A sound not unlike that of a crumbling ice floe echoed through the air as the lunarian's arrow pierced through Antarcticite's fragile form, breaking them apart into two, three, countless pieces that slowly collapsed to the cold ground where they had just stood. Through the slim openings in their junior's alloy prison, they could see the shock and fear begin to appear upon Phosphophyllite's face. As Phos began to squeak out a response of horror, the winter gem did all that they could, and gestured for Phosphophyllite's silence. They could feel their consciousness falling away just as they physically did and mustered the last of their strength in their final duty of winter.
"Make sure Sensei doesn't get lonely." The faint sound of their pieces clattering against the stone ground rang through their ears.
"And take care of winter…" Remaining eye now shut, their head slipped from their shoulders and landed with the rest of their scattered body.
"…In my place."
As Antarctictite spoke their final words, they envisioned Sensei, smiling gently at their freshly chiseled face, and holding their head in his hand. As the last of their senses left them, the only thing Antarcticite could do was smile.
And then they could see.
The bright, blinding light of the winter sun reflecting against the freshly fallen snow was no more, now replaced with a faint glow that slowly grew brighter. As the haze of sleep washed away, Antarcticite pushed themself up to a sitting position before swinging their legs to the side in preparation to stand. They sighed, knowing that such a foolish act as dropping their guard on such a sunny day should be scolded, and while Sensei would most likely not do such to them, they were not so sure of how their partner would react in the aftermath.
With one solid push, Antarcticite slid from the surface they laid upon, only to stumble and collapse after making contact with the ground. As they fell they instinctively reached out to soften the blow, only resulting in their wrists cracking in the process, one hand breaking off completely. They grunted. Snagging their now limp hand with the other, they tried to stand once more only to stumble again. Now frustrated, Antarcticite rolled over onto their back and sat up, reaching for the table they had previously been upon. But it was not Rutile's table that they originally assumed it was and was instead a solid block jutting straight out of the ground.
Confusion enveloped their mind as they now took the time to properly examine their surroundings, only to discover the architecture matched nothing of the school. As they made a final attempt to stand and began to trip again, Antarcticite balanced themself against the block and gazed at their feet. Or rather, their foot. Just as it had been after their previous battle, one leg ended in a broken off point, their foot completely gone, while the other was now bare.
"Sensei?" No response came. They called out again. "Phosphophyllite?" Still, they received no answer. Carefully, Antarcticite balanced on their foot and leg, finding a solid enough stance where they could limp forward towards the source of the soft glowing light that they had awoken to.
Through a doorway they moved out from the small room to an expanse of halls. Panic began to set in. "Sensei! Phos!" They called out once more as they limped faster through the halls.
"It's too early!" Came a whine. "Who's making all the racket?!" The sense of dread Antarcticite held faded quickly. "Phosphophyllite!" they cried out once more. From the dimly lit halls approached a figure, rubbing its' eyes. But it was not Phosphophyllite. A lunarian stood where they believed their partner would. As fast as they could, Antarcticite hobbled away and rushed back down the hall. More and more lunarians began to appear from rooms they passed by, and instinctively, Antarcticite reached for their sword, though no weapon was there to protect them. "It's the gem!" one of them cried. "It's awake!" another called out.
Surrounded, Antarcticite stood their ground, clutching their hand tightly. But the lunarians did not approach. Taking what opportunity they could, Antarcticite dashed forward, piercing through the lunarian in their path with the raw edge of their broken wrist. In a puff of smoke their opponent disappeared, allowing them ample chance to escape, but with a turn of a corner, their balance gave way, and they collapsed to the floor, breaking into pieces.
When Antarcticite awoke, they shot upright from the block they first found themself on, though it was far more plush than before. And this time, they were not alone. The now well lit room revealed a figure in the same shades as the lunarians, though its appearance was far more detailed.
"Good morning, Antarcticite," the fancy lunarian said. "That is your name, yes?" Antarcticite made no moves. "I'm surprised you managed to break yourself so early in the morning. Our home is not as solid at those hours." Antarcticite swung their legs over the bed. "Now that it's at it's peak hardness, we've taken the liberty to soften this space for you." Their hand had been reattached, allowing them to balance themself much easier upon standing. "I'm addressed as 'The Prince' here on the moon. You may call me it as well if you so wish to." Antarcticite walked to the doorway, looking out at the hordes of lunarians all going about their day, before turning back to face the one called "the Prince".
"So, this really is the moon, then?" The Prince nodded. Antarcticite looked back to the hustle happing outside of the room. "Why am I here?"
"We've come to require the help of you gems."
"Come, sit," the Prince said. But Antarcticite stayed in the doorway. Watching the lunarians reminded them of what they imagined the days of the other three seasons were like for their fellow gems back home. "On behalf of everyone, I'd like to ask you a few questions."
"I'm not sure I would have answers for you," Antarcticite snarked. "You've been our enemy for hundreds of years. I can't say that I trust you." A soft hand rested on the gem's shoulder, but they rolled it off and walked back to the bed. "I understand," the Prince looked down at Antarcticite. "But your cooperation will help us all, including your fellow gems." But Antarc was done with talking. Sitting on the bed, they laid their head against the newly placed pillow.
"I'll return to you tomorrow. If you change your mind, speak with any of my people and ask for me. I'll be waiting, Antarcticite."
From that point on, the day moved slowly. Antarcticite listened to the indistinct chatter of the lunarians outside as they laid back upon the bed. They weren't sure what exactly the enemy wanted, but they knew that they wouldn't give it to them. If they took the time to formulate a plan, escape from the moon seemed like a possibility. All they needed was to buy themself some time. The light began to fade to a gentle glow as night encroached upon the moon's day, and the walls within the gem's room began to melt. As they closed their eyes to rest, they couldn't help but feel the structure mirrored their own existence.
The following morning, the Prince returned just as he said he would. Neither lunarian nor gem spoke for what seemed to be hours, as they both merely stared at each other. After the long period a silence, the Prince left without a single word.
Day three on the moon did not involve an appearance of the Prince. Antarcticite awoke just as they had the day before, but decided today was a day of action. They had spent enough time adjusting and needed to start forming a plan. Standing from the bed, they hobbled out the doorway into the busy halls. They cared not for the stares they received as they limped along, exploring each and every passage, trying to create a mental map for later. Eventually, their travels led them outside, to the vast emptiness that was space, contrasting with the glittering surface of the moon. For a while, they just stood there, taking it all in, staring off to the planet where their home waited for them. Outside, there was no chatter from the lunarians, just the peace that came with silence. If not for the dark void that was the sky on the moon, Antarcticite might have compared the scenery to that of winter.
"I'd hate it if I was so far from my home, too." A voice chimed from behind the gem. Antarcticite turned to face the new presence, a lunarian who looked the same as all the others did, but a gleam of something different sparkled in their eyes. A gleam of curiosity, a gleam of sympathy. But as they locked eyes with Antarcticite, the shine quickly left the lunarian's eyes. "But- don't you think about trying to leave! The Prince is working really hard to get you to cooperate, so you have to stay here!" They puffed up their chest and scrunched their face at Antarcticite, who responded with a nod before turning back to look at the earth.
Night came quickly as Antarcticite stared out into space, thinking of how the twinkling stars seemed to reflect the glittering surface of the moon.
"I had a feeling you would find your way here," the Prince's voice echoed from the path that led to the platform Antarcticite now sat upon. "Our world is beautiful, is it not?" No comment came from the gem. "It seems you haven't changed your stance on working with us." Silence. "I'll give you as much time as you need to realize that you'd be helping the both of us, but the others are not as patient as I am." He placed his hand upon Antarcticite's shoulder just as he did before, but they only rolled it off again. A sigh came from behind the gem. "I'd recommend you come to a conclusion soon. You'll need to voice your decision."
After the Prince left, Antarcticite sat staring into space for just a short while longer, before they carefully stood upon the now slippery surface and made their way back to the room they had rested in the nights before.
The fourth day, Antarcticite had awoken before the lunarians, and waited for their arrival in the waking world. They stood at the end of the hall, watching as one by one the moon folk emerged from their rooms, stretching and yawning. With a deep breath, Antarcticite marched off into the growing crowd, approaching one of the lunarians.
"Oh, the gem. Antarcticite, right?" The lunarian spoke.
"I'd like to speak with the Prince." Too tired to be shocked, the lunarian nodded and led Antarcticite to a chamber much larger than any other they had seen, where the Prince sat at a table, putting something into his mouth. "Prince," the lunarian whined. "The gem wants to speak with you."
"Very well, then." The Prince stood from his seat and waved the lunarian off, walking over to tower over Antarcticite. "Have you come to a decision? In such a short time?" Antarcticite nodded. "Then what is your decision, Antarcticite?"
"I refuse to work with you. I don't care as to why you hunt us, and you have always been our enemy. I will not betray Sensei and help you who bring him pain." Antarcticite stood at attention, staring directly into the Prince's eyes, watching as they remained as stoic as they had been when they first saw him. "If that is what you have chosen, then I suppose there is no changing your mind. A pity, really." Turning from the gem, he walked back over to his seat and continued to eat.
"So, what will you do with me now? My composition is far too unreliable to be used as jewelry, and I'm far to weak to be used for weapons. Will you force me to stay upon this horrid world?" The Prince took a moment to finish whatever he had within his mouth, before setting his utensil down on the table in front of him. "In a way, yes." Antarcticite stiffened. "But I am useless to you now! I should be returned to the shores of the island-"
"We'll put you with the rest of your fellow gems."
"Fellow gems? I saw no one else here but people like you." The Prince dabbed the corners of his mouth with a cloth. "Of course you've seen the rest of your people we've captured. You stared at them for so long this past night." Antarcticite opened their mouth to speak once more, but was quickly cut off.
"What do you think makes the surface of the moon sparkle?" In moments, the horror of reality set in. All those gems. Before Antarcticite could react, the Prince lunged at the gem, shattering them into pieces.
No! Antarcticite thought. I can't stay here! But coherent thought had already began to slip away as their pieces scattered on the floor. Once again, their mind rushed to their previous companions of winter. They would never see Sensei's face again or feel his embrace, and they would never get to apologize to Phosphophyllite for leaving them behind. With their final act of strength, Antarcticite managed a whisper.
"Phos… Sensei… Forgive me."
Phos knelt amongst the remains of their fallen companions, clutching at the dust that fell through their fingers. Antarcticite was gone. Already too soft to be recovered, the news that the gems' inclusions had released all previous memories cemented failure in Phos' eyes. What point was there in continuing if they couldn't even save the friends they had lost, especially the one whose loss was their own fault. But they had long since passed the point of no return. Letting the last of the dust float through their fingers onto the non-existent breeze, Phosphophyllite stood and turned their back on the expanse of glittering gem remains. Antarcticite had become nothing but dust, but Phos was still standing. "I'm sorry, Antarc." Phosphophyllite whispered. "I've failed you too, haven't I?" Wiping the alloy from their eyes, Phosphophyllite marched back through the dust up to the mineral structures the lunarians called home, ready to continue their plan, no matter what it took.