26 level ups.
130 stat points to distribute -
With the racial bonuses from becoming a lich, Aldrich was satisfied with his physical stats for now. His strength was now at 40 and his agility at 35. That was more than enough to be thoroughly superhuman, and with Volantis's Shattered Bone necromancy aiding him, that would increase massively too when needed.
Thus, Aldrich focused on putting his stats into vitality, magic, attunement, and perception.
[+25 Vitality, increased to +50 with affinity bonuses]
[Vitality: 60 ] 110]
[Current HP: 330/330]
With that, the darkness around Aldrich faded away into bright, ghostly green as a tongue of green fire flickered and began to grow rapidly, raging into a pillar of waving green energy. The pillar then stabilized, condensing upon itself into a sphere-shaped aura of green energy that shimmered in hazy waves like thick mist or fog.
In the center of that aura of misty green energy, the Phylactery manifested, though now, its purple shade had turned completely emerald green like a beautiful, precious jewel, like the very same shade present in the Death Lord's draconic eyes.
[+55 Attunement, increased to +110 with affinity bonuses]
[Attunement: 91 ] 201]
With this, the beginnings of Aldrich's physical body then started to develop. A bare skeletal spine of steely dark grey shade, almost as if made of metal, emerged from the center of the green mist sphere, forming into the skeletal upper half of a human.
An enormous human, at that, standing nearly seven feet (2.1 meters) tall.
The ribcage formed around the Phylactery, the ribs curling around it in a defensive matrix. Strands of energy shot forth from his ribs and tethered to the Phylactery in a web of energy strands that kept it suspended in place and thoroughly protected.
When these strands attached to the Phylactery, Aldrich understood one thing -
The Phylactery had changed massively. By receiving Aldrich's soul and enormous quantities of energy, the Chrysalis within had merged with both. What exactly this entailed, he did not know yet. But he was eager to find out.
The lower half of Aldrich's skeletal body was not visible for it melded into his now permanent spherical aura of green energy.
For Liches were beings that were akin to Elementals. Spiritual entities with a physical anchor that represented a specific natural force.
In the case of a Lich, that element was the ever present, ever reaching flow of Death itself.
Spikes jutted out of his metallic dark grey bones, curving out from his shoulders, forearms, and in the form of horns around the crown of his skull.
[+26 Magic, increased to +52 with stat affinity bonuses]
[Magic: 71 + 52 = 123]
[New Current Mana: 369/369]
With the final distribution of these stat points, Aldrich's empty eye sockets glowed with bright green points of light that flickered like twin spots of flame, and with that, he felt his consciousness fully anchor into his newly developed physical form.
The darkness around him completely cast away as his new eyes saw the real world around him.
Aldrich found himself in the middle of the performance stage in the Red Circle's dance floor, exactly where he had previously been before he had warped all the villains to the Red Circle. However, what he saw all around him was a scene of carnage.
The dance floor was utterly thrashed. The ground was cratered with smoking explosions, fires, and cracks. Tables and booths were broken apart into splinters. The performance stage was broken apart, wires in the machinery within it sputtering crackling showers of sparks that furthered more fires.
Thankfully, the Red Circle was largely fireproofed, preventing the flames from spreading.
Dozens of corpses of Red Circle staff were scattered everywhere, and among them, the culprits showed themselves.
Aquatic type variants, all of them. Most of them were quadrupedal, though, being almost like hideous mutations of man and fish with hunched backs, legs, finned tails, gills that breathed sucked in air through both land and sea, burly, clawed arms, and glowing yellow eyes.
A dozen of these variants stood still, stopping themselves feasting on human corpses as they paid attention to the performance stage, as if to lend their eyes and ears to a performance.
That performance being their death.
Aldrich mentally gained an immediate understanding of where his summons were. They were not here in the Red Circle. It seemed that, under Valera's command, they had rallied their forces and left when the Red Circle, its defenses already thoroughly damaged by villains, came under attack by variants.
They had retreated to the abandoned mega complex apartment that Aldrich initially stationed the Geist, Walters, and Smoke at to deal with the Blackwater instructor Colette. They had fortified the complex as a sort of base, using its many floors as a natural tower full of choke points to defend against attacks.
Overall, though, Aldrich had suffered no major losses to his forces. A few skeletons had fallen, but that was about it.
That left Aldrich to clean up here and regroup with the others.
As soon as the variants made eye contact with Aldrich's giant, glowing form of energy and bone, they froze, awed.
"I hope you enjoyed your meals," said Aldrich. His voice rung out in echoing, thunderous peals that no longer sounded remotely human. It was deep, threatening, and chilling to the core to listen to that voice, a voice that promised nothing but impending death. "For they will be your last."
Aldrich thrust out a skeletal hand and cast [Death Bolt], a new cantrip spell he learned that all Liches knew. It was a 5th circle spell that cost 10 mana that specialized in heavy destructive power. For enemies weak enough, it was an instant death spell.
A helical strand of green, flaming energy shot forth from Aldrich's hand, whistling with a ghostly wail as it smashed into a variant. The variant did not just die, it blew apart as if a bomb had been detonated inside of it, utterly drenching its brethren behind it in its scales, blood, and entrails.
The variants shrieked in fear, but one of the variants, a larger, bulkier variant reminiscent of a swordfish, roared, forcing its brethren to stay and fight. It was evident that this creature was in command here. It was far larger than the others with a heavy build reminiscent of an armored car. Easily two meters tall and powerfully built, ready to charge and skewer anything with its long, blade like snout.
The swordfish variant charged, using a power that boosted its movement speed with jet bursts of pressurized air in various holes in its flesh. The variant sped forwards as fast as a speeding car, smashing into Aldrich.
The variant's snout blade, metallic in its tensile durability, shattered when it hit Aldrich's ribcage. Aldrich not even budge a single inch back.
The variant roared in pain as it stumbled backwards, utterly rebuffed.
Aldrich grabbed the swordfish variant's throat with one hand and held its several hundred-pound weight of muscle and scale up with utter ease. The variant flailed its finned arms and legs in a desperate struggle to survive, but there was no struggle here.
Only a massacre.
Aldrich used his other hand to grab a firm hold on the variant's head, his skeletal fingers piercing into the flesh and anchoring into the creature's skull. He then channeled another Death Bolt right into the creature's head, completely splattering it.
Blood spouted out from the variant's headless body like a fountain, and seeing this, all the other variants shrieked and fled as fast as they could.
"Weak. Very weak. And to think something like this might have even posed a challenge to me before," said Aldrich. The creature was level 15 maybe, in terms of raw stats, but Aldrich was far too strong now, especially in terms of durability. Even without any strength or speed augmentations, he was more than a match for it.
And this was even without him willing Volantis to manifest. As a Living Armor, Volantis now bound to Aldrich's very soul, being present within him even if not physically present.
Aldrich could feel the living armor's presence lying dormant inside, the heart of a fierce, powerful warrior ready to awaken and serve at a moment's notice.
But before Aldrich willed Volantis to awaken and manifest, he forged his Materius.
Aldrich's current form of energy and bone was his Aspect Base, his fundamental appearance as the Death Elemental known as a Lich.
On top of this, he could create what was known as a Materius, essentially a far more physical form that Liches used to appear similarly to other mortals and to reduce any weaknesses they had to attacks that targeted spirits.
The Materius also gave Aldrich much more maneuverability to move around in armor and wield weapons with a more familiar humanoid body. As a Lich, he received negatives to equipping regular warrior type armor, but with a Materius, he could subvert that.
The process to create one was simple.
It was simply a matter of enforcing his will for it was an innate racial ability of his. As natural as knowing how to breathe or knowing where one's limbs were even in the dark.
Strands of raw red flesh sprouted from Aldrich's dark bones. Organs, mostly decorative, serving no true functional purpose, grew within his skeletal frame. Over these, muscle fibers knitted around before growing deathly pale skin. His energy aura faded away as it covered up under his costume of flesh and blood, and within seconds, he looked as he had in his human form.
Though, with a few minor differences. Aldrich was now much, much taller, standing almost as tall as his lich Aspect form.
Now, it was time to don his new set of armor.
"Awaken, Volantis," said Aldrich as he looked down at his naked body, balling up his fists and breathing in, remembering how it felt to be in a body of flesh and blood.