Chapter 1 – Story 27: Paradise

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“What’s with that divine child!?” (Zurgu)

Once Zurgu entered the tent allocated to him for the sake of resting, he started jeering. His state of baring his fangs, breathing roughly and furiously heaving his shoulders up and down is truly the picture of an enraged wild beast.
Even his clanmates are scared of him. They merely looked at him from a distance.
From among those clanmates, a zoan with orange-coloured fur stepped forward. That zoan with her small size that was two heads shorter than the other brawny men, seems to be a little girl because of the slightly bulging area at the breast part of her armour.

“Uncle! Please calm down!”

Due to the voice of the girl that called out to him without fear, Zurgu’s frenzy stopped suddenly.

“Shishul, huh?” (Zurgu)

The name of the girl called Shishul is Kraga Bunuka Shishul, and Zurgu’s niece.
Being the child of his elder sister who is far apart from him in age, only 8 years are between her and Zurgu. Because of that Zurgu treats the girl more like a younger sister than a niece.

“You were told so by mother. Once you become clan chief, you would ponder seriously over matters because of your duty, but deep down you are a simple, boorish man. Because you will reveal your faults immediately, she told me to scold you when that happens.” (Shishul)

Zurgu, who perceived his elder sister that was much older than him as substitute for a mother as a child, is until this very day no match for his elder sister. Being told the words of that elder sister, Zurgu slapped his own face.

“Good grief, I can’t beat my elder sister.” (Zurgu)

Zurgu plumped down on the spot.
Immediately one of his brethren brews tea that was prepared in advance and holds it out to Zurgu. Once Zurgu gulped that down in one go, he leaked a deep sigh as if spitting out all the raging emotions still swirling within him.
And, having finally calmed down, Zurgu asks Shishul,

“From your point of view, what do you think about that guy?” (Zurgu)

“Even though it was a sideshow, as expected of a warrior that won against uncle. I keenly sensed his strength even from far away.” (Shishul)

“Not talking about that Garam.” (Zurgu)

Zurgu becomes sullen due to having a unpleasant memory dug up.

“Who do you mean then?” (Shishul)

“It’s about that human kid called Soma or something like that.” (Zurgu)

“Worthless. I can’t understand Garam’s thinking to appoint an important post to such a person. To say nothing of the sheer act of madness of making him a 『Navel Master』!” (Shishul)

Zurgu leaks a smile due to her response being just as he expected.

“Everyone probably has the same opinion as you. As you said, that guy doesn’t seem to be anything but an insignificant, ordinary person. However, he has been given an important role by Garam and the divine child made him her 『Navel Master』. This in itself is something extraordinary.” (Zurgu)

Zurgu looked in the far, unknown distance.

“Shishul, in the past I overcame the resistance of our clanmates and surrounded the village with a wooden fence, didn’t I?” (Zurgu)

Shishul nodded.
That is a story from the time when Zurgu had just become the clan chief.
Suddenly, Zurgu had started to cut trees at the nearby mountain. He said that he will build a tall wall around the village with those.
Originally being inhabitants of the plains, the zoan had strong resentments against the village’s circumference being surrounded by a wall. A large opposition was formed. If handled unskilfully, Zurgu would have been dragged off the seat of clan chief. He only managed to avoid further problems because of the family of his elder sister’s husband following Zurgu’s order after getting pressured by her, whom had married into their place.

“I was also harshly rebuked whether I wanted the proud zoan to imitate humans.” (Zurgu)

Recalling the situation at that time, Zurgu revealed a bitter smile.

“I think that as things stand, the zoan will get destroyed by the humans.” (Zurgu)

“Uncle…!” (Shishul)

For a clan chief that has been entrusted with the fate of his clan, those are no trivial words.

“In order for the zoan to not get annihilated, we have to change! Abandoning the old ways of zoan fighting, we have to learn new things! We have to change! Even if that might include the human way of fighting, for example!” (Zurgu)

That was the reason why he built a wall around the village.
However, Zurgu didn’t know that those words that he spoke resembled what Garam said as he saw the mountain that had been cleared way by fire in the past.

“The zoan are very particular about their pride. The other clans that fear change can’t be relied upon! Me and my Claw Clan will repel the humans by leading all zoan and we will establish a zoan paradise on the soil of our ancestors!” (Zurgu)

Zurgu tightly grasps his right fist that he had raised up to in front of his face.
It’s as if he’s seizing something that only he can see.

◆◇◆◇◆

“I certainly didn’t expect it to cause that much of an uproar.”

Far from being sorry, Shyemul says that cheerfully. Thanks to that, Garam had a headache.

“Umm… Garam. I didn’t know about it, but as it somehow ended up becoming a big problem. I’m sorry.” (Souma)

Souma bows very deeply towards Garam.
It is just like a man trying to receive the consent for marriage from the father of his lover. By no means did I expect to actually experience this myself at this age. Fate is something unpredictable, he ends up getting reminded of something similar to what he realized just now.
However, in response to that, Garam easily returns,

“No, it’s not something you have to worry about, Soma.” (Garam)

“Right, right. There’s nothing for you to worry about!” (Shyemul)

Due to Shyemul teasing him like that, Garam swiftly threatens her by by baring his fangs at her.

“I have heard that you are a 『Drop Child』, Soma. You probably didn’t even know what a 『Navel Master』 is. It’s evident that it’s this idiot who suggested it.” (Garam)

The Elder interjects before Shyemul, who is about to flare up again after being called an idiot.

“However, Garam, it’s definitely not something solely bad.”

“What do you mean, Grandmother?” (Garam)

“Although Shyemul is a bedwetter, she’s a divine child that has been given the grace of god. There are plenty of moves to use from this.”

The Elder ignores Shyemul who complains with 「The bedwetter is unnecessary!」.

“I have a good idea. Since I already took measures, it’s probably time for her to come here anytime soon.”

As if having matched that timing, a graceful sounding small cough could be heard from the other side of the entrance’s cover of the room.

“Oh, we have been awaiting you. Do us the favour of entering inside quickly.”

The one who entered after having received the Elder’s permission was the younger sister of the Head Shrine Maiden of the Eye Clan, Shunpa.

“What an honour, Lady Shunpa.” (Garam)

Garam corrects his seating posture and bows his head towards Shunpa.

“Just what might be your business with us? Did someone treat you in an ill-mannered way by chance?”

“No, I wish to express my gratitude for all the ladies and gentlemen of the Fang Clan showing their hospitality towards my retinue. I came here after being called by elder sister.” (Shunpa)

Having all the looks gathered on her, the Elder smiled broadly.

“First I’d like you, Lady Shunpa, to confirm the seal of Shyemul.”

Guessing the Elder’s intention with only that much, Shunpa’s face suddenly breaks into a smile.

“I see. Very well, so be it. — Esteemed Divine Child, I’m sorry to impose, but I’d like you to allow me confirming your seal.” (Shunpa)

“Ah, I don’t mind.” (Shyemul)

Shyemul tries to take off her breast protector on the spot.

“Hey, you men, turn around around now!”

Being threatened by the Elder baring her fangs, Souma and Garam turn around to the back in a hurry.

“Then, esteemed divine child, excuse me.” (Shunpa)

After saying that in advance, Shunpa pushes through the fur on Shyemul left breast and verifies the existence of the seal there.

“Certainly, I was able to see it. Without doubt it’s proof that Shyemul is a divine child.” (Shunpa)

The Elder, who nodded several times while looking satisfied due to that, furthermore asked Shunpa,

“Well then, I’d like you to confirm one more seal, Lady Shunpa.”

“One more, you say? Was someone chosen as a new divine child?” (Shunpa)

“I think it’s faster to show you than telling you about it. Soma, please take off that headband.”

After affirming that Shyemul had put her armour back on, Souma, who had turned around, hesitated a bit, but as he was told by the Elder, he took off his headband.
At that moment, Shunpa opened both her eyes widely.

“No way, this is…!” (Shunpa)

Once she touches Souma’s forehead with her hand after brushing away his forelocks that hid his forehead with a trembling hand, she stares at the seal as if to not miss even the slightest fabrication.

“Aura! Magluna Aura! Magluna Aura!” (Shunpa)

Shunpa raised a voice similar to a scream.

“… It wasn’t a mistake after all, huh?”

Shunpa comes to her senses due to the voice of the Elder and feels ashamed due to the disgraceful behaviour she showed.

“I’m terribly sorry. It’s especially rude to you who is serving as Aura’s esteemed divine child. I will apologize to you by prostrating myself.” (Shunpa)

Shunpa drops down as is and goes down on both knees. She prostrated herself before Souma by throwing her body down on the spot. Due to that Souma became panicked instead.

“Please stop it. I won’t judge you at all!” (Souma)

“I offer my heartfelt gratitude for your leniency, oh esteemed divine child of Aura.” (Shunpa)

Shunpa, who finally lifted her head, scolds the Elder who is making an impish facial expression.

“Elder sister, you intended to get me involved from the very start, didn’t you?” (Shunpa)

“Let me see? What might you be talking about?”

Shunpa spilled a little smile due to the Elder playing dumb.

“I understand, Elder Sister. We, the Eye Clan, will support the Fang Clan and the divine child of Aura.” (Shunpa)

“Ooh! Do you really mean that?!” (Garam)

Garam raised a delightful voice due to the unexpected offer of Shunpa.
It’s reassuring that we will be supported by the Eye Clan which governs over the rituals.

“The divine child of the God of Beasts has decided for the divine child of Aura to become her 『Navel Master』. This might also be fate. As one of the shrine maidens of the Eye Clan that watches over destiny, I believe that I want to witness everything with my own eyes.” (Shunpa)

“You have my thanks as well.” (Souma)

Shyemul satisfiedly watches as Souma, bowing his head very deeply towards Shunpa, says that. After that, she hits her left palm with her right fist with a slap.

“With this only the Mane Clan and the Claw Clan are remaining, I guess.” (Shyemul)

“About that, as for Banuka-boy…”, Shunpa glances at Shyemul. “It will probably be plenty easy with a single word from you, esteemed divine daughter.”

“Will it be fine with just that?” (Shyemul)

Shunpa displays a wry smile due to Shyemul wondering about it with a serious look.
Even though he promoted himself that bluntly, she wasn’t aware of Banuka at all. It was slightly pitiful.

“In that case the problem is Zurgu and the Claw Clan, right?”

Once he ponders about the best way to persuade that wild blockhead, Garam couldn’t help but to wrinkle his eyebrows.

“Rather than persuasion, you have to propose a duel to him, 《Ferocious Fang》. Isn’t it the fastest way to make him listen to what you have to say by beating him up?” (Shyemul)

Just like Shyemul says; at the time when there’s a clash of opinions between zoan warriors, there’s still the method of settling it with the outcome of a duel.
However, Garam shook his head.

“With him as opponent, I don’t have the confidence to definitely win, 《Noble Fang》.” (Garam)

Putting aside whether it’s an competition of machete techniques just like in the past side entertainment, if it comes to a duel, Zurgu will probably use every single trick available to him. It’s next to impossible to win due to that.

“Geeze! Isn’t there some way to cajole that wild blockhead?” (Shyemul)

All the zoan present sank into silence due to the words of Shyemul.
However, the only one among them who was bothered about something else was Souma.
Although he hesitated terribly, he timidly spoke about what he felt in order to borrow the knowledge of everyone in this place.

“I feel like the person called Zurgu is somehow quite different from what I heard.” (Souma)

According to what he has heard from Garam, Shyemul and the others, Zurgu was a rude man that doesn’t consider the consequences.
But for Souma, Banuka, who stood up and attacked him directly at the time when he got introduced, looked like quite a simple-minded person.
Compared to him Zurgu was surprised, but he observed not only Souma but also the other clans to check how they would react to that.
Moreover, he feels doubt as to why Zurgu, considering that he left his seat after getting really angry, stopped his feet just because of being called to halt by Garam.
If he had a true fit of anger, wouldn’t he leave without paying attention even if he was called out by Garam?
Also, even if he stopped his feet for example, the fact of him making an appeal towards everyone present besides Garam after that could be considered as questionable if one ponders about it calmly.

“However, is that Zurgu someone who takes things into consideration to such an extent?” (Garam)

Shunpa remonstrates Garam who smiles wryly while saying that.

“Zurgu-boy is certainly a child that relies on his own strength. But, if it concerns being a clan chief that has been entrusted with a clan, he can’t stay wild because of the heavy responsibility. It appears to be the same for you as well, right, Garam-boy?” (Shunpa)

Before, when Gajeeta stubbornly demanded the recapture of the village, Garam talked about the weight of a clan chief’s obligation. Thus he couldn’t say anything now.
Garam knew about a person growing through the responsibilities they shouldered from experiencing it firsthand.
After he became the clan chief, he had to always think about the clan’s matters. Naturally his outlook widened from the time when he thought as a single warrior reaching the point of him looking at the future.
If he recalls the him, who urged his father, the former clan chief, at every opportunity to kick about the humans, now that he became clan chief, he only feels ashamed for having been a fool that was simply swayed by what was in front of his eyes.
Even after having just succeeded the seat of clan chief, he was like that.
I can’t look lightly at Zurgu who has been burdened by the responsibility of being a clan chief for far longer than I have, Garam remonstrated himself.

“Don’t you believe that the true feelings of the person called Zurgu are that he wants to cooperate with us?” (Souma)

If one doesn’t consider it like that, Zurgu’s act of making an appeal with his own opinion to the other clans is incomprehensible, let alone him not leaving the conference venue despite showing such a vigorous attitude of opposing Souma.

“But, Soma. In that case he would have honestly offered his cooperation, wouldn’t he?” (Shyemul)

“That’s not possible, 《Noble Fang》.” (Garam)

Garam denies Shyemul’s view with a brief comment.
Having been admonished by Shunpa, Garam tried to predict the thinking of Zurgu as someone in the same position called clan chief.

“Even I might have done the same if I would have been in his shoes. After successfully taking down the fortress and recovering the plains, we have to establish the clans’ territories again. At that time it will probably be impossible to not take Soma’s words seriously. The clan that is closest to Soma will consequently have a big chance of obtaining the vastest area in the plains. As someone who has to look after a clan, he definitely can’t take that lightly.” (Garam)

The territorial size of a clan in the plains isn’t only something displaying the clan’s influence. It’s also directly connected to the development of the clan afterwards and is the foundation of the clan’s livelihood. Any kind of clan will become desperate in trying to secure a vast domain, even if it’s just a palm’s size bigger.

“I see. Does that mean that Zurgu can’t cooperate even if he wants to as long as he doesn’t divide or separate us and Soma?”

Souma interjected at that point.

“Garam, I have told you before, but I want to deal with all clans equally.” (Souma)

For Souma that was something he wouldn’t yield on no matter what.
Although Souma, who grew up in Japan that’s mostly monoracial, hasn’t experienced it personally, he often saw the news of civil wars and disputes due to confrontations between ethnic groups living in the same area even in the modern era. Hence it was easy for Souma to imagine big problems cropping up afterwards if he treats a specific clan favourably.
Especially now, with the humans being superior in strength, is a time where the zoan have to band and fight together.
It was necessary for Souma, who has decided to lead them, to distinctly show an attitude of treating all clans impartially.

“As expected of my 『Navel Master』!” (Shyemul)

Shyemul praises him without a moment’s delay.
Due to the state of his younger sister who has thoroughly fallen in love with Souma, Garam gradually had a feeling of being fed up with her, but he could understand what Souma was saying.

“However, even if we say that, the people of the other clans won’t believe us. Anyway, the talks won’t make any progress unless we persuade Zurgu first.” (Garam)

What Garam says is reasonable as well.

“If it’s Zurgu, how about trying to provoke or stir him up?” (Shyemul)

“Esteemed divine child, I believe it advisable to stop that. Zurgu-boy has probably gotten used to such competitions during his time as a young rascal. Especially now, when he will be cautious of the Fang Clan’s moves, I think that it will have an adverse effect instead.” (Shunpa)

“What do you consider to be the best thing to do then, Lady Shunpa?” (Shyemul)

Shunpa answered Shyemul’s question after brooding over it for a short while.

“Rather, isn’t it fine with talking him down?” (Shunpa)

Souma pondered due to that reply.
There’s no doubt that Zurgu and the others first will likely attack incessantly on whether Souma is worthy to be relied upon in the conference that will be resumed after this. He experienced the same with the Fang Clan as well, but Souma understood that his outward appearance was something that was taken lightly, not to speak of gaining the trust of zoan warriors.
Even so, at the time with the Fang Clan I was able to persuade the warriors because I had the support of Shyemul, who is a divine child, and above all else, because I’m the divine child of Aura.
However, no matter how much Shyemul is a divine child, it will probably be difficult this time to persuade them with the other party being opposing clans. At the very least Zurgu doesn’t look like he will willingly obey just because the other party is a divine child.
In that case it might be best to startle them by showing actual results like Shunpa says, Souma’s feelings inclined towards that way of thinking.

“Garam-san, how many people are currently capable of fighting in the Fang Clan?” (Souma)

“Let’s see. Currently it’s about 60, I guess. Since we launched emergency smoke signals, the clan members who had been scattered are coming back one after the other. That number will increase further if we wait.” (Garam)

Souma deliberated while letting his look wander.

“I wonder whether it will be sufficient with that many this time…” (Souma)

“This time?”

“Yeah. I wonder whether I will carry out this time’s fortress attack with just the members of the Fang Clan.” (Souma)

Everyone equally opened their eyes widely due to Souma’s utterance.

◆◇◆◇◆

And then Shunpa returned to her own clan temporarily because it became time to resume the conference while they were scrutinizing Souma’s suggestion.
The Elder, who came to see her off, chose a place where there were no people in the vicinity and asked Shunpa a question.

“Lady Shunpa, how do you view the matter of the divine child of the Goddess of Death and Destruction appearing among us zoan at this time?”

The reason for the Elder deliberately coming to see her off was for the sake of asking that question.
The Elder didn’t consider Souma’s and Shyemul’s meeting to be a coincidence. Though it hasn’t been caused by Souma, Goddess Aura’s intention should definitely be hidden within.

“It’s only an assumption, but… Among the seven races living on this continent, we zoan might currently be considered to have been placed in the biggest predicament.” (Shunpa)

That’s because the living space of the zoan lies in the plains. Because the human influence is supported by the sudden increase of their population going hand-in-hand with them becoming more powerful, their maintenance of food supplies has become an urgent matter. And, as a result of the humans extending their sphere of influence towards the plains which were suitable for growing grain such as wheat, which a staple food for them, it was the zoan who lived there that suffered the biggest damages.

“If it’s Aura who is the goddess that seeks death and destruction, I guess her objective is to assist the weakest race to destroy the strongest race.” (Shunpa)

“That’s what you think after all…?”

“Yes. That’s because that method will probably give birth to a lot of death and destruction…” (Shunpa)

“You are saying that she dropped Soma into this world in order to destroy the humans by helping the zoan…?”

“Yes. That’s my personal opinion to the bitter end though.” (Shunpa)

However, the Elder had also reached the same conclusion.
If it’s correct, following Souma will surely open a path to survival for the zoan.

“However, please be careful of the divine child of death and destruction.” (Shunpa)

Shunpa said so while intentionally lowering her voice.

“Although I said that he helps the zoan in order to destroy the humans, it’s not necessarily limited to that.” (Shunpa)

“That means?”

“It’s certainly for the sake of destroying the humans, I think. But he might not necessarily act for the sake of saving the zoan.” (Shunpa)

“Lady Shunpa, are you possibly saying that…?”

“Yes. It means that us zoan, besides the humans, might get also destroyed by Aura’s divine child…” (Shunpa)

 


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