Chapter 8 Between inspection and office work
Teruya continues to vigorously push ahead with his inspection plans.
Meanwhile, in a certain area...
“Are you headed for the Rutherford domain again, sir?” asked Sebastian the next day, seeing that Teruya was about to head off for another faraway inspection tour.
“Yeah,” was the prompt answer.
“What will you be looking at this time?”
“The conditions of the crops. Whether the amount produced is enough to sustain the royal capital. Whether it will sell here or not.”
“Would selling the produce here not be difficult considering that the imperial territories supply more than enough food?”
“Irrelevant. I’ll be looking into the prospect of fresh vegetables.”
“Would that be any different? There is a fair amount of farmland in the capital’s vicinity, sir.”
And indeed, the region surrounding the Royal Capital was mostly farmland that had supplied the city with vegetables thus far.
“Hard to say either way. There is also the matter assessing the available coal deposits.”
“Coal?” asked Sebastian in a puzzled face. “Would such a thing really sell? At the moment, Donetsk’s coal aside, Rutherford’s coal could not find any buyer due to its rich sulfur content.”
“There’s also coal in Donetsk?”
“Yes, and it appears to be of high quality. Although it is quite rare to see it used.”
“Why is that?”
“Charcoal is easy to make, sufficient for people’s needs and the raw wood is plentiful. That is the reason why there is no market for any form of coal.”
If that really was the case, coal certainly wouldn’t sell at all. Nobody would go out of their way to buy it while having adequate alternatives at hand.
“Nevertheless, I predict that coal will start selling well in the future.”
“Why would that be?”
“Because a certain company will need it in huge quantities in the future.”
Sebastian was unable to follow up with another question since Teruya started walking so fast the butler had to give chase.
In the hall, they ran into Elizabeth with a sizeable stack of paper in her hand.
“Ah, sir Teruya,” said the girl.
“Oh. Good morning, miss Elizabeth.”
“Good morning. This is perfect timing. I was able to fulfill all the tasks you have given me.”
As she was saying that, she handed the pages covered by Reignian letters to Teruya.
“You’re ahead of schedule.”
“Results of a whole night of work. That includes the answers to the previous batch of questions too.”
“That’s great. I will read all this while on my next inspection.”
“I understand. Do take care while away.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.”
As soon as Elizabeth asked, Teruya handed her a fresh batch of inquiries. And they grew more sophisticated reflecting his improved command of Reignian language.
“A fresh set of questions. I would appreciate it if you could have the answers prepared by the time I’m back. I really appreciate all the effort you put into this and I’ll get you a souvenir over there. Oh, right, that’s your hometown, isn’t it? Is there anything particular you’d like? Miss Elizabeth?”
No reply was forthcoming.
Getting to the next inspection site required Teruya to travel upriver, and thus took some time, but he arrived at his destination safely. He and Sebastian stayed at the Earl’s mansion again, but the lord welcomed them without any complaints. While on the way to his room, he refused the offer of customary welcome feast excusing himself with his pressing duty. Soon after, he headed towards the coal mines.
“Here we are, sir.”
The place was located close to the wetlands.
“This is the coal excavated here.”
What Sebastian presented to Teruya was akin to a leaf covered in mud.
It was plant matter in the process of turning into coal. Usually coal formed in a hot, high pressure layers underground after decaying plant matter got buried under the earth. It would start as peat, then turn into brown coal, and finally end up as black coal once the ratio of carbon increased. The energy that could be potentially released increased the further the lump of coal was on that transformation track.
“This is pretty much it. It can keep the fire in a fireplace alive.”
Peat was low in carbon and had low energy value, but could also burn at low temperatures. For that reason, a fireplace fueled by peat could keep a room warm for the rest of the night after its occupants went to bed.
“Is there no kind of coal here resembling a rock?
“Well, yes. Kind of,” came back the vague reply of the butler.
“As you wish, sir. Be warned that it is nothing much to look at though.”
Paying no heed to Sebastian’s warnings, Teruya indicated they should go anyway. He was guided to the foot of a hill not far away, where a layer of a black deposit a touch higher than Teruya’s head was exposed to the open air. It seemed to be fairly thick too.
“You meant this?”
“We have dug out some of this in the past to see if it would sell, but the price offered was disappointing. The enterprise would not be profitable and the lord decided against pursuing it.”
Teruya fiddled with the black layer a bit and grabbed a piece.
“Sir, it is dirty.”
Sebastian might as well have been talking to himself. At that moment, the lump in his hand made Teruya be at a loss for words.
“The finest black coal2.”
“Is it really?”
“It is! Absolutely! We’ve struck gold!”
Back in Teruya’s world, black coal was highly coveted and purchased at premium prices. It was, quite literally, like black diamonds.2
“Is that true?”
Sebastian, however, was skeptical, which didn’t escape Teruya. After all, if there would be no one to use the coal, it would not find a buyer, making its existence pointless. Without an use, the product would have no value.
“We have to check how many other seams can be found in the area.”
“This kind of coal can be found pretty much everywhere, sir.”
“…Say that again?”
“There are coal deposits like everywhere around this hill.”
Faced with this ridiculous amount of coal, Teruya could only laugh.
After asking Earl Rutherford to map the locations of the coal deposits, Teruya returned to the Royal Capital to start his next task without delay.
“Welcome back, sir Teruya,” said Elizabeth. The light in her eyes was completely gone now. “The documents you requested are over there.”
A mountain of documents, including ledgers, quotations, and account statements, was towering over the desk.
Following that brief acknowledgement, Teruya sat behind his desk and began reading.
“As expected, it will be costly,” he muttered to himself.
What Teruya had requested this time was mostly related to the construction costs of the railway. Using the estimated construction costs of both the Royal Railway and Imperial Railway as a base, Teruya proceeded to figure out how much money would be necessary for his plan.
“The cost of building this embankment is rather high, is it not?” asked Elizabeth.
Embankments were an essential foundation on which the track would be laid. They had to withstand not only the weight of the track itself, but also that of the trains and the freight they would carry. Or they would sink. It was necessary to reinforce them to avoid that.
“There’s no other way. Any less than this would mean they won’t have the necessary strength.”
“I know that well,” said Elizabeth clearly. “We often construct earthworks on the riverbanks. We know how much is necessary.”
“Of course. Flood prevention is one of the basics of territory management.”
“No, I mean, you mentioned a reinforced riverbank. Was there such a nice riverbank anywhere?”
“Indeed. Lutetia is a country strung along the Rubicon river, hence the development of the river is of national interest. Especially along its main course. The biggest riverbed carries a large amount of water with strong currents. Your rail embankments cannot possibly compare with that.”
Teruya smiled playfully after listening to Elizabeth’s input.
“Thanks for sharing this.”
Teruya immediately reviewed the map and drew a line at a certain section.
He wrote down a few instructions and handed them to Elizabeth.
“Please recalculate with these assumptions in mind. The cost should go down.”
“I will go on an inspection again tomorrow morning. I will review the updated documents once I’m back.”
Elizabeth felt a surge of relief. It seemed that she would be allowed to leave without any unreasonable tasks this time around.
“Ah, that’s right.”
But then, Teruya took out another stack of paper from his bag. He had almost forgotten about it.
“This is a set of instructions for how to run calculations necessary for the start of a new business. I have written these while on board of a riverboat, so it maybe a bit difficult to read, but please do your best.”
A wave of dizziness threatened to overwhelm the girl, but then she fired herself up.
“Ah, right. I will also probably give you further instructions based on the current data we have compiled before I set out tomorrow. Get ready to handle that too, please.”
There was no answer. Elizabeth fainted on the spot.
The next day, Teruya went on yet another inspection trip. This time the itinerary took him downriver, to the port city of Ostia at the mouth of the Rubicon.
“It’s very crowded.”
“All because of trade vessels frequenting the port, sir.”
The Trajanus port in Ostia was the key to the eastern trade over the Indigo Sea. Numerous ships from many different countries came to this harbor at the eastern shore of the Rubicon. Crates of goods were continuously being unloaded from the moored ships and carried to warehouses one after another. However, the operation was by no means smooth due to the narrowness of passageways between the pier and the warehouses.
“What a chaotic town.”
“It reflects the development of the Kingdom and the Empire, when our two countries grew, attracting more trade, so did the town.”
“So the chaos is a result of periods of rapid expansion?”
Haphazard layout was a frequent outcome of unforeseen developments, as evidenced by certain towns in Japan and Europe with their complicated networks of alleyways.
“Also,” asked Teruya again after a moment, “why are they transferring goods to the warehouse? Wouldn’t unloading the cargo directly to a riverboat save time?”
“The trade ships come and go with the favourable wind, it is hard to predict when they will arrive, sir. And when they eventually do arrive, they usually come in droves, all sailing on the same breeze. There is no choice but to store the goods in the warehouse.”
“Got it,” said Teruya, taking few more notes.
“Can they only dock offshore?” he asked then.
“Yes, the sea is shallow closer the shore so big vessels cannot dock directly.”
Teruya took more notes and went to the next inspection site.
This time the chosen spot was a fishing village at the coast, where the majority of people lived from that trade.
“A lot of dried fish here,” observed Teruya as he took in the scenery.
“That is their only way to make some money,” explained Sebastian.
Fresh fish would invariably rot and thus local catch could not be transported to the capital without being dried.
“But isn’t everyone making dried fish?”
“That is so.”
Afterwards, they checked out the saltern. It didn’t seem to be very big or produce much salt for that matter.
“Why is it so small?”
“Due to how the production process works, sir. After the seawater evaporates from the salt pan, the salt is collected and mixed with more saltwater to form brine.”
Although Teruya was familiar with the process, he feigned ignorance and allowed Sebastian to explain.
“The next step would be to boil the brine, but the saltern lacks fuel to do so on a large scale.”
“The trees along the coastline have been mostly cut down depriving them of an easy source of wood. And they cannot import any either, since barely anyone trades in wood.”
“Makes sense, I guess.”
Teruya took notes and left the place.
Teruya returned to the castle six days later. He verified the data he had collected, handed over a new set of questions and instructions, and then went on another inspection. After such a scene repeated a few times, he was granted the use of a wind dragon to shorten his travel time. Not long after the poor beast became exhausted from overwork. It was replaced, as eventually were its successors, all succumbing to fatigue.
Moreover, the data Teruya requested be compiled for him broached a broad variety of topics, pushing the workload beyond what Elizabeth alone could handle, so a lot of other maids and officials were drafted in to help. After all, this was a world with no computers or Internet, and everything had to be done by hand.
Say, for example, that you wanted to create a graph. In Teruya’s world you would just find one on the Web, or set it up based on an Excel table, taking you minutes at most. In this world, you would have to go to the library to write down the required information, then draw the thing by hand, and even potentially scale everything by hand when large numbers were involved. And because it was all done by hand, it took time.
Therefore many people had to be mobilised to fulfill Teruya’s requests. None of them complained though. Teruya’s instructions were accurate, to the point, and resulted in splendidly useful collections of data that some of the government officials decided to reference in their own work.
Teruya would come and go from the castle for two months straight. Then, his last inspection done, he shut himself inside his own chambers.
He would eventually emerge half a month later, with sunken cheeks, dark circles around his eyes shining with feverish excitement, and generally looking like a wraith. The first words people would hear him say were:
“It is done!”
It is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation, used as fuel in some parts of the world.
Black coal or Bituminous coal is a relatively soft variant of coal containing a tar-like substance called bitumen or asphalt. And despite what the author claims in the novel, it is not as highly coveted as it is of poorer quality than its distant cousin, hard coal or Anthracite. And while we’re on the case, these cannot be found on the surface, nor can you mine them through open-pit mining, as they’re found deep underground.