On the 26th of the 11th month, the first self-governance referendum in the colonies was held. Historians of the future would look at that moment with the highest of importance. It was a sign for the eventual declarations of independence by the other colonies.
What the historical records didn't state was all the two hundred so-called representatives of the people that took part in the referendum were investors of the overseas bank. Even the smallest percentage of 0.1 shares equated to an investment of tens of thousands of crowns. In other words, they were no doubt among the rich in the colonies.
During the past half month, the decree from Stellin XI has been published in all newspapers of the colonies and incited the ire of the people. Their foolish king didn't even consider the settlers of the colonies to be his own subjects, but rather slaves. Nobody would like a king that lusted constantly after their wealth.
The two hundred-plus representatives represented the richer settlers. All the investors were well aware that the ambassadors were going to come for them. The reason for that was with the bank sealed and the notes no longer valid, most of the citizens would end up dead broke. They couldn't even be squeezed for money at all. Only by going for the rich could the ambassadors satisfy Stellin XI's lust for riches.
That was why not a single one of the investors was against the theatre's proposal to go against the king but not the kingdom. With Bolonik's help organising, the representatives spent half an hour casting their votes. The results were 199 for, seven spoiled votes and zero against. From then on, the colonies would formally cut ties with the kingdom and be renamed Aueran Autonomous Region. It was declared that they would no longer heed any of Stellin XI's decrees.
First, they had to change their name. Given the current situation with the war with Shiks already over, a new conflict wouldn't start for the time being. The theatre was now called the autonomous military region. It still fulfilled similar administrative and military duties as before.
As for the field marshal, Bolonik still held that post. Claude and the other four generals became vice marshals. However, Bolonik was more in charge of matters of administration and coordinating the self-governing council. The writ to mobilise and command the two corps and garrison lines had all been transferred to Claude. He would be in charge of the real work in the region.
Next came the formation of the self-governing council. All two hundred representatives became members of that council, Claude included. He also gained the title of council member. On paper, the council was the highest authoritative body in the entire autonomous region that represented the interests of the people. However, their real powers were embarrassingly few. They only had the power to monitor and suggest policies. The real power was split between headquarters and the executives of the council.
After the formation of the council, the one-armed Sir Bernard didn't disappoint. He took up the post as the first council chairman. The term of a chairman lasted five years and one could at most serve for four terms. Next came the election of the executive committee of the council, which was the administrative body of the autonomous region with most powers of execution. Most civil policies fell under their jurisdiction.
Unsurprisingly, Bolonik was picked to be the first chairman of the executive committee. Apart from the five generals, there were also 12 members of the council who became council executives, Weyblon included. He would be in charge of the autonomous region's overseas matters. The executives would be reevaluated five years later based on their performance.
After most of those things were dealt with, the self-governing council started asking the more difficult questions. For example, some council members suggested the autonomous region be governed with a state system to differentiate it from the kingdom. After heated arguments, that motion was passed in the council with a small majority. The colonies would henceforth be known as states. For instance, The Colony of Cromwell would now be the State of Cromwell. The sub-level administrative unit under the state would be a district rather than prefectures in Aueras.
Claude used this chance to make a suggestion to change the colour of the soldiers' uniforms. He had been quite dissatisfied with the red on Aueran uniforms for a long time. He could tolerate jet-black hats and pants, but red was far too eye catching on the battlefield. With the advent of precision-aiming firearms, not changing the uniform colour would result in unnecessary casualties.
Fortunately, Claude's clout was quite substantial and the motion easily passed. As for what colour they would change it to, headquarters would settle on it on a later date. The council members were quite self-aware and wouldn't make any commotion during Claude's proposal when it came to military matters. Naturally, there were those who thought that the five generals were only using this as an excuse to make more money for their own pockets. After all, changing the uniforms of 200 thousand troops was no small expenditure. The one who was given the contract for that would stand to gain huge profits.
What came after had nothing more to do with Claude. He, Eiblont and Birkin quickly left and began preparing for the blowback from Stellin XI. However, he had no choice but to leave the attack to Eiblont. The autonomous region had just been formed and Claude himself had to hold the fort to ensure the populace was assured.
Moriad's fleet and all the forces save for Dyavid's Line 1303 in Thundercrash 1st Folk were deployed. Eiblont would be commander-in-chief while Myjack and Berklin served as his adjutants. Bloweyk's Wolfang would also deploy two tents to set out with Borkal, who was now chief strategist of the corps. Claude had deployed the most elite of his men for this operation.
"Apart from the warships and transport vessels of our long-distance patrol fleet, I also mobilised near a hundred long-distance vessels that are docked at Port Cobius for this operation. The 40-odd vessels that Colonel Borkal had used to bring back around 60 thousand refugees are now completely repaired and among the ships deployed. They will all be stocked with food and ammunition. The food is for the refugees while the ammunition and arms will be for self-defence and counterattacks.
"This is not a mission that can be completed in a single run. We might take half to one year for this. We need at least a million refugees from the kingdom to solve our region's lack of manpower. That will be your primary objective.
"Additionally, the autonomous region will give that mad king a slap on the face. Tell him that our region is not a toy for him to play around with. We are not his slaves and our wealth is not his.
"Next, after docking in Whitestag, send out troops to capture the Prefecture of Balivia of the three sister prefectures immediately. That's where the fifth industrial complex of the kingdom is located. We need you to move all large machinery in those factories as well as the operators and technicians back to the autonomous region. We need this equipment and talent to help with production and improve our metallurgical capabilities.
"While we can produce Sonia 591s now, we can only make up to 30 thousand each year. Our cannon construction is also quite crude and obsolete. We also lack any large kilns for refining metals effectively. This is all because of the kingdom's attempt to restrict us. They want the colonies to only be a place to import raw materials from, so any equipment and talent won't be allowed to come here.
"That's why I hope you can make up for our largest shortcoming with this deployment. In the coming few years, the autonomous region will enter a wave of mass development. Railroads and trains will become our main and largest transport system. However, the scale of the refineries we have won't allow us to mass-produce the iron rails, so we have to count on this operation.
"Balivia's industrial complex can make arms, but apart from that, there's also a large textile production plant and dyeing plant. Don't miss these two either. Make sure to get their skilled workers to us. You know that we got permission to change our uniforms, so how good the new ones will be will depend on you.
"Do you understand what I want? Gathering refugees or slapping Stellin XI in the face isn't the priority. What's important is emptying Balivia. Colonel Moriad, your fleet's first priority is to ship the industrial equipment here, not refugees. You can gather the strong youth workers among them to help with your transportation efforts though."
Claude finally ended his briefing, hugged Eiblont, saluted him and sent him off along with his comrades at the port. The sails were raised and soon, they disappeared beyond the horizon.
To Stellin XI, there could be nothing worse than receiving word about the sudden invasion during new year's eve. He had already prepared a grand banquet for the evening so that he could party through the night and burn away another huge chunk of the ever-emptying coffers of the royal family. He only hoped the ambassadors would quickly send him another load so that he could refill them.
Year 594 was not a good year for Stellin XI. There was not much wealth left to be scoured from the various prefectures of the kingdom. Instead, refugees and vagabonds were increasing in number at a startling rate. Corpses of people starved to death could be seen on the streets from time to time. Bandits were all over the place and not a single official from the prefectures had good news to report to the royal capital. They were either robbed by bandits or overwhelmed by swarms of refugees. They requested military or humanitarian aid nonstop, all of which required precious financial resources to provide.
Ibnist Plains, where the royal capital was situated, was still peaceful. However, the officials were growing more and more discontent with their king and complained that they chose the wrong person to put on the throne. Had they not fought so hard for it, the kingdom wouldn't have ended up in that state.
Stellin XI was mad, but he was no fool. While he had many flaws, such as loving spectacle and throwing endlessly lavish balls and parties so that he could frolic with the beautiful noble ladies, that didn't mean he didn't want to be a good king. He would definitely prefer for the kingdom to be stable as well. However, he was powerless to do anything about it. Putting aside the fact that the nobles and officials are constantly squabbling over power and influence, he couldn't do anything by the sheer fact that the national treasury was empty.
When any of the ministers asked him to stop throwing the balls, he would get mad and start rebuking them. Would stopping them really make the kingdom turn for the better? It was impossible! So what if he saved the measly amount of money he spent on the balls? Everyone knew it wouldn't make a difference. Not to mention, as king, he deserved those lavish parties. If he did a good job throwing them, he could improve the reputation of the Stellin royal family.
Perhaps the kingdom could stabilise after winter. The refugees and vagabonds freezing to death would definitely make the load on the kingdom lighter. That way, there would be no need to aid them. By the time the ambassadors return from the colonies, he would naturally spend some money dealing with the prefectures to get them to resume production and whatnot assuming there was extra from the amount they brought back. Everything would turn for the better in two to three years.
Little did Stellin XI know that he would be informed about the invasion that night itself. It was a complete slight to the royal family! It also meant that the ambassadors he sent had failed their mission and were missing. Who knew if they were still alive?
"Ridiculous! How... how dare they rebel?!" he yelled in the palace madly. He began smashing things up in his tantrum. Alongside the report of the invasion was a flyer about the declaration of self-governance and their justifications. They also published his decree on that flyer.
Anyone with half a brain who read it would know that the theatre had no choice but to take such an action. The colonies' two corps fought hard without any aid from the mainland and finally managed to emerge victorious against the Shiksan aggressors. They even increased the number of colonies from seven to nine, establishing new territories for the kingdom.
Yet, right after the wars, Stellin XI not only didn't reward the brave soldiers that fought for the cause, he smacked a crime on them and wanted to punish them. He decreed for the five generals and the high-ranking officers to all be demoted and discharged as well as for the two irregular corps that fought in the war to be disbanded so that their spoils could be taken from them. Not only that, he even tried to scour wealth from the colonies, not caring about his own subjects at all.
The decree demanded the ambassadors to get the five years of tribute the theatre owed and slap a fine of ten times that amount on them. That alone was enough to convince the citizens that their king had gone mad like a dog with rabies.
The nobles were well aware that the colonies stopped paying the tribute to fund their war effort to resist the invasion. It was officially sanctioned by the ministry of the army with the signature and seal of the late king, Stellin X.
Yet, Stellin XI refused to acknowledge that sanction and demanded the colonies to pay the tribute plus the fine. It wasn't a hard number to calculate, but did the colonies' citizens really have that kind of wealth? The decree practically forced the populace of the colonies to object to Stellin XI's rule.
He immediately lost the mandate of the people. Since Thundercrash docked at Whitestag, they immediately sent light-cavalry troops to surround ten prefectures, the three sisters included, and began recruiting refugees and vagabonds. They didn't offend any locals and soon got the support of the local officials and bigwigs. It was only then that someone spread word of it to the royal capital.
No matter how Stellin XI roared or cursed, he could do nothing against the occupying Thundercrash. Nobody was willing to heed his decrees to punish the traitors. He couldn't send the royal guard, who was protecting Ibnist Plains, out either, in fear of risking the safety of his own life.
As for the corpsman of Griffon, Hereditary Marquis Julius Hou Hadro, he asked for military funding to be provided before any rebellion suppression was to be carried out. While Reddragon's corpsman, Lord Militant and Duke Siegfeld, was Stellin XI's father in law, he didn't have that good a relationship with him and immediately refused that decree.
Nobody was foolish enough to underestimate Thundercrash. While it was classified as an irregular corps, only one level higher than local garrisons, it being able to defeat ten Shiksan corps was a testament to their might. Not to mention, they were there to help the kingdom out with refugees so that they had a new chance at life in the colonies. There was no merit to interrupting their operation. Whether they were self-governing traitors or not, they didn't declare independence. So, what would be the point of seeking trouble with them?
As such, the three main Aueran corps sat and watched Thundercrash freely do their thing in those ten prefectures. The only unlucky one was the king, who had once more become a laughing stock of Freia. Nobody heeds his decrees and he could only numb himself to that thought with wine in his palace.