Claude was bending under the workload as the rainy season came to an end. He had to procure supplies for his base, mainly food and ammunition, which meant he had to personally sign every document that crossed his desk, down to the slips verifying receipt of the goods. At the same time, he had to oversee the base's fortification works, which consisted mostly of stacking sandbags and building wooden stockade retaining walls around them.
Mazik didn't think his superior should bother. He believed the soldiers were just wasting their energy as the three-way intersection in the village would eventually be handed over to some poor keeper sods. Claude was only decorating the place for them. He believed that, instead of spending manpower on the defences, he could've let the soldiers fix the roads. That way, they could collect higher tolls from the travellers.
Fortunately, Myjack was a great help. He, Gum and Claude worked together to supervise the soldiers to make sure that everything was taken care of. When the middle of the 4th month came, every task at the campsite was on track. Claude got Mazik to hold defence drills a number of times and left him in charge of the soldiers' daily training. Only after that did he have the time to build a house for Sheila as he promised.
Sheila left the camp after the rainy season. Even though the smitten girl wasn't willing to part, it would be rather inconvenient for her to live within a camp full of other soldiers. So, she had Claude set up a tent in the witch's forest for the time being to stay in while she felled some trees to source the materials required to build a small wooden house for herself.
The house was built with reference to the design of Claude's villa in Normanley Wood. It had two storeys and the only difference was that the outer walls were entirely built of logs. Claude believed that they would be secure and strong enough to provide a sense of safety for her while she lived alone. An additional balcony around extending out some seven square metres was included. A lying chair and a small tea table could be put there for her to relax and read some books while enjoying some afternoon tea.
The two of them had begun designing the house during the end of the 3rd month when Sheila still lived in Claude's bedroom. Claude was the chief architect and he drew the basic blueprint and structural diagrams for the house. Sheila watched from the side and provided moral support. Taking into account that she would be living alone in the forest for some six years, Claude tried his best to consider both safety and comfort aspects in his design. He didn't want his precious little girlfriend to suffer any more hardship.
After he finished the designs, the wooden house was planned to take up around eighty square metres. The extra floor made the space within far wider than the wooden shack before. Sheila was elated and hoped she could move into her new home soon. It was too bad Claude became much busier during the 4th month, causing him to have no choice but to leave the logging to her. Though, it was a simple assignment with the help of spells.
Claude cast Eye of Appraisal when he reached the forest to avoid the new traps Sheila had set. The empty lot within the forest was covered with logs. A few hundred logs sporting diameters of around fifty centimetres were stacked up into some eight piles.
She leapt at Claude like a swallow to a nest. They hadn't met for two weeks. Claude stroked her hair after she finished her kiss-and-hug attack.
"It must've been hard work to fell so many trees."
"Two hundred and thirty seven in all," Sheila replied in a proud tone, "It's not hard at all. It's a breeze with the help of spells. Even Blackwind is capable of dragging them back here."
Claude looked at the wolf that was walking in circles around him and imagined its expression of distraught when it had a log tied to it on a rope and was asked to pull it back. It probably suspected that its master was going insane. How could its little body move such a large log?
But thanks to spells, the wolf could even run through the forest with a log tied to it. It was just like that time when Claude killed three large black bears to reclaim Sheila's mother's cave. They were faced with a problem when they wanted to head back: how would they move the three bear carcasses weighing some 1800 catties in total?
Claude didn't want to make another trip there the next day in the rain. It took around seven hours of trekking to get there. Back then, Sheila got the inspiration of casting Lightweight Flight on the black bear carcasses and was surprised to see how light they have gotten. That was how they managed to load the three carcasses onto the workhorse they brought there before they head back.
It didn't take half an hour of walking before she cast the spell on herself, Claude and the wolf. She even tried it on some large rocks and trees. She realised that the spell could effectively decrease the weight of its targets, whether dead or alive. As such, a solution to transport the logs required for the construction of the wooden house was born.
When they reached the mountains behind Squirrel Village, Claude hauled the carcasses off the horse and put it on the ground. They only returned to camp after the effects of the spell wore off. Sheila returned to her room with Blackwind and Claude gathered a tent of soldiers to bring three workhorses to the mountains to carry the carcasses back to camp.
Almost every villager and soldier in camp came to see the commotion. Killing three black bears in a single hunt with a single shot each was nothing short of heroic. The trust Claude's troops had for him soared. This time around, he didn't deal with the three carcasses personally. Instead, he tasked Mazik to hollow out two of the bears with their skin intact. Claude wanted to give one to his direct superior, Tribesman Lederfanc, to thank him for his help.
After that, he went to the witch's forest with Sheila two more times, first to determine where to build the wooden house and the second to teach her how to fell trees and find good ones suitable for building. As the rainy season had passed, Sheila felt a little pensive about staying in Claude's room, and she wanted to go back to the cave to continue studying magic as her mother had laid out of her, so she simply moved out.
Using spells to fell trees was simple. Claude only just realised just truly how helpful Magus' Hands and Fine Control were to his daily life. A tree around four meters tall and fifty centimetres in diameter could be felled within ten minutes with a saw manifestation. After that, an axe manifestation was all he needed to shave the branches off the logs quickly. Sheila only needed to cast Lightweight Flight on the smoothened log to be able to carry it back to the witch's forest with one hand.
During that process, all Claude had to do was to remain still. He didn't even have to break a sweat while he supplied the mana those two spells required to get the logs into the dimensions he required. That was why he left the logging to her before he returned to camp. He didn't think she would actually gather that much material within a week.
"Isn't it a little too much? We don't need nearly that much wood to construct a small house. I guess we can expand the scope of the house a little and use what remains of the wood to make a fence so that you have a yard to go with the house. That way, even if wild beasts enter the witch's forest, they wouldn't be able to reach the house that easily."
Claude carried Sheila to the tent. He had to return some books he borrowed from the cave to her.
Half of the books collected in the cave detailed some spell findings, mysteries of magic, alchemical records and history of the magic world, much to Claude's delight. Those books were things he would never be able to find in stores and they helped fill his general lack of knowledge regarding the magic civilisation. Now, he could understand some realities the magi of the time faced back then.
Sheila said that her mother had copied all the books down before preserving them in the cave. Claude made a cursory count and found more than 280 books on the magic civilisation on the shelf on the left wall. Her mother had definitely expended quite a bit of effort to copy all those books.
The shelf on the right was for the books her mother bought. Most of them were about geographical and nautical findings as well as herbalism and biology. The two sections on the upper shelf contained some folklore, novels, fairytales and other fictional works.
Claude even managed to find some elementary and middle school textbooks produced by Nasri and Aueras to be taught in their syllabi. That was probably what Sheila meant by homework which her mother left her before she departed. Sadly, she was a little too carefree and playful during the first half a year after her mother left. It was too late when she returned to the cave only to find some bears living inside. That was why she had a newfound fervour for studying according to the study plan her mother drafted now that she got the cave back.
Though rather reluctant, she admitted that she had only studied up to the middle school first-year level. She was going to self study the two sets of middle school textbooks from both nations next. Her mother's study plan centred around language, arithmetic, geography, nature studies and theology. History wasn't that important; both nations weren't the slightest bit hesitant about embellishing what they taught their subjects about their respective pasts.
Claude borrowed a few books about the history of the magic civilisation. They were all written in Ancient Hez, so there would be no problems bringing them back to camp. Not a single soldier knew how to read the language. Even though most of the common vocabulary across the continent descended from Ancient Hez, most people wouldn't be able to understand the primaeval language without the aid of a dictionary.
"I'm going to go back tomorrow night. I'll spend the night here for now," Claude said, much to Sheila's delight and surprise, "That way, we can start working first thing in the morning tomorrow and prepare the wood for construction. It will speed up the building process after we leave it out to dry properly."
While hugging and kissing was common between the two, and Claude had even felt her up on occasion, Sheila was still stubborn about crossing to third base with him. Claude couldn't help but laugh at the sight of her flustered look.
"Don't worry. I'll be laying out a mattress on the floor and sleeping there for the night. I won't do anything to you--" Claude pointed at the single bed used by the military in the tent. "--This is far too small and won't be able to survive our lovemaking. And if I really went through it with you, I won't have energy left to work tomorrow."
As promised, Claude followed through with his word. Even when she snuggled with him on his mattress in the middle of the night, he didn't make the slightest move. He wasn't willing to take her first time in such a run-down place. That was plain disrespectful to her and she hadn't readied herself mentally for it either.
The two of them awoke early the next day. Claude began work on the construction after a light meal with Sheila as his helper.
One twelve-metre log after another was driven into the marked ground, leaving only around eight metres of them above ground. Sheila cast Transmute Mud to Rock to reinforce the ground around those logs to provide a stable foundation.
What Claude wanted to finish that day was build the frame of the wooden house. He drove the sixteen logs that would serve as the weight-bearing pillars into the ground and linked the beams using mortise and tenon. Manifestations of Magus' Hands flashed from saw to chisel and many other woodworking tools nonstop. When the logs were in place, they were easily shaped and linked together.
That was why Claude insisted on them both working on the construction of the house. With the aid of the spells, he could take on the workload of ten experienced construction workers himself. He wasn't completely unfamiliar with woodworking and construction either, given his experience as a real estate developer, and he could make up for any shortcomings with trial and error thanks to the large wood supply available.
At four in the afternoon, Claude finally finished the work planned for the day. The next time he came, he would be working on the walls and the flooring. As he made dinner, he gave her some homework to do while he was away. In the following three days, her task was to cut the logs into floorboards and boards for walls. He would work on the finer details when he returned three days later.
After dinner, they were all over each other for a while before he kissed Sheila, who was unwilling to part goodbye and returned to camp.