After brooding and swatting at demons who manage to draw close to me for a few hours, I call my three associates back and we start to make our way home.
It doesn't look like that big brute is going to be coming back anytime soon, so it's probably a good chance to regroup and refresh. Tiny, Crinis and Invidia each look worn out and battered in some way. Tiny has scratches and wounds all over the place, his fur matted with ichor, and I can tell he's exhausted, despite the grin of satisfaction on his bat-face. When Crinis glomps onto my carapace, her lack of weight indicates that a ton of her shadow flesh has been burned through. Even Invidia, whose core is usually bursting with mana, is dim in my sight, wearily pulling in ambient energy to replenish his stocks.
The three of them have worked hard.
[Good job, everyone. I hope you were able to get a few levels out of that. After a quick break, we'll be back at it, so make sure you don't waste your time. Mutate anything you need to, check for Skill rank-ups and get some rest.]
They each acknowledge me with a tired wave and we start the trek back to Roklu. I handle the overflowing demons by crushing them with my domain. It's so nice to have this spell supercharged by the Altar. The larvae beneath me are completely unable to rise up thanks to the gravity pulling them down, so they've no choice but to sit on top of the mana veins that birthed them until I've walked past. Of course, once I have moved on, there's a small explosion behind me as all the larvae who'd been smushed together are finally free to tear clear and start chomping on each other.
As we travel, I can't help but think back to my fight against the tier eight. Neither of us had gone all out in that contest, I'm convinced of that. If I'd had enough gravity mana, I could have used an empowered well to try and squish him flat, but at the same time, I'm convinced the demon didn't show what he had.
It feels like all monsters get a specific advantage as they evolve, and I'm no exception. My Altar, Nave and Vestibule combo makes me far more powerful under the right conditions, namely having a ton of my family around. The demon… Torrifex, I think he said his name was, showed overwhelming combat strength, but nothing much outside of that. Not until he managed to slip away at the end, at any rate.
I need more info on these tier eight demons. There are another two like Torrifex, and if I can learn what tricks they have up their demonic sleeves, I'll be in a better spot to counter them.
I know who I can ask as well, but for now, I have other priorities.
No more putting it off! I need to mutate my most important organs, the Nave and the Altar!
The plains outside of the ant fortress beneath Roklu are an absolute mess. Even here, in the heart of the Colony's power, the sheer number of demons is overwhelming. Dotted about the place, fortresses filled to the brim with ants fire down on the swarming demons, sniping the more evolved ones from the crowd and blasting the weaker ones when they threaten to surge against the walls.
The vast larvae-traps, designed to harvest stronger cores and higher tier Biomass for the Colony, appear to be working at full blast as well. Patrols march along the edges and guard the collection stations, ensuring that the enormous structures aren't damaged from the outside or from inside.
The fortress itself stands like an island amidst a sea of chaos. The mighty walls stand against wave after wave of demons as they throw themselves into the waiting mandibles of over a hundred thousand defenders.
We march through that tide until we are able to haul ourselves over the wall and into safety. There's a gate that they could open, but the demons would just pour inside the moment they did. I need the training for Grip anyways.
Not Invidia, though, he just flies. The punk.
"Welcome back, Eldest!"
"Not slacking, are you?"
"Resting? That's… a good and sensible idea which we all should do. Right?"
I wave back to my siblings as they welcome me back, exchanging a few antennae slapping high-fives as I banter back and forth with them.
"Me? Slacking? I've been out there fighting tier eight demons! Don't compare me with you lot, sitting up on a wall, nice and safe!"
I don't acknowledge the poor mage who commented on resting. She's already gone, sucked into the shadows. Rest in peace. Then get back to work, shiny and massaged.
I try not to get in anyone's way as I head deeper into the fortress. It takes ten minutes for us to find a nice isolated chamber I can plonk myself down in and prepare to mutate.
[Alright, gang. Hit the menus. Although I'd appreciate it if you could watch the door for me, Crinis.]
No point mucking around, I'm going straight for the big stuff. Altar! Show me what you've got!
I punch through the menu and confirm my intention to mutate. I've got a bit of Biomass stored away, but the tier penalty is really kicking me straight in the gaster.
The wave will eventually produce a massive surplus of higher tier monsters, the ones who manage to survive, then thrive in the madness, but for now, it's an endless tide of weaklings. It doesn't help that what counts as a weakling to me is so much stronger than before. A tier five monster with perfect evolutions would have scared the lights out of me not that long ago. Even Garralosh, as monstrously strong as she was, would be weak to me now. Though her core and Biomass would be welcome.
No, a tier five monster gives me precious little in terms of experience or Biomass. I need stronger prey! I have a feeling I'll find lots of them down below, in the fourth stratum, but I can't get down there yet. Not with Torrifex and his ilk lurking about.
Come on, Altar, give me something good!