Nobody Wants to Live Forever

by Roy Tang (zroytang@yahoo.com / roytang.cjb.net)

Final Fantasy IX is a copyright of Squaresoft, Inc. Standard disclaimers apply. Final Fantasy IX spoilers, all the way baby!

*********

My name is Vivi Ornitier.

I am a black mage.

That is to say, I can call upon elemental forces to weave powerful magical spells of destruction. Which is often quite handy, especially when facing a large group of plant-like creatures that can tear me apart with their limbs or petrify me with a single drop of their saliva.

A simple flick of my wrist and a small burst of concentration is all it takes, and three of the plant-creatures explode into ice shards. Six more appear to replace the fallen ones. I had hoped I would never have to use these powers again. Fate seemed to have a different opinion.

*********

Denial.

Freya walked silently along the street of Treno. She wouldn't be able to come back here for a while, with all the events over in Burmecia. So she wanted to take one last stroll before she took the ride to Lindblum. The moon cast a pale glow over Lindblum at this time of day. Strange that for a city that never sleeps, it looks its brightest when the moon is full.

Freya stopped at the stairway leading to the street near Dr. Tot's house. A lone figure was sitting at the landing on top of walkway. Recognizing the hat, Freya walked up and sat down beside him.

"Hey, what's wrong?"

The figure gave a start, apparently noticing Freya for the first time. "Oh...I...well...it's nothing, I guess..."

"Did you visit Dr. Tot?"

"Y-yeah. He wanted to see me that's all."

"You sure there's nothing wrong?" Freya made a worried face at her friend. "I've been hearing some rumors from the village."

"No, I...it's nothing." He got up. "Sorry, I promised Eiko I'd teach her how to bid at the auction today."

Freya nodded, and the little guy ran off with his unusual stride. A faint screeching sound echoed in the distance and Freya recognized it as the familiar hum of the railway cars.

"Guess that's my ride," she said to no one in particular.

*********

"Vivi, behind you!" The voice belonged to Blank, one of the Tantalus Crew. He's a nice guy, always looking out for other people. It's a good thing he's looking out for me right now, as I spin around to see a giant green tentacle about to slam down on me. As he jumped up to take on the offending vegetable, I threw a quick bolt of lightning at his sword, and his enchanted blade took the target down in one blow.

I hate fighting, but I'm glad I decided to come along with the Tantalus. Back here, to where it all began. For me and my brothers at least, although we can't say we were born here, this is where our souls came from. The excuses we have for souls at least.

"Come on, we're almost there!" That's Marcus, another one of the Tantalus Crew. I pointed a finger, and a large ball of flame exploded against the plant walls before us, opening the way deeper into the maze of plant-life that was the Iifa Tree. Or what remained of it anyway.

*********

Bargaining.

He looked up at the avian doctor. He knew it would come eventually, but to hear someone say it was an entirely different matter all together.

"Doctor Tot...are you sure..." His high-pitched voice trailed off. "There must be something you can do."

Doctor Tot sighed. He always hated to be the bearer of bad news. He adjusted his spectacles and looked at the young man with sadness in his eyes.

"I'm sorry...I'll conduct some more tests with the samples I took but...I can't promise anything."

"What about the other tests? Didn't you find anything?"

"I haven't had enough time to complete the other tests, I'm afraid..."

"Doctor...please..." Tot could here the desperation in his voice. "There has to be something..."

"I'm sorry. We all knew this would happen, sooner or later."

"No...This can't be...not now...I..." He couldn't find the strength to gather his thoughts. "I'm sorry Doctor." He ran off without another word.

Doctor Tot closed his eyes, adjusted his spectacles and grimaced. He hated being the bearer of bad news.

**********

Another wall breaks down, and we rush forward, stopping suddenly at the edge of what seemed to be a deep semicircular crevice with walls made of green foliage. As if on cue, twigs, branches and leaves gave way inside the crevice, revealing numerous spider-like plant-creatures, the same ones we'd encountered before.

The Tantalus Crew almost cringed at the sight of these hordes, but their attention was drawn by Marcus' outstretched hand. "Over there!"

Near the center of the crevice, two humanlike figures lay on the ground, unmoving, and right at the base of the Iifa Tree. Without hesitation, we make our way across the valley of beasts. I provide covering fire as Blank and Cinna make their way toward the two figures.

"Just as I thought," Blank says, "It's the same thing as the petrified forest."

Cinna inspects the first body. "This one's dead. Looks like he's been this way for weeks." Marcus and I turn to look at the body, and heave a sigh of relief when it's not the one we're looking for.

"Must've been Kuja. Poor sap," Blank said. But our attention was already held by the other figure, a somewhat short humanoid form, encased in stone.

"Zidane." I manage to say.

**********

Anger.

"Ouch!"

Eiko had been one her way to Doctor Tot's residence when she collided with a small figure apparently in a hurry. Apparently, the other one was as surprised as she was, as both of them were knocked back a bit by the collision.

"Watch where you're--" Eiko looked at the one she had bumped into. "Vivi?"

Vivi dusted himself off and looked at the young summoner. "Oh, hi Eiko. Excuse me, I--"

"Hey!" Eiko said, grabbing Vivi's arm before he could dash off, "Where do you think you're going? I've been looking all over for you! You made me wait up at the auc--"

Eiko was surprised to be cut off as Vivi shook off her hand. "Sorry, Eiko, but I don't have time for this right now, okay?"

"What? Is there a problem? Some sort of emergency?"

"Problem? Of course not!" Eiko was astonished to hear a hint of sarcasm in Vivi's voice, a tone she'd never heard from the black mage before. "The world is safe remember? We went out and saved the world! Why should there be a problem?"

"Vivi, what are you--?"

"We went all the way to a different world, faced the spirit of destruction, and that...that monkey Kuja is dead!" Vivi's voice was completely different from his usual shy tone, even though his featureless face revealed nothing. "Everything should be great! Everyone should be happy!" Vivi shook his hands around him in frustration. Eiko noticed sparks starting to form around her erstwhile friend. People had started to stop and stare at the ranting little boy.

"Vivi, I think you should calm down."

"Calm down? Look at what's happened to us! The princess hasn't spoken to anyone since Zidane..." Vivi's voice trailed off, "And now I...I..." Tendrils of energy started to twirl around his cone-shaped hat, totally unnoticed by the now ranting mage. "We went out and gave everything for everyone! It shouldn't be like this!" The ground around Vivi suddenly burst into an explosion of flames.

"Aaah!!!" Eiko was knocked off her feet and was thrown to the nearby wall. "Ou--ch!!!" The nearby townspeople were forced back by the sudden blaze. Despite all the events that had happened lately, exploding flames were never a good thing.

Vivi stopped and noticed the flames swirling around him. "Wha--? Oh no!" He turned to see a slightly scorched Eiko trying to stand up. He looked down at his own hands to see traces of the flames still lingering on his gloves. "Eiko, I--" Not knowing what to say, Vivi ran off.

Eiko heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Doctor Tot approaching from his residence. The doctor adjusted his spectacles, and turned to help Eiko get up. "What happened here?"

**********

We're running now, as hard and as fast as we can. As soon as the Supersoft had taken effect, a large bulbous head had appeared from the Iifa Tree, as if defending it's home from a robbery. Marcus had taken the unconscious Zidane over his shoulders, and we made our way back to daylight. By the time we reached the Tantalus, I was exhausted, and nearly drained of my power. The Benero brothers waved us on board, and the engines roared to life.

Right behind us however, the mass of tentacles at the base of the Iifa Tree started to move. They shot out, with the bulbous head just behind them, as if ordering them to prevent our escape. I drew upon my last remaining reserves and tried to hold them off.

Baku ordered the liftoff, and the Tantalus took to the air. Three tentacles shot out, two of them latching onto the Tantalus' bow, the other onto the tail. More tentacles came out as the ship was swung around.

Baku came out armed now, "The ship'll break apart if this goes on!"

**********

Despair.

Amarant nodded grimly to the guard as the gate closed behind him. He hefted his pack over his left shoulder, and looked towards the station. The night was young, and he had a long way to go.

"Mr. Amarant?"

Amarant turned around at the high-pitched voice. It's the kid, he thought to himself. The "kid" was seated on a small knoll just outside of the Treno city gate. Judging from the dew gathering around his hat, he'd been there for a while.

"Are you leaving too?" He heard the kid say the words, but he couldn't see how he spoke. Not that it mattered. Amarant was never one to try to figure everything out.

"Yeah. I still got some 'unfinished business' elsewhere."

"Oh. I see. Everyone's leaving then..." The kid's voice trailed off with a familiar tone.

"Yeah. You're the last one left. Still got business with the doc?"

"Well...I..." His bright eyes seemed to affix themselves to the ground.

Amarant grunted. "Guess what the brat told me was true, huh?"

"B-brat?" The kid looked up, "You mean Eiko?"

"Yeah. She kept pestering me about cheerin' you up." Amarant turned to go. "Not that I care, mind you."

"..."

Amarant took a couple of steps, then, as if changing his mind, stopped in mid-stride. "You wanna live forever, kid?"

"W-what?"

Amarant went on without turning around. "Everybody goes sometime you know. You're luckier than most, 'coz you know when to expect it. But people like me, that brat, even that goof-off knight or that guard by the gate, we have no idea. We could be dead tomorrow for all we know."

"M-Mr. Amarant..."

"But you don't see us sittin' on a hill wonderin' why we gotta die, do you?"

"I..."

"If you think sitting there feeling sorry for yourself is the best you can do, go ahead. But the rest of us, we go ahead, and do whatever it is we do, even if we die the next day. I don't know what you believe in, but that's gotta be better than moping around." Amarant started to walk off again. "'Sides kid, nobody wants to live forever."

Vivi looked at Amarant's departing figure and considered the mercenary's words.

**********

Blank shouted something to his companions as he tried to keep the ship steady. I couldn't hear above the noise of the battle. Baku, Marcus and Cinna came forward. Cinna took the helm, and the others tried to hack off the offending plants. It was no use however, we couldn't break free. It seemed like the more we fought, the more tentacles appeared. And we were too tired to go on.

Zidane, awakened by the violent assault, got to his feet groggily. "What's going on?" he asked as he held on to Cinna for balance. Cinna told him to stay down, but Zidane, quickly taking stock of the situation, drew a dagger from Cinna's belt. "I'm not gonna go without a fight," he said, "If Tantalus goes down, we all go down!"

Down below, the giant bulbous head looked up at us, as if taunting us. "There is no escape."

**********

Acceptance.

"I don't think you should come with us, little guy." Baku looked down at the small figure beside him as the crew loaded their gear unto his ship.

"B-but, Mr. Baku...I really want to help."

"I know that, kid, but...it's a Tantalus thing, you know?" Baku smiled grimly. "We're the ones who gotta go after that idiot."

"What's up Boss?" Blank walked up to the pair, slightly sweaty from the day's work.

"Don't what's up me, how's the loading?"

"It's fine. Everything oughta be finished by dusk. Heya Vivi."

The diminutive black mage nodded, adjusted his hat, and decided to convince Blank instead. "Please let me come with you Blank!"

"What? It's gonna be pretty dangerous, y'know." Blank said, as if uncertain.

"That's what I keep tellin' the kid," Baku agreed, before going to look over the loading process.

Blank turned to Vivi. "You relay want to find him don't you?"

"Please Blank, it's the least I can do for him," Vivi pleaded. "He's done so much for me, for all of us! I, I--"

Blank smiled and crouched down beside the black mage. "To be honest, I don't think we can do it by ourselves." He looked over at Baku's hulking form. "Didn't want to mention it in front of the boss, though."

"Then will you--?"

Blank shook his head, and Vivi's eyes showed signs of disappointment. "The Boss'd never agree. Sorry Vivi, gotta keep packin'. See those crates over there." Vivi looked over to where he pointed and saw several large wooden crates. "I still gotta load those, but I don't know why we're usin' such large crates." He smiled at Vivi again. "Probably enough space in those crates to fit a small person, you know what I mean?"

Vivi looked up, a surprised look in his eyes, and nodded gratefully.

Blank stood up. "I think I'll talk to the boss for a bit before packing those crates." He winked at Vivi and turned to go.

Baku looked over his shoulder as Blank came to stand beside him. "Did you convince him?"

"Yeah, I told him you'd never agree."

"Poor kid. You hear about the thing from Doctor Tot?"

Blank nodded at his boss. "Perfectly understandable why he wants to come though."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Wouldn't you do the same thing in his position?"

Baku grunted and shouted to his men. "Hurry it up, we gotta schedule to keep! We gotta play in Alexandria in a week, Iifa Tree or no Iifa Tree!"

**********

All these thoughts flashed back through my head as Zidane spoke his words. We were almost gonna now, the Tantalus was about to be broken in half. Only a miracle could get us out. In desperation Blank went to the side of the airship and looked down at the ominous plant core.

"Blank!" Marcus said, "What are you thinking?"

"It's just like the Evil Forest Marcus!" Blank shouted as he fended off the attacking tentacles. "These plants'll die down once the core is dead!"

"Don't be an idiot!" Baku shouted, grabbing Blank back from the ship's railings. "You won't last two seconds out there!"

"All of us are gonna die at this rate!"

Baku and Blank's voices faded out of my head as they kept arguing. I knew Blank was right. The ship wouldn't hold much longer, and all of our lives were now threatened. Zidane. Baku. Blank. Marcus. Cinna. Benero. Zenero. Genero. And me.

In the end, there was no choice, really. One dying soul in exchange for eight others to live. After all, nobody wants to live forever.

"Zidane!" I turned to him as I started to gather the last of my energies. This man had taught me to appreciate who I was, to enjoy life, and to give all of myself for what I believe in, and today, I was proud to give myself for him. "Please make the princess happy!"

"What? Vivi!" I could hear Zidane's shout as I ran to the edge of the ship and dived towards the core, that green bulbous plant that had threatened our lives. I felt the power coalesce around me as I hurtled downward, dark energies from beyond this world gathering around my fingertips.

I came to this world spawned from this tree, and today I return to it.

"Doomsday!"

-fin-

Author's rants: Ye gods, the last semester of college really took a lot of wind out of me, I think. I'm exhausted now, maybe because I decided to do half of this all in one sitting. Which would explain why some parts might look like they were written hastily. =) Anyway, if you find any such parts, please email me so I can get around to fixing 'em. Also, I know there's bound to be a lot of spelling errors here seeing as how my keyboard is behaving abnormally and I don't use a spell checker. (I hate Word!) Ah, I'm rambling now. Must be a result of several months of not writing anything but technical papers. Gotta get some sleep. (Goes to sleep.)