With my inspection of the goings on of the colony complete I make my way back to my own quiet sleeping chamber and continue to practice my Mana Manipulation until all of my Mp is spent and then I once again rest.
I haven't been able to be this lazy since my rebirth and it brings me a great deal of comfort to do so now. Perhaps my stress had been building up over this time? To be able to sleep and play without having to worry for a brief time seems like such a decadent luxury in this life.
If something isn't trying to rip your face off in that moment then you are probably the one trying to rip something else's face off. The never ending war for Biomass and experience rages throughout these caves, from the open spaces to the deepest, darkest tunnels. The monsters in this place are always hunting, hungering for more. Does it ever stop?
Where do all these monsters come from? And why? I still have so many questions about this world. For all of my success in surviving and growing to this stage, the thing I lack most is information. The kind of information a human society would have, history, geography, science. What in the name of all that is good is going on in this place?!
The things that seem so insane to me must make perfect sense to the civilisations that live here, if only I could find someone I could communicate with! Someone I can communicate with and that wouldn't cut my head off the moment they saw me…
The Queen is about the most intelligent and friendly monster I've seen but I can't exactly communicate with her. Perhaps if she evolves further or gains enough Biomass she will develop some capacity to convey information. Ant speak? Telepathy? Something like that.
Nothing I can do on that front except wait.
The cycle of rest continues for two more days. When I wake up I practice my Mana Manipulation until my MP runs dry and then bum around the colony until I get tired. By the end of the second day I could swear the Queen was throwing disapproving glances at me whenever I walked by, like a worried mother fretting about her useless child.
Dammit Mum! Just a few days off ok?!
The rest of the workforce never stops for a moment, endlessly running back and forth, venturing out to scout and find food then bringing it back, tending to the brood, cleaning up the nest, then entering torpor to rest before starting the whole process over again.
I honestly feel tired just watching them.
Tiny seems to be enjoying our vacation, lazing about on my back as we travel and sleeping at every opportunity. I can't help but think he'll get hungry if we keep slugging about much longer.
During my practice on the third day, the gruff voice of Gandalf finally comes through.
[Mana Manipulation has reached level 5, upgrade available]
YOUR VOICE IS LIKE MANNA FROM HEAVEN TO ME O GANDALF!
How long was this stupid system going to me make me wait!
How I've struggled, tempted constantly by urge to spend my precious skill points. I haven't even allowed myself to open the skill menu, lest I succumb and waste points that I may have needed to learn sweet magic skills!
But now. Now my time has arrived!
Eagerly I whip open the skills menu to advance Mana Manipulation.
[Mana Manipulation -> Mana Shaping, this advanced skill increases the ability to control mana into specific shapes and forms required for casting spells]
Ok! This looks promising, I'll upgrade that one immediately!
Now for the second step, looking at the complete list of available skills. I'm actually a bit nervous before I open it, I'm really hoping for something good!
When I do finally open the menu, a flood of new options have appeared, completely shocking me!
Skills I recognise from the beginning are still there but many others have joined them, combat skills, defensive skills, mental skills.
So many delicious goodies, I can hardly choose! Before I let myself get distracted I quickly hunt down any magic related skills in the list.
[Forceful Mana, increases the ability to release significant amounts of mana in a shorter span, with greater impact]
[External Mana Manipulation, grants the capacity to control and manipulate mana outside of the users' body]
[Mana Sensing, gives the ability to sense bodies of concentrated mana using the monster core]
These three skills are directly related to magic or mana in some way. Whilst I was hoping to be able to throw fireballs it looks like I'm still in the beginning stages. I'm a simple ant, when I see mana in the skill title, I buys it.
As soon as I confirm my purchases the now familiar sensation like trickling water over my brain. New knowledge flows lightly into my mind, pooling into the cracks and crevices, filling up the places that where lacking.
I have only a single skill point remaining but there are still so many fantastic skills to choose from.
Just as I'm agonising over which skill to take a name in the list suddenly catches my attention. I think … I know what this one is about.
[Core Mechanic, enables the user to manipulate the structure of a monster core on a superficial level].
Even though this skill does nothing for me in combat, healing, scouting or magic I can't help but think that this skill could be key to my future in this world. I remember when I reconstituted Tiny from a core, the system suggested that some skills would enable the ability to customise the process, probably in a similar way to how I could somewhat control my own evolution.
Despite being unclear on exactly what this skill entails, I choose it.
Now all of my amassed skill points have been spent!
I'm somewhat disappointed that I can't start using magic immediately but still satisfied I was able to take every mana related skill in the list. Hopefully soon I'll be able to start slinging magic around!
Looking at Tiny as he lies sleepily on the floor reminds me of his adult form and the Titan-Croc engaging in battle. They were able to channel lightning and spit fireballs but it didn't seem as if they were using magic in any intellectual way when they did so.
Is there another way they were able to gain those abilities? Perhaps during evolution they were able to develop an ability to naturally perform some actions with their MP.
It bares thinking about, I may be able to shed more light on that when I evolve again, something I hope will be coming my way when I reach level ten!
Now that I have my new skills selected I want to take some time to get a feel for what they do. The knowledge provided when purchasing a skill gives a sense of how to use it but that doesn't really compare to consciously utilising it.
First External Mana Manipulation. This one is going to be a little tricky. Slowly I focus my mind, abandoning my senses and reaching out with my thoughts. Gradually my consciousness unfolds into the open space, a strange sensation to say the least. I feel light flows of mana around me, slipping through the air like fish in a stream.
Different than the concentrated, dense mana in my core, these thin, elusive trails of mana are far more difficult to grasp. After ten minutes of trying to direct the path of the mana and bend it to my will I have to give up as my head is aching.
That is seriously hard! At this point I'm not even sure what practical use such a skill will have but since it's there I'm going to attempt to master it.
Next is Mana Sensing. According to my understanding I need to use my core a focus for this skill. Much like I did when I practiced mana manipulation I sink my focus deep inside, down inside the spherical gem that is my monster core. Inside, dense mana swirls and billows like hot fog. Rather than focusing on the energy itself, I let my mind expand to fill the space. Then I wait.
Gradually, the faintest echoes begin to register on my senses, as if a pebble had been thrown in a pool of water I'd dipped a finger in, tiny ripples lap against the edges of thoughts. Slowly the ripples grow larger and more pronounced, until I can determine a direction, then a sense of distance.
I actually think… this is the Queen?! It's difficult to interpret but I seem to be registering a strong concentration of mana very close, in the nest, below me somewhere. The only think I can think of is the Queen herself.
This skill is also mentally taxing. I'm flat out drained at this point, my poor ant head is pounding.
Still, one more to test.
For the final time I focus down on my core and extract the energy, directing it towards my mouth, as I've become accustomed to doing. However, this time, instead of releasing it immediately I bring up more mana, and then more, condensing it, compressing it into a tight ball of furious energy.
When I cannot compress the energy any further I finally allow it to be unleashed from my open mouth. Instead of a small puff of a cloud , the mana explodes from my mouth in a powerful blast of pure force. The energy howls through the air and smashes into the dirt wall with an impressive impact.
I'm completely shocked!
Was that…. The legendary shout?!