Claude couldn't think up a solution.
It was often said that people were selfish. The wealth and beauties they saw, they coveted. The status and power others had, they desired. It was a primal drive ingrained in the human psyche. However, clear-minded people could control their desires and work hard to take every step towards their dreams before ultimately succeeding. And then there were those that didn't want to put in effort, yet wanted all their desires fulfilled, only to walk the oft-trodden path to ruin.
Bolonik had suggested he should have the region's to-be-enfeoffed unite and choose locations connected to one another and demand to be placed directly under the region's administration. It would give them a foothold on the continent, but Claude shot the idea down. If every council member in the region was made an honorary noble, they would spend 300 thousand crowns without hesitation to become hereditary nobles. They'd not want to be under the region's administration once they're landed nobles.
Instead, they might very well transfer all sorts of resources from the region to nourish their fiefs on Freia. Their new fiefs would far exceed the importance of their status and position in the region. Fiefs could be passed on to descendants, while their positions earned through merit, could not.
Clearly that was the crux of the scheme, and it was the hardest one to get around. It would cause others to jump into it willingly, even knowing that it could be a trap. While Claude was all too aware of how that would affect the region, there was nothing he could do about it. He could control his own actions, but not those of others.
A month or so later, the fiefdom proposal sent waves through the royal capital. According to the reports from the region's office in the royal capital, it was said Fredrey I approved of that proposal. It was also unanimously supported by the House of Lords. However, many lower house dignitarians were still arguing about the matter. There wasn't a clear majority of supporters and detractors of the proposal.
Additionally, it was said that the king was going to give honorary baron Titles to all members of the House of Dignitarians. It seemed that Fredrey I was going all out on this bet. If the members of the lower house themselves were honorary barons, all they had to do to become actual hereditary barons was to pay a sum of money. They would also gain a fief to go along with that title. That way, nobody would be against the proposal.
The coming days were chaotic to say the least. The nobles sent dozens of emissaries every day, many were descendants of those very self-same nobles. Some were even the brothers and sisters of the current heads of the households. They brought luxurious gifts and bright smiles, requesting Thundercrash give them guarded tours of the kingdom's new territories.
They were there to call dibs on land. Claude and Bolonik were more than frustrated, but they would never lift their hands against those that came without ill intentions. Not to mention, many of them had lots of influence with the capital, and none showed a hint of the conflict between the old nobility and the region. They maintained a polite air the whole time.
Claude waited until they offered to pay for the escort before agreeing. Claude was far more relaxed about the whole affair than Bolonik. At least, he didn't have elders coming to chew him up about picking a fine land for the family.
As Claude predicted, Bolonik's father who was in his seventies came with two of his younger relatives all the way to Polyvisia by carriage with the same aim to pick a fief for the household. Bolonik's wife and children lived in Lanu in the autonomous region, but his parents and siblings still lived in a farmstead they ran near the royal capital.
Upon hearing about Bolonik's enfeoffment, the parents who were quite unwilling to associate with him yielded and came all the way just to get him to pick out a good fief. His father was a man that Claude felt an instinctive urge to scoff at, having rebuked Bolonik when he was just standing beside him, saying that he could just leave the fief to his siblings to run while he continued to live in the region.
At the end, Claude stepped out and told the old man to dream on. As one of the region's top leaders, his fief would be managed by the region as the council had decided. The location of the fief would also be set according to the region's plans, not according to Bolonik himself. If Bolonik didn't agree to that, he could leave the executive committee of the council to run his own fief. In future, he would have nothing more to do with the region.
While Bolonik's father was angry that the region interfered in the matter of his family's fief, he didn't let it cloud his mind, knowing that it was thanks to the region that his son managed to climb to his current position, bringing the family much prestige. So, he didn't flip out, simply leaving after shaking some money and expensive gifts out of Bolonik and leaving for the royal capital, crestfallen.
Bolonik finally breathed a sigh of relief and thanked Claude for bailing him out. Everyone had their troubles, and Bolonik knew that his parents really didn't like him, their second son. They had even disinherited him and struck him from the family register. Bolonik understood they had done so to protect the household's farmstead from his escapades on Nubissia.
But after the region sent reinforcements to the mainland during the Triumph of Ambruiz, his parents changed their tune and called him their proud son. They also sent his elder brother to him to tell him about how their farmstead had been raided clean by the Union. His brother left with quite a substantial amount of money from him.
Thanks to him, his parents and siblings from a poor household were able to buy a farmstead near the royal capital and start a family business. Many of their neighbours who were forced to sell their land were filled with unspoken complaints. The reputation of Bolonik's family was rather bad, but their current status made it so that even local officials didn't dare to offend them, as was reported to Bolonik by an informant he sent.
Bolonik knew that once he got a fief and let his family step in, they would turn his personal fief into the family's and start dreaming of getting him to get his brothers a few more Titles so his parents' precious children will have rights to inherit the fief.
Things like that really happened. Actual nobles had done far more for far less when it came to inheritance. If Bolonik, his wife and children continued to live in the region, then all would be well. But once his family took control of the fief and Bolonik's wife and children wanted to return to the fief, there would be some 'accident' waiting for them.
Bolonik didn't trust his parents and siblings. Otherwise, they wouldn't have sent him to military college when he was only twelve, where the food and accommodation was free and he only got to return home once per month. Once he grew up, he would have no choice but to join the military. It was akin to having sold him to the army. Unlike other poor students who joined because of their bad household finances, he was sent there just because his parents didn't like him for being aloof as a child.
Looking at the descendants of nobles flocking to the Nasrian region and those who were freaking out in the royal capital, it was obvious how much of a commotion this new proposal caused. Even Bolonik's father wanted to stick his hands into the matter. Gaining their own fief was the formerly unachievable dream of many and now, they finally got that chance. The proposal would definitely pass into bill at the lower house.
Fredrey I and Blancarte's plan was really successful. At least, the king finally managed to get a trump card to use against the old nobility. Currently, none of them dared to antagonise him as the right to locate their fiefs lay in his hands. They had to get the king's express permission to get a fief to their liking.
It was laughable that Stellin IX fought for six whole years to remove the feudal system so that his descendants wouldn't be constrained to just Ibnist Plains. The Reformation King would never have imagined that without fiefs, the nobles would turn their attention to monopolising the kingdom's trade and industries.
In the past century, the old nobility's faction developed to a point they became unbeatable giants in the kingdom, with the kingdom's key military industries in their hands. No longer having fiefs for petty conflicts to break out over, the nobles were united in their cause. Some who were unwilling to take up the mantle as head of the household even gave up on their rights to inherit the Title for some extra cash to lead a good life.
Fredrey I's move would easily give him power over the nobles once more. The old nobility would also relax their limits on the royal court and pay out to solve the kingdom's financial issues. It could also cause the autonomous region some trouble. The proposal received universal acclaim from sharp-witted folks just like Claude. It was a trap they had to jump into.
Sometimes, Claude wondered if it was his fault it was allowed to develop that way. If only all he did was just chase the Union's troops out of the kingdom instead of pressing on to conquer more territory and exterminating Nasri and Canas, putting him into this predicament as a result. Though, he knew that there was no use crying over spilt milk. At the time, there was no way he could've decided differently.
If he stopped after driving the Union out, the region's two corps would continue to face off against them at the border. Even the region wouldn't be able to take the cost of fighting for a few more years. Beating the enemy while they were down was much more practical. Only then could Thundercrash and Monolith strike fear into enemies internal and external.
The noble ambassadors and descendants spent two months scooting around the Nasrian region and returned to Polyvisia once they made their decisions. They thanked Claude and Bolonik for the escort and returned to the royal capital. At that point, Viscount Davlid came once more as an ambassador of the court to hand out promotions and rewards for the region's troops.
As Claude expected, Fredrey I was really generous with the rewards. Claude and Bolonik were promoted to Lord Militant, Eiblont, Skri and Birklin from lieutenant-generals to generals, Berklin, Moriad, Dyavid, Myjack and four other major-generals from Monolith to lieutenant-generals. Additionally, 22 other colonels were promoted to major-generals.
Weyblon's son, Drivick, was included among them. His dream to become general had finally come true. The two new Lord Militants could only watch as general ranks were handed out like candy. After the promotion, they would have to reorganise the troops once more. The two corps couldn't have that many. They probably had to put a local garrison line under each major-general.
The rank promotions were not too out of the question, since the two corps did exterminate two enemy nations and helped the kingdom unite Eastern Freia. However, Davlid apologised and said the monetary reward would have to wait two to three months until the court gathered more funds.
Lastly came the entitlements of exceptional soldiers. Claude, a hereditary baron, was promoted to hereditary count. Bolonik used to be a trigenerational viscount, but was created a hereditary viscount, one level below Claude. Skri, Eiblont and Birkin, former trigenerational barons, were created hereditary barons. It appeared that the king didn't feel it appropriate to take the elevation fee from them and simply gave them a hereditary Title directly.
It was quite funny to Claude that the entitlement seemed no different from handing out candy. Even Skri, who hadn't set foot onto the mainland and only took care of logistics, gained a hereditary Title. Apart from the five heads of the region, 19 high-ranking officers of the two corps received honorary baron Titles. Berklin, Myjack and the rest were upgraded from honorary barons to trigenerational barons, and 47 other soldiers were given honorary Titles up to the level of count.
Then, Davlid told Claude and the rest of another matter. As the king had given honorary Titles to the members of the lower house, he would also give the council members of the region honorary baron Titles to maintain fairness. Those who already had an honorary Title would automatically be upgraded to one level higher. For instance, Weyblon and Bernard became honorary viscounts.
It seemed that the king wasn't going to let the council members off, knowing how rich they were. So, he gave them a chance to get their own fiefs. Claude didn't need to think hard to know that the council members would definitely empty their coffers for the hereditary Title to get a piece of land. The wealth the council members amassed over decades would belong to the king soon.
"How is the elevation fee calculated?" Bolonik asked.
Davlid, being well prepared, waved for his secretary to hand him a document. "Honorary barons, for instance, have to pay ten thousand crowns to be promoted to honorary viscounts. It'll take 20 thousand crowns to be created an honorary count, 30 thousand to an honorary marquis, 40 thousand to an honorary duke and 50 thousand to be elevated to a trigenerational baron.
"In other words, it'll take 150 thousand crowns to be elevated from an honorary baron to trigenerational baron. It costs the same ten thousand crowns to go from trigenerational baron to viscount. In total, another 150 thousand is needed to become hereditary baron. All in all, 300 thousand crowns are necessary for a fief to be bequeathed by His Majesty."
Claude really wanted to curse. If every council member wants their own fief, they'll definitely be paying the fee. There were 112 council members in the region in total. Fredrey I could easily scoop 30 million crowns from their pockets.