Chapter 162

“Why are you so surprised? Wasn’t it the commander’s wish to wipe out all the pirates in the sea? I’m telling you that I will fulfil your wish right now.”

“Your excellency…”

Viscount Moraine’s voice trembled.

All of the previous governors had shown limited response to the problem of the pirates. They had simply stated that the focus should be on ‘defending the sea’. They would protect the merchant ships entering Leus from the pirates of the sea. 

Basically, the previous governors would accumulate wealth by taking bribes from smugglers, and so they wanted to maintain a neutral relationship with the pirates. However, there was a deeper, political reason behind the previous governors’ actions until now. 

Some of the more powerful pirates had close relationships with the southern lords and the merchants. A good example was the relationship that existed between the Arangis Duchy and the Latuan Orcs.

Therefore it was difficult for the 7th regiment and the soldiers of the southern sea to act out against the pirates.

If the 7th regiment were to attack the pirates ships, the pirates would attack the coastal villages and islands that were distributed in the waters of Mulade. As a result, the residents of Mulade would incur the most damages from the clash, which would ultimately sour the relationship between the governor and the local lords. 

If the complaints of the local lords and the residents increased, the capabilities of Leus’ governor-general would be doubted by those in the imperial castle. 

As such, the previous governors had no choice but to overlook the piracy that occurred outside their immediate jurisdiction. 

It didn’t hurt that they got to make a hefty profit from their inaction as well.

Under these circumstances, it was inevitable that Viscount Moraine could only watch helplessly from the side. He had to respect the governor’s intentions. After all, the governors represented the emperor himself. 

But today, the new governor had immediately announced his intentions to eradicate the pirates as soon as he took office. It was no wonder that Viscount Moraine doubted Raven’s words. 

Moraine had been hoping to perhaps persuade the new governor to catch the smugglers, but it seemed the young governor had greater intentions. 

“Are you… serious?”

“I do not like jokes very much, Lord Moraine.”

Raven’s gaze was unwavering as he met Moraine’s eyes. 

After silently observing Raven’s face for a moment, Viscount Moraine opened his mouth.

“If your excellency intends to do so, then the 7th regiment will actively participate. However, before we do so, there are preconditions.”

“What are they?”

“Currently, the 7th regiment has a total of 12 war ships. Three of them are undergoing repairs and on standby at Fort Leus. Three of them are monitoring Batan Island about 50 nautical miles from here.”

“I see. What about the rest?”

“The other six are on patrols throughout the Mulade area, including Ills and Lens. They are on a tight schedule.”

“Hm, so all in all, we do not have enough ships.”

“That’s exactly right.”

At Raven’s precise observation, Viscount Moraine replied with a sigh.

“As you know, the 12th imperial regiment is also a naval-based regiment. However, they are in possession of two Aragon-class vessels, and their combat ships and galleys number over fifty. Compared to that, our 7thregiment possesses far too few ships.”

Moraine spoke with a regretful voice, and the expressions of Isak and the 7th regiment darkened.

The 12th regiment was subdivided into two large battalions. Each battalion consisted of a single Aragon-class ship, eight battle ships, and around twenty galley ships. In comparison, the 7th regiment could barely match one of the 12th regiment’s battalions. 

Even if the 12th regiment protected the waters leading to the capital and was considered the First Navy of the imperial army, the difference was simply too large.

“I see. Then what about the other lords of the coasts of Mulade?”

“It would be a shame to call them forces. Most of them have less than a hundred troops to defend the coasts. The two wealthiest lords, belonging to Ills and Lens, possess about five or six galley ships. That is all.”

“Hm…”

Raven nodded heavily.

It cost a lot of money to build and maintain an army.

If an area had a population of 10,000 people that paid taxes, the number of troops in peacetime should not exceed 300, and 500 would be pushing it.

The local economy was sure to collapse if too much focus was put on the military. Moreover, the navy incurred a heavier cost compared to the army.

An order of knights was considered to be the strongest power on land, but it was also referred to as a money-eating ghost. In comparison, the navy had to build and maintain ships, so they could be referred to as a money-absorbing swamp. 

However, the populations of Ills and Lens, the two largest areas in Mulade after Leus, had less than 5,000 people each. It was obvious that the toll of maintaining 200, 300 troops and several galleys would bear down heavily on the lords.

“What if all of the 7th regiment’s ships gathered to strike at the pirates?”

“We could target one of the large-scaled pirates, but it would open a hole in the sea of Mulade. There are nearly ten small pirate groups in relatively close proximity. If they decide to attack the islands and coastal villages of Mulade, the lords will not be able to defend themselves without support.”

“Hmm…”

Raven sank into deep thought. The heavy stillness of his countenance caused the troops of the 7th regiment to look at him with a tense expression.

The new governor wanted to punish the pirates, but it would be nigh impossible in reality. And now, his next words would decide whether the matter would go up in flames or be put to action. 

“Let us do this.”

Raven finally raised his face.

“I will build twenty galley ships with the capital of the Pendragon Duchy. That should be enough to defend the waters of Mulade in conjunction with the local lords.”

The galleys had sails, but they still required rows in order to move. Small and medium-sized vessels would have a capacity of about 50, including the combat personnel, and they were more useful than sailboats in closer proximity to land, where the currents were not as strong.

“It is not a small force, but to attack the pirates…”

Raven cut off the worried voice of Viscount Moraine.

“And the 7th regiment should cross the inland sea towards the south.”

“What?”

Moraine frowned at Raven’s unknown words. 

However, Raven responded in a calm voice with a soft smile.

“In my childhood, I went fishing in my hometow... in the duchy. I used a small worm as a bait, and I managed to catch a few small fish.”

Why was the governor talking about fishing all of a sudden?

“Your excellency, I…”

Viscount Moraine’s expression gradually hardened, but Raven continued with a deeper smile.

“Please listen to my story. Anyways, after a little while, I got tired of it. However, it was then that I saw an old fisherman preparing to get out to the middle of the lake on a boat. I became curious, so I asked him what he was doing.”

“…..”

“The fisherman did not recognize who I was, and he gave me a blunt answer. ‘If you want to catch fish and make a living, you can’t use a fishing rod. If you want to catch lots of big fish, you have to use baits that are befitting big fish and use a net’. He was right. I was fishing to kill time, but it was a matter of survival to him.”

Moraine silently listened to Raven’s story. This was certainly not just a simple fishing story.

“Anyways, he headed to the middle of the lake, and he had a slab of bloody pork instead of worms. He proceeded to sprinkle the bait little by little as he rode his boat forward. Then, he pulled up his net after waiting for a time it would take to drink a cup of tea. Now, what do you think happened?”

“……”

Viscount Moraine was unable to give an answer to Raven’s sudden question.

“He caught many more fish in the net than the number of fish I was able to catch in an hour.”

“Your excellency…”

Viscount Moraine finally realized the true meaning behind Raven’s story.

“That’s right. I will prepare a befitting bait, a bait big enough to catch the eyes of all the pirates in the inland sea. Let us wipe them out once and for all.”

“…..!”

The shoulders of the knights and the soldiers trembled. The new governor was not a man who talked nonsense.

However, there were still remaining problems.

“The will of the governor general is truly inspiring to me as a knight who defends the empire’s seas. But sir, the cost of building up and maintaining a force will also be quite prohibitive.”

Moraine’s cool-headed judgement caused the faces of the men to sullen once more. 

Money. Everything was ultimately a battle of capital.

Even if they could build more ships, how could they afford to maintain the vessels?

But Raven appeared quite confused by the words of Viscount Moraine. He replied with a tilt of his head.

“Huh? We have the smuggling ships, don’t we? We can catch them starting tomorrow and confiscate all of their goods. I heard that they carry various types of goods including fur, spices, jewellery, and so on”

“Ah…!”

Viscount Moraine exclaimed with an expression of epiphany. Why had he not thought of it?

If they caught the smugglers who headed off to Ills and Lens, they could auction off the goods they confiscated from the smugglers. It was sure to earn a large sum of money in a short period of time.

“How insightful. I will get on it right away.”

Raven nodded with a satisfied look at Viscount Moraine’s joyous expression.

“Good. It should cover the cost of maintaining the ships for around a year’s time. I hear that the shipping companies are having a hard time lately, and that the economy of Leus is in a bad state as well. This should relieve the pressures everywhere.”

“Oh…!”

Viscount Moraine let out another exclamation.

The whole city had been in shambles ever since Count Sagunda’s death. His relatives had been involved in matters all over the city, and the subsequent storm that ensued after their removal had hit the trade and shipping business, as well as the economy of the entire city.

The construction of 20 galley ships and the recruitment of soldiers would certainly help revive the economy. 

“Also, for the time being, I will announce to the merchants in York Town that they should pass through Leus for any products they wish to export to the southwestern parts. If the 7th regiment guarantees an escort, they should have no reason to refuse.”

“Brilliant! What a wonderful idea!”

Having guarded the sea of Leus for more than 20 years, Viscount Moraine was also knowledgeable in commerce. Nine out of ten merchant ships stemming from York Town that were headed south or abroad had to go through the waters of Mulade. 

It could not be helped, as the sea route was naturally formed as such. 

The merchants would not have a reason to refuse passage through Leus if they were guaranteed protection from the 7th regiment. Unless they were fools, they would know that it was much better to pay the entry fee and receive an escort rather than have their goods stolen by pirates or having to pay the pirates a large toll. It would ultimately result in a win-win situation.

Furthermore, if larger volumes of ships entered through the ports and more sailors stayed in Leus, it would help develop the city. They could essentially catch two birds with one stone.

“Sir Isla.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Isla took a step forward at Raven’s call.

“I will write a letter, so send it immediately to Conrad Castle. And you should know better about the pirates than I, right? How many do you need to wipe them all out?”

“Fifty will be enough.”

Isla answered bluntly without any hesitation.

“Good. You can take care of that matter on your own.”

“I will follow your orders.”

Isla bowed deeply

After observing the interaction between the two, Viscount Moraine asked to resolve his curiosity.

“Your excellency, pardon me, but what are you referring to when you say fifty?”

Raven turned to Viscount Moraine and answered with a chill-inducing smile.

“Is there a law that naval battles must be conducted in water?”

“…What?”

“I am saying that we do not have to worry about our ship getting overturned on our way to catch fish. Don’t worry about it. You will find out soon enough.”

“Hmm…”

Raven spoke one final sentence to Viscount Moraine, who was still clearly confused.

“In addition, I have to fulfil the wishes of some of my friends.”

The ugly face of a certain face popped into Raven’s mind, a certain someone who was eager to beat up some island orcs.

*** 

“At-choo!”

“Keung? Karuta, did you get some dirt in your nostrils?”

Kratul asked as he watched Karuta sneeze loudly enough to sink the ground.

“Maybe some damned orc is swearing behind my back. The ground be split…!”

Karuta wiped off his yellow, runny nose and puffed his eyes. Then he yawned, revealing the large fangs in his mouth.

“Kuhaaaam! Ah, anyways, I’m so bored these days. Playing with the one-egged scarecrow is getting boring as well.”

“Kukeket! I don’t think the one-egged scarecrow thinks of it as playing thought.”

Kratul burst into laughter as he thought of Killian. The man constantly had bruises on his face as a result of ‘playing’ with Karuta day after day.

“Kuhet! The one-egged scarecrow would not be able to stand it if I went too serious. Anyways, I am tired of being gentle.”

Karuta spat on the ground and scrunched up his face in a frown.

“By the way, isn’t the Pendragon scarecrow forgetting about us too often? I would go to help him personally, even if it means I have to ride on those damned birds. It’s no fun that he keeps leaving us orcs behind like this…”

Karuta looked in the direction of Leus with a mixture of regret and annoyance.

He did not know at the time.

Sooner or later, the most exciting(?) and busiest days of his life were set to arrive.

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