Aldrich heard another growl cut through the silent, deadly night, and he stopped thinking about the future version of himself. The version where he had all his spells and maxed out stats and an army of undead.
For now, he was still level 1. He could not get carried away. He had to be careful.
Immediately, Aldrich analyzed the situation. Judging from the pupils on these Variants along with how low their gaze was, they were the E-class threats known as Strikers. They were quadrupedal, almost wolf-like creatures known for their incredible charging speed and two large tusks jutting from their mouths.
Aldrich knew this because as a hero academy, Blackwater did have AA (Alterhuman Agency) data on all known Variants and how to deal with them.
Unfortunately, it was up to the hero academies themselves to determine how to distribute the sensitive data, and in Blackwater, training data regarding Variants, especially higher class ones, was limited as a reward to higher performing students.
However, information about lower class Variants was common enough because of how many of them there were that one could find a plethora of information online on how to deal with them.
The practical exams that Aldrich and his friends had to take involved taking down mock Variants simulated by drones and saving civilians, so he was readily prepared to deal with any lower-class Variant threat.
One of the tests even involved distracting Strikers away from civilian zones.
Aldrich took a look at the screen hovering in the corner of his vision that displayed his status. He saw that the status tab was not the only one available to him. There were also tabs labeled as , , and .
Aldrich immediately flipped to the tab where, if things were the same as it was in the game, he knew he would see the item he needed.
-1x Tome of the Dark Arts
Aldrich mentally selected the Tome of the Dark Arts, and it manifested in his hands out of a shower of ghostly green particles. The book was no larger than a small handbook with a leathery cover made out of wrinkled, dried skin with the visage of a screaming face etched in the middle.
This was the introductory tome that Necromancers started out with that granted them three basic spells to use out of a sizable pool of fifteen.
Aldrich consumed the item by mentally willing it, and the book glowed a faint green. The list of the possible spells he could use showed up in a small screen in front of him, but he barely even looked at it, only making sure the spells he already knew he wanted were there.
He selected what he needed.
Lines of glowing bright, ghostly green energy transferred from the book and into Aldrich's body, moving up the veins of his arm and lighting them in the dark.
[Spells: Chill Blast, Raise Undead Rank 1, and Anti-Life Shell Rank 1 learned]
Thankfully, Aldrich had a good fundamental idea of how to use his newfound powers. All he had to do was mentally will his powers to work, as if they were just a part of his body, and because he knew how his game character worked, it was a breeze for him to start working quickly and efficiently.
Aldrich shuddered as he felt cold seep into his being, permeating through his veins from the tome's energy. It felt good, the cold, like he belonged to it. The book faded into dust, and at that moment, the Strikers charged out from the forest.
They looked like enormous wolves with thick, grey furred coats and snarling jowls, though their square pupil eyes and tusks made it readily apparent they were no ordinary wildlife.
They surged forwards with tusks jutted out, aiming to gore Aldrich.
Aldrich saw them moving towards him and immediately lunged to the side, rolling over a bunch of leaves as he dodged the barreling, savage bodies. A crack sounded as the Strikers slammed into trees and shook their heads, momentarily dazed by the impact.
Still, Aldrich almost shuddered at how devastating their charges were. They had almost felled the enormous trees they had hit, tilting them backwards dangerously close to a free fall. Any human hit by that would have their internal organs completely rearranged from the impact alone, not to mention the sharp tusks.
Aldrich was faster than the wolves, though. A good deal faster.
Because he had the [Unburdened] status which applied only when he did not wear any equipment, he had a sizable buff to agility. As a result, he was more than twice as fast as he was before, and even back when he was an ordinary man, he had top level athletic performance.
Aldrich pointed his pale hands at the two Strikers just like his Necromancer character would. He casted [Chill Bolt].
[Mana: 15/15 ] 11/15]
Two wintry spheres of foggy white and blue surrounded his hands before twin bolts of pale blue energy shot forth. The bolts zipped through the air, cold, condensed air leaving a frosty comet trail behind them.
Both bolts landed square on one of the Strikers square at the head. The impact jerked the Striker's head back like it was shot with a bullet, but it shook the blow off. Its head was cut open with jagged scars covered with frozen blood, but the damage was not enough to pierce right through the skull and into the brain.
"Hm," noted Aldrich.
These Strikers were not ordinary. Normally, E-class threats like them could be dealt pretty easily with conventional weaponry and the [Chill Bolts] would definitely have been enough to turn their brains into frozen mush considering in the game, they could make sizable dents in boulders.
But these Strikers had seemingly evolved harder skulls to accommodate their charging habits, removing one of their biggest weak points as the thick fur on their bodies formed a sort of natural armor.
In terms of game levels, the Strikers would probably be around level 4 or 5. A significant threat to Aldrich at this state.
There was no doubt that if the Strikers got a clean hit on him, he would instantly die with how low his HP pool was.
But Aldrich trusted in his reflexes and agility to kite his way through this mini boss-fight.
The other Striker roared and pawed the ground once before charging again.
Aldrich dodged pre-emptively, once more rolling to the side and narrowly evading a crushing blow to his body. He then cast [Anti-Life Shell Rank 1], or, more accurately, he activated it since it was a toggled passive.
Unlike [Chill Bolt], [Anti-Life Shell] was a passive ability that surrounded Aldrich with negative energy that healed undead while draining the life force of regular enemies.
There was no cost to maintaining the shell, especially at lower ranks, but in exchange, it did not deal much damage. It was more like 'chip' damage that accumulated over time, but every little bit counted at this point.
A ghostly green aura that looked like ethereal mist surrounded Aldrich in a hazy sphere approximately ten meters in radius. Enough range to constantly cover both Strikers in this forest clearing.
The Strikers sniffed the strange mist warily but did not register enough threat from it to run away or deal with it. Instead, they sat in the mist, circling around Aldrich from opposite ends.
Aldrich took in a breath, keeping his senses sharp for the moment they charged him. He could not use [Raise Undead] because it required corpses, but he had willingly chosen a spell that did not work because he was confident he could one shot the Strikers with well placed [Chill Bolts] to the head.
Now, though, Aldrich had to readjust his strategy and beat the Strikers with a hit and run method using the constant chip damage of [Anti-Life Shell] and [Chill Bolts] to deal frost type damage that would slow the Strikers down.
Aldrich had planned to take this fight without undead, but he had to admit that having undead would make his job a lot easier.
After all, what was a Necromancer, especially a Legion Necromancer, without his minions?
That was when Aldrich noticed with some surprise the presence of graves.
Not literal graves, but floating cross-shaped tombstones outlined in green that indicated the presence of corpses that he could raise. These corpses were only visible to Necromancers, and it was both a welcome and unwelcome sight to him.
Aldrich grimaced. He knew who they were. He did not like using his dead friends as undead, but for now, he had to survive. He had to survive to give them the vengeance they deserved.
Aldrich put his hand out and casted [Raise Undead Rank 1].
[Mana: 11/15 ] 6/15]
Rank 1 meant that he could only raise undead from levels 1-10, and though he did not know entirely how levels correlated with the real world, the presence of graves meant they were in the eligible level range for revival.
Two sets of pale arms burst from the forest ground, and the graves floating over them faded away.
Aldrich frowned as he saw Adam and Elaine burst from the ground, and from rotted splotches on their skin, he knew they were zombies. They looked grotesque, Elaine with the gaping hole in her stomach and Adam with a completely twisted neck. Their eyes were lifeless, and they let out guttural groans that belonged to monsters, not humans.
Necromancers were not like Priests. They did not revive the dead. They simply used corpses to create monsters.
Whatever soul was left in that corpse was long gone. At least, this was according to game lore.
Aldrich hoped that it was right. He had never been superstitious enough to believe in souls and an afterlife, but if it did exist, he did not want to keep his friends' souls trapped.
The Strikers paused their circling as they saw the two zombies, assessing their threat.
Aldrich could feel mental 'tethers' linked to Adam and Elaine, and he had an instinctive sense that he could move them around with mental commands addressed to these links. He had Adam and Elaine stand behind him, covering his blind spot, and together like this, he almost felt like they were back as a team.
Aldrich shook his head as he remembered the many fights they had gone through together in this formation. That was the past. Adam and Elaine were dead. They were zombies now, and Seth Solar and his gang had to pay for it.
Aldrich took the initiative this time, firing off twin [Chill Bolts] at the Striker in front of him.
[Mana: 6/15 ] 2/15]
He aimed not at the hardened skull this time, but at the eyes. The Striker howled in pain as the pale blue bolts slammed into its gleaming yellow eyes, bursting them apart in chunks of frozen flood and eye fluid.
While the Striker was disabled, Aldrich ran towards the other Striker, causing it to charge him. He ran so that he lured it away from Adam and Elaine while he commanded his undead friends to attack the blinded Striker.
Adam and Elaine growled as they sprinted forwards, significantly stronger than they were before. As Zombies, they had slightly enhanced physical stats, undying bodies that would not give out unless they took head injuries, and a poisonous bite and rot aura that made them better front-line fighters than Aldrich.
Overall, both were level 3, and two of them could overwhelm a single Striker easily provided Aldrich distracted the other one.
Adam and Elaine tackled the Striker and began savagely tearing into it like monsters themselves. They chomped down on the Striker, turning it over as they started to gouge their fists and legs into its skin. They broke their fingers as they tried to tear into it and then used their sharp, broken bones as knives to start stabbing, unable to feel pain or any sense of self-preservation.
Aldrich played a tense game of dodging with the other Striker, evading its lunges, charges, and snaps from its jaws with his superior agility. He did this while listening to the other Striker growling and struggling before its death throes silenced.
[Striker defeated! + 10 EXP]
[EXP Bar: 0/10 ] 10/10]
[Level 1 ] 2]
[5 stat points available to distribute]
Aldrich nodded to himself, feeling power surge into him. The Striker leaped up and snapped at him, and Aldrich held it off with his bare hands, keeping his hands on its jaws to prevent them from closing on his face while he held it from arm's length away to evade the tusks.
The Striker's eye widened in surprise at Aldrich's burst of power.
[Stat points distributed…]
[Strength: 6 ] 11]
Aldrich had expected to get around twice as physically strong from going from 6 to 11 in strength, but he felt stronger than even that, even though his class did not have an affinity for strength that granted a bonus point to every stat invested into it.
Aldrich tossed the Striker away with an expert over the shoulder throw, sending it crashing into the forest floor in a tumble of cracking leaves and branches.
His class primarily used magic, it was true, but that did not mean he could neglect his physical stats, especially in the real world where superheroes faster than the human eye could run a fist through him before he could even react and cast a spell.
"Now then," said Aldrich as he cracked his neck and knuckles, walking casually up to the Striker as it slowly got back up from the heavy throw.
The Striker looked first at Aldrich, then behind it at Adam and Elaine shambling towards it, covered in the blood, fur, and guts of its companion. The monster shuddered in fear, its tail tucking between its legs.
"It's time for you and your friend to join us," said Aldrich.