Chapter 300: Broken city, broken soldiers
A humble looking carriage passed through the broken city gate riddled with holes. The streets were deserted, with an occasional sighting of one or two people. The eyes of those on the streets were filled with despair and resentment, a silent protest against their current tragic life.
Brettel City was as dirty as Han Shuo had expected, looking only a tad better than the sights he’d seen on the road. A few lazy soldiers indifferently watched the carriage enter the city without asking about his background or for an entry fee. It seemed that Brettel City was on the verge of death.
“Hey, can you please tell me where the city lord’s mansion is?” Chester pulled on the reins and smiled at a civilian who looked like a beggar.
This person was lying lazily in the sunlight, focused on picking out the fleas from his body. He seemed not to have heard Chester’s question. He didn’t even lift his head.
“I’ll give you one silver coin, where is the city lord’s mansion?” Chester had been born poor so he knew quite well about the poor’s temper. A smile on his face, he patiently asked again.
The mention of silver coin immediately showed its effectiveness. Sniffing the seductive aroma of money, the seemingly deaf beggar suddenly stared at Chester. He pointed in the direction of the street to the east, “Go straight for three hundred meters. The tallest, most broken down mansion is the city lord’s mansion.”
A silver coin shining in the sunlight spun through the air, rolling to a stop on the ground in front of the beggar. Chester whipped the horse and left without saying thanks, following the directions to the city lord’s mansion.
The beggar hastily picked up the silver coin, clutching it tightly in his hand. He then looked towards the direction where the two left and murmured, “Some more people have come to Brettel City again. If it isn’t some risk-taking merchant who’d come for profit, then it must be that legendary unlucky count. Poor fellow.”
Whenever Brettel City was invaded, the city lord would be the loving focus of their attention. As such, the walls of the big tall building weren’t too sturdy, and there were still several holes decorating the ground nearby, remnants of a previous bombing, that hadn’t yet been repaired. When Han Shuo’s carriage arrived, only a smattering of five maids and less than a dozen soldiers were present.
These maids and soldiers’ attitude towards Han Shuo’s arrival was quite indifferent. They weren’t enthusiastic nor welcoming in the manner of a subordinate. Of course, a welcome banquet that would be normal in other areas was even more impossible.
The city lord’s mansion was at least five times bigger than Han Shuo’s mansion in Ossen City. However, it really had no other uses aside from being big. As the city lord was the first to flee upon every invasion, no soldiers had been stationed here. Thus, the city lord’s mansion was always the first to be pillaged.
Even some things that were hard to take away were all gone after successive attacks. What was incredibly ludicrous was that Han Shuo actually saw a large, rectangular hole in the ground – the remnants of a white jade table that had been peeled away. This was enough for Han Shuo to imagine the real situation in Brettel City.
“Describe the current situation of Brettel City to me.” Han Shuo asked Dick whilst sitting in the tattered lobby of the city lord’s mansion hall. Dick was the Dark Mantle liaison in this city, and had arrived after hearing of Han Shuo’s posting.
Dick was a man who was roughly forty years old. He looked ordinary, with his nose placed high on his face. It was a feature unique to the mountain people of Brettel City. Dick paid his respects to Han Shuo and answered in a somewhat awkward version of imperial tongue, “The former city lord of Brettel took a total of five hundred family members with him upon his leave. The entire city currently only has over three thousand soldiers, with a total city population of less than fifty thousand. The three thousand soldiers aren’t enough to guard the city gates, not to mention they usually flee even faster than the civilians. The city’s defenses have never been fixed after an attack due to lack of funds, and has now almost lost all defensive ability.”
“The mountain folk are native to Brettel City, with the majority of them residing on several steep mountains in the area. These mountains produce valuable ores. The natives are very familiar with the terrain of the big mountains, and it’s difficult to launch an attack at the mountains. This is why the mountain people can resist the invasions of the seven grand duchies.”
“In fact, Brettel City has actually been relatively safe up until now. After dozens of large and small invasions, the seven grand duchies all know that there’s nothing left to loot in this city anymore. Even if they spent the time and resources towards a raid, there’s not enough to raid in the city to ensure a profit. That’s why no further aggression has occurred in the past few months.”
“It was rather the mines in the big mountains surrounding us that the natives protect and harvest from that have become the target for bandits and private armies. However, the mountain people there aren’t as incompetent as the imperial soldiers. So far they’ve been able to barely resist the onslaught of attacks…”
Han Shuo gradually grew to understand the situation in Brettel City thanks to Dick’s overview. When Dick finished speaking, Han Shuo looked at a soldier in the city lord’s mansion and ordered, “Assemble all of the city’s soldiers in front of the city lord’s mansion. I want to see what they currently look like.”
“Yes, Sir Count!” This soldier responded lazily and climbed unhurriedly onto a skinny horse before slowly moving out of the castle.
“My Lord, you will be disappointed.” Dick shook his head with a long sigh as he spoke to Han Shuo.
“I know. But I think I won’t be disappointed again in the future!” Han Shuo smiled blandly before sinking into silence with a frown.
The city’s scattered soldiers finally assembled unhurriedly after almost two hours. They gathered at the front of the castle with no order or discipline. Their bodies didn’t look very strong, and their complexions were sickly, probably due to issues with food. No one had any trace of the kind of attitude and spirit that a soldier should have. It was clear that they wouldn’t be able to withstand even one blow with their current combat strength.
The swords, bows and spears in their hands were of inferior quality, with rust stains all over them. Han Shuo felt that just about any weapon forged by the dwarves could break apart all of their weapons. Only one-third of the soldiers were middle-aged men and strong youngsters. The rest were much older old men who moved much more slowly. Who could expect to rely on these folks’ fighting capabilities?
Han Shuo stood on the high platform in front of the mansion, observing these soldiers for a while. He silently pondered before saying with a grin, “From today on, your happy days are over. Soldiers over fifty years old will be removed. For these people, I will guarantee you a normal life.”
“As for the rest, not only will you have enough food to fill your stomachs, you’ll also get new weapons and armor, plus strong warhorses. Of course, you’ll also be trained in a cruel, torturous manner to wait for the next chance to wash away our previous shame with the blood of the invaders. With me here, Brettel City has to change, completely.”
The elderly soldiers below broke out into an uproar. They were indifferent to Han Shuo’s retirement order, but were doubtful of his guarantee for a life with enough food and clothing. The young people turned to look at each other as they processed his words, not knowing what he actually wanted to do.
“Sir Count, do you mean that?” Dick was standing next to Han Shuo and asked Han Shuo with shock.
“Your Lordship, even if the thousand of us gets new weapons and warhorses, do you think we’d be able to stand firmly against ten or twenty thousand bandits or tens of thousands of soldiers from the official armies of the seven grand duchies with this broken city wall?” A crude looking, bearded soldier lifted his head and shouted towards Han Shuo.
“You don’t need to worry about this. As a soldier, if you have no way to stop the enemy from invading, you should offer up your own head to wash off your failure and shame. I will personally cut off the heads of those who dares to escape in order to prolong their lives.” Han Shuo looked coldly at this brawny guy and snapped.
“Your Lordship, I think you’d better leave while it’s early. This place has been abandoned by the Empire. Do you think you alone can change the situation of Brettel City? Without a hundred thousand imperial elite soldiers to guard this city, it’ll forever be unable to escape its fate of being invaded. If you want to seek death, can you please not drag us with you?” This stubborn soldier was extremely arrogant as he ignored Han Shuo’s cold eyes and rebutted in a rebellious manner.
A dark brown ray of light flashed. No one knew what had been launched as something shot towards that rebellious soldier. The next second, a head rolled off a pair of shoulders, fresh blood spraying out from the neck like a brush sketching a beautiful painting.
“From now on, what you need to do was listen and execute commands. You have no need for doubts, and even if you do, you must keep them to yourself!” Han Shuo looked murderous as he shouted, his face cruel and ruthless like a butcher. The soldiers below clamped their mouths shut one by one.
At this moment, a shining troop of over a hundred warhorses, their riders holding shiny weapons in their hands, slowly entered the castle. A man in a full-body, silver armor with a silver spear in his hand bent his body slightly on the warhorse to pay respects to Han Shuo, “Sir Count, earth rider Faulke will dedicate my all to serve you and heed your every command.”
Han Shuo didn’t need to think much at all to know that Faulke had been sent by Lawrence. Han Shuo felt an atmosphere of slaughter from this man that only existed on true warriors who’d been through hundreds of battles. He immediately swept a glance filled with ill intent at Brettel City’s soldiers and said with a sinister laugh, “Faulke, from today on, these ones are under your care. Use the cruelest method you have to train them. I won’t blame you if someone dies during training.”