It was the 5th of the 4th month, Year 593, in Cape Loducus.
The Nubissian rainy season had just passed some ten days ago. Golden rays of sunlight basked the slight, reddish surface of the sea, creating sparkles that dazzle an otherwise calming, dreamy scape. The clear seawater brushed gently against the fine, dark-red sand. A few children carrying small buckets picked shells on the beach, setting the mood with a pleasant symphony of joyous, carefree laughter.
A child looked up and froze all of a sudden. The rest, when they couldn't get him to respond, turned to look at the sea, following his gaze, and realised why their friend had fallen into a daze. Small, black dots were covering the horizon.
It was a fleet the scale of which none of the children had ever witnessed. The sheer number of ships was enough to block out most of their vision. Everywhere on the seas within their field of vision was occupied by ships, and behind them, more ships, all sailing rapidly towards Cape Loducus.
Clear ringing of a bell came from Cape Loducus' lighthouse. It was the tune of welcome. When pirates came to attack, the bell would be rung at a furious pace to incite tension, instead of being ringing once every few seconds like it currently was.
The cannons also boomed, their barrels pointed towards the sky as they fired ceremonial rounds, causing countless 'stars' to rain down from the sky. It was too bad it was currently daytime. The inhabitants of the city would only be able to witness the fireworks during new year's eve and the birthdays of the six dukes of the United Kingdom of Fochs.
The ringing of the bell and the cannon salute represented only one thing: the rich Shiksans who leased Cape Loducus had arrived. The officials of the colony in the city and other influential folk were well dressed. They rushed to the docks with their families to welcome the Shiksans and hand over jurisdiction of the colony to them.
The advance party had already finished preparations beforehand. They had near a hundred carriages ready by the docks and moved the barrels of wheat ale out of the carriages. It was a reception for the Shiksan officers that just arrived so they could drink and let loose after the tense, month-long journey.
As the representatives of the wild-bull company sent to deal with the citizens of Cape Loducus and the Shiksan advance party, the informants of the theatre were dragged to serve ale by the Shiksans due to the lack of manpower. That, however, allowed them to observe the first Shiksan corps in close proximity. They could tell whether the troops were competent by observing how the soldiers got off the ships.
A day later, Claude received an eagle message from the informants that the Shiksans had arrived. As expected, they sent three standing corps over. These three were among five corps that were formed from the 300 thousand Shiksan captives that were released from the newly conquered territories of Aueras. Their names were rather peculiar as well. The five corps were called 1st Penitence to 5th Penitence respectively, and three had already arrived.
The informants said that all soldiers in the three corps were veterans around the ripe age of thirty plus. They were really calm after they got off the ships and seemed like battle-hardened elite troops, just like the veterans from the two corps that had been transferred to the 18 garrison lines in the theatre.
However, the veterans of the theatre were transferred to the garrison forces so they could serve as reserves whereas the released Shiksan captives were there to wipe their humiliation away after being worked like slaves in the labour camps. Perhaps they would be the toughest enemies the theatre had to deal with so far.
The informants also revealed something they heard after everything ended the day before when they were drinking with members of the Shiksan advance party. A few members of the advance party could take the ships back to Freia, but those that remained would serve as logistics officers for the troops in Cape Loducus and continue to purchase goods for them. So, they still needed the informants to continue selling them ale and hoped that they would smuggle even more food from the theatre.
After they got drunk, they unknowingly revealed something. The Shiksan navy, Seaking, and Nasri and Canas' Alliance navy which they loaned Shiks, as well as Goddess Verona, a Fochsian fleet, were the ones who facilitated the current round of troop deployments. Goddess Verona joined in for free for this time only due to the lease deal. The three fleets would return to Freia to transport the remaining two Penitence corps from the newly conquered Aueran territories to Cape Loducus.
At the same time, Shiks would be hiring Goddess Verona to transport food and equipment. When the transport of the two corps and their equipment was complete, the five Penitence corps would soon take action and attack the eastern mountain area occupied by the nikancha.
"What do you think?" Claude asked Eiblont. The two of them were currently in the nearly completed Castle Moknad in the colony of Vebator where the only large silver mine was located. Castle Moknad had been destroyed during the nikancha rebellion and later rebuilt. A garrison line comprising veterans was stationed there to prevent theft from the nikancha through the border.
Since the deal between the theatre and the nikancha was agreed upon during the middle of the 2nd month, the theatre formed a frontline command post in Castle Moknad. Claude was the head of frontline command with Eiblont and Birkin as his adjutants. As for Bolonik and Skri, they had to remain in Lanu for handling administrative tasks across the eight colonies.
"Bick is already on the way to the eastern and northern mountain areas in the nikancha nation to hurry their move and preparations for scorched earth. A survey of the terrain was also necessary for the defence line to be built. So far, the nikancha appear rather cooperative. They sent us enough youth labourers to build our strongholds and promised to provide manpower to help with our logistics shipments.
"Colonel Berklin and Colonel Moriad's two lines have also launched attacks on the remaining inland Shiksan colonies. During the two years of our occupation of Vebator, the metals mined in those colonies couldn't be shipped out and were thus stored. After conquering seven mining bases, we obtained around two million crowns' worth of gold and silver. It's too bad we have to give three-tenths of them to the nikancha."
Eiblont sounded a little unwilling. Thirty percent of two million crowns was 600 thousand. The battles were fought only by Thundercrash's two lines with the nikancha serving as guides, logistics support, keeping captives in line and morale support, yet they were getting such a huge cut. There were still more Shiksan manors and mines to look forward to and much to be split with the nikancha. Eiblont was a little unhappy at the thought of it.
Claude smiled and looked him in the eye. "I now understand why Majid III wants to fight us to the death, as well as where he's getting all that funding. Seven gold and silver mines alone produce nearly two million crowns' worth of metal in two short years. There are tens of these mines littered across the inland Shiksan colonies. Those mines are mostly owned by the nobles of Shiks and the kingdom will profit ten percent off them.
"A simple estimation is enough to see truly how much Shiks is profiting off their nobles' mines. It's no wonder everyone says Shiks is rich. Their nobles often make astronomical bids during auctions. Shiks has been operating their colonies for nearly twenty years, so how much gold and silver did they excavate in that span of time? Their treasuries must be filled to the brim.
"That's why even after Shiks lost thrice in the colonial wars and quelled the noble rebellion, they were still able to take out 2.5 million crowns to lease Cape Loducus from Fochs for five years and form ten standing corps while they're at it. The Shiksans absolutely have to keep their inland colonies for their nobles to be able to live lives of luxury. Only then would Majid III be able to sit firm on his throne and keep Shiks as the hegemon of Northern Freia."
"I know what you're trying to say. Keeping the inland colonies means they'll need a safe and reliable port as well as enough daily necessities to provide the settlers working in the colonies, especially the farmers, to ensure a constant food supply.
"That's why that bastard king is targeting Cromwell and Balingana and demanded our kingdom hand them over with Dorinibla River as the cutoff border. The whole reason the colonial wars even started is because Majid III wants our territory! How dare he?
"Back then, our kingdom just concluded five years of war and our treasuries were emptied out. The army lost around 600 thousand men to conquer large areas of wasteland. Before the signing of the peace treaty, Bluefeather and two other irregular corps were completely wiped out in the Great Plains of Canas by Canasian light cavalry. That horrible loss caused quite a number of other nations to underestimate us, thinking they could take advantage of us.
"That's why after our economy didn't develop well three years later, Shiks began provoking conflict at our colonies on Nubissia and used the excuse that our garrison forces shot at their survey units that entered Cromwell first to demand the ceding of Balingana and Cromwell as reparations. The kingdom refused to comply and the war started.
"And here we are. Back then, the top brass didn't expect us to do much but our best to show how determined we are to not give out any territory. We were just one Ranger folk back then and had to face off against two Shiksan colonial corps. Yet, we won and the kingdom set up the theatre from then on. Later, Shiks sent five standing corps and practically gifted us with 300 thousand captives.
"After that, the Shiksans still couldn't sit still and declared they would form ten standing corps to continue the war. I really was startled back then, since Lord Militant Miselk had just been transferred back to the mainland. We didn't have any idea what to do back then. Who knew the noble rebellion would break out in Shiks. In the end, we had no choice but to wipe out the three standing corps they sent to Port Vebator and made Vebator our colony.
"Now, the ten Shiksan corps did actually come. By the time we conquer their remaining inland colonies and their ten corps, let's see what other reason Shiks would have to continue the war. They would no longer have any foothold in Nubissia and this war will finally prove to the other nations the low level of capability of the Shiksan troops. They have lots of money, but they spend it like children.
"I'm sure their neighbouring nations will soon come after them and create much friction in Northern Freia. Once one party lucks out and gets their way, the other waiting predators would not hesitate to jump into the fray. Now, they have around 200 thousand captives in our colonies providing free labour. After losing ten more standing corps, they'll be nearly a million more men fewer. I'd like to see how they would be able to recruit more troops to form new corps against the impending invasions by their neighbours..."
Eiblont seemed speechless. He had thought that the rhetoric Claude spouted about defeating the ten Shiksans was only to strengthen the men's will to fight. He didn't think that Claude was actually serious about making sure that none of the ten corps would make it back. He wasn't going for a normal victory. He wanted to completely take out more than 600 thousand foes. Eiblont didn't know where Claude found the confidence for that.
However, he didn't want to rain on his parade. He still had something important he wanted to remind him about. "Claude, after conquering the inland Shiksan colonies, we have to give all the territory, the mines included, to the nikancha. Will that really do? We're putting in all the effort while they only watch from the sidelines to get a cut. That's a little too unfair, isn't it?"
Claude laughed and said, "Do you know why we have to send two lines of ten thousand soldiers to attack the inland colonies? The manors and mines are defended by near a hundred at most. Actually, we only have to deploy a tribe to sweep through their colonies.
"I sent them there because it's a rare chance to train our troops. Most of our corps' troops are new recruits. While they've completed all sorts of training, they haven't seen blood or had any battlefield experience. So, I'm using this chance to give them some experience.
"I had Berklin and Moriad swap units for every attack. Ideally, we'll let all our troops see some blood for them to gain some experience. Consider it a rehearsal for the actual battle. As for the mines, I don't really see them as that important. We'll give it to the nikancha as a taste of the good that is to come for working with us so they feel more confident about our cooperation.
"I would be all too happy if the nikancha are willing to continue the mining after taking over. You know well that gold and silver ingots can't be eaten or used like weapons. At the end of the day, they'll need to trade them with our theatre anyway for actual food, weapons, and luxury products their elders enjoy.
"It's just like hiring them to mine for us. In fact, we don't even have to pay a single penny to get the ores. All we have to do is to trade them large amounts of food and cheap products and some luxury goods. Is there a better deal in the world than that?
"Once they get used to consuming our products and grow dependent on us, they'll give up on difficult agriculture and hunting. All they'll need to do to gain food is to trade gold or silver for it, after all. In other words, our theatre will gain a stable trading partner, as well as a market to which to sell our products."