Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 575

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The Duke of Sunset Lake, Nirtoz, had committed a grave mistake by considering himself an equal to Claude. That was why he sent a messenger to personally deliver the letter to him and questioned Claude's intentions directly and demanded Claude to provide incontrovertible proof for his personal safety. As far as Nirtoz was concerned, his demand was nothing if not reasonable, but that only caused Claude to take the man for a fool who didn't understand his own place.

It was akin to a subordinate questioning a leader about a plan and demanding him to ensure his personal interests wouldn't be harmed. If someone like that existed in a drama serial, it wouldn't take two episodes for that person to be isolated and fired.

However, everything turned for the better with Borkal dealing with the duke. There were some things Claude couldn't tell the duke directly because of his status, but Borkal wouldn't have a problem with doing. However, Borkal would have to take the risk to go to the duke's personal abode as a guest and act with him until the duke's troops reached Saint Cyprean.

The department of intelligence's plan was for Nirtoz to pick out a corps of elite troops to head to the central prefectures Typhoon had already swept through first with the excuse of surprise attacking Saint Cyprean. Then, they would encounter a folk of homecoming Shiksans and enter a state of battle. The standoff would last for two to three months before the region's troops finally retreat, after which Nirtoz could retake Saint Cyprean with his troops.

The plan had the advantage of hiding the fact that he was collaborating with the region a secret from his allies and frame him as a hero of Shiks instead. Even if there were no conflicts between his forces and the region's, he could still later declare that his preparation to go into battle was what drove the invaders away from their capital.

Not only that, the duke could use his plan to deal with his allies. After Borkal got into contact with the duke, he soon found that his force of 200 thousand was incredibly complicated. There were some local officials that came to join him with their local garrison forces to see what it was all about and some nobles who came with their personal forces. They were a disjointed and chaotic force and the duke was merely a figurehead for them all.

However, Nirtoz wasn't completely incompetent. He had a folk of personal troops that he used to keep his other allies in check. But once he entered the six western prefectures, he noticed the cracks in his force when his allies argued amongst each other for territory and supplies. As such, Claude's letter to him came just as the right time to save him from that predicament. However, he mistook Claude as the enemy's commander-in-chief on the same level as he and sent his butler there, only for him to be refused and given a kick out.

Fortunately, Borkal managed to find that butler later and establish contact between the two sides once more. It was only after Borkal explained to the duke that he came to understand his mistaken actions. However, he was someone who admitted to his mistakes and tried to correct them, so he offered Borkal large amounts of treasure and worked with him to go along with the region's plans.

Next, Nirtoz showed his allies how gracious he was in not wanting a single piece of territory in the six western prefectures, dividing it among them instead. Though, he had only one request: that was to allow him to pick some elite men out from their own forces to join a stronger, united force which he could use to fight the enemies off and retake Saint Cyprean.

To his allies, Nirtoz was like a saint with no want of land and bore only the desire to resurrect Shiks. While they would lose some of their elite troops, the safety of the six western prefectures could be ensured with the duke at the helm. So, they agreed to his demand and took the initiative to provide food and supplies for the campaign, completely oblivious to the fact that the duke had sold them out for a high price.

When the duke departed on his campaign, Borkal took a tent of men along with him disguised as a small band of merchants to meet up with the duke. In fact, they were going there as hostages, but their cover story was they were a tent of scouts the duke sent out that have returned to report what they found to him.

With Borkal guiding Nirtoz's way, things went rather smoothly. Nirtoz's subordinates were also aware that they were on their way to launch a surprise attack on Saint Cyprean, so they endeavoured to keep a low profile during the journey. But when they finally reached the prefecture nearest to the royal capital, Lupus, they discovered an enemy camp in their way and many light cavalrymen patrolling nearby. The situation was rather tense.

Having no other choice and not wanting his troops to be discovered, Nirtoz had no choice but to head to the mountain area to the right and found a good cavern for his troops to stop for a rest. He then sent some informants to investigate the enemies, Borkal's men included. However, few of the informants returned, though most of Borkal's men did, and they delivered a surprising piece of news.

It appeared that Typhoon started their attack on the six western prefectures the moment the duke left on his campaign. The nobles and officials that fell to enemy hands sold him out by informing the enemy about the duke's army's destination. That was why the enemy sent out so many patrols in hopes of locating the duke's men at their rear and wipe them out. With a number of the scouts sent out falling in enemy hands, it probably wouldn't be long before the rest of the troops was discovered.

Upon hearing the report, every one of the officers in the tent cursed the captive nobles and local officials for betraying them. Some panicked and suggested they turn around. The Duke of Sunset River, however, remained calm, and said that since they were already in such a predicament, they might as well give the enemy a struggle. They were in a mountainous area and occupied good terrain. If they retreated to flat land, they would fare even worse and be swarmed by the enemy cavalry.

So, the duke ordered his men to set up defence lines and strongholds for a defensive battle. After about a week, the enemy came with a folk of troops. But when they noticed the complete defences the duke had set up, they didn't launch an immediate attack and instead retreated a few kilometres back and set up camp at an easily defendable location.

That was when the duke's subordinates suggested they took the initiative to mount an attack, which the duke obliged, but the force they sent out was easily repelled by the enemy's immense firepower. Among four of the high-ranking officers the duke sent out, three were dead and one was injured, only managing to return after losing most of his men. That was the wake-up call the rest of them needed to forget the notion of launching further attacks. And so, both sides entered a long stalemate, launching only minor harassment attacks against each other with small numbers of men.

Claude, on the other hand, was quite busy as the region's transport fleet once more came to Port Patkara. It was currently the middle of the 12th month of Year 605. So far, some 870 thousand Shiksans had already settled in as immigrants. However, there were still millions of family members of the homecoming Shiksans working on the renovation of Port Patkara, with another 450 thousand remaining in Saint Cyprean.

Once Typhoon swept through the six western prefectures, Claude estimated that they would get around another million troop family members. Back during the noble rebellion against the Shiksan royal family, most of the troops were recruited from the western prefectures. When the rebellion was quelled, those very same troops were sent to Nubissia to fight the colonial wars, only to be defeated by the region. So, it wasn't surprising most of the homecoming Shiksans were from that region.

According to the schedule, once the six remaining western prefectures were taken over by Typhoon, the homecoming Shiksan troops would be able to seek out their families and bring them to Saint Cyprean for a month's wait. During that time, they would be fed and cared for by the region before they departed for Port Patkara for some short-term work opportunities as they waited for the fleet to return and transport them to their new lives in the region.

If things went without a hitch, the Shiksan invasion would finally come to an end three months later, after which Claude would be able to return to the region. All of Saint Cyprean's supplies and manpower would be transferred to Port Patkara and not a single of the region's troops would stay in what remained of Shiks' territory.

"Lord Militant, we are building three bastions here at the mountain pass. They are estimated to finish construction around half a year later. With them, Manori Plains' safety is assured. According to our strategists' sandtable simulations, each bastion only needs to be defended by a tribe of soldiers. In other words, one combat line is needed to defend the whole mountain pass and not even an enemy corps will be able to break our defences. Not to mention, it's impossible for the enemy to send one whole corps to attack us as the mountain pass can only let a folk of troops through at a time." Siegfeld proudly introduced Claude to their new projects.

"Port Patkara would be safe with those bastions around. Naturally, we're not neglecting Port Patkara's expansion either. The base area will also have three turrets defending it. According to the expansion plans, our docks, base and mountain pass would form a triangular defence layout. Each location only needs to be defended by a line of troops. We'll only need to station a folk of troops at Port Patkara to keep it defended for good."

Claude nodded. He was the one who plotted the defensive layout, so he was well aware. Bleyotte's Avitelli I had hoped that Thundercrash or Typhoon could defend the port to prevent a resurgence of Shiks. Claude, however, didn't really think it a probable threat and believed stationing a whole corps there was a waste of manpower. A folk would long be enough to hold the port until more reinforcements arrived.

"How are the immigrant labourers managed?" he asked.

"We split them into batches and assign them work according to the order they get on board the ships. For example, the fleet just arrived recently and everyone with a registration number starting with three will be the next ones to be sent to the region. Soon, they will be collecting their salaries and buying a bunch of things to bring on board. Though, we already told them there's no need to buy anything here since we have whatever they'll need in the region for much cheaper than here. As such, most of them only bought some food to bring on board.

"After this batch of immigrants is sent off, the next batch to be transferred will be those whose registration numbers start with four. Once the new batch of immigrants come from the capital, we'll assign them registration numbers starting with six and seven. Even though the jobs they're given here is only some four to six months long, the labourers are quite happy about the arrangement as they are given free food and salaries. Quite a number of them even want to swap their registration tags with others so they can stay longer, but we already told them that those who go first will be given better farmland to trick them on board."

Claude burst out laughing. "Thanks for sorting that out, General Siegfeld. In another two or so months, we'll be transferring here from Saint Cyprean and there'll be another million or two troop families that need to be settled. We also have to hasten the construction of the warehouses. There are lots of spoils we have to transfer here from the capital, especially food. Make sure fire prevention is in place and increase security around the area."

"Understood. Near the docs is Saint Peter Hills, which we are using as our food supply base. We use the seven caves there to store refined flour. If all seven of those caves are filled up, we will be able to sustain two million people for a year. Coupled with the three food warehouse areas at the foot of the hills, we wouldn't have to worry about food consumption for the two years to come.

"After the rest of the immigrants arrive, I will develop Blafris Mountains into farmland and pastures for herding. While we don't lack any food for the moment, we do lack fresh vegetables and meat. Even after sending people to buy some from Bleyotte and the native fishing folk near Port Patkara, it still isn't enough to sustain our consumption.

"As we are using most of our manpower in the expansion of the city, we aren't able to produce much food ourselves, so we have to seek out other arrangements. If the lands outside the city can be developed, I believe we'll be able to support a population of 1.5 million people here. We'll need another year before we finish transporting the immigrants to the region anyway, so I believe we have more than enough time."

Claude looked at the Blafris Mountains in the distance and asked, "Are the lands to be developed within the land we leased as well?"

Siegfeld nodded. "While it isn't part of Manori Plains, Avitelli I included it alongside all the same. The dirt of Manori Plains is dark and ideal for farming, whereas the undeveloped lands have reddish earth and much crushed stone. It'll take lots of manpower to make usable farmland out of it.

"But we have an abundance of manpower now, and the crushed stone is an ideal material to build roads with. By the time those are cleared out, we'll start building irrigation routes so we can plant here as well. While the earth can't compare to that of Manori Plains, it's still suitable for planting beans and some types of vegetables and fruits.

"These two to three years will be rather busy. The profits will be lower too. But once the farmland is developed, I believe it'll become a good source of food for Port Patkara and bring us endless good harvests and joy."

Claude cracked a smile. "General Siegfeld, you seem to be quite well informed about farming."

A little embarrassed, Siegfeld said, "My father used to take the whole family to develop farmland together. He converted acres of land into arable farmland to save up enough to send me to war college. I'll never forget the time when I dug stones and tossed them into the basket on my back in my childhood."

Claude gave him a pat on the shoulder. "You have a good father. We'll do what you say. Of all the things we lack, labour isn't one of them, after all. Even after these immigrants are transferred away, we still have captives. I'll keep them here as our farm serfs."

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