"General, did I mishear? You're relieving me from my post in Ranger..." Claude wondered if it was due to his overblown argument with General Fansnik. He had constantly been fanning the flames to worsen the general's reputation. Perhaps Miselk could no longer just sit and watch and had to interfere.
After becoming Lord Militant, most soldiers had to change their address of him accordingly, save for a few who still called him 'General' to indicate their familiarity.
Miselk mulled in silence for a moment and sighed. "No, Claude, the reason I'm discharging you is because I want to make you field marshal of this colonial war theatre."
Claude shook his head and thought he was hearing things. "G-g-g-general... W-w-why? That's your post..."
Miselk didn't answer Claude's question and tapped on the blue document on his desk. He removed his glasses and took out a small black-coloured velvet cloth and began cleaning the lenses. "The top has made a decision to fight the war in the colonies defensively. When it's necessary, we can abandon Cromwell, Balingana and Robisto. At the minimum, we have to keep Anfiston."
That was old news. They had planned to do the same before the Triumph of Balingana, but who would've known that Miselk would actually come to defeat all five Shiksan corps despite the ten-to-one odd and obtained that miraculous victory. However, Claude didn't interrupt. He sat down straight and listened quietly to what else Miselk had to say.
As expected, he seemed filled with regret as he said so. "However, this time, Ranger will most likely not participate in the battles..."
Claude couldn't stay quiet. "No, General, if Ranger doesn't join, there's no way we can hold Anfiston! Or do you mean they'll be sending over another corps to take Ranger's place?"
Miselk shook his head and tried to smile. "The kingdom won't be sending another corps to take Ranger's place. It's also very likely that Ranger will be sent back to the mainland on Freia. What? Do you think that we can't continue this war without Ranger?"
Claude nodded right away. "General, as you surely know, without our mobility and combat ability, there's no way we would've obtained our previous victory. I believe that the situation will look really bad if we count on only these two colonial corps to defend against Shiks' next big invasion."
He had foretold a scenario in which their loss was certain.
"Things are never that absolute. Last time, the defenders in Port Patres fought bravely against Seaking and didn't give up even though they lost eighty percent of their men. They definitely fought as well, if not better than the four main standing corps of our kingdom," Miselk argued. "By the way, did you hear word about the royal family sending high-ranking officers related to them by blood to take up posts in Ranger?"
"I did," Claude hesitantly replied, "But this news is some three months old already. They still haven't come, so I thought it to be a mere rumour. Didn't General Fansnik come to serve as our chief logistics officer? He also bears the Stellin name and is related to the royal family. However, he never does his duties seriously and prefers to go off on wild and pointless tangents. If the officers to come are all like him, it'd be over for our corps..."
Miselk laughed derisively. "It's true. The officers that will be transferred to our corps' leading positions are all related to the royal family. The royals believe that only through that would they be able to maintain a firm grip on Ranger, their private force. The reason they aren't here yet is that they're negotiating with the top for better terms. If they don't get what they want, they won't be coming to serve in Ranger.
"Those officers made a request for Ranger to be transported back to the royal capital away from the colonial war so that they wouldn't have to risk their lives. Additionally, they think Nubissia is too far away and they aren't willing to come all the way here. Moving Ranger back will make it more convenient for them to serve and enjoy their usual noble lifestyle in the royal capital instead of staying within a military camp all day. Lastly, they want to wield real power in the corps instead of holding a vapid position as the head strategists of the corps. They want proper positions like those of linesmen."
Claude was flabbergasted. He thought he was listening to a fairy tale. "How can that happen? Doesn't the first prince care?"
It was obvious what kind of buffoon would make demands such as those. Compared to them, Fansnik even seemed a little endearing. At least he was brave enough to come to Nubissia to serve. Initially, the thought of Miselk wanting him to leave the corps made him suspect that his position was going to be given away to one of those buffoons. However, making him the field marshal of the colonial theatre didn't seem to align with that.
Miselk laughed bitterly and shook his head. "His Highness can't be bothered to deal with this. The ones in charge of Ranger now are the nobles of the royal family who all bear the name of Stellin and have higher seniority that the first prince. As His Majesty is still bedridden and sick, their whims will decide the next heir to the throne. Under such circumstances, His Highness has no choice but to cooperate with them and gain their support under certain conditions. Among them is letting those of royal blood coming here to take up high-ranking positions."
"B-but hasn't Prince Hansbach always been the heir apparent?" Claude was shocked by the revelation. He thought for sure that Prince Hansbach would be the next king, Stellin XI.
"Even now, His Majesty still hasn't named the next heir." The General put his glasses on the desk. In the private letter the first prince sent him, he said that he wasn't against transferring Ranger back. However, he needed his good friend and comrade Miselk to plan out their next move to deal with this complicated situation.
"Currently, the army is the only faction that supports the first prince," Miselk explained, "The navy and the new nobility on the other hand are for Prince Wedrick, the second prince, to ascend to the throne. The old nobility on the other hand are currently spectating from the sidelines.
"Among the old nobility, only the royal nobles, in other words, the first prince's relatives, are more active.
"They throw their weight around and demand multiple concessions from Prince Hansbach, who has no choice but to oblige them so that they wouldn't side with the second prince and cause the kingdom's situation to fall into further chaos. You must understand, Claude, that some people in this world just aren't capable of succeeding at anything. However, they're experts when it comes to ruining things for everyone else..."
No truer words have been said. Fansnik was one such person. Claude nodded his agreement fervently. "General, even if Ranger is the private force of the royal family, it's still standing corps of the kingdom, a rapid response force at that. Would the ministry of the army really let the royal relatives mess around with Ranger without interfering? They should be more than aware that Ranger's might will only deteriorate if this is allowed to go on..."
"Haha, the ministry, you say?" Miselk said mockingly, "They'd rather have Ranger become a ceremonial unit for the royal family than allow such a strong corps that takes orders only from the royal family to remain outside of their jurisdiction. In fact, the ministry of the navy is the true pro-royal faction. The ministry of the army on the other hand is a gathering for all the other factions of the kingdom."
Claude felt a little light headed from hearing all that. "Wait, General, didn't you say the first prince has always clashed with the navy and don't get along? Why is the navy pro-royal then? Isn't that a contradiction?"
Miselk laughed out loud. "What's contradictory about that? The navy is indeed constantly at odds with the first prince. Prince Hansbach has always had a problem with Fearless being so fearful of our enemies and how they go to such lengths to avoid confrontation. He and the Lord of the Admiralty, Count Andreak Feng Carlos hold personal grudges with one another. However, the navy is a staunch supporter of the royal family. To them, it doesn't matter which Stellin takes the throne. That's why they have chosen to support the second prince as a candidate for king.
"The ministry of the army on the other hand is where the old nobility congregate. While the royal family has a few of their own in it, their influence has always been curbed by the united old nobles. Furthermore, there are also a few factions within the old nobility. Some of them are noble families from the founding days of the kingdom, and there are others who have been made hereditary nobles after following Stellin IX through the Reformation War. There are also noble families who happen to be major arms dealers for the kingdom.
"If you want to be thorough, there are at least a dozen factions in the ministry of the army. Even the new nobility have some of their own in it, though their faction is still rather weak and don't have much of a say. However, they are shrewd and make use of conflict between the other factions. They aren't easy to deal with either.
"Let's just put it this way. The ministry of the army is far more complicated than you imagined it to be. The four main standing corps, the three new standing corps formed over the recent years, and the various irregular corps and local garrison and keeper forces all have differing allegiances to the factions within it. The reason the royal family spent so much money to form Ranger in the first place was to form a force that doesn't have influence from any other faction. However, they have started to actively sabotage the corps themselves..."
Miselk turned to look at him. "Let's get back to the main topic, Claude. What I want to tell you is that Ranger is definitely returning to the mainland after the 3rd month. I also have to follow the corps back to serve in the ministry of the army. After all, I'm one of the three Generals of the Army and I'm still in my prime. It won't stand for the brass to not give me a good position..."
He joked around self mockingly and tapped on the blue document on the desk. "Lately, I've been busy negotiating with the brass. They made some concessions to get me to agree to the transfer of Ranger. In other words, they'll let me draft up the strategies and plans to deal with the colonial war and appoint you as field marshal of this war theatre."
Claude stood up immediately to say something, but he was stopped before he could speak. "Claude, this position is not an honour. It's a burden. The final result of the war here in the colonies depends on it. If you obtain victory, you'll be hailed as a legendary hero respected by thousands. If you lose, you'll forever be known as the sinner who lost all the kingdom's colonies..."
Miselk motioned for Claude to sit back down. "This document is the plan I proposed to the brass for the war effort here. You may take it back for your own reference. You know our baselines well and no matter how this war develops, as long as you can hold Anfiston and the three colonies behind it, namely, Mormaly, Aduras and Tyrrsim, you'll have completed your assignment and made a monumental contribution to the kingdom.
"I'll give you a short brief so that you won't have to worry about not having the men for the task to hold the defence line. The Ranger being transferred back to Freia is but its husk. Most of its soldiers and officers will join the local defence units and be formed into the three new enhanced folks. The enhanced folks will be as powerful as what Ranger folk started off as. The other two colonial corps here will be shrunk into folks and used as reserve troops. All five of these folks are under the jurisdiction of this war theatre and no other faction or department in the kingdom can interfere with the command here.
"Additionally, Ranger will leave behind all gear, war horses and weapons. You may use them to form the five new folks and reorganise them as fast as possible. According to the ministry of the army, Shiks has already formed two standing corps. They also hired Nasrian and Canasian officers to train their new forces to adapt to modern tactics. It looks like they've learned where to obtain more combat experience from.
"There's also word that Shiks obtained new precision-firing muskets from Nasri and are greatly revamping their forces to replace the old muskets. According to our predictions, it will take them two to three more years to restart the war here. So, Claude, after taking over as field marshal, your most important task is to get these five folks in order and prepare to defend.
"It might be a little too young for you to take up post as field marshal at the age of 30. Regrettably, not a single high-ranking officer of the kingdom wishes to take my place, so I had no choice but to suggest you. I didn't think the brass would actually agree to it. Perhaps in their eyes, this place is a goner and nobody wants to jump into it. Alright, ask away if you have any questions."
Claude was full of questions and he was finally allowed to speak. "General, why me? There are more qualified men in the corps to take up this position. Also, wouldn't the brass fault you for essentially returning to the kingdom with merely Ranger's husk without all the gear and men?
"I also want to know where we can recruit enough men to form five folks. The rangers transferred to the colonial keeper forces don't number that much and the two colonial corps aren't even fully manned. Their troops are not up to standard and have poor discipline. We're barely capable of forming two folks. Not to mention, all the youths in the seven colonies are either serving in their local force or drafted into the two colonial corps. Where can we source more men?
"I'd also like to know where we can get funding for these five folks and the war effort. Will the ministry of the army be paying it? Will the officers that transferred here enjoy the same benefits they got in Ranger? Also, do we get replacements for weapons and gear from the ministry of the army as well? What about supplies and logistics support? Are they provided by the three colonies at the rear?"