If you were told that someone had hijacked the culture of this world, would you believe that?
In distantly ancient times there was an epoch where technology and knowledge advanced by leaps and bounds.
Yes. It was an era when technology, which was supposedly at its beginning, improved rapidly in Bolnis which was situated in the continent’s west. We are calling that period “Great Technological Revolution.”
Technology and knowledge are things our ancestors acquired by piling up information through the process of trial and error. If you examine technology, which is deemed to depend on creativity at first glance, you can actually see that it’s a change in how one understands existing knowledge and technology, or is an extension of already present discoveries.
However, as for this “Great Technological Revolution,” one can see an obvious gap in the knowledge that existed before the revolution and what came after. It could even be deemed an intellectually missing link.
Many researchers believe that this was due to contact between multiple different societies.
And indeed, there are many cases where different societies coming in contact with each other triggered a suddenly accelerated growth in technology and culture.
For example the contact between the dwarven and human society in ancient times. In order to learn how to make ale out of corn from the humans, the dwarves whom had simply lived in the mountain caves until then developed their crafting rapidly. It’s likely that the anecdote “the sin of ale” is describing this.
If you consider that, the city of Bolnis, where all seven races coexisted, was something like a witch’ kettle where seven different societies clashed and mixed with each other. Whatever technology or knowledge might have come out from that hot pot of races, it wouldn’t have been odd for it to happen.
But, then I wonder, why didn’t the same development occur in other areas on the continent?
Even if the other races were one-sidedly exploited by the humans, there should have at least been a point of contact between the humans and the other races. And yet, even if you take a close look at the continent back then, you won’t be able to find a change equivalent to the “Great Technological Revolution” that took place in Bolnis.
The more I study the documents from that time, the more certain questions take shape within my mind.
Namely, didn’t they come in contact with such a mighty, different society that the races’ societies were no match for it? And, wasn’t the traditional technology of this world destroyed and hijacked by those who came from that society?
– Extract from an interview with the archeologist Martin S. Ackerson.
Souma, after watching Bararak leave, immediately returned to the feudal lord’s residence and summoned the Head of Financial Affairs, Michena, along with Marchronis and Dvalin.
“Mrs. Michena, bring out the thing I requested.”
Souma ordered Michena once everyone had gathered in his office. In response, flustered, Michena spreads a huge cloth on the desk.
“This is a map of the plains?”
Just as Shyemul says after peeking at the cloth, it was a map depicting the entirety of the Solbiant Plains. The locations of the pioneer villages and information about those villages were written down on the map, too.
“As I was told by his Lordship, I also added the 『Alabian Numbers』 next to the regular numbers.”
“They are called Arabic numerals.”
After correcting Michena, Souma turns around to Shyemul.
“Hey, Shyemul. Can I have you draw the territories of each clan on this?”
After a single nod, Shyemul takes the charcoal held out to her by Michena, thinks for a moment and then draws five crooked circles on the map.
“This smallest one here is the Eye Clan’s territory. Over here’s the Mane Clan, and over there the Claw Clan. The territory closest to this city is that of the Tail Clan. And, here you can see the Fang Clan’s territory.”
Listening carefully to Shyemul’s explanation while nodding several times, Souma first pointed at the Tail Clan’s territory after Shyemul stopped talking.
“I was able to rent this land – the former territory of the Tail Clan – from the zoan. We will gather the pioneer villages that are currently scattered across the plains here.”
Next he pointed his finger at the Mane Clan’s territory.
“First we will preferentially make the pioneer villages located in this territory relocate. After that, it will be the villages situated in the Fang Clan’s territory.”
At that point Souma stares at Shyemul.
“Can I have you ask Garam to allow the pioneer villages to wait with the moving until the end of the wheat harvest in this area?”
Shyemul threw out her chest as if telling him to leave it to her.
“I will rely on you, Shyemul. —And, we will handle the Claw Clan’s territory depending on Zurgu’s reply.”
After saying that he paused to peek at the reactions of everyone for a short moment. Confirming that there’s no different opinions or questions, Souma continues,
“Please request zoan warriors with quick feet to deliver my instructions to the pioneer villages.”
Hearing that, Marchronis raised his hand and asked “Can I say something?”
“Until now the zoan were the natural enemies of the pioneer villages. It will very likely trigger unnecessary quarrels if zoan warriors suddenly turn up there. Can you let me handle this part?”
Marchronis’ point appeared to be reasonable. But Souma can’t agree right away as he had already asked Marchronis to take care of another important task.
“What will you do about the transfer of the prisoners I requested from you?”
There’s no way that they can allow the prisoners of Holmea, who are locked up outside Bolnis at the moment, to live idly for an indefinite time. On the other hand, since it’s not like they can be released just like that, Souma planned to use them as a labor force for the reclamation.
However, because he couldn’t leave it to Garam and Zurgu, who are zoan that don’t have the custom of taking prisoners to begin with, he entrusted moving the prisoners to Marchronis.
“If it’s that, there’s no problem.”
Marchronis calls a human soldier, whom he had waiting outside the office, and introduces him to Souma and the others.
“He is Setius. He was my subordinate in Holmea’s national army, but the other day he agreed to being employed as my subordinate once again.”
Upon Marchronis’ introduction, Setius bowed his head lightly. Seemingly still not satisfied with being placed under Souma’s command, he dons an indescribably complicated expression.
“It’s fine to entrust the transfer of the prisoners to Setius. I will vouch for his ability.”
Human soldiers, who switched sides to Souma just like him, from among the prisoners were assigned to Marchronis. But, as the soldiers, who switched sides, had been humans who only became soldiers due to being troubled over getting enough food in the first place, it’s not out of question that they will someday switch back to Holmea as it doesn’t matter to them whether it’s Holmea or Souma as long as they are fed.
Marchronis, who wanted to have a subordinate whom he can trust, intended to appoint Setius as his right-hand man after allowing him here to gain the achievement of moving the prisoners.
Even though Souma guessed as much, he has no objection to that plan. If things become easier for Marchronis with that, it will be a big help for Souma, too.
“Understood. —Then I will leave the prisoner transfer to Mr. Setius and ask you, Mr. Marchronis, to notify the pioneer villages.”
Marchronis bowed his head slightly while filled with gratitude for having his recommendation accepted.
“There’s one more thing. How many soldiers can I take with me to the villages?”
That was an implicit question asking whether it’s alright to display military power in case the villagers showed disapproval towards the relocation of their villages. Souma shakes his head at that.
“The cooperation of the farmers is indispensable, thus we don’t want to incur their enmity. Please handle it as peacefully as possible.”
“What should I do if they hesitate to relocate their village then?”
Souma answers Marchronis’ question after pondering about it for a short while.
“Please offer them a tax reduction at that time. Tell them that they will have to pay less if they obey us.”
I’m trying to grandly change the farming methods used so far. Until that starts to take root, the harvest will likely be lower than before. Since I will have to cut the taxes either way once that happens, it will be a good bargain if the tax reduction becomes an impetus for the villagers to relocate their villages.
Next Souma addresses Dvalin.
“Dvalin, will you be able to finish what I asked of you?”
“I prepared all the things as you told me, Sir Soma. I can say with confidence that I will be able to create everything to your satisfaction.”
Somau nodded at the boasting Dvalin while looking content.
“Alright! —With this we assembled the people, the land and the tools. All that’s left is to actually do it…”
Hearing his murmur, Shyemul bends her head slightly to the side while looking curious and asks Souma,
“Say Soma, what are you trying to accomplish?”
That was a question commonly shared by everyone present in this place.
While feeling the curious and expectant gazes of everyone focus on himself, Souma says,
“The Norfolk four-course system.”
The Norfolk four-course system.
That name, which suddenly became known because of a certain famous book, was a new farming method that began in the Norfolk province in the eastern England of the 18th century. Contrary to the three-field agriculture used until then that used a rotation of splitting the agricultural land into three fields of summer grain, winter grain and lying fallow, the Norfolk four-course system used a rotation of splitting the agricultural land into the four fields of winter grain, clover, summer grain and turnip.
Not only did fields lying fallow disappear and productivity go up compared to the three-field agriculture, but in addition, turnip could be used as fodder for cattle in winter, making it unnecessary for cattle to be slaughtered due to a fodder shortage. That connected to an increase in the number of raised livestock. It’s also said that making the fields’ fertility recover with clover and the manure of the increased cattle caused a rapid improvement of the agriculture’s productivity.
For Souma, who already considered reclaiming the plains to increase the food production right after the decisive battle over Bolnis – a long time before this time’s clan conference – the introduction of the Norfolk four-course system was already a done deal. Especially after he learned that swidden agriculture is the main farming method around Bolnis. After investigating by questioning the farmers in the vicinity and listening to their explanations, his conviction became even more resolute.
Let alone the three-field agriculture, if swidden agriculture is still commonplace in this world, the Norfolk four-course system will become a powerful weapon.
Being supported by that strong belief, Souma began from reclaiming new agricultural land for the Norfolk four-course system.
First, because the peasants farmed as they pleased until then, he had the dwarves measure fields, which had various shapes, and changed all of them into long and narrow rectangles.
And then, once he decided on the place to be used as agricultural land, he improved the soil next.
After burning away the overgrown vegetation, he had the soil plowed, but the ground was too hard for human hands. Since it was quite impossible to plow it with just spades and hoes, they dug up the ground using pickaxes. And then, while breaking the dug-up ground into lumps of earth with spades and hoes, they temporarily carried the soil outside the field. After that, they made the ground even finer by breaking it into more clods and removing tree roots and stones through sieving.
Afterwards, they mixed ash, charcoal, lime, powder from crushed baked shells, powdered bone and some humus, which had been brought from a mountain, into the sieved, divided soil and put it back on the field.
“If the soil is too hard, the crops won’t be able to properly take root. If they properly take root, it will be difficult for them to be uprooted by wind and such. They should reach the point where they are capable of taking in a lot of nutrition…I think.”
It’s a point Souma can’t declare assertively.
After all, Souma is a normal senior high school student and not a farming specialist. At most he was taught by his deceased grandfather how to keep a small field when they did it together as a hobby. But he doesn’t possess any knowledge going beyond the level of what he researched on the Internet due to having more of an interest in the domestic affairs that he read about in light novels and manga.
Even the ash and lime scattered in order to improve the soil would cause it to incline towards becoming even more alkaline, if this plot of land had alkaline soil. Rather, he didn’t even know whether it might transform into soil suitable for farming.
For that reason he planned to start with one village first, watch the progress there and then popularize it to all villages if it seemed to turn out well.
He also had plans in case the reclamation failed. Until now Bolnis paid half of its tax revenue to the royal capital, but the tax that can be used in Bolnis thanks to that duty having disappeared will become twice that of what had been usable until now, even considering it just in simple terms. Even if he couldn’t harvest any crops at all, Souma reformed it based on an overly optimistic calculation that he will likely be capable of exempting the villages from the taxes and furthermore support them.
“How’s the usability of the new tools? Are there any kind of problems with them?”
Souma asked a nearby dwarf while watching the scene of the prisoners, who were soldiers of Holmea, and the farmers, who had been recruited as labor force, work under the guidance of the dwarves who are strong at engineering works. Thereupon the dwarf snorted grandly with a “Humph” as if saying “There’s no way for that to pose a problem.”
The tools held by the soldiers and farmers had all been created by the dwarves upon Souma’s request for just this moment.
Farming tools such as hoes and spades, which were owned by the farmers of this era, were items fully made out of wood or, at best, with a metal casing. Knowing that, Souma had the city’s residents collect the weapons after the battle over Bolnis and made the dwarves produce a great number of iron farm tools by smashing and casting the iron.
However, at first many people, with the dwarves in the lead, opposed breaking down the weapons they obtained at great pains to change them into farm tools.
That’s because iron was precious in this era where they still couldn’t procure a great amount of it yet. If you look at the iron coins circulating as currency just like gold, silver and copper coins, you can probably understand that it was recognized as having a value that followed the other precious metals, albeit having a lower value compared to gold, silver and copper.
It’s only natural for everyone to oppose the destruction of weapons made out of such precious iron, with them waiting for the next battle with Holmea. However, Souma persuaded the resisting people with his next words.
“This reclamation is for the sake of winning in battle. In other words, this is a battle. Are you telling me to become a fool who doesn’t allow those going into battle anything but wood and stone?”
Because he was told by Marchronis, a former soldier of the Holmean army, his conjecture that it will likely take from a half year to a year for the Holmean army to simply recover from the serious blow it suffered in the battle over Bolnis, Souma thought that now would be the best time to invest iron into reclamation.
However, even Souma didn’t have a clear grasp on the value of iron farm tools.
For Souma, a modern person who regards metallic farm tools as very normal, his awareness only goes as far as knowing that iron-made tools are likely more durable and long-lasting than wooden ones. However, according to some studies, iron farm tools raise the work efficiency by more than four times compared to wooden tools.
It goes without saying that the introduction of iron farm tools turned into a great support for the reclamation of the plains.
Also, at the same time of bringing iron into the production of farm tools, Souma made an effort to reproduce the tools he had seen in modern Japan, giving birth to many new tools.
One of them is the one-wheeled handcart.
If you left the main roads of the common trade routes even a bit in this era, there’s nothing but animal trails that are shortcuts in name only. To say nothing of the new land he’s about to reclaim where his only option to transport material is to cut through the plains, which doesn’t even have these trails.
But, if one tries to pass through such an area with fully loaded wooden wagons, which don’t have any powerful source of motion power nor a sturdy construction like modern automobiles, they will simply have there wheels stuck in mud or holes. Not just that, it’s only natural if such wagons lose their usability when their axles break. Due to the overwhelming number of such accidents and breakdowns, the method of transporting loads with humans and animals rather than imprudently using wagons was a lot faster.
Souma, who became aware of those circumstances, came up with the idea to use hand-pushed wheelbarrows to transport materials and goods to the reclaimed areas, just like what happened in the famous story where wooden oxen invented by Zhuge Liang were used in order to transport provisions through the rugged paths for the Shu army in the Annals of the Three Kingdoms
However, the problem was that Souma had seen one-wheeled hand carts being used at construction sites, but never inspected them closely. He didn’t recall anything besides their rough shape.
To actually being able to build the real thing from Souma’s vague memories was a big achievement of Dvalin.
“As long as I know how they will be used, it’s plenty with a rough outline of its shape.”
Dvalin boasted while looking at the picture drawn by Souma while relying on his vague memories.
If he was allowed to comment on it, he would call the shape of the tool drawn by Souma weird, but once he pondered about the function of the tool, its shape appeared to make a lot of sense to him. For a dwarf who claims to be an artisan, it’s easy to compensate for the missing parts in Souma’s drawing by guessing the underlying principle.
And, exactly because they bragged so much, the skills of dwarven artisans were reliable. The advanced tools of modern Japan within Souma’s memory were built one after the other by dwarven hands.
But, it’s said that even those excellent dwarven artisans screamed in front of Souma’s knowledge that felt just like a flood.
“Whoaa! That’s amazing, Shyemul!”
Souma yelled in admiration due to the scenery of more than 100 cows being herded by zoan warriors into a prepared, enclosed pasture next to the reclaimed land.
While getting somewhat fed up due to Souma’s childish behavior, Shyemul warns him,
“Don’t get too close to the pasture since you will agitate the cows.”
Even after being told that, Souma can’t control his curiosity.
He had seen them several times until now, but he didn’t have any opportunity to observe the cows this thoroughly because he was busy with attacking the city and driving away the punitive force.
And once he looked at them, it became obvious that the cows of this world are different from the cows Souma knows. Their entire silhouette is close to that of a gnu, but long bison-like fur is growing from their heads to their backs and chests. Compared to their big heads, their eyes are small and cute.
However, one cow, which noticed Souma, violently bashed its head against the stake of the thick, surrounding fence in agitation. Being surprised by that, Souma unintentionally falls on his backside.
After sighing very deeply and saying “I told you so,” Shyemul helped Souma in standing up by lending him a hand and asked,
“What do you plan to do by gathering so many cows in one place?”
“Raise them, of course.”
Souma keeping that many cows is not only for the sake of using their excrement as necessary fertilizer for the Norfolk four-course system, but also to employ them as a major source of power to run millstones for turning wheat into flour and to plow the fields.
But then again, the biggest reason is to use them as food for the zoan.
“I was told by Zurgu that he’d like me to use cows as a rental fee for the land, if possible.”
Now that he mentioned it, the zoan staple food is meat, so it’s only natural for Zurgu to demand that.
“Gathering the cows is fine and all, but what are you going to do about the fodder?”
It was commonplace for stock-farming on the Seldeas Continent of this epoch to rely on grazing. The cattle wasn’t fed by the hands of people, but instead was released onto the pastures to allow them to eat grass as they like.
But, what the zoan had gathered was a complete herd of cows. If it’s the amount of grass eaten by those cows, it’s enormous. It’s not a problem during spring until summer as those are seasons where grass grows quickly, but once it becomes winter, it will likely be insufficient, even if the cows completely eat up the grass right down to the roots.
He has planned to cultivate turnip as fodder for the cattle, but until the Norfolk four-course system starts to work, there will still be a danger of running short. Besides, because Souma is intending to keep pigs in the same way as he read about it in a light novel, he must reconsider how to secure enough fodder to allow the cows to survive.
What popped up in Souma’s mind, who racked his brain wondering what he should do, was the sight of a farm in Hokkaido. What he associates with the name farm was the simple one in Hokkaido, but he got an idea from the memory in his mind.
“True. A silo! Let’s make a silo!”
A silo is a storage building in the shape of a tower for the sake of preserving fodder and grain, often seen in the grain-producing areas of Europe and America.
Thinking of those, Souma returned to Bolnis from the pioneer village as if to strike while the iron is hot.
“Dvalin, I’d like you to build a silo.”
That was the first thing he said as he arrived at Dvalin’s location, who had constructed a new furnace in Bolnis’ outskirts.
Dvalin, who was drenched in sweat as he was in a huge furnace and crucible that he had created alongside the dwarven artisans he had carefully chosen, looks as if saying “Again?”
“What is it this time? What’s that sairo or whatever it’s called?”
Souma rattles on with an excited tone,
“It’s a building to store the mown grass!”
“Store grass? I don’t really get it. Why do you need something like that? Won’t a normal shed work?”
“If I remember correctly it was because of lactic fermentation, wasn’t it? Anyway, if the grass is preserved well, it will apparently become delicious and the cows will gladly eat it.”
Souma explained while remembering a TV show where he saw a TV star helping with the work in the household of a dairy farmer in Hokkaido.
“Grass will become delicious? What’s that? I don’t follow. Please tell me the details as minutely as possible.”
Souma picks up a fallen twig and draws a picture on the ground with a scratching sound.
“Umm…it’s such a tall tower. It’s opening is on top and the harvested grass will be crammed into it from above. Afterwards it will be compressed by people trampling it down.”
“It will be compressed by being trampled down from above, you say? Then it needs sturdy side walls.”
If you compress grass by using your body weight, it should very likely create a big pressure from the inside towards the outside. If you don’t make the side walls fairly solid, there will be a danger of it bursting out of the tower.
“Wouldn’t it be rather better to dig a pit than building a tower in that case…?”
Dvalin started to immerse himself in his own thoughts while folding his arms.
“No, digging up the soil will be a major hassle then. It might be better to create it in the shape of a semibasement with only the part that requires the most strength being underground.”
Dvalin racked his brain on how to design the silo while mumbling by himself, but once he lifted his face, he suddenly looked into Souma’s sparkling eyes.
“How about it? Does it look as if you can make it?”
If it’s about the dwarves Souma knows about, they are earth fairies who created various legendary weapons and treasured tools according to folklore and legends. Also, in manga and light novels they are depicted as a race who possesses outstanding production techniques, surpassing those of the humans by far, and who builds many masterpieces.
And even the dwarves living on this Seldeas Continent are a race excelling in production as if closely resembling that imagination of Souma.
Hence Souma was unconsciously under the impression, “If it’s the dwarves, they can create everything!” Once he’s intently stared at by Souma with a longing gaze telling him, “Dwarves are amazing! Dwarves can make everything, right!?”, he can’t say that it’s impossible as long as he regards himself a dwarven artisan with confidence in his own skills.
“H-Hmm…Well, I think that I will probably be able to somehow build it, but…”
“Really!? I look forward to it then!”
Souma grabbed both of Dvalin’s hands and repeatedly praised him while shaking them up and down. While Dvalin was confused by that behavior, Souma left the place with a light stride.
Dvalin, who had Souma leave on him without even the time to call him to halt, drops his shoulders depressingly by himself. And, in contrast to Souma, he returned to his workshop with a heavy stride, called his artisans together and informed them about about being told to build a silo by Souma. No sooner than finishing his words, the gathered artisans all at once criticize him loudly, just as he had expected.
“That’s pathetic, Sir Dvalin!”
“No matter how much Sir Soma, even though we owe a huge debt to him, begs, we are at our limit, too!”
“Telling us to make this and that. It’s endless!”
“Even though we have to finish the furnaces and crucibles as soon as possible, we are completely short on manpower.”
“Alright, we will go to talk directly to him instead of Sir Dvalin.”
Saying so, the dwarven artisans headed to Souma while squaring their shoulders.
However, the dwarven artisans return with their shoulders dropped within almost no time.
“—So, how did it go?”
Although he was already able to guess the gist of it, Dvalin asked them like that to also exact his revenge for being criticized before.
Upon his question, the other dwarves averted their eyes while looking awkward and several of them said,
“Sir Soma is frightening.”
“Yeah. That gentleman is a genius at unconsciously exploiting others.”
“But, this is unbearable.”
Michena arrives at the location, where the dwarves talk with each other with grave expressions, with a haggard face while staggering.
“Ah, Mr. Dvalin, good that I meet you here. Would you please gather 20 people at the storehouse later?”
Dvalin, who was troubled as he’s already under normal circumstances short on people, asks with a sharp tone “Why?” But, seemingly unable to ponder about it too deeply, Michena answered absentmindedly,
“Since I was just now ordered by Lord Soma to preferentially give the liquor stored in the storehouse to all of the dwarven artisans, I’d like to borrow help to transport the barrels.”
Once Michena left while mumbling under her breath, “Gah, what unexpected expenses,” the dwarven artisans huddled together.
“Sir Soma is frightening.”
“Yeah. That gentleman is a genius at unconsciously exploiting others.”
“But, this is unbearable.”
What they are saying is no different from before, but the faces of the dwarves had become completely slack.
However, as if replacing Michena, Souma came running up to them.
All the dwarves, who are happy over being able to drink booze, are uniformly startled.
“Hey, Dvalin! I’d like to build something called windmill next. With this it will become possible to mill flour even at places with no river. And it will also be possible to water the crops by drawing underground water from wells. —So, about the construction…”
“S-Sir Soma. As expected, any more is…”
Dvalin tried to refuse him, but once he’s in front of Souma’s sparkling eyes that are full of anticipation, the denial doesn’t cross his lips.
“…A-Anyway, I will at least listen to your explanation.”
A chorus of deep sighs was audible from behind him.
Later on Dvalin said the following:
“There was no period as difficult as that time. His Majesty told us to build this and that. It was at a level that all my fellow brethren complained in unison, 『If it’s like this, slavery was so much easier!』.
But at the same time there was no period as enjoyable as that time. We squeezed out all the knowledge and technology we had fostered until then and created new things as told by His Majesty. All of them were things we had never heard about or seen before. As a dwarven artisan, there was never another time when I was overflowing with so much delight.”