Claude was still unaware that the 'blessings of the royals' Maria had was affecting the corps' commanders. He was still afraid of further retaliation by Fitney. If the man entered his quarters while he was still awake, he risked being discovered by offing him with a spell. He wasn't Fitney's match in a fight, but at least he could still move his right hand and cast Magic Missile, so there was no worry there.
Ideally, Fitney would come to him believing he had the upper hand and start out with a monologue. It would give Claude the time to cast Magus' Hands and the situation would be far better. Fitney wouldn't even know what hit him, and Claude would be able to manipulate the scene to make it seem like Fitney slipped and fell and ultimately snapped his own neck. As long as Bluefeather didn't get the Watch to investigate the matter, he would be able to hide his identity as a rogue magus.
Claude was most worried he would instead come for him in his sleep. He believed the man would cut off his member as payback. He hadn't popped his cherry yet, so he had no desire to die just yet.
He couldn't cast spells when he was in great pain or doing strenuous exercise, so if his torturer had already gotten started when he woke up, he would not be able to do anything.
Mental Shock wasn't that effective on humans. It was more suitable for use against dumb animals. Perhaps it would strengthen in power when Claude reached the stage of a five-ring magus, but so far, it wouldn't be of much use. He could use Magic Missile while moving, but he was practically a mummy currently and whether he could move or not wasn't even in the equation.
Magic Missile's greatest weakness was that its power was more or less equal to that of a matchlock. While he was confident in being able to incapacitate Fitney, he wouldn't be able to explain the gunshot wound on him. As long as he used that spell, he would be found out as a magus.
But that deliberation was pointless if Fitney simply came into the room and knifed him first. The searing pain would forbid him from channelling the mana in his mental void and that meant only death for Claude, a rather painful one at that.
His worries made him lose a lot of sleep. His eyes were always glued to the door and window, watching for any signs of an intruder. Though he understood Fitney was as bedridden as he, if not more so, but that did nothing for his mammalian paranoia.
Frustrated, he had no choice but to meditate. At the very least his injuries didn't keep him from meditating. He also realised the essence photons in the air, such as water, light, and wood, were a great help to his recovery.
He absorbed fire essence into his first hexagram and converted it into mana. For his second, he absorbed light. The progress was only half as fast as the first, so even after the passing of a year, he was still a long way from becoming a two-ring rune magus. Ever since he joined the camp, he hadn't been able to meditate daily like before. Only during the late nights when he was certain everyone was asleep did he dare go for a session.
Now that he was lying in the wooden hut alone with Berklin, he didn't have that worry. Given his sleeplessness, he could meditate up to four or five times a day. In his gathering of light, he realized that, unlike before, when the light uncollected by him would disappear, the ones he didn't collect now flowed into his body. It was a rather mystical experience and his injuries felt a cool sensation during that process.
Perhaps it was just his imagination, he thought. But after one week, Perunt made a surprising comment.
"Eh, Claude, your constitution really is far better than most others'. You recover much faster than other people, from fractures included. I think you don't need two to three months as I estimated before. I believe you'll be able to move about after another month or so."
It seemed that it wasn't his imagination after all. He suddenly recalled the webnovel tropes about how water, wood, and light elements had restorative properties. So there was some truth to fiction after all. He had found himself in this world and learned magic, but he didn't have anyone to guide him apart from Landes' diary and notebooks.
While Maria knew some magic, her knowledge was only restricted to what was available in the 'modern' age. She also only knew harmless spells unlike Claude, and had lost interest in magic, choosing instead to focus her attention on herbalism. Becoming an intermediate-grade herbalist was her proudest achievement and she was still planning to get her high-grade certification before she reached the age of sixty. But that would cost her lots of wealth and even more time for herbalism experiments.
Had Claude not meditated in his injured state, he wouldn't have realised the benefits of light essence photons for his recovery. While each session did only so much, they eventually added up to quite a lot. With that newfound discovery, Claude meditated with a newfound ardour.
Another week passed in a flash and Perunt confirmed that Claude's fractures around his waist had recovered. So, he was finally allowed to sit up. However, he heard a piece of bad news from Bell, that is, Fitney was able to get out of bed and move about. While strenuous activity was still beyond him, taking a few slow steps was still possible.
A sense of urgency filled Claude. Even though Bell said that Perunt was of the opinion that Fitney still needed another month or so for a full recovery, Claude felt as if the Sword of Damocles itself was being suspended above his head. He began to meditate even more ravenously, desperate to recover faster than Fitney.
The other question on his mind was how the corps seemed to be unconcerned about his injuries despite the month he spent recovering from them. Nobody came to him to ask about what happened that day, nor did anyone inform him about how the corps planned to punish him. It was as if he was forgotten. The only instance of such an inquiry, if it could be called that, was when the colonel came to ask about his injuries one night when he was asleep.
But on the third day Claude was able to sit up, the chief instructor, Captain Mykes, and the cadet trainer, Lieutenant Most, came to visit him. They brought word of how the training incident was settled.
Was he dreaming? Claude wondered. He slapped himself, then groaned in pain, though a stupid smile hung on his face.
What was going on? He couldn't figure it out no matter how hard he tried. He had ended Fitney's family, but not only was he going to get off without punishment, Fitney was also was going to be discharged and sent home. Even though the man deserved what was coming to him, it was still good news to Claude since he would no longer have to fear retaliation. Yet, that wasn't all. He would also be taking over Fitney's position as a sergeant-major.
Did a golden goose fall from the sky? Claude looked upwards subconsciously and saw the same dark, wooden ceiling. Why was the upper brass giving Claude and his four friends so many benefits? Was there another reason behind their actions?
Claude looked at the puffy-faced Berklin, who was overflowing with joy. All he had to do to become master-sergeant was to get hurt once. He didn't even have to finish training. Most importantly, he got to stick with Claude. However, he understood why Claude was giving him that look. "Our families definitely didn't pull any strings. The four of us are practically exiles. We are here to forge a future for ourselves. Our families wouldn't even merit such treatment from Bluefeather in the first place. Being able to send us here was the most our families could do."
The next day, Perunt dispelled his doubts when he came to mix medicines for Claude. "Did you forget what Captain Mykes said before he left? He said that you had two letters addressed to you from Normanley Manor and some others from Whitestag. They're at the collection point and you can retrieve them when you're feeling better. You can also write a reply when you're still recovering and tell your family and friends about the good news of you being promoted to sergeant-major."
During training, soldiers weren't allowed to write to anyone. Even after becoming a formal soldier and member of the corps, they could only send and receive one letter each month. That was to lessen the workload of the letter inspectors as letters sent and received all had to be checked to prevent the soldiers from leaking confidential military secrets, intentional or otherwise.
It was said that the practice originated from a coup centuries ago during the reign of Stellin IV. The military officials were plotting to send troops into the royal capital through private letters. Naturally, the coup failed and was wrapped up, but letter checking became mandatory ever since.
"But what does that have to do with the corps?" Claude was still not in the know.
"When you told me you learned herbalism from one Lady Maria, an intermediate-grade herbalist in the royal capital, I thought she was just that. A famous doctor. But you didn't tell me that she was also a baroness and the trusted sworn sister of our king."
"Ah, I forgot. I only see her as my herbalism teacher. I've never thought about using her name for my own designs..."
"When I heard how this incident was going to be settled, I knew something was up. It was a little too good for you. So I asked around and found that a peasant like you actually had that kind of backing. Even the noble families of those four combined can't compare to your teacher, Baroness Maria," Perunt exclaimed.
"But she never gave me the impression that she had so much influence. She only appeared to be a noblewoman with great passion in herbalism to me. I don't understand why Bluefeather would treat me so well on account of her either."
"I'm not sure why that's the case too. But I did hear that our general is up to something at the royal capital, seemingly vying over something the other corps also want. Perhaps they reached this kind of settlement in hopes that word of your suffering due to the training incident wouldn't reach the baroness' ears and cause her to thwart what the general was planning to stand up for you. I heard her words hold real weight to the king.
"By the way, Fitney has left this morning and he was sent to Gourneygada. He will be staying at the infirmary at the main base for half a month before being discharged and given his passport and sent on his way home when he recovers fully."