Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 429

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"We have to strike a deal with the nikancha to set up a defence line at the border between Cape Loducus and their border in the mountains to prepare ourselves against an attack of the ten standing corps," Birkin stressed.

Eiblont flashed a pained smile. "I already told you that the nikancha definitely won't let our troops enter their territory. I've interacted with them often and all of them are so stubborn you'd think their heads are filled with stones. They formed their own nation and now think of it as their inviolable sacred land. Even if you tell them about the impending Shiksan attack, they'll suspect us for trying to plot against them constantly until they're actually attacked..."

"Have Colonel Borkal come back, then. Doesn't he have a good rapport with the nikancha? They trust him far more than they do the theatre. Have him tell them that we're going to help them, not occupy their territory!"

"It's pointless--" Eiblont shook his head. "--The nikancha trust Colonel Borkal because of the arms deal and trade. The colonel used the principles of trade to earn their trust. They wouldn't believe him when their independent nation's territory and autonomy is at stake.

"That's especially the case after we used force to drive the nikancha tribes in Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras away and killed some stubborn elders and nikancha youths. We earned the ire of quite a number of tribes in the nation. If not for the fact they aren't able to find others to sell them arms and supplies, they would've chased the wild-bull company out long ago."

"Then we should strike first and conquer the northern mountainous coasts. We'll fortify that area and let the Shiksan forces shatter their own heads against our defence line," Birkin said savagely.

"Bick, if we use your method, we'll lose an ally in the upcoming battles. The main reason we wanted the nikancha to form their own nation in the first place was to be a buffer for our colonies from northern threats. If we become the first aggressors, we'll only gain ourselves an unrelenting enemy. We would've only had to fight one foe, Shiks, in the first place. If we let you have your way, we'll have to face two foes. We are already weaker in numbers, and that will only worsen our position," Eiblont argued.

Birkin burst out laughing. "Can the nikancha even count as a foe? Their pathetic combat capabilities wouldn't last against two of our garrison lines. We can easily keep them outside our defences. It's precisely because of our limited numbers that we ought to capture the northern mountainous coasts so we can build a strong defence line using the terrain there. If we arm Monolith with the new rifles, I am confident we can take on enemies ten times our size. A single of our corps will be able to hold ten standing Shiksan corps outside our colonies easily."

"Do you think stationing Monolith at the northern mountainous coasts is all it'll take? What about the defences of the three port cities and our own coastline? Are you going to station our garrison lines there? That will disrupt the entire defence posting of the theatre. We'll expose openings that the enemy can take advantage of without even realising it. The Shiksans are no wild boars. If they are completely stopped at the northern mountainous coasts by Monolith, the first thing that will come to their mind will no doubt be how our coastlines are undefended.

"Additionally, even if we take that area, how are we going to deal with logistics? That isn't our territory where roads are built all over. The nikancha are used to travelling on mountainous paths. How can you count on using carriages to transport supplies there? And offending the nikancha will mean that our supply convoys will constantly come under their attacks. That's why we can't ever deploy our troops to capture the northern mountainous coasts!" Eiblont yelled, feeling a little angry.

"What are they arguing about?" Claude asked Bolonik.

"They're trying to figure out how we can stop the ten Shiksan corps." Bolonik picked up a teapot and noticed that there wasn't any water in it. He pulled on a bell rope and had his aide enter to make him a new pot of tea. After all was said and done, he pointed at the map on the wall and explained, "The nikancha nation occupies the northern mountainous coasts which border Cape Loducus. Bick and Eilon think that Shiks will only march their army south after gathering all ten standing corps first.

"Only if they conquer this area can the enemy continue mounting an attack on the nikancha nation or our Vebator colony. Bick thinks that we should get in contact with the nikancha to build defence lines in the northern mountainous coasts for a multi-layered resistance effort to wear down the ten Shiksan corps. By relying on our new rifles, we will keep their forces outside of our colonies. That way, the war wouldn't affect economic development in our eight colonies no matter how long it lasts.

"Eilon doesn't think the nikancha will believe our warning. Even if they found that Shiks are about to attack them, they definitely wouldn't let our troops into their territory to help them with defence. If the nikancha aren't willing to use our help to defend against a Shiksan attack, then we won't be able to form defence lines in the northern mountainous coasts. By the time Shiks conquered the area, their next step would be to send their troops across Vebator. We'll have to be prepared for a scorched-earth tactic if that happens.

If the enemy only has two or three corps, we wouldn't have to care who has the mountainous coasts. But now, Shiks has amassed ten standing corps and their troops number more than 600 thousand. We only have two corps in our theatre and 18 garrison lines. Their numbers completely dwarf ours. Without the aid of terranean advantage, we'll be hard pressed to weather their attacks, especially if keeping casualties low isn't on their agenda. If we get swarmed by the enemy, there's a good chance we'd be heavily encircled. It would make it difficult for us to get out of that rut."

Claude quickly understood the subtext behind Bolonik's words. The enemy had far too many troops. While the theatre had Thundercrash, Monolith and 18 other garrison lines, totalling up to around 200 thousand in troop numbers, the eight colonies of the theatre covered too much area. Their forces had to be spread rather thin to hold strategic locations across the theatre. Monolith, for instance, had two folks and one of them had to assign their four main combat lines to defend Port Vebator, Port Patres, Port Cobius and Dorinibla River Defence Line.

As such, Monolith could only mobilise around 20 thousand men from one folk and one extra direct-line that reported to corps command. Claude's Thundercrash was an attack-based light-cavalry corps, so they wouldn't play much of a part in defensive battles.

If Shiks' ten standing corps with 600 thousand men came crashing like a hammer, one Monolith folk, Thundercrash and a few garrison lines would be hard pressed to defend against an assault of that magnitude on flatlands. They might even end up surrounded.

The enemy's numbers allowed them to focus their might to strike one specific area. Even if they went up against an Aueran defence line on flatlands, they could easily attack one specific point with all they had to breach it, rendering it useless.

It was precisely that which caused Eiblont and Birkin to argue so much over the northern mountainous coasts. If they wanted to resist the enemy outside the colonies, the coasts' terrain would be ideal, but they would have to gain the support and aid of the nikancha first.

Eiblont, who interacted often with the nikancha at Port Vebator, knew their characters well. They would refuse most of the theatre's requests. Even if the theatre sincerely wanted to offer help, they would suspect their intentions. Only Borkal had his own methods to use against the nikancha's stubborn character.

Back when Claude wanted to get the nikancha tribes to migrate from the three colonies, Borkal spun the whole matter into an offer to the nikancha nation to save their own kind from the oppressive Aueran settlers. For that, the nikancha nation provided him with a million crowns' worth of supplies and gold and silver as payment for helping rescue their oppressed kind.

Later, Claude used force to evict the nikancha tribes that weren't willing to leave and forced them onto the transport ships. When the nikancha reached their home nation and complained to the elders about the bloody eviction, the elders gleefully thought their oppressed kind were liberated and rescued thanks only to them. They were so thankful for Borkal's help they even granted him the honorary title of the friend of the nikancha.

Eiblont's idea was to help the nikancha nation reorganise their troops and equipment and to sell the goods they kept stored away in the warehouse to them for a really low price to strengthen them. That way, when the Shiksans attack, the nikancha forces would be the first ones to fight and chip away at the Shiksan troops. Only when they couldn't hold on any longer would the theatre interfere. That way, the nikancha would be thankful to the theatre and be willing to fight Shiks together.

However, that idea wasn't without its flaws. By the time the nikancha could no longer hold out, the Shiksan troops might've arrived at the theatre's borders already. Even if the theatre could send troops into the northern mountainous coasts, they would only be able to hold a small area. They couldn't form a long defence line as a single breach was all it took for the rest to collapse.

That was why Birkin insisted on sending all troops to the mountainous coasts. Currently, they couldn't afford to use any scorched-earth tactics in Cromwell, Balingana and Vebator. Vebator was now where the arms factory was situated. Production of the new rifles was ongoing there. Cromwell and Balingana had just seen the settlement of more than two million settlers. War in either of those colonies would result in heavy and crippling losses.

"Stop arguing and take a seat. Let's have a proper discussion," Bolonik said with a furrowed brow.

Claude put the folder down. "I have a question. Do you remember the latter half of last year when Majid III just managed to stop the noble rebellion in his kingdom? How was he able to form ten standing corps before two years even passed? There's no way forced conscription can work nearly as quickly. Our kingdom only managed to form five new corps during the five-year war to serve as reserves for the main corps of our kingdom. Most of them were forcefully conscripted local keepers too."

Claude believed that if the troops of those ten corps were merely rookies, there wouldn't be anything they'd have to worry about. Forming new corps with farmers without even spending two years and sending them to the distant Nubissia to fight a war... One could only imagine the kind of combat capability they would have. Perhaps the nikancha forces would be enough to keep them outside their borders.

Skri handed him a newspaper publication called 'News Today'. "Read this report."

Claude looked at the headline with a red tick. His expression turned grim immediately. It was published three months ago and talked about the intent of Shiks to lease Cape Loducus from the United Kingdom of Fochs.

However, the highlighted part stated that after Prince Hansbach's rebel forces hooked up with Shiks to use Seaking to obliterate the Aueran fleet, Fearless, more than 300 thousand Shiksan captives in the former territories of Rimodra, Askilin and Sidins were released.

Majid III sent a representative there to form five new standing corps with the captives and paid Prince Hansbach another sum of money to rent the well-facilitated Port Floric in old Rimodra as the training grounds for the five corps.

The report stated that Shiks formed the five corps in hopes that they would be able to wipe away their humiliation by sending them to the upcoming war with the Aueran colonies as thanks for the trust and support Majid III gave them. The moment the lease deal was finalised between Fochs and Shiks, the five corps would be the first batch of troops to be sent to the colonies.

Claude's expression worsened. The 300 thousand troops were captives from the first and second colonial wars and were combat ready to an extent. That was especially the case during the second colonial war, when Ranger managed to capture near 300 thousand troops thanks to Miselk's tactic of cutting off their supply line.

However, the new nobility set their greedy sights on the 300 thousand captives and wanted to use them as unpaid labourers. So, they struck up a deal with Miselk by offering to send the 10 thousand households of forcefully discharged soldiers to the theatre for the formation of the five enhanced folks in exchange for shipping the 300 thousand Shiksan captives to the mainland as the main source of manpower to develop the new territories.

Now, the 300 thousand captives were armed and organised into five standing corps. They were veterans ready to undo their shame in the following colonial war and were far tougher than newly formed corps. They wouldn't be easy to deal with.

In the theatre, Monolith and Thundercrash had transferred their veterans into the local garrison forces and recruited 100 thousand new recruits. While their training was complete, they didn't have a single shred of experience in battle.

"Ridiculous!" Claude grit his teeth tight and slammed the meeting table with his fist. "Now, I'm glad we refused Prince Hansbach's demands and didn't join his side. Otherwise, we'd truly have become traitors to the kingdom!"

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