Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 403

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"The robes from Greytower are standardised like this," Saljorak said during his third visit with the robe in question, "Look, unlike the common robes, Greytower robes have sleeves and collars that open outwards and obsidian buttons. There's one pocket on the left and the right. They look simple, but classic and antiquated.

"Additionally, the robes are made from sigrui linen and silos-sheep wool. Look, this robe glows a little silver in the sunlight. It's thanks to the silvery silos wool. These two materials' sale outside Siklos is forbidden.

"The Greytower robes also have their unique insignia. There's a grey, seven-storey tower on the silver sides of the sleeves, which is the source of their name. There are also two affixed spells on the collars. The left collar has Clean, which can be used thrice a day, and the right has Shadowshift, which allows the robes to shift colour in dark environments. It can be used once every three days.

"Additionally, Greytower magi are used to embroidering their magus rank on their sleeves and underneath the robe, the number of successful assassinations for each magus will be marked with a hexagramal star."

Saljorak pulled out the right sleeve to show two black lines, which meant the former owner of the robe was a two-ring magus. The underside of the robe was rather clean, so it meant that the owner failed on the first assassination assignment he was given.

Claude asked him what rank the strongest magi among those who were killed was, and was told that apart from three that had three black lines on their robes, the rest had two.

He found it rather weird. Would the famous Greytower only send two-ring and three-ring magi on assassination missions? It was no wonder he had a hunch he could defeat two or three magi with only his spells even if he wasn't armed with his revolver.

It was clearly apparent that Saljorak had put in lots of effort into researching the matter lately. He told Claude that according to the information provided by rogue magi living in the colonies in seclusion, Greytower wasn't able to recruit talented members on the island for the past three decades and had stooped to spending time and money training their untalented own into assassin magi. Those that came for Claude were probably the first batch from the organisation's new blood.

Only after that did all of it click for him. It was no wonder he felt those magi were too easy to deal with. They were second-rate among magi after all, not true battlemagi. They were merely expendable assassin magi.

If Claude and Angelina's talent for magic were in the high eighties to nineties, Bloweyk's was only in the sixties to seventies. However, the magi Greytower recruited should measure not more than the fifties. They could learn magic really slowly and didn't have much latent potential.

However, Greytower had no choice but to recruit such mediocre members into their ranks. Even if they progressed slowly, it would still be better than letting the organisation fade into the sands of time. While Siklos was quite large, its population numbered less than a million. The one or two magical prodigies would be recruited long before Greytower would have a chance to take them in and train them into assassins.

Claude, for instance, spent only a year to become a one-ring magus whereas Angelina took only six months. Bloweyk was the worst off, but he still took only 16 months to become a one-ring magus. The islanders recruited by Greytower, on the other hand, required at least three to five years to successfully become one-ring magi, and probably another decade to become two-ringers. It was no wonder they were sent out on a mission despite being only two to three rings strong. The organisation could no longer afford to raise them to four or five rings.

As the two continued to discuss information about Greytower, Skri barged into Claude's sick ward with an eagle message. Though he seemed really agitated, he struggled to soften his voice. "It's from the frontlines. General Bolonik led the royal guard folk, a part of Thundercrash and 1st and 2nd Monolith's four combat lines to Port Vebator and managed to enter the city. They fought a day and night and forced the enemy defenders to surrender. The port has been conquered!"

It lasted almost forty days in total. Not including the time it took to gather the troops for deployment, Bolonik immediately led the troops to besiege the city. Thankfully, everything went without a hitch and they only took a day and two nights to conquer it. It still wasn't known how serious the casualties of the royal guard folk were. Hopefully, Bolonik remembered Claude's reminder to keep their casualties low.

"Is there news from the royal capital?" Claued asked Skri.

"No. The royal capital recalled the first band of ambassadors they were about to send and sent out a second one. We estimate that they should just be boarding the ships in Whitestag's base. It would take them another month at least to make it here. According to last week's updates from Mister Weyblon, not a single member of the first band are in the second band. He believes the new ambassadors aren't coming to give the war theatre any trouble."

Claude breathed a sigh of relief. "All's well as long as they're not here to get us. Now that we've managed to overcome this obstacle, we will have a much better time in the colonies moving forward. We can sit back and relax and watch the showdown about to happen between the two princes in the royal capital. There's no need for us to take sides. We'll just pledge our loyalty to the one who wins."

Skri and Saljorak looked at each other then nodded. Had it not been for Claude's efforts, they would've been doomed if the first ambassador band had made it. At the time, they had Miselk around, so they didn't have to worry about offending the useless royal-family-affiliated generals at all.

Who knew, however, that the situation would change so quickly? Miselk ended up having to recover in seclusion after getting injured during the assassination attempt on Prince Hansbach and those royal generals managed to use the magic assassination as an opportunity to give the war theatre trouble. Had they really come to the war theatre, they would even be able to pick a needle out of the sea.

What worried the generals of the war theatre most was how Prince Hansbach, the man of whose faction they were supposedly in, didn't put in a single good word for them and let the useless royal generals slather accusation after another on them, even alleging that they were the masterminds behind the assassination. Fortunately, the bigwigs in the royal capital stopped the first ambassador band. Otherwise, the generals in the war theatre would be in for nothing good.

It was all thanks to Weyblon and the mining association's help. They fed them information from the royal capital nonstop so that Claude and the rest were able to see how the royal capital responded to the assassination, as well as the attitudes and stances taken by the bigwigs. They were even aware of the members of the ambassador bands. They owed the mining association a huge favour.

Now, it seemed they only had to wait another month or so patiently for the second group of ambassadors to arrive in Lanu and closed the case of the assassination for good. Skri, however, still had to send another report of the successful conquest of Port Vebator to the royal capital. A third group of ambassadors probably had to be sent to settle things in the theatre. After all, the colonial conflict had ended for good and whether the war theatre would be maintained depended on the bigwigs of the kingdom.

Claude could finally rest and recover peacefully. But, roughly a week later, Skri came with another piece of good news. When the royal guard troops scoured Port Vebator, they surprisingly found traces of the magi that escaped. The magi had wanted to resist the angry soldiers of the royal guard and took cover in a building with good terrain, only to be blasted away by three to four mortar rounds. Four of them died on the spot and three were injured from the explosion. They had finally captured some of the magi alive.

It was indeed stellar news. Saljorak had gone to Dorinibla River to await the unit that escorted the three live magi back. He swore he would extract the name of the mastermind from the magi.

However, it didn't matter to Claude. He heard from Perunt that the heavily injured Birkin was recovering at a much better rate than he was and would be able to leave his sickbed in another two months. The civil affairs supervisor, Sir Bernard, on the other hand, was really unlucky and lost his left hand. It was cut off by Windblade during the assassination.

By the time Myjack returned to Claude, the second group of ambassadors were only three to four days away from Lanu. He had travelled along with the escorts of the three living magi captives and injured troops. After handing the captives to Saljorak at Dorinibla River, he hurried to Lanu with the injured.

Claude heard that Bolonik used run-of-the-mill tactics to take Port Vebator. Had it not been for the impressive mortars they had, the last bastion of hope for Shiks to continue the war wouldn't have been taken so easily. That was especially the case during the final battle to take the port. Seaking had seven light warships bombarding the attackers and stopping their advance. They had wanted to keep part of the docks defended.

However, Bolonik was well prepared for them. He deployed the five heavy-siege cannons he took from Port Patres and capitalised on their further firing range to attack the ships and managed to sink five ships. The final two light warships had no choice but to surrender. Without those seven ships, the enemies at the docks were no longer able to hold on and soon surrendered as well, putting a stop to their resistance for good.

Myjack told Claude that his childhood playmate, Borkal, made huge contributions during the battle. All the attack routes had been planned based on the detailed information he provided. He even became their personal guide in some areas. That was how they were able to take the port so quickly. The defenders were surrounded before they knew it and were cut off from the rear. If they didn't surrender, they would have to eat mortar from all directions.

The war theatre suffered around 20 thousand casualties in the siege, with most of them injured and few dead. The units that suffered the most were the four combat lines of 1st and 2nd Monolith. Their casualties numbered to around 60 percent of the total casualties, almost two lines' worth. The rest of the casualties were from Thundercrash and the royal guard folk, the latter of which suffered the least casualties to the point that their officers felt a little embarrassed and took the initiative to take up guard duty in the city.

Everything went smoothly after that. Borkal managed to get information from a local official that defected to join him and passed that information on to the royal guard, who started that investigation and eventually found the escaped magi and surrounded them. A toss of the mortar was all it took to solve all their troubles.

That was what Myjack meant by a huge contribution. Without the information from Borkal, they would've suffered at least double the casualties. Majid III had offered a huge reward to the standing corps, so they wouldn't have surrendered that easily and would've fought much harder.

However, it was all meaningless. The corps defending the port was isolated. They couldn't even leave the city to gather intel on the enemy. Coupled with their inferior military equipment and the mortars Bolonik was armed with, their will to fight was quickly crushed.

With Port Vebator conquered, the grey-robed magi captured and the ambassadors almost arriving in Lanu, Claude decided he could finally get a good rest.

What he didn't expect was three days later after the welcoming banquet in Lanu, one ambassador after another came to Weyblon Manor to visit him and gave him countless priceless gifts. His room was stuffed full of them. He knew for what they were there: the revolver he invented.

Saljorak managed to find time to visit him and told him something rather laughable. The magi finally admitted that they had indeed been hired by Majid III to assassinate the generals in the war theatre.

The funny part was that Claude had the most expensive bounty of 100 thousand gold keptons, whereas Aljess, Bolonik, Skri and the others were worth only 50 thousand. That was why the magi split up and sent seven of them his way.

After the ambassadors received the testimonies from the magi, they broke into a huge argument. They weren't willing to accept the fact that Aljess' bounty was only half of Claude's and were prepared to force the magi to change their testimonies. At the very least, the bounty amount between the two had to be equalised. They insisted that it was something that would affect the late Aljess' honour.

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