"Based on how it's been so far, Shiks is helping the exiled courts of Nasri and Canas to form a reclamation army of sorts. They don't pose a threat, at least for now. No matter how loud they shout, they wouldn't be able to summon the rainstorm. All they can do is send a small unit to invade our borders for reconnaissance or to stir up riots. They wouldn't be able to affect the stability of Eastern Freia as a whole much," Skri summarised with his stick pointer tapping on the map hanging off the wall.
The high-ranking officers from both corps all attended the meeting to deal with the two bad news they received not long ago. It was yet another grand meeting held at the royal capital between the leaders of the military and civil administration of the region. With Skri as the region's representative, he gave the others present a short briefing on the situation to make them understand the threat the region would be facing.
"Shiks' Seaking had been completely destroyed by Ironclad, so they wouldn't be able to rely on the ocean to send their troops. During wartime, Shiks formed a transport route through the Kingdoms of Bleyotte and Mambamark to supply their troops at the frontline. They can also transport injured soldiers back through that route.
"But now that the war is over, Shiks no longer has a good reason to request a way through those kingdoms, because if the kingdoms allowed that, it would mean they were in league with Shiks, the nation that declared war against us. Bleyotte and Mambamark definitely wouldn't take part in a war that has nothing to do with them.
"As there are two nations separating our fiefs and Shiks, coupled with the fact that Shiks lost their only navy, we aren't worried about starting a war here in Eastern Freia. Their support of the exterminated nations is merely them trying to reinforce the notion that they're still the boss of the Union and remind others they still exist.
"As for the army they're helping to form, they'll at most be able to send in small units into the Nasrian region to cause trouble, and we all know who the king enfeoffed the fiefs in that area to. So, the ones who'll have to deal with the rioters will be the nobles of the kingdom. Their household forces should be more than sufficient for that.
"As for us, our fiefs are in the Canasian region in Northbay and on the Great Plains of Canas. It's basically an extension of the autonomous region on Freian soil once the enfeoffment is officially carried out. The region has decided to send a flotilla from Ironclad to dock at Northbay to defend it. As such, Shiks is merely a caged rabid dog to us. There's nothing they can do to us no matter how loud they bark."
After going over Shiks, Skri had his adjutant and guards switch the map on the wall out for one of Nubissia. He would then go on to discuss the ill effects of the ban of the region's products on the western coast.
Skri tapped on the map a few times and waited for them to quiet down. "Unlike Shiks' announcement, we think that this is more serious and worthy of our attention. They raised an embargo against us!"
Chatter broke out in the meeting room again. One loud voice called, "Declare war! Let's declare war against them! How dare they chase out the merchants from our region? It's discrimination! Let's crush them with our forces and force them to sign a free-trade agreement with us!"
Skri grimaced at the delusional fool. The first thought on his mind was actually war. The sad thing was, many others in the meeting shared the same views, as they cheered in support.
Skri tapped the wall hard once more to suppress further discussion. Once they all calmed down, Skri shook his head. "Yesterday, we've already discussed this matter with the executive committee of the council. Our conclusion was that we can't go to war over this matter.
"This isn't something war can solve. Our region doesn't have the time nor ability to gain a swift victory. The longer this drags on, the worse it will be for us."
"Why?" asked another council member loudly. He sounded like the one who called for war just now.
"Look at the western coast on the map here. I'm sure you all can tell that the combined territories of the western coast is around four times the size of the region's. Their colonies stretch inland into the centre of the continent and have near a century of headstart compared to us in development. They have better population size, infrastructure and scale than ours."
The earliest Nubissian colonies were formed at the western coast, which was fertile, vast and rich. However, the region's land in the south used to be the most desolate and poor areas. Stellin X only went south because he wasn't able to form any colonies at the western coast. Only through six decades of nonstop development did the colonies become what they were today.
"Two centuries ago, the colonies at the western coast used to fight one another nonstop before settling into the current status quo. These colonies belong to the eight Southern Freian nations. The Northern Freian nations that used to have colonies there were pushed out, so they had no choice but to go to the decrepit northern snowy highlands and eastern coast to found their colonies. That's why Shiks started the colonial conflict in the first place. They wanted our territory in the south.
"Nowadays, the western coast is the territory of the eight Southern Freian nations. Over five decades of peace, the colonies underwent rapid economic and civil development. Fortunately, those eight nations treat the colonies as supply providers to be sucked dry like Aueras used to do to the colonies. They suppress industrial development for the most part, keeping exports mostly to raw materials.
"So why did our products end up selling so well across the western coast? It's simple: they're cheap and of decent quality, unlike the eight nations which sell their bad-quality products back to their colonies at a high price. Due to their monopolistic policies, their settlers can only buy their expensive products and endure having their wealth slowly siphoned away, leaving them no choice.
"But this all changed once our products were smuggled there en masse. Even though the western coast's officials tried their best to stamp out smuggling activity, their citizens still chose to buy our goods instead. That caused quite a lot of the products those nations produced to be unable to sell out. In other words, we infringed upon their interests.
"Thanks to our victory against the Shiksan forces, the governments of those eight nations don't dare to settle this by force. All they can do is object strongly and request us to control the smuggling activity. We refused their request back then and told them we believed in free trade. Since people were coming to buy from us, we won't refuse them, and where the products were shipped were of no concern to us.
"Two years ago, two-thirds of our products were smuggled to be sold in the western colonies. Last year, our exports decreased somewhat due to the war, but half of our products still made their way there. It's worth noting that around ten million crowns' worth of our region's paper money is circulating on the western coast.
"The citizens of those colonies even managed to evade taxes by using our currency as the governments of those colonies refuse to acknowledge our currency while the citizens could easily change them for their own currency with the various merchants. I believe that's also one of the main reasons our merchants with legal businesses were driven out of the western coast."
The warmongering council member interrupted Shiks, "We know all that, but that isn't a justification for not going to war! If we send out Thundercrash and Monolith as well as Ironclad, the ban will completely disappear and their forces will be crushed! They'll be forced to accept trade with us!"
"You think of this too simply!" Skri said, frustrated, "Declaring war against the colonies is akin to declaring war against their nations on Freia, understand? Like how Shiks declared war against the former Aueran colonies, the kingdom sent Ranger folk here as reinforcements!
"Those eight nations have four times the territory on Nubissia than we do, and have a total population of more than 60 million. While most of them are mix-bloods, colonisation of over two centuries has already caused them to adopt the identity of their respective nations. They have this huge advantage over the nikancha we have here. If we declare war against them, we'll be seen as the aggressors. The mix-bloods will be willing to take up arms against us!
"Do you think our two corps with 200 thousand men will be able to sweep through those colonies in a short time? It's impossible to achieve without at least five years. Even if we did end up defeating them, we wouldn't have enough forces to maintain order, unless we go full draft until we reach a million troops.
"Do you know what fielding a million troops will mean? It'll be a super-large-scale war we can't afford! Not only are we going to fight those colonies, we're also fighting the nations backing them. They will send resources there nonstop and even send troops to attack our region.
"By then, we would be completely helpless. Our kingdom will definitely not offer us any support and will likely seek to cut off ties with us because they wouldn't be able to withstand the pressure from all eight nations. What they want the most now is proper rest and recovery. So, we can't go to war just because of this embargo."
Skri couldn't be more direct about how they couldn't afford to fight that war. They simply didn't have the funding, support and forces to do it. The stubborn council member still seemed dissatisfied, but he was immediately forced to sit back down by those around him.
"Who's that?" Claude asked Weyblon.
"That's old Boman's son, Anderclost Joist. He was quite lucky and took over the council member post from his father just in time to be made a hereditary baron. However, his family has around 17 factories in Robisto producing daily necessities. Most of his products are sold to the western coast and he's the one most affected by the embargo." Weyblon, as always, was really well versed about the council members' backgrounds.
Claude chuckled. "No wonder he was so emotional and even called for war..."
Skri continued, "Even though the western coast's colonies have an embargo against us, the smuggling won't stop as long as there's still profit to be made from it. What the council can do is to first provide armed escorts for the smugglers and forge new smuggling routes to ensure they wouldn't easily be captured by the colonies' authorities. At least, they'll need to be able to retaliate.
"Second, we'll be needing a trading hub on Freia for our development of Northbay and the Great Plains of Canas in the next two to three years. Products from either continent will be traded there. We will make it the biggest free-trade market to draw merchants from various nations there to buy our goods so they may ship them back to their respective homes.
"The executive committee trusts that this project will soon be one of our main gains from the fiefs. Even with the losses we incurred from the embargo, the profits of the new trading hub will more than make up for it, so we only need to be patient. As we develop the new fiefs, the committee will also be sending representatives to negotiate with the colonies to lift their embargo."
"Are you going back to the region this time around?" Weyblon asked.
"Yes," Claude said, "Thundercrash and Monolith is held up here and can't return, but we still have to deal with the situation at the western coast or our economy will be negatively impacted. Officially, our current focus is to transition our investments to our fiefs and develop them. However, we will teach those western colonies a harsh lesson behind the scenes.
"They really picked a good time to cause us trouble. With our two corps held up in Eastern Freia and Ironclad having to defend the ports here, there's nothing much we can do against the embargo. However, we will not give up on the market there."
"But there's only a Monolith folk in the region as well as 12 local garrison lines. Our forces there are really sparse. Should we send a folk or two back instead?" Weyblon asked with concern.
"Hahaha, I'm not going back to wage war. I just want to see if there's a way we can lift the embargo without force. The region has been fighting over the past two years and we really need some good rest. I even plan to discharge part of our forces to lower military spending. Not all problems need to be solved by force. Trust in my judgment. I believe the western colonies won't want to go to war with us either."
"Let's hope so... Will Lord Militant Bolonik be going back as well?"
"Yes, he will be heading back to transfer over to civil administration and take over Chairman Bernard's duties while he's absent. As for the development of Northbay, Generals Skri, Birkin and Eiblont will be here to handle it. I'm sure they'll be more than capable of maintaining order on the Great Plains of Canas."