The red sigil on its head glowed brightly, emanating a threatening shine even through the storm clouds for just an instant. Then, a huge sphere of green light suddenly exploded outwards from it, hungrily expanding and completely devouring everything within it.
Anything caught in that light was immediately disintegrated, and that included a huge chunk of the giant apartment sized sphere of jellyfish, exposing the anglerfish held within.
Not a moment later, the shockwave of the blast then rocked outwards in a wave of condensed green energy.
An ear shattering rumble echoed through the air as jellyfish were scattered away when the shockwave crashed against them, their frail balloon like upper bodies eviscerating from the sheer force of the blast wave.
Remarkably, though, the jellyfish were tenacious even that even the ones closest to the blast wave still remained attached to each other and the anglerfish, their tendrils holding on with a strength and durability that far exceeded their physical limits even as their heads were blown away.
Most likely because their tendrils were the main receptacle to channel the energy, thus making them more durable.
The disintegrating light had not hit the anglerfish, but the shockwave had, and it grotesquely flattened the fish's body, breaking most of the bones in its body, likely instantly pulping its internal organs to kill it.
The shining white lure dangling from its head drooped low before sputtering out, and the moment it did, it was as if someone had just turned off the power switch in this giant biological generator.
A wave of darkness spread out from the center of the storm as every jellyfish lost its source of energy spontaneously.
Aldrich could immediately see that the jellyfish were shriveling up and dying when they were detached from their energy source. This indicated that they had relied entirely on the anglerfish to even survive outside of water.
"Not yet-," Aldrich immediately flew downwards, into the center of the storm as it began to crumble apart, the dark clouds fading away. He had to get down there before the jellyfish completely rotted away, before the cocoon formation around the anglerfish completely broke apart.
He flew straight into the anglerfish's broken body and dug his clawed gauntlet into the variant's head.
The crimson eye dot in Aldrich's helm glowed green as he held down the sizable variant's corpse.
"Serve," said Aldrich, and his voice resonated outwards, reaching all the jellyfish nearby that had died the moment their link to the anglerfish was severed.
[Inner Circle: 41/45 ] 42/45]
He casted [Mass Raise Undead] and raised not only the anglerfish, but as many of the jellyfish nearby as he could.
Because of how many jellyfish there were, this immediately maxed out his Outer Circle unit limit, but for very, very good cause.
A wave of green energy radiated outwards from Aldrich, and every jellyfish it hit, it infused with energy, stopping their decay and giving them new life in the form of undeath.
Most of these jellyfish comprised of just bare tendrils that managed to stay intact after [Corpse Nova's] shockwave, but Aldrich now had them regenerate.
He activated his [Mist of Undeath], a Lich racial ability that replaced the [Anti-Life Shell] which, like the [Corpse Barrier], was just a cheap imitation of the real thing.
A ghostly green fog spread out from Aldrich's form, covering his surroundings in a massive haze.
Within the mist, any non undead were afflicted with the 'Low Visibility' debuff that, though it did not blind them, made it so they could not see far ahead.
On top of this, the mist also had the same life draining effect as Anti-Life Shell though if one got close enough to the center of the mist, it would also afflict both crippling fear and a constant instant death check that scaled based on how low level and how low health a unit was.
But perhaps the most powerful function of the [Mist of Undeath] was its vastly enhanced undead healing factor. The mist retained [Anti-Life Shell's] passive healing of undead, and that passive healing increased the closer an undead was to the center of the mist.
However, Aldrich now had the ability to manually expend mana to massively accelerate the healing process for undead near him. The rate of healing was such that Aldrich could probably instantly restore an undead from a single limb back to their full bodies within seconds.
The main weaknesses of the [Mist of Undeath] was that the mana cost to heal scaled exponentially higher the stronger the healed unit was and Aldrich could not restore units that were reduced down to nothingness.
Using [Mist of Undeath], Aldrich rapidly regenerated all the jellyfish under him, but this process left his mana dangerously low. This would all be worth it, though, if things went according to Aldrich's head.
[Mana: 30/471] *This total mana value is post equipment bonus from Volantis*
"Now gather, all of you, gather as you did before. But this time, gather under me." Aldrich held up the giant anglerfish's body.
It dwarfed Aldrich, being easily the size of a small house, and in an instant, all the hundreds of jellyfish that Aldrich had reanimated floated towards the anglerfish.
The jellyfish extended their undead tendrils outwards hungrily, latching back onto the anglerfish, and as they did so, they connected back once more into their biological generator of living storm.
Aldrich flew upwards once the jellyfish finished tethering to the anglerfish, watching the scene of his making unfolding below.
The lure from the anglerfish, once glowing a bright white, now shone an eerie, misty green, and with that, a wave of green light spread out through every single jellyfish attached to the fish.
When the green light infused into a jellyfish, their once blue glow turned green as they amplified the light, passing it on to the next jellyfish in their web, and on and on again until -
The previously dark storm clouds now shone an eerie green, and instead of creating bright blue lightning, the crackling of incandescent teal bolts now raged within the cloud cover.
Aldrich raised his hands up, feeling the power of a living storm beneath him, obeying his each and every command.
He had successfully hijacked the storm.
Granted, the storm was much smaller than the original as Aldrich could only raise several hundred jellyfish where before the original storm comprised of thousands, but it was still enough to be a formidable threat.
The rest of the storm dissipated, fading away and returning some semblance of calm over Haven.
This would at the very least grant Haven's defenders a massive break from getting slammed by lightning bolts over and over again, not to mention being freed from the storm's tech disruption field.
It would also draw media attention again, and this was good.
Aldrich had enough power that he now calculated it was about time he could come out of hiding.
As after all, he could not hide in the shadows forever. But he could not just emerge with his odd powers randomly either, not until he was strong enough to hold his own, strong enough to make the major organizations of the AA and the Panopticon completely beholden to him.
And there was no better way to make these organizations and the government recognize Aldrich than in clearing a disaster like this, especially if the people of Haven recognized him as their savior.
In fact, the AA was officially forced to recognize him for clearing a disaster like this, putting them in an awkward spot where Aldrich would have all the leverage he needed in negotiating how independently he could operate, for he had no intention of folding himself into the existing hero framework.
Gone were the days of Aldrich putting his life on the line all for a sh*tty hero's license to try and have even a tiny semblance of freedom to do what he wanted.
That was when he was weak, when that was all he could get.
Aldrich floated downwards, through his new personal storm, emerging out below in a shroud of wispy green cloud matter like an angel of death dawning to enforce judgement.
Beneath the clouds, he saw variants huddled under the storm for defensive cover.
They now stared up at Aldrich in complete wonder.
Flying fish. Sea serpents. All familiar foes.
But what was different here was that there were hundreds upon hundreds of them gathered here.
More importantly, the giant mantas used for troop transport also rested here where it was safest, where the storm could strike down any enemy.
This was the heart of this invading force.
The heart that gathered under the eye of the storm which, just moments before, had been the safest haven for them.
But now, this was no longer the very center of safety for them, no, this was the terrible eye of a natural disaster that would ruin them all.
"Begone," said Aldrich as he waved his hand across in dismissive manner, like a god enacting judgement, and indeed, with the force of a storm, of a natural disaster at his beckon and call, it truly did seem as if he was a deity raining down righteous fury.
The green storm above rumbled, and countless bolts of green lightning shot down in a rain of heavenly fire, each great bolt blasting apart entire groups of variants, blowing apart their bodies into charred chunks.
Whenever a variant was struck by lightning, their bodies acted as a conduit for the lightning to arc further until green electricity bolts surged everywhere, annihilating hundreds of variants all in the span of thirty seconds.
The mantas wailed in pain as lightning bolts assailed their backs, blowing out seared chunks from them until they fell to the ground, too damaged to sustain flight.
And in the center of this carnage, of this judgement enforced with the might of the heavens themselves, there was Aldrich, his horrible form of dark metal and bone and blood standing in the sky with outstretched draconic wings as countless burnt body parts and corpses fell down all around him.
All the while, experience constantly flowed into Aldrich from this massacre of enormous scale.
[1240 miscellaneous units defeated]
[EXP Bar: 68,450/45,000]
[Level 40 ] 41]
[EXP Bar: 23,450/50,000]
[+5 stat points available to distribute]
Aldrich knew this was inevitable, but he began to feel an issue with harvesting enough experience to level up now. Even with the hundreds, no, a thousand plus variants killed, he only got enough experience to level up once now that his EXP requirements were much higher.
At this rate, past level 60, it would take Aldrich wiping out entire variant ecosystems just to scrape up a few levels. This was partly another reason why Aldrich needed to make his presence publicly known once he became strong enough.
At a certain point, the sheer amount of experience he needed meant that he needed to clear out the biggest variant nests to level up, and those were all closely monitored by world governments, the AA, and the Panopticon.
He distributed his stat points and looked to the next step of clearing out Haven.
[+5 Attunement, increased to +10 with stat affinity bonuses]
[Attunement: 201 ] 211]
[Inner Circle Limit: 45 ] 47]
[Outer Circle Limit: 225 ] 235]
With most of the storm now gone, Aldrich could now safely float in the sky to inspect the city from a high vantage point from which he could plan the next stages of his attack.