She wakes up with an ebbing sense of loss inside her and a rush of unexplained melancholy. Her heart is beating a thousand times too fast, and she tries to touch her chest in concern only to find her hands seem strangely heavy.

Where am I?

The earth seems to be in shades of red and orange with a clear, blue sky overhead. Fat, colorful mushrooms dot the horizon.

I'm stranded. That's where I am. She feels a hysterical giggle rise in her throat. I'm lost!

"Hey!"

The stranger's voice is musical, and she feels her ears twitch of their own accord.

…oh.

"Are you okay?" His footsteps come to a halt before her, and he crouches down to see her as clearly as he can. The stranger's gentle face obscures her view of the bizarre landscape, and she's frozen by the sight of eyes that distantly remind her of rubies. Pale blue hair frames his worried face, and his wave (what's a wave…?) stands clearly on his face in a shade of soft green: a pattern of connected lines on both of his cheeks.

A name pops into her spinning head: "Tsu…"…Tsu?

"'You…?'" the boy repeats uncertainly. "O-oh, yes. I'm sorry." She saw his shy smile for the first time, and found it somewhat familiar in it's innocent vulnerability. "I'm Elk. Pleased to meet you!" He bowed his head a little, and she stared at the hands fisted on his lap and the gentle way his bit his lip, waiting for her response.

Very quickly, her melancholy aura became content.

"Ma…." She began, struggling to remember her name. There was more – what was it?

Elk looked up at her. "Mia!" he said. "That's a pretty name. Mia…"

She watched his antics curiously, amazed by the lingering feeling of rebirth, and how the new player's presence made her feel suddenly at home. She clung unto her name – a new name? What did it matter, as long as it was her's – and found herself drawn to the sound of it on his tongue.

"Why are you here? You look exhausted. Did a monster attack you?" He leaned forward a little. "Are you hurt?"

Yes! "No…"

"Oh, good." He said, and then in what she thought was a spur of the moment thing, he extended his hand to her. "Can you stand?"

Could she? "I think..." She told her legs to move, and as she pushed her hands behind her to support her weight, her knees began to tremble.

"Oh…" Elk moved quickly to her side, tugging one of her arms snugly over his shoulders. "Come on, let's get back to a root town."

She turned her head to protest the absurdity of the situation but instead found herself staring down into the genuine worry in his eyes. Her open mouth quickly snapped closed.

"Okay?"

"Fine."

Mia flinched slightly as three large, golden hoops materialized above them and swept neatly downward, passing by her eyes in what seemed like slow motion. She could see the shapes against the ring's yellow glow; patterns of triangles that she couldn't quite seem to place. The feeling of warping had been once she knew she had experienced before, but it was a feeling she had associated with bleeding through the dimensions like water through paper. But this – it felt fake, somehow. Cheap.

"Mia?"

A steady melody reached her ears, one that reminded her of chatting faces and, for some reason, of morning dew. Elk stared up at her patiently, and she swallowed the look of surprise she knew was on her own face for fear that he might begin to judge her.

"Where are we going?"

"Here." Elk headed off in the direction of a nearby shop, one that sported the image of a red-headed woman at it's peak. He leaned over the counter and said some things before setting his inventory out on the cobblestone for her to see.

"You can take what you like, if it means you won't get exhausted in the middle of a field again." He said. "Here – " a pressed a bottle into her larger hands. "And – " Something softer brushed against her wrist, and she thought of feathers and snow –

( snow? )

"You can keep these." He said quietly, staring at his feet as she stared at the items.

"What's – this?" She reached instinctively for what looked like a tired weed.

"That is – " he double-checked the name. "Aromatic grass. Why?"

Why. Why? She stared at the sorry looking thing, willing something to happen. Somehow she remembered something white perched upon it like a blossom, but it was a distant image, as if she had awaken from a dream and was now only left with it's experiences falling through her grasp like sand.

Why…?

"Can I…keep this?" she asked, her eyes resting on Elk's curious expression.

"Yeah, sure." He sounded somewhat bewildered, and his hands moved neatly to his lap, watching her watch him.

"Can I…keep you, too?" What was she saying?"

"Oh, my member address?" His face brightened. "No problem."

Something inside her clicked, and she heard the small ringing of a bell in her ears.

"Was that – "

"Yeah." Elk said sweetly. She searched for something in his eyes, some sort of indication why she has lost everything and he didn't seem to be commending her for it. She searched for the glimmer of worry, or of fear, or that aura that she was being used, but she found only a small, shy smile to assure her that everything was right.

Well, if instincts guided her just far enough, she figured the two of them could do the rest.