With the main bulk of the planning done, it was time to get my group rested and ready to head back out into the fray. Not long after the council broke up, Tiny stumbled into our chamber only to flop onto the floor and returned to sleep, absorbing the mana of the Dungeon to restore his exhausted core.
Speaking of cores, it was time to help Crinis evolve! Only her second evolution since she'd been reforged as my loyal pet and unlike the last evolution, this one would be less of my design. I hadn't had the skill to affect her evolutions to such a deep extent at the time, so there is an opportunity for Crinis to take a more direct hand in her own evolution here, without my own guiding influence.
Naturally this meant that the Dungeon would weave the general shape of her choices and there was a chance that some of them would be hot garbage. Fortunately, if that were to happen then Crinis could ask me to dive into her core and sort out some options for her.
[Are you ready for this Crinis?]
The little ball wiggled indecisively on the floor in front of me, small tentacles extending this way and that until eventually her form solidified.
[I - I think so, Master] she told me.
[You're doing great. Remember, if the evolution options are terrible, let me know and we can work on developing something a little more concrete that suits what you want.]
The little blob-like ball nodded somehow and firmed up further as Crinis gained confidence.
[I know. I feel it'll go well] she declared.
I looked down at my loyal and ever diligent sphere of endless murder and torment. She'd come a long way in being able to try and take responsibility for making her own choices. It wasn't that long that she'd been paralysed by fear just thinking of spending her skill points, and now here she was, preparing to make her own decisions in her own evolution.
I was happy she'd shown such growth over the last few weeks. She'd been working hard to improve herself.
[Wait a second. You aren’t trying so hard because you think that's what I want, is it?]
[Oi! Don't pretend you're already in the evolution menu!]
[Can't hear you master, evolving] Crinis' voice echoed faintly in my mind.
Such a dirty trick!
Well at least she's working on being independent, even if it's for the wrong reasons. Personal growth! The journey we are all on as we slaughter monsters together! As I leave Crinis to sort through her menu my eyes fell onto Tiny.
A little personal growth would be nice for the big guy. He was a battle hungry nut case when I reconstituted his core and he is still that same battle hungry nut case. At least he knows what it is that wants from life, I suppose.
For now though. Time for some rest. After everything that's gone on since my last snooze, I think I've earned it.
As I fall into the comfortable, dark fuzz that is torpor, the ever nearing threat that is Garralosh, her lizard handler and the horde that accompanies them weighs on my awareness. I have to believe that the family I've found in this new world be able to weather the storm. I know that I'll do everything in my power to get us all through it.
Ahh! Feels so nice to have had a good rest, back in my own little chamber. It may not have been home for long, but it's more home that anywhere else on this world.
Tiny is still asleep and Crinis appears to be deep in her meditation sleep. I can already see her little spherical body beginning to change in subtle ways. I'll be interested to see what the final result is!
But I have business to take care of first. Sitting in one corner of the chamber is a pile of Biomass and when I approach it I find a pheromone message from the most hyper-active ant of them all.
"Hi-Hi Senior! Long-time no see! . Hope things have been well with you. It's been busy here! x) This is the second load of food I brought in since Tiny woke up and ate the first lot. Enjoy! ^_^ "
Figures that Tiny chow down on my food, thank goodness that Vibrant was able to rustle up a second serve. This may not be enough food to give me all of the Biomass that I need, in fact I'm sure it won't. The quality of this food isn't enough for me to be able to get the numbers I need before I fill up my two stomachs.
Without waiting any longer I lay into the food and begin stuffing my face.
Om Nom Nom!
Just before I finish stuffing my face, another twenty points of Biomass accredited to my name, I notice Crinis beginning to shift in the corner. I immediately abandon my meal and leap over to her resting position, bringing my antennae forward to poke and prod at her in concern.
[Crinis! You awake? Everything ok?!]
The changes to her outer physical form are fairly minimal, but more pronounced than last time. She's grown slightly larger, for starters, from a softball size to a… slightly larger softball size. She'd grown ten small permanent tentacles that curved downward from her body to the floor, lifting it up and allowing her to walk around without having to will any limbs into existence by manipulating her shadow flesh.
I gradually felt her awareness come to me as she finished waking up.
[Master?" she queried sleepily, "I've done it. Check and see.]
What a cute little pet she is, so dedicated.
Eagerly I bring me antennae forward and activate my core surgery skill. The information from her core floods into my mind and after parsing it I put together her status and examine it:
Level: 1 (core)
Skills: Expert Shadow Flesh Manipulation Level 4 (III); Expert Grappling Level 6(III); Expert Shredding Level 8 (III); Enhanced Tremor Sensing Level 8 (II); Brutal Dismembering Level 5 (II); Greater Fear Inspiration Level 4 (II); Mana Transformation Level 2(III); Smooth Tentacle Walking Level 7 (II); Tentacle Fu Level 3 (I); External Mana Manipulation level 3 (I); Shadow Magic Affinity Level 1 (I); Stealth Level 3(III);
Mutations: Dense Durable Shadow flesh +10; Rapid Disintegrating Void Maw +10; Vast Bottomless Dimensional Stomach +10; Empowered Dividing Tentacles +10; Sharpened Ripping barbs + 10; Pointed Macabre Teeth + 10; Wide Fine Mana Sensory Gland +10, Rapid Deep Shadow Magic Gland +10, Extra Swift Shadow Flesh Generator +10; Shadow Eye; Tentacle Conductor;
Species: Shadow Murder Orb
Skill points: 17
Oho! There's some good stuff here! In the skills department she's clearly been making great strides, already reached Mana Transformation. She must have been practicing diligently whilst riding on my back to achieve the tier three skill so quickly. And she got shadow magic affinity right off the bat! I'm so jealous! Not to mention she's almost reached the same level of Cunning as me! And the rest of her stats are so high as well! Dammit! I feel so inadequate… This is mainly due to her having far higher base stats before her first evolution. Poor ants, we have it so rough in the stats department.
I can only hope my next evolution will be able to push me over the edge and I can start reaping some high stat gain.
Looking at her stats, it seems as if Crinis has gone for a balanced approach, improving in every stat. Her mental stats being concentrated in one mind means that her brain must be incredibly powerful, far stronger than my own since my stats are distributed across three brains. With her shadow magic affinity, the full potential of her shadow magic gland has been unlocked as she can now use that mana to its full potential and her high mental stats mean she has the grunt to get the job done.
Her might stat is still decent without being overwhelming. She'll continue to be able to battle multiple smaller foes with impunity but will be stronger against the heavier hitters. I think that's why I see an emphasis on stealth. Crinis seems to have been thinking about her own method of contribution to fighting tougher monsters and I think she has reached her answer with her new organs.
The Shadow eye… I'm curious about this one.