Gradually my mind begins to resurface. It's a strange feeling, seeing as I don't actually get to sleep as an ant but rather going into the stasis like rest of torpor so I'm not actually used to properly blacking out like this.
The memory of what had taken place when I evolved still boils away in my mind. Gandalf? Is he actually down in the Dungeon somewhere? I push away the bad memories of my previous life that had been dragged up during the conversation, I don't waste time focusing on that stuff. I have plenty to be about in the here and now after all! I've got a new family, pets and a brand new Mother to look after, no point stuffing about thinking of things that are long gone.
Sensations bubble up in my awareness until the light comes on in my eyes and then BAM, I'm awake!
I'm here! I'm ready! It's actions stations people!
Why is my face full of fluff?!
Flexing my legs and body I can feel all of the familiar appendages are in their proper places, six legs, two antennae, the junk in my trunk. All seems good!
The real problem I have is all this damn fuzz in my face! What the heck is going on!
[Tiny is that you?!]
[Get the hell up Tiny! I need to move about in here!]
[Go sleep on the surface or something! I can't even see with all this fuzz in my eyes!]
[That's the same thing as sleepy! Get the heck out of here you lump!]
I can sense an exasperated sigh over the mental link, as if I'm the one being unreasonable! Just who does this ape think he is? And why the heck is he so damn fluffy now!?
Gradually the fuzz begins to shift and move and I can gradually see a little better. A wall of long white fuzzy hair rolls away from me towards the entrance where I can hear grunting punctuated by frustrated growls.
[Do you not fit?!]
Dangit! I shouldn't be too surprised since the entrance and chamber was a little squeezy before he evolved. Knowing Tiny and his general species I can only assume that he has gotten even more powerful and large after evolving. If I'd thought ahead properly I would have realised this would happen and made proper preparations.
[You'll have to dig your way out buddy. Try digging straight out that way and you should come out the side of the hill, near the top]
Our chamber is usually dug the closest to the top and off to the side somewhere, out of the way of the rest of the colony so there shouldn't be a problem if he starts digging his way through. Even if the side of the hill collapses it won't take down any chambers others than ours and we can dig out easily enough.
I hear a deep scraping as the ape starts to dig his way out. The only visible evidence I have of that is the shifting white hair pressed into my face.
Eventually he finally breaks through. Grunting happily to himself he hauls himself out into the light and I finally get a good look at his new size as he moves.
He's big! That's a big ape!
He was already large enough to put any earth sized gorilla to shame but he must have increased in size by thirty percent with this evolution! If he were to stand up to his maximum height he'd probably crack ten feet, easy! His thick, powerful arms are covered in long white hairs, the shorter hair on his torso is also mostly white. On closer inspection, he isn't pure snow white like a polar bear, more of a burnished silvery colour.
Is he a silverback now?
[What species are you now Tiny, do you remember?]
Out on the side of the hill now and basking in the sunshine, Tiny turns to look at me and I can see his bat face is now completely black, rather than the dark grey it used to be. His eyes however are a deep glowing red.
[Your species? What kind of monster are you now? Do you know at all bud?]
He stares at me blankly.
[Did your cunning actually go DOWN?!]
Holy moly! Just how muscle-brained is this guy going to get as he keeps evolving? If he gets any dumber than this he'll forget how to eat! Looking at his bulky form that practically radiates strength I can only imagine how potent those massive fists have become now. This species clearly prioritises physical strength above all else, even having a brain.
In some ways he makes the perfect pet but I wish he had a bit more going on in the upstairs department. I want him to be able to have independent thoughts and be able to think for himself, rather than rely on me to point him in the right direction and make sure he has what he needs. Ah well. Maybe I can do something about that down the line.
Now that I have a little more space in the chamber, as well as a snazzy new natural lighting I can get a handle on what is going on in the room. Where is Vibrant? She doesn't seem to be over in her corner, so she must have woken up by now.. Where is she?
"Vibrant?" I call.
"Hi-Hi!" I hear her chirpy response.
Did that come from…
Using my antennae I feel around on the top of my head and sure enough something is there. Shifting my head position back a little I can clearly see her beady little ant eyes staring back at me. She looks almost exactly the same! Wait!
"Have you evolved, Vibrant?"
"Do you remember what species you chose?" I grate out.
"Of course! Vibrant took one of the special options, just like Senior said! Superior Hatchling Worker!" she declares proudly.
So still a hatchling.
I slump to the ground, defeated. I'm going to have to put up with this helpless little freeloader until she reaches level ten, then craft another special core for her, then maybe she'll become useful after that!
Oh well. No use crying over spilt…. Something.
I can see that Crinis is still in place, nestled onto my mid-section between the joints where my legs attach to my carapace.
[How are you Crinis? Ready to go and get large?]
[Ready master] she replies, [Was your evolution successful?]
[It was! Some very nice bonuses picked up this time!]
[You don't seem to have changed much that I can tell master] she says, extending a few little tentacles to pat about my carapace, probably checking my size.
[All of the changes took place on the inside this time! And they weren't small either!] I boast, [wait and see what I can do now]
[I look forward to it master]
I can already feel the difference within me. My mind is positively humming with strength, like a sports car sitting in neutral, just revving and ready to go. I can feel my sub-brains sitting idly inside me, each of them are more powerful than the single one I had before and I now have the ability to harness them together, get them to act in concert on a single task.
I can't wait to flex this new mental muscle!
Let's try it!
Eagerly I direct my new mental rig to attempt the never before achieved mana transformation. This process is so difficult that I honestly have no idea how any human is actually able to achieve it at all, let alone in a fight!
First I need to bring the mana out of my core, directing it into threads that I begin to weave and shape into a mind bending construction that I'm beginning to suspect goes a little beyond the three dimensions I'm familiar with. Intricate whoops and whirls that curve back and in on themselves before fine filigree patterns are weaved on the outside AND on the inside of almost the entire thing!
I get a headache just picturing the stupid thing.
At least… I did.
Muu… muuuha….. Mua!.... MUAHAHAHAHA!!!
Throwing the bulk of the work over to my sub brains I can feel them thrum into life as they take the strain of directing and shaping the mana. The cortex acts like a foreman, directing the efforts of the two brains to ensure they don't overlap and their independent efforts slot together like clockwork.
I can feel the sub brains straining under the load of directing the whispy threads of energy but they are far more capable than the old sub brain was. Not only is their mental strength beefier but they have an upgraded amount of willpower, giving them a bit more grunt.
What this does is free up my main mind to patch up the gaps. Keeping the whole picture on my mind as I leap in and patch up wherever I notice a deviation or a particularly tricky bit that the sub brains can't quite handle on their own.
Gradually, over a few minutes the mind magic transformation construct begins to take shape and excitement rises in my heart. It might actually happen this time!