Black Iron’s Glory

Chapter 356 - Military Budget Debacle



The news that Shiks wanted to form ten new standing corps and have them sent to Nubissia to fight Aueras to the end didn’t bother Miselk that much. He was well aware that ten standing corps weren’t something that could be conjured up by the power of words alone. Even if Shiks was a superpower in Northern Freia, it would take them a minimum of two to three years to complete that humongous undertaking.

Miselk ordered his strategists to collect as much information as they could from Port Vebator and wrote to the minsitry of defence and request them to pay attention to the formation of those ten standing corps. Additionally, he personally surveyed the terrain of Cromwell and Balingana in preparation of building a never-before-seen defence line for the likely Shiksan invasion that was to happen in two to three years.

They busied themselves all the way till the 12th month of Year 587. It was only then that the reward of their victory was sent to Ranger in Balingana. However, the reward was rather stingy this time around, which was said to be due to the slow economy of the kingdom in the recent periods; the colonial war had inflated their defence spending beyond their initial budget. As a result, the soldiers who participated in the war weren’t too happy with what they got.

Miselk on the other hand was an exception. As he managed to defeat five Shiksan standing corps despite the odds and even crippled Seaking, he was promoted to become Lord Militant, being the 17th person in the history of the kingdom to hold that honour. Additionally, his honorary Title was upgraded to a trigenerational Title of a count which could be passed on to his descendants for three generations. He was also given a manor in the royal capital.

Compared to the grand rewards the general received, the rewards the soldiers of Ranger were given paled extremely in comparison. Normal soldiers received only one crown, sergeants two, junior officers five, and field officers ten. Only the soldiers with confirmed kills were given the merit they needed for a promotion.

The top brass had this to say about the rewards the soldiers received: the Triumph of Balingana was mainly due to General Miselk’s amazing strategy that managed to trick the enemy into a tough position. Apart from eliminating Tanya and Kujuoa, which required the cooperation of both Ranger and 1st Colonial Corps, Wicklan, Cybok and Faybort didn’t have get into a huge fight with Ranger. Only a folk they sent out to secure their supply convoys and the mounted scouts engaged Ranger. The rest of the enemy remained withdrawn.

Furthermore, the crucial bombardment Ranger set up that crippled Seaking was mainly fought by the cannoneer units of Ranger. The reason Seaking ended up being bombarded in the first place was due to Miselk’s trap, specifically, the three heavy field cannons he had hidden nearby. The fact that the cannoneers didn’t suffer much casualties during such a heated battle was also thanks to Miselk’s preparations before the battle.

In fact, the unit that suffered most in the series of battles was 1st Colonial Corps’ cannoneer units during the bombardment on Port Patres. Most of the city had been reduced to rubble and fewer than 600 members of the cannoneer line survived. More than 80 percent of them had been wiped out.

However, the soldiers that survived didn’t give up fighting. They relied on their eight remaining functional heavy sentry cannons to fight back against enemy warships and forced them to give up on conquering the city and instead continue upstream on Dorinibla River into the trap instead.

As a result, the ministry of the army’s evaluators believed the battle’s victory had little to do with Ranger’s troops, and their light casualties was proof of that. Apart from cleaning up enemy scouts, Ranger didn’t do anything else that was substantial. They were only obeying Miselk’s orders to tail the three Shiksan corps on their retreat and their mission was complete once their enemy despaired and surrendered.

As for Line 131, who took Wickhamsburg and burned their warehouses, while they did a good job cutting off the enemy supply line and taking their convoys, they didn’t do much during the actual battles. The enemy had mostly withdrew themselves to defensive positions and no longer continued to send supplies to the three corps, so Line 131 had no opportunities to collect merit.

Given that burning Wickhamsburg down was also predicated on the other plans Miselk laid down, specifically, the insistence on digging a secret passageway into the city, then Line 131 could never have infiltrated the city so easily and let the rest of their own men in to take the place.

Miselk had requested for Claude to be given more recognition due to the incentive he showed in taking the enemy’s supplies and building a campsite that prevented over 200 thousand enemy captives to die from lack of food, shelter and treatment and sparing Ranger and Aueras from the criticisms that would no doubt ensue. However, the ministry of the army argued that Claude’s acquisition of more than 800 carriages caused quite a bit of trouble as well.

That didn’t mean they denied his contribution. Claude had been assigned one great merit and he would need two more of those to become the youngest major-general in the history of aueras. Currently, he was only 29 and if he could become a major-general before the age of 35, he would’ve become a legend in the kingdom’s military history. He would’ve taken only a little more than a decade to rise from peasant to general officer.

Claude’s brother, Bloweyk, on the other hand, had infiltrated Wickhamsburg with Claude and performed with flying colours. He was promoted three ranks at once to a master-sergeant and was receiving officer training in the Ranger corps. Claude’s adjutant and brother-in-law, Mayjack, also did well. He now had two first-class merits and would only need another to be promoted to major.

The trouble Claude caused concerned the mysterious disappearance of 500 plus thousand crowns of military budget. That wasn’t the kingdom’s military budget, but rather the bonuses and salaries stored in Wickhamsburg which Shiks was supposed to cover the funding of their five corps. The sum purportedly worth over 500 thousand crowns, according to the captive enemy officers, came in the form of Shiksan gold keptons, silver kylars and bronze fernis and were nowhere to be seen.

Wickhamsburg had been devastated by the explosives that went off. There was a huge crater where most of the ammunition warehouses were. According to the captives, the sum of money was stored in a warehouse at the center of all the other ammunition and weapons warehouses since that was where the security was the tightest.

Even the most well defended building wasn’t able to take all those explosions. There was nothing but a crater left behind. The money was nowhere to be seen. Unwilling to give up, Ranger’s chief logistics officer, General Fansnik, had many soldiers dig through the rubble for days and found quite a number of bronze fernis, but no traces of gold keptons or silver kylars were found.

As a result, Fansnik suspected Claude’s Line 131 for embezzling that sum. He had summoned Claude and interrogated him thrice, demanding that he hand over the funds.

Claude naturally pleaded innocence. He said that he had never seen the alleged sum. When they took Wickhamsburg, they only managed to gain control over the whole city when morning came. Immediately after that, they were busy monitoring the seven thousand plus captives as they loaded the supplies onto the carriages. They prioritised moving food and other crucial supplies and didn’t pay attention to the ammunition warehouses at all.

The reason for that was simple. The enemy’s ammunition and gear were completely incompatible with Aueran standard issue. They also weighed quite a lot and would take up much of what the carriages could transport. Only someone with nothing better to do would bother to transport junk like that away.

Claude had General Fansnik go ask the soldiers who were in charge of patrols. There was no record of him entering the ammunition storage area at all. The moment he knew that was where the ammunition was stored, Claude immediately ordered a band of men to seal all the entrances so that his troops wouldn’t have to waste time.

They took the rest of the night to occupy the castle and went on to secure the captives and supervised them as they moved the goods. They only departed Wickhamsburg at four in the afternoon and most of the warehouse area were already in flames then.

Claude asked General Fansnik how he could have time to check one ammunition storage warehouse after another. He didn’t even have the luxury of interrogating the logistics officers on the spot, which the captives could corroborate. Therefore, not a single soldier of Line 131 knew that there was a near 500-thousand-crown sum in the warehouse area.

However, Fansnik was still highly suspicious of Claude due to two pieces of evidence. During their departure, Claude and his personal tent of guards were the lat to leave with five fully loaded carriages.

Quite a number of soldiers in Ranger and the captives said they did indeed see those carriages. They left quite an impression as the tracks the carriages left were deep, which meant that the goods carried by those carriages were rather heavy. It was highly possible that Claude had personally shipped the funds of the Shiksan troops away.

The other piece of evidence was that Claude had a carriage full of honour blades which he took as spoils for the great victory. He rewarded each officer with one such blade.

Honour blades were awarded to Shiksan officers who fought valiantly on the battlefield. They were laden with gold and looked ornate, elegant and sharp. It was something worth passing down to descendants as a family heirloom.

The issue was that those honour blades were supposedly stored in the ammunition warehouses. The fact that Claude was able to obtain a carriage full of them meant that he was lying about not entering the ammunition warehouse area. That was the reason Fansnik believed his suspicion that Claude had pocketed the funds still held ground.

Even so, Claude refused to admit to it. He thought that Fansnik was basing his assumption off nothing much. Even though he was the last one to leave Wickhamsburg, that was because he was the linesman of Line 131, the officer in charge. The right attitude to lead men was to be the first to charge and the last to retreat. Only then would the soldiers readily take his commands and obey his orders. That was one of the core precepts that constantly drove Line 131 from victory to victory, ever since they were still a tribe.

As for the five carriages that left deep tracks, they were loaded with luxury goods found in Wickhamsburg, such as the fine wines the officers of the five Shiksan corps enjoyed, gold and silverware as well as many ornate decorative art pieces and pure white wool mats.

Those, strictly speaking, were spoils belonging to Line 131 and didn’t have to be handed out according to regulations. However, Claude gave four of those carriages to folk command so that all officers in Ranger that participated in the war would receive a part of those spoils.

Claude pointed out that the total worth of the goods in those four carriages exceeded 60 thousand crowns alone. If he was really so greedy that he would pocket the military funds for himself, there was even less of a reason he would give those spoils away since he had all the right to keep it.

It wasn’t weird at all for the carriage trail to be deep. It wasn’t hard to imagine how heavy carriages with more than ten chests of luxury goods could get. Not to mention, the melting season of the snow in the 2nd month had just passed. It wasn’t odd for carriages to leave deeper tracks than usual. In fact, not leaving deep tracks would be weird.

As for the carriage of honour blades, Claude asked Fansnik to ask the captive chief logistics officer of the enemy to see what his reply was. After all, they were stored in the frontmost warehouse of the ammunition storage area. The warehouse was decorated to look so grand that even soldiers standing guard there knew the honour blades were stored within.

When Claude received report of them, he instructed the soldiers to empty the warehouse of the honour blades before leaving the city. He didn’t personally enter the ammunition storage area.

All of Claude’s testimonies were corroborated by others. All soldiers in Line 131 had clear records of what spoils they were given. It was open for all to check, yet Claude still wasn’t able to shake the trouble off.

General Fansnik, who had taken it upon himself to find the missing funds for the Stellin royal family, still treated Claude as the biggest suspect and ordered for one subordinate after another of his to head to his office for questioning. In the end, Claude couldn’t take it any longer and got into a huge argument in the general’s office. He almost beat the general up. In the end, the matter was brought to General Miselk.

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