The Isles, Port Sanctuary, United Nations Embassy, Conference Room

The room was crowded yet quiet as a heavy atmosphere shrouded the occupants inside the conference. Commander Ford remained standing as he finished his presentation to all that was present which included a delegation from the Isles.

Second Fleet Master Megan crossed her long slender legs and cast her cat eyes on Ford. She pursed her lips and asked, "Is this information reliable?"

Commander Ford glanced at her and nodded, "Yes, this information is collected from both our libraries and from your records."

"So you are saying that whoever that took Third Fleet Master Dijon and your... Princess," Megan tapped a finger against the side of her cheeks. "Are coming from beyond the End Zone?"

"Yes, and that area is referred to as the Sea of Clouds by them," Ford replied. "And that land there is where your ancestors came from."

"So, this means rescue is impossible then?" Megan said. "No ships have ever returned nor crossed that zone... ever!"

"And from those survivors who came in that flying ship of theirs..." Megan shook her head. "It took them more than a month or so of wandering inside!"

"With no directions or any idea of any dangers," Megan added. "How can we be sure we can make the crossing or if whether those that captured Dijon or your Princess will even make it?"

"As I have said," Ford interrupted Megan. "We have a tracker on the Princess... We can use it to trace her location, including that of Fleet Master Dijon!"

Megan shook her head again. "No... this is too risky! I will not send my men to their deaths in a wild dragon chase!"

Ford cast a look at Blake who remained quietly seated on his chair, "If that is the case then we will ask for volunteers among Fleet Master Dijon's people..."

"No!" Megan banged the table. "We might be allies but that is overstepping your boundaries!"

Ford gave a shrug, "We are recruiting adventurers and volunteers. Your people are free men, they can choose what they wish to do and this is not against our alliance nor boundaries!"

Megan narrowed her eyes in anger and hissed, "If you wish to do that... then go ahead! But expect no help from our side! We will not waste any lives in a futile pursuit of chasing death!"

With that said, she stood up and stomped off the conference room in a huff with the rest of the Isles' delegations and escorts hurrying after her.

Ford sighed and sat down on the table next to Blake. "Guess they aren't so keen on saving Dijon eh?"

Blake leaned forward with his hands crossed over his lips. "Still what she said made sense..."

"Currently, even with our tech, we might not stand a chance at crossing the End Zone either..." Blake stated. "If the words from their records are correct, we need ships that could weather typhoons and giant waves of over 20 meters."

"Our current aircraft might not even be able to cross the area too..." Blake sighed deeply. "But if they can cross that area... We should be able too!"

"Did the survivors talk on how to operate that flying ship of theirs?" Blake asked.

"The Chief has his team working over every inch of the ship," Ford said. "So far he thinks it similar to our lighter than air tech on Earth, except he is not sure what they use to provide lift. He did found some strange crystals that are not mana stones, so he dumped them to Dr. Sharon to take a look."

Blake shook his head, "You guys do know that Dr. Sharon graduated from medical school and isn't a scientist right?"

Ford gave a helpless shrug, "She's the only one we have that has some kind of science background among us."

Blake shook his head again, "I need to give her some kind of reward for doing extra work..."

"Good idea. Anyway, Chief Matt's team also seemed to be using some kind of steam boiler or engine as some kind of power generating device," Ford cleared his throat as he continued. "Concept wise, it is similar to what we know, but the way they build their steam boilers is making Chief Matt's team go nuts."

"Chief Matt thinks its a fusion of magic and technology that is why their technology appears to be evolved in a different way compared to ours," Ford added. "But I think after today's fiasco with Fleet Master Megan, I think they will want to take possession over the wreck..."

"Delay her as long as you could till we learn all we can from the wreck," Blake replied. "I want all our best minds working on a solution that could allow either a ship or plane to travel across the End Zone safely."

"Yes, Sir," Ford paused as he was about to leave the room. "Cap... You should get some sleep and drink less... You can't keep this up forever..."

"Later..." Blake waved Ford's concerns off and once the door was closed. Blake took out a flask of distilled cococane spirits and drank it all in a single go. "I will..."


The Isles, Port Sanctuary, United Nation Naval Base, Worker Dorms

Claire stood at the grated windows, looking out to the scenery of beaches and blue seas but she did not have the mood to admire the beauty. She was locked up in this sparsely furnished room that consisted of a double decked bed and a small cubicle that she could shower standing up and also served as an indoor latrine which was she taught the usage by a female when she was first locked in the room.

To her surprise, she was fed three times a day, and even given a change of clothes. She ate her meals on one of the two sets of tables and chairs in the small room. She spent her time looking out of the window and once a day she was given one hour at the beach for her to exercise.

She was so lonely and bored for someone to talk to that she looked forward to the jailers that come once a day to speak with her. They spoke in a strange tongue but they always have picture books that they used to communicate with Claire.

But each time she tried to find out about the condition of her friends and the Professor, she was only met with shaking heads. Today she sat impatiently for her jailers to appear, glancing towards the locked door every now and then.

Finally, she heard the sound of footsteps and she quickly stood up eagerly and waited for her door to be unlocked. The door unlocked and to her surprise, instead of the usual couple, this time it was some different people.

They gestured her exit the room and placed some kind of metal restraints on her hands before leading her out of the mansion. She was placed in a strange wagon that seemed to be run by magic and traveled smoothly and at speeds faster than a steam wagon!

Claire looked around her surroundings curiously, seeing strange grey colored boxy mansions before she was ushered into one of the same looking mansion. She saw strange colored runes drawn on the side of the whitewashed walls and after climbing a few flights of stairs, she was shown into a large room that had a single long table with soft looking chairs surrounding it.

Her escorts took up position next to the double doors and stood there like statues while she took a seat and wondered nervously of her coming fate. The door suddenly swung open and the guards at the door came to attention as a tall gaunt looking male with white in his hair entered with a limp.

He looked unkempt, with a day or two worth of stumble on his chin while his uniform looking like clothing was crumpled and wrinkled. Dark circles ringed his bloodshot eyes as he looked straight at her. The most striking feature of the newcomer was his ears like those Claire has seen when she first woke up. It was short and rounded, unlike hers and the guards' ears which was long and pointed.

The male sat down and took out a shiny silver flask which he took a gulp out of it and Claire could smell a whiff of alcohol. He kept the flask before turning to look at Claire, making her swallow her saliva nervously.

"Your name is Clai-ee?" The male spoke in a rough voice as he took out a strange flat object with a glowing surface. "You said you come from Iron Country?"

Claire nodded, finding the manner of speech from the man strange. "Y- Yes! I come from the city of Ashmere! I am a citizen of the Iron Kingdom not Iron Country... And I am a student from the Arcanium of Steamworks and Magic!"

The man frowned as he tilted his head to one side as if he was confused with her words. She noticed something attached to his ear that had a blue light blinking constantly making her stare at his ear in confusion.

"Speak slower..." The man said as he tapped on the flat glowing object. "Iron... Kingdom... Yes? A disciple?"

Claire nodded. "Student... not disciple!"

"Tell me more about this Iron Kingdom?" The man asked as he took out his flask again and took a drink. "How great is it?"

"Great?" Claire nervously replied. "Eh... Yes... it is one of the seven great Kingdoms of the Old World!"

"No... not great..." The man scratched his ear before saying and gesturing with his hands, "Large?"

"You mean how big?" Claire asked. "I do not know how to explain..."

"But it has many big cities..." Claire added.

"How many cities?" The man asked again. "Many people?"

"Sixteen cities and thirty two towns..." Claire replied. "Many many people!"

The man nodded and he tapped on the glowing surface of the object on the table. Claire leaned forward to take a closer look, but she couldn't understand what kind of magic artifact was it.

"Fighter?" The man asked again. "Many fighters?"

Claire gave a shrug as she has no idea how many soldiers or fighters the Iron Kingdom has. "I'm a student... I do not know much about the military..."

The man nodded again, before asking the next question, "Flying boat? How it fly?"

"The skiff?" Claire frowned, wondering which backward country did she landed on that knew nothing of this knowledge. She suspected that she had landed on a place that has never heard of the Iron Kingdom or the Old World. "It runs on aetherium and steam... Aetherium makes the skiff float in the skies. I told this to you people several times already!"

"Ethe- rum?" The man tried to pronounce the unfamiliar word. "Where get Ether- rum?"

Claire scratched her head and sighed deeply, "Its mined from the floating mountains..."

"Floating mountains?" The man took another drink before he continued. "What kind of weapons you use?"

"Steam cannons? Steam Jacks?" Claire answered. "There are other weapons but I am not so sure about them..."

"Steam?" The man frowned as he seemed to be reading something on the glowing magic artifact. "How did you cross the... Sky of Clouds?"

"You mean the Sea of Clouds?" Claire let out a tired breath. She had this question asked many times till she lost count. "We were chased by the Clergy from the Protectorate..."


Blake leaned back on the chair as he watched the teenage girl repeated the events that had led her to cross the End Zone. Inside, he had admiration for the bravery and cool headedness of the actions she had shown if her story was to be believed.

But so far, nothing she had said had answered the most crucial question of all. How to cross the End Zone and reach the Old World...

A note from neo Koh

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