Aldrich used the same warp point he had come in to Medula's study with to leave it. He willed himself to go down to the throne room, and when he did, he beheld all of his units standing at attention, ready to fight for him.
Or at least, all the units that could stand. Most were four legged, slithering or crawling creatures.
"Your master has returned!" Valera declared with commanding force from beside the throne. Suited in her full armor like that, she undeniably projected commander type energy.
"Finally!" roared Volantis from Aldrich's other side as he slapped Aldrich's back, sending him skidding forwards with the impact.
"Good to see you two," said Aldrich, registering damage.
The units before Aldrich welcomed Aldrich back with grunts and growls and clicks and other auditory cues using their monstrous bodies.
"I know you've all been waiting some time for me. And I'm sure you've been bored doing nothing but sitting around here," said Aldrich.
"Geh! Geh! (No, I made lots of new friends!)" said the Geist as he pumped his fists into the air, his permanent smile beaming at the aquatic variants Aldrich had recently raised.
Around the Geist, the bosses of the aquatic variant army - Crab, Merman, and Okeanos, stood.
"You're all getting along. Good. But I might be shaking up some of that friendship a bit," said Aldrich.
Many of monsters stirred, wondering what Aldrich meant.
"I've noticed that we can still enter the first trial quest. That means we can go in there and harvest resources," said Aldrich. "I'll be splitting you all up into two groups. One will move through the first trial quest and harvest some things I'll need and some things I don't need.
The other group, a smaller, more elite fighting force, will take on the second trial quest."
Okeanos made a massive jump to Aldrich's side when he heard what Aldrich said.
"Master, I have a request to make," said Okeanos.
"What is it?" asked Aldrich.
"You promised me something I wanted, right?"
"Yes, I did."
Okeanos raised a fit of resolve in the air. "The second quest: I want to fight it alone. I want to show you my strength so you never think of leaving me again."
"Hmm." Aldrich put a hand to his chin, thinking. The second trial quest was meant for a level range of 20-30, maybe nearing 40 if counting the hidden boss there, but Okeanos was more than strong enough to deal with the enemies.
The second trial quest also did not particularly have that many valuable resources. It was mostly a pure combat test involving fighting a myriad of worm like enemies in a vast, scorching desert.
"I did promise you something, and if that's what you want, then I'm fine with it," said Aldrich.
"Thank you," Okeanos nodded, his antennae twitching in appreciation.
"But just one thing - there is a hidden enemy there I want you to find and fight there. Your biggest test won't be one of strength: it'll be one of wits. To that end, I'll give you exactly one clue: pay attention to the currents."
"Currents…like the oceans?" said Okeanos.
Aldrich cocked his head. "Yes, I guess you could say that. If you want, I can have Valera here accompany you and give you more hints-,"
"No," said Okeanos firmly. He saw that Valera leered at him, and he explained. "I respect you, but you are by my master's sided more than me. I want to prove I can be there just as much as you."
"I like that drive. Then get ready, Okeanos, and don't disappoint me."
"Never." Okeanos nodded firmly.
"As for the rest of you-," Aldrich motioned over to the comparatively lower leveled members of his legion. "I'm going to make this a competition of sorts. In the first trial quest, there are plants called eyeflowers. They look like roses with yellow eyes on them - they're impossible to miss.
Fler'Gan needs eyeflowers. As many as he can get.
Harvest those flowers for me. The one with the most flowers will receive my Dark Wisdom."
A murmur went around the monsters. Dark Wisdom was incredibly tempting. It would increase their levels and make them more relevant to staying with Aldrich. Not only that, but at a basic level, it would make it easier for them to survive.
"But I'll make this clear right now: at the end of this harvesting session, you'll be able to challenge each other in combat for eyeflowers. The only exception is if you manage to get, let's say, 10 eyeflowers.
That's a majority of what should be in the trial quest, so there's no competition at that point."
This sent even more of a commotion around the legion. This basically discounted the weaker units from competing because stronger ones could just challenge them and take their flowers.
Most of the monsters looked towards the strongest among them.
Crab smashed his enormous pincers together. The zombie giant grinned in anticipation. Merman crossed his arms in triumphant pose. Crow's six red eyes gleamed with ferocity.
Seeing such strength, most of the monsters understood they had no chance, and they did not feel bad about it. It was just instinct. They were content with not crossing fangs with their superiors.
"If you feel you are not strong enough to compete for the flowers, then harvest other resources. Valera will tell you what to look out for," said Aldrich. "You can, however, work together. I can't give a group working together all Dark Wisdom, but you can elect a leader, and my levels will transfer to them."
"A fierce competition, is it!?" Volantis nodded as he gazed upon the legion. "But you all have already lost! For I-,"
"You're not going to be doing any fighting," said Aldrich.
"What!?" Volantis sounded shocked.
"Medula wants you to try and teach the Chrysalis. Go to her study, and she'll explain."
"Ah, well, I suppose nurturing the youth is also a noble duty. Then onwards I shall go to that dreary demon's book grave."
"What about you, master?" said Okeanos. "Where are you going?"
"I have somewhere to go outside of this realm," said Aldrich. "For something important."
"You will not watch my efforts?" asked Okeanos.
Aldrich put a hand on Okeanos's shoulder to comfort him. "Don't worry. I'll be recording how you all do later. Plus, if I go with you, it defeats the purpose of you handling the quest by yourself, doesn't it?"
Aldrich saw that Okeanos understood and spoke out once more to his legion. "Prepare yourselves. Once I leave, Valera will handle your transport to the first trial quest. When I come back, I'll be expecting great things."
The monsters voiced their understanding, but notably, the Geist was quiet. He was in deep thought with himself, most likely, and Aldrich wanted that.
Among all the units there, Aldrich believed the Geist to have the most potential. But he did not want to just give the Geist dark wisdom. He wanted to know if the Geist could take these rules he had been given and find a way to make it to the top, thus showcasing not just raw power potential, but good leadership and thinking capability.
After all, the bigger Aldrich's forces got and the more spread out they became, the more he needed leaders under him to manage the legion. Valera was competent, but she was just one extra person.
"Now then, it's about time I got back to the real world." Aldrich materialized his suit jacket and stepped up to the throne room crystal. He touched it, and it glowed brightly, ready to send him out of the Nexus.
"Make sure they don't start tearing each other apart," Aldrich said to Valera.
"Of course, master," said Valera with a bow. "I will eagerly await your return."
"As will I!" said Volantis. "The Death Lord has promised a feast, and I expect you to be there, Armored - for in orcish ways, for a warleader to miss their feast of succession means that followers such as myself have no choice but to reject you."
"There is a chance you may turn against us?" Valera stared at Volantis.
"Really?" said Aldrich.
"No, that was a jest! A jest!" Volantis complained. "But it would mean a lot if you could come."
Aldrich sighed but smiled. "I know. I'll be there."
With that, Aldrich willed himself out of the Nexus, back into the Crypt.