Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 551

'There is no such thing as 'enough soldiers'.'

It was an ancient saying on Freia; ancient people couldn't remember who had said it first, or what the occasion had been. They only knew it came from the early days of musketry, back when men lined up and shot at each other from a mere stone's throw away. As the tactic became more widespread, the sizes of armies and basic units blew up, the numbers changed almost annually. Eventually they had from twelve men per row and 30 thousand per folk. However, those numbers presented a huge burden on nations during peacetime, so each nation would usually only hold two to three corps of standing troops and form new ones during wartime.

As Claude told Birkin, the Southern Freian nations of Moloshik, Lesnia, Wasilisk and Opsaro were recruiting troops for new corps. However, only the former three were going to war. Opsaro was still in preparation stage and only recruited enough to form one corps, since the war at the western coast hadn't reached their colony yet.

While the other nations that have colonies at the western coast weren't preparing for battle yet, they still sent their troops to their colonies to strengthen their hold over the natives, lest they suffered the same fate Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk did. However, recruiting new soldiers and training them to be sent to the colonies would take at least half a year, so Birkin still had some eight months to prepare himself against the three nations' 500 thousand troops.

Claude called Birkin to force headquarters to take over him because they were facing a huge problem: the lack of funding. He had to find ways to get them more. The method he chose was to rob another nation of their wealth. There was no better and quicker way.

If the region wasn't carrying out Operation Wildfire, they would be downsizing the corps and local garrisons and would have much military budget left over. They still had 20 million crowns in the overseas bank which they got from robbing Nasri. Had Claude not wanted to push for any drastic action, they would have at least enough to spend the next decade comfortably.

However, in consideration of the long term, Claude had to make sure the western colonies remained an open market for the region to be able to ensure the smooth-sailing development of the region's economy in the decades to come. Hence, the region had no choice but to go forward with Operation Wildfire and also use that chance to train their baseline and high-ranking officers. Otherwise, the soldiers would be spoiled by peace and even the most elite of them would become useless degenerates who could barely reload their guns.

Not to mention, the embargo of the western colonies against the region was plain old hostility. It was no wonder the council members called for war. Cutting off their business avenue was akin to killing their parents. Given how much smuggling to the western colonies made them, suddenly cutting that off was bound to ruffle more than a few feathers.

However, Claude didn't expect the operation to cost so much. The military spending alone exceeded twelve million crowns, among that including funding for the two voluntary Shiksan folks, and the arms support given to the losman, pamigar, skro, and jisdor.

Claude initially imagined Operation Wildfire to cost nothing more than small supplies of arms and ammunition for the natives to fight guerilla battles. That would be the most cost-savvy approach. However, the proposal Borkal and the other high-ranking officers submitted was the formation of a proper standing corps to liberate the natives. That easily caused them to overshoot their budget.

Naturally, that wasn't to say that it wasn't effective. At least, the pamigar managed to found their independent nation. While the losman were still fighting amongst themselves for power, they were at least on irreconcilable terms with the Lesnian settlers. But now, the region had to ensure the continued existence of the pamigar republic so that they could continue to be an example for the other natives.

Birkin left Lanu two days after his secret conversation with Claude for a personal survey of the frontlines at the western coast, specifically, the pamigar's capabilities. He would only come back to reform Monolith 1st and 2nd Folks after they returned to the region. Claude still had to stay in force headquarters to deal with the busywork and could only return to the mainland next spring.

Currently, he held the annual finance records of the region. They were severely in the red thanks to Operation Wildfire, having cost the region 12 million and 830 thousand crowns. Much of it included funding and aid to the pamigar republic, amounting to three million crowns in total. Fortunately, their pensions for the hurt and killed didn't have to be paid for by the region. Otherwise, the 170 thousand plus casualties would bankrupt it.

There was still around 10 million crowns in the overseas bank, so there was enough for next year's funding. Coupled with the downsizing and reorganisation, they would be able to save up to 100 thousand crowns from bonuses and salaries. However, it wasn't clear whether they still had to fund Operation Wildfire next year onwards. While the aid provided to the natives was considered loans, they were bound to be unrecoverable in the short term.

Additionally, while the region's income was increasing by the year, the council wouldn't easily give them more budget just because the military administration asked for it. The council had already taken out 30 million crowns to buy fiefs from the Stellin royal family. They got 15 million from the order of ships and weapons the kingdom made.

While that arms deal earned the region eight million crowns, not one bit of it was cash as the deal was considered to be part of the sum the region needed to pay for their fiefs and Titles in addition to the 30 million they handed over. While it looked like the region profited off it, the kingdom didn't actually have to pay out one crown.

The region's council gave the military administration such a huge sum, not to mention the additional two million crowns they allocated for the four shipyards to maintain and expand Ironclad. As for the new 16 latest-model warships, they would replace the 16 old ones to be handed over to the kingdom. The five million it would cost for that replacement had to be paid by the region itself.

The council would definitely not be increasing their military funding in the coming years as they were running out. Most of their profits would be used to develop the fiefs in the vicinity of Northbay. It would take two to three years for that area to stabilise, before which the region had to constantly infuse resources to develop the fiefs uniformly.

"Lord Militant, the ambassador from the United Kingdom of Fochs is requesting to meet you," Fachselin said.

"He's still here? Hmm... let him in. Tell him he has ten minutes."

The Fochsian ambassador reached Lanu half a month ago, intent on demanding the region to return Cape Loducus. However, he was yet another fellow who expected to be given what he wanted without paying a single penny.

Regrettably, he didn't achieve his goals. Neither the council members nor high-ranking officers agreed to his ridiculous demand. Claude had met him once and gave him the region's ultimatum.

Fochs had to pay two million crowns to ransom Cape Loducus back. An additional condition was for the region to be allowed to station troops in the colony as a measure against the threat the losman posed to the region.

Two million crowns was already a huge price cut to Claude, and stationing troops there was a no-brainer. To Fochs, Cape Loducus was an unproductive colony they could do without. But for the region and Loki Mountains, it was a strategic military zone. If the enemy occupied Cape Loducus, they could attack Loki Mountains from the east and north.

As such, to prevent the loss caused by the attacks of the voluntary Shiksan folks mounted on Loki Mountains, the region had to have a military presence there. Naturally, it was also beneficial to the colony in that the citizens would no longer have to worry about being raided by the horrid Shiksan mercenaries. Even now, they were still relying on Monolith 3rd Folk's supplies to survive.

All in all, Fochs only had to pay two million crowns and a small, symbolic protection fee of 50 thousand crowns to the region to get their colony back. The fee would be a small bonus to the troops stationed there.

Additionally, Fochs was to pay to cover Monolith 3rd Folk's costs up till now, seeing as the five thousand citizens of Cape Loducus City had been sustaining themselves off the folk for free. That amount was set to be 500 thousand crowns. After all, Monolith 3rd Folk suffered nearly ten thousand casualties in the battle against the Shiksan mercenaries.

Claude's demands were extremely reasonable. In fact, they could be considered magnanimous. Yet, the ambassador still mulled around, unwilling to agree to the terms. Claude reminded him that Shiks had loaned the colony for five million gold keptons back then, so the region asking for two million as ransom wasn't excessive at all.

The ambassador said he couldn't make that decision himself and had to contact his kingdom. Only the five dukes and the king could make a decision on that. Five days later, Monolith 3rd Folk's folksman, General Ezeke, sent an eagle message saying that a fleet of sail warships from Fochs anchored down at Cape Loducus. They were allegedly going to host a banquet to calm the five thousand raided Fochsian settlers.

Ezeke agreed on humanitarian and sympathetic grounds. The Fochsians made merry at the bay the whole night, with all forty-plus ships lit in a festive mood. The dances and songs followed nonstop until midnight.

The next dawn, however, the lookouts from 3rd Folk noticed that all those ships and the five thousand settlers had vanished without a trace, save for some tens of helpless nikancha servants at the beach.

It was apparent that Fochs had given up on Cape Loducus without even paying for the fees incurred by the five thousand settlers, smuggling them away with lowly tricks instead. That was all within Claude's expectations, however, as Cape Loducus didn't even generate 20 thousand crowns yearly for Fochs, nor did it have any mines or resources worth excavating. It also wasn't that developed, so there was no harm in abandoning it.

Only Shiks was willing to spend a stupid amount of five million gold keptons, the equivalent of 2.5 million crowns, to lease the colony from Fochs for five years. Fochs really made huge profits off that deal.

It was said that Fochs had wanted to sell the colony to Shiks for 20 million gold keptons, yet Majid III, in an uncharacteristically pauper-like moment, refused to pay that kind of money, instead choosing to pay a small price of a million gold keptons each year.

Yet, all that still ended with the huge defeat of Shiks and their complete loss of eleven standing corps. Cape Loducus was also occupied during the last two years of its lease, making Shiks a huge joke among the western colonies.

While the region's demand for two million as ransom and an annual protection fee of 50 thousand, not to mention 500 thousand crowns of costs the five thousand settlers incurred was reasonable, it was simply a really bad deal for Fochs. They would rather just give up on the colony altogether.

Claude didn't think the ambassador would remain in the region despite all that. He should've fled after Fochs secretly spirited their settlers away. It was a humiliating matter, after all. Why would the ambassador still dare to meet Claude despite that?

Soon, he entered Claude's office. Claude didn't bother with pleasantries and gave him a sour look the whole time. The ambassador, however, bowed without batting an eye, demonstrating the steadiness of nobles.

"Your kingdom really made a bold move to take all your settlers away like that. Looks like you don't intend to pay a single crown to your saviours, huh?" Claude said.

The ambassador lowered his head. "Lord Militant, it's not that we don't want to pay the region for what it has done for us. We simply can't afford to. In the past few years, our kingdom has been ravaged by national disasters and civil unrest is growing. With the stifling economy, that sum is not something we can accept, so we had no choice but to leave."

Claude clicked his tongue at that bullshit. He hadn't heard of any natural disasters befalling the Fochs Islands. In fact, the publications from the Southern Freian nations reported that Fochs enjoyed great potato harvests, with their people celebrating in joy. "So, you don't want Cape Loducus anymore?"

"That's correct. After much consideration, we decided we would hand over the colony proper to the region as a sign of gratitude for our settlers' safety." The ambassador handed over a few documents he took out from his leather bag.

Claude took a look and saw that it was proof of the colony's transference to the autonomous region as thanks for saving the Fochsian settlers.

The document had the king's signature and seal. Upon closer inspection, one could tell that the seal and signature were applied on a piece of blank paper. The stipulations above were added later.

Claude laughed and tossed it on his desk. "The military administration doesn't need something like this, Mister Ambassador. Know that our warriors suffered up to ten thousand casualties to take the colony from the Shiksan mercenaries and save your settlers. We didn't get it from you.

"Instead of this proof of transference, I would rather you pay the ransom and protection fee. The region doesn't care for such a small colony."

The ambassador was taken aback by Claude's unexpected reaction. He hurriedly said, "Lord Militant, this document is only a sign of our sincerity. I have come on behalf of my kingdom to discuss cooperation with your army. We hope to import your advanced ironclad-warship technology--"

Claude shook his head. "Pay the ransom, protection fee and 500 thousand crowns first before you come to me to discuss importing our warship-construction techniques. Otherwise, forget it. Men, send this ambassador out."

Support Ryogawa and his work Black Iron's Glory