Delta hummed as she eyed the massive room.
It was a blank slate, the roots covering the floor, breaking into parts for smooth dirt floor, crawled up the walls and stopped just before the ceiling.
To Delta, the room was bright as day but she knew it was in total darkness.
Delta pretended to adjust goggles.
“Amazing, this tech is so advanced I can barely tell I’m wearing any! Can this surpass the Wooden Cog?!” she mocked in a deep voice that she took from several stealth games that she had played. Stretching, she walked forward. At her current pace, she wouldn’t hit the end of the room for some time. She was used to tight halls or the Grove. Even the bottom of a pond.
This space was so much more that Delta actually felt a little like a mouse that had left the safety of her cartoon mouse door.
Hob and Gob came back a short while ago and they seemed pretty angry but they didn’t say what was wrong. Hob looked like he was about to punch something. Gob just bowed his head and dropped what little offerings they had.
Delta could have pushed but the goblins immediately left, almost with a yell.
Did another spider attack them? If everything Delta had learned about Goblins were true, then they did not like losing. Delta frowned and turned to look back at the stair room where her Core sat.
Nu, the ever practical box, reminded her. Delta crossed her arms and just sighed.
“So? Dying is not going to help anyone. They might come back changed or they might get cocky because of it. I have to pay for them, which isn’t cheap, and whatever killed them might come looking for the source of where they keep coming from,” Delta said aloud and Nu dinged in surprise.
Delta gave the box a look.
“I’m not a total airhead. I don’t want them to die because I don’t want them in pain. If they told me coming back to life was torture. I’m not sure I would bring them back ever. Not if they suffered. All that other stuff is just the best case, you know? I guess... I just thought I didn’t need to remind you that I care about them every time,” Delta pointed out and stopped her steps. Nu was silent for a moment.
Delta smiled as Nu began to ponder to himself, little boxes appearing around his main box to contain side thoughts and random numbers or symbols. Nu was and would be for some while, upset at his evolving nature. Delta didn’t know what it would be like to gain awareness. She had always had it to her knowledge.
Distracting him, even for a while, with tiny things like the nature of goblins and building a jungle in your second-floor basement was something Delta really didn’t mind doing.
She opened the list and looked at the jungle room’s options.
Delta saw it wasn’t too bad of a list, to begin with. With 69 mana, out of 70 now with her new room, and 32 DP. Delta had some options and Delta liked having options.
She turned slowly and tried to imagine what she wanted from this room. What function should it serve for her? Challenging the adventures? Slowing them down as much as possible? Filled to the brim with entertainment or minigames? Should it have anything dangerous about it?
It was a blank canvas and Delta felt like she was painting with her fingers and eating playdoh. She could mess this up. The first floor only sort of worked out due to a lot lucky circumstances. What if she made some death trap? Delta lowered her fingers from the menu and hesitated for a moment.
Nu’s box jingled and he vanished before Delta could snap her head around at him. She opened her mouth then closed it.
She inhaled and smooth down her skirt.
Delta paused. She looked down and saw nothing. She hesitated and moved her hands back down. Her invisible hands brushed invisible fabric. The flowy skirt brushed against her shins and Delta tried not to freak.
“Nu! Nu! I have clothes!” she called and Nu appeared slowly as if not sure he wanted to be there.
Delta’s fingers shook slightly and her voice came out small.
“Nu, can... you see me?” she asked, breath struggling to leave her throat. Nu’s box moved up and down as if looking closely.
Delta grabbed the box, the fine edge digging into her hands. Nu dinged in alarm but Delta shook slightly.
“I can’t see myself! I didn’t even know I had a body!” She accused and Nu blinked out of her hands and in the air above her.
Nu was outraged but Delta just sat down hard, feeling the skirt over and over. She tried other places but she felt nothing. Nu floated down and almost as if unsure, he spoke.
Delta nodded slowly. Nu was right, he had mentioned gaining an avatar when she gained more floors. Delta kind of thought it would be all at once not piece by piece. She stood and with a breathless chuckle, she spun, her skirt dancing out as she did so, it landed back down and Delta was glad it was a decent size.
She sat down way too often to feel happy otherwise.
Delta had a skirt.
Delta had clothes.
It made her feel human in some way she hadn’t been before. She turned to Nu and gave him a pat, his box turned pink and he vanished with an annoyed ding.
“One step at a time, Nu, you are a genius!” she complimented and in the distance, a ding vibrated through the floor in agreement.
She flexed her fingers and began to swish her skirt as she moved forward. What did a jungle need? Besides everything dangerous in the world, it needed trees. At least a dozen vines and the weirdest flowers people had ever seen! Excitement flooded her veins and Delta gave another twirl, laughing as she spun.
Screw what she wanted the floor to be, it would just become whatever Delta turned it into.
She picked a spot and opened her menu. She began to list things she could use.
Delta remembered she had a Wyin plant upstairs that didn’t seem to be doing anything. With a flick of the menu, she had it moved down to the jungle room with a small cost of 3 mana. It would take some time for it to move so Delta spent some mana to get the Widnel grass.
It appeared in a single flash, greenish greyish grass that came up to her knees roughly. When she did so a box opened.
As she finished reading, the grass had little tiny stalk growing in every direction. Delta bent down and watched with awe as the grass grew at an accelerated speed. She held a finger to the grass.
Grass to hide her evil critters! Delta needed snakes. The beautiful kind with round faces and sleepy natures. Maybe she could get one that would speak in a hissing accent to new wizards or mages that came in! Delta giggled at the thought before she moved on to the next item. The Mideiel Fern.
She held a finger to it and hummed as she read it.
Delta purchased it and placed it a fair distance away from her grass. It blossomed up from the ground and like some elegant performance, the leafs separated at the top of the growth and the plant spread out across the ground, a single round core in the middle. It wriggled once or twice and the pod in the middle exploded into the air and arched away from the fern. After a few moments, the pod landed and roll for a moment before it wriggled and roots pulled it underground.
Delta walked over and peered into the hole with wide eyes. Then another fern began to grow. The pod in the new fern was far smaller and it wouldn’t be ready for a little while.
Delta’s Jungle was kick ass and Delta moved to the next spot, already readying the next one. She stumbled as something rumbled. She spun and saw that the Wyin sapling had finally planted itself from the previous floor.
Except, it was now exploding towards the ceiling, it’s soft green skin turning into the wooden bark, the large lush branches spreading out. The shaking subsided as it drooped slightly over the entrance door as if shielding those who wandered in from the sky. Delta stood there, stunned as the tree rustled and soft green powder fell from the branches on to the ground.
Delta hastily put a finger to the tree.
“Please don’t poison people, please don’t poison people...” she repeated. The box opened with a sarcastic ring.
There were many questions and Delta just blurted one out.
“Mana has colours? It’s not just blue?” she asked, not sure how she felt about her sacred mana bar being tainted by other colours. Red for rage and yellow for dexterity are... acceptable she guessed.
Delta pinched the box with two fingers and Nu let out a shrill bell noise as he blinked away. Delta smiled and looked up as she eyed the odd powder that fell occasionally.
Nu was right, some of it was orange and it looked so at odds with the rest of the tree that Delta could relate.
As something didn’t belong or act right but tried its best.
Delta turned and saw her Windnel Grass was slowly spreading over the area and another Mideiel fern exploded somewhere. This was good but she still needed proper trees. The Wyin tree needed space. Delta needed trees that would hug the crap out of each other. With a shrug, she closed her eyes and thought of her favourite and iconic forests of her youth. All video games. Delta was sure she didn’t do real forests.
Except now she was building a jungle.
What features made them memorable?
Mazes, horrible fetch quests, poison, ninjas, tigers, dinosaurs, growing puzzles...
Delta grimaces and tried again. What made them memorable in a good way?
Something struck her and Delta blinked. It sort of went with the maze idea but they weren’t tied together. She opened her menu and began to mess with her options.
Delta hummed as she opened the jungle room.
She had the beginning of her plan. Delta thought about it then after checking compared her options.
A river cost 30 DP. Carving it out and filling it with her own water would be costing her far into the hundreds for the same task. That one was a no-brainer. If Delta wanted to abuse her endless source of water and lack of air flow to any outside world... she needed to also gain the ability to manipulate the heat.
When heat and water came together... she had her first obstacle that would be her homage to one of her most played games. If nothing else, it would allow her level to have an advantage over any monster that made it past Fran.
Unless it was a mist monster, then she was just screwing herself over.
Delta purchased the river and watched as the ground from one corner of the room, began to hollow out towards the far corner. Like some invisible monster devouring the soil, it carved a clean basin. It avoided her plants and grass as best it could and when it was done the small holes that appeared in the one corner gushed clear water that began to pool then surge forward towards the far corner.
This corner only had one hole and the water drained slowly. Delta could only watch with awe as nature bent to her desires. A marvel that would take hundreds of years formed in 10 minutes. The water reached the rough top of its banks and stopped rising.
The river would take Delta taking three full jumps to cross if she could get a running start.
It wasn’t too deep but if someone couldn't swim then it might be dangerous... she would have to work around that somehow.
The river had some pull to it, the draining hole allowing the water to move in some mimicry of a real river.
Delta was about to cheer when a box appeared.
Delta blinked and then looked horrified at the idea.
“My river is a cool one! It doesn’t...boil people! Nu, tell me when I can make the water sparkle or something neat,” Delta ordered and Nu paused for a moment.
Delta thought about it and then looked above, imagining her first floor.
Her Mudroom had a good idea but it was so... lazy to reuse platforms so quickly. Delta thought about it and then paused.
Her mind was hit by images of spinning fruits, magic wooden masks and spinning Marsupials.
“Nu, tell me. How much would it take to get platforms that move down the river but sink after you stay on them after a moment?” she asked aloud and Nu took a moment to think about it.
Delta eyed the box with suspicion.
“Will it break the bank?” she asked slowly and Nu only glowed once. Delta sighed then nodded.
Delta winced and pondered it.
“I can’t afford that but people need a way to cross don’t they?” she said weakly and Nu only dinged.
“That feels mean,” she admitted and Nu seemed to chuckle.
Delta’s flat stare seemed to make Nu shrink a little.
Delta sighed and then patted Nu, who objected.
“You’re a cat. A game system turned aware then turned sarcastic. What if someone drowns?” she asked, voice pointed.
Delta threw her hands up in the air, growling at him.
“You can’t just throw signs at everything and expect to be covered!” she argued and Delta felt a fizzle on her mana.
A sign appeared before the river. It read as followed.
“Caution: splinters on this sign, please help yourself - Nu”
Delta inhaled and exhaled. She was stuck with a passive aggressive menu system that was having an existential crisis.
Delta prayed for strength has she just made a rough fallen log out of her mana. It landed clumsy and rolled a few times but it seemed to find a good hold on the land and became still. It was a bit thin and wouldn’t take that much to break it if someone tried.
Delta grabbed Nu and threw his box into the river. He simply floated out, untouched. Delta would need to break into his system and tickle him or annoy him or...
Or... have someone do it for her.
She knew exactly who would be perfect for the job.
“Oh Mr Mushy!” she called, knowing her monster could hear her. Nu vanished instantly.
Delta smirked as her cute mushroom made Nu run. The endless questions, the endless curiosity just drove Nu mad.
With some peace, she had only two more tasks to do before she returned the first floor. She took some time to fill the river with her four types of fishes and her tangleweed. The crayfish, the yellowbelly cod, the Whitetail fish, and the little-finned guppy.
If the room’s nature was true, then they spread on their own. She put her head into the water and watched as the tiny guppy, swimming as fast it could glowed once and like some scaley cell, split into two.
Delta was reminded of a movie.
No time for sex.
If she ever made a humanoid that could reproduce like this... would they come out of each other's ribs?
Delta made a sour face and wondered if God had been like this. Trying not to look too closely as things happened. Just planting the apple tree and telling Satan to stop being a snake.
...Was Nu her Satan?
This raised way too many questions so Delta quickly moved on to her next task.
She opened her menu and pushed the newest monster option. Space before her rippled as flesh came into view.
It was slightly hunched over but its height was that of a small man or a tall teen. Yellowish skin that was ringed by black markings. Its chest was humanoid and rather muscular. The legs became thin and looked odd until the monster crouched and the powerful muscles made for jumping bunched up.
The clothes it wore was basically the jungle itself. Hide-Like pants with leaves to provide camouflage, a necklace of stones and odd marks that looked painted on. It opened its eyes, the sideways pupil blinked once or twice.
It inhaled and Delta saw how big its mouth was. A human head could fit in there and the flexing jaw muscles made it damn clear it could do some damage.
In one hand was a wooden spear, the stone spear tip was surrounded feathers of some bird and the shaft had intricate designs carved into them.
The frogman spun it with ease and held it out to Delta with both hands, palms up. The frogman had very human-like fingers.
“Queen of my home. I am yours to command. I will die for you,” he said and his voice was deep.
Like the well the frog got stuck in and thought was his whole world.
Delta felt slightly sure no well was going to contain this frog by any means.
“Oh... hello! Nice to meet you!” Delta said nervously and the frog didn’t move, still holding the spear to Delta’s general direction, using her voice to know where she was standing.
He didn’t say anything.
“So... you can stand up. It’s fine. My name is Delta!” she tried again and the frog stood slowly and looked around.
“Where shall I guard? I shall deliver your foes hearts to you, my goddess,” he vowed and Delta waved her hands.
“No no no, no heart taking or killing!” she said quickly and for the first time, the frogman looked perplexed, his large cheeks moving down as his tongue rolled about.
“I... yes, I will not taint your realm with unworthy blood!” he promised and bowed again. There was a moment where nothing happened and the frogman looked up, unsure.
“I am ready to be punished for assuming your wishes,” he said slowly and Delta felt a headache fast approaching. There was movement at the corner of her eyes and Mr Mushy approached. He looked... winded as if the air around him was too thin.
He waved and Delta thought she heard a noise. The frogman tilted his head.
“Bow to the Goddess, she is a being that demands respect! What are you doing here?” the frog questioned and his tone became hard as if Mr Mushy was breaking some law.
“I called him here,” she said and he froze. Mr Mushy handed the frogman a misshapen pot. Delta beamed as Mr Mushy nodded with friendliness.
“See? He brought you a ‘welcome to the dungeon’ gift. Listen, some ground rules...uh...you need a name,” Delta trailed off. The frogman looked between the pot, Mr Mushy, and her. He looked rather confused and looked back down at the pot.
“I am a simple monster, the shadow of the jungle... a member of the tribe. I am... do not deserve a name,” he tried to back away but Delta just followed him.
“You don’t look like a hopper, which I guess is racist now... Hm, jungle names aren’t my forte but you’re hardly a Jack or Joe...” Delta muttered and the frogman reached the each of the river and looked like he would rather jump in that accept a name.
Delta stopped and eyed him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked and he put the pot down gently.
“I am not sure... why I am here. I am your tool to kill and yet I am not allowed to kill. I possess no magic to turn or put foes to sleep, my Goddess. Why did you make me?” he asked bluntly and Delta blinked.
“Because I wanted to meet you. I was excited to have another monster around. I wanna see what you do or see how you enjoy being around. I’m gonna build you a nice jungle, so don’t worry!” Delta assured him.
Something popped into her head.
“Your name is Rale, it’s simple and relevant!” Delta beamed and Rale seemed to shiver before he bowed.
“I am truly not... worthy. I must go,” he said quickly and jumped the river in a single bound. Delta’s mouth fell open and Rale moved into the quickly spreading grass. Delta felt like she had failed utterly at this.
Rale didn’t seem to enjoy or accept what her goblins had. Delta wanted to follow but decided to give the frog some time. If she could understand Rale, then she could understand how the frog tribesmen worked as a whole before summoning more.
Mr Mushy eyed the river and picked up his pot and scooped up some water.
The water began to leak out of four holes but Mr Mushy seemed pleased. He held it up for Delta to see, getting hit in the face with water as he did so.
Delta smiled softly and decided to just wait.
She was good at that.
A glorious name... wasted on pond scum. What had he done? What had he accomplished? What had he managed to do to deserve such a boon?
Nothing and the shame burned in his chest. He had just run from his Goddess. He was too ashamed to face her. A box appeared and Rale froze.
This was a voice of power. Not the Goddess but her shadow.
“Master, I cannot accep-”
Rale watched as the box went blank for a moment.
He stood, how could he not?
“We are Delta,” he repeated as a sense of peace fell over him. It was okay... he didn’t have to understand. Rale blinked as he felt Delta’s warmth inside.
It was okay to be a little wrong. That’s what the warmth told Rale at that moment. He struggled to fit his purpose into acceptance but he stood regardless.
He bowed and walked...slowly back to where Delta still was. He could hear her gentle voice talking to the walking fungus.
Yes... the mushroom was right. Not just a Goddess. A mother.
He was but a child but soon he would grow into a worthy warrior for her. He, Rale, first of his kind, vowed it.
This time, the words felt real and powerful in his heart which began to beat louder.