The Voice saw the energy buildup in the skeleton, effusing into a bright green light, and determined that it had slightly less than a single second to deal with the incoming explosion.
Yet, even as the Voice saw this development, it could not help but feel disappointed. Yes, the Kindred had been surprised, but was this truly it?
Because even from a cursory glance, the Voice could tell that though the incoming explosion would be damaging, it would not be enough to completely destroy this fine vessel, and nothing less than absolute destruction was needed to sever the Voice's connection to it.
Was this truly all a Kindred could do? A Kindred that could harness the powers of the Outer to a far greater degree than the Voice itself?
No, the Voice realized. This was more than to be expected in the first place from a neonate Kindred who had barely stepped into understanding the powers they wielded.
It was a good thing that this Kindred would fall here now. Before they came to understand their true nature.
The Voice instantly tossed the skeleton far into the sky with a charge of energy crackling across its body accelerating the movement immensely.
The high-speed throw instantly sent the skeleton away, and even in just one second, the skeleton was far enough up in the air where its explosion would not reach the Voice.
A gleaming red sigil on the skeleton's skull shone before the skeleton detonated, disintegrating in a nova of explosive energy that did not even touch the Voice.
"Is this it, Kindred?" wondered the Voice as it raised its arms up to guard from the explosion's shockwave. "Is this truly-,"
The Voice stopped and froze as its vision instantly blurred in a flash of static. Its connection to its vessel was severing. It looked down at its stomach and saw a fist of bloody red, gleaming flesh lined with curved spikes had bored through it, completely pushing past the durable shell and flesh with complete and utter ease.
When the Voice traced the arm, it saw that the limb came from…underground?
"For a mysterious entity, you do talk a lot," said Aldrich as he emerged from the ground, breaking through rock. "But this-,"
As he stood up, chunks of earth scattering around him, he raised Shrimp up by the stomach wound into the air like a piece of skewered meat. "Is game over."
Aldrich felt intense burning around his right arm, right below his forearm where the armor had been replaced by the stitching [Hand of the Blood God].
"[Exsanguis]" chanted Aldrich, and the [Hand of the Blood God] fully activated.
Shrimp's body convulsed before dozens of spikes of his own blood ruptured out from within, forming into solidified, fleshy blue masses that beat like living hearts.
This was the strongest stitching that Volantis possessed, hewn from a literal god of blood whose touch was said to be able to kill anything of flesh and blood by not simply destroying their innards, but by conceptually severing the soul from its physical shell.
Aldrich had not wanted to use this stitching tonight, but he had been left with no choice. Seeing Shrimp regenerate over and over again with the aid of this new entity, he knew that to end this fight, he needed more than just damage.
He needed a guaranteed instant kill effect that would take effect in a single moment.
And there was nothing better for that than the [Hand of the Blood God], an attack of the 11th Circle tier, which, along with the 12th tier, were considered in lore to be spells and skills in the realm of the divine, capable of completely restructuring landscapes or enacting devastating single target effects like this.
At the same time, there were definite costs to using this stitching.
Aldrich took severe damage totaling up to over 30% of his maximum health just to activate this ability, and he could not keep the arm up for long. Red cracks emerged from the blood red arm all through Aldrich's body, visually showcasing this damage.
Even Volantis could not handle the strain well, let alone while being attached to Aldrich.
This truly was an all or nothing attack with a cost fitting for its power.
"…How?" muttered out the Voice. Though a spike of blue blood protruded from Shrimp's mouth, the voice rang out supernaturally.
How, was it? It was not that complicated. All of his units had been blasted away by Shrimp's sudden explosion. All except the Antlion who retreated deep underground, and, with the aid of rock above it acting like a bunker, had survived the blast.
From there, Seismic had stepped in to distract the Voice. Aldrich had manually controlled the Antlion to maneuver beneath the Voice while Seismic fought it, and when the Antlion was in position, Aldrich had signaled for Seismic to leave the scene.
Aldrich had then used [Mist Phase] to move underground, warping to the Antlion's location.
Shrimp's antennae sensed vibrations in the air to accurately map out its surroundings, but attacks from underground did not register so easily. But even then, Aldrich could not risk having his one good surprise attack go to fail, so he had sent his [Corpse Nova] marked Skeleton Assassin to attack the Voice.
[Corpse Nova] had a one second delay until detonation, so Aldrich did not expect it to actually hit the Voice. No, what the Skeleton Assassin did was serve as an extremely shiny, explosive distraction for the moment when Aldrich emerged from underground to unleash this ending blow.
Yet none of this would have been possible without Valera.
Valera's [Third Gate of Nokros] had absorbed a large chunk of the solar strands that the Voice threw out, preventing, neutralizing a good chunk of the following explosion too. Had the explosion been large enough, there was a possibility it would have bored deep enough into the ground to outrace the Antlion and disintegrate it.
"Does it matter how? All that matters is that you lost. This is just a hunch, but I doubt severing you from this puppet will put you down," said Aldrich coldly to the Voice. He did not want the Voice to gain insight on Aldrich's powers and tactics if it was going to be a reoccurring boss encounter.
Aldrich withdrew his arm from Shrimp's stomach, and Shrimp's impaled body fell to the ground. The [Hand of the Blood God] faded from Aldrich's arm, the bloody red, glowing flesh receding back into armor of black and bone.
The bright white energy that turned the Locus's shell white started to fade away, returning back to its iridescent rainbow shade.
"We will meet again, Kindred," said the Voice. Its voice grew fainter and fainter, as if it was traveling farther and farther away. "And when we reunite, this one hopes you will know the true enemy. That the parasites that you defend now are nothing more than slaves to its will."
"Enemy?" said Aldrich. "You never explained anything to me, and yet you expect me to side with you? Who? Where?"
The Voice used Shrimp's arm for one last time, pointing with a trembling finger up to the star speckled night sky. "…There."
Shrimp's arm fell loose to his side, and the black light in his eyes faded away, indicating that the Voice had disappeared fully form Shrimp's body.
Aldrich looked up at the sky, pondering the statement, but his attention was drawn once more by the light of the grave marker and soul icons.
Thankfully, likely due to the Voice hijacking Shrimp's body, both its corpse and soul had been preserved.
"Serve," said Aldrich again as drone cameras flitted above him, returning back from the explosion. He noted that among them, there were several that were from official news media outlets too.
Strands of green energy flowed from Aldrich down to Shrimp, and this time, he did not need to sacrifice his health and mana to resurrect Shrimp, even though it was a boss level creature.
Odd. Very odd.
This only happened in rare cases when Necromancers took undead from other Necromancers.
Most of the mana or health cost for binding a corpse to a Necromancer's will was to establish control over it by basically implanting a 'seed' of control.
But if another Necromancer had already implanted that seed, then all there needed to be done was to just take over that seed to establish control. Using that method also largely eliminated any costs associated with raising the undead normally.
Aldrich was almost certain that this entity, this 'Voice', was no Necromancer. It did not use mana, spells, or skills.
But regardless of the implications, there was one undeniable, physical truth standing before Aldrich.
The proof of his victory.
The Locus corpse stood up, the blood stakes riddling his form liquefying and receding back into his body. The holes patched up as Aldrich's Mist healed it, recognizing it as an ally.
The Locus stared up at Aldrich for a brief and tense moment, and all those watching wondered if Aldrich had truly tamed it.
Then, the Locus fell down to a knee and bowed his head before Aldrich.
"Master…" declared the Locus.