I sat on the bed in Papyrus' old room, the room that I'd quietly claimed as basically my own in recent times, and for the first time in what felt like eternity, I felt free.

There was no murderous bird going around anymore. I didn't have to fear for my life, or for my friends' lives, or for the fate of the world. True, I supposed there was still a chance Par could go back to his old ways, but under Toriel's wing… I doubted that would happen.

For once, I could just rest. Just relax, sit back, and do nothing. And not have to feel bad about it.

I leaned against the wall, closed my eyes, and breathed in the air that suddenly seemed so much fresher. I didn't know what would come next, but… the worst part of my life was behind me, now. And if I'd made it through that, I decided, I wasn't going to be particularly worried about what was yet to come. After all, I was pretty sure that from here on out, everything would be better.

The Barrier was broken. Gaster and Par had been brought back to the light. Slayer… I couldn't help but feel bad about what happened to him. Maybe he'd deserved it, but I still thought there had probably been some other way that I could've seen if I'd just been a bit more in control of my emotions. Thanks to me losing control, someone was dead, and that person was dead forever. It was absolutely my fault.

But… he had been a threat to my life, and to the lives of everyone I cared about. Maybe what I'd done wasn't the best choice – hell, it almost certainly wasn't. But no one was perfect. Everyone made mistakes. Maybe mine had been bigger than most, but there was still no use beating myself up over it. I had done something horrible, yes, and I would need to keep a careful eye out to make sure I never did something like that again – but it would do no good to just tell myself I was awful for it.

And now, of all times… when monsterkind was free at last, when everyone's unreachable dream had been achieved… I didn't have the heart for it, either. For now, I decided, I'd just let myself relax and be happy.

It was a novel idea for me. And being able to just choose to do that was so, so liberating. To know that I was free to just sit down, do nothing, and it wouldn't result in something going horribly wrong… I couldn't really describe how it felt. It was like some horrible burden had been taken off my mind.

So, I did as I'd chosen to. I just leaned back and basked in my newfound safety. More than that – in my freedom.

I couldn't tell exactly how much time passed. A minute or two, if I had to guess. The simple fact that I could afford to just be at peace for that long was still a bit startling to me… but it was what I'd been fighting for. And it was what I'd earned – not just for myself, but for all my friends, too.

But anyway, a minute or two passed. And then I heard a little, cute voice. [Um… Chara…?]

My eyes opened and a smile appeared on my face. [Oh. Hi, Frisk,] I said. [Where've you been?]

[I…] They looked to the side, as if ashamed. [I'd gone to talk to Gaster.]

I raised an eyebrow. [Why?]

[I had a hunch,] they explained. [About what had happened in that last conversation you had with him…]

[And?] I asked, curiosity growing within me. And a little sense of dread, too. Had Gaster done something, now? Was my freedom to be torn away from me once more? I didn't want it to be. I just wanted to rest, for once.

[Well, I went to talk to him about it,] they said. [He… well… he didn't say I was right, as such. But he more or less did.]

I swallowed. [What'd he do?] I asked nervously.

Frisk paused for a moment. [He… tricked you, Chara,] they said. [I don't think he was really certain taking away your resets was the only way. He just wanted to get rid of them. He was just looking for an excuse.]

My heart sank a bit. [Oh.]

And then, a feeling of relief washed over me. At least that was it. At least it wasn't some big plan that I'd have to stop. At least, as far as I was concerned, it was still over.

And while it felt like I should've been angry at him… at that moment, I just couldn't find it in me. Finally having peace was just too nice to ruin it with anger.

Besides, could I really blame him? I myself had come to basically the same conclusion as what I imagined he'd decided – I couldn't be trusted with that power. I reveled in it too much, adored how it set me above everyone else. Even if that wasn't that bad on its own… I knew all too well what I could do if I let myself start getting those sorts of thoughts. If I thought myself superior, if I thought myself more important than anyone else... for me, at least, there was only one way that road led. I'd already proven that much.

So, I couldn't blame Gaster for being wary. I couldn't even blame him for tricking me, not really – I wouldn't have agreed to it if I hadn't thought it was the only way. It had only been after I'd actually lost my resets that I'd started being able to think clearly about how bad I could've been with them. Maybe it was just my way of justifying my decision to myself, but… it felt right. It felt like I'd done the right thing.

And if it'd taken a bit of deceit on someone else's part for me to do it… well, I could hardly approve. But I'd done it myself plenty of times, for good reasons – and when I really thought about it, Gaster's reason was good. On a logical level, I figured he was still in the wrong – that fooling someone into making a choice that massive wasn't something that could be balanced out by good intentions. But really, all I actually felt about it, deep in my mind, was a bit of grudging respect for how well Gaster had outmaneuvered me.

I smiled a small smile. [Heh,] I said. [Clever bastard.]

For a moment, Frisk didn't say anything, their eyes wide in stunned silence. [But… he tricked you into losing your resets!] they said, scandalized.

[Yeah. And I guess he was wrong to do it,] I told them. [But… he had a point. I really doubt I would've used that power for good if I'd been allowed to keep it.]

[W-welll…] Frisk stammered, [are you really going to let him get away with that?!]

[I guess so,] I said. [It's too good a day for anger.]

They paused for a moment. [You know… your fight with Par happened today, too? And maybe even the one with Gaster – it's hard to keep track of time here. I'm… not sure I'd call that good.]

[Figure of speech,] I said with a wave of my hand. [Don't be pedantic.]

They raised an eyebrow, and I sighed. [Never mind,] I said.

[Okay,] they said. [But… really?! You're just… you're just going to let him go?]

[Mmm,] I muttered. [It's unsatisfying, I know. But… not all endings can be perfect.]

Frisk turned away. [But…]

I sighed. [I'm sorry, Frisk. I really am,] I said. [But… I'm willing to let this one go.]

They said nothing, so I continued. [I know he did something wrong. I know you're not happy about it. I can't say I'm exactly happy about it either. But… it worked out for the best. And I'm not about to pursue vengeance now, of all times.]

Still Frisk didn't say anything, just frowned.

I smiled. [Besides, the past is the past,] I said. [Otherwise… well…] I waved a hand.

[Oh,] they said. [Yeah.]

[For now,] I said, [let's just… forgive and forget.] And in exchange, all I'd ask was that the monsters do the same in return. I was sure they'd agree.

Even the snow on the ground of Snowdin seemed clearer, somehow. Calmer, more peaceful.

I'd tried walking through the street for a bit, but that had gone horribly. Not only was EVERYONE rushing to get out of here, but I was basically the hero of the Underground, now. And besides, it seemed the truth about my identity had spread, one way or another. Now, everyone knew who I was, and no one wanted to let me go by without stopping by and having a little chat. And shaking my hand, and showering me with compliments, and telling me I was their hero, and – in one particularly memorable instance – bowing down to me and humbly asking for an autograph. (I'd politely refused.)

I was honored, I really was, and I couldn't help but be proud of myself too. But for all that, it was also incredibly annoying to be constantly showered with attention when I was just trying to get around the place. Soon I'd quietly slipped out from the main road and found myself a nice, quiet place on the outskirts of the town. Thankfully, since everyone was rushing towards the castle, the edges of Snowdin were a ghost town. There wasn't a soul to be seen.

Well. Except for the person I was waiting for. He wasn't here either, not yet – but I knew he'd prefer to stick to the less-densely populated areas. This place would be a natural choice for him.

I leaned against a building, the cold now feeling refreshing rather than biting, the wind a light breeze rather than an angry gale. Soon enough I could see two figures approaching from the distance. I couldn't see them too well from where I was looking, but one was tall and white and cloaked in purple, and the other was shorter – though still not short – and wearing a brown robe that concealed its features.

With a smile on my face, though I knew neither of them could see it, I waved to them. The purple-cloaked one – Toriel, I knew – took notice, and started rushing towards me. The second figure walked towards me too, though much more reluctantly.

"Hey," I said when they were close enough.

"Greetings, my child," Toriel said.

The other figure – Par – sighed. "Hi."

"Hello, Par," I said, and turned my gaze to Toriel. "Mind just leaving us alone for a bit?"

She blinked at me, but bowed her head slightly and said, "Of course not." She walked off somewhere into the forest, leaving just me and Par to talk.

"So," I asked, "did you take the soul to Asriel?"

He looked down. "…Yes."

"Thank you," I smiled. Frankly, I'd expected him to do it. After what happened the last time he'd gone up against me, I doubted he'd want to cross me again. And besides, it would be awkward as hell for him to reject his evil ways on my advice, and then immediately turn around and have an argument with me.

Was asking him to do that when I knew all that nice of me? No. But when it came to saving my brother, I found it hard to care.

"You know, at first, I wasn't going to do it," he said. "I really wasn't. I was just planning to keep the soul and tell you I'd given it to that Asriel guy. But…

"Out of curiosity, I looked for him. I figured it wouldn't hurt to at least meet him, find out why you'd want him to have a soul. I thought maybe I'd find something I could use against you. And instead…" He paused for a moment. "Dammit."

I frowned in understanding. "He told you, didn't he?"

"Yeah," he said. "I asked him about you, about what connection you two had. I could hardly believe it when he told me what it was. I'd just… assumed you had some selfish reason. I didn't even think it'd just be because you really wanted to help someone out."

He looked down. "And when I asked him about what had happened, if there was anything special I needed to know about him…" He swallowed. "I just… I'd decided not to actually give him the soul, by that point. But when I heard that story… and…" His expression turned furtive, as if he was ashamed of what he was about to say. "And when I thought of what that woman would think, how she would feel if I reunited her with her son…"

I nodded. "Yeah," I said.

"I just… the images it conjured in my mind… I just couldn't shake that feeling. About how… how good it would be." He sighed. "Why did you have to have a point?" he muttered.

With a smile on my face, I laid a hand on his shoulder. "Again, thank you, Par," I said. "You… you don't know how much you've done for me." For the first time since I'd started this conversation, I really thought about Asriel. I let myself imagine how it'd be like to spend time with him again, how it would be like to… just have a brother again. Now, I had all the time in the world – I could apologize to him properly, make up for all the bad things I'd done to him. And then… we could be happy together. Again.

Tears touched my eyes before I even realized it, and Par looked at me, a small smile on his beak.

"You're welcome," he said, awkwardly.

"You're doing great," I assured him. "Just… keep on doing what feels right. Okay?"

He said nothing.

"Well, bye, then," I said, and walked away.

"Hey."

Asriel turned to me, unbridled joy on his face. "Chara!" he shouted, running towards me and wrapping me in an embrace. "You won't believe it!"

"I know already," I chuckled, patting him on the head.

"Oh," he said, seeming suddenly disappointed.

"Wanted to tell me, didn't you?" I asked.

"Yeeah," he said, rolling his eyes.

I laughed and pulled him tighter.

"So, what do you plan to do now?" I asked, releasing him. "Have you told your parents yet?"

He looked down. "I'm… I don't think I'm quite ready for that, yet."

"Okay," I said. "Well, take it at your own pace."

"Thanks, Chara," he said.

I smiled. "So… what comes next?"

"I guess… I guess I just live," he said. "I mean… when I get the courage to tell everyone, I mean."

"Alright," I said. "Well, 'til then, your secret is safe with me. I'll be waiting!"

I turned and walked away, but before I left, there was one more thing I had to say. I turned around and said, my voice a bit solemn, "Oh, by the way… Asriel?"

"Yeah?" he asked.

"You were an excellent brother," I said. "And… again… I'm sorry that I repaid it with nothing but, well, cruelty."

He chuckled nervously. "What do you mean, were?"

I grinned. "You're right. What do I mean, were?"

Well…

That was it.

I'd taken care of everything I'd had to take care of in the Underground. I still had to tell Asgore everything, of course, but that could wait. For now… it was time to go. To go to the Surface, along with everyone else.

It was an ending. Hell, it was the ending. Life would go on, of course, and this was just the start of mine – but this was the end of my adventure. And, hopefully, of my adventures. After all of this… I hoped nothing similar would arise again. I didn't want to keep fighting for my life, or to have to save the world itself. I just wanted to be with my family. And be happy.

And this was where I achieved that goal. It was the end of my old life. There were no more battles to be fought. There were no more resets to be performed. There were no more paths to be explored. This chapter in my life was over. It had ended for the fourteenth time now, and for the first time, I was moving on. Thank goodness I'd never made that decision before.

It was… so, so odd to think about it. What was the Surface even like? I knew I'd been there once upon a time – it was where I'd been born, where I'd fled from for some reason I didn't even remember anymore. But that had been, as far as I was concerned, lifetimes ago. I didn't remember a thing about it. My mind kept conjuring up more and more wondrous images, until some part of me thought I should stop before I end up giving myself unrealistically high expectations. But still the gears of my imagination kept turning, coming up with thoughts and ideas and pictures of what it'd be like up there. They were all beautiful.

I stepped into New Home – thankfully, since I'd lingered for a while, I was mostly behind the crowd – and still my mind overflowed with thoughts. This was it. That simple fact felt so massive I could barely process it. This was where my life changed. This was where I stopped being Chara the murderer, or Chara the time traveler, or Chara the savior, or any of those things. This was where I became… just Chara. Just a normal child. Oh, no one would forget what I'd done, of course – I'd still be remembered, talked about in the history books (at least, I hoped I would be). But the adventure itself was done, and for now, at least, I could live like a normal person.

Honestly, I barely remembered even how that felt. How it was like to just… live.

But… I was looking forward to it.

It wasn't a perfect ending, of course. People had died. People had suffered. Their experiences didn't disappear just because everything worked out in the end. And Undyne… and Papyrus… they would be lost forever.

Yet it was the best ending I'd get. And it was, frankly, better than I deserved. So much better. But I'd take it.

As I walked through the throne room, I started seeing monsters. But as I walked through that last, small corridor to where the barrier had been, the sea of monsters parted in front of me, leaving a path for me to pass through. Monsters whispered among themselves, calling me their savior. Some yelled out their gratitude. Many stared, wide-eyed, at me, and it reminded me of how the monster kid used be around Undyne.

That was when it truly hit me. To them, I was their hero. I was the one responsible for the barrier breaking. I'd… saved them. I'd saved a people from the confines of their eternal prison. I'd brought hope to a nation long devoid of it. I'd given them a future.

And their gratitude… it felt good. And oddly humbling, at the same time. Here I was, nothing more than a little human child, and an entire kingdom was thanking me.

I stopped in the middle of the road and looked around nervously at the gathered monsters. Some sort of warmth appeared on my cheeks. I blushed.

And when I realized that I was doing that, I chuckled. Blushing was something I'd almost forgotten about, too. I'd just always had more important things to worry about to be embarrassed or anything like that. But now… as much as it was embarrassing, it felt good, too. Like an affirmation that… yeah. I was free now. This sort of thing was, for a while, at least, the worst I had to worry about.

"Uh… golly," I said, awkwardly, because I didn't have a clue what to say. "Thanks, guys."

And I passed through, trying not to blush too much. And… and a smile touched my face as I realized that was the sort of stuff I was concerned about, now. Just… normal stuff. No more murderous bird. No more fearing for my life. Just… being normal.

No matter how much I told myself that, it could always be hammered home some more. And every time it was, I couldn't help but be happy.

I walked out to what had formerly been the barrier. Toriel and Asgore stood there, staring out at the Surface.

"My child," Toriel said, turning towards me with a smile on her face.

"Hey, Tori," I said. "Hey, Gorey." Asgore turned to me, a sudden joy on his face. I wasn't sure if I'd ever called him that before.

"I'm… so thankful you two have been in my life," I said. "But… for now… could you move aside, please? I… want to see the Surface."

"Of course," Toriel nodded, and stepped to the side.

"Alright," Asgore said, and did the same.

I passed between them, and looked out at the sun. And in an instant, all the images I'd come up with in my head were blown out of the water. It was more beautiful than anything I could've ever imagined.

For a few moments, I stood there, basking in its glory.

[What are you waiting for?] Frisk asked excitedly. [Let's go, Chara.]

[Yeah,] I said. [Let's go.]

And I grinned, and felt tears pricking at my eyes, and took my first, proud step into a new world.