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This 'essay' was the very nice thank-you note Andy Goth wrote me for winning the 'What's up with Page 109?' competition I held. The picture being referred to in this essay is this one:

Zidane's bright-eyed smirking face and halfway contemplative pose make me wonder if he's thinking back on the past or toward the future, but I'm sure he's doing a little of both, certainly appropriate following FF9's glorious ending. For him the sweetest, most beautiful quest of all is just beginning, and surely he's trying to figure out why he should be so lucky. In fact, he's probably thinking "pinch me, I'm dreaming" over and over again, and right now I don't think he could straighten out his face if his life depended on it.

Did I say Zidane's eyes were bright? Usually that's just a figure of speech, but for Vivi it is literal truth. He has this most amazing combination of sadness and curiosity. I could be making the whole thing up, but to me the slant of his eyes suggests the former; perhaps in those glowing eyes a solitary tear waits to be shed. But I think his is a pain he has learned to bear. Yes, he lost his adoptive father and discovered that his very existence is an aberration, but in a cruel world of counterfeit tickets and megalomaniacal warmongers he found acceptance, friendship, a family. Therefore I think the tear contains not so much regret for days gone by but rather joy for the new life ahead, a life brimming with wonder beyond imagination, a life at whose threshold he now stands.

And standing with him are Zidane and Dagger, as they have stood with him ever since their most unusual meeting on the stage of the Prima Vista. Lovable, bothersome Steiner weeping over the tragic death of Princess Garnet, Garnet dying to shield her father from the blade of her lover, the audience delirious with emotion, and clumsy Vivi screws it all up with his Fire magic! Down went Garnet, but up comes Dagger, casting off her burning cloak and casting off the smothering mantle of being merely Alexandria's favored pet canary. And then, of course, their hasty exit turns into an adventure incredible beyond words, my favorite of the series.

Dagger, too, must be looking back on it, those days and nights of conflict and sorcery, all that time facing a terrible enemy that would steal mankind's very souls. But in her face I see more than just relief that it's all behind her; I see peace. Life can return to normal, but thanks to her friends, normal will never be boring. Normal will be exhilirating and exciting and fun and, above all else, happy. She has the burden of a kingdom on her shoulders, but she's not worried. She has no reason to worry; she's actually looking forward to it, but first, let's have ourselves another adventure! Beatrix and Steiner have me covered, and maybe it's best to give them a little alone time. I'm happy for them, but I'm also happy for me... and Zidane. Together.