Chapter 198: The Depths
Aldrich looked ahead at the pillar of chaotically ickering green light that would make him come face to face with the deepest core of his being. Within it, like being bathed in a waterfall, Rella stood, the light crashing around her. Her whole body lit up with a great many circuit like white patterns, showing that she was channeling the power through her. "Come now, Usurper," said Rella as she nodded towards Aldrich. "Take my hand. Or are ye shy?" "Give me a moment," said Aldrich as he manifested his Materius again. A red ash spread over his body, indicating he had sacriced health. Creating his
Materius took up 20% of his maximum health, but costs like that did not matter much in non combat scenarios like now.
The organs, esh, and skin of his human body all wrapped up around his grey bones, padding his frame out until he was whole again. He had Medula's training garb pants still equipped on him, so he was not ashing the world. "A trained body. And here I thought ye a frail mage. A pleasant surprise." Rella waved her hand, beckoning Aldrich forward. "I am eager to feel your grip. I can tell much about the quality of a warrior from that alone." "I'm going," said Aldrich. Before he took his rst step forward, Valera put a hand on his shoulder. "Master, do be careful," said Valera. She eyed Rella's hand. "Especially of that gorilla's monstrous grip. In any case, I will be vigilant here, ready to take your blood if needed." "I'll be back soon." Aldrich went forwards. He was condent in Valera's ability to drain any dangerous excess magical energy from him.
She did not have as powerful a bloodsucking ability as a full blooded vampire, but her mixed blood with a Dullahan made her uniquely suited for this type of situation.
Dullahan possessed an ability to mark an enemy for death. This rapidly dispelled all types of bus from the target. This included not only self cast bus that boosted stats or defenses, but also connections with magical energy sources not native to the target's own being.
In most cases, this was a strong anti-mage tool when mages used Arcane utility spells to create mana orbs that they could tap into for a quick recharge.
As a hybrid, Valera's vampiric bite was combined with the Dullahan's death mark. Whoever she got a proper bite on, she could also activate the death mark against.
In Aldrich's case, that meant that she would drain him on two fronts. The death mark would rapidly dispel the foreign energy in his body and her vampiric bloodsucking would drain what was left. "Ready?" Rella said as Aldrich came close to her. "Ready" Aldrich conrmed as he grasped Rella's hand. Immediately, crackles and sparks of green energy screeched around the point of contact. Aldrich felt his hand start burning, sizzling as the intensely concentrated magic started owed into his body.
The pain, however, did not aect him. It was nothing at all compared to [Burning Agony]. "You do not even inch. Your hand is well sculpted. Calloused. The knuckles honed. You have beaten many a foe to death with these hands, have you not?" said Rella. "It's part of surviving." "Surviving, aye, I know that feeling well. We ought to get along quite well, you and I." Rella stepped back further into the pillar, her whole body disappearing in its blinding light.
Aldrich followed. As he took his rst real step into the light of the pillar, he braced himself for what was to come.
The moment his foot touched the light, everything turned black. =
Aldrich woke up with a start, breathing heavily. He felt a cold sweat run down his face. He instantly analyzed his surroundings. He was in a dark space. Very dimly lit by ickering, lth speckled lights above that cast oddly patterned light in random intervals.
Aldrich felt cold metal under his bare upper body. He got onto a knee and inspected the ground. The metal was heavily discolored, patterned with many patches of dark that he gured was rust.
Upon closer inspection, though, he could tell that not all of the discoloration was from rust. Quite a bit of it was from dried blood.
The stench of iron and rotting meat hung heavy in his nose. It was a disgusting smell that made him frown. An ordinary person would have likely vomited by now, but perhaps because he was undead, but the smell of rot did not aect him much.
Aldrich stood up, and as he did so, he got a much better view of the room around him. Many rusted chains ending in hooks hung down from the ceiling, some of them holding up the deteriorating carcasses of pigs.
There were what looked like operating tables spaced evenly throughout the room with the occasional rusted barrel beside them that held a jumble of saws and drills and tools of torture. Spattered blood decorated the tables, as did strong restraints meant to hold down anything that got on them. "..." Aldrich knew where this place was. This was the room his parents had been tortured in. He felt a headache pierce through his mind, and he put a hand to his forehead, grimacing. His body felt weak and strong in waves.
Memories came back to him. Of that night. When he was just a child. Wide eyed and watching. He could have looked away. But he did not. He could not.
He saw. The tearing. The breaking.
He heard. The screaming. The crying.
Aldrich put his hand down from his face and shook his head. His green eyes stared ahead with unwavering strength. Those memories haunted him. But they did not overwhelm him.
They were not memories he buried. They were memories he kept alive. Live coals to fuel his rage. His purpose.
Was this his Boundary core? If so, he could handle it.
Aldrich heard the clatter of metal in the distance, far down the length of the room where the already faltering lights stopped working completely. Oddly enough, in here, his Night Vision granted by his racial status as an undead did not work.
Nevertheless, Aldrich stepped towards the darkness. He felt strangely compelled to do so, as if he was being led there by some greater, outer force that he could not quite resist. He had never sleepwalked before, but he gured this was what it felt like.
As Aldrich walked down the ever darkening room, it became emptier and emptier. The operating tables and barrels started to fade away, as if consumed by the darkness itself.
He kept going. He saw no light now. Just pure darkness. The only thing that reached his senses was the sensation of cold metal under his feet and the clinking of metal ahead.
The more he pressed forward into the darkness, the louder the clinking got.
Eventually, after a minute or so, he could start to hear a voice. It was faint at rst, its words indecipherable, but soon, he could make things out. "P-please...no more." "No more feeding..." "I'm not hungry anymore..." "Make it stop..."
Aldrich knew that voice. It was from the Butcher. As soon as he made that connection, he found himself stepping into an enormous cell. It just suddenly manifested, like an unloaded asset spontaneously loading in a videogame upon reaching a certain checkpoint.
A huge, barred cell door stood in front of Aldrich, though at the end, it was slightly open, allowing him to slip through. Within the cell, a singular light shone from above.
The light came from what looked like an eye growing in the bloodied metal of the ceiling. It was unlike any kind of eye Aldrich had ever seen before. Large, bulbous, yellow, and grotesquely lled with veins that moved and twitched like insects were crawling through them.
Under the odd yellow spotlight cast from the eye was the Butcher. His disembodied upper body was held up by meat hooks running down the ceiling.
They dug into his esh, dried blood caked all around where they sunk their hooks in.
Tears welled up around the corners of the Butcher's eyes as he breathed heavily in agony. The stumps of his limbs looked like they had been hacked o with something with a rough, serrated edge.
Something that would not have made a clean, quick cut.
Something that would have been painful.
And from the various saw marks on his skin, some less healed than others,
Aldrich could tell the Butcher's limbs had been sawed o and regenerated back in many, many cycles.
Below the Butcher, Aldrich saw a little girl. No older than ten, perhaps. She had on a immaculately white dress that stood out in strikingly clean contrast to her blood spattered, lth strewn surroundings. She looked up at the Butcher with curious, yet strangely cold eyes of green.
When Aldrich took another step forward, past the barred cell door, the girl turned to take notice of him. "I was waiting for you," said the girl. When Aldrich looked down at her, at her messy white hair and green eyes, he felt a strange sense of familiarity, as if he was looking at a reection of himself in a puddle. "You...you're the Chrysalis, aren't you?" said Aldrich, taking note of a tail that hung low by her feet. The very same, crystalline structured tail of the Chrysalis. "I don't know what I am now," said the girl. "But I think that's what I used to be." "This place, is it my Boundary core?" said Aldrich.
The girl nodded. "I think so." "Did you make all this?"
The girl shook her head. "Not this place. I don't like this place." She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. "It's too cold."
She went to Aldrich and tugged at his pant leg in the same way a child would to her father when she wanted something. "Can we go up? I made everything upstairs. It's better there and warmer."