Halfway to the surface, the world had split in two.
As the three heroes had rocketed up the winding tunnel, spiralling back towards freedom and open air, Sonic recalled a brief moment of serenity, of absolute calm, as if the very Earth had held its breath in anticipation of what was to come. Then it had. An impact so large it seemed to shake the entire world. Each tunnel they flashed through had ceased to exist a mere moment later, swallowed up by the Engine's insatiable appetite. Shards of falling rock blinded them, a choir of thunder deafened them, and a final impact knocked the world out of focus as the Tectonic Engine ultimately devoured itself. Sonic remembered grabbing hold of his friends and running, just running, for the circle of bright light up ahead, the portal that would take them home.
Good times, thought Sonic. He stood alongside Tails and Knuckles on a plateau overlooking the devastated Lithic Sierra Zone. Below them stretched a round chasm several miles in diameter. The mountains that had formerly occupied the area were no more. They had crumbled like cookies and sank into the depths along with all that remained of the Erina Clan and the Tectonic Engine.
They were finally gone, but they would never be forgotten. Following their narrow escape, the heroes had returned to Paladin City and been offered their medals by the grateful Mayor. Sonic had graciously declined his, explaining that he had nowhere to keep it and wouldn't want to lose it. The Mayor had been somewhat disappointed until Sonic had suggested an alternative reward.
"Kefa's Courage," Sonic murmured, his eyes sweeping over the vast crater. The Mayor had been more than delighted to accept Sonic's proposal. At his request, Kefa's Courage would be the everlasting name of the landmark, in honour of her final act of bravery. She deserved the title of hero just as much as any of them. It was too bad she couldn't be there to accept it. "Adios," he whispered, and turned away.
"Makes you think, though," said Tails from beside him. "Just imagine the good things that Eggman could do if he put his mind to it. If he started helping people instead of just trying to help himself." Knuckles nodded firmly. "Too bad we have to endure a million mindless drones for a single Kefa." A sudden gust of wind ruffled their fur. "What do you think, Sonic?" asked Tails. There was no reply, and when he turned, Sonic wasn't there.
At first, he ran like the wind. Then, he became it.
As Sonic the Hedgehog carved a swathe through the world, heading in no particular direction but forward, the words of Ignius came back to him. You run and you run, but what are you running from? What are you running towards? Sonic took a deep breath and filled his lungs with crisp, fresh air. He listened to a million sounds as they streaked by: the unabashed laugh of a child; the rustle of leaves stirred by the wind; the cry of a seagull as it circled above the ocean. His eyes took in the limitless palette of creation: the blue sky; the green grass; flowers of white and yellow and red, and so much more on the horizon.
At that moment, he knew the answer to her question. He ran because there was so much to see and do, so much to experience, and such little time to do it. If he stopped, he might miss something.
What was he running towards? He'd find out when he got there.