Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 198
Worry and Puzzlement
A week had passed since Claude had woken up again and he looked a fair bit better. At the very least, he could now raise his head on his own and look around. He'd fought back the ability to use his right hand some as well, though at this point it was just to twitch his fingers around occasionally. The rest of his body was still cast in iron. He looked exactly like a mummy. Perunt said such injuries took at least a hundred days to heal, if they did at all, and he should stay in bed until they did.
He had found out about Fitney from Berklin, who was hurt the least among his four minions. He had been punched on the right cheek, lost two teeth, and fractured his cheekbone. He was hurt so bad he had rolled on the ground and screamed in pain, but the rest of his body was mostly untouched. He was not recognisable, however. The half of his face that had taken the brunt of the blow had swollen up like the limbs of someone suffering from elephantiasis. His eye couldn't be seen at all, nevermind opened. He couldn't chew at all, either, so his only option was to drink thin soup and runny porridge.
Aboyev's body was still in shock from the internal injuries he'd suffered, so he still drifted in and out of consciousness with disconcerting frequency. Moriad had suffered a little less than Aboyev, but more than Berklin. He'd broken one rib and cracked at least another three. His nose had been pulped as well. He was wearing a cast on his nose to keep it in place while the bone and cartilage regrew, but everyone expected him to have a crooked nose for the rest of his life.
Dyavid had suffered the worst. He'd been the bastard Fitney's punching bag. That final suplex had shattered several vertebrae and he would likely be stuck in bed for half a year, and would need extensive rehabilitation if he was ever to walk again. Perunt was of the opinion that Fitney had been trying to kill or cripple the five of them; he certainly hadn't cared about trying to keep plausible deniability in that regard. There was no way this could be explained away as simple negligence.
Fitney's injury was far worse than all of theirs combined, however, if someone survived all those injuries put together, that is. He'd become Bluefeather's resident butt. The rumour that most resembled the truth was that Claude's kick had snapped his member off and it couldn't be reconnected properly, so it was promptly removed. The most ridiculous exaggeration said Claude's kick had the power to change Fitney's gender entirely.
When Bell was there to help him with pissing, he told him he could hear Fitney's agonized shriek even from the infirmary. It sounded too chilling and left a mark on anyone that heard it. He admitted to suffering from nightmares after hearing it. Perunt said that something must've happened in the camp and they ought to prepare for treatment, only to see Fitney and Claude sent their way later.
"I was the one who cut open Sergeant-major Fitney's pants," Bell said.
He said the injury didn't look that urgent to him initially. It was a meaty mess, but the rough shape of the organs could still be seen. He didn't think that it would swell so much two days later though. Bell widened his hands to the rough size of a basketball and said that it was black and shiny. The veins on them were engorged and spread out across the swollen meatball and it truly was a disgusting spectacle.
The poor Fitney wasn't able to excrete or defecate for two days due to the pain. He begged Bell for a dagger to kill himself with. The pain was unbearable for him and he couldn't eat, sleep or even shut his eyes. In the end, Perunt administered numbing toxin on Fitney and used a reed tube to help him with excretion.
Bell described the urine mixed with pus as blood and vividly as he could. "I thought he'd go better after letting it out once or twice, but it swelled again on the next day. The excrete siphoned out again was the same pus-and-blood infused urine.
"So the doctor said his sausage had to amputated."
Bell told Claude about it as he would any other kind of gossip. Claude was the cause of all that, after all. However, he himself felt a chill when he heard it. He actually impaired Fitney's member and family jewels in his dazed effort to launch a counterattack. That was the most humiliating thing a man could suffer. It was obvious that Fitney would definitely bother him to no end by the time he recovered. If Claude had suffered the same fate, he was certain that he'd stop at nothing for revenge.
Claude pretended like he didn't care and asked Bell how he was doing.
"How can he be doing? He's bedridden, of course."
Bell didn't think too much about it and told Claude that after Fitney regained consciousness and was made aware of the loss of his member, he remained on his bed without saying a word like he died inside. He let Bell do whatever he had to without contest, much to the relief of Perunt, who was worried that his struggling would cause complications with the treatment.
Perunt said that Fitney had to rest for at least 20 days before the incision would close up proper. It was the first time he performed such a surgery, so the incision was a little larger than it should've been. Fitney also had to be fitted with a urinating tube to prevent inflammation and infection from the piled up urine. He would remain stranded on his bed for the time being and Perunt was worried that any movement would cause the incision to start bleeding again.
Stranded on the bed? Claude felt a hint of joy at the sound of those words. It was the opportune time to rid himself of that trouble once and for all. It wouldn't be easy to kill Fitney after he recovered proper, after all. Claude now knew about his capabilities and didn't wish to get hurt again. The thought about having to watch out against Fitney for the rest of his days steeled his resolve to kill Fitney.
But he was similarly wrapped up like a mummy and couldn't leave his bed. He was helpless to get rid of this threat at this time. Fitney would only need a month or so to recover, according to Perunt, while Claude would need two to three, almost double as much time.
Since that was the case, he gave up on the notion to deal with Fitney himself. He was now worried that Fitney would come for payback when he was sill bedridden. He would be nothing more than a sitting duck and be at his mercy...
Having no other choice, he could only count on Berklin, who only hurt his face and was still lively as ever. He got acquainted with Bell lately and followed him around the wooden buildings of the infirmary, so he should be aware which one Fitney was recovering in.
But he didn't have a way to convince Berklin to act, and he wasn't certain whether Berklin would attract suspicion even if he did the deed. They were within the infirmary and Perunt had full control over the place. As long as Fitney didn't die from natural causes, the truth could easily be discovered.
Claude wouldn't be willing to sacrifice Berklin's life and future in the military for the sake of acting first against Fitney.
He found it hard to fall asleep with those thoughts. He had his eyes wide open and stared at the wooden ceiling. Berklin, who was currently housed in the same building, noticed it and came to his bedside to ask what was going on.
"I wonder if I've been too harsh with Fitney," Claude said, not that he could be blamed for it.
He only reacted out of instinct and Fitney was trying to break his left calf while giving the other tentmates a lecture. He was the one who left himself completely defenseless against Claude's crippling counterattack.
"He deserved it!" Berklin spat.
Though he couldn't be happier to hear about the sergeant-major's emasculation, that wasn't enough to quench the flames of anger burning in his heart.
The reason he loitered around the infirmary during the past few days was to find a chance to give Fitney a few more wallops to make him suffer more. He wouldn't allow anyone to get off scot free after hurting him and his friends. The four of them did the same when they were loitering about in the slums of the east side of the royal capital. The other thugs knew about their noble backgrounds and how they always retaliated whenever they were messed with, so they didn't dare to go harsh on them. That was why the four of them had an easy time lingering there before they were sent to the camp by their families.
"Then did you manage to find where Fitney is residing?"
Claude's heart skipped a beat. It was a happy coincidence. He didn't think Berklin shared the same intent, even though it was for a different reason. While Berklin wasn't keen on hurting Fitney, he at least wanted to see him suffer during his treatment.
"It's pointless. I found it, but I wasn't able to enter," Berklin said crestfallenly, "The enforcers have taken over guard here. They stand guard outside the wooden hut he is recovering in. Apart from Doctor Perunt and a healer called Bach, nobody else is allowed to enter, not even Bell."
"Didn't you try the windows or climbing in from the back of the hut?" Claude asked.
"That was the first thing I thought of, but it won't fly. In front of the hut is an outpost and behind it is the dorm of an enforcer tent. There are always people there and there's no way anyone can climb in without being noticed. Do you know where the hut is? It's far from ours, all the way to the end where the doctor and the other healers' quarters are. It's even surrounded by a metal fence."
Claude gave up on the notion completely. There was no way to deal with Fitney under such circumstances. Putting aside getting others to do the dirty work for him, even he wouldn't be able to infiltrate the wooden hut when he was in perfect shape. He found it weird why Fitney's hut would be so heavily guarded. Did something warrant the corps to be so careful about it?
"By the way, Chief, a colonel came to visit you yesterday. You happened to fall asleep after having some medicine."
"A colonel? I don't know any... How did you know his rank?"
"His shoulder mark, of course. My grandfather used to be a colonel and we still have his shoulder mark in the family. There are three silver crescents on the mark. Someone bearing the same markings came to visit. I was so shocked that I couldn't even speak. The colonel appeared really cordial and he came in with Perunt, greeted me and asked the doctor about your condition by your bedside. He even bid me goodbye when he left. I don't even remember how I answered him..."
The colonel should've been sent to assess the incident. According to Bell, the matter was spread far and wide and the whole of Bluefeather knew about it. It had huge repercussions and the whole corps started to strictly enforce discipline and prevent soldiers from bullying cadets. That was especially important, given that the recruitment drive was underway and new recruits were joining camp every month.
Though, Claude still wondered why a colonel of all people would busy himself over a training incident like that. Wouldn't a major be sufficient? It seemed rather serious to him and he wondered whether he would be punished with more solitary confinement after he recovered.