chapter 613 – the stone endures

What is mana? It was an embarrassingly long time before the tower had anything even remotely approaching a satisfying answer to this question. Even now, we have no real way of knowing if we are correct, since we don’t know where it comes from, how it’s made or where it goes. We know that it existed on Pangera before the Dungeon broke the surface. It’s possible that mana has always existed on Pangera since the pre-history times, but that’s another thing we cannot confirm.

The deeper one goes into the Dungeon, the more dense it becomes. This, we have known for a long time. There has been a lot of argument over whether the mana was emanating outward from the centre of the planet, or being drawn from the outside inward. A great deal of effort was put into tracing the mana flows on the surface and most studies have been inconclusive on this issue.

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As to the nature of mana itself, who knows? It’s a type of energy. It’s malleable. It can be changed into a massive variety of other forms of mana, each with their own attributes, strengths and weaknesses. It’s tied into the natural world, as it replicates things that are possible without it. Sometimes. Other times it achieves things that are impossible without its use.

To this day it baffles us, though we use it extensively in our daily lives and research.

  • Grand Mage Trissitan of the tower.

The mana was rising. It wasn’t a dramatic issue in the present moment, but should this extermination drag out, it might cause problems. The spawn rates have already begun to rise, if it were to become another Wave…

The High Blade shook his head. It wouldn’t come to that, so soon after a wave had just completed. There hadn’t been two such events so close together in the history of the Empire of Stone. It would be foolish to adjust his strategy to accommodate such a freak occurrence. The levels were still within tolerance, no doubt they would peak soon and then continue to decline until mana levels returned to what they should be.

He dismissed the thoughts from his mind with practiced ease and sank himself further into the meditative state necessary for the ritual. All concerns and awareness faded from view. The mission no longer existed, the tent around him turned to black and even the myriad of sounds of the camp that had intruded so rudely a moment before were gone.

All that remained was the stillness, and the blade.

With smooth, practiced motions, the High Blade withdrew the container of stone seed. The precious mineral, ground into a glittering dust, flickered in the near perfect darkness, the only significant source of light within the tent. With care, the Warrior drew his blade and placed in on the prepared cloth spread before him. Once, twice, thrice he cleaned its surface, ensuring that not a speck of dust marred it’s perfect surface. Only then did he take the stone seed and slowly tap a small amount into the palm of his hand.

He could feel the mana within the dust, strong and vibrant, through the rock of his true skin. It was tantalising. Sunk deep into meditation, he ignored it and stretched his hand out to the blade. Before he opened his hand, he could already feel the hunger wake within the blade, the living stone keen for sustenance.

Lapisvitae, the stone of life. As he allowed the seed to trickle from his palm onto the surface of the blade it greedily drank it in, absorbing the mineral and the mana it contained to strengthen and sustain itself. It was almost a waste to awaken the blade only to cut insect trash, a pathetic breed of monster, unworthy of his talents. But his circle had been slighted, his people attacked. Nothing but the obliteration of his enemies would satisfy his rage.

The sword emitted a faint light as he slid it back into its sheath. It would take time to digest the meal he had given it, but in time it would put forth a measure of its true power. Ritual complete, the High Blade rose and relaxed his meditative state. Once again the mundane world impugned his senses, the noise, mess and pain. He would deal with it as he always did: without complaint, mercy or hesitation.

Kooranon of the house Balta rose to his full height and marched from his tent. He was tired of these pests spitting at his camp, it was time they endured his wroth.

——————–

Vibrant was running. She wasn’t exactly sure where to, or what she was going to do when she got there, but wherever and whatever was going to happen, she wanted to make sure it was going to happen fast. Problems seemed to sort themselves out so long as she was quick enough. It was one of the reasons her mutations continued to emphasise speed. The faster she went, the easier things got, so why not just keep getting faster? She couldn’t wait until her next evolution. The sort of speed she’d be able to achieve then would truly be something to behold!

“Vibrant! Senior! Where are we going?” Emilia, her loyal general asked.

Vibrant laughed.

“I’m not sure! Down I suppose? Isn’t it good to go down? Better than sitting around in a council room. That’s boring!”

They were racing through the tunnels, her and her loyal followers, each and every one of them built for speed. The entire group was tier four now, a fearsome group of insects to be sure. They fell upon everything in their way with ferocious, coordinated strikes and devoured the Biomass like a school of sharks before sprinting to catch up with the lead group. In this way they accrued experience and Biomass at a great pace.

“I believe the Eldest is down here somewhere! Do you think we should join forces with them?” Emilia shouted, desperate to keep pace with her leader.

“Crin-crin! I wonder what she’s up to? Something fun, I’m sure! That’s a good idea Emilia! Well done!”

The general tried to suppress the flood of joy at being praised by this erratic, scatterbrained leader she had chosen to follow. She needed to focus! The Colony was at war and Vibrant would need her advice and strategic nous if the squad was going to perform at its best.

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Vibrant spied a shadow beast slinking across the tunnel in front of her and dashed for it, her mandibles smashing shut around the creature’s neck, inflicting massive damage. The beast snarled, shocked at the horrendous speed the enemy had displayed. Moving a body that large so quickly wasn’t easy, even in the Dungeon!

“Food-food!” Crinis cackled and chomped down once more.

In a few more chomps, the bulk of the Biomass was gone and Vibrant was off and running once again. Ever since she’d reached the fifth rank of dash, using the instantaneous burst of speed to surprise her enemies had become her favourite tactic.

Behind her the sound of two hundred ants pounding the stone with their claws echoed along the chamber, along with the crunch and crack of mandibles closing around hapless foes. The Colony was on the move.


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