Aldrich closed the quest tab and pondered the rewards.
Dark Wisdom was something Aldrich had heard about in the lore but had no real idea how it worked as no player character could really access it in the game.
It was supposed to be a crystallized fragment of a lich's essence that they granted to noteworthy undead beneath them, raising their levels.
This was how Liches could constantly increase the strength of their strongest undead. By having access to this, Aldrich no longer had to deal with many of his units, especially Alters with unique powers, getting phased out because their physical stats could no longer keep up.
He had no idea how levels would affect Alter powers themselves, but at the very least, he knew that the levels would strengthen their stats.
But the greatest reward here would be the Frosthallowed War Scythe. It was both a Catalyst, an item used for channeling magic, and a melee weapon, making it perfect for Aldrich's use. It was normally not an item that player characters could obtain, and as such, it possessed effects and abilities that were much better than regular gear.
At the very least, it was an item that was far better than anything Aldrich could obtain in his ordinary Trial Quests for his current level if, indeed, his Trial Quests were even the same now that the Death Lord had seemingly altered his system.
For now, though, there was no point about pondering this.
Aldrich had to focus on the immediate quest given to him. And to that end, he needed to be topped up on health.
Ever since he had become a Lich, the [Restorative Flask] no longer worked on him, for it was divine water of life from Amara whose very existence opposed undead like Aldrich.
*(AN: This was something I was supposed to add but forgot in the chapter he became a lich, my bad)*
Aldrich whistled, and Crow moved according to his will, towards the thick of the battlefield. All the while, though, he remotely oversaw the fight against Shrimp via the Grave Ward's vision.
"What is it?" said Seismic.
"A quick pit stop," said Aldrich. He briefly glanced at the rest of the battle zones and saw that the fishmen and crabmen had almost been completely pushed back.
The larger and slower units that Aldrich had such as the zombie giant, Crab, and the Bloodspitter Lizard were left behind on the battle zone to fight as they were too slow to contend with Shrimp.
By now, Crab had grown back to around ten meters, and he was utterly devastating the crabmen formerly under him.
On top of this, the Panopticon's Bugs mowed down the fodder fishmen who had no anti-air, making this fight a complete one sided slaughter at this point.
Within the hour, no, even less time than that, the variant army would get shoved back to the coastline.
All that remained was taking care of Shrimp.
Aldrich had Crow quickly fly by down a mass of corpses, and he raised his hand and cast [Mass Grave Consumption].
From all the corpses, the floating green graves marking them shattered, and streams of wispy red flowed into Aldrich, nourishing his health to full.
With that, Aldrich commanded Crow to get back over to the Shrimp fight. He wondered, though, as he stared down at the fight, whether he even needed all that extra health.
Maybe, at the start of this night, this would have been a challenging quest.
But, as Aldrich continued to watch and micro the fight unfolding beneath him, it was looking increasingly like that would not be all too challenging of a quest.
Shrimp still had not recovered from the onslaught of attacks from Valera, Chiros, the Deathwheel, and the Antlion's strong grounding effect. The Locus was still on the permanent defensive, unable to get in an attack or react to an attacker before getting hit in his blindside.
Valera's attacks, especially, were brutal. All of her punches were strong enough imprint deep cracks into Shrimp's body, and the deeper the cracks were and the more damage he sustained, the sooner Chiros could use his [Expose Veins] which required a unit to be below a certain health threshold.
[Expose Veins] would then show Shrimp's vitals, and these, Valera could target with her [Slayer] buff to instantly demolish body parts or even kill Shrimp outright.
In fact, as Valera kept throwing out punch and kick and blow with a manic grin on her face, Aldrich figured the greatest threat to his quest's completion was Valera's bloodlust.
Aldrich put a hand to his head. 'Valera, make sure you try to keep that thing alive. Alive enough for me to land the final hit, but I'm fine with you breaking it to any point before that.'
'Of course, master! The glory of this kill shall be yours!' Valera yelled gleefully in Aldrich's mind as she used an opening made by Chiros to land a triple punch combo starting at Shrimp's stomach, moving on to his sternum, and then shattering his jaw entirely with a solid uppercut.
Because of the Antlion's anti-flight field that grounded everyone, the uppercut did not send Shrimp flying, and instead amplified that energy into devastating effect into Shrimp's head.
Aldrich did not know if Shrimp had a humanoid nervous system, but if he did, that hit would have definitely rattled his brain or pulped it outright with the concentrated shockwave of the punch.
Shrimp held on, however, even as his broken jaw hung loose from his mouth, pooling blue blood from it liberally.
The Locus shoved Valera backwards desperately only to meet the Deathwheel crashing into his side, driving him into Chiros who unleashed a [Scarlet Dance: Earth Sundering].
This consisted of Chiros momentarily explosively igniting his blood, causing it to sputter out of his body in petal shaped patterns that burnt up rapidly in the air.
This gave the Crimson Knight a huge boost of strength and speed in exchange for a sizable health cost to unleash a powerful overhead swing that slammed Shrimp into the ground in a shower of shattered earth.
The small crater around Shrimp then quickly turned into quicksand as the Antlion adjusted its position to continue trapping Shrimp.
'Maybe I should go in now,' thought Aldrich, thinking that Shrimp was on his last legs.
The Locus's shell armor had thoroughly been cracked, with good chunks completely broken off to reveal teal green and blue flesh beneath that bled from tears and cuts and swelled with bruises.
Shrimp looked utterly and thoroughly broken. Jaw shattered. One eye still missing. Bleeding everywhere. Bruises everywhere. He even stood shakily, wobbling as the accumulated damage likely tore muscles and broke bones and perhaps even damaged his head, stopping him from functioning properly.
It was as if at any given moment, Shrimp could take one unlucky hit and die right then and there.
But just as Aldrich thought this, the situation changed.
Valera rushed in to kick Shrimp's side while he laid down, but at that moment, a flesh of white burst around Shrimp from the ravaged ground, pooling upwards through the cracks like a geyser. He immediately stood up with a speed and energy he had only exhibited at the start of this fight, before he had taken all this damage, and instantly clicked back his piston fist.
The blue and green energy stripes around his fist lit up halfway, like energy bars filling, but stopped at that halfway point. He then unleashed his energy punch right into Valera.
Valera, caught by surprise, guarded the hit with her arms, but she was still sent flying far back with an explosive burst of bright blue, ocean wave patterned energy.
That energy wave, despite being much smaller than Shrimp's full power one, still carried enough power and weight behind it that Valera had to keep guarding against it while she was pushed back, taking her out of the fight for some time.
"Another change," said Seismic, his voice urgent now. He uncrossed his arms and clenched his fists, the veins in his arms starting to show as he channeled his own power.
"It's learned how to use its energy punches faster, and on top of that, it's been healed," said Aldrich as he saw that when the white aura of energy faded, showing that Shrimp had healed almost half of his total injuries. "I thought you said the Antaeic Factor didn't work so long as they were kept under pressure."
"…" Seismic's jaw set. "Normally. Yes. I don't know what's going on now. This hasn't happened before."
With Valera, the main tank and heavy hitter, pushed away, Shrimp used a renewed charge of its Burst to immediately dash towards the Deathwheel and grab it before smashing it in half over his knee. He then tossed the wheel halves far away.
Chiros readied to rush in as well, and from the skies, Ace readied to fly down to try and salvage the situation, but Aldrich commanded both of them to stop.
'Do NOT panic attack!' said Aldrich firmly. 'Hold your positions.'
This fight was starting to feel increasingly like Aldrich was the villain fighting a protagonist who pulled out random powerup after powerup.
But Aldrich remained calm. In the face of constant change, the worst thing to do was get dragged into its pace. This, he had learned through the game when fighting bosses with second or even third phases, in dungeons or areas with traps and sudden ambushes.
Against change, the greatest weapon one could wield was not a powerful weapon or sturdy armor, but the steadiness of calm.
Chiros and Ace stopped, and Shrimp, seeing them not moving, aimed its gaze downwards, towards the quicksand, where underneath, the Antlion was trapping it. It began to raise its fist into the air.
"I'm going," said Seismic.
"No, I have another contingency," said Aldrich.
Seismic gazed at Aldrich with a questioning look. "I thought I was the contingency. What else do you have?"
"Me…" Aldrich said simply as he leaped down from Crow's back.