Chapter 71: Plan for the Navy
“This concludes the trial, but I would like the lords to remain.”
I turned to the lords in attendance when the two clergy had left the room.
“I would like to call a meeting.”
Count Newnbal sounded puzzled. This wasn’t surprising. I had done some research into the reigns of the previous emperors and while they have asked the opinion of the aristocrats, they have never had meetings to discuss opinions.
“Yes, a meeting. I would like to revive the ‘Council of Wise Men’ that was held during the former Giorus dynasty.”
The Council of Wise Men was an advisory council that existed during the former Giorus era. The Emperor of that time convened the leading aristocrats and the royal family and solicited their opinion on policies.
This council was never held during the Later Giorus era. I won’t go into details, but it is said that not holding this council was the ‘the reason why the Empire declined’, but I believe the Council of the Wise Men wasn’t a bad idea, but just reviving it would be a repeat of the past. I needed to have countermeasures in place to ensure that it would still be held past my reign.
“But we can talk about that later. I want to ask your opinions and am giving you the opportunity to express them. I want you to speak up unlike with the trial.”
“First, I would like to discuss the disappearance of the Emperor’s fortune… and the culprit who took it.”
Count Palatine Vedett was still investigating the disappearance of the Emperor’s fortune.
A new position, ‘Chamberlain Treasurer’ was created by the Chancellor after the death of the previous Emperor and Count Dinka Salim was appointed to this position. It was overtly suspicious that he had created a new position related to finance and Count Palatine distrusts Count Dinka.
However, an investigation that was held after the coronation ceremony revealed that neither he nor his associates were involved in this matter. Apparently, ‘Chamberlain Treasurer’ was a nominal position with no role at all and he knew nothing about it, but there isn’t any evidence that he is completely ‘innocent’, so he is being held pending trial.
Rather, the clues pertaining to the disappearance of the Emperor’s assets were found in documents that had been covered up by the Chief Secretary. The document recorded that the previous Emperor’s assets were given to a certain person shortly after the death of the Crown Prince. That person is…
“Ireel Fechner… The head of the Golden Fleece Association and is believed to have manipulated the ‘Theanabe Union’. You may explain this in more details, Count Palatine.”
“As you wish, Your Majesty.”
Ireel Fechner. Born as the daughter of one of the wealthiest merchants in the Empire, she drove her father out at the age of 15 and took over his trading company, the ‘White Fleece’. After that, she became the previous Emperor’s ‘purveyor’ in just five years. She changed the name of her company to ‘Golden Fleece’ during that time and became the largest trading company in the Empire, but she disappeared after the assassination of the previous Emperor.
“Among the records of the trading ships left by the Regent, I found a number of ships identical to the ‘disguised ships believed to belong to the Golden Fleece Association’ which Marquis L’Mitedeau has investigated. Apparently, they had been using the ports in the Empire for some time after the death of the previous Emperor.”
“But they didn’t like being under the influence of the former Duke Aquicurl who levied hefty tariffs and expensive port fees and sought to obtain ports for their own convenience.”
The Regent faction, which has most of the Empire’s coastline under their influence, has profited enormously from port fees and tariffs. The former Duke Raul had used his military power to obtain the Chancellor position and expand his position whereas the former Lord Aquicurl increased his faction through his ‘economic power’.
As a result, Vera-Sylvie was used by the former Duke Raul, who wanted a port, and Count Chamneaux’s fief became the ‘only port in the Chancellor’s faction’. By the way, Count Chamneaux’s port was ‘overcrowded’ by merchants influenced by the Chancellor’s faction, and the Golden Fleece were probably not allowed to enter his port.
“She then turned her eyes to the ‘Theanabe region’. This region was under the influence of the Regent faction before its independence, but she provided them with money, armed them and had the neutral lords of this faction raise an army.”
“So, that’s how the Theanabe Union was formed…?”
I nodded at Count Chamneaux’s mutter.
“Both the Chancellor and Regent factions tried to defeat the Theanabe Union, but they were defeated miserably as you know.”
The trading company, which is believed to have several large vessels capable of intercontinental trade, sells sugar, a luxury item, on the Eastern Continent. Is it believed that they make huge profits from this and is believed to still be controlling the Theanabe Union behind the scenes.
“The head of the Golden Fleece, Ireel Fechner. If she did steal the Emperor’s assets, then she must be caught even if it costs the Empire its prestige.”
“But do you really trust the evidence, Your Majesty?”
Lord Warung questioned.
“I heard that spies from the Golden Fleece have infiltrated the Empire. Would they really leave evidence behind?”
“You make a good point. I’m also in doubt since there’s no trace that they tried to cover up, but it would make sense that she disappeared because she stole the Emperor’s assets.”
There are two possibilities: either the culprit is someone else who is trying to frame the ‘Golden Fleece’ or the culprit intentionally left evidence behind, so that it could be found.
“I’m going to put Ireel Fechner on the wanted list to confirm this.”
She might ignore it if it was the former scenario, but if it is the latter… then she might be more open than I might think.
“A wanted poster for Ireel Fechner…? But the Theanabe Union is an enemy of the Empire. Will it really work?”
I understand what Fabio is trying to say. The wanted poster could be ignored as long as the Empire and the Theanabe Union are in conflict.
“But I don’t have any other methods to use… We could crush the Theanabe Union after the civil war, but doing so would allow the Golden Fleece to escape by ship. We won’t be able to capture Ireel Fechner.”
We could block their route at sea if the Empire had a proper navy, but Duke Aquicurl has controlled the Empire’s seas for many years. I doubt even his navy would be able to defeat the large fleets believed to be owned by the Golden Fleece.
“But it wouldn’t be pointless to strike the Theanabe Union if that is their stronghold.”
I shook my head at Lord Warung’s military opinion.
“We will only make enemies out of the Golden Fleece if we cause them harm. Most importantly, they have been purchasing luxury goods from different continents since they were the previous Emperor’s purveyor… which means that they have bases in the Central and Southern Continents even before they made the Theanabe Union independent.”
I said and Count Palatine added.
“The Empire doesn’t have any facilities that can build large ships capable of intercontinental trade. It may be possible to purchase a ship or two from the Hismaphe Kingdom, but the Golden Fleece is estimated to have dozens of ships. They definitely have shipbuilding facilities on other continents.”
They put slaves they obtained in the Central Continent to work in the Southern Continent. My guess is that they’ve built a somewhat strong base using slaves, and they will just build a new base somewhere else in the Eastern Continent if the Theanabe Union is gone.
“… With all due respect, Your Majesty, did you say we will make enemies out of them? Our understanding is that we are already enemies.”
“We are not, Count Chamneaux. Our enemy is the Theanabe Union not the Golden Fleece.”
They made the Theanabe Union independent for their own interests, and because they didn’t like the influence of the former Duke Aquicurl… In other words, their enemy is the former Duke Aquicurl, not the Empire. In fact, the Golden Fleece has no interest in the Empire at all.
Well, I did interfere with what I could, so I don’t know how they feel about that.
If the evidence of the previous Emperor’s assets was also left behind on purpose… then did she consider the possibility of me fighting the Chancellor and Regent factions…? No way, right? I wasn’t even born at that point. How could a mere human predict that far ahead into the future…? Well, it’s possible that she isn’t just a ‘mere human’…
“… Your Majesty?”
“Ah, sorry. I want to make it public and am willing to compromise.”
Stealing the previous Emperor’s assets is a felony, but if she accepts some of my conditions, then I will consider reducing her sentence… I announce this to the Golden Fleece.
“I want to take them in as allies.”
“They are dangerous, Your Majesty. You may think you’ve brought them to your side, but they could tear us apart from the inside.”
Fabio, who had investigated them and experienced the dangers they posed firsthand, immediately countered.
“You have a point. They are dangerous people to have in one’s pocket, but it would be more frightening to let them run free as enemies. So, it’s better to hold the reins and keep them under constant surveillance.”
We could be hostile towards them if we had a strong army, but we don’t. Our options are limited. We may be able to win against them in the sea if we spend a few decades focusing on building a navy… but we will gain very little from this.
“I see, so you will have them go after the Aquicurl army?”
Lord Warung was an excellent general. He saw the advantage of bringing them to our side.
Duke Aquicurl who had raised an army had undoubtedly taken over the navy as well. While they may not be overwhelmingly powerful, they had an advantage over us who didn’t possess a navy at all. Even if we win on the ground and suppress Duke Aquicurl’s fief, I don’t know if we could bring the entire navy under our control. In the worst-case scenario, they could become pirates and trade would come to a halt.
But the Golden Fleece Association who are loaded with luxury goods definitely know how to deal with pirates. And it is believed that a percentage of the warships belonging to the Theanabe Union are owned by the Golden Fleece. They had many warships even though it hasn’t been that long since they’ve gained their independence.
“There is another advantage to having them as allies. We currently don’t have enough troops. We can recruit soldiers, but we don’t have any weapons to give them. It has been confirmed that the Golden Fleece has been exporting mercenaries and weapons to the Central Continent. If we can purchase those weapons, then it might solve our lack of power.”
The weapon shortage was our biggest problem. I am willing to make a contract with the devil to solve this one problem.
And we have little information about the different continents. The people on the Eastern Continent consider the Central Continent as an ‘old continent’, so they have little interest in it. The nations in the East are focused on the Northern Continent.
But the luxury goods supplied by the… Southern Continent are more than enough to change the course of the world. If we don’t reach out to them, then we will eventually be protected by other nations.
Then, Count Newnbal spoke.
“But… will they agree?”
I could understand his worry. You would normally ignore it if someone accused you of a crime and asked you to join forces with them at the same time, but they are merchants. Moreover, they are merchants who have a good nose for the latest trends.
“I expect they would agree. They wanted to export the Empire’s food to the Central Continent. There are also 30 million potential consumers in the Empire for them… and most importantly, I don’t have a purveyor yet. They wouldn’t want to miss all these business opportunities.”
The Empire has an abundance of food since there hasn’t been any major wars here in nearly a decade, but no money circulates through the Empire due to the destruction of the monetary economy and the commoners barter for food instead of paying money for it. Food isn’t that expensive due to the surplus, but the Empire is suffering from a shortage of food. Our interests match with the ‘Golden Fleece’.”
“But the Golden Fleece Association are the type of people who would make a state independent to gain a port. They may pretend to be our allies while maintaining their ties with the Theanabe Union.”
We wanted to prevent them from working together again.
“We need to sever the relationship between the Golden Fleece and the Theanabe Union to prevent that.”
The Theanabe Union was a unique state. It was a federation of lords who had gained independence from the Empire, so there was no one to give them orders… or there shouldn’t be, but they are at the Golden Fleece’s beck and call. Though this world still has a class system… so the feudal lords in the Theanabe Union can’t be happy with being ordered around by merchants.
And the ‘Carmine Hill’ incident wasn’t a waste of time. It seems that there is already conflict between Ireel Fechner, who always prioritises the interests of the Golden Fleece, and the feudal lords who consider themselves as representatives of a nation.
“The Theanabe Union will send an envoy to negotiate. Our demand will be the extradition of Ireel Fechner. In exchange, we will formally recognise their independence and acknowledge them as a nation, and we will agree to a ceasefire. The Theanabe Union can also do whatever they please with other members of the Golden Fleece.”
The aristocrats who are being ordered around by a merchant would be told that we would recognise their independence if they handed that merchant over, and they would not hesitate to hand her over. The Golden Fleece was like a goose that laid golden eggs… They would jump at the opportunity to do what they like with the goose since they’ve seen what the goose can do up close.
“Your Majesty,” Count Palatine Vedett spoke up.
“I have not been able to report this to you yet, but according to my investigations, the Golden Fleece Association has also managed to bring in several other companies who were similarly dissatisfied with the former Duke Aquicurl’s tariffs when they facilitated the Theanabe Union’s independence. Let’s also issue them a patent letter for the ‘Golden Fleece’ in exchange for Ireel Fechner.”
“… That is a good idea. I’ll also add in the reward of becoming my ‘purveyor’.”
“Wouldn’t the Golden Fleece become more formidable if we offer that many conditions to them? They might wash their hands of the Empire and the Theanabe Union and move their base to another continent.”
“That’s possible, but Marquis L’Mitedeau, they are merchants. They would rather take the risk than give up on their rights on this continent… Or so I believe.”
I looked at the lords. They didn’t seem to have any other opinions. Despite this being a meeting, I ended up forcing them to accept my opinion… But the process of listening to each other’s opinions and explaining our thoughts wasn’t pointless.
“Please make the arrangements, Count Palatine Vedett.”
“As you wish.”
Now the real issues start now.
“Next… I would like to decide on how our army will respond to Lord Aquicurl and Lord Raul’s armies.”