My mandibles close with a mighty crunch and another massive centipede has met an early grave.
[You have slain level 15 Adult Claw Centipede]
[You have gained experience.]
To one side, Tiny is pinning down a rotting rabbit and he is repeatedly punching it in the head until it stops moving and on the other, Crinis continues to work her dark magic on the creatures unfortunate enough to fall into her clutches.
[Got things under control, team?]
[URAAA!] Tiny bellows, both in my mind and out loud as his fists finish their work.
[Yes, Master. These low class filth will be out of your way in just a moment. Do not trouble yourself over them.]
[I mean, they aren't really any trouble.]
[Just leave them to me! I mean… us.]
It may just be me, but I feel that Crinis has become a little more intense lately. She's always been a little bit … on edge. But since the Garralosh fight she's been fighting hard for every scrap of experience she can get her horrific, barbed limbs on.
[How close are you to evolving now Crinis?]
[… I still need six more levels.]
[Don't stress about it. We'll get you up to level twenty in no time flat. You're doing great work, no need to beat yourself up.]
I can tell from the sullen knot she's making with her tentacles that she's not happy. Tiny is still flexing his hands and eagerly eyeing our surroundings looking for things to beat up. I can't help but sigh a little. Both of my pets are feeling the desire for strength. I understand it, now that I've reached tier five, my strength has skyrocketed. Crinis doesn't want to feel useless and Tiny doesn't want to fall behind.
I need to get my hands on some appropriate level cores for them in preparation. Tiny will need a rare core, who knows where I can get my mandibles on one of those. I think Crinis will be fine with a special core evolution. Trying to absorb a rare core at her tier may not be safe.
[Let's keep looking around. We must be getting close to the forest expanse by now.]
The three of us clean ourselves up for a moment, scanning our defeated foes for cores to absorb and eating a little Biomass before we move on. I've been trying to get back to the place I saw Formo, since that would be the obvious place to start searching. We've been pushing through the twisting tunnels of the Dungeon for three days, taking a brief nap to refresh ourselves after the first fifteen hours.
We are far from the colony here and the support from my Vestibule has begun to fade. I'm honestly surprised it goes this far, I'm a long way out after all. Perhaps further mutations to increase the range will keep me in touch with my siblings from a truly ridiculous distance. Food for thought.
The tunnels before us are dark and oppressive once more, now that the light of the walls has faded back to a muted glow. Jagged stone formations cast pointed shadows at odd angles and the constant shrieking roar of monsters has been replaced by the muted scurrying and furtive battles that I recall from my 'youth'.
The mana levels are still higher than they were when I was born, but we are back to a much more comfortable state of affairs. Certainly travelling is much more comfortable than it was before. Our trio continues to pick our way forward through the tunnels. I focus on my antennae as we travel, ensuring that I try and pick up every lurking creature. Running through all these tunnels is doing wonders for my tunnel map, I'm filling in all sorts of new territory. As this tiny slice of the Dungeon continues to unfold in my mind map, the thousands of smaller and larger tunnels that twist in every direction, branching seemingly infinitely, the sheer size and complexity of the Dungeon is starting to come into view.
It's big. It's real big.
Wait a sec… tentacles?
[Watch out, Master!]
From her traditional riding position on my back., Crinis whips out a few tentacles to grab a nearby stone pillar and drags me to one side just as another set of tentacles whip through the air where I'd been just a moment before.
[Crinis?! What the hell?!]
[It's not me!]
I process that for a second.
I'd been slow to react since when I see tentacles in my future sense I ignore it. It's always Crinis after all!
Just as I realise what is attacking me, Crinis releases a decidedly un-Crinis like growl of rage.
[Crinis what's -]
Before I can even ask what's wrong, there is an explosion of dark limbs within the narrow tunnel, blocking my sight entirely. The almost black tentacles writhe through the air towards us and with a shriek of rage Crinis launches herself forward, throwing herself from my back and rapidly expanding.
In seconds the tunnel is completely filled with writhing limbs and I can't for the life of me tell which tentacles belong to which creature. Tiny and I back off a little, helpless to discern where exactly we should attack.
[Crinis are you alright?!]
Yikes! Something about this has really gotten underneath Crinis' skin! Wanting to help my pet, I scramble up the side of the tunnel and try to get a better view. As my claws grip the stone I feel a little dismay at the difficulty I feel hauling my newfound bulk off the ground.
Damn! This mass and size are really weighing me down here. Literally!
Gritting my mandibles I haul myself up and get myself upside down to try and push forward. Unfortunately the tunnel is still a wall of battling tentacles in front of me. Crinis' main body is pushing forward toward the conflict, eager to close the distance and I decide to do the same.
Here we go, try something new. Upside down DASH of power!
My legs scream at the load as I activate my dash skill whilst hanging upside down from the roof. In less than a second I smash into the wall of coiling limbs, my sheer size pushing them out of the way through sheer momentum. Beyond, I see something I didn't expect to see.
Similar to Crinis, but also different, the monster looks like a dark flower made of shadow and tentacles. Thick limbs like petals rotate around the centre of a giant, dripping maw, suspended on a stalk-like pillar of limbs. The 'head' of this monstrous flower tips from side to side as an increasing number of tentacles extend from the body to combat my pet.
Is this thing more evolved than Crinis is?!