I can't wait to see my status when this evolution is done. It's going to be craaaaazy. I'm already getting a headache just thinking about having to upgrade all of these new glands. So many!
But it'll be worth it, I may have gone on a bit of a shopping spree, but the utility I've gained is immense, not to mention by all around beefier stats. My size is possibly going to double, perhaps even more than that after this. I'm gonna start pushing Tiny around once I'm done. Gweheheheh.
Alright then. Time to confirm everything and drain this dangerously overloaded core. Just being free of this pain is enough for me to eagerly finish up with the menu and welcome the deep embrace of torpor. As it has in the past, the lassitude begins to fall over me immediately, my vision fading to black and sensation falling blessedly away. Ah, no more pain, no more sensation of a physical body at all!
Wait a second. I remember this sensation.
My mind continued to sink, falling deeper in on itself as if I were circling a cosmic drain to the centre of the world.
Here we go again. Off to chat with Gandalf.
Being my second ride on the … whatever this was … I let myself go and tried to enjoy it without the sense of vertigo kicking in. I have to say, it isn't easy to enjoy a disembodied experience since there isn't really any actual sensation but rather a vague dizzying sense of movement. Without any ability to perceive my environment and without any real sense of distance, I found myself feeling vaguely bored as I waited for the ride to be over.
[Well I do apologise if you find the trip dull. There isn't really any other way to bring you to me.]
Ah, the gruff voice of the Grey One himself. It's seriously uncanny how much they sound alike. Is this some form of cosmic accident?
Yes, well. It is what it is I suppose. How've you been, Gandalf?
A deep chuckle resounded around my free floating mind.
[This name you have for me is amusing. You continue to insist on using it?]
It's not as if I know your real name now, is it?
[And if I told you my real name would you change your way of speaking?]
[You've certainly kept up your fast pace,] the voice changed the subject, [I didn't expect to see you here so soon after the last time. I suppose your circumstances can be somewhat to blame.]
You can tell what's going on up there? I'm a bit shocked.
[It shouldn't be that surprising, surely. Everything touched by the system is within my grasp. It's only natural I could track the progress of so many monsters as they rushed toward you.]
Yeah well, any chance We could get some help out of you? It doesn't seem entirely fair. How are they controlling all those monsters anyway? Isn't that infringing on your role?
[Not really. Certain monsters have that authority. It's all part of the design.]
[You should have died, you know,] Gandalf said suddenly, [You weren't made to push your core that hard at your current level of evolution. Your core should have cracked and you should have been killed. That's how the system was designed, after all.]
Well… what can I say? Sorry to disappoint you?
[Oh, I'm not disappointed. Quite the opposite. You're a promising specimen, after all. It would have been a shame to lose you so soon.]
I guess I'm annoyingly good at surviving when I shouldn't. You said the system was designed, was it you who designed it?
[Oh, think you're going to ask the questions do you?]
I tried to roll my eyes but then realised I don't have a body, or eyes that can be rolled.
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You brought me down here just to talk at me? A little dialogue isn't such a bad thing is it?
[You know, it's been a long time since I was able to talk to someone like you. As I mentioned before, those that I've brought into the Dungeon tend to be on the broken side, and being let loose in that environment tends to warp them even further.]
There was a pause before the voice continued mildly.
[… Like that Garralosh for example.]
Well that stopped me cold.
Garralosh was an outsider like me?
[Of course. She's from your world even. I can't say if the timeline was close to yours. Temporal vectors tend to get very fuzzy with this sort of summoning. But yes, she was like you. Unleashed on the Dungeon, alone and had to rely on her wits and savagery to survive. She's been here for hundreds of years now. She did very well at first,] Gandalf mused, [perhaps too well. She threw away every piece of herself that inhibited her survival until there was almost nothing left.]
Yeah, who would have thought that someone would make desperate choices when thrown into a murder pit and forced to fight for their life.
[Are you being sarcastic?]
Not at all.
[I had high hopes for her you know,] the voice mused, [she was much like you, rose up quickly. But in terms of long term impact you've already surpassed her in a lot of ways.]
Like how? By creating a new species?
[By creating such a successful species. She made her own species also. Inadequate, inefficient things.]
Gandalf sounded very dismissive of the Croca-Beasts, almost as if they were insulting in some way.
I'm not a big fan of the Crocs, for obvious reasons, but they seem pretty killy to me?
[Bah. Without the support of their parent the species would have been wiped out by normal Dungeon spawns within ten years. They provide no value.]
How are monsters supposed to provide 'value' anyway? As long as they're killing things, they're serving their purpose aren't they?
[In some ways, yes. But in others, no.]
Alright then, stay cryptic.
[I'm curious, does knowing that your enemy shares so much in common with your change anything for you? Are you still willing to fight against a fellow human?]
Who's a human? She's a giant crocodile and I'm a massive ant. Of course it doesn't change anything.
[Oh? I expected a little more sentiment from you.]
I'm a big believer in the loving the skin/carapace you're in. Had a human life and it was fine …
[You starved yourself to death remember …]
I feel like you're never going to get over that. It was fine, but that's over now. New life, new family and I'm not about to let someone destroy it just because they happened to be a human before they were brought here.
[I find your commitment towards your second life to be admirable. Not many in your position have been able to say the same. I hope you wake up in time to defend your home.]
Wait.. What do you mean? I should have heaps of time, right?
[Well, this evolution is a bit special. You did have a lot of energy in your core to expend. It's going to take a bit longer than usual.]
I was suddenly frantic at this news. I had to wake up in time. What would be the point of my struggles otherwise? I could feel my mind fading into nothing as my consciousness was returned to my body.