Chapter 1 – Story 13: Predicament

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As the day darkened, the zoans gathered at the place of prayer inside the mountain visited by dusk.
The young warriors who were wounded during the day have been put to sleep and are attended to by their families nearby.
Gulkaka saw the condition of the young warriors covered by bandages all over their bodies. Noticing that Garam came in, he stepped up to him.

“That guy likely won’t be able to greet tomorrow’s sunrise either.” (Gulkaka)

Upon hearing Gulkaka’s report, Garam didn’t know what to tell to the aged zoan couple that is attending to the young warrior.

“Among the 18 young warriors who followed Gajeeta, 10 were able to come back, but among them, three including this fellow have…” (Gulkaka)

Gulkaka was evasive at the end, but Garam knew what he wanted to say.
When Garam toured around the injured, Gajeeta was sitting by himself, at the furthest edge of the place of prayer’s bonfire. His followers who are usually around him are currently nowhere to be found.

“Gajeeta, if you have anything to say in your defence, let’s hear it.” (Garam)

Once Garam says so, Gajeeta roared while baring his fangs.

“There’s no need for a defence or anything of the sort! We fought in order to retake the village as brave zoan warriors! In any case, you, who cowardly won’t even try to get back the village, have no right to condemn me!” (Gajeeta)

“Gajeeta…!” (Gulkaka)

Garam holds back Gulkaka, who had raised his arm and tried to hit Gajeeta in a fit of anger. Gajeeta’s speech grow even more enraged.

“If you guys had assisted us at that time, the fence would have broken down! Once that had happened, something like human soldiers…!” (Gajeeta)

“Do you really believe that the fence would have been destroyed if we supported you?” (Garam)

Once Garam said that, composed in contrast to Gajeeta, Gajeeta was at a loss for words.

“That is…!” (Gajeeta)

“There’s no way that you, who is a zoan warrior even as a joke, couldn’t comprehend the situation at that time. Who can you persuade with words you don’t believe yourself?” (Garam)

Gajeeta, who owned no words to refute Garam, clicks his tongue, looking annoyed and averts his eyes.
In the next instant Garam’s fist explodes into the side of Gajeeta’s face and he’s knocked off his feet.

“Gajeeta! At this time, we need every single warrior. For now I will forgive you with this. Once the crisis is over with, you will receive another punishment. Be ready for it.” (Garam)

Gajeeta’s spit-out words reached the back of Garam, who left with Gulkaka in tow.

“Once the crisis is over? At that time, everyone will be dead.” (Gajeeta)

Even Garam couldn’t say anything to that.
They ended up losing even more of the warriors, who are lacking in numbers even under normal circumstances. Even though it was from the start difficult to get back the village, this has made it even more difficult. Besides, even if they took back the village in a very unlikely event, there are 800 troops stationed in the nearby fortress as reinforcements.
A lone warrior ran up to Garam, who looked up to the sky while pondering Just what the hell should I do?

“Clan chief! The messenger, the person we sent as messenger to the <<Claw Clan>> has returned!”

“Bring him here at once!” (Garam)

For the messenger to return with such timing; God didn’t abandon us yet, did he?
Garam didn’t want to hold any expectations towards what the messenger had to say, so he plans not to rejoice prematurely.
The warrior, who left as messenger, likely wants to give the report quickly, even if it’s a second earlier. I guess he returned in a forced march on these wintry mountains. At a glance it was visible that he was completely exhausted. He was in a state where he couldn’t walk without a comrade lending him their shoulder.

“Clan chief! Sorry for being late, but just now I have returned!”

“It’s fine! Rather than that, what did the <<Claw Clan>> say?” (Garam)

The messenger placed both his hands and knees on the spot, and rubbed his forehead against the ground.

“I-I’m very sorry!”

Voices of despair are raised by clan’s brethren due to his words.
Garam leaked a single sigh.
To begin with, from the time when the <<Claw Clan>> resided in the plains, both clans were opponents who quarrelled over each other’s turf. It was probably unreasonable to try going as far as asking for the help of such a party, when both sides have to do their very best to just protect their own clans.

“Never mind. From the beginning I haven’t thought that we will be accepted easily. It’s not something you have to worry about.” (Garam)

He thanked the messenger.

“No, clan chief. The <<Claw Clan>> said that it’s fine for them to take in the elderly and children. Also, they assured me that they aren’t reluctant to send out warriors as assistance if necessary.”

“What?!” (Garam)

That was a response even Garam and the other didn’t expect at all. They heard that the current clan chief of the <> Kraga Bigana Zurgu is a wild man with battle being his only redeeming feature, but apparently he won’t abandon those of the same race who get attacked and overthrown by the humans.

“B-But, there are conditions for that.”

“Conditions, you say?” (Garam)

“Receiving the elderly and children as well as their support in battle are huge issues that affect the entire <<Claw Clan>>. Therefore,when the elderly and children are brought along, they want our clan chief to visit the <<Claw Clan’s>> den and explain things to the members of the <<Claw Clan>> with his own mouth.”

“They are telling the clan chief to come and bow his head, you say!?”

Hearing the discussion, the warriors bared their teeth while growling.

“If it means that the clan will be saved by me bowing my head, I will do so. But…” (Garam)

Garam is the clan chief. If his clan members can be rescued by simply discarding his small pride, he will do so.
However, currently it’s a situation where they don’t know when the humans will attack. It’s impossible for the clan chief to leave this place. The clan chief of the <<Claw Clan>> probably understands around that much. This is nothing more than an indirect refusal.
That’s only natural, I guess. As Garam gave in to resignation, the messenger continued speaking further.

“There’s still a continuation to that…”

“What is it?” (Garam)

“If it’s impossible for the clan chief to visit, they said that they don’t mind if the divine child comes in his stead.”

As soon as he said that, the clan members jeered all at once.

“Don’t screw around, you <<Claw Clan>> bastards!”

“Instead of the clan chief, how dare you to be so shameless!”

“To begin with, isn’t that just a scheme so that they can get hold of our esteemed divine child!?”

The <<Claw Clan’s>> aim was obvious.
Their real target is only Shyemul, the divine child.
Until this time there had been countless discussions between the clans, talking about their need to fight against the humans as one and about the ten zoan clans forming an alliance. But, always disagreeing on what clan should take control, the negotiations sooner or later ended in failure.
Meanwhile, when Shyemul became a divine child a few years back, the talk about a clan alliance of all clans resurrected.
If it’s the divine child who was approved by the God of Beasts whom the zoans worship, it was largely expected that she would be able to command all zoans under one banner. However, at the same time of being a divine child, Shyemul was also the daughter of Garguss, the clan chief of the Fang Clan at the time. Because of that, the Claw Clan feared that the zoan alliance would be led by the Fang Clan as the clan that brought forth the divine child. They used the fact that she was the daughter of the Fang Clan chief to cause the talks of a zoan alliance to fall through countless times.
The reason Garam tried to dispatch Shyemul as messenger to the Fang Clan the other day is because as long as the divine child survives, it will be possible to realize the zoan alliance through the Claw Clan’s authority, even if the Fang Clan gets annihilated. Once the Fang Clan is annihilated, the zoans would be able to survive through the formation of the alliance, bitter decision though it may be.
Even though he had resolved himself to that extent after considering the situation of all zoan clans, the <<Claw Clan>> saw the power of the <<Fang Clan>> weakening and taking advantage of that weakness, they boldly demanded that they hand over the divine child to their side.
Even Garam,who had once made the bitter decision of sending Shyemul there, felt a rage forming, as if his sight was dyed deep red.
You bastard, Zurgu. This late in the game you still can’t see the current situation?
Garam flooded the <<Claw Clan’s>> clan chief that he remembered with all the abusive language he has.
A single elder stood up from in-between the enraged clan’s brethren.

“I have lived for long enough now. I don’t wish to lengthen this life by going as far as offering the esteemed divine child.”

With that as the start, more of the elderly stand up and say the same.
Although they have grown old, they are still proud zoans. They felt extreme anger about the way of handling things by the Claw Clan in concern to a crisis for the zoan, who are the same race, albeit in a different clan.

“But, what will we do about the children?”

However, when someone put that worry forth, the vicinity fell silent due to his question.
The warriors are fine with dying.
The elderly brethren, who only have a few years left to live, are fine with dying.
But, what about the children?
After a short time, a mother, who held a very young child in her arms, muttered just a few words.

“If we sacrifice the divine child, this child will have to carry that burden for the rest of its life.”

The zoans are a proud race. Although it’s for the sake of saving everyone, if they were to offer the divine child of the God of Beasts they worship to another clan, the <<Fang Clan>> would likely become a target of scorn from then on. Even if it was for the children to survive, it would result in the children having to take responsibility for that matter for the rest of their lives.
Unbeknownst from whom, a voice spoke up,

“Let’s fight by ourselves…”

“Yeah! Rather than surviving while losing our pride, let’s die while fighting with pride.”

“Let’s show them the pride of the <<Fang Clan>>!”

“We will show the bravery of the zoans to the humans!”

The warriors lifted their machetes overhead and yelled out their spirit.
Matching with them, the elders toss their fists in the air as well.
Among them the mother, who had tears in her eyes, hugged her child which is puzzled as it doesn’t understand what is happening. And the shoulders of the mother are embraced by the father.
As everyone tried to fire themselves up to fight and resolved themselves to death, only one person was against it.

“Everybody, don’t hasten towards your deaths!”

It was Shyemul.

“Oh, warriors! Is the pride of warriors only extending to fighting and dying!? If it’s merely about fighting, how’s that any different from 《Fang of Madness》 Tabanunu!?”

The legendary zoan warrior Tabanunu lived in the era of myths. Although he was the strongest zoan warrior with no equal, he, who got drunk on his own power, ended up killing his friend and lover with his own hands over a trivial misunderstanding. Due to that, Tabanunu’s heart broke. There’s a legend about him vanishing to an unknown place after becoming a berserker, whom attacked everyone he noticed without a care.

“I was taught by father… the previous clan chief: Warriors are those who fight in place of the weak. The time a warrior’s pride gets hurt is when he wasn’t able to protect those who he should have protected! Therefore, thus…” (Shyemul)

Completely as if coughing up blood, Shyemul mustered her next words.

“I will surrender myself to the <<Claw Clan>>! If they are telling me to lower my head like this, I will do so as many times as they like! If they insist on a performance, I will dance naked! If many or even a single of our clan’s members are saved by that, if everyone survives thanks to that, I will discard my pride as many times as it takes!” (Shyemul)

“Oh divine child…!”

If it was someone else, there probably would have been people calling her shameless.
However, Shyemul is 《Noble Fang》. Everybody in this place knows about her high pride. While having such a humiliating demand thrust at her, she’s still saying that she will accept and resign herself to it.
Moreover, it’s not for her own sake, but on behalf of her clan’s brethren, for the weak who can’t fight.

“Everybody, please don’t rush towards your death. If there are people ridiculing you, I will stake my life on making them stop! If they are talking about you while pointing fingers behind your back, I will stand in front of them!” (Shyemul)

Before anyone knew, tears were overflowing from Shyemul’s eyes.

“That’s why it’s my wish. I want all of you to survive…” (Shyemul)

All her brethren at the place hung their heads due to Shyemul’s words. Sobbing can be heard and a child that doesn’t understand the current situation, innocently asks its mother 「What’s wrong with everyone?」
The gazes of the clan’s members naturally gather on Garam who is their clan chief.
“Clan chief, what shall we do?”
“Clan chief, please show us the way!”
Garam contemplated how he should act as his clanmates focused on him, seeking an answer in silence.
Just what would be the best course of action? If I was a simple warrior, I would tell them to die together with everyone. I would ask them to die a noble and praiseworthy death with pride in their chests.
But, I’m the clan chief. I’m the clan chief who has to take care of the lives of all the members of this <<Fang Clan>>.
With my words the fate of our clan will be decided at this place.
Father, previous clan chiefs, please tell me what I should do.
Anyone’s fine. Please show me a way!
The voice sounded completely like a divine revelation to the ears of the distressed Garam.

“Why aren’t you trying to win?”

By no means was it a loud voice, but the voice was awfully audible as well. All zoans at the place simultaneously turned their faces to the direction from where the voice came.
Someone descended from inside the mountain, where the light of the bonfire doesn’t reach.
Who is it? A divine messenger? The ghost of an ancestor?
Garam opens his eyes widely.

“Why aren’t you trying to win, when you are capable of it?”

The one who appeared inside the bonfire’s illumination from within the mountain was Kizaki Souma, the human child who was taken care of by Shyemul.

 

 


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