Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 484
Request and Reply
The sudden coup from the royal guard to push the fourth prince to the throne was quite unexpected. Claude had to storm his brain for quite a while only to realise that his deployment of Thundercrash on the mainland had interrupted the royal guard corps' plans by a whole year. It seemed that the royal guard was deeply suspicious of the autonomous region. While they weren't outright hostile, they didn't seem inclined to play friendly either.
The other unexpected thing was how Stellin XI would actually be shot dead in his quarters in the crossfire. Usually, a coup like that would see the king imprisoned for life or forced to go into exile. But they outright killed Stellin XI, their monarch and biological brother of Fredrey.
Bolonik was quite happy and immediately sent a congratulatory ambassador mission to the royal capital. Borkal wasn't the one who represented this time, but rather, a few members of the governing council. Bernard was there as the leader of the mission.
Bolonik hoped that the autonomous region could restore their relationship with the kingdom back to normal like when Stellin X reigned. That was to say, to have free movement of people and win-win economic development.
Claude was rather lukewarm about the gesture of goodwill the autonomous region was trying to send. He suspected that the new king, Fredrey I, might not necessarily be up to the task of stabilising the kingdom. Since Stellin XI's death, Claude believed the fourth prince would have no way to hold the royal guard firm in his command. Doing so would have him remembered for fratricide and he definitely wouldn't have wanted that for himself.
From the 3rd to the 6th month, much news about the royal capital came from Griffon in Whitestag. Since Fredrey I's ascension, he made three changes in policy. The first was the abolishment of Stellin XI's new seven new taxes, which came as a relief to the populace. The second was the absolution of the crimes and charges levied during Stellin XI's purge. The third was the encouraging of development and production of locals, as well as the deployment of the royal guard to wipe out the bandits in the area to restore order to the kingdom.
The new king did seem rather decent based on the first moves he made. He gained some good repute among the populace as well. However, when the ambassadors of the region returned during the 7th month, they brought bad news. The requests the kingdom made were rather difficult for the council members to accept. Claude, of all people, was even more unwilling to accept the ministry of the army's conditions.
Based on what Bernard and the rest reported, Fredrey I was a puppet king. The real power lay with the old nobility. Their demands were excessive to the council members as they still regarded the colonies in an old light.
Their first demand was that the colonies were to renounce their autonomy. The colonies were to be just 'the colonies' once again. Claude might have been willing to compromise to that extent were that all they demanded, but they also demanded the council be disbanded. Naturally this was utterly unacceptable.
They also demanded all tithes be resumed. If there were any lingering doubts as to how the kingdom viewed the colonies, this did away with them. They demanded the colonies pay an annual tithe of 500 thousand crowns. Again, were that the extent of their demand it would not have been unacceptable, since the colonies averaged two million crowns in profits a year, however, they also demanded seven tenths of all ore mined within the colonies' territories.
Their third demand was a direct slap to the autonomous region. They demanded all control be handed to the civilian government. Part of the end of military rule was that Thundercrash and Monolith were to be shrunk to mere folks. They could keep their names, but they were to be completely subordinated to the ministry of the army.
The fourth demand was that the fleet, and every open ocean-capable vessel in it, be subordinated to the ministry of the navy. The fleet was also to be named Whitewhale, halved in size, and the discharged men were to form a coastal patrol flotilla.
Finally, they demanded all technological developments, plans, and other knowledge, especially of a military nature, be handed over to the respective ministries. They'd seen the power of the rifles, and they were not about to let them slip out of their grasp.
Both old and new nobility had at least this in common: they were beyond greedy. The only thing old nobility did better than the new was restraint at appropriate times, unlike the new nobility who threw their weight around without any regard. Their current priorities were to restore production and order on the mainland to stabilise the kingdom and push for economic development.
Yet, they still saw the autonomous region in the same light, thinking that those territories were under direct jurisdiction of the royal family. They were still trying the old suppress-and-rob trick. Based on their first two demands, it was obvious they were trying to bring back the old days when the colonies were slave to the mainland. They hated the formation of the autonomous region and the progress and changes that happened out of their control.
Bernard said the royal capital told the ambassadors that if the region agreed to those demands, the king would absolve the region for their crimes of stealing the kingdom's industrial equipment and people as well as their declaration of self-governance.
As for the five generals and soldiers of the corps, they would be given their due reward for their contributions in the colonial wars personally by the king. Claude and Bolonik, for instance, had a good chance of being promoted to full generals and receiving more senior Titles. Skri, Birkin, and Eiblont were no exception.
Claude laughed dryly at the piss-poor attempt at temptation. They didn't even have anything good to offer and couldn't move them in the slightest. While Bolonik was trying to be a loyal subject of the kingdom the best he could, his face turned cold after he heard Bernard's reward. It practically spelled out his disagreement.
"Ridiculous!" Eiblont was the first one to let loose. "What do those bigwigs in the royal capital think we are?! Dogs wagging our tails and begging them for food?! Why should we downsize when our two corps are obviously much stronger than theirs? They should be the one to downsize!"
"By the way, I forgot to mention something," Bernard said, "When we returned, we heard the royal guard was trying to get another folk to form a grand corps with four folks. Their total number will be equal to our two main battle corps."
The royal guard already had three folks in their ranks. They would leave one behind to guard the royal capital every time they deployed. Adding another folk to their ranks would bring their total up to around 100 thousand, more or less the amount of Thundercrash and Monolith combined. If they added another garrison folk down the line, they would be able to fight two corps on their own.
"Didn't they say the national treasury's been emptied?" Skri asked, curious, "Where's the royal guard getting the funds?"
"The royal guard's coup was far too sudden. Nobody could've predicted it. During the coup, they sealed off the whole royal capital and not a single one of the new nobility on Stellin XI's side managed to escape. They were all captured. When we arrived at the royal capital, we heard rumours that all their assets were seized, amounting to a total of nearly ten million crowns.
"That's why the kingdom made those three policy changes to remove the seven taxes to decrease the burden on the people. On the day of the announcement, the citizens of the royal capital cheered and paraded in the streets and thanked Fredrey I for his benevolence. In fact, all that had happened was the royal guard managed to gather a huge fortune from the new nobility. If they use it wisely, it'll be able to last the kingdom three years, which should be enough time for the kingdom's economy to return to normal."
"How many of the new nobility were captured?" Skri asked.
Bernard shook his head and said, "I'm not too sure myself. A few hundred houses, perhaps. I read that only 45 were punished with hanging for their crimes and the other vassal houses were stripped of their status and sent to the labour camps."
Skri gave it some thought and said, "Then it shouldn't be just ten million crowns. The ambassadors that we captured were crying and begging to be let free for a ransom of 300 thousand crowns to be sent back to the mainland. If the new nobility's purge included noble houses like those, then our new king really made a killing this time."
Bolonik slammed the desk angrily, interrupting Skri and Bernard's discussion. "Stop going off on a tangent. What are your thoughts on the demands? Let me state first that I am against them. Who do they think we are?! The demand for our new rifles alone is reason enough to reject them! Claude, what say you?"
"Me?--" Claude shrugged. "--There's nothing to say about this. The old nobility are already letting it get to their heads so soon after coming to power. Do they really think they can handle us? Just refuse them."
Other things aside, the first and second demands alone wouldn't be passed by the council. The council members just got to be able to run things, so who would be willing to be bossed around again?
Not to mention, the patrol fleet was formed from the spoils of the two corps and never belonged to the ministry of the navy in the first place. The theatre had reformed the captives of the Alliance's fleet into their own fleet to patrol the region's waters and invested much funding into its formation. The royal capital would only get the fleet without paying a single penny in their dreams. Perhaps they were still holding hopes for the reestablishment of the shipping routes to the colonies.
Their demand for the Sonia 591s, the sole thing that offered the region a significant survival advantage, would definitely come to the objection of most of the council, to say no more about the five generals. Who would hand their trump cards to a possible opponent?
The mortars alone were the prime example of what would happen. Once Claude allowed the old nobility to make their own mortars, the other Freian nations began coming up with forgeries, which came back to bite the theatre in the rear when Shiks overwhelmed them with their crude, but effective mortars. Nobody would be willing to suffer a loss of that magnitude ever again.
Though, Claude didn't personally didn't mind if the rifles were leaked. The true key to cracking the rifles lay in the cartridges and the special gunpowder Sonia invented. The recipe was kept top secret and the only ones who knew how to make them were Angelina and her students. Each time, they made a large barrel that could last more than ten days of cartridge production. Each cartridge only had to use a pinch of the powder.
Without the special mix, the cartridges would easily misfire. Misfiring new rifles would be no more useful than a spear. Claude could live with giving the royal capital new rifles, but never the recipe for the powder. Then again, there was still a possibility other nations would know how to make their own forgeries once the new rifles ended up in the hands of the old nobility.
Claude didn't dare to bet that there was no person who could create something similar enough to decrease the rate of misfire. Should that really come to pass, he wouldn't even have any tears left to shed. So, he decided he couldn't allow the demand to be followed through.
"How should we respond to the demands?" Bernard asked.
Claude chuckled. "Why do we even have to respond to what they say? We'll give them a set of demands we're willing to compromise on and that it. We're going to bargain like we do at the markets. They make an offer, and we make a counteroffer. If we can't agree on the terms, we can go our own respective ways."
"Alright, let's leave it at that. Let us discuss what sort of conditions we'll have for the royal capital," Bolonik decided.
Soon, the executive committee came up with a response. They agreed to change the designation from autonomous region back to the colonies, but insisted that the self-governing council and war administration be kept in place. Additionally, they agreed to pay the 500-thousand-crown tribute. However, mineral ores had to be bought by the kingdom, though at a discounted price of 70 percent.
As for the two corps of the region, they would fund themselves and remain under their own jurisdiction as they had been decreed to protect the colonies by Stellin X. For the calculation of merits earned during the war, the royal capital was urged to hurry up with the process instead of dallying and fiddling around with it.
Regarding the fleet, it was the spoils of the colonial troops and was now under the jurisdiction of the war administration. While they could help the kingdom's ministry of the navy form their own new fleet, they refused to hand their own fleet to the ministry. The new rifles weren't brought up at all. It was a clear sign for the nobles to forget their ludicrous ideas and move on.
"What if they don't agree?" Bernard asked.
"We'll leave them hanging then. It's not that we have to rely on the mainland for anything now anyway. The most they can do is to not give us our promotions, not that that would affect us in the least. Our troops are long used to the unfair treatment by the royal capital. It would be surprising if they really agreed to our terms. I'm sure I'll start to wonder if the sun will rise from the west next," Claude plainly said.
Little did he know that the response they sent sunk like a rock into the sea. There wasn't the slightest bit of an echo from the kingdom. However, Griffon's corpsman, General Hadro, wrote a letter to Claude from Whitestag that the bigwigs were flaring with rage and calling the autonomous region traitors, proclaiming that they would be the kingdom's first target to punish after they recovered.