So… I mean.. It's a little odd…
I was a human before after all. I may not have lived what people would call a … normal life … but hey, I went to school, a bit, I saw people, I ate human food.
Now I have a giant ant Queen staring down at me and insisting that she and my many siblings are my family now.
For some reason I'm surprisingly ok with that.
I had a pet ant colony as a human, I kept them contained and fed them, watched the colony grow and cleaned out their spaces for them. In some ways they were the most constant members of my household, I certainly saw them every day, which wasn't really true of anyone else.
Perhaps that is why I don't really mind being an ant.
If I'm going to be a member of this family then I have to do my best to save them!
I start thinking out loud.
"Ok then, Queen, I don't think we are uh, strong enough to survive the wave. If our nest is invaded from the outside as well as the inside, we could be completely wiped out!"
The Queen looks concerned and taps me with her antennae, urging me to continue.
"I think we need to move the colony! We have to get somewhere … else. Somewhere safer".
"Do you know where we should go child?"
We live in the Dungeon, and from what I'm told the entire place is going to become a death zone for up to a week!
I don't even know that the surface will be safe from the impending danger!
But … it may be safer than the Dungeon?
If endless numbers of monsters will be fighting and going crazy through these tunnels, going to the surface might actually be better. Of course that doesn't mean running headlong into the humans, that would be suicide, but with my Tunnel Map I can clearly see where the entrance I first encountered the humans is. If we can find a way to the surface far enough away from a human settlement, we might be able to remain undetected and ride out this disaster!
Am I crazy? If I get the colony to relocate to the surface there's definitely a chance that we all get killed by those powerful human soldiers, burnt to death, cut to pieces and slaughtered without mercy.
If we stay down here, will the outcome be any different?
I think we have to take a chance.
The Queen has waited patiently as my thoughts run circles inside my head. My resolution firms as I see her commitment to waiting on my directions.
"We have to dig a new tunnel to the surface!" I declare.
The Queen slowly digests this bombshell, taking time to think them over.
Then she responds.
"What is the 'surface'?" she asks.
Of course, how could she possibly know about it?
"We will dig a new tunnel upwards, that bypasses the existing Dungeon passages and if we can dig far enough upwards, we'll be safe!" I say.
Hopefully that is simple enough that she can understand what I'm saying!
The Queen pauses for another moment, her monster intelligence mulling over this suggestion. I wait nervously for her to puzzle out exactly what this means to her.
To my surprise she calmly nods.
"We will do as you suggest child. Where should the family dig?"
Phew! At least the first hurdle has been cleared! If the Queen has agreed to my plan then I might have a chance of getting the workers to cooperate. I'm not exactly sure how the pecking order works in a monstrous ant colony. In a normal ant colony on earth, the Queen doesn't actually 'rule' over the rest of the ants, in fact, she is basically dragged around by the workers, almost an egg laying slave.
Instead, the workers run the colony on a kind of democracy system. For example, if one worker finds a good place to move the nest, they'll lay down a trail and start moving the brood. If other ants find the trail, they will go and check it out and if they agree with the first ants opinion, they will join in, eventually when enough workers have agreed on a course of action, it will happen. It isn't always so smooth of course, sometimes the workers don't agree with each other and you'll have two competing sets of workers each moving the eggs and larvae to two different places!
In this world though, the Queen is intelligent, not a mindless egg laying slave, and she is far from a helpless creature at the mercy of the workers. If anything, she is probably closer to what most humans think an ant Queen is like on earth, in charge, making decisions and actively helping to direct the future of her family.
I'm not sure exactly what she can do to direct the workforce, it's clear that they can understand my pheromone language to some extent, perhaps she can just talk to them.
I shake these thoughts out of my head and address the Queen once more.
"Let's sweep clean this battlefield first, the Biomass is too valuable to the colony for us to abandon it. Once that is done I'll start digging the tunnel, if you can help get the rest of the … family … digging, then we can make faster progress. Hopefully we can dig our way clear of the threat in the next two days".
Even in the time since I spoke to Formo, I've already noticed the brightness of the forest has diminished. The mana is continuing to recede, just as the Sophos had predicted. The forest is going to grow even dimmer, perhaps even fading to black, before the wave.
Satisfied with our discussion the Queen gives a few more friendly taps on the head with her antennae before retreating back to the security of the nest, leaving the workers to do what they do best and complete the work required to secure the Biomass the colony demands.
As the Queen ambles away, the workers are doing just that, continued to comb over the battlefield and collect the spoils of war. As more times goes by the number of ants showing visible signs of mutation is increasing, here and there a worker with longer antennae, or stronger looking legs, or larger mandibles can be seen.
This is excellent news! If the workforce becomes stronger then we will have a greater chance to survive.
I proudly watch the workers rushing about, this is my family now and every one of these ants is my sibling. I didn't have any brothers or sisters that I knew of in my last life, going from that to having hundreds is a bit of a shift.
Enough sentiment! I have important work to do!
Flipping my mana sensing back on I glance around and try to identify the location of as many cores as I can. I have to secure all of them! Every one!
Rushing around I immediately commence the messy task of extracting cores from monster remains. I desperately need to rest but the looming danger of the wave requires that I push myself beyond my limits.
When I'm finally done, the haul is definitely worth it.
In these dangerous times, with battle being constant in the forest, many monsters are fighting and levelling up at a rapid pace, so the number of cores to be found in the surviving monsters is higher than what I had experienced before.
When we are talking about a large scale battle in which hundreds of monsters died, we are talking about a good haul of cores!
Over twenty in all!
Not to mention the special prize! I wandered over to what was left of the larger monsters who had been caught in my Gravity Bomb.
A small, ultra-dense ball of Biomass was sitting on the ground, looking more like a model planet than anything else.
I tried to lift it and after nearly breaking my neck I had to give up.
This thing is stupidly dense! It's probably only the size of a tennis ball.
Determined, I try to nibble at it. When I find no success with nibbling I try full on chomping. It's like smashing my teeth on a gobstopper. After a little persistence I am rewarded!
[You have consumed a new source of Biomass: Canem Pythonem, you are awarded one Biomass]
[Basic profile of the Canem Pythonem unlocked]
[Canem Pythonem: Dog Python, Evolved from the smaller Dog Snake, the sheer brute strength of this monster should not be underestimated. Capable of constricting its prey to death in a matter of seconds, the speed of this creature, combined with its powerful canine senses, make it a deadly hunter]
This Biomass is so condensed I managed to get a hole point from that little mouthful!
As intriguing as this is, the real prize is lying in the foliage nearby.
That, is a fairly impressive looking core!