Hollow Haunting Past
She was being childish, she knew it, but she had no choice. She always got a terrible head ache when she got hungry, you see? Besides, she technically still was a child, so what did it matter? It wasn't a crime to act like one if you were one, right?
She now literally bounced up and down on her seat out of pure excitement. She had never in her life been in a mood like this before. They would finally go home, after all these long years, ten years to be precisely. Back to Hollow Bastion. It could not be such a surprise that she was so excited, right? Well, excited and a little sad, too, because now she would have to say goodbye to the place where she grew up. Traverse Town.
To be honest, she already missed the world with perpetual nights and three different districts. And the moogles, the Small House with empty boxes, and the peaceful nights on the roofs (unless some stupid Heartless would show up to interrupt the serenity), or the Gizmo shop. Yeah, especially the Gizmo Shop.
Furthermore, everyone was a bit nervous today. She could see it from everything they did. They were all so...stiff. Cid cursed more than usual. That was something that had cost him a lot of Munny over the last few years. The good news was that from that money he had been able to build this new but extremely small Gummi Ship.
The strange case that was called Leon snapped Yuffie off more than usual. She didn't know that that was even possible! He really had surpassed himself today. The mean thing about this was that his voice was so overpowering at times like these, that you just had to stop and listen to him. It became so poisonous...or maybe irresistible fitted better here.
Yuffie shook her head. That man had obviously no idea what he could do to poor innocent women like her. Fortunately, Yuffie was kinda used to situations like these, so it didn't do (that) much to her anymore.
Only Aerith seemed to be as calm as ever. A certain tranquility radiated from her. Yuffie just didn't get it. How did she do that? She simply could not understand it. Aerith had, like always, that sugar sweet smile on her delicate and pretty face and a soft, friendly look in her emerald-colored eyes. Maybe she was hoping to find Cloud in Hollow Bastion. How long had the two love birds been separated now? Whoa, ten years! That was much.
"We'll arrive when you'll finally shut your mouth and maybe your sickness will be over if you stop bouncing up and down like some ordinary bouncing ball," Leon growled, making fists from his gloved hands.
His icy blue eyes seemed to pierce right through her soul. It was almost as if he was trying to burn holes in her face with his eyes alone. (Involuntarily, a shiver ran down her spine that moment.) That was a perfect sign for Yuffie to see that the gunblade specialist was being grumpy. Again. What a surprise, people.
"Wow, aren't you just a little ray of sunshine, as always?" Yuffie noted immediately.
Leon gave her an angry, heartburning look and said nothing, which Yuffie found was something he was very good at. He didn't bother to do so, because he just knew that it would be a waste of his time, anyway.
"Yuffie, calm down and leave the poor guy alone. He has suffered enough already this week. Like I said a few minutes ago, we're almost there. And I know it's really hard for you, but for Gaia's sake, be patient," Cid called.
"Aw, how sweet! You really are a father figure. It almost makes me cry. Keyword: almost," Yuffie said sarcastically, although still with a big smile on her face.
She really liked teasing them. It was fun to see how the corner of their mouth or their eyes would start twitching in annoyance.
"Cid, I really think I am capable of defending myself against Yuffie's childish remarks, thank you very much."
Yuffie stuck her tongue out at Leon, but she didn't really impress him. She probably never did. He just looked at her in a way that made her think that his face was made out of stone. Emotionless. She could not take that look. Maybe he knew it. Maybe he didn't.
"Okay, okay. Jeez, you guys are no fun!"
She could survive this trip, it wasn't that hard...right? It was just a matter of patience and she had much of that. Well, maybe. Cid threw something to the back, without looking. It landed on Leon's head, which made him growl and gnash moodily.
Yuffie tried not to laugh at him and quickly grabbed the object, before Leon would decide to throw it away. She read the small letter that were written on the yellow packaging. It was a bar of some corn cake or something. Gross! She was too hungry to put it aside, though.
"Thanks, Cid! You just saved my life," Yuffie cried.
"Wouldya just shuddup an' eat?" he replied.
Yuffie shrugged, while trying to open the damn thing...which was easier said than done.
She wondered how the blond spiky-haired SOLDIER was doing. She was quite sure that he still was alive. When would they finally see him again? How much would he have changed from last year, when she had had the chance to see him for the last time at the Olympus Coliseum?
She was sure of two things, though. One, he sure was more fun than Squall here, for that had always been a fact, even if he was at least as vague as Leon, especially when you needed him to be crystal clear. And two: he sure had become more handsome...
Whoa, Yuffie had been spacing out again. And gosh, this Gummi Ship really was small! Cid was being a lazy ass again, as always. Why didn't this surprise her in the least? He apparently had found it a very funny idea to be the only one who had such a big place in the front, being the pilot and all, along with Merlin, the old and eccentric wizard who had suddenly, at the very last moment, decided to come along with them. Thanks to him, Yuffie was being sandwiched in the back, because there was room for only three very small people, preferably of Yuffie's size.
Poor Yuffie frequently got an elbow into her stomach, every time that Leon had to move for unknown reasons. Thank god it was just her stomach and not her face. What was wrong with him, anyway? Was he nervous, or something? If so, for what?
He never moved this much in one week. That was the only difference from their first flight together and now. Yuffie actually preferred an unconscious Leon, because then she wouldn't feel so unbelievably uncomfortable under the piercing glares he shoot at her every ten minutes. Or from the fact that she was sitting so close to him that she could feel the warmth of his soft skin, his strong and muscular arms, or almost hear his slow and steady heartbeat and his breathing. Was that a new cologne he was using? Gosh, he smelled so good...
To come back to the subject of bruises, Yuffie had now become completely fair, black and blue thanks to Leon. He also took the most space of all three. Yuffie looked at him. Apparently he simply chose to ignore her and stared glumly ahead into the far nothingness that was called space. Man, that guy certainly had some major issues! It was thanks to Merlin that she sat the whole time next to a silent and grumpy Leon. He would pay for this once they had arrived. They both would.
She turned her head to Aerith, slowly chewing on her food. Aerith was looking out of the small dirty window, at the many stars, planets and Gummi ships outside. Once she felt that someone had drawn her attention to her, she turned and smiled at Yuffie.
"This is quite exciting, huh?" she asked.
Yuffie heard that Aerith's voice still did not sound like it should be, like first, before she had had a sore throat. She really pitied the flower girl, for she once had a beautiful voice. Now she sounded like she really needed a glass of water.
"Yeah, tell me! I am wondering if it's still just as beautiful as it was before. And then the great and elegant fountains of Hollow Bastion, I always thought it was great to play there. My parents were always somehow less enthusiastic..."
Yuffie's smile faded in a split of a second when she thought of her deceased parents. It still hurt. That was one thing that would not be the same anymore, that was for sure. She was almost seventeen now and it was almost ten years ago that she had lost her parents to the darkness forever.
Gradually, as she got older, she had forgotten what they looked like, slowly; the memories of their voices had slipped out of her mind. It almost felt as if she was trying to hold water in her cupped hands, without succeeding.
The good and bad memories slowly seeped out of her head, farther and farther away from her. Gradually, she remembered almost nothing about her past. Gradually, she became accustomed to the harsh emptiness in her heart and her head. An emptiness that even Aerith, Cid and Leon could not fill together, no matter how hard some of them tried.
And worst of all, she still couldn't do anything about it. She stood with her nose on top of it all, but there was nothing left to save. She couldn't stop it, not even how hard she tried. She couldn't control it. It just happened. She could only hope now. Hope, that there were enough memories that she could rescue from the hands of the dark oblivion right in time.
Despite of all this, she still remembered exactly how her parents had died. Every time she closed her eyes, all the terrible images she still could not oust back would return and she would be once again the little girl that was oh so frightened of the sudden changes in her home world. The little girl that had seen everything happening right in front of her.
She saw again how her parents screamed and coiled in pain, and how the Heartless tore her mother's flesh in more than thousand pieces, also right before her eyes, and then how they tore their hearts from their bodies. It took off like a balloon filled with helium.
She sometimes still had nightmares about that terrible night and then woke up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, thinking that she had gone back in time and that everything was happening once again.
"Yuffie, are you okay?"
Aerith's soft voice was anxious, as it brought Yuffie back to reality. Yuffie was immediately aware that tears had formed in her eyes once again and that she had clenched her hands into fists. Her knuckles had become white from it. She quickly blinked a few times with her eyes to make the tears go away again and the good old goofy smile reappeared on her face, as always, as if nothing serious was going on.
"I'm fine, Aerith. Don't worry too much about me all the time," she managed to say, or rather, choke out.
Aerith's green emerald eyes still looked worried, but she nodded silently. A silent understanding. She had been her baby-sitter for years, after all. She knew how she must feel now, or what she was thinking right now (okay, mind reading did sound scary here), for she also had been her reserve mother for more than eleven years. Nobody on this ship knew Yuffie better than she did. Not even the stoic Squall-call-me-Leon-or-I'll-kill-you-right-away Leonhart, who had been her training partner for years now.
Hollow Bastion was...different from before. A lot. Seriously. Holy hell. Hmm, wasn't that a strange word combination? She cleared her head, once she noticed that she was going off-topic. Again. Where was everyone else? And more importantly, where were they? Was this really the Hollow Bastion they once used to know?
Where were the great fountains? What had happened to the beautiful flowers that used to be everywhere? And the always happy-looking residents of this town? Or the many shops and terraces that used to be full of people who had taken a day off? And what about the nice and funny ice cream vendor, Mr. Scrooge McDuck? They were probably dead. All death and gone, a long time ago. A cold shiver went down her spine.
"And?" Aerith asked after a while, when Yuffie still had not said anything.
All she did was look around her, completely perplexed, and cringe inwardly. Her eyes almost seemed to fall out of her skull. This terrible sight of ruins, destruction and desertion was almost killing her from the inside. She started to miss the always lively and cozy Traverse Town even more now. Aerith had been the first one who had broken the silence.
"Well, it's kinda...kinda...eh..."
She faltered, her voice trailed off. Kinda what? Hard to describe, really. Yuffie was looking for the right word, but could not find it. Was there any word that described death, cold, creepy, ugly, disappointment, dark and uncomfortable all together? She highly doubted that.
"Different," she decided.
Yuffie knew that Aerith knew what she had meant. She didn't have many memories of this place, but she clearly saw the difference from first. Well, at least it was day here. Last time it had been day for her, was ten years ago. Can you imagine that?
The sun was not shining, though. The sky was a grayish white. Very depressing, actually. Yuffie couldn't look too long at the sky. Her eyes started to hurt from the light. This place did not feel like home. Traverse Town had been Yuffie's home, the place she had grown up, and now she had left it all behind. Not only the precious memories, but also all the nice people. And for what actually? For the remnants of her past?
"Yes, it is," Aerith whispered sadly.
"So...now what?" Cid asked confusedly.
He scratched the back of his head, absent-mindedly. Yuffie thought that they should all go back to Traverse Town right this moment, but she was very sure that the grown-ups would not bother to listen to her, for they never did, anyway. Being the youngest of the group really sucked sometimes. Not that they actually cared. She was sure they didn't, because they always said to her at times like these that "this" was not about her.
"Well, what do you think? We should restore everything and make it exactly the way it was before-" Aerith started.
"-But even better. That's the only way we can get our old lives back and we should take that chance before it's too late," Leon finished, his frown never leaving his face.
Aerith was not the only one who looked at Leon like he had grown a second head, or something. Was he being insane? The whole town? All on their own? How? They didn't even have the tools, nor the money.
Leon had (obviously) noticed the way they were all looking at him, because the next thing he did, was say, "Look, I know it may seem not probable-"
"More like impossible," Cid murmured, and Yuffie nodded at that.
Leon just ignored him and continued, "But I'm sure that we can find enough volunteers from Traverse Town who want to help us. Besides, I don't think we have better things to do and we all have to find a new job, right? This is the best way to start."
Had Yuffie already mentioned that Leon was a great speaker? Seriously, he was way too good at what he was doing. Somehow, he always made it look as if he was right. Everyone had to believe him and listen to him. He knew that very well and was (obviously, again) using it against them now.
And, as always, everyone agreed with him. What a great surprise. Seriously. Maybe it wasn't his overpowering voice, or his composure. Maybe it was the big and somewhat scary scar on his face that did all the work for him.
They soon had found a place big enough to stay for the following weeks...or maybe even months. A big part of Merlin's house had miraculously survived ten years of war and darkness, - so his magic did work, even against Heartless and Dark magic? Wow, how impressive. - so that had become their new headquarters, where they had started to make new plans for the town.
Yuffie had insisted that they should give their new organization a cool name. Organization V for example. Eventually, it had become the "Hollow Bastion's Restoration Committee." It was not that cool, but it was better than nothing, right?
Their plan was very simple: help Sora as much as you can, while trying to make this town livelier. Leon, the leader of the HBRC (in capitals, of course), would go back to Traverse Town soon to search for people who were foolish enough to join the Restoration Committee and help them rebuild the city, but Cid had suddenly noted that he first needed the Gummi ship for something else, so that had to wait for a while. Leon insisted that the engineer created a defense system first.
And once they had rebuilt enough houses, schools, hospitals, offices and other important buildings, then Aerith, the healer and Merlin had to pot flowers all over the town, so everything would look like before, but better. Leon had asked her how long it would take her.
"I don't really know. If I use magic, then maybe just a few months," she had answered.
That had been completely fine with Leon. Any progress, no matter how small, was welcome so it seemed.
And Yuffie? Well, Yuffie was...the ninja. She had to defeat the Heartless outside, along with Leon.
According to Aerith, everything would be alright soon again. They just had to be more patient. They would know soon enough if that would be true. At least they tried to make everything better. For now, that would suffice, right?