Sunshine in Winter


I, Yuffie Kisaragi, have always been a traveller.

Maybe that's what started it, this whole sorry mess; me out in the forest, as
if just waiting for them to trip over me, getting the crap kicked out of my
sorry behind, and thinking them all such idiots, especially him -

Wait. That's a stupid place to start. It's too far before the beginning, and
everyone always starts at the beginning, don't they?

It's a sensible place to start.

How do I start? Once upon a time and shoo-la-la?

'Once upon a time there was a girl called Yuffie, but this story sucks, 'cause
everyone knows princesses in fairytales are supposed to be beautiful and have
sweet eyes and have fairytale-beautiful names like Aeris.'

That doesn't work. I'm no princess.

I'm just a traveller.

... Yes, that's it.

I have always been a traveller, even from the oh-so-tender age of four years
old. History records my love of hiding away in silly places whilst my mother
went insane looking for her precious daughter, or going around exploring
enormous attics where I always found something shiny to play with. Shiny played
a very high part in my universe, especially the shiny that my father used to
let me play with, round and bright...

History records I cut my teeth on an 'All' materia. I deny this vehemently...

I'm sure it was merely a 'Restore'.

Anyway, getting off Sidetrack Lane. I've always preferred to roam around,
getting into every nook and cranny of the universe, rather than sitting on my
butt and sipping tea. I don't like sitting down and waiting for the world to
come to me; I'm going to go and come to the world! Welcome, Yuffie Kisaragi!

It didn't happen that way for a long, long time.

Anyway, even after I saved the world (with a little help from Cloud an' all
that) I don't know why people expected me to settle again. Screw that! There
was a lot of world out there to be poked into, lots of materia to find, lots of
mountains to climb up. I had no place in life yet, so I had to make my own -
explore the world, make it mine!

This went on for two years, and I turned eighteen. Travelling alone is a very
sorry business; I saw my friends infrequently, and most of the time my life was
spent on my livelihood - materia. I bought it, I mastered it, I sold it. By the
time a year was passed, I had quite a fortune built up. I was mostly a packrat,
so I spent the bare minimum of it.

Life's lonely and dangerous, alone, and I had many, many close scrapes that I
laughed about afterwards. Of scars, I had many; both upon my skin and my

Gawd, I'm starting to sound like some damn psychiatrist. Or Red, or Vincent, or
somebody. In short, I was alone. A-L-O-N-E. I never went to go see my friends
much, never seemed to have the time nor inclination; Red was at Cosmo and
Cloud'n Tifa were at Junon helping Reeve who was farting around with what was
left of Shinra, and Barret and his sprog were off at Corel. Cid was dead, Shera
poisoned his tea. (At least, I wish that had been the way it went; he was at
Rocket Town, just as horrible as ever, smoking and inhaling tannin like it had
gone out of style. And she had MARRIED HIM! And she was HAVING HIS BABY! Ugh!
Take me away from Not-Nice Mental Imageland!)

Aeris was quite literally sleeping with the fishes, and as for Vincent... ah,
he was probably sleeping with the fishes too, only not quite so literally. Back
then I would have betted a hefty chunk of my materia that he had holed himself
up in that nasty old mansion to let himself rot in the coffin. Not that it made
much difference.

"Hey, Vincent," I'd go to Vincent.

"Hey, Vincent," I'd go to Rotting Vincent In A Coffin.

"Hey, Vincent," I'd go to thin air.

See? Can you tell the difference? I sure can't.

I was okay with being alone. It wasn't like I minded that much. At least I was
away from Wutai, from my father's grandiose comments about me finally settling
down and providing him with A Leader For Wutai, Or At Least A Kisaragi Heir.
Finally I got so sick of hearing about the damned Leader For Wutai and even
worse, The Heir, I exploded.

"You want a heir so much, go have one yourself!" I screeched. "I'm sure as hell
not going to go out and provide one for you!"

Thus started another Wutai War, and we screamed at eachother for about two
hours. Godo got very red in the face and vomited out words like 'Duty!' and
'Honor!' and 'Maturity!' and I merely responded with all the litany I'd learned
from my darling Cid. (I appreciated Cid very much in those hours.) Finally, I
shouted at him to kindly go and sit on a tack and wait until I popped out a
piglet, and slammed the door. It wasn't very mature of me, but oh, did it feel

That was two years ago. Hadn't seen the red lacquer of Wutai since. And I was
glad, glad!

But I could have killed for a good cup of jasmine tea.

Anyway, the story doesn't start there. That'd be boring, because for the next
two years all I did was roam around and kill things, as you know. But after two
years, my luck seemed to run out...

I was deep in the jungle, somewhere around Gongaga, I think. I had to stay away
from the civilized places because all you get around the outskirts of cities
are crappy monsters, like those dumb green clone-frogs of death. I wanted
something big! I had a good Restore materia that was close to completion, and
just a little bit more would do the trick and earn me the moolah. Big, big, big!

I got something big.

It must have escaped from a cave or something, because dragons sure as hell
didn't like to screw around in jungles. They liked the plains; I thought I was
safe when I hunted on the fringe of the heady-scented jungle area. I was happy
and I was confident, Conformer in hand.

I'd not been hunting long before I heard a heavy flap, flap, flap in the air
above me. I got really excited; the beat was of huge, leathery wings, and I
thought I'd scored myself one of those enormous birds of prey. Scrambling to
slot materia into my weapon, I dashed out into the open space to meet it,
shouting to attract it's attention.

Oh, if only I'd kept my mouth shut! I attracted the monster's attention, but a
bone-splitting roar set my knees shaking and I looked up. It was a dragon, a
green dragon, not a firedrake or just a silly flying reptile but an enormous
winged dragon...! I was stunned, but not that stunned that I didn't immediately
go for my materia.

I pummeled it with a level three Lightning spell, but that just made the damn
thing annoyed. It set a nice amount of jungle on fire with it's next gassy
roar, the crackle of fire loud in my ears. Then it swooped down for it's prey -

I don't really remember much after that, except turning back to dive into the
partial safety of the trees and feeling it's overpowering presence against me
and suddenly pain, mindnumbing sickening tearing clawing pain in my left leg.
It must have tried to grab me, but failed in the attempt; however, it had not
failed to injure me.

The jungle was what saved me in the end. I fell among the underbrush, and the
dragon must have spotted some bigger, plumper prey that had been flushed out by
it's fire. I lay there and whimpered like a cat about to die, body numb with
the searing, burning pain; I felt something moving down my leg in thick, heavy

Muzzily, I tried to get up, and the pain made me immediately choke up with a
mouthful of vomit.

I coughed up onto the dirt next to me, and finally, knowing I would die alone
in a nasty little jungle and be eaten by the stupid mutant death-frogs made me
burst into tears. I screamed as hard as I could, and then, when I couldn't take
it anymore, I mercifully blacked out.

I dreamt in my feverish, delirious sleep.

I dreamt that Aeris was holding my hand, dressed all in green, telling me to
hang on because the Lifestream didn't need me yet. I didn't need the lifestream
either, but her presence was comforting. Screw death, I told her. Her laugh
could have broken my heart. I think it already had.

I dreamt she disappeared and my mother floated in her place. The confusion and
the pain was growing, and she said nothing; only stroked my forehead as I lay
there. I was beginning to cry with pain and tiredness and the bitter wish to
make it all stop.

I dreamt Vincent was there; he was crouching on the ground beside me, claw at
hand. He took hold of my leg and before I could beg him to stop, he sliced it
open, and I screamed and screamed and screamed.

Then the dreams stopped.

"I think she's coming around."

Well, thanks for stating the obvious, I thought dizzily, and then the pain hit
me. My left leg felt like it was on fire, and it was as sore as all hell; like
something was eating away at it. My tongue felt like it was a sock, but that
didn't stop me from whimpering angrily.

"Can you administer something, Akila? I need to go and make up the medication."

My arm was grabbed and I felt a syringe being forced into my vein. The popping
pain of it was like skipping in daisies compared to the Tonberries having a
festival in my leg.

"How are you feeling?" It was a kind voice, a woman's, the kind that asked you
if you liked milk with your cookies. However, I was not in the mood for kind
voices, or milk and cookies.

"Lahk thit," I spat, my voice harsh and stuffy.

She got the gist of things. "Well, that's to be expected, dear. You've gotten
yourself into a bit of trouble."

There was something on my eyes, cool and damp, as well as on my forehead. I

"Why can't I see?" I demanded.

"Well, dear, you've had a very bad fever and your eyes are going to be very
sensitive to light," she said evasively. "I think you had better keep that on
for a few hours."

I sighed and rested back. The painkiller I had been stabbed with was beginning
to kick in and the pain was fading; I was also feeling kinda woozy, but at
least the pain was fading. It made me so relieved I felt like getting up to do
a jig whilst shouting 'NEATO BURRITO!'

However, her evasive tone made me morbidly curious. "What's wrong with my leg?"
I asked. "Is it broken? It really hurts, as in really really really - "

"I can imagine that," she soothed. "You lost a lot of blood, and tore quite a
few muscles; and your wound got infected, and you very nearly died. You're
still not out of the woods yet."

"Thanks," I grumbled.

"Why, it was a miracle you survived through, what with the infection and all;
it carried straight through your bloodstream." Well, that would explain why I
felt like a steaming turd. "And you'd lost so much blood; why, if that nice
Vincent boy hadn't gotten you here in time - "

I tried to sit up, but dizziness got to me and I fell back. "Vincent?" I
squawked. Oh, hell's teeth, no. There had to be lots of Vincents out there.
"Does this Vincent have long dark hair and red eyes and is kind of scary
looking?" I asked doubtfully.

"Ooh, I wouldn't say scary, quite pretty eyes, in fact!" the nurse cooed. "Why,
such a polite boy, always brings me flowers of a Sunday - "

She began an enormous list of Vincent's graces, and I would have pshawed the
fact that it was Valentine other than the fact that she ended it wistfully,
"Though I wish the lad would be less quiet."

Well, wasn't that the rat's ass. Vincent was graciously allowed to have about a
minute or two of my thoughts, most of them involving the question, 'Why is he
here?' and other such cliches. However, not even Pinkeye Man can hold my
attention for long, and soon my mind was back to my plight - the leg that felt
like it was a piece of swollen wood - swollen, painful wood.

I couldn't feel it properly, and that was what scared me; sharp pain would have
assured me that I was still in one piece.

"I'm just going to check up on Dr. Bannon, dear," the nurse cooed to me. Thank
the Gods.

Her clacking footsteps signalled her announced departure and nothing loath, I
groped my hands up to behind my head. The damp blindfold had been tied on, but
for a girl who'd picked her first lock at the sweet age of five, what was a

All too soon it was off and daylight stung my eyes. "Ow!" I breathed grumpily.
Geez, the sun sure was bright, even if the room was typically Gongagan; earthen
walls, dried flower hangings, spices, wooden furniture; I was both surprised
and disappointed they hadn't done cool stuff with me yet, like stuffing me full
of frog's-eye paste and chanting over me.

Ah, sight was back. Time to inspect my leg.

I blinked.

Then I screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed until I flailed around
and I toppled out of the bed and there was white-hot pain connecting my leg and
my body and it felt like a different entity and all there was was the scream,
scratchy and sharp in my throat, until they came in and gave me another
tranquilizer and then everything went grey.

Oh, Mother, Gods help me.