Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Inochi Wa Tsusuku

Chapter Three

by AccountingNinja 0 reviews

Mikoto peered curiously over at the Black Mage. She couldn't remember seeing him without his hat, much less everything else...

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Characters: Mikoto,Vivi Ornitier - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2008-07-16 - Updated: 2008-07-17 - 4098 words

Chapter Three~Baring of Souls


"Get plenty of sleep tonight, and I'll see you in the lab first thing tomorrow."

Vivi recalled Blue Water's words to him as he stood under the sparkling night sky. /Right/, he thought. /Like I'll get any sleep/.

He felt very nervous about the mystery procedure; the one that would produce children from Mikoto and himself.


After their morning meeting underground, she had hurried off, whispering about having many things to do. Vivi had not seen her for the rest of the day. By dusk, he had actually gone and searched for her, to no avail. She hadn't even shown up for No. 111's funeral. He figured she probably did not want to be found, so he left her alone.

His mind raced with thousands of thoughts and fears, not only about tomorrow, but Mikoto as well. He remembered Zidane's counsel so long ago, under a sky very much like this one in Madain Sari: Sometimes you can't think too much. You either do, or you don't.

Vivi had chosen to do, but that did not calm his noisy thoughts. What was wrong with her? She was probably just nervous, he reasoned. This was very serious, and could change both their lives forever. Of course she was nervous! Plus, she never had been one to talk freely when something bothered her, choosing instead to brood. This time it felt more personal than that, however. It seemed as though she was deliberately ignoring Vivi, and this upset him. He felt rejected.

The truth was that when she had announced her intention to participate in the plan, Vivi was elated. It was a dream come true for him, that she wanted to do this with him. If she only knew how he felt about her. He wanted to hold her like Dana had held him this morning. He wanted her to laugh and tell him how much she cared for him, like he did for her. Sometimes he imagined what she felt like, pressed close against him, but at the same time he was embarrassed by these secret dreams.

He let out a long sigh and stared down at himself. A puny body smothered in layers of clothing. Big, clumsy feet. He was a graceless creature. Looking at his adult brethren offered no comfort, for even as a man he would still be the same useless klutz. Lithe and lovely Mikoto deserved far better. Perhaps she knew that, and that's why she had run off. She was ashamed to have to create something beautiful with something so ugly.

Vivi felt his eyes sting hotly as he pulled the brim of his hat down tighter over his face. He had been wandering about the quiet village, wallowing in his self-pity. Suddenly he found himself some distance from the village, by the lake. The lake was large and extended to the village, but now Vivi saw a part of the shore he did not recognize. And, so distracted by his chaotic thoughts was he, he realized with a growing uneasiness that he could not recall the path he took.

/It's okay/, he said to himself. /I'll just follow the shore back/. He hoped he had picked the quickest direction.

Though he ached wearily, he broke into a steady trot, kicking up fine sand. All he wanted right now was to be in his cozy house, in his warm bed, and the quicker he got there, the better. But as he ran, little by little the weariness melted away to a short burst of energy. Vivi felt great, jogging along the beach. He imagined that he was the fastest runner ever. He passed everyone: Steiner, Amarant, Puck, Freya, Blue Water, and even Zidane. Now they were eating his dust! Vivi felt a little guilty about this fantasy, because it was the adventure with Zidane that had made his body stronger. He never would have been able to do this a year and a half ago. At that very moment, however, Vivi did not care, and let all his troubled thoughts blow away into the night breeze.

His carefree mood proved short-lived. Just then he glimpsed what looked like a figure sitting below a tree near the shore up ahead. The figure had blonde hair...

Vivi tripped in shock, landing painfully in a cloud of dust. Groaning, he picked himself up to his knees, spitting out sand. A small bit of blood shone bright red on his glove where it had touched his cheek. What hurt the most, though, was his pride.

Quickly, Mikoto stood, staring at the poor Mage. Her stomach tightened, and she fought the urge to flee. Concerned for Vivi, she forced herself to step towards him. She swallowed hard. What would she say to him? What could she? She knew she had disappointed him, and probably hurt him. She did not want to deal with it. She felt sick with fear.

Vivi rose slowly to his feet. He looked up at Mikoto, who now was just a few feet away. She bit her lip, eyes pierced with moonlight, arms folded defensively over her chest. Vivi had never seen her look so uncomfortable.

Mikoto gritted her teeth. Say something/! She berated herself. /I should at least ask /if he's okay./ But she felt frozen. All she could do was stare at him like an idiot.

She felt sure he could detect her shameful jealous fury that had occurred hours before. Confusing emotions battled within her, and the worst thing she could imagine was Vivi thinking her a weak, silly girl. She felt the desperate urge to flee lunge up, stronger than ever.

What seemed like an eternity passed between them. Vivi took a breath, preparing to speak.

Oh, no/, thought Mikoto. She withered under his open gaze. /Those eyes! Always /so full of questions/. She knew what questions they held now.

"I-" began Vivi.

Here it comes.

"I wonder if they'll have tails?"

Mikoto's mouth fell open. "T-tails?" she breathed incredulously. A nervous laugh erupted from her, followed by another. Vivi chuckled with her, and soon they both dissolved into giggles. She dropped to her knees laughing. It was a catharsis as all her pent up tension of the past few days escaped, leaving her feeling freer than she had ever felt in her life. She smiled slightly through tears of laughter at Vivi. She crawled to him so they were face to face.

"Oh..," he shook his head sadly when he saw her face crumple. She began to cry. Sorrow pooled in her eyes, cascading down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry," she choked. Hesitantly, she put her hands on his shoulders, and slowly, she gathered his small form to her. She laid her head on his shoulder. /Hold me/, she thought, /like you held Dana. I want to feel alive. I need proof of my soul/.

Vivi did not feel nervous. He drew his arms tightly around her, pressing his cheek to her warm, soft neck. He felt truly strong, for the very first time. He felt privileged to see her beyond her stoic exterior, and would always honor her trust in him by loving and protecting her forever more.

Her weeping eventually quieted, and she rested contentedly on him. After a long while, Vivi felt Mikoto's low, gentle voice in his ear. "You were going the wrong way, you know."

He pulled away from her, looking into her face. "Really?"

She smiled slightly. Her tears had vanished, and she was her old calm, rational self again. But her smile now seemed more tender, and much less forced. "The village is back that way. You would have gone the long way around the lake."

Vivi smiled at her. Mikoto was taken aback for a second. For a fraction of a moment, she could have sworn she had seen his face smiling at her! Nobody ever saw the shrouded face of a Black Mage. She peered closely at him. Whatever it was, she couldn't see it now. She shrugged it off to exhaustion.

"Let's go home," she said, standing.

Vivi nodded and yawned at the same time. The two started back, too weary to say a word.

Mikoto headed to Vivi's place the next morning with very heavy feet. She felt more than a little disgusted at her emotional display last night. That had never happened before. She was always able to maintain control of herself. She had to admit, however, that it had become increasingly difficult since leaving Bran Bal.

Mikoto pondered for a logical reason for the lapse of control. Perhaps it was because in Bran Bal, there had been no pressure, or at least none she couldn't handle. Here, Genomes and Mages made constant demands on her time. If there was a problem, see Miss Mikoto, no matter how trivial. She had been involuntarily voted the Genome leader, though she had no idea what she did to receive this "honor". She knew her Mage counterpart, Mr.288, went through the same ordeal, but he seemed to handle it nicely and even enjoy it.

/As if I have a clue how to lead these people/, she groused to herself. I can't even succeed at simple interpersonal interaction.

That was painfully obvious to her. Last night had been the culmination of failures where relationships were concerned. Vivi probably thought she was a basketcase. Well, who cares! That small boy would not wield any power over her! Mikoto came into this world without anybody, and she'll continue to do fine without anybody!

She found herself facing Vivi's front door. A cold uneasiness ate at her as she gave the door two short raps. She tried to stuff the feeling down into her feet, desperate to gain control. /I'm such a fraud/, she thought.

"Good morning!" Vivi said cheerily as the wooden door swung open.

Mikoto cleared her throat. "Well, we should get going. Are you ready?"

He gave a small shrug. "Uh, sure! Let's go."

As they walked, Vivi studied his friend. Her face looked like an iron mask; her brow furrowed, mouth drawn into a thin line. Finally she wheeled on him, exclaiming, "Must you stare incessantly at me every time we walk together?!"

Vivi stopped, blinking at her. Shaking his head, he asked, "Mikoto, are you mad at me?"

She turned her face skyward, exhaling slowly. /Must gain control/. "No. Look, about last night, just forget it ever happened. I didn't mean to burden you with my outburst."

He started to answer her. "Wha-?"

"I was not myself. I don't know what came over me, so please do us both a favor and just forget it ever happened! Now let's go!" She stomped off in the direction of the lab.

Stunned, Vivi went after her. He had to practically jog to keep up with her long strides. He was annoyed. Why did she have to make it more complicated than it was? "You know, Mikoto," he chided between breaths. "You're making a big deal out of nothing."

She did not slow her pace. Nor did she answer.

"Everyone has bad days! You're really being silly."

She stopped now, whirling to face him with fire in her eyes. How dare he belittle her like that?! He had no idea of the turmoil she had felt, or how hard it has been for her to get accustomed to Gaia.

Vivi grew a little less bold under her smoldering glare. Gently, he beseeched her. "I'm your friend. You could never burden me. Don't be bothered about last night. A lot's been going on, and considering where you come from, I can see how you must have felt."

Mikoto's anger slowly diffused. "Really? You aren't just saying that?"

Vivi suddenly felt shy. "W-well, yeah. I mean, no! I think you try to smash down your feelings. I know how you feel, somewhat. I had the opposite problem. I used to cry about everything. I always felt so weak. I got sick of it, and tried to stifle it and pretend I wasn't feeling it, but that didn't work either. It'll all come out eventually, no matter what you do."

"Well, that certainly happened last night," she sighed. "I wonder what I should do next time?"

"You just need to talk about things that bother you. I'm always here, you know. I can't promise to understand, but I'll listen."

She felt a rush of warmth for him. "You're very smart. I'll try to take your advice."

He shook his head, laughing. "I can't take the credit for that one. Zidane taught me that."



Dana waited patiently at the laboratory entrance. Her face creased in a warm grin when she saw Mikoto and Vivi ambling down the dusty path toward her. She felt excited. Finally, the plan would come to fruition, and she and her mate would be rewarded for the long hours they each put in building and brainstorming a solution to their friends' plight.

It had been quite a night. Sadness had been punctuated by joy, for shortly after No.111 was laid to rest, Dana had gathered the remaining Mages and informed them of the good news. Now the village was a-buzz with rumor and speculation, dashed with a bit of fear. Would their beloved Vivi be all right? Would this work? What would the children look like? Dana had tried to answer all their questions as best she could.

"If all goes well, there should be six children. They should look like Black Mages. That trait would be engineered to be the dominant one, though they would have Genome blood as well. And, yes, Vivi will be fine."

A few Mages were upset. This plan rang like a death knell for the hope that somehow the Mages alive now could be saved from their tragically short existence. Had every avenue been explored? Could nothing be done?

All Dana could say was, "I'm sorry."

She pushed those disappointed eyes into the back of her mind as she greeted Vivi and Mikoto. "Hi, you two! Are you prepared?"

Vivi hugged his body nervously. How could one prepare for something like this? When he had left his house, it hadn't sunk in. Now that he faced the sight of Dana in front of the lab, his nerves began to fail him. He answered her honestly. "No."

Dana laughed heartily. "We told you, don't worry. Really, it's not painful, or even uncomfortable. It'll be over in thirty seconds and then you can go about your day. Miss Mikoto, are you nervous?"

"No. I saw the procedure many times on Terra," she said somewhat haughtily.

"Of course." Dana shrugged and smiled.

The second time through the underground tunnel seemed to pass in an instant for Vivi. Soon he stood in the laboratory, but this time the soft, eerie blue glow now shone hot and bright. Vivi realized that now, everything was turned on. The consoles, the pods, the ceiling lights all were lit. He used the brim of his hat to shield his eyes until they grew used to the light.

He spotted Blue Water, concentrating on a console, seemingly unaware of his guests. "Hi," Vivi called to him.

"Oh, good, you guys are here. Hang on a sec." His eyes looked puffy and bleary when he glanced up, and Vivi guessed that Blue had probably not taken his own advice last night.

Soon the Genome man joined them, and after some perfunctory chatter, they decided to get down to business. Blue Water motioned to two large pods in the front. "Alright. Each of you take a pod. You must strip completely, and when you get in, close the panel and put your hands and feet in the spaces provided."

The bottom of Vivi's stomach dropped out. /Strip/? Stunned, he gaped over at Mikoto, expecting her to react with outrage as well, but there she was, undressing in front of them all! He could only stare gaping at her as she threw off every last article of clothing right down to the pink ribbon tied to the end of her tail. Vivi felt his insides turn to liquid fire. Mikoto and the two Genomes seemed completely unfazed. The three of them turned to the anguished boy with quizzical looks on their faces.

Mikoto stood, her slender naked body emblazoned with rays of piercing blue light. Vivi could not help himself. His eyes traveled the length of her flesh. He had never seen a naked girl before. She reminded him of a wildflower, with her slim stalk of a body and mop of yellow hair. Certain parts of his body began to react to her sensual curves, and it tortured him. He was glad, at that instant, that no one could see his crimson face.

"Vivi, are you alright? Come on, let's get this over with," Mikoto said gently. "There is nothing to be ashamed of. We Terrans regard nudity as natural."

Vivi gritted his teeth. He couldn't undress now! He didn't want Mikoto seeing how she affected him. She would think he was a disgusting little pervert. He wished he could disappear.

Dana pursed her lips. She could tell Vivi was agitated. She unfastened her rose pink wrap-around skirt. She had a slip on underneath. The skirt became a blanket, and she offered it to the boy. "If you'd like, Blue can hold this up while you undress. He promises not to look, right?" She winked to her mate.

"Righto," her mate nodded. Vivi felt better. At least now he could hide his shame.

Mikoto stepped into the pod apparatus and patiently waited for her friend. Vivi fumbled with his clothes. He hated being naked, even just a little bit. He tried to take all his baths at night. He wore layers to hide himself. An undershirt, two if the weather was cold. Undershorts, his baggy pants, his long light blue jacket, gloves, socks and boots, all topped off with his gigantic hat. Now he shivered, bare and vulnerable. Blue Water held the skirt up until Vivi found his way into his pod. Thankfully, the door panel closed, coming up almost to his shoulders. Mikoto's panel hid her from the waist down. Vivi forced himself not to look at her so that his body could calm down.

Mikoto peered curiously over at the Black Mage. She couldn't remember seeing him without his hat, much less everything else. He looked like a normal ten year old boy, not too skinny or fat. But what seemed like a thick black cloud hung over his head, so that none may see his face. The cloud seemed organic, breathing and moving with him. She shuddered involuntarily. So this was the Black Shroud, the Black Mages' curse. All Black Mages carried this curse, although the reason why remained a mystery.

Kuja had loved myths, and often told her flamboyant tales of ancient tragedy and heroism. She had been a captive audience, suffering through his foolishness. Perhaps Kuja assumed that because she was a small child at the time she would automatically love to hear his stories. However, one of Kuja's tales now surfaced to the front of her mind. It was around the time he came up with the design plans for his Black Mage soldiers, and Black Mages were all he spoke of for weeks. She couldn't remember all the details. She had not even thought of it until just now.

Supposedly, back in the days when everyone believed in gods and goddesses, there was one evil god at odds with all the others. This god tempted ordinary men to serve him in his unholy war. The men gave up their identities and souls to this evil god in exchange for awesome destructive magic. They became mindless servants, forced to carry the cursed Black Shroud, a symbol of their lost humanity, and the first Black Mages were born. But these were just stories. Mikoto knew there had to be a more realistic explanation.

"Now you're going to feel a tingling all over." Blue Water's voice came to them as though through static.

Vivi breathed deeply, eyes squeezed shut. Time seemed to drag. He felt so terribly alone in that pod, with harsh lights bearing down. He felt skinned and inside out, and he imagined people prodding him and leering over him. Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and the soft whir of machinery stopped. Vivi had not even noticed the whir until it stopped and dead silence fell over the lab.

"Well! We're done. That wasn't so bad, was it?" Blue Water's eyes twinkled at Vivi.

Relief washed over the boy. Over. It was over. He longed to see the sunlight. He motioned for his clothes. Blue Water, being a good sport, held the skirt up once again while Vivi dressed. And Vivi didn't even dare to look at Mikoto until he knew she was fully clothed.

After a while, the four of them emerged from the underground laboratory. Vivi ran ahead, his spirit soaring high at the sight of the clear blue sky. He heard the others talking behind him.

"How long until they are ready?"

"Approximately six months, but we can't be sure. We will keep everyone posted if there are any concerns, of course."

Six months! That was a long time. Vivi wished he could see the results now, but he supposed they needed that long to grow. Oh well...He told himself to enjoy the time now, because soon the village would have their hands full with six Black Mage children.



The day flew by in a flash. By early afternoon, Blue and Dana had gathered the entire village for a meeting. They explained how long it would take and asked that no one disturb the lab in the next six months. A celebration followed, with a light alfresco dinner and much gossip and laughter. Even Mikoto seemed downright sociable, sharing in some idle conversation. Much of the aggravation of the last few days had flown completely, and she felt renewed.

Evening soon came, and the happy crowds dispersed into their homes for a relaxing evening. Mikoto and Vivi found themselves alone once again under the darkening sky. They lounged on the lakeshore together, talking about all sorts of different things.

"Come on, it wasn't bad!" Mikoto insisted with a slight laugh in her voice.

"The lights didn't bother you?" He asked, wide-eyed. "I felt like I was being examined! It was awful."

"Well, you were sort of being examined. I found it enjoyable. It was warm and comfortable."

"I'm just glad it's over."

Mikoto played with some blades of grass by her knee. She swished her tail in the tall reeds, enjoying the sound they made.

"Vivi. May I ask you something?"

"Um, okay."

"Are you scared of the future?"

The Mage was struck by the scope of such a question. "What do you mean? Like tomorrow, or years from now?"

"Well," she said slowly, carefully choosing her words. "How do you deal with a future that is constantly in flux? How can plans be made when nothing is certain?"

"I-I don't know," he admitted.

"That always amazed me about you people." She lifted her face to the blue-bronze haze of a dying sunset. "There was something comforting about Terra. Every day was the same. Nothing changed. Nobody changed. It was safe, if not a little dull. Nothing could get better, but nothing could get worse, either." She spoke as if she were alone, searching for answers. She turned to her friend with a sad expression.

"This won't last, will it?" she asked. "This night, these words. The way the grass feels. Everything is moving and changing. And us, too. Before we know it, this night will be gone, like so many others. How can you stand it? It's a pointless struggle."

Vivi tilted his head to the side a little. "Is that how you see it?"

"It makes me uneasy. I want it to stay like this, to stop." She bit her lower lip. "I don't want anything to change."

"Don't worry." Vivi's hand alighted on hers for a few seconds. He raised his black face to the heavens. "It's because things change that we have to make the most of the present. It shouldn't move too fast if we don't let it. Let's just enjoy right now."

Mikoto smiled at him, and felt strangely at ease.

For long into the night, two young souls sat on the grassy shore, bathed in the light of constellations, standing strong against the flow of time.



Sign up to rate and review this story