As I regain consciousness, I feel soft ripples of water splash against the back of my head. I slowly open my eyes, my gloved right hand right in front of my face to protect from the incoming light. The first thing I see is a cloudy sky - one that, ironically, imparts a sense of serenity. A few green streams of light also make their way across, one of them encircling a high pole at the far right of my peripheral vision. I know I've been here before, but as I now try to recall, my mind draws a blank.
The cold seeps in, and I promptly sit upright, readjusting my fur-lined jacket and wiping away the droplets of water on them. Then as I slowly and fully awake, I register one by one the various happenings around me. Some medieval knight in blue and yellow armor is talking to a seemingly luminescent female in white seated on an ice throne, while a pink-haired female in military uniform watches them from a distance. Elsewhere, a large gathering is centered around a boy with a tail kicking around a blue and white ball. (Just... don't ask.) A burly and rough-spoken older man observes the play close by, occasionally giving pointers, while a more carefree guy in a blue cape and ensemble cheers them on.
Just then, a man in a dark blue jacket with a firearm slung to his right shoulder announces his arrival, holding up what seemed to look like a hand of cards. The ball-playing group waves at him, while the pink-haired soldier rolls her eyes. A raven-haired woman in a sleeveless light blue duster with matching arm warmers raises an eyebrow in amusement, before looking over in my direction. Her gaze locks onto mine for a moment, and I slightly cock my head to the side. Suddenly, her expression brightens and she calls out to the group, "Squall's awake!"
Almost everyone pauses from their individual activities and acknowledges my presence (or rather, consciousness). The boy with the tail and his cape-wearing playmate wave energetically, while the man in blue-yellow armor sends me a small smile, as did the woman on the throne. I blink twice and sigh defeatedly. She didn't have to. The last thing I need is people gathering unnecessarily and overly checking on me, not especially from people I barely know - or remember. Whichever. I don't know enough yet. Maybe I'll just clue myself in later on the events that transpired while I was out.
The luminous woman finally rises from her throne, gentle but resolute energy radiating from her being. The knight and the female soldier step down and join us on the ground. She introduces herself as Cosmos, the goddess of harmony, and orients us on why we are here and the war we must fight to restore balance to the world, or something to that extent. Hushed murmurs arise from the group. The pair of warriors in front say nothing, while the ball game coach smirks and mumbles something about some kid he remembered he had to deal with. Apparently, I didn't miss much. No one did.
As soon as Cosmos dismisses us, the assembly disperses in uneven groups. Some, like the girls and the happier-looking people of the group, band together, while others walk off alone. I also do the latter, but before I could enter a 'gateway' myself, a gentle tap on my right shoulder stopped me from doing so. Behind me was the same girl who announced my regaining consciousness to all, beaming. Ah, seriously...
"Not so fast, Squall." She jerks her thumb to a group behind her. "You're with us today." I narrow my eyes, staring her down. Who decided? She flinches - as did I, though not outwardly. Immediately a wave of guilt sweeps over me, though I do not let this show, lest I get caught and branded as weak by a girl I do not know or recall. Not that she would ever think that, something tells me so. I brush it off and watch her again, crossing my arms.
Letting go of my shoulder, the girl purses her lips for a moment, seemingly weighing her options before trying again. "Er, would you like to join us today, Squall? Just until we get ourselves enough supplies, at least." She lets out a small smile, hopeful that I would change my mind. An awkward silence follows. I instantly look away, eyeing the gateway to my right that was about to close. I want to just walk away, yet am unable to move. Since when have I grown this soft?
We are snapped back to reality a cry from afar - presumably her companions, telling her to do something; what it is, I am already starting to have an idea. She turns back and hollers a protest; I watch them shout their responses to each other with disinterest.
"Trust me, he will agree!" The gunner who held the playing cards repeats his reply a second time, accompanied by a thumbs-up. Hyne, I should have known. My predictions are confirmed when the ball-playing pair call out and signal me to come over, as well, trying in vain to contain their laughter. Taking this as a sign, the girl returns the thumbs up, then turns back at me and grabs my hand, a wide grin now on her face.
"It's decided, then!" Without warning, she pulls me along determinedly across the space back to her companions, eventually breaking into a run, with me trying to pull back in vain. I try to protest, but I could not form the words to say. I could only but notice the playful, excited expression on her face reflected on the watery surface of the sanctuary. Her light blue outfit flutters behind her like waves of water pushing away towards the sea. Her smooth, black hair flies freely as she increases her speed, revealing a pair of white wings imprinted on the back of her clothes.
Suddenly, in my eyes, the watery reflection momentarily changed into a shiny yellow-marbled floor, reflecting what seemed to be like a formal event of some sort, dancing couples all over. And in the middle of it all, the same girl, in a white dress, was pulling me along, and I was again helpless. A ripple of water distorts the reflection, destroying the scene and suddenly returning it to an empty stretch of gray and white.
I look forward once more, more baffled than disappointed. From one who, if not moving alone, prefers to stay put, I become the one led along, swept by the winds of chance - or was it change? It was a fleeting vision which left me with unanswered questions.