Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 420

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Claude didn't think Borkal would actually come all the way to Port Cobius with the nikancha ambassadors to see him. After settling them down and instructing Zakralin to cooperate with them for the migration plans, Claude decided to have a good chat with Borkal during the afternoon.

He finally came to understand why Eiblont left the matter of communicating with the nikancha nation to Borkal. To the nikancha nation, Borkal might as well be the representative of the theatre. Even Bolonik wouldn't be able to gain the kind of trust from them that Borkal could. Only with Borkal's signature would they trust any arrangement they had with the theatre.

"How did you do it?" he asked, both curious and satisfied with his friend's exploits. Borkal was no longer his chubby self from before. While he was still rather large in size, he looked more fit and the uniform seemed a little more fitting for a soldier of his station. He no longer looked like a lazy logistics officer with a potbelly.

"Sigh... Don't mention it. You can't imagine the kinds of troubles I had to go through, at times even having to risk my life!" he said without holding back. He took a few bottles from the wine rack and began pouring himself some drinks. Only after finishing a full glass did he start recounting his experiences throughout the past year to him.

Before the theatre captured Port Vebator, Borkal lived quite a good life in the city. Back then, the city was under complete lockdown by the Shiksan standing corps and beyond the city walls the cavalrymen of Thundercrash dominated. While they didn't really have any problems with food supply, other resources began to run out, such as luxury goods. There was simply no place to buy them even if one had the money.

So, Borkal smuggled luxury goods and other daily necessities in the city nonstop in the name of his wild-bull company and satisfied the demand of the cityfolk. At the same time, he used that chance to become the most beloved person in the whole city. The local officials and nobles in Port Vebator treated him as an honoured guest and he could practically go anywhere in the city he pleased.

That was, according to him, the most pleasant time ever in all his life. Port Vebator's officials greeted him with smiles and noblewomen leapt into his embrace thanks to the endless supply of luxuries he could bring out. Then came the capture of Port Vebator, during which he got marked for quite an impressive achievement. He returned to the theatre's headquarters after that for an intelligence post and had nothing much to do following the sudden end of the colonial wars.

Since the company was still there, he decided to move back to Port Vebator. When he noticed there wasn't any opportunity for business to be done, he decided to go hunting with a few friends of his from the force. He happened to run into some patrolling nikancha near the border. That was when inspiration sparked in his mind. He decided to look for business opportunities with the nikancha folk and travelled north into the nikancha nation under the guise of his wild-bull company's supervisor.

The rest of his experiences read like a legendary epic. During the six months he spent in the nikancha nation, he got to know all sorts of folk and earned their trust. He had many dangerous encounters and was even dragged into a battle with the Shiksans once, almost losing his life.

Borkal opined that the nikancha were brave fighters, but they hardly used their brains. Once their instinct to fight got flipped like a switch, they no longer cared about anything else and charged in wildly. The muskets in their hands were no worse being used as spears. During one attack on a mining compound, a thousand plus nikancha attacked a stone stronghold defended by only 130 plus Shiksans. They outnumbered their enemy by almost ten times and were armed with more than 700 muskets, having the absolute advantage.

However, they actually lost horribly and suffered more than 400 casualties. The reason for that was their hot headedness. Had they properly hid themselves or flattened themselves on the ground while attacking the enemy in the stronghold, they could easily wear the enemy down over time. However, only half an hour into the firefight, one idiot couldn't keep himself still any longer and charged in with his musket raised. After that, even more fools followed suit. Borkal had been completely dumbstruck and didn't understand what they were getting at.

The enemy was hidden in their stone stronghold and there wasn't any windows on the ground floor, only a large and thick metal door. The fools who charged in knocked against the iron door and stone walls with their muskets and spears and weren't able to get in at all. All they could do was to yell in an attempt to frighten their enemy out to surrender to them.

All it took was two volleys from the hundred-plus muskets of the Shiksans on the first floor to wipe out more than 160 nikancha in an instant. When the nikancha finally snapped out of it after suffering those kinds of casualties, they cried on the top of their lungs as they turned around to run.

As the survivors escaped, the Shiksans in the stronghold took the chance to counterattack. That was how they came to lose so badly. The Shiksans were acting no differently from slaughtering turkeys from beyond a fence. They reloaded, aimed, and shot relaxedly and free of pressure. One nikancha after another fell after being shot in their backs. They didn't even think about counterattacking with the muskets in their hands at all as they ran.

Borkal also tried to escape, but his luck wasn't that good. Just as he was about to make it out of it alive, he ran into the elders of the nikancha that coordinated that attack. They had been targeted by a tent of enemies because of their markedly different clothing. The enemy, once finding out that they were the leaders of the nikancha attackers, chased them down nonstop in an attempt to capture them alive.

At that time, Borkal only had another two people around him, namely, his orderman and guard. They didn't have any firearms on them either, being all armed with bladed weapons like two shortswords and one dagger. However, Borkal decided to save the two elders. They picked up three muskets and two bullet sacks from the corpses on the ground and hid within the bushes. After shooting dead the two Shiksans that tailed the elders, they escaped with the two elders to the peak of a nearby hill.

The five ended up stranded on the peak for up to half a month. Had it not been for the sole small and hardly traversable path up the hill and the super convenient terrain for defence, the Shiksans might've come up and ripped them to shreds. They had mounted three attacks, but Borkal and his guard were able to take them out. The two nikancha elders also managed to collect some stones and branches to use as weapons. The Shiksans stopped pressing the attack after losing four to five of their own.

Borkal believed himself to be rather lucky. Perhaps the Shiksans weren't willing to burn up their men on that hill alone due to their relatively small numbers, so they stopped attacking and chose encircling instead. They tried to starve Borkal and the rest to death, knowing that there was no food or water source on the hill.

Borkal didn't know how he managed to spend that half month. Had his orderman not brought his luggage up the hill with them, they might not have survived four days. Borkal and his two men had three days' worth of food in their packs and three water skins. That could last them five to six days if they rationed them up.

That was when the two nikancha elders showed their skills. They collected all sorts of edible vegetables and vines and used their sheep-leather clothing to collect water from dew that formed during the morning and night. It was barely enough for them to drink.

Just like that, all five of them spent some two weeks there. Borkal said that he was so hungry and thirsty he couldn't even think clearly back then. All he knew was that he lost lots of weight during that time. When the Shiksans thought that they were more or less done for and sent someone to check, they were once more ambushed and left after losing one man and having another injured.

Borkal said that he almost wanted to take a bite out of the corpse at the bottom of the hill, but he didn't have the energy to descend, so he remained prone, half-awake. Just like that, another seven days passed. When they were finally about to give out, the nikancha sent someone there and the Shiksans had no choice but to retreat to their mines. The five of them were finally rescued.

After that incident, Borkal saw the nikancha as his own people. He obtained trading rights in the nikancha nation and the nikancha freely sold their goods to Borkal's company. Borkal would, on the other hand, be the middleman and purchase goods from the theatre to be sold in the nikancha nation.

According to his observations, the nikancha nation was structured like an alliance of tribes. It wasn't a nation with a united federal government. They would establish their own tribal territory and have different local laws. The more people in a tribe, the larger their territory would be. Currently, the largest tribe had around 70 thousand people and some tens of vassal tribes. Such large tribes couldn't exist in the colonies of the other nations. For instance, even the largest tribes in the three new colonies of the theatre wouldn't have more than five thousand members.

Currently, there are six major tribes in the nikancha nation as well as their various vassal tribes. The vassal tribes of the major tribes also had their own vassal tribes and so on. The smallest tribe Borkal had ever visited had only some thirty members, all of them blood relatives who lived together.

When Claude asked about the progress of their attack on the Shiksan colonies, Borkal merely shook his head with a pained smile. He said that the war had indeed ended and the nikancha would only attack the Shiksan mines at the frontlines because they didn't feel safe having them around. It was a measure to prevent the enemy from approaching their border.

According to his estimations, the nikancha nation had a population of around two million. They occupied far too much territory and had more than enough to live a decent life. Additionally, they were getting a little sick from fighting after staging so many revolts and resistance operations against their Shiksan oppressors.

The leaders of the largest tribes were still quite clear headed and knew that they couldn't possibly coexist with the Shiksans. However, they used up their firearms far too quickly and didn't know how to maintain them, nor how to get new ones. Currently, they didn't have many muskets remaining and not much ammunition to be used with them. They were no longer willing to waste them on the battlefield.

The other reason was the huge casualties sustained. While the casualties currently only numbered ten thousand or so, those were primarily the ones trained by Thundercrash. Without nikancha soldiers that were given basic training, their combat strength greatly decreased. That was why they still lost their attack despite having a thousand men fighting a place defended only by 130 Shiksans and losing near 400 of their own in the process.

While the nikancha nation was a tribal alliance, the ones that actually held power were the council of elders of the largest tribes. Most policies were determined by the council. The leaders of the tribes were also the chiefs of war and held the authority to conduct military matters and lead the tribes' forces.

Interestingly, half the youth in the larger tribes' forces were from vassal tribes, and half the forces of the vassal tribes were from their own vassal tribes and so on. In times of war, the tribe leaders would give the order and their vassal tribes, as well as the smaller tribes further down the chain would assemble for war. It was similar to feudal nations on Freia.

After spending half a year in the nikancha nation, he returned and wrote a detailed report about them. The theatre was quite elated to receive a report that contained so much information about the nikancha nation and marked another great achievement under Borkal's name, allowing him to finally be promoted from lieutenant-colonel to colonel.

Borkal had decided to visit Claude because he wanted to show off his new rank and also talk about the migration of the nikancha in the three colonies. Claude had initially worried that the nikancha nation would refuse to let their own people migrate, but contrary to his expectations, they couldn't be happier to let them. According to tribal traditions, if the tribes in the three colonies migrated there, they would quickly be taken in as vassal tribes of the larger tribes, which would be a great boost to their might.

That was why the only difficulty in the migration would be the food and transport costs. During the negotiations, the council of elders of the nikancha nation offered to pay a million crowns in the form of ores and gold and silver reserves to the theatre to facilitate the migration.

However, they also expected to trade for some military equipment. They asked for 100 thousand firearms and ammunition to go with them, a large supply of food, as well as some officers to help train their troops for half a year. If the theatre agreed, they would be willing to pay another million crowns worth in gold and silver.

As that was no longer something Borkal could decide, he had no choice but to take the ambassadors of the nikancha nation to Lanu to meet Bolonik. Bolonik and the other generals discussed the matter by carrier eagle and eventually agreed to those demands. Claude had also received word on the matter and Skri was greatly supportive of the deal.

The theatre did have a surplus of around 300 thousand Shiksan arms from their captives anyway and tonnes of ammunition. As they weren't as advanced as the Aubass Mark 3s Thundercrash was armed with, the muskets were left to rust in the warehouses. Fortunately, they could now trade them with the nikancha nation for gold and silver and even arm them up for more conflict with the inland Shiksan colonies.

As for officers, Bolonik had given Eiblont the order to pick more than a hundred baseline officers to be sent there and give the nikancha soldiers preliminary training. As for food and supply support, Borkal said that supplying their troops was only an excuse for the elite in the nikancha nation to get more wheat flour for their enjoyment.

The nikancha's staple food were potatoes, cassava and oat. These 'rough' foods were easy to plant in the mountains. Few nikancha, however, were willing to plant wheat as they found them to be a little too troublesome to be worth the effort. They had to cultivate farmland properly and use proper fertilisers on top of giving utmost care to weeding. Given their temperament, none of them could be bothered to spare that kind of effort.

Borkal said they could use that to trade gold and silver with the nikancha in the future.

Claude, however, wondered whether they even had that much gold and silver, to which Borkal replied they had mountains' worth. He explained that in the third of the Shiksan territory they managed to capture alone, there were more than ten small to mid-sized gold and silver mines. After wiping out the Shiksan miners, they obtained large numbers of refined gold and silver ingots. Now, it was their turn to subjugate the Shiksan captives and eitat people to work away in their mines.

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