Everyone present on the square couldn’t believe their own ears. This was the departure ceremony before the crucial battle to finally settle their dispute with Holmea once and for all. And yet, the one, who would lead them all into that battle, denied fighting in itself. Naturally, everyone couldn’t hide their confusion at Souma’s completely unexpected, no, unimaginable statement.
At first they doubted their own ears, and looked around them to see the reactions of the others to judge whether they misheard. Yet, it was logical for some still being unable to believe it even after confirming that others had heard the same.
But, Souma continued his speech to all these confused people.
“I hate battle,” he repeated, and thus made it clear to those, who didn’t trust their own ears, that they had heard him correctly.
And with that conviction came even further confusion. But, Souma ignored their confusion, and said something even more surprising, “That’s because I’m a coward. Yes, indeed. I’m a coward.”
Right after stating that he hated battle, he now humiliated himself by referring to himself as a coward. The ones present on this square were men of valor and courage who would put their lives on the line from now on. Evaluating himself as a coward in front of warriors, who boasted about drawing joy out of battle and glorified death on the battlefield, was absurd.
While everyone was looking at him full of distrust and suspicion, Souma continued to speak dispassionately, “By people merely glaring at me with a scary face, I end up feeling like I might have wronged them in some way. If people shout at me, my body starts to tremble and my stomach churns. I also hate being confronted with sad faces. It makes me feel like running away, and I even become sad myself. It’s also hard on me to watch people who are suffering from injuries. It harshly reminds me that I can’t do anything but quiver out of helplessness as I don’t have the power to help them although I’d love to do nothing other than that.”
Souma hoisted his right arm high up into the air so that it could be seen by everyone.
“Besides, I’m weak. ――Look at this arm. It’s slender and frail. It’s not an arm that could bear a sword or spear. Far from slaying the enemy, it’d actually end up throwing a sword towards my allies by mistake.”
Next Souma pointed at his own body.
“Look at my body. It’s a delicate body without the slightest hint of muscles. Even if I were to fight, I’d immediately get defeated. No, even worse, I’d obviously run out of steam and become unable to move while panting hard from just wearing heavy armor.”
After surveying the faces of those listening to his words with dumbfounded expressions, Souma clearly declared, “That’s why I hate battle.”
As Souma talked, the color in the eyes of his listeners changed.
Into one of scruples, asking themselves whether it was a good idea to obey a guy who said such things and whether it’d be alright to follow a man like him.
Into one of scorn, asking themselves whether such a guy wasn’t inferior to them and whether they had to follow a weakling like him.
Unfazed by the change in their stares, Souma kept going, “But, your hands can do things that are a lot more amazing than fighting or holding a sword. For example, they can create incredible things. ――One of them is the horn carvings of the zoan. Their delicate, elaborate designs are so astounding that you would never believe that they had been created by zoan hands with their sharp claws.”
The zoan warriors showed a faint reaction to those words. Horn carvings were zoan handiworks where they would polish the horns of cows and meticulously carve designs into them or create wondrous sculptures out of them.
“The same applies to elven woodwork. Those aren’t simple wood carvings. No, it wouldn’t be an underestimation to say that each and every work is a masterpiece that incorporates the individual twists, bends and curls of the tree used for the work.”
The elven women proudly moved their ears at that.
“When it comes to glass vessels, anything below admiration would be unwarranted at this point. Creating such beautiful, glittering glass items out of mere sand is just like casting magic.”
The dwarves stroked their own beards with faces full of pride, acting like this was only natural.
“The maps of this city are being used by many people. And these maps are the product of the harpyian’s cooperation as they turned their wings into hands. No, you might as well say that the harpyians actually made those maps.”
The harpyians boastfully flapped their wings.
“If not for the superhuman strength of the dinosaurians, it’d have been impossible to carry the big stones which are used as foundation for the buildings and architectural structures all over the city. It wouldn’t be weird to claim that all the buildings in this city were built thanks to their strength.”
Back then, the dinosaurians bickered about why they had to lend a hand in construction work, but now they were throwing out their chests in pride.
“The wheat fields sprawling across the plains have been cultivated by human hands. The golden, shiny wheat ears swaying in the wind when the time of harvest draws near is a sight for sore eyes. The same applies to this city. It’s no exaggeration to say that this city has only become so big that it can’t even be compared to five years ago, because many humans pooled their effort and passion into it.”
The residents of the city, who had gathered as an audience, nodded deeply at that.
“And your hands aren’t just used for creating things either. They’re also capable of touching others. They allow you to form connections with others.
For example, you can use your hands to clasp the hand of a friend. Your hand will transmit your friend’s heat and grip strength, allowing you to share their pain and joy. And being able to feel those emotions is a great pleasure, right?
For example, you can use your hands to hug someone dear to you. They allow you to feel the warmth of your loved ones. And I’m sure that sensing their heartbeat is nothing but bliss, correct?
For example, you can use your hands to lift up your own child. As of yet, they might be small, unreliable lives, but eventually they will grow into being your equal and maybe even surpass you some day. And feeling the weight of those irreplaceable, cherished lives, which link our wills and lives with the distant future, must be the height of happiness and joy.”
After making a pause as if to allow his own words to sink in properly, Souma continued with a gentle tone, “That’s why I don’t want to fight.”
He repeated the same words while lowering his voice in comparison to before, “That’s why…I don’t want to fight.”
He softened his voice even further, almost murmuring, “Something like battles is nothing I want to do.”
As if being drawn in by Souma’s gradually weakening voice, the plaza fell deadly silent.
This is the worst, Garam thought amidst the depressing quietness. The one telling us to fight while leading the whole army denied fighting.
If he had prattled some lip service along the lines of life being precious, Garam could have rejected it as naive, idealistic thinking. He could have ridiculed it as the whining of a weakling. He could have scorned it as the nonsense of a coward.
But, what Souma had fielded here was very plain, commonplace happiness. Anyone could relate to it. Everyone had experienced it. And for this reason it was very natural, ordinary happiness.
No matter how daring and courageous a warrior might be, all of them knew the joy of drinking wine together with their friends. None of them could deny the bliss of spending time with their loved ones. And something like being able to reject the preciousness of one’s own child would be beyond preposterous.
Because all of these things were extremely ordinary, anyone could sympathize and anyone could agree. And no one could deny them.
But, Garam believed that it’d be impossible to raise the morale of the warriors with such words. Rather, you could as well say that the morale had hit rock bottom. He felt that he had to stop Souma at any cost, even if he had to drag him down from his pedestal.
Making up his mind like that, Garam tried to step forward.
But, his legs didn’t budge because he had spotted Shyemul who was standing next to Souma’s pedestal. No surprise or anxiety could be seen on her face. Instead, a bitter smile twisted her lips. Moreover, it wasn’t a bitter smile of denial, but one of clear support. It was the smile of someone who didn’t doubt that her own “Navel Master” had started something interesting once again.
“Hey, Garam! What are we gonna do about this?”
At that moment, Zurgu whispered to Garam so that their surroundings wouldn’t hear it, apparently harboring the same worries as Garam.
“Calm down, 《Mad Claw》.”
Garam had accepted his lot in fate.
“What’s the point in you, who are known for being an oddball amongst zoan, to become so restless?”
Once he was mocked like this with a provocative smile, Zurgu couldn’t respond. He resolved himself that he had no choice but to weather through this now that it had come to this, and just as he folded his arms like Garam and looked back towards the pedestal, Souma spoke up once more.
“Yet, there are times when you must fight despite all that.”
Souma’s voice echoed awfully serenely across the silent plaza despite him not having raised it at all.
“There are times when you must fight!” He said while strengthening his tone somewhat.
“There are times when you ought to fight!” And while raising his voice towards the end, he faced everyone, declaring, “I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to hurt anyone. And saying all that, I wouldn’t mind being killed myself. After all, I’d be able to die while knowing that I stuck to my own beliefs. And, if that would end all fighting, I’d gladly welcome death while brimming with pride.”
As if shaking off the words he had said just moments ago, Souma swung his arm widely to the side.
“But! It’s not as if the battles would be over with my death! I’m sure the enemy, who would have killed me, would steal everything we built at great pains. People, who don’t even understand the passion of those having built those things, would stain our creations with their bloody, dirty hands! They’d burn down the houses we built to prevent our loved ones from freezing without sparing a single thought for the feelings we put into it!
I’m certain those vile folks would attack our friends. They’d stab and slash our great friends who drank wine with us until just yesterday while smiling, our close friends with whom we shared our dreams, and our dear friends who helped us whenever we needed their help, with their swords and spears which would still have my blood clinging to their blades!
I’m certain, those vile beasts would assault our loved ones. Be it a wife in front of her husband, a daughter in front of her father, a mother in front of her child, a little sister in front of her big brother, or a lover in front of her boyfriend; those beasts would attack, steal, and rape your loved ones while wearing the skin of humans!
I’m certain, they’d enslave our children who ought to carry our dreams. They’d beat and shout at them, trample their freedom and dignity, put abominable collars around their necks and bind their limbs with shackles, throw them into terrifying, caged wagons, and carry them off to some unknown place. And over there our children would be killed like worms after being humiliated to an unbearable degree, being tortured and insulted to no end, just to keep suffering, suffering, and suffering!”
Everyone was lost for words upon hearing Souma’s speech.
For the zoan, this was the very same environment they had experienced merely five years ago. It was still fresh in their minds how they spent every day in worry and fear, wondering when their friends, family and themselves might be hunted down by humans and killed like filthy animals.
For the races other than the many humans in this place, this was something they had experienced with their very own bodies.
Many of them had been beaten, humiliated, shackled down with handcuffs and collars as slaves, and brought to this land. Even though the wounds caused by the shackles and the traces of the whip lashes had healed up by now, the brands imprinted onto their bodies, and above all, the scars blemishing their hearts were still as present as ever.
Also, this wasn’t someone else’s problem for the residents of this city either. In a world, where local warlords vied for power and constantly fought each other, it was very normal for a city that got invaded by an enemy nation to be looted. And a certain kind of resignation had nested in the hearts of those people who remembered such atrocities.
Because it’s a world like this, it’s a natural occurrence. I can’t defy the strong. The weak have no choice but to give up.
But, Souma denied those notions.
“It’s something we must not allow,” Souma stated clearly, and added with a resolute voice, “Those things are unforgivable.”
“As if we’d ever permit anything like that!” Souma roared in anger. “I’m a weak and cowardly man. But, not discarding your beliefs to the extent of overlooking the theft and humiliation of your loved ones, friends, family, and the things dear to you isn’t cowardice! It’s servility! It’s the choice of a dastard who runs away while using his own beliefs as an excuse! I’m cowardly, but I’m not servile! I’m weak, but I don’t want to become a boot-licker!”
At that point, Souma took a deep breath, and threw a question at the crowd with a booming voice, “So, what should we do then!?”
Everyone immediately tried to search for the answer to that sudden question. And before they could reach the answer, Souma shouted, slapping the answer at them with a powerful voice as if to wedge a linchpin into the tiny opening in their thinking, “We have no choice but to fight!”
Those, who were puzzled as they sought for an answer, reflexively extended a hand towards the answer that seemed to be like a life-line. But, even if it was a fishing line with a hook to angle for people, and not some life-line, they couldn’t help but to grasp for it with their own hands.
Those who had looked down on Souma for calling himself a coward, and those who had scorned Souma for calling himself weak, were compelled to think that they had to fight as well, if someone like Souma said that he had no choice but to fight. No, they were led into believing for it to be so.
Fervent emotions welled up like seething bubbles from the depths of everyone’s hearts. Those emotions turned into fighting spirit. The rage against irrational violence and hatred against atrocious aggressors transformed into a passionate fighting spirit which then overflowed from everyone’s heart.
But, it was still too early to allow these emotions to explode. They had to be restrained and suppressed for a while longer.
Souma told the fervent mob about their current situation in brutal honesty, “But, the enemy is far too powerful to fight. Holmea, which has come to defeat us, is a mighty country that’s even hailed as a major powerhouse of the West. And that mighty nation has sent its most powerful unit, the 『Black Wall』, our way.”
A stir occurred among the audience. In the past, this city used to be part of Holmea. And the local residents had heard more than once about Holmea’s strongest army corps and its mightiness.
Moreover, groans of bitterness wound their way out of the zoan’s mouths as well. After all, that very army corps had defeated their ancestors more than thirty years ago, overrun their land, and stolen the plains from the zoan. In other words, they were the zoan’s fated enemy.
“In contrast to that, we’re no more than a small power, owning naught but a single city in the backlands. We’re inferior in every aspect, be it the sphere of influence, the population, the stored provisions, and the produced riches.
And that’s not all either! Even though the enemy heading our way amounts to 20,000, we only muster less than 7,000! That’s not even half the enemy numbers! If you told anyone that we’re going to take down the enemy under these circumstances, they’d laugh at you for being a crazy lunatic. You’d be spurned as someone telling wild lies. You’d be ridiculed and insulted as a fool who has no idea of how this world works.”
Souma thrust one harsh reality after the other at them. And yet, none of those facts caused their fighting spirit to wane. The rage against irrational violence, and the hatred against the atrocious aggressors, which had already been incited by Souma, wouldn’t fade anymore, even if they might wax and wane.
Without knowing how they should handle those surging emotions and what they should do, the people were simply lost. And Souma used their confusion to give their emotions a direction.
“However, I want you to remember. Who would have believed it if you told them that a single human kid, who suddenly arrived in the plains without knowing left from right, would be able to gain the trust of the zoan? Who might have listened if you had told them that this boy and the zoan would capture a fortress and city infested by those fearsome Holmean soldiers? Who wouldn’t have laughed if you told them that they’d be able to repel a large army led by General Darius, the one hailed as Holmea’s strongest general? Who might have not called you a dreamer if you told them that this city, which was no more than a provincial city in the backlands, would experience such drastic growth?”
What Souma brought up next were the things he had accomplished after falling into this world. He didn’t need to add any exaggerations as he listed all those events. It was fine for him to simply recount his own achievements. That in itself already became a bragging over his many exploits. The many facts, which could be rightfully called great deeds by just being listed indifferently without the need to add anything to them, turned into heavy blows as they reached everyone’s ears.
“Even if you had told any of this to someone five years ago, they’d have likely shrugged it off as pipe dreams. They’d have doubted your sanity while describing all of it as impossible. Yet, I accomplished all of that. Someone like me was able to pull off all of this!”
Loud cheers rose from among the audience. Their voices were filled with hope. No matter how fearsome their enemy, and no matter how mighty the country they’d take on, they wouldn’t lose if this man was at their side. Their hope that they’d be able to win as long as this man with them swelled.
The emotions they had suppressed tried to surge into the direction they ought to after gaining a proper channel.
“But, it’s not an enemy I can defeat by myself!”
Yet, Souma rejected their hope. After all, he’d be troubled if they simply relied on him.
“A battle is nothing that can be won by one person. Besides, I’m weak and cowardly. It’s impossible for me to obtain victory by myself. So, what should be done instead?”
Souma knew. If he put it like that, someone would definitely give him the answer he sought. If he said it like this, she’d definitely provide the answer he desired.
And she didn’t betray his expectations.
“That’s obvious!” The one raising her voice was Shyemul. “We just need to become Soma’s sword and fight, and we just need to become Soma’s shield and protect!”
She was the divine daughter of the Beast God. And every zoan knew what blessing she had been granted. The words coming out of her mouth were equal to an oracle for the zoan. No zoan would speak against her. And no warrior wouldn’t feel their blood seething from her words.
“Right! We just have to fight while following Clan King Soma!”
“Damn straight! We’ll fight together with our Clan King!”
“We’ll become the blade of our Clan King!”
One zoan warrior after the other raised his voice in approval. And their passion and zeal was passed on to the other races as well.
“We’ll also fight in accordance with Lord Soma’s orders!”
“My bow and arrows exist for the sake of Lord Soma!”
“Waging these scales of mine, I shall accompany him with all my might!”
“We’ll also pick up our swords and fight!”
For a while, Souma allowed himself to bask in the voices of the various races offering their blade to him. But eventually, he slowly but steadily raised his right, open hand in the air as if showing off his palm, and while sensing how the stares of everyone on the plaza congregated on his hand, Souma formed a fist with it as if tightly grabbing something.
Thereupon, all those who had been raising their voices until then, immediately fell silent.
Souma had merely clenched his hand. Yet, that action alone made the people feel an impact as if their hearts had been clasped.
After confirming that everyone had stopped talking, Souma spoke up once more, “Even the battles five years ago and the development in these last five years were nothing I accomplished myself. They weren’t based on my power alone.
Indeed! We all pooled our strength, made the impossible possible, and thus turned pipe dreams into reality! Nothing of this happened thanks to my power alone! All of it was grounded on our combined strength!”
They revered the great exploits accomplished by Souma. Yet, those exploits weren’t achieved by Souma alone, but everyone present was a part necessary to realize those exploits. They all were a part of the force that made the impossible possible.
Hearing this, their worship of Souma turned into pride towards themselves and a feeling of omnipotence. The people believed that they would be able to accomplish anything as long as they obeyed the man in front of them. That they didn’t need to fear anything as long as the man in front of them was on their side. That they just needed to stay with this man.
“And right now is the time that I’ll fulfill the promise I gave you five years ago. After winning in the battle against Holmea――,” at that point Souma deliberately inserted a pause so as to fan their expectations, “――I’ll create a country!”
Those words transformed into a fierce explosion, blowing away the minds of those hearing them.
“Yes, you heard me correctly! I――we’ll create our own country. Our country where people won’t be discriminated just because they’re dinosaurians, marmen, dwarves, elves, zoan, harpyians, or humans. Our country where everyone will be able to live freely. Our country where everyone will be able to live equally. Our country where everyone will be able to live happily! OUR COUNTRY!”
The zoan felt how the fur across their whole bodies bristled. The dwarves sighed breaths hotter than after chugging down strong liquor. The dinosaurians bared their sharp fangs. The elves made their ears stand on end. The harpyians wildly flapped their wings. And even the humans poured strength into their clenched fists.
The men and women lining up in front of Souma were about to thrust their fists in the air while yelling out the furious emotions pushing out of their chests.
But, a split second before they could do so, cheers exploded.
Those cheers originated from the residents of this city. The ones who got moved by Souma humiliating himself as cowardly and weak the most weren’t the soldiers or warriors, but the humans of this city who had always been exploited, dispossessed, and harmed because of their position of weakness.
Souma had said he was a weak person just like them, and yet he chose to fight. All for the sake of protecting everyone and building a country for them. That wasn’t an ideal pushed on them as their rulers had done until now. No, it was a notion that had truly sprouted within themselves.
And then the zoan, dwarves, dinosaurians, elves, and harpyians also shouted while being swallowed up by the loud and fanatic cheers of the people of this city.
Souma made his decision in front of these ovations which were so loud that it seemed as if they shook heaven and earth.
If it’s for the sake of encouraging everyone who’s believing in me like this – putting aside whether they might have been tricked by my cajolery or not – I’ll use everything in my power. Even if it might be the name of that being I abhor.
While being flooded with everyone’s passionate cheering, Souma added some more inspiring words to make doubly sure, “I’m the Divine Son of Aura, the Goddess of Death and Destruction! I shall bring death to those wronging us! I shall bring destruction to those opposing us! And, I shall bring victory to everyone who follows and believes in me!”
And then Souma raised both his arms into the air, “I’m the 『Divine Son of Destruction』! The 『Divine son of Destruction』 Kizaki Souma!”
The frantic people fanatically chorused Souma’s name.
“”Soma! Soma! Soma!””
Everyone present repeated his name while shouting themselves hoarse. And while being bathed into those explosive acclamations of seething passions, only Souma’s heart grew cold, freezingly cold, as he spat at himself in his mind, What a phony swindler you are.
「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki was the first dictator of Seldeas. The one claiming so was Martin S. Ackerson, the leading researcher of the Divine Son of Destruction.
Back in the time of the Divine Son of Destruction, it was commonplace in most of the countries on Seldeas to believe in the divine providence of kingship. In other words, people were convinced that a king was granted their authority by the gods, and thus the rule of a king couldn’t be questioned by anyone other than the gods, which also included the clergy – not to mention the common people. Of course, it was also regarded as blasphemous to rebel against a king’s rule.
But, 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki, who was initially followed by the persecuted zoan and other races who used to be slaves, had to guarantee equality and freedom to all people and an abolishment of racial discrimination at the beginning of his fascistic regime in order to gain their loyalty. As this also meant a denial of the rule through divine providence and royal bloodlines as it was common practice in other countries, it not only created many enemies, but, as sarcastic as it might seem, also forced Soma Kisaki to establish a new legitimacy for his reign, replacing lineage and divine providence as foundation.
And the one 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki chose among the many possible options was support by the common masses. It hasn’t been passed on to later generations what 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki said during the departure ceremony at the dawn of the war against Holmea. Because of the chaos caused by the following battles against Holmea and the book burning during the Great Reformation afterwards, many of the records, which might have become precious historic documents telling us what happened at that time, were lost for eternity.
But, it seems doubtlessly proven that the speech of 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki during the departure ceremony was received with a frightening fanaticism by the populace.
In the Records of Hearsay and the History of the West, both having escaped the book burning and thus remaining as historic documents to this day, I’ve spotted text passages, claiming things like 「The 『Divine Son of Destruction』 Soma Kisaki brainwashed the people through black magic」 or 「He made the people swear their eternal allegiance to him by feeding them shady drugs」.
In reality, it’s doubtful that 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki applied such methods. Rather, these passages should be interpreted as hints towards 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki having gained the people’s fanatic support in such an ingenious way that the authors couldn’t fathom it in any other way.
Moreover, following passage is written in the diary of the leader of a wandering troupe who stayed at Bolnis during the speech:
“Gut-wrenching lines, a unique way of inserting pauses, exaggerated gestures, and a technique of edging his own message into the hearts of the people by repeating the same words over and over again. I felt like I was watching an act of a calculative play.”
Going by this comment, it sounds like 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki put more emphasis on gathering the support of the masses than simply addressing the soldiers led by him. Moreover, I guess the populace supported 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki while celebrating him, just as he had plotted.
In short, 「Divine Son of Destruction」 Soma Kisaki wasn’t a tyrant who ruled his country through fear and violence by using the races other than humans to enforce his authority, like it has been the prevalent opinion until now, but he was a dictator who obtained his despotic authority through the endorsement by the majority of his people.
And that’s probably the very reason why he was able to continue waging war with the whole world as his enemy.