Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 417
Claude only made it back to his residence during eight at night. He was temporarily living in the mansion of the high-commissioner that was located in the inner city of Port Cobius. Staff-Sergeant Kester approached. He was one of the two guards that survived the attempt on Claude's life by the magi and would be retiring soon. He had just recovered from his wounds. Given his loyalty and honesty, as well as the fact that he already had a family, Claude kept him around as a personal attendant as a noble would a servant.
Just as he was about to bathe and relax, Kester came and said, "General, Viscount Godic has come to visit. He's been waiting for more than an hour."
The name did sound rather familiar to him, though it didn't ring any bells. Kester reminded, "General, Viscount Godic is the supervisor of the national bank's branch."
Claude instantly remembered who that was. The Aueran national bank had set up a bank in the colonies which processed the cashflow in the colonies, such as administration and military costs, local tax collection as well as savings. The national banks were the only financial institutions in the colonies and any large transaction would have to go through them.
However, the banks in Nubissia didn't have any right to mint coins. All necessary coins had to be imported from the kingdom. The stringent restrictions on currency in the colonies by the kingdom caused the colonies to be unable to develop on a large scale because even if a deal was reached, the national banks in the colonies wouldn't have the cash to facilitate such transactions, which impacted the economic development of the colonies rather negatively.
Each of the eight colonies had a branch of the national bank there. As Fearless used to stop at Port Patres during an intercontinental voyage, that used to be the only place where a branch was opened. When a new maritime route was established to Port Cobius, the branch in Port Patres also moved there, mainly because it was simply easier to ship and process the coins that way.
When Claude took over Tyrrsim, he had plans for the national bank branch there as well. It was too bad he couldn't find any weakness of the viscount. In the high-commissioners and viceroys' letter to pledge loyalty to the first prince, many other people in power of the colonies signed their names, but not Viscount Godic.
Claude had no choice but to give up on the plans he had for the bank. Had Godic signed the document, he could've arrested him as a traitor and confiscate the money the bank held by calling it funds ready to be handed to Hansbach. But Godic didn't afford him that opportunity. Even when Claude wanted to audit the accounts of the viceroys, high-commissioners and the others who signed the document, Godic had his subordinates comply. Otherwise, there was no way Claude would've been able to get the million gold crowns.
So, why was Godic visiting him this late at night? Claude gave it some thought and said, "Take Viscount Godic to my study. Have him wait a bit longer. I'll meet him after I've taken a bath."
He washed casually and put on his sleep robes before heading to the study. Upon entering, he saw Godic, a man in his forties, leaning against the couch in deep thought. He didn't even notice Claude's entry.
Claude cleared his throat.
The viscount snapped out of it and hurriedly bowed. "General Claude, apologies for disturbing you so late in the night."
Claude waved. "It's fine. You're always welcome, Viscount Godic. I'm really thankful you cooperated with the auditing of the traitors' accounts. It has been a great help to our theatre's military funding. By the way, what kind of fruit wine do you like? How does blueberry wine sound?"
Godic didn't hold back. He knew that the mansion was merely Claude's temporary residence and the wine collection there actually belonged to the former high-commissioner. He stood up and looked through the wine rack. "I think this Sky Blue will do. It's thick, fragrant, sweet and has a strong aftertaste. I had it once and never forget its flavour since."
Sky Blue? Claude seemed to have heard others talk about it before. It seemed to be a premium blueberry wine. It was light blue in colour and looked transparent as a crystal, just like the endless blue sky, and was named as such. He didn't think the arrested high-commissioner would have that fine a bottle in his collection. Claude really lucked out this time.
"Alright. Let us have a taste then." He removed the bottle from the rack and took two crystal glasses. He then removed the cork and filled the glasses. The clear-blue liquid looked like the calm waters of the ocean under the candlelight.
Claude offered a toast, before sipping some of the wine. It did taste rather good. There was a slight hint of blueberry sweetness. The two didn't speak as they slowly enjoyed the wine sip by sip.
"Not bad. No wonder it's considered among the finest blueberry wines made," Claude praised, before refilling their glasses. However, he stopped drinking and asked, "Let us get straight to the point, Viscount. What business do you have visiting so late in the night?"
"Well, General Claude, I wanted to ask whether this is something your theatre came up with." He put down his glass and reached out for his black leather bag on the coach. He took out a few gold notes representing different values.
"That's right. The theatre issued these. Thanks to the influx of immigrants, the theatre suffered from a severe lack of cash for development and construction. We had no choice but to issue these notes to pay the immigrants for their labour. These notes can be used to purchase daily necessities from different shops in the theatre. The shops can also trade these notes for gold and silver from the logistics department. I had asked the supervisor of the national bank in Anfiston about this before and he said he wasn't able to provide enough coins, so the theatre had no choice but to issue these notes."
As he went through the explanation, he wondered if issuing those notes had crossed the national bank somehow. Was Godic there so late in the night to level a charge against him?
"I can only say that this is a stroke of genius," Godic praised, much to Claude's surprise, "General, you might not be aware of this, but the sheer scale of the migration from the mainland came as quite a shock to everyone in the colonies. The high-commissioners and viceroys were betting on when the theatre would finally collapse, because they believed taking in so many immigrants was nothing but looking for trouble. Based on the military funding provided to the theatre, it didn't seem possible for you all to accommodate so many immigrants.
"I also made some estimations and found that it would take at least three million crowns to settle down more than two million immigrants. That amount is the sum of all the coins in circulation within the colonies, and I couldn't imagine how you would solve that problem. While the results ended up disappointing many, I, for one, was quite surprised.
"The most shocking part for me was how you managed to perfectly solve the lack of funding to settle the immigrants down by issuing these monetary notes. I did some research on them and found that they can be used to replace coins in many cases. However, you'll have to make proper calculations as to how much to issue and make sure you have sufficient gold and silver to back their value up. Perhaps the theatre can issue these monetary notes to solve the held-back economic development across all the colonies as a result of the lack of coins."
Claude was taken aback. Godic obviously seemed to be trying to show the theatre a good gesture. It seemed that the honorary viscount was someone in the know and was well aware that the theatre was mostly autonomous, now that contact with the kingdom's mainland had been cut off. Any and all development in the colonies would have to go through the theatre, even the national bank's.
"You mean to say the national bank is willing to help us issue these notes?" Claude asked with a slight smile.
Godic shook his head. "Apologies, but the branch of the bank I manage doesn't have the authority to do that. However, I believe the theatre can form its own bank to issue the notes. For instance, for each coin there is, two notes representing its value can be issued. So, you can issue two gold crown notes for each gold crown coin you have. For copper coins, we can replace them entirely with notes to make them even easier to carry."
"The theatre can start its own bank?!" Claude asked in shock. He hadn't even thought of it before. He didn't think that anybody could run a bank in Aueras apart from the national bank.
Godic nodded. "Of course. As long as you don't get into conflict with the national bank's interest, there's no issue. There are four privately owned banks in the capital and they deal with funding in other lands, business loans, mortgages and other forms of investment. The royal family even has stakes in them.
"The main purpose of the national bank's branches in the colonies is to facilitate intercontinental trade. With contact with the mainland now completely cut, the branches have lost their purpose. Before the two princes decide on the victor, the branches cannot count on the mainland for sending more coins here and they are no longer able to facilitate development here in the colonies.
"Additionally, the branches in the colonies are heavily restricted, so they aren't able to effectively spur economic development in the colonies forward. Under such circumstances, I believe that the theatre best set up its own bank to optimise the spending of the funds down to the very last penny. Only then will the economy here grow."
Claude took a small sip from the glass and put it back down. "I have a question, Viscount Godic. I want to know why you would bring up this suggestion, being a supervisor of the national bank's branch yourself. I hope you give me an honest answer."
The viscount smiled resignedly and finished all the wine in his glass in one go. "General Claude, to be frank, if you know the reason I chose to become a supervisor here in the colonies, you'll understand why I made that suggestion. I've been serving as the supervisor for this branch for the past 18 years. If things had gone according to plan, I would've retired from the very same post.
"When I was 18, I graduated with the best grades in the academic stream from the capital's 1st National Middle School and easily got a post in the national bank there. In the following eight years, I worked hard and didn't dare to slack off one bit. I was gradually promoted up the ladder and eventually became the youngest branch-office vice supervisor. I thought my life would be smooth sailing back then and that all my efforts would earn me what I deserve.
"That was when all of my troubles started. As the vice supervisor of a branch, I have the authority to limit any abnormal transactions. Sometimes I regret being so clear cut and rule abiding. The moment I found any oddity in the movement of public construction funds in the capital, I started an investigation. That was really dumb of the young me, who thought that it would be a great chance to stand out and make a name for myself. I didn't tell anyone else about it and hired investigators privately.
"In the end, I succeeded and revealed a huge corruption scandal in the capital. There were eight core members of the national bank that ended up involved in this case, all of higher rank than me. More than 30 local officials were arrested. The late king, Stellin X, punished them harshly and I was given the Title of honorary viscount for saving the kingdom near a million crowns in lost funding.
"I thought my career would soar immediately after that. I didn't think I would be transferred to Nubissia to be a branch supervisor here two months later. The supervisor of headquarters sincerely told me that it was a training opportunity for me, and they wanted to polish a fine talent like me up. So, I happily accepted that appointment.
"It was only after I arrived that I noticed the position of supervisor here comes with far less authority than a simple branch supervisor in the mainland. It was a setup, and I ended up serving as a branch supervisor here for the past 18 years."
Claude shook his head with understanding. Godic had gotten off rather lucky, now that he mentioned it. It was obvious that a corruption scandal of that scale wouldn't be resolved just from the arrest of eight high-ranking core members. Perhaps there were even more on the top that would've been implicated had the eight high-ranking members not been thrown out as scapegoats to take the fall.
Had Stellin X not given Godic his honorary Title, he would've been long dead. In the kingdom, it would still be possible for a commoner or dignitarian to be killed without much consequence.
But killing a noble was a wholly different matter. Like a shaken hive of hornets, all the nobles would immediately put pressure and demand for everyone remotely suspected to be involved to be thoroughly investigated. After all, the nobles were just as afraid of others as they were of themselves. They would never let someone who dared to kill one of their own off scot free.
Perhaps it was out of consideration of that fact that the top brass of the national bank's headquarters decided to send Godic to the colonies instead, effectively purging him from their ranks. As Godic himself said, he wouldn't be able to return to the capital unless he retired.
"That's why I no longer wish to spend my life meaninglessly in this position. I don't want to let my talents and knowledge go to waste either. I'm only 45 and there's another 15 years before I retire. I hope to find a place where I can utilise my talents to the fullest and perhaps even exact my revenge upon the national bank. Currently, the theatre provides a good opportunity. I want to use the time when the power struggle is still ongoing to establish a bank that can rival the national bank," Godic said.
Claude emptied the remaining wine in the bottle into their two glasses. "Viscount Godic, I believe we should have lunch together tomorrow. I'll introduce you to General Skri. He might be really keen on hearing your plans for a new bank..."