Miselk grimaced. He pointed and Claude and began, "Looks like I have to make it completely clear if I'm to ask you to take up your post as the field marshal, right?"
Claude shrugged. "General, how are we supposed to react when you're just going to bumble back to the royal capital and leave us behind? Back then, we were able to fight fearlessly with you there cause we knew for sure we'd obtain victory if we follow your plans. You were always there to back us up. There wasn't much need for us to think at all. We just had to follow your instructions.
"Now, you're leaving and placing that burden on me! I'm not someone who can carry that burden! The reason those royal officers didn't want to take your place is cause they know it isn't an easy one to serve. You'll always be sitting under a dangling blade which will punish you the moment you stop paying attention. General, please spare me from that and look for a better candidate in the force..."
"You're not the only one bearing the burden. I also gave you two helpers to shoulder it with you. Colonel Bolonik and Colonel Sevict are your seniors during the strategy class and with them aiding you, you'll get used to your new post soon enough," he said with a consoling smile.
Overjoyed, Claude said, "General, you can just pick one of them to be field marshal! They're far more qualified than me in terms of rank and strategy..."
Miselk shook his head. "I don't think so, Claude. I chose you over them because you have an honorary Title that they don't. You are the kingdom's baron, a noble. As field marshal, you'll no doubt have to interact with the locals here. And for them, an honorary baron is far more deserving of respect than someone with just a military rank.
"Most importantly, your two seniors excel at defence, unlike you, who champions offence. A good defence can make the enemy more desperate and offensive to increase their death toll and chip away at their morale. The war will drag on as a result and their casualties will pile up. It's akin to making a cut on the enemy that won't stop bleeding. They will eventually cave and pay a huge price at the negotiation table.
"Consequently, only defending will also cost us a lot too, since we will be completely passive and the enemy decides when the battles are fought. We can only respond reactively. To win a war, we must learn how to mount offences as well. Since the enemy is far more numerous with us, we must rely on attacking to keep the initiative on our side.
"Before the Triumph of Balingana, nobody paid much attention to Ranger. We only numbered around 30 thousand and had no help other than a weak, newly formed colonial corps. Our enemies, on the other hand, numbered 300 thousand. It was due to our firm grasp on the initiative of battle that we were able to cut off their supply route and seal off the entire battlefield to blind our enemy to the most current information on the battlefield. That caused them to overthink matters and end up defeated when they ran out of supplies.
"By striking defensively, holding onto the initiative and blinding their scouts, we were able to draw them along the path we want by the nose. The enemy was nothing more than a slow, dumb giant that is all size and no threat. Regrettably, your two seniors have been too heavily influenced by formal military doctrine, so they aren't able to learn how to strike defensively. The moment they enter battle, they revert to the traditional methods. They are careful to a fault and won't take any risks.
"You are different from them. Your talent lies in mounting attacks. It's in your blood. Your ability to grasp opportunities and sensitivity towards the tide of battle are things that struck awe in me. You had always been able to deal the fatal blow during the moment the enemy least expects it and swiftly with utmost efficiency and speed. For instance, in the battle you fought to take Wickhamsburg, I had thought that you wouldn't have been able to set fires to all the warehouses easily even with the secret passage. That was the crux to our victory in Balingana.
"The enemy's forces were double yours. Two garrison lines defended Wickhamsburg and had the advantage of fighting from within a fortified city. Who knew you'd use the secret path to instead take control of the gate and lead Line 131 immediately to their command post to force the two lines of enemy soldiers to surrender. With the smallest casualties, you occupied the whole city and burned all the warehouses, which was the final blow the 180 thousand enemies heading towards Wickhamburg needed to fall into despair and surrender.
"Needless to say, the brilliance of your decision to move the supplies out of Wickhamsburg away and build a camp nearby can't be overstated. While the brass refused to give you proper credit and recognition for it, I remember how much help you were to me well. Given all that, I believe that you are the most qualified person to take after me. Only through attacking can we win!"
Claude felt more and more elated at the sound of it. Heck, anyone would when the war god of the kingdom, Miselk, praised them with such fervour. After hearing the detailed rundown by the general, Claude was convinced that he was the man for the job.
"This time around, the officers and soldiers from Ranger who will transfer out will be the backbone of the three enhanced corps," Miselk said, "I will have your two seniors serve as your aides. Leave the important defence assignments to them. Colonel Bolonik is the folksman of 1st Monolith Folk. Colonel Sevict is the folksman of 2nd Monolith Folk. These two folks by the name of Monolith will take over the defence line at Dorinibla River in Robisto and Claude Defence Line in Anfiston respectively.
"With the two of them having your back, you can attack without any reservations, knowing that they'll keep it safe. Roam free in the areas of Cromwell and Balingana to search for opportunities and use your unique approach to attack the enemy and deal them as much damage as possible. That's why the folk you're leading will be called Thundercrash. Just like Ranger, it shall be a mobile attack force. Do you see why I named it thus now?"
Claude nodded and sat straight up. "General, I promise that no enemy shall stand firm before the clap of our thunder. We'll come swift as lightning, overwhelming and booming. When we attack, no foe shall be able to weather our crashing barrage. We will strike fear in their hearts and cause them to devolve into incoherent fools..."
"Swift as lightning, overwhelming and booming... Well said. Claude, I hope you can live up to what you said," Miselk said as he relished in the beautiful description. "I will have most of the soldiers transfer to the local keeper forces for now and leave their gear and war horses with you, so don't worry about that. In fact, the royal nobles will even be happy with that.
"After all, they'll get a chance to install their own members in the vacant positions of Ranger, have enough space in the corps to openly draw in their subordinates for a piece of the pie and use the lack of gear as an excuse to demand huge funding, no doubt pocketing a good amount of it for themselves.
"The ministry of the army will also be glad to let that happen. After all, it's the money of the royal family that's being spent. Not a single copper will have to come out of the ministry of the army's coffers and they could stand to earn a cut off the royal nobles by cooperating..."
Claude felt that his eyes were once more opened after hearing so much about the secret backstage of the kingdom's politics. He had thought that the kingdom's army had been a place where the battle-crazy, ridiculously strong warmongers gathered. He had learned that from experience in the recent war, and he was part of them as well. He didn't think the brass would also plot against one another for the sake of their own personal profit.
"Don't think so gloriously of the brass' plans. Most times, the orders and plans they come up with are riddled with compromises that take care of all parties' interests," Miselk said like he had seen through all of it, "For instance, promoting you to take over my position as field marshal of this war theatre might seem like they're putting huge trust in you and letting you take care of these four war theatres and putting you in command of five enhanced folks with some 160 thousand men.
"However, if it weren't for Shiks' threat to send over ten corps to take the colonies, you would never have a chance. Even my recommendation won't do. There will be more than enough people who will try fighting for this position. It's precisely because it isn't boding well for this position that you are able to take it. It's like how you put it. Who would want to sit on a throne with a sword dangling just above?
"However, I firmly believe that as long as you can defeat the standing corps of Shiks, nobody will be able to chase you away from that position. Naturally, I doubt Shiks would be able to keep this going after a loss of that degree. When peace ensues, the kingdom will close this war theatre and you'll have successfully cemented your position in the military as a legendary hero of our kingdom."
After his encouragement speech, Miselk returned to the main topic. "I've already solved the problem of recruiting replacements you brought up. I struck a deal with those new merchant nobles of the kingdom and the elites of the kingdom are in agreement of our arrangement too. The deal's simple. We'll hand over the 500 thousand Shiksan captives to the new nobles while they send us 100 thousand households of kingdom settlers to the war theatre.
"The most crucial part of this deal is that each of those households has at least a youth who had fought in the five-year war in Eastern Freia and was discharged. The merchant nobles will be paying the cost for their move and stay and our job is to give them a stable vocation. To support us in the next colonial war, the ministry of the army agreed to send over 20 local keeper tribes who were part of the five-year war even though they couldn't send a whole corps here.
"So, you won't have to worry about not having enough reserves. The 100 thousand households represent 100 thousand soldiers. Coupled with the 20 tribes, you'll have more than 120 thousand experienced veterans to pick from. Add the soon-to-be ex-members of Ranger and the men from the two colonial corps and you'll have enough for five enhanced folks with more than enough reserves to fill in later."
Claude widened his eyes in shock. "General, are the new nobles insane? They're going to trade 100 thousand households for 500 thousand captives? We're in a war zone! Don't they care about the safety of those people moving here at all?"
Miselk laughed derisively. "Claude, you don't understand. The brass doesn't care about the safety of those households at all! They're more concerned with the 500 thousand captives they won't have to pay to order around. After all, they are really short on manpower in their newly conquered territory -- the 29 prefectures of the three defunct duchies.
"You might have heard of the troubles they've faced over the years. They had hoped to draw in mix-blood natives from our colonies, around a million of them, to make up for the manpower deficit. However, the shrines caused a fuss over the House of Dignitarians' vice chairman's proposal and tore it apart. That's why nothing more came of it, so they have to turn to us for the captives.
"While 100 thousand households sound like a lot, each of the 32 old prefectures of the kingdom have three thousand households. Sending them to us will save them lots of trouble. In fact, they'll have to thank us for this. Do you know why? It's simple. These peasant households all had someone who participated in the five-year war. They were discharged and sent home when it finally ended.
"As they didn't have enough merit and didn't serve enough time, they weren't able to gain dignitarian status. But as they had participated in the war, they've grown more aware than the average peasant. Leaving them in their territory is akin to keeping unstable belligerents in their backyard. Most of them are rather poor peasant households who can't afford to move away to the newly conquered lands.
"However, the new nobility managed to find a loophole in the immigration regulations: while they're there to ensure that each prefecture could fulfill its drafting quota, the kingdom actively encourages any of those households that wants to be settlers to move to the colonies by not restricting them that much. The settlers also get to enjoy dignitarian benefits as peasants and are more easily able to make a good living.
"That's what made the near-million settlers we have come in the first place. Every time a war ends the number of settlers increases. If the war hadn't happened on Nubissia, we'd definitely have even more coming. When the discharged soldiers get moved from the prefectures to the colonies, the situation there will stabilise. That also aligns with the kingdom's emigration policy, so there's another benefit there.
"The burden for the moving settlers is considerably lightened thanks to the new nobility footing their costs. We also provide them with career opportunities here in the war theatre. The discharged soldiers have a chance to rejoin service to get their dignitarian status, so it's something everyone can be satisfied with. The risk of losing one's family, is, after all, unavoidable no matter what. It's something they have to accept if they agree to move to the colonies.
"As for the 20 local keeper tribes, they mostly come from the new nobility's territories. The former officers will get everything ready for us before we take them in. What comes next is up to you. Reorganise the five folks and perfect the defence lines. Remember, you only have three years at most..."