Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 449

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"Hold on! Don't panic! Aim well before firing!" cried a second lieutenant of Thundercrash to his line of ten plus troops. They raised their muskets and pulled the triggers.

Gunshots rang out white smoke spread into the air. However, only the frontmost four to five Shiksans fell; one of them had taken five to six shots alone before collapsing, already beyond saving. His comrades behind him roared and charged in with a renewed ferocity.

"Put on your bayonets! Don't panic! We'll go and skewer those Shiksan bastards!" The slightly older second lieutenant broke a Shiksan's charge with his bayonet and harshly struck him with the stock of his gun. A snap could be heard before the Shiksan collapsed on the ground, clutching his bloody face as his body twitched in pain.

The officer didn't give his victim one more look. He had already turned to the other two charging Shiksans. As a veteran who had fought in many battles, he had experienced such a situation many times before. While the Shiksans seemed terrifying, their bayonet skills didn't even seem to be passable. In two to three short bouts, the two Shiksans were skewered and felled by the elder second lieutenant.

Just as he was about to take a look at his own men, he heard a gunshot. Clutching his chest, he turned around and saw a Shiksan soldier hurriedly reloading his musket before he collapsed with a hint of unwillingness. All he could hear before he passed out was the frantic cries of his subordinates...

"Send the Shiksans back home!" In another location, some 30 soldiers from Thundercrash surrounded the seven remaining Shiksans with their bayonets held up. The floor was covered with near a hundred corpses and injured. The Shiksans in blue uniform and Auerans in red uniform laid on top of each other. Some were still struggling to take one final enemy with them to their deaths. However, Thundercrash still held the advantage. The seven surrounded Shiksans were injured in varying degrees and no longer seemed able to keep up.

Even with the Auerans roaring for the Shiksans to surrender, not one of those veterans were willing to discard their weapons. Instead, they gripped them even tighter. It seemed that they had already accepted their final fate. Little did anyone else notice that 50 metres away, one sole Shiksan soldier was pushing a light-infantry cannon with his injured body. He aimed the cannon to the group of people and bent down to pick up the fire starter on the ground before stuffing it into the cannon.

A loud boom rang out, followed by a torrent of shrapnel flying out. Both the Auerans and the surrounded Shiksan veterans were wiped cleanly out. The dying cannoneer laughed maniacally before coughing out more blood. His release would come soon. One Aueran soldier that saw what went on came to him and used his bayonet to vent his hate on the cannoneer's body.

"Huh? Firing the cannon, huh? Where did you learn to do that?" The poor Shiksan's chest was pierced so much it almost looked like a honeycomb. However, the Aueran soldier was soon inspired by the boom of the cannon he heard just now. He loudly called for his comrades with the intent on aiming the cannon at the other rabid Shiksans. But before they could respond, his call alerted the enemy. Gunshots rang out and the soldier collapsed on top of the cannon.

"I need reinforcements, General! 1st Line will be wiped out in another hour!" Berklin begged Claude with his entire body covered in blood.

Claude looked at the chaotic warzone a few hundred metres away through his telescope without being moved in the slightest. "Colonel, you shouldn't be here. You should be commanding your men to resist the enemy's advance. Gum, take my personal guard to reinforce them and stabilise the defence line. This is the Shiksans' final struggle. We just have to endure it a little more to win!"

Berklin stomped his foot hatefully and charged to the command post set up at the third trench. He knew Claude's troubled predicament. Reinforcements were demanded everywhere, but he didn't have nearly enough men. Nobody could've expected the Shiksans to charge at him so rabidly. Now, it was only a question of who could endure the intense fighting. The last side standing would be the victor. Claude even had to send his own guards to the frontlines.

This chaotic battle occurred when the second wall was conquered by Thundercrash. Claude used the Shiksan catapults to launch the theatre's mortars and managed to give them a heavy blow. The 1500 rounds dealt severe losses to the troops behind the wall. They quickly followed up with an attack with 3rd Line, all armed with new rifles, and easily took the fourth and fifth trenches between the walls.

However, there was something Claude didn't take into account: 3rd Line's ammunition shortage. Many soldiers had already fired their final bullet and unloaded new rifles couldn't even compare to normal muskets. Claude had no choice but to have them retreat and send Berklin's 1st Line and Moriad's 2nd Line out instead. By then, the Shiksans had recovered and immediately launched a frenzied attack against the second wall, whose defence had faltered, leading to the current situation.

Apart from making sure each soldier armed with the new rifle also had a hundred rounds with them, Claude also had another stash of ammunition prepared and handed it to Eiblont for safekeeping. After attacking the Shiksan supply base, 3rd Line's troops resupplied once. What they didn't expect was the sheer amount of ammunition used during the seven days fighting in the trenches. 3rd Line, by virtue of being armed with newer weapons, had been fighting nonstop at the frontlines.

When the troops of 3rd Line attacked the thousand-metre-long second wall, they wiped out the Shiksans there. But just as they were about to erect their own defences, they ran out of bullets. The whole line of 4000 plus had fewer than 400 rounds remaining. Dyavid hastily made an urgent request for more ammunition, only to learn that the rear no longer had any ammunition.

Claude then had 3rd Line retreat to look after the captives in 4th Line's stead. Then, he sent 1st Line and 2nd Line to secure the defence line. One good hour was wasted just like that. The Shiksans launched their attack before 1st and 2nd lines were able to firm their footing at the wall, causing the battle to devolve into a chaotic mess. Massacres and fights broke out everywhere.

The second wall was designed to defend against forces coming from the outside, not inside. Beyond the wall were cannons and catapults, so the land had to be flat. After they suffered Claude's mortar bombardment, they suffered a huge blow. If they didn't reclaim the thousand-metre wall, their defences would have a huge, gaping hole. The enemy could then easily take out the warehouses and barracks behind, which would be a disaster for the Shiksans. They would have no other choice than to surrender or be wiped out.

After Thundercrash conquered the second wall, they couldn't find much cover against the rear of the wall at all. Not even the simplest of mud walls could be found. The second wall also wouldn't be of much use, as the slope behind the wall was too steep and they would have to use stilts to be able to poke their heads over the wall to fight. 3rd Line also retreated after running out of bullets following their cleansing of troops that survived the bombardment, and 1st Line and 2nd Line no longer had the time to build any fortifications.

The Shiksans charged in wave after wave, throwing away their lives to reclaim the taken wall. Both sides fired once before charging into a messy melee. Claude could barely hold back the waves of Shiksan troops. The battle that lasted through the day and night fatigued both sides to the point of breaking down.

Gum departed and returned just as swiftly. The guards, armed with the new rifles, quickly stabilised 1st Line's defence line and chased the rabid Shiksans away, buying some rare time for 1st Line to rest. However, Gum was harmed by an iron-pumpkin explosion. A Shiksan soldier had ignited an iron pumpkin from 20 metres away and the explosion caused a piece of shrapnel to sink into his abdomen, causing him to have to be stretchered back.

It wasn't the first time that occurred. Claude saw the suicide bombings all too often from his telescope. The Shiksan veterans were the most fearless people he had ever seen. They carried the iron pumpkins in one hand, a torch in the other, and charged to the enemy before pressing the flame against the bottom of the iron pumpkin to trigger an explosion that wiped out Shiksans and Auerans without discriminating.

Thundercrash's 1st and 2nd lines only managed to last half a day before asking for reinforcements. 2nd Folk's 5th and 8th lines were sent to join the fray. The battle was mostly over by midnight. Claude sent 4th Line into the fray and Eiblont had the remainder of 2nd Folk's 6th and 7th lines restructured into 3 temporary tribes before sending them into battle as well. Only then were they able to last till dawn.

With Claude's personal guard band also joining, they managed to just barely stop the insane Shiksan advance. Not long after the battle at Berklin's side calmed down, the right flank where Moraid's 2nd Line was fighting also quieted down. Only Thundercrash's banner remained on the wall, still flapping in the wind.

According to the soldier that sent Gum back, the Shiksans weren't able to hold on either. The last wave of people charging at them weren't veterans, but rather, support staff like chefs, scribes, servants of officers and so on. They lacked any will to fight properly at all and were there only to make their final stands before they perished. As they didn't have much momentum, the troops were able to beat them back with light casualties.

Claude could only relax when the injured were sent back nonstop. The Shiksans stopped attacking for a whole half hour now. It seemed they really couldn't hold on. Claude changed into a soldier's uniform and headed towards the wall. He only saw the bloody spectacle for himself when he got up there. All the corpses he saw were clad in blue uniforms. They covered the entire ground and their blood formed a large, bloody puddle that enveloped the whole place and gave off a strong, bloody stench.

There were a number of soldiers clearing up the battlefield in the distance with their bayonets ready, piercing every corpse once just to make sure. Cries of pain and death rang out from time to time. Only after they were dealt with would the soldiers claim the tags on their bodies and check on their own fallen comrades to see whether there was any hope in saving them. Those that still drew breath were immediately treated by the medics.

Moriad came over with a bared and bandaged arm. He was so tired that he just sat down on a dead Shiksan.

"Are you alright?" Claude asked concernedly.

"I'm fine. I only stepped on a corpse and slipped and got this gash on my arm. It'll heal up after a couple days of rest," he replied nonchalantly. He knew what Claude was there for. "Don't worry, Chief. Blowk is fine. He's fiercer than me, you know, and took out a whole tent of Shiksans himself without getting a scratch. He took his tent to the enemy scouts' camp."

He felt relieved hearing that Bloweyk was fine. Looking at the hundreds of corpses piled up into the distance, he asked, "How many men do you have left?"

Moriad's face darkened. "2nd Line should have a tribe that can still move, and those are the lightly injured ones. The heavily injured have been sent back. The rest are those from other lines. 4th, 5th and 8th coupled together should have no more than six thousand. The Shiksans really went mad this time around. I think a folk's worth of people died... Look at all the corpses from here to there..."

Compared to the linesman of 4th Line, Jadewok, Moriad's injuries were really light. The original linesman, Andruk, had his rheumatism acting up again. It was so serious that he had to be transferred into a post of linesman of the garrison line at Port Cobius. He was also given the position of chief constable of Tyrrsim. So, Jadewok was transferred from headquarters to become the linesman of 4th Line.

Last night, Claude sent 4th Line in as reinforcements. They happened to encounter one of the fiercest counterattacks by the Shiksans and Jadewok's field-officer uniform drew the attention of the Shiksans. So, they intensified their attacks and killed off all his guards before finally getting the colonel himself.

Jadewok's death almost caused the troops of 4th Line to crumble. Fortunately, Moriad heard about it and rushed over in time and led the attack that drove the enemy back. He reformed the defence line and had Jadewok's corpse sent back before taking over 4th Line himself. Only then did the soldiers manage to endure.

Apart from the unlucky Jadewok, 2nd Folk's 5th and 7th lines' linesmen were sent to the rear with heavy injuries. It was a surprisingly chaotic battle that caused Thundercrash severe losses. Among its eight linesmen, one died and two were injured. As for the tribesmen, there wasn't a concrete count yet, but Claude was already informed of the deaths of three on the battlefield.

After lunch, Claude received a report from the scouts at the frontlines. The Shiksans gave up on their warehouses, camp and field hospitals. The remaining soldiers gathered up on a small hill. It should be where they stored their food and ammunition. They seemed intent on continuing their stubborn resistance.

Bloweyk reported that the hill still had around ten thousand men, mostly injured in one way or another. He could see from his telescope that they had some ten cannons, but no catapults. The Shiksans filled the linen bags they used to store food with earth and stacked them above the trenches to prevent cannon and mortar bombardments.

Additionally, the Shiksans burned the warehouses filled with uniforms as they retreated. The Auerans that took the second wall no longer had any energy to spare to put out the fire and simply set up a perimeter to stop the fire from spreading further.

Claude figured that they set the fire to stop Thundercrash from immediately pursuing to buy them time to fortify their position. However, it was nothing but a dying struggle. Did they really think they could stop Thundercrash on a small hill? Claude had many ways to sweep across the whole thing.

However, he wasn't in a rush. The troops needed time to rest after the bloody clash and the corpses also needed cleaning up. His men wouldn't have to go through that trouble, however. He could leave them to the Shiksan captives.

Just as Claude was about to get Dyavid's 3rd Line to escort the captives to clean up the battlefield, Eiblont returned with bad news. The nikancha tribes at the northern mountainous coasts refused to partake in the attack on the Shiksan camps, citing the excuse that their role was to defend, not attack. The severe losses they suffered after working with Eiblont to attack the Shiksan camp before seemed to have caused them to lose their drive.

Claude slammed the table hatefully. If the nikancha could've joined the battle yesterday, Thundercrash wouldn't have suffered such losses. However, he couldn't blame them either. The nikancha were no fools, and Eiblont's actions did cause them to lose confidence in him. They wouldn't let the lives of their youths be sacrificed for Thundercrash's sake.

He already had a hunch things weren't going to go well when Eiblont didn't return last night. Though, he did manage to gain victory in the end. However, he didn't think Eiblont would bring him even more bad news.

"The informants in Cape Loducus report that the third batch of Shiksan corps has arrived. This time around, they sent two standing corps over, one being a light-cavalry corps. They set out the night they arrived, probably to reinforce the camp at the fringes of the northern mountains.

"General Birkin wrote to me that the Shiksans have all left the border of the eastern mountains. There should only be a corps and a half left. The scouts spotted them rushing north and Birkin is helpless to chase them down. He warns us to be careful."

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