Aldrich shook his head, though he did very slightly smile behind his helmet. "Cut it out, you two. It's time we get serious."
"There is never a moment I take lightly," stated Volantis.
"And the same is true for me!" said Valera as he turned her face up, not wanting to be outdone. "Whenever my master needs me to fight or to lead, I will always be ready to serve!"
"Look at that, something you two have in common," said Aldrich. He flapped his draconic wings and landed at the center of his undead. Valera detached from him and stood beside him. Her armor materialized, and this time, it was different.
She did not wear her usual heavy set of black armor and thick bone plates with its massive shoulder pauldrons and bulky bucket-like helmet. Instead, she more a sleeker armor. Still a thorough full body armor, but one that clung tighter to her body, showing the outline of her curves.
This armor set completely abandoned the image of a sturdy and knightly defender that her previous set bore.
The metal work of this new set was crude and brutal, with warped spikes jutting from the many black metal segments that built it up. A tattered dark red cloak extended behind her back - the cloak of a knight who had long since abandoned any pretense of keeping up a pristine image, descending into feral hunger where all that mattered was the fight.
Valera's helmet grew around her, emerging from metal segments around her neck that clicked as they formed over her face. The segments combined together to create the visage of a savage wolf with bloody red eye slits and an open mouth studded with glowing red spikes that acted as teeth.
This was the [Mark of the Beast (Hound) Set].
[Mark of the Beast] armor sets were said to be crafted by a legendary demon blacksmith who reveled in madness of all kinds. He was one of the favored smiths of Carnassus, the demon god of war, and his sets reflected the pure savage brutality that the war god loved.
Each of the sets were formed in the image of fierce animals, and all of them were utterly suited towards melee fighters who focused on raw, bloody offense.
In particular, Berserkers like Valera held top compatibility with these armors. Out there, in a warzone free for all, she could make the best use of her monstrous physical stats as a bloody fighter, not as a defender.
"You look good," said Aldrich. "I look forward to seeing you fight in that."
"Oh, if you look at my body like that, master, I do not know what I will do…," Valera licked her lips under her helmet. "I promise you, master, I will bring you no less than a hundred spines as a token of my appreciation for you."
"…I appreciate the thought but hold off on the spines for a bit. It doesn't look great on camera to be waving them around," said Aldrich. Spines were not the first thing that popped into his head when he thought about a gift, but if that was what got Valera going, then all the power to her.
Plus, in the end, Aldrich appreciated the thought behind it.
"As for the rest of you, my Legion-," began Aldrich. "Thank you for gathering here."
All of his undead showed their respects to him. The humanoid undead bowed their heads. The knights and Chiros knelt down. The four legged monsters like the natural variants and the Zombeasts laid down low and growled or grunted in recognition. The Deathwheel tilted and chattered its teeth.
"Geh! Geh! (So many new friends!)" said the Geist as it hopped up and down, waving its huge club of cursed black rock like a toy.
"Don't get to attached to em,'" said Stella as she stood beside the Geist with arms crossed. "Large scale battle like this, you have no idea who lives and who dies."
"She's right," said Aldrich. He looked around to all his undead. Countless incredibly different pairs of eyes stared at him. Some were human. Some were slit pupiled. Some were blank. Some were red, some yellow, some green. "Out there, in that chaos, there is no guarantee I can protect all of you."
"Geh…," said the Geist sadly.
"That said, so long as of you are completely destroyed, I can regenerate you with my [Mist of Undeath]," said Aldrich. "And all of you are no longer weak mortals of flesh and blood where a lost organ or limb holds you back.
No, you are Undead.
You will never tire.
You will never fear.
So fight. Fight knowing that no longer are you restrained by your mortal coils."
A rousing energy spread throughout the legion as Aldrich's words reached them.
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Eileen said suddenly. Her sudden outburst made all of the undead turn to her, growing quiet as they waited to see what she had to say.
"Wh-what?" said Eileen shyly as she saw so many eyes on her. "Did I do something wrong…?"
"No, go ahead," said Aldrich. "What did you need to say?"
Aldrich's words gave her confidence, and Eileen said, "I almost forgot to bring these over. The technos said they would take a bit of time to get ready, but I figure they're done now."
She clapped her hands together, and another portal formed in front of her. A smaller one, this time, half the size of her usual.
From there, several dozen drones zipped out one by one like a flock of mechanical birds, hovering in the air in a V-formation above the legion.
None of the drones were outfitted with weapons. No, instead, they bore large camera lenses. In a way, perhaps that was a weapon far greater than any gun. The weapon of image. Especially in this day and age where news cycles and social media dominated what everyone saw.
The drones were roughly covered in metal plating - the handiwork of Spybird doing modifications within the hour. The work seemed amateurish with large bolts screwing down roughly hammered-into-shape metal plates, but somehow, it just worked.
"Excellent work, Portal Girl," said Aldrich as he stared up at the fleet of drones. Each was about the size of a motorcycle, and a fleet of them could get decent coverage over the battlefield. "You've done great so far."
"Th-thanks…," said Eileen shyly.
"Your duty is not done yet," said Valera as she crossed her arms. "To warp all of us in the master at the battlefield itself, at the very right moment: now that is your greatest task. I will be looking carefully to see whether you are capable of pulling your weight within this legion."
"I won't disappoint!" Eileen said with pep, putting a fist over her chest.
"Hm. It seems you do have potential after all," said Valera as she turned away from her. "I can admire it."
Eileen watched Valera's back, disappointed she could barely impress the knightly woman. Stella came up to Eileen and playfully punched the younger woman's shoulder.
"Don't take anything she does too personally," said Stella. "She's just strict. And real jealous. But deep down, she does care about you. About all of us."
"Jealous…?" Portal Girl stared at Valera, then at Aldrich, then back at Valera. She saw Valera's eyes flash with pure passion and desire behind the jaws of her helmet. Meanwhile, Aldrich stared out at his undead, oblivious or perhaps not giving much thought to it for now. "O-oh, right, how could I have not seen it!"
"You're that dense?" Stella raised a brow and shrugged. "Guess you're still young. But yeah, that's how it is."
"Are they, uh, official?" said Portal Girl.
"Dunno. But they might as well be," said Stella. She looked down to see Portal Girl's hand trembling. "But that's not all that important right now." Stella patted Portal Girl's shoulder comfortingly. "C'mon, you're nervous. I'll tell you about one thing that really calms me down in situations like this."
"Thanks," said Portal Girl. "I've never been in a really big battle before…so any tips you can give, I'd appreciate."
"Yeah? Then here's this. When you step out there, just focus on the big freaking explosions. Those are sure to keep you excited. Just the way they crash and light up and roast everything around em'…," Stella continued, smiling near manically as she absorbed herself into thinking about the explosions she would make.
All the while, Portal Girl just nodded uncomfortably at Stella, wondering whether everyone in this Legion had a screw loose in them.