Now that I know I can talk to my colony members, even if they can't talk back, I don't hold back and start to throw words at every worker I meet on my way into the nest.
"Hey, how are yor?"
Still needs a bit of work on that one.
"Hoos that work goging for yar?"
"Blice to see you ablarn".
Nearly had it!
As I wander about cheerfully greeting the ants around me they typically respond in the same way, by turning and tapping me about the antennae before going back on their way.
I'm not really fussed by the lack of response to my blather, just talking and getting the hang of my new mutation is reward enough for me.
Checking in on the brood I can see the little grubs are looking a little larger and a little less sad than they were before, pleasingly plump and growing they'll become new workers soon enough.
After shouting "See you flater!" to the workers I make my way down to the Queens chamber. By this time I've gotten used to saying whatever is on my mind to every ant I see so when I walk in front of the Queen, who is standing still and accepting a grooming for her attendant workers I give a friendly wave of the antennae and say "Hey there! How's it hambing Queen?"
The enormous ant turns her head slowly and ponderously before looking down at me with her large, unblinking eyes.
"Hambing?" she said.
She can talk?
The Queen continues to look down at me quizzically as I stare dumbfounded.
"Hambing?" she asks again.
This sensation of talking and listening using scent is very different to what I'm used to. When the Queen speaks I'm finding my antennae are not only able to distinguish the words she is speaking but also the difference in tone and voice. Her voice sounds patient and warm.
I concentrate harder to try and not make a mistake in my words.
"I uh, misspoke, your, uh, Queen…. Ness".
"Ah" she said, before turning away and once again becoming still as the workers continue to groom her.
I'm still a bit stunned! So the Queen can use pheromone language too? Did she choose this as a mutation advancement or is it something that she gets for being a Queen? Does it really matter? I have someone to talk to!
After a moment I try to strike up the conversation again.
"Hey Queen, uh. How are you?"
This is apparently the best I can come up with.
Once more the Queen troubles herself to turn back and face me before replying.
"Well. Are you well?" she replies.
I'm almost giddy. A conversation! An actual conversation!
"Oh… uh, I'm good! I mean, well!'
"I am glad" she says, before beginning to turn away again.
"Could I get some advice?" I blurt out.
The Queen once again looks back to me, patiently waiting for my words. Actually talking to a giant monster ant is a little more difficult than I expected it to be, much more difficult than say, having a chat with your school friend, not that I did much of that…
It seems kind of obvious, but I need to keep in mind that the Queen isn't human and unlike me, she never was. I'm not exactly sure how her mind works, what it is that is important to her. She's probably not even that old, I mean, technically in this world I'm less than a year old! Not that it really matters to monsters I guess.
"I'm uh, getting ready to evolve! I just wondered if you, uh, had any advice on what I should choose?"
The Queen didn't respond for a long moment and I was starting to think I might need to repeat the question when eventually her antennae reached down and tapped mine before tapping me on the head.
"I sense a strong core in you" she said.
"Uh…. Yes?" I respond.
"You have fought well for our kind. Choose as you wish, and continue to use your strength on behalf of your family".
"But I'm not certain what evolution is best!"
I can sense a faint amusement in the words of the Queen as she responds to me.
"All paths lead to greater strength and greater strength will improve the lives of our people. To the colony, it matters not what you choose".
Having said that she decisively turns away, giving me one last pat on the head with her antennae. I think I've gotten all the help I'm likely to get from her majesty at this time.
Turning around I start to make my way back to my trap network.
Putting aside the buzz I'm getting from having my first conversation in months, I have to say that what the Queen had to say makes perfect sense from the colony perspective.
Every evolution makes the monster stronger, the colony itself doesn't give a rats ass which one you pick, as long as you use your new power to assist the growth of the colony.
So in the end, it just comes down to my personal preference.
Do I want to a commander or do I want to be a magic ant.
A general or a wizard.
I mean, when I think about it like that.
It has to be wizard right? Like, this is magic we are talking about… MAGIC. I could lord over the battlefield like a friggin' god if I can throw fireballs and lightning bolts around! Even what little magic I've seen has been super powerful!
I want to be a magic user for sure!
Mind ant is the only way!
I rush back to the trap network and find everything much the same as I left it. Tiny still sleeping and the traps are prepared but without any prey for the moment.
Waste no more time on your doubt Anthony! Commence the evolution!
Select Mind Ant!
[Your monster core has been formed and enhanced, it will provide bonus energy to your evolution]
[Manual evolution is active]
As it did the first time my consciousness is pulled into the evolution space, with dizzying menus and options available to customise the process of my evolution.
The first that strikes me is that I have far more energy to spend this time around. My core only contained 10mp when I first evolved and that provided a significant boost to my stats. This time I have five times that amount, I can't wait to see what I can do with it.
The first order of business that I need to take care of is to select my magic affinity organ.
[Magic affinity organ - this body part will attach to the core and drain magic power from it, converting that magic power into a specific type of energy to be used by the owner. This shortcuts manual energy transformation and makes the selected type of magic much easier for a monster to use. When the organ is filled to capacity the drain on the core will cease].
Ok then. So basically the organ takes mp from core until it is full, converting it into the type of energy I select when I choose the organ itself…
Alright then, let's see the list!
Holy mother of Gandalf! Why is this list so long?!
All the usual elements are here: fire, water, lightning (clearly Tiny has this one), air, earth, poison, metal, wood, light, dark and more. Then there are some more far out ones: death, mental, space, entropy, time, healing, creation, illusion, chaos and on it goes!
There are so many!
What the hell am I supposed to choose, Gandalf?!
Okokokok. Seek calm, seek calm!
Imagine digging! Digging away at the soil one mandible load at a time, tunnelling into the earth for ages and ages…
Think through the process logically. Firstly, we will put aside all of the natural elemental choices. Why? Because they are boring! I'm sure they'd be powerful and effective, but they sound so simple! Shoot fire or ice…. Its simplistic. Who is to say I won't be able to just learn that magic without the aid of an organ? I've seen humans casting fire spells and I'm fairly sure they aren't drawing on special body parts or monster cores to do so!
If they can cast that magic, then, as a former human, I can cast it as well!
It would be a waste to select something plain like that for my one choice organ!
Nonono. I'll have to choose something more wild, something more strange and difficult, something that would be much harder for me to learn on my own!
But which should I choose?