Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 332





"Anything newsworthy in the papers today?" Claude asked as he came downstairs and found Angelina seated in the dining room with the Whitestag Daily.

The newspaper had come a long way from the barely-afloat town rag from Claude's childhood. They'd negotiated access to the city's carrier dove network, which let them publish news from the capital just a day or two after it happened, at least a week ahead of any other newspaper in all of the three sisters.

"Nothing good. The Cromwell colony is fighting Shiks' outposts again. This is the seventh skirmish in six months. The kingdom is sending ambassadors to Shiks with a stern objection to their conduct. They're also to call for bilateral talks to end this.

"House of Dignity Deputy Speaker Aubnite has proposed a large-scale requisition of redskin youth labour to solve the immediate labour shortages. Several prominent financists have warned that this will undermine the caste system. Redskins have never been more than serfs, if even that. If they were to be requisitioned, they'd have to be made peasants, and nobody's happy with the thought."

She handed him the newspaper as she spoke.

"I'll bring your breakfast. Are you going back to camp today?"

Claude nodded.

"Hm. I'll be back Saturday."

He had had a most pleasant time at home. He deeply appreciated for once not having to personally oversee the 131's training. He left everything to Vice-Tribesman Schnak. His three friends and captains, Moriad, Dyavid, and Berklin could also handle anything Schnak couldn't. He'd been in the city practically every day since their arrival. He'd taken leave every free day he had, and used the excuse of his required presence at official events such as receptions to stay in well after his leave had expired.

He could not continue his absence anymore, however. They would soon depart to Egret for their survival training, and he had to be present for that. They would rotate the units through the course over the coming weeks. As much as he wished he could send everyone out at once and get it over with so he could return to his wife's bed, Egret was not big enough for so many teams. This first batch would consist of each clan's top tent, whom he would instruct and supervise personally.

"Where are Myjack and Gum?" Claude asked.

"They had breakfast already. They're tending to your horses."

Angelina placed his breakfast -- white bread, red tea, bacon, and fried eggs -- on the table.

Claude nodded to her, then bit into the bacon sandwiched as he skimmed the newspaper. As she had said, the highlights concerned Cromwell's conflict with Shiks. Given the time it took news to travel from Nubissia to the mainland, the news was a week old.

While the alliance had lost badly during the war, they'd thoroughly screwed Aueras on Nubissia. Aueras had seven colonies and their combined area far exceeded the kingdom's territory on Freia. Even with the new territory they'd annexed, the kingdom's mainland territory was only on par with its holdings on Nubissia.

Nasri was their archenemy and they had one colony. It equalled an Aueran colony, but had a far greater port. They had funnelled most of their funds into building Port Vebator before developing the rest of the colony. And the colony adjoined Cromwell to the north, and Shiks' colony to the south.

The army had planned to mobilise the colony garrisons as soon as the war started and march them against the enemy colonies, especially the port.

Their plans were scuppered by a revolt among the natives in Shiks' colony. It prompted the duchy to send a corps to quell the rebellion, meaning the colonies were now far better defended than before.

It wouldn't have been as bad had the corps actually marched to Shiks' colony. They instead camped along the border between Cromwell and Nasri's colony, making a quick capture of Port Vebator all but impossible.

As a result, despite the war raging on the mainland, nothing big happened in Nubissia. Aueras should, perhaps, be happy Shiks didn't get directly involved on the mainland. Had they, things might have gone very differently. They were the other major regional power, after all. Aueras' territory equalled theirs only now that it had annexed three duchies' land and people.

They had not stayed out of the war entirely either, however. While they had not sent troops to fight Aueras, and had not officially taken a side in the war, they had fed the alliance with every supply and resource for which they'd asked.

The war was over, but Port Vebator was still just as much as prize as before it. Aueras had actually tried to include it in the territory to be ceded, but Shiks had come marching in to claim their debts. The debt Nasri owed was significant, and they'd given Shiks their colony as collateral. It was clear the kingdom could not pay its debts in its current state, so they claimed the colony.

There would be no Port Vebator for Aueras. Nasri had no Port Vebator to sign over even if it wanted. The ambassador would have, under normal circumstances, just pressed on with the war and completely eradicated the kingdom and remaining duchies, but the kingdom didn't have the power anymore, it had been too exhausted, so he demanded some hefty reparations and called it quits.

This was a worse blow to Aueras' ambitions on the new continent than Nasri keeping the colony. Shiks was far more of a threat, and now it had a firm foothold on Nubissia. The port gave the kingdom the ability to launch invasions along the entirety of the Nubissian coast, no colony was safe anymore.

There had been near a hundred conflicts between the colonies of both nations during the two years since the war's end. Now, instead of pirates, Aueras was fending off ships from Shiks' Seaking fleet, rebel natives on land, and the Shiksan garrison that had marched 50 kilometres into Cromwell.

Even during summer when the bull herds were migrating on Albator Plains, Shiks' forces often ignored the Aueran garrison's warnings and barged into their colonies to hunt the bulls for leather. Conflicts often broke out.

While the Aueran colonies covered the greatest extent of the new continent, they were chronically undermanned. Most were stationed in the larger cities. But after Shiks took Port Vebator, they stationed two corps in the colony and formed a new fleet.

Shiks was neighboured only by vassals and allies. So they didn't need much of a home army. They poured all the freed resources into their new colony instead. Every neighbour of Aueras, by contrast, was a former enemy, rival, or suspicious neutral. The kingdom had to guard itself, so it had far fewer free hands to send across the sea.

Shiks continued to violate their territory, but all Aueras could do was lodge one strong objection after another.

Claude flipped to the second headline. He couldn't be bothered to read the strong comments the pundits had to say about the situation. No matter how seething their words were, they wouldn't be able to harm Shiks one bit. As long as Aueras was determined not to upset Shiks, similar situations would only resurface nonstop.

The second headline was about Deputy Speaker Aubnite's revised labour proposal. It was merely a superficial change of terminology. Essentially, the same bill was put forward once more to get the kingdom to attract more Nubissian red-skinned native youths to solve the kingdom's manpower crisis.

It was a really polarising topic. It was common knowledge that the reddish color of the Nubissian natives was a taboo skin colour in Freia. In the folk legends passed down since the magic civilisation, dwarven skin was grey and brown in colour like stones, since they were considered to be spawns of the mountains. Elven skin was described to be light green to azure as they were the children of the forests. Human skin on Freia on the other hand was white, thanks to the blessing the Silvermoon Goddess gave them. It symbolised purity and light.

However, the skin of Nubissian natives was red in colour, just like the demonic hellspawns' in folklore. Even in magic tomes passed down since long ago, demons were depicted in red and that colour represented their greed and bloodlust. As such, the Nubissian natives were seen to be descendants of demons. Coupled with the primeval deities and shamanic superstitions the natives held, they were feared by the Freian colonisers, who used that as justification to wipe out one tribe after another to take their lands.

However, those colonisers who thought they were bringing civilisation and light to Nubissia left an awkward historical legacy. In the past three centuries since their arrival in Nubissia, they created millions of mix-blooded descendants. There was up to a million such mix-blooded youths in the seven Aueran colonies alone.

Everyone knew that white wouldn't stay white when mixed with any other colour. Thanks to the taboo red colour of the natives' skin, few nations permitted natives to move over to the continent and live there. Apart from some nations that still permitted slavery and had red-skinned slaves, most other nations forbade such peoples from living in their territories. It was racial discrimination through and through.

In the seven colonies of Aueras, most of the people there were mix-blooded redskins. In fact, pure-blooded natives were among the very small minority. They were considered to be colonial subjects of the kingdom, but not the kingdom's real citizens. Even though they were taxed and ruled over, they weren't allowed to serve in the military or become a peasant of the kingdom.

After the five-year war, the kingdom inherited the territories of the three defunct duchies, but most of the land and their people was left in shambles. Taking into account the casualties the kingdom suffered, the 1.5 million Nubissian youth labourers would be a welcome remedy for their manpower malady.

However, the kingdom's drafting policy was based on regional quotas. That was why the various prefectural governments were really strict on their labourer policies and stopped vagabonds and youths from leaving the prefectures. Given that was the case, the merchant nobles who now controlled the 29 new prefectures turned their sights to the youths in the seven colonies and hoped to use them to make up for their manpower shortage.

Deputy Speaker Aubnite represented the new nobility interest group and he strongly advocated for the integration of Nubissian youths. He wanted to push for a new policy to afford peasant status to Nubissians who serve without pay for ten years as labourers. After serving their term, they could freely choose to live in any of the 29 new prefectures. That way, the manpower shortage would be no more and the kingdom would more easily be able to hold onto the stabilised new prefectures.





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