Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 358
Truth and Excavation
Sometimes, the truth was far simpler than people imagined. General Fansnik had simply come after the wrong person in his attempt to locate the missing Shiksan funds. Claude had provided proof that on the day they spent taking Wickhamsburg, he was so busy that he had to run if he wanted to relieve himself. His every move was being monitored and he didn't have much private time at all.
It wasn't just Claude. His tribesmen, adjutant, and personal guards were all busy supervising the captives as they loaded the supplies onto the carriages and had regulated the order and rate in which the carriages were being sent out. That day, everyone was far too busy to the point that almost every soldier of Line 131 could testify that Claude and his subordinates hadn't set foot into the ammunition storage area.
In fact, Claude really didn't know about the stash of gold the Shiksans hid there on that day. By the time he found out, they had all left Wickhamsburg and gathered at the campsite near the hills. Had it not been for Bloweyk, Claude wouldn't have the fortune of stumbling upon that cash. But by then, it was already inappropriate to add that sum of money into their list of spoils. He wanted to continue hiding its existence.
In some sense, Fansnik and his men had neglected to consider Bloweyk's existence. After all, he was currently participating in the officer training course held by Ranger. Only a few knew about the huge sum of Shiksan money in Wickhamsburg. Apart from Moriad, Dyavid and Gum, who had helped Bloweyk move the money away, the rest were all oblivious to that fact, even Claude himself, Myjack and Berklin. They didn't know about the existence of the money.
Among the near-five-thousand men of Line 131, Bloweyk alone had managed to make his way through the whole ammunition storage area to inspect the types of supplies stored in the warehouses. Naturally, he located the sum of money. He then used Magus' Hands to move those coin-filled chests to the fringe warehouse of the ammunition storage area before leaving and greeting the soldiers guarding the area and left the sealed perimeter empty-handed.
Bloweyk then sought out Moriad, prepared a four-wheeled carriage and drove it to the fringes where he left the money-filled chests. He used Magus' Hands to move some of the chests onto the carriage, stuffed other supplies over them to cover them up, before heading to the city exit. He talked to Dyavid and told him to not record him leaving and drove the carriage to a place where he could hide the money. He did five such runs to move the chests.
In Line 131, Bloweyk was quite the special existence. Even though he was just a corporal in rank and orderman in post, he was Claude's younger brother and had a good relationship with the three bigshot tribesmen, Berklin, Moriad and Dyavid. Even Claude's most trusted, Myjack, was his brother-in-law. While he was technically under the command of the keeper band, the bandsman, Gum, listened to him and discussed any matter with him. So, Bloweyk had quite the easy time in the line and even the vice linesman, Schnak, and the logistics supervisor, Siegfeld, didn't trouble him much and agreed to most things he asked for.
But as Claude was really strict on him, and Bloweyk wanted to keep a low profile, not many soldiers in the line had a deep impression of him. Those who knew who he was would take a step back for him. Those who didn't wouldn't need to go out of their way for him either since Bloweyk didn't get mad at that and use his status to bully others. He also didn't have to get Claude to settle any of his issues. Simply asking Berklin or Moriad to stand out for him was enough.
Like Claude, Bloweyk's soldiering skills grew really fast. In fact, he was much better at that than his older brother. Back then, Claude had ended up rather badly beaten in a fight with the veterans when he first joined as a recruit. Bloweyk, on the other hand, challenged the veterans and fought all of them to draws, whether it be in brawls or bayonet fights. Even in aiming could he rank in the top twenty of the whole line. He was even more of a natural-born soldier than Claude.
After Wickhamsburg was conquered, Bloweyk heard that there was a warehouse that stored Shiksan honour blades near the ammunition storage area, so he decided to go take a look. As he was just a corporal, he didn't get a share of those blades and could only play around with the one assigned to Claude. Bloweyk did remember Berklin say that he could get some custom-made ornate weapons of enemy high-ranking officers on the battlefield if he was lucky, such as golden-laced blades or short-barrels. While those were worth quite a bit, they were art pieces and not really practical to use.
So, it occurred to Bloweyk that there could be a warehouse which stored such ornate weapons in the ammunition storage area, which prompted him to take a walk there. Soon, he noticed a warehouse larger than the rest which had additional locks. Those locks weren't an obstacle to him, however, as he was easily able to get them off with Magus' Hands and Fine Control. What awaited him inside were chests filled with gold, silver and copper coins.
Claude had asked Bloweyk why he hid the money. He honestly replied that it was too much of a shame to report it to the top. The corps would take seventy percent of it and only three-tenths of it would be distributed in Line 131. Each soldier would only receive a hundred plus crowns. While it was a huge amount for the soldiers, it couldn't help Claude and Bloweyk's family much.
Claude was now quite the miser and counted on his salary and wartime bonuses to survive. He ate and lived in the camp and didn't have to spend much of his own money. Bloweyk, on the other hand, was different since he was the current head of the Ferd family. He understood the family's situation well. The household still owed Whitestag National Bank a sum of a few thousand crowns which were borrowed in his name.
It all started with Angelina's woodland endeavour. Purchasing more than three hundred hectares of woodland had mostly emptied the family's coffers. Even Claude's personal thousand crowns were taken out for it. However, that was only the first step. According to the plans Claude set up, they would need even more funding to develop the woodland proper. There were roads to pave, houses to build, not to mention the herb farm Angelina wanted to cultivate. So, Bloweyk was forced by Angelina to borrow a sum of 6500 crowns to develop the woodland as the family head.
Thanks to Claude, the loan was given at a really low interest. However, the rent collected from the red-bricked mansion was only enough to cover the interest of the loan. The woodland investment also wouldn't begin to pay off that quickly. It wouldn't start producing any returns in the coming six years at least.
In some sense, Bloweyk was even more brash and reckless than Claude. So when he saw all that money in the warehouse, he instantly set his mind on taking it.
He told Claude that even with his honorary baron Title, his yearly income didn't exceed 300 crowns. While it was sufficient for living a wealthy life after his retirement, he would still have to count on his savings in case of any emergencies. Other things aside, mingling with nobles alone would only constantly remind him of how he lacked money so badly. Additionally, he also had a son. His wife, mother and sister were going to live in Nubissia for the time being too and Claude would need to spend a lot on their accommodation.
Claude was soon convinced by his younger brother. He didn't have a choice. His few close aides already knew about the matter and were in agreement that they should swallow that sum for themselves. While Claude wasn't that greedy for the money, he didn't want to go against the others' wishes to hide it. Not to mention, half a month had passed since leaving Wickhamsburg. Reporting the money at a time like this would draw even more attention. He might even be demanded to hand in the person who hid the money in the first place. Claude wasn't that loyal as to sacrifice his own flesh and blood for that.
What they didn't expect was the corps would let the rabid dog General Fansnik come in as chief logistics officer. After he was informed about the huge sum by the captives, he came barking at Claude without relenting. The reasoning behind that was simple. He maintained that since Line 131 was the one that conquered Wickhamsburg, Claude should be the one to provide an answer to the missing money. Even after he had proven that he didn't even know about the existence of the money, Fansnik still wouldn't give up.
So, when Claude declared that he would lead Line 131 to head back to Wickhamsburg to dig through the rubble for the missing Shiksan gold, many others in Ranger thought it was a huge joke. Fansnik had sent a heavy logistics tribe to dig through the rubble for more than a week and only found no more than a few Shiksan copper fernis.
Little did they know that no more than half a month since they began, Line 131 soon struck gold literally. They uncovered malformed Shiksan gold keptons, silver kylars and copper fernis, all three kinds. There were even many fine grains of metal, probably obliterated coins. In sheer worth, they amounted to nearly ten thousand crowns. The bystanders were shocked. Claude and Line 131 hadn't been lying at all. They had indeed missed out on the huge sum of Shiksan money.
The other units of Ranger soon couldn't hold back and all flocked to Wickhamsburg in the name of helping out with the excavation effort. They each found a spot and began digging, making sure to wash through every inch of dirt as if they were sifting for precious metals by the stream as a placer miner would, to not miss a single coin. Everyone made substantial gains and they could locate hundreds of crowns' worth of coins on good days and tens of crowns' worth on bad days.
General Fansnik soon received word on the matter. He personally went to the ruins of Wickhamsburg and Claude didn't say much and ordered his men to show all the malformed coins and metal shards they gathered to the general. They had a live counting and had an estimated total of ten thousand crowns. The officers of the other units excavating in Wickhamsburg also had their own collection of metal grains and broken coins which amounted to about the same.
It became quite clear that the Shiksan money hadn't vanished at all. They were just sent blasting away in all directions from the explosions and mixed in rubble and trash. One only had to look harder to find them. When Fansnik first had his men look, they only searched the chests where the money could be stored instead of paying attention to the rubble around the ruins.
However, the sharp general soon realised a loophole in the story. Why were there no complete coins among the pile? Claude and the other officers tried to suppress their laughter or feigned ignorance. They said that they were only showing Fansnik the money and didn't intend to hand them over at all. Those were the fruits of the efforts of the soldiers. They were going to exchange them for some money for a little more bonus for their men.
Claude and the rest were indeed right. The malformed coins didn't have to be handed over. Firstly, they didn't belong to the kingdom and were Shiksan funds. After the explosion, they had become ownerless and whoever found them were the keepers. Additionally, the war had ended for close to half a year, so anything excavated from the ruins could no longer be considered spoils. General Fansnik had no reason to demand that they hand over anything valuable they found.
Pissed and fuming, Fansnik looked at the busy sight of people moving about and busy digging. His sharp eye spied a soldier digging out a shiny gold kepton from the rubble, rubbing it clean on his clothes and putting it in his own pocket with a satisfied smile. Into his own pocket!
The general immediately understood why there wasn't a single complete coin among what they had shown. As Claude had said, finders keepers. Unable to hold it in any longer, Fansnik rushed back to corps command. Somehow, he managed to get Miselk to agree to hold some kind of disciplinary reorganisation plan and summoned all soldiers busy digging away in Wickhamsburg back to the camp to participate in it. Then, he rallied his own heavy logistics tribe to the ruins of the city and set up a perimetre before they did their own excavation.
Unfortunately, his luck was rather bad. After a whole month of busywork, he only unearthed around ten thousand crowns' worth of coins. The ones who had come before had left with the lion's share and he missed out. Having no choice, he returned to camp and demanded the officers involved in the excavation to hand over part of their earnings. After all, there were supposedly up to 500 thousand crowns' worth of coins there. He only had a meagre 0.02 percent of that sum...
Naturally, the officers banded together with Claude as their leader didn't comply. They were having such a good time excavating the ruins before they were called back to participate in the nonsense disciplinary reorganisation plan to let Fansnik monopolise Wickhamsburg for a whole month. Then, the general came back to demand that they hand over part of their share because he didn't get enough. How shameless could he be to have come up with that demand? Claude and the rest even suspected that Fansnik was merely underreporting his earnings to squeeze more money out of them.
And so Ranger fell into disarray over the money squabbles. Oddly enough, General Miselk couldn't be bothered to get involved and Claude was successfully able to escape all suspicion. He could sit back, relax and watch the officers of the corps squabble on with General Fansnik.