Chapter 1 – Story 24: Clans

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Souma, whom would think that it was inconceivable to receive such an excessive evaluation from Zurgu at that time, met with Garam and Shyemul to discuss the situation going forward. Then again, even though they were calling it a discussion, the actual truth of the matter was that Souma, without much of the common knowledge of this world, is being taught by Garam and Shyemul.

“Among the 12 zoan clans, five clans, including us, the Fang Clan, lived in the plains around here.”

“12 clans?” (Souma)

Souma asked Garam who pointed at a drawing that was painted with dyes on animal skin.

“Correct. In the beginning the God of Beasts created 12 siblings. With each of them acting as a forefather, the zoan have split into 12 clans. The Eye, Ear, Nose, Whiskers, Fang, Claw, Horn, Hoof, Mane, Tail and Fur Clans.” (Garam)

While saying so, Garam pointed one-by-one at the pictures symbolizing the 12 clans.
Having counted the number of clans with his fingers, Souma tilts his head in confusion.

“Huh? Doesn’t that amount to only 11 clans?” (Souma)

Shyemul answers Souma’s question without a moment’s delay.

“Although it’s a story from the distant past, there apparently was a clan driven by their own desires that brought calamity to all other clans. Provoking the wrath of all the other clans, that clan was deprived of its name and banished to a different place, from what I’ve heard. That’s the lost 12th clan.” (Shyemul)

Due to Souma comprehending with an “I see,” Shyemul looks happy for being helpful. She has an look as if she would wag her tail excitedly if she had one.
Garam continues the explanation, though he considers that behavior of his younger sister as suspicious.

“Returning to the topic: except us, the four clans that lived in the plains were the Eye, Claw, Mane, and Tail Clans. As we have already dispatched messengers to all of them except the Tail Clan, they will likely show some kind of reaction in a few days.” (Garam)

Next Garam explains the names of the clans he just mentioned now.

“First is the Eye Clan, although they are also called the Ritual Clan. Their total number of clanmates is low, and the number that could be called warriors is even less. In regards to battle prowess you can’t expect anything from them, but the esteemed head of the shrine maidens resides in that clan.” (Garam)

“Head of the shrine maidens?” (Souma)

“She’s the head of the shrine maidens, who are handling the rituals of the clans. Our clan has grandmother as shrine maiden, but grandmother was sent to study under the Eye Clan in her youth. After receiving the approval of the head shrine maiden there, she officially became a shrine maiden herself. While it might be true that she’s the head shrine maiden, she doesn’t possess any special authority, nor is she allowed to order the other clans around. However, since the shrine maidens deal with the rituals and she can give the clan’s candidates for shrine maidens her approval or not, they can’t bluntly ignore her either.” (Garam)

Wondering whether they are similar to the religious head of a temple, Souma ponders after comparing them to something within his own knowledge that seems to be close.
In reality the relationship between a zoan shrine maiden and the head shrine maiden doesn’t have the clear structure of a religious organization, as Souma believes. Rather, it’s close to the relationship between a master and their pupil.

“The Mane Clan are, well, show-offs, I suppose. Since the number of their clanmates is high, they accordingly possess decent influence. But, as their current clan chief is indecisive, you can’t count on them.” (Garam)

Garam sounded the Mane Clan out about them taking in the Fang Clan’s clanmates who can’t fight, but the messenger came back with the reply the day before yesterday, when the battle had already ended a long time ago. In addition to that, the message was wishy-washy, telling the Fang Clan to let them think about it for a little while longer.

“The Tail Clan abandoned the plains and moved somewhere else at an earlier stage, when the humans’ influence became stronger. I don’t know whether they might be, thus I didn’t contact them this time.” (Garam)

Souma was discouraged by that.
If they are going to fight the humans from now on, they must secure as many warriors as possible.
What Souma felt after playing simulation games is that 「Numbers are power」.
Though it doesn’t mean that one will be able to win by simply increasing their number of soldiers, it’s the most basic move to gather more soldiers than your opponent.
For that reason he wanted to obtain the cooperation of as many clans as possible, but it couldn’t be helped since they couldn’t send a message to a clan with unknown whereabouts.

“The problematic one is the Claw Clan and its clan chief Kraga Bigana Zurgu.” (Garam)

By saying it just like that, Garam makes it clear that he doesn’t think highly of Zurgu.

“What kind of person is he?” (Souma)

“If you put it into one word, a beast, I guess.” (Garam)

Even though the zoan themselves are close to beasts from Souma’s point of view, he couldn’t help to have a growing curiosity to one that even the zoans would call a beast.

“Please tell me as much as you know about that person called Zurgu.” (Souma)

“Okay. — There’s a bit of a fateful connection between Zurgu and me…” (Garam)

From time immemorial it has been said that red-furred zoan have a wild temperament, but Zurgu was the very personification of that.
When there was an exchange between clans in the past, Garam and Zurgu, who were already were highly regarded as young warriors that were expected to shoulder the future of their respective clans, had a match as the banquet’s entertainment.
Even if it was called a match, it was “entertainment” to the bitter end. The contents of the match were about both of them competing with their techniques.
From the beginning to the end, Garam that excelled in technique but fell short in power predominated the match. At the end of the intense exchange of offense and defense Garam cleverly used his two machetes to make Zurgu’s hands drop his machete.
When the referee announced him as victor with that, Garam shifted his eyes over to referee. In that instant Zurgu lept at Garam with his bare hands.
Garama reacted to that by swinging his machetes at once, and even though it was bad luck, he ended up gouging out Zurgu’s left eye. The venue went into an uproar for a while.
Later on Zurgu explained it with 「I was too passionate about the match, so I didn’t hear the voice」, but there was almost no one who believed that.
It was Zurgu’s fault for taking a leap while ignoring the voice declaring the end of the duel, but Garam, who ended up injuring the son of the clan chief of a clan with a friendly relationship with his own hands, afterwards visited to apologize, with gifts in tow.
But, Zurgu bragged while smiling at Garam who apologized in earnest,

“The best present I got was this wound from you, 《Ferocious Fang》, who is so celebrated in rumours. ” (Zurgu)

And, while showing a smile that couldn’t be considered amicable at all,

“Next time, I’d like to see those skills on the battlefield.” (Zurgu)

He said something provocative as if they would settle their true match on the battlefield.
After that, Garam, who returned to the village, said the following to Shyemul:

“If he went at me for real at that time, he would have taken my life. He is definitely a man I don’t want to encounter on the battlefield as an enemy.” (Garam)

Not long after that the relentlessness of the human aggression intensified, the two clans were separated on a mountain and a hill far away from each other. The exchange came to a full stop, but even so he still heard the rumours about Zurgu several times.

“Due to his fighting style on the battlefield, similar to that of a crazed warrior, he was feared not only by his enemies but also by his allies. It reached the point that he is called by the nickname 《Mad Claw》.” (Garam)

“He’s quite strong, isn’t he?” (Souma)

Souma frankly voiced out what he thought after hearing Garam’s story, but Garam’s reply towards that was something filled with mixed feelings,

“If it’s strength, he has it. But, what makes that guy scary apart from that is his obsession towards victory.” (Garam)

“Obsession?” (Souma)

“Yes. He will choose victory over pride. If he believes that he can’t win, he will escape without batting an eyelid even if he’s called a coward afterwards. Even if he lost, he won’t give up. He will patiently hold his breath until it becomes possible for him to win. If he sees even the slightest chance at victory, he will swoop down on it like a wild beast that lurked in the thicket.” (Garam)

At the end Garam said following with a leaden tone,

“《Mad Claw》 Kraga Bigana Zurgu is a man truly similar to a beast.” (Garam)

◆◇◆◇◆

“Esteemed divine child! Sir Soma!!”

The one waiting for the two leaving the tent of the clan chief was Shahata. Since the fire ambush, Shahata began to address Souma much more respectfully. One way or another, he felt anxious when talking to Souma.

“Shahata, what is it?” (Souma)

“The wagon you requested is finished.” (Shahata)

That is something he asked the zoan to produce through Shyemul.
Among the human soldiers who became their prisoners in the last battle, there’s a large number of people who won’t be able to return to the fortress on foot by themselves due to their burns and injuries. It’s a vehicle for the sake of sending back these people.
Shahata came to inform Souma of its completion after deliberately searching for him.

“By the way… umm, are you already recovered?” (Shahata)

The fact of Souma’s physical condition being in a continuously bad state until yesterday was known not only by him, but by every zoan of the Fang Clan. Using the report about the completion of the wagon as an excuse, he came to inquire about Souma’s condition.

“I’m sorry for having caused you to worry.” (Souma)

When Souma apologizes by saying that, Shahata waves his hands as if saying “Far from it!”

“Haven’t you done the unreasonable and destroyed your physical condition in order to save us? As long as you have recovered, that’s the most important.” (Shahata)

While she looks at the retreating figure of Shahata, who left after bowing his head deeply, Shyemul said,

“I see. You’ve become quite friendly with Shahata, haven’t you?” (Shyemul)

“Yeah. I’m quite indebted to him.” (Souma)

Shyemul was surprised.
Shahata was known as someone eccentric in the village. Without associating with anyone from the village, he had always worn a gloomy expression. Shyemul didn’t think that he would do something for the sake of others.
As expected of the natural virtue of my Navel Master, I guess, Shyemul gloated by herself.

“Esteemed divine child.”

A warrior called out to Shyemul.
Seemingly having returned from hunting, one rabbit is hanging on his waist.

“What’s wrong?” (Shyemul)

“I came here after bringing this guy down. Umm, please have him eat that.”

Once he pushed the rabbit that was hanging at his waist into Shyemul’s hands without saying whom he was talking about, the warrior hurriedly departed from that place.
With this not being the first time such a thing happened, Shyemul smiled bitterly.

“Although it would be fine if they were honest without being so strangely obstinate.” (Shyemul)

The fact that Souma suffered a 「Warrior’s Cold」 brought about a change in the mental state, independent of their feelings, among the zoan.
For the zoan, Souma was thought to be an evil existence that’s called the Divine Son of Death and Destruction.
Because it was decided by the clan chief Garam and the divine child Shyemul to follow what Souma says at the time when he said that he would drive out the humans, they followed him only out of necessity. In their hearts, no one actually expected him to be able to defeat the humans.
However, by making use of methods that are very far apart from the common battle knowledge of the zoan, Souma pulled it off.
Also, many zoan ended up feeling a powerful dread, just like Gulkaka.
Among those clanmates there were even some who honestly considered abandoning the clan and running away.
But, having heard that Souma collapsed and suffered from a 「Warrior’s Cold」, the zoan were taken aback.
For the zoan a 「Warrior’s Cold」 is nothing more than an illness that inexperienced warriors rarely suffer from. So to speak, it’s a kind of embarrassing illness one can’t tell others about readily.
It’s sort of like a rowdy kid that’s known for his scary face actually being a bedwetter who needs to air their sheets every morning in secret.
Due to an overwhelming difference between their image of Souma that caused them to fear him and that of him having the Warrior’s Cold, the zoan began to consider their fear as absurd.
On the contrary, when they considered that such a pathetic guy drove away the humans to the point of his physical condition crumbling for the sake of saving them, their evaluation gradually changed into 「Despite being weak, doesn’t he get things done quite well?」
The influence of their divine child Shyemul on their change of opinion was also huge. With her always being Souma’s ally, they arbitrarily interpreted it as 「That means he’s favoured by our esteemed divine child, doesn’t it?」 and were able to accept it cordially.
Of course there were also those who had bad feelings towards Souma, but among the majority of the Fang Clan, Souma’s evaluation had risen to a surprising degree.
Because of the sequence of events until now, they were still unable to thank or talk to Souma, but it reached the point that they sometimes delivered hunted prey and food to him through Shyemul like this.
Shyemul was happy about Souma, her own Navel Master, being steadily approved by the people of her clan.

“Ah, it’s big bro!”

“Bro~!”

The ones among the clan who happily got in contact with Souma, just like Shahata, were the siblings Geeta and Shyepoma.

“Bro, play with us~” (Shyepoma)

Saying that, Shyepoma grabs Souma’s right hand and tries to pull him towards the mountain. Souma throws a glance at Shyemul as if asking her opinion while wearing a slightly troubled expression.

“Oh well, isn’t it fine since you currently don’t have anything to do, Soma? Or rather, what you should do now is to deepen your friendship with my clan just like that, I believe, Soma.” (Shyemul)

Souma, who obtained Shyemul’s permission, started to walk forward while joining hands with Shyepoma. Behind him Shyemul follows them while holding hands with Geeta in the same manner.
Having become emotionally attached to Souma, Shyepoma talks to him, looking very happy, while showing a smile all over her face.

“You know, you know, it will be great if I become big bro’s bride once I grow up.” (Shyepoma)

“I see. Thank you.” (Souma)

“But it’s no good if my husband can’t hunt even a single prey. That’s why you have to polish your hunting skills from now on, big bro, okay?” (Shyepoma)

According to the custom of the zoan, a young man obtains the permission to become a husband by piling up a mountain of prey he hunted with his own strength in front of the girl’s parents. It’s an act of showing proof that their daughter will live without any discomfort, as he has this much power.

“Ye~ah. But, for me hunting is a tad difficult.” (Souma)

“Geeze, you have to be dependable, right? After all you, will become my husband.” (Shyepoma)

Souma spilled a smile due to Shyepoma using the tone of an adult albeit being very young.

“Then I will try to do my best.” (Souma)

“Yeah. Go for it~” (Shyepoma)

While thinking 「In spite of being very young, even Shyepoma became able to speak in a mature way」 due to such pleasant exchange, the arm of Shyemul, who gazed at the two, pulled Geeta with slightly stronger force.

“Hey, hey, divine child.” (Geeta)

Shyemul looked down on Geeta.

“What’s up, Geeta?” (Shyemul)

“Divine child, your face is scary. What’s wrong?” (Geeta)

“… Really?” (Shyemul)

Shyemul hit her own cheeks with a slapping sound while looking mystified. (T/N: The yandere power is strong in that one.) (E/N: I’m just imagining an angry zoan lady slowly tightening her grip on this kid’s arm while she looks at Soma and the kid. Poor lil’ bro.)

 


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