Several days after the fall of the fortress; Company Commander Aide Marchronis, hands bound behind his back by rope, was brought into what was formerly his own room.
He thought that he would be meeting the black-furred zoan who had defeated him in combat but was greeted by a human child and female zoan instead.
Going by the situation, either of these two summoned me, I guess.
While thinking that, Marchronis observed the two and was surprised. The female zoan was overly cautious, watching every move that he made.
No matter how you look at it, this is no attitude to listen to someone after having called them. In that case it’s the human child that has called for me.
He had already heard in the report from Setius that a human child was leading the zoan, but after having actually witnessed it, he cannot help but wonder whether such a thing is even possible.
“I’m sorry for having called for you. I’m called Souma. The one next to me is Shyemul of the Fang Clan.”
It’s a meek attitude hardly fitting for the commander of an occupying army who summoned a prisoner. After staring at Souma’s face for a short while, Marchronis said
“I’m Marchronis. My rank is Company Commander Aide.”
The mysterious seal wasn’t visible because a headband was coiled around the forehead, but he remembered that face.
“So it was you after all, huh…?” (Marchronis)
There’s no doubt that he’s the mysterious divine child that Setius brought along to the fortress.
“You know of me?” (Souma)
“You probably don’t remember, but I was present when you were brought into this fortress.” (Marchronis)
“Was brought in… from where?” (Souma)
Marchronis thought that Souma had asked something very odd.
I wonder whether he’s saying that he doesn’t know the place he was found?
“For the details, I’d tell you to ask my subordinate who brought you in. If he isn’t dead, that is.” (Marchronis)
Once he said that sarcastically, Souma showed a behavior as if he was slightly hesitating.
“… No, he’s currently doing fine.” (Souma)
Turning to the zoan who brought Marchronis to the room and was even now holding the end of the robe binding him, Souma said,
“Can I have you unfasten his rope since I’d like to speak with him?” (Souma)
“Is that fine?”, he asked Souma while looking questioningly at Shyemul.
“Yeah. He doesn’t look like someone who will worsen the situation of his subordinates by acting imprudently. Besides, Shyemul is here as well.” (Souma)
“It’s not something that will impress me overly much.” (Marchronis)
While saying that with his mouth, he softly moves his lips in order to endure breaking into a smile due to Souma’s words that show his trust in him.
“Thanks. It became more comfortable.” (Marchronis)
After Shyemul personally removed the rope, Marchronis rotated his arms to loosen his shoulders which had become stiff while his arms were bound. He notices Souma looking strangely at him.
“Is something wrong?” (Marchronis)
“It’s just that I didn’t expect you to thank her.” (Souma)
After turning his look towards Shyemul for a moment, Marchronis comprehended with an 「Oh!」.
“Did you consider it odd for me to deal normally with a zoan?” (Marchronis)
“Yes. The humans I’ve seen until now have treated the zoan as beasts.” (Souma)
“That’s not unnatural either. In the army the soldiers are taught that the zoan are lowly beasts. Putting aside if it’s one individual soldier, for some reason, when in groups the soldiers will compete in acts of brutality against the zoan. I dare say that the ones you’ve seen have likely been such soldiers.” (Marchronis)
“In that case, what about you?” (Souma)
“I originally drifted here as mercenary. In the mercenary band I was born and raised in, demi-human species such as dwarves and dinosaurians— ah, excuse me.” (Marchronis)
Marchronis corrected himself because it’s a discriminatory term to call the races besides the humans as 「Demi-human species」.
“There were mercenaries from other races present as well. In my childhood I received a fist from a dwarven baker for stealing bread and I had a dinosaurian soldier with a nicely taciturn disposition give me a shoulder ride. At that time, I still hadn’t heard of the Holy Faith and I interacted normally with everyone.” (Marchronis)
“What gave you the idea that zoan are lowly beasts then?” (Souma)
Marchronis wondered about the quite strange things he was being asked. Most humans won’t question it like that due to the army’s drills and the country’s policies. That’s because the king, who decides the country’s policies, is the one who governs the people as a representative of god, and it’s expected for the king to be entrusted with the soldiers in the army. The populace recognizes it as very normal, something similar to a natural providence established by god.
However, Marchronis, who wandered through various countries as a mercenary and changed the masters he served many times, knows that it’s something ultimately imposed by the ruler’s logic.
“That’s because it’s more convenient that way.” (Marchronis)
For an elderly person spreading his teaching to promising youths is one of their enjoyments. Marchronis is no exception to that either. He wanted to try teaching his view to this unusual boy.
“The humans multiplied. Their numbers will likely continue to increase. If their numbers grow, the mouths to feed will increase in accordance, as well. Thus, it is necessary to increase the number of fields where they can grow wheat and potatoes, so that everyone won’t starve. Land is necessary for that.” (Marchronis)
“I know that. The zoan were driven away for the sake of obtaining the plains.” (Souma)
“It is as you say.” (Marchronis)
He said in the tone of a teacher praising an excellent student.
“Humans are mysterious beings. Even though they do savage acts, they love words such as legitimate and justice for some reason. Although they just want to steal land to grow something to eat, they teach that it’s justice to chase away the zoan from the plains. For this, they use the reasoning of the zoan being an inferior race that should be destroyed. That method allows the soldiers to go for it with no qualms. That’s the policy of the army.” (Marchronis)
“Even though you don’t believe in that, you mean?” (Souma)
“Indeed. Even if I myself went against the policies of the army, what do you suppose would happen? I would get dismissed and someone else would simply do the same thing instead of me.” (Marchronis)
He said while smiling bitterly as if to say that this is the reality.
“There are many new recruits who feel reluctance towards stealing lives, even that of other races. But, if a person hesitates for an instant in a war, it will result in them getting killed. That’s why they are taught that it’s fine to kill other races, or rather than that, that they are existences that should be killed. So that they won’t hesitate when push comes to shove.” (Marchronis)
Marchronis shifted his attention towards Shyemul.
“It might be an unpleasant thing to hear for you guys, but the safety of my subordinates is more important to me than that of unfamiliar zoan.” (Marchronis)
“It’s a really unpleasant story.” (Shyemul)
Shyemul said with disgust. Due to Shyemul’s frank manner of speech, Marchronis lets his head hang slightly and looks with upturned eyes.
“I don’t have any words to retaliate with. Compared to us, the zoan not only took care of their prisoners, but even went as far as healing their injuries.” (Marchronis)
“Of course! We zoan are proud warriors!” (Shyemul)
As Shyemul boasted while throwing out her chest, Souma had a faint smile.
With Marchronis flattering the zoan by humiliating himself, he won their promise to guarantee the safety of the soldiers who became their prisoners.
Although Souma feels wary towards his shrewdness, he feels at the same time an amiability with Marchronis making Souma unable to hate him in some respects. It might be because he has been using his astuteness to secure the safety of his subordinates.
“Don’t worry. To begin with we have no intention to do anything to the prisoners. It will be fine to even carry on the treatment of the wounded soldiers as you did until now.” (Souma)
Guessing his intention, Souma firmly promised the safety of his subordinates. After widening his eyes slightly, Marchronis straightened himself and bowed his head very deeply.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your consideration.” (Marchronis)
“However, to prevent any rebellion, I plan to restrict their area of activity and the number of people they will act together with. They will also be monitored.” (Souma)
“That’s a reasonable forethought. — So, is it alright for me to tell everyone about this?” (Marchronis)
He’s a cunning person after all, Souma thought, I have already told the zoan not to harm the prisoners, but for the prisoners to trust in that it’s probably the best to have them hear it from their own superior officer. It’s just to make double sure since, in the current situation, it will result in a disaster if the prisoners cause a revolt.
“Yes. It would help if you could do just that.” (Souma)
“Don’t mention it. It’s for the sake of both of us.” (Marchronis)
Thereupon Souma grinned.
“While we are at it, can I have you teach me various things for the sake of the both of us?” (Souma)
“… Various, you say?” (Marchronis)
“For example about that city located in the south of the plains or such.” (Souma)
Marchronis smile stiffened.
Will a subjugation unit come to the plains? When will they come, if they do? What kind of scale will they have? He believed that it would be only such questions, if he happened to be asked. However, the questions are about the city. Which is to say, they are targeting it.
“Let me tell you in advance; I plan to ask all your subordinates about it afterwards as well.” (Souma)
That’s a warning telling him that it will be pointless even if he lies or keeps secrets.
Since it’s not like they arranged their stories to be the same in advance, it will get immediately exposed even if he lies or keeps secrets here once he compares the information from Marchronis and his subordinates.
Marchronis dropped his shoulders and sighed.
“… Damn it. I completely forgot.” (Marchronis)
“What did you forget?” (Souma)
“At the time when the fort got captured by your scheme, I thought following: The guy, who came up with this scheme, planned to attack the soldiers and not the fortress. Soldiers are human, too. If they get tired from treating wounded soldiers everyday, their caution will wane as well. Once they judged that injured comrades had arrived, they opened the gate without any suspicion. And, once they were told that they won’t get killed if they don’t resist, it made them want to drop their weapons. You splendidly exploited everyone’s human weaknesses.” (Marchronis)
“… Do you mean that it was unfair?” (Souma)
Marchronis strongly shook his head due to Souma’s question.
“That’s not it. For example, if an ordinary person like me planned to capture a fortress, preparing siege weapons would be the foremost. I would wonder what’s necessary to get over that wall or how much time it would take to break that wall.
However, you attacked the gaps in the minds of the people inside the fortress and not the fortress itself. Indeed, since there are enemy soldiers in the fortress, it’s the enemy’s fortress. Even if you destroy the fortress or force the enemy soldiers to surrender, the result will be the same.
And, now it’s the same, too. If you only tried to protect the zoan, you would ponder how to repel the humans that will come to attack the plains. However, you don’t stop at only that.” (Marchronis)
Marchronis stared deeply into Souma’s eyes.
“You seem to be someone who’s different from us ordinary people. And, do you know how us ordinary people call such a person?” (Marchronis)
When Souma shook his head, Marchronis showed an evil smile and said,
“They are called hero or destroyer. Well then, I wonder just which of those two you are?” (Marchronis)
“Hey Shyemul, I wonder which suits us?” (Souma)
Souma questioned Shyemul, who was besides him, after Marchronis was taken out of the room once the talks finished.
“Don’t listen to weird stuff. Isn’t that just natural for a human soldier?” (Shyemul)
Shyemul reply was plain and simple.
However, that reply didn’t work for Souma.
Until now the image of soldiers toying with zoan corpses and the humans of this world massacring the zoan was strong within Souma.
Even so, Marchronis, who should bear a part of the responsibility for that zoan massacring, was a good-natured person one might even call an intellectual who only is carrying out his duty and not someone who does it because of religious fanaticism or a joy in sadism.
Of course, while that may be true, it doesn’t mean that massacring of zoan should be tolerated.
Certainly, the human soldiers of Marchronis’ unit are enemies that are trying to destroy the zoan.
I have no doubt in that.
I do understand that logically, but for some reason it doesn’t agree with my heart.
It’s a murky feeling just like at the time when I played my beloved RPG and didn’t completely finish the underplot until then even though I defeated the demon king. At that time all mysteries became clear once the great demon king that manipulated the defeated demon king appeared, but I wonder whether it will be like that this time as well, he tries to anticipate.
If the human soldiers aren’t the real enemy, is it the army to which the soldiers belong? He wondered.
However, I feel like it’s somewhat different.
He pondered whether the enemy is the country to which the army belongs, if it’s not the army itself, but he has a hunch that it’s different from that as well.
He wondered whether it’s the Holy Faith, if it’s not the country, but that doesn’t seem to fit with him either.
In that case, is it the humans themselves? But he feels like it’s something else after all.
Who the hell is the enemy then?
As of yet it’s something ambiguous with an unknown colour and shape, but it was still spouting within Souma.
An unusual phenomenon occurred in a small cave located at the edge of Hognareah Hill.
That cave is the den of evil adherents who once kidnapped women and children from the pioneering villages in the vicinity and sacrificed them to something evil.
However, the evil adherents, who were there, had been slain by Holmea’s soldiers without a single one being left alive. Their corpses were left there as is. Nowadays those corpses were devoured as precious food of the animals passing through winter. There wasn’t anything left of them besides small amounts of decaying flesh, bones and hairs.
And, at the place that was the altar, the statue of the evil goddess, which gathered the evil adherents’ faith onto itself, was smashed into pieces and neglected after turning into a pile of rubble.
While raising quiet squeaking sounds, a mouse turned up from within that pile of rubble.
The mouse restlessly sniffed its surroundings. The mouse, who felt relieved due to there not being any enemies around, jumped out from the pile of rubble and rushed over to the corpse of an evil adherent with swift movements. It began to scrape off the decaying flesh clinging to a bone with its front teeth.
The mouse was scraping off the carrion while making crunching sounds, but suddenly it completely stops to move. And, as soon as its whiskers started to tremble slightly, it ran outside the cave while making small squeals.
The cave that had lost its small landlord was filled with silence to a suffocating degree.
As if denying that silence, a weak laughter can be heard from somewhere.
It’s a laughter that can be called similar to the groaning of an old beast and the innocent laughter of an young girl.
All of as sudden the corpses of the evil adherents that were scattered around inside the cave started to move by dragging their limp bodies across the ground as if they were caught by invisible hands.
If one looks down from above, they are gathering by centring around a certain point just like iron sand that gets drawn towards a magnet.
In the centre of them is the smashed goddess statue.
The corpses of the gathered evil adherents cover the pile of rubble that used to be the goddess statue and create a corpse hill.
And then a single white arm stuck out from within that hill of corpses with a damp sound. That slender, purely white arm that hasn’t a single stain grasps at the air and drags out its own body from within the corpse hill.
What appeared then was a girl who was clad in a simple, snow white clothing that wasn’t blemished by any dirt at all.
“Ah, my beloved Souma! My smart Souma! You finally realized it, didn’t you!?”
The girl burst into a cackling laughter while staring in a direction where the cave’s wall was.
“My foolish Souma! You are trying to reach it without knowing anything, don’t you!?”
If it was possible to look down on this world, one would probably notice the location of the fortress built in the Solbiant Plains long before fixing one’s eyes on that girl.
“Those are the sparks of death you will bring about! It’s won’t be just the zoan, but also the dinosaurians, the marmen, the dwarves, the elves, the harpians and even the humans! It’s a small spark that will grown into a flame that will devour everyone’s souls and bodies! That fire won’t stop at just burning the people on the entire continent to nothing. It will become a world-destroying conflagration that will rage far into the future!
That’s the seed of destruction you shall scatter! It’s a small seed that will bud by changing everything, villages, cities and countries, into ruins and feed on them. That sprout will become a huge tree before long and it will completely cover the entire continent!”
The girl’s loud laughter echoes dully in the cave.
“Oh, Souma! You are my one and only divine child! My beloved, beloved Souma!”