Chapter 301 Bomb and Wine
The day after the witches from Sleeping Island moved into their new home, Roland called City Hall Premier Minister Barov to his office.
“I want you to issue another recruitment notice,” Roland said, while he pushed the first draft of details in front of Barov, “A week long temporary job for about ten people, preferably women.”
Barov picked up the paper, read it again before asking. “Your Highness, excuse me… what is starch?”
“Do you know about wheat flour?”
The Premier minister hesitated, “Are you referring to coarse powder or fine powder? Wheat grains, after grinding, can be baked into bread or wheat cake. And if instead of using it you go a step further and filter out the bran, you get a fine powder. The output of the latter is only 6 / 10 of the former, and bread baked with it is softer, but its price is also very high, so only powerful aristocratic families are able to afford it.”
The thing Roland liked the most about Barov, was that he had a comprehensive understanding concerning goods from all categories. Food shortage as a result of the lagging agriculture could mean something completely different depending on the consumer’s social class. For example, with the frequently seen wheat, civilians would often put the wheat grains directly into their pot and cook congee, this way making the most out of their limited food. However, sometimes wheat shells and sand would also land in the boiling pot which results in crackling sounds and cause tooth pains whenever they ate.
Small aristocrats paid particular attention to this and would order people to sieve the sand and stones out of the wheat grain. Then they would grind it into a coarse powder, and bake it into bread or pancake before eating.
And at the top of the hierarchy, the wealthy families and powerful aristocrats, who didn’t look at food as a mere way to fill their stomachs, but rather, as something to be enjoyed. The wheat would be further sieved in the kitchen, removing the bran, to get fine white powder. The resulting baked bread was of yellowish cream color and when eaten not only tasted exquisite but also had a much sweeter flavor.
“The basis of starch is a fine powder which then goes through another purifying process,” Roland explained. “After you hire the people, I’ll send someone who will instruct them on what exactly we need them to do.”
“Then, continue to process?” Barov couldn’t stop himself shouting out loud in shock, “How much wheat will they be needing for this?”
“I do not need too much, only three or four hundred kilograms …” Roland paused, before opening his mouth again, “Fill up a basket that is about the size of my table.”
Barov nodded and asked further, “Why do they need to be woman?”
“Because they will do things more carefully. Moreover, I want to see more woman following the path of a worker, instead of being idle at home,” Roland, suddenly had an idea, so he asked, “At present, it seems that the education of Border Town’s women’s classes are progressing more quickly, right?
“Although the head of the Ministry of Education is Lady Scroll, the situation is indeed like this. They can’t do much more than taking care of the children and do housework, so they spend most of their time increasing their reading and writing skills.”
“That being the case, I request that after the next round of examination, you will take the lead for the City Hall and recruit a batch of female apprentice, in that way gradually expanding the proportion of women posts,” Roland commanded.
“Your Highness, this… there is no precedent for it,” Barov complained. “If they only have to be careful, my apprentice aren’t worse than any woman.”
“If there is no precedent we have to create one,” Roland bluntly said. “This is also the easiest and quickest way to increase the labor force without expanding the total population. If all woman can take on a small task in building Border Town, my available staff will double. The only thing I’m asking you to do is to lead people to change their view. As long as the pay is attractive, I think they should come over on their own one by one.”
After Barov retired, Roland heard Nightingale’s laughter next to his ear, followed by her asking a question, “What kind of delicious thing are you planning to make this time?”
“Starch? It’s not something you can eat,” Roland said, after taking a mouthful of tea, “Even though you can indeed get some pretty good food from the leftover materials after processing.”
First soak fine wheat flour in water, then rub and scrub it until the water had entirely blanched, then move on to another water basin and continue. In the end, it will become a sticky mass known as gluten. The gluten can be used for deep-fry or stir-fry and has a texture which is both pliable and tough. When smeared with honey or sprinkled with flavoring after leaving the pot, all in all, it made for a very delicious meal.
But Roland’s focus was not on food.
By sifting and afterward letting the milky white water stand still, it would form a precipitation which was precisely the starch he was looking for, and was also a main ingredient used in manufacturing explosives.
Since the experiments with nitroglycerin hadn’t started yet, there was no possibility that he would have access to TNT, so nitrostarch was his most immediate opportunity for making powerful explosives, it also shared the same manufacturing process as nitrocellulose. The finished product had a low sensitivity, and couldn’t be ignited by an open fire, instead, one needed to use a fuse for it to detonate. Furthermore, it was more powerful than TNT and had thus been widely used as a substitute for it during the two world wars.
With highly pure starch, the alchemic apprentices who already knew the manufacturing process for nitrocellulose by heart should also be able to quickly prepare a batch of nitrostarch.
After lunch, just as Roland was planning to go back to his room to take a nap, he suddenly heard someone knocking on his door.
Nine out of ten times it was Anna who would come to find him at this hour. So when he heard the knocking sound, his heartbeat immediately began to dance. Can it be, after falling asleep last time because of her exhausted, she decided to come over at noon?
However, the door creaked as it was pushed open, and Roland started when he saw Evelyn standing outside.
This… now, isn’t what I’ve been expecting at all. He coughed twice, then showed a reassuring smile as he asked, “What’s the matter?”
Hearing his question, Evelyn entered the room, and walked over to the edge of the table and bowed down in salute, all in all she seemed a bit nervous, “Your Highness, I would like to ask you a question.”
Don’t tell me it is going to be the same question again, ‘Why are you so kind to us witches’? However, in accordance with treating them like comrades, it was important to be as warm as the spring wind, so he smiled and said, “What question do you want to ask?”
“You… why did you want me to come to Border Town?”
For a moment Roland was slightly surprised, can it be that she doesn’t like the taste of the wine?
“My kind of ability isn’t only inferior to Sylvie’s; it is practically at the same level as Lotus and Honey’s,” she whispered. “It’s just wine tasting. However, a monthly salary of one gold royals is already enough for you to hire a specialized Wine Brewer from King’s City.”
“What are your thoughts about those… wines?”
“At first I thought they burned too much, only by slowly drinking them was I able to accept them. As for those three wines mixed with ice cubes, fruit juice, and syrup, their taste is richer. But that is merely my personal opinion,” Evelyn replied cautiously. “My family’s pub only sold cheaply-priced wines and diluted ales, the aristocracy’s tendencies …I do not know anything about that.”
As it turns out she isn’t questioning the wine, the Prince breathed out in relief. He got up and opened the bookcase, then took out a jar of ale from the top and put it in front of Evelyn with the question, “Can you turn this jar of ale into the wine I brewed?”
“I think… that shouldn’t be a problem.” She stretched out her hand, and held it above the jar, a moment later the yellow ale began to change. In the wake of the rising bubbles, the ale became more and more clear, until it finally turned as crystal clear as plain boiled water; yet Roland could already smell its strong alcoholic fragrance. Unable to stop himself, he dipped his finger in a little, then put it into his mouth. It tasted bitter and burning at the same time, this was the taste of highly purified alcohol.
Roland couldn’t help but begin to laugh, while saying, “That’s the reason I picked you.”
Looking at the puzzled Evelyn, he patted her hand and explained, “I’m going to set up an alcohol factory… No, a brewery. Would you like to be the chief winemaker?”