Aldrich spent the next several hours just poring through all of Ghost's communications about the Red Circle. His focus was unbroken, his mental stamina just as infinite as his physical stamina from being undead.
Ghost and the Odinson boss all talked on private chatrooms located in what was known as the Darknet.
The regular Net was formed by the Panopticon after the Monstering and was considered an evolution of the world wide web. It accommodated techno Alters who could now literally dive through virtual space with their minds, providing a universal, unified space that the Panopticon and various Net cyber security companies could regulate and secure.
However, there were many that did not like the feeling of having the Panopticon's ever-present eye watching over them, and so the Darknet was formed. An evolution of the dark web just as the Net was an evolution of the internet.
The Darknet required specific software, configurations, and authorizations to access, and any data on it was encrypted so heavily that many technos generally considered it nigh impossible to forcibly crack into it from the outside.
However, with a Darknet surfer's fully cracked phone or personal device, this became a different story. With access to their personal device and information like passwords and personal account information, it was relatively easy to access user data on the Darknet.
Ghost's Darknet conversations were largely held between himself and Davis Shane, the Blackwater technician and drug dealer. There were many conversations lasting through a range of a year - almost the entire time that Ghost had been in Blackwater.
Most of these conversations were about Ghost buying drugs.
Drugs not only for himself, but for others, and, more repulsively, to slip in the drinks of unsuspecting women. Aldrich remembered the way that Ghost had looked at and touched Elaine, and once more, he was grateful that he had ended Ghost with the pain and suffering he deserved.
What Aldrich noted was that in these communications, Davis Shane talked to Ghost with a subservient tone, always asking him what he needed, telling him what the best things to buy were, giving him discounts, and so on.
The technician even tried to stop Ghost from taking more X personally, warning him of addiction, but of course, Ghost had ignored him.
Davis Shane was not trying to push drugs onto Ghost. He was trying to keep Ghost and the Blackwater students he dealt with happy, even at the cost of profit.
Aldrich found an especially interesting conversation dated back to around the same time when the Odinsons had made their heist and carried the Imugi case to the Red Circle. It was a request by Ghost asking when the 'special package' was getting here, that Seth Solar personally needed this, and that it was urgent.
This was no coincidence. Seth Solar needed whatever was in that case.
To which Davis replied that he knew it was on the way, but he had no idea exactly when it would arrive as he could not directly ask the Trident. Davis further stated it was better to ask Casimir for details.
A search on the word 'Casimir' through Ghost's phone indicated that he was the owner of the Red Circle nightclub. Ghost did not have any virtual communications with Casimir, but he and Seth Solar's crew routinely talked about the club owner in good light, appreciating the owner's hospitality and willingness to always set up a private room for them.
And, perhaps most interestingly, Casimir gave Seth Solar's crew access to Connectors.
Connectors were individuals that, as the title suggested, 'connected' another to a criminal organization. They were largely responsible for managing job listing for mercenaries and villains that needed work, but for the largest criminal syndicates like the Trident, they gained even more responsibilities.
Connectors for these larger organizations were also responsible for contacting and keeping in the good graces of the strongest villains, pampering them with gifts, parties, and luxuries in exchange for a few 'favors' here and there. They also reached out to potentially recruit independent villains and mercenaries into working full time for the organization, listing out comprehensive job benefits and securities to working for them.
In essence, they were job recruiters. The HR department of criminal organizations, so to say.
Seth Solar and his crew, no, not just them, messages in group chats implicated almost the entirety of Blackwater's A-class, went to the Red Circle for not only VIP service, but also to get in touch with Connectors for the largest criminal organizations.
The only A-class student that Aldrich could not find a mention of was the current rank 1 Mel Morales.
In the Red Circle, the Connectors would promise the top performing Blackwater students permanent high-end positions in their organizations, recognizing the talent and potential that the A-class students had.
Aldrich came to the realization that Blackwater was not truly a functional hero academy. It trained either corrupt heroes who would use their position in the AA (Alterhuman Agency) to function as moles, or if they were in the A-class, funnel into the highest ranks of criminal syndicates as villains.
It all made sense now. Why Blackwater was so isolated and so hidden. Why there was so little information about it. Hell, when Aldrich had tried to research the academy, he could not even find a list of past alumni, no doubt because they all now worked as villains or mercenaries.
It explained why the academy had such good equipment and facilities despite being so obscure and ranking so low.
It explained why they did not give a damn about psych evaluations.
It explained the brutality of the academy where only the strong survived.
It also implicated the Solar family as the academy's current head was Selina Solar and, of course, Seth Solar attended it.
The fact that this had not become a PR nightmare for the Solar family indicated only one thing: the Solar family was working with criminal organizations to keep any information about their involvement highly hidden.
Aldrich had done some research on the Solar family in trying to create his contingency plans against Seth Solar and knew that he and his mother were not part of the main branch of the Solar dynasty.
They were an illegitimate branch with Selina Solar being the product of a one-time fling from the previous head of the Solar family. Quite likely, Selina Solar was the daughter of the previous Solar head and a villainess, hence why Selina had such strong connections to the criminal underworld.
That made Seth Solar also illegitimate. He could never step into the fold of the main Solar family and don their golden costumes to bask in their glory and public game. He could share their last name, but his existence would forever be a tightly controlled secret kept within the confines of Blackwater and its criminal web.
This was a significant amount of information to organize and mentally order, but one thing was clear to Aldrich: he was not just going to take down Seth Solar and his friends, but also Blackwater - the academy that had thrown nothing but abuses to him and his friends.
And by take down, he meant destroy. It was not enough for him to just leak this information to the public. Very likely, any leaks would just get taken down or smeared as fake news by the wealth of both the Solar family and various crime syndicates with vested interests to keep their villain and fake hero factory up and running.
No, Aldrich had to destroy Blackwater. Break it down so that it could never, ever produce villains. The very same kind of villains that had killed his own parents.
Aldrich had the information he needed. He just needed to act.
He knew Seth Solar and his crew made a visit to the Red Circle every Saturday. That was the perfect time to take them all down at once.
Taking them out one by one would leave far too much time for suspicion to grow.
But the problem was, yet again, power.
Storming the Red Circle was no joke. If there were Connectors there, there were likely bodyguards. Mercenaries and decently rankings villains. And also the majority of Blackwater's A-class.
Aldrich would have to take down all of them.
It was conceivably possible for Aldrich to do this after reaching level 10 and clearing the Trial Quest.
After clearing the Trial Quest, he would gain a full set of new equipment, Elden World monsters to raise as undead, a powerful passive skill, and even more spells.
The issue was Seth fucking Solar yet again. He was just too strong. Far, far stronger than the rest of the A-rank.
It was almost a miracle that Mel Morales could even consistently beat him to take the rank 1 spot, and even then, she did that through unique applications of her portal based power, not through sheer brute force.
Seth Solar might have been an arrogant asshole, but his power was the real deal. Even now, he could just fly through Aldrich's undead army and burn everything down in a few minutes.
He was just that strong.
Ghost and the rest of the A-class were like ants compared to Seth Solar. And it was not because the A-class was necessarily weak, it was just because they were young and had undeveloped powers.
Alter powers needed time and training to develop, and it was said that an Alter's power fully maximized and matured as late as the age of 30, with some even taking longer.
However, Seth Solar was a genetic anomaly known as a Starter Child. His power was high from the beginning. That meant he had less growth potential over time, but that mattered little when he had overwhelming power to start off with.
Super strength, super speed, flight, near invulnerability, and high temperature solar beams for fire damage: the man was a living, walking, flying counter to Aldrich and his army.
And if Aldrich wanted to strike on Saturday, he only had about five days to prepare against Seth Solar.
During that time, he needed to get as strong possible -
[Vine Beast x 1 defeated!]
[Moss Beast x 3 defeated!]
[Big-arm Grizzly defeated!]
[Tunnel Centipede x 12 defeated!]
[Red Carapace Great Centipede x 1 defeated!]
[+550 total EXP]
[EXP Bar: 100/650 ] 650/650]
[Level 9 ] 10]
[EXP Bar: 0/1200]
[+5 stat points available to distribute]
[TRIAL QUEST 1 available]
All the experience from the Variants that Valera's hunting party killed throughout the hours of Aldrich's investigation poured into his head. He had tuned them out to focus on the investigation and because he trusted Valera, but he did not know that they had hunted so efficiently that he had already leveled up.
Evidently, the hunting party had encountered a nest of giant centipedes and had dealt with them quite well.
With Dynamite Girl there, any bug type natural Variants would have been no challenge at all, especially since they were all immune to poison and because bug type natural Variants tended to clump up, making them perfect targets for high heat explosions.
Aldrich stood up.
"That gonna be it, boss?" said Fisk.
"For now. Good job," said Aldrich. "Get some rest."
"Thanks a bunch, boss, but I don't need it. I'll be playin' some games if you don't mind," said the techno as he booted up a rhythm game plastered with images of anime girls.
Aldrich thought about taking away the techno's individuality, but he could not see how playing this game would be of much risk, especially since it seemed to be offline.
"Sure, go ahead," said Aldrich. "If you see or hear anything suspicious, you reach out to me."
"Understood, boss," said Fisk as he started to rapidly tap at his keyboard, playing the game with expert skill honed from years and years of practice. It stood to reason that if martial arts training stuck with an undead raised with a soul, then so would…these skills.
Aldrich made his way towards the deeper end of the forest where Valera was. He mentally commanded her to stop hunting and meet him.
It was now time to clear the first Trial Quest.