Myjack came to receive him. "Sir, where are we going to go now?"
Claude weaselled into his carriage with a heavy heart. "Let's go back home. I don't want to return to line HQ."
"Yes." Myjack closed the door and told the coachman their destination. Their carriage began to move as Gum escorted them with a tent of guards on both sides.
Ranger's command headquarters was located in the capital of Anfiston, Grinosburg. It was the largest mountain city in the colony as well as a core mining centre. Claude had always suspected that the reason Grinosburg was made capital of Anfiston was the two large gold mines nearby. The former viceroy and high-commissioners must've paid the mines real concern as how filled their pockets were greatly depended on them.
He recalled the time when Prince Hansbach came to survey Ranger. When the independent colonies were about to be dissolved for the formation of the war theatre, the viceroy and the high-commissioner of the colony didn't seem quite willing to take their leave. According to some leaks, the viceroy was allowed to obtain a tenth of the produce of both gold mines. That could easily amount to a thousand crowns each year.
Grinosburg was situated in the mountains and travelling to it required going uphill, which was a really long journey. Line 131's camp had once been located in the town of Ferro, which used to be in Balingana and some 150 kilometres away from Grinosburg. However, the restructuring of the war theatre caused the town to fall under Robisto's jurisdiction. One of Claude's first victories on Nubissia was the night attack on Ferro back when 131 was just a tribe. They managed to take out a whole line of enemy garrison soldiers and took some three thousand of them as hostages.
However, Claude's home was in the town of Lanu because his family liked the weather and view there. Angelina had brought their mother, Kefnie and her child there once and tried hard to show them Lanu's appeal. She lived there when she first took Bloweyk to report for duty too, so she did the same this time. Claude directly got a mansion beside Lake Lanu for his mother, wife and child to stay in. It was the first house he got on Nubissia.
"Myjack, when we return, send someone to line HQ to deliver my orders. Have them retreat to Lanu to set up camp. We'll have to stay here for quite a period of time," Claude said.
Claude had decided that he would move his command post as field marshal to Lanu and make it into the new capital for Anfiston. That would save him half a day's time for having to travel to Grinosburg. Not to mention, embarking from Lanu to Robisto would be much faster and would allow them to respond much quicker at the frontlines.
The carriage travelled along a path towards the beautiful lakeside manor. Weyblon Manor was the summer home of a mining guild's top executive. Every summer, the executive would bring his family along to the manor. He rented it to Claude willingly for a monthly rent of one crown and the two could be said to have built some rapport.
The carriage stopped and Claude noticed a familiar carriage when he got down. The black coach had a stylised 'Wey' on it. It appeared that someone from Mister Weyblon's family had come to visit. However, he wasn't sure whether it was the man himself, his wife, or the whole family.
Having one's surname and household insignia on the carriage was a tradition of this world. However, Weyblon wasn't a noble and didn't have the right to bear an insignia or have his surname on his carriage. So, he chose to use part of his surname as the marker for his carriage. This was something that the administration approved of and carriages with that logo were undoubtedly his.
Claude grimaced. Even though he rented the place for one crown, Weyblon had made many visits over the past few times and the gifts he brought were a few times the rent's worth. He didn't know what part of him caught the man's attention for him to spend so much money 'investing' in him. Though, he supposed that the man was a rather good judge of character, since he was about to be promoted to major-general in three short months. He would also take over Miselk's post as field marshal.
Butler Alek came to receive him in a hurry and bowed deeply. "Sir, welcome home."
The butler was also someone Weyblon recommended to him. Alek used to serve a count in the royal family. His own family had been serving the count's household for three generations but unfortunately, when time came for his turn, things went downhill. The new successor of the count had been spoiled bad since childhood and had a horrible temper. He did whatever he pleased and ignored the earnest pleas and advice of his subordinates.
After the new count tried investing and failed multiple times, the riches of the household was soon drained up. In the end, the count lost all self control and drowned himself in alcohol all day and blamed the world for his problems. As the butler, Alek had tried multiple times to cheer the count back up, but the constant advice only served to annoy the count and caused him to fire him immediately.
Not expecting that his loyal advice would earn him such an end, Butler Alek left the household in grief and decided to emigrate to the colonies in Nubissia with his family. He eventually settled down in Anfiston and got a job with Weyblon's company. When Weyblon heard about his experiences, he offered him the position of a butler for his family, but Alek refused, insisting on serving nobody but nobles.
So, when Weyblon heard that Claude was trying to find a place for his family to stay, he offered him the lakeside manor for a cheap price and recommended Alek to him. Despite just being just- an honorary baron, Claude was still quite young and had a bright future. He was just right for Alek, whose principles was to serve nobody but nobles.
Claude nodded and pointed at the carriage. "Did Mister Weyblon come to visit?"
"Yes. He had come to visit Madam Ferd and Madam Kefnie. The old madam was quite happy to join them for a meal. Mister Weyblon also said that you would be back today, so he took a rest in the guest room during the afternoon. I think he has something he wants to discuss with you about," the butler said.
"Okay. Make us some food for now. I'll take a bath after and head to the study. Go check if Mister Weyblon has fallen asleep. If he isn't, invite him to the study for me." Claude removed his outer wear and handed it to the butler.
By the time Claude and Myjack finally sat down to start their meals, Kefnie came downstairs from the main hall to the dining hall. She was once again pregnant. In less than half a year since she came to Nubissia, Claude successfully managed to impregnate her once more.
"Why did you come back today?" Kefnie asked with a surprised look.
As Line 131 was based in Ferro, Claude could only return once a month. He would have to go back after staying for three days.
Claude stood up and gave his wife a light kiss and stroked her face. "We won't be going back. I'll be staying home for good. My unit's also going to move to Lanu."
"Really?" It was great news for her. The two of them often stayed far apart since their marriage. The more Claude was promoted, the less time he had to spend at home. This was contrary to her wish that he would be quickly discharged and sent home to spend the rest of his life peacefully with his family and children while she lived the blissful life of a housewife. However, she now had to be a housewife, the mother to her child all the while learning how to behave like a good baroness...
Claude sat back down. "Of course it's true. By the way, where's Tesoray?"
Tesoray, their son, was born in Year 582. It had been six years since then and the child was at his naughtiest. Given that Claude seldom returned home, the child spoiled so badly by her grandmother was quite unfamiliar with his own father, much to Kefnie's frustration.
"He caught a hornet in the garden this morning and got stung. That sent him crying for most of the day. Mother got Anna to come back and patch him up. He went to sleep after having lunch. I'm sure he was spent from all that crying."
Claude didn't really mind it. It was all too common for naughty boys to get a little scuffed out. That was how he had spent his childhood anyways. Kefnie on the other hand was always full of worries. She thought that there must be a hornet's nest somewhere in the surroundings and that was a huge threat to Tesoray. She asked Claude to send his guards to look around and figure out a way to deal with those pests.
He wanted to say that the hornets were the ones who would be threatened. The brute of a child would no doubt try to seek revenge the moment he discovered the nest. However, he couldn't stand letting her wife continue to be fraught with worries, so he reluctantly agreed to her request.
Having had his fill, Claude took a bath and changed into casual clothes to receive Weyblon. Changing into casual clothes meant he was treating him as his own. After giving the man a warm hug, he asked how he knew he would be back home.
The reason for that was quite simple. Word of Miselk summoning Claude to him had spread to Weyblon, so he figured that Claude would definitely be returning home since war wasn't expected to happen anytime soon. There was no way he wouldn't go back when home was just so close.
"Alright, my friend, just spill it to me directly." Claude got Weyblon to take a seat. Alek served them two cups of red tea before closing the study's door behind him after he left.
Weyblon had gotten used to the manner in which Claude talked. He smiled and said, "My Lord Baron, first, I have to congratulate you for your impending promotion to major-general, as well as your appointment to the field marshal position by Lord Militant Miselk. The reason I came without informing you ahead of time is a personal matter I would wish to discuss."
Darn, what's it gonna be? Claude's heart sunk. How in the world did `Weyblon get something so sensitive when most others in the corps didn't know about it? Was it because war theatre HQ leaked like a sieve and most of the contents of their discussion during the afternoon had been spread all throughout the colonies?
Seeing Claude regard him so warily, Weyblon figured out the reason. "Don't be so nervous, Lord Baron. 99 percent of people in Anfiston don't know about this. I got my information from the royal capital."
Claude breathed a sigh of relief. It wouldn't be weird if that were the case. Nobody there treated matters of the colonies as classified information. They would gather and discuss the matters once the slightest change was observed to show how amazing their information networks were. Miselk's recommendation for his promotion and the plan they discussed during the afternoon might as well be leaked to Shiks already.
"You have a source in the royal capital too?" Claude asked with interest.
Weyblond nodded. "Us mining merchant guilds have an office set up in the royal capital. Every year, we have to send all the gold and silver we mine to the kingdom's bank there.
"That's why when we heard the news of Ranger being transferred back and the Lord Militant stepping down as field marshal, we were greatly shocked. This greatly relates to the safety of our families in Anfiston.
"According to those from the ministry of the army, we heard that the Lord Militant recommended you to become field marshal of the colonial war theatre as well as the fact that you will be forming five enhanced folks following Ranger's transfer back here.
"Since the kingdom's bottom line is for you to keep Anfiston, we had a discussion and came to the conclusion that your talent more than qualified you for becoming field marshal. We're pretty sure you'll be able to defend Anfiston adequately and feel much relieved, since we don't have to give up on our businesses here."
Claude grimaced. "Wow, I wonder where all that confidence in me came from?"
Weyblon laughed out loud. "Well, Lord Militant Miselk thinks your top leader material. You are also quite famous for your exploits in the corps. During your service in the five-year war, you also managed to eliminate more than five thousand enemies with fewer than a clan of men! That was a miraculous victory that earned you your knighthood, right?"
"Looks like you guys have done your homework," Claude said, shaking his head in resignation. "Alright. Let's get to the main topic."
"Well, Lord Baron, we are aware that 100 thousand households of settlers are going to come into Anfiston to serve as reserves for the five folks. Our mining and commerce association's president, Henderman, would like to meet you to discuss something about the immigrants."
"Has your association come up with a proposal?"
Weyblon nodded. "Word from the royal capital is that the settlers will be assigned to agricultural work here. The association hopes that a portion of the settlers be allowed to populate the four mountain cities to become citizens and workers. After all, there are many positions in the mining cities that aren't suitable for the nikancha people. We didn't have a choice back then because we were short on manpower. But now that we have the settlers, this problem can be easily solved.
"Additionally, we will be able to increase the numbers of Aueran citizens in the cities. That way, the messy nikancha folk won't be able to roam freely in them anymore. If some settlers would like to start their own businesses, we are also willing to offer them loans with small interest to start them off. Additionally, we will provide free accommodation for the settlers that move into the mining cities."
Population meant wealth. The merchants and mine owners in the association were rather sharp. They had long set their sights on the settlers.
"I understand. I'll discuss this matter with President Henderman when I'm free. Naturally, we'll only allow willing citizens to move to those cities. No coercion shall be tolerated." Claude gave a neutral reply.
Weyblon nodded thankfully, knowing that Claude had already done him a favour for not dismissing it outright. "The other matter I'm here to talk about is the association's donation fo 100 thousand crowns to the new war theatre's funding. We are dissatisfied with the level of support the ministry of the army had given and believe it to be far from enough."
Donating 100 thousand crowns for the military effort?! That fellow had brought him a juicy, fattened duck! He expected Claude's mood warmed up immediately and he launched into a flurry of thanks, failing to notice that Weyblon emphasised the new war theatre. That meant they would only donate the funds after Claude took up the position formally. Claude would one day be 'one of them', so he'd have to stand up for them too.