Claude only got some free time during the middle of the 5th month. With most small matters dealt with, he turned his attention back to the western colonies. The situation there had turned into a stalemate. When word of the region forming an alliance with the pamigar republic spread, the other western colonies knew that they could no longer invade the republic.
Attacking the pamigar republic at that time was akin to declaring war against the region. Nobody would be foolish enough to do something like that. So, the colonies of the western coast retracted their claws and no longer looked at the colonies of other nations with greed. Instead, they focused on increasing the defences of their own colonies, trying to appear completely harmless to each other as if they had transferred two to three whole standing corps just for defence.
Weyblon formed a trading band during the 2nd month and sent them to the western nations to negotiate the matter of the embargo. The whole tour only took three months and the band was warmly welcomed by all the colonies. However, the matter embargo still couldn't be lifted and the goods of the region had no way of legally entering the markets of the western coast.
A viceroy of one of the colonies told Weyblon that while they treated them well as a friend, but lifting the embargo would mean the extinction of the nobles' factories and businesses in the colonies. The nations on Freia would thus be unable to profit off their colonies any longer and nobody would be able to bear such consequences, so they would rather risk angering the region by continuing to enforce the embargo.
Since Weyblon only got the colonies' expressions of friendship and was still unable have the embargo lifted, so he returned to the council and told them nothing short of completely crushing those colonies would lift the embargo.
Even Claude wished to be able to use force to topple the regime of those colonies, but he lacked the excuse to do so. A mere embargo wasn't enough to prompt the region to send in their troops, as the colonies were simply trying to protect the business interests of their nations. The region wasn't so domineering as to even deny them that.
The western colonies were definitely no fools. After the region allied with the pamigar republic, leased their port to use as a military base and sent Thundercrash to protect their borders, they basically unofficially admitted that they were the masterminds behind the pamigar liberation. It was an open secret, but nobody dared to admonish the region without concrete proof.
It was simply a matter of bad luck that Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk lost their colonies. The other western colonies had learned a lesson from those three nations' experience and increased the control and supervision over the natives in their colonies. Naturally, that also came with treating them better to placate them and strengthening the defences at their border to prevent a surprise attack from the enemy.
Claude and the other strategists of the region scrutinised the situation and found no opening they could take advantage of and gave up on the notion of causing trouble. The defences were far too tight. The region's priority this year was to focus on settling the homecoming Shiksans and their families in the inner states anyway, so they could afford to wait until next year before moving forward with their plans for the western coast.
However, accidents never happened with a warning. One night during the end of the 5th month, the Fochsian colony of Wades Mountains suddenly came under attack from countless pirates. One of the Fochsian fleets that stopped at Port Wades Mountains came under sudden attack by pirates waiting in ambush as its crew was resting and making merry ashore. The pirates easily swarmed those defenceless ships and commandeered them.
About 60 sail ships in good shape fell into pirate hands, with 40 plus others being set aflame. All of a sudden, Fochs lost one of its four fleets just like that. Even the shipyards in the colony they had planned to develop into a shipyard had been ransacked clean.
All of Fochs was fuming as if they had been given a loud slap on the face. Nobody had dared to challenge their four powerful fleets like that before. Usually, ships flying Fochsian flags easily avoided pirate attacks.
Little did they know that group of pirates would work together to attack their fleets like that and even successfully ransack their shipyards. Fochs suffered a shocking loss and they immediately sent two strong fleets to the Nubari Islands in an attempt to find the pirates that provoked them.
Claude didn't think he would be running into such a predicament like that. Initially, he was only casually suggesting the proposal and didn't think Eriksson would actually go through with it. Yet, something like this happened after he cut off communication with the regions. With one Fochsian fleet eliminated, the conditions of Claude's offer were fulfilled. Now, it was Claude's turn to fulfil his end of the bargain and hand over six ironclad warships.
"Did Eriksson really lead this operation?" Claude asked Borkal with a pained look.
Borkal nodded. "This is the third time you asked this question, Claude. I triple checked and made sure that Eriksson was the one who gathered 13 other pirate bands for the joint attack on Wades Mountains. To the other pirates, obtaining the Fochsian sail ships is something they'd been dreaming of for a long time. The Fochsian fleet that stopped there actually gave the pirates a golden opportunity.
"Eriksson had said that he had been paying attention to Wades Mountains for quite some time as it was quite an ore-rich territory, which was rare for the western coast. If he could pillage a transport ship filled with precious ores, he would make quite a huge profit.
"However, he soon realised that the ore mined there is no longer sent to Fochs, but rather kept in the colony's warehouses. The colony was also hiring manpower to develop the port into a city. He soon heard that Fochs planned to make Wades Mountains into a place to build ironclad warships.
"From then on, he spared no effort and kept sending his men to infiltrate that colony. Even the local administration there didn't know that the famous smuggling captain that often traded at the port was none other than Eriksson himself.
After that, he noted the biggest weakness of the port: its lax internal security despite its tough external security. The fact that the Fochsian fleet's crew immediately disembarked to enjoy booze and women is proof that.
"If he could take over twelve cannon platforms without triggering an alarm and let the pirates in from the outside, it would all be over. The guards the crew left on their ships were completely no match for the ragtag pirates.
"The shipyards built at the port were also stripped clean like a de-feathered turkey. No resistance by the locals could stand up to the cannons of the pirate ships. Eriksson believed that his attack would net him great profits, as he had seen the Fochsians sail two ironclad warships into the shipyard and had already started to forge four more. In other words, there are six ironclad warships in that shipyard."
"What next? Did he get all of them?"
"Well, he did, but he then found that they were merely empty shells with no engines installed. The rune magi of Fochs admitted that they were stuck on what materials to use for the steam engines. They still don't have any results, so Eriksson had no choice but to drag the rune magi, technical experts and the ship shells away.
"Now, he sent someone to me and asked me to tell you to follow up on your word. You said you would give him six retired first-generation warships to them if he managed to exterminate one Fochsian fleet. So, when are you going to hand them over?"
Claude hesitated for a moment. "Boa, do you think it would really be the right thing to give them those ships? I worry that we would suffer losses from pirates in the future."
Borkal nodded. "I'm not trying to talk on Eriksson's behalf, but I believe that letting Eriksson and the pirates join the fray might bring about positive changes. This will be more beneficial to the region than the current stalemate on the western coast. We can hand the ironclad warships over, but we have to find a way to make it seem like they obtained the ships from us by force instead of us handing them over."
Claude rapped on the table with his fingers as he sunk in deep thought. "Hmmm, let me take some time to consider this. Tell Eriksson to wait three days and ask him whether he needs to get some work done on those ship shells. We might just be able to help them modify the ships into actual functioning ironclad warships."
Blacksail's successful attack on Wades Mountains and extermination of a Fochsian fleet earned them instant notoriety, if indirectly. The two Fochsian fleets sent to Nubari Islands were trying to locate their mysterious assailant.
The decision to hand six first-generation ironclad warships to Blacksail would first have to be discussed with the officers of high enough station to take place in the meeting. In the end, Birkin was the one who successfully persuaded them to go through with it.
Birkin believed that now that Blacksail made an enemy of Fochs and caused them to send two of their fleets to track them down, the other pirates definitely harboured ill will towards Eriksson for dragging them into danger. The first thing they would do was to offer the Fochsian navy any information they had on Blacksail.
Under such circumstances, boosting Blacksail's might and letting them fight on even grounds with the Fochsian fleet was a good thing. They might even be able to deal another blow to the Fochsian navy. That way, Fochs would no longer be able to flex their influence at sea. The moment their two fleets were beaten back, their three colonies at the western coast would come under threat from the other colonial nations.
As for the question of whether Blacksail would be a threat to the region, Birkin didn't worry too much about that. First, the region's navy was fitted with the latest ironclad warships that could absolutely dominate first-generation ones. Second, Blacksail had no choice but to rely on the region for maintenance and upgrades for their ships. If they were right in the head, they would never even humour the thought of antagonising the region.
Claude decided to give Eriksson a chance and followed through with his word. He would hand those six ships over and offer maintenance and upgrading service for the ship shells, but he added a high price of 100 thousand crowns per ship. What he didn't expect was for Eriksson to actually send 600 thousand crowns' worth of treasures over as well as the six ship-shells.
The matter with Eriksson was thus put on hold -- getting the six ships into working order took time, after all. During that time, the region's fleet transported another 300 thousand Shiksan immigrants and four homecoming Shiksan folks over. One last trip was needed to wrap everything up. The eight homecoming Shiksan folks would then have to be downsized according to the plan.
"What is the meaning of this?" Claude looked at the blood oaths, or at least that was what he thought them to be. The signatures were covered in blood.
One of the two commanders of the eight homecoming Shiksan folks, General Drivick, stood before Claude with his face flushed red with embarrassment. Awkwardly, he explained, "Lord Militant, these blood oaths are signed with the Shiksan troops' blood. They aren't willing to retire. In fact, they even pledged to be sacrificed on the battlefield as long as their folks aren't disbanded."
No further explanation was needed. Claude instantly understood that the cash prizes distributed over the last few months really moved the Shiksan troops. They realised that if they continued to serve in the force, they would be showered in gold in the future. Being disbanded and having to return to being commoners meant that they would no longer enjoy such benefits any longer.
It should come as no surprise. The homecoming Shiksans went back home to fetch their families to the region, with all the costs covered by the region. In the meantime, they even enjoyed monthly salaries and bonuses without even having to fire a single bullet, being on guard duty most of the time. And after their return, they were even given ten crowns as a reward. Who wouldn't be moved from all that?
If they worked as civilians and farmed land, they would get some two to three thales monthly at most. Compared to the homecoming Shiksans that fought off the insurgent groups in the Shiksan capital, civilians earned far too little. Those troops got more than 40 crowns per person, and the more battlefields they went to, the more they earned. So, the Shiksan soldiers decided to pledge their service to the region in the form of blood oaths.
Claude considered it for a moment and told Drivick, "The region still has a voluntary corps. The eight homecoming Shiksan folks will still have to be disbanded either way. Pick out the ones that want to serve and filter out those with good track records to join the voluntary corps. The voluntary corps shall have four folks of 90 thousand troops like Thundercrash and Monolith. I'll make you its acting corpsman for the moment."