"I'm really sorry, Lord Militant, we didn't manage to strike a deal with the Fochsian ambassador," the Head of Arms, Mantweit Mar Penakro, said. He stood before Claude with Head of Military Affairs, Kandwok Sei Boklut, to report the bad news.
Kandwok added, "We tried to offer the second-generation warships for sale, but he refused. Even when we said he could get the second-generation ships one year earlier, he insisted on buying all first-generation ships."
"An attendant officer of his told us of a piece of bad news. He came with exactly enough funds to buy 48 ironclad warships and doesn't have extra to buy a few second-generation ones for comparison.
"The most crucial factor is that our ships don't come installed with cannons. The ambassador thought that the cannons he would have to install himself wouldn't do much against other ironclad warships anyway and decided it didn't matter which generation he got."
Mantweit had managed to get some internal information from the ambassador's escort. Even the cannons researched by the region themselves wouldn't be able to sink an ironclad warship in ten or so blasts.
Only the ones on the third-generation warships that used armour-piercing rounds posed a threat to the first two generations of warships. Additionally, Port Vebator wasn't fit for constructing cannons in the first place, so finished orders would be sent to the customers cannonless.
The standard bronze cannons they used weren't able to pose much of a threat to the ironclad warships. It was no wonder the Fochsian ambassador insisted on the old ones. When his victory was not guaranteed by buying the second, which he bought wouldn't give him any edge anyway. Even faster speed, agility and defence wasn't worth double the asking price of the first.
"So, he insisted on buying first-generation warships. Yet, Port Vebator's shipyards already have more orders they can fulfill. No more orders can be made within a year, right?" Claude looked up and said, "I thought they were expanding the shipyard there for ship maintenance."
Kandwok said, "There was a plan to make four more plants and eight more shipyards there, but but that will only be completed during the 4th month of next year. Installing all sorts of machinery would take time too. It would already be quite decent if we can use them starting mid next year.
"The Fochsian order is really huge. It would be a shame to not take it. Yet, they stubbornly insisted on the older ships. Perhaps we can refurbish our current second-generation ships and sell them away instead. That way, we only need to modify them at Port Patres.
"The problem now is that Port Vebator can't take any more work. Yet, the folks at Port Patres refuse to take orders for obsolete first-generation ships. They only offer to build newer ships. The soonest we can take the Fochsian order is the middle of next year.
"That's why we were unable to strike a deal. The ambassador demanded that we immediately start constructing twelve first-generation warships to be handed over half a year later so that they would at least have some. But it simply isn't doable. We can't exactly delay Carmenleon and Reliaro's orders for them."
"Well then, let's just refuse the order. We don't need to compromise for their demand of 48 first-generation warships." Claude stood up, headed to the map of the western coast on the wall and shook his head with a smile.
"I really can't predict what Fochs will do from now on," Claude said as he pointed at Fochs' two remaining colonies. "Without ironclad warships, they will most likely be unable to maintain their hold on the colonies. By the time Carmenleon and Reliaro's orders are fulfilled, Fochs would have to worry about being sealed off on their islands. They wouldn't be able to retake their colonies at all.
"Perhaps, they might still be able to hold on to Wades Mountains. That's the northernmost colony on Nubissia and further north is the desolate mountains and wilderness. They have a rather good relationship with the Duchy of Fedro, that has a colony neighbouring Fochs'. If the duchy doesn't interfere, they might yet be able to keep the colony. But Wades Mountains is rich with mineral resources and boasts a good deep-water port. The other nations will definitely be vying for it.
"Apart from Wades Mountains, Fochs only has the colony of Lupsal left, which neighbours Opsaro's colony. At least they're lucky that it's sandwiched between Opsaro and Fedro, unlike their other colony that was immediately conquered by Reliaro's troops. However, Lupsal is at risk of being absorbed by Opsaro's colony, probably after Fochs loses after naval battle."
Fochs originally had four colonies on Nubissia. The smallest one, Cape Loducus, had already been 'gifted' to the region. The remaining three are located at the north, centre and south of the western coast respectively. The northernmost one is Wades Mountains, which Fochs intended to develop into a military base and production plant of ironclad warships.
Their colony in the centre was mostly flatlands. It was a food-production hub. But it had been conquered by Reliaro's troops. Their colony in the south, on the other hand, neighboured Wasilisk and Opsaro's colonies.
Wasilisk's forces were already half dead, but Opsaro was pretty lucky. Right in front of them was the colony Wasilisk had basically abandoned, and behind them was Fochs' colony of Lupsal. If Opsaro absorbed both of them, it would be able to triple its territory. However, it hadn't made any moves so far out of respect for Fochs' naval strength.
Having not made the order for ironclad warships, Fochs' ambassador turned to buying 60 first-generation steam engines and propellers instead worth three million crowns in total at a price of 50 thousand per set. After the region's military administration gave their permission, the deal was sealed. They would finish the order in three months.
Naval Intelligence believed that the purchase was just a ruse and Fochs merely wanted to try to reverse engineer the technology. It could mean that they've begun their own research or they were trying to mimic the pirates by fitting armoured ships with engines.
A month later, Fochs sent a flotilla with six ships transporting 20 steam engines to their waters near Southern Freia. However, they didn't expect they would be ambushed some 150 kilometres away by the united fleet of Carmenleon and Reliaro.
Carmenleon had sent two patrol units of twelve patrol ships out. Apart from two of them that were transporting coal, the other ten launched the attack. Reliaro, however, hadn't received the ships they ordered yet and could only send out twelve three-masted speeder warships.
Fochs' side, however, had 18 class-three sail warships armed with 48 cannons on both sides combined, six armoured transport ships and four three-masted speeder patrol ships. In all, they had 28 ships facing off against ten ironclad warships and twelve sail ships.
In the end, Fochs lost the battle once again. Had it not been for reinforcements from their flotilla, all 28 of their ships might've been sunk. That was despite the fact that Fochs appeared to have firepower superiority.
Carmenleon's ships had avoided direct confrontation and used their superior engines to stay on the tails of the Fochsian ships, firing napalm shots to destroy the rear hull of the ship and rendering their firepower useless. In other words, they were reduced to moving targets.
Only three of the twenty ships and propellers they initially had remained, with only one of those transport ships surviving the engagement. The remaining five sunk with the 17 engines and propellers. Having suffered that huge loss, Fochs sent an ambassador to the region immediately to make a purchase of twelve second-generation ironclad warships to be delivered half a year later.
The second-generation ships were double the price of first-generation ones. The total price of twelve ships amounted to 3.6 million crowns. Moriad smiled sinisterly as he took twelve second-generation ships out of his fleet to be refurbished. as he made the order for twelve fourth-generation warships himself.
When word of Carmenleon and Reliaro's navy successfully ambushing the Fochsian flotilla got to the western coast, Opsaro finally decided to target Port Lupsal. It sent a corps of troops to occupy the colony and arranged for three ships to send the Fochsian officials and citizens out of the border.
As for Wades Mountains, that was the only remaining colony of Fochs. To protect the colony, Fochs sent an ambassador to Fedro, with whom they were on good terms, to request them to send troops to defend the colony. However, Fedro hesitated for quite a while before sending their troops to check on the colony, only to find that it had been conquered by Blacksail without anyone knowing.
Wades Mountains was simply too far north. Even Fedro's colony that neighboured it was at least 50 kilometres away. Had it not been for the fact it had a good deep-water port and mineral resources, Fochs might've given up on that colony long ago. Thankfully, the resources there helped make up for the lack on the mainland.
In the past century, Wades Mountains had always been the largest source mineral resource for Fochs. They had two systems of management in that colony, namely a slave system at the mines and a settler system at the port. They built a town there, made somebody viceroy and moved over many settlers.
Despite all its benefits, the Fochsian settlers didn't like how rural it was. There were only three towns built across the past century near the port and their total population numbered fewer than 50 thousand.
It was until Fochs decided to develop it into shipyards that large numbers of settlers got moved there to work on the research and development. Thanks to the presence of their four naval fleets, the settlers would never dare imagine being raided by pirates.
Later, Wades Mountains came under the attack of a few pirate bands. One whole Fochsian fleet was either stolen or burned down. Fochs lost one of their four powerful fleets just like that.
After that, they ransacked the remaining facilities and storehouses for all the machinery and military arms as well as the six ironclad shells. Even the Fochsian engineers and rune magi fell into the hands of Blacksail, who returned with full loot.
What followed was the incessant search of the three Fochsian fleets for their aggressors. They finally found the culprits when one of their fleets encountered Blacksail near Nubari Islands.
Soon, Blacksail launched another attack on the most prosperous colony of Fochs on the western coast and wiped out another of their fleets. Raiding commenced and the world was properly reminded of the superiority of ironclad warships.
By then, not only did Carmenleon and Reliaro help Fochs against the pirates, they even kicked it while it was down. One Lesnian colony and another central Fochsian colony were conquered, forcing Fochs to turn their attention away from the pirates to deal with those two enemy nations.
That caused them to forget about Wades Mountains entirely, only to recall they had it after Port Lupsal was conquered. But by then, the colony had already fallen into pirate hands.