Delta watched Wyin idly prune a branch near her head.
With a roll of her eyes, Delta glared up at Nu. The box had its new fingers clasped together as it seemed to be taking every inch of the Wyin tree in at once.
“I wasn’t panicking because compared to Maestro, Wyin really wasn’t that much of a shock. I was... upset when she appeared because I was worried she might make mincemeat out of Noland and/or Quiss would be forced to burn her to defend themselves because I had minutes to explain that murder is a no go here,” she pointed out with a flat expression. Nu hummed, his box slightly vibrating.
His words appeared slowly as if he was thinking each one over.
The words were not harsh but Delta merely sighed.
“I... No, you know what,” she stood and put her hands on her hips.
“I don’t aim low because this is my home! So, yeah, I made a pseudo-legendary/mythical tree a boss, what you gonna do about it?” she asked Nu with a grin. Nu turned his palms up.
Nu called and Wyin stopped pruning to give him a sharp look.
“The shadow. Do you require something?” she asked blithely as she yanked out a slightly under-grown twig.
Nu’s words were like a blunt hammer and Wyin’s lips curled back to reveal shapely thorns acting as teeth.
“I do not like being called a liar,” she said coldly. Nu ignored her barbed words and kept talking. Delta watched the two. All monsters seemed to react to Nu differently than herself. It was something she had noticed but not really wanted to comment on it since it felt a little invasive.
Delta snapped back to see what Wyin would say, the sudden heated debated between Nu and Wyin seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Wyin fanned herself with her many branches.
“Pray tell, why I must earn trust when none of the others had such trials. Am I being bullied for merely being excited about being the boss?” she directed this question at Delta.
Delta blinked and shook her head.
“Of course not. I mean, it wouldn’-” she began but Nu shot in front of her.
Wyin merely shrugged.
“Maybe Mother shouldn’t be played on by your paranoia either...but what would you do if I did misbehave? Hm, Shadow of Mother?” she asked, a playful smirk on her face. Nu’s hands slowly dropped to his side.
The words were sharp and Delta scrambled between them.
“Enough! That is just enough!” she snapped and the thick tension seemed to falter for a moment.
“I don’t care if Wyin is plotting to try and be a pain in my butt, we will deal with it. You don’t get to threaten to kill my bosses just because you feel nervous around them!” she glared at Nu. Wyin’s small chuckle was cut off as Delta snapped her glare to her.
“If you hurt anyone out of spite or boredom Nu won’t have time to uproot you. If I can evolve people, I’m sure I can fiddle around with things to unevolve you. Our safety is our top concern. The people coming in comes second. Your entertainment ranks way below both of those things,” she warned.
Wyin’s face looked pinched as if in pain.
“O-of course. I was merely ruffling Nu’s feathers. Can’t expect every meeting to go smoothly, hm?” she hid her face behind her branches. Delta didn’t know if it was to hide a curse or merely avoid meeting Delta’s eyes.
Sagging, she muttered as she left the room.
“Supposed to be magically grown adults... why am I the mature one around here?” she asked no one.
She could hear Nu say something quietly to Wyin and the tree responded. Honestly, if she wanted to hear it she could have... but she was fed up with those two at the moment.
Delta left the boss room and stretched as the false sun beat down from above. The ceiling projected a decent looking sky.
She closed her eyes to enjoy the sounds of birds and busy bees.
“Be honest, what trouble can Wyin cause?” she inquired, her eyes still closed. She focused and the image of Nu’s forming words appeared in the darkness of her eyelids.
Delta gave him a small smile.
“Glad I got a snarky protector of my innocence,” she winked and walked deeper into the jungle as Devina neared.
“Inchy went with Deo, I think he got stuck at the entrance and is now making his way back. Maestro is keeping tabs on him,” she explained. Delta blinked and forgot that the bird had indeed been with Deo when she ah... zapped them.
“Any ideas why I can suddenly teleport people?” she asked Nu. The box was quiet for a moment.
Nu’s box flashed as he began to sound annoyed. Delta looked back to Devina.
“Where did Inchy get off to?” she changed the subject. Devina merely sighed.
“He stopped on his way back due to a party invitation?” she asked with confusion and gave Delta a look, hoping she would be able to translate.
Delta slowed as she unfocused her eyes.
“I spy some berries!” Inchy cheered as the various spiders danced around him in greeting. The bird nodded to each of them in turn.
“I am sir Inchy of the second floor! I come beeryng gifts!” he crowed and dropped more berries around. The Spider with a blood red hardened piece of web on her head regally accepted the juiciest berry for herself.
She chittered and Inchy tilted his head.
“Quite a tale you’re weaving there!” he chirped. The spiders began their dance again and the bird ate more berries. Never seeing eyes open far above him as more and more berries went down the plump bird’s throat.
“It’s nothing... I’ll get Billy to fetch him,” she smiled weakly. Not wanting to make Devina too happy at the idea that Inchy might soon be spending some time with Muffet...
She rubbed at her stomach with a grumble. She was feeling massively bloated again.
Opening her menu, she flicked to the numbers.
“Nu. Why is my DP so high?” she tugged at the box next to her in a tiny voice.
“Mrs. Dabberghast...” she whispered, warm affection for the woman flowing through her.
“I wonder what she is after?” Devina asked as she read Nu’s box as well. Delta gave her a surprised look.
“What do you mean? Mrs. Dabberghast has always been helping me, she’s a nice lady,” Delta grinned. Devina didn’t look convinced.
“She is more than that. So much more but I will trust you, Mother,” she smiled and turned to look at the jungle.
“From what I understand, the jungle is about to get very busy?” she asked innocently. Delta pursed her lips.
“Maybe...” she admitted. That woman was too aware for her own good but Delta appreciated the fact she didn’t argue over Mrs. Dabberghast. It was a subject she secretly thought of enough in her own mind.
“Nu, what does that blessing and blessed water do for us?” she instead asked as she finally reached the river.
Delta sat down and dangled her legs into the water with a wince.
“Well, something to think over. Handy though it would be. I think I need to focus on the small-scale. First... I’ve got to get rid of all this mana. I feel like I’m going to explode...” she groaned. She opened the menu.
With some idle flicking, two grinning foxes flashed into existence. They yipped and encircled each other before they ran off into the undergrowth. Next, she sent a few owls and some beetles off. It lowered the mana a little, enough to make the worst of the bloated feeling subside.
Next, she focused on the spot before her.
“This floor needs more monsters,” she admitted and hit the same button three times.
Devina gasped as three flashes of oranges appeared on the other side of the river.
At first, they seemed to form at the same length and speed but then rapidly changes began to occur. One stopped growing in height while the other two kept going. The light died down and Delta blinked at the three very different frogs before her.
“Oh my...” Devina breathed.
The first frog looked like it was past its prime and now settled into the graceful age of wanting to complain and yell at kids. His skin was a grayish-green and his eyes seemed to stare at everything with annoyance. The second one was female like Devina but her age seemed to have gone in the other direction. Perhaps the youngest of the frogs so far, she gave a little finger wave as she swayed on the spot to some song she hummed.
The last was the tallest frog out of the lot. A green giant who didn’t seem too jolly at all. His mountain of muscle and expressionless eyes made him seem more predatory than stoic.
“Well... that eased the mana off,” Delta muttered to Devina. There was no reply.
Turning she saw that Devina was frozen.
“Are... you okay?” Delta asked with worry as Devina just stared at the newcomers with wide eyes.
“More of us. There are more of us. Family...” Devina sank to her knees. Delta waved her hands and tried to smile despite the fact she was feeling she had done something wrong.
“You didn’t think I would just keep it just you and Rale, right?” she laughed nervously. Devina nodded numbly. There was a thump as the perky female frog landed just before Devina.
“Why the long face?” she asked brightly. Delta grinned as she watched Devina grasp the other frog’s hands.
“Sister!” Devina breathed. The young one shrugged.
“Neighbor doesn’t sound as nice,” she agreed. She turned to Delta.
“Hey Mom, thanks’ for popping me into existence and junk. You did a great job!” she patted her hip and beamed.
Delta liked this one. Not exactly Rale’s straightforward cheerfulness and not like Devina’s calm humor, but she had spunk. Her form wasn’t flat or even smooth. Muscles curled around her arms and stomach but she was wiry.
There was a grumble as the older frog landed next. The giant merely walked into the river ignoring the current as it did nothing to slow him.
“You’re supposed to be our wise woman and yet you looked like a tadpole who just got smacked. Straighten up lass,” he growled. Devina was on her feet in a second. The old frog nodded once Devina composed herself. Everyone looked at the giant frog.
“Hello!” Delta greeted with excitement. The giant looked down at her. Delta was pleased to see a dark green blush spread across his cheeks.
“Mother...” he said so softly it was like a breeze.
“Great Mother. Your servants are here. What do you require of us?” the old frog said seriously. The spunky one tilted her head.
“Gramps, you already know... Mom just wants us to go wild and do our thing. Comes with the whole ‘Mom is the best core’ thing,” she said with air quotes. She nudged Devina.
“Girls gotta stick together. You gotta show me the best places to sleep around here,” she muttered. The response she got was lukewarm.
“Well, welcome to the Dungeon of Delta, the second floor: The Jungle of Trials!” Delta called and there was no response for a few moments until the giant one applauded politely. Her thunder now gone, Delta sighed.
“She’s right, there is no real reason you’re here. Like most people. So, make yourselves at home, find out about yourselves and if you have any issues, just give me a ring,” Delta beamed. There was more silence.
“What do we do when we find out, like, who we are?” the girl asked. Delta watched as a shadow in the water approached.
“Well, for one...” she trailed off as Rale exploded from the water.
“Devina I have co-” Rale began but stopped as he spotted the three newcomers. Without a word he sunk back into the water, just staring.
“So, that’s Rale... Kinda felt he’d be a bit more... friendly,” the old frog muttered. The water exploded again as Rale reappeared with a flourish.
“FROG FAMILY! It is I, the mighty Rale!” he boasted. He landed next to Devina and crossed his arms.
“I was not aware of more frogs, forgive my rudeness,” he muttered to Devina who nodded mutely, her face a dark green.
The girl looked between Devina and Rale.
“Bow chicka bow wow...” she said under her breath. Delta hid a giggle and focused.
“If you work hard and really just be yourself, you get to evolve into whatever you want. Like so!” she gestured to Rale who suddenly let out a whoop of excitement.
“Finally! I was starting to think I would never get to hit this button!” he complained and smashed something only he could see.
The orange light burst out from under his skin, completely hiding his form as a wind howled through the small clearing and Rale’s mighty yell began to reach to the heavens. The light died off and everyone stared at Rale’s new form.
His burned orange shorts were the most eye-catching. And his new seashell necklace clattered like a musical instrument. His form had become even more toned and positively rippled with muscle. His arms almost matching the new giant’s in size. Rale looked up and his eyes were hidden behind black shades, the sunlight glimmered off them and he struck a rather formidable pose.
In one hand was what looked like a metal trident... except the other end had a rounded soft crook for catching things.
“My hard work has produced... ultimate lifeguard power!” Rale yelled with joy. Delta applauded and eyed the menu now before her.
“That was pretty sweet,” the girl admitted. The giant seemed a little cowed by Rale’s new power. The old one merely grunted.
“So, to celebrate your birth and Rale’s new form, it’s time for names!” Delta brought the attention back to her while Devina just stared at Rale with a glazed expression.
The other frog didn’t seem to notice as he made an odd dance across the water without falling in, laughing his head off.
“Oh! OH! I want to be Queen Rainbow Kickass!” the girl demanded. Delta stared at her as she hopped from foot to foot.
“It’s a bit long for a name,” Delta said instead of just turning it down. This made the girl think.
“Death Mark 2?” she bargained.
“It’s a bit grim and I had enough grim to last me a while,” Delta answered. Frowning, the frog looked at the ground with a stumped expression.
‘What kind of person goes from Princess rainbow whatever to Death Mark 2?!’ Delta turned to the other two with a strained smile. She could only hope these two wouldn’t be so diffcu-
“Gramps will be fine. Someone’s gotta keep these animals in line,” the old frog growled. The last one merely looked down at her.
Delta blinked at him.
“Just... giant?” she repeated. A curt nod was her answer.
Gramps... Giant... what next? Girl? Names were supposed to be important, right?
“...I guess Luna will be fine,” the young one muttered and looked away as Delta’s face lit up.
“Luna is a pretty name, that is a great one!” Delta agreed quickly.
“I think people can’t breathe on the moon right? That’s pretty rad,” Luna mused. Delta felt her face drop but she carried on bravely.
“Luna, Gramps, and Giant? Welcome to the jungle!” Delta said brightly. Devina mumbled something vaguely hospitable as she watched Rale flex to show her a new muscle he had never seen before.
“Nu... let’s leave them to get settled in... I still have an idea for the first floor. Something that’s gonna bring some business to the dungeon!” Delta struck a pose, one hand pointing up.
“I hear people's eyes explode on the moon,” Luna explained to a malfunctioning Devina.
“Too noisy, I need some peace and quiet in some cave... where’s the nearest cave?” Gramps complained.
“...” Giant added.
Delta’s finger trembled as she began to trudge away.
“One more day. Quiss said Deo will take the test tomorrow,” Mr. Jones said into the silent room as Ruli tried to nap.
“Yippee. I won’t hold my breath,” she answered.
“No faith? How unfortunate, you trust Quiss, yes?” came the surprised response. Ruli gave the man a sharp look.
“Why so chatty. I was pretty sure Knowledge didn’t mean gossip,” she answered instead. Mr. Jones snorted.
“Gathering knowledge is an aspect of the idea. Gossip demons are just uncaring if their information is true or not. Like those who inhale tainted chemicals to reach a high. I seek the pure truth, I will settle for nothing less. Quiss is trying, must be interesting to have someone do that for you,” he added. Ruli’s growl didn’t seem to bother him.
“After Mum and Dad? Yeah, random kindness is screwy. Dad tried but he’s a demon. Kindness is starting a war to settle boredom or banishing his power and sending you on a quest to get it back so you ‘get some Screaming sunlight’. Demons make odd parents,” Ruli snapped and sighed after a moment.
“Quiss is easy. He wants beer, someone to bitch at, and don’t tell him your life's story. I like that too. No demon motives, no abandonment issues, no magical bullshit. Just us, the drink, and the good times. Is that so weird? I just don’t trust him to be a good enough teacher to get Deo to pass a test,” she added.
Mr. Jones merely hummed.
“Deo is the most difficult student I have ever had. Not like yourself where you left, but Deo tries and that makes it... hard to do what I do to you. Deo tries very hard to pass, but his head just isn’t into it. As a teacher, I must do what I can,” he explained.
“So putting me on the line?” Ruli asked slowly. Mr. Jones didn’t answer for a while.
“If I had to choose to pass yourself or Deo...” he trailed off and merely smiled.
“Son of a Bitch. I’ve been used. I’m some sort of teaching aid...” Ruli spat in disgust and sulked at her desk.
“Now now... nothing wrong with being a teacher’s pet,” he purred and closed his book.
“The time is nigh. Will it happen?” he asked and looked out the window which showed an alien landscape. Purple seas drifted above while clouds crawled along the bottom like hungry beasts.
“Do I get to leave regardless?” Ruli asked dryly. Mr. Jones pursed his lips.
“I mean, If I get both of your educations done, that would be splendid as well!” he smiled serenely at her.
The shadows that bent and formed twisted faces behind him didn’t give her much reassurance.
Delta ignored his sarcastic tone as she focused on the menu before her.
“I can craft and form an ‘idea’ if I build a room towards that. So let's see, first thing first,” she flexed her hands and the goblins huts dissolved into nothing to give her some space to mess with. Delta could see all the goblins watching from a distance in the tunnel that leads to the fort room.
She waved her hands and focused her will. The rough and craggy rock of the stone wall was quickly replaced by neat boards of wood that fit into place piece by piece. When the boards reached the corner, they merely bent and reshaped themselves until Delta had a rather nice, albeit plain, room of wood. She flexed and bulged out the corners and the sides with stone pillars. With a frown, she pushed and the space in the room expanded outward.
The room began to increase in distance but the dungeon outside managed to keep the other rooms in the same place.
“This is some... timelord level of things I don’t understand,” Delta muttered as the map in her head didn’t exactly show the true size of the rooms. Still, the room was big enough for her purposes.
The exposed secret passage was a pain but she’d work on that.
Next, along one wall, she conjured a long counter, behind which she made shelves big enough and sturdy enough to support a lot of items. Not sure if her idea would be quite conveyed, she began to place tables and chairs in a haphazard manner around the room before flicking torches onto each of the walls. The cozy light was perfect, but it was still missed a few touches.
Her mana was still about 80 so she had no worries over spending some more.
On one wall, she carved out a large round stone area, where she made a long thin tunnel above it go as far as the room allowed. She set some wood at the base and nodded for Cois to light it up.
The quick addition of a stone guard kept the burning wood from falling out and offered enough room to put a large iron pot over the burning wood.
Having fun, Delta giggled as she made some glass bottles appear behind the counter.
With a laugh she couldn’t stop as the feeling of simple joy flowed through her, Delta formed a metal chandelier that hung a little crooked on a chain.
Nu looked amused as his hands made a shrugging gesture again.
Delta grabbed his hands and spun him, still giggling.
“Come on Nu! Make something!” she offered cheerfully.
Nu’s screen showed a pair of spiralling confused eyes.
“Show me what the cool and calm Nu will make,” she challenged.
There was a beat of silence before a round wooden stool appeared next to the bar.
Delta gave it a flat look before she turned it to Nu.
“Something exciting?” Delta suggested. Nu shook his box before he flexed his fingers with a sudden huff.
Nu flicked two hands out and a giant signboard appeared above the tunnel entrance on both ends.
It was rather detailed, each letter engraved and somewhat golden. And had a picture of a familiar armoured boar on it.
Delta read it aloud.
“The Swarthy Hog.”
Delta gave Nu a grin.
“Oh yes, now come on Sis!” Delta called as she opened the menu.
She flicked through the room’s options until the last one appeared.
Delta looked around at the image of her inn and wondered what Sis would do.
“The dungeon is open for business!” Delta declared and hit yes.
The room shuddered and groaned as light seeped up from between the floorboards and the bar began to groan loudly.
The light grew bright and orange. Delta shut her eyes as the whole dungeon began to shake as the changes took place.
The last thing Delta really thought was...
“I don’t have peanuts for my bar...”