To Christopher. As a person, you confuse me. As a brother, I love you with deep unending affection.
Chapter 100 boyos! You know what this means? NO IDEA but maybe another 400 chapters if people want more epic and not yet bored. ^^
They hovered over the moon. Could it be called a moon when it was inside the earth? Was it a Core? A giant core for all the world?
Delta honestly didn’t know.
“Don’t look so glum. I’m just holding you here until Sis’ frazzled nerves settle and you get beamed back to the Sistership,” The Brother announced as he kicked back and they both moved to a large tunnel directly below the core. It should have taken days or more to travel the length of the core but the Brother just made them appear to where he wanted.
“You’re a bit more coherent than Sis… why is that?” Delta chose to ask instead. Indeed, the Brother was before her while Sis seemed to be behind many layers of metaphysical barriers. Brother waved a hand and Delta watched a long simple bamboo pole with a long wire at the end appear. A glinting hook glimmered before Brother flicked it down into the dark tunnel.
“Sis is a nerd. She builds systems, projects, and handles the delicate nature of things. Me? I’m more a nature kind of lad,” he grinned, the gesture not quite right for a human. His rod tugged and the Brother pulled, the wire needing no reeling.He pulled up something that hurt to look at. It squirmed and tried to move in dimensions that screamed. Brother took a bite out of it and hummed.
“I call them Eeartots. Taste like radioactive sushi,” he grinned, teeth covered in a dark slime. He used a simple white sleeve to wipe his teeth. He gestured at the rod.
“Go on, have some fun!” he urged. Delta gingerly took the thing and cast the hook down the tunnel. It felt so weird to… hold something.
“I eat things and you can say I learn things from the things I don’t eat and sometimes from what I do eat. I once fished up a copy of an atlas where everything just read ‘deadzone’. Sometimes I fish out discs or souls. Like you,” he reclined back on the empty space and closed his eyes.
“Like Dungeons? You eat things and learn?” Delta said quickly, the rod still in her hands. Brother grinned.
“There is a good reason most Dungeons are in my body and not floating around like Sis. Dungeons are like the… one of the few things me and my Sister worked together on,” he picked his nose and then licked it. Delta shuddered at the sheer rudeness.
“You been told about the Eyes yet? Not sure how much Sis is on top of info sharing. I don’t give three hoots or boots or coots or oops about foreshadowing. I fish those up everyday,” he snorted to himself.
Delta shook her head and the Brother held out a hand and a copy of the core behind them appeared in his hands as a ghostly copy.
“No biggie. I guess I owe you for not screaming at me or whatever. I guess I’m happy you made it upground and got on alright,” Brother said as if this was nothing important.
“So, there was once a very handsome and attractive brother. All the non-existing beings wanted him at the time. Then there was a spacey Sister who walked into walls. Still cute, as she is my Sister, but obviously I got the good half of creation,” he preened.
“I feel like this tale has hints of biases in it,” Delta said dryly. Her fear of the being before her seemed to ebb with every second he didn’t hurt her or… take her name away.
“One day, we decided we were kinda bored of two-player mode and wanted a little sibling. Now, since me and my Sis had neither done any research into the subject nor decided to start small… we forced together a being from the left over parts of creation. Let me tell you, you physical people have it so easy. Just jump into the hay together and a year later boom, sprogs!” Brother waved a hand as if exasperated. He began tossing the core in his hands and catching it as he spoke.
“Well, of course it went perfectly,” he nodded. Delta blinked.
“Perfectly wrong, I mean,” he corrected himself. He began to slowly turn in the air.
“We got the right amount of power, intent, idea… but this little guy was lacking something. Dunno exactly what it was but let's just say if he were a piece of bread, he came out of the oven with fangs and enough hunger to try to eat us right on the spot,” Brother grimaced.
“He was just all wrong. Well, not wrong. He just wasn’t perfect like me. He kinda had a bit of me and Sis in him so he had a bit more power than we intended. Now I ain't-a jealous type. I don’t mind sharing my toys. But he wanted to break them and eat them… then vomit them back up just to spite us,” Brother turned to the giant glowing eye behind them.
“What would happen if he had eaten you?” Delta whispered. Brother shot her a look.
“Let me just check my ‘Higher being Manual’… hm, the page for being digested by your artificial sibling seems to be missing! Oh no!” he mocked gasped.
Delta narrowed her eyes.
“I’d smack you if I knew you wouldn’t set me on fire for it,” she warned. Brother seemed to enjoy that blunt honesty.
“I guess he gets the two slices of pie and becomes the one true being. Wonder how that would have turned out. Ah well, but the good news is that he was kinda dumb as a rock. Like… I feel more shame in how dumb he was than the whole trying-to-eat-us thing,” Brother grinned.
“You’ve taken ‘screwing up the creation and creating a monster’ rather well,” Delta said. The boy shrugged once more.
“We were lonely kids. I don’t mean to act like it wasn’t bad, but we have feelings too,” he reminded. Delta tried moving the fishing rod but nothing seemed to bite just yet.
“So we pretended not to mind the attempts to eat us and acted like we have a great idea. A game of hide and seek. If it won… it could eat us and if it lost… well, another day to try and get us,” Brother hummed. He nodded at the shocked look.
“Dumber than a rock and this was before there were rocks,” he grinned.
“So we told it to close its eyes and count. Until it got bored. When it closed its eyes… well, I’ll skip the gruesome part but we took an eye each. The eyes hold a lot of power… and it was like taking in half of our own power all over. We could do things we never could before. But little bro was furious and in pain,” his tone went quiet.
“Strange how you still feel something for the mistake you made, but I did. We ran instead of turning and trying to rip him apart. We didn’t know how to use the power. We had had it for only seconds, but Sister… she’s smart… a good girl. She got the idea roughly and took off above with some help. She flew and I helped her liftoff,” Brother explained and he smiled at the memory. Delta remembered Sis’s words back when she saw the edge of the world.
“You fell on your face!” Delta said in understanding. The Brother’s face went blank.
“I tripped…” he said childishly. Delta blinked.
“On what? There wasn’t anything back then, right?” she pondered. The Brother’s yellow eyes met hers.
“I… panicked. I didn’t know how to use my rather disgusting eyeball yet, so I flew… directly down and I sank like a rock when I just wanted to be safe. So I made the world,” he huffed.
“That is the ditziest origin story I have ever heard,” Delta snorted. She was smacked in the arm by the child.
“Please, I heard about the things you did. In the brief messages, my Sister sent me. Something about screaming and mushrooms?” he grinned back. His horrid face didn’t get any easier to look at but Delta was… relieved to see humour in the eyes.
Damn, he had ammunition.
“Well, as Sis became the Sun and I the ground on which you all live on - you’re welcome by the way - that little brother of ours was blind and bleeding. This pure black water flowed from his eyes and covered the land… my back mind you, not the greatest feeling in the world I’ll let you know!” Brother shuddered and chewed more of his eldritch fish-thing.
“The water gathered, and over time… things began to grow out of it. Like fungus or moss and then one day when I bothered to ask Sister to check, there were these tiny little things… like what Little bro looked like but like 1/1000000 size. People. Sis thought they were cute. I was worried they would get in my butt,” he grimaced.
“Little Bro, according to Sis, cause I was face down like it was Friday night, vanished into the pool of darkness. I saw him fall down below. He was kinda… empty. Like a deflated balloon,” Brother hummed and Delta slowly turned her eyes to the rod she held…
The rod fishing in the Abyss.
“Yeah, no luck. I’ve been trying to find him to see if he’s passed his biting stage but I think he’s a mite bit annoyed at me,” the boy guessed.
Delta’s head was spinning.
“Your little brother made all life on the world? But that can’t be-” Delta cut off as she remembered something.
The memory of the farmer. The way his body had broken down into Mana… DP and… that black spore.
“Yup. Every person ever born on this plane has a bit of Little Bro inside. Tiny sparks of creation,” Delta’s companion said. Delta frowned.
“So, what gives them Mana and their own abilities are… side effects of being basically cells of a deformed god?” she screeched. The Brother shrugged.
“‘Gods’ isn’t right. We’re more like… Cosmic Entities. We just were born of a higher nature… no wait that still sounds massively dickish… uh… we were born in a weirder conceptual part of reality!” he beamed.
“Wait, so he made monsters and the other species?” Delta asked, so utterly unable to stop asking questions. The Brother shook his head.
“The other species were indeed the same source, but monsters? Those were mine,” he admitted.
Delta nearly dropped the rod.
“You made MONSTERS?!” she began to wave her arms like a chicken. The boy looked annoyed.
“Sister opened the stars and let tons of Faith be possible. I made monsters, natural Spore seekers and she made reality portals to basically let people sell their spores for power! I think my action was less drastic!” he complained.
“Why?!” Delta needed to know this for sanity's sake.
“Well, spores eaten by monsters come to me and become my power. Spores converted to faith gives Sis a percent of the power. People are rad, hurrah, but… years of continuous power, training, and use of their own Mana can cause their Spores to grow over the years. If really strong people were left to their own thing… Little Bro would have eventually had the barebones to just step back in and eat his own little children. We let people sell their souls to a god for a paradise and my monsters take care of the heroes. The stronger the spore grows in the people… the stronger the monsters I create to take them down. I kill them to keep the rest away from hungry hungry hippo little bro and Sis tries to ferry the best into a better state than ‘food’,” Brother stood and began to pace.
Delta stared, not sure if horror or fear was taking lead in her chest.
“Obviously, it wasn’t a good system so we knocked our heads together and combined our methods. Monsters to hunt the heroes and a field of awareness to spread Mana out and slowly convert people into beings free of the Spore. Dungeons are what happens when you mix the purifying power of a system and the killing powers of monsters,” Brother turned to Delta, face blank.
Delta let that thought carry itself.
People settled around Dungeons. The strong went inside and fought, usually dying but the Dungeon Mana leaked out and became stronger over the years…
People acting more alive with Dungeon Mana.
Mana that was trying to eat the spore inside them.
If people never went inside the Dungeon, they were still getting passively… cured of this spore. The ones with huge power over themselves… a strong spore? They would seek to use that power and hence Dungeons still served that purpose to lure them in. Be it over time or with their death, the spore would be claimed.
Delta felt… used.
“Not that you’re designed the same or for the same purpose,” Brother added and Delta’s inner slide down a dark series of thoughts were interrupted.
“What?” she asked dumbly. He was picking his nose again, looking like he had found something worth digging out.
“We got tons of Dungeons working together. You’re kinda a step in a new version of things. Really, you don’t have a real goal outside of seeing what would happen once we plugged you in. So… uh, well done for doing your best!” the child grinned as he flicked a glowing snot into the Abyss tunnel where it exploded like a small nova.
“I don’t consume Spores?” Delta responded in a confused tone.
“No, you still have all the bells and whistles, but you’re kinda a… Whatcha call it, an experiment based on information that Sister has been gathering. We’ve been wanting a Dungeon near that kooky town for a while and over the top of that anthill filled with nutjobs. The idiots trying to coax Little Brother back into the physical world by gathering the ripest Spores in one place? Now they blew themselves up a nice hole to fish in like me, and that town is waking up. Their Spores were dying but a little Orange miss leaked life into them and their own Mana is more than enough to sustain the Spore for years before you can claim it,” he shrugged as if this was a minor detail.
Delta could see that. Durence folk were… nothing if not a little lively. But that aside, it raised a whole new issue.
“You expected me to be able to hurt someone in Durence?!” Delta asked, voice so incredulous that she nearly snorted.
“Well, not at first and I told you that the stronger the hero or tyrant, the stronger the monster that can appear. Your human mind was a huge success so I kinda thought you would eventually snag a few and their own rules would keep you somewhat safe, but your human heart was an interesting side-effect. I should have guessed since we put a person in a core, they would be a bit unpredictable,” he mused, not sounding upset at this at all.
The rod in Delta’s hand tugged once before going limp. She eyed it but it didn’t move.
“So… if I can, kill people that make dragons pee themselves and passively kill their spores, but that was a side-job. What was the original plan? I know you said there was none but I’m not just Delta… I am the Delta in this plan of yours. There is a Beta… so there has to be an Alpha at least. That tells me you used me as the ‘fourth’ for something. Because others had failed, or perhaps because you’re trying different things?” she questioned, her voice was quiet as if the questions scared her more than she cared to admit.
The amused look in Brother’s yellow eyes dimmed just a bit and the demon child once again was an alien being, staring at her with a little hint of emotion that Delta could empathise with. Here was a being that was trying very hard to be human for her but for that moment it dropped all pretences and Delta saw what he had meant by ‘Cosmic’.
His form rippled and it was like looking into a tiny sea of stars with blaring yellow eyes. Sound dimmed as if it were sucked away, the Eye behind them looking tiny next to this being. Then it was gone and Brother smiled, impressed. Delta felt like the question had been a surprise and his reaction was more knee-jerk than any attempt to scare her.
“Yeah. You could say that. Don’t worry sunshine, you’re unique and definitely the least boring of the lot… well, Gamma is funny. I watched him do things you wouldn’t believe just because he’s Gamma. He got swallowed by a King Whark and spent a week cutting the heart loose inside to get freed. The idiot forgot that swords sank!” Brother slapped his knee.
Delta was leaning in, eager. Gamma! There was a Gamma! He could cut things? Was he a warrior? Being swallowed meant he was mobile. Combined with Drasil’s comments on Beta…
“I’m the only one who got turned into a Dungeon? Actually, what’s a Whark?” Delta added quickly.
That was going to bug her if she didn’t know.
“It’s like a shark but whale size and has three teeth that jut up like horns and also conjures storms. Kinda nice with hot sauce,” Brother explained calmly. Ah.
“But yeah, you’re the Dungeon. See? D is for Dungeon,” Brother whispered as if this was a secret. Delta blinked once.
“Excuse me?” she replied flatly, she assumed her face was blank.
“You’re excused. But G is for Gatherer. B is for Beast. A is for Adventure…” Brother sang.
“Please tell me you based this all, this plucking our souls or something, on more than just a bad tune?” Delta pleaded. Brother snorted.
“A lot more but that makes me look like I have wisdom and forethought and even some maturity. I am none of those things. Alright, you got a little time and I guess you’ve proven to actually tap deeper into your gift than any other. Gamma is close and I can’t wait to meet him. But you? You won over my Sister and yelled at a snob tree. That’s pretty good. You’re also doing good work at freeing the richest and darkest Spores in that cave. That’s good. So, here's some little tit for tat on the plan,” Brother offered.
“Alpha was designed to travel and blend in with people to convert them like a Dungeon, but the Spores would increase his own power. Since he was our first… well… I like to say he was a jewel of a pick but Alpha is a little too deep into the power thing. He was supposed to lead the powerful to him by being all heroic but he's actually a brat who hides behind the System,” Brother held up one finger in count.
“Beta is at the other end of the spectrum. She was gifted not to be bothered with Spore collecting beyond basic monster abilities. That left a lot of room to give her the ability to use anything I had a hand in making to empower herself. She’s our draw to the retired folks or the lost fighters. A monster that has no weakness. It’d draw the Spores en masse to her. She’s kinda doing her job but she really didn’t like us and wasn’t thankful about our hand in her fate. We wanted a beast, and now that beast is snapping at our fingers. Serves me right for trying to be clever.” he held up the second finger.
“Gamma was the best result, in my opinion, no offence,” he winked at her. Delta shrugged once shoulder, showing she had taken none. She didn’t want to ask questions. Not yet. Delta was desperate to learn of her brothers and sisters… of sorts.
“Gamma took to his job well. We decided that if Alpha could get his head out his own butt, he would need a weapon to handle his growing strength. I decided to add Gamma to the weapon as a precaution. Do you know how annoying it would be if the cult or some asshat got the sword and heroes had to spent 40 hours of blabbing and dramatic speeches to get that sword back? I'm rude, lazy, and the guy who fucked up badly a few times. Least I could do was make sure that outcome didn’t happen. Gamma? He seemed to enjoy the idea. He became that weapon. He got a lot of comedy material luring wanna-be dark lords and mad swordsmen to him so he could literally stab them in the back,” Brother grinned. He stretched, the darkness moving away from him as if afraid.
“Anyone he cut, got their spore taken and he would grow in power. Everyone likes growth weapons!” he nodded and looked to Delta for agreement.
“I like… things that grow and don’t stab people, but sure,” she smiled weakly. Brother looked skyward where a beam of yellow light was growing from a pinprick to a lantern.
“Sister won’t be long. She’s been patching defences in the Dungeons from the Mighty Weed,” he explained. He pointed to Delta who blinked.
“Delta was to be the base. Delta would settle near the strongest people around, and on top of an oozing wound to seal it and begin to claim very powerful Spores. They would meet the Silence Army and seek to rob them of power wherever and however they could. They would forge the path to the deepest layer and become a lair to test Alpha… to make sure he was ready to do what he could. To be strong enough to contract Beta if she were to convince her to join up. To feed Gamma the rarest and most powerful materials to fuel his growth,” Brother began to smile.
Delta barely felt the rod was tugging in her hands. Too shocked at what she was hearing to notice.
“Delta was the most important part and she utterly failed in most tasks. She is a peace loving girl who raises friends and makes very weird monsters. I have never been prouder of something I had a direct hand in. So listen here. Me and Sis? We are just people with big stupid plans and bigger hopes. Be yourself and I think… that’ll be enough,” he reached over and helped her pull on the rod.
They both watched as the silvery wire reeled up and the object dangling on the end made both of them stare.
A simple orange mushroom.
It swung a few times and then Brother was laughing. A huge gut hurting gale of laughter.
Then Delta was swallowed by the Sister’s light above.
Delta blinked and nearly fell backwards from the green menu that was being consumed by an orange hue.
“What?! Brother! Fishing! Mushroom!” she babbled. She pointed to the menu and Nu turned his own screen.
Delta shot him a shocked look.
“I was gone! I saw a huge tree and I saw Brother! Sister’s Brother and then I was in the centre of the world and I fished up a mushroom and Brother told me the secrets of life and my existence!” she continued, flailing her hands. Nu was quiet before he looked back to the now orange Menu.
Delta stared at it in surprise as a message was there.
“I have Anti-Virus?” she asked, voice an odd tone of disbelief. Nu’s menu merely seemed to deflate.
Delta explained the sheer amount of bizarre things. What she had learned of herself… and of the others.
Alpha. Beta. Gamma.
“Thank you! I think?” she tilted her head.
“I dunno how I should feel. Everything I’m doing is some plan and despite me somehow messing that plan up-” she began and Nu’s screen flashed.
Delta ignored Nu and his sarcasm.
“-It still feels like everything I’m doing is maybe… preordained? It’s creepy,” she complained. Nu turned to the large feast hall, of the trolls and goyles watching them with little subtlety.
Delta tried not to roll her eyes too hard at his comments.
Delta gave him her full attention.
“Nu, we got a horde of nasties and cult jerks through that door gaining power. They can come through at any time. How can I relax with that around?” she reminded and there was a soft chime as the stack of notifications awaited Delta’s attention.
Nu faded and was replaced by a series of windows.
“That’s awesome!” Delta’s face split into a wide smile. Her urge to just hit confirm and let two of her greener monsters get a sweet upgrade was strong but she held back until she saw the rest of the windows.
Oh, now she had magical symbols of power! Delta tried not to think about what would happen if she just messed with them.
She was beginning to remember that ‘Delta’ itself was a powerful symbol in things. Rune of heat + Delta = horrid but maybe funny outcomes.
But she now knew what Nu had been hinting towards. The Locking Rune would be pretty handy on keeping the remainder of the Silence army behind the door so that Delta could just have a day to herself. Just her, her Dungeon, and fun but maybe meaningless tinkering.
Delta hadn’t had a moment to herself since… the Spider Queen.
Was this what it was going to be like when all her floors were constantly full? Bored watching people over the years while she eagerly waited for a moment in which she could get some peace and quiet to do her own thing?
That reality sounded like a cranky old maid but Delta was worried it could come true.
She considered that for a moment then shrugged. If she needed space, she’d simply ask. People were usually polite enough in her experience.
There was always the possibility of getting Ruli to give her a hand to give any stragglers a heave-ho, but the more floors she had the less that would be a likely issue. For now, she floated to her garden and focused on the large twin doors which Jack had described as having another hall for them to deal with and then the throne room beyond it. Plenty of space and holes in which to build a nasty little army.
She focused on the two doors and smiled. Her Core was back fairly far behind her, she didn’t need any keys for this. She felt 100 Mana drain and two flashing orange lights began to burn themselves into the two doors, one on each door. It felt stronger than a single, larger symbol, over both.
The two symbols blazed, shaped like two orange Delta symbols.
“I would’ve thought the Rune of Locking had its own… symbol,” she said lamely, trying to make a vague design with her hands.
“Thank you, I think. So what, each rune I learn gets a new symbol for my unique use? Or if I teach it to others… Did we just invent a new magic rune system?!” she exclaimed in shock.
Delta beamed until her face fell.
“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?” she asked, crestfallen. The screen turned a hue of blue and Nu shook off his disguise. His normal screen taking the place of the system window.
Cois was bashing his staff hard into the ground. He growled as the mushrooms tried to invade the bar again. Fera wouldn’t serve him until he got rid of the blighters on her doorstep. His staff smacked into the muddy ground as the mushroom seemed to almost wiggle side to side to avoid the blows. He wished that he could just use fire but the Gutrots tended to explode if exposed to high heat.
Fire shouldn’t be so limited but… Cois sorely wished he could just SET THEM ALL ON FIRE!
The rough mess on the ground left behind by his staff hitting the ground began to pulse with orange light.
Cois paused. Not sure what this malarkey was all about. The symbol looked like a curved crescent moon or a really fancy ‘C’ with little horns on top. Was it just him or was the air getting hot-
There was a mighty boom as the mushrooms erupted in a flash of fire asand Cois was sent flying back, arcing over the bar.
He looked up from where he landed at an unimpressed Fera.
“Good news, mushrooms is gone. Bad news is that drawing naughty pictures in the dirt is gonna have to be put on hold for a small while,” he explained, coughing out plumes of black smoke.
“You got more than that to worry about. You just smashed into me glasses and beers. You wanna grab a broom or will I just kick you around until you sweep up the mess?” she asked lightly.
Cois glared but went to fetch the broom. The symbol that had burned, etched into his own mind.
Fire from a funny shape… that had potential.
Delta could only smile.
“Wanna go and take the day off to have fun and mess with things? I think we need a break,” she offered.
Nu seemed to sigh.
“That’s the spirit. When in doubt, just go with the flow!” Delta instructed and turned. Leaving the glowing Delta Symbols ablaze. Their very meaning keeping the first wave of danger firmly locked away.