Claude ended his visit on the 11th of the 8th month and returned to the base in Port Patres. Overall, the visit went rather well and satisfied both parties. The region's council speaker, Bolonik, as well as a few other council members travelled there to welcome Claude's return and praise them for the successful negotiation of the cooperation between the region and the pamigar republic.
Claude knew that the bigger agenda for the visit concerned the investment projects of the region, which many council members had a personal interest in. For every crown they invested in the pamigar republic, they would get easily more than ten times back in the future. It was no wonder they welcomed the team back so warmly.
Naturally, Claude himself benefitted quite a bit from the arrangements as well. Borkal also managed to obtain exclusive distribution rights for the booster wine for the wild-bull company. In other words, only the company which Claude and Borkal's father had shares in were allowed to sell the pamigar brew of wine in the region, which was sure to net them countless profits.
Claude, however, prioritised the region's military cooperation with the republic more. It was apparent that the republic knew well that while the neighbouring colonies harboured ill intentions towards it, they didn't dare to go overboard due to them having the region's backing. Claude's current visit was a public statement that brought the region from behind the scenes to the forefront, which was sure to keep the other colonies in line.
The lease of Port Felimz further strengthened the fact of the military alliance with the region. Under such circumstances, anyone that dared attack the republic would be humiliating the region at the same time and giving them more than enough reason to join the war.
In the eyes of the colonising nations, of the three colonies where the natives rebelled, the only one with any worth had successfully founded their own republic. The territories occupied by the losman tribal union, on the other hand, was covered in desolate, sandy dunes, which had limited development potential. Putting aside the fact that the losman tribes were fighting among themselves, the fact that it was sandwiched between the pamigar republic and the autonomous region was already enough to deter the other nations from taking that colony over.
As for Wasilisk's colony, it was even more complicated. The colony mainly encompassed mountainous territories and had two warring groups of natives, namely, the skro and jisdor. They weren't rebelling so much as they were fighting a war to wipe each other out. With Wasilisk's military might more or less fully drained following the two attempts at reclaiming their colony, they had decided to give up on it for good and were silently trying to evacuate their citizens.
Opsaro's forces, which received Wasilisk's call to aid, entered the colony and conquered a few coastal towns and ports. However, they didn't dare advance deeper into the colony, nor did they retreat their troops. Instead, they only remained stationed there. It seemed that they didn't dare to conquer the whole colony and risk being dragged into the war between the two groups of natives.
As a result, the pamigar republic's colony was the most attractive of the three lost colonies. While a nation had already been formed, not a single of the colonies at the western coast acknowledged them as such. But now that the region officially stood with them, anyone that dared attack the pamigar republic would have to consider whether the consequences of angering the region was worth it.
If they ignored the pamigar republic, the next logical target would be the last remaining colony of Lesnia that had no ability to defend itself. The colonies of Carmenleon and Reliaro once more turned to the colony that existed between the two of their own colonies. But due to the threat of being locked down by Fochs' naval fleets, they didn't dare go to war just yet.
Having returned to the region, Claude was once more swallowed by his busy schedule. During the last few days of his visit, he went to survey the region's voluntary corps stationed there. While they were formed from two Monolith folks and the retired veterans from the garrison forces by Birkin, Claude noticed something amiss when he went to check on them.
The two Monolith folks were switched out from time to time with the others in the region, so they fared much better. However, most of the retired veterans decided that they would settle in the pamigar republic instead of returning to the region after their discharge for one simple reason: staying behind would allow them to take two pamigar women as wives. Following the battles with the united army of the three colonial nations, many of them found their own partners after staying remaining stationed in the pamigar republic for half a year.
The pamigar republic was all too welcome of such a situation and promised all the soldiers a post as a mid-level officer in the pamigar military after they were discharged from the voluntary corps to continue their military career. There wasn't much Claude could do to counter that. Since they wished to stay, he couldn't really force them to return.
However, that would mean only those two Monolith folks would return. Almost all the other soldiers wanted to remain in the pamigar republic. At the very least, it was really easy for them to find wives there, and they could even marry two. It was a benefit the region lacked.
In essence, the voluntary corps had been neutered. After the two Monolith folks returned to the region, there would be no more voluntary corps. It was akin to the region training lots of capable soldiers for the pamigar republic's sake. Claude began to worry whether stationing Thundercrash there for the long term would also open them to poaching from the pamigar republic.
At the end of the 9th month, another 400 thousand Shiksan immigrants were transported to the region. It was the fourth transportation to be made in Year 606, yet there were still a million people waiting to be sent over in Port Patkara. The whole project would only be completed after another four voyages.
There were 3.8 million Shiksan immigrants coming to the region in total. After they were settled, the region's population should be around 11 million, just barely enough to reach such a healthy number. A third of the territory of the region would finally be put to good use and development instead of remaining barren and unpopulated.
Moriad had decided to have the ships checked and maintained. He also travelled to headquarters to pester Claude for another grant to build the fourth-generation warships and retire the second generation. Claude read the navy's report and immediately refused the request once he saw the estimated budget.
It wasn't even a joking matter. Where would the region be getting 20 million crowns to build the fourth-generation warships? The prices of the ships were rising as the technology to build them improved. A first-generation ship's construction had not cost more than 50 thousand crowns. But the second-generation ones each cost around 100 thousand. The third generation had driven costs up to well over 150 thousand. A third-generation combat ironclad cost 220 thousand, while the cheaper transport ironclads cost close to 100 thousand a piece.
As for the latest ones, each cost about 350 thousand to build. While mass production would lower the costs slightly, it wouldn't make up for the extra 100 thousand crowns they cost. It would already be impressive if they lowered the price by some 40 thousand crowns. Moriad's request asked for a budget of more than 20 million crowns. It was clear he wanted to retire the third-generation warships as well.
Claude would truly be mad if he approved that request while the region still reigned supreme with the first two generations of warships. However, after reprimanding Moriad, Moriad showed him something that made him lose his cool immediately. Claude immediately summoned the Head of Intelligence, Fodres, but was told that the department of intelligence wasn't aware of that fact as they hadn't looked into what the kingdom's navy was doing.
The thing Moriad showed Claude was a report on Aueras' navy. Before the region attacked Shiks, Claude handed over 16 ironclad warships to the kingdom to fulfil the arms deal. After that, they no longer paid attention to those ships. They were outdated models, after all. While they could take on sail ships, they were no match for the region's newer ships.
Only Moriad, the admiral of the region, continued to pay attention to them, thanks to the hostility he held towards the kingdom's navy. Despite having outdated ships, they would still be harder to deal with compared to other navies that used older sail ships.
Little did they know that the royal navy would immediately take apart three of those ships to study them and went back to the drawing board to carry out all sorts of experiments. Among those three ships were one destroyer, one transporter and one patroller. The navy was dedicated enough to sacrifice them.
After about a year's research, the kingdom began to copy the engines for the ships, though their technicians faced many difficulties from having to start from the ground up without any help save for the dismantled parts they had.
According to one technology expert the region paid off, the Stellin royal family invested five million crowns to research those ships. However, they didn't make much progress with the forging even when the funds were running out.
To fool the officials the king sent to monitor their progress, the navy built a large iron shell of a ship and dismantled two more destroyers to use their engine parts for those ships to pass them off as successes. The officials didn't know what they were looking for at all and thought their efforts had succeeded, so they excitedly reported it to the king.
As a result, the king granted them another five million crowns for the construction of an ironclad fleet that wouldn't be inferior to that of the region. The navy knew that they had made the wrong move. Nobody thought that the king would be so generous to give them a second grant. This time, they wouldn't be able to hoodwink their way out of trouble any longer. So, they continued to build iron shells and purchased ship engines from the region. As the kingdom ordered the obsolete engines, the shipyards of the region accepted that contract.
Soon, they almost used their funds. To be able to pass the naval review, they looked to the other eleven ships originally given to them by the region and used all sorts of excuses like training accidents, storms and enemy attacks to report five of them as sunk to sell them to other coastal nations for a high price in the black market, managing to gather another million crowns for their research.
According to the news Moriad got, the United Kingdom of Fochs spent more than 400 thousand to buy two of those warships. Three other coastal nations bought the other three. As they bought those ships through proxies, the naval officer the region paid off didn't find out which nations bought them.
All that should've happened during the latter half of last year. Moriad believed that other coastal nations would definitely spend much more on researching ironclad warships and have even better researchers unlike the Aueran royal navy's. He believed that at the end of this year or perhaps the next, the four coastal nations that got their hands on the ships would make even greater progress. It was really likely they would debut their own ironclad warships to threaten Ironclad's maritime supremacy.
That was why Moriad wanted to replace the second-generation warships with fourth-generation ones. Only then could they ensure that the new fleets of other nations could still be suppressed by the region's navy.
Fodres expressed his doubts about Moriad's report, thinking that the Aueran navy would definitely not do something like that. However, Claude told him that it might well be true, as last year, Bernard received complaints from Blancarte that the region didn't fulfil their end of the arms deal by giving them faulty ships that sunk during training accidents or storms.
Bernard didn't take those complaints seriously back then. The Aueran navy was simply unlucky enough to have lost their ships. He even told that to Claude as a joke. Nobody really took Blancarte's complaints seriously. The deal was over and done with and what happened at the royal navy's side was their problem.
But now, the royal navy seemed really suspect in the whole situation. It was indeed within the realm of possibility for them to pull a stunt like that. Fodres doubted that the royal navy would be daring enough to hide it from their king, but Claude merely told him that based on their track record, it would be impressive if even half the funds the king allocated to have actually been allocated to trying to forge the ironclad ships.
Most of them were definitely lost to corruption. It was a common practice in the royal navy. Currently, they had no way of making any quick buck and could look nowhere else but the funds. They had more than enough scapegoats to pin the blame on, and none of them was willing to spit out the funds they embezzled for themselves. Having no other choice, the remaining naval officers could only turn to selling the remaining ironclad warships.
Claude gave Fodres a new mission to find out about all the navy's secrets as soon as possible. As for Moriad, he was still given a harsh rebuke. Was the region so weak that it wouldn't be able to win just because it didn't have technological superiority? The enemy only got first-generation warships, so there was no need to grow anxious. The second-generation ones were more than capable of handling the first.
In the end, Claude still tossed the request into the trash. He sternly told Moriad that they had no plans of building new ships on a large scale in the coming years. Only one of the four shipyards would be kept for military use and they would be able to produce four ships each year. As the cost of fourth-generation ships was too high, they were permitted to only build third-generation ones.
Moriad had no choice but to leave crestfallenly.