Returning for Duty
It appeared Lederfanc couldn’t have Berklin transferred back to 1st Rangers. It wasn’t that he didn’t try. Instead, Berklin was now heralded a treasure by the twenty-odd rangers in 2nd Rangers and they weren’t willing to let him go. Given how impressive Berklin’s contributions were, having shot a lot of enemy officers from a good hundred metres away, it was no surprise.
As such, Berklin was promoted from sergeant-major to second lieutenant to put him on the same rank as Claude, thus making it impossible for him to serve beneath him. During the 2nd tribe’s break, he put on his new officer uniform and insignia to visit Claude and the rest at the hospital. He had wanted to show off, only to be beaten up by the jealous Moriad and Dyavid.
The seven Aueran corps commanded by the first prince finally encircled the three Nasrian corps while Claude was still recovering. After half a month of push-and-pull battles, the Nasrian troops finally discarded their weapons and willingly surrendered. The entire operation cost Nasri 98 thousand men. Half were killed in battle and the three corps, around 160 thousand men, were completely eliminated. Two of the extinguished corps were standing ones as well.
Aueras also suffered rather substantial losses, but the dead numbered less than half Nasri’s. Their campaign in Sidins could be considered a decisive victory. The kingdom chronicled it as the Triumph of Amilia. However, few were aware that the battle was what prompted the Auerans to change the direction of their firearms research from range to accuracy.
Claude received many letters during his recovery. He did nothing but write to his acquaintances and friends. Welikro’s father, Kubrik, wrote to tell him that his son had gone to the frontlines as a royal guard and should be in Sidins as well. The royal guard were mostly kept on the frontlines, however, so he didn’t have the chance to meet any of them. All he could do was ask Myjack and Gum to look around and ask the injured whether any knew Welikro.
Borkal didn’t reply to the letter Claude sent. His father, Rublier, wrote that Borkal’s unit, the keepers of Banjilia, had also been deployed to the frontlines. He didn’t know where though. He sounded really worried for his precious son. He also included a piece of surprising news. Eriksson had joined the navy.
Claude’s mother’s letter was packed with the usual worry. Even after he told her the good news of his promotion, she continued to shower him with pleads to look after himself.
His sister wrote in code that she had become a one-ring magus and chosen the same seven basic spells as him. At the very least it meant she could now keep herself safe. Unlike Claude, she was more passionate about herbal medicine than magic, taking after their mistress. She also complained that Bloweyk, who had just turned ten, was an uncontrollable rascal.
And then there was Kefnie’s letter. She had devoted her whole heart to Claude. While she was worried about his safety, she said she was confident she could wait until he returned to tie the knot. The letter practically dripped love as she chronicled every detail of her life in his absence, especially her quiet suffering as she awaited his return. She did manage to mention a couple other things, however, like how her sister was married and pregnant. She and her husband were having nightly fits over what to call the child.
Maria also sent a letter. She apologised for not asking the first prince to look after him as well. They were just seven years apart, so she’d always had fights with him over him calling her ‘aunt’. He’d never unlearnt the behaviour, and the two didn’t get along very well.
No wonder, Claude thought. He had wondered why the first prince hadn’t treated him like he was Maria’s pupil when Rosley was causing so much trouble. So it was because he didn’t know about the connection at all.
Perhaps the matter with Wedrick was the reason Claude had that misunderstanding in the first place. He got the impression Maria was capable of getting her way no matter what it was. So at least in the royal family there were some people who didn’t care about her position. It was a good thing, as far as Claude was concerned. It meant his promotions thus far under the first prince were solely due to his own efforts and merits, not any considerations for his mistress.
Sidins and the other duchies’ forces quickly capitulated without Nasri’s backing. The duke fled the duchy just a month after Nasri’s army surrendered, leaving Efenasburg behind to fight on alone.
On the 10th of the 8th month, the siege of Efenasburg ended, just a fortnight after it began. Prince Hansbach arrived in the city on the 12th to officially accept the duchy’s surrender in their duke’s absence and declared its annexation.
The royal guard led the four irregular corps against Rimodra with fierce and renewed fervour several days later, and conquered a quarter of the duchy in a week. As they were requesting ally support in the face of a belligerent and capable foe, Duke Rimodra sent an ambassador to Aueras secretly to sue for peace. During the audience, the first prince refused the duke’s demands and demanded the duchy’s unconditional surrender.
The duke was not about to gamble his nobility on some brat’s whims, so he turtled up and prepared to fight it out to the end. With the fall of Sidins, the duchies of Askilin and Canas formed three new corps and sent them to Rimodra in the hopes that the war wouldn’t spread beyond its borders. If Rimodra fell, Askilin and Canas would be next.
At the same time, the Alliance’s leader, Nasri, was hard-pressed to defend its own territories, so it couldn’t spare any more forces. Nasri’s four standing corps were often equated to Aueras’ four and they were always at eighty percent strength, even in peacetime. And two of them, a full half of Nasri’s regulars, had been lost in Sidins.
The border between Nasri and Sidins was barely defended. Aueras had recalled Griffon from the western front without the Alliance noticing and mounted a counterattack into Nasrian territory with two irregular corps. Having to fight on two fronts, Nasri’s survival had fallen into doubt. They did not have the room to send forces to their allies.
The scales had tipped in Aueras’ favour, so much so Stellin X declared the war would end within a year. In his speech he focused on the prosperity his rule would bring to his side of the continent, which revealed his true intent. He was planning to rule over a good quarter of the continent.
Claude read about the speech in the local newspaper in his final days at the hospital. The headline read ‘Cheer, Victory is Near!’. The king sure had grand ambitions. He was already talking about ruling half the continent when they’d only just barely taken one and a half duchies.
It had taken Claude three months to heal from his injury and rehabilitate his leg. His healing itself had taken much longer than everyone had expected. Many wondered whether he’d been stabbed with a poisoned blade, for his recovery to take so long. It swelled so badly at one point that there had been a real chance they would have had to amputate.
If not for Perunt, who sent someone with a concoction he personally synthesised after hearing about it, Claude might had been discharged a cripple. He hated that the hospital’s doctors were all incompetent compared to Perunt.
The infirmary was also always overcrowded. Injured came by cartloads after every battle. He might not even have been given proper ointments if not for his new rank.
He’d pushed through however, and was discharged from the hospital in the 9th month. Moriad and Dyavid had left before him. Moriad was a month and a half early while Dyavid was discharged a fortnight after him. Claude was among the latest to return to his tribe and by then, 1st Rangers had gone to Efenasburg. Claude sought out a supply carriage on its way to the city and had Myjack and Gum hitch a ride with him.
Major Lederfanc welcomed him warmly, but didn’t know what to do with him. All the clans had commanding officers. That fitted Claude well, however, so he suggested that he be given a position in the tribe’s headquarters. Lederfanc didn’t mind having him nearby to pick his brain from time to time either, so he happily obliged. He informed Claude they were to move to Rimodra soon to relieve the 3rd Rangers.