Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 538
Operation Wildfire, as the name implied, was intended to start a huge fire with a small spark. Borkal was inspired when he saw a wildfire break out as he was travelling towards the western coast and came up with the plan on his voyage back. Due to the 200 plus years of colonisation on the western coast, the local populace had quite a lot of pent-up frustrations. They were just like a dried forest waiting to be set alight by the smallest spark.
Borkal had come up with the plan some three years ago, looking at whether the region could help start the fire to liberate the local natives. However, the region still had a good relationship with the western colonies back then and it was the peak of trade with them. Liberating the natives would negatively impact the interests of the region, so the operation was shelved.
The operation his childhood friend came up with left quite an impression on Claude. Back then, he even asked him what caused him to even have such a notion in the first place. It was only after hearing about the embargo that Claude understood what the plan was conceived in preparation for.
Borkal once told Claude of the things he saw and heard in the western colonies. Unlike the autonomous region, the colonies practised a discriminatory slavish policy on the natives. Any mix-blood native was born to be either a slave or a servant. Normally, settlers from Freia of pale-white complexion were regarded to have the highest status. Any coloured skin would be considered inferior, with darker being more inferior.
The 200 years of colonisation was nothing short of a mark of humiliation for the conquered natives. Nowadays, none of those natives in the western colonies were of pure blood. They were all of mixed heritage, like the pamigar, lanstobuk, losman, jipkut, doramana and machaklin, as well as other races like them.
Freians considered Nubissia to be a wild and untamed land suitable for exiling criminals to. Those living in their motherlands saw Nubissia as a risky place where riches were to be earned, and the mix-blood natives to be oppressed.
Those nations enacted quite a number of discriminatory policies against the natives there, such as forbidding them from joining the military and administration. The only vocation they were allowed to pursue was selling physical labour for low pay to keep their families fed. They endured countless suppression from the settlers and were either treated as slaves or servants. Even those that had their own lands had to pay heavy taxes and work hard labour.
However, quite a number of romantic and amicable relationships had been established between the natives and settlers over the past two centuries. For instance, Borkal's prime candidate, Tazinger Nora Taganem, had a father who was a hereditary baron of the Kingdom of Moloshik. He fell in love with his mix-blood maidservant, Tanzinger's mother, and conceived a child with her.
Tazinger's father was brave and cared not for the gossips and criticisms of others. Before he passed, he made sure to leave his Title and riches to his mix-blood son. However, ideals didn't have a place in reality. As a mix-blood person, Tazinger would often be discriminated against because of his skin colour. In time, he came to see himself as one of his pamigar brethren and began to harness his ambitions of liberating his people and founding a nation.
There were many natives like Tazinger in the western colonies. Some had personal grudges, familial grudges, and there were even some who had nothing but ambition, especially mix-blood smugglers. They travelled much and had seen the world, were rich, bold and of good local repute.
Those mix-blood influencers and talents were dissatisfied with the current state of the western colonies and wanted to usher in change. Even though not all of them harboured the same nation-building ambitions of Tazinger, they at least wanted to make it so that their race had equal status as the rest and were not discriminated against.
Claude knew that the embargo was a result of a unified front against the region by the western colonies. If he sent troops to war against any one of the colonies, he would be fighting against all eight.
Even with the region's invincible track record, fighting eight foes at the same time would never be a good idea. Perhaps it would still be worth a try if the territory of the western colonies combined was only as big as the Nasrian region. Claude didn't really think the colonial forces could do much to stop him anyway. According to reports in the past few years, the colonial forces at the western coast could be described as nothing but trash, just like the local garrison forces in the Aueran colonies back then.
The issue was that the western colonies had too much territory, being about ten times the area of the Nasrian region and four times that of the autonomous region's. With so much territory, it would take quite a lot of time for Thundercrash to push through to the very end, even assuming they would defeat their enemies with first contact. A campaign lasting more than half a year would put great supply strain on them. More crucially, there would be no way for them to hold the territory they conquered.
Not to mention, the total population of the colonies numbered more than 60 million. Even the natives considered themselves to be citizens of their respective colonial nations. If the region really engaged in war, there was a good chance they would be seen as invaders by the natives as well. It wouldn't bode well for them if the natives and settlers fought unitedly against them.
As a transmigrator, Claude understood how powerful a civil resistance could be. He wouldn't willingly court the ire of the populace no matter what. As Skri had put it, declaring war against the colonies also meant doing the same to the colonial nations back on Freia. Without at least a million troops, much funding and half a decade, the war would see no end. As such, the region definitely couldn't afford to fight that war.
No matter which colony they declared war against, engaging one would mean fighting against sixteen factions, eight on the colonial side and eight nations on the Freian mainland. Not to mention, the two corps couldn't be transferred back from Eastern Freia to fight that war. As such, the region had no choice but to endure the embargo.
However, that wouldn't stop Claude from carrying out Operation Wildfire and cause civil revolt in the western colonies. Sometimes, political situations were just that interesting. If the region declared war, then the colonies would unite against the aggressor.
However, the region accepted the embargo and didn't show any threat to the colonies. If a civil revolt sparked in one of the colonies at a time like that, the other colonies wouldn't help quell the revolt, but rather support and fan the flames. They might even secretly support the rebels so that their respective colonies could reap some gains from it.
Even the most secure defences could be crushed from within. As such, Claude decided to spark a civil revolt in the western colonies to free the natives and let them found their own nations. Whether they succeeded didn't matter, since it would still be more worthwhile than sending the region's own troops into war. If it worked, the region would support the newfound nations and also gain access to their markets.
For instance, while the nikancha nation had autonomy in name, they didn't have their own industries or a well-developed agricultural landscape. Everything was in a primitive state, and almost all they consumed had to be imported from the region, whether it be food, daily necessities, luxury goods, weapons, alcohol and so on.
Claude already had Borkal kickstart the operation. Their first target would be Moloshik's colony. They would fund and support Tazinger, the mix-blood baron, to be the liberator of the pamigar. They would provide large amounts of military gear and supplies for the formation of a folk of pamigar fighters and send retired veterans of the region into the colony under the guise of mercenaries to train and arm those troops in preparation for the fight for independence.
Borkal told Claude that the embargo created the perfect opportunity for local revolts to break out. The citizens of the colonies had already been used to enjoying the cheap and quality goods of the region. The government forbidding them from getting their hands on any in favour of their own expensive goods was the worst move they could make.
It was like a person who was used to having cake daily and was forbidden from consuming them all of a sudden, having nothing but black bread to eat. What's worse was the price of the bread was two times that of a piece of cake. The citizens of the colonies would no doubt feel they were being treated unfairly, especially the mix-blood natives, who were the ones most harmed from the policy.
As long as revolt broke out in even one of those colonies, it would soon trigger a series of springs across the western coast. The eight Freian nations would no doubt be channelling all their military resources nonstop to keep their colonies afloat. By the time they were worn out, the region could give the final push to support the rebel natives to form their nations by sending troops marching into the western coast.
However, it was still a little too early for the region to mobilise. Claude didn't want to let his troops join the revolt directly. However, that wouldn't stop Borkal from giving the rebels a sliver of hope. That way, even if they failed, they would still be filled with confidence at the thought that the region would support them with their forces.
After two days of discussions, Borkal went to prepare for this operation. As the western coast was strictly checking ships to prevent smugglers, Borkal was going to travel there by land. He would first go to the nikancha nation before crossing the border to the western coast. It was a journey that would take about a month.
Claude assigned Wolfang to him to keep him safe and get his brother something to do, lest he started drinking his sorrows away again at Anna Farmstead. Apart from that, he wanted to forge a new smuggling route to the western coast through the nikancha nation.
He returned to the region personally to deal with another important matter: the 500 plus thousand Shiksan captives who had served their labour terms in full and would regain their freedom.
The issue was that Shiks and Aueras had yet to sign a formal peace treaty and end the war. Theoretically, the two nations were still at war. Even though the two nations didn't border one another and wouldn't be able to easily come to conflict, they were still technically at war.
In traditional wars, the losers would send ambassadors to the victors to sue for peace, and the victors would get to show their magnanimity by engaging in friendly negotiations. Yet, Shiks wasn't willing to admit defeat. Majid III, despite having lost a humiliating million troops, still thought he hadn't lost and described Pillag's retreat with some 100 thousand troops as a strategic victory.
Given all that, Aueras couldn't take the initiative to send an ambassador to Shiks to initiate the peace process. Who knew if the mad Majid III would make excessive demands of them, thinking himself the victor. That would only come as a further insult to Aueras, so it was best to leave the state of war unaddressed.
That was the exact thing causing the region so much trouble, given all the Shiksan captives they held there. Since their labour terms were over, they should be released. But the two kingdoms were still at war and the region had no way of sending them back to their home country. So, all they could do was give them temporary identification documents for free movement within the region.
Over the past two years, most of the released captives were warmly welcomed by the various farms and factories within the region. They were young labourers, after all, and were a great help to soothe the labour shortage. But with the passing of two years, many Shiksans came to love life in the region and even became the sons-in-law of their bosses. They wanted to be registered as citizens and gain the same citizenship rights as other Aueran settlers.
Masonhughes sent Claude much information about these Shiksan captives. Skri had his own considerations about the matter. There were some 100 thousand released captives working in various industries in the region and they didn't cause much trouble and followed regulations. A good number of them wanted to be permanent residents and wanted to own their own land and start a vocation.
Some 100 thousand signed long-term labour agreements with the local farms and factories and stayed in a fixed location to work fixed shifts. These captives didn't have a fixed goal for their futures. Some gained technical expertise and wanted to remain in the region, while others hoped to return to Shiks.
There were another 200 thousand plus who were awaiting the end of the war to be repatriated to Shiks. The region grouped them together and arranged work for them with adequate pay. For instance, much of the railroad construction in the region employed these released captives. As they earned a much better salary doing that than in their country, they were quite stable and didn't cause trouble. They only wished for the war to be over so they could return to see their family once more.
What was troubling Claude now was that there were more than 100 thousand captives who requested to be repatriated to reunite with their families. There were some who wanted permanent residency and permission to go home to fetch their families to the region, and some who earned quite a bit and wanted to send money back to their families. Others wanted to visit their families before coming back to the region for work. The region could no longer afford to leave this issue unattended.
Claude rubbed his temples as his head ached. It truly was a rather troublesome matter. Who knew what their fates would be if they were sent back to Shiks. After all, the two nations were still at war. Claude wouldn't want the captives to be drafted again to become an enemy of Aueras and the autonomous region.
"Perhaps we can let them pick two thousand among them first to be sent back to Shiks as a test. If that goes well, we'll send the others back," Claude decided.