The Biomass left behind by the demon was even less appetising in appearance than my usual fare, but that doesn't mean I'm going to leave a juicy pile of Biomass on the floor. I need 'dem points! So I stuff my +25 stomach until the only remnant of that hideous demon is the rather large glowing core on the floor.
After my last match and I obtained the core of the Rhino I did what I usually do with such a core. I pushed my core surgery skill to the limit making edits that I felt made sense until it felt like making further changes was like shifting a brick wall with my eyeballs, then I absorbed it. Surprisingly enough, the monster had contained a rare core, pushing my MP higher by a good chunk. I still haven't maxed out my core for this evolution, so I've been spared the pain and discomfort of pushing my core beyond its limit so far.
But this core. This just might be what I'm looking for. The core is also rare, not surprising considering the sheer power of the monster. I could muck about with the core and then absorb it, but I feel that might be a waste of this opportunity! This monster is exactly what I want! Even the profile seems to suggest that this creature would be ideal for the pet I've been needing to fill!
[Luminare Daemon Invidia: Lesser Envy Demon, This Lesser Demon has shed it's base demonic shell and taken on the aspect of Envy. All Envy demons are supremely jealous and covet what they perceive others to have. To that end they are intensely insightful, able to see that which others would rather keep hidden, and use powerful mental abilities to dominate their opponents through magical combat.]
Even the brutally dominant magic user that I encountered was just the lesser variant?! And what does it mean by 'shed its base demonic shell'. It seems to suggest that a demon doesn't even count as a proper demon until they reach tier six?! My own colony members are considered fully fledged members when they reach tier three! And it's not like it's twice as tough to reach tier six as it is tier three, it's forty levels to get to tier three including core formation. It's three hundred and twenty to get to tier six! Monstrous!
Putting aside what life may be like in the Third Strata, the weak physical skills, lack of mobility and focus on pure spellcasting make this monster feel as if it doesn't belong on its own, flying solo. As part of a group, acting as a support caster? Perfection! Eager to investigate the possibilities to their fullest I bring my antennae down to touch the core and activate the core surgery skill. My mind is immediately flooded with the densely encoded biology of the demon.
Holy moly! Granin wasn't kidding when he told me that the creatures from the lower strata get access to some sweet goodies that I'd never clapped eyes on. Dimensional pocket?! They get their own little bag of holding in which to store their own guts! That explains the gizzard explosion when I finally finished the monster off Still, that's only the beginning.
That sheer brain power was entirely contained within the one mind. No multiple brain shenanigans for this guy. The triad that managed him probably ensured that he'd be able to make full use of the mind construct technique to leverage those raw stats. It goes without saying that the demon has far higher mental stats than I do, whilst its physical stats are fully in tank mode. Some of these organs are just crazy. Eye of Envy? Allows the demon to see mental state and memories? Give me a break! That's a thing?! No wonder he was talking all that crazy talk. On the other hand, he's able to look inside and see exactly what support someone would need the instant they need it whilst using his creepy ability to apply devastating targeted mental magic.
The deeper I look, the more convinced I become. This little demon will make the perfect pet to round out my little gang. Without buying more pet related Skills I won't be able to have any more pets than three, but I don't need or want more than that. I'm starting to really feel the pinch in terms of resources to provide for the pets. The sheer number of cores, amount of experience and weight of Biomass required to keep them as strong as possible is getting hard to find. And that situation is only going to get worse. I need to make sure that I myself keep levelling and upgrading my mutations to keep pace with the threats I seem to continuously run into, which naturally takes away from what I can give my pets. Once I add this little demon to retinue, I think I'll have to stop.
[What are you doing, Anthony? Practicing your Core Surgery?] Torrina breaks into my thoughts.
[Ah. Actually no. I'm examining the core to see if the little demon will make a good pet to round out my group. I think it will fit quite nicely! I need a support type caster and this guy will fit the role admirably well when he manages to train up a few new skills.]
The Shaper stares at me for a moment before breaking out into a fit of laughter.
[What's so funny?] I ask.
[I'm just imagining the triad who raised this monster. They must have worked so hard. The painstaking effort to capture a demon and raise it all the way to tier six, training and guiding its development, only to have it lose to an ant. And then the ant takes all that hard work and turns it into a pet! I hope they never hear about it.]
[If anything, it's a compliment!] I defend myself. [They did a great job on this guy, his mutations, stats and organs work well together to create a powerful and insightful caster. He's perfect for what I have in mind.]
[You aren't wrong,] she agrees, [but have you considered that passing up on absorbing this core will mean that you'll be that little bit weaker for your next fight? Can you really afford to plan for the future right now?]
[I still think it's rubbish that I can't take pets into the fights,] I grumble, [I spent a lot of time and effort on my pets.]
[Whoever brought the most monsters would win. A competition of wealth is not in the interests of the Cult,] Torrina reminds me.
[I know,] I sigh. [Yes I know that the danger I'm in is very real, I only made it out of that last fight by the finest of margins after all. But if I throw away all of my long term goals to survive this tournament, what will I have left in the event that I do win? Nothing! I'll be worse off than when I started, having all of my paths to advance cut off.]
[In the end it's up to you. We're here to advise, nothing more. To be honest, I agree with what you're saying. It's one of the reasons that I agree with Granin on this tournament. Pushing monsters to fight or die forces short term thinking and corner cutting. An ancient won't be born in such conditions. The current ancients spent who knows how long growing into their strength.]
[Well said. Alright then, no point holding back, let's make this happen.]
Giving my full attention to the core, I bring my antennae forward and tap them onto the core.
[Compatible monster core detected. Would you like to reinforce your core or reconstitute a monster?]
Let the third and final pet be born!
The core immediately emits a blinding light as it melts down and takes on a new form. When the process is complete, a tiny eyeball with stunted, weakened wings slowly opens and looks up at me.
[Hey there little guy. Welcome to the team!]