Chapter 848 – Offense Is Best

While the hatchling is sleeping through her tier four evolution, the rest of us take a break to strategize a little with Granin and co before we rest. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the others need a break a lot sooner than I do, at least, whenever I’m within range of the Colony. There’s just something about never getting tired that seeps into your subconscious, before too long you start thinking of fatigue as abnormal. While everyone else is getting some shut eye, I keep my minds spinning, working hard on practicing new constructs and weaving spells. The grind train is on and it don’t stop for nobody!

If the demons think I’m going to rest on my laurels they’ve got another thing coming.

Still, talking to Granin and the others provides a much more sober evaluation of where we sit in the power scales. Despite having risen so far, there is so long to go.

Only allowed on

[That’s the way of it in the Dungeon,] the old Shaper shrugs, [until you get all the way to the middle, there’s always going to be something stronger than you are. The only time you can really feel safe is when you’re the highest tier in a particular stratum and there isn’t a wave going on.]

[The way things have been lately, there’ll be another wave before too long,] I grump.

He nods.

[That’s true. There haven’t been two waves this close together in recorded history, and the ambient mana level is still elevated. Some of the more anxious members of the cult feared that this might indicate the cataclysm would come again. I wasn’t inclined to believe them then, but now I’m not so certain.]

[The cataclysm? You mean the Rending?]

[Right. You’d probably describe it as ‘not a good time’. Which sums it up. If we are indeed trending on that path, then the mana level will continue to rise higher and higher, with wave after wave until the energy becomes so fierce that the Ancients will rise from the centre of the world and consume the surface once again.]

[That… sounds bad. Aren’t you supposed to worship these guys or something? Yet you think they’re going to come up here and eat all of us!? What the heck is the point of that?!]

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be actively working against the ancients rather than with them? Granin just shrugs whilst Torrina and Corun stand to the side, equally unfussed.

[First of all, we don’t really worship the great worm. The ancients are close to gods in a lot of ways, beings capable of ripping the world apart if they so choose, but they are monsters. Our cult and the others around the world understand that the ancients follow their nature. They seek growth, as all creatures in this world do. It’s not like we can be mad at them for taking experience and Biomass when they get the chance. If any delver had the chance to stab an ancient through the brain while they slept, you think they wouldn’t take it?]

[I guess not…]

Seems a little unsporting though… Mind you, I would definitely do it if I had the chance. I’m a monster, so manners aren’t expected. I’d likely get enough experience to go straight to tier eight or something. Not to mention the Biomass… or the core!

[Hang on a minute. If that actually happens, and they rise again, then won’t all of us be killed? Like, the entire Colony?]

[Maybe. Unless you can hide from them or fight them off, then yes, they would likely eat you. Or the flood of absurdly powerful monsters from the deeper strata would do the job.]

I slump.

[The only answer is to keep getting stronger, right?]

[Right,] Granin grins.

[This isn’t news to you, Anthony,] Torrina tells me gently, [if you wanted the Colony to thrive, you were always going to have to keep growing.]

[I get that, but I didn’t realised there was an ancient level threat on the horizon!]

[I wouldn’t stress too much in the short term,] Corun encourages me, [it’s a big ‘if’ that what Granin is suggesting will even happen. The Cataclysm has only happened once, and nobody was alive in the Dungeon at that point, so nobody has any idea what the conditions that led to the Rending even were.]

[Weren’t the Sophos down here at that time?]

The younger mage pulls a face.

[Getting the Sophos to say anything is hard, let alone spill their secrets.]

[They’ve been more than welcoming to me…]

[Maybe because you’re a monster,] he shrugs, [they might sympathise with a sentient reborn as a monster. If you find them again, maybe you can ask.]
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After chatting and discussing my magic progression with them, the shapers retire to get some rest and I check in with the Colony leadership to make sure the plan is progressing as it should. Despite everything falling into place, I can’t help but feel a little disturbed. The ancients might rise? Demons I can deal with, if only barely. The Legion I was able to deal with, if only barely. Gigantic mega-monsters rising from the depths? I’m not confident.

I have to take everything Granin says with a slight pinch of salt. He’s a cultist himself after all and he’s readily admitted that he wants me to rise to that level, become the twentieth ancient… for whatever reason. Come to think of it, why is it so important that there be twenty humungo monsters lurking in the centre of this world? Is it supposed to achieve something? Do the civilisations on Pangera just hate odd numbers? I’ve never actually managed to get the triad to admit what they actually get out of making me reach the peak of monsterhood…

Practicing spinning barriers while I wait for the evolution to complete, I’m finding it more difficult to handle than I expected. My low Skill level is obviously an issue, but more than that I think I’d underestimated how difficult it is to form these things due to how easy Invidia makes it look. Grabbing hold of mana in the air, pressing it down, weaving and shaping it into a physical barrier takes time and a considerable amount of mental effort, especially since I’m working with mana that is external to my body. At the moment, dedicating three mind constructs to the process, they can form a barrier in around five seconds. That’s clearly way too slow, but the Skill is still only rank two. I’ve been told over and over again that Skills below rank five aren’t really worth mentioning. More practice required!

My experiments with force magic have continued apace and I’m happy with how they’re going. The bulk of my mind constructs are dedicated to this branch of magic and I’m trying to rise through the levels as quickly as possible. I’ve raised it to the second rank already, but I’ll need proper combat practice to accelerate its growth faster. At the moment the pushes, pulls and other forces I can control aren’t nearly strong enough to be useful. I mean, sending out a force bolt is like whacking someone in the face with an invisible rock, except I have a spell that throws a rock, and it’s cheaper in energy, easier to cast and is more effective! I may as well just throw a rock!

More levels are needed for this magic to reveal its true potential.

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