We slaughtered a heck of a lot of monsters in the third ambush. By abusing the limitations of the control used on the monsters we continuously charged, battled, retreated and recovered until our entire force was battled out and exhausted from the slaughter, unable to keep up with the last retreating monsters. Even Tiny had collapsed to the ground, punched out.
Soldiers had been lost, of course. Fighting meant casualties and I would just have to get used to the idea. Even when including the scouts that we'd lost, a third of the number committed, the losses versus the damage inflicted looked fantastic for the colony. Not only had thousands more monsters been killed, but the experience and Biomass would be claimed by the colony in full. Enough Biomass for every soldier who participated in the battle to pump their evolutions up and empower them for the next fight.
I myself just slumped to the ground once the fighting was done, trusting that some ants would keep a lookout and slipped directly into torpor, only to awaken a few hours later with a developing issue.
My core! So empty! The gnawing feeling of my energy bleeding into the air was starting to cause that sharp pain I had become all too familiar with. I brought up my status and looked at how much mana remained inside my core. Down to under ten MP! I'd gone all out in the battle so it shouldn't be a surprise but yikes, that'd been close!
No time to lose!
[Tiny, Crinis, are you around?]
[… Tiny, food.]
[We need to leave and recharge our cores as soon as possible, stuff your faces as best you can and let's go.]
With no further ado I joined the soldiers who were busy chowing down on the literal carpet of Biomass that lay over the forest floor and started shovelling food into my mouth. Once my first stomach was filled, I diligently switched to the social stomach and kept on going until I'd expanded in size like a swollen balloon.
Another 15 points of Biomass locked in. I really don't get the value out of these low tier monsters but it isn't as if I have an option. Eating this is still better than eating nothing.
61 Biomass! So close! Four more points and I'll achieve my first fully mutated evolution. Much excited!
Alright. With my own feasting done I waddled over to the nearby scouts and let them know I'd be heading to the Dungeon location the colony had prepared in order to charge up my core. The poor saps where in charge of disposing of the Colony's dead and it was saddening to see the fallen soldiers lying lifeless on the ground, somehow looking smug and satisfied. I'd been a bit worried at one stage that the ants would eat our dead, Biomass being Biomass after all, but they had unexpectedly followed a more traditional Earth ant path.
Colonies of ants on Earth were generally speaking, very clean. Since they live in damp, underground environments where mould and fungus can thrive, it's super important that they be as spotless as possible. To that end the ants would undergo many behaviours to ensure a squeaky clean nest: grooming themselves constantly to remove contamination, using their natural acid to disinfect themselves and each other, rotating the soil inside the nest with soil on the surface to aerate it and establishing a garbage site.
The garbage site was usually close to, but a respectable distance from the nest itself and it's in this place that the workers would carry the waste of the colony. The poop would go here, the bits of food that the ants couldn't eat, and the colony's dead.
In the case of Earth ants, that means a heck of a lot of dead bodies, since the lifespan of most workers is about one month, depending on the species. In the case of my colony here on Pangera, we haven't had many dead to worry about so it's not been much of an issue but I feel my heart twinge as I watch the scouts drag the bodies and pile them neatly away from the battlefield.
With Tiny alongside and Crinis riding on my back we set off at a solid but obese pace. The horde would be ahead of us at the moment, but since the path they followed would curve wide around the forest and we would be moving through it, we'd be able to get back ahead of them in no time.
We set off at a slow run, each of us weighed down by our food intake, me especially since I had to carry Crinis and her void stomach. How much she could fit in there I've no idea but since she weighs more than I do it must be a ton! My stick-like legs are shaking holding up the balloon of infinite hunger. I vowed to myself that after my evolution I'd beef my legs up to the point where carrying three Crinis's wouldn't faze me in the slightest!
After our bodies started digesting the food in our systems and doing… whatever it did with it, still no idea where the waste went (perhaps our digestive system is faultless and there isn't any waste?), and we were able to pick up the pace.
As we travelled, I took some time to check my status after the battle and I was delighted to see that I'd levelled once again. It's getting close! And my more physical battle skills had also seen a significant amount of growth. Hours of solid battling would do that, I suppose.
Level: 37 (Special core)
Skills: Expert Excavation (III) Level 5; Deadly Acid Shot (III) Level 4; Advanced Grip (II) Level 5; Shattering Bite (IV) Level 15; Advanced Stealth (II) Level 5; Splintering Chomp (III) Level 19; Tunnel Map (II) Level 6; Mana Transformation (III) Level 11; Condensed Mana (III) Level 3; Finer External Mana Manipulation (III) Level 3; Empowered Mana Sensing (II) Level 2; Core Surgery (III) Level 6; Expert Exo-Skeleton Defence (III) level 11; Distant Pet Communication (II) Level 3; Rapid Dash (II) Level 8; Expert Water Magic Affinity (III) Level 2; Expert Stamina (III) Level 1; Pet Growth Speed (I) Level 1; Mana Scrooge (II) Level 7; Expert Cerebral Endurance (III) Level 12; Profound Meditation (III) Level 5; Advanced Precise Shooting (II) Level 7; Severing Bite (III) Level 13; Enhanced Mind Magic Affinity (II) level 5;
Mutations: Perimeter Eyes +15, Future Sight Infrared Antennae +15, Mana Binding Acid +15, Rapid Absorption Legs +15, Empowered Mandibles +15, True Diamond Carapace +15, Regrowth Regeneration Gland +15, Persuasive Pheromone Language Gland +10, Bottomless Gravity Magic Gland +15, Adaptable Coordination Cortex +15, Supportive Inner Carapace Plating +15;
Species: Dispersed Mind Ant (Formica Sapiens)
Skill points: 20