Light Unto My Path
By: Ayato Kamina
Chapter 20: The World
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VIII, nor do I own the characters of Final Fantasy IX or Final Fantasy X. Yes, for this chapter, I am using other characters from different Final Fantasies. I didn't mean to crossover, but it happened, so deal with it. Sue me.
All he remembered were the roads he just finished. He trekked across the whole Balamb island, and now needed proof that he did. He peered at the current road ahead of him. There were various like it, but only this one led to Balamb Harbor, the beaches with sands whiter than bright clouds.
It had been a few days since he last talked to Rinoa, but that fated day would replay in his mind forever. Never would he see her again until he finished what he promised. He would give her time, all the time it took for Squall to run the entire world.
He was clutching a jar in his hand, making sure to never let go. If this jar broke, he would have to find another one. Finding another jar was the last thing on Squall Leonhart's mind. He grasped it with the sheer passion a mother had when she holds onto her baby. The jar was bare, containing only the emptiness that air provided. Soon it would be full, bearing witness to all the lands that Squall had run. His epic love would not only stir Rinoa, but surely, he would win her heart.
He was sincerely hoping that Rinoa did not misunderstand his cryptic proclamation that ran along the lines of lighting some path and running it. He had no idea what he said; it just came out of him. He even forgot all the intricate details of their conversation beforehand. All he felt was a prompting upon his heart to give Rinoa some time and to show her how much he loved her.
The whole world needed to know who Rinoa Heartilly was; he was the messenger.
He didn't care that no one had traveled the entire world before. He would be the first to do it. Even though it had been centuries since Centra was inhabited, he would get there somehow. Esthar was a shrouded mystery, but he would unfold the veils that covered it. Trabia was simply freezing, but he would endure it. This quest was the only thing that mattered now. This quest would win her heart.
His blood pumped scintillating adrenaline that gave his legs energy to move faster and faster. He could hear his breathing, a sound that vaguely reminded him of the wind. Squall looked to his side to find his faint companion trailing him. He saw how his companion was matching every single step that he took. Squall peered at his comrade's hair surfing wildly across the waves of the wind.
Squall and his shadow had been best friends ever since he picked up his first pair of running shoes. He smiled at the visible outline of himself.
He continued to pump his legs in meticulous fashion, never noting how tired he was becoming. The pain and weariness that resulted from running was always a good thing. Running was just like life, there were long hills to master, flying touches after the long hills, and those annoying obstructions on the path that he had to avoid. Sometimes running was filled with monotony as Squall ran along a straight road, not turning to the left or right for miles and miles. Sometimes, Squall noticed roads so crooked that he was reminded of how many turns his life took.
The road he was currently running had the perfect complacency to it. The breeze gently tickled his forehead, the way that he liked it. The asphalt was not too hard which gave his poor legs some rest. He was in no hurry, the harbor wasn't going anywhere.
With running, he did not have to talk to a single soul. He loved the solitude of it, not having to answer to anyone but himself. He would be caught in his thoughts for hours, but they would translate to seconds.
This was the instance here. Without even noticing, he approached the harbor. It felt like he had just run a couple of miles, but now that he thought about it, the distance was much longer.
The marina with its distinct white sands juxtaposed quite well with the azure, feathery sky. The beach wanted to give Squall a present, the first series of presents he needed.
He left the road to enter the sandy dunes. Realizing that he had already run a marathon's worth, he waited for his breath to catch up. Hopefully it would return to him soon.
It never did. The breath was so far back that Squall decided to stop waiting and proceed with his first step towards bringing Rinoa back. He crouched down, first noticing how sore his legs still were. He ignored the pain as he slid his relaxed fingers through the clear sands. He grabbed a handful and placed it in the jar carefully. He smiled like a kid eating candy for the first time.
"What are you doing there lad, stealing my sand?"
His smile disappeared. Squall turned around to see an old man with a fierce physique. The old man seemed as weathered as the sea itself with wrinkles sketched on his face.
"...I don't see your name on it." said Squall wryly.
The man responded by pointing towards a shack. The shack had a well-placed sign that read, "Private Property of Ward Zabac."
Squall answered by dumping all the sand back to this Ward's respective property. He took a few steps away from the shack and poured sand in his jar again.
"You can't do that." yelled Ward from a few feet away. "That's my property too."
Squall responded by pointing towards another sign that read, "Private Property of Ward Zabac." However, this sign was the product of vandalism, and it had various stray markings that coated it like messy makeup.
"Some kids did that," he said aloud. "It's still my property!" His resolve was unwavering like the tides.
"I'm getting proof that I ran all around the world," said Squall, ignoring the onslaught of warnings. "I'm putting all the dirt, sand, or whatever in here." He lifted the jar up to show his point. "If you have a problem, I can find another place."
"You really think you can do it kid?" he asked. Why was he asking so many questions?
"Does your opinion matter?" Squall answered cryptically.
"No, but yours does," Ward asked intently. "Kid if you really think you can run the whole world, you're crazy."
"I probably can't, but I can at least try."
"Why are you doing it anyways? Is it because of some girl?"
Squall was flabbergasted, but none of it was witnessed by Ward. How did Ward figure out though? It was probably just a lucky guess.
"Yes, it's because of some girl."
"So you're traveling the world for her?"
"I'm running the world for her."
Ward scoffed at Squall's play on words. Then he reflected on this profound assertion and replied, "From what I know, you can't run on water. Heck, you couldn't even walk on it. Take the sand though; I hope ya live."
Squall chuckled and walked off to buy a ticket for the Fisherman's Horizon.
Squall turned around to hear what Ward had to say.
"What's your name again?"
"Squall... Squall Leonhart."
He lifted a finger while walking off, presenting his odd way of saying farewell. As he reached the boardwalk, he viewed Balamb for the last time.
The sweeping mountain chains seemed to trail the whole island. The simple blue skies and fluffy clouds reminded Squall of the plethora of days of being lost in imagination. The plains sang with the breeze, along with the flowers serenely dancing. The distant town he was reminded of, all the memories that were born there. With a single glance, he saw it all.
Then he imagined having the entire world in a single jar. That'd be perfect for Rinoa.
What did he mean when he said those words?
Rinoa did not understand Squall's puzzling declaration. He was going to show her that he supposedly loved her by running away? Running away never solved anything. What was he doing?
Everything about this Squall Leonhart infuriated her. His goofy little smile, the way his eyes lit up, his stupid hair, his scrawny frame, the way he blabbered generalities; she hated them all. He was the worst extrovert she had met in her life. He needed to shut up and recollect his thoughts. Now that Rinoa thought about it, she was glad he ran away!
She hadn't seen him nor heard from him in days. She was enjoying this new silence. No more of his constant bickering, she was overjoyed to be free from him. She hoped to never see him again. She genuinely hoped so.
But why was she thinking of him then? He wasn't worth the time to daydream about. Why were her thoughts continuing to follow Squall? He had given her time; now she needed to use it efficiently.
She really did need the time now since she was back at school. She was currently in her last period, wasting her time on these things. She could not remember any of the concepts that she had learned during the year. Calculus was unbearable; the derivatives laughed at her because she could not find them. She could not understand any of the biological terminology that the instructor preferred to use. She absolutely hated Centran history.
But Rinoa was a hard-worker, stubbornly determined to get her way. She would not fail out of high school. She would get her diploma and proceed to college, no matter what the costs were. When she got home, she would have to study until her brain oozed out.
"Class, remember to prove and solve the Hodge Conjecture for homework. I'll be checking it in the morning."
She heard the class groan in a multitude of pitches.
"Class, you are dismissed."
Immediately, the room was back to life. Students filed out of the classroom faster than a Chocobo running a full sprint. Rinoa remained at her desk, putting her things in her backpack methodically.
Rinoa didn't even have to look, but already knew that only Selphie would call her ridiculous nicknames, besides Squall.
No more thoughts will be influenced under the paradigm of Squall.
"Hey Seffie," she responded.
Selphie had reintroduced herself a few days ago when Rinoa had first come back to school. Rinoa distinctly recalled that she had read in her journal of a Selphie, but to no avail, she could not remember her.
Selphie was still very much everything her journal had stated- extremely optimistic, cheerful, and sometimes a tad hyper.
"Tee-hee, I'm glad we're on nickname terms." said Selphie jubilantly. She twirled a strand of hair with her finger and asked almost nervously, "you know, the Student Government is holding a Garden Festival since school's almost over, and I was wondering if you wanted to hang out with us... and help."
Rinoa did have a lot of homework to do, but making friends had its own appeal.
"Sure, but I have homework. I guess I'll do it over there."
"YEAH!" beamed Selphie with a triumphant fist in the air, "We're going to PAAH-TAY!"
"Don't forget that I have hom-"
"-Tee-hee! There's a lot of geeks in the Student Government too. I'm sure that we can all help you together." said Selphie. "But then we'll PAAH-TAY!"
Rinoa giggled at the enthusiasm of her friend. Rinoa followed an excited Selphie down the corridors of opportunity.
---It was an off-day which meant that there was no track practice today. However, the long-distance ran everyday of the week either dependent on Coach Nida's instruction or independently by themselves. Today, they would run together along the beaches of Balamb.
A group of three ran behind their newly-appointed leader Zell Dincht. They trailed the sands carefully in line, making sure the hierarchy wouldn't be breached. Zack felt his lungs imploding from within. He had already broken his all time high of six miles, he was now trailing his seventh.
"Keep up, Zack," said Zell from up front. His legs were moving in rhythmic fashion. How could he still run for so long with that pace?
He's a senior, and he's been running forever. You've only started this year, that's why. When you run as long as him, you'll probably be better. Maybe one day...
Answering Zell's comment would have required more energy on Zack's part, so he grunted in response. The others giggled at Zack's trouble.
"Spruce, today we're running for fun, if you're getting a workout from this, just run at your own pace." assured Irvine.
The track team had a nickname for everyone almost, well everyone new.
"I'm... f-fine." said Zack with trouble. He tried to control his breathing, to make it sound as calm as the sea next to him. He couldn't, and the whole world could hear the tsunami occurring.
"Dude, we can stretch ova at the shack there, ya?" reassured Wakka. "Looks pretty nice ova there."
"It does, but we already stretched." chirped Zidane.
"Just tryin' to help out young Spruce ova there. Ya don't think we could help him out, ya?"
"Fine," replied Zell, "we'll stop soon at the shack; it's only a couple of meters away." He turned around to take a peek out Zack. "Geez buddy, you don't look too good. We runners need to stick together. We'll take a break, don't worry."
They reached the dilapidated shack with heaves and huffs. Zack was finally glad they stopped. He crouched over, trying to catch his breath.
He wanted water. He wanted it so badly that he swallowed saliva to hopefully soak his parched, salty throat. It didn't work, and now he just wanted water more. He tried to get his mind off his thirst, so he directed his vision towards the ground. The sand looked awfully pretty.
While he was hunched over, he heard a thunderous voice coming from the direction in front of him. It declared stridently, "What are you doing on my property?"
Immediately, all the runners jumped up in fear, completely forgetting everything rational. They didn't even respond, but looked at each other hoping someone else would answer. Finally Zell gained back some sense and replied meekly, "We were running on the beach... sir."
"Well, this is my property, and I don't want some kids ruinin' it."
Zack decided to speak up, hoping to clarify. "Sir... we-we're runners, and we were just taking a run on the beach. W-We thought it was public p-property." He was still tired, but good thing he had his point across.
"Runners eh?" said the old man with a smirk. "I met a kid just like you kids a few days ago, he said he'd run the whole world."
It was common knowledge that no one had traveled the entire world. This old man was loony. He was probably included in the remnant of the age that indulged in the sleeping powders of the exotic Grats. That would explain why he lived in a shack on the beach.
"Gramps, stop pulling our tails, no one can run the whole world," said Zidane with his tone of vivacity.
The old man glared at him. Zidane immediately shut up, beckoning the old man to finish his phony tale.
"I believed that young man, there was just something about those eyes. I believe it, ya hear?"
Those loonies were addicted to features like eyes too.
"Sir, no one has run the entire world before," intoned Zell with his facts. "The uncharted lands of Esthar have never been witnessed by even Galbadian explorers. They don't even send planes there. Now it's kinda hard to believe that a kid's just going to run there."
"Yeah," mocked Irvine subtly, "do you know his name?"
The old man directed his view towards the sea. He majestically did not respond for a few moments. Perhaps he was fabricating a name, but due to his previous days of overdosing, he would have to take longer.
He turned back around and smiled, "I remember... that kid... that kid's name was Squall Leonhart, and I still believe he'll do it even though the facts don't line up."
I'm sorry for not updating recently. College life has me hard. I'm so glad that you guys reviewed this story, even though it's poorly written from the beginning. I'm sorry for crossing over with the other characters, but they were the runners from Chapter 2 (which was bad planning on my part, back in the day). Thanks once more for reviewing earlier, and I encourage you to review once more. Thanks, reviews inspire me to write more.
rinnyheartillyizawesome, Don't worry, she'll be happy soon enough. Thanks for reviewing.
khknight, Na, don't be bound by institutions like high school for your fics. Be original.
Rezelle, You probably won't see this since you haven't read Chapter 19, but I thank you for your encourgements.
jackie, I don't know if you'll read this again, but here's the chapter you wanted. I'll make more when the time comes.
Stormrider, A year ago was when she was rash about moving. She didn't want to move to Balamb, but a few months later, her dilemmas were solved. An exact year ago was when she was close to her friends in Deling City. Then she had to move away. Being bound by obligations infuriates Rinoa. Being bound by the past infuriates her as well.
tw3akedd0wn, Don't worry, it's going to be a long time before Rinoa loves Squall again. Hopefully this story won't eat me alive.
SavannahX, It will be a happy ending. He ran away, but not for the typical reasons.
Dramatic-Maniac, I enjoy long reviews that drag on. They keep me entertained. Continue to write them, for the help me in making me a better writer. I'm in that process, and I need help from people like you. Thanks.
Luis, Don't worry Luis, she'll see that. She'll definitely see that.
Rinoa2005, Thanks for encouraging me. I was being emo then I guess. I still feel bad about my writing though. :
Cerulean Crystal, I updated even though it took so long. I'm sorry that I took so much time. In the future, I'll try to update more.
Man, Haha, nice analysis, but Squall ends up running elsewhere. I've read your story...hurry and update it!
Jayliyah85, He's gone for good reasons. She'll catch up more to her past later. Hurry and write a new fic!
rinoa1565, I didn't quit, but I guess it seemed like I did. Here is though, and I'll try to update soon.