“It seems like the humans won’t come out after all, doesn’t it?”
Gajeeta deliberately replied with a loud voice to the words of the young warrior standing next to him.
“Humph! Those cowardly humans! The adults said this and that, but where’s the need to be scared of such cowards?” (Gajeeta)
Voices of agreement were raised towards Gajeeta’s words from the surroundings.
Just as Shyemul guessed, Gajeeta gave up on Garam, who doesn’t plunge into battle readily, as coward. He gathered some of the youngsters who supported him and arbitrarily started a battle with the humans.
It’s a grave act of disobedience to challenge the humans to a fight with everyone without the permission of the clan chief Garam.
If I do such a thing, I will doubtlessly be deprived of my warrior qualifications.
For the zoans, who value brave warriors, being deprived of one’s warrior qualification is the biggest disgrace possible. Even without having one’s life taken, it will sooner or later result in one leaving the village by their own volition unable to stand the scornful looks of the surroundings. In this harsh environment, being unable to live in the village while being left by oneself, is essentially equivalent to a death penalty.
However, Gajeeta thought.
The adults have been unable to recover the village no matter how many times they have attacked it so far. If he could force it to surrender, the adults probably wouldn’t be able to punish Gajeeta.
No, not only that, it will probably result in them reviewing themselves, who made light of the youngsters until now, once or twice.
This is an ideal chance to outwit the adults who addressed us with 「The youngsters」 until now as their favourite phrasing.
“Come on, hit the drums of battle! Routing the humans, we will retake our village!” (Gajeeta)
The drums’ rhythm of Ba-Du-Du-Dumm-Du-Du-Dumm echoes in the mountains.
Alongside the sound of the drums, around 20 zoans suddenly run down the mountain’s slope on four feet.
“Who was the one hitting the drums of battle?”
The sound of the battle drums reverberating caused a tumult in the hidden village.
Wondering whether the humans came to attack, the warriors took their weapons in the hands and rushed out of their tents. The female warriors attempt to evacuate the elderly and children further into the mountain. With tents being kicked down due to the chaos, children started crying.
Garam roared once due to the uproar that was similar to poking a beehive.
“Calm down, brethren!!” (Garam)
Thanks to his very loud voice, the panicked zoans regain their presence of minds.
“Clan chief, The sound of the drums isn’t nearby the hidden village.”
The one who said that is a red-haired zoan who stood on the right side of Garam. He’s the man who assisted Garam’s father Garguss, the previous clan chief, as his right-hand man and was the very first to support Garam taking over as clan chief after Garguss’ death. His name is Gulkaka.
Rather than lineage, ability is demanded from the clan chief of the zoans who live naturally and harshly. Gulkaka, who assisted the brave, previous clan chief, has been also approved by many of his brethren for his ability. Even though it would have been possible for him to become clan chief if he desired so, he said 「Rather than being clan chief, it agrees more with me to support someone else」. He is an unusual man who’s content with his current position.
“The drums’ sounds come from the area around the village?”
At the moment he pondered about the fact of the drums being struck in the vicinity of the village which is currently ruled by humans, Gajeeta’s face was the first thing that popped up in Garam’s mind.. Surveying the surroundings, Garam confirms Gajeeta’s absence.
“Where is Gajeeta?” (Garam)
“Right now, we are looking for him.” (Gulkaka)
It seems that Gulkaka already realized that possibility.
A short time later, a few young warriors arrived at the location of Garam’s group while being led by an adult warrior. Gulkaka yelled at a suspiciously acting young warrior who seems to harbour feelings of guilt in his heart.
“Where’s Gajeeta!? If you know something, tell it to the clan chief without hiding anything!” (Gulkaka)
The young warrior, who resigned himself, answered with an expression close to crying,
“Saying that he will get back the village, he took everyone along and headed to the village… I tried to stop him by telling him that it’s not good to go ahead with it without the clan chief’s permission. Because of that, I didn’t accompany them.”
“Why did you stay silent about that? If you don’t say a word, it’s the same sin!” (Gulkaka)
Due to Gulkaka getting angry with his red hair standing on end, the young warrior gets frightened and hunches his body.
“Gajeeta told me to not inform anyone…”
Having heard that much, Garam ran off. As Gulkaka calls towards the back of the hurrying Garam to stop, Garam returns a yell over his shoulder without stopping his feet.
“Gulkaka! Protect the refuge together with Rakraka, Mujina and the female warriors! The humans might attack!” (Garam)
“Clan chief, what are you going to do?” (Gulkaka)
“I will bring back Gajeeta! Warriors, follow me!” (Garam)
The young zoan warriors, with Gajeeta in the lead, run down the mountain on four feet without stopping.
Running on a slanting surface of mountains and similar terrain is no strong point of the zoans, who were originally inhabitants of the plains. The time the zoans’ running really shines is when they run on four limbs. However, because their legs are longer than their arms, they were bad at running down a slope no matter what.
However, although they are young, they are still zoan warriors. While skilfully avoiding the felled trees and their stumps, they dash towards the village in a straight line. Their appearance was similar to that of bird of prey swooping down once they found their prey.
Confronting that, the human soldiers drew their bows upon their commanders order and fired their arrows all at once.
The sound of dozens of arrows, which were released at the same time, cutting through the air, resounds with a “Whoosh!” Rather than calling that a sound of cutting through the air, it’s already more of one ripping through the atmosphere.
The zoan warriors leap sideways upon Gajeeta’s voice. Immediately following that, the sound of countless arrows stabbing the slope reverberates.
Two zoans, who were pierced by arrows in their shoulder and leg due to not being able to avoid them, collapsed after turning over with somersaults. In front of the eyes of their comrades, who tried to save them as they tumble down the slope alongside stones and a cloud of dust, the two suffered yet another rain of arrows and turned into something similar to a specimen of insects completely affixed with pins.
“You excreta-scavenging monsters!”
The zoans, who burned with rage, rammed the wooden fence that was prepared towards the slope ahead of time with their shoulders. Due to the zoans hurling themselves at the fence while carrying on the momentum of having run down the slope, the wooden fence collapsed alongside a jerking sound.
“Now! Release your arrows!!”
However arrows are fired a third time at the zoans who stopped their feet after knocking over the fence. Receiving those, a further three collapsed. Even so, the young warriors resolutely plunge forward to bring down the next fence without hesitation.
But not only were Gajeeta and the others unable to readily take down the next fence with their momentum ceased once, they were sitting ducks with their feet stopped.
“Gajeeta! If it goes on like this…!”
While clearing away the rain of arrows pouring down with his comrades by using their machetes, they try to destroy the next fence somehow, but even so they are unable to accomplish it. Even now, the sole warrior who arrived at the fence somehow, had his entire body pierced with arrows at the time when he was raising his machete overhead to hit the rope binding the cross pieces and braces of the fence together, keeling over face up while unable to raise even a scream.
Gajeeta regretted bitterly as he shook off an arrow.
If they fought directly, these humans would be no enemy for us! We shouldn’t lose to cowards who use arrows from the other side of a fence while not even crossing their swords with us!
However, the reality is such that there are still two fences standing in-between Gajeeta and the soldiers. His machete was long enough to reach the human soldiers.
“Those cowardsss! Fight with meee!” (Gajeeta)
Gajeeta shouted, but the humans’ answer to that was a rain of arrows.
“Tsk! Gajeeta, that idiot!” (Shyemul)
Due to her brethren being defeated one after the other, Shyemul raised her voice in anger.
She wants to rush over there right now, but there’s no way for her to leave behind Souma, who’s besides her, in the mountains. Besides, assuming that she rushed there this late in the game, it’s not like she would be in time either. There’s nothing she can do at the moment.
Even though she would hit the side of his face hard and drag him in front of the clan chief by his collar if Gajeeta were at this place, it somehow seems to stop at her being angry and frustrated.
Next to such Shyemul, Souma frowned at the zoans being massacred one-sidedly.
“Why, something that reckless…?” (Souma)
“Really! To start a battle on their own accord without even being aware of their own immaturity!!” (Shyemul)
Shyemul agreed with Souma’s muttering in a state of being unable to clear away her irritation.
However, Souma felt a sense of discomfort from Shyemul’s words.
He feels something like a fatal gap between himself and Shyemul.
“Damn it! Once again our brethren will…!” (Shyemul)
Shyemul intently stares at the battle of her brethren without realizing that.
Garam and the warriors, who came running, became speechless due to the worst possible situation that exceeded their own expectations. A great number of corpses is scattered on the slope, which was cleared at the foot of the mountain, with merely a few still alive.
And yet the young warriors keep trying to knock down the fence, but Garam and the others couldn’t consider their state as anything but thoughtless.
“Beat the drum of retreat!” (Garam)
Upon Garam’s instruction, the drum player hits the rhythm of retreat.
A single young warrior who noticed that drum sound, looks over his shoulder.
“Gajeeta! The clan chief’s group came!”
Ignoring his comrade who is shouting with a joyful voice, Gajeeta tries to rush forward headfirst.
“Gajeeta, Gajeeta! It’s the drumming of retreat!”
The hips of the young warriors had already given way. Even they knew that they would end up annihilated without even coming close to knocking down the second fence. However, because Gajeeta didn’t tell them to retreat at all, they didn’t move back in retreat. The drumming of retreat reaching them at such a time is equal to good news for them.
But, Gajeeta shakes off the clinging look of his comrade and yells,
“Can we retreat at such a point!? Don’t give up! Knock down the fence! Kill the humans!!” (Gajeeta)
There was already not much difference between Gajeeta and a child in declaring their willfulness.
If he retreats here, all that’s waiting for Gajeeta is him having his qualification as warrior being stripped off. Far from only that, having caused so many victims, he will be banished after having both his arms cut off or become the food of wolves after being left in the plains while bound.
For Gajeeta, who dreamt of becoming the strongest warrior in the <<Fang Clan>>, that was something he couldn’t accept by any means.
“Those morons! Do they intend to get annihilated like that!?”
An adult warrior vented his anger due to the young warriors showing absolutely no signs of retreating.
Garam felt the same. He wants to tell them “If you want to die that much, just go ahead and do so!”, but now he’s the clan chief. It’s impossible for him to abandon his brethren even if they are fellows who are guilty of such folly.
“Continue hitting the drumming of retreat! The remaining warriors follow me! We will bring back those idiots!” (Garam)
The adult warriors with Garam in the lead ran down the slope after going down on all four.
“Raise your voices!” (Garam)
The warriors shouted all at once. The human soldiers, who noticed the zoans’ reinforcements due to the roaring that seemingly shook the mountains, began to shower Garam’s group with a rain of arrows.
“You guys, keep attracting the humans’ attention!” (Garam)
Saying that, Garam runs down by himself. A soldier who noticed Garam doing that aims his arrow at him, but the arrow doesn’t reach Garam who runs down while waving his body to the left and right with skilful steps on the slope with its bad footing.
Arriving at the location of the young warriors, Garam jumped while yelling.
“You idiots! Move back and retreat!” (Garam)
Upon the order of the clan chief himself, everyone but Gajeeta began to withdraw. Gajeeta tried to detain his comrades, but at this point no one listened to what he had to say anymore.
“If you want to die, do so by yourself! Don’t get everyone involved!” (Garam)
Once Garam says so coldly over his shoulder to Gajeeta who still doesn’t retreat, he acts as rear guard of the young warriors who are withdrawing and moves back to the mountain while cutting away the arrows. Even Gajeeta who was left behind by himself, raised a single roar of regret and withdrew at last.
What the humans lost in this battle were arrows and a single fence. However, being able to recover the majority of the arrows after the zoans withdrew and having finished the repairs of the fence before sunset, they essentially lost nothing.
In contrast to that, the zoans had lost a great number of young warriors who were to shoulder the future of the clan. It would require a time of ten-odd years from now on to close that hole.
Seen from anyone’s eyes, this is already a crushing defeat for the zoans.
The zoans, who withdrew to their hiding place after having suffered many casualties, warped their faces in humiliation due to the shouts of victory raised by the human soldiers from behind them.
Similar to her retreating brethren, Shyemul’s entire body trembled in humiliation due to the humans’ shouts of victory.
Shyemul is a warrior. She and her brethren are prepared for death in combat. They don’t have any intention to resent their opponents over that.
However, what is unfolding over there now isn’t a proper treatment of the corpses of brave warriors who died while fighting.
Ahead of her stare there were the human soldiers who are holding up the zoan’s corpses that were left behind as high as possible, as if boasting of spoils they shot dead during a hunt. Playing with the arms of the zoans’ corpses they lifted up, they make them move like puppets and laugh at the comical sight of that. Being unable to be satisfied with just kicking some of the corpses, there are even people who splash their piss on them.
“You monsters who scavenge through the excreta in hell! You damned monsters!” (Shyemul)
There’s nothing Souma, who’s also a human, can say. He had no other choice but to watch Shyemul’s shoulders that tremble out of fury and sadness while saying silent.
Shyemul, who finally calmed her violent fury unbeknownst to how much time it took, curtly said 「Sorry」 to Souma who was watching her intently while staying silent.
“Are we zoans already no more than beasts with some intelligence for the humans?” (Shyemul)
‘It’s just as Shyemul says’, he thought. Even from Souma’s point of view, the way how the humans handled the zoans’ corpses can’t be regarded as anything but them treating the corpses as spoils they obtained in a hunt.
Shyemul turned around to Souma and said while looking directly into his eyes,
“Soma, I have a huge debt towards you. I swore that I will return it without fail. But, I’m a warrior of the <<Fang Clan>>. There’s no way that I will turn my back on my brethren trying to fight with all their might. I might lose my life while unable to fulfil my vow towards you. I won’t mind even if you resent this worthless me at that time.” (Shyemul)
There was no way that Souma wouldn’t felt shaken by that.
How should I live from then on, if I end up losing the protection of Shyemul in a world where I still don’t know left from right?
However, as he simply understands the circumstances Shyemul was placed in, he smiles while mustering the very little amount of pride he has without unsightly clinging to that point.
“There’s no reason for me to blame you after having received this much from you.” (Souma)
“…! Sorry.” (Shyemul)
Shyemul says while forcefully producing a bright voice with a smile.
“What, it’s not like it’s decided that we will lose. This time some of our people were impertinent, but next time we will fight after having joined forces with the warriors of all clans. If it’s the strongest warrior 《Ferocious Fang》, something like such a fence will likely be broken easily!” (Shyemul)
Due to Shyemul’s words, Souma thought 「Huh?」
He sensed it some time ago as well, but he feels as if Shyemul’s way of thinking is somehow disconnected from his own.
His chest is astir.
Somehow something’s weird.
“Shyemul, maybe…” (Souma)
Starting to say so, Souma hesitated to continue.
‘Is this really something I should tell her?’ Souma, who still doesn’t know this world well, was unable to make the judgment whether it’s alright for him to tell her.
‘Besides, if I tell her this, it will result in influencing the battle between zoans and humans in this world.
For Souma, who’s a child of modern Japan, war and murder is no more but something out of a world of fiction. He harboured tremendous feelings of rejection at being directly concerned with such things.
“What’s wrong, Soma?” (Shyemul)
That’s why he did no more than answering Shyemul’s question with 「It’s nothing」.