With the colony as well provided for as I can manage for the time being, Tiny and I once again venture out from beneath the surface and into the forest, resuming our role as scouts.
I really wish I could find out why the forest has been so much more active than when I first arrived here. Is this a permanent increase in monsters or will it start to die down after a while? Because it is getting increasingly crazy up here.
When my fuzzy companion and I start to make our way through the forest we immediately encounter another Bear Tyrant battling furiously against a Lion Ogre. The two massive monsters slash and bite at each other, every blow carrying their immense weight and force behind it.
The Lion Ogre leaps forward and attempts to bite with its impressive fangs, trying to rip a huge chunk out of the indomitable bear. However, the part lion monsters is shocked to find just how tough the hide of that bear can be.
Growling like a rumbling volcano the Tyrant bear shrugs off the Lion ogre with a toss of its head before drawing back one paw for a colossal strike. I can see the small puncture wounds on the bear's back closing over, even as it strikes savagely against its foe.
As impressive as this fight between these monsters is, are you guys really sure you want to be slugging it out in this place?
Sure enough, drawn by the roar of combat the scent of Biomass more monstrous beasts begin to show their faces. First a small pack of Dragon-Wolf cubs, then a Titan-Croc thunders into the scene, followed by a horde of blade tailed mice.
Tiny is practically clawing at the ground, desperate to throw himself into what I can only describe as a monstrous blender of death. Only my indomitable stare and a few threatening snaps of the mandibles manage to prevent him from embracing his inner lemming.
At about this point I decide to NOPE the heck out of there. There is no way that melee stops growing anytime soon! If I thought I could get away with it I'd love to try and nip up a tree, charge a truly massive gravity bomb and drop it on the lot of them. After two days of solid digging the gravitational energy gland is about eighty percent full, twice what I had available to annihilate the centipede nest!
In the end I decide to err on the side of caution. Some of these monsters may have been able to detect me as I charged up such a powerful magic, and if I were to be attacked with all of that energy stuck in my throat who knows what could happen?
With an increasing cacophony of sound rising in the forest, Tiny and I retreat and find another path. The scene does bring into the focus the biggest problem I have hunting out here on the surface. Any sort of fight is going to quickly escalate into a similar picture rapidly in this forest. Even moving through the forest undetected has elevated in difficulty once again, testing my stealth to the limit.
Eventually, I've had enough.
I'm so tired of bumping into monsters I could fight and win but having to let that Biomass and Xp slip out of my mandibles!
There has to be a better way to scope out the situation than this!
Grudgingly, I start to shepherd Tiny to towards the edge of the forest, where the trees and overgrown mushrooms give way to the sheer, craggy walls that support the colossal ceiling to this comically large underground space.
It takes two hours of careful treading, during which I level up stealth once more, before we manage to reach the edge of the forest and take shelter amongst the stone outcroppings at the base of the wall.
Tiny despondently scratches at the rocks as I ponder our next move, I don't doubt he still regrets having to abandon his plan to submit himself to mortal danger in the forest for little to no reason. You may be an increasingly strong lightning ape with a bat face, but you are thick as several bricks stacked on one another, aren't you buddy?
This open space has become too deadly for safe travel, too dangerous for safe hunting and generally a massive pain in my ant backside!
Actually… That might be the answer.
The open forest has become a complete no go zone, an area probably filled with monster spawn points, pumping out fresh Biomass 24/7 like a franchise fast food joint. The rate of monster appearance and the general level and evolution seems to be constantly be climbing! If the forest is out, let's try and explore a few tunnels then!
I know that there are a number of tunnels that connect to the edges of this massive place, I arrived through one such tunnel after all! There are also caves and small monster habitats that have been carved into the outer wall here. All of these places are probably much safer for me to conduct my investigations and hunting!
This could work!
Excited, I rouse Tiny with a quick poke and we begin to clamber over the rocks as we follow the edge of the forest around the wall. I don't want to get too far from the anthill so we move clockwise, a path that will take us close to the hill from our current position.
We still come across the occasional monster but they generally wander out of the woods, take a look around and then return back into the forest when they can't find anything.
It's during one of those moments, as Tiny and I scurry behind a few rocks waiting for a strange panther like creature to get bored and leave that the voice of Gandalf once again perturbs my musings.
[Advanced Stealth has reached level five].
Oh ho! After all of my sneaking about through the forest of death I finally get another level in stealth! Excellent!
Seriously though, this skill is hard to raise! Perhaps I need to be more consciously hiding from a particular target for the skill to gain proper experience? I don't know. The level has raised, this can only be a good thing.
After ten more minutes of searching we finally discover a tunnel entrance part way up the wall. From the outside the tunnel appears to be slightly narrow, but I think Tiny will still fit ok, if a little squeezed.
It isn't hard for me to skitter up to the opening but my ape companion has to make a more difficult climb before he can enter. Not in the open spaces now Tiny! Welcome back to the tunnels, ant country!
Once inside, I almost feel relieved to be back into the narrow, stony confines of a wild, unexplored tunnel again. The walls of the tunnel are brightly illuminated by the scrolling veins of light that have become so familiar to me now. In fact, the light is pulsing more rapidly than ever before, the tunnel is so well lit it almost feels like daytime in here.
Curiously I activate my mana detection skill and sure enough I get a strong response from the walls, providing the final proof that the these twining vines are in fact full of mana, almost like veins, transporting mana through the walls and throughout this entire underground realm. The realization is quite strange, it almost feels as if I'm inside a giant organism, the tunnels forming the arteries that move the blood like mana throughout a strange body.