Chapter 1 – Story 29: Playing it by ear 2

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“Such absurdity! What will we do in that case!?” (Banuka)

Banuka shouted as if he were screaming.

“If I could have you cheer and play the drums in order to encourage the warriors of the Fang Clan that will be fighting, that would be plenty.” (Souma)

The warriors, who silently listened to the conversation behind Zurgu, hurled harsh words at Souma’s manner of speaking.

“Don’t screw around with us! Are you telling us, the proud warriors of the Claw Clan, to merely raise our voices and play the drums!?”

“Son of a bitch, are you saying that our forces aren’t useful!?”

“That’s an insult towards us warriors!”

Moreover, Banuka and the warriors of the Mane Clan chime in as well.

“We can’t agree with that either!”

“Yeah! Are you telling us warriors to play along and make noise as if we were performers!?”

For the zoan, the warriors not being allowed to fight is as if they were being told that they are completely useless. To say nothing of the warriors of the Claw Clan, but even for the warriors of the Mane Clan that was something they couldn’t possibly agree with.
However, those warriors are kept in check by Zurgu raising an arm.

“Isn’t that fine? He says that he doesn’t need our strength. Will the Mane Clan also be ok with letting themselves be treated as spectators of the Fang Clan’s difficult struggle?” (Zurgu)

I won’t be lured in by such cheap provocation, Zurgu laughed while baring his fangs.
Something like attacking the fortress with only the Fang Clan, which had lost many of its warriors due to the repeated battles, is nothing more than an act of sheer madness. In what unsightly, panicked manner will those two, who forced their clan into a dilemma due to their own speech and conduct, beg for forgiveness? Zurgu was excited in anticipation of that.

“It helps that I could gain your understanding on this.” (Souma)

However, Souma smiled.

“Well then, we will tell you about the detailed action and schedule in the near future. Is it alright to end this meeting on this note, if there’s nothing else to be discussed?” (Garam)

The one who got panicked due to that is Zurgu.

“W-Wait a moment!” (Zurgu)

Souma bends his head slightly to one side looking curious and asks “Is there something wrong?”

“Ah, no. Do you really plan to take the fortress with just Garam’s clan…?” (Zurgu)

According to Zurgu’s prediction this should have been a provocation from Souma.
However, far from getting flustered, Souma and Garam are already getting ready to leave their seats after having called an end of the conference. On the contrary, Zurgu is the one that gets flustered.

“Yes. Just as I told you now, with only the strength of the Fang Clan—” (Souma)

Souma unnaturally claps his hands together.

“Aah, did you maybe think that it was a provocation? If that’s the case, I’m sorry. By no means do I consider everyone to be useless or weak. That’s not the reason for me keeping you away from the battle.” (Souma)

“Then, why…?” (Zurgu)

“Some time ago you said that you can’t place your trust in me, didn’t you?” (Souma)

“Yeah. I did.” (Zurgu)

“I don’t trust you either. I don’t know whether you will follow my instructions, after all. Would you take such people along into an important battle? All the more if those people are powerful.” (Souma)

Zurgu became speechless due to Souma’s argumentation.
The one who said that he can’t trust Souma is Zurgu himself. It’s already impossible for him to change his mind and take back those words. He intended to trick them into a commitment, but instead the one who got tricked was Zurgu himself. Knowing that, Zurgu regretted it bitterly.
If the fortress is captured by solely the Fang Clan just like this, it will become unfavorable for us.
The humans built that fortress for the sake of keeping an eye on the entire plains. The act of capturing that place is directly connected to taking back the plains. If they achieve such a huge victory, the distribution of the territory of the clans that waited to act will afterwards be decided on by the Fang Clan’s own discretion. Not only that. We won’t be able to complain even if the Fang Clan makes the entire plains their own.
However, he wasn’t able to abandon the possibility of it being a provocation based on what he had predicted up to this point.

“But, something like taking the fortress with just the Fang Clan is absurd! Garam, the number of warriors you can currently mobilize shouldn’t be more than a hundred.
There are soldiers that remain in the fortress from the start, and didn’t attack with that group of soldiers from earlier! Besides, because you let the soldiers that attacked from earlier go right from under your nose, the number of soldiers staying in that fortress has grown to several hundreds!
And, the fortress’ wall where those guys have barricaded themselves in, has a height of six melt (approximately six meters) and a width of four melt (approximately four meters). That’s not something you can easily climb over. It’s different from that time you rescued the divine child infiltrating by yourself. A large group of people will be noticed before it can approach the wall. On the other hand, even if you cross the wall with a select few, it will end with you getting surrounded without having any time to open the gate!” (Zurgu)

“You are quite well-informed, I think.” (Souma)

Souma praised him honestly.
Even Garam truly couldn’t hide his surprise that Zurgu had gotten hold of the information of him having rescued Shyemul with a solo mission.
Having noticed that he ended up blurting out even things that would have been better left unsaid against his better judgement out of sheer agitation, Zurgu closes his mouth in a hurry.
However he lost himself once again due to Souma’s next words.

“Though, it’s fine. If it’s that level of a fortress, it won’t be a big deal.” (Souma)

Being told that the fortress, which didn’t fall even after getting attacked not only by the Fang Clan but also the Claw Clan, isn’t anything great, Zurgu’s head became dizzy.

“W-What’s with that confidence of yours, you bastard!?” (Zurgu)

Having lost his presence of mind, Zurgu hurled those words at Souma.
Souma, in order to show it to all the zoan present, slowly grabbed the headband that was wound around his forehead with a hand and removed it in one go.
What faintly shone on his exposed forehead is the seal that seems to be a combination of 8 and ∞. It completely looks like two snakes that have entangled their bodies and are biting each other’s tails while wriggling. It’s the seal of Aura.

“I’m the divine child of Aura, the Goddess of Death and Destruction. I came here for the sake of destroying the humans that are making you suffer.” (Souma)

That was a huge act by Souma.
Being overwhelmed by those words, Zurgu and the others stiffen up and are taken aback.
At that moment the shrine maidens of the Eye Clan that kept silent until now said in a chorus all at once,

“The goddess that manages the final moments of all living things.”

“The goddess that witnesses the time of every single being’s final moment.”

“Goddess Aura who is the sole mother and elder sister respected and feared by the Seven.”

Shunpa adjusted her sitting posture towards Souma.

“Us Eye Clan will support Kisaki Soma who has been turned into the divine son of Goddess Aura.” (Shunpa)

“”We shall support you!””

Shunpa and the shrine maidens that were behind her simultaneously prostrated themselves in front of Souma.
The deed of Shunpa and the other shrine maidens was for the sake of wiping away the anxiety on whether the divine child of the goddess would bring calamity upon the zoan. At the same time, it gives credibility to the existence of Aura, whom Zurgu and the others had just heard about for the first time.They aren’t knowledgeable about battles in the physical world, but as for matters related to the gods, the influence of the Eye Clan that governs the rituals is huge. Due to them announcing their support, the other clans became incapable of finding fault with Souma being the divine son of the Goddess of Death and Destruction.
Zurgu trembles.

What’s this guy!? What the hell is this about!? (Zurgu)

That scream in Zurgu’s mind that couldn’t leave his mouth was something shared by all zoan present.

◆◇◆◇◆

When Garam and the Elder returned to the inner room, Souma, who is feebly lying on his face, and Shyemul, who is delivering a gentle breeze to him with a large leaf, were already present there.

“Soma, is something wrong?” (Garam)

Once the surprised Garam asks that, Shyemul shows a faint smile.

“It seems he has overheated due to his excessive tension.” (Shyemul)

Having noticed that Garam and the Elder arrived, Souma sluggishly lifted his face. Due to Souma’s haggard expression, as he had seemingly been strained mentally quite a bit, the two truly doubted whether it was the same divine child of Aura that made Zurgu tremble violently some time ago.

“Garam, Elder, excuse me for showing you such an appearance.” (Souma)

Souma raises his body and, borrowing Shyemul’s hand, he sits up.

“So, what about Zurgu’s and the other’s reaction?” (Souma)

Souma, who had his hands full with bluffing away his nervousness, confirms the events during the conference with the two.

“For a youngster it was a rather fine performance.”

“Uh huh. Mostly the responses were just as we had hoped for, I guess.” (Garam)

He had already heard the assessment from Shyemul as well, but in her case he can’t simply accept it due to her overestimating him. Being given the stamp of approval by the two, Souma let out a sigh of relief at last.

“It’s thanks to me having received help from the two of you.” (Souma)

Souma pulling that off successfully with Zurgu’s group was the result of hypothetical situations that Souma had practiced with Shyemul, Garam and the Elder for several days.
Especially as Garam had been just in the same situation as Zurgu until a few days ago, it was simple to predict how he would attack Souma and what he would view as a problem. Thanks to those predictions coming true, Souma was able to seize the initiative of the discussion from the beginning to the end.

“But, Soma, can you really take the fortress with only us?” (Garam)

Going by Garam’s worries, it wouldn’t end with the Fang Clan just losing face if they couldn’t capture the fortress here. With it being only natural for Souma to be tortured and killed, harm would even reach Shyemul who made him her 『Navel Master』.

“In that case, pro…” (Souma)

Souma stopped saying 「Probably」. As long as I have decided to go through with it, declaring things with no confidence will only cause Garam and the others to lose their composure. I mustn’t use vague words in order to protect myself here.

“It’s all right. I’m already working on the preparations to take the fortress.” (Souma)

“You are working on the preparations, you say?” (Shyemul)

Even Shyemul was surprised about this.
Because she almost always attended to Souma, Shyemul should have seen Souma’s actions in detail. However she has no recollection of having observed Souma doing something like preparing the capture of the fortress.

“Is that the truth, Soma?”

“Yeah, in other words, please judge the result without simply complaining about the methods used.” (Souma)

Souma smiled broadly.

 


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