Dream Zircon opened her eyes, unsure when exactly she had gone to sleep.
She was fairly certain she'd simply collapsed against the desk while looking over documents. Mind you, the desk she was remembering wasn't the golden one before her but a normal wooden desk, and the documents had been about the laws and an entity known as Morros, where now they were about the history of Prospit and its feud with Derse.
Zircon was a fast learner and a faster gatherer of information from which to learn, so she'd already determined the nature of her existence as a dream self, a second Zircon that could continue to study and learn and be active while the other rested; her own sleeping correlating to the other waking.
She'd learned that only five of her fellow players were here with her, the remaining six on the other planet, Derse.
Zircon supposed that she needed to let her mind settle to avoid passing out so suddenly again. She got up and went out in search of Maxixe, figuring they could compare notes on what they'd experienced, both in this world and the waking one.
Upon finding her spire, though, she found it empty; the small blue gem absent from her Prospitan room. Some asking around lead her to question Pink Lace Agate, who claimed that Maxixe simply vanished from sight while they'd been cuddled up to sleep.
White Zircon frowned at this, finding herself annoyed. As she walked away, she wondered why she was so bothered. Maxixe was never much of a note taker, so her data couldn't have been that useful.. oh well.
If she was gone then she'd simply have to collect information from others. She supposed, in retrospect, most would have the same information here on Prospit. Best she question someone on Derse.
The trip to Derse was, like tedious, surprisingly easy. Dream selves being capable of flight made it rather easy to transit from the golden planet to the purple one; though it made the welcome no more warm.
Derse soldiers began firing cannons and catapult the instant they saw Zircon in the sky. She did what she could to bob and weave between them in the air, but knew it was a matter of time until something hit her.
Thankfully, before she opted to give up and flee, the ordinance aimed at her was demolished.
Zircon lowered herself to the ground to greet and thank the gem who had saved her, only for her jaw to drop and eyes to widen as she looked up at the tall, four armed gem who saved her.
"I.. um.. I.. take it you're Jade?" She questioned, adjusting her eye piece. The gem.. the fusion gem.. giggled.
"Imperial Jade, yes. And your White Zircon I presume."
"Y-yes quite. I.. would like to thank you for the assistance, collecting information about this place isn't the easiest when you're being shot at I must confess. Now, if it wouldn't be a bother, would you mind if I asked you some questions?" Zircon asked.
Imperial Jade rose an eyebrow at this, "You want to collect data.. from me? You are aware I'm a fusion right?"
"Quite," White Zircon said, demeanor becoming so profession that Imperial Jade could tell at a glance that she was forcing it, "Is that a problem?"
Jade, starting to get an idea of what was happening, gave the white gem a smirk.
"Not at all, ask away Zircon." And with that, Imperial Jade took Zircon for a stroll around Derse; ready to answer all her burning questions about fusion.
Green Spinel found herself wandering the sands of LoGaS in a huff. It shouldn't be like this. She was a hero now, she'd just defeated one of the big boss monsters.
She was supposed to be free of all the petty homeworld Gem stuff here, and that Nephrite was supposed to be her sprite.
Sure, she hadn't be the nicest of Gems, particularly towards the Nephrites, but it wasn't her fault. It had been her job to keep that stupid Emerald laughing, and it wasn't Spinel's fault the only thing that made her laugh was other people getting tormented.
Better she be the hammer than the anvil, surely. These thoughts and thoughts along similar lines raced through Green Spinel's head as she trudged through the sand, bashing the underlings that jumped at her as she wandered in no particular direction, not even sure where we she should be headed much less where she was.
Her thoughts were as aimless and directionless as the desert surrounding her and Moon Goddess knows those stupid suns weren't helping, making everything blinding where they weren't just insufferably hot. The more she tried to focus, the more her mind kept getting dragged back to Nephritesprite's words.
She shook with frustration as she forced herself to keep walking, teeth grit as she tried force herself to remember it hadn't been her fault. It hadn't, couldn't have been.
And just like that, Green Spinel found herself a screaming, frustrated mess, punching and kicking at the glittering sand and only not teary eyed because the sun had long since evaporated any water in her body.
River stood at the door, staring at it. She'd been staring at it for quite some time, unable to work up the nerve enough to actually make a move but equally unable to quell the fire that watching Meghan being dragged away had lit inside her.
"You aren't actually going to try anything," Morganitesprite, who'd spent most of her time hovering at one of the high windows so she could lounge in what little light the servants quarters got, said.
It was more a statement than a question and for the first time she could remember... the purple pearl found herself upset by it.
"I mean, it wouldn't be bad for your training, classpect wise and all that," the sprite added as she inspected her nails, wanting to be sure becoming a sprite had not damaged them before returning her eyes to her book, "Says somewhere up here in all this sprite code you fused me into that busting up that dungeon is actually a pretty good step in your training. Not a clue why they'd task a pearl with such a thing though. I can't decide if its amusing or cruel. Don't you agree River?"
River remained silent, hands balls into fists as she stared at the door as though hoping to burn a hole through it with her eyes.
"I.. I could though.." She said.
Morganitesprite rolled her eyes, "Oh certainly, certainly." She said with the tone of a dismissive parent talking down to a child.
River recognized the tone. When she'd first started training with her staff, she'd actually enjoyed it. It had made her feel strong.. important. Pearls didn't get that feeling often.
Her Morganite had used that same tone back then, knocking any feelings she'd had about her training down several pegs, for what reason River couldn't have fathomed at the time. But these days... these days River was starting to think.
Starting to get an idea why her Morganite was also so dismissive of her. Why she didn't even entertain the thought that River could be worth anything even after seeing the results of her training.
Even now, with River's importance hard coded into her very being, Morganite couldn't comprehend her actually doing anything of value. In her mind she was always going to be on a leash, never to be given her own freedom to grow.
'Well,' River thought-her first properly defiant thoughts-as she summoned her staff, 'If no one's going to give me freedom, I'll just have to take it.'
The guards outside the door were more for show than anything else. Servants never really acted up so there was little need to guard them.
So imagine said guard's surprise when the door to the servants quarters flew off the hinges, smashing them against the wall.
They were unconscious so quickly they likely didn't have very long to experience said surprise.
Morganitesprite watched, eyebrow raised, as River took off out of the room, practically shaking as her body acted more on feeling than thought, suppressing all the instincts she was created with. She practically flew down the stairs, guards barely standing for moments in her presence before being tripped up or knocked out.
Its surprisingly easy to get passed people when they universally underestimate you, River realized. Morganitesprite was fairly shocked at the veritable trail of destruction her pearl was leaving. Had she always been capable of this? Had River been defective this whole time?
Perhaps it was the game that was making this possible... but at the same time, she knew with certainty as a sprite that the game had not and would not effect her mind; not outside of natural experiences meant to promote growth and change in the players.
'Growth and change...' She'd thought the sentence on instinct, one line among many that had been burnt into her as a sprite. Could Gems even do such a thing?
It seemed ridiculous... and yet the River shaped hole in the door to the Grand Dungeon said otherwise.
She began to grow uncomfortable at the thought that maybe... it had been she herself preventing River from doing what she needed to all this time. Could she... a Morganite, have been wrong?
It seemed impossible, and yet she was looking at the impossible already as she observed the destroyed remains of a monster River had defeated. She'd ignored the grist, hardly interested.
She was on a rescue mission after all, so it perhaps made some sense. Morganitesprite lingered there, stewing in her own thoughts.
Morganites like herself were created to think of course, but if she'd been wrong about so much, how much more could she have been wrong about? If not for the structure and the solidity provided by the sprite, Morganite may well have descended into some Gem equivalent to a mental break down right there and then, or at least she believed she might have.
But as she pulled herself together, she knew that going forward she could rely on only what she knew with absolute certainty. Whatever she and River had been before the game, whether it had been valid of not, whether it had been cruel or not, they weren't there now.
River was a player of Scrust, and Morganite her sprite, her guide, and she'd done perhaps the poorest job any sprite could up to now. Her new resolve to be a good sprite was, however, not off to an amazing start when she finally caught up to River.
The pearl was kneeling, sobbing as she shook. Morganitesprite took a deep breath as she floated closer.
She had no experience telling a Gem, particularly a pearl, that they need not feel hopeless for being lesser, but she hoped that she could sound as earnest as she felt while trying; was even excited to inform River of the mental discovery she had made.
But upon floating closer... she realized that no words she had would sooth River's soul. She was not weeping for herself or her weakness. She'd been reduced to these tears by the body of the very consort she'd broken in to rescue.
Meghan lay lifeless, crumpled on the ground. There was no telling what had killed her. The Grand Dungeon had no end of means of causing pain and death.
She'd made it farther than any normal consort should have; her training with River well at work. Not that it had lasted her very long. Morganitesprite opened her mouth, attempting to think of something, anything she could say to make the situation better.
But no sooner had the first syllable left her lips did River send her staff spiraling at her through the air.
She avoided the strike, but the intent behind it hit her like a dart to the gem, as did the venomous shout of, "Shut up! Please just... go away. You aren't any help. Never have been."
The Morganite felt frozen.
She tried to think but could not, and if a Morganite couldn't think than.. perhaps she was right. A Morganite without words is of little more use than a pearl that doesn't serve.
Then again, if in this world a pearl can become a hero, then perhaps Morganitesprite could do something. She was right though. Nothing she could say could help. At this point, nothing she could ever say would ever help. She'd done too much damage.
But maybe... maybe there was something else she could do. She floated so silently that River didn't even realize what was happening until there was no going back.
Morganitesprite looked down at the lifeless eyes of the consort, giving a silent prayer that she could do more for River than she could before.
Her last thoughts as she reached out and grabbed her was a wish that she had been able to see the grander picture of things without so much sacrificed involved; but she was not shocked by the scale of things needed to turn the mind of a Morganite.
There was a bright flash that briefly lit up the whole dungeon. When River looked back, she was shocked by what she saw.
Floating before her was not her Morganite, but Meghan. She was.. alive. Alive and.. floating.. and glowing.. she was River's sprite. The traces of Morganite could still be seen.
Meghan's tattered rags were replaced with Morganite's robes, her messy hair fixed up, a gemstone where Morganite's had been.
They had certainly merged physically. But she could see in her eyes that it wasn't some cross between the two. This was not some hypothetical Meghanite. Morganite... she'd.. given herself up; allowed Meghan's mind, her consciousness, her soul or whatever it was.. to take the forefront of the sprite.
She looked down at River, simultaneously shocked at being alive and aware of so much more now as a sprite she couldn't possibly be shocked.
"Well now," She said with a warm smile, "Shall we continue our training here, or find somewhere more suitable?"