Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 501
It was almost certain that anything good would be followed by troubles. A heated debate broke out in the temporary royal court once Maria brought back the region's demands. They couldn't come to a conclusion even after a month's debate. The ministry of the army refused to let the two corps operate independently. They demanded they be put under their heels. Specifically, they wanted all logistics to go through them.
They argued that it would be more efficient to pass the supplies coming in from the colonies through their channels for distribution. Nobody believed they were only interested in increasing efficiency, but it made for an earnest argument.
Another point of contention was the undercutting of the kingdom's demand for a million crowns a year. The region offered only 500 thousand. The councillors and courtiers called the region's councillors heartless, disloyal bastards. The current finance minister insisted they give a million crowns a year and not one fenny less or he'd personally make sure their autonomy didn't survive in the new year.
They'd sent dozens of ambassadors the previous year, and they had even more informants embedded all over the colonies. They all knew how well off they were. Two million crowns might be steep for the desolate wastelands the colonies had been a decade earlier, but today it was nothing but reasonable, demanding half of what the territorial government earned in taxes as their overlords was only fair, after all.
The court had a handful of level-headed members, however. They understood that this was not the time to play hardball. The kingdom was on the brink of total collapse. That their overseas territory which was independent in all but name, was at all willing to jump into the cesspit with them was already a gods-send. They could always put pressure on the territory to come back into the fold once they had regained their former power and glory, but to pretend they were not in the straits they were now might end them for good.
Unfortunately the old nobility controlled both the ministry of the army and the ministry of finance. They would not budge on their demands that the corps be put under their heels, nor would they give ground on their monetary demands. They were emboldened by the recent stability the frontlines had seen. The Union had spent its momentum and had been unable to gain any more ground in the last couple of months, and the new conscript irregulars were slowly marching off the training fields.
About four weeks into the discussions, news came from the frontlines that Griffon had made some gains in their recent operations. They'd pushed the enemy out of a prefecture and had them on the back foot in several other locations. The news only further solidified the old nobility's stubbornness. They were at the inflection point, and the war was about to turn in their favour. A couple of the bolder generals even declared they'd win this war without the colonies.
In all fairness, Aueras had done well given the circumstances. Despite the dire straits they'd been pushed too, they'd left twice as many Union corpses on every battlefield as their own.
To date they'd cleaned out four and a half of the Union's eight corps. Reddragon had been almost completely exterminated and only one and a half of the royal guard's folks had made it out. But whilst Aueras had lost 110 thousand men, the Union had come up 270 thousand short. Despite their admirable performance, however, the Union could replace their losses faster than Aueras could, and there was the issue of the overall population as well. If the war turned into a battle of attrition, Aueras, or what territory was still under the crown's control, would be bled white long before the Union ran dry.
The capital had been abandoned because they had been left no other option. The two irregular corps formed in the capital were led by the remnants of the royal guard in an assault on Ibnist Plains. However, they weren't able to stop the enemy from advancing. The two irregular corps eventually collapsed, and the royal guard only managed to retreat from the royal capital by paying the price of one folk. The kingdom lost a total of 140 thousand men in that assault, whereas the Union lost another 200 thousand plus. But by then, they were the ones still standing at the royal capital.
Had Fredrey I not chosen to retreat, he might've been surrounded and caught in the city. It wasn't that he didn't want to defend the city; he simply didn't have the troops to do so. The royal guard only had one out of its four folks remaining. Even if the royal capital recruited brave men to guard their cities, there wouldn't even be a corps. Having no other choice, the royal court had to be moved to Whitestag for the sake of buying time for the formation of another two irregular corps.
Fredrey I was perhaps the poorest Aueran king to ever live. He didn't bring much with him during his retreat from the royal capital as most of the wealth the new nobility scoured had been spent in the war. There wasn't much left in the royal treasury to take along anyway.
The three years of civil war had more or less sapped Aueras of its ammunition stores. Hansbach brought the bulk of them with him when he retreated from the royal capital, and those that he couldn't take, he burnt. Later, the old nobility's forces and Hansbach's forces got into a large battle in the kingdom, further expending their dwindling ammunition supply.
Once Hansbach was finally defeated, Wedrick took the throne as Stellin XI and didn't bother restocking the armoury of the royal capital at all. He also kept putting off paying the costs of the old nobility's industrial complexes, leaving them in a state of limbo, unable to supplement the wear and tear of gear of the kingdom's forces.
When Fredrey I took the throne, he had the desire to change their military situation for the better, but their tight budget meant they could only produce weapons on a small scale. However, the war over the debt with Nasri saw them use up almost all their weapons and ammunition. The reason Whitestag was picked as the location of the temporary court as it was a convenient hub to get the free supplies from the colonies. The ministry of the army could also easily form their irregular corps there.
In the year since the beginning of the Union's invasion, the kingdom suffered a total of 300 thousand casualties. The Union also suffered up to 600 thousand casualties, leading the ministry of the army to think that the Union was running out of steam. However, they forgot that the Union comprised five nations, among them being Nasri and Shiks who could rival Aueras alone. As for the other three duchies, they weren't as powerful, but they couldn't be ignored either.
The loss of 600 thousand troops would be a crippling blow for one nation, but nothing more than a number to five. After a month, four new standing corps came to reinforce them. It was only then that the Aueran court picked up on how dangerous a situation they were in. The enemies now had three times their number at the frontlines.
The first wave of attacks began and the kingdom lost the first line of defence within half a month. Griffon lost half their men and only two lines remained of the last folk of the royal guard. The two irregular corps crumbled, with only one folk managing to retreat. While the enemy suffered just as heavy casualties, they had superiority in numbers. The ministry of the army could only focus all their troops at the second line of defence, including the two new irregular corps that had only been trained for less than a month.
It was only then when calls for Fredrey I to accept all the region's conditions started to gain popularity. If the second line of defence was lost, Aueras would truly be at risk from being eliminated. There was no longer enough troops to keep Whitestag defended, and they had no more resources or funding to form any more irregular corps.
While the king could still flee to the region with his family and ministers, he would be living under other people's terms. If the old nobility went there, they would have no hope of rising up again.
The old nobility caved in the end and the weak-willed Fredrey I no longer waited on the decision, passing on all military duties to the ministry of the army. Once he was finally aware of the danger, he made an immediate decision to sign the decree to work with the region and send ambassadors there immediately with the decree to Maria so she may hurry the region to send reinforcements.
However, the Tranquil Ocean separated the two territories. It took a month to sail from Nubissia to Aueras. Even if the region deployed immediately, they could only reach one and a half months later earliest. Fredrey I regretted listening to the crazy ramblings of the ministry of the army that they would be able to drive out the enemies themselves. It wasted half a month of their time. All he could do now was to pray that the last line of defence could be kept just long enough for the troops from the region to arrive.
As for the region, as they hadn't received any response from the mainland due to the endless bickering, the expansion of the two corps continued without a hitch. Bolonik, however, seemed rather restless for most of the time and asked Claude what they would do if the kingdom refused their terms.
"Refuse our terms? We'll leave them to themselves then!" Claude said, "If they can afford to refuse, that means the ministry of the army still has things under control. There'd be no need for us to do anything. If they really aren't holding up at the borders, they should be sending ambassadors to rush us to deploy by now. I doubt they're anxious about the current situation at all, given how long they're taking."
"But what if they refuse to let us deploy because of our terms?"
Claude gave him a stern look.
"I will not deploy if they don't go with our terms. We all know the old nobility don't get along with us. I don't want to have to be wary of their little schemes as I fight. I don't want to be in the same camp as them if I can.
"Even though the king has made us nobility, we are merely people who lucked out. We have no family background, in the eyes of the old nobility, we're not even worth being compared to the new merchant nobles. We also refused their ridiculous demands. They might hate us even more than the invaders. If we deploy unconditionally, we'll definitely have to deal with lots of bullshit schemes.
"That's why I would rather not deploy if they don't agree. I owe our men at least this much. If I'm to take them to the mainland, I need to bring them back safely. Even if casualties are to be incurred, they must not be in vain. The only acceptable way for them to die is when they're truly fighting to protect the kingdom rather than as disposable pawns in the eyes of the bigwigs."
"But... what if Whitetag can't hold out?"
"You mean, what if the mainland is wiped clean?"
Bolonik nodded worriedly.
"All our problems will be solved if that happens. We'd have become independent without any black marks on our honour. If the crown's fallen, we need not concern ourselves over the backstabbing nobility either. We can march in and drive the invaders out at our leisure."
Bolonik couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"You're... you're saying the war will continue even after the crown falls?"
"Of course--" Claude shot him an odd glance. "--We are the Aueran Autonomous Region. Surely we can't just sit by after our crown's been toppled. Surely you aren't suggesting we surrender?
"What's the point of our two corps? To fight wars! Even if the kingdom doesn't agree to our terms, we can deploy. However, we won't be reinforcing the kingdom, but rather, sending our troops deep into enemy territory. Rimodra and Sidins are back, right? We'll make sure to undo that.
"There's also Shiks, who are still insisting that the colonial conflict hasn't yet ended. They also conquered lots of Aueran land. Why don't we go reclaim some of them? As long as we want to, there'll be more than enough chances to fight. Our troops are getting a little bored anyway and our training is getting lax. Elite soldiers aren't trained. They're baptised through battle.
"I've been giving it some thought over the past two years. The region really has far too much military might nowadays and that's a huge burden on our economy. Of the 2.7 million crowns we get yearly, 1.6 million is spent on the military. That is definitely not normal. We have 110 thousand men in our 20 garrison lines, 150 thousand in the two corps, and the fleet. All together, there are 270 thousand troops.
"If we were still engaged in battle with Shiks, it's normal to keep that many troops. However, the war is over and there are no colonies on Nubissia that pose a threat to us. Though there's no need to keep so many troops in the force during peacetime, it wouldn't make sense for us to downsize and weaken ourselves now. We have no choice but to maintain them.
"Our problem is that we don't have enough manpower. All those troops will be a heavy burden to our economic development. If the growth plateaus in another ten or so years, economic development will slow and our troops will also weaken considerably. We have to find an enemy for our troops all the while trying to spur more economic development with our military power."
Bolonik was being thrown for a loop. Why would Claude bring up having too many troops all of a sudden? However, it soon struck him what Claude was getting at when he finally recalled what Claude said about the region still capable of developing after the kingdom itself falls.
"I get it now. For us, war is merely a means at our disposal to create more and more wealth for our region. That way, we can maintain our forces instead of letting them wither away."
Claude nodded. Bolonik's mind was more or less on the same track as his. What else could be more effective for development in this world than large-scale raids and forced migration through war? They would gain both population and wealth at the same time.
Last time, it took place in the kingdom, so their troops couldn't go too far and only went for the new nobiliiy's manors. But if they were setting off for enemy lands, they could go wild. Not to mention, they would have to use their new weapons sooner or later. They could even run actual field tests and gather more battlefield experience. It was far better than sitting back with nothing to do.
"According to our last population survey, there's a huge problem. We have way more men than women. The genders aren't really balanced. So, our other priority is for our men to return from Freia with their other halves. Basically, our troops are going there for marriage meetings. Helping our men form their families is also our duties as general..." Claude said with a shameless smile.