The three-month long new recruit training finally ended at the end of the 11th month. The 400 or so new recruits were given three days of break, during one of which they would be allowed to spend their time in Gourneygada. It soon came to be known that more than half of them applied to go there on the first day itself.
Claude didn't head down the hill and instead spent his time writing letters. He wasn't allowed to contact the outside world during his stay there and could only write to his family after the training ended. The letter, however, had to be inspected before being permitted to be sent out.
Claude wrote many letters, among them addressed to his mother, sister and Borkal. Welikro had joined the royal guard in the royal capital and by the time Claude left, he still wasn't aware of his friend's new address, so there was no need to write to him. He also wrote one to Kefnie. She was, after all, his girlfriend now. He had to make sure he wrote her a longer letter to show his care for her lest she get depressed about it.
He also wrote a letter to Maria to discuss his current situation, a letter to Mayor Felidos to thank him for the recommendation, as well as one to Rodan to show his concern for the company. The butler was running the show himself now and Claude would do well to show some concern.
He also wrote Tomas a letter to see whether he would stand a chance in the elections for the council member post in town. Tomas also happened to be his hand in the real estate company, so if Rodan wanted to hide anything from him, Tomas could tell him the truth of the matter.
He would also be writing to Borkal's father, the big merchant of Whitestag Rublier. Before he left, he bought a plot of land and built a four-storey building and let Rublier manage it and he wanted to know how it was going. It was going to be Angelina's dowry after all and he had to know about its status.
There would be nine letters at the minimum and that didn't include those addressed to the people he got to know after the company was formed, such as Viscount Wenisk, the one in charge of the construction site, Second Lieutenant Nuit, as well as the people who helped his family after his father passed away. Those people did show up to send him off at that time, much to his surprise, and those were connections he ought to keep.
It was too bad that there weren't postcards in this world. Otherwise, he could've just gotten a stack to send it to those people. Claude considered whether inventing postcards would be a source of good income for him but soon gave up on the thought. Postage was relatively expensive and most people in this world wouldn't be willing to pay that kind of sum for a simple line or two of text on postcards.
Not to mention, people only usually wrote letters for important of formal matters, such as things that were hard to put into speech, like borrowing money from a friend. Should the friend be unable to help out, the reply would also be penned and delivered. There was no need to speak face-to-face about the awkward matter.
That was the reason sending postcards could be seen as flippant, not to mention the fact that the contents of the cards would be exposed for all to see. It was as if they were revealing their private selves in broad daylight. The other point against that was the relatively primitive printing technology of the world. There were only available in black and white and there wasn't any method to produce colorful shades for postcards. That wouldn't attract collectors and there would only be a small market for it.
It would be better to stick to good old writing. Claude ceased his pointless ponderings and and continued writing. He only managed to finish around nine at night. Shaking his numbed hands and giving the letters a final, rough check, he stuffed them into the envelope provided by Bluefeather. I'll write the address tomorrow and hand them to the camp's post department tomorrow.
Unlike Claude, the four nobles didn't write any letters. When questioned, Moriad rolled his eyes and said that there was no point. The four of them were eyesores of their families anyway and were hurried away to join the camp in such a manner, so there wouldn't be a point to write them anything. Nobody would want to read their letters anyway.
"Boss, are we going to Gourneygada tomorrow?" asked Berklin.
Claude shook his head. "Let's go the day after. I'll treat you to a meal there and pay for all your expenses. I still have to check some of these letters tomorrow morning and have them delivered. I'm worried that it'll take quite some time and there wouldn't be a point in spending only half a day at Gourneygada."
"Alright. We'll go the day after then," Berklin said, slightly disappointed.
Dyavid chuckled. "You idiot, didn't you hear boss say he'll pay for our expenses? You can hail two maidservants in the tavern without worry of not having enough money now!"
As new recruits, they didn't receive any pay for the first three months, only some allowance of one riyas each month. While that was enough money for a good meal at a tavern, there wasn't any room for leisure. Berklin heard from the other soldiers that each maidservant in Gourneygada's tavern cost three riyas to spend a night with and Berklin was seriously considering whether he ought to have a good meal or spend a delightful night at the tavern.
Claude shook his head with an awkward smile at the sight of those four. He didn't think that his noble minions would actually be poor misers. While their families would give them allowance in the royal capital to save face, all that stopped after they've been sent to the camp. The excuse for that was reasonable as well. Since they were already adults and would receive pay from the camp, they could use their pay for themselves instead of helping out their households with the finances. That was supposedly a privilege afforded to them.
"Boss, do you really have enough money for that?" Berklin said with worry.
Humored, he said, "Don't worry. There's enough for you to have all the fun you want. Let's go to sleep now. I have to visit Doctor Perunt and the healer Bell tomorrow after handing in my letters. I wonder if they can go to the city with us cause I want to treat them to a meal too to thank them for their care."
The next day, Claude took his minions to the infirmary after sending his letters. Interestingly, one senior soldier who hurt his leg was there for a checkup and ran away after thanking him in a panic after Perunt told him that he was healed.
"Why's he in such a rush? Didn't his leg just recover? How can he still run so fast?" Claude wondered.
Perunt broke out in laughter. "Don't you remember? His injury is your handiwork! Poor Corporal Federson's calf was harshly stomped by you. Even though it didn't feel odd at first, he felt the searing pain after you fainted and collapsed groaning. He was diagnosed with a slight fracture after he was sent here so I gave him a cast. It took him three months to recover from that injury, so why do you think he ran at the sight of you?"
"Well..." Claude stroked his nose shyly. To be frank, he couldn't recognize the soldiers he had a brawl with and only remembered the round-faced guy who suffered the most and had both his wrists snapped.
"Did you come for something today?" Perunt asked.
"Well, we have a three day break, don't we? I want to ask whether you and Bell are free tomorrow. I want to treat you to a good meal at Gourneygada to thank you for your help."
"I see. I do have time tomorrow and would like to go to Gourneygada too. The books and newspapers I ordered have arrived. I'll have to pick them up from the bookstore. But I'll have to return during noon to check up on the other injured senior soldiers," said Perunt.
"If that's the case, let me treat you to lunch. You can come back after that. I'll ask Bell whether he's free."
"You won't have to. I will approve him to come along. He happens to know how to drive so I'll have him drive me. By the way, how many of you will be coming along tomorrow?"
"Us five," Claude said after pointing at himself and the four nobles.
"Then come here tomorrow. I'll have Bell send us all there. There's just enough space and you won't have to hail a carriage downhill," Perunt said.
"Alright, we'll go to get our permits to leave the base now." He then bid the doctor goodbye.
The next morning, Claude and his four minions took the infirmary's carriage to Gourneygada. Perunt instructed Bell to circle around the city so that he could give them a short tour. He introduced the various shops and buildings to them.
After that, Perunt went to the bookstore and Claude also got some newspapers there which he would read back at camp.
At noon, Claude treated all of them to a feast at the largest tavern in Gourneygada, Kamais, spending three crowns in total. After that, Perunt left with Bell to head back to the infirmary and left Claude and the other four to their own devices.
"Boss, let's go to the tavern called Rose at the west side. I heard from the senior soldiers that the dancers and maidservants are the best there," Aboyev said impatiently.
"The maidservants at Kamais seemed rather fine too. Why didn't you look for one there?" They seemed to be having quite a good time with the maidservants during the meal that he thought they were going to stay there for the rest of the day.
"It's not that, boss. They charge too much. I asked around and found that those maidservants charge one thale a time and they only start after nine. They don't take guests in the afternoon. The seniors also have quite a high opinion of Rose, so I wanted to see if that is true," Berklin said.
Alright, Rose it is. Claude hailed two carriages and transported all five of them there.
He didn't blame the four for being so anxious. Based on their conversations, he knew that the four had already had their first experience in the royal capital when they were only sixteen or seventeen. They used to flaunt their noble status around and extort some money at the slums for good meals and maidservants to warm their beds back in the day.
In some sense, if their families didn't send them to join the military, they would've spent their lives like the descendants of the Eight Banners in Ming Dynasty China. They would only be noble on the surface but lesser than thugs on the inside.
After three months of training, the four were trained to look even leaner than skinned pigs being sent their way to the kitchen. Had it not been for the last month of arduous training that caused the four virile young men to fall asleep like logs the moment they touched their beds, Claude would've suspected that they've been training in some secret muscle-building technique in bed.
That was the reason Claude agreed to let them seek out maidservants in taverns. Men needed an outlet for their desires after all. He understood that from seeing how the military base in Whitestag included the brothel within its bounds. Women were ideal to keep men in check in that day and age and the soldiers counted on them for their physical and emotional needs.
"It's fine and all to look around for maidservants, but don't get into fights with others, alright? We're here to relax, not to find trouble. I'll pay for your expenses, but I won't be accompanying you guys, got it? I'm not interested in these women," Claude said.