Delta watched from a small distance, as Rale played tug of war with Bob. The sounds they were making were akin to a demon and a deteminded gym instructor.
Delta named the worm Bob to help see the creature as something a little cuter. It... kind of worked in a way. Rale tugged at the rock as Bob tried to pull it back in. They had been at this for a while and Delta was not going to tell them that if that rock had been an actual person, they’d long have drowned or been torn in half by the two forces.
It was a good attempt on the monster’s efforts, however. Trying to save someone was at least something in Delta’s books.
Rale held the rock with triumph and Bob wriggled in cheer. The worm seemed to just be perpetually happy at everything. Rale flexed and basked in response to the worms unho... excited noises. Delta eyed the gym tools that seemed stacked up against a rock formation as Rale seemed to claim the head of the river has his work out area.
Delta had heard of gym rats, never of gym frogs but she guessed as long as Rale was happy she could keep gifting him more items fit for a frog king of the gym.
She turned and nearly shrieked as Devina stood there.
“Mother, I sense you... and now I hear you,” the frog smiled politely in Delta’s general direction.
“Devina! You scared me,” Delta grumbled and Devina just smiled. Her slightly rounder features and expressive eyes showed a slight hint of mischief before it vanished back behind the serene gaze.
“Did I? My apologies. I come to watch Rale and the new one. I spent much time conversing with the Queen Bee. She is rather demanding but interesting,” Devina spoke with a casual tone and a small red bee crawled over her arm before it flew off to investigate a flower nearby.
“You talked to her? As in with words?” Delta questioned with delight and Devina shook her head.
“Her buzzing was mostly noise. We worked out a general one buzz for yes, two for no. She did 10 once and then laid eggs. I do not know what that means in Bee language but I took it for a polite goodbye,” Devina informed her and Rale paused at the sound of her voice finally reaching him.
He turned and stared at Devina then slowly climbed into the pool to peer at her from the surface before he slowly sank out of sight. Delta blinked and Devina snorted.
“He thinks I am some oddity or otherworldly being. He has not spoken to me yet and my attempts have been met with silence and sudden bursts of running away. It amuses me so I sought him out,” Devina informed Delta in a hushed tone. She turned and hummed, stroking the flowers and bushes that were formed. She flicked a black mushroom and it seemed to shrink away from her.
Delta raised one eyebrow at the scene then looked back at the wide-eyes of Rale, peering over the edge of the pool. He was hard to see as Bob was mimicking him, taking up most of the side of the abyss pool to stare at Devina.
He gave a small shriek and Rale nodded.
“That’s her. The other one,” he told Bob in confidence. The worm shivered and sunk out of view.
Delta took the chance to move closer and, smiling, spoke to Rale.
“So... why won’t you talk to her?” she wondered and Rale jumped and splashed about in brief panic. He squinted at her then looked away.
“She is distracting! I cannot flex or lift or speak when she is around. It is some curse or spell she casts. Mother, I cannot save people with her appearing and making me weak!” he hissed and Delta put a hand over her mouth and tried not to make a noise for a while.
“I... see. That is a dilemma! Well, as the wise and powerful Delta,” she began and in the far distance, a distance ringing sounded out like mocking laughter.
“Nu! Shut up!” she yelled at the forming jungle. Turning back, her face feeling pink, she continued.
“The key to defeating her power is to constantly be under it! You build up resistance,” Delta said as if this was a big secret. Rale nodded and his eyes lit up with some inner light.
“I see... I know her weakness and soon I will be the strongest in the jungle!” Rale hissed and sank below the water to plot. Delta’s lips twitched and she stood up to leave. Rale quickly reappeared.
“Mother. Bob is... a bit lonely,” he began and some bubbles rose with a shriek and Rale glared down at the depths.
“If we do not tell her, we cannot improve!” he shouted. He turned back to the open air.
“I cannot always spend time with him so Bob would like some company,” he explained and Bob’s shadowy form vanished beneath the sand to hide, as if Delta would laugh at him.
Delta was too busy trying to stop her heart from breaking at the scene. Bob... the poor thing. She slipped into the water and sank to the dark bottom.
“Bob. Bob,” she called and a pair of pincers barely appeared to acknowledge her.
“Don’t worry. I am sorry, I should have guessed it was a little harsh of me to leave you in this pool alone. I’m just trying to make the dungeon better in a hurry so I’ve been kind of... a bad caretaker, huh? Here!” Delta spent some mana and two Crabs appeared. They swam about the pit and settled on the sand.
“Hey, guys! Hang out with Bob and try to have a good time!” Delta beamed, hoping she wasn’t just setting herself up to deal with two more lonely creatures. The two crabs raised their claws and did a little dance. Bob appeared and quickly loomed over the two red crabs.
They danced and clacked their claws, not afraid. Bob slowly began to wriggle to the tiny dance. He flowed up and the crabs hitched a ride on his body. Delta rose and with them and saw the crabs now making noises and clicking their little hearts out.
Bob was now in full wriggle and began to bob his gaping maw back and forward.
Delta guessed he wouldn’t become crabby anytime soon with these two little guys around.
Delta felt her first floor seal itself and Nu appeared.
Delta waved him off.
“Yeah, I know we’re eager but I like to have some time with my friends, Mom,” she sighed and Nu just budged her along.
Nu sounded so excited and energetic. Delta slowed, a small smile playing around on her lips. Nu went from light green back to his default blue.
Nu vanished quickly and Delta didn’t even get to say anything.
“You are such a drama queen,” Delta called and vanished up the stairs to greet people, not knowing the crabs and Bob had heard the entire thing.
One of the crabs made a rough box with his claws and began to nag the other. The second crab pranced about and danced, pretending to climb stairs as it jumped into the pool. Bob looked at them and wriggled in delight.
Delta never knew what devils she unleashed until later.
Poppy Roth watched as the outside world slowly moved on. She closed the book in her hand and put it back into its place. It was just a book. The only thing she had to do was be entertained.
It was easy and relaxing. Her mother walked into her room and Poppy already felt like her life was a little too stressful for the moment before.
“Poppy, your aunt sends you a greeting in the mail. However, Due to the ridiculous outgoing mail ban, I cannot reply. I have left you a space to fill in your own greetings and small talk when it does,” her mother added on and place the letter down for Poppy to see the three neat paragraphs done by her mother, a rough mess of her fathers and a space for herself.
Poppy took the offered ink pen.
I am fine. - Poppy.
It was rather long winded but Poppy just finished a good book and her mood was still somewhat high. Her aunt was going to be overwhelmed by the sheer content of Poppy’s segment. Her mother sighed but this was a long argument that no one won.
“Poppy, darling, you can’t avoid people forever. While Deo is a bad influence, he is at least an influence. Why did you not go with him to that dungeon place? Ruli is horrifically good at killing things, you would be safe,” the older woman inquired and Poppy squirmed away and sat on her bed.
“Don’t want to. Outside is a pain,” she answered honestly and her mother bit her own perfectly lipsticked mouth. Her soft red hair was in the exact style of popular, her dress was pleasing but not overtly eye-catching.
Poppy’s mother was a butterfly and Poppy wanted to be the caterpillar forever. Poppy felt the itch of a monster rise up.
Silk spinner, a little nudge to her throat mana, twist the organ to produce silk and not sound. Poppy sighed and squashed it. Her mother would not be pleased if her perfect ensemble became covered in monster string.
She could sleep. The Resting Raging Sloth had such a power to rest for 18 hours for a power nap. It rose as she thought of it. Mana to the eye and slight amount to the brain and she would simply sleep. She resisted that too.
Poppy had books to read, characters to love, characters to dissect. Bad plots to fix on her notepad.
It was a very human thing and nothing popped up in her body when she thought of it.
Being a blue mage was the greatest pain of all. Poppy still remembered the day she had found out.
Her Dad was an amazing cook, Poppy lived for her father’s dishes and gruff and rude humour. Poppy loved the meat, the tangy vegetables and sweet desserts. The only thing was... her Dad used monster ingredients to reach new tastes and sensations in his dishes.
Poppy had eaten those dishes since she had teeth. The sheer amount of different monsters she had consumed before she was ten was immense and some of her happiest memories. Then she hit 12 and she began to drool acid like an ant monster, explode with a light of the demonic fairy and more and more abilities, too many to count.
Every emotion, feeling, memory, inclination... caused some power or other to appear. It was a terrifying time until she had been identified and taught control. Blue mages gain powers from eating or taking an attack of the monster.
The downside is that they could never... unlearn the powers, so Blue Mages carefully tried to limit their number of spells to prevent... Poppy.
The base cause of her power, experience and reaction, never faded. Everything outside her room came with its own building-sized pile of monster powers gnashing instincts, the need to just let loose and roar... to lash out with power.
So Poppy had no real desire to leave her room. Not even with Deo. The school was hard enough, but a dungeon? Twice? Poppy felt cramps at the thought.
“Poppy, it will get better. You can’t stop living your life because of...” her mother trailed off and Poppy looked out the window at a bird nesting on the high branches.
It made her back tingle with power and Poppy closed the curtains and set the room in shadow.
“I’m happiest here. Tell auntie I said hi,” Poppy picked another book and lost herself in another person’s untainted feelings.
The character in her book laughed and drank ale, it was just that. An emotion and Poppy pulled her hood over her head so her mother couldn’t see her red eyes.
“YOU WERE SO AWESOME!” Deo praised Vas as the golem easily avoided the webs and completed the challenge. Deo was absolutely covered in the somewhat rare web after his attempted had him tripping over the wire Delta has set up for the invading spiders. Ruli just kept the smaller teen at arm's length.
“Nice vest,” she commented as Vas held the web shirt out like it was a monster as well.
“YOU SHOULD WEAR IT AND BE LIKE ME!” Deo grinned making Vas’ face soften.
It folded the shirt out and slid it on without a word. Deo looked pleased and Ruli was about to comment on the two when her words died off.
Delta watched with glee as Ruli’s dark eyes went wide at the expanded Pond before them.
“Delta, you crafty little minx!” Ruli almost danced as she rushed into the expanded room. Deo followed and looked around, waving his hands.
“IT’S SO BIG NOW! HELLLLLOOO!” he yelled and Vas trembled as the sound travelled through him. Delta felt a whine in her ear as if she had tinnitus. Ruli was looking around the pond and pointed with a fanged grin.
“A golden fish, Delta, just pop the ring out already, I’m all yours!” she cheered and pulled out her ugly duck cap, slapping it on her head.
Waddles eyed it with interest and Delta watched the duck with a wary eye.
Ruli pulled out her rod from a protective sleeve and Vas sat down quite far from the water, watching the scene in his web shirt with Deo next to him in his... web outfit.
As Ruli began to wind things up, they all froze as a drumming sounded out.
It was energetic, fast, slightly repetitive but catchy. It made the mood instantly soar.
Ruli was frozen, eyes hidden behind some hair. She looked up at the ceiling where the drumming echoed through the very walls.
“Yessssssssss,” she hissed and her muscles bunched, her hair whipping up in a silent storm as the drums set some fire inside Ruli to the highest level.
“Dungeons do not have music unless it is cursed music or lures people to traps!” Vas exclaimed and Deo was literally vibrating on the spot, his eyes wide as he seemed to absorb the very thudding of the drums.
He put his entire body flat on the ground.
“THERE IS DRUMS! YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME! I FEEL THEM!” he shouted and Ruli was already winding up the rod, her grin devilish.
“It’s the sound of my new favourite place on the plane welcoming me home!” she looked back so Deo could see her lips.
Vas stood and watched the hook fly straight into the enlarged pond.
Delta saw the goblins arrive and begin to cheer as Ruli baited the new fish.
Delta wondered if she would find the secret tunnel... she sort hoped not. The second floor wasn’t done and she kind of wanted to wow her friends with the complete scene of a misty jungle, mysteries awaiting them, the call of adventure, the song of bees!
They would get to meet Bob!
Her mana was now rising at a slow but steady rate.
She closed her eyes and bid her friends goodbye for the moment.
Their cheering and bodies filled with the drums of her Greater Mushy made her feel like she was leaving a party that promised memories she would cherish.
But Delta was only as good as her promises, so she flew down to the second floor, hoping against all hope that maybe if she did enough fast enough, she could come back and have fun! Then she could let them all come down here and they could stay even longer and Delta could enjoy having human interaction for a little bit longer.
It was this hope that had her fly directly to the far end of her jungle room and start the building of her new core room.
“Nu, let’s build this floor, let’s kick ass and make this place something to be remembered!” Delta shouted and Nu moved back in alarm.
Nu’s screen turned dark blue with glee as the hallway and room before them hollowed out perfectly. Delta flexed her growing mana to move the core to this room. As she did so, the decorations appeared. The Fran statues, the four stone mushrooms and... where those two fish fountains?
The fish curved out the stone basin and gurgled water into a tiny hole near the base of Delta’s twin earth pillar that held her core.
She had two of these statues on either side of her core now and it Delta remembered she had gained a decoration from the pond evolutions...
“Fancy. I feel fancy,” Delta decided and beamed as her Core now had a river and some bees between it and any troublemakers.
Delta quickly moved to the far right of the room and flexed her hands.
“One corridor coming up! Delta called with her voice filled with energy.
Old Lady Jose closed the photo album. The tech was handy if not very useful inside dungeons due to mana pollution but the sheer number pictures she had amassed over the years...
Someone cleared their throat and she didn’t even turn to look at her guest.
“Haldi, I can smell you a mile away, you’re using the strong stuff. We know that doesn’t end well,” she called and the cheerful old man came over and sat down across from her, a simple table between them.
“Milla, how long has it been since we talked?” he greeted and Milla smirked.
“Three hours ago, what do you want?” she tapped the album with her fingers and Haldi looked at her without fear. 20 years ago, the small pleasant man before her had been wild-haired with a glint in his eyes. He explored things most people would baulk at even considering.
Including Milla herself. That made her smirk again. She, Haldi, Pic and... Durence had been a solid team.
Oh, those were the years. Where Milla could conquer any beast or any heart.
“Milla, the dungeon is going to be digging deeper soon. Should we not be more cautious, prepared?” he asked and pleasant memories of the old days turned to ash and blood in Milla’s mind.
“No. Everything is dead. I made sure of that. Let the dungeon dig and remove the last vestiges of that fucking hole from existence. Delta is at least innocent,” she began and Haldi’s smile was polite but harsh.
“Malleable to your whims, I think you mean,” he challenged and Milla let it go. Her yellow eyes pulsed once, old tired watchers that were coming to life due to the dungeon mana rising.
“Point being is that I’d rather have a naive, innocent, bumbling girl in this land than any of those Accursed fuckers. They... I have lost enough to them. We have lost enough. We promised, on his grave, that we would die here. Making sure that nothing got in or out. Now is our chance to make sure we missed nothing, that nothing is left,” she banged the table and it broke.
Haldi’s face turned blank.
“We gave up everything, you need not remind me. I had a future but I gave it up like you did. We promised Durence that we would keep the peace. Now we have children here, neighbours, shops, bakers, and all sorts. We’ve become old and now things are happening. And the next generation has to deal with it, not us if we don’t last. It’s sad and annoying,” he scoffed.
Milla picked up the photo album and opened it to a picture of a little girl with large fangs and a giggle on her face, the wild black hair and dark skin. Even in this picture, she held up a wriggling rat she had trapped.
Milla had even given that up for the promise.
“We can only wait,” she said quietly and Haldi sighed.
The room felt empty. Even when Pic showed up to share his concerns, the fourth and final seat would never be filled again.
Her only saving grace was she was sure, confident, she had gotten them all.
Delta stared at the huge room her corridor collapsed into.
It was a simple enough cave, it had rocks, moss, bugs, and all the things that made a nice cave.
What did not belong was the garish purple and orange circus tent, tarnished and faded with age but rather well preserved.
The flap of the tent moving as if beckoning her closer but there was an oppressive silence about the place.
Something was in here and Delta felt the room’s chill soak into her body. As she looked around, she saw the space wasn’t exactly natural. The room had... edges and clear design where the stone had been cut away to make space.
Something was... not quite right.