“Mom, what are you doing?”
I’m dreaming, Souma thought.
“Now this is ――. I was taught how to make it at the housewife association some time ago,” answered my mother while standing in the nostalgic kitchen of our home back in Japan.
When the me in the dream tried to take a peek inside the bowl, he was lightly hit on the head by his mother.
“Hey, watch out, it’s dangerous! If this gets in your eyes, it will be really bad.”
What my mother held in her hand was a measuring jug made out of stainless steel with a grip attached to it. For some time now my mother had been pouring something from that jug into the bowl.
“You know, this is ――”
“…! …-ma! Soma, are you in there!?”
Souma woke up due to Shyemul calling his name while knocking on the door.
“Hey, Soma, I’m coming in! ――What, have you been taking a nap?” said Shyemul after opening the door.
“Did something happen?” Souma asked, sitting up on the bed as he rubbed his sleepy eyes.
“Yeah, there’s a problem. That damn geezer has been hung by the dwarves.”
The only one Shyemul called damn geezer was Solon.
Moreover, with him being hung, it didn’t seem to be a trivial matter.
Where Souma was led to after quickly dressing himself was the dwarves’ workshop located inside the city. Souma, who learned about Solon and the others being there, vigorously opened the door and went inside, just to become dumbstruck.
“A lifetime’s favor~, if you have pity with an old, miserable man, please save meee!”
“This shitty thief! What should we do with him?”
“Beat to death! Beat to death!”
“Pinning him up would be just fine!”
Solon had been literally hung inside the workshop. On top of having his hands and feet bound by ropes, he was hanging from a beam like a bagworm. An enraged mob of dwarves surrounded him. Each of them tightly grasped a pole and looked at Solon menacingly, him being beat to death at any moment not too unlikely.
“Wh-…What happened…?” Souma asked with a dumbfounded voice.
“Oh! Boy, please save meee!” Solon begged for his life with a miserable voice after noticing him.
“I see, I see, this is the dwarves’ secret medicine. The medicine to make glass, isn’t it?” Solon wondered as he returned to the room in the orphanage where Souma had demonstrated the chemistry experiment. Cheerfully he stared at the object in his hands.
What he was holding was a jar with fine trona powder which he had snatched from the dwarven workshop.
The glass manufacturing method was a dwarven secret. He had heard rumors that the continent’s central area had learned of the glass manufacturing method by torturing it out of imprisoned dwarves, but as of yet the dwarves still had a patent on glass in the western regions.
Solon, who was conceited about his own intelligence, had been harboring an extraordinary interest in glass for some time now. All the more if it was the secret medicine said to be a top secret for that very glass manufacture.
“Let’s see what’s hidden behind this medicine.”
First he tried smelling it. But he couldn’t sense anything like a scent. Then he put a small amount into his mouth and checked its taste.
In the eyes of a modern Japanese, it would be a dangerous method to identify a substance. But, in the eras before science developed, it was a very common method to judge a substance by taste.
After holding it for a short while in his mouth, he began sensing a bitter taste. Solon immediately spit it out and rinsed his mouth with water.
“Now then, I wonder what I should test next…”
For starters Solon tried to dissolve the secret medicine in water. The powder immediately melted into the water without leaving any leftover solute. Furthermore, Solon stirred that solution with a metallic rod, heated it, blew his breath on it, and tried all kinds of things. However, he couldn’t observe any especially unusual change.
“Hmm, even if I put a stone in there, it’s not melting. Won’t some kind of change take place…”
Solon started to get bored because of the lack of any visible changes.
At that time the huge cask with limewater, which Souma had used for his experiment to detect carbon dioxide, caught his attention. The limewater, which showed a clear response, was Solon’s favorite since then. Thinking that the proof was in the pudding, Solon poured lime water into the trona solution.
“…Ooooooh! What’s this!?”
Once he did that, a dramatic change occurred. The trona solution, which had mixed with the transparent limewater staying supernatant, became a cloudy pure white. Solon poured even more lime water into the solution, and the limewater turned even cloudier than in the beginning.
That was a more extreme reaction than from blowing one’s breath on it. Being pleased with that reaction, Solon got carried away and steadily poured lime water into the solution. But since it looked as if the liquid would finally spill over from the container, he poured the trona solution into the casket with the limewater. And yet all the limewater became pure white.
“Ooh! This is awesome!”
Solon was curious about the true identity of this white stuff.
He immediately tried to investigate the white substance by filtering it, but there was too much liquid for a filtration. Hence he decided to prepare a big pot and boil it down. When the liquid amount had concentrated to some extent after a few hours, Solon filtered the solution. Because he had no place to store the filtrate, he returned it to the pot. After that, Solon properly washed the filtered white powder with water and then licked it.
“Hmmmm. I feel like it’s not all that different than when I blew on it.”
Because he had expected for something rather different to come out of this, Solon was disappointed.
It was a regrettable result, but he had to destroy the evidence before being found out by the dwarves. At the time when he looked at the pot which he had returned to the fireplace in order to clean it up, he noticed that something happened inside the liquid which had boiled down even further while he had neglected it.
It wasn’t anything like the white powder which could be made after blowing on the limewater. Rather, it was something like crystallized salt that could be made by boiling down ocean water.
“What the hell is this?”
For starters Solon filtered the liquid inside the pot once more and tried to take it out. Because he had boiled down much more in comparison to some time ago, there was little liquid left, and the filtering finished easily. And then he first washed the obtained, crystallized powder with water so that he could taste it.
“What? It vanished!?”
Even though the white powder that could be made out of limewater was alright even when washed with water, this crystallized powder completely dissolved in no time once put into water. He put the little remaining amount of the crystallization into his mouth, wondering whether it might actually be salt, but bitterness and not saltiness spread inside his mouth.
“I wonder just what the hell is this stuff…?”
Solon titled his head to the side in confusion, but at that moment the room’s door was roughly hit and angry voices could be heard.
“Open up, Solon! We know that you stole our secret medicine!”
Solon escaped through the window as fast as he could.
“――Well, that’s the gist of it. Although I ran away on the spot, I was caught by the dwarves in the end, and hung up on this beam here,” Solon explained the course of events up until this point without any timidity.
“Originally it’s a law that we hang up those stealing our secret medicines like this, surround them with everyone, and shower them with pole blows.”
But, when the dwarves rolled up their sleeves to beat him to death, Solon said that it would trouble Souma if they killed him. “That’s why we have stopped our plan,” Dvalin explained.
Certainly, it’s as Solon said. He’s the orphanage teacher I finally managed to find. There’s no doubt that he’s a rare personnel for teaching the orphans reading and writing.
Unwillingly, Souma mediated for Solon.
With the intervention of Souma, their great benefactor, Dvalin and the other dwarves weren’t able to bluntly refuse his plea either. Dvalin released Solon after sternly warning him, “Next time there won’t be any mercy!”
“Damn, I went through something terrible…” Solon muttered while rubbing his arms, which hurt from being bound, after he returned to the orphanage.
Because he had been very tightly bound by the dwarves, the joints in his body were sore. Even so Solon returned to the orphanage’s laboratory to at least put away the experiment tools he had left as they were when he ran away.
The fire was still burning below the big pot, but fortunately the orphanage hadn’t burned down. The fireplace’s flames had already died down. Thinking that the filtrate had probably vanished after being completely boiled down, Solon peered into the big pot and became surprised.
Something strange was left at the bottom of the pot where all liquid had evaporated.
It wasn’t a lime-like powder nor was it salt-like crystals. It was a white lump, something like, for example, sugar which would harden after melting once.
It didn’t seem to be the trona powder, which he had stolen, and also not the lime powder which he had added himself. Solon broke that white cluster a bit in order to ascertain its true identity. At this time small fragments of the smashed white clump fell inside his sleeve, but Solon didn’t notice that.
Solon tossed one of the fragments into his mouth.
He could sense a bitterness after tasting it inside his mouth for a short while.
The trona powder, which he had stolen from the dwarves, was bitter as well, but he felt as if this was much more bitter. Besides, even when he washed out his mouth with water, he felt like a bad aftertaste persistently stayed inside his mouth.
“Ugh, the inside of my mouth feels weird. I guess I will do the cleaning after removing the bad taste with wine,” muttered Solon and went out to drink wine while postponing the cleaning.
However, Solon got drunk after downing one wine cup after the other due to his disappointment over failing to get a reaction from the trona powder, and he didn’t do any cleaning on that day.
And then, Solon visited again to clean up and became surprised.
If I remember correctly, the pot’s contents had dried up yesterday evening, and it should have turned into a white clump. However, the contents of the pot in front of me right now have accumulated moisture and the white clump is in the process of melting.
“What the hell is this…?” Once Solon tried to pinch the white clump at the bottom of the pot with his fingers, he felt a slimy sensation on the pulp of his fingers. He tried to wash it off with water, but it didn’t come off readily.
Solon cocked his head in puzzlement, wondering what this white cluster might be, but then he noticed the prickling pain on his right arm. Thinking that it might have gotten injured yesterday when he had been tied up by the dwarves, he rolled up his sleeve.
“What the hell is thiiis~?” Solon’s shocked scream echoed through the orphanage.
“What is it this time, Mr. Solon?” Souma, who had been called to the orphanage after being woken up from his nap during his governmental duties like yesterday, asked with a somewhat brusque tone. As expected, if one’s nap gets obstructed through commotions caused two days in a row, one’s mood will get bad, too.
However, Souma’s curiosity was going at full throttle. Once he was told that the reason for being called was that something strange had been created, his curiosity outweighed his ill temper.
“This is the aforementioned white clump…?”
Certainly, as Solon said, there was a white clump, which was in the process of melting, at the bottom of a pot. Its appearance reminded him of a dehumidification agent that had absorbed too much moisture.
When he checked whether it had really dried up yesterday evening just in case, Solon declared that there was no doubt about it.
He looked above wondering whether water was leaking in through the hole in the roof right above the stove created for the sake of letting the smoke escape, but there were no traces of that happening. Besides, he had no memory of it having rained yesterday evening.
Souma scooped up the solution inside the pot with his index finger and tried to rub it together with his thumb. In response, he felt a slimy sensation just as Solon had described. However that gooey substance wasn’t oil. The liquid itself wasn’t sticky either. In addition, he somehow felt as if the sensation was slightly different from calling it slimy, too.
“Look at this. It seems like the fragments clung to my arm yesterday, and that’s how it turned out today.” Solon rolled up his sleeve, and showed scald-like traces at the size of specks on the lower part of his forearm.
“It’s no mere scalding. I didn’t feel any heat from it at all. However, when I noticed the prickling pain, it had already become like this.”
Certainly, for a burn it’s somehow weird. It’s as if gaping holes have been gouged out on the skin. However, if it’s burns that penetrate the tissue this deeply, it’s impossible for him having felt no heat at the time of being injured. Besides, looking at the state of the wounds, they appeared more like the skin having been melted than burned…
『You know, this is――』
At that moment Souma recalled the voice of his mother.
“Eh!? W-Wait a moment! Melt? The fingers are slimy? Melts skin? Don’t tell me…!” Souma unintentionally raised his voice in surprise.
“What’s wrong, Soma? Do you have an idea?”
Souma had Shyemul bring a certain something. Meanwhile, Souma started to pour small quantities of water into the pot and stirred it all. After a little while, all of the white mass had dissolved in the water, and Souma touched the pot’s bottom.
“As I thought, it has heated up.”
At the point when his conviction deepened more and more due to the heat he could feel with his hand, Shyemul brought a small jar.
“Soma, is this fine?”
The jar she held out to him was filled with a thick, yellowish-brown liquid.
“Yeah. Thanks!” His thanks were kept short and Souma accepted the jar from Shyemul as if snatching it out of her hands.
“Beast lady, just what is that stuff?” Dvalin asked Shyemul after arriving at the place driven by the same curiosity as Souma when he was told that something strange had been created out of the trona stone’s powder. Even though it happens every time, Shyemul had absolutely no clue what Souma was doing.
She answered with an expression signifying that she had given up, “It’s just oil. ――Just what is he planning to do with something like that…?”
In the meanwhile Souma slowly poured the oil inside the jar into the solution while mixing it. As he did, the oil gradually became cloudy. That was exactly the reaction Souma had been expecting. Originally one had to add the proper dose, but because he didn’t know the specific amount needed, he earnestly continued to stir the turbid oil after pouring all of it into the solution.
“Is mixing it all that’s needed? Alright, let me take over.” Shyemul, who was unable to watch Souma whose hands slowly got tired, took over the stirring on the oil.
While inclining his head to the side next to Shyemul, Souma muttered, “I feel like it has to be more syrupy. I wonder whether it’s wrong after all? Or is it because the ratio has to be different? What would be the best option to make it react quickly…? When one purifies waste oil, salt is used, so, umm…”
There should be a method to quicken the reaction. Souma, who wanted to know the outcome as soon as possible, frantically tried to remember what his mother had mentioned to be added. Souma, who wracked his brain about what it might be, suddenly widened his eyes.
“Right! Rubbing alcohol!” His face brightened up immediately as soon as he remembered what his mother had added. But, he immediately denied it, “No, no, something like that doesn’t exist in this world. Besides, even creating it from now on…”
Trying to get rid of what he had remembered by shaking his head, Souma abruptly caught sight of something at Dvalin’s waist.
“Dvalin, give me that, please!”
“W-Wait! Sir Soma, that’s my…”
Stealing the leather bag faster than Dvalin could stop him, he opened its lid and confirmed its contents by sniffing the scent.
“Sir Soma! That’s my treasured wine!”
It’s alcohol content is so weak that it cannot be compared to rubbing alcohol, but it should still show some effect.
Shaking free from Dvalin’s restraint, who was almost screaming, Souma calmly poured the wine inside the oil that Shyemul was stirring.
“…! Oh, there’s some reaction.”
Immediately after he poured a small dose of wine into it, the cloudy oil became even whiter, and the resistance, which Shyemul could feel with her hands, grew stronger.
After having Shyemul stir the oil for a little bit longer, Souma looked at the oil. The gooey, yellowish-brown oil appeared to be white. It gave an impression similar to a papier-mache that had become watery and faintly yellowish-brown.
Souma scooped up the faintly yellowish-brown liquid with his fingertip, and rubbed it together on his hand together with a small amount of water.
There was a slippery sensation on his palm, but there was no further change beyond this.
Did I guess wrongly?
It was at the time when Souma stopped his hands in disappointment. He noticed a thin membrane in rainbow colors expanding between his faintly opened palms.
It was just what Souma had hoped for.
“…! A soap film!”
He peeked inside the pot held by Shyemul.
“It’s soap. We have created soap! There’s no doubt!”
And then he looked at the white mass that had been divided a bit.
“This is caustic soda!?”
Caustic soda ― or in other words, sodium hydroxide. In modern Japan it’s a common chemical that’s used when making handmade soap at home.
However, that judgment was too hasty.
The substance, which owned an alkalinity that could saponificate oil and a deliquescent nature to dissolve by absorbing the humidity in the air, wasn’t just sodium hydroxide. It also possessed components such as sodium carbonate, a main component of trona. Souma didn’t know because his mother had created soap by simply converting oil to soap with sodium hydroxide, but even sodium carbonate can be used to make soap.
As a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages there was a period when soap was produced by using trona and barilla ― ash produced by burning halophilous plants.
But, going by the outcome, Souma’s conjecture was spot on.
The method, which Solon stumbled upon by coincidence, was the lime method which creates sodium hydroxide by having slaked lime and an aqueous solution of sodium carbonate react with each other.
“Soap! We can create soap!”
Souma’s body trembles slightly out of delight. It was such a strong reaction that it made even Shyemul withdraw. But something like that didn’t even enter the consideration of the current Souma.
What Souma couldn’t stand in this world were first and foremost, the food, and second the hygienic circumstances.
He could somehow handle the food thanks to the zoan’s cooking that used spices, but the problem was hygiene. Above all it was such a bad situation that filth was lying around in the city, and that it intensely stunk with feces and excreta if you just slightly stepped into a back alley. For Souma, who lived in a sanitary city of Japan, it was something he couldn’t bear.
However, what Souma couldn’t endure the most about the bad hygienic situation was the lack of baths.
In this world, where fuel and fresh water were still precious, the custom of bathing wasn’t really prevalent. Common people occasionally took a bath in springs or rivers. Even prosperous commoners washed their bodies in hot water that had been accumulated in a tub several times a week. Speaking of baths in this world, it was at the level of steam baths that amassed vapor in a room by sprinkling water on heated stones, but when it came to this, it was something luxurious that could be used only rarely even by titled nobility and royalty.
No matter how much of a bath-loving Japanese Souma might be, there was no way for him to waste precious fuel just for the sake of him taking a bath. He preserved by getting a tub’s share of hot water from the kitchen and washing his body with that everyday.
However, even by washing himself with hot water everyday like this, he couldn’t easily get rid of the filth covering his body. It was the same for the dirt on his clothes. Recently he had grown accustomed to it, but if he looked very carefully on his own body, it had a state that wouldn’t be called anything but filthy in modern Japan.
However, if there’s soap, I can at least lead a more hygienic life than until now! Thinking so, Souma’s eyes sparkled.
“Say, Mr. Solon! Can you produce large quantities of this? Or rather, please do it!”
Being overwhelmed by Souma’s zealous attitude, even Solon became flustered.
“I made this just by chance…”
Solon tried to say that he didn’t know whether he could reproduce it, but those words got stuck in his throat when he saw Souma’s ghastly smile. In order to escape the brunt of that attack, Solon offered a replacement victim.
“Umm, then, even if I want to make it, I can’t do so in the first place since it requires the dwarves’ secret medicine. Please ask the dwarves first.”
Dvalin was about to reflexively protest about the matter being tossed their way, but when Souma’s head darted in his direction, he instinctively shrunk back.
“No, well, Sir Soma, that’s our dwarven secret medicine…”
“You can share it, can’t you?” The words were polite, but they included a compulsion which didn’t allow for any refusal.
But, as expected, it wasn’t as if Dvalin could readily hand over the dwarven secret medicine. Due to Dvalin being unwilling to agree here, Souma came up with a bargaining chip. It was something he had remembered due to the rubbing alcohol when he created the soap moments ago.
Souma smiled across his whole face.
“Dvalin, I have a veeery good deal for you, but…”
Later on, Dvalin said the following: “The smile the devil shows when tempting people must be something like that.”
“It stinks really awful…” Souma said inside the new workshop built in the outskirts of the city.
“It can’t be helped, can it? Beef tallow is the best.”
Solon, who had been entrusted with the soap production, first experimented, using several kinds of fats. As a result he found out that beef tallow had the best ability to remove dirt and form bubbles. Fortunately they didn’t lack any of that since they were currently endorsing stock-farming of cows in the Sobiant Plains while paying a rental for the land to the zoan.
Like this, large quantities of soap had been produced from the sodium hydroxide, which Solon created out of trona, and the beef tallow, which was gathered by the pioneer villages of the plains.
“Ah~, no good. The smell is sticking deeply in my nose,” lamented Souma after finishing the inspection of the soap workshop and going outside.
As expected, Shyemul also agreed with his opinion about the smell inside that workshop. She likely didn’t know what she was smelling right now.
“Heeey, Sir Soma!” Dvalin jogged over while holding a small container in one hand.
His face was all smiles, and his voice was elated. When Souma asked what happened, Dvalin readily held out the small container.
“Well, take a sip of this.”
The container was filled with a transparent liquid. Souma, who had been inside the stuffy and hot workshop until just now, gratefully accepted since he was thirsty.
However, immediately after he took a gulp, Souma violently spit out the liquid while coughing violently.
“Hey! What did you make Soma drink!?”
Souma held back Shyemul, who flared up at Dvalin believing that he might have made Souma drink something weird, by raising one arm while coughing.
After a little while, the coughing fit finally settled down, and Souma looked at the little amount of liquid remaining in the container with astonishment.
“This is distilled liquor?”
“Indeed. Just as I was taught by you, I created it by cooling the steam that appeared when boiling wine.”
That was the idea Souma hit upon when he tried to add alcohol to hasten the saponification of the oil. Back then he substituted it with Dvalin’s wine because he was in a hurry, but once he thought about making highly-concentrated alcohol, it was actually simple. They just had to distill wine. In other words, distilled liquor.
When he thought back, he never heard talks about strong alcohol like spirits in this world.
Souma, who can’t hold his drink and doesn’t like alcohol either, hadn’t remembered distilled liquor until now, but he thought he might be able to use that as a bargaining chip for the secret medicine. After all, just like it’s written in many fantasy novels, the dwarves of this world greatly love their booze.
However, although he only told them the smattering knowledge he obtained at the whiskey factory that he had inspected together with his father, he was surprised by the dwarves’ tenacity towards alcohol seeing how they had somehow created distilled liquor in such a short period of time.
“This strength that seems to burn one’s throat is nice, but the taste is still lacking. It has no flavor while being prickly like this.” Even while saying so, Dvalin seemed to be pleased with the stimulus of the strong alcohol that hadn’t existed in this world. His face was already bright red, making it obvious that he had plentifully sampled the distilled liquor.
“In that case, it would be better if you let it rest in a wooden barrel.”
“Alcohol that has been stored in such a way for ten or twenty years will have a better taste and its price will go up as well.” Souma said while reminiscing of his father, who had been harshly scolded by his mother back when he was still in Japan after it was discovered that he had bought and hidden an expensive whiskey that was probably several years old.
However, Dvalin didn’t listen to the end. Noisily running with his short legs, he dashed away at a staggering speed.
Souma and Shyemul looked at each other for a little while because of that, but being curious about Dvalin’s reaction, they decided to chase after him.
Souma, who rushed into the workshop that was creating distilled liquor after following Dvalin, became dumbfounded.
Dwarves, who were already dead drunk, were scattered on the ground like fish out of water inside the workshop. Others were swarming a huge distillation device that seemed to be a big pot covered by a metallic tricorne with cups at hand. Those dwarves seemed to be just like zombies flocking towards their victim.
“You fools! Stop drinking! Hurry up, create a barrel, and pour the alcohol inside!” Dvalin, who ran inside the workshop where alcohol hung in the air, yelled while kicking his brethren.
Looking at the dwarves and the mountain of empty beer casks which were piled up very highly close to the workshop’s wall, Shyemul muttered fed-up, “Good grief, just how much beer did they make, those guys…”
However, when the expected response from Souma didn’t come, Shyemul turned around with a puzzled expression.
Souma had toppled over back there. Even though it was just a sip, he had drunken distilled wine. Souma, who had run up to here, immediately got drunk as he was weak to alcohol to begin with.
Shyemul became pale, and shook Souma while lifting him up in her arms.
“Get a grip, Soma! W-Water! Someone bring some water!”
Inside his dim consciousness, Souma thought, If you’re going to shake me any longer, I’m going to barf.
The soap and distilled liquor that had been created like this spread within several years not only to the whole western continent, but also to the central regions of the Seldeas continent.
However, that caused the central area of the continent to turn its eyes towards the western region, which had until then been regarded as a barbaric, backwater region.
What happened after this was the harshest and most abominable thing to come for the “Divine Child of Destruction Soma Kisaki” – the war that would carve his name with dreadfulness into history and make it known across the whole continent.
It was the reason for that cruel war to be even called the “Soap War.”