I take more time to play with my new mental setup, slowly growing accustomed to the strange feeling of having more mental power than my physical brains should be able to provide. The more I mess around with it, weaving multiple threads of mana by having one brain concentrate on two things at the same time, the more I feel that my connection to being human really is vanishing a long way behind me. I couldn’t even imagine being a giant ant with multiple brains and giant mandibles whilst running around an underground, globe spanning Dungeon packed full of monsters that I fight and eat whilst covered in a shiny, glowing carapace of diamond. But hey, here we are.
Eventually I notice that the glow surrounding the hatchling has started to dim, a sure sign that her evolution is coming to an end. Calling the group together, we surround the little one, ready to greet her when she finally regains consciousness. Or tries to run. Either one.
Only a few minutes later, she wakes up to see all of us looming over her and jumps to her feet.
“Ah! What’s wrong?!”
“Just waiting to greet you upon awakening,” I tell her. “Nothing suspicious at all.”
She doesn’t appear convinced, and her scent definitely marks her as suspicious of me, but I pay it no mind, instead taking this moment to examine her a little more closely to get a few clues as to how her evolution has gone. She hasn’t increased in size all that much, which obviously means she either invested heavily in mental stats or organs. Considering her origins as a champion of the species, she has a boosted stat baseline to begin with, so I’d be intrigued to see what path she went down.
“You’ve now become a tier three monster,” I congratulate her, “how does it feel?”
“Good! I think… there’s still a few things I need to get used to… this change was more severe than the last one…”
She keeps lifting her legs and shifting her body from side to side, still unaccustomed to her current size and strength.
“Considering you went from a hatchling to a hatchling last time, this is obviously going to have a greater impact on you. I can already see you didn’t choose any of the normal templates of the nine castes, so I assume you were able to find a few things that caught your interest?”
“I did. I think I’ll be able to grow along these lines and serve the Colony in a way that is unique to myself!”
“Interesting… you wouldn’t mind me taking a look then would you?”
“It’s a Skill that I have,” I explain, “I can use it to look at your status in much the same way that you can. I won’t use it without your permission, but it would make it a lot easier for me to teach you if I knew exactly what I was working with.”
She goes still for a moment before eventually agreeing and I bring my antennae forward to rest against her carapace, activating Core Crafting in the process. When I filter through the onslaught of data and arrive at the status window, what I see is surprising in several ways.
Level: 1 (core)
Digging (I) Level 3; Acid Shot (I) Level 3; Grip (I) Level 4; Crushing Bite (II) Level 3; Dash (I) Level 4; Exo-Skeleton defence (I) level 1; Stamina (I) level 1;
Reactive Exoskeleton +10; Draining Mandibles +10; Gripping Legs +10; Weave Focused Eyes +10; Mana Sensitive Antennae +10; Sizzling Acid Gland +10; Improved Pheromone Language Gland +10; Focused Mana Core Lattice; Dungeon Oracle;
Species: Juvenile Seer (Formica)
Skill points: 17
“You’ve got some stuff here that I’ve never seen before…”
“Heheheheh,” she chuckles to herself.
The lattice is something that I’ve looked at before, essentially a crystal weave that attaches to the core itself to produce an effect. In this case, it’ll make her more attuned to mana in the most pure sense. But this Dungeon Oracle… An organ that references the Dungeon itself? Is that a good or bad thing? Then there’s her stats. An interesting mix that seems fairly even, but when your mental stats are on par with your physical, it means you went hard on beefing up the brain. Even so, her numbers are a little lower than mine when I reached tier three, which seems odd, since I didn’t have the benefit of a special evolution the first time around, nor did I have the bonus from max mutations. Which means she must have dumped evolutionary energy, a lot of it, into something else. Which is likely to be one of those fancy organs… It’s an unusual decision…
“I decided that I want to be able to know as much as possible about everything!” the hatchling declares, “whether or not that information is hidden with mana or through the Dungeon itself, I’ll find it! There’s no secret I won’t be able to find, no puzzle I won’t be able to crack!”
I regard the still small ant before me as she stares back confidently.
“You’re a clever one, aren’t you?” I ask her.
“The cleverest!” she beams.
“I suppose I ought to give you a name then.”
I think for a moment.
“How about Brilliant?”
“Brilliant? As in, incredibly clever? I like it!”
“Don’t think you’re work is over though,” I tell her, “your hard work has only just begun. You want to solve the mysteries that the Colony still grapples with? With pathetic Skill levels like yours? You are absolutely dreaming. Not to mention, to graduate from the academy, ants have to reach tier four nowadays, so you still have a long way to go!”
“How am I supposed to train my Skills when you won’t let me fight?!”
“First thing first, we train Dash and Exo-Skeleton defence. Safety over everything. Then comes the basics of magic, mana manipulation and mana sight. Only after we’ve gotten each of those to rank three are we going to work on raising your basic offensive Skills. Besides, judging by your stats, you’ll be using magic to attack far more than your mandibles.”
“Well… that’s true.”
“Alright then! I guess it’s time for me to pass you on to your next instructor!”
She perks up at that but tries to hide it.
“Oh! But that’s such a shame, Senior. You’ve taught me so much already; it’ll be a shame to leave your company…”
“Not to worry! You won’t be. This is just for training Dash and Exo-Skeleton defence. If you work hard, you’ll get some levels in Stamina as well.”
The ‘hatchling’ looks up at me blankly and I can’t help but grin on the inside.[Crinis? Make her run.] [Yes! Master!]
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