He certainly looks damn strong!
The size of the guy!
I think it's fairly clear to tell that almost all of that evolutionary energy went into Might! Somewhat sadly. I really wish even a sliver of that energy had made it to buffing up his brain power.
Well, it isn't all bad I suppose. Since Tiny has me to help him do the thinking, and he can now receive my instructions, being as good as he can at fighting is probably for the best, especially when considering the upcoming crises we will soon face.
The final thing I need to do is complete my mutations. With eleven points of Biomass to spend I'll be able to select a mutation advancement for my legs and then upgrade my Gravitational Energy gland twice.
I open the menu eagerly not even listening to the prompts of Gandalf. Lemme check out dem legs!
Ho boy! Look at all these juicy options!
So many selections that I can choose!
Let's see now. Legs that stick to surfaces? Peh I can already do that Legs with barbed spines emerging from them to stab enemies? Ouch! Legs with extra running speed, frictionless feet for sliding, legs with skin between them to allow for gliding? What the heck?
I'm tempted to take an option that just makes me faster or something plain like that but then my eyes fall on a choice that piques my interest.
[Absorption Legs, connects the core to the feet, allowing the monster to drawn in mana from the surface it is standing on].
So, if I'm running around in the Dungeon, this option will let me draw in mana from the walls and floor?! If the absorption rate is decent then this could provide the missing link to my magic practice! If I can refill my core and the even more mana hungry Gravitational Energy Gland faster they will become much more useful!
I'll take it!
[Do you wish to select Absorption legs and improve Gravitational Energy Gland to +3? This will cost 11 Biomass]
AHhhhH! The Itch!
Most of my preparation in this place is done for now. With Tiny's successful evolution it's time to re-join the colony and do our part to assist the digging efforts! I ask Tiny to bring along the remain cores and we leave the trap network, heading back to the main shaft before we make our decent to the main nest.
The tunnel walls have grown eerily dim. I haven't experienced this low a light level ever since I was reborn in this Dungeon. The change in condition is disturbing, making the tunnels feel much more threatening and oppressive. Shadows dance menacingly across the walls as Tiny and I pass through, the patterns of light breaking every time we move.
Tiny is squeezing through the tunnel, hunching his shoulders forward to the point he's almost kneeing himself in the face as he walks. In one hand he cups the remaining cores protectively against his chest.
We descend down the main shaft in silence. The absent workers and darkness press down on our mentality. The only sounds we hear are the echoes of our movements as we descend.
It seems insane that in a few short hours this empty place will become a monster filled death zone.
I'm almost pathetically grateful when arrive towards the lower end of the shaft and the noises of the colony reach my ears.
Being ants and incapable of any sort of speech, it isn't chatter that I hear but scritching scrabble of thousands of legs and grinding of dozens of mandibles as the colony hauls dirt, working at a ferocious pace.
Tiny and I finally descend into the Queen's chamber to discover the room is completely packed with workers, hundreds of them together. Other than a few workers tending to the brood almost all of the ants must be here in this tunnel.
They climb all over each other, some of them heading out and down to the lower tunnel with jaws full of dirt and others running back to collect another haul.
"Keep working children", the warm voice of the Queen sings out, gently encouraging the colony.
I honestly don't think the workers could work any harder! They are practically vibrating with energy, so eager to work at the side of the Queen as she digs.
[Tiny, go down to the lower tunnel and make sure nothing goes wrong] I instruct my ape friend .
He simple nods before lumbering off gently pushing his way through the bustling workers who mostly disregard his presence, some workers even start climbing over him, just walking up his arms and down his back as they move through, still clutching the cores in his hand.
Taking a breath I start to push my way through the worker frenzy, using my larger size to force aside the much smaller hatchlings and workers. So desperate are the others to contribute that I eventually have to resort to quite vigorous methods, knocking other ants out of the way or climbing on top of others in order to get to the front!
It isn't annoying at all, these are the sorts of people (ants) you want working on your side in a disaster!
When I get to the front of the tunnel I can only be impressed with the progress that has been made. With the Queen working at the front, her enormous mandibles carving up the dirt and rock at a constant rate, combined with a veritable army of assistants carting off the dirt, progress has been rapid indeed.
But it still isn't enough.
The tunnel has already extended roughly two hundred metres away from the chamber, far from the several kilometres it needs to be! At the moment there probably isn't even room to put the brood and all the workers inside this tunnel!
And when I consider Tiny.
No way we all fit!
"Hey there Queen!" I say to the Queen as I start ripping into the dirt with a frenzy.
It's convenient to be able to talk without moving your mouth
"Welcome child" she responds, similarly with her mandibles loaded with dirt.
The two of attack the wall, our mandibles tearing away large clumps of earth which we then turn and fling behind us, allowing the smaller workers to do the job of hauling it away.
We aren't the only ones at the front digging. At any one time there are near to a dozen workers chomping away, extending the tunnel one mandible load at a time. Most of these ants gather up their diggings and cart it away themselves, creating a constant exchange of workers at the front.
The Queen and I remain constant, mandibles pumping like piston engines until my face aches from the sheer repetitive effort of it. Thankfully the feeling of ant zen returns to me once more, the indescribable feeling of doing what it is that you were born to do. My primitive ant senses are flooded with contentment as I dig.
I can't afford to waste any time though! I shake off the restful zen regretfully. Digging doesn't require much thought, so I should dedicate this time to practicing my valuable mana skills!
Surrendering my digging to my mechanical instincts I use my will to summon the mana from my core and begin my shaping practice. With the assistance of the sub-brain the mana is drawn out easily, wispy tendrils of strange energy that respond to my thoughts start to flow out and form into mystic patterns within my body.
I still have no idea what these patterns are for or what they represent. They were imprinted in my mind when I learned the skill without any sort of explanation. I'm guessing the only way to actually learn what each is for is by testing, which could be quite dangerous!
I'm resolved to try and begin the experiments away from the colony as soon as my skill reaches an appropriate level. I still find it difficult to form many of the shapes and my success rate, not to mention the speed I can form them, is far too low for practical use.
Practice and then more practice!
Let's do it!
Just like that, the Queen, me and the entire colony dig for our lives.
As only a colony of ants can, we dig desperately, endlessly, with the single mindedness only an insect can express.
I lose myself to the repetitive motions of my mandibles and the formless mana within me, my body and mind almost completely separate from each other.
After an indeterminate amount of time my awareness snaps back when my core has been emptied, not even faint mist of mana remains.
Quickly checking my stats I can see that my mana shaping has rising by two levels!
Now I just need to wait for my core to refill, hopefully my new legs will be able to assist with that.
The mana veins don't exist in this particular section of tunnel, since we've dug it so recently, so I don't feel any mana coming to me through my feet for the time being.
We've been digging for a while, I'd better go check how dark the nest has become anyway.