Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 482
Sacred Light Era Year 595
Since the start of the 2nd month of Year 595, the autonomous region's fleet brought large equipment and skilled workers and their families from Whitestag nonstop. According to Colonel Moriad, the three sister prefectures and the other seven of the kingdom's prefectures no longer had a single running factory, both civilian and military alike. Any and all machinery was shipped back.
Claude had to admit that the most effective way to spur industrial development in the region was to steal. According to Sir Bernard and Weyblon, with these machines and workers, they could produce basically anything the kingdom could and even improve upon the quality and efficiency. Not to mention, they could sell it for a lower price locally to be more competitive.
After all, most of the industrial complexes on the mainland were controlled by the old and new nobility. They basically had a monopoly on products without any pressure from competition, so they could raise the prices for the highest profit margins. The intertwined web of interests between workers and managers in the hierarchy also encouraged corruption and wastage of human resources.
During the middle of the 5th month, the autonomous region's fleet that had made three voyages to and back took a month for resting and maintenance. When shipment began once more during the 6th month, they transported mostly refugees from the mainland. Eiblont sent a request for masses of food as Thundercrash managed to gather near a million refugees. They were quite pressed for food.
Claude could only remain at Port Cobius for the moment working on the sorting the industrial equipment between civilian and military installations, as well as which to give to Blackstone and which to give to the factory Weyblon managed. Civilian-use machinery fell to the jurisdiction of the region's administrative council.
There were quite a number of council members who wanted to curry favour with Claude to get a deal for those machines. They knew that this was the only chance they had to start a large factory for their household, which would allow them to keep their influence. It was the perfect family business to pass down.
Claude sometimes felt really troubled from all the busywork. Last year when Borkal returned, he told him about how many people with high-ranking positions in the royal guard were dissatisfied with Stellin XI's ineptness and were going to support Fourth Prince Fredrey instead. Yet, a year had passed and nothing had happened at all. Even Eiblont reported that everything was fine and the kingdom didn't deploy any troops against Thundercrash either.
That was the point he was most troubled about. He didn't think Borkal would lie to him and make up a story about the royal guard's dissatisfaction. Apart from recruiting skilled workers, refugees and stealing machinery, shaming the king was also one of their main objectives.
Sending troops to the mainland to rob them of their means of production and recruit their subjects was a rather sound slap on Stellin XI's face. He had lost all repute that he still had remaining and was labelled incompetent, foolish and whimsical. He lost all the dignity and respect of the nobles and his ministers.
Under such circumstances, it shouldn't be hard for the royal guard's brass to replace him with the fourth prince, yet why was no action taken? Wasn't that the best time to do so?
What Claude didn't understand was the royal guard was also complaining about Thundercrash. The royal guard was just about ready to stage a coup for the fourth prince, yet Thundercrash arrived right before their plans and conquered ten prefectures before sending their troops all the way to the border of Ibnist Plains.
Some strongholds the royal guard held at the outskirts of the plains could see Thundercrash's light cavalry in the area. While they didn't show any hostile intentions and were only recruiting refugees and spreading the good news of the autonomous region, the royal guard's defenders could do nothing but prepare as if they were going to fight a large battle.
Thundercrash's arrival had interrupted the royal guard's plans for a coup. They didn't know whether Thundercrash had intentionally chosen that time to arrive to disrupt them and were now regretting secretly revealing their plans to the theatre's representative back then. Initially, all they wanted to do was to get the theatre's cooperation to acknowledge Fredrey as king once he ascended to the throne.
Yet, not only did the theatre change into an autonomous region, it also deployed troops on the mainland. The royal guard brass didn't know whether they should continue with their plans. During those times, they couldn't trust any other corps, especially not Thundercrash from the colonies. Even if they claimed to not be against the kingdom but the king and appeared to share the same goal, the royal guard's brass didn't dare let their guard down.
They only knew him superficially, after all. The worst possible case was that, after pushing Stellin XI off for Prince Fredrey, Thundercrash would attack the royal guard with the justification of stopping the coup before sending their troops to storm Ibnist Plains. The mere thought was mind numbing.
So, the old nobility that stood behind the royal guard had their men stay put to watch Thundercrash loot and recruit. It seemed that they wouldn't stay there for long, so the royal guard could hold their coup after Thundercrash left. All they needed was patience and time.
It wasn't that they didn't try to make contact with Thundercrash. They believed what Eiblont said about only coming here to help the kingdom with refugees and that they would retreat back to the autonomous region soon. However, the royal guard decided they should not act rashly so long as Thundercrash was on the mainland.
When the fleet once more set out during the 6th month to transport a batch of 300 thousand plus refugees, Claude was told about Reddragon itching to make a move. Based on intel from Griffon and the royal guard, Stellin XI seemed to think there was still something he could salvage. He scoured the people of Ibnist Plains once more for some war funds and handed them to his father-in-law, Duke Siegfeld, to get Reddragon to attack the traitorous troops of Thundercrash.
This was triggered when Thundercrash started their gradual retreat from the kingdom. They had taken most of what they wanted anyway and the refugees they recruited were waiting at Whitestag for the ships to arrive. Some local officials or rich folk even packed up and tagged along with Thundercrash as they retreated, worried that the king would once more send his men to charge them for aiding the enemy once they left.
Perhaps the decrease of deployed troops gave Stellin XI the wrong impression that Thundercrash was being burdened by all the refugees and didn't have a choice but to start their retreat. It gave him a sliver of hope to crush them and re-establish his royal reputation.
He left that hope with his father-in-law. While his wife had died long ago from giving birth, his father-in-law didn't have a thing to say about it. Without his support, Stellin XI would've never been able to defeat Prince Hansbach in the fight for the throne. Reddragon was still among his more reliable corps.
It was quite laughable, though. He trusted the royal guard the most, given that they were historically the most powerful corps of the kingdom. However, its internal hierarchy and factions were incredibly complex. Prince Hansbach had wanted to purge the old nobility from the royal guard, which caused them to oppose him and get Prince Wedrick on the throne instead.
But now, the brass of the royal guard regretted their choice of a king. Stellin XI simply didn't command the same loyalty of the men, especially with him putting his trust in the new nobility and alienating the old nobility, which caused many officials in the kingdom to feel rather dissatisfied.
It wasn't that he wasn't aware of that, however, but he believed he would retain the royal guard's loyalty so long as he was king. Since the founding of Aueras three centuries ago, the royal guard had always been the royal family's most trusted unit. So, he left the matter of fighting to the other corps. Now, what he has to do as king was to deal with the other two main corps that weren't heeding his decrees.
However, Griffon didn't heed the call to arms and demanded military funding be provided in advance. It didn't seem to be a good deal, so after Stellin XI considered it a little more, he decided his father-in-law's corps was much more reliable. Their family ties was another bargaining chip he could use in his negotiation with him. No matter the circumstances, what Thundercrash was doing was nothing short of treason. As a traditional military man, he should be intent on hunting the traitors down.
However, that battle everyone looked forward to was quickly over. Before Reddragon launched their attack at the frontlines, they were suddenly attacked by Thundercrash and crumbled within half a day. None of them could aim more accurately than the soldiers of Thundercrash, and their mortars didn't have as great a range or as much power as the colonies' ones either. Even the quality of the soldiers and their fighting spirit couldn't compare. They didn't hold even a single competitive advantage.
Their cavalry was even less worth mentioning. The mobility of Thundercrash's cavalry eclipsed that of Reddragon fewfold, causing them to be completely unable to resist Thundercrash's attacks. Faced with the endless waves of attacks, the troops of Reddragon had this feeling that they were fighting a force far larger than their own. Without proper fortifications and defences, they quickly fell and ended up captive to Thundercrash.
The officers of Reddragon that managed to escape to Ibnist Plains after much effort let their tears fall along with Duke Siegfeld, their Lord Militant. Of the 65 thousand men they left with, less than seven thousand returned. It was an utter and complete defeat that cost the kingdom one main corps. This was the wake-up call they needed about the might of the colonies' two irregular corps. They finally understood why they won in the colonial wars.
Fortunately, Thundercrash didn't ship the captives back to the autonomous region and instead released all of them while also giving medical treatment to those injured on the battlefield. They also collected the corpses of the dead and handed them to officers from Reddragon that came forward to claim it. They even returned the ammunition and firearms they captured on the battlefield.
In the end, ten thousand Reddragon troops were killed and around 20 thousand were injured to varying degrees. Effectively, half their number was incapacitated. The corpsman, Lord Militant Siegfeld, was so humiliated he didn't bother going to the royal capital. Instead, he returned directly to his camp with the remnants of his corps to lick his wounds.
One benefit from the battle was Thundercrash earned the goodwill of the royal guard and Griffon. Officers from those two corps came to better their relationship with Thundercrash unbeknownst to one another. The new rifles and mortars also entered their sights. However, they merely memorised the core concepts to try to copy them themselves rather than take any back with them in fear of Thundercrash's might.
Eiblont's conclusive report soon made its way to Claude. He wasn't surprised about the results of the battle, which were almost a given. While Reddragon was one of the three main corps of Aueras, they were an infantry corps. Being attacked on the plains by a cavalry corps all of a sudden without fortifications could only result in defeat.
Not to mention, their weapons were far too powerful. The Sonia 591s could fire a few times faster than the muskets Reddragon was still armed with. Had both sides still had normal muskets, Reddragon's casualties wouldn't have been so heavy. It didn't help that information about their marching path and camping location was leaked by the royal guard, making their defeat set in stone before the battle even started.
After that battle, Thundercrash's plans continued without resistance on the mainland. Once they retreated from a prefecture, Griffon quickly came to reclaim it. The two corps had an unspoken agreement. To Griffon's delight, some order returned to the prefectures now that the burdensome refugees were gone. Things did seem to start to recover. At the very least, somebody started to plant winter wheat in the farms and fields outside the towns and cities.
Year 595 was quite the peaceful year for Claude where he carried out massive developments in the autonomous region. Thanks to the equipment shipped here from the kingdom, about a hundred large factories were built within one year. It greatly increased the production capabilities of the region, which also meant a great amount of tax collected.
Construction of the railroad from Vebator to Cromwell had begun, ushering in a new transportation paradigm for the region. In the coming three years, the executive committee of the council's top priority was to expand the railroads to other towns and cities for even more convenience for the flow of goods. It would take a month on horseback at least to travel from Aduras in the far south to Loki Mountains in the far north, but the journey could be shortened to just one week with railroads.
Apart from the machines, they also managed to build a large metal refinery for the production of various metals and alloys. The refugees recruited also number up to 1.6 million, which further relieves the lack of manpower in the region.
However, at the end of the year, a piece of news from the western coast frustrated Claude and the rest greatly, though there was nothing they could do about it. It said that Shiks, Nasri and Canas sent eight corps to Aueras to take back the territory they conquered during the five-year war. They claimed to want to help Rimodra and Sidins restore their nations.