On the Way to a Smile, Episode: Nanaki [Revised]


Revised Audiobook Edition by Pixel

Oh, Gilligan, please begone. Just what are you?

Nanaki, also known as Red XIII, howled at the moon as he tried to rid himself of the darkness that had taken root in his heart. His howl echoed in the cold night on the plateau far in the distance. The red fur which covered his entire body was illuminated in the darkness by the blazing flame at the end of his agile tail.

Nanaki received no response. It had always been the same, but this time the silence of the world seemed to him like a sign. It seemed that he had to resolve this problem alone, because Gilligan was within him, and was his enemy alone. He hadn’t become aware of its existence until a few days ago. He tried to remember how Gilligan was born, that is, when it had taken up residence within him.

* * *

At the end of their journey with Cloud and the others to defeat Sephiroth and save the planet, Nanaki returned to his homeland, Cosmo Canyon. The people of the valley welcomed him with open arms after the epic battle, and listened intently to the account of his adventures. Nanaki was proud of himself, and everything they had achieved.

After that, he went to see his father. Long ago, the brave warrior, Seto valiantly fought against the Gi Tribe, and now stood petrified, watching over the valley.

“Father, you and mother were great warriors who defended this valley. That is why I made it my mission to protect it, just as you did. And I think that I have succeeded. That is why I will be traveling again, father. But this time I would prefer not to battle. I will look at life around the world. Chocobos being born, trees withering, and hmmm— well, I will look at as much as I can, and learn to understand life around the world.

Grandfather always told me… He told me that it is my duty to see everything, to remember it all and pass on my knowledge to future generations. Oh and—”

Nanaki paused briefly and gazed over at his father, looking at his petrified eyes and ears before continuing,

“And I will tell you everything too, father. You can count on it.”

He then announced his decision to the inhabitants of the valley. He would obey the last words of his late grandfather, Bugenhagen, and make it his new mission to embark on a long journey to record the world. They all encouraged him, reassuring him that his accumulated knowledge would certainly be of significant importance for future generations. And that they would always be there for him.

Leaving the village through the rugged terrain of the canyon, Nanaki followed the arduous path down for a while, and finally looked back. The people were still standing there, waving him goodbye. In response, he sat on his hind legs, stretched out his back, head up, and let out a loud howl.

“I will be back, until then I bid you farewell!”

With that, he ran down the rest of the path in a single breathe. Before long he arrived at a crag.
There, he would usually stop to look back at the village before leaving Cosmo Canyon. Once he passed this point, the village would finally disappear beyond the horizon. Nanaki was not about to break with this tradition. He looked up toward the village, but it was nowhere to be seen. A huge boulder that he was sure wasn’t there before blocked his view.

Ah yes, it finally dawned on Nanaki.

The lifestream had come through here and had brought the rock from somewhere. Since he had last been here, he noticed that shape of the land had changed here and there.

On his way back, he had noticed
“The lifestream passed through here. That must have caused the boulder to fall. When I made my way back here, I noticed the geography had changed in many places. ”

He looked around carefully again, and realized that parts of the canyon that had once protruded had been eroded away.

“Well, it can’t be helped”, thought Nanaki.

“The changes aren’t troubling anyone. Compared to cities like Midgar, where the extent of the destruction made the reconstruction much more difficult, they were lucky. ”

Nanaki leapt off a small boulder and continued his journey, paying close attention to the ground under his feet as he walked. Then, at some point he noticed a change. However, it wasn’t a change in the landscape, but a change in him, in his body, in his mind. Nanaki stood still and closed his eyes. He looked deep into his heart.

There it is… but, what is it? How do I describe it, thought Nanaki.

Nanaki wanted to be able to describe it with words. For him, words were the best way to capture a situation and understand it. It was pitch black. It was as though a gaping hole had suddenly opened in his heart. No, not a hole. It was like a black lump. It was hard and dense. Suddenly, he began to shake. He felt like it had changed it’s form.

I wonder what it’s changing into
Nanaki wondered as he trembled with fear.

“—” He wanted to make a sound, but the fear rendered him mute. Nanaki grit his teeth and tried to resist it, but he couldn’t. He took a deep breath and ran back up the slope toward the village.

The villagers were surprised to see him running back. Soon, a crowd had gathered around him.

“What’s wrong, Nanaki?”

“Hmmm—” he started. He could feel the black lump was no longer there.

“Don’t tell us you were already getting homesick,” someone jeered. The others laughed.

“… maybe.”

“Nanaki, pull yourself together! You’re supposed to be a brave warrior!”

“Yes, you’re right.”

For a while, Nanaki spoke with the poeple of the village, before saying his goodbyes once again and heading on his way. He could have taken a different route, but he conciously decided to take the same path. He wanted find out whether it was the place itself which had caused the sudden fear, but this time nothing happened.

* * *

“Gilligan”. That was the name Nanaki gave to the thing that had suddenly appeared in his heart and struck him with fear. The word ‘Gilligan’ had no deeper meaning, but by giving it a name, Nanaki would surely not forget it. Names helped him certain events. And so, Nanaki continued on his journey with Gilligan as an unwelcomed dark passenger in his heart. Sometimes when he remembered it, he tried to fathom it’s true face, but each time he was gripped with fear. As long as he was unable to keep it under control, he would rather just keep Gilligan out of his consciousness.

* * *

When Nanaki left Cosmo Canyon, he had a rough plan in mind. First, he would travel West, to the western continent, a narrow island which ran north to south, to visit Wutai, Yuffies hometown. After exploring there, his journey would take him back east. He would travel the vast continent, starting with Cid’s hometown Rocket Town, then onto Corel, Barret’s hometown, then Nibelheim, where Cloud and Tifa grew up. Then he would head north. He wanted to not only visit the villages, but also explore the remote, uninhabited areas. He had no idea how long all of this would take, but he wasn’t worried. The life expectancy of his race was between five hundred and a thousand years. And in that lifetime, which surpassed any human life many times over, he wanted to ensure that he left a lasting legacy to the world.

“But I must not behave recklessly. After all, I will be living on much longer than everyone else”

* * *

Nanaki was on his way to Wutai. If possible, he wanted to see Yuffie again. She was always playful, and treated him as if he was her pet, but Nanaki just accepted it as her way of being friendly, and learned to appreciate it.

“Yuffie is easy to understand”, thought Nanaki.

Even though she was surrounded by older companions, she had always tried to battle on par with them. Almost as if she wanted to show everyone that her age didn’t matter at all when they stood together on the battlefield. Nanaki could understood that completely. Perhaps her intellectual age was comparable to his? He was now almost fifty, and had always wondered why he only had the understanding of a sixteen year old. However, the intellectual development of his race anyway differed from that of humans, and at some point he had given up thinking about it.

As Nanaki approached Wutai, completely by chance, he spotted Yuffie in the distance. He really wanted to sneak up behind her and give her a fright, but somehow, as he watched her from a hill, he lost his nerve. She was walking backwards, dragging a boy her age by the ankles behind her, toward the town. How far had they traveled already? The boy’s body had certainly left a long trail in the grass. Nanaki couldn’t see whether the boy was alive or not, but he could see that Yuffie was trying to speak to him. A moment later, she suddenly stopped. At first he thought that she was taking a break, but far from it; instead, she lifted the boy up and tried to carry him on her shoulder. However, Yuffie was exhausted, and it looked like she was having some difficulty.

“Guess it can’t be helped,” Nanaki muttered to himself, and headed in their direction. He was always happy to help, especially when others aren’t expecting it. He quietly approached the completely unsuspecting Yuffie, walking softly, and out of nowhere asked,

“Would you like some help?”

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