Thanks to my last encounter I'm finally starting to gain a little confidence in this new world. Perhaps I'll be able to survive and find my colony after all!
I mean … I've always been confident! Heh.
All right then. Time to focus on the next task at hand. Along with my purchase of the Mana Manipulation skill some knowledge on how to apply it has been planted in my brain.
It's a little disconcerting to think that purchasing a skill is directly modifying my brain and memories. Exactly how intrusive is this system? I don't really have the luxury of being able to worry about it now, so I push any doubts out of my mind.
According to my new understanding, the mana absorbed by my body comes from the air and is stored in my monster core. In order to use that mana I need to bring it out of my core and shape it. Hence the Mana Manipulation skill. With this skill I'll be able to take the first step of using my MP to do something cool.
Time to make an attempt.
If I concentrate I can feel my core within me, sitting right in the center of my mid-section. It feels like a tight ball of heat, faintly pulsing with energy. That would be my mana. Before I attempt to draw my mana out, I want to have a firm image in my mind of what I want to happen.
Something simple for the first attempt, OK? Let's go with … I want to release it as a cloud from my mouth. Just a harmless puff of mana from the mouth, easy.
Concentrating hard I focus all of my mental energy on my core, sinking my mind deep within myself. My core is still tiny, probably the size of a grape. I'll probably get chances to grow it in the future, my max MP is only ten right now, surely that isn't enough to do much.
My consciousness locks onto the core and then draws within. I feel like I've been transported inside a crystal world. Fractal angles reflect off in every direction. Within this space, the mana is floating lazily, turning in slow circles. Without anything to direct it, this is the state it will maintain.
I can feel the moment when the energy within begins to respond to me. Gradually it begins to move, to flow in the direction of my thoughts. This is so damn hard! Forcing with all of my mental might the mana moves reluctantly out of my core and through my body.
I feel the force welling up in my throat now, like water caught in my oesophagus. Opening my mouth wide a small puff of glowing, transparent gas is released and quickly disperses into the air.
That was so fricken difficult! I feel exhausted just from that!
I get that my ability to shift mana is as low as it gets but I'm completely wrecked after just one harmless puff of mana? Magic is HARD.
Even more then I want to master it!
Quickly checking my MP consumption I see that I've only used two points. All of that effort for only two points is a little depressing.
Never the less, the more I practice, the faster my skill level will rise and the easier it will be to practice, causing the speed of my training to get quicker and quicker.
An exponential growth loop. The faster I get through these early levels, the faster my future my growth will be!
Summoning all my determination, I once again focus my mind on my core, trying to replicate the effect.
GOD. Gandalf this is ridiculous! How did you master these mystic forces? Do I need a beard and staff?!
I manage to practice another three times to use all of my mana but on the last my mental energy runs out and I don't manage to force the mana outside of my body, causing it to dissipate harmlessly.
I'm so exhausted by this process that I decide to have a bit of open-eye to recover. I wish I had some way of knowing how much time has passed, being born here with a smart phone would be way too convenient.
When I wake up I assume it hasn't been that long, possibly three hours. I'm guessing based on how full my stomach feels. Digesting all that Croc will take some time.
I've also regenerated six out of my ten MP. I won't bother trying to use it all up until I get back to full. If I were to make another three attempts right now I'd only be wearing myself down mentally before going out, which would be too risky.
Even after emptying all of my MP practicing I still haven't gained one level of Mana Manipulation. I can already tell that mastering magic in this world will be a long project.
I can only take on that challenge if I manage to survive!
Time to head out and scout!
Emerging from my nest I take a little time to conceal the entrance before I leave, covering up the hole with some dirt and vegetation. I may not even return to this nest but if I can create a few hiding places as I move around it will only improve my chances of survival.
With that job done I take a quick note of my surroundings. There doesn't appear to be any creatures nearby, nor can I detect anything with my antennae. Thankfully as I've been digesting my Biomass, the insured antennae has begun to regrow. If I continue to secure food for myself my sensory organs will be returned to their former glory, at the moment they are only running at about 70% of capacity, thanks to my injury.
I can't get too mad about it, I gained so much from that encounter, the price I paid was easily worth it.
The priority for this mission is scouting and information gathering, not combat. Unless I'm able to identify a truly juicy opportunity I'll be passing it up in favour of information gathering.
There's been enough risk taking for the time being!
Satisfied that there isn't anything nearby I start to move out, keeping low to the ground. The massive cavern is just so wondrous to me. Such a ridiculous amount of open space under the surface just doesn't make any sense. I mean, I'm not sure exactly how large caves underground were on Earth, but you could probably fit a city inside here, so long as you lopped the top off the buildings.
It just doesn't seem possible for it to be natural.
As I move through the undergrowth my eyes are constantly focused in all directions. I especially don't want to be paid a visit by those horrible gargoyles from above.
I notice that the terrain in here isn't completely flat. Here and there I can see hills and large rock formations, reaching up towards the ceiling. It wouldn't surprise me if many creatures made their homes in these places, nesting in a more secure location will always be safer but also invite competition. I think I'll skirt around them for now.
Now that I'm inside such a large space the weakness of my eyesight is once again weighing down on me. It would be possible for me to climb a tree and be able to see a very long distance if my eyes were good at focusing on distant objects, like a humans.
My compound eyes are fantastic for focusing on all directions at once, protecting my from ambush but they are not good at seeing things far away, even if the range has been upgraded by my +4 mutations. This means I can't get a good idea of the whole area at once by looking from a high vantage point or through a clearing in the trees, I have to move and get somewhat close whilst building up a map of what I see in my mind.
[Tunnel Sense has reached level 4]
… Which is exactly what this skill is useful for. By maintaining my sense of direction I can get a rough idea of what landmarks are placed where.
About time you levelled up, Tunnel Sense!
Some skills really do take much longer than others to skill up.
Somethings coming…. I can feel it through my feet and antennae. Possibly something big. Looking around I scan the terrain. The thick, pale mushroom stalks sprout straight out of the rock here and there supporting the multi-coloured caps above them. The strange trees take up spaces between them, their twisted roots creating a gnarled carpet, spreading out from the trunk and piercing into the stone floor.
I can use those!
Instead of running and perhaps getting caught, I'll need to rely on my stealth to protect me as I'm out scouting. This creature could have incredible hearing, or sense the air vibrations caused by my running. They could be incredibly fast and chase me down. I just don't know. Better to hide.
Quietly I move to a particularly large tangle of roots and slowly climb through them, concealing myself against the dirt and behind the strange wood. With careful positioning of my head I'm able to see some of what transpires nearby.
The sounds of heavy footfalls is growing closer and louder. This is definitely a huge monster. When I finally lay eyes on it I almost pass out.
What the hell is this thing?!