My mind snaps back to its regular housing and I take a moment to reorient myself. I'm still where I was before, partially buried in a mound of workers with the Queen standing in front of me, quite close.
"Are you alright child?" she asks, seeing me suddenly look so fatigued.
"I'm completely fine!" I gasp out as my brain continues to melt into sludge, "how are you? How did it all go?"
I'm anxious to know if there was any pain or discomfort during the process. I could have tested it on my pets but there is a chance that the skill would have a different effect on them since they have a different relationship with me than most monsters. In the end I went ahead and worked on the Queen hoping that it would all be fine.
"I am fine" the Queen assures me, "it tickled a bit"
So having the fundamental makeup of your being tinkered with only results in a tickle?
"That's great!" I cry, "excellent! The whole process has been a success! Hopefully from now own our family will experience a great gain in strength!"
I stick around to counsel the Queen about spending some Biomass to mutate her egg production organs. She is quite reluctant at first but after trying several arguments I eventually tell her that by upgrading all three organs to +5 it will greatly increase the effect of the changes I've made to her core. This isn't really a lie. If she upgrades those organs and chooses some good mutation advancements for them the rate of egg production will increase as the overall efficiency of the system goes up. I don't know for sure what advancement choices will appear but it isn't hard to guess that almost all of them will be based around speeding up the process, reducing the cost of each egg or improving the stats of the offspring, any of which would be fine!
Once I'm certain that the Queen has agreed to upgrade all three organs before beginning to produce the new workers I drag myself back down to where Tiny is waiting and take a quick nap. The relentless battering my mind has taken has pushed even my newly evolved self pretty darn hard. Using the Core Surgery skill in particular was exceptionally draining. If I'd attempted to do it with my old self I'd have had absolutely no chance of getting anywhere at all. My respect for the Sophos only increases the further I walk down the path of core manipulation. Just how powerful are their minds to create the things they do? Are their brains filling their heads and extending down into their torso? Where do they fit it all?!
When I awake it isn't because I've rested my fill, but rather because my antennae are picking up something strange. Emergency pheromones from the workers!
What is it?! What's happening?!
[TINY! Come on man! Action stations!] I blearily shout.
For once my pet ape is actually awake and when he sees me stumbling about drunkenly as I struggle to get my bearings he reaches out with massive paw and grabs hold of me firmly before picking me up and placing me on his shoulder.
I clutch onto his fur to avoid falling flat on my face and just like that he's up and moving, carrying me along for the ride. With his massive arms he reaches out and takes hold of the tunnel walls before dragging his massive frame upwards as if climbing on a jungle gym.
When we reach the Queen's chamber it is buzzing like a hive, the workers jittering this way and that and some of them stream upwards to the peak of the hill. The majority of them seem to want to remain and defend the Queen albeit in a highly agitated manner. Buried somewhere in that nervous mass of the workers the Queen seems content to stay still for the time being. I don't try to talk to her since it would be difficult to get a pheromone message through what is essentially hundreds of workers screaming "Emergency!" at the top of their lungs.
Being careful not to crush the ants as he moves Tiny continues to carry us to the surface one handhold at a time. By this stage I've mostly sorted myself out. My headache hasn't fully receded but it's much improved from when I began my rest. I've managed to notice Crinis and Vibrant are relaxing on my person as per usual, which is something of a relief. I'd rather they be where I can see them that off gallivanting somewhere when there might be a potential attack…
When Tiny makes his way out in the light at the top of the anthill I can finally take in the situation. Hundreds of ants have already appeared in response to the threat, aggressively postured to defend the colony from all directions.
Beyond them I can see something I truly did not expect to see.
Several hundred dishevelled looking humans are clustered around a number of wagons pulled by extremely poorly looking horses. At the lead is a figure that I sadly recognise all too well.
The priest, his robes stained with dirt and potentially dried blood becomes ecstatic at the sight of me and runs forward, spooking the workers considerably. They gnash their mandibles at him and I reluctantly ask them to settle down as I advance forward to meet him.
My life might be significantly simplified by this guy vanishing but I don't really want to kill him of anything. Besides, judging by the look of all of these people something rather serious has gone down. I recognise a few others in the group as members of the village that had rallied around me and the Queen during our short lived cooperation. In fact, the old lady I had captured before is here before… Enid!
As soon as the priest reaches me he falls to his knees and begins proclaiming in a loud voice, turning to indicate that the villagers behind him should do the same.
This guy really wants to feed the dark one's ego, doesn't he?
I still have no idea what the heck he is saying so for the time being I have to leave him to his own devices. It's a darn good thing I've evolved and actually have a chance to pull off the mind magic transformation, otherwise I'd be forced into some kind of interpretive dance right now.
Turning my attention inwardly and ignoring the prostrating human in front of me I summon the combined power of the brains and begin to painstakingly work on the transformation structure.
Not daring to allow myself any slips this time I double my focus and take everything slowly. This time I manage to make it all the way to the end of the process without stuffing it up but so careful and painstaking was I that it takes a full ten minutes for me finally complete it. During this time the humans have started to grow increasingly fidgety but the priests' capacity to extol my virtues seems to be endless.
Success! Finally complete! I admire the fiendishly complex final product in my mind. I've no idea why it's so outlandishly difficult to construct but it's done! Now to put the darn thing to use.
Along with the knowledge of how to construct the various mana transformers, the way to use them was also granted to me with the purchase of the skill. The construct itself doesn't do anything special, it's simply the magical mixing bowl that changes regular, attribute-less mana into the desired type.
In this instance, what I do is maintain the finished construct with one of my sub-brains and get the other to draw out raw mana from my core, which is then fed into the shape in a specific way. As soon as the raw mana enters, the construct leaps into life, surprising me momentarily. I didn't know it moved!
The entire construct begins to spin and whorl, different sections moving at different speeds and in subtly different directions. The entire effect is like a beautiful dance, like an engine but infinitely more intricate.
Then finally, FINALLY, out the other end of the construct a thin thread of glittering golden light emerges, Mind Mana!
With my main mind I eagerly seize this new mana and begin to replicate the spell I'd seen Formo cast so magnificently and the human Queen cast so poorly.
Mind Mana can do a heck of a lot more than this, I'm sure, but from what I've gathered this spell, which effectively enables universal communication between any two organisms smart enough to think, kind of overshadows the rest of the kit.
The Mind Bridge.
Hesitantly at first, then with growing confidence, I reach out and connect to the best Human for the job.
[Enid, what are you people doing here?]
The old lady leaps a foot in the air and drops her basket, spilling its contents and drawing the attention of the people around her.
"ME?!" she squawks.