Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 520

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"This is the largest fabricatory in Nasri, Camben Valley Royal Military Industries. We learnt the gear is the same as the ones we found in Balivia when we docked in Whitestag. They're not the latest models available on the continent. The court wants us to stop all production in the region. Who knows how many of them will still be operational by the time we're done?"

Claude took Bolonik to Camben Valley where the most famous Nasrian fabricatory was. It could produce light and medium cannons. The Nasrian royal family owned 69 percent of the establishment. Most of the weapons went to their armies. The other fabricatories in the kingdom were workshops by comparison. They could only make spare parts and daily necessity gear.

He'd known Claude for years, so he knew immediately why the man had brought him there.

"So? Are you going to take it apart?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Claude smiled.

"Well, you know nobody will look after these things after we leave. They'll just sit around and rust, especially the water-powered ones. We're getting a visit from a court ambassador next month, right? He's going to keep an eye on the court's portion of the spoils. He's also supposed to ensure their fixed assets are safely sealed. I intend to clean this place out and sell everything I can before this place is sealed."

Since the king was making them work for free, Claude had no reservations about cleaning out the place and making their work worthwhile. That was the biggest difference between him and Bolonik. Bolonik was a traditional soldier. He never doubted his superior's orders, just like the time he trusted Marquis Blancarte's revelation about how the kingdom was going to let the region's troops run the Nasrian region as their reward.

Claude didn't believe that drivel. No matter how nice Blancarte's private messages were, they were worth nothing. His words only had weight if it had the official seal on it. Bolonik had even argued with Claude over it. He was convinced the king and his court were sincere. As the kingdom was far too lacking in funds, the best move to make was to do nothing and stabilise the region first while they gathered more funds for the nation.

Nothing could be done without money. Even a kingdom was utterly paralysed if it didn't have funds. And Aueras was dead broke from the years of war. It was a sinking ship, swiss cheese would be an understatement. It could be saved, but that would take time. Until its holes were sealed, it could not afford to look after its new acquisitions, so it had no choice but to hand it over to the autonomous region's administration. They were not going to hand them over wholesale, but letting the autonomous region administer the new territories for three years would give them the breathing room they needed, and given their track record, the kingdom would get a well-developed, profitable region when they finally marched in and took over.

Bolonik was completely flabbergasted by Claude's next question. The new territories had double the surface area of the kingdom's heartland, but only about the same population. It was a gigantic market. Claude just had to sell Nubissia's products there to make a killing, but would the old nobility let them do so?

Bolonik didn't have an answer. The old nobility had supported Fredrey I's rise to power, so they were huge contributors and the king and court would no doubt think of ways to make up for their losses.

The noble houses surely owned some small workshop that produced daily necessities. Letting the region's two corps join the war on the mainland already ruffled the feathers of the nobles already and letting them trade without restriction would be no different than giving up on the nobles' exclusive right to set prices and control the market.

With the kingdom facing elimination before the Union's army, the nobles had no choice but to bow their heads. Now that the war was over with Aueras winning out in the end, the old nobility would definitely be thinking of ways to make up for their losses. Claude believed that letting Thundercrash and Monolith control the Nasrian region would cause quite a lot of turmoil.

Just because the kingdom didn't have funds didn't mean the nobles didn't either. Otherwise, Reddragon and Griffon wouldn't have been able to hold together with their salaries and supplies cut off for half a year. Troops were the only reliable source of power in a world as chaotic as this, and they belonged to the old nobility, who would rather sustain them with money out of their own pockets. Now, their investment would start to turn a profit once more.

Claude knew that he could be promised the world, but it was all worthless. He didn't have a right to the mines, he might as well prioritise sales while he could. While the equipment in Nasri wasn't the latest model, it would be worth at least two or three million crowns once it was disassembled and shipped to Nubissia. It could sustain the two corps for a year or two.

The region needed heavy industrial equipment most right now. It had enough to supply its army, but nowhere near enough to supply the civilian market. Other things aside, the construction of railroads and factories and the building of ironclad transport ships had caused demand to shoot through the roof. Skri wrote to Claude to ship as much equipment back as he could.

Since the court decided to seal off those factories, Claude would strip them clean. So what if the ambassador came? There was no way he could stop them from doing anything. The most Claude had to do was to pay a small price three years later to quell the outrage.

"We've registered the workers of the factory. Most of them are willing to emigrate to the region. There are around three thousand in total and around ten thousand family members.

"These are skilled immigrants. I've written to General Skri and Mister Weyblon for them to settle these new immigrants into fitting positions. The best will be hired by our military industry and the rest will be distributed to the railroad company and the shipyards."

Claude and Bolonik chatted as they walked through the complex. The guards were stationed some ten metres away so as to not disrupt their conversation.

"Alright," Bolonik said, "Then I'll prioritise them in the next voyage. By the way, my subordinates suggested that we take the eastern transport route next time. It'll save us five days at sea and prevent us from having to sail along the kingdom's coast. What do you think?"

Currently, the region's transport and escort ships sailed from Port Cobius in Tyrrsim across Tranquil Ocean and Sea of Storms to Whitestag before sailing along the coastline to Port Floric in the Rimodran region. It was a rather long route. It also took around a month for supplies to reach Polyvisia from Port Floric.

In other words, it took a month at sea and a month on land for goods to be shipped from the region to Polyvisia. The 100 thousand Nasrian captives were still looking for their families to be forcefully emigrated together to Aduras to work in the tobacco plantations. If the old maritime route was still used, it could take well over two months for them.

Claude shook his head. "That won't do. The best route to use is the western route. The eastern route is far too dangerous for us. The way through Nubari Islands is a pirate paradise. Before Whitestag's trade route to Tyrrsim was discovered, the kingdom's fleet, Fearless, escorted ships through the eastern route and would always come under pirate attack, suffering rather heavy casualties. That's why the eastern route is known as the path of blood.

"While we have Ironclad and are unmatched at sea, we suffered rather heavy losses fighting Seaking last year. Most of the warships have to be overhauled, so it'll take around eight months before they are operational again.

"The four warships that are in better condition are busy escorting ships along the coast and patrolling it. Do you think four alone will be able to escort such a large fleet of 300 plus transport ships through pirate heaven?

"If all of them are supply ships, then I won't be opposed to using the eastern route, since no lives would be lost. But we are transporting the captives and their family, so we better not take that risk. The most trouble we'll get by sailing along the coast from the kingdom will be from the local officials, which isn't a big deal at all.

"Don't forget that as long as we hold the guns, nobody will dare piss us off for real. If it comes to it, we'll just nab those officials and their families and send them to the plantations. It's not like our fleet isn't paying for our stays along the coast. Our arrivals even help the local economy.

"If there are local officials who would cause trouble for us, we don't have to be polite. Just deal with them is what we'll do. It's not like the king will be able to do anything even if he receives complaints. I'm sure the court will try to appease us as long as our two corps are here."

Bolonik burst out laughing. He said a little regrettably, "Claude, of the five of us, Eilon is all fight and no plan, Bick is reliable but too kind, Skri always overthink things, and I begin to think a little too much myself because of my age. My courage is waning and I don't like to antagonise people. Only you dare to be so brash and reckless. It's thanks to you that our region is what it is today. I doubt we'd be nearly that glorious without you around.

"It's no wonder when Lord Militant Miselk left, he told me that you're the only one among the five of us we can count on in a time of crisis. He asked us to not think too much and support your decisions because you'll always find a way even when there's none, just like your outlandish tactics during the sandtable battles. You're really quite a package, aren't you?"

Claude patted Bolonik's shoulder silently. There was no longer a need for words between them, having weathered through so much together across so many years. However, Claude felt a little melancholic at Miselk's mention, given that he wouldn't have reached where he was within a short decade or so without his help.

"Have we not found him in the kingdom yet?" Claude asked.

Bolonik shook his head. "No. The last we heard of him is he left for his hometown after getting hurt from the first prince's assassination attempt. His home should be a small village in the northeast of the mainland deep inside the mountains of the prefecture of Brigason. But the ones we sent to investigate found nothing but the burnt remains of a village. The fire looked to have broken out before the civil war. There isn't a single local to be found in the area, so we don't even know if he is alive. I'm starting to wonder if it was a plot against him and his family..."

"Forget it... One day, the truth will come out. If the Lord Militant really fell to a plot, we'll definitely avenge him."

"Of course. He's our teacher, and it's only right that we seek justice for him! I definitely won't let them off!"

A moment later, Claude asked, "Is the kingdom's finances really in that bad a state? Are they so desperate for the million crowns in the Nasrian treasury they'd send an ambassador all the way here to get it? It's kind of laughable... They say they don't have candidates to send here to administer the region, but there were a bunch of applicants to be the ambassador to come here for the money. By the way, have we distributed spoils yet? I don't want the ambassador to have funny thoughts when he sees how much we have."

Bolonik was in charge of the distribution. "Don't worry. The 20 million crowns' worth of gold and silver reserves have been shipped to the region to be stored in the bank. Apart from using some to pay off the loans we owe, the rest belongs to our corps. There is another ten million crowns' worth of pricey accessories and artworks, which we've transferred away as well. Apart from selling off some of them, the rest will be distributed among us five.

"As for cutlery and whatnot, they're free for our troops to pick out. Those are their direct bonuses. Apart from the pensions, each soldier of our two corps will get from 80 to a hundred crowns or memorabilia equivalent to that amount. Officers will get more. It's no wonder you said the best profits are made in war.

"Currently, all that's left in Polyvisia's treasury is gold-coated and silver-coated wares and glassware. There are some three to four warehouses of them and they're worth around 120 thousand crowns in total. I left them in the warehouses so the ambassador will find them and note that what we got are mostly these instead of gold and silver. We'll sell those off after giving the ambassador a wrong idea."

Thundercrash managed to get near 56 million crowns in wealth after sweeping Nasri and the three duchies clean. Among that, 20 million were all gold and silver reserves that were shipped to the region to be stored in the bank for future spending.

Ten million of that was in the form of expensive jewellery, artworks, and collectables, which the five generals shared among themselves. A part of them would also be auctioned off in the region. Claude estimated his personal profits to be around two million crowns. Naturally, he was more interested in the treasures themselves which he could leave for his descendants in the future.

The remaining 20 million were used to pay pensions and bonuses for Ironclad and the two corps. Berklin, for instance, would get more than a hundred thousand crowns' worth while the lowest of soldiers could also get up to 100 crowns in rewards.

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