Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 431
Birkin was like a deflated balloon. He slumped into his couch, knowing well that Claude was fully in the right. Taking the northern mountainous coasts to form a defence line and stationing Monolith there had a huge weakness, which happened not to be the difficulty to send support and supplies from the rear. Even if the nikancha attacked their supply route, there were methods that could be used to rectify that.
The most glaring weakness of that plan was the possibility of the Shiksans simply not choosing to invade through the northern mountainous coasts. That would mean that all their preparations, and sacrificing of the nikancha's friendship, would've been useless. Shiksans weren't wild bulls that charged straight without any regard. They would no doubt pick a path of attack that would be most beneficial to them and wouldn't bother bashing their heads against a well-armed defence line. No officer would be foolish enough to send their soldiers to pointless deaths.
If the Shiksans chose to invade through the eastern mountain area, then the troops stationed at the northern mountainous coasts would be put in an awkward predicament. They couldn't retreat, because they would allow the Shiksans to capture undefended territory and continue their way south. That way, the construction of the northern mountainous coasts would've been pointless. The money and manpower spent would all be for naught.
However, there wasn't a need to defend the area either since the Shiksans wouldn't really be attacking them there. The troops stationed to defend the captured northern mountainous coasts would simply have no choice but to watch the Shiksans pick another path for the invasion. The theatre's generals didn't doubt that the paltry forces of the nikancha would be able to stop the Shiksan advance.
When the nikancha nation was wiped out, the survivors would be taken as captives. If the troops stationed at the supposed defence line at the northern mountainous coasts hadn't yet retreated, the Shiksans could surround them from the rear and cut them off from their supplies, putting them under encirclement. They wouldn't have to waste any ammunition or lives to get the defenders to surrender after a time.
The only way that would work was after capturing the northern mountainous coasts, they launched another attack on the eastern border mountains. That way, they would be able to construct a strong defence line on both sides so the Shiksans wouldn't have anywhere to attack, yet, that was simply unachievable. Putting aside whether the nikancha would stab them in the back after being attacked, the theatre wouldn't be able to mobilise that many troops to defend the two mountainous areas.
According to Birkin's plan, he would first take the northern mountainous coasts to build a defence line there and station Monolith there to fight the ten Shiksan corps back with their new rifles. That only left the colonies defended by the 18 garrison lines and Thundercrash, which could provide support thanks to its mobility.
But if they had to defend the eastern border mountains as well, they would have to station Thundercrash there. That way, the colony would no longer have a mobile main force that could supplement the rest. If by then, the Shiksans mounted another attack on the three port cities with Seaking and the Alliance's navy, the port cities that were defended only by one or two garrison lines would fall sooner or later. It would be far too late by then.
"Actually, I think there's no need for us to be that nervous about this. It's impossible for the Shiksans to launch an attack in the coming year or two," Claude said after he saw the map and returned to his seat, pouring some red tea for himself.
Eiblont rapped on the table with his fingers and said, "Claude, speak quickly if you have something to say. Don't put up airs. Shiks has ten standing corps of 600 thousand soldiers. You have to give us a reason if you want us to remain calm under such circumstances."
Claude smiled and countered with a question. "Can you tell me how many corps can Seaking and the Alliance's navy escort to Cape Loducus at a time?"
It was a simple question, but the other generals found it weird and didn't know why Claude would ask that. After they looked at each other, Skri finally spoke. "Two corps. Before the third colonial war, they sent two corps to Port Vebator. I'm sure we're all aware of that."
"Then, do you remember what happened in the half a year following their transport of the two corps to Port Vebator?" Claude asked again.
Skri's eyes immediately glowed. It seemed he had finally understood what Claude was getting at. "A food crisis! After Shiks sent two corps to Port Vebator, there were four corps in the city and food became a huge problem. They had no choice but to stop Seaking and the Alliance's navy from sending more troops to transport more food there.
"To solve the food crisis in the colony of Vebator, the Shiksans had to capture the nikancha to use them as agricultural slaves and send many of them to the mines as well. That eventually caused the nikancha to rebel. The cruel policies against the nikancha also made it so that the other nations' two voluntary corps had to spread themselves thin, which resulted in an opening you exploited to win the war..."
"Uhh..." Claude looked at him awkwardly. "I didn't ask you to bring up my achievements. I only asked a simple question. Basically, with all the ships they have, Shiks can only send two corps to Cape Loducus at once, and that isn't including the supplies they'd need to sustain the two corps.
"Usually, merchant vessels only make a voyage between the continents once every six months, and the most Shiks can travel to and fro is three times a year. So, six corps is the most they can send in per year. Seaking and the Alliance's navy also need time to rest. They can't be at sea for years on end. Even if the crew can take it, the ships can't.
"Even if Shiks manages to come to a deal to lease the colony of Cape Loducus and start sending their troops over next year, they'll need two years at the very least to complete the transportation. Let's not forget about the food as well. How much food would six corps need every month?
"By the time Shiks finishes transporting all ten standing corps to Cape Loducus, how much would it cost to sustain 600 thousand men? Even if Seaking and the Alliance's navy makes three trips per year, they'll only be able to barely supply ten corps' worth of men. To have enough food during wartime, they'll have to resort to other methods.
"Food isn't the only problem. There's also the arms and ammunition they'll need to fight the war. I really suspect Majid III doesn't understand military affairs at all. He wants to deploy ten corps of 600 thousand men to the colonies to swarm our theatre, which is a valid tactic, I'll admit. But he definitely hadn't considered how he could ship the food and ammunition required by that many troops.
"Ten corps of 600 thousand sounds terrifying at first. But if we cut off their supply lines, they'll be reduced to 600 thousand captives waiting to be sent to the labour camps. There's no need for us to feel any pressure from their numbers. We just have to hold them at bay for two to three years and the ten corps will become a heavy burden on Shiks. They'll be crushed under their own weight and Majid III will definitely come to regret his bold threats."
The atmosphere in the meeting room suddenly turned cheerful. They had been too focused on the news that Shiks would be sending ten corps over to continue the colonial wars. The 600 thousand number became a huge mountain that intimidated all of them. Even Bolonik felt that the theatre was in for a really difficult time, because no matter how he ran his calculations, he couldn't find a winning solution for the theatre against overwhelming enemies.
"Why did I forget that 600 thousand men would require vast amounts of supplies too..." Bolonik slapped his forehead and laughed. "Claude, I feel so much more relaxed now after hearing your analysis. I haven't been able to sleep a wink over the past two nights since receiving these reports. The mere thought of ten corps feels like a mountain weighing down on me. I forgot the Lord Militant's teachings and committed a mistake I shouldn't have."
Eiblont said after some deep thought, "No matter how much of a fool Majid III is, Shiks definitely has some qualified commanders, right? How else would he be able to quell the noble rebellion that quickly? Those commanders are surely aware that 600 thousand men would require an astronomical amount of resources. Perhaps they really do have a way to solve that. Maybe they can gather those supplies locally in the colony or get them from the colonies of other nations nearby."
"If Shiks is leasing only Cape Loducus, they won't be able to gather enough supplies for 600 thousand men locally. Cape Loducus is the smallest colony Fochs has on Nubissia and their population is less than two million. While it's well known for having beautiful views, it's merely a place for officials and nobles to rest and relax. More than half of the colony has its natural landscape maintained. There are few farmsteads and pastures. The sole city in Cape Loducus supports itself with its fishing industry."
Claude briefed them on the colony based on the information in his hands. "It's simple. Given the current state of Cape Loducus, there's no way they'll be able to sustain even one corps, let alone ten. Since Shiks only leased that colony, it means they're only going to be there as guests. They won't be allowed to reshape the colony as the right of governance still lies in the local Fochsian officials.
"If I were someone in the Shiksan military, I would suggest Majid III buy the colony immediately since Fochs is willing to sell it as well. To ensure that ten corps can be sustained, they'll have to have full control of Cape Loducus. Before the corps arrive, they'll have to fell forests to cultivate farmland. In two to three years, they'll have lots of food.
"However, Majid III will definitely not do that. He's only leasing Cape Loducus for his troops to gather and to wipe out the nikancha nation before resuming hostilities with us. After losing the three previous wars so badly to the point of losing Vebator entirely to us letting the nikancha found their own nation which continues to attack their inland colonies to this day, Shiks has become a huge laughing stock among all nations that have their own colonies. Majid III can definitely not bear that kind of humiliation.
"If he can't plant and stock food in Cape Loducus and given how much of a waste of time and manpower it will be to transport food overseas, Shiks' only choice will be to buy supplies from other colonies. As long as our theatre send out people to keep an eye on the food markets, we'll be able to tell when Shiks is going to launch their attack when food prices spike. We can even stock food up in advance and sell them for a high price to make Shiks pay even more for it.
"Naturally, it won't be easy for them to be able to buy enough for all 600 thousand. The colonies on the western coast are developed like our theatre. Others only pay attention to extracting mineable resources like Shiks, so they need to purchase food from other colonies too. Shiks' food purchase will definitely make the western coast's food prices rise. So, the best way to save costs would be to fuel the war effort through war itself.
"That's why I'm certain after Shiks transports the ten standing corps to the colonies, perhaps even before they gather all their troops, Majid III would order for his men to strike the nikancha nation first. The longer their nation stands, the longer the stain of humiliation will stick on Shiks. Only by completely eradicating the nikancha nation and harshly punishing those 'rebellious slaves' with enslavement and massacre can they wash their shame away."
Claude looked at the four generals in the room. "That's the conclusion I came to based on what information we have. I believe Shiks' first target isn't our theatre at all. They'll exterminate the nikancha nation first to get their men to familiarise themselves with battle and build up their combat might. They'll also gain a huge labour pool to fulfill their manpower requirements. Perhaps they can even sell them to the mining companies. Most importantly, they'll gain access to the nikancha food stores to achieve their main objective of being able to continue the war.
"What we need to do is to get the nikancha to understand what kind of fate awaits them and let them seek us out on their own initiative for our support and aid against the Shiksans. However, due to their tragic stubbornness, we can't just go straight to them and tell them about the incoming attack of the ten Shiksan standing corps. They'll suspect us for trying to trick and harm them.
"All we can do is to guide them to realise this fact themselves. What we need is to hide this fact. Even if the nikancha come to ask us about the veracity of the rumours, we must tell them that Shiks is coming for our theatre, not them. Only then will they realise how serious the situation is and pay attention to the forces gathering in Cape Loducus.
"The more Shiksan troops that gather, the more necessary it becomes for them to ask for our help. Only when they're facing the threat of being eliminated will they be willing to follow our commands and resist the Shiksan invasion. We can send our men to help them set up defence lines, conduct scorched-earth tactics on strategic locations and lead the Shiksans into the deep mountain wilderness. Perhaps the deep mountains in nikancha territory will be the perfect place for us to wipe our enemies out.
"At the same time, we can also gift the light-infantry cannons we got from the Shiksan corps to the nikancha. Didn't they want cannons and training from us to use them? I think the theatre should assent to that request. The Shiksan cannons aren't seeing any use with us anyway. We might as well trade them to the nikancha for gold and silver. If they lose, the gold and silver will fall into Shiksan hands, so it's better to just take it to improve our theatre's economy."