Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 578

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'You really humiliated our king good this time around,' was the first thing Bernard said when he saw Claude in Northbay's capital of Canpast.

As not a single officer of the region to attend the award ceremony Fredrey I held in the royal capital, some troops from Reddragon and the local garrisons that participated in the Shiksan invasion were called to fill the numbers. Bernard, however, was present during the event and said that the king's expression was dark and stiff the whole time.

Claude had already returned to Northbay by then. Skri had prepared a new Ferd Manor in Canpast for him facing the sea, so Claude stayed there with the excuse of having to recover from an illness. Bernard, on the other hand, had finished his obligations in the capital and took the chance to visit Claude and bring him some gifts.

The verdict of the noble court, receipt of the debt payment and proof of severance of ties were handed over. Claude was now the official head of the Han Ferd household. What Claude didn't expect was Bernard would also buy the mansion in Whitestag and gift it to him. It was his ancestral home, and Claude now owed Bernard a huge favour.

What was more surprising was the fact that his mother was willing to sell that mansion. It seemed that she and Arbeit really didn't plan on returning to Whitestag for good. On one hand, they kept on mouthing off about how great Morssen's achievements were, yet they were willing to give up on the home and his grave in Whitestag. The human mind was so hard to grasp that Claude had long given up upon it.

After staying in Northbay for half a month or so, Blancarte came to visit again, this time with some official matters to deal with. While Claude and his subordinates had refused to participate in the king's ceremony, the awards and Titles still had to be given. It seemed that Fredrey I had begrudgingly accepted Claude's list of people to be promoted and also made him a hereditary marquis.

This time around, only three from the region were promoted to general officers. The first was Borkal, who was nominated by Claude due to the strategic role he played in the Shiksan invasion. Promoted to major-general alongside him were two colonels of Typhoon.

In contrast to military rank promotions, Fredrey I was far more generous when it came to awarding noble Titles. There were eleven high-ranking officers in the region made honorary barons. It seemed that the king was planning to earn another sum from them in the form of elevation and land-picking fees. Among the ones who already had noble Titles apart from Claude, only Eiblont, Berklin and Dyavid were further promoted to hereditary viscounts. While their fiefs were expanded, they still had to pay picking fees.

For instance, Claude's promotion from count to marquis essentially doubled his territory. However, Claude didn't attend the ceremony with sickness as his excuse, thus creating a really embarrassing predicament for the king. As such, his additional fief was set to be in the Nasrian region, some 300 kilometres away from Northbay. If Claude wanted to unite his fiefs, he would have to pay the fee at the royal capital.

However, the region profited greatly from the war and didn't mind letting the king enjoy some of the benefits. The one in charge of all those matters was Bernard, who would bring an escort force with up to six million crowns to the royal capital to settle the matter. Soon, news came from the royal capital that the region's fiefdoms in the Canasian region were once more greatly expanded. Skri would finally have more work on his plate.

When the region's transport fleet once more came to transport immigrants, Claude returned alongside them. The main priority of the region in the coming days would be on the western coast. Operation Wildfire was progressing slowly as the various nations on the western coast began putting up their guard.

Birkin's report stated that while the pamigar and losman's forces wiped out Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk's forces with the help of the voluntary corps, they were once more under threat of being invaded by the other western colonies. Currently, the pamigar republic and the newly formed losman tribal union required help from the region in all aspects, making them quite huge financial burdens on the region.

In the 4th month of Year 606, Claude finally returned to Lanu. However, he went straight to military headquarters instead of Sheila's manor for a meeting to be briefed on Operation Wildfire's current state and the aid problems of the pamigar republic and losman tribal union.

Birkin opined that Operation Wildfire had to massively change to adapt to the huge developments on the western coast. The main problem was that the pamigar republic had been in a constant state of war in the three years since its formation and suffered huge casualties, the degree of which terrified the other natives in the western colonies. Many of those who call for violent revolt toned their rhetoric down to observe the two new native nations' efforts.

Back then, Borkal had planned for Operation Wildfire to kick off a wave of native independence movements on the western coast to make the eight Southern Freian nations lose their hold on their colonies on the western coast. The region's military aid to the natives would make sure of that, and, eventually, the colonial nations would be driven off the western coast and allow the native nations to be formed.

However, the pamigar and losman revolts caused the other nations to grow cautious and transfer troops from their mainlands to their colonies. Border security was also tightened, making it really hard for the region's informants to establish contact with the local natives. Naturally, transporting weapons to the native forces was also impossible.

Quite a number of colonies already had plans to suppress native revolts. Next came the two attempts of Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk to retake their colonies. While the region's help allowed the losman and pamigar to win in the end, the three-year-long conflict saw up to a million native youths either dead or injured, terrifying the other natives as a result. They weren't willing to pay such a huge price for the sake of independence.

The only piece of good news was that Moloshik, Lesnia and Wasilisk's two expeditions made the other nations hesitate. Even those that had two to three corps of forces ready in the colonies, none of them dared to invade the native nations in fear of failing like the three nations' troops. Not to mention, they were taunting and prodding each other from time to time and surprisingly created a delicate balance of power.

Molshik and Wasilisk had completely left the western coast due to their two failed attempts. Only Lesnia still had a colony remaining there. However, the problem they were faced with now wasn't the native revolt. Instead, the huge loss of forces through the two failed expeditions caused Lesnia to lose much of its ability to defend its one remaining colony. The neighbouring colonies were constantly staring greedily at their territory.

Perhaps the colonies neighbouring Lesnia, Carmenleon's and Reliaro's, believed that attacking Lesnia's colony and taking it would result in far fewer casualties than attacking the native nations. Lesnia was already a weakened mutt and could easily be taken out with a final blow.

As such, conflict often broke out at the borders of those three colonies. Even with Lesnia endured the provocations and continued to call for a united front against the threat of further native revolts, Carmenleon and Reliaro continued to push the envelope. They were only waiting for a justifiable excuse with which to attack Lesnia's colony.

Due to the close relations between Carmenleon and Reliaro's colonies, the other nations of Opsaro, Fochs and Fedro gave up on the notion of attacking the pamigar republic and losman union by themselves and decided to watch the situation unfold.

Fochs had the most colonies on the western coast. Even after losing Cape Loducus to the region, they still had three colonies of different sizes. As they were not connected together and Fochs had a strong navy but no strong army, each of those colonies were defended by a corps of stationed troops to prevent a native revolt.

Fochs was the most nervous about the current state of the western coast, fearing that Carmenleon and Reliaro would attack the last remaining Lesnian colony and drag them into the storm. Given how weak the three forces stationed in each of their colonies were, they wouldn't be a match for the neighbouring colonies' forces.

Fortunately, Fochs had an exceptional navy, which should be enough to stop them from worrying about a civilian revolt. The natives of those colonies that call themselves the lanstobuk had been heavily influenced by the Fochsians in the past century and developed a cultural identity around marine warriorhood. They were expert fishers and divers, making them the prime candidates for marines in Fochs' four fleets. The nation also treated the natives relatively well.

The voyage from Freia to Nubissia was a long one, and the space in between was where Fochs' fleets flourished. They had that fact to thank for their colonies not having been invaded even once in the past century, because even if their lands were taken, Fochs could simply cut off the other nations' maritime routes to Freia to even the odds. Any nation that occupied Fochsian colonies would have to return them to regain access to their own.

But with Ironclad's appearance, Fochs' maritime superiority began to wane. Even with their four fleets, they were put into the same category as the other nations. Ever since the other nations began to invest heavily in the development of ironclad warships, Fochs' greatest weakness began to show. Being a nation spread across various islands, they didn't have access to mineral resources and thus did not have good metallurgical techniques.

Unlike the other Freian nations, Fochs suffered a huge disadvantage when it came to metalworking, a fact which was apparent from their army's outdated. That was the main reason the Fochsian officials in Cape Loducus City were so happy to purchase large numbers of Shiksan weapons back then.

Two years back, Fochs had sent an ambassador to the region in hopes of being able to buy an ironclad warship for their own research, but Moriad, the admiral, simply told them that even if they bought one, they wouldn't be able to replicate it, as their nation didn't have the necessary techniques and equipment to do so. They wouldn't even be able to forge the simplest hot-air or steam-powered engines.

In the past two years, the other nations made decent progress in ironclad-warship research. Two nations already came up with copper-armoured warships powered by steam engines. While they were far inferior to the region's ships, they were still vastly superior to traditional sail warships.

Fochs was all too painfully aware that the day another coastal nation managed to build their own ironclad warships was the day they would completely lose supremacy at sea. If it couldn't remain a formidable naval power, it would no longer keep its three colonies on the western coast.

Faced with horribly insufficient mineral resources and metalworking techniques, Fochs decided to invest in one of their colonies, Wades Mountains. It was a colony that spanned many mountainous areas rich with mines that could be developed into a large-scale mining and industrial territory. Fochs decided to hire all the technicians they could across the continent to develop that colony into their own naval base and shipyard to produce ironclad warships.

Fochs greatly feared an attack on their colonies at this time that would disrupt their development plans, so they were trying their best to mediate between the various nations to form an alliance to counter the independent native nations. At the same time, it would expand the current scope of its navy to pressure the other nations. Any colonial nation that went to war with another would face a naval lockdown by Fochs.

In his statement during the meeting, Birkin said that the best solution is to cause the colonial nations to fight amongst themselves and wear their own forces thin. Once they were weakened, the region could take advantage of the situation. That way, they could fulfil Operation Wildfire's objectives without much effort and liberate the natives.

Currently, the greatest detractor to their plans was Fochs. With their naval power and presence, the western colonies wouldn't go to war with one another, so ideally, they should be wiped out. Without the threat of the four fleets, war would break out among the western colonies. The Fochsian colonies would also be wrapped up in the chaos.

The problem was the region didn't have a good excuse to wipe out the Fochsian fleets. The region prided themselves on being reasonable, after all, so just cause was always necessary before any escalation. While they could still hide matters by using the voluntary corps in the war on the western coast, there was no blindsiding anyone at sea, as there was no way Ironclad could be branded a voluntary navy.

"Have you considered using pirates to take out the Fochsian fleets?" Borkal suggested.

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