Category: Phosphate minerals
"Phos! I know you're here! Phos!"
Formula: Zn2Fe(PO4)2 · 4H2O
Crystal system: Monoclinic
Mohs scale: 3.5
Curled into a tight ball, your lazy nap on the open grassy plains is accompanied by the presence of butterflies and the soft blades of grass that tickle against your powdered skin.
"Master Kongo is looking for you."
Eyes fluttering open, you pull yourself upwards and stretch your arms. As you yawn widely, your groggy eyes glimpse a glint of orange-pink hair characteristic of… Morganite.
"Why is that?" You inquire sleepily.
The vestiges of sleepiness disappear as a glimmer of hope sparks in your eyes, an excited smile dancing across your visage.
"Wait, you don't think… maybe Master wants me to join you all in battle." Hope and excitement colour your voice.
"I highly doubt that." They remark drily.
You let out a haughty laugh.
"I see even an ace like yourself is worried about what I might be capable of!"
Your residence within the school is dull, despite being surrounded by the diverse antics of your squabbling fellow Gems. Regardless of intermittent attacks from the mysterious Moon People, tranquillity permeates through the scene.
In your naïveté, you think eternity resembles golden sunlit days spent toying with the patience of your older companions and begging Sensei to grant you the role of a fighter. Your simultaneous admiration for the harder Gems as well as your love for Sensei manifests in the form of desperation and the desire to prove yourself. Constantly talking big of yourself, you revel in every opportunity to showcase your staggeringly 'strong' prowess.
Your vanity, arrogance, and wit shield you from the inevitable pity of the others. Possessing even the unique audacity to talk back to Sensei, your bravado masks your frustrations as a brittle and weak Gem.
Because at the end of the day, everyone knows your existence is useless.
"By compiling an encyclopedia, you will both preserve the present and prepare for the future. It is an important role which requires both creativity and intelligence."
After centuries of unemployment, you finally have a job… which you utterly resent. Combat is your calling! Unable to comprehend the wisdom – nor coolness – of being a master scholar and writing something so boring, you never cease your whines and complaints, even as you mull over the complexities of your assigned task.
You hate to admit it but you do not even know where to begin. At the mere age of 299 years - the youngest of all Gems - you are no stranger to rushing to them for aid. But as powerful and proficient as they are at their respective duties, inquiries for their help and opinions prove to be fruitless, leaving you no wiser than when you had started.
However, a suggestion clings stubbornly to your mind: to seek out the elusive Cinnabar.
Aimlessness guiding your actions, your swinging legs send you to a grassy outcrop. All the while, you mutter to yourself about the unfairness of your job and you wave your clipboard around in frustration. Sighing, you pause and, for a moment, silence reigns.
Then an explosion reverberates arounds your immediate vicinity, sending shockwaves coursing through your brittle body. Thrown back against the ground, your startled gaze rises to see none other than Cinnabar themselves.
Silvery poison surrounds them, pulsating as though harbouring a life of its own. Paralysed by fear and shock, you watch wide eyed as the crimson haired Gem fights, sloshing viscous metallic liquid through the dusk air and engulfing the Lunarians.
Even as Cinnabar wastes no time in reprimanding you, scolding your foolishness in wandering around during twilight, they engage in battle against the unexpected arrival of the Moon People.
But their attentions soon turn inward and when they speak, the sheer intensity of their self-loathing is palpable. They resent their condition: their very breathing kills the grass and earth itself. Due to the poison that surrounds their body, their touch brings only ruin.
And you recognise that Cinnabar is confiding their deepest secrets within you, of all Gems.
The next day, you return to the scene of the crime, and begin taking notes on the surroundings, finally making a serious attempt to compile an encyclopedia. Cinnabar appears out of nowhere, causing you to flinch with surprise.
They chide you for returning, but you quickly turn the tables back at them with a retort.
"Why are you here again? This is a dangerous place where we lost Helio!"
"It is. I'm just waiting here, for the day they come back me away."
Forced to be alone due to their unfortunate condition, they resent their useless presence, a sentiment that you should theoretically empathise with – but refuse to.
"I'm going to find something better than the night watch that only you can do!" Your mint green eyes glare with steely resolve and you channel all your frustrations and passion into the declaration.
No matter the trials and hardship you would encounter in the following decades, you never forget the promise you made that night.
Haunted by your promise, you try as you might but remain incapable of thinking of a single solution. The fact that no one had ever relied you previously fuels your persistence. You endeavour to make the most of this opportunity to be the hero, as the fulfilment of your promise would not only be for the benefit of Cinnabar, but also for yourself.
Diamond's sweet voice trickles through the air.
"Why not start by changing from within? You could try doing things you don't normally do, yes?"
Although your pleas for Dia's assistance are vague, they none the less attempt to help. Unfortunately, much like all the other Gems, the suggestion was useless… and its irony to change would constantly return to mock you in the following years.
The Moon People return again only for Sensei to unceremoniously banish them, but not before they drop the mysterious shell in front of the school.
Protests falling upon deaf ears, you scoff at Euclase's order for you to examine the helical object. You cannot afford to waste your precious time upon such a task, for every second you delayed, Cinnabar would sink deeper and deeper into their pit of loneliness.
A low wet squelching is the only warning you receive before your world is engulfed in a pinkish vicious liquid. The intense heat – or was it acid? – paralyses your body as your limbs refuse to obey your commands.
Somebody… save me…
Helpless, you remain completely conscious as your very structure melts into a green amorphous fluid. Panic courses through the remnants of your body. But it isn't your earthy attachment to your brittle vessel that haunts you.
Without me, Cinnabar will never be free…
Mint green eyes flutter open. You find yourself not inside the otherworldly organs of a giant creature, but lying prone on Rutile's medical worktable, a familiar experience often following your countless accidents as a notorious klutz. For a second, your mind is hazy and dazed. Then it all comes rushing back to you.
Curses flying from your lips, you leap onto your feet and dive for the smug looking snail sitting in its wooden bowl. Palpable anger permeates as you unleash your fury onto the pink beast that dared possess the audacity to devour you. The animal had shrunk considerably since you last saw it, but you remain inherently aware of its identity as the same creature.
Ignoring Rutile's cries and everyone else's protests, you continue your barrage of insults despite the snail's defensive arguments. Your fingers curl as you lunge at the animal, consumed by the fiery desire to tear apart its fleshy constituents. Had events panned out differently, Cinnabar's secret would have melted away with you. Such a reality would be unacceptable.
As it turns out, you are the only one capable of understanding the snail, who introduces itself as Ventricosus, King of the Admirabilis.
Enraptured in the feigned comfort provided by the fact that you alone could converse with the strange creature, you confide your demons into her. Through your conversations, Ventricosus embeds the parasitic possibility within your mind that the endless ocean, of which none of the Gems had ever ventured into, would possess clues, if not the answers, of which you seek.
The hope that flickers in your chest serves as the guide that tempts you ever closer towards the suggestion. Without any other clear options, you submit to the naivety that puppets you into following the Admirabilis' promises.
The rest would be a dizzying blur.
The crushing feeling of betrayal is elevated by the understanding that Ventricosus had only sought to barter your body for their own kin. Even you could not fault them for such a decision. After all, would you not do the same thing for your friend?
And yet the last thing you recall with clarity is the faint but the unrelenting urge to protect Cinnabar…
Deprived of energy, your usual snark and wit is absent from your flat speech, as you wash up along the shores of the beach, overwhelmed by the crippling weight of failure.
Of course, it is Cinnabar who finds your remains.
"Even out at sea, I could not find a new job for you… I'm sorry. Tomorrow, I'll try harder."
"So forgive me…"
Although you hated compiling that encyclopedia, when Sensei revoked that duty, you could not help but feel crushed by the decision.
Your impulsive escapade into the ocean had cost you your legs, almost one third of your body weight, and with it, a significant portion of your memories. For once, the other Gems are nice to you, swarming around you as you rest and recover.
You order yourself to smile despite the fracturing and splintering of your metaphorical heart. It was not Ventricosus' betrayal that haunts you, but the fact that the small flame of hope she offered had been mercilessly snuffed out.
Rutile uses agate to replace your legs. At first your new limbs refuse to move, but as your micro inclusions take a liking to their new home, you discover that they can run at incredible speeds.
You beg Sensei to allow you to make the best out of your new legs and let you fight. But regrettably, the rest of your body remains comparably weak as you cannot even hold up the lightest sword. Instead, you are assigned to lookout duty with the Amethysts.
It is on your third day when the Lunarians attack. Imprisoned by your own fear, you can do nothing but stare helplessly as they overwhelm the Amethysts. Their bodies become crushed by the Moon People, and you fear, from the pits of your heart, that you are witnessing another kidnapping.
But in a miraculous turn of events, the other Gems come to rescue, with Sensei finishing them off with little fanfare. And when all is said and done, nothing changes the fact that you had done nothing but stare, too petrified to act.
For the first time in your meagre existence, sleep evades you.
"Do I really have to hibernate?"
"You, the first to sleep and the last to get up every year? Do you need a check-up?" Rutile inquires with surprise.
"Maybe you might've messed up with my leg surgery, you quack." You ponder with your usual snark before hastily adding that you were only joking when the crazy doctor pulls out a pair of surgical scissors.
But despite your words, you recognise your inability to sleep was due to the recent myriad of events. The world's relentless assault on you had left invisible scars that tethered you to the reality that splayed itself before you in a contrived array of overbearing stress and unfulfilled promises.
Antarcticite catches you eavesdropping on their 'yearly tradition' with Sensei. Discovered, you ask Sensei sheepishly for permission to stay awake during the winter.
To Antarc's shock and your delight, Sensei accepts, announcing you two as a pair.
"So those weird legs of yours… Are they agate? Did you head out to battle?" Antarcticite asks.
"I did, yeah. But right at the most crucial part, I got so scared I couldn't even put them to use."
"Did you get in trouble? "
"No. I didn't get into trouble. That's what's so frustrating that I can't sleep."
Dejection shrouds your mien as your lacklustre tone delivers the weight of the disappointment that mere words could not convey.
Over the course of winter, Antarc dutifully fulfils Sensei's request, teaching you their usual duties; cleaning public places, removing snow from entrances, getting snow off the roof, even managing the room where all the other Gems hibernate. The most important duty, however, is breaking the ice floes.
You try your hardest with keeping up with Antarcticite, complaining the entire way.
At dusk they report to Sensei and their final statement echoes in your head, haunting your psyche with every waking hour. "I just wish their arms were as powerful as their legs." They say.
"Rutile said there aren't any more replacements." You mutter to yourself one day as you methodically saw an ice floe, leaving Antarc to runs around in the background and rapidly sinking al the other floes with their usual efficiency.
But you could become strong fast. I'll bite it off for you. It'll work out somehow.
Much like how you could understand Ventricosus, you understand the whispers of the ice floes form words in your mind. They beckon you to the depthless crevices, goading and cajoling you with titillating promises of strength and knowledge, of improvement and power.
But you don't have time. If you wait this out till spring… Cinnabar will…
The mention of that name wrenches you from your stupor and the ice suddenly breaks beneath your hands. The last thing you remember is the harsh snap of your arms as they break away from you for the final time. Then all is darkness.
That night Antarcticite gives their report with you standing beside them and trying to avoid Sensei's shocked gaze.
To your surprise, they hold themselves responsible for your accident. Despite your pride, even you would refuse to let Antarc take the blame for a blunder so obviously due to your own incompetence.
You witness visible waves of guilt ripple through Antarcticite as their body trembles with suppressed sobs. They tear themselves apart, proclaiming that their recklessness was to blame. So well acquainted with the ache of failure, you cannot comprehend the proportion of your partner's distress.
"Well, this really is nothing new for me, so don't take it so hard." You attempt to console.
When Sensei sternly reminds you that they have no material left to replace your arms, for the first time you feel the weight of the consequences. Regardless, you conceal your disappointment with a joke.
"I raise my hands in defeat! I mean my hands are probably rising out of the sea in defeat right now."
The trudge to the Beach of Beginnings is exhausting, made worse by the fact that Antarcticite had not spoken a word since your departure. In the bleak winter sunlight, incredible fatigue weighs down heavily upon your body.
The silence is broken only when you reach the shore. There, Antarcticite explains the origin of the Gems: how you were born from inorganic substances that had risen from the depths of the sea.
Amongst shards of broken crystals, gold and platinum litter the snow-laden shores. Although acknowledging the impracticality of the material, Antarc temporarily affixes the metals to your stubs. Initially, all seems well, as your inclusions do not immediately reject the foreign substance.
Just when Antarcticite turns around to begin the arduous trek back to the school, the alloy seemingly comes to life, possessing a mind of its own and seeping through the cracks in your arms. Paralysed by the metal that burrows deeper and deeper into your body, your trembling voice states the obvious: you don't think you can walk.
Then as if the world had not tormented you enough already, the clouds part, the skies suddenly clear, and a sunspot manifests.
Panic consumes you as you cry out, demanding Antarcticite to help you out of this mess. But the appearance of the Lunarians delays your companion's aid, and the last thing you see before the metal totally engulfs your vision is Antarcticite turning around to engage in battle.
Of course, you are confident in your mentor's abilities to annihilate the Lunarians. And when you recognise the familiar silence that prevails after the disappearance of the Moon People, you do not hesitate to call for Antarcticite's help. Aren't they forgetting about a certain alloy-encased someone?
They do not prove to be very gentle when they try breaking you out of your unexpected metal prison. Complaining heavily when Antarcticite inadvertently scratches you in their attempts, you implore for them to be gentler before sighing. In any case, you are glad that they turned out fine –
Then Antarcticite's neck shatters.
Pupils constricting, your eyes widen, unable to comprehend the sudden turn of events. The world moves in slow motion, forcing you to watch in all its tragic glory as the Antarcticite's body splinters apart, shards of white crystal falling through the air as the Gem crumbles before your very eyes.
You knew not pain, nor grief, until that very moment.
But they raise a finger to their lips.
Make sure Sensei doesn't get lonely… And take care of winter… in my place.
You cannot think. You cannot scream. The alloy forms hands that wrap around your mouth.
Why…? Why won't my new arms just move?
You wanted to do something. You had to do something. You will not sit idly by. Not again.
If you are really a part of me, you'll fight!
You had to do something! Anything. Fear turns into uncontrollable rage.
"Do what I say you worthless junk!"
Finally, your arms obey you. The metal alloy unfurls into the shape of a lotus, pulsating with sheer energy. The crushing weight of gold and platinum forces you to your knees, but you refuse to give up. Your body cracks, only to be filled by more alloy.
You propel yourself towards the Lunarians, slowly at first before you take off running. You will not let them get away.
These new arms of mine are strong.
Now submitting to your every will, your alloy limbs aid you in flinging yourself towards the retreating Lunarians.
I haven't given up. I've found the courage to push beyond my limits. So why…?
Consumed by rage, you wish for nothing more than to strike those monsters down. Rationality deserts you, leaving in its place only unadulterated fury and cold determination. They cannot take Antarcticite.
"Why are they still getting away?!"
You scream, voice raw with pain and fury. The alloy propels you to the air and channelling every last bit of strength in you, you fling your sword towards the Lunarians.
But it's too late.
They are too far away.
You fall in Sensei's arms.
The final look of Antarcticite's fractured face will forever be burned into your memory and would henceforth herald the deterioration of your mental state.
"Antarcticite… took my place."
The poison sting of failure forever lurks in your shadow. It is an icy sensation completely foreign to the winter chill that invades your conscious, sapping the vestiges of hope from your heart and returning you to a contentious state of emptiness. Theoretically, the kidnapping of your mentor should not have shaken you up as badly as it did. But it was the final straw.
Failure, isolation, and jaded cynicism darkens the remnants of your psyche, as you fulfil Antarcticite's final wishes, taking on their role as the winter watchman and completing your tasks with apathetic efficiency, your jaded, half lidded gaze now a permanent resident on your visage.
You wonder whether you lacked the ability to do anything right, and place the burden of blame upon your shoulders like a menacing mantle. Heartbreak hammers at your will, and you falter, overstretching yourself and fading as time ticked onward. You yearn to share the woes that besieged your mind, but the words refuse to come out. Instead, you offer pitiful excuses to Sensei, if only to cloak the void that had become your heart.
You crop your hair with the rationale to use the excess material to repair cracks made by presence of the alloy in your body. But beneath the surface, it was a symbol of your irreversible change and inevitable descent into madness.
Nothing is safe; everything promises of tragedy. Trepidation morphs into a familiar friend during the endless hours of winter that you spend in solitude, held company by nothing your own crippling thoughts and conversing with the only piece of Antarcticite that you salvaged: their disembodied foot, submerged in a bowl of water.
I can't bring myself to sleep these days. I need to be ready to have the Lunarians at any time. Plus, I'm afraid to even close my eyes now. Because every time I do, I see you.
Nightmares haunt your nights, purposefully forgotten memories resurfacing with the stress of fulfilling Antarcticite's final wishes guiding your every decision.
The final moments of your fallen comrade perpetually repeat themselves back to you: the look of Antarcticite as they shatter into a million pieces. In your dreams, you reach out with your alloy arms, desperate to piece the shards back together. But you always fail. Just like every other time in your pathetic existence. You then collapse, sobbing to yourself. It's all your fault.
The barren days soon conglomerate into a hazy blur. Wherein you used to think that the winter stretched on forever, it now appeared that a single breath was all it took before the snowy wasteland melted to reveal patches of green and brown that had slept dormant beneath the ice. Leaves emerge and flowers bloom, and soon the nights are full of insects and bugs that proclaim the return of life.
"This is a first for me. Watching winter fade away to spring. Living things change at such a fast pace, don't they?" You murmur to Sensei.
"You do, too."
As an immortal being, you had always considered yourself an unchanging constant, another brittle Gem that straddled the line between overconfidence and comparable weakness. Your identity was directly linked to your chemical makeup. Phosphophyllite. Three and a half.
You aren't so sure who you are anymore. The alloy in your arms and the agate in your legs. How much of you is still you?
"That's… you're right… you're very right… It's scary."
The sting of moisture irritates your eyes as they leak alloy, always accompanied the gnawing grief in your heart.
The time comes for you to awaken the other Gems from their slumber. You wait for them to completely rise, emotionlessly correcting them when they mistake your presence for Antarcticite's.
Rutile expresses shock at the change you have undergone before requesting,
"Could you go check on Cinnabar for me, then?"
"Cinnabar…?" You search the remnants of your memories. "Who is Cinnabar? "
You are hoarded by the rest of the Gems who are fascinated by the numerous changes your body had undergone. You try your best to evade their now overwhelming presences, only for Bortz to find you hiding near the top of a pillar.
"Happy with yourself now that you're stronger?" They ask.
"Not a single good thing has come from it."
You hated every moment. Although you no longer complain so blatantly, you hope for salvation with every stuttered breath from your metaphorical lungs.
Despite knowing full well that Diamond would be devastated, you replace them as Bortz's partner. On your first day together, a new type of Lunarian appears. It is the likes of which you had never seen before: a huge hulking six-legged beast at least fifty times your size.
Both Bortz and you follow the elder's plan to lure the Lunarian towards the school, then your black-haired partner instructs you to hide elsewhere.
As the Gems all discover over the process of fighting, whenever the creature is cut down, it splits and reforms into smaller versions of itself. Through the combined efforts of Alexandrite, Diamond, Bortz, and yourself, the Lunarian is reduced to a crowd of adorable fluffy animal.
The creatures prove to be too adorable, soft, and fluffy for anyone to take down – with the exception of Rutile. It takes the entire day for all the Gems to herd the animals all back together. They are trapped in a makeshift pen, inadvertently causing them to morph back together into the original monstrous form.
You try to lure the Lunarian away from the others, only to be caught up in its prehensile tail. Fortunately, Sensei shows up in the nick of time. To your shock, the Lunarians responds to Sensei's commands, and more specifically, Sensei calls it 'Shiro'… almost lovingly.
Later, you ask Sensei about their connection to this Shiro, only for the elder to deny any knowledge.
Suspicion and distrust floods your mind, robbing you of your confidence and vitality in advancing onslaughts of agony and betrayal.
Engrossed in your own thoughts and brooding over the day's events, you take a solitary stroll at dusk. You wonder if you are overthinking it, but you cannot dispell the parasitic seeds of doubt that begin to take root in your mind.
It sounded like the two of them were so much closer than any of us. Sensei and a Lunarian.
Have I just allowed myself to imagine the unthinkable?
Cinnabar enters your vision.
"Cinnabar, I'm starting to feel that Sensei is hiding something from us."
"You mean in relation to Sensei and the Lunarians?" They are as unflappable as ever. "Everyone has come to guess as much, but no one knows the truth. They've all made an unspoken agreement to trust in Sensei no matter what the truth might be."
You remain silent. If it is true… everything you had previously believed may be a lie. Your reality shatters around you. What was happening?
I want to know the truth. It's going to take courage to confront Sensei about this. Courage. It's always courage. Just how much is it going to take?
Dejected, you wallow without answers. Nothing was easy. Nothing was gained without sacrifice.
What was I after in the first place?
You want to confront Sensei. But something stops you. A vision of Antarcticite.
Antarcticite knew too. And yet they went along with it.
What did it all mean?
Paparadscha, the Gem who was born with an incomplete torso, awakens. You take a walk with them and share your doubts. Their easy-going and friendly demeanour briefly melts away into solemnity when they respond.
"A pure, unbridled truth might leave its own wounds and it might change things in ways you've never imagined, so make sure you keep your composure and be mindful of your actions."
The more you question it, the more you don't know what to think. Your reality becomes a nebulous construct that flutters at your fingertips, barely out of reach and lingering in the shadows of incomprehensible truths.
Splintered and untamed theories clash within the confines of your mind, threatening to supersede the truth you strived so hard for. The solitary path you trudge was perilous, and with every wrong turn you risk falling deeper into a fractured world of fabrications.
You approach the prudent and clever Cinnabar and reveal that you finally have a job for them: to aid you in uncovering the truth between Sensei and the Lunarians.
The days march on. Apathy cloaks your frame. You recall sunshine on your old youthful face as it peers into its reflection in the lake, fawning over how adorable it looked. But the vestiges of your previous naïveté are all but stolen, leaving you nothing but envious of your old, spoiled self.
All the while, a mental breakdown lingers on the fringe of your conscious, an awareness that you readily tread the line between stability and the irreversible descent into madness.