Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 586

At the end of the 11th month, before Fodres took on his post as the chief of the Security Bureau, he brought Claude some news on the Aueran royal navy. It was probably his last assignment as the head of the department of intelligence, so he completed it perfectly. Unlike the technician from the navy Moriad paid off, the informants of the region managed to infiltrate far deeper into the navy and uncovered far more information. They were even completely aware of how much of the funds from the king's grants were embezzled.

After receiving the summary of the scandal, Claude asked Fodres about the matter of splitting the department of intelligence. Apart from the three bureaus, namely, the Information Bureau, Investigation Bureau and Security Bureau, the military administration also had their own Land Intelligence and Naval Intelligence institutions. The original staff of the department of intelligence would be transferred into these institutions. The documents and archives would also have to be split, which was certain to be a chaotic affair.

Fodres did report that the splitting of the department was going well. He believed that the split made sense and would allow for far more optimisation. Back then, while his post as the head of intelligence seemed high, he felt like a scapegoat most of the time. If he did well, it was only expected of him. But if he performed poorly, he would be criticised and rebuked from all over. He felt his hair whitening rather quickly since he took up that post.

Yet, now, all he had to do was to take care of countering intelligence operatives of other nations and keeping the secrets of the region safe. His burden seemed to have lightened considerably. He no longer woke up abruptly at night from paranoid nightmares as well. Most importantly, he was now a member of the intelligence committee, which was effectively a boost to his status. He had two salaries, one from the bureau, and the other from the committee.

Having discussed official matters, he bade his farewell. The recent proceedings ensured that he had a busy schedule, so Claude didn't keep him longer than he had to. He flipped open the documents and soon found the reason the royal navy didn't succeed in recreating ironclad warships.

As Claude expected, corruption was the main reason for the royal navy's failure. Fredrey I had obtained a huge amount of wealth through elevating noble Titles from honorary to hereditary ones and allowing them to pick their own fiefs. That was why he was so generous in granting the royal navy five million crowns in research grants after obtaining the 16 ironclad ships from the region in hopes of being able to obtain the technology of ironclad warships and improve upon them.

However, the royal navy had been starved for money for far too long and everyone involved couldn't hold back when they saw such a sum. First, they took three tenths of it per tradition as their personal benefits. All the naval officers had their pockets filled to the brim. Then, they used all sorts of official reasons to use the grant they were given. They would've used it all up, had they not remembered their original directive, not a single crown would've remained. However, by the time they actually got to the research, they only had 1.8 million crowns remaining to spend.

The second prototype failed because they were unable to recreate the proper materials. The royal navy proceeded to disassemble a third ironclad warship to make sketches of the designs and hired the sail ship experts and technicians to reverse engineer the theories and mechanics behind the ships, which went on rather well. However, they made a huge mistake when they tried to look for a rune magus to replicate the materials used by the engines of the warships.

It wasn't that the Stellin royal family didn't have court magi serving them. Ever since Stellin X's passing, Prince Wedrick, also known as Stellin XI, fought the civil war with Prince Hansbach. Thanks to the huge spending on the war effort and maintaining his luxurious lifestyle, the funding for the court magi gradually declined until they were completely cut.

Since Fredrey I took the throne, a few court magi returned to serve the royal family again. However, not all of them were experts in what would have been cold 'materials science' on Earth. The real experts in metals and alloys served the old nobility in their industrial complexes. Now that they got their own fiefs, the new nobility brought their magi back there to serve them.

The magi of the Stellin royal family focused on herbal medicine. They were completely incompatible with alloy research. Merely finding out the composition of the alloys was beyond difficult for them, not to mention the amount of time and funding they needed to perform basic experiments to gain knowledge of their basic properties.

While the construction of the ironclad warships wasn't anything too complex, they couldn't just be made out of simple iron plates. At the very least, the material used had to be resistant to corrosion and cannon bombardment. Malleability was the opposite of what engine parts needed to be, and the creation of propellers presented itself to be a huge obstacle. Liboyd himself had spent up to a year experimenting on it.

The royal navy's officers believed that giving away 100 thousand from the grant to the rune magi would be enough already. The magi themselves seemed really proud of their capabilities and didn't think material experiments would be that hard. They already had the designs from which to copy, so as long as they could get the materials right, forging the ships would be no issue.

Then came the experiments, which completely dumbfounded the rune magi. After spending their 100 thousand crowns, they didn't even manage to figure out the alloy composition of the ships' armour. Not to mention, the experimental ingredients the navy bought for them were cheap knockoffs of the real thing. It was no surprise their experiments kept failing. The naval officers even put all the blame on those magi, causing two of them to return to the royal capital in rage.

The remaining rune magi were more responsible and handed the navy a list of ingredients they needed, only for the naval officers to be stumped. The rune magi believed that without at least three years and three million crowns, they wouldn't be able to figure out the material the ironclad warships was made of. However, the king's grant was already running out. How in the world would they be able to get that much money?

It was a shame the officers were smart and cunning in exactly the wrong ways. To prevent harming their own wallets, some suggested that they didn't need to conduct those experiments themselves. The royal family had their own firearms factories with various alloy compositions. All they had to do was to find one similar enough to use for the ironclad warships. That way, they could directly refine those materials instead of paying rune magi to continue researching.

Eventually, they found a substitute material with mostly similar properties but as yet didn't have propeller and engine technology. Even with detailed designs, using substitute materials to forge steam engines yielded horrific results. They either leaked or overheated, causing all sorts of problems for the engine operations. There were even two cases of explosions which harmed and killed a few technicians.

By then, they had run out of money completely. When the king inquired about the progress of the forging, the naval officers reported that everything was going smoothly, and that the kingdom would be able to produce their own ironclad warships. Overjoyed, the king decided to send his minister to inspect their progress, putting the navy in even more hot water.

Thankfully, they soon came up with a solution to their predicament. They would first delay the inspector as best they could while making a shell of a ship. At the very least, they had to be a few times larger than the region's ships to impress. So, the shipyard at Whitestag scrambled to work on this new shell.

To save even more costs, the navy took a large sail warship to use as a base and covered it with iron plates. As for the engines, they still had some warships from the region remaining. They sacrificed them and reinstalled the engines on their new shell ships, only to realise that it couldn't move it. So, they disassembled another warship for another one to put in the ship. In the end, they managed to get them moving slowly. Though it was really unstable and shook quite a lot, it seemed domineering at the very least.

The minister had been spoiled thoroughly during his journey to Whitestag to the point that even he felt embarrassed about the treatment he was receiving. Once he arrived and saw the gigantic ironclad flat-bottomed ship contrasted against the region's own ships, he was filled with praises for them. Being unfamiliar with marine warfare, all he thought of the ship was that it was impressive. Based on its size alone, it could be armed with many more cannons and was sure to boast more firepower.

To thank the navy's grand treatment, the minister had his artist sketch the ship in its full glory and also flexed his imagination by adding ten plus cannons on the ship, not caring at all whether the ship would sink with that much extra weight. He only wanted to make sure it was as impressive as he could make it look. That way, the king would definitely be satisfied.

As expected, the king loved what he saw. The artist's rendition of the kingdom's own ship dwarfed the region's own like a man did a child. In fact, it was only double the size, but the drawing made it seem five times larger.

Fredrey I was overjoyed that the royal navy's own ship looked so impressive and had many more cannons alone. They even seemed more impressive than the ones the region gave them. He then turned to the naval officer to ask how much a ship like that cost to build. The head of the ministry of the navy hesitated a long while before sticking out a finger. He knew that the ship took only ten thousand crowns to hastily clobber together, so he was about to report it cost 100 thousand crowns.

Yet, the king misunderstood him. In the arms deal with the region, the ironclad warships were supposed to be worth up to 200 thousand crowns each. The depiction of the ship in the drawing seemed five times larger, so each of them costing five times the price was only expected.

With the king's single word, the cost for each ship to be built was set at a million crowns. It was rather worth it in his eyes, so he decided to commission five of them to be built. With six of those gigantic ironclad warships, the kingdom's waters were sure to be secured. The little boats of the region would no longer be able to rival the kingdom's behemoths. It was about time the region's bumpkins be shown the true might of the royal navy, who would be building up even more powerful ships than the region ever could.

The ministry of the navy's head felt his finger heating up. However, he was no fool and didn't argue against the king. He promised he would see to the completion of those ships and pledged to spread the Stellin royal family's name across the seas.

Knowing the true cost of the ship, they immediately embezzled half the funds they had been given and spread them among the other high-ranking officers in the navy. They took another million to thank the minister and other members of the royal court heavily to cover all their bases. In the future, the court would definitely be speaking on the navy's behalf.

Only after they had a million crowns remaining did they decide to start constructing those ships. However, bad news soon came that the sample ship they cobbled together had sunk, probably thanks to a leak. As a result, they had six ships to build and each needed to be at least three times the size of the region's destroyer. The only problem was where they were going to get the 12 steam engines from.

After many meetings, the navy decided to humble themselves to seek help from the region for the purchase of 12 steam engines, only to find that it wasn't something that could be done. The region only sold engines that powered industrial and merchant purposes. But when the request was reported to the military administration's brass, they realised that the royal navy was only trying to purchase obsolete first-generation ship engines. So, they approved that request.

They made sure to double the price of the engines, offering each for 35 thousand crowns. The ambassador, however, didn't accept it. Just as the region's negotiator was about to lower prices, the ambassador suggested each be priced at 50 thousand crowns. In other words, they would get to embezzle another 15 thousand per engine.

As a result, the navy spent 600 thousand crowns purchasing those engines, and that didn't include the costs of transporting the engines. The remaining 300 plus thousand crowns were used to construct the six ship-shells and fill up the corrupt officers' socks and sleeves even further. As the ships were to be triple the size of the region's ships, there was no suitable transport ship to repurpose as the core of the ships to be built. So, they built brand new sail ships before covering them in armour and painting them up.

Despite how the royal navy wanted to do their job seriously for once, they soon began to run out of money as their subordinates slowly chipped away at their remaining funds for their own personal cuts. After another detailed estimation of costs for labour and materials, they were a million crowns short.

It was no longer possible to ask the king for any more money, as that might prompt an investigation into their spending. However, it was impossible to get the rest of them to pay up for the completion of the six ships. After much discussion, some of them turned to the remaining ten-odd ironclad ships of the region. They decided to report them as damaged through accidents and sell six of them in the black market for more funds.

Then came Moriad's report that Fochs spent 480 thousand crowns to buy one destroyer and one patroller, packaged with the designs the Aueran navy copied. Carmenleon also spent 180 thousand to purchase a destroyer, whereas Moloshik bought one patroller for 200 thousand crowns.

Claude never would've expected Moloshik to still be interested in the purchase of the ships despite suffering much from their failed attempt at retaking the colony. It seemed they were unwilling to take their loss and would come rolling back to prominence in a few more years.

The last 'damaged' ship was sold to the Kingdom of Zikanchalia for 250 thousand crowns, designs included. That was an island nation near Northern Freia, located some 300 kilometres west of Shiks. It was also a strong maritime power.

Claude closed the documents and shook his head with a sigh. After Fredrey I's ascension, the kingdom got its hard-earned peace and its economy started to recover. The kingdom finally had a qualified king. However, this king had spent most of his life in the sheltered palace and didn't understand the true nature of people. So, he didn't understand how his subordinates managed to hoodwink him.

The scandal was proof of how deep the corruption in the kingdom ran. Bolonik's campaign to purge corruption in the region came at a fitting time. They were determined to not end up like the kingdom.

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