Crates and crates of magic crystals were stacked up everywhere inside the large cave the locals used as storage. Duchess Manarva's eyes glittered under the lit torches held high by the local guides who brought them here. She cupped a handful of the glittering magic crystals which were the size of a fingernail and allowed them to trickle off her palm, the crystals making tinkling sounds as they rolled back to the pile.

The local Lord, Wickebine, hovered anxiously at the side of the Duchess, a worried expression on his face. "M- My Lady... We have a few more larger stones, these are just rejected stones... They have not much value on the mainland... Hence we kept them store here... they are only good to power some basic spells and artefacts only!"

His words made Duchess Manarva freeze but she quickly recovered and she straightened up with a smile on her face, as she schooled her expression, yet in her racing mind, she was shocked. Rejects? The value and amount of magic crystals here were almost as much as that of the entire Tri State reserves of magic crystals! She turned to the nervous Lord and spoke in a disinterested tone, "Show me!"

"At once!" Wickebine bowed and quickly led them towards the rear of the cave where an iron door was set into the stone walls. Duchess Manarva cast a warning look to her people as their eyes were wide with wonder and greed. The local lord fumbled around with a large key and unlocked the door and he gestured a couple of his soldiers with the torches and they entered the darkness.

After a while, the two local soldiers reappeared with Wickebine and they each carry a chest in their arms. Unlocking the chests with another key, Wickebine lifted the lid back and a dozen fist sized magic crystals in various colors glittered beautifully under the light of the torches.

This time, no one was able to hold back their shock as a sharp collective intake of breath was heard in the cave. Even Duchess Manarva could not hold back her shock as she stared at the lumps of semi translucent magic crystals. She reached out with unsteady hands and pick a red crystal the size larger than a feathered wyvern's egg.

The ruby red magic crystal felt warm in her hands and she could feel the raw magic energy that was trapped inside the crystal when she concentrated her magic. "Amazing!"

She carefully returned the crystal back to the chest and snapped her fingers sharply, snapping everyone back from their daze. "Is this all?"

The local lord eager to please his new master bobbed his head and said, "There are another two more chests... All this is supposed to be a tribute to the Emperor..."

"No longer!" Duchess Manarva cut him off. "These are now the property of the Tri State!"

"Take them all away!" She turned and ordered to an aide at her side who bowed and started directing their troops to move everything out of the cave. The Lord Wickebine could only stand at the side helplessly watching as the invaders started cleaning out the cave. Duchess Manarva's mood was high after having acquired such easy wealth and loot. She gestured to Wickebine and ordered him to follow her.

Once out of the cave and under the sun, Duchess Manarva eyed the surrounding forests with a more positive look. "Tell me, these... stones. How do you get them?"

"Erm..." Wickebine frowned as he thought the Duchess was testing him or something. "Monsters has these stones inside their bodies... Only the larger stones come from high level creatures!"

"Interesting..." Duchess Manarva mused. "What kind of monsters?"

"Eh... Wind wolves... giant snakes... demon ants..." Wickebine started listing out the more common monsters that the hunters would encounter when they entered the forest. The Duchess nodded her head, encouraging Wickebine to continue as her mind processed the information. In the Old World, the monsters no longer produce any magic crystals in their bodies, which lead to massive depletion of magic among the people. What magic crystal that could be rarely harvested from monsters was barely even half a fingernail in size.

Even newly borne children were starting to be magiless, unable to cast nor harness magic naturally. Now it has become normal to just have only one out of every ten children has the ability to use magic, while the others were magiless. Magic was fast fading away in the Old World but yet, it was not the case on the New World, as evidenced by the abundance of magic crystals still found on common monsters!

Duchess Manarva kept her face expressionless as she eyed the wildland around her, knowing in her heart, that they must hold on to this land with everything they have if they want to retain even a measure of their nation's magical powers. She turned to her aides and snapped an order, "Start deploying the rest of the fleet here... And tell the prince... that we found a suitable place for a base..."


Waters off the Border of The Isles, The Cartel, The Hammer of Obsidian

Grand Lord Hammerfall stood at the massive opening of the hangar doors watching the sights of the departing launch that was heading towards the trio of wooden sailing ships drifting on the waves. "You think his words are trustworthy?"

Lord Copperstone shook his head as he stroked his thick beard. "I would not say it is all false... But he isn't telling all the truth..."

Lord Hammerfall nodded in reply, "I suspect as so..."

"Still... he has his uses... For now," Lord Hammerfall continued as he turned away from the sights. "Giving up a few of our boilers to them will not lessen our abilities... As long as he delivers what we requested for."

"Do you think... this... United Nations as he has called their enemy, will not be a threat to us?" Lord Copperstone asked in a worried tone. "I think there is more then what he is letting on... And their reaction when they first came..."

Lord Copperstone gestured around the interior of the hangar, "They don't seem impressed at all..."

"I got a feeling they... seen airships before..." Lord Copperstone said. "Could they have met the Protectorate and worked some deal with them too?"

"That could be a possibility too," Lord Hammerfall replied with another nod. "Let's see what they do... if they try to play us... Well... we can let everyone let off some steam!"


The Isles, First City of the Fleet, Merchant Guild

"Tsk!" Megan clicked her tongue in annoyance as she read the missive that was just delivered. She crumpled the scroll up and gestured her waiting adjutant over. "Go double check this report if it is correct! There must be no delay! Go!"

The adjutant picked up the crushed parchment ball and gave a bow before he retreated out of the room. Megan snapped her fan open and fanned herself in exasperation. Fleet Master Tediore frowned as he noted Megan's irritation. He poured a glass of wine out for the both of them and sat down opposite her and asked curiously, "What news did the courier bring?"

"Tsk!" Megan clicked her tongue again before she snapped her fan shut and picked up the glass of wine and took a large sip. "It's about the UN!"

"Apparently, the new port city was not the only things they were building!" Megan hissed. "The rumours about some kind of super ship we have heard last year... was not just rumours anymore!"

Tediore's eyes rose as he digested the news, "You meant to say they really build something that is like ten... twenty times the size of our largest ships? Its... impossible! How much metal... how much gold crowns are needed? And... and..."

"That's the thing!" Megan cursed under her breath as she cut off Tediore's shocked tirade. "It is impossible! That was why we discounted those rumours in the first place!"

"Our spies now tells us that the super ship sails!" Megan said in an angry tone. "This... super ship... can disrupt our plans!"

Tediore stood up and started pacing around the room. "Akron is still negotiating with the Outsiders... His last report was that he was making progress... and the Outsiders are willing to trade their weapons and magic with us in exchange for supplies and mana stones..."

"The United Nations' stance against these... Outsiders are pretty hostile due to the incident with their Princess..." Tediore paused in his pacing and turned to stare at Megan. "They will find out of our dealings with these Outsiders sooner or later..."

"I know!" Megan hissed back. "I am not expecting their Fleet to return to Port Sanctuary until the end of the season since they are still tied up north with the aftermath of those Outsiders..."

"By the time the UN Fleet returns, our new... iron ships would have been commissioned and with the support of the Outsiders!" Megan let out of sigh of exasperation. "The Outsiders can help us deal with their flying machines... while our new iron coated ships can delay the UN Fleet!"

"IF... the Outsiders could deal with their flying machines..." Tediore pointed out. "We do not know if they could even win, just look at what happened up north!"

"Those Outsiders lost due to facing the entire United Nations ground forces..." Megan dismissed Tediore's concerns. "Here, they need their fleet to cross the ocean... and our spies report they just only have the most twenty of their iron warships in their entire navy."

"And six of those ships are based around their port at Far Harbour..." said Megan. "Another three at Port Sanctuary... while the remaining ships are all up north..."

"But they now have that super ship..." Tediore pointed out again. "It will... hamper us greatly..."

"Should we..." Tediore hesitated for a moment before he continued. "We should just stop our plan first? After all... we did sign a treaty with the United Nations... Even if they reject our offers regarding purchasing their tek no lo gee... Our people are still flourishing in doing trade with them..."

"How long do you think this will go on?" Megan replied in a curt tone. "One year? Two years?"

"Once the United Nations pacify the Meccans... They will become even more powerful!" Megan said. "And when that happens, not only the Isles... even the Empire and Kingdom of Foral will be swallowed by them!"

"Even if they honour our treaty of alliance..." Megan tapped her hand across the palm of her hand repeatedly. "We the Isles will be reduced to be a vassal... We can not expect to be even on equal grounds with the United Nations! Our people will be bullied... and we will forever be under their shadow and bowing before them!"

"No... we need to have the strength to be able to make the United Nations view us as equals..." Megan smacked her fan hard against her palm, her fingers closing around it tightly as she said in a firm and determined tone. "And we will need the help of the Outsiders... If not we will never win against the... tek no lo gee of the short ears..."

Megan got up from the sofa and stood before the huge glass windows that were imported in from the United Nations, looking out to the harbour where dozens of ships of all types weighed anchor. Hundreds of tiny figures scaled the ships and the docks, moving goods on wheeled carts called dollies yet again introduced by the United Nations.

She let out a sigh as she realised that almost everything affecting the economy was all imported from the United Nations, even the wine glass in her hand was from the United Nations. At this rate, Megan was very certain that the influence of the goods and tek no lo gee of the United Nations will overcome the influence of the Isles and their culture and identity will forever disappear in this world.

A note from neo Koh

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