After delivering the Biomass to the surface and marking it with pheromones so the colony will pick it up we return back down to the entrance, making sure to conceal it once again. I feel good knowing that all of this Biomass is going to bring the Queen closer to upgrading all of her egg production organs and laying the first generation of the new workers!
For that happy occasion to come to pass we need to work hard! Get to it Anthony! Protect the colony! Kill the invaders!
Once we get back down we backtrack up the tunnel check out the branching paths off this main tunnel. After two hours of meticulous searching we come up with nothing… no tracks, no monsters no nothing.
It seems like that deadly 'wave' of monsters only came up the tunnel we were in… it seems like too much of a coincidence to write off as luck. There must be something about this tunnel in particular…
After resting briefly (I get Crinis to hop off briefly so I can stretch my legs) I decide that we will venture further down and explore this tunnel a little deeper. We aren't that far down here, if there is any serious action happening it's surely going to be deeper than this.
The four of us gird ourselves and begin to venture deeper into the Dungeon.
As we descend I can really feel the difference in the mana. It's certainly more dense than it was when we fled the Dungeon at the start of the wave, no doubt about it. I think the wave has clearly moved into a new phase as stronger monsters with longer gestation periods are forming in the walls now. On the one hand it means they aren't popping out every few minutes but on the other it means a stronger fight when they are finally formed.
All in all its slightly better than it was before but not by much.
Still, this change leads me to conclude that something weird is going on in the Dungeon, and I don't like it. The monsters become tougher as we descend, even if they aren't necessarily a higher tier of creature. Something I've noticed during my time is that even creatures of the same species are often found lower down if they are a higher level. Perhaps it's a natural instinct of monsters to move lower the stronger they get?
Certainly I have a good reason to be inside the Dungeon, with my core draining until I die if I don't have access to the sweet, sweet mana.
Whilst we travel I start practicing the formation of the water mana transformation construct. It's far simpler that the Mind Magic one so it doesn't take long for me to start making progress. I wonder if this is how human mages train, by repeatedly forming these constructs they get good enough to form them at high speeds so they can cast spells?
It makes sense I suppose. I'm cheating in many ways, since rather than improve my mind through exercises and repeated practice I simply upgraded my brain during the evolution process…
Ha! This is the advantage of monster kind! This is my consolation for having to eat guts and bones all the time without any seasoning!
I let Tiny resume his monster slapping role as we explore, filling in my Tunnel map and tracing the side tunnels a ways when they appear. I wonder if there is an expanse down here somewhere? From what I've been told of the Dungeon they appear fairly regularly at various depths. The forest expanse was only unusual for how close it was to the surface. The various expanse are almost like the organs of the Dungeon, the vital ecosystems that keep it running. The connecting Tunnels are like the veins, allowing monsters and mana to flow between them. At least that's how the Queen phrased it.
It isn't really a question of is there an expanse down here somewhere but where it is. It may be straight down or off to one side of us. No matter what, all main tunnels will eventually connect to an expanse, so as long as we trace them out we are going to find one.
About twenty minutes later I finally succeed in forming my first water mana transformation construct!
So much easier than the mind magic one… My upgraded brain has already succeeded! Perhaps this is the effect of the affinity skill as well?!
I can't wait to try out some spells!
Eagerly I start feeding some raw mana into the construct and it begins to perform it's intricate dance, working its special alchemy on the raw mana from my core until it finally emerges from the other end as shimmering blue water mana!
I leave on sub brain in charge of holding the construct in place and task the other with feeding a constant stream of raw mana from my core into it whilst I take the mana and begin testing some of the known shapes to see what works.
First.. The bolt!
Following much the same principles as the gravity bolt I begin to use the mana to weave the familiar shape until a shimmering blue bolt is formed within my mind. Nice! Let's test this sucka!
Filled with blue mana a dense ball of water is formed that blasts forwards and impacts against a nearby rock formation where it explodes! Water flies everywhere and the stone partially crumbles under the impact of the pressurised water ball.
Let's try the spear!
I gather together a new mana thread and start trying to form the spear shape but the spell doesn't seem to want to come together. The more I try and force it the more it pushes back until the whole things snaps and comes apart.
Why the heck did that fail!?
I try again, a bit irritated this time but the same thing happens. I get to a point where the spell simply won't come together and if I try to force it then it just breaks and dissolves to nothing.
Let's put the spear aside for a moment and try something else.
I could try the Domain spell I guess… but I don't want to use that much mana and exhaust my mind so randomly… what other shapes are there? I haven't looked at the others since I haven't really used them in so long.
I flick through a few different spells in my mind before settling on one. This'll do!
The shape I've chosen is similar to the spear but more open ended, kind of like a cylinder within a cylinder and both are engraved with elaborate patterns and signs. Not the worst thing I've ever seen let's give it a go!
With my powerful main mind on the job I work patiently through the process of forming the construct and ten minutes later it's finally complete! I may have had to remake a few parts but for my first go that isn't too bad!
Let's power it up and see what it does!
A solid jet of water appears from above my head and blasts forward as if shot from a fire hose! Holy Moly! The potent stream of water sends spray fountaining everywhere as it smashes into the wall of the tunnel!
Ah, It's still drawing on my mana! Turn it off! Turn it off!
So, a water cannon?
Tiny is looking at me, irritated, dripping wet from the spray.
… Sorry about that buddy!
I wonder which other shapes will work. There are a few I still haven't tried, even with gravitational mana. Since my raw mana is being replenished quite rapidly through my feet I may as well try and experiment.
I think of the various shapes that have been implanted in my head when learning my magic related skills and find one to my liking. This one is sort of a curved arc with a cloud-like base. I don't know why but I feel like it will be impressive.
It's a bit more difficult than the last one so I take my time to carefully construct it as Tiny slaps to death the various monsters we come across. Eventually its ready and I start powering it. The moment I do, I realise that this one is going to need quite a lot of juice before I can cast it.
[Tiny? Come and stand behind me]
The giant ape stop and immediately moves behind me, carefully positioning his lumbering form to avoid possible splashback.
Still thinking about that eh?
Being careful I continue to feed the water attribute mana into the spell as it comes out of my transformation construct, drawing the reserves in my core lower and lower. Just how much is this spell going to take?!
Aha! Ready at last!
Eagerly I activate the spell and then stumble a little as the potent magic activates.
With a colossal BOOM water EXPLODES out of the ground in front of me with a deafening roar and thunders down the tunnel in a mighty tidal wave!
Stone pillars shatter and get washed away by the sheer kinetic force of the wave as it froths and foams forwards, eventually following the tunnel around a bend and out of sight.
Then we hear a chorus of angry roars echoing back up the chamber towards us.