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Appleseed

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Her head feels like the aftermath of someone pounding it was a jackhammer. 

Anne shifts and immediately regrets it, rubbing away at her temples in an attempt to steady her swirling brain as the mattress spins beneath her. Gradually, memories from the previous day return to her, hazy images consisting of the colorful exterior of the Newtopian castle and buildings surrounding it, toad soldiers revealing themselves and arresting King Andrias, Sasha casually talking about overthrowing the central government while M tries to calm everyone, chewing off Sasha and ending their friendship, and a myriad of colors blinding her after Sasha threw open the lid of the music box. 

Ah, yes. That’s right.

She and Sasha had an argument. 

The curtains in the room are drawn close and are dense enough so no sunlight can peek through. It’s enough to illuminate the space, though. As Anne lies there trying to find her bearings, she can’t help but notice how considerably large the room is in comparison to the rest of the residence. She turns her head, finding a large hardback book laying on the nightstand beside the bed, flipped open to a picture of a very large potato. Was she in Hop Pop’s bedroom? What was she doing back here? 

The person is a few inches taller than herself, maybe three or four, and loose strands of blonde hair fall forward onto her hairline. Pointed nose, soft cheekbones, almond eyes, black eye-patch strapped across her right eye- she’s undeniably familiar, and the medium-length scar against her left cheek sparks something visceral inside of her because holy shit-

“Sasha?” 

The girl- Sasha- blinks a few times as if she's trying to snap herself out of something, then opens her mouth to speak. “Long time no see, yeah?” She says, voice quieter than Anne honestly expected. 

Without saying another word, she strides across the room and situates herself in the vacant chair beside the bed, an unreadable expression etching her features. 

Unfortunately for Anne, she isn’t feeling very eloquent at the moment, as she blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. “What happened to your eye?” she asks before immediately backpedaling. “I- I’m sorry! I don’t wanna assume anything but since you’re wearing it I thought-“ 

“Anne,” Sasha interrupts, hazel eyes staring intently into her own chocolate ones. She looked serious, no nonsense- it’s the same look Sasha gave her whenever Anne did something she didn’t like. It made her stomach twist. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

Anne blinked. “Uh,” She shifted uncomfortably, wincing when her temples throbbed with pain. “I was inside the Newtopian castle because we had just recharged the music box. I kinda got into an argument with S- you, and she opened the box and threatened to send me home before I could say my goodbyes to the Plantars,” she frowned. “When she opened it though… it sent me here.”

Sasha’s lips pull into a tight line; face twisting into a grimace. “How old are you?”

Anne paused. “What?”

“How. Old. Are you?”

“I’m thirteen?” Same as yesterday, right? 

Sasha continues staring for another elongated moment before sighing, using her fingertips to rub at the outermost parts of her eyes. “Fucking- okay, okay. This is something that happens now.”

“Uh-“

“Do you know what she- I?- did?”

Anne barely stammered, unable to keep up with this. “What she did?”

Sasha frowned, running a gloved hand down her face in exasperation. “Did she- I! Did I touch the gems? Wind up the lever- anything?”

Anne simply lay there, deathly confused. “W-What? No?”

A sharp exhale, and a balled fist is slammed upon the wooden nightstand, rattling the dresser and hardcover book atop it. Anne flinched, and decided the sudden burst of noise has done the opposite of calming her throbbing headache. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” She murmurs, voice quiet. She’s older, definitely, but she has a general sense of being worn down. Like she’s been tired for a really long time. 

“What the heck is going on?” 

Several quiet knocks sounded throughout the room, and another person walked into the room. Donning a royal blue bomber jacket, the slightly protruding sleeves and elastic cuffs make her upperhalf appear more bulky compared to the rest of her body. The chocolate eyes, flat nose and wild hair looked oddly familiar and oh. 

Oh. It’s herself. 

The girl- herself - is looking at her, and Anne has to remind herself because it simply isn’t clicking, and she’s so sure her mouth is gaping and she looks ridiculous but she just cannot help it because it’s literally me. “Everything okay?” She- herself?- asked, smiling gently. 

“You’re me? I can’t believe this, you’re actually me. Oh frog, I can’t even process this, what the heck-“

“What the hell are we supposed to do?” Sasha asks, voice growing increasingly bitter. 

Anne- Oh jeez, she’d have to come up with a name to differentiate them- frowned. “Language, Sasha. There’s kids in the room.”

“You’re literally sixteen.”

“Whatever.” 

Anne floundered, head swimming. “I’m- you’re- sixteen?” She asked incredulously. Her counterpart simply nodded. 

Sasha slapped a hand over her face, heaving a shuddering breath. “What the hell are we supposed to do now?” she says in a tone that’s so forign, so unfamiliar and so unSashalike it catches her completely off-guard. 

 Hopelessness? 

What was going on?!

Anne sat up, bringing her hands to wring away the aches residing inside her temples. She wants to gather a more comprehensive image of the situation, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult with the aching in her head and the apparent two older versions of herself and former friend talking right before her. Sasha had one eye, a future version of herself was standing right before her, and they’re asking how the music box worked? She doesn’t even know where her Sasha and Marcy are. Something was deathly wrong. This is so wrong- 

Her fingers twitched, and her throat restricted and her eyes burned. She tried to breathe, but it was becoming difficult. Something is wrong. Something is wrong. 

“Hey, hey,” Sasha shushes, gingerly placing a hand into her shoulder and squeezing affectionately; but the gesture is so unbelievably wrong because they were just fighting beforehand and Sasha wasn’t her friend anymore. “Anne, calm down, breathe,”

A moment of silence passes between the trio. With a heaving breath, Anne stands from her mattress, overcoming her swimming vision, and bolts out the door. 

She attempts to run, but confusion weighs over her body with the heaviness of a weighted blanket. Only a few steps forward and she crashes into something, smashing the left side of her face into the wall. Rubbing her left cheek, she maneuvers past the fallen object- a small wooden stand holding a vase filled with flowers- and continues into the living room in a frenzy. 

A group of people are seated on the couch, but ignore them as she attempts to unlatch the locks on the wooden door, yet they wouldn’t budge. The people on the couch surrounded her, concern etched onto their features. 

One of them placed a hand onto her shoulder. “Anne?-“ 

“Sprig, back up,” Sasha ordered, marching into the living room alongside her future counterpart. 

The frog looked familiar, and he was almost unrecognizable due to his sheer height and ginger hair peeking from beneath his signature pilot-hat and goggles. 

Anne felt like she was choking. “Sprig?” 

The boy- oh, she didn’t even have to look down at him. They were nearly the same height now- leveled his gaze, smiling gently. “Yeah, it’s good to see you, Anne.”

Anne’s smile was weary yet pleasant. “What’re you talking about? I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Her words elitched a shared look of confusion and worry. Sprig and Sasha specifically exchanged a look of sympathy. 

A small deep purple frog, tugging at the hemming of her t-shirt, stout ginger pigtails and polka-dot bow bouncing with the movement. Polly. “Hey, Anne. You doing okay? You’ve been out for a while,” she pauses, then, “We found you a few hours ago.”

Something inside Anne’s chest twisted at those words, and that was added to the mere growing list of things she didn’t understand. “I-I…” 

“Settle down, kids, give her some space,” The unmistakable voice of Hop Pop sounded through the worried faces and unspoken questions. In the past, his grandfatherly tone would’ve calmed her, but it only added to the stress. “Anne, hon, are you okay? Do you know where you are?”

Anne grit her teeth, throwing her hands out in exasperation. “N-No, I don’t know anything! I remember telling off Sasha for being a bad friend and then-“ she pauses, then frowns, and oh. 

Oh no. 

Sprig spoke up, curious though concerned. “Anne? Then what?”

She exhaled a shuddering breath, chewing on the inside of her mouth. “Them. Sasha and Marcy. I don’t know if they got zapped here with me. I don’t know where they are.” 

Did they get transported here too? Was it like the first time they came here, and they were separated for several months? She wanted to scream, or cry. One or the other was fine. 

After several moments of silence, Sasha speaks up. “It’s possible that they’ve been transported here, too. The three of us- you- are the wielders of the Calamity box. If the box is activated, then all of you would be transported.” 

“This just can’t be.” Hop Pop says lightly, almost as if he was convincing himself it was a joke. “It just can’t be- the box isn’t that powerful that it can transcend through literal time, right?”

Another pregnant pause. 

“We need to go get Marcy.” Sasha decides, leaving no room for questions. 

“No!” Anne- the future one, apparently- almost immediately says. Past-Anne perks up at that. “ Why wouldn’t I want to see Marcy? This is so confusing.”

“N-“ Sasha stammers, shifting her gaze towards Anne and widening her eyes incredulously. If the situation wasn’t so bad, she would’ve laughed at her reaction. “ No?” 

“No.” 

NO?!”

“No.” Older Anne repeats.

“Anne,” Sasha almost whines, throwing her hands onto her face in the most frustrated she’s ever seen her. More frustrated than Toad Tower frustrated. “We cannot pretend that things aren’t what they are! If this isn’t pretend, Marcy is the one that might actually know what’s going on.”

Older Anne shakes her head, balling her shaking fists and stuffing them inside her jacket pockets. “She- She can’t. She’ll flip the hell out if she sees this, I can’t put her through this again. I can’t.“

Sasha’s voice increases in volume. “ She’s the one with the Millennium old eldritch being inside of her! She and the Night are bound to know something about this to help us!”

Anne can’t help but become flustered herself by the obtuse phrasing of their sentencing. Are they avoiding talking about something? Why aren’t they saying anything? “Is- Is there something wrong? Who’s the Night? Is Marcy okay?!” 

A deafening pause passes through the room, and her mind races with the worst thoughts imaginable. Why’d they stop talking? Did something happen? Did this ‘Night’ person hurt her?

Sasha simply says, “We have to tell her.”

“No!” Older Anne protests. 

“She deserves to know!” 

“She’s thirteen!” 

We all were!”

“What are you guys talking about?!” Anne unintentionally shouted, but finally being able to be heard is so vindictive. The short-lived argument and anger between the two humans vanished, instead replaced with burning shame and embarrassment. Just as Anne finds herself unable to move where she stands, Sprig gingerly grabs the crook of her arm, leading her towards the door. 

“Hey,” Sprig says, smiling softly, so understanding and kind and refreshing to see amongst so much confusion and unknown answers.“It’s a bit overwhelming here, let’s go get some fresh air. I'll explain it to you then, alright?”

Anne blinks, then smiles, shoulders slumping slightly. Maybe she’ll finally get some answers, now. “Y-Yeah. That sounds good, Sprig,”

He unlatches the door and they step past, making sure to gently close the door behind them. The air is crisp, exhilarating and refreshing, filling every crevice of her chest with a sharp coolness. She takes a moment to glance at her surroundings, finding even the outside of the Plantar family farm different. Several rows of vegetables are lined out in the fields in addition to a larger stall and shack; but it isn’t right because she remembers them harvesting the vegetables before leaving for Newtopia. Everything is different and she doesn’t even know what’s happening. 

She just hopes the others are okay. 








Sasha groans, head throbbing intensely. If the headache was keeping her alert, she would’ve sunken further into the plush sofa and drifted back into sleep, despite her clunky armor. 

But that's the problem. She wasn’t supposed to have a throbbing headache or be laying on a sofa. She shifts herself, groaning when the movement worsens the throbbing. She doesn’t remember nor understand how she’s gotten here, laying in what seems to be a carriage of sorts, passed out and with the worst headache known to man. Where on earth was she? 

Gradually, the memories come back. Her and Grime successfully overthrowing Newtopia, her reveling in her newfound power, Anne breaking off their friendship, and then unmitigated sorrow followed by unbridled anger overtaking her as she opens the box to force her former friend back home- 

Then a blinding flash. Then pain. 

The door to the carriage opens with a squeak, and Sasha’s can only make out the hazy outlines of unidentifiable figures standing in the entryway. They are spindly and they bowed themselves slightly to step past the entrance. They stepped forward, almost hesitantly. What is happening? Has she been kidnapped? Was this person going to hurt her? 

They stepped forward again. Sasha decided to act. 

In what is perceived as a split second, Sasha leaps from her seat and brings the figure down in a controlled fall, looping a leg around the other’s and forcing them onto the floor. She shifts to straddle them from behind and places arm around their lower back. It’s just what Grime had taught her; their dominant arm pinned to the floor and other arm ineffectual in escaping. Without hesitating, she grabs the knife situated onto her belt and points it towards the figure’s neck who, oddly enough, doesn’t even struggle. 

“Ha,” Sasha thinks to herself, celebrating. “Didn’t even see it coming, did you?” 

The ray of sunlight peeking through the drawn curtains happens upon the stranger’s face, painting honeydew shadows across their face. Their dark, medium length hair falls over her bandaged left eye, the strands thick and shimmering in the sunlight. The person looks somewhat surprised, eyebrows perked up in amusement. 

“Now, now. You wouldn’t want to do this to a friend, would we?” They asked lightly, already knowing the answer, her gentle manner and honeyed tone being so very familiar yet so very wrong. She would’ve recognized that voice anywhere. 

Sasha feels the air inside her lungs escaping her. Her sternum feels like it’s caving in. Her ears fill with white noise. 

“Marcy?” 



Chapter Text

This is possibly the strangest day of Sasha Waybright’s young life. 

And that’s saying something. 

“I- how-“

Marcy- probably, she doesn’t trust this person yet- cranes her neck the furthest she could to catch a glimpse at the person currently holding her hostage on the ground, but she can only catch the slope of her nose in the corners of her eye. “I’m guessing you’re trying to ask ‘how’re you so old?’ But I should be asking ‘how’re you here?’” 

“I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t even know where I am!” Sasha growls, tightening her grip and bringing the blade closer. 

Marcy winces, hissing through her teeth. “Uh, could you please get off me? You’re hurting me.” 

She wiggles slightly, grinding the tips of her shoes against the wooden-flooring of the carriage. The movement wasn’t forceful enough to be considered an attempt at escaping, but more so testing the strength in which she was pinned down. She tightened her viscous grip despite it, leaving no leeway in fleeing. 

“I can’t trust you. You might look like her, but I can’t trust you. You’re probably some shapeshifter amphibian creature or something.” Can amphibians shapeshift? Sasha isn’t too sure, but she doesn’t want to consider the alternatives. 

“I’m Marcy Wu. I’m your friend,” She says, voice leveled, body so still she’d be mistaken as a corpse. “You can trust me.”

“What was Marcy Wu’s rank in Super Wario Cart Tournament in 2018?” She says without a beat. 

Marcy stammered for a moment, floundered. “I was ranked third.”

“Who were the top two?”

“Vincent Montgomery and Gail Neilson.” 

“Where is Marcy Wu from?”

“Los Angeles, California.” 

“What did Marcy Wu eat for breakfast the morning we departed for Newtopia to deliver the box?”

Marcy raised an eyebrow. “Breakfast?” 

Sasha keeps glaring, refusing to budge. 

“Uh…” Marcy trailed off, trying to remember what she had for breakfast three years ago. “Uh, nothing?” 

When Sasha loosens her grip against her dominant arm, Marcy lets out a sound caught between a gasp of air and a strangled groan. Sasha keeps an arm thrown around Marcy’s chest and fingers loosely curling around the handle of her knife. Among the cacophony of muted thuds filling the carriage, the small, flat sounds of wooden wheels against dusty roads can be heard peaking above the noise. 

They sit opposite of one another, the carriage large enough to comfortably fit the two of them without bumping knees and touching feet, but small enough to make the already uncomfortable and tense atmosphere suffocating. She takes the opportunity to take over her appearance. 

Her hair is no-longer her recognizable and signature bob-style cut, but instead medium length and hanging, disheveled and combed with hasty fingers. A nearly pale green hoodie engulfing her spindly limbs and black sweatpants. Her left eye has a bandage wrapped around it, and her uncovered eye has prominent bags beneath them and- perhaps she’s simply imagining it- the slightest tint of green swirls within the pupils. 

This is gonna make her lose it. 

She twirls and returns the dagger back onto her belt, glaring. “I want answers. Now.” 

“What do you want to know?” Marcy asks, her fingers interlocked with one another and resting on her lap. Her voice, though patient, is steely in a way that Sasha has never ever heard it. It nearly gives her whiplash. Just what on earth is happening to her? 

Sasha gazes expectantly. “Where am I?” 

Clearing her throat and crossing one leg over the other, Marcy answers. “You’re in the northeastern countryside of Amphibia; near the Newtopian palace. Most of our brass is gathered there, and we’re going back for reformation.”

A brass? What would someone like Marcy be needing a brass for? She doesn’t want to make assumptions, but it’s especially hard to actually create a comprehensive image of a life she knows virtually nothing about. “Okay… If your ‘brass’ is at Newtopia, then why’re you out here alone?” 

“It’s protocol to make escape plans at the last moment for security.” Marcy says casually, as if she didn’t just reveal that she’s essentially connected to the central government somehow. “So, naturally, all VIPS will use unmarked carriages.” 

“VIPS?”

She nods. “We’ve been building relations across Newtopia, improving the reputation of Newtopia, and watching everyone’s movements.” Her face morphs into a scowl. “Who would’ve known we should've been watching our own backyard…” 

The conversation turns to a lull, with Sasha mindlessly pressing her thumb into the soft meat of her palm and Marcy staring at her hands with glossed-over eyes-er, eye. Sasha can’t figure out the strange attitude she’s possessing, but it baffles her nonetheless. 

Even if the answer wasn’t as conclusive as she hoped, she still couldn’t shake the crooked uneasiness permeating throughout her being- something is so unnatural about her entire disposition it makes her perturbed. This isn’t the Marcy she knows.

Before she can dwell on it any longer, Marcy speaks up again. “Anyways, what else would you like to know?” 

“I don’t remember anything after being zapped here… Where was I?” 

“I found you unconscious, out in a clearing, when we stopped for breakfast earlier. It’s been a few hours since that, though.” 

Sasha raises an eyebrow. “‘We?’' She inquired. 

“Olivia and Yunan.” The raven-haired said, speaking as if it was common knowledge. She grows jumbled after seeing the confused expression plastered on the younger girl’s face. “Yknow, Newtopian Royal advisor and General?” 

Those names don’t ring a bell. It must’ve shown on her face. 

“Oh. It must have been before you’ve met them, it seems.” Marcy says, not particularly bothered by that fact. This is all so strange. 

“What’s the date?”

“June 24th, 2022.” 

“20…2022?” 

Marcy nods.  “From the amour, I’m gonna assume you’re from the year 2019, yes?” A brief pause, then. “We’re a long way away, aren’t we?” she murmurs to no one in particular, expression having grown distant. 

“Huh?” Sasha asked, kind of freaked out by it. Marcy wasn’t necessarily speaking to her because she didn’t even make eye-contact, but that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. 

Marcy seems unfettered by or even completely oblivious to her detached temperament, speaking as if she misheard Sasha after she asked. “What? Oh, nothing. Just thinking about something.” 

She’s unsure if it’s her intuition that is giving her false alarms, or if there's actually something happening she’s not being told. She decided to press on. “How old are you?” 

“Sixteen.” 

“Sixteen? You look way older than that,” Sasha unconsciously says, before grimacing awkwardly. “No offense.”

Marcy shrugs off the comment. “None taken. It’s to be expected when you’ve been…” She trails off, finishing with an almost terse headshake, and Sasha is still uncertain of her disposition. What had happened in those three years? “Anyways, we’re returning to Wartwood after doing some busywork. We’ll meet with Anne and yourself to figure something out.”

“…Myself?” She mutters absentmindedly, digging her thumb deeper into her palm. “Does that mean that I’m here, too? I’m sixteen?”

Marcy responds with a nod, the gesture short and confident. “Yes.” 

She unconsciously takes a sharp breath through her nose, blinking repeatedly, processing her words. “Okay…Okay, shit like this happens now, I guess.” 

Marcy lips twinge in amusement. It looks like she’s about to snort. “You’re taking this better than I expected,” 

Sasha crosses her arms. “I can say the same for you.” 

“Truthfully, I don’t know which is better. On one hand, I should be freaking out because, correct me if I’m wrong, a thirteen year old version of my friend is currently sitting before me.” Marcy shrugs. “But on the other hand, I don’t know what to say other than this is another Tuesday for me.” 

Sasha doesn’t know what to say, so she doesn’t say anything. She simply nods in acknowledgment. The carriage falls into a silence. 

She finds herself unable to relax, having unwillingly absorbed the terse energy that Marcy has been emitting all evening. She can tell is making a concerted effort to maintain civil conversation, unprovoked and calm, almost hesitant- but it gives the impression that she’s speaking to a living, breathing ticking-time bomb, and that annoys her on an entirely different level of annoyance. 

Why couldn’t she just react normally?

She glared at the person before her. 

There. That strange, restrained and unreadable expression is morphing her face again. It makes her stomach twinge so violently it feels like a knife twisting inside her gut. “We shouldn’t do that. Not now.” She mumbles quietly, seemingly to someone because it isn’t directly towards her. 

“What’re you doing?”

Marcy blinks. “What?”

“You’ve been weird this entire conversation; like you've been talking to somebody else. What’re you doing?” 

A beat passes. Marcy purses her lips. “Oh, I’m not talking to you.” 

Sasha leans forward, challenging and determined, the unmistakable heat of anger bubbling beneath her skin. “What the hell do you mean by that, exactly?” 

She’s being one-hundred percent truthful when she asks, because there isn’t anyone else in the carriage , obviously, and Marcy isn’t talking to her. So who on earth is she talking to? Unless- 

“You!” Sasha exclaims, rising to her feet. The sudden movement seemingly startles Marcy, who flinches terribly. “Have you been messing with me for shits and giggles this entire time?!” 

Marcy’s face shows surprise, eyebrows creased and eye frowning. “H-Hold on a second-“ 

Sasha all but growls, face morphing into a seething scro. “I knew it! You’ve been all smug and shady this entire conversation! It’s like you’re hiding something! What’re you hiding from me?! What do you know?!” 

She grimaces instinctively, feeling a considerable amount of anger towards her stammering and the expression contorting her face. At another other time, she would be perfectly content with this outcome, but that suffocating vagueness and smugish disposition has her infuriated. Just how stupid does she think she was?

Marcy doesn’t look particularly startled, moreso surprised, eyebrows creased with concern- for herself or Sasha, she doesn’t know. “Let’s just talk about this, alright?”

That’s it. 

Sasha lunges forward, bringing her fist towards Marcy’s face in an unbridled rage. It doesn’t reach even several inches from her face, however, as her fist is halted halfway through its visiting trip towards the bridging of her nose, caught with nigh impeccable reflexes and incredible strength. It would be a blatant lie if Sasha said she wasn’t terrified yet simultaneously impressed by just how nimble the reaction was. She has little doubt she makes for an informative and challenging opponent, but what happened to her little Mar-mar who could barely lift fifteen pounds? 

Almost as quickly as her step forward, Sasha is being pushed backwards, knees buckling beneath her and shoulder-blades meeting the padded cushion of the carriage seat. It wasn’t a strong push- not in the slightest- yet Sasha would definitely have some bruises later from the sheer impact, even despite the cushioning. She groans, losing her orientation for a moment before turning towards the person before her. 

Marcy sits there, one leg draped over her left thigh and hands folded against her lap, watching as if she didn’t just force her into the chair with the intensity and forcefulness of a battering ram. A singular beam of honeydew sunlight shines into the room. 

Her mouth parts to speak when she sees it. The words are caught inside her throat. 

An infinite, black creature hulks silently over her, particles and clusters of an inky substance floating and dissipating over its large frame, it’s ten eyes boring themselves into her skull. The creature places itself besides Marcy and nudges into her frame, and Marcy doesn’t hesitate to gingerly place a hand onto its head and rub it like a dog and not a terrifying monstrosity from hell. The disturbingly similar axolotl gills shiver and relax at the touch, and Marcy smiles. 

“Sorry for the forcefulness, but he sensed danger.” Marcy says apologetically, giving the creature another gentle stroke. “Now, can we please talk about this? Please?”

Sasha doesn’t know what to say besides readily nod her head and gulp down her anxieties. 



.

 

 

“I… I don’t understand.” 

“I imagine not. Let's get you straightened out. Tell me the last thing you remember, and I’ll fill you in from there.” 

They sit near the northeastern corner of the field, balancing themselves on an uncomfortable but sturdy tree stump and a fallen redwood tree respectively. Anne breathes in a sharp inhale, reveling in the scent of petrichor and dampened treebark. The breeze caresses her cheekbones, and it is barely enough to be considered chilly. 

“We… We went to Newtopia to return the box to Andrias and go home. Then, Sasha and the toad army invaded Newtopia and arrested the King. Sasha took the box, I chewed her out, then opened the box and threatened to send me home. Then…” 

Sprig fills in the blanks. “You woke up here?”

Anne simply nods. 

“Anne,” Sprig suddenly leans forward, body imploring and eyebrows arched. He speaks in such an unfamiliar and serious tone that it helps to make her even more anxious. “Try to keep calm during this explanation, okay? We’ll tell you everything you need to know-“ 

“Keep calm?” A voice called out from behind them. “This is Anne we’re talking about. Hell, I don’t even know if I can keep calm, talking about this stuff again.” 

“What’re you doing out here?”

Sasha comes into view, a thin sheen of sweat covering her forehead and cheeks tinted red from her apparent sprint from the farmhouse. “From the gods above, I am not leaving you alone to explain this. It’s too much.” 

Sprig snorts, tongue gliding over his teeth. It’s a relief, because for a moment the tense atmosphere is broken. “Aw, you care about me or something?”

Sasha huffs and crosses her arms indignantly, eyebrows perked in amusement and lips showing the ghost of a smile. “In your dreams.” 

The interaction is brief, but the friendly banter between them is incredibly infectious in a way that she finds herself smiling. Their relationship has healed considerably, and the thought of them existing in the same space without malice or argumentative words being spewed is something she’s looked forward to. 

After a lull in the conversation, Sprig heaves a heavy sigh, rubbing his slimy hands together. “Okay, I’ll start, I guess.” He says, clearing his throat. “After Sasha opened the box is where the timeline must’ve changed, then. In our timeline, the box didn’t work when Sasha opened it.” 

“I thought when you opened it, it would’ve made a portal back home, right? That’s why we charged the gems,” Anne asks, fiddling her thumbs. 

Sasha nods knowingly, gingerly grasping her shoulder  “We’ll get to that point,”

Sprig continues. “Sasha had us arrested and taken to the dungeon, but before we could get there, General Yunan saved us by beating up the guards.” He pauses, then. “She’s the General of the Newtopian army. Don’t worry, she’s on our side.”

Anne nods, a silent invitation to continue.

“We all went our separate ways, but you and I worked to close the castle gates so the rest of the Toad Army couldn’t invade. But, while we were closing it…” Sprig abruptly stops, eyebrows lifting in concern after seeing the distressed look on Anne’s face. “I’m sorry, is this too much? We can stop-“

“No,” Anne says, a certain heaviness weighing on her shoulders. “No, it’s fine. It’s in the past. Go on.” 

They don’t look convinced, but continue the retelling anyways. “You and Sasha had started fighting while I stopped Grime from getting to you. She wanted you to stop because she learned…” 

The air around them grows still. Anne leans forward, body imploring. “She learned what?”

He gives a shaky exhale, and the mere action makes Anne’s stomach twist. “King Andrias isn’t who he says he is. He wants the box to rule over Amphibia and all worlds. He’s evil. I’m sorry, Anne, but he was tricking us.” Sprig says, punctuated by Sasha nodding solemnly. “He played all of us like a fiddle… and we were none the wiser.”

“… What? He’s been tricking us?” Anne says, a painful lump growing in the middle of her throat. “After everything we’ve done for him, after everything he’s done for us; he’s just been using us for the box?” 

A saddened nod confirmed her fears. 

Words are escaping her. Anne’s trying to articulate herself in her head but the seconds are stretching by longer than hours. She laughs mirthlessly before dragging a hand down her face. “I’ve been betrayed again.” She says humorlessly. “Why am I not surprised?”

“Anne?” Sasha asks so softly it catches her off guard. With as distressed as Anne is and as somber Sprig looks, she appears the most level-headed and composed out of the three them. “Are you okay?” 

It takes several moments, but Anne eventually nods, a motion more akin to a grim acceptance of whatever is happening. “I’m okay,” she says, though far from the truth. “This is… This is just a lot to take in.”  

Sasha frowns, giving her shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “We can stop if you want-“

Anne readily shakes her, almost bitterly. She brings a hand to run through her mused hair. “No… No. I need to know everything. I need to know so we can figure everything out and go home.”

They fall quiet for a moment, mentally reeling themselves in. Sasha still has her hand atop her shoulder, giving the occasional squeeze of reassurance paired with a gentle smile. Sprig threads his fingers together over his lap, eyes scanning for nothing in particular- to pass the time before the inevitable truth rings forth- and it makes her stomach twist itself into tighter knots. 

“So, after that, apparently he had an entire robot army created in abandoned factories around Amphibia. Frobo is one of them, actually! But he was programmed to be a servant to Polly… somehow.” Sprig laughs humorlessly, trying to lighten the mood. “And Newtopia is pretty technological too, because he made his castle fly into the sky- and the thingie displayed on the top of the castle is apparently a laser.”

“He destroyed Toad Tower to bits.” Sasha says, bitterly, venom and despair seeping into her voice. 

“Sasha…” Anne trails off, heart heavy and heartbroken into pieces at the thought. Her experiences with toads hadn’t been particularly good ones, but Anne understood how much the toads and Toad Tower meant to her. She’s being completely honest when she says this. “I’m so sorry that’s happened.” 

She doesn’t understand what’s happened during this future, but Sprig and Sasha in particular have been so on edge, so hesitant to speak on the matter, that Anne had no choice but to believe that something terrible had happened, perhaps more than once. 

Sasha looks surprised, turning towards her with glossy eyes and blinks repeatedly, shaking her head. “It’s fine,” she says, smiling lightly. “It happened a while ago.”

Sprig looks on symphically, brow heavy with a saddened frown. He looks on with a forlorn insight of the things to come. With another hearty exhale, she presses onward, declaring that he might as well rip the bandage off. “After that, Andrias was gonna try and kill us ‘traitors’ with his new robot army. He almost blew us  before Marcy stepped in. She tried to reason with the King…”

He aggressively wipes at his eyes, looking far more downtrodden than Anne has seen him during this conversation. With a sharp inhale, he finishes, “She ended up having a breakdown and confessed that she stranded you and Sasha in Amphibia intentionally.” 

A deafening silence fills the area. No one dares say a word. 

Anne blinks, voice barely over a whisper as she says, “…What?”
















Chapter Text

“This is a joke, right? Right?” Anne said, voice in utter disbelief. “This didn’t actually happen.”

Sprig visibly winces. “Anne-“ 

“That didn’t happen,” Anne reasoned, frantically shaking her head. “Because if it did- if that’s true it means this is all her fault, right? Marcy? Her fault? That I’ve been stranded here, that I’ve almost died countless times, that I’ve been missing my- my parents-“ She stammers, searching wildly for anything yet nothing in particular. “That means… that means, ha-“

“Anne,” Sasha said, raising her hands out in front of her, as if she was trying to calm down a wild animal. “Anne, I know this is a lot-“ 

“She-“ Anne whispers brokenly, her small frame trembling wildly. Her eyes were open, yet filled with unseen desperation, searching for any possible connections to the lies she’s been told. “She lied to me?” 

Anne said, sounding unfazed unlike how completely and utterly pained she was inside. “I’ve been- The third time-“

Sasha said, concern seeping into every feature of her body. “Anne?”

“I-I’ve been b-betrayed, haven’t I? I-I’ve b-been tricked again.” She choked up a sob, heart-wrenchingly miserable, as if everything she’s ever known has been destroyed and kicked and strained away. 

“Anne, I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Sprig says, looking the most downtrodden Anne had seen him. He reaches to gingerly place his hand on her shoulder- 

“Don’t touch me!” Her breath hitched, gasping desperately to regain her stolen breath. Her eyes glistened with tears, trickling down her cheekbones and underneath her jaw, warm and fueled by anger. “Don’t you touch me!”

They both flinched. “Anne-“

“Shut up! Shut up! I don’t want your pity! I don’t want your sympathy!” She screamed, tears drenching her cheeks, every inhale shaking her shoulders. “I can’t do this anymore! Nothing makes sense! I don’t understand anything ! I just wanna know what happened between you- between us! How’d we all get to this!?” 

She sobbed, the cry rattling her chest, she heaved so much it sounded like she was going to throw up. “Everything was gonna be okay! We were all together again! I thought we had changed! I thought you had changed! I would’ve never imagined M to do something like this- but here we are! What did I do to deserve this?! I don’t get it!”  

“Hey, hey! Listen to us, just calm down-“ 

Anne bent forward, clutching her head, fingers curled around her hair, attempting to ground herself but it's almost impossible and everything hurts. “I don’t get it!” 

“I know, but you’ve got to-“

Anne took another shuddering breath. She hated this. What did she do to deserve this? “ I don’t get it!” 

The moment she inched forward, a powerful shockwave consisting of wild ceruleans and brilliant blues erupted from beneath the ground, crumbling and decimating the surrounding area. It heaved a heavy blow, rattling hollowly against their rib-cages and knocking the air from inside their lungs. 

Anne herself stumbled backwards, losing her balance after her vision started swirling beneath her. “What-What was that…?” She choked between wet coughs, vision swimming. “What’s happening to me?…”

“Guys!” A voice rang behind them, but A could only recognize an unidentifiable blob with a myriad of colors coming towards them through blurred vision. “Guys!” 

“I felt a blast, is everything okay?” Anne. Well, more specifically, older her, came into view, head darting from Sasha to Sprig in restrained concern. 

An elongated pause before, “I’m fine,” Sasha says, leaning forward and using her hands to lift herself off the ground. She adjusts the small piece of fabric covering her right eye, momentarily revealing the clouded pupil and gnarly scar running across the center of it. 

The groans while he clutched his stomach had Anne fearing the absolute worst. After several moments spent gathering himself, however, he managed to prop himself onto his elbows, giving a playful smile, “Ugh… I’m hanging in there,” 

Older Anne flashed a smile and a thumbs up. She  turned towards her, carefully bending her knees and kneeling down beside her, face twisted in concern. “Are you okay?” 

The same, debilitating headache from earlier had returned full-force, vision swimming beneath her and mind fogged by pain. She sucked sharply between her teeth, massaging her temples with her fingertips. “M’ head hurts…” 

“It’s because of your powers, they drain you easily.” Older Anne responds easily, brushing her thumb across her cheeks to wipe away the remaining tears cascading down her face. 

“…Powers?…” Anne asked, sniffling. She’s so, so tired. “I have… powers?…” 

“Don’t you worry about that. I’ll explain later, okay? Let's get you back inside.” She bends her knees to pick her off the ground, situating herself comfortably and  enclosing her trembling, clammy figure closely into her being. Anne unconsciously leans into the embrace, burying her head into her shoulder. “Here, I’ve got you.” 

She starts her trek towards the farmhouse, carefully and mindfully watching her steps. The comforting embrace along with how intensely warm she was made apparent just how tired she was, despite just having woken up. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.” 

Guilt gnaws at her insides, twisting and knotting them. “I hurt Sprig…”

The older girl completely brushes off the comment, shaking her head slightly. “He’ll be fine,” she states, voice oozing confidence. “He’s a strong boy. He can deal with anything.” 

Anne revels in the scent of freshly-turned earth and peppermint, leaning impossibly further into her shoulder. “Everything is so wrong… I don’t understand anything…” She sniffles, body becoming heavy with sleepiness. “I don't get it…”

“I know… I know, hon,” She copes, running her fingers through Anne’s  unruly hair, the gesture only causing her tiredness to grow greater. She speaks with such reassurance and such confidence that it wills her into compliance, into comfort knowing that everything would be alright- even if for a moment. “We’ll try our best to help you, okay? We’ll help you, I promise we will.” 

“I… I want mom…” She mumbles, buried within the polyester of her jacket. She allows her eyes to flutter close, desperately clinging to the last remnants of consciousness. “I want mom and dad…”

A pregnant pauses between them before Older Anne responds, softly. “I know, hon, I know. Just close your eyes. We’ll deal with it when you wake up.” 






.

“Look, We’re confused by a lot of things right now- W- We’re both having… time issues, so if you could just, calmly sit there and explain why you’re so angry, that’d be cool?” 

Perhaps in the face of- admittedly stupid- adversity, even the most insurmountable frustration is apparently calmed. Sasha can’t help but don the most ‘Are you kidding me?’ face. “How did you do that? Are you just insanely strong or was it that thing who pushed me?” 

Marcy’s polite, apologetic expression turned into a mildly inconvenienced one. “It is very rude to call someone a thing.” 

Sasha scoffed, leaning further into the cushioned seat, shoulder-blades aching with oncoming bruises. Thanks a lot. “That thing has ten eyes and you’re petting it like a dog, so forgive me if I’m hesitant.” 

His name is Night,” Marcy says, face developing a recurring twitch of annoyance. If the sudden burst of emotion other than condescence were merely an illusion, Sasha wondered why she’s suddenly so on edge now. “He’s my friend.” 

“He’s just materialized from your being? How's that even possible?”

Marcy nodded absently. “I’m his host.” 

Sasha blinked once, then twice, then three times. She remembers learning about this science class. “So, he’s like a… parasite-“ 

Marcy bristled, like an aggravated dog. “Do not call him a parasite!”  

It’s Sasha’s turn to bristle. “I’m getting sick of this.” She huffs, nails digging into her palm and leaving indents in the skin. “You keep dropping these little fucking hints about Newtopia and having some demon amphibian inside of you- whatever the fuck that implies- but I want an answer ! Stop dodging my questions and tell me the truth!” 

Her shouts turn watery, wavering on a cry. “ Please!” 

The sincerity, the vulnerability laced within her words were nearly debilitating to speak, but her endless frustration was getting the best of her. She threads her fingers through her blonde hair, uncaring if he became mused or disheveled whilst doing so, and lets out a hearty sigh. Her eyes stung with unshed tears, and the effort it took to hold them back formed a knot on her forehead. 

Sasha can’t see the expression morphing Marcy’s face, but she can hear the heavy sigh through her nose, and the creaking of the cushion underneath her. “It started out as a hateful bond, Night and I.” Marcy starts, catching Sasha by surprise. “I was fatally wounded and kept alive for experimentation, and he just happened to be a part of it. He needed a host so he could presume control of something physical, and I was the one available for him.” 

Her voice was distant, even if they were in arms reach of one another. “Obviously I didn’t want any part in his bodily possession, but without his manifestation within me, I’d die. He’s like an artificial heart; he keeps my body going. And in return, I provided him with a body to keep. And I guess everything snowballed from there,” 

A somewhat crooked smile forms on Marcy’s lips, tilting her head slightly towards the Night, who simply coos. It’s a familiar smile, one that she’s seen countless times before at sleepovers or during conversations: it’s the smile one of them gets when they recall a distant memory, a humored and welcomed twitch of the past, a recollection of treasured memories. 

Sasha wishes she understood, as she does not have a single idea of what vignette Marcy is remembering. If that vignette is key to solving the metaphorical puzzle, then she’ll press onwards. 

The smile vanished as quickly as it appeared, instead being replaced with an unseen sincerity. “He learned things about me, and I learned things about him. We were both used and manipulated; we were both just experiments used for personal gain. We both didn’t want to be alone and…” She chuckles, the sound hollow.  “I know it sounds weird, but I don’t know… we both just understand each other. In some type of twisted way, we’ll never be alone again.” 

Marcy stops talking, the conversation seemingly to bleak to continue without her glowering in her own angst. Her shoulders are slumped and eye downcasted, almost as if the truth is weighing her down. It’s a sight Sasha has rarely- if ever- seen, and something inside her chest twists uncomfortably. 

Sasha’s initial desire for answers, to understand her surroundings in a different yet similar world, is now replaced with the increasingly overwhelming feeling of guilt. Unnecessary, perhaps even unwarranted guilt, but still present nonetheless. 

The slightest twitching of her lip catches Sasha’s attention, watching silently as Marcy’s mouth forms itself into deep frown, face scrunched and eye downcasted. She inhaled deeply, breathing out a shaky exhale through her nose, the effort managing to rock her shoulders. The creatu- Night - she reminds herself- snuggles further into her side, impossibly bringing them closer. 

Marcy,” The low, buttery voice nearly gives Sasha whiplash as she turns her head because he can talk and it’s talking. “If this makes you uncomfortable I would strongly recommend that we can speak on the matter again once we recoup back in Wartwood.” 

It’s such a strange thing, coming from an- admittedly- terrifying monstrosity. It’s the appearance of someone concerned, empathic, understanding. “Yeah,” Marcy murmurs, brushing her hands against the demon’s inky pelt, affectionately and hushed. “Yes, I will do that. Thank you.”

It takes several minutes of silence before either of them make a sound, but Sasha is the first to fill the suffocating emptiness. “Thank you for telling me,” 

Her heart beats hard against her ribcage, viciously thrumming against the bone as if it were a prison. Marcy’s eyebrow lifts high on her forehead, lips parted slightly in surprise and Sasha huffs indignantly, crossing her arms. The motion itself comes off as an acceptance of defeat. “I… I appreciate it.”

It is certainly over things she wishes she could say- the most simple and convenient to the most complicated and harsh- but she’d whether leave the potential teenage angst for another time; a time where she isn’t worn to the bone and hungry, a time where she isn’t clad in heavy armor and sagging shoulders. She doesn’t think, given her current predicament, she’ll have a moment of peace, but that’s alright- she’s been doing it since she arrived in Amphibia. 

Sasha doesn’t notice the expression morphing Marcy’s face. However, she definitely hears the soft, “It’s not a problem.” escaping her lips several moments later. 

 

Chapter Text

Two days before the ‘incident’



She begged to the heavens that this meeting would end soon. 

“-spearheading a fraction of opposing the Royal Guard. And by those merits, he managed to gain enough popularity and favor amongst the parliament to possibly cut off any funding towards the Ranger Society. That’s definitely a problem.”

“Obviously.” Marcy groaned, head resting against her palms, elbows propped against the table. “That one-ton jerk is closely affiliated with Koung Elitist; delivering most of the technology for his army. Definitely planning on becoming partners to gain more popularity on the extremist side of things. I wanted to end him earlier- discreet enough to act as an accident, so more uprising doesn’t occur- but his location is changing day to day. We can’t track him fast enough to get him.”  

“And you suspect that he’s possibly working with radical groups, but he’s not retaining his popularity publically?” One of the members- Sal, Marcy remembered. A more collected and rational man- says. Marcy frowned at his next saying, “Unfortunately, his death might cause a devastational uprising in the districts; people believe that his ruling was the best thing to happen since sliced bread.”

“So, we can’t just kill him.” Marcy says, sounding dissatisfied. She had the gracefulness to avert her eyes in mock politeness when Sal shot her a reproachful glare. 

He raises his eyebrows, frowning. “We can’t go around killing people just because we can, Marcy.” Sal says, then sighs, “Unfortunately.” 

“Yeah…but It’s just the most convenient. What’s the worth of tools if you don’t use them?” She says, half-way shrugging. Despite her rigid moral codes, Marcy could be so… callously unyielding. The remaining members of the Royal Security Escort became acquainted with how she could resort to unethical methods if necessary to attain her goals. “Anyways, let’s reconvene another day. I have something important to attend to.” 

The meeting unceremoniously ends. The Royal Security Escort looks on undeterred, but with hesitation before dismissing the remaining members. 

 

..




..



The arching, sharp ceilings provided an illusion of space, but as they dismounted from the squeaking and shaking elevator, their shoes plodded through the grimed cobbled streets cracked with age, and the underground engulfed them.

The sinuous trails narrowed into an alleyway of stacking stairs, their persons becoming ants cramped between dilapidated buildings and rotting wood built with such height, it was nearly impossible for any remaining sunlight to peek past the towering buildings. It’s not difficult to get lost within- beggars and thieves and criminals alike knew it well. 

“The Subterranean?” Sasha questioned, eyebrows pricking up in confusion.

Marcy looked surprised. “Yeah. You know this place?” 

She nodded. “I stayed here for a few weeks when Grime and I left Toad Tower.” She frowned slightly, remembering the circumstances in which it led her there. “What did you do to have someone from here be after you? This place is swarming with criminals.”

“Then I can see why you fled here.” Marcy quips, the corners of her mouth pulling upright and voice laced with the slightest restrained amusement. 

Sasha eyes her confusingly. A moment of silence washes over them, before. “You jerk.”

The city was arguably somber with the perpetual murkiness of swampwater overhanging in the atmosphere. A damp coolness clamming the skin, gradually weighing on their shoulders as they progress further into the slums, eventually morphing into a sweltering heat trapped within the tight spaces. The smothering air and scent of molding carcasses had them burying their noses deep into the folds of their hoodie and shirt respectively. 

“Why’re we even down here?” Sasha complained, nose so deep inside the fabric of her shirt, it seemed she was trying to merge with it. “We’ll be mugged before we make it any further.”

 



 

“While we’re traveling, I have some friends who’re holding some important things for me and I need them back. You mind tagging along and helping me out?”

Sasha raises an eyebrow. “I have a feeling I can’t say no.” 

Marcy merely smiles. 

 

 

“You agreed to help me with some work. There’s some acquaintances I’d like to confront.” She conceded, slowly, residing to simply leave her nostrils undercovered from the stench. She’d get used to it. 

“So you’re using me to do your dirty work?” Sasha huffed, not quite displeased but not quite exasperated; but expectant. She’s the most perceptive of the three, and most insightful of Marcy’s scheming. “I said I’d help you but, come on.” 

“It’s not dirty work ! It’s just… helping out a friend in need,” Marcy defends, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. 

“Mmhmm,” Sasha hums unconvinced, before, “What’re these guys doing anyways that warrants a visit?” 

“They’re selling mechanical parts for robots,” Marcy explains, gesturing with her hands. “Transporting them illegally already puts you in hot water, but actively modifying a design protected by the King’s jurisdiction himself- they’re lucky the entire Royal Guard Escort doesn’t come down here and exterminate them ourselves.” 

Sasha notices the very specific way Marcy’s jaw tightens and eyebrows knit but doesn’t comment. “Ourselves?’ You’re a part of the Royal Security Escort?”

She sucks through her teeth, verbally frowning. “… Not necessarily, I’m moreso a-“ 

“It has happened once more! I saw it with my own eyes! It’s back for bloodlust!” 

They both turn towards the shouting and disconnected murmurs following. Several yards away, A middle-aged salamander with sagging cheeks and a primly trimmed mustache stands on a makeshift stage before several dozen amphibians of different species gathered around it. He’s dressed in a magnificent jeweled robe, certainly better than the assembly of tunics and trousers surrounding him. A priest of sorts, maybe? Sasha found herself listening to his frantic yelling. 

He looked fizzled, eyebrows furrowed and eyes showing anxiety. His hands waved into grand gestures to incite the audience. “The Berserking creature has striked within the western Yarckel district in Newtopia! It ravaged through the town and destroyed the Head of Recreations Center! It’s targeting the central military operations!” 

A cacophony of whispered shouts and explained worries filled the crowd, a sound that combined with unbridled anxiousness and unmitigated confusion. It continues on for several moments, before one brave frog voice speaks up. “I heard it destroyed the outermost parts with a single swipe of its claws!”

Another voice piped up, this time one of a female voice speckled newt. “No way! I heard it was bigger than the center itself!”

The hushed shouting dissolved into full-blown talking, panicked shouts of oncoming attacks and ways to protect themselves, and smug though equally worried commoners reassuring people that the Subterranean was safe from destructive attacks on the surface world. 

The salamander doesn’t look any more fizzled than before. “These aren’t random attacks, these are coordinated ! Coordinated and planned attacks against amphibiankind, acts of terrorism reigned true by the devil himself! ” 

Sasha winces. “Yikes, this reminds me of those nutjobs on the boardwalk back home.” She says, punctuated by Marcy’s nodding in agreement. 

“This is a monstrous enemy of our people that must be tamed at once! It will continue to ravage our lands and decimate everything we hold sacred! Although we’re in divided times, for those who don’t want to succumb to its deadly attraction, lend King Andrias Lethavin your strength!” 

The mention of the King seemed to spur some uproar from the crowd, cheering and clapping and shouting praises for their ruler. Sasha pretends she doesn’t see the scrunching of Marcy’s nose and the flash of anger in her eye. 

The look of anxiousness was replaced with determination, he outstretched his arms and pleaded with the crowd. “Please fight with him against the traitors and devils! We can overcome any difficulties if we all unite our powers! Help us defeat them!” 

The crowd cheered again, a hopeful and determined noise. Sasha remains looking at the crowd when Marcy taps her shoulders. “Come on, let’s get out of this madhouse.” 

They continue their track out from the clearing, the noise from the crowd eventually dimming to a quiet background noise. After several moments, Sasha decided to voice her thoughts. “You seemed angry when they mentioned Andrias.” Sasha says, before turning towards Marcy with a teasing glint in her eyes. “What? He's not your bestie anymore or something?” 

Marcy doesn’t seem to rise to the bait at first, but eventually gives out a small smile of her own. “… Eh, it’s something like that.” 

 They both walk alongside one another, close enough for their arms to brush against one another. The silence around them is broken by their footsteps, the miscellaneous sounds of the neighboring houses and apartments filling the hollow space between the two. She could see that the lower slums were even filthier than the upper-levels, rundown and decaying. The more they walked, the more a seemingly endless cloud of dust materialized from the clay road, making the place even more difficult to navigate. 

They come upon a modest looking shack tucked in an alleyway, surprisingly less dilapidated than the buildings surrounding them. An orange light illuminated the windows and streamed underneath the wooden door, shining onto the pavement leading to the entranceway. Marcy stepped forward, hand resting on the rusty doorknob. 

“I’m going to go in and talk; hopefully sort out everything. Stay out here and be alert.” Marcy says, the most serious she's looked since they’ve been down here. “If you have to fight, then fight. Do not underestimate them.” 

Sasha crosses her arms, leaning against the shack ruefully. “Yeah, yeah, got it.” 

Marcy gives one final glance before opening the door and stepping past the threshold, leaving Sasha time to think. 

Sasha has encountered plenty of ugly, swarming and withering criminals more than she ever wanted in her lifetime, but she could’ve never imagined her closest, more innocent friend to be caught up in it. From the bits and pieces she described, it sounds like a black market ring she’s apparently associated with. She’s also associated with professional military operations and is also apparently a Royal Security Escort. Hell would’ve frozen over before Marcy of all people would be even seen with such people, but maybe she was reading her wrong. 

Maybe she’s been reading her wrong this entire time. 

Still, It’s highly presumptuous of Sasha to assume she’s fraternizing with criminals. Marcy is extremely intelligent; understands the consequences that come with associating herself with these people, and if she’s somehow negotiating or bargaining with them- what’s the end game, here? 

Before she could question the situation further, something crashing against metal interrupted her thoughts. 

Sasha heard them before she even caught sight of them, a cacophony of chaos brought about by their harbinger; shouting of men and stifled groans alike in a prelude, crashing of wooden crates and startled whispering and fluttering of scattered paper followed with purpose. All manner of tumble flooding outside of the wooden door as it’s practically ripped from its hinges, a Triturus newt spilling onto the pavement with a knife gripped inside its slimy hands, the weapon clenched so tightly around his hands as if it were a lifeline. 

Sasha snapped from her- quite frankfully- appropriate wave of shock, hands instinctively reaching for the dagger attached to her belt-

She twisted her frame, just to catch a glimpse of a firm foot colliding with the newts snout, and in a brief window between blinking, their eyes met. His face morphed into an expression of bewilderment, then registering the pain that came with firm heels against the sensitive nasal bones. The force of the kick whipped away the remaining dust cloud, and within the moment of brief clarity, saw the newt flying backwards and tumbling into some broken crates left outside the alleyway, knife discarded and flinging several feet away from him. 

For the first time in a while, Sasha’s heart rammed and kicked agaisnt her ribcage. She would’ve whimpered if she were a lesser person. She made the mistake- or perhaps, miracle- of looking towards the destroyed doorway, finding a heavy fist swinging right towards her right cheekbone. 

She ducked on time, regaining her senses. The swing resurrected the settled dust to cloud the visual once more. At the sound of boots thumping louder, Sasha scrambled backwards, onto her feet. Immediately forced to dodge and block incoming punches that materialized seemingly out of nowhere. 

She couldn’t keep holding herself up against an opponent she couldn’t see . She ducked from an elbow swinging towards the bridging of her nose, scooped a handful of powdered clay from the cobbled street, and flung it where she deducted her opponent would be located. 

A thundering shriek, almost reminiscent of a roar, followed from the misty cloud. A coughing fit and strangled gasps soon followed. 

The offender stumbled, crumbling from an unsuspected leg swipe, throwing him to the floor. Vulnerable in his stumble, the newt seized her arm, grappled her by her neck without hesitation, kicking the back of her kneecap before throwing her several feet away from him, sliding painfully on the cracked cobblestone and fluttering the remaining dust in the air. 

Sasha groaned, hand wrapped instinctively and protectively around the tender muscle of her left side, staying prostrated as if it merely hurt to kneel. The newt almost smirked, striding forward with the intent to exterminate- 

Marcy lunged forward, a brush of grasping fingers against the covered elbow of the newt, elbow twisting around his back and pinning him awkwardly. A swift kick against her kneecap and the resounding crunch that followed had Sasha wincing and the newt wailing, dropping to his knees in an undignified heap of groaning and unrestrained pain. Before he can retaliate, a fist connects to his lower jawline, slowly deliberate and forceful, kicking back the dust settled around them like a shockwave, the newt crumbling and landing before her, unconscious. 

Oh, so she’s definitely just really strong, then. 

Marcy’s head snapped towards her, teeth nearly bared, eye burning a threatening green. “I told you not to underestimate them!” 

“You never told me you’d start roundhouse kicking people!” Sasha relented, gesturing broadly towards the two unconscious newts. 

The remaining crew, apparently, flooded outside the door and onto the street. One glance towards the carnage outside and the seething person standing before them had them breaking into a stumbling, jerky sprint, screaming in alarm. Marcy glared at the people running, before turning towards Sasha, a tired look of someone high off adrenaline morphing her features. The look of someone drained from exerting too much energy over such a meaningless task. She pointedly refused to glance towards the person lying unconscious on the ground, trying to steady her breathing. 

Marcy sniffled, then wheezed into her sleeve, a gust of thick beige dust flew from her mouth, elitching a disgusted look from the downed girl. “You’ve got me eating dust n crap ,” She spits out. Sasha found it funny how, despite just beating presumably an entire gang worth of amphibians, Marcy still refuses to use any profanities- as if that’s worse than mercilessly beating several people. “What am I going to do with you?” 

“I don’t know,” Sasha mocked, intentionally fluttering her eyelashes. “What are you gonna do with me, Marshmallow?”

The taller of the two let out a half-snort, half-choked sound from her throat, smothering it with her hand. The green of her eye dimmed, and something resembling a blush appeared on her cheeks. “Don’t call me that.”

Marcy helped Sasha off the ground, to which Sasha complained about her “nearly ripping her arm out of its socket” whilst doing so. Seriously, Marcy is unnaturally strong. 

“Do you feel bad?” Her question revealed no accusation nor disgust, just an honest inquiry. “You hurt those guys. Bad.

“Them?” Marcy questioned, already knowing what Sasha had meant. She half-shrugged. “In the moment I felt sorry for them, but my action was a response to theirs. We face the consequences no matter what form they take.”

“They’re just some lowlifes.”

“They attacked me for something I owned, so I didn't hesitate to bring them down. Sounds like a fair trade to me.” 

A slience engulfs the two. Sasha doesn’t exactly know what to say besides what happened to her little mar-mar?

One moment she was wise beyond her years, the next she’s animated shouting about whatever is interesting or bothering her. Sometimes she’s absentmindedly staring off into space. Sometimes she would speak cryptically. Sometimes she’d speak about everything and nothing at once. It’s like she’s struggling to balance out her perceived personality and her actual personality- but from the glances of the Marcy she’s familiar with are considerably dimmed and quiet. 

Sasha noticed she’d speak up more despite her cheekiness, but mumbled in indistinguishable babble when left to her own devices- almost as if she was communicating with the eldritch demon inside her in another language. Sasha never had to censor herself or act differently around Marcy, and apparently Marcy had a rebellious side, who wouldn’t hesitate to talk back to Sasha’s passive-aggressive, deceptively polite speech with equally, if not more passive-aggressiveness. Much to her chagrin, Marcy was, if not more, stubborn than Sasha herself. 

Sasha feels the slightest bit bad when she says she prefers this Marcy. 

 

Chapter Text

Standing at the base of the stairs, Anne makes the slow trek down the stairs, her languid body exacerbated by the pit forming inside her stomach. She’d tucked her younger self into bed, understandably exhausted after using the slightest bit of her untamed Calamity Powers. Anne yearns to lie down in her bed, too- she hadn’t slept well the night prior, and she’s certain the moment she lays her head on the pillow she’d fall asleep- but she has to resolve the problem before her. 

The mundanity of the task does little to hinder the twisting inside her stomach, nor does the frequency of its remembrance muddle the agitation she feels. Her only complaint would be the simplest of things: why is something like this happening again ?

Anne descended the staircase, finding Sasha standing jumbled in the living space, pacing in circles before resorting to simply leaning against the archway connecting the kitchen and living room, feet in a tapping hazy along the hardwood floor. Sprig was nowhere to be seen; it’s possible that he went to lay down after the shockwave.

Anne felt some guilt towards that. Unwarranted, yeah. But still present nonetheless. 

“The damn universe is conspiring against us. Stupid box, causing all these troubles.” Sasha rumbled, leaning with her elbow propped against the doorframe. Upon noticing her entrance, Sasha perks up, “Where’s Marcy’s location? She’s got to know this is happening.”

“This is Marcy we’re talking about, she probably does,” Anne jokes, soothing the atmosphere. Sasha tilted her head and joined in with her chuckling. A recurring joke between them: It seemed as if Marcy possessed the uncanny ability to somehow predict events in the future. She could probably predict what they were having for dinner that day and she’d be right. “We’ll have to send out a messenger bat to find her. Though, she should be here in a few days; she said she’d only be gone for a week or so.” 

“I hope she gets here soon, then maybe we can figure out something.” 

Silence, then. 

“Yknow, you should’ve said you wanted to say straight away instead of getting baited.” 

Sasha bristled, face flushing red. “You try talkin’ to her when she’s all emotional, and see if she won’t lose her shit.” She hissed, pointing a finger in her direction. “And I don’t see you doing anything to help.”

Anne sombered at the sharp look. “It isn’t anything we haven’t dealt with before. We jump in, talk amongst ourselves and resolve the situation. It’s our bread and butter.” 

“Still, it’s not fair.” Sasha says, eyes downcasted and eyebrows furrowed.  “We can’t be expected to placate our entire lives during the time gap to her-“ 

“Do not stand here and act like you wouldn’t do the same thing,” Anne agreed internally with Sasha, though her younger counterpart’s tactic would be overwhelming everyone with too many questions that distanced but twinged on her compulsion to explain everything. She’d already be in command of the conversation course, because surely her younger self would want to know information pertaining to herself; it’s not selfish, it’s natural. 

Sasha exhaled in a rumbling breath, posture stiffening and tension rippling across her muscles. Her eyes were fixated on the floor, jaw tight. “It won’t be long until she knows about what happened. And you saw how she reacted in the fields, she’s practically tearing at the seams- she’ll want to know everything about our backgrounds during the gap, what makes us thick, everything. All eyes are on us.

Anne raises an eyebrow, suspecting there is a missing piece of the puzzle she didn’t latch onto. “So?”

“So, this means the rest of us can move undetected, just as long as we play our cards right.” Her tone reeked of a scheme much greater than the unprecedented situation they’re already in. 

“… What’re you saying?”

Sasha glanced up at Anne, shifting her position leaning against the doorframe, bewildered- as if she had to spell out the obvious to her. “We shift the situation over to Marcy.” 

Anne immediately shook her head, frowning. “Wha- No?! We-“ she stammers, incredulous. “We don’t even know if she knows about this.” 

A pregnant pause washes over the two, before Sasha sighs. “You’re right,” she relents, rubbing a hand down the length of her face. “She’s the strongest out of all of us, yet she refuses to take initiative. Though, she never half-asses anything- never minces on any details. I don’t understand why she’s playing this specific game so nonchalantly.”

She understands Sasha’s hesitation towards the situation; Marcy’s disposition towards their agreement was immutable therefore unpredictable, because she never bothered to explain her reasoning. Despite her calm, collected attitude and questionable tendencies, Marcy genuinely cares for those around her- which makes everything she’s doing every more gut wrenching to witness. 

“Marcy is very thorough,” Anne says, thoughtfully. “She always has her reasons, and she wouldn’t intentionally hurt those she loves. We’ve got her trust her judgment with this one, no matter how messed up it is.” 

Whether or not it was an argument or simple discussion, Marcy seemed to play by her own rules; her motivations ruled in self-interest. The exact amount of her personality morphed by the Night and her own personality seemed intertwined, as if they weren’t separate entities anymore. She wonders just how many traits the Night and Marcy had picked up from one another genetically.

“How can we be so sure?” 

“We’ve never been sure; but we always pull through, yeah?” 

“Yeah…” 

“Marcy’s also a walking encyclopedia. The Night is ancient - he’s literally seen humanity- well, amphibiankind evolve- and he’s bound to know something about time-travel in his mind archives or something!” Sasha threw up her arms, letting them drop back down with a resigned sigh. “The problem is actually getting him to talk. He only trusts you and for some reason he doesn't like me.”

“It’s because you scare him, Sasha.” Anne says, incredulous and slightly bewildered, as if she were starting the obvious. “You’ve managed  to scare the eldritch demon.” 

Sasha huffs, face twisting into a slight scowl. “I absolutely do not.” 

Anne smiled, redundantly rolling her eyes. “There's no point in getting up and arms about it,” “We’ve just gotta keep moving forward until we find a solutio- WATCH OUT!” 

S ducked on reflex, cursing. Whereas A startled screech nearly eclipsed another one that followed; the frantic screeching of the animal swooping in through the window, gazing and almost colliding with S’s head if she hadn’t ducked in time. Anne raised her head, searching for the sound of the frantic flapping-

“Is that a bat?!” Squeaking and shrieking, Anne craned her head to find the animal, perched on one of the horizontal beam supports of the ceiling, back facing them. The bat turned around, staring with black beady eyes, and in its mouth, something white and crossed with a red ribbon. 

“That’s Grime’s messenger bat!” Anne ducked when the bat swooped downwards. It landed on Sasha’s arm, shaking out its orange-red mane, chirping softly and leaning into the fingers stroking the abundance of fur surrounding the sternum. Gingerly, Sasha pried the scroll from its teeth and removed the ribbon binding it closed, unraveling the parchment and scanning it’s contents.

Sasha’s shoulders shuddered in tension, nose probably a hairbreadth away from the parchment surface. “ Marcy’s what?!” 

 







“I understand this is an unprecedented time but you don’t have to keep shouting!

Just a mere two hours ago, he was planning on harvesting the vegetables in the Toad Tower vegetation fields, and now, he’s dealing with an extremely rambunctious and excitable human child currently prodding and poking at everything in her path with the eraser of her pencil, feening for knowledge of her new environment. 

“I’m sorry, I just can’t help it! This is just so cool!” Marcy practically squeals, eyes a hairbreadth away from several earthen jars and clear vitals filled with various liquids collected on a tall cabinet, curious. “I mean, what’re the chances I’d be transported not only to a different world, but into the future! I’ve gotta see everything! I need to know everything!”

Grime looked on incredulously, feeling of an extreme case of whiplash at her joyful behavior and attitude. “ Everything?”

“Where am I? What am I doing here? Where’s Anne and Sasha? Did they zapped here too? Is there an older Anne and Sasha?! Am I here too? Where am-“

Her excessive questioning eventually dissolved into incomprehensible rambles about time travel and alternate dimensions and something about fanfictions and Vagabondia Chronicles, the words blending into one another as she uses her fangled Earth phrases and terminologies and he’s never seen something so bizarre before in his life. 

And that’s saying something. 

Her rambles are seemingly turning into more questions, but Grime stops her before it can begin. “All of your questions will be answered in due time! Just-“ he sighs, rubbing a clawed hand down his breaded chin. “ Please , stop. All of this is a little overwhelming.” 

Marcy frowns at his words, becoming awash with guilt. “Oh, I’m sorry! I’m just excited and…”

Grime frowned, a knot forming on his forehead.“I know you are, Tadpole. But please, try and calm yourself?” He softened his tone, using the techniques he learned while living with his lieutenant for several months. “I’ve sent out my personal messenger bat to alert Sasha and Anne of your whereabouts. They’re probably very worried about you. They’ll be here in due time, then your questions will be answered.” 

“… Would you like to assist me in the personal garden?” Grime asked, walking towards the doorway leading to the back garden. “I’m unaware of the amount knowledge you have on Toadian fauna and maybe you’d enjoy-“

“Ooooh, yes! Yes, yes, yes! I wanna see it!” Marcy exclaimed, practically vibrating as she stood from her position on the sofa, sprinting towards him and through the door leading into the garden. 

They stroll for several minutes, finding themselves being guided down a stone-paveway with a plethora of brightly colored flowers being nudged slightly in the gentle breeze flowing through the garden. Marcy recognized several flowers instantly, specifically it's wide array of hydrangeas, but some were definitely unfamiliar. Most likely native to these parts of Amphibia, considering she’s never seen any before. 

He tended to the garden diligently, and Marcy felt her chest throb when she discovered her boot underneath a lavender, trampled and petals crinkled. 

“Oh!” Marcy exclaims, immediately side-stepping off the flower and crouching beside it, hands gingerly cupping the crippled petals. “Oh-Oh no! I’m so sorry! I-I didn’t mean too-“ 

“They’re just flowers, Tadpole.” Grime assures her, shrugging. With gloved hands, he starts picking off various assortments of insects from what seems to be a growing Goldenrod flower. “I can always regrow them. There’s nothing to worry about.” 

“But I’ve never seen these flowers before,” Marcy pouts, brushing her hands along the trampled lavender petals she crushed with her weight. It must’ve been beautiful before it’s untimely demise. “And the first thing I did when finding one was trample it…” 

The toad enlightened her on the name of the flower: Chrysanthemum. 

They were medium sized and bright, their petals a magnificent lavender that darkened near the pistil, grasping for sunlight, adoringly. There were several patches of chrysanthemums divided amongst the expansive garden, divided by the different shades of color that ranged from bright yellow to deep purple. M felt outworldly terrible for trampling their growth. She understood that feeling.

“They have several healing properties,” Grime says, concentrating on removing plucking away the insects crawling over the pristine flowers. He picked up a slimy, writhing worm and placed it inside the bucket. “Our men harvest them to steep into tea. We also crush it and combine it with Goldenrod to make sterilizer for wounds.” 

“We have something like that in our world,” Marcy says, fascinated by his precise movements. She grows saddened, finding small cuts within the petals from the insects. “It’s called alcohol.” 

Somehow sensing Marcy’s itchy, twitching urge to work alongside him; poor girl was staring with such an intensity that he was afraid she’d burn a hole through the flower. Grime wouldn’t let her sit idle. The moment he suggested that she grab a pair of gloves, she practically broke into a jerky, sprint towards the shack and came back fully clothed and ready for gardening.

She pulled out several plump roots and thorny weeds, discarding them in a weaved basket. She encountered a number of writhing worms- Marcy suggested he keep the worms, as they were beneficial to the garden, keeping the soil soft and airy- to which Grime responded with a cheeky, “ Our Marcy has already told me.”

The roots she pulled from the earth revealed sweet potatoes, bigger and more golden than the human version of the vegetable. She placed the vegetables into another woven basket and removed several more worms and insects. They spent an hour or so trimming and tying plants to be hung to dry, grinding herbs to powder, concocting colorfully yet dreadful smelling potions and storing them into bottles. 

His first impression of Marcy was initially alright, albeit a bit suspicious. Possibly from his own personal experiences, nobody could be that generous and kind without ulterior motives. Granted, he’s always charmed by his Marcy’s pleasant… well, everything. To her serene demeanor and collected attitude. But there’s always something unnerving about Marcy, sending Grime’s genetically modified survival instinct to go haywire. A threat. A vicious predator.

He handles her with mild caution, though they both got along amicably. Grime enlisted her help with issues they couldn’t resolve by throwing himself head first. She taught the Toad Army about proper medical treatment whenever Marcy was indisposed- but the trust went as far as Grime could benefit from Marcy. He understood that the harmonious relationship could be revoked.

Though Marcy always put their best interest and wellbeing into consideration- for whatever end it might meet. Grime considered Marcy a friend- his child, if he were a more willing Toad- but the wariness became more prominent upon seeing her younger counterpart before his eyes, bubbly and excitable and happy. It’s a far cry from her subdued and tranquil; thoughtful and quiet personality she donned nowadays. 

How did something so drastic happen so quickly?

Marcy is now playing off the grid, pursuing a goal unaligned with everyone else’s, and keeping secrets on which hints only came to life recently. Grime wonders if everything she’s pulling is an act; a convoluted scheme of hers for her own personal gain; and if it unravels, it could hurt those close to them. It could hurt his Sasha. 

“Mr. Grime?” Marcy eventually asked, hands still absentmindedly digging throughout the soil, clothes blackened from the muddy dirt. Her eyebrows were furrowed in concern, mouth twisted into the slightest of frowns. “Are you alright?” 

He nodded, a silent reassurance. “I’m alright, Tadpole.” Grime says, yanking another weed from the dirt and throwing it into the basket, wiping the sweat off his forehead and unintentionally smearing dirt across his dumpy skin. “Just thinking about some things.”

“If I may ask, about what?” 

“Well, about you , actually.”

“Me? Did I do something wron-“

“You haven’t done anything wrong!” Grime hastily said, placating his hands in front of him. It wasn’t exactly a secret; she longed for camaraderie, but when it cracked, she crumbled alongside the friendship. He supposed this was her spiraling. “You’re just so… different. Compared to your future self, that is.”

“Oh…” Marcy mumbles, fixing her eyes towards the ground. He fumbles with her hands, fingers intertwining and thumbs digging into the sides of her hands, thoughtfully. “… is that a bad thing?”

Grime gulped through his suddenly perched throat, remembering Marcy stumbling into Toad Tower, remembering Marcy’s exhausted sighs and stubborn sniffles, frustration becoming increasingly high, remembering her demanding war plans and blueprints, remembering Marcy promising that she’d end everything happening to them all and that they’d see something magnificent and that everyone would be safe. 

But it's different now. On the surface. He didn’t have to conserve her breath. The person before him didn’t have questionable morals or suppressed emotions. The person before him never cried on his shoulder about the cruelty of the world. The person before her was merely a hurting child, hiding behind the magnificent world surrounding her. 

“… No.” Grime says, giving him a smile, surprisingly soft and gentle, despite it’s rough and sharp edges. “Not at all, Tadpole.” 

 

..



..



The muted crunch of twigs and leaves beneath their feet slowly transform into quiet clicks as they walk onto the broken, cracked pavement. The pathway curves into what could be described as a lopsided loop before turning upright and leading into a rather large set of double-doors, the blossoming honey-dew sun brilliantly coloring the skyline and peeking past the towering building. 

Still intertwined in such a conundrum and puzzled beyond human comprehension, she carefully stands from the seat and walks towards the entryway, momentarily using the doorframe to steady herself as the floor swirls beneath her. Upon looking into the hallway, she finds Sasha practically breaking into a light jog down the empty corridor. 

Anne been interrupted from her surprisingly heavy sleep by the news of an unexpected trip towards the northeastern parts of Amphibia to Toad Tower, because apparently Grime was housing Marcy- her Marcy- at the dilapidated castle. It had been an hasty and rash decision, judging from the barely packed luggage and how her future counterpart had dug her hands so hard into the wooden railing of the carriage it had caused indents. 

There's a cacophony of emotions coursing through her: relief, sadness, anger, betrayal, despair. She only grew more jumbled during every passing moment, the unnerving feeling of paranoia playing as a pawn. It was discouraging in every sense of the way, having two of the most beloved individuals in her life needlessly betray her. 

The two trudged through the empty corridor, the duo’s pattering footsteps sounding off the stone walls. WIthin a few moments, they arrived inside a dining hall where several Toad Army soldiers and- shockingly- a few Newts and Frogs were seated. She takes a short moment to examine her surroundings: It was modest but decorated, significantly bigger than what she remembered. She felt tempted to question her counterpart about how they reconstructed Toad Tower and why the usually specist army is allowing Newts and Toads; but she’s too tired to even question any of this. 

Words seem to fail the two miserably, both walking wordlessly besides each other in the basking, soothing glow of the afternoon sun peeking through the barred windows. Several heads turn in their direction, but eventually shrug it off and continue eating. As if this was a regular Tuesday. 

“Is she really here?” Anne inquiries, hands resting underneath the crook of her counterpart’s right arm. The question lingered in the air- whether her counterpart knew how to answer the question is unclear along with everything else. 

They follow the general direction of where Sasha had run off two, turning into yet another hallway before coming across an archway. There were noises coming from inside, a crescendo of excited voices and squeals. Anne peaked her head around the archway. The scene before her was… uh, wow.

Sasha, standing stiff as a board, hands awkwardly hovering over Marcy, who's arms wrapped so tightly around Sasha it might suffocate her. Marcy was giggling, babbling incomprehensible sentences regarding everything about her future friend. Grime stood protectively around the two, trying and failing to shake the nigh impenetrable grasp Marcy had onto the older human. 

Sasha chuckled in mirth, awkwardly placing a few pats on her back in return. Her face was flushed red- whether from the attention or the lack of oxygen, Anne doesn’t know- and smiled down at her. “It’s good to see you too, Marbles,”

Older Anne announces her arrival with a faux clearing of her throat, mouth stretching into an insufferably smug smirk, one of her eyebrows arching high onto her forehead. “Doing alright, Sash?”

Sasha sighs in frustration, the sound quick and shape, head rolling to the opposite side in slight embarrassment. Before she can respond with a chide remark, Marcy nearly screeches upon locking eyes with her. 

ANNE!” Marcy shouts, releasing Sasha from her vice-grip and running towards the older teenager, arms outstretched and practically tackling her into a hug. Older Anne stands unfazed by the unintentionally aggressive gesture. “Anne, is that you!? Oh my gosh, you’re older! And tall! Look at you, you’re everything I imagined teenage Anne would look like!” Marcy stared up at her with childish glee, mouth outstretched into an ear splitting grin. 

Older Anne raised an eyebrow at the admission, giving a soft smile. “Well, not everything.”

She’s sure she looks as fagiued as she feels- shoulders slumped, eyelids low, limbs aching- but it’s nothing compared to the sheer heartache permitting throughout her body and coursing deep within her bones. A plethora of emotions have caused her mind to dissolve into a swirling mess of anger and sadness, grief and despair, relief and happiness. 

Anne doesn’t react when Marcy eagerly tackles her into a hug, arms wrapped tightly around her neck and rambling about how fascinating everything around is. She keeps it remarkably short, not even a mere ‘hello” in response. She doesn’t know what to say. She feels itchy, dirty, and the reality of the situation is more clear than anything.

How could the person who caused her great pain, stand before her and lie to her, smiling and blissfully ignorant all the while? 

The time for tribulation was still far from over and yet, she knew there was no point in getting trapped in a haze of depression so dense it could suffocate her. Sasha circled around the three people standing before her, feet moving cautiously and delicately across the stone pavement. There was a tacit yet quite palpable frontier between them and herself, an invisible wall dividing them- their side engulfed with unspoken information and her side, filled with questions that still needed numerous answers. 

There is a thin, barely perceptible line between a lie and a half-truth; she knew this internally and accepted the concept nonetheless. All things considered, she needed them for one true purpose: going back home. 

Anne sighed; the indignation caused in her by this information had now been intrinsically mixed with the turmoil of utter defeat and depression. She unceremoniously collapsed onto the plush sofa besides, head resting in her hands. She laughed, bitterly, sensing the lingering eyes of everyone sitting besides and across from her. She was infuriated; her anger was corrupting her thoughts and clouding her judgment, her fist gripping and curling around her brown locks. Is this no more than a reminder of what she was? Something left behind, something forgotten, something buried in the maze of yesteryears and oblivion? 

Marcy looked very concerned, eyebrows perked up in worry and mouth straining to say something, anything to somehow comfort her distressed friend- but the sight only made Anne feel worse. Sasha pretends to look frustrated, eyebrows furrowed and frowning, but the look of absolute panic in her eyes betrays her expression. Her counterpart, besides Sasha, looks like she’d rather bury herself with a rusty spoon than step into the conversation. 

The juxtaposition of beloved images clouded her senses- but only briefly. She knew she had to be strong. After all, all those beloved images of appearances had been fuel that had kept her going- now was not the time to succumb to her depression. 

Mustering the most convincing smile she could, Anne says a simple, “I’m glad you’re okay.” 

Chapter Text

“Sasha?”

Sasha turns towards Grime, a look of apprehension clear on his face, as her motions towards the doorway. “A word outside?” 

Sasha nods in agreement, taking the opportunity to excuse herself from the awkward and undoubtedly tense atmosphere of the gathering room. Anne- her Anne- throws them a questioning, almost pleading look. She, too, is desperately searching for a solution for the almost suffocating tension, but Sasha gives her a look in return, one that says “Just wait here. I’ll be back soon.” , before leaving.

She shuts the door behind her. “What’s up?”

A beat of silence. “I saw the look on her face.” Grime says, carefully, grasping his hands together behind his back. “Anne knows, doesn’t she?”

Blinking slowly, Sasha gambles her next words. “She…She knows that Marcy betrayed her. Everything else is left untouched for now.”

Grime grumbles incoherently, stroking his bearded chin in frustration. “To save ourselves the pain, we should just hurry and rip the bandage off.” 

“We can’t,” Sasha concludes, threading her fingers throughout her short locks. She visibly pushed off the idea, pursing her lips in annoyance. “I saw first hand what happened when we told her. With her wild emotional state and untamed Calamity Powers, this could lead to something terrible- and you already know how Marcy reacted to her truth being revealed.” 

Grime clicked his jaw, unimpressed. “What, you’re just not gonna tell them?” 

Swiftly, Sasha picks up the conversation before Grime could steer it. “They don’t need to know everything. We’ll just tell them what they need to know- nothing more, nothing less. We can avoid the heartache if we play our cards right.” 

“With all due respect, I hate beating around the bush. I want to clear this ridiculous elephant-beetle out of the room: you and I both know what happened; what’s the point in not telling her?” Grime sighed, rubbing the space between his eyebrows. “Sure, you want to protect the last semblance of normalcy in her life, but why bother with these pointless lies if she’s just going to find out sooner or later?”

“You’re not convinced, then,” Sasha deduced. Oh well. There isn’t anything she can do about it now. “But A is. She’s not anymore willing to tell the truth- the whole truth.”

“Half-truths are not enough to convince them, Lieutenant. It’ll only raise more questions and create more problems,” He looked at his hands, feigning casualty. “If we have a comprehensive strategy, like- I don’t know, telling them- we can get this out of the way and focus on a solution!” 

You felt the tension in there! It’s thick enough to cut with a knife!” The chilling fury within her eye merely grew brighter, the acidity rising. She practically sneered. “Having them all hate each other will make it harder for us to find a solution. You know me; Anne and I couldn’t even be in a room together without an argument breaking out. What makes you think that it’d be any better now?”

“Are you trying to protect them, or yourself?” 

“What?” 

“Both of you; are you two really worried about the fragility of their minds, or the pain of reliving those moments?” Grime felt torn between the satisfaction of winning the argument yet downtrodden at the implications. “You want to protect the last bits of normalcy, or are you desperate to shield them away from what you’ve experienced?” 

They were at an impasse. Neither of them break the silence with movement or conversation. Grime’s eyes entrapped her before she could feign indifference, and Sasha suddenly feels completely vulnerable. Sasha sighed, eye downcasted and unmistakably shining. The intentions were clear, but it didn’t make anything better. 

“Sasha, I completely understand.” His tone softened, replaced with something more akin to fatherly comfort. “I hadn’t realized it before, but you’re just a kid. You were barely a tadpole when all of this happened. You and your friends didn’t deserve any of this, and I wish I could’ve realized my mistake sooner.”

He placed a hand along her back, and she sniffled pathetically into his arm. “I understand that it hurts , but you’ve got to tell them, no matter how painful it is. They’ve been lied to long enough. It’s not fair to them- you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

Sasha sighs, the sound watery. “No…” 

Grime smiled. “Then be honest . It’s the least we can do.” 

Sasha still looks conflicted; torn between two hopelessly painful options, but decides to opt for the least amount of heartache possibly. She nods wryly, running her hands along the length of her face, drying any excess moisture. 

“Good,” Grime says, giving an affectionate pat on her back. He hopes he did well with this conversation; he was never the best at being comforting. “Now, If you don’t mind, I’m going to go prepare some food for you all. I just harvested the vegetables, after all.”

Sasha lips quirk upwards. “Yeah, thanks. Just don’t talk too long, okay?” 

And with that, Sasha walks back inside, ready to face the challenge. 








When Sasha walks back in, Anne is walking out. 

“I need a moment,” She explains, holding out her finger in compliance. Sasha looks concerned, but doesn’t question further, merely nodding in acknowledgement and settling down towards another table propped against the wall. 

She closes the door behind her, props her hands against the wall, and immediately starts counting her breaths. One two three, inhale. One two three, exhale. It’s a simple breathing technique her father taught her years ago- when her anxiety attacks started cropping up more frequently- and they helped immensely. Though the feeling of restricting breathing faded, the dull heartache permitted throughout her bones worsened. 

The unpleasantness of the room wasn’t something she hadn’t expected- she expected everything and much more- yet she never truly realized how much it’d hurt. The indescribable feeling of living, breathing images of a past she never wanted to remember, those images living out her worst memories and being unable to prevent the marching movement of time itself as it ravaged all she held dear. Victims of circumstances, slightly pathetic, slightly perturbed. The mere sight of them left her heart aching, and there isn’t anything she can do besides help them get home.

She’d have to relive this all over again, would she? 

She tries to ignore the swirling inside her stomach, or the unmistakable feeling of nausea tickling her throat. She squeezes her eyes shut, leaning further onto the wall, sweating. One two three, inhale. One two three, exhale. One two three, inhale. One two three, exhale. One two three, inhale, one two three- 

Footsteps ring beside her. She spring into action. 







Sasha’s unannounced arrival was, evidently, a major mistake on her part. Before she could comprehend what was happening, her face was pinned against the cobbled wall, cheek scraping painfully against the rough surface, and arms bent painfully awkward behind her back. Her head throbbed, and a cacophony of colors flashed throughout her retina momentarily. She couldn’t exactly move, lest she dislocated her shoulder in the struggle. 

“Oh my god! Oh jeez, oh jeez, oh my goodness I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” The perpetrator quickly realized her mistake, releasing her from the inhuman strength of her grip, stepping back. “I’m so sorry- I- I thought-“ Her expression morphed from apologetically worried, to shock. 

“Sasha?” This person- Anne, Sasha is now realizing- questions, looking as bamboozled as Sasha certainly feels. There isn’t much of a difference in appearance, despite the age progression- her hair still curly and poofy, eyes still gentle and kind, lips still ready to curl into a dimpled smile. She stands tall over her, a little bit sweaty, though from the ordeal or from something else, she isn’t too sure. 

Sasha definitely isn’t blushing. She isn’t. 

“Yeah, no duh!” She says, stumbling to her feet. She’d definitely feel the assault later. “This is the second time someone has attacked me today and I’d really rather not have it happen again.”  

“Why are you walking so quietly?” Anne hissed, smacking her shoulder with her backhand. It probably wasn’t intended to be hard, but ouch. “Don’t just sneak up on innocent people like that!” 

“What would you rather me do? Stomp around like some monster?” Sasha says, praying to the gods above that Anne doesn’t notice the red tinting her cheeks, or how utterly bamboozled she felt. Instead of questioning her lightning fast-reflexes, Sasha pushes past, albeit with more force than necessary. “Outta my way, you brat.”

“You can’t just march in there! And don’t call me a brat, you brat!” 

She shook her head, resolve turning into energy as she sauntered through the door and into the gathering space. The annoyance seemed just light enough to turn into slight unease. Her friends. Her friend. They were here, and unharmed and safe. A huge, shuddering weight was lifted off her shoulders, and she involuntarily sighed. They didn’t seem to notice her presence yet, Marcy too busy rambling to Anne about the latest infrastructure and alleyways with blind spots. Anne looks compact, shoulders pulled forward and slumped against the sofa, expression of restrained and unimaginable anger and was that herself sitting in an easychair in the corner with short hair?

Hm. She must say, it is very gender. 

Finally, Marcy off-handley glances towards the entrance. The fact that she’s standing there doesn’t seem to register at first, but then the realization hits. “Sasha? Sasha!” She bolts from her chair, a noticeable bounce in her step, and engulfs her in a hug. “You’re here! I’m so glad you’re okay!” She giggles sweetly, burying her nose into her cape. 

Her giggles are infectious, as Sasha can’t help the few that escape from her mouth. “It’s good to see you, Mar Mar!” She says easily, wrapping her hands around her waist and hugging her back. She’s so warm. She’s missed the warmth. 

Something- or rather someone- is caught in her peripheral vision, and she turns her head towards the blurred figure seated on the sofa adjacent from them. Sasha could practically feel the annoyance radiating like waves off of the brushy haired girl. 

They make eye contact. Uncomfortable, long eye contact. 

 “Anne.”

Anne growls. “Sasha…” 

“So, are we going to talk about ‘You Know What’?” Sasha harrumphed, jaw tight. Shoulders pulled back, finger looping around the strap of her belt, ready in anticipation. It isn’t the exact reunion she was hoping for, but if anything, she wanted to get this out of the way. 

Anne huffed, gritting her teeth. “Let’s just forget about it for now, Sasha.” 

“Are you still all uptight about it?” 

“Sasha, drop it, please.” 

Sasha momentarily paused, almost considering the notion, before sneering. “So, you’re still mad and you’re not gonna talk about it? Gee, I love worrying about my friend hating me .”

“I don’t hate you. And that situation sucked. So just drop it. We can talk about it later.” Anne said, hackles raised, breaking the tense eye contact. She’s clearly agitated, but Sasha’s clearly not willing to wait anymore. 

“Now seems like the perfect time.” She challenges, sounding genuinely certain. The tension building within the room is nigh suffocating. 

“No.”

Sasha bristles, throwing her arms up in frustration. “What is your problem?!” She says, voiced raised and laced with anger. 

“You know what my problem is!” Anne responded, returning the volume. Her cheeks are flushed red, and she’s grinding her tongue against the underside of her gums. 

“Are you really gonna do this now?” 

“You literally started it!” 

Sasha frowns. “I just wanna talk-“ 

“No! I don’t want to talk to you! You’ve used me and manipulated me for years, and suddenly you wanna talk now?! Fat chance! You’re doing the exact same thing I’ve called you out for! When is it gonna stop?!” 

“Guys, calm down !” Marcy tries interviewing, stepping between the two and placing her hands outwards to keep them apart. She looks woefully nervous, already beginning to sweat. “This is getting crazy! I’m sure if we just take a little break-“ 

Anne slapped her hand away, enraged. The expression that flashed across Marcy’s face shot a painful pang through her heart, but everything about this situation is already so painful to bear. “Why should we? Why’re you always trying to pretend things never happened?” 

“Everyone stop! This is getting out of hand!” Older Sasha says, stepping from her position besides the door to intervene. “Anne, come on with me-“ 

“Is this what you really think? After everything we’ve been through?!” Sasha shouts, heart on her sleeve. She didn’t intend to get so emotional, but she’s truly getting the most pissed she’s ever been. 

“It’s my clear and reasoned thoughts, finally!” Anne counters, and with every passing comment, the tension grows nearly unbearable, angered screams of passionate phrases and emotional turmoil spilling into an already crowded room. 

“Just listen to me! ” Sasha says, and suddenly she feels as if they’re speaking two different languages. 

“I’m not gonna listen to another one of your lies!” Anne sneers. “You asshole!” 

Sasha completely stops, face morphing into a seething scowl, flushed red. Shoulders pulled back, fists balled, and teeth bared reminded Anne of a feral animal. She took a threatening step forward. “The hell did you just say to me?”

Marcy looks overwhelmed, desperately wanting to fix the situation but simply being unprepared one how to. Hands placed placatingly in front of her, she pleads. “Guys, stop, stop, stop ! This isn’t how it’s supposed to go!” 

“Isn’t how what's supposed to go?” 

A teenager, black, uneven fringe hanging delicately over a bandaged eye, saunters into the room. Stark in the green of crawling ivy and dense grays. The standard issued sweatpants put an emphasis on her height, imposing yet slouched. The sight of a familiar face, standing so casually, so unbothered before them, garnered a visceral reaction. 

“Marcy?” The older counterparts breathe out; one in mild surprise and one in absolute relief. 

“Surprise! I had to cut my expedition short to take this little rascal home...” Older Marcy smiled beatifically at the wavering, bewildered composure of the two younger counterparts sitting on the sofa. “Though, it looks like I’m …” she gestures vaguely around the room. “ Interrupting something.”

“We’re having a bit of an awkward situation, that’s for sure.” Older Anne says, sounding relieved for the first time since they were transported here. 

“You’re telling me. It’s one of those ‘picking a fight within several minutes of walking inside’.” She shrugs, letting her body language add emphasis to her statement. “Type of awkward situation.”

“That’s… one way to look at it.” Sasha says, standing her ground, arms crossed over her chest. There’s something strange about her posture, however, that catches Anne’s eye; the slightest falter in language. 

“You got any other ways of looking at it?” Older Marcy straightened her posture, physically towering over Sasha but didn’t step forward- chin lifted and low voice reverberating through the spine of everyone around her. “Because I am running out.” She points towards the chair behind her, letting her expression do the talking. 

The air within the room was seemingly sucked out, a dense atmosphere replacing it, damp and choking. Sasha doesn’t respond, instead stepping backwards and seating herself on a loveseat surrounding the table, quiet. 

It was clear that Anne and Marcy were both experiencing the most severe case of whiplash ever witnessed. They had never seen anyone stand up to Sasha in such a way, especially in one that made her simmer down completely. Their future counterparts, however, don’t seem fazed, almost holding back gleeful anticipation. 

“I’m sorry, where are my manners ? This was a bit abrupt, I apologize.” Her bristling, scorning demeanor abated, turning almost abash at the interaction. “Sasha! Anne! I’m happy to see you two again! It feels like I’ve been gone for weeks!”

“It’s because you have been gone for weeks. Traveling around his place without a bird is hell, much less without any way to communicate.” Older Sasha says, picking underneath her fingernails. “It’s been hell trying to reach you, you big Lugnut.” 

Older Marcy’s eye twitches at the nickname, showing that this isn’t the first occasion of said name. “I hadn’t had the need for something like that. Besides, I could’ve just borrowed a messenger bat with the coppers I saved. It would’ve taken longer for the trip to end if someone, ” She gestures towards the blonde seated directly in front of her. “Hadn’t interrupted my plans.”

“She’s hard-headed.” Older Sasha said, an almost self-deprecating smile appearing on her face. She didn’t miss the scoff and the… obscene gesture her younger counterpart gave in return. 

“Exactly like me,” The raven-haired nodded, ensured. She circled around the room, placing herself on the loveseat adjacent to the worn sofa, thigh folded over the base of her knee as she crossed them. There’s silence momentarily, then. “Let's begin the explanation. I’m sure you have many questions.” 

“I know what you did.” Anne says simply, hands gripping around the wooden table so hard, splintering could be heard throughout the room. 

A pin drop could be heard within the room. 

“… What’re you talking about, Anne?” Marcy says, a dreadful combination of unbridled anxiousness and disbelief blanketing her features. Her tone melts into feigned playfulness, letting out a nervous chortle. “You hit your head or something?” 

Anne isn’t thrilled in the slightest. She almost looks offended. The audacity.  

“You’ve already been told that?” Older Marcy inquiries, mild as milk. There's something within her voice that bothers Anne, almost as if she was playing with fire. It lights something visceral within her. “Oh. I expected that to be something I myself would have to explain.”

“What do you have to say for herself?” Anne says, eyebrows furrowed in agitation. 

Older Marcy hummed. “Hm?”

“What do you have to say for yourself?” She repeated, standing from her seat. She took a challenging step forward. It isn’t in her intentions to get physical- not in the slightest- but it’s more so out of faux intimidation. “You did all this; and for what? Why’d you do this to us?”

“What’re you talking about?” Sasha frowned, fingers drumming impatiently on her thighs. The look doesn’t last for long, instead being replaced with something similar to apprehension. “You know something we don’t?”

“We-“ Marcy stuttered, desperately trying to tame the situation before it escalates into something she, quite frankly, doesn’t want anyone to know. “We don’t have to talk about this-“

“I know what you did.” If it were possible, the temperature of the room might have dropped drastically from the menacing tone of the voice adapted. “You trapped us here on purpose.” 

The atmosphere of the room was immediately shattered, the tense and indescribably awkward air imploding into itself as a cacophony of various vocalizing and gestured cringes were sounded inside the space. Older Anne looks the most uncomfortable she’s ever been, resorting to burying her face into her hands to possibly hide the expression of ‘oh goodness please kill me’ practically radiating off her body. Older Sasha isn’t too off; donning an expression pertaining to the biggest exclamation of ‘fucking YIKES’ you could ever witness. Sasha just has the most resting ‘ are you kidding me’ face. 

Marcy’s face fell almost comically, a sight that would’ve made her otherwise burst into laughter if not for the ground-breaking news. Her eyes dart frantically from one person to the next, body trembling like a leaf dancing in the wind. Her lie has been unraveled, her credibility and worthiness having been undone in the process. “I-I- You-“ She stammers, nearly a second away from bursting into tears. “I’m-“ 

“I’m sorry.”

Anne blinks, turning her head towards the girl lounging on the loveseat. She’s not even looking at her. She can’t actually believe what she’s hearing. “What did you just say?” 

“I’m sorry.” She repeats again, refusing to make eye contact. Sheepishness, perhaps? Or is it because she simply doesn’t think Anne is worthy of the simple gesture. 

Because that’s really what she’s beginning to feel, as of late. 

“That’s it? Is that really all you have to say? I’m sorry?” One of Anne’s eyes twitched in irritation, voice laced with angerful sorrow. 

Older Marcy frowns, staring off into nowhere’s land, presumably to produce a response that wasn’t completely balderdash in the face of Anne’s rightful anger. “I wasn’t aware of the consequences of my actions before I did this. I figured since I hated my life on Earth, then everyone else must feel the same. I wasn’t aware of the pain I was causing- I was too wrapped up in my own fantasies to realize it. I did it because- “ She pauses, sighing. “I didn’t want to be alone.” 

“The truth is- I don’t know which is better. I never have. Should I have trusted my judgement, or trusted my friends? It looks like in the end, I didn’t do either. I hurt everyone around me- I hurt you. I’m sorry.” 

The explanation seemed to smother Anne’s anger somewhat, shoulders unintentionally relaxing. The irritation was still present, however, and it wasn’t something that was going to go away immediately.

The silence is an open invitation to continue, and so she does. “There isn’t anything I could say or do to make things right, and this isn’t an excuse. I just hope that you understand my perspective a little more, so we can mend everything-  just for a little while longer- and figure out a way to fix this.” 

“… I appreciate the explanation.”  Anne says after a moment of silence. She didn’t mention the apology; unspoken commitment to the idea that she didn’t actually accept it. Interesting. “But don’t try and pretend that everything is magically okay between us. I’m still wary around you- both of you.” 

“I understand,” Older Marcy punctuates her sentence with a nod. “I wouldn’t want to overstep any more boundaries than I already have.”

Marcy doesn’t respond, curling into herself. She looks small and absolutely miserable. She, however, gives her older counterpart a single glance that acts as a thank you. 

“We’ve got the horribly awkward out of the way, now onto the next awkward section of the puzzle.” Older Sasha steps around the room, leaning against the back of the sofa where- she still has her head in her hands, by the way- Older Anne is seated. “Next time don’t get so sentimental about it.”

“You’re taking my words with a grain of salt, aren’t you? Take them as, I don’t know, a show of good faith?” Sighing, she rubbed at her eye, frowning slightly. 

“I have myself prepared if anything like that were to happen,” The older girl says absentmindedly, crossing her legs. “Don’t worry about it, Lugnut.”

“Why do you keep calling me that?” 

Older Sasha reclined further onto the couch, lips quirking in satisfaction. “Half of your insides are made of titanium, it’s kinda hard not to.” 

Older Marcy answered her smile with a sharp, exasperated look, seemingly resigned to her fate. She pushed forward, grabbing a plump orange from the fruit basket sitting on the table. 

Sasha interrupts the banter, gesturing vaguely towards the two. “Okay, I have this weird suspicion that what I just said wasn’t a joke and are your insides actually titanium? ” 

“Yes.” She says easily. 

Sasha hums, seemingly satisfied. “Why?”

The room, once again, grows silent. 

Older Marcy barks out a cackle. 

Older Anne grows mortified, staring in complete exasperation. “ Marcy!” 

“I-“ She attempts to begin explaining, but her own laughter comes up and muddles her words. She holds up a finger- requesting they wait, or perhaps that she needs a moment to relieve herself- before she continues. “I-I’m sorry, just… Okay. This is gonna sound bad.”

“Marcy, it is bad. Your coping mechanisms are terrible, too.” She says, still completely flabbergasted. She pretends that she doesn’t hear Sasha's own escaped chuckles in the background. “Don’t entertain her.” She scolds the blonde beside her, who grows resigned. 

“Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush any longer. I want to get this out of the way. If you want me to stop, then I’ll stop. But I’m going to keep going until I feel I’ve given you everything you need to know. Alright?”

They nod. 

“Alright then,” She clears her throat, beginning to peel the orange in her grasp, removing the pith and popping a slice into her mouth, chewing around the seeds. After a brief moment of silence, she simply says. “You can show yourself now.”

Before Anne’s brain could formulate a response, something was caught in her vision. A swarming mass of back, writhing and pulsating and absorbing any ounce of light reflecting onto the inky substance materializes from behind her, silent and imposing. Monstrous in nature, crossed with discolored pencil-thick gills and way too many eyes to be considered comfortable. Anne nearly falls from her position on the couch, scooting herself backwards with a startled shout as it looms overhead, watching intently, curiously. 

“W-What the heck is that thing?!” Anne says, understandably frightened. She watches in mute horror as Older Marcy’s jaws stiffen and clench around something, only seconds later to spit out a seed, in which the creature catches effortlessly in its jaws. She flinched back further. “Did it just come from inside you?”

“Yeah, his name is Night.” She speaks with such casualty that the nature of her words almost slip past them. She tears another slice from the orange, gingerly handing it to the Night who gobbles it down within seconds. 

She looks towards the older counterparts, who look completely unfazed and entirely too comfortable with what is happening, and even Sasha doesn’t look all that spooked, treating it as if it were a mild inconvenience at most. She even looks to Marcy; who despite looking just as, if not more miserable than before, manages to muster a look of curiosity on her face. Even if she’s angry with both of them, she still has to ask, “Are you not shocked?!”

Marcy doesn’t speak up, so thankfully- or unfortunately- Sasha does. “She already showed me him when they attacked me. You won’t believe how hard she hits. She replies, and Anne can’t help but wonder why Marcy is attacking people in the first place. 

“You threatened me with a knife.” Older Marcy simply says, deadpanned. 

Oh. 

Well, that’s why. 

Sasha grumbles and the moment passes. 

“The only reason I have him is,” She mulishly pinches a seed from an orange slice, flicking into the air for the Night to catch. “Because I was murdered by King Andrias and then subsequently possessed by him. “

The gasp that rings throughout the room is nothing short of deafening. 

There wasn't any point in meticulously choosing her words; this was something Older Marcy couldn’t possibly sugarcoat. However, she keeps her range of expression at a constant state of mildness. She obviously speaks with vigilance, speaking as if balancing on a tight-rope, between casual discussion and vague inquiries. She acts differently in accordance to the interlocutor, following a particularly scripted scenario with particular people, alternating methods like a professional. 

“A professional manipulator,” A voice rings in the back of her head. Damn subconsciousness.

Marcy was scarcely able to process what she’d just been told, and responded by going into a brief state of near catatonic-shock. “W-What? He is-Isn’t- what? But-But he killed me? I-I was- ah-“ 

She stands from her seat, the Night vanishing into her person, and walks towards the quivering girl. 

“I’m afraid that he isn’t the peaceful explorer he made himself out to be.” Older Marcy says, gingerly placing a hand on her back, rubbing in a circular motion. As perspective as she is, Sasha catches a glimpse of genuine, unmitigated sorrow flash over her face before the nigh-invisible moment when she continues donning the mask of impassiveness. “I’m so sorry this happened.” 

Once the spell of shock passed, out came the tears. “I- I thought I could trust him, I- I-“ She brawled, clinging onto her for comfort. She sunk her face into the fabric of her hoodie, not particularly caring if her tears stained the fabric. “I-I thought someone was finally listening to me-“

“Shh, sh-sh-sh,” She whispered, petting her head as her crying began to peter out, far too physically and mentally exhausted to continue. “I know. I know it’s hard.” 

Everyone looks on with a shared expression of sympathy, eyebrows upturned and frowns prominent. They don’t know what to do, how to handle things. It pains them too, unimaginably, but with time all wounds heal. Right?

Right?

She tilts her head downwards, eye displaying tenderness rather than impassiveness as she murmurs to her younger counterpart. “Hey, it’s alright. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. You don’t have to worry about it anymore. I’ll protect you.” She murmurs, squeezing her tighter. “I’ll protect all of you.” 

Eyes vivid and burning, with temperate flames. Expression vulnerable and strong all the time, brows crushed deep with care, with earnestness. Her voice, much less like a honeyed calmness and more like a growl, like her throats cut tender and raw- imperfection from the seemingly perfect person, and that brought some kind of watered reaction.

All of a sudden, it’s all too different. The very same mannerisms Sasha had experienced first hand alone; spitfire temper and clumsy compassion, brutality truthful. The differences are clear as day- her Marcy was bright, cheerful, and seemingly neverending curiosity for the world around her and its people. But this Marcy is strange- the way she’d scrunch her nose with an irritable smirk, glimpses of that unprecedentedly cheeky attitude peeking through to the surface. 

Sasha’s getting rightfully sick of the mask she’s wearing, even in presence with others. The politeness and pristine calm of a person almost everyone liked; it’s something Sasha herself would do when talking to strangers, or people she’s working with. Not with friends she’s known for years. 

The wooden door suddenly flew open, banging against the stonewall loudly. The future counterparts jumped with varying degrees of shouts. 

Grime, holding a charcuterie board, announced his arrival with a toothy, proud grin. “I’m back! And I’ve made a charcuterie boa-“

Grime ducked from an strangely disproportionate apple being thrown towards his head, a hair-breath away from fracturing his skull if it wasn’t for his supreme reflexes- he didn’t even see Older Marcy throw it, his own survival instincts screaming Death Incoming! before his reflexes took over. The apple smashed into smithereens as it made contact with the outside hallway, nearly leaving a sizable dent in the stone wall. 

It was a jarring switch from the unforeseen tenderness of someone comforting a loved one to a cold, merciless executioner her expression impressed upon. Grime looks surprised, but not exactly impressed. “Good Olms, I come in peace! Look, I even brought food!” 

“Grime! You nearly scared us half to death!” Older Sasha says, hand placed above her collarbone. Older Anne fairs no different. 

“Grime,” Older Marcy breathed out, voice uncharacteristically shaky. “I could’ve killed you. Don’t do that, please.”

His eyebrow raised high onto his forehead as he stepped inside, using his foot to nudge the door close. “I’m more concerned that your first instinct when caught off-guard is to kill someone.” 

“That wouldn’t have killed him,” Older Anne slunk onto the sofa, lying face downwards, clearly sick of this shit. “Maybe leave a nasty bruise, maybe even knock him out. But yknow, we can’t be certain.” Her head tilts towards the tray of food, like a curious cat finding something shiny. She reaches for a slice of cheese.

No one says anything else for the reminder of their time spent together. It’s spent in an awkward but not entirely uncomfortable silence, the occasional questions being answered with honesty and comfort soon ensuing. Older Marcy spent the rest of the evening holding her younger counterpart. 

The velvet sun rolling low in the sky, dipping, skimming over the horizon. The heavens yawned, it breathed a blazing fire. Amber sunlight, peeking through the window, bathing everything it touched in gold, speckling through curtains, shadows darkened and faces dancing. The heartache only grew hour by hour, day by day, an itch incapable of satisfying. A slithering, terrible piece of the whole truth was brought forth, concluded with anguished tears of another life. It’d only continue, but perhaps acknowledging the entirety of it served to lessen the blow. Hour by hour, day by day, they’d get better.

 

It was a good enough start. 




Chapter Text

It’s been six hours since the uncomfortably tense explanation of things back at Toad Tower. It's been four hours since the awkward, very uncomfortable dinner at the Plantar household. Everyone had crawled underneath their makeshift bed sheets and drifted off into slumber. 

Now, standing in front of the cracked window in her newly constructed bedroom, Anne finds herself unable to relax. The exhaustion of the events had weighed heavily upon her shoulders since she trudged up the staircase, body exacerbated by cheap ale and warm chowder. She’s sure she looks as fatigued as she feels- shoulders slumped, eyelids heavy, heart aching somberly- but what is she supposed to feel? Overwhelming happiness? Glee? 

The gentle breeze rushing through the window is a welcoming feeling as it brushes her auburn curls against her face. She gently leans against the windowsill and takes in the sight before her. 

Anne worried she was overthinking things, but the longer she sat there this evening, the clearer it became that she was unable to reconcile the looming tension surrounding the dinner table. She could tell Sasha was making a concerted effort to appear unbothered- as normal as she could be, considering that the younger counterparts were ready to explode at any given moment- but every expression she wore was forced and painfully obvious. Marcy didn’t even show up to dinner, absentmindedly mentioning something about important nonsense she forgot to handle. Anne was displeased at her mentioning. Maybe the mindless conversation and awkward silence could’ve been more bearable with her. 

It was enough that she struggled to consume the home-cooked dinner, regardless of how delightfully prepared it was, but the overwhelming silence was too executicting to handle. Anne doesn't know what to do- she already feels so distraught, being caught between a rock and a hard place, and she doesn’t know how to resolve it. She’s already solved and mended her relationships with Sasha and Marcy, and that was hard enough- now she has to guide herself through it? 

Thumps of shoes, echoing faintly outside the door. A muffled shuffling indicated that the figure stopped momentarily, then presumed walking. The doorknob wobbled before the door actually opened, cerulean light from the mushroom lights in the hallway peeking between the hinges before it vanished, the door shutting close behind the person. A careful click. 

The footsteps inch towards her, striding. Heavy but careful, yet never shuffling or padding- no hesitation, each step confident. Marcy doesn’t have a stinging gait, but she always stalked like she was in a minefield, careful and precise. A hum sounded behind her, light. A pair of arms wrap around her waist. 

“Hi,” Marcy simply says, leaning forward and resting her chin on Anne’s shoulder.

“Hey,” Anne says back, smiling her soft smile. She leans into the touch, straightening her posture completely so that her shoulderblades rested against her collarbone. She tilted her head upwards and left a peck on her cheek. “I missed you.”

Marcy snuggles further into her shoulder. “I’m here now.” 

“You’re here,” Anne assented, huffing from her nose in lieu of shuddering. She placed her hands atop of Marcy’s, gingerly intertwining their fingers and squeezing affectionately. Her hands are cold, veins like ice, but it doesn’t falter her hold in the slightest. 

Neither of them trade further words for several elongated minutes, spending the silence wrapped around each other and enjoying the warmth, the carefulness, the expressed vulnerability and longing all the same- imperfections bare-faced and shining confidently. She’s missed this, Anne missed these moments. They felt so few and far in between nowadays. Almost like they’re worlds apart.

Anne breaks the hold, shifting so that she’s facing Marcy instead, and snakes her hands towards her face, gingerly tilting her chin downwards and holding them in place against her cheekbones. Marcy doesn’t object, merely smiling softly as her face is squished between soft hands, impassiveness banished from her posture. 

In one swift motion, she yanked the collar of her hoodie over her head and pulled it off, not particularly caring if her hair became straggled or mused in the process. She haphazardly throws the garment towards the direction of a chair quickly accumulating clothes, and proceeds to flatten out the wrinkles in her tunic. Her shoes kicked off next, thrown off towards the edge of the bed and arms outstretched over her head in an attempt to strive the exhaustion permitting throughout body. 

The shuffling sounds from movement that ducked and crawled into awaiting warmth, the near inaudible sound of the mattress creaking beneath the sudden weight, then finally, the sound of sheets whispering against one another. 

“Hi,” Marcy says again, facing Anne. 

“Hey,” Anne replies, still smiling. 

Marcy’s hand unearths itself from underneath the blanket, coming to stroke the skin beneath her eye, darkened. She frowns slightly. “Have you been sleeping lately? What? Losing sleep without me as a pillow?” Marcy snorted, nose scrunching up as she smiled. 

Anne scowled, playfully, hoping that the darkened space would cover the blush tinting her cheeks. “I slept just fine, thank you very much. It’s you that can’t go a night without missing me. What have you been doing on the road, anyways?”

“Meetings in Newtopia, the occasional odd job here and there. I visited the Yarkal district for some business. I’m here now, so,” She placed an arm underneath her pillow, and drew the blanket up to her forehead, unceremoniously yawning. “Goodnight!” 

Hell no. You’re not getting out of this one.” Anne says, whipping the blanket from over her head and reaching backwards to flick on a mushroom lamp. She found Marcy frowning with dejected air around her. Anne wasn’t having it. “Look at me- don’t give me that look! You’ve been keeping secrets from all of us. We’re all in on your plan but you’re not opening up to us. If you can’t do this, I’m gonna have to start taking drastic measures.”

“What, you’re gonna ground me or something?”

Marcy.”  Her mouth snapped shut, eye widened in perpetual panic. Anne hasn’t exercised her “disappointed mother” voice in some time. Their eye contact remained steady. Anne lowered her tone. “When’re you gonna stop it with the act? Aren’t you sick of the pain it’s causing you?” 

Curled underneath a blanket, facing one another, determined but anxious, was something not too unfamiliar. It happened a considerable amount of times; being clumsy, awkward teenagers afterall. Being together lulled their survival instincts into a sense of security; the darkened atmosphere and comforting holds soothed their vigilance into dormancy. It was so comfortable, how easy they’d be lured into sleep by mindless conversation and gentle touches, one falling asleep easily until the other followed. 

She’s missed this. She missed her while she was gone. She missed the mindless conversation and the little laughs throughout the night, the confessed feelings and tenderness virtually unseen from the raven-haired nowadays. Even if she missed this with all her heart, she’s rightfully tired of the facade Marcy’s wearing, even after all this time. 

Marcy shifts. “What do you want me to be?” She asks, voice and expression blank, awaiting orders. A deceptively calm, stifling look underneath her lashes, ever slightly distant. It perturbed Anne more than her faux collectivism. 

Anne sighed, snaking her hands towards Marcy’s, intertwining them together and bringing them towards her lips. “I want you to be you. You’re holding your problems back. You’ll explode sooner or later.” She says, low and steady, calm and collected. It’s hypocritical of her to lecture Marcy about the dangers of repressed emotions, but still, the conversation has to happen. “It’s just us. There isn’t anyone here. You can talk to me. Please , just talk to me.” Please let me in. 

Marcy falls into a collective silence, contemplative and thoughtful. Absent-mindedly, she traces her thumb along the ridges of Anne’s knuckles. The vividness of her eyes are on full display, searing right through her skull with a striking green. The vividness only happens if forced through certain emotions. 

The reason, she isn’t sure of. Though, she has her ideas. 

“I’m scared that you won’t understand until you get out there,” Anne says, a clear judgment through her words. A steadyfast admission. “The price we’re paying isn’t cheap. We’ll lose more often than we win.”

“So I’ll just keep going on until I’ve succeeded.” Marcy says, slowly. Far too calmly for such a dangerous revelation. Far too content for Anne’s liking. “I already started my story, I have to see it end. I’ve paid for my mistakes in blood, and I can never be forgiven for them. It’s gonna follow me until I die. There’s not a single thing I can do now.” 

Marcy, undoubtedly, had a wanderlust. Nothing could quench a wanderer's restless drive for information, to advance forward, all restraint was abhorrent- it's just her personality, curious and ever-searching. Subdued and muddled it may be, her intentions were still there. But what’s worth sacrificing for what she’s searching for? 

Marcy suddenly snaps her head up, striking eyes burning so brightly it might burn the sun to ashes. They’re determined yet tender, absolute. “Just wait, Anne. You’ll see everything I told you about, and you’ll see I’m right. But, please, just wait a little longer.” Marcy paused, thoughtful, then smiled. “You want to introduce Thai food to the rest of Amphibia, right? You told me.”

Anne blushed. Her heart swelled immensely at Marcy remembering the little detail from their conversation from nearly a year ago. “Yeah. The town’s folk were so happy when I introduced Thai food to Stumpy’s. Imagine how the rest of Amphibia would.”

”You shouldn't have to,” Marcy says, bringing their conjoined hands towards her mouth. “You should be able to live the life you want to live. I’m doing everything I can so you can. So that Sasha can become a holster like she wants, raise those breeds of snails she loves. So Sprig can terrorize merchants in Newtopia with his haggling. So Polly can study engineering and become a machinist. So that Hop Pop can see his family thrive in a peaceful world.”

“And you?” Anne asked, eyebrows arched, leaning forward to press their foreheads together. The thumb tracing along her knuckles faltered ever so slightly. “What do you want?”

Marcy grew silent again, the same contemplative emptiness that seemed to follow her everywhere. Anne could tell something was amiss, considering how her lips twitched with unspoken words. Anne wished she’d say them. 

“I don’t need anything.” She eventually says, resigned. “Everything I’m doing, from now to the future, is part of my plan to keep you and everyone else safe, to see you all happy and alive. All I’m asking is to keep them away from all of this mess.”

Quietly, they stare at each other. 

“Hey…” Marcy says, frowning slightly. “Don’t be so sad. Everything’s going to be alright. Nothing’s going to happen to me or anyone.” 

“I’m just worried about you,” Anne sighs, staring at the misshapen lumps and grooves speckled amongst the ceiling.; the glowing stickers placed strategically across the arched ceiling. She opens her mouth to speak once more, but finds the words escaping her. “I want you to be happy.” 

The sound that leaves her body is shaky, the muscles in her throat constricting as she prevents her jugular from bobbing against the skin. 

Anne mentally scolds herself, frustrated at the initial sound of heartache escaping from her mouth. She should be relieved, overjoyed that Marcy’s here with her again, not filled with unmitigated dread. 

Marcy must’ve sensed the discomfort radiating from her, because the hands intertwined with hers squeezes a little tighter, and she places the softest of pecks against her knuckles. The bridge of her nose pressed against her hands tenderly, cold air blown onto her hand from her nostrils. 

A significant margin of the uneasiness settling inside her stomach begins to dissipate from the touch, but Anne’s brows grow tighter and Marcy’s face grows softer. 

Marcy readjusted her head against the thin pillow, shifting herself so that she’s flushed against Anne, the warmth of her body spreading like fire throughout her nervous system. She presses as close as comfort allows it, and with her mouth so close to her ear,she speaks. “I’m happy with you.” 

The words are low, little more than a murmur, but filled with such absolute certainty it nearly brought Anne to tears. 

Anne snuggled herself in the crook of her neck, nearing Marcy’s collarbone, who pushed her cool body against hers, pressing for warmth. Anne endured the slight coolness with a stifled grumble, mumbling incoherently about her low temperature whilst slithering an arm to encircle around her midsection. Comfortably together. Completely together. 

The cool skin and Marcy scent, familiar; like artificial earth. Her nose brushed against the skin of Marcy’s collarbone, a mere tilt away from kissing; shuddering with the need to press forward, to advance towards the addicting heartbeat that soothed her most troublesome worries. The night had already entrapped them in its darkened slumber, allowing their anxieties to drift into oblivion, unimportant in the face of everything surrounding them, trivial when compared to each other. 

Now, entangled against her, Anne allows her anxieties to melt away. 






Chapter Text

“Witnesses claim that the monster rampaging throughout was black, approximately ten meters tall and seventeen meters in length, ferociously powerful teeth and claws, tearing apart anything in its proximity and more.” The paragraph besides a photographed picture that is largely blurry and intangible, showing the mere silhouette of the behemoth apparently causing so much chaos. “It is reported that the current death toll is around fifty royal knight Guard personnel and recruits, though the death toll is expected to be much higher within the coming days.” 

 

Night hummed. “I can see how that isn’t good for Andrias’ forces.”

 

“Though it is great for us, I would say.” Marcy said, indifferent towards the article. She folds the newspaper and places it off to the side, parchment whispering against the wooden table. “It’ll make him distracted from us.” 

 

“I thought of you as an advocate for peace, Wit.” Night said, inky black particles floating from his formless body and dissipating within moments of floating upwards, dripping like anti-gravitational ink. 

 

“I still am, of course. But what’s the worth of tools if we don’t use them? Anyways, it’s over and done with.” She said, shoving another sweet, misshapen cookie into her mouth. “Also, I told you to call me Marcy. I didn’t spend all that time in the Core distinguishing myself just to be called that again.” 

 

“Right. I apologize.” 

 

Silence washes over them and neither of them trade words. It had already been a week since the incident happened, and the tension and uncomfortable atmosphere never depleted in the slightest. The younger counterpart’s were sticking around their older counterparts, which was an ideal placement- keep the younger Sasha and Anne absolutely far away from one another. Marcy’s younger counterpart barely interacted with anything, undoubtedly because of shame and absolute guilt, but everyone managed to be gentle towards her- they understood what her motives were and had forgiven her years ago. Still, it doesn’t make it any better, the uncomfortable air surrounding them. 

 

And today, whilst Anne is off doing miscellaneous tasks- if only to distract her anxious mind- and the Plantars preoccupying the younger counterparts, it left Marcy with sparse downtime to herself, and she accepted an offer for lunch with Sasha at Stumpy’s. They haven’t had enough time for proper hangouts, so it’s a welcomed invitation. 

 

“These are very… sweet.” Night says after a moment, having gobbled down several cookies himself. Marcy always wonders where the food goes. She’ll ask him of these days. “The little one- Polly- must’ve put an entire bag of sugar in while making these.”

 

“I don’t mind it. I love sugar, plus sugar and diabetes can’t kill me. Not anymore, anyways.” 

 

“I heard my name- are you two talking about me?” Polly inquired, seemingly upset if her tone is any indication. She climbs into one of the chairs, placing another tray of overly sweetened cookies onto the table before them, hands covered in flower patterned oven mitts. “And why’re you two always talking in those cryptic ruins? It’s all old and weird!” 

 

Shifting himself towards the young frog, Night takes on a feign serious tone, switching back to standard English. “We talk like this because we’re older than you, and our political talk is so boring and dumb, it’ll make you an old frog just by listening to our old, dull conversations.” 

 

Marcy wholeheartedly agrees. 

 

Polly’s face is only a few degrees from pure disgust. “… On second thought, keep talking like that.” She jumps down from the chair, clambering off elsewhere inside the house. 

 

Marcy chuckled lightly. Even in her typical state of mirthless solemnity, her compassionate side was always so young, like the day she was born, when she smiled genuinely, which was sparingly nowadays. “ As much as I enjoy your more lighthearted side, your sentimentality will be your downfall in this situation.” Night warned, switching back to cryptic ruins. 

 

Marcy frowned. “I won’t allow it.” 

 

“You already have,” Night implored, eyeballing Marcy who surreptitiously ducked in guise of grabbing another cookie. “This isn’t going to be some multi-dimensional dictatorship Andrias made to fuel his futile ambitions, this is going to be a band of elite rangers dedicated to rebelling against the third estate and snuffing out conflicts threatening the Restorationists movement. It’s your idea-“

 

“A decent idea,” She grumbled, taking another bite of her cookie, almost abashed. He continued on anyway, persistent. 

 

“…Because we can’t be everywhere at once! This time travel situation has set us back immensely!” He growled, inky form twisting and pulsating with frustration, sharp and ill-intentioned. “If we hadn’t had undercover operatives infiltrating the castle, we could’ve moved forward despite the drawbacks.”

 

Marcy merely stared at him, unyielding, uninterested. 

 

“If only you hadn’t become so fixated on preserving your younger counterparts' innocence, it wouldn't be so complicated.” He tsked, intentionally provoking her into a corner. What a sneaky, conniving little bastard.  “Trying to change the past is futile. I thought you of all people would know this?” 

 

“I am not fixated,” She practically growled, the delicate treat in her grasp breaking underneath the pressure of her grip. “They’re just kids. I can’t let them get so involved in something like this.” 

 

“And yet you are. You could’ve easily been against telling them but here we are.” He dared challenge the absolute; the bargain between a beast. “ You could’ve completely ignored the implications and continued with the plan, but you’re too busy playing pretend. You’re not even sticking to your original plan of depleting Andrias’ military bases.” 

 

Okay, perhaps he might’ve added a bit too much sardonicism seep into his voice, because she slammed her hands into the table with enough force to completely break it into halves, were she less restrained. Her fingers gripped around the edges of the table, the sound akin to wood cracking between her hands. “You don’t think I know that? I can’t just brush aside a problem to this magnitude- and I don’t necessarily see you stepping in for damage control either.” 

 

Night arched his non-existent eyebrows, challenging her response. “I only follow the orders you give me and I’m currently repeating what you have told me in the past- do not let yourself be distracted. If you want your friends to live a peaceful and comfortable life, keep moving forward.” 

 

Marcy seemingly doesn’t want to dignify that with a response, so instead she threads her fingers together and folds her hands atop the table. The depth of eyes as they bore into his soul threatened to make him frown. She definitely developed a bite over the years. 

 

“You want me to do what you’ve suggested,” She eventually signed out, brow heavy with a saddened frown. “But everyone was already suspicious of me, even before they came into the picture. Anne and Sasha are on board with the plan, but it isn’t going to be long before they start putting together the pieces. If that happens, I’ll lose their trust, the rebellion would collapse-“ 

 

“And everything we’ve worked for will be ruined.” He finished, slinking onto her shoulder. “But this next corridation will be the perfect catalyst for Andrias to keep sending reinforcements throughout Amphibia. If we distract him with something else, then it’ll give the rebellion time for another solution.”

 

It’s fairly easy to disregard the instances of her mortality. Night is also fixated on her acidic eyes and condescending smiles, attitude cunning and strategic, to remember the way she altered all attention away from her friends and sorely to herself. An ambitious person gathering power for the self-betterment of her friends- her family. A mere child, despite it all. 

 

The hardness in her eyes softened, and frown balanced into pursed lips. Shoulders sagged, all tension she’s been holding released. Finally, in standard language, Marcy speaks, “We’re in it for the long run, aren’t we, Night?”

 

“I’m afraid we are, Marcy.” 









The first thing she noticed is just how dark the restaurant actually is - lowly lit mushroom lamps placed overhead above tables and booths, the scent of freshly fried fish and spices infusing with the surrounding air- and when she looks around the surrounding tables, she finds the establishment largely unoccupied. 

 

It isn’t completely unusual- it is after the lunch rush on a typical Thursday afternoon, and she’s certain the place will be packed for dinner- but she finds it somewhat puzzling nonetheless. There are several patrons scattered around the establishment, more no one than seven amphibians in total. 

 

She glances around the restaurant, finding a mess of blonde hair sticking from a booth tucked in the corner near the bar. Slowing her steps as she approaches, Marcy announces her presence with a clear voice. She tries her best not to appear suddenly, wanting to avoid possibly frightening her; child soldier instincts, afterall.

 

Sasha turns towards the sound of her voice, head tilting upwards and peeking over the booth. She waves, the motion itself strangely stiff alongside her tightened jaw and tensed shoulders. Even from a distance, her sullen disposition is already noticeable and radiating from her being. Her facial features manage to relax once making eye-contact with Marcy, but the uneasiness is still present. 

 

“Marcy,” She greets easily. It is strange, hearing her voice so soft and quiet, considering she’s always screaming and stern when commanding the Toad Army. “This is a surprise.”

 

“Is it?” 

 

“No.” 

 

They stare at one another for an elongated moment. They smile, before laughing quietly.

 

“I’m happy you could make it,” Sasha says after Marcy climbs into the booth, sitting opposite of her. “It’s been awhile since you and I could hang out together.” 

 

“I can say the same thing,” Marcy replies, settling into a more casual pose, legs outstretched in the space below the table, hands resting atop the thin menu booklet on the table. “How’ve you been? You know, with everything?”

 

Sasha's expression falls slightly, morphing into conflicted thoughtfulness. Before she could formulate a response, however, they’re greeted by a waiter- an orange tomato frog with dark hair. 

 

“I’m your server, Zhao. What do you want?” The frog says curtly, pulling out the notepad attached to his belt. He looks rightfully bored and uninterested, but his eyes hone into their faces, and his eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets. “O-Oh! War chiefs! I hadn’t realized it was you. I apologize for my disrespect!” He says, trepidation evident throughout his being. 

 

Marcy blinks. She wasn’t really bothered by it. Working in such a hostile environment certainly acclimated her to such attitudes. 

 

Sasha apparently thinks so, too, practically ignoring the disrespect and subsequent apology, brushing it off with a wave of her hand. “Water under the bridge.”

 

He breathes a quiet sigh of relief, bringing his pen to the parchment. “What can I get you two to drink?”

 

“I’ll just take some water, thanks.”

 

He turns towards Marcy.  “And you?”

 

“Water is fine. Could I get a buggachino, too?”

 

“Addict,” Sasha jokes, and Marcy responds with a mockingly serious stare. 

 

“Any cream or sugar?” 

 

“Extra cream and sugar, please?” 

 

“You’ve got it. What can I get you two started with?” 

 

Sasha and Marcy order their respective dishes, the diligence in what they’d like the chef to prepare earning them an almost relieved smile from their attendant, lines in their eyebrows smothering and mouth peeking upwards. Scribbling on the notepad, he promised a quick delivery of the aforementioned meal and drinks before hurrying off towards the direction of the kitchen. Some shouts filter from behind the doors of the kitchen, but Marcy can’t make out what they’re saying. 

 

Sasha smiles, head rolling to the opposite side. “The Buggachinos already have a mountain of sugar in them. That’s, like, four hundred calories with each sip.” 

 

Marcy laments, tilting her head upwards, voice leaking playfulness. “Let me live my life, Sasha.” 

 

A comfortable silence washes over the pair, and sometime later the waiter arrives with a wooden tray in hand. Upon it; two bowls of steaming Thai Red Curry, accompanied by a couple of normal, savory naan placed beside it and their respective drinks. There’s also salad in a smaller bowl, and several slices of red chillies and ginger beside it. 

 

Marcy rips off a piece of garlicky bread with her canines, chewing with half the thought of grinding her molars to dust. “So, what would you like to talk about?” She asked, rather bluntly but wanting to understand the reasoning behind her tense disposition. 

 

Sasha was a person who wouldn’t let anyone see herself outside of her friend circle beyond the stern and respected authority figure. But she’s such a bad actor sometimes, because Marcy can see right through her, see how easily agitated and anxious she could become. Perhaps it was because of her observant nature, or because of how vulnerable she’ll let herself become within range of a close friend. 

 

“How’d you know?” Sasha grumbled mulishly, distracting herself from the allegations with a long drink of chilled water. 

 

“From when you invited me and only me for lunch at Stumpy’s. It’s a hint, definitely.”

 

“Looks like you’ve caught me.” She drawls, voice leaking sarcasm, an underlying hint of emotion present underneath the derrison. 

 

“So, what’s wrong? Things got you overwhelmed?” 

 

Sasha sighs, hands cradling the warm bowl of curry in front of her, pensively. Her downcasted look somewhat obscures some of the tension surrounding her eyes, but Marcy can sense that Sasha is struck by bone-deep worry. “That’s an understatement. This whole time bullshit on top of rebellion duties has me beat into the ground. I’m trying to teach the new recruits some emergency medical training, but it’s hard when the hospitals are so…” 

 

“Underdeveloped?” Marcy finished, arching an eyebrow. She takes a spoonful of curry and stuffs it inside her mouth, relishing the burning sensation of spices against her tongue. “I would’ve thought so. The medical treatment outside of Newtopia isn’t very good. I’m surprised no one has caught an infection from the infirmary yet.” 

 

Sasha smiled, lopsided. “To be clear, we have annual checkups to ensure the villagers' immunizations are good.” 

 

“And yet I almost dropped dead from the state of that operation roo- no, no, no, torture chamber.” She scowls, scooping her curry onto a piece of flatbread and chewing. “Gods above, did none of Andrias’ inspectors ever travel to the villages for routine checkings of their hospitals? The sanitation is awful! The medical tools have rust on them! It’s breaking several dozen health code violations!” 

 

“To be fair, the villagers have barely used the room, considering the population before the rebellion.”  Sasha kissed her teeth, reproachful. “Hopefully with the newest doctors recruited to our side, they’ll fix the issue to be better suited for…” she leaves the rest of her sentence ambiguous. Marcy, quite frankly, doesn’t want to think about the implications. 

 

“Even so, we need more high-tech equipment if we’re going to make it far: Ventilators, blood transfusion set, defibrillators- well, I guess we can create our own defibrillators with Zapabeetles. Though, it'd be hard to gather enough for adequate use.” 

 

Sasha nods, willfully diverting the subject towards more pressing issues. “So, there’s been news reports floating around saying that native Newtopians are slowly appealing to Andrias’ side. They’re willing to stay loyal if he continues accommodating their needs without hesitation.”

 

“Of course they are. Newtopia and the surrounding districts are filled with nothing but self-centered aristocrats and traditional families. They aren’t willing to help if their own comfort isn’t disturbed, if their own freedom is being taken away.” The heat in her voice smothers as her eyes narrowed critically, Marcy hummed thoughtfully, dismayed. “People in the villages don’t even have proper education.” 

 

Sasha sighed in commiseration. “Half of the populace isn’t getting a fair vote. Those who are speaking out against the King and the National Guard are being killed.” Her voice lowered, eyes downcasted, posture expressing an uncharacteristic portrayal of defeat. “Patrols are finding corpses candied around the shelters up north. I think he’s trying to provoke us out of hiding. ”

 

Marcy slammed her hands flat against the table, their drinks and bowls of curry trembling in the process. The sudden acclamation attracted almost the entirety of the restaurant’s attention, looking towards their table in confusion and admirations. 

 

“I hate those high-class pigs!” She shouts, rage evident in her voice and expression, eyebrows furrowed and eye glowing vividly against the darkened atmosphere of the pub. “For God's sake, it affects them too! He’ll tear apart the very foundation of their lives if it means him gaining more resources! They won’t hesitate to bury us alive! Andrias and his followers should all be exterminated!”

 

Marcy!” Sasha whispers, shocked by her outburst and embarrassed by the unwanted attention being brought onto them. She turns towards the rest of the restaurant, finding the remaining patrons looking at her in confusion and surprise. 

 

Suddenly bashful, she straightened her posture and waves away the stares, murmuring several apologies underneath her breath. She brings a hand to her uncovered eye, she rubs the inner corners of the eye with her thumb and forefinger. “I’m sorry, that was completely uncalled for.” 

 

Sasha frowns, face flushed a few hues of red. Her discomfort morphs into a sizzling undercurrent of indignation, teeth grinding behind her lips. “Even if we’re at a disadvantage, we can still win this thing. It isn’t hopeless, but Marcy-“ 

 

She glares into her soul. “Nothing is worth the risk if you’re going to endanger your comrades. You cannot be careless with them, especially when you’re responsible for so many, now that you’re the leader of sorts.” She straightened her back, suddenly becoming more of an authoritarian figure than close friend. “The weight of this is on your shoulders.”

M

Marcy’s shoulders tensed, jaw clenched, now suddenly abashed. There aren't any remnants of the previous fury and determination rippling throughout her body alluding to her true intentions, but replaced with an expression similar to shyness, if only for a perceived second. “I understand that, Sasha. I know.” She gives a small smile, nevertheless enduring a sense of culpability for being so inconsiderate. “I’m sorry.” 

 

But it merely feels like an admission of defeat. 

 

Sasha’s expression loosens again, finding itself in the same tense, anxious expression it once was when she arrived. She lets out a heavy sigh through her nose, sinking into her seat and- If Marcy isn’t mistaken- her eyes glisten. “I want you to be okay,” she murmurs, her finger circling the rim of her glass. There’s a shakiness to her voice, indicating that yes, she is definitely on the verge of tears. “I want all of us to be okay.” 

 

Without thinking, Marcy reached across the table and gingerly intertwined their fingers, shoulders forward and gaze determined. She realizes just how warm Sasha’s hands are as they wrap easily around her own, like a missing piece of a puzzle. “We will ,” she says, voice leaving no room for questions. “I’ll do whatever it takes for you to be okay. I’ll do everything for you, as much as it takes, no matter the cost. I’ll make sure of it.” 

 

Sasha stares for an elongated moment, lips parted and eyebrows wide on her forehead before her expression softens, loving and gentle. She grasps her hand properly, adjusting their hold on one another. The blonde leans forward, presses a kiss against her knuckles, and squeezes affectionately. Her hands are soft, warm, a huge contrast against Marcy’s cold and callous ones. Marcy returns it by rubbing the pad of her thumb against her knuckles. 

 

Even despite her surroundings and the person currently sitting opposite of her, she will make sure her promises reign true. She’ll keep doing whatever it takes to protect her friends. To protect everyone else.

 

She’ll keep whatever it takes until The Enemy is exterminated. 

Chapter Text

POV: Past Anne

 

 

 

 


The feeling of warm water running down her scalp is a welcoming sensation she longed for, and she allows herself to simply bask in the shower head’s heated embrace. The water pooling at her side morphs into a darkened grey as it is pulled into the drain, small clumps of miscellaneous debris falling between her feet. 

 

Anne had already been ruminating on what would be awaiting them in the morning. A pit of uncertainty had formed in her stomach and none of her attempts at soothing it- matching her breathing to the seconds passing, counting the thousands of speckles on the ceiling, getting a midnight snack- granted her rest. Struck by apprehension, she was itching to get some work done, if only to salve her heartache. 

 

She focuses on the faint hissing of the pipes among the arrhythmic sounds of droplets hitting porcelain, attempting to strive off the persistent train of thought that’s been plaguing her mind with nonsensical dribble since she arrived here. It works, and momentarily, she focuses on the water streaming down her forehead and nothing else. It’s a welcomed change.

 

The pressure of the water is much better than freezing water baths in the nearest lake, or quick scrubs of arms and forehead from dirtied water fetched from the town well. The shower is much cleaner than the former Plantar bathroom, actually investing in purchasing a proper bathtub instead of a wooden boat that’d splinter your feet if you weren’t careful. Aside from the boxes placed around the household- making it smaller than it actually was, especially with nine people crammed inside- Anne recalls the place looking especially more modern, as if items from a regular human house had been transported and placed here.

 

Perhaps they had actually found a way home, even with the lingering argument happening.

 

She wants to ask, wants to question everything and much more, but the anxiousness inside her stomach has permanently settled, permitting throughout her bones and deep inside her heart. The environment around her is either painfully confusing or horrifically uncomfortable, reminding her of how deep her empathy runs and just how badly heartbreak feels. It’s an unattainable itch she cannot rid herself of. 

 

She wants to understand what went wrong with their relationship, what she did wrong. 

 

Running a hand across her forehead, Anne unconsciously searches around for shampoo along the selves, slipping her fingers between bottles of surprisingly full shampoo and body wash. A transparent bottle halfway filled with baby pink gel is caught in her slippery grasp, and she flips the lid up to squirt onto her hands when the breeze is knocked from her lungs.

 

Instantly, her senses are filled with the scent of her best- friend? Is Sasha still a friend?- an association of a scent she recognized on her everyday. It’s a smell she could catch on random moments throughout the day with Sasha, often unexpected but not unwelcome as it would drift off her being as they nursed their milkshakes in the parlor and when Sasha would affectionately lean against her feigning illness, or when they’d walk side by side together to school. 

 

In all sincerity, the contents of the bottle have been present throughout the time she’s been here. It’s a nostalgic sensation; having been in Amphibia for months, the flowery scent had long since faded, and the accompanying source of comfort dwindled along with it. Though here, now, she’s had the scent drift into her nostrils when nudged against an older, more mature Sasha. It brings back recent memories, of Sasha leading her from the meeting room in Toad Tower, of her gingerly wrapping an arm around her shoulder, of Sasha asking if she were okay in an uncharacteristic show of vulnerability, and if she needed anything she could come to her.

 

Her hands start to tremble as she squeezes the thick gel from inside the bottle onto her awaiting hand, snapping the cap shut and placing it back onto the shelf before massaging it into her hair. She scolds herself, “Don’t you dare have a breakdown about this.” 

 

But she can’t stop thinking about it. It was a small moment, barely significant in the grand scheme of things, but she understood the sheer distress she was in and how emotionally dependent she had become towards the two girls and the debilitating fear that if she didn’t listen to either of them, they’d be mercilessly torn apart. It was a huge step, even if it was a simple question. 

 

Marcy, on the other hand, was a complete mystery to Anne. 

 

Unnervingly stoic and unnaturally calm are not characteristics used to describe Marcy: Anne would’ve mistaken her for an entirely different person, considering her demeanor. The explanations given at the meeting barely answered the more glaring issues, but only opened opportunities for concerning questions. She’s clinging on a single lax chestnut eye with clear indifference and potential danger, and an apparent thousand year old monster cooperating. It is like their bread and butter; nothing different than what yesterday had entailed. 

 

Anne feels like she’s becoming a paranoid lunatic, irreversibly conditioned by the harsh conditions that living in Amphibia brings. 

 

She dunks her head underneath the waterfall of water, letting the shampoo wash away before squeezing her hands into the mass of hair. She scraps her upper arms with soapy fingertips, lingering slightly too long in a repeated scratching motion on her arms. The soap has become discolored and lessened in volume, mindlessly continuing to scrub her scar and nick covered body, allowing her mind to drift away as she does. 

 

She feels disconnected, utterly lost in a world that isn’t familiar, in a world where she doesn’t belong. Completely alone and shamelessly useless. The simplicity of the answer doesn’t make it inaccurate, but there’s a part of her brain that tries to understand what’s so undesirable about her that both of her best friends would betray her. It’s an elusive question of what’s wrong with her.

 

Anne watches the remaining bubbles run off her and into the drain whilst simultaneously switching off the water, the pipes squeaking as the water abruptly stops. She threads her fingers through her aburn curls, pressing against her scalp and draining the remaining wetness. 

 

She pushes aside the curtains and wraps herself in a towel, pulling it forward and patting her face dry. The mirror adjacent to the shower is foggy and blurry, hardly reflective. Frowning, she wipes a hand across the mirror's surface and examines her appearance.

 

She looks worse than she feels. Her wet hair sags in clumps, loose strands falling against her brow and obscuring her vision. She swipes away the hair, finding heavy-lidded eyes and eye bags far too prominent for a child. She feels lethargic, devoid of her usual skippiness. Her chest feels hollow, her head cloudy, and heart heavy. 

 

Everything hurts. She needs to leave. Just for a little while. 

 

She quickly pats dry her body and throws on some spare clothes given to her by her future counterpart, consisting of a simple blue t-shirt and sweatpants, before grabbing a thin blanket from the cabinet and slipping on her shoes. She doesn’t bother drying her hair; she’s well aware of the condition it’ll be in because of it, but she cannot bring herself to care as she exits the house with quiet footsteps.

 

She doesn’t know where she will go, but anywhere is better than there. 








A furious mess of hair peeked beneath the blanket bunched around her shoulders- her hair seemingly imitating red under the specific lighting. Anne doesn’t know how she made it here; here being a cliff edge overlooking a running river. Her memory of the walk is hazy, as if she were unconscious the entire trip here. She wishes she was. Then maybe the pain of heartache wouldn’t bother her so much. The humming wind breezed past her, brushing her hair along her dampened cheeks. 

 

With sorrow filling her chest, Anne entertains the idea of leaning forward and allowing the embrace of death to welcome her. The thought gives her a vindictive rush, but that intoxicating urge is smothered by shame, blood running cold at the idea of her corpse being swept away by a rushing river, never to be seen again. Or maybe that’s what she wants. 

 

She doesn’t know anymore. She’ll let fate decide. 

 

Anne sighed, breath coming out in a shaky exhale.

 

“What’re you doing out here?”

 

Anne jumps violently, an indignant sound bursting from her throat as she nearly tumbles onto her back from the sheer shock. She whips her head towards the direction of the voice. 

 

The familiar face, standing in the clearing, a considerable distance between them. Marcy- the older version- blinked, fixated on picking off the nonexistent lint from her hoodie instead of acknowledging Anne’s sudden rigid apprehension. 

 

She wasn’t ready yet. She thought she’d have time to prepare for her encounter with this Marcy. The person before her was so completely and utterly different from the affectionately geeky and excitable girl she’d grown up alongside; so completely incomparable that one might mistake them for different people entirely. Anne supposed she’d have the higher ground in the interaction, but considering she’s been thrust into an environment that is so familiar yet so different makes her inflicts a claustrophobic reaction out of her- it’s like the looming forest was slowly closing in on her, trapping her like prey and Marcy was the predator. 

 

The bold, asymmetrical interplay of shadows and misty light made Marcy look eerily beautiful. The off-putting, skin-crawling type of prettiness that you couldn’t take your eyes off of. The glorious blue of the early dawn painted her strong, almost tea tan complexion with a magnificent undercurrent of blue; the viridan of her wide eyes the only clear brightness from her shadowed figure. 

 

Marcy steps forward, every movement done in leisure like the moment is hers to dictate, time itself slowing done with her movements. “What’re you doing out here?” She repeats her previous question. 

 

Curtly, Anne huffs. “It’s none of your business.”

 

“It is, considering it’s just barely dawn.” She says, unbothered, pointing towards the darkened sky. The slightest glimmer of a soft, tender cerulean peeked from behind the skyline. “Have you even slept?” 

 

She’s about to formulate a snarky response, but she’s interrupted by the jaw-breaking yawn that escapes her mouth, huffing out a misty exhale. “I’m just stargazing, don’t get your hoodie in a twist…”

 

Immediately, Marcy addressed Anne, tone light but rumbling. “Don’t sneak off like that, what were you thinking? You could’ve gotten hurt and no one would’ve known where you were.” 

 

“But I didn’t get hurt,” Anne retorted. “I know these woods like the back of my head. I had to survive out here for days, afterall.” 

 

A pang of anxiety churned her stomach before quickly vanishing. Anne was undoubtedly still angry; apprehensive of her sudden appearance and still carrying the weight of The Conversation, as she dubbed the chat at Toad Tower. Her response is evidence of it; filled with derision for the person she trusted with her life, yet a pang of guilt rings through her. The older counterpart stares, unimpressed and unbothered. 

 

Neither of them trade further words as Marcy saunters forward, stepping carefully besides the girl and sits, allowing their gazes to linger momentarily. They sit a close enough distance away from one another, far enough that if they were to outstretch their arms, their fingertips would brush. 

 

“Why’d you follow me?” Anne asked, glaring with the intent to murder.

 

“I didn’t follow you,” Marcy cast her gaze aside, scratching the underside of her jaw, seemingly nonchalant. “I wanted to go for a walk. Clear my mind.”

 

“I’m not going back. I won’t.”

 

“I won’t make you do anything,” Marcy said lightly, shrugging with her lips pursed, eyebrows arched. “I just said everyone would be worried about you.”

 

“Why would they care? All everyone ever does is trick me, anyway!” Anne jabbed her finger accusingly, the hostile effect nullified as she sniffled, rubbing her nose.

 

“Still seems like the wrong time for stargazing,” testily, Marcy cut in before the complaining could escalate and worsen her headache. Marcy tilted her head upwards, with the sky steadily brightening, and she could barely see the flickering lights speckling the sky. “There isn’t anything to see.” 

 

“Will you let me live my life in peace?”

 

“Afraid not, since we need another person to help pack for our trip.” 

 

“Trip?” 

 

“We’re leaving for Newtopia tomorrow for an induction ceremony.” Marcy’s face sours. “We would’ve told you, but we didn’t think we’d be so set back because of this time loop.” 

 

The cardboard boxes and supplies spiraled around the Plantar house definitely made sense now. Still, it doesn’t prevent the twist of trepidation residing inside Anne’s stomach. “Ah, of course you didn’t tell me. No one ever tells me anything, afterall.” She murmurs, bitterly. 

 

“You’re still angry.” The oldest girl's face slackened for a blink, quickly returning to its usual carelessness. 

 

“Of course I’m angry,” She says, curtly, shoulders pulled back impressively- or stubbornly. “I can’t believe Marcy would do this. I thought- after everything we’ve been through- she could tell me anything.”

 

She frowns, eyebrows furrowed and jaw clenched. Her fingers curled around the blanket engulfing her body, trembling- she chalks it up to the temperature. Marcy is staring at her, calmly, trapping her finger against her chin as she leans uncomfortably forward, elbow propped against the kneecap. 

 

“I just thought- Ugh! This is so frustrating! I wanna be in control of my emotions- don’t feel so guilty all the time! I just…” Anne slumps, the fire dimming. “I don’t wanna make the others feel bad, you know? I don’t want them to feel some type of way. It’s… it’s unfair.” 

 

Marcy blinks underneath her eyelashes, the angle of her head and expression morphing her face is indication of amusement- or perhaps slight astonishment. “That sounds completely and utterly ridiculous.” 

 

Anne turns her head sharply. “Excuse me?” 

 

“You have the right to be upset.” Marcy says, slightly bewildered, as if she was stating the absolute obvious. “You shouldn’t have to feel the need to repress your feelings just because it’ll make someone else feel bad. You come first and foremost, and you shouldn’t feel guilty over the actions of someone else.” 

 

She pauses for a moment, mulling over her words. “I know you want things to be okay. You don’t wanna fight with your friends, I know you don’t.”

 

“Yeah…” Anne admits. Is there anything to admit? She doesn’t want to be upset anymore, she just wants the honest truth. “I wish I could just ignore it. I wish I didn't care so much…” 

 

“You’re not caring too much, you’re reacting accordingly.”  Marcy says, heavy exasperation present but nonetheless firm in voice. “We’ve all made a lot of mistakes, trust me, my biggest one was disregarding everyone’s feelings for my own selfish gain. But we’re still young- we can still learn and grow from our mistakes and move forward. It’s the only thing we can do.” 

 

“You have no reason to trust me, but if it means anything, just know that I’m here for you.” 

 

A soft breeze sways against her hair, brushing it towards the western direction. The splashing of the river beneath them blends smoothly into the sound of chirping crickets. 

 

Anne needed a moment to process this. This was an unfamiliar, vulnerable side of Marcy she hadn't seen before, and she suppose she isn’t supposed to bear witness to this suddenly shifted disposition. She floundered inside, grasping for words, for anything that could disperse the sudden astonishment surging within her. She might have to reevaluate her perception of this Marcy; the personality she witnessed during the explanation was distant, impassive with an intimidating enough presence to make Sasha obey to her command. Her mind flashes to the trip coming home afterwards, of how she swaggered through the hallways of Toad Tower with confidence, how the entirety of the dining hall silenced and saluted her presence as she walked past, treated with respect and admiration yet Marcy returned the gesture with impassiveness. It radiates an empty, inscrutable energy that is completely different from the Marcy she knows and loves.

 

But she loves Marcy. Impossibly and unmitigatedly. The sincerity from the girl, it’s indisputable. She genuinely cares. 

 

“I don’t hate you…” Anne frowns, shoulders sagged and body leaned forward. Her throat bobs upwards and settles back down. Her eyes sting. “I tried. I tried so hard to hate you. You knowingly trapped me here and planned to never let me or Sasha leave. I was so angry. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe you could lie to me like this. I thought- I thought you were different, that I could trust you.” 

 

She tilted her head towards Marcy, glistening, soulful eyes boring into Marcy’s own chocolate one. “But when you told me about why you actually did it, it finally clicked with me… I could never hate you. I could never hold an ounce of hatred towards you.” 

 

Perhaps it was her overly emotional brain playing tricks on her, but Anne swears to god she sees Marcy’s eye glisten before she blinks, the slight sheen vanishing and replaced by thoughtful passiveness. “Is this something you should be telling me, or her?” She says, voice steady and questioning.  “She needs to hear those words from your mouth more than anything.”

 

“I guess you’re right.” She admits, speaking more clearly, more firmly. She’s confident in her answer now. “I’ll tell her. Today. But as for you…”

 

Anne's expression hardened, eyebrows furrowed, a finger jabbed in Marcy’s direction. “You need to stop avoiding her yourself.”

 

“I am not.” Marcy says instantly. 

 

“Yes you are! You haven’t spoken to her since Toad Tower. Tell me,” Anne raised her head, locking their gazes mercilessly, unyielding. It’s reminiscent of her own condescending expression. But those eyes of hers- Those eyes could swallow the stars whole. “What’s worrying you about this?” 

 

Marcy stares, incredulously. 

 

Was she losing her touch so much that Anne of all people could easily suspect her of isolation? Or was this Anne playing her at her own game? Marcy felt the realization seep deep within her bones, thumping through the marrow. “Have I finally met my match?” 

 

“Nothing that you should worry about.” Marcy supplied after a moment, smiling, amicable but controlled. She pushes herself off the ground, standing at her full height above Anne. Gods, she’s tall. “Now, if you excuse me, I have to start packing some supplies. I’ll tell the others you went for a walk.” She says, walking off towards the direction she came, footsteps quiet and controlled. “Be home soon, though. Your breakfast will get cold.” 

 

“Hey, Marcy?” Anne eventually calls out, not bothering to look back at Marcy. 

 

Marcy stops, staring straightforward. “Yes?”

 

A beat of silence passes. “Thank you.”

 

Another moment of silence. “You’re welcome.”

 

And with that, Marcy disappears back into the forest. 

 

The ripened sun rising high into the sky, peeking its velvet glow over the skyline. Amber liquid, intangible as gold, bathing everything in golden hue, speckling through the elephant grass, her shadow danced with cooling wind. 

 

Anne stared at the arising sun. It no longer refused her. She could see everything underneath the light without squinting in discomfort. The ache of betrayal burned less, but something nagged in the crevices of her mind, an unscratchable itch, a longing for the unspoken truth. The world is still confusing, but now she understands just a little bit more.

 

She reaches for the awaiting sun. Longing. 

 

Chapter Text

“In all my years of living on this farm, I have never seen someone so thoroughly hated by snails.” Hop Pop says, tone spliced between solemnity and disbelief, watching the scene before him unfold.

 

Sprig and Polly held back an amused snicker. Standing a distance away, near the snail stables, stands an older Marcy- Marsh , as they decided to call her, to avoid confusion-, determined, reins wrapped around her torso, arms gripping them forcefully, as Bessie dragged her across the field, kicking up dust in an hasty attempt to get away from Marsh’s general vicinity. With a swift turn, Marsh falls onto the ground with a yelp, desperately grasping onto the reins before being dragged along with them. They anticipated it. Sprig and Polly start laughing. 

 

“That’s the fourth time this morning,” Older Anne- Annie- says, looping a finger around her belt. The snail currently dragging its handler is shaking its head, eye stalks vibrating in annoyance and apprehension. “I thought these snails were bred to be calm under extreme pressure?”

 

Besides her, Older Sasha- now dubbed Sashy , by the younger kids- scoffs, absentmindedly picking at a developing hangnail on her index finger. “I don’t know what “extreme pressure” you’re causing by simply standing there but it’s off-putting.” 

 

“I don’t know why she’s acting like this, I swear she hasn’t behaved like this before!” Hop Pop fretted, hobbling towards the gate to calm the panic-stricken snail. 

 

“It’s cool, HP.” Annie reassures, placing a hand on the shoulder of her surrogate frog grandfather, stopping him. “Bessie just doesn’t wanna deal with Marsh’s grumpiness today.” 

 

And it’s true. The energy Marsh has been giving off all morning is suspiciously grumpy. It’s practically radiating off her being. Mircoangleo isn’t faring any better, mulishly squirming around and refusing to step ten inches further towards Marsh. 

 

“Animals don’t like me anymore.” Marsh states, matter-of-fact. She removes the reins tied around her waist and dusts off her clothes, picking off strips of muddy hay that clung to the fabric. “If I’m not eating them, they’ll run away or attack me out of panic. Maybe I should just walk to the Intermittent zone.” 

 

“Not sure if you’re joking or not, but I’d rather not have you mauled to death by the many creatures of this godforsaken world.” Sashy huffed, amused. 

 

“Maybe if you’re inside the carriage, then it’ll get them to calm down?” The younger Anne supplies, leaning against the fence surrounding the stables. 

 

Annie snaps her fingers, smiling down at her younger counterpart. “That could work! Bessie and Angelo won’t even see you!”

 

“Marsh, stay inside the carriage and never come out. Ever.”  Polly says, using Sprig’s jacket as leverage to pull herself upwards onto the fence, balancing on it with her slimy feet. 

 

“I can walk.” The struggling Marsh insisted. “I could even outrun the carriages if I felt like it.” She says, and they can't really tell if she’s joking or not, from her facial expression. “My mere presence might spook them. It’d be an inconvenience, especially since we have such valuable luggage on board. And it’s too late to reassign a different snail, just imagine that amount of paperwork that’s involved-“

 

“There’s mud in your… everywhere ,” Her younger counterpart interrupts, speaking for what seems to be the first time in nearly a week. The sudden voice garners the attention of everyone, who stares at her in surprise. The younger girl merely smiles. “I guess we’ve seen better days, yeah?” 

 

She’s definitely joking, but there’s a hint of underlying emotion underneath her tone.

 

There’s silence, then Annie snorts. The snort subsequently makes Sashy laugh, and now there’s a cycle of laughter happening. 

 

Marsh feigns betrayal, dramatically placing a hand on her collarbone in exaggerated offense. “I’ve been betrayed by my own person! I’ll never trust again!” The gesture is the most emotive she’s been since they’ve been transported here, and it’s refreshing to see her express something other than her usual blithe. 

 

Okay. So something is definitely up with her. Younger Marcy is going to get to the bottom of this. 

 

Bessie trails forward, towards the dirtied raven-haired girl, and huffs. Marsh instinctively takes a step backwards. Bessie scoots forward. The raven-haired noticeably flinched away at the snail currently sniffling curiously near her face-

 

“Ah! What the heck?” Polly and Sprig simultaneously burst into laughter when Bessie’s teeth clamped around the hood of Marsh’s hoodie, chewing as if she was munching on haystacks. “No! Hey, stop this! You guys! Get- get this thing off of me!” 

 

Sashy crackles, wiping a single tear from her uncovered eye. “That’s what you get for wearing that damn thing everyday! It smells like old shit!” She barks. 

 

She struggles, desperately trying to free herself from the snail’s mercilessly grasp before she’s tugged backwards, following the snails movement to avoid getting suffocated by the excessive pulling, teeth clamping around more of the fabric and slowly pulling towards her hair. Without hesitation, she manages to tuck her arms inside of the garment and yank herself free before being completely scalped. Unfortunately, her signature hoodie has seemingly been claimed by the hungry snail, who continues chewing casually. 

She’s left in a simple tunic, typically of someone living in the countryside. It’s the only article of clothing she bores that isn’t covered with mud. 

 

Marsh’s expression is uncharacteristically despondent, eyes fixated on the dirtied garment caught between clamping molars. Her expression morphs back into blithe, slowly turning towards the people gathered around the stable. She stares, balefully, with quiet dour. 

 

“Anyone who laughs in the next immediate moment, don’t go to sleep.” Marsh glowered, sauntering towards the stable gate, hands tucked inside her sweatpants’ pockets. She blinked underneath her eyelashes, wry. “They won’t know what got to you.” 

 

She strides away from the stables, leaving her completely bewildered and slightly fearful friends in her wake. A breeze brushes against their faces. Silence washes over the group. 

 

“She’s terrifying.” Sashy says. The others are inclined to agree. 







It’s a tumultuous time ahead. It’s been abnormally eventful since they departed from the Plantar Family Farm. 

 

A cross intersecting road and a vacant parking lot. She could abide by the sudden change in atmosphere and environment, but these reforms and developments were strategically implemented like a natural progression with its steady pace. The awareness of everything had been greatly disturbed; as if everyone was attempting to dredge a semblance of control amongst seemingly thousands of people.

 

It only took a single intersecting road whilst traveling to Newtopia. A single winding pathway that somewhat opened the floodgates for dozens of large carriages and cargo holders- more advanced than what amphibia is known for- to start following a steady flow. Parties split in single-file holders on the road, the line of carriages stretching nearly two miles long. But concerningly enough, the oldest counterpart’s barely reacted to this happening. 

 

This was a planned event. They all must be going to the same location- Newtopia.

 

Anne found herself quite fascinated by this chain of events, peering outside the window and listening to carriage drivers shout incomprehensible commands whilst they drive, signaling with wild hand gestures and pointing towards something far up ahead from their position. 

 

Sasha was laying on the couch embedded onto the wall,  fast asleep, fingers threaded and folded underneath her head as she snores quietly, seemingly undisturbed by the cacophony of noises filtering in from outside. Marcy sat a distance away from both of them, restlessly fiddling with the marshmallow keychain dangling from her belt. She’s been reserved since her true intentions had been revealed, but she’s slowly managing to spark up conversations between herself and the older counterparts, but strays away from actually speaking to Sasha and Anne. 

 

The implications of them visiting Newtopia is promising; the future counterparts had not mentioned the calamity box nor spoke about the possibility of them returning home, despite their insistence on solving the situation. It was somewhat concerning. Perhaps they had different intentions not aligning with their own? They seem particularly dead-set on traveling to Newtopia for the “induction ceremony” as Marsh mentioned. 

 

Though, despite the ambiguous nature of everything, this could possibly be a smidge of hope, the possibility of them going home becoming surely brighter. 

 

Surely, yes? 

 

The sizable carriage dipped suddenly, shaking the windowpane, sending their hearts dropping into their stomachs. Anne’s teeth clattered from the unexpected stop, internally calming down her erratic heartbeat. It wasn’t long before the carriage door slammed open, making Marcy yelp in surprise. Sashy stood in the doorway, frantic. 

 

The sudden jerk and subsequent slam had awoken Sasha, who groaned and propped herself upright with her elbows. “Why’d we stop?”

 

“Traffic jam. Some idiot sped past the stop sign and caused a collision with one of our cargo holders.” Sashy tsk’d in displeasure, more stressed than what is required. “Fuckin idiot. Just- stay here. We’ll be back soon. We just gotta- check this out and,” 

 

She sucks in through her teeth, pointing towards Anne. “Anne, you’re the… most responsible, I guess. Watch over them. Don’t touch anything. Don’t leave the room. Okay, bye!” With that, she turns and slams the door behind her. 

 

Sasha groaned to the ceiling, standing from her seat on the carriage couch and walking off towards the carriage intersection doors. “Well that’s boring. We can’t even look around!” 

 

“Where’re you going?” Anne asked, raising an eyebrow in suspicion. 

 

Sasha yawned, not bothering to face the girl. “I gotta piss.”  

 

“But she said-“

 

“She said what? That I can’t use the bathroom?” Sasha grumbled mulishly, rolling her eyes. Her hand landed upon the doorknob and twisted, swinging the door open. “It’ll only be gone for a few minutes.” 

 

Anne nor Marcy objected to her claims, and she allowed herself to shut the door behind her close. She wasn’t deceiving them; she was actually looking for the restroom. Not to relieve herself; but moreso to escape the uncomfortable atmosphere blanketing over the room. 

 

As she searches-  coming across several rooms with their doors shut and locked, and Sasha is left wondering just how large the carriage actually is- she sees a stream of light filtering from underneath one of the doors; shining honeydew. Staining the carpet. Like a moth to a lantern, Sasha approaches the door. 

 

“I wonder what’s in here…” She murmurs, hand landing on the doorknob in anticipation. Admittedly, she understands the consequences of entering these rooms- she’s technically not even supposed to be outside of the main room- but she cannot help the curiosity gnawing at her insides. 

 

“It’ll only be a few minutes.” She reasons with herself. “I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.” 

 

With a quick look at her surroundings, she carefully twists the doorknob, quietly so as to not alert anyone to her whereabouts, and steps inside. 

 

Inside, she finds a medium sized planning table placed in the center of the room alongside several easychairs. The room is noticeably decorated, bearing several maps with crudely drawn waypoints circled around various locations. Accompanying the table are several small cabinets placed alongside the headboard of the room. Mountains of miscellaneous paperwork and folders are scattered around the cabinet tops, and the white light streaming from underneath the door belongs to a battery-powered lamp tucked in the corner. 

 

“What the hell is going on in here…?” Sasha says, unconsciously stating her thoughts aloud. She takes another step inside, fully taking in her surroundings. The locations on the map become clearer now, and it shows the particularly wealthy districts of Amphibia. Some of the names are familiar, such as Yarckel District , but Sasha cannot pinpoint where exactly she’s heard that name before. 

 

“Sasha! What’re you doing in here?!” Anne’s voice rings behind her, hushed and enraged. Marcy stands behind her, feeble, though a questioning expression written in her features. 

 

“Okay, I was actually going to the bathroom and I came across this -“ Flicking her wrist, she gestures towards her surroundings. “This shit- it’s like some sort of operations room. Look at the walls- it’s covered in these weird maps and random locations and shit. It’s like some horror show.”

 

“We shouldn’t be in here! Sashy said to stay in the main room and not touch anything! We’ll get in trouble.” Anne says, clearly exasperated. 

 

Sasha raises an eyebrow, the glint in her eyes reflected like a polished knife. “Anne, you cannot be serious.”

 

“Sasha…” Anne sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and finger. Anne doesn’t want to admit it, but she’s a terrible actor. The curiosity was present and noticeable since the moment she stepped into the room. “She seemed pretty serious about us staying there.”

 

“Oh come on, Anne. I know you’re curious about all this junk. Look at Marcy, she’s practically feening.” Sasha gestures towards the girl behind Anne who is currently bouncing on one foot to the other. Let’s just take a peek around- just for a few minutes.”   

 

Anne looks conflicted, lips pursed and eyebrows furrowed. An elongated moment of silence passes between them, before, “… Look, if we get caught, we’re…”

 

“We’re not gonna get caught.” Sasha insisted.  “We’ll be in and out before anyone notices.” 

 

“Let’s at least close the door behind us.” 

 

Stacked upon a shelf, several bottles containing colorful liquids stored in earthen-jars and vials, neatly placed beside containers of strange smelling powders and translucent gels. The room, obviously, had been recently accessed, as the layer of dust collecting on the shelf and covering the bottles had been disturbed. Interesting. 

 

“What’s in all these bottles?” Marcy asked no one in particular. She grabbed one of the colorful concoctions and removed the cork, bringing it to her nose. “Ugh, this stuff smells awful!” 

 

“Hey, don’t smell that! We don’t know what it is!” Anne scolds, gently prying away the bottle from Marcy’s hand, placing it back onto the shelf. “It could be dangerous!” 

 

“Stop worrying so much, Anne! Everything’s under control.” Sasha called out from behind them, reading through a stack of papers on the table. 

 

“Woah, is that a carduus acanthoides?” She walked towards the prickly plant, insistent on analyzing and studying the exotic fauna, when her foot clips the corner of something sticking beneath the cabinet. She stumbles, nearly falling flat onto her face, when something grabs onto the hoodie of her cloak. 

 

“Marcy!” Anne says, abandoning all annoyance in favor of concern. Using her leverage, she pulls the fallen girl upright and back onto her feet. “You gotta be careful, you could’ve hurt yourself!” 

 

Marcy blinked, expression morphed into surprise, lips pursed and eyebrows quirked. “I- I know.” She murmurs. Her face is suddenly burning. “Thank you.” 

she glances towards the object that tripped her, finding a unlocked briefcase on the ground underneath the table. Curious, she crouches down and opens the case, finding nothing but newspapers.  

“What’s all this?” Marcy asks herself, Anne and Sasha standing behind her, watching silently. 


She picks up the newspaper and scans it, flipping it over and glancing over the subject depicted. A vague and clouded silhouette that towered above the matured-spruce trees littered around the forest, ghostly and unyielding, disproportionate and with no distinguishing features besides its ferociously large set of jaws and blinding white eyes shining behind the heavy smog that obscured its surroundings and body. 

 

There’s a few paragraphs worth of printed text beneath the photograph, and Marcy takes the opportunity to read the text aloud. 

 

“The creature that reportedly rampaged throughout the northern Yarckel district of Amphibia has been captured standing at a far, safe distance from Buckeye City. Citizens who have managed to capture a picture of the giant reported that it stood silently for an “unprecedented amount of time” before retreating back into the forest in which it supposedly came. Citizens theorized that the creature was possibly scouting for another attack, as some reported that it showed signs of intelligence as they “actively avoided the hunters that came into contact with it.”” 

 

“I heard about this thing.” Sasha speaks up, uncharacteristically quiet. “Me and Marsh went in the Subterranean to beat up some assholes- don’t ask- and some priest was screaming about how it’s targeting military operations. She seemed upset when they mentioned it.” 

 

Huh. 

 

As much as it would be unfair to make unseemly assumptions about Marsh’s attitude towards such disastrous events, the fact that there hasn’t been any explicit conversation regarding the apparently destructive monster rampaging throughout amphibia is concerning. For all they know, Marsh might simply not realize the severity of the situation. 

 

Amidst her viewing, her eyes catch a pile of open envelopes tucked away in the corner of the cabinet-top, the topmost being a vibrant, seafoam green parcel covered in handwritten, precisely inked ancient amphibian text. Her knowledge of the language could still be smoothed out, but she can decipher the name written on the front. 

 

Curiosity gnaws at her stomach and mind. The envelope is just barely closed, obviously awaiting a stamp and shipment address. It’s a gross disregard of privacy, but the letter doesn’t seem too official or of extreme importance- and they’re already snooping through the room… 

 

Marcy grabs the envelope between her fingers and opens the flap, pulling out the thin parchment tucked snuggled between its paper blankets. The paper crinkles noisily in her clumsy hands, and she scans the content of the letter. 

 

“Whatcha got there, Marcy?” Anne asks quietly, hesitant but obviously intrigued about the letter. Sasha stands not too far behind them, interested.  

 

Marcy informs them of another letter, before clearing her throat to speak. “It is my distinct pleasure to offer you the services of The Royal Head of Security and Escort- manufacturers of superior weaponry for military usage. Anticipating the enclosed bids will meet with your approval- and looking forward to a long and mutually prosperous association. I extend to you my sincerest gratitude,”

 

“In best regards, War Chief Marcy Wu.” 

 

Oh. 

 

“War Chief? Marsh is a War Chief? They never mentioned that.” Anne says, eyebrows just slightly furrowed, clearly pondering the implications. 

 

“They never mentioned they were associated with the Royal Heads of Security, either.” Marcy adds, scrutinizing the leader repeatedly. “Also ‘manufacturers of superior weaponry?’ The Royal Heads of Security are not responsible for armed weapons dealing, only the King himself is.” 

 

“But why would they need weapons in the first place?” Anne inquires, not expecting an answer. 

 

“They didn’t want us to find out, but it’s right before our eyes.” Marcy says, becoming increasingly disturbed by the implications of the letter and their surroundings. Her grip on the paper creases and crumples the edges. The intermixed species crossing in Toad Tower, the boxes packed with boomshrooms, all these government officials outside- its. why our older selves aren’t talking to us about anything- we’re literally in a war!” 

 

“We’re at war,” Sasha repeats, letting the information sink in.  “But why ? What happened in three short years that caused a full-scale war? I get it, Andrias hurt you. Badly. But would it be enough to cause something like-“ 

 

Before Sasha can finish her sentence, a hand clamped over her mouth, forcefully. She’s about to formulate a response- and possibly garner enough saliva to lick at the palm in retaliation- when she hears talking filtering from outside the carriage. The room goes deathly silent. Mindfully and quietly, Anne steps forward and peers outside the cracked window. 

 

“I’m sorry, madam. Every other time we’ve shipped the artillery, there hasn't been a routing mistake.” A middle-aged cane frog explained, his expression indicating nothing less than complete anxiety. “But apparently we had shifted the dates incorrectly and scheduled the arrival for another day. They told me we had a new agreement with you-“

 

“We?” Marsh asks, scrutinizing his reaction. 

 

The frog nodded, hesitantly. “My associates who manage the carriages-“ he paused, considering his words. “That’s all we know about it. We wanted to know if it was okay with you if we waited another day or so?”

 

“Another day,” Marsh says, smoothly. It comes out as more of a statement than a question. “How much artillery were there?”

 

“Over two thousand pounds worth.”

 

She nodded. “And the arrival date has been changed without my consent?” 

 

The cane frog nods, slicked back bouncing with the gesture. The two are staring one another down; one with malice, and the other with fearfulness. 

 

After a brief silence, she speaks. “If you or any one of your associates are acting as an undercover agent, I’ll personally kill you myself.” Marsh quips lightly, contrasting with the heavy implications of her words. 

 

The frog stands gaping, unsure of whether the comment or the mannerisms is what shocked him more. “I-It was a mistake!”

 

Marsh stayed composed, expression neutral. “Was it a mistake? We’ve had this scheduled for weeks, we’ve messaged and arranged for this delivery everyday. How would you know if it was a mistake?”

 

The toad grows quiet before scowling, displeased and incredibly frightened all at once. “… Okay. It wasn’t a mistake. I understand now, but please , it was one time-“

 

“We had an agreement, you lied to me. I’ll personally send a messenger bat and arrange for your execution.” Marsh responds, picking invisible lint off her jacket, unbothered and unrelenting. 

 

“War Chief-“

 

“I could argue with you or I could go eat my lunch while it’s still hot. Which one would you prefer?” Marsh responds, half-heartedly shrugging. The frog doesn’t move from his position, still trembling and staring. 

 

She didn’t bother stretching down her neck to a painful angle, instead staring at the frog from underneath her eyelids. She stared with odd contemplation behind her dark glare, and she stammered not once. Beats passed, continued in oppressive silence. The stalking occupants of the carriage watched in anticipation. “Please leave. Leave now.” 

 

The frog doesn’t hesitate to bolt past her, running off in the opposite direction in which Marsh faced. Marsh turns to the direction he ran towards, longing, as if she had something more to say. As if she'd forgotten something important. Wistful. She turns and saunters off. 

 

“Something is very wrong. Why would they need over two thousand pounds worth of artillery?” Marcy asks, woefully concerned. 

 

Sasha gapes, stuttering, pointing towards the window. “Are we ignoring the part where she just effortlessly ordered that guy’s execution?! I knew this Marsh was different, but no, she’s downright homicidal! She’s hiding something. Something big. ” She tsk’d, appearing somewhat anxious. “Bet it’s we’re not even going to Newtopia for the gala.”

 

Anne raised an eyebrow, suspiciously eyeing the blonde. “What’re you on about? We’re going to Newtopia for an induction ceremony.”

 

Sasha raises her own eyebrow. “I was told we were going for a gala?” 

 

A beat passes, then. “… Annie told me we were going for an important meeting. Never specified what, though.” Marcy says, quiet, realization finally sinking in and twisting her stomach in distress. 

 

The older counterparts had told them different reasons for traveling to Newtopia. It couldn’t have been a miscommunication; how could it be, afterall? How couldn’t they have known the actual reason for visiting a city thousands of miles away from home? It was something simply impossible to do. 

 

They’ve been purposefully misdirected. 

 

They all jump in various degrees of startlement. In the entranceway stands Marsh. Not an inch budged. Her posture remained unchanged. Face betraying nothing. She stepped forward, closing the distance until the trio were completely encased in the dominating shadow of the older girl. 

 

“What are you three doing in here?” Her voice never wavered or wobbled, but it was firm, the sound reverberating through their bones and filling the room with a thick discomfort. 

 

“We-“ Anne stuttered, fumbling with an awkward, lopsided smile. “W-We were just curious, and the door was unlocked so we just wanted to look around. You know?” 

 

Marsh’s impassiveness doesn’t fade. The vividness in her eyes, however, shines effectively clearly, swallowing and suffocating all the while. Her eyes shift towards the parchment held in her younger counterpart’s trembling, enclosed grasp. She steps forward, and the younger kids, perhaps instinctively, step backwards. She paces towards Marcy, gingerly grabbing her wrist and plucking the parchment from her grasp. 

 

“Haven’t you learned to not,” She spoke, quietly, eye laced with anticipation and exhilarating anger. She stared underneath her eyelashes. “Touch others' property?” She asked, the question lingering in the tense, uncomfortable atmosphere. 

 

Marcy swallowed thickly. Marsh regarded it with dissatisfied contemplation. 

 

“You can leave, now.” Marsh said, nonchalant but point-blank serious.

 

The trio practically bolt from the room, stumbling over one another and back towards the main carriage room. Marsh listens until their footsteps faded into obscurity, then proceeds to gently shut the door closed, hand lingering on the doorknob for several seconds before she starts putting away her belongings again. More secure, and more importantly, locked away.

 

She’ll be sure to lock the door when she leaves. 









… 

 

Recruits scattered around the commodious space, their chatters jumbled into indistinguishable rambles, warmed from the congregating presence of life, surrounded by slop that vaguely resembled a meal. The food looks dubious. The warm soup is brownish, goopy, with the texture of wallpaper paste. The slices of bread given besides it were stale and crumbling, barely edible. She should seriously inform the cooking staff of their… food? Could you even call it that? 

 

She chose a table furthest away from the masses, near the furthest western corner of the lot. She was completely aware of the conversations and whispers surrounding her; superior officers are certainly respected amongst the rebellion, especially for recruits, so it was surprising if one actually sat in the same area as the lower ranks. 

 

“War Chief Wu!” A yellow newt calls out, sauntering towards her briskly, hands tucked in his trousers’ pockets and sunglasses propped carefully on his snout. “Ah, there you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” He eagerly shakes her hand, overly-gelled hair bouncing from the motion. 

 

“Hello, Franz. How’re you this evening?” Marsh says, amicable and leveled, giving a polite smile despite the annoyance permitting throughout her body. 

 

“Me? Oh, I’m fantastic! I’ve been making those new recruits carry all that cargo from the carriages to the cabins for “training purposes” Ha! The look on their faces!” He chortles, loudly and obnoxiously, contrasting noticeably with Marsh’s amicable and impassive expression. “Now that I’ve finally had time for myself, I’ve decided I should invest in those… unfinished bargains…” He trails off, allowing his sentence to remain unfinished. 

 

Marsh sighed, placing her hands flat against the table. “I have the harddrive. I required it from some thugs listing items on the blackmarket. I’m willing to sell, to appropriate and legitimate sources, that is.” 

 

Franz smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. He leaned against the table, hands tucked inside her trouser pocket. “What’s your price?”

 

She contemplated her decision, before finalizing the number. “Fifty thousand coppers.” 

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Marsh nodded. “Yes.”

 

“Thirty thousand.”

 

“No.” 

 

“Forty thousand.” 

 

“No.” 

 

“Forty five.”

 

“Fifty thousand or get out of my sight.”

 

Franz visibly relented, defeated. His hands rub against her temple and trail down his snout, wiping off the traces of sweat gathering along his face. “War Chief Wu, I must say, you drive a hard bargain!” He says, sagely. “I’ll have my contractors come and retrieve it shortly.” 

 

Marsh scrutinized his expression, eyes expecting. “How do I know that you’re not lying?”

 

“Have I ever lied before?” He gasps in mock offense. 

 

She shrugs half-heartedly. “I don’t know. I never bothered to pay any attention to your ramblings.” Marsh says, completely and utterly truthful. 

 

He barked out a laugh, chipper. “You! I like you! I will come and retrieve the harddrive personally if it makes you any more comfortable.” Jokingly, he adds. “And if someone follows me, feel free to kill them and me, yes?” 

 

Marsh smiled, genuine. “That’s what I like to hear.” 

 

The newt sauntered away, towards another table packed with recruits, seemingly to bother them with his endless enthusiasm and undying cheekiness. She sighs, shoulders sagging, eyebrows furrowed. She swirls her spoon in a circular motion inside her soup, thoughtful. She takes a spoonful of the lukewarm liquid and raises it to her lips- 

 

“Chief Wu?” A voice, accented, spoke behind her. She internally sighed, gripping her spoon a little tighter, displeased that her lunch had once again been disturbed. She turns towards the direction of the voice, finding a lanky purple newt walking towards her. 

 

“Lieutenant Gailigard. I wasn’t aware of your arrival.” Marsh said, not bothering to respectfully reach out a hand for a welcoming shake. She merely didn’t feel like it. 

 

Gailigard nodded, slowly. “I arrived shortly after the guards locked the entrance chambers for the night. I’ve checked with security; all of the entrances are being heavily guarded and the vicinity checked hourly.” 

 

“Are our recruits settling well?” She asks, scooping a spoonful of soup into her mouth. 

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is everything according to schedule? We’ll make it there within the selected time zone?”

 

“Yes, it appears so.”

 

“Is there a reason to believe that everything won’t go horribly wrong?”

 

“The ceremony could be postponed, that's one thing.” Gailigard shrugged, somewhat despondent. 

 

“I see.” Marsh stayed composed, mulling over his words. For a moment, she can feel the midday bore weighing onto her shoulders, straining her body. She probably looked as tired as she felt. “I long for the moment I can rest myself. I have been scheduling and planning for nearly two days.” 

 

“Will you be sleeping in the barracks?”

 

“Of course not. What am I, freshmeat? My life is crucial to everyone’s survival. I will not be living amongst these people. I’ll be sleeping in my own personal carriage outside, guarded by our security.” The answer was obvious as daylight, but Marsh kept the retort to herself. “I have no reason to believe you won’t be doing the same.” 

 

Gailigard looked conflicted, folding his arms in front of himself. He neither confirms or denies the allegation. “…I’m sure this standard of living comes from legitimate sources, yes?”

 

“Isn’t it considered rude to ask about someone’s paycheck, Gailigard?” 

 

The quiet matter-of-fact tone throws off the trio more than the comment itself. His eyes narrow slightly as they wonder, perhaps, just so Marsh’s ‘friends’ are. There’s a long silence. 

 

“I advise against you getting comfortable with your position. Sooner or later, the government prevails. No matter what your strategies are.” Gailigard warned, eyes darkened, frowning deeply. “Play your cards right, War Chief. This might be the last trick you pull.”

 

Marsh glares at the retreating salamander for several elongated moments, eventually shifting herself to be back facing her meal. She eats her soup thoughtfully, eyebrows furrowed. She cannot enjoy her meal with the tainted taste rolling around her tongue.










“I don’t understand what the problem is, especially after we’ve planned extensively for months.” Marsh said, leaning against the carriage table with her palms flat against the surface, dismayed. 

 

Sashy stamped another document with an official rebellion stamp, sliding it across the retractable desk and onto a mountain of paperwork. The movement was precise and memorized, outputted like a machine. Really, she’d prefer to get these documents finished in peace, but she supposed she was Marsh’s circumstantial scapegoat at the moment.

 

“Other people might have different priorities now.” She reasoned, stamping another document and placing it onto the pile. She refilled her stamp using the inkpad before stamping another document. 

 

Marsh tilted her head, frowning. “There’s a calendar hanging in my room; I wrote down and marked every meeting and scheduled visit from March to September. They would’ve said something if the available dates weren’t satisfactory.” Her tone grows increasingly bitter, increasingly upset. She turns away from Sashy, rubbing her chin, bouncing her foot. “I wonder if they’re all undercover operatives… that wouldn’t be too good for them.”

 

Sashy simply hums, examining another document. “Not good at all.”

 

The bouncing stops. She sizes her movement and slowly turns towards Sashy. 

 

“You don’t think I know what you’re doing? You’re acting so unbothered. But I know what you’re doing.” She points a finger towards her direction, unnervingly quiet. “I know.” 

 

Marsh’s gaze is terrifying and magnificent to behold, skeptical and scrutinizingly hard, eye flashing as if it could swallow the universe whole. The way he held herself casts the illusion of their height difference greater, intimidating. Sashy doesn’t buckle, she simply shifts her head towards Marsh’s direction. 

 

Sashy frowns.“Is this because of the artillery setback?”

 

“No, it’s not because of the artillery. That’s not the issue.” Marsh’s voice raises considerably, pacing towards her. 

 

“Then what’s the issue-“

 

It’s dangerous to us!” She finally shouts, directly staring down at Sashy. Sashy isn’t impressed. “It’s dangerous to have so many setbacks. It’s unexpected- it’s- we need a clear outcome. We’re under a lot of stress right now. Everything is falling apart, we don’t have much time left. If all fails, everything I’ve ever worked for will be ruined. Then where will I be?” 

 

She turns away, despondent, almost depressed. She sighs, defeated, leaning forward and onto the table in which she previously was. She murmurs to herself, and Sashy almost had to strain herself to hear. “Then where will I be?” 

 

Sashy frowned, the uneasy glance averting herself from the sulking girl to the documents before her. It’s simple to forget the instances of Marsh’s humanity; it’s so buried beneath a begrudgingly standoffish mask that it's nearly impossible to see slip. It reminds her that Marsh is still a person, just a kid like Sashy herself. 

 

“They don’t deserve your loyalty, Marsh. Most importantly, they’re not worth making threats against.” She sighed, rubbing the inner corners of her eyes with her fingers. 

 

Marsh doesn’t respond. She doesn’t even look towards her. She stays turned away from her, unmoving and unresponsive. 

 

And suddenly Sashy feels uncomfortable. The air is stale and humid. Her skin crawls. 

 

“I’m going to take a break. I’ve been cooped up in here for nearly three hours.” Sashy says, swiftly standing from her seat and mindfully avoiding spilling the papers littered around the area. She swings open the door, a blast of heat smacking her in the face. “I’ll be back soon.” 

 

And with that, she leaves the brooding girl in the darkness, completely alone. 





… 



She should’ve simply bared through Marsh’s angered and somewhat disturbed ramblings inside the carriage, because the air outside is scorching hot.

 

She trudged through the murmuring camaraderie surrounding her, the air stifling and smelling of stale bodies and dusty materials. She wipes some sweat gathered along her forehead, the skin returning with a slick sheen. Sashy sighs, pulling her tunic away from her chest and tugging in a downwards motion, circulating air along her chest with the motion, momentarily alleviating the overwhelming heat cascading across her body. 

 

She’s definitely going to get a sunburn if she doesn’t get underneath shade soon.

 

Resuming her search, her eye eventually guides her to, well - herself - sitting underneath a massive, matured maple tree tucked away in the furthest corner of the fields. Her shaded base is a few meters away from the actual crowd, but it certainly appears to be an enjoyable distance away from the less than pleasant aroma of sweat and dust. 

 

She smiles to herself, taking long strides towards her younger counterpart, nearly falling into a sprint in an attempt to get out of the sun as quickly as possible. She would prefer being back inside her personal air conditioned carriage, but the uncomfortable atmosphere was nigh unbearable. Annie would say she was overreacting, but she’s also probably  seeking the relaxing comfort of shade at this moment. 

 

Approaching her counterpart, she watches as her face morphs from quiet contemplation to slight surprise, eyebrows perked up in confusion. They stare at one another, Sashy absentmindedly wondering if she looks completely ridiculous with her sweat soaked shirt and sweat dripping down her forehead. 

 

She really cannot handle heat in the slightest. Heat themed Calamity powers be damned. 

 

“Hey.” Sashy greets.  

 

“Hey.” Her younger counterpart greets, opening her eyes and turning her head in her direction. “This is surprising.”

 

“It is?” Sashy asks, stepping underneath the fully-matured maple tree and into the shade. She internally sighs in relief, relishing in the sensation of cool and humid air, untarnished by the high temperature. 

 

“Yeah.” Sasha says, pointedly. “I thought you’d want someone else’s company.” 

 

Sashy frowns. Truthfully, she hasn't held a conversation with her younger counterpart in quite some time. She wants to have a comprehensive relationship with her, but it’s increasingly difficult when speaking to her reminds the older girl of all her past mistakes. 

 

The walking personification of her flaws. 

 

She tells her younger self as such. “I feel bad, for not speaking to you much at all,” Sashy admits, sitting beside the young girl. “If I’m being honest, I’ve been a little… overwhelmed lately.” 

 

The comment elicits an amused sigh from younger Sasha. “I can tell, from the way you constantly look seconds away from exploding.” She recalls her frazzled look from earlier today, when she entered the carriage to inform them about the traffic jam. “It’s okay, though. I’ve been hanging around with Anne and Marcy, exploring the area and stuff.”

 

Curious, Sashy asks. “You have all forgiven each other?”

 

“I don’t know,” Sasha says, leaning backwards, palms flat against the ground. “We’ve been talking and stuff; we don’t have anything else to do. But I don’t know if that qualifies for forgiveness. Anne still seems angry at me and Marcy isn’t saying much at all.”

 

“It’s to be expected.” The older girl says, threading her fingers through her short, blonde hair. “We messed up. Big time.”

 

“I guess we did.” 

 

The younger counterpart turns her head away from her older self, bringing her knees to her chest and resting her forehead against them. Sashy internally wonders if she might’ve spoken incorrectly, or said something that might have angered her. She threads her fingers together, folding them in her lap. Why is this so awkward? 

 

“Have you… tried talking to them?” Sashy says after a brief lull in the conversation. 

 

“There’s nothing to say. I feel bad for treating them like this. I just- I wanted them to succeed, you know? I thought if I could be in control, then-“

 

“They wouldn’t leave you. Yeah, I understand. We’re both afraid of our friends abandoning us,” Sashy returns to a proper sitting position, crossing her legs.“I guess you could say we’re insecure.” 

 

“I am not insecure.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

Really.” 

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Mmhmm.”

 

“You’re worried about your friends leaving you if you aren’t controlling them, yet you’re actively pushing them away by being controlling.” Sashy frowns, tilting her head towards her counterpart, whose hardened expression is inches away from crumbling. “You want your friends to be happy, but who exactly is making them unhappy?” 

 

Sasha stares for an elongated moment, examining her reaction. The placidity of her facial expression belies the intensity of the conversation, and Sasha feels remarkably vulnerable underneath her gaze. It’s genuine, it’s understanding and empathic, yet blaming; it’s the look of someone who made mistakes, terrible mistakes, and they’ve endured the consequences of them. 

 

Painful and unending agony caused by her. She’s done this. She’s hurt her friends, and now they’ll leave her because of her selfishness. 

 

Sasha doesn’t know when she starts crying, but the tears run burning down her cheeks and underneath her jaw. 

 

Sasha sniffles involuntarily, and gentle hands place themselves on her shoulders and wrap her in a hug. Sasha stiffens in the embrace, momentarily refusing her comfort, before sinking into the warmth and undoubtedly sticky embrace, tears staining her older counterpart’s shirt. 

 

She hiccups, tears blurring her vision considerably. “I-I don’t wanna make them sad. I thought that everything I was doing was right, and if I didn’t control them, I’d be letting them down.” Sasha stammers, voice wavering, tears trickling down her cheeks. “But I guess I’ve let them down regardless…”

 

A pang strikes Sasha’s sternum.  “What about yourself?”

 

Sasha blinks, breaking the embrace, wiping away the remaining tears. “What?”

 

Sashy’s brow softens and her chest excludes a heavy sigh. “You’re talking about letting them down, but are you letting yourself down?” 

 

“Of course I am. I’ve ruined our friendship, and now they're going to leave me. What good will I be if they leave? Don’t ask stupid questions.”

 

“Maybe your need to be in control stems from you not being able to control your feelings.”  

 

“My feelings don’t matter.” 

 

Sashy frowns deeply. “My point is, controlling them helps build your own sense of importance. But let me tell you this,” She turns towards her counterpart, gingerly taking her hands and intertwining them, rubbing a thumb along her knuckles. “You’re worthy of love without conditions. You being able to identify what’s making you feel this way is already so important! I know you don’t see it now- sometimes I have trouble seeing it- but that’s what we’re working through.”

 

“But what do I do? What can I do so they won’t leave me?”

 

Talk to them! Just explaining how you feel will help them understand your perspective. I know it feels awkward and vulnerable, but that’s okay! It’s okay to be vulnerable.” Sashy stressed, desperately trying to get her point across. She had the hardest time realizing this when she was younger; she will not let her younger counterpart go through it. “I’m sure they’ll understand. They love you, and they want what’s best for you. Don’t forget that.” 

 

It’s silent for a moment. Then, Sasha laughs, the sound wavering and watery. “How’d I become so sappy? Was it Anne? I bet it was Anne.”

 

“She definitely has a way with words, I’ll say.” Sashy remarks, and if it weren’t for the shade, the blush on her face would’ve been noticeable. She takes a moment to scan the clusters of people surrounding the carriages and unloading supplies, searching for the bushy haired girl. “Have you seen her? I see her anywhere down there”

 

“She was near the training fields, last I saw her.” Sasha supplies. After a brief moment of gazing over the clusters surrounding the recreational center, she points towards the eastern direction of the crowd. “See? She’s over there, near the orange carriage.” 

 

“Where?” Sashy squinted, looking towards the same direction, at the same carriage. 

 

“She’s right there,” She states, directing her line of sight onto Anne. It would be extremely difficult to not notice her, as she’s significantly taller than the amphibians and noticeably human. “How could you have missed her?” 

 

Sashy smiles, sheepishly scratching the hairs on the back of her neck. “Ah, I don’t have the best vision.”

 

“I could tell.” Her younger self says, jabbing a thumb towards the black eyepatch covering her left eye. “What’s wrong with it?”

 

Sashy smiles. She doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the subject. “I’m partially blind in one eye. It’s really sensitive to light, so I wear this eyepatch so it doesn’t hurt.”

 

“If I’m being honest, I would’ve thought you’d be completely blind in that eye. No offense, but the scar is pretty big.”

 

Sashy nods, smiling. Her scar isn’t something she’s self-conscious about; it’s nothing to be insecure about. And honestly? It makes her look cool. “Most people assume from the scar that my right eye is also damaged, but because of the light, the discoloration could just be seen as a reflection. It’s not very noticeable, afterall.”

 

Sasha blinks. “…Can I see?” 

 

Surprised by the request but not averse to it, Sashy hums in approval and removes the eyepatch. She’s right about the discoloration; it isn’t noticeable during daylight, but Sasha can definitely see how her dark irises and pupils are cloudy by a white sheen. 

 

Without really thinking, Sasha brings her hand to the scar, trailing her fingertips along the length of the darkened tissue. The situation is strangely intimate, but it also feels strangely reassuring as she watches Sashy’s eyes shift with the movement. 

 

Quietly, as if she was embarrassed, Sasha whispers. “Will I be like you one day?” 

 

Sashy is certain she isn’t referring to the scar itself, but whether something else. Perhaps someone admirable and important. Perhaps someone honorable and genuine. Someone that deserves her friends.

 

With a lump forming in her throat, and with the firmest voice she could possibly muster, and says, “I know you will.” 

 

Chapter Text

They had been traveling for almost three days, and they finally reached the outer borders of Newtopia. The dozens of carriages that followed alongside them unceremoniously changed the direction of their route, instead grooving partway into the wilderness that surrounded the Newtopian castle ground; hundreds of meters away from the actual gates themselves. The darkened sky helped disguise the distinctively dark-colored carriages from suspecting eyes, camouflaging the vehicles from the main road paths. Insects chirped and housed themselves onto the carriages, further creating a sense of security amongst the people. 

 

However, for reasons Anne cannot fully understand, the carriage she was currently riding in continued down the weather-beaten path, jumping and dipping from potholes until the road smoothed itself out. Several carriages and luagge holders, too, followed behind them; an unspoken march towards the grand double-gates of the Newtopian city. It seemed as if other carriages were trailing along the pathway, too, but Anne saw that they wore formal uniforms and eqittue dresses, obviously suited and worn for the induction ceremony. 

 

Or that important meeting.

 

Or gala. 

 

She doesn’t know who to believe anymore. 

 

The changes brought about a subtle discord amongst the three. Matter of fact, the strained relationship slightly improved- they haven’t forgiven one another, but they can still co-exist together without an argument breaking out or with malicious intent present in their voices. All were initially hesitant around each other, but the changes continued on. 

 

The older counterparts barely reacted, concerningly enough, as they’ve been drifting away from the younger versions slowly. They hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with them consistently, as they’re keen on dodging important questions or just straight up ignoring them. They remained neutral. Or blissfully ignorant. 

 

The carriage halted to a stop, jolting Anne from her thoughts. Marcy doesn’t anticipate the sudden stop and nearly slides from her seat, gripping onto the carriage railing to prevent herself from face-planting on the ground. Anne stomps one foot to halt the other tense posture from tilting completely. Sasha’s lips quivered with mirth upon the sight. 

 

From the front, the coachman called, worried. “I have been given orders that you maintain your cloaks on your head at all times whilst we pass through the city.” 

 

The trio simultaneously nodded, pulling up their hoods and holding their breath as faint speaking flutters from outside the carriage. Typically, Newtopian guards don’t inspect carriages passing through the inner gates, but the inspection seemed reserved for carriages with more rickety features and they strayed away from the most prestigious and extravagant looking carriages. A social bias, it seems. 

 

The chirping of crickets grew faint by the inner distortion behind the walls as they passed through the security gates. The carriage rattled, the sound resembling a rhythmic heartbeat of the city itself. The impersonal opulent city interior now breathed life with the sound of chattering citizens and noisy carriages driven upon freshly paved roads. 

 

Golden streetlights illuminated the streets overhead and provided warmth and painted the streets like honey. Various merchant stalls selling a variety of goods were placed strategically as the drive further into the bustling city, the air shifting from stale-smelling gasoline to grilling meats. Shoppes are lined among rows and rows of boutiques and eateries and offices wedged against one another, creating an illusion of limited space and triggering a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. Merchants and hagglers chattered and presusaded one another into needless purchases and children lined the stands to buy sweetened bread and candy. 

 

After several minutes of riding, the carriage stopped in front of a crowded street. “This is your stop!” 

 

A waiting Newtopian Knight Guard ranger opened the door for them, leaning forward in a bow, terse. The towering structure of Newtopian apartments and facilities encased them as the trio climbed out of the carriage, hoods draped over their heads and shawl 

cascading down their shoulders. 

 

“He’ll escort you three to your seats.“ He turned his attention back towards the road, glancing back towards the trio and frowning once he noticed their hesitant expressions. “Don’t worry, he’s hired by the Royal Head of Security. He is a professional.” A nod from the coachman was dismissal enough. The ranger turned and walked past the gate, the trio following close behind. 

 

Though her strides were assured and steady, yet her mind was permitting contemplation. She kept visiting the suspicions plaguing her, how the timing in particular was peculiar. 

 

Two weeks. Two weeks had passed since arriving in this future. Two weeks since the opposition formed and immediately became awashed in unrest after something happening behind the scenes. Two weeks it took for any plan to form. A week to finally obtain answers. Another week to realize the nefarious plans happening around them. 

 

The evidence of underlying plans is abundant, and the strange detached behavior of the older counterparts aren’t helping. Anne only grew more paranoid. This unnerving feeling of awareness that you’re simply a pawn in a game of chess makes her stomach twist in the most uncomfortable of ways. Whoever she grew up to be, she held power, far greater than she could ever possess. The counterparts held terrifying stealth to keep their activities from prying ears. It’s their fault that they somehow threw off their plans, but Anne just wants the truth- the actually, unmitigated truth. 

 

The danger had escorted them through the crowded streets and towards an apartment building, considerably larger than the rest of the buildings surrounding them. There, they’re led up nearly seven flights of stairs. After suffering through of torture getting into the city and through security, having to trudge up several flights of stairs seemed like a neverending nightmare. Anne couldn’t imagine the hassle of living in a building so large, considering the amount of complaining her legs were currently doing, and how it could be seen as a general nuisance. 

 

Within time, they reached the top, finding the entrance locked. The ranger retrieved a keychain from his belt with several keys on them and stuck the smallest silver key into the hole and welcomed them onto the rooftop. To their surprise, the rooftop was charming, a welcoming change from the grey concrete walls of the staircase. Arrays of short plants and fauna were framed around the building's barriers, giving the rooftop an earthy look. Three chairs, furnished and new, sat placed in the direction of the ceremony. It was obviously a deliberate action, showing from the personal escort and three specific chairs. 

 

But from who? 

 

“A personal viewing spot for the ceremony. A gift from the Royal Security and Escort committee.” The ranger said, face shrouded in darkness from his overlapping hood. “You are advised against coming down until after the ceremony is complete, as the crowded streets could be dangerous. I will come back once the ceremony is over and escort you back down.” 

 

The ranger swiftly turned and left, shutting the door behind him. Anne didn’t hear a click, so she guessed he didn’t lock the door behind himself. Her stomach twisted in unease; something was wrong. Why would the Royal Security Escort personally make seats for them, despite never knowing of their presences nor meeting them? 

 

Something isn’t adding up. 

 

Marcy was near the edge of the building, hands resting against the concrete barrier and observing the view. From the height of the building, they overlooked everything, Sasha stood further behind, but still admired the view. The bubble of anxiousness surrounding them never dissolved. 

 

“We’re a bit far from the ceremony, no?” Anne says, apprehension clear in her voice. Perhaps Marsh was correct when she spoke about an induction ceremony, but it doesn’t explain the difference in answers from Annie and Sashy. 

 

Sasha hums in acknowledgment, arms crossed. “Yeah, we are. I can barely see who’s talking up there.” She punctuates her statement with a squint of her eyes, attempting to locate any familiar faces in the already enormous crowd. 

 

Golden stagelights illuminated the courtyard with a heavenly glow, graced by an abundance of considerably wealthy patrons. Hundreds of foldable chairs were lined nearly in rows of twelve and repeated on each sectioned groove in front of the Newtopian Castle’s Balcony, looking threateningly overhead. A stand propped upon the balcony created an ominous presence over the citizens of Newtopia, only enhancing the unsettling feeling residing inside Anne’s stomach. 

 

Suddenly, the stagelights shifted towards the balcony, illuminating a silhouette standing before the crowd. 

 

A particularly tall newt stood, stark from head to toe in cerulean blues and electric golds, amber dusk placating his features. Chin imperiously stuck out, his shoulder length dark hair framing his face, pronouncing his sunken eyes and permanent frown. Prideful and assured. He looked more of practicality than propriety, more astrocratic than wealthy. 

 

He seemed important. Anne wondered who he was in relation to Newtopian royalty. 

 

The Newt cleared his throat, back straight and hands behind them, head held high. “Roughly one thousand years ago, the island of Amphibia was ruled by the Newtopian Kingdom with the power of the Calamity box. From the creation of the Calamity box until this day, It had robbed enough lives to eradicate this island three times over. Countless amphibians have been slaughtered by the wrath of the box and it’s founders; their histories strained and stolen away.” 

 

The crowd stayed silent, although some outraged voices sounded from them. 

 

Anne and Sasha simultaneously frowned. Has that really happened? How could that have transpired exactly? Marcy isn’t faring any better, but her surprise is more subdued. Perhaps she already knew from all the research she’s done. 

 

“The Calamity box’s path of chaos became amphibia’s history. To this day, the only reason more destruction hasn’t happened is because of the box’s disappearance, stolen and transported to another dimension we call home.” He continued on, vindication and passion evident through his tone and mannerisms. 

 

He takes another moment before addressing the crowd. “So answer this: how did it end up in the hands of three monsters?”

 

The trio's blood ran cold. All movement abruptly stopped. They sucked in a breath. 

 

They weren’t talking about them, we’re they? 

 

His eyebrows furrowed upon his skull, forming a knot on his forehead. Still, he expressed his certainty, his disdain. “Our sacred artifact of our culture has been stolen, brought into the hands of such diabolical and egotistical people that threaten to destroy our world as we know it. However, one of them reigns supreme in their wickedness; an insubordinate that threatens our peace and foundation of life,”

 

Dread formed inside their stomachs, permitting through their bones. Their hearts rammed against their ribcages in agonizing anticipation. 

 

“The usurper, War Chief Marcy Wu” 

 

Anne’s breath was instantly knocked from her lungs. The world might as well have unraveled before her eyes as the truth was renounced. 

 

Immediately, even from their distance, the crowd devolved into boiling outrage upon hearing the name, disgusted remarks and insults blended into incomprehensible jeers of hatred, as if the name was personally the filthiest thing to ever inconvenience their ears. If Marsh was to ever somehow materialize in front of that crowd, Anne is certain they’d tear her to shreds with no hesitation. 

 

“The threat posed by these people is impossible to ignore. Of course, there would be limitations to such abilities,” He pauses, rubbing his chin. “But she has infiltrated our government and is using our men as weapons in her twisted game. She will not hesitate to use you, the audience, as a pawn and dispose of you once needed. She is devilish, a stain amongst our society.” 

 

It would’ve been hilarious, the way Marcy’s face dramatically fell after every word spoken. In manic haste, she manages to trip over a chair in a clumsy heap. Her shoulders jerk with each painfully short breath, hands trembling wildly as they grasp onto anything to ground herself. 

 

Sasha implored her with a sorrowful look, but made no movements towards her, too shocked to attempt to comfort the trembling girl. Anne isn’t faring any better. 

 

The newt waited for the crowd to settle itself down before continuing his speech, voice filled with conviction. “Before we know it, the very foundation of our world is thrown askew, crumbled underneath the wraithful hand of The Usurper, bound to her and her followers' liking.” His voice wavers, gaining an insurmountable amount of passion and drive that’d match Marsh’s. “We are all different by species and social classes. But now, more than ever, we must unite our forces as one! Please, join King Andrias in the fight against those traitors!” 

 

The crowd grews in volume, cheering vigorously in support and breaking into applause. 

 

A’s heart is hammering against her sternum. Sweat is forming along her hairline. She can’t feel her hands trembling as they grasp at her chest. 

 

“Those traitors will plunge our world into devastation! We must protect our future children from monsters such as them! Help us defeat them!” 

 

A series of booms sounded from a considerable distance away, further from the courtyard. They almost sounded like footsteps. They grew louder, impending and forceful, shattering the earth beneath them. Window panes on buildings shook, roof tiles trembled and cracked, the streets vibrated violently. 

 

Anne’s heart leaps in dread. 

 

“And to the official leaders of the rebellion, you will bow before the might of King Andrias!” He pauses, raising his arms in triumph, relishing in his newfound support. “Long live King Andrias! Long live Newtopi-“ 

 

Within a split second, the building adjacent to the Newtopian castle is blown completely to bits, smashed through by what is possibly the biggest creature anyone had ever seen in all their time living in Amphibia. A leaps from her chair, hands immediately going to cover her head from any potential debris raining from the crowd. The creature- this monster - is screeching and roaring at the top of its lungs, the sound betraying nothing short of boiling rage. It’s the same creature that was betrayed in the newspapers the trio discovered inside the personal carriage. The same creature that caused so much death. 

 

Several ear-splitting booms breached from the thunderous claps- it was the sound of crumbled bricks and metal being catapulted towards the fleeing crowd, after they cleared away from the courtyard, the second the deafening explosion burst from the apartment building. Her eardrums buzzed, despite being a considerable distance away from the explosion, their heartbeats thumping with the forcefulness of the flying bricks destroying everything in their path. 

 

Scorching debris rained upon the fleeing crowd, molten and speeding, landing upon scattering amphibians heads and bodies crumpling beneath the impact, lifeless and cold. The area was permitted by a humid steam, nauseating the air with burning flesh, and smothered the scent of burning wood and ash. A thick, smoking cloud of dust emerged from the fallen concrete, suffocating and difficult to see past. Running amphibians tripped and jumped over fallen bodies, jerkily flooding potential escape routes and hiding behind anything deemed worthy. 

 

Anne tries to pry her eyes open- lift her hands off her head and stand from her crouched position- but she can’t. Her legs tremble beneath her weight, and wind whips past her face, biting and hot. The scattered footsteps in the pitch black crowd punctuated by the sounds of wounded men crushed underneath raining concrete, and the blurred worrying sound of screaming created a cacophony of hell that could rarely be duplicated. 

 

“Anne, Marcy, get up!” Sasha screams, gripping onto both Anne and Marcy’s arms forcefully, painfully, fingernails digging into their flesh. The situation is becoming increasingly clear because Sasha sounds genuinely and unmitigatedly scared. “We’ve gotta get out of here! Let’s go!” 

 

“T-T-The- those-those p-people,” Marcy could hardly formulate a comprehensible sentence through her excessive stammering, hands and shoulders trembling wildly against her head, protecting herself from debris that couldn’t possibly reach them at this distance, utterly terrified. 

 

“Those people are being killed!” Anne wants to scream and shout, unbelieving of anything she could possibly do to prevent further carnage. She feels useless- hopeless , as she watches people be crushed right before her eyes. 

 

The ground cracked like crumbling glass underneath the beast’s weight, stepping forward with calculating steps. The cloud of aforementioned smoke frolicked around its massive form, claw-covered hands enclosed tightly around the debris from the buildings surrounding it, grasping in anticipation. Balancing on its hind legs seemed incredibly simple, considering the sheer length and size of the tails protruding from their backside, responsible for the propulsive positioning of its hunched frame, preventing it from pinching forward. It stares, motionless, expecting, observant.

 

A cluster of people are gathered around a particularly large piece of concrete flattening a carriage, hiding, calculating an opportunity to escape from the nearby entrance flooded with very few amphibians. One of them chanced a peek from behind the debris, eyes meeting directly with the creatures. The amphibian is frozen. The beast watches.

 

It shifts its right leg backwards, shoulders pushed back and arm winding backwards, the emcompressing plates surrounding its body shifting and grinding against one another, the sound akin to a machine-moving automatically. And after a deliberating moment, with thousands of shards of concrete and shrapnel in its grasp, it swings its arm forward and launches the debris straight towards the unfortunate amphibians. It slams against them with the burgeoning force to reduce bricks to dust, the force reverberating through their bones, shaking their cores. Nothing is left of the crowd besides a mist of red and splattered remains of what resembled a person. 

 

Anne’s legs want to give out beneath her, stomach churning and bile rising inside her throat, held back by a slippery tongue and sheer determination. 

 

“Is this hell?” Anne hears Sasha mutter underneath her breath, her protective and brave facade crumbling for an elongated moment, but to be truthful, it’s never actually there- Anne knows Sasha is as terrified as they are, Sasha has simply perfected hiding her emotions, however. 

 

The backup lights surrounding the courtyard have finally flickered to life, illuminating the entire courtyard in perfect clarity. She could see everything in stunning detail; the rubble scattered everywhere around the space, crushing everything and everything in its path. She could see the abandoned goods, the broken belongings, the slain bodies and oh god the bodies. 

 

Perhaps Sasha is correct. 

 

This is truly hell incarnated. 

 

It lets out a thunderous roar, surprisingly high-pitched and squeaky, betraying its monstrous stature and becoming almost laughable, if it wasn’t currently destroying every moving entity in its vicinity. It was effortless in its destruction; decimating an entire apartment story with a single swipe of its humongous claws. It lets out a booming squeal, charging forward and completely breaking through a brick wall, catching a gas-powered carriage inside its jaws and clamping them shut, the oil inside the machine igniting and exploding, the small explosion barely making a scratch against the jaws of the creature. 

 

It’s concerningly quick, formidable yet restrained in its movement. Inherently, a dangerous machine spawned from desire. Predatory and powerful, terrifying and large. 

 

“Come on, come on, come on,” Sasha repeats, over and over in an endless loop of directions as they descend down the flight of stairs, the metal surface clicking against their shoes and railing shaking underneath the frantic hands gripping them. “Come on, both of you, hurry, hurry hurry hurry! We’ve gotta go! We’ve gotta leave!” 

 

She’s scared. She can see it on her face, she can hear it in her voice. Anne wants to vomit. 

 

They’re nearing the ground level, and the screaming is considerably louder, footsteps and wounded shouts echoing into the stairwell. They round another entrance marker, and descend yet another flight. Their legs are aching from the strain, and their hearts beat against their ribcages with the ferocity of a sledgehammer against bricks. The last flight arrives, and they descend to find the entranceway destroyed, absolutely decimated by a particularly large piece of rubble that was launched into the building. From the darkened stairwell, light streams through broken pieces of wall and illuminates the stairwell considerably. Amphibians of all kinds are sprinting past in a jerky stumble to get away, a cacophony of frantic screams sounding from outside. 

 

“I’ll go first and see if everything’s alright, when-“ Sasha takes a stuttering breath, swallowing thickly. unconsciously does the same. The air is smoky. Like brinestone and burning ash. “When I signal, you can come out and we’ll run towards the alleyways, okay?”

 

“S-Sasha, no, you cant-“ Marcy tries to plead, shaking like a leaf, dangerously close totears. 

 

Please listen to me, this is dangerous and-“ Sasha swallows again, breathing swallow. “And I wouldn’t know what to do if something happened to you. Just- Just stay here! ” And with that, Sasha peeks her head through the open space, glancing around before climbing through the hole. 

 

From what Anne could see, the street is deserted besides the occasional amphibian running past or into the buildings, presumably to the basement. Lingering clouds of dust is all that remains, and rubble is littered throughout the street like confetti. S steps several steps forward, searching for anything dangerous for turning backwards to check momentarily. 

 

After several elongated moments of gut-wrenching silence, filled by trembling breaths and crumbling rooftops, Sasha enters their frame of view once again. Her lips manage to quirk upwards slightly, and she beckons them forward hastily. 

 

Anne and Marcy simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief, allowing their shoulders to sag and heart rates to slow. Anne, without much deliberation, steps forward and swings her legs through the hole, scooting herself forward and facing the blonde with a smile.

 

Sasha doesn’t smile back.

 

Sasha doesn’t even look in her direction. She’s caught staring at something in front of her, pupils strunken into pinpoints and trembling wildly, jaw unhinged and completely speechless. She doesn’t move an inch; she’s so terror-bound. Marcy stays residing inside the building, confusion and terror etched onto her features, an expression asking the question of “what is she staring at”. 

 

Something is very wrong. 

 

Anne, reluctantly and stricken with fear, follows her gaze and finds herself looking directly at the creature who stands several meters away, partially obstructed by a dilapidated building, staring back. It watches intently, jaw unhinged and teeth glimmering in the artificial light, eyes shining a piercing blood-orange, vivid and sickly. Impassively watching in the shadows of mystery, it stood silently and oblivious to the horror it was causing. 

 

Anne couldn’t do anything but stare at it. She was looking at her impending doom. 

 

She doesn’t know how much time has passed. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours. Was this how she was going to die? Crushed beneath the claws of some rampaging beast in another dimension? After she had gotten so close to getting home? Would she never see her parents again? Would she never get to live to her fourteenth birthday? Was everything she ever did in life utterly meaningless? 

 

And the only thing Anne could do was stare. 

 

Glimmering blood-orange eyes bored into her soul, intimidating and inconspicuous. The creature shifted its stance, everyone’s blood simultaneously drained from their bodies.

 

Anne might’ve imagined it, but the creature huffed, almost disappointingly. It shifted, turned around, and walked away, disappearing behind the buildings and presumably away from the courtyard. The earth trembled beneath every gargantuan step.

 

Besides her, Sasha fell to her knees, tears flooding from her eyes and trickling down her cheeks, relief washing over her features as her brave facade completely vanished, and she sobs. She sobs with her hands covering her face, shoulders jerking with the effort, murmuring quiet “thank you” and “oh my gods” repeatedly underneath her breath. 

 

This is no matter of luck. That was intentional. 

 

“We’ve got to follow it.” Anne decides, matter-of-fact. She stands tall, listening to the creatures deceptively loud footsteps grow quieter. “We’ve got to see where it’s going.”

 

What?!” Marcy stammers indignantly, as if Anne suggested they straight up kill themselves. Which is basically what she’s asking anyway. Sasha is looking at her like she’s suicidal. “Anne, you’re insane if you think we’re going to follow that thing! We’re going to be killed if we follow it!” 

 

“It would’ve killed us now if it wanted to!” Anne says, hollowly. Her anxiety strangled her, for what if her theory was incorrect? She must take this opportunity as a harrowing dare. She cannot let her sole evidence for the creature's sheer intelligence be whisked away. “Those other attacks by that thing weren't an accident… It has intelligence! This is coordinated!” 

 

And with her words, Anne breaks off into a jog, which eventually devolves into a sprunt in the direction where the beast walked off. 

 

Anne! Stop!” Marcy screams behind her, breaking into her own sprint towards the running girl. Sasha isn’t far behind, following just in case they inevitably get attacked by this thing. “Agh… Just- Wait for us, we’re going with you!” 

 

Because if they were going to die, they at least wanted to die knowing the truth. 








Anne doesn’t know how long she’s been running. Running past all the debris. Running past all the bodies. Running past all the carnage. The aching in her legs is excruciatingly painful, the soles of her feet burning and surely bruised. Her heart is hammering against her ribcage, hard enough to reduce bricks to complete dust. Sweat is dribbling down her forehead, excurbrated by the swindling heat and unending exertion. She’s sprinted through the Newtopian gates, through the dirtied water surrounding the city, and to the surrounding forest of dense trees. 

 

The creature is incredibly fast, nimble on its gigantic paws. It's a far distance in front of her, completely oblivious to the people following behind it. It runs into the forest on all fours, crushing full-matured spruce trees underneath its clawed hands, shattering the earth beneath them. Anne stumbles and jumps over shattered trees and broken ground, sheer willpower driving her towards the beast. She wants to collapse; she’s so exhausted. But something isn’t right with this thing, and she has to get to the bottom of it. 

 

She doesn’t hear the deafening footsteps of the monster anymore, so she assumes it stopped in its journey. Without really thinking, her legs crumple beneath her and she falls onto her hands, gasping for as much air as her lungs would allow. She coughs, clutching her chest as she breathes heavily. She knows, reasonably, a normal person would’ve collapsed minutes prior from overexertion, but perhaps it was those strange blue powers she activated that time around Sprig and Sashy keeping her from dying. 

 

Sasha and Marcy aren’t too far behind, both in various degrees here of overexertion. Sasha’s face is flushed uncomfortably red, loose strands of blonde hair sticking to her forehead in a slick sheen across the skin. She rests her hands upon her knees, taking deep and steady breaths to slow her heart rate. Marcy is laying flat on her back, completely out of breath, in an indescribable state of pure exhaustion. 

 

Several elongated minutes pass, and the trio have managed to somewhat regain their breaths and steady their heartbeats. Anne sat with a strange understanding; they didn’t have to follow her. In all honesty, she completely expected them to stay behind and flee- because admittedly, her suggestion of following the creature was completely ludicrous and downright suicidal- but they decided to tag along anyways. Because they wanted to. 

 

Something inside her chest flutters at that thought. 

 

Outworldly, Anne shifts her eyes forward, finding the behemoth standing idly in a clearing of elephant grass. Her lips thinned into a singular line. 

 

The creature, beneath all the keratin encompassing plates surrounding its blackened frame, is pulsating and throbbing with a disturbing intensity, like the countless waves rushing through an ocean. Particles of jet blackness float and dissipate over the beast like burning ash, filling the air with a scorching wave of heat that brushes and burns the leaves of the surrounding trees and bushes. 

 

They watch in awe as the core of the creature is illuminated orange. Initially, glowing dimly, growing in intensity until it's blinding, the slices of light peaked through the sliver spaces between the keratin plates. The massive body of the creature is suddenly washed away, dissipating into thin air as the once hulking behemoth vanishes into nothingness. The orb of light is sparkling, ribbon light tendrils wrapped around the illumination until it too vanishes with a muted boom, releasing a distinctively tall silhouette from its speckling grasp. 

 

The display would’ve been beautiful, if it wasn’t for the mere fear overriding her system. 

 

She fell to the ground in an ungraceful manner, legs crumpling beneath her weight and landing in an indignant heap on the elephant grass. She remained seated, but arms half-swaddled in elongated black sinews exuding dark particles of darkness, extending from just above her elbow, spreading over the entirety of her forearms and hands like a training sleeve. Her fingers were splayed open, as if reaching for something, grasping, at the tendrils of iridescent blackness. 

 

Marsh sighed, the sound smooth and clear. She stared patiently, silently, watching the pulsating mass surrounding her arms swarm and twist, pencil-thick tendrils splayed across her arms throbbing with ferocious intensity. The Night hovers idly over his host, quiet contemplation shrouding his inky form. 

 

“We’ve killed the councilman. This will significantly increase our chances of overthrowing Andrias, along with diminishing his followers.” Night grew quiet, contemplating. “Though, several members of the pro-monarchy parties live. I saw them flee into the basements of the buildings.” 

 

Her soft voice penetrated the sound of rustling grass and looming redwood trees overhead, the elegant brushing of hair from her face. The Night retreated into her body, presumably to finish mending his form with hers. “If it comes down to it, we’ll have to metamorphosize again and get them, somehow.” 

 

Her voice firms, eyes blazing with the same inextinguishable fire they’ve held for years. “We’ve come too far to fail now. For the first time in three years, we’ve managed a lead into our new future. This is for the best.” 

 

“… Marsh?” Anne calls out, disbelieving. 

 

The sudden change in atmosphere would almost be considered laughable, if not for the seriousness of it all.

 

Marsh doesn’t move. Her muscles don’t budge. Her chest doesn’t rise and fall. 

 

“Y-You- I- You’re-“  Sasha’s voice comes out hoarse, as a whispering croak, disbelief present in her tone. “W-What did you do?” 

 

Marsh, with slow deliberation, turned her head towards the trio. For the first time since arriving in this twisted future, they’d finally see her unbandaged eye in full view, how it swirled with a sickly blood-orange just like the beast she emerged from, blackened veins and darkened tissue evident. 

 

And for the first time since they arrived, they’d see Marsh’s face morph into absolute horror. 

 

“You three,” Marsh breathed out, staring, eyes-widened and pinpoint pupils darting from left to right, jaw unhinged in a spluttering attempt at formulating a sentence worthy of spewing from her lips. “This isn’t what it looks like.” 

 

The plan, the revelation that fell upon their shoulders was unprecedented. Never in her wildest imagination, she believed it couldn’t have been done, yet she proved to them in an intangible and inexcusable situation, and sat doe-eyed once her nefarious and absolutely horrifying plans had been exposed. 

 

Anne’s body felt hollow. Her blood ran cold. Her brain stopped functioning. 

 

“P-Please, just let me explain myself. Just- Just give me a moment to-“ Marsh cut herself off, frantically shaking her head. She looked to be in as much, if not more, disbelief than the three girls standing before her. Her voice is absolutely desperate, searching for something to amend for what they’ve witnessed. “Guys. Guys, please. Y-You have to understand-“

 

“Understand what?!” Marcy shouts, teeth-bared, eyes wild and searching. Desperate and hopeless. She was shaking violently, and Anne doesn’t know if it’s an amalgamation of debilitating panic, overwhelming fear, or bristling anger. “What is it to understand about intentionally murdering hundreds of people?!” 

 

Marsh flinches as if she were slapped, expressing genuine desperation and impotent. She placates her hands in front of her, attempting to ease the anger boiling over the surface. “These-These guys, they aren’t people , they're monsters.” She reasoned, voice determined yet shaky. “They’ve hurt us- on so, so many occasions. Please, just listen to me-“

 

“You’re a murderer…” Marcy whispers, eyes boring a whole into Marsh’s skull. She looked deranged, completely devoid of emotion. She resembles more of Marsh than anything. “A pychcotic mass murderer who’ve ended the lives of countless people who’ve never done you any wrong.”  

 

Anne nor Sasha say anything in tangent; they’re still in a complete state of shock, bodies trembling and eyes glued to the crumpled girl before them. Marsh looks absolutely powerful; the intimidation she once possessed has vanished into obscurity, replaced by the pitiful creature before them. They’ve all wondered, collectively, of how much of Marsh’s impassiveness was a facade- and they suppose they’ve gotten their long awaited answer. 

 

Marcy stares, looking at her as if she was the filthiest thing to ever inconvenience her eyes. Her eyes are nearly bulging from her skull, throat throbbing up and down, forehead strained from holding back tears. She spits out, “What have I become?” 

 

You could pinpoint the exact moment where Marsh’s heart drops into the pit of her stomach. 

 

Marsh looks devastated. She stares at them like she’s seen a ghost. Her dimming eyes glimmering underneath the moonlight. Her face crumples. 

 

She braces her pulsating, blackened arms on the ground and pushes herself onto her feet. Marsh’s legs seized from underneath her. Trembling and feeble, they give up on supporting her, and she falls back onto the ground. She breathes in a shaky inhale. 

 

“Guys. Guys!” She sputters, attempting to stand again but failing miserably, taking two pathetic steps forward before her weakened limbs crumple beneath her. She lands on her stomach with a groan and sputter, and starts crawling towards them. Desperate. “Please, please just listen to me! Please, I’m doing this all for you! I’ve done everything for you!” 

 

The trio didn’t respond to her pleas; they didn't even look back. They continue walking from which they came, defeated and betrayed, broken and hopeless. 

 

“No, no! Don’t leave! Please! ANNE! SASHA! PLEASE COME BACK!” She screamed, tears streaming from her eyes. They dropped onto the grass below, glimmering under the light. 

 

And they don’t. They don’t have the heart to turn back, to confront her. They continue walking. 

 

Marsh has given up on crawling towards them, collapsing onto the ground, forehead resting against the dusty earth. She weeps, tears soaking into the dirt below her, leaving stains. 

 

“We’ve… we’ve haven’t even gotten the chance…” Marsh weeped, then wailed. “ WE HAVEN’T GOT THE CHANCE TO TALK THIS THROUGH!” 

 

And they don’t turn back. They vanish from her sight.

 

And Marsh wails into the night.