As Aldrich thought of this bigger question, he went ahead and enjoyed the final piece of rewards from completing his first Trial Quest. Specifically, the stat points he got from leveling and the [Tome of Enhancement].
He first distributed the stat points from leveling up and distributed the attunement points he got from wearing a full set of equipment.
[Equipment Stat Bonuses]
Aldrich invested 2 points into Magic and 3 into Attunement.
[+2 to Magic, +4 with affinity bonuses]
[Magic: 27/27 ] 31/31 (56)]
[Mana: 81/81 ] 93/93 (168/168)
[+3 to Attunement, +6 with stat affinity bonuses]
[Attunement: 45 ] 51 (76)]
[Base Attunement at 50 = Raise Undead spell upgraded to Mass Raise Undead]
[5 Attunement Points available]
[Spells Attuned: 6/6 ] 6/7]
[Units Controlled: 16/18 ] 16/22]
He then materialized the [Tome of Enhancement] awarded from clearing the Trial Quest from his inventory. It was a far less morbid book than what the flesh knitted covers of his necromancy tomes suggested, being a more conventional leather-bound green book.
He absorbed the tome into his being.
A [Tome of Enhancement] could be used to upgrade three spells, and in this case, he chose [Anti-Life Shell], [Create Undead 1st Circle] and [Grave Consumption].
[Anti Life Shell Rank 1 ] Rank 2]
[-Anti Life Shell has now obtained an active function that drains 5% of max mana per second in order to enhance the life drain and greatly enhance the undead healing. In addition, all non-undead units within the shell are slowed.]
[Create Undead 1st Circle ] Create Greater Undead 1st Circle]
[-All undead that can be summoned from the 1st circle are upgraded. Undead level cap for the 1st circle raised to level 20]
[Grave Consumption ] Mass Grave Consumption]
[-Grave Consumption may now be cast at all graves within a twenty-meter radius of the caster]
With that done, Aldrich started to piece together a plan. First thing was first, if he wanted to assault the Red Circle, he needed to know its defenses inside and out.
"[Create Greater Undead]" said Aldrich, raising his new [Lantern of the Accursed Eye] into the air. He shook the lantern by its chain, and the clicking of the metal followed the creation of an upgraded Evil Eye known as a Grave Ward.
A triple cluster of basketball sized eyes materialized in front of Aldrich. Unlike the Evil Eye which was made entirely of floating, invisible flesh, the Grave Ward was mostly incorporeal. Its eyes seemed to fade in and out of a cloud of darkness much like the Ghast.
Like the Ghast, the Grave Ward was [Incorporeal], granting it a defensive passive that made it highly resistant to physical attacks but much weaker to elemental or energy-based damage.
Also, unlike, the Evil Eye, the Grave Ward could change its mass and dimensions so that it could squeeze through gaps half a meter wide, though it could not entirely phase through barriers or walls.
[Mana: 168/168 ] 158/168]
[HP:  99/99 ] 89/89
[Units Controlled: 16/18 ] 17/22]
"Go to the Red Circle," said Aldrich, and the cluster of three smoky eyeballs floated away. It was twice as fast as an ordinary Evil Eye, flying out at the speed of an ordinary person going on a light run.
Not particularly fast, granted, but still noticeably much better than the regular Evil Eye.
Aldrich then sat in place, staring through the Evil Eye watching Ghost's drug dump site. He felt hot hate grow and fester inside of him as he grit his teeth watching Seth Solar and the rest of his trash friends mull about, completely free and healthy.
The search team investigated the dumping site and found Ghost's needles and scraps of his body. They also found the Striker, monster, and Variant tracks that Aldrich had intentionally left behind.
There was some discussion, but Aldrich could not hear through the Evil Eye for it had no ears.
All he could do was watch. He could see Seth Solar talking to the security team, shoving one of them hard into a tree in minor anger. For a moment, Aldrich wondered if Seth Solar felt even the smallest bit of pain that Aldrich had felt in losing friends.
Another of the security team soldiers picked up Ghost's torn finger from the ground with a pair of extended forceps, showing it to Seth Solar.
Seth Solar stared at Ghost's finger with zero emotion on his face as the sociopath registered the confirmed death of his friend. He shrugged before firing a small beam of white energy from his eyes, disintegrating the finger of his former friend with zero remorse.
He then just shrugged casually and dropped the security team member he pinned against the tree.
He waved the rest of his crew forwards and left, getting into a hovercar that started driving back towards Blackwater.
Good. That meant that Aldrich's plan had worked: he had convinced Seth Solar and Blackwater that Ghost had died to variants.
As the search team packed up, calling back their drones and getting into their cars, Aldrich locked his fingers together and rested his chin on his hands, thinking.
Then thought some more.
To become a lich, Aldrich had to sever his mortal bonds and obtain the Obelisk.
To sever his mortal attachments, he had to fulfill his vengeance against Seth Solar and his crew.
To obtain the Obelisk, he needed to clear the fifteenth floor of the Necropolis which he was too weak to do now.
These seemed like two mutually exclusive objectives, and it was obvious the order in which Aldrich should go about clearing them.
First, Aldrich had to grind and obtain the Obelisk. Then, with the levels and rewards from clearing fifteen floors, he would devise a way to kill Seth Solar using a trap involving instant death magic.
But he could not shake off the feeling that there was an easier way to go about this.
It did not take much longer before he came to a striking realization: there was a way to destroy Seth Solar and obtain the Obelisk at the same time.
"Fisk," said Aldrich.
"Appointments at the Red Circle can be set up online, no?" said Aldrich. "Contact them. Get in touch with the manager, this guy called 'Casimir'. Tell them a certain Mr. Bruce Vane wants to meet about investing some of his multi-million credit inheritance. Tell them Mr. Vane is also thinking about hosting a nice private party this weekend as well.
Tell them to meet privately. And of course, this goes without saying, but make sure you aren't traceable."
"You got it, boss," said Fisk as he took his laptop out of the bag Aldrich had taken out of the Odinson base. Fisk plugged himself into the laptop via his headjack, operating the tech mentally.
"Oh, and check the AA bulletin for any Variant Nests in the Wastelands," said Aldrich. "Give me a thorough list of all Variant Nests within a two mile radius of here. I don't want to waste all of daylight tomorrow just hiding in this forest.
I need to hunt for levels. And this forest is running out of variants strong enough to raise my levels fast enough."
"On it." Fisk raised a thumbs up to Aldrich.
"The rest of you, do as you want for now," said Aldrich to the other undead. "Train, talk, or hunt more Variants."
With this command, all of Aldrich's Variant undead scattered out into the forest to hunt. The Troll Chieftain and the two Mud Crabs also followed.
"Wanna train?" said Dynamite Girl to Valera. "Pure hand to hand combat, y'know? Cause' I can't be startin' a fire here or anythin'. Plus, I think my martial arts is gettin' real rusty."
"Certainly," said Valera. "But do not cry when you feel utterly powerless before me."
"Heh, we'll see about that," said Dynamite Girl as they squared up against each other.
Meanwhile, Fler'Gan now hovered around the Geist, poking at the Variant with his long, slimy fingers. "A creature such as this I have never known. How quaint. How odd. How very…interesting."
"Geh…(You're creepy)" said the Geist.
"In the name of progress and knowledge, I have cast away any consideration for how others judge me," said Fler'Gan. "Come, let me see if you can learn magic, child."
"Gehgeh (I guess)" The Geist followed Fler'Gan away.
Aldrich waited for Fisk to do his work. In the meanwhile, he had Adam and Elaine sit by him on the fallen tree trunk.
"We're so close," said Aldrich. "So close to taking down Seth Solar. When it happens, I will make sure that you two have a chance to tear into him. It's the least you deserve."
Adam and Elaine groaned and growled in response.
"Yeah, that's the spirit," said Aldrich with a smile.
He wondered if he was going insane, talking to mindless zombies like this. Or maybe he had always been insane.
Hadn't he asked himself this before already?
Well, it didn't matter much now.
He was what he was, and he accepted it.
An hour and a half passed before Fisk spoke, looking up from his computer screen.
"Alright, boss, I sent your message to the Red Circle. Bet we'll get a response soon. As for Variant Nests, well, I pulled an official map from the AA website." Fisk turned his laptop screen to Aldrich and pointed at a big chunk of map on the east coast of the United States.
He tapped the area and zoomed into a forested batch of land before circling it in red. "That's where we are. And here are all the Variant Nests in a two hundred mile radius like you said."
Fisk zoomed out a little, and five red dots appeared indicating the location of Variant Nests.
Variant Nests were, as the name suggested, nests of Variants that did not pose an immediate threat to human civilization. In fact, these nests were actually welcomed as they became self-sustaining ecosystems for Variants where they could populate without having to encroach on human territory.
So long as the nests were not attacked, the Variants within did not attack.
When roads had to be made near them or new cities planned and built, the AA would send heroes to wipe the nests out. But otherwise, they were largely left alone.
These were the perfect spots for Aldrich to hunt for levels and new undead. Nobody would be around here. Any minor remote surveillance that was here, some satellite imaging or whatnot, he could block with a Ghast.
He looked over the five red dots and discounted going to three nests that would involve having to cross over public roads where his undead could get spotted.
Instead, his eye caught on two nests located right outside the southwestern edge of the forest. There was little to no human development here as the land was littered with huge canyons and fissures where roads could not be built.
This area was called the Shatter Zone because of how the earth looked so utterly fractured, and apparently, this had been the site of a battle between the greatest hero Vanguard and a powerful giant villain called Megalodon during the Age of Villains.
"I know where we're going now," said Aldrich as he stood up, getting ready.
"Uh, us? I'm going too? Can I…can I get a gun or something?" said Fisk.