Delta gave a slight shrug, a small smile spreading on her face.
“I’m good at spur of the moment ideas and making things nicer, but when it comes to defending myself...” Delta trailed off and itched at her nose. Nu’s box blinked a few times.
The blue box turned slightly, as if to show Nu’s excitement. Delta grinned and watched as the two Pygmy Mushrooms ran around, swinging their flowers around like umbrellas. She fought back a noise that would break glass and focused on Nu’s box.
It was now spitting out text far too fast for Delta to read before new text took its place.
“Slow down! I can’t read that fast!” Delta said exasperatedly, which made Nu’s words slow to a crawl.
“Of course, it’s easier since it has more to work with.” Delta stood with a stretch and walked towards the stairs, taking a few seconds to look back into the Pygmy’s hole. Nu’s text went to lightspeed again. Delta just nodded when she saw a question mark or a combination of different symbols.
Delta had noticed the box was actually looking a little transparent. While she was playing with her new monsters, Nu floated off to the side and did nothing.
His responses to her question felt flat or even a little pre-prepared.
To Delta, she got a sense of being there for the sake of appearances. Nu felt bored.
In retrospect, it was a painfully obvious thing that would happen. He had done nothing but watch, talk to a few monsters, be locked out of the floor due to Grim and others...
Nu went crazy when he had taken over last time as Delta dove into Renny’s soul. He had loved it so much that he did as much as possible with little thought or care. Delta hadn’t given it much more thought than Nu being weird but looking back, it was a sign.
A symbolic Nu sign.
She watched as one of her Pygmies vanished up a tiny tunnel set into the room. Delta had no idea where it went. Nu sped on ahead and Delta began to fly after him, not wanting to let anything Nu did escape her sight.
She trusted the box, but caution was a good thing to have no matter what.
Delta stood in the unused space and could admit that without Maestro’s former form, it was a little lonely.
“So what’s the old ticker in your head plotting?” Delta prodded and she saw the text on Nu’s box shift and stretch as a simple diagram formed.
It showed a single hallway slowly being filled with a criss-cross square pattern, and in each wall a bunch of X’s appeared.
“Chess with X’s and O’s?” she hazarded a guess. Nu’s box went blank, and Delta could almost hear the sigh.
Delta stepped back as if to give Nu the floor.
She felt a tug on herself and her mana began to drop. From the space near the boss door all the way to the goblin camp, perfect squares of empty space hollowed out of the ground.
A dozen or so trap holes, but not very deep. An adult may come up to their thigh at most.
Delta watched with a surprised expression as a criss-cross dark grey metal mesh slid out from the bottom of the wall to cover the floor.
“I get the holes, but why the metal fence to stop people falling in?” she muttered, but Nu just kept working. Delta watched her 43 mana, recently topped up by Hob and Gob, drop to a 25. A fresh layer of dirt appeared on top. It looked solid and Delta could barely see a difference between the goblin camp dirt and this new one.
“Holes, fence, and new dirt. I like it!” Delta joked and Nu shook his box.
Nu floated back to the goblin camp and looked at the tunnel that lead to the boss room.
Nu explained as a wooden arch formed around the mouth of the tunnel. It was a simple carved arch with various crude goblin faces looked down at the visitor. Delta could spot soft impressions of Cois, Numb, and Billy, with Hob and Gob acting as torch holders, their mouths made of stone, on either side of the tunnel.
Fran’s face was placed at the very centre of the arch’s cross beam.
“Your wood carving is much better than your pottery!” Delta beamed and Nu’s box dimmed to a glower.
Near the bottom, low enough that even a goblin would have to look down, Nu peered into the wooden carving of the face that looked like Billy’s. Delta followed his example and saw a tiny keyhole. Nu’s box flashed and Delta felt her mana drop to 12.
A wooden key formed and appeared in the keyhole, flowing like liquid until the block-like head appeared last.
Nu seemed to go distant as he focused on the work before him.
“Why a wooden key? Seems a little fragile,” Delta asked as she examined the newly-made key.
Nu’s text turned slow and hesitant. Delta blinked.
“It’s fine, go for it,” she encouraged. Nu paused.
Nu turned and floated back and forward, pacing to his thoughts. Delta allowed him a few seconds to gather himself before she gently spoke.
“What feeling?” she prodded, and Nu stopped moving.
Nu’s words took on a tone of his usual grumbling. The tunnel and the arch began to glow as Delta’s DP began to dropped from a hearty 90 to a still decent 68. Nothing seemed to change, but Nu had turned to speak to the curious goblins watching.
Cois watched with half-closed eyes, the very image of a bored pyromancer, but Delta could see how sharp his gaze was about the whole event.
Billy was readable as ever. Aloof and about as expressive as a nocturnal predator.
Numb, using two thick fingers, turned the key. There was a muffled grinding noise.
Delta spun and then looked at Nu for explaination.
“Is... that it? I mean the holes might twist some ankles so it’s... not bad!” Delta smiled weakly, trying to sound supportive. Nu turned to face her and she could feel the annoyed look that he sent he, the box flashing with a flat emoticon.
In random parts of the floor, in the various pitfalls if Delta had to guess, a glow appeared and Delta’s DP dropped again with the rest of her Mana; leaving her shy of 3.
Nu’s box glowed with pride as a tiny hole appeared above one of the pitfalls with the trigger plate. Delta’s DP dropped to a 55 and the hole glowed.
There was a beat of silence and Nu’s box turned a slightly paler blue, which Delta took for a slight blush.
“Uh... okay boss!” Numb nodded, his body moving with the grace of a blind boulder, but Delta saw that the goblin was looking more muscular since the last time she had a good look at him.
Numb took a few steps and then hit the first trap hole, sinking down to his waist before he huffed and climbed out. He continued like this, falling into more holes until he reached where Nu wanted.
The moment he sunk down, there was a sharp click and the hole above began to puff out a purple dust. Numb looked straight up, allowing the dust to collect in his eyes; he snarled in confusion.
Then the goblin simply toppled over without any further sound.
Delta’s mouth dropped open. For a brief moment, it looked like Numb had simply died on the spot, but then the goblin snorted and rolled over; falling into another hole and starting to snore like an angry sawblade. Feet pointing straight up in the air.
Nu seemed to glow and, despite his bragging, Delta had to admit that he was right.
Nu was really good at making the most of so little. He was like one of those old players at the game that somehow made a basic health potion kill the final boss through annoying logic and quick thinking.
The game? Where had that thought come from? Delta put a hand to her chin as something teetered on the edge of coherence. A thought or a memory...
Delta stumbled after Nu, the teasing thought slipping away like a forgotten dream.
“That’s nice of her! I wonder if she’ll come visit again?” she added as Nu rushed to the entrance; as on cue, three forms appeared. Delta looked at the shadows standing in the opening door.
Sure enough, the Mime was walking in, looking very thin; though not quite as emaciated as when she first found him. His body straightened as flesh filled out with weight and muscle. Gob and Hob bulked up as well. Renny moved an invisible bag over his shoulder, making a lot of objects shift.
Quite a few rabbits, a few fish, and a couple rocks with bronze and silvery veins running through them. Delta supposed having to only imagine what tool you needed to make harvesting things... rather easy.
The fact Renny had grown up in a travelling circus might also explain why the mime was taking some trips outside.
“Great job guys!” Delta beamed before she felt a familiar cramp flow through her.
“W...who has the mushroom?!” Delta gasped, and Renny pulled out a bunch of Rotgut Mushrooms tied together like a bouquet of flowers. Then another, and another.
“N-no!” she begged, but the mime heartily dropped them all with a flourish.
Delta glared at his cheerfulness and, with a flash of annoyance, gripped the number power that she was growing familiar with and tried to focus on Nu.
Much like with Devina, when she first found Renny, there was a moment of being in two places at once. It almost feel like a meditative experience, until Nu started to curl his box in itself.
Dropping the connection, Delta felt the sweet taste of vengeance wash away some of the mushroom. Renny looked like an angel with a demon’s smile.
“You’re hilarious...” Delta deadpanned as she glared at the mime before she checked her notifications.
Delta nodded with satisfaction. Every new unlock brought something to the table. As with the fish...spiders...mushrooms... everything had a use.
Though, she really had to wonder how Dabberghast made bananas grow in such a climate...
Delta chalked it up to ‘because she damn well wanted to.’
To be honest... Delta just liked knowing she could make things look good with silver and fireflies. It wasn’t exactly a logical thought like Nu might have, but if she made the fireflies powerful enough would Maestro like them as spotlights? Could she make the pond room look magical?
Would the fireflies feel at home?
Delta looked down at her hands.
“Nu... you’re right,” she admitted which made the box stop twisting in disgust.
“I’m not really good at being a dungeon, but you are. I can make things really interesting and I understand how people work. You can see items that I wouldn’t think of and make the best things out of them. I’m good with the monsters, unlocking special things about them, but you’re great at finding the secrets of traps and items,” Delta rambled and then stopped.
She took a deep breath and looked at the staring Nu.
“I wanna promote you from a menu to Trap Master. I want to trust you to defend us and make sure I don’t leave some stupid path to all of our deaths but... I also trust you not to get us all killed with going overboard. You can use the monsters if they agree, the rooms and anything in them. You do so much and you deserve something for it,” Delta grinned and waited.
A few seconds passed with nothing appearing on Nu’s box.
“Nu?” Delta called with a little worry. Renny tilted his head, looking to the goblins for answers, but they merely shrugged at him.
Delta moved closer, but as she reached out to touch him Nu’s box cracked down the centre like breaking glass. Delta fell backwards as the glass exploded outwards, the shards swirling around Nu.
“NU!” Delta yelled with alarm, her hands trying to reach out as the glass began to smash each other into two orbiting moons around Nu’s box.
The box itself looked solid, more vibrant and with a defined border, as the last of the glass fled from its surface.
The glass moons stopped, and the glass rippled before smoothing over into solid single glass pieces.
They each slowly formed five tiny spindly points.
“Fingers,” Delta stated stupidly as the two floating robot-like hands flexed and relaxed. On the screen, two eyes blinked rapidly. A mouth appeared and opened with a slow effort.
Delta flinched as Nu’s face scrunched up before it wiped itself in a burst of … ones and zeroes? Text returned and words flowed across the screen.
Nu’s hands waved in the air with the appearance of wanting to throttle Delta.
“I just... promoted you?” Delta said slowly. Nu jabbed a finger at her.
Delta looked up at the ceiling as if looking for something interesting.
“Not in so many... words,” she tried. Nu rubbed his screen with one hand, before he paused and looked at the new appendages.
Nu turned and smacked Delta on the back of the head.
It was such a solid smack that Delta was stunned for several seconds. Contact.
Actual physical contact.
She turned and grabbed both of Nu’s hands. They were solid, firm, a little cold, but they moved.
Delta let out a delighted laugh as she hopped around, spinning Nu as she moved. His hands moved a fair distance away from his body before it was forced to follow.
“Nu, I can touch you! Before you felt like wet paper, and now you feel like a person!” she said with a bright smile. Nu’s box tried to form words but every rotation of Delta’s spin made the text fade like a sketch pad.
Renny shook his head and shook Gob and Hob’s hands before casually walking down the tunnel.
The Mime nodded to the spiders as they began their 2nd afternoon royal ball. Renny slowed near the pond where the duck watched him. He had not forgotten their battle previously.
The way his powers had utterly broken after the duck had cursed him. It was... unpleasant.
He began to turn to head back down to the second floor when he paused. He felt... a vibration. A hum.
He travelled down the path he had never been down. Being a contracted monster, he didn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place on another floor the way a dungeon born might. Still, there was something in the air that wasn’t quite to his taste.
To him, it might be just a personal taste. To a dungeon born, it might be a slightly more physical reaction. His respect for the mushroom, Mr Mushy, rose with each step. The monster never showed any discomfort at visiting the second floor.
The duck as well. It had fought him on another floor. Even if it had the demon woman as a shield.
Renny slowed. Did he feel a rivalry with the duck? He couldn’t stop adding the beast to his thoughts.
Was it a contracted thing?
Renny had no idea.
But he’d like to see who would win on equal ground. The duck had so much growth to go through. Renny knew of its kind. The duck was barely fresh from the nest...
He entered some form of a storeroom. Simplistic but the torches and luminous mushrooms made it look more peaceful. The air had also turned almost tasty. Renny followed the sound of humming to a part of the wall. He pushed and felt the wall didn’t have much weight behind it. A secret tunnel?
Delta was full of surprises.
Like with Nu. Evolving a tool into something more. Monsters he could understand. It was the natural path. He himself had such an option a long time ago.
But it was like evolving a sword or a book.
How had Delta done it?
Renny wasn’t sure but he could only hope when it came time for him to suddenly become a super-mime, he would have some warning...
Not that he would mind that much. With nothing else left in the world and his only home now a permanent fixture of the dungeon, Renny didn’t mind being in the dungeon. Under a slightly less human core, he would have been removed as a threat.
That would have been that. Delta had come to him, in the darkest pit of his soul and offered him the choice. Much like his father. He offered Renny a choice everyday. Stay or be free.
Always a choice.
For someone who could not speak naturally, being heard was something he would always cherish. Even if it was from one of the weirdest woman he had ever met. He knocked on the wall and the humming stopped. There was a hiss as the wall was pulled back and Renny briefly saw a retreating vine-like thing vanish around a corner.
“Oh, a guest! Well, don’t be shy! I never turn down an audience!” a voice filled with mirth and purr called out.
It reminded Renny of a performer. A very, very energetic performer.
Turning the corner, he was surprised to see the tunnel expand into a giant room with some stone pyramid-like structure, the stone itself covered in veiny fungal growth. Upon the top, like some growing figure of worship, sat a giant mushroom.
Renny really didn’t know why he should suspect it would be anything else at this point.
It leered down at him, its face a thing of nightmares but its eyes held a welcoming glint. Renny, confident in his powers to at least escape, walked forward; noting as he did so the several tiny mushrooms which grew on each layer of the pyramid; like a line of watchers. Various odd fungal instruments seemed to grow from the floors and walls as well.
As he climbed up the first step and passed another layer, the mushrooms burst into a long choral hymn; the higher he went, the higher the mushrooms’ pitch went until he stood before the biggest one of all.
It swept out one arm in a wide arc and every mushroom went quiet.
“Now, look at this! Delta has let some cats in before but I don’t think we’ve met. Now, I’m just dying to hear all about you!” he tapped one long needle-like finger across his cheek.
Renny tilted his head at the unusual creature. The mushroom seemed to blink and then snapped his fingers.
“Of course! How rude, let’s talk about me first! Quite wise. Well, let me introduce you to a little mushroom that goes by the name of Maestro; please, no autographs until the end of the tour,” Maestro winked. A joyous piano sounded out to accompany the action.
If Renny hadn’t already seen his own face reflected in various lakes when yawning after a bad nights sleep, he might have been disturbed.
Renny bowed in a smooth arc.
“Ohh the strong and silent type eh? Off to save a princess? Nyahhaha! Just a jest, forgive me! What brings such a gentlemime to my little slice of heaven?” he asked. Renny shrugged, looking around at the room. Vines and fungal growth seemed to vanish down into the ground itself as well as into the walls.
“Curiosity melted the cat. You’re a lucky fellow that I put my edgy self away and only melt critics now,” Maestro purred. Renny walked around and saw growths of drums, a thin film growing across the surface to act as the drumhead.
Out of habit, he mimed the action of drumming. He produced no sound but he felt the Delta part that now rested inside his soul buzz in reaction.
“Interesting...” he murmured. For the first time, Renny felt a little wary as he turned back to Maestro.
The giant creature held out two hands and from the ceiling, something dropped into them.
It was a metallic instrument covered in yet more mushrooms.
“You got the power honey, but have you got the touch?” Maestro asked, voice turning serious.
“I’ve got a case of the lonely blues and a fellow player walks into my little room? How can I turn that down? Come now, don’t be shy, bare your soul and show your moves!” Maestro pointed dramatically at Renny.
Renny itched his chin, thinking about it.
He could just go home, play with Wilhelm, annoy Devina, sleep, tidy up the statue, sleep, go on another gathering trip with the goblins... or he could stay awhile and listen to the odd talking mushroom.
That seemed to be able to hear his musical abilities.
Renny itched a little harder as he brought his full smile to the surface.
He stretched out his hands and brought them down across several surfaces. He only knew how to play some instruments; a habit one learned when a circus’ music for a show was all homemade.
The thumps of drums buzzed his soul. Maestro let loose a mighty laugh and every tiny mushroom echoed it, making the room sound like a bustling entertainment hall.
Maestro brought the metal instrument to his lips and sounds Renny had never heard before blasted out the wide mouth of the thing.
It was wonderous and Renny decided he could stay just for a while, before Delta did something else and changed everything.
This was his home now and Renny didn’t mind it so much.
Maps updating coming up next.