Victory! Sweet, sweet victory has been secured! For the colony! For all of ant kind! I almost felt sorry for that stupid Rhino monster. I rate the monster as little more than a ridiculous concept. It was too slow when it mattered and unable to defend itself in so many situation. Hardly the kind of thing that could be depended on in any sort of situation. After battering it with a hail of condensed gravity bolts, it was unable to muster any sort of resistance at all!
When the monster can't even move, surely they couldn't have believed I wouldn't be able to break through that tough defence eventually? Morons! Pure morons! Now they will be forced to bow before the mighty strength of ant kind! They have no choice but to acknowledge our superiority!
[They still think you're useless,] Granin broke into my triumphant internal monologue.
After the battle I'd eaten my fill of the Rhino and been escorted back to my cell. Fortunately the Shapers weren't cheap enough to rob me and my hard won Biomass was delivered to me along with the core of the slain monster. Granin appeared shortly after, radiating smugness, for a debrief.
[How did you even know what I was thinking?] I demand.
[It's not hard to work it out. You're very prideful of your species and your antennae do this weird twitchy thing when you get overly happy.]
[It's nice to see you in a better mood at any rate,] Granin continued, [you've been a little unsteady for a while now. If you don't mind me saying so.]
[I wonder why that would be?!]
I feel like he has a point. Being captured and thrown into this terrible situation has thrown me off balance. It's been a real struggle to adapt to the rapid change in my circumstances and face being put at the mercy of others for the first time since my rebirth. My stress had been building to dangerous levels. Although it would be weird for a human to say, having the opportunity to battle and triumph has really helped me settle down. I feel like I'm thinking more clearly and I feel much more calm.
I can't hold onto the grudge, that doesn't help me get out of this situation. That's something I need to keep on reminding myself. The time to hold tight to the grudge is after I've made my escape and made contact with the colony
[See, you're doing it again, the happy antennae wiggling thing.]
[Ah How curious.]
[Don't waste the core of this beast either. It's a tier six and they made sure to stuff it full at every level. Could even make an interesting pet]
[Rejected. I already have a meathead power pet. I don't need another.]
[You mean the ape? This creature is much superior to that]
Granin shakes his head and dismisses the thought with a wave of his hand.
[Have you taken any time to look at your status since the fight?]
[I haven't actually. I know I got a few levels]
[May as well take a peek, then we can work out what you need to do before the next battle. We should have a few days.]
I quickly brought up my menu and checked out my status.
Level: 23 (Rare) (V)
Expert Excavation (III) Level 7; Expert Grip (III) Level 2; Expert Stealth (II) Level 1; Tunnel Guide (III) Level 2; Iron Mind (IV) Level 6; Expert Stamina (III) Level 12; Profound Meditation (III) Level 16; Flicker Dash (III) Level 10;
Mana Moulding (IV) Level 2; Condensed Mana (III) Level 11; Finer External Mana Manipulation (III) Level 15; Mana Coveter (III) Level 7; Expert Water Magic Affinity (III) Level 3; Empowered Mind Magic Affinity (III) Level 6; Expanded Mana Sensing (III) Level 8; Enhanced Healing Magic Affinity (III) Level 4; Advanced Fire Magic Affinity (II) Level 5; Advanced Earth Magic Affinity Level 2; Air Magic Affinity Level 1;
Distant Pet Communication (II) Level 5; Core Crafting (IV) Level 2; Pet Growth Speed (I) Level 1;
Master Exo-Skeleton Defence (IV) Level 2; Advanced Dodge (II) level 8; Advanced Endure (II) Level 4; Advanced Grace (II) Level 3;
Deadly Acid Shot (III) Level 9; Expert Precise Shooting (III) Level 2; Omen Chomp (IV) Level 8;
Perimeter Eyes +15, Future Sight Infrared Antennae +15,
Complete Diamond Carapace +25, Supportive Inner Carapace Plating +15,
Rapid Absorption Legs +15, Empowered Mandibles +15, Regrowth Regeneration Gland +15, Loquacious Pheromone Gland +15, Vast Hungering Stomach + 25; Blink Musculature +15, Transmission Sub-Neural Network +15;
Mana Binding Acid +15, Hyper Pressurised Acid Nozzle +10; Potent Acid Concentration Gland +10, Fatiguing Acid Stimulation Gland +10,
Adaptable Coordination Cortex +15,
Bottomless Gravity Magic Gland +15, Collective Will Vestibule +5;
Species: Juvenile Colony Paragon (Formica Sapiens)
Skill points: 8
A lot of progress has been made! Having my sub-brains grinding away at skills has been worth it. My mana manipulation has reached rank four, which is nice. External Mana Manipulation is climbing particularly well, this can only be a good thing. The elemental magics are chugging along. I haven't started on air yet, but I should get there at some point. After grinding for food and chomping on most of the Rhino I've piled up a good bank of Biomass as well, all of which needs spending!
A heck of a long way to go for my next evolution. Level eighty seems forever away. I doubt I'll manage to get to it during this darned competition at any rate.
I'm not willing to reveal too much information to Granin, but I feel as though the rock man has earned at least some level of trust from me. Certainly, there is a lot that I can learn from him. Whereas the Sophos were willing to share with me their secrets of Core Shaping and pet rearing, they were a little more close mouthed on general System knowledge. I was able to learn some stuff from Beyn, but his knowledge is more specialised for helping humans. These guys, the cultists, have an incredibly in depth knowledge of the System from the monster perspective. I'm not likely to find another opportunity like this for a long time!
After I share some of my information with Granin he pauses to think for a few minutes before confirming something with me.
"So you have four brains inside that shell of yours?"
"And a coordination cortex?"
Isn't it obvious?
"So I can think about multiple things at once? I can cast multiple spells at the same time, maintain multiple mana constructs at once. It seemed like an inevitable choice if I wanted to use magic in fights."
"... In a way, you aren't wrong. There is a lot of value for a monster to have multiple minds. The reason we don't see it often in monsters that occur in the Dungeon, or even those that we raise in the Cult, is that it takes a tremendous amount of evolutionary energy to develop mental stats, brain matter being as complex as it is. By investing so much into your brains, you've sacrificed a lot in other areas."
"I mean, yes. I did go very much in a magic focused direction to begin with."
"Right, but what's happened is that your other stats have lagged behind where they would need to be in order to be competitive at your tier of evolution. I also doubt that your mutations focus in one direction, but rather have all sorts of effects? Right?"
"Right. On the multiple brains, did you ever consider how the surface races raised powerful mages seeing as we can't develop new brains?"
"You know what, I never considered it."
"No reason why you should, I suppose. For those of us with Magic related classes, we gain mental stats with every level up, which can lead to some big numbers, but even so we can't think of multiple things at once. If you level up external mana manipulation and mind magic far enough, you'll be able to use external mind constructs. Essentially they're constructs made from mind magic that simulate a brain. They still rely on the thinking power of the brain which cast it, but it allows a Shaper to think about multiple things at once."
"So wait a moment. If I have four brains, and each of them is able to create these simulated brains"
"With high level skills, you could have each brain running three constructs, for a total of twelve."
"Don't get too excited," Granin warned, "right now your brains are more than likely too weak to make effective use of the technique. A small amount of mental power divided into three just means you'll have three useless mind constructs. Having powerful minds that utilise this technique isn't incredibly more efficient than simply creating more brains, but it is better by a decent percentage. You'll want to develop in this direction in the future, so you'll have more evolutionary energy left over to supplement your other stats."
"I thought you'd want me to pour it all into mental stats."
"That would be better" Granin nodded, "but you aren't an unthinking monster I get to shape. You have your own mind and you can do what you want."
"I knew we were friends, Granin!"
"I hate you, deeply."