"Are you returning to the colony, Eldest?" one of the scouts came up to ask.
"Yep! It's time for me to evolve."
"With your permission Eldest I shall inform the council of this event."
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"Go for it,"
Once I reached the front I started to run into more and more scouts and soldiers, as well as other castes mixed into the small raiding teams. It appeared as if the colony was scaling down their raiding operations, withdrawing the forward squads to the nest in order to spend the final hours before the battle preparing and resting. Which made a lot of sense really. Ensuring the ground was prepared and the warriors of the colony where fresh would make a huge difference compared to the starved and tired horde monsters who'd been forced to march for a week solid on almost no food.
Even though the ants started with very poor stats, it shouldn't be forgotten that every ant was a tier three monster after having gone through the training program, the same tier as me. They didn't have the benefit of maxed evolutions like I had, but they were certainly a cut above the average monster in the horde. Bizarrely enough this fight would be a battle of quantity against quality, and the colony of ants would be on the quality side of the equation.
At least that was true for the general horde. Garralosh and her children were a whole different kettle of fish. That's where the Queen and I came into the equation. Hopefully it would be enough to tip the balance.
"Off to evolve are you, Eldest? Keep up the hard work!"
"When am I not working hard?!"
"That's the spirit!"
Gah! The closer we came to the nest the more ants we bumped into. Running back and forth between the nest and the front, passing messages and keeping eyes on the situation, or just returning to regroup or sleep. Each and every one of them was happy to chip in with a comment, which is nice on the one hand but gets exhausting after a few hundred repetitions.
Even still, it was nice to be wanted.
My pets and I made sure to motor as quick as we could, but even so it took several hours to make it back to the nest. Colony activity continued to rise, we found workers digging here and there, soldiers patrolling and scouts rushing here and there. It felt good to be back amongst the family again. The heart of the family.
I couldn't help but let my mind wander over what had occurred in the time I'd been gone. Had the Queen evolved yet? Had the defences been completed? How many new ants had been born and trained whilst I'd been away? I was also looking forward to the progress that had been made by the different artisan castes over the previous week. The ants were collaborating and pushing themselves so hard that their speed of development was getting out of control.
When I tried to picture what the colony would be like in a year's time, I just couldn't. I knew that the ants would have incredible potential if I was able to increase their intelligence, but how could I have anticipated that it would be this successful? If we were able to survive the coming battle, the sky would be the limit for my colony.
Or the centre, more to the point.
When we finally began the final approach to the nest, the first thing I saw was the nest itself. They'd made it even taller! At some point it had gone beyond 'hill-like' to just a full-on hill! At this rate I'd need to start thinking about how high a hill needed to be before you'd have to classify it as a mountain! At this range I could barely make out the small forms of the ants bustling about on that enormous dirt pile.
As we drew closer to the nest I could see the huge amount of work that had gone into the defences being prepared. Traps were everywhere, dug into the soil and marked with pheromones. I had to lead Tiny around a zig zagging path to avoid him falling into what I'm sure would be a spiky and painful hole.
Beyond the traps were layers of walls and led toward the nest. Each wall wasn't large, only two to three metres, but after the enemy crested the first wall, a second lay a hundred metres beyond it, and a third a hundred metres beyond that. A lip of dirt a metre thick at the top of each wall would provide some defence from enemy projectiles and spells whilst the ants unleashed their own barrage upon the horde with the height advantage and in relative safety.
There were eight walls in total that formed a wide ring around the main nest and we climbed over them one by one as we made our way forward. Holy mackerel! There's even traps in between the walls as well! The colony had really gone all out on this one. I wonder how many trees they had to cut down in order to form this many stakes… Hopefully haven't caused a deforestation issue in the local area.
I can see that someone has been directing the construction to maximise the colony's chances against the horde of weaker monsters that were coming our way. There are probably hundreds of tunnels dug through the area as well, concealed. I can detect some of them nearby from their pheromone markers. It'll be interesting to see what the twenty have planned for those.
When we made it to the main hill we began the climb and received the friendly greetings of every ant we walked past. I had many opportunities to engage in some friendly antennae slapping and exchange pleasantries with the members of the colony.
"How are you, Eldest?"
"Looking forward to the battle, Eldest?"
"Who's going to defeat more enemies Eldest, you or the Queen?"
"The Queen obviously" I scoffed at the ant who asked me that.
She's tier six! With a rare core evolution! Don't even try and compare us. That's just madness.
It was a relief when I finally reached the top of the hill and took a look around. From this high up, it was easy to see the village in the distance, many of the trees between the two locations had been cut down, ensuring a clear line of sight between the two locations. My eyesight wasn't good enough to see what the humans were up to, but I'm sure they were just as busy preparing for the oncoming disaster.
My anger at the horde and those behind it hadn't diminished over time, in fact it had only grown larger. Garralosh and the Kaarmodo would pay for what they brought upon my family. I could only hope that the rage was enough to sustain for what was to come.
[Let's go down and find the rest of my rare core. It's time to do this.]