Chapter 290 Investigation Plan
While Roland was sitting at his desk, in the middle of pondering how to attack the imperial palace from the air, a pounding sound suddenly came from the french window at his back.
Looking back, he saw Lightning pressing against the window, her face stricken with panic. While Maggie, squatting on her head, was quickly pecking at the window.
The moment Nightingale opened the window, the little girl immediately flew into Roland's arms.
"What happened," Roland asked confused, "What made you become like this?"
"A black stone, goo! An enormous snow-capped mountain, goo!" Maggie dropped on the table, wildly flapping her wings as she reported.
"No, that's not all," Lightning corrected with a muffled voice, "The Devils. I saw the Devils!"
"What?" Roland’s expression turned serious, he stroked her head, trying to give her some emotional support, "Don’t panic, just explain it to me slowly.”
After a while, Lightning freed her head from the Prince’s embrace and looked at his face. Her golden-bright hair looked like a complete mess, and around her eyes were two circles, which formed light red mark. Apparently, she had forgotten to put on her wind protector in her panic to flee at high-speed, "I wanted to draw the border of the Concealing Forest, so we flew westward along the Redwater River, at its end, we found a mountain...”
After listening to the narration of the details of what she had seen and heard, Roland couldn't help but to stare with big eyes into the empty air. The snow-capped mountain with the red mist that those Devils need to survive lays to the west, at our back, and it is only two hundred kilometers away from here?
He looked at Nightingale, who nodded and said, "I'll call the other sisters."
Soon after, the witches came together for an emergency meeting in the castle office.
After Roland told them what Lightning had discovered, the witches who had experienced that one night of slaughter all exposed the same disturbed expression. Especially Leaves, who had killed the two Devils with her own hands, could not help but cover her mouth and cry out in a small voice.
"Your Highness, I recommend we scout out the land covered in red mist further," Scroll was the first to speak, "After all, Lightning was only able to take a short glance from very far away, thus we cannot be certain that the Devils indeed live under the red mist. Also, it is necessary to investigate whether they will cross the mountain range that’s next to the ocean and travel along the coastline to reach the mainland.”
"I agree with Scroll’s standpoint," Wendy answered and nodded in agreement. "Although they are very powerful, it is always better to prepare to defend, than have your hands tied and wait to be captured."
As the two oldest witches of the Witch Union, Scroll and Wendy had always been the pillar of many sister’s hearts. Thus, even though some of them still showed some sign of fear, none of them seemed like they only wanted to sit still and wait for their death.
Roland preferred this kind of response, and he could see that no one was expressing any objections, the basic plan was already set like this. The crucial point now was to decide how they would implement it.
"We could use a hot air balloon for the investigation," Anna suggested. "The cloud gazer is already covered with a sky camouflage, so we can use clouds as cover and fly over the ocean."
"In addition, you can also take Sylvie along," Nightingale stated. "Her ability is perfect to deal with this kind of situation."
"Right," Rolland nodded, "Furthermore... I will also be going."
"Your Highness!" The second the words had left his mouth, the three, Wendy, Scroll, and Nightingale shouted at the same time to stop him, "You can’t take this risk yourself!
"It’s not that I will be taking any risks," Roland waved his hands to calm them down before explaining further, "If they had the ability to pass over the high mountain or the sea, they would already have spread all over the Four Kingdoms by now. However, the reason why they are still gathered in the land to the Far West is simply because they are not as fearful as in your imagination."
Still, there was another reason he hadn’t mentioned, in regards to judging the level of development of a differed kind of civilization, he was far more experienced than any of them – if he could lay his eyes on the Devils and their city, it would be a great help in developing the path to follow in the future and also to come up with a tactic to repulse the enemy.
"But..." Wendy’s face was still filled with hesitation.
"Do not worry, we will just take a look from a distance," the Prince said and showed a reassuring smile, "In case I came to the conclusion that a distant investigation was dangerous, I would never permit you to go.”
"Alright, but you have to take me along with you," as she saw that their attempt to dissuade him was in vain, Nightingale was the first to change her tact.
Seeing his counterpart's serious gaze as she declared her demands, Roland knew that it was impossible for him to reject her. So, after thinking about it for a moment, he announced: "In that case, the people who will come along on this trip besides me, are Anna, Wendy, Soraya, Sylvie, Nightingale, Lightning, and Maggie.
"The mission will be in one week. In addition to the necessary food reserves, I also will give each of you a revolver. Use the week to practice, so that even if you are a non-combat witch, you will still be able to fight back if you are facing an enemy."
Since the hot air balloon's speed of flight was far less than Lightning’s, Roland feared that they would need a whole day to travel a distance of more than 200 kilometers. They would therefore have to camp one night in the wilderness if they wanted to complete the investigation. Taking this into account, dry food, tents, and weapons were a must.
"Yes, Your Highness," the witches said in chorus.
After the crowd had departed, Roland finally had time to look at the black stone that Lightning had brought back under such great effort.
"You said that this kind of stone was everywhere at the edge of the forest?"
"Yes," by now Lightning had calmed down, but even while sitting at the mahogany table, her legs were still swaying, the red flush on her cheeks also had not faded. "Furthermore, the nearer to the foot of the mountain the larger the more black stones there are. Looking at it from high up, the area covered by these black stones is more than a dozen times bigger than Border Town.”
When Roland picked it up to estimate its weight, his heart jumped slightly.
With regards to its weight, it is much lighter than an ordinary stone, which makes it unlikely that it’s ore. Its external appearance is hard and lithe, and under the sunlight, it reflects with a metallic luster. Furthermore, it lays bare on the surface... Is it possible that this could be a coal mine?
Thinking of this, he quickly called Anna back.
As it burned down under her black flame, the black stone soon became bright red, looking just like an iron ore in the smelting furnace, but it soon began to dissolve. Even after Anna had taken her black flame back, the orange light exuded by the stone didn’t weaken in the slightest degree. Instead, they could even see how a blue flame was slightly rising from its surface.
With this, Roland had confirmed his guess that it was indeed a piece of anthracite with excellent quality.
"So, this is the original look of a coal mine," Lighting said in surprise. "I always thought it would resemble fragile charcoal and be covered with dust, so that if you touched it with your hand, it would make your palm dirty.”
"Of course, only after going through a crushing and dilution process will it look like charcoal briquette and coal cake," Roland explained laughingly. "Most of the extraction that comes out of a coal mine look like stones in general, and of course, the higher the quality of the raw coal, the stronger will its structure be. In the end, they will become just like these stones, showing a reflecting luster on their surface.”
This unexpected discovery made him exceptionally happy.
Coal wasn’t a rarity in the Kingdom of Graycastle. Both Fallen Dragon Ridge and Silver City had coal mines, their yield was mostly used to fuel kilns or personal heating. But in fact, its range of use was extremely broad. Before the extensive spread of the internal combustion engine, the smoke of burning coal had covered about half the sky. While using it for coal coking, it could replace charcoal for smelting iron into steel and would be much more environmental friendly than wantonly cutting down trees. Even after humanity had entered the electrical era, coal could still be refined into coal gas, hydrogen, and asphalt. Or it could be used to generate electricity. It was thus regarded as a cheap fuel of high quality.
Holding an open coal mine in hand was clearly much better than relying on imports. The only question was, how to exploit it?
Roland moved his gaze to Lightning’s newly drawn map.
It seemed that the construction of steam driven cement boat was imperative.
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