- "They may be called "pyreflies" but they aren't really "flies", you see. They're those lights you see whenever a fiend dies. The little fellows are responsible for a few fantastic phenomena. Visions of the past, spheres, fiends--these are all the pyreflies' doing. In fact... pyreflies have something to do with aeons, too. The dreams of the fayth reach through the spirit of the summoner... And that which is unreal becomes real for all to see!"
Pyreflies are prevalent throughout the world of Spira and are closely linked with the concepts of lifeforce and spiritual energy; in fact, they are the form that disembodied spiritual energy takes.
Despite the allusion their name gives to the real-world insect, pyreflies are not depicted as living creatures. Though they have been harnessed to many uses, both good and ill, in their inert form, they appear to lack self-awareness and any identifiable agenda. As such, they are nothing more than an aspect of nature.
Pyreflies refer to hitodama (人魂) ("human soul"), believed in Japanese folklore to be the souls of the newly dead taking form of mysterious fiery apparitions. The word is a combination of the Japanese words hito, meaning "human", and tama (short for tamashii), meaning "soul". The flames appear as glowing spheres with tails and are said to be found near graveyards and in gloomy forests, and, sometimes, seen close to a dying person as an apparition of the soul leaving the body before passing to the other side.
Pyreflies exist in one of three distinct states. When inert, they manifest as insubstantial points of light, similar to the fireflies from which their name is partially inspired, which float aimlessly within a particular area of attraction. Inert pyreflies generate a delicate, audible sound. In their second state, concentrations of pyreflies can take the form of physical creatures, yet remain insubstantial, reminiscent of ghosts. In the final state, pyreflies can take on the properties of solid matter.
It is known, for example, that aeons, Dream Zanarkand, and the 'body' of Sin consist entirely of a vast quantity of pyreflies. It has also been shown the pyreflies can crystallize into spheres, much the same way the mako energy in Final Fantasy VII crystallizes into Materia.
Pyreflies and DeathEdit
In Final Fantasy X, when a person dies, their body cannot simply be laid to rest. First, their spirit, or lifeforce represented by pyreflies, must be released from the body and given "guidance" to return to the Farplane. A summoner is required to engineer this "guidance," in a ritual known as the sending. If the sending is not performed, the body's spirit is said to be trapped in the physical plane, growing first envious, then hateful of the living; the hatred eventually grows strong enough to manifest one's pyreflies into a fiend, a fully substantial and dangerous monster.
It is unknown whether all of the recently-deceased must be sent, or just those who have suffered a violent or untimely death. The summoner Yuna does suggest that those who have accepted their death may naturally come to the Farplane. This is similar to legends of ghosts, as ghosts may linger and become malicious towards the living, but those ghosts who have accepted their deaths pass on to the other side.
In some cases the transformation into a fiend does not occur with the unsent dead. If the deceased possessed a powerful will and strong feelings regarding an unfinished purpose in the world of the living, an individual's spirit can remain strong enough postmortem to manifest their pyreflies into a physical form in the image of the deceased's former body. Such beings as this, who may act and function for the most part as they did in life, are referred to as "unsent" and may be benign or malicious, depending upon the individual's nature.
The unsent are usually unwilling to enter the Farplane using the various gateways that exist in Spira. This is believed to be because they may be physically unable to leave once they've done so, and are wary of taking the risk. They are also vulnerable to the effects of the sending, which can banish the disembodied spirit to the Farplane and disperse their pyreflies, usually no matter how strong the will that binds them. There have been two notable exceptions to the previous matters:
- In the case of Maester Jyscal Guado, his spirit manifested in his living form twice after death and emerged from the Farplane, despite having been sent prior to both occasions (the first time by his son, Maester Seymour, and the second time by Yuna). His first re-emergence is seen in Final Fantasy X, when his form walks out of the Farplane gate in Guadosalam. His second return is discovered in Final Fantasy X-2 in the Via Infinito beneath the city of Bevelle.
- In Final Fantasy X-2, the unsent known as Shuyin enters the Farplane of his own volition and has little to no trouble maintaining his form. Tidus, while helping Yuna leave the Farplane after her encounter with Shuyin, is able to do the same thing, but only for a short time.
Another exception to dying without becoming a fiend in the absence of being sent still results in one's spirit finding its way to the Farplane. One who accepts death while still alive will travel to the Farplane after death without assistance. This is seen in the cases of both Tidus's mother and Yuna's father, the latter of whom was High Summoner Braska, a summoner who willingly gave his life in a battle with Sin.
This likely occurred in at least two of the cases because those victims died 'unclean' deaths. It is said that those who die unclean deaths are the only ones who can leave the Farplane.
- Main article: Sending
When a sending is performed, its effect is to transfer sentient lifeforce to the Farplane; the lifeforce, if any, of the flora and fauna are not affected (it can be inferred, in fact, that such wildlife as well as the planet itself draw energy from the lifeforce contained within the Farplane). Fiends, whose souls have been consumed by hatred, are subsequently not affected.
A sending, therefore, is known to affect the following:
- The lifeforce/soul/spiritual energy of recently-deceased, self-aware creatures (humans and the Guado, at least, are shown to require sending).
- Unsent beings, ex. the spirits of whom have remained on the physical plane after death and retained the purpose of their former lives.
During a sending pyreflies are shown to emanate not only from the dispersed "bodies" of the unsent, but also from the recently deceased. This is an indication (confirmed by the Final Fantasy X Ultimania Omega Guide) that pyreflies are always present in the bodies of the living, as well as in everything else in Spira.
Pyreflies and the continuation of memoryEdit
The people of Spira have long enjoyed the ability to make occasional visits to the Farplane, primarily using the gateway within Guadosalam, the purpose of which is to call up their memories of those who have died. Since the Farplane is naturally filled with vast quantities of pyreflies, some are attracted to the evoked memories and give them partial substance, forming a ghostlike image of the subject being recalled.
The Physical PlaneEdit
The attraction pyreflies show to the energy of strong memories is not restricted to the Farplane, nor are the spirits of the dead necessarily required to manifest their spiritual energy in order to interact with the living on physical terms. These two phenomena have been displayed at length, resulting in the unsettling ability to perpetuate a spirit's memories against their will, as well as the equally disturbing concept that the dead may possess the living.
When Yuna and her guardians travel to Zanarkand ruins they witness numerous memories of past summoners and their pilgrimages via the pyreflies. They witness a scene of Yocun and an unknown female guardian offering to become Yocun's Final Aeon, Seymour and his mother on their way to obtain the Final Aeon, and see memories of Braska, Jecht and Auron's journey. On Yunalesca's throne the pyreflies display a memory of Auron attacking Yunalesca.
One thousand years before the events of Final Fantasy X-2, the game's primary antagonist, Shuyin, was caught and killed by agents of the Bevelle army while attempting to operate their super weapon, Vegnagun. Shuyin desired to destroy Bevelle, as he believed he would be unable to save his captive love, Lenne. Reunited for a brief moment before death, Shuyin didn't hear Lenne speak the words "I love you" to him before his life faded. Thus, his feelings of hatred toward Bevelle, and the feelings of self-loathing that emerged due to his self-perceived failing of Lenne resulted in his spirit becoming full of hatred and despair.
His spirit wandered until it came to inhabit a cave beneath Mushroom Rock Road called the Den of Woe, where it wallowed in despair and loathing. The powerful emotions emitted by his blackened spirit attracted a multitude of pyreflies. The pyreflies present at the location were imprinted with his despair and painful memories and refused to allow them to fade. Over time, Shuyin's painful memories and the feelings they evoked fused with the pyreflies in the area, granting them a self-awareness. They began to act on their own, even when the original Shuyin's consciousness had left the cave, hidden within the body of a young soldier named Nooj.
The second disturbing phenomenon is represented here: Shuyin's spirit possessed Nooj and used his body as a vessel, forcing him to shoot and critically wound his comrades on one occasion, and nearly forcing him to do so a second time two years later. It was then that Shuyin's spirit abandoned Nooj and possessed Nooj's former comrade, Baralai, using him as a new vessel to operate Vegnagun.
Because pyreflies are an allusion to hitodama, a part of Japanese folklore, the concept of life essence being depicted as glowing lights has also appeared in other games, such as the Espers' crystallization animations in Final Fantasy XII where their bodies disperse into mist, and in the Final Fantasy XIII universe where souls are made of crystal energy that can be seen by naked eye on occasion.
Substance similar to pyreflies appear from a weakened Cosmos at the beginning of the Prologue and of Shade Impulse. They also appear in the latter scene when the ten Warriors of Cosmos fade one by one as a result of Cosmos's supposed demise.
Pyreflies are also present in the stage Dream's End.
Pyreflies, or at least their look-a-likes, were also included on Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy official European teaser site moving across the site in similar manner like they rush in Final Fantasy X-2 menus.
Non-Final Fantasy AppearancesEdit
During the Olympus Coliseum segment of the end credits scenes, Auron looks on as Hercules, Megara, Phil and Pegasus admire the newly reconstructed stadium before returning to the Underworld, dissipating into pyreflies in the process. The foursome notice this and see the pyreflies swarm the stadium.
Kingdom Hearts UniverseEdit
In the Kingdom Hearts Universe, when someone's heart has moved on, the body disappears in a flash of light that separates into orbs of light that float away. These specks of light highly resemble pyreflies.