Troublesome invaders. The mighty god-like Core knew she would have to make sure these mortal children learned the meaning of fear and darkness. Her monsters stood ready, fierce and focused only on destruction. Her deadly traps were so hidden, that even the Core knew she’d struggle to find them. Her obstacles were designed to crush all hope and dreams.
This Dungeon was deserving of the fearsome reputation it had gained.
The soul taker, the light-taker, the true evil made solid, the unending fall to madness… this dungeon was known far and wide as-
“-REALLY NICE!” Deo said as they prepared for their second assault. Delta blew out a sigh before she chuckled.
Yeah… she was no good at the whole ‘rawr hear Delta roar’ crap.
The group watched as Amenster clapped his hands and five little mouse skeletons flowed from his sleeve to rush into the room. Instantly, two of them were tackled by hood wearing spiders.
“Go!” Grim said and Kemy tapped Deo once, infusing him with a glowing aura.
“The truth will set you free!” She declared.
“I LIKE ALL COLOURS, PIE IS DELICIOUS, ALL DAYS ARE EQUALLY GOOD AS LONG AS YOU HAVE FUN!” Deo said and ran, the webs tried to catch him but the glow pulsed as Deo kept chanting. The threads simply slid off his form and fell to the floor uselessly.
Fudge! Kemy working with Deo made her truth powers too OP!
He tapped the two spiders that were struggling with the mouse skeletons.
“DEO DESTINY TOUCH! YOU’RE DEAD BUT NOT REALLY!” He cheered and both spiders immediately rolled up and curled their legs. Deo didn’t actually need to prove his physical powers. It wasn’t like her spiders were hard as rocks. They were still squishy so it was fair that being able to touch them was considered a ‘kill’.
The glow on his body faded and he was jumped by a spider that dived into his loose shirt collar. The boy instantly began to contort in peels of laughter.
“DPS is being CC’d!” Grim yelled in a panic.
Poppy held up her talking book, looking ready to do her duty.
“I swear to the ancient faceless beings that made my pages, if you use me to swat bugs, I will- I… will retell you the history of socks!” The book cried out in alarm. It reminded Delta of Nu, stuffy and easily upset.
On the Third Floor, Nu paused in his efforts to plot a potential medical wing in the empty laboratory space. He sensed… Delta was sassing him. What cheek! He’d have to pop out of nowhere and scare her.
The sealed doors that led deeper shook a little. It seemed that they were picking up the pace on their side. It was nothing worth actually being worried about, not something he would want to ruin Delta’s fun with. She was so happy with Deo and his friends that everyone in the Dungeon was getting a little Delta high.
Happiness and pleased feelings that just came and went. It was like seasonal happiness. No known cure.
He turned to the Gargoyles. He had supplied Doctor with several rare herbs from the second floor. The keen mind with a hint of madness went to work, seeing what he could develop as opposed to Fera, the bar owner.
Without a proper lab, it would be limited, but as with all things… Nu knew that new upgrades blew the resource supply but if Fera could brew, and Devina was able to voodoo, then Doctor could develop ways to cure the flu. It was just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It would cure the flu but Nu knew that it would also be used in a stew or cause the drink to moo.
He should be annoyed but honestly, it was fast becoming a fair trade-off.
Insane power, odd side-effects.
He watched as something exploded in a swirling dark vortex that caused Doctor to be thrown across the room.
Nu had… only given the monster some Delta Blooms and spa water.
There were only two spiders left. The room was devoid of webbing and Kemy couldn’t see the white spider, Muffet, anywhere.
The two hooded spiders stood against the group, looking ready for a fight.
“Surrender and let us pass,” Grim said seriously. They didn’t back down.
“You guys kinda squish in one hit. Deo sat on one of you and that was it,” Amenster pointed out. Deo was looking so distraught that Kemy had to hold him close with one arm. The poor boy felt truly terrible about the act.
They all knew logically the Spiders were immortal in a sense, but Deo didn’t seem to see that as an acceptable reason to not feel bad.
“Your powers alone are too weak!” Grim almost cackled. The boy was getting some serious enjoyment out of his ‘revenge’. Kemy could almost feel the walls of Delta glaring down on the boy.
She hadn’t known the Dungeon was even able to dislike someone.
The spiders shared a look before they hopped back to gain some space. Kemy stared, not sure what they were planning on doing.
Were they going to end themselves to bring Muffet? Kemy hoped not, they were rather cute with their hoods and it seemed a shame they would vanish.
Even if Muffet was sweet and gave Kemy her earmuffs.
Both spiders raised two single legs in opposite directions, facing them with steely eyes. They moved in a slight dance towards each other, their legs moving overhead.
“What are they doing?” Grim said, voice going almost afraid.
The spiders were within touching distance and they snapped their two legs back out before they brought the tips back into meet in a perfect mirror of each other.
There was a brief pause before the spider on the left, hopped, flipping to land upside down on the other, both spiders interlocking two legs with the other. The new combo had legs in every direction.
The spiders pushed off the ground with enough force to rocket to the ceiling but with their new form, they didn’t have to turn to catch themselves. They landed in a perfect crouch before pushing off again in an angled direction.
Kemy turned to follow, but barely caught a blur as it rocketed off again. She spun and lost sight of the spiders. Grim gave a startled scream as he was shot past multiple times, a cocoon of webs rapidly forming around him.
Poppy reached out with a clawed hand which looked like it belonged to a deep purple scaled creature.
Grim fell, freed. The spider combo flew towards her and she opened her book in a flash, her eyes glowing under her hood. The spiders, unable to stop their trajectory, landed in the middle of the book.
“DON’T YOU DA-”
There was a crunch.
The webs on the ceiling fluttered.
Kemy looked up slowly.
“She’s here,” she whispered in the sudden silence.
“Not even a special deal? My, Ruli was right to call on me,” a tall man mused. His body was so thin that his suit looked literally sharp. His head was covered in a large mess of curly black hair. His speech was muffled by a dazzling pink scarf that hid most of his face. He completed the ensemble with pitch black sunglasses that were designed for creatures with eyes much bigger than a person of Happy’s size should be wearing.
He leaned in, clasping his gloved hands together to peer at the items.
Hob thought he was a bit weird for a human, but then again, the man was a skeleton pretending to be a human so maybe Hob didn’t know what was weird for this town.
“Why you a skelly?” Gob peered. Happy laughed loudly.
“Oh no, my spinach-coloured friends. I am Ferry Happy. A business manager of several notable companies,” he promised. His wig went astray, but Happy fixed it.
“But… not breathing?” Gob pushed.
“I’m holding my breath in excitement!”
“No eyes behind glasses?”
“They’re off busy looking for good deals!”
“Losing money is no skin off my nose!”
“No nose!” Hob stated with his hands up in the air. Happy thought about that.
“Sticking it where it didn’t belong has gotten me in trouble before so it had to go,” he admitted cheerfully.
Oh, that made sense. Hob guessed the man knew what he was doing then.
“Glad to see the suit is still sharp even if your jokes aren’t.” A man sniffed as he appeared next to him.
“Ah, Smalls, your clothes always make me feel like I’m the life of the party,” Happy said, shaking the man’s hand. The well dressed man glared.
“Goblins, don’t be fooled. This… person has developed many successful businesses. He funds and is the owner of most Adventurer Branches, funds many top notch parties, runs a catering company for vampires, ents and bandits, and was a tri-founder of Fairplay before he sold his shares,” Smalls crossed his arms.
Hob didn’t know any of those words but it seemed impressive. Happy shrugged.
“I have a taste for making something out of a barebones ideas. Call it an itch I love to scratch,” Happy’s voice turned almost… husky.
“Yes, yes. You funded kings and owned the seas, bravo. You still annoy the living daylights out of almost everyone,” Smalls snapped and turned to the cart.
“I didn’t own seas. Most of them fall off the edge of the world and my heart would sink at the loss of profits,” Happy sighed dramatically.
“We gotta make prophets for Delta!” Gob said and Happy hummed.
“Seers would be an odd currency but I could see if I could predict a positive outcome of such a business…” Happy went quiet. Smalls and Hob shared a look.
There was a connection between them. Of suffering and headaches.
“Let’s get a stock count, then we’ll work on values of non-human traffic varieties,” Smalls said, looking like he would rather be somewhere else but the sight of their business hurt him in some way.
“Oh, this reminds me of the business I once ran that sold swords but each piece came separate. I thought it was a fun mix and match deal, but no one seemed to come back because trying to defend yourself with a sword guard didn’t seem to be working. It did tickle my funny bone, so it was worth it,” Happy announced.
Hob had no idea how this not-skelly man was so good at making money if he seemed to waste it on amusement. Wouldn’t he need lots of money or treasure to waste if he could do that?
Was Muffet… too much for the first room?
Delta didn’t think so, at first. But watching the party being moved around like dolls on strings, crashing into walls and each other was interesting.
Deo and Kemy were mostly contained in a simple swing but Grim was spun, twisted, slammed, dropped, crashed into and lifted more than Delta assumed was necessary. Amenster began to rot the webbing with a sickly green aura and Poppy just seemed to begin to become too hot to actually web so it wasn’t like Muffet’s powers were unbeatable.
Muffet landed in her fully powered Spidergeist form. She was strong, even in physical measures, so she easily swept Amenster off his feet, vanishing before Poppy could crash down in a steel-covered foot. Deo flexed and stretched, freeing himself to help.
Kemy was the one that looked the most uncertain.
Delta’s heart felt for the girl. She and Muffet had gotten along famously.
Finally, she began to grant some shields that repulsed Muffet when she tried to land on someone. Grim rolled and got one of Muffet’s legs with a swing of his sword. Deo went in with his own blade but the swing was so off-target that he got it stuck in the wall.
Muffet limped and Delta checked on her, a bit worried.
Muffet was in no real pain. While her monsters had basic sensations and the ability to feel a form of pain… it was mostly a guidance thing. Her monsters never felt anything beyond a dull pinch or ache, physically.
Except when other monsters of Delta did the damage; then it was like they shook the very Dungeon mana in their form making the pain life-like.
Delta was glad because she wasn’t sure she could do this if pain was a thing.
The only exceptions she had ever found to this was Fran and her contracts. The contracts because they were creatures once and Fran because…
Delta guessed it was because Fran himself wanted it to be fair.
Then again, Muffet didn’t have to reveal herself and her puppet strings could easily become nooses if she were so inclined. Muffet was making large obvious movement and letting her camouflage flicker at random moments. She was even coming down from the ceiling to allow Grim and Deo to get close.
If someone did come with the intent of trying to kill her or enjoy her monster’s suffering? Delta felt confident that they would find it tougher than expected. Maybe she could offer customized-difficulty runs?
Easy? No side bosses and minor threat. Normal, random chance of some events and room guardians? Even if they don’t go all out…
Then hard. Delta tried not to think about hard.
What Muffet was doing, Delta didn’t have to tell her to do. She was slowly making Kemy keep up with her webs and slight leg scratches she inflicted on others. A few times, she made a charge at Kemy and the girl was slowly becoming more likely to strike back or use a barrier that bounced Muffet back.
Delta pretended not to notice that Muffet dramatically rolled when she bounced off Kemy as if showing the others that Kemy’s power was stronger than it seemed.
Muffet shouldn’t be playing favourites but Delta wasn’t going to stop her.
It would be so hypocritical of her.
Eventually, Muffet went ‘down’ letting Deo’s blade sink in, making her form explode in orange Mana. The orange dust began to swirl and Delta raised a single brow as she felt Muffet’s loose ‘soul’ weaving the Mana together on her own.
A single item fell after Muffet was done.
A webbed cloak that was human sized. On the back it said ‘I beat Muffet and all I got was this cloak’.
There was a beat.
“There’s loot in this Dungeon?” Kemy said confused.
“I thought it was only puns…” Grim muttered. He looked utterly confused.
“I don’t even get that joke!” He yelled at his own tongue.
“WE SHOULD GO ALPHABETICALLY IN ORDER SO WE ALL GET A FAIR TURN AND WON’T FIGHT! UNLESS IT’S SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT THEN YOU CAN USE A ‘NEED’ VOTE!” Deo beamed at his group.
“Screw fair, I got dice and whoever rolls highest gets it,” Grim sniffed. He reached into his pocket and rolled them. They froze in mid-air. Even Delta was surprised.
Kemy’s eyes glowed.
“Faulty dice is dishonest,” she said and Grim blinked.
“They’re my ancestor’s lucky dice! He always won… with them,” he trailed off and then went red.
“Oh… okay. Those are getting burned,” he sighed. Delta felt bad.
Kemy smiled softly.
“Don’t worry. Mighty Dungeon Delta, we request your fair and just dice,” she called. Delta looked at her with utter bafflement.
“Uh, Kemy, sweetie… I’m not sure what you-” she began then began to feel like something was stuck in her nose. The Dungeon shook just a little.
Orange mana circled in the room, rapidly forming object. Delta sneezed and there was a flash.
“That’s not dice,” Amenster pointed out. It was floating screen with all their names. A word flashed.
Kemy’s name began to grow a soft golden bar which outpaced the rest. Deo was red, Amenster was pale green, Poppy was blurple, Grim was orangey brown.
Grim’s bar was the smallest.
Another word appeared. Teamwork.
Kemy rose higher as did Deo. More words flashed and Delta stared.
She had… a perfectly logical and controlled system function as her random loot roller? And her normally safe and stable monster creation and upgrades were random instead?!
As the ratings flashed on, Grim did outpace Poppy as the System rated their ‘total effort given’ and then Amenster as the System judged them on ‘total potential used’. Grim nearly matched Deo.
The board flashed and turned a familiar blue.
Deo: Your big heart is only outsized by the headache you give.
Poppy: I swear you make entropy look active.
Amenster: Do something exciting for once. I keep forgetting your name.
Grimnoire: Have a snickers.
Helakemya: You did good for someone whose name sounds like a mountain far away.
Kemy wins the loot review. Any complaints should be given to the nearest Menu that cares. Hint: It’s not this one.
“Your name is Helakemya?” Amenster asked and the girl looked pained.
“Call me Kemy…” She whispered.
“IT’S A NICE NAME!” Deo said excitedly as the cloak floated to Kemy. Grim was looking at her with wide eyes. He looked… upset.
“Why are you called ‘Curse on our love’?” He said and the room went quiet. Delta frowned as the word translated slowly now that she focused on the board. The word was from an odd language that put the end of the meaning in the middle of the word or phrase with details following.
‘Hel’… was curse. ‘A’ was close to ‘on’ but the translation wasn’t perfect, it could be used in several ways to show ownership or direction of the subject so it was ‘on’ and ‘our’ depending where you used it. Kemy was… love.
Kemy was love.
Holy crap… Delta could translate things really well and so could Grim! His tongue must be some conduit for her translation power that Grim learned. Shame he hadn’t borrowed Delta’s tact…
“Because, those who are in the monastery of Truth are never lied to. I was given up because as an arranged marriage, my birth parents needed to present a first born male to command the family lines. Without one, they would be seen as shameful. I was shameful. So they named me in the ancient tongue of the truth goddess and left me with her worshippers. There was nothing more to it, but having been named, the followers of my home could never lie to me and say it wasn’t my name. They didn’t mean to be cruel, hence why they called me ‘Kemy,’” she said quietly.
“What? Why was that so important?” Amenstar blinked. Delta listened in.
“It’s like you and your Dad. Strong blood carries on power. Those with powerful or gifted parents often produce stronger children. A daughter meant I’d be married off and they would lose me to another family for maybe a small connection or piece of land, not worth it when Dungeons are the most fertile way of making money,” Kemy explained as she wrapped the cloak around herself, the thing flowing nicely with her white cloud robe.
Powerful people… children… passing on strength.
Oh god… Delta understood.
These families were trying to grow their spores by breeding with other strong people. The thing the Siblings were trying to fix!
And also, eww. Curse on their love? How about a blessing on their horrible souls? Kemy’s bio-parents were getting a strongly worded letter once Delta exploded reality and let mushrooms become all and one.
Also, Delta focused on Kemy and saw that while the girl glowed with truthly goodness and strong kind vibes, in her soul was a firm pulsating black spore. Every second, her orange mana flowed into it and took such an amount that a nanobot would have to squint to see.
That was gonna take forever to remove!
Delta tried to urge Mana in but she was told System was locked due to people in the Dungeon. Hm…
She knew the lost sibling made most life on the world and hence why everything had a piece, people more than anything, so how would she go about scraping it off people she liked?
Her mind wandered to an orange well she had recently gotten.
Delta knew that getting fresh mountain air was good for you… so maybe injecting it right into ones soul would work even better! She had to get Kemy down to the third floor if her body could stand it.
Grim and the others lacked Mana and thus got overdosed. But why did normal people struggle? What if their spores grew stronger and let them fight off the invasive Mana trying to remove the Spore?
Could it be that letting Dungeon Mana damage the spore before going back outside to recover let it regenerate and grow stronger?
Was… was that why Dungeons developed lower and lower floors to keep people inside longer? To develop stronger Mana and longer duration to get their spores? Was that why people hit an apex or a ‘prime’ of their power?!
Delta was having a slight panic attack.
Wait… she had an idea!
She would just keep doing what she was doing! Like a vegas casino with no clocks or windows! Delta would make them stay longer because she wasn’t killing them, just emptying their evil god wallets, so to speak!
She went to speak with the quiet Mushy who lingered in the tunnel and only then noticed that Vas… hadn’t taken part at all but instead was delightfully sharing pottery tips with the regal mushroom.
Delta stared for a long moment.
Vas… she’d completely forgotten about him. The golem had been too busy just being as still as a tree or statue, speaking softly to Mushy.
She cleared her throat and Mushy repeated her words to the group.
“Delta says that there’s a free lunch for all of you at the bar! Please remember to hydrate and feast for an hour before moving on,” Mushy announced.
It was time to show this ‘lost brother’ what a real spore was.