Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 389

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Even though the senior officers in the theatre were grouped with Prince Hansbach's faction, they were a little too far away to be directly involved in the business back home. Claude, for instance, was a peasant officer of whom Prince Hansbach had taken notice and had gained Lord Militant Miselk's favour. He had used his talent to get achievement after achievement under to eventually become a major-general.

Though he knew the latest updates from the capital thanks to Weyblon, such as Miselk's recent injury, there wasn't much he could do to help. Nubissia and Freia were separated by the Tranquil Ocean. He was simply too far away to make any difference. Miselk was hurt during the assassination during the 5th month too, and he didn't hear a thing about it, so it was likely that Miselk had intentionally kept it secret to make sure nobody in the colonies were worried.

In some way, the five enhanced folks were units that belonged to Prince Hansbach. More specifically, the folksmen and most of the high-ranking officers in them were Miselk's own students, all peasant officers who joined Ranger. Their loyalties lay with the first prince alongside Miselk.

As a result, the ministry of the army and the other corps in the kingdom didn't favour Ranger and sent them to Nubissia to repel the Shiksan invasion the first moment they could.

However, they did surprise everyone when they obtained miraculous victories and emerged the victor in both colonial wars, exterminating seven Shiksan standing corps in total. They instantly became the corps that contributed most to the kingdom and the ministry of the army had no choice but to allow Ranger to be raised from folk to corps status and promote a large number of officers in it, as well as promote Miselk to Lord Militant.

The Stellin royal family and others in the ministry of the army, upon seeing how impressive Ranger's reputation had become, summoned Miselk and Ranger back. However, the base framework of the corps and most elite troops were left on Nubissia and refitted into five irregular enhanced corps.

After that, the royal family transferred all officers with a blood relation to them into Ranger and made it a corps that belonged to it proper. In fact, as they cut away Miselk's influence to give the royal family more authority, they were neutering Ranger's combat prowess at the same time.

It wasn't that Miselk didn't understand what the ministry and royal family were aiming to do. However, he didn't really care much about it and had no intention on holding tight on Ranger at all. He was mostly concerned with how the resistance against Shiks was going in the colonies. So, when the ministry of the army suggested him to join the strategy department, he cooperatively resigned as corpsman of Ranger and became one of the many strategists in the ministry of the army's high council alongside Prince Hansbach.

The ministry of the army and high-ranking officials believed that those who remained in the colonial war theatre were destined to be sacrificed as cannon fodder. After all, Shiks had announced their intention to send ten more standing corps there and swore to continue the war for good.

If Aueras hadn't gone through the five-year war, they might've been able to fight Shiks toe to toe. However, it had been less than eight years since the war on Freia ended and the kingdom's treasuries were mostly empty. While they obtained the territory of the three fallen duchies in Eastern Freia, most of it was desolate and time and funding was required to make those territories productive again.

The kingdom also had no choice but to form three standing corps to maintain their grasp over those new territories, so military funds were spread really thin and there wasn't any additional resource that could be spared on the war in the colonies. As such, most of the kingdom's officials held a bleak overview on the situation on Nubissia, as was reflected in their bottom line being keeping the defence line in Anfiston defended to ensure they at least kept three of their colonies there.

Little did they know that Claude Han Ferd, who succeeded Miselk as field marshal, would be that effective and fierce. Though he was initially seen as a scapegoat to take the fall for the failure in the colonial wars, he managed to take the initiative and lead Thundercrash, a ripoff version of Ranger, on an attack on the Shiksan colonial forces.

The third colonial war didn't only just exterminate three enemy corps; two of them belonged to Aueras' archnemeses, Canas and Nasri. That ending completely overturned the situation in the colonies and kickstarted the internal rebellion of the Shiksan forces. Within the foreseeable six months, Shiks would not be able to send any reinforcements to Nubissia.

The ministry of the army and the high-ranking officials saw that as a golden opportunity, so they sent a general of the kingdom, Hereditary Count Aljess Kai Osmolin, to assume the role of field marshal to give the Shiksans a fatal blow by conquering Port Vebator and cutting off Shiksan communication with their inland colonies to end the colonial war for good.

Claude found out about the intentions of the ministry of the army through Weyblon and the newspapers he brought, but he wasn't able to change any of it. He was on Nubissia and would soon be promoted to lieutenant-general, however, he couldn't contact the people in power of the kingdom. In their eyes, he was merely an effective and high-ranking fighter they had at their disposal.

Weyblon didn't just come along to bring news. He also wanted to discuss the matters of the two iron factories they partnered up to run. The success of the mortars netted him a huge order. Claude decided to have ten thousand mortar rounds made for each of the enhanced folks. Half of them were used for live-round training and the other half was saved for use in battle, so Weyblon was now having a headache over how he would be able to fulfil the order of 50 thousand mortar rounds within such a short timeframe.

In terms of profit, each round cost no more than one silver thale to make and was sold for a crown each. In other words, each round netted four thales of profit. The margin was so high it was comparable to robbing a bank. Weyblon even left his own family business to others to manage while he focused his efforts on the collaboration with House Ferd on the arms factories. After all, the profit was far too alluring.

Currently, the war theatre's financial situation wasn't as tight as when Miselk left it. Thanks to the spoils from Claude's victories in the third colonial war, the war theatre's funds numbered in the tens of thousands. Since the new field marshal would be coming in another month, Claude wouldn't leave any of the funds in the public account for his successor to mess with. So, he spent all of it to stock up on all sorts of gear and supplies, and mortars were the main item to buy to raise the combat effectiveness of all five enhanced folks.

Apart from the production of mortar rounds, Weyblon also wanted to discuss the hot-air engine with Claude, or, as he had branded it, the firepower engine. After the attack Claude mounted with Thundercrash, Weyblon hired all sorts of mechanical geniuses to start working on them. Now, there were five prototypes of different sizes and the mine owners took great interest in them. Weyblon now had more than a hundred of those engines ordered.

He hoped that Claude would not take out the profits of their factories within the coming three years and instead reinvest them into the expansion of the factories. he promised that within three years, he would be able to build the largest metalwork factory in the colonies. That was when true profit could be enjoyed. Claude happily agreed to that request.

The next afternoon, he went to the war theatre headquarters to do his work as usual. During noon, he wanted to have a meal with the chief logistics officer, General Skri, all the while discussing the matter of revamping Wickhamsburg's fortifications. Just as he was heading to the logistics building, he heard a loud muttering. Skri was talking some sense to that person before the loudmouth stopped unwillingly and left.

Claude entered Skri's office and saw him rubbing his temples. "What happened to make you seem so troubled?"

The two, being good friends, didn't hide much from one another. Skri grimaced and said, "That person just now wasn't from our war theatre. He's an auditor sent here by the ministry of the army to inspect the arms factories. He came to complain about how the new chief machinist had wasted more than 800 gun barrels for experimentation. The auditor can't afford to be held responsible for that kind of consumption and demanded that we warn the new chief machinist and authorise certifications for the damaged gun barrels..."

"Why does the kingdom regulate gun barrels so strictly?"

"It's simple. Each barrel can only be used to make one gun, and our Aueran guns are the best and most advanced on Freia. Those that control them control the fate of our armies--" Skri raised his tea cup. "--While our five enhanced folks here seem strong, we'll be unable to fight the war if the kingdom stops supplying us with firearms, cannons and ammunition. After all, they're the most-expended goods on the battlefield."

He took a sip and continued. "I know what you're thinking. We can just use the enemy weapons we get from our spoils, right? However, our troops are used to using our weapons and cannons. Would they really use inferior ones like the enemy's? It's a different story if the enemy we're taking weapons from are our kingdom's forces, but consider how many of our men will be willing to revolt with you in the first place.

"So, while we are far away in Nubissia, the ministry of the army still holds a tight leash around us. This is why they approved a firearms repair factory and refused to let us have a factory that makes firearms in the first place. With a repair factory, we can assemble new guns from gun barrels alone. That will greatly reduce repair costs. All we need is for damaged gun barrels to be shipped here from the mainland. But if we build a firearms production factory instead, it could fall into the hands of the local colonial forces. If anyone among them is dissatisfied with the ministry of the army's orders, there is a chance they'd cut off all relation with the kingdom and rule the colonies for themselves."

Skri put down the cup in his hands. "It's a simple method, but it's really effective. Whatever, I won't drone on too long with you. Tell me why you came here. I'll need to check on the repair factory once I'm done eating. I wonder what that chief machinist is up to, damaging so many good firearms within such a short time..."

"I came here to invite you to have a meal together. I also wanted to discuss the funding for the refortification of Wickhamsburg," Claude said solemnly, "I believe the bill for the design and reconstruction of Wickhamsburg and the four other castles in the two colonies shouldn't be footed by our war theatre. Instead, we should request the kingdom for them. If the brass doesn't permit it, I believe we should hold back the gold and silver ingots our mine produces. The mining association has been growing rather dissatisfied with handing over sixty percent of their yield entirely for free to the national bank."

That was the last thing Weyblon discussed with him last night on the association's beckoning. Currently, all of the tax collected in the seven colonies were being spent on the war theatre's five enhanced folks. As the ministry of the army didn't provide any further funding, the war theatre had to collect their own taxes to be self-sufficient.

However, the association's two large gold mines and a few other silver mines in Anfiston still had to pay sixty percent of their ingot yield to the national bank unconditionally. That amounted to near 200 plus thousand crowns of profit. The remaining forty percent, after deducting the costs, left only little for the association. Sometimes, they had to pay off their connections and associates and that left little to no profit for members of the association.

As the saying goes, 'the world runs on money'. The mining association used their own methods and technologies to be able to produce as much yield as they do, yet they had to pay the national bank in the royal capital so much. Ever since they found out about Claude's proposals to reinforce the five castles in Balingana and Cromwell, the association saw it as a good opportunity to stop sending sixty percent of their yield away using that as an excuse.

Skri instantly knew what he was getting at, having gotten along with him for a number of years, and shook his head. "This won't be easy to achieve. The surrendering of the mining yields to the national bank is under the jurisdiction of the national treasury, not the ministry of the army. It's a huge part of the yearly budget and everything is already set in stone. But as the kingdom isn't able to send us any funding for our war efforts here, we are given the exceptional right of collecting our own taxes.

"Then again, it's not like we have to take into account the national treasury and the ministry of the army either. We just have to submit our proposals and request for funding for the refortification project and they'll definitely reply that they don't have the funding for us and ask us to sort this out ourselves. So, we'll just do as they say and hold back the yield of the mines to fund the post-war construction efforts.

"Since it's public spending, if the national treasury is dissatisfied with it, they can bring it up with the ministry of the army. I believe that while we'll be publicly criticised by the ministry for it, they'll actually be secretly cheering for us. However, make sure to have your proposals drafted first and don't bring up the yield of the gold and silver mines in it.

"We have to wait until the national treasury to respond that they don't have funding for us before we can lay our hands on the mines' yield. If they dare trouble us for it, we can proudly show their lack-of-funding reply to them. I believe the one to bear responsibility for this will be the field marshal anyway."

Claude burst out laughing. He was going to retire from his position as field marshal in another month anyway, so the general who wants to be Lord Militant would be the scapegoat for this issue. "Alright. Let's get some food. I'll follow you to the arms factory after that and we can continue to talk about this matter on the way."

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