“So you plan to make soap? Even though you had come up with gunpowder just recently, you still have lots of ideas, don’t you?”
As usual, I commuted from the inn to the office. During our break, I told Lyle-sensei about my plan to make soap, which left him astonished.
For some reason, my mind wouldn’t stop flowing with ideas once I began to think about making gunpowder.
Because I lacked experienced subordinates and skills required as an alchemist, the manufacturing of gunpowder wouldn’t go well in practice, but, I had decided to count on Lyle-sensei’s extensive knowledge.
“Surely, from what I’ve heard, there’s a city in which soap is produced using olive and canola oil. I’m not well-informed about that alkaline mentioned by Takeru-dono, but, it’s certain that ash and quicklime can combine together and solidify, right?”
“As I thought, it might be not possible for us to obtain olive oil, but, apparently we can use monsters’ oil as a replacement.”
The only animal oil which can be obtained for free in Losgow is that from monsters.
There are 3 types of monsters that live nearby this village, these are: Crazy Dogs, Gray Rat-Men and Blood-sucking Bats.
In case there are too many monsters to deal with, we file a petition for monster extermination in the Adventurer’s Guild and have Louise-san accompany us with hunting. The spoils would be then divided between us and I would be able to extract the oil from my part.
I’ve seen how oil and ash can be mixed together to make soap in the past, but, right now, I’m continuously failing in doing so.
I managed to create a soft, soap-like thing, however, it didn’t make lots of bubbles and gave off a bad stench, similar to that of clay.
Making a high-grade product using olive oil is out of question, but, as long the soap is affordable and usable by commoners, it should sell well.
“That is to say, Takeru-dono wants me to assist with the production of soap, right?”
“Well, if you put it frankly like that, then it’s just as you say.”
Even a wooden bucket is feasible as long as its method of production is established, but, as one would expect, I’d rather have a much experienced alchemist assist me.
Fufufu – Lyle-sensei burst into laughter as soon as I humbled myself and put my hands together.
“Even though we have yet to make gunpowder, Takeru-dono is really a slave driver.”
Despite me receiving my job through the good offices of Louise, I kept doing nothing but causing problems for Lyle-sensei.
“Ah no, I was just kidding. In fact, I’m glad that my skills can be of any help. There is nobody in this village with whom I can talk to regarding alchemy, so if it wasn’t for Takeru-dono, I wouldn’t even come up with things like making gunpowder or soap.”
Putting up with my troublesome talks and smiling while being carried away by our conversation, I thought there would be no good-hearted person willing to help me out.
I might be stuck on him because of that.
Naturally, I was straightly refused when I tried to offer to wash Sensei’s back as a form of gratitude.
It was a minor joke, so please, stop drawing back while looking at me with a serious expression.
Anyway, a decent prototype of a bomb was done.
It was a jute bag completely filled with gunpowder and connected with a detonating cord made from gunpowder wrapped in paper.
I was even ready to give up because of the amount of hardships I had to endure in order to reach this final stage.
Ah, but I guess that’s fine as long as it’s just once, right?
Far from sulfur, it was much harder to create niter. That’s because it’s something you obtain from throwing in human and cattle’s waste.
We built a small hut and buried the waste with grass under the soil. Then, we waited for the niter to start be produced by microorganisms and collected it. Apparently, you can also use corpses as a replacement for the waste, but, it’s smelly either way.
Not to mention, you would need at least 2-3 years for the bodies to decompose and release niter, which is impossible for us to wait. Therefore, to make the bomb, we received some soil from the Rhod household’s cattle hut and extracted the niter from it.
Obviously, we could pick some soil from humans’ toilet as well, but, even in a western fantasy world, checking on the condition of toilet was cruel enough.
If this was medieval Japan, people would have, supposedly, built places designated for collecting waste, such as cesspools, however, in this world, nobody seems to use manure made from humans’ excrements.
This might sound dirty, but, apparently people here would just store their waste in jars and throw away their contents on a road’s surface in suitable amount….
Oh, thinking back, the harshest thing to deal with when I arrived here for the first time was the toilet.
There was no toilet paper; the only thing I could use to wipe were leaves.
I also used to sing the ‘micchan michi'(1) song back when I was a brat, but, I wouldn’t have thought I would end up wiping my ass with leaves.
I discussed with Lyle-sensei on the matter of making paper, however, it turns out there are actually no defined methods of paper manufacturing.
Certainly, even in the office, we do use paper despite its bad quality.
Since the paper is bad and starchy, we will at least use parchments for truly important matters.
When I asked Sensei as to why paper isn’t common here, it turned out it was due to the lack of materials, rather than technical problems.
Was it because of the dry climate? Just like in my hometown, Japan, it felt as though trees here wouldn’t grow back after being cut down and become a bare hill.
The reason why there wasn’t enough wood was because of people here lumbering trees without planting them first. The more a city expanded, the more wasteland appeared.
Even with my modern knowledge, material shortage is the only thing I couldn’t help with.
As expected, what is needed is the power of money.
By the way, when I tried to ask Lyle-sensei about what they do after using the toilet, his face turned red as he answered ‘Using magic….’
That’s mean, Lyle-sensei. I wanted you to confirm that for me, but, with my magic skill being close to zero, my hopes for that have become even smaller.
If I possessed a magic tool or a magic gem, even someone like me could become able to use magic. However, that being said, the price of such things was unreasonably high.
As I thought, even in this world, everything comes to money, money, money when you want do something.
Now, let’s return to the main topic.
Together with Lyle-sensei, we carried bombs with their attached detonation cords and went to an iron ore mine located deep inside the mountains near Losgow.
The mine was even smaller than what I had thought at first.
There were few, small caves from which laborers transported minerals on small goods wagons. The laborers were exhausted and wore worn-out clothes. Iron-made chains were attached to their legs.
“Are they possibly…?”
“Slave miners. They are the one who work this mine, you see.”
Several of them were carrying minerals on wagons.
There were also slaves clearing away tunnels from earth and sand by transporting them on smaller wagons. Besides them, there were also soldiers watching slaves while holding long clubs.
The chains attached to the slaves’ legs were most likely intended to limit their freedom of movement and hinder their escape.
“Since the conditions in a mine are severe, having a disposable labor force is very vital. Takeru-dono, don’t you have slaves in your country?”
Lyle-sensei spoke to me as if noticing my silence.
I was at loss for words upon seeing people being forced to work in the worst environment and having their freedom taken away.
Judging from the way the usually gentle and graceful Lyle-sensei could watch this scenery with composure, slaves were probably common in this world.
However, for me, who was brought up in times long free from slavery, this was a shocking view.
According to Lyle-sensei’s explanation, slaves are generally considered to be those who are unable to clear their debts.
Even I could become penniless and fall into debt.
The me right now was living in a society run by slaves.
For the sake of surviving in this world, it was clear to me I couldn’t quarrel with the reality.
Still, this scenery burned into my memory.
“I apologize, Sensei. Let’s proceed.”
“Takeru-dono, over there, you will find the mansion of this place’s governor.”
At the entrance of this mine, the surroundings resembled that of a small village.
In addition to miserable shacks where the slaves stayed, there were also row houses for soldiers and engineers, and a blacksmith’s shop where one could melt and process ores.
And then, there was the mansion of this mine’s governor, which was the tallest in this shabby village.
It was a building with a proper wooden floor. As soon as we were guided by maids and entered inside, what awaited us was a room made of large planks.
The furniture here was splendidly made. The interior was lined with stuffed monsters from the vicinity, and even decorated with vivid tapestries.
Were they made by this mine’s blacksmith? the room was ornamented with an iron-made knife, sword, halberd, and plate mail as well.
These weapons were probably crafted by someone even more skilled than the blacksmith in our village.
Honestly, I don’t think the person who decorated this very boorish room has a refined taste, but, it may be that being a governor of a mine is beneficial.
Meaning, I can expect quite a profit from doing business with my next trading partner.
Once the door opened, a half-naked, muscular man entered inside.
The man was in his prime and his head was smoothly becoming bald. His physique was even larger than that of the female warrior, Louise.
“Looks like I made you wait. My name is Nattal Dacole, and I’m this mine’s governor.”
So it was this guy? At first I thought it was some miner as he was wearing a pair of simplistic Farstian trousers while being half-naked.
Despite that, that Nattal turned out to be some muscular macho dude. The amount of the muscles in his upper arms and his somber, bald head made him look like some protagonist from a Hollywood movie.
I gazed at those piling up muscles in admiration. As I did so, the man bowed his head apologetically. Did he misunderstand something?
“I apologize for appearing like this in front of you. I’ve just returned from the mine’s actual location, so….”
“No no, we too have come here uninvited, therefore… by the way, my [Ore], that’s not right, my [Watashi] name’s Sawatari Takeru. Nice to meet you.”
I too introduced myself while bowing down deeply and hurriedly.
To think that this mine’s governor, named Nattal, would genuinely bow his head toward a shabby, 17 years old greenhorn like me. Could I really afford that?
For this elegant man in his prime, not to mention, a personage of a high social status to treat me this politely, I felt ashamed of myself.
Despite one’s viewpoint regarding a topless, muscular man being a pervert, one could notice this man’s fine attitude displaying unaffected sincerity, fortitude, and vigor.
What a great person he is to work in a mine despite being the governor of this place.
Apparently, Lyle-sensei and Nattal are acquainted with each other, since both of them were appointed to the same village as civil servants.
It may be that Nattal is deliberately acting kind toward us, in order to prompt the negotiations, as he knows we are here to sell him the bombs.
However, even if I’m cautious of him, I can’t help but have a good impression of his straightforward attitude. Not to mention, Nattal, with his beautifully balding head, greatly resembles a favorite actor of mine from a western movie.
I’m fond of beauties, but, I’m also quite weak toward good-looking adult males.
“Then, without further ado, can I have you demonstrate to me that thing called a bomb?”
So as to show him in practice the effect of the bomb, I blew a newly dug tunnel inside a quay to atoms.
Just to make sure we weren’t affected, I prepared a long cord and distanced myself far enough before detonating the bomb, however, even that much wouldn’t prevent the violent blast from beating our eardrums.
For me to create such a fearsome thing. (Obviously, the one who took care of the compounding was Lyle-sensei, but whatever.)
“Uoooohhh!” – Was Nattal agitated by his first in a lifetime blast? He held aloft both his arms while shouting that.
“What’s your impression?”
“This thing called a bomb has splendid power. I guess we would save lots of time, were we to use it wisely.”
Checking on the huge hole left by the explosion, Nattal gathered minerals, which had been hurled, and touched them one by one.
It would be nice were he to take a liking to the bombs and buy them at high prince, but.
“For each bomb, I’ll pay you with a silver….. No, how about one gold coin?
I took a deep breath. A single gold coin is a large amount of money.
I wouldn’t have thought I would manage to sell the bombs at such high price.
Since bombs are considered a rare item in this world, perhaps, I should increase their price….
“Honestly, you aren’t going to overcharge me more than this, right? I place my trust in you as a fellow working for the same country. What’s more, I told you before I can barely afford this much, didn’t I?”
“Haha, no way. Of course, please do so.”
I broke in a cold sweat while laughing. Nattal most likely saw through my expression.
As one would expect from a veteran governor, his ability to negotiate was quite sharp.
“Also, I’d like to place a condition on your purchase. I’d like for you to pay me afterwards.”
“Umm, what’s the meaning of that?”
“I would be troubled if I were to supply you with defective products, so you will only have to pay for items that work properly. Otherwise, rumors might spread in the village about how ineffective my bombs are if you fail to successfully use them in practice.”
“Ah–, well, I guess you’ve got a point. Right.”
I made a wry smile as soon I looked at Lyle-sensei next to me.
Certainly, there have been lots of cases where a bomb would fail to explode despite it emitting smoke.
With Lyle-sensei’s effort, we should be able to adjust the bomb’s compound as we wish, so it’s hard to imagine it could fail, but, nothing can be said for sure in regards to gunpowder.
Obviously, we should also consider the possibility of a misfire.
As long there are no defective products, it should be no problem for customers to pay afterwards.
“And then, there’s one more condition.”
‘You still want to complain about something?’ – Nattal took out a golden coin for the bomb while wanting to say that, which made me endure patiently.
“Despite Losgow‘s ore mine being a small one, it’s actually state property. You do understand that we…. plan to promote these bombs, right?”
He probably won’t understand even if I say it in a suggestive tone.
Unable to watch me becoming astonished, Lyle-sensei whispered in my ear.
–Let’s form an exclusive agreement with the Kingdom of Silesia. I think there’s no need to worry about others merchandising this bomb, but, wouldn’t it be fine to do so either way?–
Hmm, I see. Certainly, it’s just as Lyle-sensei says. I agree this is a favorable opportunity to form an agreement, considering the fact we can use Lyle-sensei’s position as a state secretary.
“Well, if you make an exclusive agreement, you will be able to build a market for bombs in other mines and places, where the use of bombs is essential for public works. I see no harm in doing so.”
“Then, I’ll accept your offer.”
Bowing down my head, I was still reflecting on my carelessness.
That’s because, despite making every effort to create gunpowder, I didn’t consider the idea of expanding our market for that.
After all, this place here is just a rural area. I need to merchandise this bomb in other regions of this kingdom, so there’s no way for me to let this chance slip away.
On the other hand, if I want to sell products for consumer use, it won’t do unless I specify the characteristics of our market, since we can’t monopolize this area, right?
Is there no good solution for that? I shall ask Sensei, who’s a fountain of wisdom, later.
More importantly, there’s something else I should mention.
“Afterwards, please pay utmost attention so as not to get yourself involved in an accident. There’s also the fear that a tunnel might collapse from an explosion.”
“Haha, haven’t I told you already? I’m a mine engineer, so I won’t commit such a blunder. Still, well, I agree with you about paying more attention when handling these things. I’m grateful for your advice.
Even if Nattal was to estrange someone due to his nagging, I thought I had to give him at least some advice.
Even in the modern Japan where I used to live, there are lots of instances where people will be buried alive in a mining accident.
I’d have an uneasy conscience if those miners from before died because of my bombs.
The black powder, which I’m selling, has a low level of safety. Therefore, it’s necessary to have Nattal pay enough attention.
Translator and reference notes:
(1): Apparently, Japanese kids sing this when taking a dump so as to make their defecation easier.