Four days had already passed since the witches, and the First Army had set off, according to the plan, they should arrive at the outskirts of Silver City by tomorrow afternoon.
Equipped with Honey's flying messengers, Roland received letters sent by the team every day; the letters were from Iron Axe, Anna, and Nightingale. Even though they weren't as fast as mobile phones, it was basically the same as a wireless telegraphing. In case there were several winged messengers on the same road, and if there existed birds who would always go to and from the same two places, it might have the same effect as text messaging.
In the absence of Nightingale, the Chief Knight took over the responsibility of defending the castle. However, Roland couldn't understand why Carter always wore a happy expression these days; it seems like he's encountered something especially pleasing these past few days. Could it be, that returning to his former task and acting as my personal guard is something that's worth being so happy about?
He shook his head and focused his attention back on the report from his Minister of Construction, Karl van Bate.
With the help of the witches from Sleeping Island, Border Town's construction projects were progressing at an amazingly rapid pace these past few months.
First, there was the steel bridge across the Redwater River which had been successfully completed - compared to the traditional stone bridges and wooden bridges, the structure of the steel bridge had been made in advance, only afterwards had it been hoisted into place. The two floating islands Lotus had raised within the river course had further simplified the former difficult task and also shortened the time needed to construct the main bridge to an amazing one month's time.
Although, when one looked at it with eyes of a person in the future, the bridge did indeed seem short and narrow, and the architecture simple and crude, the theoretical capacity very low, turning it into a project which was purely a waste of material, but within this era it could be regarded as a magnificent super bridge. Its total length carrying on for more than 100 meters, the bridge's surface was smooth and offered enough space for two carriages to move side by side. Furthermore, even its lowest part still met the requirements to let an up-river sailboat pass through, something which a cumbersome stone bridge could never accomplish.
Secondly, Lotus had also completed the construction of the new city wall. Those walls, made purely out of earth, had increased the town's area by more than two times. If they'd been placed in a modern area, the original town would be considered the veritable "inner city"; Roland however, was more inclined towards the two-ring system. Perhaps someday in the future this place could expand into a giant city which even had seven rings, and could then be formally crowned as the imperial capital.
Lastly, regarding the construction of the Kingdom Avenue, Lotus had already leveled out some of the Impassable Mountain Range's extensions, so now the road could go straight through instead of going around which had thus significantly reduced the overall length of the journey.
"Your Highness, what do you want Lotus to construct next?" Karl asked after he reported on the progress.
Roland was able to tell that he was brimming with admiration for her ability to transform the terrain, because, not only had he proposed that she be integrated into the Ministry of Construction, he'd even put forth a request to appoint her as the vice minister.
"Well…" Roland was also already thinking about this question. There were three major construction projects he wanted to implement next.
The first was the sea port project: Looking for small openings in the southern mountain ridge before caving in a path to the beach was a task he would have to rely on Lotus to achieve. Once they completed the transformation, the Western Territory would gain access to a seaward harbor.
The second project was the residential expansion: Although City Hall had invested a lot of the workforce and financial resources to step up the construction of residential quarters, with winter soon to approach, by now there were nearly three thousand people who would be unable to live in a warm brick house. Nowadays, erecting wooden sheds and simple shelters simply couldn't meet the requirements to resist the cold, so they needed a group of cave rooms with thick walls and kangs if they wanted to solve this problem.
The third point was to set up a dock: If he wanted to produce shallow water gunboats, he first had to arrange for a large dock, which at the same time would also affect the passage of the Redwater River. Roland intended to reduce the height of the riverbank on the western side of Border Town, to form a dry dock and install a lift gate at the side of the Redwater River so that they can control the water intake and runoff. The scale of the necessary earthwork was immense, and he would also have to rely on Lotus' ability to complete it.
After considering for a moment, he finally decided to place the residential expansion as the first priority. Since they had invited the refugees from the Eastern Region to Border Town, they were going to have to take responsibility and provide them with the basic necessities of life. If they were to freeze or starved to death, then, not only would it be a loss for the Western Territory, but it would also reduce the people's attachment toward this place.
"So where is the place we should build the temporary residences?" Karl asked.
"The best place would be at the place of the current serf shantytown," Roland glanced at the map, "That place is far from the defense line of the city wall, they can also use the cover there to protect themselves from the wind coming from the Impassable Mountains."
After the Minister of Construction left the room, Roland had just planned to take a short nap in his chair when Kyle Sichi arrived at the door.
"Your Highness, the large-scale acid production method you have requested, has been successfully developed."
Hearing this sentence dispelled Roland's weariness immediately. He showed a smiling expression on receiving such a pleasant surprise, Roland stood up and said: "Really? Take me to see it."
When their group came to the laboratory at the Redwater River, he saw a few gray jars and a kiln set up beside laboratory No. five. Each jar was the height of two people and had a pipeline connected to the top, which had a smooth shape; which had clearly been cut out by Anna.
"I pay my respect to you, Your Highness," a very young looking man said toward Roland and bowed.
"I presume you're Chavez?" Although he had already learned about the several alchemist apprentices and outstanding alchemist that Kyle had brought from Redwater City, today was still the first time that he saw the other's appearance.
"You even remember my name," Chavez said astonished.
"Mr. Sichi has mentioned you plenty of times before," Roland explained and patted his shoulder in encouragement, "Keep up the good work." Then, looking over to the Chief Alchemist he asked, "How will this thing produce acid?"
Kyle stroked his beard and said with a smile, "The successful manufacture is entirely according to a derivation of an equation of the 'Elementary Chemistry'. You see those kilns, the purified sulfur will burn in the kiln, and through further heating the gas produced will pass through the pipes and into a lead jar."
"Are all those devices made of lead?"
"That's right; only lead can resist acid's corrosion." Kyle nodded. "The nitro-sulpheric acid will unceasingly sprinkle down from the lead pipe at the top of the jar, and, together with the hot sulfur dioxide below, the heated nitric acid will decompose into nitrogen oxide. Finally, the water and sulfur dioxide together will generate a sulfuric acid solution. This solution will flow out of a hole at the bottom - the smart thing about this reaction is that nitrogen oxide only acts as oxygen carriers, but by itself it can't be consumed. Therefore, the amount of nitric acids used is small, and once the reaction has started up, it can carry on working continuously!"
"How is the output?" Roland asked while agitatedly patting against a lead jar. Functioning large-scale acid production was the premise needed for mass production of smokeless gunpowder. As long as he could solve this problem, there was hope for the rise of a new generation of weapons and ammunition.
"This is the fourth device I've tested, the daily output may be as much as the weight of using the laboratory's dry distillation method for an entire week." the Chief Alchemist proudly said, "Because it is a testing device, the volume isn't large. However, the capacity could be further improved, if you could build lead jars with a larger capacity.
"That's good news," Roland said laughingly, "Wait until Miss Anna comes back, and you can set up a larger acid plant right away. If the lead isn't enough, you can use iron instead, Miss Soraya's coating can make it resistant against the corrosion of the acid.
Kyle nodded in agreement, but his next sentence made the bright smile on the Prince's face turn stiff.
"Now, that I accomplished the large-scale acid production and all the five laboratories are also filled with apprentices, Your Highness, can you reward me with the 'Intermediate Chemistry' like you've promised?"
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