Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 446
Looking at the boxes of Shiksan-produced arms and ammunition being carted out by the carriages to be transported to Cape Loducus City, Berklin scratched his head and looked around.
He quietly shifted to Claude's side and asked, "General, I just don't get it. The whole United Kingdom of Fochs doesn't even have a corps in their army. I don't think they have 60 thousand men combined. Why did small local officials buy enough arms for 200 thousand men? It's a deal worth a million crowns! Can they really make a decision like that?"
In fact, even Claude himself didn't imagine the officials of the city would be so daring. Initially, all he wanted was to sell those arms they obtained to the local garrison for some cash.
It was something to be disposed of and burnt up anyway, so it didn't matter how many were sold. All he wanted was to give the five incoming Shiksan corps trouble. No Shiksan would feel good about seeing their arms in the hands of the city garrison troops.
However, when the officials heard Claude's proposition to Lemando, their eyes glowed before they immediately dragged the lieutenant-colonel away. After a quick discussion, they gave him a surprising response.
If Claude was willing to sell Shiksan arms, they would buy as many as there were for sale. Money wouldn't be a problem, since the city had a united bank that could be the guarantor for the arms deal.
Naturally, Claude wouldn't be the one taking the loan. Instead, Lemando and the officials would be, which was an even further shock for Claude. However, it didn't take him long to figure out what those officials were planning. They were trying to make an even larger sum of money, and the ones they were going to make it off would naturally be the five Shiksan corps that still hadn't arrived at Cape Loducus.
Armaments were considered consumables in war. The fact that the Shiksan base had enough arms for over 200 thousand men stored up was a testament to how quickly they wore out on the battlefield. It was probably prepared to replace damages and losses for all 600 thousand men. It was a common convention to have a third of the total number of arms as extras to be swapped out if needed.
Now that the base was conquered by Thundercrash during the night attack, all Shiksan arms had fallen into Aueran hands. They could already delist them from their inventory immediately.
That meant that once the other five corps arrived at Cape Loducus, the Shiksan king would have to prepare yet another batch of weapons to be shipped to Nubissia from the kingdom far away so that they would have some replacements ready. The manpower and costs to ship them would propel the price of those weapons far beyond their original value.
And that was where the Fochsian officials came in. After purchasing the Shiksan arms from Claude for a low price, they could resell them to the Shiksans for a much higher price to earn a big profit and multiply their investment fewfold.
They weren't worried that the Shiksans wouldn't bite either. To them, buying the arms back from the Fochsians would be far cheaper than producing new ones and shipping them to Nubissia. They would also save time and free Seaking and the Alliance's navy from having to make extra trips to transport the arms.
The other reason for the purchase was rather hard to bring up, though everyone knew the implications. If Shiks didn't pay up, Fochs would definitely auction off the weapons across the whole of Freia. By then, the other nations would find out about the glorious loss Shiks suffered, making them the butt of everyone's joke once more.
The smaller duchies without any ability to produce their own firearms would also be interested in purchasing the Shiksan weapons. Fochs didn't have the slightest worry that the weapons wouldn't sell. They needed at most a little more time and trouble finding the right buyer.
Either way, the deal was a huge transaction both for Claude and the officials. For a million crowns, they would get weapons meant for 200 thousand troops at a nearly half-discounted price.
The weapons were useless to the theatre anyway, so getting cash for them would always be a net plus, which the theatre could definitely use to mend its financial holes. It would be a waste not to go through with the deal in the first place. Claude didn't want the theatre to owe a huge debt for funding the war after they won, after all. The more he could earn, the better. In the end, the matter of the deal took him a long two days to deal with.
An official from the city walked towards Claude. He was the head treasurer of the city, Balenport. At his age of 54, he was one of the main leads of that arms deal.
He was in charge of handing over the cash to the united bank in the city. Now that the arms were mostly shipped over to them, Claude guessed that he was probably there to bid him farewell.
It turned out as he predicted. The deal had gone rather smoothly for both sides. Claude had approved the deal lightning fast and the officials of the city didn't bother to haggle too much either. They were going to profit either way, and it wouldn't have been possible without the arms Claude sold them in the first place. Every party had something to gain, so they didn't bother trying to demand more freebies.
Even so, Balenport was still unwilling to give up on something. He asked Claude whether he could sell them some Shiksan-produced catapults and iron pumpkins at a high price.
Claude shook his head once more, refusing the request for the nth time. The muskets, cannons, ammunition, bayonets, uniforms and flasks were fine to sell away, save for the iron pumpkins and the catapults -- he only permitted the sale of some ten catapults and a hundred iron pumpkins to Lemando to improve the city's defences. The rest would be taken away by the theatre.
While Fochs was famed for its strong navy, its military industries were rather underdeveloped. The weapons and equipment produced were mostly adapted for marine use and ship handling. As the nations of Freia were busy ripping off the mortars, the Fochsian navy realised that it was a weapon fit for use both on land and at sea. But due to their weak technology, the mortars they made were inferior to those of other nations in both range and power.
It was clear that Balenport really wanted his kingdom to improve, so he immediately set his sights on the Shiksan 'mortars'. If a deal could be struck, his name and contribution would be brought up to those in power. It was too bad he initially asked to buy them at market price, which didn't move Claude one bit. Even raising the price didn't work, so he returned dejectedly.
Now having understood the reason behind the deal, Berklin looked at the old, leaving treasurer and clicked his tongue. He spat on the ground and cussed, "Dastardly merchant!"
Claude seemed to be in deep thought before he asked, "Has there been any news from Moriad's side?"
It was rather weird. They should've sent some news back yesterday. According to the original plans, the three folks of Shiksan troops stationed to defend the northern mountains' border should send at least one folk over as reinforcements upon hearing about the attack on the base. According to precedent, they should've fallen into Moriad and Dyavid's ambush already. Did the enemy really not receive any word about the attack on the supply base after all?
Claude seemed to be at a slight loss.
"We'll leave after having lunch. Per our plans, your line will lead the way and Colonel Jadewok's line will be escorting the captives and the logistics units," he said.
They had initially planned to leave the base tomorrow noon, but since the Fochsians were so industrious in helping with the shipment for the arms deal and managed to complete it that quickly, he decided to leave half a day earlier.
"What about the injured captives?" Berklin asked.
There were roughly eight thousand casualties in the night battle. More than 20 thousand Shiksans were also captured. After conquering the base and checking in the captives, they discovered that the folk of Shiksans that defended the base weren't the former veterans who had once been taken captive. Most of the men were transfers from Shiksan local garrisons that formerly belonged to the rebellious nobles.
In fact, of the 300 thousand Shiksan captives the new nobility took to develop the new Aueran prefectures, not all of them were still present when they were released. Some tens of thousands of them died in the labour camps. In the end, their numbers fell short of one folk for a full five corps.
So, Majid III simply transferred the private soldiers of the nobles that surrendered to round that number up. As the soldiers of the nobles thought themselves to be so much better and looked down on the captive veterans, conflict often broke out between the two in camp. In the end, they had no choice but to station the folk of new troops to defend the base. At the very least, they wouldn't be worsening Shiks' reputation on the frontlines.
All in all, Claude was rather fortunate to happen to bump into that bunch of hooligans, resulting in him taking less than an hour to take out a 30-thousand-strong folk to occupy the base. Had the ones defending it been the released veteran captives, Claude and his men would no doubt have been in for a gruelling fight that would easily cost them a few times more in casualties.
After the night battle, more than six thousand Shiksan soldiers required medical attention, whereas less than two thousand were killed by the mortar bombardment. The soldiers that survived surrendered quickly, so there were around 23 thousand able-bodied captives.
Berklin wanted to know whether to let the injured travel along with the uninjured captives or put them out of their misery instead of wasting resources to heal them. It was a line of thought common among soldiers of this era.
Claude shook his head at the notion. While he could close a blind eye to killings during a battlefield cleanup, he couldn't do it now. "Use the medical supplies we got from the base to treat the injured soldiers and settle them down far away from the base. When we leave, we'll be setting this base alight. As for the injured soldiers, we'll leave them in Cape Loducus City's hands. After all, they're housing Shiksan officers there who still have more than enough military funds. They should be the ones paying their medical costs."
At one in the afternoon, Lemando saw the troops of Thundercrash approach with countless stretchers before laying them down on a piece of flat land some 500 metres away. He used the telescope to see what they were up to, only to find that the ones on the stretchers were injured Shiksan troops, covered affectionately by a military-use blanket.
After the thousands of injured soldiers were laid down, the soldiers of Thundercrash left. Soon, the initial embers at the supply base started to burn and spread like wildfire thanks to the fuel scattered all around the base. Smoke wafted up into the skies nonstop. Lemando could almost feel the sheer heat the base radiated into its surroundings from the walls of the city.
It was no wonder they carted the injured troops so far away. Since they burnt the base, they were probably going to retreat. Lemando called for a nearby soldier and instructed, "Tell the Shiksan officers that the Aueran theatre has retreated and set the supply base on fire. They also left a few thousand injured soldiers to them which require immediate treatment. Otherwise, the slightest bit of rain or cold would kill them."
It took Claude and the rest three days to reach the spot where Moriad and Dyavid's line laid in ambush while escorting the 23 thousand Shiksan captives. Regrettably, the two lines hid for five days and nights, but the Shiksan reinforcements didn't show. Troop morale was at new lows and many soldiers were getting fevers and diarrhoea from eating dry rations and drinking cold water nonstop in that span of time.
"Set up camp to rest. We're leaving in two days." Claude called off the ambush as it was clear the enemy wouldn't be sending any reinforcements. So much time had passed, and even the enemy would know that sending troops over there was nothing but suicide.
Yet, it still didn't make the whole situation any less weird. Did the enemy really predict there would be an ambush there and not bother to send any reinforcements at all? It didn't quite make sense. The supply base contained the arms and food they would be using on the battlefield. No matter what, they had to show some care for it being taken. Sending a folk to take it back was a normal response.
"Any eagle messages from General Eiblont?" Claude asked the chief signaller.
"No, General." The chief signaller explained that they were deep in enemy territory and could only send letters to Eiblont one way without receiving a response.
That was the limitation of carrier eagles as a form of communication. The eagles couldn't locate a moving unit and could only recognise its destination based on the unique banners flown nearby. Flying one's own banners in enemy territory was one of the biggest taboos one could commit. The eagles would flow past one banner to look for the next all the while risking falling into enemy hands and leaking crucial information.
So, all Claude could do was to single handedly inform Eiblont of his progress without knowing what happened at the northern and eastern mountain borders.
"Then, continue to send Eiblont messages. Inform him of the whereabouts of our camp so he can send someone over to report on developments on other fronts."
After two days of rest, the morale of the two lines recovered somewhat. Most of the sick soldiers also recovered. Claude prepared to leave for the northern mountains' borders once more. After assessing the situation, he would have to decide whether to attack the three Shiksan folks stationed there.
The journey initially planned to be completed in three days took five instead thanks to delays caused by the 20 thousand captives and the sheer amount of supplies they were carting away. Fortunately, they received a messenger from Eiblont a day after their departure with two reports to make. The first was the three Shiksan folks had initially sent reinforcements, only to have them called back urgently not long after they left.
The other was about the eastern mountain front. The Shiksans there suddenly retreated, much to Birkin's frustration. He didn't think they would abandon the first defence line without anyone noticing. He only discovered it a day later and sent his men to pursue them, only to be ambushed by the Shiksans himself. The nikancha that were at the forefront of the chase suffered incredible losses.
However, Birkin managed to hold back the Shiksan main force with Monolith. The former tried to leave the mountains as quickly as it could while the latter aggressively tried to stop its 'guests' from leaving. The two sides were in a messy battle in the eastern mountains, tangling each other up.