Couldn't keep up eh? The monster kind is supreme, huh? We can faster, further, longer! Morrelia must have been laughing up her sleeve whilst looking down at my stupid, fat face. After we left the Village, giving Morrelia a short period of time to inform her squad and pack her essentials we set off, leaving a concerned looking Enid behind as we journeyed to the north, heading back towards the ravaged lands of the former kingdom of Liria.
My budding attitude as a monster supremacist has been thoroughly crushed by the leather armoured, dark haired woman. With Tiny lumbering at my side and Crinis riding on my back we departed at a run, sprinting away through the trees, clods of dirt flying behind us as we employed our dash skills, drawing on our reserves of stamina.
I'd been so confident!
What a fool.
When we stopped to rest after thirty minutes of solid dashing, Tiny and I both huffing and puffing, pushed to our limits by the physical exertion, I turned to find Morrelia standing behind me, a quizzical frown on her face. She wasn't even sweating!
I'd been so startled to see her, my eyes had almost bugged out my head. I can only give thanks that she can't read my facial expression. Impatient, she'd tapped her gloved finger to her forehead, indicating that she desired a mind bridge in order to communicate.
I sighed and wove the spell, irritated at myself for opening my fat mandibles.
[Why are we stopping?] blunt as always.
[Just ah, sussing our the situation, making sure we don't stumble into any roaming monsters. Not exactly easy to scout whilst running at top speed now is it?] I deflected.
That caused her to raise one eyebrow in query.
[That was your top speed?] she asked.
[Of course not! How could I, the ant known as the Diamond Speedster, have such a low running pace? When I get serious I am naught but a blur! The eyes of mere mortals are not enough to - yes, yes that is as fast as we can dash I'm sorry.]
Halfway through my empty boasting my façade cracks and I immediately come clean, all resistance shredded by those piercing eyes.
[The Diamond Speedster eh?] her tone is carefully flat, not mocking in anyway, which only makes it worse.
[No. Not at all. The fastest ant in the colony is Vibrant. I'm a distant second] I confess, no longer holding any desire to try and deceive this damned amazon of a soldier.
To my fortune, she gets distracted.
[Vibrant? I didn't realise you had names. Do all of you have names?]
[No, not all of us. I've handed out a few names here and there but certainly not to everyone in the colony. My name's Anthony by the way.]
So grateful am I to be spared any mocking I hand over my name without even considering it, eager to keep the conversation away from my foolishness.
[Anthony?] Morrelia has a puzzled expression on her face, as if not quite believing that she is having this conversation, learning the name of monster in conversation. [I suppose, it's nice to meet you Anthony. I guess I can't call you 'Monster' anymore.]
I shrugged my antennae.
[Call me whatever makes you happy. It's no chitin off of my carapace. Since we are doing introductions, the giant bat faced ape is Tiny, and the little ball of tentacle death on my back is Crinis.]
Morrelia looked at my two companions in turn as I named them. She acts far more wary of the two of them than she does of me to be honest. I can't really blame her. Tiny is visually impressive, his gigantic, heavy frame, rugged silver fur and potent fists speak with great clarity about his prowess is battle. Crinis looks harmless, an inanimate little ball without a discerning feature, but anyone who had seen her in action would know enough to be afraid of what she can do.
[I didn't realise you had named your pets. Most don't from what I understand.]
[I didn't and still don't really know what I'm doing with the two of them] I admit, [I'm just sort of working things out as I go along.]
She turned back to look at me once again.
[Are they able to communicate as you do? Using mind magic?]
I shake my head.
[Not even a little bit. I had to take a skill that allows mental communication with pets to chat with them, they don't exactly have pheromone glands built it like the ants do.]
Morrelia nodded thoughtfully at my words, looking down at me with a somewhat changed light in her eyes. I'd chalked the conversation up as a win, since she hadn't brought up my attempt at leaving her back in the village due to her supposed lack of ability to keep up.
When it comes to running, the woman is more of a monster than I am!
If nothing else, our excursion out in to the field has given me an opportunity to better familiarise myself with this berserker soldier. Morrelia appears to be in her twenties, perhaps late twenties, although I could be adding years due to her stern attitude and there's a good chance a life lived in the wild battling monsters has done little to flatter her. Without looking stout or over muscled she manages to look solid. As if she were a rock capable of resisting whatever forces come her way.
She wears simple leather armour that leaves her arms bare, with wrist guards strapped to both forearms. Her twin swords sit on her belt, like the rest of her the sheaths are unadorned, simple, functional and practical.
In terms of appearance, she looks fine, I suppose. I'm finding it difficult to tell human features apart the longer I spend in my new body. I'm becoming more capable of distinguishing ant features though, which is a plus.
Her eyes are a piercing blue, like ice, which contrasts quite sharply with her dark hair, which is pulled back severely and tied into a short ponytail like… thing. Perhaps she'd look more appealing if she didn't wear a permanent scowl on her face. I'm not sure I've ever seen her look cheerful. Although, every time I see her she is having to talk to a giant ant monster, sooo …. It could just be me.
Unwilling to try and strike up conversation, Tiny and I rest for a few minutes before we continue our journey at a more reasonable pace this time. At least I managed to squeak out a level in dash.
My antennae waving with furious energy as we travel, I'm able to detect the scout trails pointing to various places of interest. The scent fades over time and more complex messages become harder to determine as the words start to blend into each other, so the scouts have worked to keep their signals simple.
"Dungeon tunnel, small", "river", "buildings".
The last one is what catches my attention. Some form of human settlement but the scouts themselves don't know enough about human society to be more specific. Is it a farm house? Perhaps a small village or town?
I decide to follow that trail. The mana in my core is slowly bleeding out at a constant rate, but I'm not too worried at this stage. Heaps of gas left in the tank and we are only a few hours from the nest right now. The point of no return is a long way off yet.