Souma, who had Shyemul and Shahata chase after him, first headed to the feudal lord’s residence.
At any rate, a means of transportation is indispensable.
Souma went to the stables and had them take out a carriage that’s been used by messengers. It’s a two-wheeled carriage that has no cargo area and only a coachman’s seat where people can ride. The ones pulling those kind of carriages aren’t niryu, but the fast-paced kiryu.
While climbing on the coachman’s seat, Souma mutters as if giving himself a warning,
“It should be fine as long as I do it just like Mister Hopkins taught me to.”
During the travel from the fortress to this city, Hopkins taught him the proper way to operate a carriage after he asked about it.
At that time it was just playful curiosity, but he certainly never expected for a time to come where it would actually be useful. This time I will be handling a kiryu and not a niryu, but the basics should be the same.
Souma picks up a thin stick that had been placed on the coachman’s seat. Just like a rider’s whip, it’s an item to make the kiryu run by hitting its backside. At the end of the stick, there’s a metal fitting with several spikes attached to it. The stick was made this way because neither the niryu nor the kiryu will feel pain from a common whip, as their scales are reasonably tough.
If he didn’t hit the niryu strongly enough, it wouldn’t work, but Souma, who is handling a kiryu for the first time, spanks it lightly with the stick to begin with. Upon being hit, the kiryu started to move its feet slowly, apparently having realized that it was struck. However, its speed is only slightly higher than that of a human’s walking pace. It’s far off from the speed desired by Souma.
No other way, this time I will hit it stronger than before.
However, even then the pace of the kiryu doesn’t change.
He tries to hit it several times, but, let alone running, the kiryu eventually came to a halt and swung its tail around while looking annoyed.
The voice of a girl reverberates in the ears of Souma who is getting irritated as he’s trying to get the kiryu, who doesn’t move as he wishes, to budge.
『No matter who it might be, you won’t be able to injure them. No matter what it might be, you won’t be able to destroy it.』
Thinking Could it be…, Souma tries to hit his own thigh with the rod.
Certainly there was a sensation that he was hit. However, even though he hit himself with the metal part that has spikes, he can’t feel any pain at all. There was no way for the kiryu to run like this.
“Shit! At such a time…!”
By no means did he expect to be hindered by the blessing of that ill-mannered goddess at a time like this.
Souma was at a loss what he should do.
“What are you doing? Please move to the side.”
Shyemul said that as she pushes Souma to the side.
“Shyemul, if you don’t stay behind, explaining to everyone will be…”
“I left that to Shahata. Rather than that, let’s go!”
She hits the buttocks of the kiryu once with the rod she snatched out of Souma’s hand as though she wouldn’t allow a single objection. Thereupon the kiryu began to run while pulling the carriage. Shyemul, who left the feudal lord’s residence by crossing over the drawbridge, asks Souma,
“So, where are we headed?”
It’s a fact that he can’t move a single carriage decently by himself. He is anxious whether Shahata, who isn’t a divine child, will be able to persuade all the stubbornly egoistic members, but Souma resigned himself to his fate.
“Leave through the eastern gate and gallop along the mountains to the north of the road.”
Shyemul took the reins and made the kiryu head towards the east gate. On the way Souma calls out to the surprised zoan warriors 「We will be right back」 as he leaves the city accompanied by Shyemul.
“Soma! Hold fast!”
Having left through the gate, Shyemul made the kiryu dash by hitting its buttocks with all her might.
The wheel of carriages in this epoch finally started to use solid, wooden spokes through round, wooden discs. Of course, these aren’t wheels with a elasticity like gum tires. In addition, since mechanisms that buffer the impacts such as springs don’t exist either, it was quite difficult to make a carriage travel on ground with unprepared soil even if it’s an open field.
The carriage bumps up and down due to any small pebble or undulation.The impacts that seem to push up the passengers from below are strong enough to throw one off the carriage if they lose focus for even an instant. If he doesn’t cling to the coachman’s seat without any shame and honor, Souma’s body will be hurled to the ground in the blink of an eye and will likely suffer major injuries.
In contrast to that, as expected of Shyemul, she skillfully kills the impacts by lightly bending her knees as she holds the reins in a half-risen posture. Not only that, she magnificently controlled the violently shaking carriage by quickly shifting her weight if it looks like they were about to topple sideways.
“Now that I’m making the carriage travel by myself like this, I must say that it’s a nice invention!”
Shyemul says this happily as the wind blows through her fur from the front.
However, Souma, who heard that, nearly screamed. No matter how one hears it, the way she phrased that just now makes it apparent that it’s her first time driving a carriage.
Souma felt as if he were about to die.
“Soma! This way is correct, right!?”
Shyemul asks while raising her voice in order to not be drowned out by the sound of the carriage rattling. Souma tried to answer her, but it looked like he’d bite his tongue clean off if he opened his mouth during the crazy ride. Having said that, he could easily imagine himself being thrown off the carriage in the instant he removes his hands from the carriage in order to point at the location. Thinking of a way around this dilemma, Souma jerked his chin frantically towards the target direction.
“Mmmmh! Mmh! Mmh!!”
“Got it! You are telling me to head to that forest, right?”
As she says that, Shyemul whipped the kiryu once.
Souma is about to burst into tears due to the carriage accelerating even further. Being shaken around by the far too intense vibrations, he has long ago lost any feeling in his own body. He would probably believe it even if he was told that the carriage had turned over or was plummeting off a cliff.
That torturous period came to an end at last. Once the carriage stopped, Souma unceremoniously tumbled off the carriage.
Because he desperately clung to the carriage in order to avoid being thrown off, Souma can’t even stand up due to his excessive fatigue.
Nevertheless, after he managed to tumble and crawl off the carriage, he opened his eyes wide and carefully surveyed the surroundings in order to not miss even the smallest detail.
It’s a place that has turned into a boundary between the mountains and an open field.
There’s a steep mountain slope very nearby on the northern side. In contrast to that, the southern side has little undulations and there’s a plain at the foot of the gently sloping mountains. Ahead of the mountain’s foot one can see a road, similar to a single, long line that was pulled through the plains. They can’t be seen right now, but this is likely to be the road the punitive force will approach by.
And, on the eastern side a forest is thickly growing as if it protruded out of the mountains, whereas the western side had rocks and such sticking out their heads here and there, becoming a mountain foot with slightly less undulations than the southern side.
While looking up the the northern mountain slope first, Souma asked Shyemul,
“Shyemul, can you run up this mountain?”
“I think that’s impossible. The inclination is too steep. That doesn’t mean that I can’t ascend it, but running would be impossible.”
Shyemul replies while lining up with Souma and looking up the mountain.
Souma, who was satisfied with that answer, tried to stand up in order to go to see the forest next. However his body doesn’t do as told and his knees are about to give way.
“Grab my shoulder, Soma.”
Finally getting up while holding onto Shyemul’s shoulder, Souma walks towards the forest with a shaky stride.
The forest spreading in front of Souma is largely different from what a Japanese person would associate with the word forest.
If it’s close to a city, there will be traces of people due to gathering firewood and letting their pigs graze, but once you move away from a place where people live, the forests of this era will be primeval regions that have lasted since ancient times. There are various trees and grasses, of which Souma doesn’t know the names of either, growing there, and even though it’s winter, it was wrapped up by a dense atmosphere.
In reality he wanted to also check further inside the forest, but being hindered by protruding foliage and thick roots that grew on the ground, Souma gives up on that idea.
However, for Souma those were ideal circumstances.
“The northern side has a steep mountain. The east has a deep forest that would obstruct one’s view. The south has a gentle slope!”
If he were to be honest, he wanted a forest or mountain on the western side, but for now he has no choice but to be satisfied with things as they are.
Souma suddenly grasped both his fists tightly.
“This is it! There’s no better place than this!!”
“That brat still hasn’t returned?”
As if displaying his displeasure, Jahangil repeatedly struck the floor with his long, thick tail.
Several hours have already passed since Shyemul and Souma left the city.
Although Garam and Zurgu, who managed to return after failing their ambush, felt dumbfounded for an instant due to the absence of the two, they immediately cover up their agitation and gathered the main members of their forces into a room of the feudal lord’s residence.
“Stop asking the same thing all the time.”
After Garam chides him with a dangerous tone, Jahangil snorts grandly and turns away. However, his tail started to hit the floor even more intensely.
They switched their meeting place, which was usually carried out in the courtyard to account for the zoan’s dislike of closed spaces, to an indoor area in order to not worry the surroundings of Souma and Shyemul not being present at the location where all the main members have gathered.
It would be especially fatal for them to learn about Souma’s absence.
Currently it’s no exaggeration to say that the military forces that have gathered in Bolnis are doing so in support of Souma’s 「Proclamation of Iron」. It’s obvious that these military forces would fall apart immediately if they thought the person that had made the proclamation ran away.
The sun that is shining through the window has already started to be dyed in the crimson light of dusk.
If Souma and Shyemul don’t return before the end of the day, Garam and the others will probably put an end to it without waiting for the punitive force.
Due to that only, not just Jahangil but even all the others stayed silent, but within their minds they were losing their patience to the anxiety and irritation.
The son of the Mane Clan’s clan chief, Banuka, who couldn’t bear that heavy silence, whispers to no one in specific,
“Umm… there’s no way that they ran away, right?”
Right after that everyone present glared at him.
A soundless scream wells up from within Banuka’s throat, and then his facial color changes and he vindicates himself with 「It’s a joke, a joke!」, but that caused even more dangerous looks to be sent his way.
And yet, there was no one who denied Banuka’s words. That’s because it got straight to the point of the anxiety of everyone present in this place.
However, at that time a single zoan raised his voice.
“Sir Soma won’t run away! He will come back without fail!”
It was Shahata who said that.
If they were to follow zoan customs, Shahata, who isn’t a warrior, wouldn’t be permitted to speak up in a meeting related to battle. Not only did he act in such manner unbefitting of his social status in front of the two great zoan leaders, Garam and Zurgu, but Shahata threw out his chest in pride without faltering even though he received the sharp gazes of the dwarven and dinosaurian warriors upon himself.
Dwavlin, who continually twirled and brushed his beard, stops moving and asks Shahata,
“Do you have any guarantee?”
Hearing those words, Shahata moved his right hand.
In the next instant that hand powerfully hits his left breast.
“It will be fine for you to do with this life as you please if those two don’t return!”
The act of hitting his left chest with his hand holds the meaning of 「I offer this heart」 for the zoan. Shahata had the resolve to gouge out his own heart if the worst case scenario happens and Souma and Shyemul don’t return.
Even Dvalin and Jahangil, who don’t know the meaning of the action, comprehend Shahata’s resolve after looking into his eyes.
Dvalin opened his eyes a bit and Jahangil, who kept hitting the floor with that much irritation, suddenly stopped his tail.
The people present, you could as well call heroic veterans without being wrong about it, were charmed by the appearance of Shahata, who firmly pushed out his chest while pressing his hand against his left chest.
By no means is it a loud voice, but Garam’s voice could be heard awfully well.
Believing that he would be reprimanded for having been too forward without considering his status due to his emotions, Shahata immediately straightens his back and stands at attention.
However, the words that left Garam’s mouth were not ones of rebuke.
“Call yourself a warrior from today onwards. I permit it.”
Those were unexpected words.
For Shahata calling himself a warrior is a dream that he’d never thought would come true. Because of that, Shahata had a moment of bewilderment before being delighted.
“B-But, with my leg injury… Umm, given that I can’t hunt cattle by running, that…!”
Even though he wants to jump at Garam’s words, he just says things that are contradictory. Garam sighs lightly at Shahata.
“Being able to hunt cattle is not what’s required of a warrior. Hunting cattle is no more than a display of one’s courage as a warrior and above all else the ability to fight. Just now you demonstrated your courage and spirit, which are more important than anything as warrior, even without hunting cattle.”
While folding his arms, Garam intently stared into the eyes of Shahata.
“This 《Ferocious Fang》 Fagul Garguss Garam approves of it. You have the qualifications to call yourself a warrior.”
Shahata was touched by Garam’s strongly stated words.
Tears overflow from Shahata’s widely-opened eyes and wet the fur on his cheeks. Even though he should be happy, he doesn’t understand why he’s crying. While saying 「Huh? Why?」 in perplexion, he wipes his cheeks. Garam bluntly said 「Don’t show your tears as a warrior」 to Shahata.
As if making fun of those two, Zurgu cut in,
“Wait a minute, Garam! You kept forbidding a man of such calibre to become a hunter at your place?”
“… Shut up! Don’t butt into the matters of other clans!”
Seemingly amused by Garam’s reaction, Zurgu called out to Shahata while grinning broadly.
“Hey, you. If it’s not enough with this Great Clan Chief approving of you, this 《Mad Claw》 Kraga Bigana Zurgu will give you his authorization as well. Come to the Claw Clan if there’s no place for you at the Fang Clan. I will treat you as a warrior.”
“Zurgu, don’t go trying to headhunt a warrior of the Fang Clan in front of my eyes!”
Far from being timid, Zurgu endures laughing out while his shoulders tremble due to Garam threatening him by baring his fangs.
Due to that Garam snorted and fell back into the backrest of the chair, acting sulky.
At that moment the ears of the zoan present in the room move with a twitch simultaneously.
“… I guess you were right, Shahata.”
As Garam says that while slightly lifting the corners of his mouth, Dvalin and Jahangil wonder what he might be talking about. However, noticing the footsteps gradually approaching from the room’s entrance door that was left open, they also grin broadly.
And before long the owners of the footsteps showed up at the room’s entrance.
“Sorry! We ran late!”
It was Souma accompanied by Shyemul whom they had eagerly awaited.