Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 350

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On the 7th of the 10th month of Year 586, Claude finally received orders from Miselk. There was only one word in the eagle message, 'act', as well as Miselk's signature and official stamp.

"Myjack, send out orders to have the four tribes start the plan. As for the others in the line, have them follow me," Claude instructed.

"Yes, Sir." Myjack saluted.

He was now a captain following a promotion upon his return from his leave. He was still Claude's adjutant, however.

"And have Gum keep the box of treasures well. Don't leak news of it. It's our secret weapon, understood?" Claude told Myjack.

The man nodded and left the office.

He was referring to the fruits of the research project between Angelina and Myjack during his break. It was a box with grenades with a long wooden handle. It was one of the two things he had tasked his sister with designing. Their development had gone well and they could make it according to the design after figuring out the fuse and the delay element.

The boxes were all made using Angelina's array, all 24 of them. The only downside was that it didn't pack that much of a punch. It was not due to a manufacturing flaw, but the limited strength of the explosives at hand, which was merely gunpowder. However, it was enough to send over 20 pieces of shrapnel flying and cause sufficient damage in a three-metre radius according to the experiments Angelina had Myjack carry out.

There was also a production diagram inside the box that detailed the steps to mass produce the needed parts and quality checking procedures. Angelina had translated the steps from the array into normal processes. With the diagram, Claude only needed to buy the materials to produce grenades on a large scale.

He instructed Myjack to keep it secret as he wasn't intent on making grenades any time soon. It wasn't too difficult to make, so he didn't want to add more trouble for himself before he had enough power to ensure he had control over their production. The samples he had his sister make were only for his personal use, such as saving him from a dangerous situation or helping him land a huge achievement.

Angelina was still working on the revolver. According to Myjack, she believed most of the parts could be made using an array, save the bullet primer. The lead core and jacket wasn't a problem, but what to use for the primer was still a giant question. The newly wedded couple had tried many methods but the rate of misfire was still too great.

Claude wasn't much surprised. His sister was an apothecary, not a chemist, after all. There were no 'physics' and 'chemistry' in this world and all tangential topics were usually attributed to mysterious alchemy not taught to the masses. Only the magi and the royal family controlled such information and that was one of the many reasons matchlocks were still used six centuries after their invention.

He decided to take it slowly. He wasn't that well informed on the subject either. He had majored in applied computer science back on Earth and worked mostly in the technical sector after graduation. After deciding to work for his 'boss', he worked in technical support. He'd only started regretting his decisions after coming to Freia.

When news came from the frontlines, Claude got a hold of the latest combat situation. Two days earlier the two standing corps Shiks had stationed at the border, Tanya and Wicklan, had crossed the border and begun their assault on Cromwell. The three other corps were following them some 50 kilometres behind. They were Cybok, Kujoa, and Faybort.

It seemed Shiks had learned their lesson. This time they fought at a steady pace and made sure their units were kept close together so they could come to one another's aid. The five corps were sent out together and any Aueran resistance would be surrounded and attacked from all sides.

They were disappointed, however, to realise the enemy had no intention of meeting them on the field in Cromwell. They retreated the moment they came into contact with them, even around Cromwell's capital, Wickhamsburg, and the four towns. They marched into the capital and found deserted streets and empty houses. Only a couple nikancha could be found wandering about.

The soldiers tried to chase the nikancha back into their ghettos, only to be met with fierce resistance.

Annoyed, the officers ordered for a few killed. That untethered the frustration in the soldiers, and they started massacring every nikancha in sight. Only the young females were spared, but only because they could be used in other ways, which they were, until they broke.

Those that escaped spread news of the massacre wherever they went, and soon the whole colony and beyond knew. Not that many had been killed, actually. Only some one thousand had been shot before the rest had bolted. The army camp also had only some 200 females. The aggressors weren't aware that the massacre would cut off another source of information. Their scouts had always used the nikancha as a source of information, paying them a couple coppers, or something else of value for information on their enemy. Now, however, no nikancha even glanced in their direction other than to spit.

The officers had wanted to chase the nikancha from the city to make the capital the main supply base for the five corps. The four towns could be turned into important supply points as well. The nikancha, however, wanted to take whatever they could carry with them when they left. They didn't expect to be shot for their greed.

The nikancha had always been seen as mix-blood abominations greedy to the core. They'd thought themselves smart, however. They were pathological liars and lazy, stingy fools to everyone else. They stuck together like flies on shit, however.

In some sense, the Auerans had treated the nikancha rather fairly relative to the other nations. Even though they didn't consider them as Aueran citizens, so long as they lived within the colonies and made an honest living, they would be able to earn enough to feed their families well. So long as they paid a set tax, they could move about freely within the colonies and receive protection.

Many of the Aueran settlers, though commoners, would start their own mining ventures, farms, orchards, inns or taverns and they would hire the nikancha as workers with their own family members to supervise them. In most cases, they got along well with the nikancha and made a good living. That was one of the reasons the Aueran colonies became rather well developed.

The Shiksan colonies, on the other hand, were mostly inland. The nikancha who liked to live in coastal areas seldom went to the landlocked areas. Additionally, most of the Shiksan settlers came to the continent for mining related businesses and seldom started smaller businesses like farms or orchards. They were called gold diggers and only targeted the mines for big profits.

Unlike the development in Aueran colonies, the development in Shiksan colonies was mostly spearheaded by nobles and people in power. They scoured their colonies for mines to make huge profits. The nobles would only begin development after locating mining deposits to ensure a constant revenue stream.

Since the development efforts required large numbers of labourers, the nobles turned to the native tribes. They formed mercenary bands to attack the tribes and capture labourers to throw into the dark mining caves. It was practically slave labour and they didn't have to pay the labourers anything. That was also the reason revolts occurred nonstop in the Shiksan colonies. In the eyes of the gold diggers, the native tribes and mineable resources were goods to them all the same.

Had Nasri not given over Port Vebator, Shiks might not have had that much interaction with the nikancha. Unlike the pure-blooded eitat, nikancha were more civilised and willing to exchange their labour and time for food and let the young women service men.

The first batch of Shiksan soldiers to arrive in Nubissia, those from Pancry and Krado, had learned how to interact with the nikancha people and would offer food or money to them in exchange for information of the enemy when their scouts weren't able to find anything out. That was how they were informed of the fire at Mordo and the extermination of the two lines stationed there.

However, none of the officers from the latter five standing corps of Shiks knew how to interact with the nikancha and didn't really mind the massacre. The noble officers even believed that they could let the slave-owning miners turn their sights on them, since they were relatively more docile than the other natives.

Shiks' five corps spent a whole month's time to occupy Cromwell and split up into four towards Balingana. They had no choice but to do so as Balingana was far too large. If they continued with their stable pace, they might have to take double the amount of time to conquer the whole colony.

Since the enemy had abandoned their towns, there wasn't a point in carefully marching to conquer them since they would be undefended. The strategists suggested that the five corps split up in four directions as they headed to Balingana with the intent of shortening the time to conquer the whole colony. They would leave one corps behind to prevent their supply lines from being sabotaged by the enemy.

Unlike Cromwell, Balingana wasn't completely undefended. In certain strategic points with difficult terrains, there would be an Aueran tribe or line stationed there. They upheld a stubborn resistance against the enemy and only retreated at the most crucial moments when the enemy was about to break through. While the four Shiksan forces suffered substantial casualties, their victories were still undebatable.

A high-ranking Shiksan officer who had just conquered another enemy stronghold gleefully ordered his men to report to their corps command that his force was unstoppable and the enemy didn't even last one attack.

The four decades of peace made it easy for the Shiksan officers to be clouded by their victories. They had forgotten to check the disparity between the casualties they suffered and those of their enemy. The enemy corpses at the strongholds they captured were far and few in between whereas the attackers suffered casualty counts amounting to tribes at a time.

While they won and took over the enemy strongholds, causing their enemy to flee haggardly, they lost one tribe after another as they progressed. The high-ranking Shiksan officers mistakenly took that as normal losses and didn't really mind it. Each corps had a total of twenty combat tribes and so long as they were able to continuously win and take over the enemy bases, it didn't matter if they lost a tribe or so of troops.

Little did the Shiksans know that they had fallen for Ranger's plans. The small defensive strongholds Ranger erected were mistakenly identified by the Shiksan corps as fully fortified bases defended by the enemy's main force. So, they bravely charged forward and neglected to look after one another. Gradually, the corps eventually split up towards their complete separate paths.

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