Chapter 287 Power of the Sun
Aldrich half reached out towards Deimos, perhaps some small shade of him wanting to help someone that had been just like him, but he stopped as combat instinct kicked in. There was no saving Deimos.
In fact, it was likely that Nilah had complete control over Deimos this whole time. She had been letting Deimos struggle just for her amusement.
For that was how demons were. Inhuman in the sense that they were so beyond humanity it was nigh impossible for their horned kind to ever relate to mortal blood and struggle. In the same way that people perceived ants, demons perceived people with an indiscriminate coldness that often manifested as cruelty, though at its heart, it was mostly indifference.
Aldrich could relate to that too.
Those thoughts, of seeing humans as lesser, as just bags of meat and blood, lay readily in the back of his head, and he knew very well that if he let go even just a bit, if he let the last shard of his humanity break, then the floodgates would open and he would become just the same as Nilah or any other inherently superior immortal species.
"We couldn't save him…" Chrysa hung her head down.
And in a way, Chrysa was the light that shone on Aldrich's human self. No, she was his human self reflected right before him, borne of that warm part of his soul that still let him empathize.
"You do not mourn for him? It seemed that you two had quite the touching conversation ongoing," said Nilah to Aldrich.
"I'm over it," said Aldrich. "Though, I do have to say, indiscriminate cruelty is distasteful."
"Not cruelty. It is-,"
"Indifference. Or maybe curiosity. Like a child tearing the wings off a fly. Yet, at the end, it's still cruelty," said Aldrich.
"These mortals, even this one, an elf that can live five hundred years, are little specks in the vastness of the realms. Their suffering or their joy - none of it matters in the end, no?
They are just food. Or pieces to play with to ease the boredom of infinity. Though you, young as you are, have yet to feel that."
"You're right." Aldrich cracked his knuckles. "So unfortunately for you, I can't quite empathize."
"Then you will strike me down? Very unfortunate. I am nearly fully incarnated now. If you wish, I could accompany you in your journey," said Nilah.
"Not happening. Secrets are the lifeblood of betrayal. Trusting a secret demon isn't something I'm gullible enough to do. At best, I'll incinerate you down into a half purified heart and see if I can bend you to my will," said Aldrich.
"I am an Archdemon, Lich," said Nilah. "I am not like Barbos. This vessel of mine harbors merely a fragment of my being. My true self is still realms away, in the depths of Morhal. You may be able to wear me down into energy you can use, but my will? It will return to Morhal."
"So Morhal exists?" Aldrich raised a brow.
"Of course." Nilah pointed to the now nearly closed Flame Arc. "That is a sorry fake conjured up by this prison realm. If it were the real thing, I could have shown you Morhal in its full glory. Though you would have been torn apart before you could truly enjoy it.
What I do wonder about is if I can escape to your new realm. Surely, it must be teeming with souls, no? If I can harvest enough, then could I not open a new, real Flame Arc?
I could bring Armageddon upon your realm and bask in the flames with all my beloved brethren." Nilah stroked a black wrapped hand over her right eye. It still projected the [Curse of Anhil] debuff. "I would see my dear brother Anhil again too."
"She's a bad guy!" Chrysa pointed an accusing finger at Nilah. "She wants to mess up the world!"
"I suppose I am. Trickery will not work on you, Lich, so I am making it clear to you what my desires are. Your death. Perhaps your body, if I can take it. My freedom. Then, your realm."
"Surprisingly straightforward for a secret demon," said Aldrich. "But that makes things easy. You die, or I do."
"Yes," Nilah replied simply.
"Father, I know we're supposed to beat the bad guys, but how do we beat her?" Chrysa grasped at her dress with shaky hands. "I-I want to help, but I used up all my mana."
"That's fine, Chrysa. I want you to get into my Boundary. Out of harm's way. This is too high level for you - I'll handle it."
"No ifs and buts." Aldrich gave Chrysa a stern look.
Chrysa nodded. "Okay, father. I'll see you win on the telescreen!"
With that, Chrysa disappeared in a shower of white particles that gathered into Aldrich's chest, where his Phylactery was.
"Curious little thing, her," said Nilah. "Once I am done ending you, I will keep her alive some. I sense she may be an even better vessel for me to enter you realm with her ability to to touch the currents of the Outer."
"The Outer?" Aldrich narrowed his eyes. He remembered his discussion with Medula.
The Outer was the mysterious source from which Elduin natives drew forth new types of power. The circle based magic system, skill system, and class system, for example, was not, according to lore, native to Elduin, but developed by the first two gods: the Arcane Emperor and the Enlightened One.
Aldrich's character was also touched by the Outer, the 'hero' of the story that was said to be guided by will higher than any god or entity. That existence being the player himself.
If there was one topic that Aldrich could crack to get at the secrets of his system, it was the Outer.
"The Outer, yes. But I do not know much about it. The Knowledge demons are more obsessed with that topic.
And even if I did know, I would not reveal it, for there would be no greater secret worth keeping.
And, as you have noted, I am a secret demon." Nilah stretched her arms out to her sides. Red and orange hellfire wrapped around the limbs in a coat of blazing heat.
Unlike ordinary fire, hellfire did true damage that disintegrated targets directly. "But enough chatter.
I have no use talking to one soon to perish. For I see no way you can defeat me.
You have a few new toys, yes, but you have no legion.
Closing the Flame Arc while I was distracted was clever, but it will do you no good. Unlike before, I have nearly fully taken over this elf's body. I do not need a Flame Arc to sustain my existence. I am already anchored into this vessel.
My strength has reached a new height that you cannot hope to surpass."
"Hm? Did I hear that correctly? You acknowledge my superiority?"
"I do. You've nerfed my stats to half with that eye. I have no units to distract your line of sight. On top of that, you still have access to your own absorption power and Deimos's slew of warlock spells. And, as you said, half-incarnating using Deimos's body means you not only are not getting nerfed by the Flame Arc closing, but on the contrary, your stats are buffed.
You must be what, level 60 now?"
"A crude measurement of power, but yes," said Nilah. "If you accept your weakness, then, it will not be difficult to accept your death. I will make it swift, Lich, in honor of the times we had spent together in past."
"But one thing I've noticed is that you secret demons, despite having high Insight, don't know what equipment or units from Alter sources can do," said Aldrich.
"…Alter?" Nilah quizzically tilted her head. "Is that name of the realm that your little spawn originates from? And that ring of yours?"
Aldrich took that response as confirmation: secret demons could not read into things from the real world. They could identify it, recognize it as something new, but they could not see deep into it and figure out details as they could with Elden World elements.
Some items that completely lacked magical signatures like Aldrich's earpiece - still embedded in his ear - they could not pick up on at all.
"You've underestimated me, demon." Aldrich dematerialized his scythe and his cloak, leaving him with just his suit and body.
And the [Solar Seal]. He held his hand up, and the golden ring around his index finger shone bright. "And you've underestimated my world."
Aldrich activated the [Sunlit] function.
An eruption of power sweltered around Aldrich, manifesting as a golden pillar of cascading light that constantly fluxed above him. A sound like rock cracking echoed through the air.
Deep, brilliant gold lines started to weave their way through Aldrich's body, starting first from the skin around his ring, then traveling everywhere. It was as if a sun was being born inside Aldrich, its light and heat ready to crack his body apart and escape at any given moment in one huge nova.
When the cracks reached his eyes, they turned from green into radiant gold.
Aldrich started to float into the air, not with the aid of a mystical cloak, but with Alterhuman force. He felt heat inside of him. Burning, intense heat. Painful heat, as if by the second, he was melting away, dissolving into fuel for radiant light.
The pain was considerable, but [Burning Agony] had taught him to resist it.
[Curse of Anhil dispelled with holy energy]
Aldrich's stats skyrocketed, but he could not check them. Fusing with the Solar Battery power - an Alter superpower - seemed to mess up his system, completely glitching it out. It would likely stay that way until his [Sunlit] state faded.
All he knew was that he was strong. Stronger than ever before.
This was power. The power of not just Seth Solar, but Solomon Solar, a man who once was in contention to be the strongest hero in all of the united states.
The power of the sun.
"Ah. I did not expect this either." Nilah stepped back, light shining all around her, as if highlighting a spotlight on her mistake.