Thankfully, Quiss had tackled Seth before he had gotten too close to Wyin. Without the keys that unlocked the way, Seth had pretty much been left outside the three large doors. Quiss nodded to Renny who was lightly napping nearby as the tour seemed to be at an end for now.
Delta watched Wyin huff as she closed the door behind the two men. Ignoring the deep thud as the door closed, Quiss dragged Seth back towards the jungle.
“Drinks for all! Come on, stop harassing everything with a pulse and let’s get some shots!” Quiss cheered. His mood was still disturbingly happy. Burning that tree must be some secret pleasure for Quiss, thought Delta. She would have to keep a close eye on him around Wyin.
“The rude one was of help? I hate to have let down a louse to be a bother,” Wyin asked lightly. Delta gave her a small smile.
“He was… and thank you for letting him pass,” she said and Wyin merely met her gaze.
“Being unable to leave of my own accord made me take drastic measures,” Wyin shrugged one large branch-like shoulder.
“I guess you’re a bit rooted to the spot,” she agreed. Wyin’s cool facade broke as her lips peeled back in a pained expression.
“Must you?” the tree woman pleaded. Delta’s own face was beaming.
“Gotta make like a tree and leave. I’ll be back soon once I’m done absorbing an evil lab that had crimes against both morality and humanity in them, I’ll be bark before you dew it.” Delta waved. The cry of anguish was funny and Delta had no idea Wyin had such a drama bone in her,
Drama root? Drama stick?
Delta would have to think on that.
She floated back down to the third floor, wondering how the process was going.
WHAT VILENESS! The army paled before a mighty foe as it took to the room under the command of the GREAT DELTA! But this? It promised to be their greatest foe yet! Mana Squad 354 ‘The Wiggy Woggy Bombers’ attempted to dive bomb the smear and their formation broke as the flavour of it turned the orange Mana green with displeasure. This… what DISHONOR! It took a step forward towards this dreadful—though not as tricky and cowardly as the… Gazebo - but this foe had its own foulness.
Troll Soup. The great knowledge of Delta offered a name but the Mana commander called it another name.
But distaste and illness were unimportant. It knew that. It knew that countless of the squads could turn back and flee but not it. It was the leading Mote of Mana. It was no coward! This soup had traces of Delta, the great and holy one, but it was mixed with reality. Turned into a much fouler substance by the slime cauldron remains. It tasted like old shoe dipped in oil then cooked with troll soup.
Much deadlier than the already fearsome troll soup.
It charged, crying praises for Delta as it hit the substance, head on.
Its army followed, empowered by the commander’s bravery. The slime was taken down and many legends would be passed on by this feat of heroic action.
Delta paused then she gagged.
She coughed and sputtered as a foul taste coated her throat. Oh God, it was killing her! She hacked and tears leaked from her eyes.
Finally after… much time. Delta licked her lips and tasted nothing once more.
“Memo to myself… don’t let Jeb cook with Gutrots. I can’t take troll soup with bits of Gutrot. I might actually break,” she rasped.
Nu’s box appeared, now that the third floor was devoid of people from the outside. Delta wobbled to her feet.
“Tell me, Nu. Have the Gutrots made it down here?” she tried not to demand. Her mind a chaotic mess of ‘Ow’ and ‘Never again’ and ‘Blargh’. Nu seemed to vanish before reappearing.
Oh dammit to heck. Delta squared her shoulders.
“Nu, start feeding me the list of notifications. I got tons of them no doubt,” she asked. Delta had asked Nu to keep them back until everything was settled and cleared from the lab. Getting distracted from a battle due to pop ups was not going to happen.
Instead of an answer, she was given a neat stack of windows that she could pick up and read. Delta floated to the mess hall for the better light ambience. It made no difference to Delta physically, she could see in pitch black in her Dungeon but it felt nice to have a table.
The first of the windows began to flash past.
Delta winced but thankfully… Jack’s resurrection had taken a lot of Mana. She took a quick peek at her own numbers before the notifications added more numbers.
The good news was that she wasn’t gonna be suffering from Mana overload anytime soon. Having to experience that so soon after the troll soup tasting? Delta might actually cry. The next few windows showed her some interesting things.
“What’s the difference?” Delta asked with a slight tilt to her head. Nu, who was floating nearby—and also appreciating the gains, began to explain.
Delta was quiet for a moment.
“So… what you’re saying is that I am awesome?” she batted her eyes.
“I love you too,” Delta grinned. The next few notifications came and Delta blinked.
Delta paled and her stomach gave an unpleasant turn.
The idea of that taste… that smell… moving on its own and trying to be cute and affectionate made Delta both smile and want to hit her head off the table.
“I’ll… think about that later,” she finally said and the relieved menu quickly moved on to the next item.
“What kinda arts?” she pondered. The menu shifted to show a little pixel art of the cauldron and the requirements. Delta blinked as she already had quite a few of the requirements underway.
Delta was stunned but Nu was already humming with speculation.
Delta turned to him slowly as Nu seemed to stumble over his words
“Praise the System,” Delta mumbled and turned back to her notifications.
“I knew something so evil wasn’t natural!” Delta pointed at the menu with accusation. Then she frowned.
“I wonder how they escaped and how they spread so much…” she mumbled.
Holly Dabberghast felt her nose tingle but she manage not to sneeze. She hummed as she transplanted her ‘Lovely Locks’. A cheerful yellow plant that soaked up the sun’s rays in its new home.
The container she used was an old one. She had purchased it from that lovely man, Mr Japes. She had been oddly chuffed at the price at the time until she saw Japes had left some odd dusty shrivelled up thing at the bottom. Poor creature.
Holly had assumed Japes had been too shy to ask her to nurse the fungi to live… and so Holly did so quietly out of respect. The sheer life those mushrooms gained were fabulous. Holly had kept it to herself when they spread far and wide. Finally, some life in this manaless place, but that was then and this is now.
The lovely dears, they were everywhere, they even looked like they might just grow legs any day now and dance. Holly hoped they would.
It would be a shame if Delta, the dear, had all the fungi fun!
Delta hazarded a guess that ‘Durence’ was a safe bet and left it at that.
Delta would save that reading for when she was bored or insane.
Delta was beginning to think these scientists just researched whatever topic came out of a hat. Heroes? Like… RPG atypical teens?
Sure, Deo was… well and Poppy wasn’t… Delta quickly floundered for a name.
Grim was perfectly normal. Nodding to herself she felt the last of her gains from the head office finally settle. Eager, Delta watched to see what would come first.
Delta stared. Did Sis just tell her to wait? That had never happened. Things were processed through the system faster than Delta could think!
Nu jingled slowly.
He trailed off.
“Terrifying?” Delta supplied.
A window opened up and Delta felt a sudden odd pressure on her forehead. She gasped and put a hand to the spot.
She saw the window turn vividly green, like the most emerald of gems and the richest of leaves. There was a feeling of being sucked through a straw as if the window had opened into a vacuum.
Then Delta was flowing again, like the time Sis had shown her the edge of the world. She was leaving her Dungeon and was pulledacross the land.
She wasn’t travelling the odd tunnels that Sis had made along the Leylines. No… this was solid and rough, curving and twisting into a mass of huge roots.
She ended up in a large dark space. The roots, millions of them, seemed to collect in a large round cage of wood and pulsing green veins. Inside the cage was a single crystal about the size of a watermelon. It pulsed green.
It spoke, and it seemed distracted, with the tone of some old man with too little patience for any guests.
“Beta, I did tell you to hurry on,” the man sighed as he geared himself up for an argument. It paused then seemed to turn the crystal slowly around.
“Where are you? Are you using one of those confounded stealth powers? You know I detest childish games,” the crystal warned.
“Hello!” Delta tried for cheerful and politeness.
The Crystal rippled and Delta gaped as the glow turned inside out as a roughly glowing eye looked inside itself.
“…You are not the rude girl I was expecting,” the crystal said far too calmly. Delta saw she still had some form so she did her best head bow and tried not to be too nervous.
“Sorry for barging in and appearing… here? I kinda got sucked up and dumped here when I absorb- AH when I found a weird tree… thing…” Delta trailed off. The Crystal pulsed a few times.
“Odd, you feel like that snot goblin who tries my patience but you haven’t cursed or made rude suggestions at my birth. It is… I am not sure how to talk to someone who is polite,” the crystal hummed then dimmed.
“Manners usually like manners as company. I’m Delta… where am I?” she asked, the edge of tension she felt refusing to ease. The crystal pulsed and Delta felt herself drawn closer to the cage… no, shield of roots and moss.
“You seem to be inside my being. A space that is both symbolic and a condensed version of my existence. It is a space which I control absolutely and find it very concerning you have found yourself here,” the crystal said, voice ever so slightly becoming curious.
It was then the crystal’s words came back to her.
“Did you say… Beta?” she asked, voice oddly blank. The Crystal pulsed once.
“Yes. A charge that is still taxing me. You and her share streams of the same… cloth as it were. Have you too come to offer services to the World Tree?” the thing asked. Oh, it was the World Tree.
The real one. Delta processed that calmly.
“You wouldn’t want me. I blow things up,” Delta promised earnestly. Oh now she was panicking. She needed to get back to her Dungeon ASAP.
Heh… sap. No, Delta had to focus!
“Beta had brought me much progress as an agent to act on my end. I would think two would be making my goals approach completion much faster,” World Tree said. What a mouthful. Delta would call him…
A good nickname for a legendary tree? Delta was gonna call him Drasil. Ygg or Yggy felt okay but Delta wanted it to be somewhat respectable, in case she blurted it out loud.
“Oh? And what goals are they?” Delta asked politely. Drasil merely took a second to look her over.
“I seek the Eye that turned into the Heart. Buried very deep, you see,” Drasil commented. The air was chilled but it warmed at the mention of the Eye… or Heart as Drasil called it.
“And Beta? Is she around?” Delta peered, expecting to see another ghostly Core being maybe. Something inside her yearned to find this ‘Beta’. Another like Delta? A sister who knew what Delta was feeling? What she had gone through?
It was a strong pull.
“She is still close to my roots on a quest. She will be some time,” the tree offered. The air felt charged and Delta shook her head.
“Which way? I need to find her!” Delta tried to explain but even as she said it… they felt wrong. It was as if some deep part of her, as ingrained as her heart beating or blood pumping or thinking… there was a notion of the idea… the fact that Beta had to find her.
Delta stumbled as that response snapped like an elastic band in her head but she pushed on and Drasil was beginning to do something, a deep glow that bounced off Delta’s glowing orange skin.
It felt invasive as he was peering at her deepest bits.
He was finally looking at her.
“You are… not a devouring monster of Beta’s ilk. You are a slave… a cave of unnatural life and demented thought. You are of the Two. You are connected to the Brother and Sister. You are a Dungeon,” Drasil stated. His voice had gone from grumbly old man to a low unnatural rush of wind.
Delta stood her ground, her face flushed.
“Since I have manners, I won’t call you names. But I am a Dungeon and I do know Sis. What’s your beef with that?” she demanded. The space began to squeeze down on her, like countless fingers pushing in at once.
“You have gained access here through… no I would have felt the vanishing of my roots. I have been careful. I have never burrowed into a Dungeon! How did you gain my power?!” Drasil asked, not shouting but his voice had that inhuman calmness that would get its answer.
Delta wanted to yell something but she couldn’t breathe, let alone speak, as the pressure was trying to make her pop instead of answering.
He seemed to be trying to dig into her form for the truth.
Delta had reached the limits of her politeness and was going to just start doing anything and everything when there was a terrible noise like tearing in the space.
Resting on the root deep inside a ravine in the shape of a 10 headed snake… Beta looked around as her skin prickled. Something… her connection to Ygg was twitching badly and she felt… fear.
She touched the root with a human hand as she shrunk and felt a horrid cold feeling. She pulled back and wanted to turn into a tiny rat or robin as if to hide.
She remembered that feeling.
Beta had felt that feeling only once before and-
-Delta would never forget it.
The pressing fingers vanished as from the tear, came a doorway to some gem encrusted tunnel. A boy walked out and his sweet face was marred with wrongness and delight at the scene before him.
“I sensed a little spat and next thing I know Sister is offering to let me pick the game next week to come do a little check up. How lovely. How fun!” the child clapped his hands. It was him.
The demon child.
Ygg’s space seemed to retreat but it held as the demon child’s own power washed up against it. The boy huffed.
“I swear, one week and I would be at full power. You lot have sucky timing and worse entertainment-” he cut himself off as he saw Delta. He took off imaginary glasses as if to rub them before he broke out in that horrid boyish smile.
“Well, if it isn’t A- oops. Sorry, forgot that name was el gono,” he made a motion of putting a finger to his lips.
“Brother of the Earth. Holder of the Eye of Physical affairs. The Heart of this world. I… did not expect to meet you so soon,” Drasil commented again, calmly. Delta wanted to annoy him now.
“Hey… you… person,” Brother waved weakly. Delta saw it then. The oddly twisted features on the boy scared her senseless but… the feeling. That feeling of power was exactly like Sis.
Sister and Brother.
This was Brother? Brother had made her a Dungeon? Delta stared but his words clicked.
“That’s Drasil… he’s a world tree,” she said weakly. Brother blinked at her. Yellow horrid eyes.
“World Tree? What kinda dickish name is that? What’s next? God rock? ALMIGHTY WEED?!” Brother called and then snorted.
“Well, a ‘Mighty Weed’ would be kinda cool to see,” he admitted.
“Where is the Heart?” Drasil inquired and Delta turned to him.
“You mind giving me ten minutes to confront my nightmare and devil?!” she yelled. Drasil reeled back as if struck.
“Yeah, respect the lady’s wish,” Brother shook his fist in mockery. Delta eyed the short form and every single aspect of her was scared but she took a few steps towards him.
“I ain’t giving you your name back or anything like-” Brother began before Delta cut him off.
“Thank you… for letting me have all my friends and… let me meet Nu and Sis… and… all that,” Delta trembled as the unblinking yellows eyes levelled on her.
“Oh Brother, that’s me, by the way, you are a weirdo. Sister wasn’t praising you for fun. You really are a weirdo Dungeon,” he crossed his arms then pondered things.
“Okay… you got my interest. Let’s walk. Wave goodbye to Mighty Weed,” he jerked a thumb and the tree glowed with power as it tried to press into Delta again but an aura of sheer power easily deflected it.
“I’d tear you branch from branch and all that but I don’t have all day to make you into a rocking chair. You got one week to vanish or become something worthy of my attention,” Brother warned and his eyes glowed once more as the shield of branches and moss caught dark fire.
Drasil screamed and Brother pushed Delta through the door.
That fire was familiar… the colour was different but that hungry flame was…
Exactly like Quiss’.
But Delta was falling now and she was having massive Deja Vu.
“Please don’t take my name again… I like being Delta!” she yelled. Brother’s dark chuckle was nearby.
“That’s a much better answer than last time! Come on then, Delta. Let me show you the way back. Please keep all arms and lost thoughts in the ride or they are due to be plucked for my amusement,” the child warned and the darkness rushed past like some spectral roller coaster.
Delta hurled and the darkness became splattered orange.
“That’s gonna stain,” Brother commented lightly.
Delta was about to answer when the ride came into the sight of something.
A giant glowing surface deep, deep… so deep into the world.
Delta could barely understand what she saw for a few minutes. Then it made sense. Awe-inspiring sense.
It was the core of the world and it was a twin of the moon that hung above in the sky.
It was the Heart of the world.
It was the stolen eye.