The light that formed this temporary meeting space between Aldrich and the Hero faded away. Time resumed its normal flow. The shield continued to hover above him, tethered to a glimmering white aura that wrapped around his body.
When Aldrich moved, the shield moved with him, affixed to him.
The aura surrounding Aldrich was infused with warmth. A gentle, comforting warmth that utterly belied the carnage that Aldrich's armor of stitched fallen creatures promised.
Emanating outwards from Aldrich's greaves was a white spiral pattern that covered the ground of the annihilated lab. The pattern flickered bright, then dimmed down, then brightened again in rhythmic beats, and with each cycle of glowing and dimming, a heartbeat-like thud echoed outwards.
"This feels…strange." Clint tentatively touched down into the rubble of the labs. When his bare feet made contact with the patterned ground, he blinked. "It feels…familiar?"
"What is this?" Machine Mind said, his face jutting out of the ground enveloped in the light of the spiral. "This energy…I have not felt the likes of it anywhere. Not in all my years of research."
"I'm not so sure myself," said Aldrich. "But what I do know is that this will bring back your team. And you. But first off-,"
Aldrich stepped over to Machine Mind's head and knelt down by it. He pointed a clawed, armored finger at Machine Mind's forehead. A coiled purple beam shot out, drilling through the head scientist's head.
Then, Machine Mind's head disintegrated, destroyed by Aldrich's [Anti-Life Beam].
The rest of Machine Mind's broken, crushed body crumbled away soon afterward, facing instant death.
"Y'know, you said you were gonna bring em' back," said Clint, watching the dust flecks of what was once Machine Mind disintegrate into nothingness. "And there are a few corpses. But most of em' were turned into mush. They were broken down atom by atom and mixed into the rubble like some kinda fucked up soup. There ain't anything left to bring back."
"I thought the same once." Aldrich had to acknowledge that one of his weaknesses was that he could not bring back corpses that had been utterly destroyed. At that point, both their souls and their bodies faded away.
It was a primary way to balance necromancers in Elden World. By having hard timers on what they could raise, it prevented them from scavenging corpses too freely.
But Aldrich's Boundary broke through that. It was, after all, an ability unique to him, unbound by any game mechanics.
"But now I know what I can do."
Aldrich chanted words he had never said before but knew. Deep down, words he knew at the core of his being, in the center of his soul. "[Horizon East]."
The long point of the shield above Aldrich turned eastwards. The light-infused within the spiral patterning the ground grew much brighter. Particles suffused out of the pattern like a storm of snowflakes. They swirled about, landing on the corpses - or what was left of them - in the area.
All the flesh parts dissolved, joining the rest of the particles before gathering into several dozen clumps.
The clumps expanded, forming humanoid silhouettes. Then, the silhouettes filled in, forming into a team of lab-coated men and women. They stared down at their hands in sheer wonder.
Machine Mind, too, had resurrected, though he stared down at the floor in mute surprise.
"Well, I'll be damned." Clint blinked, mouth slightly agape. "Ya even brought back their clothes."
"I see…" Aldrich glanced up at the shield. It fragmented, a deep crack weaving across its surface. The shield shattered into several gleaming pieces before those faded away.
Aldrich breathed out deeply, feeling lightheaded. The sheer mana cost of unsealing and keeping his Boundary active was tremendous, more than likely because it was his very first time using it.
Normally, in Elden World lore, liches needed decades to develop and unseal their boundaries. Aldrich probably needed even more time because his soul was merged with Chrysa, and since she was a different being, they needed to synchronize their souls fully before they could form and unleash their Boundary.
But Chrysa had severed with Aldrich, and in her place, the power from his other self had taken root. Since it was himself, the compatibility was high, letting him unseal his Boundary immediately.
It was a fortunate twist of events where Aldrich's prison had turned into a key to unlock his Boundary.
But Aldrich still needed practice with his Boundary. And more understanding of it. From what he could feel, his Boundary, called [Cycle of Life and Death], had four forms.
The first was its default, called [Zenith]. It created an area where nothing could die aside from targets that Aldrich was touching.
[Horizon East] allowed Aldrich to restore anyone that had died in the area, even if their bodies were completely disintegrated. However, this did have a time limit. If the dead beings had been dead for too long - a time that Aldrich did not know exactly yet - he could not raise them.
He also knew that his Boundary had two other forms. Presumably, one that represented the other two cardinal directions: west and south. But he did not know what they did, nor did he feel like he could access them.
Those would come in time. The Death Lord's guidance would help him with that.
Thinking of her made him remember her condition. At how much it had seemingly deteriorated. He touched the left side of his head where he now sprouted one emerald-green horn. A horn that had once been hers.
She was funneling her power into him bit by bit, and the more she gave, the less of her there was.
Inevitably, there would come a time when there was nothing left of her.
Still a time that was quite a bit away, though. Before then, he hoped she would give him some answers.
For now, though, he had more pressing matters to deal with.
"All of you-," Aldrich waved his hand over the scientists. "Have lost your lab, your research, and your lives. But I have given you your lives back. And in return, all I ask is that you continue your work.
Not for the Trident.
But for me."