They seem to be the bigwigs around here, unless I miss my guess. These three radiate that sort of aura. Although I can't say I approve of the way they are looking down on me like I'm some sort of roach who they might want to squish. I'm a much more valuable sort of insect than that, thank you very much! The ant is far more noble, far more dignified than any runt that hides under your fridge! Their cold and calculating eyes don't fill me with warm feelings, something tells me that this conversation isn't going to be one of my all-time favourites.
Because I'm certain they're here to chat. They need to evaluate the merchandise after all. Otherwise how could they make a sound judgement as to its value. These nutters only care about one thing, which is making a monster as powerful as possible and launching it at the centre of the Dungeon in the hopes that it breaks through all in its way to ascend to the most powerful tier of monster that apparently exists. As much as I enjoy a good cannon, I'm not convinced that I want to be a cannonball!
I'll have to wait and see how much of a choice they give me. I don't think I can break out of this place, so only rescue or following their instructions is left to me at this point. I can't help but curse my poor decisions that led to this outcome. Maybe if I'd been more vicious and fought to kill from the beginning then I would have escaped, made it back to my colony and been safe there. But nooo, peaceful Anthony wanted to slip away without causing enmity. Well where did that get me?! Clutched in the palm of these cultists!
Patience, Anthony. No need to fly off the handle. Need to make a good impression on these fogeys so they don't immediately knock me out and feed my precious Biomass to some hyena they've had locked up here for the last hundred years.
[Your enthusiasm at the prospect of achieving the dream of our fellowship is certainly inspiring,] came the dry tones of who I presume to be the leader of these three, the woman in the centre, [but you must understand that we can't take your dedication at face value? A more solid contribution is required to demonstrate your sincerity.]
[But I'm so sincere. Off the scale even. I want to be an ancient so bad, I already defeated a candidate out of sheer jealousy!]
Anthony, you're smoother than a greased snail! This couldn't be going better.
[We've heard of your triumph over the beast known as Garralosh. I must ask, were you not perturbed to destroy another of your own kind?]
Ohh. Tricky question. Don't want to seem too bloodthirsty, also don't want to appear too peaceful. If I explain that she threatened my family, then I may be pressured to explain why I would step up to the plate for a colony of 'brainless' ants. The less time spent discussing the colony the better. I get the feeling that the attitude Granin displayed toward my family would be a heck of a lot less flippant if he realised what I'd done to make them more intelligent.
The last thing I want to do is unleash some sort of crusade against my family!
[Garralosh threatened me directly and travelled a long way to hunt me down. I refused to hide from her forever. I don't relish the fact I had to take her down, but I also don't regret it. She forced the issue onto me when she could have left well enough alone.]
[You don't take responsibility for your actions?]
[I didn't say that.] These people are tricky! [I said I have no regrets with my choices.]
The three of them stare down at me for a moment, possibly consulting amongst themselves as I sweat internally. What exactly do these people want from me? If I knew that, then I'd have a much better idea of how to answer them.
[Monster,] a different voice this time, gruff and full of ire, [what do you believe makes the most powerful creature?]
An odd question I mean How would I know? I have my own ideas, of course, but I can't say with any kind of certainty that they'd be the best possible ways. Why are you asking me buddy? You're the one with hundreds of years of monster rearing knowledge at your beck and call! Maybe that's the point, he wants me to admit that they have the knowledge and expertise that I don't. An interesting play. The shaper in question is almost glaring down at me, so intense is his stare. What I did I do to get you so worked up, old man? Shouldn't I be the one who's annoyed?!
[I don't know.] I answer honestly. [How could I? I've been a monster for under a year, and before that I spent less that fifteen years as a human. I didn't know I could get mutations until I upgraded my first body segment to plus five. I didn't know how cores worked until I had one. I didn't know how reconstitution of cores worked until I tried it. Outside of some information and tips I picked up along the way, I've been flying blind ever since I was reborn here.]
[Interesting that you admit it so readily. Does that mean you would be willing to submit to our guidance?]
[Happy to take advice. You guys have a lot of information to draw on, obviously.]
The Shaper frowned.
[I did not mean advice. I mean that you would exclusively develop along the lines that we prescribed for you.]
[Ah, I see. Heck no.] I refuse firmly.
He seems a little taken aback by my abrupt refusal and stares hard at me.
[Care to elaborate on why?] The first speaker comes back into the conversation, filling the gap left by her associate.
[It's my life, my body and I'm the one who'll make decisions regarding my own future. Didn't the original ancients develop that same way?]
[We don't know how they developed. They grew to power in a time before the Dungeon had breached the surface of this world.] She sounds thoughtful as she considers my words. [I won't say that your argument is without merit.]
I can tell that angry man wants to interrupt then, and maybe he does on a more private line. Regardless, a few moments later I hear the leader's voice again.
[I would like to explain to you what is going to happen here going forward.]
[Hit me. My body is ready.]