The torches dropped from above the cliff fell to the ground while drawing a red line.
The fire spread immediately from the torches that tumbled down and bounced off the ground several times. The oil, which was scattered on the ground in advance, caught fire. The fire spread quickly and extended itself to the dry grass and firewood which were piled up at the sides of the buildings and fences.
The explosively spreading fire wrapped the encampment up in a crimson flame in the twinkling of an eye.
“Fire, it’s fire! We will get burnt to death!”
“P-Please, save me.”
There exists no living creature that doesn’t fear fire.
Even the humans, who controlled nature by using fire as a tool after learning how to handle it, are no exception to that rule.
I wonder whether there are any humans who won’t be plunged into fear by fire suddenly burning in front of their eyes?
I wonder whether there are any humans who stay calm while smelling the scent of burning with their noses and feeling the heat of fire with their skins?
Much less to say, I wonder whether they will be able to keep their composure by themselves while their comrades next to them panic, scream, and run about trying to escape due to their fear of the fire?
“I don’t want to die!”
“Hot, it’s hot! Please, someone rescue me!”
The humans inside the encampment are soldiers no longer.
They were no more than mere beasts who tried to escape the fire while striving to be first out.
“Nooo! Stones are falling down!”
Furthermore, the zoans, who were standing atop the cliff, started to throw stones at them.
These are not simple pebbles which you can take lightly if they are just thrown at you. The stones, which have a weight of several kilograms, are dropped from a height of around 20 meters. If they hit, it won’t end with something so simple as pain.
If those were arrows, it might have been possible to ward them off with shields or repel them with sword. However, the falling stones aren’t things that can be repelled by swords. Also, even if they are warded off by shields, there’s also several bigger stones among the falling stones. The shields that try to ward these boulders off will be crushed.
Due to all of these stones, many soldiers have fallen to the ground with their heads split apart and chests smashed in.
“You bastards, open the way! Open the way, or else!!”
Battalion Leader Lugniaz frantically yells, but such a thing doesn’t reach the ears of anyone.
Not only that, the wave of soldiers, who fell into a state of panic, pushed the horse which Lugniaz rode from all sides. He tried to control the horse by promptly pulling on the reins, but a horse is originally a cowardly creature. Scared of the fire and of the screaming soldiers who are running about trying to escape, it suddenly reared on the spot.
The body of Lugniaz is thrown off the horse and he hits the ground with his back. Unable to breath due to that impact, Lugniaz is assailed by further misfortune as he groaned in pain. One of the soldiers trying to escape stepped with all his strength on Lugniaz’ right knee. A sharp pain runs up his right leg alongside a snapping sound.
Lugniaz, who writhes on the ground while unable to scream, noticed a shadow falling down on top of him. Once he looks up while agonizing in pain, it was the shadow of a stone dropped by a small zoan child from atop the cliff.
Inside the field of vision of Lugniaz, that stone falls towards him as if being drawn to him.
The stone’s surface was rough.
That was the final view Battalion Head Lugniaz saw in his life.
The one who shot the fire arrow from atop the cliff was a young zoan with the name Fagul Grashata Shahata.
Although Shahata was a hunter, he is no warrior. Due to an injury he suffered in his childhood, Shahata became unable to run.
Once a zoan reaches the point of being able to hunt prey with their own power, they can call themselves a hunter.
Moreover, once they reach the age where they can be called an adult, they will be made to hunt an animal that closely resembles gnus in the plains while only possessing a machete. They will have to discover a flock inside the vast plains, chase them and decide on a prey that they can surely defeat. And then, once they find an opportunity, they will have to immediately run on all fours, jump on the back of their prey and kill it by cutting its throat with the machete.
This is the hunt of a zoan.
When they bring back prey they brought down in this way, they receive the permission to officially call themselves warrior.
However, Shahata, who was unable to run, had no other choice but to use a bow which was despised as weapon of cowards among the zoans. Because of this viewpoint, there are, of course, no zoans who can handle archery. He could only learn by watching how the human and elven hunters used their bows.
He was only viewed with ridicule by his brethren, but for Shahata there was no other option than this. After practising desperately, he can brag about his considerable skill. On hunts he was able to catch a large number of prey that didn’t lose out to his other clanmates.
But even by accomplishing that, Shahata didn’t become a warrior. That’s because he won’t be accepted as warrior if he doesn’t run on the ground with his own feet and brings down his prey with a machete.
Even though many warriors headed into spectacular battles, Shahata always stayed behind in the village and could only see them off. He continued harbouring gloomy emotions due to that.
However, it was at that point in time that the human child arrived.
“I heard from Shyemul. You are the best archer around here, right?” (Souma)
Even if he’s called the best archer in the zoan village, that’s not a compliment.
Souma said this with a serious expression to Shahata who only answered with a curt 「Right」 due to being unable to contain his feelings of frustration,
“Please lend me your strength.” (Souma)
At first Shahata wondered what kind of joke this was supposed to be. Something like wishing for him who’s not even a warrior to lend his power in battle. He had never been told that even once so far in his life. Not only that, fighting in a battle like this is something he could absolutely never realize even if he aimed for it by himself.
Souma explained to Shahata, who said that he couldn’t believe it, while exhausting as many words as possible.
While listening to it, Shahata felt something bubbling hot gushing out from within his chest.
It’s something he doesn’t understand. But that urge stimulated Shahata, triggering a wish to shout out, on the spot, in a loud voice, as he was unable to hold it back any longer.
First, as he was told by Souma, he taught the warriors the way of archery. Since there was luckily a large amount of arrows and bows provisioned in the human encampment, they were never troubled about the tools.
Of course the warriors showed reluctant expressions, but for the current Shahata that wasn’t much of a problem.
“Shahata-san, the success or failure of this plan depends on your skill. I look forward to working with you.” (Souma)
And then, as requested by Souma, Shahata stands on the cliff and tightly grasps his hands that are trembling out of nervosity. Below his feet are fire arrows that have been prepared by having their tips wrapped up by a cloth soaked with oil.
He picks up one of those, stands next to the clan chief who is raising the signalling war cry and tightly draws the bow to the limit.
That human child bowed its head and asked me, who passed his every day depressed and gloomily in the zoan village, to lend them my power.
I’m no proud zoan if I don’t live up to his expectations here. I will be mere rotten trash! I will end up becoming nothing more than garbage!
Shahata, who scolded himself like that, released the arrow from the bow he had drawn to its limit at the same time as the clan chief’s war cry ended.
What he aimed at is a building that stands in the vicinity of the encampment’s centre. Because there’s a danger that it will be noticed by the humans too quickly if there’s too much oil scattered about, he has to directly ignite the buildings standing close to the encampment’s centre.
The fire arrows released by Shahata pierced into the roofs of one building after the other. Some of them ended up missing, but he succeeded in stabbing several fire arrows into the roofs of all of the buildings. From the fire arrows, the fire travels to the dried grass and firewood placed on the roofs and burns right away. Leather bags with oil in them hung with a thin string on the roofs. Once that string burned away, the leather bags would roll down from the roofs while scattering oil. With that oil catching fire, the buildings burst into flames at once.
Looking down on the spectacle of all buildings burning, the clan chief Garam called out to Shahata, who felt relieved due to living up to Souma’s expectations, as he was throwing stones laying next to him.
“I’m surprised. You did well to be able to hit them from here…” (Garam)
It was no more than those words.
However, these words have made Shahata’s chest fill up with surging emotions.
He, who’s no warrior, was praised by the clan chief.
That was more than enough to blow away the gloomy feelings he had until now.
While roughly wiping away the overflowing tears with his arms, Shahata picks up the next arrow.
“Not yet. The battle is still far from over yet.” (Shahata)
Even the following companies on the mountain road noticed the fire raging in the encampment.
A commotion occurs among the soldiers due to the encampment, where their commanders are, bursting into flames.
However, this commotion immediately changed into screams.
Not limited to the encampment, fire also rose at both sides of the mountain road where they were situated. In addition to the thicket on their left, the bundles of dried grass and firewood, that had been hidden under the fallen leaves on the slope to the right, started to burst into flames one after the other.
Simultaneously, zoans appeared on top of the slope to their right.
They successively set fire to huge balls made out of dried grass and withered branches. These balls, which had been already soaked in oil, flared up in an instant and the zoans started to throw them down towards the mountain road below.
The soldiers fell into a state of panic due to the balls of fire tumbling down the slope.
It they were a bit more calmer, they might have been able to kick or throw them away somewhere before they were scalded by grabbing them with their hands, which were covered by leather gloves. However, once they tried to jump away after being surprised by the balls of fire in a dense formation, they collided with the comrades next to them or ended up being forced back in reverse. With these events occurring all over, it changed into a jostling, like the children’s game in which three or more stand back-to-back in a circle and jostle. As all of them tried to get away from the fire even if only by a bit, this caused a huge chaos.
Moreover, the zoans started to throw stones at that point.
There were also those who boldly tried to counterattack with archery while their comrades were defeated by the thrown stones one after the other. But, getting dragged into the mutual brushing aside by their panicked comrades who tried to escape, they are unable to decently set up their bows. The zoans also shower such soldiers with a concentrated rain of stones once they find them and don’t permit them to counterattack.
Among them, the niryu, who were frightened by the raging fire and the panicking soldiers, started to run down the mountain road while raising roars. Although one might say that their movements are slow, even the niryu are capable of running at a reasonable speed if their lives are in danger. The niryu ran wild while trampling and kicking the soldiers who are in front of them, but being dragged by the largely slanting wagons that ran aground due to the bodies of the fallen soldiers, the niryu end up falling into the thicket on the left side. The niryu, who became unable to get up after being immobilized by the yoke of the overturned wagons, start to howl with heartbreaking voices after being scorched by the fire, but no one is able to save them.
The intensity of the zoans’ barrage of stones increases. But the soldiers have no way of escaping with fire raging left and right, and their comrades being blocked by balls of fire in the front and rear.
One of the soldiers among them who knew of the terrain in this area, shouted,
“There’s a river! There’s a river on the other side of the thicket, on the left side!”
For the soldiers who were being enveloped by the fire, the word river sounded like a divine revelation.
However, in order to get to that river, they have to break through the burning thicket. While everyone was hesitating, a single soldier finally resolved himself and lept into the burning thicket.
With him as start, many soldiers follow him in their search for the river’s water.
Inside the burning thicket it had developed into a situation where they were unable to breath normally due to the heat and smoke. They feel tingling pain due to the air that scorched their exposed faces. However, they frantically run through it while harbouring the sliver of hope to be saved if they reach the river after enduring that.
When the first soldier to plunge into the thicket reached a certain point, his forward-stepping foot suddenly ended up injured after treading on the ground, and he took a grand fall. This soldier, who tumbled onto the ground without being able to take a defensive stance, groans after his body feels the strong impact. However, he is even more shocked after learning the reason for him falling down.
There was a hole dug into the ground. Its depth doesn’t reach further than around his shin. It’s a small hole that allows up to one foot to enter. He fell over after being tripped by that hole. Once he looked properly, those holes had been dug out everywhere inside the thicket.
These small holes that only cause one to fall down by ensnaring one foot transformed into atrocious traps only at this time.
Such a spectacle happened all over the burning thicket.
Finally leaving the burning thicket after crushing their comrades underfoot, the soldiers, who exited at the river beach where nothing burns, felt relieved as if they were safe with this. But that only lasted for a fleeting moment.
Who would believe, one group of zoans, who had drawn their bows to the limit with arrows nocked on them while aiming their way, stood on the opposite shore with swift currents raging between both parties.
Alongside that yell, the zoans released the arrows all at once. The soldiers who arrived at the river beach first received those arrows and are killed in succession.
“Uwaah! Zoans! Zoans are over there!”
“Return, return! We will get killed here!”
“You have been told to return, right!? It’s an ambush by the zoan!”
Those, who try to return just after arriving at the river beach, and those who try to come out at the river beach from the thicket, clash and turn into a violent panic. Among them there are even those who get pushed down on the ground and those who get pushed from the river beach into the swift current.
Being caught between the zoan and the fire, the soldiers didn’t know what to do anymore.
Some brandished their swords while raising strange voices, some sat down while crying and some even threw themselves into the swift currents.
And, without differentiating between those people, the rain of the zoans’ arrows pours down on them.
Rather than a battlefield, that place was already an abattoir of madness.
The ones who performed an ambush on the human soldiers at the river shore were zoan soldiers led by Gulkaka. They are those who were able to raise their skills to the degree of being able to somehow shoot arrows directly ahead under the tutelage of Shahata in a period of several days.
They received the instruction to shoot arrows since the human soldiers would come running away.
However, as zoan warriors they despised the bow as a cowardly weapon. For them, battle is something where they kill their enemy by using their machete.
Besides, even though the human soldiers were expected to climb the mountain road, they couldn’t believe that they would expressly turn up at this river shore.
Being unhappy as they had to use such bows and making light of Souma’s statement, the morale of the zoans at that place was extremely low. Even Gulkaka, who should originally correct them, pretends to not see the attitude of his clanmates.
However, when human soldiers jumped out from within the thicket after flames were risen one after the other, their loose attitude ended up vanishing into nothingness.
If it were soldiers raising war cries while burning with combativeness, the zoans likely wouldn’t have feared them either. But, what arrived were hundreds of humans running with desperate expressions while screaming with eyes opened to the limit due to their fear of being chased by the fire.
Even the zoan warriors were scared due to this abnormal spectacle.
People feel fear towards things that surpass their own comprehension. The horror of the humans might have been contagious.
Either way, once they thought about those humans, whose nature they don’t understand, surging forward their way, the zoans trembled with all their hair standing on end.
As a matter of fact, there were quite a few among the zoan warriors who considered tossing away their bows and fighting with their machetes if the human soldiers really came. However, such thoughts completely disappeared from within their minds.
All of them frantically set up the bows that they aren’t accustomed to and nock arrows onto them.
Alongside Gulkaka’s voice, all arrows are released at once.
However, later on, each of them continued to shoot arrows on their own accord. All of them earnestly shoot their arrows without minding their aim so that those humans wouldn’t come nearer, even if just by a bit.
Actually, there wasn’t even any need to aim. The humans, who try to come out at the river beach, and the humans, who try to escape from the zoans, are huddling together once the panicked crowd is formed. If they at least shoot an arrow, it will hit someone. That was the current state of affairs.
Gulkaka and the other don’t remember themselves for how long they continued to shoot their arrows.
They continued to earnestly fire the arrows in a trance and after they ran out of the arrows they had prepared to such an extent, Gulkaka and the others came to their senses for the first time.
Because they used arrows and bows they aren’t familiar with, the skin on both palms had peeled off and blood was trickling down.
But, such a thing isn’t any real problem.
Due to the scenery in front of their eyes, Gulkaka and the other zoan warriors stood stock still while being speechless.
The opposite shore was completely covered by corpses and injured humans as far as their eyes could see. Unable to believe that this was something they could have possibly done, they continued to stare at the scenery in a daze.
At this time the number of the casualties and wounded that filled the river shore to the brim was unknown. The blood streaming down from there dyed the river red and it’s said that it didn’t even stop until more than three days passed.
It’s said that rain often falls after a battle.
The hot air seems to be carried high into the sky after riding the updrafts produced by the fires of war and turns into rain clouds. The atmosphere is then shook by the cries of war and blades striking each other, which makes rain fall from these clouds.
It’s unknown whether that’s the truth or not.
However, even this time the sky was suddenly covered by rain clouds, and a short time later an unusually intense rain for this season began to fall on the Solbiant Plains. Because of the intense rain keeping falling until the morning of the next day, the fires died out without spreading any further.
Because Souma only thought about engulfing the enemy in fire at that time, he forgot about taking measures against the spreading of the fire. If this rain didn’t happened, it might have led into causing a dangerously large fire, but until the end, Souma didn’t realize his fortune.
Like this, the curtains of the 「Battle of Hoghnareah Hill」, which was named as the first battle of the 『Divine Son of Destruction, Soma Kisaki』 who was blessed with good luck without noticing it himself, were closed.