As Aldrich heard the voice ringing through his head, he suppressed the urge to ask questions. There was no doubt in his mind that this being was the 'Voice' that had driven Shrimp to fight Aldrich with such intense drive.
But even if he had many questions about who this entity was, what its objectives were, what it meant by kindred, what it meant by the enemy, what was important above all was securing his own safety.
'The energy of that corpse swells to astronomical levels unbound by any semblance of order,' said Volantis. 'It is reminiscent of a-,'
'An explosion,' finished Aldrich. He instantly geared back into action. This 'Voice' was trying to wipe him out by luring him in with Shrimp's corpse and detonating it.
A thoroughly petty and underhanded trick, but then again, who was Aldrich to complain about such a thing?
No, he was the type of person to expect his enemy to play dirty because that was exactly how he operated.
Aldrich had been ready from the start to expect that something out of his expectation might happen to threaten him. And because he had been mentally prepared, he could react faster than if he had gone in expecting to raise Shrimp's corpse without any repercussions.
Aldrich instantly jumped backwards, mentally willing all of his units to escape from the area as quickly as possible.
The corpse was due to detonate incredibly soon, and Volantis flooded Aldrich's mind with danger warnings that even if he sprinted backwards at full speed, he would get caught by the explosion based on how much energy had built up.
In response, Aldrich casted [Wall of Bone] while leaping away. Volantis reacted, changing his stitching from the bloodflame dragon's head into the stonedrake scales, judging that if Aldrich would get clipped by the explosion, it was better to weather the damage as effectively possible than to try and manifest wings to get away.
The ground before the corpse broke apart as a thick mound of bones rose up near instantly, forming into a powerful reinforced wall of clobbered together bones, some small, some giant, some human, some monstrous, that looked sturdy enough to withstand a full barrage even from someone like Valera.
[Wall of Bone] was an incredibly useful defensive tool not just for the strength of the wall, but because of the speed of its responsiveness. Its manifestation was essentially instant, allowing competent casters to block incoming attacks as soon as they reacted to them.
On top of this, Valera automatically got to work defending Aldrich. She, as a expert warrior, knew without Aldrich telling her anything that this situation needed her defense now more so than ever.
Valera stood behind the wall of skeletal mass and slammed her shield down, casting her strongest area of effect defensive skill called [Third Gate of Noktis]. The shield turned completely black, so dark and devoid of light that it stood out almost like a tear in reality. From there, shadows poured out, flickering as they shaped themselves into an enormous castle gate over a dozen meters tall.
The [Third Gate of Noktis] was a part of a series of spells unique only to knights of the Midnight Order, an alliance of night dwelling demihumans in Elden World.
Noktis was the living shadow city upon which the Midnight Order's knights were trained, and it was said that all anointed knights of the order drank in a shard of the city itself, harnessing its power.
In the Elden World game, Noktis had not been breached for five thousand years, with its walls only crumbling at the very end of the game when a trio of immensely powerful dark angels dropped an enormous meteorite capable of razing an entire country on the fortress.
Valera, however, could only shape one gate of the fortress at her current level. And that also took time to fully setup. The shadowy mass emanating from her shield took the vague form of a gate surrounded by segments of wall, but it needed more time to stabilize into a proper, solid structure.
Before that happened, Shrimp's corpse detonated when its rapidly oscillating, energy building claws snapped together.
A bright, blinding white and orange wave of energy strands blasted out from Shrimp's corpse like a solar flare.
No, it literally was exactly like a solar flare.
Anyone staring at this that did not have augmented eyes would have been instantly blinded. The ground beneath Shrimp's corpse instantly liquefied molten, then evaporated into bubbles.
When the solar wave crashed into Aldrich's bone wall, it completely melted through the wall without facing any resistance. Valera stood firm against this wave of incoming devastation with her shield firmly poised in front of her, willing to give her all and everything to defend Aldrich.
Aldrich worried briefly about Valera's safety. She could not tank that hit. It was as if the sun itself, the celestial body that could power nearly all life on the planet with just a fraction of its luminescence - had its life-giving warmth inverted and turned into a devastating weapon of scorching incineration.
But Aldrich trusted Valera. He knew that she would give her eternal life for him, but he also knew that she would not throw away her life either. If she felt like she was going to die from this attack, she would have told him.
The fact that she stood there silently and firmly meant that she was confident she could stand against the solar storm.
Still, an attack of this caliber was far beyond what Shrimp should have been able to output - this was the power of the entity known as the Voice.
No, that was not entirely accurate.
Aldrich noticed this even in this tense situation.
Shrimp's corpse remained stable even as it thrust out these solar waves. It did not break apart.
On the contrary, it seemed that these solar waves actually came from Shrimp - a glance at the energy signatures from Volantis confirmed that the Locus created this attack.
It was an energy signature very similar to Shrimp's Burst.
What had happened was that the Voice did not put out its own attack. Rather, it had forcibly massively accelerated Shrimp's evolution, turning the Burst power into something much, much stronger.
At the back of Aldrich's mind, even in a dangerous situation like this, he felt…eager.
Eager because he knew that Shrimp's corpse was not gone. And the more the Voice evolved and strengthened Shrimp's body, the more effective it would be as a tool for Aldrich to wield in his Legion.
All Aldrich had to do was hold on and survive this one attack.
Then, he would end this once and for all.
Right before the sun waves reached Valera and her manifested gate of shadow, an explosion boomed from Shrimp's corpse, perhaps from the air superheating so quickly.
A huge omnidirectional orange blast radiated outwards.
The explosion was massive, instantly engulfing Valera in light and very quickly reaching Aldrich like an all-devouring beast. This explosion was not nearly as deadly as the actual solar waves themselves. Those, hopefully, Valera had blocked.
Aldrich braced for impact, his [Death Essence] barrier glowing bright around him in a shell of fortified energy while the gem crusted scales around his body hardened with the sound of cracking rock.
All he saw was blinding bright light as the explosion hit him.
From above, atop Crow's back, Seismic watched the intensely bright light of the Locus corpse shine outwards, and he snapped from his trance and shouted down to the oversized bird beneath him. "Up! Get out of here!"
Crow flapped his wings with a grumble, not liking to take orders from anyone other than Aldrich, but knew that this was a good idea.
Seismic had almost been in a trance watching the armored man fight. He, in his decades as a hero, had quite literally never seen anything like it. The armored man could raise the dead, but that was not his only power.
Through that strange black armor of his, armor that looked almost alive, Seismic had seen the man manifest all manner of abilities that he had no idea what to think about. There had even been a dragon's head, for christ's sake.
How did this power work? Could the man harvest corpses and make them his own? Were those parts then those of other Alters? Perhaps variants?
It was not often that Seismic was shaken up, and though he did not show it in his face or stiff body language, he was shaken to the core right now.
This man was fast, strong, gifted in the martial arts, incredible tactically aware, and, to top it all off, possessed enough team members of strange yet powerful beings easily akin to the scale and strength of a small army.
There was no doubt about this. Every generation, there were a handful of rising talents that dominated the Alter scene.
They were called Stars, but this man was a Star among Stars.
After this incident, no matter what he did, that man would impact the world. If he decided to become a hero, he would take the Alter scene by storm. Provided his image was presentable, every single mega corporation would scramble to make him their own.
If he decided to go a different path, then there would be untold amounts of chaos as the world decided whether to label him as ally or enemy.
But beyond all that, deep within Seismic's gut, in his instinct that he had learned to hone and trust, he felt it: this man…was going to change the world.
Seismic had not ever felt this way.
Throughout his years, he had witnessed many young, promising Alters with incredible powers and drive, many of them dubbed by the media to be able to 'change the world'.
But none of them were like Vanguard. None of them could truly shake up the foundations of the world.
All of them eventually funneled into becoming heroes backed by sponsors, complacent in swimming through fame and riches. Seismic knew that feeling of complacency well - he himself had been a victim of it for many years.
Those that did not fit into the framework of heroes became villains, but in the end, they still sought the same material comfort of their heroic counterparts.
No matter how many bright Stars shone, none of them shone bright enough to change anything.
This man was different. Not only did his power only grow stronger over time, but his mindset, too, Seismic could tell was fundamentally different from those of other heroes and even villains.
There was a drive to him, an ambition, that made him stand out.
With both combined, Seismic could not even begin to fathom how the man would impact the world.
But all this was relevant only if he survived tonight.