In the coming few days, Claude recovered rather quickly. Perunt was quite the competent herbalist and had amazing skills. Claude's injuries turned for the better day by day according to his predictions. On the fifth day, Perunt inspected Claude's body one last time and said that he could get out of bed and move about, but it would still take a while before he was fully recovered.
Claude was quite curious about that assessment, as Perunt had said in the beginning that it wouldn't take more than five to six days for him to be more or less fine. Yet, now he had to rest for a little while more? Bell, however, nudged him on the waist and chided him. "Are you a fool? Friend, why would you leave the infirmary now? Do you want to march around with the new recruits? Staying here is far better than being out on the fields. Trust me, the longer you're here, the better it'll be."
Claude finally realised why Perunt reported to Sidori that it would take him longer than the initial assessment to fully recover. The reason for that was because Sidori was there to announce the punishment for both sides of the brawling incident.
Perunt's guess of thirty canes and three days of confinement was accurate, and that it would be inflicted on both sides without exception, regardless whether the senior soldiers instigated the fight or not. After all, Claude did hit rather hard even though it wasn't him who started the fight. Taking into consideration that both sides were injured in the fight, the upper brass considerately decided to postpone their punishment until after they've recovered.
Perunt was quite easy to get along with, as Claude had seen for himself. Apart from rambling about his politics and policies and how he could've handled things better, he was still a white-robed angel to his patients. Claude merely thought that the herbalist was an angry, middle-aged intellectual.
The doctor's experiences in life were quite inspirational, in fact. He was born in poverty and got a chance to study in the shrine of the war god during his childhood. Only after toiling through with lots of effort did he win the favour of a herbalist in the shrine and get accepted as his disciple. When he matured, he did his best to treat peasants and gained quite the reputation in his hometown, as well as his fair share of envy and hate. On his 27th birthday, he got conscripted and had served as Bluefeather's healer since.
A military healer, unlike a recruit, only had to serve for ten years to gain dignitarian status. Perunt served the camp for 16 whole years and wasn't willing to leave it after his term was over. Even after he got dignitarian status, he remained there as a healer. According to him, it was far better staying in the camp as his food, shelter and other needs were provided for and he was paid a good amount of money. There wouldn't be a need to go back to his hometown to fight his colleagues for patients to treat.
Claude remained at the infirmary for a dozen more days, getting into long-drawn debates with Perunt when he was bored. Being a person who lived in both worlds, Claude was able to hold his ground in their conversations with the doctor. It didn't take long before Perunt saw a kindred soul in Claude and thought he had a mature and intellectual mind. When he found that Claude had basic medical knowledge, he was elated and even wondered whether he could get him to stay back as his assistant.
It was too bad that Claude was there for the officer training course unlike other new recruits, so there wasn't much Perunt could do. The most he could do was to prolong Claude's stay in the infirmary. But no matter how long that was delayed for, he would have to leave sooner or later. On the 15th day since Claude joined the camp, First Lieutenant Sidori brought two enforcers with him with the intent to lead Claude for his punishment of three days of confinement.
The location was on the other side of the field. The four crossed the large field and attracted lots of gazes. There were a bunch of senior soldiers training on the field as well as another batch of new recruits. All eight hundred pairs of eyes watched as the four walked past them.
The base was located on a piece of level ground halfway up the hill and Claude noticed that the confinement chambers were on the cliff itself. It was an entrance into a dark, mountain cave outside of which two enforcers stood guard. Inside the cave was a long walkway lined with torches on both sides of the walls separated every ten metres or so. The low light only seemed to emphasise the quietness of the cave.
Sidori brought Claude to the very end of the cave. There was another dark, short corridor around ten or twenty metres in length. Small metal doors lined both sides of that corridor.
Sidori opened one of them and motioned with his chin for Claude to enter. Inside the door was complete darkness. Nothing could be seen with the naked eye. One of the enforcers removed a torch from the wall and stretched it beyond the door before groaning, "Get in."
Claude was finally able to see a tight little room beyond the door. There were three stone steps leading downwards into a space around 1.6 by 1.4 square metres in area and some four metres in height. Next to the stone steps was an uncovered wooden potty where he would have to excrete and defecate in.
The moment he entered, the metal door behind him was closed shut. The room was completely dark once more. After a while, he finally saw a spot of light atop him. He looked up and saw that it was an air hole about the size of two palms and closed off with two metal bars. It seemed like it had been dug out from the thick slab of stone above. The light from the outside was reflected off the walls into the little hole to illuminate his room ever so slightly so that it was just enough for him to make out the inner structure of the room.
There was only room to sit in that room. Lying down wasn't possible. It was only 1.6 metres in length and one couldn't even stretch one's legs out fully. Even after moving the wooden potty aside and stretching out the legs, it would feel even worse. As the room was only 1.4 metres wide, he would have to sleep while hugging the potty if he didn't leave it in its original position.
The tightness of the room made it feel rather claustrophobic, and the height of three to four metres only made one feel lonelier. It was no wonder Perunt said soldiers were more willing to be caned 30 times than suffer solitary confinement. It was indeed somewhere unfit for humans to dwell, save for idiots or the mad. Normal humans would easily go insane from staying in such places too long.
Another sound could be heard outside. Claude realised that footsteps sounded all the louder from within his little room. The steps stopped outside his door and was followed by a loud clack. The door was opened and the light from a torch seeped into the little room and shed an odd glow on the walls within.
A hoarse voice said, "You, come here. Take this blanket and toilet paper. Also, you'll be having two meals a day and they'll be sent to you from the opening at the bottom of this door. After you finish, return the utensils the same way, understood?"
Claude approached soundlessly and received the blanket and ten or so pieces of toilet paper. The door was shut once more, and the room was once more submerged in darkness.
He rested his back against the ice-cold wall and shut his eyes. While solitary confinement was terrifying for most soldiers, it was a reward to Claude. Only there could he meditate without worry of being interrupted.
The second hexagram formation within his mental void space was less than half filled with the mana converted from the second type of element he absorbed. Filling this hexagram up would still take a long time. He wasn't sure how long it would take for him to become a two-ringer.
After one meditation session, he heard footsteps coming down his corridor again, accompanied by the whispers of two enforcers. They were betting whether Claude would climb out of his room on his own or whether they would have to go inside and drag him out. Based on their experience, most soldiers confined for the first time would have to be dragged out after three days.
The two enforcers were there to deliver Claude's meal. The food was quite simple; two finger-thick pieces of black bread served in a wooden plate and a wooden cup filled with water. There were no other utensils, probably out of worry that the inmates would sharpen them into harmful tools that could cause unpredictable harm.
The lower opening of the wooden door was only a foot long and around ten to twelve centimetres in height, barely allowing for the plate and cup to be pushed through onto the first step. Claude got up and took the bread and water, scarfing them down quickly, before pushing the cup and plate back through the opening. What he needed was peace and quiet so as to not be disturbed during his training.
During the afternoon, Claude continued meditating. After two sessions, he tested out the spells he learned. Apart from the seven basic spells engraved in his hexagram, other spells could only be cast by tracing the formation diagram in mid air. He had left his magical books with Angelina after leaving to join the military so as not to be discovered. Privacy was hardly in good supply in the military after all and it wouldn't do for him to keep the books by his side, lest he was discovered to be a magus.
Thanks to his amazing hearing, he noticed that he was the lone inmate in this corridor. The enforcers wouldn't come on patrol for no good reason either, so he daringly practiced his spells in his room and even cast a Luminous Pearl to light his room out brightly.
After expending the mana in him, he began to meditate once more. The enforcers returned during the evening with the same things in the afternoon. They started to wonder as the recruit in confinement was a little too quiet unlike the usual soldiers. Normally, some who were confined for the whole day would have no appetite to eat anything or cause a great ruckus by throwing tantrums. There were even some who would talk as much as possible to the enforcers, even if it meant incurring a harsh scolding, perhaps even enjoying it.
Perhaps not enough time had elapsed for Claude. Maybe he would react the same after another night and start crying or raging the next morning, thought the enforcers after they left with the bowl and cup Claude returned.
He continued to meditate after that. The only downside of meditating that much was how invigorated he was. He was feeling rather hyperactive. He pushed both his legs against the side walls and slowly inched upwards to reach the air hole in the top for a deep breath, before he grabbed onto the metal bars to do pull ups.
After some training, he jumped back down and did push ups with both his hands on the stone steps. When he was feeling fatigued, he laid against the wall, stretched his legs out and slept with his blanket on.
When he woke up in the morning, he felt rather uncomfortable, perhaps due to the half-sitting sleeping posture. Only after much stretching could he get rid of the sores on his shoulders and back before he started meditation.
Three days passed quickly and footsteps could be heard at the corridor once more. He could hear one additional set of steps. It was apparent that his time was up.
The metal door unlocked with a bone-chilling clack and light poured into the room. One enforcer poked his head in to see how Claude was doing, only to see him sit up from the wall and ask with a casual tone, "Oh, is my time up?"
The two enforcers were completely dumbstruck. Even First Lieutenant Sidori was taken aback. He looked around in the room and saw that everything was normal, before he stared at Claude suspiciously. "How did you spend the past three days?"
"How?" Claude shrugged. "I laid there and slept, and ate, and slept, and ate, and slept. That was about it. It's really peaceful here. I kinda like this place."