As Daylight Fell

It was sunset, and the sun was beginning to dip beneath the horizon, giving way for the moon to make his nightly debut.

Nanaki, the red-skinned quadrupedal sentient also known as Red XIII sat on his haunches facing his two sons, on a cliff hanging above the overgrown ruins of Midgar. The obsidian city's plate had long ago fallen into disrepair with the death of its builders and masters, humans, and Mother Nature had taken back what was rightfully hers. Lush sprays of greenery exploded out of crevices in the city's black surfaces, and birds made their nests in the spires of towers that once served as the homes of Midgar's elite.

'From housing the rich and those filled with avarice, to providing a shelter for the humble birds,' mused Nanaki, only to have his train of thought interrupted by the incessant pawing of his elder son, Yuki.

"Papa, you promised to tell us the story of Midjer," whined Yuki, his cub's eyes round and pathetic.

"Yeah, papa," piped up Riku, the younger of his two sons, "We wanna hear the story!"

Nanaki sighed, "Patience, my cubs. I shall tell you the story of Midgar, as I have promised."

He cast a reflective look at the ruins of Midgar, and for a moment, he felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him. The surge of memories was nearly overwhelming, and he felt his hackles rise at some of the flashes of the past that appeared in his mind's eye. He didn't even realize that he was growling, until Riku licked his muzzle, snapping him out of his reverie.

"Papa?" asked Riku, his expression confused.

Nanaki shook his head, clearing his mind, "It's nothing. Come closer, and I shall begin my story."

The two cubs practically bowled each other over in their haste to get closer to their father. They eventually sat alongside him, pressed to his sides, looking down at the ruins beneath their lofty perch.

"Once upon a time, a hundred moons ago, when I was but a cub, there was a dark city named Midgar…"

Nanaki's voice seemed to fade into the near-darkness, and his two cubs sat spellbound, as the ruins of Midgar came to life once again, with the voices and faces of those souls that had long since been dead.

xxx

"… freedom attracts oppressors, and power corrupts, but in the end, good won over evil, and hope was restored," said Nanaki, his voice now a husky whisper. The sun had been gone for hours, and the moon was a shining beacon in the sky, "A hope that started with a young boy from the humble town of Nibelheim."

His voice trailed-off as his tale finally came to its end. His two cubs, close to sleep, but still immersed in the dead world their father's words had resurrected, responded with silence, as their young minds strained to remember how many sacrifices had been made, and the heroic, selfless deeds of those who had put everything on the line for their planet. Nanaki tucked them in, and the nighttime quiet was soon filled with the soft sounds of his sleeping offspring.

As they slept, he himself struggled to stay awake. He recalled those who had saved him from Shinra's clutches, and eventually, the world. So much had been lost, but in the end, so much more had been saved. He now questioned himself, as he had so many times before…

'Was it all worth it?'

Looking down fondly at his two slumbering sons, he continued with his musings. The story he had told them would doubtlessly be forgotten, or otherwise warped beyond accuracy, eventually. He didn't expect them to fully-recall all the details of history's grandest epic, and he didn't blame them for their inability to do so, either.

His words spoke of an era long since buried, and it was little more than an exciting bedtime tale to them. But to him, it would be an eternal testament to the goodness within people's hearts, no matter who they were, and what they did. The saddest yet happiest chapter of Gaia's history would be there in his memory always, to remember those who had given their all in the name of peace.

'They earned their places in history. But will anyone remember me?' asked Nanaki, to no one in particular. This was his last unanswered question, and he hoped to find his answer before his soul completed its cycle.

The crickets and cicadas finally began their nocturnal symphony. Their trilling cries and chirps melded together in harmony to form a unique performance, that could never be duplicated, but yet, touched the soul. Nanaki felt tired upon hearing their song, and he realized that tonight would be his night.

Tonight, his soul would cross-over into the eternal void.

He cast his sorrowful gaze at his cubs. They were so young and innocent – just barely younger than he had been when Hojo had captured him. And yet, he would be leaving them. Come dawn, they would awake from their slumber, and find him sleeping his final rest.

'Sleep well, my sons…'

A voice cut into his thoughts with crystal clarity, "Nanaki…"

'Grandpa?'

"It is I."

'Why are you here?'

"The time has come, grandson."

'Why?'

"Natural order… must be… upheld…"

'… Tell me then… Was it worth it? Did my life matter? Will I be remembered?…'

"Yes. You were strong, and your life mattered. In the end, you were one of the reasons justifying all you had done…"

'… Then I shall take my leave of this world…'

'Goodbye, my sons. Remember me.'

xxx

Riku woke up and shook the morning dew off his fur. He took a look at his father, and saw an expression of peace on his father's face. He tried to awaken his father, but his father remained motionless and unresponsive.

Yuki was awakened by the mournful howling of his younger sibling.

END