"There is an old sailor's tale of a port named Einiba. It lies on the western coast. The emperor burnt it to the ground and sank an entire flotilla in the harbour. They say that if a ship anchors in the harbour for more than a night it will sink on its next voyage. Ghosts patrol the streets and whoever passes through the city will smell of burnt flesh for months and have nightmares about burning alive every night."



"Urgent news, Your Grace!" cried Tarkel as he rushed into the study.

They were in Silowas's Seaview Manor. Lorist had been lodging there for a couple of days now. A little over 20 days past the end of the rainy season, he bade his wife and concubines farewell. He finally felt released from his cage.

It was all Arriotoli's fault for being such a busybody. She wrote after the rainy season to announce he had a new daughter, named Irie. Arriotoli gave her the Dina name, of course, and told Lorist he needed to prepare a dowry for when she eventually got married.

Arriotoli's letter made Sylvia go berserk. None of the three women who were not yet pregnant wanted to lose to this outside woman, so they kept riding Lorist for a child. Daisy finally fell pregnant near the end of winter, but Sylvia and Fennazalli were still barren. With half of the 4th month passed, Lorist finally excused himself for Silowas.

Women are nothing but trouble!

How on earth did people manage harems? Sylvia wanted another son, her eldest needed a little helper for when he inherited his father's title. His concubines didn't have any thoughts on the position of heir, they just wanted a lot of children that could accompany them when they got older.

Unfortunately children weren't born from will alone and desire alone. There was an element of luck involved, and their partner had to be fertile. Once a day was fine, and twice was exciting, but three times… Well, it was still bearable for a swordsaint, but he had two concubines and a wife who each wanted three rounds a day. He couldn't refuse the child-crazed Sylvia, and if she got it, then the other had to, as well, lest he have a second rebellion on his hands. And this one would make him the envy and laughingstock of the entire continent: a rebellion over his loins rather than his throne.

Now that he was at Silowas, there were no women by his side and he felt like the skies were bluer than ever, the air was fresher and he was more energetic. Before, his legs would feel soft when he woke up to train. But these days, he felt energized whenever he got up, filled to the brim with vigor. He couldn't help but admit his ancestors in his past life were right. Lust truly was the blade that shaved one's bones. Fortunately, he managed to weather through it.

Tarkel saw Lorist half asleep on his sunbathing chair when he entered the study. Lorist was making the best use of the calm before the storm to catch up on sleep he knew he would lose once things got going. Their offensive would be launched at the end of the month when the last ships' retrofits were complete.

Senbaud led the 14 Blitz-class warships back to sea when the rainy season ended. He didn't come across any enemy ships, however. Even smugglers were few and far in between. The whole stretch from Hidegold Bay to the Golden Coast was deserted. Something was obviously off. Senbaud took the risk to barge into Hidegold Bay only to be pushed back by the fourth flotilla. Tarkel sent a few agents to the bay, but he didn't hear back from them once they left. Not a peep.

"Well..." Lorist mumbled as he sat up, "What's going on? Do we have word from the bay?"

"Nothing. Our informants in Jigda sent word. Invincible's first flotilla and 50 thousand of the kingdom's forces are headed to Chikdor's dominion. They'll join up with the second flotilla and escort a massive convoy to the bay. From there they are set to move on Silowas."

"The reports are trustworthy?"

If the reports were right, then everything made sense. The Union's fleet was going all out and. They were no doubt betting everything on this convoy and wouldn't let it go easily. Jigda was also quite clearly completely in bed with the Union if there was any doubt. This also confirmed that the Union was not going to surrender. They had to be crushed completely.

"The reports are trustworthy, Your Grace. My agents are disguised as vets. There is no suspicion about them at all so there's no chance they were fed false information to fool us. They've also learned that the Jigda forces being sent with the fleet is the duke's most elite legion, the Firebirds. They bribed a captain to let them go along to Chikdor. They've confirmed everything in their report with their own eyes.

"Their original plan was to sail to Morante before heading to one of our hubs to report, but they ran into Tok along the way and were brought here. The two flotillas will set sail from Chikdor's harbours on the 10th of the 5th, they have to restock first. We expect at least 800 ships."

Lorist caught his breath. The entire fleet must be at least around 1300. That was nearly a hundred ships for every ship he had.

"They cannot reach the bay!" Lorist exclaimed.

If such a convoy's supplies were to reach the front-line, they would lose the plains within the month. They might even wipe Auguslo out completely, which would leave the path into the kingdom open and no one left to stand against them.

"Jinolio, gather everyone! Also, get me 100 gold Fordes."

Jinolio soon returned with five heavy pouches.

"Tarkel, give this to your agents. Tell them I'm giving this to them personally as thanks for their hard work."

"Understood, Your Grace," Tarkel bowed.

 

"Alright. Come back quickly. I need you in the meeting as well," said Lorist with a wave before he started brainstorming in front of the massive map of the continent.

The meeting started right after lunch. Every captain in the fleet was present. Tarkel brought them up to speed. The room burst into a roar the moment he finished. Everyone was shocked. Even if Northsea had superior ranged combat abilities, they didn't have the ammunition to sink 1300 ships, nevermind win in a fight.

The more extreme insisted they use the sea-wolf tactic. As long as there were enough ants, even an elephant could be bitten to death. The problem was that only the 14 Blitz-class warships could execute that tactic. Other ships weren't fast enough, if they got into a fight, they were committed.

Some conservatives suggested they withdraw and fortify Silowas instead. If they could put cannons on forts along the coast and draw the enemy fleet in, they stood a chance. If need be, they could draw the fight onto the island itself while the Blitzes whittled the enemy down from the sea.

Lorist slapped the table.

"That won't work! Yes, we can win against Invincible if we fight on Silowas, but then we'll lose the war, regardless. If that convoy reaches the bay, it won't matter whether we win against the fleet or not. The supplies and reinforcements will bolster the Union and we'll lose on land. They'll wipe out the king and his forces and take the entire kingdom!

"We have to sink the convoy, or at least force them to turn around. If we have to sacrifice Northsea, then that's what we have to do. We can rebuild the fleet, but we can't hold on to our lands if we lose the kingdom.

"Yes, we will face an unprecedented force. But don't forget that 800 of the fleet are just transports. We can ignore them mostly and focus on the escorts. Four hundred is still a lot, but it's manageable. Remember that by the time we face them, we'll have another 500 cannons."

Lorist was right. Apart from the 300 cannons Sid had made for the fleet the artillery brigade's cannons had also been requisitioned.

"Today's the 24th of the 4th. The convoy sets sail on the 10th of the 5th. We won't allow them to reach the bay. Senbaud, take our Blitzes to Chikdor. You're to harass them the moment they leave port. Don't stop until you run out of ammunition."

"We can't, Your Grace. We can at most be at sea for 20 days before our supplies run out, and it takes 17 just to get to Chikdor and we have no way to resupply along the way. We can't even manage a round trip."

"Then build supply points along the way. We can use Einiba. I'll send the whaling ships and 60 of our medium ships. We'll turn Einiba into our forward supply base."

"It's too dangerous. What if the fourth flotilla notices and attacks?" Senbaud asked.

"No worries. I've had Uncle Torin bring 40 ships to Silowas. He can keep the fourth flotilla busy. We don't have much time. We have to move quickly to turn this around! Alright, dismissed. Make your preparations, we depart in two days!"

"Yes, Your Grace!"