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93.42% Chrysalis / Chapter 597: Creeping doom

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Chapter 597: Creeping doom

In this world.

All things.

Flow.

To the Colony.

· Spoken by Cobalt at the seizure of the lightning mines of Al'Razza.

The plan has to have a name, of course. What is it with these ants and their insistence on stupid names?! I shoot down a few of the more obnoxious ones, like "Omega Seed Shield" and "Phoenix Ant Flames". I mean… why?! What the heck does flames have to do with anything, even if there are phoenix flames? That's just stupid and I administer a phew THWACKS to drive the point home to these thickies.

In the end, I manage to sell them on "Slow Grow".

"There's a chance that through some unknown magical means, the enemy may be able to interpret our pheromones," I tell them, "so any reference to seeds or phoenixes may lead them to uncover the plot and immediately know what it means. From this point, Slow Grow will be used to refer to this concept, and any pheromone messaging related to it will be scrubbed as thoroughly as possible. Acid wash the whole room if you have to."

The council agreed immediately. No measure is too extreme when the survival of the Colony, and indeed, our entire species may be on the line.

"Make this a priority," I inform them, "for my part, I'm going to get myself back out into the tunnels, scouting and fighting. I'll make sure not to get too far away, and I'll keep a scout relay between me and the nest at all times. Vibrant, you should get your team back out into the field as well. Skills and levels are going to win us this war, we need to get 'em."

"Are you sure you don't want to go with Vibrant again, Eldest?" Sloan asks, "your last expedition was very fruitful as I understand. The expanse you conquered is certainly one of the largest we've yet seen."

"Be careful in there," I warn her, "the big spider mother in there wasn't defeated and I get the feeling she holds a grudge. She's a sneaky so and so, don't take any risks. If she's still in there, we'll need an extensive digging project to get her out."

Leeroy looks like she's about to volunteer something, but her fellow Soldier, Brendant, puts a claw on her back and she quiets. Sending her and her squad after a large, powerful monster would be exactly the sort of thing she'd be looking for to enact her 'glorious sacrifice' plan. That's not happening.

"That reminds me. I've seen the work that Smithant has done for Leeroy and the group and after talking to her, it's become clear that she isn't getting the help that she needs. It seems that most carvers don't feel that making armour is worth their time."

Both Tungstant and Cobalt shift in their seats, uncomfortable with the topic.

"It's true that there isn't much enthusiasm when it comes to creating armour or weapons for ants," Cobalt admits, "most of the artisans feel that it's a waste to pour their effort into making things that we get naturally. If we want tougher defences, just mutate your carapace, if we need stronger weapons, mutate the mandibles. So far, our bodies have proven to be more capable than the things we can make."

It's clear from their words that they, in part, seem to agree with this sentiment. Sheer stupidity in my opinion.

"Look, the reality of the situation is that for most members of the Colony, tier four or five is the highest they can expect to go in terms of evolutions. Particularly in the short term. If we manage to continue to expand and we exist as a stable family for the next hundred years, that'll change, but for now, it's not. So if a soldier has maxed mutations for carapace, mandibles and whatever other organs they have which are combat related, they are no longer able to get stronger until they evolve, which may be a long time coming. How can that ant possibly improve?"

"I see what you're saying," Tungstant says, "the armour can be used in the meantime to shore up their carapace until they can evolve."

"Better than that, wearing the armour will help keep them alive until they can evolve. It's win-win. After my next evolution, I myself intend to order a set. I'll certainly get one for Tiny."

"If we spread word of that around, a few more crafters may be willing to lend a hand," Cobalt muses.

"Do whatever you have to do," I tell them, "just get Smithant the help that she needs. Asking her to produce enough sets to clad even a small force of ants on her own is just ridiculous. The amount of work that goes into one of these suits is insane."

I have a think.

"I think I'll go pay a visit to our prisoners before I leave," I announce, "from what I hear, we haven't gotten much out of them, so I may as well poke my antennae in and see what they have to say."

"The human, Beyn, has been speaking with the two new ones you brought in, Eldest," Mendant tells me in her gentle, soothing voice, "he's been quite excited to speak with them from what I understand."

That's just great. He'll be filling their heads with all sorts of nonsense.

"As soon as we hear anything about the enemy making their approach, we need to meet back here as a matter of urgency. Until then, continue the expansion, continue to develop our defences and networks, and put Slow Grow into action as soon as possible."

Nods all around. I make a circuit of the chamber, exchanging pheromones with each of the council members as I make my way out. The Colony is growing too large to be managed by just these twenty individuals. Perhaps not numerically, there are plenty of cities with one hundred thousand people in them who get by with a council, but geographically we are covering a huge amount of space. The two new nests are one thing, but the hunting territories around them, the various expanses that the Colony has conquered, the extensive mining operations, there's a whole lot going on. Sometime soon I'm going to have to ensure that the council is getting sufficient help, they can't keep doing it on their own.

I mean, at the rate the eggs are going to be laid, we'll be up to a million strong Colony before too long! What an exciting and scary thought! If the golgari were scared of us before, they'll be terrified of us then! Gweheheheh.

Still, as I leave the council, there's a certain feeling of stress and gloom hanging over the members as they each contemplate their roles under the threat of the impending invasion. A million things to do, but all of them will be dropped the instant one of those stone-skinned fools poke their noses into our territory.

With a shake of my antennae, I try to brush my concerns away. The only thing I can do, is try my best to do my duty as the strongest ant in the colony. Get stronger, and allow my siblings to rise up alongside me. I'll act as their sword to drive away those that would bring them harm, and their shield to defend them as they grow and become strong.

To that end, we need MOAR LEVELS!

[Are we heading back out into the Dungeon, Master?] Crinis asks.

[Sometimes I forget you don't hear what's said in pheromone language, Crinis. I just walk around assuming that you know what's been discussed after a meeting like that.]

[I know,] she huffs, [I've been considering acquiring a pheromone sensory gland when I next evolve, but when I checked the menu last time, it was unusually expensive. I think because I have none of the sensory receptors or nerve centres required to interpret the information.]

[That'd be a waste! Just remind me and I'll be happy to let you know what's going on.]

[Then I will do that, Master,] she sounds happy.

[By the by, what level are you Crinis?]

[Only level 21 Master,] she sound sad.

[That's not so bad! Why are you down about it?]

[I'll evolve a long time after you, again.]

[I got a lot of experience fighting against big nasty monsters, Crinis. Garralosh, the stupid tournament. All of those were extremely challenging and not exactly something I would have sought out on my own, given the choice.]

[I know that,] she mutters in my head, [I just don't like when you are so much stronger than me. How can I protect you against the sorts of enemies you'll go up against at tier six?]

[Look on the bright side,] I say, [when I'm tier six, you won't have to protect me from enemies at tier five anymore.]

[That doesn't help…]

Ah well. Worth a shot. Crinis has continued to be as protective of me as always, ever since we reunited after I escaped (with help) from the golgari. She's still riding around, attached to my carapace. She's heavy, but I can't quite bring myself to complain about it to her.

[Hey Tiny, Invidia. We need to get ready to go.]

The big ape looks up, his fists clenching with excitement.

[Fiiight?] he grunts.

I sigh.

[Yes, we're going back out to fight.]

He grins broadly and lumbers toward me, slapping me on the back with happiness. For his part, Invidia materialises his haunting, toothy grin in the air beneath his hovering eye, which flashes green.

[I willll haaaavvveeee levellllssssss.]

[Not too many,] I warn him, [you're still a higher tier than the rest of us. No point funnelling experience into you.]

The large eye flashes brighter as the envy demon baulks at being denied that which he desires, but I prod him with my antennae.

[None of that. We'll go check in on Jim and Sarah, pop by the prisoners, then a final check on our Biomass and Skills situation, then out to scout and take names. Let's go.]


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