"Milord, a top quality ballista can fire up to 300 meters away with a margin of error of less than half a meter. Only with that will it be able to pose a real threat against the enemy. During the time of the former empire, Krissen V drafted a standard for the construction of defense sentry ballistas, causing the ballistas produced during that time to be among the best ones ever made. However, the standards were later slackened and the empire never produced ballistas as good as those ever again."
Grandmaster Fellin was currently giving a lecture to Lorist about his knowledge on ballistas. Before them were a number of ballistas of differing types used by the Norton Family forces. Even the original 12 ballistas obtained from the armory of the Dawn Academy that were used by the carroballista unit were there.
"The most important part of a ballista is its arm. In actuality, no matter what kind of wood used to make it, a ballista should be able to shoot 300 plus meters away. The only shortcoming of using arbitrary wood is that the arm will not last long. That is to say, the second shot from that particular ballista will be magnitudes nearer than the last. In other words, elasticity is the most crucial criteria when deciding which material to use as the arm for a ballista. That material must be able to return to its former shape quickly so that the second shot can match the first shot in both distance and accuracy. Based on that alone, many other types of wood won't even make the list for consideration."
Grandmaster Fellin then brought Lorist in front of two small ballistas and said, "Milord, these two ballistas can be considered to be one of the finest ones I've seen in the last ten years. They are almost half as small as usual defense sentry ballistas and are easy to operate and aim with with their firing distance reaching around 260 meters. I've asked Dulles about it and he said that they were part of the original set of 12 the convoy bought from the Dawn Academy. I heard the reason they were abandoned and sold to you was because they were too hard to operate?"
Lorist nodded as he recalled reading the log of the armory that recorded that exact reason.
Grandmaster Fellin laughed and said, "They were mistaken. Milord, think about it. A normal ballista would take up to 5 people to operate while this smaller one only requires 3. It wouldn't make sense for the ballista that requires a smaller number of people to use to be more complicated. The real reason it wasn't used was because the price of production was too high and these ballistas couldn't be mass produced.
"Milord, do you know what material was used to make the small ballistas?" the grandmaster asked Lorist as he pointed at the small ballistas whose arms seemed to have properties of both wood and metal from the look of them.
Lorist merely shook his head.
"The arms of these ballistas were made of Arrowdragon Wood, a material that is only found on the Relic Islands, which gains an elastic property after being treated by three submerging processes. According to the ancient records, Arrowdragon Wood was a plant that the magi transported from another dimensional plane during the time of the magical civilization and were used in construction of magical ballistas. Wood the size of the ballistas' arms would take roughly hundreds of years to grow. The Dawn Academy must've expended quite a sum to get their hands on so much Arrowdragon Wood. It's a shame that the future generations couldn't recognize quality goods even when they see it, hence leaving them unutilized and gathering dust within the armory."
Grandmaster Fellin stroked the dark-colored wood of the ballista arm as he sighed and said, "In terms of ballista construction, Arrowdragon Wood is indeed the ideal material to use for the arm of the ballista. However, the exorbitant price of the material and the troublesome preparation works against its favor. Even the submerging processes alone requiring six different solutions would take up seven years to complete. Affordable prices and mass production availability with the emphasis on easily replaceable spare parts are important things to consider for military gear. Additionally, given the additional complications involved in siege equipment like that, there isn't a perfect solution for adopting the use of such high quality gear for widespread use.
"Milord, I've already analyzed the ballista designs you drew before and if we can make it, it will definitely be a revolutionary upgrade to any existing ones. However, I am not sure if I will be able to find someone to make the kind of elastic metal you specified. Without those metal plates for the ballista arms, your ballista that is designed to be used against magical beasts cannot be constructed," Grandmaster Fellin said. While he understood Lorist's intentions, he was only familiar with employing wood to make ballistas. Given how much work required to process wood, it would be difficult to suddenly supply a huge number of ballistas for their forces.
"How about this, Grandmaster Fellin, why don't you accompany me to Bladedge Mountains tomorrow? The family has built a metal refinery over there. We'll go there to see for ourselves whether Grandmaster Sid can fashion a suitable material for the ballista," Lorist said.
After leaving the ballista workshop, Lorist returned to his office on the second floor of the Firmrock Castle.
Upon entering, he noticed Telesti laughing uncontrollably while slumped on his work desk.
"Darling, what's wrong?" Lorist asked curiously.
"Locke, didn't you ask your family knights and other officers to come up with methods to deal with the magical beasts? The letters are already collected over here. Look, haha! This letter suggests that we open a path through the Bladedge Mountains to the sea so that the magical beasts can travel straight into the sea and drown there... Hahaha... It's too funny..."
Lorist also laughed out loud. Just recently, he had forced his subordinates to try to come up with methods to deal with the magical beast wave. However, not one of them had any practical ideas, so they merely submitted whatever they could write up with their ridiculous imagination.
"Well, at least this is still more plausible than another letter I've read that suggested a wall be constructed all the way from Firmrock Castle to Maplewoods Bastide to seal off the Felicitas Settlement," Lorist commented.
That person who came out of the idea was preoccupied with the notion of keeping the magical beasts out of the Felicitas Settlement. However, he didn't even consider the distance between the two places and the costs, manpower and time involved in building a wall of that length. The idea made quite an impression on Lorist because it reminded him of the great wall in his previous life.
Telesti laughed out loud again as she said, "Locke, do you remember that one of the knights even suggested to gather up everyone within the dominion to dig up an enormous trap hole for the magical beasts to fall into? I replied to that knight and asked him what we would do with the dirt we get from all that digging. His reply just came in and he said that we can just dig out another hole to be filled with the extra dirt, hahaha..."
Lorist laughed bitterly as he shook his head in futility. Quite a number of knights within the family were muscleheads who didn't like to think about complicated stuff like that, so it was quite troubling for them to be requested to come up with a countermeasure for the magical beasts.
Picking up a few letters from the table, Lorist began reading. The first letter suggested that the algae be completely eradicated from the lands of the Felicitas Settlement so that the magical beasts would no longer head there if there was nothing for them to eat. Sigh, why doesn't he think about how huge the settlement really is... And is it really possible to root out something like algae? I bet that a new patch would sprout the moment one was removed... How clueless...
The second letter sounded even more ridiculous. The writer of the letter suggested that a large amounts of poison be sprinkled all over the lands of Felicitas Settlement so that the magical beasts would die from consuming the poisoned algae. Well, I'll leave it to you to come up with a poisonous solution that will be effective even after being exposed in the air for a few days. As a rank one herbalist, Lorist felt that if anyone really came out with a solution like that, he would definitely receive a reward from the Forde Research Fund of 200000 gold Fordes for such an achievement.
The third letter described an gorge that was located near the Maplewoods Bastide. That place was rather wide and if there was a way to lure the giant-class magical beasts such as magical mammoths to that place, then it would be far easier to deal with the smaller herbivorous beasts.
Oh? This is a rather sound plan, Lorist thought as he looked at the name of the writer. The person who wrote that was called Tarkel, whom Lorist thought to be rather familiar. Was there such a person among the family knights? Lorist really couldn't recall that person.
He then pulled on the bell rope to summon Reidy.
"Reidy, have this person come over here," Lorist instructed.
After a while, somebody knocked on the door of his office. However, that person was Charade.
"Milord, Knight Ovidis sent someone to report to me that the Second Prince sent you an invitation to attend a gathering for nobles at Gildusk City on the 15th day of the 5th month. Do you think we should attend?"
"Why would I go to a stupid gathering for nobles? In the end, it's just all a ploy of the Second Prince to siphon some money from the nobles who attend. I wouldn't want that now, would I? Just send a letter to refuse the invitation. I have no time to play games with the Second Prince," Lorist said in annoyance.
"Alright, I'll send someone to notify Knight Ovidis to have the messenger of the Second Prince scram," said Charade.
"Also, come with me to the metal refinery at Bladedge Mountains tomorrow. I have something I want to discuss with Grandmaster Sid. We can also check out on the plans for the industrial city I left in your hands," Lorist said.
"Okay. I'll wait for you tomorrow then," Charade said before he left.
Reidy only managed to find Tarkel in the evening and brought him to see Lorist.
"Oh, it's you?" Lorist said as he laughed. "No wonder I felt that your name sounded familiar. I'm really sorry, I've completely forgotten about you due to being so busy."
The man standing in front of Lorist was one of the guards of Count Cobry's laborer camp within Geldos City. Tarkel, who looked burly and uncultured on the outside, was discovered by Lorist to have a knack for noticing the more obscure details and being able to handle matters effectively. Thus, he forced Tarkel and his family to travel with him to the Northlands despite the latter's objection, only for Lorist to end up forgetting about him after he left with a few others earlier to head towards the dominion to inherit his position.
On the way north, Tarkel had endured quite a bit of hardship, as could be seen from how unpleasantly silent he was when he looked at Lorist.
"Fine, Tarkel. I once again apologize to you for forcing you and your family to move over and forgetting to take care of you as I have promised. How about this, no matter what you're working on right now, why don't you become my personal attendant? Oh, Reidy, arrange a residence nearby for Tarkel and his family and give him ten gold Fordes as my token of apology," Lorist told Reidy.
"Who's that? You seem to regard him rather highly," Telesti asked when Tarkel left with Reidy.
"Hehe, while that fellow looks rather burly and brutish, he's incredibly keen on picking up on the smaller details most people ignore. He has a great talent for information gathering and spying, but he's a tad too cowardly for that and also treasures his family a lot. I've noticed his talents sometime back and forced him to come with us to the dominion, but I forgot about him after I left the convoy to inherit my position at the dominion. Had it not been for the letter he wrote me, I wouldn't have been able to recall him either. Here, have a look. Of everyone who has written to us, his idea is the most viable," Lorist said as he handed Telesti the letter.
"I see. Locke, are you heading to the Bladedge Mountains tomorrow?"
"I am. This time, I think I'll be staying there for quite a while. When I finish my affairs over there, I will check on the development of Felicitas Settlement. I will leave the matters here to you and Charade. Just send me a letter if there's something you need me to deal with. Well, it's getting late, so let's get some food."
The refinery that was built near the black iron mine made the atmosphere of the Bladedge Mountains much rowdier than before.
"Milord, we've set up seven blast furnaces in total and the daily production is around 1500 kilograms." As the chief supervisor, Grandmaster Sid was showing Lorist, Charade and Grandmaster Fellin around the refinery.
Lorist discovered that the furnaces they used at the refinery were rather primitive with the main difference between them and those used in Lorist's past life was that the main refining chambers were located underground with pillars of smoke emanating from the holes of the floor. The black iron ore would be brought to the refining chambers underground with chunks of charcoal placed next to them. After that, air would be blown into the chamber to aid in the combustion process, thus raising the temperature high enough so that the ore could be melted down before it would be funneled into casts where it would be made into black iron ingots.
"I believe I've seen a different method for refining metal in a book somewhere that would produce stainless steel right away without first having to refine the ore into black iron ingots," Lorist said as he started drawing a design of a blast furnace from his past life and handed it to Grandmaster Sid. "I recall that the combustion material they used was a kind of black-colored rock which emanated extremely high temperatures."
Holding the beastskin design in his hand, Grandmaster Sid wore an awkward expression as he said, "Milord, your widespread knowledge is truly admirable. However, we're not able to construct a furnace of this design."
"Why?" Charade asked.
"That's because this kind of furnace must be made from a kind of brick that is incredibly resistant to heat. Otherwise, it would crack right away during the smelting process. We do not have the ability to make bricks like that," Grandmaster Sid said.
Lorist nodded and thought, so he really does know his stuff... Grandmaster Sid had already noticed the key flaw of the furnace design. However, even Lorist is unaware of how to make the heat-resistant bricks that the grandmaster mentioned, so he made a mental note to experiment on it in the future.
"As for the black rocks which are combustible that you mentioned, I've seen them before. They're called blackfire rocks and they let out a pungent stench when ignited. Additionally, ingots smelted using blackfire rocks are not good enough as they are rather brittle," Grandmaster Sid explained.
Oh, so coal is called blackfire rocks in this world. Even so, he couldn't recall the process of coking which was used to make coke, which was in turn commonly used as fuel in blacksmithing. If one were to use sulfur-rich coal instead of coke, the end product would no doubt be brittle.
"Then, how do you guys make steel?" Lorist asked.
"Well, you can take a look over there, milord. That is the blast furnace we use to make steel. First, we put some iron ingots into the furnace as well as some other ingredients according to prescribed recipes. After that, we heat it up long enough and start the stirring process before finally pouring the molten metal into casts. Then, we take it out and start hammering to remove impurities until we are satisfied with the product," explained Grandmaster Sid.
"I see. Then, I have a something I want to build which will need a particular kind of steel. I wonder if you can make it," Lorist said as he unrolled the ballista design he drew and Grandmaster Fellin proceeded to describe the properties of the ballista to Grandmaster Sid.
After looking at the design, Grandmaster Sid furrowed his brow in thought before he asked someone to bring an old guy to him.
"Milord, this is Master Julian and he has worked in the field for most of his life back during the days of the empire in the imperial capital. If even he can't make the kind of metal you want, no one can," Grandmaster Sid said.
While Master Julian looked rather meek and gentle, the moment he heard about the request from Grandmaster Sid, he nodded fervently and said, "It is possible. Back then, His Majesty Krissen VII commissioned for an even more elastic metal to be made for the spring absorbers on his carriage and I still remember the recipe. However, we must repeat the hammering process and remelt the material multiple times and employ the quenching process, which will no doubt require a lot of manpower. While we would be able to make it in small amounts, it'll be hard for us to mass produce the material as we don't have enough experienced blacksmiths to do the hammering. If the hammering is done wrong, not only will the end product be useless, it will also waste the precious material."
Lorist laughed and said, "There will be no issue with that. I can design a water-powered hammering machine for you. I was just thinking that it was a waste not to utilize the waterfalls at the cliffs nearby. Let me draw it for you..."
Within moments, a simple water-powered hammering machine blueprint was drawn. It was a really basic design which utilized a water wheel that was connected to a series of gears powered a hammer that banged against an anvil. The design blew the minds of everyone present who had only seen it for the first time.
Master Julian cried out in surprise, "Milord, you're a genius! With this, no matter how much material you need, I will be able to make it for you..."