The Nightmare Comes
Claude couldn’t keep bothering with his family’s affairs, so he stopped.
His father was still the same cunning man he’d always been. Even after the convoy’s horrible end and the loss of every bit of money he’d ever made, he was still hatching his schemes. It put Claude’s mind at ease.
He was just a normal person who somehow transmigrated into this parallel world. He didn’t have an omnipresent grandpa senior that followed him everywhere, nor did he have a special hack or system. He couldn’t game the world. All he’d got, which was nothing extraordinary in this world, it turned out, was some talent for magic.
That didn’t mean he acted like the run-of-the-mill Gary Stu defeating one monster after another, pick up precious treasures and equipment only to be waited on by countless servants grovelling to present him with girls and super technique manuals, eventually ending up defeating the world’s greatest evils and becoming the ultimate existence in the world. He was just a one-ring rune magus, a guy with a nice little gimmick.
He’d never thought of himself as a genius and didn’t think he was smarter than others by much. He had crossed worlds, but his experiences and knowledge didn’t help him much. Instead, he had relied on nothing but his shockingly calm personality to live through one perilous encounter after another.
The adage ‘personality determines fate’ couldn’t be more true, he’d decided. He only wanted to live a life of peace as Claude in this world and perhaps travel around and do some exploring. He wasn’t much smarter than the people of this world. He had to mingle and not stand out. He’d warned himself about it time and again. Real life did not have face-slapping protagonists. His one edge over others was a maturity and awareness of his surroundings well beyond his years.
He was also no more than a peasant, however. He was a non-successionary child of a disgraced small-time dignitarian bureaucrat on the edge of a not too impressive kingdom. And his only way to greener pastures was his connection to the noble, Maria. If he did his job properly and thoroughly for several years he might just get a leg up in life, a boost in social status to dignitarian, and actually make something of himself, though that something would still be insignificant in the grander scheme of things.
He’d no time to bother with the politics of his father’s schemes. He’d wanted to take his little brother and sister with him as well to spare them that fate, but his parents would not let him. For all his father’s scheming, at least he only had the best in mind for his family and children. His encouragement that Claude do his best in his studies was one bit of proof to that end. While Claude appreciated his father’s concern, he didn’t think it was possible for him to so quickly become a certified apothecary, even if only one of the most rudimentary qualification.
Besides, his mistress had told him he wouldn’t get far with memorisation; he needed practical experience, and he was not going to get that in Whitestag, not with the reputation his family had in town now.
His attention was also too focused on magic to really bother with herbal medicine. It was his greatest disagreement with his mistress. She felt magic was only good, and worth studying, in as far as it furthered her study of herbal medicine, while he felt the reverse was true, herbal medicine was only worth something as a stepping stone into the proper study of magic and alchemy.
The following couple of days were spent exclusively on the estate. Besides trapping, the only thing Claude did was work on his barrels and continue his study of magic.
When he finally successfully copied Landes’ barrel design, he found the barrel was still inferior to the Aubass. He tried the barrel again with his best powder and rounds, but it cracked after only a couple shots.
It seemed Freia’s arms technology hadn’t stood as still for the last couple centuries as he’d thought. They’d significantly improved the quality of metal they could make, at the very least. If only they’d made their techniques and recipes public so he could replicate it, but alas…
He continued his work nevertheless and a week later had two barrels of satisfactory quality, though they were still inferior to Aubass barrels. He then moved on to the other parts, such as the flintlock, none of which were a problem for him.
He was ready for his first proper test-firing of his home-made flintlock by the end of the month. Siori stopped by that very afternoon with news from town. The convoy’s end had been made official, co-signed by the navy and several survivors, all due back home in a couple of days, and the town was in an uproar. Half the town was camped out in the town square in front of Town Hall, waiting for more news, and everyone else was in mourning.
It had finally come, Claude sighed. He had no desire to go to town for the foreseeable future now, and luckily no need as of yet. He’d resigned himself to being an observer where his family was concerned as well. His father would have had plans in place in case something bad happened, so he’d be of little use if something did indeed happen.
He couldn’t avoid Eriksson, however. He had to go face him. The boy was on the brink of being fully recovered, and Claude feared this might shove him back to scratch if he took it particularly badly.
He still had work to do, however, so he sunk his time into it. He tested the new musket a couple days later, and it wasn’t exactly a complete success. He supposed he should have expected as much given his extremely limited, and shallow, knowledge of firearms. He knew little to nothing about firearm production. But didn’t expect the musket to be as unreliable as it was. It failed six shots out of every ten pulls of the trigger. He’d also failed at the proper design for the firing pan, and so the powder didn’t always light every time. To install sights for a more accurate shot, Claude moved the flintlock mechanism and the flash pan to the right side of the gun barrel diagonally like the design of a French antique flintlock he saw before. It looked like adjustments were necessary.
The loose locking jaw on the other hand was probably due to materials that were too soft. Ideally, he required some steel with elasticity. That also required Claude to slowly experiment away to find the ideal combination. Additionally, the materials used to make the barrel meant that the gun could only fire around two hundred meters away, with an effective kill range of 120. The only advantage it held over the conventional matchlock was that it was easier to aim with it, making its overall accuracy higher.
However, due to the state of affairs in the town, Claude wasn’t in the mood to make improvements to his flintlock just yet. He put it aside and chose to go home. If the situation was bad, he would bring his mother and younger siblings to the wood to prevent them from being embroiled in the situation.
He drove his carriage back home and found that it was fine. Relieved, he greeted his mother and was told that his father had rushed to the town hall during the afternoon to give a touching speech to the crowd.
Morssen said that after he and his associates were arrested for charges of threatening national security, he had a feeling that something happened to the trading fleet. That was why the investors of the fleet, him included, were arrested. However, he didn’t have details about the trading fleet’s situation and could do nothing but pray.
But ever since he was released from custody and returned home, he found himself unable to sleep and worrying over the trading fleet and held a bad omen in his mind. That was the reason he spent his recent days selling his shares away to prepare for the coming nightmare. He didn’t want to escape, but instead bear the burden together with his associates to provide necessary aid to the family members of the sailors.
According to the surviving sailors’ testimonies who were forced to surrender to the pirates, around seventy men out of the three hundred plus perished in battle with the pirates. Captain Altroni and five others were ditched on an uninhabited island because they were unwilling to switch sides. The rest of the two hundred plus were split among the pirates and absorbed into their ranks.
However, those survivors hadn’t returned to Whitestag and nobody could be certain who was alive or dead. In that sense, Morssen only had to help the families of those 70 sacrificed sailors as the others who surrendered no longer had anything to do with the trading fleet.
But Morssen announced regardless that he would compensate the families according to the initial fleet’s roster. Each household would gain eight crowns as recompense, which was worth a sailor’s salary of three years. As for the sailors who were affirmed dead, their families would receive fifteen crowns of pension, which would be enough for their family to live comfortably for more than five years.
After Morssen’s announcement, happy cheers could be heard all over the town hall. Almost everyone praised Morssen and the other investors for their benevolence. As family members of sailors, they were aware that sailing out to sea always carried the risk of losing one’s life. They had been prepared mentally for that reality. It was a job that required one to put their lives on the line.
Usually, the compensation for each dead sailor was worth only a year of his salary, which was about three crowns. Yet, Morssen had almost tripled the compensation, and that didn’t include the pension, which was five times the amount of the salary a sailor would earn in a year. That helped the family members forget much about their grief. For all they knew, their family members could still be alive somewhere and might one day live to escape the pirates and return.
Claude’s father had perfectly controlled the whole situation. Not only did he not earn the hatred of the family of the sailors, his reputation even gained a huge boost. Claude had really worried for nothing. He did, however, ask his mother whether there was a need for his younger siblings to live with him at the wood after all. As expected, she refused the offer and believed that the tough days would soon behind them. There would be no need for them to move.