"That said, I cannot be everywhere at once, and that is where the Deildeghasts come in," proclaimed Aldrich.
In response, the Deildeghasts chattered through their skeletal teeth a proud echo as they raised their smoky greatswords above their heads.
"They will be positioned right behind the attacking force, creating a defensive line that will not only protect you, but blind the enemies positioned at the front. Whenever you sustain too much damage or need cover, retreat behind their [Spirit Boundaries] to recover.
Though your healing is greatest within my [Mist of Regeneration], even outside of it, you will have some minor regenerative power.
As you advance forward, the Deildeghast line will advance as well.
If you encounter any enemies that are strong enough to warrant my attention, immediately alert me. Either I or my Inner Circle will deal with it. If you encounter a swarm of enemies too thick to deal with, then alert me. My storm will provide air support.
Your objective is to unleash as much carnage as you can with the end goal being the capture of the anemone type variants. Once we have them captured, the battlefield should be ours, at which point, the general of their army will be forced to show his hand.
When he appears, those among you in my Outer Circle must go out and fight him. I need information about his capabilities before I can engage him.
I will warn you that to fight the general is to face near certain death but know that I will remember your sacrifice.
Once I understand the general's abilities, I will devise a strategy to take him down, and then this fight is ours.
Then, victory is as good as ours."
A wave of understanding went around the Legion. Now there was merely the final step of executing this plan.
"Geh? (Could you repeat all that?)" The Geist raised its hand like a confused schoolkid.
That was when another ghostly boom echoed through the air - the sound of the sea anemone variants firing yet again.
"Hm?" Aldrich immediately put a finger to the side of his helm, as did Valera.
This third volley was several minutes earlier than expected.
Aldrich saw through the Grave Ward floating over the battlefield that Merman, the mermen variant leader, had personally fired off a beam of hydroplasma from his four arms, boring through the final layer of the frontgate ahead of schedule.
This left the front gate completely melted down.
Not only that, but it also meant that the sea anemone variants would be charged up and ready to fire an immediate volley against any of the first wave of defenders coming from behind the gates.
The crab variants stood in formations around the water shield covered sea anemones, guarding the mermen variants that channeled the barriers.
Again, Aldrich felt surprise at this level of strategy from variants. He knew that there were some more intelligent variants that lived in tribal communities, but their strategies usually did not go beyond small inter-tribal squabbles.
This level of wide scale troop mobilization and the brains to use them was something usually far beyond them unless they belonged to a literal hivemind. That was why ant and insect type variants were usually so dangerous, because once they managed to build up a large enough hivemind, it became intelligent enough to enact large scale and thought out attacks against civilization.
But if all variants were starting to evolve this level of strategy at a basic level, then humanity was in for a time of struggle unknown since the beginning of the Monstering itself.
At the forefront of this struggle, though, there would be Aldrich.
Thanatos, the god of death turned from reaper of souls into defender of lives.
"The battle has begun!" shouted Aldrich. "Follow me on my signal!"
Aldrich unfurled his black and red scaled draconic wings and leaped into the air, soaring into the sky and leaving his Legion.
When Aldrich disappeared into the sky, the Geist scratched its smooth white head. "Geh…? (I still don't get it…)"
"Just follow me, and you'll figure it out," said Stella as she crossed her arms and looked into the night sky, at Aldrich's receding figure. The fleet of drones followed behind him, ready to put the world's spotlight right on him. "Damn, didn't know he was the type to show off like this."
"I don't know…it's kind of cool, honestly," said Portal Girl as she looked up.
"Hm, yeah. Just make sure ya don't say that around ms. Bucket helmet over there." Stella motioned her chin over to where Valera was, but saw that Valera had disappeared from that spot. Stella blinked in surprise before Valera's gauntleted hand appeared behind her, closing around her shoulder.
"And what gossip are you two spreading…?" said Valera as she smiled widely underneath her helm, though anyone could tell that smile was anything but warm and welcoming. On the contrary, it managed to ooze a horrifying amount of bloodlust.
"N-nothing!" said Portal Girl nervously.
"Heh, you wanna fight again while I'm all riled up ready to watch something explode?" said Stella as she smiled back at Valera, unfazed.
"Admirable willpower. It reminds me why we get along," said Valera. She then joined the two women looking up into the sky, and by now, Aldrich had completely disappeared, likely in the skies watching the battlefield, waiting for the perfect moment to swoop down.
"I am eager to start tearing apart our enemies," said Valera with a fanged smile. "I can feel that this armor screams for blood, and blood, I shall give it, for it is my master's precious gift to me."
"And I'm ready to blow some variants up to high heaven and beyond," said Stella. She bore a manic grin. "Or blow em' down to the depths of hell, if that's what they prefer."
Portal Girl nervously looked at the two women before trying to weakly join in on their insane energy. "And…and I'm ready to help!"
Stella looked at Portal Girl curiously, then laughed. She reached out and pinched Portal Girl's cheek playfully. "You're such an innocent cinnamon bun. It's endearing, really."
"Am I…?" said Portal Girl as she rubbed her cheek.
"Yeah, don't you agree, Val?" said Stella.
"Hm. Perhaps," said Valera. "I do like your attitude. But you will prove yourself even more if you bring to me the spines of our enemies. That will show to me more than anything that you have spirit, little girl."
"S-spines!?" said Portal Girl with panicked voice. "Do I, um, have to take them out of their backs? Does it have to be with my own hands? What if I'm not strong enough?"
"That was a jest," said Valera.
"You know, I'm no comedian, but I don't think you're the best at telling jokes," said Stella.
"I do have share that trait with my master," said Valera. She cracked her knuckles as she looked towards the site of battle, fierce desire in her eyes. "And soon I will also share this victory with him as well."
Aldrich floated in the air, above the clouds. His arms were crossed as his wings stretched out to his sides, keeping him hovering in the air, completely still. Draconic wings did not function like ordinary wings that needed to make the appropriate biomechanical motions like flapping to generate force for movement.
They were purely magical in nature, emitting a personal flight field. Granted, dragons could flap their wings to manipulate this flight field, granting themselves acceleration or changing their direction, but the way they flew did not obey any conventional laws of physics, which was how some dragons that did not have any wings at all could just float through the air.
As such, Aldrich could just stay in the air without any need to move his wings so long as he stretched them out like this.
All around Aldrich was just empty night sky. Beneath him, below the cover of clouds, was the battle. Aldrich had made sure to move above the cover of clouds, ensuring that nobody saw him before he made his entrance.
And that was the most important part about all of this: the right entrance.
Right beneath the clouds below Aldrich was the site of battle, and he closed his eyes as he focused intently, meshing his sight with the Grave Ward's to survey everything that happened. He, along with the masses of variants below, stared intently at the front gate, watching for a response to it falling.
With the front gate of Haven's center district blasted down, how would the humans within fight back? Against those overwhelming numbers? Against those claws and jaws that wanted nothing more than their deaths?
The answer took Aldrich by surprise.