Chapter 1 – Story 28: Playing it by ear 1

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Souma tried to soothe his heart that was trembling out of nervousness by taking many deep breaths.

“It will be fine. Calm down, calm down.” (Souma)

He repeatedly and repeatedly persuades himself of this.
Staring at Souma in such a state while looking worried, Shyemul called out to him.

“Are you really all right, Soma?” (Shyemul)

“Yeah… no, I might not be fully okay.” (Souma)

He displays a stiff smile towards Shyemul.

“But, this is something I decided myself.” (Souma)

“However, won’t it be fine even if you don’t try to unreasonably convince Zurgu and the others by yourself, Soma? I’m the divine child of the God of Beasts. I could do it in your stead.” (Shyemul)

“That’s no good, Shyemul.” (Souma)

It’s a suggestion he wants to depend on instinctively, but Souma shook off that temptation.

“This is not the end either. What about after that? It’s useless unless I make them approve of me here and now.” (Souma)

Souma believed this to be a critical juncture.
All of the zoan are nothing but highly proudful warriors. I have to stand in front of them by myself in order to make them recognize me. There’s no way for me to eternally hide myself behind Shyemul’s back.

“Even though that’s what I’m saying, isn’t it slightly pathetic for my hands to tremble this much due to my nerves?” (Souma)

Souma showed his quivering hands to Shyemul.
Thereupon Shyemul gently grasps Souma’s hands with both hers and directly stares into his eyes.

“Fearing failure is only natural. You, who are trying to move ahead despite of that, are definitely my 『Navel Master』!” (Shyemul)

“Thank you, Shyemul.” (Souma)

He felt that his trembling settled down somewhat.

“Well then, my 『Navel Master』, from here on it’ll be your battlefield.” (Shyemul)

Shyemul once again guides him to the conference’s venue in a theatrical manner.
When he enters the venue by passing through the cover that was installed at the passage, the looks of the zoan present assail Souma while exerting pressure upon him.
Especially Banuka’s gaze, which has reached the level of killing someone with just his eyes.
After rebuking his own waist that is about to give in so that he would sit down on the spot, Souma somehow manages to sit down in the seat allocated to him.
And, imitating Shyemul and the others, he bowed his head very deeply with both his fists on the ground.

“I feel honoured to extend my greetings to you once again. I’m Kizaki Souma!”

◆◇◆◇◆

The one who got the ball rolling first in the reopened conference was Zurgu.

“First I’d like you to let me confirm something. You’re the bastard that taught that plan to the Fang Clan and also proposed an attack on the fortress now, right?” (Zurgu)

That was a blade masked as words. It’s charged with Zurgu’s spirit to the degree that anyone would think that it’s quite likely for him to reap Souma’s life at once if he tries to deliver a poor reply.
Due to that, Shyemul, who stayed behind Souma, reflexively half-rose to her feet. However, while throwing out his chest as if trying to crush that spirit, Souma lowers his waist that had half-rosen as well.

“It’s as you say. I taught everyone of the Fang Clan the method to drive away the humans. And, if you follow me, we will capture the fortress and retake the plains.” (Souma)

Souma answered firmly, but as a matter of fact he was close to fainting at any time soon.
He somehow mobilizes the bit of fortitude he has so that it doesn’t show on his face, but even then he isn’t able to stop his face cramping. What was fortunate for Souma was the fact that it was difficult for the zoan to understand that level of change in a human’s expression.

“We are proud zoan warriors! There’s no way for us to obey a weak human like you!” (Zurgu)

“You will definitely get denounced”, was something they had assumed during the preparatory meeting with Shyemul and Garam. Therefore Souma answers without getting flustered.

“Even if you follow me, it will never hurt the pride of a zoan warrior.” (Souma)

“What’s your proof for declaring that!?” (Zurgu)

“Did you forget? The blessing of Shyemul as divine child.” (Souma)

Zurgu is at a loss for words.
There’s no one among the zoan who doesn’t know of Shyemul’s blessing.
Her blessing is about her protecting her own pride. If being obedient towards Souma was a disgraceful act, Shyemul shouldn’t have turned Souma into her 「Navel Master」.

“I verified it just now. Shyemul is even now unmistakably a divine child.” (Shunpa)

At that point Shunpa remarks so as insurance. The younger sister of the Shrine Maiden Head of the Eye Clan that rules over the rituals guaranteed it. There’s nothing as reliable as this.
If they insist on obeying Souma as a disgraceful act in spite of that, it wouldn’t just be an insult towards the divine child Shyemul, but might also be perceived as denial towards the God of Beasts who made her a divine child.
At the time when he heard what blessing Shyemul received after becoming a divine child, Zurgu laughed at her that it would have been better if she had received an even more useful blessing, but now he believed that he has to revise that thinking. The blessing that signifies that the God of Beasts will watch over her pride is equal to the God of Beasts guaranteeing that all of Shyemul’s actions are legitimate, if you look at it from another perspective. Due to that surprising fact, Souma can gain a just cause for the zoan with him simply being accompanied by Shyemul herself.
It was that much of a terrifying blessing? Zurgu got irritated.
Of course Shyemul didn’t consider that when she received the blessing, but it’s a good example for the purity of people sometimes giving birth to a surprisingly strong power.
Zurgu decided to resort to other means for attacking.

“Aren’t you a human!? Why should one of the humans, who are insulting us as inferior beasts and are trying to exterminate us, try to become our ally!? It appears likely for you to have an ulterior motive!” (Zurgu)

“I’m not related to the humans here.” (Souma)

“You are not related, you say?” (Zurgu)

“Yes. I’m a 『Drop Child』 who arrived in this world from a different one. I didn’t even talk with the humans of this world.” (Souma)

Even though Zurgu and the others show doubtful expressions, the Elder guarantees Souma’s words.

“I swear on the name of the God of Beasts, that it’s the truth. He couldn’t even speak the language normally before he was connected to the world over here by Shyemul and me.”

“The humans of this world threw me, who didn’t understand the language, into a prison. I don’t have any debt of gratitude towards them and even bear a grudge against them.” (Souma)

Although he intended to stab at the vital point that Souma is a human and not a zoan, Zurgu has lost sight of his target of attack due to the unforeseen counterattack and hesitation appeared in his tone.

“T-Then it’s the same towards us zoan as well, isn’t it!?” (Zurgu)

Since it had been near to impossible for him to have guessed in advance that Souma was a Drop Child, one couldn’t describe it as anything but bad luck for Zurgu.
However, Souma has no intention to be expressly considerate towards him. As it was the critical moment, he increased the severe counterattack against Zurgu.

“No, I had my life saved by Shyemul. I heard that there’s a saying of 『The debt of obligation for one rabbit』 among the zoan, but even at my birthplace there’s the saying of 『Being beholden to someone for a favour of a night’s lodging and meal』. It means that the favour of having received help with one meal and a place to rest for one night must be returned without fail. That’s why I helped the Fang Clan.” (Souma)

“I can’t believe that! Are you saying that you will betray your own race for only having been provided food at most!?” (Banuka)

Zurgu is stunned due to Banuka’s yell. That’s because Banuka didn’t understand why Souma deliberately mentioned 「The debt of obligation for one rabbit」.
Garam, who had stayed silent until then, revealed a ill-natured smile and said to Banuka,

“Hoo. It seems that the people of the Mane Clan are lightly looking at 『The debt of obligation for one rabbit』.” (Garam)

“N… No, that’s not what I mea…!” (Banuka)

Banuka becomes flustered due to the remark from Garam, who is a warrior he admires.
For a zoan warrior who regards pride above all else, not returning a favour they received will turn into a disgrace. Conversely, something like merely returning the favour of one rabbit to the degree of turning their back on their own race isn’t something many warriors are capable of.
That’s the epitome of an impressive tale.
They will likely be praised and receive the acclamation of many warriors. If one nitpicks at that, they will only get insulted like Banuka just now.
Even from the standpoint of Zurgu who puts more importance on benefit than pride, he will never slight pride.
A warrior who only abides to benefits will end up easily becoming disloyal if even more benefits are dangled in front of them. However, the magnanimity of praising the pride of others and adopting a proudful stance oneself is connected to gathering the warriors’ popularity and such warriors will become particularly reassuring allies when called upon.
Souma arranges his hypothesis on Zurgu thinking that it’s not a profitable plan to lower his own value by slandering Souma’s moving tale here, putting aside whether he can obtain even more benefits by doing so.
Due to turning his own conduct into an impressive tale, Souma sealed off Zurgu’s and the others’ methods of attack.

“… Let’s hear the concrete plan on how you are going to attack the fortress.” (Zurgu)

Zurgu said that as if squeezing out the words with an expression as if he had swallowed a bitter pill.
Originally he wanted to dominate Souma mentally by finding fault with Souma’s race and identity and insulting those points before concretely talking about the fortress attack.
But now that it didn’t work out like that, he has to somehow draw the flow of the conference to his side even if he has to criticize the plan hammered out by Souma. Hence he waited for Souma to open his mouth with an attitude of not missing even the slightest problem with the plan Souma will mention.
However, Souma proposed something unexpected.

“Currently I can’t talk about the concrete details.” (Souma)

“W-What was that!?” (Zurgu)

“There’s the saying 『A plan won’t succeed unless you keep it secret』.” (Souma)

The zoan present are bewildered as they are unable to understand what Souma is saying.
Even Zurgu was no exception, but having said that, his pride was far too high to honestly admit that.

“I don’t know whether the important plan will fail by it being leaked to the enemy from somewhere. Therefore it means it’s best to proceed while it’s a secret.” (Souma)

“Y-Yeah! It’s just as you say!” (Zurgu)

Zurgu nodded at Souma’s explanation with an attitude as if he really comprehended it.

“B-But, in that case, won’t we be unable to decide whether to cooperate with you or not!?” (Banuka)

Banuka saying that is reasonable, too.
Even if they are asked to assist with the capture of the fortress, they wouldn’t know how to evaluate Souma’s plan and if they should cooperate with it if its essential parts were kept secret.

“As for that, there’s nothing I can say but ‘Please place your trust in me.'” (Souma)

“We are telling you that we can’t decide that! On what basis are you telling us to trust you!?” (Banuka)

“On the basis of the achievement of having chased away 800 humans with only children, elderly and a few warriors.” (Souma)

If I denounce this publicly, it’s obvious that I will be countered with 「Are you able to do that?」
Banuka had no other choice but to keep his mouth shut while looking mortified.
However, Zurgu was doubtful.
No matter how he looks at it, Souma’s reply is odd. If he’s really trying to gain the cooperation of the other clans, he should instead try to gain our trust by taking the initiative and being open about the method of taking the fortress. If he has confidence in his method, that way will probably the easiest.
Of course he will likely expect Zurgu of trying to steal the leadership of the conference, but he is mistaking the end for the cause if he kept it secret for the sake of avoiding that. I don’t know what kind of plan it is, but even though he should desire the cooperation of the other clans to capture the fortress, it won’t result in anything but him strengthening the distrust of those like Banuka if he is so secretive about it.
Zurgu can’t see whether Souma is instead trying to not request the cooperation of the other clans with this.

“If you go this far, I won’t hesitate in lending a hand.” (Zurgu)

Rather than behaving obstinate, Zurgu decided change the angle of his attack.

“However, there’s no way for me and my clanmates to be able to believe in what you say that readily. That’s right, isn’t it?” (Zurgu)

“I believe that it is as you say.” (Souma)

Souma frankly agreed to Zurgu’s search for approval.
Due to that, Zurgu chuckles while thinking Got ya!

“Hey, Garam. First you of the Fang Clan will take the initiative and if you show your trust towards this human youngster to us, we will imitate you as well. How about that?” (Zurgu)

Souma’s and Garam’s aim is to shave off the fighting power of the Claw Clan, Zurgu glared.
Because so far when the Fang Clan had started battles to take the fortress, they have ended up losing many warriors. Compared to them, the Claw Clan, which had avoided fighting against the humans, has retained its warriors. That should have been noticed a long time ago already.
However, Zurgu, who couldn’t resist making use of a promising situation, gets Souma’s promise that it can’t be helped even if he can’t trust him that easily. With that as the key, he launched a counterattack that the Fang Clan should serve as a role model first for the other clans by standing at the front as vanguard of the fortress capture.
Zurgu put himself on guard wondering how those two would reciprocate that move, but Garam’s reaction exceeded Zurgu’s expectations.

“What 《Mad Claw》 says is reasonable. We, the Fang Clan, had planned to advance as the vanguard from the very beginning.” (Garam)

Zurgu was surprised. According to the information he acquired, the number of those who can be called warriors should be less than hundred, going by the current state of the Fang Clan he has guessed from there. With that amount, they would lose just by being routed by arrows before they can even reach the fortress’ walls.
That’s already no bravery, but recklessness that doesn’t consider the consequences.
However, Souma’s reply was even above that.

“Yes. I plan to carry out the capture of the fortress with just the strength of everyone from the Fang Clan.” (Souma)

Everyone became dumbfounded.

 


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