Chapter 283 Hydrogen Balloon delivery
On the third day after the start of fall, the fleet from Margaret’s Chamber of Commerce docked at Border Town’s pier.
This time, the size of the fleet had already returned to the scale of the past, ten sailboats laid in a row, firmly docked at the side of the pier.
“Most Honorable Prince, we meet once again,” Gammon the merchant from the Crescent Moon Bay said while he bowed in greeting, “According to Miss Margaret, the transformation of the first steam powered ship has been completed.”
“That’s true,” Roland acknowledged laughingly, “However, in order to ensure the quality of the goods, it is still required to go through a three to four days sea trial. So that we can test its reliability and power of the system.”
“I am really looking forward to seeing it in action,” Margaret said while happily clapping her hands. “That’s about the time we will have to wait for the fleet to unload anyway, so we will stay here and wait for it. May I ask if it is possible to go about and look around during the sea trial?”
“Of course. It is, after all, an entirely new kind of ship. Its handling is completely different from any sailboat in the past, so I will have to show you how to operate it anyway. However, according to the schedule, this will only happen tomorrow.” Roland gave them the signal to follow and said, “For now the most important matter is for you to relax your tired bodies, have you had any lunch yet? I have a sumptuous banquet prepared in the castle hall.”
“Every time we come to visit you here, there is a very satisfying meal for us to enjoy,” Margaret covered her smile and confessed, “By now I am really hungry, and my stomach is already crying out loud – those wheat cakes and pieces of dried meat are as hard as stones, and also very difficult to swallow.”
During this era, there was still not any reliable food preserving technology, therefore, if it was called ‘dry food’ it would be very dry and hard. Which inevitably had made Roland think of canned food. When the light industry was fully developed, manufacturing all kinds of delicious and convenient canned food which was suitable for long-distance traveling and sailing merchants would absolutely be the best choice.
When the feast came to an end, Hogg patted his belly with a satisfied smile on his face and said, “This bowl of mushroom soup made me unable to stop my tongue from swallowing. I also seemed to have tasted some seafood, it also had the flavor of stewed chicken and pig bones, the skills of your court chef is truly quite excellent.”
“I much prefer the dessert that was served after the dinner, which is called ice cream… correct?” Margaret said. “I’m guessing that you made it out of milk and honey, then froze it using saltpeter into its current state of crystalline ice.”
“You also have to add some butter and egg white. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get the soft and waxy texture,” Roland added, “How much saltpeter is there this time?”
“Still only one vessel,” the business woman shook her head. “The Alchemist Association is still wantonly purchasing saltpeter; the Imperial Prime Minister even sent out the patrol to help plunder the saltpeter fields. Even though that group is carrying the mighty name of sage; there is still no difference between them, and a gang of robbers, this one ship of saltpeter also came from Redwater City.”
“So, this month’s goods are for the largest part washing stones?”
“That’s right,” Hogg drained the cup of white spirit in one gulp and then poured himself another before saying, “Although the amount may be a little too much this time, it is still deeply engraved within my heart, that you told me to get as many as possible last time. In addition to washing stones, there are also the best iron ingots and lead ingots. Recently, apart from you here, there are very few cities and towns which need this stuff,” he sighed, ”The mining business is getting worse and worse.”
This is the effect brought on by the civil war, Roland thought to himself, the purchasing power is progressively declining in all parts of the country. In case that this continues for the next two to three years, the food price will go up tremendous and there will be starving people everywhere.
“Oh, that’s right, what kind of problems have recently occurred in the Western Territory?” Margaret suddenly asked.
“When the fleet was on its way to Border Town, we met a lot of… well,” she paused for a moment, considering the words she should use, “a lot of ‘floating corpses’. They were dressed in rags and were mushy from rotting. Furthermore, there were so many of them floating that they covered the whole river channel from one side to the other. Apart from the corpse, there were also some broken planks and ropes that were floating on the water surface. It looked as if a ship had hit a reef, sunk, and thus ceased to exist. However, there is no reef in the river, so I thought…”
“Well, those were the remains of Timothy’s fleet which he used to try and invade the Western Territory with,” Roland put on a look of indignation, and told the story of the fight a week ago. “They have gotten the punishment they deserved.”
In order to avoid blocking the ship channel and spreading a contagious plague, he had transferred Anna and Lily from Border Town, after cleaning the battlefield. One was responsible for burning all the remains of the ships, while the other was responsible for purifying the water. But since Margaret still saw the floating corpses, she mustn’t have been far away from the actual fight to have passed the place so soon after the end of the battle.
“So that’s the reason,” the merchant said with a smile. “It seems as if Timothy has hit a wall on both sides.”
“On both sides?”
“There was also Garcia’s Port of Clear Water – the latest news I received was that the looters who attacked the cities of the Eastern Territory were actually Garcia’s men. After looting everything from the Sea Wind Region and Valencia, the Black Sail Fleet went further North along the coastline instead of returning to the harbor, who knows where she finally landed.”
“North…” Roland asked in surprise, “Did she leave Graycastle?”
“For now that seems to be the case. Timothy’s troops have already thrown themselves against an already evacuated Port of Clear Water which left it as a ghost city.” Margaret stated, “There were a lot of rats within the force he brought along, so that’s why all of these are well-known secrets within the streets. No matter what, you are the only thorn left remaining in his side, thus in the future, it is quite possible that his attempts to invade the Western Territory will become even more and more frequent.”
“If you ever want to leave Graycastle, Crescent Half-Moon Bay will welcome you at any time,” Marlan offered.
“That’s right,” Gammon agreed while patting his chest, “The island is sufficient enough to contain ten Border Towns, and we are even willing to provide for you and your people free of charge.”
You merely want me to hand over the technology for the steam engine and steam paddler, right? Roland rolled his eyes in his mind, even if I couldn’t stay in Graycastle any longer, the first person I would seek shelter from would be Tilly Wimbledon. On the surface however, he still smiled and replied, “Alright, if such a day ever comes about.”
“Oh, by the way,” He turned towards Margaret, “Last time you placed an order for the investigation balloon; I’ve already succeed to fabricate two.”
“So fast?” The latter was pleasantly surprised, “Can you take me to see it?”
“Of course, please, come with me,” Roland said and then got up to leave.
Arriving at the castle backyard, they saw an already completely inflated hydrogen balloon.
The balloon had a waterdrop-like shape, it was wide at the top, and narrow at the bottom. It had a diameter of five meters at the top, and in accordance with the size of the test sample, it could carry one grown man and lift off. The air sac and ropes were coated with a sky like camouflage, so if that were paired with the observer also wearing camouflage, it would reduce the chance of it being detected to the minimum.
“It doesn’t seem to be the same as the balloon we rode on last time, right?” Margaret carefully sized up the new product.
“That’s because you can use it even without witches,” Roland cleared his throat and then began to introduce how to use the investigation balloon. “At the end of the air sac is a movable valve, through which gas can enter and come out of – it is precisely this alchemical gas filling which allows the balloon rise up and fly. The inflation method is very simple, as long as the matching hose and gas tank are connected, you merely have to open the valve on both ends.” After finishing the verbal exploration, he went through the demonstration of the deflation and inflation process in front of everyone.
“How many bottles are needed to fill a balloon?” Margaret quickly caught the key point.
“Five bottles or six bottles…” This question made Roland slightly embarrassed, “Definitely no more than seven bottles.” The main reason for the variation laid in the problem, that the density of the diluted sulfuric acid -which was necessary to produce hydrogen in the bottle- is hard to control. It would be a waste of valuable human resources to first purify the sulfuric acid to 98% only to later dilute it with water again.
“Is this alchemical gas very expensive?”
“It is indeed. It is also hard to conserve and full of dangers… That is, when it is carelessly handled,” Roland coughed twice, “Therefore, you can only store the gas tanks for a year at most, and it should neither be knocked over, disassembled or burned. Otherwise, it could have serious consequences.” He paused for a moment to let his words settle. Then continued, “Although the price is somewhat expensive, rest assured. When purchasing the investigation balloon for the first time, the first batch of gas tanks ordered from Border Town will be free of charge. In addition, you can also get an extra set of sky camouflaged investigator clothes.”