After spending time eating and attempting to train mana transformation, my small crew have a snooze and awake to work once more! Since we began napping in the afternoon it's now solidly night time. The forest is beautiful and ethereal in the moonlight, only made slightly less so by the trails of monster ants wandering about.
After assisting the colony farm once more, and returning with another core, I decide it is time to pay a visit to the town from which we had rather spectacularly made our entrance to the surface world. I hope that guy who's arm I accidently separated from his torso is doing well. I mean, life goes on with a single arm, right?
Although we won't be able to see that much in the dark I don't want to risk showing up in the day and potentially being spotted. It'll be best to minimise the potential for future limb removal type misunderstandings.
As we travel, Tiny the little ant and I, no time is wasted as I practice my gravity spells as we travel. I might not be able to grind shaping levels anymore but familiarity with the spell still counts and casting on the move is so much harder than casting standing still.
My magical skills grow with every passing day!
Eventually we come to the edge of the forest and I ask Tiny to remain in the trees, his hulking form isn't suitable for slinking through the wheat fields and staying unnoticed. With my little passenger on board I utilise my vaunted stealth techniques to creep through the farm fields towards to the buildings in the distance.
When we arrive at the town darkness has fallen over the land like a blanket. As we draw nearer to the town however, I'm gratified to notice it is surprisingly well lit. actually, its strangely well lit.
As in, what the hell is with this enormous fire!?
In front of the church a massive bon fire is blazing surrounded by what appears to be a lively crowd of people. They are all holding crude weapons in hand and even at this distance I can see that they seem possessed of a fierce energy.
Relying on my impressive stealth, I creep closer until I'm less than thirty metres away from the edge of the buildings and then I hunker down still to maximise the passive stealth bonus. In the dark, with my skills and nearly black carapace I'm going to be almost impossible to spot, surely. I'll just have to keep my claws crossed they don't have monster detecting gems here.
Actually, with their faces illuminated by the red glow of the crackling flames, pitchforks and rusty spears clutched tightly in their hands, they look a little demonic over there. Then I notice a voice rising above the background noise, filled with conviction and energy.
Just in front of the church I spot my old pal the priest. At this distance it's a little hard to tell but I think he's still wearing the same bloodied robes he was wearing when I first met him. He is standing in front of the churches main double doors, one good arm flung to the sky as he exhorts the people below. Every now and again his voice rises to soaring crescendo and the people shout and roar back to him, shaking their weapons and pumping their fists in the air.
I mean, seems lively over there at least. Just, what the heck is going on over there?!
Then the doors are pulled open and a group of villagers emerge from within carrying something between them.
The men approach the bonfire as the people fall silent and fall back out of their way. With a mighty heave they throw their burden onto the leaping flames and the crowd roars in approval as the fire roars and flickers.
I'm pretty sure that was a monster corpse.
It's nice that the village is safe and they are able to take care of themselves but they seem a little too into it? Perhaps this is just a very civically minded town?
Being able to defend themselves for now is nice and all but ty worry is that these people will end up taking on something they can't handle. If another Jellymaw crawled up out of that hole in the ground would these townspeople and farmers be able to handle that? Shouldn't there be some soldiery looking types here by now? Dedication is all well and good but do they really think a rusty pitchfork is going to do the job against the real Dungeon monsters?
Scanning the faces of the people they all look determined and passionate, it seems like they are all in fending off the Dungeon monsters, which seems fine, I guess?
Towards the back I spy an older lady who doesn't look quite as pumped up as the rest. If I were to try and describe her expression I would probably have to say 'concerned' or 'worried'. Her hands are tightly gripping her skirts and she stares down at the frenzied crowd.
Perhaps she shares my concern that the townspeople may be getting a little ahead of themselves.
Perhaps she isn't a bonfire person.
At any rate, approaching a frenzied mob any closer than this doesn't seem advisable. Time to retreat.
Just as I'm turning to leave I notice that my head is feeling a bit breezy. Did someone open a window or something? Have I gone bald? I'm fairly certain I never had hair in the first place.
Where is the little one?!
Using my antennae I slap my head and back before turning to scout through the surrounding wheat. Where the heck did that little scoundrel go?!
Panic is starting to rise in my chest. That is a promising young ant! Where the heck is she?!
The core! She has a core! Quick as a flash I flip on my mana sense and reach out with my mind, desperately seeking that tiny mana source. There it is! Threading its way between the wheat stalks I spot the little gem.
The problem is that its heading directly towards that roaring flame!
What are you a moth!?
You do NOT need to run towards any flame you see! Like a gazelle loose in the fields I spring after my curious sibling, all thought of minimising noise lost!
Even they spot me I can get away but she'll be squashed for sure!
She has managed to creep within just ten metres of the people towards the back of the crowd. My heart is thudding with my chest, if they spot her there could be serious trouble here tonight. It's one thing if they try and bash my head in, the little one is a different story, they'll cave her head in easily!
And if that happened. I honestly don't know what I'd do.
Come back here you little trouble maker!
I keep flicking my mana sense on and off so I can track the back and forth movements of the mischievous little ant. When I finally draw close enough, after what feels like years I dive forward, six legs extended behind me and mandibles wide.
I GOT YA!
As gently as I can I snatch up the escaped worker in my mandibles, a situation she protests by wiggling fiercely.
"Stay still you trouble maker! They'll kill you if they find you!"
Fortunately I can shout as I much as I want in pheromone language, I don't make a sound.
I quickly glance about.
Hopefully we weren't noticed?