Leaving the training to Shishul and Gulkaka, Souma decided to temporarily return to the city of Bolnis while taking only the key members with him.
Once they pass through the left open gate, the attention gathers on Souma’s group from everywhere.
However, that’s only natural.
The two great men representing the zoan, Garam and Zurgu, the dwarf Dvalin who had a splendidly long beard, and the dinosaurian Jahangil, who is following despite saying this and that; each of them releases an intense aura. It would be impossible for them to not draw attention.
And, the one who drew the most attention among them was Kizaki Souma, a human boy one might call weak, who walks in the lead accompanied by Shyemul and Shahata as his guards.
From the eyes of the zoan and the freed slaves belonging to various other races, he’s a mysterious leader that appeared suddenly. From the eyes of the city’s residents, he’s an invader accompanied by terrifying sub-races.
While apparently getting overpowered by the fearful and inquisitive gazes of the people, Souma surveyed the state of the city.
As far as Souma sees it, the city of Bolnis has, for the most part, calmed down.
When they had first taken the city, people couldn’t be seen anywhere on the city’s streets. But now that several days have passed, residents could be sporadically seen on the main street. However, in order to avoid causing needless troubles with the zoan and former slaves, the residents kept their heads down, walked on the edges of the street, and tried their hardest not to make eye contact. They scattered in all directions like a clutch of baby spiders after seeing Souma, which secretly hurt Souma’s feelings.
But, even so, the city’s atmosphere has improved quite a bit.
It’s the result of news on Souma’s policy, where he doesn’t intend to oppress the city’s residents, spreading among the residents.
It’s natural, but public media similar to newspapers or radio doesn’t exist in this world. Hence, to make some kind of announcement to the residents, the feudal lord would invite the influential people of the city to his official residence and directly tell them the details of what would be announced there. These people would then announce this information to those under their control, and the information would spread from there like a telephone game. It would eventually spread across the whole city.
However, Souma and the zoan didn’t know about this arrangement at all.
The one who saved them there was Marchronis.
“Since the residents are likely to be anxious and frightened, you will want to counter that as soon as possible.”
Hearing the advice of this company commander aide of Holmea’s army, who is awfully cooperative while insisting that it’s only because his subordinates have been taken hostage, Souma immediately called together the influential people of the city, told them that his group has no intention to hurt the residents pointlessly and worked towards dispelling their worries.
What made these people feel the safest was that Souma stated that they were free to take their belongings and peacefully leave the city if they so desired.
Although he told them to decide it by themselves, Souma secretly felt uneasy wondering whether that wouldn’t result in the majority of the residents leaving, but only a negligible amount of people actually left.
Souma didn’t understand it, but the act of leaving the city one was born in was the same as risking one’s life in this world. If one goes a bit outside the cities and villages which have guards and vigilante corps, the area essentially becomes lawless. Not only are there natural disasters and wild animals to be found there, but there are also countless bandits and robbers who are far more dangerous than those.
Even if one was able to arrive safely at a city or village after escaping from those dangers, it would be difficult for them to find work and set up a house there as long as they don’t have the connections necessary there. It is no exaggeration to say that cities and villages are their own little worlds. In the eyes of Souma, who lived in modern Japan, they are surprisingly exclusive and unsociable towards outsiders.
Hence, as long as they are not compelled to do so by an obvious danger, they would not give up on the city they live in.
But then again, it’s an unshakable truth that Souma allowing them to freely run away from the city gave a sense of security to the residents.
Going through the city and returning to the confiscated official residence of the feudal lord, Souma and the others sat down in a circle in the courtyard underneath the blazing sun and discussed their future plans.
“I plan to have everyone continue their training as is for the time being.”
Garam nods at Souma’s words.
“There’s no objection from me. There are various things I’d like to try, but rather than meddling with this and that in a half-assed manner, it’s probably better to do things soundly one after the other.”
“The training’s fine, but what about the arms?”
Dvalin, who had volunteered to take care of the armaments and materials, replied to Zurgu’s question,
“As long as they aren’t picky about the weapons, the numbers are all fine. However, the armors are a problem. Since all of the gear is ready-made for human use, it doesn’t really fit us. We’re going to have to take em’ apart, and remake them so that we can wear them.”
“About how long do you think it will take to have enough for everyone?”
Upon Souma’s question, Dvalin ponders for a brief period while stroking his abundant beard.
“Let me see… As we’ve also got to train and prepare the materials, it will take around ten days, even if we work day and night.”
“Will it be in time like that? Wouldn’t it be rather better to affix the armors for human use to their bodies with strings or something like that as is?”
At the present time where they don’t know when the punitive force might arrive, Zurgu’s suggestion isn’t mistaken. However, the one he’s dealing with is after all a dwarf who possesses a strong obsession about craftsmanship.
“Do you intent to mock us!? Skimping out like that would just be damn embarrassing!”
Souma admonished Dvalin, who said that.
“I’d like you to put priority on everyone’s lives over your embarrassment for just now.”
“… No helping it.”
He can also understand Souma’s point, but Dvalin, who can’t readily come to terms with a compromise towards his pride as a dwarf, became sulky.
Even so, since Souma believes that Dvalin is someone who will get the things done that he must do, he doesn’t say anything further. Also, for that reason Dvalin didn’t became obstinate and backed down in the end.
During these heated arguments and discussions about the countermeasures towards the punitive force, Garam noticed the state of his younger sister who was there in body but not in spirit.
“What’s wrong with you, 《Noble Fang》?”
Garam whispered in a quiet voice so as to not disturb the ongoing discussion, but Shyemul shows no indication of having heard him. Once Garam pokes her shoulder out of necessity, Shyemul finally lifts her head all of a sudden.
“…! Wh-, 《Ferocious Fang》, what happened?”
Garam frowns due to that weak reaction of Shyemul, who until recently had always steeled herself for such occasions, due to her advising Souma due to his lack of sense about this world.
Once he tries to think back, he remembers that she was weird even when Jahangil called Souma a brat a while ago. If it’s the Shyemul he knows, it wouldn’t have been that strange if she had flared up at Jahangil over such a statement.
“Recently your state of mind seems weird. Sometimes it looks like you are brooding over something. Is there a problem?”
“Are you really alright?”
“《Ferocious Fang》, I’m a woman, too. Even though I’m your sister, don’t you think it’s bad to persistently try and ask a woman about things?”
That was an indirect refusal. Once he’s told something like that, even Garam can’t question her unreasonably. Shyemul was full of guilty feelings towards her elder brother, who withdrew with an expression that he wasn’t fully satisfied with her explanation.
What is casting a dark shadow on Shyemul’s heart these last few days is the mysterious girl she saw at the night of the day when Souma made his declaration in front of everyone.
Even now it causes a chill to run down along her spine and cold sweat to pour out, once she recalls it.
That is something very evil.
Like a raging storm that makes everything disappear, like a large swarm of locusts that scours the earth, it’s something that can’t ever be opposed with a person’s strength, a mighty and atrocious power, Shyemul’s intuition warned her.
The measurement when encountering something like that is set in stone.
That is, to avoid it at all costs, don’t oppose it head-on, and pray for dear life that it disappears.
Originally, even Shyemul wanted to to do just that.
It would have been best if I had plugged my ears and shut my eyes so that I wouldn’t have seen or heard anything. I could’ve just shrugged it off as some dream or hallucination.
However, only this time she couldn’t do that. That’s because that thing mentioned the name of Souma, who is Shyemul’s 「Navel Master」.
Moreover, it even left behind the prediction that Souma would become a terrifying monster.
Shyemul looks at Souma in secret.
She can’t sense a glimpse of a terrifying monster from Souma, who has a desperate discussion with everybody while holding his head high, at all. Shyemul wondered whether that was a mere illusion after all, but even so she cannot help but feel something similar to a lingering uneasiness dwelling within her chest.
As if shaking that off, Shyemul lightly shakes her head left and right.
I don’t know whether it was a dream, a hallucination or an evil being that visited under the cover of the night’s darkness. But, now is not the time for my heart to be misled by something like that, Shyemul remonstrates herself strongly and forces her consciousness to focus on the discussion.
And, even while Shyemul was worrying, the discussion was able to make some progress.
“In the end, it’s painful that we can’t obtain information about the punitive force, isn’t it?”
Souma grumbled while unable to quite pinpoint the countermeasures.
Souma and the others couldn’t even forecast the scale of the punitive force and when it would show up.
That’s because Souma’s group wasn’t able to obtain information regarding Holmea.
“The one controlling information, controls the world”, there’s such a saying, too. Even the manga and novels Souma knows of had put high importance on intelligence about the enemy, and depending on the circumstances, they even made use of their trump cards. For that reason Souma tried to get information about Holmea’s army from the imprisoned soldiers that used to be the city’s guard unit.
However, that didn’t work out at all in the end.
That’s because the prisoners, who believe that they will be soon freed by the punitive force, stubbornly refused to disclose information so they wouldn’t be punished for having leaked intelligence.
Due to that attitude of the humans, Jahangil fervently insisted on having them spill the beans through torture if they don’t fess up, but there was no way that Souma would approve of that. Besides owning the moral values of the modern world that demands a humane treatment even for prisoners, Souma believed that it would become a major problem concerning the ruling of the city from now on.
However, even so, all of that will end up as a pointless consideration if they can’t repel the punitive force. Completely unable to obtain information to this degree, as expected, even Souma couldn’t help but worry whether they shouldn’t default to torture.
“Currently we don’t know the scale of the enemy or when they will come here. I think we have no other choice but to wait for the other side’s move, and scout them out as much as we can.”
Souma suggested this conservative method reliant on waiting and observing, but some words were returned to Souma from an unexpected newcomer.
“If it’s the scale of the punitive force, I think they will likely have from around at least four thousand to at maximum six thousand.”
The one who said that was Company Commander Aide Marchronis who turned up without them noticing.
“What’s this about?”
Garam says with a look as if seeing someone fishy.
Those were words hurled at him due to Marchronis himself actively taking the initiative to leak crucial army intelligence. However, Marchronis deliberately misunderstands that as Garam asking for the basis of the numbers he gave.
“Holmea’s military forces are approximately 20,000 soldiers strong. Half of these are used as a border guard against the eastern country Romania. Even the remaining 10,000 soldiers are comprised of unmovable corps’ such as public order units at various places and the capital’s royal guard. If you deduct these, there’s only around four to six thousand soldiers left who can be moved immediately.”
While saying that, Marchronis joins the sitting circle in a manner that could only be called natural.
“Your guys’ military strength at the time when you attacked this city has already been leaked by messengers sent by the guard corps. If you also add the former slaves to that, it’s probably more than one thousand.
Since it’s necessary to have military forces that exceed the defenders by three times or more if you are going to take a city with a wall like this, the military forces of the punitive force will have certainly more than four thousand soldiers. Even if it’s only the national army they can move right away, they can probably scrounge up that number somehow.”
Due to the words of Marchronis, who has reasoned that out logically, everyone listens closely with serious expressions.
“Different from the national army which is a standing army, the feudal lord’s private armies can’t be moved swiftly due to their tasks of controlling the territories and such. It would be a different matter if there was more time available, but this revolt— oops, excuse me. In the eyes of Holmea it is though. The revolt spreading to other areas will be troublesome. As such, they likely want to crush you guys swiftly.”
At that point, Marchronis revealed a bitter smile and scratched his hair.
“Also, there’s another reason why they want to crush you quickly, you know? His Highness Vlitas, a person you guys secured— it’s about the feudal lord, but that gentleman is His Majesty the current King’s younger brother.”
Due to that remark, everyone present stared at Marchronis in surprise, as expected.
“The reclamation of the Solbiant Plains has been carried out under the leadership of Holmea’s royal family. Hence, His Highness had been deployed to this city of Bolnis, which is at the forefront, as feudal lord. However, you being able to arrest His Highness the King’s younger brother is a slap in the face of the royal family’s honor. As for His Majesty the king, he likely wants to subjugate the revolt and free His Highness the King’s younger brother as quickly as possible.
If you consider it like that, he believes it to be best if he can crush you with just the forces that can be moved immediately rather than mobilising soldiers which will need time to gather, I think.”
Now that he was told that, Souma changes his mind.
When Souma met with the feudal lord of Bolnis whom had been apprehended by Garam, that person stressed that he is an important figure and they would be able to obtain a high ransom for him.
Once I think back upon it now, it was a strange story from where that ransom would come even though his own territory had been snatched away. But, that means there was such a reason behind it.
“Nevertheless, it’s indispensable to gather the provisions for several thousand people and to check the equipment of the soldiers. Besides, for a city that was protected by such a strong city wall to have fallen, it will probably become necessary to prepare siege weapons. Only those preparations will take more than one week.”
When Souma, who got worried whether a week would be the same as it was in the world where he lived, asks Shyemul with his look, she immediately understood and tells him,
“Starting from the day of the God of Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Beast, Bird and lastly finishing with the day of the God of Humans, there is in total seven days.”
The name of the days were naturally different, but comprehending that it seems to be seven days just like in modern Japan, Souma felt relieved.
There’s nothing like a Sunday, equivalent to a day of rest in modern society, but Souma learns about that a bit later.
“Thus, finishing the preparations for various things, it will take them close to three weeks, no matter how much they hurry, to come here after finally passing through the city of Luoma from the capital, you know?”
In the current situation where they are unable to even to have a unified order as of yet, three weeks are short, albeit appearing to be long. Souma, who considered it advantageous to gain as much time as possible, voiced out a certain idea,
“Is is possible to negotiate with Holmea’s king by using his younger brother whom we have arrested?”
“To put it bluntly, His Highness the King’s younger brother has a very bad reputation. Not only is he incompetent and gutless, but he also thirsts for pleasure. He gathered not only human but even female slaves of other races in his private residence in the capital, indulged in banquets that are difficult to even speak about, and neglected important national affairs many times over. It was bad enough to make him the feudal lord for this city, which was basically a sort of exile.
Even if you were to use His Highness the King’s younger brother’s life as tool for negotiations, the king would ignore you and attack the city. Even if his younger brother got killed due to that, it could just be used as a form of propaganda for the public. I think you can say that I would bet everything I own that His Majesty the King would undoubtedly do just that.”
Since he has gone this far to make his point, I should probably give up on negotiations involving the king’s younger brother.
Souma lowered his eyes on the regional map of this area that had been spread out right in the middle of the circle.
The enemy has at the very least more than four thousand soldiers. It’s impossible for us to win if we face them directly. Turning that around, I should ponder about methods of not fighting them directly.
If I do that, there’s nothing but this place.
Thinking like that, Souma observed a certain point located on the map. And then he places a finger on his chin and broods motionlessly.
Believing that the discussion has reached its end with Souma sinking into silence, Dvalin began to speak,
“At this point there’s no other option but for this this become a siege battle.”
Garam states his disapproval to that.
“However, us zoan are bad at fighting while holing up.”
The currently largest military forces among those following Souma are the zoan. However, if it turns into a siege battle, the zoan won’t be able to use their mobility, which is their strongest point, and they will become unable to wield their full strength.
“Then you want to plunge into a punitive force that has more than four thousand soldiers?”
Garam was at a loss for words due to this retort of Dvalin.
Garam is brave but not an idiot. The story, where his own parents suffered a big, crushing defeat after recklessly charging towards Holmea’s army, had been told to him so often that he got calluses on his ears. With no more than that, there’s no way for him to make the same mistake as his parents.
As though giving up, Garam raised both his hands up to the height of his shoulders.
“Even if I’m stubborn, there’s no other way. If it turns into a siege battle, we will follow orders.”
Due to that Dvalin nodded satisfied.
“It looks like we will be able to do various works on the city’s gates and walls if we have three weeks. Ah yes, we have to also check the provisions and materials, right?”
In this world the dwarves are not only known for their excelling skills in crafting, but also for their strength in defensive battles at military positions. As far as him being able to exercise his own talents in his field of expertise to his heart’s content was concerned, Dvalin felt as if his blood was boiling in excitement.
“Soma, I think that there’s no other option but a siege battle, but what do you think?”
The sound of Dvalin’s world felt more like him seeking approval than asking for an opinion, but there was no one who interjected with an objection against that. That’s because all of them currently believed that there was no other option but a siege battle.
However, Souma said something that apparently struck all of them dumb.
“I’m thinking along the lines of making an attack instead of defending in the city.”