Around the scene of the battle I could see the oversized footprints pressed into the ground all over the place. It was clear that they approached from the direction we had pursued the commander, meaning they had come from the direction of the capital city, Liria. It was also clear that the creature who had come here had cleaned up all of the Biomass we had left behind. I'm not certain if Biomass could fade on the surface as it did within the Dungeon, I suspected not, which led me to believe that the creature who had come here had chewed all of it up before departing.
There was no doubt in my mind who these oversized Croc prints belonged to: Garralosh.
The mother Croc.
There were so many damned prints in the ground it wasn't easy to tell how many legs the creature had. Judging by the progression from Croca-Beast to Croca-Commander, I can expect that the number of limbs, tails and heads has only gone up. Images of bizarre formations of Croca parts run through my head. Four heads? Nine tails?! Twenty two arms?!
I shook myself to push the pictures from my mind. Ultimately, it didn't matter. The rare core had been lost in my carelessness and I couldn't get it back. Disappointment and guilt washed over me in that moment. If it had been for me, I doubt I would have cared this much. So stupid!
Only one way to fix it. Try and hunt down another Croca-Commander and present its core to Mother! Heck, I'll bring her the core of big momma Garralosh myself if I have to.
With a upwelling of determination, I decided to ignore the idea that I'd just pledged to defeat a Crocodile who's feet are larger than my whole body and turned back to meet up with my crew. I spent the journey once again huddled in the long grass, my minds grasping at the mana in the air.
Curiously, I found the mana replenished itself the further from the battle site I found myself. Why the heck was the ambient mana so thin in just that location? It seemed weird. There must be a reason.
The only significant event I could think of that had occurred in that place is that Garralosh, a very old, very powerful monster, had passed through the area. But what did that have to do with the mana in the air?
Hang on a second.
Big 'ol monster, highly evolved, powerful core, on the surface, needs mana, mana in the air is lacking after it passed through…
There are some dots here that I feel I'm connecting…
Stopping in place, I hesitantly stretched out with my main mind, sending my awareness outside of my body in the strange way that was only possible here in this world, to sense the mana in the air. Like part of the atmosphere, the mana suffused everything, every blade of grass, every leaf and the air itself. Not nearly to the level it existed within the Dungeon itself, but still, it was there.
I grabbed hold of a small portion of mana with my thoughts, gripping it tight in a vice of pure will, and drew it down toward me, toward my body and then inside, toward my core. To my shock, the mana was drawn straight into my core like a drop of water being soaked into a sponge.
So this means I can draw mana out of the air in order to sustain my core whilst I'm up on the surface? Why the hell didn't I think of that before?! The core draws mana into itself passively, I guess I just didn't think of trying to supplement its automatic replenishment function by controlling the mana around me. Negligent! I've been negligent again! I should not have neglected the External Mana Manipulation skill for so long! What other precious secret does it hold?!
It's obvious now that Garralosh is using this skill and a much higher level than I am in order to offset the demands of its core whilst moving on the surface, but I still feel it isn't enough to explain how such an evolved monster can move about up here. I'm only estimating here, and on only a tiny amount of data, but I feel like if I were to rank up the skill and devote my two sub brains to constantly pulling ambient mana into my core, I would still be short of breaking even by just a smidge. If Garralosh has risen the skill to rank four or five, and has a powerful mind rig, she would still be running at a massive loss.
Perhaps she can only maintain herself up here for short bursts. Then why come at all? It just doesn't make sense to me. I may need to grill Morrelia further when I make it back to them.
External mana Manipulation had made it to level four by the time I reunited with the gang. The constant use was certainly keeping the skill ticking up a nice rate. The fact I didn't even have to use my main mind to do it was even better. As a rank one skill, it's still limited in the knowledge and skill that it grants. I'm excited to see what it will give at the second and third rank.
When I returned to the improvised Dungeon we had dug I found Morrelia, Crinis and Tiny resting. All three of them looked up at my descent, my pets happy to see me, Morrelia more irritated that anything my the looks of things.
After connecting the mind bridge I told Morrelia what I had found.
[So Garralosh has actually set foot on the surface] she frowned.
[I believe that she's using external mana manipulation to drag mana into her core. The air in the area was extremely thin when I got there].
[It's a known tactic, even humans use this method to recharge magic items faster.]
[That alone shouldn't be enough, surely?] I waggled my antennae in protest, [a monster that size must have a potent core. If a few skills were enough for monsters to operate on the surface, wouldn't it happen all the time? I understand that it's basically unheard of for Dungeon monsters to run around on the surface!]
[It's true] Morrelia sighed, [the problem is the wave we are experiencing. For some reason it's caused the density of the ambient mana on the surface to rise, that isn't meant to happen. That can cause the normal monsters to rise to the surface, but it shouldn't be enough for a creature like Garralosh. There's something strange happening and I can't explain it.]
She appeared frustrated by her lack of understanding toward this situation. Ever since we had come to the former Kingdom of Liria, Morrelia had contained a simmering anger inside her, well, more simmering anger that usual. I had to remind myself every now and again that this was her homeland we're stomping around in.
[So what's the plan?] I asked, [I'm here for reconnaissance and I would love to get a chance at grabbing another rare core, so I'm going to stick around. What about you?]
Morrelia dropped her chin to chest as she thought for a moment.
[I'll stay] she declared. [I want to get to the capital and see it for myself. I also want to find out just how a monster like Garralosh is moving around on the surface. There must be more there that we can learn.]
[Alright, give me a little while to get ready and then we can go.]
Time to spend some Biomass.