I continue to heal Tiny every few minutes as we sit in the ruins of the lousy spider's web. Every time I heal him, his health starts to trickle down again a few moments later. Does this poison never run out? What the heck is going with it?! If I had the power of resurrection then I'd bring that stupid spider back just so I could kill it all over again. How dare it do this to my loyal, stupid, hardworking, idiotic, steadfast and stupid pet?!

But after an hour of constantly healing him, my minds are starting to hurt and the slow leak of health out of Tiny is yet to stop. Begrudgingly I spend a Skill point to buy Healing Magic Affinity Level 1. I probably should have bought it ages ago, it's not like it's never going to come in handy, but for some reason I held off. I don't want to be the healer of the party, I want to shove that responsibility to another so I can focus on being badass and annihilating stuff. But if just dumping healing mana into the big ape isn't going to do the job, perhaps the skill will teach me some poison removal magic?

Aha!

It's here. I thought as much. The trickling knowledge of healing magic is filling up my brain! Lots of new spell forms and interesting methods are here, including one for the removal of poison. Grumbling at the inconvenience, I whip up the required spell and apply to the ape who still looks like he wants to punch himself in the stomach.

I should let him…

The healing mana settles onto him and sinks into his body whilst I sit back with a sigh. There we go, crises averted.

[Be more careful next time you moron!] I scold Tiny.

He frowns, his bat ears twitch and he holds his fist up once more.

[NO! I just cured you! Why would you want to punch yourse- …]
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His health is still going down…

DAMMIT! Why?! What the heck kind of web-fu did that taratect have going on, huh? Hacks? Is it hacks? Some sort of cheat skill?! I never got one of those Gandalf! You bearded moron!

[Crinis! Do you have any idea what is going on? Some sort of Shadow poison? Have you seen a skill like that at all?]

[No, I haven't. But I don't think it's poison…]

[What? What do you mean?]

[Look closely, Master. You should be able to see it with your mana sense.]

[My mana vision isn't as good as yours…]


I focus on Tiny once more, not with my eyes, but with my mind. Crinis has a huge advantage over me here in this department, but my skills aren't totally lacking. Letting my mind reach out I examine with minute detail the mana that flows through Tiny's body. His core flares bright in my mind and the energy that ripples through his entire frame is bright and energetic. He seems fine? Wait!

I grasp a sliver of something that slips away from me. What the heck was that? Determined, I focus harder and strain to grasp what I'd seen. There it is! Roaming through his body like a cunning worm is a slithering shard of shadow mana! It wasn't poison that those webs injected him with, it was a spell!

How insidious! This must be some sort of advanced Skill or technique, it has to be. I get the feeling that spider was quite a high level, grown fat during the wave on the fresh monsters that swarmed through its tunnel. Now that I can sense what is happening, I can see the harm being done in real time. Like a dark snake the mana flits throughout Tiny's body, wrecking and damaging everything it comes across, causing his HP to drop. When I heal the damage, his situation doesn't improve as the mana continues its work. The poison removal didn't work, since it's not actually poison that he's infected with!

What the heck are we supposed to do?!

[Alright Tiny. I want to listen carefully.]

A serious expression comes across the bat features of my first pet. He leans forward, attentive, his huge fists curled in his lap.

[You aren't poisoned by the spider. You've been infected with damaging Shadow Mana.]

His eyes steady, Tiny nods slowly. Then, he thunderously punches himself in the stomach. Unable to resist his own colossal strength, he groans and collapses to the tunnel floor.

[… you idiot.]

After I heal him up again, he managed to do quite a lot of damage to himself, I try to use external mana manipulation to dissolve or remove the offending spell but it's too hard for me. Either the fact that the mana is trapped within his body, which means it's more difficult for me to effect, or its too elusive and slippery for me to take hold of.

And so it comes to this. I decide that we'll continue our delve of the second strata and I'll have to keep healing Tiny as we go. Perhaps if my healing mana gets to a high enough rank I'll be able to cure him, or if my external mana manipulation ranks up, I'll be able to help. Either way, the spell inside him is small enough that he doesn't lose his health super quickly. As long as I keep topping him up, he'll be fine.

Still, it's an inconvenience I'd rather not have to put up with, and the constant threat to my oldest companions life is anxiety inducing. We're off to a poor start here in the second strata. We need to be smarter in our approach. Although, considering the membership of our group, with me leading it, this mess was somewhat predictable. Well the benefit of hindsight is 20-20 as they say. We can only move forward with greater wisdom! Greater enthusiasm!

Whoops! Better heal Tiny again…

I'm going to have to manage my sub-brains, or have them manage each other. They can flip the job of maintaining the construct between them in order to get enough rest. With three of them, it should be fine. By fine, I mean I won't have to dedicate my main mind to the job of topping Tiny off. This should help to train my skills quickly as well.

With that renewed spirit we set off once more! I clear out the spider webs and we advance down the side tunnel. There are still small plants cropping up and we take some time to investigate each one before we continue. Crinis is forced to sacrifice two more tentacles to poison and negative energy as we progress. I'm starting to sense a theme in this strata. We come across a few creatures that are easily dispatched, but then we find something that really irritates me.

Centipedes…. Always with the lousy centipedes.

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