Delta sat down heavily.
Alpha was in Durance.
Delta sat on the second floor, near the waterfall, just nodding slowly.
“But… what if he’s been looking for me or one of us? I made a home here with you and my friends, Alpha… he sounds alone,” Delta tried to explain her wild state of mind.
Delta blew out a sigh. Damn it, she just wanted to rush out and talk to the guy. He… he would come to her Dungeon, hopefully. Once he heard her name, Delta knew he wouldn’t be able to resist.
Delta certainly couldn’t have!
What if he was cooler than her? Oh, what if he knew so much more and Delta looked like a dolt? What if Alpha thought Delta was a letdown?
“I’m going to talk to him, because lonely or not, Alpha is family in a way. We have to communicate because we could risk him running into the Silence unprepared. Maybe he’s alone because people keep thinking something’s wrong with him!” Delta protested.
Nu made sense. He seemed to be grumpy about the whole thing.
“You worried his menu is cooler than you too?” she asked sympathetic. Nu went still.
Nu vanished and Delta was left blinking.
That was blunt even for Nu. Delta hoped Alpha’s menu sucked, Nu could really use the confidence boost. Alpha coming here would only do two things: it would make their differences clear, and it would show how much Alpha had progressed in his power compared to Delta.
Nu wouldn’t really care for anything else.
Nu blinked back. He looked purple as if red in the face. It was weird for a screen.
Delta thought about it. If Alpha hung around and near town, they would have lots of reason to talk and hang out if their personalities meshed. Would she start telling her monsters that Alpha had some say in things or to put up with the system not quite working due to the human in her Dungeon?
Delta didn’t think so, but she was impulsive and she knew that she tried to please people.
If Alpha needed EXP or treasure, would she spend valuable DP on making something unique for him?
Delta admitted she had no idea.
“Okay, I can see why you’re getting worried. How about a deal?” Delta clapped her hands together as the waterfall gushed, sounding like an endless yawn.
“If I want to help Alpha or such, we need to agree on it together, but if we don’t, we’ll get a voting council on the matter. We need wise and fair monsters to handle it so they don’t just agree because I’m me,” Delta suggested.
“Fera” Delta began.
“Hm… Devina and Fera are my pick,” Delta said. Nu was quiet for a long time.
Delta raised one brow.
“Devina is the law of the jungle and likes balance. Fera doesn’t give a heck and will say what needs to be said,” Delta agreed.
Nu vanished again. Delta huffed.
“What are you worried about then?!” She flailed her hands in the air.
Delta guessed that as of today, the Dungeon had its first Council of Monsters.
“Go democracy,” Delta said with a sigh. She stood, petted Bob who was nearby, sunbathing as he did occasionally.
“Bob, wish me luck. I’m going to meet my brother of another dimension while setting up a council of voters made up of a barmaid, a jungle witch doctor, a mad scientist, and a murder tree,” she smiled. Bob made a slight shriek, showing he was proud of Delta’s efforts and he loved her.
“Oh Bob, you’re the best Abyss Worm I could have asked for!” Delta hugged him.
She did her best to hold him before she went back to see how the kids, plus Kemy, were getting on.
“Delta?” Alpha said, voice hitching slightly. Haldi, the weird man, hummed, pretending not to notice Alpha’s tone.
“Yup, new Dungeon that popped up recently. The core is this lively girl who doesn’t much care for killing or such. She sounds like a sweetheart,” Haldi grinned, showing a gap in the smile.
Was it a coincidence? Maybe it was spelled differently or just sounded close enough to give Alpha pause. He looked at his map screen which showed the grey fog of war around areas he hadn’t been. No symbol of anything important…
He looked at the public building before him.
“Paige Turner’s book shop,” he said quickly. Haldi nodded and Alpha got some large EXP for simply telling the man about the place he obviously knew.
This man was giving Alpha so much EXP for a simple task that the hidden level he saw like a ghostly fog about people’s heads, was black.
Black was death. Black was unbeatable. Most Royal knights varied between red, purple, and black. Parhal was black, as was Zane.
The stronger the quest giver, the more EXP Alpha got. Even for the same tasks, the gain was too different to ignore. But before Haldi just… didn’t give him a task. The man’s essence didn’t want anything from Alpha. Alpha couldn’t gain EXP…
It was unnerving. No one had ever asked him to do something for anything besides their own benefit. Even if it was kind or a bit of pity work… someone got a deal out of it.
Haldi’s essence looked tired of requests. It took some effort for Alpha to convince the man to do one. He wondered how many quests this Haldi had done to gather so much power?
Normal people transferred essence as well. Alpha could see it, sometimes. People bent some… pride and passed their woes onto someone else, bet some essence from their core. If the person completed it, the dark essence flowed to the person who completed the quest, as if the energy sought the stronger person.
EXP didn’t appear from nowhere. It was an energy transfer.
There were some rules. Working for a boss or leader, did not transfer energy. The admission of agreeing to work for someone stronger for basic needs seemed to negate the process.
However, a general or commander leading a troop of warriors gathered small amounts of essence from each subordinate during battle. The warriors produced it by following, while the leader gained it by shouldering the command. Tiny, but when spread over a hundred men or more the result was a little insane. It was like some weird faith thing. As if belief and confidence in a superior being you trust with your life was powerful.
Alpha saw the same result in efficient guild leaders and heads of various churches. Faith had power and Alpha was a little afraid of it. If he could understand people, just get them, he would be able to lead people or have them look up to him and generate the kind of bond like he saw, but…
Alpha couldn’t. He couldn’t lead people and in the middle of the battle have the demon child getting bored of him and making him gone. The people would be left, and Alpha would be to blame for whatever fell on them.
Alpha wasn’t… comfortable having their deaths on himself. Killing foes, assassins, mindless beasts, he felt nothing for… but people who trusted him? It would be upsetting.
Of course… killing someone also transferred essence in a much grander scale. Complete and utter transfer. Alpha knew it was limited, though, since faith gain was constant while killing had stop gaps until the next fight.
But given the fact he couldn’t get someone to follow him with any sense of actual faith, Alpha had no other choice but to collect trash and kill people. He couldn’t risk stopping.
He could never risk stopping.
Something entered his mouth and Alpha chewed automatically, flavour bursting over his tongue.
“Cheer up kid, not everything is so gloom-and- doom.” Haldi winked.
“W-why are you so strong?” Alpha asked, swallowing the delicious cheese, deciding to keep the Delta question for another time. Haldi grinned.
“Well, when I was a sprog, I adventured with three people. Snappy, Stabby, Huggy, and me, Stinky,” he guffawed.
Alpha mentally penned these names down for later. He added ‘Stinky’ to Haldi’s mental profile that he built of all important people.
“We did Dungeons, we sailed the Four Sea edges. I even climbed down one side on a dare! Damn well nearly fell into the Abyss. One time, we battled a mysterious woman who could teleport. Me and her had a… er… close friendship where we slept in the same bed like night buddies-” Haldi laughed nervously.
“She was your conquest?” Alpha nodded, already hearing this from Zane more often than not.
“No! I was her treasure. Her personal room guardian. I was her reminder of being ent-” Haldi cleared his throat. He walked a little faster as bits of wood spears began to rain down on the town. They turned to sawdust before they hit anything.
“Anyway, the point is. The way to gain experience is to have good friends at your back and a goal,” he summed up as some pale man under an umbrella began to collect bets from various villagers on the winner of the fight happening outside town.
He was, again, ranked black. This town had a lot of strong people… was there some event on? Arena matches?
“Von! A gold on Holly! Support the home team,” Haldi nodded. The man grinned.
“I’d say sucker’s bet, but I’ve had some real sucker bets in my time. Some just taste better when you win their necks,” the man looked at the girl at his side.
“Bite me and I’ll ram a stake up your rear,” the girl warned, looking tired of… the vampire?
“Ohhh, I do love a bit of tomfoolery,” the vampire mused.
“GO, HONEY! Look how beautiful my wife is! She’s at her best when trying to rip someone’s throat out!” A man with glasses looked a little starstruck at the battle in the distance.
Haldi pushed him on before the odd people could interrupt them any further.
“Can you take me to Delta?” He asked and he winced as some of his essence was siphoned for the request. Not much, but every little bit set him back. His essence was white instead of people’s normal black.
Haldi perked up.
“I would love to help ya. Come on, we can see if the rascals have already gone in!” He mused. Alpha didn’t care much for children, but he had to know if this was Delta or something posing…
He rubbed his head where a number one was burned into his skin, hidden mostly by his hair.
Alpha needed to meet Delta. He wanted to meet the person who could control their power enough to make a fort and monsters.
To act like a Dungeon and gather power.
Alpha wanted to meet his successor, just to know what he lacked.
Deo pushed and the large boar began to slide back. Kemy quickly moved to get out of the path as Deo had to let go. The pig’s eyes lit up as a weak laser beam shot out, barely missing him.
It was so cool. The room guardian could shoot lasers, glow, burp sleepy gas, and sometimes smell really delicious! Still, Deo had a job to do and he had to do it! Bone shackles caused Boary, the room guardian, to stumble slightly before the pig broke free. It gave enough time for Deo slash his sword (flatways) across the boars flank.
“DEO’S HARMLESS SLAYING EDGE!” He roared, the slapping noise vibrating his hand, and the pig obientially stumbled and turned on him while Deo hopped back.
Boary even limped a little now in response. His acting was so good! Deo had to recruit him for a school play somehow!
“Uh… erm… Truth’s squishy hammer!” Kemy called with uncertainty and a wonky looking glowing hammer appeared over Boary, squishing feebly into his head.
“Awesome!” Deo cheered and almost missed Grim in the distance hopping back as arrow after arrow chased him, hitting the ground hard enough that it would bruise skin.
“Gotta run out of arrows soon!” Grim said, panting.
A weird arrow landed nearby and exploded in a hiss of purple mist, covering Grim as he began to splutter.
“Blue style: Roc Wings…” Poppy announced, her back exploding with brown wings that were bigger than Deo. She flapped hard and the mist was blown away to reveal a slight confused Grim.
“Always knew wind energy was the way to go,” Grim said before wiping his mouth. Deo guessed he must have been into the battle so much he didn’t even notice his own joke.
Boary glowed and rolled, his energy beams hitting nearby mushrooms in spiraling arc causing minor explosions. Oddly the really dangerous mushrooms had all been eaten before they arrived, so while Deo was flung forward, the blast wasn’t that bad.
Something moved along the mushroom stalks above and Deo saw Boary rushing to tackle him again, tusks carefully aimed so the points wouldn’t skewer him.
Deo stood, holding his sword in a stance he had only seen his father do with much bigger swords.
Deo wanted to be just like his dad, the master of swords and battle, but in a way that he didn’t actually hurt anyone.
The sword was a straight edge so he had to hold it awkwardly.
He hummed a little and focused on the feeling as it travelled down his arm and into the blade.
His father could make it vibrate at such a frequency he cut stone. Deo could make it move enough to scratch a tree. Then again, Deo had never used it on something with a real sword’s edge. Trees didn’t deserve to be cut down for no good reason.
Trees made air, and air was good!
The sword hummed and Deo felt it sing to him through his hand. It sang in a lovely whistle and cheer.
I’m ready to push but not harm!
That’s what Deo felt the sword say to him. Unlike his fists, Deo was very good at hearing swords.
Deo couldn’t ‘hear’ his fists in the same way. It felt like a deep muffled ocean when he tried to feel for his own strength. Deo pushed off the ground, sending a slight spray up into the air, sword swinging from his side.
Boary’s tusks seemed to do something strange, they curled in a wispy orange energy. It was like it wanted to show Deo the same kindness and use a technique!
“SINGING BLADE: MONDAY MELODY!” He said, making up a random name for the movement.
They moved past each other in a rush of dust and wind.
Deo watched as a single tusk of Boary came clean off. He looked shocked, he knew his sword wouldn’t lie to him but Boary turned looking pleased, his animal eyes almost twinkling before it kneeled over and ‘died’.
Had Boary… forced his tusk into the blade? Deo’s own sword made a weird sound and cracked in half as well.
Aw… now he needed a new sword! The torn tusk began to pulse and Deo picked it up.
The tusk had a sword handle! It was shorter than Deo’s normal blade but only because it was curved! Deo looked at Boary.
How did he drop loot when he wasn’t dead? In a weird way, the sword was more like a club unless Deo intentionally stabbed…
He grinned, turning to show his prize off when he saw Grim pushing against a dark goblin with its hood up.
Glowing red eyes and a grin were the only things visible under the hood. Their daggers clashed and Poppy appeared with large claws, but the Goblin cackled, using some kind of hook to pull himself back up into the mushroom ceiling and out of sight.
Deo went to help, but then hesitated. Grim looked so determined and… desperate.
Grim wanted to win his fight. Deo slowed down, turning to explain himself only to find Amenster and Kemy already sitting nearby, watching with interest.
Deo grinned, his group were so damn in sync!
“Go Grim! Go Poppy!” He cheered his heart out.
That idiot was cheering his damn heart out.
Grim didn’t need the support, but he accepted it to be polite. Billy had learned some new tricks. Billy had gotten some new threads. Billy… had evolved.
This put the whole ‘get revenge and respect’ thing into a slightly harder goal time frame.
He moved, already expecting the arrow volley that followed. All the arrows were blunter than Deo’s surprise parties. Still, they hurt like being struck by a rock. Poppy vanished somewhere, and the girl wasn’t bad as backup, even if she appeared like an ambush predator more than a mage at times.
Grim guessed that was the whole ‘blue mage’ thing. Be a mage, act like a beast.
The issue he had was that Billy had the upper hand in both environment and ambush tactics. Fire was off-limits, as was cutting the mushrooms down - there were simply far too many of them.
He needed to get on Billy’s level.
As if answering on a wing and a prayer, Poppy appeared, bat wings flapping. Grim was sure that when blue mages used techniques, the part vanished. Actually retaining a monster’s form was not part of the blue mage package!
“Hold on! I’m getting annoyed by this and De- everyone is watching,” she grimaced.
Right, the purple mage thing. Grim forgot about that. The girl never showed it off at all and Grim wondered why…
They flew up higher and higher until they breached the mist. Poppy still didn’t let go and zoomed off after the goblin ahead, who took potshots with arrows. Grim used his coat like a blanket. Without a piercing edge, the coat was a decent shield for the moment.
“Get ready, if you can hold him for a moment, I can take him down like vermin and entangle him,” Poppy hissed like a weird snake.
Grim didn’t exactly get a say in the matter as Poppy dropped him like a dragonrider dropping explosive potions on foes.
He assumed Billy didn’t exactly respect Grim more for it when he landed on him with a heavy thump mid-jump and they both fell back to the Grove’s floor, mushrooms acting like springy pillows.
“Oi, gedoff!” Billy grumbled and with a swift double kick to his stomach, Grim was pushed over. Grim knew his role and charged, throwing all respect out the window and grabbing Billy’s legs, making the goblin trip and drop his hook thing.
Their eyes met and a primal understanding passed between them.
This was no fight for tools or fancy skills.
They were beasts. Claws and teeth were good enough! It was to be a battle between man and goblin, between dungeon and free, between Grim and Billy.
But the wrench in the plan came when a squid monster fell from the trees and both of them screamed, holding each other.
“Purple style: Brain-sucking MahnDi Squid!” The beast growled.
“Did we win or did we draw?” Kemy asked, looking disturbed at the half girl, half squid monster.
“Go with ‘win’, why blemish our record?” Amenster asked with an amused smile. Deo looked in awe.
“POPPY IS SO COOL!” He almost squealed.
Kemy closed her eyes, and put the image into her ‘mid-life crisis’ compartment and simply nodded, smiling and humming.
Squid girls were cute now. They had to be or Kemy would cry.
Why was he in the middle?
“Quiss never really mentioned you,” Ruli said smoothly from his left. Zane, of all people, was on his right sipping a drink.
“I don’t expect Quiss to mention me. Not much to write about,” Zane said simply looking right back at Ruli with amused eyes. The bar they sat it had a wide space around them as people avoided getting close.
He tried to get up, but their auras were like weights on his shoulders.
He was all that was holding them back from fighting.
“Zane, you tried to kill me, then pestered me with letters asking for one-night stands, but instead of the usual crap, you wanted to kill me and leave me. Ruli, you did sleep with me and I’ve hated you ever since. Can we move on? Like… why are you here, Zane?” Quiss gritted his teeth.
“Dungeon, taxes, something. Wasn’t paying attention,” Zane admitted, scratching his chin.
“I wasn’t that bad in bed. You just got my horses going,” Ruli frowned.
“It was the scariest sexual encounter I have ever had. I have slept with people who could kill me, people that have tried to kill me, and people I’m sure did kill me before bringing me back. You… were the scariest,” Quiss said flatly.
“Quiss says you were painting of joy and pinching circled into single and then set on flame. Life shifting, but soul snapping,” Seth said as he walked past.
Zane looked at him with a confused expression.
“Who the hell are you?” The man grunted. Seth eyed him with a long look.
“Beyond your reach and your night pictures,” Seth said coolly.
“Seth, why don’t your sleep with me and see if Quiss is being a drama queen?” Ruli offered. Seth blinked.
“I do not feel good about putting you to the end to make Quiss a royal. I like you,” Seth frowned.
Ruli made an obscene gesture that made Seth’s eyes light up.
“Ah you wish to mingle bodies! I must advance you. I am a master of affectionate bed sheets,” Seth winked.
“The dirty talk is going to be so amazing, I might actually die,” Ruli grinned.
“Oh no… be careful, Seth,” Quiss said bored before turning to Zane.
“Can you maybe kill me quickly?” He asked. Zane was unimpressed.
“I don’t do quickies,” he said, offended.
“Neither does Ruli. Right, whatever. I’m going to stop a druid and a glutton knight from fighting. It’s easier than… this,” Quiss stood, leaving the bar with his large staff and hat.
Zane shrugged and ordered another five pints.
He might as well get plastered before he actually had to work. Less chance of him either killing someone or pissing off someone strong enough to kill him instantly.
Zane didn’t like quickies. So impersonal.
I'll be starting 110 tonight. you guys rock!