Madam Ferd fell ill. She was panicked, frustrated, and furious. The mixing of so many chaotic emotions bound her to bed.
Claude held Adele's cremation ceremony on Anna Farmstead and handed her ashes to Krimis. Gum and four guards were assigned to escort him to Cromwell and the farmstead his father had left him. Claude then rushed back to Ferd Manor to see his mother and told her what her letter had done.
She at first thought he was joking, but she later learnt from Claude's cold tone that it was all true. She instantly exploded, initially cursing Adele, then crying and begging Claude to bring her beloved Bloweyk to her, saying she would beg for his forgiveness and swear never to arrange a marriage for him and let him do whatever he wanted.
Claude watched her cry, beg, and curse expressionlessly, unmoved. Once she had wrung herself dry, he coldly told her it was too late. That everyone had to bear the consequences of their actions. Bloweyk no longer listened to him, his own brother, and had sworn to never see his mother again.
"You broke the bond with him yourself. You're the reason he is lost to us all. And for what? Your pride? Well, you have it. Now you can rot in it. We're the entire region's biggest joke, and we'll probably be so for the rest of your life, if not longer."
His mother shuddered, then bit back.
"It's you isn't it... You forced Blowk to abandon the family!"
Claude smiled coldly.
"Sorry, Mother. I came here to tell you I won't replace my brother. Since the family name is so important to you, you can have all of it. I don't care who you choose to replace Blowk. I am also no longer part of this family. I'll split everything fairly based on who contributed what, then I'm off. I'm better off making my own family."
His mother collapsed.
Angelina rushed back to treat her and told them she was physically fine, thanks to the years of good nutrition and the region's good air. She was, after all, the mother of General Claude, and had more than enough expensive health products as gifts from the locals. She could definitely live for another two or three decades.
She was suffering mental shock from the fear that the Ferds had really screwed up and lost their reputation for good. She had gone too far. In a moment of impulse, she had decided to vent her frustrations on a woman with child, only to cause a tragedy. She was now known as a petty, shallow, selfish hag. She regretted losing her youngest son as well. If anything, after hearing of his wife's death, she'd hoped it would bring him back to her, not push him over the edge.
But more than that, she was angry that her youngest son would forsake all the care and love she had given him for a lowly farm girl, even lower than her dog. She was also furious at Claude's unfiliality. Not only did he not solve the problem, he even used it to threaten her. He'd treated choosing the next family head as a game.
Claude didn't care what she thought. Being a transmigrator, his affection for his parents had been thin even at the best of times. He cared far more about his siblings. He would always choose to stand by their side. Not to mention, there had been no concept of clans in his previous life, so he didn't see family as more important than all else as the Faslan locals did. He didn't really care whether he became head of House Ferd or not.
However, he was rather troubled with Kefnie, who had, after all, given him three children. They were his true flesh and blood. Then again, due to the fact that his body was not originally his, he wasn't really sure if he could consider the children it wrought truly 'his'. One thing was certain, however: he did enjoy his share of sensual pleasures with her, so he had to take responsibility as the father at least.
Thankfully, Kefnie knew there was no mending the break between Claude and his mother, and that he was utterly furious at her refusal to adopt his niece and nephew, so she went along with his break from the house obediently. She handed back all the shares Claude had put under her care. He left a third of the shares in the family factory to the house, all the land the family owned, and Ferd Manor.
He kept everything else, all of which had been his personal property to begin with. He'd been the sole driving force behind the family's success on the continent, and he'd taken them to incredible heights, but his mother had squandered it all on her pride.
Had it not been for his mother, he would've done his best to make the house a truly glorious one in Faslan as he had initially planned. Myjack, for instance, was a surnameless person thanks to his orphan background. He had wanted to return to his hometown to find out what his surname had been once, but he had lost interest in it after moving to Nubissia.
Claude had wanted to give him the Ferd name and make him one of the family's core pillars, but that was out of the question now. Myjack had to either find out his real surname or claim one for himself and form his own household. With Angelina at his back, perhaps his household might develop better than House Ferd. The thought made Claude feel like he had served a wild boar the finest food he could find on a silver platter.
There was still the matter of choosing his confidants. He properly considered whether he should pick them for House Ferd or for himself. Butler Alek and Staff-Sergeant Kester had expressed their desire to follow him rather than stay with the house in the last couple of days, much to Kefnie's dismay, as she was the one handling the house's business for the time being.
But after the break, she realised there was not much more to handle. Ferd Manor itself was run smoothly by Alek's eldest son and the farm was managed by the retired veteran, Bjarne. As for the tobacco factory, the house only had 30 percent of the shares left. Alek and Kester would be handling that for Angelina in the future.
Claude had put the 30 percent shares under Angelina and Bloweyk's names. For now, Bloweyk's part of the shares would be temporarily handled by his sister as she took care of his children for the next three to four years in the farmstead. She would no longer be able to go to Blackstone and continue weapons research for Claude.
As for the rest of the shares, Claude also let Angelina handle them for him. In some sense, he trusted his sister the most. Only she would give him the money he needed unconditionally without asking questions, unlike Kefnie, who seemed really unwilling to hand over the dividends the shares earned and kept reminding Claude that he had three children to consider. Perhaps that was her motherly instinct to conserve and hoard as much wealth as she could for them so that they could live out the rest of their lives untroubled.
That was the extent of her worldview, being of simple background. What she didn't understand was their children should aspire to emulate Claude, not merely spend his wealth. Otherwise, there was no way they would be able to hold on to their assets after Claude was gone. They would be torn apart by wolves and coyotes.
Claude was also getting sick of her nagging him about Blackstone Arms Factory's accounts. As it had just been formed, most of the profits turned were being reinvested into further weapons research. Sometimes, Claude would have to take more money out of his own pocket for such projects.
Among the shares he left in Kefnie's charge, only Blackstone's didn't turn much dividends. She didn't understand how important the factory was to him and constantly worried about whether they were getting profits from those shares. Oftentimes, she suggested auditing the factory accounts or selling the shares outright.
But with all that gone, Claude's ears finally got some peace. As for whether she felt down about it, that was her matter to deal with. Since she wanted to play noble household, she was free to do so as much as she wished. His mother still didn't understand that House Ferd would be nothing without him. He had decided to find another place in Lanu to live and let his mother and Kefnie see how many people would still visit Ferd Manor once he was no longer there.
Though, it had to be said that part of his motivation was to make a love nest for him and Sheila. He couldn't afford bringing her back to the manor to cause even more strife. However, he would still go back home once every few days for his children.
Next, he was going to put some assets under Angelina and Bloweyk. The former only had a farmstead under her name, which she and Myjack jointly ran. Claude had financed it substantially but owned no stake in it. So, he decided to buy the desolate lands around the farmstead to convert them into a wood. He would also get her a gold mine in Loki Mountains as her dowry of sorts.
Bloweyk was the same. He had given up on the Ferd name and had nothing left. So, Claude got him a business and gold mine as keepsakes. When he grew older, at least he would have a place to return to. Otherwise, he would never remarry. With all those assets under his name, the prospective partner and their family wouldn't be too disappointed either. Even if Bloweyk didn't want them, he could leave them for his and Adele's children.
He also had to give Sonia something. While his illegitimate son, Marcus, would be inheriting Liboyd's household, he had to shower him with some care at least as the father. Sonia also helped him out a lot without ever demanding much from him. But just because she didn't ask for it didn't mean he didn't have to give her anything.
Bloweyk's abandonment of the household whipped up a commotion in Lanu and the region. Fortunately, nobody dared to publish it on account of Claude's high position. It was only mentioned in taverns or private gatherings, becoming folk gossip in no time. Sometimes, dramatic details would be added from time to time, making it a love story of tragic proportions. All Claude could do was to pretend he heard nothing of it.
However, his search for a new home in Lanu did shock Skri, who came to visit with two bottles of fine wine and beat around the bush to ask the real reason Claude was doing so. He didn't bother to hide it and said he wanted to give his mother and wife a lesson and to show that he refused the position of head of House Ferd. So, living further away would be a good idea.
Skri gave Claude an address in the western sector of Lanu. It was just opposite the high-class area where Ferd Manor was located which Skri had bought long ago. He had initially wanted to build a manor there for his family after they moved overseas, but he later received another manor after Lanu's reconstruction in a high-class villa area. Since he didn't have many members in his family, the new manor built on that land of his was left empty.
He was more than happy to oblige Claude, now that he had a need for it. Housing prices in Lanu had risen fewfold and Claude wasn't willing to let him get the short end of the stick. So, after much back and forth, they settled on the sale at 80 percent market price. By the time all that was done, a month had passed. The guard tent at Cromwell brought Sheila back to Lanu. Now, she was the matron of that new manor.
Unlike Claude's family, Sheila much preferred the forest and mountains. The western sector of Lanu was surrounded by hills and green, with streams flowing through them in a serene environment. The only disadvantage was that it was too far from the city centre. Then again, it was much more peaceful that way. Seeing that she liked it there, he decided to buy all the land and hills for her to plant her favourite trees and herbs.
Apart from Skri's manor, there were some ten other rich or famous households in the area that built their smaller vacation houses there. Though, since Claude wanted to buy the land off them, they obliged him without fuss and simply bought more land to build new manors nearby.
After all, since the general was moving there, they would get to bask in the limelight by becoming his neighbours. Selling him their land would earn them a favour. Perhaps they would have a good reason to visit him as a fellow neighbour or invite him to their social functions. Once word of that got out, the housing prices of that area tripled. Even Eiblont came over to join the fuss. Claude sold him a small patch of land for him to build his vacation house to keep Claude company.
Perhaps it was because of their separation for the past decade, Sheila was quite attached to him. He also spoiled her dearly and agreed to let her build a tower on a mountain. However, he didn't want others to recognise it as a magus' tower, so he drew a tower design based on what he saw on old Earth. It would have five storeys and roofs that arched out and upwards -- basically a pagoda. It could also serve as a local landmark.
Sometimes, Sheila put on a military uniform and insisted on following Claude to headquarters. When Eiblont saw her, he shot her a thumbs up and praised her look before turning and slipping away. Three days later, he came with two military-garb-clad women and called them his intimate personal attendants. Seeing how close they were, it was obvious what was going on.
For that, Claude was dragged by Bolonik for a harsh rebuke for starting the trend. Sheila, however, wouldn't have it. She wasn't much weaker than Claude's personal guards, so what was wrong with her dressing up like a soldier? Claude was stuck between a rock and a hard place. With the society of the time being mainly patriarchal, women showing up in the force would only draw unwanted attention. If she was to follow him around, she would have to dress up like a man proper.
Three months had passed since all family matters were settled. During the 9th month, bad news came from the mainland. Due to defaulting on their debts, Aueras was attacked by Nasri. War fell once more on the mainland.