Black Iron’s Glory is a web novel produced by Smoke Is A Path.
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Word of Mouth
Claude only had one question in his mind now: With Shiks losing all semblance of threat on Nubissia for the next half a year and possibly the foreseeable future, what was the kingdom doing sending a hereditary count to take over his post as field marshal alongside a folk of royal guard troops?
Was he about to be cast away now that he wasn’t necessary? He shook his head. It was impossible. Ever since taking over from Miselk, he had done things by the book and didn’t break any regulations. Not to mention, he just contributed superbly to the kingdom by exterminating three of the enemy’s corps. If the ministry of the army really wanted to take him down, there was no need for them to go about this in such a roundabout fashion. All they had to do was summon him back to the royal capital and relieve him of his position.
Not to mention, sending a high-ranking general and a whole folk of royal guard troops was overestimating him by a long shot. It was merely Nubissia. To the powerful in the kingdom, being sent there is akin to being exiled. Otherwise, there was no way they would let a mere major-general and honorary baron serve as field marshal here. Sure, Miselk’s recommendation definitely played a role, but the more likely cause for his appointment was the fact that most high-ranking officers simply didn’t want to serve in Nubissia.
If they weren’t trying to deal with him, could the general, Hereditary Count Aljess Kai Osmolin have offended someone he shouldn’t have? Was he really exiled to Nubissia? It didn’t seem quite plausible either, since there would be no need to send a folk of royal guard troops along if that was the case.
He began to look through more information Weyblon brought him from the royal capital, but the newspapers didn’t have too much information on other nations. All reports about Aueras itself was fine. The country was doing rather well. Overblown news stories about the third colonial war also took up most of the headlines. Claude suddenly discovered he had some tens of mistresses and illegitimate children he had never heard about overnight.
Stories like ‘My Past with the General’ and ‘The Kingdom’s Fiercest General’ were all over the tabloids. Quite a number of young and beautiful n.o.blewomen recounted the pleasant times they spent with Claude. Among them, one particularly famous young lady told her recollection of her falling in love at first sight with General Claude during a ball, which led to their tryst and their eventual departure when Claude went to serve the kingdom in the colonies.
Angered, Claude asked, “Can I sue these publications for libel?”
Weyblon sipped at his tea slowly as he waited for Claude to sift through the gossip. Hearing that, he raised his brows and said, “You won’t win…”
Weyblon put his cup down. “It’s simple. The third edition, on which most gossip stories are printed, is also called the rumour edition. On the top of these editions is a disclaimer stating that they aren’t responsible for any coincidences and similarities. They already don’t claim that what is published is fact, so suing them will only make a joke out of you.
“It’s not that people haven’t tried doing so before, but none won. Take for instance the n.o.blewoman’s story about you. While you don’t know this woman, she can claim that she knows another Claude bearing the same name. As for that famous girl who claimed to have given birth to an illegitimate son of yours, she can say that the man’s full name is General Claude, not Claude Ferd, and that you were too self conscious and misunderstood her story.”
Claude was speechless that things like that actually happened. Though, reading those funny stories did lighten his mood up somewhat. The newspapers didn’t contain much information of value to him. It would be better to check out the rumour sections to try to sift some inkling of truth out.
He began to look through the hand-copied tabloids Weyblon brought him. They contained rumours and hearsay that could be worth looking into more than the newspapers. They did mention the appointment of the count as the new field marshal and even had a detailed record of the subordinates and units of the royal guard that would be coming along. More importantly, there was some information about some commotion in the royal guard. Some ten high-ranking officers from old n.o.bility were transferred to join that folk.
Apart from that, there wasn’t anything else on the count and the royal guard. Claude asked, “Does your a.s.sociation have more information on this Count Aljess Kai Osmolin?”
Weyblon laughed. “General, I came here personally tonight because some things can’t be written in paper, lest others get their hands on them and use them against us. We can only rely on word of mouth. That way, you’ll only be able to hear of it and I can simply deny that I was the person to inform you about this.
“Actually, General Aljess Kai Osmolin has an aim for taking up a post here. He wants to lead all the forces in the war theatre to conquer Port Vebator and the colony as a whole for good to end this war and pave a way for him to be promoted to Lord Militant.”
Claude widened his eyes in realisation.
He had been wondering why the ministry of the army took so long, almost two extra months, to respond to the reports and reward them for their contributions in the third colonial war. They had been paying attention to the Shiks during the whole time. From what he could read from the newspapers, even Claude could tell what was going on in Shiks, to say no more of the ministry. After they concluded that Shiks wouldn’t be able to send further reinforcements to Nubissia within half a year at least, they made the decision to put an end to the war for good.
Claude recalled what he heard from Bolonik about Aljess Kai Osmolin. He was the most proficient general in offensive manoeuvres and could conquer any kind of fort with the catch that the casualties would always be severe.
Aueras wanted to end the war for good, but with Shiks refusing to negotiate with them, the only option they had was to repay a teeth for a teeth. They would conquer all the Shiksan colonies. Without them, Shiks would no longer have any foothold in Nubissia and would no longer be able to send further reinforcements to fight them there. While they could still send Seaking to hara.s.s them from time to time, this pirate-like activity could easily be stopped by installing cannons at the ports. If their navy couldn’t get on land, there was no way they could conquer new territories.
That was why Aljess was sent there with a folk to become field marshal. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to take command of the five enhanced folks, so he took one of his own with his trusted subordinates along. As the former corpsman of the royal guard, it wasn’t difficult for him to request a folk from them.
“By the way, you mentioned that he wants to become Lord Militant?”
Weyblon nodded. “This is his only chance. After all, the kingdom is only at war in this war theatre, so he can only gain more merits here. During the five-year war, he commanded the royal guard corps and fought in Rimodra for three months. While he gained some progress, the casualties suffered by the royal guard and the two irregular corps were far too heavy.
“Prince Hansbach had no choice but to let the royal guard rest and recuperate and retire him from his post. If he was allowed to continue fighting his way, a million lives would’ve been lost by the time he finished conquering Rimodra, and that was a loss n.o.body could afford to take. That was why the general was no longer able to continue fighting in the war in Eastern Freia and become a Lord Militant of the kingdom. This time around, he volunteered himself for the position of field marshal and wants to conquer Port Vebator for the promotion he needs.”
Claude pondered it over. “In other words, this general isn’t someone on the first prince’s side then…”
Weyblon laughed and said, “General, the person who is to replace you has never been one who sided with Prince Hansbach. He is the military representative of the old n.o.bility. They take a neutral stance in the struggle for the throne and support neither the first or second prince. The a.s.sociation believes that the only reason he has come to take your place is for the merit and promotion. With there being only one corps remaining in Port Vebator, he’s confident he can take the city, even with heavy casualties.”
More moths were being drawn to the fire. Had Claude not eliminated the three enemy corps, this general would’ve remained in the royal capital with his luxuries instead of wanting to come over so badly to fight him for merit.
It was quite a good deal for the general, however. Shiks couldn’t reinforce their colonies at present time and there was only one standing corps remaining in Port Vebator. With the folk of royal guards and the five enhanced folks, he had around three corps’ worth of troops, roughly three times the numbers of the defenders. It was enough to conquer the city for good.
Even if the enemy had Seaking with them, it wouldn’t matter. They’d just lose more men and that was it. They only needed to take the city walls before everything else fell into place. With this achievement under his belt, Aljess could be promoted to Lord Militant and return to the royal capital, leaving behind the mess he created in the war theatre.
Claude was considering whether he should lead his troops to conquer Port Vebator first to make this general waste his trip there. However, he soon dropped the notion. It wasn’t that he couldn’t take Port Vebator; there simply was no good reason to antagonise the old n.o.bility.
Additionally, he was worried that he would make a fool of the general who was coming over so eagerly. If Aljess could take Port Vebator, he’d simply leave after being promoted to Lord Militant.
But if he came only to find the city already taken, he would no doubt start seeing Claude as a pain. Without his merit and unable to get his promotion, he might have to remain in the war theatre for far longer. As long as he held the position of field marshal, it was certain he would cause trouble for Claude to no end for destroying his dreams of promotion.
It would be better for Claude to do nothing. At the very least, he was relieved to discover the real purpose for Aljess’ visit to Nubissia. Thundercrash was a light-cavalry force, after all. While they emerged victorious in the third colonial war, they suffered huge casualties and a third of them were still recovering in the field hospitals. There was no way to fill up the ranks left behind by the thousands of casualties just yet.
Even after the general arrived, Claude would still have to increase the scope of Thundercrash to a corps’. He could just retreat to Wickhamsburg to reorganise his forces without being bossed around by others in the war theatre.
“By the way, my friend, do you have any other rumours spread by word of mouth you can tell me?” he asked, leaning into his chair relaxedly.
“I do, General.” This time around, Weyblon seemed more alert. He put down his cup and stood up from the couch and approached the desk. He whispered, “Word from the royal capital is that His Majesty will last some five months at most before returning to the warG.o.d’s kingdom…”
“What? Is this for real?”
How many years had Stellin X been bedridden? Claude had really forgotten about it. Since the war in Eastern Freia, he had heard about the king’s bad health. Most of the kingdom’s affairs had been relegated to the first prince, prime minister and other ministers. It had been some eight years at least. People were getting used to the king being unwell. He didn’t think he’d finally hear about the king’s impending death in a few months.
“It’s true. I can’t reveal my sources, but I can guarantee it’s accurate. During the 10th month of last year, His Majesty got a stroke and couldn’t speak well after that, lapsing between wakefulness and haziness often. It’s said that the ministers’ greatest wish is for His Majesty to appoint his successor before his pa.s.sing to prevent a power struggle between the two princes…”
Claude shook his head. “On what grounds can the second prince lay claim to the throne? Isn’t the first prince managing the kingdom in His Majesty’s stead already? His Highness has been doing rather well, and the ministry of the army stands with His Highness too. I believe the second prince best drop out of the race. Otherwise, the first prince might just exile him for good after he ascends to the throne…”
Weyblon chuckled. “General, don’t be so sure. There are quite a number of elites in the kingdom who are against the first prince’s ascension. At least, the ministry of the navy is. Just five months ago when you were on the battlefield, there’s been an a.s.sa.s.sination attempt on the first prince. His Highness is fine, but Lord Militant Miselk, who was by his side then, got heavily injured and is still recovering.
“The a.s.sa.s.sins were captured then and there, but they immediately consumed poison and killed themselves. Angered, the first prince ordered the guards to make the a.s.sa.s.sins minced meat before throwing them into a hole filled with faeces. His Highness then went to the second prince’s manor and got into a big argument. The second prince swore publicly that he wasn’t the one who sent the a.s.sa.s.sins, claiming that he would never ever dream of a.s.sa.s.sinating family. The first prince let him off with just that, but his rashness in dealing with the matter caused his reputation to take a dive. Many thought that the future king shouldn’t be so hasty and brash.”
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