Delta had a hand to her mouth. Hiding a grin when no one could actually see her seemed silly, but in her own mind… Delta just didn’t like being rude.
Her aspiring raiding party was here at last. To be honest, they were exactly what Delta needed before taking on the rest of the Silence. The reminder that good and light existed, the innocence of children, the reason why Delta had developed the way she had, and the budding potential of life outside her Dungeon.
Oh, Grim was also there.
She wondered what to do as they talked about their strategy. She didn’t listen as that would be cheating, but she was happy to see Kemy still participating. The sight of Kemy and Deo together as friends made her giddy enough to float in bliss for a few moments.
Nu would be lurking on the lower floors or through the challenge windows. It reminded Delta to create more challenges for the second floor. The group spread out to examine the sign posts put up by Nu.
He had gotten… creative with his words recently.
“Killing is bad. If you need to learn morals from a dungeon sign, this won’t end well.”
“There are no traps in this Dungeon. Honest.”
“Mushrooms are sacred, please praise them for better luck in this Dungeon.”
“Remember, there is no ‘I’ in team so have no original thought and pretend you’re a Lemming.”
Yeah… Nu had only gotten more into his sign-making hobby over time. Delta wasn’t sure if she should be happy that he, too, was getting part of her Earth knowledge, but she decided it would make for some good inside jokes to enjoy down the line.
As usual, everyone began to drop more things into the tribute bowl.
“I DREW YOU A PICTURE OF RULI CATCHING A DRAGON AND THEN RIDING IT AFTER FIXING ITS WING! IT’S CALLED ‘HARVEY THE DRAGON’ AND RULI LOVES HIM!” Deo explained calmly as he placed the piece into bowl. Delta was going to frame the damn thing above the bar.
Kemy put in a few cupcakes.
“I bought these from the local cheese man. He’s nice, and I think either his cheese may be reaching forbidden levels in the kingdom, or he may be a highly wanted criminal who traumatised the king,” Kemy explained, sounding more faint as she went on. Grim snorted.
“Haldi is just a harmless guy. He made me cheesecake when I got ups- uh… too focused on my training on my 10th birthday. Nice, but he always seemed like he was far away until recently,” Grim said. Kemy hummed as she thought about it.
“If this area has only just gotten Mana back… powerful people would have faded to shells of themselves faster than plain average folk. Haldi might have just been suffering from Mana drain to keep the pressure off everyone and give you kids enough to grow,” she theorized as she smoothed down her cloudy robe.
Haldi… Delta wondered if he was like Quiss or Dabberghast. Delta wouldn’t mind meeting him at least. His cheese sounded magical!
“‘Kids’… you’re hardly more mature. You’re hanging out with us,” Grim reminded. Kemy blankly looked at the beaming Deo.
“Not of free will. I am no hostage but I am too scared to leave in case I upset him,” she mumbled.
“Lady, we’re all here because of that. Except Poppy. I think she actually likes him,” Grim admitted. Amanstar put in some holy water, Vas put in a vase, and Poppy finished by putting in a few old books. Grim eyed them for a moment, licking his tongue out, and Delta was surprised to see that it was bright orange.
She peered at it with her Dungeon sight.
Grim looked mostly normal except his tongue which had become filled with orange mana mixed with his own. Symbols impossible to see with the human eye danced across Grim’s tongue and Delta got a headache from just looking at them.
She had no doubt that a notification would have appeared if Sis hadn’t turned the menus off to prevent infection via Little Brother’s spores. Delta had been a Core long enough to guess that she lacked understanding or close enough bonds with Grim to fully understand the runes on his tongue.
“Oh no… what a shame. Grim is such a nice boy,” Delta grunted aloud.
At that moment, Mushy appeared in the tunnel with a pleased expression.
“Honoured guests. Welcome! Welcome! I see you are all eager to begin your ‘harsh raid’ into the dangerous Dungeon below,” he rumbled and his moustache twitched.
No one spoke but Deo was nodding with excitement as Poppy repeated the words. It seemed that the boy had trouble reading Mushy’s words without an actual mouth to read. That kinda sucked for Deo. Delta wanted to think about some way to help but Mushy noticed first.
He began to move one hand in a series of rotations and subtle finger flicking. It wasn’t sign language but some very mini-version of it.
Ah right, universal translator. If Deo had any sign with his parents… the Dungeon would know it.
“Being a Dungeon is kinda cheating in the most service-minded way possible,” she mumbled.
“I wonder if we can communicate with blind, deaf or mute people in various mixes? Like if a blind deaf mute girl came in… would I just telepathically connect to her or would we soul-speak? What are my limits?” Delta said as she eyed her own hands.
“I can pun in any language and no one can feign ignorance. I must abuse this,” she said seriously.
“Before we begin, some ground rules and then we can get on our way, yes?” Mushy looked around pleasantly.
“Mother would like you to only take on the first floor today and only spend some time on the second floor to adjust to the Mana to make sure there are no… incidents,” Mushy eyed Grim amused.
“Makes sense. Even I get sick if we go too deep too fast,” Kemy said shyly. Delta wanted to pinch her cheeks in awe and cooing noises.
“Second rule,” Mushy went on, ignoring the fuming Grim and smirking Amanstar.
“The bar is a rest zone and not a combat zone. Waddles’ room is empty for the moment so you can also rest there if you wish! Mother would like to also say that my adorable little brother’s room would also be a rest spot but cannot force that one. I dare say that it would be more healthy not to challenge Maestro,” Mushy chuckled. Kemy turned her head.
“Maestro?” Kemy echoed. Her eyes lit up for a moment.
“Was that the singing voice?” She asked, and Deo nodded to her.
“HE’S SOOO COOL! HE CAN MAKE MY MUM WANT TO SING!” He boasted.
“He is also a mushroom creature like yourself?” Amanstar asked politely. Deo’s smile faded a little.
“WELL… YOU COULD SAY HE’S LIKE MR. MUSHY.” He deflected. Poppy hugged a book to her chest and Delta felt something odd from it. Like a slight… nagging tug.
She was almost tempted to push them to Maestro, but she shouldn’t be trying to traumatize kids.
Mushy went on.
“All monsters within the Dungeon have been instructed to use the leastlest lethal force as possible-” he began and Grim narrowed his eyes.
“You’re treating us with kid gloves? I may need artifacts and tricks, but Deo is gonna blow them away. He’s as strong as he is sincere and annoying,” Grim demanded. Amanstar and Poppy looked at him blankly until he sighed..
“Poppy can either be scary or need a sled to get her anywhere, and Amanstar can call down holy wrath, but he’s wasting his skill by raising mouse skeletons because he’s ‘gothic’ or something,” Grim said in a grunt.
“Oh are you a necromancer?” Kemy blinked at Amanstar who was decked from head to toe in black with skull rings on his hands.
“Is that gonna be a problem with your Deity?” Amanstar asked slowly instead of answering. Kemy shook her head.
“I’m a follower of truth. As long as you’re honest about why you’re using them or where you get the bones, I’m dandy. My Goddess isn’t like a light god or a life goddess who freaks out at the sight of natural death being used. The ground eats the flesh, the bones nurture the soil, and the soul passes on. It is no more wicked than using a bone weapon or an organ transplantation or being a funeral director!” She beamed.
“Oh, that’s cool. I was sort of expecting a fight with priests when they started coming…” Amanstar went pink at Kemy’s words. She nodded as if sympathising.
“Many will try to demonise you but all you need to state is that your power with the dead isn’t even religious. It’s advanced calciumancy! Or if it is religious, it’s covered by the Kingdom’s ‘Equal Worship Act’ of recent years; as long as the religion does not harm, devour or enslave the living or harm the soul in any way, then it is not to be persecuted!” Kemy smiled again.
Oh, Delta needed to show Amanstar the circus if he liked skeletons!
“Religions sounds fun, but I cannot join one,” Vas said suddenly and everyone looked at him.
“I have no soul, and make a very poor follower,” he explained bluntly.
“I WILL ASK DELTA IF SHE CAN MAKE YOU A SOUL! SHE MAKES EVERYTHING IN HER HOME FEEL LIKE A PERSON!” Deo said cheerfully. Delta added ‘playing god and making a soul to please Deo’ to her list of things to do.
“Indeed! Mother is quite talented at accidently making wonderous things. You are free to fight at full power but please do not kill where you can avoid it. We shall respawn but it is unpleasant! For that matter, all Contract monsters will stay out of the fight, as they are costly to resummon,” Mushy went on.
“I’m not sure I can fight you now that you’ve been so kind… Dungeons just sort of try to kill me, but this place is so nice!” Kemy said suddenly. Mushy chuckled once more.
“I am to be your… ‘bench’ so to speak. If someone is injured or needs help. I shall carry your belongings and yourselves to a rest spot for first aid and treatment. I will not help you fight or complete puzzles, however,” he told her kindly.
This seemed to relieve some tension in the room, but then Grim stepped up to the mushroom man.
“I remember you. You sold pots but looked different. I… listen-” Grim looked down, jaw twitching as he fought to keep speaking.
“I’m sorry… I tried to stab you and insulted your art. I treated you like a dumb animal and not a person. I was a bit of a grim first timer,” he said and then slapped his mouth closed. Deo blinked then began to laugh with joy. Kemy looked shocked at his words.
Delta? Delta was bent over slapping her knee.
“G…Grim firs-” she howled in hoots of laughter.
“No, listen! That’s my curse! It’s really… how would you say, a slip of the tongue!” He protested then looked furious with himself.
Delta hooted even harder.
Despite the fact that she might have done this to Grim, she actually found it hilarious form of punishment for the little brat.
Mushy leaned down and put a hand on Grim’s shoulder.
“I bear no ill will. I even found it very impressive on how far you went on your own with cunning and skill,” he praised. Grim took a long moment to answer.
“W… w-well of course, I didn’t plan for nothing! I’m just glad someone can appreciate it!” he shook off Mushy’s hand briskly.
“I ALWAYS APPRECIATE YOUR AMBUSH GAMES!” Deo said as he looked between Grim and Mushy.
“They’ve never worked! You can’t praise failure!” Grim turned, waving his hands.
“I think we should begin. Most of you have a curfew and I’m supposed to be chaperoning,” Kemy spoke up. Mushy bowed slightly and gestured to the dark tunnel, where the glow moss on the ceiling barely illuminated the path
“Deo, you are in front. Casters at back with Poppy at the rear, she can use her physical powers to act as a temp tank,” Grim spoke, voice turning deadly serious. Deo looked at him for a long time, his usual smile missing.
“I… FRONT DPS WARRIOR AM READY. I WILL LOOK FOR TRAPS,” Deo said with a serious nod. Grim stared at him for a long moment, then gulped grimly.
“Thank you… DPS,” he said ever so quietly. Shame Delta had absolute hearing in her Dungeon if she wanted.
They then took their first steps forward into the dark tunnel.
The court was eager.
A new game had been suggested to them by the Great Web Mother. A mock war! It was so exciting to turn in their fancy web wigs and instead be dressed to run around in crafted hooded web cloaks and sharpened little rocks they had convinced themselves were deadly assassin knives!
The Dungeon was always an exciting place but their court was rarely so involved. Given they were to attack and try to take down the invaders with their blunted weapons and light bites, it was something they had to make plans for.
The first important thing was their name.
They couldn’t be the Royal Court in these uniforms! They had totally the wrong regalia for such a task.
They were the shadows, the fangs of the night. They were the string that noosed the evil of the world, and no secrets could escape their eight eyes…
They were the Fantastic Agency: Notorious Grandiose Spyders!
They all made excited dances at this declaration since they were now a democracy in this guise. Votes for all!
Deo easily dodged the pop out sign he had grown used to in many attempts. Grim glared at it before striding forward and his head thunked against a sign that popped out of the ceiling.
“Confidence leads to arrogance- Nu” it read.
Deo liked Nu, he had a funny sense of humour. Turning the corner, with Grim waving his hands frantically in front of him to ward off any more funny signs, they came to an eerie sight of the room ahead covered in thin lines of web. The usual open passage now a maze of sticky web once more.
“Don’t set it on fire!” Kemy shouted in a hurried warning. Poppy eyed the passage.
“Could make it easier if we’re supposed to be trying,” she looked a little more alive but kept her voice blank. Amanster frowned as he held his hand out.
“I’m getting something… it feels really weird like the room is all connected by a life bond… like if they share health or a trap trigger. I don’t know,” he opened his eyes.
Deo liked that about Amanster, he could detect cool living things by trying. When they went looking for bugs or homework subjects, Amanster could always sense them so easily. It was actually how they became friends!
Amanster said he found Deo ‘blocked out the light’ by being a light of his own! Deo had always taken that as a compliment.
“If you burn the spiders down, a boss emerges and it has puppet like powers over everything,” Kemy said to them. Amanster nodded slowly.
“Sounds close to what I felt. You fought against that boss?” The boy asked, looking at Kemy impressed. The girl went pink as she fiddled with her earmuffs.
“Not exactly… we got punished and moved on,” she answered finally.
Grim approached the hall and a blue box appeared. Deo smiled at it, it was so cool to see Delta’s Dungeon doing awesome things.
It listed the ‘no touching the web challenge’ was available but if they wished for a legitimate challenge as requested then to ignore the web challenge try to conquer the room as ‘adventurers with a sword sized too big and a brain sized too small would do’.
“We’ll cut the web in front of the door, take down or deflect the threats, but don’t rush in. Spiders are masters of their own domain,” Grim said. Deo nodded while Kemy gave him an odd look.
“You know I am an adventurer… right?” She reminded.
Grim actually did wince a little but he swung his short sword down into the first layer of webs. Some snapped, some frayed, some clung to the sword, but the entire room vibrated like a fantastical piece of music. A room sized harp.
They waited and Amanster peered in.
“I don’t see any response-” he began but a little spider wearing a long flowing cloak of web latched on to his face, the cape had red thread sewn in to spell something.
The Crimson Tearstealer!
Deo stared in glee, his eyes glittering at the sight of a ninja spider!
It scuttled around as Poppy aimed her book, which actually talked in a warning not to use it as a weapon, and smashed it at the spider.
The thing was quick and all Amanster saw was a heavy tome flying towards him.
There was a loud crack as Amanster’s nose went crooked.
The spider fled back into the room, carrying one of Amanster’s eyelashes. Their death user stared up, eyes narrowed as he flicked his hands over his face. Deo knew noses didn’t have bone, but he watched as it corrected itself with another sharp crack.
“I suggest we smoke them out. It isn’t fire,” Amanster said ever so calmly, still laying on the floor.
“You know priest spells?” Kemy asked curiously. Poppy was holding the furious book at arms length as it went on about ‘powerful spells’ and ‘souls sold to him for a moment of his time’ as Amanster stood up.
“My Dad is a Saint. I was born sneezing blessings and causing my toys to ward off evil,” he explained and Grim stared.
“Why aren’t you in massive pain?” He demanded. Amanster looked right at him.
“The pain in my black soul is beyond measure, mere mortal wounds are lost to me,” he said gravely.
Deo thought about that then smiled. Gravely… he had to tell Delta that one later!
“He also knows how to use necromancy to deaden nerves for a small time… he’s just cheating,” Poppy told them bluntly.
“Poppy, stop ruining my goth.”
“We’d be there already if it wasn’t for your creepy kid,” Zane complained. Perhal merely chewed on a dark root, her eyes glazing over as she walked, eyeing another village in the distance. So unaware of the dangerous knights passing so close by.
“We can’t all be born monsters, he’s gotten much faster,” the woman disagreed. They looked behind them at the boy trailing a limp bloody leg which was mending before their eyes.
“Even healing faster! I told you leaving that monster alive for him to fight was good practice!” Perhal giggled. Al’s face was blank as always but his eyes blazed at them.
You have gained regen skill level 10!
You have absorbed monster essence into System Core.
You have 10,459-
He ignored the rest. It didn’t matter.
It was getting so damn hard to get stronger. Why was the only decent quest to some backwater hick village? He glared at the lush green and monsters. Too strong for him to grind fast. He almost threw his glinting sword at a bouncing orange slime to feel stronger than something else, but refrained since it would make him seem…
It eyed him for the longest moment and the System that judged vague danger threats gave him a simple message.
Alpha moved on as fast as his sprint would allow, even overtaking the two Royal guards.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Zane roared and began to run too.
“Oh bother… It was such a nice day,” Perhal sighed.
Mule bounced happily along. He had thought he felt Delta but the cold red aura of the weakling was lacking. It had no warmth or kindness. It was a human operating with a gutted Dungeon system. Sad.
Ah well, he’d find Delta eventually after he went to see Yal the Dungeon.
The quest for the fluffy things must be done! Delta’s good mood depended on it!