Aldrich spotted the designated halfway point to the battlefield from the air.
This was a large park called Flowerfield, the largest park in Haven located a little bit aways from the city center. Far enough away that one could hear the rumble of countless fishmen moving by the center district walls, but not close enough to actually see any of it.
The park was a central linking point that connected all four districts of Haven, and throughout the week, it usually bustled with people on morning or evening walks.
The park was perhaps the most universal spot in the city. Because it lay outside of the central district's walls and was open to everyone, all walks of life enjoyed it whether they were rich or poor, privileged or down on their luck, young or old.
Now, though, it was completely empty.
The rolling hills of grassy green were drenched with flood level water, reducing them to soggy mud.
The pretty engineered flowers that bloomed all year round were wilted under water or crushed underfoot by variants or fleeing humans.
On top of this, there was the ghastly sight of countless bodies littering the park.
Mostly of civilians and policemen that had been caught in the initial variant attack. Their bodies were torn apart, many of them missing limbs or heads, and in comparison, there were only a precious few variant corpses to pay for it.
This attack had truly taken Haven by complete and utter surprise.
Even then, a vast majority of Haven's five million citizens had either escaped, been evacuated, or killed. Despite how bad this looked, the Panopticon did have tested and practiced evacuation methods that worked.
That left the poorest few farthest from the city center where most transport was. These poor few survived slogging through armies of variant fishmen to seek refuge behind the central district's walls after finding that all evac and transport was gone.
Aldrich had no clear estimate on how many people were left and how many people had died.
However, he would not be surprised to hear that over a million people had died.
Before the Altering, that death count would have been unfathomable to developed society, but nowadays, when variant threats loomed and, before the Monstering, power addled villains-initiated wars and crises globally, a million dead was bad, horrible even, but not out of expectations.
"Hm, impressive. So that girl does have some use, after all," said Valera as she hugged Aldrich's waist. Her armor was not yet on, baring her face. Her jet black hair fluttered behind her head as the wind passed, baring an expression of pure focus as she looked down.
Portals were opening all around the park.
They emerged from distorting ripples of space like blooming flowers, and their purple light replaced the color the dead flowers once provided the park.
Seven portals in total opened, each of them around eight meters in diameter.
From these portals, all of Aldrich's undead emerged.
All of the variants that had bestial forms emerged, including both his undead variants and those he had raised from the game world.
The Mudcrabs, the Alpha Striker, the Alloywing Eagle, the Big-arm Grizzly, the Bloodspitter Lizard, the Antlion - all of them jumped out the portals, making their way around the park. The troll chieftain followed behind them, scratching his back lazily as he did so.
Then came Aldrich's higher personnel.
The Geist, this time carrying the cursed rock axe the troll chieftain once wielded. Stella wrapped up in a new costume to make up for her utterly torn apart last one. Her new costume was a basic bodysuit of black and gold that Casimir had on hand from the Red Circle.
It had no real special effects other than strong heat resistance and good durability for its light weight, but that was all she really needed.
From another portal emerged ten of Blackwater's A class. Alexis led them, and they streamed out with confident poise, all of them ready to fight.
Aldrich's Zombie Giant emerged from an entire portal by itself, rolling out and sprawling out across the soggy grass because its twelve-meter bulk had needed to really hunker down to pass through the portal.
Chiros leaped through a portal and landed with a twirl of style, though he did grimace at the dirty mud beneath his red greaves. His fifteen death knights streamed out in marching formation, two of them carrying the crystallized shark variant on their shoulders.
The Deathwheel rolled out behind them, its wheel of fused spines clicking and clattering as the many skulls at its center chattered in readiness for war.
Crow also took up an entire portal by himself, hopping through one carefully to make sure he did not clip the edges with his massive wingspan.
The rest of Aldrich's Outer Circle undead streamed out last, taking several portals on their own. This first consisted of 50 fishmen that Aldrich had raised.
The fishmen were generally a low tier fighting force that was more a distraction. On average, they ranged from levels 7 to 10, with slightly stronger ones at the 10-14 threshold.
50 did not seem like a large number of fishmen to have considering their individual weakness, but it was a number that would infinitely replenish on the battlefield, making it seem far larger than it actually was once Aldrich started to spam [Mass Raise Undead].
Aldrich also had 20 Red Circle staff zombies, but he had left them with Casimir at the megacomplex.
Casimir's stronger staff like Walters, Smoke, and Hirondelle were also there to guard him.
The biggest change to Aldrich's Outer Circle was that as part of his preparation, he had cleaned out and reorganized the undead within it. He used [Create Greater Undead (1st Ring)] to replace his skeletons and lower leveled undead from his [Create Undead (1st Ring)] spell with Zombeasts and Deildeghasts.
In total, Aldrich prepped 3 Zombeasts and 4 Deildeghasts, all of them level 15.
The Zombeasts leaped out of the portals on all fours. They were huge creatures, easily the size of an armored car, and looked to be strange stitched together Frankensteinian fusions of various animals.
They were all four legged with body parts from larger animals like lions, crocodiles, hippos, and so on.
The Deildeghast spirits followed behind, smoky darkness trailing behind their wispy forms of rusted armor and bare skulls.
They carried greatswords in their hands, and though their offensive power was far weaker than what their huge swords might have suggested, they could thrust their great blades down to create [Spirit Boundaries] that would give Aldrich a huge large scale advantage throughout the battlefield.
Just four Deildeghasts were enough to give most of Aldrich's army coverage if placed evenly apart, and the obscuring smoke from these fields would also wreak confusing havoc among the fishmen ranks.
The only issue was that the Deildeghasts potentially stopped tech on the side of the heroes, but Aldrich figured he would be doing most of the heavy lifting here anyway.
On top of this, Aldrich eliminated his Evil Eyes and replaced them with two Grave Wards. One Grave Ward was on its way to monitor Blackwater for the future, while another Graveward now floated towards the battlefield to survey it closely.
This was because Aldrich had hidden his storm high up in the sky, behind natural cloud cover. He had also made the jellyfish dim down their natural bioluminescence, minimizing their presence. This had the downside of making it so that Aldrich did not have a close view of the battlefield yet, but he would get that with the Grave Ward.
What took up most of Aldrich's Outer Circle spots was this very storm; the mass network of jellyfish still floating in the sky. They numbered up a total of 150 jellyfish with the level 30 Anglerfish at their center, but it had already paid for far how many unit spots it took.
The storm alone had completely neutered the aerial forces the variants fielded, not only hamstringing the variant army but also ensuring that it had no reliable way to deal with the storm positioned so high up.
To the fishmen, it would have seemed that their storm had suddenly short circuited, blowing up in an accident to destroy their air forces before dissolving.
In reality, it was no accident, and now, the storm lay very much intentionally in position above cloud cover, ready to float down and surprise the variants to unleash heavenly devastation upon Aldrich's signal.
The storm was slow moving, however. It would take five minutes for it to get down in range to strike the ground with reliable accuracy.
Aldrich would have to time its appearance well.
With this, Aldrich's army was complete. He saw as his forces gathered fully in the park, Portal Girl appearing last out of one of her portals. The portals closed behind her, and the purple light illuminating the park faded.
Instead, the wispy smoke from the Deildeghasts now filled the air in ominous curls like the smoke before a raging fire's start. And in this case, that would be the flames of war.
"Isn't it beautiful, master?" said Valera as she hugged around Aldrich's neck, her fangs baring in excitement. "How much you have accomplished in such a short time? How many that are now within your Legion?"
"How much WE have accomplished," corrected Aldrich. "All of us. From the lowliest of skeleton to you, my most valued companion."
"Valued companion?" said Valera. "Oh, I do love hearing your praises, master." Her voice grew lower, almost a whisper. "Though I wish I was more…,"
She blushed as she put a hand on Aldrich's helmeted face.
"Do not touch me so casually, woman," said Volantis, utterly destroying the moment with zero sense of self awareness.
"Okay, now you've done it! When this is over, I'm going to be fighting you, you hear me?" said Valera as her brow twitched and a wrinkle of stress formed on her usually perfectly smooth forehead.
"I welcome the challenge," said Volantis… "There is nothing better than to feel the might of those with strong bones crashing against my steel."