On the 7th of the 4th month, Year 591, Bloweyk returned to Weyblon Manor in Lanu.
However, he didn't return alone and caused Claude quite the headache. In fact, he came with nearly 60 boys and girls, all of them war orphans, the oldest of whom was 16 and the youngest, seven. There were even five to six crippled ones.
Madam Ferd and Kefnie were completely flabbergasted and didn't know what to do. Butler Alek and the two attendants could only smile in resignation. Initially, they had only planned to go back to the mainland to deal with some household affairs. However, the stubborn Bloweyk made it an orphan-collecting trip. Alek and the attendants, being servants, couldn't say a word in opposition and did their best to ferry the children back to the manor.
Bloweyk didn't really care about what others thought. When he returned with so many children to the manor, he ordered the servants to heat up some water to bathe all of them, buy clothes from the stores, prepare food for them and clear out some rooms for them to rest. The servants were so busy they couldn't even catch a breath.
When Claude returned to the manor, the children had been bathed, fed and clothed. Many of them played around in the yard of the manor and those not in the know might mistake the manor for a schoolyard. Even Gum was stunned for a good moment. He made sure to look around just in case he had taken a wrong turn before escorting the carriage inside.
Soon, the two brothers met in the study. However, Bloweyk was accompanied by a girl of around sixteen years of age.
"Claude, this is old Zoft's daughter, Adele," Bloweyk introduced.
Claude knew Zoft; he was a famous sergeant-major in Thundercrash and was also a former member of Ranger. Having had a military career of longer than 20 years, he would've been promoted beyond sergeant-major had he known how to read. He had perished on the battlefield to cover for Bloweyk in enemy lines during the third colonial war. This time around, Bloweyk went back to the mainland to deal with their household affairs in Whitestag as well as seek out Zoft's wife and children.
Soon, he was told why his brother took so many war orphans back with him. When Bloweyk went to Zoft's hometown, he was greeted with something he completely didn't expect. Six year ago when Zoft left with Ranger to Nubissia, he left his wife, daughter and two sons behind. The money he left them should've been enough for them to survive on.
But as luck would have it, Zoft's youngest son got badly sick on the third year since his departure. His wife, in trying to find a herbalist to treat their son, got scammed. Despite spending lots of money, their son's sickness only got worse. Eventually, the child died and the scammer left with the money. The mother was unable to take the blow and eventually collapsed. With nobody supporting the household, the thirteen-year-old Adele had to take charge.
Back then, one of Zoft's relatives had his eye on their house. So, he offered them a high-interest loan since Zoft's wife was sick and needed treatment. But when the debt racked up high enough, he showed his true colours and chased them out of the house. Zoft's wife was so angry and regretful that she eventually died as well.
The 14-year-old Adele became a homeless orphan just like that. She and her only remaining brother got into a huge fight with other war orphans as they were searching through trash for food. By the time Bloweyk found them, Adele had become the boss of the 20-odd war orphans near their hometown.
Bloweyk told Adele about her father's death, but she was completely unmoved and shed not a single tear. She said that she knew that he had died after not receiving any word from him for more than a year, and told him that she was living well even without her father around.
Bloweyk was unable to take it and wanted to give the siblings a new chance at life so that they would no longer need to sift through the trash for food. Zoft, had, after all, died while covering for him, but Adele didn't want to follow him back to Nubissia at all. Bloweyk spent a few days trying to convince her and finally managed to change her mind by promising her brother a better future.
However, she did have a condition. She wanted him to take the other war orphans along with him or she and her brother wouldn't leave. Bloweyk thus agreed without so much as batting an eyelid. Yet, Adele didn't seem convinced and wanted to test Bloweyk. So, she took in other war orphans during their journey to Whitestag and they numbered more than sixty by the time they arrived.
Claude wondered why there would be so many war orphans within the mainland. Bloweyk explained that he had looked into it when he was on the voyage back. Most of them were orphaned during the five-year war in Eastern Freia while some of them were abandoned by their families because they were cripples, or by their stepfathers after their mothers remarried following their fathers' deaths. Some were runaways who had no homes to return to.
Most of them were around the age of 13, so Bloweyk took them in and wanted to give them an education and a future. As for the funds, he believed that the Shiksan funds he embezzled would be enough to cover for the children until they turned adult. While Bloweyk was unreasonable and short-tempered at times, he was a kind soul at heart. Claude rather admired that quality of his.
He got Bloweyk to leave with Adele as he considered how he would deal with the war orphans. Adele and her brother would be fine; their father was Zoft, a sergeant-major of Thundercrash. Other things aside, they could claim around eight acres of land thanks to the settler policy and could own a small farm. Claude could easily double that land as thanks for Zoft for saving his brother's life.
However, the sixty orphans wouldn't be easy to deal with. First, they weren't war orphans of soldiers from Thundercrash or Monolith and the settler policy didn't apply to them. Additionally, he definitely wouldn't allow Bloweyk to adopt them as he was still single. Adopting so many children would definitely affect his chances for marriage. It wasn't a matter of finances; no unmarried young woman would be willing to become a stepmother to so many war orphans.
Claude pulled on the bell-rope to call Alek into his study. He wanted to know why he didn't stop Bloweyk from taking in so many orphans.
He didn't think Alek would give him an answer that would surprise him. He said that Bloweyk seemed to bear special feelings for Adele and tolerated all that she did, even down to her pranks and tricks, as an elder brother would his sister. That was why he didn't speak out against Adele inviting more war orphans to join their ranks.
As House Ferd's butler, Alek should've stepped out to stop her. However, he decided to let Bloweyk have his way since House Ferd didn't have many servants in the first place. Many families of old nobility had a large reserve of staff as they trained the children of their current servants for their descendants in the future.
However, House Ferd only started its path to glory from Claude. They didn't have many servants and attendants. Most of the ones they had now were employed elsewhere and their loyalty was hard to be certain of. As such, Alek believed this to be a good opportunity to raise them into loyal servants of the house. It would be far better than hiring external workers.
Those war orphans had lived a life of hardship since their childhood. As long as Claude was willing to spend some money to raise them, they would definitely be really thankful to him and the house. In five to six years, a new breed of loyal servants for House Ferd would be trained up. Even if they didn't show any amazing talents, they would be more than sufficient to serve as the household's servants and attendants.
Claude agreed with his assessment. As expected of a reliable and experienced butler. While Alek had based his reasoning off practices of the old nobility, it was indeed a good way to grow House Ferd's power.
It was laughable when Claude thought about it. Back then, he hadn't the slightest intention to do this. Throughout his military career and climb through the ranks to become lieutenant-general and corpsman of Thundercrash, the only ones he could trust were Myjack, Gum, Bloweyk, Berklin, Moriad and Dyavid. While he had a high position, he didn't have enough people he could trust and utilise in full.
He had Alek call Bloweyk to him and told him his decision. The household would take in those war orphans, but they wouldn't be allowed to live in Weyblon Manor. Rather, they would be housed in Anna Farmstead. Tutors would be hired to teach them reading and writing as well as provide them with physical training. He would run the farmstead like an elementary school.
Additionally, he asked Bloweyk to secretly test out the magic affinity of the children once they got to the farmstead. Those with exceptional talent could be trained as magi. House Ferd needed a reliable source of magi. Even if they couldn't be trained to become battlemagi, they would still make good assistants to Angelina and Sonia.
Not only that, Claude instructed his brother to go with Myjack to visit the families of the soldiers sacrificed through the war. They were to send any war orphans they found to the farmstead to be raised by House Ferd.
Bloweyk happily accepted the tasks and went to put the war orphans to sleep. They would head to the farmstead early the following morning. He was quite relieved that Claude had agreed to take the orphans in under the household's wing. Otherwise, Bloweyk would have lots of trouble raising and educating so many of them.
The next day, Claude, Bloweyk and Alek took the children to Anna Farmstead, which would be where the children would be living from then on. Alek would take care of their living arrangements. After what he said last night, Claude now considered him a loyal and trustworthy vassal. Alek himself was quite happy that he managed to earn Claude's trust.
Later, Myjack and Bloweyk would have to go to the logistics department to get a list of those killed in battle and visit their relatives to notify them that they could move into the colonies with settler status. If no other relatives remained aside from the war orphans, they were to be brought to Claude. House Ferd would be the ones to raise them.
Initially, Skri had suggested that the families of the sacrificed soldiers be given settler status and land too. The rest of the generals agreed to it. However, the logistics department was going to send a notice to the families about that decision.
Claude quickly realised the problem with that approach. If the families of the dead soldiers suffered similar experiences life Zoft's family, not only would they not be able to receive those notices, some people would even pretend to be the family members of the soldiers to claim settler status and land.
As such, Claude had his brother and Myjack personally see to that matter. Thankfully, the soldiers of the corps were taking turns for their family visits, so the officers were free to visit the families of the dead soldiers to notify them about the news.
However, he would have to first notify Bolonik about it. While he could decide on it for Thundercrash's behalf, it wouldn't do for him to interfere with Monolith. Bolonik's cooperation was also necessary to make sure no imposters could claim settler status as Skri had said.
When all was said and done, Claude visited Angelina and Sonia to discuss the development of their new rifle. Thanks to the standardisation of cartridge production, Sonia could run as many test-fire runs as she wanted and made great progress. The base form of the rifle Claude envisioned had taken shape. However, the body of the rifle was still rather bloated, making it rather heavy. They would need more time to refine the design.
There was one thing that troubled him, however. Liboyd didn't care one bit about the development of the new rifle and instead spent all his time researching the hot-air engine in a frenzy. He remained in the iron factory all day long. There was once when Claude described the slightly different mechanics of the hot-air and steam-powered engine to Liboyd, specifically, in how the expansion of gas and steam differed when it came to powering the pistons. Since then, Liboyd had been trying to create a steam engine as the hot-air engines in the factory were rather inefficient and needed a long warm-up time before they could start operating.
When Claude returned to Weyblon Manor in the evening, he found that his landlord was there to visit. Weyblon brought him the latest news from the royal capital, though it was already twenty days old by the time Claude got it. Stellin X had been entombed in the royal mausoleum and what would follow next was Prince Wedrick's ascension ceremony. However, that was put off temporarily as the top brass was worried that it would cause the first prince to outright declare himself king and mount a rebellion.
What was worth noting was the mutiny incidents that involved the two new standing corps stationed in the territories of Askilin and Rimodra. Just like Bluefeather, the soldiers of the two corps apprehended the top officers of their respective corps and declared that they only followed Prince Hansbach's orders. Now, the first prince held command over three corps of 200 thousand men.