Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 421

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Claude was finally made aware why the Shiksan nobles were so keen on forming their own mining companies to start excavating in their inland colonies. Even though the nikancha nation only occupied a third of inland Shiksan territory, they already located more than ten gold or silver mines. It went without question that there were even more in the other two-thirds they had yet to conquer.

The Shiksan nobles were only interested in gold and silver mines, but there could always be mines with metals that were even more precious. They only focused on gold and silver probably because they could easily be refined into ingots and sent back to their kingdom to be traded for large sums of money. The most crucial part of it was ease of transportation. They could easily transport their yields every few months or half a year to the ports with workhorses or donkeys and didn't have to spend much money building roads and the like.

Compared to the inland Shiksan colonies, the seven original Aueran colonies were far too poor. While there were many wide, expansive areas that made them suitable for settling, agriculture and a well-connected transportation network, there were only a couple mines across them. Anfiston had the most gold and silver mines, which was still just three. There were no gold mines in the other colonies. While the surveys reported that there were some ore deposits that were worth quite a sum, a large amount of capital had to be invested before they could be harvested. It wasn't nearly as convenient as mining gold or silver.

With Borkal's help, the theatre and the nikancha nation established firm borders according to the former territory claimed by the colony of Vebator. The theatre benefited quite a bit from that arrangement by including the hills that crossed the colony in the new territorial claim, making it rather easy for them to set up a defence line in the future.

This time around, apart from coming back with the nikancha ambassadors to negotiate the migration, Borkal had other matters he wanted to discuss with Claude. After looking around, he feigned mystery, took out a document he had folded into a small square and handed it to Claude.

"What is this? Do you have to be so secretive about it?" Claude opened the folded document. It looked like a normal list, but the mere sight of it caused him to pull Borkal towards him by the collar. "Where is this all from? Are these real?!"

He couldn't be blamed for being so shocked. The list had one large water-powered presser, one large refining furnace, a few water-powered cutters, drills, and so on. All of them were industrial equipment the kingdom forbade to be shipped to the colonies. With the machines in the list, he would be able to start his own fabrication factory. In other words, he could make his own muskets and cannons, all to a fixed standard!

"Calm down! Calm down!" Borkal pointed at his collar.

Claude loosened his hands with some embarrassment. He downed two mouthfuls of wine and calmed down. So far, there had been much progress at his sister's lab with regards to the new rifle. They were already in the testing phase where they evaluated the endurance, practicality and safety of the design. Usually, they would only be able to find out whether the design matched with their expected standard after firing three thousand shots.

However, Claude got some bad news from Liboyd. Even if the new rifle were invented, there would be no way to produce them on a large scale in the colonies. The colonies simply weren't equipped with the industrial machines necessary for large-scale fabrication. They could only produce a small number using alchemical arrays or skilled blacksmiths. But that way, they wouldn't be able to ensure a uniform standard across all the guns produced.

Now, the equipment list Borkal handed him solved that issue completely. What he found weird was how that kind of equipment fell into his hands. Those should've been the most protected things in the colony.

Borkal wanted some wine to drink as well after being shaken like a ragdoll. When he saw Claude take swigs from the bottle itself, he clicked his tongue and went to the wine rack to pick out another bottle of fruit wine for himself. Claude no longer seemed that impatient and merely watched on.

Borkal finished his drink and pointed at the list. "Would you believe it if I told you I got all that by trading only two cartons of fine wine and a box of fresh beef?"

Claude shook his head. What kind of fool would accept mere food for all that?

"I'm serious." He began his tale full of glee. The equipment he got was actually shipped to Vebator by Shiks. Majid III had wanted to establish a large arms factory in the colonies to produce cannons, firearms and ammunition to save the trouble from having to ship the goods to the colonies. That way, their forces would be able to easily replace broken equipment.

But when the equipment were all shipped over, the Shiksans ran into some trouble deciding on where that factory should be established. There were many considerations when it came to building arms factories, chief among them being a water source to power the machines. They needed a waterfall that could power the factory all year long, and there simply wasn't such a place in the colony of Vebator.

The official who was put in charge of the formation of the factory was in deep trouble. Fortunately, he had come with some engineers and surveyors. Given how much area the inland Shiksan colonies covered, they would definitely be able to find a good place sooner or later. So, he sent the engineers and surveyors to look for a suitable spot for the factory to be built.

It was too bad the official wasn't aware that the Shiksan nobles didn't care about Majid III's initiative at all. They had set their sights on the engineers and surveyors. Given how far away the kingdom mainland was, there was a severe lack of high-skilled talent in the colonies.

Back then, the colonial wars hadn't begun. It was the time when Majid III only just started to set his sights on the Aueran colonies. He wanted to construct a factory in the colonies so they would have the upper hand. He didn't expect the nobles to be blinded by the riches they could earn from the mines. They were in great need of professional surveyors to find new mining zones for them. The engineers could also help devise new mining methods to increase their profits or scale the operations.

As such, the official soon lost contact with his engineers and surveyors. He realised that the colonies were lawless places unlike the mainland and one's safety couldn't even be ensured once one left the city. He often saw the escorts for their gold and silver yield escape into the cities after suffering heavy casualties and begging for protection. He also found that those same escorts, when they encountered weaker groups of people outside the cities, would turn into bandits or slave traders.

The official had wanted to reach out to other officials in the colonies for help, but he got nothing but excuses in response. Nobody could be bothered to help him. He even tried writing back to the kingdom about it, but it went ignored after the colonial war broke out. The equipment was already there, and there was no way he would be getting rid of it, so he might as well wait till the war was over to establish the factory.

Eventually, the official's only job was to watch over the equipment. The manager of the docks' warehouses found the equipment to take up far too much space and forced the official to move them to an abandoned storehouse in the western sector of Port Vebator, which was near the shantytown of the nikancha. The official had no choice but to live there with his servants to prevent the nikancha from going in to steal his stuff.

Just like that, the official guarded the equipment for four long years until Port Vebator was surrounded by Thundercrash's light cavalry. With supply prices in the city rising, the official and his servant could only fill their stomachs with potatoes. When Bolonik led the royal guard folk to attack the city, the official knew that he would definitely be taken captive. So, he sought Borkal out and traded the equipment for two cartons of fine wine and a box of fresh beef to have a last few days of enjoyment with his servant.

"Wait," Claude said, "Wasn't the city searched in its entirety? If the royal guard found equipment like that, they would be marked for a major achievement! It's a feat even more impressive than capturing the city! How did you manage to hide it from them?"

"Didn't I say the equipment was stored in an abandoned warehouse where the nikancha lived? After the nikancha were captured by the Shiksans and enslaved, the shantytowns were completely abandoned. Nobody lives there apart from some wild dogs, rats and other little critters."

He continued on with his know-it-all tone, "And when I found the equipment, I immediately went to the docks and looked for the supervisor there and found the records of the equipment being brought ashore. So, I destroyed the records and now, nobody knows about all that equipment in the city. Naturally, I was only trying to hide it from the royal guard folk. They'd definitely send them back to the mainland as proof of their achievement.

"After the capture of the city, I got some merits for leading the way during the attack, so the officers of the royal guard trusted me somewhat. When they conducted the search, they also sent some units to the shantytown just in case any enemies were hiding there. I told them I was using the old warehouse for my company to store some supplies. I managed to camouflage the equipment by placing large wooden crates all around them, so they look like nothing more than furniture. They only gave a rough look before moving on to search the next spot."

"What about the Shiksan official and his servant?" Claude asked.

Borkal sipped on as he said, "I took them under my custody. Their identities weren't revealed and I told the royal guard they were Shiksan commoners I hired to watch the warehouse. After I returned to headquarters following Port Vebator's capture, I excused myself by saying I had company matters to attend to because I was worried about them and the equipment.

"But it turns out I was being a little too paranoid. Nobody showed any interest in the things inside the warehouse. There are no nikancha nearby at that time, so the warehouses were rather safe. The official also kept a dog which serves as a good alarm at night. Once I made sure nothing was amiss, I went to the nikancha nation in search of more business opportunities. I didn't think I would remain there for half a year."

Borkal's bottle was gone after he downed three full cups. When he finished the last of his wine, he wiped his mouth and said, "All the wine here is wonderful."

Claude leaned into his couch for more comfort. "You know that these aren't mine, right? It should be the collection of the former high-commissioner. Well, it's as good as mine now, anyways. Then again, I don't drink much. I much prefer red tea, since it helps me stay awake. Feel free to take some back. Consider it a gift."

"Sure. It's not yours anyway, so I'll help myself to them. I saw a few expensive bottles just now that I've only heard about, but not seen in the mainland." Borkal pointed at the list on the desk. "So, how are you going to deal with the equipment? I checked on them when I got back from my business trip. They're still in perfect condition and belong to my wild-bull company. Are you going to sell them off or leave them there?"

Claude rapped on his desk with his middle finger nonstop in thought. "The theatre and our intelligence department has shares in the wild-bull company. I'll give you a sum of money to buy the equipment over. We can't involve your company in this at all. Right now, I've hired people to design a new rifle. It fires brass cartridges just like the revolver you got. So far, development is going smooth and we'll have a proper prototype soon.

"I was wondering how we could mass produce them. These industrial machines are just what I need. I'm going to set up a large arms factory in the colonies. Naturally, I'll give you some shares for the factory as a reward. I'll also involve the other people in power here in the theatre to become shareholders in the factory as well."

Borkal nodded. He took out a thin copper medal with an engraving of a wild bull's head and placed it on the table. "Alright, I'll let you decide what to do with the machines. This medal symbolises the one who runs the company. Just take this to the warehouse in the western sector of Port Vebator. Everyone that works there has this medal, the official and his servant too."

"Also," Claude said, "I need to ask that official about the names of the surveyors and the engineers that came with him. If possible, find them in the nikancha nation. See if any of them ended up captured by the nikancha and forced to work in the mines. Ransom them back if you can. These people are valuable talent. We can't have them wasting away in the mines. I'll need them for the construction of the factory."

"No problem. But this will have to come after we help the ambassadors deal with the nikancha tribes here. It should take some time for them to be convinced to leave."

"No problem. I know how troublesome the migration efforts are. Help them go north first. We'll do this step by step. As for the medal, I'll hand it to someone else first and send them to check on the equipment as we pick out a suitable spot to build the factory in the colonies."

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