Full of glee I head back towards the lake. My combat test run was a massive success! My newly upgraded acid worked better than I'd imagined and the power of my bite attacks has skyrocketed.
If I manage to get my mandibles to +5 I wonder what I'll be able to do then?
I'm at risk of getting a little carried away with myself again. Head in the game Anthony, your new family isn't going to find itself!
Once I arrive at the lake I make my way around to the pheromone trail, my antennae tippy tapping along the edge of the water.
The usual collection of monsters has gathered again, eyeing each other off and getting a good drink of sweet, sweet mana juice.
If I look at the water it appears more agitated than it did before. The strange formations within the lake are moving more rapidly and intensely than before, I swear the lake is also brighter. Ever since I arrived in this world things have been getting brighter…
Is this a seasonal thing? Are we coming out of underground winter and moving into underground summer?
Well, there's nothing I can think of to answer that mystery other than wait and see what happens.
Excitedly I pick up the trail and start following it away from the lake.
It seems like the trail has become a little weaker over the last day or so, which means no ants have come through here and reinforced it for the last while. In some ways I'm glad because it means that none of them have shown up here when I wasn't watching, which would have been depressing.
Even if the chemical signal is a bit weaker than before, it's still strong enough to be fairly simple to follow into the forest. This feels a bit exciting now, moving into new, unexplored territory!
The weird plant life in the forest continues to perplex me. I'm finding shorter trees in this area, probably only a few metres high but shaped like an inverted Christmas tree, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. As I watch the different levels of foliage appear to be swaying in the breeze, but each level sways in a different direction.
I then realise there is no breeze.
Out of curiosity I flip a rock at the tree and I swear the branches twitch to knock it away.
Ok then, staying away from that tree in future!
I have enough trouble with them more regular monsters, I don't feel any need to start tangling with the plants!
By relying on my stealth I'm able to avoid a few groups of monsters and stay on the trail as it winds through the forest. The trail doesn't follow a straight line but bends and curves, laid down in whatever path the first scout to come through here took as they wandered about.
Suddenly a powerful roar explodes in the forest not far away from where I am, the heavy impact of monster combat rings in the air immediately afterwards.
Yikes! Some monsters are getting serious over there!
I decide to investigate whilst keeping my distance, I don't want to be dragged into what sounds like a battle of the big boys.
Sure enough, when I creep close enough to see the action, two monsters I'm still unwilling to tangle with are laying right into each other.
First is the Titan-Croc, possibly the same one from the lake and second monster is the massive bat-faced gorilla looking creature I'd seen before at the lake.
Although this particular gorilla is significantly larger than that one was.
He's absolutely huge. The Bat-Gorilla king?!
The Titan Croc has stood up on its hind legs, the smaller and thicker mid-section arms looking slightly silly waggling in the air not able to do much. The Croc is still huge when standing, easily four to five metres tall, matching the Bat-Gorilla in height easily.
This is a battle of the freaking giants this is! I refuse to believe this massive things have evolved once, as I have. Surely this size is the result of at least two, maybe three evolutions. How could it fair otherwise? Eh Gandalf?!
The Croc is much slower on its hide legs but is able to swing its massive claws in devastating, wide swings, raking the sword like edges with tremendous force.
The Bat-Gorilla is far more nimble, ducking forward and back to avoid the swings but it doesn't look nearly as solid defensively, the Crocs' thick hide nullifying its blows.
In a fit of rage the Ape smashes both fists into the ground and roars will all of its colossal might, veins bulging under its skin. Electrical energy starts flashing, first around the shoulders and then streaming down the dark arms, faster and faster.
Those massive fists start to glow with the accumulated energy until loud crackling sounds are emanating from both of the clenched hands.
That. Looks. Awesome!
The dreaded lightning fist!
The incredible light show is dazzling, what on earth am I going to see next?!
The Ape bellows once again and runs forward, massive fists crashing into the earth before leaping high, bringing both hands above its head for a massive two fist sledgehammer attack!
The Titan-Croc stands its ground, coldly watching the ape approach before crouching, titanic energy amassing in its chest to be released from between those dreadful jaws in the form of a searing ball of fire!
With a shattering explosion the ape tanks the fireball with its leathery bat face before the sheer momentum carries it forward, bringing both fists down with the strength of a lightning bolt, discharging the rippling lightning through the body of the Croc.
Both combatants stagger back after this incredible exchange and I remember to start breathing again.
That was hella impressive! At what point am I going to be able to do totally sweet moves like that Gandalf?
Launching fireballs out of the mouth? Channelling lightning into the fists? Maybe after my next evolution?
The two monsters eye each other with baleful glares. These two seem to seriously hate each other's guts. Something tells me these two may have fought before. After the last exchange the damage to both monsters seems to be equal and they continue their standoff, chests heaving.
Some might think I would take advantage of this moment to pounce on the injured monsters, peppering them with acid to take advantage of their weakened state and reap a fortune in experience and Biomass.
To those I would say: You must be out of your mind!
I am not going anywhere near these guys! Are you even seeing this?!
Wait a second….
What is that?
My eyes detect a flicker of movement on the other side of the titanic clash and I desperately turn my head to try and confirm what it was I saw.
I swear I just saw… Antennae.
There it is again!
What I see next causes my heart to leap with joy.
First one, then another, then ten more ants emerge from the trees, antennae furiously waving this way and that as they move around each other.
My people! My tribe! My clan!
I can tell from their colouring that these are definitely Formica ants! Just like me! I have found the colony at last!
Each of the ants is roughly my size though most are slightly smaller. I can also see a few hatchlings, just like I used to be, mixed in with them. Must be a group out of the colony to visit the lake, absorbing the mana to try and condense their mana cores. Good you guys! Give it all for the colony!
What I see next causes my heart to sink into a pit of despair.
The ants skitter back and forth for a moment, before as one, they raise their abdomens high and begin to blast the two massive combatants with acid.
YOU DID WHAT?!