Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 384

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"General..." Myjack rode to the hill on which Claude was quickly, dismounted, handed the reins to a nearby orderman, and saluted.

Claude nodded back and continued to observe the people travelling up the zig-zagging path. They were migrating nikancha who had heeded his warning and were heading for the mountains along Vebator's northern coast. They were going to use the terrain and arms he had lent them to avoid capture.

At the same time, they would send armed men into the inland colonies to attack their mining settlements and rescue their enslaved kin. They would start a new rebellion and gain as much territory as possible before declaring independence as a new nation when the time was right.

A new, independent nikancha country was to be founded. He had spent much time the previous night with his four guests and had successfully made a lucrative deal. He just had to supply them with a Shiksan corps' arms and uniforms. A temporary loan. Once they gained a firm foothold in Shiks, they could repay the loan with metals and minerals. He might even lend them some more equipment.

Myjack and Berklin joined the negotiation later. Claude gave them two missions. Myjack was to take Strike Tribe 131 and conduct a number of raids in the Port Vebator area to fool the enemy into thinking most of their forces were there. He had to buy them a month. In that time the nikancha would travel north. Berklin and a hundred other low-ranking officers would follow them and set up several forts while providing them with the most fundamental military training.

The group travelling south was much smaller, just 3rd Monolith and Thundercrash's main lines. They would bring along a couple hundred carts of spoils and two thousand captives..

Additionally, near ten thousand nikancha youths would be going south as well. Their goal was to head to the three supply strongholds at the border to transport the portion of supplies and ammunition Claude had promised them.

Berklin rushed to the hill he was on with ten plus other junior officers. Claude went over to pat them on their shoulders. "Do you understand your mission now?"

Berklin cracked a smile. "Of course, Chief. Don't worry, we can definitely train them to be almost as capable as the Shiksans in battle. The bigger this fight gets, the better. Once the Shiksans have their attention drawn away by the nikancha rebellion, Thundercrash will have a chance to strike them from behind..."

Though it sounded a little too blatant, it wasn't wrong. He was all too aware of what Claude was trying to achieve. Claude stifled a laugh and kicked him on the leg. "Bastard, you're a lieutenant-colonel, you know. You might even gain one more silver crescent moon on your shoulder mark once we get back, so can you not speak like a thug? We're not like the scammers you saw in the royal capital! Act like a proper officer of the kingdom!"

He then turned to the other chuckling officers with a stern look. "You're all going on this mission as the kingdom's officers. I don't care what you think about the nikancha, or what prejudices you hold against them. But no matter what, never let an ounce of it show through your face. Our official stance for them is sympathy for their experiences. We oppose to them being enslaved, so we're voluntarily helping them with their training and defence lines so they can put up a resistance against Shiks.

"I hope you remember that after you go there, apart from training them, setting up the defence lines and helping them with planning their attacks on the mining settlements, never interfere with any of their internal conflicts or management. If they show you good hospitality or even provide you with women, enjoy that as you please. But never forget that you're only there to help them temporarily. Don't get so close that you won't be able to return, understood?"

The officers all saluted. "Yes, General."

Claude waved them away. "Alright, you're dismissed. I wish you a smooth journey. Lieutenant-Colonel Berklin, there are 96 officers in total that will be going with you. I hope that not one of you will be missing when you return three months later."

Berklin assumed a serious look and said, "Yes, General! Not one missing!"

Looking at Berklin leave with the others, Myjack couldn't resist asking, "General, do you think the nikancha are really reliable?"

Claude sighed and answered a question with another. "What do you think?"

He shook his head. "I don't trust them. Word in the colonies is never to trust the sincerity of the nikancha. They'll make all sorts of oaths to you and forget them the moment they turn around. They're a race without the slightest bit of trustworthiness and honesty. They need our help now, so they humble themselves and act obediently. But if they defeat the Shiksans and really form their nation, they'll definitely regret their deal with us and not follow up on their word."

"You're right. The nikancha are indeed not deserving of our trust. However, they're the only allies we can find now. We help them so that they'll be the main target of the Shiksans and hold their attention. This is the only method we have to turn our bad situation around. You should know that Shiks can afford to fail one time after another since they have a huge reserve military force. But our war theatre can't afford to fail even once.

"If we want to divert Shiks' attention, we have to strengthen the nikancha and make them an actual problem. We'll use the rebellion to make opportunities for ourselves to exterminate a few more Shiksan standing corps and make them feel the pain. That way, they'll come to our kingdom for peace negotiations to stop this senseless colonial war for good."

"I understand, General, but it's a little excessive to give them so much ammunition and arms from our spoils. This is something others in the kingdom can easily use against you," Myjack said with a troubled look.

"No, Jack, even though not selling arms away is a rule that has to be upheld in the Nubissian colonies, it is merely unwritten. As the nikancha are mix blood, they are also partial descendants of the settlers of Freia. That's why they're allowed to live near the towns in the colonies and are given work to ensure a good living for their family. Even some experts on Freia argue that the nikancha shouldn't be considered Nubissian natives."

He pointed to the distant migrating troupe. "Nobody can stop them from obtaining firearms anyway. Didn't Kuga say that they managed to buy more than 200 firearms from individual adventurers to protect Kumanri settlement? They also used those very firearms to threaten three nearby settlements to join their own and became the biggest settlement in the western coast. Kuga is a nikancha filled with ambition and has always dreamed of forming a nation for his own people. I'm merely giving him this chance to fulfil it.

"The nikancha believe in a false deity called Sunidat, lord of all things. They want to form a theocracy and chase away all the white settlers from Nubissia. Back then, it was merely a rallying cry, but now that they actually see hope for forming their own nation in the Shiksan colonies, we don't have to fear they'll sell us out to the Shiksans.

"Sometimes, I really don't understand the Shiksans. Are they really braindead or something? They actually tried to enslave the nikancha to force them to work. In fact, such force was never needed in the first place. All they had to do was pay a small price so they would have enough to live on and buy a couple bottles of wine. That's enough for droves of nikancha to work away in the mines without complaint. That's exactly what the mining companies of our kingdom do. Some nikancha work as miners to sustain their livelihoods.

"Perhaps all we can say about those nobles and mine owners are that they're too greedy. I heard they tried to subjugate the true natives, the eitat, to mine for them. However, their resistance got more and more extreme to the point that it wasn't sustainable, so the Shiksans decided to prey on the gentler and lazier nikancha instead. They used the nikancha as unpaid labourers and treated them as slaves. Unwilling to pay the price, they've antagonised the nikancha for good.

"One reason I agreed to lend them the arms is to strengthen them so they don't get crushed the moment we leave. The other reason is we're unable to take all the arms of Tofeid back in the first place. They weigh far too much and we'd need at least a thousand more carriages to transport all of them back. Where would we get that?

"That's why we have no choice but to give up on these arms. They're not as accurate as the ones made by our kingdom and the gunpowder isn't compatible either. We'd have to rework them if we bring them back, which will prove to be quite troublesome. As for Shiksan uniforms, I doubt you like wearing them either. Giving up on what we don't need is already something we can't avoid. We only have so much manpower and we still have to escort the 100 thousand captives we have.

"So it's not surprising that we're giving the nikancha what's useless to us. It's common knowledge that they love scavenging for scraps. So they found the arms we didn't need and discarded. So what? Are we supposed to return the weapons to the Shiksans instead? Letting them fall into nikancha hands to resist capture from the Shiksans is far better than letting the Shiksans use them against us, right?"

Myjack was speechless. Claude's reasoning was so thorough that he even prepared an excuse to shift responsibility away. The reason he refused letting the beautiful daughter of Kuga, the so-called Saintess Aimo, stay by his side was so that nobody could use her as dirt against him. He even made sure to tell the guards of the three supply strongholds to only allow the nikancha to take over the strongholds after their departure.

"Don't overthink it," he said, giving his brother-in-law a pat on the shoulder, "It's no big deal for them to be armed. They have no factories or workshops. If they want to fight Shiks for real, they'll need our support. Without ammunition, their muskets will be even less threatening than a spear. They'll definitely wear down a lot of their guns as well and have to rely on us for new ones since they can't repair them.

"So, they'll have to pay a price if they want that from us. Now, they don't have much money. But they can easily gain more wealth by raiding the mining towns and cities in the Shiksan colonies. The more chaos they cause, the more wealth they gain, and the more of our support they can afford. By then, they will have drawn most of Shiks' attention.

"Instead of bothering with our war theatre, they'll focus on quelling the nikancha rebellion first. Otherwise, the nobles in their mainland wouldn't forgive them if their interests in the colonies are compromised."

Since Claude had his mind made up, Myjack didn't say anything else and nodded. "General, let's go back. I'll be staying here near Port Vebator for a month and definitely won't let them disrupt our plans."

"You have to use your brains for certain things. You don't need to make a trip to the city every single day. Just maintain control over a few crucial points and launch ambushes against any of the scouts they send out. As long as fewer return than leave, they'll think we're still there. Also, you have to pick another camping spot during the night. Don't remain in the main camp to prevent being attacked at night."

"Huh? General, what do you mean by that?"

"It's simple. If the troops in Port Vebator send out a light-cavalry tent to scout, they definitely won't escape your sights and pursuit. But if they send out a person or two dressed as civilians during midnight, you wouldn't think much of them even if you bump into them during the day. The most you can do is to frighten them before letting them go. This way, it'd be too easy for the location of your camp to leak to them. Once they know you only have a tribe of men, they might send a few lines out to attack you.

"That's why you shouldn't stay in the main camp during the night and set up another hidden camp at a spot with good terrain. If the enemy notices the main camp empty, they'd definitely send another unit to scout. All you have to do at that time is to ambush them mid way. If you can heavily wound them, they'll think that the empty camp is a trick to bait them out of the city. I believe the enemy will no longer dare to attack carelessly and hole up in Port Vebator for good once that happens."

Myjack brightened with realisation. "Understood, General. Don't worry. I'll definitely make sure they stay in the city for one whole month."

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