Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 352

War in that era was like playing chess. The biggest mistake of the Shiksan forces was that they picked a fight with the champion of the last championship despite not having any opponent to play with for the past four decades. As expected, they were utterly defeated. However, they refused to surrender and stubbornly grasped onto the hope that they would survive. So, they doubled down their bet in an attempt to make their losses back, only to end up losing it all once more.

Sometimes, confident didn't represent one's abilities. For example, Shiks believed that they could use five standing corps to take all seven of the Aueran colonies. However, they ran into Ranger and were given a wake-up slap. Two standing corps were lost just like that. After being taught a lesson, they lost confidence and began to suspect anything and everything, thinking the enemy far stronger than they were.

Even though the scouts they sent out mostly didn't return and those who did didn't have any new information, the three corps were able to find out the true identity of the enemy they were facing from their informants in Aueras. They were the new rapid response unit formed by the royal family, the Ranger corps. They had been elevated from folk to corps after their extermination of Pancry and Krado as well as the reclamation of occupied colonies. Additionally, they were also responsible for the formation of the two colonial corps.

The five Shiksan corps that were filled with confidence before the battles all thought themselves to be better than Ranger. They didn't even consider the two colonial corps of the enemy to be something to worry about. In their minds, newly formed units were without a doubt cannon fodder to be used on the frontlines, nothing but free merit for them.

In the pre-battle simulations the strategists of the Shiksan corps ran, they estimated the forces of Ranger to be about as strong as one corps and overestimated the combat ability of the two colonial corps, giving them an estimate number of 0.5 as powerful as one Shiksan corps. That meant they didn't underestimate their enemy. The total score the Auerans received was two while the Shiksans got five, one for each corps. However, it still looked like the enemy wouldn't be able to take them on in the slightest.

The fact they breezed through Cromwell to reach Balingana only further reinforced the assessment of the strategists. They believed their calculations were correct and victory would soon be theirs. Then, all of a sudden, Tanya and Kujoa were no more. The harsh wake-up call shook the strategists out of their cozy dreams.

Wicklan, Cybok and Faybort looked into the pre-battle reports they got about Ranger and finally noticed the key point they had neglected. The report stated that they were the Aueran royal family's trump card. Even the royal guard admitted that they were as powerful as they were. In a tribe-scale wargame session with them, the royal guard had lost all four bouts.

It was no wonder Tanya and Kujoa ended up completely eliminated. They had severely underestimated their enemy's strength. If they were fighting the royal guard, the strategists would rate them at a score of 1.5, a respectable score, being the number-one combat corps of Aueras. The Shiksans wouldn't have underestimated them if that was the case.

But now, the never-before-heard Ranger popped out of nowhere and caused the strategists to commit the fundamental sin of underestimating their foes. If the royal guard admitted that Ranger was not weaker than them when they were a folk, then it would be given a score of 1.5. Now that Ranger had been expanded into a corps, their score doubled to a three. Coupled with the two colonial corps whose combat abilities shouldn't be that far off from that of the Shiksan corps, the enemy had a total score of five.

Having finally found the reason for the extermination of their two fellow corps, the officers from the three remaining corps breathed a sigh of relief. Ranger had worked in tandem with a colonial corps to eliminate Tanya before they went for Kujoa. In both those clashes, the score ratio for both sides was four to one. The individual Shiksan corps were far from a match, so it stood to reason that they lost completely.

According to the strategists' estimations, even if the enemy completely wiped Tanya and Kujoa out and suffered a substantial amount of casualties, their current score should still be around the four range. In other words, the three Shiksan corps were at a disadvantage and they should huddle together to not give the enemy any openings. They definitely couldn't split up or they would end up dismantled like the other two corps.

Wicklan, Cybok and Faybort had no choice but to nestle together at the bank of Dorinibla River and ended up unable to advance or retreat. When their supply convoys from the rear were attacked and unable to deliver information to the main camp, they sent out a combat folk to counter Ranger, but only a few hundred light cavalrymen returned. When the enemy light cavalry showed up near their camp, they were finally aware of the fact that they had been led into an enemy trap. The enemies surrounding them couldn't wait to take a bite out of them.

Thus, the wisest choice in the eyes of the three corps was to call for a retreat. If they watched each other's back, they would definitely be able to return to Cromwell's capital, Wickhamsburg, before making future plans, whether they be attack or defend.

However, not a single officer proposed that solution. Even though they knew it was the best course of action, nobody was willing to take the responsibility for proposing or carrying out such a manoeuvre. Having three corps of 200 plus thousand soldiers turn tail and run after reaching all the way to Dorinibla River for sightseeing without engaging the enemy in a grand battle made it seem like they were running from their enemy in fear. Not to mention, they lost two corps along the way. Who would bear the responsibility for that action once they got back safely?

Even though doing so could indeed let the three corps survive, not a single high-ranking officer would be able to escape being held accountable after their return. They would be forever known as cowards who wouldn't fight their enemy and their families would be humiliated. The more serious cases would have their noble titles revoked and jailed for questioning.

That was why the officers of the encircled corps desperately hoped that the enemy would attack them with full force like honourable knightly duels of ancient time. They could set a time and place for a grand battle of the scale of tens of thousands to decide the victor. That was the only way they could return home safely whether they won or lost.

The issue was that Ranger had no interest in engaging the three enemy corps in such an old-fashioned manner, nor did they have any interest in attacking their heavily defended camps. Even though the Shiksan strategists rated Ranger to be equal in strength to three of their corps combined, all Ranger did was send out scouts to spy on them from afar without taking the initiative to fight.

That couldn't be allowed to continue. The officers decided they would send out smaller units to bait Ranger into attacking and slowly increase their numbers to escalate the battle to its peak. It was too bad Ranger didn't fall for their bait and ignored their provocations. The Shiksan officers convened once more to discuss the matter. They couldn't send their troops too far away from the camp, as that would be suicide rather than baiting the enemy.

So, the Shiksans decided to send out a light-cavalry line to sweep away the annoying, fly-like mounted scouts. Unfortunately, the moment their cavalry line chased the enemy scouts a little further away than they had planned, more enemy scouts popped out of nowhere and cut off the line's path of retreat.

Had the main Shiksan force not immediately sent out another unit in time to rescue half of their men, the 4000-strong cavalry line might have never returned. The moment the light cavalrymen of Ranger noticed more enemy forces coming from their camp, they didn't hesitate to open the escape route back up for the enemy to run. It could be seen that Ranger wasn't interested in any large engagement at all.

The Shiksan officers could do naught but count the seconds to their impending doom. They knew better than anyone that even though their supplies could last them a month, or more if they enacted a strict ration, they had nothing more to count on after they ran out. The day they finished their food was the day of their doom.

They had tried sending out forces to reestablish their supply line but the minor force was attacked and ambushed by the enemy. The three corps could conduct a united retreat, but none of the officers was willing to take up responsibility for that. In their dilemma, one strategist came up with a complete and ingenious plan. According to his analysis, Ranger and the other colonial corps had men hidden all around the three Shiksan corps to monitor their camp. Given the camp's tight defences, the enemy didn't have an opportunity to attack, so the two sides ended up in a stalemate.

Since Ranger and the colonial corps were in Balingana, that meant that the other side of Dorinibla River, Robisto, wouldn't be that strongly defended. In fact, it might just be hollow. It was entirely possible that the other Aueran colonial corps that suffered quite a bit of casualties was stationed there to defend it.

In other words, if the three Shiksan corps could cross the river, they would regain the initiative on the battlefield. They could block the Aueran forces on the other, more desolate side of the river and the three corps would be free to roam the other Aueran colonies and occupy them completely.

As for Ranger and the colonial corps, they wouldn't be able to gain logistical support from the rear within Balingana due to their own scorched earth tactics. As long as the three Shiksan corps could cross the river and cut off their enemy's supply line from Robisto, the enemy would be left with no choice but to surrender.

It was a plan that could turn the whole situation around and give the Shiksan corps a chance to play an active role on the battlefield instead of passively watching the enemy scouts from their camp without being able to attack. There was only one problem: how would they take three corps across the river?

Dorinibla River was the largest river on Nubissia. The widest parts could be as far as two kilometres and the narrowest parts were 600 metres apart. On average, the width of the river was one kilometre. Unfortunately, the opposite bank of the point at which the three corps set up camp was 1.6 kilometres away and the current was strong. If the Shiksans wanted to make floating bridges to cross, they would have to look for a better crossing point.

The downside to doing that was it was entirely possible for Ranger to notice their intentions and make preparations for them on the other side of the river. They could even cross first to set up an ambush and attack them mid-crossing. Doing so would completely derail the three corps' plans and they would fail horribly instead of managing to make the crossing.

The ideal method was to keep the three corps untouched to mislead Ranger. They would leave Seaking in charge of bringing them across. If Seaking was deployed in full force, it would be able to breach the defences of Port Patres at the point Dorinibla River connected to the ocean. That way, Seaking could sail against the river's flow to where the three corps were camped and easily transport them across.

Not only would that be beyond the enemy's expectations, Seaking could also seal up the river and prevent Ranger and the colonial corps from crossing it to reinforce the rest of the Aueran forces on the other side.

That was the best plan they could come up with thus far. The deciding factor of their success or failure in this colonial war was whether Seaking could breach the lockdown enacted by Port Patres. The officers also knew that if they went with the plan, Seaking would bear full responsibility.

If this battle failed, Seaking would be held accountable for it. If they weren't able to breach Port Patres to clear the entry to the river from the sea, what would be the point of all the investments made by Shiks into the fleet?

The three brave corps of the kingdom, Wicklan, Cybok and Faybort, hadn't yielded against the terrifying enemy that wiped out Kujoa and Tanya and kept on fighting regardless of their casualties and ended up in a stalemate. However, they saw a ray of hope for victory in their new plan. If Seaking refused to take part in it, they wouldn't be able to turn things around. In that case, it was clear who bore the most responsibility for the loss of the battle. The Shiksan officers from the three corps wouldn't be blamed for it at all.

And so, in the eagle message they sent to Seaking at Port Vebator containing their plan, the high-ranking officers stressed the importance and urgency of the operation. Then, they sealed the doors of their campsite and no longer launched any attacks as they waited for Seaking's arrival.

During the 1st month of Year 587 of the Sacred Light Era, Balingana got a rare and brief respite from war, as if it was celebrating the coming of the new year. Even though it was the frontlines of the war, little to no gunshots could be heard.

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