Camp Alpha, Training Room 5

"Alright boys, we are so gonna have some fun today!" Master Sergeant Pike stood before a gathered platoon. "Lately, it seems that you boys have gained some weight?"

"Nooo!" The platoon moaned in dismay.

"Top! I'm still a growing up!"
"We have been working out in the gym!"
"Orcs good, no fats, much muscles!"

"Wadever~" Pike waved away their complaints. "FULL BATTLE ORDER NOW!"

The platoon had a look of horror and they quickly sprinted off to their barracks to grab their gear.

"10... 20... 30..." Pike looked at his wristwatch while counting numbers. "40... 50... 60..."

The men re-gathered and formed up in lines, each wearing his helmet, webbing, field pack, and weapon. "Top! Platoon ready for inspection!"

"Hmmm... you guys took 3 mins and 40 seconds to form up," Pike frowned, "Never mind, give me a hundred."

The whole platoon looked aghast and they dropped down to a push-up position. "One... two..."

"One... hundred!" By the time they finished with a hundred push-ups, their arms were trembling and sweat plastered their uniforms to their backs.

"On your feet!" Pike roared. "Today we are going to play with a new training toy! And that toy is inside this Training Room 5! Now section by section move in!"

The men wearily formed up and entered the large structure, despite being called a Training Room, its size was more like an aircraft hangar. A running track greeted the men, with obstacles along the tracks way. Slopes, monkey bars, water pits, rope ladders and many more were laid out at intervals. There was a magic formation drawn up in the middle of the circular track and also one on the roof where lamps hang.

"Okay, boys!" Pike rubbed his hands together gleefully, "You guys are the lucky ones to test out this new obstacle course! Do you see those two magic formations? Those are gravity spells! It will increase the gravity in this area by 1.5 times!"

"REJOICE! For I am joining you for a nice little run around this course!"



UNS Singapore, Command Bridge

Captain Blake strolled in through the armored hatch, nodding at the two saluting Marines, "How's the forest fire doing?"

"Captain," Ford greeted Blake and gestured to the tactical plot table. "The fire is spreading southwards at a rate of roughly 400 meters per hour, that is if there are no wind conditions affecting the fire's spread."

Blake nodded, "So the Hydro Dam should be safe?"

"Yes Sir," Ford replied, "The fire should die out before it comes within 50 km of the dam. But just to be safe, we are planning on making fire breaks 15 km out from the Dam."

"City Hall has also dispatched some firefighters over to the Dam," Ford said, "We also deployed some Marines over to support them should they need the manpower."

"The firefighters will be deploying water pumps, drawing water from the Dam, and spray around the surrounding forest, to help moist the area," Ford continued, "Not to mention, the hot air and water vapor released by the fires will condense into clouds that can cause rain or lightning."

"The rains might not douse the fires but this will increase the humidity around the area," Ford added, "This will slow down the rate of the fire spreading."

"How about the creatures and monsters in the forest?" Blake asked, "They should be escaping the fires right?"

"Yes Sir," Ford tapped at the tactical map, "Major Frank has raised the security alert to Orange, and all our outposts along the Northen sector are on heightened alert. Luckily the farms along our Northen sector has completed their harvest, so most of the workers have returned to the city or moved to other farms. Livestock is also being relocated to the Eastern Sector Pastures just in case."

"Alert the Militia too," Blake rubbed his chin, "Make sure our infrastructures are not damaged by the escaping monsters. See if we can channel the animals and monsters away."

"Got it, Cap," Ford nodded, "I will talk with Tactics."


Northern Forest

The lead female wind wolf panted and heaved, the little ones on clinging tightly on her back, their claws and tiny needle-sharp teeth prickling her back as they held on to their dear life of their mother as she dashed through the thick trees rapidly.

She leaped up over a massive tree root in front of her path and something slammed against her, sending her flopping back with a surprised yelp. The four pups on her back cried out in fear and fell off, rolling around the forest floor like giants balls of fluffy cotton.

The other female stopped and let out a low growl, staring at the large shadow that appeared from behind the tree. A bronze boa hissed and slithered down, its glassy eyes staring at the yummy meals rolling on the forest floor whimpering in panic.

The mother wolf snarled and charged, her motherly instincts coming into play as she threw herself forward to protect her babies.

The giant boa dismissively flicked its long muscular tail, slapping away the female wolf with ease, sending her flying backward and coughing blood. The pups yelped in fear and tried to scramble away as the boa hissed happily at its tiny prey.

The other female wolf, leaped forward, planting both its clawed front paws directly on the crown of the giant snake, smashing its head down with her full body weight against the forest floor. The three pups on her back bit and scratched harder on her back as they held on to their dear life, screaming in fear.

The Boa flipped and snaked, hissing in anger as it turned its attention to the other wolf. A dribble of blood flowed out from a broken scale on its head and it darted forward, trying to sink its fangs on the wolf who nimbly dodged out of its striking range.

The attack and distraction had bought enough time for the fallen pups to climb back onto their mother, which was badly wounded. She licked her pups and nudged them up her back, and turned to face the giant rampaging snake together with her sister.


UNS Singapore, Captain's Quarters

A Marine knocked on the door to Blake's office and saluted, "Captain, the prisoner is here."

Blake looked up from his paperwork and nodded, "Bring her in."

The Marine pushed the door wide open and a girl in rattling chains was lead in with another Marine escort. "Sit!"

Blake observed the fidgety looking girl dressed in a one piece orange prison wear. An antimagic collar was secured to her neck and both her hands were handcuffed together with a long thin chain that linked to the cuffs on both her legs.

The two Marines stood expressionless with their arms behind their backs at parade rest, next to the seated girl. Their eyes staring at a space on the bulkhead behind Blake.

Blake tapped his stylus pen against his table as he watched the clearly distressed girl. He let the silence drag for minutes before he brought up her dossier from the computer on his desk. "Elizabeth Regnar, seventeen years old, and already a Fifth Circle Mage, specializing in non elemental magic." He spoke in fluent Common Tongue.

"Tell me Liz," Blake asked, "Can I call you Liz?"

The girl nodded timidly, keeping her head down and not daring to meet his eyes.

"What is your plans for the future?" Blake continued, "What are your goals?"

Liz kept quiet as she continued to keep her head bowed.

Blake gave a shrug and said, "Well, I have a few choices here for you, I can let you go free, but you might turn around and bite me later."

"So it seemed better to have you executed and just dump your body in the forest and feed the monsters, and no one is wiser," Blake said coldly. "Alternatively, you pledge your allegiance to me, and you get to keep your life, and still have a future for your plans and goals."

"So what will it be?" Blake asked, "Feed the monsters or work for me?"

"I... I..." Liz gripped the hem of her dress tightly as she didn't know what to do. The haughtiness and pride were all gone in her. The defeat and subsequence imprisonment had drained her mentally and for the first time in her life, she felt weak and powerless.

Ever since she was a child and manifested her first magic circle at a young age of ten, everyone around her praised and called her a child prodigy. Her family was instantly famous as countless rich and powerful families had extended multiple invitations to work with her family, and countless marriage proposals were offered to her, some even from members of the royal court in the Capital!

She was enrolled in the most prestigious Royal School of Magic in the Capital when she turned twelve and after five years of studies, she graduated as an honor student and a Fifth Circle Mage! Yet now, she was defeated, weak, powerless and even captured.

Liz sat with her head lowered as she slumped her shoulders in shame and defeat. Is dead better than dishonor? Or pride? Should she die when she hasn't even reached the prime of her life?

The tapping sound from the pen made by the demon kept her on edge. She gritted her teeth and finally muttered, "I... I... choose... to serve... you..."

"Huh?" Blake blinked his eyes as he pretended not to hear her response, "What did you say?"

"I said... I choose to serve you!" Liz looked up angrily with shame and tears in her eyes. "I pledge my soul to you! Isn't that what you want?"

"Well, if you are willing to work for me then sure," Blake smiled, "But I don't need your soul."

Liz looked surprised, "But you are... de..."

"Demons?" Blake gave a bark of laughter, mirth in his eyes. "Seriously?" He looked at the two Marines and grinned. "So you are saying they sold their souls to me?" He gestured to the stock still expressionless Marines beside her.

Liz turned and looked at the Marines at her side and felt a chill down her spine at the way they stood still and without expression, like being soulless! She shivered and timidly nodded, "Everyone says the rebels sold their souls to demons and..." She stared at Blake's short and rounded ears.

"Hahahaha," Blake shooked his head, "Well, don't worry about that. But there are some terms and conditions I will lay down first."

"You have to take a binding blood oath and obey the laws and regulations everyone here follows," Blake spoke seriously, "There are people who do not trust you, and frankly so do I. Until you prove your worth and trustworthiness, then I will release you from the blood oath or after a period of 5 years."

"5 years?" Liz looked surprised, "You mean you will release me from my oath after 5 years?"

"Yes, after that it is up to you if you want to continue working for me or leave," Blake explained, "But for the next 5 years, you have to work and live here unless you are assigned to another location."

"I will put your abilities to the best use, but most likely you will be assigned to the Academy for the time being," Blake said. "You will be paid a retainer fee and assigned a government housing. Other than not breaking the law, and doing what work you are assigned to, you are generally free to live your life anyway as you want to."

"Is this real? I even get paid?" Liz looked at Blake suspiciously, "It is not some trick to lower my guard and you eat my soul?"

"I am serious, and no we do not eat nor need souls" Blake solemnly replied, "Now, I will have someone do up a contract and let you read through it and of course, you can change your mind anytime, before your blood oath. Well if you do~" Blake ran his thumb against his throat and gave an evil smile.

Liz nodded rapidly in understanding. "Good," Blake grinned, "Bring her out and assign her some basic accommodations first," Blake told the Marines who gestured to Liz to get up.

"Bring in the next prisoner."

A note from neo Koh

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