Dr. Sharon stared at the display filled with text and diagrams of her portable workstation as she reviewed through the data collected. Seated with his back next to her, was Magister Thorn, similarly bowed over a portable workshop, his forefingers tapped gingerly on the keyboard. The only sounds in the research tent were just the tapping of keys until Dr. Sharon let out a loud yawn.

"Tired?" Magister Thorn asked without turning his attention away from his display.

"I have been up looking over these data for the past week," Dr. Sharon replied. "I didn't get much sleep at all..."

"The voices in your head no longer disturbing you?" Magister Thorn asked again.

"Nope... It does feel strange now that the voices are gone..." Dr. Sharon commented. "Feels... kinda quiet and... empty..."

Magister Thorn paused in his work and gave Dr. Sharon a once over, "Are you sure you are fine?"

"Yes... just tired..." Dr. Sharon replied. "Looking at all these information is killing my eyes!"

"It's really amazing!" Magister Thorn's eyes glowed excitedly. "These runes! Aetherium! Their magic is way more advanced compared to ours!"

"The way they compress multiple runes into a single magical formation is short of genius!" Magister Thorn paused the enemy's enemy. "Even their golems are more advanced than the simple golems we use!"

"Should it be our technology is better?" Dr. Sharon said. "What is see is mostly clockwork mechanism!"

"Ah... of course, they can't be compared to your hooman's tech no lo gee!" Magister Thorn grinned. "But compared to our standards... its really amazing work!"

"Their golems uses a mix of magical components, steam, clockwork and of course, aetherium to work!" Magister Thorn said. "Not counting the need of a life source of a being to control it. But compared to our golems made out of living stone... as long one has the skills, they can make it! While our golems rely solely on earth elementalists to be produced!"

"In the long run, our golem tanks will be outproduced if we compare each other," Magister Thorn said. "Our golem tanks are too dependent on earth elementalists... if one day... we have no earth elementalists... that means there will no longer be any new golem tanks!"

"True," Dr. Sharon bobbed her head in agreement. "That is why they are not focusing on just the production of the golem tanks!"

"And more importantly," Magister Thorn gestured to the display where it showed a diagram of a molecular structure. "This aetherium is what made it possible for their golems and airships!"

"Without this magical element..." Magister Thorn sighed. "Those machines would be impossible!"

"Yes..." Dr. Sharon replied. "Aetherium is like a whole new element!"

"Its density when heated is four point five per cent of air!" Dr. Sharon said. "That's even lower than the density of hydrogen against air!"

"Not only is it non flammable, its molecules are not small either!" Dr. Sharon added. "It can be stored in metal containers without it diffusing through the container!"

Magister Thorn understood the bare basics of the elements and building blocks of life. He had read and studied molecules and atoms hence he could still understand what Dr. Sharon was saying. "I learn about the periodic table of elements... But there's no such element as Aetherium!"

"Yes... Its atoms share a covalent bond," Dr. Sharon said and she pointed to the diagram on the display. "Only helium and oxygen atoms were identified, while there is two unknown atoms..."

"What is more strange is that Aetherium molecules are heavy, but when exposed to high temperatures of up to a hundred and twelve degree celsius, its bonds break apart from solid to liquid to gas very rapidly!"

"Once in a gaseous state, it can produce a lot of lift!" Dr. Sharon explained. "For every kilogram, only 0.002 grams of aetherium is needed!"

"That means to provide lift for 100,000 kilograms or 100 tonnes of weight..." Dr. Sharon did a quick calculation with her computer. "That means only 200 kilograms of processed aetherium is required!"

"This means ships like our Goblin class corvettes which weighs around 950 tonnes," Dr. Sharon did another round of calculations. "We will need 1,900 kilograms of processed aetherium just to balance its weight!"

"The recovered wreckage of the Protectorate's airship is estimated to be only 90 meters roughly and 18 meters wide," Dr. Sharon pulled up more data on her screen. "The weight from the wreckage is roughly 745 tonnes... And Naval Intel says that this is most likely just a frigate or escort sized vessel..."

"We recovered just a bare 400 kilograms of aetherium from the wreck... A ship of that size would at least carry two tonnes of aetherium..." Dr. Sharon said. "The rest of the aetherium would have escaped as gas when the holding tanks were ruptured... Most likely they would have solidified into tiny particles and scattered all over the land when the escaped gas cooled down."

"And the destroyed golems' aetherium tanks too were mostly destroyed..." Magister Thorn sighed. "I doubt the engineers could be able to scrape out much from there..."

"I guess so..." Dr. Sharon gave a shrug. "I might not be an engineer, but I can say that there is no merit in replacing or upgrading our existing aircraft designs..."

"Why?" Magister Thorn had a confused expression on his face. "Why so? Wouldn't the addition of the aetherium allow the aircraft to fly further?"

"Well... it all comes down to practicality, I guess?" Dr. Sharon started explaining her thoughts. "Our fixed wing aircraft designs are all fine and doing well for hundreds of years. The wings already provide lift, and fuel is needed for the engines yes?"

Magister Thorn nodded in response.

"So why do we need to add in more stuff like aetherium?" Dr. Sharon asked. "There is no practicality in doing so. You need a full redesign of the hull, add in tanks and heaters and more fuel... which in the end does not really affect anything except make an already perfected design more complicated."

"I see," Magister Thorn nodded again. "Since aetherium only provides a lifting force... So adding aetherium into a fix wing aircraft is just redundant you mean?"

"Yup!" Dr. Sharon nodded back. "I can only see using it for large transports or even warships... Our aircraft designs are already good enough!"

"True..." Magister Thorn replied before he rubbed his palms together. "But we can make Gundams right with aetherium helping to reduce weight right? Hehehe!"

"Did you borrow my anime collection without asking again?!"


Sea of Clouds

A massive green barrier covered a fleet of airships. The source of the barrier came from the largest splendid looking airship in the middle of the formation. The curved hulls of the airships were painted grey and had silver trimming.

The flagship was instead painted glossy white and had gold trimmings all over the ship. A golden figurehead of a maiden embracing a long sword was mounted at the curving bow of the flagship. Blue flags with a motif of three down pointing triangles covered both sides of the ships, displaying their allegiance to the Tri State.

The flagship had sloping superstructure in the middle of the hull, where the bridge was sited. Inside the bridge, on a raised carpeted platform, was a chair that seated a middle aged woman. She wore a form fitting blue double silver buttoned jacket and blue loose silver striped pants that were tucked into a pair of polished calf boots.

She lounged against the chair as she stared out of the crystal windows of the bridge of her flagship while her crew stood over their stations. A flash flickered over the green barrier and adjutant standing behind her chair wiped the sweat off his face nervously.

"Relax..." She said in a deep voice as she sweep her brown fringe with streaks of grey over her ear. Crow feet appeared next to her green eyes as her eyes narrowed with mirth at her nervous adjutant who flinched each time the barrier flickered. "Its not coming out of your pocket!"

"My Lady Manarva..." Her adjutant sighed. "I am not worried about the cost of... running the fleet shield..."

"Its more of what if the shield collapsed before we make it out of the Sea of Clouds?" Her adjutant grumbled. "Many lives depend on the shield of the Flagship Victoria!"

"Aulus, you are just stingy that's all!" Duchess Manarva, Grand Admiral of the Tri State Exploration Fleet teased her young aide. "I doubt you even think of whose lives would be in danger at all..."

"You tease me, my Lady!" Lieutenant Aulus cried out in mock despair. "I know I come from a commoner family and grew up poor... But still..."

Another flash and flicker of the shields made Aulus paused in his sentence and winced again. Truthfully, he did felt pain each time he saw the shield flickering as it meant hundreds of magic crystals had turned into dust. "Erm... still its quite the waste of our highly limited magic crystals..."

"Hahahaha!" Duchess Manarva laughed and shook her head. "I should leave you behind my duchy to run the books! You probably help me save hundreds of gold coins every month with your misery thoughts!"

"Ahem... My lady, that won't be a wise decision..." Aulus quickly said. "You do need someone to help you handle all the paperwork and chores, yes?"

"You just want to come out on an adventure and get rich!" Duchess Manarva snorted. "I have known you since you were a small kid!"

"Yes, and I thank my Lady for picking me up from the slums!" Aulus gave a perfect gentlemanly bow. "Hence it is my duty to stay with my lady..."

"Yes, yes!" Duchess Manarva shook her head good naturally. Aulus had been by her side for many years ever since she brought him out from the slums and gave him an education. Now he served as her trusted aide and she knew that his misery ways were to save as much money for his family back in the Capital of the Tri State.

The Tri State was once ruled by three kings in the past until an incident had two of the kings passed away from old age before a successor for each was found. Hence it soon became ruled by a single King ever since. It was formed from three different countries which all had blood ties among the royalty.

When wars raged against the Old World, the three Kingdoms decided to band together to survive and the Tri State was formed. It was the only nation to be bordered by five of the Seven Great Nations, only the Loose Confederation did not share a border with it.

Yet despite its disadvantageous location, its land were fertile and rich in minerals and resources, gaining it the economical might it needed to build its military. It was a militaristic nation, with much gaining nobility through merits in fighting against the nations that bordered its lands.

As it was the same with all the other nations, when word spread of the discovery of a trove of resources in the New World, the King immediately summoned the Duchess Manarva who was also an accomplished admiral to gather her fleets and depart for the New World.

Over thirty airships and transports of various sizes now huddled under the protective umbrella of the Flagship Victoria's capital ship classed shields, which the Tri State had developed from an artifact excavated from some ruins. The Tri State's signature shields were also the reason why a Nation surrounded by five other Great Nations could survive till this day.

"Don't worry, little Aulus..." Duchess Manarva said as she stared out of the crystal windows. "Soon, we will exit this... boring scenery..."

"And then, you won't worry about the shields burning a hole in the treasury!" Duchess Manarva smiled. "You can find all the treasure you want and get all the merit you need!"

"For the New World is waiting for us!"

A note from neo Koh

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