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Chapter 7 Devilish Office Work

Previously:
Teruya sounded out Queen Julia regarding the adoption of his idea. However, to draw up detailed plans, he has to inspect some key places in the Kingdom.

The day after his second audience with the Queen, Teruya made his way to the train station in the royal capital. His purpose was to assess the current state of the railway. Immediately, he spotted someone loading cargo onto a train.

“There seems to be a lot of goods going to the Empire, huh.”

“Lots of spices, friend. All being shipped from the east.”

“What gets imported from the Empire?”

“Gold and jewelry for the most parts. Sometimes you get an odd case of wine, some glass products now and then, and other similar things…”

“That doesn’t sound like much.”

“Other goods are not popular and rarely find a buyer here. I’m trying to increase my local sales, but for now I have to pay for spice with gold and silver.”

“Hmm.”

After some mental calculations, Teruya sought out the train master to have a chat.

“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of goods coming from the Empire.”

“Well, their products are simply unpopular. Only a few of them are eye-catching and they come from so far away. I guess that the tastes of the people from the east simply didn’t propagate that far.”

“That’s fair,” said Teruya nodding in agreement. “But if that’s the case, won’t you run at a deficit hauling the empty freight cars on your way back?”

“Spices are in high demand and sell very well. The onward trip alone is profitable enough. And it’s not like I don’t try to reduce my losses when I come back.”

“How do you do that?”

“Carrying whatever I can take at bargain rates. Better have some coin than come here empty-handed.”

“So you load up on meat and vegetables preserved in salt or oil.”

“Oh. You know.”

It was exactly as Teruya had expected. The actual trade was one-sided and preserved foods were transported the other way at cost in order to reduce the number of empty freight wagons. That was the reason they could flood the royal capital pushing the local economy into recession.

“Thank you very much for your time.”

Having heard enough from the man, Teruya gave his thanks and left the station.

The following afternoon, Teruya made his way to the royal capital’s port. His purpose was to investigate the state of the shipping. The royal capital was a city founded on a spot where the Coltuna river and Rubicon river converged exactly because it was an important location for river transport. By looking at this port, where the shipping of the entire water system of the Rubicon passed, it was possible to tell how the Kingdom of Lutetia fared as a whole.

“There’s quite a lot of ships…” observed Teruya.

A multitude of various vessels, ranging from very small to quite large came and went from the port.

“The royal capital is located in the middle of the Rubicon river system and is used by ships from various places, sir,” explained Sebastian.

While the butler was talking, Teruya noticed something else.

“It struck me when we first came here, but there is quite a wide range of ship sizes using the port.”

Then, since he was interested in the subject, he asked more questions about ports of origin and cargo of various ships. Apparently there were many small boats that had come from afar as well as some rather large vessels that had sailed from just across the river.

“Surprisingly, even small vessels come from far away, don’t they?”

“They do, sir. That is due to the fact that even though Rubicon is a large river, there are many shallow places that a bigger vessel cannot navigate through.”

“And in contrast there are a lot of things being ferried in large vessel even over short distances, I guess?”

“There are places on rivers like Rubicon that cannot be crossed without using a large boat. Bad weather in particular can make sailing so rough that one can potentially end up in dangerous areas that can only be escaped larger ships.”

“I see.”

As soon as Teruya had finished taking notes, he headed for the next inspection site.

Next stop on the itinerary was the Royal Metalworks.

“If you just look at this wonderful machine over there. This is the Kingdom’s largest blast furnace. It can process one ton of iron ore at a time. With that, we can simultaneously produce both the nine-kilogram cannons and nine-kilogram cannonballs.”

The workshop’s craftsman that was showing them around was clearly proud of these capabilities. Teruya was rather unimpressed, however.

“Kinda small.”

The craftsman met the words with shocked indignation, but Teruya just continued.

“Can a bigger furnace be built?”

“It can, but we have no plans of increasing our production.”

“Good for you. You should get starting with the construction soon anyway.”

“Is that so? I will pass your suggestion on to the foreman.”

“Much appreciated. By the way, do you manufacture steel?”

“No, the process is too time-consuming. We mostly make wrought iron.”

The properties of smelted iron were determined by the amount of carbon it contained at the end of the process. Metal containing 0.3~2.1% carbon, steel, was hard to break and found used in many modern-world products. On the other hand, pig iron produced from blast furnaces had a carbon content of about 4% making it very hard but also brittle and prone to being broken by impacts.

“Do you have an oxygen converter1 here?”

“Oxygen Converter? What is that?”

“An apparatus that turns iron into steel.”

“Do you mean a ‘crucible’? Using that is also time-consuming. And expensive to boot.”

Employing a crucible was a method of extracting steel by placing the pig iron that came out from the blast furnace into a huge pot and stirring it. A large amount of charcoal was required to constantly heat up the molten intermediate product over the period of seven days. Obviously, the cost was very high. Because of that, steel in this world traded hands at prices comparable to precious metals.

“No, I mean a device that makes steel by blowing in air into the molten iron1.”

“I have never heard of such a method.”

“… I see. Can you manufacture a locomotive here?

“The train engines require a high degree of machining precision. We can make them in house, but without any guarantees regarding the quality. Frankly, it will move, but will most likely lack pulling power due to steam leaks around the pistons in the cylinders. If it’s just a passenger car, though, we can do that just fine. That’s why most trains are pulled by horses.”

“I see.”

Teruya took more notes and left the place.

“Welcome back, sir Teruya.”

Elizabeth welcomed Teruya back to his office with a joyful expression.

“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. Did anything good happen?”

“Indeed. The answers to the questions and the documents you requested are all here.”

She pointed to the stockpile of papers that were piled up on the desk. All the gesture lacked was an audible *ta-dah!* sound.

“Is it really all done!?”

“It is. I consulted a person who seemed to know every nook and cranny of the royal castle. Only one of the questions proved impossible to answer at present, but I believe I should be able to overcome that with a few days of earnest investigation.”

“Is that so? That’s good to hear.”

Teruya took the documents and began reading.

“It seems like you are more than satisfied more than anything. Therefore—”

“Ah, Miss Elizabeth. Please wait a moment.”

“Yes?”

Elizabeth was promptly handed a fresh set of documents.

“These are requests for future inspection and the questions I wrote down while investigating today. Please take care of these too.”

Seeing the fresh pile of documents being handed to her with a smile, Elizabeth froze up.

“Milady?”

Soon after, panicking Sebastian ran over to where she stood, but the fainted girl could offer no answers to his frantic questions.

Footnotes

a method of primary steelmaking in which carbon-rich molten pig iron is made into steel. Blowing oxygen through molten pig iron lowers the carbon content of the alloy and changes it into low-carbon steel. The process is known as basic because fluxes of burnt lime or dolomite, which are chemical bases, are added to promote the removal of impurities and protect the lining of the converter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_oxygen_steelmaking

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