Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 369
"This is the opposite bank of Lake Lanu. It's where Torma River flows into the lake's triangular area and the land here is really rich and fit for farming. Back then, manpower was really lacking. But now that we have these settlers, we only need two years for Anfiston to be self-sustainable with food. Naturally, it wouldn't be enough to sustain the demand of the war theatre, but it's more than enough for the four mining settlements.
"We're going to set up a town here and call it Torma. In fact, we'll be building up to seven towns along the river. This triangular area should be able to settle down around 70 thousand farmer households so that the plains of Anfiston on the other side can be developed as well.
"However, we doubt there'd be that many people willing to work the fields among the 100 thousand households. For instance, of the 17 thousand plus settlers from this batch, apart from one thousand households recruited by the mining association, some two thousand other households have mastered a skill or trade and are willing to borrow a loan from us to start up their little workshop or storefront. These settlers will be settling down in Lanu and the four mining settlements."
Claude was currently riding on the opposite bank of Lake Lanu away from town and listening to Sir Bernard, the one in charge of civil affairs, explain how the settlers will be dealt with. Claude was glad that Bernard wasn't merely a person who only talked and put up a show of competence, but rather an actual competent bureaucrat rich with experience. The settlers were adapting just fine with him guiding them. That saved Claude quite a lot of trouble.
"Sir Bernard, has there been any difficulties on your end?" Claude asked.
"Yes. The biggest one right now is our lack of manpower," Bernard said with a nod, "We have to assign these folk uncultivated land for them to start and they can build their own houses. However, we still have to plan the town layout and how sewage is going to run through it. The main roads of the town also have to be designed by us.
"However, we lack the labour for all these projects and can't afford to hire any. While Lord Militant Miselk had ordered the 30 thousand men remaining in Ranger to work on that, they are only in charge of the work in Lanu. The most time they can give us to work on the sewage construction is a month before they will be sent back to the mainland. Without the 30 thousand soldiers, the construction of the following six to seven towns won't be able to finish."
It was a rather troublesome matter. Dealing with the settlers wasn't a simple matter as giving them a piece of land and leaving them alone. Towns, roads and other infrastructure had to be constructed. Their daily necessity needs also had to be met. But so far, all the war theatre could afford to do was to keep the settlers supplied, but they lacked any funds to hire labourers.
"Do you have any proposals to solve this, Sir Bernard?"
"I do, but I need your help with it."
"Tell me then. What do you propose?"
"Isn't every single household of the settlers going to have a member who's going to rejoin the force? Just have those people help us with the construction like what Ranger is doing now. That way, we can finish all the work in half a year and settling down all 100 thousand households would no longer be a problem."
Sir Bernard had turned his sights on the discharged men. That was a free labourer force of 100 thousand. However, Claude refused the suggestion after some consideration.
"This won't do, Sir Bernard. The soldiers will have to be retrained and get used to life in the military once again. You should know that they've only joined during the five-year war with minimal training before being discharged again and left inactive for five to six years.
"Even someone who has received military training before would need some time to get used to army life again. Since these soldiers don't have much experience in the first place, they would need even more time to be trained into proper soldiers. This is one of the reasons the kingdom agreed to send them to us -- they're a little too unstable and unpredictable.
"What's most important in the war theatre right now is the formation of the five enhanced folks and resisting the assaults of Shiks. But now, the 20 thousand veterans from Ranger and those from the two colonial corps only make up less than a third of what we need. The five enhanced folks need a total of 160 thousand soldiers but we only have less than 100 thousand qualified soldiers.
"The Lord Militant kept rushing us to complete the folks as soon as possible, but there's nothing much when the pool of men we can recruit from isn't ideal. Right now, all hope is placed on those 100 thousand retired soldiers that they get back into shape as fast as they can. That's why I can't approve of your proposal. These 100 thousand troops must not be delayed from joining our forces and training."
While he was refused by Claude, it was hardly a surprising outcome. He knew that Claude was merely stating the truth. What the war theatre needed most now wasn't settlers, but rather, the formation of the five enhanced folks to ensure that they would be able to keep at least Anfiston in the upcoming war with Shiks.
He furrowed his brow in thought and said, "Marshal, since we won't get them to work as labourers, can you have logistics send more food and necessities? That way, we can pay the nikancha youth to build the infrastructure. However, we'd have to hire even more supervisors that way."
This was the far less ideal option. They didn't have enough money, after all, no budget to fund their project. As Sir Bernard had mentioned, using the food they pilfered from Shiks to hire nikancha labourers was indeed a good idea, but they were usually hit or miss. The working efficiency alone could make someone despair. Without large numbers of supervisors watching them tightly, they might take three to four years to fix a road a hundred metres in length.
"Alright. Food will be provided by the three colonies in the rear. We can simply report some of them as spoiled. Initially, the food was supposed to be sold to the settlers anyway, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to hire the nikancha people with it. But I have another idea for you. Why don't you use this food to hire the settlers to supervise the nikancha? It's an easy job that won't involve direct labour on their parts."
Bernard gave it some thought and agreed. "It's a great idea. I think the family members of the settlers will be more than willing to help. They've just moved here and lack these crucial necessities, after all. Paying them with food will save us quite a lot of money. We might be able to pay them with jerky, furs and food. Since winter is coming, I'm sure they'll need a good amount of those."
Having settled the issue, Claude immediately returned to Lanue. The moment he entered headquarters, he saw Colonel Saljorak waiting for his return. Claude apologised for making him wait that long. Saljorak respectfully greeted Claude as a subordinate and told him that he got results for what he was asked to do.
After entering Claude's office, Saljorak took three documents out from his leather bag. The first was the testimony which Claude wanted. In it, the merchant stated that he was a Shiksan spy who had been sent to the frontlines to gather intelligence. He admitted to using money and women to buy General Fansnik to his side and got to know many military secrets from him. That way, Shiks could plan better for the next war and save on logistics cost and supplies.
Claude was rather satisfied with it. With the testimony, General Fansnik's crime was practically set in stone. Claude himself wouldn't have to be charged for disobeying a superior officer.
The most surprising part was how the testimony didn't appear forged. The witnesses and proof were all that they needed. Even the merchant's three maidservants chipped in and said that they had heard that Fansnik would sell weapons to just everyone no matter the price.
The second document was the real testimony. Unlike the first one, the second sounded even faker. In fact, the merchant was indeed a Shiksan. However, he was actually a smuggler. He had come to this colony because he hoped he would be able to buy some food and resell them at Port Vebastor. As Shiks mainly prioritised mining, they didn't pay much attention to agriculture. As a result, they had to import lots of food from other factions.
Ever since war broke out in the colonies, food trade between the Shiksan colonies and the Aueran colonies had stopped. The price of food in Shiksan colonies shot up rapidly. While agricultural efforts had been undertaken, it was far from being able to fill the gap. It came to a point where merchants often smuggled food from other colonies to Vebator. It had become a rather profitable trade route.
This Shiksan smuggler used two maritime routes across shallow waters. He sailed along the coast really slowly due to the weight and eventually docked at the town of Fishport and went to Grinosburg with his subordinates when he heard there was a lot of food for sale there. He eventually came to know General Fansnik, who was trying to sell their gear away.
The smuggling merchant was overjoyed. Compared to food, military gear and supplies turned a much larger profit. If he could sell them off, he would be able to form a relationship with the Shiksan troops at Port Vebator, which would make his travels much more convenient. So, he decided to make Fansnik a huge offer to purchase all of the supplies in the stores.
The third document was a list of items sold. Claude gave it a look and was shocked at the page filled to the brim with red words. Those red words denoted not the Shiksan gear, but rather Aueran gear. There were some four hundred Aubass Mark 3s, more than three thousand Aubass Mark 2s, standard-issue rounds and even four light-infantry cannons as well as accompanying round and scattershot.
"What... What the hell is going on with this?" Claude asked with a pale look.
Saljorak replied without being fazed in the slightest. "We found these in the convoy. After questioning the soldiers from the logistics tribe about it, they said General Fansnik sold them off. The general said since we aren't able to bring these back to the mainland, we might as well sell them and take the money back. The general even marked all this gear as defective in the inventory."
"He's raving mad! Ridiculous! How could he sell our kingdom's specialised arms to an unknown buyer? Does he think he can do as he like just because he's related to the royals?!" Claude cried.
Three days later, Miselk came back from his Robisto survey to Lanu. Almost immediately, Claude and Saljorak submitted the sale list to him. Miselk read it, tore the testimony they got from the merchant apart and had the guards bring Fansnik, who had been imprisoned for a week, to him.
Fansnik looked completely haggard. The moment he saw Miselk, he angrily proclaimed that Claude and the rest had gone against a superior officer and illegally arrested him. He demanded Claude and the other colonels be punished at the royal court...
Miselk then asked him whether he sold the military supplies.
Fansnik easily admitted to it and said that it was within his authority to do so as chief logistician. According to him, it was a legal sale and the funds would be deposited into Ranger's accounts without him taking any of it.
Miselk had his aide, Niwis, read the first testimony out loud and Fansnik collapsed immediately. He knew how damaging that testimony was and immediately called foul. He asserted that he wasn't a spy and the testimony was forged.
However, Miselk considered it true even if it was forged. He had a few guards come over and immediately pulled off the gold-sun shoulder mark on Fansnik uniform, properly relieving him of his duties as general. Then, he got the guards to escort Fansnik back to his cell. Miselk said he had no way to punish Fansnik then and there and could only relieve him of his post for now. He could only be dealt with back in the mainland by Prince Hansbach.
The reason Miselk rushed back from Robisto was the impending arrival of the kingdom's ambassador. Unlike the other settlers, the ambassador was there to inspect the three colonies in the rear. His trip was a little slower than the settlers as he had to meet with the high-commissioners and viceroys first.
Two days later, the ambassador finally reached Lanu. He brought over a formal notice that announced Ranger's return to the kingdom on the 11th month after their reorganisation. He also brought a formal letter of appointment to make Claude the folksman of Thundercrash and field marshal of the theatre. He was also promoted to major-general.