Chapter 278 The Grinner
"Good luck, father!" Chrysa yelled out before she pranced away, opposite from Aldrich, towards the gathering of imps on the treetops. In response, the imps loosed strange cries that sounded like rapid, deep clicks.
"You too, Chrysa. Remember, efficiency is key. Don't waste your mana on the small fry," said Aldrich.
Chrysa nodded as she hopped in the air. She furrowed her white brows and managed to create little platforms of distorted space beneath her feet. Impressively, she had a natural baseline familiarity with her powers, which did make sense.
Variants, unlike Alters, were born knowing how to use their powers far better. It was part of their instincts. Still, Chrysa had some room to improve. She was a little shaky on her way up, her space platforms tilted unevenly.
That would improve in time with training. With fighting to hone her instincts down to a sharpened edge.
Aldrich had trimmed the fat off his instincts to make it a lean, mean, killing machine through countless combat simulations. He did not even really have a specific training regiment. He dumped himself in extremely difficult missions like 'storm the base with eighty men in it and survive' or more bluntly 'kill one hundred men in hand to hand combat' and just bashed his head against the wall over and over, dying in virtual reality hundreds, no, thousands upon thousands of times until he succeeded.
In a way, this was a similar training method for Chrysa, though instead of virtual reality there were trial quests. Instead of infinite retries there was just one life, but Aldrich was there to guide her.
"A pity you cannot cooperate with us," said the Grinner. It closed its fists, and from its forearms, spikes of bone jutted out, ripping through the flesh in blood streaked white.
Aldrich clasped his hands together, charging up mana for a Death Bolt.
The large grin on the Grinner's tribal mask flashed with red.
[Afflicted by Mora]
[Spell: Death Bolt sealed]
"This is a spell you have relied on greatly, it seems. How will you do without it, mage?" the Grinner said, its voice oozing with sinister intent.
"Hm. Expected. Looks like you follow your programming to some degree. Or maybe 'programming' is more like a function of your instincts and personality." Aldrich noted that the Grinner sealed [Death Bolt] as expected.
Grinners generally always sealed the offensive spell or skill used the most, so in Aldrich's case this was the [Death Bolt]. As for how it sealed the spell, it did so with [Mora], which was a unique type of aura that demons could project that imparted debuffs on all in their surroundings.
It was the direct opposite of Aura that gods held buffed their allies or selves.
The effects of [Mora] were generally unique to the clan a demon hailed from. In the case of the Grinner, a secret demon, this usually manifested in a sealing effect.
"Expected? Yes, you have torn through our ranks once before. But that was with a legion at your back. Now you have nothing but a child," said the Grinner. "What else do you-,"
Before the Grinner stopped talking, Aldrich rushed in with [Negative Surge]. Criss-cross patterns of green lined his legs and arms, reinforcing his limbs to superspeed as he unleashed a solid punch right into the demon's gut.
The impact sounded like a whip cracking, Aldrich's hardened fist driving in deep to the demon's stomach. The snapping sound of several broken ribs rang through the air.
Aldrich drew back his fist, and the demon spurted black blood from the gaps in its mask.
"I have my fists." Aldrich then launched a missile strike of an uppercut right into the demon's jaw, knocking the fell creature's head up and sending it flying backwards like a truck had rammed into it.
The demon fell on its back heavily, its mask heavily cracked.
"And by the looks of it, that's more than enough for the likes of you." Aldrich stared down at the demon. The creature shuddered in struggling pain as it attempted to regain its breath and get back up.
Aldrich did not spare any mercy. He lifted his leg up high, then drew it down like an executioner's guillotine, shattering the demon's neck.
The demon's body drew still with an unnatural quickness. The blank white light in its mask eyes disappeared like a burst light bulb. Unlike regular living creatures that took some time to fully settle into death, always breathing or beating their hearts for just a few more seconds after lethal injury, demons went full rigor mortis instantly.
It was a side effect of the fact that the physical forms that demons wore were just that: clothing of flesh much like Aldrich's Materius.
[Mora effects disabled]
[Death Bolt restored]
The demon's chest area, where its heart was, glowed a bright purple. Demons had a spiritual core called a Demonheart that they reformed around if their physical forms died. The greater the injury and the more times thy died, the longer it took for demons to recover, but no matter what, they always came back.
Unless, of course, one had a holy weapon or spell to purge them.
Aldrich held out his hand. "[Lightforged Array"] he chanted, vocalizing the spell to get a better feel of it. Warm streaks of bright sunlight flowed across his arm, swirling into a ball at his hand that formed itself into a longsword.
With the blade of gold in hand, Aldrich shoved it down into the demon's core. A loud sizzling sound crackled through the air. Smoke poured out of the contact point, as if Aldrich was a blacksmith that had just dunked a molten blade into cold water.
Aldrich felt his blade hit liquid weight, like it was caught in thick, viscuous slime, and he knew this was it. He twisted the sword, breaking the demonheart apart.
The Grinner's physical body melted away into nothingness, leaving what looked like a large purple marble behind. Aldrich picked the trinket up and pocketed it into his inventory.
[1x Purified Basic Demonheart obtained]
Demons and gods were both immune to necromancy, so Aldrich had no qualms about just killing the Grinner. Demons did, however, drop demonhearts that could be used for all manner of things related to curses, so it was not a total waste.
"Father, that was quick!" Chrysa landed right beside Aldrich. She was covered in black splotches of blood. He looked behind her to see imp parts strewn all across the trees in a chaotic mess like a picasso piece painted in gore.
Aldrich did not care about purifying the imp demonhearts. They were too weak to be worth anything. Granted, this meant the imps would come back, but the weaker a demon, the longer it took for them to piece together their corporeal forms.
Weaklings like the imps would take days to bring themselves together after getting blown apart like this. They were as good as dead.
"Good, you saved most of your mana." Aldrich patted Chrysa's head. "You're a quick learner. I'm sorry to have underestimated you."
"I'm ready to fight again!" said Chrysa, eager to win more of Aldrich's praise.
"That's the spirit. Well, make sure you're ready, because there's a good reason I made you save your mana so much." Aldrich stepped forward, into the dark of the forest.
Chrysa followed with happy skips, the bloody black splotches fading from her skin as she automatically cleaned herself with her spatial magic.
Now, Aldrich was headed to the elven village of Ars Telvin where in front of a great temple, he would square off with a Greater Demon that he did not know if he could even beat by himself, even with his new gear.
Thankfully, this was where Chrysa could prove herself.