Souma felt as if he had heard the sound of drums from somewhere.
Once he strains his ears, he can clearly identify it as the sound of zoan drums. It had become a frequent occurrence in Bolnis to hear drums, which are used by the zoan in order to communicate with each other. Hence even Souma likely wouldn’t have heeded it any attention if those were the sounds of normal drums.
But the drum sounds reverberating from far away felt different to the communication drums he always hears.
At this point Shyemul, who had left Souma’s side by chance, came running up to him.
“Soma! Do you hear the drum sounds?”
“Yeah. Is it something urgent?”
Shyemul shakes her head at Souma, who was worried about this being an emergency.
“No, it’s something else. Those are no communication drums. —That’s a musical combination extolling the Mane Clan’s distinguished services.”
Shyemul clearly answers with a hard tone,
“Indeed. Manuyn Gujatara Bararak, the clan chief of the Mane Clan, has arrived at last.”
When Souma went together with Shyemul to Bolnis’ gate, the zoan’s important members such as Manuyn Gujatara Banuka, the son of Bararak, in addition to the two great warriors Garam and Zurgu, had already gathered there.
“Bah, that Bararak. To arrive here with an exaggerated procession despite being late; far from demonstrating his clan’s authority and force, he’s accomplishing no more than exposing their disgrace.”
Banuka, hearing Zurgu criticize his father with a bitter tone, clearly felt ashamed.
Noticing that, Garam delivers a light backhand blow against Zurgu’s muscular chest which was covered by an armor.
At that moment a great stir runs through the people gathered around them.
Once they turned their eyes towards the opened city gate, a group of zoan, who marched to the sound of their majestically playing music, was just about to enter.
The person leading that group was a warrior with a brawny physique, who had an earthen color paint applied on the visible parts of his hands and feet and wore a chest piece that was decked out with richly colored furs and bird feathers. That warrior moves his body in harmony with the rhythm. The way he made the feathers attached to his armor shake reminded one of a dancer at a carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Behind him walks the orchestra beating the drums and even further behind there’s a group of warriors lined up in four rows that follows with a matching pace.
No matter which warrior, all of them had decorations on their necks that imitated manes on the collars of their armors, which served as a symbol of the Mane Clan.
“Look. It’s Bararak and Lady Shunpa.”
Being urged on by Shyemul who’s standing next to him, Souma looked towards the middle of the procession and discovered two palanquins shouldered by warriors.
The one riding the palanquin in the rear is a womanly zoan who wore a hood over her head along with a cloth to hide her mouth, clad in a very simple white clothing with a belt cloth coiled around her waist. Somehow I remember her. She’s Wai Zanuka Shunpa, the sister of the Mane Clan’s Head Priestess.
Then the one riding the palanquin at the front is likely Bararak, a zoan with black, erratic patterns and brown fur that had conspicuous jewelry attached to it.
And, although it was the first time for Souma to see Bararak, he felt an unexpected sense of discomfort.
If it’s about the zoan clan chiefs Souma knows, there’s just Garam and Zurgu. Both of them are great warriors boasting a muscular physique. Even Souma, who was a Japanese person unrelated to battle, keenly senses something like amazingness from the two as warriors.
However he couldn’t sense that from Bararak who is a clan chief just like them. Rather, the escorting warriors around him look stronger.
Once he shared his thoughts with Shyemul, she smiled wryly.
“That’s inevitable. Since our Fang Clan and the Claw Clan value battle, our clan chiefs are chosen from among the greatest of our warriors. However, I heard that the Mane Clan decides its clan chief through a discussion among its influential clan members.”
The nearby Banuka nodded slightly, to affirm Shyemul’s reply.
Although all of them are zoan, there are big difference among them, Souma admires. Dodon! A single, loud drum beat echoes.
Upon Souma’s look, the parade of Mane Clan warriors had stopped and Bararak’s and Shunpa’s palanquin were lowered on the ground.
Once Bararak stands in front of Garam and Zurgu, who are spearheading their own clans’ warriors, to greet the two, Souma realizes that Bararak is one head smaller. Seemingly minding that fact himself, Bararak threw out his chest as much as possible, trying to make his body look bigger than it is.
“Fang Clan’s chief, 《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam, Claw Clan’s chief, 《Mad Claw》 Kraga Bigana Zurgu, I’m greatly obliged for you to go out of your way to welcome us.”
Bararak said with an arrogant attitude that clearly contradicted his words. But, far from paying attention to that, Garam welcomes him with a calm manner instead.
“It’s great for you to have visited, Mane Clan’s chief Manuyn Gujatara Bararak, as well as Eye Clan’s chief Lady Wai Zanuka Shunpa.”
Next, Zurgu was supposed to give his greetings, but no matter how long they waited, it didn’t come to pass. When Garam looked sideways while knitting his brows, Zurgu played dumb and looked away. Once Garam reluctantly elbowed Zurgu’s flank, Zurgu – after acting unnaturally as if he had noticed just then – slightly raised his right hand at Bararak and said,
“Yo! You’re late.”
Bararak’s face twitched.
Then Zurgu changes his expression into an awfully humble one, gets close to Shunpa and picks up her hand.
“Thank you for traveling such a long way to visit us, Eye Clan’s chief Lady Wai Zanuka Shunpa. —Now, please hold onto my hand.”
Even though she smiles bitterly at Zurgu as he uses her as an excuse to provoke Bararak, Shunpa, who was unsteady on her feet as she had just gotten off the palanquin she’s not accustomed to, grabs Zurgu’s hand and expresses her gratitude.
“Thank you very much, Claw Clan’s chief, Sir 《Mad Claw》 Kraga Bigana Zurgu as well as Fang Clan’s chief, Sir 《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam. Above all, I’m very happy to see you two in good health.”
Due to her words, Garam, who had a sour expression thanks to Zurgu’s childish behavior, answered by lowering his head slightly.
Shyemul, who’s unqualified to be present in a place where fellow clan chiefs greet each other despite being a divine child, gazes at them from a distance together with Souma. However, her eyes accidentally met with those of Bararak, who was glaring at Zurgu as he grinds his teeth in anger.
Barak changed his expression into a friendly one, and walked up to Shyemul with a large stride.
“Oh my, Lady 《Noble Fang》 Fagul Garguss Shyemul who has been allowed by the great Beast God to be his divine child. It appears that you are close to my son, Banuka. Let me express my gratitude for that on behalf of my son!”
It felt like Barak was talking to the surroundings instead of Shyemul herself, throwing in several grand gestures as if he were acting on a stage.
“Oh Divine Child, you and my son are close in age and also suit each other. By all means I’d like to invite you to the private banquet I’m going to hold very soon. If I can have you honor my son by teaching him a single thing, I will be exceedingly delighted.”
Due to those blunt words of promoting his own son to Shyemul, Banuka himself writhes in shame.
However, Shyemul dismissed him flatly.
“I’m thankful for your kind offer, but right now I’m someone who has accepted a 『Navel Master』. I cannot afford to carelessly leave his side.”
In short, it means that she has no intention to go to a banquet by just herself, even when invited, while leaving Souma, her 『Navel Master』, behind. Due to Shyemul’s harsh response, Bararak is disappointed, but he immediately smoothes it over by smiling.
“I see. —So, where’s that 『Navel Master』 you speak of?”
At the moment she was told that, Shyemul snorts and introduces Souma.
“This is Soma Kisaki, my 『Navel Master』!”
Having his shoulders grabbed by Shyemul and being pushed out in front of Bararak, Souma introduces himself while faltering somewhat.
“Uuumm… I am glad to meet you. My name is Kizaki Souma.”
Bararak looked dumbfounded.
He had already heard that Souma is “a human child with a flaky outward appearance” from his son Banuka. But even so, he has enough caliber that he had been recognized as a Navel Master by Shyemul, the divine child of the great Beast God, and made the warriors representing the plains, Zurgu and Garam, obey him. He thought that he will be a man that makes him sense something similar to a dreadfulness that couldn’t be perceived by the inexperienced Banuka. And yet, now that he sees him, it’s a weak brat that seems to even fall short of the words mentioned by Banuka.
Being far too surprised, feelings of contempt well up within Bararak’s chest.
“I’m the Mane Clan’s chief Manuyn Gujatara Bararak! So you are Kisaki Soma, huh?”
Bararak snorts, apparently treating Souma like a fool. That triggered anger to overflow from Shyemul who was next to Souma, but without noticing that, Bararak said with a haughty attitude,
“I have heard that you’re a human employing quite the cunning strategies. For a human, you are a very admirable fellow to work for the sake of us zoan. Feel free to work yourself to the bones from now on as well.”
With just those words, he turned his back on Souma, as if to say that he has no further interest in Souma.
“《Ferocious Fang》, my warriors and me are exhausted from the long journey. I’d like to take a rest before the conference, if possible.”
“Right. Banuka has put up his tent in the garden of the feudal lord’s residence already. Use that place.”
Hearing Garam’s words, Banuka, who waited nearby, steps up.
“I shall guide you, clan chief. —But, since there’s only one tent, we will have the majority of the warriors camp outside the city.”
“It cannot be helped. But—”
Bararak’s nose twitched.
“—this place smells like shit. If it’s like this, it might be better for me to camp outside the city, too.”
Once Bararak took his leave after having said so over his shoulder, Syhemul burst out in anger with her fur standing on end,
“What’s up with this guy!?”
Not only did he slight Souma, her Navel Master, but Shyemul was unable to clear away her irritation due to Bararak’s speech and conduct that somehow went on her nerves. Once Souma soothed her with a “Calm, calm,” he was scolded by Shyemul with “Don’t treat me like cattle!”
While glancing from the side at the comedy act of the two, Zurgu says,
“Well, I guess that’s only natural.”
Hearing that, Shyemul flares up.
“《Mad Claw》, is that an insult towards Soma!?”
“Don’t get angry, 《Noble Fang》. Did you forget that I have been entrusted with the protection of the Claw Clan?”
Even Shyemul is abruptly at a loss for words due to Zurgu’s comment.
“However, even I would have likely reacted in the same way as Bararak if I hadn’t seen Sir Soma’s abilities from close-by.”
Due to Shyemul still not looking as if she’s going to agree, Zurgu nudged Garam’s shoulder with his elbow and urged him on with a “You tell her as well.”
“《Noble Fang》, what 《Mad Claw》 is saying is also reasonable.”
Due to being glared at by Shyemul the moment those words left his mouth, Garam continued in a composed manner,
“Try to consider it calmly. At the critical moment when it was unclear whether us zoan were to perish as a race, a human child suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Immediately following, not only did we manage to recover the soil of our ancestors, which has been our dearest wish for more than 30 years, but we also took over a human city. If I were told such a story by someone else, I would simply laugh it off.”
However, Shyemul still looks sullen, apparently not satisfied with that explanation. Due to that Garam heaved a single, deep sigh and said the following,
“That means, only these things accomplished by Soma are great exploits unfathomable for an ordinary person.”
“Uh uh. In that case it can’t be helped.”
Shyemul easily cheers up.
Because of that, Garam truly worried, ‘Is it fine for such a simpleton to be the divine child of the Beast God?
However, having to prioritize the quickly approaching clan chief conference for now rather than worrying over his younger sister, Garam bows towards Shunpa and asks for consultation.
“Lady Shunpa, I’d like to take some of your time before the clan chief conference.”
“Be my guest, but what kind of business might you have with me?”
Upon Shunpa’s question, Garam turned his eyes towards Souma.
“I’d like Soma to counsel with you, Lady Shunpa, about what we are going to do from now on.”
Entering the tent to which he had been guided, Bararak sat down on a cushion while stretching out his feet.
“Good grief. The long trip was really exhausting.”
At once Banuka pours hot tea and offers it to Bararak.
“Clan chief, here you go. Please do relax.”
Bararak took a sip of the hot tea and breathed out in relief.
“Good work, Banuka. You performed your task as my representative admirably.”
“No. I haven’t done anything significant.”
Once Banuka shows his thankfulness for the praise of his clan chief, Bararak makes his guards leave with a wave of his hand.
“Don’t be so stiff, Banuka. Let’s talk privately as parent and child.”
Once it was only him and Banuka left, Bararak smiled broadly.
“I have heard stories about your great accomplishments. As expected of my son. I heard that you played an important role by leading the warriors in the battle against the humans.”
“No, we only ran around with brushwood attached to our waists. The ones who crossed blades with the enemy were mostly the warriors of the Fang Clan and the Claw Clan.”
Banuka intended to simply state the truth, but Bararak understood that as modesty.
“Fuhahaha! It’s sarcasm if you overdo it with the modesty. Doesn’t that actually mean that you had a task that wasn’t any less important than swinging a blade around?”
Even Garam and Zurgu told him the same thing as Bararak did just now.
However, even though he felt that his honor was saved when he was told so by Garam and Zurgu, the same word coming out from the mouth of a clan chief, who was unwilling to send reinforcements, were nothing more than disgraceful.
“The smaller the wounds from killing cattle, the better.”
What Bararak mentioned is a zoan proverb, meaning that it’s better to keep the wasted effort low.
“It looks like you are gradually getting it as well, Banuka.”
Even when his father was previously slandered as being indecisive and opportunistic by members of other clans, Banuka didn’t cease to believe in the words of his father, who bragged “Simply being captivated by the trivial matters in front of their eyes, they are wild boars that fail to see the whole picture.” But now, he wasn’t swayed by those words any longer.
I have heard that even Soma, whom my father despises as weak human youngster, cut through the vanguard following that Jahangil in the battle against Holmea. That’s why many of the warriors, who participated in that battle, have been admiring his heroic actions, especially since he’s a weak human boy who’s no warrior, no—because he’s no warrior.
But, compared to that, his father Bararak talks a big game, but doesn’t actually follow up.
Because of that he has even heard rumors that the Mane Clan is being criticized behind their backs by the other clans for not having fought.
Due to that many warriors of the Mane Clan feel frustrated, as they fought against the large army of Holmea as well.
However, they had no other choice but to patiently endure. Even if they objected, it would end with them being told:
“Where was the clan chief of the Mane Clan at the time of that battle?”
Once they are told this, the warriors of the Mane Clan can’t retort.
The clan chief is the representative of any clan. Since that representative stayed away from the battlefield and even failed to send reinforcements, it’s unavoidable for such criticism to pop up. All the more since the the Fang Clan’s chief Garam and the Claw Clan’s chief Zurgu stood at the vanguard of the zoan warriors and achieved brilliant deeds of arms.
Even Banuka, who’s estranged from the inner workings of people, sensed the growing dissatisfaction of the warriors that had no outlet.
“Clan chief, I’d like you to address the warriors, who fought hard in the previous battle, with some words.”
Banuka thought that the clan chief himself should give the discontent warriors some words of thanks, but that’s lightly dealt with by Bararak.
“Oh? Yeah. —Right now I’d like to focus in order to prepare for the clan chief conference, so let’s do that later.”
On the spur of the moment Banuka was about to oppose him with “At least a few words,” but even if Bararak is his father, he’s still the clan chief. A fledgling like him objecting the decision of the clan chief is unforgivable.
“Then, later on by all means…”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”
Even so Banuka emphasized it, but Bararak’s focus had already shifted towards the clan chief conference that will be held from now on and Banuka couldn’t get him to even pay proper attention to his own matter.
Banuka goes outside, leaving Bararak, who said that he wants to gather his thoughts before the conference, and heaves a sigh.
“…Don’t hesitate, Banuka. Father is definitely giving matters a proper consideration, too.”
However, the murmur of Banuka was clearly filled with grief.