Chapter 294 Stranger
Medula stabbed her hand into the air in front of her, but instead of passing through air, she ripped into the space itself, distorted ripples shimmering around her wrist.
"[Enter Vault]" Medula chanted as she ripped her arm to the side, tearing the space like a piece of paper, revealing yawning darkness tinted in purple. From the slit space, she reached in and withdrew a tome.
The moment she took out the book, the atmosphere in the library changed. It became heavier, almost oppressively heavy - the telltale sign of intense magical energy.
The book itself looked surprisingly simple. It was midnight black, like shadow given solid form, with a bright emerald green moon emblazoned upon the front.
But even looking at the book was difficult. The moment Aldrich tried to perceive it, the book started to distort in his vision, and he heard countless dead voices whispering and shouting in tandem, their catastrophic cacophony unleashing a malevolent orchestra in his brain.
Aldrich closed his eyes while raising his hand over Chrysa's face, knowing that if he looked into the book for more than a few seconds, he risked losing his mind. He knew that undead were immune to mind control, but this was different. The book did not seek to control his mind, no, it simply had so much power, so much arcane, abstract, deathly power that it overloaded his mind to a breaking point.
"If my observations are correct, your system of power can absorb any manner of spell, no matter how complex it is, and add it to your arsenal," said Medula. "This should be no different."
"It won't. I know because I took this tome from you in the past and used it as my own," said Aldrich. He knew that his system let him obtain spells without actually learning them, but he briefly wondered if it could take in a spell of this caliber.
From what he could tell, the system let him do anything the game let him do, and the player character had no issues ever learning a skill or spell. That would have been anti-fun.
"Scary book," said Chrysa. "Do you really want that one?"
"I do." Aldrich waved his hand forward, bidding Medula to bring the book to his palm to consume.
"Before you take this tome, I wish to confirm one thing with you," said Medula.
"The Death Lord is content in letting you take, no inherit her powers as she believes you a reflection of herself. Ambitious. Driven.
Like her, you see wrong, and you wish to wipe it out, to enforce your vision of an ideal world upon all existence," said Medula.
Aldrich knew the Death Lord's goals. She wanted to essentially turn everyone in the entire Elduin realm into undead because she believed that to be undead was far better than to grow weak and old and sad.
Fundamentally, she believed herself altruistic.
One of the reasons she looked down so fiercely upon the life gods like Amara was because they were content in basking in the worship of their short lived, suffering mortals whilst not ever thinking of uplifting them to their same divine level.
Of course, in practice, the Death Lord was a brutal warlord who killed countless many to spread death, though in her eyes, she probably thought dying under her hand and rising again as an undead was a better alternative to mortal life.
"I don't know if I'd go that far. But yes, I want to use my power for something. Something big," said Aldrich. "Otherwise there's no point having this power."
"Then I want you to make the same promise I made her make to me." Medula's voice became surprisingly earnest, losing the bored, cold edge it usually always honed.
"What is it?"
"Knowledge only has meaning when it is shared, spread, and known among those can understand it. This power of yours, necromancy, it is perhaps one of the greatest powers I know for a conqueror.
But it is also dangerous for knowledge.
Among knowledge demons like myself, one of the forces we feared the most was necromancy. Not because it posed a combat threat to us, it certainly did, but more so because of its potential to destroy knowledge.
All too often, necromancers wield a collection of puppets that can no longer think nor strive to create new knowledge.
I want you to promise me, Death Walker, that when your legions grow, when your might grows, that you are not a lone soul commanding a sea of mindless bodies.
I can understand wielding puppets in the pursuit of power. But in the end, when you have your power, I do not want you to be a lone soul in command of an endless sea of unthinking souls.
If my knowledge was used for that purpose, it would go against the very fabric of my being. I simply could not allow it."
"I can promise that," said Aldrich. "You must have an idea of how I'm operating my legion. I'm allowing as much free will as I can. And it's efficient. There's no issue here."
"It is easy for you to say this now. The temptation to not simply command, but to control, will only grow over time, and time is one thing you have in droves.
Do not forget my promise."
"Or I will have to personally raise my might against you."
"Like I said, you don't have to worry."
Medula pressed the tome against Aldrich's stretched out hand. He absorbed the item. His system broke it down without issue, consuming it and imprinting the knowledge into his being.
[Tome of the Night Parade consumed]
[Night Parade of a Thousand Spirits learned]
Aldrich opened his eyes, looking at his hand. The book was completely gone. The heavy aura it emanated was gone, too. "That was surprisingly easy."
"Yes. That system of power that you hold is quite something." Medula turned around, hands clasped behind her back. "Take care that you do not rely on it too much.
Now go, let me sulk the loss of my prized possession in solace."
Aldrich returned to the real world, or Alter realm as he started to get used to calling it in his head. First, at the Crypt, then, after [Mist Phase] ended, back to Fler'Gan.
There, Aldrich gave Fler'Gan the ten eyeflowers. Fler'Gan cut off the eyestalks and squeezed clear liquid within into his potion, granting it to Aldrich after making sure it was stable.
[1 x Mindeye Dominus Elixir obtained]
The effects of the potion were the same, with Fler'Gan repeating his warning: the potion was active only for a timespan of about ten seconds. Anything Aldrich said during this time would get embedded into the psyches of all those that heard.
For example, if Aldrich said during this time, "support me!", then even after his ten second window was over, all those that heard him would have a strong urge to support him.
The biggest issue was even that effect was not permanent. Over time, it would slowly fade away.
For permanent hypnotic suggestion, one had to directly ingest a potion, and Aldrich certainly could not forcefeed everyone elixirs.
But for the duration of the hearing, Aldrich could swing practically everyone to his side. Fler'Gan did have an additional warning that those with particularly strong wills could resist the effects, though they would not know they were affected by anything.
However, judging from experimentation that Fler'Gan had performed on normal Alters, the vast majority of individuals would not be able to strongly resist the effect.
Next, Aldrich caught up with V, specifically in regards to the bug she had found in the freeze bot's neural networks.
Aldrich stepped into V's workspace, finding her sitting down in the dark, her wire and cable shape hair sprawled everywhere in a complex web, lighting up screens and devices.
"What's going on?" asked Aldrich. Chrysa was not on his shoulder. She was in the Boundary, playing around with the Geist, Merman, Valera, and Okeanos.
"Wondered when you'd be back. Thought you'd almost miss this." V popped a bubble of gum from her pale red lips. "The bug was active. It's called a Rager, and I've double confirmed it's Mad Jack's ability.
Causes mass malfunction in tech, making it go haywire and target anything and everything."
"Is that why the bots attacked me?" said Aldrich.
"Then that involves the Trident. If I have my memory of villains and mercs correct, Mad Jack's a techno on the Italian Prong, meaning that the owner of these bots are a Trident target too."
"I figure. But it's impossible to really tell.
Remember how I set up a way for peeps in the underworld to reach us? Well, most of it has been garbage like shitty D-lister mercs trying to see if they can get with Thanatos, but there was one guy that really piqued my interest.
It's a guy calling himself the Stranger. He says the bots were his."
"Really now?" Aldrich said, heavily interested.
"Yeah. He didn't say much more. Just that he's sorry the bots went crazy. They weren't meant to hurt you."
"Were they meant to watch me?"
"He didn't answer that. He just sent me one message, and he didn't leave a way to get back to him. His presence in Cyberspace is also insanely stealthy. Can't trace him down at all."
"Forward that message to me," said Aldrich. "For now, tell me what's important."
"That was basically it," said V. "It confused me, y'know, I thought it was spam at first, but literally nobody should have known about those bots except us.
The most important part of his message was this: he says he'll meet you soon. And that he'll make you an offer he hopes you will take."
"Where? When? And if I don't take the offer?"
V shrugged. "I don't know. No deets. It's all mystery. Kinda spooky."
"Hm. I see." Aldrich turned to leave. There was no more information to be mined here. "Keep an eye out, V."
"Gotcha. When you come back, you better be coming back as some kinda bigshot. I want to upgrade into a proper office, y'know."
Aldrich nodded. "I'll try."
"C'mon, you can't promise?"
"I don't like making promises. They're too absolute. The more you make, the less valuable they get as well." Aldrich stepped out of the control room. "And I already made one today."