This stupid wave! Just how threatening does it have to get? I'm already a wrecked heap. A heap I say!
Now the veins are extending into the escape tunnel, which will surely cause monsters to spawn right under our feet!
An addition we have to deal with these unknown threats from below? It's enough to drive an ant crazy!
Ok.. Think Anthony, what are you going to do?
Stay and fight? Against what!? We have no idea what sort of horror is going to ascend up that tunnel, eager to eviscerate our most sensitive zones? There is absolutely no way we stay here and battle it out against whatever is coming up. One of the first things I learned about in this Dungeon is not to pick a fight you aren't sure you can win.
Run where? The tunnel isn't complete! All we can do is run up towards a dead end! They don't call 'em life ends for a reason!
Only one choice remains! Hide!
"Quick! We need to cover up the entrance and seal this tunnel!" I shout to the workers around me,
The workers respond to my call to action rapidly, as they usually do. This is a family that can be relied on in a pinch!
A hundred workers leap into action, hauling dirt up to close off the remaining open section of the tunnel entrance, quickly shovelling dirt with their mandibles.
From beneath us the sounds of bloodcurdling screams and the wild gnashing of teeth, grinding away at the bones of still living foes echo endlessly, certainly providing ample motivation to my own digging efforts.
What the heck is going on down there? Actually, I'm not confident that I really want to know.
It sounds like the monsters down there are experiencing a kind of existential terror that I wasn't sure the beasts I'd seen had a capacity to express.
I've always had a urge to investigate, to explore the deeper layers below just to know, just to see what it was like down there, what sort of creatures inhabited that space.
The ghastly sounds echoing from below have somewhat cured me of that feeling, I have to say. To the surface my fellow ants (and Tiny), maybe find a mountain to climb when we get up there!
As we pile the dirt high I can see the gradual progress of the mana veins slowly extending their baleful reach further into the escape tunnel. The speed is still slow, perhaps only as much as thirty centimetres an hour, but just seeing them visibly growing is unsettling to me.
Is the mana concentration still growing?! Is that why they are moving in this way? There is still too much that I don't understand!
Don't think about it! Just dig!
I repeatedly urge the workers to move faster as the dirt flies, ants crawling all over each other in their eagerness to complete the task they've been given.
As the horrific noises from below continue to grow louder we quickly seal off the escape tunnel, plunging ourselves into near darkness.
I'm still not satisfied though. The muffles noises and vibrations that pass through the loosely packed soil are enough motivation for me to continue stacking dirt against the entrance. I want to get some width between me and that room!
"Keep stacking that dirt, fellow workers! Start bringing it from the other end of the tunnel!"
I continue to exhort my fellow workers to keep piling dirt against the entrance, trying to put an amount of earth between us and the horrors that will soon enter that chamber that I'll feel comfortable we are safe.
After ten minutes of constant hauling the sounds of monstrous combat have receded and we've managed to pack the dirt far enough back that even the gradually extending tendrils of the mana veins on the wall have been covered over. Any monsters that spawn in those walls will claw themselves out only to find they are still encased in dirt!
If they manage to actually dig themselves out into the tunnel they'll be easy pickings for the watchful ants.
The colony has entered a strange state now, completely sealed within a dirt cylinder. As the rest of the Dungeon is plunged into blood and madness these ants and I exist in a separate, sealed container.
The worries I have are air and food. I'm not exactly sure how much air monstrous ants require in this world, monster live up to 10000 km under the surface here after all.
Food on the other hand. The colony has a voracious appetite, the need for sustenance is constant. Without being able to charge out and secure Biomass every few hours we will eventually starve to death.
Exactly how long will Tiny last without food?
I'll leave him asleep for now, if I can put off letting him know then I will…
After a period of time helping the digging, with the sounds rippling out from the Queen's chamber growing more and more muted until barely the slightest of vibrations can be felt I decide to head to the front of the tunnel to check on our progress.
The Queen and her dedicated cohort of workers have been furiously ripping into the soil and rock the entire time Tiny and I have been occupied with the defence. A lot of progress has been made! According to my tunnel map, which has reached level two, the tunnel still has a long way to go before we reach the surface.
At the front lines the Queen is still diligently digging, her massive mandibles ripping huge chunks out of the solid ground in front of her as she cheerfully encourages the workers around her to put forth their efforts.
The smaller workers at this end of the tunnel are still vibrating with enthusiasm, fawning over their mother and, vigorously transporting the loose soil further back in the tunnel.
Have they taken a break up here at all?
The escape tunnel has now become like a moving pocket of air within the solid ground, the dirt removed from the front is transported to the back and compressed as best as possible.
Quite an odd situation to say the least.
Taking my place next to the Queen once more I begin to furiously attack the soil, sending a blizzard of loose earth flying to shower the ants behind me who gather it up enthusiastically before carrying it away.
Despite no longer having to fight monsters I feel like the pressure of the wave has increased rather than decreased. The expansion of the mana veins and the movement of monsters from below has rattled me.
Firstly, the monsters from below. Why are they moving? It stands to reason that only reason they are rising up is because they have been displaced by even stronger monsters from beneath them. Is there a possibility this upwards migration would continue until those more powerful creatures rise to this level? Would even the surface be safe if that were to happen?!
Secondly the speed at which the mana veins are moving. I can only think this is caused by the mana at this level growing in intensity. If that intensity continues to grow during the wave then what exactly are conditions going to be like after a week?!
I estimate the wave has only been underway for a day and a bit at this point….
There is still a long way to go.
Casting aside my worries I begin to activate my mana sensing skill periodically as we dig. The best chance of finding food is for us to pass by another tunnel and dig towards it, performing a raid on the monsters there in order to secure Biomass for the colony.
We have moved far past my previous Dungeon exploration and my Tunnel map is completely blank in this area of the Dungeon, the escape tunnel appears as a clean line pushing into unknown territory when I view the map in my mind.
The best chance of finding a tunnel is if I can detect the core of a powerful monster or perhaps sense the mana flooding through the mana veins, then we can dig towards it.
I just hope it doesn't take too long.