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A note from stewart92

Sorry for the wait!

The first major choice in the Dungeon of Delta was not to be good or bad, to kill or to play along, or to even decide to see if the rumours were really true about the oddness of this place.

The first major choice all people ended up facing, providing they got past the Spider room, was simple in idea, but devastating in outcome.

The choice was left or right.

“Mushroom forest or singing nightmare?” Grim weighed up their options.

“How about the pond? We can plan,” Amenster offered, to which Deo rushed on with a fishing pole he extended from a tiny handle.

“I SHALL FEED US WHILE YOU PLAN! BRAINS NEED SMART FISH FOOD!” He said, basically deciding for the group. It wasn’t like anyone could say no now that he was looking away.

“Is… the duck inside?” Grim grimaced. Kemy frowned.

“Mr. Duck? He’s very nice, but I don’t think he’s home,” Kemy said sadly. Poppy looked around.

“Looks a bit different than last time I was here…” she mused, pulling her hood tight. The talking book was still making small sobbing noises.

“Spider guts! Spider guts all over the famous incantation for the Moonlight Stag summon spell… at this rate, one is more likely to summon a moonlighting stag do party!” he whimpered.

“It’ll come out once we leave the Dungeon… Poppy, where did you get a talking book? Is it… magical?” Grim asked, voice interested. Poppy gave him a withering glare.

“You aren’t allowed to hold Tom. I remember you eating my Manty the Manticore picture book… nyeh, Poppy never forgets…” she said.

“We were five! Besides… I thought it was going to let me turn into a manticore,” Grim said with a sigh.

“Eat me and I will use your blood to form a new spell called ‘Banish Blithering Buffoon under the light of the red moon’. You know it’s deadly if it rhymes,” Tom the book warned darkly.

“How about we sit and plan? Deo is already working,” Amenster offered. Vas hummed and he went to sit next to Deo to watch him at work as a flash of silver rippled near the surface of the pond. A large golden fish taunted Deo from the far side as it breached the surface.

Deo gave a yank and a large rock flew out of the pond, landing behind him. Deo just cast his line again cheerfully.

“I’LL GET YOU!” He laughed at the teasing fish who seemed to be as excited as Deo at the prospect of fishing.

Kemy waited until Grim pulled out his map.

“Very good detail, you have a hand for cartography,” she said, impressed at the detail and notes made by Grim. The boy just blinked, looking confused.

“It’s just a basic map with ideas and potential areas for change. Most maps are good for Dungeons but Delta’s Dungeon changes in ways I’m not sure anyone can predict. The spiders have… five to eight gimmicks alone. For a first room, that’s insane,” Grim shrugged.

“You haven’t met most Dungeon Map makers. Fairplay enchant their maps to auto feed information back to their ‘key map,’ and so if people discover new areas, it’s freely, forcefully, given to the company. By the time people have enough confidence to make their own, any lucky hidden room found by greenhorns is taken away. Unofficial Makers sell portions or single floor maps that have expiry seals. Some are downright basic unless you pay a premium for a map that shows traps and secret passages. This is all even if the makers put enough effort in for more than squiggles. If people come here, don’t be afraid to market your skills. Even I can see that your drawings are really good and these notes are very easy to understand,” Kemy smiled. Grim still looked baffled.

“Why would I force people to pay to look at my maps? Sure, for Delta it’s fine but any other dungeon is dangerous. I could be sending people to die because I tried to make a few coins by haggling on showing them where the traps are. Dungeons are stupidly dangerous!” Grim protested, outraged. He huffed once.

“It’s… not what adventuring is about. It’s about rare items and glory. I can’t do that if my maps are soaked in blood,” he said with a mutter.

He shot Deo a look, the boy still having his back turned to them.

“That’s not what we promised and I don’t betray promises. Now, do we want to try the secret passage, facing the demon mouse, or do you want to go into the Forest via the Mudroom?” He said, his tone making sure the subject was changed.

There was a pause before they all began to plot.

---

In the dark tunnel, a golden fish was having the time of its life as it gently lured the human boy’s hook down the space.

The hook was so blunt and capped with a weird spongy thing that it would never catch anything! The fish wasn’t sure if the boy knew how to fish… really, it was a bit cute. It gently let the hook be pulled through the tunnel. It breached the surface not far away and had to flop a little to get the hook into place. Being a Dungeon creature, breathing was possible in both land and water, but it was cheating so it mentally counted to 30 before it would ‘play dead’.

Still, it was enough time to get the hook into place and tug slightly. The line began to reel in and the fish followed with glee.

---

“So it’s settled! We’ll try to challenge the secret boss,” Grim announced. Deo was grunting as he yanked hard on the fishing rod, something was resisting even with his enhanced strength. With a mighty explosion of the water, a giant purple clam soared out out of the Pond and landed some distance away.

“That… wasn’t in the lake,” Vas stood up curiously. Deo puffed and panted but cheered.

“I CLAM THE TREASURE!” He hooted. Kemy gave a small giggle at the joke. The clam slowly opened itself to reveal…

Grim made a small noise.

“Is that loot?” Amenster blinked. Piles of coins, small gems, hardened amber, some fancy looking piles of water crystals, and some hunks of metal, and a string of pearls glimmered at them.

“I’m as happy as a clam,” Grim sniffed and ran over. Kemy raised her hand, but Amenster put it down for her.

“Sometimes, you have to let nature take its course,” he soothed, one of his eyes pulsing a sickly green for a moment as he shook his head at the clam.

“I feel kinship with this thing. It holds value inside, its outside is a deceptively normal thing. It has become a chest of the sea… I feel pride in my fellow container,” Vas bowed in respect.

“GRIM CAN HAVE IT. I’LL GET THE FISH! GRIM DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO EAT BEFORE COMING DOWN SINCE HE WAS SO EXCITED!” Deo smiled and turned away. Grim was lifting coins with a hard look, smiling at the crystals. He saw a big ruby at the back and he leaned in to pick it up.

Then the clam snapped down, eating Grim as the boy’s legs began to kick wildly in panic in the air.

His voice went so high pitched that Poppy snorted.

“I dare say I know a clam opening spell, but usually it’s reserved for fancy parties and oysters. I doubt it will work since this clam seems to have swallowed a pest,” Tom said dryly. Kemy stood up with a chiding look.

“We must rescue our teammates immediately, not just when we feel like it,” she reminded them and went over to the clam, unsure of what to do for a moment.

“Mr. Clam? May I have him back?” She asked. The giant shell shook, making Grim saying something better left muffled. Kemy thought about it before she saw there were two googly fake eyes on top which rattled comedically.

“Is he worth… this?” She tried, holding out a coin. The clam shook again. Kemy doubled her offer.

The clam visibly began to vibrate but still shook in disagreement.

Kemy went for the kill and pulled out… a third coin. The Clam spat Grim out like a nasty snack and a long tongue extended out in eager motions, like a weird… dog sort of. Kemy paid the price for Grim, which she thought was rather cheap. The clam swallowed the coins, the tongue rolling back like a carpet, and shook as if mixing them in with its treasures. After a moment, a slip appeared between the two pressed shells. Kemy pulled it in confusion and read it.

“Fortress Pass for one?” She read. Grim was staring at the ceiling, looking covered in a thin layer of clam slime. He also held a pass.

“One free drink at Fera’s bar?” He croaked.

“What a treasure!” Amenster said to Poppy who hid a smile.

There were splashes and Deo gave a cry as all the fish in the pond, besides the gold and silver fish, somehow got ‘tangled’ on his line at once.

“I DID IT!” He said to Grim.

“Why is it always me?” Grim asked no one.

“I am to tell you, young man, that the clam’s slime has high use in alchemy. Also, the pass is for any one drink, not just a common drink. You may think on its value later,” Mushy helped Grim to his feet.

“Any recommendations?” Grim asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Try the ‘Delta Surprise Shot’. I heard the results can be hairy but interesting,” Mushy smiled kindly by twitching his moustache.

“What are these passes for? My team never made it past the Grove place,” Kemy asked.

“To get rest and a drink, one must first pass goblins. Even playing lightly, goblins do not play nice,” Mushy warned then pointed to her pass.

“These are passes which show you accept the goblins’ mercy and they shall let you pass,” he added.

“How bad can a goblin room be?” Poppy mused. Grim turned to her, face serious.

“Deadly… there’s three and one… Billy,” Grim said with a fierce expression.

“New enemy?” Poppy asked, almost expecting the answer.

“No… not exactly. He’s this goblin who uses tools and special arrows. He was good; I wanna see if I can take him on one day when I get my own gear going,” Grim mused.

“Billy has… how would one say? Gotten a makeover? You might find him to be a challenge, more so than normal,” Mushy warned before he covered his face.

“Ah… I shouldn’t have said that. I’m letting things slip,” he grumbled. He then winked at Grim.

“I have a feeling he is looking forward to your return as well,” he said to the serious faced young man.

“Poppy, Amenster? You take Cois. Deo and Vas can take Numb… me and Kemy will get Billy,” Grim looked around, seeing if there were any objections.

“I have a pass,” Kemy reminded.

“Besides, have you gotten the memo? There’s like 3 different ways to do everything in this place that don’t involve fighting. You gotta adapt.” Amenster said as Deo handed him a cooked fish from the campfire he had started.

“GRIM! I BET YOU CAN OUTSMART THE GOBLINS AND THEY WON’T EVEN KNOW IT! YOU’RE THE SMARTEST GUY AROUND,” Deo said with no hint of doubt. Grim stared at him before he swallowed audibly and looked away sharply.

“Yet I keep messing up… so it’s not worth much,” he said, frustrated, and Deo actually frowned. The redhead walked over and gently turned Grim’s head so he was looking at him.

“NO HIDING YOUR WORDS. YOU SAID YOU’D NEVER HIDE THEM. YOU’VE BEEN FURTHER THAN ANYONE HERE… I…” he cleared his throat and everyone went still as Deo spoke as softly as he could.

“I believe in you. You never looked down on me or thought I was… stupid. That’s why you’ll get us through… even when the other kids were scared of me. You weren’t because you said my strength was like a hero… SO THAT MAKES YOU A HERO TO SEE HEROES! I HAVE NO FEAR!” Deo grinned and Grim blinked once very slowly.

“You almost went ten seconds without yelling. I guess if you can do that then I can get us through this Dungeon,” Grim snorted, and gently pushed Deo’s hands off his shoulder.

“Stop touching me, you got fish slime on your hands and I’m already clammy,” He huffed, and eyed the fish.

“Bah, dumb fish,” he grumbled.

---

The Mudroom honestly hadn’t changed too much besides the fact the platforms had seemed to have shifted position, making what Grim knew to be the correct path from before look wrong.

He simply went back, got a few rocks from Pondroom and threw them to see which shook and which didn’t. He went first to make sure nothing was going to appear.

As he touched the first one and waited to observe the room, slow moving poles emerged from the wall from both sides of the Mudroom, blunt poles intent on pushing Grim off the platform. He jumped to the next and the poles froze for a few seconds before continuing.

Grim touched the other side and the poles sank back into the wall.

Honestly, it was the least dangerous thing in Delta’s Dungeon so far. Grim had a feeling it wouldn’t stay that way for much longer. When his group joined him (after having to stop Vas from diving into the mud in curiosity) they waited at their new challenge.

“The Mushroom Forest…” Kemy whispered and her voice was tinged with something odd. Grim gave her a look and she spotted it. Kemy smiled weakly.

“It’s… fine. Last time, we messed up here and caused more damage than was acceptable,” she bowed her head. Grim wanted to ask for details, but he held his tongue.

“Why are you holding your tongue?” Poppy asked, sounding like the answer wasn’t something she actually wanted to know.

Grim blinked as his own fingers were holding his orange tongue. He released it slowly.

“A bad… joke,” he said between gritted teeth.

Deo and Grim took the lead, but before they got too far, a pop-up window appeared. Grim watched it appear and wondered how useful something like that would be for himself. Something to tell him how skilled he was or his vital strengths?

It would be like a life secretary on magic steroids.

The screen was a dark blue and wasn’t static. It moved slightly side to side. Didn’t some of the challenge boxes act oddly last time? Grim struggled to remember themexactly.

“HELLO!” Deo said back calmly. Kemy bowed as Poppy merely nodded. Amenster didn’t move and Vas was hugging some large mushroom stalk.

Tom, the weirdo book, began to flap.

“Excuse me! A Dungeon should not be able to communicate with so few levels. This could be a trap! Poppy, burn it!” The book sniffed with disdain. The box turned to it.

Grim held back his comment, enjoying the sound of the rude book spluttering in an offended manner.

“How dare you! You insolent piece of programming. I know things that would make your snooty little screen corners curl. A shabby thing like you could never hold up to my paper. Mana screens… pah! Nothing will replace the power of paper!” Tom shot back.

Grim wasn’t sure where the pride waving thing had come from but both book and screen were now up in arms… well, as best they could be since they had none.

“Uh, we’re here on an adventure?” Kemy called out softly. Both Tom and the screen turned to Kemy.

“Of course, this is beneath me,” Tom huffed. Deo looked a little lost. Which was expected because while the screen had words, Tom did not have such means of talking. He was all sounds.

Grim would tell him their words later. He knew Deo would never ask himself in fear of being a pain.

Which was in itself a pain, but Grim had gotten used to Deo. Always happy to help, slow to be helped.

It was annoying.

“What’s the challenge? I thought beforehand the challenges were to be ignored for the sake of a ‘pure’ run?” Amenster asked lightly.

A new window appeared.

Grim’s eyes went wide.

Arrow… could it be?

“Same rules, I guess? No lethal stuff or…” Amenster went on. Grim’s heart began to beat faster.

Amenster looked around. Grim could see him weighing up everyone’s opinions.

“Last time we were here, we kinda got chased by spiders so it was a bit chaotic. What do you guys think? Take it on, or not?” He posed the question as if he were too unconcerned to answer it himself.

“Is the room guardian still able to interrupt us?” Kemy asked Nu.

Everyone turned to give Kemy an odd look. The girl did her best to sink into her cloudy robes collar.

“Wa…n…ac…dent,” she mumbled through the material.

“LET’S DO IT! IF WE FAIL THE CHALLENGE THEN WE JUST MOVE ON ANYWAY! FAILING THE CHALLENGE ISN’T THE END!” Deo proclaimed, beaming brightly.

“Deo makes loud sense. Better to try and fail than not try at all,” Grim nodded.

“If Deo wants to, I’ll help,” Poppy said, voice just a bit warmer than before. Grim would’ve used her crush on Deo to rope her into more groups but honestly? Blackmail didn’t make success in a team. It made Grim end up in some trap when he was defenceless.

Bribery, never blackmail. That was Grim’s motto.

“I’ll help! I’m here to give support!” Kemy agreed. Vas looked over.

“I can help…” he hummed. Grim would like to see that. So far, the golem had been spacy and hanging with the silent Mushy who followed them like a security guard.

“As a necromancer, I should be going against the sheep mentality and be an individual, but as a friend I don’t mind helping out as long as you all accept my silently rebellious attitude towards groups,” Amenster nodded seriously.

“I, DEO, FORCE YOU INTO OUR GROUP FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT!” Deo pointed out. Amenster sighed deeply as if in great conflict before he shot Deo a grin.

“Thank you for understanding my antisocial behavior,” he bowed a little. Grim decided they were all weirdos and it was a good thing they had him in command, a logical and calm leader.

“Let’s accept the challenge to fight an assassin in an environment we can’t control along with a guardian lurking in the room for the chance at some unknown reward!” Grim said with a grin.

“Y-yay!” Kemy tried to cheer, but her voice cracked a little.

The waiting box vibrated.

Then Nu vanished.

The Grove seemed to… shift. Shadows shifted, extending and deepening in their darkness. The ceiling went from the illuminated to almost misty. Cheerful mushrooms that grew high above suddenly loomed a little.

The lights from the ceiling moss vanished and the glowing mushrooms that looked like stars in the room grew stronger but almost more focused, like wispy ghosts in the mist.

“Looks like my room.” Amenster said conversationally before he amended himself.

“Minus the mushrooms,” he corrected.

Grim stepped forward.

“Don’t let your guard down. If the pig doesn’t ram us, the archer is waiting… Deo front and center. You slow down or distract where you can. Amenster and Kemy, back him up with buffs and control spells. Poppy, if I draw fire, we’ll lure them within range so you can take them down. Abandon this plan if one side is overwhelmed or we simply begin to lose. Delta gave us this chance so we better act like this is a proper skirmish within the rules. It’s better to run away and try again than die for nothing,” Grim drew a dagger from his side.

“So serious,” Amenster grinned before he wiggled his hands. From some pouches around his belt, white dust flowed and surrounded Grim until it formed rough white armour. Grim touched the helmet with horns as it settled on his head.

“Is this…” he hesitated.

“It’s dust mixed with chalk. Dead skin is dead,” Amenster shrugged, already turning to cast the same spell on Deo.

“How are you controlling the chalk?” Kemy blinked. Amenster gave her a smile.

“What’s chalk made of? I’ll give you a hint… it’s similar to bone,” he hummed. Grim had to admit… he hadn’t thought Amenster was so crafty.

Skeletons, zombies, and all that rot (he pinched himself for the bad pun) he expected but dead skin and chalk? That was… impressive.

“Anything else you wanna surprise us with?” Kemy inquired. Vas tilted his head as he listened.

“…I never have to sweep my room?” Amenster said slowly.

“He can heal bone breaks and some flesh wounds if he wants,” Poppy said bored.

“I won’t stand for such rude accusations thrown at me or my vile arts. I would never heal,” the necromancer promised but then hesitated.

“But do tell me if you hurt yourself,” he added quickly.

Grim snorted and stepped in line with Deo as they faced the misty Grove. His dagger flashed as Deo readied his sword. He briefly felt the support near behind him.

“The truth will protect us and free us…” Kemy said, her hands glowing. Poppy let Tom float in the air as her hands slowly extended into claws.

“I guess I can try a little,” she stated. Amenster chuckled and it sounded darker than usual.

“I’d love to see how my arts measure up to a Dungeon like this,” he said lightly.

“LET’S HAVE FUN!” Deo ordered without looking back, missing the total vibe going on. Grim shook his head.

“Let’s get some epic loot,” he told the group, taking a step forward.

---

Mila, Haldi, and Pic stood before the gate of Durance that lead inland.

“Well… isn’t this lovely,” Pic grunted at the sight of the three figures approaching as the last of the sun’s rays finally vanished.

He raised his hand in time to stop a blade that seemed to almost blur into existence. Pic eyed it with annoyance. The mad-eyed loon holding it leaned in.

“So it’s true… the boogiemen live,” Zane grinned with glee. Pic leaned down and snapped the blade in two with a single snap of his teeth. He crunched it as the Royal Knight backed off a step, discarding the sword without a look.

“Tastes like crap, standards have really gone down in the last few years over there, eh?” Pic said between bites of grinded metal that sparked and crunched. The other two walked calmly up and Haldi spat on the ground.

“Well, if it isn’t something that stinks worse than the foulest of mold cheese…” he grunted to Mila who twirled an arrow without taking her beautiful eyes off Perharl, the jolly plump looking knight who eyed them with what could be seen as kindness, but with enough idea of who she was they saw it for what it really was…

Excitement. Bloodlust.

“Mila Darknessbane, Haldi the Vile, and Pic the Devourer. I can’t believe we get such a warm welcome!” The woman giggled.

“Give me a minute and I’ll get my ex-husband here, I’m sure he knows some warm places you belong in,” Mila said coolly. Parhal frowned and made a show of counting slowly.

“Oh, speaking of exes. One little criminal, two little criminals, and three little criminals… I swear there used to be more of you!” Parhal said in mock-confusion.

The woman grinned as Mila appeared at her neck, a wicked dagger drawn.

“Say his name… just say it and I will cut you and your cowardly king down to chunks for my daughter to use as fish bait. Do carry on, Perhal the Glutton, Perhal the Cannibal, Perhal the World Eater, Perhal the Pig,” Mila pushed the knife and Perhal’s kindly manner vanished and something closer to a leering wolf eye appeared.

“My apologies, I did not intend to insult the dead,” Parhal smiled. Mila turned and her knife vanished.

The last one was looking at them with slightly wide eyes. Haldi eyed him.

“Who’s the greensprout?” He asked, not bothering to show off his stuff. He saw how neither Perhal or Zane looked directly at him.

“Al, introduce yourself,” Parhal said like a patient mother.

“I am Al, Alpha, I am an apprentice of Perhal,” he said blandly and his brown hair looked average and brown eyes struggled to meet Haldi’s own.

“A good lad, I thought I would bring him here to remind him of the scary things in the world that can still eat him,” Perhal licked her lips.

“I’m surprised you haven’t. Did you find an orphanage on the road to act as a snack?” Mila asked bored.

Then, Mila’s smile turned wicked like her dagger.

“Oh… I forgot. The king’s little pets aren’t allowed to break the law… Tut tut, that’s too bad. You must be just dying to take a bite out something,” Mila shrugged one shoulder.

“The things people do because they can’t read the fine print,” she smiled at Pic who grinned back.

Zane and Perhal narrowed their eyes.

But before they could respond, a feeling of intense pressure settled on them all. The earth groaned, trees and plants began to twist in anger, birds began to trill in fury, rats appeared with rage in their features, and insects by the dozens flowed from their hiding spots.

Mila turned to see Holly Dabberghast walking down the street, her usual motherly aura replaced by a sickly green glow, utter hatred and blackness filled her eyes.

Perhal’s features went sour for the first time.

“So… this is where she went,” she sighed. Black brambles rose up and began to cover Perhal’s legs, wicked thorns digging deep, but not breaking skin, despite their effort. Perhal put on the most pleasant smile she could manage.

“Hello, Holly. I haven’t seen you since I ate your family and home!” Perhal waved cheerfully.

A large dragon made of wood and snarling roots covered in thorns broke through the ground and swallowed Perhal whole. The child was nearly swallowed, but Haldi had him by his side within a second, a cheese double torn to pieces by the switch.

The dragon was lone and serpentine, lithe like a growing great tree. Zane yawned and walked past.

“I’m going for a drink,” he said casually, ignoring the scene. Haldi frowned since he didn’t even bother taking Al.

“It’s okay, they just have some history to sort out. Your master is a bit of a …” Haldi trailed off, not really wanting to upset the child.

“Monster,” Alpha provided.

“Well, yes. But Holly is no saint herself. Perhal was the last resort and things got out of hand…” Haldi sighed. The dragon trembled before it cracked in the middle and a sap covered Perhal chewed her way out with gusto.

“Can’t you do something? She’s basically ripping off your style?” Mila asked Pic.

“I chew, she eats. Totally different,” he argued.

“Come now, let me get you a room while Mila stops them. I dare say things will be tense for a while,” Haldi ushered on Alpha, who put up no resistance.

“Won’t they die?” Alpha asked, not sounding worried but merely interested.

“No, Holly grows, Perhal consumes. Holly bleeds her and Perhal heals. Holly has the world on her side and Perhal eats the world. It’s a nasty cycle, but they both know how this ends,” Haldi said, trying his best to appear harmless.

“…This Holly should level. It would be better for all involved,” Alpha finally concluded.

“I’m not sure she can ‘level’. She’s pretty experienced,” Haldi mused.

“I can show her grinding strategies. Perhaps she merely needs some tips?” He shrugged.

“Perhal is useful, but I think she is rapidly becoming more trouble than she is worth at this point,” he finished quietly.

“You get some bonus for working with her? Extra pay or…” Haldi asked curiously.

“…She gives the best rewards, besides a few,” Alpha said finally.

“You don’t mind me asking?” Haldi made sure, not wanting to upset some poor kid.

“No. Dialogue options are normal. As a faction opposed to Perhal, you wish to gauge my affection rating with her. I can tell you it is a business relationship of using and being used. I am open to better offers if I find some,” Alpha stated plainly.

Haldi eyed the kid for a moment.

“You’re too serious. Loosen up and have fun. Come on, I’ll show you around. Maybe you can find some better offers. No one deserves Perhal,” he said kindly. Alpha eyed him dubiously.

“What… do you want?” He asked. Haldi blinked.

“Nothing. You’re new, a decent kid so far, and eager to get away from Perhal. Let me show you around to save you time,” Haldi said again.

Alpha stopped.

“You must want something in return. Ask and I will do it,” Alpha said and Haldi itched his nose.

“Uh… eat this cheese and tour with me?” He tried. Alpha actually furrowed his brow.

“You cannot reward me and then reward me again. I need a task that you need doing and I’ll do it for a reward,” he explained to Haldi.

“I just wanna help, kid,” Haldi promised.

“Everyone wants something. It is the nature of people. Everyone wants something from me,” Alpha said with absolute conviction in his voice.

“Why can’t people want to help you?” Haldi tried. Alpha looked around as if trying to pull the answer from the air.

“I… can’t allow people to go with me or help me. I go wherever I am told. These places are not safe and even if you are~ Haldi the Vile, I must grow in my own strength or I am pointless. So, give me a task or please direct me to someone who will,” Alpha said again.

“That’s… sad, kid. Who told you that?” Haldi frowned seriously.

“I am Alpha. I am the first stage, I’m the… practise run. I have to keep being useful. It’s just how I work,” Alpha shrugged and turned to look for people.

Alpha looked at a certain space, fingers touching something before he pulled his fingers back.

“Visit each public building in Durence and report to me their names,” Haldi said quietly and the boy sagged with relief.

“…Thank you.”

The pair set off as a giant wooden dragon exploded with some four armed purple skinned warrior doing her best to devour it.

---

Sis rubbed her face, as best she could. She leaned back in her chair as her four screens hovered before her. Two were yellowish, showing middling progress. The fourth was blazing green in full steam mode. Delta always working hard.

The first screen was red.

She eyed the pings and messages left in Alpha’s inbox. It was reaching truly obscene numbers. The boy was simply not opening the ‘letters’ she sent. At first, she thought he was ignoring Sis, but she had seen the box open and the boy staring at them as they appeared.

Sis was worried.

Alpha was afraid of them. From the potential of something Sis would say? It was bizarre. He opened EXP notifications and similar prompts but direct input was skipped.

Alpha’s menu was the bog-standard interface and information giver. Nothing like Nu. Hardly anything was like Nu. But from the signs she got and some data Sis peeked at to try and figure out what was wrong…

Sis was beginning to think Alpha was thinking Sis would fire him.

It was so weird.

But without a direct contact, Sis couldn’t force the four to obey or force them to listen. She herself had programmed the systems to avoid that. Sis was sane now, but all it took was one day of impatience and Sis might try to direct things herself and the slope would only end in sadness.

That was not what this project was about.

It left Sis in a bit of a conundrum since Bro was set on not updating the four about each other. Brother rarely set himself on a stubborn path.

So, Sis knew he would never tell one of them about the rest. Brother was respectful of the rules like that.

Ahh, she never felt so useless! Sis would never want Alpha to fear them. Sis had only tried her best to make them safe and ready… but to think she caused such terror in one of her charges.

Sis… felt like a failure.

“Wow… you’re a bit dramatic,” Nu said as he sat nearby in a blue-hued human form. He looked closer to late teens than the childish form from before.

“So, Alpha is kinda blocking you and you’re not allowed to tell Delta… neat,” Nu smiled. Sis froze.

“H-how long have you been there?” She whispered. Nu hummed.

“Oh, ya know… long enough. I got to go and… do stuff. You know… menu things that I’ve sort of jailbroken, but am still happy to do. Toodles,” Nu waved over his shoulder.

Sis looked over her shoulder carefully before she quietly fistpumped the air.

“Yes!” She whispered.

Delta’s Deltaness had Delta’d a loophole for Delta to cause more Delta-y things!

Sis was so shocked… surely she had no idea when a being entered her dimension. Let alone hear her thoughts and worries.

Sis was so shocked.

She giggled nervously.

This wasn’t breaking the rules, but she still felt kinda excited to be making trouble for once, instead of Brother!

Brother is going to be so impressed that Sis ‘manipulated’ someone.

--

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