Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 566

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It was in the 3rd month of Year 905 when Claude received three pieces of news, two good, one bad. The good news was the two Shiksan standing corps stationed at the pass leading to Manori Plains, Dakhli and Farklin, had surrendered and handed over the three prefectures of Kangna, Patkara, and Manori. All eight southern coastal prefectures were now in the region's hands.

All five of the port cities could now be opened. The eight homecoming Shiksan folks in the capital finally had a safe path through which to send their families to the region. They would sail on transport ships to Northbay before heading to Nubissia.

According to the agreement with Bleyotte; Kanga, Patkara, and Manori would be returned to them. Claude had chosen Port Patkara as the place from which the Shiksans would depart for the region.

King Avitelli I's successful persuasion of Dakhli and Farklin to surrender played a massive role. Dakhli had been formed in the Manori Plains in the first place. Most of the troops were locals and their fathers still recalled the days they were under Bleyottean rule. So the ambassador Avitelli I sent had great success. In the end, the king himself made a risky visit to convince most of the soldiers in Dakhli to turn to his side.

Farklin was without an ally. Fearing Thundercrash and the three Bleyottean corps, and having only 60 thousand men against their enemies' 350 thousand, not to mention the good relationship the Dakhli and Farklin corpsmen had with one another, Farklin's corpsman was convinced to surrender given the assurance that his subordinates' lives would be spared.

Eiblont sent more good news from the Shiksan capital. Typhoon and the four homecoming Shiksan folks had put some 270 thousand insurgents to the sword over the last months. They'd only suffered some six thousand losses in return.

Saint Cyprean was a safe holding now. The city had calmed and a sense of normalcy had returned to its streets. While malcontents could still be hiding in the dark alleyways of the city, they had neither the support from the general population nor the backing of outside forces to be a serious threat.

On the flip side, they had confiscated 30 million crowns' worth of goods. As expected of the northern superpower, the royal treasury's spoils alone were well over their 50-million-crown target. Eiblont believed they might as well raid the royal family's lands as a whole.

Even so, their monetary gains were only one of the factors behind their invasion, and not the main one. The main goal was to get the eight homecoming folks and their families. Manpower was the greatest wealth to the region which so sorely lacked it.

The region had estimated they could get some three million new heads if every soldier had six family members, which was a very reasonable average. They'd thoroughly overshot their estimate. The 40 thousand former Shiksan soldiers currently in Saint Cyprean alone had brought along 600 thousand family members, more than double their original estimate.

The homecoming Shiksans were supposedly the lowest rung of Shiksan society in the first place. Had the colonial wars been successful, they would be the ones settling down in the colonies as farm serfs and feudal subjects and their lives wouldn't have changed. However, Shiks failed and the soldiers ended up becoming captive labourers for the region. Now that the region allowed them to immigrate, it was a huge opportunity to climb the social ladder.

Even though they were of low social status, they still knew how to think for themselves and grasp that opportunity. They even paid visits to their family friends and called them family. Some even married here and there before returning home with the wife's family in tow. It was the first time the region ever encountered such a thing. Back then, the troops of Thundercrash and Monolith proactively brought up to two million immigrants to the region for the sake of the free farmland or property.

But back then, the total number of troops was only around 100 thousand. Yet, currently, there were eight whole folks of Shiksans, around 300 thousand of them, and there was another 200 thousand who didn't make the cut to join the homecoming folks and remained in the region. While they couldn't join, they asked their comrades to bring their families back as well and already made a list.

If that was the case, the estimation of new immigrants might have to be doubled. That made transporting them to the region a huge problem. A voyage from Shiks to Whitestag would take just as long as a voyage from Whitestag to Port Cobius.

Back then, it took around two months for one such voyage. The region gathered all their transport ships and only managed to carry out the huge wave of immigration with the help of Storm, the kingdom's navy. Now that the region had more than 400 large sail ships and an escort of ironclad warships, they could carry up to 500 thousand people per voyage. While it seemed like their transporting capability was increased, that actually lengthened the voyage to three months. As such, they would only be able to make four trips and transport two million people each year.

As such, the family members of the homecoming Shiksans brought many other problems with it. It meant that the region's two corps would have to remain in Shiks for an even longer time. More money would have to be spent on those immigrants, resulting in more wartime spending and higher maritime-transport demand.

The bad news came from the allied noble army. Four months had passed since the region took Saint Cyprean, and the Shiksan prefectures reacted. They gathered their youths and formed local garrisons led by the local officials to resist the Aueran invaders.

The allied noble army suffered quite a few losses during the start of the year. They received the right to attack and conquer the ten western prefectures from Claude, and whatever they managed to raid would be theirs and not the region's concern. So, 100 thousand of them started their attack on three prefectures, doing raids and all other unspeakable evils onto the local populace.

When word of the suffering in those three prefectures got widespread, the other prefectures upped their guard and formed their own forces to fight the incoming bandits. After the noble army licked the three prefectures clean, they began to turn to neighbouring prefectures, only to be met with strong resistance. After a great struggle to take one more prefecture, they found that it had been largely deserted. Guerilla units attacked them constantly and unpredictably. All of a sudden, the allied noble army was suffering significant casualties. They had no choice but to send Claude a messenger to request aid.

Claude simply wrote back and refused that request. A force of 100 thousand was already really powerful. However, the army had been filling their pockets in the first three prefectures for so long that they were now all afraid of dying and hoping Thundercrash would come to take the bullets for them instead. Let Thundercrash do all the dangerous charges and attacks while they profited from the raiding. They really thought that the region's troops were theirs to command around.

The resistance the noble army would encounter had long been in Claude's predictions. Even the homecoming Shiksan soldiers' reported that the local Shiksan officials were really uncooperative to them, to say nothing of the noble army. During the past three months, the homecoming soldiers could still go to those prefectures and operate without problems, whether they were in royal-controlled land or noble territory.

The homecoming Shiksans were able to disguise themselves as normal Shiksan soldiers to visit their families and gain cooperation and grants from local officials. Initially, the local officials even hoped to hear about the current state of battle. When the officials were suspicious about the soldiers bringing their families away, they could say they were taking them to use as hostages and prisoner exchanges.

But as time passed, the homecoming soldiers faced more and more difficulties taking their families away. Not only were they constantly interrogated by the local officials and nobles, they were also surrounded and attacked by local garrisons. Some nobles with good information networks even sent troops to hold their families hostage, causing the homecoming Shiksans to give up on sending small groups of people to infiltrate the prefectures to bring their families home.

Reddragon also reported strong resistance from the two prefectures they managed to conquer so far. But thanks to the new rifles they were armed with, they easily crushed all opposition. The only downside was the huge expenditure of ammunition. They had only left with three million rounds before they were deployed, thinking that was enough to last them till the end of the war. Little did they know that conquering two prefectures alone was enough to use up a third of their ammunition stock.

Blancarte had written to Claude to request the region to bear the ammunition expenditure of Reddragon. Naturally, Claude refused that unreasonable request, countering with an offer to sell bullets to them instead. Their raids on one prefecture alone probably earned them nearly a million crowns anyway. How could Blancarte be so shameless as to ask for their ammunition to be subsidised?

There were far too many issues plaguing Claude's mind currently. But the main one was still the issue of reuniting the eight folks of Shiksans with their families and sending them back to the region. Currently, the number of family members retrieved from the conquered prefectures number near 800 thousand people. That was a huge toll on the supplies of the region.

While Shiks was still filled with supplies, the region's expenditure would eventually shoot up sky high the longer they stayed and the more people they gathered. As such, Claude's urgent priority was to send the first batch of immigrants to the region to settle them down so they could resume life as normal.

As for the request for battle the other homecoming Shiksans submitted, Claude believed he ought to temporarily delay them. The Shiksan soldiers were anxious about reuniting with their families and kept on writing to frontline command about taking action to attack their homes to retrieve their families.

Claude, however, replied and asked them to wait patiently until frontline command got all preparations in order to sweep through the rest of Shiks, promising that they would save their families then. But which prefecture they attacked first depended on the situation, so he asked for their patience and understanding.

In actuality, Claude was merely keeping the burden of feeding all those people off the region's hands as long as he could. It would be very difficult to feed everyone until the ships arrived. It would be better to let them suffer a little in their homes a little longer.

Realities always conflicted with ideals, and man would have to learn how to navigate the practicalities of situations. Apart from the matter of immigrants, the high-ranking officers were also scratching their heads over the captives.

The region now had up to 500 thousand captives, most of them being surrendered troops from the crumbled forces of the four Shiksan standing corps, surrendered garrison soldiers, local officials, and insurgents Typhoon and the homecoming Shiksans captured in Saint Cyprean.

Killing them all off would be the easiest matter of dealing with it, though it simply wasn't possible. Should word of the massacre spread, the region would be branded as the public enemy of all Freians. Nobody could bear the consequences such an action would entail, and nobody was willing to lift the slaughterer's blade.

What of shipping them back to the region's mines? That was a decent idea, but Claude wouldn't be nearly as stressed if he had enough ships to achieve that in the first place. The voyages to ship the immigrants back happened only once every three months, so they wouldn't have any ships left to send the captives away too.

They couldn't just be released into the wild either, lest they bolstered Shiks' resistance even more. Releasing them would be akin to frontline command creating troubles for themselves later on. The problem was keeping so many people captive took a huge toll on manpower and supplies. One whole homecoming folk was required to manage the captives. Fortunately, those captives didn't need to eat or live well. They could get by with a simple wooden shed as shelter from the elements and huddle together for warmth.

Fortunately, Avitelli I decided he would take 200 thousand of those captives to Manori Plains for a huge development effort after the rainy season. That would be a huge boon to frontline command. After a personal conversation with Avitelli I, Claude managed to convince him to take 300 thousand people instead.

Whether they were sent to Bleyotte to farm, build roads, or mine, it would be much better than having frontline command feed them for nothing. Frontline command would only have to juggle half as many hot potatoes, and that was definitely a positive development. As for the welfare and treatment of the captives in Bleyotte, that wouldn't be the region's business any longer.

After a long half month of work, Claude finally recalled that there was another Shiksan standing corps waiting for him to deal with. He hurriedly summoned Borkal to gather reports on Farklin so he could decide what he would do with the surrendered corps.

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