumped back into the thicket as he tried to lead the cubs away. However, his words didn’t get through and the cubs stared at him with an expression that he couldn’t understand.

“This isn’t good. The humans are coming you know.”

After taking some time to think, he leapt towards one of the cubs and picked it up, carrying it in between his teeth..

“Geeeeee!” As the cub Nanaki held cried out, the other cub howled in answer, “Geeeeee!”

Good, thought Nanaki as he turned round to make his way into the thickets with one of the cubs still in his mouth. The other one followed.

“Yes, that’s right.”

Nanaki continued deep into the forest. Sometimes he would stop so that he waited for the other cub to catch up, pursuing all its strength. Once their distance closed, he would run off again. And so as he repeated those same movements, he eventually arrived at an open area. There were old stones laid out and Nanaki clearly knew it was the work of humans. Surveying the surroundings, Nanaki could see that many stone materials were piled up without any order around the place. Was someone trying to build something here? However, that was the only signs that humans had been here. The air lingered as if it had all been abandoned long ago.

Nanaki laid down the cub he held in his mouth. He was surprised it wasn’t moving but when he listened closely he could hear the sound of it fast asleep. Such carefree little creatures, Nanaki thought. The brother cub arrived too, letting out a single cry “Geeee!”—and without any suspicions—came running to them. It sniffed. Perhaps it was curious about the familiar smell that Nanaki had. It then sniffed about its younger brother. Soon as if it was satisfied or had enough of sniffing, it let out a huge yawn and slept, cuddling up to its brother.

“How cute,” thought Nanaki. But then he was troubled. What should I do now? I have some responsibility towards these cubs. Nanaki laid down and gazed at the brothers. Will they be able to survive without their mother? What do these Nibel bears eat? At a glance they may look like ferocious canivores but these kind of beasts have a varied diet much like Nanaki. If that was the case then the forest should be filled with food— Nanaki reached a decision. He will gather some food for them before leaving the forest. He was concerned about the brothers’ future but he can’t care for them forever. It was best they parted before they got too attached to one another. But before that—Nanaki too let out a big yawn and closed his eyes.

Moments later, Nanaki opened his eyes again. There were no signs of the cubs before him. So they’ve gone off somewhere. Live well. But just as he thought so, he noticed an odd feeling at his side. Looking there he found the brothers had buried themselves between Nanaki’s side and the ground, sleeping soundly.

“This isn’t good—Not good at all.”

At that moment, Nanaki noticed his heart was filled with feelings that he had never had before. They were feelings that forced out all reason from his mind. He was determined to look after them until they became independent.

Nanaki teached the brothers—that he named “Pazu” and “Rin”—how to hunt. He himself wasn’t that good at hunting but he made them listen carefully, acting as if the skill was of great use. He had no guilt taking the lives of other creatures. This was a fair fight to survive. Sometimes they would meet encounter other Nibel bears. Nanaki would try to convey to them that he wasn’t hostile but was always just ignored. Everytime that happened, the thought that he really shouldn’t have got involved pierced through his heart. No, perhaps he’s been accepted as a friend in this forest. All sorts of thoughts came and left his mind. Everyday he would discover something new and even though he had his worries, the days were generally peaceful. Sometimes he would question if perhaps such a life might be good. Everytime he thought that way, he would tell himself that it was part of his errand but at the same time, he was aware that he enjoyed it.

Before long, many humans could be seen coming into the forest to hunt almost everyday. It appeared Nibel bear hunting was becoming regularised. They had accepted the bear’s meat as food. Nanaki thought to himself that he can’t just teach Pazu and Rin how to hunt but also how to flee from humans.

Nanaki no longer knew how many days and months he had spent in the forest. Keeping track of time is a characteristic of humans, thought Nanaki. I can live with humans or beasts but as of now, I live in an age of beasts. I’m concerned over the promise I made with Yuffie but that’s about an illness. It has nothing to do with beasts. At first, it hurt Nanaki to say something like that but he could now think about it firmly. I will talk about this story once the times have returned to the human world. I spent my time in a forest as a beast. It was necessary to have the emotions of a beast to survive. That’s what I’ll tell.

Gilligan appeared many times inside Nanaki. Amongst the faces he knew, Pazu and Rin’s were also added. The faces of the brothers would appear in the soul filled with dark emotions before sinking back into it as if they were disappearing, making Nanaki tremble with fear. However, his fear would disappear immediately as he ascertained Pazu and Rin were cuddled up against him. Nanaki now understood what Gilligan truely was. It was the fear of loss. It was the fear of losing loved ones that made Nanaki tremble. Now that he knew, he no longer feared Gilligan. Nothing can be achieved through fear of loss.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6