It is well known that different nations and cultures hold different attitudes towards the Dungeon. That the Dungeon provides resources to be used is a common thread to be sure, but the manner of their use, the manner of their acquisition and the reverence with which they are treated varies greatly across the continents of Pangera.
The Legionem Abyssi's defensive attitude towards the Dungeon and restrictive policies towards it are well known to all major scholars.
The Church of the Path and those of the broader faith regard the Dungeon as a holy place, the battling of monsters and the harvest of materials from within a religious calling. The more fanatical branches of the church are rumoured to conduct all manner of rituals within the Dungeon and certainly encourage all members of the faithful to seek enlightenment beneath the earth.
The Cold Blades of Illirethil, the Wise Ones of Coggar Nothan, the Eastern Empire of Kallasar, all have their own traditions and expectations towards the Dungeon that they have cultivated over thousands of years.
Cultural study of Pangera and the Dungeon. Chapter 1. By the Magio Scholar Tarius
The large snake core glitters in my eyes as I pick it up and take it over to the rest of my cores. I can easily see that this core is powerful, but I'm not certain that it is powerful enough for my purposes.
Using my antennae, one placed on the large core and the other on one of the smaller ones, I activate the Core Engineering skill and try to combine the two.
Immediately I feel incredibly fierce resistance, pushing back against my mind until a pounding headache erupts between my temples. ARGGHH. These stupid cores… they think they're all that!!!
Forcing with all my spirit I mentally smash the cores together and hold them tightly, refusing to allow their energies to budge even a millimetre apart.
The larger core exerts far more force than the smaller one, pushing back with an almost irresistible pressure.
But my will is indomitable!
Surrender to me you damned rock!
Eventually the two cores melt together, or more accurately the smaller core is pulled into the larger one and they fuse together.
With the sudden release of pressure I collapse onto the floor of the tunnel. Ugh. This is way too hard.
I don't allow myself to slump for long. Picking myself up I peer carefully at the massive core, my antennae tapping over it intensely and listening for the voice of Gandalf.
[Compatible core detected, do you wish to reinforce your core or reconstitute the monster?]
As if I would want to reconstitute the mess of a monster this core contains after I smashed another core into it! All I want is to try and manufacture a special core!
Determined, I grasp another small core and begin the process again.
[Compatible special core detected …]
I gleefully grasp the core in my mandibles and take it towards my trusting, unsuspecting pet Tiny.
[Tiny, use this core as well]
The bat faced Gorilla stares at me for a moment before shaking his head and tapping his chest.
[I know buddy, but you can take in one more, just this one].
Absorb the special core you disobedient ape! I just spent so much effort making this for you!
Eh? What the heck is thwick?!
Retracting my mandibles I pull back from my pet to see what is happening, and my heart lifts when I see the core is stuck to the top of Tiny's head like a spherical hat and his ape face is scrunched in concentration and pain. I can see the energy within the core leeching out and into the suffering ape. As time passes the core grows smaller and smaller as the suffering on my friends face becomes more intense.
I can totally sympathise with my poor ape buddy. I clearly remember the pain of having that special core push your own capacity beyond the limit. Endure it Tiny! This will unlock a whole new future for you!
As more time passes the expression on Tiny's face turns from one of suffering into a snarl. His broad shoulders heave and his powerful fingers claw deep trenches into the tunnel floor as he embraces the beast within.
You can do it Tiny! Endure it!
Finally the process is finished and the core has been fully absorbed. The poor guy is still growling, his fists clenching and unclenching.
I tentatively approach him and pat him on the head with my antennae.
I have to admit a strong feeling of guilt is rising in me. I really don't want to see him in pain, I raised him from when he was just a core after all! I try to firm up my resolve by reminding myself that this is for his own good.
[Evolve Tiny! You need to evolve and get stronger, then you won't hurt anymore!]
I don't think he hears me. His beady bat eyes are filled with anger and pain, his mouth is wide open, revealing his fangs but no noise emerges. Tension fills every line of his face.
[Come on Tiny! You've got to evolve! It's the only thing that will help!]
I move closer to my suffering pet to try and soothe him with my presence, stroking his head with my antennae and constantly talking encouragement to him, urging him to begin his evolution. I'm not even 100% certain that Tiny has reached his max level, given the ape's intelligence, it would be very hard for me to try and extract that information. I could have taken the skill that lets me see his stats but I'm reluctant to part with a skill point just for that. Any reasonably intelligent pet would be able to communicate that to me on their own, surely?
Even if he can't evolve, I'm living proof that a monster can live with an oversized core for an extended period of time. If he can't evolve right now then surely it isn't far away. The main point of my soothing is just to try and help Tiny calm down and adjust to the painful feeling of his new core.
Gradually Tiny is able to relax, his muscles unclenching and uncoiling one by one and his breathing goes from a whistling grunt to slow and even. Slowly but surely he grows more still until his eyes slowly close and he falls back to sleep once more.
Poor guy, he really struggled with that process.
I don't know if he is evolving or just sleeping but I'm glad he's no longer in pain. Despite feeling terrible about inflicting such harm on my loyal friend I can't help but be excited for what the future holds for Tiny. I don't think many monsters are able to push their core beyond the limit and achieve a special evolution in this Dungeon, after all, without a human like intellect how would they be able to recognise the benefits?
Perhaps such monsters, capable of a more intelligent reasoning are common deeper in the Dungeon? The rabid beast like monsters up here are certainly not up to that sort of thinking. If one of them managed to achieve such an evolution it would be by pure accident!
Hang on… What's that?
Despite having turned my back towards him I can still make out something going on with Tiny, a shift or ripple in my peripheral vision. Snapping back to him my heart leaps with joy!
The apes skin appears to be roiling with energy! It's an almost ghastly sight as the fur and flesh of my pet appear to balloon and flow like a liquid, or a sheet blowing in the breeze!
I've never seen it myself but I think this can only be one thing!
Tiny is evolving!
Before my very eyes the changes continue rapidly. Even as his body continues to shift like clay his fur is growing rapidly, going from short and bristly to silken, stubby growth to long hair in only a few moments. His body continues to change at a rapid speed, in some places sinking and collapsing whilst in others bulging out with rapid expansion!
As the process continues I can see that he definitely growing larger! Quite a bit larger! His hands go from a dark brownish colour to a brilliant blue in what seems like a split second. When I lean closer to inspect the change I'm almost fried by a sudden blast of electricity that explodes from his hands, spreading to cover his whole body!
All over him twisting ropes of electrical current appear and disappear every instant, sizzling with power and rising the temperature of the tunnel to a boiling point!
And still he continues to change!
I wait patiently, watching every shift and detail of the evolution, my heart pounding with excitement.
When the evolution is finally complete I stand silent and awed. Tiny has become twice his previous size, completely dwarfing me and the tunnel in which we sit. His massive form is hunched over, shoulders pressing against the roof.
His fur has grown, hanging down from his long, powerful arms. I can see some of the finer hairs rising from his body, hanging, almost suspended in the air. I suspect the electrical energy in his body is running a current through him constantly, causing some of his fur to rise like this.
Suddenly, he opens his eyes and looks around in confusion.
I hesitantly try to speak to him.
[You ok there Tiny? How do you feel?]
Slowly he swivels his beady eyes over to me and they gradually focus. Then, he grins a wide grin. His bat features split to reveal his glittering mouthful of fangs. Then he thumps himself on the chest with one blue fist.
[Tiny feel strong!]