The next day I dedicated myself to digging out the channels for the village to use for irrigation. With Tiny helping we shifted a heck of a lot of dirt, very quickly indeed. As a side project we used the extra dirt to erect a nice and high bank for the channel network, as well as building up the height of the river bank. It never hurts to have a few extra layers of protection in case of flooding!
The villagers were only too happy to pitch in and their own tireless efforts spurred me on to work even faster. It was interesting to see the farms taking shape so quickly. Teams of humans have been churning out simple wooden fencing whilst other groups have been marking lines in the dirt and digging holes for fence posts. The planting is already happening on the land that we've cleared. People have been collecting seed and apparently some farmers had time to bring some with them on carts, all they were waiting for was a clearly delineated space and for someone to plough the new fields. Yet another task that was currently being seen to by dedicated groups of humans. Seeing the cooperative and coordinated groups in action put in mind of nothing but ants at work.
It made me curious enough to go and find Enid to ask where this industrious spirit of cooperation came from.
[It's partly that people need something to focus on in order to take their minds of the tragedy. After losing homes, family, their nation, these people are desperate for something they can work towards] she explained.
[And the rest?]
[Beyn] she said simply.
[He preaches day and night about the benefits of cooperative work, that we should be more like the colony of saviours that have created this sanctuary and that by acting selflessly and working together, the people can give thanks and praise to the Great Ant.]
[Are you serious?]
Stupid priest! Still, if the people are going to be more antlike in their behaviour, it should only work in their favour, they might actually get stuff done.
Speaking of people getting stuff done. Enid is looking tired. Her wispy white hair and weathered skin look even more lined and thin than usual. The woman is skinny as a wooden rake chewed by termites as it is, her current position as the de facto leader of this community seems to be weighing her down.
[You need a break Enid. The people can live without you for a day, surely. Go lie down or something. The village won't be better off if you keel over and have a heart attack.]
The old woman looks at me strangely for a moment before barking out a laugh.
[Your telling me not to work hard? Look at these people! I've never seen people working so much or so quickly in all my days. No. Just because I'm old doesn't mean I can't keep up the pace. If anything, these young people can't keep up with me!] she declared proudly with a glint in her eye.
She's tough as a stone formed from the fusion of other, lesser stones, that were themselves formed from the skulls of stubbornness record holders. She gives of an indestructible air and at times I have to remind myself that this person was an iron fisted merchant, tough enough to marry one of the highest level mercenaries in a kingdom.
[All right, fine. Just eat something would you? If a strong breeze comes your way, who knows where you'll end up?]
Enid smiles and nods, reaching out to hesitantly pat me on the carapace.
[Thank you for your concern. I'll make sure I eat more.]
[Sorry? What's that?]
[My name] I point to myself with an antenna, [my name is Anthony.]
A warm smile spreads across Enid's face and she reaches out to pat me again, more confidently this time.
[It's nice to meet you Anthony. Did you call yourself that because it has the word 'Ant' in it?]
[… you might not believe this. I've never actually noticed that before…]
All she does is laugh.
I'm not exactly why I told Enid my name, but it felt right to do so. Perhaps she'll eventually put two and two together and realise that an Ant monster really shouldn't have a name, or even need one. The leap from that fact to my actual origins is quite a large one though, not that I think it will make a difference to anything even if she does realise I was once human.
I am not human any longer. With every passing day in this new world I can feel my connection to the old me falling away. I like my new family. I like the new me. No longer powerless. No longer unwanted. I've made significant upgrades in almost every aspect of my life.
I mean, the senseless violence I could live without, also the distinct lack of pizza. But hey, you can't ask for everything.
I wonder how the other souls brought to this place found it. Gandalf seemed to suggest that he only brought 'damaged' people here, whatever that means. Perhaps they adapted well to life on this world and found their own little niche here. He did say that most of them just died. Makes you wonder why he makes the effort.
My idle musings were rudely interrupted by a rising dust cloud in the distance and the vague trembling in the earth.
Damn Crocodiles coming back again. They never learn.
Two hours later I'm standing amidst the broken wreckage of another Beast Monster swarm. If I eat any more of these damn centipedes I'm going to unlock the final profile for them, surely. I'm sick of the damn bugs!
Doesn't help that I'm covered in their ichor, there were a ton of them in this wave.
Although the village and the colony suffered losses in the battle, it was much less than last time. The humans were far better prepared, even though only a few days has passed. Morrelia was her usual violent self and her team backed her up well, but the people they have been training took part. The village was able to deploy some archers, as well as some properly armed swordsmen and women, the power levellers.
Although low level and without proper training, they were able to form and hold a rudimentary battle line, with the archers providing supportive fire over the top. With the mad priest Beyn in their midst, they'd fought with a relentless zeal, pushing them to battle on through injuries even a monster would baulk at.
As for the ant side of the equation, the big difference maker for us in the battle was that Vibrant was here. The powerful soldier was a tank in the battle, crashing through the monsters and disrupting their attempt to overwhelm the workers. The workers themselves benefited from Vibrants aura, giving them extra speed when they were with her, but more than that, they seemed to act in a slightly more coordinated way. Acid was launched from the back of the battle line constantly and the ants just seemed to move more smoothly to engage their targets in outnumbered battles, pulling them apart quickly and then moving on to their next enemy.
Something is definitely happening there, I have to talk to that ant soon.
For my part, I brought Tiny and Crinis up and we rampaged through the horde, slowing and disrupting as much as possible. I personally took the chance to try and train my lesser skilled bite skill, Shredding bite. It's absolutely the messiest of all of my bite skills, hence the mess covering my shiny carapace.
The things I do for the grind.