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[Ant Tensei - Chapter 8]



(Aren) “Well, for starters, we need to figure out how to reach the surface. The main problem is that a majority of our tunnels are far too small for us now. I mean, if we were to attempt to crawl one by one through the tunnels, it might take several days to get to the surface. Supplies simply won’t last if that’s the case.



No, If we want to get to the surface and begin establishing a proper base, we’ll just have to forge a new tunnel straight up there. Right, I want three teams to get set up to create three new tunnels to the surface. One tunnel goes to the surface, the other two are to connect us to other chambers below. We have to do something with the materials we gather. We’ll have to establish connection to at least one or two other chambers first if we don’t want to fill up the little space we still have here.”



With that, Aren began to organize the former workers. Many of them were quite adapt in the establishment of tunnel networks as well as extensive knowledge of the existing tunnel system.



Using this knowledge, Aren had to establish a chain of command of sorts. The first task was to gather those that had previously had a sense of sentience before the transcendence. The reasoning lies within Aren’s knowledge of each of the one thousand warrior’s statuses. The stronger the sentience that a firebreed ant once had, the higher their abilities correlated now.



For the purpose of organization, Aren utilized the assistance of two of the former Ant Queen’s personal elites, Macremore and Trix. These two held some of the highest intelligence of the entire hive. With their talents combined with Aren, the three were able to create plans for the expansion of the tunnel to the nearest chamber.



This chamber had been a storage chamber, which through several minutes of information gathering, proved to be nearly empty. Given that there was plenty of usable space to create several new tunnels, the newly temporary excavation team began to establish the enhanced tunnel.



***



The process took several hours but the end result was that a tunnel with a width great enough for two warriors side to side could now stand in. The height of the tunnel was also expanded to twice the height of the average warrior. The purpose was to create a tunnel with enough space to allow for any measure of material to be transported without complication.



The tunnel required quite a significant amount of effort from the excavation team. To ensure the tunnel’s security, it was reinforced through the use of roots. There were many types of roots within the soil, though the majority of roots used were roots found within the walls of the Royal chamber which was closer to the surface. To secure the tunnel, all that was necessary was to reinforce the ceiling by crossing the roots in an (X) formation horizontally in the ceiling of the tunnel. Given that while the tunnels were quite large for the warriors, in actuality, the tunnels weren’t tall enough to put stress requiring braces. The reinforcement was only necessary to prevent soil from crumbling from the ceiling and requiring constant maintenance.



The resulting earth had nearly forced the remaining warriors within the former Royal Chamber to have to pile upon one another. While the storage chamber was close, the material that had to be moved was still substantial.



Regardless, with the connection to the large chamber, the population within the Royal Chamber could now be spread out and the excavation team could be expanded.



The reason for the smaller team was due to a limit of how many individuals could use such a small space at one time.



Aren then proceeded to divide the task of management between Macremore, Trix, and another of Alaine’s former staff Jarix. Jarix had been brought in due to his excessive strength, making the task of transportation of earth far easier for the rest of the team.



With sufficient space secured, the team split into three, one would manage the storage and transportation of materials, another would begin work on connecting to another storage chamber that was slightly further than the previous chamber, and the final team led by Aren was tasked with reaching the surface.



***



The process was slow going.



Even after the excavation team had expanded into the second storage chamber, they still found themselves short on space to move the earth material that Aren’s team was bringing out from their project. The tunnel that Aren was constructing held the sole purpose of reaching the surface and allowing all one thousand warriors along with himself and Alaine to leave.



The tunnel for this purpose was several times larger than the tunnel created for the sake of reaching the two storage chambers within the hive. Spanning with a width large enough for nearly a dozen warriors, this tunnel would allow the warriors to exit the tunnel in a timely fashion.



The passageway that Aren’s team of nearly forty diggers and nearly two hundred transporters would allow for access to the old hive even after they had reached the surface. Before departing, Aren had been informed of what appeared to be an iron deposit in the deeper parts of the hive network. Normally when abandoning an underground complex one would simply be aim to leave, but in this case, it was more beneficial to leave a secure path back down once the surface was reached.



Not only would it provide possible resources, but also shelter and a possible fallback position in case of emergency.



Aren couldn’t get any definitive information regarding how far the surface was, so all he and his team could do was continue going up.



As for the rest of the hive, they took turns switching in and out with the excavation team. Since each one of them had a pair of claws that aided in the digging process, as well as enough strength to manage transportation of debris, there was no shortage of work staff.



In order to more easily deal with the debris and other materials removed from the tunnels, weaves of thinner roots into tarps and other such tools were created. While creating more intricate tools might have taken quite some time, the more simple items such as sheets that allowed for two warriors to transport a larger amount of material was of great help. Though, since the materials to make these sheets, mainly thin roots, were in short supply, many simply carried small loads in their hands.



The digging process was long and tedious.



***



After approximately nine hours of constant digging, the excavation team took a break. They had made great headway.



The distance upwards that they had covered was roughly two dozen warrior ants stacked upon each other.



When the central minds of this operation were gathered together, it was determined that after another several hours the team would make their breakthrough.



The main reasoning behind this break was to begin deciding what the next manner of business would be once they made it to the surface.



Of course they would make some manner of settlement once they reached the surface, but only planning that far ahead would be ignorance. To that end Aren gathered Aranox, Wallore, Rellon and Bruton on top of those already gathered. Their mission would be to divide the current resources, the warriors, amongst themselves in order to complete the various tasks required to establish a foothold above ground.



Once they reach the surface, time will become of the essence. The reason being the raids of the other species. While one could easily forget the current situation after all of what has happened, the fact that the old Firebreed had been expecting several raids within the coming weeks remains unchanged. When they breach the surface, fortifications, living quarters, water, food, supplies, weapons, replacement armor, all of these things and more were necessary. As such, it was decided to prepare for the inevitable conflicts soon approaching while they still had the safety of the underground.



Never before had the enemy factions attacked very far into the main hive cluster. As such, it was common practice to simply retreat further into the tunnels until the raiders retreated. With this information, Aren felt relieved that he didn’t have to worry about an attack while the sensitive situation of reaching the surface was going on. The Royal Chamber was one of the deepest points of the entire hive cluster. This fact, however, also led to the difficulties they now faced in making a tunnel to the surface.



Of those gathered, seven of the former Ant Queen’s elite soldiers, Aranox, Bruton, Wallore, Rellon, Macremore, Trix, Gerel, and Jarix had been gathered for this task. The remaining individuals, Arol, Selena, Michino, Elenet, Rechanix, Kilanon, and Trell, had been given other management tasks within the hive cluster. Their tasks were mainly to organize the divisions that Aren had previously announced.



To organize the ten units without investing time and energy to determine which warrior goes into which unit. These seven were given the task to organize the units with Alaine’s help. Alaine held full authority to determine which warrior goes into which unit, the seven were to act as her assistants and council. While Aren had inherited a majority of Aristocles’ or Are’s military sense, Alaine had gained enough that she was competent with military matters. Having a majority of Ant Queen’s sense allowed her to also have familiarity with each of the warriors and thus have a better handling of them.



It had not been thirty minutes since the break period began for the final organization that Alaine’s team had already created the two units that would constitute the supply core, the blacksmith core, and two of the five main army units. It had already been determined that of the fifteen elite sentient warriors from the previous hive, Aren would bring the eight most suited to combat into his personal unit while Alaine would take the seven most suited for civil management and development into her personal unit.



This created the necessary divide in leadership for the new Firebreed. Aren would handle the military affairs along with diplomacy and other matters while Alaine would handle the homefront along with development, research, trade, and the supply routes. The two could and would of course involve one another should the situation arise, these divides were simply to divide the workload between the two. Aren had a great deal of the mind of an otherworldly individual, of course his knowledge would be beneficial for future development. The fact that the being that made up a majority of his abilities had been a conqueror and a master of domestic affairs meant that Aren could have handled either.



That said, just because one might be able to take the reins and run an entire settlement alone doesn’t mean you should. In this scenario, Aren had not only Alaine as his equal, but also nearly two dozen highly competent individuals that he could delegate tasks to.



His very development of the ten units rather than a conglomerate all under himself proved that Aren understood the benefit to delegating his authority amongst those capable of using it.



Currently, the plans for future excavation will be left to the Blacksmith unit once it was fully formed. They will see to the digging of the tunnels. The construction unit will oversee the process and reinforce any areas that are prone to collapse or would otherwise require constant maintenance. Besides these two, the supply units will oversee the transportation of the materials into the two storage chambers as well as the positioning of the some six hundred warriors that would be otherwise in the way.



While there are one thousand warriors present in the Royal Chamber, with the tunnel being the size that it is, the number of warriors able to fit within the space is quite limited. Even with only the one hundred of the Blacksmith unit digging, there will only be between ten and fifteen digging at one time. The same to be said about the construction unit. As for the supply unit, the two units will switch places with one another in intervals given that far more of the supply unit will be able to be active during the excavation process.



Now that the plans had been set for exiting the Royal Chambers for the surface, the plans for what should be done when the surface is reached was required.



Aren’s council came up with the following plans.



Upon breakthrough, Aren’s personal guard will leave for the surface first followed by Alaine’s personal guard. The purpose of this is to secure the surrounding area to ensure that a raid is not ongoing. After a signal is sent to those waiting within the Royal Chamber, the construction and blacksmith units will be the first to leave.



The purpose of this would be to clear the terrain for settlement and fortification. While Aren didn’t initially plan to build a fortress, there would be use in having simple trenches and a palisade for minor defense. Noting that the new Firebreed were probably the only humanoid species in the forest, making it difficult for the several main non-humanoid factions to assail their position would hold merit.



As such, the blacksmith unit would serve to harvest any useful plant material in order to produce fortifications and basic weaponry. The bark of a tree could be molded into temporary shields and spears until actual weaponry could be forged from their carapace. Given that the carapace claws could easily hack through the thick wooden roots that were used for tunnel reinforcement. The creation of spears and other weapons from the same material would prove far more durable and effective than wooden ones, the same given to wooden shields compared to those made of carapace.



The process, however, required a substantial amount of time to refine the carapace into weaponry. While making replacement armor pieces could be done with moderate speed, the fashioning of new pieces entirely required a substantial amount of effort and time. Given also that the blacksmith unit held very little experience with creating these weapons, experimentation was still needed. The knowledge of spears, swords, and shields would allow them to create basic tools from wood, however, it was still too early to depend on them to create high quality weapons from a forging technique that most likely only the Firebreed now possess.



After the terrain has been cleared to a certain extent, the supply units will be signaled to exit in order to aid the construction and blacksmith units in their various tasks.



The end goal for this entire mission would be to establish a secured region on the surface before fatigue and exhaustion hits too heavily. At this point, not a single warrior has had much time to rest since the Transcendence ceremony. Even Aren’s body at this point had begun to show the minor signs of fatigue. By his estimate, another twelve hours would be their limit. After that point, the combat effectivity of the warriors would be null and a great risk for the security of the entire group would arise.



Of course while the blacksmith and construction units are working, the rest will have orders to rest and recover. Though it is highly likely that very little rest will be possible with the given situation. To fall asleep during the middle of a pivotal time in the establishment of their new home would be difficult. To do so without any food or water is also asking alot.



There were food storage chambers, but it was estimated that it would be impossible to reach the surface should they attempt to tunnel down to those chambers. Once the surface had been reached, there would be sufficient room to transport the earth material above ground. Once the surface was reached, water could be secured from a nearby source that had been used by the previous firebreed.



Grass could be used as a temporary source of food, though it was highly likely that a hunting party would be necessary to engage against one of the nearby races. Eating one another was not that new of a concept after all. The problem lied in with weaponry and the unknown power difference between the species.



At this point it would be impossible to discern whether or not the new firebreed held much more power compared to before. Only time and battle engaged through heavy caution would tell this to Aren and the rest of the firebreed.



***



Another two hours had passed.



The group under Alaine had finished organizing the ten units and the excavation had begun anew.



It was then that some commotion had erupted from within the surface tunnel.



When Aren and Alaine had gone to investigate, a bright light poured in through opening.



They had reached the surface.



It only took another five minutes before the blacksmiths had tossed the rest of the earth material above ground and cleared the exit point. Within fifteen minutes of the first breach, Aren’s personal guard had begun the process of leaving the Royal Chamber through the tunnel.



Not a single soul spoke during this entire process. While normally one would feel joy and excitement after a long and tedious task. This time, however, the situation only held an extreme tension and stern caution. The reason for this, was the unknown factors.



It had been nearly a week since the last firebreed ant had seen the surface. Whether or not there was an attack ongoing, whether or not there was a greater predator, whether or not they can truly establish a settlement above ground. These were the current thoughts on every mind within the Royal Chamber. To solve these questions, Aren’s personal unit began to organize on the surface.



After a brief scouting period, it was decided that there were no hostile forces en-masse around the hive. Once that was discerned, Alaine was called and had her forces assembled on the surface within fifteen minutes of receiving the signal.



Just as the final few warriors reached the surface, a loud noise began to erupt from the trees.



Aren and several warriors began to move hastily side to side in desperate dodging motions.



Several warriors moved in to aid Aren.



“FOOLS, GET BACK AND DEFEND YOURSELVES!”



But it was too late, within seconds, several of the warriors that had moved in to defend Aren and the five warriors with him had been skewered. Their bodies that began to fall were quickly pierced and hauled away.



In this instant, the remainder of the near one hundred elite warriors went on high alert. Looking for enemies from the front, back, and both sides.



It was then that Aren once again shouted,



“D##N IT YOU IDIOTS, THE ENEMY ABOVE YOU!”



In that instant, several black masses smashed into the bunched up warriors. While there weren’t any casualties due to Alaine, Gerel, and Jarix’s interference, several warriors were injured.



Before these warriors were large black beasts with a long spear-like tusk and large wings. Their eyes were red and even upon the dozens of attacks from the sharp claws of the warriors, they still continued to attack.



The creatures responsible for this attack were none other than,



“MOSQUITOES!”




[Ant Tensei - Chapter 8 End]


AT Chapter 9

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