They reached Thamasa late that night, and they group dispersed between the inn and Strago's house for places to stay the night, while Setzer remained on board his airship. Strago carefully placed the bottle of liquid on the kitchen countertop, and put a bell jar over the top of it in make sure it didn't try anything strange. Locke leaned on his knees to peer at the bottle, which was still wrapped in his blue and white bandanna. Even through the heavy cloth, the ooze gave off that strange glow.
"This is some weird shit." he said quietly, so not to wake the others in the next room. "I don't know why, but I have a feeling that this might be what we're looking for."
Strago gave a crooked smile. "Not a scrap of magic in you anymore, and you feel that way too? I think you're right, though: this is probably the right place to start. I'm glad that Gau brought up the earthquakes on the Veldt, although whether this is tied to them or not still remains to be seen."
"Strange how it glows like that, isn't it? You'd think that once we put it in a bottle, or at least away from the rest of the ooze it would lose its glow."
"It's not like a fire, it doesn't go out when it's taken away from heat or air. It's something completely different, and I have my suspicions on what it is."
Locke nodded. "I think everybody's come up with a theory for this gunk, but probably the only person that really knows what it is or what it does is Edgar, and he doesn't want to talk about what happened."
"If something strange started crawling up your arm and talking to you, wouldn't you want to try to forget about it?"
"I guess you have a point there." He stood up straight. "I'd best get to bed, before Celes comes and drags me off by my ear."
"Don't you want your bandanna back?"
He scratched at his sandy-colored hair. "Nah. Keep it. Besides, I need to let my head get fresh air every once in a while."
* * *
The next morning the ooze, bottle, bandanna, bell jar and all was moved to the Elder's house and placed on a table, where several mages crowded around it to squint at the glowing fluid curiously. Strago joined the other mages in their inspection, every once in a while adding his comments to the babble that rose above their heads. Celes stood off to the side, fascinated by the whole ordeal while Relm sat at the far end of the room with her sketchbook, capturing the moment on paper.
Edgar stood in the doorway, watching the commotion. He had pointedly avoided the rest of the group ever since the ooze had spoke to him, more out of trying to regain his self-respect more than out of embarrassment. Strangely, the only person that had talked to him about it was Terra. He figured she would be the last one to offer him any sort of comfort, since Sabin was usually the one who would find him and talk to him. He hadn't been that upset in twelve years. Perhaps Sabin knew that he wanted to be alone, or at least thought that's what he wanted. His brother probably would of been the ideal person to talk to, and when he heard somebody come up on deck he thought it was Sabin. It was almost a surprise when he saw that Terra stood there, clutching the picture Relm gave to her, with a searching look in her large green eyes. She had looked lovely in the moonlight, but Edgar was too wrapped in his own thoughts to actually comment.
He sighed, and shifted his weight. Why did she do that to him? He always had been, well....smitten with her, although his demeanor just made it seem as if she was just another pretty face to him. At least at this point, he felt that she valued him as a friend, but that's as close as it got. It never seemed to him that she took him seriously. He wasn't trying to talk her in circles by being gentlemanly or pleasant, he was simply being Edgar. Apparently what Edgar thought "being Edgar" is was much different than what Terra thought. Maybe after last night, she would know that he was more than just a stuffed peacock that set his eyes on every skirt that passed before him. Maybe she would realize that he could act human, no....that he was human.
The subject of his thoughts poked her head into the doorway next to him, and looked around the room critically. "Are they doing anything to that goop, or just staring at it?" She stood on her toes, trying to see over the heads of the excited mages.
Since he was several inches taller than her, and most in the room, Edgar could clearly see what they were doing. "They just seem to be looking at it right now. Nobody seems to want to poke and prod at it yet. It's still in that bottle, and in a jar. I can't say I blame them."
Terra narrowed her eyes, squinting straight ahead at the mages. "There's a lot of magical energy in this room. The mages are trying all sorts of things with their minds, since they know that magic isn't dead. Maybe they think that green liquid is magic too."
"Is that what you think?"
She nodded. "I can feel it. It doesn't feel exactly like magic, but more like..." she sighed. "Here, let's go outside and talk about it. I don't want them to hear my theory, and then jump on my back to get more information out of me."
Edgar looked at the group huddled around their new toy, and then stepped outside with her. After they had walked to the enormous fir tree in the center of town, Terra leaned against it and stared at the ocean in the distance. "I think I know why it was talking to you."
He propped his arm against the tree next to her, and rested his head against his hand. "You do?"
"Yeah, I have an idea, anyway. When you cast magic...or when we used to cast magic, we used a kind of essence. We have two essences in our bodies, our soul essence, and our life essence. When we all learned magic from the Espers, they lent us their remaining soul essences before they died, the essences that were contained inside the magicite. That's what magicite was. With life energy gone, the soul energy had to go somewhere, so...." She looked up at him. "Tell me, do you remember how magicite felt when you touched it?"
He idly toyed with a piece of his hair, and thought back their fighting days. "Hmm, I think I do. To me, they felt....warm. Sort of tingly."
"Exactly. And how did that goop in the cave feel when you touched it?"
A small smirk crept across his face once he got the meaning of the discussion. "Very, very similar. So is that green stuff what the magicite turned into?"
"Maybe something close. We all have life and soul energy within us, magic or not. Maybe that stuff is what happens to all the life and soul energy after it leaves the body, after death."
"That has a sort of logic to it, but why didn't it appear until just now?"
She chewed on her lip for a minute, trying to think of an answer. "Maybe....because it never had a reason to show up before. Maybe, because this is what Strago said, because magic is being reborn. And maybe because after death, souls have no place to go. The other side used to be maintained by the three goddesses, but now that they're gone, there's nobody to maintain the realm of the dead. So the souls of the dead go into the ground, from where the bodies are buried, and they've converged into that goop."
Edgar was amazed at this woman's thinking. At first glance, many would think Terra wasn't overly bright, which obviously was a ruse of hers. "I didn't know you thought this deeply, Terra. I never thought you to be one to formulate a complicated hypothesis. I probably couldn't even think that one up."
"You don't think it's a crazy idea?"
He took her hand and kissed it. "No. I think it's one of the most intelligent things I've heard anybody say."
She rewarded him with a soft smile. "How are you feeling today?"
"Much better. The whole incident effected me psychologically, but it's nothing that I can't pass off."
"Good, because those people in there are going to want to ask you questions."
He sighed ruefully. "Of course, since I was the only idiot that touched that guk." He ran his thumb over the tops of her knuckles, and she pulled her hand back, obviously not comfortable. There she goes again, he thought. Had me going for a minute, and then she shoots me down. "You know, if they're going to ask me questions, I'm going to make them listen to your theory." He said in a more businesslike tone, trying to remove the discomfort he set upon her.
"I don't know if they'd like my theory. Usually men don't like to listen to the opinions of women, especially old dry ones like those mages."
"I'll make them listen if I have to, and where did you get such ideas? A woman's opinion is as good as any man's, and sometimes better. It's a sound theory, Terra, and it's something worth looking into. If this liquid is really the magical energy in our bodies after we die, then maybe we can find a way to use it." She nodded in response, and he offered her his arm. "Let's go back to talk to them about it, and get the others on the way. Maybe they have ideas too, hopefully ones that'd back up yours."
* * *
The room all looked up at her dumbly as she got up in front of them to explain her idea. Terra rubbed at her arm nervously, trying not to make eye contact with too many of them. She always felt uneasy when speaking in front of groups of people, even if half the group was her friends. She turned to look at Edgar, who stood against the wall to her right. He nodded at her, and she gave a small sigh. Might as well tell them.
"As Edgar told you all, I have an idea what this green fluid is. While I'm no scientist or even a full-blown mage like some of you here, I do know what magic is, and what it feels like. It's part of me being who I am." She looked at the vial inside the bell jar, wrapped in the bandanna. "It used to be that when we died, our souls passed over to the other side, to the realm of the dead. Now that the three goddesses are gone, the realm of the dead doesn't exist anymore, and the souls have no place to go. Not only the souls, but the energies of our bodies. We have two energies: soul energy, and life energy. These two essences are in every living thing, and when things used to die, those essences would travel with souls to the realm of the dead." She turned back to her audience, a little more sure of herself. "When Edgar touched the green liquid, voices spoke to him. I believe that is because that liquid is what's left of us when we die...the parts that don't decompose: the soul, and our essences." Terra turned to Edgar. "You heard the souls of the dead speaking to you."
Edgar visibly paled, and nodded. "They weren't happy either. They seemed fairly upset about dying, or maybe being upset at being turned into goop."
"The whole thing sounds ludicrous to me." one of the older mages said with a disdainful sniff. "If that's what happened, then why is this green stuff only appearing now? Plenty of people would of died since the goddesses perished. Why isn't the planet overflowing with this stuff?"
"Maybe because of reincarnation." Strago offered. "The realm of the dead used to house souls until they were ready to be reborn into the world as new people and animals. Maybe the whole world isn't flooded in green ooze because the ooze is only a temporary state. Things die, souls converge for a while, and then they're reborn...just like they always have. The flow of life continues no matter what."
The other mage grumbled to himself, but didn't reply.
Relm closed her sketchbook and drummed her fingers on the cover. "Then this stream of life idea might be the answer to some of our questions. If it has our magical energies when we die, just like magicite had the Espers' magical energy, isn't it possible for us to get magic from it?"
"Forget it." Sabin said. "I'm not even going to get near that life stream stuff. And I don't want anybody else to....not after what it did to my brother."
"Maybe it can be refined in some sort of way." the Elder said. "Your so-called "lifestream" may be damaging in its original form, but it can probably be made into something else. We do things to it, like water. Normal seawater is toxic for humans and animals to drink, but when treated and refined in a plant, it becomes drinkable and completely safe." He stood with the aid of a cane, and looked at his fellow mages. "I think this is definitely something to take into consideration. Of course the theory that this young woman had about lifestream will have to be tested, but so far there are many factors backing her idea up. Also, a way to refine the liquid into something similar to magicite might be beneficial to the entire world. Many things were destroyed because of the apocalypse, and many problems have arisen. I always have been one to follow the old ways, so I believe that even though the dark side of magic nearly destroyed the world, the light side of it can heal it. All right gentlemen, I suggest we get to work." He turned to Edgar. "King Edgar, I would like to talk to you about lending some of your engineers to us, so perhaps both our old ways and your new technology can refine this new raw energy provided to us."
"No problem. I was going to suggest it, actually."
"I think we're adjourned, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you for your time" The Elder crossed the room to Edgar, to immediately discuss matters. Terra watched the two talk. surprised that they had actually listened to her. Usually she was invisible to men when she spoke, but they had not only listened to her idea, they decided to follow it up with a plan. The only person who had objected was one of the ratty old mages, obviously somebody who was too self-important to listen to anyone else's thoughts. Terra smiled at the man across the room pleasantly and felt a small surge of triumph. The man looked at her coldly, muttered something to himself, and left. Oh well, you can't please everybody.
"'Atta girl, Terra!" Locke said cheerfully, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "I don't even know where you got that theory, but man....it makes sense, and it explains a lot of things."
"It doesn't exactly explain everything, does it? Like why Celes, Relm and myself became ill for a while."
"Sure it does. The way I look at it, it was a reaction to the souls moving from one place to another. All that magical energy shifting around made you three uneasy, and effected your bodies." He looked out the window at the crotchety old mage that had objected. "Don't let busybodies like him put you down, Terra. Just because one guy says something contrary to what you think, doesn't mean you have to take it to heart."
"Yeah, everybody's entitled to an opinion, I guess..." She watched as Sabin approached her, and gave him a small smile. "I think we're getting somewhere with this."
"Maybe." the muscular man said. "How come you knew that Edgar heard voices when he touched it? He didn't say that to me."
"He did mention that the, ahem, "lifestream" started to get inside his head and talked to him." Locke said. "We all heard him say it."
"Yeah, but I came up to talk to him later, and he said that it was probably his imagination. He said the shock of it is what upset him, since it felt so odd."
"I just talked to him about it." Terra said slowly. "I decided not to share our conversation, because he would probably do the same for me. It's nothing against you, Sabin. I just think Edgar didn't want to scare you, so he told you a little white lie about what happened. I think you really wouldn't want to know what he heard anyway."
"Understood." The big man fixed his short ponytail. "You two hungry? Because I'm starving."
* * *
Dusk settled over the town of Thamasa, bathing everything in a gray light. Birds sleepily found roosts for the night, and people were spending the quiet ours after dinner peacefully within their homes. Occasionally, a person would walk down the limestone-paved streets, taking careful steps in the near-darkness, since the torches hadn't been lit yet. No one paid any mind to another figure walking down the street in a hurry, since the figure was just another familiar face in the small town.
Caezin muttered to himself as he walked. He always muttered to himself, probably because he was much better of a conversationalist than others. He was going to present a very similar theory to the elder on the green liquid, the stuff now labeled "lifestream", but then that green-haired witch had come up with something more sound, and took all the credit. He knew that she used to be an Esper, oh how he knew. The Espers could play mind tricks, and that woman probably used one on the crowd a few hours ago. But not on him, oh no, such trickery didn't work on somebody with such an advanced mind as his. That's why he was chosen out of the thousand of candidates around the planet, that's why he held power. The master had been gone for a while, but he was now back in a new form, with new intents. With better intents. Caezin licked his lips, and thought of his rewards when he reported what he found to the master. He would gain more power, be permitted more magic. The very thought of using raw magic again made him dance a little jig with glee, right in the middle of the street in front of his house. Power! That was the only thing that mattered in this world, he had known that for years now.
The mage shuffled into his house quickly, and shut the door behind him. That witch had many people on her side, but so did he. People with power, not the hodge podge of freaks from all over the world that SHE had. She even had a pet moogle, the bitch. Such animals were not to be tamed, and yet the Esper bitch had a moogle. And droves of men....who knows how many of them fawn at her feet, or visit her bed in the night? She had them in her grasp, and such a grasp was not good. That meant that the master had competition. He had to do something to warn him of it. No, to stop it. If he stopped that Esper and then went to the master with her broken body, the rewards for him would be spectacular. Perhaps more than just magic, perhaps the kind of power that went with money. Money is power, after all. Caezin hurried up his stairs, heart beating quickly. It would be risky, yes...but in the end it would be completely worth it.
He rummaged through the chest at the end of his bed, looking for the sacred cloth, the clothing of the chosen. After a moment, he pulled it out triumphantly with trembling hands, eyes filling with tears as he looked at the green and white robes. "I will not fail you, master." he whispered. Glancing around furtively, he held the clothing to his chest. The witch could have spies anywhere...even in here. He'd best be quick. The mage donned the heavy white robes, and slipped on the green mantle over them, sighing with an almost perverse pleasure. They always felt so right on him, like he was born to serve the master. He placed the pointed cap on top of his head, and drew the green veil in front of his nose, making him blend with the robes themselves.
Caezin smiled underneath his sacred robes. Tonight was the night, before the witch had any other plans set in motion, he would plan put an end to her and her influence. Then he would find the master. "You'll regret crossing me, bitch..." he muttered to himself as he began to deftly weave symbols in the air with his hands. Caezin uttered the key words to release the spell, and vanished in a flash of white light.