If Hyacynthia had conventional eyes right now, she would blink dumbfoundedly.
[Whiteforest]: <'...I beg your pardon?'>
[Silverbloom]: <'They just collapsed, Hyacynthia. Out of the blue. Started with an intense coughing fit and ended with them just… ceasing.'>
[Whiteforest]: <'Stars above… It was the cloning process. It's imperfect, isn't it?'>
[Silverbloom]: <'We're still investigating, but that would seem to be the case, yes. Their cloning vats were either tempered with on purpose or malfunctioned with time. Which is no surprise, considering they were recycling biomatter with each new clone. The entire air lock system seemed to have been welded shut and used as a gathering place for corpses to be reused. These sophonts… They don't have much long to live. We can fix those here, since they were already passed to domestication. But…'>
[Whiteforest]: <'I have to get this one safely and domesticate her before it's too late.'>
She could practically feel the pause in Argonia's typing.
[Silverbloom]: <'...Yes. I'm sorry.'>
[Whiteforest]: <'I'll do everything within my power, Argonia. I am not giving up on her. It seems while I was out she passed through a plain and refused to harm a single blade of grass. I will find her, and get her someplace safe, if it's the last thing I do.'>
She ceased communication, though something told her she knew what Argonia was thinking.
'Please don't let it be your last…'
Rage felt… Sad. Sad was not a good emotion. It slowed them down, made them doubt themselves more and more. The tune was there. It was still guiding them. Having them march ever forward. But it felt… quieter somehow. Weaker, fading.
They noticed something at the edge of the horizon by now. The biggest plant out of all of them. Something so massive that they could only see the edge of it, though the closer they got, the closer they understood why.
It was entirely covered in white.
That's what led them. It had to be. Now they had a visual place to go to, and not just a voice to follow.
The plants around them, alas, didn't talk to them anymore. They tried to repeat the same word they did the last time, even attempted to repeat other words from their memory. But… Nothing. The plants no longer responded to their words. At least they had food, if nothing else. Though they could tell something was off about the plants they ate. They were smaller. Thinner, in a sense. Was this why the big plant called them? So could they help fix it?
They never considered the possibility of using their abilities to help another living being. Sure, fixing an engine was easy. It was child's play to them. But helping another living thing? And a plant, for that matter? They weren't sure they even knew how. The only ones who knew how to fix injuries were the medics back on the ship, but those were few in number and their treatments usually ended in dead bodies. Not that their captain ever cared.
Still, they had to try, right? They had to. If they didn't at least try… Then what kind of human would they be? It's true, they never met humans like them. The only humans they've ever known were the others on the Spirit of Vengeance and even then, all of them were deplorable to be around.
But they wanted to believe. Believe that humans were capable of more than hate. And they could prove it! They could get to this giant plant, and fix it, and they could make things better for a change. Use the same hands that were used to working in intense heat and grime and turn them into hands capable of healing.
They didn't know how. They had no idea, at that. Their eyes were ruined, and they could barely spot much around them. It took the entire song of the plant life around them and the massive blotch of white in the sky to ground them in the right direction.
But they found a new emotion, pushing away the sadness and giving them renewed fervor. It was different, though. Perhaps, they felt it before. Perhaps, they saw it in the eyes of their former comrades. But where said comrades would use this emotion to fuel hatred and spite, Rage decided to do the opposite of their namesake. They were going to use this emotion to fuel their stride, and fix everything.
Determination. It was a good emotion.
They hastened their pace. It was hard, being barely able to see as is. But the closer they got, the stronger the song got. Pulling them in. Whispering encouragement in their ears. What was usually lone brown plants with lots of space between became a maze of plants so tall they covered the sky.
This made Rage's journey much harder. They relied on the light of the sky to see their path, but the closer they got to their destination, the harder it became to push onwards. And yet, that feeling that bloomed within refused to let them give up. They refused to rest, and only ate when they spotted another white plant to show them the path.
They were so close, they could feel it! The white plants around them bloomed with the same energy they had when Rage first arrived on this planet. The song was getting stronger too. More plants here, move them gently out of the way. More long, trippy plants there, duck under them and keep moving forward. A massive plant blocked their way, they walked around it and refused to give up.
Eventually they came across a proper wall of plant life. So much green, blocking any movement forward. But they kept following the white plants. They would lead them through this, Rage was sure of it. They saw a small trail, going around the wall, which they followed.
All the way… To a path through.
What they saw on the other end astounded them. That massive plant was now standing before them. So tall that they had to tilt their head all the way up to see its topside. And not only that. It seemed that it was growing around… Something. Something else.
<"I-I'm so glad you made it, little one…">
The voice came back! They looked around. This time, unlike their previous encounters, it felt more direct. It wasn't broadcast from all around them, it was coming from someplace specific.
"I-I'm here! What do you need me to do?!" They shouted in return, sure in their mission. "I can fix this, right?! Whatever's wrong, I can make it better. That's why you brought me here, right?!"
They called out, and there was a slight pause. And a chuckle.
<"Oh you sweet thing…"> An audible sound of illness came through their body, making them shudder. <"I-I'm sorry, little one. I have to… I have to go to sleep, for a bit. I can't keep this up for much longer. But I promise I'll be back before you know it. Okay?">
A question was posed to them. They didn't know what it meant, but they knew one word that could answer it.
They could swear the massive plant itself was smiling at them.
And then the earth shook.
A massive upheaval rumbled through the area. Rage didn't know what to do, barely gripping the ground as they fell to their knees. They watched, as the white plants from above them began to… Wither. They were withering. Falling down, creating a sea of white that took with it everything they cared about. The song was… Gone. The white plants too. Sure, the green was there, but not the white. The white that kept them going.
"N-No…" they fell to their knees. Feeling tears coming up. They tried to suppress, but this emotion would not be halted. "P-Please don't go..."
As the last of the white plants fell down, a silence covered them. A silence that they could not, did not want to fathom. Everything was quiet now. Dead. Like the pod. Their breathing became more and more hitched, curling on the ground and trying their best to not having a panic attack while failing miserably.
The silence was so cold. Cold like the dead reach of space. Tears kept falling down their face while they hugged their knees, muttering and begging for the voice to come back. They failed. They failed the one reason they came to this planet. The plants saved them, and they let the white plants down. They were a failure, a disgrace. They let Spite die. They let the plants die.
How were they going to eat now? They needed food. This instinctive need was somehow written into their core being. They didn't want to go back. The plants… they gave Rage this body. This body they actually enjoyed for a change. They didn't want to go back to having disgusting hair all over their body.
Weakness overcame their body. They just laid there, clutching one of the white plants tightly. Trying to make something, anything happen to make it better. It did little to nothing, however. Leave Rage… Sad. Grieving. Grieving… was not a good emotion.
Though just when all seemed lost… Another quake rumbled through the ground. Something was coming up. From deep below the earth and soil. Rage stared, raising their head and squinting as hard as they could manage. Something was rising, more and more. They even saw they point whatever it was would emerge from, a few meters away from them.
What began as a small bump in the ground suddenly burst as another plant came out, sporting the same familiar white growths that Rage knew so well. They smiled. They actually smiled. The song came back in full, swarming them with joy.
But it didn't end there, and their mouth went agape as the plant began to open.
First there was a hand. It looked like a hand. Feeling the air outside before the massive plant split more and more. Like a newborn being, something emerged, slowly but surely. Taking more and more space from within this plant that contained them until it could no longer bare the strain, splitting apart into a shower of flora that revealed… Something entirely new.
A being walked out of it. A plant, but… human? At least, they had a human shape. They were… so tall. And wreathed in white. Their arms were covered in small white spots, while the rest of their body had the same green hue of the plant life around them. Their head has this luscious flow of thin hair like strings that had more white growths out of them.
And their eyes. Their eyes were… mesmerizing. Even through their own hindered sight Rage could tell. They had this silvery hue that seemed to shift around constantly. It took Rage a minute before they realized they were staring too just and tried to look away, entranced by the gentle gaze that was sent at them.
Their eyes were affixed to this plant-human hybrid. Oh, they were stepping towards Rage. They didn't know how to react. Despite their eyes being impaired so, they felt so… Focused, and in the moment. The plant person was smiling at them, with a soft expression.
Hyacynthia tried to speak, but her own mouth became foreign to her. Hopefully with more proper means of communication, she could talk to the human in a language she understood. It took her a try or two, but when she found the right vines to string together words… Her smile grew just a few measures closer.
"Welcome to my garden, little one."