I stagger awake from torpor, my body snapping into motion faster than my brain can keep up. The result is that my legs spasm and my antennae stab into the air at the same time, giving out a general vibe of intense energy coupled with mind shattering fear.
I'm still getting used to not being able to blink. At no time in the day is this more apparent to me than just after I wake up. The urge to clear the sleep out of my eyes, to eliminate the dryness, but I can't blink! There is no sleep! I can't even rub my eyes or anything. It's weird but for some reason this is some of the last hang-ups I have as human turned ant. Generally speaking, I'm good with the rest of it. I don't have many problems anymore with my new form, in fact, it's pretty great. In my opinion, those who wouldn't swap from human to monster ant are fools! Seriously mentally deficient! I even get to join a family with thousands of siblings! For someone who never had any brothers or sisters in their human life, this is a big plus for me! Well, I suppose I still don't have any brothers…
[Okay guys, I'm up. Are we ready for some more fishing?]
My two pets give me their acknowledgement and make our slow and careful way back to the top of the coral reef to try and reel in some more monsters. Our farming is starting to slow down at this spot, we'll have to move soon. It's hard to be sure exactly where you are in this absurdly massive expanse, but I've been trying to skirt the edges of the coral reef without heading towards the centre. I don't want to pull down something on the level of that giant leviathan, not until we've had more time to power up, explore and scout out the situation at the top of the food chain. Right now, the plan is to lay relatively low and keep pumping our Skills, eating Biomass and pushing Tiny and Crinis towards their next evolution.
[Okay Crinis. Are you set up and good to go?]
[How about you Tiny?]
[Nice. It was slowing down at the end of the last one, so I'm going to start fairly bright. Be prepared for the enemy to come in hot!]
Having forewarned my pets I push more fire mana into the ball of light even as I manoeuvre it out past the last grasping tendrils of the corals and shadow seaweed. The response from the drifting schools of sea monsters is immediate. Some dart away from the heat and light, moving away from that wich causes them to feel fear and discomfort, but others, others charge headlong to destroy it! Straight into our net!
The battle is fierce and I contribute in the little ways that I can from my hiding place. Smashing out the odd fireball spell and chomping on anything that gets too close isn't a huge contribution but when my poor pets are getting swarmed, every little bit helps. When the fighting is done, we hoover up all the Biomass we can, the stomach upgrades proving their worth once more, before we retreat back to our hidey hole to count our gains.
All in all, another profitable run. I managed to level up, which is a pleasant surprise. It feels nice to reach level seventeen, even if I'm still a long way from my next evolution which is at level eighty. Both of my pets are creeping closer to their tier five evolution. Level forty is still a ways off for the two of them, but if we continue our routine, they're sure to get there before too long. I really did skip ahead of them a lot in levels by harvesting the XP from those Croca commanders. Then I got the experience for finishing Garralosh, which was another ton of levels.
Once we make it back I take a few hours to grind through the cores we were able to find. After all of my grinding over the last five days, I was finally able to level Core Surgery enough that I could increase its rank to Core Crafting (IV), which means that so long as I can pull it off, the Core fusion skill will unlock for me. After a number of attempts, I still fail to slot two cores together neatly enough to satisfy the unlock condition. Through painstaking trial and error I've gotten much closer, but still aren't there yet. The two creatures I've chosen are the Leech and Fish. Taking weak variants of these two creatures, only tier two, due to their more simple cores, I've been trying to shape them into compatible parts before fusing the two cores together. The trick is to focus on the traits you want to keep from each of the creatures and manipulate them in such a way that the fusion won't affect the integrity of that part of the core.
Easier said than done since I'm yet to succeed. When I'm done with all of the cores they are absorbed by Tiny and Crinis but the two of them inform me that they've maxed out their cores now and can't take anymore. This is good news! The preparations for their evolutions are getting closer and closer to being complete. This means the last six cores are mine to absorb! It's going to take a heck of a long time before my own core is maxed out. Since you can double the size of your core each evolution, that little bit extra I squeezed in last time pays me forward double this evolution, which means more evolutionary energy again! So long as I can find a suitable core to use at the end of the process, I'll be good.
My mind automatically shies away from thinking about the core we took from Garralosh, still stashed with the colony far above my head. Nope. Not even going to consider that until I absolutely have to. With another round of feasting behind us, our Biomass has built up quite significantly. I haven't upgraded myself during this hunt spree, so I suppose I might as well go ahead and do a little spending.
With two hundred and fifty seven points to spend, there's plenty I can do!
In order to maximise my gains, I think I'm going to take my stomach upgrades from +15 all the way to +25, maxing it out. This should help keep the Biomass flowing even faster and allow me to get the rest of my upgrades in a shorter time. It's going to cost a whopping two hundred and five Biomass just for this one body part, but it should prove worth it in the long term. To be honest, I probably should have invested in it straight away but I get easily distracted by other, shinier upgrades.
The list of choices expands rapidly in my mind and there are many to choose from. I wouldn't have thought there would be such a list for just a stomach, but the System never fails to be creative. Faster digestion is an interesting choice. You could spend less time between meals, increasing Biomass intake that way. There are a lot of options that allow for increased Biomass extraction from a particular type of monster, which is intriguing. Essentially the stomach would mutate to become more adept at refining Biomass from, for example, shadow based monsters. It seems limited in usefulness however, unless you intended to stay and hunt in a particular strata for an extended period of time.
That could be super worth it for the ant queens though, now that I think about it. I doubt Victoriant and Antionette are going to keep evolving to a super high tier, they might even stop taking XP at tier five or six, which means they would probably stay in the second strata for a very long time. If these mutations can increase their efficiency for the prey consumed here, the colony might benefit a great deal!
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For my part, I take the next level of Biomass penalty reduction and stomach capacity increase, doubling down on the mutations I chose at previous levels. The end result is the Vast Hungering Stomach +25! Gweheheheh. Maxing out mutations always puts a smile on my dial. If only I didn't have to deal with the stupid itch…