Delta edged closer to the Great Mushy. It danced back and forth as if still unsure of its new shape and size.
She was just going to touch it and walk away. Delta could do that much, just one little touch. Closer and closer, Delta neared the death plant. With trembling fingers, Delta reached out.
This was silly, she was the Dungeon Core. She shouldn’t be afraid of over half the things she made. The Great Mushy gargled its acid and Delta turned and fled. Screw it, she’ll grow a spine later.
Grumbling, she stalked down past the spider room and praying to whoever was listening, purchased the spider upgrade. She peeked around the corner as Mana rose.
The Spiders shivered and a little white line appeared around their butt parts and that was it. Delta cheered and watched as the new web coming out of the spiders seemed to be more silvery than white. The little bead points where the webs connected was pretty. Like snowflakes caught on the web.
Delta hoped that people would like the web if nothing else. The woman, Ruli, seemed pleased with the normal web so this should be good, right?
Delta pondered what else she could do and floated down the hall. For the first time in forever, her DP was only at a lowly 31. Heading into the grove, she peered around and then opened the menu.
It was a nice touch, she could just have some unknown number of mushrooms she created spawn on their own over time.
Her previous purchases hadn’t unlocked more and Delta would be damned before helped the Gutrot evolve past their annoying existence into a true threat. The other Mushroom felt interesting in an I-really-shouldn’t kind of way.
Scrolling, Delta wondered what she would have to do to unlock better mushrooms that didn’t make her want to scream?
Just because she had a vendetta against the things didn’t mean she wanted the people outside to miss out on a potential life changer. Delta wasn’t that petty.
Thinking, she looked around at the mulch and soil. Her finger hovered over the Wyin plant at 15 DP.
That would leave her… 16 DP, which was more than enough to evolve one of her goblins. Delta pondered the options. The plant could potentially give antidotes and maybe by being near the poisonous mushrooms, it would produce better antidotes?
Medicine was never a wrong choice when it came from non-harmful testing. Evolving one of her goblins?
It would have to be one of the new pair she had made, possibly Francois. Hob and Gob were rares and seemed to work on another system entirely. Delta again, sticking to her code, asked why she wanted to evolve the goblins.
First, as friendly as she wanted to be, she couldn’t put her safety in the hands of strangers. Having more power if she needed it was just being sensible. Delta didn’t know anything about this world. Who ruled it? What was the dungeon laws? How could Delta make sure she wasn’t invaded and used like a magical vending machine until she went insane?
Evolve some firepower. She felt a little bit unsure about it however. What if evolving monsters made her dungeon appear as dangerous? There was no answer. When there was no answer to be had, Delta did what she always did and decided to play it by ear.
One step at a time.
She placed the plant in a small clearing, partially hidden by the large mushrooms in the grove.
The plant appeared from the ground, growing in a sped-up fashion until three healthy green leafs flopped out from the stem.
It was a pretty normal plant beside the odd yellow stem. Delta jumped as the Ornery Boar of the Grove walked past and sniffed at the new addition. The mushroom-loving pig dismissed it and it walked off., it quickly blended in between the fungi and vanished from sight.
Delta knew where it was but it was still surprising to see how easily it disappeared from view. Delta opened the menu but no option to have the plant respawn appeared. She frowned as she moved on.
The Mushroom Grove must be fine-tuned to the mushrooms only. She would have to figure out a way to keep the plant respawning. As a 12 mana summon, it wasn’t cheap.
Delta was about to move over to Francois to begin his evolution.
That was when the menus all vanished and that feeling returned. Delta spun and was at the entrance a moment later. Her heart fluttered with excitement as Ruli appeared whistling. Over one shoulder was a fishing rod. Her black hair looked tied up and her fur jacket seemed replaced by a simple shirt. In her other hand was a large burlap sack.
“Hey, Dungeon! Sorry to be back so soon and stuff. Hope you weren’t busy. I came to fish and I bought a little gift for being here and not… ya know, adventuring,” Ruli said loudly and she dropped the sack down and left the dungeon for a moment.
Delta was stunned. Tribute? Ruli knew her menus didn’t work?
The sack melted as soon as Ruli was out of the dungeon.
This was… Delta coughed and tried not to feel confused as Ruli basically fed Delta her trash.
It was super useful and Delta was sure her menus were going to be amazing after this but still… this was… a little rude. Ruli came back in.
“So, I loved that fork, saved me from a Not-Quite-Direwolf. The Leather boot was good but I lost the other one during a trek into the Domundo Swamp that was filled with these gators like you would not believe!” Ruli said brightly and started to walk down the tunnel.
Delta followed, ogling the strange woman who was just talking to thin air as far Delta could understand her existence.
“The candle was the last of a 100 or so. Saved my life in a cave spelunking accident. Diary is kinda sad for me, lost a lot of good memories when that asshat Quiss soaked me with rainwater. You can have it, maybe you can read it. I hear that some Dungeons can do that, take books and spit out perfect copies of things in the book,” Ruli kept talking and paused as she entered the spider room.
“Damn, you work fast,” Ruli called and eyed the new web forming in the room.
“T-thank you!” Delta said, feeling horrible about her comments towards Ruli’s tributes. Ruli didn’t hear her but she moved on.
She readied her knife and then stopped as she saw the Mushy hadn’t returned.
“Sorry about that, hope that monster doesn’t set you too far back,” Ruli said with an easy smile. Delta wanted to hug this strange woman and never let her leave.
Human contact, it was like water when Delta didn’t know she was so thirsty. The lack of proper contact was driving her mad.
“Eh… kinda curious. Mind if I go take a look down the hall?” Ruli asked the wall, despite Delta being behind her.
“Sure, just watch out, there's mud and you have nice hair!” Delta waved in panic. Ruli took a stroll down and that was when Delta saw that since her rooms had no doors, Ruli could just peek in and whistle.
“Nice! I have got to make Quiss do this,” She grinned as she pushed her fishing pole handle into the mud and looked surprised.
“Huh,” Ruli commented and turned back around.
“Not to be rude but you forgot the rocks or spikes or something,” Ruli said with good nature. Delta felt a blush coming on.
“No… dangers,” she twiddled her fingers together as she mumbled. Ruli whistled as she headed back towards the Pond. This one-sided conversation was driving her mad.
Delta thought about it and rushed over to Hob who was sitting in the camp.
“Hob, I need your help!” she called and the goblin stood to attention, his sword at his side.
“Orders, master?” he asked and Delta directed him down the hall. If she couldn’t speak directly to Ruli… then she used a damn mouthpiece to do it. Hob looked at the mud room and his face scrunched up as he took the first jump.
“Left, then right then left then forward,” Delta groaned as Hob tumbled into the mud with a splat. He always mixed up the last bit going out.
Thankfully, the wall had little hand holes to climb out on both sides.
Hob crawled out and he dragged mud along the tunnel.
Delta peered in and saw Ruli setting up her little wooden stool she had in an odd back pack.
“No, do not attack or scream!” Delta warned and Hob looked like Delta had just cancelled Christmas or Gobsmas…
“Now repeat after me,” Delta began.
Ruli was in a good mood. The meeting was over, Quiss skulked off somewhere and Ruli was fishing. A good way to end the day in her opinion. It would take something spectacular to ruin her mood now.
“Oi,” something spectacular spoke from behind her.
Ruli had already turned, knife in hand.
The sight of a stinking, mud-covered, gob with his hands up was not a sight she was accustomed to. Gobs screamed and attacked, there really wasn’t much else to the basic ones.
This one held her gaze and kept his hands up in surrendered.
“..I come… with words,” it said and Ruli raised one brow in surprise but her aim never faltered.
“I am… Delta. Dungeon Core,” the gob repeated carefully and this time Ruli’s aim did slip.
“What did you say gob?” she asked, almost spitting the question and the little green fella snarled and almost rose to her bait. Mud spattered as he moved but he stopped when he visibly flinched at something.
“I am gob, in… servus to Delta. Delta is core,” the gov said, mouth working awkwardly around big words. Ruli wanted to disagree on principle but decided not to shank the gob for another minute.
What if it was right? The dungeon was communicating and Ruli would be shooting the messenger or stabbing it.
“Mastah...comes you to...dungeon. Mastah tanks you for gives,” the goblin became more confident, and sadly, worse with his words. A mud-covered Gob looking proud as he completely butchered his words was not something Ruli was comfortable with.
“Thank you… Delta?” she repeated and the gob nodded.
“Mastah has que...qoo...is confoosed,” he tried to interpret what the dungeon was telling him.
“Questions?” Ruli said, holding her knife very tightly. The gob nodded and Ruli hesitated. This was not normal. Dungeons talking to people was recorded and known to happen. Those dungeons happened to be +50 floor behemoths with cores the size of boulders and the intellect to match.
Then again… Quiss and herself never checked to see the floors. Quiss sounded so sure it was new and if he had been wrong and this entrance was some new power of the dungeon and they were all sitting on a world wonder?
“Ask your questions dungeon but answer me this. So I know the gob isn’t tricking me. What is 4+4-5?” Ruli called and after a moment the gob blinked.
“Tree,” it answered smugly. Well, Ruli couldn’t argue with that.
“Dungeon Core Delta, I am pleased to meet you,” Ruli said clearly and slowly. There was no telling what state of development the Core was at. Ruli would just have to be calm and honest. This also meant that she could hold this over Quiss. Ruli just knew the dungeon could hear her. It probably decided to reveal itself after Ruli’s tribute and friendly talk.
Some dungeons were like animals, sensing intentions, not caring for words. Some dungeons might only take people at word value, dismissing context, sarcasm and humor. The Core Castorm was known to like a good joke.
“Do mans… lie dungeons?” the gob asked and Ruli blinked at the question. Did people like dungeons?
Jeez, talk about a hard question. Ruli decided to take the human away and focus on the trouble came from dungeons alone.
“Yeah, almost always. Some dungeons can be bad. But we think you’re good,” Ruli said slowly and wondered what Quiss would do if he was here.
“Yes, well done you can talk, now leave me alone to fish!”
Yeah, this was better left in Ruli’s tender care.
“Wats bad?” the gob itched his large nose and Ruli shrugged.
“If you make things that make people sick. Illness or viruses or if you… well, it’s hard to explain but if you go insane, you know what that is?” Ruli hoped and the gob listened.
Then he nodded.
“Act not right,” the gob translated. Ruli sighed with relief. It was honestly scary how fast this dungeon was understanding her if it was new. Ruli thought back to the many dungeons she had been in before and knew this wasn’t like that. This dungeon had something none of those had.
“Dungeon core Delta-” she began and the Gob cleared his throat.
“Mastah said… you call Delta,” he added sourly as if he really hoped Ruli would say no. Which definitely made Ruli agree.
“Delta… how many levels do you have?” she asked and then spoke quickly as the gob opened his mouth.
“If you don’t mind telling me?” she smiled and the gob shrugged and held up one clawed finger.
Just… one level. Delta… this dungeon core was out thinking cores several times her size with one level. That was… so far from any dungeon stats she knew and Ruli knew a lot about dungeons.
This dungeon just went from odd to a little scary. Ruli felt sweat gather on her forehead and felt stupid. She had faced down beasts that would chew up everything in here like nothing. Ruli took a breath and then asked another question.
“Do you know that most dungeons don’t talk until they have 20 or so floors?” she pushed the fact out there and the gob looked up at the ceiling as if waiting.
The time stretched on and the goblin looked a little nervous before he sighed with relief and then spoke.
“No. Mastah only...know this dungeon,” the gob shrugged and Ruli nodded, that made sense. Delta most likely knew how special it was.
“Boy or girl or other?” Ruli suddenly asked, deciding she needed pronouns. It might be too much for the core to fully grasp gender just yet and that was-
“Gurl,” the gob said with a confused tone. Ruli blinked and then nodded.
She decided she would let Delta talk.
“Mastah asks… ifs mans will end her?” the gob growled the question out and Ruli was pretty sure she had just told the Core that people liked a dungeon in its uses…
The gob listened some more.
“If mastah mades gobs... big gobs?” it added on and Ruli clicked her mouth shut and tried to translate that in her head.
Goblins into big goblins? Like thugs or shamans? Like evolution? Ruli repeated the word out loud and the gob nodded enthusiastically and Ruli just grinned.
“Sister, we’re counting on it. Dungeons grow so we kinda expect to see new monsters soon but to be honest your dungeon isn’t that hard, you need traps and stuff,” Ruli said in a care-free voice and the gob winced. It looked a little lost for words but after a moment, repeated Dungeon Core Delta’s edict.
“Mastah no want kill. Mastah no want defh,” the goblin whispered.
Delta didn’t want to kill. Delta didn’t want death in her dungeon.
Ruli inhaled and for once in her life, she felt speechless.
Ruli tried to think what the world would do if they learned of Delta, the Pacifist Dungeon and she gripped her fishing rod so hard, she heard the wood creak.
The Fairplay Company… the Guilds… the Merchants… the Teenagers… and the monsters.
Delta would be devoured and turned into a quivering shell as this world used her. Ruli dropped her fishing rod and looked at the gob.
“Delta… please. Don’t trust humans. This world, we humans, enslave dungeons for profit. You will be gouged out and built around by people who see this wonderful place as nothing but numbers and loot drops. You can’t...not kill,” Ruli pleaded and the gob shuddered suddenly.
“Mus… be way?” the gob almost sounded… human for a moment.
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of a dungeon that cared about life enough to try,” Ruli admitted and the gob looked up.
“Mastah… you make sad sounds,” he called and Ruli watched as the goblin looked at her and ran away.
Ruli felt like she had one over Quiss and really didn’t care for it much.
This was worse than she thought. Way worse. Ruli felt like a piece of garbage that didn’t even deserve to be eaten by the dungeon.
She needed someone who could think, someone who was an asshole and could ignore hurting a dungeon’s feelings long enough to help it, and she needed someone who didn’t do anything important to do or have too much pride for her to bully them into doing it.
Ruli needed Quiss.