"Your Grace, Oceanic Legion currently has twelve Blitz class warships, eight Swift class warships, 46 LLDM (large long distance merchant) class vessels, 124 MSM (moderate speedy merchant) class vessels, 184 MAM (moderate armed merchant) class vessels, and 44 LAC (large armed cargo) class vessels. Other than that, there are 13 LW (large whaling) class ships and near a hundred moderate and small fishing boats, four sailboats and five training vessels in Bullhorn Bay for maritime training. There is also a large base at Flagfish Ridge on Silowas.
"We also have a small flotilla of 12 patrol warships. The whole navy has about 58 personnel. Due to the profits of the trade and fishing that offset part of the navy's expenses, it costs the house just 280 thousand to 350 thousand annually. It's only a third as expensive as Firmrock and Tigersoar."
Oceanic Legion's Blitz class warships were built based on the Windstorm. They bristled with bronze cannons. The Swift class warships were based off Flying Fish of Dawn's design, with the steel ballistae replaced with nine smaller bronze cannons. With impressive ranged attack capabilities and mobility, the class could be considered the ocean's cavalry.
Charade was holding a thick stack of documents concerning Oceanic as he reported to Lorist. Lorist was prepared to make up for the deficit brought on by the four local defense legions' reorganization by first cutting the fleet's budget.
"Commander Senbaud has already received his orders. Right now, he is traveling from Silowas and will arrive in half a month. We will also have to host a meeting with the senior officials of the navy. During the 4th month, he also submitted a request for the fleet's Blitz class warships group to be expanded and hoped the shipyard at Bullhorn Bay may deliver six within the next three years. I already turned the request down. For now, the shipyard is busy with House Kenmays's order of 12 LLDM class and MAM class vessels. It will take two years to finish the order. There's no way we can fit the construction of Blitz class warships in," said Charade.
"That Kenmays fellow is really moving fast. I remember I passed a document last year about building ships for House Kenmays. It was for two LLDM class vessels and eight MAM class vessels, right?"
"Yes. The total cost is 150 thousand gold, including training the sailors and their weapons operators. They have already sent eight hundred people to be trained."
"How about this, write him and ask. If he doesn't mind, we can sell him the MAM class vessels left over after we downscale the fleet. He wouldn't have to wait two years that way. The boats still at 70 percent condition should be more than enough for their trading activities. Naturally, if the ships are already being constructed, that'll go according to our agreement. Only offer to sell them ships in place of those not started yet."
"There's also this proposal I thought up to reorganize the fleet, take a look. When Senbaud arrives, you could discuss this with him and we'll make amendments as necessary," said Lorist as he handed Charade a document he'd drafted with painstaking effort over the last couple of days.
Charade gave it a quick read before he gasped.
"Your Grace, you're going to develop Bullhorn Bay and Northsea? Silowas too?"
Charade continued to read it and, when he was done, gave it some thought.
"Your Grace, you're really going all out with the budget-cut. You're practically leaving only a fifth of the current legion intact."
Lorist stood up and walked to the large dominion map hung on the wall.
"I have no choice. We've been far too busy with conflicts on the continent. We didn't really pay attention to Oceanic. I didn't think it would have expanded this much. Almost all the small fishing boats have been draft and the personnel already exceed 58 thousand. I was really shocked when I heard you guys talk about it. Even though Senbaud is a rather responsible person and carries out his assignments without issue, especially with regards to how well he managed the fishing and trading activities, this isn't what I want.
"Maritime trading should be a sector that rakes in huge profits. But right now, be it fishing or trading, the profits can't even completely cover the navy's expenses. The house still has to subsidize it with 300 thousand gold every year. Naturally, I'm not suspecting the officers of corruption. After all, Spiel is the one taking care of the house's finances. He's done well with regards to preventing exactly this kind of thing. But after analyzing the files, I realized what we were doing wrong.
"Oceanic was formed to protect our coastlines and islands. At the same time, it possesses great military might that will let us open new trade routes and fishing grounds, and prevent attacks on our fishers and merchants. Senbaud has successfully managed to do that and the navy is already the northern oceans' hegemon. There are no enemies that can threaten us by sea anymore.
"But he got something wrong. He believes we should regulate everything in the ocean and take in every sailor into the navy to keep our position. That's not what I want. A force that regulates everything isn't a navy. It's a maritime trading organization! One our house has to fund!"
Lorist punched lightly on the map by Bullhorn Bay.
"Just look at Northsea and Bullhorn Bay. Why do you think they aren't growing any busier? Having stayed at Morante for so long, we know well why Hidegold is known as the number one bay on the continent: its vigor! Yes, vigor. I've given it lots of thought. Look at Bullhorn and Northsea. Why aren't there more people? Why aren't they busier? It's simple. The navy regulates every vessel traveling to our dominion and even sets the dates in stone.
"Now, look at our maritime trade. Currently, there are only two trade routes. The first one goes from Shyarsia to Hanayabarta, and then to Silowas. It carries mainly spice and the daily necessities we produce. The other stretches from Silowas to Northsea. But what we have to pay attention to is that the endpoint for both of these routes is Silowas. Any other trade we have is done through merchant guilds Jigda and Peterson. I suspect they're suppressing our profits. They're treating us like suppliers and that's why our profits aren't enough.
"Actually, there are many business opportunities we can use. For example, we can trade with the coastal nobility in the former Redlis kingdom, or ship our goods directly to Falik. We might even go all the way to Golden Bay further south. Due to our arrangement with the Peterson Merchant Guild, though, all our trade with the Union is done through them. Jigda Merchant Guild uses most of the spice we import and they've even suggested an agreement like the one we have with the Petersons so they can be the middleman for our produce in Golden Bay.
"I want to decrease the navy's size. It should focus solely on military matters and become a reliable navy. As for the merchant vessels and fishing boats, we can form a number of guilds to manage them. Apart from our ships, we'll have the civilians invest. We'll let them purchase our goods to do business elsewhere. We can just tax them. Bullhorn Bay will only become vigorous again if we do it this way. Our free-trading civilians can also use a loophole in our agreement with Peterson Merchant Guild and bring our produce to other markets. That's why I've decided to develop Bullhorn Bay, Northsea, and Silowas."
Charade flapped the documents in his hand.
"But Your Grace, aren't you cutting the navy a little too much? According to your proposal, the whole legion will have less than 50 ships and only 8000 to 12000 personnel."
"It's more than enough. There will be no Oceanic Legion in the future. Only Northsea. Senbaud will also no longer be legion commander. Instead, he'll be made an admiral," smiled Lorist.
"Is this really appropriate? I'm not well-versed in maritime combat, but the union's invincible fleet has over 200 warships. Every time they patrol the southern seas or Golden Bay, they mobilize up to a hundred. And yet, you've decided to further split Northsea into two separate units... I just feel our forces are too sparse," questioned Charade, doubt filled.
"Hehe, don't even compare the Union's Invincible Fleet with our house's Northsea. They only use traditional tactics like boarding. To our Blitz class ships, they are just slow-moving targets. Whether it be mobility or ranged attack capability, there is no maritime force in Grindia that can compare to us. Frankly speaking, the naval technology we use in Northsea is at least two hundred years ahead.
"We can form a flotilla with six Blitz's as the main force, four Swifts as the pursuit force, and two or three LLDMs to carry supplies with ten MSMs to protect them. The patrol flotillas will protect our overseas dominions, our trade routes, and the civilian ships that travel them. We can make two such flotillas and rotate them. Even though I don't intend to Northsea's size, I am prepared to outfit the supply ships and guards with bronze cannons to improve their overall ranged attack."
After mocking the Union's invincible fleet and talking about outfitting bronze cannons on all patrol flotilla ships, Lorist thought for a bit.
"We have to finish the plan to deal with Oceanic by year's end. All the ships not included will have to be maintained and renewed. I intend to announce the news to the nobles and rich civilians during the year-end celebration so they join the maritime trade industry as well. Naturally, regardless of whether they form their own trading fleets or guilds, we house will get three-tenths of their revenue as compensation for developing Northsea, Bullhorn Bay, and Silowas."
"Understood. I will draw up a concrete plan and submit it as soon as possible," Charade said as he put the papers in his hand into his folder, before he took out another, "Your Grace, look at this plan to revamp the transportation routes in the Northlands..."
Just as Lorist was about to receive it, he heard Jinolio's cry from outside the room.
"Lady, this's his His Grace's study! You can't enter!"
"Who are you? Where's Howard?" said the familiar voice.
"I'm Jinolio, His Grace's attendant. Senior Howard has gone to the training grounds."
"Oh, a newbie? Make way, brute. I have something urgent to discuss with Locke."
"No, you can't go in..."
"Don't force my hand. Scram. A one-star bronze rank like you actually dares block me... What a waste of your build."
A loud crashing echoed through the door. It seemed Jinolio had been pushed into a corner.
Charade hurriedly put the folder down.
"There seems to be trouble. Let's discuss things another time."
With a bitter smile, Lorist looked at the study's door. The moment it was pushed open, Arriotoli rushed into the room angrily, followed by Jinolio who had just gotten up from the ground. He tried to stop her with a red face.
"You shall not enter! Ah, Your Grace..."
Charade made it to the entrance and patted on Jinolio's chest.
"Big guy, don't worry. His Grace won't blame you. This young lady here is not someone you can afford to offend."
He turned back and nodded to Arriotoli.
"Good day, Miss Arriotoli. You've become much more beautiful since the last time we've met."
"Apologies, Baron Charade. Was I being too rash and interrupted your meeting?"
This time around, Arriotoli's behavior was that of a polite young lady as she made a knight's salute. However, the female half-body riding armor showed quite a bit of her cleavage.
Charade smiled with a hint of schadenfreude.
"No worries. We were just about to wrap up. I'll take my leave now. Do speak with His Grace if you need anything."
When the door was closed, the look of anger returned to Arriotoli's face.
"Arri, you're being too rude. That aside, I'm glad to see you. Is Fennazali here as well? You two were gone for quite some time," said Lorist with a hurried smile.
"Hmph, us coming back is the last thing you want, isn't it? You should enjoy your days with your princess," snorted she.
"Hey, come on, what are you so mad about? Who angered you?"
"You, you idiot! You said House Norton would gain a strong ally if you married the princess, so I tolerated it. But now... House Fisablen is your enemy and yet you're still marrying her? So you were lying back then, huh?!"
Arriotoli kicked in Lorist's direction, but he quickly sidestepped.
"Hey, keep it to words, okay? Let's talk..."
"I'll keep kicking until you die, you bastard. You want me as your lover? Done. My aunt also became your concubine and gave you a child. While the two of us are fine with this, my sister gave you her first time! At least don't anger her if you can't take her as your wife! But you made even her your concubine. We Dina sisters and my aunt are already your women, so you better make sure you make it up to my sister."
"Arri, don't try to spin this any other way. Fennazali wanted to become my concubine willingly. It's not like I tricked her..."
"I don't care. I want a satisfactory answer," insisted she before she leaped into his embrace and locked her arms.
It'd already been two months. Now that her body was pressed against his, he began to lose control.
"You came right when I needed you, how delightful. I love you so much, Arri," said he as he kissed her and removed her half-body armor.
A little shocked, she struggled.
"Are you crazy? It's still morning..."
Before she could finish her though, her mouth was plugged with Lorist's tongue. She soon turned into a helpless lamb and began to twitch gently Lorist's every touch.
He hurriedly pushed her against the wall and hauled her up in the air facing him with both hands before entering her... (author's note: We're saving 18 thousand characters by not going into details. I'll leave it to your imagination.)
After one time against the wall, once on the desk, and another on the sofa, Lorist felt completely refreshed like a sage rid of worldly desires. Even while leaning against the sofa with the soft-as-clay Arriotoli hugged in his arms, his hands didn't stop working her body.
"Arri, why did you come back all of a sudden? Is there something wrong with your dominion?"
"I... I didn't intend to come back... I just... I was just sending my brother to attend Nico Academy... and dropping by for a visit... My sister's gone to see the princess... And I'm here to see you... you bastard... to settle our debt..."
Even though Lorist didn't let up in the slightest, the first female knight of House Dina wasn't going to cast away her pride and dignity so easily.
"I like the way we're settling the debt quite a bit. I'm not kidding, I'm totally serious."