Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 515

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"It's been three days. The enemy's advance has slowed considerably. We can make an opening and let them into the city. Otherwise, if they continue to sit there without attacking, we'll be in big trouble. All our efforts might go to waste," Birkin said.

Claude stood at the sand table modelled after the city and shook his head in frustration.

"No, their commander is really sharp. While his attacks over the last three days seem overpowering, they're merely probes. They lost mostly just garrison and nobles' troops who willingly joined the attacks to reclaim their capital. The five Shiksan corps mostly stayed back during the fighting.

"I had someone do some counting. There are almost no dead in Shiksan uniform; less than a thousand. I suspect they know our defences are spread thin. Since they spent three days testing us, they should be hoping we will leave the city and retreat. They left a way out so we'd run for it. They don't want to fight us for the capital.

"All we can do now is hold on. We have to use our defensive advantages to defeat the five corps. Nasri won't be done until we finish this, and we can't move on to Canas until they are. Since the enemy wants to play the long game, we'll oblige. Hopefully, they'll eventually attack so we can pretend to retreat without drawing any suspicion."

"What if the Shiksan corps don't move?" Eiblont asked hesitantly.

"Then we'll wait some more." Claude tapped on the map. "I've written Bonik and Myjack and asked them to rush to Eimis with a line from 3rd Folk. We'll have Bonik's 1st Folk send men here and pretend to be a folk of reinforcements. If the enemy want to take the capital, they'll have to attack us after noticing our reinforcements and try to chase us out before they arrive."

The Union didn't meet Claude's expectations, however. They launched a major assault the very next day. All five corps were involved. It seemed they had decided the defences were weak enough to make their move. They forced Thundercrash and Monolith to give up the outer walls and pull back to the inner city.

"We lost nearly ten thousand. The enemy's casualties should be around five times that," Birkin reported with a grave expression as he handed the reports over to Claude.

Claude saw that most were injuries of varying degrees. Dead soldiers' names were circled twice in black, but they numbered less than two thousand, much to Claude's relief. The injured troops had been sent into the field hospital within the capital and the corpses of the dead had been collected. They would be cremated and their ashes would be transported back to the region when the chance came.

The loss of ten thousand was akin to the loss of two lines. While the enemy suffered five to six times that number, losing almost a corps, Claude felt that it wasn't that great a deal. However, considering the 100 metres beyond the walls and the seven trenches they gave up, he could only endure it.

"The enemy used lighter mortar launchers in their attack today. The attacking troops ran all the way to the trenches before letting them loose, catching us off guard. We didn't expect them to do something like that. That was the reason we suffered so much and lost the two trenches at the front. After that, we paid them back with our own light mortars by lobbing some into the trenches they took. We also focused our attention on the enemy mortar mortars immediately. The stalemate lasted till late afternoon before we retreated the rest of the way."

Eiblont also reported about his situation fighting at the defensive fronts. He believed that the enemy was rather hard to deal with, given that the five Shiksan corps were among the stronger ones in the Union's army. They were really familiar with spreading their troops into waves and had strong fighting spirit. However, that also made them easier to convince that the Auerans' retreat was true, since the defending soldiers were at a much worse-off position than they were.

The enemy was likely to attack the walls again. They could afford to give up on the western wall, but they had to keep the northern and southern walls defended at all costs. Even if the west was conquered, the enemies would have to proceed towards the warzone Claude had set up in advance. That area used to be the place where the captives and their families were kept. Now that they had been transferred away, a third of the streets in that area was converted into battlegrounds by Claude.

However, the Union's commander seemed to be trying to force Monolith and Thundercrash to retreat from Polyvisia on their own accord instead. He didn't attack right after occupying the front of the wall, choosing to spend five days collecting the bodies of the dead soldiers and digging some tens of trenches so that they could transfer their troops effectively.

When all was completed and seeing no sign of the Aueran corps retreating, the Union started their siege anew. They attacked from three separate directions just like before, but committed six corps from the get-go. The western and northern sides were attacked by one Nasrian and Shiksan corps respectively whereas two Shiksan corps went for the south. The enemy commander was trying to use numerical superiority to completely crush any will of the defenders to fight with overwhelming force.

That was a brilliant move in Claude's book. They were well aware of the biggest weakness of Thundercrash and Monolith. Each of the three walls could only be defended by two lines of around ten thousand men. Even with the fortifications, it simply wasn't possible to defend against wave after wave of enemies.

The enemies were all infantrymen trying to climb up the walls or shoot at them. The defenders' full attention was drawn. They didn't even have to aim, as they would hit an enemy by simply pointing in the general direction and shooting. Nobody noticed the approaching cannons and giant launchers from far away.

By the time the defenders finally detected them, it was too late. If they focused their attack on the cannons, they wouldn't be able to keep the enemy from getting onto the walls, especially with them being only five to six metres in height. The ladders stacked all over the walls could easily allow the enemy troops to climb up and fight in a melee. Claude and Birkin had no choice but to form up the remaining logistics and administrative troops into a reserve unit to be sent to reinforce them.

When the first enemy mortars landed on the walls and blasted everyone away, friend or foe alike, Eiblont led the defenders in a retreat to give up on the walls. Eventually, the western wall started flying the Shiksan and Union flags. Countless excited soldiers of the Union chatted and cheered for their expensive victory.

In that era, successfully conquering the wall was good enough to be considered a victory of the attackers. The defenders could either surrender or leave. The Union wondered why the battle on the southern wall still raged on despite the western wall having been taken. The cannon fire rang especially loud. The attackers, on the other hand, had lost the will to fight. The western side was already taken and they could simply take the walls from there. There was no point to continue fighting from the other side any longer and waste lives.

So, the gunshots in the north and south of the city gradually quieted down. The defenders on both walls even turned to the western wall for a counterattack, only to be beaten back. There was, however, still crossfire from the far sides. The Union had to separate the walls with sandbags in the end and fortify their position. They seemed to be rather short on gunpowder, only firing once in a while, unlike how frequently they attacked in the beginning.

However, the troops that entered the capital from the western wall were immediately attacked. The Auerans hid in the buildings, alleys and behind barricades as they continued attacking the Union's troops, causing their troops to be littered on the streets. The Union's troops managed a slow advance, but the sly enemy fought as they retreated slowly backwards, leaving behind a trail of empty bullet jackets.

Duke Pillag felt extremely uncomfortable, as if something was wrong about being so easily taking the walls. The fact that the enemy was still fighting that fiercely after the conquest of the wall was weird in itself. Usually, the loss of a wall meant the end of the siege. The defenders should choose to leave or surrender. Pillag even intentionally left a way for them in the east to depart through. It would be a win-win situation where both sides no longer had to suffer losses.

Soon, news came from the city explaining why the enemy didn't retreat. A Shiksan officer ran to the command post with a sack and poured its contents out on the desk. Treasures of gold and silver blinded the eyes that set sight on them.

"Lord Militant, we found storehouses in the city with these treasures... There are three in total, all filled with wealth! Our troops are going insane bursting inside to grab some for themselves. The troops in the city are saying that the two enemy corps gathered around tens of millions of keptons' worth of treasures in the capital! There are ten other storehouses like these in the city. This is the reason the enemy wasn't willing to retreat! They don't have enough carriages to transport these all away!"

Too bad it was already too late. The troops in the city couldn't be stopped. Even those outside heard about it and were either scrambling in through the western wall or requesting permission to be allowed to attack the enemy.

The Nasrian prince, Daklid, on the other hand, rushed to Pillag to make his objections clear. He believed the wealth belonged to Nasri, and therefore, him, its new king. However, Pillag expressed that he was helpless to do anything about it. He couldn't order the troops to hand in what they got lest they harmed the morale of troops on the frontline.

However, he said Daklid could have priority to let his own men lead the attack on the enemy. That way, all storehouses he found would be his. Daklid had used the fact that he only had a corps left as an excuse to refuse to join the city battles after the siege, after all.

When an orderman came to report that Canas' Marquis Archiberger Way Chalx also sent his only remaining cavalry corps into the city, Daklid could no longer hold on and immediately left. Not long after, the reformed Nasrian corps flooded into the city.

Gunshots at the western wall rang louder and louder. The Union's soldiers ignored all casualties as they charged for the enemy. Once the enemy finally left their fortifications, the Shiksan troops cheered and cried, not for defeating the enemy, but rather, getting to sweep the abandoned homes for anything of value.

The whole of the Union's army had fallen for the bait. Nobody cared about their injured comrades. All their eyes turned red upon hearing about new warehouse discoveries. To be the first to take the treasures for themselves, one Shiksan clan clashed with a band of Canasian light cavalrymen, resulting in a tragedy of ten plus dead and injured. In the end, they were stopped by Nasrian troops that rushed over.

Apart from Daklid's corps that still showed some organisation, the other 200 thousand Union soldiers in the city had completely disintegrated. They were either searching buildings for treasure or rushing to where the gunshots were the loudest, since it meant people were fighting over the treasures there. Their gold rush caused them to ignore the piling corpses around them as well as the cries for help of the injured.

Many of those empty buildings were set alight by angry and disgruntled soldiers. Eventually, the number of fires grew. Fortunately, most of the buildings in the capital were built of stone, so the fires didn't spread too wide. During midnight, many troops who made off with quite some spoils decided to hold a grill fest to rest. Some even flashed their spoils to their comrades.

It was then when news got out that even more treasure was kept within the palace, all of them small, pocketable treasures that were valuable enough for the troops to live a life of luxury once they brought them home. The troops made for the palace on their own accord, and now, the corpses lining the streets were obstacles to their path. They dragged them to the side of the road as they advanced. Gunshots could already be heard near the palace, but that didn't stop the mob from heading there.

Between the western sector and the palace was a wide plaza, the famed Nasrian Royal Plaza of Polyvisia. The Nasrian royal family would always host a grand ceremony each year. The promotional ceremonies and troop surveys would also be held there. Blackstone Path could let four carriages travel through it consecutively and it was connected to the plaza. There were also many beautiful gardens in the area.

The defending troops of Thundercrash and Monolith lined the walls heavily. The pathetic attackers were still driven mad by gold and tried to attack the palace, only to lose their precious life amidst the gunfire.

"We need mortars and cannons to take the walls of the palace!" yelled the first reinforcements who arrived, but nobody bothered to carry those heavy equipment over. They were all afraid of missing out on the attack.

The 100 plus thousand men slowly crowded the plaza up, yelling their unit or officer names to regroup with their fellow comrades. Even more of them gathered right in the centre of the plaza. As it was about three hundred metres separated from the palace walls, there was no worry that they would be fired on.

"This must be what you mean by 'birds die for the catch, humans die for the cash', right?" Eiblont said with a sly smile as he looked at the crowd.

Claude nodded. He turned to Birkin and said, "You can give the order to fire. I believe they will be shocked to find out we have 400 cannons hidden away. Eilon, go to the southern wall and instruct the cannoneers to bombard the western wall. Seal it off and make sure nobody gets to leave."

Claude had said that as long as he had enough ammunition, he didn't care how many enemies he had. But ever since the Union came, he didn't reveal the 400 cannons and ammunition Monolith 2nd Folk brought with them, choosing to hide them in their storehouses, fearing that the enemy wouldn't attack the city once they knew. So, they only saw around 200 units in battle. After Thundercrash retreated to the capital, there were only a hundred plus left, and they made it seem like they didn't have enough ammunition.

Now, most of the enemies were gathered in one place and were hard pressed to escape. They were so blinded by riches that they left their heavy gear and weapons outside the city. Claude could finally start his massacre with his own big guns.

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