Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 9 – Part 2)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

This entry may be a little long, but the only way I could think to split it would have created a tiny entry and a barely-less-long entry, so I decided to just leave it as is. Enjoy, and also check out FanFiction.net, where I’ll also be posting this story. 

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Gau - Shocked
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

At the mouth of the cave that led through to Baren Falls, Shadow finally decided that the journey was over for him.

“I have served my purpose,” he announced suddenly. Without so much as a ‘so long’ he turned, motioned for Interceptor to follow, and began walking back in the opposite direction.

Sabin had known that the moment would come, but he had become used to having the quiet man around. “Shadow!” he called. When the other man failed to stop, he continued with: “Thanks for your help! Let’s join ranks again sometime!”

Shadow raised one hand in recognition of the request and continued to walk, his loyal hound at his side.

Sabin watched them walk for a long time before following Cyan into the cave. It was a short tunnel that vibrated gently from a massive rumbling that could be heard up ahead. Upward they walked in silence until they eventually came out to a large cliff face. The outlet of the Doman river poured over one side of the cliff to become the enormous Baren Falls waterfall.

“So this is it,” said Sabin. He had to speak up to be heard over the din of the crashing water.

Cyan nodded. He’d been quiet since they left the forest but now he finally spoke again. “To the south, following the water’s path, is the Veldt. It is a large isle full of dangerous creatures.”

“And the Empire is on our tails,” Sabin added. “We’ve got to move forward.”

The two men looked at each other.

“If we can slip through the Veldt, we can reach the town of Mobliz on the east coast,” Cyan explained. He glanced cautiously at the falls.

Sabin gulped. “So what you’re suggesting…?”

Cyan nodded.

Together they walked to the edge of the cliff and peered down…and down, into the foamy white nothingness below. Cyan made sure his sword was secure before turning back to Sabin.

“Ready?”

“Not even remotely.”

One deep breath later, the two comrades took a leap of faith into the cold, rushing water.

—–

Sabin dreamed of being relentlessly beaten from all sides. The dream was narrated by the sound of a thousand horses galloping past his head. Everything was cold and wet.

“Uwaoo?”

His eyes shot open. He was on his back on a sandy beach, with the bright sun pounding down on him. Every inch of his body ached and his clothes were sopping. There was a strange young boy hovering over his face.

The boy was extremely dirty. He wore no shoes, and his shorts and ratty vest had clearly been fashioned from animal hides. His hair was a wreck that fell down his shoulders in the back, but was short and spiky on the top and sides as though he had hacked away what was near his face and left the rest. Sabin thought that hair might have once been brown, but exposure to the dirt, sun, and goodness knows what else had given it a strange green tinge. The boy was very skinny, and looked as wild as any beast, but his deep brown eyes shone with a strange sort of intelligence.

All Sabin could think to say was, “And you are?”

The boy jumped at the sound of the man’s voice and scampered off into a field of tall grass. Sabin sat up and was about to call out to the kid when he heard a wet cough.

“Cyan?” he called.

“Here!” came the voice from a dozen or so meters away.

Sabin struggled to pull his aching body into a standing position and limped to where Cyan was picking some seaweed off his clothes. The two men shook their heads at each other.

“Let’s do that again!”

“Indeed.”

With their bodies protesting the entire way they trudged across the open plains toward the small town of Mobliz, which they could see on the horizon. It took the better part of the day and they were extremely fortunate not to tangle with any of the Veldt’s savage wildlife during their journey. Once or twice they had come across a pack of wolves devouring a meal, or a swarm of large, lizard-like creatures moving through the tall grass, but they just kept walking and the creatures ignored them. When they finally reached the seaside town their clothes were dry, but so were their throats. Without half a thought, Sabin collapsed into a tiny, family-owned restaurant.

“Food!” he moaned. “Water!”

Cyan followed behind and barely managed to keep himself from collapsing on the floor.

The townspeople were very kind, feeding and cleaning the men and treating them like old friends. But when Sabin asked about transportation he was met with an unfortunate response.

“All we have are small fishing boats,” one man explained. “They won’t even make it past the current, and the next ship from Nikaeh isn’t set to be here for several days.”

Sabin’s face dropped. “So you’re saying that there’s no way off the Veldt until then?”

“It is rather an emergency,” added Cyan with a frown.

But the man simply shrugged. “A young mechanic was working on a project to help people breathe underwater – he figured we could use it to traverse the Serpent Trench that travels under the island, you see?” He looked like he thought the idea was pretty far-fetched. “But all of his equipment was stolen a few weeks past, so even relying on that idea, you’re out of luck. Sorry fellas, you’ll just have to wait for the ship.”

That evening Sabin and Cyan took a walk outside the town, trying to determine what their next move should be.

Sabin was chewing on some dried meat he’d picked up in town, worrying on it with a frustrated furrow in his brow. “This is ridiculous!” he growled. “We have to get to Narshe to warn the others of what’s happening with the Empire!”

“But it’s simply no good, Sir Sabin,” Cyan sighed. “The only way off the Veldt is via water and we-” He stopped suddenly and his hand flew to his sword.

Sabin had heard the noise as well. There was a second rustle in the grass, and then without warning they were surrounded. The lizard-like creatures were almost as big as Cyan when standing erect, and they were hissing in unison while looking rather hungry.

Cyan unsheathed his sword and pointed it at the nearest one. “You’ll have no meal of flesh today, foul beasts!”

Sabin cracked his knuckles. “Six against two! I think we can handle those odds. I’m in the mood for a good fight!”

The men moved together in attack but stumbled back in surprise when a high-pitched battle cry filled the air.

“Uwaaooo!”

Out of nowhere the boy came flying in and landed on the balls of his feet right on one of the lizard’s heads. He jumped and twisted, a blur of speed, and had knocked two of the creatures to the ground before the others even thought to advance on him. He cried out mischievously as he sparred, hand-to-claw, with the lizards. It was almost as if it was a game to him. Sabin and Cyan stared at the folly in disbelief.

The lizards soon established that they weren’t getting an easy meal here. Those who hadn’t been knocked out turned and ran together while the strange, wild boy jumped and cried out playfully, waving his fists at them.

And then he turned to Sabin. The smile fell from his face. He took a few steps forward, causing Sabin to take an instinctive step back, and suddenly he pounced.

“What the-?!” Sabin cried in alarm.

But the boy had simply snatched the dried meat from Sabin’s hand. Satisfied, he crouched to the ground and began stuffing it in his face.

Cyan had an almost amused look on his face. “Thou art so…odd,” he said to the boy, who looked up at the voice. “My name is Cyan,” the man continued slowly, “And this is Sabin.”

The boy’s eyes were bright with understanding. “You Cyan,” he repeated. “You Sabin.” He stood up to his full height – which was still half a foot shorter than Sabin – and grinned. “Me Gau! Me want more food!”

Sabin raised an eyebrow. “You ate it all, kid. No more for you.”

“You go!” Gau demanded, all teeth. “Get more for me!”

Cyan let a chuckle escape his lips.

“You’re a regular munchkin!” Sabin explained. Both his eyebrows were raised now, and in danger of leaving his head.

Gau dropped to all fours and growled impishly. “And you, afraid of me!”

Sabin laughed out loud. The gall! “What, you wanna fight?” he guffawed.

“Me not wanna hurt you,” Gau said. He narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth, some of which had been worn to points. The overall effect was fairly creepy.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Sabin demanded with a frown.

Gau apparently took the request as a challenge. With a growl he pounced again, this time knocking Sabin down to the ground. Sabin yelled out in alarm and Cyan stepped forward, concerned, but it soon became evident that Gau was only playing. As the young boy wrestled with the trained fighter he laughed like a child playing with a puppy. Cyan couldn’t help but let out another chuckle.

“Geez, kid,” a surprised Sabin said as he finally managed to shove Gau away. “You’re actually pretty tough!”

Gau rolled around on the ground and laughed joyously. “That fun! You strong!” he roared. “Me like dancing! You good leader!”

Sabin’s face flushed red. “Hey!” he shouted, shaking a fist. “Shut it, you brat!”

Gau only laughed harder.

Cyan finally stepped forward, a ghost of a smile still on his face. “Simmer down, sirs,” he said in an authoritative tone. To Gau he added, “And thou, o’ wild one, where might thou have come from?”

Gau’s laughter halted suddenly. “Thou?” he repeated, and then burst into a wave of giggles. “Thou!” he screamed in hysterics. He jumped to all fours and began bouncing around like a monkey. “Thou! Thou!” Bounce, bounce. “Thou! Thou!” Bounce, bounce.

Cyan’s face went odd then, kind of hard and blank, and he turned his head. Even Gau noticed the change and his gaiety ceased immediately.

“Cyan?” he probed cautiously. “You angry me?” He crawled a little closer when there was no response. “Cyan? You angry me?”

Without asking directly, Sabin thought he understood. Cyan had a funny way of speaking, that was for sure. Any child would find it amusing. Sabin could almost picture the happy Garamonde family laughing as the youngest member ran around making fun of his father’s funny words.

Sabin placed a hand on Gau’s shoulder and whispered gently. “Gau…Cyan’s family was recently killed…his son…”

Again that hidden intelligence was bright in Gau’s eyes. “Me understand,” he whispered back. On all fours he crawled up to Cyan and gingerly reached up to take his hand. Cyan started a little and looked down at the boy.

“Me understand,” Gau told him solemnly. “Me sorry. Me not mean person.”

After a moment the ghost of a smile returned and Cyan cleared his throat. “Forget it.”

Gau grinned. “Ah!” he suddenly exclaimed. “Gau give you present! Give you nice present, thanks for food!” He was jumping up and down again, clearly impressed by his own wonderful idea.

Sabin caught Cyan’s eye. “What manner of rubbish do you suppose-?”

But Gau interrupted, yelling at the top of his lungs. “Gau’s treasure! Shiny, shiny!” He bounced, as hyperactive as any other child his age. “Shiny, shiny, shiny, shiny!!”

Sabin scoffed, but he was amused. “Can anything be that shiny?”

Gau bounced forward and grabbed both of Sabin’s hands, pulling him around in circles. “Does Mr Thou like shiny thing?” he asked happily.

Sabin shook the boy away and pointed at Cyan. “Mr Thou’s that one, over there!” he said pointedly. To himself he added, “A super-shiny thing, eh? Think how jealous Locke’s gonna be when he hears about this.”

Gau looked shocked at the introduction of a new name. “Who be Locke?” he asked. “Bad man? Maybe he try to steal my treasure!”

“Locke?” Sabin chuckled. “Well he’s-” He stopped because Gau was bouncing again and spinning in circles, clearly not listening at all. “Hey! Pay attention when someone’s talking to you!”

Instead, Gau bounced to Cyan and pulled on his arms until he was standing a few feet east of Sabin.

“I think he’s trying to tell us something,” Cyan observed.

Satisfied with the placement of the men, Gau bounced himself to a spot a few feet south and a little closer to Cyan than Sabin. “Here, here!” he cried happily. “Shiny thing here!” He gestured to each of them in turn as though they were landmarks on a map. “Sabin! You stand at place where you get food…called Mobliz!” He turned. “Cyan! Place where you stand, it where water brought you!” He jumped up and down on his spot and spun in circles. “No we go Crescent Mountain! Shiny thing there!” He pointed south where a moderately small mountain blocked the view of the ocean.

Sabin gave Cyan an exasperated look. The older man shrugged. “Look, let’s just go with him to this Crescent Mountain,” he suggested. “It’s not as though we can leave the Veldt anytime soon anyway.”

Gau popped up in front of Sabin before he could respond. “Mr Thou! Hurry up! Let’s go!”

“Hey!” Sabin shouted as the boy took off running. “I told you once, I’m not Mr Thou!”

Cyan had to chase the two troublemakers all the way to the mountain.

Laughing, happy as a lark the whole way, Gau led the two men into a large cave that opened up to the mouth of an underground river. The current was extremely fast, whipping by so quickly that they could feel the spray hitting them from ten feet away. It was here, from behind a bunch of large boulders, that Gau pulled three strange-looking suits.

“Is this it?” Cyan inquired. “Gau’s…treasure?”

“Treasure!” Gau exclaimed. “Yes!”

Sabin picked up one of the suits delicately, though he needn’t have been so gentle. The suits were made of a finely pounded steel plating, bound together at the joints with a thick, black rubber. Attached at the neck was what appeared to be a large glass sphere with a hose that attached to a tank tied to the suit’s back.

“Shiny, indeed,” Sabin muttered. Gau jumped and pointed to all the steel and glass excitedly.

“Sir Sabin,” Cyan said slowly, “Do you think?”

Sabin nodded. They were both thinking about the man in Mobliz who’d spoken about stolen equipment – a project to help people breath under water.

Cyan looked at Gau, who was still grinning ear-to-ear. “Sir Gau,” he asked, pointing at the rushing water. “Is that the Serpent Trench?”

“Yes, yes! Trench run underground!”

“And if we followed it, it would go to Nikeah?”

“Yes, yes! Underground!”

Cyan looked at the water, then to Sabin. “Current is…fast.”

Sabin nodded. “Fast is what we need, and we survived Baren Falls.” He continued examining the suits inch by inch. They might, after all, be the single thread between life and death. “If these will allow us to breath underwater, we can reach Nikaeh in no time. From there we can surely catch a ship to South Figaro and hitch a few chocobos to Narshe.” He made it sound almost simple.

After a long look at each other Sabin and Cyan began to silently dress themselves in the strange underwater suits. To their surprise, Gau immediately began climbing into the third one.

“Hey!” Sabin exclaimed. “Who said you were coming along?”

“Gau come with new friends!” the boy said happily.

Sabin looked exasperated. “Look, kid,” he tried to explain, “Where we’re going is dangerous. We’ll be fighting some very bad men. What are you, like, thirteen?”

Gau didn’t seem to understand the reference to age, but his face was set. “Gau not afraid. Gau come with new friends, fight! Win!” For the first time since they’d met, the boy’s face was serious and absolutely determined.

Sabin looked to Cyan for support, but the older man simply shrugged. “He will likely follow us regardless. We cannot force him to stay behind.”

Gau nodded stubbornly.

Finally Sabin sighed and shoved the glass sphere over his head. When he spoke his voice sounded humorously distorted. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Gau grinned.

So the three found themselves staring into the rushing waters, readying themselves to jump.

“On the count of three,” Sabin decided nervously. “One…two…”

“Three!” Gau’s voice echoed beneath his helmet as he screamed the word and pulled the three of them into the icy waters.

It was a rush the likes of which Sabin had never experienced, both exhilarating and terrifying. The current whipped them along at speeds that made them feel like they were free-falling from the highest mountaintop. They couldn’t have directed themselves if they’d tried, so it was a neck-breaking experience, being flung through tunnels, sling-shotting around huge boulders, and whipping past hundreds of hungry-looking sea creatures. All the time they were able to breath air from the tanks on their backs, but less than fifteen minutes into the8 journey Sabin began to have trouble taking a deep breath. He tried to look at his companions to see if they were having any issues, but the flow and pressure of the current around him kept him from even moving his head. A moment later he was starting to gasp a little, and within the next minute he was starting to panic. He tried desperately to draw a breath, but there was simply nothing left to breathe. He was skirting on the edge of passing out when he saw a glimmer of light. With all his strength he held on, vision waning, head pounding, and suddenly the pressure around his body was gone as the trench spit him out to the surface.

Sabin tore the glass sphere from his head with the rest of his strength, took an enormous breath of salty sea air, and turned to look for the others. They had popped up nearby and were both looking a little worse for wear. Cyan in particular looked distinctly purple in the face as he yanked off his helmet.

“If we ever return…to Mobliz,” he gasped, “We’ll need…to tell the scientist…that he needs…larger tanks.”

They all laughed then, half from relief, half from the remains of the rush of adrenaline.

Eventually they looked to the shore, to the port town of Nikaeh less than half a mile away. Several beautiful ships were docked in the harbor.

“Narshe is just a stone’s throw away, now,” Cyan told them.

Sabin nodded solemnly. “I hope the others have arrived safely.”

“I’m sure they did.”

“Me hope so too.”

Sabin spared a smile for Gau, looking so innocent bobbing there in the too-big suit. After a few more deep, salty breaths, he began swimming for Nikaeh.

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