Chapter 26: The Settlements
Aldrich took in a breath as a green aura swirled around him, the experience from the Geist boosting his power by two entire levels.
[+10 stat points available to distribute]
”Mmmm, yes! ” Valera positively moaned in ecstasy as power flowed into her, but where Aldrich ’s aura was green, hers was a deep, bloody red.
As a Chosen Undead, Valera leveled at the exact same rate as Aldrich, so she too had gained two levels, raising her from level 10 to level 12.
”How do you want me to spend my power? ” said Valera, talking about how to distribute her own 10 new stat points.
”In strength, vitality, and agility where your affinities are. A three-five-two spread in those stats should work well, ” said Aldrich. He wanted Valera to be as physically powerful as possible to make up for his lack of melee combat prowess.
”Understood, master. ” Valera closed her eyes and clenched her fists, taking in a deep breath as she used her stats.
Aldrich saw her stats go up. Her class was as a Death Knight, and that class, like Necromancers, could choose a ’path ’ that specialized them. In her case, she had taken the Oath of Blood and Bone, specializing her in blood magic and body reinforcement.
Blood magic ordinarily cost both mana and health, but since Valera was a vampire, she could choose to increase the health costs in exchange for removing mana costs.
Because of this, just like Aldrich, vitality was the most important stat for Valera.
Her stat affinities were 1.5x in strength, 1.5x in vitality, and 1.2x in agility, gearing her towards being a tanky brawler.
[Chosen Undead: Valera stats]
Strength: 37 ] 42
Agility: 22 ] 24
Vitality: 54 ] 62
Aldrich saw Valera tuning her stats and he did the same.
[+5 Attunement, +10 with affinity bonuses]
[+3 Vitality, +6 vitality with affinity bonuses]
[Vitality: 14 ] 20]
[Agility: 8 ] 10]
[Attunement: 21 ] 30]
[HP: 45/45 ] 60/60]
[Units controlled: 8/8 ] 8/10]
Aldrich cracked his neck as he spent his 2 new attunement points into units controlled. Soon, when he got to 50 Attunement, he could upgrade his [Raise Undead] spell to [Mass Raise Undead] and resurrect corpses en masse, not to mention a significant cooldown reduction.
”Ah, master, seeing you getting ever closer to your original strength makes me feel so very warm inside, ” said Valera as she put her hands to her face.
”Yeah. Soon, I ’ll be unstoppable. We ’ll be unstoppable, ” said Aldrich. He pointed his staff at the frozen Geist corpse. ”Serve. ”
[13/84 ] 5/84]
Because the Geist was strong enough, [Raise Undead] did not cost just 5 mana, but 10% of Aldrich ’s maximum mana pool. Thankfully, because his mana pool was still relatively low, the cost was not that significant.
The Geist corpse shook and then thawed, ice crystals shattering all around it. It then started to rapidly regenerate, growing its spine, ribs, skull, then the flesh and skin. Once again, it stood tall and musclebound, its eerie, permanently open, chattering smile now directed at Aldrich.
[Undead Geist Level 17 reanimated]
[Units controlled: 8/10 ] 9/10]
Aldrich saw as the Geist ’s soul faded away, flowing back into the Variant. It was odd to think that this creature had a soul. Did that prove the existence of the soul? Or were souls just a simple game concept limited only to the game itself?
It was impossible to tell and a philosophical discussion for later.
”Good, good, ” said Aldrich. ”You were just within my limit to raise. ”
Any corpse that was more than ten levels over Aldrich was a corpse he could not raise. But after leveling up to level 7 from killing the Geist, he was just in the edge of the threshold to reanimate it. He did not take the Geist ’s soul to forge an item because he only had 20 coins so far and did not want to risk bad rolls.
In Elden World, monsters that had multiple powers were the worst to try and craft from because more often than not, an item would only have just one of their powers.
As a result, it was better to just reanimate these kinds of monsters so that they could use all their powers effectively versus wielding a weapon that only managed to channel one of their powers.
”Geh…geh (I serve you?) ” said the Geist. Aldrich could now understand it through the mental link between summoner and summoned.
”I ’m turning off your individuality for now, ” said Aldrich as he waved his hand. The Geist quietened, becoming a fully controlled unit the same as Dynamite Girl.
Seeing undead that could speak like this, Aldrich felt a pang of pain. If only he had reanimated faster, then he could have resurrected Adam and Elaine with their souls intact. Then, he could have saved them, been with them – he shook his head.
What was past was past. And besides, even in the lore, it was explicitly mentioned that resurrected undead had their souls twisted such that they were different from how they were in life. Thus, they lost their memories and though they could keep some core personality traits, they were entirely different beings.
Aldrich looked ahead, beyond the forest, towards Haven. All he could do was look ahead. To move forward.
Aldrich did not encounter any more powerful Variants throughout the remainder of the hour long trek to Haven. The Evileye spotted a few Strikers here and there, a Spined Boar and even a Big-arm Grizzly, but these natural Variants avoided Aldrich, running from him.
Or rather, they avoided the reanimated Gest, for the Geist was likely the apex predator of this forest.
To fill up his one remaining slot for units controlled, Aldrich summoned another Evileye. The more Aldrich used his current one, the more he began to appreciate how incredibly broken it was. It was essentially ’game breaking ’ considering basically nothing could detect it.
It gave Aldrich a complete view of anything he went into and made it so that he never went into a situation unprepared. That alone was worth way more than an individual strong unit.
”This disgusting creature will serve us well, ” said Valera as she walked by Aldrich while eyeing the Geist up and down. She then turned a glare to Dynamite Girl.
As she was not a zombie, her features were not rotted, retaining the rough prettiness she was known for in the hero community. ”But her, well, I will keep an eye on her. ”
”No need, ” said Aldrich. ”For the foreseeable future, I plan on keeping both of them without free will. ”
Aldrich ’s Evil Eyes saw the end of the forest two hundred meters ahead. The tall line of trees ended, sloping down into a meadow that funneled into dry, cracked earth lined with roads that hovercars zipped by on.
”We ’re here, ” said Aldrich. He stopped and turned around, staring at his growing army. An Alpha Striker, one ordinary Striker, Dynamite Girl, the Geist, Adam, Elaine, the Skeleton Rogue, and the Skeleton Archer. ”All of you, stay here. Get back deeper in the forest. ”
Aldrich pointed at Dynamite Girl and the Geist and gave them limited free will through a command. ”You two, protect everyone. Especially Adam and Elaine. Keep them in the forest and do not let anyone discover you.
If anyone discovers you, you kill them, no questions asked.
Nobody can know you are here. ”
Dynamite Girl and the Geist nodded and then walked away deeper into the forest, leading the rest of the undead behind them.
”Now, that leaves just us, ” said Aldrich to Valera.
”Yes, just us, ” said Valera. She shyly rubbed her gauntlets together like a typical maiden in love.
Aldrich looked Valera up and down, inspecting her armor.
”O-oh? Master, why are you looking at me like that? ”
”You need to take that armor off, ” said Aldrich.
”S-so forward, master-, ” Valera blushed deeply.
”It stands out too much. You still have you [Ballroom Night Dress], right? Equip that. We need to look as human as possible. ”
”Understood, master, ” said Valera with a bow, understanding that Aldrich was being serious here. ”And what of that hole in your chest, master? ”
Aldrich wrapped himself in a large torn chunk of Dynamite Girl ’s bright orange cape. ”This will have to do for now. I ’ll find something else to wear down there. ”
Aldrich wandered through winding streets of hastily constructed metal shacks, tents, and mobile trailers. Some of these shacks sold food, some clothing, some hardware – cheap porn holodiscs, stolen data chips, and the like.
People moved about with dirt and grim in their fingers and faces. Their expressions were serious and hardened, and many of them had goggles above their heads and wore hooded jackets with tears and patches littering them.
More notably, many of these individuals had cybernetic parts. Mechanical hands, clicking artificial eyes, chrome plates on their skulls, and the like.
These were Nomads. People that survived in the Wastelands because they were not privileged enough to live in a walled city or were just flat out criminals. Because they did not have to abide by any city laws, they often boosted themselves with cybernetics.
In cities, cybernetics were heavily regulated because they tended to cause something known as Technomania, a rabid insanity caused from too much cybernetic enhancement, particularly within the brain.
Out here, though, outside city walls, there were precious few laws that were enforced, so cybernetics flowed freely. After all, nomads had to take any and every advantage they could get to run from and fight Variants as they traveled through the Wastelands, hopping from walled city to city.
Nomads moved their mobile homes, motorcycles and shacks right outside the walls, creating temporary residences known as Settlements when they were not moving through the Wastelands.
Of course, if a Variant attacked, they were the first casualties, hence why most of these homes were built so shoddy and makeshift – they were easily built and easily destroyed by design. If the time came for the Nomads to run, then they could run at a moment ’s notice.
It was a known fact that though crime was relatively well policed within the walls of cities, there was little to no regulation in Settlements. In the distance, Aldrich saw Haven ’s thirty-meter-tall walls looming, large autocannons sweeping from side to side at the top of the walls, searching for Variants to gun down.
People from Haven who wanted to buy drugs, gamble, or buy illegal tech would come here, and this time, Aldrich was one of them. He was sure he could get two forged CIDs (citizen identification) here.
Nomads were known for being experts in black market dealings, especially with under-the-table tech. They might have looked rough and rugged, but they had a relatively strong techno presence.
Their cybernetics fell short of licensed cyber-doctors in walled cities, but it still got the job done. Not to mention that there were more than a handful of cases where highly skilled for-hire Nomad techno hackers that had managed to get valuable data even from established Megacorporations.
It was how they made a living in this new age of alter power boosted tech and data.
Aldrich walked side by side with Valera through the Settlements, smelling smoke, burning metal, and roasted food in the air.
Without her heavy armor to weigh her down, her figure stood out in full view. Her night dress was elegant, sleek and black and hugging her hips and straining at her sizable chest. Yet, where her skin was visible – her bare shoulders and arms in particular – it was obvious to see the outline of toned muscle from a lifetime of physical activity.
In Valera ’s case, a full lifetime and undeath of beating people to death.
Occasionally, a man would whistle at her or eye her for far too long, and she would respond with a deathly glare, immediately instilling both the fear of god and death into them and making them scram.
With his mask on and Dynamite Girl ’s cape as a makeshift cloak, he was largely unidentifiable, and in the first place, Nomads rarely bothered each other.
Aldrich had his two Evil Eyes scan ahead in the sky, searching for an appropriate shop. In a few minutes, he found one.
A large trailer fitted with vent pipes and a neon sign labeled with bright blue letters that read out TECH. Simple and to the point. The door of the trailer had the symbol of a bearded man with an eyepatch over it.
The symbol of the Odinsons, a fairly well known Nomad gang specialized in forgeries and robberies.
Aldrich cracked his neck and knuckles. The Odinsons were known for oftentimes getting violent in their dealings. ”Valera, I know where we ’re going. And we might have to fight. ”
Valera smiled widely as she clenched her fists. A small portion of her powerful aura emanated, making nomads around them tense up in fear before scattering away like cockroaches exposed under light. ”Then all the better, right, master? ”
”Yeah, ” said Aldrich. Ideally, he would get his two forged CIDs with no issue, but if a problem ever arose, well, he was ready to get his hands bloody for he had no sympathy for criminals.
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