For Asgore, the visions were most frequent at twilight.
He didn’t know precisely what caused them or even what they were of, only that they occurred most often as the shadows began to lengthen. At that time when day turned into night, nothing seemed entirely real. Even in the glow of the artificial bodies of light that served to create day cycles in the Underground, the farcical twilight hour still retained that aura of mystery, that power over thought. Asgore mused on this often, considering that these happenings might just be a trick of the light, or perhaps a symptom of his exhaustion as the day wound down.
It wasn’t entirely accurate to call them visions, even. More often than not, there wasn’t anything to be seen. It was more like a feeling. It was telling a joke and finding yourself listening for a laugh that never came. It was looking over your shoulder for someone that just wasn’t there. It was feeling the absence beside you as you lay abed. You could have sworn there was someone there even when you knew there was not. It was this simultaneous feeling of presence and absence that plagued Asgore most often at twilight.
These feelings were easy enough to ignore, to push aside and lose himself in the myriad of tasks that occupied his day. Even if someone took notice of his momentary distraction, Asgore could laugh it off and chalk it up to a long day at work.
However, there were some days when the term ‘visions’ would be the only way to describe what was happening to Asgore. They were fleeting glimpses, a wisp at the corners of his vision, or a figure in the shadows that vanished when he blinked. Asgore would turn, intending to greet whomever it was, only to stop short when he found that the figure had vanished. The first few times this had happened, it had drawn curious looks from those in the vicinity. He’d laughed it off at the time to save face—after all, it wouldn’t do for the King of all monsters to be jumping at shadows or, Angel forbid, seeing things.
On one occasion, Asgore had even asked one of his retainers if they’d seen a figure turn the corner up ahead, only to be met with confusion. A quick investigation of the aforementioned corridor - a dead end - as they walked past turned up nothing, earning him strange looks which he then had to laugh off before quickly changing the topic.
After that incident, Asgore was careful to make no mention of the shadowy figure in front of others. Though he was known as a bumbling king to begin with, Asgore would rather not give his subjects any more reason to question his reign. The citizens were already fighting the despair of being trapped underground, he didn’t need to add the king’s mental state to their list of concerns.
Over time, however, these visions became more frequent. Asgore had to make a concerted effort to ignore the tingling on the back of his spine when the lack-of-a-presence made itself known, but it was far more difficult to disregard the shadowy figure that appeared at the corners of his vision. Unlike previously, the visions no longer vanished once he either blinked or shifted his gaze. Instead, the black form persisted at the edges of his field of vision. No matter where he looked, the mysterious individual remained just out of Asgore’s line of sight, preventing him from focusing on them fully. It was downright exhausting to maintain his focus on others when the strange shadow lingered in the periphery.
Asgore was a patient monster, but even he had a breaking point. He’d found himself exhausted at the end of each evening from attempting to ignore his visions and was troubled by thoughts of them at all other times.
On one particular afternoon, Asgore decided he’d had enough.
“B-b-but sire!” A small, nervous-looking rabbit monster scurried along next to Asgore, trying to keep up with his longer strides. “You have a m-meeting with the Agricultural division!”
“I am certain that Counselor Igneous can manage the budget negotiations,” Asgore replied, smiling apologetically at the gray bunny who looked as though she would pass out at any moment. “Please give him my deepest apologies on my behalf.”
Asgore strongly disliked troubling his advisors like this. They were already under enough pressure dealing with their daily tasks that he was loathe to put anything more on their plates.
“B-but Your Majesty! W-w-what personal business could possibly be so important that-”
“Do not worry, Miss Burrows,” He raised one hand to give the worried rabbit pause. She was a very responsible advisor, and he hated to put her careful scheduling to waste. He patted one of her paws reassuringly where it clutched a crumpled timetable. “I will be certain to address this business tonight so it will not cause any further inconvenience.”
The rabbit was silent for a moment before she crumpled under her king’s gaze. It was clear that he was reluctant to divulge any information about his business to her.
“I-I-I’m sorry sire!” Miss Burrows wrung the papers in her hands. “T-to think that I’ve stopped you from dealing with your business until it got to this point!”
“You have done nothing wrong, Miss Burrows. If anything, it is I who has overstepped my limits by troubling you with my personal matters.”
“I-I will just adjust tomorrow’s schedule to accommodate a briefing with the Counselor on the outcome of the meeting?” Miss Burrow rustled through the papers in her hands, mentally readjusting the king’s appointments for the next day.
“You have my gratitude, Miss Burrows. Please allow me to prepare some tea for both Counselor Igneous and yourself at the briefing tomorrow.”
“Y-your majesty! T-the servants could easily...” Despite Asgore’s tea easily being the best in the Capitol, it was highly improper to make the king serve tea at a meeting. Asgore, however, was not one to pay such formalities any regard.
“It is the least I could do, for all the trouble.”
After excusing himself to Miss Burrows, Asgore was left alone at his home. That is, he at least believed himself to be alone. Twilight was approaching, which could only mean that the mysterious figure haunting his thoughts would soon make its presence known.
Asgore typically kept an open-door policy in regards to his house - he trusted each and every one of his subjects and there were none who would do him wrong - but he locked the front door on this particular evening. Given that no one else appeared to be able to see the figure, Asgore did not want to risk someone walking in on him seemingly talking to himself. Assuming that he was not, in fact, seeing someone that wasn’t there, Asgore should be able to talk to them after all.
Asgore set himself about making tea in his small kitchen, humming softly to himself while he warmed the water and prepared the serving tray. Making tea was soothing to the king. The aroma of his favourite golden flower tea never failed to calm his nerves and going through the familiar motions helped him to organize his thoughts. For the first time in quite a while, he would not be drinking alone in his own home. Provided, at least, that his follower both existed and saw fit to join him. Asgore allowed himself a small chuckle at the thought.
“Here we are.” Asgore said with a satisfied smile. He brought the two tea cups - a matching pair patterned with golden flowers that were only ever brought out for special occasions - into the sitting room on a tray. He forsook the armchair near the fire in favour of the dining table where the mysterious person could join him should they so wish. Asgore sat with his own cup at the head of the table, leaving the other cup along with the tray at the other end.
Asgore gave himself a moment to compose his thoughts before looking up. Ah, there they were. The dark form lurked in the corner of the room furthest away from the fire place, where the shadows ran the deepest.
“Howdy!” Asgore smiled towards the figure in the corner, raising one hand in greeting. “Would you care to join me for a cup of tea?”
Asgore was met with silence from the shadows. He could have sworn something there flickered for a moment, but it may have been a trick of the light. He decided to press forward.
“I have noticed you following me these past weeks.” The nebulous form appeared to solidify, causing the shadow to seem somehow more corporeal than moments before. “You have no need to fear, I am not angry in the slightest. I just felt that you may wish to speak with me?”
Again, silence. However, the shadow rippled, almost gelatinous in texture.
“Please, do not be afraid. You do not need to speak if you do not want to. But I do not believe we have met. I like to know all my subjects.”
The figure undulated more strongly, almost bubbling? Asgore wasn’t entirely certain how to describe what he was seeing. He blinked in slight surprise at the motion, the gears in his mind starting to turn in curiosity.
“If you do not mind the question, what manner of monster are you?” He took a sip of his henceforth forgotten tea. “Are you perhaps a slime? I am sorry, I cannot tell.”
The wavelike motions subsided and Asgore could see a small sliver of white amidst the blackness. The figure did not speak, however, nor did it come any closer.
Having been met with silence yet again, Asgore, too, went quiet. It was the strangest feeling. Somehow, he knew this monster was not a slime but, more than that, the being’s presence was so familiar. Asgore could have sworn he knew this person, though he had no idea why. It was the most uncanny feeling. Perhaps they just bore a resemblance to someone Asgore had met before? No, Asgore could safely say that he had not met a monster such as this before. The hunched, gelatinous form, blacker than the darkest night yet also bearing something solid amidst the slime, was unlike anything Asgore had seen before.
The presence was so, so familiar. He just couldn’t place it.
Asgore only realized that he had been staring at his cup of tea in silence when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye.
His gaze flicked up, catching what appeared to be a tendril of pure darkness extending from the shadows. It flinched when his gaze shifted, retreating slightly as if to ensure that Asgore would not make any sudden movements.
Asgore remained completely still, merely watching as the tendril—would it be correct to call it a tentacle?—inched towards the table. It did indeed appear to be gelatinous, though it was made of no material or magic Asgore had seen before. It seemed to be made of pure darkness, letting no light escape. Not even the flickering firelight made any noticeable difference. Instead, all light was lost into the void that was the tendril, differing greatly from any slime Asgore had ever seen. He was expecting at least some sort of sheen, perhaps like oil, however...
Asgore’s thoughts were once again derailed when the tendril reached the cup of tea on the tray.
The slender tip nudged the side of the cup, recoiling slightly as the liquid within rocked. Once it was sure that the cup would do it no harm, the tendril reached forward again, gently poking the surface of the tea and retreating once more upon feeling the temperature. This time, after the ripples in the cup faded, it moved forward more decisively, submerging the tip completely in the cup of tea.
The tendril remained motionless then. Not wanting to spook the figure further, Asgore watched silently. After a few moments, he noticed a change - the level of tea in the cup was going down. It was...
Was it drinking?
... Absorbing, maybe?
A smile came unbidden to Asgore’s mouth as the tea steadily vanished into the tentacle. He took a small sip of his own tea, internally pleased that the motion did not seem to scare his companion.
Once the tea was gone, the tendril retreated into the shadows, and all too quickly the figure began to fade.
“W-wait!” Asgore blurted out before he could think. All he knew was that he wanted to see this person again. The figure stiffened and froze up in what appeared to be fear, prompting Asgore to rapidly calm his tone. “I mean, if you wish, I would very much like if you joined me for tea once again. Tomorrow, perhaps?”
Asgore received no response, but the figure did wait until he finished speaking before fading away entirely.
With nothing else to do, Asgore finished drinking his own tea before washing the two cups. He idly noted that his guest’s had been completely drained of liquid, with no trace remaining that the cup had even been used.
This encounter had not yielded much, but there were two things Asgore knew for certain. The first was that this mysterious figure did, in fact, exist and was not a figment of some mental disturbance. And the second, was that Asgore wanted to see them again.
Perhaps Asgore would be able to see his companion once more the following evening.
“W-whaaaat?” Miss Burrows let out a shrill cry, the new schedule she had made immediately becoming a crumpled mess as she wrung her hands. “B-but sire! The m-m-meetings!”
“I really am so sorry Miss Burrows,” Asgore bowed his head apologetically. He truly hated to cause his advisor such distress. However, after the previous evening, Asgore couldn’t shake the intense desire to at least meet with his mysterious follower once more. Not to mention that he had extended the offer to the monster and couldn’t bring himself to break the appointment.
Unlike the high-strung Miss Burrows, Counselor Igneous had a personality as calm and inert as the rock he was made from. Being an earth elemental, Igneous had been alive since he was summoned in the war. His existence was as enduring as the earth itself. Years in the king’s court had worn down his rough edges both literally and figuratively, however, and he was now considered one of the most trustworthy and reliable to the members of the court.
If the long years had taught Igneous anything, it was the importance of observation. Due to his quiet nature, he had become a keen observer, taking the time to watch and understand those who he had dealings with. It had made him an invaluable asset in negotiations. After all, once you had a grasp on someone’s personality and motivations, it was child’s play to convince them of your position.
Naturally, being so close to the king had lead Igneous to have an extremely strong grasp on his state of mind. This was most useful when advising the king on difficult matters, but it also had its uses when helping with personal matters. And it was most certainly relevant in the situation at hand.
In the hundreds of years he had known him, Igneous could not recall the king ever acting like this. More often than not, a few pleas were enough to get the king to crumble and delegate his personal obligations to others, rather than shirk his official responsibilities. On numerous occasions, Igneous had found himself watering the Golden flowers around the throne in the king’s stead. However, Igneous could sense this was something deeply important to the king. As he observed Asgore’s apology to Miss Burrows, Igneous was moved by something in his expression. Something there tugged at the corners of his own mind, as if the matter concerning Asgore was something deep-seated for himself as well. It was the most uncanny feeling.
Nonetheless, he knew from this feeling alone that the king would not, or rather, could not let this go.
Igneous cleared his throat, interrupting Miss Burrows’s panicked rambling about schedule changes, and the low rumble of scraping rocks was heard as he leaned forward in his seat, a patient smile forming on his face.
“Miss Burrows,” As Igneous began to speak, Miss Burrows almost immediately calmed down, her ears slowly returning to their normal, upright position. He’d been working in the court for far longer than she had, and his advice was always sound. She’d relied on him so many times in the past. Above all the other Counselors, Miss Burrows trusted him to be a voice of reason. So when he spoke, she was sure to listen. Asgore, too, turned to hear what Igneous had to say.
“You need not worry, I will fully apply myself to easing the burden while His Majesty attends to his personal matters.”
“Are you certain?” Asgore asked hesitantly, not wanting in the slightest to trouble his counselor. If Igneous was not sure of his decision before, the nearly palpable relief on the king’s face cemented it. “You should not put yourself out for my sake.”
“Only a truly important matter would force your Majesty to put work aside, I am certain. After all, I have known you for many years, my liege.”
“Counselor Igneous...” For a moment Asgore was silent, touched by his consideration. He bowed his head in gratitude before looking up with a relieved smile. “You have my thanks. I will ensure you are duly compensated for your troubles.”
“Your Majesty is too kind, but there is no need. It is the least I could do in return for the assistance you granted me in the Soul matters these past years. Take time to deal with your business, sire. After all, you so rarely take vacations.”
“Aha, I suppose that is the case. Thank you once more, Counselor Igneous.”
“It is my pleasure, your Majesty.”
Miss Burrows’ eyes darted back and forth, watching the exchange between the two. She fidgeted, more distracted by the impending schedule changes than by their conversation now that it had been established that Igneous would be able to compensate for the king’s absence in the evenings.
“I-I am also very sorry for the bother, Counselor.” she added, bowing deeply to the elemental.
“It is quite alight, Miss Burrows. You should not have to bring yourself undue stress over these matters.”
“You need not worry. It is a small thing to offer what help I can.”
“I-In that case, I will be counting on you, Counselor!”
“Ah.” Glancing towards the window, Asgore noticed the lights were already dimming. The other two turned towards him. “My apologies, but I must take my leave of you now. Once again, Counselor Igneous, Miss Burrows, you two have my gratitude.”
“You are welcome, my liege.”
“P-please do what you must your Majesty!”
Smiling and nodding to them once more, Asgore departed the meeting chamber.
He moved quickly through the halls towards his home. It was strange, but he felt a thrill of excitement when he thought of seeing the mysterious person once more.
Something Igneous had said stuck with him: that he could feel this was important. When Asgore thought about it, the Counselor had been correct. He didn’t know why, but he felt deep down that his visitor was somehow crucial, important in a special way that made Asgore’s soul ache when he tried to comprehend it.
When Asgore entered the sitting room, tray of tea in hand, he was startled to see the shadow already present and corporeal in the dark corner. He blinked once in surprise, steps faltering slightly before he composed himself.
“Ahaha, it seems you’ve arrived before me,” Asgore couldn’t keep the relief out of his voice. Part of him had been worried that his visitor would not return. The shadow rippled in response. Whether it was intended to be acknowledgement, a greeting, or laughter, Asgore was still unable to tell. “Sorry to have kept you waiting.”
Like the night before, Asgore left the tray of tea at the end of the table nearest to the shadowy corner, making no move to approach his visitor while doing so, and brought his own cup to the opposite side.
Asgore looked at the figure once more, raising his eyebrows upon seeing that the tendril was already extending from the dark form. He did not comment on this, however, it made his soul glow with warmth that there was no hesitation, at least towards drinking the tea. As the tip of the tendril touched the warm liquid, Asgore spoke up.
“I forgot to ask before, but do you take your tea with sugar?”
The tentacle hesitated, as if surprised that he had spoken, before dipping below the surface and consuming the tea. Asgore let out a small chuckle. He supposed he would take that as a no.
He sipped at his own tea in silence as the tendril slowly drained the other cup. His visitor drank the tea without regard for the temperature and finished their cup much more quickly than Asgore himself. He expected them to vanish into the shadows once they had finished, but the dark form remained despite the cup being empty. Watching them, Asgore felt something tug at his soul.
“Tea always tastes better when you are not drinking alone.” He gave a soft smile. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the figure was still there. “On nights such as this, I appreciate the company.”
He trailed off into silence, steadily sipping his tea. He gazed at the crackling flames in the fireplace contemplatively, expecting no answer from his visitor. He could think of nothing more to say.
It was only when Asgore set his empty cup down that the figure began to fade. Asgore extended the previous night’s offer once more.
“Do come again tomorrow, will you not?”
And they did.
It had been quite the busy day. Asgore was feeling the strain of his position more acutely than usual as he was forced to complete tasks at a faster pace to compensate for these breaks.
It was at times like these, when he was both tired and unoccupied, that Asgore’s thoughts began to wander.
Asgore hadn’t even noticed his distraction himself until the hot tea he was pouring overflowed from the cup, scalding the hand that was holding the saucer.
“Ah!” He had to bite back a curse at the pain, ensuring that he set the cup and saucer safely down before bustling over to the sink. He ran cool water over his scalded hand to soothe the burn.
Once the pain had faded to a more tolerable throb, Asgore turned to retrieve a towel to clean up the spilled tea, but stopped in his tracks when he saw a shadow lurking at the kitchen entrance. Asgore was not quite surprised that his visitor had returned yet again, but rather that they were not waiting in the corner of the living room as they had the previous nights. But why would they... Asgore’s soul grew warm as realization dawned on him.
“You do not need to worry yourself over me,” he reassured the figure, slightly flustered. The shadow seemed to ripple slightly. “I merely spilt some tea.”
Asgore chuckled as he grabbed a towel from the stove, feeling slightly self-conscious at his visitor’s apparent concern. He could see the figure continue to burble at the entrance as he carefully cleaned up the tea.
“There is no need to be concerned, the tea will fix this small burn right up.” He smiled and the motions through the shadow’s body stilled. “Now, shall we?”
Asgore paused for a moment when his visitor abruptly vanished, but resumed picking up the tea tray when he saw them reappear in their usual corner of the sitting room. Once more, he set their cup at the end of the table closest to them and took his own back to the other side.
The tendril that emerged from the shadows this time hovered over the teacup instead of dipping immediately inside as it had done the previous night. It quavered for a while, its tip flicking and gesturing towards him. Asgore watched in puzzlement for a long moment before realization dawned on him, a warm smile spreading across his face.
“You truly do not need to worry over me.” After taking a sip of tea, Asgore flexed and moved his hand so the shadow could see. “See? I am unharmed.”
The tentacle hesitated, but eventually submerged itself into the tea.
Some minutes passed as Asgore sipped at his tea and listened to the crackling of the fire, but his thoughts soon drifted to the topics he was recalling just before he had spilled the tea on himself.
Asgore swallowed thickly before broaching the amicable silence that had settled over the room.
“Do you mind... if I speak for a time?” He felt ashamed for letting his emotions get the better of him - this is not something he should be troubling others with - but something about this person... it made Asgore feel like he could speak without reservations.
Though he was gazing at his tea, Asgore looked up when the tentacle motioned up and down in what he assumed to be a nod-like movement.
“Ah... Thank you.” Asgore’s hands tightened on the tea cup, his thumbs running anxiously across the detailing. He took a shaky sip of his tea before he continued.
“You see, it has been so long since I last spent the evening with someone like this. My wife...she would sit by the fire and read, and I would bring her tea...and when our children did not have school the next day, they would join us. My wife would read them story books, and I would brew them some chamomile tea to help them sleep. My son... would always fall asleep on my lap before the story was over. After the story was finished and the children were abed, my wife and I would sit in front of the fire together...”
Asgore reached a hand up to his face and realized that tears had gathered at the corners of his eyes. He quickly wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, tears vanishing into his fur.
“I am sorry.” He forced a small, apologetic smile. “It really... has been so long. This was many, many years ago. I should not be troubling you with problems of the past.” Asgore's eyes darted towards his guest, who was undulating softly, but intently, in the corner. A sudden twitch from the tentacle spurred him to continue.
“I suppose... What I mean to say is that I am grateful. It is so nice to have company again after so much time. I can’t help but feel... that I have known you for far longer than just these few days—”
The tentacle jerked suddenly, knocking over the - fortunately empty - teacup which clattered against the saucer. Asgore jumped up from his seat.
“Are you alright?” he questioned, moving slowly around the table to make sure his visitor was okay. They shrank back, tentacle returning, body retreating in on itself, almost melting into the corner. Asgore stopped in his tracks. “Wait, was that correct? Do I know you?”
But they were already gone.
After their quick departure the previous evening, Asgore was, truthfully, unsure if his visitor would return again. He worried that he had been too forward and scared them off with his questioning.
The mere thought that he may never see them again made his soul ache in a way that he hadn’t felt since his wife left him. It was so strange that someone who was apparently a stranger would elicit such a strong emotion, almost an intense longing for their presence. It was that craving in his soul that made Asgore almost certain he knew them. But the incomprehensible part of this was that he could not recall his visitor in the slightest. This division between mind and soul soon tormented his every waking thought.
Asgore’s anxiety only increased when the shadowy figure was conspicuously absent even after the sun had set. He had finished making the tea and brought the tray into the sitting room, but the dark corner remained empty.
Unable to help the feeling of his soul dropping in his chest, Asgore nonetheless placed the second cup of tea at the opposite end of the table. Their last encounter had ended less than pleasantly, but Asgore couldn't help but hope that his visitor would return if given enough time. And so, he resigned himself to waiting.
Asgore slouched in his seat, nursing his cup of tea in his two large hands, taking what comfort he could from the scent and warmth of the drink. His emotions regarding his visitor’s absence only served to confuse him further. Logically, he should be glad for their absence. If they did not return, he could put them out of his thoughts and concentrate on making up for his distraction the past weeks. However, he could not shake the feeling that were he to let this go, he would regret it dearly.
To resolve his conflicting thoughts, he would have to meet with his visitor once more. Asgore refused to give up hope.
He sat at the table with his teacup for hours, long after it was empty. He watched as the fire died down until it was merely smoldering embers. The last vestiges of the flames flickered and sputtered, casting an eerie, dancing light around the room. Certainly by now, the tea he’d left for his visitor had gone cold.
The evening dragged on and soon became night as the lights outside dimmed and the glowing crystals on the cavern’s ceiling made themselves visible. Asgore’s body became heavy and his eyes began to droop. With a glance at the dying fire, he concluded that he would either have to rekindle the flames or turn on the electric lights if he would continue his vigil. But... it was so late. Even when the figure had been following at the corners of his vision, they would cease by this time of night. If they hadn’t come already, would his visitor show up this late? Perhaps he had scared them away. Though he did not want to consider it, there was the possibility that he really would never see them again.
Asgore let out a deep sigh. He could not continue this. He would not be able to perform his duties properly the next day were he to remain awake. And besides, the evidence was against him. He didn’t have to give up hope - maybe they would return tomorrow, after all - but for tonight, it was likely that waiting for his visitor was a lost cause.
Asgore sighed once more in resignation, glancing once more at the last vestiges of the fire before moving to collect the now-cold cup of tea.
Just as he rose from his seat, however, there was a sudden movement in the corner of the room.
“Ah!” In a less coordinated monster, this manner of surprise would have surely resulted, at the very least, in a dropped teacup, or at worst, tripping over the chair and falling on their behind. Fortunately for Asgore, his control was greater than that. The cup and saucer merely trembled in his hands as he stared wide-eyed at the figure who had appeared.
“You...” Asgore forced himself to set the teacup down lest it slip from his grasp. A shaky, relieved smile came to his face. “I was beginning to think that perhaps I had driven you away. I am very glad that I was wrong.”
The dying, flickering light in the near-darkness gave a most unsettling sheen to whatever material the shadowy figure was made of. Rather than highlight the stark blackness, the dim light seemed to pierce deeper than when the fire’s flames were at full strength, revealing something light within the void-like material. It looked so odd... Asgore caught himself staring and quickly dropped his eyes to the still-full cup of cold tea.
“I’m sorry, your tea must be cold. Allow me to get you a fresh cup. It will just take a mo-” Asgore was cut off by the tentacle reaching from the shadows and dipping into the cup, absorbing the tea more quickly than any of the previous nights. He flushed and rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. “Well then, it appears that is not necessary.”
His hands came together, fidgeting as he struggled to broach the topic at hand. Settling back into his seat, he decided to go to the heart of the matter.
“I asked previously what manner of monster you are. More important than that, what I must know is who you are.”
The tendril shrank back, but Asgore pressed forward in his line of questioning.
“I know you. Of this, I am certain. I do not know how, or from where, nor can I remember you. I have nothing but a feeling, but it runs so deep within my soul... I feel as though I am missing something very important. So, I must ask again, who are you?”
The figure shuddered, entire body shaking as though it was rocked by something from deep within. A distant, choppy sound like radio static echoed throughout the room, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Asgore shot to his feet, head swiveling to try to locate the source of that sound. His eyes locked back onto the figure when it began to shift more dramatically.
He had seen flashes of something white from within the figure before but, this time, it showed itself fully.
It appeared to be a skull. A bony cranium not unlike the skeleton monsters except this one was damaged. The right orbit had partially collapsed, giving the eye a droop-like appearance, and a large crack snaked its way up to the top of the skull. Another fissure originated from the opposite socket, going through the maxilla and ending when it reached the mouth, which stretched wider than any skeleton’s he had seen prior. Completely lacking in teeth, the malformation resembled a grin-like black chasm more than a mouth.
Everything else fell away as Asgore took in every detail of the skull. The smell of tea and the gentle popping of the fire faded to nothing. He didn’t even notice the ache in his soul until his hand gripped harshly at the fabric over his chest.
Asgore’s thoughts ran up against something powerful in his mind, like a barbed wire fence tearing through him, attempting to shred his very being as he tried to get at the memories it hid. It was too painful to continue down that path.
Instead, there came another thought, one much safer and less painful to pursue. However, his body did not want to respond, and his voice came out much softer and more cracked than he intended.
“Are you alright?” he asked hesitatingly, taking a small step forward. He stretched out a hand slowly, attempting to reassure the figure that he would not make any sudden movements. He kept his voice as steady and quiet as he could, not wanting to startle them as he continued to probe. “Are you injured? Can I help you?”
He inched towards them, enraptured, eyes remaining on the void-like eye sockets. The figure continued to shake and tremble as he approached, but did not fade or attempt to shrink away.
Asgore slowed even further as he closed the gap, finger tips reaching out to just brush against the side of the skull. The figure trembled more than ever, the sound of static once more permeating the room as blackness welled up in the already-black eye sockets. It reached a breaking point and the darkness cascaded down their cheekbones. A stuttering rush of static emanated from the open mouth.
Asgore’s breath stuck in his chest, his soul throbbing almost painfully against his ribs, as if it was struggling to escape its cage and reach the figure. It was all he could do to move his trembling fingers to wipe away the tears. It was far from successful as the almost tar-like substance smeared and painted the white of the bone as well as his own white fur.
The shuddering escalated until they were almost quaking, the static rising in pitch. It seemed to reach a peak before their form began to vanish, causing Asgore’s hand to phase right through the fading image as it remained stretched out towards the figure.
His voice came back to him in a rush, right before they disappeared entirely.
“Please! I want to see you again!”
There was no time for a response. They were already gone.
Asgore slept in fits that night as thoughts of his visitor lingered and refused to leave him.
The next day was a long one. Asgore slogged through his duties, eyes heavy and mind bleary. He apologized for his lack of attentiveness repeatedly, explaining that he’d slept poorly and it was nothing to worry about. In part, at least, it was true. He’d had trouble sleeping the night prior, after all. However, there was indeed something to worry about, at least, to Asgore.
His visitor... they had been crying. The image of that skull with inky darkness trailing down from the eye sockets would not get out of Asgore’s mind. That image kept pulling Asgore towards the part of his mind that continued to reject him. Every time he attempted to plumb the depths of his memory to determine how he knew the visitor, that same tearing sensation prevented his progress. That part of his mind was thoroughly blocked off, though why and by what, Asgore had no way of knowing.
Needless to say, he was unable to proceed, unable to access that part of his own mind. It was too painful. If he tried to reach that area, some great force descended onto him, stopping him in his tracks. It felt as though it was trying to shred his very being, tearing not only his mind, but his body and soul into tiny particles that threatened to scatter. It was too much. Even when he’d tried to push forward, laying in bed the night prior, the pain overcame him, forcing him to black out. Asgore’s own self-preservation prevented him from trying again.
There was something off here. It could not be a coincidence that searching out memories of his visitor was met with such resistance. There must be some manner of connection between himself and his visitor, but Asgore could not discern what it was. And it was for that reason that his visitor’s tears troubled him so. Even though Asgore could not remember this individual, they knew him. Asgore’s soul ached, wanting to reach out and soothe them. Whatever was paining them, Asgore wanted to help by nature, doubly so if he himself was the cause. The more he thought about it, the more Asgore was certain of his desire to help this ‘stranger’. It sung from deep within his soul.
Eventually, when he managed to finish his duties for the day, the lights were already beginning to dim.
Asgore’s eyes were so heavy as he entered his house and made his way to the kitchen that he decided to forego the usual golden flower tea in favor of something more caffeinated—he would be unable to focus if he did not have at least a bit more energy. Looking over the labels on the tins in his tea cabinet, Asgore eventually selected a lovely jasmine-scented oolong that he had acquired some time back. It was not a bitter tea. Rather, the flavor was smooth and the jasmine added a relaxing note to the caffeinated tea.
Asgore brewed his own cup a bit more strongly than usual, even taking a slow sip while still standing in the kitchen. The warmth flooded through him, and Asgore closed his eyes in momentary bliss as the scent and taste of the jasmine washed over his tongue. Yes, this had been a good choice.
He set his cup back on the tray and brought it into the sitting room, but he stopped at the entranceway. His visitor was waiting for him, which he had become accustomed to, but what took Asgore by surprise was their location. They had placed themselves not in the dark of the corner, but rather at the seat next to the one where Asgore usually sat.
Come to think of it, this was the first time Asgore has seen them in full light - it had been dark the night prior after all. Their form seemed as amorphous as the tendrils they had used to drink the tea, draping over the chair almost as if they had absorbed both the seat and chair legs. Their entire body was pitch black, yet seemingly lit from within, like he had observed before from the tentacles. Their body was trembling slightly.
A smile came to Asgore’s face. He set the tray down gently on the table, the slight noise causing his visitor to turn their skull towards him. It was fixed in the same expression as before, eerie toothless grin and all, though that was to be expected given that it was made of bone. However, it did not shock Asgore like before. He could not shake the image of the tears running down their face; he already knew there was gentleness in their heart. He sat down in his own chair, placing his visitor’s teacup in front of them.
“I hope you do not mind, but I have selected a slightly more energizing tea this evening.” He gave a small chuckle, taking a sip from his own cup. He looked back up at his visitor only to find them gazing at the tea in front of them. “If it’s not to your liking, I can prepare the regular for you?”
Slowly, the figure shook their head. Asgore supposed that meant a different tea was not necessary. He hadn’t noticed since it had been so dark the night before, but there were a number of smaller cracks snaking across the surface of the bone apart from the two largest, originating from the orbits and around the mouth. It appeared fragile, as if it could crumble if handled too roughly.
Two more off-white surfaces began to emerge as the curtain of slime shifted. They appeared to be... hands? Though, like the skull, they were unusual. The most obvious feature was an odd-looking hole in the middle of the metacarpals of each hand, where the palm would be if they had flesh. It defied logic - the central metacarpals were completely split by the holes - but Asgore figured the hands must remain intact through magic. Similar to their skull, his visitor’s hands were wrought with small hair-like cracks. They trembled as they reached towards the teacup.
Asgore watched closely as the hands moved forward, strands of the dark mass extending along with them until they almost appeared to have arms. The hands’ shaking intensified when they neared the cup, the slime following suit until it seemed as though it would shake itself apart.
Without thinking, Asgore’s large hands cupped around the frail bony ones, steadying them as they closed around the delicate china.
“Now, now. There’s no need to push yourself.” Asgore said, smiling sheepishly. For a moment, he felt the heat of the cup on his palms, like his visitor’s hands had vanished before he once again felt the rough texture of bone. He kept his own hands steady, supporting theirs firmly but gently. They glanced up at him in what seemed to be confusion before looking back down. A mauve, almost grey colouration spread across their face; a string of static-like noises escaping from their mouth. Asgore’s brow furrowed and he gave an apologetic look.
“I’m very sorry, I do not understand what you are saying.” He paused, considering their body language for a moment. Were they... embarrassed? “Nonetheless, please allow me to help you. You appear to be having some difficulty.”
For a short while, Asgore felt the skeletal hands trying to lift the cup and pull away from his own, and once more he felt the cup against his skin as they vanished for a moment. His visitor then seemed to give up, their hands relaxing into his larger palms, allowing him to aid in supporting the weight of the cup.
Smiling patiently, Asgore helped them guide the cup to their mouth, upon which their hands suddenly jerked, tipping the entire contents of the small cup into the gaping maw. Except, it seemed that their physicality decided to... become lacking once more. Asgore saw them become slightly translucent, only having enough time to catch the teacup that had passed through their hands before the tea itself splattered onto the sitting room table.
Immediately, they let out a high-pitched trill of static, amorphous body rising and seemingly tensing up. They then vanished, reappearing in the dark corner of the room. Their body sank into itself, the garbled shrieking continuing as their form bubbled and appeared to melt. Within moments, they more closely resembled a puddle, their skull an island of white in the center.
“Ah.” Asgore, dumbfounded, glanced down at the tea spilled on the table then back to his visitor. Coming back to himself, he remembered to put the cup down on the table before hurrying across the room.
“You do not need to worry! It is alright!” He put his hands up, trying to reassure them that no harm had been done. Now that he was closer, he noticed that fat globules of darkness were pouring from the empty eye sockets. He slowed his voice from its frantic pitch to try to calm them down. “It is only tea, I can easily make another cup. There is no need to worry.”
The sharp static continued for a few more moments until they began to calm down. Asgore smiled, crouching down slowly and reaching out to pat their shoulder reassuringly... only to realize that in their current puddle-like state there was not much of a shoulder to pat. Instead, he settled for patting one of the hands that were now floating in the puddle.
“There, there. Spilt tea is easily cleaned.” Asgore spoke gentle reassurances, continuing to pat their hand until the flow of tears stemmed. When the last of the blackness fell, Asgore let his hand rest atop the bony one where it floated in the goop-like substance.
“Would you like me to prepare another cup for you?” The skull shook, indicating no. Asgore shifted without breaking contact, moving to sit cross-legged in front of the puddle.
“You do... understand me, yes?” He was fairly certain that was the case, but he wanted to make sure. The skull nodded yes. That was a start, at the very least.
“Were you trying to speak with me earlier?” Another nod. “I am very sorry, I could not understand what you were saying. Would you perhaps be able to speak again? I would like very much to know your name.”
A short, rhythmic string of static-y noises emanated from their skull. Asgore furrowed his brow, listening closely, trying to pick out some sort of recognizable sounds from the noise. He frowned slightly.
“I am sorry, I’m afraid I do not know your language.” The skull drooped down into the goop for a moment before they looked back up at Asgore. He felt a tug, and the bony hand slipped loose from his grasp. They brought their hands just above the surface of the puddle that was their body. Asgore watched intently as the hands began to move, making some kind of... signs? He gave a slight shake of the head, not quite understanding. His visitor repeated the series of signs. Again, he could not understand.
“I am very sorry, I do not know this type of sign.” Being a king, Asgore had taken it upon himself to learn monster sign language in order to converse with those monsters who lacked hearing or speech. However, this was unlike any type of sign language he had ever seen. Perhaps there was another method of communication? “Ah! Just one moment, please.”
Asgore quickly got to his feet and made his way into the kitchen, returning with a pen and a pad of paper. He sat down in front of the puddle once more and offered the writing implements to his visitor.
“Are you able to write? We could perhaps communicate that way.”
There was a pause while they seemed to contemplate that option. Then, as if coming to a decision, one of the hands reached up slowly from the puddle. It appeared to take a great deal of effort, but they gripped the pen. However, when they tried to bring pen to paper, both the hand and the arm-like column of darkness began to shake like when they had tried to pick up the cup earlier.
Asgore, holding the paper out to them, watched in concern. Unlike before, Asgore was unable to offer his support. They would have to be in control in order to write. After all, Asgore would not know which letters they were planning to transpose and thus could not help them. His soul was aching. He wanted so badly to communicate with this person, to know even the smallest thing about them. As the tip of the pen touched the paper, his soul leapt.
However, it was not meant to be. At least not on that night.
At the slightest bit of contact, the hand went translucent and the pen tumbled down into the goop. Again, the sharp, wail-like static.
“It is alright! Do not worry.” This time, Asgore reached out to touch the side of their skull to calm them down, thumb brushing across their cheek bone. Almost immediately, the static trailed off and the purplish-grey flush returned. Asgore looked into their eye sockets, gaze steady yet gentle. “If you would still like to, I will seek another way for you to speak with me.”
They nodded, but already they were fading. It would seem that their time was up for this evening.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” Another nod, and then they were gone. On the off chance they could still hear him, Asgore continued to speak. “Then I will let you know what I come up with.”
After a moment, Asgore heaved himself back to his feet, moving first to clean up the spilt tea that had somewhat dried on the table, then to dispose of his own now-cold tea.
In retrospect, it was a good thing he hadn’t drank the caffeinated beverage. As it was, Asgore was able to sleep peacefully that night and get some much needed rest, his soul warm.
Though it was early and he would surely be waking her, Asgore called his Royal Scientist. Alphys fumbled with the phone, the shock and anxiety caused by the sudden call forcing her awake. When she realized that it was the king on the line, she nearly dropped the phone.
“Y-y-your Majesty! W-why are you c-c-calling me so early?” There was some rustling and a muffled thump on the other end of the line as Alphys tried to retrieve her glasses, knocking something - a lamp? - over in the process.
Asgore winced in sympathy. He usually avoided calling Alphys if at all possible since he knew how much anxiety she felt when talking over the phone, and particularly how nervous she was around him, even in person.
“I am very sorry Doctor Alphys, but I needed to speak with you before I began my day. I need your assistance with a small matter later this evening. That is, if you are free?”
Asgore could not see it but, on the other side of the phone, Alphys was blushing with a dorky grin on her face.
“O-of course I am!” And even if she wasn’t, she would always make time for Asgore - kind, strong, burly Asgore - though she would never say that out loud. “W-w-what do you need my help with?”
“Well, I have an acquaintance that I am having some trouble communicating with. You see, they do not speak or sign in any language I know of, nor are they able to write. If it is possible, I would like some help in understanding them.” Asgore smiled, thinking of how wonderful it would be to talk properly with his visitor. If Alphys had a method to help them speak or otherwise communicate, he might finally be able to break through the barrier in his mind. He might be able to remember who this person was to him.
“A-actually! I m-might just have something!” Alphys sat up in bed, shoving her feet into her slippers - cute ones she’d found at the dump with a certain electric mouse on them - before bustling down the escalator, phone cradled between her shoulder and ear. “J-just leave it to me! When do you need it by?”
“Well, that’s the thing...” Asgore hesitated, his voice sheepish. “I am meeting with them this evening, if you could possibly have it ready by then? There is no pressure if you cannot.”
“T-tonight?!” Alphys screeched, nearly tripping over her pajama pants as she stepped off the escalator. Though it was well within her ability, sudden deadlines made her panic. It was just in her nature. However, if it would make the king happy with her... “I-I-I-I-I’ll do my best!”
“Thank you, Doctor. I truly appreciate this. And, I am sorry for all the trouble.”
“I-It’s no t-trouble at all! A-as your Royal S-scientist it’s the l-least I can do!”
“Nonetheless, you have my gratitude. I will bring my acquaintance by the lab shortly after the lights begin to dim.”
“N-no problem sire!”
“In that case, I will leave you to your work! I will see you later, Doctor.”
Alphys fumbled with the phone for a moment before she finally managed to hit the button to end the call. She clutched a scaly hand over her chest. Her heart was pounding, and it wasn’t just from the anxiety of the phone call. She was always so glad when the king asked her for something like this, when she could be useful.
Rather than prepare tea, Asgore awaited his visitor’s arrival in the sitting room. He’d finished his work slightly early that day, which had actually been detrimental to his nerves. He felt great anticipation for being able to communicate with his visitor but, at the same time, he couldn’t shake the sense of impending... something. He couldn’t quite place the feeling. Every time he would reach into the depths of his mind to describe it, the words would slip just out of his grasp. All Asgore knew was that it was something very powerful and more important than he could fathom.
Asgore noticed his hands were trembling. He clasped them in his lap as he waited.
Fortunately, he needed not wait for very long. It seemed as though his visitor was as anxious as himself. They arrived just as the lights began to dim.
“Ah, I am glad you came so early,” Asgore rose from his seat, wiping his palms - when did they get so sweaty? - on the sides of his trousers. He gave a soft chuckle. “I must admit, I have been quite looking forward to being able to speak properly with you.” More than is strictly rational. Though, that part went unsaid.
A few steps put Asgore a couple feet away from his visitor. At this distance, Asgore could see the minute ripples that travelled across the surface of their gel-like body. Asgore had been correct in assuming they were just as nervous as himself.
“A trusted friend of mine has said she will prepare a means for us to communicate, if you are willing to come with me to see her?” Ignoring the way his soul was pounding in his chest, Asgore extended a hand in invitation.
After a long moment’s hesitation, the figure nodded. Asgore could see the grey staining the cheekbones of their skull when they turned it towards him. However, rather than take his hand, they vanished. Asgore was startled for a small time, withdrawing his hand. He stood there, quite puzzled, until he noticed they had reappeared at the corner of his vision, the same there-yet-not-quite-there place they had occupied during the past months. Straightening, Asgore smiled.
“Well, I suppose we are off then?”
He couldn’t quite catch it given their current difficult-to-see position, but it seemed as though his visitor nodded.
Fortunately, the walk to the lab was a quick one. At this time of evening, most monsters had already finished their work and returned to their homes. Even in the core, only the necessary maintenance staff worked overnight. Not only was Asgore able to use the elevators without having to wait, but he also was not stopped every other step to talk with his subjects. As such, he was walking through the lab doors only minutes after he departed New Home.
Alphys started when she heard the lab door slide open, nearly dropping the gadget that she was in the process of hooking up to her computer. She stumbled to her feet, flushing when she saw the king.
“O-oh! H-hello your Majesty!”
“There is no need to stand on ceremony, Doctor. Please finish what you were doing.”
“I-I was pretty much done here! Just need to hook up the, um, p-power supply.” Turning, Alphys pulled a black cord from the tangle sitting on the messy desk, plugging it into the wall outlet. “T-there! It’s finished.”
“Thank you once again for having this done so quickly, Doctor.”
“I-It was no problem! I just had to pull out an old thing I had been tinkering with. All it needed was a few m-minor adjustments and it was good to go!”
“Nonetheless, you have my thanks for putting so much of your time aside for our sake.”
“Umm... well... about that... Where is the other person you were t-telling me about before?”
“Oh.” Asgore blinked, having forgotten that others could not see them when they were at the edges of reality as they were at the moment. Asgore wasn’t even certain Alphys would be able to see them should they properly manifest themselves. “Well, they are here, though they might be more comfortable coming out if you were to dim the lights a touch?”
“The l-l-lights?” Alphys’ voice took on a panicked and lightheaded quality as her face became redder than ever. She had to shake herself back to reality before her fantasies got away from her. She would save that for the fan fiction she would most definitely be writing later.
Shuffling over to the light switches, she lowered the brightness significantly, the large space now mostly illuminated by the computer screen and the large monitor showing the video camera feeds from around the Underground. Shortly after she did that, she turned around only to trip over the bottom of her lab coat and fall backwards onto her behind when she saw the mass of shadows that hung behind the king. It was like nothing she had ever seen before... and was it... watching her?
“Ah, there is no need to be frightened, Doctor.” Asgore immediately moved to reassure her, reaching a hand out to help the scientist to her feet. She took it, but her eyes were fixed on the dark form, her knees shaking. “Their appearance may be startling, however I can assure you they mean no harm.”
“I-If you say so...” Alphys trusted the king, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that this person was judging her somehow, peaking her anxiety. She broke eye contact with the figure - she couldn’t see any eyes, but knew somehow they were watching her regardless - and turned back towards her desk. “N-now this device was originally supposed to be for... um... well... mind control? B-b-but back when I was testing it, rather than mind control, it allowed for m-m-mind reading, instead. S-so I thought it would work if you wanted to understand them s-sire, since all they would have to do is think what they want to s-s-say.”
“Ah, that is wonderful, Doctor Alphys! Golly, technology sure is something!” Asgore took the machine gently in his hands to examine it more closely. Something about its design was, well, rather interesting. “Though, I have to wonder, why is it shaped like a pair of cat ears?”
“Um!” Alphys’ voice once again took on a panicked quality as she started to wring her hands. She couldn’t just tell the king that she had used some of her research funding to try to replicate the powers of Mew Mew Kissy Cutie’s heroine. Come on Alphys, think of something! “W-well, y-y-you see, that’s just... um... the s-s-shape of the components?”
“Oh, I see!” Asgore nodded, accepting the explanation as he went back to examining the headgear. The king really was so trusting. Alphys’ sigh of relief was cut short when she felt the judging stare become more pointed as the shadowy figure bored metaphorical holes in the back of her head. Alphys felt her sins crawling on her back.
“Is this alright with you?” Asgore turned to the figure, wanting foremost to ensure their willingness and comfort with the situation before continuing. He held out the machine towards them, allowing them to inspect it if they would like.
The skull was not visible through the inky goop at the moment - evidently they were too shy to show themselves in front of others - but the curtain of slime managed a nodding motion after looking at the cat ears for a short while. A warm smile crossed Asgore’s face as his soul burned with happiness. This was happening. He would finally be able to know who they were.
“What do we need to do to begin, Doctor?” Asgore asked, turning back to Alphys.
“W-well first you need to put on the, um, headgear.” Alphys watched for a moment as the king attempted to somehow fit the tiny headgear on his head around his horns. “H-here! Let me help!”
Asgore knelt so he was on the scientist’s level and bent his head down so Alphys would have better access. She fiddled with the machine for a moment, adjusting the straps and removing some entirely so the headpiece would be able to not only fit on Asgore’s head, but also be able to attach despite the king’s rather prominent horns. Alphys considered herself fortunate that the king rarely wore his crown when he was off-duty, it was one less complication to deal with.
“T-there we go! N-n-now I just need to start up the machine.” Alphys turned around to face the computer a bit too quickly. She didn’t want to accidentally burst out laughing at the sight of the large and regal king with a tiny pair of cat ears perched in front of his horns. With his white floppy ears as well as the cat ears, he looked like a giant horned Temmie. She would have been unable to stop herself from breaking down into a fit of giggles if she had looked at him for much longer.
Alphys pressed a few keys at her computer and the headgear hummed to life. The monitoring program flashed to life on the computer screen, showing that everything was running as it should.
“T-this machine works best in... um... proximity... T-t-the closer your head is to theirs, the more likely it is to w-w-work.” Once again, she couldn’t just tell the king that it was meant to work by kissing someone. “D-d-d-don’t worry! I-I won’t look!”
Asgore was puzzled by the embarrassed tone in the Doctor’s voice, but nonetheless turned back to his visitor. He placed one hand against the goop, attempting to rub reassuring circles on what he supposed was their shoulder.
“Is this alright?”
Slowly, the skull emerged from the blackness, nodding once more. Asgore leaned down as the figure stretched up, slowly resting their foreheads together.
“Are you certain?”
“Please start the machine, Doctor.”
“A-alright! Activating it now!”
The last thing Asgore saw was the empty eye sockets flaring to life with glowing pinpricks at their centers before everything went white.
He knew their name now.
“Gaster...” he rasped, falling to his knees, legs unable to support his body.
He knew everything now.