Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 569

It was the 11th of the 9th month in Port Patkara on Manori Plains in Bleyotte.

The third voyage to transport the homecoming Shiskans and their families to the region was about to commence. Up to 500 large, sail transport ships filled the docks to the brim, their decks filled with the families of the troops. They wanted to look at their homeland one last time before setting off to unknown frontiers to start their new lives.

"We have an extra 47 large sail ships and eight ironclad transport ships, so we are able to transport another 500 thousand people. It's all thanks to General Birkin," Moriad excitedly said, "Had he not asked Liberty to use fire to attack Port Felimz of the three Southern Freian nations with fire, we might have another hundred plus transport ships though."

Claude shook his head with a slight smile. It was already rather difficult for Birkin to procure as many ships as he had. When the region went to war with Shiks, the three Southern Freian nations, Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk, sent an allied army to reclaim their colonies in Nubissia. A force of 400 thousand invaded the pamigar republic and conquered most of the land stretching inland from the coasts.

The Pamigar Liberation Front were completely helpless against the allied army and had no choice but to retreat inland to losman territory to continue their fight. Once the allied army entered Lesnia's second colony at the western coast, they began a horrific, vengeful massacre against the losman, killing everyone else but young women they could enslave.

The losman had no choice but to stop their infighting to unite against their common threat. With the pamigar and losman asking for help, the region had no choice but to join in and renamed two Monolith folks into voluntary folks and recruited many retired veterans to form the Liberty Corps. They began their campaign in the pamigar republic and fought three victorious and defensive battles to hold back the allied army of those three nations.

When the ambassadors of Freia came to demand answers from the region, Birkin replied that Liberty was a force formed from retired troops who were currently civilians and had nothing to do with the region. Now that those civilians were operating outside the region at the western coast, they were beyond the region's jurisdiction, so the region held no command over them.

The most laughable thing about that exchange was as they were arguing semantics with Birkin, they were purchasing all sorts of daily necessities from the region to supply their allied army. Birkin, however, had to meet the ambassadors to push responsibility away while commanding Liberty at the same time and barely had any time for himself.

It was during the 12th month of last year when Birkin found the opportunity to approach the allied army during new year's eve. He commanded the pamigar forces and a special operations unit from the voluntary troops to infiltrate Port Felimz and launch a surprise attack on their transport ships, burning up to a hundred of them and also setting flames to tens of warships. The attackers then sailed to the seas after commandeering tens of transport vessels for themselves.

That attack on the allied army's transport ships was a historic event for the liberation of the western coast. The allied army, having lost their support, had no choice but to switch to defence. The pamigar forces, losman light cavalry and Liberty reclaimed much of the land and conquered towns in a counterattack against the allied army during the first half of the current year.

The 47 ships Moriad mentioned were the spoils from that battle. The ships were completely overhauled and renamed before they were taken under the banner of the region's transport fleet.

Moriad also brought Claude a large stack of reports concerning the battles in the western coast By the time he finished reading them, he wasn't too worried about any big changes on that front. Instead, he was considering whether he should offer Birkin some aid.

Birkin stated in his report that Liberty was good at defence thanks to being formed from two folks from Monolith. However, they lacked the ability to deal a critical blow when the time was right. For instance, in the surprise attack on Port Felimz, the attacking forces suffered quite a number of unnecessary casualties because their attacking spirit and tactics were far behind those of Thundercrash. Sometimes, the lack of a decisive drive and push caused them to suffer casualties where they wouldn't need to.

Usually, Claude should think of how he could send a Thundercrash folk back to help Birkin. Berklin might be a good candidate and was fully capable of working under Birkin. But after some more consideration, he decided to hold Berklin there for longer. Operation Wildfire wasn't an urgent matter, so it was better to wait for things in Shiks to stabilise first.

Claude wrote in his reply that the battles in Shiks might take another year or so to conclude and asked Birkin to slow down the pace on his side instead of trying to defeat the allied army in the shortest time possible. Instead, he should use the time to cycle out the units that took part in battle to slowly train the pamigar and losman troops to be better fighters.

He believed that defeating the allied army wouldn't mark the end of the war, but rather, the start of another. The pamigar republic and losman territory used to belong to Moloshik and Lesnia in the first place. Even Wasilisk's colony was mostly conquered by the pamigar forces. As those three nations still hadn't admitted to losing, the other nations with colonies at the western front couldn't really interfere.

Currently, the allied army was only fighting by themselves. If they had the support of the other nations at the western coast, there would be no need for them to purchase supplies from the region in the first place. It was from that report that Claude reasoned that the other nations on the western coast didn't hold good intentions for each other.

Buying military supplies for the troops from the region was the obvious choice thanks to their good prices and quality. However, buying meats and food raised eyebrows. The price of food on the western coast was much cheaper than those of the region and they would also save on shipping costs. The sensible choice was to buy from other nations on the western coast.

And logically speaking, the other nations there should be happy to sell to the three nations trying to reclaim their colonies. Food wasn't inherently valuable in the first place, and selling them off would net them some good profits.

Oddly, however, those nations that so loudly proclaimed that they should stick together against the threat of the revolting natives excused themselves by claiming they didn't have enough stock of food thanks to civil unrest caused by the revolts and refused to provide any aid to the allied army on those grounds. They also began to transport troops from Freia to their colonies with the excuse of preventing revolts. It was said that a few nations already had at least two corps transferred to their respective colonies.

While Lesnia, Moloshik and Wasilisk's ambassadors came to the region to object, they did end up making a long list of purchases. Some more loose-lipped ones among them revealed that they were dissatisfied at their trade request being refused. Birkin merely wrote that down in a joking tone, but Claude could feel the hatred contained within those words.

That was why Claude asked Birkin to not eliminate the allied army too quickly. The longer time that passed, the more the allied army would bleed out. Eventually, they would be unable to reclaim their three colonies. That was especially the case for Lesnia, that had two colonies but was bleeding out too much from trying to reclaim one.

Claude believed that by the time Lesnia lost enough blood in their second colony, they would collapse if the losman in the first colony got riled up. Soon, Lesnia would lose all their Nubissian colonies. Additionally, Claude also suspected that the other nations were probably waiting for the allied army to fail, hence their non-interference. Once that happened, they might swoop in to split the unoccupied colonies among themselves.

So, it wasn't a good time to send aid to Birkin. While it would definitely be effective in dealing with the allied army, it wouldn't do much once the larger chaos ensued.

To complete Operation Wildfire and liberate the natives for good and allow them to found their own independent nations and cultivate a market the region could trade with was a difficult and long-term effort. More time was needed, and there was little chance of success in the short term.

Claude had long been prepared to work long term for the sake of Operation Wildfire. It was different from the war on Shiks, which wasn't going to last long, to begin with.

The region was completely uninterested in Shiksan territory. The main reason they went to war was to get the homecoming Shiksans and their families to emigrate to the region. It was also a good chance to plunder more wealth to solve their financial issues. It could also help Aueras get rid of yet another long-standing nemesis.

Claude wouldn't deny that part of it was also due to him wanting to shock the king and his ministers. Ever since the king decreed the enfeoffment of land to the region's nobles in exchange for 30 million crowns, large amounts of military gear and an ironclad warship fleet, they had been pining after the region.

Perhaps this war would serve as a wake-up call to the king and his ministers. They should understand that while they stood to gain much monetarily and military from the autonomous region, the region should never be their target, for they even managed to best the northern giant that was Shiks. Given the disparity between their strengths, Aueras would do well not to antagonise the region and strive for a mutually benefiting relationship instead.

Two months ago, Claude met the ambassadors from five nations neighbouring Shiks who wanted to reclaim their lost territory. Generously, Claude told the ambassadors to do as they pleased and Suncross and Castro were free to enter the five eastern prefectures. However, it would be best if they waited until Thundercrash swept through them first before they handed those five prefectures over.

As for the ten western prefectures, Monatro, Tumak and Isabra had to retake them themselves as the region didn't have enough troops at the moment to deploy there. He did, however, mention the Shiksan force of 300 thousand that just entered the region and joined up with the local garrison forces. So, if the three nations wanted to reclaim their territory there, they would need a substantial force to take them on.

But with the help of the ambassadors, Claude finally found out more about the Shiksan force. Their leader was also a Shiksan duke with blood relations to the Shiksan royal family, allegedly a cousin to Majid III. His name was Nirtoz Surt Shiks and was also known as the Duke of Sunset River.

The duke's household was based in the northern prefecture of Felinor, a really strategic location. His house was enfeoffed land there because the Shiksan royal family hoped they would be able to counteract the influence of the ducal house of the Northlands, House Feriot. But now, it seemed that they didn't achieve what they were tasked with. It was already a miracle that they didn't end up suppressed by House Feriot themselves, to say no more about them suppressing House Feriot.

However, the current war allowed the Duke of Sunset River to leave his poor fief with the hope of becoming a conqueror. He used his status as the king's cousin to sell his fief to Duke Feriot and amassed a force of local garrison troops and marched into the ten western prefectures while shouting the slogan of driving the invaders away and revitalising the kingdom, conveniently ignoring Thundercrash that was still active within the nine eastern prefectures.

After four of the ten western prefectures were so horribly treated by the Aueran noble army, they welcomed a legitimate force with ties to the Shiksan royal family with open arms. Nirtoz immediately gained popular appeal and took over those ten prefectures and began to amass his forces and strengthen defences, anxious to fortify the ten prefectures like a turtle with a hardened shell.

Duke Feriot, on the other hand, was still an elusive mystery to Claude. It seemed he wasn't the least bit worried about more than half of Shiks falling. Even when the two Shiksan standing corps, Jesca and Clyde, came to join him, they were only ordered to defend the borders. It seemed as if he didn't have any plans to leave the northwestern highlands to retake conquered territory.

Fortunately, the eight homecoming Shiksan folks didn't enter the eleven northern prefectures, so there was no need for Claude to deal with Duke Feriot. By the time Thundercrash swept the central prefectures clean and Typhoon was sent to escort the remaining family members within the six remaining western prefectures, all the region's tasks in the war would be complete.

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