I climb back up into a tree and hide amongst the foliage whilst I formulate my next moves. Making things more difficult was my fat abdomen but after some sustained effort I got up there.
Ok then, the first thing to worry about is what to do with my skill point. I could upgrade Digging immediately, or I could wait, hold onto the skill point in case I buy something interesting once Mana Manipulation reaches level five.
After considering for a while I decide to ahead and upgrade Digging. After all, what sort of ant doesn't prioritise being able to dig!
[Digging -> Excavating. cost 1 sp: Increases the ability to shift large amounts of material in a shorter span of time]
If I need to save a skill point I can always keep the next one. I don't think I'll be able to max out Mana Manipulation before I level up again, after all, I'm going to keep on hunting centipedes until I get it.
Once I've evolved I'll feel a lot more confident following the trail back to the colony. Not to mention I can go and absorb those hidden monster cores.
Now the Biomass Four is such an awkward number! Just one more and I'd be able to take my acid to +5! But using it all now and I could upgrade my mandibles to +4
In the end I decide to upgrade my mandibles right away. That last fight wasn't so one sided that feel completely confident going into the next one without any real improvement to my fighting ability.
[Do you wish to improve Mandibles to +4? This will cost 4 Biomass]
Go ahead Gandalf!
My face is immediately on fire.
Just . Why?
When the mutation is finally done my mandibles have become slightly larger and more menacing looking. These chompers are getting more and more potent all the time!
What sort of upgrade will I be able to get at +5? I can hardly wait. With my Biomass spent and my skill points used I'm almost ready for action. All I need to do is what for my digestion to kick in so I don't look like I'm dragging an expanded sack behind me as I move.
Whilst I wait I practice my Mana Manipulation a few more times, leaving myself gasping with something of a headache. I feel like it's getting a little easier to move my mana about but not much.
Since I'm already fairly well hidden up here I may as well take a quick nap to get myself back to full fighting shape.
I awake several hours later, ready for round two.
I carefully make my way back to the centipede mound and once again take up my scouting position high in my tree. If I spend any more time up trees I'm going to into a weaver ant. Those ants bend leaves and stick them together to create a nest.
I'll stick to digging.
For now though I play the waiting game. There doesn't seem to be much action, certainly no response that would suggest the members of this colony are upset that four of their number have gone missing. I would guess that it isn't unusual that occasionally a hunting group would disappear, never to return.
After waiting patiently for several hours and watching a few groups leave and a few others return another contingent of four departs the mound and makes their way towards the lake.
Going for drink of that sweet, sweet mana water eh? I hope you enjoy that drink. For it shall be your last!
After the four targets have moved a good distance away I follow along behind them. I'm not too worried about keeping close to this group, since they are only heading to the lake I don't need to worry about them being killed hunting.
I'll set up an ambush and take on this group when they leave the lake.
Following along the trail I choose a large tree with a good view of the path the centipedes have taken, I want to see them coming, and I prepare to lie in wait.
Whilst I wait I decide to take a look at the intermediate profile of the Claw Centipede. Perhaps it has some useful information?
[Unguibus Scolopendra : Claw centipede, has strong claws and a venomous spike in its tail.
Huh, so those are the base stats of the centipede? The might and the toughness are quite similar to mine but the cunning and the will are completely in the tank. I shouldn't be too surprised I suppose. I doubt every hatchling ant has a cunning as high as 25. My guess is that my high cunning stat is the system assigning a value to my human intellect.
This is my real trump card. Without my ability to reason and make planned decisions I would have been dead long ago. Not to mention I can easily exploit other monsters with extremely poor smarts.
About an hour later my patience is rewarded, the four centipedes are returning, once again moving in single file.
Ah, another visitor? Stay awhile! Stay FOREVER!
With my steady position and aim bonus there is no way I would miss a long centipede moving in a straight line. The arcing stream of acid lands accurately along the targets back. A perfect hit.
The centipedes are immediately enraged, posturing fiercely around their thrashing comrade.
Another direct hit! One more centipede is sent thrashing on the ground as they experience the terrible burning of my potent acid.
With two shots discharged I make my position known to the remaining healthy centipedes. Fiercely clacking my mandibles and waving my antennae at them provocatively.
Just like before, the horrible crawlers are completely provoked, rushing forward to consume this pesky ant.
As they reach the trunk of the tree they grasp hold with their many legs and start climbing, directly into my third shot!
Yet another centipede has received my acidic blessing! The unfortunate victim tumbles out of the tree,
So far the plan is working just as well as it did last time!
Only one target remains on the tree with me. Just like before use my incredible acting skill to feint a slip and the centipede completely falls for it, allowing me to deal a decisive chomp!
Although I don't quite manage to deal fatal damage with this bite the cracked carapace and distorted shape of the monsters head are telling of just powerful that attack was.
Hissing in pain the centipede lashes out, catching a glancing blow on my head with its claws before I close in and deliver the finishing crushing bite!
[You have defeated Level 1 Claw Centipede]
[You have gained XP]
One down, three wounded to go.
Checking my status quickly as the remaining centipedes approach the tree I see I've only taken one damage so far.
Good to go!
The three centipedes charge up the trunk together but this time I don't head out to a branch. I still don't want to be surrounded however so I undertake another risky manoeuvre.
When a centipede is directly before me I directly let go of the tree.
Unable to react fast enough the centipedes can only watch as I directly crash into one of their number, biting wildly with Crushing Bite as I fall.
My victim and I both fall directly out of the tree, grappling and biting at each other before we hit the ground with a thump!
Desperately scrabbling to avoid the poisonous stinger I use my momentum to roll away and back onto my feet.
My opponent is still scrabbling back to its feet so I charge as fast as I can and attack with my mandibles.
The mysterious white energy empowers my jaws as I crunch down with all of my strength.
[Crushing Bite has reached level 2]
[You have defeated level 4 Claw Centipede]
[You have gained XP]
And then there were two!
Now for the tricky bit. The remaining two centipedes stick together as they descend the tree. I don't quite feel like I have another acid shot in the tank yet, this is going to have to be done up close and personal.
As soon as they reach the ground the two monsters split apart and threaten me from two sides, thankfully it isn't hard to watch both of them at the same time. The advantages of compound eyes are showing now!
Not willing to give away the initiative I turn and charge towards the creature on my left.
The centipede rears back, threatening me with claws and jaws as I approach.
Then I stop.
Then I turn and charge in the other direction!
The monster who had been behind me froze in surprise. As I'd charged at its ally it had immediately raised up its rear section, revealing the deadly poison spike at the tip of its tail. The sneaky git had thought to creep up behind me as I was distracted, not so easy chump!
After hesitating a beat the centipede strikes forward with its tail, the stinger plunging toward me at lightning speed!
I'd been waiting for this!
Predicting the move I dig my claws into the ground and leap to the side, letting the deadly tail pass by my left side. Before the monster can recover and draw its tail back for another strike I turn and bite with all of my strength.
Carapace cracks and crunches under my force and the centipede hissing with rage. That tail is now useless.
Seeing the other opponent approaching behind me I waste no time and leap directly at the injured foe, taking injuries from its furiously grasping claws. Shrugging off the pain I deliver the final blow with another bite.
[You have defeated Level 3 Claw centipede]
[You have gained XP]
And now it's one on one.
Unwilling to give the final monster time to raise its poison sting I grit my mandibles against my wounds and charge directly at it. A quick status check shows that I still have half of my HP left.
Easily enough to finish this!
The centipede and I charge and rip into each other, mandibles crashing, claws scraping and grasping on carapace.
But my opponent is no match for my superior mutations and skills.
[You have defeated level 2 Claw centipede]
[You have gained XP]
Finally! Not enough to get level five, but at least another four Biomass has been secured.
That one was hard, I've been reduced to ten HP. Dents, scratches and cracks cover my poor carapace.
Can't waste a second, have to eat!
[You have gained one Biomass]
Om nom nom.
[You have gained one Biomass]
Wait, what is that sound?