Once Enid wakes up and manages to gather herself I speak to her a little longer before sending her back to her people. Then I lay a heck of a big pheromone marker around their campsite encouraging the workers not to eat them.
If they run into a worker outside of that ring…. That'll be a little different. Although I'm inclined to trust these people a heck of a lot more than I ever trusted their Queen I'm not prepared to let them run around willy nilly. They've been given a very small hurdle to jump over as the first action towards building trust, let's see how they go.
Job done I wander back over to the anthill, collecting Tiny on the way and we descend down to our little chamber, snacking on a few monsters once we get there.
This is the last thing we needed right now!! The changes to the Queen's core have only just been made, it'll be a week, two at the most, before she's ready and lain the first batch of the new wave of workers. I cannot afford to have anything go wrong! Those ants will be a heck of a lot smarter than the previous hatchlings but they are also significantly weaker! These ants are going to be like human infants, without someone to help guide them and raise them in the beginning they won't be able to reach their potential!
If I've got giant Croca-Babies and their Mother burning the Dungeon tunnels and the entire surface to the ground then it's hardly going to be an idea environment to raise ant hatchlings!
What a pain in the thorax!
What the heck am I going to do?
I can't just leave it as is… Enid made it perfectly clear that there would likely be more refugees from Liria heading south over the next few days. She seemed to think that the destruction was centred on the capital and then expanded outwards. There were a whole lot of panicked people in the towns and villages they passed, getting ready to flee at the first sign of danger. Those people are probably already on the road in this direction.
Even if I don't do anything about it the problem will reach me eventually. If those Crocs and the other monsters are running about on the surface then there's no reason to believe they won't come here.
Only one thing for it then. If I'm going to get the peace and quiet I need to change the destiny of ant kind then I'm going to have to clear up our little Croc problem.
First things first!
[Tiny! Crinis! It's time to go smash stuff and eat!]
"Vibrant! Where did you get to?!"
She's on top of Tiny's head for a change, I should encourage that.
"We're moving out into the Dungeon, we need to clear it at high speed and stuff ourselves with Biomass as we go. You coming?"
Of course she is.
I've already done what I can to organise the humans for the time being. They know where to go and were not to, they have access to water from a nearby spring and they'll need to sort themselves out food-wise to some extent. It isn't as if we have a heap of ant bakers churning out fine baguettes or anything.
The first order of business is to go into the Dungeon and check out the situation there, whilst power eating. I need more Biomass and Crinis needs to grow up as quickly as possible! I send a quick message to Enid letting her know that I'll be in the Dungeon for the next few days and to make sure her people and any newcomers stick to the rules I've lain down in my absence. I'm not worried about these humans overpowering the colony at all, they're mostly farmers and craftsmen, but I do want to avoid unnecessary casualties on both sides. We have bigger crocs to fry.
I break off the Mind Bridge to Enid and immediately my Sub-Brains relax into little balls of goop. It was damn hard maintaining it over that distance but I wanted to test my limits. Formo managed to weave one over a distance of kilometres without breaking a sweat but I'm still a mile away from that level. Even maintaining it over a distance of one kilometre was about all I could manage.
I also allow the Mind Magic construct to collapse at this time, further releasing the burden on my brains. Now that I succeeded once I'm sure I'll be able to reproduce it easier the next time.
Once my brains have had a rest I'll need to get to testing some more combat oriented transformation constructs. Probably the water one.
Into the Dungeon!
The gang advances down into the Dungeon at a rapid pace. Tiny is able to quickly slap to death any of the regular customers we see as we rapidly descend through the upper tunnels. We take a few detours here and there to make sure nothing is slipping past us as we travel, fleshing out my tunnel map a little more and pushing the skill to level 5.
Any time we encounter an evolved creature we get the little ones to stuff themselves with it to mount up that Biomass. There is one problem I have though.
[Crinis] I ask.
[Yes master] she responds quickly this time, perhaps sensing I wasn't going to tolerate silence on this one.
[Are you actually growing? You're the same size as you were when you were born] I point out.
It's true. She's still roughly the size of a tennis ball. Sometimes she appears a bit larger and certainly anytime she's eating she looks much bigger but when at rest, such as now, she reverts back to a handy tennis ball.
[Well?] I prod.
[…. I am growing master] she finally responds, sounding embarrassed.
She clearly doesn't want to be talking about this. [I can compress the extra mass master, due my nature as a shadow beast. I have been growing properly].
[So why do you choose to be such a small size all the time?] I ask, baffled.
Wouldn't it be more impressive to be larger? Display her strength to the world?
[…. I think it's easier like this] she suddenly gushes, [I fit on masters' back much more comfortably!]
Well… that is true I suppose.
[If you want to stay small you can stay small Crinis, whatever floats your boat] I say, [just let me know the second you're ready for combat, we need to power level you in a big way].
[Yes master! It won't be long now!]
The sooner she can turn into the blending tentacle orb of death she was before the better. She's seriously taking a lot longer to grow than Tiny did. Is it because she's a more complex creature? Or at least she was at the time of her reconstitution. I'm starting to see how that skill that increases the speed of pet growth might be desirable.
We continue our way down the tunnels. So far everything appears to be as normal, dumb plants, the occasional pig, various other little bits of nothing. Other than dashing about every now and again to train the skill I leave most of the fighting to Tiny. I need to let my brains rest before I start testing new magic constructions. I do manage to put my new mandibles to work however. The Savage mandibles have much more impressive cutting strength than the regular mandibles, the bites are nastier, wider and look like they'd be more difficult to heal as well. All in all I'm quite happy with this upgrade.
Time to go deeper.