Life for the average family before winter was usually spent stockpiling their larder with winter stores and preparing firewood. Herders will cull their flock, slaughtering the old and weak animals that were not expected to survive over the cold months.

And when the herders did the slaughtering, it will generally be a festival for the village or towns, as everyone will help out. The meat will be salted or smoked and portioned out to the helpers or sold to others. The children, on the other hand, will pick firewood and the last of the autumn berries and tubers while under the watch of the adults.

As for those that lived in cities, food and firewood were instead purchased from markets. The female folk will spend their time airing and mending winter clothes. Work generally slowed down due to the cold weather and shorter days. Only the mines had increased output as there generally be a larger amount of people taking up an extra job during winter.

Even for Titanna, who had servants and slaves in her Estate, experience what generally would be common for people to do during winter. Yet now her common sense was overturned again, as she looked at the sight of the bright bustling city.

Normally in winter, unless there wasn't any snow, people only venture out to the taverns for a drink to warm themselves up or get drunk. Rarely would anyone with any sense want to walk in the dark freezing cold at all!

Yet, before her very eyes, she could see drifts of white fluffy snow dropping from the heavens and the crowd of people before her, was something she could not understand. She stood under the cover of an umbrella held by Mills who was pointing out to various stalls on both sides of the street.

"Ohh," Mills exclaimed. "You need to try that! Their hot dogs are pretty good! And that! Takoyaki!"

Titanna felt overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smell. She realized that her first impression of Mills and his people was so wrong that she felt ashamed for calling them 'barbarians'. She stopped and pulled at Mills's arm, "Wait! Wait wait!"

"What's wrong?" Mills stopped in his tracks. "You want to eat something else?"

"Yes, no! I mean, no!" Titanna fumbled. "No, I want to ask, why is there a market in the middle of the street and at night when it's still snowing!"

"Oh, this is the winter festival street food!" Mills grinned. "They did this last year and it was very popular! So they organized another food festival this year too!"

"But why in the cold?" Titanna hissed in the cold.

"Well, it was to celebrate the hard times had passed, I think," Mills replied. "Anyway, come try this!"

He dragged a shivering Titanna into a large opened tent where several tables filled with patrons sat around a hot of steaming soup and plates of food. "If you're cold, you need to eat this!"

Mills sat Titanna down on an empty table and not long later, a server came over with a wide pot filled with some kind of soup that had a layer of red oil floating on top. The server activated a magic rune in the middle of the table before placing the pot on top of it.

"This is a spicy hot pot! It will warm you up!" said Mills as he took off his gloves.

Mills quickly made some orders and plates of raw meat and vegetables were carried over by a server. By that time, the soup had started to boil and Mills taught Titanna how to eat hot pot by tossing in meat and vegetables into the soup.

Her first bite of the cooked meat left her tastebuds burning from the spice, making her cough. Mills grinned and poured her a cup of mulled wine which she quickly drank and made her already flushed face redder.

"Take it slowly," Mills laughed and took some soup. "Don't rush."

Soon Titanna started to enjoy the spicy hot pot, the heat from the spices making her warm while the meat and soup filled her belly. After she was full, Titanna raised a question. "Mills, I will be returning to Orwell's Point by end of this month to take as City Governor. How about you?"

"Well, I have gotten my deployment orders too," Mills grinned mischievously. "Guess where I'm posted?"

"Where? Same as me?" Titanna asked as she eyed Mills's smile with suspicion. "Really?"

"Yup!" Mills nodded. "I am being assigned as your military liaison and advisor."

Titanna quickly hid her smile and said in an indifferent tone, "I see, I guess... We can still see each other than..."

"Ha!" Mills laughed and pour another cup of wine for Titanna. "Well, here's to our new posting! Cheers!"


UN, Orwell's Point, Marine Stronghold

Marine Captain Joseph climbed down the hatch of the FB - 1 Mariner and walked over to the waiting Jeeps. "Back to base, and call for an immediate staff meeting!"

His waiting aide nodded and used the Jeep's mounted radio and started dialing back to base while the driver started the vehicle. Within seconds, they drove away from the airstrip and into the city, heading back to the Marine Stronghold in the middle of the city.

Joseph entered the old library turned conference room of the stronghold and found all his staff had already arrived. He nodded and handed a memory stick over to his aide who plugged into the display and he started the briefing.

"Alright, we got new intel suggesting that the Imperial Army is on the march," Joseph bluntly said. "Intel has no concrete numbers as of yet but estimates it to be roughly a quarter of a million strong."

"We got time till the start of spring when the ice thaws for the Imperial Army to advance," Joseph looked at everyone in the eye. "Another thing, Intel has no idea of where they will be attacking from as they are still gathering information of their staging points and supply depots,"

"So what we can do now is to start planning and preparing for their attack," Joseph said. "And also, all local militia and volunteers are to be shipped back to Haven for training and integration to the new Self Defense Force, HQ has come up with. They will be trained in the tactics of the Marines so to easier fight alongside them."

"Once their training is over, they will return to take over the garrison of the city and defend it while we the Marines will be the mobile force," added Joseph. "So put in preparations for hand over of duties and responsibilities over to the SDF when they return."



UN, Falledge

Arven Silverhand had to endure the ear numbing roar of the helo engine for over four hours as shuttled over by helicopter rather than an airplane due to the airstrip in Falledge was barely even built.

He stepped off the sausage shaped flying contraption and several of the instructions of Camp Alpha waiting for him at the side of the landing pad. They saluted him as he approached and broke into laughter when he rolled his eyes at them.

"Congratulations!" The Lieutenant hooman called Collins said as he shook his hands. "Someone is a Captain now!"

Arven shook his head, "This promotion should be yours, you know? As CO of Third Battalion."

"Nah, I'm got assigned to the Governor of Falledge as military liaison and advisor," Collins grinned. "They want me to look after the new Governor."

"Anyway, I heard you got some militia to train here into a Self Defense Force?" Collins asked.

"Yes," Arven nodded. "We got three months to get them in shape and ready for the Empire."

Collins nodded, "Damn Blue boys, they just couldn't stop..."

"We have a lot of work to do," Collins said next. "The airbase for the Air Force has to be built quickly. The city walls need to be rebuilt and reinforced. Roads and supply depots constructed too."

"And all this to be done before spring..."


Fortress Singapore, Captain's Quarters

"We kind of settled our current money needs," Blake said to Sherene. "But that is not a stop gap measure. We need more ways to generate income."

"Well, in my time, the kingdom makes money by taxes, tolls, trades and owning gold or silver mines," Sherene replied. "Well, you don't have any nobles to draw funds from nor any mines producing gold or silver either."

"We are already doing trade but it's not very stable income," Blake said. "As for taxes, I don't want to raise it too high."

"As for gold and silver mines, we have yet to discover any gold or silver veins yet," Blake added.

"How about selling more of your tek no logee?" Sherene suggested.

"Hmmm... that is still not a long term option," Blake replied. "Maybe... maybe it's time to reopen the dungeon."

"Ooo," Sherene tilted her head. "Dungeons make good money! There also have a lot of treasures inside!"

Blake nodded, "I am thinking of unsealing the lower levels and start exploring again. Maybe we might find enough treasures in the lower levels to finance us for one or two years, or at least for this coming war."

Sherene sighed, "I hope this will be the last war we ever had to fight."

Blake shook his head, "It is impossible. Where there is greed, there will be war!"

"Oh, I also had my men transfers away from the frontlines," Blake said. "I hope you can forgive me for this."

"Silly," Sherene gave Blake a hug. "I already gave my consent didn't I?"

"Thanks!" Blake smiled. "So how is your work with City Hall?"

"Well, I'm sending teachers over to both Orwell's Point and Falledge to start providing basic classes to everyone and also building primary schools for the children," Sherene said. "Since it's winter, most people are generally freed from their usual work and chores, making it a good time for studying!"

"I also have teams of teachers traveling to the outlying farming communities and villages to teach and educate the farmers and their families," Sherene said. "Topics will include all the elementary lessons and for the farmers on the new ways to grow their crops."

"But I expect there will be some resistance from the people," Sherene gave a sigh. "It's not easy trying to convince people dead set in the old ways to change, especially when most of the people think that reading and writing is a skill for the rich."

Blake nodded, "But for the nation to prosper, education is a must!"

"Yes," said Sherene. "Yet, there will be people against it, thinking of it as a waste of time."

"Well, do what you can for everyone," Blake said. "Ensure mandatory classes for the children at least. This way, they at least have some starting knowledge."

"It will be a very tough challenge!" Sherene said while holding a fist up. "But a worthwhile challenge!"

Blake smiled at Sherene's gesture before saying in a serious tone. "I am having Chief Matt move his construction machines forward to Falledge. They will begin building a new highway that will link to the North East Highway once work has been completed on their current project."

"We will need plans for the evacuation of the cities should the Empire break past our defense lines," Blake said. "City Hall needs a plan in place for a mass evacuation and also a staging point for the evacuees."

Sherene nodded thoughtfully, "You are right, we can't leave everything to chance! I will get my people to work out the best evacuation routes for both cities."

"But, I trust that our people will successfully defend against the Empire!" Sherene said proudly.

"Of course!" Blake smiled. "Once we have intel on where the Imperial Army is staging their soldiers and supply depots. I will send bombers to hit them. I am gonna fight dirty, no point letting our people getting killed for nothing."

"I will show the Empire the might of the UN military's technology and firepower!"

A note from neo Koh

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Hmmm... recent reviews tend to say I have a slow update rate... Well I guess I need to clarify a few things
1) Im not a full time writer.
2) I have health issues and on life time medication that makes me very tired every day...
3) I have my life outside of writing too and sometimes I get stuck on writing new chapters just as how you people do get stuck in with work. (writing novels is actually very stressful at times)
4) My paid supporters could be patient and wait, so i dont understand why releasing free chapters here 5 times a week is worthly of complaints...

Anyway I hope you guys can understand and continue to support my work! Sorry I needed to rant... was quite stressed lately... seems like im gonna be jobless soon...

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neo Koh


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