Rest and relaxation, Anthony you hard working Ant you. Don't you deserve a break? Haven't you worked hard enough for the moment?
Why yes, me, I have to say your words are wise!
Time for a break.
Before I returned to the nest I packed myself full of Biomass and managed to gain ten points, a massive haul! Clearly the creatures were highly evolved, at least two evolutions for sure, for them to provide such rich Biomass.
Not to mention my level has risen to seven! I'm practically swimming in skill points!
Another large discovery was made also, I was able to recover two cores from the Berserkers! Whilst I'd been hoping that their cores would grant some sort of bonus they simply increased my maximum mana when I absorbed them. They did, however, increase my maximum by four points each, which brought my new max MP up to 36!
I wonder how much further until I max out my core?
If my guess is correct, I'll be able to evolve again at level ten. I won't even consider evolving without a maxed core unless I'm forced into it. The best possible evolution, every time! That's my policy.
In celebration of my incredible wealth, and to let my nerves rest after coming so close to death, not to mention suffering the trauma of having two legs chopped off, I decided I would rest within the colony and not leave until my Mana Manipulation has reached level five so I can upgrade it and spend all of my skill points.
When Tiny and I awake in our empty chamber I practice my Mana Manipulation until my energy reserves are empty. I can practice a lot more now that my core is upgraded, hopefully it won't take long until I get the skill to level five.
Once that task is done it's time to spend my Biomass! So much to spend … It's hard to choose! I could upgrade my carapace all the way to +5 and still have a point left over. This is an attractive option, helping me tank up and letting me pick a mutation advancement. I could upgrade my regeneration gland to +4, which would be nice.
Antennae could be taken to level four, which would leave three points to spend on other things…
In the end I think I have to prioritise the mutation advancements. Each and every one of them has been a huge boost, I'm sure my carapace will prove no different.
[Would you like to upgrade your carapace to +5? This will cost nine Biomass]
[At this level you may choose a mutation advancement, select from the menu]
Once more the extensive list of possible mutations unfolds in my mind and once more I try not to be distracted by all the shiny choices.
Venomous carapace, cause poison to infect things that strike you? Spiked carapace, be covered in sharp barbs? Aerodynamic carapace, increased movement speed, what the heck?
There are all sorts of options that provide strange abilities and bonuses, like the sloped carapace which helps deflect piercing attacks by making the outer shell angled, or the flexi carapace which helps bounce back blunt force strikes.
What I really want from my upgrade is an all-around defence improvement. Something I can rely on to protect me. I have an image in my mind of a brutal armoured truck, bursting through the small fry, their small attacks pinging off the hardened armour.
I think I've found what I'm after.
[Diamond carapace, significantly hardens the outer carapace, increasing its resistance to physical harm]
It may not be flashy, it may not do anything exciting, but it's exactly what I'm after. The weakness of this upgrade is that it does nothing to protect from magical damage or any kind of status effect but from what I can gather it provides the greatest increase to physical protection.
I'll need to find other solutions to those other types of attack later, for now most the threats I face are physical in nature so this upgrade will be a huge help.
[Do you wish to confirm Diamond Carapace?]
Oh. Oh no.
Without the distraction of life threatening battle to divert my mind the mutation experience is completely torturous. My carapace covers my entire body and the entire thing feels like it is on fire. Hot barbs of maddening itch pierce through my body every now again, causing me to spasm and jerk my legs madly as I flop about on the ground.
Tiny watches the whole process with a curious look on his face.
Damn ape! Why do you get to look so relaxed!
Mind you, he is definitely getting larger.
Eventually the mutation is over and I take a moment to admire my new carapace. The colour seems deeper somehow, and here and there some parts of the shell seem to reflect the light brightly, shimmering occasionally in the gloom of this room. Don't tell me, there is actual diamond blended with my carapace?
Does this mean… My shell is now worth a ton of money?
I hope I haven't just put a huge target on my own back…
Next order of business is to snack up!
This time I was smart enough to shear off some food and transport it back to my sleeping space once I was full. Of course, to prevent my fellow workers from taking it away I had to bury it and sleep on top of that spot.
Merrily I unearth my morning Berserker snack. Tiny and I dig straight in, a little dirt doesn't spoil the food when you're a monster eating other monsters, it all tastes disgusting anyway.
After consuming this food I gain another two Biomass, leaving me with three points.
I immediately use them to mutate my antennae to +3. My offensive capability has increased, now my defensive capability has also increased, but I still want sensory superiority to be a focus. When I finally start to mutate past +5 I'll return to upgrading eyesight and then antennae. Deep down I always want to find the other monsters before they find they me.
After everything has settled down my status now looks like this:
Level: 7 (core)
Skills: Excavation Level 1; Improved Acid Shot Level 5; Grip Level 4; Crushing Bite Level 5; Advanced Stealth Level 3; Piercing Chomp Level 3; Tunnel sense Level 4; Mana Manipulation level 4
Mutations: Focused Eyes +5, Antennae +3, Restrictive Acid +5, Legs +1, Infused Mandibles +5, Diamond Carapace +5, Regeneration Gland +1, Pheromones
Species: Mature Ant Worker (Formica)
Skill points: 5
Such a quantum leap from how I was just after I was born!
I feel happy that I'm laying a solid foundation for future growth right now, getting all of my mutations up and focusing on my core and magic skills will surely pay dividends in the future.
Since I've reconnected with the colony there at least some level of safety that surrounds me. Unless we continue to get attacked…
All of my Biomass and MP spent I take Tiny out for walk around the nest. I can see many workers sporting new mutations today, some larger mandibles or longer antennae here and there. The colony must have consumed well over a hundred Biomass all up, it would impossible for the Queen to take all of it so the workers were able to reap some rewards.
Paying a visit to the nursery there are quite a few new Pupa along one wall. This is the final stage of infancy, after they grow in these cocoons the new hatchling workers will emerge. What's more impressive is the huge clutch of new eggs that have appeared in one corner. There must be hundreds of them!
The Queen really went all out…
If the colony can secure enough food to grow these guys into adulthood then the colony could double in size very quickly, which would in turn help secure my own safety.
We will rise together my ant brethren!
Tiny and I play with the larvae for a while and then pay a visit down to the royal chamber. Not unsurprisingly the Queen is taking a nap, resting after her exertions of the last few hours. She must have emptied out all of her mana to cast that healing spell and I can vaguely understand just how mentally draining it is to shift that much mana.
Quite a few workers are standing guard around the Queen, ensuring nothing untoward happens to the most important individual to the colony.
That is, the most important other than me!