You did well. Very well," said Aldrich to Valera. He paused and gave her a nod, hoping that this was enough to make her happy. He was unused to giving out praise because of how alone he had been.
The only praise he had received was from his parents, and that praise had come from a place of warmth in their hearts.
It had been many years since that same warmth had been snuffed out in Aldrich's own heart.
"Thank you, master!" said Valera with a proper bow. "Mhm. Mhm." She nodded to herself, smiling and taking in Aldrich's praise no matter how awkward or little it was.
As Valera took in Aldrich's praise, Aldrich was occupied by the experience flowing into him.
[Alpha Striker slain!]
[Striker x10 slain!]
[EXP Bar: 75/250 ] 245/250]
Aldrich sighed. Just five points off from level 7. He hated the feeling of going through a fight and being just short of leveling up. But he could not let his mind dwell on that.
"Now to raise this Alpha," said Aldrich. He stepped over to the corpse of the Alpha Striker impaled against a tree trunk with Verla's shield. He tugged at it and found it ridiculously heavy.
Beyond even his current already superhuman strength to move easily. "Valera - can I get some help with this shield?"
"Oh, of course!" said Valera. She rushed to the shield and dislodged it with ease, showcasing the stark difference between a warrior type character that invested most of their stat points into the physical ones and a mage type character like Aldrich.
The Alpha Striker corpse slid down and thumped limply on the ground.
Aldrich was still wary, and he had his skeletons take aim and stand guard over the corpse.
Variants could have any number of Alter powers within them, but generally the number capped out at five. The stronger the Variant, the stronger these powers were.
This Alpha Striker might still have some kind of regenerative power on top of the muscle boosting and shockwave generation it had showcased.
Aldrich's worries were dispelled when he saw a floating, green-outlined grave over the wolf monster's body.
To raise the Alpha, Aldrich needed to make room. His unit control was maxed out at 8/8 already.
"Perfect," said Aldrich. He snapped his fingers, and one of his three Strikers came to his side. "Your service is over. Rest."
Aldrich patted the Striker's head one last time, and the Striker licked Aldrich's hand and nodded before crumbling away into nothingness.
[Units controlled: 8/8 ] 7/8]
"Now then," said Aldrich as he knelt by the Alpha Striker's corpse. He took out the two curved daggers lodged into its eyes and tossed them behind him. "Catch, Rogue. You're probably missing these."
The Skeleton Rogue flipped in the air and gracefully caught the two daggers before landing on its knee, bowing a cracked skull at Aldrich. It had taken considerable damage from getting tossed into a tree from the Alpha Striker's shockwave ability.
Aldrich turned on his [Anti-Life Shell Rank 1]. A misty green, fog-like aura appeared around him, covering his undead and healing them. Notably, the plant life around him started to wilt and die, withering as their life force was drained ever so steadily.
"Ahhh," said Valera as she breathed in deeply. She raised her head up in closed eyed bliss. "The scent of my master-I-I mean, the scent of negative energy!"
"Its rank is low right now, but I'm on my way to fixing that," said Aldrich. "I'm particularly curious as to how Alters and Variants will deal with the highest ranks of it when even being in my presence requires stat and level checks to pass instant death."
"At the very least, you will soon not have to personally deal with weaklings like these," said Valera as she stared at the Striker corpses in disdain.
"Hm." Aldrich thought about it for a moment. His [Anti-Life Shell] was liable to kill countless innocents as well with his mere presence.
But if he absolutely needed to, he would.
Deep down, even though he had never done it before, he knew that he was willing to sacrifice lives for the greater good. If he had to sacrifice a hundred innocents to survive another day and save countless more over time, then he would take that deal with zero hesitation.
This, on top of a willingness to kill villains without a second thought, was one of the major reasons he had always failed the pysch evaluations for higher ranked hero academies.
He was willing to see and use lives as game pieces.
He was not a villain, but he was not a hero, a rea hero like his parents, either, that was for sure.
He had lost a fundamental reverence for each and every life as sacred and worthy after watching his parents die, for their lives were sacred and worthy and ended while the lives of villains continued on.
And now, as an undead, this mindset was even more prominent.
But these were thoughts relevant for another time. Aldrich put a green energy wreathed hand on the Alpha Striker's head.
"Serve," he said.
[Mana: 93/93] 88/93]
Tendrils of bright green flowed into the Alpha Striker, causing its corpse to shudder before it slowly stood back on his four legs. The gaping chest wound from Valera's shield was still visible on its stomach, splitting it open down the middle and exposing its organs. It had no eyes, either, but all of these wounds would regenerate over time in Aldrich's presence.
[Alpha Striker Lvl 7 reanimated]
[Units controlled: 7/8 ] 8/8]
Aldrich obtained information about the Striker. He noted that he did not know the precise stats of reanimated Variants. No specific status screen detailed their abilities in numbers and words. He just had a feel of how strong they were and what powers they could use.
Based on this general feel, reanimated Variants were given a 'level' approximating their combat ability, but Aldrich knew that this level was not entirely accurate. It overly favored physical stats and combat powers and did not consider the utility of non-combat abilities.
Aldrich theorized that Variants had no status related information aside from their level because they did not fit neatly into the game mechanics of Elden World. He imagined this would be similar with reanimated Alters, too.
"I see. So, you had a power that enhanced your muscles, shockwave generation, and Alter detection smell," said Aldrich. He noted that Variants above the E-rank were notable for having multiple powers. He figured this Alpha Striker was solidly D-rank. "Good, then that confirms that most Alters with detection abilities can't see through stealth."
Alters, or any living being that possessed Alter Cells and Organs possessed a unique energy signature, and the higher their cell count, the stronger this signature was. By sequencing this energy signature by wavelength and unique flow patterns, the Alterhuman Agency could maintain a database of existing Alters and their powers.
Alters that used powers that concealed themselves concealed not only their physical appearance, but the emanation of this energy signature. This made them undetectable by any conventional form of Alter detecting technology.
The only way to see past concealment sourced via Alter powers was to use detection sourced through Alter powers. However, detection-based powers were far rarer than concealment-based ones, making this Alpha Striker and its smell quite the useful ability.
Aldrich stood up, and the Alpha Striker nuzzled its large head into his hand for a head pat.
"Valera," said Aldrich. He turned to see Valera staring at the Alpha Striker with envy. "You can drain the rest of these corpses."
"Yes, master," said Valera as she gave the Alpha Striker a powerful leer that made the monster, even without eyes, shudder and feel danger, breaking off from Aldrich.
Valera raised her hand into the air and closed a gauntleted fist together with a metallic click. The ten Striker corpses around her shook before blood flowed out from them, gathering around her and strengthening the sphere of crimson around her.
This was [Crimson Furnace], a signature ability of Valera's. Any unit she killed had their blood drained and formed into a barrier around her. Any damage she took also transferred blood to this barrier, making her tankier and tankier over time and especially durable the lower her health was.
In addition, the barrier was specialized to defend against magic and energy based attacks where her own body was specialized for taking physical blows, making her defense well balanced.
Offensively, the barrier could be ignited and turned into a massive omni-directional explosion around her based off how much damage it had soaked and absorbed. In the case that Valera was at 10% HP, the damage was doubled, making it a one-time super attack.
Or utility wise, it could be drained to heal her, though at a less efficient rate than consuming blood for healing directly.
"Alright," said Aldrich as he saw Valera's barrier solidify, turning into a shell of deep crimson red. "We should move on-,"
Aldrich paused, getting a danger signal from the Evil Eye.
He immediately linked his sight with the Evil Eye and saw something that made him hold his breath.