The heat continues to rise within the flash hardened shell that I'd created, to the point I create some ice just to cool us off. As an ant, I don't mind a bit of heat, but Sarah, even with her temperature regulating enchantments, can't handle this level. We are literally cooking as the twin fire-tornadoes roar throughout the tunnel outside.

If we're cooking in here, then I can only imagine what's happening to the termites outside.

Actually… I don't really want to imagine. That's going to be gross, not that I feel any sympathy. With a little luck I might even catch a ka'armodo who got too close, trying to lead the troops from the front, but as I listen to the notifications roll in from Gandalf, none come up.

A shame.

[Good job, Anthony!] Sarah congratulates me. [I can't believe you can cast magic like that!]

[I can, but it nearly emptied me out,] I say, [I'm running on fumes over here, as far as MP goes. So don't expect anything out of me for a while.]

[Oh. Is that so? Well, we should be able to hold them off until you recover, at least a little.]

My legs are buried in the floor of the tunnel, gathering up mana, but it’s a trickle compared to the flood I would need to be full. A mutation or two for absorbing mana isn't going to cut it at the level of spells I'm playing with now.

[I'll try and draw in as much ambient mana as I can. If you guys do your best, we'll be able to hold them off long enough for the Colony to arrive.]

It's seriously cramped inside this shell. It's even more cramped when I think about the fact that Protectant and her squad are in here with us. Idly, I bump up against the wall and even though I don't actually reach the heated surface my brain doesn't seem to register it. We are bumping up against the guards all the time, but it's like our minds refuse to acknowledge it.

With the benefit of the Vestibule, I know they're in here, but without that insight I'd have no idea. The stealth organs these siblings of mine have taken on are absolutely insane. If they reach tier six they'll be even harder to notice, I have no doubt.

[This spell is going to last another minute, I would say,] I tell the others. [When it fails I'm going to dissolve the walls around us and we can take our final stand within this tunnel.]

[Should we try and use this time to tunnel down, Master? We might be able to create a more favourable battle ground?]

Independent thinking from Crinis? It brings a tear to my eye every time.

[It might be hard to tell with the storm of mana around us right now, but the termites are beneath us as well. Digging down won't help us escape. We're encircled.]

[S-Sorry, Master!] The blob that is Crinis tries to cover herself with tentacles to hide her shame. [I couldn't see clearly enough, I shouldn't have said anything!]

I reach out and give her a pat with one antenna.

[Not at all. It was a good idea, and how were you to know when it's so hard for you to see at the moment? I like it when you speak your thoughts to us. Keep it up!]

[I-I-I will!]

They grow up so fast!

I try to act casually as I turn to Sarah.

[Have you heard anything strange again?] I ask.

The big bear tilts her head as if listening.

[No,] she answers finally. [Maybe I didn't hear anything in the first place. It was such a faint thought.]

[No worries,] I shrug, [let me know if anything comes up.]

We continue to wait a little longer as the walls around glow bright with intense heat. I wince. My guardians are going to have very sore feet. Eventually the tornadoes begin to peter out and I can feel the massed termite horde begin to move once more.

[They're coming!] I warn the others. [Seems like they're going to try and just bury us beneath their mass. I'm taking down the walls, be ready!]

After a brief pause, the dome I crafted around us crumbles away to nothing. It takes a second for my eyes to refocus and when they do what is revealed is a true wasteland. Crispy termite remains cover rocks that are blackened with soot and still glowing red. The flame tornadoes have ripped the place to shreds, but even the devastation I've wrought isn't what captures my attention. To the left and right, in the distance, are masses of termites rushing forward like a cresting wave.

Seriously. They basically fill the tunnel on both sides from the floor to the roof. A heaving mass of cockroach descendants that writhes forward like an unstoppable tide.

[They aren't mucking around this time. They intend to end it. We need to bring the noise. Invidia, you take the left. Tiny and Sarah, you take the right. Crinis and I will hold the middle.]

Invidia practically radiates demonic glee as his eye glows bright with baleful green light. In fact, it's only getting brighter…

I take a tactical step to one side a few moments before the hovering eyeball demon unleashes the full power of his mighty laser. The incandescent green beam lances through the air before playing across the mass of termites rushing towards us. The sheer power of the laser is incredible and I've no doubt that hundreds of monsters are destroyed but it hardly seems to make a dent. There must be tens of thousands bearing down on us right now. There'd be even more, but the ka'armodo are limited by how many of their servant monsters will literally fit in the tunnel.

My brains are still on fire, even with the Vestibule soothing them, and the mana in my core still isn't anything like what I'd like it to be. I'm pretty restricted in what I can do right now, basically only things that cost stamina. Going to be interesting when they get here, that's for sure.

To the other side, Tiny and Sarah charge headlong toward the foe. The big ape charges up what remains of his lightning and blasts it toward the enemy before beginning to wind up his most impressive punch.

[Crinis, this is your time to shine.]

[I won't let you down!] she assures me.

The blob of shadow goop that is Crinis inflates once more to reveal her full majesty, a towering creature of tentacles and fathomless maws. The light begins to fade as she releases her shadow mana, infusing the air around her. As the area beneath her thickens to a pure dark she extends innumerable limbs and plunges them through the shadow gate.

I eye the dual waves of termites approaching…

For once I think she's not going to have enough tentacles.



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Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!

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