Since the security matters of Lanu would soon be solved, Claude didn't let his mind linger on the break in. He went to Anna Farmstead and told his sister and Sonia the kind of rifle he would need. As for Liboyd, he was quite troubled, as the old man had recently been enamoured with the hot-air engines and was too caught up researching how mere hot air could move heavy metal pistons like those.
"The kind of rifle I want should look like this," he explained in the lab with a drawing on the blackboard. "It should be about 1.5 metres in length including the stock, 1.8 metres when the bayonet is attached. It will shoot brass cartridges like the revolvers, longer variants of the cartridges, anyway, for more gunpowder capacity to get a longer firing range.
"I can only draw what I roughly envision in my mind. There is nothing else to be added on the barrels save for the sights. The rifle should be reloaded from the breech and have a handle on the right side that is connected to the bolt within. Pulling the handle will open the chamber for the cartridge to be loaded. After shooting, the cartridge will automatically pop out the next time the handle is cocked and the rifle will be ready for the next reload. If possible, I'd like to have a magazine fitted to the bottom of the rifle that can feed up to five bullets at a time.
"After shooting, all we need to do is pull the handle to cock the bolt and let the cartridge pop out. Pushing the handle back will automatically cause the next round in the magazine to be loaded. That way, we can avoid the trouble of loading the rifle one bullet at a time. All we need is a simple pull of the handle. When the magazine is emptied, it can be removed and swapped for a loaded magazine to allow rapid fire.
"Naturally, you don't have to consider the magazine for your initial trials. Try to make a single-loading bolt-action mechanism first. I have trouble imagining how we can even implement such a design, since I'm no engineer, so I can only leave it to you. If you have a better method, feel free to ignore my proposal and focus on your own designs."
While he didn't show it, he almost cursed when he saw his drawing. It looked quite similar to the Type 38 rifle used by the Japanese during the Second World War. However, he didn't have a choice as he was no military nut. He didn't show much interest when his boss on old Earth took him to the shooting range and the only thing he could recall was the Type 38 from all the war films based on that era he watched before.
"Claude, how far is the firing range of the rifles you envision?" Sonia asked like a curious student.
He stroked his chin and said, "I hope these can shoot up to 200 metres accurately while having an effective killing range of 400. The furthest it can shoot should be 500 metres."
Sonia hesitated. "Umm... is that even possible?"
How could it not? It was said that the Type 38 could shoot as far as 800 metres, and an enemy shot within 400 metres would have entry as well as exit wounds. Naturally, he didn't expect to be able to reproduce the gun exactly, but achieving half that range should be an improvement. At least, it should be able to fire further than smoothbore matchlocks.
"Let's go about this step by step. Design the bolt-action mechanism first before we work on improving it. I believe we'll be able to make a rapid-fire rifle that can shoot that far eventually."
Pointing at the drawing on the blackboard, he continued, "Initially, I wanted to make the barrel rotate downwards like the revolvers. The barrel would extend till there and the rear will be where the stock is. Pulling on the handle will open the chamber to the barrel where the bullet can be loaded and pushing the handle will close it back up to reseal the barrel. After shooting, pulling the handle again will open the chamber and cause the spent cartridge to pop out.
"However, I don't know how to design the chamber nor do I know how the handle mechanism is supposed to work to cause the cartridge casing to pop out. Sonia, you're much more experienced than my sister in that department, so think it over. Putting aside the gun stock, the part behind the barrel should be rectangular. That's where all the moving parts should be located."
Sonia nodded. "Alright, I have a general idea."
"Apart from the design of this rifle, I'll also need you to try to research how we can mass produce this stabilised form of gunpowder. If we can make them in large quantities, we can decrease the capacity of gunpowder each cartridge has to hold while increasing the firing range at the same time. We can also modify mortars into hand-tossed grenades that can be thrown further and have more power."
"I know, Claude. Are you going to leave now or are you coming in the next few days as well?"
"Well, we'll be leaving to conquer Port Vebator the day after tomorrow, so I'll be heading to headquarters to deal with some matters. I won't come. I'll come back and check in after we conquer Port Vebator."
"Okay, just wait for a little. I made you a gift," Angelina said as she pulled out a large box from under the table. Within were sets of revolvers with black leather holsters.
"Why are there so many?" he asked, shocked.
Angelina put them out on the table. "Lately, Sis Sonia has been helping me make these using an array. Alongside the three we made, there are ten revolvers in total. In future, we'll no longer have to rely on arrays to do the job. When revolvers can finally be mass produced, these ten prototypes will be really meaningful, according to her."
"So are they all mine?"
Angelina clicked her tongue. "Dream on. I want one, Sis Sonia wants one, Myjack wants one, and so does Blowk. I also want to gift Big Gum with one too. You can only take one of the remaining five. Leave the four here first. We can gift them away to people we owe huge favours to. It's the most precious gift House Ferd can give out."
Claude smiled in resignation and looked at Sonia. She was the one who taught her all about this. Given that she had designed the machines necessary for mass production, she knew the real value those prototypes would hold.
"Then, which one is for me?"
"The topmost one with serial number 1," Sonia said.
To think they were even numbered... Claude took the first revolver and took it out of the black holster. He was surprised to find that it had been coated in silver and adorned with some gold-lace patterns. The black revolver had been turned into a piece of fine art. The largest change was the wooden handle; it had been replaced with two pieces of yellowish ivory engraved with a simple picture of a working farmer. The words below the picture read: Ferd Revolver (1).
He breathed a sigh of relief. "Thankfully, you didn't make it entirely gold. Otherwise, I wouldn't dare carry it on me. Then again, Anna, what's with this farmer?"
Sonia said, "Claude, did you forget that your family name, Ferd, means 'farmer' in Ancient Hez? Since you created it, we named it after you."
"Alright. A farmer's revolver... I like the sound of that. If you can design the rifle to my specifications, I can use your family names, or even your own name for them. How does Sonia 591 Newtype Rifle sound?"
"Why is there a 591 in there?" she asked.
He explained, "It's the year of creation. Currently, it's Year 590 of the Sacred Light Era. If you can finish this rifle by next year, then the number will be 591. If it's the year after, it'll be 592. It's a rather simple numbering system."
"Oh, I see..." She found it to be a magnificent naming scheme.
Angelina knew that she would only be playing the role of assistant to Sonia during the design of the new rifle, so she didn't argue about the naming. "Take this too," she said, handing him another small black leather bag, one that could be slung on his belt.
"What is this?" He opened it to find six identical silver chamber wheels, all loaded with brass cartridges.
"These are the bullets Anne spent lots of effort making for you. Each revolver comes with six extra chamber wheels, all loaded, so they have 42 bullets in total. Behind the wheels are small pieces of bone to prevent shock. Make sure to remove it when you swamp the wheel in," Sonia said.
He was quite satisfied with it. Now, he had his own sidearm.
"Call Big Gum in. The revolver numbered 10 is for him," Angelina said.
Gum was quite elated. He didn't think Angelina would take him into account and make one revolver for him personally. He was smiling the whole way rather stupidly. Claude knew that his sister saw Gum as family and also hoped that he could help keep Claude safe.
"Gum, don't forget that this gun has a safety, over here, the one shaped like a hook. If you push it up, the hammer will be able to move when you pull the trigger. If you push it down, the trigger can't be pulled. It's to prevent a misfire, understood?" she explained as she demonstrated the safety mechanism to him.
He nodded with his face full of smiles. Just like Claude, he got a sack of bullets.
Two days soon passed and the day to conquer Port Vebator was upon them. Claude got up early in the morning, kissed his wife and children and hugged his mother before bidding them goodbye, not before promising that he would make sure Bloweyk would return alive and healthy. After that, Alek and the servants sent his carriage off. Gum and his guards escorted him to headquarters.
During this excursion, Claude was to join General Aljess, the field marshal, who led the royal guard folk that had been resting and reorganising for half a month, General Birkin of 3rd Monolith, and General Sevict, who led two combat lines from 2nd Monolith. They would meet up with general Bolonik and 1st Monolith's two main combat lines at Dorinibla River before heading to Wickhamsburg to join up with Thundercrash.
After that, Claude would lead one Thundercrash folk on the attack. Perhaps he would be sitting on the sidelines, watching the royal guard folk take the city so that Aljess could finally get the merit he needed to be promoted to Lord Militant and put an end to the colonial conflict that had lasted more than four years once and for all.
In the morning, Claude had to participate in a formal ceremony in war theatre headquarters before leaving with Aljess. When he was halfway there, a signaller from Aljess came bearing his message to get Claude to head to the main plaza of Lanu directly. That was where the ceremony would be held. He, Birkin, Skri, and Sevict were already there.
Claude felt his head hurt. There was a small plaza in front of the headquarters. They could've just gone with a simple ceremony there, but Aljess and the high-ranking officers of the royal guard loved spectacle and wanted to make the bravery of the royal guard folk known. So, they decided to move the venue to the larger city plaza. Claude suspected that they would even be giving speeches and holding a parade.
It really bothered him, given that he didn't like to be in the spotlight at all. Couldn't they have just deployed with a low profile? Claude told the coachman of the change in destination. The larger plaza was newly built following Lanu's expansion and was located to the west of the city. It would take him another 20 plus minutes to get there.
When the plaza was in sight, the number of people on the streets increased. Most of them were there to witness the ceremony. Given the relative lack of entertainment in their times, an occasion like that was rather rare and easily drew crowds. The carriage and the guards had no choice but to slow down due to the dense crowd.
Just as they were about to enter the plaza, a hawker's donkey-pulled cart and a carriage filled with people collided. The two sides argued fiercely. Annoyed, Gum sent two guards to chase them away to get the road to clear up. However, the brats sitting in the carriage actually pushed back at the guards while cursing nonstop.
"Send four more to arrest those brats," Gum instructed with a dark look.
Claude's patience was running thin as he sat in his carriage. Just as he opened the door and saw Gum approaching the carriage to tell him something, his expression warped. His heart rate rocketed as he saw in the corner of his eye some 40 metres away a man in a grey hood with a wooden cane in his hand pointed at his carriage. A large, flaming ball came flying towards him.
"Fireball... A magus?" Before Claude could snap out of his stupor, Gum pulled on his shirt and slammed him harshly on the ground. The next thing he felt was the crushing weight of Gum's body.
Boom! Claude felt his head spin. It seemed like he had suffered a heavy blow. His chest was tight and his mouth and nostrils were filled with dust from the ground. Soon, his hearing recovered and he heard the startled cries, shouts, and sobs, as well as the crackling sound of something burning.
Did he get ambushed by a magus? He still hadn't grasped the reality of the situation. But then, he felt a warmth flowing down his neck and immediately recalled Gum being on top of him. He pushed him over immediately.
Turning to look, he saw that his carriage had been obliterated by the fireball. The insides of the coach was burning and a cloud of dust was beaten up into the air. The guards beside him were on the ground and trying to get up and clear their minds. The mounts were gone and Gum was lying in a pool of blood.
"He's not dead yet! Over there!" a foreign voice shouted in the distant street.
Claude realised that he couldn't even recall the spells in his mind. The only thing he did was to lean himself against the wheel of the carriage and take out his revolver.