Choice for the Future
“Is… is this for me?” Claude stretched his hand out for the black matchlock and slowly took it out.
It was a great surprise and something he never would’ve expected getting. He had told his father that he wanted to have his own gun, but it was only something he’d think to bring up. He thought that there’d be no way Morssen would agree to let him buy a gun even if he used his own money and bought one in his father’s name. Claude recalled that his father wasn’t that fond of weapons and was someone who believed that a person’s wits was far more important than any weapon.
Why would father buy me a gun as a gift? thought Claude anxiously as he inspected the gun in his hand lovingly, Is this something he did to make up for me? If pummeling Arbeit came with a reward, I already got mine. Beating him alone was reward enough. Perhaps my parents had to spend ten gold krons to cover up Arbeit’s scandal with Miss Christina and wanted to make it fair for me and bought me this gun? Maybe they think that this will make me hate that fool less?
Claude was going through one of his paranoid phases again. The black gun in his hand wasn’t used. Given how it was packaged and freshly oiled, it was a product fresh out of the factories and cost nearly five to six gold krons. Why would his stingy father spend such a huge sum to buy a gun for him? Was there some string attached to it?
If Morssen knew what Claude was thinking, he might’ve thrown the new gun into the oven and destroyed it out of anger.
Morssen’s reasoning to buy the gun was rather simple. Claude was his second son after all and he wasn’t aware that the one who resided within Claude’s body was actually a transmigrator from another world. He had set two paths for his two sons, Arbeit and Claude. Arbeit would advance through life as a bureaucrat while Claude would have to enlist in the military.
He was aware that life in the military wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Welikro’s father served for fifteen years and was fortunate enough to not be deployed in any battle. But normally, the chances of actually surviving a battle was rather bleak.
Morssen cherished his sons as a father would and definitely hoped that Claude would survive for as long as he could. So, he planned to send Claude to the Tyrrsim area on the continent of Nubissia after his middle-school graduation where Claude’s godfather presided. Enlisting in the unit there would be relatively safer than being randomly assigned to any other territory.
When Claude asked for his own gun, Morssen was reminded of the military path he had chosen for him and believed it to be good for him to familiarize himself with the usage of one earlier. He might stand a far higher chance of survival if he could shoot well. So, he decided to spend a good sum of money to get a new gun for Claude.
Morssen smiled as he added a little more tobacco into his beloved pipe, lit it, and took a huge puff out of it. The expensive tobacco he smoked came from Nubissia and was one of the specialties produced by the kingdom’s colony.
Smoking was the only favorite pastime of Morssen. No matter the price of the tobacco, Morssen would always let himself indulge in his hobby. He believed that smoking did suit his position as a chief secretary a lot. Not only could he remain alert and awake when he smoked, he could also hide how closely he observed someone when he lit his pipe to smoke. He could use that small window of time to deduce other people’s intentions and he found that to be crucial.
“Do you like the gift?” Morssen was quite satisfied with how much his second son appeared to like the gun.
“Yes, lots. I’m really glad. Thank you, Father,” Claude said with a delighted expression that was mixed with a trace of doubt and fear, “But, I don’t understand why you would buy me a new matchlock. I recall that you hated weapons, right?”
Morssen’s expression turned solemn. He hadn’t expected for Claude to pose such a question. “That’s right, I do hate weapons, and so does your elder brother. That’s because we’re bureaucrats and we’re more accustomed to solving problems with our brains and wit. We won’t threaten the safety of other people’s lives like a brute with a weapon.
“But you’re different. You’re a physical stream student and you’ll turn 17 when you graduate next year. Whether you’re willing or not, according to the kingdom’s laws, the Bill of Rights for the Four Castes specifically, you will have to make a choice when you turn 18. Either you find a job in town and stay a peasant for life or strive for status as a dignitarian.
“Given your grades, it’s not quite possible for you to become a bureaucrat given your grades, unless you can get first place in the whole grade and top all the other academic stream students. That way, you’ll get a recommendation from school to join the town hall. It will also depend on your luck and whether there is a vacancy there.
“The other path you can choose is to enlist in the military and try to gain achievements on the battlefield. You could also become a marine and serve the kingdom’s navy. But for the sake of your safety, I would recommend against joining the navy as going out to sea is a rather risky affair. If you go on the battlefield, there’s still a chance for survivors regardless of how terrible the casualties are. But casualties at sea are usually accounted for in number of ships lost, not people.
“You’re already 16 this year and you even hunted that huge a python with your friends, much to the shock of the townsfolk. Since there’s a good chance that you’ll pick the military route in the future and you want your own gun, I decided that it would be good for you to get used to using one in the two years before you turn 18. I’m sure it’ll be a great help for you in the future.”
Claude looked dumbfounded. He didn’t think that his father would talk about his future with him so seriously.
As a transmigrator, he didn’t care for the Bill one bit. Being a dignitarian or a peasant didn’t pose much of a difference for him. As a free transmigrator, he could always find a new place to belong if the current one didn’t suit him. The worst it could come to was fr him to travel to the ends of the world. He had never cared much about the kingdom’s laws. The four-caste system the kingdom used looked like a joke to him. He had resolved to not let those pointless rules dictate his life.
Just like the three friends of his, he wished to become an adventurer that would unravel the mysteries of this foreign world. He would travel the world of magic and experience the various cultures. That was the most meaningful way to spend his transmigrated life. Naturally, it would be even better if he could actually learn some magic.
However, his father was seriously thinking about sending him into the military and he didn’t know how to react at the spur of the moment. “Umm.. Father… If I don’t enlist in the military, can I just stay a peasant and remain within Whitestag?”
Only a fool would leave Whitestag before growing up. Given that Father is the chief secretary of the town, he is also a powerful existence, not one in hiding in the shadows of the underworld but one who was sanctioned by the authorities. Even if I choose to be a peasant, I’d be able to enjoy a quasi-dignitarian lifestyle in town given my father’s position.
I don’t want to become cannon fodder for Aueras. This kingdom’s survival is of no concern to me, thought Claude.
“Sigh…” Morssen shook his head. “I must tell you something, Claude. You’re a physical stream student. In some sense, all students from the physical stream are actually reserve soldiers. Even if you become a peasant, when war breaks out, you’ll be among the first to be forcefully conscripted. It’s no longer a matter of choice for you. So, joining the military on your own accord will be far better than being forced to join. After all, even if you manage to become a minor officer in the ranks, you’ll stand a far better chance of survival than the lowest common denominator cannon fodder troops.”
What? So the physical stream students are in fact reserve soldiers! Claude was struck with realization. It was no wonder the physical stream classes included sword fighting, wrestling, boxing, long-distance running, shot put, and stick fighting. There was also horsemanship and all students were required to train with guns during the third year. It was no wonder he felt that he was attending a military recruit training camp.
This is far too ridiculous and overboard, thought the transmigrator. He initially thought that the kingdom’s education system was rather well done in that it allowed for students to pick their own path, the academic or physical stream. He didn’t think that despite paying for the fees, he was actually being trained as a reserve soldier for the kingdom and saving the kingdom the cost of having to train new ones.
“Actually, enlisting in the military isn’t as terrifying as you think it is,” Morssen said after he took another puff of smoke, “Claude, you’re already 16 and you’ve matured much since you fell badly sick that time. You started to care for your siblings much more, help your mother out, and improved your grades. You even took a liking to reading. As your father, I admire how much you’ve changed for the better. Even though your relationship with your elder brother isn’t good…”
When he said that, morssen paused suddenly, possibly thinking of the sight when Claude beat Arbeit horribly up. “So, I want to discuss your future with you today. As parents, it goes without saying that we don’t wish for our children to leave our side when they grow up. Even if you form your own families and build your careers, we hope that we can still live together and never have to part.
“But as your father, I have to consider for your futures’ sakes. No matter what, it is my wish that you can get dignitarian status for yourself. During peacetime, I can still look after you in Whitestag. You’ll definitely be able to live a good life as a peasant. But currently, the kingdom’s geopolitical situation doesn’t seem good. the kingdom of Nasri has formed an alliance with several other nations to the east of the continent. I predict that in another few years, the kingdom will go to war again with the allied nations.
“If you are still a peasant by then, you’ll be conscripted right away and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. That’s why I decided to have you join the military right after graduation. I’ll be sending you over to the Tyrrsim area on Nubissia where your godfather, Viscount Jerrihausen Van Cruz serves as governor. I’m sure you’ll be safe and sound by his side and will also gain opportunities to be promoted.”
Oh, so Father already made plans for me, thought Claude with relief. Claude agreed with his father that Aueras would go to war with the allied nations soon. In recent days, Whitestag Dawn Edition echoed the reports in the daily newspaper of the prefecture capital that showed signs of such a thing happening. One such instance was how the newspapers didn’t bring up the grudges between those nations at all during the honeymoon period after the signing of the peace treaty signed with Nasri.
Claude was rather curious about the sudden mention of his godfather though. He had never known about his existence. Additionally, his father didn’t seem like someone whose status matched a viscount. A viscount that was one rank above a baron and a governor of a whole colony no less.
Seemingly having read Claude’s mind, Morssen recounted, “Back when I was still young and haven’t gotten dignitarian status, being only a peasant scribe serving the town hall, I got my fourth commendation after submitting a good proposal to the administration. The one who awarded it to me was none other than Viscount Jerrihausen Van Cruz himself.
“The day he came to Whitestag happened to be the day when you were born. The viscount gladly agreed to name you when I offered him to. Your name, Claude, came from a good comrade of his who was sacrificed on the battlefield. When he stayed in the three southwestern prefectures, he would come to see you often, but I’m sure you won’t remember much of it as you were still young back then. We only stopped keeping in contact as often when he returned to Nubissia. But even so, we still write each other a couple of letters a year.”
I see, Claude thought, perhaps going to Nubissia won’t be such a bad idea after all.