Anthony has been reborn! Placed into the remarkable game-like world of Pangera. However, something seems a little off. What's with these skills? Bite? Dig? Wait.... I've been reborn as a WHAT?! Follow Anthony as he attempts to adjust to his new life, to survive and grow in his new Dungeon home!

RinoZ · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
1265 Chs

Far Ranging final (1033)

"It's all yours," Magellant said magnanimously.

"Are you sure?" Columbant replied, antennae flicking with indecision.

"Of course. You and your team did the bulk of the work, I only arrived to provide cleanup at the end."

"Then I will claim it with gratitude. You have my thanks."

With one swift movement, she scooped up the powerful core sitting on the stone between them and tucked it into the pouch slung around her carapace. All of a sudden, the bag felt far more burdensome than before as the dense core settled amongst so many weaker ones, but it wasn't unwelcome.

The serpent had been a powerful monster, with a strong core. She would study it carefully when she had the time, documenting everything she could find for the core shaper records. After that would come the brain-bending work of altering the core, attempting to engineer an even more perfect creation.

If all went well, she might have found her fourth pet! She'd need to buy the Skill to increase the number she could have first, though.

"I can't thank you enough for arriving when you did. The situation was hopeless."

"I noticed that the tunnels were far more dangerous than expected and thought it would be best for us to meet up early. I'm glad your trail hasn't faded, otherwise I might never have found you."

"It's a bit embarrassing, but I made the poor decision to flee trouble by going deeper into the Dungeon. A foolish mistake, I know."

Ranging from the Colony as they did, there were basic principles that they all strove to follow. The most fundamental of all: deeper is more dangerous, not less. No matter how inviting and safe that tunnel might appear, or how much pressure you were under, you didn't go deeper unless you were fully prepared.

Feeling the pinch from heavier than expected fighting, Columbant had taken one turn that she should never have considered and ended up in an even worse predicament as a result.

"What's the plan now?" Magellant asked. "You want to head back to the nest?"

"If you're amenable. I know we planned to stay out longer, but after recovering this core and running so close to disaster, I need to get my bearings and do a bit of study."

"That's not a problem. We've got a long way to go before we get home, I'll be able to hit my Biomass targets as long you donate a little my way."

If that was going to be the price of cutting the expedition short, then that was all well and good.

The two core shapers began to plan the return journey, scratching out maps and lines on the tunnel floor. They were sixty kilometres from the territory of the Colony in a straight line. Naturally, the Dungeon didn't work in straight lines. They'd have to move much farther than that before they reached safety.

They spent long hours planning their route as the pets continued to annihilate any monster who drew close to the position they held, huddled against the wall. It was necessary that they have a firm agreement on as much as possible before the journey began, so they talked back and forth, working out as many kinks as they could before departing.

This far from the nest, they had no one to rely on except each other and their loyal pets. A successful expedition was one that was properly planned, this was a core shaper maxim.

"This will work," Columbant said, examining the diagram closely, "are you ready to depart?"

"Right away."

[Gather up, everyone, we're heading home,] Columbant said to her pets.

Garg pushed herself to her feet, the healing process nearly complete after a day of repeated treatments and several large meals. The brush with death had forced Columbant to reevaluate just how durable her design really was. She'd felt that nothing would be able to threaten the beetle-beast within the second stratum, but she'd been proven wrong.

She would do everything she could to secure a strong evolution for Garg. Elevating her to the fifth tier would do a lot for the group, allowing the softer targets like Rist and Slither to move more freely.

She quickly checked on Garg's status. She wasn't far away, though there was a little work to be done on mutations.

The journey was a long one, the rising tide of monster spawns slowing their progress significantly. Thankfully, as a consequence, Magellant had no issues collecting the Biomass she'd wanted for her pets. Even so, Columbant was able to harvest her fair share.

When the two weary core shapers finally crossed the threshold into the Colony's territory, they heaved a massive sigh of relief.

It was an exhausting process, ranging out so far from the colony, but the instant they crossed the boundary and sensed the familiar pheromones against their antennae, all their stress melted away. The random monster attacks ceased; within the well regulated lands of the ants, such a thing didn't happen.

Soon they came across siblings who waved and welcomed them back vigorously.

"Welcome home! How far out did you go this time?"

"Working hard out there?"

"Make sure you… get some rest."

That last one had seemingly come from the shadows, but when Columbant turned to look, she saw no one there.

Not matter, she wouldn't be caught skipping on rest. Now that she was home, she had a great deal of torpor to catch up on.

The second homecoming for the two core shapers occurred when they entered the complex reserved for their caste.

"Welcome back, you two," the door-ant greeted them at the entrance. "Make sure you sign into the book."

"Wouldn't dream of forgetting," Columbant chuckled.

The two lined up and wrote down a brief description of their journey, including number and quality of cores collected, and Biomass harvested for their pets.

"Profitable trip then," the door-ant noted. "Turn over any spare cores, and welcome home."

The two ants picked up their pouches in their mandibles, rummaging to hand over every core they could afford to part with.

"The caste is grateful for your generosity, sisters. These will be used well to support the rise of the next generation."

"You're more than welcome," Columbant clacked her mandibles happily.

It felt good to support the growth of the caste. She herself had relied on donated cores to start practising her Skills.

Through the entrance, they were immediately amongst core shapers. Greetings were exchanged, brood mates warmly tapped, but they had a more important job to do before they could truly rest.

[There you go, Garg,] she told the big beetle, [go in and have a good sleep.]

Garg scuttled into her pen, a fresh meal of Biomass already waiting for her. Slither ducked into his own deeply shadowed chamber while Rist found comfort in his heated, rocky rest-area.

Seeing the three of them settled brought a smile to Columbant's heart. They'd worked hard, all four of them. They would regroup and recover, plan and prepare, and then they would go out again.