It doesn't take long before the sheer, overwhelming darkness wears me down. I can't take it anymore! I've had it! I've had it right up to the tips of my antennae! Through constant use, my mana sense is improving, but too slowly to satisfy my need for sweet and tender sensory input. Therefore, I decide to push my minds even harder and craft up a fire mana construct. Now one of my weaker sub-minds is maintaining the healing mana construct, the other the fire construct and the more powerful sub-mind is alternating operating the two in order to keep Tiny's health topped off and provide fire mana for me to produce some damn light! Having to upkeep the constructs is hard for the sub-brains, right on the edge of their capabilities and it won't be long until they start to ache under the strain. Whatever, they'll just have to toughen up.
The spell is simple enough, thank goodness, much less demanding than the flame thrower. The end result is a ball of fire that sits a metre above my head. With concentration, I'm able to move it around and I can feed it more mana in order to increase the intensity of the light. Of course, there are drawbacks. The heat source so close to my antennae makes them light up and constantly blast me with the strong signal, like having a powerful smell right under your nose all the time. It's not a bad smell, just strong, and constant. The other issue is, although my compound eyes that face forward are now able to see something, those pointing straight at the flame are constantly blasted by the light which, here in this lightless realm, is freakin' bright!
After ten minutes of it my eyes grow so sore that I ask Crinis to intervene. With care, she's able to extend a few slender tentacles to form a bridge above my eyes that shields them from direct light. The very first pair of ant sunglasses has been invented! Sort of
With these actions we are finally a little more comfortable to explore the expanse, which, to be honest, is extremely creepy. The tangle of overgrown corals are like gigantic roots made of stone that have woven together to form a three dimensional maze dozens of metres high. Under the light the endless nooks and hollows flicker with shadows that seem to hint of tunnels and openings that fade to nothing as we draw closer. And there's monsters here. Lots of them. We don't see much of them, but I can hear them and sense their mana as they duck and dart through this place with speed and grace where we trudge through like snails.
I swear, if I don't find and chomp one of these creatures soon and I'm going to start going wild on these corals. The only thing holding me back is the suspicion that they might all collapse down on my head were I to try. Crinis seems perfectly happy here, riding on my back and soaking in the thick mana that matches her affinity perfectly. Tiny shares my irritation. Being close to my own size, he shares my struggle to navigate the narrow openings we squeeze through.
Just when I think I can't take it anymore, I poke my head through a gap between two rival corals and notice there's a clearing ahead with some actual open space! At last! Even better, it's full of monsters to fight!
[Tiny! Crinis! Something to do! Let's crack in!] I cheer as I charge forward and out into open air. Because naturally we were ten metres off the ground at this point.
I can't make myself care about it. I slam into the ground, my legs straining under the pressure, releasing unpleasant popping sounds. Thankfully, they don't break. In front of me is what appears to be a nest of some sort of crab monster. They've created a depression in the floor of the expanse, carving out the floor until it resembles a bowl. Smaller crabs skitter about, startled by our descent but in the main the crabs are big and nasty looking.
Instead of crab legs they have slippery tentacles that support their hard, shell covered bodies. Their faces are a mass of writhing polyps tipped with dripping limbs, making them resemble a cluster of sea anemone more than anything else. I pump more mana into my fire light to study the creatures better and they flinch back from the flame. I don't believe they have eyes, but I think the heat scares them. Nonetheless, the larger and more powerful looking specimens come forward to shape up to us. Flexing claws filled with narrow spikes that weep a dark black fluid.
It's always toxins down here. It's starting to get annoying. I have the remove poison spell, but I'd like to have more protection against it. My carapace has been the best defence so far, since the monsters have a hard time penetrating to inflict their nastiness on me, but if they happen to get through, I want to be able to resist. If I open up my menu and find poison resistance that I haven't purchased I'm going to be super irritated.
[Tiny! Try not to get poisoned! I want you to hit 'em with lightning and stay light on those twinkle toes of yours. Got it?]
[Hrrn] he nods, reluctant.
Playing defensive isn't his style, but he's going to have to cope with it for the time being. If he's careful he can still get his swings in.
[Crinis, go wild.]
[I will, Master.]
[Let's do it!]
Full of vigour, I charge toward the mass of crabs, my mandibles flexing with anticipation. The larger crabs are big boys, as tall as I am with plenty of mass behind them. No way they aren't tier four. They don't back down and came rushing forward on their tentacle legs to meet us, their faces writhing in a disgusting manner.
Let's see if your shell is able to match up to this!
Like the manifestation of an angry god, the two dark jaws manifest and slam shut in time with my own, catching the crab metres in front of me and with a massive CRUNCH, its shell begins to crack under the pressure. The crab falls back into its allies, arms swinging wildly and I step back a little to create space. I only need a little room to raise my rear end high and unleash my acid!
POW! POW! POW! POW!
I blast out four quick shots, not aiming at anything specific but just hoping to cause a little chaos. Tiny has had to heed my orders and rather than leap into the middle of the thick cluster of crustaceans he dances along the edge, powerful arms swinging and delivering powerful shocks to everything he hits.
This of course makes me the focus of attention and it isn't long before more crabs slither around their injured comrade to surround me. Luckily I have an anti-surround weapon on hand, which I call Crinis. Tentacles explode from the ball on my back, snatching up crabs left and right. A second after she grabs one the air becomes filled with the high pitch screech of her barbs scratching away at the dense shells. Desperate to free themselves, the crabs start to snap at her limbs with their claws, tearing and ripping them as much as they can. Some crabs are able to free themselves, with help, but others aren't as lucky. With their outer defences broken, the poor creatures are as weak as I myself would be and quickly fall.
Come on crabs. I'm still hungry!