It's time to get down to work and we have a long laundry list of things to do.
When Crinis revives, I put her on guard duty and take Tiny topside. The first order of business is to lend our muscle to the villagers as they struggle to make space for the growing number of refugees.
With Tiny's significant physical prowess we were able to fell trees and clear a wider area for the villagers to use. My own expertise in digging is also put to good use, flattening out terrain, digging foundations for a few larger buildings and my supreme +15 mandibles are tested for the first time cutting stone.
Turns out there's a decent layer of usable stone a few kilometres from the village. After clearing the dirt around the area I charged my mandibles will mana and utilised the incredible sharpness to cut out blocks that were then transported on rollers to be used in some more advanced construction.
Despite working fairly feverishly, I did notice the Morrelia had taken up the role of drill instructor, she had cleared a space outside the village as a rudimentary training court and was absolutely shredding the hide off a surprising number of grinning villagers.
Looking at the smiling faces of those men and women only reinforced my impression of these people further.
These villagers are crazy.
No matter how hard she drilled them, running laps, practicing sword strokes, spear practice, physical exercise, they enthusiastically threw themselves into it with seemingly boundless positivity until they fell over. At that point, another group of villagers would arrive, drag the victims into the shade, give them some water, and then jump into the training themselves.
When I approached a frazzled looking Enid about the puzzling behaviour, she was happy to explain it.
[This is a chance for them to change their lives. Most of these people were farmers, labourers, servers or cooks before they were forced to flee. With classes like that, they have little agency in being able to control their own destiny. Simple people like us are reliant on the more marshal classes to protect us and as such we are always dependant.]
Turning her tired face towards the training fields, she smiled.
[Now they have an opportunity to step up and protect themselves, their families and strike back at the monsters who took their homes. Of course they are overjoyed. Not to mention.]
She turned back to me, a complicated look on her face.
[Everything they need just seems to fall into their lap ever since they started following you. There are weapons, metals, a smith has arrived and Beyn has been freely sharing his knowledge of classes and skills. Out of nowhere we have a monstrously strong trainer and you have agreed to assist them in levelling them. This is an opportunity that no one here could have dreamed of only a few months ago.]
I look askance at her for a moment.
[You aren't starting to buy into Beyns' rubbish are you? I am certainly not a divine messenger of any kind.]
Enid chuckles and brushes her near white hair back from her forehead.
[If you keep producing miracles at the rate you have been, I'm not going to have much choice am I?]
[Please, no. Just, no. If you started treating me like that I'd go nuts. Honestly, I probably wouldn't come back.]
That just made her laugh more.
[I'll try to keep any regard I develop for you to myself then.]
After talking with her, I kept a closer eye on the villagers and it was true that they did seem to have a large amount of pep in their step, and not only those training with Morrelia. All of them were working industriously and spent their time building, fixing, helping, discussing or throwing themselves into the millions of tasks that arise around any group of people.
Considering they'd just fled their homes and certainly lost family members over the last period of time they were almost comically chipper.
After a few days of solid effort, Tiny and I had cleared enough space, and provided enough raw materials to keep them going for a while yet. Those with construction related skills and classes were hard at work transforming our efforts into buildings and the sounds of hammering and sawing could be heard even from the anthill.
After retreating to check on Crinis and tickle the larvae some more it was time to take a few villagers into the Dungeon. Not before I chased down Vibrant to see what on earth she was up to. Turns out her little retinue of workers had swelled to nearly ten and they were madly dashing about above and below ground, rustling up food. They'd kept the grubs so fat they positively gleamed with chubby health and the Queen was already considering the next clutch of eggs.
Two hundred fresh members of the next generation had been lain the other day, workers already obsessing over them, and now she wanted to lay another two hundred!
I'd had to beg her to hold off at least a few days so that we had enough time to get the new ants up to speed and properly trained before another wave of hatchlings landed on my head. She reluctantly agreed but I can see that the joy of fulfilling her function after so long has been building in her.
Since just before I was born, the colony has been on struggle street, the nest raided, workers slaughtered, chased from their nest and it's only now that we have achieved the stability to grow the ant colony the way it was almost meant to grow.
I can understand her impatience. I really can.
The next day Tiny and I took the small group of villagers who had achieved a basic combat class after their harsh grilling from Morrelia into the shortcut.
Enid decided to tag along to make sure no accidents happened and to help me relay my instructions to the people. Curiously, Morrelia decided not to come, preferring to stay and continue training the villagers.
It was an uneventful trip to be honest. I sent Tiny ahead and let him smash everything that had spawned to the state of near death and then walked down with the villagers, allowing them to take turns last hitting the monsters and taking in the experience.
Judging by the looks on their faces and the repeated bowing, they were pretty happy with the results despite it only costing Tiny and I a couple of hours and almost no effort.
Still, the first power levelling trip was a success. I asked Enid to strictly warn them not to enter the shortcut, ever. It was for ant use and let directly deep into the first layer, meaning more powerful monsters could theoretically use it to approach the surface.
Not to mention, Tiny might simply smash a human to death before he even recognised them if he ran into one down there.
This was a very much 'for your own safety' sort of warning.
After agreeing to make another trip for the next group of villagers to achieve their class, it was time to turn my attention to the ant nest, specifically, the farms.
I'd been sending Crinis in there to clean them up periodically, but now it was time to take this farming simulator to the next level in order to provide the kind of oomph we were going to need to raise up strong workers quickly.