The Secret of Gunpowder
Second bonus chapter of the week, coming up! Thank you Joshua L. again for your tremendous support!
There was a firearm roughly 40 centimeters long within the wooden box. It had an exquisite design. Both the stock and barrel were decorated with intricate, gold laden carvings. However, the firearm looked a little weird. Besides the fact that its barrel was shaped like a trumpet, the hammer behind it was simply ridiculous. It was the shape of a two-winged dragon baring its fangs. It looked positively imposing.
The firearm took up half the space within the box. The bottom of the box was filled with rows of small lead pellets. Each pellet also had a cylindrical container. There was a total of 20 pellets and cylinders respectively.
Lorist was incredibly moved, and thought, If the pellets are the projectiles, then the cylinders must contain gunpowder! This must be the gunpowder variant of Grindia!
"This is a gun made by the dwarves of the Tedanini Kingdom. Last year, when the trade union came to an agreement with the dwarven kingdom, they were invited to set up a management office and a shop for dwarven merchants at Rotary Street, here in Morante City . I happened to be there, and purchased one of these guns. It seems that you like it a lot, Lord Count."
President Chikdor laughed heartily and looked at President Peterson, who merely nodded.
President Chikdor said to the guard beside him, "Demonstrate how that gun is used to Count Norton."
That guard came forward, saluted, and received the box.
"Lord Count, the gun is the traditional weapon of the dwarves. There are variations with different barrel lengths. Short-barreled guns can fire up to a distance of 30 meters, and they are rather similar to our own ballistic ranged weaponry. The range of these guns is rather low and is not worth much mention. However, one thing is for sure: the shots are very powerful. One would require at least 100 bowmen to pose a threat to a Blademaster, but one gun by itself will be enough to threaten a Blademaster within its 30-metre range. A Blademaster can deflect arrows with his sword, but not these bullets."
The guard then slipped the black cylinder into the barrel before using a fine metal rod to push it deeper in. He loaded the pellet into the barrel in a similar fashion. In the end, he said, "This gun is one of the newest models within the dwarven kingdom. They don't need a fuse, lifting this dragon here is enough. After that, firing is as simple as pulling the trigger down here. However, due to the physical differences between humans and dwarves, we humans had to strain to pull trigger because the force required to do so is rather great."
The guard then aimed the gun in his hand towards a wall around 20 meters away, and pulled hard on the trigger. Bam! Lorist was startled by the shot. He hadn't expected the gun to be that loud. Despite this, he was immediately pleased to notice a faint smell of burnt gunpowder. It was indeed the smell that a gunpowder propellant would produce. This only served to baffle Lorist; he didn't understand why his experiments before failed, even more so now that he had confirmed that gunpowder did indeed exist, and work.
"Look, Lord Count. The force is rather good, isn't it?" asked the guard.
He pointed at the hole on the wall not far away. A dented pellet could be seen embedded within it.
Lorist snapped out of his thoughts and looked at the hole. He noticed that the hole made on the wall was almost 1 meter away from where the guard had aimed.
With a margin of error like that, can it really be considered good?
At that moment, Lorist's mind was occupied with nothing but gunpowder. He was incredibly impatient and couldn't wait to go back and restart his research. As for the short gun made by the dwarves, he was only impressed with the intricate carvings on it, everything else dissatisfied him.
Look at that trumpet-shaped opening... If it's the slightest bit wider, the pellet would slip outward. And that beautifully carved wooden frame... it does nothing but increase the weight of the gun. Then there's that beak-shaped handle... Is that even nice to hold? And it doesn't even have sights... One can only aim this gun based on intuition... And the ridiculous dragon hammer that is far too forceful... Sigh, it's not good at all. Also, that trigger that requires so much force to pull... How can one aim steadily when pulling a trigger already swerves the gun around so much?
Lorist was confident that as long as he discovered the secret of the dwarves' gunpowder, he could definitely design a much better gun. Even his prototype would be far better than the decorated gun made by the dwarves.
But it was at that moment when he realized that his deep-thinking had made the others present think that he was merely a count from the rural areas of Grindia who had never seen much of the world. A look of disdain flashed past the guard's eyes as he put the gun back into the box and handed it to Lorist. "Lord Count, this is your gun, so keep it well."
Lorist received the box and hurriedly thanked President Chikdor.
President Chikdor laughed and said, "Since the Lord Count likes this gift so much, it was definitely worth it. Only by doing this can I properly express my sincerity to make up for my son's blunder. Also, forgive me for asking, since your dominion is in the distant Northlands, how did you come to know President Peterson? I also wonder if there's anything the Chikdor Merchant Guild can help you out with during this trip of yours to Morante City?"
Lorist also laughed and replied, "President Chikdor, I studied here in Morante City for a decade in my formative years. I got to know President Peterson, and received a lot of help from him, during that time. I had to return to the Northlands to inherit my title and the House's dominion. Six or seven years have flown by since then. I have come on this trip to pay a visit to President Peterson."
President Peterson smiled and nodded in agreement. He was quite pleased with Lorist for not revealing any important information.
"Oh, so that's the case. I thought you were preparing to secure a sea trade route. To be frank, Lord Count, since you are able to build a ship that is capable of traversing reefy areas, are you interested in establishing a sea trade route? If you're willing, you can let the Chikdor Merchant Guild handle the sea transportation for you. As the merchant guild with the most fleets, we can definitely guarantee that we won't disappoint you," said President Chikdor, staring Lorist directly in the eye.
Lorist revealed a look of joy, before his expression changed from to one of hesitation, then to helplessness. In the end, he even looked rather regretful.
After seemingly contemplating something deeply for a long while, he replied, "President Chikdor, while I'm incredibly interested in your proposal, my family dominion is situated in the far north and doesn't produce much unique local goods. There also isn't anything worthwhile we can offer up for trade. To be honest, we are only barely able to sustain ourselves with the food we produce."
"I am definitely interested in establishing a trade route by sea, but I know that I will be wasting goodwill if I have you make a pointless trip. Take, for instance, my dominion. It only produced around 6000 gold Fordes during the seven years I was there. Additionally, the only reason I'm able to come here to Morante City to have a good time is purely the graciousness of President Peterson."
President Chikdor didn't mind Lorist's rejection at all. He smiled and said to President Peterson, "I didn't expect that your friend, the Lord Count here, would be so honest. He's very unlike the other shallow nobles. They will stop at nothing to promote their dominions the moment they hear about establishing a trade route, when, in fact, they have nothing much to offer us. This is definitely a good characteristic of his."
President Peterson agreed and said, "The reason I stuck with my friend, Locke, here is because of his honest demeanor. He doesn't bear the usual shortcomings of other nobles, and speaks only the truth. No more, no less. His dominion is indeed rather rural, however. Even I can't help with that, despite my best intentions."
The two chatted for a few more moments before President Chikdor took his leave, bringing the guard and his third son with him. Lorist didn't notice the venomous glance the third young master gave him before turning to follow his father.
Lorist was still preoccupied with thinking about gunpowder. After discussing with President Peterson a little longer, deciding on the date when the furs would be delivered to the dominion of Viscount Tebri, and asking the Peterson Merchant Guild to purchase some large-class cargo vessels on his behalf, he left and returned to his lodging.
The moment he arrived at the Red Grace Inn, Lorist instructed Dulles and Howard to bring some magic beast jerky and whale meat to Louise, and ask her whether the food fit the taste of the citizens of Morante City. Other than that, he gave McDuffin some salt for him to try it out. He wanted to find out what difference it had with the rock salt usually used in Morante City.
Following that, Lorist cooped himself up in his room and began to inspect the remaining 19 cylinders of gunpowder included with the gun he received. He stayed within his room for three whole days without leaving. Josk and Howard secretly opened the door of his room to check out what he was up to on the third day.
The table was filled with various glass test tubes and experimental apparatuses used by herbalists. Lorist was thankful that he decided to take up herbalism during his days at the academy. The set of skills he had learned from those studies now allowed him to separate most of the compounds present in liquid. Doing this would allow him to easily determine the mixture used by the dwarves to make the gunpowder.
The mixture contained within each cylinder made by the dwarves was composed of seven different substances including sulfur, saltpeter, and powdered charcoal. They were the most common ingredients used to make gunpowder. The other four substances were rosin powder, puerarin starch, egg white and a kind of mysterious white-colored powder.
After more experimentation, Lorist came to understand that the only active components within the dwarven gunpowder were the familiar sulfur, saltpeter, and powdered charcoal, along with the mysterious white powder and rosin powder. Puerarin starch wasn't of much use, and the egg white was mainly used to solidify the powder into a cylindrical shape.
The thing that caught Lorist's attention was the mysterious white powder he had no information about. Without it, the gunpowder would be completely ineffective. Just as Lorist intended to ask someone else what the powder was by showing them a sample, he realized that he had used up all 19 of the gunpowder cylinders he had.
After giving it some thought, he called Howard upstairs. He had him instruct the maidservants of the inn to prepare him a warm bath, before ordering a huge meal. Following his bath and hearty meal, he took the box with the gun inside, and left with Howard for Rotary Street on a rented carriage.
Lorist had taken note when President Chikdor mentioned that the dwarves established a shop-office at Rotary Street. The carriage quickly sent Lorist and Howard to their destination. Upon getting off the carriage, Lorist could see a large, weird building that was stacked up with huge stone slabs. It looked like a small hill.
While it was weird for a 'mountain' to be in the middle of Morante City's busiest street, it wasn't that out of place; the ones who built it were dwarves, after all. The dwarves of the Tedanini Mountains were accustomed to living within caverns and they would feel insecure if they were not living within one.
After passing through the entrance, which was shaped like the entrance to a cavern, a dark stairwell could be seen. It was then that Lorist realized that the 'building' constructed by the dwarves wasn't that big. In fact, the main office and shop was situated in a large space beneath the ground. Many customers were visible inside, despite the bad lighting.
Lorist walked up to a barrel-shaped counter, and put the box on it.
A red-bearded dwarf looked at Lorist, and asked in a weird tone, "Good sir, is there anything I can help you with?"
Lorist looked curiously at the dwarf before him. It was a humanoid creature with an almost square-like build. Despite their similar appearance, the dwarves in Grindia had a different reputation from their fictional counterparts in Lorist's previous life. The two had similar behaviors: they both had great strength, dug caves, forged metal, fashioned equipment, and drank incessantly. However, the dwarves of Grindia were rumored to be shrewd businessmen. The merchants said that one should always be attentive and on one's guard when dealing with a dwarf. Otherwise, one would easily get tricked. That trait of theirs stood in stark contrast to their reputation for being honest and loyal in the fictional works of Lorist's world.
"Good day. I would like to know if I can purchase the powder used to fire this gun," said Lorist as he opened the box and brought out the gun and a few of the small lead pellets.
"Well, my son treated this gun like a toy and accidentally dumped the gunpowder into water... That's why when I realized it, it had already become like this," said Lorist while feigning a troubled look.
The red-bearded dwarf made a mocking expression and said, "Sir, we've heard others use the same excuse almost a hundred times during the month. In actuality, we don't really care if you discover the secrets of gunpowder. If you want to buy them, we have them for sale here. However, each cylinder costs 1 gold Forde."
What? It's that expensive? Lorist pointed to a similar box and said, "Apologies, did I mishear? A box like that with a short-barreled gun costs 35 gold Fordes. Why would the gunpowder itself cost so much?"
"That's because only dwarves can make gunpowder. You humans aren't able to make it. If there's no gunpowder, the gun would be nothing but an expensive toy for children, just like you said. Buy it, or not; it's your choice. We dwarves couldn't care less," said the dwarf, with his beard slightly swaying.
It was then when Lorist knew that there was no way the dwarves would tell him about what the mysterious white powder was. Having no other choice, he took out 20 gold Fordes and purchased 20 units of gunpowder. The dwarf even gave him an extra lead pellet to replace the one that was fired during the demonstration.
After leaving the shop of the dwarves, Howard said with a troubled tone, "Milord, you've been so occupied studying gunpowder for the past three days that you've forgotten about the original reason we came to Morante City..."
Lorist understood Howard's intention with this kind reminder, and patted his head.
"You don't understand, Howard. The dwarves' gunpowder is a great discovery. As long as we can crack its secrets, the House will no longer have anything to worry about in the future and never be defeated..." said he.
"Isn't the gunpowder only used for these guns? I don't think that the gun is any good," Howard complained, before his eyes flashed, "Milord, look! That shop over there has a gun hanging and it's even bigger than the dwarven one!"
Lorist turned his head to look and saw Howard pointing at a weapons shop. A huge gun could be seen hanging within. It looked a little like a mounted jingal.
"Come, let's go check it out," said Lorist.
"Welcome, sir," greeted the sharp-eyed shopkeeper.
He realized Lorist's status as a noble almost instantly.
"Sir, we here at Starlight Weapons pride ourselves in the quality and elegance of our products. Whether you're buying a weapon as a gift, or for your own use, we can satisfy your needs," started the shopkeeper.
Lorist stopped in his tracks before the huge gun, and asked, "Is this for sale?"
The shopkeeper looked stunned, before he noticed the box Howard carried in his hand and realized what it was about. "Sir, this gun is a well-known weapon, 700 years ago, the renowned noble hero, Jinrock, used this very gun to strike down the demonic twin-headed dragon, Chimera. However, despite surviving for all these years, the weapon no longer has any value."
Lorist pursed his lips and thought, Who do you think you're trying to fool? If it really were a 700-hundred-year-old relic, the barrel would've rusted long ago! Not to mention the rotting of the wooden frame.
It was obvious that the gun was a forgery used to attract customers to the shop.
Howard, on the other hand, asked curiously, "Why would you say that a divine weapon like that is worthless?"
"Because there's no gunpowder!" the shopkeeper exclaimed, "It was because the dominion lord hero had a dwarven friend that crafted this gun for him and provided him with three units of gunpowder that he was able to use this gun all those years ago. Without any gunpowder, the gun is useless. It can't even compare to a flaming stick."
"That dwarf is far too stingy... Why can't he continue to provide gunpowder? Is he afraid that we would find out how to make them as well?" Howard questioned angrily.
The shopkeeper laughed and said, "In actuality, we already know what the gunpowder is made of. It's a mixture of sulfur, charcoal powder, starch, rosin, fire crystal powder and egg white. The dwarves are still as stubborn today as they were hundreds of years ago, so the formula hasn't changed one bit. It's a shame that the information isn't useful to us at all. There are no saltpeter mines in the human realm. Saltpeter can only be found hundreds of meters beneath the ground, and only the dwarves are able to mine that deep. Without it, there's no way we can make gunpowder..."
Lorist was shocked to hear the shopkeeper say that they lacked saltpeter to make gunpowder. He recalled that during his failed experiments, he collected naturally efflorescing saltpeter off the corners of his walls. Lorist suddenly recalled that the Northlanders had a habit of collecting saltpeter off of walls, but they mainly purified it in water before using it to treat leather. Nobody knew that the solution could be dried and used to make gunpowder.
But right now, what Lorist was interested in was the fire crystal powder that the shopkeeper mentioned. "Could you tell me more about fire crystal powder?" asked Lorist.
The shopkeeper replied, "Milord, fire crystals are commonly used by smiths to increase the temperature of their forges. Let me think... Two days ago, we purchased a sack of them from some adventurers. I'll see if I can find them..."
The shopkeeper vanished for a few short moments, before returning with an old leather sack. He took out a few of the crimson finger-sized fire crystals.
"Sir, these are fire crystals, and they are usually only found among the ashes at the opening of a volcano. These are treasures to smiths, who will powder them up and use them to raise the forge temperature while they work. Only if the temperature is raised greatly will the forging be successful."
"Oh, thank you. It's the first time I've seen these," said Lorist as he inspected the crimson crystalline object in his hand.
The shopkeeper smiled and said, "Sir, these are only useful to smiths, so it's not a surprise that you've never seen them before."
"So these are present within the gunpowder made by the dwarves?" Loirst asked.
"That's right. This has long been proven by Professor Balbo of the Venus Academy. Powdered fire crystal accounts for about ten percent of the volume of gunpowder. The main problem with making gunpowder is that over 50 percent of it needs to be saltpeter. I recall that when Professor Balbo published his findings last year, the citizens of Morante City were greatly shocked," said the shopkeeper who had a great memory.
Lorist took out a few gold Fordes and gave one to the shopkeeper. "This is payment for your stellar service, I'm incredibly satisfied. However, can I purchase a few of these fire crystals from you?"
"Naturally, sir. This sack contains around 30 of them. It will only cost you 2 gold Fordes," replied the shopkeeper politely.
 A type of gun. More info: Wikipedia