Titanna Rothschild sat on one of the chairs by the Ballroom and stare in dumbstruck at the parties of people clearing the bodies of Knights off the carefully manicured lawn that had been destroyed by the battle.

It was not even a battle, she thought to her self. Barely a skirmish which saw the lives of over a hundred elite Knights destroyed! She knew these barbarians have powerful magic, but this was out of her expectations totally and she shivered at the fear at the thought of how they could destroy Knights and dragons in lesser time to boil water!

"Hey," Mills strolled up to her and draped his uniform over her bare shoulders. "Are you ok?"

Titanna looked up at the smiling soldier who was wearing a grey shirt smiling before her. "Is your... back alright?"

"Yea!" Mills grinned. "Just a scratch."

"I, I am sorry..." Titanna gave a low bow to Mills. "I did not expect Judis to attack you..."

"Save it, Princess!" Mills waved her apology away. "We know he is planning something, and I don't want him to hurt you accidentally too."

Titanna felt torn between duty and loyalty as she heard his words. She knew of Judis's plans but at the same time, she did not want to see this man killed. But in the end, she chooses to follow Judis, yet when Judis attacked them both, he protected her without any regard for his life.

"Take it easy," Mills gently pushed TItanna back on her seat. "You just recovered from a gunshot wound and broken arm. Even if you normally wear armor and swing a sword, you shouldn't move too much!"

Titanna nodded shyly and sat there watching the bodies of her family's Knights being carried off sadly. "What happens now? What will you all do to me and my brother?"

"Oh, we won't hurt you all," Mills replied. "After all you all still valuable guests! Hahaha!"

Titanna sighed inwardly. "Is money all you think about?"

"Money? Hahaha," Mills grinned. "Who doesn't like to be rich? Besides, its not money we are talking about here, rather, to create a peaceful and stable region here!"

"How will we be able to do that?" Titanna asked curiously. "This area was doing well, but you all came and took it over! You all started this war!"

"You sure?" Mills sat down next to Titanna. "At least half of the people here used to be enslaved by the Empire. Do you think they are happy?"

"Well, they lost and they should be happy that they were not killed!" Titanna exclaimed.

"So the winner gets to control the fates of the losers?" Mills shook his head. "You lost, so are you happy?"

"I..." Titanna closed her mouth as she couldn't argue his point.

"Look," Mills gently explained. "There are good wars and bad wars. We are fighting the good war here, trying to free people from oppression and give them their freedom back."

"Well it might sound all grand and selfless, but in actual fact, this war is a create a protective line to protect my people," Mills continued. "We know how ruthlessly the Empire can be, you especially since you are at the forefront of it all."

"Do you think that tearing families apart and selling children and women into slavery is right?" Mills asked. "Why do you think we even bothered to fight? It is to prevent people like... this, from invading our homes."

"Do you still understand what this war is all about?" Mills looked at Titanna seriously.

"This is a war to protect our families!"


UNS Singapore, Command Bridge

"Two hundred and seventy nine confirmed kills, forty six wounded on the enemy side," The image of Joseph spoke. "We got nineteen wounded, all in stable condition with Dr. Sharon's help."

"Another twenty three in custody, including, the Imperial Head Delegate, the youngest son of Rothschild and other members of the entourage," Joseph continued.

"Two of the river escorts were totally destroyed with all hands on board," Joseph added to his report. "Unconfirmed number of deaths on those two ships."

"I have men sweeping the river banks for any survivors and also having the local police sweep the city for any more infiltrators that might be lurking in the city."

"Any ideas of how they managed to escape the cordoned area and enter the city?" Blake asked.

"No Sir," Joseph replied. "But we suspect it is with the help of concealing magic and the enemy slipped in the Knights in teams from the ships into the city."

"What of the locals?" Blake asked again.

"No one is hurt but they are highly impressed by our weapons and tactics," Joseph replied. "We have several merchants wishing to acquire our 'spells' for sale and inquiry of signing on with us has gone up."

"Good, at least now, the locals know our strength," Blake grinned. "How about the prisoners?"

"We haven't started the interrogation yet, due to some... issues," Joseph said. "They need some time to recover before we can start, and also we are awaiting Intel to send someone down to do the questioning."

"But now, we at least have two high value targets in our possessions," Joseph added. "We can place more pressure on the Rothschild and prevent him from sending in more troops."

"Good work," Blake nodded. "Keep it up."

"Thank you, Sir!"

The image of Joseph flickered off and Blake turned to Commander Ford at the side. "Our foothold at the North Front is doing good now. We should be able to hold on to the resources there."

Ford nodded. "With the control of the surrounding trade, farms, and mines of the region of Orwell's Point, Haven can now direct its resources to other critical projects."

"Yes, and now with the arrival of a thousand volunteers into Frank and Pike's boot camp, we can start our next part of our plan once they are trained."


Sawtooth Mountain Pass, Hell's Gate

Ex Knight Captain Gavin stared in wonder at the tower walls and the massive groaning gate that was sliding open. He noted and was amazed by the thickness of the gate that was wider than a man could stretch out with both hands to his sides.

He remembered the week before when he had gathered with his people outside a compound at the city walls. A soldier in that strangely colored and patterned uniformed barked at them and formed them up into groups of fifty men each.

They were told that they will head off with a convoy to a place where they will learn to be soldiers, much to the annoyance of the veterans in the groups. The barbarian soldier ignored their cussing and instead told them that they will move out in two waves as there wasn't enough transport to move them all at once.

Next came as a surprise to some, as they boarded carriages that moved unnaturally fast and smooth without any dragons pulling. Others, who had experience working before with the Barbarian Lords, showed off their knowledge of these 'trucks' to the uninitiated.

Gavin was surprised and worried when they saw they were traveling into the Uncharted Forest and none of the men with him were even armed. There wasn't even a knife between them all!

But the barbarian soldiers assured them it was all fine, as the frightened men panicked at the thought of entering the Forest without any weapons.

Gavin decided to trust his instincts that Lord Joseph would not trick them and kill them. He roared out and settled the fears of the men in his vehicle while keeping his own fears down.

The winding dirt road that they traveled on was well trampled by the constant transports ferrying materials back and fore between the two cities. They traveled with only a single attack from a pack of owlbears that were taken care of faster than one would reload a crossbow, must to Gavin's surprise at the weapons and magic these barbarian soldiers wield.

It was the first time he has seen their weapons and magic in action and he admitted if he has an army of soldiers trained this way, what Lord Joseph said of his skill with 'cold steel' weapons were completely useless with this form of warfare!

Feeling excited from the prospect of learning these new weapons and magic, Gavin greatly looked forward to reaching the end of his destination.

They traveled in the Forest for almost four days before they reach a large camp where they saw hundreds of workers clearing the Forest and laying a road that was large enough to have four of the trucks they were traveling on to move side by side.

Once they moved onto the roads, the speed of their convoy picked up and the men were further amazed by how much faster and smoother the ride was once they were on a proper road.

Barely a day passed and they reached the chain of mountains and appeared before this Pass that was guarded by a massive gate.

They had a quick meal and relieved themselves before they were loaded up into another vehicle that looked different from the one they were traveling in. The new vehicles took them to another place and as they exited the vehicle, they saw several soldiers before them.

"I am 2nd Lieutenant Arven! Welcome to Camp Alpha!" The leading soldier said. "Before you, there are yellow lines drawn on the ground. Each of you is to form up in ranks before them! MOVE!"

Gavin looked around and spotted the neatly drawn yellow lines on the ground and he stood before one, while the others slowly formed up one by one.

LT Arven shooked his head at the sluggish movements of the new recruits and he sighed dramatically. "Hello! My grandma can move faster than you!"

"Nevermind, the whole lot, push up position now!" Arven roared and gestured to his men side him. "If you don't understand, follow the instructors!"

Gavin was confused but seeing some of the soldiers performing the action, he followed.

Soon the whole group on down and grunting in effort to keep in a push up position. Some dropped down to their knees only to get hit by a drill baton, forcing them back to position.

"Now, I am not a cruel man," LT Arven walked down the lines of the grunting recruits. "I am here to train you into an instrument of death! But before that, you are the lowest life form on this world! YOU ARE MAGGOTS!"

"The first word and last word out of your mouths will be Sir," Arven continued. "Is that clear?"

"Huh?" Arven put a hand by his ear and asked. "I CAN'T FARKING HEAR YOU?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Sir yes!"



"Good! You worms are learning!" Arven grinned. "You? What are you doing?"

"SIR!" Gavin pushed himself up and rubbed his tired hands. "I am a Knight Captain! This kind of treatment belittles my rank!"

"Oooo..." Arven walked up before Gavin and sneered. "We got ourselves a Knight Captain!"

"What is your name?" Arven asked gently.

"Knight Captain Gavin of Blackvale!" Gavin proudly stated his lineage. "I am here to learn the ways of war with the blessing of your Lord Joseph!"

"I see," Arven nodded and suddenly jabbed his shock baton onto the meaty portion of Gavin's back, shocking him. "YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A RECRUIT NOW!"

"You wanna learn the ways of war of us Marines?" Arven roared. "Than you better follow the rules of our beloved Marine Corps!"

"All of you will address yourselves as Recruit from now onwards till you pass out from Boot Camp!" Arven ignored the spasming Gavin on the floor and started to explain to the crowd of trembling recruits.

"What is your name, recruit?" Arven crouched down next to Gavin and asked.

"Sir, Recruit Gavin, sir!" Gavin gritted his teeth in pain.



A note from neo Koh

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