Borkal was really busy. His half-month break had just ended and he was sent directly to Loki Mountains, the new colony, by Skri. The war theatre had decided to build a settlement near the border of the nikancha nation as a trading post for all sorts of goods to be imported and exported from there.
The end of the colonial war forced the war theatre's colonies' factories to shift to manufacturing civilian products instead. The logistics department had greatly decreased the number of orders for military goods. They also needed to find a trade route for the war theatre. That was why Skri set his eyes on the nikancha nation. As a trusted friend of the nikancha, Borkal became the obvious candidate for the job.
Rublier had wanted to found a new company in the colonies, but he was dumbfounded to find that the war theatre had no existing trading relationships. Borkal's wild-bull company only dealt with others as smugglers taking advantage of the war theatre, which was a cover for the intelligence operations he helped facilitate. So, it wouldn't be able to help his family business out much.
Even though the war theatre promised Rublier that their family business could have a share in the business dealings with the nikancha, it would take at least half a year for Borkal to reach an agreement with them as well as for the town to be built. Rublier would also have to start a few factories or workshops so that the employees of his family business would be able to settle down by producing products for him.
If Eriksson's Blacksail came to them, Claude would agree to an arms deal since he had more than enough Shiksan arms. Even after selling many to the Fochsians, there were even more gathering dust in the warehouses. Claude didn't mind selling them to Eriksson so he could use them to defend the colonies' waters and to make up for their wartime spending.
But so far, it seemed Eriksson wouldn't be coming to the war theatre to trade in the short term. Claude reasoned that he had to first return to his lair and sail back to raid the mainland once more for wealth and people before bringing them back to his lair again. It would take at least two months or more, so the war theatre had more than enough time to prepare.
After a discussion with Bolonik and Skri, Claude decided to set the trading point at the burnt-down fishing town. The Shiksans' surprising arrival caused Claude to realise that the fishing town could be developed into a deep-water docking area. However, they would need to have proper fortifications and a reliable garrison force guarding it.
It would take three days to get from Port Patres in Robisto to Lanu. The route at sea from Port Patres to the fishing town, however, only took two hours. From then on, one only had to spend half a day to travel to Lanu, which would save two whole days. The war theatre couldn't deny the kind of convenience that route afforded.
Claude planned to deal with Blacksail at that fishing town. Naturally, the wild-bull company would be the one who would undertake that on behalf of the war theatre. Once Borkal finished dealing with the nikancha, he would be put to the task of dealing with Blacksail, but should he not be back, Claude was going to have Rublier do it. The war theatre would be able to tell the might of Blacksail through the volume of trade they could handle.
The one thing that troubled Claude and Bolonik greatly was how the war theatre was still far from finding an admiral to command their fleet. It wasn't that there weren't people talented for the navy in the colonies. For instance, the captains of the smuggling ships that worked with the war theatre were fitting candidates. However, the war theatre didn't trust them enough to make them their admiral.
It was still the age of sail, which was dominated by cannon warfare. Ships either surrendered or were sunk and nearer ships engaged in boarding and melee, with the side with bigger numbers having the upper hand. As long as one knew about those two core rules of engagement and understood when to retreat or launch preemptive attacks, they would be able to make the war theatre's fleet a decent naval force.
Initially, the one who was most suited for this post was Eiblont. Bolonik couldn't exactly leave his post as acting field marshal, and Claude had to be in charge of the discipline, training and organisation of the two corps and the garrison forces. Birkin was stationed to defend Cape Loducus, and as for Skri, he wasn't fit to lead troops, being the chief logistician.
Only Eiblont, the chief strategist of Thundercrash and aide to Claude, was fit for the task. He implemented what Claude ordered, though it was a task that could be delegated to others. There was no need for Eiblont himself to do it. So, Bolonik decided to let Eiblont become the admiral of the fleet and take charge of the fleet's formation. However, that idea was met by Eiblont with strong objection.
He refused the suggestion without the slightest hesitation and said he would risk insubordination than take up that post, all because he was too afraid of water and couldn't swim. He always seemed to get seasick if the voyage was long. They might as well burn the fleet down with their own hands, since appointing Eiblont to that position would basically achieve the same results anyway.
In the end, getting a hydrophobic person with a penchant for seasickness and no ability to swim to serve as an admiral was only asking for unnecessary trouble. Not only were Bolonik and Claude worried, even Skri came over to check out the mess. However, the suggestion he offered differed from the others'. Even so, the war theatre's largest problem was they couldn't ensure their total trustworthiness and loyalty.
The captains of the smuggling ships were fierce and headstrong. They even dared to fight against more than ten people at once in bars. During a pirate encounter at sea, they would be able to remain calm and escape their clutches. But sailing a ship was a completely different matter than commanding a fleet. Fleets themselves weren't defensive in the first place. All naval fleets were formed with the aim of attacking. When encountering pirates, they didn't have to consider escaping that engagement, but rather how to eliminate the enemies with the least casualties.
It was then when Claude received a letter from Moriad from Vebator, which stated his dream since childhood was to join Fearless and become a marine. But the low ranking of his family limited him from joining a naval college. He eventually grew up to become a member of the ground forces and managed to cobble some sort of standing for himself due to various fateful events.
Now that the war theatre was trying to form its own fleet, he requested to be transferred into it, even if he was to become a probationary ship captain, all for chasing his childhood dream.
Claude read the letter with a face full of confusion. Why would he want to transfer when everything was fine and well? Nobody would believe that he really dreamt of being a ship captain. He was now a colonel of the kingdom. Had it not been for the lack of contact with the mainland, he would've been promoted to major-general already. Why in the world would he become a probationary captain? Was his head still on his shoulders?
He wrote back, and half a month later, Moriad stood before Claude. Claude asked Masonhughes to keep watch on the door and ignored the dust and grime on Moriad as he slammed the letter on his desk and asked him what was going on.
Moriad grimaced and said, "Chief, that's how it ended up. I drew the bad lot, that's all. Those of us at Vebator already heard from Colonel Borkal about the dealings with Stellin XI. Now that we've defeated Shiks, the kingdom will soon send their ambassadors here to reassert power.
"The four other generals in the war theatre apart from you wouldn't be willing to believe they would take the initiative to go against an ambassador from the royal capital. After all, since the founding of Aueras 300 years ago, there have been few precedents of local rebellions. The reputation of the Stellin royal family is quite firmly established. That's why after I discussed it with the rest, we believe we should at least control this fleet so that we, you included, will have a route to back away from. The worst thing that can happen is we'll sail in the high seas. Conquering an island and becoming a pirate isn't the worst thing that can happen.
"With the colonial conflict over, we wouldn't see any action in Thundercrash anyway. When the kingdom's ambassador comes, they would definitely declare the disbandment of our corps. It's one thing for the troops since their families are already here in the colonies with private land they can farm once they retire from the force.
"But to Berklin, I and the others, we wouldn't want to be at the mercy of the ambassadors. Since we have no way to go against them, we came up with the idea of keeping control over the fleet for ourselves and moving all loyal officers into this fleet. The moment the war theatre's leanings shift, we won't have to stay here to take the crap the ambassador throws at us."
Claude felt a little touched at his minion that thought so far ahead for his sake. However, his method was a little too crude and only knew of escaping. He remained silent for a moment and asked, "Are you certain you want to be transferred to the fleet?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way, General."
Claude sighed. "How about this... I'll let you hold the position of acting admiral of the fleet. You'll be in charge of the formation of this fleet and you're free to pick your men from Thundercrash and Monolith's ranks. As for the skills you need to command a fleet, learn it from the Shiksan naval officer captives. The faster they teach you, the sooner they'll be released."
With Claude's backing, Moriad smoothly took over as acting admiral. Whether he'll become an actual admiral will depend on his performance. The war theatre gave him three months' time to finish picking the men he needed. Within half a year, he was to finish forming the fleet and patrol the seas.
After spending a few days to settle matters for the fleet, Claude returned to headquarters and picked up Borkal's report on his meeting with Stellin XI and summoned the guards that went along with Borkal back to the mainland. He had them recount their encounters with the bandits and had some others dramatise and write it into a novel to be serialised on the war theatre's newspapers before publishing a full book and distributing them to the defending forces.
Skri dutifully did what Claude had planned and soon, the colonial citizens learnt about the tragedy that was the aftermath of the civil war in the kingdom. The newspapers were selling out like crazy and the only topic for discussion in the taverns were about the flagrant words spoken by Stellin XI. The troops were moved and began to spread rumours about the ambassadors to be sent by the kingdom and began to doubt the reward they were due by participating in the colonial wars.
Bolonik was flaming mad. He burst into Claude's office waving the newspaper in hand. "What in the world are you planning?!"
Calmly, Claude explained, "I only want our citizens to see the truth and understand the tragedies that occurred in the kingdom. Only then will they understand the price we paid for the sake of their peaceful lives and appreciate our efforts."
"But... but you're airing out our dirty laundry! Reporting about the kingdom's current state and causing our citizens to criticise the kingdom for being in the wrong will soon have us pegged for treason! By the time these newspapers spread to the colonies on the western coast, our king will become a joke! It's nothing short of treasonous!" Bolonik roared.
Claude looked at him with a face full of disappointment. "I know how you think. You're too selfish. All you want is to protect your own reputation. You've never considered our citizens' sake or planned to pay the price for the sake of helping the war theatre out. All that's on your mind is the kingdom's ambassadors' arrival and handing over your power to them so take the road of least resistance, all for the sake of leaving a good name for yourself in the history books."
Wham! Claude slammed the desk with his fist and raised his voice even more. "Are you really trying to hide the truth? Can you hide what His Majesty is doing forever? In a few months, our king will become a joke among the other Freian nations even without us spreading the word! I'd rather that our citizens be in the know!
"Also, what kind of people do you think the kingdom is sending to us as ambassadors? Just consider what that hedonistic king told Borkal. You'll know that he doesn't care whether we're at war with Shiks or not. All they know is to scour us for wealth to sustain his life of luxury! Do you know how hurt the citizens will be once they find out the truth by themselves?!
"When you were surveying the troops, you told them they would receive promotions and rewards once the ambassadors come. Even though you knew that wouldn't be possible, you lied to them. Why? Because you can just ditch your post and all your troubles once the ambassadors come? What about the soldiers you lied to? The more they hope, the harsher the truth will hit them. Do you know the extent of the damage a rebellion from that blow will cause on the colonies?!
"I'm asking the newspapers to publish the report about Colonel Borkal and the others' audience with the new king because I want to prepare them mentally for that blow. I don't want them to hold out too much hope for the kingdom! That way, they'll be able to hold themselves back better once the ambassadors come without causing any unnecessary casualties. You're the acting field marshal. I hope you will think more for the sake of the colonies' citizens and war heroes instead of just worrying about your reputation!"
Initially, it was Bolonik that stormed in with anger. But he ended up being the one harshly rebuked! He was at a loss for words and returned regretful and humiliated. Bolonik had been taking Claude's suggestions on most decisions he made for the war theatre, after all. He didn't often take the helm himself, all for the sake of an easy handing in of his post to the ambassadors, after which he would no longer need to consider troublesome matters like those.
Claude, on the other hand, was more proactive and took up all the troublesome matters for himself. He implemented his plans for them in his own name. Both Skri and Claude knew that it was because Bolonik thought that the ambassador would eventually come, so he took giving up his position as an established fact. He wasn't willing to take action on minor matters, and maintained the status quo for larger matters until the day he could hand in the power.
That was why Bolonik called what Claude had done blasphemous. He was quite angered and dissatisfied to read the report on Borkal's audience with Stellin XI and was of the opinion that the war theatre would soon be destabilised. However, he didn't think Claude would be so direct with him and announce his plans right before him to the face all the while calling him a selfish coward and liar who had nothing on his mind but his own reputation.
After suffering the fierce rebuke, Bolonik no longer came to headquarters, citing being bedridden from sickness as the reason.