The Evil Eye stared down at a Variant heading right towards Aldrich, likely drawn by the scent of blood and death.
It was a three-meter-tall humanoid figure with smooth, plain white skin. Its body was highly muscular, and it shambled forwards with a heavily hunched back, dragging its knuckles across the dirt. It was nearly completely featureless, its skin having no blemishes and its fingers and toes holding no nails.
Overall, it almost looked like an eerie, overly muscled mannequin.
Something out of a horror movie.
Its spherical head lacked any real facial features as well. Just a massive, large-lipped mouth curled up into a constant half-open smile, showcasing a set of oversized human teeth that chattered constantly.
This was a Geist.
Among Variants, Aldrich recalled from what limited research he was able to do in Blackwater, there were three classifications.
Natural Variants - these were Variants that had seemingly adapted to nature. They became parts of ecosystems and adopted the traits of the flora and fauna within them. The Strikers with their wolf-like appearances were examples of such Variants.
They needed food and water to live, could reproduce on their own, and acted generally like wild beasts, and so could be scared off or even tamed.
Geist Variants - these were inexplicable monstrosities that were spontaneously spawned and very often humanoid in appearance.
They were functionally immortal, requiring no food, sleep, or rest. They also did not seem to reproduce unless they possessed a power that allowed them to self replicate. They did not have any particular set of behaviors that were consistent, with each Geist having their own unique behavior patterns that made them highly unpredictable.
Some were like pre-programmed robots, and some were surprisingly intelligent - it was impossible to tell.
In addition, Geists had an immense thirst for human and Alter blood and flesh, making them much higher threats to civilization than natural Variants. Not only that, but Geists were generally much stronger than most natural Variants, with even the weaker ones usually starting out as a C-ranked threat.
The third category of Variants were Titans. These were monstrously powerful Variants that were often the size of battleships or even larger. These were Variants of near legend, formed immediately after Zahak's death and the beginning of the Monstering.
There were twenty Titans to begin, but after eight of them were killed by a united humanity, the remaining twelve returned to enormous nests across the world in remote areas, occasionally appearing every few years for an attack before being driven off again.
"We're leaving," said Aldrich immediately. He did not want to risk a fight with a C-rank monster now. He knew he could challenge one, but only if he had a few advantages on his side.
For example, if the Geist had abilities Aldrich and his units were immune to.
But if the Geist had multiple powers geared for just raw power and sustained combat, then Aldrich doubted he could fight one, even with Valera.
Valera could go toe to toe with it in sheer stats most likely, but she would lack the damage to finish it off.
Strong enemies with built in sustain. Even in Elden World, this was the type of enemy that gave Legion Necromancers trouble in lower levels where they had too few minions for large scale swarming tactic.
If the Geist also had powerful area of effect abilities on top of that, then Aldrich had no chance of winning.
"What is that beast?" said Valera, seeing through Aldrich's eyes. "It disgusts me. It is a sin against nature. A sin against life. Even more so than we are as undead."
"Yeah, that's a good way to describe it," said Aldrich. He had to agree the thing was not pleasant to look at. "It's called a Geist and all you need to know is that it's above our paygrade for now. We could fight it, but there's no guarantee we would win."
Valera put her helmet on. "Indeed, I can sense potent strength from it. Oh, how I would want to cave its ugly skull in. But I will heed your commands, master."
"Geists hunt living humans, so most likely as undead, it won't even register us. We just need to take a route around it-," began Aldrich before he paused, seeing something both haunting and interesting.
Through the Evil Eye, Aldrich saw the Geist open its huge mouth. Its stomach expanded grotesquely and convulsed before it regurgitated out a spit covered woman. Its barbed tongue lay hooked in her back, holding her like a caught fish.
She was a hero, there was no doubt about it from the remnants of her tattered orange and red costume. He could not tell whether she was alive as her head was down with her long, dirty blonde hair covering her face like a veil. She hung limply on the Geist's lengthy, prehensile tongue like a rack of meat hung at a butcher's shop.
The Geist carefully wiped away its spit on her body and giggled to itself as it patted her head gently and moved her arms and legs around, arranging her into heroic poses like it was playing with an action figure.
The Geist giggled to itself, its entire body shuddering, but because it lacked any facial expressions, it was hard to tell whether it was actually amused or whether this was some strange natural reaction.
With this, Aldrich knew what this Geist was. He had seen it on the news before when it attacked Haven six months ago.
And he knew then that he could fight it.
Aldrich's mind raced as he thought of a strategy based on the information he had.
Media coverage of the Geist attack had been quite thorough because Haven mostly did not get many Variant attacks. The forests surrounding it only had E to D rank natural Variants that generally stayed away from civilization, so the spawning of the Geist was a surprise that took the city off guard,
The Geist had attacked Haven in the dead of night, charging through a half-repaired hole in one of its walls. Within the city, it released a potent neurotoxin from various pores in its body while it rabidly hunted down any human it could see.
With its massive size and strength, the Geist ripped apart and devoured humans while its toxic gas killed many more. In just half an hour, it had wracked up a body count of one hundred, including the hero Iron Soldier.
The Geist used its tongue to dig into Iron Soldier and pilot his body, puppeteering the hero against the very civilians he once protected.
A response team was formed to counter the Geist after half an hour.
This team beat back the Geist, but not before the Geist managed to seemingly kill and kidnap Dynamite Girl, another hero. With its super regeneration, it barely escaped back into the forest, and since then, Haven was on increased alert for its potential return.
From the news reports, Aldrich knew the powers the Geist had.
First was its constant stream of neurotoxic gas. It was highly lethal to humans, causing brain failure within twenty seconds unless their bodies were enhanced. This was the largest reason why it had taken over half an hour for the AA (Alterhuman Agency) branch in Haven to form a response team.
They needed equipment to filter out the gas.
As undead, however, Aldrich and his minions were all immune to the gas. Hell, the skeletons did not even have brains for neurotoxins to work on.
Next was the Geist's ability to control another creature with its tongue. This was troublesome, especially because it now controlled Dynamite Girl, a solid C-class hero known for her ability to generate explosions from her hands.
Her ability was highly effective against Aldrich's undead because it dealt fire type damage and had a wide area of effect. Judging from her body condition, she was still more than combat capable. Aldrich could see through her torn costume that her body was still muscular and toned.
Very likely, the Geist's tongue kept her supplied with nutrients, possibly even still keeping her alive.
On top of this, the Geist had an ability to make short-range high-speed dashes and a potent healing factor that allowed it to regenerate a lost limb within seconds.
The regeneration was not much of an issue. Most of Aldrich's minions dealt Necrotic damage and that rotted out flesh and directly nullified regeneration.
But the high-speed dashes combined with naturally formidable strength that could tear apart humans like paper meant the Geist was a highly mobile, deadly threat even without its toxins and regeneration.
With Dynamite Girl as well, the odds were considerably stacked against Aldrich.
Even Alters without powers that strengthened their body were superhuman by virtue of having Alter cells. A C-class hero like Dynamite Girl could probably shatter concrete with a solid punch. That was more than enough to one destroy skeletons in two or three hits, especially with the weakness of skeletal undead to crushing blows.
But strategy could compensate for this gap in power.
"What is it, master?" said Valera. "Are we not to escape now? Or perhaps…"
Valera stiffened a little under her armor before a shudder ran across her from helmet to greaves. She held her shield tight to her. "I know that glint in your eyes, my master. That thinking, focused stare that I adore so much for: you want to fight, do you not?"
"Yes," said Aldrich. He nodded and started to mentally command his units to move out of the clearing and get into position. The Geist was spotted a hundred fifty meters away and would be in this clearing within the minute.
He did not have much time to prepare. "We will."