It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Final Fantasy IX update. In that, I mostly detailed plans for levelling up after completing the Earth Shrine, which is essentially what I’ve spent the majority of the time between updates doing. Back in that last one, I reported that Quina was level 36, well, they’re one of my highest level characters now, at level 71, with the rest all being between level 56 and 66 (and Zidane being on par with Quina). Pretty much everyone has learned every ability for each piece of gear that I had at that point and I’ve killed more Grand Dragon’s using Quina’s Lv 5 Death than I care to count. I figure that it was time to get moving on with the rest of the game, I could have gone after some of the sidequests, but I really want to see what’s going on next as my memory of the game from this point on is rather fuzzy.
Once aboard the Hilda Garde III, I head for Shimmering Isle, hovering above it the pilot declares that we’re being sucked in. Dagger and Zidane the best course of action is that everyone goes out on to the deck and jumps overboard into the portal that has appeared over the island, thus allowing the airship to pull clear. After doing so, they fall through a mass of colour, and then find themselves on Terra. An “Old Man” appears on a staircase and, oddly, declares that Zidane is “here at last”, then refers to him as “the one who folds time”. He asks for Zidane’s name (which seems weird considering the conversation thus far), but each time Zidane tries to answer him he speaks over our leader. This annoys Zidane and he tries to show this but the Old Man merely responds “So you believe a given name has meaning…”.
He tells Zidane he knows nothing (Jon Snow) and invites him to “see what Terra is and what you are…” before vanishing. At this point Dagger appears behind Zidane, she tells him everyone is okay. It is then we see a person who looks remarkably like Zidane off in the distance who Zidane decides to follow.
Now I do have some fighting to do here, and one enemy, in particular, causes me some problems. It’s called a Ring Leader and can cast a few status effects. Silence and Blind are easily dealt with, but Virus isn’t as I don’t appear to have bought any Vaccine’s with which to cure it, not that I ever recall being able to buy them, but a quick Google suggests I just missed them. The biggest problem with this status effect is that it prevents anyone who has it cast on them from receiving any EXP or AP from any fight until it’s been cured, within only a few fights Dagger and Freya both have this status effect, meaning my already high-level characters: Quina and Zidane, are the only ones seeing the spoils from any fight.
After a while, we catch up with the Zidane-clone, who the game reveals is actually a girl
“You don’t remember anything, do you? Follow me and you’ll understand”
We come across a huge staircase at which point the girl welcomes Zidane “Home” and tells him “This is where you belong, the place to which you shall offer yourself is here”. At the top of the staircase is a glowing green gateway, which the girls walks through. The ground begins to shake and we see the Invincible, the ship Kuja and then Garland had used on Gaia, take to the air. This triggers flashbacks of the destruction of Madain Sari and Alexandria, which causes Dagger to collapse before the screen fades to black.
“You are completely oblivious. Just like a newborn child. You don’t know why you were given life, or for what purpose you exist. You simply shout to emphasise your life… your own existence. You are completely oblivious”
When the screen fades back again, Steiner is stood over the Princess. He tells Zidane that he’ll take care of her and Zidane responds that he’ll find somewhere to rest. Rather than head through the gateway, I take the path to the left and enter the village of Bran Bal. The village is full of more Zidane-clones, though they’re much smaller, resembling children. One tells Zidane that they “possess no age”, whilst another tells him that they do not need to rest. Despite this last statement, there is somewhere for the party, and particularly Dagger to get some rest.
It occurs to me that the mini-Zidane’s reminds me of the Black Mages. The girl we’d been following arrives in the village and tells Eiko to inform Zidane she’ll be waiting in the Underground Laboratory. I have a quick explore of the village first and find a Wing Edge in a chest in one building. A Moogle is hiding nearby in a vase when I speak to it, it claims its never heard of Mognet, though it still asks me to deliver a letter… This Moogle, Moorock, runs a shop which, handily, has new weapons for Zidane, Steiner, Amarant and Quina, but more importantly also stocks Vaccines!!
In the northernmost buildings, I find eight vessels (which is how the Zidane-clones refer to themselves, which is another similarity to the Black Mages) stood around a large crystal that looks a lot like that in the games logo. Talking to them provides the following dialogue:
“When the souls of Terra and Gaia mix, Terra will be intergrated into the larger Gaia…”
“A planets shimmer is its breath, a sign of life-activity cause by the cycling of souls.”
“As the planets turn”
“Fleeting knowledge is useless to vessels… But information is given to prevent mental atrophy.”
“A planet’s colour indicates its shape… Gaia is blue, Terra is red”
“The flow of souls means that a planet has life… The stoppage of souls means that a planet is dead…”
I then take the staircase in the back that leads down the lab that Eiko was told about. I know this because whilst there are four people stood about, there are two others enclosed in blue chambers with weird glyphs floating around them. Zidane seems to understand what’s going on but tells the girl we’d been following that he’s nothing like what he see’s, saying all the other people that look like him are just a bunch of zombies. She tells Zidane that these are her peers and that they are called Genomes, Zidane is one too
“It is the name of the seed given to all of us. It’s name is Genome”
Zidane tells her that he feels let down, that he’s been searching for his home, but what he sees is just a dump. The girl questions why he isn’t happy and he tells her he doesn’t believe that they can even process that emotion, they all just have blank faces. She informs him that they are built to watch over each other and work as “soulless Genomes”. Zidane says he’s struggling to understand why he grew up on Gaia if he was born here, that he’s alive and has a soul. He’s told that he is special, that the rest of them are mere vessels, but he’s been given a purpose, that the “will of Garland is absolute” but before revealing more she leaves the lab.
Upstairs the conversation continues as she monitors the group stood before the crystal.
G: “Garland watches over the planet. His mission is to restore the people of Terra.”
Z: “Restore the people of Terra? You mean people besides these guys here?”
G: “They are merely vessels. So am I, and so are you. But the people of Terra have been asleep for ages, waiting for their time to come. When the time is right, the light of the planet will change from blue to red, and Gaia will become Terra.”
Z: “Wait a sec! So the people of Terra are out to take over Gaia!?”
G: “What else can there be? Terra has always absorbed new planets to survive. And when the time comes, the souls of the people of Terra will occupy the Genomes. Such is the restoration of the people of Terra.”
Z: “Why do they have to be so tedious? Why don’t they just wipe us out with magic like they did Alexandria?”
G: “Once, Garland tried to use a more forceful method, but failed.”
Z: “Then he should just quit and leave Gaia alone!”
G: “Because of his failure, he was forced to wait a long time… To wait until Gaia’s civilization gained tremendous power. The power to use eidolons.”
Z: “So thats why you attacked the summoner village and destroyed Alexandria”
G: “Planets have a cycle of souls. Souls are born from the planet, and then return to it. Garland planned to gain control of that very cycle… and you were supposed to help him achieve that. Garland is waiting for you, come…”
Back at the in, Dagger asks Eiko for a favour, she wants her to find Zidane, she fears something terrible is about to happen.
In a few ATE, Zidane converses with several key characters. First, its Quina, where they discuss how people of one race tend to look alike to another race (known as the Cross-race effect), then Vivi tells Zidane that the vessels remind him of the Black Mages that they originally met on the airship outside of Dali. He says they look nothing alike, but he feels their minds aren’t hollow.
I think their minds are just out to lunch for a little while…”
Back by the gateway, the girl summons Zidane to follow her once more. Though before he can enter, Amarant calls out to him, he complains that everyone here is a “wimp”. Zidane asks him if he had any parents, which Amarant finds an odd question but responds that he doesn’t remember having any loving parents. His first memory is “of a guy I had to fight” and so he only finds meaning through combat. Zidane reflects for a moment, then tells Amarant he doesn’t have any parents. Zidane then follows after the girl, who tells him she’s taking him to see Garland. She asks him if he wishes to say farewell to his friends
“I don’t care what I am, I was born here wasn’t I? If so, then I am an enemy of the people of Gaia”
Despite stating this, he swears he won’t join Terra’s side, he “wants to take care of this family matter himself.”