At dusk, Blackhot City was both the same and different than before.
Zhang Tie stood among others returning from the survival training before the gates to Blackhot City, through which he had left two months ago. With his eyes narrowed, he started glanced over the city. The walls were still tall and firm while the powerful city-defense machinery and equipment were still grand and magnificent under the light of the sun. Everything seemed to not have changed; yet everything had changed.
The seventeen-star flag of the Andaman Alliance, representing its authority by hanging on top of a high wall, was replaced by a scarlet-dragon flag that represented the ruling authority of the Norman Empire.
Flying in the heavy wind, that scarlet-dragon flag brought a solemn atmosphere to the entire city.
That dragon was a holy animal of the Chinese clan. It was said that after the founding emperor of the Norman Empire returned from his travels to the East, he raised this flag and punched down the territory of the Norman Empire using his own fists. Therefore, this scarlet-dragon flag with rich eastern features became the symbol of the imperial household, even the Norman Empire as a whole.
What was known by all the people in the entire Blackson Human Clan Corridor was that until now the imperial household of the Norman Empire was still closely related to the mysterious and powerful eastern continent as it had already mixed blood with the eastern Chinese clan.
Thinking back to how the animals in the survival training, including Zhang Tie himself, were worried about a war breaking out between the Andaman Alliance, Norman Empire, and Sun Dynasty, he mocked himself inwardly. When they left Blackhot City, who could have imagined that two months later upon their return they would have already become citizens of an imperial nation, the Norman Empire.
In the past month, under the 'lightning attack' of the armies of the Norman Empire and Sun Dynasty, the Andaman Alliance, which had existed for over one century, was about to die in the span of five days. It was cut into half like a piece of meat, and then was engulfed by the Norman Empire and Sun Dynasty.
As for the seventeen cities that had formed the Andaman Alliance, the Norman Empire had gained eight and a large territory in the north, while Sun Dynasty had also gained eight and a large territory in the south. With the exception of the City of Machine Kalur, all the cities of the Andaman Alliance had been occupied by the two powers.
The southern cities were more prosperous with more advanced commerce. The Andaman City, which was previously the capital of the Andaman Alliance, was also in the south. In contrast, the northern cities like Blackhot City, had abundant resource reserves and advanced manufacturing industry.
Based on the results, the Norman Empire and Sun Dynasty's move was more akin to robbery than a war. As early as before the move, they had already decided on how to share their booty.
Compared to when they left the Blackhot City, when the animals came back, they were all obviously much quieter, mostly because they became uncertain and lost about their future. Unless deciding to leave Blackhot City, everybody had to swear to be loyal to the supreme emperor. This made the animals perplexed since they were used to being ruled by businessmen and factory and mine owners from birth.
Zhang Tie was not as shocked as others about this change. Perhaps others didn't have this feel, but the moment he saw the scarlet-dragon flag that represented the authority of the Norman Empire, he had already accepted the new rulers of Blackhot City inwardly. Since dragon was the totem of the Chinese clan, with dragon as the national symbol, of course the Norman Empire could obtain Zhang Tie's consent.
In the Norman Empire, the proportion of Chinese people was also much higher than in the Andaman Alliance and Blackhot City. It was said that almost 1/20 of more than 200 million population of the Norman Empire were Chinese.
At this time, the standing posts at the entrance of the city gate were manned not by the City Guard of Blackhot City but the soldiers of the Norman Empire. These soldiers were taller, stronger, and looked more stubborn compared to their predecessors. Many people's armors were even with slash marks of daggers and swords. After comparing them with the City Guardof Blackhot City, even Zhang Tie had to admit that these soldiers of the Norman Empire looked even more dauntless and aggressive.
Perhaps this explained how different it was between the army ruled by businessmen and the army ruled by an emperor. People could clearly sense that solemn atmosphere of the imperial nation through the comparison between the two armies.
Without any obstacles, the students who had attended the survival training entered Blackhot City. However, the moment they entered, many girls burst out with exclamations as a row of high gibbets were erected in a place not far away from the city gate. A row of bodies hung from those gibbets, flying in the air like cloth puppets.
In taking over Blackhot City, the Norman Empire hadn't killed anyone. However, after gaining control, it started to kill people who preyed upon others, fattening themselves, or were ambitious, ready to take chances at gaining power in the new situation. After the Norman Empire's army entered the city and took over the ruling power of Blackhot City, the latter had their heads chopped off or were hung on the gibbets not far away from the city gates as examples.
With long swords and the fresh blood of insurgents, the Norman Empire's army taught everybody in Blackhot City a lesson of being under the rule of the Norman Emperor: 'Be docile!'
The streets in Blackhot City looked a bit sluggish. Fewer walkers and vehicles could be seen on streets. Many stores had not opened their business yet. Patrolling soldiers could be seen everywhere on the streets. Some tanks and armored vehicles of the Norman Empire's Iron-Horn Army were parked at several junctions.
In sharp contrast to the sluggish scene, in front of the doors and windows of each household, red flags could be seen flying in the air, including the scarlet-dragon flag and Iron-Horn Army's military flag. At the first sight of them, you would know that they were made by the commoners themselves. Even slogans that could rarely be seen before had appeared over the streets which would make young people's faces turn red: 'We Welcome the Norman Empire's Army in the City', 'Congratulations to Blackhot City Becoming a LV 4 City of Brunswick Under the Administration of the Norman Empire', 'Long Live Norman Empire', and 'Long Live Iron-Horn Army'.
Without being told how to, after the Coal, Steel, and Iron Federation's surrender of the city, the residents had quickly learned how to please their new urban ruler.
At this moment, Blackhot City had become strange to everybody.
After entering, the teachers of the Temporary Supervision Committee chose a route most convenient for sending all the girls back home; girls from two female middles schools all lived in the neighboring two blocks. As for boys, although they were tired after walking for an entire day and craved to go back to their own homes, in order to send back all the girls safely, they instantly agreed to change the route.
It seemed that the discipline in the Norman Empire's army was strict. At least none of the soldiers whistled at the girls. However, nobody wanted to imagine what would happen if the girls were going back home alone.
On the way, the girls were constantly leaving the large group when they came close to their homes and trotted over. At the same time, parents were standing in front of their house door's for a long time now, waiting for their children to come back.
Although having not seen each other only for two months, many students burst into tears together with their parents...
From the morning till now, Zhang Tie had carried the three girls' luggage along with his own the whole walk of almost 60 km. Although many students were exhausted by this point, Zhang Tie was still highly spirited and felt no tiredness at all.
He was not the same boy that had left Blackhot City.
When Alice, Beverly, and Pandora arrived at their homes one by one, Zhang Tie gave them back their luggage while making sure to remember their addresses.
"You have to come here for me!" Alice said to Zhang Tie in her farewell.
"I'll be waiting for you at home! My mom will definitely like you!" Beverly said to Zhang Tie in her farewell.
"I seem... to have grown up a bit..." Pandora said to Zhang Tie in her farewell.
He almost wanted to howl towards the sky...
When the last girl returned home, all the remaining animals immediately scattered towards their own homes.
After agreeing with Barley and other members of the Brotherhood on the next meeting time, Zhang Tie ran back to his own place.
Seeing Zhang Tie darting so fast even now, Barley's and the other members's of the Brotherhood eyes almost popped out.
"F*ck, is he a human or not? Zhang Tie is definitely a human-like magic beast!" Hista exclaimed with only one breath left in his lungs.
"That guy really treasures his women. He carried their luggage for the entire day. The three women's luggage plus his own would weigh over 100 kg, and he carried such a heavy load throughout the whole day. And he can still run. Am I dreaming?"
Leit also became dumbfounded when he saw Zhang Tie disappear in the corner of the street.
Zhang Tie was really not tired. In case of being too terrifying and bringing trouble to himself, he couldn't dash at his fastest speed back home no matter how much he wanted to do so. Thus, he controlled his speed to be almost the same as his sprinting speed at school.
Only after five or six minutes, he had already passed by several streets and caught sight of his home.
At the sight of his parents' shadows standing on the roadside waiting for him, Zhang Tie was moved and almost broke down.
When he noticed the happy smiles on their faces, his tense heart finally eased off. Thankfully, nothing had happened to his family members.
"Mom, dad, I'm back!" Zhang Tie greeted his parents from far away like before. As his parents liked to see his naughtiness, Zhang Tie performed before them.
After reaching home, he kissed his mom first. Then, he directly hugged his dad, lifting him up in the air and twirling for a circle.
"Hurry up, let me off..." Scared by Zhang Tie's move, his dad fiercely flicked his forehead with a finger. "It's not good if we're seen by others."
Zhang Tie then put his dad onto the ground. "Dad, how about that? Have you noticed that I am stronger than before?"
"Ye, it feels true. You really have become much stronger!"
Hearing the question, his dad also noticed the difference.
"I seem to have grown taller too! Look, my clothes had become smaller..."
Zhang Tie stretched his sleeve's end. When he left home, it could reach over his wrist. However, now, it stopped before it. This meant that Zhang Tie had grown 3-4 cm during the past three months.
"Remember, don't lift me in the air in the street anymore!" dad told him solemnly.
"Okay! How about when nobody is around?"
Zhang Tie got one more flick on his forehead...
He was really a bit different from when he left. After three months, his parents thought that he had changed because of the survival training.
When he played jokes with his dad, his mom revealed a happy smile.
"All right, all right, don't play jokes anymore. Come on, go back home and eat dinner!"
"Is my elder brother home?"
"He's making dinner, having been on vacation for a long time. It's unknown when he'll received the notice to go back to work!" his dad answered.
Zhang Tie nodded and thought inside, 'Since the Iron-Horn Army of the Norman Empire entered the city, the City Guard of Blackhot City was ordered to put down their weapons and take a vacation at home. As there is still no notice of when to go back to work, it seems that the disarmament of the City Guard will definitely happen. However, it's nothing serious. It's better to disarm the City Guard. Additionally, my elder brother has almost finished his service term. Now that my elder sister-in-law is pregnant, he should stay to look after her.'
When he walked inside the house together with his parents, Zhang Tie saw two book-sized flags attached to their door: one was a scarlet-dragon flag of the Norman Empire, and the other was the military flag of the Iron-Horn Army. Compared to those flags he'd seen on the way, Zhang Tie found that the two here were much more delicate.
"Mom, did you make these flags?"
"Your elder sister-in-law and I made them together. She's really good at needle work. We even sold some of them!" his mom replied, from which Zhang Tie knew that his mom was very satisfied with his elder sister-in-law. Of course, every mom-in-law would be satisfied with such a woman that was frugal.
When Zhang Tie wanted to praise his mom, he caught sight of a person that should not have been here: Samira.
In a silk hat, Samira looked as spirited as before. He was followed by a squad of armored soldiers of the Iron-Horn Army.
"That's him!" Samira pointed at Zhang Tie and screamed. "This person is the enemy of the Norman Empire, a potential insurrectionist who's hostile to Iron-Horn Army!"
Hearing what Samira said, the squad of soldiers of the Norman Empire all fixed their eyes on Zhang Tie with their hands on sword handles...
What happened really made Zhang Tie's parents' face turn pale!