Chapter 1 – Story 39: Warrior

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As Dvalin sat in the cargo area of the covered wagon, he thought back about himself.
The Obsidian Kingdom where I was born and raised was overthrown in a futile struggle against the human empire. All my relatives who survived, were captured and forced into slavery. They’ve probably been sold like me. Maybe they were forced to dig holes in the mines until their eventual death.
Even if I want to go and save them, I don’t even know where I am. Let alone that, who knows if I’ll even get to see tomorrow.
Dvalin lowers his eyes at his own feet.
Those iron ball anklets that were on me for a few months are gone. In that case, maybe there’s an opportunity for an escape.
However, even if I run, I have no place to go. I’ll just die a dog’s death. If I just keep robbing and stealing for food, the humans will notice, and I’ll be hunted down like an animal sooner or later.
Once I get caught, I’ll just be another slave that turns into a gruesome example. They might even treat my body like a toy, depending on how long I went on robbing and stealing. Certainly, it will be an extremely disgraceful death.
Dvalin is a warrior.
He doesn’t fear a death in battle, but instead a pointless, shameful death.
I don’t know if it’s fortunate or not, but that human that bought me seems like he’s treating us quite decently. Compared to the other humans and their slave treatment, the difference is like the one between heaven and hell.
At least he doesn’t seem like he’ll do something to us right away. In that case, I’ll be submissive for now. It’s probably good to start planning an escape during this time.
Dvalin pretended as if he were talking to himself as he spent the time looking at the land that was visible through a gap in the caravan’s canopy.

『Does anyone know where we are?』

There’s no reply from the other dwarven slaves. It looks like no one knows.
Because Dvalin’s words just now were in dwarven language, the zoan girl shouldn’t understand whether it was him simply talking to himself or him addressing his comrades. However, seemingly being very distrustful, the zoan girl fixed her eyes on Dvalin while baring her vigilance.
But, an unexpected reply comes shooting back at him there.

“This place is the south of the Solbiant Plains.”

Dvalin was surprised by Souma’s words.
He never even dreamed for a child of the humans that look down on dwarves to understand the dwarven language.

“Soma, you could hear what this guy said?”

“Eh? Yeah, he asked 『Does anyone know where we are?』.”

Souma answered with a puzzled expression due to the fact that Shyemul, who should have a far better hearing than him, couldn’t hear Dvalin’s words.
Shyemul pondered about every possibility with a serious face. Apparently, she came up with an idea and, facing the dwarves, scornfully said,

“I heard that all dwarven warriors are broad minded men of valour, but that seems to have been a lie. To secretly have a private chat amongst each other is the act of cowardly women. Soma, it seems we made a mistake and ended up buying a bunch of fat elves.”

Even in this world, elves and dwarves are mutual, bitter enemies.
Thus, for a dwarf being called an elf is equal to the worst possible insult. They fell into slavery, but there are no dwarves who won’t feel enraged after being denounced as elves.
Even though they didn’t do something as foolish as succumbing to their fury and attacking, each dwarf present slightly stirred in anger.
Due to that, Shyemul reveals an ironic smile.

“Great! Looks like everyone understands the continent’s common language.”

Upon those words, Dvalin clicks his tongue unintentionally.
It’s a trivial thing, but that zoan girl meant to check our side’s reaction by insulting us in the common tongue.
Dvalin and the other dwarves were irritated for being thoroughly fooled by that. However, they opened their eyes widely due to Shyemul immediately bowing to them after she adjusted her posture.

“Please excuse my tasteless insult, comrades of the earth.”

The dwarves look at each other’s faces upon that sudden apology.

“I was well aware that it was impolite, but even so, I wanted to ascertain that you understand our words for the sake of ensuring my lord’s safety.”

Dvalin was impressed by Shyemul’s magnificent warrior conduct.
He thought that he might worsen his own standing if he says something imprudent, but that concern just as quickly vanished. His pride as warrior won’t allow for him to stay silent after being shown such a degree of conduct.

“Please raise your head, beast comrade. There’s no way for me to condemn that devotion, which doesn’t shy away from smearing yourself in mud for the sake of your lord that you ought to protect, and that devotion certainly has to be admired.”

However, due to that alone, there was something that bothered him.

“Just what kind of person is the lord you ought to protect?”

The instant she heard that, Shyemul’s entire body overflowed with joy.
Because she looks as if she can’t bear the wait of wanting to tell him, Dvalin’s interest as to how much of a great man this person might be has been aroused.

“Kisaki Soma over here is definitely my 『Navel Master』.”

Souma, who had attentively watched the exchange between Shyemul and the dwarves until then, seemingly became embarrassed by Shyemul’s look of respect and affection. In a panic, he quickly tried to turn around to the front to hide his embarrassment as he squeaked out,

“Shyemul, it seems to be the forest over there?”

“Mmh? That’s right. There’s no mistake in that.”

Being asked that by Souma, Shyemul bends herself forward in the coachman bench, looks at the forest ahead of the wagon’s path, and answers like that.
The dwarves felt surprised at the sight of Shyemul’s back, but even though there was no way for her to not have noticed anything, she sat down while facing out of the wagon’s front as if nothing had happened.
Due to that, the dwarves groan while looking sullen.
To deliberately point her defenseless back their way is an expression of Shyemul’s sincerity. Dvalin and the others grasped that well.
Their position is that of slaves who Souma bought and paid for with money. Shyemul, who is trusted by that Souma, is probably someone similar to a slave leader who manages the other slaves while being a slave herself, so to speak. It was unexpected for this zoan girl, who is believed to be the slave leader who is naturally a target of hatred, to actually display this much of a warrior’s conduct.
With only that, the dwarves were confused on whether they should hate her as a slave leader or respect her as a warrior. They felt irritated that they couldn’t make up their minds.
Gradually, Dvalin feels silly for acting so meek. He heavily sat down cross-legged, folded his arms and released a single, big nasally breath. The other dwarves imitate him all at once, too.
Because of that, Shyemul looks over her shoulder. It wouldn’t be strange for the dwarves to all be whipped for displaying this sort of rebellious behavior. Surprisingly, Shyemul only laughed happily and turned to face the front once again.
I had expected it, but her behaviour as a warrior is really annoying. With only that, Dvalin couldn’t help but being baffled.
That apparently means that the human child sitting on the coachman bench is the lord whom she’s trying to protect to the extent of even a female warrior of her clout acting as if mocking others.
Dvalin understands at a glance that Souma doesn’t have the physique of a fighter whatsoever.
Even taking a single look at his attentiveness towards his surrounding and how he moves his body, he’s obviously different from someone who had been trained with weapons such as the sword or the spear. Although it’s only natural, I don’t sense anything warrior-like from Souma at all. And yet, I cannot help but be curious about the extent of Shyemul’s loyalty towards this Souma, which ought to be called outright respect and affection.
While Dvalin is racking his brain over something like that, the covered wagon reached the forest it was heading for. When they left the city noon had already passed, but now even the sun is already inclining deeply towards the west. An ironclad rule for travelers is to set camp before the sun completely sets.
Dvalin, who gazed at the forest for no particular reason as he thought that they will likely camp over there, felt a great number of presences hiding inside the forest.

“Turn around! There might be bandits in there!”

Before Dvalin’s words finish, several figures jumped out from within the forest.

“Zoan!?”

The ones who rushed out of the forest and surrounded the covered wagon are all brawny zoan warriors.
The ones who caught Dvalin’s eye among them are a one-eyed red-furred zoan and a black-furred zoan, who has a sword cut across his face. They seem to be the leaders of these zoan.
Either way, it’s not just their physiques. You can immediately grasp that they are high first-class level warriors if you look at how they pay attention to their surroundings and the movement of their bodies.
Even Dvalin, who is prides himself on also being a first-class warrior, isn’t conceited enough to think that he could win unarmed against these two as his opponents.

“Youngster, give me a weapon! I still don’t want to die!”

I fear the zoan that are opposing the humans came to make these humans traveling across the plains with merely one wagon pay the price for that folly.
If only the humans are shred to pieces by the zoan it’s something to be celebrated, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be overlooked just because we’re dwarves.
Souma, who was able to half-rise from the coachman bench, raises one hand to stop Dvalin who has resolved himself with such a do-or-die spirit.

“Thank you for waiting, you two.”

Dvalin is immediately startled, wondering what Souma’s talking about.
With a sidelong glance to Dvalin, the black-furred zoan— Garam slightly shook his head in a manner as if to say that there’s no problem, and says,

“The most important thing is that you’re safe and sound, Soma and 《Noble Fang》. How was the city?”

“Garam, we have brought along slightly unexpected guests, but the course of events is looking great.”

Due to those words, Garam and Zurgu peek inside the wagon over Souma’s head.

“Oh! Dwarves, how rare! The last time I’ve seen one of these guys was when I had them forge my machete.”

“Hee, there were dwarves around here as well?”

Souma felt curious due to Zurgu’s remark.

“How wonderful for you to ask about it, Sir Soma. Look at me! As you can, see my body is big and my strength is powerful, too. Given that a normal machete wouldn’t be able to satisfy me, I expressly went to the dwarves living in the mountains east of the plains to request a machete for myself. At that time, I was still a brat who had just turned twelve years old. To pay for the machete, I needed to gather a great number of pelts. So I…”

“《Mad Claw》, stop the bragging.”

Zurgu, who tried to recite his heroic saga, gets mercilessly cut off by Shyemul.

“Soma, in the past we traded with the dwarves that lived in the eastern mountains. It’s said that our machetes are like precious gems created by the hands of the dwarves. Our warriors who were unsatisfied with the machetes inherited from their ancestors visited that place, using a mountain of pelts as payment. But nowadays, they seem to have vanished from sight due to conflict with the humans.”

In contrast to Souma who consents with a “I see”, Zurgu, who had his legendarily heroic tale interrupted, wrinkles up his nose as if he’s sulking.
Due to that peaceful-looking exchange between Souma and the zoan, Dvalin and the other dwarves only stared at them with dumbfounded expressions.

“《Noble Fang》 and 《Mad Claw》, just what are you doing when our guests are still on the wagon?”

Garam, who chided the two while sighing grandly, lightly hit his chest towards the befuddled dwarves and said,

“Please have a peace of mind, comrades of the earth. If you were invited by Soma, we will treat you as important guests.”

◆◇◆◇◆

Surrounding the bonfire that raises a bright red flame, Souma relayed the plan he came up with to the main warriors of the zoan such as Garam and Zurgu and the dwarves around Dvalin.

“Indeed. If that goes smoothly, I guess it will be possible to take that city with a minimum number of losses.”

First, Garam, who listened with folded arms, indicated his approval of Souma’s strategy. Zurgu also considered it as interesting, but at the same time points out a problem with it.

“I think it’s an interesting move, but what will you do about the weapons? Even if we exceed them in numbers, we still can’t fight unarmed.”

“You should have confiscated weapons from the soldiers when you gained control of the fortress. We will put those to use.”

Because what Zurgu pointed out was within the range of his expectations, Souma was able to answer without hesitation.

“Got it. I will dispatch someone to have Banuka, who’s in the fortress, bring the weapons in a hurry.”

Garam called someone known for being a fast runner from among his clanmates that were nearby, and sent them to the fortress as a messenger.

“With this, the remaining problem is…”

Upon Garam’s remark, the looks of everyone turn towards the dwarves around Dvalin.
Due to that, even Dvalin, who listened to the talks with an attitude as if it’s somebody else’s affair, lifts his head with an interested look. It’s not like he can ignore them either, but he ends up turning his head away after just a small snort.

“You are weird fellows. We are slaves bought by this human youngster. He just has to order us, no?”

Unable to stomach Dvalin’s attitude, Zurgu was about to rise on his feet, but Souma stopped that with a gesture of his hand and clearly said to Dvalin,

“It’s not slaves that we want. It’s people who will cooperate with us out of their own free will.”

“To ask for will from slaves? Don’t make me laugh. If I told you that I decline, what are you going to do then?”

A dangerous atmosphere spreads from the surrounding zoan due to Dvalin’s manner of speaking. However, without any indication of minding that, Dvalin stares at Souma in order to provoke him instead.
Due to that, Souma scratched his cheek as if troubled.

“I won’t do anything.”

“Nothing, you say?”

“Since you have listened to our strategy, I will have you confined until the matter is finished. I’ll release you after it’s over though, so please do as you like.”

“You are saying that you will release a slave you bought with a large amount of money?”

Something like unconditionally releasing a slave that was bought with the large amount of eight hundred silver coins; Dvalin had never heard of something like that happening.

“Yes. After all, I believe it to be wrong to turn people into slaves.”

It wasn’t just Dvalin. All the other dwarves were astonished as well.
It’s because that’s a heretical way of thinking in this world.
In those days, the strong taking everything from the weak after a battle is a matter of course, for any race.
Thoughts that contradict Souma’s opinion emerge in Dvalin’s head, but those were shattered into smithereens in front of Souma’s next words.

“People stealing the freedom of others like them and treating them like trash; you should have experienced it firsthand how ugly that is.”

It was as Souma said.
The only thing Dvalin and the other dwarves saw after they were defeated in battle is just the ugly side of humans.
Even if it were an elegant lady or a general that knows of decorum there were no exceptions. Their lips that warped in disgust when looking at Dvalin and the other dwarven slaves and their eyes filled with a superiority complex that coexits with a deep sympathy for someone else’s suffering. With only their outward appearance being beautiful, their rotten smelling ugliness stood out all the more.

“I don’t want to become someone I regard as ugly. Therefore I deny slavery.”

People believed it to be heretical thinking, but it was a trivial yet very reasonable argument.
However, it’s a reality that one can’t say that his rationale is impossible
If it was the former Dvalin, he would have likely sneered at Souma for being a naive dreamer that doesn’t look at reality. However, the current Dvalin has thoroughly experienced suffering after he was reduced to a slave. The words of Souma were far too beautiful to him, and he couldn’t resist considering them as something irreplaceable.

“Allow me to hear just one more thing, youngster. Why did you choose me?”

There should have been plenty of other dwarves in that place. He could’ve gotten a lot more dwarves at a reasonable price rather than specifically buying me. So why did he choose me? Dvalin wanted to know the reason for that.

“That’s because you grasped your right hand when the whip of the slave dealer hit your chest.”

The answer Souma provided was something that exceeded Dvalin’s comprehension.

“What do you mean?”

Souma picked up a single pebble from the ground and passed it to Dvalin with a throw. While not understanding what he means with that, Dvalin receives the thrown pebble with his right hand.
Confirming his suspicion, Souma smiled sweetly.

“At that time you formed a fist with your dominant arm. You restrained yourself from trying to hit the slave dealer, didn’t you?”

Dvalin replied with nothing more than a small grunt.
However, that’s because what Souma said was correct.

“I was taught that slaves are people who gave up on fighting, after they lost to the fear within themselves.”

Souma gives a sidelong glance to Shyemul standing right next to him.
Shyemul pretends that she hasn’t noticed his look, but the tips of her ears were cheerfully bobbing up and down.
While leaking a smile due to that, Souma continued his words.

“However, you were about to fight. Holding yourself back wasn’t because you gave up, but because you judged that you should endure it until the time comes when you should fight, I believed. In that case, you aren’t a slave, but a warrior.”

Souma looked directly into the eyes of Dvalin.

“Warrior Dvalin, please lend me your strength.”

The instant he heard those words, something hot wells up within Dvalin’s chest.

“Warrior, huh…? That’s a nice word.”

Since losing the war and becoming a prisoner, the only words that were thrown at Dvalin were derogatory terms such as 「Worm」.
Alongside such insults, he was slandered in any possible way, lashed by whips and spat at.
“The reason for becoming a slave is because you lost. The reason for losing is because you are weak. Worms are weaker than humans. Weaklings have no value. You are worthless. You are scum. Scum has to lick the ground, as it befits such wormlike scum. Don’t defy us esteemed humans. I can’t stand your face. I can’t stand your nose. I can’t stand anything about you. You’re rebelling, I’ll whip you. Are you happy being lashed? If you are happy, show a happier face. What, this conceited bug.”
Such a procedure is meant to remold the heart of a slave into something submissive. Denying the values and character of those who became slaves, they are repressed with violence and their rebellious spirit gets thoroughly crushed.
The abusive language of the slave overseers ground at Dvalin’s heart.
Due to the anguish, he even thought to himself, how easy it would be to just give in to this and throw away my self-respect and pride.
Even so, while comforting himself a bit with the dream of knocking down the slave overseers, he endured it and endured it, even though it was likely that his self-respect would break and even though it was likely that his pride would be smashed to pieces.
Although the inner corners of Dvalin’s eyes become hot, he puts up with it by closing his eyes and looking up to the sky.
After a passage of time where one could have slowly counted to ten, Dvalin opened his eyes and stared at Souma.

“Do you understand the meaning of calling me a warrior and asking me to lend my strength?”

Souma nodded strongly.

“Then I have three demands.”

“Demands, you say?”

Dvalin raises three fingers.

“First off, food. Let me eat to my heart’s content.”

“Of course. Even in my home town there’s the saying 『One can’t fight a war on an empty stomach』.”

Dvalin counts down one finger upon Souma’s reply.

“Second, alcohol. I haven’t drunken any for countless months already. Since I won’t question the type and quality, just give me enough drink to where I could bathe in it if I wanted to.”

“Got it. I don’t know how much you can drink, but I will try to meet your request as far as possible.”

Lowering a second finger, Dvalin displayed a dark smile on his face and stated his last demand.

“Prepare a place appropriate for me to die at.”

Even Dvalin is no idiot.
It’s unthinkable that we will be able to win against the humans with only that many zoan. Even if we take the city, the determined military forces of the humans will be coming for us next. We can’t possibly win against those.
That being the case, dying in a magnificent battle was Dvalin’s desire.

“I will reject that.”

However Souma refused that without a hint of hesitation.

“What!?”

“We are not looking for a place to die. We are trying to create a place for the sake of living.”

That means it’s for victory.
Through their exchange of words, albeit only slightly, Dvalin also understood that Souma is no fool that has absolutely no vision how things will turn out.
The difficulty of taking the city and the hopeless difference of combat power between both sides with the human forces that will arrive afterwards. There’s no way for him to not know of those.
And yet, despite being in this desperate situation, Souma, who focuses on the future beyond that, surpassed the range of Dvalin’s comprehension.
What the hell is this guy looking at?
What the hell is this guy trying to achieve?
For Dvalin Souma even appeared to be a huge being that was beyond people’s understanding.
That’s why Dvalin ceased to worry about it.

“Ah, whatever. What does it matter. For now, just some food and booze is fine.”

If I can’t understand it, then I’ll just take it at face value.
Compared to the big mountains and mother earth, the worries of a single dwarf are very small. Even if I fret over it, what will be will be. Rather than worrying, there might be an unexpectedly good result if I just do it quickly. Even if I fail, what’s the big deal? I can just laugh about it with everyone else.
Because Souma and the zoan were bewildered due to the far too quick change of attitude Dvalin becomes amused and says 「I guess you don’t understand anything」.
I can once again fight as warrior.
Only someone who understands the despair of having fallen into slavery will comprehend this joy. Moreover, although it’s a different race with whom he will fight side-by-side, they are elite warriors to the degree of even Dvalin admiring them. If there’s booze and food to go with this, what’s there to desire beyond that.

“Bring all the alcohol! In compensation I will perform the 『Song of Forging Steel』 that has been handed down among us dwarves!”

Eating tasty food, drinking delicious booze, singing in a loud voice and dancing merrily; all’s right with this world.
That’s because I’m a dwarf.

◆◇◆◇◆

Like this Dvalin happened across the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 through his hapless fate.
This chance meeting was brought about by the goddess of fate. It might not have been more than mere whim.
However, who might have been able to imagine at this time the large change this would bring upon the continent.
Later on, it was Dvalin who led the heavy dwarven infantry in the army corps of the 「Divine Son of Destruction」, but he’s a person whose name spread widely for a reason other than that.
It’s said that Dvalin built many tools using the knowledge of a different world, which the 「Divine Son of Destruction」 brought with him as a base, that made him play such an important role. It has been said that Souma’s knowledge would have never taken form without him being there. Hence Dvalin received the infamy of being called 「Destroyer of Technology」 as he completely destroyed the continent’s current level of technology.
But, he has a pseudonym that’s known even beyond that.
It’s a name deriving from his muscular, big arm that is tightly grasping a battleaxe, as one of the seven arms of the fresco 「Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki」 drawn by the master painter Numari.
The meaning of the ancient letters written there is「Gluttony」.
Dvalin of the 《Steel》.
He is the man who assumed the name of 《Arm of Gluttony》 as one of the Seven Arms Generals in posterity.

 


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