chapter 281 – counting the gains

After collecting my small collection of aphid cores I get Tiny to carry them and we descend from the trees to battle amongst the monsters once more as we make our way back to the shortcut. To be honest he non-stop grind and battering of battle against the monsters is strangely refreshing. It feels nice to exercise, something that I didn’t really understand as a human. But now, with my mandibles crunching down on my foes and the endless tide of monsters battering at my shiny carapace, I get it, it’s nice to use your body. Especially when it such an incredible specimen of an ant body like mine!

All things considered, this little escapade has been well worth the time, even if I were only to concentrate on the gains in skills and Biomass. When we finally make it back to the shortcut, clear it out and settle in to rest with Crinis taking the first guard shift I decide to tally up my gains.

Things have gone relatively well on the Biomass front, we don’t exactly get a lot of time to eat in the Expanse right now since the battle frenzy is in full flight, but I was still able to pile up a substantial amount. With this hunt and previous snacking included I’ve managed to gain another 138 Biomass, which takes my current total to 189. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. The repeated eating and fighting really seems to aid the digestion, speeding up the process of getting the food through the system and freeing up space for the next meal. Perhaps this is the ideal Biomass gathering method, as opposed to gorging until I can barely drag my business district around. I should share this information with the hatchlings, this could be vital for the colony to maximise efficiency!

My skills have also seen significant improvements. Tearing Bite has reached level 9, one step away from reaching the third rank, which is nice. Advanced Cerebral endurance gained a few levels to reach 7 and Mediation reached the third rank due to my essentially constant use of the mind affecting skill, allowing me to punch it up to Profound Mediation level 2. This skill really has been having a potent effect, allowing my mental state to achieve a level of clarity that is startling. The amount of mental processing I’m to accomplish in moments of heated battle is becoming astonishing, allowing my high mental stats to come into their own.

Mind Magic Affinity has, thanks to my constant use and heavy focus, also managed to rank up to Enhanced Mind magic affinity. I eagerly checked my available skills the moment after I made the purchase but no new magic affinity options had become available to me, sadly. Along with two levels, those where my total gains.

The constant fighting and heavy battering I received also helped to take my mind off the suffering my core is currently inflicting on me. After levelling a couple of times the pain has noticeably receded, but is still quite intense. It’s going to be a long term project to complete the absorption of that stupid rare core. The evolution I receive had better be absolutely amazing for me to endure all of this suffering. Level forty is still a long way away, so hopefully by the time I get there I can complete that task.

Rather than spend my points and mutate here and now, I decide to spend some time working on core manipulation. Tiny carefully places the six small, spherical gems on the floor before me where they glitter beautifully. One by one I activate Core Surgery and take a good look at each of the cores, confirming that the information encoded within each, the monstrous DNA, if you will, is the same for all of them. Indeed they are all a match, almost identical in the basic details, only the individual mutations, skill levels and a very minor stat variance exists between each of them. This should be the ideal circumstances to attempt the core fusion that I want.

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In essence, I want to take these cores and meld them together, retaining the general shape and form of the creature within, preventing the data from overwriting or scrambling during the process. In the ideal outcome, I’ll be able to combine these cores and create what is basically a large aphid with much more potential energy to play with. From there I’ll be able to manipulate that blueprint and form the Aphid Queen from which my species of docile farm animals will spring.

Okay, here we go. Deftly rolling the first to gems into position with my antennae, I tap each of them with one antenna each and activate the skill, gently pressing them together as I do so. Immediately the pressure on my brains explodes in magnitude as the cores resist my attempt to push them together.

So far so good. This bit is perfectly normal and I’ve done it dozens of times already when making special cores. This time is different. All I had to do last time was overcome the resistance of the cores and squash them together, this time I need to do that whilst simultaneously ensuring that the information contained within the cores forms a harmonious whole, the new data sliding neatly over the old.

In order to achieve this duality I task my two sub brains with the fusion itself whilst my main mind is dedicated to ensuring the information within the core maintains its integrity. Deliberately slowing down the fusing process, my mind reaches into both cores at once and tries to get a clear picture of the information flowing between the two.

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Almost like the individual brush strokes of an artwork, each piece of information is part of a complete whole, only making sense in the context of those strokes around it. The colours, the forms, width and depth, all layered on top of and around each other to build up a cohesive image. In fusing the two cores together as I did in the past, I’m basically taking two art works, melting one down into a bucket of paint and throwing it at the other.

Naturally, chaos was the result!

I’m getting a bad feeling about how this is going to have to be done.

I can’t take all of the paint and throw it together haphazardly, it needs to be done just like painting a picture would be, line by line, stroke by stroke. Which means this is going to suck.

With sheer force of will, my two sub brains cooperate to hold the cores in a state of near fusion, just on the verge of beginning to meld together. Then, with my main mind I reach into one of the cores and strip away a single piece of data, a single brush stroke of the image, which I hold delicately with my thoughts as I transfer it over to the second core and carefully lay it over the top of the same data, melding the two pieces together.

As the two pieces of data merge flawlessly I feel satisfaction but also weariness. Such delicate work is tiring on the mind and my sub brains are already feeling the strain of this constant effort. I’m going to be wrecked by the time this is done…

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