Magi Craft Meister 548
16 The Demons’ Mastermind Arc
16-27 Preventing Frost Damage
The next day, August 23rd…
Under Lorona’s guidance, Jin (‘s Substitute Doll) selected the land to be used to grow more crops.
Of course, Reiko and Ann had tagged along as well.
“Oh, I think this area is good.”
It was a plot of land that sloped gently toward the south. There was a small river flowing there, so there would be no shortage of water.
To the north was a coniferous forest. It seems it was dense enough to prevent the northern wind.
“Yes, but the land is barren here. Too barren, I’d say.”
Certainly, it was a plot of land with almost no grass. Reiko crouched down and scooped up a little of its soil with her hands. It was mostly sand, gravel, and volcanic ash clay.
She took some of that soil and showed it to Jin.
“Ah, so it’s not very organic?”
“Organic, you say?”
Lorona seemed confused. Though she was a mother of three, her appearance was that of a woman in her late twenties.
Incidentally, the lifespan of demons seemed to be about five times that of humans.
Lorona said she was 200 years old. That would make her equivalent to 40 years old in human years, but demons apparently didn’t start showing signs of aging until they turned at least 400 years old, so she still had a very youthful appearance.
But leaving that aside…
“Yes, organic. Like mulch. The soil here is too hard, so we’ll have to plow deeply.”
Jin had also made some tools such as plows and hoes the day before. He had used iron for the entirety of each tool, save for their tips and blades, which he had made out of adamantite. This was so that they wouldn’t deteriorate so easily even after being put through a lot of strain by the powerful Agris.
“So we’ll have to find a way to improve this soil…”
No matter how knowledgeable Jin was, he only knew a few ways to accomplish that.
He remembered once seeing in the news something about burying paper diapers in the desert (actually, high molecular polymers mean a more water-absorbent resin), about slash-and-burn farming, and about using root nodule bacteria when growing beans.
“Well, nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potassium are essential.”
Jin remembered about the three elements of plant cultivation, so he decided to start with his preparations from that point.
“What is that?”
Jin’s words only made Lorona look even more confused than before. Her expression as she tilted her head to the side could make anyone forget that she was a married woman with three children.
“These are very essential nutrients. Nitrogen is important for the growth of leaves and stems, phosphoric acid for flowers and fruits, and potassium for strong roots.“
“Oh… Is that too something you know because you’re the Magi Craft Meister?”
“Well, who knows?”
For the time being, they would prepare some mulch, wood ash, bone powder, oil residues, and so on.
The mulch would need to be as free from leaves from coniferous trees as possible. This was because those leaves contain turpentine oil, which hinders root growth.
Wood ash would be prepared by burning the trees and weeds that were growing in the place they had chosen as the new cultivation area.
Bone powder would be made by grinding bones and leftover carcasses the demons would otherwise throw away after eating.
There was no way to get oil residues. The demons didn’t even use vegetable oil to begin with, since they had no sesame or rapeseed to press for oil, so they didn’t even have any oil to get residues from.
“Well, as soon as you get your rye and beans going, you’ll start getting some oil sooner or later.”
The roots remaining in the soil and the chaff from cereal seeds could also be turned into organic fertilizer.
As Jin was sharing such simple knowledge with Lorona, he soon realized that Istalis had been there for some time, listening eagerly as well.
“Are you going to take over after your mother, Istalis?”
“Yes. I hope to one day succeed my mother and be in charge of providing food for everyone.”
Upon hearing that, Jin explains in more detail.
As Istalis devoted herself to learning, Jin happily shared his knowledge with her as well as any little detail he could remember that could be useful to her.***
“There are chemical fertilizers that can be bought with money, and you can also use other things such as dried sardines and the like.”
“In addition to those three elements, it would be nice to have trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.”
“The bumps on the roots of beans are called rhizobia, and they’re actually bacteria that fix nitrogen in the air, which coexist with the roots of these plants.”
“Soil has a crumb structure, and if you make it so that it consists of large crumbs, roots will have an easier time burrowing into the soil and will grow larger as well.
“You can also produce mulch quite easily by digging a shallow hole into the ground, filling it with vegetable scraps, and simply letting it rest there for a few months.”
“If you manage to get peat, that could be used as fertilizer as well.”
Even though she seemed to not be able to understand everything Jin was telling her, she tried her best to listen and remember every word.
Since Jin’s own knowledge of agriculture was only at the kitchen garden level, he soon ran out of advice.
“…I think that’s all I can share for now.”
“Thank you very much.”
Jin then started to think.
Perhaps the demons were downplaying technology and other common arts such as agriculture because they were able to use more powerful magic than humans.
And as their blood continued to become weak, their magical powers gradually weakened as well, until they reached this point where they didn’t have enough magical power nor the knowledge to fend for themselves.
While Jin was talking to Lorona and Istalis, the 20 Agris had cleared about 2 hectares of land.
At this rate, they would finish clearing 10 hectares by the end of the day.
To feed a hundred people, they would need to produce at least 15 tons of grains. This required at least 30 hectares of cultivated land.
There were actually 50 members in the entirety of the Shinra clan, so at first it would seem that there was no need to prepare that much more arable land, but it was important to have some fallow land ready to avoid damaging the same plot by repeated cultivation.
Since it was a cold region, a total of 40 hectares would be desirable, to account for the reduction in harvest caused by the cold weather.
As far as Jin had seen, the current cultivated area available to the demons was about 30 hectares. This was just barely enough to survive, and not so much to keep a good stockpile.
“I wonder if we’ll be able to harvest some rye before the frost if we start sowing it now.”
According to Istalis, the first frost started from the end of October to the beginning of November, and the first snowfall would be around the end of November.
“Our rye is very susceptible to frost.”
Jin didn’t know this, but the demons had been growing it for quite some time, so they knew that detail well enough.
“We should be able to harvest it in two months at the earliest.”
They had cleared land on a slope facing south, so it should be somewhat effective.
“Then… Oh, I know! A barrier!”
As he gazed upon the fields the Agris were working on, Jin seemed to come up with something and ran to the workshop.
In this regard, there would be no way to tell the difference between the real Jin and the Substitute Doll.
“Well, it doesn’t have to be too strong. But its range should be as wide as possible…”
“What are you making, Jin?”
Shion looked into the workshop. Soon after that, Istalis showed up. Unlike the real Jin, the Substitute Doll could run faster than Istalis.
“It’s a barrier to prevent frost.”
“Huh? You can do that?”
Physical barriers could help prevent frost, but it would be difficult to cover a large area of tens of hectares.
But Jin knew some ways to help prevent frost damage to crops.
In the inland areas of Japan, they would burn heavy oil and waste oil to generate black smoke, as well as using electric fans, to prevent the damage caused by late frost in May.
The point of these measures is to prevent radiative cooling and to circulate the air to prevent it from freezing.
“This physical barrier has its strength reduced to the bare minimum. Thanks to that, it should cover 1 hectare all by itself.”
What Jin had created was something weak enough to be impractical as a Solid Barrier. It had only 1/10,000 of its usual strength.
However, that much was actually enough to prevent warm air from dissipating and cold air from getting within its bounds. Moreover, since it was so weak, it wouldn’t prevent people from walking through it.
Shion also seemed to understand how it would work rather quickly.
“It’s probably strong enough to prevent snow flurries from getting in as well.”
With this barrier, the demons should be able to harvest a second crop of their rye. Jin advised that if possible, they should grow beans from spring to summer, and rye from summer to autumn.
“Even without the greenhouses, this barrier alone should let you get better yields…”
Thanks to its weak heat retention effect, the temperature inside it would be raised by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, so it would seem that the farming season could be extended for 1 to 2 months.
“Just as I’d expect from the Magi Craft Meister! With this, the root of our strife will surely disappear, Lord Jin!”
Istalis openly praised Jin, causing him to embarrassingly scratch the back of his head.
At the end of the day, Jin went to check out the zirconia mining site.
It was behind a hole dug in the side of a cliff close to the coast line. What Jin saw there deeply surprised him.
He couldn’t believe how perfectly transparent the zirconia they could get from that cave actually was.
Thinking carefully about it, such high amounts of that perfectly transparent zirconia was extremely unnatural.
After feeling around for a moment, Jin noticed that the mineral deposits continued deep into the mountain, but the distribution was geometrical, that is, it formed an unnaturally arranged path into the cave, almost as if it was semi-artificial.
Strictly speaking, the zirconia that could be mined in this cave seemed to contain some additives.
Unfortunately, Jin wasn’t very familiar with gemstones, so he didn’t know what it was or how it worked.
For the time being, it was easy to imagine what happened to these mineral deposits in the past.
Though he wasn’t trying to unveil any kind of deep mysteries, so he decided to leave things be, and just be content with the fact that he could now get some usable materials.
＊ ＊ ＊
“It’s a wonderful invention, My Lord.”
Jin kept receiving praise even on Hourai Island, this time from Laojun.
“Yeah, I also think it was a good idea. It’s very practical in this region, where the Ether concentration is so high.”
“It could also serve as a nice gift to offer to the other moderate clans.”
The moment the moderates saw the potential for self-sufficiency, the food problem would surely be solved.
“Alright, we should visit another moderate clan soon.”
“We’re also starting to get a good glimpse on the situation with the radicals as well.”
“Good. Let me know as soon as you’ve brought some info together.”
“Yes, My Lord.”