Rassan'tep reached out with his mind to sense the situation as closely as he could before he relaxed a scale. He was careful to let nothing show to his fellow ka'armodo as they stood together, directing the termite assault. He had nearly panicked, and feared he would need to intervene, when the prospective Ancient had sallied forth with such brazen confidence, rushing into the centre of their encirclement without support. It was an insane manoeuvre, and for a moment, he had feared the monster had taken complete leave of its senses. After consulting with his attendants, they had quickly dismissed the idea and realised the true strategy at play.

Dangling such tasty bait in such a blatant way was crass tactics and would never work under normal circumstances. Any competent commander would realise it was bait and act accordingly, pull back, organise a staged defence without leaving any openings. This situation was anything but normal. The ka'armodo were working on incomplete information, they had less than perfect feedback from the termite troops, and it was difficult to get a clear picture of what was occurring at times. Even more to the point, the leadership here was in the hands of largely inexperienced juveniles. Expendable pawns who could safely be dismissed as “rogues” who'd acted without permission or support.

Their lack of patience and poor judgement irked Rassan'tep, though it played into his hands in this instance.

[How is that miserable creature still alive?] hissed Oolan'tep from beside him. [This is taking far too long!]

The irritated mage was so incensed she nearly raised a claw to scratch at her scales before her attendants leapt forward to prevent the shameful display of irritation. Under their careful ministrations, she was able to calm herself somewhat, though each of her peers kept an eye on her. They had not missed the near-slip.

The young these days. Rassan'tep shared a glance with his lead attendant, the two of them sympathising with each other at being forced to associate with the uncultured and wild youth. This too was noted by the gathered ka'armodo, and with his point made, he got back to focusing on his task.

With luck, he had been assigned as part of the group tasked with hunting down the fearsome tier six ant. He'd hoped he could fail at his task just enough to enable the creature to survive, though he had expected that one or several of the pets would need to be sacrificed in order to appear convincing. It wasn't to be. Despite being completely surrounded and made to endure a relentless assault for over an hour, the ant and his followers were yet to fall.

A remarkable achievement.

[I believe we must consider falling back to reserve the remaining creatures we have at our command,] he spoke gravely over the mental link. [We have expended much and gained nothing in this endeavour. If we become hot blooded and make poor decisions, that which can still be salvaged will also be lost.]

Accusing those who disagreed of acting in an 'un-ka'armodo' like fashion was a deliberate tactic, and one he was pleased with. Hot-blooded was almost a curse word to his people, and in this situation, the moniker stuck. Trying to hold the line and kill Anthony would only result in further losses at this point. The Colony had punched through their thinned lines with ease, eradicating everything they found in the way as they drove the termites out of the Mother Tree's island. Only small pockets of resistance held now, but they wouldn’t last for long. The moment they fell, the ants would then encircle what remained of this army, including the ka'armodo themselves.

Even the bruan'chii had marched out and now were mere minutes away from meeting up with the tier six ant. The moment they connected, there would be no chance of succeeding in their mission.

[How can a small group of tier six monsters be so difficult to exterminate?] Oolan'tep growled.


[We have attacked with tens of thousands of termites. Our creatures aren't as weak as this.]

[I think we have overestimated the strength of our design in this scenario,] mused Garap'tep. [Although we shifted the Soul Devouring termite design in the queens to a new anti-ant variety, that work was largely rushed. Especially when we compare it to the effort we put into the initial form which found such success against the tree. When it comes to fighting high quality monsters with extreme levels of compact strength, our soldiers are far from effective weapons.]

The lead mage of one of the design teams, Garap'tep was at least keeping his cool, as a proper member of their society should.

[Your analysis feels accurate to me,] Rassan'tep agreed with the promising young mage. [The termites are a poor tool for the job, an issue we tried to overcome by applying extreme numbers. However, only a dozen or so of our monsters can engage with the target at a time, and that simply hasn't proven to be enough.]

Though that had surprised even him. Anthony and his pets, along with that powerful bear, had proven to be absolute powerhouses, capable of destroying huge numbers of weaker monsters without tiring.

It only further convinced him that Anthony was of interest to the Red Truth. A very promising prospect. Perhaps the most promising he'd seen in a hundred years.

[We will retreat,] Oolan'tep declared, much to the others' relief, though they hid it well. [We have suffered a grave defeat today, but we will not endure complete loss. If we regroup, we may still be able to succeed in our endeavour.]

The general mood across the mental bond was positive, though Rassan'tep wondered how much of that was simply a front. There was a general level of blind optimism about the young, and he could sense a little of that around him as they directed their army to abandon the fight and escape. They had to get out of the area themselves if they wanted to avoid a fight, so they wasted no time in mounting their entourages on their back and setting off through the tunnels.

[How do you think this will play out, Master?] Ammon'sil asked over their bond. [Do you believe that we can regroup and push the ants back once more?]

[Unlikely,] he sneered, though he kept his face perfectly still. [The losses today are a blow, but are not devastating. Even the loss of position helps our side somewhat. The ants have been drawn out of their heavily fortified territory and must now fight on fresh ground. They also have more surface area to protect, which makes them more vulnerable.]


[But that is only true if the numbers remain relatively the same. We have more termites, and our numbers grow every day, but the Colony can bring reinforcements through the gate whenever they want. I have no idea how many of them there are, but what if a million were to walk through tomorrow? The nest would be overrun that day.]

[Do you really believe they have those sorts of numbers?]

[They may. In truth, I don't think they would even need that many. Ultimately, we have shown that even with every advantage, the termites are unable to defeat the strongest ant and his pets at this stage. Unless we create more powerful soldiers, or shift their design in some way to be better suited to the task, the ant can do whatever he wants, and we can't stop him.]

[That isn't true if the ka'armodo take part in the fight directly.]

[Which is probably what he wants,] he mused. [If my people begin to expose themselves to danger, I think they'll find that the ant is highly motivated to try and exploit that situation.]


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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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