Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 13
"I want Gally Mark 3 balls and gunpowder, and some for my father's short-barrelled pistol," Eriksson answered.
Welikro's father, Kubrik, had served in the military for 15 years before retiring as a dignitarian, so he could carry a firearm legally. He had used the Gally Mark 3 and had kept it when he retired.
"A Gally Mark 3 matchlock, huh? That's an old one. It uses number two balls and number one dry gunpowder. Your father's short-barrelled pistol uses small number seven pellets and gunpowder mixed with egg white powder. How much do you want?"
"Where's our shopping list, Boa?" Eriksson asked.
Claude had yet to see the guns of this world, so he was rather curious.
"Eyke, aren't the balls and gunpowder standardised? Why are there different numbers?"
"The barrels of different guns have different diameters, so they need different size balls. As the bullets get smaller or bigger the gunpowder needed changes as well. Small guns and shipboard cannons mix their gunpowder with egg white powder so they can fire even in humid conditions," Welikro chimed.
He was the firearms expert in the group since he'd already been taught how to use a gun when he was eleven.
"Alright, leave the shopping to Boa. Let's go look at those shelves over there. Those things are mostly brought here by sailors. I remember seeing a black wooden mask I thought would make a wonderful decoration on my wall. A shame I didn't have enough money. I came back a few days later, but it was already sold," Eriksson said, disappointment flashing across his face.
The wooden shelves were messy. Wooden bowls, porcelain containers, stone sculptures, bracelets, even daggers, decorated their tops in haphazard clumps and bunches. Claude even saw a bronze helmet next to a one-horned cow figure made of woven rattan. Was it... a toy? There was also an oddly shaped obsidian axe. Who knew where its seller got it.
The pirate figures were pretty decent. Maybe the sailors carved them while out at sea out of boredom. Claude decided to ask how much they cost and to get them for his little puffball if they weren't too much. His thoughts were cut short, however, when someone else caught his eye.
The bottom shelf in front of him had a black book. Its dark cover appeared leathery. He touched it gently to confirm his suspicion. It was covered in a thick layer of dust.
Was it really a book? Books shouldn't be so thin... There were only a couple dozen pages at most. That said, they were thick, most likely made of leather as well...
Claude couldn't tear his eyes away from the book. He slipped his fingers under it, and, wiping the dust off, picked it up. Despite its size, it was heavy. He opened it slowly.
Three potatoes... Ugh, the lighting was bad. The wooden shelves blocked most of it. He didn't feel like moving and his gaze lost focus. He suddenly dropped the book.
"What's going on? What happened?" Eriksson asked as he darted over.
Welikro also turned around.
"You alright?" he asked.
Claude shook his head slightly and tried to subdue his panic.
"I'm fine. I wanted to pick this up, but it was heavier than I expected."
Picking up the book he dropped, Claude brought it to the window and flipped it open again. He opened it slowly, like its leather wouldn't bend.
Faint, black words covered the aged, yellowing pages. The tadpole-like characters had blurred as the ink had bled over the years, but most was still legible.
Three potatoes, steamed halfway, skin removed, mash them. Add two eggs, spring onion and ground vegetables, flour, and water. Add salt and stir until it turns to paste. Press it flat and round and grill in an oiled pan until it turns golden. Season to taste...
Was... was this a cookbook? Wait, what about what he'd seen for a moment?
Claude quickly flipped to the pages at the back. No, just a plain cookbook. It had 17 recipes, each recorded on a each page. They ranged from things like fried green carp, baked onion mutton ribs, steamed mutton meatballs, to pizzas and even fried chicken.
Claude weighed the book in his hands and felt like laughing. It had to be a restaurant's cookbook. It had 17 dishes beyond even Claude's family's financial means despite their lofty position in the town. They had mutton or beef steak from time to time, but simple meat slices and vegetables were as far as their diet went.
Then again, the restaurant must've spent a lot on the book. They even used beastskin for the pages. Claude's textbooks and the books sold in the town's bookshops were mostly made of cheap papyrus. A few books with leather covers appeared a couple of times a year, but they were rare and expensive.
But what about what he saw? He could have sworn the pages had caught fire in his hands. He saw, through the flames, a snow white page covered in text written in dark blue ink. Had he hallucinated?
He checked the cookbook again, but noticed nothing. Maybe he had really hallucinated... Just as he was about to put the book back on the shelf, he stopped.
He saw it in the bad lighting when he tried to focus more intently. Maybe that was somehow a condition for him to see it?
He opened the book again and focused on its pages intensely. A few pregnant moments passed before the pages changed like before. The two pages in view blanched as their text faded and row after row of dark blue ink surfaced, almost like water staining the paper.
The characters were nothing like the tadpoles he knew. Though they were also rhombus-shaped, each consisted of many strokes, like a complicated musical chord. Ancient Hez.
Middle-school students were expected to learn Jimil and Leishart in school, both of which were also descended from Hez, so they were taught a few things about the ancient language. That said, they were taught only the bare minimum.
The reason Claude could even recognise the characters was thanks to his half a year of non-stop study. He couldn't actually read the script, however. Both the script and the language was foreign to him.
Hebrai's diction was primarily purely Hezian, though the pronunciations and morphology of the words was much simplified. The writing was also analogous to Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Hezian characters and modern scripts were based on the same fundamentals, but the modern scripts lacked most of the constituent parts essential to Hez. Claude could, here and there, guess at the meaning of one or two of the characters by picking out bits of them he understood, but all of the subtleties carried in the rest of the characters were lost to him. He couldn't even tell if the bits he recognised were the primary bits of the characters, or peripheral modifiers.
Arrive... Tavern... Lunch... Menu... Ask... Purchase... Magic…
The meanings, or modifiers, came to him laboriously.
Magic? This... this was a magical cookbook?! If it were true, this would be the first time in the six months since his reincarnation that he'd come across a magic item.
Until now, he'd only known of their existence, but never seen one. He could only count on his former occupant's memories. They told him magic did indeed exist, or at least, everyone sincerely believed it did, but it was a severe, the ultimate in fact, taboo.
Death was all that awaited those that dabbled in its study. Death, or a life of hiding.
Claude didn't know why everyone was so afraid of magic, but it did nothing to stifle his curiosity, if anything, it only amplified it. Now, more than ever, certainly, that he had an item related to it in his hands. He was somewhat disappointed that his first such encounter should be with a… cookbook.
"What are you looking at?" Eriksson asked, appearing beside Claude out of nowhere.
"A cookbook?" the boy asked, peeking over Claude's shoulder, "Three potatoes, steamed halfway, skin removed, mash them. Haha, so you were reading a cookbook! Why would you read it so intensely you wouldn't hear me calling you? You want to eat potato biscuits?"
"... Can you see these blue words?" Claude asked.
He caught himself and quickly changed his tune.
"Ah, nothing. My mind wandered."
Eriksson had heard him, however, and his interest was piqued as well.
"Blue words? What blue words? Aren't they all black? Let me have a look."
He snatched the book out of Claude's hands before he could do anything and flipped through it just as quickly.
"I don't see any blue words. That said, it's not half bad. Red-wine simmered smoked goose-drumsticks... I should have my mom make it for me."
"No, try to focus hard. See any blue words appearing?" Claude asked.
Eriksson glared at the book, but nothing happened and he soon gave up.
"I don't see any blue words. My eyes are tired. Still nothing. Wait a bit, let me take it to the window and see if the pages are see through."
That, too, didn't work and Eriksson soon plopped the book on the table.
"It's heavy, something's odd for sure, but no blue words."
Claude nodded thoughtfully. Perhaps his mental power was unlike others' and that was why he could see it? He already had quite a bit better hearing than others and could imagine things quite a bit better as well. He could even, at times, imagine a scene based on what he heard. Perhaps it was part of his mental strength?
"Maybe the light hit the pages in a way that made the words seem blue," Claude said, trying to hide his blunder away.
He focused right in front of Eriksson this time, but again the words and ivory pages appeared. He stopped the moment he saw the changes, however, afraid Eriksson would notice, but the boy stared at him incredulously.
"I want to buy it. Can you ask how much it costs?"
"You want to buy it?" Eriksson asked, somewhat surprised.
"Mother's birthday is around the corner. This will make a good gift. You know I can't afford expensive things. That's Dad's area. I might just be able to afford this. Plus I'll get great food if she makes these recipes."
"Good idea. But are you sure you want to buy it? We can just copy it. I'm sure Uncle Wakri won't mind."
Claude shook his head.
"Didn't you just say the book felt heavy? It feels really luxurious too. I can tell my mom it was passed down some royal family for several generations or something. It'll certainly be better than giving her copied recipes."
"Fine. I'll ask." Eriksson said as he took the book.
"Oh, and these four figures and that silver hairpin too. I want to buy them for my little brother and sister. I'll take them and ask for the price with you. Can I borrow some money from you guys if I don't have enough? I'll pay you back."
"You're a good older brother, huh?" Eriksson praised.