Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 552

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The moment Claude heard the Fochsian ambassador mention construction techniques of ironclad warships, he knew why the Fochsian king was so happy and willing to sign his name and stamp his seal on a blank piece of paper. It was yet another fool that lusted after the ironclad warships, intending on using the handover of Cape Loducus as a bargaining chip, hoping that this would count as doing the region a favour in return for the technology.

That was the reason Claude chased the ambassador out with the excuse of them not wanting to pay, even for the saving and feeding of the Fochsian settlers. It sent a clear message that he would rather Fochs pay the ransom, costs and protection fee than offering up the colony.

Throughout the 12th month, ambassadors from various nations came to the region, among whom included those from the eight nations with colonies at the western coast. Those eight nations also wanted the technology for ironclad warships or buy one or two ironclad warships which they could re-engineer and forge. Ideally, they wanted to poach a few engineers of their own.

However, Port Patres in Robisto was tightly guarded. It was where the ironclad warships were constructed and the main naval base of the region. Entry was forbidden to most. It was a shame the informants that came with the ambassadors fell into the hands of the region and were sent to the mines as forced labour.

Having no choice, those ambassadors thickened their skin and came knocking on Claude's door to ask what he wanted in exchange. However, he refused them without giving ground. Just because he gave Aueras 16 ironclad warships didn't mean he was ready to share the technology just yet. Before the other nations managed to develop their own ironclad warships, the region would definitely not be selling any of them to other nations, to say nothing of sharing the technology.

In the past two years, the Freian nations scrambled towards developing their own ironclad warships and a few nations made decent progress. The region's informants reported that at least three to four nations managed to develop proper iron hulls. Naturally, the ships weren't as long as the region's own and were more rounded like traditional sail warships. It was no surprise, considering Claude's otherworldly insights allowed them to skip a few mistaken steps.

The reports say those nations basically installed heavy cannons on their armoured ships as well as tens of cannons on each side of the ship firing solid shot. Basically, they were dressing sail ships with an iron coating. Even so, it was already a huge improvement.

It was no surprise that the eight Southern Freian nations wanted to try getting the technology from the region as they were maritime nations that relied on their colonies and maritime trade to amass countless amounts of wealth. They understood well how huge an impact ironclad warships could have on their naval power. They were the ones who wanted the warships the most to protect their interests at sea.

As the ambassador of Carmenleon had said during his meeting with Bolonik, the eight Southern Freian nations enacted the embargo against the region with the intent of using it as a negotiating tool to force it to hand over the technology while opening their markets only slightly.

Initially, Claude and the other council members were quite confused by the embargo. The western colonies couldn't possibly fulfil all demand for every product with their own offerings. There were many goods that didn't merit shipment to the colonies because of unprofitability. That would be a good opening for the region's products instead. There was no need to forbid all the region's products from being sold.

It was only then when they realised the true intention behind the embargo was to use it to bargain with the region for ship-building technology. What they didn't expect, however, was the region not willing to negotiate trade in the slightest and executing Operation Wildfire instead. They were trying to get the natives to chase the settlers out of Nubissia and end the colonial age for good.

The ambassadors could never guess the region's true intentions. No matter how much they tried to get on the council members and officers' good sides, making sure to maintain good relationships, none of them were willing to help the ambassadors get what they wanted.

Though, there was a common, yet unspoken understanding that the region was actually the mastermind behind the native revolts as an act of retaliation against the embargo. Moloshik and Lesnia were probably regretting sticking their hands into this matter. Not only did they lose their colonies, they also lost up to three corps of troops and didn't even have evidence to accuse the region.

Regretting now, however, wasn't an option for the western colonies. Even if they called the embargo off, it would be no big deal to the region. The region was merely a goods producer, after all, and their products were normally distributed by private merchants. Now, however, the region had a secret pathway through the nikancha nation. While it cost them quite a lot to repair the road, they were free to use it all for themselves and not share it with other merchants, making their profits much higher.

Just as the ambassadors were about to return empty handed, Monolith 1st and 2nd Folks returned to the region. Claude finally breathed a sigh of relief now that there was a reliable defence force in the region. He wouldn't have to worry about protecting the region from unexpected changes any longer.

Birkin also finished his survey of the frontlines at the western coast and returned to Lanu. He would be undertaking reforms for Monolith 1st and 2nd Folks. According to the new structure, those two folks were to be divided into the 1st, 2nd and 4th, each having 18 thousand men. Monolith corps as a whole would have 90 thousand men. They would be the forces the region could count the most on.

After the reorganisation, Birkin would have to form a temporary voluntary corps for use at the western coastal theatre. They would fight to liberate the other natives in the western colonies and chase the colonisers off Nubissia. Almost all of the baseline officers would be promoted and transferred from Monolith. Well-performing soldiers would also need to continue being polished in the voluntary corps to become true elite forces.

Drivick and Sybilos returned to force headquarters to report to Claude. The two of them were formerly both Claude's subordinates in Thundercrash, having risen to their current position from being nothing but grunts by virtue of their achievements alone. Back when Drivick joined Thundercrash through Weyblon's connections, he was merely a first lieutenant. Now, Claude was Lord Militant and Drivick had also become a major-general of the kingdom, fulfilling his childhood dream.

This time around, Drivick and Sybilos had been appointed as the folksmen of the two voluntary Shiksan folks. They performed magnificently in the battles in Moloshik's colony and did quite a lot to help with the formation of the pamigar republic's three corps.

After that, they put up the show of fighting Monoliths 3rd and 4th Folks at Loki Mountains. All the two did was send a line of Shiksans to cause some commotion where the citizens of Cape Loducus City could see to make them think the Shiksans were actually attacking Loki Mountains.

Initially, after conquering Cape Loducus, Drivick and Sybilos were supposed to return to losman territory with their two folks to recover. But later, it was found out that Majid III had sent out an ambassador with the intent of turning the Shiksan troops against the region for the sake of obtaining another colony.

Fortunately, the ambassador was captured by the losman and sent to the region's branch office. Claude ordered the two Shiksan folks to secretly return to the region after hearing about it and stationed four temporary garrison lines disguised as Shiksan troops in losman territory to see if they could bait over a few more Shiksan ambassadors. The gold and silver mines were always in need of labourers, after all.

"How goes the mission?" Claude waved his hand when he saw them salute. "Sit down. Captain Fachselin, pour us some wine. Open that bottle of Goldapple and serve our two generals."

"You're too generous, Lord Militant. We're fine with any drink." The two generals were just as respectful to Claude as they were in the beginning. They idolised Claude back during their baseline-officer days, unlike Moriad, Myjack and Borkal, who treated him as casually as they would friends.

Goldapple was a brand of fruit wine and they were made of more than just apples. The brand name signified the precious ingredients used in the production of the wine, which was a form of self-flattery. Goldapple wines were relatively expensive compared to their counterparts on the market.

Fachselin opened a bottle and poured half a glass for each of the generals before putting the bottle to the side and leaving the office.

"Lord Militant, the eight homecoming Shiksan folks have been formed. There are 280 thousand of them in total," Sybilos reported.

Drivick breathed a long sigh. "It took us three months to form the voluntary folks, and the ones who joined are the tens of thousands of warmongering Shiksan daredevils who wanted to become permanent residents here. But now that we mentioned bringing them to fight Shiks and taking their families back to the region to become immigrants, all eight folks are filled up before even a month has passed."

Claude gave the desk a knock. "Well, they've lived here for close to a decade as captives, so it's no surprise they're homesick. That's why the captives that returned from Shiks managed to enrage them so much. They were also despairing at the prospect at no longer being able to meet their families ever again.

"Yet, now we're saying we'd take them back to Shiks to reunite them with their families and are also offering them an option to settle down in the region with the same status as immigrants from our kingdom. They'd even get farmland. We've renewed their hope for life. Them scrambling to join the homecoming folks is only natural."

"Lord Militant, there's one thing I don't understand," Drivick said, "I thought the priority of the region now is to carry out Operation Wildfire. We should be investing all our efforts in the frontlines on the western coast. There's no need for you to go to the mainland personally to attack Shiks.

"After all, Shiks isn't a nation that neighbours Aueras. It's fine even if they maintain a state of war with us. We shouldn't be fighting another war so far away on Freia. If the eight Shiksan folks are sent to fight for Operation Wildfire, on the other hand, we'd be able to storm at least half the colonies by next year."

Claude nodded. "I've considered the same matter myself, but it simply isn't possible. The eight folks are formed with the promise of going home. They aren't that loyal to us. You should know about the Shiksan ambassador that attempted to contact your folks, right? That is still classified information.

"If those eight folks fight here as mercenaries, they'll eventually run into a Shiksan ambassador. By then, they might turn their guns against us, because their first priority is to unite with their families. If we try to stop them from doing so, they'll see us as enemies.

"I'm really thankful the first Shiksan ambassador ended up captured, allowing us to expose Majid III's plans. It's finally apparent to us that these 500 thousand Shiksan captives in our territory are the biggest destabilising element.

"Let's try to imagine Majid III continuing to send spies nonstop into our territory to contact the captives and pushing them towards causing us trouble and chaos with the promise of returning home and uniting with their families. How many of them do you think would accept the mission?

"What if the informants threaten the captives to do their families ill if they don't follow their orders? What will happen to our region's security then?"

Drivick and Sybilos' hairs were standing from the chilling thought. "They can't sink that low, can they?"

"It's hard to say. We have to prepare for all eventualities. Sometimes, I really think Majid III is a madman. He always manages to surprise us when we're least expecting it. This ambassador and the four colonial wars back then is proof of his insistent, pit-bull-like madness.

"Currently, Shiks has replaced Nasri as Aueras' nemesis, and they're the largest superpower in Northern Freia. If we don't amass a force to give them a crippling blow, they might eventually become our biggest problem.

"I'm sure you know that these 500 thousand captives are merely cannon fodder Shiks sent us. They don't belong to the royal family's forces and are instead youths forcefully conscripted in the nobles' fiefs. As far as Majid III is concerned, they're completely worthless. He'd be happier with them dead.

"That's why he doesn't want them returning to Shiks and reuniting with their families. He wouldn't even agree to let 50 thousand of them go back, to say nothing of all 500 thousand, as their return would only increase the nobles' power. Majid III managed to use war as an excuse to chip down on their power after so much trouble, and he's not about to let his efforts get undone.

"Yet, we want the captives to become new immigrants for our region. So, the easiest way to do that is to send them to Shiks to fight and take their families back to join us. Only then will they begin to see themselves as one of us and be truly loyal to us."

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