Delta thought Mrs Dabberghast was a little odd.
They way she hummed at the spiders and smiled at the webs.The way she enjoyed the Pond room with almost no words.The lack of judgement she had for the mudroom, despite the fact she knew exactly which platform was a trap and where each log would swing out form.
Then she had seen the grove.
“Oh, Delta, sweetie! This is wonderful, such a rich plump soil. The right moisture... oh, being a dungeon, it must be so lovely to control every factor,” Mrs Dabberghast said with a odd look. Delta blushed at the compliment. She didn’t want to tell Mrs Dabberghast her first reaction to unlocking the Mushroom Grove, it just didn’t seem healthy.
Mr Mushy walked out and Mrs Dabberghast seemed quite pleased by the sight. Mr Mushy was also rather pleased to see Mrs Dabberghast in return.
Delta watched as the woman’s hands touched Mr Mushy and a feeling washed over her. It felt invasive and warm, like a warm hand in the night Delta hadn’t expected to feel.
“Nu!” Delta said in shock, she waited but no other menu appeared.
“I see... a clever creature. I see how it has used to have poison sacks. Hm... it’s Ent like, a mind attached to a plant,” Mrs Dabberghast hummed and the Grove seemed to perk up at her voice. In her hands were a dying Lumen mushroom and one of the Gutrot ones.
“Master says that she made them from small mushrooms. Spitters,” Cois added and Mrs Dabberghast nodded as if this was expected.
“I did sense a feeling of a second evolution. I would say it was at least a class 2 threat, a very good job for a level 1 dungeon,” she smiled and her words made Delta’s smile grow.
“T-thank you... uh... class?” she asked and Mrs Dabberghast nodded as Cois repeated the question.
“Monsters, humans have a bad habit of sorting things, you see? We sort out clothes, our food, our fellow humans, and monsters. A class 1 would be a wonderful goblin, a class 10 would be a demi-god of the forest about to show some wood cutters why insects are nature’s clean up crew,” Mrs Dabberghast smiled softly. Delta imagined that and tried to guess what her duck was at.
1? Was it based on killing power?
Cois repeated her question and Mrs Dabberghast chuckled as she moved through the grove, examining things as she went.
“No, it is far too easy to place things with power at the top. It is more... fluid. A lesser demon with the power to inflict paranoia on a community may have a higher rank than a demon that would just kill them all. It’s honestly based more on our ability to kill them. A feeling or a plague has no sword we may clash against, a God may have no heart we may stab, a curse may take too much to end...” she said quietly and then looked down at the ground.
“I think that in the end, humans are a class 15. We are a greater danger than any dragon or demon, to you, to us, to the world. In this world, I can no longer see why we exist and I wonder if such an answer exists...” Mrs Dabberghast said blankly then after a moment smiled brightly.
“But I think we make great pastries and I shouldn’t ramble, it’s very rude!” she laughed and then her eyes lit up as she spotted the only real plant in the grove.
“Delta, dear... a Wyin sapling. You cheeky girl!” Mrs Dabberghast smiled with true delight. The plump woman walked over and began to trace a finger over the plant.
“A Wyin Tree is a story of hope, did you know that?” she asked aloud and Cois repeated her shaking head. Mrs Dabberghast smoothed the soil out a tad.
“A woman who was to be wed to a tyrant, ran away with her lover. He promised he would return as he went off to kill the tyrant so the woman may be free. She never gave up hope or despaired in the nights that passed. She waited so long, she turned into a tree. To this day, she waits for him,” Mrs Dabberghast recalled and Delta wasn’t sure how that story could be hopeful.
Mrs Dabberghast chuckled.
“Many see it as a tale of sorrow but I like the woman’s wisdom. If you had to pass the time, become a tree! One could debate, since no Wyin acorns exist anywhere else, that the true tree exists in the forest of the myth. I have looked and never found it but... I could never get a acorn to grow in my garden. I wonder how you did it?” she mused and Delta peered down at the rather normal looking plant.
“Master said that she just took it and grew it,” Cois repeated her words and Mrs Dabberghast nodded.
“Dungeons can be such wonderful places. Such sights, ideas, life changing views. I have seen halls of metal, seas of gold, the stars born underground...” she said gently and then put a hand to her cheek as if sad.
“I have seen horrors. Dungeons that make every level a mockery of humans. Plants that burn and scream... Delta, my dear, you are truly a lovely creature. I hope... no. I know you will be someone to impress me. Life is a gift in this dungeon, your kindness a pleasure!” Mrs Dabberghast sniffed and Delta looked a little stunned as the woman stroked the Wyin sapling.
“How you can see us humans and choose to befriend us? I cannot thank you enough,” the woman said with a thick voice as she stood.
“Humans are great. They keep making me happy and they keep talking to me... I really like people,” Cois repeated her words again Mrs Dabberghast eyed the dungeon ahead then turned back.
“Allow me to sound like a woman who talks too much for a moment. You are a seed that is only learning, humans are not that great in the long run. If the numbers spoke then overall we’re not really a race you want to know. Some, Durence for example, holds some very lovely people. I will come back soon... I will make sure you keep this joy, if only for a little bit longer,” Mrs Dabberghast promised and Delta felt uneasy.
“Who would... what kind of people would be bad?” she asked and Mrs Dabberghast looked like she was thinking for a moment.
“If someone ever tells you they are from the Banore Industry... you should kill them,” Mrs Dabberghast said bluntly and walked down the hall and over the mudroom.
“Who are they?” Delta needed to know and the woman slowed near the Pond room. Her face hiding by her long curls.
“Dungeon Growers. Mad people who think they have a divine right to make you into whatever they want. You... perhaps it is too soon but if you ever absorb too much of something, you will be forced to take on its aspect,” Mrs Dabberghast admitted with a dark tone.
Mushrooms. The word hit her hard as she fell silent. She had no control over the the appearance of the things and if someone had, for example, made her eat nothing but dead bodies...
Delta pushed that thought away as the woman left the spider room.
“Control your land. Dig deep and claim this world as yours. Your wit, as well as your power, will prevent these beasts from making you into their image,” Mrs Dabberghast smiled and left her basket on the ground.
“My gift... it was a lovely tour, my dear,” she laughed and left, her frame vanishing beyond the white barrier.
Delta wondered if the woman had intended for her words to make Delta uneasy. They had and Delta looked at the bare open gap that let people in. She had designed this place to be open, friendly, and safe.
The idea that people would force her to become some... idea made Delta queasy and a little scared of the open door. Nu appeared and began to list things as Delta just stared at the barrier.
Delta eyed the list and then took a deep breath. Mrs Dabberghast’s words had been somewhat dark, but... the woman seemed to care and Delta clasped her hands together towards the barrier.
“Thank you for the tribute... and the warning!” she bowed her head earnestly and swallowed hard as she straightened back up.
“I won’t... give up my joy,” she promised, recalling the woman’s words. The pain that had been briefly shown in the moment of Mrs Dabberghast lowering her guard.
“Nu? Why did a book give me a upgrade?” she asked seriously.
“But Ruli’s diary...” she trailed off and Nu chimed.
Delta blinked slowly then smiled, then she giggled.
“Nu, you’re just the best! We need to do that right now,” Delta hummed and hit the confirm button. The menu screen flickered.
“That is... good?” Delta tried, the words sounding confusing and Nu made a low twang noise.
“Can’t lie, I kinda want to give Ruli her diary back and make me appear more friendly,” Delta grinned.
Nu suddenly glowed.
“Nu?” Delta turned and faced the screen fully as words formed.
“Nu... I can unlock evolution paths?” she asked oddly and Nu made a error noise.
“Wow, great wisdom.” Delta teased and the menu screen rippled.
Delta spluttered and waved her hands in the air.
“Did you just mock me?!” she demanded and the menu made the sound of bells tinkling. It faded without a word and Delta was confident that she just got laughed at.
Grumbling, she turned to her other 2 menus and examined them.
Delta rubbed her hands and wondered what she should do...
She eyed one of her new gains and smiled.
Ruli grumbled as Mrs Dabberghast waved at them. Quiss was escorting her back to the village like the ‘gentleman’ Mrs Dabberghast knew him to be.
Ruli was sure the woman just enjoyed seeing Quiss’ face twitch. The goblins at her side walked in and grew as power flowed through them.
Contracted monsters were always cooler on their home turf. It wasn’t so much something the dungeon gave them but rather a perk of the contract itself.
Entering, Ruli eyed the entrance chamber and the door in front of her. Delta had been busy.
It was also brighter... much brighter than Ruli’s eyes remembered. Looking up, Ruli spotted what she thought was stars.
It took a second for Ruli to see that it was tiny growths of white moss that glowed along the dungeon ceiling. This first tunnel alone mimicked the starry sky so well that Ruli momentarily questioned if she was in a cave at all... not some trench with the open sky above her.
It was pretty and Ruli followed it, the feeling of dungeon mixing with this soothing sight to make Ruli’s nerves confused.
Danger or... not?
Ruli looked into the spider room and saw more moss. The webs twinkled and Ruli watched as the room looked like some silver winter wonderland as the light above reflected off the tiny beads.
Ruli took a breath and tried to keep a lid on her smile. She rushed through the open doors and into the Pond room.
It was... Ruli laughed as the water only made the mossglow more pretty as it reflected the light perfectly.
Ruli sat down and then laid down on her back.
“Ya know, Delta? I’m not one for pretty words but... you really made this place into something,” Ruli praised the empty room and a warm breeze blew through the room as the black duck on the far side cleaned his feathers.
That was when a fish leapt out the water and it’s scales gleamed silver, the glow moss making it sparkle.
Ruli sat up and her mouth dropped open.
“W-was that... a metal fish?!” Ruli squeaked and crawled towards the waters edge. She could see nothing but odd shapes but her heart beat wildly.
A real prize! A challenge!
Ruli stood and roared to the starry ceiling in acceptance.
Delta just smiled as she reread the menu.
Ruli’s quick departure made her laugh. Delta was sure the woman would be back soon with her pole.
Delta would be right. Delta would also be greatly underestimating how much attention this one fish would get.
In the end, Delta would regret this on many leagues of water.
But she would also love it in many more ways.