Frisk the GOAT - Confused_Squirrel (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Fallen Human Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 2: Untouchable Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3: Homemade Pie and Heartache Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 4: The Promise Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5: Turn Around Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: An Ice Start Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: A Heartwarming Sentiment Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: Treats and Tricks Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: Written in the Stars Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10: Japes, Puzzles, and Pasta Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 11: One Step Forward, Two Tiles Back Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12: Dogger and Dogger Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: Dashing through the Snow Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: A Sinking Feeling Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15: Complex Feelings Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: Bonetrousle Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: A Nicer Alternative Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Break Time Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19: Hangout Start! Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: Friends Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: Rising Dread, Rising Waters Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: A Clean Getaway Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23: Just a Matter of Avoiding the Pointy End Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24: Wet Socks, and Other Minor Tragedies Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25: Reap What You Sow Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26: Skullduggery Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27: Discordant Harmonies Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28: Memories of Petrichor Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29: Battle Against a Training Hero Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30: Reflections Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 31: Friends from Above and Fire from Below Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32: Down in the Dumps Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 33: Friendship. Friendship! FRIENDSHIP! Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 34: A Comfortable Silence Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35: Old Memories Leave Long Shadows Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 36: Unhugs All Around Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37: That's My Wish Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 38: Battle at the Little Bridge Notes: Chapter Text Notes: References

Chapter 1: Fallen Human

Notes:

Here are a few great Undertale covers for your listening pleasure:

Once Upon a Time-John Oeth
Ruins-Lenich and Kirya

Your Best Friend-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Long ago, two races ruled over Earth: HUMANS and MONSTERS. One day, war broke out between the two races. After a long battle, the humans were victorious. They sealed the monsters underground with a magic spell. Many years later…

MT. EBOTT

Legends say that those who climb the mountain never return. A young human child, enticed by stories of adventures and monsters, enters a cave at the peak, filled with determination and armed with a wooden stick. In the sudden darkness of the cave, the child trips on the root-bound earth and falls headlong into a deep hole, into the heart of the mountain. This is the day that everything changes for the underground… except, they don’t know it. In the capital, a forlorn king counts the days until his people’s hopes and his own nightmares are fulfilled, but no one comes. In Hotland, a scientist scans her monitor, waiting fearfully for another letter to slide beneath her door, but no one comes. In Waterfall, a warrior trains relentlessly, preparing for the day when she will claim justice for her people, but no one comes. In Snowdin, a brother yearns for the day when his dreams of popularity and greatness will be realized; he recalibrates his puzzles, but no one comes. In the forest, a brother treads a snowy path, observing everything, ready to fulfill a promise, but on this day, the door to the Ruins remains tightly sealed…

3 years later…

You shuffle your cards. You are trying your best not to cheat, but it’s hard when your opponent’s cards are transparent.

*You ask Blooky for snail cards.

“ghost fish… sorry…”

Your ghost friend Blooky looks at you with big eyes that are nearly always on the verge of tears and offers an apologetic little smile. You smile back and pull an echo flower card from the pile. Now it’s Gladstablook’s turn. You hold up her hand of cards so the training dummy can see them. You try not to cheat, but it’s hard when your opponent doesn’t have arms. She’s also a ghost, but unlike Napstablook, she prefers to inhabit a physical form. You never really understood why she chose a pristine training dummy with no limbs or facial features besides a pair of mismatched button eyes, but she seems content with it. The unblinking eyes do make for a pretty good poker face. Gladys asks you for snow poff cards and you have to hand over two of them. Her button eyes gleam and you realize she just made a new book. You squint as you go through her cards and set aside all of the snow poffs, trying to ignore that she has snails in her deck. Now it’s Napstablook’s round.

“uh, Frisk, do you have any… echo flowers?”

You sigh and hand over your echo flower. Blooky sets down four echo flowers, the last of their cards.

“Oh, I won! Yay… i hope you don’t feel bad. oh noooo…”

*You assure Blooky that you’re happy for them.

“Really? Oh, good. I should be heading home now, but I’ll come by tomorrow, if you want… if not that’s okay too…”

*You tell Blooky you can’t wait. You say that one day soon you want to visit their house.

“I would like that! I have all sorts of things I want to show you. Music, snacks… No rush, though… Just thinking about it makes me really happy…”

Blooky cries a dapper-looking hat and you applaud. Blooky seems more confident now than when you first met. You’re really proud of how far they’ve come since they pretended to be asleep in the middle of the path to avoid talking to you.

“Well, byeeeeee….”

You and Gladys wave goodbye as Blooky disappears. You’re not sure how Gladys waves without arms, but you don’t really question ghost physics anymore. You pack up the cards and say goodbye to Gladys before walking down the corridor. Your footsteps echo against the stony walls. The air in the Ruins is still and heavy, and even the crisp red leaves lay on the ground listlessly. You reach out and let the tip of the stick you always carry run along the wall, breaking up the silence with a pleasant clatter. The Ruins is a stagnant place. You don’t dislike it. It is home, after all, and there is a sort of tranquility in the faint purple glow of the place. But nothing changes here, and after awhile the idyllic days all meld into one. No one new arrives, and no one besides Blooky leaves. Well, there is one other exception. There is a faint rustle behind you and the sound of breaking earth. You step to the side as a “friendliness pellet” whizzes past you and pings against the stone wall.

*You turn and say that brings your winning dodge streak to 98.

“You’re annoyingly good at that.”

Flowey the flower is wearing a pleasant smile, but that could change at any moment.

“I just can’t hit you, can I? But you’d better watch out. Wouldn’t want to lose that streak before you hit 100, would you?”

Flowey’s face contorts into an unnatural, toothy grin, but you’re used to that by now. He dives underground and pops up again right by your feet, pleasant smile in place again. He shakes the dirt off his sunny yellow petals.

“So, friend, do you know what today is? That’s right, your best friend wouldn’t forget an important anniversary like this! Three years ago today is when you fell into my life and cursed me with an EXISTENCE OF MONOTONY!”

Flowey gives a demented laugh that reverberates through the corridor. The laugh you never quite get used to.

“Ah, how time flies. Or ambles. Or CRAWLS in this case, as I sit by and watch you DO NOTHING for years but PLAY CARDS and eat a FREAKISH number of DONUTS! The power of the world at your fingertips, endless possibilities, the ability to avoid every bad consequence, and what do you do? Eat pie. And what entertainment do I have but to sit around and watch you ruin your teeth? I can’t even stir up my own fun anymore, not without the power to LOAD or RESET.”

*You tell Flowey that if he’s bored you can teach him to play “Ghost Fish.”

“Ha-ha, very funny. You know, when you first fell down here, I thought I had a good thing going. I could see it in that expressive face.”

He makes a blank, three-lined face.

“I saw someone with plans, with the potential to do anything, with DETERMINATION. What happened to that?”

*You tell Flowey that you still have plans. You’re going to free everyone in the underground.

“Great. You might want to get around to that in the next few decades, otherwise you’re going to be using that stick as a cane.”

*You tell Flowey that Stickolas would make a good cane, he’s been wanting to branch out.

“Ugh, why did you give that stupid thing a name? I would have thrown that garbage into a ditch years ago and found a REAL weapon.”

*You say that you wood never desert Stickolas.

Flowey makes a disgusted face.

“That’s it, you’ve spent too much time with the goat.”

*You ask how things in the underground are going.

“Oh, terrible!”

Flowey smiles and bounces his head back and forth.

“Awful! Miserable! Worse every day! Today I heard that the capital’s so overcrowded, they can’t build any new homes there. You ever seen a naked mole rat try to live in Snowdin? YIKES. If I were a REALLY mean flower, I would tell them that their last hope for freedom is running around looking for snails.”

You look away. Flowey can be a prick sometimes, but you know he’s telling the truth. You know the monsters of the underground deserve to be free. You know your SOUL is their final hope. You know you can save them, and you can’t delay any longer.

*You tell Flowey the time has come to ACT.

He squints at you, a small grin forming.

“Wait, for real? What are you going to do?”

*You tell him you have to pass one final test before you’re ready, in the big chamber with the stairs near where you fell.

“Huh. Well, you’ve piqued my interest. Alright, I’ll bite. But if this is something lame—”

His face twists into a creepy grin.

“I’LL DUST YOUR PILLOW IN POLLEN! AHAHAHAH!! ‘Kay, see you there, bud!”

He vanishes into the ground and the soil closes up as if he were never there. You have a feeling this isn’t going to disappoint him. You find a Froggit and ask him to assemble everyone in the room with the stairs. You walk through the long corridor and think about what’s next. You flick the switches on the wall to turn off the spikes. The yellow chalk showing which levers to pull has faded, but you don’t need the markings anymore. You’ve read that monsters filled the underground with puzzles, first as a defense measure, and later as a tradition. After three years in the Ruins, you feel you are very good at puzzles. You have all of the switches, paths, and colored buttons memorized. Sure, Mom makes you carry a labelled map with the solutions at all times, but you hardly ever need it. You pause by your favorite sign and read its etched words once more.

“Only the fearless ones may proceed. Brave ones, foolish ones. Both walk not the middle road.”

You are determined to proceed. Whether you are brave or foolish, you are about to find out. You enter the next room at the top of the stairs. Most of the monsters of the Ruins, those you have come to call your friends, are in the room below you. There are Froggits, Vegetoids, Looxes, Moldsmals, Migosps, and Whimsuns everywhere. You would be surprised that everyone came so quickly, but word travels fast in the Ruins, and there is literally nothing better to do, so here everyone is. Nearly everyone, anyway. Gladys isn’t much for fighting, and Mom would have a fit if she knew the Ruins crowd was hosting a fight club involving her child. Thankfully she is busy making her “secret” daily visit to the Ruins exit door right about now. A Froggit hops forward and starts croaking. It took awhile for you to figure out the Froggits’ accent, but these days you understand each other pretty well.

(Lllllladies and gentlemons, here we are once more in the belly of the Ruins, ready for battle! Champion of the Ruins, leap forth and lay down your challenge!)

You leap from the top of the stairs and crash into the pile of leaves below. You step forward and pose dramatically.

(The Champion leaps forward! This will be a battle for the ages, human versus monster! Who will triumph? What will become of the human’s SOUL? What daring maneuvers await us? What! Will! Uh… I don’t know how much longer I can hype this up. Look, this is always fun, Frisk, but it rather takes the tension out of things when no one can hit you.)

You shrug. You have gotten pretty good at this.

(Uh, anyway, choose your challengers! As befits the Champion, this will be a three-on-one match! Will a squad of three dare to do what no single monster can? I mean, probably not, but, uh… No! We can do it! Who do you dare face?)

*You tell Announcer Froggit that you have something different in mind this time.

You sweep your arm toward the crowd.

*You shout out that you challenge everyone in the room.

A gasp sweeps over the room. The crowd goes wild. Froggit begins to hop excitedly.

(You heard it first, folks! The Champion has challenged everyone! Here we have a match for the ages! In one corner, we have the denizens of the Ruins. An army of Froggits!)

The Froggits hop into formation.

(A swarm of Whimsuns!)

The Whimsuns flutter forth fearfully.

(A crop of Vegetoids!)

The Vegetoids smack their lips.

(A plague of Migosps!)

The Migosps buzz in unison.

(A colony of Moldsmals!)

The Moldsmals wobble, not in unison.

(And a gang of Looxes!)

The Looxes crack their knuckles.

(Aaaaand in the other corner we have a spunky eleven-year-old child! This human may be lacking in magic and weigh eighty pounds soaking wet, but don’t underestimate the Champion of the Ruins! As always, the rules are as follows: Frisk will win by avoiding our attacks for three turns, but if even a single bullet lands, we claim victory! Are you ready, Champion?)

You twirl Stickolas in your hand and make your war face. The shadow of a small flower looms above, filling you with determination.

(Then let this totally balanced and fair fight begin!)

Notes:

Well, it looks like I'm finally doing this! Whether I am brave or foolish, we will soon see.
I'm planning on posting on Mondays and Thursdays, the rationale being that those are the worst days of the week and this might make them slightly better.

Feel free to drop by and say hello in the comments!

Chapter 2: Untouchable

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:

Enemy Approaching-Osirois
Ruins-RichaadEB

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The battle begins. You check the room. The monsters seem to have shifted into a practical formation, with the Froggits and Looxes in front, the Moldsmals and Vegetoids behind them, and the Whimsuns and Migosps fluttering overhead. Smells like…a variety of things that don’t smell very good together. The air buzzes with wingbeats and anticipation, and a rush of adrenaline spreads through your limbs. Your foot taps the packed soil and your fingertips dance across Stickolas’ smooth bark. The energy builds within you, blood racing, skin tingling, a thousand thoughts humming and crackling in your ears, rising in intensity and threatening to boil over until—you take a deep, slow breath, pulling that energy inward, focusing it, imagining every drop of it settling into your red SOUL and then radiating outward to the rest of your body like a gentle flame. You are perfectly still. You can feel the energy of every monster in the room. Their turn begins.

A flurry of bullets speeds at you from every direction. You feel your SOUL pulse within your chest. The instinct to move, to move anywhere just to get away, remains after all this time, but you stay still. Panicky movement will just throw you into the path of more bullets. You make a quarter-turn as a wave of moth-shaped bullets flutters past you. A step to the left as carrot spears plunge into the ground by your feet. A slight duck as a big floater drifts over your head. The next wave of fly bullets is homing in on your SOUL; now you do need to move. Left, right, twist around and jump. You know the characteristic bullets and patterns of every monster here, but you’ve never faced this many bullets at once. Another line of moths swings toward you and you leap over it. A cloud of spores drifts down and you weave between them. As your palms sweat you resist the urge to look down at your SOUL. Looking at your SOUL while you dodge is just as useless as looking at your feet while you walk. Carrots and flies rain down, and you step between the tiny chinks on the ground in between them. A handful of spores shoots from the back of the group and explodes like fireworks. You back up a few steps, wait for the gaps to grow between the spreading bullets, and step between them. The raging bullets settle into silence and you take a deep breath. That’s turn one.

You try to console the visibly distraught Whimsuns, but most of them burst into tears and flee to the back of the room. They usually can’t take the excitement for more than a turn, so you aren’t surprised. The Moldsmals wiggle happily as they make their way to the back as well. They just lack the attention span for much of a battle. It’s their turn again.

Having fewer monsters to fight should make this easier, but fewer opponents also means more room for complex patterns. The Vegetoids grin and hurl a storm of fruits and vegetables at you and you wrinkle your nose. You aren’t sure what you hate more about this attack, the fact that the bullets bounce around the room like ping-pong balls, or the fact that you’ll have to eat a vegetable to satisfy them. Despite your many protests, the Vegetoids always insist that you can’t have a healthy diet with just donuts and snails. You step past the first wave, then turn and duck as the bullets bounce off the back wall and fly at you again. There are only so many clear paths to take here, and those options dwindle as a swarm of co*ckroaches starts to fill in the gaps. You zigzag between the clusters of bullets, but they keep coming, flying and bouncing in every direction. You’re completely surrounded. This is the kind of onslaught you’ve always had trouble with, but you remember what to do. You don’t look at the bullets, that’s not where you want to be. You look at the spaces between them. You run left and right, aiming for the clear spaces. Jump, duck, race through a clear path before they close in behind you. Another wave comes at you and your eyes dart back and forth, searching for the gap. A glimmer of green catches your eye and you race for it, twisting around carrots and bugs. As a clump of bananas spins toward your feet you leap over it toward the green spot, catching the green tomato in your mouth and flying through the wave of bullets. They dissipate as you roll to your feet and finish your unwanted healthy snack. That’s turn two.

You do a celebratory dance and the Migosps join in, even though they missed. The Vegetoids give you a sinister grin and make their way to the back. Now that your diet is slightly more balanced, they are satisfied. The Migosps back up too, happy that they’ve had their fun. It’s just the Froggits and Looxes now, and you aren’t surprised. The faithful Froggits always stick it out to the end, advising and encouraging you at every step, and, well, the Looxes just like a good fight. It’s their final turn.

Now there are even fewer monsters, but you know better than to lose focus at the end. Now they have enough space for the big attacks. A group of tailed floaters springs at you. Your small, precise movements aren’t going to cut it anymore. Now is when you get your exercise in. You spring past them, turn, and duck as they bounce off the walls. They continue to ricochet off the walls, gaining momentum each time. Left, right, duck, leap. A few smaller floaters race toward you and you dodge those ones too. As they scatter, you turn and face a giant frog-shaped bullet. These supersized bullets are intimidating, but slow and well-telegraphed. The frog leaps and you duck under it, but another frog waits behind it. It does a weak hop and you have to run to slide under it. You back up to match the timing of the next one, which soars over your head. A final frog stares you in the face and makes a small, lethargic hop forward. You grit your teeth. You won’t be able to fit under this one, you’ll have to go over. You back up until you can feel the wall behind you. The frog shortens the distance with another hop. It’s now or never. You blast forward, closing the distance. When you’re right in front of it, you fall into a crouch and explode into a huge leap. You somersault over the frog and land on the other side of it in a superhero pose. The crowd goes wild. That’s turn three.

You compliment your opponents and the Froggits blush deeply. The Looxes thank you for not picking on them. You choose to SPARE the monsters and the battle ends.

Announcer Froggit tries to croak over the roaring crowd. (Llladies and gentlefrogs, can you believe it? In our toughest challenge ever, the Champion of the Ruins emerges victorious! Unbelievable! We gave everything we have, and not a single hit! Truly, one for the books. Who would have thought any human could be so nimble, so confident? And what a leap there at the end! You jump like a Froggit!)

*You tell him you learned from the best.

Froggit blushes deeply. (What a spectacular event, folks! And now, a word from our champion. What do you have to say after this grand victory?)

*You say that you have a big announcement to make. You say that it is finally time for you to leave the Ruins.

A gasp sweeps over the crowd.

(What? Leaving? Leaving forever?)

*You remind them of your promise to break the barrier and free the monsters, and tell them you are now ready.

Everyone looks around at each other and whispers. The Whimsuns start crying—or had they stopped from the last time? Froggit hops closer and looks up at you with that melancholy expression he always has, but it looks like he’s trying to smile for you.

(Well, no one can argue that you aren’t ready. We all have faith in you. Our hopes, our dreams. We send them with you. And we know you can do it… and we’ll all miss you, Frisk.)

As your eyes start to well up you bend over and plant a big kiss on top of Froggit’s head. He doesn’t turn into a prince, but he does turn as red as a tomato.

*You tell everyone you won’t let them down, and you’ll be back soon. And next time, you’ll all leave the Ruins together.

Everyone crowds in for a group hug. By now almost everyone is crying, including you. Big Loox tears splash everywhere, and the Moldsmals wiggle sadly. Everyone showers you with well-wishes and encouragement.

“P-p-p-please don’t get hurt out there!”

“If those monsters out there give you any trouble, you pick on ‘em!”

“Show them your moves, cha-cha!”

“Eat your greens while you’re traveling!”

The Moldsmals wiggle encouragingly.

*You thank everyone and tell them you’ll make them proud.

Froggit gives you a smile.

(Alright, folks! It’s about time we break it up so we can prepare a proper send-off. I suppose this is our last club meeting for a while, eh? This wouldn’t be much of an event without our champion! So now, at our final meeting, I remind you all of the first rule of Monster Fight Club: we don’t tell Miss Toriel about Monster Fight Club. Meeting adjourned!)

The monsters filter out of the room one by one until you are left standing alone. You can hear Flowey’s maniacal laughter even before he pops up by your feet.

“AHAHAHAHA. That was BRILLIANT! You’re UNTOUCHABLE! I get it now. You weren’t just goofing around all this time, you were TRAINING! PREPARING! I never should have doubted you, friend, you had a plan all along! You always have a plan. Just think, after all that practice, what you can DO once you’re outside of the Ruins? Those monsters outside won’t stand a chance. They’ll be AT YOUR MERCY!”

*You remind Flowey you intend to use MERCY.

“Right, right. Break the barrier, free the monsters, all that. I’ll give you credit, you really have surprised me. And almost nothing surprises me anymore. Ooh, this is going to be interesting. Will you be able to dodge everyone’s attacks like you did just now?”

*You say that you believe you can.

“Ha! There are some pretty tough cookies out there, but with those skills, you might just stand a chance. I hope you’re ready to FIGHT, though, because it won’t be a game to the monsters you’ll meet outside.”

*You tell him you won’t hurt anyone.

“Nauseatingly optimistic, as usual. What do I keep telling you? It’s a kill or be killed world out there. That was true when you fell, and it’s a lot worse now. There’s an underground full of monsters out there, and they all want you dead.”

He makes a creepy face.

“Doesn’t that give you a nice, warm feeling? So many people who care about what happens to you.”

He smiles pleasantly.

“And anyway, why carry a stick if you aren’t going to hit anyone with it?”

*You tell him that Stickolas is a pacistick.

“Ugh, that was a bad one, even for you. Speaking of which, have you told her yet?”

He mimics your mom’s face. You hang your head.

“I thought not. Good luck with that. Well, I’m afraid you’re in for a rude awakening once you leave here, but don’t worry! Little old Flowey’s got your back.”

*You tell him that’s what you’re afraid of, considering the last 98 times he’s tried to get your back.

“Haha, you’re not wrong! But I was only trying to be helpful. Just think how much better your reflexes are, thanks to me.”

You recall the sting of bullets on your skin. Being scathed by Flowey’s “friendliness pellets” was one of the first things that happened to you when you fell. If Mom hadn’t found you right after, it might have given you a jaded view of monsters.

“And anyway, I know you’ll have your hands full trying not to get murdered, so here’s the deal. From here on out, I won’t sneak attack you any more. We’re on the same page, as partners trying to break the barrier. Good old helpful Flowey, looking out for you!”

*You thank Flowey and say that means a lot to you.

“Hey, what are best friends for? See you on the other side, friend.”

He winks at you and disappears beneath the ground, leaving you alone once more.

Notes:

Don't tell Toriel. Frisk's confidence and agility here are in stark contrast to my own play throughs, where I seem to have a magnetic attraction to bullets.

Feel free to drop by in the comments and say hello!

Chapter 3: Homemade Pie and Heartache

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:

Ruins-Instrument Maniac
Home-Moisés Nieto
Home-Instrument Maniac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You walk through the Ruins slowly, looking at every familiar sign, switch, and vine once more. You’ll probably come back to the Ruins to get everyone once you break the barrier, but this will be the last time you’ll see the place for a while. And you will never live here again. It’s sad, passing by the familiar walls of your home, but exciting too. You’re leaving on a new adventure. If you’re honest with yourself, you aren’t exactly sure what you’re getting into. You know a lot about the outside from Blooky, Flowey, and the many books you’ve read, but there’s still so much you don’t know, including how to actually break the barrier—without dying, that is, which is non-negotiable. Your plan might have one or two critical gaps. Still, you’ve read everything you could get your hands on and trained for every possibility you could think of. The monsters of the Ruins have taught you so much, but there’s nothing left you can learn here. It’s time.

You explain everything to Gladys, and you ask her to tell Blooky that you’ve left, but will stop by when you’re in Waterfall. She’s not much for conversation, but her button eyes glisten as she says her goodbyes. You hope you’ll get to meet all of the other Blook cousins on your journey.

You think about Mom as you walk down the most ridiculously long hallway ever built. How are you going to tell her? She’s told you every horror story she could think of about the dangers of the world outside and about the murderous King Asgore, not that they’ve deterred you. She doesn’t talk about it much, but you know there were other children before you, and you know that Asgore already has six human souls. You wonder if she will let you go. You don’t want her to worry, but you have to do this. Somehow, you know you have to be the one to save everyone, like the angel from the prophecy. The weight of that knowledge is part of the reason you’ve stayed so long. You wanted to be prepared before running into the dangers of the underground. And despite Flowey’s goading, you weren’t going to leave before you were ready. And then, there is the other reason. You love Mom and want to stay with her and the other friends you’ve made here. A part of you still wants to stay in the Ruins forever.

You finally make it through the hallway, and the sight of red leaf piles lifts your spirits. You take a running leap into one. The crash of crisp crinkling leaves fills you with determination. You smile as you continue onward. A part of you wants to stay, but the rest of you is eager to leave. There’s a whole underground out there, with snow and rain and new friends you haven’t met yet. You can’t wait to see what’s up ahead! And with three big zones of the underground to get through, you should have plenty of time to work out the rest of your plan.

One thing still puzzles you. Once, Mom accidentally let it slip that you were the eighth fallen human. Seven before you. So, if Asgore only has six souls, one human must have made it out of the underground. But how did they make it past the barrier? Everyone you’ve asked has said that no one can pass the barrier from the inside, but if another human has done it, maybe it’s possible? Could it be a human thing?

Distracted by your thoughts, you don’t realize until too late that you’re walking across that fragile section of flooring that tends to give way if you don’t follow a particular path. A particular path that you are distinctly not on. You misstep and fall through the floor, and as the wind whistles past your ears you stifle an annoyed sigh and wait for the crash. You land in the pile of leaves below with a dull thud.

You are the future of humans and monsters. You must stay determined.

You blink a few times as the echoing voice in your head fades. You prop yourself up and watch as the leaves disturbed by your crash settle back to the ground. You climb to your feet and give yourself a once-over. Not a scratch! Even before you fell through a mountain you had a reputation for taking tumbles, but you’re pretty lucky about landing on soft things.

As you make your way to the stairway that leads back up, you think about the words that echoed in your mind as you hit the ground. It isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Sometimes in your dreams, in the daze of a sudden impact, or in a quiet moment, you feel it. An unfamiliar, yet familiar voice will say something, or an image will flash before your eyes. They’re usually quick snippets, but sometimes they’re conversations. Sometimes you’re transported somewhere else for a moment, living through a memory that isn’t yours. It’s hard to describe, but for whatever reason it doesn’t frighten you. It feels like someone is sharing a piece of themselves with you. Whether the words were meant for you or not, you take them to heart as you continue on.

In the next room, you ask your rock friend to hold down the button for you one last time.

“Just for you, pumpkin! I hear you’re leaving the nest, huh? They grow up so fast. Take care out there!”

*You promise you will.

You pass by the familiar table with the very, very old cheese on it. At this point it’s cycled through all of the states of matter, plasma included, and is currently a semi-solid ooze covered in white fuzzy stuff. You’ve been told this is where baby Moldsmals come from. Knowing the mouse might one day don a hazmat suit and dispose of the cheese fills you with determination.

As you move on, you decide to stop by the spider bake sale one more time to get a spider donut. You chat with your spider friends while eating their spider food. You try not to think about it too much. Spiders are strange, even for monsters, and a little mild cannibalism is par for the course. It took you a while to wrap your head around it, but the spiders in the pastries aren’t like the spiders actually running the bake sale. Your friends are spider-like monsters, they are sapient, and like any monster, would turn to dust when they die. The spiders in their food are normal, non-sapient spiders that happen to live in the underground. It makes the whole situation slightly less weird… slightly.

A couple of them descend from the gloomy ceiling on their gossamer strands to perch on your shoulder as you eat. You carefully brush your hair out of the way to make room for them. Some people might find them creepy, but there’s something you admire about their round little eyes that gleam like onyxes and their needle-like feet that meticulously weave the icing webs on your donuts. You’ve spent many afternoons in this corner of the Ruins while the spiders tap dance on your shoulders and whisper secrets in your ears. The secrets they whisper to you now will help you later in your journey. They’re sorry to lose their best customer, but they wish you luck. They, too, have waited a long time to get out of the Ruins. Thanks to their telegrams, the spiders have been your other lifeline to the rest of the underground. You’ve learned a lot of things from the spiders that you couldn’t have gotten from any other monster. You can’t wait to stop by the bake sale branch in Hotland and meet the Miss Muffet you’ve heard so much about.

You pass through the other rooms quickly, tapping the colored buttons as you go. Before you know it, here you are. There’s the bald tree and the little house beyond it. Piles of leaves frame the door like flowerbeds, and a rich, sweet smell wafts from the windows. Seeing your cute, tidy home in the Ruins fills you with determination. You pause a moment at the door, take a deep breath, and walk inside. You walk into the living room and see Mom in her chair, reading a book by the fire. There’s a vase full of freshly cut yellow flowers on the table. The bookshelf is packed with read and reread books on everything from children’s stories and joke books to botany and history textbooks. In the place of honor on the mantle sits a mother’s day card that reads “You’re the GOAT!” across the front. The feeling of comfort and belonging washes over you. Toriel looks up and smiles warmly. Everything about her is warm, from her smile, to her laugh, to the caress of her furry paws and the nuzzle of her fuzzy snout. Her temper is a little on the warm side, too, but it’s usually reserved for those who deserve a motherly scolding.

“Hello, my child. Have you had a nice day? I have a surprise for you. Do you remember what today is? It is the third anniversary of the day you came to live here! I thought we could celebrate with a butterscotch-cinnamon pie and some escargot. How does that sound?”

Your mouth waters at the mere mention of it. At one time you were a little squeamish about eating snails, but Mom has won you over completely. Snails with lots of butter and herbs, and then a homemade pie!

*You tell her that sounds wonderful.

“Oh, good! I am so glad that makes you happy. I can hardly believe it has been three years already since you have fallen down. Why, it just feels like yesterday. You were so small and cute back then. And now how tall and cute you are! But, my child, you look a little sad. Could anything be the matter?”

You shuffle on your feet.

*You say that you have to tell her something.

“What is it?”

You scoot a little closer.

*You tell her that you’ve loved living here these past three years.

The change in her countenance is immediate. Her eyes narrow a bit and she fumbles with the page of her book. The sentence is innocuous enough on its own, but you know you aren’t doing a good job of hiding the nervousness in your voice.

“O-oh. I am glad. And I have so loved having you here. And I am sure we will have many happy times in the years to come.”

She is speaking faster now, as if she knows what you are about to say.

*You tell her that you are sure you will both have a lot of fun together in the future, but there are things you must do.

“Why, yes, of course, my child. You are very studious. There is still much for you to do and learn as you grow. But there is no rush, of course. You must take your time. We have all the time in the world. Why don’t we have dinner now? O-or, I could tell you about this fascinating book I am reading! It is about dendrology. Did you know that dendrology is the study of dandruff? Haha, that is just a little joke. It isn’t really.”

She is trying to change the subject. You know she doesn’t want you to say it. You say it anyway.

*You tell her it is time for you to leave the Ruins.

She silently closes her book and sets her reading glasses down. You both sit there for a long moment.

“Haha… You wish to leave the Ruins. I… I knew you would, someday. They all do. They come. They leave. And then…”

*You tell her you love living with her, but the Ruins are small. The underground is small. It isn’t fair for everyone to be trapped here.

“And what will you do, little one? If you leave, Asgore will kill you. Do you imagine you can survive out there?”

*You tell her you know you can. You will find a way to break the barrier and free everyone, and then you can make a new home together on the surface and live together forever.

She puts a paw to her eyes.

“It sounds so wonderful when you say it. But how can I believe it? Oh, naïve child, you do not understand what it is like out there. How cruel others can be.”

*You tell her that you will teach them kindness, then.

“Will I fail to save even a single child? Please…”

*You tell her that you miss the sky, the wind, the sun, the rain. You say that you want all of your friends to see those things too. You say that everyone is counting on you. That you can’t abandon them.

She flinches. She clasps her paws over her heart and leans toward you, aching to reach out but holding herself back. When she speaks it is in a strained whisper.

Please, Frisk. I cannot lose you too!”

A sting worse than any bullet shoots through your heart and your eyes well up. You never met the other humans, but you know them. You’ve seen their drawings tucked away in the box Mom keeps in her room. You’ve worn their shoes. You’ve marked your height on the same doorpost as theirs, surpassing some and still reaching for others. You can’t bear to hurt Mom in the same way, but it’s for them, too, that you are doing this. Their deaths can’t be in vain. You stand up straight.

*You tell her you are determined.

A shudder passes over her frame and she covers her face. When she looks up again, there is steel in her posture and flint in her eyes. A dim reflection from the fireplace glows on her horns.

“I… I see. I know, then, what I must do.”

She stands abruptly. What have you done? What will she do now? You know you have to do this, but what if she tries to stop you? What if you have to—she kneels by your side and pulls you into a warm, fluffy goat hug. You are enfolded by the silky purple fabric of her robes, and her soft fur brushes your face.

“My expectations, my loneliness, my fear… For you, I will set them aside. You have proven to me that you are very strong, my child. I know now… No, I have always known, that you are strong enough to do this. It has just taken me a while to accept it.”

You hug her back and try not to cry. You fail. She wipes away your tears while shedding her own.

“I should have known you could not be happy here forever. The Ruins are, indeed, very small. This is no place for one so active and strong-willed as you. Why, to think of all the times you tumbled in here with leaves in your hair, scratched up as if you had been in a fight! What escapades you must have gotten into!”

*You tell her she doesn’t know the half of it.

The tension finally breaks and you both laugh.

“You cause me a lot of grief, child, with your rambunctiousness. And I love you so very much.”

You stay there for a long moment, taking in each other’s warmth. She runs a paw through your hair, then straightens up and folds her paws in her lap resolutely.

“Well, then, I think we should be renegades tonight. Let us eat dessert before dinner. What do you say?”

*You say you would like that very much.

Notes:

Mom hugs really are the best hugs.

Feel free to drop by and say hello in the comments, and I'll see you next week!

Chapter 4: The Promise

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Fallen Down-InstrumentManiac
Home-adrisaurus

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You are sitting belly-down on the living room floor, soaking up the warmth of the fire and the cool sensation of the floorboards. There’s a big book open in front of you, and you scan the blur of words through someone else’s eyes. Light clinking sounds and the hum of Mom’s voice come from the kitchen. She pokes her head into the room and smiles.

“I am almost done. I think you will like—oh! That is quite an advanced text you are reading, my child! Are you sure you would not like something a little easier?”

You answer in a voice that isn’t yours, and you can’t make out the words. The answer seems to satisfy her.

“My my, you are quite the erudite little scholar, aren’t you? You have a rather advanced vocabulary for your age. Let me see… do you know the word bailiwick?”

The voice coming from you sounds confident.

“That is correct! An area of expertise. Very good. Hm?”

The voice says something that sounds like a challenge.

“Q-quotidian? Of course I do. It means…It refers to one who often makes quotes!”

Mom and the voice both laugh before Mom amends her statement.

“You caught me! I believe quotidian refers to something commonplace or everyday. Now, what I have here is not quotidian in the slightest. This ingredient can be rather difficult to get in the underground, and this is a new recipe for me, but I believe this is a successful chocolate pie. Would you care to be the first to test it?”

You scramble from your spot on the floor and slide into the kitchen in your socked feet. You feel a bloom of embarrassment at your excitement and try to regain your composure, but you note the glint in Mom’s eye. She offers you a slice and the sensation of rich, warm chocolate slides down your throat. The voice says some restrained words that seem to acknowledge the pie as palatable. Mom pats your head.

“Well, I am glad of that. I will be sure to hold on to this recipe. I hope…I hope you are happy here, my child.”

The voice says nothing, but even through the stoic facade you can feel what is left unspoken. The warmth in your chest matches the warmth of the chocolate pie.

The next morning, you wake up in your cozy little bed for the last time. The walls are covered in your drawings, and you are surrounded by plushies that you and Mom made together. The scent of cinnamon and butterscotch still lingers in the air, bringing your dream to mind. You hop out of bed and go to the closet. It is filled with a wide variety of identical blue-and-purple striped sweaters. Your approach to style is that if you find an iconic look, why change it? Mom knitted every one of them to be pillowy and oversized, just as a sweater should be. While your shirt is a given, you take a minute to consider the rest of your ensemble. This outfit is going to have to take you through the whole underground and its weirdly diverse climates, so it’ll need to be versatile and durable. It also needs to give you enough range of motion to dodge and run.

You opt for tall, breathable black socks to keep your feet dry and your most comfortable capri pants to give you flexibility. The blue in your pants happens to exactly match the blue in your sweater, and you’re hoping that visual blending, along with the stripes, will give you a sort of confounding zebra-pattern effect that will confuse any monster chasing you. You aren’t sure why that would work, but you definitely saw something like that in a nature documentary once. As for the shoes, there’s really only one choice. You pull out your favorite pair of all-black sneakers with thundersnails drawn on the sides in silver permanent marker. They’re lightweight, flexible, and perfectly broken-in. You can’t say for sure if they make you any faster, but you feel faster when you’re wearing them, and you’re going to need fleet feet for this quest. You think about Mom as you lace them up. When you first fell, you didn’t know how to tie your shoes properly. You just sort of wound the laces around your ankle, twisted them together with vain hopes, and jammed the aglets into your socks. It was one of those things you’d made work as best as you could because you had more important things to think about. When Mom first sat you down to show you how to do it you were a little embarrassed, but she was so patient with you that the awkward feelings soon dissipated. Of course, her big paws aren’t the best for fiddly little things like shoelaces, and the teaching moment ended with her tying her own finger to your shoe, both of you laughing hysterically, and her resorting to the chalkboard to draw a diagram of how to tie a knot.

You pull the laces into an “X,” make bunny ears, loop one around the other, then double-knot it for security. Perfect. You give your room a final glance before stepping out. Instead of heading to the foyer, you are drawn to the other end of the hallway. You gaze into the mirror at the end of the hall. It’s you! And you have a bedhead. You fix your hair and look again. It’s you. And you are ready.

You make your way to the foyer and run into Mom.

“Good morning, my child! Are you ready for the big day?”

*You tell her you are.

“Very good. But first, some of your friends are waiting outside to see you off. Isn’t that nice of them?”

You both step outside and you are greeted by a bunch of your monster friends crowded in the little yard. They cheer and wave when they see you. Froggit hops forward.

(Hello, Frisk! On behalf of everyone here, I would like to wish you good luck on your adventure! We have helped Miss Toriel to pack a bag for you. We hope these things will be helpful to you.)

He hands you a blue backpack and you peek inside. There’s a leftover slice of butterscotch-cinnamon pie wrapped in foil, an extra sweater, your phone, your wallet, a bag of crayons and markers and a few sheets of paper, a few pieces of monster candy, and a bottle of spider cider. The spiders crowded on one of the tree branches wave for your attention and you thank them for the cider, although you’re almost positive Mom bought it for you. The spiders don’t really do freebies. There’s also a small package wrapped in paper. You rip it open and find a charm bracelet full of cute metal charms in the shape of a frog, a moth, a roach, jello, a carrot, an eyeball, a snail, and a red heart. You put it on and admire it as it glints in the faint purple light.

*You thank everyone for the wonderful present and tell them you’ll wear it the whole time you’re on your adventure.

Everyone gathers in for another group hug, then cheers you on as you wave goodbye and head back into the house with Mom.

“You have such wonderful friends, that was very nice of them. You know, I remember how quiet and shy you used to be when you first came here. I could hardly get a word out of you. I am certain that falling into such a strange new place must have been quite an ordeal for you. But how you have come into your own since then! You are so confident and warm-hearted now, and you have made so many friends. You can hardly imagine how proud I am.”

She gives you a motherly smile and you return it, although you can see the worry lines around her eyes.

"I suppose it is time, then… May I walk you to the door?”

*You tell her you would like that.

Mom takes you by the hand and you walk downstairs to the long, drafty corridor below. You know she comes here regularly, but it’s the one part of the Ruins you haven’t been in very often. You feel her hand tremble slightly as you walk. Every footstep, breath, and heartbeat resounds in the tight corridor.

“Are you sure you have everything you need? Your phone is fully charged, and that sweater is warm enough for you? Snowdin can be very cold.”

*You tell her you have everything.

“Good… That is good.”

After a few moments you look up at her.

*You ask if she would like to hear a fun snail fact.

“Oh? I would like that very much, my child.”

*You tell her that when snails want to look fancy, they wear snail polish.

She howls with laughter.

“And did you know that when they want to look casual, they wear their escargot pants?”

You giggle. Mom has the best jokes. She looks a little happier, but you can tell she is still downcast.

*You tell her that you have friends out there who will keep an eye out for you, like Flowey.

She gives you a sideways look.

“Oh. I see. I do not like that flower very much. I like your friend Napstablook much better.”

*You agree that Blooky is pretty great.

As Mom’s main snail supplier, her high opinion of them isn’t surprising.

“That flower… I do not recall seeing him before that day when I met you and I set him on fire. And yet, there is something familiar about him to me. As though we had met before, or perhaps we had always known each other. I do not trust him.”

Mom has many great qualities, but forgiveness is not one of them. As her child, you know she would forgive you for anything, but her disposition toward others can be a little more… steely.

*You tell her that you’ve forgiven Flowey for his mean prank, and it isn’t good to hold a grudge.

She flinches.

“Of course, you are right, my child. Still, I would urge you to be cautious with such a friend. I have met those like Flowey before.”

*You promise to be careful.

You walk on in silence a little longer.

“My child, you must forgive my worries. You know I believe in you, but I do worry about you getting hurt.”

*You tell her you won’t.

She nods, but doesn’t seem completely reassured.

*You remind her that you are great at dodging.

“Yes, I know you are. I know you will do your best to stay safe.”

She seems better, but it still isn’t enough. You stop in your tracks and she turns to face you.

*You tell her you are going to make her a promise. You say you aren’t going to get hit at all.

She looks at you in surprise.

“That is quite a bold promise!”

*You tell her you will dodge everything that comes your way. You won’t get hit by a single bullet.

She stares at you in wonder, and then breaks into warm laughter.

“Oh, my child! I believe you. And it eases this silly little lady’s worries quite a bit. Thank you.”

You continue walking, hand-in-paw, until you reach the purple door marked by the Deltarune. She stops and kneels beside you.

“Now, I want you to call me often, okay?”

*You say that you will.

“Good. Be careful, eat well, keep your shoes dry, and don’t stay up too late. We shall meet again soon. Know that even when we are apart, a mother’s love will protect you from afar. And I know there are those outside who will watch over you as well. You are certain to make good friends. Cherish them and protect each other, and the way will open before you. And… be good, my child.”

*You tell her you love her.

She gives you a warm, fluffy goat hug, slowly stands, and walks back down the corridor. You push open the doors. There is another long hallway beyond it, and, as you reach the end, an imposing set of doors framed by Ionian columns. You take a deep breath, feel the weight of the silence around you, and push open the doors.

Notes:

And that wraps up the Ruins! We'll be heading into Snowdin next, I'm pretty excited about it. And yes, I did ransack Merriam-Webster's word of the day list for "bailiwick" and "quotidian."

Items: butterscotch-cinnamon pie, extra sweater, art supplies, spider cider, monster candy 3x
"Stickolas"-Weapon AT 0. He's a pacistick
"Charm bracelet"-Armor DF 3. Carries the love and respect of the Ruins monsters

Feel free to say hello in the comments, and see you in Snowdin!

Chapter 5: Turn Around

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
sans.-Lenich & Kirya

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

With your eyes closed, you step outside and are greeted by a stiff, frozen wind in your face, a soft crunch at your feet, and the crisp, clean scent of pines. It’s been so long since you’ve been in the snow, it’s been so long since you’ve been so cold! It’s wonderful! You open your eyes—and immediately shut them. Everything is so blindingly bright! You thought you were in a cave, where is the snow glare coming from? You slowly open your eyes. After living in the gloomy Ruins for so long, this will take some getting used to. You can tell you’re going to be making a squinty face for a while.

You take a few steps and savor the crunch of the snow. A straight path cuts through a dense pine forest ahead of you. Everything is still and quiet besides the gentle whistling of the wind far above your head. You take slow steps through this solemn, frozen wonderland. It’s intimidating, looking at the vaulted cavern ceiling high above you. The underground feels cramped and claustrophobic to its residents, but for you, experiencing it for the first time, it feels vast and overwhelming. And there is such a long journey ahead of you. How can you even begin? How can you accomplish all you’ve promised to do? It’s been a long time since you’ve felt so small.

You step over a thick branch in the path and take a lungful of chilly air. One step at a time. It will be a difficult journey, but all you need to focus on is the next few steps in front of——behind you. There is a booming, splitting crack behind you. You whip around. The big branch is broken, but no one is in sight. What could have done that? Maybe you stepped on it and the reaction was delayed? You turn and continue walking, a little faster. That was a pretty big branch. You freeze in your tracks. Another sound behind you. The whooshing wind? A step in the snow? It stops, but you don’t dare turn this time. You walk a bit faster, stretching your stiff legs across the snow. This is fine, it was just your imagination. It’s not as if someone could be behind you one second and nowhere the next.

You come to the edge of a wooden bridge with a strange frame around it. A loud crunch sounds behind you. Then another. Footsteps—heavy, deliberate footsteps—come from behind you, approaching. This is it. Five steps out of the Ruins and you’re going to die. You were so confident a few minutes ago, where did it all go wrong? You grip Stickolas in your hand. No, you can’t lash out, whatever is approaching. You won't hurt anybody, no matter how scared you are. You watch the steam from your breath float away in shaky tendrils and wait. The crunching footfalls stop directly behind you. The hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. A slow, deep whisper begins to speak.

“H u m a n. D o n’ t y o u k n o w h o w t o g r e e t a n e w p a l? T u r n a r o u n d a n d s h a k e m y h a n d.”

This is it. The first step. The hardest step. You spin around and grasp the extended hand. Then, something strange happens. The sonorous voice of a whoopee cushion rises above the snowcapped pines like the call of a gassy swan. You are grasping the hand of a short, grinning skeleton in a blue hoodie, shorts, and house slippers. You’ve known crazy people who wear shorts in winter, but this is on another level. The whoopee cushion is still going. He gives your hand a squeeze and the cushion gives out a last, sad little spurt. You break down into laughter and the smile seems to reach a bit further into his eyes.

“hehe. the old whoopee cushion in the hand trick. it’s ALWAYS funny. anyways, you’re a human, right? that’s hilarious. i’m sans. sans the skeleton.”

*You say that you’re Frisk, Frisk the human, and you’re happy to meet him.

“i’m actually supposed to be on watch for humans right now. but… y’know… i don’t really care about capturing anybody.”

He shrugs.

*You say that’s just fine by you.

That’s pretty convenient. You wonder if the monsters are actually more chill about humans than you had thought.

“now my brother, papyrus… he’s a human hunting FANATIC.”

Ah, there it is.

“he’s all about capturing a human so he can join the royal guard. at least, he usually is. hasn’t talked about it as much lately. but hey, i bet he wouldn’t turn his nose up at a human if he saw you. especially since he doesn’t have a nose. actually, he’s due here any minute now.”

You glance over your shoulder, half expecting his brother to have materialized behind you. The path is clear for now, but you aren’t sure you’re ready to meet a human-hunting fanatic just yet.

“i’ve got an idea. just go through this gate thingy. yeah, just go on through, my bro made the bars too wide to stop anyone.”

That frame is supposed to be a gate? It looks like it could fit a truck. Just how big does he think humans are? To be fair, before you fell you used to imagine all monsters as giant bridge trolls and dragons, so you get it. You both cross over to the other side. You feel a little silly now for being afraid of this guy. His voice sounds like a constant chuckle, that goofy grin looks like it’s plastered on his face permanently, and you laugh just thinking that the menacing footsteps came from those house slippers. He’s just a funny jokester, not a human-murderer. At least, you think he’s just a funny jokester. There’s something about his intelligent eyes darting around that doesn’t quite match his lazy demeanor, but still, he seems friendly.

“you can hide behind that conveniently-shaped lamp.”

You walk over to the little blue lamp, just sitting in the snow. Its lumpy, battered form and jagged lampshade are oddly human-shaped.

*You tell him that it is conveniently-shaped, but too short.

You can complain about the Vegetoids’ enforced servings of greens as much as you want, but you can’t deny that it’s given you a pretty good growth spurt.

“huh. guess it is. don’t know why i thought that would work. that’s okay, i’ve got more behind my sentry station, give ‘em a look.”

A few steps away is a quaint wooden sentry station. You peek behind it and are amazed by the number and variety of lamps tucked in there. There are floor lamps, table lamps, desk lamps, lava lamps, dollhouse lamps, lamprey, and one lamppost. You pick out one that’s a little more your size and put it next to the other lamp.

*You ask him why he has so many.

“well, everyone’s a little sad in these dark days, so i started a lamp shop to try and lighten the mood.”

*You grin and tell him that’s a pretty bright idea.

His eyes seem to light up, pun intended.

“i thought it was a real light bulb moment myself, but my bro keeps giving me shade over it. oh, i think that’s him now.”

Quick footsteps approach from the other direction.

*You tell Sans it’s time to pull the plug on this and you duck behind the appropriately-sized lamp.

From behind the lamp, you manage to get a glimpse of a taller skeleton in a superhero-style costume with a red cape, gloves, and boots. He is glaring at Sans. If this is the human-hunting fanatic, you had better lie low for the moment. He looks… intense.

“sup, bro?”

“YOU KNOW WHAT ‘SUP,’ BROTHER! ‘GO TO SANS’ STATION AND WAKE HIM UP’ IS OFFICIALLY WRITTEN ON MY DAILY SCHEDULE. WAIT A SECOND… YOU ARE IN A SURPRISINGLY VERTICAL POSITION FOR THIS TIME OF DAY! COULD IT BE THAT MY POSITIVE INFLUENCE IS FINALLY WORKING, AND YOU ARE AWAKE AND PATROLLING?!”

You glance over and see Sans wink.

“nah. i’m just sleeping standing up.”

Papyrus stomps the ground.

“UGH! OF COURSE! YOUR LAZINESS HAS REACHED NEW HEIGHTS, SANS! STANDING HEIGHT! IT BAFFLES ME TRYING TO IMAGINE HOW YOU FILL A WHOLE DAY WITH NOTHING! WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING!?!”

“staring at this lamp. it’s really cool. do you wanna look?”

You almost have a heart attack. Sans is supposed to be helping! This Papyrus is absolutely bursting with enthusiasm and energy, and you aren’t sure you want to be on the wrong end of it.

“YOU AND YOUR WEIRD LAMP COLLECTION AGAIN?! I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT!!”

“hey, i haven’t seen you wear your battle body in a while. what’s the special occasion?”

“OH! WELL, I WAS THINKING THAT A HUMAN MIGHT COME THROUGH! I HAVE A GOOD FEELING ABOUT TODAY!”

“don’t you always say that?”

“WELL, YES, BUT TODAY I HAVE A REALLY EXTRA-GOOD FEELING! JUST LIKE THAT ONE TIME THREE YEARS AGO WHEN I HAD AN EXTRA-GOOD FEELING! THAT ONE… THAT ONE DIDN’T WORK OUT, BUT I’M SURE ABOUT IT THIS TIME!”

“i guess you could say… you can feel it in your bones?”

A “ba-dum-tssh” rings out from a drum set in the distance. You try not to think about it too much.

“NONE OF THAT! I WANT TO BE READY!!! I WILL BE THE ONE! I MUST BE THE ONE! I WILL CAPTURE A HUMAN! THEN, I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS… WILL GET ALL THE THINGS I UTTERLY DESERVE! RESPECT! RECOGNITION! I WILL FINALLY BE ABLE TO… EH…”

“join the royal guard?”

“Y-YES, THAT. PEOPLE WILL ASK TO BE MY ‘FRIEND,’ AND… I WILL BATHE IN A SHOWER OF KISSES EVERY… MORNING…”

“yep. they’ll be attracted to you just like a moth to a lightbulb.”

“SANS!! YOU ARE NOT HELPING!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF A HUMAN SHOWS UP? THEY’LL PROBABLY HAVE TO STOP TO WAKE YOU UP! ACTUALLY, I WOULD WELCOME THE HELP!! IT TAKES ALL OF MY HEROIC EFFORTS TO DRAG YOU OUT OF BED AND TO YOUR STATION ANYMORE! AND THEN I HAVE TO GO BACK AND FILL IN THE SNOW TRENCH WE MAKE ON THE WAY! MAYBE THE HUMAN COULD FOLLOW BEHIND ME WITH THE BROOM??”

You glance over toward Sans as he starts fake snoring.

“WH—SANS!! STOP PERFECTING YOUR SLEEP-STANDING TECHNIQUE! AT THIS RATE THE HUMAN IS GOING TO THINK YOU’RE THE LAMP AND THE LAMP IS THE SENTRY! THE LAMP CERTAINLY SEEMS TO BE THE MORE VIGILANT OF THE TWO!”

“hey, that’s not fair. i’ve been awake for the last twenty minutes, at least. you don’t have to… lampoon me like that.”

The “ba-dum-tssh” sounds again. Who the heck is playing the drums in the middle of the woods?

“SANS!!!”

“come on. you’re smiling.”

“I AM AND I HATE IT! SIGH… WHY DOES SOMEONE AS GREAT AS ME… HAVE TO DO SO MUCH JUST TO GET SOME RECOGNITION…”

“hey, don’t let it get you down. you know you’re the light of my life, right?”

“SANS, THAT’S… WAIT A MINUTE. SANS!!! THAT IS IT! I WILL ATTEND TO MY PUZZLES. AS FOR YOU? GET BACK TO WORK BEFORE I AM FORCED TO ‘BLOW A FUSE.’ NYEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEH!!!”

He rushes away. You begin to move out from behind the lamp, but dart back to it as he reappears.

“HEH!”

And then he’s gone again. What an eccentric person. Unbridled enthusiasm and confidence, poses and facial expressions like a stage actor, a cape that flows in a nonexistent wind, a laugh that could shake the clouds… You’ve never seen anyone so cool before.

“okay, you can come out now.”

You cautiously sneak out. The forest is quiet once again. Sans stands there with his hands in his pockets, grinning, staring at you intently.

“better get going before he comes back, or you’ll have to listen to more of my hilarious jokes.”

*You tell him you hope you’ll see him around.

You start to follow the path away, but he calls after you.

“actually, hey… hate to bother ya, but can you do me a favor? i was thinking…my brother’s been pretty down lately…he’s never seen a human before. and seeing you might just make his day. don’t worry, he’s not dangerous. even if he tries to be.”

*You say you would love to help.

He grins. He was grinning before, but this one looks a little more real, somehow.

“thanks a million. i’ll be up ahead.”

Then he walks in the other direction, back where you came from. You stare after him for a moment. Is that the way you’re supposed to be going? But Papyrus went the other way… You shrug and decide to carry on forward. After a few steps you catch a glint of metal off to the side, among the trees. Ah, there’s the drum kit, although it’s unmanned at the moment. There’s a lampshade hung askew on the hi-hat. Okay, then. You have no idea what’s going on, but you walk onward with a lighter heart. This is going to be fun.

Notes:

And, for the first time in my life, the caps lock button is useful. Sans and Papyrus are always a blast to write.

Feel free to say hi in the comments, and for more hijinks, lowjinks, and associated punnery, check in next week!

Chapter 6: An Ice Start

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowy-Patti Rudisill

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The forest begins to thin out and you enter a clearing. A lumpy field of snow spreads out before you like piles of marshmallows and an icy river skirts the side like the frosted edging of a cake. You take another deep breath of pine-scented air and spin around as the snow crunches underfoot and the fluffy top layer swirls around your ankles. Thinking about the appropriate size of that lamp still fills you with determination. You take a few more steps, then the world shifts. You grip Stickolas as you are drawn into a battle. A bird monster with a face like a snowflake appears before you. Now you really get to test your mettle.

“I’m Snowdrake. It’s ‘ice’ to meet you!”

*You say hello back, but he seems to ignore your greeting.

Wait, was that a pun? It’s the same caliber of pun Mom uses, which is to say very high caliber, but his delivery could use some work. It’s your turn first. You decide to sit back and observe. He looks a little older than you, you think he’s a teenager. There’s a joke book sticking out of his pocket. A comedian, maybe? If so, it’s no wonder he has to start a fight to get an audience.

“Ice puns are ‘snow’ problem!”

You don’t have time to cringe as he flings a line of curved icicles at you. They spin as they fly, but their flight is predictable. You easily step aside. It’s your turn again. You decide to make a little joke back, that might get him to warm up to you.

*You say that you hope you don’t come off as cold. You’re slow to warm up to people, but that attack was a pretty good icebreaker.

“That—that’s not that funny!”

So he’s an insecure comedian. Noted. He throws his icicles again, but this time they swoop in from all directions. They move pretty slowly, so you have plenty of time to step around them.

“Er… macaroni and “freeze!”

That was even worse. It’s your turn again. You consider giving him some advice. Even a really bad pun can be funny if it has a good lead-up and a strong delivery. Good comedy is all about context and timing. Then again, it’s clear he’s having a tough time. You know it can be hard to be funny when you’re trying. Maybe all he needs is a little confidence.

*You chuckle and applaud the joke.

“See?! Laughs! Dad was wrong!”

He throws another half-hearted attack at you while he hops around gleefully, and you easily avoid it. You choose to SPARE Snowdrake and he runs away laughing.

“Thanks, you’ve been a great audience! HEY GUYS, DID YOU HEAR THAT?! I’M READY FOR THE STAGE! TAKE THAT, POPS!”

You watch as he makes his way over to a group of teenagers. You hope you didn’t give him too much confidence. The sound of breaking earth catches your attention and you spot something yellow pop up near the riverbank. A familiar voice calls out to you.

“Howdy! Golly, I thought you’d never make it. You were taking forever!”

You run to Flowey and greet him.

“Glad you’re here! Looking pretty good so far, you’ve survived one battle at least. Wow, it’s hard to get through all this snow, I hope you don’t stay in Snowdin too long. So, what do you think so far?”

*You tell him that you love Snowdin already, and that he was wrong about the other monsters. You’ve met three people already, and they all seem nice.

Flowey makes his jaded grin.

“Well, sounds like you’ve been lucky so far, but I wouldn’t rest easy yet. That one guy is too lazy to care about you, the bird is a joke, and that other one? The one so intent on catching a human? He hasn’t actually seen you yet.”

*You say that’s true, but you have a good feeling.

“A good feeling, great. That puts all my doubts to rest. Speaking of which, if we’re going to do this, you need to let me in on this brilliant plan of yours. You have a plan, right?”

You nod your head.

“Great! So let’s start by reviewing what we already know. The barrier is a powerful seal made by human mages to trap the monsters underground. To break it, we need the equivalent power of seven human souls. With me so far?”

You nod again. This is all basic information you’ve learned from your history books.

“Great. For a while now, the king has been collecting the souls from every human that’s fallen down here. He has six. That makes you the final soul the monsters need to break the barrier. Oh yeah, and once he has the souls, he’s going to absorb them, turn into an incredibly powerful being, shatter the barrier, and wipe out humanity in its entirety. So no pressure.”

That matches up with what Mom and the other monsters have told you. You can feel your SOUL beating in your chest…

"However, that would involve you and your species being pretty dead, which is counterproductive for us. So, tell me. You’ve done all of this research on the barrier, so you must have come up with something better. How are you going to break it?”

*You tell Flowey you have no idea.

He splutters and his face morphs into a creepy, jagged smile, like a demented jack-o-lantern.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE NO IDEA?! Are you telling me you’ve been training and preparing for THREE YEARS, and you don’t even know how to do the ONE THING you set out to do?! Ugh, you IDIOT!”

*You tell Flowey to keep his petals on.

“You are UNbelievable! Fine, then, what is this plan you supposedly have?!”

*You tell Flowey that before you break the barrier, you need to convince everyone not to wage war on the humans, so you will make friends with everyone you meet and show them that humans and monsters can live in peace.

Flowey morphs back into his bored face.

“Yeah, it figures you would have a stupid, saccharine plan like that.”

*You tell him that on your way, you will try to learn more about the barrier. There is a famous scientist in Hotland you want to talk to.

“Who, Alphys? I guess that almost makes sense.”

*You add that you have a theory that a human may be able to cross the barrier, and if that’s the case, you might be able to cross, find a soul from an already deceased human, and bring it back.

Flowey’s face brightens a little.

“Okay, okay. You might have something between your ears after all. And with your skill, you don’t have to worry about dying so much while you’re running around trying to piece things together.”

*You tell him that’s the idea.

“Alright! It’s not a great plan, but hey, you have some kind of strategy. I think we can work with this. So here’s my thought. You keep running around, doing whatever it is you’re doing, and I’ll see what I can learn about how the barrier works. I’ll pop in from time to time to see what you’re up to and we can compare notes.”

*You tell him that sounds great.

“Wonderful. Be seeing you around, then, bud!”

He winks and disappears under the snow. You feel a little better knowing there are two of you working on the problem. Flowey might not be convinced that you can befriend everyone, but you have high hopes. After all, the Ruins was a scary place when you first fell down. You were terrified of all the monsters lobbing bullets at you, but it turned out they were just as scared of you. And after a while, as you talked, played, and fought together, you learned that you weren’t so different. You look at the bracelet shining on your wrist. You just know that humans and monsters can live together in peace if you’ll only stop being afraid of each other.

You return to the road and continue on. You can hear Papyrus long before he and his brother come into view. You consider hiding behind a tree, but you told Sans you would help to cheer him up, and you’re sure you can convince him to be friends instead of enemies. You walk a little closer and wait for them to notice you.

“IT REALLY IS OVERRATED TO PUT OREGANO ON SPAGHETTI! IT’S JUST LITTLE GREEN SPECKS, IT COMPLETELY RUINS THE ARTISTIC VISION!”

You agree, personally. Keep that green stuff out of your food.

“AND ANYWAYS…”

He freezes as he looks over and sees you. He swivels toward Sans, and then toward you again. Sans does the same. They swivel again, faster, until they are both twirling in place like spinning tops. You really aren’t sure what’s happening. Is this some kind of bizarre Snowdin greeting? You spin around too until they stop.

“SANS!! OH MY GOSH!! IS THAT… A HUMAN?!?!?!?”

“i don’t know, looks about the size of a lamp to me.”

Papyrus comes closer, walks a loop around you, and then goes back to Sans.

“I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T SEE A PLUG ON THAT LAMP!”

“maybe it’s battery-powered?”

Papyrus does another loop around you.

“THERE’S NOWHERE TO PUT BATTERIES! AND IT LOOKS JUST LIKE A SKELETON BUT SQUISHY!”

“huh. guess you’re right, then.”

“OH MY GOSH!! SANS! I FINALLY DID IT!! UNDYNE WILL HAVE TO… I REALLY AM… I’LL FINALLY BE… POPULAR!!! POPULAR!!! POPULAR!!!”

Papyrus clears his throat (does he have one of those?) and turns to you composedly, as if he weren’t freaking out two seconds ago.

“HUMAN. YOU SHALL NOT PASS THIS AREA, FOR I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL STOP YOU! I WILL CAPTURE YOU, AS ANY GREAT ROYAL GUARDSMAN WOULD DO, AND DELIVER YOU TO THE CAPITAL!! AND THEN! I’M NOT REALLY SURE WHAT YOU WILL DO THERE, BUT I WILL FINALLY BASK IN THE GLORY OF GREATNESS!! UNDYNE WILL HAVE TO LET ME INTO THE ROYAL GUARD! SHE’LL JUST HAVE TO!! WELL THEN, HUMAN! CONTINUE ONLY IF YOU DARE! NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!!!”

He runs ahead on the path, “nyeh heh heh”-ing merrily. Sans shrugs.

“that went well.”

*You agree, and hope you made a good first impression.

Wait, you didn’t actually get to introduce yourself, did you? Whoops.

“sure. not everyday you see a spinning human. and don’t sweat it, kid. i’ll keep an eye socket out for ya.”

He turns and moseys after his brother. As nice as an expedited trip to the capital would be, being captured right now would be pretty inconvenient. You’re going to have to stay sharp. You let out a puff of air and watch it freeze into a little cloud in front of you, then you march on through the snow.

Notes:

And off we go into Snowdin and the puzzles that await! For more puns of a similarly high caliber, check in on Thursday, and feel free to say hello in the comments!

Chapter 7: A Heartwarming Sentiment

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowy-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As you walk on, you come across another sentry station. At least, it resembles a sentry station. It looks a little shoddy in comparison to the first one. There is a note in big letters proclaiming it to be the station of a famous Royal Guardsman. You wonder who they are, and why their station looks like it would collapse in a stiff breeze. You move on and shove your hands into your pockets as a cold wind cuts through you. There is a massive crashing sound behind you and you wince. There was the stiff breeze.

Mere steps away is another sentry station that seems to have survived the gust. The Royal Guard certainly has this forest well-covered. You’ve heard a lot of stories about the famous Royal Guard and their mission. You’ve heard they’re all fearsome, battle-hardened warriors. What will they be like? Giant dragons with sharp claws? Knights with huge swords? From Flowey’s description of them, they’re prowling behind every corner, following the scent of your blood, raring to rip you apart with their teeth. You expect they will be the main opposition to crossing the underground. Still, it would be great to befriend them if you can. You walk forward carefully. A sign identifies the sentry station as Doggo’s. With a name like that—could it be?

“Who’s there?”

A growling voice comes from the station and you freeze in place.

“Did something move? Well, if something did, something like a human, it won’t be moving for much longer!”

You are drawn into battle and the Royal Guardsman leaps over the counter of his sentry station, wielding a sword in each paw. You can’t believe it. He’s… He’s… He’s a dog! You hold down a squeal of excitement. You haven’t pet a dog in three years! You want to stick your hands in his black-and-white fur and scratch him behind the ears while asking who’s a good boy, but that might be a bad idea, considering the swords. You decide to let him make the first move. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem like he’s seen you yet.

“Don’t move an inch!”

A blue sword materializes and sweeps toward you. Blue magic. You’ve never seen it in person before, but you know what it is. You just have to remain motionless and let it go through you, supposedly. You suppress a shiver as the magic sweeps through your SOUL painlessly. It’s a weird sensation, but that was easy enough. It seems to be your turn again. Doggo’s eyes dart back and forth, but they still haven’t focused on you. He turns to the side and you can’t help yourself any longer. You shoot a hand out and give him a quick pat on the head. His fur is soft and sleek.

“I’VE BEEN PET! PET BY SOMETHING INVISIBLE!”

The stern guard facade melts instantly and he squirms from head to toe, tail wagging and tongue lolling out.

“PET? PAT? POT?”

Another blue sword sweeps past you. You give him a good scratch behind the ears while his back is turned.

“AGAIN? AGAIN?”

He uses the same blue attack again. You give him a scratch under the chin.

“PETS! UNENDING PETS FROM THE UNSEEN HAND!”

His turn again, and then yours. As long as he doesn’t actually see you moving, it seems like he doesn’t know you’re there at all. You give him another head pat.

“I DON’T KNOW WHO’S DOING THIS, BUT DON’T STOP!”

His turn, then your turn. You give him another ear scratch. Amazingly, he regains his composure and looks around with shifty eyes.

“Okay, I’m over it. This is getting weird.”

You’ve had fun petting the dog, but this stalemate needs to come to an end. Now is Stickolas’s time to shine. As soon as he looks away you toss Stickolas past his line of sight. He gives a great bark and chases after it.

“A STICK! THE INVISIBLE HAND HAS A STICK!”

As soon as your turn comes around, you SPARE Doggo and end the battle, not that he notices. You aren’t sure he knew he was in a battle to begin with. You crouch by the sentry station and wait. Doggo returns, holding the stick.

“Now where… Who threw this thing? Was this some kind of weird prank? Ugh, I need a dog treat.”

He drops the stick, hops over the counter to his station, and disappears again. You carefully grab Stickolas and keep moving forward. Okay, maybe the Royal Guard isn’t quite living up to the hype yet, but if they’re all this cute you won’t complain.

Soon you come to a frozen pond with a glassy surface. You tap the edge with your foot. It seems solid enough to walk on. With the precautions out of the way, you back up and run onto the ice and glide across. It’s too bad you don’t have any ice skates with you to really move around, but you can still get some speed, even in your normal shoes. You really should keep moving, but a snowman catches your eye a little ways off and you decide to go look. He’s a cheery-looking snowman, with three buttons, a carrot nose, and a nice smile. You think he would look even better if Blooky made a dapper hat for him.

“Oh, hello!”

You didn’t really expect the snowman to talk, but you are friends with a sentient rock, so you aren’t surprised.

*You say hello.

“Look at those worn shoes. Have you come a long way? Are you a traveler?”

*You tell him you’ve come a long way, but you have a long way yet to go.

“Wow! I wish I could travel and see the world, but you know, I’m a snowman. Oh! I wonder, if you wouldn’t mind… Could you take a piece of me with you? Then, if you go really far, maybe it would be a little bit like I’m going somewhere far away too.”

*You say you would be happy to.

“Aw, that’s great! Thanks!”

You take a little piece of him, pack it into a snowball, and stick it in your backpack. You have a feeling this is going to backfire by the time you make it to Hotland, but you’ll probably think of some better way to transport it by then. You say goodbye to the snowman and return to the frozen pond and the path. As you glide to the far edge of the pond, something catches your eye. More than that, it blares straight into your eyes. It looks like all of Sans’s lamps have been moved over here and arranged to spell the words “WELCOME HUMAN!” across the path. The cords meet in a tangle of safety violations off to the side, and all of the lamps are twinkling merrily. You feel a warmth inside your chest. Did the brothers set this up just for you? It’s a wonderful display. Even if Papyrus is threatening to ship you off to your death, it really is a touching gesture.

You take in the sight for a minute, then carefully walk past it and continue on. The cold wind is forgotten as you are filled with warm feelings. Then you start to think it feels a little warm in general. Who turned up the heat? As you turn the next corner, you find the answer. You walk up to Sans and Papyrus, who are staring at a pleasant snowy field in front of them that is completely consumed by flames. The heat from the bonfire blasts against your face and ruffles your hair.

“bro, i know you’re really on fire today, but this…”

“SANS, NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR—OH!! HELLO, HUMAN!”

*You say hi.

“I KNEW YOU WOULD SURELY COME, ESPECIALLY AFTER WE CONSTRUCTED THAT VERY WELL-DESIGNED AND WELCOMING DISPLAY!!”

*You say you feel very welcomed.

“OF COURSE! I STRIVE TO BE PLEASANT AND WELCOMING! AND NOW THAT I HAVE WELCOMED YOU, I CAN STOP YOU! IN ORDER TO STOP YOU, HUMAN, MY BROTHER AND I HAVE CREATED SOME PUZZLES! THIS ONE IS AN INVISIBLE ELECTRICITY MAZE!!”

He pauses and stares at the crackling fire.

“…AT LEAST, IT WAS. AFTER WE PLUGGED IN THE LAMP DISPLAY, IT SORT OF…BURST INTO FLAMES??”

“turns out you’re not supposed to stack that many power strips on top of each other.”

“SANS!! DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD HAPPEN?!”

“hey, i would say this puzzle’s way more lit now.”

“REALLY, SANS?! REGARDLESS, THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM COULDN’T HANDLE THE SINCERE WARMTH AND ENTHUSIASM OF MY WELCOMING SENTIMENTS. BUT NEVER FEAR!! THIS WAS COMPLETELY INTENTIONAL! THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS A SKELETON WITH AN APPRAISING EYE SOCKET, AND I DECIDED THAT A MERE ELECTRICITY MAZE WAS NOT FIT FOR A HUMAN OF YOUR SLIGHTLY-TALLER-THAN-EXPECTED STATURE, SO I UPGRADED IT TO A FIRE MAZE!! NYEH HEH HEH!”

“hey, at least it isn’t invisible anymore.”

“WELL THEN, HUMAN!! IT IS TIME TO SEE IF YOU CAN TAKE THE HEAT! PROCEED TO CROSS THE VERY INTENTIONAL FIRE MAZE!!”

You take a gulp. You’re glad that Papyrus thinks so highly of you, but this is a little much. And this is only the first puzzle? You walk a little closer to the edge and you can feel the block of fire singeing your eyebrows. Crossing it like this is out of the question, even if you can see the hypothetical path through it. You back up a bit and try to think. If you can’t cross it like this, you’ll have to put it out. But how? Mom is a master of fire magic, but nothing prepared you for this. Water? The river is pretty far away, and you don’t have a container to carry the water in. A fire extinguisher? You haven’t seen any lying around. Snow? The snow could do it, but it would take a lot. You think about how you could carry enough snow to dump on the fire. A small idea begins to form, and then it snowballs into a bigger idea. You start pushing the nearby snow into a big pile in front of the maze.

“AHA! AN EXCELLENT STRATEGY! I SEE YOU ARE MAKING… A SNOW SKELETON? A SNOW HOUSE? A SNOW CAR?”

“you should make a snow bed. they’re pretty comfy.”

“SANS, SNOW IS NOT FOR SLEEPING!”

“then why do they call it a blanket of snow?”

*You add that if he’s making a snow bed, he should fit it with an ice sheet too.

“NOT YOU TOO, HUMAN!!”

“of course, if you don’t layer enough sleets you’re bound to catch a chill.”

“YOU ARE ABOUT TO CATCH A CHILL, BROTHER!!”

“how’s tha—“

You hear a muffled sound as Sans catches a snowball in the face.

“i think that went into my eye socket, bro, i’m gettin’ a brain freeze…”

“NYEH HEH HEH!!!”

The brothers continue throwing snow at each other in the background as you work. Once you have a good pile built up you are ready for the next step. You just need to find something you can use as… Aha! You have it.

*You tell Papyrus you need to go get something, but you’ll be right back.

You run all the way back to the collapsed sentry station and sift through the wood and cardboard pieces until you find a nice flat one you can use as a sled. You carry it to the frozen pond and try to line yourself up. This is going to be a little dicey, but you think you can pull it off.

You back up a bit, then run at the pond. You start gliding as soon as you hit the ice, picking up speed as you go. The snowy scenery flashes past you in a blur. As you get close to the other side, you hold out the wooden sled in front of you and dive into the snow with it. It works, and you maintain your speed as the sled whooshes through the snow. It’s been a while since you’ve done this, but you wrangle the sled in the right direction with slight movements in your arms and legs. You whizz past the “WELCOME HUMAN!” display. Just a few more seconds and you’ll be in range. The fiery maze comes into view. Papyrus is off to the side making a car out of snow, and Sans appears to be roasting marshmallows.

*You shout that you’re incoming.

At the last second you wrench your sled to the side and slam sideways into the snowbank you created. All of your forward momentum is transferred to the pile and a huge plume of snow flies out and rains down on the maze. You dig yourself out of the snow and admire your handiwork. The fire has dissipated and the field is clear.

“WOWIE! WELL DONE, HUMAN!”

You all cross over to the other side of the field. You can’t believe that worked so well.

“AHEM! I SEE I HAVE A CUNNING ADVERSARY, BUT THE TRIALS ARE NOT OVER YET, CRAFTY HUMAN, FOR—”

You hear a loud FWOOMP behind you. You all turn around to see that the field has exploded into fire again. Electrical sparks arc across the melted snow.

“and that’s why you don’t put water on an electrical fire, kids.”

*You say that you hadn’t considered that.

“WELL… THIS PUZZLE WAS STILL A SUCCESS! AND NOW… IT IS A FIRE AND ELECTRICITY MAZE, WHICH I WILL PUT OUT LATER! ANYWAY! I WILL RUN AHEAD TO PREPARE THE NEXT PUZZLES, WHICH WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY LESS ON FIRE! NYEH HEH!”

He hurries away and you stare at the bonfire behind you. You hope it doesn’t inconvenience anyone too much.

“unconventional solution, but hey, i think papyrus is having fun. y’know, he’s put a lotta work into these puzzles over the years. mostly they just trip up the guards doin’ their rounds, but he’s never given up hope on meeting a human to run through the gauntlet. heh, he’s so cool. well, see you around. might wanna put out your backpack, by the way.”

He saunters away and you glance back at your backpack. An ember has landed on it and started smoldering, and you quickly blow it out. This whole escapade was a little more fiery than you would have liked, but it was also pretty fun. You warm your hands by the fire for a minute, then continue along the snowy path.

Notes:

PSA: Don't overload your power strips. Never put water on an electrical fire. Leave firefighting to the experts. Stop, drop, and roll. When using a fire extinguisher, remember PASS (pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep). Only you can prevent puzzle-related fires. Safety first!
See you next week, and feel free to say hello in the comments!

Chapter 8: Treats and Tricks

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowy-RebeccaETripp

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As you walk you come across a cute little cart with a red and yellow parasol. A pale blue rabbit monster is standing next to it with a forlorn expression.

“Another slow day… I just don’t get it. Maybe if I sell limited edition flavors?”

*You ask him what he’s selling.

“OH! A CUSTOMER!”

His ears perk up and he gives you a friendly smile.

“I’m selling Nice Cream! It’s the frozen treat that warms your heart! Would you like one? Only 15g!”

Your bag is already pretty full, but he looks so happy, and how could you turn down ice cream?

*You give him 15g and ask for the strawberry flavor.

“Here you go, enjoy!”

You don’t have anywhere to put it, so you go ahead and unwrap it and start eating. It’s a vibrant pink, with real strawberry pieces in it!

“Say, could I get your opinion? My Nice Cream isn’t really selling… you’re the first customer in a while, actually.”

*You say you’re surprised, and that this is the perfect day for ice cream.

“I know, right? But we seem to be the only ones who think so. I’ve been trying to think up a new gimmick to sell them. I’ve always put nice sentiments on the wrappers—that’s why it’s Nice Cream—but maybe something else would be more exciting? Like jokes, or collectible stickers? I mean, all I’ve ever wanted was to brighten up people’s days, but maybe that just isn’t interesting enough… What do you think?”

You didn’t realize there was something on the wrapper. You take a look. It says, “You’re the greatest you around!” Aww, how sweet.

*You tell him his Nice Cream is great the way it is, and he shouldn’t change it to make other people happy.

His ears perk up and he gives you a big buck-toothed smile.

“Hey, you’re right! I started this business for a reason, and I’m going to stick to it! I mean, I’m about to go out of business, but… that’s okay. I’m doing what I love, and if I made one person happy today, then that’s enough for me! Anyway, you have a nice day! I hope you’ll come back for more, y’know, if I’m still in business.”

*You wish him good luck.

You finish your Nice Cream as you make your away across a short bridge. You feel a little chilly now, and you guess eating ice cream in the snow would do that to you, but you have a cozy sweater to tuck your hands into. Worth it. A snowy expanse stretches out ahead of you. It looks like the path continues to the south, past what appears to be a mini-golf course. Is this one of Papyrus’s puzzles? You don’t see him anywhere around. From the corner of your eye you spot a white blur hurtling toward you. Is that a snowball? On second thought, “hurtling” implies too much momentum to describe this. It’s dragging through the air in a slow arc toward you. You stare as it sluggishly flies. Is it slowing down mid-air? You take a single step backward and it crashes in a slushy pile at your feet.

“aw, i almost had you.”

You hadn’t noticed Sans standing by the tree over there, he must have been the perpetrator.

*You walk over to him and say you’re sure he’ll get you next time.

“say, got a minute? something i wanted to mention about my brother’s attacks. he uses blue attacks, are you familiar?”

*You say you met a monster who used blue attacks a little while ago.

“great, then you know what to do. you see blue, just think of it like a stop sign. a blue stop sign. ‘course, there’s a little more to it than that, but nothing you can’t handle, right?”

Doggo’s blue attack had been ridiculously easy to deal with, but that was because he only used the blue attack. You imagine that if someone were to mix blue attacks with regular bullets it would be harder to keep them straight. You hope you don’t have to fight Papyrus at all, but it’s something worth thinking about.

“anyway, i’m supposed to be helping with the next puzzle, so i should get going. it’s gonna be a doozy.”

*You tell him not to keep his brother waiting, or he might get bonely.

“heh. you’re pretty good, kid. but i’ve heard that one before.”

*You tell him you learned that one from your mom.

“that right? then i guess the funny streak puns in the family. interesting.”

He winks, then turns and wanders off, but not in the direction you thought was the right way. You follow after him for a few steps, but it looks like a dead end, and he has disappeared. Snowdin must not be as straightforward as you thought. You backtrack to the mini-golf course. It looks like you’re supposed to kick a big snowball into the hole on the other side. That seems simple enough, and you’ve played soccer with your friends in the Ruins, so you decide to give it a go. You circle around the course to scope it out. There’s a pretty sharp curve in between the ball and the hole, and a patch of ice to the side that could slip you up. You imagine the snowball will start degrading pretty quickly once you start kicking it around, so you need to make this quick.

You give it a light kick and it spirals out of control. Okay, this might be a little harder than you thought. After a lot of running, bouncing off the walls, and wiping out on the ice, you manage to knock it into the hole, and a purple flag pops up. Is that good? You’re pretty sure it isn’t. You try a few more times, gradually shaving your time down until you collect light blue, green, blue, yellow, and finally an orange flag. You’re pretty pleased with that. You feel like you’re still missing something, but no one has written the rules down anywhere, and you really should be moving on. Maybe you can come back to it later.

You take a few steps and hear swift paws padding through the snow toward you. You turn just in time to be drawn into a battle. An adorably fluffy cream-colored dog in a tunic appears before you. She’s holding a sword and shield, but somehow the official garb only makes her more adorable. Her pink tongue is sticking out, and she gazes at you with black button eyes that clearly have nothing going on behind them. You try not to squeal, but fail. This dog is even cuter than the last one! As with any battle, you really should analyze your opponent and evaluate your options before doing anything else, but come on. There’s only one real choice here. You pet the dog and she wiggles excitedly. She manifests a dog-shaped bullet that makes a leap straight for your SOUL. This one seems to be homing in on you, so it takes a bit of maneuvering to avoid. You roll under the bullet and it disappears. You pet the dog again and her head raises up to meet your hand. Her neck is pretty long for a dog.

This time she sweeps spears toward you. You freeze in place as a blue one passes, then quickly step aside as a white one follows. Clever doggy. You pet her again and her neck stretches even further to lean into your pets. You exchange a few more pets and bullets, her neck growing each time until the dog begins to resemble a llama. You get the knack of the homing dog bullet and spear patterns pretty quickly. You could do this all day. And you just might. Eventually, the dog forgets about attacking you and just skips through her turn so you can get back to petting. You’re having a great time, but you start to wonder about the neck, which is at giraffe height now. It’ll come back down eventually, right? After a few more rounds, the dog turns her head and starts descending back to earth as her neck continues to lengthen.

How does all of that dog fit in that little suit of armor? How many vertebrae does she have in her neck? Could she reach the ceiling of the underground if she tried? You absently wonder all of these things as you rub both hands through her warm, soft fur. You may have a problem. Eventually you decide you should wrap things up, if only to keep the dog’s neck from circumnavigating the globe. You fling Stickolas far into the distance to distract the dog—but her neck is so long at this point that she doesn’t even need to run for it. She just reaches over and picks it up. Still, she seems pretty satisfied, so after you take Stickolas back you SPARE the dog.

As soon as the battle ends, her neck feeds back into her body like a tape measure and she runs off, panting happily. You’re glad about that, it might have been a little hard for her to get through doorways otherwise. Reinvigorated, you continue onward.

Notes:

Funnily enough, I was actually killed by Lesser Dog once. AFTER she was spareable. Because I wanted to keep petting the dog. I may have a problem.
Anyway, feel free to say hi!

Chapter 9: Written in the Stars

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowy-Amie Waters

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You pass through the trees into the next area and spot Papyrus and Sans waiting on the opposite side of a small clearing.

“HUMAN! PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE NEXT PUZZLE! THIS ONE WAS CREATED BY MY BROTHER SANS, SO IT WILL SURELY… CONFOUND… SANS!! WHERE IS THE PUZZLE?”

“right there. trust me, this is a good one.”

You look to where he is nodding and see a piece of paper on the ground. You walk over to it. It appears to be a sheet from a newspaper.

“SANS! I TOLD YOU NOT TO USE TODAY’S JUNIOR JUMBLE!”

“i didn’t. it’s today’s crossword.”

“THAT’S EVEN WORSE!! THE CROSSWORD IS WAY EASIER!”

“what? no way, dude. easier than that easy peasy jumble? that’s for baby bones.”

“UN. BELIEVABLE. WELL, HUMAN, I SUPPOSE YOU SHOULD DO THE CROSSWORD TO HUMOR SANS, ALTHOUGH I AM SURE A PUZZLE CONNOISSEUR LIKE YOURSELF AGREES THAT THE JUMBLE IS HARDER.”

To tell the truth, you don’t really like either of them. You like puzzles that require running and jumping and good reflexes, like obstacle courses. But fiddly little word and switch puzzles? Jumbles make you dizzy and crosswords give you headaches. Still, Sans went to some, albeit small, effort to give you this puzzle, so you guess it would be rude not to do it. You pull a marker out of your backpack and take a seat in the snow. Number 1 across: another word for mild, six letters. This is going to take a while… You skim through the clues and fill in what you can. The celebrity questions are pretty easy, at least, since they’re all some variant of Mettaton or MTT. The place names are doable too, since the underground is pretty small and everything has a self-explanatory name. Mom always rolls her eyes when she’s reminded of the king’s lackluster naming ability, but you kind of like his names for things. You know exactly what every place is supposed to be like just based on the name, and it leaves room for your own imagination to fill in the details. You think it’s a little charming. Of course, Mom won’t hear any sort of compliment about him. You know how much she hates him for killing the humans, but you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something else, too. You suspect she knew him personally at one point.

After the first round, about half of the blanks are still undone. You sigh and wish you had accepted Mom’s offer to do the crossword together more often. You just don’t like this sort of thing. It’s not like you don’t know any of these words, but there are too many staggering options. You stifle a sigh and scribble out a wrong answer. If it takes much longer this is going to start being embarrassing.

After more struggle you fill out most of the other blanks, but you’re still missing several. The synonym for mild, an eight-letter word for “support,” a ten-letter one for “disseminating information,” a seven-letter one for “deny or reject,” a type of deli sandwich, and the name of the dog star… You hope Papyrus doesn’t notice how long this is taking.

Your eyes widen as you notice that the answers are upside down in the corner. You really wish you could read them, but that would be cheating. Still, you aren’t getting anywhere in a hurry with this crossword. You can feel your face reddening as the brothers watch you. And you really don’t think Sans would mind…you squirm in the snow as you try to keep your eyes off the answers. You could take a quick peek. But the hollow feeling of victory wouldn’t be worth it. After a moment you tear off the corner with a sigh and crumple it up so you don’t have to look at it anymore. Papyrus and Sans argue in the background as you continue to struggle with the remaining blanks.

“WHY COULDN’T YOU PUT SOME EFFORT INTO THIS PUZZLE, SANS? THIS ISN’T EVEN FUN TO WATCH!”

“aw, c’mon. it’s slightly better than watching paint dry.”

“I’M NOT SO SURE!! LOOK, NOT EVEN THE HUMAN IS HAVING FUN! I WOULD FALL ASLEEP TOO ON THIS EASY PUZZLE!”

What Papyrus takes for sleepiness is just you rubbing your eyes in frustration, but you like his interpretation better.

“but hey, kid’s not progressing, right? that should do something to validate my strategy. at this rate you’ll catch the human by lunchtime and undyne will be promulgating your promotion to the royal guard.”

“AT THIS RATE THE HUMAN WILL TURN AROUND AND WALK RIGHT OUT OF THE UNDERGROUND!”

“wow, that would be a disaster. i bet you would disavow me as your brother if that happened.”

“OH, DON’T BE SILLY! I WOULD NEVER DO THAT! BUT I WOULD MAKE YOU CHASE AFTER THE HUMAN AND APOLOGIZE FOR BEING A BAD HOST!”

“heh. that’s fair. say, wanna go to grillby’s and come back to pick up the kid later? i hear he’s got hoagies on the menu now.”

“NO!! I WILL NOT TOLERATE ANY SLACKING OFF, ESPECIALLY TO GO TO GRILLBY’S!”

“hey, you don’t have to take it so siriusly.”

“WHY DO I FEEL LIKE THAT WAS A PUN, SOMEHOW..?”

You aren’t sure what happened, but suddenly the answers are coming to you. You even recalled the name of Sirius, the dog star. You’ve never had the pieces of a crossword puzzle fall into place so easily before, but you’ll take it. You wrap up the crossword and take it to the brothers.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU—OH! HELLO, HUMAN! DID YOU FINISH IT? GOOD JOB! NOW WE CAN FINALLY—WAIT, THERE’S ANOTHER PUZZLE ON THE BACK!”

“uh, bro? that’s the horoscope.”

“AHA! THE MOST DASTARDLY OF PUZZLES! YOU SHOULD HAVE LED WITH THAT, SANS! THIS IS A PUZZLE SO DEVIOUS AND ELUSIVE, EVEN I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO ASCERTAIN THE RULES! ALRIGHT, HUMAN! BEFORE YOU PROCEED, YOU MUST SOLVE THE HOROSCOPE!”

You flip the page over and scan the horoscope. Is this a puzzle? You’ve never heard of anyone “solving” a horoscope before, but then, you’ve never really looked at this part of a newspaper. You know it has to do with constellations. You remember Mom telling you that stars used to be pretty important in monster culture. They can no longer see the constellations inspired by legends of heroic monsters, but they still fill a newspaper column with fortunes related to constellations, make wishes on the gems that stud the cave ceiling, and name their children after stars they may never see. It’s just another thing you’re excited to share with your friends once you reach the surface.

You glance over the newspaper page. You guess you just have to do what the horoscope says, but which one do you do? There are twelve blurbs with little pictures beside them. Do you just read them all and pick the one you like the best? You read through a few. One with a doodle of a fish catches your eye.

“Pisces: Today your social circle is very malleable. You have the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, if you open yourself to the possibilities. Remember: it’s good to forge your own path, but sometimes you should just follow directions.”

Well, that was lame. How about this one with the kindly-looking goat monster?

“Capricorn: Today is a day of hard choices. Don’t be afraid to let go of the things you love—things freely given have a way of coming back to you. If a knock comes at the door, don’t ignore it. It may be an old friend.”

Inspiring, but it doesn’t seem very applicable to you right now. Here’s one with what appears to be an anime girl.

“Virgo: Today is a good day for self-reflection and change, to break away from the routine and try something new. A branching path lies before you—one leads to a summit, another to a precipice. Consult your map carefully before you take the next step.”

Well, that’s vague enough to apply to you, you suppose. Come to think of it, you have a little experience with falling off of precipices. Maybe you should try to find a map. How about this next entry with a pair of monsters?

“Gemini: Today is a day to reevaluate your life goals. Maybe it’s time to back down from an ambition you thought was your dream. Maybe it’s time to step up to a responsibility you’ve been avoiding. Above all, don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

Now that just seems a little contradictory. Here’s another one with a goat, or maybe a ram, but this one has intimidating, curvy horns.

“Aries: Your resolve will be greatly tested today. People depend on you a great deal, but is what they need you to do the same as what they want you to do? The answer may surprise you. Also, this is an unlucky day for romance, so don’t bother.”

You decide you don’t really like any of these. What’s the point of a horoscope if they don’t have any good options? You also still aren’t sure how to actually “solve” this thing. You don’t mind a little friendly advice, but surely your path is yours to choose, not the stars’. You suddenly have an idea. You take your marker and start writing in the margin of the paper. If the newspaper people don’t have a horoscope you like, you’re going to make your own. You draw a little human with a stick.

“Stick-bearer: Today you take your story into your own hands. You will have to make hard choices, and things may not go how you expect them to, but you can do it. Stay determined. Your lucky colors are purple and blue.”

*You show it to Papyrus and tell him you have the answer. You tell him that you solve the horoscope by making today the best day it can be.

Papyrus squints at it for a moment. Is he going to accept this answer?

“THIS… IS BRILLIANT!! YOU HAVE THOROUGHLY SUBDUED THIS PERPLEXING PUZZLE, HUMAN! NYEH HEH HEH! IT IS CLEAR THAT I WILL HAVE TO STEP UP MY PUZZLES TO MEET THE STANDARDS OF A FELLOW PUZZLE-ENTHUSIAST SUCH AS YOURSELF!”

He runs into the distance, cape flowing behind him. Uh-oh. It sounds like you just made this a lot harder on yourself. Sans takes the newspaper and looks at your horoscope.

“heh. i like your interpretation, kid.”

He starts to follow after Papyrus, but then turns back to look at you.

“and the crossword is harder, right?”

*Very hard, you agree.

Notes:

Jumble or crossword? I'm partial to the word games where you have to make as many words as possible with a set of letters, personally. Feel free to say hello, and see you next week!

Chapter 10: Japes, Puzzles, and Pasta

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowy-Amy Turk

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

In the next room you find a strange setup. There are two tables with a plate of spaghetti and a microwave, and a mouse hole nearby. There’s a note by the spaghetti that appears to be addressed to you.

“HUMAN, PLEASE ENJOY THIS SPAGHETTI! (LITTLE DO YOU KNOW, THIS SPAGHETTI IS A TRAP. YOU WILL BE SO BUSY EATING IT, YOU WON’T REALIZE YOU AREN’T PROGRESSING! THOROUGHLY JAPED BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS!)

NYEH HEH HEH,

PAPYRUS”

Well, that was nice of him. You’ve been running around for a while, you could use a snack. You run your foot through the snow under the table just to make sure there isn’t a net or something concealed there, but it’s all clear. You feel like you can risk a trap for this. The spaghetti is pretty thoroughly frozen, but you suppose that’s what the microwave is for. There’s an extension cord running from the microwave into the distance. You aren’t sure what power source it connects to, but you hope it isn’t the same system as the one with the lamps and the fire maze. You slide in the spaghetti, take a few steps back, and press the buttons with Stickolas. Fortunately, the microwave works without bursting into flame. After a few minutes, you retrieve your spaghetti and take a bite. It’s… pretty good! The noodles are nice and buttery, the sauce has a nice flavor, and the parmesan sprinkles give it some extra zest. It’s obviously been frozen and microwaved, but you bet it would be really good fresh. Papyrus must have practiced this dish a lot to make it so well. Although the sauce’s consistency is…unconventional. You can’t decide if you like it or not, but it certainly gives the dish a unique twist. After you’re done, you put the rest by the mouse hole. Knowing the mouse might someday branch out and try Italian fills you with determination.

You follow the extension cord onward and find your way blocked by spikes. You might be able to jump over them, but you don’t think that’s the point of the puzzle. There must be a clue nearby since Papyrus isn’t here to give you instructions. You pace around for a minute, then realize the snow at your feet has scattered to reveal a drawing. Is this a map of the area? There’s a red X in the corner, so maybe if you find that—you are interrupted as you are drawn into battle. You find yourself facing a snowman-like monster with an ostentatious cap made of ice. His pointed cap is so much larger than he is that you’re surprised he doesn’t tip over. He kind of looks like an upside-down snow cone, come to think of it.

*You tell him he has a nice hat.

“Yeah, DUH. It’s pretty great!”

Glowing spots appear under the snow at your feet and you step out of the way as they launch ice spikes straight up. You cast your eyes upward and dodge as they fall back down. That was a pretty chilly reception. You decide if that’s how this Icecap takes a compliment, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all. You ignore the Icecap.

“Uh, hello? Hat’s up here!”

He shakes back and forth, slinging waves of ice at you from either side. You carefully weave through the path in between them. He might be a little conceited, but this teen is actually pretty good at ice magic. You decide it would be best to keep ignoring the Icecap. He’s bound to get bored eventually.

“Wha? Better a hatter than a hater!”

Ah, he must be friends with Snowdrake. He launches icicles again and you step from side to side as they shoot up and fall back down. Icecap appears to be sulking. Now you feel a little bad. He just wants attention of some sort, although he doesn’t seem to know what kind. Maybe if you show more interest in his hat? You playfully snatch it, but it melts instantly in your hands. Oops. Now, without the cap, he’s just Ice.

“Wha—my hat! Noooo!!”

Now you feel really bad. He flings ice at you again and you sway back and forth in rhythm to avoid the peaks. This isn’t going very well. Now he’s just a sad, bald ice cube. You have to do something to make it right.

*You tell him he looks even better without the hat, and he looks so cool and glossy.

“You really think so?”

He launches a few icicles at you halfheartedly, then seems to consider your compliment.

“Yeah… Yeah, you’re right! Hats are for posers! I’m way cooler now!”

You SPARE him and the battle ends. He says goodbye, then glides away to show off his cool bald head to his friends. You still feel bad for melting his hat, but at least he found a new style he likes.

Now, back to the puzzle. You follow the map to where the X was marked and find a button hidden in the snow. The spikes blocking your way disappear and you carry on. You don’t get very far before you see more monsters approaching. This time it’s a pair of Dogi. Two at once! Today just keeps getting better and better. They’re wearing matching black hoodies and wielding large battle axes. The axes should be intimidating, but it’s hard to feel anything but warm fuzzies when you see their little black noses peeking out from the hoods. They circle around you, sniffers twitching. One of them has little whiskers, and he leans in to get a good sniff.

“What is this strange smell, Ressa?”

(Seems suspicious, Dogamy dear.)

“Identify yoursmellf!”

They lean in and get a good sniff. Your muscles tense and you prepare for battle.

“Smells like… smells like…”

(A weird little goat kid.)

“Yup! No problems there. Sorry, kid, we thought you were a human!”

(You really don’t look like a goat…But the nose knows I suppose!)

They relax and flick their hoods back to reveal floppy white ears. As they hoist the axes over their shoulders you realize their matching hoodies each feature a picture of the other dog on the front with a cartoon heart. How sweet!

*You tell them it’s no problem.

The female dog with long eyelashes pats you on the head.

(What a little cutie! You remind me of our pups.)

“For sure! Puppies and kids are so cute at that age, aren’t they?”

You reach up and give each of them head pats. Their tails wag furiously.

“Well, we need to continue our pawtrol. Right, Kibble?”

(Right, Treat! Have a nice day, little goat kid! Oh, and do watch your step. Papyrus has been running all over the place this morning arming his traps and puzzles. Something about a human, but I would’t worry, dear, our noses will keep us on track.)

“Right! And besides, Doggo said he hasn’t seen anything today. Well, see you around, goat kid!”

The dogs trot away happily, talking about puppies and kids and bumping noses affectionately. You look down at the shed goat fur all over your shirt. Talk about a mother’s love protecting you!

Further on, there is another row of spikes blocking your way and some buttons with X’s on them. Following the sign, you step on each button to turn them into O’s, then trigger another switch and the path opens up. That was pretty easy. You must be getting the hang of these puzzles. On the other side you meet Papyrus again.

“OHO! YOU HAVE SOMEHOW ELUDED MY TRAP! IMPRESSIVE! DID YOU ENJOY IT??”

*You tell him it was really good.

He blushes, somehow.

“WOWIE! NO ONE NEW HAS EATEN MY COOKING IN A LONG TIME… WELL, FRET NOT, HUMAN! I, MASTER CHEF PAPYRUS, WILL MAKE YOU ALL OF THE HOME-COOKED SPAGHETTI YOU LIKE AFTER I… CAPTURE YOU… ER, LET US PROCEED TO THE NEXT PUZZLE!”

You continue on together.

“I AM SURE YOU WILL ENJOY THE NEXT PUZZLE! IT IS NEARLY AS GREAT AS I AM!! OF COURSE, I HAD TO RECALIBRATE IT MYSELF BECAUSE SANS HAS DISAPPEARED SOMEWHERE—PROBABLY SLEEPING—BUT STILL! HE IS PUTTING IN MORE EFFORT THAN USUAL TODAY! HE MUST BE EXCITED TO SEE A HUMAN TOO!”

*You ask if they both made the puzzles.

“I DESIGNED MOST OF THEM, BUT SANS OFFERED SOME SUGGESTIONS AND HELPED TO BUILD THEM! HE’S ACTUALLY REALLY SMART, BUT VERY LAZY… HE’S ALMOST AS GOOD AT SLACKING AS I AM AT NOT-SLACKING! EVEN HIS HOBBIES ARE LAZY, LIKE COLLECTING NOVELTY SOCKS AND LAMPS! IT’S A GOOD THING HE HAS A VERY COOL, HARD-WORKING BROTHER TO LOOK OUT FOR HIM! ONE THAT IS VERY ACCOMPLISHED AND POPULAR AND… WELL, WILL SOON BE ACCOMPLISHED AND POPULAR…”

Papyrus is definitely a cool guy, but you have to wonder why he’s so set on capturing you and joining the Royal Guard. He really doesn’t seem like the human-murdering type. Does he know that’s what the guard does?

*You ask if he’s really going to join the Royal Guard.

“OH! WELL! UM! YES!! I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO JOIN THE ROYAL GUARD, AND I AM SURE ONCE I CAPTURE YOU, MY FRIEND UNDYNE… THAT IS, THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD, IS SURE TO LET ME IN! AFTER ALL, I AM VERY GREAT AND HANDSOME AND DEFINITELY CUT OUT FOR BEING A ROYAL GUARD… UM!! OH LOOK! A PUZZLE! GOOD LUCK, HUMAN!!”

With that, he runs across the field in front of you and flies(?) over the next set of spikes. What was that about? He didn’t even stay long enough to explain the next puzzle, although it looks like another X/O button puzzle like the last one. Should be easy enough, right?

About five minutes later, you determine it isn’t. First off, this one is massive. Frozen snow clumps line the ground in a peculiar pattern, limiting your movement. There are buttons everywhere, and with even one wrong turn you end up going over the same button twice and you have to restart. You run through it several more times with no luck. This is obviously one Papyrus has reworked to make more challenging for you. Your feet are starting to get cold. You decide to take a quick break and you pull out a sheet of paper and a marker from your bag. So far you are pretty happy with your progress in making friends with everyone in the underground. You unwrap and suck on a piece of monster candy as you recall who you’ve befriended so far and start to make a list. There’s the Snowdrake, Doggo, the snowman, the little dog, Ice, and the pair of dogs. Of course Sans is the first person you met, but you hesitate to put his name down. He’s your friend, right? You think so, but you can’t shake the feeling that he’s watching and judging your every move. You don’t think he quite trusts you, not that you blame him. Monsters have good reason to be wary of humans, both because of what’s happened in the past and because of the inherent strength of a human SOUL. You know you could be very dangerous if you wanted to be. You decide to wait on claiming Sans as a friend until you can prove to him that he can trust you.

How about Papyrus, then? You get along well, but you don’t think you’re a friend quite yet. He still wants to capture you. He says he does, at least. He hasn’t done much in the way of actual capturing. For someone who seems to put all of his energy and enthusiasm into everything he does, you don’t think he’s really giving this his all. It seems more like he wants to be friends. But if he really wants to be in the Royal Guard so desperately, and capturing you is his shot at doing it, those things are going to be at odds sooner rather than later. He’s going to have to make a hard choice. What if you have to fight him? Sans did make a special point of telling you about his blue attacks, so it seems like Sans considers a fight as a real possibility. You’ve faced blue attacks from certified Royal Guardsmen already with very little difficulty, but somehow you’re more worried about fighting Papyrus. Blue attacks are a little bit like puzzles, especially with alternating patterns of blue and white bullets, and if Papyrus can design brain-teasers like this button puzzle, you bet he can string together a perplexing bullet pattern.

You really want to be friends with Papyrus, but you don’t want him to have to give up his dream, either. Making friends is more complicated than you thought. Even so, you aren’t going to give up so easily. You write down The Great Papyrus on your paper. Looking at it gives you a sudden idea. You pack up your bag and walk over to a nearby tree. You climb as far up as you can, and then take another look at the puzzle on the ground. It spells “The Great Papyrus” with the shape of a skull next to it. Of course! You slide back down the tree and race over to the button puzzle. It still takes you a few tries, but now that you have the pattern, you just have to trace out the name. After a couple of minutes, you hear a click as the spikes disengage. Papyrus and Sans are waiting on the other side.

“AHA! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT, HUMAN! DID YOU FIND IT TO YOUR PUZZLING STANDARDS?”

*You tell him it was pretty great.

“OF COURSE! IT WAS MODELED AFTER MYSELF, AFTER ALL! MOST IMPRESSIVE, HUMAN! THIS NEXT PUZZLE WILL PROBABLY BE TOO EASY FOR YOU! NYEH HEH!”

He runs off to prepare the next one. You go over and say hi to Sans, and you check his socks. You hadn’t noticed before, but they are covered in cartoon bones.

“oh, did papyrus tell you about my cool sock collection?”

*You say they’re so cool they’ve knocked your socks off.

“heh. of course, looking cool isn’t their sole purpose. it’s cold out here.”

You wonder why he doesn’t wear real shoes, then, but you aren’t ready to dive into that logic.

“anyway, you survived the spaghetti trap. not bad, right? it took a few years, but he’s gotten pretty good at spaghetti. he might even be ready to graduate to a non-pasta dish soon. he used to get cooking lessons from his pal undyne, but he hasn’t been in a bit… anyway, better go before i put my foot in my mouth.”

He wanders off in the opposite direction again. Undyne, captain of the Royal Guard… now there’s someone whose reputation precedes her. If she’s even half as scary as Blooky has made her out to be, you have real trouble ahead of you, but that’s a problem for later. It seems a little strange that someone so scary would be friends with someone like Papyrus, but he had called her a friend earlier too. Although, thinking back, he looked a little unsure about it. You aren’t sure what it all means, but for now you continue on, ready for whatever puzzle awaits you.

Notes:

Ah, the Royal Guard, on the ball as usual. To be fair, Frisk is a kid. See you on Thursday!

Chapter 11: One Step Forward, Two Tiles Back

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Uwa!! So Temperate-String Player Gamer
Snowy-String Player Gamer

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

After crossing over a small bridge, you see a floor of gray tiles sprawled out before you. Papyrus and Sans are on the other side of it next to some sort of electronic control mechanism. Papyrus waves enthusiastically.

“HELLO, HUMAN! YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS PUZZLE! IT WAS DESIGNED BY THE GREAT DOCTOR ALPHYS! WHEN I FLIP THIS SWITCH, A RANDOMLY-GENERATED PUZZLE WITH COLORED TILES WILL BE CREATED. THE RULES ARE SIMPLE! RED TILES ARE IMPASSABLE! YOU CANNOT WALK ON THEM! YELLOW TILES ARE ELECTRIC! THEY WILL ELECTROCUTE YOU! GREEN TILES ARE ALARM TILES! IF YOU STEP ON THEM, YOU WILL HAVE TO FIGHT A MONSTER!! ORANGE TILES ARE ORANGE-SCENTED. THEY WILL MAKE YOU SMELL DELICIOUS! BLUE TILES ARE WATER TILES. SWIM THROUGH THEM IF YOU LIKE, BUT IF YOU SMELL LIKE ORANGES, THE PIRANHAS WILL BITE YOU. ALSO, IF A BLUE TILE IS NEXT TO A YELLOW TILE, THE WATER WILL ALSO ZAP YOU! PURPLE TILES ARE SLIPPERY! YOU WILL SLIDE TO THE NEXT TILE! HOWEVER, THE SLIPPERY SOAP SMELLS LIKE LEMONS!! WHICH PIRANHAS DO NOT LIKE! PURPLE AND BLUE ARE OKAY! FINALLY, PINK TILES. THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING. STEP ON THEM ALL YOU LIKE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

You stare into the distance vacantly. He lost you at, “the rules are simple.” There is no way this is going to go well. Maybe it’ll make more sense once you actually see it? And anyway, you can take your time with it if you need to. You give him a thumbs-up and he flips the switch.

“EXCELLENT! THIS IS A NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN PUZZLE! EVEN I WON’T KNOW THE SOLUTION!!”

The tiles light up and rapidly cycle through colors. You shift on your feet in preparation as the tiles slow. There is a click as they settle into a pattern. It’s a dizzying rainbow of colors. You try to visualize a path through it, but then the tiles flicker and switch to another, equally baffling pattern. It must not have been done randomizing. You start analyzing this pattern, but then it switches again. It does this a few more times with about five seconds between each pattern, and every switch is accompanied by a glitchy-sounding static noise. Your eyes widen and you look across at Papyrus.

“IT’S… NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. HMM.”

He walks over to the control mechanism and gives it a tap, but nothing happens.

“SANS?”

“dude, i dunno, i didn’t build it.”

“WELL, THAT’S OKAY! I HAVE THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL!”

He pulls an instruction manual out of his boot and rifles through it for a minute before passing it to Sans.

“what? why’re you givin’ it to me?”

“JUST TELL ME WHICH BUTTON THINGY TO PUSH!”

“uh, to pause puzzle generation, press the blue one.”

“THAT DIDN’T WORK!”

“to reset, press the yellow one.”

“THAT DIDN’T EITHER!”

“to return to the menu, press the green one.”

“NOPE!”

“to force quit, press the red one.”

“STILL NO!”

“to run a status check, press the pink one. is there an error message?”

“NOTHING HAPPENED!”

“to turn on theme music, press the purple one.”

“HOW WOULD THAT HELP?!”

“heh. worth a shot.”

Papyrus walks over and looks at the manual over Sans’s shoulder.

“LOOK, THERE’S A CUSTOMER SUPPORT HELPLINE! CALL THAT NUMBER! AHEM. PLEASE WAIT JUST A MOMENT, HUMAN! I’M SURE THE PUZZLE WILL BE WORTH THE WAIT!”

Papyrus looks around awkwardly as Sans makes the call on his phone. At least you have extra time to figure out the rules now… except you’ve forgotten them already. What was the piranhas’ soap preference again?

“WELL? WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?”

“i’m on hold. wanna listen to the hold music?”

He turns the speaker phone on and you hear tinny music that makes you feel like you’re going to be waiting for a while. At least the tune is catchy.

“NOT RIGHT NOW, SANS!”

Sans turns the speaker off and you all go back to standing around awkwardly. Hopefully they just turn the puzzle off and you can move on. This kind of puzzle is a nightmare scenario for you. You certainly have the reflexes, and if it were a matter of hopping between good tiles and bad tiles this would be a breeze. But the rules to this are too convoluted for you. After a minute Sans shrugs.

“it’s just an automatic message, they stopped supporting this model.”

“WHAT?! I THOUGHT IT HAD A WARRANTY!”

“yeah, a three-year warranty. that expired last month.”

“OF COURSE IT DID!! THIS IS WHY I DON’T OUTSOURCE MY PUZZLES!”

“i guess you could say this puzzle is a little—”

“‘VOLATILE,’ YES, YES. WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR JOKES! THIS IS SERIOUS! MY REPUTATION AS A PUZZLE MASTER IS AT STAKE HERE!!”

“alright, alright, lemme have a look. and i was gonna say ‘scintilelating.’”

Sans walks over and starts pressing buttons on the machine, which somehow doesn’t make you feel better. Papyrus stares at the revolving puzzle for a minute.

“AHA! ALL IS NOT LOST! IT WOULD APPEAR THAT IT IS ONLY SWITCHING BETWEEN THREE PUZZLES, AND THERE IS STILL A CLEAR PATH IF YOU GET YOUR TIMING RIGHT! MAYBE THIS IS JUST EXPERT MODE! GO AHEAD, THEN, HUMAN, AND MAKE YOUR WAY ACROSS!”

You stare at him like he’s a zebra. He has to be joking, right? One pattern on this crazy thing would be enough to make you dizzy, but watching it spin between three is making you nauseated. It’s like the child of a crossword and a sudoku on steroids. You don’t want to give up, but there’s just no way. One step onto this thing will probably electrocute you.

*You tell Papyrus you don’t think you can do this puzzle.

“I AM SURE YOU—WAIT, WHAT? DID YOU? YOU SAID? DOES THAT MEAN? A SURRENDER!! SANS, DID YOU HEAR THAT?! I’VE FINALLY DONE IT! I CAN FINALLY CAPTURE THE HUMAN! AND THEN I WILL TURN THE HUMAN IN TO UNDYNE! AND I’LL REALLY MAKE IT INTO THE ROYAL GUARD! AND THEN I’LL BE POPULAR! AND THEN! AND THEN… NO.”

He turns away and thinks in silence, just for a moment, before turning back to you.

“NO, I CAN’T CAPTURE THE HUMAN ON A TECHNICALITY BECAUSE OF A FAULTY PUZZLE. THAT ISN’T SPORTING AT ALL! I AM A SKELETON OF HONOR! WE WILL JUST TURN THIS PUZZLE OFF AND MOVE ON TO A BETTER ONE, WHERE I WILL ABSOLUTELY CAPTURE YOU! BUT FAIRLY!”

“uh, this thing’s totally frozen. it’s not turning off.”

“OH.”

You look across the revolving tile puzzle again. It doesn’t show any sign of stopping anytime soon. You look back to Papyrus. Suddenly he gets a burst of inspiration and strikes a dramatic pose while his cape flows behind him.

“NEVER FEAR, HUMAN, FOR I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, SHALL ACT AS YOUR GUIDE THROUGH THIS PUZZLE! JUST FOLLOW MY DIRECTIONS AND I WILL GET YOU THROUGH!”

You let out a big sigh of relief. You step into position at the edge of the puzzle and sink into a running stance.

*You tell him you’re ready.

“GOOD! YOU MAY STEP ONTO THE PUZZLE—NOW! THEN GO RIGHT!”

You try to go to the right, but the red tile repels you. You hop back to the snow before it changes.

“WHAT? NO, NO, HUMAN, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO RIGHT!”

*You ask if he means his right or yours.

“WHAT? RIGHT IS THAT WAY!”

He gestures to his right, your left.

“THIS MIGHT BE A… LITTLE HARDER THAN EXPECTED IF YOU DON’T KNOW LEFT AND RIGHT!”

*You tell him you think you’ve got it.

“OH GOOD! YOU LEARN FAST! IT MUST BE BECAUSE I’M SUCH A GOOD DIRECTION-GIVER! VERY WELL, HUMAN, YOU MAY STEP ONTO THE PUZZLE—NOW! THEN GO TO THE RIGHT RIGHT!”

You step to the left onto a pink tile.

“FORWARD! FORWARD AGAIN! THEN WAIT! NOW LEFT!”

You assume forward means toward him. You cross over several harmless tiles, trusting that they won’t switch to something dangerous under your feet. It seems to be working so far.

“LEFT! FORWARD! FORWARD! SLIDE LEFT! SLIDE RIGHT! THEN WAIT! NOW FORWARD!”

You are a little confused about why you skated over those slick purple tiles just to return, but then it clicks. Earlier you had crossed over a sticky orange tile, and you had to clean your feet in the lemon soap before wading through the blue tile when it appeared. You have no idea how he’s keeping this straight, but you’re about halfway there.

“RIGHT! FORWARD! RIGHT! FORWARD! WAIT! BACK! WAIT! FORWARD! FORWARD!”

You step between tiles as they change colors. The end is in sight now, you just have to pass a couple more rows!

“CAREFUL WITH THE TIMING HERE, HUMAN! LEFT! WAIT! LEFT! FORWARD! NOW JUMP FORWARD EXACTLY WHEN IT CHANGES!”

You move through the first steps with no problem. You wait for the last change. Right now the tile in front of you is red, but in three… two… one… You jump toward the red one just as it flickers to pink, and the one you had been standing on buzzes with electricity behind you. You run off the edge of the puzzle into the snow. You made it!

“NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH! WE DID IT!”

*You give him a high-five and tell him he was a great explainer.

“WOWIE! YOUR DIRECTION-FOLLOWING AND JUMPING WAS AMAZING TOO! WE ARE AN UNSTOPPABLE TEAM! NYEH HEH… HEH. O-OF COURSE, THAT WAS JUST A TRUCE! I WILL CERTAINLY CAPTURE YOU ON THE NEXT ONE, HUMAN! FOLLOW IF YOU DARE! NYEH HEH!”

He sprints away and you sigh in relief. At least that horrible puzzle is over with and you never have to look at it again.

“good goin’, kid. i thought i was gonna hafta learn electrical engineering there for a minute. you seem to read my bro pretty well. most people can’t. guess that makes you two the same kind of cool, right?”

He winks and wanders off. Out of curiosity, you take a look at the malfunctioning control mechanism. A message on the screen reads, “Are you sure you want to initiate forced shutdown? Press green to confirm.”

You press the green button and the puzzle powers off. You sigh and decide not to dwell on it as you continue along the snowy path.

Notes:

And Sans was totally going to say "volatile." Papyrus stole his thunder on that one. Papyrus did get a few calls asking about his puzzle's extended warranty, but he (rightly) assumed they were prank calls from Sans and ignored them. Oh well. Feel free to say hello, and see you next week!

Chapter 12: Dogger and Dogger

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Dogsong-Jules

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You soon find yourself surrounded by surreal dog-shaped snow sculptures. They all have unnaturally long necks twisting in bizarre directions, and most of them are broken and lying in cold, deserted pieces. It kind of reminds you of the Ruins, except with dogs. There is also a vacant sentry station belonging to a “Lesser Dog," and from the lengths of the snow dogs’ necks, you are pretty sure which dog that is. A horned monster in a sweater notices you looking at the statues.

“Yeah… That dog rushed through here a little while ago and started making snow dogs in a frenzy. I’ve never seen her so inspired before. Just kept adding snow to make the necks longer and longer, until… It was kind of sad to watch, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it…”

Well, at least the dog seemed happy. She might have a little more passion than skill, but you think she’ll get the hang of it someday. Knowing that the dog has put so much passion into her creations fills you with determination.

Under one of the broken snow-dog arches you spot a group of teenagers talking, including Snowdrake and Icecap from earlier. Icecap has reformed into a snowman, but he’s still rocking the bald look.

“I found these googly eyes earlier, we should totally put them on Gyftrot!”

“Dude, YES. What was in that stocking you put on his antlers, anyway? That thing smelled funky.”

“Oh right, it was—hey, it’s that stripey shirt kid!”

You wave and they call you over.

“Hey, you again! It’s “snow” good to catch up!”

“Right! And my new hatless look is totally trending, no cap!”

*You say it’s nice to see them too.

Snowdrake gestures to an older teen that looks a bit like him, but with slick shades.

“This is our buddy Chilldrake. He’s kind of like our leader.”

*You say hi, and ask what he’s leading.

“Anarchy! Us teens have rejected society and ventured into the woods to do our own thing.”

*You say you thought he was a little older than a teenager.

“Uh, I’m twenty-teen. Because I defy society’s expectations of adulthood and being part of the system and working a soulless job! Which is what I told Mom before she made me get a job. But I still chill with my buds on my off days as an honorary teenager.”

*You say that sounds like fun.

Snowdrake flaps his wings and hops from foot to foot like he’s just come up with a new joke.

“Hey, you should join us!”

Ice stares down his carrot nose at you.

“Uh, but aren’t you younger than a teen?”

Chilldrake waves him off. “An age requirement sound like a rule, and we don’t do rules! Although, not just anyone can be a rebellious teenager.”

He slides his shades down his beak and looks you over.

“So, kid, are you cool and rebellious like us?”

*You put your hands on your hips and say you’re basically ILLEGAL in the entire underground.

All three of them recoil and “ooh” and “ahh.” Chilldrake slips his shades back on.

“Metal. So you want to hang around and do nothing with us?”

*You say you’re honored, but you have places to be.

“Chill. I get it. You can be one of us in spirit. Go out there and be an agent of chaos, alright?”

*You say you will.

You hear snow shuffling behind the teens and a high-pitched nasally voice speaks up.

“Guys, it’s COLD. Why are we standing here talking to this lame-o? FAIL.”

Everyone gives an undisguised groan and mutters the name “Jerry.” The lumpy monster with cheese dust all over his fingers squeezes in between the others and watches you with squinty eyes.

“There isn’t even wifi here. There’s nothing to do. When are we leaving?”

*You say that there are lots of fun things to do out here, and maybe he should take a cue from Lesser Dog and make snow sculptures.

Jerry rolls his eyes. “Make snow sculptures? Like a first grader? LAME!”

Ah, a real Gloomy Gus. Or a Jaded Jerry, you suppose. Some people really are determined to be miserable. You have an excuse to slip away now, but you feel bad for leaving the others with Jerry. With a sudden stroke of inspiration, you clear your throat and point to the Royal Guard station.

*You say it really is awful that there’s no wifi here, and he should make a formal complaint at the guard station.

You know full well the dog isn’t there right now. You would never sic Jerry on her if she was. Thankfully Jerry doesn’t seem to know that, and his beady eyes glimmer with something like satisfaction.

“Finally, someone has a good idea around here! Come on guys, let’s go tell them what for.”

The others don’t move as he waddles away. Everyone stares at each other for a few seconds, then you collectively sprint off in different directions and ditch Jerry. It’s good to be an agent of chaos.

Next you come upon another XO button puzzle and you wrinkle your nose. These buttons are spread out across a sheet of ice. The brothers are nowhere in sight, so you guess no one will be watching this embarrassment, at least.

You step toward it, but are drawn into battle. A reindeer monster appears in front of you, steam billowing from his nostrils. His antlers are covered in sparkly decorations and bric-a-brac. This must be the Gyftrot they were talking about. How festive! You consider adding something to make Gyftrot feel even more special, but on closer inspection, he looks pretty grumpy. Maybe he doesn’t like the decorations.

Gyftrot shuffles some present-shaped bullets and launches them at you. You step into the path of the blue one and stand still as it whooshes through you. Once it’s your turn again, you edge a little closer and remove a tacky picture from Gyftrot. He looks a little happier. These decorations actually look pretty uncomfortable. You’ll have to have a chat with the teens when you see them again. You like a good prank too, but this just seems a little mean. Gyftrot casts a wave of snowflakes toward you and you weave between them. You shuffle even closer and snag a stocking from his antlers. That must take a weight off, because he shakes his head and gives a pleased little snort. Strangely, the stocking seems to be stuffed with fully-cooked omelets. Is this how monsters do egg pranks? Interesting.

It’s not over yet, though. He shuffles another round of presents and launches them at you. This time you back up and leap over it. He looks happier now, but his antlers are still wrapped in sparkly garland. This one might take a minute to unravel, but you think he’ll let you do it. As you approach and reach up, Gyftrot eyes you suspiciously, but kneels to the ground. You carefully unwind the garland into a heap in the snow. Once you’re done, he stands, shakes his antlers, and prances around happily. On second thought, you think he looks much nicer without the decorations. His antlers are still topped by natural mini fir trees, and as he prances some of the snow shakes loose at you. You dodge the errant flakes and admire your handiwork. You SPARE Gyftrot.

“Thank you! I thought you were another teen delinquent at first.”

*You say you’re only eleven.

“Well, you have a couple of years left then. Try not to turn into a hoodlum when you turn thirteen, okay? You’re alright…”

Gyftrot trots away and you wave goodbye. You turn back to the puzzle. The icy plateau is surrounded by a sheer drop on either side, so you’ll have to be careful on this one. The first button is just a few steps away, so you cautiously slide to that one first. The next one is further out, but you glide along the edge of the rink to it easily. This really isn’t as hard as it looks. With gained confidence, you zigzag across the ice from button to button, barely pausing to hear the satisfying click as you race to the next. It’s all going really well until, of course, it isn’t. You misjudge your angle and try to backpedal, but friction is not on your side and you glide straight off the edge of the cliff. You swear you can feel yourself hang in midair like a cartoon character just long enough to realize your mistake before you plummet to the snowy valley below, the wind making an almost mocking whistling sound in your ears. CRASH!

Snow. You can feel the icy clumps dripping from your face and sliding down the collar of your shirt. You have just been hit by a massive snowball, and the thrower is stuttering apologies as you drag the sleeve of your sweater across your face.

“Oh my goodness! I am sorry, little one, I thought you would catch it. I did not intend for it to splatter in your face like that!”

The voice is deep and jovial, if also a little flustered. You say something placating in that voice that isn’t yours, and the man approaches. Between the snow glare and your watering eyes you can’t see him very well, but he is a tall figure. He kneels down and you push his arm away as he tries to help brush off the snow, but your annoyance is feigned. What’s the point of a snowball fight if no one gets hit? You think that being a fuzzy pushover must run in the family.

“Well, I suppose that is enough for today. Your skin is very red! May I carry you back home?”

You shake your head and the voice says something to the effect of that being unnecessary. The man gives a low hum.

“Oh, are you sure? We will both be in trouble if you stumble home ill, you know. Please. Will you not allow me to carry you? It is no trouble, I promise.”

There is a long moment of hesitation, but the voice relents. You don’t make eye contact, but you feel yourself being lifted by strong arms and sheltered by the purple fabric of his clothing. You instantly feel a wave of warmth through your numb fingers and face, and you bob gently in his arms as his long strides carry you away. After a moment, the voice asks him a question.

“Yes, actually! My fur protects me well, but I can get cold. I am a bit chilly myself in this weather. Your sweater looks very cozy, I wonder if I could find one like it in my size. Ha ha! Imagine one of my age wearing a striped sweater! I suppose that would not suit me. Are you feeling warmer?”

The voice answers in the affirmative and the man wraps his arms around you a little tighter.

“Good. I am glad you agreed to take a walk with me today, it has been so pleasant to share this outing with you. And once we return home I can make us a nice pot of tea. That will warm us up splendidly.”

A sweater. Now that’s given you an idea. You wonder if it would be difficult to make one. As you ponder the idea you began to drift off to sleep, sheltered from the cold wind by more than physical warmth.

You sit up with a start. You landed in a big snowbank, and apart from the snow seeping into your shirt, you feel fine. You stand and shake the snow off as you recall your vision. You’ve heard the voice of the kind man in these visions before, although you’ve never seen him clearly as you have Mom. You sigh and wonder if you’ll have to start the puzzle over when you make it back. You can see a slope nearby that should lead to where you were. As you start to head back, you stop to admire a couple of snowmen. One is an impressively-sculpted figure of Papyrus, complete with a red cape and chiseled muscles. The other is a vague lump labeled in marker as “Sans.” For a moment you’re afraid you landed on Sans’s snowman, but you can definitely see your human-shaped impact site a few feet away. Apparently it was just like this. Next to the snowmen is a baggie with a book and several sticky notes inside. The book is titled, The Art of Snow Sculpting, and the sticky note on the cover reads,

“SANS! I MUST SAY THIS IS DECIDEDLY NOT ONE OF YOUR BETTER LUMPS! IN VIEW OF THIS, I HAVE ACQUIRED THIS BOOK FROM THE LIBRARY FOR YOUR EDIFICATION!”

Under this note is a chain of other notes.

“thanks bro.”

“SANS! WHY HAVE YOU NOT BUILT A SUPERIOR SNOWMAN YET??”

“i did. don’t you see it?”

“WHY IS IT SO TINY???”

“that’s how it looked in the book.”

You look down, and sure enough, next to your feet is a tiny two inch snowman. To be fair, it is a pretty good snowman.

“FAIR! THE BOOK REALLY SHOULD BE MORE CLEAR ON THE SIZE INSTRUCTIONS! REGARDLESS, I WILL LEAVE THIS SO YOU CAN READ THE REST OF IT! RETURN IT TO THE LIBRARY WHEN YOU ARE DONE!”

“ok.”

“WHY IS IT STILL HERE?”

“it’s so good i just can’t put it down.”

“IT’S ON THE GROUND RIGHT NOW!”

“whoops.”

“IF IT’S LATE, YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LATE FEE!”

“ok.”

That’s the last note. You check the inside flap. It’s a week overdue. Well, you may be an honorary rebellious teenager now, but you can’t leave an overdue library book lying on the ground, so you tuck it into your bag. With that done, you head back up the slope to the puzzle. As fun as that little adventure was, you don’t want to repeat it, so you take the pile of garland you had removed from Gyftrot and tie one end to a big rock and loop the other end around your waist like a belt. With a security line in place, you carefully skate from button to button on the ice. It takes you a few minutes, and you nearly careen off the edge again once or twice, but you manage to turn all of the X’s into O’s. These puzzles are a lot harder than the Ruins puzzles. You are starting to miss the levers marked with chalk. Once that’s done, you remove your line and skate across to the far end, zipping through a corridor of trees and dusting yourself with snow from the low-hanging branches.

You shake off the snow once you are firmly on the other side. The ground here is covered in little snow poffs, and there is a cute doghouse to the side. You hope you get to meet whatever pup lives there. You walk forward a bit and one of the snow poffs in front of you shifts. You hear a little yip as a fluffy head and tail emerge. You squeal with joy. Somehow, this dog is even cuter than the ones you’ve already met! He’s a fluffy little white dog with a tiny pink tongue. This dog has to be even greater than all of the other Royal Guard dogs! Suddenly there is a deeper rumble as he emerges from the snow. Your gaze slowly drifts upward to meet the eyes of the dog towering above you. He is wearing a massive suit of armor and carrying a long spear in his paw. He looms over you and gives a rumbling bark. Eh, he’s still pretty cute. You are drawn into battle.

The Greater Dog wags its tail eagerly, waiting for your move. He definitely wants attention, but looks a little shy. You beckon him over. The dog leads with a spear attack, but you’re pretty sure he thinks it’s a game. The spear sweeps a wide path toward you, flickering between blue and white. You take a couple of steps to the side to get the timing right and pause as the blue spear moves through you. You still haven’t gotten used to the feeling of magic passing through your SOUL like that, but it doesn’t hurt, it just tingles. Now that you think about it, it’s kind of like someone is throwing a snowball through you. The dog bounds over and you give him a good pat on the head. He gives several loud barks which turn into bullets and stream toward you. You lead them away and dash to the side as they scatter into the distance. Now the dog is pounding the ground with his paws and wiggling from nose to tail. Clearly he wants to play now. You give Stickolas a good throw and he bounds after it. He returns, slinging not only Stickolas, but a magical spear at you as well. You time it again to hit the blue spear.

Now the dog is looking pretty tired. You sit down and he crashes into your lap. You think he’s really too big to be a lap dog, but that always seems to be the way of it. The big dogs never consider that they should be smaller than the thing they’re sitting on. You give him a scratch behind the ear and he barks. You sway to avoid the barking bullets. That petting clearly wasn’t enough; this will require more intensive petting! You reach out both hands and give him a double-handed ear scratch. He leans in. Here it comes! The head tilt, the leg thump, petting is at full capacity! Now he sinks into your lap, perfectly contented, and he can’t even be bothered to bark. You pet him for another minute, then SPARE him.

Greater dog hops out of his armor and you see he really is a little dog. He gives you a big slobbery kiss, hops back into the armor, and trots away. You give a contented sigh. This has been the best day ever.

Notes:

Frisk is a very rebellious, civic-minded preteen. Remember kids, *puts on sunglasses,* reading is cool. *Takes off sunglasses because I'm indoors and can't see.*

On another note, this just reached 1000 hits and I can't believe it! I didn't expect my scribblings to get so much attention. I am blown away by your kind responses. So, thank you for reading! We have a ways yet to go, and I'm excited to share the journey with you.

Chapter 13: Dashing through the Snow

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowdin Town-Patti Rudisill
Snowdin Town-Amie Waters

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As you sit in the snow, you think about all of the wonderful dogs you’ve pet today. There is one little dog that shows up in the Ruins from time to time, but you never get to pet that one. It usually just bursts in at inopportune moments, steals something, and skips away, barking annoyingly. Mom eventually had to put her phone on a watch chain because of that thing.

You get up, brush off the snow once more, and continue onto a long wooden bridge. About halfway across you spot Papyrus and Sans at the other end.

“HUMAN! BEHOLD THE NEXT CHALLENGE! THE GAUNTLET OF DEADLY TERROR!”

At the word, a number of dangerous-looking implements emerge from somewhere. There are spike balls on ropes, spears on hinges, canisters with fire, and one little white dog. Wait, is that the Ruins cell-phone-stealing dog?

“THIS WILL BE YOUR MOST FEARSOME, DANGEROUS CHALLENGE YET! CANNONS WILL FIRE, SPIKES WILL SWING, BLADES WILL SLICE! EACH PART WILL SWING VIOLENTLY UP AND DOWN! ONLY THE TINIEST CHANCE OF VICTORY WILL REMAIN! ARE YOU READY? BECAUSE I! AM! ABOUT! TO DO IT!”

You sink into a crouch and wait, but after a few moments, nothing happens.

“what’s the holdup?”

“HOLDUP?! THERE’S NO HOLDUP! I AM ABOUT! TO! ACTIVATE IT!”

You hype yourself up. This one is an obstacle course, plain and simple. No buttons, no tiles, no six-letter words. This one you can do.

“it, uh, doesn’t look very activated to me. did the warranty on this one run out too?”

“WHAT?? NO! IT’S JUST… MAYBE… THIS ONE IS A LITTLE TOO EASY TO DEFEAT THE HUMAN WITH? MAYBE A LITTLE UNFAIR…”

What? No! You finally got to a puzzle that suits you!

*You tell him that you can do this one.

“REALLY? ARE YOU SURE? IT SEEMS TOO DIRECT!”

*You tell him you like this kind of puzzle, and it’s only fair for you to attempt this one after he called off the tile puzzle.

“WELL… OKIE DOKIE!! I ALWAYS KNEW THAT HUMANS LIKED SPIKES AND DEADLY TRAPS! WHO WOULDN’T?! I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL UNDYNE THAT A HUMAN LIKES THE SAME KIND OF PUZZLES THAT SHE… A-ANYWAY… ACTIVATE!”

All of the parts swing into action. The fire flares up in bursts, the spears jut up and down, the spike balls swing like maniacal pendulums, and the dog just kind of stands there. You watch all of the pieces fall into a deadly rhythm, slowing your breathing until the beating of your SOUL falls into tempo with it. This is just like a monster battle. You’ve always felt that bullets are a sort of puzzle. It isn’t just about seeing and dodging them. There’s a pattern and a pulse to them, a kind of logic you have to crack. You often don’t need to see the bullets at all to know what they’re doing. You begin to feel the whooshing and hear the clicking of the obstacles, and, just like bullets, you begin to sense their movements and intentions in your SOUL, to understand them in a way that mere sight could never do. You rush forward.

The fire jet is just about timing. You skip past it while it’s off and feel the heat on your back as it flares up behind you. The exact paths of the spike balls are hard to predict, but they move slowly at the ends of their arcs. The spears are quick, but on a rigid track. You don’t pause as you slip between the swinging spike balls and hopscotch around the thrusting spears. You dodge, duck, and weave around the gauntlet of obstacles. The cannon fires, but you ignore it because it isn’t aimed anywhere near you. The dog tries to steal your wallet, but you firmly tell it no. You pick up speed as you drop and roll under the last spike ball into the snow. Now at the end of the bridge, you pop up and do a victory pose, knowing how epic you look with the cannons flaring behind you.

“WOWIE! THAT LOOKED REALLY COOL! AS I KNEW IT WOULD! I ALWAYS SET UP MY PUZZLES TO LOOK REALLY COOL!”

You aren’t sure you looked cool while stumbling all over X and O buttons, but you’ll let him have this one.

“NOW I WILL INVITE YOU TO OUR HOUSE TO CELEBRATE! I WILL MAKE EXPERTLY-COOKED SPAGHETTI, AND—HUMAN! LOOK OUT!!!”

There is the wrenching, snapping sound of breaking metal, a sharp ping, and the whoosh of ripping air as something hurtles toward you. Before you can react Papyrus reaches over you and snatches a fragment of broken spear out of the air. The mechanical whirring of the gauntlet grinds to a halt and everything falls silent. Papyrus is holding a razor-sharp spear that was aimed at your back, wearing a startled look on his face. Even Sans looks surprised, with one hand almost out of his pocket. He is several steps closer now, although you could swear you never saw him move.

“N-NYEH HEH… I WON’T HAVE ANY MALFUNCTIONING PUZZLE BITS ON MY WATCH! ESPECIALLY SHARP ONES! FLYING AROUND AT SQUISHY PEOPLE! AWAY IT GOES!!”

He tosses it off the cliff and turns away.

“ANYWAY! ANOTHER DECISIVE VICTORY FOR THE GREAT PAPYRUS! NYEH! HEH… HEH??”

He walks away stiffly and you let out the breath you hadn’t realized you were holding. That was a little too close. You can’t afford to be so reckless. You’ve been zinged by enough last-second bullets to learn not to celebrate before the turn is over. So much is riding on this, you need to be more careful. You also probably shouldn’t run anymore Gauntlets of Deadly Terror willingly. That was kind of stupid.

You walk over to Sans.

“you sure know how to get to the point. anyway. i don’t know what my brother is going to do now. it might be a good time to start thinking about blue attacks. remember, blue stop signs.”

*You tell him you’ll remember.

“good deal. snowdin town is just up ahead, you’re gonna love it.”

As he stares at the self-destructed gauntlet, you walk toward the bright town up ahead. You can feel the festive cheer in the air even before you reach the edge of Snowdin Town. Light flurries fall, children laugh, bells ring in the distance, and the warm glow from the windows makes the well-trodden snow sparkle. The snow crunches under your feet as you take a few steps into the town and fill your lungs with crisp, cold air that tastes like pine and peppermint. A hand-painted sign decked in colored lights reads, “Welcome to Snowdin Town!” You start to walk toward a cute building labeled as a shop when a familiar voice calls out to you.

“Howdy! Over here!”

You turn to see Flowey beckoning from behind the welcome sign.

“Get over here, quick!”

*You ask him why he’s behind the sign.

He starts waving around more frantically.

“Wha-I SAID GET OVER HERE! DON’T JUST STAND THERE, MOVE YOUR ROOTS, NOW!!”

You dash behind the sign just as a tingling bell announces the shop door opening.

“Thank you again for wrapping up this wonderful cinnamon bunny for me! I shall enjoy it when I get home.”

The voice is rich and deep, and you can almost hear a smile in it. A woman’s voice replies.

“Oh, you’re welcome, Mr. Dreemurr! You come back anytime, ya hear?”

Mr. Dreemurr! A shiver runs up your spine, and not from the cold. You are just a few feet away from Asgore Dreemurr, the king of monsters himself. You turn to Flowey, wide-eyed, and he gives you a smug look. You’ve heard a lot about the king from Mom. His voice is so pleasant, but you wonder if he looks as terrifying as you imagined. For all of Mom’s horror stories, she always skimps on the details. You have an idea that he’s a big, scaly dragon monster with long horns and sharp claws. The initial shock begins to wear off a little as Asgore and the shopkeeper continue to chat.

“And how are your nephews and nieces doing?”

“Oh, they’re fine! My oldest nephew is getting so tall now.”

“Is that so? Oh my, I remember when his little nose used to barely peek over the counter at the inn. They do grow so fast!”

“Don’t I know it. Those buns are starting to make me feel old. I don’t know how my sister has the energy to keep up with those crazy things hopping around all over the place.”

“Oh, I know that feeling. The little ones may run us ragged, but they lend us a sense of youthfulness and wonder we thought we had lost. Truly, they are our future, to be treasured above all else.”

“You’re right there, Mr. Dreemurr. You know, when I was a little bun, I used to dream of the surface all the time. But these days, I really only think about it when I see my nieces and nephews. I just hope that they get to see it someday.”

“As do I. We must keep our hopes up, for their sakes. Their day will come, I swear it.”

After all of the terrifying stories you’ve heard about this king under the mountain, this monster waging a war against humans, this murderer… You just can’t believe it. Is this who Mom told you about? He sounds so warm and kind. Overcome with curiosity, you start to lean out from behind the sign a little, but Flowey grabs your leg to pull you back and whispers angrily at you.

“Do you have a death wish or something?”

*You say that maybe you should talk to him. After all, you’ll have to talk to him eventually, and he seems nice.

“Oh, that’s a GREAT idea. I know how you can introduce yourself!”

He flattens his face to mimic yours.

“Just run up to him and say, ‘Hi Mr. Dreemurr, sir! I’m a human and I want to break the barrier, but golly, I just don’t know how! Do you have any ideas?’ You better believe he’ll have an idea. You wouldn’t make it five steps.”

You look away. Maybe he has a point. You want to befriend the king and convince him to call off the war on humanity, but how can you do it if you can’t offer him another way to break the barrier? Maybe it would be better to lie low for now until you can come up with something. After a few more words, Asgore bids the shopkeeper goodbye and you hear heavy footsteps trodding away. “Whew, that was a close one. Good thing I had your back, right?”

*You say that you don’t think the king is nearly as scary and mean as you’ve heard.

Flowey’s face shifts into his cynical look.

“Oh, you don’t, huh? Well, that’s just because he was talking to a monster. Of course he’s fine with her. But if he catches sight of you, you’ll see just how scary and mean he is. You might want to start thinking about what you’re going to do when you face him. Because you WILL have to face him.”

Flowey’s face morphs into a sinister grin.

“And King Asgore is the epitome of this kill or be killed world. If you want to reach your goal, you’ll have to go through him, and MERCY won’t be an option.”

*You tell Flowey to knock off the creepy face because you aren’t going to hurt anyone. You tell him the king seems empathetic, and you’re sure he’s only doing what he thinks he has to.

Flowey morphs back to his normal face, but he looks a little sad. His petals droop around his face.

“Look, I…I’m not trying to scare you, I just want you to take this seriously. You know what happened to the others. They just wanted to go home, but one by one… You’re my best friend. I don’t want that to happen to you too.”

You shudder. With the warm welcome you’ve received so far, it’s easy to forget how this journey ended for the other humans.

*You say that won’t happen to you.

“I know you don’t want to hurt anybody, but I’m trying to tell you that’s not a realistic option in a world like this. Look, just promise me you’ll defend yourself at least, alright?”

You don’t want to hurt anyone, not even in self-defense, but you have to reassure Flowey.

*You say you’ll be careful, and that you won’t let Asgore kill you.

Flowey perks up and starts bobbing from side to side.

“Good! And you might want to get scooting, you’ve been taking forever! Playing along with all of those stupid puzzles really was a waste of time.”

*You say you’ve been having fun, and you’ve met a lot of great monsters along the way.

“Listen, the longer you spend hanging around here, the sooner word will reach a certain Captain of the Royal Guard that there’s a human around. And trust me, you want to be well on your way through Waterfall before THAT happens. But go ahead, do it your way. Dawdle around and play silly games until she marches into Snowdin to kill you herself.”

*You tell Flowey that he’s grumpier than a cactus.

“Welp, don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Flowey winks, then disappears beneath the snow. You come out from behind the sign and look down the road, but the king is long gone. You step into one of the massive footprints he left behind and realize you can squeeze both of your feet into it. Another shiver runs down your spine. Okay, maybe Flowey did save your bacon on this one. You aren’t ready to meet the king just yet. And he has a point that it might be risky to move so slowly, but you’ve been having so much fun with Sans and Papyrus, and all of the dogs. You’ve spent too long waiting for this day to just rush through it now. You decide to keep taking things at your own pace.

Snowdin Town is full of quaint wooden buildings. The architecture is nice, but the place seems pretty crowded. Houses are crammed in everywhere, and the streets are full of monsters. Most of the residents have fur to handle the cold weather, but a number of other uncomfortable-looking monsters in puffy coats are walking around as well. One of them slips on a patch of ice and lands on his tail and a nearby monster in sunglasses laughs heartily. Snatches of conversation reach you as you walk.

“This town is so much nicer and roomier than the capital, don’t you think? I’m sure we’ll come to love it in no time!”

“B-b-but it’s so stupid cold here! We should have moved to Waterfall…”

“But darling, you hate rain even more than you hate cold…”

Further on, a big fluffy bear is tucking presents under a decorated tree and talking to a bunny in a hoodie.

“So many presents this year! I hope the new residents take to our traditions.”

“Yeah, that would be nice. Don’t some of these people seem pretty weird, though?”

“I suppose some of the monsters from the capital have their own traditions… maybe we should ask them? I wonder if they decorate any unwilling monsters? Oh, we’re going to have to get Gyftrot something nice this year, I think some new teenagers moved into town… He’s not going to like that.”

“Can’t blame him. Their families must have moved into some of those houses they built up by the river. I think they’re already filled up.”

“Already? Goodness.”

Beyond them, you see a mouse wrapped from head to toe in scarf and a horned monster with diamond-shaped eyeholes and an orange cape.

“You know, you haven’t been smiling much lately.”

“I know… I’ve always said that there’s no point in being morose about our situation since we can’t change it, but the longer it goes on, I think maybe there’s no point smiling about it either. The underground really does have it’s problems, maybe I should be more serious about them, like you…”

“What? No! I-I know I get tired of people pretending everything’s alright, but actually… It’s everyone’s optimism that keeps me going, even when things are bad. And so, I don’t have any good jokes or anything… but if it’ll cheer you up, I’m smiling too! You, uh, can’t see it because of the scarf, but I’m smiling for you!”

“Aw, really? Then I guess I have to smile too! You’re right, smiling feels much better than frowning!”

It’s just starting to dawn on you how dire things are getting for the monsters. The underground is getting more and more crowded, and with every day that passes, people lose a little more hope. Still, the residents are so warm and kind to each other, despite their circ*mstances. The sight of such a friendly town fills you with determination.

Notes:

Well, you can't fault the gauntlet for a lack of deadly terror.
Snowdin is such a cheery town, I think it would be nice to live there, even if I don't care much for the cold. Well, see you next week, and feel free to say hello!

Chapter 14: A Sinking Feeling

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowdin Town-David Erick Ramos
Snowdin Town-Moisés Nieto

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As you stand in the middle of Snowdin Town, admiring their decked out tree, you are swarmed by a pack of four floppy-eared puppies in striped shirts. They tilt their heads at you, little tails bobbing. Aww, how cute!

“Wow, new person, new person!”

“What a weird-looking monster!”

“Come on, pack, we have to sniff the newcomer!”

“Sniff! Sniff!”

The puppies crowd around and give you a good sniff, then huddle together.

“What do we think?”

“Smells like.. smells like…”

“SANTA!”

The puppies are struck with the zoomies and they zip through the snow in every direction. A few unsuspecting pedestrians are nearly bowled over. Eventually the puppies beeline back to you.

“Santa! Are you Santa? You don’t look like Santa!”

You kneel down to their level and they crowd in closer.

*You tell them you are one of Santa’s elves.

“Wow! Santa’s elf! Tell him we’ve been good puppies!”

“Tell him we want bones!”

“And squeaky toys!”

“And don’t tell him we made yellow snow around bone guy’s mailbox!”

*You give each of them a pat on the head and say you will deliver their messages.

They let out a flurry of yips and run off together. You recount your mission goals: make friends, break the barrier, convince Asgore to make peace with humans, and find Santa. Shouldn’t be any harder than it was already.

You pass a restaurant called “Grillby’s” and overhear another bear talking to a bunny girl with a blue ribbon.

“Hey, if it’s really a problem, a skeleton will tell a fish about it. Thaaat’s politics.”

“But I haven’t seen them together at all lately! The other day she was here to meet with the dogs, and she practically ran to the other side of the street to avoid him. Did they have a fight or something?”

“Well, I guess that’s politics too!”

That’s interesting… You wonder if they’re talking about who you think they are, but you don’t want to eavesdrop. The next building captures your attention. You had been hoping to run into the library, or, uh, librarby? You might be able to find some more information there. You duck inside and inform the librarian that the sign has a typo. He sighs and pinches his nose.

“Yes, we know.”

Since you’re here, you have another errand you can tick off the list. You rifle through your bag for the book on snow-sculpting that Sans and Papyrus left behind and hand it over. The librarian flips open the cover and adjusts his glasses. You can feel the judgment radiating from his long “hmmm.”

“This is a week late. Books are precious down here, don’t you know? Have a little respect for—wait. You’re not the person who borrowed this. Did you find this somewhere?”

*You say you did.

You don’t tell him it was lying in the snow at the bottom of a cliff. His reptilian face softens a little.

“Ah. Thank you, then. Feel free to look around, we have a pretty good selection.”

He starts to grumble under his breath as he stamps the book and puts it in the cart by his desk.

“Careless scallywag, losing your library book somewhere. See if I let EITHER of those brothers borrow another book. I bet it was Sans. Thinks he can treat his library fines like a tab. I swear, if I find one more joke slip sticking out of the books…”

Oooh, someone’s in trouble. You don’t really want either of the brothers to get chewed out for forgetting the book, although you feel a little bad for the beleaguered librarian too. You scoot a little closer to his desk and clear your throat.

*You say you’re sure it was just a miscommunication that they forgot to return the book, and you don’t mind covering the fine.

“Oh? Oh, that’s not necessary…we are trying to fundraise to restore some of the books’ spines, but…You don’t mind? I-it’s 10G.”

Oh, that’s pocket change, and it sounds like a good cause. You slide over the gold and the librarian smiles.

“Thank you. It’s so nice to meet another book-lover. Our stock is limited down here, so every book is precious. Except for those inaccurate books about the vampires, those went back to the dump. Anyway, please feel free to look around, the children’s books are in the corner.”

You head to the back and scan the titles of the books lined against the wall. You are familiar with a lot of these. You skim a poorly-written school report on monster funerary rites and a book on monster and human physiology. The second one could be helpful, but on closer inspection, it’s mostly making fun of humans for not being able to use magic. You’re not jealous. You’re definitely not jealous.

There’s also a huge novel on the shelf titled, The Count of Monster Cristo.

It has to be a thousand pages, at least. It looks interesting, but on closer inspection, it isn’t even finished yet. There’s a whole shelf of scientific books here that could be helpful, but a lot of them look pretty advanced. Mom would like some of these. You scan through a jumble of titles like Mycology, Biochemistry, Vulkinology, and… Agnoiology? There’s a note on that one.

“From the library staff: we don’t know what this one is about either. Sorry.”

A few of the books look particularly well-read, like Botany and Flower Cultivation, Casual Astronomy, and Cutting-edge Robotics. There’s even a huge tome marked Advanced Calculus, but you can’t imagine who would want to read that. You notice a little paper bookmark in that one and you carefully slide the textbook off the shelf, nearly dropping it in the process. It reads:

“spoiler: i found x.”

You stifle your snicker as you follow the arrow on the slip to an equation on the page with the variable x. Well, that’s one way to do it. Another loose sheet of paper falls from the book, but instead of jokes, this one is covered in pencilled equations, strange symbols, and Greek letters. No way, did someone actually solve these problems? You turn to the cover, but it looks like Sans is the only person who’s ever checked this book out. Interesting. Papyrus said he was smart, but you never would have guessed he was interested in this kind of thing. You carefully wedge the book back into its spot on the shelf. These books are pretty far above your level, so you move on to the next shelf with more accessible-looking books. You take an armful of books relating to magic, SOULs, the underground, and the barrier before settling on the floor to look through them.

One of them talks about the power of SOULs and intent. You know that a monster’s attack and defense largely depend on their emotional state, and that intent is a strong determinant of how an attack lands. That’s just another reason for you to avoid hitting a monster altogether. You know you probably wouldn’t hurt anyone as long as you don’t intend to, but human SOULs are so powerful that it just isn’t worth the risk. You skim through the history books you’ve already read and open a dark green book on the nature of SOULs.

“Love, hope, compassion… This is what people say monster SOULs are made of. But the absolute nature of ‘SOUL’ is unknown. After all, humans have proven their SOULs don’t need these things to exist.”

Well that’s just rude. It may be true, but it’s still rude. Still, you wish you understood more about the composition of human and monster SOULs. From the contents page, you see there are chapters on humans, monsters, boss monsters, magic, and the SOUL. Flipping through the pages on bullets and magic, you remember Sans’s warning about blue magic. You’ve dealt with a few blue attacks already, but you wonder if what Papyrus can do with them is more advanced. You recall your lessons on magic from the Ruins…

After first seeing the Vegetoids use a green attack, you rushed home to ask Mom how monsters could make colorful bullets.

“Colorful bullets? Oh! A Vegetoid must have used a green bullet to heal you. How kind… they weren’t throwing any other types of bullets, were they?”

You knew from that side-eye that some Vegetoids were going to get an earful, and not of corn, if you didn’t cover for them.

*You told her they just wanted you to eat your greens.

“I see… Well, I approve of their love for nutrition! And to answer your question, my child, many monsters are able to imbue their bullets with colored magic. I am unfamiliar with the technical specifics, but magic comes from the SOUL, and certain colors reflect certain properties of the SOUL. Some types of monsters have a knack for using different colors. I believe Vegetoids are the only ones within our home who have the ability, aside from myself, of course. You have seen me use healing magic as well.”

*You asked her if other colors did different things.

“Oh, yes! Green bullets heal, but blue and orange are also common. Blue is a sort of defensive magic that only harms a moving target, while orange is more offensive, and only harms a nonmoving target. Of course, creating colored bullets is the most basic form of color magic. There are those among monsters, though not many, who through natural ability and hard work are able to extend their magic not only to bullets, but to the SOUL itself. In this case the effects are much more complex.”

*You asked what sort of things that level of magic could do.

“Oh, well… My child, I am glad you are curious, but this is not something you need to worry about. You are quite safe from such magic while you are here with me! Why don’t you sit on my lap and we can read this book together? Did you know that some types of mushrooms are popular on pizza? A mushroom on a pizza must be a very… fun guy!”

That was the end of that discussion. It didn’t deter you, however, and from your network of the Ruins monsters, the spiders, Flowey, and Blooky, you were soon able to learn more about color magic and which prominent figures in the underground use it. Orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. You studied and trained for each one. Although the Ruins monsters have limited experience with this advanced magic, they helped you to prepare for it as best as they could. Upon learning that blue magic, when used on the SOUL, could augment gravity, the Froggits and Moldsmals volunteered to help you train. After hours of the Froggits coaching you on jumping techniques while you held the heaviest Moldsmals, you are sure you can handle blue magic.

You close the book on your lap and take a good stretch. You didn’t really learn anything you didn’t already know, but it was worth a shot. It seems like human SOULs and the barrier are just as much of a mystery to the monsters as they are to you. Of course, the library just has general information. You hope Dr. Alphys will be able to tell you more. You replace the books, say goodbye to the librarian, and step back into the cold. As you walk you spot that extension cord from the microwave again, running through the snow and connecting to the outside outlet of a festive house covered in lights with a jolly roger flag flying high. This must be Sans and Papyrus’s house. You wonder what sort of magical abilities Papyrus might have. You haven’t seen him fight, and he isn’t even an official Royal Guard member like the dogs, but you have an inexplicable feeling that he might be a very strong monster. If he really can use blue magic to its full extent, you should be ready for whatever happens next. After all, you’re almost on Waterfall’s doorstep now. It’s hard to believe you’ve already come so far! Surrounded by the comfortable cheer of the town, you want to believe that everything is alright, but you can’t shake the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you aren’t through Snowdin just yet, and you can’t forget Papyrus’s conflicted face the last time you saw him. He’s going to have to make a choice, and so will you. As you reach the far end of Snowdin, you adjust your backpack and march toward the haze of white in the distance.

Notes:

Why don't you stop by the library to warm up from the cold and get a little extra world building? Hopefully the dinosaur librarian doesn't figure out it was Sans who taped a picture of him to the cover of the thesaurus.
Things are going to get exciting in the next chapter...
Thanks for reading, and see you Thursday!

Chapter 15: Complex Feelings

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Bonetrousle-Smooth McGroove
Bonetrousle-Patti Rudisill
Bonetrousle-David Erick Ramos
Bonetrousle-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You are suddenly enveloped in a snowstorm. A fierce gust cuts through your sweater and whips fine powder into your face, obscuring your vision past a few feet. You tuck your hands into your sleeves and trudge through the rising snow. You can sense a heaviness in the air like when you first stepped out of the Ruins. The wind echos in your ears and the nearby pines sway and creak under the force of it. The shapes of houses line the riverbank, but everyone must have retreated indoors to escape the sudden snowstorm. Nearly everyone. Your heart skips a beat. You can just make out Papyrus’s silhouette in front of you, his cape flapping behind him in the wind. The bright red accents of his outfit are almost startling against the stark white of the snow. He stands motionless, and you both stare at each other for a long moment in silence.

“HUMAN. ALLOW ME TO TELL YOU ABOUT SOME COMPLEX FEELINGS. FEELINGS LIKE… THE JOY OF FINDING ANOTHER PASTA LOVER. THE ADMIRATION FOR ANOTHER’S PUZZLE-SOLVING SKILLS. THE DESIRE TO HAVE A COOL, SMART PERSON THINK YOU ARE COOL. THESE FEELINGS… THEY MUST BE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING RIGHT NOW!!! I CAN HARDLY IMAGINE WHAT IT MUST BE LIKE TO FEEL THAT WAY. AFTER ALL, I AM VERY GREAT. I DON’T EVER WONDER WHAT HAVING LOTS OF FRIENDS IS LIKE. I PITY YOU… LONELY HUMAN… WORRY NOT!! YOU SHALL BE LONELY NO LONGER! I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL BE YOUR…”

He pauses for a long moment, the unfinished sentence lingering in the air. You clench your teeth, hoping beyond hope that he’ll call off the confrontation. You don’t want to fight. Please…

“…NO… NO, THIS IS ALL WRONG! I CAN’T BE YOUR FRIEND!!! YOU ARE A HUMAN! I MUST CAPTURE YOU!!! THEN I CAN, UH… I CAN… I…”

You can’t read his expression through the haze, but you can feel his hesitance.

“I KNOW I CAN’T BE IN THE ROYAL GUARD… I MAYBE, ACCIDENTALLY, SORT OF OVERHEARD UNDYNE ON THE PHONE SAYING THAT SHE COULD NEVER LET ME INTO THE GUARD, THAT I’M TOO… NICE??”

There is another pause, then he sucks in a deep breath and the words start tumbling out.

“AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS OR HOW I CAN FIX IT AND I CAN’T ASK HER BECAUSE WE AREN’T REALLY TALKING AND—AND I’M NOT MAD AT HER OR ANYTHING, BUT THIS IS A PUZZLE THAT’S REALLY CONFUSING ME AND IT CREATES ALL SORTS OF OTHER COMPLEX FEELINGS LIKE—LIKE WONDERING IF SOMEONE IS REALLY FRIENDS WITH YOU OR IF THEY WERE JUST PRETENDING, AND WONDERING WHY YOUR FRIEND COUNT IS GOING IN THE DISTINCTLY WRONG DIRECTION, AND IF MAYBE YOU SHOULD CHANGE TO MAKE YOUR FRIEND HAPPY, AND WHAT IF YOU MAYBE MADE A BIG MISTAKE AND MESSED UP AT BEING A FRIEND SOMEHOW BUT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO FIX IT AND—AND THAT MUST BE WHAT UNDYNE IS FEELING! SHE MUST FEEL SO CONFUSED AND AWKWARD!! POOR UNDYNE…”

You’re having a little trouble following the mental gymnastics, but you think you are beginning to understand.

“AND IT MAKES ONE WONDER… IF A PERSON HAS A DREAM THEY WERE REALLY SET ON FOR SO LONG, IF THEY HAVE TO GIVE IT UP, WHAT DO THEY DO THEN?? AND THEN MAYBE SUDDENLY THEY HAD ANOTHER CHANCE TO ACHIEVE THAT DREAM, BUT THE PERSON REALLY WANTED TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE HUMAN INSTEAD, BUT THEN MAYBE THAT’S THE WHOLE PROBLEM ABOUT BEING NICE AND MAYBE THEY SHOULD BE MEAN? AND THEY DON’T WANT TO BE MEAN, BUT IF THEY AREN’T THEN THEY MIGHT LOSE A FRIENDSHIP WITH SOMEONE ELSE THEY CARED ABOUT, AND IF THEY ARE THEN THEY MIGHT HURT A NEW FRIEND? AND MAYBE THIS DREAM IS ABOUT TO SLIP AWAY FOREVER AND THEY WILL NEVER BE POPULAR AND PRESTIGIOUS AND—AND THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT I AM FEEL—I MEAN THAT UNDYNE IS—NO, THAT YOU ARE… THAT SANS IS??? UGH!! FEELINGS ARE COMPLICATED!! LET’S FIGHT, HUMAN!!!”

You are drawn into battle. You dip into a fighting stance and take a deep breath. The storm has eased up enough to see across the snowy square separating you. You really didn’t want it to come to this, but you aren’t giving up hope yet. There has to be a way to get through to him. You promised Mom you wouldn’t get hit at all. Now here comes a real test. You evaluate your opponent, the charming skeleton who likes to say “Nyeh heh heh!”

“NYEH HEH HEH!”

He slings a handful of bone-shaped bullets toward you. They skate around you, leaving tracks in the snow. They aren’t even remotely close to hitting you. Maybe he’s waiting for you to make the first move? There are any number of tactics you could try, but maybe the simplest actions speak the loudest. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“SO YOU WON’T FIGHT… THEN, LET’S SEE IF YOU CAN HANDLE MY FABLED ‘BLUE ATTACK!’”

Light blue bones begin to move toward you. Some drag across the snow, and others approach from above, but they’re all blue. You stand perfectly still as they pass through your SOUL, one by one. You look around. Was that it? At this rate you’re considering pretending to almost get hit just to make him feel better—and then it hits you like a ton of bricks. A weight clamps around your SOUL, pushing you to your knees. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s as if you just put on a suit of armor with rocks in the pockets. A small white bone zips toward you. You force your legs to push and you jump over it with plenty of clearance, but it takes a lot more effort than normal.

“YOU’RE BLUE NOW. THAT’S MY ATTACK. NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!!!”

You glance down, and sure enough, your normally bright red SOUL is pulsing blue. You have to admit, that’s a pretty good attack. Although that last bone seemed like a cheap trick. This is where it really kicks in. A fence of bones springs up, narrowing the field of battle into a small corridor. You won’t be able to just move around the bones now; you’ll be forced to jump them. You try to SPARE Papyrus again.

He waves three evenly-spaced bones toward you. The first two are pretty small, so you have no trouble jumping over them. You take a couple of steps back to leap over the next, slightly larger one. The blue SOUL is such a bizarre feeling. You knew it would be harder to jump, but it’s also floatier. There’s a moment at the peak of your jumps where you just hang in the air and then slowly drift down. You’ll have to keep timing in mind. You want to clear the bones with plenty of space, but if you jump too high you might not land in time to make the next leap. This round was pretty easy, but you have a feeling he’s just warming up. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

HOW HIGH CAN YOU JUMP?

Another row of bones skates toward you, moving a little faster. You moderate your jumps and hop over a few small ones and a couple of medium ones. You back up a step to take on the much taller bones that follow, but these ones are moving slower. Is he doing that on purpose? You push hard and barely clear the taller ones. You take a deep breath and shake out your legs. The jumps are manageable, but you don’t think you could go much higher than that. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“YEAH, DON’T MAKE ME USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK!”

A special attack? That sounds ominous. The next formation is more complicated. A mix of bones skates toward you on the ground, and a few others float through the air to limit how high you can go. You make a series of hops and leaps interspersed with some midair twists to move under the floating ones. So far, so good. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“THIS IS MY BIG CHANCE!”

An assortment of white and blue bones comes after you. Little hop, little hop, big jump, freeze. The hair raises on the back of your neck and you turn in time to hop over a little bone zipping toward you from behind. They are beginning to pick up speed now. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“I KNOW UNDYNE WILL RECONSIDER IF I CAPTURE A HUMAN!”

A pair of bones, one high and one low, come at you. You leap through the small gap in between, duck under a floater, then back up as a staggered hill of bones rises from the snow. This one will be a distance jump. You make a running leap and let the momentum float you over the curve of the hill. The bullets may all be bones, but Papyrus has way more patterns than any monster you’ve fought yet. The way he’s mixing and matching them is clever, too. You can’t let your guard down for a moment. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“AND WE’LL BE FRIENDS AGAIN FOR SURE!”

You try to scout out the next line of bullets. There are more pairs with small gaps in between, but this time they’re doubled up, so you’ll have to be even more precise. Jump, float, land, jump, float, land, then freeze as a blue bone passes. Another pair flies at you and you can feel one coming from behind as well. You’ll have to time your jump to hit the gap when they pass each other. Three, two, one… you jump and the pairs cross through each other while you’re in the gap. Another pair swings in from in front and behind, but you aren’t confident in your timing for this one, so you break it into two jumps. You preemptively backflip through the one behind you, wait, then jump straight through the one in front. You stretch your neck from side to side. You are reminded of the jumprope games you play with the Froggits. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“PAPYRUS, SHINING STAR OF THE ROYAL GUARD AND SPAGHETTORE EXTRAORDINAIRE!”

A series of hills glides toward you. This one will work out the quads. Leap, finagle the descent, back up, repeat. By the time you clear the last hill you are pressing against the back of the arena. That was a close one. This doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. At this rate you’ll be hopping bones all day. Maybe it’s time to switch tactics? If you talk to Papyrus, you might be able to convince him to stop. You could insult him into giving up, but you don’t have the heart for that. You could always flirt to distract him—the Moldsmals taught you some pretty attractive wiggles, after all—but you don’t think Mom would approve. For now, you just try to SPARE Papyrus.

“BELOVED BY ALL WHO MEET HIM! HERO OF MONSTER KIND!”

The next round is a series of pairs coming from in front and behind. It’s time to break out the Double Dutch skills again. This time you want to get the rhythm perfect so you don’t have to make any extra jumps. Your legs are starting to get tired. Jump, jump, jump, jump. No problem. Now, what’s your strategy? You could try to state your case, but what can you possibly say? You can’t ask him to give up everything he’s ever worked for, not for a relative stranger. You both want to be friends, but on some level you both know your goals are at odds. There’s nothing to say and neither of you can back down. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“MY INDUBITABLE INFLUENCE MIGHT EVEN GET SANS TO SHAPE UP… ALTHOUGH PROBABLY NOT.”

This one is the same as the last, but these bones are shorter and faster. If you overdo the jumps, you’ll get zinged before you reach the ground again. It’s just like jumprope. Skip, skip, skip, skip. Nailed it! Speaking of Sans, with all his talk of blue stop signs, he could have been a little more explicit about what these attacks would entail. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“I WILL ACHIEVE EVERYTHING I’VE EVER DREAMED OF! POWER, PRESTIGE, POPULARITY! BUT…”

Here comes a series of pairs, with each gap in between the bones successively higher off the ground. Hop, jump, high jump, big spring. Was that doubt you just heard? You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“WILL I HAVE TO BE LESS NICE ONCE I’M IN THE GUARD? THAT SOUNDS… NOT VERY PAPYRUS-LIKE!”

The next one is the same as the last, but in reverse. Big spring, high jump, jump, hop. You rub your eyes as more bone pairs fly forward. These ones are moving up and down! You step back and forth, trying to work out the timing. This is just like when you help Mom thread her sewing needles, except if the needle flew around the room while you tried to do it. You manage both jumps and wipe your sweaty palms on your pants. Papyrus is definitely having second thoughts. That solidifies your plan. You’re just going to keep dodging and giving him the space to talk out the problem. Nothing you can think of to say feels right, but you can be a sounding board. You trust him to make the right decision. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“AND SOMEONE LIKE YOU IS REALLY RARE…WHAT IF I CAN’T SEE YOU AGAIN AFTER THEY SEND YOU AWAY? WON’T YOU BE LONELY THERE WITHOUT A REALLY COOL FRIEND LIKE ME?”

Next a whole row of pairs flies at you, forming a narrow tunnel you’ll have to navigate. You jump and angle yourself to float through the opening, goosebumps forming on your skin as you fly through the bullets. Another little hill is next, but the bones on this one are pulsing up and down. You back up a step to match the rhythm, then jump and glide down the curve that forms. This is getting nuts! How many different patterns does he have? You don’t know what it’s like to create magic bullets personally, but from what you’ve seen and heard from other monsters, you’re pretty impressed. Most attacks are intuitive and scattershot, but these patterns are incredibly precise and ordered, like he’s guiding every bullet manually. You don’t know what Undyne’s thinking, but if Papyrus were pitted against the whole canine unit of the Royal Guard, you would bet on Papyrus in a heartbeat. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“THEY…WON’T LET ME SEE YOU AGAIN AFTER YOU’RE SENT AWAY, WILL THEY?”

The next round is a simple mix of alternating white and blue bones. You hop and stop in rhythm as they speed up. By now this one is easy to manage in theory, but you struggle as the last ones zoom by. You’re starting to get a little winded. Papyrus looks exactly the same as when the battle started. You give a little shake of your head in answer to his question and he glances to the side, as if you’ve confirmed a fact he’s suspected but doesn’t want to face. He taps his gloved fingers against his leg. It’s the most he’s moved since this battle started. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“YOU LOOK A LITTLE TIRED! MAYBE WE SHOULD TAKE A SPAGHETTI BREAK??”

You sure wouldn’t mind, but he prepares another attack. You roll your sleeves above your elbows and get ready. You back up and leap across a hill, then turn around and spring over another, faster one from the other direction. On the other hand, you understand what Undyne means by “too nice.” You don’t think Papyrus wants to hurt you. If you had come into this battle with violent intent… you don’t want to think about it. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“MAYBE WE COULD JUST STOP FOR A MINUTE AND… NO! I HAVE TO BE TOUGH! JUST GIVE UP!!”

He redoubles his efforts and sends a wave of hills, floaters, and pairs, all shooting up and down like pistons. You fling yourself over the peaks and through the gaps, trying to maintain your technique through the exhaustion. This is starting to get a little dire. What are you going to do if he doesn’t back down? You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“DON’T MAKE THIS DIFFICULT, HUMAN! JUST GIVE UP OR… OR I’LL BE FORCED TO USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK!”

Several tall bones and a slew of pairs fly at you, and your legs ache as you pull off the bigger jumps. At this rate, you aren’t sure you can handle a special attack. You have a promise to keep, what are you going to do if you can’t outlast him? You do have a weapon, maybe he would back down if—no, not yet. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“SO IT WOULD BE IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO SURRENDER NOW!”

You run and leap over the next hill of bones, spin around, and jump the one coming from the other direction. Your blue SOUL is feeling heavier and heavier, but you won’t give up. You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“I—I HAVE REALLY NICE ACCOMMODATIONS IN MY SHED, I’M SURE YOU’LL LOVE BEING CAPTURED!”

The hills and ramps are unending, and each one is faster than the last. You measure your breaths and focus on your jumping technique. You can’t afford to get sloppy here, but you’re so tired… You’re going to have to make your choice soon. Fight back and risk hurting him, or place your faith in him and leave yourself vulnerable? You try to SPARE Papyrus.

“PLEASE, HUMAN! I’M ASKING REALLY NICELY! I MEAN NOT NICELY! THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!!”

The next mix has a little of everything. Duck, skip, hop, jump between, fly over, freeze. This is it. You look down at the bracelet sparkling on your wrist. You are determined.

*You tell Papyrus that you believe in him.

“W-WELL, THIS IS IT! NO MORE MR. NICE SKELETON! BEHOLD! MY! SPECIAL!…”

You stare at each other for a long moment. The wind kicks up, swirling the snow around your feet and ripping through Papyrus’s cape. His tense, forced grin eases into a more natural smile.

“NO…I HAVE AN IMPRESSIVE ARRAY OF BONES IN MY COLLECTION, BUT I DON’T HAVE ANY MEAN BONES. IF I HAVE TO BE MEAN TO YOU TO JOIN THE ROYAL GUARD, THEN… I HAVE DECIDED!! ALTHOUGH I UNDOUBTEDLY COULD DEFEAT YOU, HUMAN, I AM GOING TO SPARE—”

He is interrupted by a loud gnawing sound. You both look down to see a little white dog at Papyrus’s feet chewing on a bone. Hey, it’s the deadly gauntlet dog again!

“WHAT THE HECK? HEY, THAT’S MY SPECIAL ATTACK! STOP MUNCHING ON THAT! YOU KNOW WHAT?? I WASN’T GOING TO USE THAT ANYWAY. SO YOU HAVE STOLEN IT FOR NOTHING, YOU RUFFIAN! WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT?! NYEH HEH HEH!!”

The dog stops chewing and looks up at Papyrus. The dog unleashes the special attack straight at you.

Notes:

You can always count on the Annoying Dog to do the opposite of you want...unless you're the author of course, in which case he's very helpful for plot progression!
This chapter was a tricky one, between balancing the emotional, tense moments with the quirky, fun parts and writing the technical descriptions of the fight. And Papyrus is a complex character as well, so I wanted to take care in writing this part. Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, but things aren't over yet! So I'll see you next week!

Chapter 16: Bonetrousle

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Bonetrousle-Taylor Davis
Bonetrousle-String Player Gamer
Bonetrousle-RichaadEB
And, you guessed it...
Bonetrousle-insaneintherainmusic

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The world slows around you as chaos explodes before your eyes. It looks like someone fired a Halloween store out of a circus cannon. Bones of every description glide, float, and spin toward you. White ones, blue ones, short, medium, tall, singles, pairs, series, hills, and tunnels are hurtling across the field. The bone fence has expanded outward, giving you more room to maneuver, and you’re going to need every inch of it. Papyrus is staring in shock. The dog is smiling with the satisfaction of attempted murder.

You have about three seconds before you are going to be pulverized. You might be about to die, but knowing that Papyrus values your friendship enough to give up his dream fills you with determination. Your focus sharpens and your exhaustion fades away as your second wind hits. You grip Stickolas tightly and crack a big smile. Bring it.

You make a quarter-turn and allow a row of bones to skate past you, then crouch and leap, following the curve of the hill that zooms underneath. As you land you weave left and right through a line of bones and duck as one zips overhead. Left, right, hop, hop, duck, back up and leap, glide, backflip, front flip, freeze. Those bones dissipate, but another wave is forming. A series of pairs fans out, zigzagging wildly, several of them tilting at strange angles and most of them slamming open and shut. It would probably be better to move around them than to try to jump through them all. One glides at you and you hop through. That pair disappears, but the others continue to ricochet around the arena.

It looks like you’re going to have to get them all. Chasing after them would be a waste of energy, so you stay in the middle and wait for them to come to you, making slight adjustments to match the timing as they approach. Jump, jump, slight back step, jump, scoot to the left, hop, a few steps forward to catch two at once, jump and twist to the side to hit the angle right. Eventually only one pair remains, and you do a flip through the gap.

Tada! It was a little crazy, but it looks like you made it through the special attack! Except, after a few seconds, your turn hasn’t come yet.

“HUMAN, YOU NEED TO BACK UP FOR THE NEXT PHASE!”

You back up to the far side of the arena and a huge block of bones appears before you. It isn’t moving. After a moment, you realize it’s a maze made of bones. You take a couple of big jumps to get a look at it. Naturally, it’s full of traps. You step into the entrance and start to make your way through, jumping up to the edge of the walls to figure out which branching paths to take. You like mazes a little better than word puzzles, and this reminds you of the mazes you do on the backs of cereal boxes, except with more deadly hazards. You carefully squeeze through the tight passages and skip over the bones jutting out of the ground. You follow the path down a slope, and as you hit the bottom a huge boulder-shaped bullet drops from the top of the ramp and starts rolling after you, prompting you to run and leap over a pit of spikes. The exit is now in sight, and as the door starts to close, you run and slide under it. Now you are standing at the other end of the arena next to Papyrus.

“GOOD JOB, HUMAN! YOU’LL NEED THIS FOR THE NEXT PHASE!”

He hands you something that looks like a game controller. The bone maze spontaneously collapses and reforms into the borders of a track, and two racecar bullets appear. You press the flashing button on your controller and your SOUL flies out of your body into one of the cars. You grab your shirt and look down to where your SOUL used to be. That’s certainly a new feeling. The out-of-body experience disorients you for a moment, but you can still feel your SOUL a few feet away. A green light flashes and you snap to your controller as the enemy car takes off.

As soon as you figure out the controls you follow close behind. The track is a simple loop, and by the end of the first lap you’ve nearly caught up with the other bullet. Soon hazards begin falling onto the road and zooming toward you, and you wrench your car out of the way and sling it around the curves. You need to gain some speed, but you really don’t want this thing to crash with your SOUL inside it. Another button flashes when you pick up an item of your own, and you use it to launch a shell bullet at the other car, making it spin out for a moment.

You gain the lead, but just as you start the third and final lap the other car throws a banana peel into your path and you are forced to screech to a halt while the other car zooms past. You have to make up the distance by the end of the lap! Some of the bones shift and you realize a shortcut has opened up. It will be risky, but it’s your only chance. You gain speed, round the curve, and funnel into a tight track that sends you flying over a ramp, straight over the finish line ahead of the other car! You raise your arms in victory as the track poofs out of existence. Your SOUL zooms back to you and you sigh in relief.

Suddenly, a grid appears before you and bone spikes start pulsing up and down within the blocks at regular intervals.

“YOU WILL NEED TO CROSS THIS ONE WHILE THE SPIKES ARE DOWN! DON’T WORRY, I WILL PROVIDE A BEAT, JUST FOLLOW THE RHYTHM!”

Something else appears in the corner of the arena in the shape of a drum set and a xylophone, and little bones start playing a cool theme on the instruments with a steady drumbeat. You hand Papyrus the game controller and step to the edge of the grid, bobbing your head to the rhythm. Once you think you have the timing, you start to hopscotch across the grid as the bones pulse up and down to the beat. Hop-hop-hop-hop, hop-hop-hop-hop. Halfway through another instrument joins, and you glance over to see Sans off to the side playing along on the trombone. You aren’t sure how he’s playing a brass instrument without lips—or lungs, for that matter—but the pun is evident.

“SANS! STOP PLAGUING MY SPECIAL ATTACK WITH INCIDENTAL MUSIC!!”

“what? i thought it paired well with your xylobone.”

Hop-hop-hop-hop, hop-hop-hop—ting! You make it to the far side and wave to Papyrus, who has shooed Sans away by now.

“EXCELLENT! NOW WE CAN CONTINUE WITH—”

Suddenly you feel a chill all over your body as your SOUL alerts you to an imminent threat. Something is looming just behind you, humming lightly as if it were powering up. A large shadow falls across you and the air buzzes with energy. You’ve never felt an attack like this before. Your blood runs cold.

“NO, NO, NOT THAT ONE! NO BLASTING THE HUMAN! SHOO!!”

Papyrus waves his arms and you whip around just as the forming attack dissipates. You aren’t sure what that was, but you’re glad Papyrus decided to nix it. The snow churns in the arena and you take a step back as two shapes begin to emerge. Two fully-formed skeletons dressed like pirates with swords emerge and start swaggering toward you. A cutlass appears in the snow next to you and you pick it up. You brandish the sword in one hand and Stickolas in the other as the pirates approach.

“HEY, ONLY ONE AT A TIME! YOU WAIT YOUR TURN OVER THERE!”

One of the pirates walks to the corner and sulks as the other jumps toward you. You catch its swords in a parry with your weapons and push it back. You duck under its slashes and smack it on the ribcage with a sharp clonk. You trade a few blows before you send one of its swords flying. You toss the cutlass aside and place one hand behind your back. You beckon at it with Stickolas, giving it a toothy smirk. The enraged pirate takes a flying leap at you and you lightly step out of the way and bonk it on the head. It gets its sword stuck in the ground and you give it a few more whacks before it surrenders.

*You tell it to walk the plank.

The pirate jumps out of the arena and disappears.

“NOW YOU CAN GO, OTHER PIRATE!”

It shakes its head and continues to sulk.

“WHAT? DON’T BE A BAD SPORT!! YOU CAN FIGHT NOW!”

It continues to pout.

“FINE! YOU’RE FIRED!!”

Papyrus waves his arms and it disappears.

“ON TO THE THE LAST AND GREATEST PHASE, NYEH HEH!!”

You recall reading an official rulebook on fighting. You had always thought the standard turn time limit of five minutes was pretty arbitrary and silly. After all, no monster could reasonably keep up one attack for five minutes straight. You are starting to be grateful for that rule. The borders of the arena narrow into a corridor again and a string of words formed from bones scrolls toward you.

“THIS SPECIAL ATTACK IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”

You jump over each word as it reaches you, your blue SOUL still weighing heavily on you.

“THE COOLEST (ALMOST) ROYAL GUARD MEMBER AND SPAGHETTI MASTER!”

You’ve never realized how long the word “spaghetti” is before.

“THIS ONE IS SANS’S ——>”

What follows is a single small bone rolling lazily through the snow. You step over it when it reaches you.

“AND FINALLY, THE FINALE! THANK YOU FOR ENDURING THIS FUN SPECIAL ATTACK!”

You focus on jumping over the words, and as you reach the end you glance up. Your eyes widen. In front of you is a long field of bones, followed by a gigantic bone jutting up like a skyscraper. There’s no way you can jump that, not even if your SOUL were back to normal. You can’t fly! You take a step back and gulp. It may seem impossible, but there has to be a way. Theoretically, monsters can create unavoidable attacks, but almost no monster you’ve met would ever do it. Battles are matters of honor and pride, and monsters are generally good-hearted and fair. A monster would have to be either desperate, a scoundrel, or Flowey to use an unavoidable attack. But Papyrus? No way. This has to be doable.

You back up as far as you can and run straight at the bone field, forcing your tired, heavy legs to move. Just a few more seconds. As the Froggits have told you, a good jump isn’t just about springy legs. Jumping is about rejecting gravity, about pushing against the confining earth with every fiber of your being and flying without wings. You remember your training and sink into a crouch, then leap with your whole being. Then, something strange happens. Your blue SOUL glows, and the magic constraining it begins to shift and change properties. The same magic that was dragging you to the ground a few moments ago is now lifting you up like a balloon. You glide across the field of bones, steadily rising higher and higher. As the tall one approaches you kick your legs and flutter a little higher. You draw your knees up to your chest and clear the tall bone. The air is cold and clear up here, and the underground stretches before you in peaceful silence. There’s Snowdin Town glimmering behind you, the tranquil blue colors of Waterfall ahead, the visible heat of Hotland rising beyond that, and the buildings of the capital obscured by a haze in the distance. You take it all in for a moment before the magic reverses and you slowly begin to drift downward. You put your hands out and feel the air slip through your fingers until you land softly in the snow. One more small bone slides toward you and you do a handstand, allowing it to pass between your arms.

The field around you is a wreck. The snow is trampled, churned, muddied, pushed into piles, and flattened into slush. Papyrus is panting. You are panting. The dog is perfectly fine. You would chase down that mutt if all the muscles in your legs weren’t screaming right now. You crash back into a pile of snow behind you and slowly drag your limbs into the shape of a snow angel as you try to catch your breath.

“HUFF… WELL! THAT WAS! HUFF… VERY FUN! I AM SURE YOU ARE GLAD YOU GOT TO SEE MY MAGNIFICENT SPECIAL ATTACK, WHICH I! HUFF… DEFINITELY WILLINGLY UNLEASHED ON PURPOSE! WELL, IT IS CLEAR THAT WE HAVE REACHED A DRAW! YOU HAVE NO HOPE OF DEFEATING ME! THEREFORE! HUFF… I GRANT YOU MERCY, HUMAN! YOU SHOULD! HUFF… ACCEPT THAT NOW!”

Papyrus is SPARING you. Even after all of that, there is room for another surprise. To extend mercy to the other party is common courtesy at the end of a battle, but it can also be dangerous. Especially against a human. With a power imbalance like yours, you always extend mercy first to your Ruins friends and allow them to accept it. Papyrus has just made himself extremely vulnerable by going first. He really trusts you. You SPARE Papyrus and the battle ends.

Notes:

Now that's a special attack! That was a lot of fun to plan out and write. I think Frisk had fun with it too. Well, see you on Thursday to deal with the aftermath of this epic battle!

Chapter 17: A Nicer Alternative

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Snowdin Town-insaneintherainmusic
Fallen Down-Moisés Nieto

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You pop up from the snow. Now that your SOUL is red again, you feel so light and unrestricted it’s making you giddy. The blizzard has completely faded, leaving no trace of its fury besides a soft layer of new snow. The dog has wisely trotted away by this point. Papyrus is standing a few paces away, facing away from you.

“NYOO HOO HOO… AFTER ALL OF THAT I STILL CAN’T STOP YOU… MAYBE UNDYNE WAS RIGHT… I’M NOT CUT OUT FOR THE ROYAL GUARD…”

After that battle you’re fairly certain he could thrash most of the Royal Guard if he wanted to. The only thing that’s holding him back is the same thing that’s holding you back: MERCY.

*You tell him that if he’s not good enough for the Royal Guard, you don’t think the Royal Guard is good enough for him.

“REALLY?? I HAD NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT THAT WAY, BUT… YOU’RE RIGHT!! MAYBE THE ROYAL GUARD DOESN’T MEET MY STANDARDS!!! WHAT FUN WOULD IT BE TO BE PART OF A ‘BE MEAN TO HUMANS CLUB’ ANYWAY?? BESIDES THE PRESTIGE. AND THE POPULARITY. AND UNDYNE’S APPROVAL. AND LOTS OF FRIENDS…”

You walk a little closer and tug on his cape.

*You say that you want to be friends.

He spins around to face you, grinning.

“REALLY?! YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS, WITH ME??? WELL THEN, I GUESS… I GUESS I CAN MAKE AN ALLOWANCE FOR YOU!”

You extend a hand, and he grabs it with both of his and shakes it so hard you can almost feel your own bones rattling.

WOW!! I’M GLAD I DIDN’T BEAT YOU UP AND LOCK YOU IN THE SHED! THIS IS WAY BETTER!! HUM… BUT IF I’M NOT GOING TO BE IN THE GUARD, WHAT DO I DO NOW?? NATURALLY I AM VERY GREAT AND EXCEL AT EVERYTHING I TOUCH, SO I CAN SURELY PURSUE A NEW, EVEN BETTER DREAM!! WHAT ABOUT YOU, HUMAN? YOU MUST HAVE A DREAM, TOO!”

*You say that you are going to break the barrier and free all of the monsters from the underground.

He jumps about a foot in the air and grins ear to—he doesn’t have ears, does he? In any case, it’s a big grin.

“WOWIE!!! THAT’S A GREAT DREAM!! AND I BELIEVE IN YOU, HUMAN!! YOU CAN DO IT!! WOW… I NEED TO COME UP WITH A GREAT DREAM TOO! HMM… HMMMM… HMMMMMMMMMMM…”

You consider making a “light bulb moment” joke, but you think he’s probably sick of those by now.

“AHA! THE UNDERGROUND ALREADY HAS AN ELITE GUARD OF SUPER-TOUGH MONSTERS TRYING TO CAPTURE HUMANS. SO, IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND TO BREAK THE BARRIER, THEN YOU WILL NEED AN EQUALLY ELITE GUARD OF SUPER-COOL MONSTERS TO HELP YOU! TO GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE DEVIOUS PUZZLES! TO MAKE FINELY-CRAFTED SPAGHETTI! TO HELP YOU MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE… SLIGHTLY MORE MURDER-MINDED MONSTERS! A FORCE DEDICATED TO MAKING FRIENDS AND BEING SUPER NICE!! THEREFORE!”

He flips his cape over his shoulder and makes a dramatic pose, the cape flowing behind him majestically even though the wind has completely died down.

“THEREFORE I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM FORMING THE ‘NICE GUARD’ TO HELP YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY!! AS THE MOST UNEQUIVOCALLY NICE PERSON AROUND, I WILL TAKE THE HELM AS CAPTAIN!”

*You applaud and tell him that’s a great idea.

“AND YOU CAN BE MY FIRST MEMBER! TOGETHER WE WILL SPREAD KIND ACTS AND ENCOURAGEMENT THROUGHOUT THE UNDERGROUND UNTIL EVERYONE IS TOO HAPPY TO FIGHT! NYEH HEH!”

Wow, Papyrus really is the coolest. You thought you would be on your own in trying to win the monsters over, but now you won’t be alone at all! Mom was right about making friends who would help you. The Nice Guard… suddenly you remember something.

*You tell Papyrus about the Nice Cream salesman, his mission of spreading happiness, and his failing business.

“WOW, A FELLOW NICE PERSON IN TROUBLE! THEN WE WILL HAVE TO RECRUIT HIM TOO! VERY WELL, HUMAN, WE BOTH HAVE OUR WORK CUT OUT FOR US!”

He points to the wide entrance of the tunnel behind him.

“TO GET TO THE BARRIER, JUST KEEP GOING THAT WAY UNTIL YOU REACH THE END OF THE CAVERN. YOU WILL HAVE TO PASS THROUGH THE KING’S CASTLE. THERE YOU WILL MEET THE KING… EVERYONE LOVES THAT GUY! I’M SURE HE WILL BE THRILLED TO HELP YOU BREAK THE BARRIER!”

You’re sure he would be too, but you don’t think you like his methods.

“WELL, I WILL BE AT HOME BEING A VERY COOL FRIEND, SO YOU SHOULD COME BY SO WE CAN DO FRIEND STUFF! SEE YOU LATER, HUMAN FRIEND! NYEH HEH HEH!!”

You wave goodbye and Papyrus… flies away? You’re too tired to question it. You take out your spider cider and take a long drink. A yellow flower breaks through the snow at your feet.

“Howdy! Wow, I have to admit, that was a pretty cool fight to watch! You really didn’t get hit at all!”

*You say that you knew you could do it the whole time.

“Sure, I didn’t see ANY panic on your face when that special attack hit. Golly, you must be pretty proud of yourself. You haven’t had to hurt anyone yet.”

*You say that you’re really happy. You’ve made it all the way through Snowdin, you didn’t have to hurt anyone, and you have a new friend now.

“Sure, you did pretty well.”

Flowey’s eyes narrow.

“But don’t get co*cky. Snowdin is full of fuzzy pushovers. And Papyrus? You were never in any real danger there. He might have knocked you around a little, but he just doesn’t have it in him to really hurt someone.”

*You say that you didn’t know he knew Papyrus.

“Hey, I’ve been watching things here long enough to know about EVERYONE.”

He morphs into his creepy face, as if to suggest he knows everyone’s darkest secrets. He probably does.

“Speaking of which… I wouldn’t trust that other skeleton if I were you. The one with the goofy face.”

*You say that you like Sans.

“If figures, you have the same terrible sense of humor. But that guy? He’s trouble. The less he knows about you, the better.”

*You tell Flowey he’s full of fertilizer.

“Well don’t say I didn’t warn you. You can tell him all of your deepest fears if you want, but listen. If he asks about me, you don’t know me. Alright?”

*You ask if they got off on the wrong root.

“Shut up. But you’ll respect my privacy, won’t you?”

*You say you won’t tell Sans about him if it matters that much to him.

“Good! And my research so far hasn’t been for nothing. Take a seat. Let’s talk SOULs.”

You sit down in the snow and offer Flowey some spider cider. He takes a swig.

“So guess what! Powerful SOULs CAN slip through the barrier, and a human’s even done it before! Isn’t that great?”

*You say that’s great news.

“Isn’t it? But don’t count on that to solve all of your problems. It might not be as easy as you think.”

He gives you a wide, Cheshire cat grin that suggests he knows something he isn’t telling you. You could ask, but you don’t really want to give him the satisfaction, and he probably won’t tell you until he feels like it anyway.

“Oh, and it sounds like that Dr. Alphys has been doing some interesting work on SOUL research.”

His face twists into a warped, drooping smile, like a melting snowman.

*You say that’s great, and ask what she’s learned.

“Dunno. The results aren’t published anywhere, and it seems like she’s pretty elusive about it. You’ll just have to convince her to spill the beans when you meet her. But that shouldn’t be hard for a friendly chatterbox like you, right?”

He smiles pleasantly and tilts his head.

“So, what about you? Have you come up with any new brilliant ideas?”

*You mention the part of the special attack that took your SOUL out of your body temporarily, and suggest that maybe you could do something like that and lend your SOUL to Asgore for a couple of minutes, just long enough to break the barrier.

Flowey laughs.

“Seriously? LEND your SOUL! Hahahahaha!”

You roll your eyes as his squeaky laugh ripples across the snowy field.

“Come on, what’s he supposed to do with that? Take your SOUL and chuck it at the barrier like a baseball? Hahahahaha!”

*You cross your arms and say you thought it was a good idea.

“Aw, don’t pout. But it wouldn’t work. Some magic can move your SOUL around, sure, but just like color magic, the effects are temporary. And it’s not enough for Asgore to just HAVE the SOULs, he’s going to have to ABSORB them to use their power. That’s not something you can undo. Your SOUL wants to be in your body, that thing would put up a SERIOUS fight if someone tried to take it while you were still alive. Human SOULs are powerful things. As long as it’s fueled by your will to live, by your determination, it won’t part from you. Get what I’m saying?”

*You say you think you understand.

“Fantastic. Well, you keep thinking of great ideas like that, and I’ll keep up my own inquiries. Waterfall is up next. And you know who’s going to be waiting for you there. You should get moving, and be stealthy about it. Things will be a lot harder for you once she knows you’re there, so try not to make too much of a ruckus, alright?”

*You say you’ll try your best, and wish him luck.

“You think I need luck? You’re the one who’s going to get skewered by an angry fish lady if you aren’t careful. Later, then!”

He winks and disappears beneath the snow. There’s nothing like talking to Flowey to confuse and annoy a person. Still, you’re glad he’s here with you. You take another drink of cider. You’ve really made it through Snowdin. It’s just starting to sink in. You decide this would be a good time to call Mom and update her, so you pull out your phone and call. The nip of the cold fades away as her warm voice reaches you from the other end of the line.

“Hello? Is it you, my child? Oh, I am so glad to hear from you! How are you? Where are you? Are you safe? Tell me everything that has happened!”

*You tell her all about your journey through Snowdin, except for the parts involving fire, near electrocution, dog attacks, ice bullets, flying deadly gauntlet parts, relentless onslaughts of bone bullets, and physics-defying special attacks, so it doesn’t take you very long.

“Oh, that is wonderful! I am so glad you have made friends already! That Papyrus and Sans sound very nice, and those sweet dogs as well. And the Nice Guard sounds like a lovely idea! And you are safe, truly?”

*You tell her you haven’t been hit at all.

“I am so relieved! You are doing so well, as I knew you would.”

*You say that Snowdin is really nice, and you think she would like it.

“O-oh, yes… I have been before, but that was quite a long time ago. It must be very different now! I wonder if I would recognize it…”

Mom didn’t always live in the Ruins. She doesn’t talk about it much, but apparently she used to know the rest of the underground really well. When and why she sealed herself in the Ruins you aren’t exactly sure, but she makes it sound like it was a really, really long time ago. It’s funny how adults exaggerate their ages.

*You say that she should step outside into Snowdin, if only for a few minutes to see the snow.

“Ah, well… I am sure the snow is lovely, perhaps later. But as they say, er, there is “snow” time like a little later on!”

You laugh softly at her pun and misquoted phrase. You kind of thought that would be the answer. There was actually a time when you’d hoped Mom might come with you on this journey, but between her duty as caretaker of the Ruins and some undefined fear, she refuses to leave. You wish you understood why. Still, it’s probably for the best. It would be a lot harder to make friends if Mom were with you, casting angry glares and fireballs at every potential friend who shot a few bullets at you.

“What are you doing now?”

*You tell her you are about to enter Waterfall.

“I see… Please, be careful. And you will call me again when you are safely through, will you not?”

*You promise you will.

“Good. I am so glad to have heard your voice. Continue to be good, my child. I love you.”

*You tell her you love her too before hanging up.

You finish off your spider cider, stand slowly, and brush off the snow. You walk to the entrance of the dark tunnel ahead. Rushing water and howling wind swirl from within. You take a deep breath and step into the darkness.

Notes:

And that's Snowdin! This isn't the last we'll see of it, there are a few loose ends to wrap up yet, but we're ready to dip our toes into Waterfall for now. I'm pretty excited about it! Thanks for sticking with me this far, and I'll see you as the journey continues next week!

Chapter 18: Break Time

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
sans.-Moisés Nieto
Premonition-Osirois Music

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Dark waters churn in the river beside you, the chunks of ice bobbing in the current the last remnant of the winter wonderland behind you. A damp, musty wind funnels through the cave and flicks water droplets onto your skin. The snow encrusting your shoes melts into the porous silt at your feet. The name “Waterfall" truly encapsulates this place. Water crashes against the rocks, pours into the river, trickles along the walls, and fills the air with its somber, stifling presence. Every footstep echoes against the confining walls around you. There’s a sort of tranquility here, but also an indescribably haunting feeling you can’t quite shake, like a forgotten memory trying to resurface.

Your eyes adjust quickly to the gloom. As you walk a little further, you see a monster kid in a brown-and-yellow striped shirt approaching. He’s a reptilian monster with no arms and a long tail, and pale yellow scales that create a sunny spot in the gloomy tunnel. He looks to be about your age. You wave hello and he waves back with his tail.

“Yo!”

He starts to pass, but his eyes lock onto you and he slows. You feel a sense of unease, and you jump out of the way as he sweeps his tail at your legs.

“Yo! I-I know what you are! You’re a human!”

You take a step back and crouch into a fighting position and he does the same, but he hasn’t initiated a formal battle yet.

“No way, dude! Undyne’s not gonna believe this! There’s no escaping now, bad guy! I’m gonna fight—but if we fight here, she won’t see me whoop your tail…”

He straightens up and poses dramatically.

“Listen up, villain! I’m the apprentice of Captain Undyne, hero of the underground, and you don’t stand a chance against us! We’re gonna stop you and your evil plans! I’m gonna go report this to her, then we’ll be back to kick your tail! So don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back in like, five minutes, haha!”

He starts running away, trips, and nearly face plants, but he manages to tuck into a ball before he hits the ground and he pinwheels away.

Great. Fantastic. Wonderful. Flowey’s either going to chew you out or laugh uncontrollably when he learns you’ve already been busted. It’s not exactly convenient for you, either. You decide there’s nothing else for it, so you keep walking. Up ahead you come across a little blue flower. This must be one of the echo flowers you’ve heard about before. You rustle its petals and a soft whisper comes back to you.

“You know what? I’m done explaining echo flowers to people. Explain it yourself, flower. I repeat the last thing I’ve heard, over and over.”

Huh. That’s a funny thing to say to a flower. You were going to tell it a joke, but maybe you should leave this one as an instructional flower. A few steps away is another wooden sentry station, and you are surprised to see Sans sitting there, grinning as usual. You haven’t seen him since he disrupted your fight with Papyrus.

“hey look, a human. i should make a report, but i’m trying to go paperless.”

*You walk up to him and ask what he’s doing here.

“what, haven’t you heard of a guy with two jobs before?”

You feel like working two sentry stations would just make you half as vigilant, since you’re always away from one of them, but you guess it doesn’t really matter since he isn’t going to stop you anyway. You lean your elbows on the counter of the sentry station.

*You tell him not to bother with a report because you’ve already been spotted by an overzealous Royal Guard apprentice.

“wow. you’ve only been in waterfall for like, two pages. that’s, uh, not very stealthy.”

Pages? Was that supposed to be a “paperless” joke? You aren’t sure you get it.

*You say you’re supposed to wait here until Undyne comes to murder you.

“sounds like you could be here a minute. luckily, two jobs means twice as many legally-required breaks. i’m going to grillby’s. wanna come?”

Since you’ve been spotted, you guess it won’t matter if you take your time now.

*You say that sounds like fun.

“well, if you insist… i’ll pry myself away from my work…”

He starts to walk in the opposite direction of Snowdin, then turns to you.

“over here. i know a shortcut.”

You follow after him and wonder how this could possibly be shorter. This is probably some elaborate prank, but—what? What just happened?! You were walking along behind him, you blinked, and suddenly you’re standing just outside Grillby’s. The silence of Waterfall has been replaced by the noisy chatter of Snowdin Town, and Sans is just standing there, holding the door open like nothing happened.

“fast shortcut, huh?”

You are beginning to understand how he keeps popping up everywhere, but at the same time, you understand less than ever. You follow after him into the restaurant and admire the interior. There are monsters sitting and chatting in the booths, and you recognize the dogs you met earlier playing cards at one of the tables. There’s a snazzy jukebox in the corner with an “out of order” sign on it, and a flashy neon light with the name of the restaurant. The proprietor seems to be the fire elemental in a bowtie behind the counter.

“hey, everyone.”

“Hey, Sans.”

“Hi, Sans.”

“Greetings, Sans.”

“Hiya, Sansy~”

He seems to be pretty popular around here. You completely passed by this restaurant earlier, but you’re glad to be here now. If Snowdin has its own local culture, this warm, cozy restaurant framed by frost-covered windows must embody it perfectly. You follow Sans to a pair of stools by the bar and notice a small whoopee cushion placed on the one you are supposed to sit on. Now how could that have gotten there… A pink bird monster at the bar swivels around on her stool.

“We weren’t sure we’d see you today, Sans, what with that weird fire that popped up on the other side of Snowdin. We thought you got stuck on the other side or something.”

“nah, that was just me trying to order delivery. didn’t you see my smoke signals, grillby? i never got my order.”

The other monsters crack up, and you take the opportunity to move the whoopee cushion over to Sans’s seat.

“take a seat, kid.”

You both sit down, and you suppress your grin as his seat wails like a sickly trombone. His grin grows a little and you happily bounce your feet against the bar.

“wow, i wonder how this got here. that’s a pretty immature prank. you really gotta watch out for the weirdos around here. anyway, whaddya want?”

You glance at the menu for a moment.

*You say you want the fries.

“hey, that sounds pretty good. grillby, we’ll have a double order of fries. so, it looked like you and papyrus had fun during that whole battle. you even made it through the special attack. the abbreviated version, anyway. it used to have even more phases, but, uh, we didn’t have enough room under the sink to store all those bones.”

That was the short version? Yikes. Speaking of the fight, you have a bone to pick with Sans.

*You simply mention the phrase “blue stop signs.”

“oh yeah, that was pretty good advice, right? it got you through without a scratch. hey, what’s that face for?”

It took you a while, but you have mastered Mom’s side-eye technique. Sans shrugs.

“eh, i knew i should have used the blue jumprope metaphor instead. so, what do you think of my brother?”

*You say he’s really cool.

His eyes light up.

“of course he’s cool. he’s a bone-a-fide original. he’s been running all over the place since you left like five minutes ago. said somethin’ about starting a nice guard. even when he’s giving up one dream, he’s putting his all into making an even better one. pretty cool. he’s been down lately, but he seems really happy to have a friend now. so, thanks. hey, here’s the grub. want some ketchup?”

You like ketchup alright, but you would just as soon have it without, and you don’t trust that mischievous glint in his eyes as he holds the bottle out to you.

*You say no thanks.

“more for me.”

He proceeds to upend the ketchup bottle and chug the whole thing. You try not to gape as your hand freezes halfway to your mouth with a handful of fries. You glance around to see if anyone else is seeing this, and you notice Grillby shaking his head slightly as he wipes down a glass.

“anyway, i wanted to ask you about something. you ever heard of a talking flower?”

Suddenly the room seems to go cold. Your heart pounds. You can sense his keen eyes watching you closely. His tone may be light, but you don’t think this is a frivolous, off-hand question. You don’t want to lie, but you promised Flowey you wouldn’t tell Sans about him. They really must have history. Sans is watching you, you have to say something.

*You say you saw your first echo flower a few minutes ago.

“… yeah, the echo flowers. they’re all over the marsh. say something, and they repeat it endlessly. people use ‘em as reminders, messengers, for bad poetry… that sorta stuff.”

He turns back to his fries and you fidget with your sleeves. You don’t think that was the answer he was looking for.

“i just mention it because of something papyrus says sometimes. he’s mentioned this talking flower that shows up when no one else is around and talks to him. it says all kinds of things, like flattery, advice, encouragement… predictions.”

You knew that Flowey likes to watch all of the happenings in the underground, but you’ve never actually seen him interact with anyone besides you. You can’t believe your antisocial friend has been talking to Papyrus.

“weird, huh? can you imagine a sentient flower following you around, popping up to dish out warnings and advice?”

You squirm in your seat.

*You say that would be pretty crazy.

“yup. someone must be playing a prank on him with an echo flower. keep an eye out, alright? and don’t believe everything those flowers say. no telling who’s really talking. hey, aren’t those fries kinda plain on their own?”

He slides the salt shaker toward you and you take it. What on Earth has Flowey been up to while you were in the Ruins? He’s always talked about the power he used to have, the power to manipulate time to do things like SAVE, LOAD, and RESET. It’s a power you inherited when you fell, and it sort of scares you. Rewinding time without consequence? That kind of power can go to your head, and allow morbid curiosity to wear down the feelings of goodwill and caution that come from only having one shot at things. There’s a reason you swore off using it. And from the stories Flowey has told, you know what kind of scary things that feeling can lead to. You think it’s been good for him to be away from that power, but you hope he hasn’t been up to anything bad in the meantime. You start to salt your fries, but the lid pops off and the entire shaker of salt spills onto your fries. You stare at it blankly while Sans chuckles.

“whoops. i guess i don’t have to worry about you getting tricked by any weird flowers. you know how to take things with a grain of salt. it’s okay, you can have mine. i’d better be getting back to work anyway. i can’t believe you pulled me away for so long. what if a human shows up?”

He winks and slides his fries toward you before standing up.

“oh, and lunch was your treat, right?”

*You say you can take care of it and you pull out your wallet.

“wow, that’s a lotta dough. how many jobs are you working?”

*You say you get allowance for helping around the house, and also pretty good winnings from being the champion of your fight club.

“heh. sounds like you clean up in more ways than one. but i was kidding. grillby, put it on my tab.”

You watch Grillby tally up the cost of two orders of fries, a bottle of ketchup, and a salt shaker. Sans meanders away, but looks back once he’s at the door.

“one more thing. you might wanna check those fries before you eat them.”

Check them? For—you jump about a foot out of your seat as you catch sight of a giant co*ckroach peeking out of the fries. Your sharp inhale quickly deflates into an exasperated sigh as you see it is, in fact, plastic. The bird sitting next to you doesn’t catch on as quickly and lets out a high-pitched warbling scream. Everyone in the bar looks at her, then the fries, and then slowly turns toward Sans. He shrugs. The chatter of the restaurant quickly returns to normal.

“see ya around, kid.”

He walks out and you are left at the bar alone, wondering if you said the right things.

Notes:

Frisk-1
Sans-2
At this point I have to imagine Sans just walks around with pockets full of whoopee cushions, slinky snakes, and other pranking paraphernalia. In any case, it looks like Frisk has already made a new enemy in Waterfall, so things are only going to get more dangerous from here. See you soon, and feel free to say hello in the comments!

Chapter 19: Hangout Start!

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Dating Start!-insaneintherainmusic

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You eat a few more fries as you ponder your conversation with Sans. At least you can tell Flowey you kept your promise. You wonder about Flowey’s warnings. He told you not to trust Sans, but now Sans is telling you to be careful of talking flowers. Things are getting confusing. You figure you should probably get going, then it hits you that you’re going to have to walk all the way back to Waterfall. You let out a sigh. Sans could have at least taken you back with the shortcut. Oh well.

*You thank Grillby for the fries, and say that he must run through a lot of condiments with Sans around.

He gives you a slight nod and the bird next to you leans over.

“Grillby says that Sans straddles the line between being his best and worst customer.”

That you can believe. You slide off the seat and say hello to the dogs as you make your way to the door. Lesser Dog and Greater Dog give you a bip and a bork respectively, and the dog couple gives you a pat on the head.

“Hello again, little goat kid!”

(Be safe out there! And say hello to our pups if you run into them!)

Doggo squints at you.

“Keep moving, kid. No, not in a mean way. It’s just easier to talk to you when I can see you moving.”

You shuffle from foot to foot and he seems to catch sight of you.

“Did Sans leave already? He doesn’t move around enough, I can never keep track of where he is… at least his brother makes up for it. I can see AND hear him from a mile away. I’ve seen you running all over the place today, too. You going somewhere?”

*You say you’re going to Waterfall.

“Well, say hi to Captain Undyne for us if you see her. We’re her best unit, after all. Right, guys?”

The other dogs give a hearty bark.

“Sure, half of us wouldn’t know a human if it threw a stick at us, but I think we make a good pack altogether. Dogamy and Dogaressa are our noses, Greater’s the brawn, I’m the brains, and Lesser is… emotional support? Yeah, we’ll go with that. So no need to worry, we’ve got Snowdin under our protection.”

You think more than half of them wouldn’t know a human who threw a stick at them, but you admire their confidence.

*You tell them they’re good dogs.

Five tails wag thunderously.

“Geez, you’re gonna make me blush. Hm? What’s that, Lessie?”

Lesser Dog, who is off to the side losing poker against herself, gives a couple of yips.

“You want to trust the kid with that secret? Well, I guess it’s alright.”

Doggo leans in and drops to a whisper. You bounce up and down on your heels so he can keep track of you.

“In Waterfall, there’s supposedly a legendary artifact, hidden somewhere in a locked room. No one knows exactly what it does, but dog kind have passed the story down for generations. It’s said to have unfathomable power, and an irresistible draw even greater than a stick.”

He leans back and slips a dog treat into his mouth.

“Maybe it’s just a story, but keep an eye out for it if you’re out that way.”

You’ve never heard of an artifact like that, but it sounds like it’s worth checking into.

*You thank him for the information and say goodbye to everyone.

“See you around. Oh, and that’s a really nice stick you have there. Take care of it, alright?”

You leave Grillby’s and step out into the cold again. You can’t believe you have to walk all the way back. You begin your trek, and soon find yourself passing by Sans and Papyrus’s house. Papyrus is out front, and he waves vigorously when he sees you.

“HELLO, HUMAN! YOU ARE BACK ALREADY! NO DOUBT YOU HAVE BEEN MISSING MY COMPANY! ARE YOU HERE TO HANG OUT??”

Well, since you’re already here, and you don’t feel that bad about keeping Undyne waiting…

*You say that sounds like fun.

“WOWIE!! I’M HANGING OUT WITH A FRIEND! THIS IS A SPECIAL OCCASION! AND AS SUCH, WE SHOULD GO SOMEPLACE REALLY SPECIAL! FOLLOW ME!”

He strides away and you hurry to catch up. You wonder if this is going to be another shortcut. You follow him halfway through Snowdin, he whirls around, and you walk back to his doorstep. That was… more of a longcut.

“WELCOME TO MY HOUSE!”

You follow him inside and look around. You don’t know what you were expecting, but it’s actually pretty nice in here! You are in a comfortable living room with a clean kitchen off to the side and a staircase leading to a second story with two rooms. There is some nice bone-themed decor and a few items scattered on the tables, including a pet rock covered in sprinkles. Somehow, the room is a combination of immaculate and messy. You can see where Papyrus’s influence extends, but there are little pockets of Sans’s influence here and there. A “lost and found” box sits next to the tv, full of old socks and topped with a tree-shaped air freshener. A pile of candy wrappers and empty chip bags sits on the end table, but they have apparently been ironed, folded, and stacked according to color. You bump up against the couch and it jangles with the sound of spare change, and you see a ledger on the couch arm tallying the total balance.

The neat mess, clashing colors, and zigzag carpet make for a chaotic sight, but there’s something very comfortable about it too. It’s not a decrepit, rotting dump or a sterile, unlivable museum. It hits that perfect balance of being lived in and looked after. You think this is a house that’s seen a lot of laughter and jokes. You know the difference between a house and a home, and this, like the tidy little abode in the Ruins, is a home.

You follow Papyrus up the stairs. The first door is covered in notes and decals, and the door down the hall has flames seeping out from the edges of the doorframe.

*You ask if the other room is supposed to be on fire.

“OH, THAT’S SANS’S ROOM!”

Ah, of course. That explains… nothing, actually. You follow Papyrus into his room, which is even cooler than you imagined! There’s a pirate flag hanging on the wall, a table full of action figures, a bookcase full of puzzle books and stories, including some Mom has read to you, and a bed shaped like a red racecar. You think your own room is pretty fun, but you have some design ideas you want to steal now.

“AH, YES, YOU ARE ADMIRING MY RACECAR BED! SOMEDAY I’D LIKE TO DRIVE DOWN A LONG HIGHWAY. WIND IN MY HAIR… SUN ON MY SKIN… OF COURSE, THAT’S JUST A DREAM. SO INSTEAD I CRUISE WHILE I SNOOZE! WELL, THEN, IF YOU ARE PREPARED… LET THE HANGOUT COMMENCE!”

Suddenly you are drawn into… battle? Not exactly, but it feels like it. You aren’t sure this is how hangouts usually work, but your hangouts with Blooky are on the more casual side, so maybe this is how other monsters do it.

“OKAY, THIS IS A LITTLE NEW FOR ME, BUT NEVER FEAR! YOU CAN’T SPELL PREPARED WITHOUT SEVERAL LETTERS FROM MY NAME!”

You start counting—he’s right. That’s quite a coincidence. He brandishes a small book.

“I SNAGGED THIS HANGOUT GUIDE FROM THE LIBRARY! LET’S SEE… STEP ONE—EMPHASIZE THE START OF AN IMPORTANT EVENT BY STARTING A NEW CHAPTER. GO AHEAD AND DO THAT!”

Not Actually a New Chapter: Hangout Tense!

“GREAT! STEP TWO—ASK THE PERSON TO HANG OUT. WAIT—SHOULDN’T YOU DO THAT BEFORE YOU START THE NEW CHAPTER? THIS IS ALL WRONG! YOU SHOULD ASK THE PERSON TO HANG OUT, LEAVE IT AS A CLIFFHANGER, AND THEN START A NEW CHAPTER!! I CAN DO THIS BETTER. SO, HUMAN, WILL YOU HANG OUT WITH ME??”

Also Not a New Chapter: Will They Really Hang Out?

*You say you would love to.

“THAT’S GREAT! ME TOO! NOW WE CAN START A NEW CHAPTER TO COMMEMORATE THIS IMPORTANT EVENT!”

Still Not a New Chapter: Hangout Fight!

“STEP THREE—PUT ON NICE CLOTHES TO SHOW YOU CARE. BUT THAT MEANS… WAIT. YOU’RE WEARING THAT NICE BRACELET. AND EARLIER AS WELL! DOES THAT MEAN…. YOU’VE WANTED TO BE FRIENDS WITH ME THIS WHOLE TIME??”

What can you say? He’s got you dead to rights.

*You say it’s true.

He makes a shocked face and drops the instructional book.

“WOW! YOUR FRIENDSHIP POWER IS OFF THE CHARTS! NO!! I CAN’T BE DEFEATED AT HANGING OUT! LITTLE DO YOU KNOW, I ALSO WEAR CLOTHING! IN FACT, I ALWAYS WEAR SPECIAL CLOTHES UNDER MY REGULAR CLOTHES FOR JUST SUCH AN OCCASION! IT’S A LITTLE STUFFY, TO BE TRUTHFUL, BUT NOW I CAN REVEAL MY FULL POWER!”

There is a flash of light, and then his ultimate hangout form is revealed. Now he’s wearing a shirt with the words “Cool Dude” across the front and basketball pauldrons on the shoulders, and he’s sporting a backward-facing ball cap. You feel underdressed now.

*You tell him you like his outfit.

“OH NO! A GENUINE COMPLIMENT! BUT! YOU DO NOT COMPREHEND THE FULL MEANING OF THIS OUTFIT, SO THE COMPLIMENT IS INVALID! FOR WITHIN THIS OUTFIT THERE IS A SECRET! AND UNTIL YOU DISCOVER IT, THIS HANGOUT WILL GO NO FURTHER. NOW WE REACH A CLIFFHANGER-WORTHY CLIMAX!!”

Non-Chapter 4: Unnecessary Tension

*You say you think the secret is in the hat.

“AHA! YOU ARE CORRECT!”

He takes off his hat to reveal a wrapped present. Wow, he really is prepared. You carefully unwrap it to reveal a plate of warm spaghetti.

“A PRESENT, JUST FOR YOU! BUT THIS IS NO ORDINARY SPAGHETTI! THIS ARTISAN DISH WAS MADE FROM SILKEN SPAGHETTI, AGED IN AN OAKEN CASK, AND COOKED BY MASTER CHEF PAPYRUS! GO AHEAD AND TRY IT!”

It looks pretty good! You twirl some around your fork, but just as you are about to try it, a white blur zooms past your face. Is that the special attack dog? It absorbs the plate of spaghetti, fork and all, and zips out of the room with an annoying bark. You and Papyrus stare after it in silent shock. The hangout ends.

Notes:

I'm not sure full plates of spaghetti are part of a healthy diet for a dog, but what can you do? Also Papyrus should start writing his own stories, he knows how tension and good chapter breaks work.

Anyway, I just wanted to note that this just passed 100 kudos, and I'm a bit flabbergasted! I started writing this because I had a lot of ideas floating around my head that demanded to be written, and I started posting it because I thought it might be fun to share, but I never thought so many people would enjoy it or leave so many nice comments! So, thanks for reading and chatting with me. You guys are awesome! And I'm glad if I've brought a laugh or a smile to someone's day. Well, enough gushing. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Chapter 20: Friends

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Dating Start!-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You both run into the hall as Papyrus shouts after the dog.

“GET BACK HERE, YOU ANNOYING DOG! THAT ISN’T FOR YOU!”

You look around on the landing, but the dog is nowhere to be found. Sans’s door creaks open and he leans out with his trombone and sounds a sad chromatic wah-wah-waaaahhhhh.

“SANS, STOP PLAGUING MY LIFE WITH INCIDENTAL MUSIC!”

*You say that you thought he was going back to work.

“oh yeah, i’m working remotely today.”

*Working remotely or remotely working, you ask.

“working on the remote.”

He pulls out the tv remote.

“it needs new batteries.”

Papyrus stamps the ground.

“AAAHHHHH!!! NOW THE HANGOUT IS RUINED! THAT WAS A REALLY GOOD BATCH OF SPAGHETTI, TOO… NO! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL NOT BE BESTED BY MEDDLING MUTTS! WAIT JUST A MOMENT, HUMAN, AND I WILL GET ANOTHER ONE!”

You follow him downstairs to the kitchen.

“I ALWAYS KEEP A PLENTIFUL BACKUP SUPPLY IN THE FRIDGE! JUST IN CASE I HAVE A BIG PARTY WITH LOTS OF FRIENDS!”

He opens the fridge, but in place of spaghetti, there’s only spaghetti dog, sitting on the shelf, looking rather bloated and pleased with itself. Taking advantage of your shock once again, it bolts away. There’s about a three second lag before Papyrus responds.

“NYYYYYEEEEEEHHHHH!!!! THAT RASCALLY RABID—!”

There is a creaking door from upstairs and another wah-wah-waaaahhhhh.

“SANS! WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!”

Sans leans over the railing, trombone still in hand.

“heh. sorry, bro. i shouldn’t dog you when you’re having such a ruff time.”

You preemptively put your hands over your ears and take a step back before the shockwave from Papyrus’s annoyed screaming reaches your ears. After a minute of fussing, Sans is chased back into his room and Papyrus returns to the kitchen, looking a little dejected.

“SIGH. HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS IS HARDER THAN I HAD ANTICIPATED!”

*You tell him it’s okay, and that you appreciate the sentiment.

He looks thoughtful for a moment.

“HMM, I STILL WANT TO BE A GOOD HOST. WELL, I WILL JUST HAVE TO MAKE MORE SPAGHETTI! AFTER ALL, I WON’T HAVE A FRIEND LEAVE EMPTY-HANDED OR EMPTY-STOMACHED AFTER A VISIT!”

He walks to one of the cabinets and opens it tentatively, but thankfully there's no dog hiding in this one.

*You ask if you can help.

“OF COURSE! YOU CAN BE MY ASSISTANT CHEF! HERE, FILL THIS POT WITH WATER!”

You walk over to the sink and crane your neck back, noticing for the first time how absurdly tall it is. It’s even taller than the fridge. You’ve heard Mom talk about how important storage space is, but this seems like overkill. You open the cabinet door, hoping there’s a step stool in there, or maybe a full-sized ladder. A dark, cavernous opening lies before you, a musty draft rustling your hair and a faint, metallic wrenching sound echoing in the darkness. The pipes descend from the lofty sink and disappear into the darkness beyond. The void gives you the same eerie feeling that the entrance to the underground did, like there might be a whole other world just beyond.

“OH! WE DON’T REALLY USE THAT CABINET ANYMORE. THE PIPES MAKE REALLY STRANGE NOISES SOMETIMES… HERE, JUMP UP TO THE SINK!”

You close the cabinet door and he turns your SOUL blue. You crouch and jump straight up, and the blue magic floats you upward as you kick your legs in the air. You hook your elbows over the edge of the sink and fill the pot with water, then float back down. Papyrus puts it on the stove and you hop up and sit on the counter beside him. Mom always uses fire magic when she cooks, so it’s a little strange to see someone actually using the stove burners.

“NOW I WILL CAREFULLY SELECT THE PERFECT PASTA!”

He pulls a few boxes out of the cabinet. He has a surprising variety of noodles, from standard spaghetti to fettuccine, linguine, ravioli, and farfalle.

“SINCE THIS IS A SPECIAL OCCASION, I WILL BREAK OUT THE LITTLE BOWTIE NOODLES!”

*You compliment him on his noodle collection.

“NYEH HEH! I HAVE NOODLES FOR EVERY OCCASION! FANCY NOODLES! CASUAL NOODLES! EVEN NOODLES SUITABLE AS PUZZLE PARTS! ALTHOUGH, AFTER THE DEADLY GAUNTLET EXPLOSION, I AM RETHINKING FASTENING MY PUZZLE PARAPHERNALIA WITH ROTINI…SHOULD WE ADD ANY SPECIAL INGREDIENTS? I USED THE LAST OF THE BANANAS IN THE SPAGHETTI TRAP YOU HAD EARLIER, BUT I THINK THERE’S SOME JELLO MIX AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE! AND IF WE USE IT UP IT WILL STOP SANS FROM TRAPPING MY HOUSE KEY IN JELLO! AGAIN.”

…Bananas? Well, that explains the texture. You kind of hope that dog ate the jello mix too, but you doubt you’re that lucky. Papyrus opens another cabinet.

“OH! OR WE COULD USE THESE WEIRD SUGARY INGREDIENTS. THEY’RE ACTUALLY SANS’S, BUT… IT WAS WEIRD! A WHILE BACK HE JUST CAME HOME ONE DAY WITH A BUNCH OF GROCERIES AND NEW RECIPES, COMPLETELY OUT OF THE BLUE! AND THEN HE ACTUALLY COOKED SOMETHING! IT WAS A BIZARRE EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE! THE END RESULTS WERE WEIRD, TO SAY THE LEAST, BUT I WAS GLAD HE MADE AN ATTEMPT! HE HASN’T TOUCHED THEM IN AGES, THOUGH.”

You peek into the cabinet and savor the pleasant smell. He’s got cinnamon and butterscotch in there, among other baking ingredients. Sans has good taste! Although you don’t think any of these things would go well with pasta.

*You say that since you’ve never had Papyrus’s standard spaghetti before, maybe you should just make that one for now.

“OH! AN EXCELLENT POINT! VERY WELL, WE WILL MAKE THE GREAT PAPYRUS’S CLASSIC ORIGINAL SPAGHETTI! NOW, HOW ABOUT THE SAUCE?”

He pulls out a ragged cookbook titled, “20 Authentic Pasta Recipes from the Italian Countryside.” It looks like it was waterlogged at some point.

*You ask him about his cookbook.

“ISN’T IT GREAT? I HAVE MASTERED ALL OF THE RECIPES IN THIS BOOK! MOST OF THEM, ANYWAY. IT’S HARD TO GET SOME OF THESE INGREDIENTS IN THE UNDERGROUND. IT WAS A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FROM UNDYNE! SHE FOUND IT IN THE DUMP! WHAT A COOL FRIEND!”

To most people that would sound like a weird statement, but you know how hard it is for monsters to get nice things like this. Resources are limited here, and human knowledge and goods are coveted by monsters, even if the things that make their way to the underground are usually considered garbage by humans. He looks at the cookbook a little sadly.

“UNDYNE AND I USED TO COOK TOGETHER A LOT. ALTHOUGH, THE BOOK IS A LITTLE EASIER TO FOLLOW THAN HER INSTRUCTIONS. IT CAUSES SIGNIFICANTLY FEWER EXPLOSIONS! STILL, IT’S NICER TO COOK WITH A FRIEND! ANYWAY! DO HUMANS HAVE A GYFTROT-THEMED HOLIDAY TOO?”

*You say that you celebrate Christmas too, and that humans and monsters actually share a lot of holidays.

“WOW! THAT MEANS THAT SANTA REALLY CAN CROSS THE BARRIER! THAT’S AMAZING!”

You blink in surprise. How had you never thought of that before? Santa comes to the surface and the underground, so he must be able to cross the barrier somehow! Maybe he has a really strong SOUL? That would make sense. It seems the only place he can’t get to is the Ruins. Mom has always told you that Mrs. Claus brings Christmas presents to your house because Santa isn’t allowed in the Ruins.

Papyrus pulls out a cutting board and the ingredients for the sauce. He lets you crush the garlic while he dices the tomatoes. You quickly fall into a rhythm of trading ingredients and throwing things into the pot and saucepan, and soon both the noodles and sauce are boiling and simmering on the stovetop.

“WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER HOLIDAYS? DO YOU HAVE HALLOWEEN AND VALENTINE’S DAY TOO?”

*You say you do, and you even share April Fool’s Day, although Mom’s idea of a prank is pretty mild.

He shudders as he stirs the boiling pot.

“MONSTERS TAKE APRIL FOOL’S DAY VERY SERIOUSLY HERE! THINGS GET A LITTLE… INTENSE! LAST APRIL FOOL’S WAS ESPECIALLY CALAMITOUS!”

Considering April Fool’s at your house usually consists of Mom wearing silly hats and giving you surprise extra dessert, you’re curious how the day could turn into a calamity.

*You ask what he means.

He stares off into the distance vacantly.

“YOU COULDN’T WALK TWO STEPS WITHOUT HITTING A WHOOPEE CUSHION HIDDEN UNDER THE SNOW! THERE WERE FAKE DOORS IN WATERFALL, LASERS AND CONVEYOR BELTS GOING WILD IN HOTLAND, THE TREES IN SNOWDIN FOREST HAD MORE TOILET PAPER THAN SNOW, AND SOMEHOW ALL OF THE ECHO FLOWERS ACROSS THE MARSH WERE SYNCHRONIZED TO PLAY A TROMBONE RENDITION OF SOME ROMANTIC SONG! HORNS BLARED! CONFETTI RAINED FROM ABOVE! THINGS WERE ON FIRE! UNDYNE HAD TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW AFTER MR. DREEMURR GOT STUCK IN A MOLASSES AND FEATHER TRAP! THE WHOLE CANINE UNIT WAS INCAPACITATED BY SOMEBODY WITH A DOG WHISTLE! AND EVERYTHING WAS COVERED IN DOG RESIDUE FOR WEEKS!”

Wow. If you had stepped out of the Ruins door on April first and seen that, you probably would have turned around and gone back home to train for another three years.

“BUT UNDYNE IS PREPARED FOR THE NEXT ONE! SHE HAS LOTS OF EAR PLUGS AND SOAP STOCKED UP! SHE EVEN AGREED TO LET ME BE AN HONORARY BACKUP GUARD FOR THE DAY…”

You haven’t met Undyne yet, and you’re pretty sure she’ll try to kill you when you do, but you can tell she means a lot to Papyrus as a friend. He still seems worried about the breach between them.

*You ask him if he’s talked to her yet.

“UM! NOT YET! BUT NOT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY! THE GREAT PAPYRUS NEVER LACKS FOR WORDS, LARGE OR SMALL! BUT! I WANT TO BE PREPARED FOR ALL POSSIBLE SCENARIOS, INCLUDING THE VERY SLIM POSSIBILITY THAT SHE MIGHT BE… MAYBE… A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED IN ME??”

*You say that you don’t know her, but if she’s a good friend then you think she will understand his decision.

“HMM… YES! YOU ARE RIGHT! SHE MIGHT BE PERPLEXED THAT I DIDN’T CAPTURE YOU AND STARTED ANOTHER GUARD FORCE INSTEAD, BUT WE ARE FRIENDS! SHE WILL UNDERSTAND! IN FACT, I WILL GO VISIT HER LATER!! YOU SHOULD TOO, HUMAN, THEN WE CAN ALL BE FRIENDS!”

That seems like a pretty distant possibility right now, but you’re willing to try.

“OH! AND MAYBE SHE’LL JOIN THE NICE GUARD! I TALKED TO THE NICE CREAM GUY, SO NOW THERE ARE THREE OF US! WE’RE GROWING LIKE A WEED! THAT REMINDS ME!”

He dashes away and you can hear his footsteps on the stairs as his voice bellows through the house.

“HEY, SANS! YOU’RE JOINING OUR CLUB!”

You turn down the heat before the pot boils over and give it a stir. He returns with a small bag.

“NOW THERE ARE FOUR OF US! AND LOOK WHAT I MADE!”

Inside the bag are a bunch of pins meant to fasten onto a shirt or bag, each delicately painted with the words “NICE GUARD” in neat handwriting. As Papyrus turns off the stove and drains the pasta, you pick one up and admire the detailed bone border painted around the edge and the little smiley face worked into the letter “D.” What is the material, plastic? No, on closer inspection, you see it’s some kind of round pasta piece, maybe a rotelle.

*You tell him they look really cool, and you can’t believe he’s already made so many!

He beams with pride as he plates the pasta and sauce, and he gives you the parmesan to sprinkle on top of your finished creations.

“NYEH HEH HEH! CONSTRUCTING PUZZLES IS BUT ONE OF MY MANY SKILLS! PUZZLE PRESENTATION IS VERY IMPORTANT, SO I ALSO PRACTICE EVERY MANNER OF CRAFTING AND ARTISTRY! I WILL CONTINUE TO RECRUIT MEMBERS, AND YOU SHOULD TOO! TAKE THESE WITH YOU AND BESTOW THEM UPON ANY MONSTER YOU DEEM WORTHY OF THE NICE GUARD BADGE!”

*You give him a salute and say you’ll bring honor to the Nice Guard.

You start to pin one on your sweater, but he stops you.

“AS MY SECOND IN COMMAND, I MADE A SPECIAL ONE FOR YOU! TADA!!”

He presents you with a similar button, but this one has a miniature painting of you and Papyrus in the center making heroic poses. You are holding Stickolas aloft as his cape swoops in the wind dramatically. Instead of a pin on the back, this one dangles from a jewelry clasp. You see immediately that it’s meant to go on your bracelet, so you hook it onto an unoccupied link. You don’t know what to say. The reminder of your promises and dreams fastened to your wrist is even stronger than before, filling you with warmth and determination. It’s hard to believe how far you’ve come already since you stepped out into the snow alone. You have a ways to go yet, but with friends new and old at your back? You aren’t afraid of anything.

*You thank Papyrus and say you’re glad you’re friends.

He blushes.

“I’M GLAD WE’RE FRIENDS TOO, HUMAN! AH, HOW TIME FLIES FROM BEING ARCH NEMESES TO FAST FRIENDS! AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOUR NAME!”

He stares into the distance for about three seconds before it registers. His eyes go googly.

“WAIT, I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOUR NAME!!!”

*You giggle for a few seconds before you manage to say that your name is Frisk.

He regains his composure and offers you one of the two plates of spaghetti.

“WELL THEN, HUMAN FRISK, BONE APPÉTIT! … AND DON’T TELL SANS I SAID THAT.”

You both dig into your delicious spaghetti as an impromptu trombone solo serenades you from above.

Notes:

Items: butterscotch-cinnamon pie, extra sweater, art supplies, monster candy 2x, snowman piece, Nice Guard pins
"Stickolas"-Weapon AT 0. He's a pacistick
"Charm bracelet"-Armor DF 6. Carries the love and respect of the Ruins monsters and Papyrus

Papyrus has so much heart and enthusiasm, and, as many have come to realize, a lot more empathy and understanding of what's going on around him than people sometimes give him credit for. It's no surprise he's a favorite among so many, myself included. Well, next time we'll get into Waterfall for real, so I'll see you then!

Chapter 21: Rising Dread, Rising Waters

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Undyne's Theme-ToxicxEternity

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Soon you are once again trekking through the snow toward Waterfall, but your steps are lighter now. The bag of Nice Guard pins jangles in your backpack, and you even exchanged phone numbers with Papyrus so you can call each other. You would be lying if you said you weren’t apprehensive about what’s in store, but you are ready. You’ve made it this far, and you aren’t backing down now. In just a few minutes you reenter the gloom of Waterfall and make it back to Sans’s sentry station. You aren’t sure whether you should be surprised or not when you see him at his post.

*You smile and ask if he’s going to make a report on you this time.

“what? nah. i’m not on the clock as a royal guard sentry for another five minutes. right now i’m a nice guard sentry.”

He pulls out a little confetti popper and yanks the string, flinging colored bits of paper into the air.

“welcome to waterfall.”

*You thank him for the welcome, but ask him if those two jobs aren’t a conflict of interest.

He shrugs.

“hey, you have to have some work-life balance, right? can’t make your job your whole identity. so what’s with that look? nervous about meeting undyne?”

*You say you feel ready, but it’s still a little nerve-wracking.

“hey, don’t sweat it, kid. like i said, i’ll keep an eye socket out for ya.”

*You thank him and say that makes you feel better.

You turn to face the path ahead and a damp draft blows through your hair. The sound of rushing water fills you with determination. You walk forward and a roaring waterfall soon comes into view. The water crashes down from some unseen hole in the ceiling, churns in a pool at ground level, and spills over the edge into the darkness below. You cautiously peep over the edge. The water sprays a little wooden observation deck, but you can’t see where the rest of it is ending up. You can’t even hear it crash against the cavern floor. It must be really far down. You dip a foot into the swirling water, then draw back. The current feels pretty strong.

“It’s a soaker today.”

You look over and see a fish monster standing beside you, balancing on wobbly fins.

“A lot heavier flow than usual. Of course, that’s getting to be the norm around here.”

Flowey has gleefully told you all about the problems in Waterfall, and you know that the most recent one is a change in its water flow. There has been a huge surge in some areas and nearly a drought in others. You both figure the humans have been building a dam or something like that on the source river, and it’s changed how water enters the underground. Whatever the case, it’s bad news.

“I bet they’re doing it on purpose. The humans, I mean. It’s not bad enough to trap us down here, now they’re trying to drown us. Not that you can drown a fish, but I don’t appreciate the sentiment, you know?”

*You ask if the channel can be crossed.

“Oh yeah, sure. Not a problem for finned folk. Of course, I don’t know about your land flippers. The current is pretty strong today, better watch your step.”

You follow the monster’s gaze to the chasm.

“Don’t want to be swept away to a place of no return.”

Well, that’s comforting. You cautiously step into the water and brace yourself as it swirls around your ankles. You can feel the water’s tug, but it isn’t too bad. As you move forward, however, the water begins to deepen. Soon it’s up to your knees, then your waist. Your foot almost slips on a smooth rock and you steady yourself. You take a deep breath. If you get above your head you’ll really be in trouble, and not just for a lack of fins. You don’t actually know how to swim.

You angle into the current and it seems to help a bit. A few more steps takes you to the middle of the channel. Halfway there. You really, really hope you can get through Waterfall without encountering too much, well, water. It seems like a pretty vain hope, in retrospect. You know Mom or your friends would have gladly taught you to swim before now, but the Ruins just doesn’t have any pools of water deeper than knee height. And no one from the surface bothered to teach you, certainly. It’s not ideal, but you’ll just have to make it work. You wonder if your backpack could act as a floatation device.

The current strengthens and you try to wedge your feet in between the rocks to keep it from whipping your feet out from under you. It would help if you were a little heavier. Really, you don’t even think it would be that hard to learn to swim, it’s just one of those things that takes a little practice and a guiding hand, like tying your shoelaces or riding a bike. No one from before taught you that stuff, either. Your foot catches on a rock and you wobble for a moment before regaining your balance. Well, it is what it is, right? You’ll manage with what you have, just like you’ve always done. It seems like you’re through the worst of the current now, so you just need to—you misstep. One foot glances off a slick rock, the tenuous foundation under your other foot gives way, and you go down.

In an instant you’re submerged and racing toward the edge. You flail your arms around, grasping for anything. You force your stinging eyes to open, but you can’t see a thing in the murky water. You kick your legs against the current, but its irresistible pull won’t let go. You can’t do anything.

Then another force takes hold of you, pulling you in the opposite direction. An unseen weight settles around you and you can feel the riverbed beneath you. You anchor your feet among the rocks and stand. You gasp and look around. You are standing perilously close to the edge of the waterfall. You back up, slowly, but you feel much more steady now, somehow. And what was that pulling you away? The fish monster is gone, and there’s no one else here. Was there some kind of countercurrent? Your footsteps remain steady as you wade toward the opposite side of the channel. There’s a strange sensation in your chest that feels heavy and tight, but not uncomfortably so. It’s like being wrapped up in a big quilt.

The water subsides and you step onto the bank. Your heart is racing. You plant your hands on your knees and take several deep breaths. For a moment your SOUL has a bluish cast in the cave’s lighting, but after you wipe the water out of your face you can see it’s bright red as always. You wring out your hair and check your bag. Thankfully, it’s waterproof, and everything inside seems alright.

You’re glad that’s over with. Hopefully you won’t have a repeat. You try to wring out your clothes as you move onward into a tall patch of grass. The tall, dark green grass susurrates as you move through it and you run a hand through its soft blades. Stalactites and stalagmites line the cliffs above you like columns, and you catch a glint of metal in their midst. You freeze as you hear a familiar voice.

“Yeah, for sure I’m sure! In a striped shirt like mine, but blue and purple!”

It’s the monster kid you met earlier, and he’s talking to a tall, armored figure. She is encased in polished plate metal, a red ponytail flows from her helmet like a plume, and one yellow eye gleams from within. Captain Undyne, Spear of Justice, needs no introduction. You can’t hear her because of the helmet, but you think she’s saying something in reply to the monster.

“Yup! We’re totally gonna show that human who’s boss, haha! I mean, as soon as we find—what? Oh, yeah, I told the villain to stay right there at the entrance, but uh…”

Undyne paces back and forth for a moment, then stops. She is staring straight at you. Your eyes meet and you know it’s no use hiding. You stand tall in the grass and she steps forward. A spear materializes in her hand with a zing. She stands at the edge of the cliff, poised to strike. You take Stickolas in hand and prepare to block or dodge. Blooky was right, she’s pretty scary. If the jagged fangs of her visor and the shadows playing around her stalwart figure weren’t enough to scare you, the poise and rage radiating from her stance in equal measure are.

“Hey Undyne, what are you—oh! Right there! Right there! Watch, I’ll make you proud! I’ve got this!”

The monster kid runs forward, trips, and Undyne has to reach over to stop him from tumbling off the cliff. Her spear dissipates. You aren’t going to wait for a better invitation than that. You turn and run. You clear the grass and sprint into the hallway beyond as the sounds of clanking armor fade behind you. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way down from that cliff, so hopefully that will buy you some time. Now that you’ve seen who you’re up against, you know you won’t be leaving Waterfall without a fight. That yellow eye was full of malice. That slight tremor in her spear hand springs from a hatred born long before you met, but at the moment she saw your face, it became personal. Still, despite the feeling of dread rising in your chest, you are filled with determination as you move forward.

Notes:

Toriel would have sent Frisk with a life jacket if she had thought of it. Or at least arm floaties.

I have a Tumblr now. I don't how to use it, but I have one. So come say hi at https://confused-squirrel.tumblr.com if you'd like! I've posted a couple of doodles related to the fic and will probably post more. Thanks for dropping by, and see you next week!

Chapter 22: A Clean Getaway

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Waterfall-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As the sound of rushing water fades behind you, your footsteps slow. It looks like you slipped away this time, but you’ll need to prepare yourself for the next encounter. You wonder if it’s too late for a disguise. If only your backup shirt weren’t identical to the one you’re wearing now. The sandy soil crunches under your feet and you notice how dry this branch of the tunnel is. There’s a rut in the ground in front of you that might have been a waterfall once, but it’s dry now. That’s fine by you! After the last waterfall, you welcome a drier path.

A few little sprigs of greenery catch the corner of your eye and you walk over to a patch of plants you don’t recognize. A sign identifies them as bridge plants, but they don’t look very healthy. You touch one and its dry, papery leaves crack at your fingertips. A heavy pink seed falls from its pod and the rest of the plant collapses in on itself, as if nurturing that seed were the only thing keeping it alive. Now you feel a little bad for rejoicing over the dry stream bed. Who knows how long these plants have stood in this little alcove, waiting for water that will never trickle this way again. And how long will their seeds lie on the dry soil before giving up themselves? You can’t stand the thought. You reach out and collect the four large seeds from the plants and tuck them into your pocket. You can’t save the plants, but maybe if you find a nice pool of water somewhere you can make sure their seeds have a chance. If they’re even viable anymore. You don’t know much about these plants, but Mom has always said that seeds are really resilient, and that they can wait a long time for better conditions to sprout, so you have hope for them.

You continue on across the dry bed, through a patch of blue mushrooms that luminesce as you brush against them, and past another clump of bridge plants whose seeds you collect on the way. Just as you walk across another dry bed you are drawn into battle.

A cute little monster who looks like something between a turtle and a clawfoot tub stands bobbing before you. His shell is a basin filled with sudsy water with a little bird floating in it, and a knoblike tail spins behind him.

“Wash u face.”

Is it dirty? It’s true that your adventure has left you a little worse for the wear, but you’d think the dunk in the water earlier would have helped. You stand back and watch the monster. The way he’s splashing soapy water on the pebbles and plants around him, you think he’s a bit of a germaphobe, but he seems like he just wants to help. With that pleasant demeanor and tireless scrubbing, you think he would sterilize the whole world if he could.

He lobs a bullet shaped like a soap bar at you and you duck. It bounces off the ground and flies at you, leaving smaller bullet bubbles in its wake. You dodge the soap bar again and edge around the bubbles. You’re pretty sure this soap would sting more than just your eyes if it touched you. After a another bounce the soap dissolves, and the bubbles fade after it.

“Wash u hands. Wash u feet. Wash u…everything.”

You think about what to do next. You appreciate hygiene as much as the next person, but this seems a little pushy. This washer reminds you of your Vegetoid friends, always trying to make you eat greens against your will. But, like the Vegetoids, you think the monster has good intentions behind the bullets.

*You ask for help washing up.

He hops around excitedly.

“Green means clean!”

He waggles like a wet dog and water drop bullets spray everywhere. You step back and weave between them as they spiral outward. You spot a few green water drops in their midst and you work through the pattern toward them. You grab one with your hands and suds up, tread through another one with your feet, and catch the last one in the face. You wipe the soap out of your face as his turn ends. You do feel a little better now, actually. You hadn’t realized how sweaty and grimy you’ve been all day today.

“Nice and clean! Good hygiene! I’m Woshua!”

*You say hello and thank Woshua for the cleaning.

You SPARE Woshua and the battle ends.

“U look less scary now that u all clean! Be good, and don’t forget to wash u teeth, too! Have u seen anyone else who needs a scrubbing?”

*You mention that you saw Undyne a minute ago, and her armor is probably getting dirty from running around.

“Dirty armor? No good! I will go wash it!”

*You say goodbye as Woshua trots away.

Not all heroes wear capes. It might be a little underhanded, but hopefully it will buy you a few minutes if Undyne stops for an armor cleaning. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. Now, thoroughly clean, onward you go. You find yourself in another chamber with echo flowers. The soil is still dry here, but thankfully the echo flowers look pretty good. They must be persistent little flowers. They recall a conversation as you walk past them.

“Did you know that a long time ago, monsters used to wish on stars in the night sky?”

“Like our stars?”

“No, the ones in the sky are much brighter and prettier! And there are so many of them that they make cool pictures that have names and stories. And they move around, so you see different ones all year long! Actually… no, it’s the Earth that moves, not the stars. That’s what that skeleton guy told me, anyway.”

“Do you think ours can still answer wishes, even if they aren’t real?”

“Maybe… yeah, I think so! If we wish together, it’ll have double the power, right? So what do you want to wish for, sis?”

“That’s easy. I want to see the real stars someday, with you!”

“Hey, me too! Now that we’re both wishing, it’ll have to come true!”

That’s a sweet thought. You glance up and stop in your tracks. Sparkling gemstones stud the roof of the cavern above you, glimmering in the faint light. To your surprise, a tear comes to your eye. You hadn’t realized how much you miss the stars. You stare up at the ceiling for a few minutes. Watching them only seems to deepen your longing for the night sky rather than satisfy it. The gems are pretty, but, like the flowers whispering secret wishes at your feet, these “stars” are only echoes of the real thing. Finally, you stir your feet and continue onward.

Your shoes clack against a wooden boardwalk and dark water laps at the pilings. It looks like the water level is picking back up here. Great. A few tall rushes line the boardwalk on one side, and a grooved wall abuts the other. The wall is covered in mounted plaques carved with glowing blue letters, and you approach to read them. You can barely make out the ancient, faded glyphs.

“The War of Humans and Monsters. Why did the humans attack? Indeed, it seemed that 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. But humans have one weakness. Ironically, it is the strength of their SOUL. Its power allows it to persist outside the human body, even after death. If a monster defeats a human, they can take its SOUL. A monster with a human SOUL…A horrible beast with unfathomable power.”

On the last plaque is an illustration of a monster fused with a human SOUL. You don’t know if it’s a historical record or just artistic conjecture, but the image is unsettling. The monster has unnatural, jagged features, and magical power swirls around it. Its face is contorted in terror or pain. You can only imagine what would happen to the king if he absorbed seven SOULs.

You trace your fingers across the engraving. The monsters don’t even fully understand why the humans declared war, and why they are trapped down here. You don’t have the full picture either. Records from the war are sparse on the surface, and some people believe they’re just old stories, or some kind of allegory. From what little you learned in your human history classes, you were taught that monsters were devious, power-hungry beasts that couldn’t be trusted. You were told that monsters hid in dark places to snatch children from their beds at night, that if the humans hadn’t made the first move, the monsters would have tried to rise to power. But you think the monsters have it right. It was an unfounded fear that motivated the humans’ attack so long ago. But what is it, you wonder, that motivates King Asgore’s declaration against humanity now? Fear? Justice? You give the twisted figure one more look before turning away. Revenge?

Notes:

CDC's handwashing instructions:
1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

-Sincerely, Woshua

Chapter 23: Just a Matter of Avoiding the Pointy End

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Quiet Waters-Amie Water

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You take a little raft across a channel to another boardwalk. The water here is almost high enough to flood the path. The boards are soft and warped, and the pulsing ripples of the water send little waves over the edges every few seconds. It doesn’t give you a great feeling, but it feels steady enough under your feet. The hairs on the nape of your neck tingle as you move forward. Something feels wrong. Your own spindly shadow reaches out before you and the quiet water glides across the boards at your feet. A gust of wind howls somewhere in the distance. You slow your breathing and push down the rising dread in your chest. She’s here.

Your SOUL tingles in warning as the buzz of a magic spear resounds through the cavern. You can’t pinpoint where it is by sound alone, but your instinct tells you to stop. You freeze in your tracks and the glowing blue shaft rips through the air in front of you. You flick your eyes to the side and see Undyne appear among the columns along the wall, separated from you by just a narrow channel of water. The polish on her armor sparkles so brightly that it’s kind of hard to look at. You crouch and prepare to sprint as you make eye contact. Your muscles are telling you to run, but you wonder if that’s really the best option. You can run through all of Waterfall or march straight up to her, but either way you’re going to have to confront her eventually. Maybe it would be better to get it over with now? She materializes three more spears above her head and flings them straight at you. Nope. Screw that. You turn and race down the boardwalk.

The spears split the air behind you. From the clanking metal, it sounds like she’s keeping pace alongside you. Your SOUL tingles in warning each time a new batch of spears flies at you, and you dash forward or linger behind to stay out of their path. Who built this ridiculous boardwalk? It snakes back and forth for no apparent reason, slowing you down as Undyne flings round after round of spears. The air sparks with electricity as one whizzes above your head in a near miss. You throw yourself forward in a somersault to dodge another one and run to the side to avoid the angle of two more. The sheer malice coming off these bullets is astounding. You’re used to bullets thrown at you by monsters who are just playing around, or at worst are startled and afraid of you. All of them would hurt if they touched you, but these are something else. Intent is everything. No mistake, these bullets are meant to kill. You fall to your knees and slide under another round.

Thankfully she isn’t close enough to engage you in a formal battle, but one wrong move and a spear will pin you to the ground long enough for her to close the distance and finish you off, assuming the malicious bullet doesn’t impale your squishy little SOUL in one strike. You spring into a handstand to avoid a spear aimed at your feet, then vault over the two follow-ups aimed at your chest. The end is in sight now. If you can just make it to that patch of grass in the distance, then maybe—oh no! The last segment of boardwalk is washed out, leaving a gap to the shore too large to jump. Swimming it isn’t an option for you, either. To make matters worse, that monster kid is standing just before the gap, swishing his tail in front of him and making a war face.

“Haha! We’ve got you now, villain! You won’t make it past me!”

You can’t afford to pause, so you keep running toward him, grasping for some sort of plan. You aren’t too worried about him alone, but if he delays you long enough for Undyne to catch up you aren’t sure you can take them both. You wonder how open Undyne would be to talking things out. Papyrus is friends with her, after all, maybe she isn’t as implacable as—a spear crackling with energy crashes about a foot away and dissolves into sparks. No way. She’s in human-murder mode right now. You cut sharply to the side to avoid another batch of spears. This is it. You’re just a few paces away from the monster kid now, you have to do something. He grins and sweeps his tail in front of him with a loud whoosh. Frankly, you don’t want to get hit by that thing either. You’re pretty sure it would send you flying. A rush of energy flows through you and you grin. But maybe that’s exactly what you need.

“It’s over, human! You’re in our clutches now! Watch this, Undyne!”

As soon as you’re in range, he sweeps his tail. You reach out and grab it with both hands.

“H-hey! Stop that!”

The momentum of his muscular tail pulls you off your feet. He spins in a full circle several times, flinging you along with him. You’re being slung around like a swing on one of those crazy carnival rides, but you hold tight.

“LEGGO! LEGGO!”

You happily comply. At the right moment, you let go and you’re launched across the gap. You brace yourself as you crash onto the shore and roll into the grass.

“Wh-what?! NO NO NO!! COME BACK!”

You lie flat on your belly and crawl through the tall grass. Spears continue to fly over your head, but now the monster kid is between you and Undyne. She can’t really aim at you without risking hitting him, and she knows it. After a few moments the spears stop. The air grows still. You stop moving and listen as clanking steps reach the end of the boardwalk.

“Wh-where did? Uh… I… I… Sorry, Undyne, I…”

The words trail off, and you hear two pairs of footsteps depart in the other direction. You take a deep breath and the alarm bells in your head fade. It’s over for now. A sense of calm washes over you as the grass rustles softly above your head. You lie there until your hammering heart slows to match the gentle lapping of the water. You will face Undyne eventually. You know that. But for now, the relief of escaping another encounter is enough. Eventually you stand and wade through the grass to the other side. There’s a little table with a piece of cheese encased in a mystical pink crystal, and a mouse hole nearby. A small pickaxe is wedged in the crystal, and a pile of miniature spell books rests next to it. Knowing the mouse might one day learn magic and free the cheese from its enchanted slumber fills you with determination.

A little ways on, you see a familiar face again. Sans is standing next to a telescope, grinning.

*You wave and say hello.

“hey. looks like you haven’t been kabob’ed yet. good work.”

*You say it isn’t for a lack of effort on Undyne’s part. You say he has a nice telescope.

“yeah, i’m thinkin’ about going into the telescope business. 50000g to use this premium telescope. but since i know you, you can use it for free. howzaboutit?”

Free, huh? You won’t get a better deal than that. And you have been wondering what those gemstones on the ceiling look like up close.

*You thank him and step up to the telescope.

You look into the lens and shift the telescope back and forth for a few seconds, but all you can see is a pinkish-red color. Is there a lens cap on it or something? You back up and realize the whole eyepiece is covered in fresh paint. You put a hand to your face and it comes back with a pink smear.

“what, you aren’t satisfied? don’t worry, i’ll give you a full refund.”

*You groan and say that you just washed up, too. You tell him you’re going to get back at him for that one.

“heh. now i’m in trouble. i’m gonna have to watch out for that stick of yours. sticks and stones can break my bones, you know.”

He gestures to Stickolas. He takes out a cloth and starts to wipe off the telescope.

*You tell him he shouldn’t put paint all over his nice telescope like that.

He shrugs.

“what’s with that stick, anyway? you seem to carry it everywhere. got a ‘speak softly and carry a little stick’ policy?”

You look down at Stickolas in your hand. It’s weathered, covered in worn down nubs where the smaller twigs have broken off, and the bark has completely peeled off where you hold it, but you wouldn’t trade this stick for any other.

*You say that you picked it up on a whim when you were running around on the surface one day, and you were holding it when you fell into the underground. You say you know it’s silly, but Stickolas is the only thing you have left from the surface, and carrying him with you reminds you of the world you left behind.

“stickolas. nice. a stick from a tree on the surface, huh? pretty neat. can i see?”

You hand it over and he examines it with interest.

“what is it, oak? neato. and hey, i get it. it’s nice to have a reminder of things that are gone. gives you a tangible connection to the past, right? even if you can’t go back, you can still remember.”

You smile. Flowey always makes fun of you for keeping Stickolas, but Sans gets it. He offers it back to you.

“that’s a pretty special stick. take care of it. and if you meet some stick in the mud, you can give ‘em a good whack, right?”

*You say that Stickolas is intimidating, but his bark is worse than his bite.

“i can be-leaf that. i hope he isn’t pining for his old tree.”

*No, you say. He’s oakie-dokie.

You wave goodbye and start to leave.

“and hey. you got something on your face.”

*You groan again.

“it’s just paint. no need to twig out.”

You try to wipe off your face as you walk away, but you’re pretty sure you’re just smearing the paint around. You’re really going to have to get back at Sans for that prank. You notice a little tunnel off to the side. It looks like a dead end, but you recognize a familiar cart, so you head over.

The blue bunny man leans over his Nice Cream cart, shuffling through the inventory in the bin. It looks like the cart has had a fresh coat of paint, and now it has a little logo on the front that reads, “Official sponsor of the Nice Guard!” in curvy letters.

*You say hello.

“Hm? A customer? Oh!”

He breaks into a smile and his ears perk up.

“Hey again, friend! I was hoping I’d run into you! Thanks to you, I met that nice Papyrus guy and he got me involved in this great Nice Guard idea.”

He points to a Nice Guard pin on his suspenders.

“To think that all this time there were other people trying to spread around happiness just like I was! It really is a new chapter for my Nice Cream business. Things are great! I mean, I still haven’t really had any customers, but things are going to start turning around soon, I’m sure of it! So thanks! Say, buddy, you’ve got something on your face. Want a napkin?”

*You thank him for the napkin and try to wipe the paint off your face. Now you think it’s starting to dry.

“Papyrus even helped me write new compliments to go with the Nice Cream. And we’re developing a new flavor! It’s, uh, spaghetti flavor? It’s pretty much just tomato. Would you mind trying a free sample and telling me what you think?”

You take a little cup of the red substance and taste it carefully. You can’t stop your face from scrunching up.

“Yyyyeah, that’s kind of what I thought. That one’s a work in progress. Anyway, anything else I can get you, buddy?”

*You look over the list of flavors and ask for pecan praline.

“Good choice! Here you go!”

You pay for the Nice Cream and unwrap it. The salty-sweet caramel flavor and crunchy nuts are a welcome taste after the last one. The wrapper reads, “Your mirror is lucky to have someone like you to reflect!” Aww, how sweet! Especially considering the bedhead you woke up with. On the other side is a line about the Nice Guard and Papyrus’s phone number. You hope the team-up will help both parties out.

“See you around, friend! And next time we’ll have more customers for sure. Just look out for a super long line and smiling people and you’ll know where to find me!”

*You wish him luck and continue on your way, eating Nice Cream and smiling as you go.

Notes:

Who needs a boardwalk when you have a monster kid catapult? And Frisk, it's not too late to ask about that refund...

Chapter 24: Wet Socks, and Other Minor Tragedies

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Waterfall/Quiet Water-Osirois Music

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You stare at the clear pool of water stretching before you. The wooden steps at your feet descend into a shallow lake covering the marsh. Cattails sway in a gentle current, and a few lily pads bob aimlessly on the surface. It looks like this area used to be a marsh with water channels cutting through taller mounds and islands, but now the whole area is submerged. You can hear water spilling over an unseen edge in the distance. You sigh and dip a foot into the cool water. You’re going to come out of Waterfall looking like a shriveled prune. At least it's clear enough that you should be able to tell where the shallowest paths are, but it still isn’t going to be fun to wade through this whole marsh.

Welp, nothing else for it. You descend into the pool up to your knees and start sloshing through it. The grass blades slither around your calves and you try not to think about what else could be slithering in the water. As the ripples from your motion spread outward, they push against the scattered field of echo flowers, triggering a cacophony of whispers.

“Will we be here forever?”

“It used to be a lot quieter here when I was younger.”

“I wonder what happened after we parted ways… I always felt bad for leaving like I did. I just… wasn’t ready for the responsibility back then.”

“Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not… Nooo!!”

“No, really! This creepy kid cast in gray, muttering about the nature of existence and stuff! I thought I was a goner! Ah, I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Roses are red, echo flowers are blue, violets are purple, and buttercups are yellow. And tiger lilies are orange, and grass is green, and…”

“They say an angel will free us, but how can I believe in such fairytales? What angel would ever come to such a place?”

Though their dissonant voices speak over each other, you can hear their underlying wish pulsing as one. You don’t have much time to ponder it as you are drawn into battle. A buff merhorse-dude appears before you with a whinny and a wink. You take a moment to observe him. His mane is slicked back with hair gel, a fish tail swishes behind him, and he has two, four…. twelve abs. Impressive.

“I’m Aaron. CHECK me out all you like ;)”

Okay, you’re slightly less impressed now. No one likes a show-off. He flexes and a row of bicep-shaped bullets flies at you. You swivel around them easily. He goes back to admiring his own muscles and you think about what to do next. You don’t want to be rude, but you have places to be, and all the epidermis of his shirtless physique is starting to weird you out.

*You politely ask him to get out of the way.

“You want tickets to the gun show? Then check out these bullets ;)”

Aaron flexes again and starts sweating bullets at you. Ewww. Smells like a barn at the Kentucky Derby. You wrinkle your nose and carefully step around the dripping bullets. Maybe he just doesn’t get subtlety.

*You firmly shoo him away.

“Wow! Spunky! Love it ;)”

He sweats another round of bullets at you and you eek around them as they stream off his gross, sweaty muscles. If you see Woshua again, you're sicking him on this gym bro. He continues to admire his reflection in the water and block the way.

*You tell him the story of the monster that spent so long admiring his own reflection in the water that he fell in, and all of the echo flowers laughed at him.

“Ha, I love that story. That dude’s my hero ;)”

He flexes again and you dodge another round of flexing bicep bullets. That’s it. This guy is creepy, your socks are wet, and it’s time to move on. You’re quite a bit closer to whacking a monster with Stickolas than you have been up to this point, but you take a deep breath. Don’t judge him just yet. You’re just grumpy that your socks are wet, it isn’t his fault. Maybe he’s not so bad. Maybe he doesn’t mean to be creepy. Maybe he’s just a little clueless and can’t read the room. He wiggles his eyebrows and winks again, smiling to show off his big horsey teeth. Someone’s been using whitening toothpaste. Okay, you aren’t convinced, but you decide to try another approach to get through to him. You decide to talk to him in a language he understands.

*You flex your biceps.

“Flexing contest? Okay, flex more ;)”

His bicep bullets speed at you, faster than before. You shift on your feet and weave between them. He flicks his fish tail and waits for your next move. He seems to be watching you now.

*You roll up your sleeves and flex harder.

“Nice! I won’t lose, tho ;)”

Another round of biceps comes at you, faster, but you’re ready for them. Your focus doesn’t waver as you shuffle back and forth. You’re starting to sweat a little yourself, now. He stretches his arms in anticipation. You think you’re starting to understand each other. He hasn’t spent a lot of time flexing the brain muscle, to be sure, but you know what it’s like to spend so much time and effort honing your body. It’s nice to have someone else appreciate it. You take a deep breath and shake out your arms. He does the same.

*You flex your biceps as hard as you can.

He starts flexing too, sweat streaming. You flex harder with a little grunt. He doubles down, neighing loudly. You flex thrice as hard, showing off those human muscles. With a wink, he flexes even harder, showing off some incredible horsepower. You both hold the flex, lactic acid building, and shout like Spartans. Your arms are burning, but you flex a little bit more. Seeing your dedication, he flexes so hard that he flexes himself right out of the battle! You watch as he drifts away on the current, still flexing.

“Good job, little muscle bro ;)”

His words fade as he flexes away into the distance. You relax your arms and take a deep breath. He’s still a little annoying, but maybe he isn’t so bad. Someone needs to tell him to quit it with the winky face, though.

You wait for the water to settle and start walking again. It looks like there’s a staircase leading out of the water into another room, but you’ll have to take a winding path through the shallows to get to it. You tread slowly and listen to the echo flowers around you.

“Statistically speaking, it could be decades before another one ends up here, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And our resources won’t hold out that long. Six… I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve come this far just to never see another one.”

“Nevermore… Nevermore…”

(A flower whistles a mournful melody.)

“Shh… It’s a secret to everybody.”

“so a ghost floats into grillby’s and asks for a drink, and the bartender says, ‘hey, i don’t serve spirits here’… so he gives the guy a soda instead.”

“…what, didja think grillbz would turn away a nice customer? geez.”

“Come on!! Only twelve more laps! Show me that doggy paddle!”

“Huff…huff… go easy, Captain, we don’t have fins!”

“The FitnessGram™ Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20 meter pacer test will begin—”

“They say that up there, there are big bodies of water called oceans that stretch all the way to the horizon as far as the eye can see, and even farther than that. But it’s hard to imagine so much water. I wonder if it’s true.”

“Hey, did you feel that? Something feels cold. Vengeful. And isn’t it… j u s t b e h i n d y o u ?”

A chill runs up your spine and you whip around. There’s a small v-shaped wake in the water, like something just surfaced and dove again. You stop moving and the water stills. A slight splash to your left makes you turn and you see the wake again, but you just missed whatever caused it. You squint and scan the water, but you can’t see anything in the rippling grass. You wait for a long moment with held breath. Nothing. A tentative step forward. Nothing.

Then the calm water’s surface splits and a streamlined shape hurtles toward you, propelled by a long, thrashing tail. A flash of yellow breaches and flies at your face, scales and teeth gleaming in the blue light. You duck and it flies over your head and lands behind you with a massive splash. You turn to see the monster kid from before stand up, pupils narrow, tail flicking dangerously.

“Y-yo! Listen up, human!”

His voice shakes as water streams from his scales. Is his face just wet, or are those tears in the corners of his eyes?

“I’m the youngest prospective recruit of the Royal Guard. Captain Undyne herself chose me to be her apprentice. P-people told me I could never do it because I’m kinda clumsy and, like, don’t have arms and stuff, but it didn’t matter! Undyne believed in me! And I’ve been getting really good at my magic. I’ve been training for a long time for this, but then…”

His face tightens into a snarl.

“BUT THEN YOU SHOW UP AND MAKE ME LOOK STUPID!”

The words bounce off the cavern walls and you flinch. You didn’t mean to make him look bad, you were just trying not to die. You start to speak up, but he cuts you off.

“I looked ridiculous back there! I just wanted to show Captain Undyne that I could take you on, that I could really help, but… But she told me to go home! Now she thinks I’m some screw-up like everybody else does, because of you!”

He takes a shuddering breath, then stands up tall and looks you in the eye.

“But it’s not over yet! I’m gonna stop you all by myself. I don’t care how tough they say humans are. And your stupid war paint doesn’t scare me, either!”

War paint? You glance down and see in your reflection that the paint from the telescope is streaked all over your face. Great, real intimidating.

“So get ready, villain, because it’s you and me now! And there’s no way I’m gonna lose!”

Notes:

Echo flowers say the darnedest things.

Chapter 25: Reap What You Sow

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:

Waterfall-ToxicxEternity

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

He dives into the deep water and disappears. You grip Stickolas tightly. You’re surprised he didn’t initiate a battle on the spot, but maybe he wants to get you with a surprise attack. He’s certainly at an advantage here in the water. A little splash to your right alerts you and you duck as a spray of droplet-shaped bullets streams overhead. You turn just in time to see a yellow streak in the water glide away and disappear into the submerged grass again. He’s certainly taken a cue from Undyne on surprise bullets. You know you won’t be able to keep track of him if you make a lot of ripples in the water, but you can’t afford to stand still. You’ll just have to make a dash for the exit.

You slog through the water as fast as you can, filling the air with your clumsy splashes. If only the path to the exit didn’t twist and curve so much…or if you could just swim to it. The silt under your feet shifts and slides with every step. You throw your arms out for balance and twist out of the way as more droplet bullets fly past you from another direction. The ground transitions to a wooden bridge and you gain a little speed as you run across it, but your waterlogged shoes aren’t helping matters. Should you kick them off? But that would take time, and if you find yourself running away from Undyne later you don’t want to be barefoot. On the other side of the bridge your foot sinks into the sediment and you struggle against the suction. A flash of yellow zips toward you. Immobilized, the best you can do is duck as he flies from the water and soars over your head again. He hits the water with a painful-sounding belly flop and you wriggle your leg free.

Come on, come on, hurry up. You can already sense him targeting you again. How is he so fast? You run as he jets toward you with nothing but a pulse from his tail. You lower into a crouch, but this time instead of breaching he barrels straight toward your legs. The realization gives you an instant to react—you jump out of the way, but you don’t have time to watch where you land. You jump out of his path and straight into the deeper, open water. You manage to gasp in a big breath before you sink below the surface.

No, not again! Don’t panic. Don’t panic. You flail your arms around and reach toward where you think the bank is. Your fingers dig into the gritty silt and you manage to pull your head and shoulders above water. You can’t see anything with the curtain of hair in your eyes, but you don’t dare let go. You kick your legs and try to drag yourself back onto the path. The sound of splitting water cuts through your aimless splashing and you roll onto the path as he swishes by you again. This kid is relentless! You push your hair out of your face with your shoulder and scramble to get up, but you can’t find your footing in the gloopy, shifting silt. The kid swims at you again, but this time he diverts and cuts a large circle around you. He retraces it a few times, drawing it tighter, until you can see the edges of a whirlpool forming in his wake. A whirlpool with you right in the middle.

You quickly stand, but it’s too late. The swirling current pulls you off your feet again into the open water. The churning whirlpool picks up speed as the monster kid continues to trace the edge of it, and as you flail against its pull you can feel it spinning you around and pulling you deeper. You take a deep breath and hold it as you prepare for the worst.

“Haha, I’ve got you now! Undyne should see this! I’ve never made one this big bef—”

Just as the twisting vortex pulls you to the center he seems to wobble a bit. Then, his control fails and his own creation pulls him in too.

“Wh-whoaoaoao!!”

You watch with some small satisfaction as it slings him around the circuit a few times before spitting him out entirely. Without his influence the whirlpool begins to slow down, but you’re still in the deepest part at the center. You flail around, trying to pull yourself out of its grasp before the walls of the whirlpool crash in on you, but you don’t have a clue where the bank is now and your uncoordinated thrashing isn’t getting you anywhere. Are you still spinning, or is that just your head? You try to shake away the dizziness as you are pulled underwater. A thousand panicked thoughts stream through your head, but one registers a little louder. What have you got in your pocket? Something is wriggling and expanding from the inside. A little fish didn’t swim in, did it? You squint and reach a hand in to pull out a mass of vegetation, quickly soaking up the water and unfurling into broad, verdant green leaves and blushing pink petals. The bridge seeds! They slip out of your hand and expand instantly into huge, floating rafts. You grab one and its buoyancy pulls you to the surface as the whirlpool collapses into a slowly swirling mass. Careful not to tip it, you pull yourself on top and it holds your weight. You balance on the raft on your hands and knees and take several deep breaths. The other bridge flowers have reached full size too, now, and they bob gently on the water around you. You can’t help but smile, seeing that the flowers survived after all.

The monster kid is floating off to the side, and you can almost see cartoon stars spinning around his head.

“Duuuuude, that was siiick. Oh no! Where did—? Oh! There you are! Stop, human! Uh, humans? All three of you? Well, none of you can get away now!”

He gives his head a little shake and swims at you again. In your general direction, anyway. You can only hope he goes after one of your triplets. You aren’t about to let go of your lifeline, but you have to move. Suddenly you have an idea. You grip the flower like a paddle board and lower your legs into the water, then start flutter kicking toward the exit. He rushes at you and you stop, letting the momentum of the flower casually spin you out of the way. He surfaces and slings bullets at you, but you hop back onto the flower to avoid them. You suppress a tiny grin. You don’t want to look smug, but you have your rhythm now.

As the monster kid continues to make rushes and bullet patterns, you alternate climbing on top of the flower and dipping into the water to kick out of the way. It isn’t exactly graceful, but you’re starting to make some progress toward the exit, and the kid’s attacks are only getting sloppier and more predictable as he gets frazzled. Finally he grits his teeth and growls in frustration as you perch on top of your platform.

“Agggh! Dude, can’t you just—why do you have to be so—Y-YOU BIG MEANIE!”

His words resound through the room for a moment before the disturbed echo flowers pick it up.

“Y-YOU BIG MEANIE!”

“BIG MEANIE!

“MEANIE!”

The chorus of echo flowers repeats it and he flinches.

“Wha—No, no, no. I can’t mess this up again!”

“Mess this up again!”

“Again!”

Flustered, he looks around at the flowers.

“SHUT UP!”

He barely finishes before the echo flowers return it tenfold.

“SHUT UP!”

“SHUT UP!

“SHUT UP!

“No, I’m not gonna fail this again! I have to prove to Undyne I’m not a screw-up!”

“Fail this again!”

“Fail—”

“Screw-up!”

The whispering spreads to the rest of the room until the whole field is muttering their dissonant jeering.

“Screw-up!”

“Screw-up!”

“Screw-up!”

“N-no, I—I’m not—”

“Screw-up!”

“Screw-up!”

You sit motionless on top of the flower, wondering what to do as he looks around frantically. Before you can say anything, he looks at you one last time, then dives silently into the water below. After a few moments you can feel the tension ease around you, and you know he isn’t going to attack again. The echo flowers gradually fade out until you are left in silence.

Notes:

It sucks being stuck in an echo chamber of your own thoughts, sometimes.

Chapter 26: Skullduggery

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Ruins/Waterfall-insaneintherainmusic

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You didn’t want this. You’re just two kids in striped shirts trying to prove yourselves. You feel like you could have been friends, if you hadn’t made him look bad in front of his hero. Is there any way to fix it now? You hope you’ll see him again so you have the chance to patch things up. As if he’ll listen to you now. You slowly stretch out and sit cross-legged on the bridge flower. If you thought you were soaked before, you’re completely drenched now. Water is streaming from your clothes, there’s a strand of sea grass wrapped around your ankle, and you’re streaked with mud and paint. A little frog hops out of your hair. It’s a good thing Mom can’t see you now. But hey, the miraculous backpack is still dry on the inside.

The bridge flower drifts aimlessly across the glassy surface of the water, spinning you around gently. The others are floating nearby. You’re glad they found a nice pond with enough water, and the faint pink bridge flowers look at home here among the ethereal blue echo flowers. Sitting in the middle of this floating garden, your tense shoulders begin to relax. You know you can’t afford to linger, not with Undyne actively hunting you down, but this place is too beautiful to rush through. You hear your phone ringing from inside your bag, and you try to wipe your hands dry before you pull it out.

“HELLO, HUMAN! ARE YOU HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME IN WATERFALL?”

Oh, hey, it’s Papyrus! You move the speaker away from your ear as he shouts at his normal enthusiastic volume.

*You tell him you miss Snowdin.

It’s not that you dislike Waterfall, but the odds of being skewered or drowned in Snowdin were considerably lower. Not zero, but lower.

“WELL, SNOWDIN IS BY FAR THE BEST PLACE TO BE! IT IS THE HOME OF THE GREAT PAPYRUS! COULD IT BE—COULD IT BE THAT YOU ARE SAD AND LONELY WITHOUT ME?! WELL, WORRY NOT, HUMAN, WE WILL HANG OUT AGAIN SOON! MAYBE WITH UNDYNE! HAVE YOU MET HER YET?”

*You say that you’ve seen her around, but you haven’t had the chance to introduce yourself.

“OH! SHE IS VERY BUSY! MAYBE SHE’S CHASING A BAD GUY RIGHT NOW!”

*You say that’s probably it.

You lean forward and scoop some water to your face, using your reflection to clean the paint off.

*You mention that you saw Sans earlier and he pranked you with his telescope.

“I’M NOT SURPRISED! SCIENCEY PRANKS ARE HIS FAVORITE KIND OF PRANKS! BY THE WAY, IF HE OFFERS TO SHOW YOU THE ‘UPDOG’ STAR… DON’T.”

*You say that you saw the Nice Cream guy too.

“OH! GREAT! I’M ACTUALLY GOING THROUGH A PILE OF NEW WRAPPERS WE WROTE RIGHT NOW! SOMEHOW A NUMBER OF LOW-QUALITY PUNS SNUCK IN… SERIOUSLY, ‘HOW DO YOU SEIZE THE DAY LIKE A SKELETON?’”

“you carpal diem.”

You snicker.

“SANS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING BACK AT HOME? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING!”

Come to think of it, wasn’t he in the other room like five minutes ago? He sure puts a lot of effort into avoiding work.

“hey, you don’t want me to work myself down to the bone, do you?”

“UGH, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT WAS YOU! AND ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS ONE TOO? ‘WHAT DOES A SKELETON SAY AS A GREETING?’”

“hyoid.”

“REALLY, SANS?”

*You ask Papyrus if he didn’t find that one a little humerus.

“NO, I DID NOT! WAIT—HUMAN! NOT YOU TOO! SANS, YOU ARE CORRUPTING THE IMPRESSIONABLE HUMAN WITH YOUR TERRIBLE SENSE OF HUMOR!”

“aw, i didn’t mean tibia bad influence.”

“UGH!”

You hear a crinkling sound on the other end.

“you missed this wrapper. ‘what does the skeleton call his best pal?’”

*You say ‘his vertebro’.

“hey, you got it.”

“IT’S COMING IN STEREO!”

“don’t be mad. i’m just ribbin’ ya.”

“ENOUGH!”

*You tell Sans he’d better stop or Papyrus will give him a sternum talking-to.

“he liked that one, he’s smiling.”

“AM NOT!”

“some jokes just land better than others. that ‘spine with me.”

*You say he has the best bone jokes with-ulna five-mile radius.

A chuckle and sustained groan come through the speaker. Papyrus’s groan continues as Sans talks over it.

“wow, i would say i’m not flattered, but i would be telling a fibula.”

*You say you two should submit your jokes to the local newspaper, and you might even get your own vertebral column.

“wouldn’t that be something. maybe we could form a band too. how are you on saxobone? or at least the clave-cles?”

*You say you don’t play any instruments, but you can always sing a-patella.

“your wit’s sharp as a scapula, kid, but i’m not bone dry just yet. i’ve got a skele-ton more where that came from.”

*You say you have a cartilage-load of jokes too, and that one was just a bone-us.

Papyrus’s groan starts to rise in pitch in the background.

“i get what you mean, bro. a good skeleton joke really tickles the funny bone, but bringing cartilage into it? is nothing sacrum?”

*You say you were a real numbskull to make that faux pas, no bones about it.

“i know you didn’t have bad intentions, but that was a pretty marrow escape. you know what they say about people who are up to no good with skeleton puns, right?”

*You ask if they’re bad to the bone.

“nah. they’re femur-schemers.”

*Or a phony-boney, you add.

“a real skeleton charlatan. either way, they’re definitely up to some skullduggery.”

Papyrus’s unbroken screaming has risen to teakettle pitch by now. You hold the phone a little further away from your ear.

“anyway, you’d better bundle up warm, kid. you sound a little ilium after being soaked to the bone in waterfall.”

*You say you are pretty bone tired after everything that’s happened.

“wanna talus about it?”

*You say you’ll call back soon, but at the moment it sounds like Papyrus has a bone to pick with both of you.

“yeah, there’s a real bone of contention between us…guess we’d better say bone voyage for now.”

*You tell him “a-rib-ederci” in return.

“man, i’m running out of material here. come on bro, help me out. won’t you throw me a bo—”

You hear a loud clank on the other end and the call ends abruptly.

Notes:

Aaaaaand that makes 40 skeleton puns and jokes in one chapter. Did you catch them all? I'm not sure whether to take a bow or apologize. 😂

Anyway, I'll see myself out, and see you on Thursday! Hit me with your best puns in the comments!

Chapter 27: Discordant Harmonies

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Waterfall-String Player Gamer

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You paddle the rest of the way to the stairs and carefully step off your raft. You fluff up the flattened petals and give it a gentle push, watching as the current guides it toward the other bridge flowers. Your wobbly legs are grateful to be on solid ground again. You shiver as a draft meets your damp skin. Would it be too much to ask to stay out of the water for the rest of this trek through Waterfall? Probably. You look up at the gem-studded ceiling and make a wish anyway. The agitated water ripples throughout the chamber and you hear the echo flowers, still softly calling, “Screw-up! Screw-up!”

Well, that won’t do at all. What if someone else comes through this room and hears all of those mean things? You think for a moment, cup your hands around your mouth, and shout several friendly messages into the room. Your voice reverberates for a moment before the echo flowers call back to you.

“You’re doing great!”

“Have a wonderful day!”

“You’re amazing! You can do anything!”

“Wow, look at this VIP coming through! We’ve got a big shot!”

“Hey, have you ever considered being friends with a human? I hear they’re pretty cool!”

Much better. You turn and make your way up the grassy slope ahead of you. A little alcove to the side catches your eye and you see another plaque with blue lettering. This one seems to pick up from where the others left off, talking about monsters’ ability to absorb a human SOUL.

“This power has no counter. Indeed, a human cannot take a monster’s SOUL.”

Right, because monster SOULs don’t last outside of the body like human ones do. You absently wonder what Asgore has done with the SOULs he’s collected. Are they floating around the throne room, looking mysterious and glowy? Are they stuck in a sock drawer? He probably has them somewhere secure. Now that you think about it, you remember Flowey saying he’s never been able to find them or get the king to reveal them, so they must be well-hidden. Probably a good idea with someone like Flowey poking around. You wonder what Flowey would have done with them if given the chance. With a curiosity and lack of empathy like his, you’re a little afraid to wonder.

Just as you are about to walk away, you notice a big fluffy towel lying on the ground nearby. How convenient! Does this belong to someone? It looks clean, you don’t think it’s been here long. You shuffle on your feet for a moment, wondering if the owner would mind if you dried yourself off. It doesn’t look like anyone’s around to claim it, maybe it was left here on purpose for people traveling across the marsh. You towel off, wiping away the mud and gunk, sponging the water out of your sweater, and rubbing it through your stringy hair vigorously. You give a big sigh of relief. You aren’t as clean as you were after your encounter with Woshua, but you feel a lot better now. If you can just stay moderately dry for the next five minutes, your day will be made.

You fold up the towel and replace it, then walk into the next room. It looks like a long, straight corridor with channels of water on either side. The path itself looks dry, at least. This chamber is a little darker, and you strain to make out the shadowy shapes moving in the water. It’s probably just a reflection from the rippling surface, right? You can hear the subtle whirring and clicking from some machine in the corner that seems to be pumping water into the pools. As you follow the path, you immediately sense that someone else is there. Some large shape under the water is gliding alongside you, and occasionally you catch the profile of a large tentacle out of the corner of your eye. You pull Stickolas from the umbrella pocket in your backpack where you’d stashed him earlier. It seems like a silly reflex when you aren’t going to hit anyone with him, but it makes you feel a little braver.

You stop in your tracks as a monster emerges with a big sploosh. It’s a huge, ship-sinking-sized octopus with blushing cheeks and big sparkly eyes. She waves at you with one of her tentacles and you return the gesture.

“Hey…there…Noticed you were…here…I’m Onionsan! Onionsan y’hear!”

*You say hello and introduce yourself.

“You’re visiting Waterfall, huh! It’s great here, huh! You love it, huh!”

“Love” is a strong word, but how can you say no when she’s making that face? That face meaning a strange, octopean contortion of lopsided eyeballs and a squiggly mouth. You begin to walk again and try to make smalltalk as she glides beside you.

*You say you like it pretty well.

“Yeah! Me too! It’s my Big Favorite. Even though the water was getting pretty shallow here not too long ago. I was even thinking about moving to the city to live in one of those crowded aquariums like my friends did! Glad I didn’t do that! I mean, the aquarium’s full anyway, so it’s not like I could’ve… But anyway! This place was like a puddle! A really shallow one! My skin was getting all dry, I was going through seaweed moisturizer like crazy.”

You don’t really know anything about living underwater, or the aquarium housing market, or moisturizer. Still, it sounds tough.

*You say that sounds bad.

“Yeah, super not fun! Uh… But it’s okay! Captain Undyne helped me out. She’s friends with this super smart scientist, and she asked her to rig something up for me. And she did! She designed that crazy machine thing, and a few weeks ago everyone came and helped to put it together. It, like, takes the extra water from some other room and pumps it here. Great, huh!”

*You say that’s really cool.

“Yeah! A little loud though, y’hear? A-anyway, I wanted to say a big thanks to the scientist, but she couldn’t make it in person. She just sent the plans and parts over. I guess she’s super busy? Undyne seemed kinda disappointed. But anyway! I wrote her a nice letter, so I’m sure she’ll read that!”

*You say you’re glad everything worked out.

“Yeah! This is just for now, anyway. Undyne’s gonna fix everything, y’hear! I’m gonna get out of here and live in the ocean! Y’hear!”

*You say y’hear.

“Yeah, that’ll be great. Oh… Hey…. there… That’s the end of this room.”

You’ve just reached the door. You need to keep moving, but you feel a little bad about just leaving. This monster is stuck here all alone, and you imagine she doesn’t get a lot of interaction. She seems really nice. That gives you an idea.

*You tell her about the Nice Guard, and say she would be really good at it if she’s interested.

She gasps and slaps a tentacle to her mouth.

“Wow! You want me to be in your super fun club for fun nice people, huh! I like being nice! Yeah, I’ll be in your Nice Guard!”

You dig through your bag and pull out a pin. You’re not sure where she’s going to pin it, or if it’s even waterproof, but you’ll just have to hope Papyrus thought to use waterproof paint. You look at the little pin resting in your palm for a moment. Papyrus entrusted you with a big responsibility, scouting out new members for a guard dedicated to spreading kindness and goodwill. You want to do a good job picking out new members. As you look up at the wiggly octopus watching you expectantly, you think you’ve made a good choice.

*With all of the ceremony you can muster, you bestow the Nice Guard pin upon Onionsan and tell her to uphold the mission of the Nice Guard.

“Wow, I will for sure! I’ll be the best Nice Guarder, y’hear! Anyone who comes through here will get a warm welcome, y’hear?”

*You say you know they will, and it was nice to meet her. You say you’ll be sure to say hello if you come this way again.

“Oh! You too! I’ll see you around, huh! Have a good time! In Waterfalllllll—”

Her voice gurgles as she dips below the water with her pin and disappears. Well, that was an interesting encounter. You wonder if Papyrus is having any luck recruiting new members. It might be nice if you could walk a few feet without someone trying to attack you. You make your way into the next room. You don’t have much time to survey the enclosed little cavern before you are drawn into battle.

The monster before you seems to be doing everything in her power to look small and avoid making eye contact with you. It makes you wonder how this battle started in the first place. You take a moment to observe her. She is a huddled aquatic monster covered in slick scales and spines. Her slippery-looking hair is done up in a fishtail with a glowing orb attached to one strand. She is humming a little melody to herself quietly. She appears to be tone deaf. She hums a bit louder and the notes start flying at you as bullets. Talk about a deadly siren-song. The notes are erratic and unstructured, not exactly what you would expect from a musical attack, but the bullets share too much of their owner’s lack of confidence to be too threatening. You slip between the handful of shy little bullets easily.

It’s your turn again, and she’s still looking away, humming nervously. You think about what you should do. This is a monster who clearly doesn’t want to be here, and yet here you are, locked in battle. If she doesn’t want to fight, then why engage at all? Did she want to show you her song, but is too shy to say so? You couldn’t really identify any of the notes in her melody, but maybe she’s just nervous. You would like the chance to hear it again. You think about smiling at her to encourage her, but she’s still facing the other way. There has to be a way to make her more comfortable. You clear your throat and start humming a little melody of your own. She peeps over her shoulder at you and the dark crags of her face light up. She starts singing bullets at you again, a little faster this time. You keep humming your side of the duet as you step around the bullets. Her song ends, and you still couldn’t make out an actual tune, but she seems a little more comfortable now.

She watches you expectantly. She’s starting to warm up, but she needs more encouragement. You start humming again and she joins you. The scattered harmonies bounce off the cave walls, creating a hectic, beautiful mess. You notice a few other monsters start to creep closer, drawn to the music. What started as a little jam session has turned into a concert. She doesn’t seem to notice as she sends another verse of bullets at you. The notes are faster and more confident now, but no more predictable. Now that you have an audience, you might as well introduce a little showmanship. You flourish your arms as you skirt and spin around the bullets. At the end of the song the audience applauds and you both turn and give a little bow. You see a couple of familiar faces in the crowd, and… is that Sans at the back? Selling tickets made of… toilet paper? You give him a pointed stare and he shrugs, grinning.

Before you can address the ticket scalping, you realize it’s your turn again. A few monsters are setting up lighting and audio equipment around you, and a large banner that reads “SHYREN AND SOME HUMAN KID—TODAY ONLY”. You give Shyren a little nod and she returns it. You grab a mic offered to you by one of the monsters and start humming your heart out. Shyren joins you with a flurry of syncopated hums and the crowd goes wild. The seats are sold out, you feel like a rockstar! You almost forget that you have to dodge Shyren’s song. That’s only getting harder as she gains confidence. You keep up your harmony as you do a little tap dance around the flurry of notes. As soon as you finish the crowd roars with excitement, flinging clothing onto the makeshift stage. You and your bandmate are enveloped in a storm of socks.

What now? This sudden rise to fame is exhilarating, but where do you two go from here? Tours? Limited edition merch? Autograph signings and record deals, a life on the road filled with celebrity drama and the constant clicking of paparazzi cameras? It sure is hot under the limelight. Shyren looks a little overwhelmed too. You think about your future in the music industry as you start humming the next verse. Shyren joins in, bolder than ever, and the screaming crowd leans in to listen. You weave around the bullet notes and pay attention to the song. What genre even is this? It’s something between rock, chip tune, electro swing, and polytonal postmodern. As the verse ends the crowd reaches fever pitch. They wave glow sticks in the air and lift up hastily made fan posters for your new band, “Discordant Harmonies.” It looks like Shyren is thinking about her future too.

You shuffle on your feet and nudge a clump of socks out of the way. You’ve enjoyed humming with Shyren, but you know it can’t go on forever. You have different goals to pursue, different paths to walk. It was inevitable, really. The good bands always break up. It’s better to do it on your own terms. But how can you tell Shyren? You slowly raise your eyes to hers, but you can see she’s thinking exactly the same thing. You smile at each other and ready your microphones. If this is your last performance, you’re going to make it a good one. You and Shyren have come so far, but it’s time. You both have your own journeys to embark on. You begin to hum a farewell melody straight from your SOUL, and she joins in with a strain of notes more powerful than any you’ve heard yet. As the song goes on, it finally starts to make sense. Well, it doesn’t make sense—the notes seem to have no relation to each other and there is a jarring dissonance between her part and yours—but that’s part of its charm. This isn’t some tired, repetitive pop song, this is an original, authentically Shyren-and-Frisk song. You dance around the long string of notes and hum your half of the song until it finally comes to an end. You and Shyren take a bow as the crowd cheers uproariously. Your fifteen minutes of fame may be drawing to a close, but you’ll never forget all of the wonderful memories you’ve made with Shyren along the way. You give one last wave to the adoring fans as the curtain closes—you’re not sure when that was installed, but nice touch—and you wish Shyren the best of luck in her musical career as the battle ends.

Notes:

The Shyren encounter is one of my favorites, so this was a fun one!
Feel free to say hi in the comments, and see you next week!

Chapter 28: Memories of Petrichor

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Memory-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It takes a few minutes, but eventually your newfound fans disassemble the stage and trickle out of the room. Soon you are alone in the cavern again. Now that you have a better chance to look around, you see this room branches off in a couple of different directions. One exit is unmarked, and the other has a sign proclaiming that a great treasure lies beyond. Treasure room it is. Could this be the one Doggo mentioned? You follow the sign to another small room with nothing but an old piano. You don’t actually know how to play, but you always like messing around on pianos, and it’s been ages since you’ve seen one. You run your hand over the keys and wince. It’s, uh, charmingly out of tune. The humidity probably isn’t good for it. From the nearby sign, it seems like the treasure will reveal itself if you play a tune. You pick out “Mary had a Little Goat.” It’s like “Mary had a Little Lamb,” but with more wrong notes because the goat keeps head-butting everyone. Nothing happens. You think you’re probably supposed to play a specific piece to reveal the treasure, but you’re out of luck without any sheet music. You would be out of luck with sheet music too, since you can’t read it.

It seems a shame to leave powerful treasure behind, but there’s no possible way to figure out the code without some kind of clue, and you have places to be. You jingle a few more sour notes on the piano, then continue on your way. In the next tunnel are more plaques. You walk slowly as you read them.

“When a monster dies, its SOUL disappears. And an incredible power would be needed to take the SOUL of a living monster. There is only one exception. The SOUL of a special species of monster called a “Boss Monster.” A Boss Monster’s SOUL is strong enough to persist after death… If only for a few moments. A human could absorb this SOUL. But this has never happened. And now it never will.”

You pause in your tracks and tilt your head thoughtfully. You’ve heard of Boss Monsters in passing, but you don’t think you’ve heard that about their SOULs before. A Boss Monster… they must be pretty powerful. You wonder if you’ve ever met one. Regardless, you guess the information doesn’t help you much. Suddenly, something catches your attention. You take a deep sniff. You know that smell. It’s water. Not like the pools and waterfalls you’ve seen all over the place, but like little faint droplets mixing into the dry earth. It’s the smell that accompanies earthworms and robins and rainbow-colored smears on asphalt. And that little pitter-patter you hear is unmistakable. Raindrops. It’s raining! You start running toward the sound. It’s been three years since you’ve been in the rain, and it’s one of the things you’ve missed the most from the surface. You slide to a stop next to a little alcove. In it there’s a weathered stone statue illuminated by a haze of light from the crag above, and artificial raindrops are falling all around it.

You take a deep breath of the rainy air and put your hand into the stream. Raindrops bounce off your hand playfully and slide down your arm. The sensation is wonderful. The rain hasn’t been as kind to the statue, however. It looks like the figure of a horned monster, but the stone has been so eroded and dimpled by water over time that it’s hard to make out the features. Its arms are wrapped around its legs and its head bent, as if to protect something in its lap. You can’t help but pity it. Maybe it was a great statue once, with people who visited and admired it, but now it’s alone, huddled in the rain it’s unable to move away from. Nobody must care for it now, or they wouldn’t have left it in this state. Your eyes are getting a little misty. It’s silly to feel sorry for a statue, really, but you can’t help it. You take a few steps away, look back at it over your shoulder, then keep walking.

Just a little ways down the corridor you spy a bucketful of umbrellas and a sign urging passers-by to take one. There must be more rain up ahead. You pop open a red one and twirl it against your shoulder. You haven’t taken a walk in the rain in a while, this will be fun! And if you spot a puddle you aren’t responsible for what happens next. Your socks are wet anyway, you don’t have anything to lose. You’re just about to carry on, but then you pause. It’s silly, really, but… you retrace your steps back down the corridor to the statue. You carefully climb onto its knee and wedge the umbrella in between its head and shoulder. You adjust the angle, then step back and admire your handiwork as raindrops seep into your hair and shirt. Perfect! That will deflect most of the water from the statue. You hear a little whirring, clicking noise from the statue’s lap. Then, a melody begins to play from a music box. It’s a little stiff at first as the notes try to work through the rusty metal, but soon it begins to flow more freely. The statue must have shielded it from most of the water. It’s a beautiful melody.

“You know it’s just a statue, right? You are absolutely ridiculous.”

You look over and see Flowey right next to the statue, smiling pleasantly.

*You crouch down next to him and say hello.

“Howdy! Now I see why it’s taking you so long to make any progress. Geez, are you going to befriend all of the inanimate objects around here too? A snail could reach the barrier faster.”

*You shrug and say you aren’t in a hurry, that you want to enjoy the journey.

“And THIS is what you want to do with your journey? Well, whatever. But you can’t blame me for wanting to skip ahead to the exciting parts.”

Flowey rolls his eyes. He looks a little different. You lean in and see that he has a red ribbon tied around his stem with a Nice Guard pin attached to it. Your face lights up as his dims into annoyance.

*You say he looks as bonnie as a bluebell.

“Ugh. Yeah, Papyrus gave it to me. He insisted, I couldn’t say no. Literally, he was talking so loudly that I couldn’t say no. Idiot.”

*You say you’re glad he’s joined the ranks, but now that he’s part of the Nice Guard he shouldn’t be making snarky comments.

“I am NOT joining your stupid club! And since you’re here, get this thing off, would you?”

*You say he should keep it on.

“No, no, no. I want no part of this silliness. Come on, I don’t have thumbs, just take it off for me!”

*You smirk and say you won’t.

He growls and dances back and forth aggressively, but the ribbon doesn’t budge. Papyrus must tie good knots. He makes his “suppressing violence” smile and sighs.

“FINE. I’ll just go find a pair of scissors later. But if I cut my own stem in half it’ll be YOUR fault!”

*You ask him why he’s never mentioned being friends with Papyrus before.

He stops trying to bite through the ribbon with his teeth.

“Him? Oh yeah, we go way back. He’s…amusing, to a point. Why do you care?”

He twists into a cracked smile and swivels his head to the side unnaturally.

“JEALOUS?”

*You tell him you aren’t jealous at all, that you’re really happy he has another friend to talk to. You always thought he was more of a wallflower.

He morphs back into his bored expression.

“Figures.”

*You say that you approve of the friendship, and that Papyrus is a good influence on him.

“Oh, please. You know what I am. And what I am not. Papyrus? He’s fun, but he’s nothing more than a distraction. Don’t imagine that I wouldn’t, and haven’t, done to him in other runs what I’ve done to everyone else.”

You look down at your feet. You have some idea what some of Flowey’s other runs have been like, although he’s spared you most of the details. You also know that he doesn’t have a SOUL. He’s told you before that he can’t feel anything for anyone, and you know you should take his word on it, but you can’t help but feel that there’s more to it than that. He’s been a good friend to you. Prickly, sure, and kind of a jerk, but you can’t help but feel that things are different now. That he’s trying to be better, that he wants to care. After all, he’s doing so much to watch out for you. You know you shouldn’t make so many allowances for his bad behavior, but it must be hard to be good without a moral compass to guide you.

“Hey, don’t look so glum. It’s different with you. We’re still best friends, alright?”

*You nod and say you know. You say that the three of you should get together anyway and hang out.

“Ha, no way! I can only handle one of you weirdos at a time!”

*You say that you need to get a red scarf so you three can match.

“NOPE. Nope. I am going to puke. I don’t have a stomach, but I’m going to puke anyway.”

*You say that you can travel across the underground together and spread nice deeds and friendship everywhere you go.

“That’s it. I feel it coming up. Is it sap? I think it’s sap.”

He makes a gagging face and you laugh.

*You say you won’t tease him anymore, but you’re still glad he has someone else to talk to besides you.

And even if he isn’t in earnest about his friendship with Papyrus, maybe the two of you can keep him on the right track. It’s nice to know you aren’t the only one keeping the homicidal daisy at bay.

“Hey, I had to come up with SOMETHING else to do while you were piddling around the Ruins for years. You’re making up for the lack of entertainment now, though. Your foray into Waterfall, WOW! You didn’t make it five minutes without being spotted. Nice going.”

Aw, you knew he would pick up on that.

“Seriously! Why didn’t you just lock the armless kid in a broom closet or something? You didn’t have to LET him go tell Undyne where you were. And then go for a snack break. I swear, you have no self preservation. I guess this is more interesting, though. And watching you flail around in the marsh back there was pretty exciting, too. Those bridge seeds came in handy! I didn’t get what you were doing when you picked up the seeds, but that was a BRILLIANT strategy.”

*You grin and thank him.

You aren’t about to tell him that was a lucky coincidence.

“You totally almost drowned though. Sank like a rock. I always thought humans could float in water for some reason.”

*You cross your arms and say that instead of enjoying the spectacle so much he could have helped.

“What did you want me to do? Dive in and drag you out? Throw you a tiny life preserver? I’m a FLOWER.”

He sticks his tongue out at you and winks.

*You say that’s fair.

“Speaking of near death, you’ve been seeing a lot of Undyne. And you’ll run into her again, believe me. What’s your plan? And you don’t have to remind me—”

He morphs to mimic your face. His imitations are never very flattering.

“—‘I don’t want to huwt anyone, I’m a wittle baby who doesn’t wike weapons and viowence, wah wah!’ But you’re going to run into her again, so you have SOME form of strategy, right?”

You try to ignore the majority of what he just said.

*You say you’re familiar with her attack style, and you believe you can dodge or block anything she has to throw at you. You say you think you can hold out until you can convince her not to fight.

Flowey grins.

“Wowie, I really can’t wait to see this battle! The blocking? I believe you there, if it’s as good as your dodging. But one problem. You’re not going to be able to ‘convince her not to fight.’ Those relentless killers I’ve warned you about before? She’s the poster-fish for them. Listen, buddy, I’ve been around the underground. I know Undyne. She’s strong, rage-filled, absolutely convinced in her purpose, and has more determination than just about any other monster here. And she’s not super into talking things out.”

Flowey leans forward and makes sustained eye contact.

“Believe me when I tell you there is NO scenario where you TALK her into accepting your MERCY.”

As much as you want to think otherwise, you believe him.

*You ask what his advice is.

“RUN. No, seriously. Just run. She’s strong, but she’s most in her element here in Waterfall. If you can just get to Hotland, she’ll stop being a serious threat.”

*You ask if she’ll be like a fish out of wa—

“Do NOT finish that sentence, I WILL puke sap on you. But do you hear me? Just run away. Get to Hotland and you’re golden. Forget about trying to be buddy-buddy with her, she’s not going to listen to a single word you say.”

*You thank Flowey for the advice, but say you wish there was some way of getting through to her. You say she seems like a nice person, from what you’ve heard from everyone else.

Flowey sighs dramatically.

“Only you would try to make friends with someone actively trying to eviscerate you. Listen, I’m going to ask you a question. A little pop quiz, if you will.”

He morphs into Mom’s face for a moment, then back to his own.

“This is an easy question. Don’t overthink it. Finish the sentence. ‘If worse comes to worst and I am cornered by Undyne, someone who wants to murder me, and I have no recourse but the weapon in my hand, I will put aside my crazy ideals in the name of survival and____’.”

*You say you will ‘not raise a weapon in anger but will continue to believe that it can be solved without violence.’

Flowey pretends to wilt dramatically, writhing around and crumbling in on himself until his head is on the ground. He twists around and looks at you upside down.

“That’s it. I’m swallowing the sap in my mouth. Tastes like sugar and disappointment.”

He snaps upright again and shakes the water from his petals. He gives another sigh, but this one seems genuine. He looks at you with a slight smile and sunken eyes, as if remembering what it feels like to hurt.

“You know, you remind me of someone I used to know. Someone who cried at all of the stupidest little things and refused to hurt others, just kept on and kept on refusing to take a life, even in self defense.”

*You ask what happened.

“What happened? What do you think? He got killed. Idiot…”

You flinch. He never talks this openly. You’re used to having to parse every cryptic statement and sarcasm-loaded remark, but now… He seems so unguarded. So fragile. You run your hand over his petals gently and he keeps talking. He looks over at the statue to avoid your gaze and tilts his head, as if listening to the music box.

“Worse than that, someone else way more important died in vain because of it. And everything bad that’s happened to the underground since is a result of that naïve philosophy. They all could have been free. All of the suffering, all of the broken hopes and shattered dreams, all of the monsters who have lived and died in the darkness, never to see the sun… It’s all because of that fool who couldn’t hurt anyone. And you know what? That mercy didn’t save anyone, in the end. Not even himself. You…you’re the same. You give and give until there’s nothing left of you and you don’t even realize it’s happening.”

He turns back to you and scoffs.

“Look at you. Soaking wet. Idiot.”

You look at yourself and notice the rain streaming through your hair and soaking your shoulders and back. When you look back, Flowey is gone, leaving you alone with the clear ringing of the music box and the smell of rain.

Notes:

Ah, Flowey. He's not winning any friend of the year awards, but he's being helpful, in his own way. He's had a long time to think about things. Given his history, is it any surprise he's arrived at a "kill or be killed" philosophy? And could he have a point about Frisk?

Take care, everyone, and see you on Thursday!

Chapter 29: Battle Against a Training Hero

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Dogsong-String Player Gamer
Enemy Approaching-String Player Gamer

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You step out of the rain and try to wring out your hair and shirt again. You think about what Flowey said as your fingers work through the dripping strands. You’ve never heard him talk like that before. Flowey has always been cagey about his past, but it makes you wonder if there was a time when he wasn’t… quite the Flowey you know now. If, maybe, there was a time before the resets, a time when he could feel things for others. It raises a lot of questions, but you know better than to press the issue. Flowey isn’t big on exposition unless he’s in the mood. Still, that little glimpse of feeling from him is enough to reaffirm your course. You’re going to free the monsters, for Flowey’s sake, as well as for the friend he lost.

You are tolerably dry now, so you might as well walk into a rainstorm. You tilt your head to listen to the music box, still whirring and ringing gently in the pitter-patter of the rain. It’s a simple melody. It’s amazing how just a handful of repeated notes can evoke such a strong feeling of melancholy and hope. As you listen, you begin to wonder something… It’s probably nothing, but you’ve just had an idea that might be worth backtracking for. You retrace your steps to the piano and, with the melody still in your head, pick out the notes on the keys. It’s woefully out of tune, but you can tell you’ve done something right when there is a loud snap and click behind the wall. The stone slowly shifts away to reveal a hidden door. This is it!

You race into the hidden room and your eye is drawn to a pedestal at the back displaying a round, glistening, fiery red orb. This must be the legendary treasure Doggo spoke of, the one with power to rival a human SOUL. You cautiously edge forward. What could it be? Some sort of weapon, or magical artifact? Personally, you hope it’s a suitable human SOUL substitute, but that might be a little farfetched. You can see your reflection in the orb as you draw near. You carefully lift the orb from its pedestal. It’s weighty, and it feels good in the hand—perfect for throwing. You run your fingers over the slick, polished surface. You would like to say you can feel the power radiating from this legendary artifact, but really, it just strikes you as a good-quality rubber ball. You drop it on the floor and it bounces back to your hand with a satisfying plonk-boing. Still, it wouldn’t be here sealed away in this room if it didn’t have a purpose, so you decide to take it with you. Maybe Flowey will know what it does. And who knows? This could be exactly what you’ve been looking for. You sling your bag around your shoulder and unzip it, but you are startled to see a pair of beady eyes staring out at you. Then, a fluffy white head emerges from the bag. Pasta dog?

Before you can even begin to process the many questions ringing in your head—what, how, when, where, why???—the dog pops out of your bag and absorbs the legendary artifact resting on your outstretched hand. Your own legendary reflexes fail you completely as the dog yips and bounces away merrily. You stand there like a goober staring at your empty hand for about five seconds. Okay. So that’s a thing that happened. You quickly work through your bewilderment, then sigh and re-zip your bag, not before peeking your head inside to check that there aren’t any other dogs in there. Somehow the bag doesn’t feel any lighter than before. Well, that was a bust, but at least it was entertaining?

You shake your head and return to the path. You smile at the statue again as you pass, then take another red umbrella from the bucket. The rain picks up almost immediately, and you listen to the drops drumming above your head as you follow the narrow hallway. Trickles of water stream down the cave walls and feed glassy puddles along the path. Somewhere in the distance the wind is howling. Pistons from the water-pumping machine rumble, and it almost feels like walking through a summer thunderstorm.

You think you hear a sniffling sound and you glance around. You come to the opening of a little alcove and stop as you recognize the monster kid huddled there on the ground, wiping his eyes with his tail. Your eyes meet and you stand there frozen, one foot forward. His breath catches and his eyes widen. You stare at each other in silence for a long moment, the only movement coming from the raindrops dribbling from the edges of your umbrella. Finally, he breaks eye contact and buries his face in his knees.

“Just go away.”

You shuffle back and forth on your feet. So that’s it. Maybe this is for the best. If he hangs back, you’ll only have to worry about Undyne now. It would really make things easier on you. But…

You crouch down next to him.

“What are you staring at?! I said go away!”

His yell would be intimidating if it didn’t end with a hiccup.

*You ask if he’s going to fight you.

“What’s the point?”

*You say you thought he was pretty cool when he was chasing you earlier.

“Now you’re just making fun of me.”

*You say you aren’t, that he almost got you with that huge whirlpool.

“I did? I-I mean, yeah, dude, that was pretty cool. But I messed it up again, just like I always do.”

He raises his head and you see his puffy red eyes. You’ve been there before. How many times have you been there before?

*You say that you’ve messed up a lot of things too, that it’s taken you a long time to find the skills and confidence you have now. You say that you’ve fallen a lot, but you’re only here now because you always get up again, and you think he’s done the same.

“R-really? I mean, I guess so… I’ve, like, worked really hard to get here. I’m totally stronger than I was, but it just seems like it’s never enough, you know?”

*You ask him what his goal is.

“Well, I want to be a hero like Undyne! Someone who people look up to!”

*You say you think that’s pretty inspiring.

“You do?! Well, yeah! I guess so!”

*You ask him what makes a hero.

“Well, like, the hero beats up the bad guy.”

That doesn’t really bode well for you, but you appreciate the enthusiasm.

“And heroes are super brave. And a hero… a hero never gives up!”

He springs to his feet, and you stand up too.

“So I’m not gonna give up, either!”

*You say that you’re glad.

“You ready, dude? Because we’re gonna fight now!”

You were kind of hoping he wouldn’t take that to its logical conclusion, but oh well. You twirl your umbrella and the raindrops fly off in a halo around you, then you snap it closed and brandish the umbrella in one hand and Stickolas in the other.

*You say that you’re ready, and you won’t hold back!

“Yeah, dude! No holding back!”

You are drawn into battle. You take a moment to observe the monster kid standing before you. His tail flicks back and forth as his narrowed pupils follow your every movement. Raindrops trail down his slick yellow scales, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He’s confident, he’s ready to show you what he’s got, and he isn’t going to let anyone stand in his way.

He swishes his tail back and forth and several tail-shaped bullets flick toward you. They’re fast and erratic, and it takes quick feet to skid out of their reach and hop over the spike-studded tips. A couple of them are put out of commission when they get tangled up with each other, but overall it’s a competent attack. The turn ends and he looks to you for approval.

*You give him a thumbs up and say that was a cool attack.

“Thanks! It’s your turn, dude.”

Oh yeah. Normal fighting usually involves both people attacking.

*You shrug and say that fighting is fun, but you don’t really do attacks.

“Oh. Um, how are we gonna know who wins, then?”

*You say when you spar with friends, you usually do three rounds to see if they can hit you or not.

“Cool! We can do that! I only have three attacks anyway, haha. Okay, round two!”

He scrunches up his face in concentration and you bend your knees slightly. He flings a scattershot pattern of water drop bullets at you. You were expecting one like this. The water drops spread out and fill the air and you race through the gaps between them. This attack isn’t as structured as some of the similar patterns you’ve seen, but the unpredictability is actually an advantage for him. It takes some snap judgments, but you manage to weave between the crooked rows of bullets. As they splash against the walls and floor they break into smaller droplets and ricochet back at you. Okay, that’s pretty impressive. The fine misting probably wouldn’t do much damage, but it’s going to be hard to avoid. You step out of the way of the larger clusters and pin your arms to your sides to squeak between the others. The turn ends.

*You tell him that was a really good one.

His look of fierce concentration breaks for a moment as he grins.

“Thanks! I’ve been practicing that one. Okay, the next one is, like, my signature move. You ready?”

You get into position and give him a thumbs up.

“Okay! Here I go!”

He swishes his tail back and forth and sends a couple of shockwaves screaming toward you, and you have to leap out of the way to avoid them. It’s simple, but a strong attack. A couple more swishes of his tail keep you on your toes and you dash out of the way. He pauses to wind up, then executes a full tail sweep, creating one last, full shockwave spanning from wall to wall. And this one is glowing orange. You only have a second to recall what your friends have told you about this kind of magic. Against every instinct, you run into the bullet. You suck in a sharp breath as you make contact, but it phases through you painlessly. An unexpected twist, but it was cool to see orange magic in action. The kid stands up straight and nods in satisfaction.

*You tell him that was really neat, and you’ve never seen orange magic before.

“Yeah, I like that one! It’s weird, though…”

*You ask if something is wrong.

“No, it’s just…Lately when I’ve practiced that attack, it feels like I could do more with it. Like, I’m missing something and maybe I could push my magic a little more? It felt super weird this time. I dunno.”

*You ask if he wants to try it again.

“Can I? Oh! But that was three turns already, wasn’t it?”

*You say you don’t mind.

“Thanks! Just give me a second, then.”

He closes his eyes and you can see little nervous twitches in his tail. He takes a few deep breaths, crouches into position, then spins in a powerful sweep. The shockwave flies from his tale again, glowing bright orange. You run through the bullet. It still doesn’t hurt, but something definitely felt different about it this time. Like there was more power or…authority behind it somehow? He opens his eyes.

“Yeah, that felt better, but I don’t know what—dude! DUDE! Look, you’re—you’re!!”

You look down and nearly jump out of your skin. Your SOUL is orange now!

“Whoa! Did I do that?! What does it do?”

You have no idea. You’ve discussed orange magic with your friends before, but apparently it’s been long enough since a monster has been proficient in it that it’s hard to get information on how it works. You are eager to take it for a test drive now that you’re seeing it in person.

*You quickly tell him to do another attack.

“Right! I’m doing the water drop one, okay?”

He summons a small batch of water drop bullets, but in his excitement they just shoot toward you in a blob instead of an even pattern. You step to the side, but the droplets curve in their path and continue toward you. You spare him a quick glance. His confusion is evident.

“Uh, I’m not making them do that.”

You step to the other side, but the bullets curve to follow you again. The closer they get, the more they converge, until they form one oversized water bullet streaming toward you. Okaaaay. Time to move. You run a wide arc around it, but it changes direction effortlessly. You’ve faced homing bullets before, but they usually don’t turn this easily. This one is following you like a lost puppy. You run a few laps around the arena, but the massive bullet continues to chase you with alarming persistence. Uh, it’s going to break down eventually, right?

“Haha…I’m not in control that thing. Uhhhh….”

You don’t think you like the orange SOUL very much. There has to be some advantage or gimmick to it, right? The blue SOUL at least made your jumping floaty. You really wish you had some background knowledge for this thing. You can sense the bullet zeroing in on you. Then you feel your SOUL pulse, and you look down to see it flicker back to red. Without a second thought you hit the deck and the now directionless bullet whooshes overhead. That was a little closer than you would have liked. You and the monster kid watch as the bullet flies down the hallway and crashes somewhere out of sight with a big splash. That’s enough of that. You SPARE him and the battle ends.

He stares into space with wide eyes until you break the silence.

*You shout that that was awesome!

He snaps out of his reverie and a huge grin crosses his face.

“YEAH! THAT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME! I’ve never done that before! I didn’t know I could do that! I couldn’t hold it for very long, but like, you were totally orange for a minute! Aw man, I can’t wait to tell Undyne!”

He dances around excitedly.

“Oh! And you were pretty cool too, dude! I didn’t know people could dodge like that! I guess humans really are tough. So you win this one!”

*You tell him that it was a good fight, and he should be proud that he learned something new.

He stands up straight. His eyes are still glassy from crying, but there is a confident gleam in them now.

“Yeah…yeah! I guess I did. I wasn’t strong enough to stop you this time, but a hero never gives up! Um, so thanks for reminding me of that. You’re not so bad, for a human. I guess you’re going that way?”

You pop open your umbrella again and lift it overhead. You look between him and the path and see the unspoken question in his eyes.

*You say your umbrella is big enough for two if he’s going the same way.

Without a word he trots to your side and you set off down the rainy path together.

Notes:

How does fighting work? How do enemies work? Eh, let's be friends instead.

See you next week!

Chapter 30: Reflections

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Quiet Water-String Player Gamer

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The austere tunnel rings with laughter as you and the monster kid walk through the torrential rain, umbrella held close. You see glances of your distorted faces reflected up at you as you crash through the dark puddles. The umbrella is really just a novelty at this point, but neither of you seem to care. You run and jump into a big one and he laughs as he’s caught in the ensuing tsunami.

“Yo, nice one! Haha!! Man, I still can’t believe I can do magic like that. I wish I knew what it did though, besides making the bullets chase you. It’s supposed to do something else, right?”

*You say you don’t know, but you did feel the magic coursing through you, like it was giving you some kind of power. Or maybe, you add, that was just the adrenaline as you were running for your life.

“Haha, yeah, sorry about that! Well, Undyne’s good at magic, I’m sure she’ll be able to help me figure it out. So, are you new here? I’ve never seen you around before.”

*You say you’ve lived in the underground for a few years, but this is the first time you’ve been to Waterfall.

“For real? Cool! Waterfall’s the best. Snowdin is great too, though, that’s where my family and I live. Heads up!”

He jumps into another puddle and uses his tail to sling a wave straight into your face. He looks a little apologetic as you stumble backward and splutter, but then you double over and laugh until it’s hard to breathe and he joins in. Eventually you compose yourself and shake the water out of your hair.

*You ask if he wants some candy.

“Really? Yeah, thanks dude! Just toss it!”

You dig the last two pieces of monster candy out of your bag, unwrap one, and flick it into his mouth. You pop the other into your mouth and savor the sour-sweet flavor as you walk. He speaks again, garbling his words around the candy.

“So, uh, you’re from the surface, right? What’s it like?”

Where do you even start?
*You say it’s really big and full of cities and people, and lots of cool places like forests, grasslands, deserts, mountain ranges, and oceans. You say there are all kinds of plants and animals that you can’t find here. And then there’s the sky. Sometimes it’s full of fluffy white clouds, sometimes it’s clear and blue, sometimes it’s lit with oranges and pinks and reds, but it’s always beautiful. During the day the sun fills the Earth with warmth and light, and at night you can see the pale moon and hosts of twinkling stars.

He leans in with rapt attention.

“Whoooaaa. That’s amazing. I hope I can see it one day. Do you—do you miss it?”

*You say the underground is like home to you because you have lots of friends and family here, but yes. You do miss the surface sometimes. You say there are a lot of great things here that you’ve never seen on the surface, though.

“Yeah, I guess we have some special stuff too. Seeing rain must be really weird for you, huh?”

*You say you have rain up there too.

“Wha? But you don’t have a ceiling! Where does the water drip from?”

*You briefly explain how the water cycle works.

You’re glad Mom hasn’t skimped on your science education. His eyes go wide as saucers.

“No way! You have boiled sky water? METAL!”

Uh, close enough.

*You say it is pretty cool.

You continue to chat and skip through puddles. Cattails in the marsh dance in the pattering rain, and a lonely echo flower in the distance heeds your words. It’s been a long time since you’ve spent time around another kid your age. It’s nice.

*You ask how long he’s been Undyne’s apprentice.

“About a year now! I’ve learned all kinds of cool stuff, she’s the best! She probably seems pretty scary to you, but she’s actually super nice when you get to know her. She’s a big deal in the underground. She knows all of the other important monsters too. The king, the royal scientist, the Hammer of Justice… she’s even friends with the Great Papyrus!”

*You say you’re friends with Papyrus too.

“Whaaat? Lucky! He’s, like, my other idol! A super underrated idol. He’s so cool! He hangs out with Undyne a lot, but I’ve never talked to him myself.”

*You say Papyrus is pretty great, and you can introduce them sometime.

“Really? Awesome! I wonder if he needs an apprentice? Oh! There’s something really cool up ahead I want to show you, so close your eyes. You can hold onto my tail.”

You do what he says and let yourself be tugged along the path. The rain gradually dies out and you can feel the space open up around you. A pleasantly warm, humid breeze drifts across your skin. He stops and angles you to the side.

“Okay, you can look now.”

You open your eyes and gasp. After the tight cloisters of the rest of Waterfall, this part of the cavern opens into a massive chamber, dwarfing you and the monster kid by your side. A subterranean lake stretches before you in a gradient of blues and greens and purples. Far beyond it, glowing faintly in the darkness, the city of New Home stretches toward the cavern roof, its smaller buildings clustered around a pale blue castle topped by conical spires and lined in stone parapets like a fairytale castle. Dozens of gems sparkle in the ceiling above like crown jewels, casting a soft light on the underground below. There it is. The end of your journey. It’s still a long way off, but for the first time you truly see, and comprehend, the magnitude of this kingdom. You and the monster kid stand silhouetted against the splendor of the view for a long time, keeping a reverent silence between you. Then, wordlessly, you both turn and continue along the path, the view remaining in your mind’s eye as you disappear into another enclosed tunnel. You stand close as the rain picks up again.

“So, that was Mr. Dreemurr’s castle. It’s really something, huh?”

*You say it really is. You ask if he’s ever met the king.

“Oh, for sure! He walks around the underground all the time, everyone knows him. He even comes to our school sometimes! He’s a really nice guy. I know he declared war on humanity and stuff, but like, that was for the mean ones. You’re pretty nice, so I’m sure he’ll make an exception for you.”

You wish you were as confident, but it’s reassuring to hear from yet another monster how nice the king is. You reach another bucket of umbrellas and pause.

“Oh, speaking of, um, that stuff, I wonder what we should do about Undyne… I’m pretty sure she’s still set on skewering you. She doesn’t know you aren’t one of the bad humans yet.”

*You say you would really rather not be skewered.

“Yeah…Well, when we see her again, maybe I can talk to her! I’ll tell her we’re…I mean, um…I don’t think we can be friends since you’re, like, a human and I’m sort of in the Royal Guard. It’s kind of a rule, I think.”

You lower your eyes. You were really hoping you could be friends, but you suppose you understand…

“But we aren’t really enemies anymore either, right? So I’ll tell her we’re whatever not-friend-not-enemies are and maybe she’ll rethink. But, um, you might want to be prepared if that doesn’t change her mind. She’s kind of been in a bad mood lately. Something about trouble with a friend? I don’t know the details, but she seems pretty upset. And when she’s upset, she gets stabby. So yyyeah. But I’ll see what I can do!”

*You thank him and say you really appreciate that.

“Hey, no problem! That’s what not-friend-not-enemies are for! Oh! Here’s that ledge. I always forget that’s here.”

Just a few steps ahead, the path ends at a sheer ledge. That’s quite a design choice.

*You ask if there’s a way up.

“They’ve always meant to put a ladder or some stairs here, but they never get around to it. There’s a way up if you hop into that lake and swim up a little waterfall.”

He must notice your panicked expression, because he quickly follows up.

“Don’t worry, though, I can just give you a boost up the cliff! Then I can join up later. That’ll probably be easier.”

He trots over to the base of the cliff. You fold up the umbrella and return it to the bucket, then join him. He crouches down slightly.

“Just climb onto my shoulders.”

You gently climb up, reach for the ledge, and pull yourself over.

*You thank him for the boost.

“No problem! You go on ahead, I’ll meet up with you later! See ya!”

He runs off, trips, and nearly face plants, but he manages to tuck into a ball and he pinwheels away. You continue onward and the hallway begins to darken. A faint glow on the wall catches your eye and you are drawn to more plaques.

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

It’s a painful reminder of the past. You can hardly blame the monsters for being leery of you. Still, you know the power you wield as a human can be used for good instead of evil. As you tilt your head, you can just make out the serene sound of a distant music box. You let the gentle melody wash over you, filling you with determination, before turning and marching on into the darkness.

Frisk the GOAT - Confused_Squirrel (1)

Notes:

That moment when you walk out and see the castle against the blue background and starry ceiling is one of my favorite visual moments of the game. It's daunting to see the size of the underground and your end goal looming ahead of you, but also kind of comforting to have MK at your side as you go. And it's just pretty. I had a marker drawing of the scene on the mini whiteboard in my room for a while.

Well, see you around!

Chapter 31: Friends from Above and Fire from Below

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Run!-Scruffy

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You only manage a few steps before a little speck of movement catches your eye. Something tiny floats down from the ceiling, swinging from side to side across your path. You squint and realize it’s a little brown spider with white markings hovering from a silk strand. She waves her arms and you lean in to hear her soft, whispery voice.

“Salutations, human!”

*You greet her in return.

“We have been expecting you. Our sisters in the Ruins telegrammed to say you would be headed our way. It is such a pleasure to finally meet you! We spiders have been instructed to give you a warm welcome should you come our way, and to ensure your safe passage.”

Wow! You knew you were something of a VIP customer at the spider bake sale in the Ruins, but you had no idea their favor stretched this far.

*You thank her and ask what you did to earn such an honor.

“Oh, we know all about you, human. You buy our sisters’ donuts, you rescue them from dangerous spots, and you allow them to occupy the prime corners of your bedroom ceiling. You have proven yourself to be a friend to spiders. And we like to take care of our friends.”

She gives you a four-eyed wink.

“Now, the matter at hand is this: you are about to enter a run-down boardwalk. Goodness knows what the architects were thinking, but it is an utter maze, and quite treacherous in places. Therefore I propose to guide you to the other side, where my sisters are working to mend a broken dead-end for you to cross.”

*You say that would be very helpful.

“Excellent! Then, if I may have your shoulder, let us be off.”

You step forward and let her descend from her strand onto your shoulder. You brush your hair out of the way, and once she’s settled you set off again.

*You say you didn’t know they had a bake sale branch in Waterfall.

“Alas, our attempts to start one have met with limited success. The clientele aren’t interested in soggy donuts, and it seems impossible to find a good location here where we aren’t washed out of the proverbial waterspout every time there’s a rainy day. That is why we’ve set up on the board walk. It’s dry enough, but we don’t get much foot traffic.”

*You say that’s too bad, and the monsters of Waterfall are missing out.

The ambient light continues to fade, and by the time you hear the rotting boards creaking beneath your feet it is almost totally dark. In the gloom you can just make out a tangle of paths criss-crossing in the darkness. You creep to the edge and swallow a lump in your throat as you peer over. There’s another set of boardwalks below this one, but beyond that is a gaping, bottomless pit. You kick a fragment of a broken plank off the side and listen for several gut-wrenching seconds before you hear a plonk in the unseen water below. As you keep walking you feel a strange urge to muffle your footsteps and quiet your breathing. It’s too quiet here. Too still. Something more than humidity tingles in the air, the shadows coil around you like a snake, and you don’t think it’s your eight-legged friend that’s sending a creeping, shivering feeling across your skin. She’s here.

It’s at that moment of realization that your eyes sting with the sudden flash of neon blue lights around your feet. Two spots, four, six—you step away from them as the air hums and magic spears shoot up from the glowing spotlights. The unmistakable clank of metal armor rings from the boardwalk below you, and every apprehensive thought and twitching muscle in your body converges into one command: run. You bolt forward as more spotlights glow ahead of you. You veer perilously close to the edge of the path to avoid them and the spears tear through the air as you race past. The spider on your shoulder twists around to see where the attack is coming from.

“Goodness, who is the one in the armor rampaging about?”

*You say that would be Captain Undyne.

“And what reason does she give for this unseemly conduct?”

*You say she would very much like to rip out your human SOUL.

“Is that all? No decorum whatsoever. We shall simply have to outmaneuver her.”

She flattens herself on your shoulder and you can sense her keen, beady eyes searching through the darkness for the path.

“Look sharp, human, you’ll need to follow this winding path and continue on straight at the first intersection.”

You nod in response and run through another patch of spotlights as spears jut up behind you. A tumult of clanging, buzzing, creaking, and splintering fills the air and your heart pounds. You skid around the sharp corners to keep as much momentum as possible. More sets of spotlights light up and you hop, skip, slide, and race through the gaps in between them. A pair of them light up just before and behind you and you lurch to a stop on your tiptoes as they fire. The malice radiating from them makes the ends of your hair frizzle like static electricity. You spare a glance to your spider friend, and even her little hairs are standing on end. You wish she wasn’t caught up in this too. You run forward again, and as your path passes over the one below you spot Undyne marching along it, angling for a better position, yellow eye gleaming. Somehow the spider keeps an even voice as she directs you.

“Pass this intersection—then right—now left—now right again, and follow this path as far as you can before you have to turn left again.”

You follow her instructions, noticing the alarming number of dead ends and false paths you would have to navigate if it weren’t for her. A group of spotlights appears and you pause to let them fire, then you race past the next set before they can materialize. Your initial wave of terror passes, fading to a steady hum of adrenaline and focus. A small smile twitches on your lips. It’s just clicked. You have the rhythm now. And even as the rounds of bullets speed up, you know just what to do. Step into the gap, hang behind, run ahead, back up, fake step onto a wrong path to draw her attention then run back to the real one. You hang a left and it’s a straight shot forward.

“Excellent, now follow this to the end and turn left, but mind the gaps.”

The path here has several gaps where boards have rotted away, so you’ll need to be even more careful here. Undyne’s boardwalk runs parallel to your own, giving her an unimpaired line of sight. You take a quick breath before you lurch forward, out of the way of a buzzing spear. As you run you snake left and right to avoid the spears, but you can’t afford to lose your momentum completely if you’re going to jump these gaps. You reach the first one and hop over it lightly. You don’t like the shrill squeak the boards make as you land, but you can’t dwell on it. Undyne’s attacks are getting faster now. She pulses nonstop rounds of spears as you run for the next, wider gap and leap. As soon as your weight hits the board on the other side it snaps, and your stomach lurches into your throat as you reach forward and snag the ledge. The board flexes under your fingers, but holds as you dangle there. In your dizzy vision you can see Undyne swat the falling debris away and materialize another spear over her shoulder. Her piercing eye is right on you.

Not good. Very, very not good. You don’t have time to pull yourself up. You look up and see the bottom of the boardwalk stretching out before you. It’s lined with horizontal support beams. Support beams within a very reachable distance. You suck in a deep breath, loose one hand from its death grip, reach for the next beam, and swing just as a spear plunges into the wood where you were hanging a moment earlier. You use your momentum to swing to the next beam, then the next. It’s just like monkey bars. Deadly monkey bars on a rotting wooden structure with a bottomless pit and spear bullets. You are never telling Mom about this.

“Good thinking, human. See if you can pull yourself up at the end of this path.”

You move through the next few beams, trusting your swings to keep you out of reach of the spears. You can feel the growing frustration in the bullets whizzing past you. The end is in sight, but you’re going to need a few seconds to scramble back onto the platform. How are you going to earn those precious few seconds? As you reach the end you dangle from one arm and swivel to face Undyne. It’s not humble, it’s not particularly dignified, but you look her in the eye and stick your tongue out at her.

That does the trick. The sheer gall makes her pause in shock, and in the three seconds it takes for her to process her rage you manage to swing forward, hook your leg over the edge, and roll back onto moderately-solid ground.

“Wonderfully done! Now to get my bearings—yes, turn right here, follow it to the end, turn left, then run to the far side of the large platform.”

You make a break for it as Undyne’s mind catches up with her fury and a flurry of spears stabs through the boardwalk. You don’t know how it’s still standing at this point. You make the turns and find yourself on a much wider, open platform. Half of it lights up with spotlights and you race between the precious few blank spots. The air crackles with magic, each volley of spears screaming through the planks of wood faster and more violently than the last. The end of the platform is in sight. The air burns in your lungs. Just a few more steps—you narrowly jump through a row of spears and race onto the unbranching boardwalk ahead. A few spears chase after you, but more slowly. You spare a glance back and see that Undyne has reached the end of her own boardwalk. You’re about to be out of range. You slip between a few more desperate spears, then the air goes silent. You keep running as fast as your legs will carry you until you reach a dead end.

There’s a cute wooden stall at the end of the pier with a spider bake sale sign. A group of spiders toils away on some spider silk structure reaching from the edge of the platform into the darkness beyond. You plant your hands on your knees and breathe heavily while the spider on your shoulder waves her arms and calls out to the others.

“What’s our status, Shelob? We have a splenetic teleost in pursuit!”

A sleek black spider glides along her silk strand toward you.

“Working on it, Char, but this is a large gap! How heavy is the human, do you think?”

“I should say about eighty pounds, yes?”

Soaking wet as you are, that’s probably about right. You nod. Shelob considers for a moment.

“This will take us some time.”

“We don’t have the luxury, I’m afraid.”

“Understood. Girls! Forget the full rope ladder, we’re making one solid tightrope to the other side!”

A dozen spiders turn and salute, then scramble to rework their craft. They are nothing if not resourceful and efficient. You don’t know how long it will take Undyne to find a way up, but—you whip around, every muscle tense as you hear footsteps rushing toward you. The startled yell bubbling up in your throat relaxes into a loud sigh and you sag to rest your hands on your knees again as you recognize the yellow monster bounding up to you.

“Yo! There you are! I saw the spears going everywhere and figured I would find you somewhere in the middle of it. I guess you found Undyne, huh?”

*You say it was more like she found you. And that he almost gave you a heart attack.

“Whoops, sorry! You good?”

You straighten up and nod. It was little closer than you would have liked, but somehow you seem to have come through unscathed. For the moment.

“Good. Maybe I should go find her and—”

The thought is interrupted as several spears plunge into the floor a few feet away. Clanking footsteps follow and Undyne comes into view. Your SOUL trembles in your chest. Now that nothing stands in the shortening gap between you, you suddenly realize how tall she is. Her red hair sways behind her and she raises her arm slowly. The blue spear that materializes in her hand illuminates the polished metal of her armor and casts jagged shadows around her form. Her yellow eye bores into you.

“Oh! There she is! Hi Undyne!”

Undyne flinches and jerks her head toward the monster kid. The spear dissolves into nothing. She raises her arms in a “what the heck are you doing here” sort of gesture and the kid interrupts before she can speak.

“Hhhheyyy, Undyne. I know you said to go home, buuuut. But I fought the human anyway? Haha….Funny how that happened.”

Her posture tenses and the kid starts to sweat. He shuffles to stand sort of in front of, sort of beside you. At least he’s partially blocking you from any spear she might decide to conjure. You’ll take it.

“And, um. I was sort of thinking, you know…This human’s actually not that bad, and…”

Undyne sweeps her arm to the side in a gesture that commands, in no uncertain terms, for him to step away from you. He inches away from you slightly and fidgets in place, trying to decide whether to follow orders or stand his ground. He glances rapidly between you and Undyne. You stand frozen.

“And, like, we were talking about it, and we decided maybe we weren’t exactly enemies, and, um. D-do you think, Undyne, that maybe we could, I mean… Captain, after all, you did always say our mission is to fight bad guys, but I don’t think this one IS a bad guy, so, maybe we don’t have to—”

Undyne takes a few pounding steps forward. The kid inches a little further away from you and gives a wobbly laugh.

“Haha, you’re the captain of course, but, um, I just think that, I…”

The sentence dies out and he sends you a brief, guilty look. A pang shoots through your chest. You understand. You really do. This is his hero, and his mentor. You know it can’t be easy for him to stand against her. But you had kind of hoped…no, you can’t ask anyone else to solve this for you. This is your battle to fight. And it looks like you’re about to fight it. You slowly shift into a fighting position.

*You say that you don’t have to be enemies, that you don’t mean any harm.

Her piercing yellow eye sends a shiver through your SOUL.

*You say that you know monsters and humans can be friends. That you want to help break the barrier, that there has to be another way besides…well…

Undyne suddenly stops in her tracks and looks down. For a fleeting moment you think your words have had an effect, but then a tremor runs through the boards under your feet and you realized why she’s stopped. The whole structure wobbles visibly, and for a second you can see a very clear line between Undyne, on solid ground, and the rest of you on a quivering pile of matchsticks. This structure was old and badly maintained in the first place, and it absolutely can’t handle the spears and stomping. It’s going to give. Undyne backs up, slowly, and gestures for the monster kid to walk toward her. You’re completely forgotten as her entire focus shifts to him. He starts to walk slowly toward safety, and you fall in line behind him. You can hear the spiders whispering furiously behind you.

“Char! Charlotte! What do we do?!”

“Keep your heads, ladies. Everyone below deck, we’re going to our contingency plan.”

She taps on your shoulder.

“Take heart, human. We have your back.”

You nod slightly, as if any bigger motion could send the whole thing crashing down. She slips off your shoulder and floats to the floor, then disappears between the planks with the other spiders. You and the monster kid both continue to edge forward, but stop as the planks shudder and whine beneath you. You can feel the platform slide backward a few inches, and a small gap forms between you and Undyne.

“Oh, wow, we’re really high up, aren’t we? Haha…”

Undyne beckons to him again, stiffly, but a little more gently, you think. You both slowly, slowly creep toward safety. Even if you make it to solid ground, you don’t know how you’re going to get past her. You can only hope she doesn’t notice you. Still, despite the beating of your heart, you won’t lose hope. The kid glances over his shoulder to make sure you’re following behind and you give him a slight nod. You’re only a couple of feet away now. Undyne reaches toward the monster kid slowly. You both flinch at the loud crack that splits the air, but keep moving. You have to keep moving. Just a little bit further—but it’s too late. The platform quakes and pitches backward, and you only have an instant to react. You plant both hands on your friend’s back and shove him as hard as you can into Undyne’s arms. Then the floor drops out beneath you and the air is ripped from your lungs as you hurtle down, down, down, and the darkness engulfs you.

Notes:

Hey, you can't say I left you on a cliffhanger. There's no cliff to hang from.
Anyway, be nice to the little spiders hanging out in the corner, and see you next week!

Chapter 32: Down in the Dumps

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Memory-Samantha Ballard

Chapter Text

Everything hurts. You clench the etiolated grass in your fists and listen to your hitched breaths echo off the jagged cave walls. You don’t know where you are. You don’t even know how you’re alive. You push yourself up onto your elbows, shoulders quaking from the effort, and try to survey the scene through bleary eyes. The patch of grass you’ve landed on is surrounded by crumbling stone ruins with a purplish tint, and the cave’s only light streams from the hole far, far above your head. It looks like this place has been long abandoned. You try to stand but crumple back to the ground immediately. You hiss through your teeth and try to take inventory of your injuries. Everything is battered and bruised, at least one wrist is broken, and although you can’t twist around to look, heat pulses through one swollen ankle. Still, despite the pain and your flagging strength, you force yourself to your elbows again and look for a way out. You’ll limp, you’ll crawl if you have to, but you won’t stay here. Despite everything, your determination pulls you forward. But you won’t make it far in this state. You need…you need…

The voice that isn’t yours cries out for help, echoing painfully off the walls before fading into silence. Idiot. Stupid idiot! You can’t imagine that anyone else would be in this place to hear you. And even if they were, no one would come. Not for you.

“It sounds like it came from over here…”

You look up sharply. The voice sounds like a child’s. It’s soft and gentle. A boy in a striped sweater stands before you. You strain to see him through the sweaty bangs matted against your face and your hazy vision. As soon as he spots you he runs toward you.

“Oh! You’ve fallen down, haven’t you…Are you okay?”

You would think it’s fairly obvious that you aren’t, but the rebuke in your throat comes out as a strangled groan.

He kneels down beside you and offers you a hand. Or is that a paw? It’s true, then, what the people say about this mountain. About the monsters.

“Here, get up…”

You begin to reach out, but draw back your hand. No, this could be a trick. But even if it is…it’s not like you can defend yourself right now. He tilts his head at you and smiles. His eyes seem…kind. No, you know better than to trust him, but you’re out of options at this point. You reach out and take his hand. It’s soft. He slowly, gently pulls you to your feet. One of your ankles is indeed sprained, but you can deal with it for now. He pulls your good arm around his shoulders and supports your weight as a wave of dizziness passes over you. Once you’re steadier, you let him guide you away from the patch of grass, toward a narrow tunnel.

Why is he helping you? He doesn’t know you. He has every reason to hate humans—you would understand that feeling. So why? It could still be a trick, but…looking into his face, you somehow doubt it. The voice manages to say a few shaky words and the boy tilts his head thoughtfully.

“Chara, huh? That’s a nice name. My name is—”

Ringing fills your ears and an overwhelming floral scent clogs your nose. You’re lying on something soft. You flex your fingers and feel velvety petals. You sit up slowly and wait for the dizziness to pass. What…? Right. You’re in Waterfall. You took another fall, a big one this time. You stretch out your limbs, and miraculously, it feels like nothing is hurt. Although your sweater is covered in sticky cobwebs. But how…? Ah, you’ve landed on a patch of flowers. They’re large and golden, just like the ones in the Ruins you landed on years ago. You’re fortunate these ones were here to break your fall. There was nothing to break Chara’s fall…

You shake your head and your mind starts to clear, but your ears are still ringing—no, that’s your phone, isn’t it? You try to brush the sticky yellow pollen off your hands and you dig your phone out of your bag.

“OH! THERE YOU ARE, HUMAN! I WASN’T SURE YOU WERE GOING TO PICK UP!”

You pull the phone away from your ear a bit as Papyrus’s voice blares through the speaker.

*You say hi.

“I’M GLAD I GOT YOU! I HAVE BEEN THINKING! IT OCCURS TO ME THAT UNDYNE MIGHT NOT BE IN THE MOST SPECTACULAR OF MOODS AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT! AFTER ALL, SHE HAS PROBABLY BEEN MISSING MY COMPANY… AND IT SOUNDS LIKE SHE’S BEEN CHASING BAD GUYS ALL DAY! WHEN SHE GETS FRUSTRATED HER MOOD CAN BE A LITTLE… STABBY. SO! I THINK MAYBE YOU SHOULD NOT TALK TO HER RIGHT NOW, EVEN IF YOU SEE HER AROUND.”

*You say you think he has the right idea.

“IT’S A GOOD THING YOU HAVE A FRIEND LIKE THE GREAT PAPYRUS TO WARN YOU OF THESE THINGS! WHERE ARE YOU, ANYWAY?”

You take a moment to look around. Outside the perimeter of your little flower patch is a long corridor filled with water. A few broken boards and beams from the platform bob on the surface, and a curtain of water streams down the walls. Several piles of junk huddle in the corner, and underneath the floral scent you catch a whiff of garbage.

*You briefly describe the room to him.

“THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE WATERFALL DUMP! THERE’S SOME NEAT STUFF THERE! AND IT’S NOT FAR FROM UNDYNE’S HOUSE. YOU JUST HAVE TO FOLLOW THE BEND TO THE LEFT, THEN GO NORTH FROM THERE!”

Going anywhere near Undyne’s house sounds like a scary prospect, although you happen to know she isn’t home right now.

*You thank Papyrus for the directions.

“OF COURSE! I KNOW HOW TO GET A FRIEND OUT OF THE DUMPS! … EUGH, I’VE BEEN SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME AROUND MY BROTHER. YOU HAVE TOO, HUMAN! YOU NEED TO ABANDON YOUR PUNNING WAYS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”

*You say you thought that was a good one, and that you’re sorry for driving him crazy with the puns earlier.

“I FORGIVE YOU! MY BROTHER STRUGGLES WITH A LAZY SENSE OF HUMOR TOO, SO I UNDERSTAND. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT YOU AREN’T FUNNY!”

Gee, thanks Papyrus.

“IT STILL WASN’T AS BAD AS THE TIME SANS DECIDED TO COME UP WITH A JOKE FOR EVERY SINGLE BONE IN THE SKELETON. ALL 206 OF THEM. WORST. WEEK. OF MY LIFE.”

You conceal your snicker. That sounds incredible.

*You say you had better get out of the dump, but you’ll talk later.

“OKIE DOKIE! HAVE LOTS OF FUN IN WATERFALL!”

You hang up and hop to your feet. You’re a little stiff, but all things considered, you were lucky. Even with the flowers cushioning your fall, you were lucky the whole pier didn’t crash down on top of you. You look up to where you fell from and you suddenly see why. Just a few feet above you the wreckage from the pier is suspended in midair with spider silk. A speck of brown drifts down toward you and the little spider from before waves her arms.

“Salutations! I am pleased to see you are none the worse for wear, human.”

*You say that must be thanks to her and the other spiders.

“Well, we played our bit. We tried to catch you, but you broke through our webbing. Still, we managed to slow your fall a bit and catch most of the debris.”

*You thank her and the others for helping, and say you would be in much worse shape without them.

“Not at all, dear! But what a to-do that was. And our poor bake sale stand…”

She gestures to the side, and you recognize one of the piles of junk as the former wooden stall.

*You say you’re so sorry that they were caught up in this mess.

“Oh, it isn’t your fault. It was a rubbish location anyway, we’ll set up shop elsewhere. That ill-tempered fish, however, is in need of anger management classes! Who does she think she is, stomping around and throwing those pointy glow sticks at our best customer?”

*You say she thinks she’s the captain of the Royal Guard.

“Well, it’s hardly an excuse! We spiders do not appreciate harassment of our friends. Our boss will be most displeased. Speaking of, would you like us to…”

She leans in and flicks her fangs outward, dropping her voice to a harsh whisper.

…Take care of her?”

Oh. That’s quite an offer. You know full well that the tiny spiders would have no chance against Undyne, and you suspect she does as well, but she’s offering nonetheless. You think she really means it, too. It’s touching, if also a little disturbing.

*You say that won’t be necessary, and you’re going to try to work things out peacefully between you.

“Hmm, very well then. You have more restraint than I. In that case, the girls and I have a mess to clean up and a new bake sale location to scout out. Will you be alright on your own?”

*You say you will.

“I thought so. You seem to know how to handle yourself. Should you need our assistance, you need only call. We have eyes everywhere outside of Snowdin.”

*You thank her again for the help.

She waves goodbye and retreats on her silken strand into the darkness above. Spiders are such creepily loyal friends to have. You try to fluff up the flowers you squished before stepping into the water. You grimace as the murky, pungent water rises above your knees. This isn’t going to be pleasant, but it’s the only way out, so you had better get it over with. And Undyne is probably looking for you by now, so you can’t afford to waste time being squeamish. You trudge onward and try really, really hard to ignore the bits of slimy, plasticky refuse drifting by your legs.

You weave between a few piles of garbage and pause in front of a large waterfall tumbling from some hole impossibly far above you. This one seems to flow from the ceiling of the cavern. Occasionally, a piece of trash will flow through and fall into the bottomless abyss below. Maybe it’s lingering fuzziness from your fall, maybe it’s the stench of garbage making you lightheaded, but as you watch the endless cycle of worthless garbage, you can’t help but feel contemplative. You reach down and fish out a little plastic toy dog bobbing by your feet. You run your thumb over the surface, wiping away the grime. The things in this place are, well, garbage, by human standards. Things no one wants or cares about. But the monsters don’t see them that way. They pick through the heaps to find hidden gems, to mend the broken pieces they see value in, and to repurpose the scraps of outmoded machines. Like with Papyrus’s cookbook, the monsters treasure and appreciate what others have thrown away. You perch the toy dog on a pile where someone can find it. And perhaps it gives you a little hope to think that something discarded by others might someday find a home, might someday find its way to a place where someone is just waiting to love and cherish what falls down. The thought fills you with determination.

Chapter 33: Friendship. Friendship! FRIENDSHIP!

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Dummy!-Gooseworx
Dummy!-RichaadEB
Mad Mew Mew-String Player Gamer-Lionmight

Out of all of the tracks with the Ghost Fight motif, Dummy! is my favorite! If only I knew how to ska dance.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You continue to wade through the dump, admiring the interesting knickknacks peeking out of the piles of junk. In between the mounds of plastic packaging and paper sludge there’s everything from broken toys and faded books to worn out furniture, clothes, and electronics. Some of it really isn’t in too bad of a shape. You honk the horn of a bent up bicycle frame and laugh as it lets out a gargled wheeze. You can’t believe people would throw some of this stuff away. You would love to take more time to look around, if only you had waders and nose plugs. But as it stands, you would rather get out of here as quickly as possible.

You pause in your tracks as cackling laughter reaches your ears. You carefully peer around one of the garbage piles and see a couple of older girls. One is an alligator with yellow curls and a bright pink poncho with a geometric pattern straight out of the 90s. She’s balanced precariously on top of a garbage pile, reaching for a pink plastic case. The other, a purple cat with blue and purple hair highlights and stylishly frayed overalls, is standing at the bottom of the pile, unhelpfully waving her arms around to direct her friend.

“Like, what are you even pointing at, Catty? OMG, that tells me nothing!”

“Like, are you even watching, Bratty? To your left, OMG, just step on that box!”

“I’m just going to, like, reach for it!”

“You are totally going to fall on your butt, girl!”

The alligator leans forward and tries to grab it. Her arms are pretty long, but she’s still a few inches short. The plastic box she’s standing on creaks and slides, and before she can catch herself she tumbles and slides down the pile, landing with a splash in the water. She and the cat look at each other for a moment before breaking into laughter.

“OMG Catty! I totally told you that box wasn’t steady!”

“OMG Bratty! I totally told you you were going to fall!”

You don’t know how they can maintain a conversation when they’re completely talking over each other, but they seem to be managing. They must have been friends for a long time to stay so in sync with each other. They seem friendly, so you emerge from behind the pile and wave when they see you.

“Catty, look at that cute little kid!”

“Bratty! That kid totally blends into the garbage!”

“CATTY OH MY GOSH YOU CAN’T SAY THAT TO PEOPLE!”

“What, I’m right though!”

You do look pretty filthy right now, so you guess you can’t really take offense. The alligator stands up and tries to wring out her soaked poncho.

“Hi! I’m Bratty, and this is my best friend Catty!”

“Hi! I’m Catty, and this is my best friend Bratty!”

“We, like, didn’t know other people came to the dump too!”

“Are you like, looking for cool junk, too? Because this place has the GOOD garbage.”

*You say you just sort of ended up here, but it does seem like there’s some neat stuff.

“Yeah. We get all the stuff we sell here!”

“Whoa, Bratty, trade secrets!”

“Oops, lol! Okay so like, it’s totally your turn to climb up there next, Catty!”

“What? Like, no way! I’m not climbing all the way up there!”

“But you’re a cat! It should totally be easy for you!”

“And you’re an alligator, but that doesn’t mean you’re graceful in the water!”

“OMG Catty!”

“Aw, kidding, bestie! Love you!”

“Love you, bestie!”

They start cackling again.

*You ask them what they were trying to reach on that pile.

“Like, I think it’s a DVD?”

“We don’t know what it is, but we can always sell movies!”

You scan the pile of junk, looking for footholds and steady platforms. If you start with that couch, then climb up to the bookshelf and around to that stack of milk crates…

*You say you think you can get it.

“Wow, we would, like, love you forever!”

“Uh, should we let that kid climb way up there?”

“I’m not going to say no!”

“We are such irresponsible adults! Go for it, trash kid!”

“OMG Catty, you can’t call people that!”

“It’s, like, a term of endearment, Bratty!”

Spurred on by their dubious encouragements, you start to climb the pile, carefully testing each piece of junk before you put your weight on it. You crawl up the slanted back of the couch, scale the bookshelf like a ladder, and use the milk crates like stepping stones until you’re almost to the top. You think the mistake Bratty made was to put her full weight on one box and then lean too far out, so you keep your center of gravity low and try to spread your weight between multiple platforms. You climb onto an old kitchen chair, brace one hand on a mailbox (how did that even get in here?), and reach for the DVD case. Bratty and Catty cheer when you snatch it from the top. You tuck it under one arm and carefully retrace your steps. After everything, it’s not like it would matter if you took one more fall, but you would rather not get dunked in the trash water any more than necessary. You make it back to the bottom in one piece and hop back into the water with a flourish.

“Wow, thanks, kid!”

“You, like, totally made that look easy!”

You hand over the case and you all lean in to get a better look at it. It’s the third movie in a series featuring a pink anime catgirl on the cover. Judging from the date on the back, it looks like a pretty recent release. What a find! Catty and Bratty seem pleased with it.

“Oh, this is like, one of those anime Alphys likes!”

“Score! I think we have this year’s birthday present settled!”

“For sure. Are we the bestest friends ever or what?”

“Totally! She’s going to scream when she sees it!”

*You ask if they mean Dr. Alphys, the royal scientist.

“Yeah! She’s kind of like our cool older sister. We knew her before she was famous!”

“Yeah! We, like, hang out with her sometimes when she’s not too busy.”

“Which isn’t very often.”

“Right? She’s super busy doing her sciencey-technical-nerd stuff.”

“But I’m sure she can take a break to watch this with us. She never says no to anime! Even if she hasn’t had time to hang out much lately.”

“What did she say she’s been working on, Bratty?”

“Um. Something about SOULs? Or was it robots? I forgot.”

“Wasn’t she, like, trying to fix something that got messed up?”

“Oh yeah. She said something like that. I totally zoned out, though, tbh, I didn’t understand half of what she was talking about.”

“Saaaame. Anyway, trash kid, do you want anything from this basket of stuff we’ve picked up? You can take anything you want in return for getting the DVD for us!”

Catty holds out a grocery basket full of goodies rummaged from the dump. You carefully pick through the assorted treasures. You probably don’t need any home decor right now, and although there are some pretty stylish outfits and accessories, you don’t think a disguise is going to do anything to hide you from Undyne at this point. You definitely don’t trust the open bags of junk food. Are they really going to resell that?

“And Catty can totally pierce your ears if you’re into the earrings!”

“Totally, I’ve done it plenty of times! Bratty, why haven’t you ever let me pierce your ears? We could be matching!”

“I don’t have ears, Catty!”

“Oh, right, lol!”

Their cackling laughter resounds through the dump, and you can’t help but join in. It’s a nice offer, but this doesn’t really seem like the most sterile environment for an ear piercing. A bright blue and yellow plastic thing catches your eye and you dig it out. It’s a toy water pistol, marked on the side as a “Super Soaker Hydropower Osmotic Single-Shot Long-Range Pressurized Ray Gusher 2000.” Wow, you don’t know what all of that means, but it sounds like it means business. Stickolas is your favored “weapon” of choice, but it couldn’t hurt to have a long-range option as well, and a water pistol is the perfect sidearm for a pacifist.

*You ask if you can keep the water pistol.

“Sure! Aw, you look so cute with your little water gun!”

“For real! It’s too bad the cowboy hat’s at the shop, you would look totes adorbs in it!”

You open the chamber of your new weapon and fill it up. You’ll need a name for your new weapon. You certainly aren’t going to refer to it as a super soaker hydropower osmotic—you know what? Osmond will do. You sling your bag around your shoulder and put Osmond in one of the umbrella pockets for a quickdraw.

*You say it was really nice to meet them, and you wish them luck on finding good junk.

“You too, little kid! Come by our shop in the alley next to the MTT Resort if you’re around!”

“Yeah! See you around, trash kid!”

You wave goodbye as they make their way further into the dump. That was fun! You never expected to make new friends in a place like this. You continue on, craning your neck back to take in the mounds of garbage towering above. You could almost imagine them as pillars of a great hall, if it weren’t for that overpowering stench. A screechy yowl echoes down the tunnel and you nearly jump out of your skin. You sneak forward slowly and someone else comes into view. She’s a catgirl in a frilly pink dress with golden bells jingling from her cherry pink ears. She looks just like the anime character on the DVD you just saw. Hold up. Is anime… real? Her tail flicks back and forth and her ears twitch in complete concentration. She’s adorable! She’s also beating the stuffing out of some poor training dummy. She lets out another hair-raising yowl and tears into the dummy with her claws. Once some of that rage is vented, she steps back and huffs. You take another cautious step forward, but your sloshing gives you away and she whips around to face you.

“What. What? WHAT?! DON’T YOU KNOW IT’S RUDE TO STARE?!”

*You say you like her dress.

“Oh. Thanks. But I’m. A little busy here. And your face. Looks very punchable right now.”

*You ask what that dummy ever did to her.

“Look, I’m having a DAY, okay?! Some people lie on the floor and feel like garbage, and some people beat up their old bodies for stress relief. I am COPING. So. Scram. Scram! SCRAM!”

Oh. It sounds like she’s having a tough time, so you guess you should leave her alone. Still, it’s a little uncomfortable to see someone beat up on a training dummy that reminds you of your friend Gladys so much. You hope no poor little ghost is inhabiting this one. Wait a second… Cat aesthetics, perpetual angry eyebrows, phrases in threes…

*You ask if she’s Madstablook.

She lowers her eyebrows and bares her teeth.

“Yeah, what’s it to you?! Wait a second… Striped shirt, squinty eyes, goody two-shoes attitude… You’re that human from the Ruins my cousins are always talking about!”

*You say that’s you! You say your name is Frisk, and that you’ve heard all about her from Gladys and Blooky. You ask if you can call her Maddy.

You are drawn into battle. You guess that’s a no. She twists into a cute-yet-deadly pose with one foot pumped behind her and her soft paws coiled in front, ready to sucker punch you.

“We meet at last! AHAHAHAHA!! You don’t stand a chance against me, human! I’ll knock your SOUL right out of that squishy body! Then I’ll take it! Then I’ll go to the surface and live out all of my wildest dreams! … Is what I WOULD say, but apparently my cousins like you for some reason, so I can’t murder you! Do you know how freakin’ MAD that makes me?!”

*Pretty Mad Mew Mew, you offer.

“Livid. Livid! LIVID!”

She pulls out a magic wand and starts zapping cat-shaped bullets at you. You slide to the side to avoid them. You’re not really sure what’s going on here, but you think it’s less of a murder-the-human thing and more of a having-a-bad-day-and-taking-it-out-on-the-nearest-dummy thing.

*You ask if she wants to talk about what’s bothering her.

She scowls even harder.

“Oh, this isn’t about ME! This is, uh, revenge for my poor cousin! Yeah! Did you think you could get away with messing with a Blook? The things you did! The things you said! When you, um—that time you—uh… I don’t have to say it, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!!”

You blink a couple of times. You… really don’t. You won’t claim to be the perfect friend, you’ve done and said things you regretted later, but you really can’t remember any fights with Gladys or Blooky. Well, the justification seems to be enough for Mad Mew Mew, because she conjures up a cat bullet that shoots rainbow lasers at you from its eyes. You run in a circle around it to avoid its sweeping gaze, and you hear a little yelp as she’s zinged by her own bullet. She pats out the smoking line on her dress.

“GAH! You stupid laser cat! Stupid. Stupid! STUPID! I’ll fire you too, don’t think I won’t!”

The cat bullet gives a sad mew before fading away. You wonder how many attacks are unemployed because of her.

*You say that good help is so hard to find.

“It’s impossible! Everyone is an idiot! But it doesn’t matter, because I have other options!”

Her toothy snarl tilts up into a grin, and you feel your SOUL move out of your chest. You flinch as it wobbles before your eyes and splits into two. The two halves start to float away and you snatch one with each hand. Ooooh, this is a really weird feeling. It’s like if you spun around in a swivel chair for a few minutes and suddenly stopped, but it feels like you’re spinning in two different directions simultaneously. You pull both of the pieces in close to your chest. While you adjust to the sensation, Mad Mew Mew practices her scowl in a nearby mirror. She turns to you with the same expression.

“Yeah, how do you like that?! Who needs friends when you have sick ghostly SOUL-splitting powers?!”

Personally, you would rather have friends, but to each their own. She fires a number of disc-shaped bullets at you and you try to wrangle the two SOUL pieces. You’re too disoriented to run around the arena as you please, but you think you can at least slide from side-to-side. As bullets stream in to the left you pull both pieces with you to the right, then switch to the left as the bullets shoot in from the right. As another stream shoots straight ahead you duck and hold out the SOUL pieces to either side. You pop up and grin as the turn ends, and Mad Mew Mew’s eye twitches.

*You say that her special ability is very cool, but there’s really no reason for you to be fighting.

“What, you think I want to be buddies with you and play some lame game of Ghost Fish like my cousins? Ridiculous. Ridiculous! RIDICULOUS!”

Her eyes dart to the side and her tail coils around her ankle. Man, some people have the weirdest ways of trying to make friends.

“And anyway, who would want to play cards with a non-cheater like you!”

Uh, she’s mad at you for not cheating at cards? She takes your bewildered face as an admission of guilt and points at you.

“That’s right! I know what you’ve done! Even though you handle Gladys’ cards, you pretend you don’t see when she has cards you want! You never ask for cards unless you don’t have any other options! And how do you think that makes her feel?! She doesn’t need someone to let her win! You condescending jerk!”

Wait, does Gladys actually feel that way? It’s true that you almost never ask for Gladys’ cards, but she’s never said anything about it. Of course, as stoic as she is, she probably wouldn’t say anything.

“Well, don’t expect me to do the same! I don’t pull punches!”

She flings another round of bullets at you, this time from four directions, and you snap back to attention. Your SOUL pieces are still too discombobulated to let you do much, but you think you can work around the limitations. You hold a piece in each hand and swing them out of the way, spinning and jumping like a cheerleader with pompoms. As the round ends you drop into the splits and hold out the pieces with a flourish. Mad Mew Mew’s face contorts into a violent grin and her ears flick.

*You ask if that’s how Gladys really feels.

Mad Mew Mew is taken aback for a moment and she furrows her eyebrows.

“I mean, she does wish you wouldn’t take it so easy on her, but I guess she’s not MAD mad. She likes you. Both of my cousins do.”

Well, that’s a relief. You’ll have to talk to Gladys, though. Maybe you can work out a way for her to handle her own cards without you seeing them.

“Those cousins of mine, the way they talk about having a nice friend like you, and all of the silly friend things you do together! Pathetic. Pathetic! PATHETIC! AND DO YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT THAT?!”

She pulls out her wand again and shoots cat bullets at you while screaming.

“REALLY HAPPY!”

You slide to the left.

“BECAUSE THEY DESERVE TO HAVE COOL FRIENDS!”

Slide to the right.

“AND SOMEONE WHO SHARES THEIR INTERESTS!”

Slide back to the middle.

“Even if cards are boring. So good for them! Having friends! Even my other cousin has those rabid fangirls, not that I care. Don’t care. Don’t care! DON’T CARE!”

She does a little ska dance to the beat of the chipper tune blaring from the speaker in her stomach. Poor Madstablook, she deserves to have a friend too.

*You ask if she wants to be your friend.

She splutters.

“FRIEND? I DON’T NEED FRIENDS!! I’VE GOT KNIVES!!”

She whips out a knife and hurls it at you. You step to the side as it flies past your head with a sharp schwing. You both stand there for a moment, stances tense.

“I’m… out of knives. BUT NOT OUT OF PROJECTILES!”

She turns and rips the head off the training dummy and hurls that at you too. You step to the other side as it sails over your shoulder and lands in the water with a plop. You stare at each other in silence once again. She considers for a moment, then begins to unscrew her own head.

*You hurriedly ask again if she wants to be friends.

She stares at you for a moment, then retightens her head. She furrows her brows and stares at you. She seems to like what she sees, because she flashes you a somewhat less violent grin.

“Fine! I only have so many detachable appendages.”

You take the chance to SPARE her. The battle ends, and you sigh with relief as the pieces of your SOUL rejoin. You pick up the dummy head floating behind you and walk up to her.

“And… you can call me Maddy. All my cousins do.”

*You tell Maddy you’re glad you’re friends now, and tell her she shouldn’t beat herself up as you hand over the dummy head.

She holds the dummy head out at arm’s length and stares into its button eyes like Hamlet talking to a skull.

“Eh, this isn’t me anymore. Just an old coat I used to wear. And beating up on this dummy when I’m having a bad day, well. It’s kind of nice to remember how far I’ve come, I guess.”

She reattaches the head to the dummy and leans on it with one elbow.

“And anyway, most of the damage to this thing was done by Undyne. Sweet, violent Undyne! Ah, look at these spear holes and scorch marks! She must be in a foul mood lately to have done this!”

Her tail swishes in contentment and she shoots you a feline grin.

“I can tell, I used to be her training dummy. When she’s mad she gets STABBY!”

*You grimace and say you’ve heard that before.

“Now there’s someone who knows what to do with violent emotions! Although fighting you is way more fun than pummeling a dummy. I can see why my cousins like you, Frisk!”

*You say that you’re always up for a friendly sparring match.

“Great. Great! GREAT! So, Napstablook’s house is just north of here. You’re going to visit them, right?”

*You say that of course you are.

“Good. Blooky’s always been a shy sort. Never really had a friend outside of the cousins before you. They used to be close to our other cousin until he ditched us all for fame and fortune. Prick. Blooky was pretty sad about it. But being friends with you? It’s been good for them. So yeah.”

She hoists up the dummy and rests it across her shoulder like a big club. She leans in, but her voice doesn’t drop in volume.

“So. If you break their heart, I’m going to chase you down, I’m going to take my old body, and I’m going to beat you with it. Comprende?”

You give her a thumbs up.

“Good. Well, see ya. See ya! SEE YA!”

She takes off, leaving you alone in the dump once more. With friends like these, your enemies had better get in line.

Notes:

Yay, friends! I guess the dump really is a good place to make new friends?

Anyway, the next few weeks are going to be really busy for me, so I don't think I'll be able to update for a bit. Sorry! Hopefully the break won't be too long and I'll be able to get back to it soon. In the meantime, thank you so much for reading and feel free to say hi in the comments!

Chapter 34: A Comfortable Silence

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Spooktune-String Player Gamer-Lionmight
Chill-Smooth McGroove

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Finally, with a great sigh of relief, you emerge from the filmy waters of the dump onto dry land. You proceed into the next room cautiously. You know Undyne’s house is near here, but you don’t see any sign of her. A couple of voices you recognize catch your ear, however, and you turn to see Woshua and Aaron chatting on the other side of the room. Aaron is admiring his own muscles, and Woshua seems to be scolding him over something, bubbles frothing over the rim of his little shell tub.

“Ooh, u smelly! Why do u sweat so much? Bodily fluids are gross!”

“Hey, a nice sheen of sweat really showcases my muscles, don’t you think? ;)”

“No! Have u tried antiperspirant? I have some. Please Aaron, u smell like a barn.”

“Nah, Wosh, you can’t stop the manly sweat. But if it really smells, I’ve got something for that ;)”

Aaron rummages through a gym bag on the ground and pulls out a can. He starts liberally spraying a cloud of obnoxious-smelling chemical aerosol around himself. You pull your sweater over your nose as the scent reaches you and Woshua starts hacking.

“NOO!! Ack—cut that out! Now u smell like a barn in a toxic waste dump! Stop that before I have to call the Royal Guard to report a chemical spill!”

“Aw, everyone loves this scent ;)”

“Literally the only people who like that smell are the ones who spray it all over the place!”

You would have to agree. As the haze begins to settle, they catch sight of you and you wave. Woshua’s tail spins rapidly and Aaron waves with his fishtail while flexing. You flex in return as you approach.

“Hey, mini muscle bro ;)”

“Oh! Hello again, friend! I hope u been staying cl—”

As you step closer Woshua gags and reels back like he’s about to faint.

“U… U… U FILTHY!”

You look down at yourself. Your sweater is wrapped in cobwebs, your hands are coated in flower pollen, sticky seeds cling to your hair, and you’ve been dunked in trash water from the waist down. Yeah, you’re filthy.

*You say you’ve been through some adventures since you’ve last met.

“Hey, sounds like a good workout ;)”

“That won’t do at all! Stand right there! Green means clean!”

From Woshua’s furious expression, you almost think you’re about to get dragged into a messy—or clean, rather—encounter, but he just chucks a bunch of green soap bars at you and douses you in water from a sprinkler attachment on his shell. You stand under the water and work the suds through your hair as best as you can. You’re a little disturbed by the color of the muddy water trickling away from your feet. Woshua pauses, looks you over, and starts hosing you down again. You could be here for a minute. Eventually Woshua is satisfied, and he whisks out a dryer attachment and starts blow drying you on high blast. You wonder if the Snowdin Canine Unit has an official dog washer, because Woshua would be great at it. As soon as he finishes you rearrange your hair. It’s frizzy from the heat, but nice and clean, and your clothes are comfortably warm and dry too. You let out a contented sigh. It feels wonderful to clean off all of the muck, sweat, and grime you’ve been building up during your adventure, and he even managed to get your socks dry! You haven’t felt this nice since you left the house this morning. A sense of calm tranquility washes over you, filling you with determination.

*You thank Woshua for the cleaning.

He smiles and his tail rotates even faster.

“U look good! Nice and clean! Did that nasty dump do this to you?”

He side eyes the entrance to the dump like it’s his arch nemesis.

“Someday, I’m going to sanitize that whole place, top to bottom. Someday.”

“Want a spritz of my post workout freshener, little muscle bro? ;)”

Aaron rattles the can of deodorant and Woshua edges away from him.

*You thank him for the offer, but say you’ll pass.

“Keeping that well-earned athletic musk, I respect that ;)”

*You say you didn’t know the two of them were friends.

“Wosh is my training buddy ;)”

“I’m the only one keeping u from polluting all of Waterfall with u gross sweat. How u even sweat that much? We’re mostly made of magic!”

“Dude, can you imagine how much humans must sweat if they’re made of water? Buckets and buckets, I bet ;)”

“Gross!”

“I bet they have giant muscles just oozing with sweat nonstop ;)”

“Noooo, I’m gonna be sick!”

*You say that humans can’t sweat literal bullets, so Aaron has them beat in that respect, at least.

“Sweet ;)”

Woshua rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, u one of a kind there. Say, new friend. I was talking to Undyne—her armor DID need a good washing, by the way—and if it’s not too personal to ask… Are u a human?”

You brace yourself.

*You say that you are.

They look at you for a moment, then turn to each other with wide eyes. Aaron is the first to clear his throat with a whinny and speak.

“So I had a flexing competition with a human? Rad ;)”

“I thought u were a little scary at first, but u clean up nice! U okay!”

*You smile and say you’re glad you met them.

“Me too! I’ve heard the surface is a messy place. Human friend, u gotta go break that barrier so I can go clean it up!”

“Yeah, and these guns need to see the sun ;)”

*You flex and say you’ll do your best.

“Hey, let me know if you need to borrow these muscles. I bet I could punch right through that barrier ;)”

“U could not.”

Aaron starts making various flexing poses, and Woshua rolls his eyes and starts to hose him down preemptively before he can work up a sweat.

“But u deodorant body spray might be able to dissolve a hole in it. Might be worth trying.”

You smile as you think about all of the friends you’re making in Waterfall.

*You say you’re glad you saw them again, and to say hello if they see you around.

“Yeah little muscle bro, practice up for our next flex-off, because I won’t go easy on you next time ;)”

“Yeah! Take care and keep clean! Wash u hands, brush u teeth, and wipe u feet on the welcome mat!”

*You say you will and wave goodbye.

You turn and study the several branching paths leading from the room. If you remember correctly from Blooky’s description, the middle path should lead to their house. You trot through the tunnel and look up at the two bulbous, ghost-shaped houses. The dilapidated house on the left with all of the lights off should be Blooky’s. You run to the door, remembering to wipe your feet on the welcome mat. On it, printed in a small font, is, “Welcome! Come on in, if you want to… or not… that’s fine too…” A big smile spreads on your face and you fidget as you think about what you want to say. This house call is long overdue.

You do the barbershop knock on the door and listen to the nervous shuffling and humming sounds coming from the other side of the door. You lean into the keyhole as a shaky voice comes through.

“oh… someone’s at the door… oh no… what do i do? maybe if i don’t do anything they’ll go away… but that would be rude…”

You give the door another tap, lighter this time.

“oh… they’re not giving up… okay, you can do this, just like you practiced with Frisk… um, h-hello? welcome to Blook Acres, where, when it comes to quality, we snail it every time. uh, my friend wrote that tagline… it’s pretty neat… oh… if you proceed to the farm on your right, i’ll be with you in a moment. i hope you don’t mind…”

*You say that they really snailed that pitch, but this is a social visit.

“Oh! That voice…”

The door opens and Blooky’s face shifts into a little smile.

“Frisk! Yay!”

You fling open your arms to give Blooky a ghost hug, which mostly means hugging the air around them, but it’s a tradition.

“I didn’t know you were coming! Oh… did i forget? was i supposed to be expecting you? oh nooo…”

*You say that it wasn’t arranged, and you showed up as a surprise. You explain that you only decided last night that you were going to be leaving the Ruins today, and you hope it’s okay that you showed up without announcing yourself.

“Of course! Oh… You should come on in… Make yourself at home… I can’t believe I’m finally having a friend over, this is fun! I hope you have fun, too… oh, i hope i’m not a boring host…”

Blooky drifts away from the door, allowing you to enter.

*You say that you’re glad to finally be visiting, and you’re having fun already.

You take a look around the quaint house. It’s just like Blooky described it. There’s a computer setup in the corner with a pair of headphones hanging catty corner over the edge of the monitor, several music players with Blooky’s favorite tracks along the opposite wall, a tv on the floor, and a fridge in another corner. There aren’t a lot of decorations or pieces of furniture, but Blooky has always said they prefer a simple space without a lot of distractions, and incorporeal beings don’t need a lot of furniture anyway. You can see the hatch in the ceiling leading to the floors above, but since you can’t float, you’re stuck at ground level. And you aren’t sure ground level is the safest place to be. The weathered floorboards creak as if they aren’t used to corporeal beings standing on them. Blooky spins in a circle, considering what to show you first.

“Oh… You can listen to the music I have set out if you want to… Or I could show you what I’m working on with the computer… Oh, wait… I should offer you something to eat…”

They drift over to the fridge and you peruse the music players set out. Ah, Spooktune, that’s a big hit! They don’t make them like this anymore. There’s Spookwave, too, the underrated remix. And, of course, Ghouliday, the holiday classic. You put on Spooktune and the scratchy speaker sparks to life. Blooky drifts over.

“Oh… I like that one too… Here, I knew you were coming over someday, so I’ve been keeping a corporeal sandwich in the fridge… just in case you wanted it…”

*You thank Blooky for the snack.

It’s a snail butter and jelly sandwich! It’s a little stale, but you eat it anyway, and Blooky eats their own, less physical sandwich.

*You ask Blooky how things on the farm are going.

“Oh, pretty good… Business has doubled since your mom put a mail slot in the Ruins door and started ordering delivery snails… Now I have two regulars again… The other guy really likes the new tagline, by the way…”

*You say you’re glad things have picked up.

You can’t imagine having to run a whole snail farm and racing business by yourself, but Blooky works really hard to keep Blook Acres going now that all of their cousins have passed on to other things.

“Yeah, things have been good on the farm lately… I’ve been working on some new compositions too… In my free time, you know… if you wanted to hear any of them… i mean, you’re probably busy…”

*You say you would love to.

Blooky shows you the music program on their computer with several open scores. Blooky is such a talented composer, you’re sure they would be popular across the underground if they put themselves out there a little more. Their music has gained a following in the Ruins, at least, and Mom always buys the vinyls when a new album comes out.

“This score is kind of a chill, relaxing piece… And this one is more of a dramatic, energetic track, like if you were fighting an angry ghost… And this one is a remix of Mettaton’s gameshow theme… Oh… I don’t think the show is on at this hour… That’s too bad, we could’ve watched it… I know you haven’t really seen him because you don’t have a tv at home, but I think you would like him…”

You haven’t seen his shows or movies, but you would have to live under a different rock not to know that Mettaton is the number one star of the underground. Blooky is a big fan.

“But that’s okay… If you’re going to Hotland later, you might see him in person! He does a lot of his filming there, I think…”

*You say that if he’s half as glitzy and glamorous as Blooky has said he is, you hope you get to meet him. You ask if Blooky wants an autograph if you run into their hero.

“Oh! N-no, i don’t think so… a big star like him… talking to someone… like me… no, i don’t think so…”

They turn away and go back to clicking through scores on the computer.

*You say that you would rather have Blooky’s autograph anyway.

“would you… really? Wow, that’s so nice… Oh! Speaking of autographs… Maybe I should be asking for yours! I saw this video on Undernet… of you and Shyren doing a duet… She used to hang out with me and my cousin sometimes, back then… but i haven’t really seen her since he left home… he was the only extrovert out of the three of us, i guess… and i haven’t heard Shyren make any music since her sister… oh… i didn’t mean to make it sad… But anyway, I saw your duet… It was really nice… So I arranged a backing track for it… i hope it’s okay…”

They play the recording of you and Shyren. It’s weird to hear a recording of yourself. You smile as you listen. This is really good! Despite the fact that the original song didn’t have a melody, per se, Blooky’s backing track ties the dissonant parts together perfectly and complements the vocals without drowning them out.

*You say that you love it!

If ghosts could blush, Blooky would be blushing. As it is, they start crying, and you step back to avoid the acid tears.

“Oh! I was hoping… you would like it… That makes me really happy… I was going to post my version on Undernet, but I don’t know…”

*You say they should totally do it.

“Well, maybe I will… Once I clean it up a little… Oh… You don’t have an Undernet account, do you?”

*You say that your phone is too old for that.

“Oh… Well, I can send an mp3 to you later… If you want…”

Blooky blinks a few more tears out and they splash and sizzle on the floorboards. They start to make a few edits on the score.

“So… The Ruins is a long way from here if you can’t go through walls… Oh! You must be tired… i should have offered you a seat… i don’t have any chairs, but feel free to sit wherever… so, has it been a busy day for you?”

You plop onto the floor next to Blooky and start to describe your adventures so far. They listen and make little comments every now and then while editing their scores. Spooktune continues to drone on in the background.

“Wow! That sounds crazy… All of those fights must have been scary… But you’re really good at those… I’m glad you met Maddy, and things went… less violently than they could have… She’s explosive sometimes, but she’s a good cousin… If she’s letting you call her Maddy, then you’re okay in her book… I’m happy you two are getting along… You know, hearing you describe your journey and everything you’ve seen… It kind of feels like seeing the underground for the first time again… It’s giving me a lot of inspiration for new music… I think I’ll write some new stuff…”

*You ask what kind of pieces they’re going to compose.

“Well… Maybe some ambient tracks for the different places in the underground… I like how you described the places you saw… And then maybe some themes for the people you met? I have some ideas for Miss Toriel, something warm and comforting… I’ve seen Sans around before… I always thought he was a little scary, but the way you talk about him, he sounds kind of fun… Maybe something jokey and bouncy? And Papyrus… I’ve never met him, but I know he hangs out with Undyne… I can usually hear him from here… Something loud and energetic would work for him… I already have some motifs for Undyne, too, since she’s my neighbor… She’s always been scary, but she sounds even more terrifying from your perspective… Oh… I’ve got chills just thinking about it…”

You look over their shoulder as they type some quick notes about the pieces they want to compose. It looks like a big project.

“That’s something fun for later, I guess… Oh, are you done with your sandwich? Well, you know the family tradition… if you’re up for it…”

*You say you would love to lie on the ground and feel like garbage with them.

“Yay… Well, I like to use this spot over here…”

You join Blooky in the middle of the room and flop onto the floor. You shift away from the uneven floorboard poking your back and try to make yourself comfortable. You lie there in companionable silence as the little creaks and pops of the old house fade to white noise in your ears and your jumbled thoughts swarm into view where you can see and unravel them. You close your eyes and measure your breaths, and each worry and fear that’s been tangled up inside you begins to loosen like strands from a tight knot. Gradually, the room fades away from your consciousness and you are floating in a sea of stars and swirling galaxies. You let yourself drift aimlessly.

In your mind, you reach up to the tangled knot of worries and begin to pull the strands, clearing away the unconnected bits and following the main string into the core of the knot. Did you wipe your shoes at the door? Yes, of course you did. Should you call Mom soon? Is your phone even charged? She’s expecting a call once you’re through Waterfall, you’re good for now. And you charged the phone before you left. It should be good for a while. Is the monster kid alright? Well, he didn’t land in the dump with you, so Undyne must have caught him. He’s probably alright. But what does he think of you now? Is he your friend? Enemy? You hope he isn’t mad about you pushing him. You hope he didn’t get in trouble with Undyne. He was supposed to be your enemy, after all. Undyne… she’s still your enemy. She thinks so, at least. What if you can’t convince her that you aren’t a threat? What if she just keeps chasing you? Does she really hate you that much? And what will Papyrus do if you can’t befriend her? Will he cut ties with her entirely? Or drop you as a friend? No, no, you don’t think he would do that. He’s a peacemaker. He wants all of you to be friends as much as you do. What a drastic opposite from Flowey. You bet he’s enjoying all of the drama. He would probably be a lot happier if you fought your way through the underground and left a trail of ruin behind you. No, that’s not fair to him. He likes chaos and strife, maybe a little too much, but he’s not really vicious… right? He’s your friend. Even if you sometimes get an uncomfortable, prickly feeling around him. Hmm. What he always says, “kill or be killed.” He doesn’t really believe that, does he? And if he does, could he be… right? No, you don’t believe that. And yet, you have to wonder what you’re going to do when you meet Asgore. His resolve is strong if he has six souls already. Do you really think you can change his mind? Can you really change anything? If you won’t fight, and he won’t spare, what will happen? What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Why is it all so hard… You just want to make everything right. You’ve trained for so long, you’re ready for this. Aren’t you? Everything you’ve done up to now, hasn’t it been an effort to take control of this situation? To make yourself safe? To be untouchable? But isn’t that a power you had already? That unspeakable power over reality, that determination. That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Why do you have it? And, more importantly, what are you going to do with it? You could do anything you wanted with a power like that. And that’s what terrifies you the most. Not death. Not failure. That alluring power to just bypass what everyone else wants or thinks, to just take this place and make it your sandbox. That irresistible call of power. But no. That’s not what you really want. That’s Flowey’s vision. You don’t want to do that, so why are you so afraid of it? Because it could be dangerous. That’s what Mom says about fire magic, too. It’s a tool, to be used to hurt, burn, and destroy, or to warm, nourish, and create. Maybe it’s okay to be a little afraid of your power. Maybe it’s a good thing to be a little afraid of fire. It’s there if you need it, but you have other tools you can turn to first. There are just… so many problems you have to fix, and you can’t solve them all by dodging. The spears, though. You can dodge those. That seems like a good plan for now. And everything that comes after… those are later problems. Maybe you don’t have to have all of the answers right now.

You are vaguely aware of Blooky drifting beside you, lost in their own thoughts. You don’t know why, but everything feels like it’s going to be alright. You let out a deep sigh, and the room begins to come back into focus around you. You fold your arms under your head and stifle a sneeze as the motion disturbs the two inch layer of dust on the floor. You watch the motes of dust swirl in the dim light. It’s nice to just sit still and think sometimes, and even nicer to do it with a friend. Blooky is easy to be around. You don’t need to keep up a high energy level, or fill the air with noise, or even talk at all. You can just sit here in comfortable silence until the words come.

Eventually, Blooky comes out of their reverie and hums contentedly.

“This has been… really nice… I’m glad you finally came over, Frisk…”

*You say you’re glad too, and thank them for having you.

“Of course… I haven’t had anyone over in a long time…”

You don’t want to make Blooky sad while they’re in a good mood, but you can hear the unspoken end of that sentence. You think it would be okay to ask.

*You ask if Blooky misses their cousin.

Blooky has several cousins, and sees Gladys and Maddy regularly, but they know which one you mean. THE cousin, never named but often mentioned. The cousin who Blooky was especially close to, the one who had a house next door but spent most of his time at this house, the one who used to put on elaborate plays with Blooky and dreamed of a day when the two of them would make it big as a tv star and a composer. The cousin who left without warning years ago to pursue those dreams on his own and hasn’t made contact since.

“…yeah, i still miss him. i understand why he left, but i miss him.”

You huff and try to keep your blood from boiling.

*You say you don’t understand how he could just leave like that, and add for the hundredth time that it wasn’t fair to Blooky.

You see them smile a little out of the corner of your eye.

“Haha… You sound like Maddy… She would punch his lights out if they were in the same room together… But… It’s complicated…”

Blooky’s eyes scan the ceiling, as if searching for the right words, and you wait. They begin speaking in a quieter voice.

“life can be… difficult for ghosts… we start out incorporeal, as blank slates, almost… we can barely touch the world around us… nothing feels real… it can be disorienting, floating through the world without sensation or form… and it can be really hard for us to figure out who we want to be, what we want to look like, how we want to present ourselves to the world… Gladys always sort of knew her own mind and had simple tastes… she found that dummy in the Ruins and never looked back… it was more frustrating for Maddy… she lived in a dummy for a while too, but she’s so ambitious, she was never going to be happy with that… she searched for ages to find her perfect body, and even then… it was a long road to perfectly merge with it… she’s a lot happier now, but i still think… she’s a little frustrated, being stuck here… she’s too big of a personality to be trapped in the underground forever… and me… it took me a long time and a lot of reflection to realize that i didn’t want to be corporeal, that i’m content with my body, or lack of body, the way it is… i can see why my cousins like physical forms, but going through walls is kind of a nice perk, i guess? it makes it a lot easier to get around…”

Blooky chuckles and you give them an encouraging smile.

“and then, my cousin… it was always a struggle for him, i think… he always wanted to be corporeal, ever since the start… and more than that, he wanted to be a star, to be big and loud and noticed, to engage with the world in a way a ghost never could… and i don’t think he knew exactly what he wanted, but he always dreamed big… a training dummy wasn’t going to be enough for him, and it was always all or nothing with him… no half measures… but day after day of this monotony and this dreary farm… it just wore at his SOUL… he was miserable… so when his chance came to take a body and follow his dreams all at once, well… anyway, i don’t blame him for going, not when it was killing him to stay…”

You stare at the water stain on the ceiling for a long moment.

*You say that makes sense, and you sort of understand, but you still think he should visit sometimes, or let Blooky know how he’s doing. Why would he just cut Blooky off?

“hmm… i don’t really know… for a while, i wondered if… it might be me… that he was avoiding… but i’m not sure… i think, maybe… after everything, this place might be kind of painful to remember… we had some good times together, but i guess there are a lot of bad memories here too… i wonder if maybe he’s better off staying far away from this pathetic house, and the ghosts of the past… and me… but it’s okay… i understand… and i still get to see him and cheer him on from afar every time i turn on the tv…”

Blooky looks toward the tv and smiles softly as acid tears trickle down to the floorboards. Wait, on tv? You knew the cousin left to pursue fame, and found some success, from what Maddy said, but could they mean…

*You ask if their cousin is Mettaton.

“Yeah… He’s doing what he always wanted, and he’s really good at it… I knew he would be… So as long as he’s happy, I’m happy for him… Even if he has to be somewhere else… And, um…”

Blooky looks over at you and holds eye contact for a couple of seconds before looking back to the ceiling.

“The same goes for you, Frisk… I… I know you’re trying to break the barrier to get us all out of here… But I also know the underground is dangerous for you… So if you find a way out, even if it means you have to leave us behind… It’s okay… No matter how far apart we are, as long as you’re out there somewhere, safe and happy… Then I’ll be happy too…”

You sit up abruptly and try to blink away the tears from your own eyes. You move in and hug the air around them.

*You ask if they know what an awesome friend they are.

Blooky just leans in and tries not to cry acid on your shoulder.

Notes:

I'M BACK!!! Things have been busy lately, but I'm really excited to be writing and posting again, and I have some exciting things in store! I hope I can make up for my absence with some extra-long chapters 😁

Ah, Blooky is one of my favorites. In case the profile picture didn't give it away. Despite writing Frisk as a confident social butterfly, I can relate much more easily to an awkward, music-loving introvert who would rather be at home. I've been excited to do a Blooky chapter for a while, and I've had fun writing Frisk and Blooky's adorable friendship. It's really nice to have a friend that's just fun to be around, whether you're doing something exciting, studying, playing video games together, or just lounging around not doing anything at all. Friends like that are precious.

As always, thank you for reading, feel free to say hi in the comments, and I'll see you on Thursday!

Chapter 35: Old Memories Leave Long Shadows

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Quiet Water-Skafendre
Shop-InstrumentManiac

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You linger in Blooky’s doorway. You wouldn’t mind hanging out here all day, but you really need to get moving, and Blooky understands.

“Well… I’m really glad you came over, Frisk… We should do this again soon… If you want to…”

*You say you would love to, and next time you might even get to hang out on the surface.

“Yeah, that would be neat… maybe a little scary… but neat! Oh… when you get to Hotland, if you meet Mettaton… i would appreciate if you wouldn’t mention me… unless he asks, i guess… not that he would… but anyway…”

*You promise that you won’t.

You still don’t like how Mettaton has treated Blooky, but you won’t interfere if they really don’t want you to. You decide that the time has come to confer another Nice Guard pin. Blooky watches as you dig one out of your bag.

*You explain what the Nice Guard is, and state that Blooky has earned the honor if they would like to join.

“Oh! You’re inviting me… to a nice club? You really think I could be a ‘Nice Guard?’ Oh… will everyone else like me? will i have to go to meetings?”

*You say that you’re sure everyone would love them, but they don’t have to go to any meetings if they don’t want to. The only requirement is to keep being their awesome self.

“Oh… wow… That makes me so happy…”

Predictably, Blooky starts crying again, but they funnel their tears upward into a dapper hat. You reach up and attach the pin to the hat. Blooky smiles.

“Well… I’ll try to be a good Nice Guard… If you think I really can… See you around, then… Byyyyyeeeee…”

Blooky fades away, leaving you alone at their house. You don’t think this is how house visits usually end, but you shrug and close the door behind you as you leave. The break has been nice, but it’s time to carry onward!

You leave Blook Acres behind you and continue onto the next tunnel. Waterfall has been rough going so far, but you don’t think you have too much further to go. As you approach what appears to be a storefront, you are accosted once again by a golden flower with a familiar voice.

“Pssst, hey! Heads up, king’s in there!”

Flowey gestures to the storefront and you freeze in your tracks. After a moment you can hear two laughing voices from within, and one definitely belongs to Asgore. You start to turn on your heels to run back to Blooky’s house, but Flowey waves for your attention.

“No, too late! He’s coming out!”

You scan the area for other hiding places. It’s just a long, barren hallway, except for a wooden chest on the other side of the shop entrance. It’s a risk, but it’s your only chance of cover, so you dash past the storefront and open it. It gives an alarming creak, but it’s empty. You crawl in and gently lower the lid above you. The chest is damp and dark, besides a little light filtering in through the gaps around the hinges. You muffle your breathing and hope that Asgore didn’t see or hear anything. You’re a fish in a barrel here. After a moment the two voices louden as Asgore and his friend exit the shop. You can hear Asgore’s rumbling voice just a foot away. A chill runs up your spine. Asgore gives another hearty laugh, and he’s joined by the bemused, raspy voice of an older monster.

“Ah, thank you again for having me for tea, Gerson. It is always pleasant to speak with an old friend.”

“Well, ya won’t find an older one, wah ha ha! Always a pleasure to have King Fluffybuns grace my establishment.”

You’ve heard of Gerson. The Hammer of Justice, a war hero of the underground who’s been around since before monsters were trapped here. He’s retired now, but still something of a legend. He certainly doesn’t sound scary. And did he just call Asgore “Fluffybuns?” Wait… Asgore isn’t a fluffy bunny monster, is he? No, surely not. You really can’t picture him without horns, or antlers, at least. Maybe he’s like a jackalope, one of those rabbit monsters with antlers. You suppose that could still be intimidating.

“Golly, you never will let me live that nickname down, will you? By the way, have you seen Undyne today? I went to visit her earlier, but she wasn’t home, and she hasn’t been answering her phone.”

“Oh yeah, girl came tearing through here earlier! Hot on the trail of some bad guy, apparently. I’d hate to be in their shoes!”

“Oh! Is that so? Goodness, I had no idea of a criminal being on the loose. Did she—did she say who she was chasing?”

“Sure did! But I forgot.”

“Ah. Well, that’s okay. Gerson, old friend… If she comes by here again before I see her, would you deliver a message? Please, just tell her not to do anything rash. And ask her to call me. If she’s chasing—well, there are some responsibilities that are mine alone to shoulder.”

There’s a moment of silence, then it sounds like Gerson is patting him on the arm.

“Sure, Fluffybuns, I’ll let her know. If she’ll stand still long enough to listen, anyway!”

“I know what you mean! Well, I have some other visits to make, so I guess I’ll see you around.”

“See ya!”

You hear Gerson’s slow footsteps retreat into the shop, and through the gap under the lid you glimpse a swish of purple fabric as Asgore walks away. You hear him pause to engage a ferry to Hotland and you wait several seconds until the sound of splashing water fades. You let out a slow breath and sink further into the box. That was a close one. You put a hand against the lid, but to your horror, it doesn’t budge. You push both arms against it and it rattles, but remains tightly closed. You hear a stifled snicker from outside the box and you roll your eyes. Gee, who could have engaged the latch, you wonder.

*You tell Flowey he had better let you out of there.

“What’s that? I can’t hear you! You can come on out now, the coast is clear!”

You brace your shoulder against the lid and shove. The whole box shifts, but no dice.

*You tell Flowey to cut it out.

“Come on, quit messing around in there! Unless you plan on—pfffft—unless you plan on rolling the box the rest of the way through Waterfall!”

You imagine yourself clunking through the rest of the underground in a box. It might be decent camouflage, actually. If you had a round barrel you might consider it. You shift around and plant your feet on the lid to prepare to kick it, but then you hear a click and you push the lid open easily. You sit up and glare at Flowey, who is trying to play it straight, but whose face is contorting into a cracked expression.

*You tell Flowey he’s as obnoxious as poison ivy.

“Aw, come on, that was funny.”

You climb out of the box and sit cross-legged next to him. From his chipper expression, you would never guess how melancholy he looked the last time you saw him. It looks like he finally managed to lose the ribbon and Nice Guard pin Papyrus gave him. Papyrus would be sad, but you feel he isn’t quite living up to the Nice Guard standards right now, anyway. Well, he did save your bacon, you suppose.

*You thank him for the warning.

“Of course! It would be easier if he just hung out in his castle all day, but Asgore likes to wander around talking to people. You need an extra pair of eyes to avoid him. I see you’ve been following my advice about running from Undyne. I can’t say I would have jumped off a cliff to do so, but you do you.”

*You say that you didn’t jump, the whole platform collapsed.

He shrugs, or as much as a plant without shoulders can shrug, anyway.

“Okay, that was unlucky. But hey, you’re intact! Waterfall is quite a place, isn’t it? Echo flowers calling back the words of everyone who’s passed by, and those ancient plaques telling the story of how we ended up here. It makes one think, doesn’t it? So, I have to ask, have you had any new inspiration about our little barrier problem?”

You consider everything you’ve learned in Waterfall, from the power of SOULs to the beginning of the war. It’s interesting, but it hasn’t offered any obvious solutions. You do have one question, though.

*You tell Flowey about what happened with the legendary artifact in the piano room, and ask if he knows what it does.

Flowey gives a far-off look and sighs.

“Oh, that thing. I’ve tried to get it before. Several times. But every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, that STUPID dog steals it! It doesn’t matter when, it doesn’t matter where, that beady-eyed mutt is always RIGHT THERE to take it!”

He shudders.

“I swear that dog transcends timelines.”

Huh. It’s kind of nice to know there are still mysteries in the world, even to a being like Flowey.

*You say that you think that treasure was just a rubber ball, anyway.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Well? Anything else?”

You suppose you could mention your theory that Santa can cross the barrier, but you would rather not. You still remember when Flowey told you the “truth” about Santa when you were eight. That he sneaks into houses at night with a trident and steals naughty kids’ SOULs. You couldn’t sleep for a week. There is one other point about SOULs that you want to clarify, however.

*You say that, from what you understand, you wouldn’t be able to absorb the other human SOULs yourself to break the barrier, right?

“Correctamundo! Someone’s been studying. The exact mechanics of that are pretty advanced SOUL theory, but to simplify it, human and monster SOULs are like magnets. Like repels like and opposites attract, right? So humans can’t absorb human SOULs, and monsters can’t absorb monster SOULs.”

*So only a monster could absorb the SOULs to break the barrier, you say.

“Yep. Well, a monster or, say, a neutral vessel. But not a human. I must admit, I’m curious what it would be like to absorb SEVEN human SOULs. I’m not sure you realize how much raw power that is. I don’t think most monsters could handle seven. But Asgore is pretty strong.”

It makes sense. It’s too bad, your problems could have been solved if you were able to temporarily absorb the other SOULs without relinquishing your own. Flowey tilts his head, and from the slight narrowing of his eyes you think he’s up to something.

“Still, you’re thinking on the right track.”

*You ask if he has any new ideas.

“Why, yes, I’m so glad you asked. Because I have the solution.”

You start in surprise and Flowey smiles with smug satisfaction.

*You ask why he didn’t lead with that!

“And miss your mental turmoil? It’s far too entertaining watching the smoke come out of your ears. But I think I’ve got it.”

He tilts his head and gives you that patented “friendly Flowey the flower” smile, which just makes you more suspicious.

“I just can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier, the solution was right there the whole time! And it’s so simple!”

He leans forward and his grin sharpens.

“So, you can’t absorb the human SOULs, right? But you could absorb a monster SOUL. Well, not just any monster SOUL. They disappear instantly at death. But there is an exception.”

*You ask if he means the SOUL of a boss monster.

“Right again. Imagine if you had the SOUL of a boss monster. You become a new type of being, part human and part monster, and then you absorb the other human SOULs. That monster SOUL would hold the others together, like a planet holding moons in its gravitational pull. Then you would have everything you need to just shatter that barrier yourself.”

*You ask where you could possibly find a boss monster SOUL, especially since they’re only supposed to last for a few moments after death.

“Golly, if only we knew a boss monster. Oh wait, we do. ASGORE is a boss monster. It’s so simple and perfect. It’s just Asgore’s plan, but in reverse.”

He gives you a sinister grin and the breath catches in your throat. Oh. OH. That’s what he means. He wants you to—

*You refuse. You say you aren’t going to hurt him.

Flowey leans back and shakes his head, making his sunny petals wiggle.

“Pacifist, I know, I know. But just hear me out here. As things stand, a lot of people are in danger. If we don’t break the barrier, all of the monsters are trapped down here indefinitely, in a cave running out of space and resources. Even if you managed to evade Asgore forever, by the end of your natural life this place is going to be in shambles. And if Asgore gets his own way, all of humanity is going to be destroyed, and you will be lamentably dead along with them. Either way, countless innocent lives are lost. With this plan, only one person needs to die. Just Asgore. You save both the monsters and the humans. No one else needs to get hurt. And it’s not as if you’re murdering him. If he attacks you it’s just self-defense! Heck, if you manage to explain this plan to him convincingly, he might even AGREE to it. Then it would be a simple self-sacrifice to save his people, and you would have NO blood on your hands. Think about it. ONE death, and then EVERYONE ELSE gets their happily ever after. And guess what? You would have the overwhelming power of seven human SOULs at your fingertips to make sure there’s no opposition from the humans to the monsters returning to the surface. Now THAT’S pacifism I can get behind, the power to make sure no one wants to fight you because no one else stands a chance in a fight.”

You curl your fingers into your pants and try not to shake. You hate to admit it, but he makes a logical point. This could be the way to save all of the humans and monsters, except for one. And if Asgore were to die… maybe that’s justice? He’s the one who wants to start a war, and the one responsible for the deaths of the other six humans. And yet, something in you rebels at the thought. You know he just wants to save the monsters, you can’t believe that he’s evil. You can’t kill him. You won’t. There just has to be another way to save everyone without hurting anyone.

*You refuse. You say you absolutely won’t kill him, and you won’t let him die on your behalf, either.

Flowey’s face twists into an irritated smile.

“Come on, don’t be an idealist. Look at the balance of lives here. The ENTIRE WORLD versus ONE. Be realistic, you can’t save everybody!”

*You say that you aren’t giving up on saving everyone, and you think there’s a way.

Flowey’s face morphs into his hollow-eyed, jagged smile, and he growls.

“YOU KNOW WHAT?! FINE! Keep trying it your way, if you think you’re capable of it. You really think there’s an ending to this where you and Asgore both live? Do you really? And you really think you’re taking the high road, risking everyone you care about because you don’t want to personally hurt an enemy who would kill you in a heartbeat? Go ahead. But don’t come crying to me once you see the consequences of your actions. Or INACTION.”

He rattles out a creepy laugh and disappears beneath the soil before you can say another word. You take a shuddering breath and wipe your sweaty palms on your pants. Flowey’s plan makes sense, but you aren’t willing to compromise on this. No killing. You still think the best course of action is to try to slip through the barrier yourself and return with the SOUL of an already-deceased human. After you convince Asgore not to destroy humanity once the barrier is down, of course. There’s still one thought nagging at the back of your mind, though. Flowey said that getting through the barrier might not be as easy as you think. What does that mean? He said another human has done it, right? Not the six whose SOULs are taken, but the mysterious seventh. If that one did it, shouldn’t you be able to? You don’t think you’re going to get a straight answer from Flowey, not in this mood. You look toward the shop entrance where you hear Gerson chattering to himself inside. There is one other person who’s been around long enough to possibly know about this other human.

You step into the shop and let your gaze drift across the walls and ceiling studded with pink and blue gems. The room is crowded with stacks of interesting objects and antiques you assume were taken from the dump. Everything looks like it’s been cleaned, repaired, and refurbished. There are several old tomes in a bookshelf made from a hollowed out tv, and there’s an unfinished manuscript on the nearby writing desk, illuminated by a lamp made from a battered old trumpet. On top of a table with one mismatched leg is a pair of mugs still carrying the dregs of a floral-scented tea. One of the mugs is shaped like a turtle shell. A wind chime made of forks and spoons jangles as a draft passes through the shop into some backroom obscured by a bead curtain made of assorted buttons. You approach a counter fashioned from wooden pallets and cable spools where Gerson is stationed.

He looks up from the book he was reading and cracks a mostly toothless smile.

“Whoa there! I’ve got some neat junk for sale!”

He’s a wrinkly old turtle wearing khakis and a safari hat and carrying a magnifying glass. His one good yellow eye examines you.

*You say hello, and ask if he’s Mr. Gerson.

“Whoa, kiddo, Mr. Gerson was my father! The name’s Gerson. Anything that’s fer sale in here has a price tag. I’ve got sea tea and crab apples behind the counter, too, if you’re lookin’ for an after school snack. Is today a school day? Eh, doesn’t really matter to me, I’m playin’ hooky, wah ha ha!”

You laugh. You know he was a fearsome warrior, once, but he acts more like a friendly grandpa. You bet he has a good tale or two.

*You say you would like a crab apple, and you wonder if you could ask him some history questions.

“Sure! You’ve come to the right person, I’ve lived through a fair bit of it. Pull up a chair, squirtle.”

You pull up a refurbished armchair, pay for your crab apple, which is suspiciously crustacean-shaped, and take a bite as you settle in. Nice and tart, and thankfully not seafood-flavored. Well, you might as well start with the obvious question.

*You ask if he has any ideas about how one might break the barrier without the seventh human SOUL.

“Dreamin’ big, eh? Hah! I don’t blame you, but I’m afraid I’ve got nothing. I gave the thing a good wallop with my hammer once, just to see, but it didn’t do much. Had a nice ring to it, though! Or maybe those were my ears. Wah ha ha!”

He points to a massive, double-headed war hammer leaning against the wall behind him. It has a faded Delta Rune on the head, as well as a picture of a blue turtle shell with spikes. With the long handle, it’s almost as tall as he is. You think if you tried to heft that thing over your shoulder you would just fall over backward.

*You say that you know about the six SOULs Asgore already has, but ask if there was ever a seventh human.

“Sure! I’ve been here long enough to know, or at least know of, all seven of ‘em. Let’s see, there was the little girl in ribbons, the kid in the bandana, the dancer in the tutu, the one with the glasses, the one in the apron, and the miniature cowboy.”

*You say that’s only six.

“Is it? Let me try that again. Well, there was the one yappin’ about righting wrongs, the nice one who wanted to make friends with everyone, that little bugger who never gave up no matter what, the one who held onto her convictions with an iron grip, the brash little punchy fella, and the one who could sit and just observe all day and never be bored for a minute. Does that cover ‘em all?”

*You say that’s still only six.

“Pickles. Don’t get old, kiddo, it’s not worth it! Hmm… there was one always writing in a notebook, the sharpshooter with the empty gun, the one packing a frying pan, the one with the pointy shoes, the one who always wore that pretty locket, and the one with the fingered gloves. There we go, I think that’s the one I forgot!”

You open your mouth, then close it. You appreciate his efforts, but this is getting you nowhere. He agrees that there were seven, at the very least.

*You ask if he knows anything about a human who was able to leave the underground.

“Leave? No way, kiddo. No human has ever left the underground alive.”

You turn the apple in your hands. That can’t be right. You’re sure there was another human whose SOUL isn’t here, and Flowey confirmed that one got through the barrier. Maybe Gerson just doesn’t know about that one. Or maybe he forgot. His memory seems a bit unreliable.

*You ask how there are only six SOULs collected if there were seven humans, and none of them left.

“Ah, I see what yer sayin’ there. Let me go through that list again, I’m sure I’ve got it this time. Okay, there was the one in the light blue dress, the orange uniform, the frilly blue costume, the purple button-up shirt, the green apron, and the spotted yellow bandana. Or was it the other one who had the bandana? One, two, three—”

You can see this train of thought is stuck on a circular track. You do have one other piece of information you’ve been holding onto.

*You ask if he knew a human named Chara.

Gerson stops dead in his spiel and watches you for a long moment.

“Chara. Now that’s a name I haven’t heard spoken aloud in a fair bit. Yes, I knew Chara.”

*You ask if he knows what happened to that human, in particular.

He rubs the back of his head and taps the handle of his magnifying glass on the counter lightly.

“Hmm… That story’s a little sad. I’m sure your parents will tell you about it when you’re ready. And anyway, I don’t remember the details, heh heh HORF! Ack, got somethin’ in my throat there.”

You take another bite of your apple. You wish he would tell you, but you don’t want to press it. If it’s a sad story, you suppose that Chara is one of the humans who died. But why are you seeing their memories?

*You say that’s okay, and you appreciate him answering your other questions.

“Heh, you’re an inquisitive one! You remind me of the Dreemurr kid, always had lots of questions for me. The same choices in fashion, too.”

You look up in surprise.

*You say you didn’t know King Asgore has a child.

“Had. Now that was a sad day for the underground…”

How horrible… You feel even more sorry for Asgore now.

*You say you’re sorry to hear that.

“Yeah. It’s sad to think about, but it’s nice to remember the good times, I think. The little tyke used to come and sit with me, like you’re doing, and ask all kinds of grown-up questions about the barrier, SOULs, humans and monsters, stuff like that. Sometimes, these days, I wonder if I shouldn’t have answered all of those questions. If maybe having that knowledge led to things that… might not have happened otherwise.”

His gaze wanders to a tapestry on the wall depicting the Delta Rune, with the mysterious angel and the monsters below. He taps on the counter aimlessly, but then his expression brightens and he turns back to you.

“But no sense getting stuck in the past! As they say, yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and that’s why they call today… Er, what’s today?”

*You say it’s Thursday.

“Right! They call today Thursday! Wait, that’s not how it goes. Oh well, wah ha ha!”

You finish off your apple and toss the core in the trashcan. It’s too bad that Gerson couldn’t answer all of your questions, but you feel like you have a little more context than before, and you never know what information could come in handy later. You stand and replace your chair.

*You thank Gerson for the apple and the answers, and say you should get going.

“Always glad to have visitors! Say, a question for you before you skedaddle. Don’t worry, this quiz is open-ended and not graded! You’re familiar with the Delta Rune, aren’tcha?”

*You say that you are, and you know about the prophecy.

“Good. You know, there are a couple of interpretations. The classic one is that the Angel who has seen the surface will return to the underground and free everyone. But more recently, folks are sayin’ that it’s an Angel of Death who’s going to clear this place out in a more unfriendly way. What do you think?”

You contemplate the Delta Rune on the wall. Ever since you heard about that prophecy you hoped that you could be that Angel. If it’s true, then there’s only one interpretation you’ll consider.

*You say you think the Angel will be friendly, and want to help everyone.

“Good to hear it. I’m glad the younger generation isn’t so pessimistic.”

*You ask what interpretation he favors.

“Me? When I look at that symbol… I jus’ think it looks neat!”

You look at the symbol again. It does look pretty neat, you would wear that on a shirt. You turn to go.

“Oh, and I thought of that seventh human! It was Ribbons, Bandana, Tutu, Glasses, Apron, Cowboy hat, and Striped shirt.”

He’s finally reached seven, but you’re pretty sure the last one is you. Wait.

“Anyhoo, watch yourself out there kiddo, Undyne’s on the loose and mad as a box of shaken hornets! Asgore and I trained that girl, you know, and if I were a certain striped-shirt clad individual I’d want to watch my back, wah ha ha!”

As if the Spear of Justice wasn’t terrifying enough without those added credentials. At least one of you can laugh about it.

*You ask him to tell Undyne you saw someone like that going toward Snowdin when he sees her again.

He gives you a wink and you leave with confidence, knowing that he’ll either have your back or forget your meeting entirely.

Notes:

To no one's surprise, Flowey continues to be a bad influence. Gerson is a fun guy. It would be fun to just sit and listen to his stories, if he can only remember them. For a game: spot the references to other turtles and tortoises. There are five!

See you next week!

Chapter 36: Unhugs All Around

Chapter Text

You stand, arms folded, at the edge of another rushing waterfall. The twin falls before you roar with white water, blocking your path and streaming into another chasm to your right. You’re about sick of water and about sick of bottomless pits. You can’t tell how deep the water channels are, but you don’t fancy your chances wading through them at that speed. You scowl at the obstacles and start to think through your options. You hear a bright chirp by your side and turn to see a small yellow bird standing next to you, looking at you expectantly. Your expression softens.

*You say hello, and ask if it’s trying to cross the waterfalls too.

It looks back and forth between the waterfalls and you, then ruffles its feathers.

*You say it must be nice to be able to fly, but this crossing is more difficult for wingless folk.

The bird pecks at your shoe, looks at the waterfalls, and beats its wings. Wait, does it want to take you across?

*You say that’s a really nice offer, but surely you’re too big for it to carry.

The bird trills resolutely and stares up at you. Its beady black eyes glimmer with something like determination. Well, if the bird is confident in its own abilities, then you trust it.

*You say you would like to go to the other side.

The bird nods, then flutters up to your head. The wind kicks up as the bird starts flapping up a storm, and you feel yourself rise a few inches off the ground. Then, slowly, you start drifting forward and you feel as if you are embarking on a grand adventure. You begin to soar over the rushing waterfalls and you draw up your knees to keep your heels from skimming the surface. You hold out your arms and feel the wind gliding past like a fan on the lowest setting. You cross the first waterfall, after a minute or so, and you notice more plaques between the waterfalls. You read them two or three times as you are flying past.

“Hurt, beaten, and fearful for our lives, we surrendered to the humans. Seven of their greatest magicians sealed us underground with a magic spell. Anything can enter through the seal, but only beings with a powerful SOUL can leave. 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. But this cursed place has no entrances or exits. There is no way a human could come here. We will remain trapped down here forever.”

It’s painful to see it like that, written in stone. That distant war hardly feels real when it’s just a story in your head, but there it is, engraved on the wall for all to see. Immutable. Still, it’s like Gerson said, you can’t change the past or predict the future, but the present is yours to mold. At least, you think that’s the point he was getting at.

You begin the next leg of your journey over the second waterfall, and try to pretend you aren’t hanging a little lower than before.

*You ask the little bird if it’s doing alright.

It gives you a chipper peep-peep-a-dee! in response, and you really hope that doesn’t translate to “Look out below!” Nevertheless, you continue your voyage to the other side, and the bird slowly lowers you onto dry land. The heroic little bird hops down to the ground beside you and preens its feathers.

*You thank the bird for its great service.

It peeps in response and nestles down into the ground to take a well-deserved rest. You fish out a Nice Guard pin and put it on the ground next to the bird. You suppose it can’t wear it, but it’s a nice shiny thing for the bird’s nest. The bird gives you another sweet peep. You hope everyone cherishes this bird that carries passengers over disproportionately raging waterfalls.

The atmosphere darkens as you continue into the next area, and the dirt transitions to soft grass under your feet. You can feel the edges of the chasm creeping in around you, and you can only make out parts of the narrow path from the dim light of tall, glowing blue mushrooms. You slow down and try to feel out the path. You brush past a small clump of mushrooms and it triggers its bioluminescence, lighting up more of the winding trails of grass. That should make things a little easier. You take a few more steps before you are drawn into battle.

You smile when you see three Moldsmals before you. These ones are electric blue instead of the fruit punch red you’re used to from the Ruins, but you assume they’re similar. You pay close attention to their wiggles. They have a bit of a regional accent, but the first two wiggle a standard greeting. The third one is strangely still.

They shoot several bullets at you that explode into a cloud of spores and you weave around them. This bullet pattern is so familiar you could dodge it with your eyes closed. You have dodged it with your eyes closed, actually. Once their round is over, you wiggle your hips at them, saying hello, that they have a very nice color, and asking if you’re on the right path to Hotland. The first two Moldsmal wiggle back. What a meaningful conversation! They convey that you’re headed the right way and that they like the blue on your shirt. The third Moldsmal, however, remains stoically still. They shoot spores at you again, just because it seems like the thing to do, and you dodge around them. As soon as your turn comes again, you SPARE them. The first two Moldsmals wiggle away, making happy squelching noises as they go, but the third one doesn’t move. This really is abnormal behavior for a sentient slime mold. You step toward it and it immediately lurches back, bubbling and morphing into a taller column of goop. The top ridges fan out into the shape of a lion’s mane and its segments gyrate back and forth. This is no Moldsmal. This mold is big!

The Moldbygg shoots several gloppy bullets at you. You sneak in between them and they converge into a pile of gloop that shoots off into another direction. It still isn’t too difficult to avoid, but it’s definitely different from what you’re used to. Once it’s finished, it wiggles back and forth menacingly and roars. You consider what you should do. It didn’t seem to be impressed by your wiggles earlier, so maybe it isn’t much for conversation. You suppose you could give it a big hug to show you’re friendly, but frankly, you just got this shirt cleaned. There’s also something in its apprehensive wiggles that says that it needs its personal space. This big guy needs the opposite of a hug. You back up a step and put your hands up to show it that you aren’t coming into its bubble. Seeing your unhug, it wobbles happily, thanking you for respecting its boundaries. A few more drops of goo shoot off toward you, but you step around them. You SPARE the Moldbygg and it wiggles away, ending the battle and leaving a trail of slime across the grass behind it.

That was fun. You wonder if these monsters are related to the Moldsmals back home. You continue along the path, tapping mushrooms as you go to light up the way. As the picture becomes clearer you have to backtrack to the paths you missed, but you think you’re close to figuring it out. You start down another path and are stopped in your tracks when you are drawn into another battle. Wow, who knew this part of Waterfall was so populated? You suppose lighting up all of the mushrooms has put a spotlight on you.

You observe the vibrating catlike-doglike monster before you with some concern. Is she having a seizure? She has silky black hair, two pairs of ears, a pretty blue sweater, and a cute face that is alarmingly detached from the rest of her movements.

“fhsdhjf dsfjsd dshjfsd”

Oh dear. Is she having a stroke, too? A strange bullet appears around you in the shape of the monster and starts walking. You walk with it to avoid running into its legs as it shuffles back and forth. Once the bullet disappears you wonder what you should do.

“hOI!!!! I’m TEMMIE!!!”

Oh, you’ve heard of Temmies before! Mom says they’re very friendly, but you have to be careful because humans tend to be allergic to them. It’s a shame, you would love to pet this little cutie.

*You say hello to Temmie.

She starts to vibrate even faster, and you wonder if her face is detachable.

“OMG!! humans TOO CUTE (pets u)”

She looks like she’s going to faint, but recovers and stretches out a paw to pet you. Oh no, you don’t want hives. You back up and dodge as the paw stretches around the arena like taffy in its mission to pet you. You snake around it until she finally retracts her paw.

*You explain that you would love a head pat, but you’re allergic.

Her face falls, but she picks it back up.

“aWWWW, CUTIE hUMANz!!!! dat OKAY! tem RESPEC personall spAce!!”

You are relieved to get an unhug of your own. You SPARE Temmie and the battle ends. She continues to vibrate at a respectful distance.

“wAO! TEM meet cutes FREN! Temmie can take picturz??”

*You say that you’d love to take a picture with her.

She fumbles around with her sweater for a moment, then cries out.

“nOOOOO! Temmie lef phone at home! Now Temmie’s friends nevr beleeve Temmie… OH!!! Humin, you come with Tem to Temmie Village, meet all tha tEMMIES!! get good stufs at TEM SHOP!”

Hmm. You’re wary of taking any more detours, but you’re curious about what a whole village of Temmies is like, and you wouldn’t mind checking the shop for supplies. They might have something helpful.

*You agree, and ask her to show the way.

“yAYA!!! Follow Temmie!!”

She bounces away and you quicken your pace to follow. She guides you through the maze to a path you hadn’t noticed before, further south. You follow her down into a long chamber filled with Temmies. You can feel your nose itch at the sight of them all. Still, they’re adorable! You follow her to a line of four of them and she introduces you.

“lOOk!! Tem find CUTE HUMAN! Everbuds say hOI!”

“hOI!!! im temmie!! and dis is my friend… temmie!!!”

“hOI!!! im temmie!! and dis is my friend… temmie!!!”

“hOI!!! im temmie!! don forget my friend!”

“Hi. I’m Bob.”

*You say hello to Temmie, Temmie, Temmie, and Bob.

Family gatherings must be confusing. The first Temmie runs for her phone and you admire the village. There’s a magnificent painting of a Temmie riding atop a dragon, a cute shopfront, a big Temmie statue, a mushroom doing an interpretive dance in the corner, and a gap in the wall where a pair of eyes is staring at you intently. Charming! Temmie returns with her phone and takes several selfies with you while you cycle through various poses.

*You say you noticed that the village is sort of low-lying, and you’re glad the place hasn’t been flooded like other parts of Waterfall.

“yAYA! Temmie Village was getting water EVERYWHERES! Biiiig problum, Temmies hav 2 swim! but den we instal drainage systems and levees to mitigates FLUD damages, and build dam to block waters an aLSO generates hydroelectricity! dEN temmies support wetland restoration to naturali absorb extra waters and promotes conservashuns of VULNERABLE speeshies endemic to underground! nAOW temmie Village dry and eco-frendlies!!!”

You blink a couple of times. The rest of the underground needs to take notes, apparently.

*You say you’re glad they worked out such a clever solution.

“yAyA!! Tem Village bestest place! we PROTEC! Shopkeep Tem VER smarts, got much learnings from colleg! Oh!! You visit tEM shop, give muns for gud iTEMs!!”

She guides you to the shop and waits outside as you enter. The Temmie at the counter, which is a cardboard box marked in bright letters, has gray hair and a yellow and blue shirt. She’s also wearing a graduation cap, so she must be the resident expert around here. Behind her, the shelves are lined with all kinds of odds and ends, from clothing and food to bones and glowing bottles. She perks up when she sees you.

“hOI!! welcom to… da TEM SHOP!!”

*You say hi, and ask what’s for sale.

“MANI gud things! tEM sell great Tem Armor, made with much skil from degree in TEM studies! also sell TEMMIE FLAKES, ver tasties! Temmie saving up for gradskool to learn EVERthing, becom DOKTOR TEMMIE!! All muns help!”

You peruse her wares. The set of armor looks very impressive, even if it appears to be made out of cardboard Temmie Flake boxes, but you think it’s a little clunky for your tastes. You need to be able to move well. There are also several Temmie Flake boxes marked at various prices, although they all look the same from the outside. The cereal boxes are colorful, and plastered with a bunch of flashy logos and cartoon Temmies. The front depicts a bowl full of rainbow flakes and a waterfall of milk pouring into it. Wow, even on the box those flakes look soggy. They almost look like they’re made out of—you open the flap of one and take a peek inside. Yep, those are just bits of colored construction paper. You may have been raised by a goat, but you don’t eat paper. Still, Temmie is staring at you expectantly. You do believe in higher education. And hey, maybe you can use them as confetti or something. You have oodles of money as the champion of the Ruins fight club, anyway, and not much to spend it on.

*You tell her you’ll buy the expensive Temmie Flakes marked to send her to grad school.

“wAOW!! Tem so…. HAPI!Okie dokies! Tem go to gradskool and make u prouds!”

You cram the box into your backpack, and Tem slides away, leaving her face behind her. After a moment, she slides back into view, wearing a round graduation cap and a shiny stole. She’s a quick study.

“tEM bak from cool leg, learn ALL the THINGS! hav DOKTORate in Tem Studies, now SUPERSMART! Tem can enchants iTEMs now wit MAGIKS!! temMIE wil enchant iTEM for you if want!”

An enchanted item? That could certainly come in handy.

*You lay Stickolas on the counter and ask what she can do with this.

“oOoh! Stik hav much POTENSHULS! Hnnn. Tem could enchant to be MAGIC WAN! Shoot sPeLs using ur MAGIC BULLET!”

*You say that sounds neat, but as a human you can’t make magic bullets.

“Oh yAyA, no gud. Hnnnnn. OH! TEm can enchant to make MAGIC SORD! Can shoot ENergY bEAm at ful helths!”

*You say that sounds great too, but you don’t actually use Stickolas as a weapon, only as a tool.

“Oh! No hurts wit stik! tEM get it now! Hnnnnnnn… TEm know!!! TeM wil enchants to be MAGIC SHEELD! sTick will mak shield to PROTEC hooman from big dangers!”

*You say that sounds perfect.

“yAY! Tem get to works now… Close u eyz, this VER BRITE!”

Temmie reaches out her paws and starts to do some kind of magical… Temmie thing. Little sparkles fill the air, and you cover your eyes as a bright light fills the room. When you open your eyes, Temmie wiggles excitedly. Stickolas looks pretty much the same, but there is a faint green glow that wasn’t there before. You run a hand across the bark reverently, then hold Stickolas aloft.

“da Na NA NAAAAA!!! You got a MAGIC STICKS! now… TEM thinks… can defend against a dangers. But just ONE BIG dangers! when you wants activate, jus feel it in ur heart, and magic will mak a big green sheld to PROTEC! But then wil becom normul stix… so mebe… think CAREFUL befor using!”

You swish Stickolas a couple of times in the air, twirl it, then stick it into your pack.

*You thank Temmie for enchanting your stick.

“yAYA!! Tem HAPI to helps! Come bak ANYTIMES! bOI!!!”

*You say goodbye and exit the shop.

Your first Temmie friend is outside, talking to some friends.

“SEE!? Here HOOman! VEr nice. but NO TUCH! only LOOKS!”

“aWw, but if not touch, then why FREN shape?”

“hUnan aLLER jick! NO toUCHES!!”

Your friend bonks the other Temmie on the head when she tries to reach out to you. A third Temmie nods solemnly.

“tem understan… tem… ALSO allergic to tem! get hOIVES!”

That Temmie does look pretty red. Aw, poor thing. The bonked Temmie rubs her head.

“Owie! tem only wan show hunan cool EG! See? tem… WATCH EG!!! eg… WIL HATCH!!! tem… PROUD PARENT!!!”

You lean in to get a closer look at her egg. You had no idea that Temmies came from—it appears to be hard-boiled. Oh. Poor thing.

*You say it’s a nice egg.

“yEP! tem walk all over place wit eg. Eg… see da WORLD!! hatch… WIT KNOWLEDGES!!”

*You say that you hope the egg gets to see many cool places. You tell them all that you’ve enjoyed visiting, but you should get back to your journey.

Your friend looks sad, but perks up immediately.

“Aww… mISS cute HUMIN! but tem understans. hope u enjoyed TEm ViLLAGE!”

*You say it was an experience you won’t soon forget.

Actually, while you’re thinking about it, you pull out your bag of Nice Guard pins.

*You say you would like the Temmies to take pins as recognition of their warm welcome and eco-friendly efforts.

“wOAOW! Tems get… SPESHUL AWARDS!!”

The Temmies all crowd around and take enough pins for everyone.

“tEMS look all OFFISHUL now! wIL be best and NICEst guards!!”

*You say you know they will be.

The Temmies begin to parade around in their new pins. Looking around this strange village, talking with its equally strange inhabitants, and feeling your nose tingle at the allergens in the air, it makes you feel… some kind of emotion. You are filled with detemmienation.

Notes:

hOI!!! The spellcheck on my computer had a conniption while I was trying to write this chapter. Worth it!

"Master Stickolas"-Weapon AT 0. He's a magical pacistick

Chapter 37: That's My Wish

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Waterfall-Samantha Ballard

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You begin to make your way out of Temmie Village in cloud-cuckoo land, but freeze as a yellow blur darts around the corner and nearly slams into you. The monster kid skids to a halt and grins.

“Yo, there you are! I’ve been looking all over the place for you, dude!”

*You grin in return and say you’re glad he found you.

“Yeah! I was, like, pretty worried after you fell off that boardwalk! I’m glad you’re okay! But Undyne was totally right, she said you’d be fine. She said humans are like co*ckroaches, haha.”

Flattering. But considering how many impossible falls you’ve walked away from, she might not be wrong.

*You say you’re glad he’s alright too, and you were afraid he was going to fall.

“Nah, I’m all good! Undyne caught me after you gave me that push. So, uh, thanks, dude. Anyway, Undyne tried to send me home again, but I wanted to find you, haha. Oh! I talked to her, she wasn’t mad at me for messing up at all! She just tried to send me home because humans are super dangerous and she didn’t want me to get hurt. She was impressed that I tried to fight you, though!”

*You say you’re glad they patched things up.

“Yeah, me too.”

*You ask if she had any insights about his new orange magic.

“Oh, I didn’t get a chance to tell her yet. I was trying to explain how we fought and it turned out you were an okay human, but she was kind of distracted. She just told me to wait at home and she ran off to catch you. Anyway, here I am! Are you still going toward the Waterfall exit?”

*You say you are, and he’s welcome to join you if he won’t get in too much trouble.

“Sweet! Let’s go!”

You exit the village together and return to the grassy path lit by the glow of mushrooms. He’s quiet for a minute as you tread through the grass.

“So, like… earlier, I said I would try to talk to her, but when we were up there, I kind of froze up, didn’t I? So, like… sorry, dude.”

*You say you understand, and that it’s hard to stand up to someone you admire.

“Yeah… Captain Undyne’s the coolest, and I don’t want her to be mad, or like, disappointed in me. But you’re pretty cool too! And I don’t think she should fight you. So I’m really gonna try to convince her next time.”

That would be nice. You still don’t think Undyne’s going to be easily persuaded, but it’s nice to have someone on your side. You reach the end of the mushrooms’ light and pass into a new area with pink gemstones pulsing with light. You take a few steps, then pause as they flicker out and you are plunged into darkness.

“Oh, yeah, it’s hard to get through here if you don’t know where you’re going. Here, just hold onto my tail! I know where to go.”

*You thank him and hold onto his tail as he guides you through the dark maze, triggering the lamps as you go.

“Oh! I was thinking! So, like, we’re not allowed to be friends, technically, and we’re not enemies, but I figured it out! We can be rivals!”

*You say you didn’t know there was a difference.

“Totally! Enemies have to fight every time they see each other, right? But a rival is, like. A friendly enemy! So sometimes they fight, and sometimes they just hang out!”

*You say that works for you, and ask if you’re supposed to fight this time.

“Nah, we fought last time. So we can just hang out for now. But someday, you owe me a rematch!”

It just sounds like friendship with extra steps to you, but you don’t mind.

*You say it is pretty fun to have someone to spar with.

“Exactly! So rivals it is! And that’s how humans do it, right? That’s how it was in the human video games I have.”

*You say you didn’t know they were able to get human video games here.

“Not very often. I found some games and a system in the dump, once. Everything was totally broken, but Undyne’s smart friend Dr. Alphys fixed it up for me, and she even rigged up a controller I can use with my feet! I think Dr. Alphys likes cartoons more than games, but she watches me play when we’re all over at Undyne’s house, sometimes, and she gets pretty into it, haha. Especially the ones with, like, cute romancey stuff. She must be busy lately, though. It’s been a while since we’ve all really hung out.”

*You say that sounds like fun, and you used to be really good at the racing kart games back when you were on the surface.

“Really? Cool! We’ll have to try to find one of those so we can play!”

*You tell him you’re going to whoop his tail at it.

“Dude, you are ON!”

You both laugh, and the sound drifts through the dark cavern. The path comes alongside a wall, and it looks like you’re about to pass through this area into another enclosed tunnel. He slows to a halt.

“Okay… So here’s the thing. Undyne is, like, setting an ambush for you up ahead.”

You start with surprise, and he turns to face you. You can just make out the conflict in his face in the dim light.

“Yeah, back when you first showed up, we talked about backup plans, in case you made it this far. Have you, um, thought about what you’re going to do when you see Undyne again?”

It’s certainly been on your mind. You’ve accepted that a fight is inevitable, but you want it to be on your own terms.

*You say that you’re prepared to fight her, but you’re hoping for a couple of things. You want to be as close as possible to Hotland, for one thing, and for another, you want to face her in an open space with room for you to maneuver and run.

“Yeah, that makes sense. This is… not that. Okay, so like, the next room is kind of straight, with a tunnel branching off to the left that goes toward Hotland. It looks like a sideways T, like this.”

He scratches the shape of the room in the dirt with his tail. You crouch to get a better look at it.

“And Undyne is like, standing here, where the tunnel branches off.”

He marks a little x just inside the branching path.

“It’s pretty dark in there, and hard to see the side tunnel if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so she’s expecting you to keep going straight forward, past where she’s hiding. Then you’ll be stuck at this dead end with an echo flower. She’s totally going to make the echo flower say something creepy too, like, ’ooh, look out behind you,’ and then she’s going to pop out and trap you! So yeah.”

You study the diagram. If you go to the end, you’ll be trapped. You need to take the branch to the left, but if that’s where she’s standing to wait for you, you won’t be able to sneak past her that way. This is a pickle. The kid crouches to study the problem too.

*You say this isn’t a great place to fight her.

“Hmm… Yeah. In the dark, in a narrow tunnel, knee-deep in water. I think she has the tactical advantage, dude.”

Oh, great, more water. This is going to be your watery grave if you meet Undyne here.

“So maybe we can make some kind of distraction to draw her out? What do you think?”

You look up at him and fidget with the hem of your sleeve.

*You ask if he’s sure he wants to help you and risk Undyne’s wrath.

He shuffles on his feet.

“I’m still trying to work out what it means to be a hero. But like, not letting a nice person get totally murdered? That’s an easy one. I’m all in, dude.”

You smile.

*You say you appreciate it. And you think if you could somehow get her to go to the dead-end of the tunnel, maybe you could sneak off to the left while her back is to you.

“Yeah… but she isn’t moving from her post until she sees you pass her. You know, if I could get her to think that I’m you, she might follow me to the dead-end, but I don’t know how. I think she’d be able to tell the difference, even in low light.”

A decoy? That’s not a bad idea. Suddenly, a thought clicks, and you grin. You dig through your bag and pull out your identical spare sweater. The kid grins just as wide.

“Aw, yeah, that’s perfect! Here, put it on me!”

You help him wriggle into the sweater. He swings from side to side and laughs as the empty sleeves flop around.

“Haha, it’s so weird having sleeves! Let’s see, what else… Oh! I’ve got it!”

He roots up some of the long grass around you and gives it to you.

“Here, tie some of the ends together and make, like, a wig!”

You make a few quick knots, then arrange the tangle of grass on his head. He gives his head a swish and the grass falls into place. It looks like a swamp hag’s hair, but you think it can pass in a pinch.

“Perfect! It’s just like yours.”

You wrinkle your nose. It is not just like yours. He laughs.

“Haha, I’m just kidding! But it’ll look like the outline of hair in the dark. So whaddya think? Am I a good doppelgänger?”

He spins around and you put a finger to your chin.

*You say he’ll need to hide his tail.

“Oh, right! I’ll just wrap it around my waist.”

He hides it and makes another spin. The disguise would look ridiculous in good lighting, but in the dark? You think his silhouette could pass for yours.

*You give him a thumbs up, and ask if he’ll be safe pretending to be you.

“No worries! I’ll make sure she knows it’s me once the game’s up! Okay, so I’ll go first, lure her to the end of the tunnel, and you follow behind and slip into the path on the left. I’ll meet you up ahead if I can. Just be quick, I don’t think I’ll be able to distract her for long!”

*You wish him luck.

“Yeah, you too. You ready?”

You nod and both head into the next room. The light of the gemstones fades behind you and you find yourself in darkness once again. The ground slopes into another shallow marsh. You wince as the cool water seeps into your clothing. You give the kid a good head start and he splashes ahead as loudly and obnoxiously as possible, the empty sleeves swinging by his sides. You slide through the water quietly and trace your fingers against the lefthand wall as you strain to spot the tunnel entrance. The kid plows ahead, and suddenly a taller silhouette slips out of somewhere and follows behind him. Your heart races and you instinctively hold your breath. You can make out the muffled creaks of her armor and the shape of her ponytail swishing behind her. You wait a few seconds, then duck into the tunnel she just left. As much as you would like to break into a run, you don’t dare risk giving yourself away with any noise. You tread through the tunnel quietly as the grass tickles your legs.

A drifting flash of yellow catches your eye, and you follow it into the next room. The soft light of echo flowers and fireflies fills your vision. It would be a beautiful scene for a picnic or a stroll with a friend. You would take a moment to admire it if the hairs on the back of your neck weren’t tingling. You pick up the pace a little, and your heart continues to pound as the flowers chatter around you.

“Hey, do you remember when we made wishes together awhile back? It was around here, wasn’t it?”

“Hm? Oh yeah… I think it was here… Yes, I remember, I made a wish about climbing this mountain and looking at the sky, and you laughed even though you promised you wouldn’t.”

“Hey, I said I was sorry!”

“Jerk! Heheheh… just messing with you. But what reminds you of that all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know, just nostalgic, I guess… Did you know that I found a shovel the next day and spent a week trying to dig out? I thought I might be able to tunnel under.”

“Really? I had no idea…”

“Didn’t work, of course. Pretty dumb, in hindsight. It’s not like there aren’t a bunch of tunneling monsters who have tried that already. So, anyway, if you wanted to get even, you can laugh at me for being so silly. I won’t get mad, I promise.”

“Hmmm… Nah. I can’t laugh at you for that.”

“… No, you wouldn’t.”

“… I’m not sure if I still believe in wishing on stars. But I think… being here with you, I would make the same wish all over again.”

“… Me too.”

Aw, how sweet. As you reach the end of the watery tunnel and climb onto dry land, the glimmer of fireflies draws your attention to one more ancient plaque. You take just a moment to scan it.

“However… there is a prophecy. The Angel. The One Who Has Seen The Surface. They will return. And the underground will go empty.”

You turn your face up to the ceiling, studded with gems. You aren’t sure if those gems can grant wishes, either, but you make one all the same. A firefly blinks before your eyes and you offer your hand for it to land on. It skitters across your palm and tickles your skin, and you admire the black wings with yellow trim. It blinks at you, then takes off and disappears into the cloud of glowing lights.

Notes:

Yay, monster kid!
I actually wrote two versions of the echo flower conversation, but in the end I thought this one fit the best. The other one had a little too much tonal whiplash, and I didn't feel like shattering everyone's hearts today.
See you next week!

Chapter 38: Battle at the Little Bridge

Notes:

For your listening pleasure:
Waterfall-RichaadEB

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

You frown when you come across yet another old structure of dubious integrity spanning a body of rushing water. You really should have brought along a deathly hazard bingo card. This time it’s a narrow bridge suspended over a channel of swift-moving water. Who built this thing? Why are there no handrails? You suppose the water isn’t much of a threat to most of Waterfall’s residents, but still. You need to talk to Asgore about safe infrastructure when you meet him.

You shake your head and start to make your way across the bridge, hoping this one is rated for spear strikes. A few steps in, footsteps pound behind you. You whip around and let out a sigh of relief as you recognize your rival in the matching sweater.

“Yo! You made it!”

He’s grinning, and the grass wig is lopsided on his face. He shakes it off and bends over so you can grab the collar of the shirt.

“Here, help me get this thing off.”

You take back your sweater and cram it into your bag.

*You ask him how it went.

“Perfect! Man, you should’ve seen the look on her face! She really chewed me out.”

*You ask how he got away, and where she is now.

“Oh, I slipped away while she was distracted. She’s, uh, on the phone with my parents, haha… ha. Dude, I am in so much trouble.”

You grimace.

*You say you appreciate the help, but you’re sorry he’s in trouble.

He shrugs.

“Don’t worry, dude, it’s all worth it to get a new rival! Anyway, I really need to be getting home soon, but I wanted to make sure you were on track. I can take you to the entrance of Hotland, at least, we’re super close.”

*You say that would be great.

He trots past you and you follow.

“Dude, you know this spot would be epic for a battle! I almost wish I could challenge you right here, haha. Don’t worry though, I won’t.”

*You say you’re glad, but that this would be a cool spot, and you can imagine some epic music in the background.

“Totally! Something with electric guitar.”

*You say you should ask your friend if they’ve composed any pieces like that.

“Oh, you know a composer? Neat!”

*You say you do, and ask if he knows the owner of Blook Acres.

“The snail farm? Yeah, my sister and I do thundersnail racing there sometimes! She always knows how to pick the fast ones somehow. You know, one time—”

You freeze as you feel a shift in the atmosphere. The shadows lengthen, the waters roar below, and somewhere in the distance, the wind howls. You whip around to the sight of three blue spears descending in an arc toward you. The world goes into slow motion. You throw yourself backward and the spears converge on the spot you were standing. You squint against the explosion of electric blue. You twist to run, but your heel catches on an uneven board and your balance is thrown to the side. You catch a glimpse of the monster kid’s startled face as you fall off the side of the bridge and throw your arms toward the ledge. You yelp as you go over, barely catching the side of the rock with one hand. You try and fail to find a foothold on the slick rock as you dangle there helplessly. The water swirls below and flicks foam onto your shoes as you kick. Come on, come on, get up, she’s coming, any second—

“Dude, my tail! Grab my tail!”

You reach up and grab his tail, and with a grunt he swings you back onto the bridge. You roll to your feet and your eyes focus on the approaching figure in clanking armor. You bend your knees, preparing to fight or make a run for it. You take it back, this is not a good place for a battle. There’s no space to dodge left and right, running here will be dangerous, and falling will mean certain death for you. You snatch Stickolas out of your backpack and adjust your stance. She’s already caught you on the back foot, but you can’t give up without a fight. The kid beside you looks between you and Undyne.

“H-hey, Undyne, uh…”

She shoots him a yellow-eyed glare through her helmet and gestures for him to get behind her. As she starts to close the distance, he gives one last look at her, then at you, then he steps in between you and faces her. She stops.

“No!”

Undyne stares in stunned silence. Your breath catches.

“Y-you’ve taught me everything I know about being a hero. Like you. And I think I get it, now. I-it’s not always about being the strongest, right? It’s about fighting for the right thing… even when you know you’re not the strongest. So…”

He squares up into a fighting stance and flicks his tail.

“S-so, if you wanna hurt my friend, you’re going to have to go through me, first!”

Your heart swells. For anyone to stand between Undyne and her target, well… he’s a hero in your book. Undyne materializes a spear and takes a step forward. He flinches, but doesn’t budge. Then, he lets out a war cry and does a full spin, sending an orange shockwave in all directions. That includes your direction. You step forward through the wave and Undyne does the same. You feel the change as your SOUL flickers orange once more. You aren’t sure how it feels to Undyne, but from the way she looks down at her chest you think the magic must be affecting her too. She summons a line of small javelins and shoots them over his head. The pull of your orange SOUL starts to guide them in like homing missiles. Oh. He looks over his shoulder at you and winces.

“Oh. Er, whoops?”

You take a couple of steps backward as they start to zone in. Orange magic, orange magic, there has to be a way to control it. You close your eyes for a split second and try to identify the feeling in your chest. Strength? Fearlessness? After seeing your friend stand against his mentor, you are inspired with… bravery. You open your eyes and stare down the bullets. Then you take one step forward and throw your whole shoulder into a punch. Your fist meets the points of the spears with a crash and they vaporize into mist. You let out a tense breath and glance at your knuckles. Not a scratch. Your SOUL flickers back to red.

“Whoooaaaa!”

Not willing to waste a moment while the element of surprise is on your side, you whip out Osmond from your backpack pocket, aim it at the slits in Undyne’s visor, and shoot a stream of water right into her eye. She staggers backward and the kid takes his chance to slam a tail sweep right into her legs. She topples off the bridge and lands in the water below with a crash and a gurgle. You and the kid move to the edge of the bridge and swivel your heads in unison to watch her float away on the current, shaking her fist in the air and roaring. At whom, you aren’t sure. You look over at him, both of you with equally wide eyes. He lets out a squeak.

“Dude, I am SO fired.”

You give him a little nod.

*You ask if she’s going to be okay.
“Oh yeah, we train in this river all the time. But she is SOOOO gonna kill me, ha… ha ha…”

You both stare after her in silence for a moment, then you smile.

*You say he looked really cool when he was saving your life.

“R-really? I mean, yeah! That felt really cool! And you too, dude! You figured out my magic right there on the spot, and then pulled out that water gun and you were like BAM! Straight in the eye! And then I did a tail sweep and it was like COMBO! I’ve never sent her flying like that! I mean, WOW! That was so awesome, dude!”

You both break into laughter and the tension is broken.

*You say you make a good team.

“Totally! Who would have thought a monster and human could fight together like that? You have to know, though, she’s not going to give up now. There’s one more spot before Hotland where she’ll probably try to confront you. I think that’s going to be the place.”

*You ask if the terrain is good.

“Yeah. It’s nice and open, and it’s a straight shot into the tunnel to Hotland. It’s too wide to block completely, so that’s your best chance to get around her.”

*You say you think you can handle it from here, then.

“You sure?”

You nod.

*You say that you owe him for getting you this far, but you’ve got it, now.

“Cool. You’re pretty tough, I think you can do it! Okay, so, about fighting Undyne. You know she has green magic?”

*You say you’ve heard that she does.

“Right. So when she uses it, you’ll be stuck in place, but you can block the bullets as long as you have something to block them with. It’s temporary, so you just have to wait it out. Undyne respects people who stand their ground. If you can show her that, maybe…. Um, I know, like, you probably think Undyne’s really mean and scary, but… Here’s the thing. When I first met you, remember how I kept calling you a villain and stuff?”

*You say that you remember.

“Yeah. I always thought that someday I would meet some really mean human, and we would fight and I would win and get the last SOUL and save the underground and it would be great! But then I met you and you weren’t like I imagined, and… And you weren’t supposed to be nice! Well, I kind of kept telling myself that you were a bad guy and a villain. And even though I knew it wasn’t really true, I just kept telling myself that because it made it easier to fight you. I think Undyne’s doing the same thing.”

*You say you think you understand.

“But hey, you got through to me! So, like, don’t give up on Undyne. I think if you keep showing her that you really aren’t a bad human, she’ll have to believe it. So just keep trying and don’t give up!”

*You thank him for the advice.

“Well, I should reeeally get home now that my parents are waiting for me… Aw, man am I in trouble. Still worth it! I don’t think I’m going to be in the guard, though, haha.”

*You say you’re sorry about him probably being fired, but you have another idea.

“Oh yeah?”

You dig out a Nice Guard pin.

*You explain the purpose of the Nice Guard and say you would be honored to induct him into it.

“What, for real?! You’ll make me a real guard? And it’s led by PAPYRUS?! NO WAY, DUDE!!”

*You grin and attach the pin to his shirt. He bounces up and down.

“Aw yeah! This is the coolest! Thanks, dude! I’ll go report for duty with Papyrus as soon as I’m ungrounded. So, like, I’ll see you around?”

*You say that you hope you will, and you’re glad you’re rivals.

“Yeah, me too. Rivals. And friends?”

*And friends, you agree.

He nods, then starts to run back to the other side of the bridge. He stops abruptly and turns.

“Oh! What’s your name?”

*You say you’re Frisk.

“Cool! I’m MK! See you around, Frisk, haha!”

MK turns again and runs, trips, and nearly face plants, but he manages to tuck into a ball and he pinwheels away. You are left alone on the bridge once more. You turn to face the unknown. Green magic… Your friends in the Ruins warned you that the Captain of the Royal Guard was famous for her green magic. As someone who specializes in dodging, being rooted to one spot is a daunting prospect, but your friends have helped you train for this. They figured that sports would be the best way to train your hand-eye coordination to block bullets, so you joined a baseball team with the Looxes. Their lack of depth perception makes the games…interesting. Interesting and unpredictable. The Vegetoids helped too, although their game of choice is squash. Now you’re confident that if you can deflect Loox curveballs and Vegetoid acorn squash, you can block anything.

You double check your bag before you continue. Osmond’s chamber is empty now, so you swap him out for trusty Stickolas and reorganize the other items in your bag. You still have that snowman piece, your spare shirt, various art supplies, some of Mom’s pie wrapped in tinfoil, a bag of Nice Guard pins, and a box of Temmie Flakes. In other words, nothing that’s going to help much in a fight with Undyne. Still, you know your options. You have Stickolas’s new enchantment, as well, but you’re hoping you can hang onto that for a possible encounter with Asgore. You sling the bag back onto your shoulders, grip Stickolas, take a deep breath, and march on toward the inevitable showdown with the captain of the Royal Guard.

Notes:

You know what's coming up next...

Frisk the GOAT - Confused_Squirrel (2024)

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