9 Chapter 8: Of Aunts and Chemical Nonsense
Clutching the wrapped up scroll detailing her mission, Diana ran with Kira back toward James's home. From his seat on the porch, Howard glanced in surprise at them. Kira had completely ignored her papers, and it was unlike Diana to appear so panicked. He set down the novel he'd been reading. Rising up from his chair, he asked with a hint of worry, "Diana, is everything all right? What happened?"
Panting a bit to catch her breath, Diana hurried to say, "Some Lady Lloyd framed me! We had to pay 20,000 Seedz. I swear I wasn't responsible. I was just shopping, and they insulted her. Well, I didn't pay; James did. I don't know what to do! Grandfather, please help me! Are there any connections you have around here that can help us? Wait, do you think my aunt can do it?"
Howard furrowed his brows. "Peace, Diana. Speak a bit slower. It seems like you've encountered quite the tricky political situation. This Lady Lloyd… I think that I know of her. Your aunt has complained about her before. Is she a medium height woman with blond hair?"
Diana looked at him incredulously. "That describes half the royal court."
Howard sighed, a bit embarrassed. "Fine. I'm not one to denigrate someone based on his or her appearance, but does she have a ridiculously sweet voice and looks like a kind of bi*@#y mother? She might also have introduced herself as a [Dame]."
Diana paused. "I haven't actually met this Lady Lloyd, so I don't know. However, that does sound a lot like a woman I met while shopping, but that'd be strange. She seemed so nice and even promised to help me out. You don't think..."
Howard grimaced. "Sounds like the Lloyd I know and love."
"Wait, but why would a mere [Dame] dare to challenge [Baroness]?"
Howard sank back into his hair, massaging his temples. He said in a grave voice, "It's actually the opposite. If not for James's aid, the [Baroness] might have even been demoted quite recently. You see, [Dame], or if you prefer [Lady] Lloyd—I never figured out exactly which one she was: the classes are pretty much the same either way. Where was I? Oh yes, Lloyd happens to follow a rather powerful [Count] who is well on their way to climbing toward the exalted Class of [Marquis], along with already having the political allies to back it up." He paused looking at Diana meaningfully. "Let's just say, that this [Count] was spurned a few years ago by your dear aunt, who at the time lacked a great enough understanding of the social etiquette followed within this country to know how to do it politely."
Diana nodded in understanding. This seemed to be a case of an upset lover seeking revenge. "Well, I'd hate to mess up Aunty's plans. What should I do?"
Howard turned to look back inside the door. "Well, James is working on something inside. I'm not quite sure what. He was mentioning something about solutions and refluxing. Honestly, some of the stuff that that young man gets up to is so confusing. It'd be best if we leave him alone for a bit, so we can't ask him for advice, not that he likes to get involved in politics either way. However, I don't think you should try to exert your rights as a foreign noble in this matter; it'll just end up infuriating any noble allies we could gain. I think the best course of action at this point is to inform your aunt and see what she says."
Diana nodded. "Will you be accompanying me, Grandfather?"
Howard looked at her in surprise. "Why?"
Diana blushed and looked at the ground. She mumbled, "I don't actually know my way around the castle. James found me when I was lost, and I just pretended I knew where I was."
Howard guffawed, sending his plate armor rattling. Picking up his sword that he'd unbuckled and left leaning against the porch railing, he stood and guided her down the road. Much to Diana's embarrassament, he teased, "Some things never change."
James worked in his small laboratory hidden within the basement of his house. To be honest, he had three labs: an engineering, chemical, and biological one. The biological one was basically just an empty room at this point because he hadn't wanted to support a bunch of animals beneath his house, not to mention that he hadn't yet developed the technologies to explore the secrets of microcosmic creatures. To be honest, the biology room was just a magically sealed off door, concealing the odor of fermenting bread inside. He couldn't remember exactly how penicillin was made, but he suspected he could get something interesting if he grew mold cultures. So far, he'd only obtained some nasty black and white puffy molds, but he was hoping he'd eventually end up with something that looked right.
He focused on his chemistry lab. Surprisingly, this lab almost rivaled his engineering lab, which was the only one he'd been able to convince the Queen to commit funding toward. To be honest, the lab didn't even look that far off from a well-equipped chemistry lab in a high school or maybe even college from the pre-interplanetary days. He had to marvel how far the people of this world had gotten without modern technology while pursuing the secrets of alchemy. Sure, it wasn't quite as rigorous as chemistry, but even he, with all his solutions from chemistry, wasn't that close to figuring it out either.
Pausing to refill a container that led to a column of crushed mana crystals, which would bind the more magical substances within the solution that he could later elute by breaking the attraction with a dose of concentrated wyvern piss, one of the more powerful cheap sources brimming with mana. With that, he'd finally obtain the concentrated mana particles contain in dragon's blood. He grinned maniacally. Now, he could surpass the bounds of even the great [Archmage]s!
When he'd first come up with the idea of building a chemistry lab to test some reactions, he'd been amazed to discover that this world already had a similar concept, alchemy. Moreover, he had discovered that the system closely paralleled chemistry from his own world, even if it was a bit less systematic. He flipped through one of the many alchemy texts lying about the room. If he was right, the [Alchemist]s already started trying to create a periodic table centuries ago but had given up much like he had. He scrutinized the book in front of them. Supposedly, the procedure described within the book would isolate one of the lightest reagents in magic from water, one that could react explosively with concentrated ambient mana. It had been his first experiment in this lab. He'd first hypothesized that this substance was actually just hydrogen obtained through passing an electric current in water that contained disassociated salts.
However, it was then that he'd discovered one of the first rules of the world: the laws of reality didn't quite match up. He'd used a spinning magnet to try to generate a weak electric current at first and to conduct electrolysis. He'd failed.
After some experimentation, he had realized that water was completely inert unless he passed attributed mana through it. Lo and behold, when he had done so, the water had immediately bubbled into two gaseous substances! The scientist in him was fascinated. The philosopher enthralled by the first true confirmation that he truly was in a different dimension of some sort. From there, he'd gone on to determine the existence of the first sixteen elements of the periodic table. Then, he'd received his second piece of contradicting evidence. After assuming that Avogadro's hypothesis of equal volumes of gases was true, he'd managed to construct a hand pump that created a vacuum in a sealed container. Then, he'd compared equally sized gases at the same temperature and pressure to determine their weights. They didn't correspond to the periodic table's masses!
It was then, just a bit over a year ago, when he had finally admitted that he'd just gotten lucky with water splitting into two elements quite similar to hydrogen and oxygen. However, he'd refused to let these setbacks stop him from exploring the rules of alchemy in this world. Over the years, his results had not been insignificant. He'd discovered a solid form of gunpowder, a brew of strengthening, and an advanced potion of haste recipe beyond any published in a textbook, not to mention several other minor substances. Nevertheless, this world's laws of chemistry just didn't make sense.
He frowned, recalling his attempts into experimenting with alcohol. Setting it on fire had done nothing. Eventually, he had tried to pressure it with a hand pump and then slowly cooled the substance, ending up with a grey solid that seemed to cause hallucinations and could somehow exist in the normal atmosphere despite the stringent conditions required for its creation. He grinned, remembering that. He had tried the tiniest bit and sat in the basement for a solid afternoon, staring at non-existent stars glimmering on the ceiling. More controlled animal testing had revealed that it was not at all addictive, and he'd been trying to find a buyer for it in the past few months.
Using a mana-reader to check on the series of tubes within the center of the lab that contained a bubbling red fluid, he scribbled something down the reading on a piece of parchment, excitement shining in his eyes. This could finally be the one! He went to the side and carefully placed the crystals inside a clear glass beaker. A normal one would do just fine for this. In his studies, this liquid only reacted with mana crystals, specifically ones of organic nature. He poured a yellow liquid over the flame crystals that Kira had given him this morning. The crystals seemed to almost melt within the beaker the reaction occurred in. James had learned from the start that breaking mana crystals was never a good idea even with the most careful countermeasures. Blowing up half his house once was already bad enough. Decanting the beaker into a flask, he stoppered it and set it a few inches above a flame, far enough for the heat to be relatively low.
Inspecting his work once more, he headed up the stairs toward the main part of his home. It was time for his nap.