Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 502

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"Your two Monolith folks' main objective is to hold your ground," Claude instructed, tapping on a red point on a map with his wooden pointer. "As long as Ambruiz is defended, Whitestag has nothing to worry about. However, that doesn't mean you can't take your initiative to strike defensively. When you feel it's appropriate, you can exterminate a part of the enemy forces to disrupt their formations and lead them to your strongholds."

Two months later, the region finally received the kingdom's request for reinforcements. Fredrey I personally signed the decree and stamped it with the royal family's seal. The official decree was brought over by Maria. The region sped up its war preparations and loaded the troops of Monolith onto the train one after another to be sent to board at Port Cobius.

The first troops to go were Monolith 1st Folk and 2nd Folk. The newly formed 3rd Folk was still being trained. Other than that, two garrison lines were sent to go along with Monolith with the main task of managing the supply lines from Whitestag to the frontlines. Bolonik also headed out with Bolonik to be the main contact with the royal court. Frontline command, on the other hand, would be headed by Birkin.

"We're going to be fighting independently, so we don't have to obey the ministry of the army. Whatever they say, just treat them like farts and ignore them," Claude emphasised, whacking the stick on the map. "If we play by their rules, we'll be sent to attack enemy defences nonstop to slowly reclaim the lost prefectures until our troops are so worn and battered they won't be able to do anything more.

"By then, those bastards we've been protecting the whole time will mock and laugh at how useless we are. Next, they'll demand that we hand them the new rifles and cannons for their troops to fight while ignoring all the troubles we face and need support with.

"I'm not making this up. You have to be mentally prepared for something like this. Not only do you have to fight the enemies in front of you, you also have to be wary of our 'allies' behind you. That's why, don't take any orders from anyone, not even the king himself. You only have one mission: achieve our strategic objectives and keep Ambruiz defended.

"To the rear of Ambruiz is the southwestern mountain area. Even though the terrain there is rather high and uneven, there's a wide patch of the ancient Black Forest there that covers much of the mountain area. You will have to set up a defence line there and bait the enemy into attacking. Spread the enemy's superior numbers thin around you to buy Thundercrash half a year of time so we can go deep into the enemy's heartland and cut off their main forces from within."

Claude's plan was rather simple: have Monolith's two folks form a defence line at Ambruiz and attract enemy attention while Thundercrash's three folks storm Rimodra's Port Floric and make their way deeper into enemy territory, eventually reaching Sidins' border and attacking Nasri. They would take out the centremost nation of the Union.

The operation was given a nice-sounding name: Crescent Moon. Nasri was Aueras' long-time nemesis and the second-most powerful nation in the Union other than Shiks. It was also the nation that wanted to wipe Aueras out the most. They went all out in the war of debt and the current invasion of Aueras.

In the war of debt, Nasri lost four corps of troops. But they immediately initiated a nationwide draft to recruit new troops for the joint invasion with the other four nations. After a few large battles, they were down to half their number, but they were still holding on, being driven by their desperate wish to see Aueras wiped off the map.

According to reports, Nasri still had six corps. Two of them were new and being trained in the nation, one was resupplying and reorganising in the royal capital, and the other three were at the frontlines. They were said to be requesting Shiks for supplies and funding for another three new corps.

As for the revived Rimodra and Sidins, not a single high-ranking officer of the region took them seriously. They were just in the Union for moral support and were in fact incredibly poor. They only managed to cobble together one joint corps to be sent to invade Aueras, only for them to lose half their numbers at the border battles alone. Having no other choice, they formed another joint corps before each sending another new corps to the frontlines.

However, word was that the two nations were drafting really heavily to form another corps to be sent to the frontlines. Given the two duchies' population and wealth, being able to form three corps on their own was enough to empty all they had. Even so, the two duchies were still on the lowest stratum on the frontlines. They were being used as cannon fodder or labourers for the troops of the other three nations, which dealt a rather huge blow to their morale, making them the weakest of the bunch.

From the battle analyses, the strongest troops in the Union were the Shiksan standing corps and Canasian light-cavalry corps. Shiks' forces, armed with their long-distance bomb launchers, dealt the most damage. Only the region's mortars and launchers could be used to counter them.

Canas used their light cavalry's mobility and penetrative capabilities to target weak points in defences, making them a rather huge threat. However, they suffered rather heavy casualties as well. Only half of their three light-cavalry corps remained. They were still waiting for more support from the rear.

Nasri's new corps was about as strong as Aueran irregulars, but they fought and lost too much and were no longer part of the main force. They would only be able to take flanking positions in future attacks. As for Rimodra and Sidins' forces, they were either used as cannon fodder or errand boys, defending and running the supply lines. They also raided the kingdom's folk and took their food and livestock.

If the region's two corps docked at Whitestag with the intent of driving the enemy out of Aueran borders, they would be facing off against many more their number. The reclamation of each prefecture required a bloody battle. Even the officers of the region that thought themselves to be invincible wouldn't take that chance. People weren't machines. Faced with such a disparity, even the strongest of armies could collapse, especially one that didn't have any reliable allies.

As such, the officers of the region drafted Operation Crescent Moon with Claude's leadership. Claude knew that once the enemies conquered the second defence line, they would only have to face Monolith in Ambruiz. Once they defeated Monolith, there would be no more troops defending Whitestag and that would be the end of Aueras.

That made Ambruiz a really tempting piece of meat for the five wolves in the Union. It would also be a good chance for Monolith to show off their might. That way, the Union would be wise to send all their troops to the frontlines and take advantage of their numerical superiority to crush Monolith.

By then, Thundercrash would dock at Port Floric and sweep from Rimodra all the way to Sidins' Askilin Plains, before reaching the heartland of Nasri, where its royal capital, Polyvisia, was located. With Thundercrash's mobility, they would be able to achieve that within twenty days. They wouldn't be joking around if they said they could wipe out Nasri's royal family in one blow.

If they had chosen to attack Nasri from Aueran territory, it would take at least two to three months. Nasri no doubt had countless defences set up between itself and Aueras, being the long-time nemeses they were, so no matter how strong Thundercrash and Monolith were, they would need to conquer the defences one after another to progress.

Claude didn't want to start the attack from Aueras because he couldn't end the battles quickly. By the time they finally reached Polyvisia, the Nasrian royal family would've fled to Shiks with all their riches.

It would be a repeat of Duke Sidins and Duke Rimodra during the five-year war. They left only an empty husk for their victors after their quick escape. That wouldn't do since Claude wanted to make sure his troops got fair rewards for their efforts. They couldn't count on the Aueran national treasury nor the Stellin royal treasury, so he set his sights on Sidins, Rimodra and Nasri instead for his troops bonuses.

The operation was named as such as the route from Port Floric to Askilin Plains and Polyvisia was shaped like a crescent. That path was the one they would take to wipe out three nations. Additionally, it would be much more convenient to attack Canas on the Great Plains from Nasri rather than from the eastern prefectures of the kingdom. They wouldn't have to cross as much grassland.

First, they would take care of Nasri and Sidins and Rimodra would fall along the way. With their swift attacks, the dukes of the two duchies wouldn't be able to escape either. That would leave Canas open and easy to deal with. By the time word finally got back to the frontlines, the three nations' troops would immediately crumble, leaving Shiks and Canas stuck there. All that happened next would depend on Monolith.

Claude tapped the map on the wall again. "Now that you're briefed on the operation, whether we'll succeed will depend on whether you can handle the pressure our king, the ministry of the army and the nobles give you.

"This isn't a joking matter. The king has taken the throne not long ago, so it's understandable if His Majesty demands quick results. With the ministry of the army wrongly predicting enemy movements and suffering loss after loss, they also need a great triumph to calm the populace. That's why if Monolith ends up fighting well at the frontlines, you will be pressured to go on the offensive. You must be able to resist that pressure.

"Currently, the second defence line stretching across Kugria, Chanyalar, Krimis, Blinmorrow and Bagasantana is still being held, but the pressure from the enemies there is huge. The Union also suffered huge casualties from conquering the first defence line and might need to rest and wait for reinforcements. Our reports state that our kingdom has around 200 thousand men, roughly four corps, fielded at the second defence line, whereas the Union has six to seven corps.

"I don't understand why the ministry still isn't giving up on Kugria, Chanyalar, Krimis, Blinmorrow and Bagasantana even though they've been largely ravaged by the war. Are they simply trying to keep as much land as they can? Where have all the officers with some semblance of sense gone? I hope that you ask around for Lord Militant Miselk's whereabouts once you return to the mainland. I'm curious why he suddenly vanished without a word during the civil war."

Claude finished addressing Bolonik and Birkin. They would take the two folks from Monolith to the mainland and had to face pressure from the royal family, court and ministry of the army.

"I understand," Bolonik said, "I will remain in court to mediate. I'll make sure to refuse to send Monolith to the second defence line and set up a new one in Ambruiz instead. That way, one corps alone will be able to take on all of the Union's troops.

"Only then can we keep those fellows who would have us fight and fail at bay. Our insistence will not only let Operation Crescent Moon succeed, but also give the kingdom's forces enough time to replenish and reorganise."

Claude nodded with satisfaction. "This time around, you are armed with 568 new cannons. All the troops are also given new rifles and a thousand sniper rifles. As long as the ammunition can keep up, I dare say that nobody will dare flaunt themselves before you. No matter how many corps they send, they'll end up losing. Let me give you a final reminder on three points. First, make sure ammunition supply is constant and stable. That is the most crucial factor and no effort is to be spared there.

"Second, keep our casualties to a minimum by defending only Ambruiz. Don't be tempted to launch inconsequential attacks on small enemy units. We won't be getting any reinforcements to make up for our casualties. This isn't just a guess by me. The bastards at the rear can't wait to see us lose. Ideally, they'd want us to be wiped out alongside the enemy so they'll have an excuse of taking command.

"If you suffer heavy casualties on the frontlines, you can only count on the region for reinforcements. By then, you'd be spending the blood of our youths to repel the enemies and chipping away at our lifeline for the sake of the bastards sitting at the back doing nothing.

"Lastly, there'll also be a shipment of the last hundred plus thousand Aubass Mark 3s along with you as you sail to Whitestag, as well as other military gear and food. Those are all old equipment we've switched out and they're good bargaining chips. Don't hand them to the ministry easily.

"I believe you can use those supplies to find a reliable ally like Griffon. They haven't been able to replenish after numerous battles as most of the weapons we've sent them were used to form new corps. Reddragon also didn't manage to resupply after the border battles and can't reform. You might want to distribute the weapons to them to make sure the royal guard doesn't have superiority over them."

Bolonik and Birkin nodded. They had received quite a bit of news from Whitestag lately, such as how the ministry of the army was using the last of their weapons and gear to reform the royal guard. Reddragon hadn't been able to resupply since the border battles and might be disbanded sooner or later. It was quite apparent that strife among the old nobility still existed.

"By the way, I almost forgot something. If you are provoked, you must always strike back harshly and without mercy. These people will see tolerance and patience as weakness and test your patience even further. Banish that notion from their heads the first moment you can."

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