Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 461

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The nikancha were unwilling to accept that they were massacred through and through in the battle with the Shiksan cavalry. They only admitted losing 126 brave scout warriors because they ran into 240 Shiksan cavalrymen. After giving all the best in their fight and paying a huge cost, they managed to strike the enemy back. The seven remaining brave warriors returned gloriously.

As for the camp-fleeing incident, the tens of thousands of nikancha youths saw moving lights in the distance and immediately thought they were being attacked by the Shiksan army. They immediately ran with their tails between their legs without visual confirmation of a single Shiksan soldier, leaving their weapons and armour behind in camp. They cleared out from the camp within a single night. That fact finally made the nikancha elders aware of their current predicament and spurred them into signing the deal with the theatre.

However, Claude still felt a little pensive for some reason. In the negotiations with the nikancha at headquarters, Bolonik and Skri actually gave them a discount. Fortunately, they were still rational and didn't reduce the amount of land they were taken. They only demanded a smaller sum than two million crowns in Claude's initial offer. All they needed to pay was 800 thousand crowns in the form of gold and silver ingots.

In Skri's correspondence, he explained that Bolonik worried that bargaining with the nikancha would delay the deal even longer, causing them to lose their opportunities in the war and slow down their building of defences at the frontlines, which would result in even more unnecessary losses.

That's why, after Skri and Bolonik's discussion, they decided they should take a step back. As long as the nikancha were willing to give up on the land Claude asked for, they would be able to be more lenient with the sum. After all, the nikancha were only willing to pay 500 thousand crowns at the start of the negotiation.

Claude, Eiblont and Birkin found it rather weird that the nikancha seemed to treasure their money more than their territory.

But after more thought, they came to the conclusion that the nikancha probably already occupied too much land on the continent. They could fit up to three times more of their population, to say nothing of their current five million. That was why they didn't think handing the theatre their land was a huge loss. Instead, it allowed them to avoid the Shiksan attacks, which was a wise move to make. With the theatre in their way, they could continue their tribal life in peace.

But when it came to funding, the nikancha had a completely different outlook about that. They believed handing over their territory was a big enough price to pay already and the sum was unnecessary. If the theatre defeated the Shiksans, then the theatre themselves would reward their soldiers, and if they lost, their troops would be up to themselves to punish. It had nothing to do with the nikancha. Claude's demand for them to pay two million crowns is a huge scheme.

It was quite difficult to sneak that sum of money away under the noses of the nikancha. Even after Bolonik and Skri gave them a half-off discount and only asked for a million, they refused to agree no matter what and said they would give 500 thousand at most.

The handing over of territory took only one day to complete, but they wasted five days on the funding without resolving it. In the end, Bolonik slammed the table and called 800 thousand crowns, saying that he wouldn't go down any further. Should they try to bargain again, they would be chased out. That was the straw that finally got the nikancha to agree.

Having come to an agreement, it meant that the eastern mountains, northern mountainous coasts and the area Claude demanded had been united into one territory. However, whether they could make it a new colony of the kingdom would depend on Claude and the results of the war with the Shiksans. If they won, they would be Aueran pioneers forging into new territory. If they lost, they would gain nothing and might even lose a few colonies along the way.

Claude, on the other hand, was quite confident about the war. It wasn't that he let his pride get over his head; he was almost certain in his victory for good reasons. Even though the Shiksans had seven standing corps of 400 thousand men, they wouldn't put them all on the offence. Given what he understood about their troop deployments, it was obvious they were trying to break through at the eastern mountains.

The plains on which Fanbix Hill stood was stationed with a standing corps to defend against the theatre's infiltration and surprise attacks against the supply base. With the two corps stationed at the borders of the northern mountainous coasts, three of their seven standing corps wouldn't be mobilised.

While there were four standing corps stationed at the borders of the eastern mountains, one of them was Royal Cavalry, a light-cavalry corps. It would be a fool's errand to get a cavalry unit to fight in the mountains.

That was why the Shiksans only really had three corps to use in their attacks. After they enter the eastern mountains, they would have to fight like before and use a corps to watch their supply line, leaving only around 100 thousand men from two corps, which Claude didn't worry about in the slightest.

Claude had the garrison lines stationed at the three defence lines at the eastern mountains retreat to their former base. One of Birkin's Monolith folks and two more combat lines were sent to take over the three defence lines. Thundercrash, on the other hand, would continue recuperating and reorganising as they waited for the Shiksans to attack.

However, it seemed the Shiksans were far more patient this time around. It was already the 6th month and they didn't show a single sign of wanting to attack at all. The informants in Cape Loducus City sent word that the Shiksans were still purchasing food and supplies on a large scale and transporting them to the various bases at the frontlines.

It seemed that the Shiksans were trying to have a three-month stockpile at the frontlines. They seemed to have been utterly terrified by being starved and wanted to do all they could to make sure all contingencies were taken. Even the informants working undercover for the wild-bull company received another large order for 100 thousand barrels of wheat ale. It would take three months to ship that all to Cape Loducus.

It would be better for the theatre the later the Shiksans attacked, ideally till next year. That way, at least half of the two corps could be armed with the new rifles. They could also perfect their defences at the frontlines. However, the 6th month passed and the 7th month came. The Shiksans still made no move, much to Claude's puzzlement. He couldn't figure out what they were up to at all.

What disappointed him more was even after he mobilised Wolfang and Tribe 131 to ambush Shiksan patrol tents and capture some of them, even the captives didn't know why they didn't launch any attack at all. It was as if they were placed there to be in a silent standoff against the theatre.

Another thing that troubled him and the other generals was how there was no news from Borkal at all since three months back when he set out for the mainland with gifts from the theatre to clarify the royal capital's opinion on them.

Based on the schedules, Borkal should've returned already. Additionally, the kingdom didn't send a single ship to the theatre during those three months. It was a highly suspicious situation. After Bolonik corresponded with the others, they settled on sending two more long-distance smuggling ships to the mainland for information gathering. They were to seek out the whereabouts of Borkal and his cohort.

No matter how worried Claude was about his childhood friend, however, he still had to pay attention to Shiksan movements. He personally went to the border of the eastern mountains to find out the reason, though he wasn't able to figure out after half a month there.

The Shiksans had narrowed down their security perimeter and only had their scouts act 2.5 kilometres in front of their camp. At that distance, while they would be attacked, they could wait for reinforcements in camp. That way, they could force the soldiers of Thundercrash to give up on the spoils of battle.

If Thundercrash emerged from their ambush location, they would be in the firing range of the prone enemies. And if they continued to face them off in this manner, the reinforcements from the camp would overwhelm them. If they couldn't immediately take out the Shiksan patrol tents in one go, they would have to leave the battlefield immediately if they wanted to avoid casualties.

Claude explicitly forbade sacrificing one's ally to wipe out the enemy, especially with the enemy holding numerical superiority. It was all the more important that they didn't suffer unnecessary casualties. In his opinion, the lives of his own troops were far more valuable than the Shiksans'. The ones in charge of the ambushes this time around weren't Wolfang or Tribe 131, but rather, Claude's own elite units.

Since ambushing didn't work, he switched his tactics to monitoring the enemy camp. What troubled him, however, was how the Shiksans conducted all sorts of training drills behind their camp day in and out. It was as if they were preparing for actual battle. After half a month of observation, he still hadn't noticed any sign of a Shiksan attack, forcing him to return to frontline command without any new insights.

At the end of the 7th month, Claude once more received word from the informants. According to a chief logistician in the supply base, the reason for their reluctance to attack was their still-ongoing supply shortage. They were waiting on another supply shipment in the middle of the 8th month.

Additionally, the Shiksan general that commanded the five Penitence corps in the previous war, Norbridon Bang Belondi, was forced to return to the kingdom to resign by Majid III. The one who took over was a 43-year-old army general, Marquis Kralio Dor Sirius.

The informants gained quite a bit of information about the general's background. If the retired General Belondi could be categorised as one of the old, conservative camp, the new general was the representative of the rare breed of officers in Shiks.

It was said that this general proclaimed that he would learn from the mistakes in the previous colonial wars to reorganise their army, research new weapons and cultivate elite units, all moves that antagonised the seniors in the Shiksan army. But before the rebellion in Shiks, Kralio took the initiative to join the battle and pledged his loyalty to Majid III, obtaining his confidence and favour in the process.

The only reason the Shiksan nobles' rebellion was put to a quick stop unlike the Aueran civil war that wrecked the kingdom into pieces in the three years it went on was mostly thanks to Kralio's efforts. He obtained a lot of merit in that conflict. In the latter stages of the rebellion, he commanded a light-cavalry corps and wedged into the rear of the rebellious nobles' army. In a short month, he swept through four dominions of the rebel nobles, causing their troops at the frontlines to crumble and ending the rebellion for good.

To reward him for his efforts, his noble rank was given a raise from count to marquis and his military rank went from lieutenant-general to general. That put him in the sights of the king, who held him as one of his key subjects. This time around, he was ordered to take up his post as commander-in-chief on Nubissia. It was plain to see that he carried the hopes of Majid III to bring the kingdom victory and glory in the coming war.

He wouldn't be an easy foe to deal with, that's for sure. Claude stroked his chin in deep thought. The informants reported that the new Shiksan general took over from the old general during the end of the 4th month. However, they only learned more about him during the end of the 7th month, which was a sign to how much of a low profile this general liked to keep to the point that the theatre hadn't realised the change in the commanders the whole time until now.

Additionally, the new commander-in-chief was known for his offensive tactics. As to where he would attack and how, it was something Claude had to consider.

Sometimes, Claude really admired Birkin for his calmness. He seemed completely confident about the defence line he set up and believed the Shiksans would never be able to breach it.

On the 13th of the 8th month, Seaking and the Alliance's navy arrived with a large shipment of supplies. When the informants reported that after the goods were moved to the frontlines, Claude gave the order to prepare for battle.

However, things turned out quite differently than he expected. The Shiksans didn't attack all the way to the end of the 8th month. The informants reported that Seaking and the Alliance's navy had sailed back from Cape Loducus. The ships that were docked near the coastline mostly came from the western coast with all sorts of food and supplies. Their captains left immediately after clearing the taxes and fees.

What in the world were the Shiksans doing?! Why weren't they attacking?! Claude felt a sense of frustration and doubt that unnerved him greatly.

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