As the squadron of sleek black hovercars with Blackwater's insignia painted on their doors got closer and closer, Aldrich motioned for his undead to leave.
"We have to go," said Aldrich. He sprinted away into the depths of the forest, making sure to clear up any humanoid tracks. If the search party for Ghost saw human tracks, there would be immediate alarm and suspicion of foul play.
However, Aldrich did not bother covering up the more monstrous tracks because he wanted the search party to see them when they got to the clearing.
The team would dig up Ghost's used up needles and find bits and pieces of his body that Aldrich ad strategically left behind. Then, they would see Variant tracks and rule out the possibility of murder.
They would instantly rule that Ghost had died to a variant attack while too high off his mind to defend himself.
And if all evidence pointed towards Ghost dying to Variants, and indeed, there was already plenty of evidence to point towards that conclusion, then Blackwater would rest their search case on Ghost soon enough.
In the off-chance that they actually searched even harder, Aldrich was willing to move out of the Variant forest and establish a second Sign closer to Haven city to escape back into the Nexus until things fully blew over.
Aldrich and his undead party moved out as discreetly as possible. The Geist and the crabs carried anyone with humanoid footsteps to minimize tracks.
While he and his undead moved into the forest, he checked back up on the two Evil Eyes he had positioned.
Aldrich kept a close look on the hovercars using his Evil Eye. He could not look through his Evil Eyes while he was in the Nexus or another dimension, but he could keep them strategically positioned and ready in the real world.
One of his Evil Eyes tracked the search party of hovercars approaching while the other one roamed around Blackwater campus.
From the Evil Eyes, Aldrich knew that Seth Solar and his crew were not in their dorms in Blackwater. They were in one of the hovercars approaching the Variant forest.
The hovercars stopped and parked on the side of the main road, getting out along with several powerful faculty members.
A search squad consisting of twenty-two men in sleek black power armor and high tech firearms with flashlight attachments streamed out. Two technos opened laptops and powered on several search drones to fly over the forest.
By the way they parked almost right beside Ghost's dumping spot, Aldrich could tell that Seth Solar knew where Ghost put away his drugs.
Thankfully, with the thirty minutes advance notice, Aldrich was far, far away from the search party by the time they reached Ghost's drug drop site.
Aldrich stopped and rested by sitting on a fallen tree trunk. He talked to Fler'Gan while he multi-tasked and kept his sight linked with the Evil Eye spying on the search and rescue group.
"You told me there were three steps to fulfilling this 'Ritual of Eternity' to become a lich," said Aldrich. "I've fulfilled one of three conditions, and that's just because I have your Phylactery in my inventory. And obviously, I need to get that Obelisk."
"I assume then, that you desire my counsel on how to fulfill a severing of your mortal bonds?" said Fler'Gan.
"Yeah," said Aldrich. "You see, I have no close bonds."
"Not any? Are you sure, master!?" said Valera.
"The keyword is 'mortal' bond," said Fler'Gan, soothing Valera's worry that Aldrich was not bonded to her. "A bond with immortal undead such as we falls outside of this delineation."
"That's the thing. I am pretty sure I have no mortal bonds." Aldrich looked to Adam and Elaine, and they stared blankly at him with their cloudy eyes. "They used to be my close friends. But that's the thing. Used to.
They aren't anymore, and I know they aren't truly here by this point. They're just zombies.
I was close to my parents, but they died years ago.
I had no other attachments. No friends. No loves. Nothing."
"No loves?" Valera shuddered in anticipation as she hugged herself. "You have yet to have your 'first'? My my…"
Aldrich ignored Valera and let her fantasize while he continued talking with Fler'Gan.
"So that means I should have no attachments. But apparently, I still haven't 'severed my mortal bonds'," said Aldrich.
"O great Elder, perhaps you are envisioning the concept of mortal attachment too narrowly," said Fler'Gan. Now that the insanity induced by his dream state was gone, his voice was calm, oozing the wisdom of an intellectual that had spent over a century studying and absorbing knowledge. "You believe attachment as love or friendship.
A bond of warmth that keeps you connected with others.
But what of hate and vengeance? They are just as strong a bond. No, they can be even stronger. Chains that can lock you with even greater hold than friendship."
"Vengeance." Aldrich repeated this word as he saw through his Evil Eye Seth Solar hovering over Ghost's clearing. He saw Seth Solar's friends behind him with their arms crossed and shaking their heads.
He felt fire in his cold, dead heart. He felt vengeance. He felt a twinge of satisfaction knowing that those miserable maggots had lost one of themselves, but that satisfaction was not nearly enough to quench the fire within Aldrich.
"I see now," said Aldrich. "Vengeance is what's keeping me here. Hm." He put a thinking hand to his chin and narrowed his eyes. "Of all the people to have an unhealthy vengeance fixation on, it had to be Seth Solar, one of the toughest targets to take down that I know."
"Together, we can triumph over anyone," said Valera hopefully, ever optimistic.
"Hold up, Solar?" said Dynamite Girl. "I-I think I remember him now. You're goin' to try and fight THE Solomon Solar?"
"No, Solomon Solar is a proper, public top hero. Trying to target him would be a logistics nightmare and an impossibility to do secretly," said Aldrich. "I'm taking out another member of his family. An asshole that comes from an illegitimate line.
Weaker than the main guy and hidden from the public's eye. But even then, you're right to be surprised. Anyone with the Solar surname will be strong."
"How strong could this mere man possibly be?" said Valera as she saw through the Evil Eye with Aldrich. She spied him hovering a meter or so in the air, scanning his surroundings. "He can fly, it seems, but I sense no other power emanating from him."
"Because his power isn't dependent on magic or levels," said Aldrich. "You have to get used to never underestimating anyone in this world. Anyone could have a powerful power and you would never be able to sense it."
"Not unless you got a scanner like me!" said Fisk.
"That reminds me, hand over your scanner," said Aldrich. "You won't be seeing too much direct combat. Your scanner will be much more useful on me."
"Here boss." Fisk tossed Aldrich his red visor. Aldrich caught it deftly and experimented, attempting to put it into his inventory. He found he could not. Only magical items could go in there, it seemed. He put the visor over his eyes and watched as little numbers and screens in the periphery of his red-tinted vision started to flicker and calibrate.
"You don't need this for diving?" said Aldrich. Diving was the term for those that used a head jack to deep dive into the virtual world of the Net.
"Nah, I use my eye for that." Fisk pointed to his mechanical blue eye as it clacked and whirred. "I mainly wore that to look cool cause' that's ARMA blue-grade. The kind that those ARMA police agents got to look all tactical and sh*t."
"I see," said Aldrich. He wondered how he looked. A man in loose necromancer robes holding a lantern made of burnt bone with a glowing red eyeball suspended inside of it. On top of all this, he had on a futuristic red visor.
Something about these two aesthetics did not line up.
"You look wonderful, master!" said Valera.
Well, at least he had one supporter.
"Power that is not based off magic nor levels nor spells nor skills…" Fler'Gan rubbed his slimy purple hands together. "How quaint. How very, very interesting. I must find more knowledge about this. You-," He pointed a long finger at Dynamite Girl and stared at her with wide eyed desire for knowledge. "You must have one of these powers. Will you consent to my experimentations? I promise they shall not be uncomfortable."
"Geeze, at least you ask for consent, but I'm gonna' have to say no, squid face. I know how 'experiments' with tentacle freaks like you end up, and I ain't about to be part of it," said Dynamite Girl.
"What experiments did you have in mind?" said Aldrich, curious.
"What!? You're gonna' take his side, captain? You…" Dynamite Girl narrowed her eyes at Aldrich. "You're not a perv too, are you?"
"There is nobody as upstanding and dutiful as my master!" protested Valera. She blushed slightly. "Though…if he does have that side to him…I would accept him too."
"So?" said Aldrich, ignoring both women and pressing Fler'Gan for an answer.
"Whether it is possible to mesh the abilities that those of this world seem to harbor within their bodies with the powers vested unto us through mana and magic," said Fler'Gan. "Among many other topics of interest, of course."
"I'm rather curious about that too, actually. But you'll have to let go of Dynamite Girl as your experiment. I assume I'll be needing her for quite some time. I'll find you another Alter to work on soon," said Aldrich.
"Alter? So that is what these strange new humans are called." Fler'Gan hungrily twitched his mouth tendrils. "So be it, O Elder. I shall look forward to when I can begin my experimentations. I must warn you, though, my investigations may perhaps cause some…distress within subjects."
"As long as you get results," said Aldrich. "I'll provide appropriate subjects deserving of distress later. For now, I need to figure out what I want to do.
He looked down at his watch. It was now early into the dusk of Wednesday. Just a few more days until Saturday when Seth Solar and his crew all gathered together at the Red Circle.
Now, was there a way he could face all of them, including the mercenaries and villains in the Red Circle by himself at that point in time? Just three days from now?
No. Not unless Aldrich became a lich and received the massive upgrades that came with the transformation.
But here was now the issue: to become a lich, he had to kill Seth Solar first.
Aldrich had been banking on turning into a lich before facing Seth Solar, but now that was flat out impossible, and without turning into a lich, even with luck on his side any fight with Seth Solar would be one of extreme difficulty.