“Sorry that I kept you waiting, 《Ferocious Fang》.” (Shyemul)
The place she met with Garam is where the mountain’s interior opened up into a small square. It was the playground of Shyemul and Garam, who played here together in their childhood. The scratches of their height comparisons, which were carved into a wooden trunk standing at the square’s side, aroused dear nostalgic emotions.
“Shyemul, at least when we are here, you don’t have to be so formal, I believe.” (Garam)
“That won’t do. The village’s strongest warrior, 《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam, serves as clan chief right now as well. No matter how much this me might be a divine daughter, regrettably I can’t neglect the formalities as one descending from the Fang Clan.” (Shyemul)
Garam showed a miserable expression due to Shyemul staying all serious while talking.
“Don’t tease me like that, younger sister…” (Garam)
“It’s a joke, brother.” (Shyemul)
At last Shyemul’s expression broke into a smile.
“So, brother, there’s no way that you are meeting me for the sake of deepening the friendly relationship between an elder brother and his younger sister at such time, is there? Tell me, just what the heck happened?” (Shyemul)
“Yea… But, first it’s about the human child you brought along.” (Garam)
“I will treat him as my guest. In case he’s guilty of something, I will take the blame.” (Shyemul)
Before she’s told anything by Garam, she beat him to the punch with her words.
“*Grml*… oh well, umm, you know, I won’t say anything either if you have resolved yourself that far, but…” (Garam)
“But, what?” (Shyemul)
“Yea, about that…” (Garam)
Is it something that hard to say. It doesn’t feel like Garam’s going to talk at all as he keeps chewing on his lips.
“Brother, can you get to the point?” (Shyemul)
While saying so, Garam turns his face away to the side.
“The truth is, between our brethren an odd rumour has started circulating, saying that the reason for you taking the human child along is… umm.. because you fell in love with that guy.” (Garam)
A harum-scarum voice escaped Shyemul’s lips. And then, in the next instant, she got angry like a raging fire.
“Is the one who is spreading such an unfounded rumour Pushka again!? Or, is it Kragaqua?” (Shyemul)
Garam holds out his hand to soothe his younger sister who looks as if she’s going to go beat them up while mentioning the names of two people who are known for loving to gossip in the village.
“Calm down! I hit them already after all…” (Garam)
“Good grief. Brother, there’s no way that you believed such a rumour, right?” (Shyemul)
“Don’t be stupid. There’s no reason for me to believe in it, is there!?” (Garam)
“In that case it’s fine, but…” (Shyemul)
“But, you know, aren’t you responsible for that as well?” (Garam)
If she’s seen taking care of a human child, whom she should hate, that gallantly while she herself is also reeling from starvation and fatigue, anyone will end up suspecting that something happened.
“At the time when I rescued you out of the fortress, your obsession towards the human child was abnormal. Besides, it’s because you, who didn’t have a single romantic relationship so far, lives together with a man, albeit a human, in your own tent…” (Garam)
“I explained that already, didn’t I!? I told you that he shared his own meagre food with me when we were imprisoned! Brother, are you telling me to become someone who doesn’t return 『the favour of a rabbit received at the time of starvation』!?” (Shyemul)
“But, it’s like that, even you, as a girl at marriageable age…” (Garam)
Shyemul snapped due to Garam trying to argue with her even further.
“Please stop it already! Jeez, let’s end the conversation with this! If you don’t have anything else to say, I will go back now!!” (Shyemul)
Even Garam had no other choice but to raise the white flag due to his younger sister’s menacing look.
Besides, what they will talk about from now on is the real issue at hand after all. Seeing Garam’s serious expression, Shyemul calmed down and braces herself while understanding that it’s no trivial matter.
“The clan member I sent as scout to the fortress, where you had been imprisoned, returned. It looks like fresh human troops entered the fortress.” (Garam)
“Yes, their numbers are around 800 in total. The majority of them seem to be soldiers with prepared armaments. It looks like they are camping in the surroundings of the fortress as not all of them fit inside.” (Garam)
“There’s even 800 of them!?” (Shyemul)
The only ones in the area who are opposing the humans in that fortress are the zoans. Newly arrived soldiers means, almost without doubt, that they were dispatched to clean us up.
“I thought that they were planning to flush us out, but it appears I took their seriousness lightly.” (Garam)
“How many brethren who can fight do we have currently?” (Shyemul)
“The number of those able to fight doesn’t even reach 50.” (Garam)
This was also Garam’s fault.
At the time when the village was burned, they also ended up losing the food they had stored for passing the winter. If the winter intensifies from now on, it will become even more difficult to obtain food. At the current rate everything edible in the vicinity of their refuge will be consumed in less than a month. What remains is for the entire clan to simply wait to die to hunger or cold.
Judging it like that, Garam split the still young zoans in the clan into several groups and sent them out to search for a place where they can pass the winter.
And, the left behind elderly and children, who were considered unfit to endure such long trip, as well as the families, who have such people, have to ration out and survive on the food that can be found at the current refuge and its vicinity. Even so, in order to supplement the lacking rations, the minimal amount of warriors that only remained in order to protect the refuge were also forced into providing food. The warriors who had left to find food rationed what the they brought back by sequential order trying to hold out until spring.
However, because it was such a harsh mountain winter even for the zoans, I never expected the humans to send out such military force. I misread the humans’ tenacity in carrying out the zoan extermination, Garam lamented. However, it’s already too late.
Even if I call our brethren together at this point in time, it will probably be too late. In order to not overlap with each other in the places where they are searching for food, they should be scattered over a quite wide range.
“Taking on 800 human troops with no more than 50 brethren…?” (Shyemul)
Voicing it out made her realize the desperate situation all over again. Shyemul looked up to the sky.
“Brother, is it impossible for us to run away?” (Shyemul)
“Tell me to where?” (Garam)
“Anywhere’s fine. Us warriors don’t mind death. However, just the children and elderly…” (Shyemul)
“Unless there’s something to eat, they won’t be able to run away anywhere.” (Garam)
To begin with, those who were left behind in the village are the people who were judged to be unable enduring a long trip.
Even if they escaped for argument’s sake, how far will the feet of the elderly and children be able to run? It’s nothing but suicide to try and escape on a wintry mountain when there isn’t even sufficient food.
“Can’t we get the other clans to accept at least the elderly and children then?” (Shyemul)
Even as she said this, Shyemul knew that it’s something that they could only wish for. All clans are chased by humans, and thus the best they can do is to simply look after themselves. Accordingly they don’t have the leeway to accept people of other clans, I guess.
“I will try to sound out the <Claw Clan> and the <Mane Clan>. But, it’s impossible to expect much out of it.” (Garam)
The <Fang Clan> was once hailed as one of the most powerful clans among the twelve zoan clans lining up next to the Claw Clan, but when she thought of the current situation, Shyemul had no apologies towards her ancestors. Far from getting back the lost soil of their ancestors, the clan’s fate is already in a precarious situation.
“Therefore, there’s something I want to request from you.” (Garam)
“What is it, brother?” (Shyemul)
“I’d like you to become the envoy for the <Claw Clan>.” (Garam)
Shyemul was enraged. She could read her elder brother’s aim. He intends to let her get away as messenger in name only. Shyemul is a divine child of the great God of Beasts. No matter what clan it might be, they will welcome her with open arms.
“I refuse! I will stay behind and fight with everyone!” (Shyemul)
“You must not. This is an order as clan chief!” (Garam)
“I refuse! I’m a divine daughter! No matter what the clan chief might say, it’s impossible for him to make a divine child comply with an order against her will!” (Shyemul)
Garam has an utterly perplexed expression due to Shyemul firmly and stubbornly not complying with him.
“I beg you. Please listen, Shyemul. I’m not telling you this just out of affection between elder brother and younger sister. You are a divine daughter. Someday when our zoan brethren rise up in revolt, the one who is capable of becoming the leader that unifies all the different clans together is only you.” (Garam)
“Someone who ran away while abandoning her own clan as a leader? Please don’t make me laugh. If it’s about serving as a banner, my death will be plenty! The divine daughter of the great God of Beasts fought together with a mere 50 brethren against 800 human soldiers without shying away and died a noble death. If they hear that, it will probably encourage the other clans as well!” (Shyemul)
As expected, even Garam gave up on persuading her. Since our childhood she’s a younger sister who stubbornly won’t yield once she decided her stance.
“In that case, I have nothing else to add anymore. You are 《Noble Fang》, who is prouder than anyone else.” (Garam)
“I’m sorry for saying such selfish things, brother.” (Shyemul)
“Once it turns into a battle, I will waste you by using you relentlessly, even if it might be you, 《Noble Fang》” (Garam)
“That’s what I desire, 《Ferocious Fang》.” (Shyemul)
Once both exchanged a bold smile, Garam turned around and started to walk away.
“The humans have still only entered the fortress. They won’t make a move for a few days.” (Garam)
Even if the humans are going to invade the mountains, they have to first let their soldiers rest as they are worn out.
“However, we don’t have that much leeway either. Tonight I will gather our brethren and we will discuss our actions from now on. You come as well.” (Garam)
“We have to regain our stolen village right away!”
The one who shouted that was a vigorous and enthusiastic young zoan.
They are inside the tent of the clan chief, which is the largest among the tents in the refuge. Although it might be called a tent, its size is in a different league. It’s not only for the sake of the clan chief living there. It’s also used as the clan’s assembly venue and moreover as a ritual site; it could even be called a large dome rather than a tent.
The dome’s interior is partitioned into several room by cloths and inside the biggest room among those, the clan’s important people gathered while surrounding a large, open fire.
“Even now the remains of our clan’s people over there have been neglected! We can’t leave them be for even a single day longer! Alongside recovering the village, we will bury those people and assault the fortress’ soldiers together with their spirits!”
Upon the words of that zoan, many other brethren raise their voices in agreement. All of them are still young zoan. They were youngsters who wouldn’t originally be permitted to appear in this venue, but because many adult warriors lost their lives, it resulted in them turning up at the assembly as well.
“Gajeeta, it’s fine to advocate the recovery of the village, but how do you plan to do that?”
A fairly old zoan said. He is a zoan who has the air of quite the expert warrior, with a great body that he trained hard and a great weapon that he has used for a long time.
Due to that, the young zoan called Gajeeta, who proposed the recovery of the village, pushes up his clenched fist forcefully.
“With this blood, flesh and blade!” (Gajeeta)
The young zoans voice out their admiration towards the spirit of Gajeeta, who plays a leading role among them. However, in contrast to that, the seasoned adult warriors gave a cold response.
“If that was possible, we wouldn’t struggle this much.”
“They have enclosed the village’s surroundings with a firm fence and secluded themselves like turtles. Each time of the many times we have attacked them, they only showered us with arrows like rain without leaving their encampment.”
Saying that, the zoan pressed his hand on the blood-blotted bandage which was coiled around his shoulder. Once one looks properly, all the adult warriors at the place are injured somewhere to a greater or lesser extent.
However, considering it as the prattling by cowards, Gajeeta wears a scornful expression.
“Great and true zoan warriors aren’t afraid of something like the arrows of humans! It will be fine as long as we clear away these frail arrows of the humans, who are similar to the monster Genobanda who scavenges through the excreta in hell, with our blades! We just have to trample down their fences! And then reward the humans for having violated our soil by dragging them out of their wooden houses they use as shelter without missing a single one of them! Let’s beat them back into hell’s swamp of excreta!” (Gajeeta)
He earns applause from the young brethren for that.
Conversely, there were those among the adult warriors who even grind their teeth out of anger.
“《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam, we’d like to hear your opinion.”
The old warrior, who thought that the youngsters can’t be contained anymore unless it’s someone holding the power of clan chief, passes the baton to Garam. The looks of all the zoans who gathered in this place, turned at Garam all at once.
Garam, who until then silently listened to the debate of the clan members with his eyes shut and his arms folded, slowly opened his eyes.
As the strongest and bravest warrior in the village, Garam, who has the nickname 《Ferocious Fang》 as he always cuts through as the vanguard in the battles with the humans, represented an attitude similar to the one Gajeeta has until now. Because of that, the young brethren, with Gajeeta in the lead, waited for his words with their eyes sparkling in anticipation.
“… For now we will still wait.” (Garam)
However, what left Garam’s mouths weren’t the words they had hoped for. Gajeeta stood up from among the young ones who groaned in disappointment.
“《Ferocious Fang》, just what are we waiting for!?” (Gajeeta)
“For the return of the messengers we sent to the <Claw Clan> and the <Mane Clan>.” (Garam)
Gajeeta got exasperated due to that.
“Garam! Bastard, did you throw away the pride of the !? Seeking help from other clans is something only cowards do!” (Gajeeta)
Although he was in a position close to the youngsters until recently, Garam is now the clan chief. For him to call that Garam without using an honorific title caused the adult warriors to become furious.
“Gajeeta! You little fucker, do you plan to slight the clan chief!?”
“Don’t get carried away greenhorn!”
The young followers of Gajeeta opposed that, and the zoans at the place were divided right in half and glared at each other. With them threatening each other by baring their fangs, it turned into an explosive situation with a dangerous air.
At that moment a terrifying roar resounded all of a sudden.
Due to that roar that was completely as if a bolt of lightning struck down in front of their eyes, all the zoans at the place are startled.
The one who released a roar to the degree of making the frame of the dome, which was joined together firmly to withstand the powerful north wind, tremble for a while with a rattling with nothing but its reverberation was none other than Garam.
“Brethren! You bastards’ enemy are the humans!? Or the Zoans!? If there are some who try to draw their blades against fellow clan members, this 《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam will become your opponent!!” (Garam)
Due to Garam’s yelling in a thunderous voice, the zoans, who glared at each other, sheathed their swords and sat down. But, everyone sensed that a deep crack appeared between the adults and the youngsters.
Garam admonishes them.
“Gajeeta, dispatching messengers to the Claw Clan and the Mane Clan isn’t for requesting reinforcements. It’s for the sake of having them accept the elderly and children who can’t fight.” (Garam)
“However, 《Ferocious Fang》, no matter what answer we receive from them, it won’t change the fact that we have to get back the village. Isn’t it unnecessary to wait for the messengers, since we have to attack the humans anyway? I can’t consider it as anything but waiting for reinforcements to come, sent out of pity by the other clans who learned of our predicament, even without us explicitly requesting it.” (Gajeeta)
As expected, even Gajeeta didn’t address him without an honorific title this time. But, his words were full of discontent without even any intention to hide it.
“If you can announce that we will be able to retake the village without fail, this 《Ferocious Fang》 will raise a war cry at this moment without any hesitation and attack while leading the vanguard myself. But, what will we do in the case we couldn’t retake the village? If we will lose even more warriors on top of those we have already lost, we won’t be even able to protect the elderly and children any longer.” (Garam)
“Ha! That thinking of losing before fighting isn’t befitting for the reputation of 《Ferocious Fang》. Isn’t that blabbering in the manner of a coward?” (Gajeeta)
There was also the situation not long ago. The adult warriors, who endured it at Garam’s side, tried to get up once again, but Garam held them back with his arm.
“Yea, I became a coward.” (Garam)
Due to Garam’s frank words, not only Gajeeta but also the adult warriors opened their eyes in surprise.
“Until a short while ago it was fine if I could stab the humans with my sword without thinking about anything. It was sufficient for me to simply swing my katana earnestly. But now I’m the clan chief. The lives of all clan members depend on each of my decisions. If this isn’t scary, what is then?” (Garam)
Upon Garam’s word, the venue was wrapped up in a quiet silence.
The old zoan, who regarded that as a good time, clapped his hands once.
“Everyone, I believe it’s fine to follow the will of the clan chief here, but what do you think?”
This time no one filed a protest.