DISCLAIMER: I don't have any copyrights, including the ones to Atelier Annie.
Despite what she could now claim as years of experience in alchemy, Annie still messed up sometimes. Or a lot of the time, according to Pepe. Either way, it was one of these messups that landed her in her current predicament.
The ingredients had been simple enough to get. She always had a few spare candles, and Old Jacob sold rock salt for a few coins a pinch. The most confounding (and most vital) ingredient by far had been a so-called 'puzzle cube.' Annie was at a loss – until Pepe pointed out she already had one. They had been using it as a bookend.
"But where did it come from?" she wondered, inspecting the cube. It was very.. primary. There were two yellow sides, two red sides, and two blue sides. Annie was reminded of a toy she'd seen in a shop on the mainland. This wasn't quite the same, but it was similar enough... "Did we go to a toy store and I just don't remember?"
"That doesn't matter. Just start the synthesis, Annie. This is the last recipe in this book, you should be excited to move on to the next one."
She sulked at that. "How can I be excited when I know you're just going to rush me through those recipes, too...?"
"Your definition of rushing is about as fast as a snail. I'm going to go help the customers. Start working."
Annie dawdled for a few more minutes, re-measuring the rock salt and generally wishing someone would visit so that she'd have a valid reason to procrastinate. No one did. With a great sigh, Annie finally got to work. This moment is when our story truly begins.
Perhaps the rock salt had been impure. Perhaps the candles had been of an inferior wax. Perhaps the puzzle cube wasn't puzzley enough. Whatever the reason, something was wrong with the final product of this synthesis.
The light receded from her creation, and Annie held in her hands a newly alchemized Time Plate. A Time Plate which promptly crumbled to dust. Any greater meaning to this escaped Annie at the time – she was simply crestfallen that the synthesis hadn't gone right. Failure meant getting berated by Pepe, finding another puzzle cube (nevermind that she didn't have the slightest clue where to look) and trying again. Not only that, but the next contest was starting soon...
She just didn't have time for this. There was still so much she had left to learn, so much work left to do on the resort, and every day that passed was one less left to do either. ...Maybe she could convince Pepe to let her skip this one. Annie doubted it would be possible. He'd probably insist that since she'd messed it up and couldn't figure out what went wrong, that meant she needed to try again all the more.
"You know what? That's it. I need a break."
Clothes still covered in dust, Annie stormed out of the atelier towards the main plaza. Maybe staring at the fountain would illuminate some cosmic wisdom she could use to convince Pepe.
Where was Beaux? Annie wasn't against having some actual quiet time, but it was unusual not to see him loitering around the plaza. In fact, from what she could see... she was the only person who WAS in the plaza today.
"Well that's odd... There's nobody here."
She paused, almost expecting someone to show up now to prove her wrong – and it would almost inevitably be someone she knew, too.
Nothing happened. The plaza continued to be silent, save the soft sounds of water in the fountain. Annie huffed, inexplicably indignant at whoever just missed their prime opportunity to bother her. Thus uninterrupted, she resumed her contemplation of the fountain. The fountain, for its part, stubbornly continued not to dole out any epiphanies, save one. That one was: "Wow, the sun's bright enough to make the water shimmer."
Except that had to be wrong. It was evening last she glanced out a window, something she remembered because she'd asked Pepe to let her off training early to go find somewhere good to watch the sunset. His answer was no, but that wasn't the point. The point was it shouldn't be this bright out. ...Maybe it was just a trick of the light. Or people had been tossing coins in the fountain again...
Annie glanced heavenwards, very much expecting the sun to be in it's rightful place – mainly, not right over her head. Yet there it was, proudly shining in its best attempt to make her go blind.
This was Annie's first real hint that something was Not Right.