Dust attempted to eject out of the time-viewing machine to no avail. He was sure that he tried at least five times, if not more. Yet, each and every attempt failed.
Instead, he was forced to witness another fragment of the past against his volition. That mechanical altar was not called ‘cursed’ for nothing.
This scene took place not long after Sans had met Grillby as a teenaged boy, during the first in a series of intensive training sessions.
His assignment: to navigate a sentry maze, steal the dummy data, and escape.
Sans had his back against the wall, watching out for Doctor Gaster’s latest diabolical creations: floating death ray sentry orbs of doom.
They were repurposed alarm sensors that other mechanically minded monsters had made. Gaster switched the parts around to make them inflict damage.
The rules were the following:
Orange Lens, keep moving to avoid it.
Cyan ‘blue’ Lens, stop all movement to pass.
White Lens, avoid. They will always hurt.
They weren’t even out of the prototype phase and they were already so, so very annoying for Sans.
If Dust had hands, he would be punching the screen right now. “What is this laser tag nonsense? This is kids stuff! I already know that Gaster trained me. You don’t need to show me in excruciating detail!”
The machine insisted otherwise, not caring about his objections or the crisis unfurling outside.
At the end of the gruelling run, the young teen succeeded in his mission. He staggered towards Grillby and placed the dummy data in his hands.
“…Good job…” said the knight. Despite the praise, he didn’t sound happy.
Sans replied with a wink: “Welp. You can be honest with me, y’know. I can take criticism.”
“…My displeasure is not against you…”
“Oh? Who then?”
W. D. Gaster entered into view. “Excellent! Splendid! The experiment is a success. Now, we’ll be able to adapt and adjust our layout to any permutation of human security.”
Grillby huffed, his aggravated flames leaking between the cracks of his armour. “…Did you really have to put Sans through all that?… You know better than anyone… About his inherent fragility…”
“All the more why he needs to hone his dodging skills. If we dumb down to just buzzing sensors, he’s not going to take the training seriously. We know how much he slacks off.”
“…Our sparring sessions would have taken care of that…”
“That’s different, Sir Grillenn. Your efforts can only cover direct monster-to-monster combat. Proper environmental manoeuvring is something that can’t be done in an arena.”
“…Then Sans and I will patrol the Underground together… That’s about as hands-on as you can get…”
Raising an eyebrow, Gaster commented, “How does that work? We haven’t had a real crime in ages. You’d just be letting him deal with a bunch of unpredictable miscreants. Absolutely inefficient.”
“…Point being… You’re being too careless with Sans’ life… I hope this trend doesn’t spread to our other trainees…”
“Alright, alright. I’ll take note of that for the future.”
What a bold-faced lie. Gaster just made doubly sure Grillby wouldn’t be there to observe any further infiltration training. Dust knew as much. After all, he had lived through it.
“I’ve seen enough!” He yelled into the void. “Get me out of here, dammit! I don’t have time for these stupid trips down memory lane!”
The machine refused. A shadowed, glitched out office materialised into view. The character within, however, was clear and visible. The lack of lifeforce fuel had forced the machine to prioritise its resources to focus on the most important elements. Everything else was fancy window dressing taking up computing power.
Doctor Gaster sat behind his grand desk, working on the latest reports. But then, the knightly form of Grillbz Grillenn stormed into his workspace.
When the fire elemental took off his helmet, the flames on his head flickered wildly. Whenever they danced, they signified either anger or anxiety. Worse still if it was both.
Confused, Doctor Gaster asked: “What upsets you, friend? We’ve successfully obtained the Yellow SOUL, making it six out of seven. Freedom is within our grasp.”
Grillby clenched his fists. “…I thought we would fight soldiers… Adults… Not helpless, harmless, frightened children…”
“Helpless? Perhaps. Harmless? By no means. Even human children have the strength to kill us monsters. That is their nature. Did you even see that girl? She carried a loaded gun!”
“…Explain to me, Doctor… The previous SOULs… Were they all children as well?…”
“Yes. Based on the circumstances surrounding The First Fallen Human, it appears that only the young of their kind are capable of passing through The Barrier. Perhaps there’s a crack just wide enough somewhere for that to happen.”
“…Does anyone else know this?…”
“Only King Asgore. I had personally informed him that the collected SOULs originally belonged to children. It weighs heavily on his kind nature.”
“All information is under strict control. Word will not spread to the other citizens.”
Grillby narrowed his eyes. The lack of his bar-era rectangular glasses made his glare even more piercing than usual. “…What about Papyrus?…”
Doctor Gaster’s eyes shifted to and fro, nervous. “T-that’s a moot point. We can’t disobey The King’s orders, no matter the position.”
That action added the fuel of wrath into Grillby’s fire. “…You lied to him!…”
The display was enough to make even the bold-faced Gaster jolt up from his seat in fear. “I-I-I didn’t lie to Papyrus, I swear upon the stars! I just… I just didn’t tell him everything.”
“…Did you know that Papyrus had been approaching me for advice?… Ideas for parties… Party games… Party puzzles… Fun activities in The Underground… All for children below his age… I thought he finally made new friends in New Home… But now, I suspect something else…”
He slammed his hand on the table, leaning forward to further pressure the Royal Scientist. “…Be honest, Doctor Gaster… What does that creepy machine really do?… Papyrus is the only one who can operate it…”
“That’s confidential, my good sir.”
“…Too confidential for The Captain of the Royal Guard?… Too confidential even for His Majesty, King Asgore?… Depending on your answer… I may need to arrest you for conspiracy against the crown…”
“It’s nothing like that!” Gaster exclaimed, “I daresay that I’m one of the most loyal subjects in the kingdom! Fine, fine. I’ll humour you at least for old time’s sake. It cannot leave the walls of this office under any circumstances. Do you agree with that at least?
“…I do…” so the knight replied. “…Now out with it…”
Settling down in his chair, a little less scared, the doctor began his summary: “The machine is a beacon. Instead of waiting on sheer chance over decades, or even centuries, we can draw seven human SOULs to our location. Consider it a practical solution to a millennia-old problem. We’re so very fortunate that Papyrus had all the necessary abilities to do the job. Sans couldn’t. I couldn’t. No one else could except for our young lad.”
“…How?... I thought The Barrier cuts us off from The Surface completely…”
“Essence translocation, my dear friend. When I designed the beacon from The Chronograph, I repurposed some of its key features. This made it possible to bypass The Barrier in spirit, even though body and SOUL remain in the Underground. The user then makes contact with the most receptive human in the area, creates an avatar out of the target’s own Determination, and coaxes them to visit us under the Mountain. Promises of a fun adventure appear to be very effective.”
Smoke rose from under Grillby’s hand, his metal gloves heated to the point of scorching the table’s surface. It took every ounce of the knight’s self-restraint not to burn the entire office down.
“…Doctor Gaster…” His voice trembled. “…How could you?… Do you even have a heart?…”
“If I may be so bold, I’m of the opinion that all humans are our enemies. What difference does it make if they are young or old? Eliminating them is necessary for our freedom--”
“…We’ve killed Papyrus’ friends!!!…” He burst into a cough right after that.
Though the concerned doctor tried to help him, the knight refused to accept it.
The flames receded. Grillby took a big deep breath to calm down. Yet, his righteous fury continued to glow as hot embers.
“…I’ve heard enough… I will take no part in this twisted cruelty… Expect my letter of resignation tomorrow…”
Hearing the proclamation shocked Gaster. “W-what?! But, what about the war effort? What about your students? I know they prefer your company very much.”
“…That’s no longer my concern… Good day…”
Thinking back to that day, Dust remembered seeing Grillby storm out of the office. Any questions from concerned coworkers were met with deafening silence.
A dejected Gaster remained in his chair, sighing. A moment later, he reached for the knob on his desk drawer. He took out a remote control and pointed it towards the wall. At the push of a button, a large monitor lit up. It showed The Surface version of Grillby’s iconic bar, whole and intact, in the idyllic dream world recreation of their monster town. The sign on the door read ‘Closed’. Pasted under it was a notice that the bar owner had caught a cold and taken the day off to recover.
“Egads! What IS this??? I must take a closer look.”
It appeared that the real Gaster had replaced his vision version seamlessly. Anything went in this strange metaspace, whether Dust liked it or not.
Another button press later and the screen switched to showing Grillby sleeping in his bed. Even with the lights off and curtains closed, the room was painted in a soft orange glow.
How strange. With Grillby here, within the dream world, who then was the Immortal Guardian razing Ebott to the ground?
While Dust pondered, Doctor Gaster began to complain: “That Grillby’s learned one too many bad habits from you, Sans. First, the flimsy excuses. Second, wasting daylight! I know better than anyone else that his species can’t catch colds.”
Dust huffed. “If he ain’t feeling well, he ain’t feeling well. Dunno why you gotta get all salty about that.”
“Well, you certainly enabled him to sink into a quagmire of mediocrity! His business endeavour was a complete and utter farce! Just observing the inner workings of his bar made me cringe to the very core. Half of his customers paid in bones. Bones, I tell you! If it weren’t for Undyne, bless her heart, he’d be running on a perpetual loss! Speaking of losses, have you ever paid back that ungodly debt you’ve accumulated? I don’t think so. You just left town without a word.”
“Forget about the tab, G. Get me out of here already.”
The response shocked the old mentor. “Sans! What’s wrong with you?! Since when are you this impatient? I’m used to your uncouth attitude, but this is Grillbz Grillenn we’re talking about! Have you stooped so low that you’d abandon one of your closest associates?”
Irritated, Dust yelled back. “Listen, that same goddamn fire is heading straight towards me with a vengeance. I need to get out now! Before my house burns down!!!”
“Fire? What fire?” The doctor switched the scene back outdoors, zooming out and moving one step right of the bar, towards the pile of blackened rubble. “Your house turned to cinders ages ago. The site is still right there, waiting to be cleared.”
A part of Dust wished that he could strangle that man, but doing so would start another useless fight, wasting precious time.
Dust wondered: what would be the fastest, most efficient way to get that oblivious mad scientist to see the truth?
An idea clicked in his skull. Pointing towards the screen, Dust said: “Change the channel. Focus on me instead of Grillby.”
“Why would I need to do that? You’re standing besides me, aren’t you? Ugh, fine! I’ll entertain your puerile sense of humour.”
Gaster expected to be pranked by an endlessly repeating mirror image of their current location. Instead… he found the man he called Sans lying unconscious on a familiar cursed altar.
The plan worked. The old scientist stared at the image in disbelief. “Wait. But, you’re right here, right now. That beacon, The Chronograph, should have been destroyed in The Core Incident… This can’t be right! Let me look around--”
When he changed the channel one other time, he witnessed a great blazing hellfire engulf the whole of Mount Ebott and its surrounding lands. Charred carbon replaced the verdant vista, whilst the smoke had grown so thick that it blotted out the sky.
Leading the charge was a knight in black armour, his army of flame marching behind.
Letting out a gasp, Gaster stammered: “…S-sir Grillenn?”
“That’s really him, huh?” said Dust. “With a showing like that, maybe it’s better I start addressing him in a more formal style too.”
“…What… What’s going on? What am I seeing?”
At long last, Dust could utter these words: “The real world, doc. It’s been a living nightmare for six years now. All thanks to The Celestial Calamity.”
“S-six years?! Then… Prince Asriel should have become a young adult! And yet I’ve seen him be a tender boy, day in, day out.”
“Time doesn’t progress in the dream world. The dead can’t age anymore.”
“Yup. Everyone was killed by black briars overnight. That peaceful town you saw? It’s nothing but a fake: an illusion. The Calamity absorbed their SOULs and stored them in a happy bubble called a ‘dream world’. I’m sure you remember our studies of that thick red book I gave you so long ago.”
The TV remote slipped out of the doctor’s grip. It clattered on the ground, cracking the plastic casing upon impact.
“I… I thought… I thought we avoided The End by breaking The Barrier and escaping to The Surface… I thought we were free…”
“I bet you have a ton of questions,” Dust said, “But they gotta wait. Wake me up before Grillenn grills me into charbone.”
Gaster’s shock transformed into bitterness. “You!” He yelled. “It’s all your fault! If only you didn’t try to kill me, I could have saved everyone! I would have been there to see the signs, to think of countermeasures, to warn others to flee--”
“Old man, that calamity killed every single damn monster in the nation: from the least to the greatest. No one could fight back! What makes you think you could?”
“Then what about you?”
“I was just lucky. Tori sent Papyrus and I out to the human city for a last minute grocery shopping. If we happened to be in Ebott Town when disaster struck, I would have been dead too. C’mon, I told this story a million times to a few people already. It’s getting tiresome.”
“Luck? Luck?! For real?!? You’re telling me that you survived because of sheer dumb luck???”
“Yup. That’s all there is to it.”
Doctor Gaster stared back in silence. He expected a grander meaning… yet he found none.
“But… What about Papyrus? He survived too, right? If he’s alive, where is he?”
Dust winced at the reminder of his precious younger brother. “Things happened. It’s… complicated. His last message told me to search for him deep within the dream world. I think he’s trapped in the code somewhere, figuratively speaking. That’s why it’s essential I live to fight another day. I can’t help him while I’m stuck in a vision, y’know.”
Six holed hands appeared from beyond Gaster’s head. They floated past Dust and got right to work. One pair created the building blocks, another placed them down, and one reinforced the structure. By the end of it all, using all aspects of magic, they built an impromptu exit behind the short skeleton. The old carved pillars of The Ruins adorned the gateway.
“Thanks, doc.” said Dust. “Though I’ll be back soon. I still have a ton of questions to ask you.”
“As do I. Our grudge is not done yet, Sans Serif. Now go.”
Without another word or a witty goodbye, Dust walked through the exit.
“Sans! Saaaaaaaaaaaans!” The Phantom yelled between his ears. “Wake up sleepyhead!!!”
Right after that, he snapped his eyes open with a loud gasp.
“Finally! Goodness, only your lazy butt could sleep through a fire like that.”
“What can I say,” Dust shrugged. “Old habits die hard.”
When he tried to sit up, he noticed that the Red Soulstone felt gritty in his grip. Sandy, as though it was losing integrity. A spike of panic made him examine the gem in concern. To his horror, he discovered that the outer layer of the gemstone had fully eroded.
“W-what happened to the stopgap?”
Tilting his head, the aberration asked: “What stopgap?”
“The system that’s supposed to eject me from the vision the moment I hit LV1.”
“Oh! That. You only have your bumbling self to blame there.” The Phantom pointed to a nearby cable, hanging loose. “You forgot to hook it up, didn’t you?”
“Impossible. I kept everything plugged in, always.”
Except the disconnected wire spoke a different truth. The machine’s primary failsafes had ironically failed from a simple setup error.
“No… Did I really mess up? When? How? I… I can’t remember. Wait…”
The last time he was trapped, Anya told him that the Red Soulstone had manipulated a fax machine enough to send a letter to The Willowherb Village. If they had enough influence over the physical world to do so, then pulling the plug may have been possible for them.
Clutching the gem tighter, he remarked: “The Red Soulstone forced me to stay in the vision. Why?”
The Phantom replied, “They must have wanted you to find whatever information you needed. After all, your measly stats would never have allowed you to dive deep enough.”
“I… I see… They sacrificed themselves so that we may live.”
Mourning and apologies could wait. Forcing himself off the altar, he staggered towards the farmhouse entrance. Any teleportation without visual confirmation was too risky in this situation. Make the wrong cut and he could end up roasted.
However, the moment he opened the front door, a scorching haze filled the farmhouse interiors. He coughed and hacked from the sudden influx of heat. Even though he didn’t have true lungs, he could still feel the hoarseness: a testament to his human ancestry.
The outer fields burned bright. Too bright. Too hot. A wildfire of this intensity should have engulfed the farmhouse in a blink…
And yet, Dust and his base of operations were not reduced to ashen embers. Peer hard enough through the glare, and one could see a swirling wall of colourful spirits protecting the perimeter from annihilation.
He recognised them. Once upon a time, when he fired up the first version of his machine, those same spirits flocked to the beacon he had activated on accident.
Their presence was a terrible sign. A shepherd should defend the flock, not the other way around.
Not far from the wall, necromancer Anya Willowherb knelt on top of a hexagram encased within a circle, glowing with magical power.
“Anya!” Dust called out, “Respond to me!”
The woman did not answer back.
Alarmed, he teleported to her side. He found there that both of Anya’s arms had suffered severe burns, dripping red from their heavy bleeding. Worse still, when Dust touched her shoulder, he could feel her shivering.
At the same time, Grillbz Grillenn – The Immortal Guardian – marched forth unyielding. With every step he took, his intimidating figure clad in black became clearer and clearer. The clinks of his heavy boots resounded through the air, cutting through the roaring blaze.
The knight gripped both hands on the handle of his sword. The blade gleamed with unnatural strength as he prepared to strike, coiled in red ethereal ribbons.
That was Determination. Determination powered by The Celestial Calamity itself.
Deciding to cut his losses, Dust told Anya: “We’re fleeing.”
The woman’s cracked lips moved, muttering inaudible words. He leaned closer to hear her.
She said: “…True Name… hurry…”
“Sorry,” he apologised, knowing full well of his guilt. “A bit too late for that now, lady.”
The knight swung his sword. In turn, the ground rumbled and the ashen winds parted. A blinding orange wave of pure destructive magic swept across the earth, obliterating everything in its path.
The flock of spirits could do nothing to stop death’s onslaught. Their makeshift defence cracked under the pressure. And the cracks grew wider with each passing second.
“We must get out of here, fast. Or else we’re toast.”
After a quick scout, he found a possible safe spot. It was a small clearing of smouldering ash situated far downwind, where the flames had already exhausted their fuel.
Dust wrapped his arms around her. The full unsupported weight of a human being was much heavier than he expected. He had to put every ounce of strength into his backbone to lift her. Then, after a loud, laborious grunt, his tiny skeletal self managed to move his legs just enough to initiate a teleport.
The two of them tumbled straight into the still-hot embers of burnt meadow grasses. He could feel the radiating heat seeping through the layers of his clothes. At this rate they were going to be cooked alive, with the human overdone. He thus quickly propped the injured woman up, minimising unpleasant contact with the heated ground.
Looking back, Anya’s loyal helpers had given up the ghost. The barricade of spirits shattered into prismatic shards of glass.
Now nothing stood between the black knight and the farmhouse grounds.
The wave of force continued unceasing. Its might was so great it ripped the building apart from the foundation to the roof.
The comfy bed.
The trusty armchair.
The log-filled fireplace.
The hunting trophies.
The girl’s baseball cap.
The cursed machine.
His old Underground-day clothes.
Papyrus’ original scarf.
Gone. Absolutely gone.
In a blink, Dust had lost everything once again. A confusing swirl of emotions welled up deep inside: the grief of loss, the joy of survival, and… a peculiar numbness that he couldn’t describe.
The Immortal Guardian looked around, searching for his enemy amidst the smoke and rubble. At this rate, it wouldn’t be long before he found them.
“Hey lady,” Dust asked. “Can you hear me?”
“Got your head screwed on tight?”
She nodded again.
“I’ve changed my mind. Even though it’s hopeless, I’m staying to fight. If we don’t stop that walking hunk of armour, it’s Game Over for everyone. Agreed?”
She nodded once more.
“Here are my thoughts. Our enemy knows we escaped unharmed, but he doesn’t seem to know where we are. We’ll take advantage of that. You hide, I strike. Wait till the time is right.”
There was another nod of approval.
“Also, I’ve read the books. True Name magic can be resisted, especially when the target is in top physical condition. Which means I gotta make an opening for ya. Are you able to stay conscious for a little while longer?”
To prove her ability, Anya pulled herself together, shifting her body into a proper sitting position.
“Okay. His name is Grillbz Grillenn. Here, let me write it down.”
Using his Karma-laced bones, his weapon of choice, Dust carved out Grillby’s True Name in the ground for the necromancer to read.
The use of magic caught the Immortal Guardian’s attention. He started to walk in their general direction.
Remaining calm, Dust said: “Cast your spell the moment he’s down. I’m gonna go now.”
“…Thank you…” she whispered back, weak.
“Save the thanks for later, ‘kay?” Dust winked. He then firmly planted his boot down and steeled his mind for the coming battle.
And so, the counterattack began. The skeleton teleported straight to the knight’s back. He thought to cut the head off in one fell swoop. Even if decapitation wouldn’t kill an invincible foe, it should render it blind, deaf, and immobile: enough for True Name magic to be cast.
Alas, the knight turned around and swatted Dust out of the sky with the back of his gauntlet. Twisting his body, the skeleton managed to dodge it by a hair. He felt the edge of the metal graze the surface of his cheekbones. The sluggishness of fatigue weighed down his body and messed with his reflexes more than he liked.
Nonetheless, Dust carried through with his plan to harass his enemy with a series of teleports and bone patterns, drawing attention away from Anya.
It worked for a while… until Dust felt his world spin and his guts twist by the umpteenth jump. The vision dive took more out of him than he expected. Any more teleports and he’d be a dead man walking.
So he stopped that instant, landing a good distance away from the knight. There he prepared to unleash a Gasterblaster. However, the moment he tried to fire so much as a single shot, the weapon disintegrated on the spot. The superheated environment was too much for it to function.
Exasperated, The Phantom yelled: “NYEH! Why are you so useless?!? If only I had a body, I would show you how it’s done!”
Dust ignored the aberration’s jabbering.
He ignored the oppressive heat.
He ignored the clouding haze.
He ignored the choking ash.
Instead, he focused his entire attention on The Immortal Guardian. The figure’s willpower and killing intent had grown so strong, and so direct, the skeleton began perceiving a plethora of tangible red strings radiating out towards him.
“Sans…? Saaaaaans, are you listening to me?”
In complete silence, he began walking forward, ever so slowly.
Unfazed, the black knight chose to go on the offensive, sending a blindingly fast slash flying toward Dust.
At that very moment, he saw it. Then and there, a thread connected to Dust’s chest. It telegraphed what was to come. It prompted the skeleton to move one centimetre to the right. No more, no less. Doing so, he dodged the attack successfully with minimal effort.
It happened not once, not twice, but countless more times in the skirmish that followed.
Long ago the Captain of the Royal Guard had taught his student to be watchful for the tiny cues. One could predict the next action through the ebbs and flow of battle.
Each slash The Immortal Guardian would send his way met with the same unexpected fate. The short pudgy one avoided them all using only small, efficient moves.
Changing things up, Dust’s enemy cast a pattern of fireballs and sent them trailing across the ground. White. Orange. Cyan. Except Dust hopped over the white flames, walked through the orange ones, and stayed still for the cyan types to pass.
Witnessing Dust’s increased capabilities, the knight ramped up the difficulty. Sword waves were combined with trailing fire to increase his area coverage. Many of the flames would also be falsely coloured by adjusting the level of combustion.
Dust continued to observe both thread and flame to react accordingly. No matter what was tossed in his way, no matter how tired or sick he was, he persevered to survive.
Slowly but surely, he inched closer and closer… And as he did so, he felt a sombre weight come from the knight and his magic. That was how monsterkind expressed their hearts, after all.
That man did not enjoy violence, nor did he relish ending lives. If bloodless peace was an option, he would have already done so. Alas, duty compelled death and destruction.
At long last, Dust stepped within striking range. Resolute, he conjured one final Karma-laced bone and stabbed it straight through the black knight’s helmet. The pointy end pierced deep into the fire elemental’s skull.
Awed, The Phantom commented: “That was… beautiful.”
The temporary destruction of the brain caused The Immortal Guardian to fall on his knees, limp. And that was the signal for Anya Willowherb to engage.
From afar, Dust could see the necromancer raise her wounded, crippled arms. They shook, trembled. Despite everything, she fought on.
Her red SOUL glowed bright inside her chest, strengthening her aura until it radiated like a lamp. A great many threads of intent began twirling around her.
Using the last of her strength, she spoke her spell with great authority: “…O’ sacred chains. I seek your bindings. Cast your unyielding iron. Upon this name: Grillbz Grillenn… I proclaim!”
Despite the distance, he could hear those words as though he stood right next to her. All sorts of strange phenomena had haunted him ever since he acquired that red eye.
Even now he witnessed her very will lash out toward its intended target, the name’s owner. And when they made contact, magic metal chains erupted from the ashen earth, coiling themselves around The Immortal Guardian. They pulsated with power as they drained away the knight’s unnatural strength.
No matter how hard he tried to get back on his feet, no matter how much he struggled, no matter how much he fought, the weight of the chains kept the walking calamity bound to the ground. Such was the power of True Name magic.
Their commander impaired, the fires in the surrounding area began to die down. Cool winds from the north brought much needed relief to the land.
By now, Dust could barely stand. Still, he had to confirm the ghastly truth. Dragging his legs toward the chained Immortal Guardian, he yanked out the bone and took off his helmet.
Beneath the black knight’s visage was indeed his old friend Grillby.
Looking up, already recovered from his wound, the fire elemental uttered: “…Sans, you’re alive… You really are alive… No one… but you… could have dodged all of that…”
“…Yeah. It’s me, alright.” Dust replied in the midst of heavy breathing, devoid of his usual comedic tones.
Then, just when he thought that he could have a moment of respite, a certain annoying, stupid, bratty flower popped out from beneath the earth. This planty pest was one of the ‘Dark Lords’ of Mount Ebott’s Celestial Calamity: Grillby’s commanding officer.
“Howdy!” He said, “I’m Flowey the Flow--” Stray bits of ash slipped into his mouth, causing him to cough and spit. “Pfah! Ptui! Golly, that’s gross.”
“Anyways…” So repeated his trademark entrance speech, “Howdy! I’m Flowey the Flower, your very best friend. Or rather, your very worst enemy, you Smiley Trashbag! I can’t believe it took me six years to finally catch you.”
Turning towards The Immortal Guardian he complained: “Really?! I gave you all that Determination and you still lost to the weakest monster in the Underground?!”
Lowering his head, the knight lamented, “…I apologise, my liege… I failed to let go of my past… It will not happen again…”
Flowey sighed. “Whatever. At least the pesky humans are gone. Now, all I need to do is to dispose of the trash once and for all.”
White bullets of magic appeared over the flower’s head, ready to finish Dust off.
“Finally… I’ll be the one to dunk on YOU!”
Dust tried to step forward to strike the flower down, but his knees gave way. He collapsed face first.
“Move!” the Phantom yelled. “Move, brother! MOVE!!!”
Try as he might, Dust couldn’t push himself up from the soft ashen soil. Neither he nor Anya had any more fight left in them. All they could do was to watch the cackling floral lifeform gloat over his victory.
In other words… Game Over.
“Sorry Papyrus,” he muttered, “I’ve failed.”
But right before the final blow, Dust saw a change in Grillby’s eyes. His expression went blank and emotionless. As The Immortal Guardian -- no longer Grillbz Grillenn -- he got back up and broke out of his chains. They snapped and shattered into dissolving fragments.
Then, swiping his sword off the ground, he cut down the flower – his very own king – at the root.
The plant lay helpless on the hot ash, wilting from the heat. “Huh? But… But… But… You… you’re supposed to be on my side…”
To which the knight responded: “…I serve only the Godking, Asriel Dreemurr… To end his waking nightmare… Begone, foul creature!...”
He raised the tip of his sword high above Flowey. Once again, his sword glowed with might.
“No! NO!!! This is not how it’s supposed to be--” The flower’s pleas were cut short, ended by a stab to the head: the same way The Immortal Guardian once suffered. Flowey The Flower ignited into flame, reduced to crackling embers and blown away by the wind.
Dust wasn’t sure how he was still alive at this point. When the black knight approached him, he braced himself for immediate incineration. Flames did engulf him… yet he did not die. Instead he found himself growing in vigour. It took him a while to realise that the fire was made green: the colour of healing magic.
A revived and revitalised Dust stood up and backed away from the armoured one, ready to run on the first sign of danger. However, he noticed that the facade of The Immortal Guardian had faded. Grillby’s demeanour had returned to that of the kind bartender. There was no more killing intent either.
Still cautious, Dust questioned: “Mind if I ask what the hell is going on?”
“…His Majesty seeks an audience with Sans Serif… the last survivor… The king decreed… All answers will await you in the dream…”
“An invitation, huh? Sure, I guess. Beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes.”
“…When you’re ready, I will escort you from the Eastern exit… where we once emerged… Go help your human friend… Her injuries are too severe for magic alone…”
His message delivered, The Immortal Guardian began his long march back to the mountain, across ashen fields. Knowing Grillby, he wanted to take the scenic route upon his own volition, wading through the razing he had caused as a form of self-punishment.
It began to rain. Perhaps all that hot vapour was falling back down. The more poetic types would say that the sky wept for the lost and damned.
He then remembered another human saying…
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.