The thick sickly purple haze was seeping in despite Nu’s best efforts. Delta hovered over the Circus room with uncertainty. The Spider mana ducked one way but split at the last second, gaining ground as Nu was stuck as one being. His use of fake information boxes and pulling on Delta’s Mana had only worked for so long.
The deep hunger and excitement that infected the Spider Mana grew eager as Nu slipped up at a crucial moment, the purple mana was about to breach into the main room of the second floor and who knew what that would do for the Queen.
The flow of Spiders was slow but if she got closer to Delta’s core... she might start being able to do some real nasty things with the existing spiders or making something worse.
Wilhelm growled as he limped out of the room. The corpse of the Titan Spider left behind. The giant silver ape’s body was covered in countless bite marks and holes where sharp legs had pierced his beautiful fur, staining it red. The ape was deeply injured and Delta could only urge him to retreat.
The rush of the Queen’s Mana washed over Nu and the box began to fritz and smoke.
“No!” Delta cried and dove without hesitation towards him.
“Let him go, you monster!” she demanded. Oddly the purple haze was startled and something Delta hadn’t noticed before rushed forward. Passive orange motes of light that had been either moved by Nu or devoured by the Queen suddenly roared to action crashing hard against the Queen. The smell of burning mushrooms and nature smashed against the feeling of mad hunger.
The Dungeon around Delta seemed to suddenly break like a fragile piece of stained glass. The image she was used to; creation filtered through pieces of coloured glass and angles was stripped away as the universe laid bare before her.
Her Dungeon stretched to infinite possibilities and space... how small Delta was so far.
The scene she saw was like a shimmering mass of Mana. There was nothing physical here... nothing quite real or fake.
This was a chessboard of another kind. A view from just the two Queens... the two mothers.
Delta at one end of the system and existence... the Queen at the other.
Her core was a star in the constantly churning sea of colours. Her star blazed orange and in the same galaxy… the same solar system was a growing mass of ugly black holes and eyes. From her sun rotated two planets. One a deep green orb of pride, too distant to cut the growing cancer on Delta’s existence, the other a brown planet with green seas. It guarded her sun with bristled fury. Volcanoes exploded on her surface, continents shook, and the visage of Wyin was exposed to Delta’s eye.
Delta wasn’t bound to walls, floors, and rock. Her existence, her creation, her very meaning blazed around in this sea of Mana and purpose. Her monsters, all of them, floated around her boss monsters like flickering moons or soaring comets.
Ready to defend her light to their end.
Delta felt oddly calm as she watched the growing cancer... the Spider Queen swing with sickly black swarms of slime. Easily, she flicked a desire and a solar flare from her light easily repelled it.
She thought of only one thing. To defend her worlds, defend her system, to defeat this invader!
She screamed in challenge as some primal part of her demanded action. Inside her sun, the number 4 glowed a deep red in warning to the approaching Queen.
Nu felt oddly displaced as Delta’s warm light suddenly dove into the Spider Queen’s Mana and his worry faded.
Delta just... merged with the very Dungeon air and walls and water... Delta and Dungeon were one and Nu couldn’t even find a way to contact her mind. At the same time, the Spider Queen had also stopped advancing. Nu watched with fascination as the the very base of all Dungeon existence, the Mana, began to attack the purple Mana.
Like an immune system response that had turned on at Delta’s sudden offense. He felt the Dungeon shake and he spun to float outside.
At his failure to stop the Queen, she had evolved another damn Titan Spider! Unlike people... monsters did not lock him nor did it seem that the Dungeon prevented invading monsters from upgrading themselves in response.
The looming force was doing its best to ram down the suddenly sealed stone doors to Wyin’s chamber. A few bees and Devina seemed to be trying to take it down but it wasn’t enough. Without Delta’s awareness, her monsters seemed to be struggling to deal with the sudden absence of their mother, worry clouding their actions as they tried to win the physical battle of the Dungeon.
This would not do.
“Sys, I need higher control to handle the forces!” he pinged the System but the feminine voice that was usually so cheery came back with a snap.
“Authority is not to be managed right now! I am preventing corruption. Delta… Delta? Delta is... oh...” Sys faltered as for the first time she seemed to fully analyze the situation.
“Delta is being a damn good Dungeon Core right now so stop wasting precious nanoseconds and give me the damn control modulation!” Nu snapped back. There was a pause.
“Be careful, last time you went kind nuts,” she warned. There was a feeling of influxed Mana and Nu’s box, his lovely box... grew legs.
The torso formed next, then arms, eyes, and that damn fur called hair.
He floated there, a midnight blue human male. Urgh, Delta must have soaked too deeply into the authority seat to allow anything but a human shape at this point. He flexed his fingers and what seemed like empty space between orange motes of Mana, midnight blue ones popped into existence.
“Attention, you idiotic, overgrown children. Delta is busy and I will not tolerate her coming back to see you all dead or worse... making me look bad! Now get your minds into the fight and DESTROY THE TITAN SPIDER BEFORE I FIGURE OUT IF THIS BODY CAN HAVE A DAMN BRAIN ANEURYSM!” Nu growled all over the floor.
There was a few precious seconds of pause before the army of Bees began to swarm the Spider. Rale and Luna weren’t far behind. He felt Bob dragging a fair amount of the spiders into the water, his fear now gone, replaced by determination!
Even his damn little crabs snipped off legs where they could.
That was more how Nu liked it!
Delta watched as her Sun seemed to grow a shadow.
A demonically blue and cold star that sat conjoined to her own blazing sun, tiny but visible.
The star didn’t scare Delta, in fact... she felt even better with it around.
“Trickery! Foul core, change your colour all you like. You will be mine,” the black mass promised gleefully.
Voices. Words. Delta actually found them a little distasteful in this state. Were her intent and emotions not visible? Did it have to resort to such base taunting? Could it not display the most simple of expressions with her feelings?
This Queen was really beginning to irk her.
“Fine, let’s talk. You should go home, stop killing your kids, and seal the tunnel. I’m being very nice right now but I won’t tolerate you killing my children,” Delta called out, tendrils of solar flares arched with her voice, creating vibrant waves of force. The black mass laughed.
“Children? They are drones to an end. My real children will be born when I use your heart as a nest. My domain will eclipse your Dungeon and together they will form an Abyss!” the howl came back and the black mass was actually beginning to take a form.
A torso and rough head formed first but the Queen was slowly becoming more concrete with her image. Delta felt a pulse of rage hit her.
Her sun blazed hot and red.
“Drones? They’re dying for you! They love you!” Delta yelled, the feeling of the fanatical devotion the Spiders fought with only too clear. The Universe around them grew colder as the Queen merely looked bored. Yes... she had her eight eyes now.
“Love? How pointless. There is only power and they fear my power. It is their world. I peered into your realm. Sickly webs you spin with love and promises. Your ‘children’ will die knowing you have failed them in their moment of death. A sweet soup I will drink,” the Queen mocked.
“You.. are a monster,” Delta whispered. The Queen brushed long silvery hair out of her cold face. A crown of spindly legs formed around her head. A cloak of regal black covering her nude body.
“No more than you. We are both Mothers of monsters. You merely lie to yourself. Pity... sad,” came the response as she lashed out with countless more dark waves of spiders, each ready to die for their Mot… their creator.
Delta only stared at the cold, cruel brutality of the being before her.
Her planets seemed to slow, the comets, and moons seemed to pause to wait for Delta’s response.
Her planets, her rocks, her children, her friends, her family... her home.
“Just lay down and die to the superior mother!” the Queen laughed into the darkness of the Universe.
Delta looked up and held up one finger.
“First off,” she stated and a burning pillar of flame exploded from her sun and the waves were burned to a crisp. The Queen looked startled.
“You are no mother. If there was child protective services on this planet, I’d have them here so fast I’d cause a rip in the time space continuum then shove you into the rip with pleasure,” she walked forward and behind her, the Sun began to expand as her planets, comets, and moons fled inside, taking shelter and becoming covered in her protection. The blue sun began to orbit like a moon around her own.
“How... no! You were not this powerful!” the Queen choked. Delta held up a second finger and her sun began to consume all in it’s path as it expanded more.
“Second off. You are such a cliche of a horrid villain that I am actually ashamed that you came to my dungeon. You’re boring, uninteresting and have no depths beyond ‘woo I’m so evil’. Please, I do not have time to waste on such a one-act pony spider,” Delta announced. The Queen began to spin,trying to spread out a wall of darkness to appear bigger but she had retreated.
Delta kept walking forward.
“Enough! I will not be mocked by such a failure of a Dungeon!” the Queen rushed forward and Delta sniffed once and backhanded the wave her fire burning the cloak of darkness and crown that had been forming on the spider woman.
The Queen looked shocked as she touched her orange stained cheek. Delta held up three fingers.
“Third off. I am actually a good parent despite the fact my kids scare the shit out of me in more ways than one. And you’re right. I am a terrible Dungeon, but guess what? I do not give one ounce of fricks about your opinion or your thoughts. I will not take advice from someone who chose to be a Queen instead of a damn mother. Now, I have this little thing where I have no idea what I am doing so I really suggest scampering off before my... self behind me explodes,” Delta jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the Sun on the verge of Supernova.
The Spider Queen went white... then pink... then red.
“I will eat you!” she spat and lunged forward.
Delta’s fist caught her on the nose spreading more orange. Delta eyed the Spider Queen for a long moment as she focused.
“Ya know? That’s not a bad idea! But eating talking people isn’t my forte so I’ll just scoop up what’s left after. I promise, I’m not usually so cruel or mean but you really do know how to push my buttons, and sadly, one of those buttons had a giant label called ‘Supernova’. Hopefully, enough of you will remain behind that I can help your kids,” Delta said coldly.
The Queen held her nose in pain. She looked up as her skin began to grow warm. Then it became hot.
She looked up as the Sun of orange engulfed the blue one and then kept growing... growing... consuming... EATING!
“You promised me power and life! Help me!” she cried to the fading darkness.
No one answered. No more promises.
She had been left to fade after her failure.
She sat there on her knees as Orange swallowed her whole.
Inside the sun, a monster far worse than she could ever have imagined opened wide and devoured her.
Every one of the spiders just... died.
Nu blinked in shock as one by one, they all curled up as if being withered from the inside.
The mana inside filled the air but it looked lost. Less purple and more...clear.
Without intent or ownership.
Nu turned as a deep orange light exploded out of the core, rushing past Wyin, past Nu and he felt-
-like his head had been filled to its limit before it faded.
Delta’s light fired up the spider Tunnel and as she did so, there came a deep scream as the purple Mana was set alight. A burning sea of stars to the human eye. Delta’s power flooded all the way to the outside world.
He could only imagine the sight.
“THAT’S DELTA! SHE’S REALLY NICE!” Deo promised Kemy as a pillar of orange light exploded into the sky from the deep forest beyond Durence.
The priestess had met the young teen and she had been unable to say no at his offer of a tour. She guessed he didn’t talk to outsiders much... well, yell at them.
“Why is she exploding?!” Kemy yelled in panic. Deo thought about that.
“MAYBE SHE HAD GAS?” he suggested. Kemy eyed him and felt no deception coming from the boy. He was like the chosen of her Goddess. Lies had never touched this boy. She was about to comment when something landed on her shoulder.
She looked around to see half a spider staring blankly at her.
Her heart dropped and Deo opened his mouth wide in surprise.
“IT’S RAINING SPIDERS! IT’S NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE! CHEESE, SWORDS, AND ONE TIME, IT RAINED FIRE BUT NEVER SPIDERS!” he said with excitement. Kemy felt faint as legs, bodies, and gore rained down on the village.
She felt a shadow overhead and saw the cheery woman, Mrs Dabberghast, holding an umbrella out for her.
“You came at an interesting time,” the woman smiled sweetly, her eyes turning to the fading jet of orange light.
“Never seen a Dungeon blow up a domain like this but Delta was never subtle. I really like that about her,” the woman chortled as she went about scooping parts into a bucket.
“Fresh fertilizer!” she said with glee.
“T-this is…. ISN’T NORMAL!” Kemy squeaked in protest, watching as Deo tried to assemble a spider from the random bits and pieces still falling around them.
“Wonderful, isn’t it?” Mrs. Dabberghast laughed.
This village was mad.
The Dungeon was scary.
Kemy whimpered but at Deo’s innocent look, she half-heartedly pointed out a leg he could use in the distance. The boy’s smile was like a sun... amidst the storm of spider limbs.
Kemy and her friends needed to hurry and ‘beat’ Delta’s Dungeon before they became just as mad.
That was the honest truth as Kemy had ever believed it to be.
Delta broke the surface.
She inhaled as she sat up in front of her core. Someone was slapping her. At first, she thought the Spider Queen had been even stronger than she imagined but she blinked bleary-eyed at a blue boy.
He was scowling fiercely at her.
“Idiot. What kind of fool jumps into an intersoul battle with an unknown foe? I have no idea what you even did!” the boy complained and shook her slightly.
He was kind of cute, his tousled hair and purple cheeks showing his frustration. He was glaring at her but Delta just felt so happy to be back that she just smiled stupidly at him.
“You’re blue!” she beamed.
“No, you dolt, I am Nu!” the boy argued.
“New what?” Delta said confused as she tried to stand up but something wasn’t quite working. She stared down to see she had no legs. Her body was still forming slowly out of the floor.
“You’re slowly retaking command hence why my legs are gone,” the boy pointed out. Delta looked down with a frown to see the boy’s own legs were almost ghostly, invisible.
“Thank goodness, I can go back to the perfect shape and be rid of these damn limbs,” the boy shook said limbs with frustration. Those words... that manner.
“Nu...” she said slowly.
The young man, a little younger than Delta, looked up.
“Glad you can see my greatness in any form but... how... are you?” he asked cautiously. Delta tried to remember the space, the stars... the Queen.
“What happened? Why do you have non-boxy features? Did you know you have dimples?” Delta pointed to the dimples that showed when Nu glowered.
“Of course that’s what you focus on... you blew up the Queen, the spiders all died, and now Sys and I are trying to hold off the giant wave of Mana from basically overloading your core. You also snagged a lot things from the Spider Queen, and her tunnel is... well it’s odd, to say the least,” Nu reported. His torso began to fade as Delta pulled herself free from the floor slightly more.
“I didn’t blow her up for fun. I punched her first and slapped her but she kept coming. Then I... blew up?” Delta tried to remember. Nu shook his head.
“Stars and spider explosions. You don’t settle for low, do you? Our folks all survived, but Wilhelm, he succumbed to the poison over time but his recharge time is already counting down. So, it was a total victory for us, hurrah,” Nu said deadpanned.
Delta eyed him.
“Actually... why do you have a body?” she asked and then suddenly the Dungeon shook. Delta gasped as stars exploded across her vision. Her blood felt thick, her muscles expanded, her mind was drowned in white lights. Nu gave a pained gasp and he held two hands out.
The feeling of drowning halted for a moment.
“Not... a good time to talk. The Mana is coming. The Frogs are throwing what they can into the tunnel but there’s so many... plus the two Titan spiders,” Nu trailed off. Delta’s head began to spin.
“T-two?!” she asked in shocked horror but the Mana began to press again. She shook that question off.
“What can we do? I can’t... I don’t think I can handle that again!” she said in a panic. Nu’s body seemed to be pushed forward by the mass of white Mana gathering behind him.
“The Third Floor... it’s our only chance. If you can purchase it once I begin to leak the Mana... Sys can knock you out and I’ll drain enough Mana on stupid crap you’ll love and then we can get back together and everything can go back to normal!” Nu yelled as his efforts began to cause pain to shoot across the features of his face.
“I can’t leave you to deal with this alon-” she tried to argue but Nu’s deep blue eyes, darker than the rest of him met hers.
“I am just... a Menu. Nothing special. You are the Core. We need you intact,” he panted. Delta reached out and not expecting it... she grabbed Nu’s hand.
He stared for a second as tendrils of white Mana began to float past.
Delta couldn’t move. Nu’s hand was warm… he was real.
To Delta Nu was real.
“You’re special to me... don’t ever forget it. Delta is no good without her Nu,” she explained as the haze of bloated Mana collected in the pit of her stomach.
The fading face of Nu suddenly smirked.
“I know. Honestly, you’d be a wreck without me. But just listen to me... just this once,” he said, his voice turning gentle.
“I’ll be fine. Trust me, hm?” he pushed, a small smile playing around his lips. Delta felt his warm hand becoming fainter and fainter.
“O-okay but if I wake up and you’re gone or injured, I’ll explode my sun on you so hard you’ll have to come back!” she warned seriously. Nu blinked.
“Explode your... sun- No, no time! Are you ready? Do you have the Menu open and ready?” he shouted, startling Delta into action.
“Ready!” she promised. Nu hesitated for a few seconds.
“You... really are a good Core... a... friend... even,” he mumbled and the white mass slipped past before Delta could even think of a response.
It was like she was swallowing an ocean. It just kept coming and coming, bitter and cold. She gulped and it felt like she couldn’t push forward to reach the purchase button. The waves of Mana and Dp earned for the fight overwhelmed her and almost promised to push her so far down into darkness, she would never come back.
She fought, she screamed, and she clawed forward towards the only colour.
The fading blue smile of knowing. Knowing that Delta was going to be just fine.
That was enough to make the last few inches possible. The knowledge that she had people waiting for her.
She had spiders to fix... a tunnel to look at...
Dear lord, what if Adventurers came? She’d never live down the state she was in.
Her finger smashed the screen as her body threatened to pop with the sheer resources gathering in her tight frame.
The message was clear.
“Don’t let it be... dragons for the third floor... please,” she mumbled and sweet warm orange overtook her senses as everything began to shake.
Nu was flung out of the core room as the Dungeon shook and shuddered. Space and dimensions shifted wildly to connect the Second floor to this new space. Nu wasn’t sure what was going on, but the space felt... different than the first to the second floor.
Delta was cleanly absorbed back into the core and his human form lingered. He was confused why until Sys appeared with information.
Sys began to flicker badly and Nu went to grab her.
Error. Repurposed area.
Nu pursed his lips.
This was Delta’s fault somehow... if not...it was just her damned luck.
Behind the core, stairs formed. Cold stone things that radiated darkness and the feeling of disturbing something alien.
That was when the truly strangest thing of all happened in Nu’s short experience.
A lizard-like creature sprinted up the stairs, looking around in crazed amazement.
“A Dungeon! Excellent! Come, come! No time to waste!” the thing almost sang. From behind him came the sounds of rattling and clacking. The lizard turned with a slow crazed smile.
“Not today, you spooky bastards!” he howled and hurled a glowing red orb down the stairs. A wave of fire and heat roared over the stairs and stained the stone black with soot. The lizard creature... a kobold turned with a shake of his head.
“They’ll be back,” he told the room. Nu tried to speak but his voice had faded. The Kobold sniffed around Delta’s core with a long interested sniff.
He began to juggle his damn grenades and looked thoughtful as he made all the orbs just vanish down his sleeve.
“The name is... Jack,” he said, tasting the words as if not one had asked his name for a long time.
“I’ve been down there for about... 40 years? No... 30!... 50? Ah, who cares but thank gods, you came, you beautiful thing!” Jack hugged Delta’s core causing Nu to growl and use the last of his strength to send an order.
The doors open to the core.
The group of Rale, Devina, Renny, Luna, Giant, and Gramps made the Kobold pause. Instead of looking worried, the damn thing looked even more overjoyed!
“Yes! Best day ever since I learned how to turn creep moss into edible food!” he yelled. He gained that mad glint in his eyes again.
“So is it time to settle the score?” he grinned.
Nu stared for a long moment, he looked to see more Mana gathering in the core. The dent used to buy the third floor still filling up but much slower.
“Delta... hurry back. I don’t want to deal with this,” he whispered, almost begging as Luna kicked the damn Kobold back down the stairs in surprise.
Nu just wanted a nice water level with mecha sharks and sword-wielding Octopi... was that too much to ask for?