Delta nodded distractedly as she ran a finger over Fran’s screen. The timer near the top slowly counting down to Fran’s return. Delta bit her lip, knowing that her friend should be okay but to watch Cram utterly...
She shook her head and focused on the new addition to the menu before her. She lightly pressed a finger on the screen, the air rippling.
“Nu, simplify it for me,” she asked and the screen shuddered as letters shifted about.
Delta rested in the pond room, Waddles idly snoozing in his little alcove. Delta paced slightly as she heard this.
“So my monsters level up?” she mused and with some thought, returned to the boss room, patting her mushys as she went.
She held out a hand and the screen opened.
“I got... room upgrades but how do I select the screen to upgrade Fran? Do I need to wait for him to come back?” Delta asked aloud and Nu was quiet for a moment.
Delta smiled softly as she read that line. There was nothing else, nothing to indicate what Fran could do to earn more powers or achievements but Delta accepted the fact the system was, if nothing else, fair to everyone. No one really got the full weight of benefits when it came to the Dungeon.
Not even the core herself.
“I can’t upgrade his weapons or armour?” Delta said, absent-mindedly.
“Makes sense, I’d be pissed if my tutorial boss had an end-game secret boss level of bullshit,” she mused and eyed the screen again.
“Then again, who knows what Fran could get if he challenges himself or does enough of these side missions. Maybe the system might upgrade him for me,” Delta suggested. Nu only dinged in response as he wandered off.
Delta looked around the empty boss room. She bowed her head and tried her best to smile.
“You did great! I can’t wait to tell you when you come back!” Delta said to the empty boss room. She opened her menu and flicked through the room functions.
The DP from the items had been nice and her goblins had already gone out on a collection mission.
So, with a soft hum to her voice, she read off the list.
Delta smiled at the list. It was all so... wonderfully unneeded. Delta ran a finger down the list, unable to hold back a small laugh as she purchased them all. Her total DP of 50 dropped with a whine but Delta just watched with excited eyes as the room shifted.
Ruli sliced another cut off her apple, clean and skinned it like it was some small animal. She sighed with pleasure as the light sun tickled her slightly darker skin. It had been quite some time since she had been properly mana-infused.
She lounged under a tree, almost directly opposite Delta’s dungeon entrance. She made a mental note to bring the girl some stone or wood so she could spruce up the place.
A dungeon entrance was like a first impression. If it had burned skeletons, blood-soaked wood, and maybe if it was really special, some ominous weather effects then adventurers felt charmed. Ruli had seen many entrances in her career, the odd times she felt restless and set out on a quest or a small journey.
Dungeons that towered over their nearby town or hamlets. Dungeons that were an entire forest. Dungeons that appeared once a month when a drum beat 5 times under the full moon. The places known as dungeons were just the oddest things, they could do so much and they often did it really weirdly.
Some dungeons were gone forever, the way to enter them lost, forgotten or discarded. Some dungeons discarded people by just up and leaving one day. Ruli hadn’t seen a dungeon grow legs and storm off but she had seen them float away, fall into the ocean with some effort... or just vanish.
She savoured another bite of the apple. Mrs Dabberghast’s gift and no one turned down a free treat from Mrs Dabberghast.
Movement caught her eye and she saw Cram’s bulky head appear from the entrance. The good sign was that neither men were covered in gore or web. The second good sign was Smalls was lecturing the taller man. It was almost in a married sense but the men just had a close relationship that came from nearly dying together several times. Ruli had seen, felt, and hated that kind of bond herself and she had to respect it.
“Alright,” she said calmly and both men paused, not seeing her in the shade. They didn’t speak and Ruli chewed her apple, eyes not blinking. The small knife in her hand peeled the red skin of the apple, its juices leaking down her hand.
“Ruli, you waiting for us?” Cram nodded and Ruli stood up and walked forward softly. Smalls put his fingers to his chin on a reflex. Ruli smiled, it was a neutral one.
“Not exactly. How did it go?” she said, the knife cleaned with one wipe of her thumb.
“It was good. Never been in a dungeon exactly like that one,” Smalls responded which made Cram snort.
‘Exactly’? How about never? Sharing a camp with the gobs, cute little challenges, those signboards and the talking boxes,” Cram listed with his fingers. Ruli blinked, her slightly slouching posture disturbed as she squinted at the two men.
“The wonderful pots, the musical tentacle mushroom... then there was Sir Fran,” Smalls finished and Cram beamed.
“Great guy, he got me,” he beamed, stretching his arm out to show a long thin cut along his arm.
“You fought the boss?” she asked, voice suddenly very quiet. Smalls idly flexed his fingers as Cram met her gaze.
“I did. He wanted me to bring my all, the little guy deserved my best,” he replied gruffly and Ruli’s knife’s reflective surface darkened as if becoming stained.
“You killed him,” Ruli translated, her hair beginning to move, skin looking slightly darker as a wispy mana curled around her fingers. Smalls moved between them as Cram bared his teeth.
“Now now, before we start something we regret. Delta complimented us and the goblins all said how Fran had the time of his life... he’ll be back soon. The dungeon held no ill will and congratulated us,” Smalls informed Ruli.
The breeze blew through the lush meadow where Delta’ dungeon rested. Ruli inhaled and crossed her arms.
“Can’t take you two anywhere,” Ruli complained to Cram who let go of his axe handle, grinning.
“Says the hovering mother hen,” he fired back and Ruli shot him a cold look.
“Yes, well. The dungeon is very interesting, the web alone is lovely. The company was diverse and I heard some things about the second floor,” Smalls smiled as Ruli’s attention became focused him. He tilted his head.
“You’re rather invested in Delta. Is there something we’re missing?” Smalls inquired which made Ruli turn away, itching her nose.
“Delta... she’s got a great pond and her jokes are terrible if the goblins say them right... and you know, she likes the kids in the village,” Ruli muttered and Cram snorted.
“Delta is your friend or someone you can stand at least,” he mockingly translated back at her. Ruli’s smile appeared, it made Cram pause as he tried to backpedal.
Ruli knew that if they did fight, honestly and to the end. She was sure she would win.
Smalls and Cram were fantastic fighters and teammates but Ruli just had one too many things up her sleeve to be called fair. The ability to grow back fingers for one if she wanted to.
Ironically, she sent silent thanks to her father dearest for the ability to lose more games of stabscotch than was really healthy.
Still, these two may have also kept things hidden. A trick to utterly send her and her confident ass straight into the abyss without even as much as “good day”. Adventurers were tricky like that.
She knew that fact all too well.
One good dungeon run, one good skill mutation or ability epiphany then the equals became unequal. It had happened to Ruli a few times. It had been a sour thing to have her pride handed to her with a silver platter when the day before she and her companions had been on the same level of skill.
“Delta mentioned how her second level isn’t ready. Poor dear needs trees, apparently,” Smalls commented and Ruli blinked at him, her cheeks going pink.
If Quiss had caught her internally monologuing...
“Trees?” Ruli raised one eyebrow as Cram walked towards a clutter of the wooden things. He unhooked his axe and Ruli moved to catch up with him.
“As a lumberjack, I have wonder what you can do to help here. I mean if the dungeon is asking for it then it isn’t bad if we help out,” she said dryly and Cram took a few practise swings and simply nodded.
Ruli nodded back and with a single flick of her knife, two trees groaned and toppled over.
“But is the lumberjack better than me?” she challenged, feeling her blood demand some form of success. Cram’s yellow eyes widened and then turned hot with some emotion.
“One one way to find out... for Delta, eh?” he grinned and Ruli’s blood sang in response.
“I guess I’ll just sit here and knit myself some pillowcases,” Smalls called out dryly and sat on a rock with a grumble, he took out a leather helmet with two tusks on either side out of his bag to reach for his needles.
Ruli could sense a faint hint of magic about the helmet and knew it was from Fran. It even looked a little like Bacon.
Smalls paused and looked up at them, not hearing chopping wood.
He sighed in disgust as both Ruli and Cram waited for him.
“Fine, on your mark, get ready... go!” he shouted.
A tree flew towards him as the forest shuddered.
Smalls flexed his finger and the web in his hand went taught. The log slowed as the web stretched out and cut the wood into messy chunks, raining splinters down over Smalls unamused face.
“Children. Overgrown barbarian children,” Smalls said with disgust.
Delta was simply waiting for an idea to strike her or for her goblins to return.
“So, I think if we find a silent boy in green, we should just give him anything he wants because I don’t like our chances against him now that I am the dungeon,” Delta said lazily at the bottom of her pond. Nu sighed as he moved about the pond.
Delta suddenly bolted straight up.
“My pots! Nooooo, my poor pots are in danger!” she wailed slightly and then froze as something hit the entrance hall floor.
Delta moved and another thump sounded out.
Delta burped slightly and her breath came out fresh like pine needles.
She turned the corner and froze as trees came flying through the entrance, landing in a rough pile as the wood was quickly absorbed. She peered at the hole that was her entrance and she could barely hear voices.
“That was my one!”
“I cut, not my fault it landed in my pile.”
Delta backed away. First spiders, now there was demonic lumberjacks fighting for territory outside her entrance. They sounded demonic as more trees fell.
“Nu, is there anything about tree cutters in the fairy tale book?” Delta whispered and Nu turned to look at her, his box blank.
Delta backed up against the wall as another tree flew down.
“Ho- Nu, I don’t want to be a toilet!” she crossed her arms and Nu jingled and Delta, just for a moment, heard a snort of masculine laughter.
She blinked and then turned red.
She smacked the screen, making it cut mid-jingle. It floated to the ground and for a moment didn’t respond.
The trees did eventually stop coming.
Ruli popped her head in and Delta felt... warm when Ruli explained she had heard Delta wanted some trees. She was going to make the fishing pond amazing for that woman very soon.
Her DP had jumped to over 173 and her mana had maxed out and burst over the limit again.
Delta waddled off, feeling like she was going to barf if she didn’t start spending soon. So, she moved down to the second floor and Nu appeared again.
Delta began to conjure the trees to deflate her mana. It felt like she had eaten far too much and any more was going to honestly suck.
The giant jungle room became dotted with about 5 of the trees. It helped to alleviate much of the pressure but Delta didn’t want to waste any mana so she flicked her through her menu and with a groan tapped the monster screen to summon another Frog tribesman.
It appeared slowly and Delta began to feel the pressure grow again so she made two berry bushes on either side of the river to set her mana just at 68 and safe from further decay. Delta sighed with relief and turned back to see her newest resident.
It looked identical to Rale but...
It was much bigger. It was about a foot higher than Rale and slightly thicker, not muscular but just more mass to its frame. It blinked its eyes opened.
“...” it didn’t speak and Delta gave it a cheery wave.
“Hello!” she tried and the frog blinked faster. It looked down and then around.
“...Mother,” it whispered, almost shyly. It seemed to feel awkward as it stood there. Delta opened her mouth but something occurred to her.
This frog called her mother right off the bat.
The voice was not exactly deep like Rale’s but it held a cantor that Rale’s didn’t.
“Welcome to the dungeon! I hope you feel happy here!” Delta continued and the frog gave a small smile, it raised its eyes to look in the general direction of Delta before dropping them again.
“I will... I know I will,” it agreed and Delta noticed something finally.
Something that she didn’t really understand when she had given this frog a look over.
It had two pieces of fabrics.
One as the loincloth and one that wrapped tightly near the upper torso, almost as if to protect its modesty...
The lightbulb clicked on over Delta’s head. It was actually Nu but Delta felt the answer would arrive either way.
“Woah, my first girl monster,” Delta muttered and then shook her head, smiling.
“As per tradition! We should give you a name!” Delta readied herself for the argument the frog would have, like Rale did.
But the figure only nodded.
“I would like that. I know that... I knew that I would get one,” the frog-woman did another small smile and Delta gave Nu a baffled look.
“How?” she had to ask and the frog just looked unsure.
“As.. if I was born knowing how to breathe. I was born knowing that we are your children, know that we are named, know that we are not to kill...” the woman repeated some words, her eyes closed.
“Uh... Nu? Answers? Now? Please?” she stuttered and Nu vanished for a second and then reappeared.
Delta put a hand on her cheek and frowned.
“Sounds complicated. If I mess up with the first monster I summon, the rest come out broken?” she said and Nu only dinged.
The frog in front of Delta waited with a serene calmness that made Delta feel slightly shy.
“So, a name! Well... how about...” Delta’s mind wandered for a name. She threw out a few that came.
“Lady... Vert... or how about Fleur? Oh, maybe something to do with stars or divination...” Delta mused aloud and the frog perked up at something.
“Dev...ina? Devina... Dev. Yes, I like those sounds!” the frog said, sounding slightly excited. Delta blinked but quickly joined in with the excited frog.
“Devina! Dev for short sounds... well if that’s what you want to be called!” Delta just grinned as the frog-woman seemed to embrace the name as if it were a gift.
Rale’s head appeared out of the river and Delta saw him eye the new arrival but he vanished before too long.
Delta hoped they’d get along okay...
She followed Dev as she began to slowly adjust to her new environment. Her new monster rushed to one of the fresh trees Delta had just planted and bent down to examine something Delta couldn’t see.
“Mother, what is this springy thing? It sticks to the tree like a leech,” Dev mused and Delta, smiling, looked over her shoulder.
On her new tree, was a black cap that grew like a tiny ledge off the bark. It was quickly growing a new shelf above it.
“Mother? Mother? Why... why are you screaming?” Dev asked in alarm.
Delta went to a happy place as she sat heavily down, still... singing very loudly.
It was a volcano where nothing made of spongy flesh could survive.
It made Delta very happy.