Corporal Kro was the kind of soldier who wore a stern expression all day and didn't fancy talking. He could perhaps be described as stiff. Though Claude attempted to strike up a conversation to acquaint himself, he received no other reply other than ohs and okays. He soon gave up after that.
Even though the man was quite cold, he did everything as he was told properly. After settling the paperwork with Claude at the office, he gave him a temporary wooden soldier identity plaque and brought him to the logistics department to get two sets of uniforms and necessities before leading him to the tents at the training field.
The tents were separated into the left and right camps. Claude was assigned to the right where around thirty or so tents were erected. Each tent accommodated a 'tent' of twelve, hence the unit name, and it was estimated that the right camp had around 400 or so people.
The tent Kro led Claude into was numbered 307, which stood for the seventh tent on the third row. It was made mostly of rough, grey-white linen which sandwiched a layer of oiled cloth to prevent leaks. Varnish was coated over the outside and the cloth was hard to the touch.
The tent was around 25 square metres wide. Claude estimated the dimensions to be around nine by three. Six double beds with metal frames were arranged in a row within and every one of them had a wooden cabinet about half a metre in height. The cabinet had two doors, and a key was hung on top of it.
"You shall sleep on the upper bunk here," Kro said as he removed a blank plaque hanging on it and wrote Claude's full name on it before replacing it at the end of the bed. "Also, the cabinet on top is for you. Store your personal artifacts within and keep the key well. Also, you may now change into your uniform. I will give it a check after you do."
"Understood." Claude didn't waste time and began changing.
Bluefeather's uniform was the same as the standard ones in the kingdom's other corps. It sported a red top and black pants and boots as well as a red army cap. The only differences were the dark blue feather was stuck on the cap as well as the dark blue sashes. The sashes were supposed to be worn on the left and right shoulder respectively to form an 'X' on the uniform before the belt was to be worn.
To the soldiers of Bluefeather, the feather and the sashes were signs of pride. It was a constant reminder of Bluefeather's achievements.
"Not bad. You do have the air of a military man about you," Kro praised, despite how less he talked.
"Corporal Kro, may I ask why I don't have shoulder marks?" Claude looked at his bare shoulders and back at the red-lined shoulder mark of Kro.
"I'm not sure. Perhaps you will only be given them after you complete the training," Kro replied, "For now, put these on first. I'll tell you how to wear them so you don't get it wrong."
They were a black leather backpack, a standard-issue bamboo flask painted black, a black-dyed goatskin sleeping bag and a portable copper canteen.
"Hang your flask on your left, not your right. The right side is for the battle pack later. Put your canteen in your backpack and make sure to also bring a first aid kit, some rations and other stuff in the future. The sleeping bag is to be rolled up and put atop your backpack. If you are ordered to sortie with full gear, you must have all these in place before joining the ranks," Kro explained briefly.
"Sir, why aren't we given weapons today?"
"That will also have to wait after you finish your training," Kro said, "Put your towel, cup, toothpaste, toothbrush and soap into the bronze basin here. The basin is to be placed on the wooden chair beneath your bed. When you sleep, you must be sure to pack your stuff up and hang it at the head of your bed so it's within hand's reach."
He handed Claude the temporary identification plaque. "Rest well in camp for the next two days. Training will begin the day after, so sleep here for the night. Make sure to bring this plaque with you when you go to the mess hall for food, as well as your canteen set. After you finish, wash your canteen properly before putting it back in your backpack. Don't leave the camp and don't simply wander into the warehouse area. As for baths, the bathing hall is next to the mess hall. You may enter if you have this pass with you."
Kro left after he said all he had to say.
Claude opened his cabinet and saw that the space within was segmented. There was a larger one and a smaller one. He stuffed his backpack into the larger space and his extra uniform in the smaller one before locking it up and pocketing his key. After that, he bundled up the clothing he changed out of and stuffed it into the bronze basin. He would give it a wash when he bathed that day and put it in his backpack after he let it dry. From now on, he would have to be in uniform.
Since there was still some time before dinner, he decided to lie down and catch some sleep. There would be time tomorrow to familiarise himself with the place. He had two days left after all and the base wasn't that large. If he did everything right away, he'd no doubt find himself bored not long after.
But just as he was about to fall asleep, a bunch of noisy folk entered the tent. Claude lost the urge to sleep completely and sat up. He wanted to see his comrades who had just entered.
The four who came were also wearing uniforms without shoulder marks. They started for a moment when they saw Claude on the bed and no longer caused a racket. The tent turned quiet immediately.
Claude jumped down from the bed and greeted them with a smile. "Nice to meet you. I'm Claude Ferd and I just arrived here."
The young, freckled, red-haired soldier at the front was about 1.7 metres in height, some ten centimetres shorter than Claude. "Nice to meet you. I'm Aboyev Bach."
"A pleasure to meet you. I'm Dyavid Jil Randolph."
"Good to see you. I'm Berklin Rol Bencent. You can call me Berk."
"Are you nobles?" Claude asked the two at the back with some surprise.
The one who introduced himself as Berklin smiled. "We all are. The other two just didn't mention their courtesy names."
"Why?" Claude wondered, "If you are nobles, you can join the military academy in the royal capital and graduate as a second lieutenant at least. Why would you bother coming to the officer training course?"
Berklin looked a little down and replied with a forced smile, "I'm the seventh in my family and Mod here is the fourth. Dyid is the sixth and Bov is also the sixth. We don't have a place at the academy, so our families sent us here."
It was then when Claude realised that even though the four were nobles, their mothers were particularly adept at bearing one child after another. If the eldest son was to succeed the household and the second and third were sent to military academy, then the fourth onwards wouldn't have any special treatment other than the middle courtesy name they were born with. They could only compete with the peasants.
The other two possibly hid their courtesy names because they were illegitimate children. While their fathers admitted them to be children, the official wife in the household would never let them enjoy the same treatment as her own children did. Perhaps it wasn't their intention to not bear the courtesy name at all. They were probably denied that right by the official wife and not registered with the courtesy name.
"You guys came here early. I thought I was fast to come two days before training starts." Claude didn't know how else to continue the conversation.
"We were here for more than a week. We can't stand staying at home, you see, so we might as well come here sooner," replied the red-haired Aboyev candidly.
"Oh. Where are you all from? I came from Whitestag, a place in the three southwestern prefectures. Have you heard of it?"
Berklin replied, "We are all from the royal capital. After graduating from middle school, we had nothing else to do and stayed at home for half a year, much to the dismay of everyone else. By the time we heard that Bluefeather was running an officer training course, our families sent us here immediately."
Much could be gleaned from what he has said. Mainly, they probably didn't enjoy the affection of their parents much and were often neglected at home. When such a chance surfaced to send them away, their families didn't hesitate to jump at that chance to get rid of the eyesores.
"All of you just graduated? I did too," Claude said.
"It can't be... I would've thought you were 20 plus years old from how you look..." Moriad said with some surprise.
"Is that so? Do I look that old? It hasn't been half a year since my 18th birthday though..." Claude stroked his chin ponderingly.
They announced their ages one after another. Apart from Aboyev, the rest were all 18. Aboyev was born in the 11th month. Their birthdays were within two to three months of one another and Claude's, which was in the 3rd month, was the earliest, so they began to call him 'Chief Claude'.
"Don't call me that. There are 12 bunks in total here and only we five are here. We might be the youngest among the rest here you know--"
At that moment, the loud sound of the horn could be heard and interrupted what Claude was saying.
"What's going on? Why was the horn blown?" Claude asked.
"No big deal. It's just dinnertime," Aboyev replied.
"I just happen to be feeling hungry. Let's head to the mess hall." Claude took his canteen out from his backpack, only to see the four standing there unmovingly.
"What's wrong? Aren't you guys coming?" Claude shot them an odd look.
"We are... still not hungry," Dyavid said, before his stomach grumbled for all to hear. The other three, however, ignored it.
"What's wrong? Be clear with it. What's stopping you from going to the mess hall for food even though you're hungry?" Claude questioned as he put his canteen down.
The four didn't dare to look him in the eye. In the end, Berklin couldn't avoid the gaze and stammered, "T-those soldiers are bullies... When we were heading there for food, they said that we aren't real soldiers and have no right to get in line before them. They pushed us to the very back and only scraps remained by the time it's our turn... So... we might as well go there an hour later. There aren't that many soldiers there by then."
Claude felt the urge to laugh. Those poor noble kids were actually bullied to the point that they didn't dare to go to the mess hall for food. Didn't they know that the more they held it in, the more they would be bullied?
"I believe there are some enforcers there to maintain discipline, right?" Claude asked.
"They saw what happened, but they didn't bother. They only laughed at us mockingly," Aboyev said with distress.
What would you expect them to do if you keep your quiet? If you don't make a scene, they won't butt in. For them, it would be ideal to not cause anything at all. Nobody wants trouble no matter where we are...
Claude got his canteen and made his way to the mess hall. He turned to the four and said, "I am not one to be able to stand hunger. I can't wait an hour long. I'll go first. You guys can come an hour later if you want."
The four looked at Claude's back, and then at each other.
"What do we do?" Aboyev asked.
"Let's follow along! Worst thing that can happen is all five of us eat one hour later, anyway!" Berklin said with grit teeth.
"Alright, let's bring our canteens with us," Dyavid agreed.