Chapter 322 Mollusk Hunt 2
Aldrich floated in the air, firing [Death Bolts] mostly to keep Mollusk moving.
Mollusk dodged like mad, moving about the cratered tree trunk to dodge the incoming bolts. The way the alter moved was erratic, utterly inhuman, and, coupled with his capable speed, and Aldrich had a hard time tracking him.
Aldrich could only fire two bolts at a time, so he could not exactly overwhelm Mollusk with them either. He could, however, use the bolts like suppressive fire, keeping Mollusk from doing anything while he planned his next moves.
He decided to use more of his newly outfitted arsenal. He had padded out his spell count to twenty now, the maximum he could sit on until he hit level 60.
As he had wanted before, he had now augmented his instant death magic considerably with two unique and powerful spells.
The first one was [Anti-Life Beam]. It was a sixth circle spell that instantly disintegrated any unit that did not have enough vitality and health.
If it could not instantly kill, it dealt continual disintegrating damage, with constant exposure under the ray continually edging targets closer and closer to compete disintegration.
It also had the useful trait of very quickly dusting non-living materials, making it the perfect siegebreaking attack. It was mostly Aldrich's way to clear out fodder since it was relatively cheap and one shot weaker enemies in crowdfuls.
But it took too long against tough targets to be reliable as instant death magic.
That was the nature of most instant death magics, though.
Since it was such a broken mechanic to one shot an enemy through their durability or health, it was balanced in many ways.
Boss units, for example, were generally immune to the effect.
And, most of the time, instant death magic was resisted by high vitality. The higher one's vitality, the lower the chance of the magic proccing. Mages could deal with it in different ways using spellbreakers or shields.
But there were certain spells that could circumvent these defenses reliably.
An example being his second new instant death spell: [Heart in My Hands]. It was an eighth circle spell, the highest in his arsenal barring the Night Parade.
By touching a unit, Aldrich could impart a curse on them, creating a magical copy of their heart in his hand. Crushing the fake heart crushed the real heart.
In the game, this dealt massive physical damage and, if the target was below 30% maximum health, instantly executed them.
But in the real world, a crushed heart was lethal to the vast majority of Alters, regardless of whether they were at '30% max HP' or not.
It was, in essence, a way for Aldrich to use the lore text on his spells to his unique advantage.
The biggest weakness of this spell, however, was that Aldrich needed to physically get in melee range and touch his desired target. It was the same weakness as trying to get [Bonebearing Curse] to work.
In a frontal confrontation, especially against a tough, fast, strong enemy, getting a touch in was going to be difficult.
Which was why Aldrich built around it.
"[Heart in My Hands]" Aldrich chanted. Crimson energy emanated around his right hand. Then, he chanted again. "[Undying Guardian: Pursuer]."
This was a spell Aldrich got from the dark arts tome awarded by the third trial quest. It allowed him to summon a single higher tier undead, and he had chosen the Pursuer, the undead he felt was most suited for his build.
Behind Aldrich, shadows swirled, forming into a black-cloaked, hooded figure whose face or body was not visible under its cloth of living dark. The entity was distinctively spiritual in form, its lower body ending in billowing wisps of darkness.
It loosed a piercing wail as it wrapped around Aldrich's form, its hooded void of a face looking about for its target.
"Take this," said Aldrich, raising his crimson wreathed hand up.
The Pursuer extended its hands from its robes. They were skeletal, the fingers curving into cruel hooks meant for digging in and never letting go.
The Pursuer tapped Aldrich's hand, and the curse transferred to it.
"And-," Aldrich fired off another [Death Bolt], this one forcing Mollusk to loop around from behind the tree trunk to in front of it, in line of sight with the Pursuer. "There's your target."
The Pursuer shrieked, letting go of Aldrich and speeding forwards at remarkable speeds. Once the Pursuer locked onto a target, it would never let go.
As a spiritual entity, it was immune to physical attacks, could phase through walls, and had rapid regeneration.
Unless it was destroyed all at once, it would keep coming back.
Once the Pursuer latched onto its target, it would transfer any debuffs or curses the summoner put on it. On top of that, the Pursuer would deal significant damage, acting like a parasite that drained its targets life force, slowing enemies while continually dealing damage.
It also lowered resistances, including instant death resistance, dramatically.
Basically, it turned into a massive pain in the ass for its target.
The only issue with the Pursuer was that if Aldrich sent it out, he could not recall it, and high tier undead like it required an entire day to resummon.
'What the hell is that!?' Mollusk panicked as he saw some kind of dementor thing rushing at him. 'This guy has too many tricks up his sleeve. I can't keep letting him pull them out. And if I stay constantly on the defense, I'll die eventually.
My ranged combat is nearly non-existent, but I've found a way to make something work.
Well, here goes nothing.'
He bunched his leg tentacles together and flattened them, compacting energy in them like springs, waiting.
Once the black dementor thing got close, he would unleash the potential energy built in his legs, shooting forward like a living cannonball to evade the thing and hit Thanatos.
'This has to hurt,' thought Mollusk, staring right at Thanatos. 'And if I miss or if he dodges, all the better. I'll make a lot of distance between us, and then I can keep launching myself from tree to tree to get out of here.'
'A desperate move,' thought Aldrich, observing Mollusk's preparatory motions. 'He has no tentacle arms, but if he's doing this, he must have a way of hurting me beyond just slamming his mass into me at super speed.'
Mollusk did not have his arm tentacles anymore, but he did have deadly neurotoxins in his slime and, at his chest, a hidden, retractable beak that could easily crush the likes of diamond. By extending it at the very last moment, he could essentially act like a spear, shattering right through Thanatos.
When the Pursuer came close, he extended his leg tentacles, shooting himself forward at Aldrich at dizzying speeds that could easily rival a missile.
'The output of this attack is tremendous!' said Volantis, his telepathic words transmitting to Aldrich at accelerated speed. 'I cannot use a defensive stitching for I am maintaining flight! Use your cloak's Hallowed Ground, Armored.'
'No. We have to take the attack directly. If we dodge, he can get away. In fact, I'll wager that's what he's planning. Hallowed Ground turns us intangible - he'll phase through us.
I'll keep us in the air. Prepare defensive stitching. I'll assist you.' Aldrich slammed his palms together, his green aura surging as Mollusk approached rapidly.
No time for a chant.
Mollusk smashed into Aldrich, but instead of breaking Aldrich apart, it was Mollusk that blasted down to the ground, utterly repelled. With a deafening crack, the Mutant slammed into the base of a tree trunk with enough force that he broke right through it.
A remarkable testament to the sheer force Mollusk could output. For reference, Aldrich's [Death Bolts] had barely been able to char and crack the durable wood.
Mollusk lay stunned on the ground, covered in chunks of wood skewered into his body. His regeneration pushed them out, but it was too late.
The Pursuer caught up to Mollusk in his moment of recovery. With a howling shriek, the spirit ripped its hooked claws into Mollusk's body.
Mollusk jolted in pain, immediately feeling dizzy and sluggish. He tried to stand up, but found that every single movement felt hard, as if his entire body was made out of stone. He was not getting away anymore.
"Damn. Guess this is the end of the line for me," said Mollusk as he stood up, the Pursuer latched firmly onto his back. He looked ahead at Thanatos and just sighed. "You're a Sentinel for a reason. Thought they gave you the title just for saving their asses, but your power's the real deal, too."
Aldrich floated in the air with a large green ribcage surrounding him, acting like armor. Another new spell: [Ribs of the Fleshless One].
A powerful defensive spell that summoned the ribcage of an old undead deity.
The ribs were thoroughly cracked, chipping away by the moment, but they had weathered Mollusk's final hit.
On top of that, his armor glinted with a silvery sheen, the pattern of scales visible upon it. Mountaindrake Scales, hard and shock resistant, courtesy of Volantis.
Both combined had repelled Mollusk completely.
Aldrich noted that this combination was tough enough to reliably weather an attack powerful enough to hurt even S-class heroes.
Good information for later.
"That was good practice," said Aldrich. He floated down, his cloak billowing behind him.
"That's all I was in the end, huh. Practice," said Mollusk. He did not seem bitter, more amused than anything else.
Aldrich held his right hand up, a magic construct heart forming in his palm. "Practice is more than could be said for plenty before you."
"A compliment. I'll take it before I die. I rarely get any of those, heh."
Aldrich nodded in acknowledgement. Pure humans faced horrible discrimination in post-Alter society, but arguably severely malformed mutants had it even worse, for they were legitimate monsters.
Most of the time, Mutant Alters that mutated too far from alterhuman physiology were generally stronger, but also more mentally unstable and liable as a threat to society. Hence, they were shunned not only as dangers, but as freaks of nature.
It was why there was a nation state of mutants in the Arctic. They escaped society to make their own.
Their situation was the opposite of pure humans who looked just like any other human but could not contribute to society due to their lack of powers.
A mutant like Mollusk would have never known love or recognition, just fear, fear for how he looked, fear for his power. He had leveraged that fear to get power as a mercenary, but that was power born from fear regardless.
"It was a good fight," said Aldrich. He crushed the heart in his hand.
Mollusk coughed up a spurt of blue blood from both his mouth and stomach beak as his heart exploded. He slumped over, his pliable body expanding like a puddle.
A soul floated above Mollusk's corpse.
"At the very least, nobody will judge you for what you are in my ranks," said Aldrich. He put his hand over the soul. "Serve."