A boss room with no boss was like Delta with no mana or DP.
Helpful in spirit, but as useful as a noisy wind.
“So that is bee number 32 that has declined the job offer. Maybe I should ask the trees next?” Delta muttered as the regretful red bee went back to its task of investigating a flower for the queen.
She was glad Nu decided to wander off to do his own thing. Having his flat stare at her back as she kept asking for a monster to be a boss became a little hard to ignore. Delta knew that she could just create a monster to be the boss, give the new creature a task for life but it felt...
She had no doubt the monster would gladly accept the offer, but the choice wasn’t a fair one. It was like a fresh newborn latching on to the task like a mother. It didn’t know anything else to compare it to. Even with Rale and Devina’s knowledge being added to the ‘creation pool’ for the frogs... it didn’t mean the next frog monster would understand what it was accepting.
To Delta, it was no better than straight up creating and chaining a monster to the room to make her job easier. The fact the monster might never grow upset, or might even be happy with the job for all of time, wasn’t even something she cared to think of.
Their ignorance didn’t excuse Delta’s immoral choices in her own head.
It only really left Delta with a few options. One was simply to not have a boss; Delta discarded that idea immediately. She was optimistic with visitors, not idiotic.
Grim only got so far because Sis left the door unlocked... not something that would happen again!
The other option was to look for alternatives and hope one of them stuck as a boss. If the room eventually offered her a chance to spin the wheel to spawn a boss, Delta would turn it down. After Bob, it was just better for her peace of mind not to gamble for a while.
Bob was nice, but he still looked like something crawled out of the Devil’s basement and gave old Scratch a shock on the way out.
Delta walked down and into the river, whistling as she plotted. Looking at her menu, she could see her 78 DP was cheerfully waiting for a chance to be spent. Her 84 mana was maxed out, the boss room giving her that extra 5 mana limit.
Honestly she should make as many rooms as possible to get the most out of the system, but after digging her way into Renny’s circus Delta was just going to take things one step at a time.
The river rushed overhead and Delta stretched as the slightly warm water flowed through her, tickling her body a little.
“More monsters, more rooms, more ideas. Easy enough. I cause enough trouble by accident, I’m sure I can rustle something up when I put my mind to it,” Delta smiled to herself as she floated and let the water carry her downstream.
Delta flew up and stood above the river a moment later, face focused as she pulled up the menu again.
“Waterfall, river, beehive, circus, hotspring, frog lair, entrance, empty boss room, and resting area behind the waterfall. I have options, I just need to tie them altogether. The boss is going to be the key to this,” Delta said aloud. She paced back and forward as she let ideas and thoughts flow.
“The room is big; it was meant to tire people out originally, and I can use it like that as well, but I can also see another use. It makes people travel and search for things in the jungle. Maybe I could tie the boss, in a way, to the things in the jungle. I doubt I could make a rule that would prevent anyone accessing the boss without the right items, not just now anyway... but not everyone that will come to my dungeon might want to fight the boss,” Delta slowed as she latched onto that thought.
“A lot of people want the resources, like Mrs Dabberghast. She liked the plants so... what if the boss could also be passed if the person explored thoroughly enough and worked for the items in each area? A scavenger hunt?” Delta tested the words and they seem to strike something.
Delta felt so pleased with her usually chaotic thought process that she decided to let it go wild.
“Can’t kill the monsters for the parts; they have to be earned. Stop the usual glory hounds or Grim-like folk. Makes them spend more time on the floor, which means more items for me and more mana! So I need to make each area valuable and have a unique item held by each area’s ‘boss’!” Delta almost felt like fist pumping as the dots just lined up in her head.
“I just need a boss!” she declared and then froze.
Delta deflated as the original issue flashed back into her head.
“You look troubled.”
Delta screeched and almost toppled back into the river as Devina’s voice called to her from behind.
Delta spun with a glare at the pleasantly calm Devina.
“You do that on purpose!” she accused and Devina tilted her face.
“I have no idea what you mean, Mother. I would never upset you, even if you did happen to create a most evil creature,” Devina replied, her calm tone never changing. Delta blinked in response.
“I... did?” she replied slowly in confusion. Devina’s face pinched around her eyes.
“The orange menace,” Devina added a little too quickly, betraying her facade. The words made Delta perk up.
“Delbird!” she exclaimed with joy; then, as if summoned, a flash of orange appeared. The bird in question chirped as it landed on Devina’s head.
“Make it stop,” Devina requested with a strained voice that caused Delta to stare at her.
“Stop?” she echoed as the bird preened. The frog woman closed her eyes.
“The bird is the most foul-”
“The fowlest!” Delbird chimed in, but Devina kept talking as if the bird didn’t exist.
“-thing in this jungle. It refuses to leave me alone!” Devina complained loudly. Delta had never seen the woman so unlike herself.
“It must like you! I mean, every wise person has a flying familiar of some kind! Even Merlin has his owl!” Delta reminded with a smile on her face. Devina nodded furiously.
“This ‘Merlin’ sounds correct. I would like to trade this pest for an owl please!” she requested. Delbird tilted his head.
“Get rid of me? For an owl? Hoot do you think you are?” Delbird demanded loudly and this made Devina scream as she swatted at the bird, which flapped out of reach. Delta stuffed her fist in her mouth as she felt a gale of giggles rise up at their antics.
It was then that Rale pulled himself from the river, his lean body looking far more toned than Delta remembered from yesterday.
“I heard someone here! Greetings Mother! Hello Dev!” Rale smiled easily at the frozen Devina. Delta waved, but could only watch as Rale moved closer to Devina. Delbird landed back on Devina’s head and stared at Rale.
“Don’t you dare...” Devina hissed. Delbird hesitated at the threat, then puffed his chest out in defiance.
“Hello!” he greeted and Rale’s eyes seemed to sparkle at the sight of a talking bird.
“Devina, your bird talks like a person!” Rale laughed as he crossed his thick arms. Delbird narrowed his little beady eyes.
“Look Devina! The frog skipped brain day!” he fired back. Devina reached up and held the bird’s beak shut tight with one hand.
“Did you forget what I can do? The hunting you down with spirits of the jungle?” she asked deathly calm. Delbird pulled his beak free.
“I guess... I did froget!” he answered. Delta had to walk into the river for a moment to excuse herself as choked laughter began to escape.
Rale’s boisterous laugh was unashamed in its volume.
“Devina, you have great tastes! Your bird is funny!” Rale grinned. Delta peered out of the water, enjoying the scene. She blinked at the most unexpectedly high pitched giggle that left the woman’s mouth.
“Ah... yes! My...bird. I too really like his jokes. You’re welcome to come hear more anytime!” Devina offered, her posture turning a little shy. Delbird squawked in alarm at her tone, but Devina shoved him into one of the pouches she had made.
“I have to go! Feed my bird and do...things!” Devina backed away as Rale tried to come closer, still dropping water down his greenish skin.
“I will come find you soon Dev! May I ask what your bird’s name is?” Rale called and before Devina could speak, Delbird’s voice broke free of the pouch.
Delta frowned but decided the bird was allowed to choose its own name.
“Dev and Inchy! I like it, I must go now. Never know when someone might need my help!” Rale waved and bowed to Delta before he vanished back into the water.
Delta’s mind had frozen, so she didn’t actually give him a proper farewell. Rale’s words just replayed over and over in her head.
Dev and Inchy.
Dev and Inchy.
The bird had just topped anything Delta had done. It had sacrificed its own name to make a joke.
Delta needed to evolve that bird as soon as possible. One way or another.
“Menu... bring up monsters and available rooms for the second floor,” Delta requested with a grin.
CrayClaw: 13 Mana
The list seemed small and it confused Delta, as most system related things did.
“Why can’t I purchase goblins or a storeroom? I mean, I get spider rooms and the CrayClaw from the first floor...” Delta trailed off as a box appeared.
Delta stared at Nu’s box.
“Where have you been?” she asked as digested his words. Nu seemed to pause.
In the distance, the ground hummed as a pipe organ seemed to travel the floor. Delta gave Nu a long look.
“Yeah... I know Mr Mushy as an artist,” she replied dryly and Nu took a moment to answer.
Nu seemed pretty confident, which made his words even more annoying when Delta knew he was right.
“So, I’ll just make new monsters and new rooms but... the Mushroom Grove, why has it got something extra?” she asked as her finger hovered over the option. Nu turned his box to look at it.
“Nu! Come on, my luck is just fine!” she crossed her arms, nodding with confidence.
Mila watched as the man got down from his horse. The beast looked experienced, and its rider no different.
“Place is looking...lively,” he said by way of greeting. Mila only waited. She knew the man well enough to sense a trap.
There was a pause as the man looked slowly around.
“So, how’s the weather been? Any grandkids? Is that a new hairstyle? Mila, is that pie you’re baking in that house? Smells great. Is there a new dungeon around?” he asked in a rapid-fire speed. Mila narrowed her eyes and the horse snorted, backing away nervously.
“Tax Collector Noland. Your being here is about as welcoming as a wart on my ass. The weather was great until you showed up. I have no grandkids, thanks for reminding me. It is pie, but you’re not getting any and yes, there is a dungeon about,” Mila replied to each question, slowly and clearly.
Noland itched at his scratchy beard. The man looked like a noble on the run but, really, Mila knew that the man had a decent talent with magic and the knife he kept hidden in his left boot.
The fact he still had his shiny baubles, rings and gold chains, only reminded Mila that she wasn’t dealing with a pampered scion.
“And it wasn’t reported because...” he trailed off and gave her a long look, waiting for her to dig her own grave.
“All magical and physical means of communicating was simultaneously disabled, cause unknown, which means we couldn’t do anything to report it; thank the gods you showed up,” Mila gave him a thin smile.
Noland raised one brow and looked around at the people.
“And no one travelled to inform someone because of... what?” he pushed.
Mila thought about it.
“I’m pretty sure most of us here are banned from the capital, and the rest simply did not give a crap. Do feel free to attempt to arrest whoever you see fit; I will greatly enjoy the show,” Mila turned and shut the door in the man’s face.
“Where is the local Peacekeeper?!” Noland squawked in alarm. Mila yanked the door open.
“Leading a water mage that barely speaks the Verluan tongue to a boy that barely understands the world beyond his own heart, to help rescue a girl that barely knows any respect from a demon that barely knows how to control himself, to help out a dungeon that barely knows how to dungeon! Down the street and follow the sound of ducks!” Mila growled and slammed the door again.
There was a beat of silenc, before Mila could barely hear Noland speaking to his horse.
“I hate this town.”
“This room is being weird,” Delta exclaimed as the room refused to form in any of the walls.
Nu’s suggestion made Delta look at the Mushroom Grove option again.
“I was just hoping I could control the mushrooms on this floor with this room, but it won’t even form...” Delta sat down with a groan and curled up, wishing she was in her pond.
Dirt or stone didn’t work. She even tried Bob’s tunnel but that was a bust as well. She only had three rooms so she wasn’t near any max limit...
She laid flat on her back and stared up at the ceiling.
Delta thought about it, the frustration of trying to purchase a simple room getting to her.
“Purchase room in most advantageous spot possible!” she called in vain hope.
There was a silence and Delta looked at her menu.
Delta sat straight up with a disbelieving look in her eye.
“That worked?!” she demanded. Nu seemed to blink in and out of existence.
Nu’s writing looked agitated but Delta shrugged.
“Anything is better than not having it so... the advantage would be simply forming it, which is simple for Sis who knows what to do...but...uh... I guess I should have asked for a location first!” Delta laughed nervously. Nu was quiet for a moment.
Delta stood with a grin, Nu’s excitement for all things progressive and dungeon was infectious.
Delta stared at the screen.
The shroomy abyss stared back.
Delta didn’t quite remember the next few minutes but from what Devina told her later, Maestro thought he had been challenged to an opera duel.
She neared the only entrance to the room, a hole in the ground that led to an underground cavern. The reason why the room refused to be formed before. It could only be built underground.
She peered in and something peered up at her.
It was only about a foot and something big. It had large round eyes, little smudges of war paint on its face, a little skirt made from the grass of the jungle, a little hat to cover its cap made from sticks, and a flower it carried like a flag. Around its neck was string that led down to a pretty adorable wooden tribal mask that was easily pulled up to cover its face.
At its side were three tiny wooden sticks and little tiny bags. Delta guessed they could be flutes. It tilted its head and made a little squeaking sound at her, waving almost shyly.
Delta felt her heart explode as she leapt into the abyss to get a closer look.
She completely missed another Pygmy Mushroom using one of its ‘flutes’ to blow a tiny dart at a curious Blood Hare that stuck its head in to look.
She also missed the larger Chieftain drawing up a rough map of the jungle in the dirt, marking perfect ambush spots...
Nu saw it all.
He decided he would tell Delta about the new monster’s little issues...later. Much... much later.
“Seth, I think you’re pushing him too hard,” Quiss suggested as he watched Deo’s eyes read the first line of the book over and over.
Seth looked haggard, like a water lily dried out and any remaining fluids replaced with coffee.
“Deo has not passed one tricky word test yet. Ruli will be naughty schoolgirl for rest of existence!” Seth stressed. Quiss opened his mouth and then closed his eyes.
“You need to learn context, seriously. It’s fine! It’s only been a day. Ruli gets free lunches as a student and the building has a dorm for sleeping. Deo, are you okay?” Quiss asked awkwardly, not used to being gentle.
The boy looked up with deep wisdom.
“I KNOW THE WORD ‘INSIGHTFUL’ NOW!” he bragged. Quiss gave him a weak smile.
“Know it or know what it means?” he had to ask, and Deo grinned sheepishly. Quiss looked at Seth.
“We have to do a Frenik,” he said simply and Seth’s eyes bugged out.
“Frenik?! We help him learn like that, and Deo will be death!” Seth’s grip on the language slipped as his stress skyrocketed.
“As much as dying would become a more cheery process with Deo in charge, I doubt it’s an issue. We simply have to encourage him to learn in a different manner. He’s like me, books and lectures? Not a chance,” Quiss grimaced and Deo’s mother came in with the 3rd set of refreshments since they arrived.
“I heard... My Deo has good intentions; he is trying to learn,” she promised them and Quiss nodded at her, trying not to let her see how much her voice affected him.
Even at a whisper, Isanella Brawndo had a voice that charmed the world; sometimes quite literally.
The voice of a mixed heritage between love and beauty, which was then fused with the blood of rage and violence to give birth to Deo.
It was a family tree that Quiss didn’t want to think about.
Deo being Deo was more than anyone could really ask of the boy.
“We know. I just want to test something, maybe see if he learns the way I did. Is that okay?” he asked her politely, and Isanella gave him a soft look of curiosity.
“Mr Jones was very capable and he’s only been able to do so much,” she tried to point out and Quiss gave her a grin that seemed to take the woman by surprise. Quiss remembered how he tended to look when he smiled and dropped it fast as Isanella’s eyes went wide.
“With all due respect, classrooms and tests don’t work with everyone. I’ve never had an apprentice and I think Deo will be a good test for my teachings,” he promised her. Isanella hesitated.
“I don’t think I want my son to be...” she trailed off as she as she looked at Quiss then outside through the window.
“Throwing fire about? Understandable...” Quiss muttered but the woman shook her head.
“No, not the fire. The ducks. My husband went out to get rid of them and I haven’t seen him in about an hour...” Isanella pointed out.
Quiss blinked slowly at her, not revealing anything. The blush on his neck was bad enough.
“They... do tend to bring people back. If not, I can go find him. The Duck Portal does work both ways,” he assured her as Seth looked at his empty cup in his hands.
Seth waved a hand over the rim and chanted.
Space twisted, the souls beyond screamed, Quiss’ ears popped, and Deo seemed to have a vision, but then the cup was refilled with fresh coffee and Seth sipped at it with a blank expression on his face.
“I hate that spell,” Quiss told the other mage. Seth met his eyes with a dark look.
“I don’t trust boiling water or pots anymore,” he reminded, and Quiss’ own eyes went distant.
“Hotter Quiss! Hotter! We will brew the tea of the age! Seth, more water!”
“Pour me one,” he said finally as Deo stared down at the book.
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS AT ALL!” he sighed and his mother turned the book upside down. Deo peered at it and then made a sound of understanding.
Quiss almost broke his neck to glare at Seth who looked away.
“I... don’t read your words, merely speak. Thought looked odder than usual...” he muttered. Quiss opened the window to throw out another duck and it made contact with a man’s face.
“Are you the Peacekeeper?” he asked slowly as he pulled the calm duck from his hair. Quiss didn’t know him.
He was a stranger that looked new to town.
This set of alarm bells in Quiss’ head.
Quiss’ headache became worst and he merely nodded. The man held the duck in his arms as he began to speak.
“Excellent, I need a tour of the dungeon as per dungeon law, article 12-B where it states that the local Peace-” the man droned on and on. Quiss closed the window and the man didn’t seem to notice that he was now speaking to himself.
“Deo, burn the books, we’re going to see Delta. Seth, go back to school and learn to read,” Quiss said and turned to Isanella.
“What’s the strongest alcohol you have?” he asked bluntly and the woman looked at the man still talking with his eyes closed outside the window.
“Stuff to get my husband tispy. No offence, but it’ll hit you like a horse,” she warned and Quiss held out his hand. However, the woman pulled on her coat instead of fetching the desirable booze.
“I will come with you, to see this dungeon and keep an eye on my son,” she stated. Quiss looked at his empty hand, but the woman snapped her fingers and her voice rose just slightly.
“You’re working, go get ready!” she snapped and all three of the males jumped to attention.
Quiss found himself almost combing his hair before he realised he didn’t care.
He hoped Delta kept her dungeon tame. Mimes and frog people, if Ruli was right, was more than enough to make this trip a bother.
Anything else could be... troublesome.