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But so many Came.

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Retrograde

 

            She peered from behind a tree trunk, breathing shakily as she listened to the forest.  More heavy thumping was heard from down below, followed by mocking laughter audibly tired from climbing up the mountain in chase.  She clenched at her apron that was hanging out of her pocket, trying to calm her breath.

            They’re close.

            As quietly as she could, she trudged upwards, grabbing onto the gnarled branches of small shrubs for leverage, careful to not cause any stir.  She made it up a reasonable stretch and proceeded to hide behind another tree trunk.

            “Come on out, Torrez!  We miss ya!”

            She didn’t even know who they were… most likely fellow classmates. Older classmates.  She proceeded to ready herself for another careful climb, when they called out.

            “Hey!  I see her!”

            She ran, scrambling up the growing incline of the mountain, reaching forward to desperately grab for anything that would help her escape all the faster.  She heard their laughter grow louder, and she fell, picking herself up with haste, her green plaid now dirtied with grass stains.  Her heart was pounding with exhaustion and fear, her throat stinging from dryness.  She continued up, despite the closeness of the voices.

            Why couldn’t I camp in peace?

            The ground began to level out, the brush here becoming especially thick thanks to favorable growing conditions.  Their bodies were crashing through the vegetation, searching for their hiding classmate.  Said classmate fell with a heavy thud, legs weighted with fatigue, breathing hollow and dripping with sweat and a film of dirt.  She picked herself up for what seemed like the hundredth time in the span of an hour, and faced the direction her aggressors were coming from, holding her pan out in wait.  They hooped and hollered, and Torrez figured that they were most likely inebriated from a previous outing, and now saw it fit to terrorize her.  She stepped back in unease as they came terribly close to her clearing. Yet there wasn't any ground beneath her.  Her thoughts froze in terror, and her heart skipped a beat.  All one could hear was a sharp and surprised cry as she fell down into darkness.

 

Chapter Text

The Ruins

 

            A damp, earthen fragrance greeted her.  With a grunt, Torrez shifted her body so that she was laying on her back, her sore muscles protesting.  Turned earth crumbled under her fingers, her movements shifting it this way and that.  She peered upwards with tired eyes, to find a glowing mass slowly undulating, giving off pale light and a low humming sound.

            She raised a brow, and picked herself up, sitting as she stared at the mass.  A cone-like projection noticeably dripped to where she fell, blobs of it slowly rejoining its main form.  Her neck was growing tired from looking up, when a silent gasp was heard not too far off.  She turned to find a great figure clad in purple robes standing in the shadows, it’s clawed hands shaking ever so slightly.  She froze, and spoke in a coarse voice, “Sorry for scaring you, I- uh… I don’t know where I am.” 

            The other’s trembling didn’t cease, and Torrez felt like she was unintentionally committing a break-in of sorts. She glanced to find that she had crushed a small grouping of flowers, and immediately felt a heavy sinking in her stomach, “Perdóname…”

            “My child… a-are you hurt?” her voice sounded gentle and clear.  Torrez was stunned by her luck that she wasn’t angry for crushing her buttercups, “N-no.  I’m fine.”

            “But your face… your clothes!  What did this to you?”  She came out of the shadows, and Torrez found herself beholding a goat-like person with lovely white fur and an elegant and simple dress, the horns and fangs didn’t frighten her, but only made her question as to where she was exactly.  Said goat woman gently eased her from off the ground and guided her through a carved entrance within the rock.

            “I’ll heal your wounds, my child.” She cooed, taking hold of her hand in a soft grasp, “What is your name, dear?”

            “Ah, um, it’s Alejandra, but some people call me Alex, or Torrez.”

            “Alex… what a nice name.  My name is Toriel, Qu-… caretaker of this area.”

            “It’s really nice to meet you, Miss Toriel… Thank you for finding me.”

            “You can call me Toriel, no need for titles, and it really is no problem, my child.  I happened to be nearby.”

            Alex smiled, glad that such a kind person found her, rather than those others that were chasing her.  She frowned in worry, and Toriel seemed to notice.

            “What’s wrong, my child?”

            Alex looked around, “W-we’re safe down here, right?  You didn’t see anyone else?”

            Concern flashed across Toriel’s face, “I assure you that you are safe.  You’re the only other human here.  I would have noticed if there were more of you.”

            This sufficed, so Alex gave a weak smile.  They walked through halls of pink alabaster brick, vines and other plants growing in tufts and hanging from the walls in stubbornness.  Toriel walked over switches that sunk into the ground with a thick clunking sound and pulled at various levers on the walls.  As they walked, Alex noticed other creatures were around, too.  For example, a small frog she had spotted turned to reveal a strange creature hiding within the shade of its belly.  Noticing that she was confused, Toriel assured her to not be alarmed.

            “That creature is a Froggit, and is actually rather shy.”

            As they passed by an area filled with red leaves, a dismayed creature fluttered by, its sniffling being heard even when they turned the corner.

            “Will they be alright?” asked Alex.
            Toriel could only answer honestly, “Whimsun are like that, my dear.  I’ve tried to console them myself, but they burst into tears before I finish a word.”

            “That’s sad. There has to be something that’ll help them.”

            And finally, as Toriel tapped at colorful switches with a push of her foot, a silent monster appeared right next to Alex’s leg, its great eye catching Alex off her guard.  She gave a surprised gasp and jumped back, accidentally dropping her pan. The monster blinked, staring right through her.

            “Quit staring at me.” they replied simply.

            Alex quickly averted her gaze away, stuffing her hands in her pockets, “I’m sorry.  I got a bit scared since you’re so quiet.”

            “That’s okay.  I’m kinda scared by you, too.” replied the one-eyed monster.

            “Thank you for your honesty.”

            Toriel smiled at the antics, and led her away, “That is Loox.  Don’t let them scare you, they actually have a heart of gold.”

            “They’re really nice.”

            They came to a gnarled, dark tree whose branches were clean of the leaves it was surrounded by, beyond it, a small house was nestled into the wall. 

            “Welcome home, child.” Toriel patted her shoulder, smiling at Alex warmly.  Alex returned the smile, happy to make Toriel happy.

            Upon walking in a slight musk greeted them, yet it was masked somewhat by the smell of bread and sweets.  The wooden floors looked dry and worn, yet recent care could be seen in the shine of the grain.

            “This way, please.” Toriel walked her down a hallway, the floor creaking slightly under their footsteps.  She fiddled with a lock on the door as she spoke.

            “Please pardon the dust, this place has seen better days.  I hope you like your new room.”

            She opened the door to a room that held a dresser, a toy box, a nightstand, and a small bed.  There were stuffed teddy-goats flanking the bedside, and Alex grinned at the cuteness.  She sat on the bed and tested its length, Toriel watching from the doorway. She just barely fit, with her heels touching the bed’s wooden frame, but it was comfortable.

            “Rest, my child.  I’ll have some food ready when you wake.”  And she left, leaving Alex in the room alone.

            Alex gazed at the floor, thumb rubbing the frying pan’s handle in thought.

            This is nice.

            She placed her pan under the bed, and stood to untie the denim jacket and hang it from the bed’s wooden post.  She wedged her boots off with her feet and placed them on the floor next to the bedside.

            You don’t have to study for that final anymore.

            She looked into the dresser to find it filled with a few striped sweaters and a few pants.  The only thing that could fit her was a long night gown that would’ve brushed against the floor if she were a small child.

            Those guys can’t hurt you here, much less find you.

            Her plaid shirt hanging on a separate bedpost, she turned the lamp off and tucked herself into the sheets.  They felt old, but still soft, and so gazed at the ceiling, picking up a teddy-goat to have something to hold.

            And with peaceful thoughts, she fell asleep.

--

            A steaming slice of pie rested on her nightstand.  Blinking, Alex peered at it and inhaled, noting savory spices were used… peppercorn especially.  Picking up the fork, she cut herself a piece and ate. 

            It was delicious.  She dug in, starving from not being able to properly finish the eggs she had been prepping the evening before.  Finished, she reached for her shirt, to find that it was missing, along with the rest of her clothes. She shrugged, brushing her hands against her pants, and rose, carrying the plate with her.

            She stepped lightly as she walked down the hall, not wanting to cause much of a disturbance.  She passed by a railing that had stairs leading downwards, probably to the backyard, she figured.  It was growing noticeably warmer as she approached the next room, a warm light spilling to the hallway. 

            Toriel sat on a comfy looking chair, reading from a thick book as the fireplace crackled.  Alex stepped in gingerly, and Toriel looked up from her book.

            “Hello, my child.  I hope you had a good rest.”

            “Yes, I did.  Thank you for your hospitality.”

            “You don’t have to be so polite, child.  This is your home now; I want you to feel comfortable.  Ah, did you enjoy the snail pie I made you?”

            Alex had smiled warmly until that.  She blinked in surprise, “Snail pie?”

            “Yes, did you like it?  I used peppercorn and a bit of tomato.”

            Well, as she was taught by her mamá to politely give credit when credit is due, she nodded, not caring that she ate gastropods, “It was excellent.”  Food was food.  Who was she, a nutrient-deficient college student (or rather was) to refuse a good, albeit strange meal?

            Toriel smiled, and then remembered something, “Oh!  I forgot to mention that your clothes are drying, since they were a bit dirty.  I have some spare clothing for you to change into that may actually fit.  Meanwhile I can tend to your pants.”

            “You don’t have to do that, just show me where the soap is and I’ll do it.” Interjected Alex, not wanting to be a bother to Toriel’s reading.

            “Nonsense.  You must rest for now.  I promise you can help me later, in the meantime, here…”  She took a folded purple garment from the table, “I’ll find clothes that suit you better soon.  Please, help yourself to any book you’d like.”

            Alex soon found herself staring at the front cover a book that was titled “History of Monsters”.  In it was details of alliances forged by different monsters in necessity, mostly because of human interference.  Skeletons, humanoid animals, faeries, spectres… all of them united in fear of a common malady.  Frowning, she skipped a few pages ahead.  She read a passage;

            “Trapped behind the barrier and fearful of further human attacks, we retreated.”

            Barrier?  Was it that mass she saw from the dirt mound she fell on top of?  You can’t simply escape?  She figured that was why there wasn’t any stairs carved into the mountain, or a ladder at the least.

            She looked a bit further, and found mentions of a King.  Perhaps he would have an idea as to how to break said barrier? 

            Idiota.  He would’ve had his kingdom liberated by now.

            She was about to ponder further, when Toriel appeared, happy to see that Alex had actually taken a few books.

            “I see you’re quite curious, my child.  Tell me if anything strikes you as interesting, and I’ll be happy to elaborate.”  Alex nodded, but felt that this would be a strange question to ask, especially since she herself was human.

            She read further, picking up a book on Monster Literature and practical fire spells for cooking.  Meanwhile, Toriel asked a few questions here and there.

            “What is your age, my child?”

            “Seventeen.” She answered

            “What is your favorite color?”

            “Doesn’t matter, but subconsciously I think it’s green.”

            “Do you prefer cinnamon or butterscotch?”

            “Cinnamon.”

            Alex felt that perhaps Toriel wanted her to ask a question.  Readying herself, she clutched at the book and spoke.

            “Toriel?”

            “Hm?”

            “Why hasn’t the barrier been broken yet?”

            A silence filled the room, save for the crackling fire.

            “That thing above the dirt mound… that’s the barrier, right?”

            Toriel closed her book and breathed out, moving a clawed paw to rest on Alex’s head.  Alex felt the back of her neck begin to burn as Toriel stroked her hickory brown hair, regretting she ever opened her mouth in the first place.

            “As you may have read, it happened a long time ago.  Humans feared that we would take their immortal souls for our own gain, and so we fought, we lost, and were forced to live behind the barrier… what you saw from where you fell.”

            Alex could see the sadness in her eyes as she continued.

            “The barrier cannot be broken by us, for it requires a soul of immense power, and monster souls are ephemeral.  Even if we gathered the collective souls of all monsters, it wouldn’t equal to one human soul…”

            She stopped stroking Alex’s hair, moving her paw to lift Alex’s chin to face her. 

            “I want you to be happy here, my child.  The barrier has proved impossible to open, but here you will be safe.”

            Alex nodded slightly and looked away solemnly, picking up the book about fire magic as she wanted to forget she ever started a conversation that made Toriel upset.  Toriel looked at her book, then to the fire in thought.  Her eyes widened as she remembered something.

            “Wait here, my child.”  She rose, placing the book on the arm of her chair.

            Alex gave a nod with a smile as she watched her caretaker leave the living room.  She looked back to her book, finding an interesting section on how to maintain a constant temperature for stews.

            Toriel’s return was announced by the slight protest of the floorboards. A small thud could be heard as something particularly weighted was placed.  A bit muffled, Toriel’s voice could be heard, “Come, my dear!  I brought something for you!”

            Unfolding her legs, she rose and made her way to the hallway, where Toriel stood with what looked like a dummy.

            “Occasionally, a monster will want to challenge you to overcome their plights.  With their plights comes harmful things, as a monster’s emotions are directly related to their magic.  You can talk to them to assist in helping solve their plights.  I brought this dummy as practice for you.”  Toriel rested a paw on the dummy’s head, a proud look in her eyes as she succeeded in bringing the dummy over.

            Alex looked at the dummy, wondering how she would know if the dummy was feeling any better, when she felt a strange sensation center itself on her chest.  She looked down to find a green glowing heart rising to the front of her chest.  She saw Toriel’s nod, and she spoke.

            “As long as your soul is that color, you cannot move or flee, my child.  You would have no choice but to stay until things are resolved.”

            The heart resonated to the note of A, and a rounded shield flashed in front of it, about the size of a small buckler. 

            “This will protect you, but it also keeps you immobile.  You cannot do away with it, unfortunately.  Now, try and return your soul to yourself.

            Alex looked to the dummy, and her mind buzzed. 

            Talk to it.

            “What kind of uh, books do you like?” she felt that that was a sucky question.  The dummy didn’t respond.

            Looks like it doesn’t seem much for conversation.  You can Spare it now.

            Alex glanced at Toriel, who seemed happy.  Her soul, upon sparing, retracted the shield and disappeared as it faded toward its vessel.

            “Very good!  Feel free to practice with this anytime you like… in the meantime, I’ll be getting groceries.  Help yourself to anything you like.” She patted her head, and left through the front door, leaving Alex alone again.

            Figuring that she might as well walk around, Alex put away the books she brought out, straightened out Toriel’ robes, and headed out the front door.

            Passing the dark wood tree and coming to the crossroads, she looked here and there in trying to decide where to go. 

            I came from the left, and I didn’t get to see what was over here just yet. 

            A Froggit stood at the entrance of the other side, it’s small guest blinking as it rested in its shade.  Alex recalled that it was even here the day before, and wondered if it grew tired from staying in the same spot all day.  She approached, but saw that its eyes were closed, and decided to let it rest, giving it a warm smile as she walked through the threshold.

            What greeted her was an empty city carved straight from the mountain.  She couldn’t even see the top of the immense cavern, but from a distance could see the cavern walls, where smaller homes protruded, hanging off the sides as it flanked the city.  The roads and establishments were old and derelict, a slight wind being an anthem to its abandoned state, but, Alex figured, they could easily be restored as they had a sturdy infrastructure.  There were some banners still hung on what used to be gilded poles, its emblem the same as the one on Toriel’s robe, but its lustrous purple now looked dingy and brown from age.  It only took a short amount of time for Alex to wonder as to why there was no one else here save for a few monsters and Toriel.

            Maybe the books say something about this.

            The corridors echoed with her light footsteps, as she was careful not to wake the still sleeping Froggit.  Once she was near the bare tree, she hurried her pace, eager to learn more.  She was going back to the living room when she looked over the railings and remembered that she didn’t look down there, either.  Running her hands on the wood, she figured that there may be more books stored there, as Toriel seemed like she would have more books than she knew what to do with.  She would definitely find a book on the abandoned city in an immense library like that. 

            Happily, she hopped over the railings and landed just in front of the second set of stairs, reprimanded herself for acting so recklessly in the name of excitement, and descended.  Immediately, a chilled breeze greeted her as she walked in what seemed like a long hallway.  There weren’t any doors nor any signs of other monsters, just a cold, sterile hallway.

            She ran her hands along the walls as she walked, amazed by how cold the stone was.  Alex began to smile- what if this lead to the city?  A field study was loads more fun than reading about it in books.  She walked quicker, turned a corner, and stopped in her tracks.  There stood a great door with that symbol yet again, engraved in glinting stone that definitely once glittered.  She approached slowly, doubting she could even budge the door, eager to see the empty city.  It was colder than ever, she could even begin to see her breath, but she was determined to see this through for the sake of knowledge.

            Hands shaking from the cold, she placed her palms on the door and gave a small budge to test it.  It slid quite a bit, and her eyes widened.  She positioned herself to give a strong push, pine green eyes sparkling in anticipation.

            Uno.

            Dos.

            Tre-

            “NO!” Toriel shrieked, scaring Alex right off her balance.  She fell right on her rump, heart beating wildly from the sudden shock.

            “You’ll be killed!! What made you come down here in the first place?!”  Alex looked up to find tear trails on the fur near Toriel’s eyes, her paws, which now cradled her, were shaking violently.  She remembered that she had to speak.

            “The city.  I wanted to see the city…  This leads to the city, r-right?”

            She figured that she was dead wrong by how Toriel slowly shook her head, eyes in pain as more tears fell.  She brought Alex into a warm hug, saying “No, no, no.” softly.  Alex felt tears stinging in the corners of her eyes as she hugged her back.

--

            Toriel sent her to bed with the promise of showing her the city tomorrow.  She gave her the warning of never going down there, for beyond the door was a frozen wasteland that would rob Alex of her warmth in a matter of minutes.

            “It’s so terribly cold… many monsters perished in the snow.  Please, whatever you do, stay here.  There’s hot water and warm food, I hope you grow comfortable here.”

            Folding her clothes that were now freshly washed by Toriel, she tucked herself into bed, ready to wake up tomorrow.  Her thoughts wouldn’t let her sleep, and she thought of the barrier and of the tundra just on the other side of the door.

            …

            She was going to have a nice life here now, with a loving guardian.  She wouldn’t have to worry about what’ll be her next meal.  She wouldn’t have to worry about student loans, or bills.  She can spend her days not worrying about getting a job to support anyone.

            Tears began to stream from the corners of her eyes.

            She wasn’t going to be able to become a doctor.  Her mamá will never see her again.  She wasn’t ever going to see her new sibling come into the world, and she was so excited to see them.  She even did all her work in advance just in case her mother went into labor earlier than expected.

            Hearing the distant snapping of the fireplace, she closed her wet, tired eyes and fell asleep. 

--

            The journey to the derelict city was enjoyable.  After a hearty slice of Toriel’s butterscotch-cinnamon pie, they walked the empty streets.  Toriel pointed to each building and explained what it used to be; In one she used to have the tastiest of pies and spider cider there, in another, they had the best fabrics.  Just listening to Toriel speak of all the good times she had made Alex feel worlds better.

              Time was lost to them both as they spent their days together.  Alex would help Toriel cook and clean (though it took a bit of convincing on Alex’s part).  She found the book of fire magic interesting, but useless as she didn’t know how to summon fire in the first place.  So instead she would use the oven and clean up afterwards.  From the limited ingredients Toriel could bring, Alex surprised her with dish after dish of impeccably cooked Mexican-inspired food.  Toriel asked, “How do you manage to cook from so little?”

            “When I was smaller, mi mamá taught me to try and use what little we had to make something delicious.  It was hard, but having tasty food to eat despite your situation helps you feel better.” 

            She didn’t realize that tears dripped from her eyes as she finished.  Toriel scooped her into a hug, and apologized for making her cry. 

            “If it makes you feel any better, you can tell me about your family whenever you’d like.”

            And so, over what seemed like a few weeks, Alex told her about her life before she fell.  About her mother and her coming sibling.  About her college life and her wanting to become a doctor.  About how she fell down here and what a relief Toriel’s presence had been.  Toriel listened intently to each telling, and always offered that Alex rest afterwards. 

            One day, as Alex prepared for dinner, she couldn’t find her pan.  After searching here and there, she decided to ask Toriel, who was reading next to the fireplace.

            “Mamá, where’s my pan?  Did’ja see it anywhere?” 

            A sudden snapping shut of a book sounded, followed by silence.

            “¿Mamá?”  Alex picked herself up from the floor, where she was searching the kitchen cabinets.  She turned to find a very teary-eyed Toriel standing at the doorway.  Immediately she understood what she did, and was enveloped in a warm, soft hug.

            She even had her picture taken.  It happened while they were out on another excursion to the city, resting from a long day of walking.  Alex was busy kneeling, tying her shoe, when Toriel called to her.  She looked up in askance, to find that Toriel had a small camera.

            “Say ‘cheese’!”

            And she smiled brightly, eyes glittering from the mirth.  They decided to take another together, and so stood side-by-side, Toriel a head or so taller.  When they got home, Toriel placed the picture in a picture frame and into Alex’s room.

            She now fell asleep without trouble, and read with Toriel by the fireplace to pass the day.  And yet, every so often, she wondered if Toriel ever missed the surface.  This was a charming place, but for living here for so long, wouldn’t you get tired of the place?  With these thoughts came the questions, “What soul is powerful enough to break the barrier?” and “Where is the King?”  Yet since the barrier is quite the touchy subject as she observed first hand, she finally decided to ask of the latter.

            “Toriel, where is the King?”

            …It seemed like every out-of-place question she asked was followed by silence.

            “He is beyond the tundra, thinking of terrible things.”  Her voice sounded thick and hostile.

            “He’s a terrible king?  What does he do?”

            Toriel thought for a moment, “He harvests human souls for the barrier.”

            Alex’s eyes widened, “What does he need those for?  Does it make the barrier weaker?”

            “He wants to break it, and then wage war on humans.”

            Alex frowned, “I can see why.  We trapped you down here, after all.”

            “It’s not your fault, child.” Toriel replied assuredly.

            “…What if a human offered to break it for him?  Would he still want to destroy humanity?”

            “There’s really no telling.  He’s fickle and easily swayed.  One moment he’ll thank you, but if the masses want your head, he’ll act without thought.”  Toriel closed her book and rose,

“Would you like some dinner now?”

            Alex knew that was code for, ‘enough-talking-about-this-it’s-bummin’-me-out’ and nodded excitedly.  Yet she wondered to herself if that was really the case.  No doubt the King and his subjects would be a bit angry towards humans for their imprisonment, but they wouldn’t be so terrible as to throw all civility out the window.  If a human soul is indeed much more powerful than a monster’s, would it warrant a clean passing through the barrier?

            Over the next few days she was plagued by these questions, but she made sure that Toriel wouldn’t catch on.  She focused on her cooking, washed clothes with a small smile, and read with fervor.  She was about to go to bed, when Toriel stepped in as she was already snuggled into bed. 

            Alex blinked, sitting up at attention, “Is everything okay?  I didn’t leave a dirty dish, did I?”

            Toriel sat at Alex’s bedside, silent.  All she did was pet Alex’s head.  After a while she spoke.

            “Sleep, my child.”

            Slowly, Alex laid back down.  The rhythmic motion of Toriel’s paw soothing.  Eventually she fell asleep.

--

            She was lying down on a mound of cool dirt.  It was rather relaxing, but she had to get up.  Somewhere, she could hear Toriel call her for dinner.  Rising from her spot, she brushed at the seat of her pants, and began to walk.  Yet she couldn’t make it too far.

            A smiling mass of darkness tried to kill her.

            The grinning mass flashed a smile as it lurched forward with a menacing knife at the ready.  Her soul, somehow, conjured a great, green pavise, and the knife simply shattered into pieces upon contact.

            The mass frowned a bit, red outline of a heart at its front, empty eyes burning a hole into her head.  It gurgled, “Your soul isn’t good enough.” and evaporated.

            Alex woke up, blinking her eyes slowly, the blankets suffocating.  She sat up, drowsy and hot from her own body temperature.

            ¿Porqué?

            She put on her jeans and her shirts.  Looking here and there, she found her jacket.  Its cloth insides were soft and warm.

            ¿Porqué no puedo?

            She found a piece of paper and fished out a pen from her deep jacket pockets.  She scribbled at it, and then placed it on her pillow.  She tied her apron around her waist and held the pan in her left hand.

            She breathed in, readied herself, and pushed.  The door opened without much hassle.  She looked behind herself, and closed it again.  She didn’t want to make a draft, after all.

            Sí puedo. 

--

            A cry awoke Froggit from its slumber, followed by sobs of despair.  It hopped to peer at the house beyond the tree, worried for its occupants.

            In a trembling paw, a note was crumpled and ridden with tears.  It thus read:

            Dear Toriel,

                        Thank you for being so loving and kind to me.  Our time together has been the happiest of my life.  I’ll see you very soon, as the barrier will be taken down in a bit.  I can’t wait to introduce you to my mother and my new sibling.

                                                Love,

                                                            Alejandra Torrez

Chapter Text

Snowdin

 

            The dark hallway led to yet another door, where she had a bit of difficulty pushing.  It was heavy and obstinate, yet she managed with a final burst of brute strength.

            She regretted it, as she got a face-full of snow.   Cold air invaded every space between the stitching of her clothes, she shooting up to avoid getting wet.  She rubbed her hands, huffed a few breaths, and walked, thankful that her jacket had warm pockets.

            The deep, dark forest, besides reminding her of a certain Robert Frost poem, felt never ending.  At least the trees were tall and lovely, Alex only wished she loved the cold as much as she convinced herself she did.  The crunching of the snow under her boots sounded satisfying, and she thanked providence that it wasn’t sweltering heat she had to deal with.

            The tall trees stopped at a clearing, where she that she was atop a plateau.  Daring to creep closer to the edge, she could see other snow covered mountains filled with pines.  Small villages and lonesome houses could be seen from far away, their warm lights igniting the snow around them in rich yellow light.  Alex smiled at the quaintness.  Her thoughts strayed to Toriel, who was still sleeping in her queen-sized bed, thinking she was in the other room.  A heaviness appeared in her stomach, and a knot formed in her throat.  She walked on.

            This isn’t so bad.  Not really a tundra.

            “Hey.”

            It’s more like a, um…

            “Hey!!”

            Winter wonderland.

            She bumped into something that reached just under her knee.  She snapped out of her thoughts and swiftly couched down to catch a hold of their… tentacles?

            She met a pair of tiny, sunken eyes.  A small creature that looked like an oblong flying-saucer shaped squid looked at her, eyes angry and brimming with tears.

            Alex stared for a moment, then asked, “Are you ok-!”

            The small monster wrapped its tentacles around her leg, squishing its face against the side of her calf. A few tears dropped as its face was scrunched up in an angry pout.

            Alex grunted as she balanced herself, “Hey, woah...  Can you let go of me?”

            No response.

            “Excuse me, can you- “

            “Nuh-uh!” the small monster grunted.

            “But I need to- “

            “Mmm!” it squeezed her leg tighter, absolutely refusing to budge.  She could feel its tears soaking through her jeans.  They stood there for a while, Alex impressed that the little monster had not for one second relented their grip.

            “Hey...” Alex began.

            The monster loosened its grip slightly, opening one of its eyes.

            “You wanna ride in my hood instead?  You can get a better view from there.”

            Slowly, the monster looked up at Alex, still pouting.  Alex shot one of her winning grins, pointing with her thumbs to her hood.

            Now this was simpler.  She felt their small tentacles shift within the hood, enjoying the warmth of the jacket.  She trudged through the snow, breath rising in great clouds.  She noticed that the small monster was really quiet, and so wanted to break the ice.

            “My name is Alex.  What’s yours?”

            She felt the monster curl a bit smaller, quiet.

            “Don’t wanna talk, huh?  That’s okay.”

            “…erry.”

            “Hm?”

            “Jerry!”

            Alex lifted a leg over a snow poff, “Jerry, huh?  That’s nice.”

            The two came across a frozen area flanked with pines.  Alex walked hither and thither, checking the area for somewhere safe.

            “Oh man… Hang on, okay Jerry?”

            “Sure…”

            Tentatively, she placed a foot on the ice and readied herself.  She placed her other foot on the ice and felt her body slide, feet trying to find traction.

            “This is, woah, tough.”

            She slid forward slowly, Jerry looking over Alex’s head to see what was going on.  They were both very close to the next landing of soft snow, when Alex’s feet disappeared from underneath her.

            ¡Ay, yí, yí!” Alex cried out, falling on her rump, sliding to the snow with a surprised Jerry clutching at the ends of the hood.

            “…You suck at this.”

            Alex picked herself up, laughing, “I totally do.  Sorry about that bumpy ride.”

            The little monster sniffled, “Whatever.”

            Alex glanced towards the monster resting on her head, taking careful steps as the snow was particularly deep here.  From far away she could see the glowing of a village, and grew hopeful at thought of warm and cozy cabins. 

            “Are you alright, Jerry?”

            “I’m FINE.” The monster harrumphed in a small voice.

            “Okay… Just making sure.”  The two arrived at the edge of the town, where the lights of the few establishments lit the snow covered streets.  Toward the center of the town she could see a Christmas tree.

            “…My friends left me alone again.” mumbled the small monster.

            Alex turned, “Really?  That’s not nice… Are you sad that they left you?”

            “Duh!!  They don’t really like me, much.  No one likes me much.” Their voice cracked and the small sound of tears hitting taut cloth made it to Alex’s ears.  Alex stopped walking to let Jerry compose themselves, ignoring the stares of a few monsters who passed by.

            “Do they sell candy here?”  Alex asked, facing a small shop whose lights glowed.

            Rubbing at their eyes, Jerry looked up, vision blurred. “Y-yeah… but you need money.”

            From rummaging through her pockets, Alex produced a metal button, some string, and a few small, silvery, centavos.  She winced.  She was definitely sure that the store didn’t take Mexican currency… but if it meant that her little buddy would be a bit happier, it was worth a shot. 

            The tingling of the shop’s bell sounded as the two walked in.  Alex closed the door quickly to keep the warmth in. When she finished, a bunch of wooden knick-knacks greeted her eyes.  There were small wooden bunny-shaped furniture hanging on the walls, used for coat holders and shelves.  Smiling, Alex was about to poke at a stained glass lamp when she heard a surprised gasp followed by things clattering to the floor.

            Wide-eyed, she looked up to see a slightly trembling rabbit-lady staring right at her.  Alex nodded her head slightly, “Sorry for surprising you.  If the store is closed, I can wait a bit.”

            “N-no, you’re fine… what do you need?” the shopkeep did her best to compose herself in front of what appeared to be a fully-grown human.

            “Uhm… well, my friend here has been bit sad recently, and I think some candy would cheer them up.  Problem is, I don’t have any money.  Do you suppose I can help with your shop to earn some money?  I don’t really mind if you have any odd jobs.”  Alex could see the trembling cease in the shopkeep, being replaced by widening eyes.  The shopkeep burst into laughter, wiped at her eyes, and grinned.

            “No need to do that, honey.  Have whatever you like… my treat.”  She pulled out a tray of steaming bread shaped like bunnies, slathered in cinnamon and butter.  Alex hefted her friend up a bit, just so they can see the tray better.  She could feel the small tentacles scuttle just a bit, and thus brought her arms back, grabbed hold, and lifted them out.

            Jerry grabbed a cinnamon bunny and munched away happily, not caring that their small tentacles or mouth was being covered in sticky cinnamon-butter sauce.  Alex took one, thanking the smiling shopkeep and ate slowly, watching her tiny monster friend go for another bunny.

            Eventually Jerry was returned to the warm hood, licking at their tentacle-hands loudly as Alex thanked the shopkeeper.

            “Please take a few with you.  You’ll definitely need them on your journey.”  The shopkeeper placed two bunnies into a small parcel.

            “Are you sure?  I think I’ve cost you quite a bit of revenue…” Alex rubbed at her head.

            “It’s fine.  Think of it as giving me peace of mind, knowing that you’ll have something to eat.”  The shopkeep handed her the parcel, smiling, “Be safe, alright?”

            “I will.  Thank you.” Alex nodded, trying the door handle.  She pushed at the door and walked out into the cold.  Jerry curled up, peeking over the hood yet again.

            The streets were emptier now than when they arrived, yet it was still glowing just the same.  Approaching the Christmas tree, she could now see every individual string of sparkling tinsel and tiny colored light.

            “…You’re going to leave, aren’t you?”

            “Hm?  Yeah, I guess I am… am I close to the end?”  Alex didn’t expect to find the King’s palace already.

            “Yeah, we’re close to Waterfall.” Jerry mumbled.

            The town’s establishments began to dwindle.  Soon all she could see was a river that flowed with a few slabs of meandering ice.

            “You’re gonna die.” 

            Alex stopped, “Huh?”

            “If you keep going, you’ll die.  The King said that any human who comes here will be killed.”

            Alex merely shrugged, and trudged on.

            “…Don’t go.”

            She kept walking, “I have to go.  I wanna help monsters by breaking the barrier.”

            Sniffling could be heard, “I’ll have no more friends again.  No one likes me… I don’t like me…” Jerry began to cry.

            Alex lifted them out of her hood and pulled them into a hug, “It’s okay.  I promise I won’t die.  I’m just gonna go right to the King and ask if I can help break the barrier… besides, I like you.  You just haven’t found the right bunch of friends, yet.”

            Sniffling, they weakly clung to her hands, quivering.  Just beyond them the snow dwindled to bare ground, and the water churned steadily.  Alex stroked their head.

            “You gotta promise me that you’ll like yourself better, alright?  It’ll be hard, but I’m sure you can do it… I’m going to leave now, okay?”

            She softly pried away the small hands from her fingers.

            “No.”

            She straightened out her jacket and began to step into the fog, giving his head a few gentle pats.

            Jerry whined, “Nooo.”

            She disappeared, the sound of footfalls on moist, packed dirt were swallowed up by trickling water.

            After some time, Jerry turned around and trudged through the snow, alone again.

Chapter Text

Waterfall

 

            Trying her best to keep smiling, Alex thought of happy thoughts to strengthen her resolve.  She thought of the happiness monsters will have to be free, she thought of all the fun things they could do, and the fresh air they could breathe.  Truth is, this wasn’t really working.  She abandoned several friends already in such a cruel way.  Her mamá didn’t raise her this way, but she also knew she couldn’t stand idly by while so many were trapped.  She pressed her fingers against her eyelids, pushing the tears back.

            It appeared this was a marsh-like area.  Water spilled from many waterfalls along the cavern walls, some rocks were so worn by the water that smooth crystal glittered, embedded in stone.  She walked through a thin stream of water that was supplied by a waterfall around six feet in diameter.  Carefully, she peered over the edge to see a small, moist bridge at the bottom.  Even farther, she saw masses of glowing water that illuminated the cavern walls in eerie blue light.  

            Alex remembered that most cases of glowing bodies of water were caused by a certain protist she learned of in one of her biology courses. Yet for the life of her she couldn’t remember.

            An upcoming cave was lit by glowing rocks and dim light that was most likely traces of other minerals that reflected said light.  Water was heard just underneath her, followed by hollow creaking.  Below her was the worn wooden boards of the docks, which groaned slightly under her weight.  Dark, clear water was trickling underneath, her own eyes reflected back at her.  Behind her, something smoldered in soft blue light, turning, she was met with the following words:

The War of Humans and Monsters

            Slowly, she went to the second plaque that was inlaid into the rough cavern walls. 

Why did the humans attack?  Indeed, it seemed they had nothing to fear. Humans are unbelievably strong.  It would take the soul of nearly every monster just to equal the power of a single human soul.

            A chill shot up her body.  These were nearly identical to Toriel’s words.  Her hands became cold.  The next plaque gave reason as to why in her trips to mass as a child they said that there is life after death.  Maybe this is why people always drew demons with frightening features?  People sealed away Monsters for fear of their immortal souls being stolen.

            The next plaque was an illustration of a… being?  She grew confused at it.  She saw flurry of limbs as well as a being that looked much like Toriel, to a blazing mass… what was she looking at, exactly?  Alex tore her gaze away and walked on, trying to ease her nerves by forcing herself to remember the forgotten bioluminescent protist… it started with a “d”.

            She was lost in thought that she had forgotten her previous sadness, if only for a little while.  She was so lost that she didn’t see what was in front of her.  Next thing she knew, she received a face full of glowing blue pollen and a small whisper that said, “Whoops.”

            She stepped back, rubbing at her face and blowing raspberries to get some of the pollen out of her mouth.  Cracking open an eye, she was met with phosphorescent flowers and glowing water that released… glowing gas?  She wasn’t sure, but she remembered that the bioluminescent creatures were called dinoflagellates.

            She stared at the water with wide eyes. Crouching, she dipped her hand in and brought up a handful, letting it drip down her arm and through her fingers.  The water was clear, save for small glowing granules. It was then that Alex remembered that dinoflagellates could suffocate and eradicate entire marine ecosystems since they released toxins as a byproduct of their cellular respiration.  She frowned, and wiped her hand on her jeans and figured that she’d rather inspect the flowers.

            “Whoopswhoopswhoops.” The flower whispered.  Peering at its stem, Alex concluded that since there was no one photosynthesis could be carried out, the flower received its sustenance from the water and soil that was most likely littered with dinoflagellates, and that those very chemicals expressed themselves and thus made the flower glow.  Looking past the flower, she saw that she was in a bit of a labyrinth.  Glowing mushrooms, tufts of grass, and illuminated trees were here and there.  She decided to push on, getting annoyed with her thought process, for at this rate, she reasoned, she wouldn’t make it out of the marsh.

            Through the mouth of another cave she could see another plaque on a small side room, yet this one only confirmed her previous reasoning- humans feared for their immortal souls, and attacked out of this fear.  Not even the softly churning waters of the hall she passed through calmed her mind.  What brought her out of her downward spiral was a sudden pitter-patter of flesh against smooth rock.  Alex turned to look down the hall she just passed, yet nothing could be behind her as the entire path was surrounded by water.  Shrugging, she looked forward, seeing another plaque glowing faintly, singing being heard from somewhere.

The northern room hides a great treasure.

            She popped her head around the corner, listening to find that the signing was coming from within.  It sounded like two little kids.  Smiling, she shook her head and walked to the next to plaques, not wanting to interrupt nor interested in treasure.  What she wanted was knowledge, and it thus said:

A human cannot take a monster’s soul.  When a monster dies, its soul disappears.

            “Where to?” she spoke to herself, imagining that they zapped upwards like reverse comets to live among the stars.  It continued to say that an incredible power would be needed to take such an ephemeral soul.  Alex slid to the next plaque, terribly curious.

There is only one exception.

            Her eyes grew at these words.  A “boss monster”, whose soul could last for a few seconds after its death.  The plaque read that human could absorb this soul, but it has never been done before.

And now it never will.

            With a sigh, she stuck her hands into the pockets of her jacket and trudged off, concern in her eyes. She could hear the sound of rain nearby, and so flipped on her deep green hood over her head.  Alex decided not to question how it rained underground as she felt her hair get wet from the water soaking through the fleece, but she didn’t care, for a stone statue glistened under a light before her.

            She looked around the statue, noting that it was rather smooth from all the water that fell on it.  Its hands were resting on its legs, face downcast. For some strange reason, she wished she had an umbrella, in hopes to make it feel not so lonely.  All she found, however, was a few smooth stones.  Taking one, she set it to its side, straightened herself out, and patted one of its horns, unable to hear the sloshing sounds of feet nearby.

            By the time she turned the corner her face was dripping wet, and so to remedy this she placed her pan on her head as a last-ditch effort to stay dry.  She walked past small tranquil islands of those talking flowers and clusters of cattails, towards a faintly glowing cluster of jagged boulders.  She turned another corner to find that a strong breeze pulled her toward the faint hallway.  It was here that the rain stopped, a hollow sound replacing the deafening fall of rain.  Passing the boulders, the empty abyss of the cavern greeted her.  Somewhere from above, thousands of luminescent rocks glittered through the deep darkness, all framing a distant castle that was flanked with smaller buildings. 

            The King is there.  Alex thought to herself as she shook her pan to get rid of excess water, footsteps echoing and then being swallowed in darkness.  The castle disappeared behind another cluster of boulders, and the rain returned.  Wringing her apron dry under the cover of the boulders, she folded them and tucked it into her jacket pocket.  Placing her pan over head once again, she hurried to a dead end a bit taller than she was.  Frowning for a bit, she gave a small hop and could see over the wall.  Tossing her pan over the ledge, she dug her feet into the wall and climbed, hefting herself over without much difficulty.  Tapping the front of her boots against the rock solid ground to get rid of the mud, she flipped her hood off as she spotted two more dry plaques.

The humans, afraid of our power, declared war on us.  They attacked suddenly and without mercy.

            The next one read:

In the end, it could hardly be called a war.  United, the humans were too powerful, and us monsters, too weak.  Not a single soul was taken and countless monsters were turned to dust…

            She huffed a warm breath into her cold hands. 

            Just who are the monsters again?

            She frowned at that sudden thought, and reasoned that fear would make anyone do irrational things, much like politicians during wartime.

            She frowned even deeper.

            That’s still pretty terrible.

            Hollow sounds of her steps on wood resonated as she walked.  Alex found herself in another dock area, where the docks looked much like a maze.  Luckily, she could see through the slight mist a large dock that hopefully lead to the way out.  Keeping an eye trained onto that dock, she tried several different paths which lead to dead ends, but figured that if she kept going south, she would find a path.  This would be very simple, if she was bothered by the scratching and scampering sounds she heard against the wood, followed by the churning of water.

            She went to her right to keep going down, her steps hurried as she heard the scratching grow louder, turning a corner in a stride.  She had hefted her pan to rest on her shoulder, looking as if she had a place to be in a few moments. Alex was about a few feet close to the threshold when she stopped.

            …

            She couldn’t hear the sounds anymore.  Lowering her pan, she glanced around herself, wondering just what made those sounds.  Lifting an eyebrow, she stepped on, only to hear a great splash from behind as her green heart rose out from in front of her. One misstep later, she felt cool water rush through her clothing, her pan sinking steadily past her as a faint green shield flickered out of sight.  And the world went dark.

--

            Alex could hear muffled talking coming from behind her. Coughing out water, she opened her eyes to find a soaked, faded DVD cover of… Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure?  Picking the rest of her body out of the water and sitting onto the solid rock she was initially resting against, she peered at the DVD in her hands with tired eyes, noting that the ridiculous poses and color scheme still appeared despite it being abandoned.

            “Hey. Hey! HEY! What’re ya doin’?”

            Alex looked up to an off-white, if not incredibly grumpy ghost.

            “What.  What!  WHAT!?  What’s with that look?  Are ya lost or something?”

            Rubbing at her temples, Alex nodded slowly, rising to her full height and clearing her throat, “Do you know where there’s another plaque?”

            “Follow me, then.”  The ghost replied gruffly, flying away though a small hall.

            Alex picked up her pan from the rock, stomping on the ground to drain the water from her shoes.

            “Hurry. Hurry! HURRY!  I don’t have all day!”

            The ghost lead Alex past a small pond and a few pathways, to a room with two slow falling waterfalls and small bugs (Alex supposed they were bugs) that flitted around the room as their wings sparkled in dim light.  There were three plaques, glowing a bit brighter than the previous ones.

            “Thank you.” Alex smiled at the ghost, who only shook its head.

            “Don’t thank me yet, human,” they replied with distaste, “You’re in for some bad news.”

            Her smile disappeared, replaced with a determined gaze.  She braced herself, reading that humans sealed the monsters underground with seven mages after they surrendered.  Anything can enter, but only “a powerful soul” can leave.

            She tapped her pan against her leg in frustration- there was that again.  What constitutes a powerful soul? A human soul is really strong, but is it strong enough?

            The next one was adorned with those whispering flowers overhead, the ghost hovered close by, looking over her shoulder as she read.

There is only one way to reverse this spell.  If a huge power, equivalent to seven human souls, attacks the barrier, it will be destroyed.

            She felt her stomach fall and her eyes widen.  The ghost shook their head and laughed cynically.

            Indeed, her soul alone wasn’t good enough.

            “Wanna know how many souls the King has so far?” asked the ghost, who floated around the flowers.

            “How many?”  She hoped there was at least six, for the monster’s sake, at least.

            “None. None! NONE!  You’re the second human to fall down here, and the first soul! You’re worthless. Worthless! WORTHLESS!”

            That… didn’t sound right.  “What happened to the first human?”

            “They died at the same time the King’s son did.  That soul was accidentally absorbed by the King’s son and do you wanna know what you humans did?”

            Torrez frowned, knowing all too well what was coming.

            “You KILLED him!  And because you killed him, any human who falls down here will be killed and used for the barrier.  You’re gonna die!”  They began to laugh dramatically, but stopped when they noticed that Alex went on to the next tablet.

            “Hey. Hey! HEY!  You’re supposed to be in despair!  Why aren’t you despairing?!”

            Alex eyes flitted over the glowing glyphs, “Don’t have the time to despair.  I have better things to do.”

            “Like what?!”

            “Like helping you guys out, for starters.  It says it needs seven souls, it doesn’t say anybody has to die.  If I can make it to the end, I can cross, get six other little buddies of mine and kick down the barrier.”

            The ghost blinked, and cackled, “It’ll take a lot more than your soul to cross, idiot!  A monster soul needs a human counterpart-  you need the King to cross! And one soul has to be without a vessel… you’re gonna haf’ta die!”

            At this, Alex shrugged “You’re all waiting for seven humans, right?  So what if I’m the first, you’ll feel better at the end of the day, right?”

            She could see that they were confused, “You’ll feel better knowing that you’re one step closer to getting out, right?  In my eyes, what’s one person such as myself compared to a whole, suffering population?”

            The ghost’s form scrunched up, “But you’re barely the first!! It could be eons before the next human falls, and no amount of hope can change that!”

            Alex had frankly had enough of the negativity that had been plaguing her thoughts.  She didn’t want it then, and she definitely didn’t want it now.  Her mind buzzed as she recalled famous individuals from her history class, like Martin Luther King, to stories like the mighty Mirabal sisters, and even to those cliché shounen characters, “Hope can either make or break the masses. It’s a catalyst that can sway millions… its brittle but its potent.” She replied, seeing the ghost scrunch up even further into themselves.

            “Whatever. Whatever! WHATEVER!! No amount of hope in the entire world can help me!! Not the Underground’s, not the King’s, not even yours!!”  they exploded, flying away hastily.

            Alex stared back down the hall she came from, “H-hey!” she called to them.

            No one answered.

            “What do you need help with?” she asked the air with a weak smile.

            But nobody came back.

            So she walked on, twirling her pan forward and back, coming to a dark room that had mushrooms and grass, one island being notably brighter than the rest.  Upon closer inspection, the mushroom responded to touch, and with a small tap, it lit a path to another mushroom.  She tapped that one, and walked to the next. 

            Then she felt her heart jump out of her chest.  Literally.  A shield, no, a pavise of great size was summoned as a small blue blur ran to Alex at full speed, thrashing at the shield with all its might.

            Alex cleared her mind as she saw that she was safe, and looked through her shield to see a small… fish girl? who was attacking her pavise with small little spears of wood and stone, screaming and shouting with every thrust.  Her little red fins shook and shivered as she attacked, and Alex could only watch as she continued her onslaught.

            Strangest thing was, Alex could hear the other little monster’s heartbeat.  Or… soulbeat?  It drummed to three-fourths time; the tempo of a waltz, and a fast one.  Her mind buzzed, and thought To Spare, be honest.

            “Ngaah!!! Arghh! Haaagghh!!” the little girl grunted, pulling out small spears from her overalls’ pockets.  When she ran out of spears, she summoned blue ones out of thin air and stabbed at the shield with those.  Alex peeked over her shield to watch as the little girl’s movements grew slower with tiredness.  She huffed the last few attacks out, stared at the shield, then at Alex, and hopped a few feet back, chest heaving.

            Alex could see the little girl clench her fists, a scowl on her face.

            “S’not fair!  If you didn’t have that shield, you’d be dead by now, human!”

            “That’s true.” Nodded Alex.

            “Get out from behind there and fight me!”

            “But I don’t wanna fight you.”

            “Tough!  I need to fight you!  You’re an enemy to monsters, and I need your soul to get us out of here!”  she stepped forward, her side fins perking outward.

            “But I’m already going to the King to give him my soul.” 

            The little girl lowered her head.

            …

            “Liar.”

            “Nuh-uh.”

            The little girl scratched at her leg with her foot, looking off to the side.  Alex waited for her to answer, her soul fading back to her chest, pavise vanishing as she took a seat on the dry grass.

            “Is...”  Alex looked up from her seat, “Is what you said true?  About hope?”

            She smiled, and nodded.  The little girl’s eyes widened, if only for a moment, and she stuck out her hand, tough gaze returning.

            “I’m Undyne and I’m five.  What’s your name?”

            Alex gently took her small webbed hand in hers, “Alex, and I’m seventeen.  You have a cool name, Undyne.”

            She could see her blue skin turn a purplish hue, “Thanks.  You need help getting to King Asgore, huh?  I’ll show you a way out of Waterfall, so you’re my prisoner for now.”

            Alex nodded, and let Undyne lead her by her hand.  While they walked, Undyne did the talking, “I know this room so well I don’t need to light the glow stones… Did you know that I saved you when you fell in the water? Wow!  Humans can’t swim for pebbles!... I was spying on you ever since you went into the Wishing Room, though you must’ve heard me a bit later, huh?”

            “Wishing room?  What did you wish for?”

            “Huh?  It wasn’t really a wish… it was more like… just saying stuff.”

            “What did you say, then?” asked Alex as she passed by a shining firefly, careful not to tread on the whispering flowers’ roots.

            “I said… oh hey!  The prophecy tablet!”  Undyne ran toward another plaque, this one covered with a few small roots and a bit of mildew, “Ugh, it’s a bit dirty… I’ll clean it later.”

            “What’s it say?”

            “It says that an angel who has seen the surface will return and the Underground will go empty… is it you?  Are you the angel?”

            Alex shook her head as she smiled, “I can’t be. I’ve never been here before.”

            “But you’re powerful!  If you punch the barrier you can break it, I bet.  I’ll help!”

            “Nah, I’m not that strong.”

            Undyne frowned, looking away in thought.  “You can be one of the angels, I guess… do you have wings?”

            “Last I checked, no.”

            Undyne laughed and punched her leg, “Come onnn!”

            They came to a cave where stalagmites and stalactites ruled, Undyne gripped her arm tightly, “Be careful here, if you trip, the water won’t break your fall, but the rocks underneath will break your face.”

            “Alright.” Replied Alex, slowly taking each step, skipping the planks that sounded too creaky.  Undyne had a death grip on her arm- she was evidently afraid of heights.  To take her mind off this, she decided to talk to her prisoner.

            “Hey, you gotta show me how to do that magic, it looked cool.”

            “I really don’t know how I do it Undyne.  It just happens.”

            “Aww, really?  It could take FOREVER before the next green human falls down here… I read somewhere that green souls are really rare among humans, too.”

            “Why’s that?”

            “Dunno.  I threw the book away because it was boring.  Then I got in trouble.”

            Alex looked down, concerned, “Why?”

            “It hit my teacher’s face.”

            “Whoops.”

            “Yep.”

            Undyne stopped her in front of a giant mass of jagged boulders, where hot wind blew her long red fin around.  Undyne tugged at Alex’s arm.

            “Can’t go here.  Let’s find another way.”

            “You sure?  It looks clear to me.”

            “This goes to Hotland.  It gets super hot and my scales get really dry.” She stuck her tongue out in disgust, and stood behind Alex, pushing with her entire body, “You won’t like it there.  Let’s… go!”  

            Alex gave her a small hug, “I’ll be fine.  Thank you, Undyne.  You’re really kind.”

            Undyne shook her head, “No, you won’t.  Now go back.  You’re my prisoner so you gotta do what I say!”

            “I’ll be right back.”

            “No you won’t!  Stop lying and saying it’ll be fine!”

            “Undyne…”

            “Stupid human!! Turn around!!” Undyne pushed and kicked and grunted, trying her best to budge the heavier girl.  Yet all she managed to do was kick up some dirt.

            “Hey, you can hold on to this.  That way you know for sure I’ll come back.”

            She reached into her pocket, pulling out her folded, messy apron.  She offered it to Undyne, who stopped her pushing, hands trembling as she was about to grab it.  But, she slapped it out of her hands in frustration, not letting gifts sway her. She began to cry, but she obviously didn’t care that she was- tears weren’t a sign of weakness.

            “You know what the ghost said!!  You’re my prisoner, so stay!” she grabbed at her legs and did her best to push her back to the caverns.

            “I gotta go, okay?  I want to help you.”

            Undyne shook her head, and let her grip go, “You- you-  you’re just a human! You’re my enemy!!  Do what you want, I don’t care if you die!  That’s all you’re good for, anyway!”

            Alex stepped away, knowing full well that she didn’t mean that.  Or rather, she hoped Undyne didn’t mean that.

            “Hurry up, will you! Go!!”

            Slowly, the human disappeared into the red haze past the hallway.

            And the little girl watched.  When she was definitely gone, Undyne took the discarded apron, and hugged it, muttering to herself about how dumb humans were.

Chapter Text

Hotland

 

            Little Undyne wasn’t kidding when she said it would be terribly hot.  Alex’s eyes had grown so accustomed to the dimness of Waterfall that she got a headache as she left the final cave.  After blinking hard, she squinted to find that lava surrounded practically everything.  She proceeded to take off her jacket, zip it up, and tie it around her waist.  She rolled up the sleeves of her green plaid to her elbows, secured the buttons, and held her frying pan carefully.  She had a rickety bridge to cross.

            She could see that there was a facility not too far from where she was, red letters spelling “LAB”, and so decided to focus on that in order for her to not look down. 

            “Just one step at a time.” She placed her hands on the wooden posts, and stepped forward.  A wave of heat met her as she stepped off the island, unrelenting and sweltering. Perspiration dripped from her hair and chin, and her hands became quite moist.  She felt her pan shimmy here and there in her grip, growing uncomfortably warm.  She made it across, wiped the sweat away with a sleeve, and knocked on the lab’s door, preparing to answer security questions. It slid open, the lights flickering on with a low hum.  No prompts were asked.

            The cool air welcomed her as she stepped in, the door closing behind her. She looked around and listened, to find that it was empty.

            “Hello?” she tried, peering up a conveyor, “is anyone here?”

            No response, save for a low tremor from the ground.  Alex looked to the floor in concern, and quickly made her way to the desk. She slid underneath to brace herself, her pan on her head./p>

            The building began to shake, with stacks of books falling to the ground and papers being roughly pushed from their folders and corkboards.  She could hear glass breaking from upstairs and plastic clacking to the ground.  Even the desk, which was bolted to the ground, shook violently, wood screeching against its placement on the ground.

            After a minute, the earthquake stopped, but Alex stayed put for another fifteen minutes, waiting for aftershocks that never came.  Cautiously, she scooted out of her hiding spot, looked at the mess and sighed.  She would help and clean, but that would best be left to the scientists that actually knew what went where. Though she was nervous, she left the lab and went to the outside.

            Conveyors and large piston looking things were everywhere, with clanking machinery adding to the rumbling of the magma far below.  It was humid and smelt of the metallic smell of machinery.  Steam was rising in the distance from another area held up by thick scaffolding, with two long, silver towers rising into the seemingly endless cavern. 

            Alex tightened her jacket, and rode onto a conveyor, which wound this way and that in swift and sudden motions, so she almost lost her balance.  A bit ruffled, but fine, she advanced on and found a glowing arrow that pointed to the next island a few feet away.   Stepping on it, she felt her heart fly to her throat as she was catapulted though the air and unto land.

            She trembled a bit, coughed as she murmured “válgame” and went to the next few arrows, shutting her eyes tightly for each lift off.  She came across an area of nothing but thick, winding pipelines for the floor.  Above she could see orbs with shining glass lenses attached to a metal fixture running through the area, not yet complete due to some metal plating missing here and there.  Following the pipes, she found more of the accursed steam vents as well as a great metal door with two red lights.  From beyond she could hear steady rumbling, as if a great object was ramming against the earth.  Alex noticed that the arrow on the vent pointed in all directions for certain intervals, and so stepped to go left, knowing that there was no possible way she could open a door of such immense size.  No, there must be a way around.

            On the left she found an alcove adorned with an upside-down heart.  It looked dark, yet Alex could see light coming from the inside.  Entering, a screen glowed with two arrows, one pointing at the other and a red tear drop on the yellow ship’s side.  A small note was taped to the screen, and thus read.

            “Hit the opposing ship.  *Finish writing program.”

            She looked to the small joystick jutting out from the wall, and fiddled with it.  Nothing moved, not even her little yellow ship.  She pressed the small red button, and the red tear drop fired and shot the other ship in half.  A happy jingle played, with the words “Congratulations!”  lighting up above the screen.  She waited to see if there was another level, but nothing appeared.  She drummed at her sides, picked up her pan, and left. 

            From afar she could see that one of the giant doors lights shined in green, and the heart above the alcove flashed in white lights.  She quickly gathered that the other side held a game to play that, if solved, will open the door.  So without much hesitance, she rode the vents and entered the other alcove. 

            This screen had an additional two white squares that were immovable.  She had two shots, but only needed one since the opposing ship was right there. With a small tap of the button, the ship snapped in two and Alex headed out to see the door, hopping onto a vent, genuinely excited of her progress, even if it wasn’t much.

            The door slid open slowly, it’s metal grating against the small chalky rocks of the ground.  Hefting her pan to her shoulder she passed through.  The air wasn’t as thick here, and a bit cooler.  To celebrate (but mostly to sate her hunger) Alex took out a squished cinnamon bunny and ate. Things were looking up.

            A colossal object tore through the air, ramming the ground to Alex’s left, knocking her off-balance.  It released a cloud of dust and pebbles that stung as they hit Alex’s face.  Another object ripped through the air, but green sparks flew as it met Alex’s pavise.  Struggling to get to her feet, Alex saw the biggest being she had ever seen, wielding an immense morningstar.  Their armour was the deepest shade of blue, as if midnight was infused into the metal, and shining eyes on the breastplate surveyed the area while the helmet was trained on her.  This was unfortunate because Alex had a cinnamon bunny bottom sticking out of her mouth.

            A deep voice of a woman spoke as a brightly shining yellow ball rose from behind her, “It’s too loud.  Goodnight.”

            Fireballs shredded out from the orb and struck anything within range.  Alex’s pavise curved itself ever so slightly to compensate for the attack, so with a bit of skill she stood her ground and blocked the whirling fireballs by moving her shield every so often.  She watched to see if the knight would make any other moves, forcing the rest of cinnamon bunny down her throat as she listened to the monster’s soul.  It was lulling, but chaotic, much like Smetana’s Die Moldau, she thought.

            The ground shook violently from under her, Alex looking to the knight to find that she had her morningstar driven into the ground.  Without much thought, Alex jumped and found that a glowing green platform lifted her away from the ground.  Just in time, too, as several menacing morning stars pierced through the air just underneath her.

            The orb appeared again, and flickered to a light blue flame.  Alex jumped off her platform and summoned her pavise again.  A yawn could be heard as a crescent formed on the orb, the knight sleepily breathing, “Adieu.”

            That yawn made Alex feel worlds more tired.  How long had it been since she slept?  But the better question was, did the knight just feel sleepy?  As she hid from the mini meteors that burst against the ground, she felt that it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

            Popping her head over the pavise, she enquired, “Are you tired?  D-do you want to sleep?”

            The knight lowered her morningstar, and nodded.

            “Can you sing?” she asked, settling down as she motioned Alex to come closer.

            Alex’s soul returned to her, “No, but I can tell stories.  Is that alright?”

            The knight made a sound of agreement, and made herself comfortable on the ground, inviting Alex to lie with her, noticing that Alex looked rather worn-out as well.

            “Anything you want the story to be about?”

            She could see the knight twiddle her gloved fingers for a moment, “The stars.”

            “Okay then, I know a good one.  Up in the sky, there’s a celestial scorpion whose stars burn bright red.  It’s been burning for so long that some have forgotten why it’s up there.  But it burns because of its wish that it made while it was still alive.

            “One day, as it hunted for bugs to eat, the scorpion was chased by a weasel, who wanted to eat him since it hadn’t eaten in so long.  The scorpion ran and dodged with all its might, but was pinned by the weasel.  Yet it could see a well not too far away, and so struggled and squirmed out of the weasel’s grasp and fell right into the well.

            “The scorpion figured it’ll climb right out once the weasel left, but the stones lining the well were so slippery, and the scorpion’s claws weren’t made to grasp things like this.  It was going to die down there, and as it struggled, the weasel peeked into the well to see its lost meal.  The scorpion could now clearly see how starved the weasel looked, and guessed that it expended the last of its energy just to catch a bug like itself.  The weasel walked away to go die, and the scorpion cried out-

            ’I’ve survived off of killing living creatures for all my lifetime, and now I’ve refused life’s ways itself!  Why didn’t I just give my body to the weasel so it could live another day?  Now life will be wasted, all by my choices.  Dear Providence, in my next life please use my existence for the goodness and happiness of all!  I don’t want it to be wasted.’

            “And it saw its body turn a bright red, and it burst into flames, shooting to the sky and bringing beautiful flame to share with all.  It burns to this very day.”

            “How was-.“ Alex stopped herself, as she could her soft, peaceful breathing reverberate through the helmet.  Even the eyes of the breastplate were closed, sleeping like its wearer.  Folding her arms behind her head, Alex looked up to the endless cavern, where deep red light illuminated the walls.  Her eyes grew heavy, not minding how uncomfortable the ground really was, and she drifted to sleep.

-- --

            The Apothecary grinded at the herbs in her pestle, not relenting until the dried leaves of sage and rosemary were a fine powder.  This was for an old couple who had rheumatism just a ways down the village path.  A pounding on the door sounded, bringing the Apothecary’s attention from her work.  A patient lying on a simple cot stirred from their nap from the loud banging, the Apothecary simply exchanging their medicinal cloth for a newly soaked one.

            The door was pushed open, followed by two soldiers who had her husband and child held by their arms.  Her husband looked as if he tumbled down the face of Mt. Ebott itself.  Angry, she rushed to the front of her workspace, stopping just when an armoured knight stepped through her threshold, obviously the commander of the other two.

            “Evening, Apothecary.  We were wondering if you could spare a minute of your time to hear a proposition we have for you.” He spoke with an accent that came from the far deserts, just as she did.

            She wiped her hands on her work apron, “First, you would do me the honor of letting my family go.”

            The armoured man shook his head, “Terribly sorry, they’re our bargaining chips for the time being.”

            The Apothecary frowned, “I’ve already given to this terrible cause.  I’ve run out of bandages and proper alcohol thanks to your lot.”

            “Oh, no,” the armoured man chuckled, “We didn’t come for medical supplies.  We’ve come for, well…”  He held out a sheet of parchment.

            The Apothecary shot him a glare as she took it cautiously.  It was a court order for…

            She shook her head slowly, angry, and scared, “You will do no such thing.”

            “But we must.  Don’t you care for your immortal soul?  For your fellow man?”

            “Not when they kill innocents all for the sake of fear.”

            The armoured man frowned, “So sorry to hear that…” he lifted his hand, and the one wearing a red shawl pulled out a dirty sword, where dried blood still remained in the scratches and cracks, and rested it on her husband’s back.

            “No!”  the Apothecary surged forward, only to have a spear be pointed at her neck by a foot soldier in a dingy orange tunic.

            “Hold, Knight.  Stay your sword, Executioner.” Said the armoured man, “It’s either you or them, Apothecary.  You are the last piece we need, being that you’re the only proper barrier-maker humanity has known of.”

            “I don’t deal in spells and magic anymore!  Leave my family and I be!”

            “So it must be difficult, then… Executioner, Knight... do as I have ordered you.”

            “Yes, Constable.” Replied the Knight, producing rope as she tied the child to one of the supports of the house.  The Executioner did the same, tying the half-conscious man to another post.

            “What are you- untie them at once!!”

            The Constable only checked his gloved hands in response.  Irritated, the Apothecary’s eyes shined dangerously green, and shot out her hand, only for the Constable to summon a dagger and hold it at her throat, standing behind her when just a few seconds ago he was a few feet in front of her.

            His eyes shone a light blue, “You are testing my patience, Apothecary.  It’s either you or them.” 

            The Apothecary stood still, indignant and unmoving, her glare intense.  The Constable glanced behind her, and the Executioner, with a swift motion of their hand, struck the hilt of their sword against the Apothecary’s head.  All went dark.

-- --

            Rhythmic movement and the steady clinking of metal brought Alex out of slumber.  She couldn’t open her eyes just yet, but could feel the aching emptiness of her stomach, the warm, smooth metal against her cheek, and a sturdy arm holding her up.

            “That was a sad story.” The knight said as she marched on, careful not to drop the human.

            Alex rubbed at her eyes, confused “Oh, it is.  I read it when I was smaller… can’t forget it for some reason.”

            The sound of great pistons locking and releasing of their calculated positions could be heard, “You’re not a red flame.”

            “Hm?”

            “You’re green.  Like plants.”

            “…Thank you, uhm…”

            “KnightKnight.”

            Alex smiled as she was put down, “KnightKnight… gracías.”

            KnightKnight bowed, hand to her chest “Continue down this path and do not let anyone see you… Adieu.”

            She turned, and marched back from where she came, Alex watching her disappear into the white haze.  She dusted herself off, bit into the last cinnamon bunny, and surveyed her surroundings.

            All she could see was a mammoth, droning, machine with many blooming lights of red, blue, and yellow.  The only pathway into the mechanism was a bright white light.  Alex tightened her jacket, tapped the toes of her shoes against the ground and held the pan’s handle near its body.

            Rumbling could be heard as she walked toward the light.  The light tapping of her shoes against metal grates kept her alert as one thing ran through her mind.

            “Don’t get seen.”

            She stepped through the threshold, being met with a glowing white abyss and a warm breeze shooting upward.  It smelled of electricity and rain, and the only pathways were those of scaffolds.  The center of it all was a single metal tower, where all the present grates and catwalks converged to.

            “Ay mierda…” she muttered.  Was she kidding herself?  She was always terrible at hide-and-seek when she was little.  Stealth wasn’t her forte, and she wasn’t so small that she could fit just about anywhere.  That is, if there even was anywhere to hide.

            Besides giant release valves shooting out flame and the deafening noise of whatever was in the white abyss below, erratic rumbling was heard.  Every time she heard it, she would scramble to the nearest catwalk and cling to the poles, but nothing would follow.  She wandered aimlessly, having no idea where to go.  Even if she did see someone, she felt that her first urge wouldn’t be to flee, but to ask for directions.

            After what seemed like an hour, she passed the giant tower where there was more bustling compared to her previous section.  Robotic arms placed metal sheets and framework along a few pathways, riding along the bars of catwalks to go to where they must.  Sparks flew as they welded, and a few monsters dressed in pristine lab coats perused the paths, checking their charts and layouts on their clipboards. 

            With a bit of waiting, she let a pair pass by as they walked toward the tower, hiding behind one of the robotic arms busy welding a circuit board to the walls.  Alex quickly stepped down the catwalk and crossed a few metal grates.  She ran her hand along the railings as her eyes darted to see if there were any exits.  What she didn’t notice was a cat-monster staring as she walked past.  She only noticed when she turned to survey the area behind her.  Her eyes widened, stepping back into the railing.

            She could see them trembling, and so held out her hands slightly, “Woah, it’s oka-” but she couldn’t finish, for an earsplitting blast erupted from somewhere below, shaking the entire facility as if it was made of nothing but twigs and loose rubber bands.  Alex shut her eyes as she winced from the noise, dropping her pan which clattered off the grates and to the whiteness below.  She clung to the rails, her knuckles turning white from holding on so tightly.  Yet another sound brought her out of it.  Opening her eyes, she could see the cat monster hanging from the other side of the railings, eyes wide in terror, breathing panicked.

            “H-he-elp.”  They managed to say as Alex rushed over.

            As she stooped over and grabbed hold of their arms, a wailing alarm sounded off.  Alex supposing that it meant that a machine broke, and placed a foot onto one of the lower rails.

            “Grab my arms.” She directed, beginning to pull them up.  She could feel claws dig into her skin, their paws shaking.  Hefting them up so that she had her hands under their shoulders, Alex grunted, “See if you can get on the railing.”

            Frantic scratching could be heard, as well as hurried tapping in the distance.  The monster found their footing, and Alex wrapped them in a bear hug around their stomach and, with a burst of strength, lifted them over the rails and spilled onto the grates with them as well.

            They quickly pushed themselves away from her, huffing in shock.  Alex wiped the sweat from her face, and tried to make herself as non-threatening as possible.  She looked to the floor, breathed slowly… anything to have the other calm themselves.

            Voices could be heard, the tapping from before was running.  The alarms’ yellow lights still flashing.

            “W-why did you help me?” the monster asked, their breath returning.

            “No puedo ignorar a algien que necesita ayuda.”  She replied, looking straight into their eyes.  They squinted in confusion, “It means, ‘I can’t ignore those who need help’.”

            Monsters surrounded the two, a few swarming around the one who almost fell, chattering away about safety precautions and blast intervals.  They kept a wary eye on Alex, keeping their distance as they whispered and helped the cat monster up.

            Then it grew silent, save for the sound of steady footfalls coming from behind Alex.  The monsters parted to reveal a tall skeleton with silver irises floating around in their dark eye sockets.  . He stopped, and looked at the two on the floor, eyes eventually resting on Alex. Without a word, he removed his arm from his back and raised his hand. Blue flame erupted from his skeletal fingers while his left eye burned as well.  Alex’s soul rose out from her chest, now a light blue, and she was picked up from off the floor, feeling especially strange.

            “Get him to the infirmary.  Please continue with your work.” The skeleton said in a modulated, calm voice, walking toward the tower, taking Alex with him.  Able to pivot her head, she watched as the others escorted the cat monster to one of the walls, where there was completed machinery whirring away, as well as windows where the forms of many monsters were seen scuttling busily about.

            “Did you know that there are security cameras installed on every catwalk?”  asked the skeleton, bringing Alex to attention.

            “I saw you sneaking about.  It was rather amusing to watch, but then one of my assistants took a spill over the rails.  I was about to lift him up as I am doing to you now, but you came to him instead.”

            Silence followed, save for the sound of shoes against metal and humming magic.

            “Actually, I knew of your existence ever since you entered Hotland… You played with one of my little projects.”

            Alex stiffened.

            “It’s quite alright.  It was just a prototype.  I’m glad you tested it out, though one of my assistants was quite surprised to find it already done for him.” He chuckled, turning to her slightly, “Ah, here you go…”

            She was lowered to the ground, her soul returning to her as it reverted to green once again.  The scientist held out his hand, “Dr. W.D. Gaster, it’s a pleasure.”

            She smiled and shook his hand gently, “Alex Torrez.”

            Gaster returned the smile, his eye still a vibrant blue, and motioned her to follow, “To be frank, I felt anxious when I first saw you on our cameras.  Of course, all that was washed away when you saved my thermal engineer.”

            They arrived at the tower, where the walls shimmered metallically.  He tapped at a small keypad on the wall, and a door slid open.  Gaster stepped aside, “This way…  Whatever is the matter?”

            Alex didn’t realize she looked worried, “It’s nothing.  I just remembered that I scared your engineer.  I hope he’s doing alright.”

            Gaster blinked, his eye flickering “I’m sure he’s quite fine.  Please rest in here for the time being.  I’ll return in a moment.”

            The room she was brought to looked like a break room, with a small table, a few chairs, a fridge, a sink, and a few cabinets.  She thanked Gaster, who closed the door behind her, and took a seat.

            She tapped at her chest, testing to see if her soul would do that color changing trick again.

            …

            “He’s nice.”

֍

            Gaster briskly walked to the infirmary, eye still glowing as he “watched” his guest.  Turning a corner, his thoughts ran a million miles an hour, along the lines of-

            “How did a human get this far?”
            “Are they malignant?”

            “Where’s my clipboard?”

            “What are their intentions?”

            “What of my liege?”

            A group of monsters could be seen gathered at the door of one of the rooms, loudly chattering as they crowded the one who was saved by the human.  Yet once they saw the appointed Royal Scientist making his way, they dispersed and shushed themselves.

            His thermal engineer looked at him with a bit of surprise, but nodded in respect, “Hello, Sir Gaster.”

            “Zanelli,” Gaster regarded, sitting on a chair at the engineer’s bedside, “I hope you’re not too shaken.”

            “I’m fine, Sir.”

            “I’d like you to tell me of the human.  Anything is fine.”

            “O-oh, ah… Well, when I first saw them, they looked as if they were lost.  They also looked tired.  I myself was shaken when I spotted them, especially so when they knew I was there.  They were also surprised, and tried to calm me, and then the blast from the thermal undulations threw us off balance.”

            “I saw that, yes.”

            “It didn’t take them long to come to my aid… I may have, uh, injured them a bit with my claws, but they didn’t seem to mind at all.  I suppose I was a bit heavy, since they fell to the floor once they helped me over the rails.  I…”

            Gaster could see Zanelli clench at the mattress, “I pushed myself away… I’m sure I was still wary of what they could be capable of… or what I’ve heard of humans, at least.  Not the best way to show gratitude, eh?”

            Gaster shook his head, “You can never be too careful, my friend.  No one blames you for your caution.”

            Zanelli nodded, “And they said the strangest thing.  I asked them why they did what they did, and at first they replied in what I believe is their initial human language, but then translated for me, and said, ‘I can’t ignore those who need help.’”

            A blue eye flickered to its usual silver, “She said that?  Did she say anything of the King?”

            Zanelli shook his head, “No, sir.”

            Gaster stood, and bowed his head slightly in thanks, “Rest, Zanelli.  The human also doesn’t blame you for your reactions.  She seemed worried for you, in fact.  Excuse me.”

            Zanelli, whose eyes widened at the words, nodded slightly as Gaster left.

֍

            Alex tapped her fingers as she slouched over the table, tired but not sleepy.  She would have some of the fruit, but felt. that it was more for the workers and scientists than herself.  She propped her head up by her chin, deep in thought.

            How close am I to the King?

            She remembered what the grumpy ghost said… that humans killed the King’s son and adoptive human. She closed her eyes.  Wouldn’t anyone be “terrible” if they lost their children? 

            How does my mom feel right now?

            She tried to remember her dream, but all she could remember was that a family was torn apart.  She buried her head into her arms in an attempt to recollect more, but a surprised gasp brought her out of her thoughts.

            She picked up her head to find another skeleton, which was much smaller and stouter than Dr. Gaster.  They’re pupils shook within their sockets, their left one glowing blue like the doctor’s did.  They looked scared.

            “Um… I was told to wait in here by Dr. Gaster.  Sorry if I’m scaring you.”

            They calmed, but just little.  She could see that they still trembled, and… sweated?  This wasn’t good, so she decided to take a more direct approach.  An Undyne-like approach.

            “I’m Alex and I’m seventeen.  What’s your name?”

            They looked at her in confusion, and spoke, “I’m Sans… fourteen?”

            Alex noted that their mouth didn’t open at all when they spoke, which was pretty cool to say the least, “Nice to meet you, Sans.  Sorry if I’m in the way of anything.”

            He climbed onto a seat, careful not to get his small lab coat caught on anything.  He rested his arms on the table, and looked off to the side, still a bit nervous.

            I need an icebreaker thought Alex, I’m dying from this pretense.

            “Hey… you like jokes?”

            Sans looked up, and nodded.  That got his attention.

            “Okay… Do you know the name Pavlov?”

            Sans nodded, smiling a bit.

            “Rings a bell, huh?”

            He grinned, laughing.  Alex thought of another one.

            “Schrodinger’s cat walks into a restaurant.” she began, Sans calming himself for another.

            “And doesn’t.”

            He laughed harder, lying his face down on the table.

            “There was a group of protestors in front of a physics lab.  They chanted, ‘What do we want?’ ‘Time travel!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Irrelevant!!’”

            The boy was howling with laughter, holding his sides as he smiled contagiously.  He picked himself up, “I’m-heh!-I’m…”  He attempted to control himself, “So I’m reading a book on anti-gravity…”

            “I bet you can’t put it down.”

            “Nooooo,” he laughed, “you beat me to it!”

            Alex chuckled, “I guess I read it before you did.”

            That did it.  He burst into laughter, which made Alex laugh, too.  They laughed until their sides hurt.  They laughed so much they didn’t notice Dr. Gaster walk in, who could only look at the two kids doubled over on the table in confusion.

            “Did I miss something amusing?” he asked, Alex calming herself to a smile, while Sans hopped off his seat.

            “Dad… she has jokes,” he turned to Alex, “Say another one!”

            “Alright… Doctor, how much space is needed for fungi to properly grow?”

            Sans smiled widely in anticipation, “I don’t know.” Said the doctor.

            “As mushroom as possible.”

            Gaster blinked, and chuckled.  Sans turned to him, “You should’ve heard her other ones! Lemme tell you…”

            He repeated all the other jokes, and with each one Gaster laughed more and more.

            “Nyuh-huh-huh! Oh! Before I forget, I’ve come by to assure you that my thermal engineer is doing alright.  He thanks you for your help.”

            Alex felt a wave of relief rush over her, “That’s good.” She was genuinely glad that the engineer was in good health.  Yet she frowned a bit, remembering what she came all this way for.

            “Say, would you happen to know where King Asgore’s castle is?”

            There weren’t any more smiles at this point.  Sans’ grin fell, and Gaster frowned, eyes filled with concern.  He quickly regained his composure, however, and turned to his son.

            “Sans, can you see if you can find my clipboard?  I believe I misplaced it in lab four…”

            “S-sure, dad.”  Sans nodded, still looking worried, and left.

            Once Sans was definitely out of earshot, Gaster spoke turning to open the door “You wish to return to the surface, I presume?”

            “That’s out of the question for me.  Not so much for you guys, though.”

            That caught him off guard.  Gaster turned to her, Alex continued, “After all, I’m only a fraction of the solution.”

            He blinked, “How can you smile so when you know your demise is near?”

            She shrugged, “I guess just knowing is enough for me?  Up on the surface… how I was living before, not knowing what I’ll eat next, if I’ll be a good sibling, if I’ll fulfill my dreams… I hated the uncertainty.  Down here, I know I’ll be helpful to many, like I’ve always wanted to be.  I know where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do… It’s convenient.”

            Gaster shook his head.  Weren’t humans usually gushing with determination?  Yet this one seemed as if she hadn’t a drop of it.

            Alex wasn’t finished, “Truthfully? … I just want everyone to be happy.”

            Gaster’s eyes widened.  There it was.  In her eyes.  She wasn’t built to live for herself, but for others.  Of the seven types of human souls, this was one of the rarer ones.  The green soul of Kindness.

            Yet that reason itself couldn’t keep his sadness at bay.  He opened the door and led her to the end of the CORE area, neither of them saying a word.  An elevator to the castle stood just down a long hall.  She turned, about to thank him for escorting her all the way here, when the soft sounds of wings were heard.  Gaster spotted Whimsalot, who was hovering just over their heads, wings shimmering in the dim light.

            “The long battle is beginning to come to an end…” they whispered, lowering themselves so that they were just in front of Alex, “There’s still hope, after all.”

            “Hello, there.” Alex greeted, holding her hands out so Whimsalot can rest.

            Whimsalot fluttered closer to land, and peered through their mask, “Courage…” they decided, patting Alex’s head as they took to the air again, “No regrets…”

            “If you want to call it that, I suppose…” Alex commented, smiling sincerely as she watched the monster flutter away.

            A moment of silence.  She smiled at Gaster, “Thank you again for helping me, Dr. Gaster.  I hope I’ll return the favor someday soon.”

            He nodded, and stood silent as she turned to her path.  A few steps in, and he couldn’t keep his silence anymore.  Professionalism be damned.

            “Alex.” He called.  She turned, attention on him.  How could she still be smiling?

            “Your actions will bring us Monsters what we thought we had lost forever.  Thank you for your kindness.”

            She nodded, “It’s been a pleasure.”

            And she left.  Gaster closed his eyes, breathing deeply.  All the while he burned the kind human’s memory into his own. 

            She will make a fine DT subject.

Chapter Text

New Home

 

            Pristine slabs of quartz made up the pathway to the castle.  Despite the many towers and fortifications that surrounded it, they were unmanned.  The capital buzzed with life from below, yet upon the pathway to the castle, all was quiet. 

            Even when she entered, not a single soul was around.  One would think it’d be teeming with servants and officers, but no one passed her by.  Her steps echoed against the halls. And soon she found herself deep within the castle itself.  She grew anxious, and hurried her steps along the pathways.  She hoped, even though her end was near, that she wasn’t going to get in trouble for roaming the King’s castle uninvited.

            She abruptly turned a corner, and stopped dead in her tracks.  She looked over her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating. Yet it was here.

            Toriel’s house.

            Her eyes stung as they welled with tears.  Alex rubbed at them, and slowly walked into the house.

            More tears fell as she saw that it was an exact replica.  She sniffled, and walked toward where the living room would be, half-expecting Toriel to be sitting on that great chair of hers.  No one was there, yet it was warm, as if someone was just here.  The fire was low, but kept the temperature comfortable.

            She spotted a piece of paper on the table.  Noting that the yellow flowers were the exact same ones she fell on, she picked up the note.

            I’m downstairs! Help yourself to whatever you’d like.

            She placed it back down, and walked to entrance.  She stepped down the stairs, and slowly made her way down the long corridor, trying her hardest to not be taken by her memories.  She turned to the corner to find vines clinging to a bricked wall with columns flanking an entrance. There was a plaque on the wall.

            Throne room

            She gathered all the thoughts she had, trying to calm her nerves.  She always wanted to become a doctor to help people…  Now she’ll be helping an entire civilization.  Isn’t that the same thing?

            As she stepped though the threshold, the scent of freshly turned earth greeted her.  The throne stood in the center of the room, surrounded by small patches of golden yellow and healthy green.  Was the king not here? She heard low humming, and turned to find a gardener, off to the corner tending to a small patch of the golden flowers.  They were quite big, and wore what looked like a pink sweater.

            They seem nice… Talking to them may calm me a bit. Torrez reasoned, and so made her way to them, careful not to step on any of the blooms.

            “E-excuse me,” she called as she stepped over the flowers, “I’m sorry for bothering you, but can you tell me where the King is?  You see, I have… something…” she saw the gardener rise to full height, and a small, golden crown atop his head. He turned, and his eyes widened.

            “To give him… Hello.” Alex finished, giving a small nod with her head.

            His eyes looked terribly sad, “Howdy.” he greeted.

            She realized she was still staring, and so quickly averted her gaze to the floor.  She rubbed at her arm, “I’m sorry.”

            Asgore tilted his head, confused, “Whatever for?” She had just gotten here, after all.

            “For trapping you down here… for your children… I’m sorry.” Her voice quavered, and Asgore felt a heaviness fall upon him.

            He knelt, and offered a hand, “No that wasn’t you... that was… was…” he lost his words as a rich, green glow filled the room.  His hands trembled.

            Alex was holding out her soul, the pavise standing behind her.  She pushed her hands forward, “Here…”

            Asgore looked at it in horror, shocked.

            Alex found her words, “Take my soul and use it to help your kingdom and yourself… You can cross the barrier and ask a few humans to, uh…kick the barrier down?” 

            Yet Asgore saw in her eyes that she knew that it didn’t work like that.  She knew what had to be done.

            Her hands wavered, if only for a moment, “M-maybe you can get people who are about to hurt others and take their souls… if you w-want?”  Asgore saw that the very thought of killing anyone didn’t sit well with her.  Not in the slightest.

            “Th-though I don’t blame you if you don’t want to hurt anyone… whatever your decision is, I’ll stand by you…”

            She gave a small laugh, “In spirit.”

            He so wanted to send her away.  To send her home.  To wish her well and that her life would be prosperous.  But he couldn’t, and he knew that.  She knew that, too. 

            “But…” he began, voice also shaking, “I didn’t offer you tea, yet.”

            He smiled weakly as she shook her head, “No thank you.  You’re very kind.”

            His eyes began to sting, “You know… I so hoped that when a human fell down here, they’d be terrible… But…” He sniffled, “You’re not terrible… why are you not terrible?”

            She shook her head all the while, “Sorry… It would help, wouldn’t it?”

            She stepped forward, hands outstretched as her soul floated in her palms.  Asgore breathed out shakily- she didn’t have the power to muster any animosity, did she?  Slowly, carefully, he cupped his hands around her soul.  Gingerly, he picked it up, and as soon as he did, all life left her body.

            He caught her with one of his arms, and could see that she was still smiling.  He looked to the soul, which radiated a gentle warmth.  It glowed in its rich green color, and Asgore felt tears spill to his fur.  He shook his head slowly, and choked back a sob- how could he possibly use this gentle soul to kill others?  It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be fair to her.

            It would be an insult to her memory.

            He laid her onto the bed of yellow flowers and picked himself up from the ground.  He cupped the soul near his chest, draped his cape over his shoulders, and decided to visit his old friend, Wingdings.

            She needed a proper tomb, after all.

Chapter Text

Retrograde

 

            He walked down the streets at a steady trot, brown curls bouncing with every step he took.  A few people merely glanced at the little boy as he passed on through.  He passed all the town’s shops and headed straight for the mountain trail, not stopping once to look back.  He trekked past a few hikers along the trail, who watched him pick his way up in his clunky leather boots, wondering as to why a small cowboy wandered the forest alone.  Yet, with all the luck he had tucked onto his hat and in his back pocket, he climbed up the mountain at a careful and steady pace.

            I’m gonna climb this mountain and…

            As he climbed over a rock his empty gun clattered out of his leather holster.  With pursed lips, he picked up the smooth wooden handle that had the name “Manuel” carved into it and stuffed it back into its holster, making sure to button in the strap to hold it in place.  With a final shimmy of his jeans, Manuel set to climbing again.

            It was only when the sun was high in the sky did he find the barrier. His bright yellow eyes gleamed, smile spreading from ear to ear.

            ¡Lo encontré!

            It said in the papers that she disappeared here on Mt. Ebott.  Even the two that were scaring his sister said that she just vanished.  Of course, the town didn’t believe them and put them in jail.  But Manuel never believed what the paper said in the end.  He felt that very newspaper he made a copy of in his pant pocket.  There was no way she was dead.  They never found the body after all.  Now Manuel had proof right before him.  Those who climb Mt. Ebott never return, and this giant hole was the cause of it.

            She was down there.  And Manuel was going to find her.

            Checking that his belt and holster were secure, Manuel walked backwards, readying himself.  He stopped himself, however, and grabbed his hat, holding onto it tightly in his hand.

            He stepped back, smile on his face, and ran at full speed.  With a leap, he fell downwards, closing his eyes to brace himself.

Chapter Text

Ruins

 

            Slowly, Manuel picked himself up from the soft ground.  He opened his eyes to find that he was in a bed of yellow flowers.  His long lashes had bits of pollen in them and so rubbed at his eyes with his hands.  He checked his hat for his luck- the four-leaf clover he picked was still there, nicely tucked into his hat’s band of red cloth. Picking himself up, he noticed that he crushed quite a few flowers.  He wiped at his yellow plaid sleeves and leather vest, and crouched to inspect the damage he had done.  Even picking up a blossom in an attempt to get it to stand upright didn’t work- it would fall limp onto the ground.

            I need sticks.

            Putting his hat back on, he scoured the area for any small sticks, yet all he found was rocks.  Disappointed, he plopped onto a nearby rock, moving a pebble along with the tip of his boots.  How was he going to fix the flowers now?

            He didn’t notice a great shadow loom over him, not until it overcame the shadow the rim of his hat created.  Eyes widening, he quickly hopped off the rock, his right hand shooting to his holster. 

            “It is quite alright, my child.  Everything will be alright.” A lovely voice sounded, causing Manuel to stop trembling.  He let his hands fall to his sides as he looked at a tall, elegant and soft looking chivo-lady. 

            “What is your name, dear?”

            Manuel blinked, and shook his head, remembering that his mamá told him it was impolite to stare.  He took off his hat and held it to his chest, “My name is Manuel Torrez, but I like Manny, too.  What is your name, señora?”

            The grand lady, whose eyes were wide, crinkled into a warm smile, “My name is Toriel, and I tend to this place,” She noticed Manuel’s face shoot up in surprise, “What is it, child?”

            He tugged at her dress, “I accidentally fell on a few flowers in that garden… do you have anything to fix their stems?”

            Toriel patted Manny’s head, “I do, but first let’s get you to rest.  You look tired, so I’ll tend to them later.  Come along.”

            She took his small, dark hand into her soft clawed one, and they walked.  They walked past pink-bricked halls with green vines, small canals rushing with gurgling, clean water, and a few piles of red leaves.  As they walked, Manuel noticed small green jellos wiggling about slowly, as well as pale frogs hopping here and there.  An occasional fairy would flutter by quietly, looking sad, while small little goblins with one big eye waddled about.  And, though he thought he was seeing things, Manny swore he saw a bug twirling about, swinging its arms and buggy hips.

            They came to the bare tree, where Manny could see a small house carved into the stone.  His eyes lit up, shoving his small hand into his back pockets.  Toriel looked down to him, watching with a smile, “What are you doing, Manny?”

            “You have a house here!  That means Alex is here!”

            Toriel stopped dead in her tracks, a terrible, cold feeling sinking down in her stomach.  She steadied her breathing as she watched him rummage through his back pockets, pulling out a small, glossy photo.

            “This is my sister, Alex.  She disappeared on the mountain right before I was born.  Everyone says she died because people were scaring her, but I think she’s here!  Because when I was younger, mí mamá told me that there were nice monsters in the mountain… señora?”

            He stopped himself as he noticed that Toriel was crying, with wet trails down her furry cheeks.  He tucked the photo away, “You don’t have to cry, Toriel.  I know it’s sad, but I’ll find her!  She must’ve met another nice monster like you, so I’m not too worried.”

            Toriel let out a sob, and held her hand to her mouth, holding Manny’s hand tightly.  Manny took off his hat and gave her a hug.  They stayed like this for a while.  A few of the small monsters gathered to watch from afar, but Toriel was able to compose herself.

            “Forgive me, my child… I just… It must’ve been so hard for you.” She sniffled, taking him into her arms

            Manny blinked, kicking at a stray leaf, “It’s okay… When I was small I cried a lot, but now I know where she is!  She’s with a nice monster somewhere in this mountain.”

            “I’m sure she is… are you hungry?  When we go inside, I’ll show you your new room and while you change, I’ll bake a pie.”

            She saw his big eyes widen, and she chuckled, “You might want to take a small nap.  I’ll wake you when it’s ready.”

            “Yes, señora!”  he nodded, his dimpled smile making the house all the brighter.  She lead him to his room, turning on the lamp next to the door. The room that had a bed that was perfect for Manny, with a soft looking quilt and plush pillow, and two stuffed goats sitting against the wall, their bead eyes shining.  A small box was in the corner of the room, which had a pair of thin, long, moccasin-like shoes, as well as a small ball, a few worn wooden figures, and a small wind-up bird thing.  From the books he borrowed from his sister’s library, he would later remember that it was called an ornithopter.

            “There’s spare clothes in the closet… Play with whatever toy you want.” Toriel said with a smile, closing the door behind her as she watched him bounce from one side of the room to the other.

            He quickly changed out of his clothes, rubbing at his nose in the end because he didn’t like undoing the shiny, white buttons, and so peeled his plaid yellow shirt off with a grunt and a bit of wiggling.  Yet he managed to be in khakis that were so long that he folded them until they rested at his ankles, and a yellow and green striped sweater that he bunched at his elbows.

            He hopped onto the bed, looking around the room to think of what to do next.  He really didn’t want to sleep, and so decided that the toy box would do.

            The ball was a burnt orange, and not really for bouncing as it lost its elasticity over the years.  The small wooden figurines could move at the joints, but not much.  The shoes which Manny thought were much too small for Toriel, were, upon closer inspection, soft, worn, and made of canvas.  The wind-up toy looked the newest, with its key still shining in its socket behind the bird’s “body”.

            Carefully, he picked it out of the box and, holding the body firmly, pretended he was a plane from the 201st Aguilas Aztecas avoiding enemy fire.  Voicing not only the distressed pilot, but the enemy ground control and enemy planes, he hopped from atop the bed and crouched to the floor when necessary.

            “Pscheeew, crgghhh, ‘¡Ay basura!  Capitán, ¡Ayúdeme!’ ‘FUEGO!’ ‘pschccurrrghhh! Tastastastas!’ ‘¡Ayyyyyyy!”

            A knock on the door brought him out of his imaginary skies, Toriel bringing in a giant slice of steaming pie.

            “Having fun, are we?” she smiled, handing him the plate.

            “Yes, Toriel.  Thank you for your food.” He said before taking his food, placing the ornithopter onto the dresser.

As he dug into the warm and syrupy filling, Toriel gathered his clothes to wash, stopping at his jeans which still had the belt and holster wrapped around the waist.

            “What is this, child?”

            He looked up, cheeks speckled with a bit of filling and crumbs, and immediately reached over to take out his belt and holster, ears red.

            “Perdón.” He mumbled, fumbling with the holster.  If his mamá were here, she would’ve given him one of her stern looks with her arms crossed.

            “It’s a bad habit I have.” Manny said as he swallowed a mouthful of his pie.

            Toriel smiled at the fact that he was such a polite little boy.  In fact, he reminded her so much of the other, that she quickly took his clothes and proceeded to wash them, leaving him to his pie.

            Manny watched after Toriel, who closed the door behind her.  He looked back to his pie, wondering if Toriel left because he forgot to take the belt off of his pants.  Yet after the last bites of his meal, he felt his eyes become heavy, and so turned off the light and hopped into bed.

--

            The sound of rummaging woke Manny up.  Rubbing his eyes as he let out a sleepy yawn, he stuck his little feet into his boots and made his way to the door to find the source of the sounds.

            Peering out from his door, he could see Toriel dust at a weirdly shaped mannequin that was yellowing along it’s seams.  Wanting a closer look, he clunked right on over, Toriel turning with the brightest and warmest of smiles.

            “Good morning, Manny.  I have surprises for you.”

            He blinked in surprise, eyes still glazed with a bit of sleep, “Really?  Thank you, but you didn’t have to.”

            “But I must.  Here, I went shopping and got you some shoes that you can wear around the house.”

            She pulled out small, sturdy slip-ons that were of a dark, navy blue fabric.  Gingerly, he stepped out of his boots and put on his new shoes.  They fit perfectly, and Toriel looked pleased.  She escorted him closer to the yellowing dummy, eyes twinkling.

            “If you ever want to explore the ruins by yourself, you must learn how to help the monsters around you.  Since a monster’s feelings are expressed through their magic, they are in need of help, and their magic will attack you as a result.”

            Manny nodded, listening, but still rather sleepy.  He was nudged toward the dummy, and when he opened his eyes to the sudden sound of a D note, it looked like a video game that his sister had stored away.  Looking down, he could see a bright, yellow heart glowing from his chest.

            Toriel could see that Manny was confused, “That is your soul, child.  You can zap away almost any negative magic that tries to harm you… convenient, yes?

            He felt his mind buzzing groggily thanks to his sleepiness, somehow knowing that the dummy wanted to be talked to.  He felt himself completely ignore FIGHT and go into ACTing, and so he spoke to it.

            “Hola, dummy. I’m Manny and I’m seven.  What’s your name?”

            …it didn’t reply.

            Manny ignored his thoughts that suggested he move on, “Can you take naps?  Do you need naps?”  Feeling sleepy himself, he wondered if the dummy could join him for a nap.

            Next thing he knew, the dummy somehow laid itself onto the floor, and thoughts of traditions and garbage floated around in Manny’s head.  And so Manny joined the dummy on the floor, his soul fading back to him.  Toriel was left standing to the side, staring at the two in confusion.  In the end, she quietly retrieved a warm blanket and draped it over Manny, who was cuddling with the dummy.

            Shaking her head with a smile, she went to living room to relax onto her sofa with a book, eager to spend time with Manny when he was awake.

--

            He could see her sitting on a log, not too far from where he stood.  Overjoyed, Manny ran as quickly as he could, and was so close to his sister that he could feel the warmth she gave off.

            And she just fell to the ground, limp and cold, a kid just a bit taller than himself standing over her in one of the sweaters he had borrowed.  They had a knife that was seething in red energy in their hand, and bright red eyes that twinkled.

            Manny stopped, frozen in his tracks as the other simply stepped over her.  They looked at him, and scoffed.

            “Well, are you going to fight?”

            Manny staggered a bit, confused.

            “Your sister isn’t here.  Are you going to fight?”

            Slowly, Manny shook his head, not looking at them.

            “Did you hear me clearly?  She isn’t here.  She’s gone.  Will you fight?”

            Manny sniffled, rubbing at the many tears that fell down his face.

            “…Pitiful.  Your own flesh and blood, and you refuse to fight… I guess that can be expected from you two.  And I had high hopes you’d be different.”

            They brandished their blade, smiling as they stepped closer, only to suddenly be surrounded by a green, crackling box.

            They simply laughed, and rolled their eyes, “Only now do you show your potential?  How endearing.”

            In an instant, right before the box was shrunken down to infinitesimal proportions, Manny awoke, breathing shallowly as he noticed that he had created sweat marks on the dummy.  He sat up, trying his best to breathe normally, and began to cry.  He picked up his blanket and shuffled to where Toriel was.

            Toriel, who had heard him, scooped him up into a hug, speaking comforting words so that he would feel all the better.  In the end, he was hiccupping as he sat at the table, shoveling forkfuls of sugary pie into his mouth as he flipped the pages of one of the books Toriel brought him to look at pictures.

            Later on that day, Toriel thought it best to show him around the Ruins, where he followed a few Froggits and tried to cheer up a whimpering Whimsun.

            As he petted a Moldsmal, Manny apologized, “Señora Toriel, where do you think my sister is?”

            She looked up from her leaf arranging, “I don’t know, dear.”

            “Do you think she’s with the King?”

            Toriel froze, folding her trembling hands onto her lap, “What makes you say that?”

            “In the book it says that the King is somewhere inside the mountain.  Maybe Alejandra is with the King.  She’s very smart, so maybe he has her in his court, like in stories.”

            The Moldsmal inched away, content with the amount of attention it received.  Manny rubbed his hands on his jeans, “I must find her.  Do you think the King will let her go?  Since she’s super smart, she’s…  Toriel?”

            Toriel was facing down, covering her eyes.  Manny, feeling terrible that he made her cry yet again, inched closer.

            “I’m sorry for making you cry again.  I’ve only seen my sister in pictures, and I’m sure mi mamá misses her lots.  When I find her, I can bring her back home.”

            “But… you can’t leave.”

            Manny blinked, suddenly feeling a bit heavier, “¿Por qué?”

            “You need… you’ll…” Toriel grasped at her arm, yet decided it’d be to terrible to tell the truth, “You need to stay a bit longer until you’re rested.  I’m sure your sister wouldn’t want you to be tired when you find her and rescue her.”

            Manny’s eyes lit up. “Rescue?”

            “Yes.  The King usually captures those that wander in his land.  She’s most likely captured, or hiding with a friendly monster.” Said Toriel, hoping that Manny would come to his senses.

            “I must rescue my sister!  She must have been waiting for so long!” he exclaimed, his curls bouncing as he hoped in excitement.

            Toriel placed her paw on his shoulder, “My child, first you should rest.  In a few days, you may leave.  You have a long journey, so I think it’s best to prepare first, hm?”

            Manny nodded, and wrapped her in a big hug, burying his face in her dress, “Mamá will be so happy.” He mumbled, doing his best not to let the stinging in his eyes grow worse.

            Toriel smiled weakly, and the two returned home to have snail pie for supper.

            The next few days churned out in anticipation.  Manny kept his clothes clean as he borrowed the ones from the closet, while Toriel promised that she would pack all the essentials he needed.  In this, the first day, he two buzzed about preparations and what-ifs.

            “What if you meet my sister?  She’s really nice, I’m sure she’ll love cooking with you.”

            Toriel nodded tiredly from her chair, doing her best to pay attention to her book as Manny fidgeted about.

            The next day, Toriel urged him to look at the books to learn more about the Underground.  He obliged, yet after a few minutes his eyes hurt.  It wasn’t his first language, after all and so bided his time by looking at the pictures instead.  And when he grew tired of that, hung around the bare tree at the front of the house.

            In the next day he was restless, and Toriel could see that.  He clunked around the house and wasn’t wearing the shoes she got him.  Worried, she offered that they go on a journey to see if his sister was in the abandoned city.  His eyes were alight yet again, and he quickly changed into his clothes.  The two perused the city slowly, for Manny felt that it was imperative that every building and room be looked into.  In the end, the two were very tired, and Manny practically fell asleep as they neared Home.

            They both woke up late the next day, and Manny looked forlorn.  No amount of gentle coaxing nor pie took him out of his stupor.  He wandered around the house while he was wrapped in a quilt, occasionally peeking outside.  At the end of that day, Toriel couldn’t find him.  She called out his name, but nobody answered her call.  The Froggits in front of the house saw no one pass, and so after a time of searching, she found him sitting in front of the exit.  Once she stepped close enough, he turned to look at her, silent. 

            She picked him up, and had him sit on her lap until he fell asleep.

            This repeated for the next few days.  He would go missing, she would search, and there he would be, sitting in front of the door in silence.  It came to the point where Toriel wouldn’t even waste her time searching.  She would face him with a warm smile, pick him up, give him plenty of hugs, and the day would end.

            Yet this didn’t last long.  One day she realized he didn’t come for breakfast, and so went down the stairs to find him fully dressed and facing down the hallway. 

            He was waiting for her.

            “My child, I think you should play upstairs instead.”

            He took off his hat, “Please let me leave.”
            Toriel felt her hands tremble, “I’m making butterscotch-cinnamon pie tonight.  It’s your favorite.”

            She saw him shake his head, “You love me so much, and I love you too, señora Toriel, but I have to go.”

            She felt a tear escape from her eyes, “Isn’t that enough, my child?  If you leave, you’ll be captured and... and…”

            “Every time I came home from school, I would wait until it was dark in the sky for my mother to come home.  She comes home, and the first thing she does after giving me a hello-hug, she pats a picture frame of my sister that’s on the table.

            Manny put his hat back on, “I don’t want her to greet a picture frame.  Every time she does, you can tell she’s sad.  I want her to have my sister back… Can you imagine how that feels?”

            Toriel was letting her tears fall freely at this point.  She shook her head in anguish as she stepped closer, yet Manny stepped to the door.

            “Every day I’m here, mí mamá is getting sadder.  I have to go, Toriel.  I promise I won’t take long, and you can finally see my sister.”  He pushed open the door, and Toriel stopped in her tracks.

            “I love you, though.  You were so nice to me.  Just like my mother.” He said as he peeked from the other side of the door.

            Toriel composed herself enough to speak, “I love you, too… please come back soon.”

            He smiled, nodded, and closed the door behind him, leaving Toriel to herself.

            She went up the stairs, to the once again empty room and for the third time in her life, pulled out yet another picture from the frame. 

            She had just put it in a few days ago, too.

Chapter Text

Snowdin

 

            Manny was quaking in his boots.  Not only was he quaking, he was shaking and doing quite a bit of shivering as well.  With his hands shoved into the pockets of his fully-buttoned leather vest, he trudged through the snow, glad that his jeans took up all the space in his boots. 

            As he walked he heard small breezes shift through the dark forest, as well as the empty sound of cold air, and the distant sound of… dogs?  He smiled to himself at the thought of a warm and fluffy dog tackling him to the ground, and pushed on. 

            After a time of walking, the snow grew thinner, yet his jeans were soaked from his endeavors.  Not only that, he thought that he was hearing scary noises, and they were growing louder and louder.

            It was bad enough that he felt terrible for leaving Toriel, whom he loved dearly, but now he was cold, scared, and shaking.  In the distance, the noise pierced through the forest again, and so Manny hurried to a clearing.  He walked on with more assurance, only to hear it again, all the clearer.  Manny frowned, but closed his eyes, assuring himself that everything will be fine.  With a hand on his holster and the other on his hat, he hopped through the snow, doing his best to ignore the sounds.  He was doing well, but an especially sharp cry had him running as fast as he could manage.

            “Arrrrghhhh!” he heard.  Turning sharply, Manny fell face first in the snow, and listened long enough to find the source.

            “Dang kids!!  Can’t even catch a few winks without waking up to shenanigans!!”

            Wiping at his face, Manny picked himself up and stood to see a tawny moose rubbing its antlers against the ground.  Jingling could be heard, and when the moose turned to him, he was a bit taken aback, as it looked funny for a moose, deer, thingy.

            “What’re you gawking at?  Make yourself useful and scram!!” it sounded like an old man.  Manny quickly removed his hat and proclaimed, “I’ll help you, señor!!” 

            He trudged over and looked at what had been done to the moose-deer.  Someone stuck things all over his antlers, and so he went to work, starting with a string of bells that were carelessly tied around the antlers and mini-trees. 

            The moose-deer seemed okay with this, and so asked, “What’s with the getup?  Did you get decorated, too?”

            “I’m a vaquero, sir!” Manny replied happily, brushing off some festive glitter from the monster’s back.

            “Yeesh, sorry I asked.”

            After removing a stamp from his forehead, Manny pulled at the little trees on the tops of his antlers.  They seemed to be glued on rather well, as no amount of pulling seemed to budge them.

            “Erm, those are real… now run along!  I want some peace and quiet!!”

            Manny turned to leave, but stopped. “Before I go, can you tell me if you’ve seen this person before?”

            He pulled out his sister’s picture and showed it to the deer monster, who peered at it.

            “She’s my sister and I think the King may have her.”

            The deer rose from its spot, “Never seen her, but with your stumpy legs you’ll freeze to death before getting out of here.  Hop on, kiddie.”

            Manny blinked in awe as the monster bowed to allow him on, gingerly, he lifted one leg over his back, and carefully wrapped his fingers around his antlers.

            “Don’t you fall off, hear me?” 

            “Sí señor.”

            “It’s Gyftrot, not señor.”

            “Sí, señor Gyftrot.”

            With a sigh, they were off.  Manuel bounced at every trot, and he could see the snow be kicked up in small bits.  Small, neat prints were left in Gyftrot’s wake, and Manny smiled widely.

            “So what’s your name, kid?” asked Gyftrot, who turned as they had met with a cliff.

            “My name is… is…”  Gyftrot was facing the edge again, his head lowered.

            “Spit it out, son!”  He grunted as he went into full gallop, forcing Manny to clutch at his antlers tighter than before, ducking as well.

            Gyftrot kicked off the edge decisively, while Manny whooped and hollered not minding the wind whipping his face.

            They landed with a soft thump, and continued at a fast canter, “I’m Manny.”

            “Manny, huh? You like that jump back there?”

            “Yes.  You’re amazing.” 

            “Well, sit tight, kiddie.  We’re going the fun way.  Kids these days think I’m washed up, but when I was younger I scaled every peak I could find here in the Underground; I haven’t lost my moxie.”

            They jumped over a few more couloirs and crevasses, the soft snow cushioning the sound of the monster’s graceful landings.  Each time, Manny would howl with laughter, enjoying the ride.  From high above, Manny could spot a small town whose snowy roads glistened from the warm yellow lights of the buildings, and in the center, a tree whose ornaments sparkled even from far away.

            “Nice, isn’t it?”

            Manny nodded, “Yes.  Do you think my sister passed by here?”

            A time passed before Gyftrot could speak, “Son, I think you know where she is already.”

            He could feel Manny shift in his seat, “But don’t worry.  Ol’ Asgore is a softie.  I’m sure they’re both having tea and looking at flowers.”

            “So she’s captured?  I’m sure she wanted to leave.  Even if the King is being nice, why won’t he let her go?”

            Gyftrot bounded over another gap, “Well, no one can leave.  Y’see, there’s a spell keeping ev’ryone here underground.  Even if she wanted to leave, she couldn’t.”

            “Can the spell be broken?  Do you need to go on a quest to find magical things to break it?”

            At this the monster chuckled sadly, “No son.  It’s in you already.  Every human has something special inside of them, and if we have enough of that special something, then the spell can be broken.”

            “In me?  What is it?”

            “…Can’t say.  But your sister might have figured it out already.  She looks smart, that one.”

            They were on a declining hill, near a babbling river where great blocks of ice floated along.  Steadily, Gyftrot picked their way down, hoping all the while that Manny wouldn’t ask any more questions.

            “This is your stop, kiddie.  If you find your sister, tell her I give my regards.”

            Manny straightened out his hat, “She’s helping the King, señor Asgore, break the spell?”

            Gyftrot, albeit reluctantly, nodded, “If she’s anywhere, it’d be with Asgore.”

            Smiling, Manny nodded his head, “Thank you, señor Gyftrot.  When I find my sister, I’m sure she’ll be happy to meet you.”

            Gently, Gyftrot pushed the little boy with his antlers, “Go along, now.  Your sis is waitin’ for you.”

            Manny walked, disappearing into the fog.  All one could see was his dark curls, when Gyftrot called out, “Hey, kid- Manny!”

            He heard little boots turn in the ground.

            “…Stay healthy!  And don’t go gettin’ into trouble!”

            He heard a small giggle, followed by the sound of steps.  Once it was evident that Manny was long gone, Gyftrot turned and picked his way up the snowy hills.

            The hills were a bit too quiet for his liking.

Chapter Text

Waterfall

 

            Gurgling water and the occasional sounds of a falling rock plopping into the streams were the only noises that filled Manny’s little ears.  That, and his shoes crunching against the loose sand chunks on the floor. He caught himself staring at the glowing crystals wedged in the cavern walls and the glittering specks flitting around in the water. After a time of poking his small fingers in the fresh water, he'd rub his fingers on his pants, and continue on his way, only to stop and look at another wonder.

            Then he came across a room filled with glowing plants, and took the time to gently squeeze at the caps of glowing mushrooms. The waters shined brightly, and shimmery things floated into the air. Yet he swore he could hear tiny voices, especially near the tall flowers.

            "I wish I could spend more time with my brother and dad. They work so hard."

            Manny blinked, and rubbed at its petals, wondering if it'll say anything else.

            Another flower stood in the distance, it laughing, "I heard that, bro."

            Manny grinned, and ran off, determined to find the next flower. Maybe he could hear his sister in the flowers, just like he heard two brothers? True, he had never heard her voice before, but if there was anything, he'd be ecstatic.

            He ran past deep, calm waters, gurgling rivers, and churning waterfalls, hearing singing from somewhere but really not wanting to interrupt.  He would only stop to listen to the flowers, staying longer if it sounded like a teenager. 

            Yet not many were like that, so he hurried along.  He hurried along the moist dirt paths, and hurried along wooden docks.  He hurried so much that he hurried straight into a waddling creature, and fell backwards, right onto the seat of his pants.

            He could hear a heavy sound, much like plastic on gravel, and opened his eyes to find a blue bathtub with a green face, blank eyes staring back at him.  He picked himself up, pants and hands covered in blue mud.

            “I’m sorry,” he apologized, rubbing at his cheek, smudging it with more mud, “You’re not hurt, are you?”

            No response, save for the green head tilting in wonder, a small tweet being heard.  Perking up, he peeked over the monster to find a small yellow bird moving up and down within a glass case, clear water churning underneath it.

            “Aww, pajarito!  Your bird is really cu- blegh!!”  He was pushed back onto the ground, a steady spray of water hitting his face.

            Manny rubbed his hands fervently around his curls to shake out any water, “Wosh u face.” Said the monster.

            “…Thank you…” his voiced quivered, a bit cold. “Do you know where the King is?  I need to- hey!”

            The monster had hopped away, whistling to itself, spraying at piles of garbage instead of staying to listen to the little vaquero’s plea.

            “Excuse me, monstro.  Have you seen my sister?  She’s tall, has skin that’s brown like mine, and hair like mine, too.”  He would pull out his photo, but he was scared it’d be sprayed.

            Another pressured blast of water hit a mound of trash.  Manny pulled at his shirt, this monster loves basura too much!

            Puffing his cheeks, he tapped the monster’s back, making sure to not hit their turning tail.  This time, it hopped up and down, turning to Manny.

            “Please, have you seen my sister?  If you haven’t, then take me to the King.  I’m in a hur-ayyy!!!”  Manny watched in horror as the monster squirted a stream of water right onto his pants, now dripping wet.

            “Wosh u leg.” They simply replied, the little bird tweeting.

            Manny puffed his cheeks out again, and in a fit kicked up some water from the ground, effectively wetting the monster’s clawed feet. 

            The monster stopped its hopping, and looked at him with those blank eyes of theirs.  A whirring sounded, and their clear capsule opened up.  The bird flapped out and rested on the monster’s tail.

            “Scrub a dub-dubs.”

            “¿Qué?”

            One moment, he was standing on the ground, firm and steady, and the next, he was sitting in a small pool of crisp water, being moved side to side as the monster’s clear top closed over him. 

            “H-hey!!”  Manny banged his hands against his prison, his breath fogging up the glass.  The monster steadily trudged away from the garbage piles, whistling every so often as their small yellow bird hopped about atop it’s container.

            Soapy suds frothed around him as he was pushed side to side by the bird’s turning pedestal.  The bubbles grew in number until they swallowed him up, and all Manny could do was shout in surprise, not wanting to be buried in bubbles.

            “¡Ayúdeme!” he cried out, his shouts being muffled by the suds.

            Yet the monster abruptly stopped walking, for the foamy water he was in lurched forward.  Manny’s eyes darted around, keeping a firm grip on his hat.  He could hear someone speak with an old, gruff voice.

            “Now, now, Woshua!  Who do you have trapped in your wash cycle?”

            Woshua whistled and hopped a bit, “Scrub sub-subs!  Clean soul!”

            “A clean soul, eh?  Well, then, I suppose I’ll leave you to it.”

            Manny shook his head and thrust his hands against the slippery glass in desperation, “Noo!”

            From what he could see, the old man’s eyes widened when he spotted small brown hands appear through the white froth.  He rushed over to him, calling out calming words as he cranked Woshua’s tail as fast he could.

            “Hold on alright?  I’ll get you out in a second!”  The lather spilled out as the capsule was opened, and out popped a mop of brown, sudsy curls and a scrunched up face.  His long eyelashes held tiny bubbles and his small, rosy lips sputtered and gasped for air.  He felt shaky hands pick him up by his sides as he coughed, keeping his eyes shut from the stinging soap.  He could hear Woshua clicking and whistling while the old person laughed.

            “Looks like you’re clean enough! Wahaha!  What’s yer name, son?”

            He managed to crack open one of his eyes, “Manny Torrez.  What’s yours, señor?”

            Getting both of his eyes free of soap, Manny saw that the old man he was talking to was a turtle with a long white beard.  He was dressed like an explorador, and Manny loved it.

            “Name’s Gerson.  Want some food? You look hungry.”

            Manny nodded, and followed after him, noticing that the cavern was a lot rougher than what he saw previous, with dark caves leading to somewhere, the only light being small clumps of mushrooms and glowing veins of hidden gems.  Gerson stopped at an alcove that had been carved out in excavation, turned to Manny, and pointed inside with a smile. Clunking after him, his eyes widened at the sight of a small shop that had a barrel full of red and enticing apples and rows of vividly green juice boxes.  His tummy rumbled loudly, and he blushed, not knowing how hungry he actually was.

            “Wahaha!  Looks like you're past your lunchtime!  Here y’are,” he handed a big, round apple with small, pudgy legs and a green juice box, and noticed the little boy inspect the apple, “Don’t worry, it won’t bite.  It’s a crab apple- good for youngsters like yerself.”

            Manny nodded and took up the apple, experimentally biting off one of the legs.  Sweet juice with a sour tang flooded his mouth.   Chewing, he took another chomp out of it, unable to believe how delicious it was.

            Gerson chuckled as he slid into one of his wicker chairs, it groaning a bit thanks to its age, and watched the boy munch away, giving him another crab apple just in case he wanted more.

            “So what’s a human doing all the way down here, eh?  You get lost an’jus’ walked in?

            Manny shook his head, and, since his mouth was full, motioned that he fell in.

            “You fell?  Well, I guess you humans must have a lot of luck then.  The other humans that fell in were reported to have been just fine, ‘specially the last one- well, the first one hit their head pretty hard, but you’d think the bigger one would’ve- you alright there?”

            The little boy’s eyes were huge, and, hearing a mass of food be forcefully swallowed, he spoke, albeit breathlessly.

            “Tell me about the last human please!”

            Gerson nodded, and leaned forward in his seat, “The las’ human was almost fully grown, and reportedly wandered around the Underground looking for Asgore himself.  She was intercepted by Dr. Wing Dings Gaster up in Hotland, apparently rescuing one of his crewmen from falling and turning into a crispy critter.

            “Wing Dings said that she already knew what her fate was, and later went to ol’Asgore himself without a fuss… She was a Green Soul- back in my day, Greenies were one of the rarer souls.  Never saw much of them on the field… never wanted them there, anyways.  Weren’t as bad as the Reds or Cyans, though they were equally rare. Either way, it looked like they were forced there or they seemed as if they’d rather croak than- what’cha got there, son?”

            Manny was digging through his pockets furiously, and pulled out the picture, though it was a bit damp, “Did she look like this?”

            “Lemme see,” Gerson leaned even further, and pulled out his magnifying glass, “A mess of hair, green eyes… she matches the reports.  Why are y’lookin’ for her, son?”

            “She’s my sister.  You just said she went to Asgore, right?  That’s what Gyftrot said, too!  Do you think she’s working on a spell to free us?  I hope the King is giving her all the tea she wants.”

            Gerson looked at the boy in surprise, “Now, slow down, sonny.  You don’t know what you’ll find when you get to the King’s castle- “

            “I’ll find the barrier and help sister take you all out of here.  Gyftrot said that humans can break it down because we have a special something inside ourselves, so two humans should be enough.”

            Gerson crouched to the boy’s level, and looked at him sternly, “Now listen here, son. I’m charmed you want to help us, and I know you want to rescue your sister, but think about her choice, why she too went out to find Asgore, and what that means for you.  You can’t just rush into things with only a few words servin’ as the truth.  What would a small whippersnapper like you be able to do, anyway?”

            Manny listened, picked up his almost-dry hat, and put it on with a gleam in his eyes, “Whatever needs doing.”

            Gerson eyed him, looking grave, and nodded assuredly, “Alrighty.  Before you set off, take some money.  Can’t have you runnin’ around without any supplies- heroes need supplies.”

            At this, Manny bounced excitedly, following wherever the old monster went to.  In a small pouch he placed a stack of worn gold coins, and handed it to Manny, making sure the drawstring wasn’t flawed in anyway.

            “Here y’are.  Don’t spend it all in one place, alright?”

            Nodding, Manny tied the pouch to one of his jean’s belt loops, making sure the knot he made wasn’t too difficult to undo when he needed it.

            “Yer all set,” Gerson sighed, “Now be careful, alright?  Hotland is dangerous for a small human like yourself.  If you ever get into any trouble, try to get to the top of Hotland as fast as your little legs will take you.  Wing Dings’ll take care of ya.  Jus’ don’t snoop around in his labs… he’s a busy man.”

            Manny nodded, though wondered how he was going to get to the top in the first place.

            “Now, go outside and right across my shop is the River Person.  They’ll row you to Hotland so you can get through quicker.”

            Gerson gently rubbed at the boy’s hat, and pushed him on, “Good luck, son.”

            With a quick hug, the little vaquero turned and left, Gerson keeping a sharp ear on the clunking of those tiny boots.  Once he couldn’t hear them anymore, he leaned deeply into his wicker chair, and sighed.

            “Poor kid... how will Fluffybuns handle this one?”

Chapter Text

Hotland

 

            It seemed like the cloaked monster didn’t mind Manny clutching at their robe as they rowed, “Tra la la laa…” they sang quietly, the water burbling gently. 

            “It’s alright, the river is always calm,” They said, keeping their gaze on their work, “unlike our exalted sovereign’s troubled mind.”

            Manny blinked, still keeping hold of the soft, dark cloth.  From afar he could see red, fiery light shining on the water and felt hotter than he had ever been while he was down here.

            “Beware the man who speaks in hands,” they spoke as they arrived at the shining pool, looking up to see a warm and bright cavern above the stairs, “you may not like what you find.”

            Carefully, Manny stepped off, and pulled a coin he had handy in his pockets, offering it to the River Person, who shook their hood slowly.

            “The ferry is free, child.  Save your coin for those in need.”

            Reluctantly, he put the coin back into his pocket, took off his hat, and gave a small bow in thanks.  The burning cavern above beckoned at him in strange and clamorous sounds, and within himself he felt his heart beat a little faster.

            She was close.  He just knew it.

            As he climbed up the stairs, his eyes burned, either from his swelling emotions, or the waves of heat that were coupled with the acrid smell of burning things.  At the top of the stairs, he beheld dry rock and a cavern whose walls were decorated with shifting lights and dancing shadows cast by machinery and rocky mesas.

            Beyond was a path, where many green support scaffolds ran up and down, supporting rocky masses while a tall, silvery structure stood, going so far up that it was lost in a red haze.  Red lights flashed along it’s sides, possibly meaning that it was open.  Nearby was a white building, that said LAB on it.  Yet Manny remembered Gerson’s warning, and decided to go inspect the silver tower.

            Coming closer, he could see L1 embossed over an entrance, it’s lights flickering yellow and red.  He smiled widely, excited about what he found- an elevator.

            Pushing the button, he was surprised at his luck that the elevator was already at his floor.  He stepped in, and took a look at the floors to go to, noting that the third floor buttons were off, with a piece of tape next to them;

            “Out of Order”

            Shrugging, Manny chose L2, not minding the inconvenience.  It shouldn’t be that hard to get to the King’s castle, should it?

            Selecting his floor, the doors closed behind him, and within a few seconds and a bit of dizziness, the doors opened again.

            The light the magma gave off wasn’t so bright here, and Manny’s eyes were thankful.  He stepped out and looked to find that he indeed had no place to go upwards to.  The lights that traveled along the elevator weren’t lit here, and the only things that were working were distant machines and a few giant cogs that glinted in the red light.  In the distance, a giant machine looked as if it was raised from the magma, giving off a colossal sound, like a giant’s heartbeat.  Manny couldn’t look away.

            What was he going to do now?  There was no sure way upwards, and he was very sure no one came this way.  The best bet, he reasoned, would be to ride the elevator back down and ask for directions.  Yet, in the distance, something silvery caught the rosy light.  He tilted his head, to see more lines light up.  He walked over, curious.  Maybe it was a magic spell that made magic stairs?

            Coming closer, the lines weaved and zig-zagged, connecting to more above, where the shades of paths and buildings loomed in a dark haze.  It was a spiders’ web, where it connected this platform to the hazy mass above, more webs being linked to it from unseen origins.  Manny rubbed at his eye, and reached out to test the webs strength.  A few tugs, and it still snapped taught- quite thick for a spider’s web. 

            Manny looked at it longer, running his fingers along it.  He so wanted to use it to climb up, but he already had a reputation for falling and tripping at his school.  His mind made up, he nodded with a small, affirming grunt and turned to go back to the elevator.

            In a few steps he fell backwards, being pulled by something.

            He turned and found that a splotch of webbing somehow latched itself onto his jeans, “Yerggh.” he stuck out his tongue.

            Yet pulling at it made it worse.  It stuck to his fingers, and so he wiped at his jeans, only to get them covered in more webbing.  He frowned, and decided to get to the source.  He pulled at the errant thread that deviated from its strand, only to get his hands covered with the sticky stuff.  Trying to pry it off only got his hands stuck together.  Tugging his hands away from each other, he successfully tore them apart, only to fall backwards on the entire mass. 

            He tried to push himself up- he couldn’t.  He tried to wiggle his way out.  He couldn’t.  he tried calling for help, but no one came.  He sighed- frustrated, tired, and scared, he felt his body grow heavy, and after a while couldn’t keep his eyes open.

-- --

            The Cavalryman brushed the dust off of his horse, taking note of the Knight and Constable waiting for his arrival.  He shot them a smile as he took his bows and arrows, which were also full of dust. 

            “How’s the rabble doing?  You look well, Constable.” Said the Cavalryman, brushing at his golden chest plate.

            “And you look terrible, my friend… how was the battlefield?”  asked the Constable, his blueish armour glinting in the sunlight.

            “Exceedingly becoming easier to handle.  Those beasts are practically nothing if you deal with the skeletons first.  A simple catapult or javelin and they crumble.”

            “Easy for you to say.  I myself had to deal with a skeleton that wiped out an entire fleet.  They sent me in instead to deal with the problem.”

            “How did that fare?”

            “Difficult, but in the end she retreated her forces.”  The Constable sighed, walking into a room as the other two followed.

            The Cavalryman plopped into his seat, dust floating from his uniform, “In the end that lot is nothing but beasts.  The King of Beasts himself had crossed my path, but a fire demon took my attention instead… Justice will be set in place once we’re through with what the Judge has concocted… How are the, uhm…”

            “The Abbot and the Apothecary?” replied the Constable, “The Abbot is a cowardly fool, but he at least complies.”

            “And what of the Apothecary?”

            “Stubborn.  Deluded.  She believes what we’re doing is wrong.  As you might expect from a Green one.”

            The Cavalryman shook his head, “They’re a dying race, those Green ones.  They’re as gullible as the Monsters... Ah, they’ll disappear in due time.”

            “I have the Executioner keeping watch over her, for the time being.”

            “The Red one?  I don’t sit too well with that one.”

            “Why’s that?  They’re a good soldier.  Follows orders with accuracy and godspeed.  No questions, no words, just action.”

            The Cavalryman chuckled uneasily, “It’s their eyes.  They look empty… and deathly.”

            “Juuust let me deal with my men.  All you have to do is serve when the time comes.”

            “When said time is upon us, will the Executioner and Apothecary serve as expected?  Do we have replacements for those two?”

            The Constable shook his head, and held out a parchment paper, “We are the only ones suitable or this task, the best of the best.  The Apothecary is impossible to replace, and the Executioner is the most skilled in their craft.”

            Servants came to take the Cavalryman’s weapons and armour, “That’s unfortunate.”

            “Worry not, my friend.  The time is soon.  The Judge himself sees the war turning soon.”

            With his armour fully removed, the Cavalryman shook his shirts, “Speaking of the Judge, didn’t he also deal in herbs like the Apothecary?”

            “Poisons?  Yes.  It’s his hobby, apparently.”

            “Shouldn’t he make a concoction to make her more compliant then?”

            “Oh, we tried.  She heals instantly, same with our, ah… persuasions.”

            “Even taking fists, she heals?  Greens are a strange lot.”

            “Indeed.”

-- --

            Manny had a difficult time opening his eyes, hearing a voice speak very close to him, yet still hearing whatever those mean people were saying.  He shuddered, knowing that somehow, dust wasn’t a good thing to be covered with.

            Again, the voice spoke while he was moving steadily upward along the web, the magma now looking like an undulating and flaming carpet.

            “Dearie, why would you mess with a spider’s web?  It takes years of practice to make such masterpieces, I hope you know.”  Said a sweet voice.

            After a moment, he realized he was being held by someone who smelled like cakes and was dressed in soft and silky clothing.  Cracking an eye open, he was met with several huge, iridescent, bug eyes.

            He was definitely awake now.

            “Good morning, dearie.  Care for a spider donut?  They’re only 9,999 gold.”

            “Y-you’re a-“

            “Aaah-mazing?  Thank you, dearie.  A spider’s got to look her best, you know.  Here we are.”

            They were within a dark chamber that was filled with glimmering webs.  Here and there you’d see a small spider crawling here, lowering itself there, yet Manny was very sure that there were more beyond the darkness.

            “Come along, you have to try my goods, made by me, Madame Muffet.” she took his hand and lead him to a purple table topped with an intricate doily made of spider’s thread.  All this reminded Manny of a storybook he once picked out of his sister’s library. 

            “Which of these would you like?  All proceeds go to my family trapped in the Ruins.”

            That got his attention, and asked, “Your family is missing, too?”

            Muffet put down a flowery china teapot, “Not missing, dearie, just apart.  With the money that we’re raising here, I can rescue the rest of them that way they don’t freeze to death by Snowdin’s spell.”

            Manny nodded, “I’m looking for family, too.  My sister is somewhere down here, but I dunno where.”

            “We’re all missing something, I suppose… Tea?”

            Manny shook his head, slowly remembering the story now.

            “Señorita Muffet, did you know that there is a story about spider thread?”

            “I’m sure there are plenty of stories of it, dearie.”

            He was lost in thought as the story came back to him, “There was a thief trapped in a dark place as punishment.  Yet someone sent him a spider’s string to help him out.  Even though it looked delicate, he decided to climb it.  He climbed and climbed, even though he was tired.  He was close to getting out when he looked down to find that others, like him, were climbing out, too. 

            “’Go away!’ he yelled at them, ‘the thread is mine!’

            “As soon as he said that, the thread broke, and everyone that was on it fell back into the dark place.  The person that was trying to help him was sad, and went about their day.”

            Muffet watched the little boy look around the room, curious as to where he was going with this.

            “It’s sad. If he only wasn’t greedy, a lot of people could have been helped.”

            She placed a donut glazed with purple and white frosting on a napkin, “It wasn’t just, hm?  Would you like a donut instead?”

            “No, thank you, I already have something to eat,” he admitted, pulling up his pouch of coins, “but can I donate instead?  I don’t have enough for a donut.”

            She took the pouch in her four hands, observing it as her eyes glistened in purples and greens, “Thank you, dearie.”

            Smiling, Manny turned to leave, but stopped himself, “Do you know where a señor Gaster is?  I think he knows where my sister is at.”

            “Just follow the only path available, and you’ll find his work area.  It’s so very close to completion, I even hear a hotel is going to be built.  The amount of customers stopping by my bake sale will be wonderful!!”

            He nodded, and left as he waved goodbye, “Thank you, señorita Muffet!”

            “Take care, dearie!”

            Steadily, the air became lighter, and smelled of rain.  Manny rubbed at his nose as he scampered along the metal piping, feeling an itch.  In the distance a red light radiated, with plenty of smaller lights along a dark, unforeseen building twinkling along.  A doorway stood, bright light spilling out from it, causing Manny to smile uncontrollably.

            He wondered if the picture did her justice.

            Lights were fed along the walls, depicting wiring while glass panels gave a peek at the inner framework of the facility. Manny saw that two signs read “Out of Order” on an elevator and a blocked pathway to his right.  This didn’t stop him for long, and he decided to run to the left passage way, where giant pillars with glass capsules radiated with heat.  He felt his shirt sticking to him, and decided that it be time for a juice break.

            The Sea Tea was in his back pocket, right next to the small crab apple Gerson had given him.  He poked the straw thorough the foil hole, and drank up, hurrying out of the hot room and into a cooler one, where white spheres looked down at the floor, glass baubles shining in their sockets.  Manny reasoned that they were cool looking cameras.

            Entering another corridor, he finished his juice box and crumpled it as small as he could, tucking it back into his pocket to switch it for the crab apple.  It was his breakfast time.

            The walls had glass cases glowing with colorful lasers running through them.  Manny could only look at them, since he was so tiny.  There was a room, yet it was completely empty, save for more wall lasers.  He bit at a leg, and pushed on, feeling a breeze at the end of the corridor. 

            Here, there were a lot of cameras.  They all looked down at the path, and Manny felt that he really wasn’t supposed to be here.  Carefully, he stepped out, and tried to see if the cameras would follow his movements.  He hopped this way and that, holding his pants since the holster was heavy.  Yet they didn’t move.  Satisfied, he progressed.

            Unexpectedly, a crackling sounded through the facility, followed by a voice.  Manny thought of the announcements he heard at school.

            “All personnel accounted for.  Testing security system in 3..”

            Manny’s eyes widened, and ran as fast as he could, his apple tumbling out of his hands.

            “2..”

            The cameras’ baubles glowed menacingly red, a sharp sound filling the room as they warmed up.

            “1..”

            “Ayyyyy!!” he cried out, dropping to the floor in fear, arms protecting his head.

            …nothing happened.

            “Off… Phase 2 to begin.”

            He looked around, and found that he was fine, yet the laser things still had red eyes.

            “2... 1… 1…”

            Blue lasers shot at him, and he gasped, frozen in fear.  Yet, they didn’t do anything.  He blinked, looking at the things that shone at his shirt.

            “Off.”

            He looked straight at the laser machines, and decided to stay still again.

            “Phase 3 in 3… 2… 1…”

            Manny waited.

            “1…”

            They shot out again, and this time, Manny looked at them in wonder rather than fear.  He supposed that they were only for looking at things, and so twiddled his fingers at a laser line.

            Before he knew it, his yellow heart had jumped out of his chest, and got hit by an orange laser that came out of nowhere.

            “Ay!”  he exclaimed, rubbing at his chest where his yellow heart rested again.  Over the PA system, he could hear more crackling, followed by frantic voices in the back.

            “Test breached.  Test breached.  Motion detected, Security picking up yellow patterns in Room 2.  Shut down green source, begin further testing in six hours to allow recalibration.”

            In the background he could hear plenty of “What!”, “How?”, and a singular, “Are you serious!?”.  In the distance he could hear the chatter of adults as well as the grumble of footfalls on metal.  Manny stood perfectly still, half not knowing what to do, half knowing that he was in trouble.  He remembered Gerson’s words, and winced.

            But, he must be honest.  It doesn’t do any good to avoid punishment that’s due.  At least his mamá always said that.  Then he would get sent to the corner.

            “Who is here?” a stern voice called from nearby, above the murmur of voices.

            Manny found his voice, “I-I am.”

            “A child playing with yellow magic, no doubt.” A voice replied to the other.

            The monsters spilled out from the hallway, led by a tall skeleton with a crack running from one of his eye sockets to the corner of his mouth,

            “This is no place…” he began, coming to a halt as he had a good look at Manny.  The other monster’s stopped too, eyes widening or mouths falling as they saw him.

            “For children.” He finished, looking more worried than upset.  His fellow scientists turned to him and each other in askance.

            Manny stepped forward, sheepishly raising his hand to wave hello, “Hola… I’m Manny, and I’m looking for a señor Gaster?”

            All the monsters in the group looked at the skeleton, whose shoulders dropped as he sighed.  He turned to his comrades, and asked them to leave.  They made their way out calmly, and as soon as they were gone, Dr. Gaster turned to him “What do you need, human?”

            “I… uh…”  Manny glanced around, shoving his hand into his back pocket, “I’m looking for my sister,” He handed him the small photo, Gaster taking it gently into his fingers, “Do you know where she is?”

            He could see the skeletons’ sockets widen a bit as he frowned, his white pupils taking in the picture as they flitted here and there.  He looked sad.

            Worried, Manny tugged at his lab coat, “Perdóname.”

            That got his attention.  He broke his focus, looked down to the little boy and handed him his picture with a warm smile.

            “Why don’t you rest for a while?  I’m sure you’re feeling tired, especially since a laser harmed you.”

            Manny nodded and took the hand the doctor offered, making sure to keep up with the doctor’s long strides.  One of the areas had white light coming from the bottom, with a warm breeze that nearly cost Manny his hat.  He kept a firm grip as they walked, noticing that he would stare at the doctor here and there.  When he realized, he’d bring himself to look ahead, mind buzzing with questions.  Did his sister meet this person?  Is she here?  Does he know anything about her?

            They stopped, and Manny looked up from the ground to find another skeleton, this one just a bit taller than himself, with a rounder face.

            “This is my son, Sans.  He’ll take you to a resting room and give you food to heal.”  Gaster introduced, smiling as he did so.

            “’Sup, kiddo.  What’s your name?”

            “Manny Torrez.  I’m looking for my sister,” he looked up to Gaster, “Do you know where she is?”

            The two looked nervous, so nervous that he swore he could see Sans sweat.  The doctor straightened out his coat as he bent over just so Manny could see him better.

            “She’s ah, resting at the moment.  When she wakes up, I’ll come for you so you can see her, alright?”

            Golden eyes sparkled with delight as he beamed with joy, “Is she resting from helping you break the barrier?  I knew she was here!  Does the King give her plenty of tea?  Can I see the King?  Can I help break the barrier, too?”

            All these questions threw the two off guard.  They looked at each other in panic, and each question only made it worse.

            “Manny… Manny.” The doctor got his attention, and he stopped bouncing in his place, “I’ll get your sister, meanwhile… Ah, try to keep an open mind… I won’t be long.”

            With that, he turned and left the two in the corridor.

--

            Gaster’s mind was racing.  This was the greatest example of Murphy’s Law he had witnessed in quite a long time.  What were the odds?  Providence so delivered a child of the same flesh and blood as the previous, with an insatiable hunger to find his long lost sister. 

            He mindlessly tapped out the code on a security pad, the metal doors immediately shutting and locking behind him.  Lights turned on as he walked down a corridor, the hum of electricity welcoming.  Another entrance was beyond, where a voice authorization was required.  In a hurry, he merely shouted as he strode toward it, “Lorem ipsum docet!”

            Green-lighted, he walked through to a sterile room, where, lodged into the center of the walls, there was glass capsule holding a floating soul that gave off a rich, green luminescence.

            “Hello, my friend.  How have you been?”  though he knew it was strange, it calmed him to talk to the soul.  It didn’t seem right to just treat her as if she was an energy source, and so spoke to her often.

            There wasn’t a response, save for an increase in her brightness.

            Gaster smiled, “The last attempts haven’t tired you too much, have they?”

            The soul looked dimmer than it usually did.

            “Don’t blame yourself for the test results.  It’s not you.  Your soul just has smaller, more hidden amounts of DT than, say, a red soul would.  That isn’t to say that your results are good.  They’re astounding.  Your levels fluctuate, indicating that a human can create as much DT as they want- another thing I didn’t know.”

            Quick flashes.  He supposed she was glad to help.

            “With this, we may be able to break the barrier and free ourselves… thank you for everything, Alex.”

            Her glow grew bright, the entire room cast in verdant light and dark shadows.  Gaster tapped at his clipboard, keeping his silence.  How was he to tell her that her sibling was here, and well unaware of the fate that was in store for him.  He already kept his share of secrets already.  That, despite her phenomenal results, they were worlds away from breaking the barrier.  That, and Asgore’s plan to wait rather than use her power immediately.

            If she were to find out about that, she’d be devastated.  Who knows how far her DT levels will drop.  And from what he remembered from human studies, dangerous things happen when a human’s Determination is scarce.

            He recalled when Asgore came to him an hour or so after she had left.  It was a sad sight, his eyes looked irritated and his steps were heavy.  He had looked ghastly; all thanks to the glow the soul gave.  When their eyes met, the King could only blubber, “She didn’t fight. She just gave it to me… I can’t use her like this!  I can’t do this!  I can’t do this.”

            Gaster managed to smile, trying to shoo away such a terrible memory “I uh.  There’s a surprise waiting for you.  I think you’ll like it…  I hope you’ll like it.”  He quipped.  Her glow died down to its normal vibrancy, and he turned to leave. 

            He hoped this day would soon end.

--

The two stared at each other for a moment.  Manny tilted his head as he wondered if Sans felt hot, wearing a thick blue hoodie under a lab coat.

            “What’cha got there, kid?”  Sans asked, pointing at Manny’s holster with his chin.

            “Oh.  It’s a gun my papí had left lying around the house.  It’s really old, and it doesn’t have any bullets.” He pulled out the revolver, where he carved his name onto the smooth wooden handle.

            “Does it, now?  Make sure not to hurt anyone when playing with it, y’hear?”

            Manny shook his head, “I never point it at people.  It’s rude to point things at people- that’s what mamá said.”

            “Really?  Your mom is very smart.”

            “She is, just like my sister.”

            Sans’ permanent smile fell just a bit, “You wanna get healed up?” to which Manny nodded.

            They were soon sitting on cushioned chairs around a table that had a bowl full of crab apples and other strange looking fruits.  Manny took a bite out of another crabby-looking fruit that had the texture of a plum.  He felt so much better, and felt a bit more alert than he had been when he walked in.

            “Tasty, huh?  Though I prefer a burger, myself.” Sans said as he took a burger out of the microwave.

            Manny nodded as he munched on the fruit, mouth too full to speak.  Sans took a seat across from him, “Thanks to you, I get to have another break.  So, thanks.”

            The little vaquero grinned, “Your burger smells really good.  My mamá said that my sister always made really good food.  Did you meet her?  Did she make anything yummy?”

            Sans put down his burger.  He didn’t know that she cooked, much less very well.  He didn’t know a thing about the energy source they were using, and he felt absolutely terrible. He smiled weakly, “Yeah, I met her.  She was cool.  Had good jokes, too. But she, uhh.”

            Big golden eyes were on him now.  No pressure at all.  It was so very easy to tell a little kid that their sister was dead and her eternal remains were being used because she wanted them to.  But no pressure, y’know?

            “Look, kid, you have to leave.  Your sister wouldn’t want you here.”

            It was amazing to see how fast a mood can change.  The boy’s face fell, showing all sorts of confusion, sadness and pain.  Sans instantly regretted saying anything.

            “Wh-what do you mean?  ¿Por qué?  Why d-doesn’t she want me here?”

            “Ah, geez, kid.  I’m sorry, I-“

            “I need to find her.” His tiny voice was thick with emotion and his eyes shook, “Mamá looks so tired now.  Every day she looks sadder and sadder.  I had to hide all the pictures of Alejandra in the house.  When she came home, she looked so angry I thought she would yell.  But she didn’t.  All she said was, ‘take care of them’.”

            Sans watched as giant tears spilled down the boy’s red cheeks.

            “But I don’t want pictures.  I want the real thing.  I w-want m-my sist-ter.” he began to hiccup and cry, whimpering as he wiped at the hot tears and rubbed his nose across his sleeve.

            He felt a bony hand rub at his back, but he couldn’t stop himself, even while he was being comforted.

            “Even my papa left.  But I don’t want him.  He was mean.  I want mi hermana.”

            He sniffled and sighed, hiccupping uncontrollably as Sans brought him into a hug.  A single tear ran down his cheek bone.  He couldn’t help but think of his brother who was at home alone, much like how this kid was.  But he didn’t have his sis anymore. 

            He couldn’t imagine how it would be like if he was without his brother.

            They didn’t hear the metal door slide open, and were politely left alone as Manny calmed himself.  The next time he opened his eyes, he could see a concerned Doctor Gaster over a mound of blue hoodie stained with tears and snot. 

            Wiping at his eyes with a small sniffle, Manny let go.  After a moment of checking on each other, Sans ruffled his hair gently, placing his hat back on, as it fell while they hugged.

            “Don’t get your heart broken, kid.”  he urged quietly, giving him a small push on his back.   Nodding, Manny gave him the best smile he could muster before he followed the doctor.  Gaster watched as his curls bounced with every small step he took, and held a hand on his shoulder as they walked out.

            The warm air blew their clothes softly upward as they walked, the whiteness not being as bright as when Manny saw it before.  From what he could see, the doctor looked as sad as he did, too.  Quietly, he remarked, “Do you think she’ll be happy to see me?”

            What a question.  “I think so.  She’s been working so hard to get us out from our prison, you may cheer her up so much that she’ll work twice as hard.”

            He could see that that made the little boy worrisome.

            “But, let’s tell her to rest, okay?  We wouldn’t want her to work too hard.”

            Manny let out a small grunt of approval.  He was contented.  Yet Gaster wasn’t- this boy didn’t know what was in store for him, while his sister knew what was coming.

            “You know, your sister was so very determined to help us, that she was willing to sacrifice anything to aid us.”

            He cautiously typed in the security code.  The doors opened.

            “She didn’t fear anything.  Well, maybe she did, but she never showed it.  It was admirable...  In spite of what would happen, she pushed forward.”

            He could feel Manny’s gaze on him.  They faced the last door, waiting.

            Gaster sighed, “In spite of what would become of herself, she still wanted to help us…

Lorem ipsum docet.”

            The doors slid open, a soft green light shining upon them.  Manny stepped in, looking this way and that, and finally turning to Gaster in confusion.

            “That is she.” He nodded at the floating soul, seeing Manny’s eyes widen as he turned to look at the capsule in the wall, mouth agape.

            Slow, steady clunking sounded as small boots walked to the wall.  He rubbed his thumbs against his fingers as he stared straight beyond his reflection in the pristine glass, and looked back to the scientist behind him, still unsure of what his eyes were seeing.  He nodded in assurance as he folded his arms behind his back, watching what Manny would do next.  Reluctantly, Manny placed his small hands right where she floated, watching as she radiated her light.

            “Alex?” he asked.

            She brightened at the sound of her name.

            “I’m Manny.  Manny Torrez.  I’m your brother.”

            The soul shuddered, followed by bright sparking.  It twitched here and there, all while Manny looked on with watery eyes.

            “H-how did she get like this?  Where’s the rest of her?” he asked Gaster, who stood right behind him.

            “The barrier needs a power equivalent to seven human souls to be broken down.  Monster souls are too ephemeral to so much as scratch its surface.  Your sister, knowing that she was going to die, went before King Asgore to offer her soul.  He was full of remorse, but to save our people, he did what he had promised us all.”

            “Promise?” Manny’s voice quivered. 

            Gaster rubbed at his temple, “It’s not the best of promises.  It was one made in despair and anger,” he crouched to meet Manny’s eyes, “but trust me when I say he would do anything to take it back.  Nothing would be more satisfying than sending you back to where you came, but I cannot.  I serve my liege.  However, since you hold no animosity toward him, I can allow you to make your own decisions.  You can follow your sister’s fate, or you can leave this place to hide.”

            Manny looked malcontented- confused, unsatisfied, all while he stared at the ground in thought.

            “You’re supposed to keep your promises.  Even if you don’t get anything in return.”

            He looked back at his sister, who calmed her light.

            “Even if… it means you’ll hurt in the end.”

            Eyes furrowed, Gaster blinked at where Manny was going with all this, “What are you-?”

            “It isn’t right to hide while everyone is trapped.  You’re supposed to help those in need, no matter what.”

            Manny broke out of Gaster’s gaze to look to his sister again, his palm pressing against the cool glass, “I’ll be back, okay?”

            Gaster felt a heaviness sink within him.  There wasn’t a day that went by where he didn’t curse the situation they were placed in.  Golden eyes looked up at him from the shade of a hat, “Please take me to the King.”

            With the loud sparking of the soul behind them, the two left.  The room went dark, save for green light.

Chapter Text

New Home

 

            The castle stood tall amongst the bustling streets, where many monsters walked, trudged, flew and flitted about their business.  It was so noisy, but the bridge he was on blocked most of it, replacing it with a hollow breeze and his footsteps.  The doctor told him to find an elevator and he’d be there in no time.

            Manny rested his hand on his holster as he looked down the long bridge.  It was very much like a shoot-out scene in one of those Westerns that played on TV.  A wind blew that made the hero look cool, and the streets were empty, very much like this one.  But no one was here.  No one stood between him and his goal.

            Not even the King.

            He made it across the quartz bridge and turned to find an elevator framed by white stone.  Beyond it lay a view of the city, where buildings of many shapes and sizes stood tall.  Inside, Manny thought, there were many different people.  There were some with families, some alone, like he was at the moment, some with friends, and some that were broken, like he had been before.

            He stepped into the elevator and pressed the only button available.  As soon as it jolted to life, he thought of his mamá.

            He felt sick. 

            The doors opened to more white stoned halls.  He flicked up the brim of his hat, and took hurried steps, all the better to strengthen his resolve.  Beyond a corner, he found an entrance flanked with pillars.  The room was dark, with yellow light from mosaic windows spilling through.  The pillars within cast dark shadows.  He was reminded of the dream he had while he stayed with Toriel. 

            Strangely, he felt at peace.

            The sound of his footsteps didn’t bother him so much now, nor did the menacing shadows.  This room was beautiful, and he swore he could smell sweet flowers.

            He wasn’t wrong.  He found a room filled with them.  They grew in bunches in the corners, as well as in the center, where a beautiful, big, bloom looked at him, as if wanting to show off its lustrous yellow petals. 

            Beyond that flower was a throne, where someone sat, snoring.

            Blinking, Manny stepped in and walked forward, keeping behind the bloom and its patch.  He called out, albeit gently, “Hello!”

            The snoring stopped, followed by the creaking of a chair, “Hm?  I’m sorry… who is it?”

            The voice was big and deep, but Manny could hear its gentleness, “I’m a human and I want to give you my soul, like my sister did.”

            Silence.  Manny stood perfectly still as he saw the King shift in his throne in the shadows.  He then saw him rise- my goodness, was he tall!  Manny felt himself lean back a bit, but he straightened himself out, and continued, removing his hat.

            “My sister fell down here before I was born, and ever since then I’ve wanted to find her.  Then I fell down here, too, and looked for her.  I asked, and very nice monsters said that if anyone had her, it’d be you, the King.”

            Asgore stepped into the light, and Manny reveled at the giant horns, shining armour, and sad face.  He shifted in his place.

            “I- I found her.  And I know how she got like that.”

            He could see the King’s expression shift.  He looked so terribly scared.  No, he looked at him in fear?  Manny fiddled with his holster and removed his gun.  He looked at his name that he carved in himself.

            “I know what you did, but I understand why.”

            “Leave this place.”  The King directed sternly, though his eyes betrayed him.

            “Wha-? No, Rey, you made a promise!  You have to keep your promise!”

            “I refuse to take another soul.  Hope isn’t worth this.”

            “Yes it is!  If you don’t, everyone will be stuck here!  Señor Gyftrot, Gerson… señorita Muffet… even you!  Don’t you want to show them the sky?”

            Asgore stepped closer to him, traveling beyond the prettiest flower, “Please, don’t make me do this.  I can’t do this.”

            Manny clenched at his hat, “But that isn’t fair to them!  Even if you’ll be hurt and be sad for taking my soul, you have to!  You promised!”

            Yellow light filled the room, and Asgore stepped back, shaking his head slowly.

            “¡Por la justicia!  Take it!”  Manny closed in on him, hand shaking as he held his soul.  He swore he could see water fill the King’s eyes.  It made him want to cry, too.

            “Oh,” Asgore groaned, looking away from the brilliance the little vaquero gave off, “Please forgive me.”

            His giant paws cupped around the soul, and Manny smiled at him, reassuring him with two words.

            “It’s okay.”

            And he fell limp.

            Asgore cradled his little body into his arms, and cried.

“It’s not okay.”

Chapter Text

He had taken a nap throughout the car ride. One moment, he was in his car seat, watching as they left their town. The next, he woke up on a soft, warm picnic blanket on a mountain, looking down at an entire town that was foreign to his eyes. He sat up groggily, fishing his gloves out of his overalls’ pocket as his mommy and daddy chittered about their nasty tasting salad and their hiking trip here.
His forehead was all sweaty thanks to his bandanna, so with a sleepy frown, he tugged at it to rest around his neck.
“Aww, is our little Evan up already? Eat up so we can show you around. It’s very pretty here.” his mommy cooed, handing him his colorful container filled with baby carrots, strawberries, and celery.
He stuck out his tongue, but ate them anyway. Even if heroes ate meat, they at least ate something.
“This place is nice, but the locals think it’s haunted or something. Apparently, people have disappeared on this mountain.” his daddy quipped as he set down his backpack, taking a swig of water.
“Some people just aren’t equipped to face nature. This high up is for people who are serious about hiking, not amateurs like these natives.”
Evan bit into his celery, making faces as he chewed. After every bite he took a sip from his juice bottle that had googly eyes. He ate his least favorite food first to save the best for last. In this case, he was excited for the strawberries.
His dad smirked, “Get this- apparently, the recent missing kids were both siblings.”
“Whaaat.”
“Uh huh. Some people just can’t raise a kid. ‘Course it didn’t help she was a single parent.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that she should’ve kept a leash on her troublemakers.”
“I’ll say. Hey, little guy!” his daddy cooed, “Done yet? You wanna go check out the trails?”
Evan looked up from his container, fully awake thanks to the zesty strawberries. He nodded, and was immediately picked up from the picnic blanket and into his dad’s carrier he had strapped to his chest, all while his mom packed up their lunch.
“You got it, honey?”
“Of course,” she bragged, “who do you think your talking to?”
The rest of the way up, Evan did his absolute best to enjoy all the trees as his parents talked amongst themselves. About one of their school friends, about their websites, about their food. Huffing, Evan let his legs and arms hang limp as they walked, uncomfortable as the carrier pinched at his legs and arms.
They were so high up now, that the entire town could be seen. It was here that his parents took a rest, tired and sweaty and red in the face. Evan didn’t get why they walked here in the first place, when there were a few lifts, and an easier trail, too (he heard his dad say all this before they left). Yet now they were sweaty and his arms hurt a lot, even after his dad took him out of his harness. He pulled at his orange and red striped shirt from underneath his overalls to get it unstuck from his sticky arms.
“Oh my god, honey, look at what Nancy posted.” his dad was on the phone, checking updates.
“Not her again.” his mom groaned as she stepped over, tired and worn out.
They chatted and laughed and scrolled, all while Evan watched. As he watched he secured his bandanna on his forehead again, and straightened out his gloves.
Well, as his mommy always said, “Don’t interrupt when adults are talking!” and so waddled off, wanting to find what he came here for.
Golden flowers.
His mom and dad buzzed about this trip and were initially planning to leave him with a sitter, but then he took a peek at a pamphlet- the pictures of pretty yellow flowers filled his eyes, and he found that he couldn’t stop staring at it. He wished he could keep their pamphlets, but his parents always told him to not take stuff that wasn’t his. So, he asked them to take him with them, and they were very happy to. They bought this and that, all for him to use on the trip, yet he didn’t really want that stuff. He wanted his own flower, so he can look at it whenever he felt sad, or scared. So when they asked why he wanted to go, he simply replied:
“I’m gonna run around in a huge field of flowers!”
His parents said they might be in bloom.
Yet, he didn’t see a single one so far. He walked this way- no. No flowers. So he walked the other way- didn’t they just come from there? Fussy, he plopped on a nearby rock, arms folded and eyebrows knitted together. He sniffed angrily.
Where were they?

He sniffed again. What was that?

It smelled sweet, and tickly to the nose. He rose out of his seat and sniffed around. He sniffed here, and there, and even near his parents. Then, he looked up, beyond their trail, and gave a long sniff.
It was there!!
As fast as he could, he scampered up the mountainside, his parents’ backs to him. When he needed to he got on all fours, but there were so many bushes he just pulled his way up. The air grew sweeter, and in this heat it made him a bit dizzy. With one great, big yank he fell face first into a clearing.
He rubbed at his face and spat out dirt, picking himself up to behold what was before him, a trail of saliva still dribbling from his mouth.
Bunches of pretty golden flowers, all surrounding a giant hole.
Evan laughed and danced a bit, but quickly glanced back down to see that his parents were still there, attention diverted. He smiled. He can surprise them by picking so many that they’ll all have enough between them. So he set to work, picking at a bunch here, a tuft there. He made sure to keep his distance from the hole, and continued to stuff the blooms into his pockets and, when he didn’t have any more pocket-space, stuck them straight into his overalls.
Yet there was one bloom that kept catching his eye. It had the biggest petals and the yellowest color, and he so very much wanted it. But it was so very close to the hole. Still… his mommy would like it very much, and even when she had bad days at work, she could look at it and feel better.
Might as well try.
Evan crawled on his knees and pulled himself closer, slowly, so that he wouldn’t be scared. He inched closer and closer, getting his overalls covered in a fine layer of dirt and leaves. His tiny fingers were so very close to the stem, yet it bent toward the hole, so he stretched himself out, not wanting to get any closer.
His fingers were so close.

He touched the stem a bit on that last small wiggle.
The forest was completely still save for his chatting parents and the buzzing of insects. With a final push, he got the flower in his hand.
Until he was pushed.
By himself.
A great big bird saw it fit to squawk just as it dove near Evan, frightening him out of his socks, past the bloom, and straight into the dark hole, where the last thing he saw was the pretty flower looking down at him.