Claude was really crestfallen and filled with a sense of defeat. He only just felt how horrid it could be to have a useless teammate.
If the region was not going to declare independence from Aueras, this conflict would be their best chance to further their influence. They'd done what the king had asked in the war, only to have their intelligence insulted. However, Thundercrash and Monolith still had stunning reputations due to their unmatched performance, so they had quite the leverage in the court.
But when the war ended, the region was ostracised by the old nobles. Naturally, it had lots to do with the cessation of support for military resources to the court. After all, the kingdom's territory had already been reclaimed and the taxes collected from those areas were enough for the kingdom to more or less make do. There was no need to 'borrow' future tax money from the region in advance any more, though, they'd already hit their limit of ten years ahead.
The region had even intentionally increased support for Reddragon and Griffon in hopes they would stand up for them in the court against the other factions. However, the region underestimated the thickness of the skins of the nobles' faces. When they needed help, they tried to appear as pleasing as possible. Once they got it, they pretended to not know who they were. Even the royal guard joined the nobles in the ostracisation, causing the region to have no ally in court at all.
In some sense, Claude took his three folks of 100 plus thousand men to the royal capital with the new 4th Folk as vanguard with the intent on purging the court of the nobles' power. While Queen Christie was stupid enough to let herself be blinded by the region's wealth, Claude would never want her life for it. He would spare her and the king on account of Maria, at the very least.
He didn't want to be a kingslayer, after all. If King Fredrey I wasn't willing to cooperate with him, Claude could simply take him captive in the colonies and kill the rest of the ministers and nobles off. Anyone who showed any sign of hostility towards the region would be punished. As for what he would do after the purge, he could simply cross the bridge when he came to it.
Naturally, it would be ideal if the king played nice. Claude wanted the region's council to have a share of the power in the House of Lords so that they had actual ability to influence the kingdom's policy, not just suggest changes from the sidelines. The biggest problem of the Aueran parliamentary system was that the nobles in the House of Lords had most of the power to run the nation while the House of Dignitarians was nothing more than a suggestive body. The nobles no longer had anyone standing in their way. Even the dignitarians in the lower house were basically their servants.
Claude hoped to emulate the England of old Earth and have a parliamentary democracy with the prime minister as head of government and the king only the symbol of the nation without any real power. Once the lower house of England gained actual power, the nobles in the upper house became little more than symbols. They weren't heard from often thereafter.
Claude knew very well the region couldn't afford to make such a move at a time like this as it would seem like they were abandoning Nubissia for Freia, but his passivity only caused the Freians to double down on their view that the region was uncivilised and anyone from there was a bumpkin. Even if the region did manage to take control, they still wouldn't be properly acknowledged as rightful rulers by the people. Riots and rebellions were sure to break out.
As such, Claude's plans were quite simple. He would first purge the nobles hostile to the region and pass on the court's power to the House of Dignitarians, supporting a regime of civilian rule. Then, he would pick some council members of the region to form a faction in the House of Dignitarians, cementing the region's influence on Aueran policy.
However, his plans would not come to pass. While Blancarte was quite the smart person for being able to minimise the damage caused by Queen Christie's actions, Claude still held enough power to eradicate the forces of the kingdom. No matter how the negotiations went, he could easily tear up the agreement to do what he wanted.
However, the council members and officers were quite a disappointment to him. Not only did they not remember the pain and humiliation they just suffered, they even seemed proud about it. The way they saw it, the king was being more than gracious to offer them those reparations. They were thankful that their involuntary suffering got them those benefits.
Bolonik, on the other hand, was yet another imbecilic loyalist to the royal family. As Claude had predicted, those in the palace did have their eyes on the 30 million crowns of the region. All Blancarte had to do was to tell Bolonik the kingdom's sob story to get him to confidently state his loyalty to the kingdom and his willingness to help without consideration for how his actions would affect the region at all.
Skri was the exact opposite. On the day after his arrest, he was pressured by a person claiming to be the palace's internal affairs supervisor to take a fief from the king. Skri refused without hesitation and mocked the king for letting money drive him insane to even dare to attempt using such underhanded methods to get the region's representatives to hand over their money to get the fiefs at those unreasonable prices. That earned him a sound beating, but Skri didn't relent at all.
Like Skri, the other 40 plus representatives also suffered the first-ever beating in their lives. The reason they were picked over the others was their relative youth, making them more resilient to beatings, unlike Bernard or Henderman who wouldn't be able to withstand such bodily shock. The palace guards were worried about a huge incident blowing up should any of them end up dead. The threat of Thundercrash and Monolith was nothing to scoff at.
Not to mention, Claude's letter came just in time to remind the king, court and the ministers that without the signatures of the other two generals, nobody could use the 30 million crowns. Even if they did, the region wouldn't acknowledge it. However, the main issue was the fact that the two generals were leading their troops towards the capital.
That was when the beatings stopped. The representatives were immediately moved out of the dungeons, given extreme care and medication. While they were still under arrest, they at least got to spend half a month in peace. The king and queen even made personal visits to them and the king himself apologised on Christie's behalf for her rash actions sincerely.
This was why none of the council members were receptive to Claude's plan of purging the royal court. Even Bernard and Henderman advised Claude to not involve himself in the royal capital's politics, stating that their roots were with the region and they should focus on developing the Northbay area and the Great Plains of Canas.
As long as they got their fiefs there and developed the place, the region would have a firm foundation on Freia. The two areas could be connected by trade and administer themselves free of the kingdom's interference. As such, there was no need for them to influence national policy as it might negatively impact the development of those areas.
With the council members against the plan, the soldiers were also not receptive to such drastic measures. Claude found that he no longer had a like-minded ally with him. Bolonik's promise to the kingdom could be seen as a betrayal to the region's interest. Even though there weren't any trade negotiations, he promised the kingdom to sell them the new rifles and ammunition as well as an ironclad fleet in place of the fees they still owed.
The old nobility did, in fact, manage to forge the Sonia 591s within their industrial complexes, calling it the Tygston Type-600. According to the informants, they were roughly five to six centimetres longer than the region's Sonia 591s and half a catty heavier. The reason they couldn't yet be mass produced was the trouble with making suitable ammunition.
The old nobility's technicians did try hard, but even after disassembling the region's ammunition for the components within, they weren't able to determine the composition and makeup of the powder. Without any success, one technician simply used ground fire crystals as the cartridge's primer.
However, fire crystals kept on rising in price and were four to five times more expensive than before. With them being rather sparse to begin with, they would be too expensive and insufficient to make ammunition with. That was why the old nobility sold the new rifles at a price of 45 crowns each and a thale per round.
Thinking back at the old nobility who asked the region what they would quote them for the rifles and ammunition, Claude began to grow suspicious. The barrels of the Tygston and Sonia had the same diameter, so ammunition was compatible. He wondered if the nobles were trying to supply their own guns with ammunition the region made.
And yet, Bolonik so casually agreed to the court's demand and provided them 400 thousand new rifles and 40 million rounds to reorganise their three main corps, not to mention a fleet of 16 ironclad warships!
It was ridiculous! Claude was seething mad. While Bolonik reasoned that the costs of all that wouldn't amount to nearly 16.4 million crowns and the region would be making a profit, the court wasn't offering any hard cash either. They were merely charging the region for land and waiving that charge for the arms deal.
Just as Bolonik was thinking about the deal gleefully, thinking that he made the region profit, Claude popped his balloon and said the court saved time and even managed to strengthen their forces. With the new rifles, Reddragon, Griffon and the royal guard would once more pose a threat to the region's two corps. While they still weren't the region's match, at the very least, they would be able to deal many more casualties than they could before.
That aside, what was Bolonik thinking when he promised the fleet of ironclad warships? Did he not understand how significant they were for the region?
Claude couldn't hold himself back at the time and shouted at Bolonik, expressing that with the kingdom now having an ironclad fleet, the region's transport ships would always have to be escorted by Ironclad from then on! The kingdom's waters would no longer be the safe shipping routes they used to be!
Even if the kingdom's shipyards worked jointly to research ironclad warships and made good progress, there was no way they would have a proper ironclad ship in three to five years. Much of the region's ship designing was steered in the right direction thanks to Claude's corrections so they wouldn't take wrong paths, saving them much time and cost. They only got their results after three to four more years of actual testing at sea!
No matter how much funds Freia invested into ironclad warships, there was no way they'd be able to match up to the region's mastery over it within a short time. Their ironclad warships were godly weapons.
Yet, Bolonik was so generous and promised the kingdom a whole fleet of them. Surely, they would be forged all across Freia just like the mortars were once they came to the kingdom. It wouldn't take long for the other nations to close the technology gap!
Unlike Claude's explosive rage, Skri, Eiblont and Birkin were mad, but in a calm, measured way. They were angry because Bolonik had no right to do such a thing as selling the region's new rifles, ammunition and ironclad warships to the court.
Even Claude, the most powerful among them, would come to them for discussions before making a decision and only take action once they had a unanimous agreement, unlike Bolonik who represented the others in signing that arms deal.
But with the deal now in black and white, the rest had no choice but to clean up after Bolonik's mess no matter how dissatisfied they were. Thankfully, Bolonik knew shame and immediately announced his resignation as a member of the military administration for a post in civil administration instead, saving a little bit of grace for himself. Claude had no choice but to take over the deal as its implementer.
Thankfully, Bolonik only agreed to sell rifles and ammunition, but not the new cannons. At least, he knew his place, as the new cannons were produced in Claude's Blackstone Arms Factory whereas the new rifles were made in the joint arms factory Weyblon managed in Lanu. That was why Bolonik couldn't fulfil the court's request for the new cannons.
Claude's private factory manufactured new cannons, sniper rifles and their ammunition as well as some prototype ship cannons. They passed on the production of rifles to the factory in Lanu so as not to let them take up too much manpower and funding. They still had around 100 thousand rifles in the storehouses, so all they needed to fulfil the court's order was to ramp up production for a year or two.
As for the ironclad warships, Claude was intent on delaying their production. After all, constructing them would take quite some time in the first place. However, Claude still needed to consult Moriad on the matter to see if they had a way to hoodwink the kingdom.
As Claude busied himself dealing with matters, two bad news came from Shiks and the region. Majid III announced that the Nasrian court-in-exile would once more be taking root in Shiks' royal capital, and the exiled Seventh Prince Vedario would take on the name and title of King Nasri VIII. The same also applied to Canas' court.
Shiks announced that they didn't acknowledge Aueras' ownership over the Nasrian and Canasian regions and would give Nasri VIII and Duke Canas all the support they needed to restore their nations. They would rally all fighters dissatisfied with Aueran rule to form a new army to restore the sacred sovereignty of those two nations.
Meanwhile at the region, the allied colonies of the western coast announced the ban on imports from the Aueran Autonomous Region as well as the crackdown on smuggling. The merchants from the region also had their trading licenses revoked before they were deported.