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The Old World, Capital of the Iron Kingdom, Royal Palace

A heavy fist hammered the table as the one eyed Minister of War emphasized his point forcefully. "We need to dispatch our fleets to the New World now! The longer the Protectorate has their claws on the New World, the more we stand to lose!"

"Our spies within the Protectorate had sent word that part of that fleet that entered the Sea of Clouds had returned!" The Minister of War said. "Nine airships! Each ship's cargo hold was filled to the brim with treasure!"

"And most importantly..." The Minister's voice lowered. "Magic crystals! Hundreds of stones worth of magic crystals!"

The words of the Minister of War roused the rest of the ministers and advisors. "As you all know, the amount of magic crystals within the Old World is in decline! We are getting lesser and lesser of these crystals annually from magical monsters due to overhunting!"

"That is why the ancient great mages developed steam power to ensure the future of the Iron Kingdom!" The Minister of War added. "Should the Protectorate gain such an abundant supply of magic crystals from the New World... This would mean that they will have the magic crystals to power their magical artefacts!"

"My King, for once I agree with the... Lord Ableman..." The slim looking Minister of Finance spoke out. "What resources within the Old World has already been divided up among the Seven Great Nations..."

"This has placed everyone on the same playing level," The Minister of Finance said. "But... if the Protectorate is able to exploit mass amounts of magic crystals from the New World... It will greatly unbalance the power between the Seven Great Nations... And... they might emerge as the leader... which is something no one wishes to see..."

"Yes! Those damn Ramuh loving bastards will be shoving their love of their God right down our throats!" Lord Ableman's single eye glittered dangerously. "And if we do not start sending our forces... Other Nations will do the same too!"

"And even with the risk of losing one ship out of every three," The Minister of Finance cut in. "The value of the magic crystals would still make it worthwhile for the losses!"

"We must take the risks! The rest of the Seven has already started their mobilising their forces!" Lord Ableman hammered the table again. "The slice of the pie will become even smaller!"

"Royal Father..." A tall young man seated next to the Iron Throne suddenly spoke up. "I think the advice of the Ministers has merit...

"It will be wise to listen to your advisors..." The crown prince added. "As you have wisely taught me!"

The King nodded as he looked at the crown prince with a soft expression before his expression turn firm. "Than it shall be done!"

"The Crown Prince shall lead this expedition into the New World!" The King declared. "He shall take command of the Iron Fortress and the Third Iron Fleet!"

"Lord Ableman!" The King commanded. "You shall take charge as the Second of Command after the Crown Prince and I expect you to guide the Prince along the way!"

"Yes, my King!" Lord Ableman the Minister of War stood up and bow, his right fist reaching over to his left shoulder in a salute. "I shall guide and protect Prince Yemen with my life!"

"Good!" The King nodded before he turned his attention to the Crown Prince who was keeping his excitement in check. "And you, my son... Listen to the advice of Lord Ableman! I expect great things from you!"

"Iron Lords heed my call!" The King stood up. "The expedition fleet shall disembark within the month!"

"By your command!"

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The New World, New Kingdom of Mecca, Reachfield, United Nations Forward Operating Base

"Sarge!" The radioman called out. "See pee one is reporting that the local lord has finally turned up with a bunch of tin cans cavalry!"

Cork grunted in acknowledgement as he lifted the cap that covered his face and sat up from the laid out foldable stretcher that doubled up as a bed for the troops inside the command bunker on the top of the hill.

He stood up and stretched before donning his combat harness and grabbing his rifle and helmet. "Tell CP One, I am on my way."

"And inform X Ray!" He reminded the radioman, using call sign for the FOB's command centre. "You two on me!"

The two single out privates joined Cork as they came out of the command bunker, a pit dug on the top of the hill. Cork returned the wave given from the hull down IFV's commander and made his way over to the checkpoint where he could see dozens of armoured cavalry with their fluttering flags formed up in a short distance away from the checkpoint.

The checkpoint after having time to be fortified now had barriers of barbwire and barricades covered the flanks. Two sandbagged bunkers sat on both sides of the dirt path that had alternating barriers setup that forces one to take a snaking path before crossing the checkpoint.

A simple makeshift watchtower was erected one side and a couple of tents were placed behind the shelter of a row of sandbag walls. Half of Cork's ten men section occupied the checkpoint while the other remaining men were positioned up on the hilltop. Normally, refugees tonged the checkpoint hoping for handouts and safety. But today they had all disappeared rapidly with the appearance of the riders.

Cork made a quick glance around the checkpoint, seeing his men were already in combat positions, one up the watchtower, one each in the sandbagged bunkers and two crouched behind a row of sandbags at the checkpoint entrance. "Sarge! Its the NKM tin cans!"

"What have you got?" Cork joined the corporal at the row of sandbags.

"Lookout spotted their dust earlier," The corporal replied. "Then they came appeared out from behind that bend of trees. Looks like they used the forest to mask as much of their approach as possible."

"After that, they just sat there," The corporal jerked his helmeted head towards the NKM troops. "Waving their fancy red flags and looking pretty."

"No other movement from them?" Cork asked as he took out his binoculars and swipe his view over the formed up cavalry. The NKM soldiers sat on their war dragons motionlessly while the sun glittered off their plate mail and their red gold flags fluttered weakly in the breeze.

As he was observing them, suddenly the leading rank of war dragon cavalry started forward. Five soldiers urged their giant lizard dragons forward, the leading soldier had a white plume on his helmet. They stopped short of shouting range and one of the soldiers carrying a flag rode up and yelled. "Who are you trespassers that dared to occupy land belonging to the Silver Lord of Clearfield?"

Cork frowned as he recollected knowledge from his time as an Imperial Commander in regards to the Kingdom of Meccan. He vaguely remembered that the Meccan Lords were divided into different ranks from the lowest at Black, Grey, White, Silver, and finally Gold.

Cork stood up from behind sandbag cover and yelled back, making up a story, "We are the UN! Uh... here on a mission to help the Golden Lords!"

The herald was taken back from Cork's replied. He turned in askance to the soldier with the white plume on his helmet who rode forward until he stopped his mount at the edge of the barriers and dismounted.

"Which Golden Lord has asked for your help?" The white plumed soldier asked.

"Erm..." Cork cursed inwardly before he replied. "This is a matter between the Lords! I am just a lowly soldier here following my orders!"

The white plume soldier gave a nod, seemingly satisfied with his words. "Are you here to fight against the menace that had appeared out of nowhere?"

Cork nodded, as there was no need to keep that portion of their mission a secret. "Yes, we were... um... invited to fight against them!"

"Good!" The soldier removed his helmet and revealed a young pretty woman's sweaty face. She had a heart shaped face and clear deep blue eyes. Her hair was tied up in a bun and covered over by a fine silver coif with tendrils of golden hair peeking out. "My name is Jeanne von Iris, I am a Knight, commanding these soldiers under the banner of the Silver Lord of Clearfield."

Cork was surprised by her gender and momentarily stunned by her looks until the corporal gave a smirk at his expression. Cork made a cough to cover up his embarrassment and his men sniggered behind their gloves, making him blushed further.

"My name is R- Cork!" Cork replied, nearly using his real name. "I am Sergeant Cork of the UN 1st Army Rifle Regiment."

The female soldier gave a slight nod of her head in acknowledgement. "And where is your lord? I wish to speak to him!"

Cork turned to his man manning the checkpoint's radio who raised up five fingers. He nodded and turned back to the female Knight and said, "They will be here very soon!"

She nodded again and turned to her men and yelled out a couple of commands. One of her men rode back to the waiting cavalry and soon they started to settle down to wait while the female knight and her escort dismounted and waited patiently while glancing around at the checkpoint's defences curiously.

"What is this?" The female Knight suddenly asked as she pinched the barbwire curiously.

Cork stood opposite her, separated by a layer of barbwire and he slightly lost himself as he observed the delicate arch of her eyebrows as she poked around the wire. "Eh... oh... this is a kind of barricade..."

"Hmmm... such a waste of valuable metal and craftsmanship..." Jeanne replied with some scorn as she gave a flick of her gauntleted fingers against the wire. "I have heard of the 'Un An'... But I did not expect such... display of waste..."

"And does not your lords equip the common soldiers properly?" She asked again as she looked up and down, checking out the dirty outfit of Cork. "Just a simple chest piece of... leather?"

"Erm... this is much is enough..." Cork replied with some heat in his voice. For some reason, despite her looks, her words were full of arrogance.

"Well... I can see that..." The female Knight gave a dismissive shrug. "Since your lords appear to waste their resources on making these... metal wires instead of properly outfitting their troops..."

"Not even a proper sword too!" She gestured to the bayonet at his side. "Well... I had heard many stories in regards to those thunder sticks of the 'Un An'... But... looking at you... you look more like a beggar in these strange rags..."

Cork looked down at his gear. He wore a dark olive green standard issued combat vest with trauma plates at the front and back that protected his vitals from arrows, magic, slashes and stabs. Six pouches sat in the front, allowing him to carry twelve 30 rounds mags of 6.5 mm ammunition with another four smaller pouches holding two grenades, one smoke and one flashbang.

On his back, a foldable entrenching tool was hooked up and another pouch rested against his spine, holding some rope, a poncho, and a cleaning kit. Two water bottles were belted to the side of the harness and a sheath carrying a Model 1 bayonet rested on his right hip.

His mud covered uniform was in the Army's digital camo scheme of a mixture of dark green, blue, grey and black. His M4 Magelock was clean despite the muddy uniform was slung in front of his chest, allowing him to ready his weapon at any time. All in all, he thought he looked pretty cool in his uniform.

The female Knight gave another dismissive glance over his uniform and said, "Well... I really hope the rumors about the 'Un An' powers are true!"

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