Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 438

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Claude took wide steps as he headed for headquarters. Taking off his hat and handing the reins of his mount to his adjutant, Anders, he turned to Eiblont, who was helping him undo his cloak. "Did the three Shiksan corps have any activity around Cape Loducus in the past half month?"

There had been some urgent matters at Blackstone Arms Factory which Claude had to deal with personally. Angelina and Sonia also made great progress with tube-propelled mortars, so he rushed there to tend to them and left headquarters for around two weeks.

Eiblont had been working in headquarters the whole time and dealing with the latest developments. He shook his head. "There hasn't been much activity. Just like before, the Shiksans are doing usual drills and training in Cape Loducus. They also sent some men to set up defence perimeters near the northern and eastern mountain areas' borders, stationing a line of men there for defence.

"Apart from that, the informants write that their ale business is doing really well. The Shiksan troops absolutely love it. Half of their second shipment of 50 thousand barrels is already gone and they requested another 100 thousand barrels, the large, hundred-catty ones at that. The order is worth some 40 thousand crowns. Our theatre earned more than 10 thousand crowns from the Shiksans in ale sales alone."

Wheat ale was a type of low-alcohol beverage, much like beer from Claude's old world. In the taverns of the theatre, each serving weighed around a catty and sold for five fennies. A small barrel weighed 50 catties and a large one is double the capacity of the former. Each large barrel sold for five riyas in the market, roughly half a thale.

However, the price the wild-bull company offered the Shiksans was a few times that. Each large barrel sold for two thales, which is akin to 20 riyas. Other transportation costs included, 100 thousand large barrels could make the theatre ten thousand crowns in profit. It was no wonder Eiblont thought that the Shiksans were filthy rich.

With enough materials, a brewhouse with around a hundred employees could produce around 30 thousand catties of wheat ale each day. An order of 100 thousand large barrels could be completed within three months. Cromwell and Balingana had grown to become large suppliers of food and the stockpiled food from the harvests over the past two years had started to become a problem.

Little did anyone know that the Shiksans' ale order created another outlet for the extra food. If three corps alone required that much ale, it went without saying that demand for ale would only rise once the other seven corps arrived. While selling food to the enemy was something the theatre could not permit, selling ale to the enemy at a high price wasn't something they cared about. It only came off as a little weird to be earning money off the enemy.

Claude burst out laughing. They hadn't even begun fighting the war, yet, they were already earning small bucks from the enemy. It truly was quite laughable. Eiblont then handed over a stack of eagle letters, which Claude proceeded to read. The first ones were reports from the informants in Cape Loducus. They wrote about the daily lives of the Shiksan troops. As Eiblont had said, they seemed rather disciplined and didn't cause any trouble.

Next was Birkin's reports about the terrain survey in the eastern and northern mountain areas, as well as the relocation of nikancha tribes for the scorched-earth arrangements. According to him, the survey in the eastern mountains was complete, and they were setting up a defence line there now. The main combat folk of Monolith he brought there was training the nikancha forces and helping them organise the construction of the defence line.

Next were Berklin and Moriad's letters. The two of them led a line from Thundercrash each. With the nikancha guiding them and supporting them logistically, they easily swept through the remainder of the inland Shiksan colonies. Progress seemed smooth and casualties were negligible. Most importantly, the reward was enormous. However, the Shiksan colonies were a little far too wide, and most of them were mountainous, so they had only managed to conquer half that area so far. They might need two more months to finish their mission before they could return.

Lastly came Bolonik and Skri's reports. Bolonik wanted to ask Claude whether the theatre should form another reserve corps just in case the clash with the Shiksans would result in too many casualties. It seemed that he was feeling rather pressured by the Shiksan presence. They were, after all, facing off against ten corps of 600 thousand men.

Skri's message detailed various aspects of their logistics situation as well as the arms trade with the nikancha. The nikancha had spent loads of money and practically bought all the weapons obtained from the Shiksans through the three colonial wars the theatre had in their storehouses. They also requested for Aubass Mark 3s to be sold to them.

Currently, Thundercrash and Monolith and the garrison lines with the retired veterans from the two corps were using Aubass Mark 3s. Had Claude not pushed for the development of the Sonia 591, the Aubass Mark 3 would remain the most advanced firearm in Freia, easily ranking among the top three.

The Aubass Mark 3's edge over other muskets was that it could fire accurately using the sights up to a hundred metres. That was thanks to the special materials and manufacturing processes used for the barrels. After a round was popped inside and fired, it could maintain a stable trajectory within 100 metres, which was the greatest factor behind their accuracy.

No matter what other nations did to replicate the Aubass Mark 3, they were only able to get the firing range accurate up to around 80 metres. There was a difference of some 30 metres. In other words, as the Shiksans attack the troops from the theatre, they would have to first cover a 30-metre distance under Aueran fire before being able to retaliate.

Before the colonial wars broke out, Aueras didn't really care about how well armed the troops in the seven colonies were as the former two Aubass models were enough to suppress nikancha rebellions, ensuring a stable income from taxation on their tribes. It was only after the Shiksans invaded that Ranger folk came to Nubissia to repel them.

Ranger used to have 32 thousand men in its folk days. They were all armed with Aubass Mark 3s and had an extra reserve of three thousand of the same muskets. When they were expanded into a full corps, the kingdom shipped another ten thousand Aubass Mark 3s to them. To prevent broken firearms going to waste, they also allowed a repair workshop and ammunition-production plant to be built in the colonies.

After the victory in the second colonial war, Lord Militant Miselk was summoned back to the mainland. To placate him and show their support for Miselk's plans and strategies in the colonial conflict, the kingdom shipped yet another ten thousand Aubass Mark 3s there to facilitate the formation of the five irregular enhanced corps, further bolstering the colonies' defence capabilities.

During the third colonial war, Claude managed to eradicate three main Shiksan corps. However, the battle was rather fierce and they suffered around 20 thousand casualties and a few thousand ruined muskets. Later, when General Aljess was assassinated, the theatre sent Bolonik to capture the colony of Vebator and made it the eighth Aueran colony.

The royal guard folk returned after rendering great merit in battle and left their arms and ammunition to the theatre due to having to make space for their rich spoils. Skri had estimated there to be around 240 thousand Aubass Mark 3s in the theatre at that point in time, and much of that was thanks to how Miselk ordered the troops in Ranger that had to return to the mainland to leave their weapons behind too, allowing the theatre to have enough arms for another corps.

Thundercrash and Monolith now had 130 thousand men in total. Coupled with the 18 garrison lines, the total numbers of troops in the theatre was 220 thousand. As such, there was an additional 20 thousand Aubass Mark 3s in the theatre. Naturally, many of them were old and refurbished ones, which Skri planned to sell away.

Had Claude's Sonia 591 not been developed, the theatre would never even consider selling the Aubass Mark 3s. Now that they had a more advanced firearm, however, Bolonik and Skri no longer treasured the outdated Aubass Mark 3 as much. Skri's proposal was for them to be sold at a high price to foot the bill for the theatre's expensive production of the new rifles to arm their troops.

The Shiksan muskets had been sold for five crowns each whereas their cannons were sold for 150 crowns each to the nikancha nation. Though the price was high, the theatre would be providing cannoneer training to the nikancha nation as well. But now, they had set their sights on the Aubass Mark 3s and cited that Claude had agreed to their sale, so Skri decided to sell them the used and refurbished ones instead and reported a sky-high price of 20 crowns each.

Claude felt a dizzy spell and wanted to take a breather. Though war was just around the corner, everyone was busy doing business instead! The informants were dealing in ale and Skri was practically committing financial slaughter on the nikancha. Thankfully, the theatre now had its own arms factory to produce new rifles to phase the old Aubass Mark 3s out. Otherwise, they wouldn't have enough arms to fight the war with after selling them out.

He didn't dally and immediately wrote a reply to agree to Skri's plans, though he insisted that the Aubass Mark 3's price be 20 crowns each. The nikancha would not be allowed to haggle with that price. The new rifles could be produced with ten crowns each, so selling one Aubass Mark 3 to foot the production of two Sonia 591s was a great deal.

As for the other letter from Bolonik, Claude clicked his tongue after reading it and decided to ignore it. Bolonik said that he planned to order ten thousand revolvers from Claude for the officers in the theatre and form a revolver strike team to enhance their night-attack capabilities.

While the idea was sound and Claude had similar plans for that, the price Bolonik offered was underwhelming. He was only willing to pay five crowns per revolver and asked Claude for his understanding as the theatre was strapped financially. But who would Claude ask understanding from after giving his away to Bolonik? The last time the theatre ordered a thousand revolvers, he already gave them a two-crown discount, selling each for only ten crowns and giving away 30 rounds for each gun sold.

Since the order was a small one, there was no need for a production line to be formed. Angelina and Sonia had worked for a week straight to complete the order using nothing but their arrays to make all the parts from scratch, all for a meagre profit of around three thousand crowns.

And now, an order of ten thousand for five crowns each was made. It was nothing but a joke. 50 thousand crowns might not even be enough to assemble a production line for the revolvers. That aside, the theatre had already earned more than two million crowns in gold and silver from the sales with the nikancha. There was also the spoils from helping them conquer the inland Shiksan territories, the profit of which amounted to millions of crowns.

They could afford far more than replacing the troops' arms with the new rifles and paying for their training. They would have much left over even after paying the bonuses and pensions after the war and recruit 100 thousand new soldiers for two reserve corps. Basically, once Moriad and Berklin returned with their spoils two months later, the theatre would be filthy rich.

Claude decided to pretend to not have read Bolonik's letter with the revolver request. Not to mention, he had recently just gone to Blackstone Arms Factory to supervise the transition to full production for the new rifles, so there was no time to assemble a revolver production line and train the personnel necessary for that in the first place.

Additionally, Claude had invented the revolvers to be carried as self-defence weapons which had the great weakness of having a short firing range and low power. With the new rifles, the revolvers' use on the battlefield was limited.

Moreover, Angelina and Sonia were busy researching some new weapon ideas Claude provided. If they succeeded, the weapons would prove far more instrumental on the battlefield than mere revolvers, so there was no need to even bother discussing the order Bolonik made. Claude didn't like haggling either.

When he finished reading the letters, Claude told Eiblont, "Looks like our preparations didn't unnerve the Shiksans at all. I wonder if they're that confident or simply ordered not to engage us in any hostilities for now. Looks like they'll only attack after the other two corps and their supplies are delivered some three months later."

Claude had considered messing with the three Shiksan corps that just arrived, but he wasn't confident it could work as Thundercrash just swapped experienced soldiers for new recruits. He had to assume each of the enemy could fight three of his own men.

So, he elected to get the newspapers in the theatre to publicise the military aid they were providing the nikancha nation, including the sale of the Shiksan arms and the combat training they provided.

The only thing he didn't have them mention was the theatre's units' presence in the eastern and northern mountainous areas in the nikancha nation. All that was published was lots of units had been stationed at the nikancha nation's borders and how they were confident they could ensure the citizens of the theatre could continue their blissful lives uninterrupted.

Claude believed the Shiksan informants in the theatre would forward the newspaper reports back to the officers in the three corps. If anyone fell for the bait and wanted to attack before the nikancha troops' training could be completed, Claude would be more than happy to oblige them.

He had even planned to encircle them and deal with all three Shiksan corps in the mountains. He would love to see the expression of the Shiksans once the latter two corps arrived to find none of their fellow soldiers there. By then, they would only be able to defend Cape Loducus. It would surely make Shiks the joke across all Freia once more.

It was unfortunate that none of the three Shiksan corps fell for it. They didn't even bother to send scouts past the border for reconnaissance. Security around the camps at Cape Loducus was also tight, leaving no opportunity for the theatre to take advantage of, much to Claude's disappointment.

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