Chapter 1 – Story 37: Honor

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Souma somehow managed to gobble down the gut-wrenching dishes of this fantasy world, and had a feeling of wanting to praise himself for showing Japan’s attitude of not being wasteful, which was highly praised in his previous world.
Hopkins smiled wryly as he gazed at the retreating figure of Souma, who’s walking to the covered wagon with a slightly unsteady stride, and said,

“Well then, I’m going to head to the guild next. But what about you guys?”

It’s not very desirable to bring along unrelated people to a guild with strong feelings of comradery, and that’s not limited to just the merchant guild. Especially since Souma and Shyemul are quite capable of becoming triggers to bringing about a catastrophe to the city. If it gets exposed that he took such people to the guild, it would greatly hurt the guild’s reputation.
Hopkins himself could still explain it away as something unavoidable due to his family being held hostage, but as expected, there’s no way he would want to drag even the merchant guild into this.
Sensing such sentiments from Hopkins’ tone, Souma ponders for a bit and,

“We want to look around the city for a bit, but would that be alright?”

“This covered wagon is an important asset for me, so please take care to not break it.”

Actually I would feel relieved if they waited in the wagon, but it can’t be helped.
If they do something like wrecking the covered wagon, I will charge them as much as I possibly can, Hopkins firmly swore.
However, Souma proposed something unexpected.

“Shyemul and I would like to tour the city by foot. But is that no good after all?”

“What’s that about? What do you plan to do about this wagon?”

“Won’t it be fine with you riding it until you arrive at the guild, Mr. Hopkins?”

Somehow their conversation doesn’t mesh.
Hopkins inserts a momentarily break into his words, calms his feelings and sorts out what he wants to say. After that, as if instructing children that are slow on the uptake, he said,

“Please listen well. That jar that has been placed on the cargo area of the wagon.”

It’s the jar with the war funds they brought along from the fortress.

“You definitely can’t carry that, it’s way too heavy. Even without that, it’s something you really don’t want other people seeing. It’d be dangerous to walk around the city.”

Since he didn’t know who might be listening in, Hopkins kept it vague by using 「that jar」 while explaining to Souma that the city is more dangerous than it looks like.
However, Souma’s answer to that was something outrageous.

“Yes. That’s why, can’t we entrust it to you, Mr. Hopkins?”

Due to this Hopkins even forgot about his family being held hostage and ended up frankly stating what he thought.

“Are you an utter fool?”

He never properly checked the contents, but going by a light estimate, there were one thousand agnis (1000 silver coins = 100.000 dinas) inside that jar.
If it’s that much, I could even stop peddling and open up a shop in the city. I could probably even live in the capital for a year, play around, and get served by a bunch of slaves.
Something like a wife and son being held hostage doesn’t matter at this point. There’s a great number of humans who would sell their wife and son joyfully if they could convert them into this large amount of money.
To entrust such a large amount of money to someone else would be simply insane.
It’s the height of stupidity, a great foolishness.
However, without an inkling of getting angry due to Hopkins’ abusive remark, Souma answered quite indifferently,

“But, if you felt like it, you would have spilled the information about us to the soldiers long ago already, right? Even if I were to harbor such worries at this point in time, it would be of no use.”

Hopkins’ jaw dropped.
I have no doubt that this boy lived at a place filled with very soft-hearted people.
He couldn’t believe anything but him having been born and raised in a place where it’s natural for strangers to help and support each other, where there’s no need to be cautious of people being murderers and thieves as they come close to you and where it’s fine to not doubt others on being swindlers trying to rip you off with a smile on their face.
Hopkins was about to tell him to abandon such naive thinking with all the abusive language he can muster, but,

“Besides, Mr. Hopkins, if you were a bad person trying to steal the money, you wouldn’t expressly tell us about this, right?”

The insults that were on the tip of his tongue turn into soundless air that leaks out from his mouth.
For some reason, he became ashamed thanks to Souma’s look.
Hopkins, who finally couldn’t bear it any longer, stepped up to the wagon with deliberately loud footsteps and yelled at Shyemul who was inside.

“What’s wrong with that kid!? Is he a natural fraudster or something close to it!?”

Shyemul, who was grooming herself to kill time inside the wagon, replied to Hopkins’ questions after staring into empty space for a short while.

“Hmm, does that mean that I got deceived by him then?”

◆◇◆◇◆

In the end Souma and Shyemul separated from Hopkins, who headed to the guild in the covered wagon, and went to a place in the outskirts that allowed them to look up at the city wall.

“Does it look like you can climb over this wall?”

Once Souma asked that, Shyemul, who wore a cloak with a hood given to her by Hopkins so that she can avoid drawing attention, looked up the wall in the same manner and replied,

“It will be difficult, I think. It’s not at the level of the fortress, but the height doesn’t allow one to jump up to the top unaided. Besides, with this thickness it likely won’t be possible to break through it easily.”

The city wall’s height is almost the same as the highest point of the roof of a Japanese one-story house. Even for the zoan with their powerful physical abilities, it’s not a height they can surmount easily.

“However, if we run up to it while carrying things like ladders, it will only result in us becoming easy targets, right?”

The zoan’s strongest advantage is their mobility when they walk on their four feet.
Just as Souma says, running while carrying ladders will lead to them abandoning their largest advantage.
As they were walking along the city wall, they happened upon the river flowing through the centre of the city. Once he looked into the river surface from above the stone bank, a stuffy, rotten smell hit his nose.
The calm river with its gentle flow carries black, muddy water and various pieces of trash are floating on its surface. It’s not apparent by just looking at it from above, but the river seems to have a considerable depth.
The river flowed outside the city through an arched hole dug into the city wall. Countless thick iron bars have been sturdily inserted into that hole.

“With that over there, it will be hard to invade the city through the river.”

How about trying to create an opening by disconnecting the iron bars below the water surface while diving and using something tubular, similar to a ninja’s ninjutsu art of water-escape, to get air from above the surface? He pondered.

“But even if a handful infiltrates the city, that would be pretty useless, huh?”

Assuming a few zoan infiltrated the city, the most they could do would be subversive activities such as assassinations and arson. Even if those plunged the city into chaos, it would only be temporary measures. In order to gain total control of the city, the zoan forces have to get into the city all at once.
Besides, the danger for the river to become a weakness allowing infiltration is probably something obvious for this city’s guards, too. If it turns into a battle, it’s obvious that they will put this place under heavy guard.
In that case, how about building a dam upstream of this river, having a large amount of water and logs flow down the river by collapsing that dam to destroy the iron bars in one swoop and then have all the zoan attack? He considered something like that.

“No, that’s surely no good…”

However, he abandons that thought right away too.
If I were the commander of the city while such thing occurred, I would have archers send a barrage of arrows into the swimming zoan from atop the wall. I would also have soldiers stationed on both sides of the river to spear the zoan, whose movements should be dull inside the water. It would be like sending Garam and the others to the abattoir.

“It’s really difficult. If we can’t send a great number of warriors into the city somehow, this city won’t fall.”

“Us zoan are weak at attacking a stone city like this after all, you know.”

Shyemul said apologetically to Souma who was at a loss on what to do.
The methods Souma knows from manga and novels about taking castles and cities with such firm defenses are a siege, negotiations, betrayal, destruction of the wall, losses of the defenders, a surprise attack and a clever scheme.
As for sieges, there’s the method of getting the defenders to open up the city by starving them through a siege with a large army.
However, in that case it will turn into a battle of attrition no matter what. If that happens, reinforcements from Holmea State will arrive before the city falls. That will lead to a pincer attack against the zoan from inside and outside the siege.
Negotiations refers to making the city’s side open the gate by threatening them or persuading them of the benefit in doing so. Betrayal resembles that as well. It’s about winning over humans from the defenders side.
But, the zoan don’t have any negotiation chips that will turn into benefits for the city of the humans within. Also, even if they threaten them, the city’s side likely won’t listen to them.
The destruction of the wall is, as the words themselves already imply, the creation of a breach for the army by destroying the wall.
However, the zoan don’t possess the knowledge and technology to simply build siege weapons to destroy the wall with something like a catapult. Even without building siege weapons, there’s the means of destroying the wall by breaking it in one go after digging a hole from a distance right below the wall in order to cause it to collapse, but that method is likely an even more unreasonable idea.
Losses of the defenders relates to making the city’s defense capability deteriorate by killing defenders after directly attacking the city or by luring the defenders outside the city.
But it’s impossible to lure out all of the defending soldiers to somewhere outside the walls. To say nothing of a direct attack being nothing less but the height of folly. Bows and arrows are necessary to kill the soldiers atop the wall, but there’s only Shahata among the zoan who can decently handle archery.
Next is a surprise attack, but attacking the city swiftly before it can prepare against an enemy raid relies on getting inside the walls.
Though, on this level ground with its excellent visibility the zoan troops will be discovered several hours before arriving at the city making a surprise attack impossible.

“What remains is a clever scheme, but there’s actually no such simple idea popping up in my mind, especially seeing that a clever scheme is an unusual plan that’s different from normal.”

In manga and movies there were terrifying methods such as building hot-air balloons and using those to send the soldiers directly into the city, or throwing the soldiers inside after putting them on catapults.
However, as expected, I can’t consider these as realistic approaches at all.
The two of them turned on their heels, left the city’s wall temporarily and tried to go to a bridge spanning the river.
Thereupon, they could see a single man walking over while staggering to the left and right.
The man, who’s walking while at times putting the leather bag in his hand at his mouth, appears to be drunk. Not wanting to cause an unnecessary dispute, the two walked at the edge of the street while turning their faces away from the man.
However, seemingly having attracted his attention all the more due to that, the drunkard stood in the way of Shyemul at the time when they tried to go past him and rudely peered inside the hood.

“Oh! Ain’t this a zoan!?”

As a zoan slave appears to be rare, the drunkard opened his eyes widely in surprise, but immediately smiled vulgarly due to Shyemul’s well-proportioned body.

“Man, this is a damn nice body. Even if she’s a beast, it seems she will do fine with helping out down here.
Hey, brat! Won’t ya sell this bitch to me? If it’s about five agnis, I will pay.”

While saying that, the drunkard suddenly started to lewdly massage Shyemul’s butt using his hands.
Due to that, all of Shyemul’s hairs stood on end in repulse. She knew that it would become troublesome if she caused a scene here and thus she desperately endures it by thwarting her rage and humiliation.
Making a move on someone else’s slave is a an impolite act, but the intoxication by alcohol and the fact of Souma looking like a weak boy drew out the drunkard’s rude behaviour.

“She’s not for sale. — Shyemul, let’s go.”

Due to the disgusting feeling similar to something important to him being defiled, Souma’s tone got extremely curt.
With that attitude spoiling his mood, the drunkard’s face got all red not only due to his drunkenness but also because of anger.

“What was that, fucking brat!? Did you get angry over me touching your slave you have take care of your lower half? Ah? You surely had her do her best last night as well, eh?”

Souma tried to leave while ignoring the drunkard, but he unintentionally turned around due to the extremely vulgar profanities beyond his imagination.
Souma felt something hitting his cheek alongside a wet sound.
Once he touches his cheek with a finger, it’s a sticky sensation.
Faster than the blood can rise into the head of Souma who noticed that it’s saliva spit by the man, the sound of a wet, heavy blow resounds.

“Oink.”

Raising a pig-like cry, the drunkard grandly topples over on his back.
Once Souma looked next to him, Shyemul, who drove her fist with all her might into the drunkard, was all shook up while she looked at her own fist as if saying “I acted on reflex.”
Souma picks up the leather bag with the alcohol in it that had fallen next to the drunkard, who had collapsed with widely open white eyes, and sprinkles its contents all over the drunkards body. He then took out a silver coin from among the funds split into small bags by Hopkins for caution’s sake, and made the drunkard’s hand grasp it.

“We are going to escape, Shyemul!”

“Eh…!? G-Got it.”

Souma avoids Shyemul’s chain and grabs her hand, and starts running.
Staying away from the main street and running through back alleys, the two came out at a vacant plot at the outskirts of the city after a short time.
After confirming that there’s nobody nearby, Souma sits down on the ground while breathing roughly.

“Ah, that was surprising.”

Souma laughed while remembering the pitiful sight of the drunkard toppled over with widely-opened white eyes and a nosebleed.

“Umm… Soma, sorry. I unconsciously flew into rage.”

Feeling guilty over pulling Souma’s legs even though she accompanied him against better judgement, Shyemul became completely dispirited. The tips of her ears are drooping down, as if they were depressed.

“It’s alright. We’ll probably be fine.”

Even if that drunkard kicks up a fuss, something like a smelly guy who reeks of alcohol won’t be taken too seriously. Besides, once he notices the silver coin he’s grasping, he should consider it more beneficial to pocket the money and his own shame.
Even though he tells her that, Shyemul still looks pitiful as she continues to be dejected. Souma added some more words in an as bright a tone as possible.

“Even if it becomes a serious affair, we can run away at any time as long as you are here, Shyemul.”

Being implicitly told that she’s being relied on, Shyemul downcast ears finally perk back up.
While feeling relieved thanks to that, Souma asked something that worried him.

“Rather than that, sorry for making you experience something bad, Shyemul, okay?”

“If it’s about that low-life, I don’t really care anymore since I trounced him.”

“Uh huh. Though it’s not only about what happened just now. That collar…”

Even Souma heard that Shyemul is so prideful that she’s called 《Noble Fang》 by the zoan. A person like her not only made Souma her「Navel Master」but also allowed him to put a collar around her neck. Souma felt bad about making it look like she’s being pulled along by the chain
However, Shyemul’s reaction was different from what Souma expected.

“Is something wrong with this collar?”

Souma blinked with his eyes due to Shyemul’s quite indifferent look.

“B-But, you hate resembling a slave, don’t you?”

In response to Souma, Shyemul sighs deeply and shakes her head left and right. She looked at him in exasperation as if she were amazed that he couldn’t understand something so simple.
Shyemul stares straight into the face of Souma and says,

“I trust you, Soma.”

Souma gets embarrassed by the sudden confession.

“I’m a fool, so there are situations where I get worried as I don’t understand what you are thinking. I’m also at a loss whether the plan you are talking about isn’t cowardly. And I’m scared whether the zoan might perish because of you.”

Those were Shyemul’s real feelings that she definitely couldn’t reveal in front of the other zoan.

“And yet, despite all that, I trusted in the gentle, weak, hurt human called Soma Kisaki who tries to accomplish something for our sake. I had faith in you as person.”

What Shyemul trusted in aren’t Souma’s schemes.
She believed in Souma himself.

“Even the foolish me comprehends that my 『Navel Master』 is trying to do something big. In that case it’s my pride to follow you wherever you go in that. Feeling timid due to this body being sneered at; isn’t that nothing but disgraceful?”

Shyemul placed a finger on the collar around her neck with the chain attached to it.

“Besides, this thing is at most a collar. Sure, it looks a bit awful. And, even my body’s freedom gets stolen by it. But, what about it?”

She laughs it off as though it’s not worth it to care about such an item.

“The one who get shamed by bad looks are performers and actors.
For a warrior an insult is about infringing upon their honour. Something like having the freedom of one’s body taken isn’t a big deal. After all, no one can tie down my heart and soul.” (Shyemul)

“No one can tie down your heart and soul…?”

Souma repeats Shyemul’s words in order to think them over.

“Right! What ties down one’s heart and soul is only oneself.”

Souma was overwhelmed by the vigor and dignity gushing out from Shyemul’s entire body.

“What’s tying down a slave aren’t the iron chains but their own fears and resignations! The fear that their life will be taken. The fear that they will be hit with a whip. That ties down the heart and soul of a slave.
They are scared of the freedom of their heart, and resign themselves to slavery. They give up on escaping the weight that decides their own fate. Leaving the chains tying down their heart and soul in the care of others, they let themselves become real slaves.”

Shyemul strongly hits her chest with her right fist.

“However, the pride tying down a warrior’s heart and soul is determination, desire.
A warrior kills their enemy. No matter how much you beautify it with words, it still boils down to killing others. That’s why warriors tie their heart and soul with honour so that they won’t turn into mere murderers. They discipline themselves. For the sake of being noble!”

Shyemul smiled at Souma.
Souma couldn’t grasp the subtle variations in a zoan’s expression, but only at this time did he feel like he saw a smile gently spreading on Shyemul’s face, as if a flower was blossoming.

“Soma, I recognised you as my 『Navel Master』 , but that’s not out of fear or resignation. It’s because of my desire to walk on the same path as you and my determination to take responsibility for all the sins you might commit.”

Souma thought that she’s beautiful.
From the bottom of his heart, he considered the zoan in front of him as beautiful.

“For this reason I can remain 《Noble Fang》, a zoan that even now freely runs across the plains on her own feet.”

Souma understood for the first time why the zoan called her 《Noble Fang》.
She’s definitely a zoan that is more beautiful and prouder than anyone else.
《Noble Fang》 fits her spot on.

“Shyemul!”

With red cheeks Souma instinctively grabbed both her hands.

“I have been lamenting over having falling into this world. I have even thought that I want to return immediately, if I could. But, I absolutely don’t regret having met you, Shyemul. Definitely!”

“I also don’t regret for you to have become my 『Navel Master』.”

Shyemul strongly squeezes back Souma’s hands.
At that moment something hot welled up in Souma’s throat.
Even though he tries to restrain it, it rushes up his throat uncontrollably making Souma groan slightly.

“What’s wrong, Soma?”

As Shyemul noticed that Souma’s state had changed, she bent her head slightly to the side while looking worried.
However, Souma didn’t have the leeway to answer her.
His face cramps up and becomes pale all of a sudden after his cheeks were previously reddened from the earlier conversation.

“E-Excuse me for a moment…”

Souma shakes off Shyemul’s hands and rushes over to the city wall. Putting both his hands against the wall, he faces downwards.

“F-Feelsh bad…”

And then he vomits up everything inside his stomach in a grand manner.

◆◇◆◇◆

“Geez, did you get drunk…?”

Souma, who was lying down with his face up while receiving a lap pillow from Shyemul, felt like running away due to Shyemul’s tone of being utterly amazed from the bottom of her heart.

“If you don’t carry yourself properly, it will be troublesome for me, my 『Navel Master』.”

“… I feel deeply ashamed.”

In contrast to the alcohol percentage in the beer circulating in modern Japan that has four to six percent, the ale that Souma drank in the bar is closer to the beer of ancient Egypt which had an alcohol percentage of more than ten percent. This is a dosage close to wine. In addition of not being used to drinking alcohol, he drank a full jar, though it was one on the smaller side, and finally ran around the whole city. It would have been odd for him to not have any alcohol sickness.

“Well, if you were perfect at everything, I would be troubled as well since there wouldn’t be any chance for me to support you. Having you make a blunder occasionally allows me to have a peace of mind, too.”

Shyemul fiddles with Souma’s hair as if she’s grooming him.
Time flowed gently by.
Fortunately, because the vacant plot with the two of them on it was located upwind, it was free from the unpleasant and bad smell of the city, and they were able to deeply breath in fresh air into their lungs after a good while. The two soaked their bodies in the sense of liberation for a brief period.

“Shyemul…”

“What’s up, Soma?”

“Thanks to you I came up with an idea how to take this city, Shyemul.”

The gentleness vanishes from Shyemul’s expression due to Souma’s words and she shows the expression of a warrior.

“What are you planning, my 『Navel Master』?”

Souma raised his head from Shyemul’s lap and stood up on the spot.
What’s ahead of his sight is the city with its strange bad smell hanging in the air.
The closed-off city that’s full of filth and pollution.

“I plan to buy slaves.”

 


Author Notes:

No alcohol before the age of 20.

The minimum food expenses of a commoner family with four people (it’s almost nothing but bread!):
2 dinas per day x 4 people = 8 dinas.
240 dinas per month.
Approximately 3000 dinas per year.
The food expenses of a middle class family with four people: round about 20.000 dinas per year.
The daily wages of a soldier temporarily hired to subjugate the Fang Clan: 8 dinas.
8 dinas x 800 people x 30 days = 192.000 dinas
There are also special soldiers the Lugniaz Battalion didn’t have to pay, but since it also includes bonus rewards for soldiers who did a meritorious deed, this much campaign funds were stored at the battalion fortress as a setting.
While we are at it, gold coins aren’t overly much in circulation. They are only utilised for exchanging presents or reasonably big business negotiations.

 

 


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