We make much more rapid progress in our descent this time as opposed to the first. Tiny is much stronger after his second consecutive special evolution and he smashes his way with extreme speed and a strangely casual attitude through these small fry. I don't think I've even seen him throw a punch, he's just squashing monsters flat underneath his palms for the most part.
I really have no idea exactly what he gained in the evolution. Perhaps some new organs? Something related to his lightning? Maybe a boost to his sonic scream? I'm more tempted than ever to take the skill that allows me to look at a pets status, simply for convenience sake but I resist. Now that I have the core surgery skill I can take a look at his information using that, it's just a bit more difficult to do so. I have a lot of skill points saved up at the moment so the thought of casually spending one or two to make life a little easier is extremely tempting.
As Tiny keeps slapping his way through the upper layers we pause every now and again to let the little ones eat. I've told Crinis to exercise as much as possible to aid her digestion in order to allow for maximum food stuffage in the shortest period of time. What this means is that she is frantically waving tentacles all over the place whilst riding on my back. She can extend a lot more limbs a lot further than she could not that long ago so I'll take that as evidence that she is fact growing properly.
Whenever we take breaks I flip open the skills menu and flick through it, looking for anything new that has appeared or anything that might be useful. There are a few skills I hadn't seen before that I'm considering purchasing, especially these few:
[Water Magic affinity, Increases the users comfort, speed and efficacy when using mana of the water attribute]
[Fire Magic affinity, Increases the users comfort, speed and efficacy when using mana of the fire attribute]
[Earth Magic affinity, Increases the users comfort, speed and efficacy when using mana of the earth attribute]
[Wind Magic affinity, Increases the users comfort, speed and efficacy when using mana of the wind attribute]
The appearance of these skills seems to answer a few questions in my mind. It appears that once an intelligent creature has mastered the transformation skill to some extent then they will be able to choose an affinity to make it easier to advance onto the next step. I'm guessing that with higher levels of the Mana Transformation skill, or perhaps when the skill advances to the next rank then other, more advanced affinities will become unlocked.
It makes sense that these basic elements are the first to become available since of all the mana types these four have the most basic transformation constructs, meaning they are the most simple attributes of all.
After some consideration I eventually purchase the Water Magic Affinity. I know that the Croca-Beasts have a fire magic gland, despite being based on an aquatic creature. Even if water magic doesn't prove to be too effective offensively against them, I'm sure it'll be more than a little handy defensively.
That thought leads me in an interesting direction. Is it possible for a creature to have poor compatibility with certain elements? Or good affinity? A water based lifeform like a crocodile doesn't seem to have good synergy with fire magic on the surface… maybe I'm overthinking the whole Crocodile thing. Just because they dwell in water on my world doesn't necessarily mean that they do here, or that the Croca-Beasts are better in water than anything else in the Dungeon.
I decide to poke through a Garralosh Infant core the next time I get one. My skill level is much higher now than the last time I looked at one and I might be able to see something I couldn't before.
We continue for about an hour, stopping every now and again. Eventually we make our way down to the location of the short cut we had previously dug. Whilst Tiny smashes everything I continue to charge about like crazy, delighting the little ones, until the notification springs up in my mind.
[Dash has reached level 5. Skill advancement available]
[Dash - > Rapid Dash. Like a flaming horse the user will be able to dash faster and with more precision]
I'll take it!
Even with this I still have ten skill points saved up… I'll leave it for now but I really ought to be spending these. Skill points in the bank do nothing to increase strength! I do need to a few points in reserve so I can advance key skills when they hit the cap but ten is really pushing it.
Once the local tunnel has been emptied out then we excavate the entrance and start clearing the shortcut of spawned monsters. By this time the Dungeon has extended its veins all the way to the top. Beasties and plants have spawned all over the place and started ripping into each other with gusto. It's all over very quickly once we arrive. I go into high gear just to help take care of things quickly and bite the heck out of everything I see. Once finished we pile up the more evolved species at the top of the shortcut and I spray food pheromones all over the place. This tasty meal should find itself in front of the Queen fairly shortly.
Next order of business! Brief rest!
Okay! Back at it. In order to ensure the Dungeon beneath the colony is safe we keep moving and mapping out the branching paths as much as possible. Every tunnel Tiny can fit in is explored to some extent, those that he can't I scurry into myself and snap everything I find to bits.
This is exhausting! On the plus side my Tunnel map is becoming more and more complete. This is something necessary for the defence of the colony.
After we spend another two hours clearing out the tunnels we reconvene once again back at the shortcut for another rest and feeding session. Tiny and I are getting very little Biomass from the food at this point. I scrounge together five points after stuffing myself, but at least I get the benefit of having my various nicks healed.
I spend the points straight away on upgrading my new supportive skeleton to +2 and my coordination cortex to +1. The most efficient play will be to upgrade these new body parts to +5 before resuming the journey to all +10. Technically I take a body part to +15 at this level of evolution….
I really need to get my eat on. I've evolved too quickly for my stomach to keep up!
I send Tiny up the shortcut with another shipment of food for the Queen. She'll get even less than I do out of these monsters but it's much better than feeding on the piddling surface creatures. The sooner we get that egg production system upgraded the better. The new generation must be as strong as possible.
I'll have to check in on her when I get back actually…. If she's storing Biomass to produce eggs without upgrading herself….
Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised.
When Tiny returns we settle in for a brief nap and then gather together into the main tunnel, sealing the shortcut closed behind us. It's time to delve a little deeper. We still have over a day of exploration time before we are expected back on the surface and I intend to be sure there aren't any threats coming from below before we return.
At this point I hear something echoing up the tunnel towards us. A faint wail, the fading sound of bone on bone.
Something is coming.