Chapter Thirty-Four: For Love of a Parent
Nanaki ran into Cosmo Canyon, a mixture of happiness and sadness evident in his eyes. He was eager to see his grandfather again but also a bit apprehensive towards Yuffie. He wondered if their relationship would ever be the same since he had kissed her. The demi-human wasn’t even sure why he had done so either. It was just a moment and a feeling, then he was pressing his lips to hers.
He had always felt a connection with the ninja girl, and there was no doubt about that. However, it wasn’t until he obtained his human-like form that he started viewing her in a human sense. He noticed that she had wonderfully expressive eyes and shining, soft hair. He began to understand her cheerfulness and saucy attitude. When he had changed, he started to look at her in a whole new light.
As he walked up the stairs towards his home, he still pondered. What would she think of him now? Would she hate him, or worse, would she feel the same?
He wasn’t sure if he could handle that possibility. After all, it was not going to happen. She was Yuffie, princess of Wutai. He was simply Nanaki, demi-human… but wait a minute. Wasn’t he also a lord or something like that?
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Nanaki pushed open the door to his house. “Grandfather?”
“Here, in the observatory.”
Nanaki instantly headed for the ladder, climbing up to find his grandfather looking interested at a particular star in the sky.
“Why are you home, not that I mind?” Bugenhagen asked, greeting the demi-human with a smile.
“Cloud told gave us three days to find our reasons for fighting. Of course, I came here.”
The elderly man tilted his head to the side, a strange expression crossing his face. “Hmm, interesting,” he commented, an odd lilt to his tone before he turned back to the star.
“What are you looking at?” Nanaki questioned as he moved beside him. He, too, looked at the interesting star but couldn’t discern what was so special about it since the star had roughly the same characteristics as most others. Nor did he feel it emanating any particular power.
Bugenhagen hummed thoughtfully, a slightly singsong note to his voice. “Did you know that each person on this planet has their own representative star?” He chuckled, before adding, “Or that is what the Ancients believed.”
Nanaki shook his head. “You taught me once, but I am afraid that I had forgotten.”
Bugenhagen chuckled. “That is quite all right. This star here is called Akinan, and it is yours. It seems to have shifted out of alignment though.”
“Interesting,” Nanaki mused aloud.
“Very.” The old sage nodded. “Your life is changing, my child.” His voice took on a serious tone. “You are going to have to understand that. The world has become a new experience for you now that you see through different eyes.”
Golden eyes shifted away as his thoughts turned inwards. “I want to protect Cosmo Canyon, just like my father,” Nanaki mused aloud. “I think it is part of my reason, but I still feel… lost.” He hesitated, aggravated with his inability to find the appropriate words. “It is like there is something missing, something that I lack.”
A smile twitched at the corner of his grandfather’s mouth. “It is around that time in your life,” the elderly man stated with a smirk. “They grow up so fast,” he mused.
The demi-human blinked, confused by the seeming change in topic. “Heh?”
The old man shook his head. “Never mind.” He turned towards his grandchild. “I assume you wish to see your father once more?”
“How did you-”
He laughed, full and jovial. “It is my business to know such things. Come.” Bugenhagen floated past him and down the ladder.
The demi-human gave his grandfather a confused glance but followed after him. How did Bugenhagen seem to know everything?
It was as if the whole of Gaia whispered to him her secrets, as if they were best girlfriends or something.
Nanaki tilted his head to the side as that rather comical image appeared in his mind and had to bite back on his laughter. But the look of amusement didn’t leave his face.
Bugenhagen noticed and raised one aging brow, but Nanaki simply shook his head, gesturing for his grandfather to continue as they finally stood in front of the huge door. The old sage opened it with a sparkle of magic, and the two entered the cave, on the lookout for the monsters that might be brave enough to attack.
They made it through relatively unharmed. Nanaki slipped on the oil spill, not paying attention to where he was going. Yet, a well timed protect prevented him from becoming seriously injured.
He was too busy thinking to really pay heed to where he was placing his feet. He wondered about his reason for fighting. Hojo was dead, ShinRa was finished, but he personally had no grudge against Sephiroth. Well, other than the fact that the ex-general had once killed someone very dear to him, so perhaps he did have a grudge. Yet, was revenge enough?
And even wanting to save the planet brought to mind the question of why it was they who turned out to be the heroes.
Was it destiny or fate? Was all everyone doomed to live out their prescribed destinies? Did they even have a choice in their path? Was freedom a part of life?
Such questions haunted Nanaki as he walked.
He wondered why he had changed. Why was he a demi-human now? Why had he reverted to his lupine form earlier in the week? For what purpose had he become human-like?
He still had hopes of finding a female of his kind to revive his clan. Or perhaps his transformation was a sign that it was his destiny to be the last of his kind.
“Thinking darkly again?” Bugenhagen’s voice cut into his musings.
“Hm?” Nanaki looked up.
“Your face is pointed inwards and is shadowed. You are thinking unhappy thoughts, no?” his grandfather questioned.
The demi-human sighed. “Things are changing faster than I can adapt. There are so many questions, and I feel like someone is dangling the answers in front of me. Yet, I’m only grasping at straws.”
Which brought to mind Yuffie. Energetic, fearless, and friendly ninja that she was, Yuffie was also his best friend, and he had kissed her!
Inwardly, Nanaki groaned. He would be lucky if he had a friend when he returned. There were simply too many emotions, too many human problems for him to deal with. In his lupine form, he never had to worry about kissing the human females, but now, Nanaki couldn’t help the sigh that escaped him.
Bugenhagen looked over at his adopted grandson, trying to understand whether or not he could be of any help to the younger male. He seemed so torn with indecision. The wise sage was unhappy that he could not discover the purpose behind the amulet or why Nanaki kept transforming. Seto had never had such a thing happen to him. It was a perplexing mystery.
Despite having recognized the amulet from the pictures in his scrolls, none of them could provide an explanation for its use. He had discovered that it had been missing for some time, but the scrolls didn’t explain how it had gotten lost. And why on Gaia was it in the Temple of the Ancients?
These mysterious continued to perplex the old man, and he dearly wished he could be of more use to his only kin. Nanaki, as old as he may seem, still needed someone to guide him, especially now that he had to adapt to this sudden change in his form. He didn’t ever think it was going to be easy for his grandson, and it appeared that things were only going to become more complicated.
Before long, the two found themselves standing just outside Seto’s finally resting place. Bugenhagen gestured that Nanaki should go, not feeling that his presence was required.
Nanaki took a deep breath, grabbing the amulet as he went; recently, he had begun to take comfort in the cool metal. It filled him with inner peace. Although he didn’t know why, he accepted the mental tranquility.
The demi-human moved into the area and looked up at the forlorn figure of his father. He felt humbled being in the great lion-wolf’s presence, and he clutched the amulet tighter as he sat on the ground, legs tucked beneath him. He gazed up at the stoic form and began to talk quietly to the father he could not even remember.
“I know I do not look it, but it’s me father. It’s Nanaki. I cannot explain why I am in this form; I honestly don’t know. To be truthful, I am not even sure why I came. It is not like I am seeking guidance. I supposed, I just wanted someone to listen without offering comments.” The demi-human paused, taking a deep breath.
He really should have felt strange talking to someone who couldn’t hear, his voice echoing around the large emptiness. Instead, however, a strange measure of calm filled his heart. He didn’t feel foolish in the slightest.
“I am off to save the world. Just as you protected Cosmo Canyon from the enemy, I am going to protect the planet from Sephiroth and Meteor. Cloud told us that we all have to find a reason, something that will make us fight.” Nanaki stopped for a moment, hands clenching as he thought out his next words.
“I used to think I didn’t need a reason since I already had one in protecting my homeland and my planet. Yet, now I realize, I am not certain that is enough. It seems everyone has another purpose, and sometimes, I feel so… alone.”
He shifted where he sat, feeling numb from the cold stone beneath him. “Barret… he loves his daughter very much. Cloud has recently had Aeris returned to him, and he has his own personal vendetta, desire to become his own person without Sephiroth’s influence.” Nanaki tilted his head. “I won’t even begin to hypothesize about Cid and Vincent. I only hope that they realize what they have in each other. Reeve and Reno have made it clear that they are in love…” he trailed off, face shining with a sudden thought as a small smile broke out onto his face. “Isn’t it a wonderful emotion? Love?” Nanaki couldn’t help the sarcastic smile that broke out over his face. His golden eyes seemed to be tinged with sadness.
“I wouldn’t know, of course. It is not like there is someone out there waiting for me. I’m the last of my kind, and what human could love a beast? Certainly none that I know, and to make matters worse, I have probably estranged my best friend. I can’t believe that I kissed her. Why would I do that?” Nanaki sighed as he shook his head.
“Love would be something worth fighting for. I may not have someone waiting for me here, but perhaps there is someone out there that can love me. That hope could be enough of a reason, meeting my mate one day, feeling complete.”
“Indeed. It is one of the most powerful emotions of the human soul,” Bugenhagen said softly, stepping out of the shadows.
Nanaki jumped. He swiveled his head to face the old man.
“I didn’t realize you were there.”
“You haven’t realized it yet,” Bugenhagen continued, coming to hover next his grandchild. “But you are becoming more and more ‘human’ every day. I think the phrase ‘love is blind’ is accurate in this case.”
The demi-human rose to his feet. “Perhaps,” he responded enigmatically, shaking a few stray rocks from his clothes. His eyes shifted to his father, standing stoic, proud, and encased in stone.
“He would be proud of you,” Bugenhagen said quietly.
The old sage nodded.
Nanaki sighed, his golden gaze on his grandfather as a slight smile to slipped onto his face. “I will honor him by defending Cosmo Canyon and learning to love as well.”
“Sounds like a good enough reason to me.” Bugenhagen beamed. He started floating towards the exit, Nanaki turning to follow him. “How long did you say you had again?”
“Approximately three days.”
The elderly human chuckled. “I suppose I can fit a lesson in then. No need to waste your trip here.”
Nanaki groaned, his exuberance at having a vacation wilting. “Grandfather,” the demi-human protested. “Shouldn’t I be enjoying myself or something rather than learning?”
Bugenhagen laughed as they made their way back through the Gi Nattak caverns. “Nonsense. I have some good War Tactics textbooks that would be quite useful and educative, I think.”
Nanaki grumbled, “That is not fair.”
“Ho ho ho.” The old sage smirked as he reached out and laid a hand on his grandson’s head. “Who said life was?”
Yuffie exited the airship rather quickly, almost too quickly. It wasn’t her fault that Cloud was missing his materia. Why would she want his old, crummy Bolt anyways? It wasn’t even Level 3, yet!
The ninja stuck her tongue out at a crewmember and walked off in the direction of Wutai. After all, she had a reason to fight to find, right?
The ninja still didn’t quite understand why she had joined the group in the first place, but then, they did have the best materia selection around. The strongest, fastest, most powerful materia in all Gaia had been collected and distributed among their group. And hadn’t Cloud promised she could have it all, well… some of it, at the very end?
It would be a great help for Wutai, that’s for sure.
Yuffie swiftly made her way into town, heading for the pagoda where she knew her father would be. She had easy access ever since she beat the hell out of everyone the first time they all came to Wutai, and that was also when that nasty Don Corneo put his dirty, fat hands on her, too.
She shuddered involuntarily at the thought.
Disgusting, fat bastard had nearly drooled all over her, and the last thing she had wanted was to do anything with him.
Then, the memory hit her like a ton of bricks.
A pair of soft, warm lips pressed against hers in the cargo bay of the airship. Nanaki, the demi-human had kissed her… and then ran away as if scared. Sure, she was terrifying, but it was just a kiss, and a nice one at that, too. She put her hand to her lips, recalling it again, and giggled girlishly. The ninja could feel her cheeks burning in embarrassment as she remembered the incident.
“Yuffie!” She heard her father yell her name and jumped about five feet in the air, lost to her daydreaming.
A hard and heavy weight struck her in the side, and she crumpled to the ground with an oof! Acting instinctively, the girl kicked up and out, connecting with something solid. The weight shifted off of her, and she scrambled away to get a better grasp on the situation, already reaching for her shuriken. Her eyes scanned the area looking for her attacker.
There was no one around.
She heard the crunching of gravel behind her and knew without a doubt, the enemy’s position. She got to her feet slowly, pretending she didn’t know she was being stalked. The girl put her hands on her hips as she heard the crunch of stone again and a whoosh of air. Grinning evilly, she ducked, and her assailant went sailing over her. Yuffie whipped out her shuriken and slashed at the blur, managing to cut into fabric.
The attacker hit the ground but sprang to his feet almost instantly. Yuffie recognized him just as quickly, and an even slyer smile broke out on her face. They always greeted each other like this.
Suddenly, a great cloud of grey smoke arose around him, and he disappeared from her eyes.
Laughter echoed through the air.
The ninja swung her head around trying to locate him, finally spotting Godo standing near the huge, golden gong.
“Old man!” she called cheerfully as she bounded up to meet him, their fight ending in a stalemate. “You’re getting slower.”
His forehead pinched. “Why are you here, daydreaming off into space and not out getting their materia?” Godo demanded.
There was a smile on his face, however. He was glad to see his daughter but couldn’t resist scolding her.
“Spiky wants us to ‘find a reason’,” the little ninja answered, imitating Cloud.
Father and daughter broke into laughter. There was something about her blond leader that was always amusing. Godo even managed to imitate Cloud’s look of confusion perfectly.
When the laughter died, his stern and piercing gaze turned to his daughter. “Why were you so distracted, my child?” her father asked, changing the subject.
Yuffie’s cheeks instantly reddened as the memory hit her again, but there was no way she was going to explain to her father now. “I… I was remembering how much materia my friends have.”
Godo clapped her on the back. “That’s my girl.” He started to lead her to the temple, hearing her stomach growl almost immediately. “Let’s get something to eat, and you can tell me what your ‘leader’ has ordered.”
The little ninja nodded. “Can we have boiled octopus?”
Her father couldn’t help but laugh at her. “I don’t know how you eat that slimy and disgusting stuff.”
“It’s good,” she insisted, but Yuffie knew there was no convincing her father. It seemed she was the only one who enjoyed the delicacy, especially slathered with her favorite sauce.
They entered the temple and went straight to the dining room where the servants rushed to get them some food.
“Bring us some rice and fish, and of course, Yuffie wants boiled octopus,” Godo ordered, sitting down comfortably at the low table with thick pillows for seats.
Yuffie sighed in contentment. “Ah,” the dark-haired girl began, smiling broadly. “I haven’t had it in so long,” she sang, clearly pleased for her brief visit back home. Although she loved being able to travel around the world, there were times she missed being in Wutai.
Godo shook his head in disbelief. Boiled octopus was not exactly his idea of a treat.
“What is it that Cloud said that made you come home empty-handed?” he asked, settling down comfortably against the floor.
Yuffie shrugged. “He started spouting some psychological nonsense about us finding our true selves and a purpose for fighting. We have to return in three days, or he will fight Sephiroth without us. I figured I’d just hang out here until I have to go back.”
Her father considered her words, thought lines wrinkling his brow. “Well, do you?”
Yuffie looked up, startled as she fiddled with the cloth napkin on the table in front of her. “What?”
He regarded her with an intent expression, patiently repeating himself. After all, Yuffie was still young.
“Do you have a reason?”
“I-I suppose so,” the girl answered thoughtfully. Then again, now that he mentioned it… “Or maybe not.” She frowned, slouching down in her seat.
Godo gazed at her, an unreadable expression on his face. “You know, you are my daughter, Yuffie. I am proud of you, and I do I love you.”
“I’m not going to run!” she declared, looking up sharply as her brown eyes flashed with anger.
Her father chuckled, encouraged by the determination he saw. “I didn’t say that you would,” he pointed out, ignoring the servants as they set the table. “I merely meant to say that I understand. You shouldn’t fight for me or even Wutai but for yourself. Otherwise, your strength will be diminished.” He picked up his chopsticks, the smell of the food wafting his direction. “What was the first lesson you were taught?”
Yuffie sighed, slumping even further as she recited a phrase that she had been forced to rehearse over and over again when she was younger, “Fight with your heart.”
Her father nodded. “Exactly.”
She pouted. “I still don’t see how that has anything to do with it.” Her gaze shifted to the food, and her stomach grumbled hungrily and loudly, much to the amusement of her father.
Godo didn’t respond, merely watching her actions with a thoughtful gaze. He served himself the white rice and boiled meats, the servants having disappeared at a wave of his hand. Yuffie took it upon herself to pile her plate with the boiled octopus, laying it atop a bed of rice and then covering it all with a hefty portion of her favorite orange sauce. Godo tried not to look at the concoction, lest he find himself losing his own hunger.
The young ninja disappeared into her mind as she ate, enjoying the silence that was given to her. At first, she had only been traveling with Cloud and his friends for their materia, but then, she had become very good friends with Nanaki. After all, they were the youngest of the entire group and he was one of the few people willing to put up with her.
Actually, she didn’t think “person'” was really the right word to describe him, and frankly, her vocabulary didn’t quite cover it. Still, it wasn’t that she minded his new form per se, not in the slightest. In fact, if she considered it, he was now quite attractive. She even found the tail to be… cute.
Again, Yuffie couldn’t help the blush that broke across her cheeks. Why was it that every time she thought about the fire-wolf turned demi-human she couldn’t control her embarrassment? He was a great friend, but when had she started thinking of him as something more?
Besides, getting materia for Wutai wasn’t enough of a reason to fight either. In fact, it was rather selfish of her to think in only those terms, to go into a deadly battle with only materia on the brain. Her father was right; it would be the death of her. So what else could she fight for? What else did she have to protect? What reason could she have?
Her brain nearly hurt with all these repetitive questions, and she scowled before she even realized what she was doing. Her hand paused halfway to her mouth, an octopus bite dangling from her chopsticks.
“Yuffie?” Her father’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
He looked at her, eyes very soft. They shared the same eye color, Godo and Yuffie. It was in her facial features, the turn of her nose, the shape of her face, where Godo truly saw her mother. Oftentimes, just looking at her, reminded the Wutaiian Lord of his dear Mihari. It was both a blessing and a curse.
“I think that you should go see your mother.”
Her brow crinkled, heart leaping in her chest, as it did every time her mother was mentioned. “Mom?” Yuffie repeated quizzically, putting down her chopsticks. “Why?”
Godo stood up from the table, food forgotten. “I think it will help. It is far time that you learned what truly happened in the war.”
Yuffie blinked. “What… truly happened?”
Her father inclined his head. “Yes.”
She glanced at him in confusion as she laid down her own utensils and stood. She hadn’t even been aware that what she had been told wasn’t the truth, and as she followed after Godo, heading towards where the burial grounds for her family were located, Yuffie couldn’t help but wonder what everyone had been hiding from her. Discussing her mother had always been a sketchy topic around the Kisaragi household since the loss of Mihari had been a heavy blow to the entire country. She had been well loved by the people, admired for her strength.
Godo didn’t speak as they wove their way through the many markers until they reached the Kisaragi family crypt. He unlocked the entrance, and the two stepped into the cool confines of the memorial room, far door leading into the deeper recesses of the crypt. The air was thick with the smell of aged incense and the mustiness always associated with graves.
Wordlessly, they knelt before the altar in tandem. Yuffie reached forward as her father bent his head, hands clasped in front of him, and lit a candle for her mother. She watched as the smoke spiraled up to the ceiling before closing her eyes, allowing a silent prayer to fall from her lips.
When she was younger, she had believed wholeheartedly that her mother still remained on Gaia. She had hung around the crypt, waiting for Mihari’s spirit to appear, oftentimes just speaking to thin air. She had told her mother of her day and all that she had learned. She had detailed her training, and sometimes, she even cried. Although she couldn’t remember too many clear details of her mother, she still regretted the lost chances.
There were many things that her mother would never get to see her do.
As she grew older, she gradually visited less and less until she wasn’t visiting at all. It might have had something to do with the temple priests informing her that her mother was not a spirit and wasn’t going to speak to her. They told her that her mother was in Dao-Chao’s care, that it was time for her to move on. Mihari would have wanted it.
Yuffie blinked in the dimness, memories creeping up on her surprisingly fast. There was a lot she had forgotten, and instantly, she felt guilty for not having been to see her mother in so long.
Silence filled the crypt, the sweet, smoky incense curling around them in grey tendrils, but finally, Godo spoke, disturbing the girl from her reverie.
“Mihari loved you from the moment you were born,” he began quietly, a note of pride and melancholy in his tone. “She considered you a heavenly spirit sent by Leviathan-sama. She would be proud of you, if she could see you now.”
Yuffie sniffed softly, fighting back unnecessary tears that threatened to crop up. “I don’t remember her very much, almost not at all,” she admitted.
Godo sighed, sitting back on his heels as he laid his hands in his lap. “She was one of the greatest ninjas this country had seen in a long time, and when war arrived, she was one of the first to go into battle. I couldn’t convince her not to fight.” Godo smiled as he looked over at his daughter. “You remind me of her in that aspect. Never one to stand down from a fight, even if you know you should.”
Yuffie returned his smile, encouraged by his words. She had known that much about her mother. Everyone knew that Mihari had died in the war against ShinRa, but the details of her death had been unclear, especially to Yuffie herself.
Her father’s gaze remained locked on the altar, staring at the words etched into the headstone. “We almost thought that Wutai was going to win the war. However, the enemy’s general, he was… beyond strong. Nothing could bring him down.” He paused, hands curling into fists. “I should have done something. I planned to do something, but Mihari took it upon herself to destroy him. She didn’t want to see anymore of her people throwing their lives away.”
Godo hesitated for a moment, taking a deep breath as he tried to calm down. Still, all these years later, her loss pained him. He loved his daughter dearly, but there were times that the loneliness was overwhelming. Never once did he think of loving another either. In his heart, there was only room for Mihari and his daughter.
Yuffie shifted closer to her father and took his hand in her own, offering him comfort. Her fingers curled around his as she, too, stared at the headstone, her mother’s name etching itself firmly into her mind.
Her father sucked in a shuddering breath but still managed to maintain that calm and control he had adapted as Lord of Wutai. “We are not certain how exactly she died, but it is almost certain she was defeated by their general. A man with long, silver hair dressed in black leather.” He paused, turning his head slightly. “You know him as Sephiroth.”
Yuffie stiffened almost immediately at the name. Her mother, the woman who never got to watch her grow up, would never see her become a lady… if that day ever came, would never get to see her get married, had been stolen from her by Sephiroth!
Anger burned, bright and quick inside of her, igniting a hatred that she didn’t even know she could bear.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously, responding in a low and even tone. “I will kill him.”
Surprised by the murderous sound to his daughter’s voice, Godo looked over at her. “Yuffie, I didn’t mean that you should immediately seek revenge-”
She shook her head violently, rising to her feet as her hands clenched at her sides. “He is killing my planet and trying to destroy my home. He killed my mother. Sephiroth deserves nothing less than death.”
Godo stood up, grabbing his daughter by her shoulders and looking her deep in the eyes. “Mihari would not have wanted you to fight only for revenge. She would have wanted you to live happily, to love. She died with no regrets.” He shook his head. “It was a war, Yuffie. An actual war… not this pittance of battles you have been in. Mihari was on one side and Sephiroth the other. She killed just as many of the ShinRa as he did our own people. Besides, we don’t even know for certain it was him. It could have been a random soldier, for all I know; that wasn’t the point I was trying to make.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Yuffie interrupted before abruptly looking away, the fire dying behind her eyes. “If Sephiroth isn’t destroyed, I won’t even have the chance to live. Meteor’s gonna fall in six days. I won’t even see my seventeenth birthday.”
“I’m not saying that you shouldn’t fight,” insisted Godo. “I am merely saying that you should have something stronger than vengeance, something more like the future you won’t have if he wins. Your mother always fought with her heart, wanting to protect those she loved.”
She blinked away more tears, which threatened to overcome her. It was so rare that she saw this side to her father, and the pain in his voice was enough to make her reconsider her words.
“Then, I will fight,” she declared. “For mother and for the future she wanted me to have,” Yuffie vowed. Her eyes gleamed as she looked at her father. “Only, I have to be stronger, even more than I am now.”
Godo nodded. “I think I know just the way. Come.” He patted her on the shoulder and turned away from the altar heading out of the crypt.
Casting a thankful glance towards where her mother was enshrined, Yuffie hurried to follow after her father. She threw a silent prayer over her shoulder, thanking Mihari for everything and nothing. She even promised to return again, to not forget her old habits, even if they had only been filled with a childish hope for something that couldn’t be.
She would defeat Sephiroth. In her heart, she vowed to protect Wutai and her dreams for the future, even if they were yet undefined. She was still young; she still had a chance.
Her eyes blazing with determination, Yuffie hurried after her father.