Warning: This chapter may have a bit personal stuff that could be uncomfortable. It's nothing graphic or sexual, mind you, but it might be a bit much. So yeah, sorry about that.
I also made a poll about my action scenes! If you could fill it out, that would be great. Thanks :)
Sasha opened her eyes. She was here again, in the white void, formless and without control. It had happened so many times that it was burned in her memory. And yet, it was still so unrecognizable.
Right on cue, the pink frog with orange hair appeared, holding the music box tightly in her arms.
"Don't let him get the box! Bury it or lock it away! It doesn't matter! Just don't let him get the box! And if all else fails… Hide the box in another world where it cannot be reached, and pray that no one finds it and dooms their own."
Sasha zoned out. It was the same thing as always. And before she knew it, she felt a tug of force on her and suddenly, she was kicked out of her own mind.
Sasha opened her eyes, her pupils, unbeknownst to her, pinkish in colour. Her face was covered in sweat and her breath was ragged and uneven. Her eyes darted all over, only to remind her where she was: in her makeshift room on another world. Real and not an empty white void.
Sasha sighed, somewhat relieved. It was that dream again, the one she's been having with increasing frequency. Every night, it was the same; a pink frog holding an ornamental music box. And each night, she'd hear the same words.
"Don't let him get the box!"
Honestly, at this point, she was starting to get sick of it. What was the point of repeating a message if there was no context? Was the frog really talking to her or was it just a recording? How was she supposed to understand if that was all to it?
To tell the truth, she didn't want to know. It sounded like more trouble than it was worth. But that mystery frog knew something about the box. She knew how it worked and how it could open a doorway to another world. That explained how she and her friends got here in the first place.
Sasha didn't want to know but she had to. This was her closest lead yet.
For now, there was no point in wondering. She won't get her answers unless she went out of her way to find them. So until she gets another lead, she'd just have to deal with what's here.
After getting up late as usual, Sasha prepared herself for the day. Her towel in hand, she climbed up the stairs and entered the living where, as usual, she'd be greeted by the owners of the establishment and her foster family — the Plantars. She spent quite a good deal of her time in this other world under their roof and despite her abrasive personality, she had a soft spot for this family of farmers. So at the very least, she could be polite about it.
Sasha opened the basement door and smiled. "Good morning, frog family! I hope you're happy being graced by the one and only Sasha Waybright." She greeted out loud and waited for a response. To her confusion, there was none. "Frog family? Plantars? Hello?"
Sasha looked around the house, seeing it empty. Even the lights were turned off and despite it being morning, it was suspiciously dark. "Huh. Where is everybody?" She wondered out loud, only to feel the crisp air flowing across her skin. Sasha shivered almost immediately. "Brr! Was it always this cold?"
At the corner of her eye, she noticed something odd. The window facing the front was completely white and opaque. Getting an ominous feeling from it all, Sasha, cast and all, rushed to the main entrance and opened the door. To her shock, a flurry of frozen mist slammed in her face, freezing her eyelashes solid.
It was snowing. It was snowing hard.
"WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!"
Snails create a thick epiphragm of dried mucus at the opening of the shell during winter. This is to protect itself from predators and prevent contact with ice crystals. Also, Sasha walks to town with a pair of crutches because wheelchairs don't work in the snow.
Sasha had mixed feelings about snow. Her home wasn't the kind to have frequent white Christmases. Considering the geography, it was more tropical with palm trees and pineapples. But that's not to say it never happened, otherwise she wouldn't have ever experienced it. She had fond memories of playing in the cold clouds with her friends, from sledding to skiing and even building snowmen.
But only the first day of snow was fun. Every day after that was a complete chore. You'd still have to go to school and now, you have to walk through the miserable cold to get there. So really, it's hardly worth it. Still, it usually was a delight when it first appeared.
"There it is! Wartwood!" Sasha huffed tiredly, having been forced to walk all the way here. Wrapped in winter clothing, Sasha trekked through the iced dirt roads with her crutches. Sasha tried to take Bessie to town but when she opened the barn, the snail was nowhere in sight. And with the roads between towns not kind to wheelchairs, she had no other option. Thankfully, the Plantar household and the town of Wartwood weren't that far from each other.
Yet, throughout the trek, she had an uncomfortable feeling at the back of her neck. It was completely silent with not a bug, bird or frog in sight, as if she woke up in a completely different world. It was unnerving, to say the least.
Just in case, she brought her shield with her, strapped behind her like a backpack.
Seeing the sign hanging by the gate, even if the chains were stiff and hard, she felt a bit of hope. Not long now till she finds the first resident. As she stepped foot into the town's borders, she immediately began looking around.
"Hello? Is anybody around?" Sasha called out but no response. The place was dead quiet and the dense mist did her no favour either, blanketing the area with a fog of war. Despite her limited vision, she noticed the nearby familiar buildings, all abandoned and completely silent.
"Where is everyone?" Sasha muttered to herself. She had never seen the town so empty before. It was honestly jarring.
Thankfully for her, the search did not last long. After a few minutes of strolling through the snow, Sasha finally discovered a lone figure in the distance, their vague silhouette hiding behind the mist. "H-hey! You there! I need to ask you something! What's with the winter wasteland?"
Despite her shouts, the figure did not answer. Frowning, Sasha wandered closer, hoping to get their attention. With her crutches and thick snow, it wasn't easy.
"Hey! I'm talking to you! Are you deaf or something?" Sasha exclaimed, getting closer and closer. The figure stayed unmoving, only making her more and more annoyed with each passing second. Once she got close enough, she reached out her arm. "Don't ignore me! I'm talking to you!"
Sasha grabbed them by the shoulder and to her surprise, it was ice cold. "What the—?"
As she quickly lifted her hand away, the figure wobbled and fell, the snow softening their fall. Suddenly, the fog around her lifted from the impact and upon seeing the town fully, her eyes widened.
The figure was frozen. Everyone was frozen. All around her, buried in the snow with faces full of horror and fright, encased in thick layers of ice. Most were unfamiliar to her while others were acquainted. Mothers with their daughters, friends among friends, all tearfully holding onto each other, all unblinking and unmoving.
It was a nightmare.
Sasha shrieked, falling onto the ground. She backtracked in a panic, pushing herself away from the fallen townsperson, only to bump into someone else and have them fall as well. No matter where she looked, no matter where she turned, there was just more and more amphibians, all frozen just the same. Her stomach churned and her cheeks puffed, feeling her insides going out.
Through pure willpower, she forced her last meal back into her and clenched her eyes tight. Deep breaths, in and out, controlled and focused. The art of Muay Thai emphasized breathing and it always helped her calm down before a performance. And right now, she needed it more than ever.
As her heartbeat slowly began pacing normally, Sasha reopened her eyes, finally able to think straight. Her breaths were heavy and tired while her body felt exhausted. "What… is even going on…?" She whispered, though no one would hear even if she screamed.
Sasha began processing the events, compiling all the anomalies within the past few hours: a freak blizzard, frozen frogs and everyone in pure fear. Either this was part of this world's weird weather or something else caused it. Considering how scared they were, it has to be the latter. Otherwise, they would've known and taken precautions. These countryfolks were exceptionally careful.
Her eyes widened. She needed to find them fast.
You know, this whole thing kind of reminded her of a movie she watched once about the Earth being thrown into a frozen apocalypse. Marcy found some old CDs in a junk store and the trio decided to watch them at Anne's place. Marcy was excited but constantly pointed out the flaws of the film, Anne was emotional about the characters and Sasha… was indifferent. It was an okay movie, she guessed.
She really wished she remembered how it went.
"Where are you guys…?" Sasha said to herself, a tinge of sorrow in her voice. The surrounding sight was depressing; the deeper she went, the more bodies littered around. She wasn't sure how many people were there in Wartwood but it was a fairly big town.
First order of business: finding the Plantars. Seeing as Bessie wasn't home, they must've been in town. She just didn't know where.
After several minutes of waddling through snow and avoiding the empty gazes around her, she finally reached town square. In the middle was the fountain, now spitting solid ice. Nearby was a construction zone, probably for that statue Mayor Toadstool promised to build back during the election. Though, the most surprising part was the sheer number of frogs right in the middle of town.
From the looks of it, they were having a town meeting of sorts. Mayor Toadstool looked grim and serious, so unlike his aloof self. Though, he was holding Toady like a football, who looked sad. Felicia Sundew was hugging her daughter Ivy, Mrs Croker with her spider-dog-thing and Chuck held out a bucket of tulips. Like, a literal bucket shoved full with tulips.
But they weren't the ones she was looking for. No, they were nearby. There, right between all of them were Hop Pop, Polly and Sprig, all standing close to one another. They looked like they were about to embrace each other but came too late. Instead, they ended up being mere inches apart, their ice shells separating them.
Sasha gritted her teeth and looked away. She should've been here when it happened, whatever it was! She wasn't sure why she wasn't frozen like everyone else. Maybe it was her human biology or maybe she was magically cursed, but none of that mattered — she wasn't here.
Sombrely, Sasha removed her scarf and wrapped it around Sprig's frozen body. "C-come on, let's get you guys somewhere safe."
She looked around, the townspeople sharing the same fate. "All of you." She vowed.
With the town hall being the biggest building around, Sasha marked it as her hub. From then on, starting with the Plantars, she began dragging each and everyone one of the afflicted inside. Luckily, they all weighed almost nothing despite the thick ice covering them. But she was in no shape for strenuous physical activity. It took hours to collect everyone from across town and halfway, the blizzard returned, making it even harder.
But she didn't complain. With her shield as a sled, Sasha dragged them all one by one. Through dense snow and sharp winds, nothing slowed her down. She couldn't afford to slow down; whatever it was that froze them all was still out there and the longer she stayed outside, the greater the risk of meeting it.
She couldn't complain. There was no one there to listen.
It took her the whole day but she did it. She got as many frogs as possible into the government building. There were some she missed though; the town hall was far more packed during the elections. But she tried her best and hopefully, whatever it was out there wouldn't find them since she couldn't either.
"There, that should do it." She exclaimed, patting herself for a good day's work. Sadly, the praise felt shallow. She was, after all, still surrounded by frozen bodies. What she did wasn't even the bare minimum.
Sasha sighed, the weight of it all pulling her down. And just to her luck, her stomach began growling, demanding its fill. She had missed breakfast due to the urgency of it all and didn't feel like eating. Plus, the very thought of eating right now made her uncomfortable.
It was already nighttime. The blizzard outside didn't look appealing.
Not in the mood, Sasha decided to take a rest. She'd just have to fill herself tomorrow.
The very next day, Sasha woke up early. With her mind groggy from the tiredness, she had hoped to be back in her bed in the basement. Instead, she was in the town hall's restroom and unfortunately, it didn't take her long to remember what transpired yesterday.
It was still very cold.
Sasha sighed. "Right... Everyone's frozen..." she said weakly. Just then, her stomach growled, louder than yesterday. She stroked it as if it was a pet. "Let's get you something to eat."
Stepping out of the town hall, she headed off to the one place she reliably knew had food — the Grub N' Go.
The Grub N' Go was the only supermarket in town. In fact, considering how medieval everything was, it was and still is surprising that Wartwood even had a supermarket. Sasha was no history buff but she was sure electricity was discovered before the existence of the modern-day convenience store, and this world didn't have electricity yet.
But it was a reliable source of food early on. Everything there was so heavily processed that she could ignore the ingredients that made it. And although nowadays she was more or less okay with the bugs and dubious meats, she still enjoyed the occasional breakfast bar dosed with artificial flavouring.
Entering the store, she began scouring for fresh foods. She grabbed a trolley, allowing her to travel faster indoors, and grabbed whatever she could. Vegetables and fruits were rock solid due to the temperature and any canned food was impossible to open. But that didn't stop Sasha Waybright! She added them to her cart and went on her merry way.
With her meal gathered, she stacked them onto her shield and dragged them back to the hub. But before that, she had to pass the checkout. There stood was a cashier, looking bored even in ice. Unlike the others, she didn't even look aware of what happened. One of the lucky ones for sure. Also, considering the circumstances, she could avoid paying for the items but for some reason, it felt unpleasant to just take it all. So she left some money on the counter with a little extra as a tip.
Back at the hub and stocked up, Sasha started to shiver. All this activity and the cold weather was starting to get to her and her first line of defence — adrenaline — was slowing down. She was starting to feel the effects of cold. She needed to stay warm, quick.
Using a few matches, she lit up the fireplace in town hall. Now that she thought about it, she realized that the Plantar home had a fireplace too so it must be somewhat common. And yet, such a devastating winter was enough to wipe out the whole town.
Sasha shivered once more, this time not from the cold.
With her gloves off, she began warming herself up in front of the flame. The orange and red danced and crackled, adding a bit of entertainment.
"You know, this kinda reminds me back at home. Back when we were kids, the girls and I would stay over at Anne's place during cold season. Mrs Boonchuy makes one heck of a coco." Sasha narrated, a small smile forming. "Maybe I'll try to make one myself. I don't know the recipe myself but I definitely remember the taste. What do you say?"
Sasha turned around for a response but received nothing. Sprig, encased in ice and wrapped with her scarf, just stood there with his distressed expression. Slowly, her smile resumed back to its frown. She knew he wouldn't be able to answer, so why was she bothered by it?
Grabbing a nearby apple, she skewered it with a stick and began roasting. It reminded her of a game she once watched Marcy play. It had this blonde dude in his underwear and Marcy would just throw apples in an open fire to roast them.
She didn't care about it back then though. But now, she kinda missed it.
After several minutes, Sasha removed it from the flames and blew to cool. Taking a bite, it was exactly as she expected — sweet and mushy but slightly smoky. Not at all a balanced meal but it'll have to do for now.
It'd be nice to share it with someone.
With food now secured and the townsfolk safe, Sasha enacted the next step of her makeshift plan: breaking the ice. Literally.
Except for one problem; she can't actually break the ice. Or more precisely, she's afraid to try. Think about it; what happens to the body when kept in freezing temperatures? Like everything else, it turned rock solid. And the lower the temperature, the harder it became. And what happens something became increasingly hard? It becomes fragile.
There was a science experiment once where the teacher brought in a casket full of liquid nitrogen. Despite looking like she should be retiring, the teacher put on her gloves and goggles, used a ladle and carefully poured a little bit of the fluid into a bowl. It fizzed and popped, releasing clouds of smoke. She then proceeded to explain what it was but Sasha wasn't listening.
What caught her attention, however, was when she placed a sausage in it and smashed it with a hammer. It shattered like glass and all the boys immediately covered their groins. The experiment stayed within her memories and Marcy, being the excitable nerd that she was, wanted to put more stuff in it. And so, after seeing that, there's no way she was going to chisel them out. No, she needed a different method.
If she couldn't break them out, then she'll just melt them out.
Pushing Sprig in front of the fireplace, Sasha began wiping his ice shell with a piece of cloth. Really, this was as close as she could get to heating him up. There was no way she was going to throw him directly into a fire. What if she accidentally cooked him or something?
"Let's hope this works." Sasha muttered as she continued wiping him. And wiped she did, for quite a while too. The fireplace for the town hall was disproportionately small compared to the building itself; even in front of it, the room was freezing cold. She didn't feel like she was making much progress but she had to try anyway. Otherwise, what else was she supposed to do?
So she wiped, removing the melted water from the shell's surface and shaving off a minuscule amount of frost. No matter how long it took or how tiring it was, she just soldiered on. Minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to several. After so long of mindless continuous work, Sasha stopped for a breather, wiping the sweat off her brows.
"Hah… Hah…" She panted, her arms sore and scorching. She stared at her work, trying to find any noticeable difference. "You have got… to be kidding me…" Sasha hissed sourly.
There was no change whatsoever. Sprig was still encased in solid ice, his scared and anxious face having burned itself into her mind.
"Ugggghhh… DAMMIT!" Sasha roared, slamming her arms onto the ground. The building shook and the front doors shot open, letting the harsh winds flow in. The fireplace was immediately snuffed out, painting the room with darkness and the slightly warmer Sprig turned lifelessly cold as before.
All that work ended up doing nought and when she looked out through the opened front door, it was already evening — a whole day worth absolutely nothing. On her knees, Sasha bent downwards, her teeth grinding against each other frustratedly and her hands clenched within her hair.
"… I should've been here when this happened. W-why wasn't I here?" Sasha wept, curling herself tighter.
The cold air felt frigid.
"Good morning, everybody! I see you're all looking cool as ever!" Sasha greeted with a snort. "Heh, 'cool'. Get it? Because you know, you're all frozen."
It has been 4 days since the blizzard hit town. That's 4 days on her own, surrounded by icicle pops representing the people she's known for a couple of months. How did she know this? Well, she had a calendar nearby, of course.
Now, this wasn't the first time she was forced to live on her own. After all, she was lost in the forest for quite a while before the Plantars found her. So she had some experience. Although being crippled made it more difficult, at least she didn't have to forage food from nearby plants and bushes. Now, she just foraged them from markets and homes.
She didn't steal them though, always leaving a little bit of money to pay back.
But it wasn't food that was the problem; Sasha was a very sociable extroverted person. It was how she became the unofficial queen of St. James Middle School. She had the right friends, knew the right people and had the right amount of influence. And all of this wasn't easy to maintain. Juggling between different social groups was a trying task but she made it work. She had the strength for it.
Now, try putting that kind of person in a scenario where they have no one to talk to? Worse was that they're surrounded by people they could talk to but gained no reply.
Being lost and alone in a forest caused her to start talking to herself. This, though, was way worse.
"Hey, Sprig! You're looking good today. Love the scarf. Also, I noticed that you didn't move at all since yesterday. It would be really scary if you did, especially since you're still on ice. Hahaha!" Sasha said with a laugh. She then leaned towards Sprig's unmoving figure, her arm slung over his body. "What's that, Sprig? You're bored at being stuck indoors all day? Well, that's no good! Everyone needs a little bit of sunshine in their lives."
Loading Sprig on her shield, she began dragging him out of town hall with nothing but rope and her crutches. "Come on! Let's go have some fun!"
And what counted as 'fun' during winter? All sorts of things, of course! Being from Earth, she'd technically count as a leading expert in fun winter activities. Thus, she's going to share her human culture with the frozen frog whether he's aware of it or not.
Travelling to an open field, Sasha began her quest of re-enacting holiday traditions. As per her culture, the first thing one would do in snow was to make a snow angel. So, Sasha placed Sprig onto the soft snow and rested beside him. She then waved her arms and legs, sweeping the snow away. A minute later, she stood back up and admired her work.
"Now that there? That's a snow angel." She said, unashamedly praising herself. She turned to her icicle friend with a smile. "And how did you do?" She asked rhetorically. Lifting him up, she inspected his own 'snow angel' — it was just a misshapen dent. "Well, it could use some work but you'll get there!"
The fun wouldn't end there, however. For the rest of the day, Sasha dragged Sprig around town, doing all sorts of winter holiday activities. They built snowmen and snowfrogs, went sledding and even had a snowball fight. Spoiler alert: Sasha won.
The day was wonderful and full of excitement! Quite many joyous laughs were shared and happy memories were made!
… So why did she feel so empty?
"Today was so much fun! I'd rate it on the Sasha scale a 9 out of 10!" Sasha exclaimed, giving a thumbs up. "It would've been 10 but the snowball fight really killed the mood. It's not as fun to dominate someone if they don't fight back."
Sprig, as expected, did not reply.
The two sat silently on a hilltop, watching as the sun sets from across the horizon. The blizzards were dying down and Sasha could feel the temperature rise but to what degree, she didn't know. It was still cold and depressing but it wouldn't last and hopefully, that'd be sooner than later.
Without warning, Sprig's scarf — which had come loose from their adventures — fully unwound and flew off with the cold breeze. But before it could go far, Sasha quickly snatched it mid-air, letting out a sigh of relief. "Woof, you almost lost this! You really have to take better care of your stuff, dude."
With the utmost care, she tied the scarf back around Sprig's frozen form. With how the ice was shaped, she couldn't properly wrap it around his neck. But so long as it wouldn't fly off again, this would have to do. "… Hey, Sprig? I'm not sure if you're still alive in there but…"
"Thanks for being there for me. I've never had to rely on anyone before. Everyone always expects that I could do anything on my own, that I'm the strongest and baddest girl out there! I'm Sasha Waybright, after all!" She said the latter proudly. "But… It's nice to have someone I could count on to catch me if I ever fall. If you're still alive in there…"
Sasha wrapped her arms around the ice, hugging him tight. "I promise; I won't let this happen again."
She wasn't sure how long she held him. By the end of the sunset, stars gradually appeared in the night sky. The red moon glared its accursed light onto the land, a phenomenon that still bothered her to this day. But eventually, she had to let go and head back home. Time waited for no one, not even her.
5 days. That's basically a week, not counting the weekends. Food was still quite okay and she was starting to see the leaves defrost. That was great! That meant the weather was turning back to normal. No more freaky winter and frozen bodies. Just ordinary summers and talking frogs.
"Morning, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful night because this nightmare is about to end!" Sasha announced with cheer. "Temperature's rising and soon, you'll all break free from your icy prisons and return to the real world! Hopefully alive and not dead, haha…"
She coughed in her fist. "Anyway, let's do a little roll-call, shall we? When I shout out your name, don't bother answering."
This was a morning ritual of hers. Starting from the second day, Sasha had been keeping tabs on the number of frogs under her care. With so many of them, it usually took her from morning to almost noon to check them out. Plus, she didn't know all their names so for the ones she's acquainted with, she wrote their real names on a list. The rest, on the other hand, had made-up names based on frog puns. They weren't all that great, to be honest.
"Steve Froggers, here. Frog Frogerson, check…" She said out loud, ticking their names off the list. "Queen Hoppity the 2nd, check. Sir Tongues-a-lot, present. Wally… still here! And finally, Hop Tito who is also here! That's about everybody!"
She looked across the room and over everyone, their shells glistening against the sunlight. "Well, now that we're done, I'm gonna go out and get some fresh air. Can't keep breathing my own breaths, you know." Sasha jested. "But seriously, it is suffocating in here."
With her shield on her back and her crutches in hand, Sasha walked towards the front door. The locks broke during the third day, so she had it replaced with a simple wooden plank. It wasn't much but it was honest work. As she arrived at the door, she reached out to open.
Suddenly, her heartbeat flared and her eyes changed pink.
Sasha quickly wielded her shield and braced herself. Without warning, the front door burst open, breaking into splinters. Sasha was sent flying back, landing with a thump. Aided by her fast reaction, her shield had protected her from the brunt of the blow with any sharp pieces bouncing off harmlessly.
Lowering her shield, she glared at the intruder — a gigantic albino weasel. One so conveniently had been nearby.
Sasha's eyes widened, only to furl back in anger. "You… You're the reason everyone's like this…" She quietly growled. There was no proof but how could there? How else did the sudden winter appear? How else did the frogs instantly be encased in ice? Sasha didn't know enough of this world to make a reasonable theory. To her, this was the beast that froze the town. There was no other explanation.
The weasel sniffed the air, looking for its prey. For some reason, Sasha felt its gaze not on her but instead, on the frogs nearby. The giant animal wasn't interested in her. What it wanted were the still-frozen folks.
This would not stand. "HEY, YOU STUPID ANIMAL! WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEONE YOUR OWN SIZE?!" She yelled, banging her shield to catch its attention. It worked and the weasel, noticing her, felt immediately threatened and hissed in her direction.
Despite her injury, Sasha shakily stood up, fuelled only by her intense emotions. With its sights on her, she raised her shield and readied herself for a fight.
With a mighty roar, the weasel leapt towards her, its gigantic jaws open wide. Quickly, Sasha rolled forward and ducked underneath its long furry body, avoiding by mere inches. Unable to control its trajectory, the weasel crashed into the crowd of frozen frogs, sending everyone flying. Thankfully, their hard icy shells protected them from harm as the townsfolk was thrashed about.
Sasha gasped. "HEY! WATCH IT!" She furiously yelled as she watched everyone scattered. She then threw her shield like a frisbee, hitting the partially recovered weasel in the face before bouncing halfway to her.
Seen without her means of protection, the weasel loudly screeched and chased after her. Sasha, not wanting to be in the stomach of an animal the third time, ran and jumped forward, grabbing her shield as she landed. And just in the nick of time too! As the weasel closed in on her, Sasha, with one knee on the ground, raised her weapon and rammed it within the beast's jaws, blocking the monster from crushing her arm.
The weasel struggled to clamp its mouth shut but it was to no avail; no matter how strong it was, even it couldn't bend toad steel.
Realising the futility, the weasel switched strategies. Shaking its head left and right, it tried to toss Sasha off and make her let go. In response, the girl in question held the shield straps tightly, her body thrown around like a ragdoll. But the tossing and turning intensified, the weasel desperate at flinging Sasha from its mouth. No matter how much it did, Sasha refused to be thrown away.
"I… won't… let you eat them…!" Sasha growled through her gritted teeth, her pink eyes flaring brighter and brighter. With her free arm, she punched the beast in the face. Even though it was several times her size, her punches packed a wallop, carried by adrenaline and self-preservation. Shrieking in pain, it tried even harder to shake her off, now more desperate than ever.
But Sasha wouldn't give up. With each blow, she bruised the weasel's face more and more. It threw its head all over — into the walls and even the other occupants — but she still wouldn't let go. Eventually, the two crashed out of town hall, now littered with frozen frogs. The weasel tried to think of another way, a means to escape, but the girl was relentless and the hits kept snapping it out from its thoughts.
Slowly and gradually, the weasel turned weaker and weaker. It knew it was losing. And so, in a last-ditch attempt, the beast stood on its hind legs, lifting its whole body straight up. If it couldn't shake her off, then it'll just have to take her down with it. Before Sasha could react, the weasel dived down headfirst into the snow, putting all of its weight to the tip of its nose. And Sasha, stubborn and headstrong, was crushed beneath the giant, her back against the ground.
The impact was tremendous. Clouds of snow and dirt billowed outwards, leaving a small crater at the centre. The weasel, tired and hurt, breathed heavily. Diving in such a way caused harm to it, even if less than its assailant. If it could get even one prey, then it's all worth it in the end. Right now, nuzzled in a nest hidden within a cave, they're waiting for her.
The weasel lifted its head, ready to claim its next meal. The shield had popped off and now, its large maw was free. But before it could leave, a small hand grabbed the fur of its nose, pulling it down. As the clouds cleared, the owner of said hand revealed herself. Sasha Waybright, her winter coat torn all over and her ponytail released to reveal her long blonde hair, was miraculously unharmed.
"I promised… that I'll take care of them… And I'm not gonna let some furball break that!" Sasha roared, her pink eyes bursting with light. She raised her arm for another flurry of punches and the weasel bared its fangs in retaliation.
But at that moment, their eyes met and the pink glow was shared between them. Without warning, Sasha, much to her shock, was thrown to a different perspective.
"W-what the—?" She thought, utterly baffled. A second ago, she was in front of the town hall, fighting a giant albino weasel to the death. Now, she was in some cave she didn't recognize, surrounded by spikes of blue ice. All over, skeletal corpses of previous meals were strewn about the snow-cladded ground, their flesh cleaned off. The whole cave was menacing and unnatural.
Yet, one part of the cave stood out — a small grotto with vines and moss as curtains, covering the contents from the harsh cold. Her vision moved on its own and through the greenery, a small circular nest exist. Within it was a triplet of blind baby weasels, their bare skins a bright pink. Their fur has yet to grow and their tiny bodies were kept warm only by huddling with one another.
They were crying. They were starving. The cold had wiped most of their nearby food sources. They needed something to eat and Momma knew exactly where to get some. A town of prey, usually too dangerous to venture in, now defenceless due to the cold.
Momma will bring back food. And they will starve no more.
Suddenly, just as fast as previously, Sasha returned to her body, her fist paused inches away from the beast's snout. Her eyes continued to glow an unnatural pink but the same could be seen on the weasel's eyes as well. Slowly, she lowered her fist and remarkably, the weasel same.
"Those were your babies…" she muttered under her breath.
The snow… It wasn't this animal's fault. She had lived deep in the woods and stayed away from Wartwood. But when the winter came, she couldn't sustain her yearlong diet. Many of the fauna hibernated underground or within tree barks, while the rest migrated elsewhere. The bushes and trees, once lush with fruits and nuts, also withered away. And although the mother could survive a few days without food, the same could not be said for her children.
She was desperate. She needed to feed them somehow. The cold would barge in unannounced every year and it so happened that each time, the frogs of Wartwood would be frozen for hibernation but unlike the others, they were easy to catch and bring back. There's always some poor sap who was outside when the cold first hit, exposed to the elements.
But Sasha didn't allow that. She hid them all in town hall, away from the weasel's gaze. By the time the beast found them, she was in dire need. So she broke through the door, only to find the sole guardian standing in her way.
Somehow, someway, Sasha had seen the weasel's point of view. She felt her anguish and hunger, the need to find prey and feed her young. And from the looks of it, so did the weasel with hers.
Sasha clenched her fist. "ARGH! Why did you show me that?!" She yelled at the beast who only stared at her tantrum. "It would've been easier to just fight until we're done BUT NO! You just had to show your sad backstory and make it complicated, huh?! Now I can't fight you anymore because that'll just make me a bad person, orphaning a bunch of baby weasels in the middle of nowhere!"
Frustrated and confused, Sasha screamed into her palms, all while the weasel continued to watch. She then lied down on her back, looking as if she aged by years within a few minutes. "… This wasn't your fault. You were just stuck in a horrible situation like the rest of us. I can't let you eat the frogs but… I can't just let your kids starve either."
Defeated, Sasha groaned. "What am I supposed to do…?"
The weasel, no longer aggressive, tilted its head sideways. This girl in front of her was curiously wracked in despair. She too had others to protect and care for and they happened to be the prey she hunted. She had spent several days on her own, guarding their frozen bodies. But for such a small body, how was she able to sustain herself for so long? That's when she saw the bounty Sasha had stored.
"Kekekeke..." The weasel chattered, rubbing its snout on her leg. Sasha glared at the fellow mammal, looking hopeless.
"Ugh, what is it?" She scoffed.
She raised a brow. "What are you even saying?"
The weasel poked her leg a few more times before staring at the town hall, its front door broken off the hinges. That's when Sasha remembered and everything clicked. "Ooooooooh…"
Ah, spring — the best of all seasons. With winter finally setting and the sun showing its bright mug again, a new breath of life flowed through the land. Flowers began blooming, the bees buzzing and bumbling. And the best part? The last pieces of frigid snow and ice finally melted away, damping the soil for new life to flourish.
As the temperature rose, the frozen frogs began to thaw. Within minutes, their icy shells cracked and shattered, releasing them fully rejuvenated and primed. One such frog was Hopadiah Plantar, the first thing he did was stretching his limbs like waking up from a long nap.
"Nnggg! Hoo-wee, it's good to be back!" He cheered, twisting his body around for a few extra pops. "Alright, kids! Is everyone here?"
"I'm here!" Sprig yelled just a few meters away.
"Me too!" Polly added, waving her flipper and hopping by.
Hop Pop sighed in relief. "Oh, thank the frog gods. Seems like we got out of this year's Hiber-Day unscathed!"
Sprig nodded. "Seems like it. But uh, how did we get here?" He asked.
Just before they turned rock solid, the last thing Sprig remembered was being outside in the middle of town. Yet, somehow, they were now indoors, packed in the nearby town hall. It's not just them either. From the looks of it, almost everyone from Wartwood was here, crammed in like a box of sardines. He didn't remember ever walking here nor did he think it was possible.
Hop Pop scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Huh, someone must've moved us here while we were hibernating. But that's ludicrous! Every frog, toad and newt should've been frozen by then."
"Maybe we have a guardian angel?" Polly suggested.
Hop Pop chuckled. "Heh, if only that were true. I mean, who'd be our angel anyway?" He joked. It was a nice thought, however. "Well, come on then, kids! Let's head on back to celebrate— huh?!"
As Hop Pop walked away, he stumbled upon a surprising sight; there, wrapped underneath thick blankets, was Sasha, leaning against the wall and sleeping soundly. Her normally well-kept hair was frayed and ruined, her winter clothes ripped all over and her leg cast was stained with dirt and grime. Even her complexion — which she took great care of — looked grey and sullen with cracked lips and eye bags.
Sprig gasped. "Is that Sasha?! She looks horrible!"
"She must've been the one that moved us in here. She did say she came from another world." Hop Pop said. "And she looked mighty roughed up too! How long were we out?"
"From that calendar, I'd say 5 days." Polly pointed out.
Hop Pop squawked. "5 days?! Hiber-Day was supposed to last only one!"
Sprig fidgeted with his fingers. "So wait, Sasha's been watching over us for almost a week?" He asked uncomfortably.
The selfish and arrogant Sasha who often had to be convinced to do anything, was beside them all this time. The Plantars felt grateful for that but the implications took a while to sink in. She could've just stayed at home this entire time — they had food to spare. But she didn't. She came all the way to town and stayed with them until it was all over. Worse was that she probably didn't even know this was all temporary. It was so… un-Sasha-like.
Hop Pop, Polly and Sprig all stared at her, feeling guilty with each passing second. "We should bring her back and let her rest." Hop Pop suggested, earning a unanimous response.
Unfortunately with Wartwood up and running again, so were the hijinks.
CLANG CLANG CLANG!
Nearby, Mayor Toadstool rattled a small bell. "Listen up, everyone! As usual, yesterday was nerve-wracking and stressful but as luck would have it, we've all made it in one piece! So I, Mayor Toadstool, would like to congratulate you all for surviving this year's Hiber-Day! Now give yourself a round of applause!"
All the frogs began clapping and cheering merrily, deafening the hall. Slowly, Sasha's eyes opened and she yawned. "Ggg, what's with all the noise?"
Toadstool, who happened to notice her, raised a brow. "Shawarma? What are you doing here?"
"It's Sasha and what's your—!" Sasha stopped, her eyes widening. "You're… you're awake…"
Toadstool raised his brow higher. "And you look like you fought a bearbug. I don't know if it exists from where you're from but here in Wartwood, there's a thing called 'soap'. Try using some next time."
She didn't respond. Frozen in shock, she stared at Toadstool before shifting elsewhere, frog to frog. Eventually, her eyes landed on Hop Pop, Polly and Sprig, all of whom looked at her with worry. "S-Sasha, are you alright?" Hop Pop asked, opening his arms to her.
Without another word, she leapt off her back and into his arms, hugging him with all her remaining strength and burying her face in his neck. In turn, the old frog hugged back, feeling the obvious change in her physique. She was so thin than what she used to be.
Hop Pop patted her in the back reassuringly. "There, there… I'm guessing that Hiber-Day isn't a thing back in your world, is it?"
"We must've made you worry your pants off, huh?"
"And I guess leaving the house without even a note probably made it worse." Hop Pop said with a chuckle, trying to lighten the mood. "Heh… Sorry about that. We didn't mean it. It just happened so suddenly! This year's Hiber-Day is a bit off for some reason as if some higher force exists to make our lives more difficult."
"But it won't happen again! We'll be sure to give you the heads up!" Sprig assured, stroking her comfortingly on the back. "So, uh, please don't cry. Okay?"
Much to Sasha fashion, she didn't listen and bawled silently, refusing to loosen her grip. They stayed like that for a while, even as the passers-by all rolled their eyes or raised their brows. They didn't know what she did or what she went through, and she didn't need to tell them either. Some were a bit worried though, seeing her battered state but it was inappropriate to ask. She didn't care though. To her, all that mattered was that her froggy family was safe. Everyone else was a bonus, for a truly selfless deed was one not flaunted.
Polly, watching this all unfold, hummed. "Fellas, I gotta say this is some of the most hecked up stuff."