Cracks and bright colourful flashes of exploding fireworks erupted all over the night skies as the people of the small but growing nation celebrated the ending of winter and the coming of spring. The people of the United Nations ignored the cold as they celebrated and partied away all the unhappiness and worries of the year away.

Outside the border gates of the UN, dozens of makeshift tent cities had sprung up over the months as they waited for a chance to cross into the border of the mysterious and prosperous nation. The alien looking stone fence that stretched out for thousands and thousands of paces, boggled the refugees minds, as they had never seen a barrier made in such a way and scale.

Yet the refugees remained hopeful and even showing much respect to the people from beyond the alien wall, as they regular came out and gave out rations and even brought healers to treat the sick and old. Even much of the tents were provided by those people from the mysterious nation. The help and aid made many praying and even begging the citizens and guards of the nation to allow them in which was always rejected despite offers of gold and even flesh.

But what really surprised the refugees was that they where given tools and given a piece of very simple advice. They were told to clear the land and turn the land into farms or ranches, as "The Gods will not help you if you do not help yourself! So help yourselves to the tools! There is no free lunch in this world!"

This words made the once desperate people awake, as those with experience with logging started to clear the land, felling the massive trees and slowly bit by bit, people started to lend their hand. Slowly bit by bit the land was cleared, and the people from beyond the borders gave out seeds which the refugees held on, waiting for the winter months to end so that they can start growing their own food.

It also started to breed a new rumour among the refugees that it like a test to them given by the strange nation. If they passed the test given, they would be welcomed and able to enter the nation freely!

Unknowingly, most of the refugees started to treat the strange nation as their benefactor from all the help and aid given to them. Despite the low amount of rations and the biting cold, the majority of the refugees survived and they continued to carve out an existence beyond the borders of the United Nations.


The Isles, First City of the Fleet

Fleet Master Megan swirled the glass in her hand, her eyes mesmerised by the red wine swirling inside. She took a gentle sniff of the wine before sipping it, rolling the blood red liquid in her tongue before letting it flow smoothly down her throat.

She placed the wine flute down and frowned at the new Fleet Master who was pacing before the fireplace. "Fleet Master Tediore, you are wearing the carpet out with your endless pacing..."

"Relax, sit down and have a drink," Megan gestured to the sofa where Fleet Master Akron was seated. Ex Merchants Guild's Master, turned Fleet Master Tediore paused in his pacing and turned around, looking at the other two Fleet Masters seated leisurely while enjoying refreshments.

He gave a sigh and sat down on an empty seat and finished the entire glass of wine in his hand before he placed it down on the table forcefully. "This is not really the time to be relaxed!"

"Do you know how much gold crowns I am losing every day?" Tediore asked unhappily. "Hundreds!"

"The amount of traders and merchants using the Merchants Guild has fallen by at least half!" Tediore complained as he poured himself another glass of wine. "Do you know how much profits I lost because of the boycott with the United Nations?"

"Don't worry..." Megan gave a dismissal wave. "Business will return to you soon enough. And besides, it is the end of winter and the start of a new year."

"Besides, soon you will make back all those losses and even profit from it!" Megan smiled mysteriously. "As long as you have followed my advice and stockpiled as much food as you can get your hands on."

"That, I have done so..." Tediore said heavily. "All the grains, preserved or dried meat and vegetables, and fruit..."

"All sitting useless in my warehouses!" Tediore sighed. "The investors are hounding me constantly!"

"Trust us," Megan smiled and glanced to the silent Akron. "I- We made you into a Fleet Master, didn't we?"

"Food prices have been going up everywhere!" Tediore replied. "It is not that I have no confidence in you and Fleet Master Akron."

"But my investors are losing their trust in me!" He rubbed the sides of his head. "Even the small time traders and merchants are not dealing directly with the Merchants Guild! They are directly selling to the United Nation trade ships that come here!"

"Your idea of forcing the United Nations to your agenda is not working at all!" Tediore continued to rant. "Cutting and stopping trade with the United Nations has made them stopped all cooperation with their steam technology in retaliation!"

"Pfftt!" Megan held back her laughter as she sipped her wine. "Their steam technology is not even the best technology they have!"

"They just offer it to us as some kind of hand out..." Megan shook her head. "Anyway, our own craftsmen and smiths have long understood how to make our own steam engines."

"What I am really interested in is their weapons..." Megan said. "In terms of military strength, they outclass us greatly, but in terms of economical strength, they don't even hold a candle with us!"

"And our spies have been watching them," Megan continued on. "They have been building a new city out along the coast... And is building some kind of giant warship that they plan to use it to cross the End Zone to find their missing princess!"

"Such a hopeless endeavour," Megan gave a small smile and gestured to Akron with her wine glass. "They just wasting their time and resources on a futile quest. And..."

"Once that ship is completed," Fleet Master Akron continued from Megan's pause. "Their economy will be in shambles! And from what we know of the mainland, food will be in huge demand."

"With their growing population and a large army of refugees at their borders," Akron removed his monocle and gave it a good wipe with his handkerchief before adjusting it back to his eye. "The food we stockpiled here, will be worth twice their weight in gold!"

"And that is when we will..." Megan gave an evil smile. "Benefit from trading with them! And not for some old unwanted technology of theirs, but all of their more... advanced 'tek no logee'!"


United Nations, Haven, Fortress Singapore, Med Bay

The white machinery hummed softly, and the bed which Dr. Sharon was lying on smoothly paused as the medical scanning machine swallowed her inside. Sensor rings inside the machine spun rapidly and ran up and down the bed, doing a full body scan of Dr. Sharon who had her eyes closed.

After a short moment of beeps and boops, the sensor rings paused in their work and retracted back to their default positions and the machine cracked open, allowing the bed to automatically glide out, allowing Dr. Sharon to sit up.

She held her head that was giving her a very bad migraine and stood up wobblily as she exited the scanning suite. She slumped down on the chair and waited for the computer to finish their analysis of her body condition and massaged her head as she waited.

The voice in her head seemed to have gone totally silent several months ago. But recently in the past few months, she has been getting very bad headaches, which she felt like a hot knife has been stabbed into her head.

Even seated now, she could feel the throbbing of her veins and feel the pumping sensation of her blood in her ears. She dug around her coat hung over the back of the chair and took a pill bottle and shook out two tablets before she swallowed the medication.

After a while, the medication worked its magic and the throbbing head eased slightly, giving her a small sense of comfort. She looked up at her computer display and saw the progress filling up and soon the report was completed.

She clicked open the report and read it, her frown deepening the more she read on. She checked the CT and MRI scans of her head and her expression changed to shock. She mumbled to herself in disbelief at the results, "It... can't be..."

She stood up and started pacing in the room, one hand holding her forehead with the other placed at her waist and kept mumbling to herself. "Its... impossible! Impossible!"

She paused and took a deep breath before she sat down before the computer and accessed her medical files again and started comparing her previous CT and MRI scans results together with her current scans.

She continued to compare her scans and scans of other people. On her latest scans had two yellow spots highlighted by the computer. She leaned over and tapped on the display and zoomed in the image. Tapping in another command, her previous brain scan super imposed over the current image and the computer churned out a list of numbers on the side.

The 3D imagery has shown her hypothalamus region located at the base of the brain, near the pituitary gland has enlarged, gaining mass and had enlarged by 0.4 cm in length compared to her scans five months ago. It was responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system and also controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms.

She knew that during pregnancy the hypothalamus region will enlarge but she wasn't pregnant. And not only that, the other highlighted spot shown on the scans was her thalamus which was a small structure within the brain located just above the brain stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain. Its function was like a hub for of relays sensory information of the body and it also increases the brain's ability to adapt to new contexts, enabling the use of memory and imagination.

The numbers displayed next to the arrow that pointed to the highlighted thalamus shown that the mass of grey matter in her brain has also grown, gaining 0.7 cm in length. If this data was released to the medical field on Earth, it will cause an uproar!

She frowned again and started searching for her medical folders and soon opened up several other medical reports of different humans and elves. She compared the scans from those records and she leaned back in her seat to digest the information she discovered.

"But how can it become this way?" She mused to herself. "And I have no neuro doctors to tally this data with!"

The scans of the human crew of the UNS Singapore did not have any changes, but the data she picked out from the elves was that on average, the size of their hypothalamus and thalamus regions in their brains was more than thrice the size of an average human!

She stood up and started pacing again, her mind sorting out the information she has. To not have picked up this data was most likely due to her inexperience with neuro medicine and she assumed it was normal for the elves as they were two different species despite having similar DNA.

"Could this the clue on how they are able to able to cast magic?" Dr. Sharon bit her lower lip in thought. "But... why will my hypothalamus and thalamus areas expand?"

"Could it be that... the voice in my head has something to do with this?"

A note from neo Koh

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