Claude was satisfied with their explanation. At the very least, his friends' actions displayed their camaraderie and willingness to take one for the team. He thus chose to forgive them for not attending his wedding. He asked about Berklin's married life and told him he could always ask for help if he needed anything, financial or otherwise. The three were prone to spending their salaries almost entirely in bars and taverns.
Berkling said he didn't need money; he had enough to last him a year or two thanks to Moriad and Dyavid robbing the old noble. Not to mention Madam Lederfanc was looking after them. She'd even hired his wife as her assistant and paid well.
He was also happy with the marriage as Aboyev's sister, Bonnys, was a beauty. He didn't think he would end up with the damsel after playing hero. Moriad and Dyavid envied that he stole away the beauty who'd grown up with them. More than envy, however, they were just regretful at missing their chance.
After packing and taking his things to Zasrak's home, Claude took his friends and minions to look for a nearby tavern to drink and make merry. Unfortunately there wasn't one in the village. There was a rumour that an outsider merchant had recently bought some land on the outskirts of town to build one, but nothing had come of it yet.
The nearest tavern was in another village several kilometres away. Myjack and Gum offered to borrow a couple horses to go buy some alcohol at the tavern. They got along well with the college garrison. They wouldn't get in trouble even if they were late for curfew.
Claude and company had no choice but to get dinner at the cafeteria instead. Classes started the next day, so they couldn't stay up too late. Claude's three friends suffered a stern lecture from Claude about doing their best on their studies. He relayed the information from Manrique that the corps had been downsized to just a folk. Its officers would also not receive their promotion anymore. Only the top ten in the year would get a promotion.
The two minions returned near the end of dinner service with snacks and blackcurrant wine. They didn't make too much merry with the classes the next day. They called it quits an hour and a half in. Claude was one of the few people allowed to leave the campus after curfew because his residence was in town. The college was nothing if not well organised, so he could leave without any trouble, the guards having already been informed of his situation.
Claude found Zasrak waiting for him in the yard when he arrived at the house. He gave the old man a bottle of wine to apologise for his tardiness. Claude wasn't drunk per se, but he was healthily tipsy, and the old man's lips twitched as he took the bottle but he didn't say anything.
The water in his tank was still lukewarm. He felt even more guilty. The family had warmed up water for him to have a warm bath on his return, but he'd made it go to waste by getting back so late. He apologised to the old man again before taking his bath.
His bed was covered in fluffy goat-fur blankets and Claude collapsed under them, falling asleep in a couple of minutes. He slept very light in this unfamiliar room, and was woken three hours into his slumber by soft moaning.
He sat up groggily and looked around. The moaning was far from unfamiliar to his ears, but he saw no naked figures in his room. He even cast Eye of Appraisal, but noticed no traces of mana usage. Despite that, the sounds lingered in his room erotically.
He listened carefully, and finally realised the sounds were seeping in through the floorboards of the room above his, which belonged to Doris. Her husband wasn't home, however, and Zasrak was the only other male on the premises. Was there something between the two?
The word 'cuckold' suddenly appeared in his mind. Perhaps that was why the man had been less than enthusiastic about his residence.
He paid careful attention to her moans for a few long seconds, and realised there was only one voice. What was the girl doing to make such sounds on her own?
Claude cast Magus' Hands and Fine Control, shaping his invisible appendage into a thin tube which he put through a crack in the floorboards. He then cast Eye of Appraisal and gazed up through the tube.
The room was furnished much the same as his, the furniture was even in much the same places. A beautiful figure lay sprawled on the bed, one hand clasping the headboard, the two legs spread wide, and the other hand plunged a shameless object into the sacred flesh between them. Despite the girl's best evident efforts, the sounds of deep pleasure escaped between her wetly parted lips.
Claude's eyes burnt and he cancelled his spells quickly. He never thought Doris could be so shameless. Pleasuring herself was one thing, but to do it when he was right beneath her... He supposed that was inevitable, however. People, man or woman, had natural drives, instinctual urges which had to be calmed. Marriage didn't take them away. While her husband's posting kept him out of danger, it also took half his usual month-a-year leave. It meant the two saw each other for only a fortnight a year. Despite the no-doubt-intense evenings during the three fortnights they'd spent together over the three years since their marriage, Doris was yet not pregnant, so her natural urges were still in the full swing of a woman in her youth.
Claude could empathise with her, he knew how it felt to be without outlet, so he let her go in peace. He, surprisingly, was not very aroused at the sight. Perhaps marriage had done something to him after all. The whole affair made him grateful that Kefnie was already pregnant. She would at least not have to worry about her urges for the next nine months. And after that she'd have the kid to keep her mind off it.
He could not sleep with the woman's shameless grunts and moans, however, so he decided to meditate. It was about time he put some serious effort into his magic training again. He was now a two-ring magus, but he didn't know if he was still a rune magus. His second hexagram would have only one runic spell, Flame Control. It was the only one he knew which he could engrave in his second hexagram. The two others were combat spells; Chain Lightning and Energy Barrier, and the last two were nature spells; Lightweight Flight and Stealth Sneaking. The two remaining slots were still empty as he had yet to find more suitable spells. He no longer walked the path of a rune magus. He was rapidly becoming a jack-of-all-trades.
He couldn't meditate with the ruckus upstairs, either. The woman's animal sounds reminded him of his time with his lovers and now-wife, and those thoughts did arouse him.
A suppressed nasal squeal burst through the boards, and then it was, finally, quiet. Claude closed his eyes again and meditated.
He came back to himself an hour later, well after midnight. He decided to call it for the day and went to sleep. He had just started drifting away, however, when the blasted moaning started up again. She wasn't holding back this time, either. Clearly she thought everyone was asleep by now, so she didn't have to fight against her sounds.
Claude's blood boiled, in more ways than one. Was the damn woman that backed-up? Was once not enough for her? Surely there was no need to keep going at it the whole night. Even he, a man in his prime, at an age when men could not be more driven, was not this ridiculous.
If she'd been going at it with her husband, at least he could have told him to keep it down next time, but he could not talk about such things with a young woman, especially not a married one. He couldn't just let it be, either, however.
He smiled bitterly and lay back on his bed. It occurred to him that Doris could've forgotten he was now staying downstairs. If so, he could make a sound to remind her a military officer had moved into the room beneath hers.
He coughed loudly. The sounds vanished in a surprised yeep. He cracked a smile and pulled the blankets over his head and finally fell asleep.
He woke up early the next morning, washed, and headed out. Zasrak was alone in the yard, busy drawing water from the well. He said nothing, barely nodding to Claude as he passed. Auntie Natalie came out of the kitchen and asked if he had slept well. She also offered breakfast, which he politely refused. Breakfast was provided, so he had no reason to sponge off them for his meals as well. His mount was saddled quickly and he left for the college as soon as he could.
On the 1st of the 2nd month, Year 582 of the Sacred Light Era, Kleibon Royal Army College had its first opening ceremony. Over a thousand students were in attendance, and the first prince even gave a speech, but the ceremony was actually quite simple. The royal and college flags were raised to everyone's salute, followed by several hours of speeches by people of ever-increasing pedigree. Most of it was all just regurgitated and repeated cliches. The congregation was finally disbanded after the prince's speech, and dispersed to their classes.
Claude had nowhere to go, however. His class, the advanced strategies class, had yet to get all the materials it needed. On top of that, three of the students had yet to arrive, delays at work being what they were, so it would be a couple more days before it started.
Free time meant little when he had nothing to do with it. He had initially planned to stay in Manrique's office for the rest of the day, but the lieutenant-colonel chased him out. He was too busy to have someone sitting around in his office distracting him. Not to mention most of his work for the day was entertaining the various pedigreed guests who had come for the ceremony.
The various yards and the field were all occupied, so he couldn't laze around there, either. The normal students were busy training formations and drill. He thus weaseled his way into the guard box near the campus entrance. He was almost immediately and repeatedly mistaken for the guard in charge.
He grit his teeth and headed back home for lunch. He didn't want to sponge on the family, but he was not going to wander around aimlessly on campus the whole damn day. He found his night garments still on the laundry pile, so he decided to wash his stuff.