Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Inochi Wa Tsusuku

Chapter One

by AccountingNinja 0 reviews

He had already come to terms long ago that he was made, a golem, like his fellow Mages. He thought he had solved his dilemma. What was Mikoto saying? What…am I?

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Characters: Mikoto,Vivi Ornitier - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2008-07-16 - Updated: 2008-07-17 - 2940 words

"Is it so small a thing, to have enjoyed the sun,

To have lived light in the Spring,

To have loved, to have thought, to have done;

To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes-

That we must feign a bliss Of doubtful future date,

And while we dream on this, Lose all our present state,

And relegate to worlds...yet distant our repose?"

--Matthew Arnold

Empedocles on Etna, 1852


Chapter One: Memory

The beautiful late morning sun peered quietly into Vivi's bedroom window. The little Black Mage adjusted his hat and tied up his blue jacket, fingers lingering idly on the leather laces. He stood for a moment in the middle of his room, and his gaze trailed to the ceiling. Vivi knew he should be motivated to enjoy the lovely day that blossomed outdoors. Mechanically, he wandered to the window to gain inspiration from the birdsong and swaying, sun-speckled treetops, but he found his thoughts straying to the past, as they often did these days.

"I wonder," he sighed to nobody, "what everyone's doing right now."

It had been six months since Necron's defeat, and there was still no sign at all of Zidane. During the trip back to Lindblum on the Hilda Garde 3, everyone had been encased in their own sorrowful thoughts. Dagger had isolated herself below decks, not even allowing her Uncle Cid to speak with her. Vivi remembered the stifling silence. He had wished he had the knack for cheering people up; for bringing out the positive in what seemed to be the worst situation. But, that had been /his /job....

A tentative knock sounded at his door, followed by a voice.

"Vivi? May I enter?"

Vivi recognized the voice. "Come in."

She stepped in, eyes cast down, a pretty Genome girl wearing pink and white. Vivi gazed at her. Her presence always made him shyer than usual. The boy had had a fascination with her since she came to live in the village. "M-Mikoto. Um...Hi," he stammered.

"Good morning, Vivi." For such a young girl, her voice carried an even, sober tone. Never one for lengthy greetings or small talk, she announced, "I came to inquire on the behalf of Mr. 288 about your well-being. You have been reclusive lately."

"Yeah, I-I'm alright..." He trailed off, gazing up at her.

Mikoto tilted her head, a quizzical look playing on her face. "What is it? You're staring at me."

Hot embarrassment flooded his face, and quickly he turned from her. He hadn't realized he had been staring. He blurted out an explanation. "Sorry, it's just that, ah, you remind me of Zidane." He wasn't lying, he reasoned. He had just been thinking of Zidane before she arrived.

"I'm sorry your friend died," Mikoto said callously and unconvincingly.

/Died/. Vivi felt his blood chill. "He-He's not dead." He hugged himself fretfully. "He can't be. He-we all-survived worse dangers. And you didn't find a...body."

She remembered her trip to the Iifa Tree that fateful day. Vivi had insisted upon accompanying her to the roots, and then she had left him to explore the branches alone, mainly because Vivi was not an agile climber. "The Iifa Tree was destroyed, the trunk consumed by roots. Zidane most likely became trapped and--"

"No!" The boy cried desperately. "He's alive!" He was so full of life, thought Vivi. Zidane can't die. Another thought sprung unbidden to him. Not before me...

Vivi's emotional "logic" tried the Genome's patience. "That is not a reasonable assumption. It has been far too long, and the chances are slim that he lives. You were with me. You saw the state of the tree. Would he not have contacted someone by now?"

The room grew quiet. Vivi breathed softly, clasping his hands together. He knew she was right. "I guess I seem pretty stupid to you," he said at length.

His eyes met hers, and the empty sadness she saw stirred something in the depths of her heart. Mikoto felt the strangest, most unpleasant sensation, and she realized that her words had hurt Vivi.

She knelt before him, and tried a stumbling apology. "I'm sorry. Forget what I said. My intent was not...hurtful."

Slowly, she reached her hand out and touched his. The gesture felt wooden to Vivi, as if it were not natural for Mikoto to do anything compassionate; as if she merely aped something she read once. Annoyance crept up inside him until he looked into her face.

Her chin-length blonde hair fluttered in the breeze drifting through the window. She parted her lips slightly, and in her eyes dwelt a spark of genuine emotion. Vivi stood, transfixed to her. She tried so hard.

Emotions were not non-existent in Genomes; Zidane and Kuja had been proof of that. However, Mikoto never had the chance to express hers, and she wanted to be friends with Vivi. It was hard for her to temper her blunt rationalization of life, and she feared her Terran ways could isolate her from her new Gaian family.

Vivi smiled inwardly, and reciprocated her touch affectionately, if not awkwardly. "I-It's okay, really. I know."

A slight smile played on Mikoto's mouth, and for Mikoto, that meant she was very happy. The smile did not last, and her face became grave. She rose and sat at a quaint wooden chair by the window. She looked down at her hands crossed in her lap. "I came here for three reasons. I've already explained the first, so I shall relay to Mr. 288 what you told me. The second reason is not a happy one." She paused, pursing her lips. "We lost No. 111 last night."

Vivi tugged on the brim of his hat and shook his head. "Oh, no..."

Mikoto nearly whispered, "If it helps, it was a peaceful death, while he slept."

"He took care of Bobby," Vivi said. "Now no one's left to tend him...No. 111 really loved Bobby."

"Don't worry. We shall care for the chocobo. Tonight we will bury No. 111. You will come, won't you?"

He nodded purposefully. His heart felt weighted. In just one month, they lost two Black Mages. The same cold shiver passed through his being. They were dropping like flies...

Mikoto spoke as if she had read his thoughts. "There are only seventeen Black Mages left in the village, including yourself. Worse yet, there seems to be no warning at all. They just...stop."

Vivi said nothing. The girl continued, "You must listen, Vivi. I know it isn't easy, but this subject leads into the third reason I am here. The other Genomes and I wish to thank the Mages for all they have done for us, and we have been researching the problem of their limited life spans-"

Vivi's eyes lit up. "H-Have you found anything? Is there a way to lengthen them?"

She frowned a bit. "Please do not jump to conclusions. Extending the Black Mages' lives was our first idea, but, unfortunately, we cannot undo the way they were created. Nor can we give them anything in the way of medicine, since we haven't been able to identify any specific medical malady that causes their deaths."

Crestfallen, Vivi sat on his bed. He played absently with the corner of his chocobo down blanket. "Then they...we...are all going to die soon."

"Not you, Vivi," she said, sitting next to him. "You are different."

"I am?" he asked softly. She was so close to him, he could smell her gentle floral scent; see the soft curve of her cheek splashed with golden sunlight. His stomach fluttered, and the feeling confused him.

"Have you never thought of it? I've been observing the Mages, and especially you, for some time. I have come to some conclusions, which I believe are rationally sound."

"You...have?" He always felt a little dull speaking with Mikoto, with her sophisticated vocabulary. It was hard for him to remember she was only fourteen years old, not much older than he was, really. Considering the circumstances of their creation, however, Vivi wondered how important chronological age was regarding Mages and Genomes. He barely had time to digest the thought.

Mikoto sort of sniffed; her equivalent of a laugh. "You think you are like your brothers?" she asked bluntly. "I use the term 'brothers' loosely of course. If my theories are correct, then you are quite distantly related to them, but I'll get to that in a minute. Seriously, with all the soul-searching you have done, it's hard to imagine that you never saw these things."

Vivi's head swam in a jumble of her words. What was she talking about? He had shared the story of his adventures with Mikoto, and his personal journey of discovery. But now he felt uncomfortable, as though she was mocking him. He almost regretted divulging such vulnerable information with her. His question came out sounding more impatient than he intended. "What things?"

Mikoto took a deep breath. Vivi saw an emotion behind her eyes he did not recognize; a cross between anticipation and determination. It was the most intense look he had ever seen her give, and it made him nervous. She began speaking as if delivering a speech.

"As you know, the Black Mages were manufactured by Kuja using much the same process with which we Genomes created new vessels. I was fascinated by these people, and wished to learn how they came into awareness. I spoke with many of them, and each had pretty much the same story to tell. They had all become aware quite suddenly, usually in battle, some on the cargo ships. It wasn't a concrete memory for them. They would not remember what the date was, or whether it was night or day. Mr. 288 is correct in his analogy that it is like being born. Plus, the Black Mages can also dimly remember their days of mindless servitude. These feelings manifest themselves subconsciously, as in dreams. In fact, a lot of them have recurring nightmares of battles they fought, and people they killed. But what about you, Vivi? You don't have any of these feelings, do you?"

Vivi blinked. " I don't know where I came from, really. I mean, I accepted the fact I was made, but I don't have any memories of battles or anything. Before then, I lived with Grandpa until he died. Then I went to Treno, then Alexandria, then, well, you know."

"So, where do you think you came from?" she asked, as though conducting an interview.

He pondered her question. "Grandpa wasn't my real Grandpa, obviously..." Half joking, he added, "Heh heh, maybe I fell off the cargo ship, too."

A sudden flash...Broken barrels...Shrapnel and limp bodies twisting, falling in a cloud of smoke. Vivi suppressed a shudder.

"That is not likely. Upon speaking with General Beatrix a while ago, I learned that the manufacturing of mages in Dali, and their subsequent transportation to Alexandria, has only occurred within the last couple of years." Mikoto explained. "You turned ten years old some time ago. Are you sure this is your true age? Do your memories corroborate this?"

"I-I think so," he answered, wading through her ponderous words. Corroborate? "I can remember back when I was four or so. That's the earliest, though. Yeah...Grandpa celebrated my birthday every year. He made a big deal out of it, and would cook lots of great food, like those sesame buns I liked. I think he just used the day as an excuse to do what he loved most," Vivi fondly recalled.

"Your Grandpa never told you where you came from?"

"Well, sort of, but what he said were just stories adults make up for kids. I never pressed the issue, either, because he didn't like talking about where I came from. I only seriously thought about that stuff long after he died, so I always just accepted what he told me when he was alive. Now that you mention it, it is kinda weird. I mean, he was sick for a while before he died. I wonder why he never told me the truth, even when he knew he was dying...?"

"Perhaps he did not know. What were the stories he told you?"

Vivi thought for a moment. "I remember him telling me once that I came from a pan of dumplings that he made. I was the smallest one, and he decided to make me into a little boy so he would have some company. Then, when I got older, if I ever asked about a mother or father, he got very strange and quiet. He finally told me I had no mother or father, and that I was finally old enough to know the truth: that one day, he was fishing in the mist, and I fell out of the sky and landed right in front of him. He said I was made of the made sense at the time, but now it doesn't. Despite what he said, I still don't think I actually fell off a cargo ship. I mean, I wouldn't have survived a fall like that and landed perfectly right in front of him. So, I just always assumed that I was made like the other Black Mages, and that Grandpa may have found me one day. He thought I couldn't handle knowing that, and he may have been right." He sighed. "I sure wish I could ask him again."

Mikoto nodded. "As do I. So you remember being a small child?"

Vivi gazed sadly at his hands resting on his lap. All this talk about life with Grandpa tugged at his heart in the most painful places. "G-Grandpa would mark my height on the wall. He always joked that I was too small to eat."

"Don't you see, Vivi?" The Genome interjected. "There weren't any children manufactured. All Black Mages were adult males, combat-ready. It wouldn't be lucrative to produce small children. Also, you grew from a smaller child, which suggests that you were once an infant. That is why I believe you were not made like the others."

"Not...made?" Vivi felt the weight of her words on him. He had already come to terms long ago that he was made, a golem, like his fellow Mages. He thought he had solved his dilemma. What was Mikoto saying? I?

"I think you were born. It is a sound assumption."

Excitement mounted in the little Mage. "R-Really?! I never, uh, I mean...uh..." He closed his eyes for a moment to gather his thoughts. Slowly, he asked. "Does that mean I have parents?"

"I'm not sure. Probably." She furrowed her brow. She didn't see why this should affect Vivi so. Maybe if he had thought about it a little, he may have come to the same conclusion. "But, this is the missing piece of the puzzle. There weren't any female Black Mages made, ever. As for the males, they were not around ten years ago, and even if they were...well, let's just say that all the Mage soldiers are...non-functional." Mikoto always thought the Gaian tendency for euphemisms regarding natural matters was silly, however, she showed a brief moment of tact for her friend.

"Huh?" Vivi was confused. Non-functional? Was that the same as stopping?

Mikoto glanced upward. "I mean, the Black Mages are not interested in mating. You know how children are born, right? A male will mate with a female to have a child. The Mages have no drive for such things. There wasn't the need, since new Mages came from the machine."

Vivi felt increasingly embarrassed. He knew very little about those things, and listening to a girl talk so matter-of-factly about it made his heart race in anxiety. Mikoto probably knew all about that. Zidane had too, but for some strange reason it was worse when Mikoto spoke of it. Vivi was positive about one thing, however. He always really liked girls. Someday, when he grew up, he wanted to find a true love, maybe get married and have kids, just like in the storybooks and plays.

He could not bear to meet her gaze, though. "So, I, uh...I'm not like them."

"You seem to be fully functio-um, normal." Amusement touched her voice. She was sure that if she could see through the shroud that was the Mage's face, he would be beet-red. Mikoto felt a small tug inside. She was...flattered? Perhaps. This feeling required more analysis. But she didn't want to embarrass her friend forever, and quickly decided to move along.

"There's a reason I'm telling you all this, Vivi. We have a plan, and I'm going to need your help. I need to show you something important first before I tell you. Would you take a walk with me?" There was a plaintive quality to her question; a marked vulnerability in her tone that Vivi had never heard before. He felt a little uneasy, but he gave the only answer he could.

"Of course."

She started out the door.

"Mikoto?" piped Vivi.

"Hmm?" She spun to face him, honey-colored hair bobbing prettily about her face.

Vivi squared his shoulders. "I didn't want to think I was any different, I guess. I needed a place to call home back then. People I could relate to."

Mikoto nodded slowly and meaningfully. Vivi suddenly looked like a young man to her. She was impressed with his maturity. But it flew away as suddenly as it had come, and at once he became a boy again, ambling out the door with her into the bright, warm day.


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