Hyacynthia Whitebloom, 100th bloom took some time to adjust to her newfound body. It has been so long since she last used a reblooming to create such a form to inhibit, after all. A lot of cuts had to be made, too. So many roots she had to snip at the edge, so many flowers that would wilt. But, it was worth it. Perhaps, giving this limited form a second chance was what she needed, seeing the poor sophont who was staring at her dumbfounded looked so precious now.
She's been watching this girl walk through her garden. Though every patch of grass. Through every pond and lake. Through vast forests and jungles. She'd known the inner workings of each and every aspect of this world. Order was established, as she designed it, and for untold cycles that was all she knew. The tranquility of her garden was undisturbed.
Until this one lone human came.
As for Rage, the human looked at the plant-human with unyielding bewilderment. They've gotten so used to the plants being stationary. Moving, changing, yes. But not like this. Not to mention something in the plant's form looked rather similar to their own now. The curves, the hair. Even if, compared to them, the plant seemed to be adorned in a coat of ivory vegetation that only further complemented to how pleasant they looked.
A new emotion sprouted deep within them. And this time… They had no way to even describe it. They were… Happy? Excited? No, neither of those would do for this. It felt similar, but somehow different. It wasn't bad, however. Far from it. There was a deep seated sense of trust that rooted itself in their mind, and they couldn't shake why. They'd just met this plantoid. Why would they trust it? Though it did guide them here, fed them, so maybe they could trust?
"Y-You… You can talk?" The human asked. They were responded with a chuckle.
"My previous form didn't have the means to do so, not in your tongue. But now… I can. I'm sorry I had to leave you be, little one. Even if for the bit that I needed to rebloom."
They nodded, even if a few of the words spoken to them didn't really make sense. Bloom? Garden? They began to internally list all the words they didn't even know exist. "B-But… I did good, right? I helped?" They tried to justify their existence in that moment, before coughing. Strange. They didn't feel ill.
That somehow seemed to earn the concern of the plant, who approached them gently, kneeling down and offering a green hand. "You did. And I'm so proud of you, young one. You came all this way, and now they you're here… I can take you to our core world. I can help make sure you'll never have to suffer like you did on that ship again."
The cogs in Rage's brain slowly ticked into place as another cough escaped their lips. This… This was an Affini. They were led here by an Affini all this time.
Fear quickly brushed everything else as they recoiled back, feeling trouble to breathe. "Y-You're… You're an Affini, aren't you? You tricked me!" They crawled back, and the Affini took a step towards them, looking more and more worried. "I am. But that doesn't matter now. You're sick. And you need help."
"S-Stay away!" They scrambled to gain some distance. Of course all this trust was too easy. A lifetime's worth of indoctrination somehow found its way into their heart and kept it nice and closed off. They should've figured this earlier. They couldn't even fight back. Their eyesight was too poor for it, and whatever muscles they had were gone, replaced with soft tissue.
Another, larger cough came out of them, and they noticed something on the ground below. Something came out of their mouth as they coughed. Something… red. Deep red.
"Y-You did this to me… I-I wanted to trust you…" they muttered, trying to stand and finding it harder to manage. Their vision began to blur as they felt nausea course through their body.
At this point, the Affini seemingly panicked. It rushed forward, not even giving Rage the change to retort, and scooped the human up into their arms. "Dirt, dirt dirt dirt… Please hold on. I'll… I'll find something. You'll be okay, I promise." They felt the rush of wind as the Affini carried them… Somewhere.
It just didn't make sense. The Affini were monsters. They were terrible conquerors, and somehow, despite not wanting to believe that, all of Rage's old training kicked in hard. It was as if everything they thought was overwritten the second they came face to face with an actual specimen of the race they were told to fear and hate. And fear would not be held back this time. Even if their body did not have the strength to struggle anymore, and they didn't know why. Perhaps indoctrination was rooted harder than they gave it credit for…
A thought that seemed rather somber as they felt their consciousness fade.
Hyacynyhia panicked. The human in her arms already passed out, eyes glazed over and empty. She couldn't be too late. She refused to be too late.
Using every vine at her disposal to destroy any wall in her old hab that stood in her way, she kept pressing forward. She needed help, and picking up the pad she dialed with shaky hands and called Argonia.
<"H-Hyacynthia? Did you finish your-">
<"No time to talk. I'm holding her and she's dying. Get here with a vet, now.">
There was a brief pause and then shouting in Affini in the background.
<"Yes ma'am, we're on our way. Hang tight and keep her breathing.">
The call hung and Hyacynthia turned to her next task. Sending a root into the body of the hab, she forced it to create a flat surface to lay the human on. It strained her, however. She wasn't used to doing this scale of plant life manipulation with such a small form. Roots, most of her core had to be shed in order to perform this reblooming. A core that was left to expand and swell over several thousand cycles.
Regardless, as soon as the human was laid, she pressed a vine to her chest. Okay, she still had a heartbeat. It was weak, but it was there. She wasn't too late.
Keeping one vine on her human's chest was vital. She had to monitor this frail being's breathing. All of a sudden her entire planet of a garden seemed utterly meaningless in the face of this one sophony living. Pressing her vine down every few moments when she realized the heaving of the girl's chest was getting weaker. All while her main form was busy destroy every single wall in her way in desperate search of any form of medicine. Anything she could use to stabilize the human and keep her body from collapsing.
The ship shouldn't take long. This was core territory for Star's sake and her planet was registered. They most likely left by now, and it was only a matter of time. A race between the forces of life and death over the soul of one sole human girl.
Drat, nothing. All she had was botany equipment she hasn't used so long it decomposed and fertilizer. Hyacynthia turned heel, and dispersed any notion of a humanoid form to transform into a viney mess of flowers and tendrils. Much easier to move that way, legs were inefficient.
Next was the compiler. Granted, she hasn't used it in so long, but perhaps it could help. Another wall crushed and destroyed later, and she began to toy with it, trying to press the button and seeing nothing happening. In fact, just pressing it felt like she had to push against the weight of an entire world, and that didn't bode well.
The compiler was a bust as well. She should've seen it coming this time. So many cycles without maintenance as well as constant overgrowth, of course it would be overrun like the rest of her hab. This was the point Hyacynthia berated herself for taking so little care of her material belongings, quickly before deciding she needs to observe the human herself.
However, just upon reaching the human… Hyacynthia changed back. She could see the fear in the girl's eyes. Perhaps, not appearing to her as a raw mass of vines was the best option.
Still, without anything to actively do, all the Affini was pace around in circles frantically, keeping a vine on their heartbeat, monitoring it for any bit of disparity while waiting for Argonia to arrive.
She glanced at the human. She was barely breathing as is, her body failing more and more with each passing second. She should've guessed that the cloning process was faulty. Of course it was. When she was still a commander they encountered the Accord's attempts at 'cloning.'
The amount of dead bodies and Class O's was daunting to say the least.
She thought back to those days more. The days when she was a stern militarist who's top priority was executing her job and executing it well. They were Affini of course, she never held any of the sophonts that came against them or riled up in contempt. But she didn't let her emotions best her. She had a duty, and her duty was to ensure all sides in the conflict were safe, and that the conflict was resolved as fast as possible. What a way to hide her own feelings from herself.
That was why she chose to live the rest of her days like this. To let her core grow. She felt like no amount of reblooming could help her take the edge off, so… She let go of traditional reblooming altogether.
Perhaps it was all worth it in the end. It taught her to love life and cherish it far more than anything she ever did in the past.
This wasn't just a metric, or some other array of numbers she had to fill. This was a living sophont she's been watching for several weeks now. Watching her travel, and eat, and grow, and embrace. Watching her sleep, watching her dream. She imagined her resonance affected her dreams as well.
She reached out with a lone hand, placing it gently against the human. Her eyes were open, but vacant. She only prayed that the ship Argnoia called for would arrive soon.
"You'll be okay… I promise you'll be okay…" She didn't even realize she was muttering.
Maybe it was more for herself to hear, than anything…
Rage was falling. Deeper, and deeper. The abyss that welcomed them below seemed to stretch without end. Calling for them. It was time for it to end. Time for the final curtain to be dropped, and for the eternal sleep to begin.
And some part of them wanted to finally go. They were so tired. They were scared. The Affini… The Affini lured them in, and they took the bait. It was finally time.
But another part didn't.
They could see it now, with more clarity than ever, now that they were on the border between wake and death. That dreams they had… It wasn't a dream, right? It was reality. They were seeing the Affini, even back then. Watching them. Protecting them. They could figure at least that out.
The part of Rage that was born on the Spirit of Vengeance and the part of Rage that was born in the Affini's gardens clashed against one another. Fear and Trust. Life and Desolation. Curiosity and Survival. Hate and… Something they didn't know the word for.
And the part of them that was new beckoned them to live. This wasn't their time. They didn't have to go yet. They could make it. They escaped that wretched ship, why should they hold any of the creeds it imparted upon them?
Rage began to fight against the tides of sleep that pulled them into the endless abyss. Weakly. Slowly. They could only postpone the inevitable, and they knew as such. But… They didn't want to go. They needed to apologize. They acted on impulse, they didn't mean to hurt the Affini. They… They wanted to help still. Help and make things better. They didn't even know if they could, but that want to do good burned bright enough to illuminate the dark depths and keep them afloat.
They began to think about their life. It wasn't long. Perhaps a few months at most? Being born into a ship that taught them nothing but despise, dealing with the same engine issues over and over. Having to placate a deranged captain whose sole mission was to kill all of them in a ball of fury and destruction. Their own escape attempt, their begrudging freedom.
The life they chose to sacrifice for that cause.
And then… The gardens. All the plants that accompanied them on their journey. Feeding them. Nurturing them. Making them actually love their own body for a change. Protecting them from the water that threatened to take them whole, keeping them safe and sound in the dark.
Flashes upon flashes of memories flooded their brain, and all Rage could do was just be a passenger in their own body, walking through the corridors of their own memory like a young child being shown a movie.
Finally, they saw something else. A light, at the end of the tunnel. Two of them, in fact. Above, and below. They could tell, if they headed to the light below… That was it. All their pain and suffering would be over. And the light above… A gamble. To trust whatever was watching them that it really, truly didn't intend to harm them in any way.
It didn't take them long to make their choice.