A snap of a cervical vertebrae cracked loudly in the sudden silence and a limp body with an expression of surprise still on his face slumped down onto the concrete floor. Hitsu patted his uniform, dusting it as he made sure his medals were not dirtied or damaged in any way.

Cesar and the remaining two men stood rooted on the spot as they recognized the person, and the voice that spoke walked into the line of sight. "Remember I told you before that if you can't help, at least stay out of the way and not bring more troubles to everyone?"

Tyrier stood before the fear stricken men, "I told you I will kill you if you become a burden to me. And it appears that my words did not get through into your thick skulls."

"N-no, wait how did you know?" Cesar yelped in panic as his eyes widened in fear. "W-we are doing nothing!"

"Nothing?" Tyrier raised a questioning eyebrow and using the tip of his shiny boots, he toed the daggers laying on the floor. "While it might not be a crime to owe bladed weapons, but these surely are something you are planning on using on some stupid plan of yours."

"No! wait!" Cesar looked around wildly, seeing all the exits out of the alley blocked the men in the same uniform and he recognized them all! They were all the fearsome mercenaries who fought against that crazy Hero to a standstill! "I can explain!"

"It's too late for explanations," Tyrier replied, "In fact, letting you live for the past few seconds talking here is already good enough for you." Tyrier gave a gesture and three shadows darted in.

"NOO!" The terrified men yelled out, only to have their mouths covered and strong arms gripping over their necks. A sudden twist and a crack, and all three died with terror frozen in their faces.

"Damn, this sucks," Hitsu said as they laid the four bodies out in a row. "I thought we were on vacation?"

"Stop grumbling," Tyrier replied as he walked out of the alley and gestured to a black uniformed officer in the distance. "You there, you know who Lt Joseph is? Good! Tell him it's done, that's all. Thank you."

The officer nodded and tried to peek into the alley, but Altied blocked his view and smile, "Somethings is best to be arrogant of." He advised to the police officer, who gave a brief nod and left.

"Come on, let's clear the bodies and wrap it up." Tyrier said, "Tonight, Lt Joseph gonna treat us to a big meal for this shit he dropped on us!"

"HOORAAHH!" The men of Claymore One cheered as they melt into the shadows in the alley.


Far Harbour, Civic Center

Lt Joseph nodded as the police officer whispered into his ear and he thanked him, thinking that he needed to treat those Claymore One guys to a beer or something later. He knocked on the double wooden doors and pushed it open and entered into the large reception room.

Princess Sherene gave a charming smile as she saw who has entered and waved for him to take up a seat in the informal setting.

Lt Joseph glanced around the room, noting that the Islanders were all watching him and gauging him. He walked over to the refreshments table and took a cup of tea, stirring some sugar and cream in before heading over to the group seated around in a loose circle.

"This is Lieutenant Joseph Tokin," the Princess introduced them to the gathered Islanders. "He was Lord General of the Army of Goldrose."

"General," Dijon rose up and gave an Islander salute, which Joseph waved it off.

"I am no longer a Lord General," Joseph grinned, "I'm just a humble soldier now."

"I see..." Dijon nodded, "We heard about your exploits with the Hero and also your efforts in saving the freed slaves. For that we thank you."

"I'm curious, Fleet Master Dijon," Joseph said as he sat down, "Why would the Isles go into so much trouble just to save a few slaves?"

Dijon leaned back on his chair as he studied Joseph and the Princess. He steeped his fingers together, before giving a nod and bluntly said, "For manpower."

"Manpower?" Joseph looked at the Princess who also had a clueless expression on her face.

"Yes, manpower." Dijon smiled, before explaining. "Look, the Isles are just several large islands, my nation lacks the land to grow crops or even cities."

"Look at how aggressive the Empire is going. The Two Nation Alliance is what is left on the mainland, not counting you and your merry band of rebels." Dijon said, "Sooner or later, the Two Nation Alliance will fall apart, and what is left is just remnants of royalty and rebels which frankly, the Empire can just sweep everyone away once they have control of the whole mainland."

"Once they have the mainland, where do you think they will turn their eyes to next?" Dijon continued, "They will surely turn their eye on the Isles, and while we have a mighty fleet, we can't fight with a population 10 times our size!"

"That's a reason why we need more people," Dijon answered Joseph's question, "We have unsettled islands ripe for starting new towns and ports, money and transports are all not an issue. Just we lack the people to settle down."

"I see..." Joseph looked at the Princess who gave a slight nod, confirming their theory of why the Isles need the slaves.

"Well, why not we take a break for now?" Sherene stood up and smiled, "Let me show you to your rooms and let you all settle in, we meet up for dinner later?"

Dijon nodded and as he stood up, the rest of his Captains followed him and Princess Sherene led them out of the reception hall, showing them the way to their rooms while Joseph remained behind, deep in his own thoughts.


UNS Singapore, Command Bridge

"So what we suspected is true?" Captain Blake said to the image of the Princess shown on the main screen.

"Yes," The real time imagery nodded, "So far that is what they are telling us, there might be another reason they are not telling us. But it is believable so far."

Blake nodded, "How about the trade deal? Did they accept our offers?"

"They need some time to verify the quality of our goods, and also time to appraisal them," Sherene replied. "They decided to stay longer than stated before, extending it from three days to a 5 day week now or longer."

"I see," Blake scratched his chin. "We have enough supplies for them?"

"Yes," Sherene nodded, "I predicted that they might test our resources by purposely overextending their stay, so I had stockpiled enough food to last them for at least a month."

"Great thinking!" Blake smiled, and Sherene turned away from the camera blushing. "Now, must of the ex slaves appeared to want to stay than follow them to the Isles, and that will probably raise some tensions."

"Don't worry," Sherene winked, "I know how to sweeten the pot for them, so they won't make much noise over the lack of manpower to bring home."

"Haha, thank you for your hard work!" Blake replied.

"Well, you better reward me when I get back!" Sherene winked again and blew a kiss to the camera, before ending the call, much to the crew's amusement. Commander Ford laughed and winked at Blake, mimicking the Princess's actions and blew a kiss to him.

"You buggers..."


Somewhere north of the Colony

A small quake rocked from inside of a smoking mountain, radiating out to its surroundings. Creatures ran and fled as the volcano shook, its smoking peaks boiling and vomiting out magma down its slopes.

A low rumbled came from the insides of the volcano, and something stirred in the depths of the glowing red river of magma and a dark shape slowly raised out from the molten earth. It crawled out from the magma and the liquid earth cool as it hit the surrounding air, turning its body rock hard.

The creature shook its body and flakes of hardened crust broke away and it crawled its way out towards one of the many cave tunnels and before long, it emerged from the top of the volcano. The air shimmered around it and it sniffed the air, around it before spreading its wings out and sending the rest of the hardened crust breaking away from its body.

It gave a roar as it tasted the air, having slept for hundreds and hundreds of years. It was awakened by something and it stretched its serpentine body as it perched on the volcano peak. Its large yellow eyes narrowing as it spotted creatures and animals run away in fear from its appearance.

It leaped off the peak and spread its wings, allowing the hot air currents to fill its wings membrane and it glided lazily in a circle before it tilted its body down and darted down towards a wind wolf who tried to dodge to the side, but the agile dragon snapped out its claws and latched on tightly in a death grip, sinking its claws into the hide of the wolf which yelped and cried in pain.

The dragon gave off so much heat, that the wolf's hide started to char and its fur burst into flames. The wolf yelped and screamed in pain, desperately trying to escape from the claws of the dragon carrying it in the air but soon its struggles weaken, as its body boiled and cooked from the heat of the dragon.

The dragon landed on a flattish peak of a mountain and started to feast on the cooked flesh of the wolf, relishing the taste of a fresh kill, after hundreds of years of hibernation. As it finished its meal, it found a comfortable place to sleep off the meal. The dragon roared out a continuous flame, scorching the terrain around it till the rock melted and form a bowl shaped depression. Quite the ground hardened, the dragon nodded in satisfaction and curled up into the bowl and dozed off.

Simmering waves of heat could be seen rising from the body of the snoozing dragon, and none of the creatures nearby dare to return to their nests and dens, as they fled in fear of a new boss monster that appeared.


UNS Singapore, R&D Laboratory

Senior Spaceman Mason tapped some keys into the computer with the ship carpenter, Amar hovering over his shoulder. "We give it a double planked hull. Adding two straight beams called coamings that run the length of the chart house, day room, and engine hatch, and are integrated to the hull. These beams will add strength and help seal water out since they rise up from the deck. This will give us the strength without excess weight, and laminating the wood would help too."

"We have the machinery and glue to bond the wood, making it stronger," Mason added for Amar's benefit. "We can use the foam sealant that the Singapore uses to repair breaches on its hull. It is highly heat and water resistant, and we have tons of that stuff laying around."

"Fom see-land?" Amar looked confused, to which Mason ignored.

"Now that we have the design, we just need to work out the model and test it!" Mason continued. "This I need your help to make a model out for testing!"

"You hoomans are amazing," Amar peered at the screen, looking at the detailed lines of drawings and plans. "If I have no idea what is happening here, I might think you people are demons!"

"Hahaha," Mason laughed, "Your magic is just as strange to us as our technology is to you. So no complaints!"

"Talking about magic," Mason jolted up, "I think we can further strengthen the hull here with magic reinforcement runes! This way we will not need the use of steel to brace the internal bulkheads."

A note from neo Koh

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