Chapter 262 An Unseen Cold
Force and cold rocked across Aldrich in an oppressive tidal wave, as if all the fury of a Himalayan avalanche had been condensed into a single beam of power.
Valera stood strong in front of Aldrich, her black greatshield holding against the wave of energy like a fortress wall. However, the attack was energy based in nature, flowing out like a raging tide. Aside from a small area behind Valera that protected Aldrich and Chrysa, the blast swept past and engulfed everything else.
That must have included Randall, but he could not go out from behind Valera to check.
Blinding pale blue light shone all around Aldrich, as if he had been dunked into the depths of a blue sun, but instead of unfathomable heat, there was instead freezing cold.
The light made it impossible for Aldrich to tell what was going on. But he knew that stepping into it would immediately freeze him.
Father, whats happening!? cried Chrysa, her warm breath visibly foggy in the chill air. She plunged her face into Aldrichs chest.
Get into my Domain, said Aldrich urgently, his voice making it very clear he would not take no for an answer. Where its safe.
Chrysa nodded obediently through panicked tears. Her little body glowed bright white before fading into a shower of particles that flowed into Aldrichs chest, right where his phylactery was.
With Chrysa accounted for, Aldrich focused back on Randall. Yet, he knew all too well that any mental energy he spent on focusing was in vain. Aldrichs [Death Sense] no longer picked up on Randalls signature.
The light died down, confirming what Aldrich already knew.
There was no more shop No more Randalls Repairs. The walls and ceiling had all been blown apart like a tornado had raged right through it.
What little was left, miscellaneous odd bits of furniture, gears, and tech, was completely frozen over, encased in waves of ice that glistened under the morning sun.
That included Randall himself, his twig-like, wrinkled body encased in ice atop his bed, frozen in a snapshot of how he had been just seconds ago.
Aldrichs emotions were muted with his undeath, smothered over in a layer of ice, but seeing Randall, family to Elaine, one of his only friends, thawed that ice.
Emotion bubbled upwards, swelling up like a backed up geyser.
Whoever had done this needed to die.
Randall! Alan shouted as he came sprinting by, lit cigarette slipping out of his mouth. He banged his hands against the ice prison that held Randall. Help him! He wont last in there!
Alan was in disbelief. Or maybe, by shouting that Randal was still alive, that he could be alive if he just got out quick enough, he was trying to convince himself that his words were real.
Aldrich might have felt emotion, but unlike Alan, he regulated it, never losing focus of the danger at hand. He looked around, trying to scan his surroundings for the enemy.
The direction the blast came from was easy to tell based on where Valera faced her shield, and yet, there was nothing there, just more trailers and shacks.
Like cockroaches under a light, the poverty worn denizens of these homes scrambled out and scampered away upon hearing the explosion. None of them screamed or made a ruckus like ordinary city folk.
They just ran. Over years of living in the edge district, they had learned not to question when things blew up or scream or waste their energy on anything other than running.
Aldrich ignored the runners. There was plenty of cover around with trailers, car clusters, and shacks, but not so much that both Aldrich and Valera combined with their perception could not easily pick out an enemy.
Whoever this attacker was, they were cloaking themselves through tech or Alter power. If they were a speedster, there would have been traces of their movement.
Valera, weve got a stealthed enemy. Take care, said Aldrich. He walked over to the ice ridge forming Randalls cold coffin. He lacing his palm on the light blue wall of frost.
Can you get him out!? said Alan, panicked. Is there anything you can do to help him!? Please, any little bit ought to do if you need me to help, to get you anything, Ill do it!
Aldrich could not believe it. He was ready to crack open the ice and revive Randall as an undead before the soul expired, but
There was no soul.
Randalls soul was gone. It was not as if he was alive in the ice, Aldrichs [Death Sense] showed that Randall was well and truly dead.
The only explanation Aldrich knew related to Elden World game mechanics.
Whenever a unit died, their soul floated above their corpse for around a minute, perhaps longer depending on certain passives, spells, or equipment. Essentially, that was how long the souls stayed until they moved into the spiritual plain, into the flow of the great Soul Stream.
However, there was a way to kill units in such a way that their souls were sent directly to the Soul Stream, and that involved either purging holy attacks or damning cursed attacks. Both, if used to kill a mortal body, booted the soul straight to the Soul Stream.
This also made strong priests incredibly good at countering necromancers since they could mass purge souls to stop necromancers from using them. Similarly, demons, masters of curse magic, were also tough opponents.
But that was the game. This was real life.
There were no goddess anointed priests or knighted paladins or curse engorged great demons.
Aldrich tried to get a feel of the ice, attempting to sense whether it was, by some chance, magical in nature.
He could not tell.
Was this some form of Alter power then? One that could affect the soul? It was not entirely impossible, and Aldrich was far from knowing everything.
Alan looked up at Aldrich hopefully.
Aldrich shook his head.
No! No, no, no! Alan yelled as he slumped down to his knees, his hands dragging across the ice, yearning to get in.
Aldrich could sympathize with Alan, but he knew also that this was not the time to be trying to console a grieving, emotionally unstable wildcard. One that Aldrich needed to protect as well.
Im sorry to do this-, said Aldrich. Before Alan could react, Aldrich knocked Alan out with a precise blow to his jaw. Alan fell to the ground like ragdoll, his whole body going limp like a puppet with its strings cut.
Before Alan hit the dirt, Aldrich held him up.
Chrysa, take him in, said Aldrich.
Im scared, father, whats happening!? Chrysas voice rang in Aldrichs head.
No questions, Chrysa, said Aldrich, stern. Not now.
O-okay whimpered Chrysa, audibly terrified.
Aldrich did not know what to say to comfort her.
Nobody had ever taught him how to deal with the intensity of a fight or life and death situation. His parents had showered him with love and shelter and never once had taught him about how harsh a fight could be.
He learned that himself, facing intense, illegal combat simulations in virtual reality that were liable to fry his brain with how realistic and exhausting they were.
But he had learned basically just through endless repetition, smashing his psyche against the wall of hurt and struggle until he calloused himself enough where nothing could ever hurt him again.
That wasnt something he could just teach with the snap of a finger. There just was no time to think about it. He had to default to stern treatment.
Tendrils of white light emanated from Aldrichs chest, grasping Alan. Alans unresisting body dematerialized in a shower of white particles, though notably, it took much longer than it did for Chrysa to transport herself.
Where Chrysa did it in just a second, Alan needed over ten seconds to fully dematerialize.
All the while, Valera kept her shield up, staying close to Aldrich.
Judging from her eyes that flit from side to side, he could tell she did not know where their attacker was, if even the attacker was still here.
The hell happened? Diamondbacks rough voice crackled in Aldrichs ear.
I dont know, said Aldrich. But its looking like an ambush.
What do you want me to do? Diamondback did not ask what was going on or how or other unnecessary questions. He only asked what was needed of him.
The mark of a trained man.
Stay in the vicinity, but dont show yourself yet, said Aldrich. If theres an attacker out there, theyre probably cloaking themselves. Ill try to track them down.
Roger, said Diamondback.