"We have to leave this place soon," said Aldrich. He gave a lingering look at the Sign he had inscribed. He could not stay here even if it meant abandoning the Sign and the safety of the Nexus.
There would be investigations about Ghost's death soon enough, and this part of the Variant forest was shallow enough that search parties would roam here.
For the next several days at least, Aldrich needed to vacate this place.
That meant no easy access to the Nexus.
No quick refills on his [Restoration Flask] and access to crafting.
Not until he got another Sign which he would get upon completing the first Trial Quest.
"You three," Aldrich clapped his hands and commanded the Strikers. "Scatter some of Ghost's remains here and there. Litter this place with your tracks and claw marks."
Like this, Aldrich could ensure that anybody that found this place and Ghost's remains would just think he had died to Variants. There would be no additional line of investigation past that.
Beyond that, Aldrich had to think about where he wanted to go now. There was no way he was going back to Blackwater, what with being supposed to be dead and all.
The answer was Haven city. There, he would find more information about Seth Solar and his gang.
And at least in Haven, a city of 300,000, he could find anonymity.
There, he could wait and gather information while hunting and leveling in the Variant forest outside its walls.
Wait until Seth Solar and the rest of his dwindling crew came by on their weekend party nights where he could pick them out in the city, away from the security of Blackwater.
The issue was getting to Haven.
Aldrich picked up Ghost's bag and tore it open, trying to find anything useful. He found packs of pills and used syringes, and these, he tossed away.
What was useful was Ghost's Eye-Phone.
The only problem was that it was locked to Ghost's fingerprints, and Aldrich had not raised the man as an undead, nor would he have deemed that scum to be fit by his side.
But he had an idea.
He snapped his finger.
"Here, boy." He waved the Strikers over, and the massive, tusked wolf creatures came to his side.
"I have never seen monsters like these," said Valera in wonder. "They look to be dire wolves, and yet, they possess tusks like great boars. And their eyes seem to belong to squids. We truly are in a different world."
"You'll see things a lot stranger than this, trust me," said Aldrich. He knelt down and pointed at the ground. "Vomit out Ghost's fingers if you can."
The Strikers all heaved their chests. Two of the Strikers dry heaved out a pile of bloody and mulchy human meat mess, but one of them managed to throw up a few intact fingers.
"Perfect," said Aldrich as he patted the Striker on the head. He took an index finger and wiped it on his bodysuit and then, after tapping Ghost's Eye-Phone active and making sure it had enough battery, pressed the finger on the screen.
The Eye-Phone registered Ghost's biometrics but then locked, requiring additional facial recognition identification to access.
"Hm," said Aldrich as he stared at the locked phone. He had wanted to access the phone for any potential information regarding Seth Solar and the rest of his crew, maybe even use Ghost's credits to access a high-end taxi service that could pass through security checks, but it looked like those options were not up for grabs yet.
The key word was yet.
In this era of Variants, walled cities were a necessity, and Haven was one of them. However, among walled cities, there were tiers. Haven ranked at tier 3 - the lowest of them all. Still, a walled city was infinitely better than the nomadic settlements in the Wastelands that constantly had to run away from Variant attacks.
That was where the poor went. Or villains on the run. Where Adam and Elaine had been dumped as children.
Not a good place to live, to say the very least.
Compared to that, Haven was, well, a haven.
But because it was tier 3, it might have had walls and enough hero presence to ward off Variant attacks, but it did not have enough authority to get rid of a developed criminal underbelly.
Hence why Ghost could so easily pick up highly illegal designer drugs like X.
Inside Haven, Aldrich no doubt figured that there were black market technos capable of bypassing Ghost's phone locks.
These same technos could also forge CIDs (Citizen Identifications) for Aldrich and Valera because Aldrich was technically dead and needed a new identity while Valera had no identity to begin with.
As for the rest of the Undead, Aldrich had to admit he had an issue at hand.
There was no way he was bringing them into any remotely civilized area.
Normally in the game, any non-chosen undead were just despawned after combat or upon entering friendly areas. One had to resummon them afterwards.
But in the real world, Aldrich had his summons indefinitely. Granted, this was much better than it was in the game, but it presented the problem of where to keep the undead.
For now, all he could think of was hiding them in the forest, but he figured he would find a better solution later.
In particular, he theorized about becoming a Lich.
Liches could store undead within an orb inside of their being and thus continuously carry units with them. When picturing a Necromancer, a Lich was what first popped into many people's heads. They were the premiere Necromancers, and it was no less true in Elden World where their racial abilities seemed almost tailor made for Necromancy purposes.
However in the game, player characters could not be undead, so there was no official way to become a Lich or any of their higher evolutions.
Lore stated that some mages or lesser undead turned into Liches through sacrificial rituals, but the exact details of such rituals were not described in much detail.
Regardless, this was something to think about later. What was more important was getting to Haven.
Without easy transportation, Aldrich would have to go to the city by foot. That meant traveling through the forest as taking the main road was far too conspicuous. And deeper in the forest, there were stronger threats.
Most Variants were at the E to D rank in the forest, but there were some reports of C rank Variants moving about.
The difference between E and D was not much, but the gap between D and C was highly noticeable.
In a one on one battle, Aldrich would lose against a C rank Variant nine times out of ten, even if said Variant had a disadvantage against Aldrich such as, say, a reliance on poison he was immune to.
The sheer physical stats of a C rank Variant were just too overwhelming. A C rank Variant could go toe to toe with heavy battle tanks with sheer physical stats alone. One punch from them would pulp Aldrich into paste, especially with his poor health pool.
But Aldrich now had Valera whose class and stats were entirely specialized towards taking hits and dishing them back out.
He could challenge a C rank Variant if he played his cards right.
"What is that?" said Valera as she peered down at the Eye-Phone.
"This?" said Aldrich. "Right, you're unused to this world. In this world, technology has progressed quite far. One such product of this advanced technology is this. If I had to explain it to you, it's essentially a communication spell, information scroll, and recording crystal all combined into one.
"Impressive," said Valera as she held her hand out. Aldrich gave her the phone, and she squinted as she looked at it, turning it sideways and upside down like she was a 100-year-old grandma who had no idea how to operate tech. "How do you use this…this artifact?"
"It's called an Eye-Phone," said Aldrich. "And we can't use it. It was locked to someone I killed. You could say it was Bound to them."
In Elden World, Bound items were usable only by a specific individual as they were imprinted to their souls. The [Restorative Flask] was one example of such an item.
"This little thing can cast communications, contain information, record events, and even bind to souls? Marvelous," said Valera. "And I cannot even sense even a bit of magic from it. There must be a concealment spell upon it as well."
"No concealment. It just doesn't use magic. Nobody does in this world," said Aldrich.
"Truly?" Valera looked shocked. Coming from a world where magic dictated basically every facet of life, this was not surprising. "Nobody?"
"Yes," said Aldrich. "We are the only ones that can use magic."
"Then conquering this new world shall be no challenge at all!" said Valera.
"Don't get too hasty. The only race that exists in this world are humans, but they have evolved. They each have unique powers that are highly unpredictable.
Some of them may fly, some of them may shoot flame from their hands, some may have powerful punches, and so on. You cannot underestimate them," said Aldrich, noting that he referred to humans as 'them' so very naturally. "And there are monsters, too.
Monsters called Variants that may not use magic but will have powers that can match it.
These dog like monsters are Variants, but the term 'Variant' is broad. The power level of a Variant can range broadly.
Deeper in the forest, there will be much, much stronger threats."
"I will always be on guard, my master," said Valera. She raised her enormous cross shield of bone and black metal in the air. "With this great shield of mine, I swear you will face no harm."
"Please, you don't have to coddle me like that. I can take a hit when I have to," said Aldrich. He nodded to Valera. "But I'll count on you to cover me when I don't want to take them.
Just like old times."
"Like old times," said Valera with a wide smile.
"Alright, then, it's about time to move out. First things first, I have to make as much use of this Sign as possible while I still have access to it," said Aldrich.
"[Create Undead]" chanted Aldrich as he thrust his pale palm out. Green threads of energy started to swirl around him.
[Create Undead (1st Ring)] allowed Aldrich to create Undead creatures from several 'rings' that were basically tiers. The higher the ring was, the stronger the undead were. 1st Ring Undead matched the caster's level up until level 10, at which point they hit a cap.
So, for Aldrich now, any undead he created using this spell would be level 6.
A list of undead options showed up in his vision.
Aldrich created a Skeleton Archer. He saw as a shower of green particulates gathered in front of him, forming the silhouette of a skeleton. The bright green energy dimmed, showing off a fully formed animated skeleton standing at around his own height. It was dressed in a cloak and loincloth of tattered brown leathers that gave it a ragged, deteriorated look.
The skeleton wielded a longbow in its bony hands while a quiver of black wood hung at its back, containing rot-poisoned arrows buzzing with flies.
Skeleton Archers could use the Skill known as [Dead-Eye] that allowed them to make a shot with heavily enhanced accuracy and critical strike chance after a small channel.
Useful for dealing critical damage in vital areas.
[1 Unit slot used]
[Unit Capacity: 5/8 ] 6/8]
[HP: 45/45 ] 35/45]
[Mana: 66/66 ] 56/66]
Aldrich winced at the sizable cost of creating undead.
Created undead were generally far more reliable than raising them since the caster always knew what their created undead were capable of.
But because they were created out of nothing instead of an existing grave, they cost much more than raising existing corpses.
Aldrich intended on using the Sign one more time to just get a free full heal after spending his health and mana creating undead.
"[Create Undead]," repeated Aldrich. He chose the Skeleton Rogue this time for it had the highest burst damage out of all the summons and functioned particularly well when there were a lot of distractions to cover it.
A skeleton with a hunched back and low center of gravity formed. It held twin curved daggers in its hands. It was dressed in black robes, had a long black bandana wrapped around its skull, and a cloak that seemed to meld with the darkness around it, showcasing that it possessed [Shade Walk], a stealth Skill that made it temporarily invisible until its first strike.
[1 Unit slot used]
[Unit Capacity: 6/8 ] 7/8]
[HP: 35/45 ] 25/45]
[Mana: 56/66 ] 45/66]
Aldrich chose these two units because combined with the Strikers and Valera, he had enough frontline distractions and protection. He needed some more burst and ranged damage.
As for the last undead -
"[Create Undead]," said Aldrich for the last time.
This time, bones did not form from green particles, but instead a large floating eyeball the size of a basketball. The eyeball possessed a glowing yellow sclera with wide black pupils that darted about curiously. A large pink, fleshy optical nerve trailed behind it like a tail.
An aura of smoky darkness flitted around the eyeball, constantly making it see-through.
[1 Unit slot used]
[Unit Capacity: 7/8 ] 8/8]
[HP: 25/45 ] 15/45]
[Mana: 45/66 ] 35/66]
This was the [Evileye]. It was not a zombie or skeleton, but a spirit, for Necromancers could also call upon restless souls. It had no combat ability but it did have incredible eyesight and permanent stealth. As far as Aldrich knew, nothing in this world could counter magical stealth, but he still needed to experiment to be certain of this.
Regardless of that, having the [Evileye] as a forward scout would be highly useful going deeper into the Variant forest where unknown threats lay.
"All done," said Aldrich.
Valera walked over to each new Undead he had summoned and inspected them up and down. She tapped the skeleton archer and rogue on their skulls. The skeletons did not really think or have any will, so they just got bonked and stood there.
"Good bones on you two," said Valera. She walked to the Evileye and pretended to punch it, pulling her strike back just an inch away from the eyeball. It did not blink and just looked at her blankly. "And good, you will keep your eye open for the master.
Valera nodded to herself. "Hm, alright, you all pass to serve my master."
"I'm glad they passed your screening," said Aldrich. He stepped over to the Sign and started to access the Nexus. "I just have one final stop left before we can get a move on."
"Ah, do you need something forged?" said Valera.
"You're right about that. How did you know?" asked Aldrich.
"Our souls are connected, master. I can sense your intentions and see that Soul in your inventory. If we are to leave the Sign for some time, then you need to get the most out of this final visit.
You must be going not only to heal yourself, but also to use that Soul so it is not just sitting in your inventory," said Valera. "I must ask, though, how will you use that Soul? Will you forge a new staff?Some armor, perhaps? No, what am I saying, I can protect you enough already-"