The three were speechless.
After a long moment, Bolonik could not hold it.
"Come on, let's come up with some ideas on what to do next. Whether Baron Strassen is guilty has nothing to do with us. We just need him to hand over the authority of the forces in Tyrrsim. Without doing so, we won't be able to achieve our goal of forming more reserve forces here. The garrison troops here are already a huge mess."
"Even though we are also given the mission of restructuring the garrisons, we don't have authority to take charge over it ourselves. We'll have to wait until the rest of the folk and the staff from the army to be sent here to take over command. Baron Strassen is also the queen's nephew and the high-commissioner here, so he can just refuse to cooperate with us using his sickness excuse."
"Then we can arrest him for not doing his duty and corruption!" Bolonik said, opting for the harsher option, "We already have the proof the viceroy gave us. It is wartime now and we can't afford to let the baron delay our precious time. It is another story if he knows what's at stake and cooperates. He can deal with his misdemeanours later and still have three to four months of freedom. But if he doesn't cooperate, we'll send him to the jail cells. We can't have him delay us any longer."
Even though going in quick for the act was a good move, it was easy to go too far. Sevict shook his head, silently showing his objections to Bolonik's proposal. It was quite laughable, actually. Ranger was supposed to be the most trusted force of the royal family, yet they were going to start taking out the queen's nephew on the very first day in Tyrrsim. It was truly quite ironic.
"What do you think?" Sevict asked Claude.
Claude had been thinking about the matter for quite some time.
"Perhaps we're oversimplifying this matter. Before arriving here in Nubissia, we thought that the forces of the garrison here should be more or less the same as our kingdom's. But it appears that we've been too optimistic about the forces in the colonies. I think we have to change our original plan completely. We have to leave a line behind to organise get the local garrison force and reserve troops into shape.
"Otherwise, I am quite certain that our three units will have to face the enemy alone on the battlefield if the rear isn't able to support us properly. If our casualties get too high and we stretch ourselves too thin, we won't be able to set up a firm defence line to weather the enemy's assault. I believe it wouldn't take more than three to four months for the enemy to fight their way here.
"First, we must definitely take over control of the local garrison force. If Baron Strassen is willing to cooperate and hand over his authority as high-commissioner, we'll let him stay home and play sick. We can also supply the garrison line and the four garrison tribes of the towns with armaments. If he isn't willing, then I suppose it wouldn't be weird for another high-commissioner to perish on the battlefield. After all, one of the seven high-commissioners in the colonies has already made a precedent for that."
Bolonik and Sevict were completely tongue tied. Bolonik had only been plotting to capture Strassen, but Claude was even harsher and had planned to send him to die a hero's death on the battlefield. But upon closer consideration, they had to admit that Claude's plan was even better. A dead man was easy to take care of. There wouldn't be any traces of scandals or crimes committed, so the royal family would be able to keep their reputation. In fact, Baron Strassen's sacrifice would bring them even more glory.
"I believe Baron Strassen wouldn't have any other option but to obediently work with us. I'm sure he would be satisfied that we would be making up for the hole in their arsenal with our own," Sevict said with a smile.
"We're definitely not letting him off that easily. He has to fund us with a sum of at least 50 thousand crowns to show his undying loyalty to the kingdom," Claude said.
Stunned, Bolonik asked, "Can that be possible? How could he be willing to pay that kind of money?"
"Of course he would. Just count it yourself. The hole of four thousand soldiers each year can amount to thus: each soldier's salary and bonus will be two crowns. That alone shows that he's pocketed more than 8000 crowns. Coupled with the military funding, the armaments he sold and the pension for the faked soldier deaths, that old fox probably earns around 15 thousand crowns minimum. We don't want that much either, only the sum of the profit he gets in three years. If he isn't willing to pay out to make up for his transgressions at death's door, we'll send him to die on the battlefield."
While Claude only made a general estimation, the two linesmen agreed with that sum. With it, they would have a much easier time recruiting soldiers and supplying them instead of having to haggle with the viceroy for more military funding. Time was short and too many delays would be detrimental to the war effort.
"What do we do about the linesman of Port Cobius' garrison, Avilad? I heard he's a trusted aide of Baron Strassen. He was the one who conducted the firearms sales. There's also Captain Sinks. I suspect he has his hands deep into the matter as well. He was the one who approached us for the purchase of firearms, after all," Bolonik said.
"All of Baron Strassen's men who know about the severity of their crimes will be brought to the frontlines in the name of being our guides. Hopefully, Baron Strassen will hand over his authority and cooperate. Otherwise he'll volunteer to scout the enemy lines for us."
Claude believed Baron Strassen would make the wise choice. Even though he would lose his power and a huge sum of money, he would be absolved from all his crimes. With everyone involved in the scandal sent to the frontlines, it'll depend on their own luck whether they could make it back or not. Most importantly, the royal family's reputation would be protected. As the queen's nephew, the baron was a close relative to the royal family and if his transgressions were brought to light, it would become a huge scandal in the kingdom. Should that come to pass, every time a royal was appointed to a public position, they would be seriously regarded by the officials with suspicion.
That was the reason Claude's seniors believed sending Baron Strassen to be sacrificed on the battlefield to be the best move. After all, even if the baron did cooperate, he might get back at the three to settle his grudge. It was extremely likely that he would put in a few bad words about those three to the queen for payback for his lost money.
Claude didn't mind, however. The three had decided to make records of all that had happened and would hand over proof of the baron's misconduct to General Miselk, who would, in turn, pass it on to Prince Hansbach. It probably wouldn't take long for Baron Strassen to be displaced by the Stellin royal family. A baron without power wouldn't be able to do much against Claude and his seniors. In fact, the king would be thankful to them for protecting the royal family's reputation.
"We're pressed for time. I will let Tribe 131 rest for one more day tomorrow. The day after that, we have to start scouting the frontlines to get a grasp on the current state of war. We need to know how far the Shiksan colonial forces have advanced and which places they've conquered. That's why we only have one day to solve the problem of Baron Strassen. If he really doesn't play along, we'll drag him to the frontlines by force."
Claude glanced at the two seniors.
"One of you will have to stay behind with a line to take care of the reorganisation of the garrison. Tyrrsim must have at least two garrison lines ready to send to the frontlines. We don't even have to run a recruitment drive. Didn't the baron sell those firearms to the peasants? We'll conscript some by force into the reserve forces according to that list. Any household that has three men will have to send one to serve, or we shall arrest them as deserters, confiscate their assets and send them to the labour camps."
"This is war. I believe it can fly," Bolonik agreed, "During the banquet, I've asked Viscount Cruz about this. He said that we are free to recruit two lines' worth of garrison troops out of the 370 thousand citizens spread across the port and the four towns."
"Our time is short. We can only stay here for ten days at most before heading to the frontlines to set up the defence line, but we can't be sure whether the two lines of forces will be ready to leave with us by then," Sevict said.
"Let's just form them first. We'll worry about training once we're on the way," Bolonik said, not holding out much hope, "If the enemy hasn't arrived by the time we set up the defence lines, we can spare some time to drill these garrison troops on how to fight defensively."
"Let's unite all the garrison troops from Port Cobius and the four towns to form a proper line first. We'll form one new keeper clan for each of the towns. We also have to leave a keeper tribe here to prevent any native revolts."
Claude went to his desk and opened the map of the Aueran colonies and tapped at a point. "Actually, I'm more worried that Baron Strassen's case wouldn't be isolated. If the high-commissioners of the other colonies are just like him, then I don't hold out much hope for their local garrison forces..."
"Look at the map," Claude continued, "Apart from Balingana, the Aueran colonies are lined up single file along the coast. To the south of Tyrrsim is Aduras, and directly south of it is the endless Ancient Forest. Nobody should be enter or leave that place, so we don't have to worry about the safety of Aduras.
"To the north of Tyrrsim is Mormaly, and further north is Anfiston, which is in turn connected to Balingana and Robisto. Balingana is the only colony of the kingdom located inland and most of it is spread out across the Albator Plains. Additionally, Balingana is the colony with the largest river on the continent, Dorinibla River, which is connected to the waterways in Robisto. Transporting goods through Dorinibla River should be really convenient.
"Balingana and Robisto, on the other hand, are connected with Cromwell, which has fallen into the enemy hands before we departed. Currently, the enemy forces have split up into two, heading for Balingana and Robisto respectively.
"According to news from the ministry of the army, Shiks had wanted to field two open-field battle corps in their colony. Their local garrison forces also amount up to a whole corps. The moment war broke out, they sent another corps there and we are still unaware of whether they sent any more reinforcements. My estimates put their aggregate forces around four corps, that is to say, around 250 thousand men."
Bolonik and Sevict both agreed with the assessment. What Claude brought up was common knowledge. The estimation of the colonial forces of Shiks was also quite accurate.
"Before the war broke out, Shiks demanded to be given Cromwell, Balingana and Robisto. It's apparent from that that those three colonies are their targets in this war. Naturally, if our garrisons prove to be unable to weather their assault, I doubt they'd mind taking all our colonies.
"Our kingdom doesn't wish to go to war with Shiks as they're a superpower in Northern Freia, and for the fact that we've only concluded a five-year war. Even though we emerged victorious, the kingdom is drained from the war effort and is no longer able to mount another offensive on Nubissia with Shiks. So, all the kingdom could do was transport Ranger to teach the colonial forces a lesson in hopes of forcing them into a ceasefire.
"In fact, Shiks has about the same number of colonies with our kingdom on Nubissia, but most of them are located inland. It was only after they obtained the Nasrian colony that they got access to a good port city like Port Vebator, making it convenient and risk free for them to safely transport their forces and supplies on land.
"So, Port Vebator is crucial for the safety of all the Shiksan colonies. Perhaps the reason they want Balingana and Robisto from us because they want a second and third supplementary port at which to dock safely.
"That's why I believe apart from one of the four corps of Shiks which will be left behind to quell native revolts, another corps should be stationed to defend Port Vebator and the part of our colonies they've conquered. In that sense, I believe they only have two corps to attack Balingana and Robisto with.
"Those two colonies' capital cities are on our side of Dorinibla River, so the enemy will have to cross it first before they can attack them. Robisto's capital, Port Patres, used to be the endpoint of Fearless' eastward trade route and has always had tight defensive fortifications. So, it would be really difficult for one Shiksan corps to take it. If they want to use heavy-siege cannons for that, they will require even more time.
"Tribe 131 shall depart the day after and we are estimated to take half a month to arrive in Anfiston. The mission folk command gave us is to set up the first defence line in Anfiston. I will be sending out my scouts to Balingana and Robisto ahead of us to get a grasp on enemy movements and launch attacks on their supply lines and their smaller, scattered units to slow their advance."
Bolonik watched as Claude explained their plan using the map. He now knew Claude's intentions. "I got it. I'll stay back and reorganise these colonial garrison troops. We'll try to have Sevict's Line 034 and the two corps of Tyrrsim's garrison head north in half a month to set up a defence line at Anfiston to complete our mission."