Chapter 321 Mollusk Hunt
"I saw you on the news," said Mollusk. His face was very much like Fler'Gan's, octopus like with a large, round head of slimy skin that shimmered, the color of the skin shifting from light green to red. His eyes were unblinking, the pupils simple round dots.
His body was generally humanoid, big, too, easily matching Aldrich's own height at over two meters, with the most monstrous part of him being that his arms and legs split down at their elbow and knee joints into a multitude of suckered tentacles.
"You can hijack corpses. A nasty power. No wonder you decided to be a Sentinel. World would have rejected you otherwise."
"Popularity ratings say otherwise," said Aldrich.
"Believe me, if the people here did not love my master, I would have made them," said Valera. She stood behind her newly awarded [Burnmaw Bulwark] that Aldrich received as a reward from completing the third trial quest.
The shield was like a solid, rectangular slab of iron with an angry red face melted at its front, the wide open mouth agape in a fierce roar from which hellfire flames sputtered, noticeable from a black tint outlining their flickering forms.
"People love pretty things," said Mollusk. "They accept you now because they need you. But in time, when you aren't needed, they'll shun you.
But enough talk.
It's about time I started to fight for my life."
"Yes." Aldrich did not want to make the first move too readily. Mollusk was an A-ranker. He was certifiably strong.
But because he was A-rank, especially as a mercenary that needed to advertise their strength, there was readily available information about him.
Aldrich had done his homework with V helping out the research, and from that, he knew Mollusk's baseline power was that he was a Mutant Alter who had cephalopod traits. He had rapid regeneration, a powerful, prehensile body, the ability to change the color of his skin to blend with his surroundings, and high physical stats easily on par with that of A rank augmenters.
Even then, Mollusk likely had a few trump cards under his belt that were not so readily known.
Refraction was even more secretive. Warp powers were so highly sought after that mercenaries only had to list that in their qualifications to get hired by top dogs in the underworld. As a result, Flux Alters that had warp capability had the luxury of hiding any combat applications their power had.
That was why Aldrich had knocked Refraction out as soon as possible. On top of that, he had imparted the [Bonebearing Curse] on Refraction with that blow, which was practically a death sentence as the spell was mind control that circumvented Alter mental defenses.
[Bonebearing Curse's] lore text stated that it allowed the caster to control a flesh and bone creature by literally manipulating their skeleton like it was a puppet. Since it was more physical manipulation than mental, Alter mental defenses did not work against it.
"And let's add one more to this fight." Aldrich raised his right hand, wreathed in black cursed energy.
Refraction stood up with jerky movements, very much as if someone was controlling him using puppet strings.
"Refraction...?" Mollusk said. "No, you're controlling him. But he's not dead. So you can control others even while they're alive, hm? Probably through physical touch. And they need to be unconscious, too."
Quick observational capability. Mollusk had sensed something was off immediately from the differences in Refraction's movement. Though he was wrong about Aldrich needing someone to be unconscious to curse them, it was still a solid guess.
"Four against one, huh?" Mollusk slithered backwards.
"Shitty odds, yeah. Not like the odds weren't shit before. Why don't you just die? It'll be easy on everyone," said Feather as he leaned back in his chair and propped his feet on the table to watch.
"No can do. I still very much have things to do and places to be." Mollusk unleashed a wave of tentacles from both his arms. Ten in total. They expanded in size as they extended outwards, almost completely filling up the confines of the mobile home.
"[Roar!]" Valera commanded her shield.
The [Burnmaw Bulwark] unleashed an explosive stream of hellfire that seared through the incoming wave of tentacles, disintegrating them into dust and leaving a gaping hole where a wall had been.
Mollusk was gone.
"I still see you." Aldrich leaped into the air with his draconic wings unfurling. Volantis's Truesight picked up on Mollusk slithering away at quick speeds while camoflauged. Mollusk had used the tentacle wave as a distraction for a quick getaway.
'Damn it! How many powers does this guy have!' thought Mollusk as he regenerated his tentacles again, but he was helpless against a ranged assault from above.
Chiros and Valera shot forward, faster than Aldrich, with Chiros being the definitive fastest with his more agility oriented combat build. They could both track Mollusk through Aldrich's Truesight.
'Too many targets. Have to even the numbers a bit.' Mollusk deactivated his camouflage to keep his energy usage minimal before his ten arm tentacles severed off on their own.
The tentacles grew rapidly, turning into large, worm-like tendrils each the size of a large car. They swarmed around Chiros and Valera.
Chiros whirled around with his blade, slicing five of the tendrils in half, but the halves grew back bigger, adding five additional tendrils.
An infinitely multiplying army.
"Ah, so that's how it is," said Chiros. "This was my mistake."
"Use your [Crystal Blood Venom]! No slicing attacks, only piercing!" said Valera. "We have to kill these disgusting things in one fell swoop!"
"Yes, commander." Chiros dug his nails into his palm and dripped blood on his blade. A crimson aura emanated from the fiery weapon. He flipped over two tendrils slamming into where he was, each slam strong enough to blow apart big chunks in the dirt.
Chiros stabbed into both tendrils as he gracefully soared past them. Glowing red lines like veins permeated through the point of contact as the venom spread.
"[Roar!] [Roar!] Melt, you slimy nuisances!" shouted Valera as she used her shield like a flamethrower, unleashing a mass amount of fire that disintegrated any tentacle in sight.
The tendrils, however, seemed to have capable minds of their own, and though Valera engulfed a good six of them in flames, rendering them down to ashes, many of them escaped, dodging backwards.
Meanwhile, Aldrich pursued Mollusk.
Mollusk's stunt in removing his arm tentacles had worked to give him space and isolate Valera and Chiros.
However, all Mollusk could do now was run, slithering through the forest at high speeds easily beating out any race car.
Notably, Mollusk did not regenerate his arm tentacles. Or rather, he could not. It was very likely that creating autonomous tendrils like that was much more taxing energy wise.
Aldrich fired two [Death Bolts], and they homed in on Mollusk. Aldrich had trained to improve his mana control, and that meant he could now more freely direct the trajectory of his spells.
Mollusk, however, was fast. He zig-zagged at rapid speeds, trying to throw the bolts off.
When he noticed the bolts changing direction to follow him, he leaped up, latched onto a tree trunk, and then went around it in an instant by extending one of his tentacles several dozen meters like a climbing hook, attaching it onto the bark with its suckers before reeling himself in.
This threw the bolts off, causing them to smash into the bark with explosive green impacts.
On the other side of the trunk, though, Refraction awaited, having scaled the tree with sheer running speed.
Aldrich commanded Refraction to use his powers to attack. Refraction, however, only punched Mollusk in the face.
Mollusk's soft body easily rolled with the impact, minimizing the force greatly. With a swift movement, he unlatched one of his leg tentacles and wrapped it around Refraction before tossing the Alter away.
'I see. It looks like the [Bonebearing Curse] isn't as good as undead control. If I don't know how an Alter's power works, I can't get them to use it,' said Aldrich.
Refraction was also noticeably less coordinated than a properly controlled undead was. This made Aldrich assess that [Bonebearing Curse] should be used more as a disruption tool to disable enemies rather than actual proper mind control.
'Still, I can't deny that this guy is strong,' thought Aldrich.
Mollusk had very much trained his body's abilities to a honed knife's edge. He used every aspect of his biology exceedingly well. His soft, squishy body coupled with the slime and martial arts experience to roll with hits meant that most physical blows were completely useless against him.
On top of that, slashing attacks ran the risk of just multiplying more tentacles. His coordination in moving with his tentacles, using them to climb and maneuver, was also outstanding.
And he had very good tactical awareness, instantly cutting Valera and Chiros off at the cost of half his tentacles without a moment of hesitation.
If Mollusk was not fighting at a numbers disadvantage, Aldrich estimated that the Mutant would win against Chiros eight times out of ten and fight a very long but losing fight against Valera.
Quite respectable. And all the more reason to add Mollusk to Aldrich's legion.