The antlered beast came to a crashing halt as inertial carried its weight sliding across the forest foliage. The giant wolf deer with a pair of impressive looking antlers let out a last grunt before the light went out of its eyes. Blood seeped out from its side and soaked into the forest floor as heavy footsteps approached the hunted beast.

"Nice shot!" A happy cry came from the female toting a long rifle over her shoulder. Dressed in a set of 'tiger stripe' blue woodland camouflaged hoodie and equipment vest, she kneeled down next to the beast and deftly cut at the neck. Sharp stainless steel cut through the thick fur and parted neck muscles and she dug her hand into the wound and felt around.

"Anything?" A bald muscular elf wearing a dark set of plate armour festooned with equipment pouches with a large broadsword and scabbard at his back asked as he and another girl wielding a long rifle who looked no more than twenty came out of the foliage. Both of them were wearing similar woodland camo clothing under their armour and vests.

"Nothing!" The short haired female girl replied as she pulled her hand out of the cut. She grimaced at the gory mess on her and accepted the canteen of water offered to her by the tall muscular elf and washed her hand. "Thanks."

"Well, this is the fourth monster we took down without any results," The muscular elf let out a sigh. "It seems that it is true that there is very little magic left here..."

"The amount of mana in the air is depressingly little," Another pair of elves appeared from the trees. One of them was carried a wooden staff said. "I need like three times the focus and effort to just draw upon the magic of the land..."

The other, a youngster who looked similar in age to the girl, gave a grin and said, "Your marksmanship is getting better, soon, you be overtaking Kat as the party's sniper!"

"Hey!" The woman who was washing her hand growled, "Disrespectful punk!"

Ciel giggled as she gave a friendly pat to the youngster, "Hehehe, maybe in another year or more!"

"Alright, kids," The muscular elf clapped his hands and ordered everyone over. "Kat, dress the meat, no point letting it go to waste. Yill, take Justze and find us a place to camp for the night."

"Ciel, keep watch for Kat," The muscular elf, clearing the leader ordered. "Let's get everything done before it gets dark!"

"Yes, boss!" The party members replied as they went upon their duties.

"Leon," Kat called out to the muscular elf. "This place has no magic... The land is dead... Why did we accept this quest?"

"Than what did you want to do in the New World?" Leon asked as he helped to portion out the carcass that was twice his size. "The pay is good, once we completed our jobs, we can settle down to retire comfortably."

"Provided we survive!" Kat hissed in a low voice. "I don't why did I agree to join you guys here..."

She shivered slightly as she recalled the crazy journey crossing the End Zone and how helpless she was inside the small cabin she shared with Ciel. She gestured around themselves and said, "This land is dead! There is no magic... There is no future for these lands!"

"I know and you know that," Leon sighed as he expertly quartered the meat and started to skin it. "It's too late to regret now..."

"Tch!" Kat let out a growl. "I shouldn't have accepted this quest!"

"Oh, come on!" Leon grinned. "We are adventurers! It's an opportunity to adventure! And get paid!"

Kat rolled her eyes and returned to cutting the beast up. Leon continued to say, "We just need to cross this forest and investigate the towns and villages beyond."

"And for once, I am glad monsters have no magic..." Leon poked the wolf head of the creature. "This means killing them is easy!"

They continued their work in cutting up the beast and hang it up to drain it of its blood. When Yill and Justze came back, they took the choice parts and left the rest of the animals of the forest and headed to the campsite. There they settled down for the night, and when dawn broke, they broke fast and cleared up the campsite before heading off into the forest again.

Justze and Ciel both had grown into their roles as adventurers and they had matured a lot compared to the days when they were still trainees with the Adventurers' Inc. The Adventurers' Inc and other private military companies were offered to join the UN Expeditionary Force in exploration and security contracts on the Old World.

The pay was more than enough for any of the PMCs' adventurers to retire in luxury should they return alive to spend the money. The offers had attracted several PMCs to follow the UNS Vengeance across the dangerous waters and now, the adventurers were tasked with scouting and reconnaissance of the local terrain and settlements.

"This is why I hate this place," Kat sighed as the party emerged from the edge of the forest. She looked up to the gloomy skies at the large shards of rocks floating unnaturally in the air. "The land has no magic... Yet those things are floating in the air..."

Leon removed his binoculars from its case and stared at the floating rocks for a moment before he put away the binos. "Damn... those rocks are big!"

"How do they even stay afloat?" Ciel asked as she and the others continued their way across the tall grass. "When this land has no magic."

"They should have aetherium ore inside," Justze replied as he hacked at the tall grass with a long blade called a machete by the UN.

"But I thought aetherium needed to be heated for it to float?" Ciel frowned as she kept half her attention on the terrain and the half on the floating rocks. "How are they floating then?"

Justze gave a shrug while Yill said with a grin as he snapped a photo of the floating rocks with a small camera. "That is why we paid to find out!"

"Shh!" Kat suddenly raised a fist up and the whole party moving in a file halted and crouched low in the tall grass except for Kat who was on point. They switched to alert and weapons came out at the ready, each scanning their areas of responsibilities.

"What is it?" Leon whispered as he cradled his shotgun across his chest.

"I spotted the grass moving when there is no wind!" Kat whispered back and gestured to the side. "That way!"

The rest of the party remained quiet as they strained both their eyes and ears, checking their surroundings for any threats when Justze heard a crunch of something moving to his right. He raised the shotgun in his hand up as slowly tracked his barrel towards the noise when suddenly something large pounced through the tall grass directly at him.

Reflexly, he spun his weapon directly at the dark mass and squeezed the trigger. The shotgun equipped with a large suppressor gave a loud burp and the attacker let out a yelp of pain and surprise as it was flung back into the grass.

Justze quickly worked the pump of his shotgun and followed after the attacker he just shot. He found the attacker to be a kind of feline monster with a pair of large oversized fangs sticking out. It was covered in a thick matt of yellow green fur that seemed to mimic its surroundings, making it a deadly predator within the grass plains.

As Justze stared at the dying creature, there was another suppressed bark at the rear followed by another and another. He spun around and ran back to his party cursing, "Shit!"

"All clear!" The call came in just as Justze linked up with his party just to see Leon shoving a feline beast away with his booted feet. "That was close!"

Kat scanned the area before she nodded and repeated, "All clear, I don't sense anything around us at this point..."

"What kind of creature is this?" Leon bent over the beast he just rolled over with his foot. "Never seen anything like this back home..."

Yill whipped out his camera and started snapping more photos from all angles. "Hmmm... Hmmm..."

"No mana stone either," Kat said as she dug around one of the carcasses. "These are just normal beasts..."

"I was hoping for more of a fight," Leon sighed as he shoved his shotgun back into its holster. "Easy kills..."

Yill nodded as he crouched closer to one of the carcasses and snapped photos of the gunshot wounds. "Bullets can easily kill these beasts, unlike those back at home."

"Oh, I found something," Kat suddenly said as she dug around the last butchered carcass. She gave a grin and pulled her hands out covered in gore and held a tiny sunflower seed sized mana stone up and tossed it over to Leon. "Here, catch!"

Leon caught the tiny mana stone and rubbed the thin blood membrane away from the mana stone and sighed. "This is really tiny..."

"How do they survive without magic?" Ciel asked in wonder. To her magic was part of life even with the advances of 'tek no lo gee' from the UN. Without magic would be like losing a hand or leg.

"Steamworks?" Justze said. "The briefing said the people here are using steamworks to replace magic."

"Well, whether they have magic or not," Leon slipped the mana stone into a pouch and said. "We will know once we reach the nearest settlement!"

"And this would probably sell for a pretty good amount of gold or silver!" Leon grinned. "I heard the Cartel have the best breweries in the Old World! Can't wait to try it!"

The party had been issued funds for their exploration of the local region. Their funds were the local currency that was taken from the Cartel prisoners and captured airships. The local silver and gold currency was similar to what was used in the New World, except for the difference in weight, purity, and stamping.

Under the interrogation of Cartel prisoners, they had a rough idea of the standard of living and the costs of basic living necessities. They also learnt that hunters and adventurers were very common in the Old World, as monsters were hunted for the rare mana stones or dungeon and ruins diving for magical items and artefacts.

Hence, the party would easily fit in as adventurers and hunters. Leon gestured to the dead beasts and said, "Well, take their skins... and fangs... I guess they will provide good cover for us when we reach a town."

They spent an hour skinning the carcasses of the beast before they headed off again. The remains of the beasts were quickly swarmed by scavengers and other creatures while overhead, the floating rocks wobbled in the wind, some of the smaller rocks even smashed against the larger ones and breaking into smaller fragments which were then blown away by the wind.

After another few hours of trekking through the grass, they finally came upon a dirt track that clearly was made by people. They followed the track and set up camp again when the sun dipped down and when morning came, they resumed their journey and the sights of tilled land and signs of people appeared.

Leon's mood increased greatly as he hummed a tune of sorts as they followed the path. They had switched out of their blue tiger stripe camo hoodies with clothing that was less eye catching and before long, the walls of a small town could be seen, surrounded by more farmland that was readying for winter.

"Alright, my fellow adventurers!" Leon let out an excited laugh as he pointed to the gates of the town. "Onward my friends! A new adventure awaits us!"

A note from neo Koh

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neo Koh


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