We gained on our quarry with every passing second but they weren't aware of us in the slightest. I could see them clearly now, twenty to thirty Croca-Beasts at various stages of evolution surrounded by a similar number of other, first strata Dungeon monsters. In the centre of the pack, a large hulking form ran surrounded by their more diminutive cousins.
From one hundred metres away, I could see it was another Garralosh Commander, one of momma Garralosh eldest children. That loathsome over and under jaw, those massive, bulked shoulders and the writhing triple tails. Seeing one of them again brings back nightmares. Tiny, Crinis and I all suffered at the hands of the first one of these we brought down, I'd rather not get my back zone chomped off this time if I can help it.
[Let me lead off] I tell Morrelia, [I can clear off a lot of the chaff with one surprise attack.]
Focused on the enemy ahead, she only glanced at me once, raising a single eyebrow to express her doubt before nodding.
What a ridiculous lack of faith! She won't question me again after she behold the sheer destructive potential of gravity! It's time to unleash the bomb!
I take a moment to congratulate myself for not drawing on the raw mana of my core, but instead remembering to utilise the gravitational mana within my Gravity Mana gland. The gland will increase the drain on my core as it seeks to replenish the mana it's lost, sure, but it's still a lot more manageable than pulling mana straight out of my core and blasting it everywhere.
I made sure I preserved some attention to ensure I don't run into a fence before I tasked my sub-brains with drawing out the mana, whilst I devoted my main mind to compressing it down. Working in tandem, the two sub-brains took hold of the deep well of gravitational mana within me and poured I it out for my main mind to grasp and compress.
Then compress it again. Then compress is some more.
Although my stats haven't changed since my last evolution, my ability to work with and to handle mana certainly has. My ability to compress mana has improved due to levelling the Forceful mana skill to level 9, my ability to focus has and endure mental strain has increased thanks to the oh so handy cerebral endurance skill line and my control has jumped by leaps and bounds due to my earnest levelling of the meditation skill.
Compared to when I first started, grasping and moulding my mana are tasks I can complete with relative ease! I mean, it's still hard as hell. Once compressed the mana roils and fights against my control as much as if ever has. My will is wielded like an iron vice, the mana is pressed and held, unable to escape and with no choice but to submit to me.
At least, sort of.
The more dense the mana becomes, the more unruly, as if repelled by an unseen force it struggled to be released from my grasp. Compressed, squashed and compacted, the mana changed, became deeper, darker and more potent. If I slipped at this stage then the results would be catastrophic as the mana expanded rapidly in a similar fashion to, you know, an explosion.
There is high reward for this type of spell, but there is also high risk.
As I wrestled internally with my spell, we continued to pursue our enemies, running behind them at break neck speed. Advanced Stamina has levelled twice since we left the nest. When I considered all the freaking running I've done, that doesn't seem like enough!
The Croca Beasts don't seem to be built for extended runs, their bodies are a bit larger than their limbs seem to fit and their impressive bulk must make it tough to run this far. The same goes for Tiny and he's approaching the end of his rope, so they must be also. These big monsters are built for power in bursts.
Thankfully it means that we've caught up to them.
Fifty metre behind them now and they still haven't noticed our approach, so intent are they on running towards the capital. At least, Morrelia assured me they are headed to the capital. Or at least, what's left of it.
[How much longer?] Morrelia demanded tersely.
[Oi! I'm manipulating the fundamental forces of the universe over here. If I slip in my control then we'll all die a horrible death!]
[Then why are you talking?]
Embrace the meditation, emotions are a distraction I can ill afford.
Not so calm.
Within me the energy of my spell underwent a transformation and turned into the now familiar, near black gravitation energy of the Gravity Bomb. In my mind the spell appeared as a rotating sphere, it's edge smooth as if cut by a laser and a terrifying pull emanated from within.
Happy to oblige, I fed more and more mana into the spell, allowed it to drag and yank at my gravitational mana as all of my minds struggled to direct and contain it. Without the razor sharp clarity afforded by my meditation skill I wouldn't dare to push this far, in all previous attempts at casting this spell I would have released it at this point, or just held onto it until I was ready to release. But this time I felt I could go further.
More mana. Still, more.
Onward and downward it spiralled into the core of the spell which only grew more dense and heavy as time passed.
I hadn't had much opportunity to test the limits of gravity mana gland since I'd last upgraded it to +15, consolidating my capacity upgrades to grant yet more capacity. I've pulled a torrent of mana out of the gland at this point but I can feel there is a ton more to give.
In the back of my mind I shivered thinking about what kind of devastation a Gravity Bomb would cause were I to dump all of my mana into a single one. I doubted I'd even be able to control it.
[Forceful Mana has reached level 10, upgrade available]
[Forceful Mana -> Condensed mana. This skill further schools the user the ways of mana compression, instructing in the more elegant method of mana condensing]
Not a great time but sure! Go for it!
The more mana I poured into the bomb, the darker it became and the faster it rotated. I felt the spell scream out for release as I continued to force and force more energy into it. And it changed, growing heavier within me. The sheer density of the mana exuded a menacing pull that I began to feel within my very carapace.
It was at that precise moment that the Garralosh Commander froze in place before it whipped it's hideous double jawed head around and looked directly at us.
As if all the screaming banshees of hell had been unleashed on the world in an instant, by spell tore into existence before me and howled towards my foes.