Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 404
Four months had passed since the assassination. Port Vebator had been conquered and General Bolonik was on the way back with the royal guard folk. They left two combat lines from 1st and 2nd Monolith to guard the port against ocean-borne threats. Security on land would be handled by Thundercrash's light-cavalry line.
The capital's representatives had been in Lanu for half a month now and the investigation was more or less finished. All they had to do was wait for Bolonik, Eiblont, and the royal guards to return to close the incident for good and return to the kingdom.
Claude could already get out of bed, but he couldn't walk around yet. His broken legs wouldn't heal that quickly. Gum, on the other hand, had completely recovered and was as strong as a bull. It took him only a month or so in bed to recover. Per Claude's request, Gum somehow managed to get him a wheelchair and pushed him around the manor to get some sun.
But today, he sat in his wheelchair with a wool cloth covering his legs and was attending to some guests near the treillage of the manor. "Now, you've understood how I came up with the revolver. Without the help of Master Boyd and his daughter, I never would've been able to produce it in two short months.
"Honestly, I only carry it around because I wanted to test it out on the battlefield during the deployment, so I only had Madam Sonia make two for me and my guard. After all, I'm a lieutenant-general, so I can't exactly lead the charge, so I was prepared to let my huge guard here test the revolver out in actual battle.
"I didn't think that as I was heading to participate in the pre-battle ceremony, I would experience an attempt on my life by the magi. While my magic barrier managed to block off three enemy attacks and I managed to kill the magi with my revolver, it was a fluke to say the least. Thankfully, the revolver didn't misfire and the cartridges didn't go off on their own.
"I didn't hide anything about the revolver's design. I'm sure after all this time, you understand that the largest problem with the revolver is its bullets. Using a flint ignition method results in a high rate of misfire, but using nitroglycerin as the primer is highly unstable and the bullets will go off without being properly fired. So, I could only ask Madam Sonia to passivise the nitroglycerin explosive by adding some beeswax into it. However, the same problem with misfires came back after that."
Claude knew that the ambassadors, all members of old nobility, didn't come visit him out of the goodness of their hearts. They had their eyes on that revolver. After all, it was the only gun in existence that went against 'modern' conventions of firing as far as possible. Instead, it didn't rely on slow matches and could fire brass cartridges in rapid succession. It represented a complete paradigm shift.
Even though he was already a lieutenant-general, he understood that he was no match for members of the old nobility. They had monopolised the whole military-industrial complex of the kingdom to the point that the royal family had to work with the new merchant nobility to start new factories in the new prefectures they conquered. But as there were many complications in their relations with the military, they still weren't able to produce things on a large scale.
Anyone with some understanding of firearms would know that the revolver Claude had invented was a mature and tested design. There was no concept of intellectual property in this world, so Claude believed that the revolver he handed in as evidence in the reports had been disassembled and copied a number of times by those in the ambassador band. They probably had a few fakes made, to say nothing of copies of the blueprints.
However, the crucial component of it all wasn't the gun, but rather, the cartridges, and the key to them was the primer. As he handed his revolver in, he decided to keep the ignition powder Sonia invented a secret. That is the biggest secret ingredient he used to take the place of mercury fulminate. He also had to ensure that his sister's identity as a magus a secret, choosing instead to credit Liboyd and Sonia for all the magical expertise. The two of them were, after all, registered rune magi with the kingdom apart from being gunsmiths.
Manufacturing the revolvers themselves was still rather simple, but the cartridges had to be assembled using an array. Claude had Angelina hurriedly make some nitroglycerin mixed with beeswax and used them as primer for the cartridges. While it could still fire using the firing hammer, there was a significantly higher rate of misfire. The unstable nitroglycerin could also cause unwanted firings.
Claude pointed at the few bullet cartridges on the tea table and said, "I'm sure you all know the problem with these revolvers now, right? What's troubling me is I'm still unable to mass produce these brass cartridges with machines. The bullets I used with my revolver were made entirely with Madam Sonia's own alchemical array as the nitroglycerin had to be stabilised with beeswax.
"But I can't really have her make bullets for me using her array all day long. Anyone would get sick of doing the same mundane task over and over again. That's why she charged me a thale for each bullet, and I had no choice but to agree. As a result, the revolver I invented can only be used as gifts or defensive weapons for a small number of the rich. It can't be deployed en masse, which is a major regret for me.
"I would be more than willing to give all of you the rights to produce them. However, I hope you can use your rich experience to continue improving upon my design and continue to lower the misfires. While I am the inventor, I'm still a rookie when it comes to the intricacies of industrial manufacturing. The only thing I do better than the rest of you is having better luck to come up with a pitiful excuse of a concept Master Boyd deemed worth helping me realise."
The listeners broke into applause. A white-haired ambassador smiled to him and said, "Lord General, you are far too humble. What you call a pitiful concept actually added a new page to the history of Freian firearms. The invention of the revolver has paved a completely new path for short-barreled guns. I believe it is a crucial weapon all people of importance must have for self-defence.
"As the representative of the five military industrial complexes, we are really thankful for your confidence in us in allowing us to produce and sell the weapon you invented. We hereby promise we won't let your hopes down. We will definitely gather our funding and most talented people to experiment and improve upon this design in hopes of being able to correct its instabilities. One day, we will make sure your amazing self-defence weapon gets spread throughout the whole continent."
Claude was quite happy with the praise. He had excitedly explored how the revolver might be developed in the future with them. For instance, he had wanted to apply the same revolving wheel for longer muskets and have them use brass cartridges as well. In Liboyd's experiments, while that was indeed possible, the firing range was quite short at fewer than 200 metres. Claude, however, believed it to be a great addition to hunting. It would work wonders against wild beasts that charged at the hunter.
They had a good chat all the way till evening before the guests had to leave. Claude apologised for not being able to host a banquet for them due to their injuries. Fortunately, the guests didn't mind since they got what they came for. There was no need to lengthen their stay unnecessarily.
Seeing one carriage after another leave the manor, Claude sat back in his wheelchair and breathed a sigh of relief, all the while waving and sending them off with a smile. Finally, those dimwits had gone. While he gave them the rights to make the revolvers, he kept the key secret of the ignition powder to himself.
"Claude, why did you give them the rights to make the revolvers?" Bloweyk had appeared behind him before he noticed.
Not turning back, he sighed and said, "They'll make fakes of them even if I don't hand it over. Blowk, you're grown up now and you should understand that those on the top of this world are far more powerful than we are. Had I not been a lieutenant-general, they wouldn't even bother to be so courteous with me and give me 50 thousand crowns for the rights to make the revolvers.
"If a normal person invented this, I doubt it'd be any good fortune at all. He and his family would no longer have any freedom in the future to speak of in the future. My status as a lieutenant-general of the kingdom and corpsman of Thundercrash, however, managed to protect me, you, Mother, Anna, Kefnie and the children from any undue harassment. Otherwise, they wouldn't let us off so easily just by paying us a small sum.
"Even if I don't give them the rights to make revolvers now, what can I do if the five military industry giants start making them? Sue them? If I offend them, they can take all we have. This assassination incident made me understand that true power is actually held in the hands of the bigwigs in the royal capital. It's only thanks to having their favour and acknowledgement that we managed to keep our position and possessions now."
Bloweyk merely humphed with dissatisfaction.
Claude chucked. "What? Dissatisfied? You think that I don't have to be polite to these ambassadors just because I'm the corpsman of Thundercrash, right? Sigh, Blowk, we have no choice but to lower our heads while living under the roof of others. You must understand that Thundercrash isn't a main corps of the kingdom, nor is it a standing corps. It definitely isn't House Ferd's private army. We're merely designated as an irregular corps in the colonies.
"With a single word from the ministry of the army, I can easily be relieved from my position as a corpsman. While I have great repute among the officers of the corps, they won't go into mutiny for my sake. Now that we've conquered Port Vebator, the war in the colonies has come to an end. Whether I'll be kept as corpsman will depend on what the bigwigs have in mind.
"I curried favour with the ambassadors because of the families and factions they represent, and I gave them the rights to produce the revolvers in hopes that they won't have anything to say against me keeping my post as corpsman. Perhaps they'll put in a good word for me thanks to my cooperation.
"You must know that I currently have nothing but my position as corpsman and rank as lieutenant-general. While the kingdom has many generals, there are only tens of corpsmen. This is one of the main cornerstones of our family. As for my honorary viscount Title, it's nothing but a decoration. It can't actually be passed down and can't strengthen our family by any means.
"With the war here ending, we can't even be certain they'll keep the war theatre intact. The fates of Thundercrash, the Monolith folks and the other generals here all lie with the royal capital. So, humbling ourselves before they decide on our futures is only natural. If you want true freedom without being pushed around by anyone, you'll have to wait until we're as powerful as them first."
The carriages gradually disappeared into the distance.
"Push me back indoors."
Gum had wanted to turn the wheelchair around, but Bloweyk stopped him. "Let me do it."
He pushed the wheelchair back with Gum following beside.
Claude thought about something and said to his brother, "Blowk, it's better if you head back with the ambassador band. Check on our mansion in Whitestag and our wood. Anna has always regretted not bringing our snowhound, Pluto, along with us. Now that Myjack made her a farmstead, we can bring Pluto here to keep her company."
Since his family moved to Nubissia, the mansion was left in the hands of Uncle Pegg, their guard. As for the wood out of the city, it was barren and a few young trees had been planted there. It was currently in the care of Borkal's father, Rublier.
Pegg also had the task of looking after the snowhound. The reason it was left behind was Madam Ferd didn't think they'd be leaving home for so long and feared taking their pet along would be a tad bit inconvenient. Who knew they'd stay for a year or two in Nubissia and not think of returning. The only thing they missed in Whitestag was Pluto.
Bloweyk had planned to return to the mainland and had made arrangements for a half-year-long family visit. He was now a second lieutenant and would return to his hometown with honours. The reason he was heading back was to formally take over as the head of the Ferd household and deal with the matters of property and taxes. Additionally, Angelina had borrowed a loan of six thousand crowns from the national bank in Whitestag to buy the wood. The term of the loan was more or less over, and Bloweyk didn't lack the funds either, so he was prepared to pay it back.
"You can leave the minor matters of the household to Butler Alek. Stay in Whitestag for a few days and visit all our family and our father's friends during that time. When everything there is done, visit the orphaned children of your comrades with Butler Alek. Trust, me, the locals will prioritise a visit from a viscount's butler much more than a second lieutenant of the kingdom. If anything troublesome occurs, it'll be much simpler to deal with..." Claude nagged on.
Feeling annoyed, Bloweyk said, "Claude, I'm grown up now and no longer a child. I've heard you say this some days ago and now you're repeating it again. The ambassador band is only returning in half a month. Are you going to nag me once every two days until then?"