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Chapter 905: Exploding Mountain, Burning Heart (1016)
The mages have achieved a strange dichotomy that can largely be attributed to the ident.i.ties of the Council members who came to lead them. The two not only differ in the magics that they choose to employ, but also the tactics. Where Propellant favours direct, forceful action, and the application of excessive force to achieve a goal, Coolant is more subtle and desires efficiency of resources, though it may take her longer to complete her objective.
At first, this didn't matter so much as the two cooperated well, and indeed, they still do. But as the caste grew larger, the two of them were no longer able to oversee all the mage ant activities, having to pa.s.s certain responsibilities on to their subordinates.
At first, this also didn't matter; all of the members of the Colony are family, after all, and despite their differences, they will work together without complaint.
However, due to this expansion of the caste, and the implementation of a larger authoritative structure, the two schools of thought held by the council members became entrenched in a way that neither of them intended.
The school of fire, and the school of water.
Each individual ant, upon evolving into the caste, had to take it upon themselves to choose their place. Once they did, they would begin their training, engrossing themselves in the mindset, mana types and favoured tactics of their founding mentor.
Although some have sought to exploit this divide within the Mage caste, they have been unsuccessful. Differences of opinion within the Colony are common, betrayal is unheard of.
There is also a third school of mages, though much smaller than the others. Those who follow the path of the Eldest. Of that chaotic group, I will not speak.
- From the notes of Historiant
"What the h.e.l.l are they doing down there?" Propellant yelled.
"I don't know," Coolant replied, a faint trace of irritation marking her scent. "Perhaps you should focus on the battle that we are currently engaged in."
"Of course. Right. Yes. The battle."
Propellant did her best, she really did, but as she pulled forth the fire mana to give it shape and purpose, she couldn't help but flick her senses down beneath her six legs. It was like a hook caught in her brain, and no matter how hard she tried to look away, it always managed to drag her focus back.
Somewhere down there, the Eldest had done something. And whatever they'd done, it was quite literally boiling with incredibly dense fire mana. This was orders of magnitude more potent than any spell she'd ever seen before, and she was the premier fire mage in the entire Colony. n.o.body had fire mana manipulation as high as she did!
Come on, Propellant. Light some stuff on fire. Focus!
She admonished herself and flung a few b.a.l.l.s of fire out into the ma.s.sed wall of termites in front of her. Even the delightful explosions that sent their hated foes flying through the air weren't enough to distract her fully. Her mind was constantly pulled back downward.
"How is this possible?" she wondered.
"I don't know, but is it relevant to us?" Coolant replied. "We are here to support the front lines and prevent them from being overrun. Are you going to help or not?"
"I am! Of course I am!"
She hastily wove and threw out more fireb.a.l.l.s.
"But I still can't believe what is going on down there. Aren't we the highest level mages in the Colony? Aren't we supposed to have pushed the knowledge of basic spellforms further than anyone else? The Eldest is levelling up all sorts of crazy stuff, we just focus on magic. How do we not know what is going on down there?"
"I don't know," Coolant said coolly, "but being surprised by the Eldest is a pointless endeavour. When they do the unexpected so regularly, it becomes expected."
"Expected?" Propellant spluttered before pointing with one leg. "Coolant, the mountain is on fire!"
And it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Coolant watched her sister become wholly entranced with the scene in front of her and rolled her antennae. With her forceful mind, she began to weave her spells even more dexterously, picking up the slack of her dumbfounded partner.
What had begun with billowing smoke rising from the various openings on the mountain had now become t.i.tanic gouts of fire rising dozens of metres into the air. Out of the holes poured termites, fleeing the burning h.e.l.l their nest had become before it was too late.
Propellant watched with glistening eyes as the flames roared higher, the smoke rising thicker and thicker.
Pockets of pure fire covered the mountain. The crackle and roar of it was such that she could hear it clearly from where she stood, her antennae tingling with the pleasing sting of the smoke.
Then came the lava.
At first, it was a trickle. Liquid fire dripped out of the openings, setting all it touched aflame. The lava followed the cuts and ravines, snaking down the mountainside in dozens of places, the flow thickening with each pa.s.sing second.
More fire. More smoke. What a glorious spectacle.
And then the mountain shook. Then again.
Propellant was so spellbound that she nearly forgot to grip the ground despite the shaking. So it was that when the mountain exploded, she was nearly knocked flat onto her back.
Thankfully, she was able to hold on and watch the entire spectacle from start to finish.
With a colossal roar, the mountain split open, an impossible force surging upward from within. Lava and rock catapulted hundreds of metres into the air, enormous chunks of stone that weighed dozens of tons just thrown up like a human child's toy.
The lava jetted up in a constant stream, the red glow illuminating everything it touched. The fire mana was so thick it rolled off the mountain in waves, buffeting against the stunned mage's senses.
She stumbled, no longer able to send the strength needed to hold herself up into her legs. She fell to the ground, still staring up at the magnificent spectacle in front of her.
"It's just… so perfect," she whispered.
Coolant looked down at her sister for a second, taking in the adoration and feverish joy that had seized the fire mage.
"This won't end well," she remarked, before turning back to her work.