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The World, Upside Down

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            Something soft and light landed on Frisk’s face, waking them. Blinking sleep from their eyes, they tried to lift their arm to grab whatever touched their face and could only yelp. “Ah-! Son of a…”

            Why do I feel like I got slammed by a semi truck? Groaning, they forced themselves to sit up—whatever was on their face fell harmlessly into their lap. After a moment to gather their wits, Frisk opened their eyes and glanced down. Caught in the folds of their jeans was a small, perfectly shaped golden flower. I know this flower—it’s one of those golden flowers, their brain supplied them after a moment as it skipped through memories until landing on one of the gardening lessons Asgore had taught them. I haven’t seen one of these in years. I thought they only grew on Mount Ebott. Frisk twirled the flower’s stem between their gloved fingers for a moment, trying to figure out why it had fallen onto their face before they gave up and looked around.

            Ah.

            Well then. Looking up explained why their body ached so bad—soaring high above their heads was a long cavern of jagged rocks, the drop off so deep it was a wonder their bones hadn’t been smashed to pieces. Frisk paused and frowned up at it before nervously looking back down, paying closer attention to their surroundings. Their stomach dropped at the sight of the bed of yellow flowers below them.

            Well. Fuck.

 

 

 

            Sixteen years ago, a small child climbed up a mountain. Mt Ebott was a place of stories—that the ground itself was cursed so that all that walked upon it died, that it was the home of ghosts and venturing up it meant you were either spirited away or that you were killed by one of their tricks. For reasons only Frisk knew, they’d climbed up the mountain that no one returned from only to show up again a day later, leading a race of monsters to the surface and into normal human life.

            The transition hadn’t been easy—being an ambassador between humans and monsters hadn’t just been a joke of a title after all—but things mostly sorted themselves out.

            For sixteen years, Frisk had kept a solemn oath, a promise that they would never, under any circumstances except for literally world ending ramifications, reset. And for sixteen years, they’d kept that vow, sticking it out through life’s curveballs and little troubles.

            And now, here they were, sitting in a small patch of familiar golden flowers, in a cavern deep in a mountain with enough pain in their body to be reasonably sure that they’d fallen. Just as they had sixteen years before.

            Don’t panic! They thought between gasps. God, they hadn’t hyperventilated in years. You can’t just accidentally reset—no, that’s not how it works! Besides, you’re not eight again are you? So, it can’t be a reset. They were still in the clothes they’d been wearing earlier—the tank top, the jeans, the hiking boots, the sweatshirt tied around their waist, even the gloves they had tugged on as they climbed out of the car they’d rented that morning. Their hair was still tied up in a short ponytail at the base of their skull.

            But then again, they hadn’t reset since they were eight years old their traitor brain reminded them. What if they had reset, but got to keep their current body from when they had reset?

            Oh god, what if I did reset? What do I do—what do I say to-?

            Wait. Stop it. Breathe.

            They forced themselves to take deep breaths, counting in their head until their breathing started to slow.

            Now then. What was I doing before this happened? Did I get hurt? Could I have died and reset? If I could just-

            Wait.

            The mountain—they had been mountain climbing. Not Mt Ebott, but they could clearly remember the trip up the mountain. They’d left early that morning, wanting to reach the summit before nightfall since they only had the weekend off. They could remember the cries of birds and bugs, of the wind rushing through the trees, and the feeling of the sun beating down on them as they left the trees into—

            The clearing.

            They froze. Yes, that was right. They’d stepped out into the clearing and that’s when things had gotten weird. Oh, it’d been ordinary enough at first—just a small gap where some trees had been cleared, leaving stumps perfect for perching on to take a break. Frisk hadn’t planned to take a break, but the hike had been thirsty work. They’d just stowed their water bottle back into their bag when they heard it. The soft, distant voice of a child crying on the wind. In a moment, all they could think was that some kid had gotten separated from their family and was now wandering around lost in the woods. Without a second thought, they turned, ready to rush into the woods to find the lost child, but they stopped dead in their tracks.

            The voice might have been a child’s, but it was a monster who stood on the other side of the clearing. The memory was vague; hiding in the shadows of the trees made the monster look like a shade as well. But then it had held out its hand to them, some desperate question on its face. They’d walked over, reached for it, and then—a tug, a pull, and

            Falling. The monster pulled me back to Mount Ebott? Relief, rather than anger, washed over them; they would have flopped backward onto the flowers again if their back hadn’t immediately protested. I didn’t reset, that’s the important thing—but that monster, they looked like they wanted help, didn’t they? Maybe they’re down here, waiting for me to find them and help them. They frowned; they’d thought they’d helped all monsters escape the mountain, but maybe they’d been wrong. This poor monster must have been suffering alone, while everyone else left. While not all the monsters had left the Underground at once, only a small handful had hesitated, staying to safely shut down the Core before they too left to join the rest of monster kind on the surface.

            Alright then. So, this monster probably has something to do with why I’m here—and might need help. Well, Frisk, you certainly aren’t doing anyone any good sitting around while there’s work to be done. They smiled—it was easy to imagine that it was Papyrus trying to encourage them. With a groan and a sigh, Frisk looked around again and brightened at the sight of their backpack lying next to them. Another point in the theory that this wasn’t a reset—they’d never gotten to take their things with them during a big reset like this. To be fair, they’d only done one complete reset and that…

            Well, never mind that. Maybe I have something in the bag for aches. They dragged the bag over and began to root through it. Luckily, there was a bag of candies that Toriel had made for them that they had planned to eat after they climbed the mountain. But, seeing as that wasn’t going to happen, they might as well use the candies to heal up. Digging out a few, they popped the sweets into their mouth, humming in appreciation for the taste as well the gentle warmth that radiated out, easing the pain in their body until it was nothing more than a faint memory.

            Thanks, Mom. You always pull through for me in the end, even now. Smiling with renewed energy, they tucked the bag of sweets into a front pocket of their pants, stood up, and climbed out of the patch of flowers. Dusting themselves off, they shouldered their backpack. Frisk took a step forward, but then paused and looked back. After a moment, they slipped the bag back off their shoulder and knelt, clasping their hands before them. Sorry for never visiting, Chara. I hope your rest is a peaceful one.

            “I missed you,” they whispered, gazing at the flowers one last time before grabbing their bag and straightening. “See you around, Chara.”

            With one last smile, they turned and walked out of the chamber.

            For all their days, Frisk was fairly certain that they would be able to walk through the Ruins blindfolded and never miss a step. But stepping out of the chamber gave them pause. Well shit, I guess things have changed since I was here last.

            The next chamber had once been nothing but a small room where they’d met a certain charming but soulless prince turned flower. Now it was filled with fallen debris of rocks and mysterious pillars that Frisk knew couldn’t have been in the room originally. Where the hell did all this junk come from? Is someone trying to seal up the entrance to the Underground?

            They flinched at the sound of faint, muffled crying, like a child trying to hide their sobs. Isn’t that a familiar sound, Frisk thought as a chill shot down their spine and their heart ached. Determined to find the source and comfort them, Frisk ducked below one of the stacked columns and looked around.

            There, in the thick shadows, beneath more debris, Frisk could see movement. Had someone been trapped in a cave-in? Gritting their teeth, Frisk crawled on their hands and knees, sliding into the small gap. “Hey, you okay, little guy?”

            A startled gasp and more movement—the figure was even smaller than they’d expected. It must be a monster then. “Wh-what? Wh-who are you? Where did you come from?”

            “My name’s Frisk. I was in the room back there and thought I heard something, so I came to check.” A thought sparked in their mind. “Was it you I heard calling for help before? Were you the monster I spotted on the mountain?”

            “What? I… no, no—this is a trick!” the figure screeched. “You can’t trick me!”

            That voice. Frowning, Frisk reached into their pocket and dug out their phone; they paused seeing that there was no reception, which was odd but not as odd as everything else going on, but shrugged and turned on the flashlight function. The tiny crevice beneath the rubble lit up in the harsh white light of the phone, causing the figure to flinch and cover their face with a squeak. Looking at them, Frisk nearly dropped their phone. “Flowey? I—what happened to you?”

            Frisk hadn’t seen Flowey once in the sixteen years since they left Mt Ebott, respecting his wishes to be left alone without telling anyone else about him—they’d often wondered what had happened to the monster prince. Now, looking at him, Frisk could tell the years hadn’t been kind to the soulless flower—his petals were torn and ragged, his stem bent and thin, his face dirty. Frisk hadn’t seen him in such a sorry state since the six souls had nearly torn him apart during their escape from him in their first successful run of the Underground. Still, even then, there had been a gleam of cold fury and pride—even when he’d cried, it’d been out of frustration. This time, his tears only highlighted the pure panic in his eyes. His whole body shuddered as he tried to look intimidating.

            “Flowey?” Frisk tried again, voice gentle. “Flowey, what happened? Who did this to you?”

            Flowey flinched and leaned away as they reached for him. “S-stay back!”

            This is all so bizarre, they thought, allowing themselves just the tiniest portion of agitation as they reached closer to Flowey. “Flowey, stop that—it’s me. You know I’d never-”

            Before they could finish, Flowey screwed his eyes shut and screamed. “I said leave me alone!”

            The world crackled as magic surrounded them. Before them, Frisk felt their soul materializing into a shining red heart. Around them, a whirling ring of seed shaped bullets circled them, closing tighter around their soul with every revolution.

            Frisk yelped in surprise—they hadn’t been in an actual battle in years, let alone one with Flowey. With their low LV, Flowey could shred their soul without a second thought. “Ah! Flowey, what the hell?!”

            “You can’t trick me! I—I won’t let you kill me!” he cried.

            Frisk froze, trying to figure out what they could do to talk to him, but gazing down at him, they realized that it wouldn’t be necessary.

            The closer the bullets inched toward their soul, the more the flower shook and his voice grew more distressed. Finally, as the bullets spun in a loop just wider than Frisk’s shoulders, Flowey cried out and the bullets vanished.

            Cautiously, Frisk glanced around, waiting for a new trick, but the flower only sobbed wretchedly before them.

            “I can’t!” he wailed, tears running down his face. “I just can’t! I-if this world is kill or be killed, t-then I would just rather be killed.” He lifted his face and sobbed. “J-just kill me already! I’m just a stupid, pathetic excuse for a monster anyway. I don’t care anymore—it doesn’t matter.” He choked. “It doesn’t matter…”

            Frisk waited for a long moment, but Flowey didn’t attack again. He seemed too focused on sobbing his heart out. Slowly, carefully, Frisk reached out again and touched one the damaged petals—they frowned when they realized it looked like something had taken a bite out of the flower. Flowey flinched beneath their fingers; murmuring gentle nonsense sounds, Frisk reached into their pocket and pulled out the bag of monster sweets.

            Flowey glanced up at the sound of them rustling the bag of sweets, eyes widening as they pulled one out and held it before his mouth.

            “Here,” they offered softly, holding it patiently. “It’s just monster candy. You look like you could use some.”

            For a moment, he gazed up at them with uncertain eyes. Then his shakes began anew. “I-it’s poisoned, isn’t it?”

            Frisk frowned at him and then made a point to pop the candy into their mouth in clear view, sucking on it purposefully before swallowing it. He gazed up at them in confusion as they dug another one out and held it to him again.

            This time, he gazed down it, trembling as he looked torn. At last, he lunged forward and nearly bit their fingers as he grabbed it with his mouth. He barely bothered to savor it before swallowing; instantly, his eyes widened as his battered form glowed with renewed health.

            Smiling down at him, Frisk dug out another and offered that as well.

            Cautiously, Flowey took it again—this time even his more superficial wounds healed, leaving only the large gap in his petal. It must have been an old wound for the candy not to heal it.

            “Want another?” Frisk asked, offering him the bag.

            He eyed it momentarily before glancing up, his face awash with confusion. “Why?”

            “Why what?”

            “Why are you being so nice to me?”

            In spite of themselves, Frisk had to smile as they tucked the bag back into their pocket. “Well, why shouldn’t I be? You just seemed scared because you were hurt and cornered. I wouldn’t hold that sort thing against anyone. Sorry that I scared you.”

            He still frowned at them, cocking his head to the side as his eyes narrowed. “In this place, anyone else would have killed me.”

            They glanced up at him sharply. “…how grim. Why so certain that everyone’s out to get you?”

            He tensed up. “I don’t think anyone’s out to get me. I’m not crazy! But, the monsters around here—they’re just as violent and bloodthirsty as the rest of them.” He slumped. “There’s just… less of them here to find me.”

            Frisk paused, trying to parse what that meant. What was Flowey’s game here? He was so different than they remembered him—well, as a flower at least. His true form with his true emotions, however—that didn’t sound too far off. He himself had admitted to being a crybaby after all. And he still didn’t recognize them—had he somehow forgotten them? That didn’t explain the presence of murderous monsters in the Underground, unless some bad seeds had decided to go back to Mt Ebott to cause trouble far from the watchful eyes of surface dwellers. Still, it wasn’t like Flowey wouldn’t have been able to fight back. This Flowey was so timid and scared. Furthermore, he didn’t seem to recognize them at all.

            Maybe this wasn’t the Flowey they remembered. Had they reset then? A botched reset maybe, done unconsciously? But then, could someone even botch a reset?

            This was going nowhere fast—they needed to find Sans or Alphys, anyone who understood the concept of or knew about resets. At least they could point Frisk in the right direction. So, that meant they were probably going to have to go through the Underground again—but first, they needed to get around the roadblock of the collapsed room.

            “Flowey, I’m sorry that some of the monsters have been treating you cruelly. I’ll see what I can do about them, but first, I gotta get out of here. Is there a way for me to get through here?”

            He blinked up at her for a long moment before finally speaking. “No—this took a lot of effort to make.”

            “You made this? Why would-” Was he trying to protect Chara’s resting place from anyone trying to disturb it?

            “Why? Why wouldn’t I? It’s the only way to stay safe.” He frowned and glanced away, face dark. “After all, it’s not like she ever visits past here anymore.”

            Frisk’s heart lurched. “She? Who’s this she?”

            Flowey never got a chance to answer. On the far side of the rubble, something exploded. Rocks rumbled and the debris above them began to buckle. With a yelp, Frisk reached down and dug their fingers into the ground below Flowey. With a single, hard yank, they pulled Flowey out—thankfully, he seemed to have realized the danger and pulled his own roots loose from the soil so that they weren’t yanked off when Frisk pulled him out. Frisk shimmied out as fast as they could, then overbalanced, and flopped onto their back, rolling out of the small space that was quickly flattened as the pile of debris fell into itself.

            “You okay?” Frisk whispered, sitting up.

            “Okay? Okay!” he hissed shrilly. “What the hell was that?”

            Frisk glanced around and was relieved to spot their cell phone, still in one piece. Grabbing it, Frisk thought for a moment about putting Flowey down to let him put his roots down, but then there came another explosion—dust rose and the rubble shifted again. Quickly, Frisk shoved their phone into a pocket and grabbed their backpack before standing. No sooner had they straightened than the whole thing exploded once more time; this time the dust particles flash burned as well, creating a giant fireball that sent Frisk scrambling backwards.

            “We’re dead,” Flowey squeaked. “Oh, oh—put me down! I-I maybe I can get away before she-”

            Another fireball shot into the room—Frisk darted to the right and let it sail harmlessly past them. Flowey squealed again and squirmed out of their hand to shimmy up their arm and onto their back, clinging to the straps of the shirt they wore.

            Frisk spared him one short look before turning to see who was tossing fireballs so carelessly. In the dim shadows and smoke, a silhouetted figure advanced forward. Bracing themselves, Frisk waited for the figure to reveal themselves, but when they did Frisk nearly fell backwards.

            “Mom?” they whispered, baffled.

            The figure looked like their mother—how many goat shaped Boss monsters were there left besides Toriel and Asgore anyway?—but only if their mother had gone through a goth inspired mid-life crisis and then hadn’t slept in a month. Gone were the stately purple robes or the simpler clothes they’d seen her wearing just days before. Now Toriel was decked out in black and red. Her eyes were sunk into her face and there were heavy bags below them. She looked like she’d soon as bite you as kiss you; sooner at that.

            *It appears you are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

            Frisk jumped at the sound of a voice they had not heard in sixteen years. Chara?

            There was a shift in the back of their mind, like a ghost fluttering in the shadows. However, nothing came forward and Frisk told themselves to pay attention to the current problem.

            “Well, well,” Toriel’s doppelganger spoke, taking another step in, flames still wreathing their hands. “I thought I’d heard the weed talking around here again, but I didn’t expect it to be talking to a human. What a… interesting find.”

            Flowey moaned and slumped behind their shoulder. “We’re dead. So dead.”

            Frisk tried to keep their frown steady, hoping their lip didn’t tremble as they spoke. “What’s going on here?”

            “Oh, I’m sorry. What a terrible creature I am, attacking such a weak, foolish human without so much as a how-do-you-do. Forgive me,” Toriel began, her smirk sickeningly sweet before bowing mockingly. “Greetings, human. I am Toriel, keeper of the Ruins that you are now trespassing in.”

            This must be what Alice felt like after she fell down the rabbit hole, Frisk thought wildly, trying to keep their face straight while Flowey trembled behind them. Whatever’s up, she doesn’t recognize me, like Flowey. Maybe I should play along for now until I can figure out what’s going on with someone who isn’t going to fry me.  “I see. My apologies, Toriel. I seemed to have gotten a little off the path. I’d be more than happy to get out of your fur, if you’d be so kind as to show me the way to the exit.”

            Toriel’s eyes narrowed. “Well, at least your manners aren’t lacking.”

            Frisk couldn’t help a tiny smile. “What can I say? My mother raised me right.”

            For a moment, Frisk thought they saw something flicker behind Toriel’s eyes—not recognition, per se, but something like déjà vu. Whatever it was though, it faded fast, leaving something coldly unamused in its place. “It’s too bad that your mother didn’t teach you that there are consequences that come with breaking certain rules.” She grimaced as the flames around her hands grew brighter and bigger; her sarcasm vanished as her mouth twisted, like she’d tasted something bitter. “You should have never come to this mountain.”

            Frisk held up their hands placatingly and crouched as if to kneel down submissively. In reality, it was only to brace themselves. Just as well because Toriel didn’t waste any more time chatting; the moment Frisk moved, they were surrounded by her magical aura and the fight displays popped up. This Toriel has no interest in tossing a weak leveled fireball at me and I doubt she’s going to stop at just one wave.

            Well, I didn’t survive ten years worth of training not to recognize a hopeless fight when I see one. Without a word, they chose to Flee.

            Toriel gasped in outraged shock as Frisk ducked past a fiery blast and shot out past her, ducking into the other room. Without waiting for a moment, Frisk took off running. In the next room, the shadows of the Ruins loomed above them, but it was not the same visage that Frisk remembered—somehow, the Ruins seemed, well, more ruined. The shadows they cast were darker, the spires crumbling, the bricks falling down. The leaves that littered the ground were ground into tiny specks, as if someone had spitefully crushed every single one. Rather than wonder on it, Frisk darted up the stairs to the left, noting that the ones on the right were falling apart. Ducking into the next room, Frisk was relieved one moment to see the door on the far side was already open, but then felt an uneasy pang when they realized the reason for that was that someone had smashed the puzzle buttons. Judging from the char marks around them, Frisk had a pretty good guess who it was that broke it. The angry shriek that came from the room behind them only seemed to drive the point home.

            In the next room, they nearly slipped as they turned right hard, catching themselves with one hand before they raced onward, jumping over the dry ditches and crumbling bridges. The puzzle was again broken, although the spikes were protruding slightly from the ground so Frisk had to hop over them.

            Frisk skidded to a halt as they entered the next room. Flowey banged against their shoulder at the abrupt stop and squawked half out of surprise. “Y-you idiot! What are you doing? Don’t stop here! Keep moving!”

            “But that’s-”

            The Dummy that had stood, patient as a sentry, in the Ruins was nothing more than a charred husk on the ground. Physical attacks meant nothing to a ghost monster, but magical ones could hurt them—had the ghost been destroyed in one of Toriel’s attacks? Or had it fled its body to find some safer form? Frisk hoped it was the latter. Reluctantly, Frisk turned and hurried into the next room while they heard Toriel’s blast strike something in the room behind them.

            Scrambling through the next room, Frisk ground to a halt at the bridge of spikes. “Shit.” What path is this puzzle again? Toriel led me through it without any help the first time, so it’s not like I needed to remember it. Which way?

 “Hurry it up! She’ll be coming through here any second now!”

Sure enough, Frisk could hear the sounds of running coming closer. Frisk stared at the bridge for a moment and made a decision. Ducking to the side, Frisk slid down into the ditch—half dried out, the water went up to their waist. There, under the bridge, was plenty of room to hide. As quietly as they could manage, they slipped under the bridge, ducking down until the water went halfway up their chest. It made for an uncomfortable fit, especially with their soaked socks and boots, but any complaint went out of their head the moment they heard Toriel rushing through the puzzle above them. They waited for a lengthy moment as Toriel ran ahead into the next room.

Long minutes stretched on as the sounds of Toriel’s charge faded in the distance. Finally, Frisk crawled out from under the bridge and back out of the ditch. Cautiously, Frisk pressed their foot against each spike to test and see if it would retract before they made any final step. It was slow going as even the correct spikes were reluctant to move but they managed to pick their way to the other side.

            “Well, that was an adventure,” Frisk sighed, untucking their shirt from their pants to try and wring it out. After a moment, they yanked off the sweatshirt to wring that out as well. Their socks made disgusting squelching noises, but Frisk didn’t dare wander around these ruins barefoot. They had to hope they could find somewhere safe and then they could maybe root around through their bag, see if they’d packed an extra pair of socks. Until then, they were just going to have to deal.

            Flowey scoffed. “An adventure? You really are crazy. What on earth made you think you could pull that off?”

            “I’m a fast runner. Besides, it worked. Don’t know what you’re complaining about. We’re both alive, and that’s the important part.”

            The flower rolled his eyes at them. “Look, I’m grateful that you didn’t get us killed and all, but I’d appreciate if you just put me down and then let me go on my way—before you really do get me killed.”

            “Flowey, wait. Do you… really not remember me?” Frisk bit their lip; Flowey had always remembered every reset, even when Sans could only guess, but Flowey knew. If this Flowey really didn’t remember them…

            “Am I supposed to?” he sighed, exasperated.

            “Well—look, just talk with me while I walk and I’ll try and explain… our predicament.”

            “Fine, just… just start walking.”

            Frisk obeyed, entering the next room—the room was one of the long halls, thankfully empty, its traps disabled. Were all the traps in the Ruins disabled? Frisk didn’t doubt Toriel was the cause of at least a few of them, but why would she destroy all of them? Was she so foul tempered?

            “You’re supposed to be explaining,” Flowey reminded them, voice dry.

            “Sorry, thinking—where to begin. Okay, look, I’ll be blunt. This isn’t my first time in the Underground.”

            Flowey shifted, sidling closer to their head. “Well, that’s not so crazy. You’ve been acting all familiar since you first spotted me. So, this isn’t your first run of the Underground.”

            “No, it isn’t. Or, at least, it’s not the first time I’ve been through an Underground—but this place… it’s very different from the place I was before.”

            Flowey straightened and nearly shoved his face into theirs, startling them so they almost tripped. “What do you mean, different?”

            Frisk frowned, tilting their head away. “Well, for one, the Ruins were a lot better kept than this.”

            Flowey sighed and pulled his head back. “Yeah, they’ve seen better days. It used to be that monsters took care of the Ruins. But now with Toriel running around, blasting everything in sight with fireballs, the place is falling apart.”

            “That’s another thing. The Toriel I knew back there would never just randomly attack anyone. She was kind and… motherly.”

            Flowey fell silent and remained so.

            “She tried to protect the human children who fell into the Underground.” Frisk paused as a thought came to mind. “Not that I’d ever heard of any human adults falling down, now that I think about it.”

            “Probably because adults are smart enough to stay away—well, most adults,” he added.

            They had to smile at the thick sarcasm in his voice, but it faded fast. “I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea how I got here. I woke up here, but before that, I’d been climbing a mountain in a whole ‘nother country.”

            “…really?”

            Frisk nodded with a frown. “Yeah. I only remember seeing someone standing in the shadows, looking like they were wanting help. I walked over to them to try and help them. Next thing I know, I woke up here.”

            Flowey was quiet for a moment before he began to abruptly sigh. “Crazy. Definitely crazy.”

            “Whatever, it’s what happened.” Frisk paused and then went on. “In that other Underground, there’d been a Flowey there too.”

            Flowey was quiet; when he spoke, he tried his hardest to sound disinterested. “Oh? And what was he like?”

            “Well, when he saw me, he’d tried to trick me and then kill me. He definitely believed in ‘kill or be killed’ too.”

            Flowey shuddered. “He’d fit in here. Better than I do,” he added under his breath.

            They paused—they’d come to the end of the room. Rather than go on, Frisk leaned against the wall. Better to stop in this empty place than keep going, perhaps walking right into another monster or Toriel herself. “Do you really not remember me—nothing at all’s familiar?”

            “No,” he answered firmly. “I’d remember you… but, then, it’s not like I’m actually like your Flowey at all either, right?”

            Frisk sighed. “No. Definitely not.”

            Flowey idly tapped a root against their backpack for a moment before speaking again. “Back in that other Underground… what was it like there?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “What were the monsters like—was it ‘kill or be killed’ there too?”

            Frisk blinked at them. “Well, no, not really—most monsters just seemed to prefer to play around than fight. Fights with them were more because they were trying to get you to do something, like, um, listen to their jokes. Or hum a tune with them.” Frisk sighed. “Even the really serious fights, when it was supposed to be to the death… those monsters, they didn’t really want to fight to the death. They just… couldn’t see a better solution.”

            Flowey was very still and quiet for long enough that Frisk thought he might never reply. Finally, though, he did speak. “This world… used to be like that too. Monsters used fights more like a way for communicating than actual duels. It was just… another way to talk, you know?”

            Frisk smiled to themselves. “Yeah. I know.”

            “But then… something happened. Something bad.”

            Frisk glanced back at them, expression thoughtful. Where was he going with this? “Yeah?”

            He nodded, face serious before he glanced up at them. “The King and Queen of this world, they used to look after everyone down here, but then something awful happened. Their children died.”

            Alarmed, Frisk turned to glance at him full on—they’d gone through the entire Underground back then before some monsters finally told the sad tale of their monarchs, and yet here was Flowey, blabbing the secret right off the bat. They felt Chara flinch in the back of their mind—or they thought they did, they still weren't entirely sure they'd just imagined the voice. Frisk decided to ignore them for now; they had bigger problems. “That happened back there too.”

            Flowey grimaced and looked away. “Yeah, well, after they died, the king… he’s the one that started all this. After his children died, he was the one to declare that it was ‘kill or be killed’. Since then, monsters were encouraged to fight and attack each other.”

            They nearly tripped over their own feet as they whipped their head around to gape at him. “What?”

            “He said it would ‘toughen them up’. Make it harder for humans to kill monsters that way, make it so they could put up more of a fight.” Flowey wilted. “Nowadays, monsters pick fights all the time. Survival of the fittest and all that junk. This… this world… it’s all wrong.

            Frisk glanced at the floor and tried to wrap their mind around the idea that Asgore—sweet, dorky, gentle, and clumsy Asgore, who had read them stories and taught them everything he could about gardening—had gone down such a dark and cruel route. Even when he had six children put to death, he’d done it all for his people, to restore their hopes and dreams. He abhorred violence among his people and with humans—the idea that he would approve of monsters hurting each other… Frisk could barely grasp it. Asgore was kind, but he had darkness in him—but hadn’t they changed his mind once? Maybe they could do it again.

            It wasn’t like they had a better shot than it anyway—unless they could find Sans or Alphys and see if they could think of something, Frisk’s best hope was escaping the Underground the old fashioned way. And then there was that mysterious monster from the mountain—maybe if they could find that monster, maybe they might be able to explain what was going on.

            “Right then,” Frisk murmured as they straightened away from the wall. “So, Asgore’s the one who made this… law.”

            “Uh, yeah?” Flowey answered, sounding baffled by their tone.

            Frisk took a steadying breath. “Okay. So, he’s the one I gotta see if I want to fix this mess.”

            “What!” Flowey’s voice seemed to jump a whole octave higher—quite a feat, and a painful one for the both of them. “Weren’t you listening to anything I said? I tell you that this guy is the source of all these troubles and you’re first thought is ‘oh, I think I’ll go have a nice chat and cup of tea with him’?”

            Frisk smiled slyly. “I could actually go for a cup of tea, now that you mention it.”

            Flowey gaped up at them for a moment before frowning. “I honestly can’t tell if you’re joking or just crazy, but either way, put me down. I don’t want any part of whatever it is you’re planning.”

            “Fair enough. You’ve been more than helpful at explaining things.” Carefully, they reached over their shoulder and offered him their hand. Once he wrapped his roots around their palm and fingers, they lowered him to the ground. He slid off their hand and buried his roots into the ground instantly. With one last smile, Frisk straightened. “Thanks for everything, Flowey. Be seeing you.”

            He opened his mouth, but then paused. It took him a long moment, but he finally spoke. “Maybe you are crazy, but take care of yourself, Frisk. Toriel might be the scariest monster in the Ruins, and I really doubt you’ll get past her, but if you do, I’m warning you that there’s many more monsters just like her on the other side, so… so look after yourself.”

            Frisk nodded, still smiling. “I will. You take care, too.” They saluted him casually and turned to leave, but stopped at the long sigh behind them.

            “Wait.”

            Frisk glanced back; Flowey was half drooped to the floor, watching them with an odd look on his face. “Yes? You need something before I clear out of here?”

            “I… I can’t let you go on your own. You won’t know how to get through the rest of the traps and I owe you my life.”

            They started to open their mouth to ask what he meant, but then they remembered Toriel’s first attack, where they dove and scooped Flowey right out the ground. Maybe he’d been too startled to think of retreating downward to escape, maybe this Flowey couldn’t do that trick—or maybe he just wanted an excuse to come with them. Frisk smiled; no matter which it was, what did it matter? “It’d be nice to have a friendly face around. Thanks, Flowey.” They walked back to him and knelt down, offering him their hand again.

            Flowey carefully freed his roots from the ground and wrapped them around their fingers. “Yeah, well, it’s not like I can stick around here for much longer—Toriel’s gonna try even harder to kill me now that she thinks we’re working together.”

            “We kind of are,” Frisk teased, picking him up and letting him climb onto their backpack. “But let’s worry about all that stuff later. Let’s get going.”