On The Way To A Smile
Case of Yuffie
The Forgotten City. At a small lake where Aerith had lost her life and saw everyone off, Yuffie and the others had returned once again to let her know that the fight against Sephiroth was over. They all stood silently around the lake’s altar. None of them spoke but each of them were speaking to Aerith with their own words.
It was Vincent’s low voice. By the time Yuffie turned round to face him, his red mantle was already flailing behind him. What was with him, thought Yuffie. Is that the way he was going to part with us?
“Hold it- Hooold it!!”
She cried out hurrying after him.
“How can you part with us just like that? We’re all war buddies you know.”
Her protesting didn’t stop him. She ran ahead and the two of them stood face to face. He looked as if he was staring at a point far into the distance. Yuffie didn’t know what he was thinking or what was going through his mind but his gaze was very powerful. She stepped back immediately knowing that she couldn’t stop him.
“Take care,” Vincent said as he passed her. Yuffie never expected such words from him and let go of what just happened as she felt his heart for the first time.
Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Cid and Red XIII were watching them.
“Looks like he has somewhere to go,” reported Yuffie as she returned to her comrades.
“To his woman probably. Time I got going too,” said Cid.
“Yeah, you’re right. Same for me,” agreed Barret.
Everyone has someone they want to go see, thought Yuffie. She understood but couldn’t hold her feelings in.
“You know… You guys sure are taking this lightly.”
“It just means we know we can always meet again,” said Cid as he started to walk off. Cloud and Tifa nodded. Even Red XIII agreed too. Red XIII’s just forcing himself along, thought Yuffie.
As she began to feel the same way they did, she accepted what was about to happen.
Cloud and Tifa began to walk off. Yeah. Once we leave this place, it really is goodbye for us all, thought Yuffie. But that’s fine. I’ll enjoy our parting with all the energy I have.
Barret suddenly raised his voice. Man, this parting’s ruined. That’s why I don’t like the old man. She looked over at him and saw him removing the materia from his prosthetic arm, handing it over to Cloud.
“What do we do with this?”
Realizing she had forgotten something very important, Yuffie raised her voice. She had almost forgotten the whole purpose of her journey.
“Can I have all the- No, I mean can I just have half of all the materia? I’ll bring them back to Wutai with me and keep them in safe custody. Well, I’ll use them too maybe. Just a little.”
The eyes of all her comrades gathered on her. She loved to be the center of attention but this time she felt a little guilty. She continued to speak in an effort to hide that guiltiness.
“I was in the middle of hunting for materia you know. I got close to you all because I was following my instincts as a materia hunter. The materia you all had was just too tempting.”
Shinra’s research, technology and knowledge of the planet’s life allowed them to bestow “powers” into the materia Cloud and his party possessed that wasn’t possible to produce naturally.
“To be honest with you all, I didn’t really know what you were all after or know much about your past. Even now, I think it’s the same. But I fought with you all didn’t I? And it wasn’t because of the materia. I just wanted to be of use, even if I wasn’t much. We’re friends now. Come on, think about it. How many times have I saved you all from pinches?”
After she finished, Yuffie thought, Damn. There’s no truth to that part.
“Yeah, you helped us many times,” said Tifa.
Yuffie was confused.
“You’re an ideal child, so cheery and strong.”
Yuffie was surprised and waited for Tifa to continue. But Tifa just smiled and stayed silent.
“Are you serious?” Yuffie asked without thinking.
“Mmhmm,” nodded Tifa immediately.
Yuffie thought about what she just heard as she blushed. She was surprised that she just might be getting the materia with no objections.
“What do you think, Barret?”
Cloud had suddenly turned round to ask him. Why the hell are you asking Barret for? Yuffie thought but remained silent.
“Hmmmm—” mused Barret. “It’s true that Yuffie’s a good friend of ours. But it’s a whole different matter when it comes to materia, isn’t it?”
“No it isn’t! It’s the same. The same! I know it may be all over now that we’ve defeated Sephiroth but, I have a great dream and that’s to restore Wutai. To do that, having materia is crucial.”
This time it was Cid who piped in. Shut up old man! Yuffie glared at him.
“If that’s what you need it for, isn’t Midgar much worse off?”
After agreeing with Cid, Cloud fell in thought.
“Hey, Yuffie. How about this? We’ll give you all the materia.”
“But I keep it in safe custody.”
“Er— Are you trying to trick a child here!”
Thinking she was being made a fool, she stood up tall in protest.
“You got it all wrong. Most of our materia are used for battle right? It really won’t be of much use for Wutai. So we’ll just share the ones that will be of use in healing and I’ll keep the rest. I think I’m the one that’s the most experienced when it comes to dangerous materia.”
“It’s true we don’t need any equipment for battles any more but—”
“Even if we can’t use them, we’ll feel much more at ease with them won’t we?”
“Then lets do this. You return to Wutai but if you feel uneasy without materia then contact me. We’ll think about it again then.”
Cloud was speaking in a gentle tone but in the end, his decision to keep the materia was clear to Yuffie. And just as he said, even if Wutai had a lot of materia with immeasurable destructive power, they may not be of much use. Times have changed. Even Yuffie understood that.
“Fine. You be sure to take good care of my materia.”
* * *
“And so, now I’m the one with the most materia in the world. What do you think of that?”
Yuffie was on her way back to her hometown of Wutai and had been talking to the chocobo she was riding the whole time.
“Do you think I should buy some new clothes somewhere? These clothes got all worn during that long journey.”
Yuffie thought about the people of Wutai who she expected will be welcoming her home. She was sure they already knew the planet managed to avoid the catastrophic Meteor because of them. That’s why they will surely gather together to hear her stories.
“Oh wait. These worn clothes will help show how much hardship I’ve been through. Yes, this is what I’ll do. I’ll keep these clothes as they are. But more importantly, I better prepare my stories!”
However, Yuffie realized that she didn’t know how a lot of the important things had happened and in what order just before the world was close to its end.
“This isn’t good—”
What had everyone been thinking? What happened as a result of their thinking? There was a lot of things Yuffie, who only joined them some point during their journey, didn’t know.
“I wish I asked them about it— But whatever. I’ll just have to improvise. The former SOLDIER Sephiroth that the evil Shinra Company created was thinking of great evil deeds. As Cloud and his friends fought Shinra Company, they pursued Sephiroth. When Sephiroth was cornered, he tried to use the Black Materia to summon a small meteor to crash into the planet. We risked our lives and stopped him. Yes, perfect. Easy for them to understand.”
What Yuffie didn’t know was that a lot of the details she didn’t know about had already reached Wutai. With the exception that she was involved.
* * *
Wutai was in sight. Yuffie had returned to visit a number of times during her journey but the feeling was different after finishing something. She stopped the chocobo and gazed at her home in the distance.
“Huh? Why am I…?”
Yuffie didn’t understand why she was wiping away tears.
It was early morning. After releasing her chocobo, she ran down the familiar paths without looking up. She ran at full speed towards the house where she expected her father Godo to be. She didn’t want anyone in town to know she was back yet. Even though she had decided she wanted to keep her worn clothes on, she wanted to give her face a wash at least.
Godo was standing by the door, hammering at a post.
“What are you doing?”
Godoh turned round when he heard Yuffie’s voice.
“I’m back. It’s all over.”
Godo nodded with dignity—
“I’m glad you’re back safe, Yuffie. But listen my daugther, the town is in much trouble. Help me. Wutai is in need of assistance from young people like you.”
He lifted up a bag full of tools onto his back and started to walk towards the center of town.
Yuffie hastily followed. Her father seemed to be in a hurry and was walking briskly along.
“You’ve heard of what I’ve been involved in right? What happened to the welcoming party? Where is everyone?”
As Yuffie protested, she briefly talked about how she and her friends summoned the Lifestream and saved the planet. Godo stopped and turned round, looking at her with a dubious face.
“I know nothing about what you’ve done. What I know is that the world got dragged into a mess that the foolish Shinra and crazy SOLDIERs caused. In the end, the universe’s will was to end that dispute and it summoned Meteor but, our planet defended itself by releasing the Lifestream and destroyed it—That is the way I understand it.”
Godo spoke with a serious face.
“The universe’s will? Who came up with that stupid story?”
“That is my interpretation. Perhaps the truth is different but, what I know is enough. And Yuffie. Don’t go about saying you were involved. The effects of the Lifestream is vast. Even though people understand it saved the planet, there is still some who are unhappy at what has happened.”
Yuffie raised her fist, punching the air in protest.
“What’s happened to the town—”
Yuffie looked around her as she talked, displeased with what she was hearing. She had never noticed it when she arrived but, many of the buildings were damaged. Amongst them was the ancient red roofed training hall which now had a large hole in its wall. She could see many of the tiles from the roof had fallen down too—
“The Lifestream passed through here. It was a horrifying night when the buildings shook. Perhaps it’s nothing compared to the victims in Midgar but, there are many old buildings here. You might not see much damage outside the structures but the posts and beams are probably broken. I won’t be surprised if the buildings collapse some day. That’s why I’m using this hammer to—What’s wrong, Yuffie?”
Yuffie gazed at the people who were gathering around her and repairing the buildings. Many of them were bandaged.
“Is everyone alright? Anyone badly wounded?”
“There’s quite a number of people wounded. But not many of them are that severe.”
“So they’re few in number.”
“You’re right—But what can you do about it? Now come help me fix the buildings.”
Godo took out a new hammer out of the toolbox and handed it to Yuffie.
“I don’t mind. This will help, right?”
Yuffie took out her healing materia and showed it to her father.
“Ah—” Godo looked at Yuffie warily. “Do you have any more?”
“No. There were a few more of this type of this materia. I was really planning to bring more back but you know, the attack type would be too dangerous, wouldn’t it?”
“That is good. A wise decision.”
Godo walked over to the red roofed training hall and began to examine its condition.
“It looks like we can fix this easily.”
He then called out around him.
“Hey, give me some help everyone! We’ll turn this place into a hospital.”
* * *
Yuffie was sure her life as a materia hunter was at an end and was going to start a new page as the magnificent “Doctor Yuffie”. Everyone that came to the hospital thanked Yuffie. She still wanted to tell someone about what happened during her journey but, faced with those who were injured by the Lifestream, the idea never came to mind.
Some of the people possessed wounds that even the materia Yuffie had couldn’t heal but, she was sure they would heal gradually if cared for well. The problem was Yuffie herself didn’t have the mental power. Materia was the crystallization of the Lifestream. To withdraw the power from the stabilized crystal, some form of shock is required and this is triggered by the mind waves of the user. As a result of that, the materia user’s mind is significantly weakened.
The exhaustion was difficult to bear and assaulted by drowsiness, Yuffie stored away her “Dr. Yuffie” sign by evening, immediately curling up in her futon and was going to sleep.
Tomorrow I’ll take a break from healing for the day and go somewhere to find a supply of ethers or something similar, thought Yuffie. Wait. I wonder… did Cloud and everyone else stop traveling after they used up all their ethers?
* * *
Someone was banging on the wall.
Yuffie cried out and jumped up from her futon. Was there an emergency?
No, something’s weird. It sounds like— Yes. It sounds like someone’s banging on a nail.
“This should do it. This should keep Yuffie locked in, ” she heard her father say.
Yuffie rushed over to the door. She tried to open it but it wouldn’t budge.
“Hey dad! What did you do!? I can’t open the door!”
“Ask your conscience. How can you try to hide something so important? Stay in there and reflect on what you’ve done!”
Yuffie thought there was nothing she had to reflect on at all. She tried putting her hand to her chest but besides letting her know she was alive, it told her nothing else.
But there was no one there to answer her any more.
“Is anyone there?”
Her voice sounded so helpless that even she was surprised at herself. And what surprised her more was that her drowsiness still wasn’t going to let her off even in this situation.
“Stupid dad. After I get some sleep I’ll— I’ll get you.”
It sounded like someone kicked the wall. Yuffie woke up. It felt like she’s been sleeping for several hours.
“What is it now—”
“You stupid Yuffie!”
It was the sound of a girl’s voice who was around the same age as she was. It was an unfamiliar voice. It annoyed her even more that a stranger was calling her stupid.
“Why am I stupid!”
“It’s your fault Yuri’s mother is ill!”
“Ill? What are you talking about? What does that have to do with me?”
“You brought it here with you from Midgar, didn’t you!!”
But there was no answer. Instead, she heard the muttering of adults. They’re probably telling her not to talk to me, thought Yuffie.
There would be some noise from the wall now and then. It sounded like someone was throwing stones at the training hall. The training hall was an important structure. When Yuffie thought about how the people hated her so much that they didn’t care about damaging such an important building, her heart ached.
“What did I do.”
Yuffie repeated those words to herself many times until the morning light seeped in through the gaps in the wall.
“Yuffie? Yuffie, are you alive?”
What kind of question is that? thought Yuffie. But she noticed how worried the voice sounded and got closer to the wall.
“Who are you?”
“It’s me. Yuri. You don’t remember me? We used to play together a lot when we were children.”
She heard the unfamiliar voice again. Even if she remembered what her childhood friend looked like, she couldn’t see him. But she could remember his name. It was Yuffie’s fault his mother had fallen ill— It was that Yuri.
“How is your mother? She’s ill, isn’t she? It’s not my fault though.”
“My mum? Yes, it’s true she’s ill. It’s an illness we don’t know about. There’s some black pus that won’t stop coming out from her ears. It seems she’s in pain too. It hurts just to look at her.”
“I see—Must be terrible.”
Yuffie said to him as she imagined how horrible the symptoms must be, hanging her head.
“Yeah. But I don’t think it’s your fault, Yuffie.”
She looked up without thinking.
“Wait there. I’ll get you out.”
Eeeeeek. Eeeeek. The sound of pins being pulled away could be heard.
Soon, the door opened and Yuri appeared.
He had a beautiful nose. His hair was tied up in a pony tail behind him. But Yuffie didn’t recognise him.
“It’s been so long, Yuri!”
“Of course I did.”
Her heart was aching but she was unaware of the current situation so it was best to play along.
“This is bad. Mr. Godo and the others are coming. Lets run for it.”
Yuffie grabbed Yuri’s inviting hand without knowing why. They both ran out of the training hall immediately, holding hands.
“Yuffie! Yuffie! Wait! Hey Yuri! You’re going to spread the disease!”
The two of them ran for the village’s gate as Yuffie heard her father’s voice behind her. She was very angry.
They ran, hands still holding. It seemed no one was pursuing them any more. Yuri suddenly stopped and Yuffie bumped into him from behind.
Yuri turned to a path on the left and began running. It was then Yuffie understood why he stopped. A monster was eyeing them making hostile sounds. It was the kind that were just known as “small fries” to veteran fighters. As long as one took care to avoid their poison, they would hardly be of much bother. Yuffie pulled her hand away from Yuri’s and stood ready for battle. She didn’t have a weapon but she’ll manage somehow with these kind of monsters.
“Yuffie, it’s got poison.”
Yes, remembered Yuffie. This happened before too long ago. Yes. I played together with Yuri a lot. It happened when we were playing near the Da Chao Statue. A small furry insect-like monster jumped at us and when Yuri recognised its features, he ran off. I was left behind and after being stung by the monster, I slept for three days.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got materia.”
The monster leapt from the ground at Yuffie with a swoosh. Just as she was about to knock it down to the ground, a small knife flew through the air and pierced the monster. It fell to the ground and died after some convulsion.
Yuffie watched Yuri. He collected the knife from the monster and concealed it within the palm of his left hand. She knew that he was fully prepared for their journey ahead at least.
“I’m not the weakling you knew from long ago.”
“Then you should have fought it earlier.”
“If something happened to me, mother would be left all alone. Come on, lets go.”
“Where are we going? Are you sure it’s alright to leave your mother behind?”
“It’s just for a while.”
Yuri took out a medium sized Shuriken from the leather bag on his back. In comparison to the giant version Yuffie was accustomed to, It might not be very stable but, it was a traditional Wutai weapon that she’s been familiar with since she was a child.
Yuffie threw it immediately. The Shuriken flew into the air, drawing a huge arc before returning.
She caught it like an experienced user.
“Just what I expected of you.”
Yes. It was expected. This is how I fought and saved the planet. I summoned the planet. Really—
“I was looking forward to a treat from everyone.”
“I’ll treat you to something next time. At Turtle Paradise.”
“That’s not a treat.”
Yuffie and Yuri sat together on some high ground where the wavering lights of Wutai could be seen far off in the distance. Yuffie was thinking about how and what she should ask Yuri while he was scouting for any pursuers. The two of them were quiet for a moment.
Yuri asked her as he continued scouting around him.
“It was in a mess. The Lifestream came through there, then right next to it Meteor came crashing and not long before that there were explosions— And then there were lots of fighting too. But I haven’t been walking around that area for long so—”
Yes. Just like everything else. I don’t really know about it much.
“What about the disease?”
“Well about that—What was with them? I know nothing about the disease. I don’t even know why they locked me in.”
“Mr. Godo didn’t tell you anything?”
“Yeah. He probably didn’t tell me anything because he thinks I’m still just a kid and wouldn’t understand.”
“I see. But I think you’re wrong. I think Mr. Godo just didn’t know what he should say to you. I too didn’t know what I should have said to my mother.”
Yuri tried to explain.
“It looks like a terrible disease.”
“Yeah. According to what I heard from Midgar, the infected usually die.”
Without any sympathy towards Yuri, Yuffie asked.
“Why is it my fault?”
“Yesterday we received information that a terrible disease was rampant in Midgar. Then they learned my mother and a number of others caught it too. It other words, it meant you must have brought the disease with you from Midgar. You’re the only one that returned from there lately.”
Yuri looked at Yuffie apologetically but she didn’t notice.
“Wait a minute! It’s true I came back from Midgar. But why is it my fault? I never went to see your mother and I don’t know any of the other people either! And I’m not even ill!”
Yuffie stood up in protest without thinking. Her fighting spirit was burning up from the inside.
“Rats carry diseases but they’re not ill themselves.”
“Oh, it’s just something the adults said. Besides, my mother and the rest of the patients were wounded and they all received treatment from you. In the training hall, you know.”
“It’s all false accusations!”
“After that, the disease spread.”
“I have nothing to do with it!”
Yuffie grabbed Yuri without thinking. She knew he hasn’t done anything wrong but she just couldn’t hold back.
“We’ll clear your name. ”
Yuri calmly said. Yuffie eased off.
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do! There must be someone else who came back from Midgar. We’ll find and expose them! I’ll show those people suspecting me like this! Who do they think I am!”
Yuffie shouted out all around her.
“You haven’t changed. Me, me, me.”
“What do you mean.”
“Why can’t you think about finding a cure instead of looking for the culprit? Lets go look for one. Together.”
That maybe true. But Yuffie was dissatisfied with the idea...
“If you heal them, the people will change their view about you. They won’t be suspicious of you any more and will be grateful.”
Yuffie thought about it. What Yuri said was right. It would be for everyone’s sake. But will she be content?
“Yuffie? My mother doesn’t have much time left. I want you to help me.”
Yes. I’ll have plenty of time to find the culprit afterwards.
* * *
Having escaped from Wutai, the two of them headed south to the place known as the Materia Caves. The area was where the Shinra Company had once planned to set up a Mako Reactor and it was what triggered the battle. Mako Reactor Construction Area. To put it simply, you could say it was a fertile land filled with the Lifestream. Long ago, it was a place that you could only be reached by chocobos that were raised and obtained special powers. However, after the Lifestream burst onto the surface, the geography has changed and you could now get close by foot.
The reason why Yuri wanted Yuffie’s help wasn’t just because she had been around to witness the change. It was also because he had a glimpse of how abnormally attached to materia she was since she was young.
“There should be materia that can heal the Midgar disease too, right?” said Yuri. “Midgar disease” was the name he gave to the illness his mother had.
“I’ve never heard about any, though.”
“I see—Isn’t there anyone that might know?”
Yuri asked as he took out his latest mobile phone. Yuffie had an idea.
“Wait a minute.”
Yuffie took out the PHS she had been using for her entire journey and put it to her ear. There was no answer. She had no choice and double checked the number saved inside the memory. Then she took Yuri’s phone and entered it. Someone picked up not long afterwards.
“Hello? Tifa? It’s Yuffie.”
Afterwards, Tifa could be heard asking Cloud whether any materia that could heal the Midgar disease existed but he didn’t know if there was any. They only knew how horrifying the disease was. Even in Midgar they had yet to find an effective cure. Quite a large number of people have died because of it and people were afraid. First the Meteor and now this disease.
“They don’t know.”
“I see—Any other cures?”
“—Look, there’s a cave. It wasn’t there before. Lets go look for some materia!”
Yuffie returned Yuri’s mobile without looking at him and ran towards the hole that was probably created when the Lifestream burst out.
Together they looked about inside the cave for any sparkling signs of materia for about an hour.
“What is going on here!” said Yuffie without any attempt to hide her irritation.
“There’s probably none here because it’s a new cave. Why did you choose this one?”
Yuri looked worried. Yuffie had no reason.
“If the Lifestream flowed around the planet then it must have moved the materia with it you know!” Yuffie said but in the end, she didn’t know if that ever happened in reality.
“—Sorry. I believe in you.”
His voice was shaking. Yuffie didn’t like how they had to fight monsters as they walked their way around inside the dimly lit cave either.
“Come on! We’ll find that materia!” She said as she tried to get rid of their fear. She was a little scared too so it couldn’t be helped when Yuri was in these caves for the first time. I’ll be nice to him, just a little.
“Lets go outside for now and re-think our strategy.”
She could sense Yuri’s relief in the darkness.
Before long, they reached the cave’s exit but were faced with another monster. At a glance, it looked like a mole but its whole body was covered in needles.
“Piece of cake!” Yuffie cried out to encourage herself and Yuri as she attacked. The shuriken she threw with all her strength hurt the monster. It retaliated, a fireball flying out of its mouth. Yuffie just manages to dodge it as it skims pass her. Yuri who had been standing behind her, also made a dramatic jump to dodge out of the way. The fireball hit the ground between them and exploded.
“Come on, Yuri!” Yuffie shouted at her friend whose attention had been caught by the explosion. Yuri cried out, panicking.
That moment, Yuffie’s shuriken returned to her like a boomerang and she threw it at the monster again. Its blades cut through the monster dead on and the two of them won the battle.
“Come on Yuffie. That was mine.”
“You’re way too slow. Slow and scared. But it looks like you’ve been training yourself.”
“My movements might be slow but I can do something when it comes to techniques.”
“No no. You mustn’t think like that. Speed is fundamental. OK?”
Just as Yuffie was posing with pride about her speed—
“Look, Yuffie” Yuri’s face was gripped in fear. “Look at that!”
At the spot where the monster’s fireball had exploded, a liquid was flowing out of it. Inside the dimly lit cave, they couldn’t tell what it was but it didn’t feel like water. Yuffie ran, her whole body shaking. She could sense an evil presence from the liquid.
Yuffie sped up.
Behind them, the liquid that had started to flow out to the surface slowly, suddenly burst out rapidly. It was hitting the walls of the caves and the ceiling too. Soon, it caught up with them and the liquid was falling down over their heads from the ceiling. They sheltered themselves with their hands and kept running. Yuffie screamed as they reached the exit where she had placed a marker so that they wouldn’t get lost.
Their vision adjusted. They were outside of the cave now. It was bright underneath the moonlight. Yuffie turned round to look. The liquid with the horrifying presense had slowed down now but it was flowing out of the cave they had been in. As Yuffie watched, she noticed something. The water was black.
“Yuri, the water’s black.”
But there was no answer.
Yuffie hesitated for a moment but ran back to the cave. Near the cave’s entrance, she found Yuri lying on the ground. She tried to help him up but even with all her strength, lifting him up by the torso alone was too much for her.
“Get up, Yuri! Get up!”
“I can’t. Yuffie, go. If you stay here you’ll—”
“Idiot! I can’t look after your mother for you, you know.”
Yuffie turned Yuri round so that he was facing upwards and tried to pull him along by his sides with all the strength her arms could muster.
A black liquid came bubbling out of his mouth.
* * *
“Shall I give you some help?”
She turned round and saw Red XIII.
“Can’t you call me Nanaki?” said Nanaki, displeased at the name.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m on a journey to see the world. I’ve just started, though.”
Nanaki walked on easily with Yuri on his back. He lay there face down on his back like some washing hung out to dry and Yuffie had her hand on him so that he wouldn’t fall off. Nanaki told her how he had planned to go to Wutai as his starting point and then go east from there. He chose Wutai because it was at the borders of the Western region. Yuffie had told him that Wutai was the center of the world, isolated by the seas and stretched out to the east and west - Just the kind of world view one would expect of someone raised in Wutai. Yuri’s back was shaking. Yuffie was afraid that he was having convulsions. But when she looked at his face, he was smiling. The black liquid from his mouth had eased.
“Tell me something interesting, Nanaki,” Yuffie began to speak in a small voice.
“Hmmm—” Nanaki thought. “Oh yeah. I got a new mobile phone. I was told the PHS was really dated. When I returned to Midgar with Cloud and the others, they gave me one. It should have been paid for but the manager at a phone shop was giving out all the ones he could for free. He thought people would be too worried if they couldn’t contact anyone during these hard times. He’s a nice person.”
“Hmmm. But can you use a phone?”
“Of course. It takes a while but I can if I put it to the ground and use my claws. I can use it with a bit of effort,” replied Nanaki as he looked at Yuffie with a worried face. “I’m not giving it to you.”
“Give it over!”
Yuffie went round in front of Nanaki and he stopped.
“It’s better if I had it. Now where is it?”
She was looking all over Nanaki.
“You’re serious, aren’t you.”
As Nanaki said that, Yuffie noticed the belt around his neck, hidden away by his fur. It seemed the belt was only long enough to circle around his body once—She squatted down and peeped close to Nanaki’s throat. There she found what looked like a hard wearing small pouch made from some kind of skin.
“Heheheh, I found it.”
“Yuffie, I’ll remember this.”
“Sure. Don’t ever forget me.”
Nanaki looked like he had given up as Yuffie stretched out her hand towards the pouch on his side.
“Yuffie, I’ll give you mine.” It was Yuri. “I got one too. From Midgar.”
“What do you mean you got one too?”
Blood was boiling inside Yuffie’s head as she learned what happened.
“I’m sorry. I think I’m the one who brought the disease to Wutai. Then it immediately spread to my mother. Then from my mother to all my friends—I thought maybe we could find a cure—Let me down a moment. Thanks, Nanaki.”
Together they sat in the grassy plains as the wind blew by—Nanaki lay sprawled out—when he listened to Yuri’s story.
Yuri had learned that his mother was ill many months ago. It was an illness that was common amongst the adults. His mother became very weak-willed and always said she was going to die soon. He wanted to help her somehow. Remembering Yuffie who he had used to play together with, he decided to do what she did and leave to find materia. However, Yuri didn’t have the courage to explore the borders for materia and went to Midgar to ask for Shinra’s help. It was just around the time when Meteor appeared in the skies. He visited the Shinra building many times but at the tip of all the chaos there, they wouldn’t listen to him. Some of the staff had pity for him but in the end, the materia he needed wasn’t for sale because it was equipment for Shinra soldiers.
“And then that day came. I waited at a cheap hotel in the slums for the Lifestream to finish passing by. Everyone was taking refuge from the upper plates but I went against the crowd and travelled upwards. There were many people that had caught the illness there.”
After that, Yuri rushed back to Wutai. When his mother asked where he went, he replied that he had been having fun at the Golden Saucer.
“I couldn’t tell her that I tried to bring back materia to heal her but failed.”
“Well, I do understand how you feel.”
Of course, it was needless to say he became a refugee himself but nothing could be done about it now.
“Hey, you know,” interrupted Nanaki. “Materia is also said to be the crystallization of the Ancient’s knowledge.”
“Yeah, I heard about that.”
“Maybe the Ancients didn’t manage to heal the illness your mother has either. Maybe it never existed during the Ancients Era. So maybe there is no materia to heal it,” said Nanaki.
“Hey, Nanaki! You can’t say that. Maybe we just haven’t found any yet.”
“But think about it. If that kind of materia really existed, there wouldn’t be so many people infected—Ouch!”
Yuffie pinged Nanaki’s nose with her fingers. She thought he maybe right. And that made her angry. Nanaki’s reasoning meant that there was no materia in existence to counter the disease that was making people suffer, pushing them to their deaths as black liquids flowed from their bodies.
“I hate you, Nanaki.”
* * *
It’s had only been two days since they left Wutai. But outside of the town, they saw a small hut had been built. It was small but it had room to accomodate ten people.
“I wonder what that’s for. Alright! Go investigate, Nanaki!”
“What? Why me?”
Nanaki looked at Yuffie displeased but turned and hastily sprinted over when she pretended she was about to ping his nose again.
“It must have really hurt,” Yuri said laughing. He seemed well other than his way of thinking. We might be able to heal the Midgar disease if Nanaki and I can keep this up and make him laugh.
Not long afterwards, Nanaki returned.
“Four people with the Midgar disease are gathered in there.”
Yuffie and Yuri looked at each other as they heard his words.
“Yuri, get on,” urged Nanaki. Without waiting for Yuri to struggle onto Nanaki’s back, Yuffie ran off.
As she reached the small hut, she tried to find a window. When she finally found a small one, she peeked inside and saw four patients inside just as Nanaki said.
“What’s going on here?” Yuffie turned round to ask Nanaki.
“I think they were forced out of the village because they have the disease—”
“And that’s why they took the time to build a small hut like this?”
She ran off again, circling around the hut and found the entrance.
Yuffie ignored Nanaki who tried to stop her and went inside.
“This is horrible! Horrible!” said Yuffie to no one in particular.
“Oh, it’s you Yuffie. It’s been so long. But what are you angry about?” One of the patients said in a calm voice. She immediately knew who it was because it sounded like Yuri’s mother.
“You all got forced out of the village because you’re ill. That’s horrible!”
She understood the reasoning behind such actions but she couldn’t accept it.
“But it can’t be helped. The diseased have to be quarantined, ” replied Yuri’s mother still with her calm voice.
“But” was the only word Yuffie could say.
“I’m glad they made a place for me,” said Yuri as if putting on an act.
“Are you sure? Are you really sure?”
“For now. I’ll just have to bear with it until you find a cure, Yuffie.”
What if I can’t find a cure?—She just couldn’t bring herself to say it.
“Ah—, the grave responsibility!”
* * *
Yuffie spent around two weeks looking after the patients.The number increased even though the new patients hadn’t been in contact with those that were quarantined.
“It appears the disease isn’t contagious. Even though a quarantine’s been set up, the number of patients are still increasing. In other words, well—I’m sorry, my daughter.”
Even when Godo apologized, Yuffie still didn’t feel any more at ease. She didn’t care about what happened any more. She just wanted to know the cause of it all. She had forced Nanaki to leave the village, ordering him to gather information about the disease. It was possible he would get infected too if he stayed.
“Hey, Yuffie. There’s something I noticed—” said Yuri, “I’ve been thinking about why some people are infected and why others aren’t.”
“You learned something?”
“Yeah. The people here are those who have suffered from another kind of illness before and those who were heavily wounded by the overflowing Lifestream. In other words, they’re all people that think they’re going to die.”
“Yeah, and it’s not just my imagination. It’s the truth. Even I—”
“You thought you were going to die? When?”
“At the cave we went to. When I was soaked by that strange water and passed out—Hey!”
Yuri and Yuffie looked at each other.
Perhaps the water was the cause of all this. Yuffie immediately went around asking the patients. She asked if they had drank or were soaked in some strange water.
However in the end, a clear conclusion couldn’t be made. Everyone noticed the water’s taste had changed after the Lifestream erupted and passed by. They had thought nothing of it because to the people of Wutai who pumped up underground water to use, the taste always changed whenever there was an earthquake. Apart from being soaked in the Lifestream being the cause, they felt they couldn’t eliminate the possibility that the disease was somehow linked to the water and the condition the people were in at the time.
They reported their opinions to Godo.
1. Take care when using water. It is unknown if boiling the water will have any effect but make sure you do so before use.
2. Do not think you are going to die.
* * *
About a year afterwards, Yuffie kept to a routine - Spending two weeks taking care of the patients and two weeks traveling to look for a cure. Taking care of the patients made her feel the rush that she had to find a cure soon and whenever she left the village, she would be worried about them. It was what lead to her routine.
The number of huts had increased to two now. And three children had also caught the disease. They were brothers aged eight, six and four. Yuffie was surprised that children at this age were already thinking they were going to die. However, when she heard that they thought they were all going to be washed away together when they tried to rescue their older brother drowning in the river, she was confident the thoughts she and Yuri had about the disease were correct. Geostigma—that was what it was called around world now—spreading through a suspicious looking kind of water. It enters into the bodies of those who have given up on life or are faint-hearted.
Yuri’s mother was gone. Even so, Yuri swore that he will always smile before Yuffie.
* * *
Almost another year had passed. As Geostigma continued to spread, a cure was still yet to be found. Quite a number of people had the same opinions about the disease as Yuffie and Yuri did but, there were far more people that believed they will get infected as soon as they got into contact with the diseased and because of that, many of those unfortunate victims and their family lived in a life of despair. This increased the chances of the family members gaining the disease too and as a result, gave the people the proof they needed to believe the rumours of infection.
* * *
They were soon going to arrive at Corel. Yuffie noticed the sound of an explosion in the distance. She looked around to find out where it came from and soon looked up to find an enormous airship closing in. Yuffie waved. It was a model she’s never seen before but she was sure it was Cid’s airship.
“Heeey!” She continued waving, jumping many times. But the airship flew overhead. She had heard Cid was building an airship. It wasn’t easy using oil as its fuel instead of mako energy but, perhaps he’s solved the problem now. If she headed west from her current location, she was sure she’ll reach Rocket Town.
Maybe I should go there , she thought but she changed her mind immediately. The airship had turned round. It was a new model that was hovering in the distance so that Yuffie wouldn’t be caught in its thrusters as it slowly landed. Yuffie ran over waving.
The hatch on its body opened up and a a red beast jumped out. Nanaki started running at a powerful pace towards her. Yuffie opened up her arms as if she was ready to greet him with a hug. Nanaki jumped with all his strength. But Yuffie jumped to the side almost immediately and avoided him. Landing on the ground, Nanaki protested.
“Why did you dodge?”
“You’ve grown bigger. I don’t want to be slammed into.”
“I haven’t changed that much.”
“Whatever. You’re not cute either way.”
Cid caught up with them. He looked exhausted. Or maybe he’s grown thinner.
“Is that a new model?”
“Damn right it is! I completed it somehow. We’re in the middle of a test flight.”
“Looks like it’s going well.”
“You could say that. But there ain’t much fuel left. Just enough to go round half the planet.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s going well.”
“I’m just going to have to place my hopes on that rush-headed Barret. He’s out looking for another place where there’s oil. I already have all the materials and the staff ready to go when he calls but, where on the planet could he be, eh?”
Contrary to what he just said, Cid’s hope seemed to be lower.
“So you met Barret!”
“Yeah. Seems he’s been through quite a bit but he’s well now. So, you want a ride?”
“What the hell? You still haven’t cured your motion sickness yet?”
Can it be cured? thought Yuffie but she decided it was best if she retorted.
“Why should I get it cured? It’s Yuffie’s only weak point. A girl won’t be loved if she has no weak points.”
“You are nothing but weaknesses so don’t you worry, missy.”
“What is that supposed to mean!”
“Well anyway, I’m not gonna force ya on. Take care on your trip.”
Just as Cid was turning round to return to his airship, Yuffie called out to him as if she remembered something.
“There’s materia that can heal Geostigma right?”
Hearing those words, Nanaki looked off into the distance.
“You think there is, don’t you?” said Cid as he looked Yuffie in the eyes.
Cid gave her the thumb’s up as he heard Yuffie answer him back in a loud voice.
“Then there is!” he nodded.
Yuffie began to think as she watched Cid return to his airship. How troublesome. That’s why the old man’s weird. He knows there’s no proof that any exists. But it was the words I was hoping for.
Soon, the idle sound of the airship’s engines changed to an explosive sound and it was rising high into the air. Its nose turned towards the direction of Rocket Town before it dashed off, no longer visible.
“Haa…” murmurred Nanaki, “I got left behind.”
“I’m still here.”
“Where are you going?”
“The materia cave in the north!”
She couldn’t tell what Nanaki was thinking from his expression. But from his downcast look, she knew there was something he wanted to say. Yuffie leapt quickly onto his back and leaned forward, stretching out her arms around his neck. Letting her wrists cross over together, she gave him a tight squeeze. Nanaki’s front legs gave in.
“It hurts, Yuffie.”
“Tell me! Tell me what you’re thinking!”
“I will. Just let go.”
Yuffie loosened her hold.
“I was just thinking the same thing I did before. Perhaps there is no materia that can heal Geostigma.”
Yuffie stayed quiet and tightened her grip again.
“I said it hurts!”
“Geostigma hurts even more.”
Nanaki nodded slightly and began walking north, letting Yuffie stay on his back.
As Yuffie swayed from side to side, she thought to herself. I‘ve become Yuri and all the patient’s hope by continuing my search for materia. That’s why I can’t quit being a Materia Hunter.
* * *