Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 503
Arrival and Impersonation
On the 25th of the 1st month of Year 600, Monolith 1st Folk and 2nd Folk's 72 thousand men were given a warm welcome by the royal court in Whitestag. But the moment the troops disembarked from the ship, the high-ranking officers of the ministry of the army's faces immediately shifted. The uniform the troops of the region wore wasn't the traditional Aueran red.
"The colour looks so shitty... It's literally coloured like shit..."
"Hey, look! They're wearing an iron pot on their heads like a tortoise!"
"Why do I feel like our uniforms look so much better now?"
"Even though their uniforms are odd, the troops do look elite."
The spectators' comments flowed nonstop as the soldiers disembarked and gathered. It was no shock that they found the khaki-grey uniforms to be rather bland after being used to seeing soldiers in glorious bright red. A few of the officers immediately asked Bolonik and Birkin about it when they got out.
"General, I find it rather weird that the uniforms of your soldiers are different from ours. Are you trying to differentiate yourselves and declare independence?"
Bolonik smiled warmly. "We are from the Aueran Autonomous Region. We're by no means independent, and we still have to contribute to the kingdom, pay our taxes, and fight the same enemies. Since our troops are considered local defence troops, we are free to decide the design and colour of our uniforms.
"The real reason, however, is rather simple. The kingdom hadn't sent any support to the region for a long time, causing us to have quite a huge shortage of red-coloured cloth. Given the countless casualties we suffered in the colonial wars, we were forced to consider a replacement for red uniforms. In the end, we decided on using the cheapest khaki-grey cloth to make our uniforms."
The high-ranking officers immediately shut up. Bolonik's reasoning was more than adequate. After all, they couldn't have their soldiers go into battle naked just because they ran out of red cloth, could they? It was the kingdom's fault anyway for not providing them with anything.
"Ah, it's fine. Monolith and Thundercrash are indeed local defence forces of the region and have all the right to decide on their own uniforms without conforming to the national standard," said a few other officers in a hurry to wrap up the awkward situation.
The reception was rather organised and appropriate. The atmosphere there was rather heated. Apart from the excited onlooking citizens of the kingdom, the high-ranking officers present were rather stiff faced. They didn't talk much and only gave each other awkward, polite looks. The officers of Monolith looked down on their allies who only knew defeat and begging for reinforcements and saw themselves to be superior, whereas the officers from the ministry thought it funny that country bumpkins like them looked at them with a derisive gaze.
The formalities concluded rather quickly after the generals on both sides gave empty praises to each other and emphasised their confidence in being able to obtain final victory in the war. After some morale was established, it all soon came to an end. Monolith's troops had long headed to the campsite prepared for them. They would rest there for a short five to six days from the two-week-long trip before marching for the frontlines.
Bolonik and Birkin went to Fredrey I's temporary abode to visit him. During the military council organised by the king, the ministers got into a huge argument with them. It all started when the ministry of the army suggested for Monolith to head to the second defence line to bolster the forces there.
Bolonik immediately shot it down and said he would head to Ambruiz to fortify that place instead to prevent the enemy forces that outnumbered them from swarming in once the second defence line fell. He also questioned why the ministry didn't just abandon the five ruined prefectures and insisted on butting heads with their weaker forces.
That caused all of the old nobility to start attacking Bolonik. They believed that the kingdom shouldn't give up on an inch of land and Monolith was merely acting cowardly for heading to Ambruiz to set up defences there so that they could watch as the brave soldiers on the second defence line fight and fall.
Birkin then joined the argument, pointing out that if all the kingdom's soldiers was to be buried at the second defence line, the kingdom would have no more hope. Monolith was fortifying Ambruiz to buy time for the troops at the second defence line to retreat. Once that was complete, the troops could safely retreat to Ambruiz to reorganise while Monolith took the brunt of the Union's attack by themselves.
Birkin's words struck a chord with the old nobility officers and the members of the court. While they doubted Monolith's capabilities, they didn't want to give up the chance of letting them suffer a huge blow. After a private discussion, they agreed to go with Bolonik and Birkin's suggestion to fortify Ambruiz and also called for the populace to help build the fortifications. However, they wanted Bolonik and Birkin to pledge to give the command to the court if they couldn't defend Ambruiz.
The fleet of the region docked at Whitestag for five days and sailed back to Nubissia after all the supplies were unloaded. After that, they would be ferrying the three folks of 120 thousand men of Thundercrash to Port Floric in Rimodra for Operation Crescent Moon. It would take another month and a half before that took place.
On the 16th of the 2nd month, Thundercrash's troops boarded at Port Cobius in Tyrrsim. The council members of the region sent them off at the port, waving yellow handkerchiefs. The crowd there was quite huge and the atmosphere was further bolstered by joyous tunes and cheers.
"It's too noisy," Claude said. With him were Skri, his wife, Kefnie, and their two sons, as well as a maidservant carrying his one-year-old daughter.
"Morale is high. Listen to what they're yelling. 'Dad, Mom, don't worry, I'll bring a fine daughter-in-law back for you' and whatnot," Skri said with a chuckle. "Your joke about bringing the troops to a marriage meeting has begun to spread and many of our men are really trying to find themselves a wife on this deployment. You should pay attention to that and make sure the ship doesn't overflow and flip. Take care to maintain discipline as well."
Claude smiled. "I'll pay attention to that. I'll also be counting on you here. Alright, it's about time I boarded."
He kissed his wife and three children before being the last one to board. On the front decks of the 200 plus long-distance transport ships stood horn blowers, who blew in unison as the ships let their sails loose. The twenty-odd ironclad warships escorting the transport ships also started their steam engines. Black smoke wafted from the funnels of the ship as the ships left with a bassy rumble.
Naturally, Claude was onboard their new flagship, the Baldeagle. It was the second and improved ironclad warship of the region. After some testing, Admiral Moriad immediately decided he would captain this ship and make it the flagship. Compared to the first ironclad warship, Goldeagle, Baldeagle sailed much better. At least, its engines weren't as loud.
Two weeks later, they were at the Sea of Storms. They were only a day and a half's voyage away from Whitestag.
"Should we dock at Whitestag for a few days' rest?" Moriad asked Claude, who was enjoying the nighttime scenery of the sea.
"There's no need. If we dock at Whitestag, we might be discovered. Set the course for our destination. We'll reach Port Floric in another ten or so days. We can rest for a bit by then. Our troops will need to get used to sailing by ship. We can't afford to have them collapse the moment they disembark. We need to move fast this time around and get into battle soon after we go ashore. They must hold on until the operation is carried out!"
Moriad sighed deeply. "I'm starting to regret taking charge of the fleet. As a soldier, exterminating our enemies is extremely glorious. But as part of the navy, I can't join you in battle on land, Chief. Berk and Dyid have been showing off to me lately. Sometimes, I really want to beat them up over that! They're going too far!"
Claude broke into a bout of laughter. "Besieging an enemy city and exterminating their armies is indeed glorious, but being able to sail the seas unabated is itself something to be proud of. Your responsibilities are not to be understated in this operation. Not only do you have to escort us to our destination, you also have to exterminate Seaking and the navy of Nasri and Canas on top of sealing off Northbay to capture the enemy transport ships.
"To be honest, I'm still a little worried we don't have enough ironclad warships. We only have 22 right now, not even enough to rival an enemy fleet. Seaking alone has more than a hundred sail warships. While I'm confident our ironclad warships will win, I don't want them to be too badly damaged and affect our future escort plans. You should know that's the true key to our operation. Once Thundercrash runs out of ammunition and supplies, we'll be in deep trouble."
"Don't worry, Chief," Moriad confidently said, "Didn't I run into pirates when we were escorting a transport fleet? We only needed two of our ironclad warships to sink seven pirate ships and capture 15 long-distance ships. The famous Boldo pirates from Nubari Islands have been completely wiped out by us. All those vile pirates have been hanged at Port Vebator, with the remaining five hundred sent to the mines in Loki Mountains.
"While Seaking has many warships, they're all old and outdated. Not to mention, we've switched to white-phosphorus rounds. There's no way they're going to be able to put out those fires nor escape. All they can do is watch as their ships burn up. Our ironclad warships won't even flinch from their round shots. Relax. We'll definitely be able to sink all of Seaking. Even if we miss, we can ram them straight into the ocean."
Last year, the two ironclad warships that ran into pirates took countless round shots from enemy ships and suffered a mere hundred dents. Of the seven ships they sunk, only three were sunk by their cannons. The rest were all rammed and sunk.
Moriad was fully confident that Seaking's hundred-plus warships wouldn't pose much of a threat. In the past two years, Port Patres constructed four batches of ships, each with around four to six of them. They now had 14 ironclad destroyers, two ironclad patrol ships and six ironclad armed transporters. With each batch came new improvements. By the time the last batch was produced, they finally settled on a completed design.
On the 14th of the 3rd month, the region's patrol fleet and its escort, all 248 ships, arrived near the waters of Port Floric. The ironclad warships captured all passing merchant and fishing vessels. Under Bloweyk's lead, Wolfang clan disguised themselves and sailed in the ships they captured to infiltrate the port. They took control of the signal eagle checkpoint, city hall, garrison camp and constabulary and city gates without alerting anyone.
The large-scale disembarkment began with lit torches as guides. By the time day broke, the citizens of Port Floric only just noticed that they had been taken over by enemy troops. They wouldn't be able to alert anyone else now even if they wanted to.
"I will seal the city for three days to prevent our presence here from being leaked," Claude said during an urgent meeting, "However, I'll only give you one day of rest. Berklin, you'll be in the main force that leads the first attack. Take 1st Folk and head straight to the capital, Polyvisia. Don't fly Aueran banners. Use our region's own instead. Don't tell anyone your designation and destination either as you resupply en route. Make sure to say it's a top-secret mission to confuse the enemy."
After conquering Port Floric, some inhabitants of the city thought Thundercrash was a secret unit formed by the Union. Given their khaki-grey uniforms and steel helmets, nobody thought they were Aueran troops.
Even when the soldiers told the inhabitants they were Auerans and there to reclaim their lost lands, the inhabitants brushed it off as a joke. It was common knowledge that Aueran soldiers wore bright-red tops and black bottoms with tall hats, black, leather belts and boots. So, the folk gave them an understanding wink, thinking they were trying to keep the whole thing a ruse.
By the time Myjack told Claude about their reaction, Claude fell into deep thought and immediately ordered for an official order from the Union to be forged. It stated they were a secret unit created to impersonate enemy troops and to be sent to the frontlines. Their orders were to travel to Polyvisia in Nasri immediately, and the faked documents could allow them to resupply along the way.
"You don't have to care about Sidins' capital, Efenasburg, and the other towns you leave behind. Leave it for the follow-up units. Just go to the Nasrian capital as quickly as you can to conquer and hold it until our arrival, understood?"
"Yes, General. I will not let you down," Berklin said as he stood up for a salute.
"Myjack, your mission is to lead 3rd Folk across the lands of former Askilin to take back the territories occupied by Shiks. Your priority will be the military-industrial complexes in the three southern prefectures. Make sure to get them in order as soon as possible to produce the ammunition we need. If our maritime supply route is cut off, we'll have to rely on those complexes to make our ammunition."
"It will be done, General."
"Colonel Anders--" Claude turned to his former adjutant. "--Your Line 1304 is to stay stationed here. Maintain order until our fleet comes again with supplies and ammunition. Do you understand what you need to do?"
"Yes, General. As long as we are here, we will definitely not lose Port Floric!" Anders proclaimed and saluted.
"Alright. Let's disband and prepare. We'll depart in three days."