Chapter 1 – Story 23: Claw

<– Previous Chapter | ToC | Glossary | Next Chapter –>


 

When Zurgu entered the room that’s called the meeting space, the important people of the clan had already assembled.
Calmly walking in front of his clanmates who bow their heads all at once, he sits down between the elders located at the deepest part of the room.

“Well then, let’s hear the report!” (Zurgu)

Hearing Zurgu’s words, a single soldier steps forward into the middle of the meeting place.

“I will humbly give my report. Four days ago a human military force that they call a batallion invaded the domain of the Fang Clan.”

Everyone present here already knew about the matter of the Fang Clan requesting their Claw Clan to take care of their clanmates who wouldn’t be able to fight, due to their plan to fight against the human forces. Furthermore, the massive fire four days ago was around the mountain where the Fang Clan lives, and could be seen from their place as well.
Once they added up all these facts, anybody could easily imagine that there was a battle between the humans and the Fang Clan. Nevertheless, the elders groan about the scale of the invading troops exceeding their expectations.

“If you say a battalion, that’s quite the number, isn’t it?”

“Those damned humans. They seem to be quite intent on destroying us.”

“If I remember correctly, the Fang Clan sets up several areas and separates their clan into these places for the sake of passing the winter, right?”

It’s not like the Claw Clan had remained a mere spectator until now either.
Currently not only the warrior giving the report at this place but countless other skilled and strong members were sent out for reconnaissance and reported about the detailed movements of the Fang Clan. Hence they were aware of the surprising state of affairs of the Fang Clan.

“Yes. As far as I have seen, the Fang Clan members that could be called warriors were only slightly above the number of fingers on both hands and toes on both feet. However, the result is…”

At that point the warrior hesitated to continue speaking.
Zurgu and the others considered that to be understandable.
Most likely he had witnessed how the mountain was set on fire, on top of a massacre carried out against the entire Fang Clan.
Despite them being a different clan, they are still zoan. Even if he’s called a warrior, seeing that massacre take place in front of his eyes will likely throw even him into turmoil.

“It’s fine, you don’t have to speak further!” (Zurgu)

Zurgu held back the warrior who tried to continue speaking.

“Everybody. Although they are from a different clan, they were people of the same blood if they followed the path of our ancestors. Let’s pray for their happiness in the next world.” (Zurgu)

All his clanmates dedicate a silent prayer to them.
Among them only Zurgu was irritated.
Garam, you big idiot! You and your pointless stubbornness! If you had obediently bent your knee in front of me, I would have saved you at any time!
If Garam himself heard that, it’s something that would have enraged him, Zurgu seriously thought.
Zurgu himself didn’t dislike Garam. On the contrary, he has been evaluating his ability as a warrior highly.
But, the emotion born from that wasn’t respect and friendship but rivalry.
Even though he secretly thought that he wants to have a one-on-one showdown in due time, he felt a selfish anger for having lost that chance for eternity.
In fact, stirring up a sense of impending danger with the news of the Fang Clan being destroyed in order to bring the remaining clans together was part of Zurgu’s plan. However, losing the divine child Shyemul, who had the qualifications to stand as their leader, is something that could be considered something very regrettable.

“Was I a bit too greedy?”

At the time when I was asked to look after those who can’t fight, I demanded the divine child as compensation for that, but I guess I was a bit too greedy there? He mocked himself.

“So, did the divine child die as well?” (Zurgu)

“No, she’s alive.”

This is getting pretty interesting, Zurgu thought.
As long as the divine child is alive, the Claw Clan will become the most reputable clan if we take in the survivors of the Fang Clan that scattered to various places and shelter them.
In that case it will be a piece of cake to unify all clans under the Claw Clan by using both our power as a clan and the divine child as a figurehead.

“Have you been able to grasp the location of the divine child?” (Zurgu)

“Excuse me? I believe she’s in the Fang Clan’s refuge, or their village?”

The questioned warrior answers with a puzzled look.

“I see. Those shitty humans. To detain the divine child there without killing her, do they intend to lure us with her as bait…?” (Zurgu)

Due to that monologue, the warrior realized that Zurgu had a wrong idea.

“No, clan chief, it’s different!”

“Oh? What is?” (Zurgu)

“The Fang Clan hasn’t been destroyed. They have defeated the human forces!”

The zoan present were all astir simultaneously due to the words they couldn’t even anticipate.
Even in the best scenario, something like a possibility of the Fang Clan winning against a number of troops the size of a battalion seems impossible, due to them dispersing its few combat forces in order to pass the winter.
Because they were under the impression that the Fang Clan had been eradicated by the humans, or at the very least suffered huge losses, their surprise was great.

“Something like that is impossible!”

“No way! Tell us, how the hell were they able to drive away that many troops!?”

“Did they receive reinforcements from the Mane Clan or the Eye Clan?”

Reining in the elders who started to make an uproar, Zurgu had the warrior explain everything first.
However, that battle that was later called the 「Battle of Hoghnareah Hill」 was something that largely diverted from the common sense of zoan fighting that existed within the warrior. For that reason the warrior who witnessed it himself hasn’t reached an understanding of the spectacle and he talked while finding himself at a loss of words many times.
But, he was able to depict the truth to those present who were listening very closely to his explanation.

“I can’t believe it…!”

“You don’t say! There exists such way of fighting!?”

The elderly said so unanimously.

“Albeit having seen it with my own eyes, I can’t believe it, but it’s the truth. Even I felt fear when I witnessed the scene that could be called the reproduction of the legend of the imperial capital being burned down in one night due to provoking the wrath of the God of Fire.”

Seemingly recalling the view of that time, the warrior’s body trembles greatly once.
Zurgu, who had listened carefully with his eyes shut and his arms folded as if to not miss even a single word, opened his eyes and leaked out a sigh.

“Damn Garam. What happened to that guy…?” (Zurgu)

With him having met Garam only a few times, they hadn’t the opportunity to get to know each other very deeply. Even so, he had heard several time that rumour from the youngsters around here is that he is hailed as strongest warrior of the Fang Clan.
Once he guesses Garam’s figure from that, it causes him to feel that there’s a far too large gap in the situation of this time’s battle.
It’s only natural to consider that there was someone, who taught them a plan, rather than Garam and the warriors of the Fang Clan having come up with something themselves, Zurgu analyzed.
However, in that case I’m bothered by who had provided that plan to Garam.
As far as Zurgu knows, there’s no person that can come up with such unconventional idea among the zoan in the plains from where the Fang Clan originated.

“… There’s none among the zoan, right?” (Zurgu)

He can’t sense the way of fighting by throwing an enemy army into chaos through the usage of fire as zoan-like.
Someone who’s not a zoan commanded Garam and the Fang Clan.
That’s what his intuition told Zurgu.

“Wasn’t there any sign of something having changed within the Fang Clan?” (Zurgu)

“Yes! Now that you mention it, the one thing on my mind is…”

“What? Spill the beans!” (Zurgu)

I might get a clue on the mysterious person who led the Fang Clan, Zurga bent forward.

“I’m not certain since I had only seen it from quite the distance, but several times I noticed the divine child walking around while taking someone suspicious along.”

“Suspicious, in what sense? Be more clear about it, man!” (Zurgu)

“Understood! That is… no matter how I look at it, it apparently was a human child.”

That was something quite different from the picture Zurgu had assumed.
The image Zurgu had in his mind was a dwarf, who is familiar with the handling of fire, or a human, whose speciality is a cunning way of fighting, moreover a veteran warrior, who experienced an uncountable number of battles, or someone with the figure of a general.
With that much of a personal history, that person shouldn’t be young. There’s also the reason that the proud zoan shouldn’t abide to a youngster from a different race, no matter how hard pressed they might be.

“Bullshit! At most it’s an eccentricity of that divine child. She probably saved a child that got mixed up with the human troops on a whim.” (Zurgu)

Zurgu laughed the warrior’s report off.
Shyemul’s unusual speech and conduct are famous.
Such a girl leading around a human child isn’t worth to get surprised over, Zurgu judged, but that that human child is the person who brought victory to the Fang Clan and the one Zurgu wanted to know about the most is something he didn’t believe even in his wildest dreams at this time.

“Clan chief~!”

At the moment a single warrior rushed over. Once he comes in front of Zurgu, he kneels down and bows his head.

“What’s wrong?! Did something happen?!” (Zurgu)

“Yes! A messenger from the Fang Clan has arrived!”

This is a godsend.
Whether we form a united front with the Fang Clan or are hostile to them from now on, it’s no use to decide as long as we don’t know the true identity of the mysterious person that gave them the plan. Since the messenger from the Fang Clan came just at the right time, we will profit if we can skilfully get information out from him that will serve as clue, even if it doesn’t go as far as revealing the true identity of that person, Zurgu swiftly pondered his options.

“All right! Bring him here right away!” (Zurgu)

“No, that is, he left behind a verbal message for you, clan chief, and went back already.”

Something like going back after leaving only a message behind without greeting the clan chief is an outrageously rude conduct. Due to that, the clanmates present raise their voices filled with anger.
However, Zurgu, who was among them, leaked an evil laughter without getting angry.

“This means I’m quite hated by them.” (Zurgu)

It seems that I provoked a fair amount of wrath from the Fang Clan due to demanding that they hand over the divine child while taking advantage of their weakness.
However, even when confronted with that, Zurgu laughs it off with a “What’s wrong with that?”
The zoan warriors always talk about pride and so forth, but in the end it’s bullshit that only serves as self-satisfaction. If you don’t win, you won’t gain anything. The defeated has no right to speak up in any way.
If you don’t want to have your weakness taken advantage of, you just have to avoid showing your weak points.
Those were Zurgu’s thoughts.
As one of the proud zoan warriors, this Zurgu held onto thoughts that might be called heretical.

“So, what did the Fang Clan say?” (Zurgu)

“As you wish! It’s something that’s hard to believe suddenly, but they said 『Assist us if you want to take back the plains』.”

The recapture of the plains is the dearest wish of all zoans, including the Claw Clan, in this area.
Talking about it is easy, but actually realizing it nothing ordinary.
Declaring that they will pull it off; I have no doubt that the mysterious person, who supports the Fang Clan, is quite an idiot or an unthinkably great man, Zurgu felt an excitement as if his blood is boiling.

“How interesting, shitty Garam! You are saying that you will take back the plains!?” (Zurgu)

Zurgu laughed for a while and then stood up straight.

“I will head out myself to listen to their story! Prepare some presents! It’s to be congratulatory gifts for victory! Get food ready to a degree that will astonish the empty stomachs of the Fang Clan! Gather the main warriors! Let’s show them that we, the Claw Clan, are at present the strongest clan.” (Zurgu)

 


<– Previous Chapter | ToC | Glossary | Next Chapter –>