Chapter 11: Surface
For one breathless, heart-stopping moment, I thought it hadn't worked. Roman stood there with his eyes closed and surrounded by red light. An expression of grim determination lined his face, washing away his childish features and aging him unnaturally. I held my breath, waiting.
My legs buckled beneath me, sending me to the tiled floor as the flood of magic exploded from my son. It sent a shockwave through the air, and I could no longer stand with the power bearing down on me like a thousand pounds of stone. I managed to stay on my knees for a few moments, managed to summon the will to try and rise again, but the weight increased tenfold as Roman pulled on his power, and I collapsed fully to the ground.
This was like nothing I'd ever felt before. Flowey's power had been trivial compared to this. Even Asriel, with six human souls and a thousand monster souls, would have been dwarfed by this might.
Because Roman didn't just have seven human souls. He had seven adult human souls and his own, half monster half human soul as well. I already knew of his unnaturally strong magic. I had seen him bend time by the sheer force of his Determination. No, there was no power in this world that would rival my son in this moment.
I tried to rise again, but the sum of my Determination could barely move my fingertips under the weight of his power. My vision blurred as I struggled to remain conscious, as I tried to think. Could I call out to the human souls as I had when I was a child? No, they had come to kill me, not to help. They would not answer. And I knew nothing about them, so I couldn't save them as I had my friends. I drew in a shuddering breath.
"R…Roman…" I wheezed, my voice barely more than a whisper. I doubted he could hear me. But Roman turned his black, empty eyes to me anyway. I blinked, and for a moment I wondered where my child had gone. The person standing before me was not a child. He was older, as Asriel had been when we fought. Roman wore shining black royal guard armor, a tattered red coat that looked almost like Sans's hoodie, and a familiar save point necklace. From his head sprouted two great horns, just like the King of Monsters. My eyes were drawn away by red movement. Surrounding him were translucent red Gaster Blasters, their eyes roving and their jaws slightly parted to incinerate anything Roman turned his thoughts against. This was the form he'd chosen, I realized. The Prince of Monsters. It was a blend of his heroes, of the warriors he sought to be.
I couldn't see anything of myself in him at all.
There was no sign of the pacifist or the ambassador. There was no hint of mercy.
"I'm sorry," he said, and his voice was strange, detached, and utterly void of compassion. "But it's the humans. It's always the humans. They sealed monsters in the Underground. They took you away from us for your work. They hurt Vivy. They killed you. They destroyed our home. And now…even now it's not enough. They want to take you away forever. I won't…I can't lose you again, Mom. The world would be better off without them."
I tried to speak, but I could barely breathe. The world seemed to spin beneath me as I struggled to move, to stand, to act, to do something. Anything. Roman raised his arm, and the sky went red.
"The humans will never hurt my family again," he said. "It's their turn to live in the Underground."
I let out a muffled sound of alarm. The Underground had seemed vast when I was a child, but in reality it was small. Thirty thousand monsters had lived there together, and it had been incredibly crowded, especially in the cities. If Roman did try to seal all of humanity down there, with no food or sunlight or magic to sustain them, the Underground wouldn't be a prison.
It would be a tomb.
I fought to stand, to touch his soul with my mine. I reached for my Determination. But there was nothing. I saw him begin to close his hand, and I felt a tug, like the pull of a massive magnet, and my body began to slide forward. So did every other human in the room.
The edges of my vision grew dark as the suffocating power intensified once more. I closed my eyes, my eyelids as heavy as stone.
"I will protect you, Mom."
"No!" At first, I did not recognize the voice echoing my own horrified thought. But with monumental effort, I cracked open one eye.
Huh, she looked like an angel.
She was as pale as snow, with shimmering white hair and long royal robes like the ones I wore on formal occasions. From her back sprouted red wings, and from her hair grew two small pointed horns just like Toriel's. And around her neck was a save point necklace, glowing red, siphoning off ten thousand times more power than it was designed to take.
"Vivy," said Roman, and I felt the pull of Roman's power ease. It didn't lessen the weight pinning me to the ground, but I felt my breath come a little easier. "What are you doing here? I told you to stay hidden."
"Roman, you have to stop," said Vivaldi. "Please, you cannot condemn all of humanity for the actions of a few. This is not who you are."
"They won't stop trying to kill Mom, Vivy," he said. "The only way to protect our mother is to get rid of the humans. They aren't worth saving."
"That's not true," said Vivaldi. "There are good humans."
"Really?" Roman asked, a sardonic curl on his bony lip. "Name a single one besides Mom. A human you know, who you've met and spoken to who is kind."
My heart dropped. It was one thing to look through history books and point out all of the nice, good, honorable people. It was another to know them, and my children had never had any particularly good interactions with humans.
Vivaldi wouldn't know anyone…
"Chrissy," said my daughter with unwavering certainty.
My thoughts stopped as I tried to recall a 'Chrissy'. At first I drew a blank, but the vague recollection of a duet on stage made my eyes go wide. Chrissy. Christine Pennyworth, the young girl who had played Shyren for the surface celebration play. I remembered thinking of how beautiful they had sounded together. It wasn't the unpracticed notes of two people who barely knew each other. They must have spent hours each day practicing together.
I remembered Vivaldi looking at her script, wanting nothing more than a friend. Wanting to be Vivaldi rather than just the Princess of Monsters. Roman was right, the humans had stolen me away. I'd spent their entire childhood running off to foreign lands while trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of a thousand royals, diplomats, and military commanders. I'd missed so much, sparing my family only the time between my assignments. I'd missed helping them with homework, I'd missed walking them home from school, and I'd missed meeting their new friends.
"One person," said Roman dismissively, tearing me away from my thoughts. "She was nice to us, fine. She can stay on the surface. The rest can go to their new home."
"No," said Vivaldi. "Chrissy is a good person. Mom is a good person. There are other good humans out there too. If you put them in a prison for a crime they did not commit, how are you any better than the beasts who tried to kill Mom?"
Roman scowled, and his power rippled. Vivaldi faltered in the air, clearly not accustomed to using magic. I wanted to leap up, to catch her before she fell. But I couldn't move. Then Roman was there to steady her, and just like that, his temper cooled.
"Would you rather watch Mom die?" he asked. "Over and over and over again? Like Dad did? You know there will come a time when I can't…when we can't save…" He stuttered to a halt and took a steadying breath. "Even if I am like a beast, a human, I'll do what I can to protect Mom."
He raised his hand again, the one not holding Vivaldi steady. I felt the pull of his power, and my heart sank. Then Vivaldi drifted forward and hugged her brother tightly. The power faded a little, but did not relent entirely.
"Please," she said. "Don't destroy the world Mom worked so hard to make for us. Can't you see what your power is doing to them? If you keep going, they'll die."
I felt the ripple of fear in Roman's soul as he looked at me, seeming to register for the first time what his power doing to me. Roman held his hand aloft for a long moment and then finally let it fall. The pressured eased once more, and I was able to lift my head and see my children look to me. They were crying.
"Roman," I said, still weak. "V…Vivaldi…"
And they were beside me, lifting me up. Roman's power now flowed around me like water around a stone. It was like sitting in the eye of a hurricane, intense pressure all around me, and gentle quiet within. I slumped against my children bonelessly.
"Mom…I'm sorry," said Roman, pulling me into a hug. It was strange. He was considerably bigger than me now. Both of my children were. They'd grown larger than life, easily eight or nine feet tall. I felt like a child again, as absurd as that thought was. "I'm so sorry. I just wanted…I just want to protect everyone. I didn't mean to do this. I didn't want to hurt you or…or anyone."
That was debatable, but I wasn't going to get into it now. The remorse in his voice was very real, as were his tears. I didn't think he would do this again, but later, when we'd all calmed down and fixed this…somehow. We were going to have a long discussion. And he would be grounded.
I cast my eyes to the cameras, the ones meant to record and broadcast my press conference live around the world. And I saw that all of them were broken, shattered by the intense burst of magical energy. Well, at least I wouldn't have to explain why the Prince of Monsters was going to murder the human race via magical imprisonment beneath the earth.
I heaved a sigh.
"I know, Roman," I said, stroking the back of his skull to soothe him. "But fighting is not the answer here. We will find a way to deal with the compounding. Trust in your father. I do."
Roman nodded miserably, but then he leaned back, his eyes wide and startled.
"Wait," he said, and he lifted his bony hand to my chest. I felt him pull out my soul, still shining with magic. "It's because you don't have enough magic."
"What?" I asked, confused.
"The compounding," Vivaldi answered excitedly. "Dad could stop it because of the magic from the core. But we're on the surface. You just need more magic, a mini-Core just for you."
"No one knows how to make the Core," I said. It had been built by Doctor Gaster, who was now gone.
"We can," said Vivaldi. "Dad gave us Grandpa's notes weeks ago. I had an idea, but not enough power to test it."
Oh right, my children were geniuses. That fact still managed to slip my mind occasionally.
While I didn't particularly like the idea of being a test subject, without the protection of the Underground, I didn't have much choice. Vivaldi raised her own hand, and the threads of my soul appeared. My children shared a look and a nod, and their power flowed into me. It felt like fire, like I was running on raw caffeine, warmth and life and energy rippling through my veins, a live wire lit with magic.
When they drew back, the feeling remained, though somewhat dulled. I felt different, energized and new. I hoped this wasn't permanent or I was never sleeping again.
"It's gone," said Roman, his voice filled with wonder. "Your cause of death. It's gone!"
Vivaldi smiled, completely unsurprised that her idea had worked.
"And if we can build a new Core, we can protect the Monster Kingdom," said Vivaldi. "We have the power. Everyone will be safe."
Well, that would be wonderful, but I needed to nip this in the bud before my children got too carried away with all of the amazing things they would be able to do.
"Roman," I said firmly. "You cannot keep those souls. You must let them go."
Even if they had tried to kill me, it was wrong to enslave the soul of another person. It was this fear that had caused the war so many years ago. It was this fear that I'd spent my life trying to reassure the humans against. If Roman kept the souls, monsters would never be truly safe.
Roman looked for a moment as though he was going to argue, but Vivaldi squeezed his hand and gave him a nod. He sighed.
"I know," he said quietly. "But…not even for a little while?" I gave him a look. "Okay."
Roman and Vivaldi stood up, and I stood with them. Roman looked like a true monster, towering above me just as Vivaldi looked like an angel, the Angel of the Surface. My children. Roman held out his hands, and the seven human souls appeared. He sent them into their bodies, and I saw the humans begin to stir. It surprised me a little. I'd thought they were dead, but then I recalled Asriel returning the souls of the monsters. Roman imprisoned the humans in cages of red bone even as he shrank back to his normal childish size. The monsters and humans were beginning to stir, looking around in confusion.
Sans was suddenly at my side, his arms wrapped around me almost too tight. I sighed and leaned back against him, watching our children as they stood, hand in hand, to look up at the sky.
"are you alright?" Sans asked quietly, eyeing the imprisoned humans warily. I nodded. I would tell him the whole story when we were in private. But for now, there was a room full of monsters and humans who had come here for a press conference. I placed my hand reassuringly over his and stepped back. I would need to explain this all away, I would need to clear up any lingering issues from the assassination attempts, and I would need to talk about stepping down from my role as Ambassador. It would be an adjustment after centuries of bearing the role, but there were more important things to worry about now. My family. There were a million things to do, and once they were done, there would be a million things more. This was life, even after a happy ending. But I would do these things with a smile.
Because Sans was by my side.
Because my children were safe.
Because everything was going to be fine.
Note: The original plan for this story was to go much farther, however, all of my evenings and weekends are now dedicated to mandatory overtime until November, possibly longer. So instead of going on hiatus until then, I decided to cap this story with a soft ending. There are so many more scenes and little story ideas I wanted to cover: sleepovers, the first kiss, Sans helping the kids with science fair projects that revolutionize the whole world, etc. But I can't dedicate the time to it right now. I may come back in the future and start updating again, but if not, this is a good place to leave off. I hope you have enjoyed Small Font. Thank you and good night!