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13km offshore from Far Harbor

Snow constantly drifted down from the downcast skies, turning visibility low. The barge rumbled as it plowed through the windswept waves, relying on a very basic beacon system and radar to navigate the seas.

A beam of light flashed through the snow and suddenly a large shadow loomed out. The pilot of the barge lowered the speed of the boat and aimed the bow of his boat at the lights.

As the barge came closer to the lights, the shadow turned out to be an island with a simple wooden light tower. The pilot docked the boat next to the floating dock made out of airtight barrels, planks, and reinforced with steel scaffolding.

Secured next to the floating dock was a larger floating platform with dozens of crates stacked together and workers wearing bright orange life vests, waiting for the barge to be tired up and secured.

A load of miners disembarked from the barge and the rest waiting at the floating platform started to load the crates of energy stones onboard carefully in the wet docks.

The newly arrived miners went up to a tent with one side exposed to the elements where a foreman sat with a table. The foreman looked up at the new arrivals and gave out orders and punch cards, directing them to a supervisor who will look after them.

The miners following the supervisor enter the wilted jungle. The cold had killed most of the floral on the island and the snow left a coat of white over the frozen vines and broken trees.

The supervisor started to assign duties to the miners, teaching them how to carefully dig the clear luminous crystals out of the ground. Dozens of patches of freshly dug and covered soil littered all over the area, while those crystals yet to be dug out were mapped out with white and red striped tapes.

The energy stones grew as deep as 9 meters underground. Those crystals not yet fully developed had an umbilical cord like organ that attached to it. Those crystals were not to be touched and were cordoned off with red tape.

Dr. Sharon and Magister Thorn theorized that Island Whales created these crystals to store energy over winter and also for long distance migration. They could only guess as they have no concrete evidence or other proof to why the Island Whales produces these energy stones.

The miners upon extracting the crystals stored them into wooden crates where another group of workers will ferry them down to the shore to be loaded onto the barges.

As the men worked, the Island Whales hibernated in the cold, their heads and flippers motionless as they dreamt what Island Whales dreamt.

-----

UNS Singapore, Conference Room

"So, for this Operation Freedom," Major Frank patted the folder of documents in his hand. "You are proposing to airdrop in a battalion of Marines to capture Orwell's Point?"

"Yes, Sir," Intelligence Officer Tavor replied politely.

"With no other support?" Frank's eyes narrow as he dropped the folder down on the table. "No UAV, no air, nor artillery or even any chance of reinforcements?"

"Sir, there is no way any of our land vehicles can drive all the way from here to Orwell's Point in that kind of terrain," Tavor pointed out to the map where the whole stretch of the Uncharted Forest that lay between the two cities.

"Even if we force our way through the forest, it will take a week or two for the entire convoy to hit Orwell's Point," Tavor explained. "The whole operation cost, time, and resources will not be worth the effort."

"So you are proposing an airdrop?" Commander Ford, cut in before Major Frank can retort. "Why?"

"First, we have the new FB - 1 Mariner which with extended fuel tanks, can each drop off a platoon of Marines," Tavor said. "With the Air Force now processing five of these planes, we can effectively airdrop in a company and enough supplies to support the company of Marines on the field."

"Secondly, the one way trip by air takes only six hours, compared to the one to two weeks over land," Tavor continued. "If we removed all the unnecessary equipment and armor, we can extend the range of the Mariners further."

"With the planes doing four round trips, within 24 hours, we can have a full battalion and enough supplies for them attack Orwell's Point." Tavor finished.

"Yes, but the whole point of this Op is to rescue the slaves?" Frank said. "How are we gonna do that without any vehicles!"

"That brings me to the second part of the Op," Tavor smiled. "We hold the city, and since the city is right next to an inland sea, we can land our Mariners there."

"We let the slave ships in and we ambush them," Tavor continued. "And at the same time, the Mariners will do constant trips to pick up the slaves and also drop off supplies and reinforcements."

"At the end of the day, Orwell's Point will become a territory of the UNM!"

-----

After the meeting had dispersed, Ford stayed back with Blake in the room. "So what do you think of the chances of this operation?" Blake asked.

"Frankly, I am quite optimistic about our success," Ford admitted. "Tavor is turning out to be quite the Intel Officer."

Blake nodded, "I am only worried that the enemy spots them before the whole battalion has dropped in."

Ford gave a shrug, "Well, they just have to drop off somewhere less visible then."

"Hmmm, maybe we should start laying plans for a highway to Orwell's Point," Blake said. "If we are gonna hold that city, it will be good to have a direct road to it, rather than constantly relying on airdrop supplies."

"It will also help with the development of the city in the long run," Blake continued. "But the issue would be the Forest itself, I am afraid it will not be so easy to construct a highway there due to the monsters."

"True, the creatures in the Forest are no joke," Ford stated. "And we can't afford to commit so much of our troops to guard the highway either."

"Alright, let me think about it first," Blake said. "So how's the Island Whales or turtles doing?"

"They appeared to have gone into hibernation," Ford answered. "They are just sleeping there while we mine the crystals on their backs."

"So far, there aren't any incidents happening," Ford said. "We did not touch any of those still growing crystals and also we harvest only two thirds of the crystals to prevent any harm to the creatures, in case the depletion of the crystals will affect their health in some way."

"Good, keep me posted should anything happens," Blake replied.

"Well, the other thing is Ordnance had come up with a simple depth charge device," Ford grinned. "They should be testing it out within a week or two."

-----

Draco Air Base, Commandant's Office

Commander Tommy rubbed his tired eyes as he stared at the computer display screen continuously for several hours. He yawned as he stood up and stretched, and looked at the drawings of the helicopter designed he came up with,

He had come out with a design powered by a twin turboshaft engine, with four-blade main and tail rotors. It can be used in both utility or combat roles and it will greatly improve their air power and reach once it is in production.

Now, he just needs to get this over to Special Projects and get them to fabricate it out.

-----

The Academy of Science and Magic

Liz hugged several folders of papers and books against her chest and she entered the class of 2E1. The class stood up as one and greeted her before they sat down. Liz smiled as she looked at the children just a few years younger than her and felt a sense of achievement.

I guess being a teacher has its moments, she thought to herself as she wrote on the chalkboard. "Advance Magic Theory"

Initially, she was shy when she first teaching the class alone, the students seemed uninterested in her classes as they view her age to be too young to be even knowledgable in magic.

Yet, one time, there was a live demonstration of magic casting, she shocked her class with her spells, which turned the once defiant class to admiration. After that incident, her class became very attentive and even active in asking her questions both about magic and even personnel.

At first, she felt swamped by the attention. She used to be the focus of envy by many of her peers but they did that at a distance. Her students most likely did not know of her status and past, chatted with her with innocent which slowly, she got used to it.

"As all of you know, magic came into existence by the grace given to us by the Gods, many many many years ago," Liz said. "But as the Gods disappeared, the gift was still within us, but it has weakened till the point that not every one of us is born with the aptitude for magic."

"Some of you have more mana capacity, while others just a tiny grain in their bodies," Liz continued. "But even with a large capacity of mana, you need to know how to form the magic."

She raised her right hand up and a flicker of flames appeared, "A level 0 spell, which almost everyone can do is easy to form as long you understand what you want it to do, in this case a fire."

"But what if you want to cast a different fire spell?" Liz asked, "This is where visualization works."

"You imagine what you want, and focus your magic and the spell chant to create that spell," Liz explained. "Just blindly chanting a spell will not allow you to draw out the full power of that spell."

"That is why so many mages venture fore on adventures to learn and experience the dangerous out in the world, as seeing new things and wonders help a mage to better visualize his or her spells." Liz smiled as she gave a wave of her hand and the flame turned into a soaring wyvern before vanishing.

"What I just did was the same level 0 spell but I visualized it as a wyvern," Liz explained. "Magic is not dead, you just have to learn how to properly control and weld the mana inside you."

As her ability to control mana was top notched, that was why she could cast multiple magic missiles easily.

The students in her class went oooh when they saw her skillful manipulation of mana. "Teacher Liz, did you travel on adventures too?"

Hearing that question, Liz felt a pain in her chest as she remembered her party with the Hero. Even the death of Stab hit her hard despite the two of them never seeing eye to eye and always arguing.

And now what was left of the party was only Evelyn who had her soul damaged allegedly by the Hero himself! She doesn't know who to trust on the matters of the Hero and the strange hoomans isn't really helping much.

She looked at the hopeful eyes of her students and sighed inwardly before answering, "Yes, I traveled for a bit as an adventurer."

"Tell us some stories!" The class erupted excitedly at the news that their teacher used to be an Adventurer. Most students dreamt of growing up to become one or a dragon flyer!

"Well, I can, but after this, I want all of you to promise me to practice hard on your mana control, ok?" Liz tried to be stern.

The class laughed and agreed while Liz shooked her head and starting telling them of a Quest she did with the Hero, except she omitted out the Hero.

She looked at the innocence of the children who listened with rapt attention to her story and started to question the things she has done in the past.

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Feel like taking medical leave from work n sleep at home....


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