Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 498

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The ambassadors had come back with new conditions which mostly satisfied all the region's requirements. They agreed it could administer itself in terms of the executive, promotions, finances, taxes, economic development, and the military. Only their policies would be subject to review by the mainland. They had to gain the mainland's permission for any new policies before they were enacted.

Of all the trade proposals the region had made, the mainland had agreed only to allow people and goods to move between the colonies and the mainland freely, and for the region to produce basically what they were already producing. They did not accept the suggestion that they lower their tariffs.

The ambassadors justified the retention of the tariffs with the kingdom being in dire need for funds with the war. They suggested the issue be revisited after the war.

The rest of the agreements weren't outright rejected, but instead, the final decision on them was postponed with the implication that it was inappropriate to discuss or consider them whilst the war was still raging. They instead suggested that regional entrepreneurs enter partnerships with powerful mainland nobles and let them handle the sale of their products.

They were trying to turn the colonies into an offshore factory while the mainland nobles profited off everything without doing anything.

The council was split over whether to accept the new set of conditions or reject it, and couldn't come to a decision. One side said it was acceptable to cooperate with the mainland nobles, unfair and corrupt as the arrangement was, as long as they could still make a decent profit from it, whilst the other was unwilling to become basically outsourced labour off of which the mainland nobles could leech just like they did with everything else on which they could lay their greedy fingers. The latter faction wanted to demand import permissions from the kingdom or have nothing to do with them.

The permits would let them export their products to the mainland without paying any import duties or taxes. These taxes were usually used to prevent foreign mass-produced goods from undermining and destroying local industries.

Besides all the duties and import taxes, these permits also allowed for on-the-spot sales. Products imported without permits had to have registered sales destinations or 'pre-import purchase registrants', i.e. they had to have a designated buyer before they were imported. If the caravan came across a town or city with a sudden need for their products on their way, they could not just sell their products there if the products were registered for a different destination.

The hardliners demanded to have this freedom. They wanted to be able to sell where and to whom they wanted, and to be able to buy whatever they could find at a good price to take back home. The mainland was not having it, however. They were not going to undercut the local market lords, most of whom were either backed by old nobles, or had strong influence with the prefectural administrations and legislatures.

The other issue was the mainland-set prices. Under the conditions offered by the ambassadors, the region merchants would have no say on the prices at which their products were sold. That power lay entirely in their mainland partners' hands.

They had little faith in those nobles to not arbitrarily set the prices to maintain their monopolies and ensure the region merchants didn't gain a foothold in the market. Their price fixing was one of the main reasons why smuggling was so rampant throughout the kingdom. The smugglers' target buyers were rich local tycoons that bought their goods from small merchants and sold them in small batches, which didn't fulfill the region's requirement for large-scale trade.

Then there were the still clearly unreasonable conditions. Griffon must have been afraid the region was getting too good a deal, so they demanded they provide three million crowns' worth of free food for the next two years and five millions crowns of other urgently needed supplies. On top of that they still demanded 1.5 million in annual taxes.

On the military front, they were demanding 300 thousand new rifles as well as enough munitions for them as well as a handover of the designs and manufacturing processes, for free of course.

Not even Bolonik could keep down his laughter when he heard that last demand. By what authority was the kingdom making these demands? They'd made nothing but empty, minor concessions at best, but demanded the world in return. They would have autonomy in name only, with the mainland having de jure veto over any policy they proposed.

Their withholding of the trade permits was also hot air. The smugglers would be more than happy to continue dealing with the region, and under the conditions the mainland was offering, it might actually be more profitable to continue working with the smugglers as well.

As for their demands on the military front... They must have no clue how expensive research and development was. The region still had two million crowns of debt from their development of the rifles and their munitions.

Claude had learnt his lesson from the mortar incident. He'd sold licenses for their production to the mainland, and after they'd won their fight with the first prince, the old nobility who'd bought the licenses sold the plans to every nitwit willing to pay for it and now every country on the entire continent had knockoffs.

Birkin had been completely floored when Shiks had shown up with their own mortars. He had never imagined their own inventions would be used against them when no one was supposed to know how to make them.

That move was their greatest regret, and they were not about to make that mistake a second time. They'd paid dearly for this lesson.

The Sonia 591s represented the pinnacle of weaponry yet achieved. The region was not going to give them to anyone, especially not without massive compensation. Even if Claude was to accept it, the other generals would block any deal of the like on the grounds that their national security could not afford it.

Since Bolonik knew the most crucial part of the rifles were the cartridges, and without a particular mixture of ignition powder, misfires were bound to happen, there was no guarantee the rune magi serving the nobles couldn't develop a similar substance.

Take the revolver designs Claude had also sold to the old nobility for example. The old nobility produced ones exactly the same, selling them as exquisite luxury gifts. They also developed revolving hunting guns. Those weapons' cartridges utilised a small fire crystal, a magic material associated with fire, as the ignition substance. They were produced by rune magi who cut them into fine pieces in their arrays.

Those cartridges were the same ones used by Hansbach's revolver, which Sheila snagged. Fortunately, the crystals were quite expensive and processing them to make cartridges was by no means cheap, making mass production a rather bleak prospect. But at least, they could still be bundled with the luxury guns.

The council and the executive committee of the region refused all the ambassadors' demands. Angered, the ambassadors cursed the council members and generals for forgetting what the kingdom did for them to raise them up and threatening the kingdom to accept their unfair conditions now that it was facing the threat of extermination.

In the end, they were ordered to be rushed out of the council hall by Bolonik. Seeing that their mission ended in complete failure, the ambassadors gave impassioned speeches in the centre of Lanu, detailing the kind of danger the kingdom was facing and rebuking the generals and council members for stabbing the kingdom that had done so much for them in the back by doing nothing.

They managed to inspire quite a number of listeners, who willingly donated up to a hundred crowns in an afternoon. However, all of them were low-denomination bills, so they had to change it for coinage at the overseas banks.

Just as the ambassadors were about to continue besmirching the bigwigs' reputations, all newspapers in the region published the demands the ambassadors made, causing the entire region to boil over. Not a single one of the citizens could bring themselves to accept the demands, which was no different than cutting off the region's flesh piece by piece.

Had the demands been agreed to, the kingdom would only follow up with even more ridiculous ones. In the end, they would trickle down to the common folk and affect them personally. Nobody would be willing to give away the fruits of their hard labour if they had the choice not to.

With recent developments, the living standard in the region was quite high. The populace felt their lives turn for the better and not one of them would want that to stop.

When the ambassadors started their speeches the next time, they didn't hear any praises. Instead, they were booed, cursed at and showered in rotten eggs and fruit. A few constables came and declared them to be unwelcome persons in the region. They and their cohort would immediately be sent to Port Cobius to be deported.

But at the same time, the council also announced they would be providing aid to the kingdom in the form of food and agricultural goods worth a million crowns to help the kingdom resist the unjust Union in the war to fulfil their basic duty as Aueran settlers.

Additionally, a donation of 200 thousand Aubass Mark 3s and a thousand front-loading infantry cannons would be made to the ministry of the army. They were replaced with better versions anyway and were gathering dust in the storehouses, and it wouldn't be appropriate to sell them to other nations. Buying some goodwill with them seemed to be the logical choice.

Apart from that, 20 thousand middle and heavy-class mortars and a thousand launchers would also be provided. With the new light-infantry cannons with a 1.5-kilometre range, the middle and heavy-class mortars were no longer viable on the battlefield. The kingdom could simply do them a favour and dump them on the five enemy nations.

The ambassadors returned to the mainland, crestfallen. Later, some representatives showed up to collect the supplies the region agreed to provide, but the official statement the region sent to the mainland wasn't given a reply. It could be that they were preparing to evacuate because the situation had worsened.

Two months later, news finally came from the western coast that the kingdom's defences on the borders had fallen. Reddragon and the royal guard's folks had been almost completely exterminated. The eight corps of the Union were marching on the Ibnist Plains, inching ever so closer to the capital.

The capital fell on the 15th of the 8th month of Year 599.

In his speech prior to the evacuation, Fredrey I said that as long as they had a musket left, the kingdom would resist. They would never submit to negotiations with invaders.

The Union's five heads of state from their member states arrived in the fallen capital and held a grand parade in the most famous city of Eastern Freia. Their soldiers marched through the streets the Stellin royal family's forces usually paraded.

Majid III and the other four heads of state were present at the parade. He emphasised once more that the war was waged to exterminate Aueras, the source of all the recent wars in Eastern Freia for the past few centuries for their unquenchable thirst to unite the land under their rule.

It was waged to teach Aueras a lesson. With their royal capital occupied, Fredrey I was nothing more than a pathetic mutt that ran with his tail between his legs. The Shiksan king expressed his hopes that the nations in the Union should move forward with singular focus and exterminate the remnants of the old tyrant.

The speech specifically stated the complete extermination of Aueras. At that time, 15 of the 27 Aueran prefectures had fallen to the Union's hands, even the most prosperous prefecture, Ibnist, and the kingdom's heart, the royal capital. Fredrey I had retreated to Whitestag and announced he would resist to the bitter end.

On the 8th of the 11th month, Lady Maria arrived in the autonomous region as Fredrey I's ambassador.

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