That’s right. The method Yan Liqiang mentioned that could sell soil as expensive as coal was known as the honeycomb briquette.
When he rushed to the Weaponsmiths Quarter and saw Qian Su talking about coal in the coalyard, he had already thought of the honeycomb briquette.
In this era, anyone who had truly burned coal in the fire stove knew that coal buyers loved to buy large pieces of coal. This was due to the fact that coal fragments weren’t easy to burn in a traditional stove and were difficult to ignite. Those coal fragments were like sand. If more were placed in the stove, there was even a chance that they could also extinguish the flames burning the firewood, which was why coal fragments were difficult to sell. Those small coal fragments would be sold together with the larger pieces whenever people came to buy them. Due to the low coal supply in Pingxi Prefecture, the quality of the coal imported by the Weaponsmiths Quarter was poor. Those small coal bits of that were difficult to burn occupied quite a large portion of the total amount.
Those coal fragments which were difficult to burn were considered as a problem to others. However, to Yan Liqiang, these coal fragments were practically the best type of raw material needed to make honeycomb briquettes.
The most traditional recipe to make honeycomb briquettes consisted of a mixture of 80% coal powder and 20% yellow soil in addition to a small amount of lime. Then, a small amount of water would be added. A metal mold to make the honeycomb briquette would also need to be prepared beforehand.
Putting the coal aside, yellow soil covered the mountains and plains so they were completely free of charge. Anyone could dig as they wished. On top of that, lime was very inexpensive and was readily available. Water wasn’t an issue either. As for the metal mold used to mold honeycomb briquettes, that wasn’t difficult to get as well. Regardless of whether it was at Yan Liqiang’s residence or the weaponry barracks, it forging a couple of metal molds was an easy feat.
Coal fragments and coal powder were cheaper than coals themselves. After they were mixed in with the yellow soil to make honeycomb briquettes, selling the honeycomb briquettes which were similar in weight at the same price as ordinary coals could also be considered a business that turned yellow soil into gold. There would be a huge influx of profits. In actuality, once they were produced for real, the honeycomb briquettes would at least sold at a slightly higher price than the coals. Then the profit that ensued would be shocking.
Yan Liqiang requested for a charcoal coal and a wooden board from Qian Su. Then he drew clear diagrams of the honeycomb briquettes and the iron molds used to make them while explaining so both of them could get a clear picture.
Qian Su and Yan Dechang had never seen honeycomb briquettes before and they stared at the diagrams Yan Liqiang that had drawn on the drawing board with their mouths agape, unable to close them back up again. Both of them were blacksmiths, hence burning furnaces were common things for them. As soon as both of them saw what the honeycomb briquettes looked like, they instantly knew exactly where the beauty was.
Qian Su excitedly slapped on his thighs. “Marvellous! Marvellous indeed! The holes in these charcoal briquettes will naturally allow airflow, therefore allowing the flames to burn brightly even without shifting the charcoals around. These air holes in the design are simply amazing!”
“That’s right! When burning charcoal or coal in a furnace, if the flame in the furnace is not burning bright enough, someone will need to shift the charcoals around to leave some holes in the burning pile to allow airflow so that the flame can burn brighter, and also to release the gas from the bottom of the furnace. If these charcoal briquettes have air holes in them, then basically no one will need to watch over the flames after they are lit!” Yan Dechang nodded while speaking. At the same time, he also gave Yan Liqiang a bewildered look. As Yan Liqiang’s father, even he thought that it was getting difficult to read Yan Liqiang. Could it really be that Yan Liqiang had learned all this from the deity he dreamed of when he slept?
In the past, Yan Dechang never really took Yan Liqiang’s explanations seriously. But now, he was swayed. Thinking up to this point, Yan Dechang asked a question when he was looking at Yan Liqiang’s diagrams. “Liqiang, what did you call this coal you made again?”
“This coal is called” Yan Liqiang only uttered these four words.
“Hold on, let me have a guess” Yan Liqiang was interrupted by Qian Su before he could even say ‘the honeycomb briquettes’. He studied the diagrams that Yan Liqiang had drawn with a serious expression at the side. His eyebrows were tightly knitted together before they suddenly loosened again. “Are these called the lotus root briquettes? Look at these air holes, don’t they look like the intersections of lotus roots?”
Lotus root? Yan Liqiang blinked, then took another look at the honeycomb briquettes he drew again. Qian Su was not wrong at all for saying that it looked similar to a lotus root.
“Did I get it right, Liqiang?”
“Indeed, it is called the lotus root briquette! Uncle Qian’s great observation skills have really impressed Liqiang! ” Yan Liqiang exclaimed seriously and gave Qian Su a thumbs up.
“Of course. The name of the things Liqiang learned from some deity in your dream must be something magical!” Qian Su stroked his beard and seemed to be rather proud of himself.
“What is your opinion on this business, Uncle Qian?”
“If the soot can still burn with yellow soil mixed in it, then this business will be raking in endless cash!” The expression on Qian Su’s face gradually grew serious as he seemed to be in deep thought. “This business model is too big for the Weaponsmiths Quarter to handle alone. Beside, this idea you proposed would be a waste if it were handled solely by the Weaponsmiths Quarter. There are too many people and too many pairs of eyes here. The moment this thing is produced, others will know how to make them with just a glance before much profit can even be earned. The secret will not be kept for long and someone will be able to immediately make copies of it. The more people make imitations of these, the price of these lotus root briquettes will fall and the profit will be less. This kind of thing should be able to rake in a lot of profit in cities like Pingxi City where the sales volume will be high. If you can completely secure and meet the supply demands of the lotus root briquettes to Pingxi City, you will most likely be rolling in the dough. If you are really going to make this happen, it will be best for you to find another one or two capable partners to invest in this business so that you can cover all of Pingxi City” Speaking up to this point, realization finally dawned on Qian Su when he saw Yan Liqiang smiling without saying anything. He started laughing loudly when he guessed Yan Liqiang’s thoughts and shook his head while pointing at Yan Liqiang. “You really got me there, Liqiang! Fine, I will go with you together tomorrow…”
Yan Liqiang laughed. “Thank you, Uncle Qian. But this is not just a matter of borrowing your name and reputation, I will also be relying on your assistance. My father’s share and your share will be counted together. Regardless of how many shares on our side ends up with after negotiations, both of you shall split it equally. If we can make this happen, then Uncle Qian can live in the Pleasure Fragrance Court for the whole year round”
“Live in the Pleasure Fragrance Court every day? How much longer can my old bones still live on?” Qian Su laughed.
“What are both of you talking about? I’m getting lost” Yan Dechang looked at Qian Su from the side, then at Yan Liqiang with a confused look on his face, unable to understand what both of them were going on about.
“Liqiang is thinking of roping in the Lu Clan first” Qian Su explained.
“Liqiang, are you really thinking of doing this business? I can’t help but feel that it’s impractical to make it this big all at once” Yan Dechang voiced out his concerns.
“Rest assured, Father. I know the limits. Uncle Qian and I will only be proposing the business idea and investing in the secret of the lotus root briquettes. We won’t be making that many financial investments, and therefore the shares we get will not be huge. The first thing we need to do is make a few more friends. We need to earn some trust first”
Upon hearing Yan Liqiang’s explanation, Yan Dechang naturally had nothing much to say.
The next day, it started snowing heavily. In the midst of the fluttering snowflakes, Yan Dechang left the Weaponsmiths Quarter on a horse carriage for Qinghe County. As for Yan Liqiang and Qian Su, both of them made their way to the Lu Residence on their rhinodrake steeds after lunch…
When they were halfway to the Lu Residence, tremors on the ground could be heard coming from the hill with three forked roads ahead of them. From the sounds of it, there were at least more than a hundred people galloping powerfully on their steeds.
Yan Liqiang and Qian Su who were chatting with each other exchanged looks, then slowed down the speed of their steeds to a halt at the roadside.
It was extremely scary to have so many rhinodrake steeds running on the road altogether. It was just like having a lot of people speeding in their cars on the highways. If one accidentally bumped into another directly or if someone didn’t have good control over their steed due to a lack of skill, it might lead to a life-threatening situation if someone fell onto the ground at this time. Hence, both of them were trying to be careful.
After the space of a few breaths, a huge group of cavalries fully armed with bows and spears came into view from the other side of the hill. They didn’t even pay attention to Yan Liqiang and Qian Su as they rode on to the other fork in the road after making a turn at the hill with murderous intent…
“Oh, these are the elite cavalry units from Pingxi City. Why are they in such a hurry to Huanglong County?” Yan Liqiang exclaimed in shock to Qian Su.
Looking in the direction where the cavalries sped off to, Qian Su frowned. “Let’s go, we’ll talk once we arrive at the Lu Residence…”
Both of them pressed onwards. Little did they expect that a few minutes later, they’d see another huge group of riders on road. There were no less than forty of fifty of them, each wearing a cape and a red headscarf as they waved their whips about in the snow as they charged on their rhinodrake steeds, seemingly chasing after those cavalries from before…
It was obvious from the way they dressed that this group of riders were all Wanderers.
Something terrible had happened. Something bad must have happened…
Yan Liqiang and Qian Su exchanged glances with each other before coming to an immediate stop.
“Uncle Qian, look” Yan Liqiang cried out.
“Move. Let’s go check it out, then we’ll go to the Lu Residence” Qian Su promptly turned his steed around.
Both of them instantly gave their steeds’ abdomens a tight squeeze before giving chase to the flock of Wanderers.