Modification and Rumours
Since there was nothing troubling, Claude returned to the wood to spend the rest of his relaxing days. He patrolled the place, trained in magic, and researched the flintlock mechanism.
The only thing he wasn’t happy about was that he was refused entry by Eriksson when he went to pay him a visit during the afternoon. He wasn’t even allowed in. Madam Eilina didn’t apologize either. She merely looked at him coldly as if she didn’t recognize him.
It was apparent that they had found out about the nightmarish pirate attack too and knew that Captain Altroni had been left on an uninhabited island. Unlike the family members of the other sailors, however, Eriksson and his mother pushed their anger on Morssen and the other investors of the sailing route. They were the root cause of the captain’s untimely fate after all.
Claude could only return home moodily. He understood the two’s feelings of worry for Captain Altroni, but he was unable to forgive them for venting on him. Captain Altroni himself had also got some friends to invest in some cargo on the fleet as well. He could also be considered one of the investors.
Welikro went to the wood during the afternoon and told Claude that he was at Eriksson’s because he wanted to console him after hearing about the news. He was still unhappy when Claude went there, but Welikro didn’t think that he’d actually stop Claude from entering.
Though, he did say that Claude got off light. When Morssen and the others went to their house to deliver the compensation, Eriksson yelled at them outright and accused them of being his father’s murderers and demanded them to return his father to him. Madam Eilina tossed the money out of the house and had them scram, saying that her husband would definitely return and they didn’t need the pension for the dead. The whole situation became really awkward.
Claude could do naught but sulk. He didn’t think that he’d lose a good friend because of that. Eriksson had always admired his own father and had a goal to become a captain like him since childhood and sail in the open seas in his beloved vessel. Yet, nobody would expect him to push the blame onto the investors of the venture as well as Claude.
Forget it, that’s nothing to argue about. Eriksson’s father worship was so serious that his mentality was still that of a child. He hadn’t truly matured yet. His refusal to let Claude enter meant that their friendship was already close to the end. Claude wasn’t angry, he just felt that it was a shame for his cherished friendship to end.
As spring was coming, Claude stopped his hunting, so he couldn’t think of anything fun to do with Welikro. He decided instead to show him his prototype flintlock.
Welikro didn’t pose any question as to where Claude got the gun barrels from. After testing the gun, he asked confoundedly about the point of a gun that didn’t use a slow match. It relied on the same loading mechanisms and only the hammer action wa changed. It didn’t seem to increase the firing speed by much and couldn’t fire as far and powerful as a matchlock. Not only that, the gun often didn’t fire. Those weaknesses made it seem rather pointless to transition to a matchlock design.
Annoyed to the end of his wits, Claude properly explained the principles behind the mechanism. The six centuries of firearms research seemed to have been pushed to the maximum and the firing steps of a gun had been minimized to only a few simple steps. Claude could fire a matchlock around three times a minute if he was fast, while his flintlock prototype could only do one shot per minute at best, mainly because of the gun failing to fire. Every failed shot would see the hammer reset and the gunpowder reapplied. The aim had to be taken once more as well.
However, Welikro did praise Claude for installing the sight window and sight point on the barrel itself. Those two implements would allow newbies to grasp aiming much more easily and allow for the matchlocks to be fired more accurately. He did think that the flash pan ought to be moved to the side of the gun for the sights to be installed on the top so that it would make more sense for aiming.
Claude didn’t know how he should go on explaining himself. Perhaps because of the limited imagination of the gun researchers, they focused their efforts only on power and range. They probably wouldn’t be interested in the far more inferior flintlock guns. Yet, they weren’t aware that flintlocks were the real ancestors to modern guns as it eventually led to the development of the modern rifle.
He could no longer be bothered with explaining how developing in the direction of flintlocks was the way to go. Welikro, however, did request Claude to help him modify his Gally Mark 3 according to his suggestions from before. He wanted the flash pan and hammer on the top of the gun to be moved to the side to make way for the sights. He even said that he would be willing to pay for the modifications.
Claude accepted his request as a friend, causing Welikro to excitedly dash home to get his old matchlock. On the other hand, he considered how he could refit the kiln the Sioris used to make charcoal into a small smithy. He had to at least make it seem like he made the parts with it.
However, it seemed like he had worried too much. Welikro excused himself right after bringing his gun over and said that he would come for it in five days’ time. He didn’t insist on staying at the wood to watch the modifications being made. The setup of the kiln was a complete waste of effort.
Apart from that, when Welikro left, Claude found that he had left a crown on the bench where he sat. That was the amount he wanted to pay Claude for the work. Maybe he left it there because he was afraid Claude would refuse it.
Now, he felt that he should give a bit more effort for the modifications on Welikro’s gun. Since Welikro left him a crown, there was no way Claude could bring it back. Even if he did, Welikro wouldn’t admit it. So, he had no choice but to do his very best to modify the gun for receiving that payment.
Claud dismantled the gun completely. The Gally Mark 3 was standard military issue around two decades ago and had a trumpet-shaped barrel. Claude decided to reforge the barrel completely in his alchemical formation array to make it straight and increase the barrel’s capabilities.
The only thing he couldn’t alter was the serial number of the barrel. It was a registered firearm and the serial number was something that would come up in the yearly checks. Even a completely modified gun had to have the serial number intact.
Though, it was quite easy for Claude to make the modifications with his alchemical formation array. All sorts of materials and parts could be easily moulded like dough inside the array and Claude could make shapes with just his will. He spent only around three days to finish the modifications on the Gally Mark 3.
The old gun was no longer how it used to look. Instead, it looked quite similar to Claude’s newest model Aubass Mark 2. Claude had even changed the wooden stock of the gun. The only thing that displeased him was how the flash pan and serpentine holding the slow match was moved back and side. The original straight-flowing design was disrupted with the protrusions on the right side of the gun, making it look quite crude.
But after test firing, he realized that Welikro’s suggestions made quite a bit of sense. Using a slow match instead of a piece of flint was quite reliable. The only drawback was there was two extra steps during the firing of the first bullet, that is, the lighting of the slow match and fastening it to the serpentine. Before firing, the slow match had to be angled properly above the flash pan as well. Despite that, it could fire more reliably than a flintlock.
The modified musket seemed even more easy to use, especially with the addition of the iron sights which greatly increased its accuracy. Claude gave it much thought and decided to modify his own Aubass Mark 2 similarly. He had wanted to refit it with a flintlock mechanism, but he had no way of improving its reliability for the moment.
Five days quickly passed and Welikro returned to the wood to get his gun. Claude’s modifications made him unwilling to even let his gun go. Thankfully, he didn’t ask Claude about the details of the modification process, much to his relief.
The two of them excitedly prepared to head to the empty plot of land in the wood to test shoot. It was then when Claude realized that he was running out of powder and rounds. So, they drove a carriage to town to buy some.
Welikro believed that it was still best to go to Wakri’s shop at the docks to make their purchase. Even though the price of ammunition there was more expensive than the average store, it was no doubt better in terms of quality, unlike those offered by other stores that contained some degree of impurity, which affected the firing distance and power as well as made a lot of smoke.
Since that was the case, they headed to the docks. Claude didn’t mind the higher price as long as the quality was good.
When he passed through the old street, however, he noticed that something was amiss. Some people who passed him by looked anxious and hurried. Before Claude found out about the situation, the carriage was stopped by a few large men. They didn’t question Claude and Welikro and only looked into the carriage before leaving after seeing that nobody was inside.
“What’s going on?” Claude asked after he saw how nonchalant Welikro was being after the carriage made some distance with the men from before.
“Don’t you know?” Welikro said, before he snapped with realization. “Oh, you were cooped up in your wood the whole time and don’t come here often. No wonder you’re unaware of it. It’s nothing, really. Shark and Blacksnake are fought in a gang war again.”
“A gang war?” Claude thought back at the scene with Jerad and the others tied up as well as the corpse of the bodyguard that laid in front of the sisters. Perhaps what happened that night prompted Jerad to finally turn against Blacksnake for good.
“Where did they get the kind of guts? Didn’t something happen to the trading fleet? Not a single one of the elites of Shark have returned, so what did they fight their war with? Not to mention the fact that martial law was still in effect. Why would they dare to cause trouble like that? Aren’t they afraid of being caught? Also, aren’t they worried that Butcher Bill will uproot Shark for good after he leaves the training camp?” Claude wondered.
Welikro shook his head. “I’m not too sure about the reason either, but after the battle, Blacksnake shockingly lost horribly. It was as if they were completely helpless. The weirdest part of all this is the second-in-command of the gang, Fatbull Bowen, has gone missing with a few of the other elite fighters of the gang. Their corpses weren’t found either. With nobody taking the helm of the gang, Blacksnake was taken apart by Shark and the scattered gang members have gone into hiding.
“Shark were also real clever this time. They didn’t rally their men to go to a gang fight like we saw before. Instead, they split up to attack the Blacksnakes separately and managed to avoid the keeper patrols. Even if they’re caught snooping around, they can just claim that they’re looking for someone like how they did to our carriage. As far as I know, Blacksnake suffered huge losses this time and the tens of minor leaders were all captured. Nobody ever saw them again. We all have the general idea of where they are, though…”
Welikro looked in the direction of Balinga.
Widening his eyes with understanding, Claude asked, “In the lake?”
“No… Under it.”