chapter 172 – core, what is it good for?

As I start to move over to the collection of cores in Tiny’s hands I notice something sending a shiny reflection onto the walls of the chamber. What the heck is that? It’s looking like a mini disco ball descended in the room!

I almost turn my head to see if there is anything suspended from the roof before remembering I don’t have to turn my head to look up anymore. It’s only then that I realise the reflection is actually coming from me! More specifically from my carapace. What the heck is going on!

On closer inspection of my usually smooth and glittering Diamond carapace I notice that something has changed in my last mutation. When I selected hardened Diamond carapace I hadn’t quite expected this sort of effect.

The small glittering points in my carapace have expanded, growing out over the surface of the carapace slightly. Each little point has only grown a small amount but the cumulative effect is significant. In essence I now have a small diamond covering at points all over my carapace! I mean, I look fabulous but just how high is the value of my skeleton going to get if I keep going down this path?!

If I continue to harden the Diamond Carapace in future will I eventually just be completely covered in diamond, a shiny and reflective crystal ant?!


That sounds awesome……

I might end up with monster hunters from all over the globe coming to take by extremely valuable business district back to the surface but damn if I won’t look good doing it!

Enough, I can worry about this another time, for now I need to focus on the process of evolving. As Vibrant bounces around the room making a pest of herself and my pets patiently wait I start to focus my mind and activate my engineering skill, one core at a time. After exhausting my will on one core I rest for five minutes before moving onto the next. Truly this is some of the most draining mental exertion I can imagine.

How the Sophos are able to work on a single core for weeks on end I have no idea, I can barely last more than ten minutes on one before my mental energy is flat lining. While I’m at it I do make sure to try and focus on practicing finer changes rather than brute forcing larger shifts in stats. Maybe taking a leg from here and moving it to there, making the mouth wider, general changes to the monsters physical shape rather than just it’s statistics.

This kind of editing takes even more mental energy but I must have experience in this field if my grand project is going to be a reality.

I make sure that I’m not messing with any potentially interesting or powerful cores before I begin my editing process. It wouldn’t do to overwrite a potentially promising pet with some garbage after I’ve put an extra pair of legs on its head.

After several hours I’ve created a small pile of cores that are ready for consumption! I take a quick break since the next part is even harder.

Stretch it out Anthony, just enjoy the breeze and concentrate man! Who’s the worker? YOU the worker!

OK! Let’s do this.

After flexing and stretching my ant self out in truly strange and puzzling ways I am sufficiently mentally psyched for the upcoming challenge.

Approaching two small cores on the floor with the utmost seriousness I tap each one with a single antennae and then press together both physically and mentally.


Like pressing two rocks together the cores refuse to budge. To make the impossible possible a sheer dominant force of will is required and I strain with every ounce of my being!

Come on you little b*****! Get in there!

Gradually the two cores begin to blur together, melding and blending their energies in wild and chaotic ways. Actually being able to control the result of this fusion is still a dream within a dream for me, successfully merging the cores is still the best I can do.

Hold on Anthony! You have the power!

I grit my mandibles tightly as I press with my mind forcefully against the cores until the fusion is finally complete.


Holy moly! That’s hard!


Only allowed on

Ok that’s one!

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After a rest I throw myself back into the fusion until I finally get the notification.

[Compatible special core detected, do you want to absorb or reconstitute the monster?]

Finally! I’m a broken heap of an ant on the floor but the core is finally finished!

“Vibrant!” I call.

“Hi-hi!” she answers, bouncing into view energetically.

Hanging around while I grind away on skills is mind numbingly boring for the little ant and she’s been poking about and literally running up the walls. Crinis is the one to suffer the most as the small worker pokes her, rolls her around and gets the little ball to climb onto her back before they go out adventuring.

She seems absolutely delighted to be called upon.

Despite being so tired, a feeling of selfish glee is washing over me. Yes, be happy whilst you can little worker, once this is done you’ll be big enough to no longer hitch free rides on me and strong enough to fight for your own food.

My days of freedom will return!


“Now you’ve reached maximum level, right?”


“and your core is maxed out, right?”


“Excellent! After absorbing this core you’ll be ready to evolve into an especially powerful ant!”

The little worker practically vibrates with enthusiasm. “Really?!” she cries.

“Absolutely! The only problem is that it’s going to hurt like hell!” I cheer.


“Okay!” she bubbles with barely diminished enthusiasm. There really isn’t anything that will keep her down for long.

Skittering closer she reaches out to the core and begins the absorption process. Much like when it was Tiny’s turn, she becomes increasingly agitated as the process continues, the powerful energy within the core streaming into her body, reinforcing her core and infusing it with the potent energies that will supercharge her evolution.

Almost unconsciously I reach out with an antenna to stroke the suffering little worker and pat her on the head, trying to soothe her. Perhaps she notices or perhaps she gets a better handle on the feeling but she visibly relaxes under my ministrations.

I don’t really want them to suffer, ok!? This is what’s best for them! With more powerful evolutions they’ll be able to overcome their fate and carve out their own path in life.

As a proud parent this is the best I can do!!!


Finally the process is done and Vibrant collapses in relief.

“You can evolve now little one” I say gently.

She nods, exhausted and crawls over to a corner of the chamber where she seems to fall asleep.

I’ll be interested to watch her evolution happen, what changes will she undergo?

Tiny watches her go with an odd look on his face.

That’s right buddy, you’re next!

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