"Take a seat..." Claude motioned for the nikancha elder and leader to sit down. After his performance just now, he trusted that no nikancha would be stupid enough to mention something so foolish as abandoning the northern mountainous coasts.
"I think you are still not aware of one simple fact. It's impossible for the Shiksans to send all ten of their standing corps to Cape Loducus. According to the scale of their own navy, Seaking, and the Alliance's navy, they can only transport around 100 thousand men, about two corps, at once. In other words, even if they make three trips each year, they'll be able to transport only 300 thousand men, which is around six corps.
"Naturally, we can't discount the possibility that they can use the navies of other nations to help with the transportation of troops, such as the Fochsian navy. Even so, there will only be a maximum of two to three corps in the coming 4th month. Those numbers aren't any threat to our war theatre, but that might not be the case for you."
Claude saw in the ambassadors' faces a look of discomfort and anxiety. Three Shiksan corps definitely wouldn't haphazardly come to the war theatre just like that. However, they wouldn't hesitate to attack the nikancha nation with those numbers.
"I can guarantee that one of our war theatre's corps will be enough to take on three Shiksan corps. We have the past three colonial wars to prove that. The first thing the Shiksan vanguard would do will not be to come for us, even if you gave up on the northern mountainous coasts. The Shiksans will only carefully send small units of scouts in fear that the way you opened up for them is actually a trap we set."
Claude first praised the combat prowess of the war theatre's two corps without holding back and immediately shifted the focus. "Over the many years we fought the Shiksans, I can say that we've grown to know our enemy, Majid III, the best. He's a crazy gambler who always puts all his chips into the colonial war. Even now, he doesn't care about the losses he's sustained.
"It's obvious that this mad king thinks he'll gain ultimate victory. For the first three corps he sends over, he definitely won't use them to attack us as he's afraid that we'll fight all the way back to their territory and disrupt their troop deployment. However, they can't just leave their troops in Cape Loducus doing nothing but wasting food. So, we are quite confident they'll start attacking your nation first.
"To them, attacking you is merely an act of quelling a rebellion by belligerent slaves. They'll reclaim the inland colonies your nation occupies to reestablish contact with the other colonies they have here. Once they get them all back and the remaining corps arrive, they'll have far more routes to use to attack our war theatre and wouldn't have to fight us in a defensive battle in the mountains."
The chiefs and elders' faces turned sour, perhaps due to Claude touching on the thing they were most worried about, but none of them dared to speak out against it. They remained silent for a long while. Just as Claude was about to continue, a rather aged nikancha elder stood up.
He bowed to Claude humbly and said, "Honourable General Claude, we already foresaw what you said as an augury. That's why we have been sent here as ambassadors to request your gracious aid. In this battle, the Shiksans are your enemies just as they are ours. Whether they attack our nation or not first, their final target is still the war theatre. In this time of crisis, helping us is akin to helping yourself."
Foresight through augury; the old man really knew how to spin a story. If they really had that power, they wouldn't have made those unreasonable demands to the war theatre and only sincerely asked for help now. Just mere moments ago, they were threatening the war theatre to give up on the northern mountainous coasts! Did they really think the war theatre would cave and abide by their demands?
"No, no. Elder, please take a seat," Claude said with a bright smile. "Actually, you're wrong about one thing. In this war, it is your nation that requires our help, not the other way around. We don't need your help at all. In fact, we're worried that your help will only give us more trouble.
"There's a saying in our military. We'd rather fight against a fierce wild boar than fight with a useless pig. While a godly enemy is much harder to deal with, we're still confident we can deal with them one way or another. But a useless ally will doom us all. Not only will they drag us down, their help will only exacerbate our predicament and cause us to lose for no good reason."
"Ptoooey! We are no pigs!" A few nikancha were offended by Claude and stood up in protest. "We nikancha will show you what true bloodlust and unwavering bravery is like! We won't give up even an inch of our land! If the Shiksans want to enslave us, we'll fight them to our deaths!"
Eiblont and a few other high-ranking officers held their mouths and chuckled. Claude didn't even specify who the pigs were, yet those elders and chiefs assumed it was referring to them and refuted that claim. Bolonik smiled in resignation and shook his head.
"Very well. Your bravery is to be praised. So you'll fight to your deaths without giving an inch of land. Then what? Who will protect your nation once your men die at the borders fighting the Shiksans? You'll let them march into your territory in broad daylight to pillage and enslave after your fighters all die off, is that it? To the Shiksans, your elderly and sick are worthless to them and will only be wastes of food. They might as well kill them all off and be done with it. They'll only enslave young and healthy men and women who are strong enough to work, after all."
All it took was one rebuttal for their expressions to shift for worse. They knew Claude spoke the facts. It was an unpleasant but, nevertheless, true statement. There was still one nikancha chief that didn't seem satisfied. "Why are you assuming that we'll lose against the Shiksans? Can't we resist their attack and even defeat them?"
"Ignorance really is bliss!" Claude sharply retorted, "What are you basing your assumption off of? Your superior numbers? No matter what numbers you have, one only needs enough time and ammunition to kill you all off. We're in the era of firearms now. No matter how brave or tough your nikancha warriors are, they won't survive a puny Shiksan bullet!
"Yes, you have firearms too, the same ones the Shiksans use at that. But what good would that do? The Shiksan corps are strictly trained in various strategies and tactics and have firm discipline. Perhaps they aren't as brave as your youths, but they obey orders and follow instructions. That's one of the basic conditions to win a battle.
"From the time I sent officers to help train your tribe, we learned that you're undisciplined and you chiefs often break military regulations during the training. Later, your relatives we trained for so long only learned how to fire muskets, nothing else!
"Discipline! Discipline! This is the sole condition that must be satisfied to unite the troops in battle and maintain their combat prowess. However, you gave up on discipline yourselves. Our officers came back and commented that individual nikancha youths are indeed capable fighters, but you can't work in a group even if your life depended on it. Even if there are ten thousand of you, we only need to send a thousand to wipe you out.
"And yet, you want to defeat the Shiksans? I don't think you can do that even in your dreams, with that hodgepodge group of jokers you call soldiers. Do you even know how to set up a defence line or command post? Don't tell me you're going to wave your muskets and charge at the enemy? That's suicidal! How many of your youths are you prepared to mobilise against three standing Shiksan corps? 500 thousand? A million?
"When the Shiksans use cannons to bombard your strongholds, do you know how to protect yourselves? Or are you just going to get blasted to smithereens? How can you count on resisting a surprise night attack if you can't even keep a security perimeter up? One day, you're going to sleep soundly and wake up the next day enslaved. I suppose I should congratulate you in that case. At least, you'll get to live, which is an achievement, really.
"You don't even know the most basic of tactics. Even though you've learned how to use muskets, you can't even compare to our local garrison forces. You'll still have to pay a huge price to obtain a pointless victory. I really don't know where you get so much confidence to even think you stand a chance against the Shiksans, and even defeat them."
Claude's words horribly embarrassed every one of the elders and chiefs. Even the man that stood up to deny that they were pigs sat down with his head hung low.
Claude swept his gaze across the room, satisfied with the effect of his mocking. He supposed that the nikancha would be more self-aware that way and no longer make any ridiculous demands.
"Let's get back to the topic and talk about how we can defeat the Shiksans. Actually, I don't plan to negotiate with you. This is my ultimatum to you, to your nation. Naturally, we aren't interested in your nation and all and don't want to occupy your territory. Having eight large colonies is enough of a headache already. I wouldn't want to find any more trouble for myself and bear the burden of ruling the huge area your nation has laid claim over.
"Here's my ultimatum. If you don't follow our plans to the letter for the war, you can sit and wait until the day your nation gets eradicated. Right now, we consider your nation our ally and acquiesce to your requests. But this time around, we're not trading like usual. This matter has to do with the survival of your nation. We take this with utmost seriousness and came up with this plan of defence.
"I don't know why you refused to follow our demands the first time around, but I can tell you with certainty that this is the only option if you want to save your nation from the Shiksans. Only by strictly following every step of the plan and receiving our military aid will you stand a chance of defeating Shiks. Only after gaining a complete victory in the upcoming war can your independent nation earn the recognition and respect of the nations of the other colonies at the western coast.
"Otherwise, you'll always be a bunch of rebellious slaves in their eyes who formed their own nation without knowing the extent of their capabilities. They'll definitely never acknowledge your nation to be a sovereign and independent one. Naturally, we'll also help you on that front as your ally. Whether it be troops, cannons or firearms, you'll get them as long as you can pay for it."
"What... what if we can't follow every single one of the plan's demands and can't achieve every strategic objective?" an elder asked.
"It's simple. Since you're unable to carry out the plan, it'll simply mean you lack confidence and are helpless against the Shiksans. In that case, our war theatre won't bother to give you any aid. We'll just sit here and watch your nation burn and send our troops to conquer the territory you lost while the Shiksans' heads are up in the clouds from their victory.
"By then, your nation will no longer exist. The battle will still be fought in the territory that you used to occupy. We'll eventually defeat the Shiksans. Hopefully, you'll still be alive in the Shiksan slave camps. We'll save you and grant you freedom, but the war theatre will no longer permit the founding of another independent Shiksan nation. Perhaps you can test your luck on the western coast."
He was forcing the nikancha to make a choice. They did, in fact, need enormous amounts of help, and the war theatre could do without a pig of a teammate. Naturally, they wouldn't refuse the wholehearted aid of the nikancha, but if they dared to pull any tricks from behind the scenes, the war theatre would not hold back. They could immediately leave the nikancha behind and let their nation fall first before sending out their troops to fight the Shiksans.
By then, they would be able to take the territory of the nikancha nation. The only limiting factor for the war theatre was the low population numbers in the eight colonies. Apart from Cromwell, Balignana and Anfiston having more than a million inhabitants and had respectively developed a third of their lands, the population in other colonies still numbered around 400 to 600 thousand. The towns and cities were still surrounded by forests and undeveloped land.
Another nikancha elder stood up. "Honourable General Claude, we had discussed among ourselves your plan and believe that it is of great help to us, but we are barely able to do what it says. Part of it states that we have to use scorched earth across most of our nation's territory, but up to three million of our kin live there. The areas that remain aren't enough for those tribes to live in at all."
Claude shook his head helplessly and walked to the map on the wall, pointing at the remaining two-thirds of the Shiksan colonies' area. "I really don't know why you folk are so complacent. Just because you have enough area for your tribes to settle down, are you telling me you no longer want to attack the other Shiksan colonies and mines? Can't you simply capture those areas for your three million citizens to live in?
"If you're not confident about the strength of your forces, we can send ours to help take the rest of the Shiksan colonies for you. We'll hand the area over to you, but we will keep 70 percent of the spoils. At the same time, we will have each one of our tents guide one of yours. We'll teach your men how we attack step by step. You can add that to our agreement.
"Additionally, I don't get why you still want to hoard the gold and silver you have at a time like this and proposed an instalment plan to pay us back instead. Are you trying to leave the ingots for the Shiksans? If you use them to buy weapons from us, you'll be able to take out more enemies. As long as the Shiksan colonies fall into your hands, you'll have more than enough gold and silver deposits to mine once you run out of money. Don't you understand something so simple?"
Eventually, all the ambassadors caved. They requested to have another round of private discussions. Soon, the oldest elder came out of their meeting room. "Honourable General Claude, we agree to all your demands. Our only hope is that you lead us to victory against the dastardly Shiksans."