The sound of a wooden stick clashing against flesh reverberated loudly. Because he had been taken by surprise, Souma leaked a small cry of pain, and sat down on the spot.
“You okay, Soma!?”
Shyemul immediately got close to him, and glared at the hoodlum while shielding Souma with her own body.
“You bastard! What’s the idea here, Solon!?”
The one who hit Souma with a wooden stick was Solon. Even while being scowled at by Shyemul, Solon shouldered the stick with an easygoing attitude.
It was at that time, that voices and screams of surprise finally rose up from the surroundings. For the city’s ruler, Souma, to be hit by a hoodlum was a shockingly, serious matter. However, it was the patrolling soldiers who were more shocked than the city’s residents as it was a matter of great consequence to them. Even though he might look like this, Souma was still the most influential person in the city. Him being hit by a hoodlum in front of their eyes was a blunder that might very likely lead to them being beheaded for neglecting their duty. It was only reasonable for all of them to turn pale, so dumbstruck that they couldn’t even raise screams.
The commanding officer of the patrol, who finally came to his senses, shouted as if shrieking, “A-Arrest this guy!”
Solon roared at the soldiers who were about to move in order to seize in accordance with their order, “Stand down!”
It was such a thundering voice that the soldiers reflexively covered their ears.
“It’s written in the military regulations! That it’s a serious crime to groundlessly hurt a citizen! What’s wrong about punishing someone who committed such a crime!”
Marchronis, who had belatedly rushed over after hearing about the disturbance, objected to that, “However, this boy ― no, Lord Soma, is the city’s lord. He’s no one who can be judged by military regulations.”
Marchronis’s way of thinking was proper in this world. In this era those in power were untouchable. Laws were merely means for those authorities to govern their land efficiently. Stories about them being punished because they violated those laws didn’t exist. No, even if one had heard such a story, they would likely sneer at it as impossible.
And even Souma, who had listened to that exchange, wasn’t fully satisfied with being judged by military law. However, that wasn’t owed to him believing that he had a privilege as if being outside the laws. He himself believed that it was only natural for him to be punished if he had done something wrong. But, this was an accident caused by a horse running wild, and nothing done by his own will. He thought that being strictly punished by military law for such an accident left too much room to argue against it.
Souma tried to reply with that, but the moment he saw Solon’s eyes, those words got stuck in his throat. Solon’s eyes were serious to an astonishing degree. They completely lacked a shred of such superficial intentions such as trying to blame him or make him surprised.
Next to Shyemul and Marchronis, who attacked Solon in his stead, Souma intently pondered in silence. Souma, who widened his eyes slightly as if having realized something, restrained Shyemul and Marchronis with his hand, and faced Solon.
“Being hit with a stick in such a situation is nothing I can accept.”
Shyemul and Marchronis nodded as Souma’s words. On the other hand, disappointment and scorn dyed Solon’s face. However, that only lasted until Souma’s next words.
“Judging on the spot should be limited to urgent cases like in war times. ――Come, we will go to the gallows at the plaza next.”
Solon let a voice of admiration slip at the grinning Souma. And while laughing loudly, he slapped his own forehead.
“You got me there. Certainly, I was too impertinent. It is as you say, Lord Soma. It’s something that must be carried out at the gallows.”
“Let’s go then.”
Exchanging such words with smiles, the two started to walk towards the plaza at a light pace. After being taken aback for a short moment by the two who had begun to walk with a cheerfulness as if going out for a stroll while having a light chat over trivial matters, Shyemul and Marchronis chased after them in a hurry.
“Wai-, Wait a moment, Soma! Do you really intend to accept a beating by stick!?” Sheymul asked.
Continuing on that, Marchronis said, “I never heard about a feudal lord receiving a punishment of stick beating. It will damage the lord’s dignity.”
However, no matter what words the two threw at Souma and Solon, Souma rejected them with, “That’s the law established by me,” and next to him, Solon only said, “Right, that’s completely right.”
Souma told the two, who kept imploring him even as they approached the gallows, to wait until they would reach their destination. Shyemul couldn’t agree with it at all, but once she was ordered by Souma, her Navel Master, she had no choice but to abide.
And then Souma stood atop the gallows with Solon. The gallows, which were originally a place to publicly show the execution of criminals, had been built with a tall height so that they could also be seen from the ends of the plaza. Standing there, one could see the entire plaza with an unbroken view. Even under normal circumstances, a fairly big number of people could be seen on the plaza of Bolnis which had a remarkable size. However, the story that Souma would be beaten with a stick as punishment had already spread, and the plaza was jammed with more people than usual, trying to have a look whether that would really take place.
The punishment would be carried out after an announcement official would read the charges first, but the official, who had been called over in a hurry, couldn’t say that the city’s lord was a criminal, and thus didn’t try to read the charges at all, only flapping his mouth open and shut. Solon, who lost his temper at that, kicked the useless official off the gallows, and raised his voice in his stead.
“Not only had this person his horse almost trample an innocent citizen to death, but he also damaged their property. Although this didn’t happen willfully, the crime is heavy and inexcusable. Therefore, this person will be punished with twenty beatings with a stick!”
Once Solon finished reading the proclamation, Souma took off his coat, becoming naked above the waist. And, after biting on a rolled cloth, he laid down on his belly atop the gallows. Next, the executioner, who had been called over in a similar hurry as the announcement official, stood next to Souma while holding a stick.
However, even the executioner flinched back from carrying out his duty. It had been said several times, but Souma was the highest authority of this city. In a world where it was normal to be punished for just bad-mouthing the authorities for lese majeste, beating such a person with a stick was definitely nothing he could do without any hesitation.
“Oh god, you completely lack spine! Lend me the stick! I will do it!”
As the executioner didn’t show any signs that he would hand out the punishment no matter how much time passed, Solon snatched the stick out of the executioner’s hands. And then he went next to Souma, spit into his hands, tightly grasped the stick, and brandished it widely.
A low stir ran across the plaza. And in the next moment, the intense sound of flesh being hit echoed across it.
A soundless scream escaped from Souma’s mouth as he bit onto the cloth. Although Solon had the arms of an elderly man, he still hit him with all his strength using a wooden stick. As for the pain, it was something more extreme than Souma had expected. According to records from China, many of those, who were sentenced to 300 or 500 beatings with a stick, died, unable to endure the punishment. Beating with a stick was a far crueler punishment than one would think.
Screams could also be heard from among the crowd watching this. In a corner of their minds, the people didn’t believe that Souma would be really beaten with a stick as punishment. Even as Solon volunteered to take the executioners place, who had been hesitating, the people thought that it all just followed some plot anyway. They thought that it would finish with some light beating that couldn’t be accounted for more than an excuse by a weak, old man.
However, the sound of flesh being beaten wasn’t anything like that. All of them couldn’t believe their ears, and it was just natural that they ended up overly stupefied out of surprise.
As the people escaped that surprise and understood what was going on in front of them, their faces became dyed by fear. Their feudal lord had been hit with a stick.
Believing that trouble would befall them for spectating this, not to mention Solon who did the beating, the people ran away from the plaza, scattering in all directions like baby spiders. The executioner sank down on the ground, unable to stand out of surprise. The announcement official, who had been kicked off the gallows, had vanished without anyone noticing.
“And here comes the secooond!”
However, Solon mercilessly raised the stick over his head and swung it down on Souma’s back a second time.
Having heard about the circumstances belatedly, Garam came running. For an instant he was dumbfounded to see Solon beat Souma with a stick on the gallows as he had heard before. However, he immediately came to his senses, and looked for Shyemul in a hurry.
He couldn’t believe at all that Shyemul, who respected Souma as her Navel Master to such an extent, would silently watch this. He had to find his sister and restrain her before she did something.
He immediately spotted Shyemul in the vicinity of the gallows. And as soon as he saw her state, Garam knew that his worries had been justified. Shyemul glared at the spectacle on top of the gallows with eyes that fierily blazed with murderous intent, and all her fur standing on end in rage. She was chewing her sharp fangs as if breaking something apart, and bright red blood dripped down from her palms which she hurt by stabbing them with her own claws because of her tightly grasped fists.
She was truly on the verge of exploding.
This is bad.
Perceiving from her appearance that Shyemul was close to the limit of self-control, Garam tried to rush over to his sister. But, he was too late.
At the time when the beating had reached the count of ten, Shyemul finally reached her limit, and roared while bending her throat back widely, “Kill! I will tear you apart from limb to limb!!”
While releasing a terrifying wrath, Shyemul started to run while placing a hand on the machete at her waist.
Garam was struck with terror. Shyemul had completely forgotten herself due to her rage. He knew that he had to stop her right away or Solon would be really torn apart. However, even if he tried to stop her, Shyemul was already about to run up the stairs of the gallows. In a few moments, Shyemul would run up, reaching the top.
It seemed as though he wouldn’t be in time anymore, but Garam still started to run.
Shyemul suddenly fell down. Seemingly stumbling over something as she was trying to run up the stairs, she abruptly tumbled down to the ground. Also for the sake of not letting that unbelievable streak of luck escape, Garam desperately ran, and caught up with Shyemul.
He tried to pin down Shyemul just like that, but at that point Garam noticed the abnormality. He had believed that Shyemul would jump to her feet at once, but she didn’t try to get up and only kept struggling on the ground. In front of Garam she was merely moving her limbs awkwardly as if drowning underwater.
“I will kill you! I will kill you, Solon!!”
Garam wondered what kind of joke she was trying to pull her. However, Shyemul, who was writhing around on the ground, continued to shout with an exasperated glare. It didn’t look like she was messing around at all. Hearing a faint pain in her voice, Garam suddenly realized.
“Calm down, you idiot!” Garam, who held down Shyemul while hanging over her, yelled. “That’s your blessing, isn’t it!? You’re feeling pain on top of being unable to move your body, aren’t you!? Am I right!?”
Garam’s conjecture was correct. The blessing of Shyemul as Divine Daughter of the Beast God didn’t allow any actions sullying her honor to be perpetrated against her, and at the same time it also didn’t allow her to act in any way going against her own honor.
And right now her own blessing stole her body’s freedom, and Shyemul was tormented by an intense pain apparently punishing her for an action defying her honor.
However, no matter how much Garam yelled at her, it didn’t reach Shyemul. She stubbornly continued to only scream Souma’s name full of killing intent towards Solon.
“If your blessing has activated here, you understand as well, don’t you!? That you will spoil the resolve of Soma, your Navel Master, if you interrupt that! That it’s an action contradicting your own honor!”
As he didn’t reach Shyemul no matter what he said, Garam determined that it was unavoidable. He put his thick arm around Shyemul’s neck and pressed hard against her cartoid artery. Shyemul resisted that by stabbing him with her claws, but after a short time, her body lost its strength and she lost her consciousness.
“…You fool.” Garam muttered towards his fainted sister in sorrow.
Just at that moment the 20th beating had just finished atop the gallows. Solon panted wildly, apparently having endured with his old body to swing the stick with his full power, albeit it having been a mere twenty times.
And speaking of Souma, who had received the beating, he was in a far worse state. Several bruises similar to red wales had been etched onto his naked back, and a part of those had already turned dark red due to internal bleeding. Seemingly having already exhausted his stamina and willpower, he didn’t show any signs of trying to stand up, and only suffered from the backache that seemed to burn.
“Hey! Won’t you hurry up and help him get up!?”
Solon urged the executioner, who had been powerlessly sitting on the ground, and made Souma stand up forcibly, exposing his back to the crowd that had still remained on the plaza.
The crowd, which suspected that it might have been some kind of ruse despite Souma having definitely been beaten with a stick, gasped at the sight.
“Look carefully! The military laws have been properly obeyed! Listen, everybody! Those disturbing the laws and military regulations will be subjected to punishment, even if they might be Lord Soma! Keep this in mind!”
This shouting of Solon etched itself into the mind of many people who were on the plaza.