The Fourth Universe - Intro

[08.07.00] » by Soul-Hunter

Probably most of you guys can relate to this experience.

I used to know this girl. She works as a business production manager for one of the biggest television stations in the Philippines (for my countrymen, you might know of this TV station as ABS-CBN... and I feel calling it a "TV station" is a gross injustice to its stature in Philippine society). And from day one you could say that I was a bit hooked. Frankly, I don't meet too many girls as amazing as her (well... not until recently, that is). I was impressed, what can I say?

We went out twice, in both occasions accompanied by her friends and my brother (He had to come along, he's a lot more skilled in girl relations than I am. I would have bored the hell out of those fine ladies had I been the only guy in the group). And given this, I had to content myself with the drive home as the only time when I can have her to myself. And no matter what kind of horror stories you hear about the gruesome traffic situation in Manila, driving home at two in the morning is never something that gives you enough time to get to know a girl more.

Naturally, the next thing that should happen is that run-of-the-mill invitation to dine out. Unfortunately for me, the natural occurrence of a dinner invite was not followed by a natural answer to the tune of a "yes". Though I had a bit of consolation because she was so nice and cordial in saying "no". 

Nevertheless, it was still a "no". I should write this in the plural form because it was not only once that she turned down my invite. It was a true lesson in humility for me, despite the fact that I do get this kind of rejection quite often. I guess a person can never become acclimated to certain bad experiences no matter how frequently they happen. But that is by no means a consolation for the fact that I was dissed, plain and simple.

And it wasn't a very nice feeling.

Back then, I had just purchased a copy of Final Fantasy VIII. I really only acquired the title out of pure curiosity, as I'm not exactly fond of the console RPG genre. I'm the type who indulges myself with the fast-paced style of video gaming, savoring moments of break-neck speeds aboard a Nissan Skyline in Gran Turismo; suspenseful yet utterly exciting world-saving missions in Syphon Filter; or simply beating the crap out of kung fu masters, deadly femme fatales and armor-clad mechanized ninjas in Tekken. RPG? Hell, I don't wanna fall asleep in front of my PS.

I was dissed by that girl around the time I had just acquired Ifrit from the Fire Cavern. Back then, I was almost ready to give it up and move back to completing the Gran Prix mode in R4. Then I thought, that is not a good way to blow off some steam after my very distasteful, manhood-degrading experience. I had to find something more spectacular and   mind-blowing.   Something that will awaken the nihilist inside me... at the same time keeping my distance from Twisted Metal 3.

I froze for a second. A vision of a yellow bird flashed in my mind, followed by a reverberating explosion after the bird called down a massive bolt of lightning to beat the living daylights out of the enemy.

I think I'm gonna pound some monster butt with Quezacotl for a change.

Yeah, I admit that it was the battle system and GF summoning that first attracted me to the game some critics call the greatest console RPG ever made. But to my utter delight, around the part of Irvine joining the crew I realized just what makes these RPGs great -- the incredibly immersing storylines. Pretty soon, I wasn't aiming anymore to pour out all my frustrations in freezing Thrusteavises with Shiva or silencing Belhelmels with Siren. I have got to know what's going to happen next. Squall and company had just been given the order to assassinate the sorceress. Hey, I know they're the heroes of the story, but heroes shouldn't be doing this kind of thing no matter how evil the villains may get. Something else is looming in the horizon, and I have got to know what it is.

It was around the middle of disk 3 when I knew that I will be writing something about this game. A sequel fan fic perhaps? Whatever it is, I have got to write something. I'd be doing a tremendously cruel thing to myself if I don't. A plot as thick as this, with characters like Squall, Rinoa, and Quistis which possess such brazen richness simply cannot be adequately contained in four disks. Someone has to write a story which chronicles possible events that happened after our heroes defeated the nihilistic sorceress, Ultimecia.

So I elected myself. And the rest is history (no matter how cliche that phrase has become).

Final Fantasy VIII is truly a magnificent piece of modern fantasy literature, wrapped in an exciting console RPG package which reportedly cost no less than $30 million in total production expenses. Business-wise, that's money well spent if you ask me. Judging from the sales reports, I can safely say that Squaresoft has gotten back its huge investment in the game, with a most welcome profit of at least 800% of the production cost if I got the figures down correctly.

But who cares about the numbers?

"The Fourth Universe" is what I can describe as a true labor of love, as I have never been taken emotionally by any other video game or literary work as deeply as FFVIII did. While writing it, I felt like a man possessed, at times sitting in front of the PC for an all-night session of seamless and fluid writing as my mind seems to be drawing out from a mysterious yet limitless source of ideas, plots and twists. It felt like it was meant to happen. Completing TFU is perhaps one of the more rewarding undertakings I have ever had the pleasure of doing.

Of course, I wasn't really sure of how the readers will react. But back then, I really didn't care. All I care about is completing this story and having it posted in FFOnline's New Avalanche (NA) forum, a web location where TFU was eventually first seen by the Internet public. To my relief, it was accepted well. Too well, if I might add. When the accolades started coming in from sectors outside of FFO, I thought maybe, just maybe, I do have something worth cultivating in these meager hands of mine.

But when some people started comparing TFU to "I Know What's Beneath The Snowfields" -- a FFVII-based story which has already garnered nigh-mythical status in its excellence -- I thought, ahh, this is too much. Honestly, I still don't consider my work worthy of being placed side by side with that gem of a fan fic. But I'm glad that other people think otherwise.

Of course, "The Fourth Universe" is not the sole FFVIII-based long story out in the net right now. For those of you who love reading fan fics, I can easily recommend other titles which, to my opinion, are far better than TFU. Among others, there's Astarte's "Saviours"; Marcus' "Purgatio"; the epic "Broken", a mighty collaboration between Gyrangel, StormCloud and Locke (all of which can be found in FFO's NA Forum); and Ryan's "Origins" (ongoing in FF: Worlds Apart), which happens to be a sequel to TFU. Still others along this line are some superb FFVII fan fics like Czar Ben's "Cry of the Planet" (FFO) and Aerith's "The Dark Phoenix" (FF:WA). If you love fan fiction and you have time to burn, I suggest that you indulge your literary palate on all of these great works. Satisfaction guaranteed.

But I digress. I guess all I'm trying to say is this: I'm proud of this work, even if no other people appreciate it but me (I can't count on my other PSX-playing friends because all they care about are Resident Evil and Tekken). TFU tolled heavily on my time and energy, but I never had any regrets. I guess this is simply one of those things that reward a person simply for a job well done. At least that's how I see TFU. A job well done.

And to think that all of this happened simply because I was turned down by a girl ^_^

Chapter One

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