Claude rushed back to Lanu at the end of the 10th month because the overseas bank had finally been formed after ten long months of work. It would officially start operations on the 25th of the 10th month. As one of the five heads of the theatre, he had to attend the opening ceremony to show his endorsement for the bank. Additionally, he also had to be there to sign his loan. As it was the first loan ever made by the bank, Claude got the benefit of not having to pay any interest.
Naturally, that was all agreed upon beforehand. While Claude was the one who loaned the million crowns, the theatre would be held accountable for paying it back. Each year, the theatre would pay 200 thousand crowns to the overseas bank and Claude would provide them with ten thousand new rifles and ten million rounds of ammunition. The debt would only be paid off after five years.
It was a reasonable compromise for all parties. Claude would be able to maintain the arms factory while having enough funds for the development and experimentation of new weapons. The theatre would receive new rifles to increase the might of their forces step by step. As for the overseas bank, while the loan was interest-free, the amount was incredible and sufficient to dispel any doubts others still held about the bank. It was a huge show of the close ties between the theatre and the bank, after all. With the theatre backing them like that, Viscount Godic believed that the overseas bank would soon be the top bank in the colonies.
What Claude didn't think was that he'd see an anxious messenger headquarters sent to him less than half an hour after his arrival in Weyblon Manor. He was summoned to headquarters for a meeting by Bolonik and all the other generals were already there.
It didn't seem like there was anything else he had to tend to, however. Apart from the launch of the overseas bank two days later, he didn't receive any urgent notifications of sorts from the theatre. He had already stripped in preparation for a bath and had to put it all back on again. He couldn't figure out what had happened even as he rode the carriage to headquarters.
The one who received him was a gloomy Bolonik. Claude had a bad premonition as it seemed like something serious had happened. Otherwise, Bolonik's expression wouldn't be that sour. "What is it? What's going on?"
Bolonik answered his question with another, "If I have the overseas bank loan you three million crowns, how many new rifles will you be able to produce per year?"
Claude grimaced. Some things couldn't be solved just because there was more money. However, he did have some estimations from Liboyd. "If we continue to hire more people for training and change the factory to keep running 24 hours, we'll be able to make 30 thousand new rifles per year at most. The main limitation is the machining equipment and the half-year optimisation we'll have to run. But if we do this, the cost of manpower and wastage of resources will undoubtedly increase."
"What about ammunition?"
"Still the same ten million rounds. We set up the brass cartridge production line. Even if we allocate a hundred rounds for each rifle made, there'll be more than enough ammunition for the troops to be trained and deployed with. When we have more new rifles two years later, we can start another production line," Claude explained.
"Good. Then, your loan will be three million crowns. Have your factory produce the Sonia 591s at full steam and arm Thundercrash with it," Bolonik decided without hesitation.
"What in the world happened?" Claude asked, shocked. Bolonik seemed like he would be willing to arm the troops with better weapons to raise their fighting capabilities no matter the cost. It looked as if he would sell even his house to fund that endeavour.
Bolonik chuckled resignedly. "Shiks has returned, this time, with ten standing corps for real."
"Impossible!" Claude wasn't willing to believe it in the slightest. "It must be a rumour! Even if Shiks has ten standing corps, where would they dock and deploy? There are only three ports suitable for large-scale deployment in our colonies, but we've already made extensive defensive preparations in all of them. There's no way Shiks can do it even if they loan the Alliance's navy to attack our ports with Seaking! If they can't take a port, then there's no way the ten standing corps can get on land! They might as well feed their men to the fish!
"Additionally, even if Shiks wants to use Prince Hansbach's trick of maritime deployment, I'd be more than willing to capture us more labourers at the beaches. Prince Hansbach's tactic only worked because nobody was paying attention to the coast. Our coasts are covered in reefs and the towns and cities by the coast are all heavily defended. There's no way they'll be able to approach the coast at all, and there's no way they'll be able to send troops, cannons and supplies onto shore from two kilometres away at the shallower parts of the sea! Without any logistical support, what would they eat? Where would they sleep? Who would bring them their muskets?"
"Can you let me finish first?" Bolonik shook his head in frustration after Claude unloaded his saliva all over his face. "I know about this far better than you do! The problem is Shiks isn't planning to use their ten corps to attack our ports, nor are they trying to dock and deploy in our colonies. They're going to gather their forces at the western coast before marching them down south."
"What?! Where did you hear that?"
"Colonel Borkal sent an aide back with all sorts of newspaper reports from the colonies on the western coast. While most of them are two to three months old, they state that Shiks was preparing to work with the United Kingdom of Fochs and lease their Nubissian colony to send their troops south. Word of that has spread all over the colonies of the various nations on the western coast by now. The latest word is that Shiks will soon be able to strike up a deal for a lease with the nation of Fochs Islands. They'll have two standing corps sent to the colony of the United Kingdom of Fochs on Nubissia latest by the first half of next year..."
Fochs Islands, located south of Freia, encompassed six major islands and tens of minor islands. The part of the islands facing the continent of Freia was separated by Gillis Strait. Claude recalled that the history textbooks described the United Kingdom of Fochs as where the Pirates of Krim originated from a thousand years ago. They often sailed to the coasts of Freia to raid and pillage.
After the Sacred Light Calendar started to be used on Freia, the six dukes in Foch Islands decided to pick a king to rule their now-united kingdom. The only difference between their kings and kings of other nations was each king had a fixed service term of two decades. They would have to abdicate their throne every 20 years for another one of the six dukes to be elected as king.
The United Kingdom of Fochs sported a strong navy. They could be said to own the strongest navy among all of Freia. They had four fleets in total, each named after the gods the ancient Krim believed in. They were also the earliest explorers and colonisers of Nubissia and had four colonies on the western coast of Nubissia, but they weren't interconnected. It was said that Fochs also had six other colonies on Nubissia's eastern coast. Fochs was the nation that occupied the largest area on the Nubissian continent.
Bolonik pointed at the meeting room. "Let's continue our talk inside. There are so many papers reporting about it, so it can't be purely rumours. Many of the papers are publications by other nations and they also include lots of information about our mainland. Sigh..."
It seemed that the news wasn't good. Claude pushed the door open, only to see Birkin and Eiblont standing in front of the map on the wall arguing about something. Skri was sorting out the newspapers on the table according to priority. Seeing Claude enter, he gave him a curt nod and pointed at a folder he wanted him to see first.
Inside the folder was Borkal's report. He took three informants from the intelligence department as well as his aide and guards. In total, all eleven of them left by a light-class patrol warship by the name of Triumphant on the 20th of the 8th month from Vebator, escorted by two ships of similar class, namely, Flying Fish and Gale, and sailed northward.
After a seven-day voyage, the little flotilla circled around Cape Moroks and reached the western coast, which was outside of the waters of the nikancha nation north of the theatre. The closest colony to the nikancha nation was the fourth and smallest colony of Fochs that was about a third of the size of Tyrrsim, Cape Loducus.
Cape Loducus was surrounded by mountains at its southern and eastern borders, which were considered to be the territories of the nikancha nation. The west of the colony faced the sea and to its north was a colony of the Kingdom of Lesnia, a Southern Freian nation. Fochs' fourth colony was thus kept limited in the small valley plains next to the cape and couldn't expand much.
It was said that the most famous adventurer of the United Kingdom of Fochs, Rodriguez, had made a famous error picking the location of the colony. Fochs was mainly split into six major islands, so the subjects of the kingdom weren't united like those of other kingdoms were. Arguments and strife among them were common. Their Krim pirate ancestors had fought among one another for nearly two centuries, after all.
Usually, Freian nations attempting to form colonies on Nubissia would first occupy a plot of land before expanding around it until there was nowhere else to expand or they encountered a colony from another nation. Fochs, however, was an exception. For instance, once people from the first major island occupied one colony, those of the second major island would seek out another piece of unoccupied land for their own colony. The third major island would definitely pick another location to form their colony without having to neighbour the colonies of the other islanders.
That was the case with Rodriguez too. He sailed south from the western coast with his crew and saw Cape Moroks and thought that he had reached the end of Nubissia, so he got onshore. Noticing that the waters around the cape were calm and rich with fish, and the coast having a large stretch of flatlands with dense vegetation, he decided to make that spot his colony. But when they surveyed south, they noticed that they were surrounded by mountains in both directions. To their north was the desolate desert. In the end, the colony couldn't expand and was limited to the plains in the valley of the two mountains.
Borkal's little flotilla docked with the excuse of wanting to resupply after losing their way while chasing pirates. The officials of Fochs' colony didn't give them any trouble. But when they heard they were colonial patrol ships for Aueras, they looked at them oddly. Nevertheless, they still permitted them to dock and rest.
But when they reached the tavern at the docks, Borkal and the rest were surrounded by a huge crowd. There were two local journalists who asked them for their views on the Shiksan lease of the colony of Cape Loducus, as well as whether Aueras or Shiks would win in the upcoming war.
They were completely stupefied. They only knew the truth after the crowd kindly explained the situation to them. During the middle of the 11th month last year, Shiks sent an ambassador to the United Kingdom of Fochs to lease Cape Loducus for them to deploy and rally their troops there. They were going to sweep the independent nikancha nation with their ten standing corps before facing off against the Aueran colonies in a final standoff.
When news of that broke during the former half last year at the western coast, the colonies of various nations got into a heated debate. There were just as many in favour of the lease as those opposed. Some were worried that the ten standing corps of Shiks would march north instead of south. Should that be the case, Lesnia's colony would be the first to fall.
There were some that sat on the sidelines to watch the show. The colonies further away even had newspapers that floated the idea of a defence pact between the colonies. However, it didn't seem to gain traction as the colonies went to war over even something so trivial as water sources or ore deposits.
Fochs, however, had their own unique take on the situation. They didn't want to merely lease their colony away. Instead, they wanted to sell it. They had more than enough colonies, after all, and Cape Loducus wouldn't be able to create any more value for them apart from having beautiful and scenic views. So, they offered it up for sale for an astronomical price, one that Shiks couldn't afford.
Shiks countered with a request for a five-year lease with a higher amount of rent, and Fochs was still considering the matter. Some reports state that Shiks had already sent a survey unit to inspect the status of Cape Loducus. It was believed that the lease would be settled by the latter half of this year and Shiks would start sending their ten standing corps over nonstop first thing next year.
"Cape Loducus is located near the northern mountainous coasts, which is rich with mineral resources. Why didn't the Fochsians expand their colony into the mountains?" Claude asked.
Skri knew the reason well.
"The Krim of Fochs Islands call themselves the people of the sea. They hate climbing mountains the most. While they might be interested in exploring hills, the mountainous northern coast is filled with towering mountains and cliffs. The Krim are naturally averse to those and would automatically stop at the borders of the mountains without daring to go in deeper."
Perhaps it was a unique trait of their people, odd as it was. Claude continued to read through the report. When Borkal found out about the news, he immediately gathered all newspapers at the cape from a few days to a few months prior. He bought them all for a high price and sent his aide to deliver them to the theatre as soon as possible.
He, on the other hand, would disguise himself and the other three informants, as well as the rest of the guards as representatives of his wild-bull company to survey the economic state of the colonies on the western coast and get into contact with the large companies on Nubissia and Freia. During the first half of the following year, he would send two informants to join the large trading fleet's voyage back to the mainland.