By Zero Soul

Well... what an interesting day. Had to hear Barret remember out loud the events that caused North Corel to reject him. On the Gold Saucer, we met this odd fellow, a cat, donned with cape and crown (and megaphone), riding atop a huge mechanical moogle- he calls himself "Cait Sith". He may be a bit eccentric, and his fortune-telling ability is mediocre at best, but the guy is one hell of a good fighter. But he has a tendency to get us in trouble, as a result we had to spend the day running around the desert within which the Gold Saucer was built. Why they built a casino shaped like a plant, and out in the middle of that god-forsaken patch of desert of all places, is something I'll never know. And if you had to go through North Corel to get there, you would think North Corel would be a bit more prosperous than THAT.

I mean, everybody who is on or has gone to the Gold Saucer has gone through North Corel to get there, and since I'm sure people complain about having to go through that piece of shit town to get to their favorite (and only) casino, so why don't somebody fix it up? Some things just don't make sense in this world.

After all that, we met up with Reno and Rude again, met Zack's parents, saw a blown-up mako reactor, and even ran into this weird girl in the forests who would fight us and then run off with some of our money. Has this weird thing over her left arm, too. Amazing that she walks around those forests near the Gongaga reactor when those same forests are populated by monsters capable of petrifying you and turning you into a frog to boot. You think of it that way, Cait Sith don't seem so bad. Some things just don't make sense in this world.

Like me, for instance. Look at me now, I'm off to save the world. Pretty ambitious for a former Sephiroth wannabe. Hey, I got my friends to help. A barmaid who prances around in a little halter top and miniskirt. Not that I mind... she's always been there for me. I look at her now and I don't even notice her clothes. I see her heart, and to me that's all that matters. Who else we got... well there's this hulk of a man, with a gun on his arm and a chip on his shoulder. It would be a lot easier to take him seriously if he didn't use such stereotypical slang. Next we got a flower girl from the slums wearing a pink dress and unusually short red coat- pretty classy, at least when compared to the environment she lived in. She lived in those godforsaken slums and still never was dirty, could grow flowers where nobody else could and lived in a house that was actually pretty nice. Nobody ever once questioned that she was living in such ideal conditions in such a hellhole? Even has this materia that she says she doesn't know how to use. Who else? A lion-like creature who talks like some high-class rich guy. But he's alright. Fights damn good. I already talked about Cait Sith. That about makes up our team. What a crew, with members coming from nearly all walks of life. Shit, we got a cat riding a stuffed moogle! I've seen strange people but that guy tops them all. Some things just don't make sense in this world.

I look to the side. We're riding in this little red vehicle that looks more like a life raft, only that it can ride over land. We got it from Dio, the big kahuna over at Gold Saucer, after he figured out that it wasn't us that shot all those guys at the battle square after all. If it weren't for Cait Sith running like a, well, scared cat, we probably could have gotten it all sorted out without having to go through the desert prison. But then again we probably wouldn't have gotten this buggy. I dunno, something strikes me odd about that Cait Sith character, I mean other than his appearance. He seems alright but I'm gonna have to keep my eye on him.

I look around the landscape. We're riding through what appears to be a canyon or something. The sun is low on the horizon, popping in and out of view between hilltops. It's actually quite pretty. I look behind us, and something strikes me odd about a canyon wall, it looks almost like there's a town or something on the hillside. I look around at the rest of our little team. Barret is driving... well as good as he CAN drive with only one hand, although he seems to be getting the hang of operating the stick shift with his gun-arm. Cait Sith is in the back, the moogle body leaning against a wall, the cat part is curled up on a chair, asleep. Tifa and Aeris are sitting next to one another, engaged in conversation. Mmmmm... Tifa looks so pretty in the firey sunlight. Red is looking around outside, with an almost nostalgic look on his face, or at least what I can gather to be nostalgia... I'm not exactly an expert on interpreting emotion on the face of this lion-like creature.

I feel the buggy shake suddenly. At first I figured we just hit a bump in the ground but when I hear Barret shouting obscenities and vainly trying to keep the craft under control, and hear snaps and pops behind the dash board, I figure something's not quite right. Tifa's and Aeris' conversation is ended abruptly and turn their attention to the raving lunatic at the helm. Cait Sith wakes up and as the craft buckles more, scrambles back upon the big moogle. Red, once relaxed, now at full attention. I, too, am a bit

alarmed at what's going on.

"Barret, what the hell are you doing?" I ask. Despite the not-so-good situation, I can barely keep from laughing. I've never seen this big hulk so red-faced in my life!

"Hell, I don't know! Damn thing just suddenly decides to go and not work or somethin'. Shit, give me some help here!" is his response. I get up and try to help him keep hold of the steering wheel but an explosion in the engine renders the craft all but silent. The buggy slowly falls down to earth, landing on it's padded chassis with a light thump.

"Well, shit. I think it's dead. Goddamn I figured Dio would give us this piece of shit excuse for a half-way decent vehicle--" Barret exclaims. I figure there's not much else that would have satisfied him- all other vehicles we know of that we could use are powered by the ShinRa mako engines, and I don't think Barret would be too pleased knowing he's piloting a machine that burns mako for fuel.

"Hey, I saw what looks like a town or something over behind us, on one of the canyon walls. Suppose we could find some help there?" I ask.

"Dammit--" Barret says, and kicks the dashboard. The engine retorts with an angry but small explosion, almost like an angry snort, sending more smoke into the air. "Well let's get the hell out of this thing first 'fore it blows us all to hell."

From the look on the others' faces, they feel the same way. We all exit the buggy and look at it. That thing is definetely going to need some engine work. The smoldering bow of the vehicle hisses quietly at us, presumably at its hostile driver.

Tifa steps up to me. "Which way was that town that you said you saw?" she asks. Goddamn she is beautiful in the glow of the sunset.

I stand there for a second before responding, "it was that way, behind us".

I point back to where I saw it. You can still see the canyon wall from here but at this distance, it's hard to make out any features of the presumed city.

Aeris approaches Barret, whose head seems to be smoking more than the buggy's now-defunct engine. "Well, shall we be going?" she asks him, then steps back cautiously- after the incident back at the casino where he ran off (which makes me think, why didn't he run into Cait Sith like we did? Go figure), Aeris doesn't seem like she wants to provoke him any more than she needs to.

Barret doesn't respond but instead runs up to the engine and whacks the hood with the side of his gun. "This thing isn't going anywhere, and if it is I sure as hell ain't gonna take my chances driving the thing. Alright, fine let's go."

Satisfied with his response, Aeris turns to the others, then we all get going.

About halfway there or so, I turn back to look at the buggy. The thing is just barely visible, a small red speck on the horizon, further camoflouged by the glow of the firey sky. Were it not for the column of smoke emanating from it, you probably wouldn't even know it was there.

"Cloud" I hear Tifa say. I turn to look at her. She walks up to my side.

"what is it?" I ask. There is a slight breeze, blowing cool air over us. The wind blows Tifa's hair around a bit. Combined with the light from the setting sun, there just aren't many things that are this pretty to gaze upon.

"It sure is nice out here, isn't it?" she asks. If only she knew how much I agreed with her on that statement.

"yeah, it really is" I respond. It sure as hell is.

We eventually arrive at the site. Turns out there really was a town of sorts there after all, carved into the hillside. There are a number of huts on the side of the hill, along with numerous cave entrances. There are a few windmills visible, or at least large fans powered by the wind. At the top of the hill is what appears to be an observatory. Overall it's a neat looking place.

There is a stairway leading from the ground, up to the entrance to this place. As we go up, Red XIII seems to be a little more uppity than usual. By the time we reach the top of the flight of stairs, he is practically charging full-speed ahead of us.

We get to the entrance to find Red chatting happily with the guard. We approach.

"Are you familiar with Cosmo Canyon?" The guard asks us.

"No, what is this place?" I ask. Tifa and the others are looking around.

The guard explains to us that this is a place for naturalists and people who are studying the life of the planet.

Red then charges past the guard and runs up a flight of stairs.

"So, Nanaki tells me that you've been taking good care of him. Thank you."

the guard says.

The hell? "Nanaki?" I ask.

"Yes, Nanaki."

"Who is Nanaki?" Tifa asks, obviously as bewildered as me.

"What do you mean? Nanaki is Nanaki. That's his name" replies the guard. "Well, although our place is filled to capacity at the moment," he says- I don't think so myself, the place seems sparsely populated, albeit teeming with life. The guard continues, "since you helped our Nanaki, you're welcome to join us for a while."

I look at the others and shrug. We enter the place. Tifa and Aeris go off to one of the other buildings, while Cait Sith and Barret go off and do their own things. I follow up the staris where Red went, and find him sitting at the top, apparently waiting for me.

"Red... who is this 'Nanaki' the guard was talking about?"

Red raises his head proudly. "I'm Nanaki. I told you, 'Red XIII' is just the name Hojo gave me."

"Well the guard seems to know you pretty well" I say.

"Of course. This is my home. I am the last of my species, that protects Cosmo Canyon. My mother fought and died bravely protecting the village. But my father ran away and left her to die, the coward."

"Hey, Nanaki! You're home!" I hear an old man's voice call from above.

Red and I look up to see an old man standing on a ledge above us. At least, at first he appears to be standing, but on closer inspection, there is a green half-sphere in place of where his legs would normally be, and he also appears to be... floating?

"Coming, grandpa!" replies Red, and off he goes up some more stairs and he disappears into a cave.

"Hey, Cloud." I hear a voice behind me. It's Tifa.

I turn and look. She says, "this is a really neat place, and all of them are naturalists and want to protect the planet like we do."

"Yeah," I respond, "this sure is a far cry from the dreary life in Midgar."

"That's for sure" she responds. "You, um... you wanna go for a walk around here?"

"Well... yeah, sure, let's." I say. Tifa smiles and takes my hand. I look at her and smile. She's bathed in the firey luminescence of the sun that's slowly sinking beyond the hills. Now I can understand why everybody's obviously trying to hook me up with Aeris- so they can have Tifa for themselves. The hell with them.

We go into the passageway that Red disappeared into, and after looking around, take a passageway to our left. The corridor leads to an opening to a ledge that sports a spectacular view of the canyon around. Me and Tifa sit on the edge of the ledge and gaze at the scene. The sun is still hovering just above the horizon, seemingly refusing to fall below the earth. The landscape is carved into hills and valleys. The sky is painted red, blue, purple and gold, with clouds streaking across the sky, bathed in firey light. Rays of sunlight can be seen streaking through them. The scene is truly breathtaking. I look over at Tifa, who is looking around, her face and body all aglow in the light, her hair lighly waving in the breeze. I put my arm around her shoulder. She turns to me and smiles. I can't help but wonder if she likes the way I look in this light, the way I like how she looks. She scoots a bit closer to me and puts her arm around my shoulder and lays her head to rest on my other shoulder. Well, I guess that answers my question. I lean my head forward, and lean over and kiss her. She raises her head, and kisses back. She looks into my eyes and smiles, then leans her head on my shoulder again. Strange, how so many years ago I was just an outcast and she was the popular one, I was trying so hard to impress her but she never seemed to give a damn about me. Now here we are, with her resting on my shoulder, our arms around one another. From my memories of Nibelheim, we never should have even gotten together, but here we are. Some things just don't make sense in this world.

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