Disappointment and Gift
Claude felt a little crestfallen. Even though he had spent the good part of the week translating that magic notebook, he didn’t find anything that he had hoped for inside, such as how to become a magus, how to raise one’s level in magic, a basic primer on magic and so on.
Instead, the notebook was more of a collection of magical blueprints and designs. Based on the diagrams, it seemed like a magical diagram designed to reduce the consumption of magical energy, or not use any at all, to produce the same effects. The goal was to enable a normal person to use magic through the use of certain techniques, just like the diagrams of the upgraded guns.
However, those were only Claude’s guesses based on his weak understanding in magic. He could only understand basically what the diagrams were about using his translations of their descriptions, but he couldn’t get a clear idea of what their true functions were. As there were many unfamiliar magical symbols across the diagrams, Claude could only imagine what they meant.
Additionally, many alchemical terms were used in the notebook. That was the key to why Claude couldn’t understand most of it. Had it not been for the upgraded gun schematic he saw, Claude would have completely no idea what alchemy was. He only managed to figure something out by guessing based on the descriptions of that gun schematic.
In his past life, he had seen in a documentary on hand making flintlock guns. They weren’t that different from matchlocks and was also considered an early firearm. However, it used a different firing mechanism; a piece of flint instead of a slow match.
Most importantly, the two guns employed similar barrel designs. Without a good barrel, even the best firing mechanisms were useless. The making of a barrel on the other hand was crucial to gunsmithing. A rifled barrel, for example, could be made through hammering the barrel over a mandrel with the reverse image of the rifling to create its rough shape before it would be shaped up and refined further. There was also a method that connected three smaller barrel parts into one large composite one. There was an even more extreme method that made the rifling by drilling a hole through an iron rod to make the barrel while engraving the rifling at the same time. Naturally, these methods varied in terms of time and ost.
When firearms were first invented, making enhancements to the barrel was one of the hardest parts. He had learned about the myriad ways a barrel could be machined. Most of them were based on modifying old methods to manufacture barrels in hopes of getting the best effect. Some netizens even went out of their way to try to make early firearms with modern technology even quicker.
However, making gun barrels in this world didn’t seem to be a huge concern. It seemed that all the magi had to do was to use alchemy. They only had to place the ingredients into the runic formations and heat them up with magical flame. After that, they could use magic to shape the molten mixture of ingredients to make long, alloyed gun barrels within their runic array.
Had it not been for the modified gun schematics, Claude never would’ve found out that shaping metals was such a simple feat. The reason for that was a large paragraph on the schematics that was dedicated to the making of a suitable gun barrel by a common blacksmith under circumstances when magic and alchemy wasn’t available so that they could be mass produced. It was then when Claude came to understand that the true technological advancements of this world occured in the realm of alchemy.
While making one gun barrel was easy through the use of alchemy, and making tens or even hundreds of them was possible through hiring a magus qualified in alchemical arts through the use of money and connections, it was definitely impossible for thousands or tens of thousands of gun barrels to be produced on a mass scale. No magus would take that kind of job. Other things aside, the cost of setting up the runic formations and magical ingredients required for such an undertaking was astronomical. They would also need a magus, an alchemist to be precise, to carefully control the shaping of the metals for each and every gun barrel made.
Attempting to make so many gun barrels on that scale without aid from magi or alchemy was a huge industrial endeavor. On the back of the gun schematics, the ratio of metals used for the production of gun barrels was recorded. It was quite apparent that the ratio of metals required for the runic melting process was not suitable for normal smelting. So, Landes suggested seven more mixtures of metals in his work and made a note that experimentation was required to find out which mixture was ideal.
On the next page was a blueprint for a smelting kiln Landes designed for an improved smelting process to be used with the metal ingredient ratios he proposed. It had a tall chimney, a wide hearth and was described as being made of a super heat-resistant magic stone which had to be extracted from active volcanoes.
Having a suitable kiln was only the first step. What followed next was melting the metals and molding them into a rod shape to be hammer forged. To achieve the same effect of a magus manipulating the molten metals into a fixed shape, a complicated, multi-step process was used. The next five pages of that notebook covered five machines designed by Landes to replace the acute function a magus performed during that step.
There were machines that relied on wind and hydropower made for repeated hammering, sawing, drilling and smoothening the inside of each barrel. Some machines relied on complicated mechanics that was powered through repeated stepping of a pedal. To ensure that the barrels were made to the utmost accuracy, Landes even designed the bits used for drilling and five accurate measuring devices. It was indeed a complicated manufacturing process that required extensive investment.
While using alchemy to manufacture small numbers of barrels was more advantageous, this new manufacturing process was far superior when tens of thousands of them were required. There was no need for magi, no need for alchemical arrays, no need for lots of precious magic ingredients. Even the workers involved only had to pass simple training to be able to produce countless barrels according to a set standard.
Claude recalled that a hidden diary entry in the cookbook stated that Baron Regius Au Syr had requested Landes to modify the manufacturing process of guns five years prior to the time of writing. He wanted even the common folk to be able to make standardized guns without relying on magi and alchemy. It seemed like the notebook Claude had now contained the designs made according to Regius Au Syr’s request.
It was only when the baron had this new manufacturing process that he was able to raise his brotherhood in a war against the magi. They finally had a weapon which they could use to fight them: the matchlock gun. More importantly, the manufacture of those weapons didn’t need magi involvement. Even the magi weren’t able to stop the proliferation of that weapon and that was how the baron was allowed to form his own firearms unit with more than eight thousand men.
A huge investment it may be, it was without a question worth it for Regius Au Syr, the largest magic stone supplier on Freia. Additionally, he could use the excuse of recruiting more miners to recruit more members to his cause, train them and start new gun workshops without attracting the attention of the magi one bit. In some sense, his success was no product of luck. It was destiny.
Claude put the notebook down and breathed a long sigh.
If he were a magus that knew something about alchemy, then the notebook would be a priceless treasure to him. There were many designs inside the notebook that could reduce the consumption of magic power after all. It was too bad that Claude wasn’t a magus, but a normal middle schooler with some talent for magic.
Of the 38 pages made of skin filled with runic inscriptions, Claude only understood the ones concerning the improved guns. After all, they were drafted with the intent on letting even common smiths manufacture the weapons to a standard. The rest of the diagrams were far more difficult for him to decipher, such as the input of magic power, layout of the runic alchemy diagrams, the magic crystals and ingredients required for those processes and so on. They were nothing to him but gobbledy goop.
He was like a middle school student who had gotten his hands on a university textbook. While he could recognize the words in them, he didn’t understand what they meant collectively. That was especially the case when he looked at the calculations and alchemical runes that were littered all over the diagrams as well as the units they used in the calculations. Without having gone through rigorous training in the field, there’d be no way he could understand them.
If only I had a beginner’s guide to magic or something… I might be able to become at least a low-ranked magus through self study that way, thought Claude. But even he knew that this was nothing but fantasy. The various nations on Freia saw the magi as evil incarnates and banned everything that had anything to do with them. Even the word ‘magic’ itself was somewhat a taboo. How could there be books with magical knowledge just lying around somewhere?
The only good thing that came up from it was that Claude had gotten a better grasp of ancient Hez after wracking his brains for the whole week to translate the notebook. After all, the Hebrai language was descended from ancient Hez and there were many similarities between the two. Currently, Claude would be able to understand roughly a book written in ancient Hez even without the help of a dictionary.
“Claude, it’s time for dinner,” called Angelina from outside his room.
Claude snapped out of his thoughts. He had forgotten the time during his deep focus and didn’t even hear his sister’s footsteps from outside.
“Alright, I’ll go downstairs immediately.” He got up from his chair and stretched himself as he heard his sister go downstairs.
After cleaning up his desk, Claude went downstairs as well.
Morssen was seated at the dinner table. The moment he saw Claude, he instructed, “Claude, go to the carriage outside and bring the wooden chest in the back here for me.”
The Ferds had no horse nor carriage. It wasn’t that they didn’t have any place to park one, Morssen just wasn’t willing to shell out that amount of money to build a stable and hire a coachman. Morssen had once made some calculations and found that the cost of feeding two horses for a year was higher than how much a horse cost to buy. The fact that he would need a coachman to take care of his horses made it even less worth it to have his own carriage.
Morssen believed that he wouldn’t need a carriage anyway, given that he didn’t leave Whitestag often. Buying and maintaining a carriage was also no small feat. The elements would weather the carriage quickly and new coats of paint would have to be applied. Hiring people to paint cost money and he found it too troublesome to paint it himself.
The town hall also had many carriages and Morssen was allowed to use them given his position as chief secretary. He could tolerate how worn down the carriages of the town hall looked. Additionally, Morssen also liked to steer the carriage home himself. He thought that it made him look more down-to-earth and he could greet the townsfolk while he was at it. Claude on the other hand thought that the sole reason Morssen liked to drive himself home was because he was too stingy to pay the coachman a fee.
The carriage parked outside their house belonged to the town hall. During the night, a coachman hired by the town hall would come to drive it back and come to pick Morssen up during the next morning as usual. Claude opened the rear cabin of the carriage and saw a long, wooden chest that stood taller than Claude himself. However, it was rather thin and it didn’t weigh too much.
He brought the chest into the dining hall and asked, “What’s inside?”
Morssen said, “Open it and see. It’s a gift for you.”
A gift? Claude hurriedly opened the chest and within it was a long, black matchlock on top of the straw cushioning.