Fler'Gan stood right beside Aldrich, enveloping him in the Mind Eater's [Pyro Shield] while casting smaller, focused blasts like [Fire Bolts] at the ever-approaching stomach walls. Stella tackled the opposite side of the stomach, throwing out punches and kicks with focused detonations that blew back the stomach wall as much as possible.
"ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA!" Valera madly punched against the approaching walls with all her might, her strength significantly boosted by the red aura of her [Berserker's Rage]. Each of her punches gouged out significant craters in the wall, but it was like putting a dent into Styrofoam - the holes just bounced back and sealed over as quickly as they were made.
Aldrich watched as his undead tried their best, but the walls continued their approach through volleys of flame and explosions and punches.
By now, everyone was corralled back-to-back. The more the walls progressed, the less effective Fler'Gan and Dynamite Girl became as they did not have space to unleash their area of effect. If anyone had claustrophobia at this point, they would probably have fainted as a living cave tried to crush them whole from all sides.
At this rate, they would not be able to hold on until Aldrich had inflicted the full ten stacks of the [Gaze of the Watcher] debuff on the Chryalis stomach. Aldrich manifested the Sign Stone in his other hand.
"Master, no. I will take care of this. You can rely on me as you always have and always will." Valera put a hand on Aldrich's shoulder. She squeezed his shoulder ever so gently with a comforting nod. A nod that showed that out of everyone here, out of anyone, really, Valera cared for Aldrich the most.
Cared for him deeply on a personal level and would do anything to make him happy.
Valera took in a deep breath and then said with resolution. "Everyone, huddle around me."
She drew a wide stance, digging in her greaves, and put her hands up. As the walls closed in, she stopped them from crushing everyone with pure, brute force strength, pushing back against them with tremendous force. Her armor groaned and creaked as her body trembled.
[Berserker's Rage] boosted her physical stats, helping her push back, but she was going against an immense amount of solid pressure from all sides.
Aldrich heard the snapping sound of her leg and arms breaking.
She buckled down onto one knee, her back rounding under strain, but she held on, using her undead body to weather through her broken bones.
And the more damage she took, the stronger [Berserker's Rage] became. The aura of red around her became even stronger, raging like a veil of flames.
"I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO TOUCH MY MASTER!" shouted Valera as she held on with all her immense power.
She held on and on until -
Thirty seconds passed.
Aldrich wasted no time. He casted [Disintegrating Gaze] with his lantern. The eye suspended in gleaming amber fluid within the lantern opened up instantly, blood shot and ready to kill, and fired its beam of disintegration.
Aldrich thumbed the Sign Stone in his off hand nervously. He did not know exactly if this would work.
His theory was that because the stomach was linked to the main body of the Chrysalis, instant death magic cast on its stomach would transfer to its brain as well. After all, that was what happened with normal beings. Just because instant death was struck on say, their foot, did not mean they did not die.
All he could do was watch and wait.
The beam fired into the stomach walls and turned what it hit into a petrified white state ready to crumble into ash at any moment. Then, the petrification spread rapidly, covering all of the stomach walls. The walls completely froze up and no longer crushed against Valera, giving her some rest.
She slumped over, exhausted and panting. Blood pooled from her greaves and gauntlets, probably because broken bone had torn through her flesh and mangled her limbs.
Stella wrapped an arm around Valera to support her. Aldrich did the same.
"Seriously impressive sh*t. You did amazing, Val," said Stella. She smiled down at Valera. Aldrich could tell that despite their petty squabbles here and there, they had a special camaraderie together. Almost sisterly. "Can I call you that?"
"…I suppose," said Valera.
"I agree." Aldrich nodded to her. He paused for a moment. "And…thank you. For being willing to sacrifice so much for me."
It meant even more because unlike the undead Aldrich arose, Valera did not have a pre-programmed drive to be loyal to Aldrich. She did this all out of her own volition. Her own free will.
"Heh, a thanks from my master? What a wonderful reward." Valera looked up as ash fell all around everyone like snow. "We have won, master."
Aldrich looked up to see the stomach walls disintegrating, and not just them, the disintegration spread rapidly in all directions. Soon, cracks of sunlight started to stream in from above as the entire nest fell apart.
The nest trembled and shook like a dying creature before it finally disintegrated fully, leaving Aldrich and his undead in a large hole gouged into the side of the cliff. A dry breeze and bright sun light washed over everyone.
Aldrich looked around in wonder. The hole around them was not that large. Maybe the size of a large house. Much, much smaller than how massive the nest had been from within.
[EXP Bar: 600/1800 ] 1600/1800]
Aldrich sighed in relief, getting final confirmation that he had won. He, along with Valera and Stella, walked to the edge of the hole carved into the cliff and out at the yawning view of sunlit ridges and canyons stretching out in front of them.
"Feels cinematic, doesn't it? Getting' a view like this after a fight like that," said Stella.
"Mhm. But not as wonderful as my master's praise," said Valera.
Aldrich looked out at the view, but his mind was elsewhere. He was planning what to do later tonight at the Red Circle when he met Casimir, the club's manager and the key to his plan on Saturday to kill Seth Solar.
A large part of this plan involved meeting Casimir at the Red Circle and asking him to exit into a more private location using Aldrich's supposed influence as Bruce Vane. Doing this would draw Casimir away from the safety of the Red Circle, at which point he would have a hidden Fler'Gan use his Mind Eater racial skills to brainwash the man.
But the logistics of this was going to be difficult. Getting Fler'Gan into the city and hiding him properly was hard, but not impossible. With Bruce Vane's gold rank citizenship, wall security would not bother to search the car of a wealthy, connected man, so Aldrich could stow Fler'Gan away in the trunk.
Summoning a Ghast could disrupt surveillance cameras to hide Fler'Gan away within the city.
But if Casimir was a more cautious man, he would not meet Aldrich without guards, even in a private location.
That was not that bad.
Aldrich would bring Valera as his supposed wife, and as long as Casimir did not bring a whole squadron of villains, Aldrich could overpower the guards and kill Casimir to raise him as an undead.
Yet what happened if Casimir refused to leave the Red Circle at all? After all, there were private rooms in the club. What if he insisted on meeting there in his stronghold? Was that not the safest and most logical choice for Casimir?
"O Elder, you will want to see this," said Fler'Gan.
Aldrich turned to see Fler'Gan holding a small, crystalline centipede curled up in an ouroboric ball, its mandibles latched onto its tail.
"That's the Chrysalis," said Stella with wonder. "They start out as these tiny crystal bug things, but once they anchor onto an area, they start fusing with the environment, attractin' variants to live in them, and so on until they get all big and hard to deal with just like that.
But now that it's dead, I guess it reverts back to how it was."
Aldrich's own eyes widened as he saw something else that made his mind race with possibilities.
A grave marker floated over the Chrysalis corpse.
(Author's Note: The novel has now gone premium, thanks for reading up until this point and I hope you will stay to read, but if you can't that's understandable too!)