“Please lend some land to me.”
All of the zoan present were uniformly puzzled at Souma’s sudden statement.
For the zoan, the land in the plains is the place where they live and hunt. However, Souma, a human, is living in the city’s feudal lord residence, and since his food is prepared by Shyemul, he has no need to hunt either. They didn’t understand why he would even ask for some land to borrow.
While likewise being confused, Garam questions Souma about the intention behind his words.
“Just what do you plan to do after borrowing land?”
“I will reclaim it and turn it into farmland.”
A threatening atmosphere spreads among the zoan due to Souma’s reply.
Something like reclaiming the land of their ancestors is preposterous for the zoan. To begin with, Holmea stole the plains from the zoan to reclaim that area. Wanting to reclaim those very plains they wrestled off Holmea, at a great loss to themselves, would bring into question the very reason they were fighting for to begin with. Even if Souma might be a great benefactor, that’s not something they can accept so easily.
Upon this talk that came out of the blue, Garam turned to Shyemul and asked her “You knew about this!?” with a look that demanded explanation. In response Shyemul vividly shakes her head, frantically emphasizing that she’s also hearing about this for the first time.
Due to the Great Clan Chief and the Divine Child of the Beast God looking bewildered, a commotion started among the zoan.
The one who brought everything under control is Zurgu. He powerfully slaps his own knee, causing the sound to reverberate throughout the tent. Once he had the attention of everyone, he said with a heavy tone,
“Even Sir Soma should know of our feelings towards the plains, the land of our ancestors. Shouldn’t we first ask him about his real motive?”
This remark of Zurgu sounds like he’s mediating for Souma, but it was actually a huge warning, telling Souma to speak after being aware of the zoan’s feelings towards the plains. Guessing that, the zoan become silent and look towards Souma.
While feeling the eyes of all zoan assembled in this tent focus on himself, Souma adjusted his seating posture and replied,
“It’s for the sake of winning.”
Thanks to the much too direct answer, the zoan look at each other, unable to understand Souma’s aim. After looking around at the faces of the confused zoan, Souma continued to speak,
“I believe that the zoan are a far stronger race than the humans.”
Even though the zoan warriors are taken aback by the sudden change in topic, they nodded as if saying “That’s only natural.” However, because of Souma’s next words, their expressions turn bitter.
“So, why did the zoan lose to the humans in the first place and get chased off the plains?”
That’s a fact the zoan, with their pride in their strength, want to look at the least.
As everyone turned silent with awkward expressions, Garam spoke up reluctantly,
“The strength of the humans are their numbers. And they know how to capitalize on those numbers in battle. But, although us zoan knew our own strengths, we didn’t know how to capitalize on them in battle. That’s the reason why we lost to the humans.”
Contrary to the humans, who can think up tactics capable of maximizing the usage of their many soldiers, the zoan adhered to their traditional way of fighting, namely clashing with the enemy from the front without using their own fast feet, albeit being aware of that advantage.
Garam, who noticed that while fighting under Souma’s command, thought back on himself and his clan brethren from just a little while ago, and spoke those words while putting a good dose of self-deprecation into them.
Souma asked another question to Garam.
“The humans’ strength are numbers. —In other words, you mean to say that there are many humans?”
“Yeah, that’s right, but what about it…?”
Garam was unable to comprehend why Souma made sure of something so obvious, but he still confirmed Souma’s words. That caused Souma to ask once more,
“Why are there so many humans then?”
No one could answer that question.
There being many humans is already common knowledge on the Seldeas Continent. They aren’t thinking about each and every detail for something that’s so obviously common knowledge.
After confirming that no one’s going to speak by waiting for a moment, Souma said,
“It’s because of food.”
In the fantasy novels and manga Souma knows, it’s a very common trope for the humans to be considered a race with high adaptability and reproductive rate in exchange for not having any conspicuous racial abilities.
And even on this Seldeas Continent, the humans are regarded in the same way.
However, going by what Souma investigated himself, it’s not like the humans of this world are more fertile or have shorter pregnancy periods than the other races, except for when it comes to the long-lived elves. He couldn’t find any mentionable differences.
And yet, for some reason it has become common knowledge in this world that humans have a high reproductive power. It’s a fact that the population of this world’s humanity is overwhelmingly higher than that of the other races.
Why is there such a difference in populations even though there’s no great difference in the humans’ fertility compared to the other races?
The main thing Souma could think of while pondering about the reason was the difference in food productivity.
Food is said to be the biggest cause for a population to remain low.
He was taught in his school’s history class that humanity increased its population considerably after switching over from hunting and gathering to farming and stock-farming. The rise in population that could be called a population boom was brought about by the Norfolk four-course system, which became a standard agrarian reform in different world fantasy light novels.
Either way, thanks to advancements in food production, the population typically in turn demonstrates an explosive increase.
If you can say the same about this world, isn’t the humans’ population increase owed to their high food production and not to their high fertility compared to the other races? Souma wondered.
And, after listening to representatives of all races first, he learned that all of the races except for the humans still were basing their food procurement on hunting and gathering, and didn’t start farming except for a select few races.
In that case it was clear what he had to do.
If the humans are going to attack while making use of their advantage in numbers, we just have to snatch away that advantage.
Increasing the amount of food by cultivating the Solbiant Plains will increase the number of people from other races besides the humans. If the population grows, the number of warriors will grow as well. If we don’t even lose out in the number of troops, we, a mixed army of various races that overwhelm the humans in individual abilities, won’t be defeated.
In order to win in the decisive battle against Holmea, which will definitely come here sooner or later, the reclamation of the Solbiant Plains is a path we can’t avoid by any means, Souma judged.
Also, the reason for Souma rushing the reclamation isn’t just because of such a long-term plan. Even looking at the short-term, there’s a reason why they have to do it.
“If you allow me to lend some land, I plan to pay a part of the taxes obtained after cultivating that land as a fee for the land to all of you.”
The zoan warriors are soldiers and at the same time hunters. They have to hunt in order to provide food for their family and clanmates. However, in this situation where it’s unknown when Holmea will attack, there’s a danger of a shortage in warriors as they are forced to permanently stay in the city. Also, even if that wasn’t the case, their families and clanmates will run out of food if the battle drags on, resulting in troubles occurring in the rear.
In order for that not to happen, it’s indispensable to secure food that can be eaten by the warriors and their families even if the warriors don’t hunt. That’s yet another reason for the reclamation.
The zoan were simply baffled by Souma’s suggestion. That’s because it was a way of thought was too disconnected from the zoan’s common sense.
Being very troubled, Garam seeked Shyemul’s opinion.
“《Noble Fang》, what do you think about Soma’s suggestion?”
Having suddenly that question thrown at herself, Shyemul becomes flustered.
“Oof. …Let’s see. I think it’s only natural to hesitate when you are abruptly told to lend land. If it allows us to grant Soma’s wish, I will also…”
As expected, no matter how much he might be her Navel Master, even Shyemul couldn’t easily declare to borrow him land. Due to Shyemul being evasive, Garam asks once more,
“Divine Child, I’d like to inquire about your opinion.”
Garam didn’t call her by her name or nickname, but by her title. Due to that Shyemul realizes that he’s requesting her statement as divine child who has her honor protected by the blessing of the Beast God.
Even so, Shyemul still couldn’t give an immediate reply.
If this was about herself, Shyemul would likely answer without showing any hesitation. But the question whether lending land to Souma collides with the honor of the zoan was – as expected – something even Shyemul couldn’t really judge.
Shyemul’s blessing protects her own honor and at the same time forbids her to take any actions that go against her honor. It means that the brunt of the blessing’s influence, which caused an agonizing death for the Plains Fortress Company Commander who tried to rape her in the past, will be simultaneously turned at her herself.
If lending the plains for the sake of reclamation to Souma was an absolutely unforgivable act contradicting the zoan’s honor, it’s very possible that Shyemul would die in agony on the spot right after approving it. Even if it wouldn’t be that lethal, only the blessing hindering the approval would be quite capable of damaging Souma’s position. Shyemul’s blessing, just like Souma’s, are no different in the fact that either doesn’t result in what they want themselves.
As expected, even Shyemul felt an uncomfortable sweat appear all over her body.
However, Shyemul noticed Souma looking her way with eyes full of trust while unaware of that internal discord. Due to that Shyemul resolves herself.
Didn’t I decide to bear all possible crimes that he might commit together with Soma to begin with?
Remonstrating herself like that, Shyemul straightened up her back and announced with a clear voice,
“If not for Soma, us zoan still wouldn’t be capable of taking back even the smallest fraction of the plains. Rather, it wouldn’t be strange for us being forced to accept the land after abasing ourselves to him. Well, that might be only natural. And yet Soma gave us the whole plains back without even asking for any payment. Moreover, he’s actually ASKING for us to lend him some land. Refusing this without listening to his words is a conduct unworthy of the proud zoan, I believe.”
“Is that something you swear on your honor as Divine Child?”
Due to Garam making sure once more, Shyemul firmly pushes out her chest and places a hand on her left breast.
“Of course. I will bet my life and honor on it.”
Sighs of admiration leak among the zoan due to Shyemul’s imposing figure as she declares that she will wager her own heart.
And in secret Shyemul was relieved that she could make that speech without being hindered by her blessing. If she had caused Souma’s standing to worsen because of her blessing, Shyemul probably wouldn’t even be satisfied with cutting off her own head as apology.
But, Shyemul became slightly irritated due to the expression of Souma, who is smiling brightly without any indication of him having noticed any of it even though she had resolved herself for that much, and thus pinched his buttocks in secret. Shyemul’s discontent got swept away by Souma being startled and darting his eyes about due to this unexpected revenge.
The one who seems at his wits’ end, in contrast to Shyemul, is Garam.
Putting it frankly, it would be easy to deny Shyemul’s opinion here. No matter how great the debt towards Souma might be, he could refuse it as being contrary to the zoan honor.
However, if it doesn’t violate the zoan honor, the rest will be left to Garam’s discretion.
He can understand what Souma is saying, but because it’s obvious that many zoan will oppose it, it’s not something he can consent to without careful consideration.
As Garam is worrying like this, someone unexpected jumped into action to back Souma.
“Great Clan Chief, this is the first request of the new Clan King. There’s no way that we can bluntly refuse, is there?”
It was Bararak who had stayed silent until then.
Completely unable to believe that to be a remark from Bararak, who regarded Souma’s inauguration as Clan King as loathsome to begin with, Garam stares at Bararak with eyes full of distrust.
However, even as Garam looked coldly at him, Bararak continued with a triumphant expression,
“Having said that, I guess us clan chiefs can’t lend clan territory away so easily.”
A zoan clan chief isn’t an absolute ruler like a human king. At most they are the people representing the clan. Even a clan chief isn’t permitted to go against the clan’s consensus.
“But, isn’t there a vacant area that’s just perfect for lending?”
Guessing what Bararak is trying to say, Garam wrinkled up his nose. Due to that, Bararak laughs eerily.
“That’s right. It’s the abandoned land of the Tail Clan.”
In the past, five clans lived in the Solbiant Plains, but among them the Tail Clan is the clan that was damaged foremost when Holmea attacked, causing them to vacate their territory located in the southern part of the plains. The Tail Clan, which had most of its territory stolen, disappeared somewhere afterwards. Even nowadays their whereabouts are unclear.
Clans are zoan with different blood but the same ancestors. Garam planned to not make a move on the former Tail Clan territory so that they could return at any time.
But, it’s a truth that it’s less trouble to lend the vacant land of the Tail Clan rather than cutting down his own clan’s territory for Souma.
Bararak pressed the attack even further.
“The former territory of the Tail Clan is also close to this city. Isn’t that place convenient for the new Clan King?”
Hearing those words, Souma has Shyemul tell him the location of the Tail Clan’s territory. As a result he learns that it’s close to the city, possesses a large village that’s already reclaimed and that it’s a somewhat convenient place for Souma, just as Bararak says.
Being troubled by Souma, who heard all of that, positively looking forward towards borrowing the Tail Clan’s territory, Garam looks at Zurgu, who kept being silent with a difficult expression since a while ago, and asks for his opinion.
“《Mad Claw》, what do you think?”
Zurgu, who was absorbed in his own thoughts, came to his senses after being verbally nudged by Garam.
“…Mmh? —Uh huh.”
After roughly scratching his head, Zurgu asks Souma,
“Hey, Sir Soma. I’d like to confirm a little something…”
“What might it be?”
“You say that you will reclaim the plains and give some of the food won there to us as payment, but how do you plan to distribute it?”
Souma, who merely intended to state that he wants to lend land, hadn’t considered it as far as the distribution. After pondering for a while, he properly proposes on the spot,
“I think that there’s a difference in numbers among the clans, but I believe that it will be fine as long as I equally share it with the four clans.”
“Hmm. Let me check on more thing. To the bitter end it will be payment for lending the land, right?”
He didn’t understand what Zurgu was trying to say, but Souma honestly answers,
“Yes. That’s the plan, but is there a problem?”
“Indeed. I see…”
After saying that, Zurgu sank into silence once again while folding his arms. No sooner than looking troubled for a little while, he suddenly slaps his knee once.
“Alright! I decided.”
“Just what did you decide, 《Mad Claw》?”
After laughing at Garam, who asks while feeling uneasy as he’s obviously going to talk about something outrageous again, Zurgu faces Souma.
“Sir Soma. I have a suggestion—”
Zurgu pitched forward a bit and smiled while baring his fangs.
“I will persuade my clanmates later on, but I’d like to lend you a part of the Claw Clan’s territory for that reclamation or whatsoever.”
By no means has anyone even expected in their wildest dreams that he would talk about cutting down his own clan’s territory. Even Garam, who was cautious about the possibility of Zurgu saying something crazy, was stunned speechless and merely stares at Zurgu in a daze. It goes without saying that it’s the same for everyone else.
Even as the present zoan have become dumbfounded out of surprise, the exchange between Souma and Zurgu continued.
“It will be a big help if I receive some of it, but is that really okay?”
“Of course. —But, since you will lend the land of my clan, it’s fine to expect that all of the payment will be given to my clan, right?”
“Well, that makes sense.”
“Then, we have a deal.”
Garam finally comes to his senses and forcefully interrupts the two who are wrapping up the whole matter smoothly.
“W-Wait a moment!”
Although it was fine to interrupt them, Garam didn’t think of anything he should say, and thus criticized Zurgu at least.
“A-Are you sane, Zurgu!?”
Garam felt shaken to the extent that he even acted impolitely by calling a titled warrior by his name in an official location such as the clan conference. Seemingly happy due to Garam panicking like this, Zurgu puffs up in pride, roughly breathes through his nose and says,
“Aye! I’m the very definition of sane.”
After that he folded his arms and said while repeatedly nodding his head,
“Once I heard Sir Soma’s story, I felt enlightened. I also consider it a good opportunity. How often did I lament after being informed by warriors, on whom I rely, that they are going to hunt when we were about to battle. From now on the battles with humans will intensify. It’s too much of a waste to have valuable warriors drop out for the sake of hunting. Having said that, if we don’t hunt, there won’t be anything to eat. But, if we go with Sir Soma’s suggestion, we will be able to focus on the battles without needing to worry about securing food.”
Garam can understand Zurgu’s point. Even so he feels the necessity to rebut the proposal as it’s difficult to accept as a zoan.
“But, for us zoan the act of hunting is sacred.”
With ceremonies such as the one to become a warrior or the custom to gain permission for marriage, hunting holds connotations that go beyond simple procurement of their daily food for the zoan.
“Of course, I’m well aware of that. But the number of zoan has drastically dropped compared to ancient times. It shouldn’t be necessary for us to possess as wide of a territory as in the past. Therefore, it won’t be any problem even if I entrust some of it to Sir Soma.”
Once he’s told that much, even Garam loses all ability to object.
“Well then 《Mad Claw》, you also approve of lending the Tail Clan’s territory to Soma, right?”
“Yeah! Of course I do, I totally approve it.”
Zurgu replies cheerfully, and yet Garam goes ahead with conveying his own worry.
“For argument’s sake, what do we intend to do in case the Tail Clan returns?”
“I don’t believe that stubborn lot to nonchalantly turn up at this point, telling us to share some of the territory. But, well, it would be best to hold another clan conference at that time. In any case, the right to decide lies with us who recaptured the plains. —Besides, you know, I think that if this goes smoothly, we won’t be needing such vast land anymore. Anyway, won’t we manage somehow even if the Tail Clan comes back?”
Being told so by Zurgu, Garam somehow feels that it’s not that much of a problem.
Realizing his own emotions on this, Garam unintentionally revealed a faint smile.
Before I became aware of it, I have started to trust Zurgu quite a bit, even with how I thought of him in the past. Although I didn’t show it as openly as Zurgu back then, I harbored considerable resentments towards him as warrior who’s said to be my equal from the same generation, but nowadays I’m truly desiring to fight with him at my side.
And not only that, if I recall how I was saved many times by Zurgu, who has moved into action without sparing himself from being stigmatized in exchange for me, who is still caught by the customs and honor of the zoan, this time I even feel like wanting to allow Zurgu to go on a rampage as much as he likes to properly strengthen the zoan’s foundations.
While experiencing his own changes as a strange wile of fate, Garam gazed at Zurgu full of trust.
Zurgu, who noticed Garam’s look, restlessly squirmed around on the spot looking uncomfortable, and said following:
“Don’t look my way with such weird gaze. It’s disgusting. Somehow it makes my asshole itch.”
Garam felt extremely bitter.
That just now surely must have been a delusion. Absolutely. Someday I will settle my fight with this guy.
Garam told himself assertively.
Barak calls out to Garam, who secretly overflows with that determination, in panic,
“W-Wait a moment! I will tell you in advance, but we of the Mane Clan don’t plan to lend our own territory!”
Bararak felt uneasy that even his own clan’s territory will also be in the same way. Even though he recommended lending the Tail Clan’s territory to Souma, he immediately changes his attitude once it comes to his own clan’s territory. As expected, even Garam is fed up with Bararak.
“Yeah. I know.”
After that Garam turned his attention at Shunpa who had held back on giving her opinion so far.
“Lady Shunpa, what might you be thinking?”
Shunpa places a finger on top of the cloth covering her jaw, and then said after pondering for a short while,
“Certainly, I believe for many of our brethren it’s a proposal that’s difficult to accept. But, although it’s not as large-scale this time, it’s also an acknowledged historical fact that humans who were friendly with the zoan built wooden houses in the plains and farmed there. It’s not like it’s entirely intolerable. And, above all—”
At that point Shunpa looks at Shyemul.
“—It has the authorization by the Divine Child’s blessing. As Eye Clan ruling over the rituals we aren’t allowed to take the initiative, but there’s no reason to oppose it either. That’s my honest opinion on this.”
With this the Claw Clan and the Mane Clan gave their their approval while the Eye Clan put it on hold. Now that it’s become like this, there’s no point in only our Fang Clan opposing it either.
Strengthening his resolve like that, Garam announces the conference’s decision.
“The matter of lending the former Tail Clan territory to Clan King Soma has been decided in the name of the clan conference.”
After that various matters such as the new borders of the clan territories and the coming battles were discussed at the clan conference. All of them were important matters they couldn’t neglect in the least, but as they had only discussed the serious matters of Souma’s ascension to Clan Kingship and the reclamation of the plains moments ago, all of them felt like trivial matters, resulting in them being decided on with a surprising smoothness and no objections.
After a clan conference it’s a custom to hold a banquet to forgive and forget quarrels during the conference. But, because Bararak said that he has to return to his clan promptly, it was decided to escort Bararak to the city gate.
After seeing off Bararak, who left the city while once again joined by pompous ranks of warriors, Zurgu left with the words “I will tell my clanmates about the thing with the land before the banquet. Sir Soma, please look forward to good news,” to Souma, and headed to his own clan in high spirits.
“I will also try asking my clanmates whether we can lend some of our territory, but honestly said, I think it will be difficult. Please forgive us for that.”
Garam was also about to leave after saying those final words, but his feet suddenly stopped.
“I’d like you to tell us such important matters in advance, otherwise you will put us in a bad spot.”
After sending a reproachful look at Souma, Garam turned around and started to walk away.
Once Souma, who had been left behind with only Shyemul at his side, realizes “I guess it was my bad?” this late in the game, is even scolded by Shyemul.
“It’s as 《Ferocious Fang》 said. I want you to at least consult with me about such things ahead of time.”
Due to Shyemul especially emphasizing the “with me” part, Souma feels cold sweat running down his back.
“Well I just thought that I might as well mention it when everyone has gathered, as it will be less work, or something like that…”
“Geeze, when it comes to you…”
Even though Soma comes up with surprisingly many tricks once he identifies someone as an enemy, a slightly naive mindset shines through once he considers them a friend. Probably he thought that everyone will understand as long as he properly explains things. If you say that’s very Soma-like, it might be so, but it’s still a bad habit.
“But, look, it looks like I even got Bararak to comprehend at some point of the discussion.”
Due to Souma making such an excuse, Shyemul becomes greatly astonished.
“It appears that you still can’t read zoan expressions, Soma.”
Shyemul forcefully nodded at Souma, who asks her that by parroting her words, and replied,
“Indeed. That was definitely the face of someone scheming something bad.”
Right at the time when Shyemul declared so, Bararak, who had boarded a palanquin by himself located in the middle of the ranks of zoan warriors headed for the plains after leaving Bolnis, chuckled by himself with a “face of someone scheming something bad.”
“Great Clan Chief, Clan King, hah, don’t make me laugh. Besides, I knew that Zurgu is an idiot too, but I didn’t expect it to be that bad. Offering to reclaim the land of his own clan, he says? It’s obvious that he’s got a screw loose.”
At the time when Souma said that he’d like to borrow land for cultivation, even Bararak became exasperated and almost shouted at him.
However, the reason why he didn’t do so was none other than Garam having been extremely discomposed.
Bararak, who had been thoroughly talked down by Zurgu and Garam from the beginning of the conference until that point, schemed to somehow extract his revenge against the two of them. Witnessing Garam getting all shaken up by Souma’s sudden statement, Bararak detected that as opportunity to take advantage of.
“Even if he’s somewhat cunning, in the end he’s just a human. He won’t be able to understand our feelings towards the plains as zoan.”
No matter how many good intentions that human brat might have, for the zoan it’s something difficult to accept. For now they are held in check by Garam and Zurgu, but the dissatisfaction will pile up within the zoan, the more things he does that rub them the wrong way. Even the guys, who are obeying obediently right now, will sooner or later reach the limit of their patience.
Imagining what would happen at that time, Bararak leaked a small laughter happily.
“However, just waiting without doing anything is boring as well.”
He mutters to himself and beckons the Warrior Leader, who was close to his palanquin, over.
“Assemble warriors with especially good noses and send them to me.”
“Acknowledged, clan chief. —But, what do you intend to do after gathering such warriors?”
“I will make a single wind blow.”
Bararak licks his lips with a slurp.
“Right now it’s a glut that was about to vanish. But it’s a glut that will turn into a tremendously large fire with a single breeze. I will stir up that glut by blowing life into it. Interesting, right?”
In front of the Warrior Leader, who’s troubled as he doesn’t understand what Bararak is actually talking about, Bararak laughed once more with his shoulders trembling slightly.