Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 475

Unlike what they all expected, the ambassadors from the kingdom still didn't come late into the 6th month. It seemed rather weird, considering that the theatre's victory was half a year ago. The kingdom didn't make any sort of reaction to that.

Bolonik, who used sickness as an excuse, could no longer continue to play coy at home. The theatre was still stable even after so much time had passed. Both the kingdom's citizens and the local forces have calmed down as well. The tragedies that occurred on the mainland were quite some ways from the colonies, after all. Stellin XI's behaviour was nothing more than talk of the streets. The colonies' citizens didn't feel the actual brunt of the consequences themselves.

As for the reaction from the two corps and the local garrisons, they grew to ignore the goings-on after an initial commotion. They had relied on their own efforts to obtain victory for the theatre without any mainland support. The troops were already used to taking orders from theatre headquarters and had almost no feelings towards the distant mainland government. After knowing about the recent scandals there, nobody held much hope for the ambassadors the kingdom was going to send.

Bolonik had to come back out from seclusion. As the acting field marshal, he had no good reason to stay home for longer than two months due to sickness. The first voyage of the new fleet at Port Patres was due to take place and he had to coordinate the officiation ceremony.

Claude didn't mind that Bolonik was back out dealing with various matters of the theatre. He gave a casual briefing about the matters over the past two months and handed over the documents concerning the matters he dealt with, reestablishing a basic functioning relationship. What Claude had to busy himself with next was the reorganisation of the forces and discipline checks. He couldn't afford to be held up by administrative matters in headquarters.

Currently, the Loki Mountains was under martial law. Not a single Aueran citizen had moved there yet. The mining association, however, was quite keen on the mineable resources there and had made many requests to develop that area, though Claude and Skri shut them down with the excuse of the place still being volatile and unfit for development. Claude was just trying to hold as many cards back as he could for the time the ambassadors of the kingdom came.

The war last year saw the forces of the theatre suffering around 20 thousand casualties. After disbanding the two reserve folks in Balingana and Cromwell and assimilating the men into Moriad's new fleet and the two garrison lines needed for Loki Mountains respectively, they still needed around ten thousand new recruits.

This was also one of the reasons behind the conflict between Claude and Bolonik. The latter thought that the war was over and the future of the two corps was no longer what they could decide. Instead, the kingdom's ambassadors would call the shots. If they received an order to disband, there would be no need to waste time and money to reorganise and restaff the units.

As a result, Bolonik surveyed the various local forces and kept spreading word that the arrival of the ambassadors would get the soldiers who participated in the war their due rewards and promotions. He also held off on Claude's request for a recruitment drive, which ultimately resulted in his outburst.

Fortunately, Bolonik excused himself and stayed home for two months after that. Claude then gave the order to recruit and reorganise in his own name before being trapped in headquarters to deal with the various administrative affairs. Now that Bolonik had 'recovered', Claude tossed all that back to him to go back to supervise his units' training.

Time passed quickly through all the busywork. The ambassadors still weren't there by the 8th month. Many things occurred during the past two months. The fleet was fully formed and made their first voyage. They made it back after some ten days without issue, which was a sign that their new admiral, Moriad, was at least qualified enough.

Liboyd's work on steam locomotives also passed the prototyping stage and went into implementation. Claude's colonial railway company finally opened up and prepared to lay down rails across the various colonies. Given the current state of the locomotive, they would be starting with light rails. The first stretch of railways would go from Port Vebator to Wickhamsburg and pass through Balingana directly to the bank of Dorinibla River.

The tobacco company managed by Alek also produced its first batch of rolled cigars. Claude cooperated with Rublier by giving him rights to distribute the cigars across the colonies. It was to return the favour he owed by giving them a firm footing in the colonies for their new life.

Lastly, Eriksson finally sent people to establish contact with Borkal, but Borkal was still busy in Loki Mountains dealing with the nikancha. Having no other choice, they sought out Rublier, who brought them to Claude. The things they wanted to purchase were mostly daily necessities in relatively small amounts to be consumed by 20 thousand people for three months.

Claude knew that Eriksson was merely testing this out. The theatre was really strict when it came to trading food. Food buyers had to be properly registered and there were also sudden checks on what the food would be used for. Eriksson's informant could only occasionally buy a few hundred catties of food without being noticed. But once that amount exceeded three thousand catties, the constables would be put on alert and the theatre would begin to restrict them.

The only way Eriksson could purchase a large amount of food was to get through Borkal or Claude. However, he had squandered his relationship with Claude after his father was attacked by pirates. He had no choice but to count on Borkal, but the deal had to have Claude's agreement first.

Claude signed the purchase list. The deal with Blacksail would be coordinated by the wild-bull company, but Rublier would have to deal with this himself to gain Eriksson's trust. The prices were also fair, but there was a 50 percent tax when it came to converting the coinage of various nations to the notes and crowns of the overseas bank. Eriksson could also trade using other goods.

During the 8th month, Eriksson's purchase list included various leathers and skins as well as some low-grade liquor. It seemed he was preparing his crew for winter. The informants of the wild-bull company saw the pirates who hurried there to make the trade and sold them a large amount of Shiksan weather clothing at a high price. They also told them they could buy some weapons if they wished.

Rublier came to Claude worriedly and told him of his unease about trading arms to the pirates. Claude merely laughed and said that the arms they were selling to the pirates were spoils obtained from the Shiksans. They were as good as trash taking up space to the theatre. Selling it to them was only to make up for their military spending. They would also be able to gauge Blacksail's forces based on the amount they bought.

During the start of the 9th month, the ambassadors finally arrived in Port Cobius. Seven of them came in total, escorted by seven warships of the reformed Storm and a marine tribe. Those seven warships were part of the same ones that escaped to Port Cobius during the civil war.

There should've been eight warships initially, but one of them had been sunk by Blacksail. The reason the ambassadors were so late was the rampant attack on the kingdom's coastlines by Blacksail. All the ports, coastal towns and villages were targets for their raiding.

Fortunately, they didn't stain their hands full with blood this time around and instead recruited ship crew, work smiths and refugees and cleared up some rich locals' houses. A few local tax officials were caught and hung at prominent spots like town gates and tall trees, which earned Blacksail a rather good reputation among the citizens. Some even sought them out to join them.

Since the royal capital was informed of the colonies' victory against Shiks, it became a place of celebration. To the old nobility, it was the sole piece of news in the recent years they could be proud of. The end of the war meant the war-torn mainland could finally recover from their wounds thanks to nonstop resources from the colonies. The economy would once more recover.

As for the new nobility, they had squeezed the mainland almost dry. The colonies now represented a really attractive pot of gold for them. Intercontinental trade would cause all sorts of specialties to flow in, which they could then resell to other Freian nations. It would mean countless profits for them should they be able to gain control over trade.

As for Stellin XI, he was glad he would have yet another source of wealth to scour. He had complained a few times about the lowered quality of escorts during those banquets. His chief butler, however, told him they were the best they could find in the royal capital and also wisely warned him to save money or they would run out soon enough.

After Stellin XI defeated Prince Hansbach, he announced three new tax laws which would fill his personal coffers instead of the national treasury.

During a number of court sessions, he even announced that the citizens were taxed too less, so rich citizens should take the initiative to donate half their wealth to repay the kingdom for protecting them during the war to help the kingdom out of its current state.

Whether those were true or not was irrelevant, since they were rumours on the street among the folk. As far as they were concerned, their new king was nothing but a fool of a ruler. Even the old nobility didn't want to humour this new king. Only the new nobility hobbled around him and protected the king that represented their influence like a pack of rabid dogs.

Once they got the confirmation of the war's end, there was a heated argument in court for a month. Nobility old and new tore each other out about which ambassadors to send without relenting. Those who moved fast even picked candidates for viceroys and high-commissioners for the king to pick.

As for what to do about the theatre, that was the only thing the two noble factions could agree on. The theatre's mandate to govern the colonies had to be reclaimed by the kingdom for the old system of viceroys and high-commissioners to be restored. As for Thundercrash and Monolith, they were to be transferred to local defence forces and split up among the new administrators. The colonies no longer needed to maintain those two strong corps.

As for the officers of those two corps, the benevolent king would forgive the crimes of the troops on account of their contributions and allow them an honourable discharge from the forces following a demotion. They would spend the rest of their lives farming in the colonies without being able to return to the mainland.

The court continued their squabble for half a month more and finally came up with a proposal for the king to sign off on only for some to realise they didn't have a fleet capable of achieving such a feat. The plan to send a folk to the colonies to take over power was scrapped and their two months of squabbling went to waste.

Thankfully there were still some officials who had sound minds on their shoulders that gave Stellin XI a solution. Since the theatre captured the Alliance's fleet, the kingdom could just send a small number of people to the colonies to get that fleet in order and transport the goods from the colonies back. They could simply send naval officers they could trust to organise the fleet.

That way, the kingdom would once more have a powerful navy to protect their transport fleets that came back from the colonies nonstop with wealth and treasure. They couldn't be bothered about the livelihoods of the sailors hired in the colonies. They could simply relieve them from their positions without spending a single penny after they sailed back to the kingdom. Perhaps putting them in labour camps would be a good idea to get the kingdom some free manpower.

Stellin XI had long been feeling frustrated about getting money from the colonies to fill his dwindling coffers thanks to the rising spending, so he couldn't bear the inefficiency of the court in solving the issue.

As a result, the wise king himself chastised his ministers in court before anointing two representatives from old nobility and five from new nobility to work on taking over the colonies. He would deal with the matter of viceroy and high-commissioners later.

For the sake of the money, he even took a step further to delegate eight warships from the 23 he had as a lifeline for the ambassadors. It would also form the basis of the Alliance's captured fleet.

Before the ambassadors departed, the king once more stressed that the theatre was to be punished for ten times the tax they owed for their disrespect and disregard.

The colonies were still the sparsely populated and undeveloped lands in the eyes of those in power on the mainland, only fit for producing materials for the kingdom. Perhaps they fared even worse after the war with Shiks. So they didn't really care about the king's greedy demands. It wasn't like the livelihoods of the immigrants there mattered to them.

But when the ambassadors set sail, they ran into one of the many Blacksail raids. The eight warships were chased nonstop and one was even sunk, so they had no choice but to return to Storm-controlled waters. They were greeted by Stellin XI's horrible scolding upon return.

After waiting for two long months, the raids finally ceased when the pirates returned to their lair happy and full of loot. The ambassadors then hurried once more to the colonies.

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