Chapter 323 Winding Down?
Aldrich watched as green tendrils of energy flowed around Mollusk's sprawled out body. With a sudden jolt of energy, like a corpse being reanimated with an electric shock to the spine, Mollusk sprung back up, his tentacles puffing out and regaining their size and strength.
"So this…is what coming back from death feels like," said Mollusk. He looked down at his arms, and the arm tentacles regenerated from green mist that flowed into it, the vapor solidifying and reconstructing what once was. "I think I saw a light at the end of a long, long tunnel."
"Really?" Aldrich raised a brow. No other undead had mentioned seeing anything like that before. Plenty of religions, crazy ones and non-crazy, said that there was something beyond death.
Of course, it was proven to Aldrich that souls did go somewhere after death, but not a cushy paradise of place of eternal torment. That was all too convenient. Souls were just one aspect of many forces that regulated existence. When they were kicked out of their mortal coils, they went to the soul stream and were scrubbed clean for reincarnation.
At least, that was how it was for Elden World's soul stream. He knew that from the Death Lord there was a soul stream here as well, but how it exactly worked, he did not have an exact idea of.
"Just kidding." Mollusk shrugged. "Didn't see anything. Figured I'd be coming back as your minion anyway. That said, it's interesting that I can think for myself."
"I like to give my legion independence," said Aldrich. "Unless they prove they cannot handle it."
Really? You seem pretty careful. What if one of your 'legion' members attacks you? Or plots against you?" said Mollusk.
"I have ways around that. Like this." Aldrich closed his fist, and Mollusk froze up, completely unable to move. "You lost your free will when you died. Whatever you have now is a privilege that I allow. I could wipe it and render you mindless at a moment's notice."
Aldrich unclenched his fist, and Mollusk moved again, drawing in a relieved breath. "Got it, got it. Well, looks like this is my new life now. It's easier to accept than I thought."
"That just means you didn't have any particularly hard feelings against me in the first place," said Aldrich. Unless a legion unit actively despised Aldrich to a tremendous extent before turning into an undead, they were automatically conditioned upon revival into seeing him in a favorable light.
So far, the only person that had enough of a grudge against Aldrich to actively despise him had been Evan Harker, one of Seth Solar's old lackeys, and Aldrich had turned that rat into dust a while back already.
"Guess not. I mean, I didn't really know anything about you. So, what's my new life, or un-life, I guess, look like under you?" asked Mollusk.
"An eternity of worthy service!" said Volantis out loud. "To conquer this world and the stars beyond!"
"…Something like that. Judging from your skillset, you'll do the same thing you've always done. Fight," said Aldrich. "Except this time, I'm sure that nobody will judge you for what you are. They'll judge you for your strength, which you have plenty of."
"Really now?" Mollusk sounded disbelieving. "Is this how things are in your sentinel state?"
"I have variants, Alters, and pure humans living side by side together. Do you really think how you look matters at all?" said Aldrich.
"Touche." Mollusk nodded. "How's the pay? Is there pay? Do you have health insurance? Paid time off? Vacation time?"
"I'll refer you to someone that can answer those questions better than me," said Aldrich, Casimir's mask popping in his thoughts. The guy always could make anything he offered sound good. "For now, prepare to head back to my state."
"Well, I'm ready when you are," said Mollusk.
"I need to add your friend into my service in a more permanent capacity first." Aldrich waved his hand, and Refraction landed in front of him. "I didn't get to see you fight at all, but you'll have your chance to impress me later."
Aldrich rammed his fist through Refraction's chest, punching through his heart.
Refraction grew limp. The [Bonebearing Curse] left his body in dark, wispy trails.
"This doesn't bother you?" Aldrich withdrew his hand. The blood and gore wrapped around his arm faded away, Volantis absorbing it.
"He's a business partner, not really a friend. I never had close friends," said Mollusk. "And in the underworld, this isn't exactly new. If you reach the A or, hell, even B rank, and you die in enemy territory, you can't bet your ass that your corpse is going to get experimented on. Regardless of whether you're a mutant like me or not."
"I see. Well, it isn't like the AA is any better in that regard. All of us do what we need to stay one step ahead," said Aldrich. He knew that the AA, at least to the public, stated that they gave respectful burials to their villains, but when they could get away with it, when the villains were too important and had no family connections, it was a near open secret that they experimented on those corpses.
"Yeah. Just the way things are," said Mollusk.
"Serve." Aldrich pointed at Refraction, and Refraction stood up with a groan, the hole in his chest filling up with regenerative mist.
"What happened?" said Refraction. He looked at Aldrich, then down at the shrinking hole in his chest. "Shit. I lost, didn't I?"
"Yeah. You got taken out pretty much instantly. And Desmond had the nerve to pay you more than me. Discrimination, I ought to tell you," complained Mollusk.
"Come on, you and I both know it's because of my warp power," said Refraction, crossing his black and gold color themed combat suit defensively. "And I'll have you know I'm quite open minded. I appreciate everyone human equally, pure human, mutant, or whatever."
"Then you'll have no issue serving under me," said Aldrich.
Aldrich could not see Refraction's facial expression as it was hidden under a helmet, but he did not sense open hostility. "I don't have a choice to go against you, do I?"
"No, you don't," was Aldrich's very simple answer. But yes, you'll get paid. Mollusk can fill you in on the rest of the details as we head to Haven."
In that moment, a woman's voice rung out, "Master!"
Valera flew in from above, landing before Aldrich with a crash while holding Feather slung across her shoulder. Chiros leaped in behind her, more elegantly landing on the tips of his feet with nary a sound, his long white hair flowing behind him in luscious, sparkling waves.
"We have dispatched those foul tendrils! And we are here to-," Valera looked at Mollusk. "Ah, you ended this already?"
"That, I did," said Aldrich.
"Damn it, lady, you broke half my ribs with that landing…," complained Feather, still held like a sack by Valera.
"Be grateful you even got to touch a lady like myself." Valera dropped Feather down unceremoniously, and he crashed onto the dirt.
"You're too important to be out in the open. Go back to the Boundary." Aldrich put a hand on Feather's shoulder and warped him away to his inner realm.
"I was useless again…" muttered Valera.
"No, you did well holding those tendrils off," said Aldrich. "If they were here, they would have caused me serious trouble."
The Pursuer was immune to physical attacks, but it still had a physical form. That is, if a physical attack smacked it away, it would take 0 damage but still be sent flying.
Ten tendrils defending Mollusk would have made the Pursuer's job a lot more difficult, to say the least.
"My tentacles are not 'foul'," said Mollusk. "But he's right: it's impressive. Each of those tendrils, when I detach them at least, are around 70% as strong as I am. That's my strongest move."
Valera nodded at Mollusk. "You have a better attitude than the other tentacled one in our ranks."
"There's another one like me?" Mollusk said curiously.
Now that Aldrich thought about it, Mollusk and Fler'Gan were pretty similar appearance wise. Mollusk was like a more beefed up, roided out version of Fler'Gan. "Sort of."
"Cool. Can't wait to meet the guy."
"Then we set road for Haven. I've gotten everything I need from here," said Aldrich.
That was when he heard a rumble. A deep, earth-shaking rumble from something very, very big.