Knight Colonel Sander stood on the crumbled sea walls that overlooked the port of the city, seeing workers and slaves laboring away at the broken ships and harbor debris. Sea worthy sailing ships were swarmed with a small army of carpenters and ship wrights as they made repairs and replaced broken masts and sails.
"How can we win with these ships when the enemy flies in the air?" Knight Colonel Sander asked in a respectful tone to the Sage beside him. "Won't we be throwing away the lives of the crew?"
"I am certain that the Emperor has found a way to fight the enemy if he gave you such an order," The cloaked Sage replied in a distracted tone. "Since he ordered any ships capable of crossing the channel to be repaired and readied."
Knight Colonel Sander let out a sigh as he returned his attention to the ongoing repairs. "We do not have much ocean going ships here."
As there barely was any coastal cities other than the Port of Sunder that served as the only harbor with facilities large enough for regular ships, in the northern region, hence the need of sailing ships was very low. The most common type of ocean going ships in the region were mostly small merchants ships that travel around the fishing villages and small towns along the northern coast.
The North Sea Imperial Fleet could barely even be called a fleet, as it only had a total of eight small frigates, and were old and badly maintained. And the only most sea worthy had gone missing weeks ago, while escorting a merchant ship over to Exile Island which was suspected to have been sunk or captured by the sky raiders.
It might be due to the sad appearance of the ships, that the sky raiders did not even bothered to fire a volley at them, hence the remains of the North Sea Imperial Fleet luckily remained wholly intact in the siege. But as to their seaworthiness, it was something else to be said about it.
Casting an eye over the sad looking ships, Knight Colonel Sander let out another deep sigh as he wondered how was he going to repair those neglected hulls in time for the crossing of the channel. And he was very tempted to just abandon those ancient frigates and instead just commandeer all the small merchant and fishing vessels instead.
"Is there any point in repairing those ships?" The Sage suddenly spoke out as if he knew his thoughts. "Feels like a waste of time and money."
"We need ships to be able to carry all the soldiers to Exile Island by the order of the Emperor..." Knight Colonel Sander explained. "And we only have those ships... able to transport soldiers across the channel..."
"Can't we use all the other ships there?" The Great Sage gestured towards the other ships docked at the harbor. "Even if they are small, I am sure they can transport soldiers easily."
"Even if we use all the ships there," Knight Colonel Sander replied. "There are barely even a dozen small merchants that can go out to deep sea... How many soldiers can they carry per trip? A hundred? Two hundred? I am no sailor... But from what I understand, the winds and water currents in the channel are unpredictable, which means it would take days and many trips to just move the entire army across the ocean..."
Leung frowned under his hood as he mentally tallied the numbers. He remembered the Knight Colonel saying something about 5th Imperial Army having roughly six thousand soldiers and the Emperor in his last missive had stated reinforcements of another five thousand soldiers were marching over.
To move the entire 5th Army, on just the ten merchants ships or so would need at least four to five round trips with each round trip taking at least a half a day or more. Meaning it would take roughly three days at least to move six thousand men over. Leung understood why the Knight Colonel was unhappy with logistics as taking three days to making the cross with no doubt invite the sky raiders to come and destroy all the vulnerable ships as they sail across the channel.
He looked over the neglected frigates of the North Sea Imperial Fleet from the distance and shook his head. Even a layman like him could tell how bad the condition of the frigates were. Their design looked similar to an old 17th century 'galley frigate', small two decked sailing cruisers with a set of oar ports on the lower deck.
Heavy ballistas sat on its top deck, but without maintenance, the heavy weapons had deteriorate under the weather, its two masts looked forlorn and sails had rot and worm eaten. All the eight similar looking frigates were listed to the side as if water had flooded some of theirs.
"Why build them at all in the first place if they are going to be neglected?" Leung asked the Knight Colonel who gave a shrug. The knight gestured to his staff and a mid aged weather beaten elf shuffled forward in a lazy carefree manner.
The sailor had a dark weathered complexion from being out in the sun all day and worn a thick messy beard. He had a blue scarf tied over his head and wore a simple white long sleeved tunic and trousers in Imperial Blue, while a pair of leather boots covered his feet. An officer sword adorned his belt was the only article indicting he was an officer of sorts.
"First Sea Lieutenants of the Lieutenants," The sailor cheerfully introduced himself as he gave a salute, Imperial navy style, to the Knight Colonel. "Sea Lieutenant Aerin of the North Sea Imperial Fleet, reporting!"
"Tell us, why is the North Sea Imperial Fleet in such a dreadful state?" Knight Colonel Sander growled as he stared at the sloppy manner of the Lieutenant. "Has discipline fallen so much in the navy?"
"No, Lord," The Lieutenant replied in a nonchalant manner as if he was unconcerned by the Knight Colonel's temper. "The fleet has no funds. No funds means no crew. No crew means no maintenance."
"How can there be no funds?" The Knight Colonel cursed. "Where did all the money, Lord Keaten, your admiral, was given to maintain the fleet?"
The Lieutenant gave a shrug as he drawled, "Haven't seen the admiral for ages... Sea Captain Polan was running things for a while... until he disappeared at sea one day."
"Now, without the captain around, and with only ship still ocean worthy gone with him, may the heavens protect his soul, " The Lieutenant made another shrug. "No one is getting paid, so they all left."
"Desertion!" The Knight Colonel hissed angrily as he turned to his aides. "Go find those sailors who deserted! Bring them to me!"
"Wa!" The Lieutenant was surprised by the order. He quickly imposed himself in front of the Knight Colonel, a pleading tone in his voice. "My lord, I released the men! It is unfair for them to do anything without getting paid! And... without an ocean going ship, there is nothing we can do!"
"Let it be," Leung suddenly spoke out on behalf of the Lieutenant as he felt the elf was loyal to his men. "We can't solve anything even if we bring those sailors back."
"Lord Keaten should be here to oversee the Fleet!" Knight Colonel Sander turned his anger to the Admiral instead since the Sage has spoken. "Have you informed the admiral about the condition of the Fleet?"
"Yes, Lord," The Lieutenant's carefree tone was gone as he did not dare offend the Knight Colonel and drag his men down. "Captain Polan had written to him many times, but his replies were always the same, saying he was busy and funds are on the way. But after months of the same replies, Captain Polan gave up and he started prioritizing. He released most of the sailors of the Fleet and kept one ship running to stretch out our funds..."
An admiral was supposed to oversee the entire North Sea Imperial Fleet but the admiral post of the North Sea Imperial Fleet was more of a token rank that was sold to the highest bidder who would just wear the uniform and parade around in society to show off. With the loss of the second in charge of the North Sea Imperial Fleet to the sky raiders, the remains of the Fleet regressed even more and all the sailors was released their duty and only the Lieutenant remained behind.
"This is treason!" Knight Colonel Sander raged as he stomped around the walls. He finally vented his anger by hammered the stone walls for a while before he cooled down. "I shall inform the Emperor of his deeds!"
"Now, First Sea Lieutenant!" The Knight Colonel turned around and faced the naval officer. "Tell me! Are those ships still sea worthy? Are they repairable?"
"If we have the funds and manpower to work on the hull," The Lieutenant rubbed his chin as he considered the needs of the ships. "They should be usable... But, I won't take them out to face goblin pirates even if they are repaired..."
"Why?" The Knight Colonel asked curiously. "First you say they can be ocean worthy, next you say you would not take them out... What is it? Make up your mind!"
"They should be able to still sail across the channel if that is where you want to go," The Lieutenant explained. "But if you want to use them to fight something, that can't happened."
"The wood has probably rotted inside," He continued. "Getting hit by ballista bolts or catapult balls would shatter the weakened hull."
"And, even using it to cross the channel, we have to see what the carpenters say about the ships' structures first..." The Lieutenant said. "So don't get your hopes up as in the end, they might be too rotted to do anything either."
"Well... we can copper sheath the ships..." Leung suddenly said. "Should help protect the underwater portion of the hull."
"Copper sheath?" Both the Knight Colonel and the naval Lieutenant was confused by the term. "What is that?"
"Well, like this," Leung gestured to the sword hung on the Lieutenant's belt. "Your sword is covered in a sheath, right?"
"Yes..." The Lieutenant nodded. "But what does it got to do with ships?"
"Let me finish explaining..." Leung sighed as he cracked his brain. He had read about copper sheathing ships in some isekai novels before and was trying to explain what it does. "Your sword is protected by the rain and other things like mud with the sheath."
"So even if you drop your sword and into water, your blade does not get damaged, right?" Leung said. "Imagine if you cover the bottom of the ship with a thin layer of copper..."
"My heavens!" The Lieutenant's eyes lit up as he understood the meaning. "Yes... yes it would work! But... isn't metal heavy?"
"A thin layer will do," Leung smiled to himself in relief as he did not have to explain everything to the naval officer as he also did not know much on the topic. "Just enough to cover the bottom."
Knight Colonel Sander frowned as he looked at the excited Lieutenant and the the Great Sage. He did not understand what copper sheath would do to ships but he do know that so far the Great Sage's advise has not fail. He only raised up the issue he thought that was important. "How long will it take? We can not delay too long to cross the channel as the Emperor has stated!"
"We won't fully cover the entire bottom of the hull," Leung said. "Also, I got an idea to add in man powered paddle wheels to replace the oars..."
"Paddle wheels?" Both the Knight Colonel and the naval Lieutenant repeated his words again in harmony. "What is that?"
"Oh... it is something like this..."