Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 565

The cold winds blew as snow scattered all across the gloomy skies onto the burnt and destroyed houses. One after another, the corpses of the soldiers of Backle were hauled and piled up in the plaza. Soon, they were covered in a thin sheet of snow. There were more than ten such snow piles in the plaza, all of them sacrificed soldiers from yesterday's battle. The stain of blood could still be seen on the snowy ground.

Claude led the Bleyottean corps to conquer the capital of Skovia, Scannamo, and stopped at the pile of corpses in front of the city hall. Compared to the corpses on the plaza, the corpses here were given far better treatment. At least, they were covered in a thin, grey sheet.

"This is the corpsman of Backle, Prince Mondocarlo Dar Shiks himself," the bearded Bleyottean officer said with his finger pointing at the corpse clad in lieutenant-general uniform. "His guards launched a final charge against us before being completely fell. When we went forward to check, we saw his rank and got a few other captives to confirm that he is indeed the prince."

"At least he was brave and died in a charge. This uniform wasn't wasted on him. He didn't shame us soldiers," Claude mused, "But he's not a qualified leader. He's stupid enough to trap himself in a deathly predicament with no escape, thinking that glory alone will be a shield good enough to protect him. He didn't think that shield of glory would keep themselves in as much as it would keep enemies out."

It was the 11th of the 12th month. The Battle of Skovia ended in the early hours of dawn. Thundercrash and the three Bleyottean corps had fought a long month there. Using Thundercrash's mobility to breach the enemy defences, they finally sectioned off the enemy into multiple parts of the city. When the Bleyotteans caught up and used their cannons to launch a bombardment on the city, wiping out all 350 thousand troops from Backle and Blus in one go.

Dyavid was the one who led a surprise attack with Thundercrash 3rd Folk and Bleyotte 1st Mountain Corps. The demoralised soldiers of Backle crumbled and quickly surrendered. When the attackers came to their main camp at Scannamo, the battle turned intense. In the end, Dyavid used up to a hundred new light-infantry cannons for a bombardment that lasted more than an hour, almost levelling the entire city hall, before finally conquering the final stronghold of the enemy.

"We finally captured around 200 thousand enemies. There were some 110 thousand enemies that were hurt or killed, while we suffered 60 thousand casualties as a whole. Thundercrash's casualty count is around eight thousand, whereas the three Bleyottean mountain corps suffered near 54 thousand casualties," Captain Fachselin reported.

It was worth noting that most of the casualties taken by the Bleyotteans occurred during the conquest of Sidbos, numbering around 43 thousand. They lost about one man for every enemy. Even after Claude had sent his cannoneers to aid them, the Bleyotteans who charged like madmen didn't cooperate well with them and suffered many casualties as a result.

As Such, Claude had Dyavid and 3rd Folk be the vanguard of last night's attack while Bleyotte 1st Mountain Corps merely played an auxiliary role. He wanted to show those simplistic mountaineers how to siege a city while suffering low numbers of casualties. However, the results seemed to be rather unsuccessful. Instead, the Bleyotteans thought of it as a competition and lost around ten thousand men.

It seemed that the reorganisation half a month ago didn't achieve much. The reorganisation of Bleyotte's three mountain corps mainly eliminated the weak and picked out the strong. The elite troops were formed into 1st and 2nd Mountain Corps. The rest, and the aged veterans, were sent to the 3rd to take care of logistics. While the discipline of 1st and 2nd Mountain Corps was slightly improved, they were still brash and reckless and required long-term tactical training to polish.

The conquest of Scannamo meant that the Shiksan standing corps, Backle and Blus, were eliminated. In other words, five of the eight southern coastal prefectures were undefended. All that was left was Dakhli and Farklin, that were stationed in the three prefectures on Manori Plains.

The winter of Year 604 was extremely hard on the Shiksans. Five of the eight southern coastal prefectures had fallen into the hands of the Aueran Autonomous Region. Thundercrash entered those prefectures as if the borders weren't present at all and caught all the nobles and officials and their families within, confiscating all their property in the meantime.

The invaders caused even more commotion in Saint Cyprean and the royal territory. Countless patriots were either captured or killed. What angered the Shiksan public the most was how their former troops who were sent to Nubissia actually turned tail and joined the invaders as collaborators. They were even more hated than the officers of Typhoon.

Harm was only done when one could see how well others were treated. It was natural for Typhoon, an invader corps, to scour the royal capital for wealth. However, why did the homecoming Shiksan troops and their families get special treatment? The men conscripted to join the expedition to the region were the lowest of the lowest in Shiks. That was why nobody bothered asking about them after their humiliating defeat. Nobody cared about how the lowest of their society was doing.

It was no surprise that war would disrupt the normal running of social order. The near million citizens of Saint Cyprean had been counting on the various orchards and farmsteads in the area as well as supplies from various parts of the kingdom for food. But following the fall of Saint Cyprean, the supply of food became a huge problem. Even though the invaders wouldn't intentionally disrupt civilian trade, there was no avoiding taxes and checks.

The supply of food in Saint Cyprean immediately tightened, causing prices to shoot sky-high. Quite a number of citizens were forced to leave their homes to other prefectures to rely on their relatives and friends there. Despite that, the families and soldiers of the four homecoming Shiksan folks got extremely good treatment. They even occupied a large area in the noble residence sector and the royal plaza. Camps were set up there and supplies were provided for free, paid for by the wealth from the Shiksan national treasury.

To the citizens of Saint Cyprean, the cannon fodder that had returned were the lowest rung of society. High-status civilians like them usually didn't even bat an eye at them. Yet, the normal civilians were suddenly turned into the poorest in the city, scrambling for many crucial supplies they needed. They even needed to line up for two hours just to buy bread. Yet, the scum of society got to reunite with their families and enjoy fine treatment in the residence sectors. The citizens of the city began to hate the traitorous Shiksan scum.

What shocked Eiblont was following the arrival of the homecoming Shiksans and their families, the attacks against Typhoon's troops greatly decreased. Instead, terror attacks at the camps of the homecoming Shiksans greatly increased. Within two short months, up to a hundred people from the camps were harmed from those attacks.

Consequently, the homecoming Shiksan officers grew more and more savage in their retaliatory arrests and searches. To get more leads to find the masterminds of those attacks, they would even torture the attackers they took captive to death.

The troops of the homecoming Shiksans were far crueler than the time they first came to the city. The way they saw it, the citizens of Saint Cyprean were already their enemy, not their fellow countrymen. Anyone that dared disrupt their blissful lives was an enemy undeserving of even a drop of mercy.

The informants of the department of intelligence planted among the homecoming Shiksan troops reported that most of the troops recruited into the corps to be sent to Nubissia were lowly farmers and subjects of nobles. They were of low status and most of them were discriminated against by the free men of Shiks. Nobody held them in any regard.

Even after they lost the war and became captive labourers, they were treated far better than they were in Shiks. As long as they worked hard to earn their keep, they would be given sufficient basic necessities like filling meals and warm clothes. They could even receive small salaries and bonuses, which they could save up to use for themselves. If they were willing to learn, reading lessons were provided in the labour camps, something they would never be able to get working under the nobles of their own nation.

As such, once they served their labour terms, the captives lived rather decent lives in the region. There, they were truly free. They earned a salary for their work and were treated the same as other citizens of the region. The only difference was that they weren't settlers and couldn't receive the benefits and property that came with being a settler. As such most of the 300 thousand captives wanted to settle down in the region for good. As for the rest, it wasn't that they didn't wish for the same. Instead, they wanted to reunite with their families in Shiks.

And now, they were finally given that chance thanks to the region forming eight homecoming Shiksan folks that were sent to Shiks to bring their families back to the region. After that, they would be given the same rights as Aueran settlers and could settle down for a blissful, new life.

That came as great news to the Shiksan captives, who jumped to sign up. Even the ones that didn't make the cut asked their comrades to bring their families back for them. The region also generously allowed those that didn't get picked to join the folks to sign up for eventually bringing their families over, with all fees covered by the region.

When the troops of the eight Shiksan folks stepped into their homeland, they felt really conflicted. They felt both elation and fear. No matter what, traitors were still traitors. The four folks were ordered to sweep Saint Cyprean clean initially, but they failed miserably.  It even seemed like some were being intentionally retarded.

That was when the informants planted in the folks reported one such incident. A band of homecoming Shiksan soldiers were tasked to search incoming carriages and convoys for weapons at a stone bridge near the city. During their search, one Shiksan noblewoman cursed them to be traitor scum. The band of Shiksans were so guilty and embarrassed they didn't carry out their search properly and let the carriage across the river.

That wasn't the only instance. Most of the troops in the four folks behaved similarly. As they said themselves, Saint Cyprean was the pride and joy of all Shiksans, and people of low status like themselves had no chance to visit that mighty city. When they came, they were filled with a sense of fear and inferiority, constantly thinking that the citizens of Saint Cyprean were far more deserving and noble than them. They were in positions the homecoming troops could only dream to reach.

However, Eiblont didn't punish them because of that. Instead, he kept his promise and allowed them to collect their family members and allowed them to live into a large residential sector, providing them with plentiful supplies to boot and allowing them to have a grand reunion with their families to boost their morale.

Little did he know that prompted even more hate from the citizens of the city, who changed the target of their attacks to the residential sector. They declared they would let the Shiksan traitors suffer the same pain of losing their families and friends as the price they had to pay for betraying their nation. So, the relatives of the soldiers that went out shopping became the targets of those attacks. They were beaten up, robbed, cursed, and many attacks were carried out throughout the residential sector with explosives. Tens of people were harmed or killed from the outbreak.

The insurgents were painfully unaware of the consequences of their actions. They gleefully attacked the homecoming Shiksans to vent their anger and hate. Back in the region, nobody would be able to disrupt their blissful lives. Only there could they live like respectable men rather than lowly serfs.

Had the homecoming soldiers been the target of those attacks, they would've taken it. They saw themselves as Shiksans at the end of the day and felt guilty about helping the region attack their own homeland. Casualties from civilian backlash were only natural, and their deaths or injuries would be compensated for by pensions. Their families would be able to move to the region and live peacefully all the same. That alone made their sacrifice worth it.

But attacking their families struck a nerve in the homecoming troops. Right before they were about to emigrate to the region, their families came under attack. It was a horrid and unforgivable sin. That was when they no longer saw themselves as Shiksans, but rather, one of the autonomous region, and began to proactively weed out the insurgents and shooting them dead publicly on the streets when they found them.

The Shiksans had kept silent when cursed as traitors when they had first returned from Saint Cyprean, but nowadays people who cursed them were beaten up without ceremony. In fact, they were lucky if that was all that happened to them.

There was a small-time noble that recognised a few soldiers for being his farm serfs and subjects and immediately cursed at them publicly. That brave noble was immediately skewered by bayonets and hung from the streets alive.

After he died, the former serfs even spat at their former master's corpse. They said that when they were fighting to their deaths for their country, their master actually chased their families out of his castle because the elderly and weak were merely a burden, now that they weren't supported by the young men who were drafted away. Their families had to beg for scraps around the dominion, suffering hunger and humiliation, while the captured Shiksans worked away as labourers without their noble master batting a single eyelid. What else should they do other than kill such a master?

Many similar incidents happened all across the city. Lucky soldiers were able to find their families, others either had some or all their families dying during their absence. As more and more soldiers joined up with their family members, they slowly began to think of the region as their real home, willing to fight and die for it to their last breath.

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