In a blink of an eye, the 4th month of Year 588 was upon them. More than a year had passed since the Triumph in Balingana. Much had changed in regards to the winners and losers of the war. The battle on Nubissia had profound implications for the time to come.
For instance, the losers, Shiks, not only refused a peace treaty with Aueras, they also announced the formation of ten new standing corps and their intent to finish the war. Additionally, they hired Nasri and Canas' allied navy as well as mercenary corps comprising the soldiers those nations laid off and successfully kept their colony of Port Vebator.
The victors, Aueras, fell into chaos due to the sickness of Stellin X. To effectively exert control over Ranger, the royal family's private force and stop it from being General Miselk's private army, the Stellin royal family transferred many royal officers to take up posts in Ranger.
For instance, the chief logistics officer, General Fansnik, who took over after the battles in Balingana, was from a branch family of the royals. His grandfather was said to be a first-degree cousin of Stellin VIII who had his own hereditary count Title.
However, since the Reformation led by Stellin IX against the nobles, the count had stood against the ruler and had his fief reclaimed in the end. He was spared due to his bloodline and family name, but the hereditary count Title was rescinded and replaced with an honorary viscount Title instead. With their yearly stipend of 200 plus crowns from the viscount Title and the 100 plus crowns for being a branch member of the royal family, they were only barely able to sustain their old nobility lifestyle.
When Stellin X ascended to the throne, Fansnik's grandfather passed away and the honorary Title was no more. While Fansnik's father had been made an honorary baron, their yearly stipend decreased to less than half of before. That had a profound effect on Fansnik's life. It cost lots of money to live like old nobility and his father's multiple failed investments only pushed their family into more dire straits.
Ever since his childhood, Fansnik knew that by the time the next king ascended to the throne, his father would've long passed away and he wasn't counting on getting any more Titles from the royal family. Even though he was of the same Stellin bloodline, he was three generations separated from the common ancestor with the current royal family. He still had to count on his own efforts for success. So, he applied to join the royal family's youth war college during his formative years and strived hard for a decent career in the military after his graduation.
Fansnik wasn't a brave man. Due to his fear of death, he chose to specialise in logistics management. That way, he wouldn't have to fight for his life on the battlefield. He was relatively qualified to be a logistics officer and due to his surname, he got huge concessions when it came to promotions. It only took him a short 21 years to make it to the rank of colonel as a logistics officer. It was worth noting that during his years of service, he had never once been deployed on the battlefield.
Being transferred to Ranger was a rather important turning point for him. He was promoted once more to major-general. By now, he was 48 and had finally crossed the hardest barrier for every logistics officer: being promoted from field to general officer. Additionally, that meant he had once more been included in the list of people the royal family paid attention to. Perhaps he would eventually be recognised as their own one day and be given a noble Title.
When Fansnik received the transfer order, the battles of Balingana were only just beginning. The five Shiksan corps marched for Cromwell with fervour and Ranger easily gave up on its capital, Wickhamsburg, and turned their attention to Balingana instead. The situation looked rather pressing.
As expected, Fansnik feigned serious illness and diarrhoea. He seemed so ill that he couldn't even stand properly and no apothecary seemed to be able to adequately treat him. He faced his comrades and friends with a pale look as he lied in beg weakly and cursed his luck for not letting him participate in the battle at a time like this. He said he had hoped that he would go to Nubissia to fight the enemy with Ranger through thick and thin, but thanks to his illness, his plans were ruined.
But the moment he received word of the great victory, he instantly recovered and jumped out of his sickbed before packing up and leaving the continent. He told his associates that he had missed the fruits of the battle the last time. Now that the war was over and over 300 thousand enemies were captured, logistics would definitely be a huge problem. So, he couldn't just skip out on his duties because he was sick. It was time for him to shine.
Fansnik spent only a month and a half to reach Ranger's camp and took over as chief logistics officer. On the first day on his post, he ordered for the four carriages of luxury goods Claude submitted to corps command for distribution to be confiscated for him to present to the royal family to show them his loyalty.
Even General Miselk had never expected the new chief logistics officer to do something so odd. Quite troubled, he gently reminded him that the four carriages of goods had been in his charge so that Fansnik could use this change to foster a good relationship with the other officers in Ranger by distributing them. However, if he gave them all to the royal family, he would easily antagonise the other officers of the corps as that went against standard spoil distribution protocols.
However, Fansnik soon shot Miselk down with the argument that only by giving all the spoils to the royal family and letting them decide how the distribution should go would be adequate to show the corps' loyalty to them and gratitude for their care.
Fansnik accused Miselk for not taking the royal family's face into consideration after his pride grew from his victory by opting for the traditional way of how spoils were distributed.
After that, Fansnik had the whole corps' reorganisation, the assignment of gear to new recruits and all other troublesome matters pushed into the hands of the vice logistics supervisor, Colonel Skri and the others. He investigated with singular focus all the spoils that had be obtained in battle and soon discovered the existence of 500 thousand crowns' worth of Shiksan money. That was a godsend for him. He immediately set out to look for it and began causing trouble for Claude and Line 131.
Little did Fansnik know that the colonel would prove to be so troublesome. He experienced first hand what true, proud soldiers were like. They didn't even regard General Fansnik and the other logistics staff seriously at all. Not only did they not request a personal meeting with him to curry favour with gifts and praises, they even complained about him and accused the general for being greedy for wealth and promotion to the detriment of the corps.
Claude even refused to cooperate with his investigation and publicly disclosed all records of the soldiers' tracks in Wickhamsburg as proof that they were too pressed for time to search the entire storage area instead of setting fire to them, causing them to miss out on the money stored in the ammunition storage area completely. They claimed that the explosions blasted all the money into thin air. Since it wasn't their intent to lose the money, General Fansnik had no right at all to pursue the matter, especially when the money lost was not Aueran money.
Fansnik was even more miffed by the fact that his reputation suffered heavily after he was said to have accused a distinguished officer for embezzling enemy military funds. Most people were no longer willing to interact with him. However, he stubbornly refused to let Claude off the hook for two reasons. The Shiksan money were stored as gold, silver and copper coins, not notes or bills. Even after a great fire, there should still be traces of them left behind. They couldn't have just vanished into thin air.
Additionally, he personally couldn't take the sight of Claude. Knowing that Claude was an important subordinate of Miselk, Fansnik believed he might as well make a big fuss over the funds and cast Claude as the biggest suspect for embezzling it. That would easily prompt the suspension of his post as Line 131's linesman as he was being investigated by the brass.
That way, he would've emptied another important position in the corps for another royal-family-associated officer to take and decrease Miselk's influence in the corps even further. At the very least, Line 131 would no longer completely obey Miselk's orders. Fansnik believed the top would be glad with his performance.
He didn't think that his actions would drive Claude to desperation and order the whole line to go back to Wickhamsburg for an excavation. Initially, Fansnik thought that it was merely a huge farce, since he had done his fair share of searching and didn't find any money in the craters and rubble near the area of the explosions.
Yet, Claude was able to find quite a lot after half a month of excavating. He didn't focus his digging near the ruins of the explosions and instead looked around in the rubble at the fringe locations of the city. He believed that the coins probably had been blasted away around the city and he ended up striking gold with his guess.
As a result, the rest of Ranger began to yearn for the same yields. Since Line 131 could find them, why couldn't they? Nearly all the officers brought their units to Wickhamsburg for a treasure hunt and the digging only intensified. It seemed for a while that all units made rather good yields and the officers' faces were full of smiles.
Fansnik rushed his way to Wickhamsburg when he heard about it and to his disappointment, Line 131 managed to clear their bad name Fansnik cast on them.
It had been proven that they didn't know for a fact that the Shiksans left such a huge sum of money there. And like Claude had theorised, the coins were indeed blasted all across the castle and were covered by much of the rubble. The yield they dug out were mostly malformed coins or chinks of them, which corroborated the story.
What disappointed Fansnik even more was that he wasn't able to confiscate the excavated coins, as they were no longer considered spoils from the battle. He had no right to order the officers to give them to him at all. Wickhamsburg had turned into a treasure burial ground for more than 500 thousand Aueran crowns, but wasn't even able to get a piece of it.
He was even more pissed when he saw that soldier pick up a complete gold kepton. The moment he found that Shiksan coin, he pocketed it for himself. The sight of it sent Fansnik into a jealous rage. He immediately returned to the corps to brainstorm a way to transfer all the units excavating in Wickhamsburg back to camp for a disciplinary reorganisation and had his own men from the logistics unit to seal off the city and begin digging.
But after more than a month's hard work, Fansnik only unearthed near 10 thousand crowns' worth of coins, and that was despite his best efforts to supervise the soldiers to make sure they didn't keep any for themselves. He almost wanted to conduct a personal search on them.
And search them he did, at least a few of them he suspected. But it all amounted to nothing more than a new suspicion that the soldiers could've hidden the coins they found in another spot instead of carrying it on them so that they could retrieve it later...
The sight of the meagre amount he unearthed drove him to peak insanity. He only got the smallest share of the 500 thousand crowns and had to distribute them to the ones who helped dig it out. Otherwise, complaints would be made against him for using the men for his personal benefit, and that was one of the biggest transgressions one could commit in the force. Even someone like him, a bearer of the Stellin name, wouldn't be able to escape being punished. But if he distributed the sum, he wouldn't have much remaining.
All that drove him to ask all the officers whose units were involved in the excavation to give him a part of their earnings. He believed that the reason he got so less was because of how late he was. Most of it had already been excavated by the time he got there.
But that only caused the officers to view him as a greedy person. The coins they excavated at Wickhamsburg amounted to no more than ten thousand crowns. Naturally, there was no denying that some soldiers did pocket some of the findings for themselves, but that couldn't possibly amount to much. The most it could be was around a thousand or two thousand crowns. If each unit only had so many, all the units' yields combined would amount to 100 plus thousand crowns at most, with Line 131 probably having more of it as they were the first ones to start the excavation.
Of the 500 thousand crowns of coins, the most they got was around 200 thousand crowns. The rest was definitely hidden away by Fansnik, or so the word went among the officers. It was one thing to abuse his position to force their men to stop their excavation. But now, Fansnik was shameless enough to come demand them for a share because he didn't excavate enough. Only fools would believe him. Claude suspected that Fansnik was merely pretending to be poor so he could squeeze them for the little money they made, and most other soldiers were inclined to agree.
Just as Fansnik was scratching his head with rage to come up with an explanation to dispel the belief the others held that he had hidden away near 300 thousand crowns' worth of coins, Claude was summoned by General Miselk. The first thing Miselk said came as a huge shock to him. "Claude, I'm going to have you discharged from Ranger..."