Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 453
Meeting and Decisions
Claude was the one to give a conclusive remark on the war. He spoke much about how Thundercrash had never suffered such heavy casualties since its formation, with almost half of its troops either dead or injured. However, they were able to resist the Shiksan attack and obtain ultimate victory. They could already be considered a toughened and matured force and the legacy of the sacrificed would be passed on through Thundercrash's reputation as a glorious and iron-blooded force.
He also discussed the difference between the use of mortars in offensive and defensive situations, as well as the issue with supplying rounds for the new rifles. He only glossed over the development of snipers and mines, since they didn't see too much action in the war, mainly because there were too few test cases with numbers being so low.
He talked about the most about the chaotic battle which he had personally witnessed. He was so agitated that he even balked at Bolonik for being so stingy with the ammunition, much to the latter's utter flabbergastment, though he didn't argue with him about it.
That was because Claude only spoke the truth. He knew that Claude was someone who felt the hurt from losing his subordinates. There was no way he would be able to shake off that feeling of regret after losing so many men.
Claude said that had the junior officers all been given a revolver, Thundercrash would've only lost a few thousand fewer soldiers in the battle. The loss of so many talented, young officers came as quite a blow to him. It could've been prevented had they been armed with revolvers.
But the price of only five crowns per revolver Bolonik made to him wouldn't even be enough to cover the costs. They would need to sell them at double that price to even break even, so the theatre cancelled that order for them.
Compared to the pension that had to be paid for the 30 thousand casualties, an extra 50 thousand crowns cost much less. That was why Claude was so mad he even slammed the table to criticise Bolonik.
In truth, Bolonik wasn't stingy for the sake of being so. He simply didn't understand the kind of function a revolver could play in combat. He believed that with their new rifles, they would be able to eliminate their enemies from far away, so a revolver with a much closer firing range would be a nonessential decorative piece. Given the theatre's tight funding, they had no choice but to cancel the order for the revolvers.
Claude then talked about the performance of the various units of Thundercrash. He was in agreement with Birkin that they would have to take in some veterans to fill up the ranks and form a backbone for their force to help the new recruits grow. The presence of veterans on the battlefield would help the new recruits perform much better. They could also learn from them by example.
After Claude finished, Bolonik assigned the tasks to the various officers before adjourning the meeting. However, Claude and the rest still couldn't leave. They would go on to discuss among all five of them the aftermath of the colonial war.
From a certain point of view, the true purpose of the discussion was to consider whether the theatre should continue cooperating with the nikancha on resisting the Shiksans. At the very start of the talk, Claude, Eiblont and Birkin were unanimous in their opinion that cooperation was no longer possible.
Birkin complained that it took him more effort to pay attention to the nikancha than to resist the Shiksan attack. Precautions also had to be made to prevent the nikancha from causing them trouble. Them not following orders was a small matter relative to the other matters. The most crucial problem was how they were constantly eyeing the theatre's new rifles like hungry hyenas, which Birkin absolutely couldn't tolerate.
Eiblont also said he always had to be wary of the nikancha who were stationed at crucial points at the borders of the northern mountains, especially with how they refused to participate in the attack on the Shiksan camp. He also believed cooperating with the nikancha brought the theatre no benefit at all. They were more of a burden if anything, and letting it go on would cause the theatre even more losses, especially when it came to logistics and supply.
Claude, on the other hand, was angered by the nikancha to the point that he was at a loss for what to do. He had often looked back at the help he offered them when he sent his men to clear out the inland Shiksan colonies and split three-tenths of the spoils he got to them despite them not contributing at all. The gold and silver ingots he gave out was worth four million crowns. When Skri heard about the amount, he had a lot of nasty things to say about Claude.
Yet, the nikancha didn't give it their all after receiving the theatre's token of goodwill. Initially, they sent ten thousand of their youths to follow the theatre's command and help out with resisting the Shiksan offence. But the moment things turned bad, they immediately deserted their posts. Even though a heroic nikancha stood up and sacrificed himself to inspire the rest, the problems came back again in the latter stages of the war.
They didn't follow orders and often acted on their own, which was the least of the theatre's troubles, since the nikancha were the ones who would be suffering the losses anyway. They could even close one eye to all the supply crates they 'dropped into the canyon'. But coming for the two corps' new rifles was something an ally should never even attempt. The nikancha had crossed a line.
What infuriated Claude the most was how they even threatened to give up on the area they defended in an attempt to get the Shiksan catapults and iron pumpkins when Claude returned to the northern mountains to rest his men. After Claude refused them many times, they left without giving any notice, thinking that they would be able to force Claude's hand that way. Claude didn't know where they got the gall to do such a thing.
This time, he was truly infuriated by their sheer arrogance. He had ordered Thundercrash to occupy the whole of the northern mountain region and forbade entry to all nikancha. Since they gave up on it on their own volition, they couldn't blame him from taking it. His orders were clear: since the day the nikancha left without notice, the northern mountainous coasts was now war-theatre territory.
Birkin would rather have the nikancha as the theatre's enemies, since that was far more relaxing than having them as allies. As enemies, all they needed to do was to have a line of garrison troops watch them. But as allies, they would have to send a few lines to protect them every time they planned for an operation. Otherwise, they would immediately crumble on the battlefield and affect the rest of their deployments.
Eiblont hated the disobedient nikancha with a passion. There was no way he would accept them as allies unless they learned to follow orders to the last letter. They didn't need to be brave. At least, they should be able to play the role of cannon fodder. If they couldn't do even that, the theatre wouldn't have a need for them anyway.
Claude's intentions were clear. No matter whether the theatre continued to work with or fight the nikancha, the northern mountainous coasts occupied by Thundercrash was undisputed war-theatre territory. There was no way it would be handed back to the nikancha nation.
Bolonik was quite troubled by these developments. He thought that turning against the nikancha should at least wait until the colonial wars with the Shiksans ended. Cutting an ally off so soon after the war started was no way to go. There would be half a year before the Shiksans continued their attack. Perhaps it would be wiser to wait for Borkal to return from Cape Loducus to send him to the nikancha nation to see what was going on, so putting this matter on hold ought to be the better thing to do.
Among the five greats, Skri was the one in the most awkward position. He was in agreement with Claude, Eiblont and Birkin's stance, but he couldn't bring himself to cut the nikancha off as allies. In the half a year since the war started, a third of the arms the theatre produced had been sold to them for a high price. The spoils obtained from the Shiksan troops were similarly sold to them for double the market price. They earned nearly two million crowns from them easily.
The theatre should put up with such great customers to sell to, especially after how Claude gave them so much of their share of spoils for little to no effort. Initially, Skri didn't really mind the deal since he thought they were at most going to get some mining tools and useless spoils.
Little did he know that the Shiksans actually stockpiled yields worth over 17 million crowns over the past two years. Upon hearing that, Bolonik finally came to understand where Shiks' insane military spending power came from and how they were still able to form ten standing corps to continue the colonial war after suffering three huge losses.
But after that, they immediately thought it through again because of the thirty-percent share Claude promised the nikancha. Fortunately, Skri managed to take advantage of the fact that the nikancha weren't that good at math. He ordered the pile of ingots worth 17 million to be split into one worth 13 million and another worth four million crowns and told them that was their share.
The nikancha counted that thirty percent of 13 million was 3.9 million. In their minds, the theatre had given them an extra 100 thousand crowns' worth, so they happily left with their share and thought Skri to be a generous fellow.
That was why while Skri wasn't against cutting them off, it had to wait until they were able to get the four million crowns' worth of ingots from them back first. Lately, Skri had been having his subordinates try to market as many daily necessities as they could to them. Half of the orders the theatre's factories processed were from the nikancha.
In the end, Bolonik decided to put the matter on hold and wait until after the new year to see whether the nikancha offered any explanation. Next came the matter of taking over the defence. It was already a foregone conclusion. The colonies would send six garrison lines to defend the northern mountainous coasts and the eastern mountains.
With six garrison lines made up of veterans taking over, Thundercrash and Monolith could retreat to recover. At the very least, they could rest better than letting the nikancha defend the place. By the time half a year passes and Thundercrash and Monolith goes back to fight the Shiksans back, the six lines could work together with them to resist the Shiksan advance.
Next, they came to the topic of revolvers. Bolonik humbly accepted Claude's criticism and decided to have all junior officers of the theatre armed with their personal revolver at the price of ten crowns as suggested by Claude, with 30 rounds to go with it. But upon more thought, Claude still refused to let Blackstone Arms Factory take that order.
Claude explained that the factory was going full steam to produce Sonia 591s. It wouldn't have any more effort to spare to form another production line for revolvers. Instead, Claude suggested making a new factory complex to produce revolvers and mortars for the theatre. The design of the mortars had to be reworked anyway, so Claude decided to have one of Weyblon's mortar-producing factories be isolated out to start another production line for revolvers. New shareholders were also welcome to buy in as well.
There was nothing that was better at drawing people closer than profit. Claude's suggestion came as a welcome surprise. Each of the generals contributed ten thousand crowns to the business, each taking ten percent ownership of the new factory. Claude, being the inventor of the mortars and revolvers, only paid ten thousand to get thirty percent of the shares. Ten of the remaining thirty percent would be given to Weyblon for his role in managing the place, though he also had to pay 100 thousand for his share.
The other 20 would be reserved for rewarding people who invented new weapons. Bolonik was quite worried they wouldn't have enough to get the factory going, so they borrowed another 500 thousand crowns in Claude's name from the overseas bank for no interest as a precaution. When the agreement was signed, the order for the revolvers was raised to 20 thousand units and the price 'mysteriously' became 18 crowns each.
When everything was settled, they continued their discussion on Borkal's suggestion to 'smuggle' food to Cape Loducus for sale. The food price there was now ten times it previously was, so it was a great chance to make some money. It was more profitable than robbery.
Eiblont and Birkin immediately refused, citing this as an example of benefiting the enemy. They also believed selling food to them could allow the enemy to recover faster and launch an attack before the theatre was ready. They would have shot themselves in the foot and it would be too late for any regrets.
Skri was of the opinion they should sell, but not in bulk amounts. It should be fine to keep the smuggling at a small scale that would profit the theatre and also help the wild-bull company earn the Shiksans' trust for better information collection.
Bolonik was ambivalent about the matter. He thought all their views made equal sense, so he turned to Claude for an answer.
Claude gave it some thought and said that Fodres from the intelligence department mentioned that Cape Loducus was also in a food crisis. The Shiksans were busy buying food from the other nations in the continent and it would take them a month at the earliest to ship anything back. During that time, both the Shiksans and the Fochsian citizens would have to rely on ale and fish to keep their hunger away.
Since they wouldn't starve to death in that month anyway, there was the option of selling them food enough for that month. A rough estimation put the 100 thousand Fochsian citizens to consume 300 thousand catties each day, so they would only consume 10 million catties at most in a month. The Shiksans wouldn't be able to recover much with that amount, anyway. With how badly they were trying to save their food, there was no way they'd dare attack on a half-empty stomach.
And so it was decided that the wild-bull company would sell 10 million catties of food to Cape Loducus under the guise of smuggling. Skri was quite happy about the price, which would net the theatre 40 thousand crowns. While it didn't seem like much, it was a significant help to the current financial situation. It was a shame that transaction would only happen once.
Next, they settled some matters about pensions and crippled aid, only to run into another pressing problem: the promotion of their troops. In the past, officers that earned merit would have their names submitted to the kingdom for approval. The ministry of the army was the one to authorise such requests.
Rewarding the troops financially wasn't a problem since the theatre was financially independent. The spoils of the battles were also regularly split among the troops anyway. During the past three colonial wars, the ministry of the army would also send some prize money as a reward. So, when the veterans ran out of cash, they would always look forward to fighting in the next war.
But with the theatre now cut off from the mainland and not knowing how the civil war was developing at all, there was no way a name list of promotions could be submitted. In that case, would they be able to get their promotions at all?
Claude and the other generals didn't really care about promotions, but it was crucial in the careers of the corps' junior officers. Just giving rewards without promotions would harm the troops' morale, yet they didn't have their own authority to give promotions. They were stuck in a dilemma.
In the end, Claude made the decision to allow the promotions all the way up to the lieutenant-colonel rank. They would be promoted according to their merit and given their due rewards. If colonels had impressive contributions, those would be marked down for future consideration, since the generals of the theatre didn't have the authority to give those promotions. The rest could be dealt with normally. The most they had to do was support a follow-up report at a later date.
Since it was wartime, any measure that led to victory should be undertaken. There was no point in worrying about other matters. The other generals mulled it over before going with that solution.