There must be something serious going on up there for there to be all of this smoke and noise, but what could it be? We haven't had an attack for a few days now, perhaps there is another one massing? Someone definitely needs to go and check it out, and I can't deny that the best person for that role would have to be me. There's only one major problem.
"I'm happy to go and scout on the surface, but due to my core strength if I spend too long up there then I'll start to run dry. I can manage a few days up there, perhaps a little longer, but if I'm being super active the amount of time I can last could diminish beyond that."
"We are aware of the issue regarding the drain of mana on developed cores, we were able to consult with mother about the problem" Burke assured me, "our scouts have made it a priority to discover any pockets of concentrated mana and sniff out Dungeon entrances in order to alleviate the difficulty. We've been able to find a number of such locations and mark them heavily with pheromones, as well as create a few trails you could follow."
That news brightened me up a little.
"Well that sounds a lot better. I didn't realise you'd been able to put together such a competent scouting operation in such a short time."
Wills waggled his antennae dismissively.
"It's nothing special right now. When we have more dedicated scout caste soldiers it will be one hundred times more efficient. Not to mention we've barely begun to map out the skill and mutation paths best suited to scouting. Burke and I are expecting to have completed our preliminary investigations next week, which is when we expect the first wave of scout caste evolutions to complete."
These guys are for sure keeping busy. Look at 'em! Making plans and thinking things through! This is why the colony needed them!
"That sounds great! Well a few other points I wanted to bring up. I've possibly discovered another source of Biomass for the colony, talk to mother for the details. I'd like to speak to the Core Shapers for a moment after we are done here and then I'll take Tiny and Crinis to go an check out the situation on the surface."
There was little shifting when I mention the possible Biomass source but otherwise the first twenty hatchlings of the new breed are happy to break of our meeting there, only Bella and Ellie the core shapers remain behind. I take the time to explain to them my newfound understanding of fusing cores together and they communicate with me the tests they have conducted, and the various skill combinations they are experimenting with in order to perform their role.
Ultimately the core shapers are intended to create specialised pets for members of the colony. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will use the cores that they design for themselves, but it could. Since the two of them are here, we spend a little extra time discussing their role and what they can contribute to the colony, since they themselves aren't exactly sure what their purpose is.
To give some scope to the power of Core Shaping as a discipline, I tell them about the Sophos, an entire race of powerful core shapers who depend upon the creatures that they craft and design for their safety. In particular I tell them off the powerful worm that Formo rode, to this day the most powerful monster core I've seen.
Ellie and Bella are immensely excited by this news. When we are done they sprint out of the chamber to continue their skill drilling and to expand their plans. To think that core shaping and pets aren't important. What nonsense! The Formica Sapiens species wouldn't even exist without those skills! Not to mention how useful and powerful pets can be. Look at Crinis and Tiny! They've paid me back more than ten times the cores and Biomass I've had to spend on them. They might give me a few headaches every now and again but it's worth it.
Speaking of Crinis and Tiny.
[So, it looks like we'll have to go and do some scouting on the surface, team. We all ready for that?] I asked them.
Tiny looked glum at my words.
[I get it champ, not a huge fan of having my core leaking either, but there seems to be something big going on up there.]
The big ape just grunted, his displeasure clear on his bat face.
[I'm sure we'll be fine, Master] Crinis chipped in, eager to please as always.
[You will be] I grumbled, [you're one evolution away from suffering from the lack of mana like Tiny and I.]
[That isn't my fault] the ball of indefatigable hunger protested primly, [I'd be ready to evolve if we'd spent more time out hunting.]
[That's true. Now is your chance. Even though we'll be up on the surface, we are likely to run into some Dungeon monsters doing things and going places that they shouldn't. Come on then, no time like the present.]
We all have a decent chunk of Biomass that needs to be spent but I feel there isn't any harm in putting it off for a while. Whatever is happening up there sounds important, we can mutate when we take a break travelling.
So it was that not long after returning from our brief expedition, we find ourselves leaving the nest once again, this time to travel across the surface, something I hadn't expected we would be doing again.
Before we leave for the north, back into the ravaged lands of the Lirian Kingdom, I decide to check in the village. It's only been a few hours since I managed to avert the consumption of most of the population over there after all. If Enid is back from her hunting trip then I'm certain there is going to be a few questions she might have. Smoothing things over before I leave would be the sensible course of action.
[I'm coming too.]
[I'm sorry, what was that?]
Morrelia looked down at me, her features set into her customary fierce expression, a mood only reinforced by her combat attire, leather armour and swords belted to her hips.
[I want to come with you. If something is going on like you say then I think it would be a good idea for someone from the village to investigate also.]
Not long after we arrived in the village I bumped into Enid and Morrelia, only just returned from their Dungeon delve. It didn't take long to explain what the scouts had reported, as well as brush off any 'special announcements' they might have heard about. It was after Enid passed on my words to Morrelia that we began to have a problem.
[I mean, it isn't as if I would withhold information from the village. I've been very cooperative with you, surely you can agree?] I protested.
For whatever reason this only caused the warrior woman to frown with even greater ferocity.
[That's true] she admitted, [but I want to see for myself what is happening. Perhaps my father is involved. At any rate, it's past time I went to lend my hand to assist any survivors. The village will be fine if the rest of my squad stays to help train the people here.]
[Gah!] I croaked, flailing to think of some reason why she shouldn't tag along. This lady is trouble! I'm not sure I could take travelling with her all over the north! [We monsters can move quickly and for long distances. Do you really think you can keep up?]
She smiled at me. I'm sorry to report that it didn't make her look any less fierce.