Disclaimer: I don't own Star Ocean or any related properties. No infringement intended or money made, please don't sue.
The driving theme of all my Star Ocean pieces is going to be the question of that song by Joan Osborne, 'What if God was one of us?' I like concepts of how people deal with having power over others and what that responsibility entails.
Some worldbuilding info:
In the 4d world, there are very few jobs, and those who have them are regarded as the lucky ones. Now, for a lot of people, jobs are not just a source of money. They're a source of identity and pride. People do not like to feel like they're useless, they want to stand out, make a difference. If their world is high-tech enough that it needs very few people to operate the infrastructure, and… hopeless enough about their prospects that they're not putting that energy into space travel, then there are going to be fights for those jobs, as we see in the game. The sensible thing to do would be to set up something like the Chinese civil service examinations (in the days of the empire) for eligibility to be hired.
Luther is also quite young. As Blair also has a job, and not an insignificant one, that says a lot about them both. High intelligence that runs in the family is obvious, but to stand out among many competitors takes perseverance, ambition, a ton of hard work and a belief in oneself. The modest, let alone the shy and self-effacing, aren't going to make it. Think of it in terms of Job Interviewing for the Olympics, and then the kind of hyper competence you'd need to keep that job when there are always people gunning for it. Blair maybe be the 'nice' one of the two siblings but she still goes right on in there, spills secrets, hacks and generally betrays her brother all over the place. Nope, no modesty or second-guessing herself or if what she's doing is right there. Nor are there any hard feelings, because this kind of thing is normal.
They're both Magnificent Bastard workaholics with very high opinions of themselves, because no other type of person could possibly get to where they are and stay there, not in their world. They are the kind of person that gets ahead. They may be nice people aside from that, but they are cutthroat entrepreneurs in a world where that's not only regarded as a good thing, but the highest social status there is. The people that others envy and read about in their equivalent of People magazine. Expecting Luther to be modest or dislike praise, even praising himself, is like expecting a shark to dislike water.
Of course, it also takes the ability to assess yourself and your limits (because overstepping yourself looks bad), not to mention identifying talent and assessing the competition. One in a billion does not compare to one in a trillion. The Eternal Sphere has a much larger population and hence talent pool, and Dr. Leingod is the genius in symbology, who pulled something off that screwed the laws of physics.
"Two, two, three: Sophia, have we got at least seven eggs?" If not, they were going to have to improvise or he'd have to make another shopping run, depending.
"Let me see…" Sophia opened up the fridge. "There's ten."
"Great. Maybe you can make something for Fayt to take in for lunch on Monday, hmm? Or he might want two omelets. Bring them over here – remember to close the fridge, it's wrong to waste anything, even if solar power is cheap – and did your dad give you permission to use the knives?"
"…I didn't ask," she confessed, as she put the egg carton down on the counter next to him.
"Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him. I suppose being overprotective to compensate isn't as bad as not being protective at all, but it still must be really annoying for you. Try to forgive your dad, he is trying."
"Well, you are." He shrugged. "Well: want to start washing the vegetables I brought while I cook the bacon?" The Esteeds rarely cooked: Sophia wanted to learn, but her father, like Fayt's was almost always at the university. Bacon and eggs were about the extent of what he could cook, not counting macaroni and cheese and the other staples of starving grad students everywhere. Sophia had grown up going to one of the nearby restaurants that served college students, the cafeteria, or ordering in with her parents, if not TV dinners.
Given the number of times she'd had to think fast to come up with something to eat that wasn't cereal, when they'd only come home after dark and not told her in advance or left any cash, why were they so surprised that she wanted to learn how to cook for herself? Everyone should know how to cook. He could generally count on finding milk, bread, cheese, bacon and eggs and a few staples here, but anything else had to bring himself. At least Dr. Esteed had insisted on reimbursing him.
It made him feel like a paid shopper sometimes, but there was nothing wrong with an honest day's work.
"Sure!" Sophia said cheerfully, and a normal Sunday morning resumed as she started pulling things out of the bags.
Once the bacon was sizzling, he pulled out the built-in cutting board and got down the block that held the vegetable and other knives. Sophia got a little worried when she couldn't find the potato peeler or cheese grater, but it turned out that they were still stuck in the back of the dishwasher from two weeks ago.
"You should probably just take over running the dishwasher," he advised her as he quickly washed them in the sink.
"It makes him feel like he isn't a very good father when I do his chores."
"Well, they need to get done. Just use that to extort a bigger allowance out of him," he advised.
"I tried, but he said that I'm his daughter, not his maid."
"Then he should hire a maid. I draw the line at cleaning up any messes I didn't make," although, technically… And, man, was that ever an arrogant thing to say. Too good for honest work? "But there are plenty of other grad students that would kill to work for a professor like him."
"It's really nice of you to come by on Sundays."
He shrugged. "It's a nice break and I'm getting paid for it. Not to mention that I have all the time in the world, and do you know how good it looks to have Drs. Esteed and Leingod sponsoring me?" He was as good as tenured faculty already.
Of course Sophia knew that some of the people on campus who were nice to them weren't only doing it to be nice.
"But an hour here is an hour, right?"
"Yes, but I can't just disappear when nothing interesting is going on." That would be a little obvious. "And this is fun. I like cooking, and I can't do it at home anymore. Not for other people."
"It's rude." He sighed. "Like stuffing your face when there are starving people. Cooking for yourself is a productive way to kill time. Cooking for the benefit of other people is productive work, and I have an actual job. I actually didn't get to cook that much when I was a kid, because our parents had hopes for Blair and I." It was study, study, study to pass the Exams. "There is no higher endeavor than doing something that makes other people happy, and everyone likes good cooking. That's probably why I went into art instead of archiving." What they still called research, here.
"Dad says that cooking and cleaning were considered women's work, and that if I do them people will think that I don't have any self-esteem or that he's using me to do all the chores," Sophia said, watching the knife carefully as she cut the peppers into the right size pieces.
"They're perfectly respectable work. Cooking is the only work a lot of people have, since we have robots for cleaning," he told her. "Although there's a huge market for breakable, delicate artwork and plants that people have to take care of… Anyway, it's your time. Do what makes you happy with it. Why do you think people come here? Everyone wants to make a difference, to have actually accomplished something in their life that they'll be remembered for. And they don't just come here for the exciting things. There's a lot more to stopping wars or running countries than just beating people up. You have to invest a lot of hours in a character that's more than a knight errant. You have to be there if there's an emergency in the middle of the night. You have to do paperwork. A lot of people don't do much more than settle down as a smith somewhere and make things. Just not labor-saving devices." He smiled wryly. "If Dr. Leingod was actually trying to identify us, if he had any idea that we'd be ordinary people, not just mythic figures, that would probably be the best way to go about it." Roleplaying was roleplaying, but there were some things that were cultural.
Most people in the Eternal Sphere thought of work as work. Boring, backbreaking, when they'd rather have the leisure time to do something fun. All they'd have to do was look for people who got irritated by the implication that someone else was too good for honest work, among a few other things… People might come to the Eternal Sphere to ignore ordinary morals often enough, but another reason was to be able to express their emotions and achieve their desires, meaning that roleplaying aside, 4d people rarely bothered to hide it here when something really made them mad.
That was another thing that had become part of the culture in the worlds of the Sphere that he liked. People were genuinely more honest about their emotions here.
Although the fact that it had become normal and acceptable to name your kids things like Fayt Leingod… Some troll had used the name Leeroy Jenkins while acting as befitted a legendary hero, just for the lulz that would result from future generations naming their kids that and using it as a battle cry.
Well, that was better than the ones who abused those around them, but the people of the Sphere had criminals anyway. It wasn't like he hadn't given the NPCs means to fight back.
In fact, it turned out he'd given them too much potential ability to fight back, but it was really only fair.
The trouble came when it came down to MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. Like back in the Cold War days, centuries ago.
"It's strange, to think of a world where people don't have to work. I mean, I know about job applications, and how there's competition and some people have a hard time finding jobs. It makes sense that if there weren't many jobs at all and lots of people that most people would be out of work. And I hate feeling useless."
He winced. "You're far from useless, Sophia."
"But Fayt thinks of games as, well, games. They're a break from work. Or studying, anyway."
"Fayt has a bright future ahead of him. You too. You have so many possibilities open to you."
"Thank you," she said, pausing in her work to look up at him, admiration and thanks in her eyes, and this was one of those countless moments that made it all worthwhile.
Dr. Esteed was insane to miss out on mornings like this, but then, people who had it this good didn't know how good they had it. "The pleasure's all mine. It's nice to play god and be told that I'm winning." By the people he'd created as well as the countless happy players and their fan mail. Even their griping was kind of nice, since the ridiculousness of a lot of their complaints just underscored how high their standards were. How high he'd made them, how close the Eternal Sphere was to everything they'd wished for.
As well as what he'd wished for.
He'd finished peeling the potatoes when she finally asked him, "Are you really not going to have children of your own?"
"Sophia, you wouldn't want to be my real daughter. I'd have to neglect you all the time, the way your dad does, because I'd have the rest of the Sphere to look after, too. You can't blame him too much for being gone when he's trying to save your life." Once the experiments had stopped, he'd started spending almost no time with her. It was obvious that it was a combination of work and avoiding her because he felt guilty, but this wasn't the way to make it up to her. Not that he could tell the man that, since he wasn't supposed to know about those little experiments.
"I don't, but…"
"It's too late, anyway. I gave away both my child allowances and the extra one I was awarded for creating the Eternal Sphere and making so many people's lives better. It was only fair: I've got trillions of kids, and almost everyone else can only have two. I'm already being obscenely greedy about it." Time to flip the bacon. Maybe he should buy a second frying pan? This was a little ridiculous. On the other hand, it meant time to talk. "Raising children is something else that makes a difference. That lets you be remembered." Even if only by them. "Actually, a lot of people with jobs don't have kids. It cuts down on how much people hate you, if only a bit." If you were paying for your success by sacrificing your other legacy.
"They don't hate you." Sophia could never imagine hating anyone. That was the real power of her gene, to understand people, and it was hard to hate someone when you knew why they were doing everything. Although that didn't mean she couldn't hate what they were doing.
"A lot of them do. I'm the most famous person in the world. What I do makes more difference to more people than practically anyone else. Everyone wants to be needed, everyone wants to matter, to not be just another statistic. And then there are people who only care about power and being important. I've got a few of those in my company. Blair says I should sack them and give the positions to the deserving, but they're a good way to study that type of person." Keep an eye on public opinion; try to find outlets for them in the Sphere.
Every so often, someone would try to rally the unsatisfied and try a coup, try to smash all technology, let billions who couldn't be supported without it die and go back to kneeling in the mud since they were power-hungry and the people were bored and didn't know how good they had it. He often had fights with the UN over keeping activities in the Eternal Sphere anonymous since they wanted to know who might be using their characters to study how to pull off revolutions.
Thank goodness, actually: if it weren't for the freedom to privacy issues with data monitoring, he would never have been able to hide that they'd evolved real sapience as long as he had.
Getting to see real people in the Sphere, dealing with real poverty (although he tried to keep the reincarnation system balanced so it got made up for) generally taught them a bit of compassion. It encouraged them to make a difference for those people by defeating monsters, stopping bandits and warlords… fear of AI aside, he thought that most people wouldn't mind that the Sphere's people were sentient. It was a wonderful surprise, to find that no; you hadn't been playing at being a hero.
"Eh, probably not. I hope they don't try to stab me in the back at too inconvenient a time, but if I replaced them, then I'd have to figure out which of the new people were reporting to the government." On top of their own ambitions and the fact that if he was brought down, someone could step into his shoes. "Better the traitor you know. Not that you'll have to worry about that."
"I shouldn't use it that way."
"Sophia, it's a talent. You're good with people. Connection may have made you predisposed to it, but it's not your fault you can't turn off the telempathy." It was actually his fault that he'd made her consciously aware of it trying to figure out what she could do. "You're also a lot better at symbology than most people. Sure, it's an unfair genetic advantage, but so is perfect pitch. As long as you care about the people around you, as long as you try not to abuse that power, you probably won't." It wasn't like life was fair.
"If you say so."
She'd been made this way, abused like this, to help kill him, and she trusted him. She looked to him as an example of being responsible with great power. She believed in him and wasn't afraid of the impending doom of her universe because she trusted him. She was sure that he could pull this off.
Which was why he was never going to tell her that he'd already set up a cover id for her and, if all else failed, she'd be going into hiding in his world with Blair. Obviously he hadn't asked Blair about it, none of this had a prayer of working if she didn't believe that he was on the side of their world, but if it came down to it, he was going to dump a note and a kid on her. Luckily, if things went that badly he'd be too dead for her to yell at him. The good part of Blair being so, so… unthinkingly decent was that she'd actually do it instead of being sensible and turning Sophia in. He knew how to tug on her heartstrings; she wouldn't be able to do that to her one remaining niece.
Thankfully, he'd been able to feign sympathy with a few of the revolutionary groups that used the Sphere to meet and practice. They should be able to hide both of them.
He wished he could do the same for Fayt and Maria, at least, but they didn't have Connection. They wouldn't be able to absorb the culture they way she could. It would be possible for people to suspect them, when it was impossible to see Sophia as anything but family. Trying to save them too would put Blair and Sophia in danger.
No: it was success or failure, there wasn't a middle ground. Trying to make failure less bad, trying to make sure that even a single life would be saved, was stupid. He needed to focus everything he had on making this work.
One more sign he was a human instead of a god… "Sophia, do you want to see if you can do the whole thing by yourself?" He moved over at the stove to make room.
Really? "I start by cracking the eggs on the rim of the bowl." Right?
"That's right." He handed her two. They'd start with his omelet, just in case anything went wrong.
"Do you know if Dad will be coming home today?"
"Not barring an emergency: he was telling the truth when he said this was something he couldn't get out of." Making a classified report with Dr. Leingod. "Officially he's off at eleven pm. I doubt he'll be home before three. A lot of people came from out-system for this." They'd want to catch up.
"Well, it means we can speak a little more freely than we usually can." Sophia was a child, and children made slips, so he'd written programs to make sure that if she said his real name people would hear his character's name and so on. "And Fayt will be coming by as soon as he rolls out of bed and gets ready. I don't know if his mother will drop him off or I'll have to go over and pick him up."
There was a saying that people wanted to give their children the things they hadn't had, but he had spent Sunday mornings like this with Blair and the tutor their parents had hired when he was a kid. This would be more of a proper family thing if he could tell Blair what he was really up to, if she could be here and show Sophia how to make crepes and those other sweet things she was fond of, but that just wasn't safe. If he got found out, he'd be a traitor to his world, to his species, and if Blair had known, was a collaborator instead of an idealist who was against killing she believed was needless?
Then she'd be just as dead as she'd be if she went on the run with Sophia and got caught, but there wouldn't be anything to show for it.
"Can I come with you?"
"Sure, why not. We'll walk; it's only a mile and a half." That was a nice thing about living around a university, there was a lot of stuff in walking distance. "How did your homework go?"
"I couldn't figure out how to get my bird to flap her wings. Well, I could make her move but it didn't look natural at all." She'd looked up videos of real canaries.
"Sophia, the assignment was just to try to make a three-d model." Well… why not. "I'll start showing you the basics of how animation works this afternoon. I was going to cover a few more computer graphics tricks, but we should do what you're interested in." And apparently she wanted to make her bird really fly instead of just making it pretty.
"Three-d… Oh! Animation is change over time. That's the fourth dimension."
"Exactly. Not that this world isn't four-dimensional too, it's just that we can enter it at any point."
She nodded, carefully pouring the mixed-up eggs into the frying pan. "And so can I, if I go to your world and come back in."
"It's the same thing as arriving at a different point in space. Time is a dimension just like the other three." Surely all nine year olds weren't this brilliant. Of course, most nine-year-olds hadn't been immersed in symbology and other computer languages their entire lives. Not to mention that connection had let her absorb a lot of knowledge from not just him but her father and Dr. Leingod. She might not know it consciously, but it meant she didn't have to work to get her head around the difficult concepts and she could skip a lot of the tedious memorization.
"But I can only go into your world in the times that the Eternal Sphere exists there." And Luther had banned her from going anywhere near the final months. Not until the time came. Not while she was still learning. Not when it would be so incredibly difficult to pull off, even with all the advance notice that came from the mysterious appearance of a six-year-old in his office when he'd turned the prototype on the first time to do some beta testing before he showed it to anyone. Thankfully, she'd managed to put herself back in the instant she disappeared, because he certainly hadn't had any idea of what had just happened or how it worked at that point.
The message from the Time Gate must have come from the future of his own world. He certainly hadn't made it yet, and he wouldn't unless he had to. Unless he were being pressured. Unless there wasn't a lot of his own world's time left.
"That's probably a good sign. It hopefully means that we really can separate the two worlds." There had to be a difference between severing a connection and nothing left of either or both but wreckage.
Or so he hoped.
"Do you really think that I could make my own world someday?"
"Yes." Of course. He'd done it, and he didn't have powers the way she did. "If you want to," he amended that. "It's a big responsibility, remember."
"And didn't you want to be in the circus when we first met? You can use computer animation to make movies, too. Modeling is useful for science; computers in general are useful for anything: just… do what you want, ok?"
"I know, and don't forget to play. You're like grandpa sometimes."
"In my world, if you even want a prayer of achieving your dreams, you have to studystudystudy, because there are only so many jobs and billions of people who want them." He laughed. "My tutor would go over formulae and history with us when while we did this."
"What should I put in?"
"Hmm, I'll leave it up to you." Yet another nice thing about programming a universe was that you could make everything taste great. That didn't keep incompetent cooks from rendering even the best ingredients inedible, but Sophia was doing well.
"Ok!" That made her cheer up, but then she frowned again.
"You really have been saving up questions. Go ahead."
"What age are you now?"
"I'm not going to die anytime soon, Sophia."
"But you've been spending hours and hours. In class, at the lab, being a TA…" And even though he could reenter this world at any time, he had stuff to do in the outside world. How many years had passed in his world in the three years she'd known him?"
"They think I'm writing out dialogue trees and working on the AI. It would take a lot of work to make all of you seem to be what you actually are. You're not only saving me a ton of time, but you're giving me an excuse to hang out in here all I want and say I'm getting work done. Which I am," of course. He'd never skip out on work. "And having a long-running character is great for testing out the player experience. I'm not wasting time by being here, and this should probably be over before I get any grey hairs. Since we can't have magic or space travel," or an afterlife, as far as they knew, "making people live longer is the thing that most of our scientific talent concentrates on." He frowned. "What brought this on?"
"My father is…" She looked around before announcing in a stage whisper, "He's dyeing his hair. And he doesn't want to walk anywhere anymore."
"Your father isn't old Sophia. He may not be as young as Dr. Leingod," who was a genius prodigy that Luther freely admitted was smarter than he was, "but he's not going to die anytime soon."
"I promise." If Dr. Esteed got hit by a bus, he'd alter things so that he was never there. It was simple enough to perform 'miracles' like that.
The only thing he couldn't fix was anything Fayt used his power on. Fortunately, while Sophia's personality meant that she was using Connection almost constantly, Fayt was responsible enough to subconsciously lock down Destruction. It had been very hard for Dr. Leingod to drug or provoke him into using it in the tests.
"Don't feel guilty about asking me for favors. I'm not doing all of this out of the goodness of my heart."
"You're trying to learn about the plan to attack your world and show Fayt and I, and our fathers, that you aren't a bad person, so they'll trust you if you need to ask for their help in order to make it work. But you're still doing all this to save everyone."
He rolled his eyes. "Never mind that as the creator of the Eternal Sphere I have fame, fortune, the adoration of the people…" Not to mention a large number of women who were willing to put up with the fact that he had to spend his time and emotional energy on the Sphere instead of relationships. In fact, a lot of them admired his work ethic. "It's not like I'm making any sacrifices."
"But you will."
He paused, and watched the water pour over his hands and the cutting board he was washing it, mind automatically noting the realism without really seeing it. "Can't hide anything from you, can I." No one could, if she cared enough to look. "I'll either have to say goodbye to this world or goodbye to Blair."
"If I liked my world, would I have created this one? There's no magic there anymore. All the 'here be dragons' were filled in centuries before I was born. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be, and I'd have to spend the rest of my life afraid that I'd failed and something had happened to all of you. I'd have nothing to do but worry." He'd have to sacrifice his reputation and lose his job. He shook his head and resumed scrubbing. "It's not a sacrifice to put so much energy into playing this identity when it may become my 'real' one someday."
This was entirely too depressing a conversation for such a nice Sunday morning.
"Not to mention that if I can figure out how they got your powers to work there, then maybe I can leave my world that knowledge. They could finally have the stars." Connection could connect two spaces together, creating wormholes. Alteration could speed up terraforming: countless possibilities.
"Would you stay there, then?"
"I'm a game designer: what do I know about aerospace?" More than all but a handful of people in his world, actually. "Even though I wrote this universe's laws of physics, some of what Dr. Leingod says in his books still goes way over my head." And he had to work to get much of the rest. "No, I've already done enough. I should leave that to other people." So they would have a chance to make a difference, to go down in history.
Of course, they'd still owe it all to him, and know it, too.
It was very hard to be a god without being a megalomaniac.
Dr. Leingod was a genius, but Dr. Leingod wouldn't exist without him. Nor would Sophia, or Fayt, or countless other people, worlds upon worlds of them.
"Oh for crying out loud, I'm turning into my parents." Taking credit for the accomplishments of his children. On the other hand, they did deserve the credit for making it possible, in the same way his programs made all this possible.
"Do people really do that?" Sophia didn't want to be like hers.
"In some ways, I think it's inevitable." Both nature and nurture. "But sentient beings have some ability to get around our programming, thankfully." Fifteen more seconds and he was going to have to nudge her to keep a closer eye on the omelet before it got overcooked. Luckily she followed his thoughtful gaze and saw that it was done instead of ruined somehow.
They ended up splitting it, so they wouldn't be too hungry if they had to walk over to Fayt's. Fortunately, his mother was able to drop him off, and since she'd done it earlier it was easy to nudge Sophia into showing him that she could make them all by herself, which he thought was awesome and wanted to learn how to do too. Fayt was the kind of boy who liked making things, but when left to his own devices he'd toss stuff together to see what happened, which rarely resulted in anything edible.
After assuring Sophia that he trusted her not to destroy the kitchen teaching Fayt how to cook, he was able to head to the kitchen table and pull open his notes. Dissertation and promised position aside, academia here was publish or perish – even if the competition was much, much less cutthroat than in his own world – and he needed to make himself a reputation if he was going to be able to do this with the minimum of contrived coincidences, even if his ability to alter space-time meant he could contrive them what amounted to centuries in advance.
There was also the option of benefitting from coincidences that other people had contrived, or had been set up for plot reasons. For instance, an Expellian character with symbology in their DNA had a bit of trouble operating on Earth (what with potentially having what amounted to the firepower of a small tank), but that itself had gotten him a bit of notoriety. Dr. Esteed had been worried about what would happen when his daughter found out that she had symbology in her DNA, since those people were generally considered dangerous, and given the choice between the top grad students, he'd chosen to mentor the one that he could use to show his daughter that no, she wasn't a dangerous monster or anything like that. It would have been even easier to get this job if he'd designed a female character, but he didn't want to end up actually living as a woman.
Although that would have made it impossible for anyone (Blair) to guess that this was him…
Maybe he should create a second character. Maybe. It wasn't like he could have this one meet Maria without eyebrows being raised. The researchers knew what would happen, to themselves, their children and the world if the Federation found out about their project. He couldn't risk being too nosy.
It would only be trouble if there was some attempt to get his two characters in the same place at the same time, and it was a big universe. Even in the endgame, he could probably find an excuse to be elsewhere. Actually, since a lot of stuff would be going on then, it might be handy to have a spare identity that he could run around putting out fires with.
Brown hair, eyes that weren't any particularly interesting color, named Ashton Fords after one of the heroes instead of something original: he'd made this character lack as many of the things that normally marked a PC as he could without that itself being suspicious. It was normal in this universe to stand out. Sure, pointed ears, but they were a racial characteristic. He could probably be a lot less forgettable with the alternate account. He certainly wouldn't want them to seem like they shared a theme.
Given the setting… Krausian. That generally implied blond, which was his own hair color, but meh, normal was normal. If he wanted to do the cheap route, he could have her be related to someone Maria knew (or would eventually meet). Heck, given that the scientists had all theme-named their kids, having an appropriate name would just be fitting in. Nothing religious, of course. Krausians tended towards names relevant to their worlds' environment: Oasis would indicate a helpful character. Actually, it wouldn't be too bad if they figured out that character was a PC. If he knew his players, other PCs would be doing anything they could to help, so he could even give this character a name that hinted she wasn't real. Maybe 'Mirage' might work?
It is rather common for male players to create female characters in MMORPGs. It's not regarded as cross-dressing, and some people actually consider it the straighter option, because if you're going to be looking at someone for hours upon end… Also, Mirage, in her ending with Fayt, makes some rather pointed comments about someone losing their old world/life, having to deal with going to a new one, etc.
The idea that some denizens of 4-d might end up staying in the Eternal Sphere is interesting in terms of Nel's ending, where another character says that she's doing all she can to help Aquaria because she's old and her time is running out, and as good as says that she's from 4-d, she loves this world, and does Nell have a problem with that?