Honest, this time people! This is indeed the last installment of "Between the Lines." About time, ne? I hope you liked it. And even if you didn't, please review! @.@

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.

(from Renascence , by Edna St. Vincent Millay)

*the Black Mage Village, three months later
Vivi sighed in his bed. He had been extremely tired as of late; he knew his time was almost up. He listened to the playful laughter outside and felt …nostalgia? He wasn't sure. Emotions were harder to place these days. It had been two months past that he had returned from his last visit to the Mist Continent. His last stop had been in Dali, where he paid a visit to the old machine that had begun his personal quest for himself long ago. And with his own magic and essence of himself, instead of black magic and mist, he had created eight copies of himself. It had been last month that they all had hatched and gained souls. One month, he had been a father.
But now… Vivi shook his head. He had no regrets. No, he did have one, he realized. He would not get a chance to say goodbye to his oldest and dearest friend, Zidane. Zidane: the man whom some of the genomes thought may still be alive. Vivi did not think Zidane was alive. No, he knew. That's what he had told Dagger. It made her smile. She didn't smile very much anymore. But she will, Vivi concluded.
Slowly, he got out of bed and made his way over to the desk. There, he sat down and got out paper and ink. And he began to write:

"I always thought about you, Zidane…"


Vivi Ornitier breathed his last a week later. He was mourned and remembered by all of Gaia.

*Iifa, six months later
Zidane blinked continuously as he continued to ascend. He hadn't remembered the sun ever being that bright. He glanced back at the shriveled trunk of the Iifa tree, wondering amusedly to himself if he should fetch a fortune on firewood. Finally, Zidane pulled himself from the shadows and stood upon the outskirts of Iifa, where he had last seen his beloved Dagger more than a year and a half before now.
He stood completely blinded for several minutes, breathing in the fresh air from the wind that ripped through the dark ruddy tangles that trailed down his back. He wore only the remains of his pants and the sheaths for his two weapons in the brilliant warmth of the sun, a mistake, he knew, for having not been exposed to its rays for a long time. His frame was impossibly slight, revealing his bones, and his skin was as pale as the moon. Like Kuja's , he murmured to himself as his eyes finally focused on his hand. He turned and looked defiantly up at the decaying form of his giant nemesis.
"Adieu, you old weed!" he waved and, sticking out his tongue one last time, turned and began to march towards the mountains. March? No, he skipped, frolicked, cavorted, gamboled, and even back-flipped in the open fields until he collapsed for lack of breath. And once he caught it, he lied in the grass and laughed into the sky. Finally, he calmed down and watched light wisps of clouds change their shapes.
"You idiot," he reprimanded himself. "Now your wasted for the day. How much longer do you really want to have to wait?" He sat up and stared at the looming peaks up ahead. If he pushed himself, he might manage to make it to Conde Petie shortly after nightfall… He quickly resumed his feet and began to walk, more conservatively this time, towards the Conde Petie Mountain Pass. The thought of any bed, even a dwarf-sized one, was almost too much to think about. Dagger, Dagger, Dagger… he chanted in his head until he finally reached the pass, which was only a shadow of its former self. The roots that had held it together were gone.
"Thanks to me!" Zidane listened to the echoes of his words against the rocks before laughing appreciatively at the irony. Climbing was no problem for the highlander genome. He took a quick drink from the river before beginning his second ascent. However, this was done in the heat of the day, and the exposure began to quickly take its toll. As he drew closer to the sun, he could feel his skin burning and cracking. His throat and lips began to parch, and several times, he nearly lost his grip from dizzy spells. Lovely, I'm dehydrating. However, Zidane pushed on, and in the pink light of the setting sun, he pulled himself onto a plateau. He fell to his knees in the shade and sat trembling for a spell. Running his fingers through the dead blonde tendrils that were plastered to his head by sweat, he stared off in the direction of the dwarf village, wondering if he could get that far. His wondering ceased when he passed out.

Zidane awoke with a groan and a serious headache. He opened his eyes briefly before closing them in pain. Vaguely, he began to assess his situation. It felt cool, but also warm below his face, and his back no longer felt burned; it actually felt rather comfortable… Zidane realized with a start that he was in a bed. He sat up with a jolt and opened his eyes, despite the dizziness this caused. He looked his fill into the room around him. The bed was large and comfortable, the desk looked used but tidy, there was a chair in the corner, and the floor was…carpeted? Where on Gaia do you find a carpeted floor? It was about midday, he decided, looking at the curtains drawn against the sunlight. He looked towards the door that was slightly ajar with light from the next room filtering through. Zidane was considering getting up and investigating when he also realized that he was buck naked. Eh, that won't do…aw man, who undressed me?!
"[I think he's awake]," came a mellow feminine voice from the hall. It wasn't Garnet's voice by far, but it was still soothing to a man who had not seen a woman for more than a year. He quickly drew the sheets around his scrawny form as the door opened fully. In the doorway stood a woman, possibly in her late twenties, clad in a lavender two-piece. Her silvery blonde hair fell loose past her shoulders and her eyes were the strongest blue Zidane had ever seen, but what took his attention immediately was the tail that twitched lazily at her ankles.
"Headache?" she questioned with a smile, interrupting his ogling. He suddenly blushed when he realized he'd been staring, staring at the woman who had been taking care of him. He nodded in response. "I thought so." She brought forth a pitcher of water and sat down next to him. "Drink," she commanded, but instead of handing the water to him, she held his head in one hand and in the other, offered the vessel to his lips. As if I can't do it myself, he thought, perplexed. However he was extremely thirsty, and the liquid worked like magic on his headache. Finally, he managed to communicate that he had had enough, and she took the pitcher away. He slumped against the pillows and sighed softly. Daintily, his hostess placed the back of her hand against his temple.
"Look at me," she told him. He fixed his cerulean gaze on her laser azure eyes. She smiled again. "They focus? I do believe you are all right now."
"I've been better," he assured her. She laughed lightly in response. "Um, where am I?"
"You are in New Bran Bal, my friend," she told him, with a hint of pride. New Bran Bal? Whoa… how long have I been gone anyway? She certainly isn't acting like a genome…
"What happened to the Black Mage Village?" he asked, not caring if he sounded stupid.
"It is nearby, but its inhabitants are fewer and fewer, especially since Master Vivi passed on," she offered, figuring he had not been here in a while.
"What?!" he jolted suddenly. "Vivi's…dead?" She looked at him oddly.
"It came as a shock to no one…" she stopped when she saw him slump down, a torn expression on his face. He sniffed back a couple of tears when he saw her staring at him.
"I-I'm sorry… He was a…a dear friend," Zidane explained. She patted his shoulder comfortingly, although her expression was full of questions.
"My husband works for the patrol force," she sat back as she explained. "He found you unconscious on the mountain path at Conde Petie. You…looked like one of us, so he took you back to the station. But no one there could place you, so he brought you here to recover."
"All that to ask me who I am?" Zidane cracked a small smile.
"I figured you'd want to know anyway…" she replied but then was interrupted:
"[Aruwan, is he all right?]" a blonde male asked at the doorway.
"[He is well]," she answered with a smile and a beckoning hand. The man came over to stand next to her.
"[I could argue that point]," he said with a cocked eyebrow. Zidane looked down at his own ribs.
"I guess I'm not much to look at, huh?" he asked, coyly.
"Don't worry," Aruwan's husband smiled. "We can get you help. Where do you come from?"
"Originally or just now?" Zidane laughed.
"Both," Aruwan laughed as well.
"I was born in the original Bran Bal on Terra," Zidane explicated. "I grew up in Lindblum. I am traveling there from Iifa now. My name is Zidane Tribal." The pair stared at him with slack jaws for a moment. "Um, you wouldn't happen to be able to take me to see Mikoto, would you?"

Zidane didn't admit that even just walking to the construction site wore on him, but the pep of yesterday had merely been excitement, nothing more. Such are the affects of starvation, he thought, annoyed. Her ladyship, Governess Mikoto was quite easy to pick out once they arrived. She was the only one not making arm motions when she spoke. She had her back to them as they arrived.
"My lady?" asked Aruwan's husband. Mikoto turned around and froze. Zidane scratched his head embarrassed as everyone looked on.
"Hey, Mikoto," he grinned. "It's been a while."
"Zidane?" her voice was barely a whisper as she stumbled forward, her eyes never leaving his face.
"The one and only—" he fell hard on the ground as she tackled him. The onlookers suddenly looked rather alarmed. "Er…" She stood up just as suddenly and she had leapt, pulling him to his feet.
"I am sorry, Zidane," she dusted him off. "I do not know what came over me." Slowly, Zidane began laugh aloud, and was soon joined by the surrounding Terrans. This time, Mikoto simply watched. Then the two went off to talk… and finally, Zidane got a chance to ask:
"Can you tell me anything about Dag—er, Garnet?"
"Other than that she is both a beloved queen and single?" Mikoto asked knowingly. "She misses you immensely, Zidane. Some wonder how she manages to get through the days. But, she says she just takes it a day at a time. She lets her busy schedule consume her, and some are concerned for her health…" Mikoto stopped here and looked at Zidane sharply. "As I am concerned for yours."
"I'm—" he started.
"Fine?" Mikoto actually cocked an eyebrow. Zidane nodded and smiled half-heartedly. He wanted to get to Alexandria now, but Mikoto was suggesting that he wait. And even he had to admit: the traveling would most likely get the better of him.
"…you're right, for once," Zidane jabbed at her ribs. "How long do you think it will take?"
"I am no doctor, so my estimations are likely useless."
"Do not despair," Mikoto's voice was monotone, but the meaning was there. "She has waited out a year and a half. The strength you have given her is surely enough to help her through a few months more." Zidane looked at his younger sister in surprise. What she said next surprised him even more. "Besides, you need to see this city. None of this would have been possible without your work, Zidane. The people of Terra owe their second chance to you alone." Zidane thought about this for a moment, until he understood what she meant. He smiled at her, although this brought no response.
"Yeah. It would be nice to get to know the people I'm supposed to be like, right?"
"I do not doubt that." Zidane looked off into the distant mountains, now green from his long toiling, and circled around until he saw the beginnings of the city of New Bran Bal. He then realized that he and his beloved Dagger had much more in common than they had even begun to understand. Smiling to himself, he took his dagger from its sheath, and walked out over the plains of rebirth, to a small spot where some native Terran plant sprouts were working through the Gaian soil. He took the half of his hair, for it was split at its natural part, held it even with his head, and sliced off much of its length. After repeating this on the other side, he dropped the ruddy tresses into the wind, where the scattered until they landed amongst the Terran foliage. He turned to Mikoto, his hair now the same length as when she had first saw him.
"Maybe my duties here are done. Then maybe not. But this one is finished."
"The next?" she asked, unsure of what was going on.
"Let's finish getting me back. I don't want to greet Dagger with only my shadow!"

*Alexandria, about the same time
How Garnet loathed holidays. The parades and ceremonies were fine, but the festivities brought only longing. She was Queen Garnet til Alexandros the 17th, and was expected to have an heir. The sons of the nobles all wished, of course, to father her heirs, and all wished to spend the holidays at her side, in hopes of wining her heart. But every wooing word only reminded her of the man who was not present.
"Your highness?" came Beatrix's voice from the doorway.
"Lord Henry the 13th?" Garnet asked without turning around. "I am too busy to see him."
"Your instincts are truly amazing, but then mine are not too dilapidated. I've already told him such."
"Thank you."
"Do you intend to sit inside all day, then?" Beatrix came closer.
"I do not know yet," Garnet replied, her chocolate brown eyes gazing at the floor. Beatrix stood by for a moment before speaking again. She really wished for the queen to move on and be happy again.
"Is there something offensive about your suitors?" she asked, trying a different angle.
"No, no," Garnet answered with a small shake of her head. "They are very polite. Too polite…" She sighed and looked off at the birds in the windowsill. "So formal are their courting that they all sound the same…that they have no personalities." Beatrix sighed again. Of course everyone else would seem boring when compared to that wild, tailed boy. Beatrix looked at Garnet, whose eyes were full of longing. It was… heartbreaking.
"It was both first and true love, that you cannot get past him, your Highness," Beatrix speculated, placing a comforting hand on her queen's shoulder. "It grieves me to know what has happened…"
"Vivi believed him still alive," Garnet said with a false smile.
"Do you, your Highness?"
"In my reasoning," Garnet answered as a single tear trailed down her delicately pink cheek, "…no, I do not. But…" another tear, "my heart is not yet ready to abandon him." They sat in silence for a while, before Beatrix decided that it had to be said:
"Your Majesty, your eighteenth birthday approaches," she spoke carefully. "It will not remain a simple matter to—"
"Play hard to get?" Garnet smiled fully at Beatrix's shocked expression of her choice of words. "I understand, Beatrix. I understand my duties, your concerns, and the concerns of my people. I only ask you to bear that in mind for the next few months. I only need… some more time."

*Lindblum, three months later
A lone figure entered a pub in the newly rebuilt Industrial District. The interior of the place was bustling with busy people, so he entered unnoticed. Arguing quite loudly in the back was a group of mismatched men.
"Huh, I was just realizing that, we ain't done nothing sketchy since that time two years ago!" Marcus complained.
"Naw, honey, but we done plenty of sketches!" Ruby joked. This brought assembled laughter to the group, including a thunderous "Gwahaha!"
"It's true, boss," Blank finally repressed his laughter. "You finally have your 'distinguished' acting troupe."
"And all because of that one guy…" Cinna added.
"All right," Baku sighed. "Y'all're in on somethin' I don't get. Where'd all this talk come from?"
"It's the reason we can't perform "The Eidolon and I" in Treno at the festival," Marcus slapped his head in disgust of the immense density that is Baku.
"You know very well why our version was a hit," Blank continued, knowing the extra hinting was required.
"What? You need some one to play Philippe?" a voice said from off the table. They all turned and stared. "That role was acclaimed as my finest performance by all of the critics." A moment of silence ensued, followed by:
"Zidane!" Blank nearly shrieked as he flung himself from his chair to embrace his long lost friend in a bear hug.
"Whoa, momma!" Zidane joked as the others joined in for their own greetings. They backed away from him as the largest figure grunted. Zidane looked up at Baku and quirked an eyebrow.
"Sorry, Dad, but I haven't come back the prodigal asking for forgiveness," he grinned. "I'm just passing through."
"But—you just got here!" Blank and Marcus said in unison, each waving their arms frantically.
"Yeah, I know," Zidane shrugged. "I thought I'd say hi to you all before I leave for Alexandria."
"And that Dagger chick?" Blank elbowed him indiscreetly.
"Zidane, suga'," Ruby poked him, "we all be going to Alexandria in three weeks, pa'formin' "I Wanna Be Your Canary" for the Queen's Eighteenth birthday!"
"Is that so?" Zidane got a slightly conniving look in his eye.
"Huh," Baku shrugged. "I guess, for you, I'll invite ya along." Zidane only smiled.

*At this time,
I will ask you to go take your "Final Fantasy IX" fourth disc, put it in the PlayStation, and watch the ending. Nothing I write here could be more perfect than that.

Coming Soon:
Something else!!! yeeeeeeeeei. I warm and exceedingly long thank you to all my dedicated readers! You are the reason this is posted. Yes, YOU!!! er, no duh. Ack, dammit, just review, and I'll be happy! n_n