Souma and Shyemul were expecting a scolding for having made everyone wait for such a long time, but they quickly became aware of the delicate mood within the room.
For some reason Shahata has turned away his face and is wiping his eyes. The others turn their gazes away from him, feigning ignorance.
“Did something happen?”
After Souma asks that, thinking that he might have made them wait too long, all of them simply look at each other and avoid answering him.
However, that might be natural.
Of course, they wouldn’t say that they suspected him of running away directly into his face
Even so, there was a single person who doesn’t read the mood.
“We discussed if you didn’t run away.” Jahangil said.
Dinosaurians have meager facial expressions, so they tend to prefer frank speech and conduct. Either due to this racial trait or his own personality, or a mix of both, Jahangil calmly states what none of the others were able to say.
Due to that Shyemul was rather shocked than angry.
“Good grief, you guys… there’s no way that Soma would run away, is there?”
Everyone awkwardly averts their eyes upon those words.
However, only Souma cast his eyes down with a pale face while not even noticing the reactions of his surroundings.
He was anxious that the trust in him might be shaken due to his surprise having been seen through, but by no means did he expect them to go as far as considering that he would run away.
The plan that he was about to tell everyone from now on is accompanied by quite the danger.
Saying it frankly, it’s practically something similar to a gamble. Not only that, it’s a gamble with poor odds.
But even then, our chance of winning, which is already very low, would vanish when the trust in me is as unstable as it is now. The plan is akin to finding victory, even barely, by putting our backs up against the wall.
Therefore, they need to resolve themselves to fight their enemies while continuing to believe in me until the very end. If they harbor even the slightest doubt towards my plan, it will likely cause a crack from where the whole plan will fall apart.
A certain idea came to the flustered Souma as he wonders how to regain this lost trust.
It should be fine to let them know about that secret I couldn’t talk so easily about
Once I do that, it will become a guarantee that I will never run away. And, if I stress its abnormality, it will also connect to them trusting in my plan.
Yes, that will be the best solution.
Even though he came up with a solution, a dark smile appeared on Souma’s face for some reason.
Shyemul, who finally noticed that the atmosphere around Souma is weird, suddenly remembers. She ended up completely forgetting about it due to how busy she had been, because of his ambush being seen through by the enemy and Souma having her make sure that her fellow zoan aren’t too disturbed by the failure.
However, she didn’t report to Souma about that.
Thinking that Souma is possibly anxious and fearful over the suspicion of him running away, Shyemul tries to tell him in a hurry that it’s a needless fear.
But the ears of Shyemul, who had those words on the tip of her tongue, move with a twitch.
She thought that she might have misheard due to the overly weak voice, but she had a feeling as if Souma had muttered 「Just the right time to get rid of that ballast」.
“I won’t run away!”
Souma said during Shyemul’s moment of bewilderment.
“No, rather I can’t run away. I’m sharing my lot with you.”
Shyemul was filled with doubt. Looking at the words at face-value, he’s expressing his determination to fight alongside them, but with how he says it, she could sense a dark shadow similar to self-deprecation.
“You are a human. Wouldn’t it get exposed if you left this city?”
Due to Jahangil’s statement that once again failed to read the mood, everyone shouted 「Someone gag this moron!」 within their hearts.
“Then I have to show you evidence, don’t I?”
Even those who felt troubled by Jahangil’s remark are intrigued by Souma’s words.
“Garam, I’m sorry, but can you lend me one of your machetes? I’ll give it right back.”
“… I don’t particularly mind?”
He didn’t know why the hell Souma would want to use his machete, but he handed one of his two machetes hanging at his waist to Souma along with its scabbard.
Souma slowly draws the blade out of its scabbard as everyone watches him.
As expected of a machete of the zoan hero Garam. It has been sharpened diligently and cast a sheen that brightens the polished machete blade.
“It looks to be quite sharp, doesn’t it?”
“… Indeed. Watch out to not touch the blade at a wrong spot. You can easily lose a finger.”
Garam warns Souma as he feels something eerie from him.
However, Souma only returned a faint smile to that.
“Excuse me for a bit.”
Saying that, Souma holds the machete with a backhand grip and thrusts it forward. And, in front of everyone, who stares in wonder, he stabbed the machete into the map spread out on top of a table. An intense sound is triggered when the machete’s point hits the table.
As he’s intently and wordlessly watched by everyone due to the sudden outburst of violence, Souma puts down the machete for a moment, picks up both ends of the map’s surface and opens it up
“Look. There’s not a single scratch, right?”
There’s not a single cut on the fluttering map, just as Souma said. Judging by how he stabbed it with so much strength, it’s something strange indeed. And after they look at the table, they couldn’t find any trace of it being hit by the machete’s point.
Without understanding Souma’s intention, everyone looks at each other.
They question why he has to show such a sleight of hand at this location when they had better things to be doing, such as discussing how to fight against the punitive force from now on.
Souma once again picks up the machete within that atmosphere of bewilderment.
He then calmly presses the blade against his own throat.
“…! What are you doing, Soma!?”
Seeing that, a scream begins to surge out from Shyemul’s mouth.
However, Souma casually slit his throat without a moment’s hesitation.
All of them envisioned fresh blood scattering through the empty air.
Shyemul, who twisted her face in shock, ends up slumping down on the spot behind Souma.
“Look, I’m fine, am I not?”
Let alone blood spraying, there’s not a single drop of blood to be found on the machete held by Souma.
Everyone present felt that they had to be in a dream.
They definitely saw Souma pressing the blade against his throat. No sleight of hand could fake something like that. Not only that, they saw his skin sink in due to the pressure applied by the blade. There’s no way for his throat not to be cut if he used the blade in such a manner.
“This is my blessing as divine child.”
Souma’s voice that might be called gentle sounded like a distant thunder to everyone present in this place.
It was common knowledge that Souma is a divine child, but it was thought that the blessing given to every divine child was unknown to him at the moment.
Everyone is at a loss for words. Souma slit his own throat, had nothing come of it, then stated that this was his blessing.
The one who opened his mouth first after a short period of silence is Garam, due to having some knowledge of the bizarre powers of a blessing because of his sister.
“… No way, is it a blessing of not getting injured by blades?”
That was truly the first idea Garam came up with.
However, that can’t explain why the map wasn’t cut.
He didn’t have the slightest idea just what kind of blessing Souma received going by what he just now showed what he was capable of.
“No, it’s something else. No matter what it might be, I can’t damage or destroy it with my hands. That’s the blessing I received.”
Turning around the meaning of the words Souma said several times within his head, Garam finally comprehended and felt dumbfounded.
“Did I get you to understand? Even if I wanted to help obtain my share of food for the day, I can’t hunt a single bird or even reel in one small fish. Even if I were to be attacked, even if that opponent were a small child, I can’t turn a blade against them.”
Souma floats a self-mocking smile and suddenly shrugs his shoulders.
“See? There’s no way that I could run away. At this point, I don’t have any other options but to survive together with you.”
The blessing mentioned by Souma widely diverted from the general concept of a divine child’s blessing Garam and the others have known so far.
“Such absurdity! There are such foolish blessings!?”
If we assume that something like this exists, that’s no blessing.
“Isn’t that just a curse!?”
Garam’s shout expressed what all the others present thought.
A blessing is no more than a power given to someone who is loved by the gods. Receiving a blessing that apparently doesn’t give anything but disadvantages to the divine child is incomprehensible.
“You’re right. — It’s probably a curse.”
A cruel smile forms on Souma’s lips.
“It’s so that I can’t leave you guys. It’s so that I have to cooperate with you guys.”
Souma told them implicitly;
that he had been sent here by the goddess.
that he’s here to destroy their enemies.
Garam feels a sense of deja vu after seeing Souma like that.
Doesn’t this resemble a scene I have already seen?
The scene when Souma told them for the first that he’s Aura’s divine son surfaces in Garam’s mind.
That’s right. I chased it out of my consciousness, but the human boy in front of me is the divine son of Aura. He’s the divine son of a sinister goddess who brings about death and destruction.
All the fur on Garam’s body slightly stands up due to the fear travelling up his spine.
It’s not just Garam either. Everyone present couldn’t move a single finger as they were overwhelmed by Souma, who has an abnormal aura which is unimaginable when compared with his usual behavior.
However, among them only Shyemul stands up, swaying.
Then, she raises a firmly grasped fist over her head,
And struck Souma on the top of his head with it.
A hysteric shriek escapes Souma’s mouth.
Without exaggeration, the impact made him wonder whether his eyes were going to pop out of his skull.
As one would expect, even the timid Souma looks back at Shyemul with blood rushing to his head due to the sudden act of violence.
However, his anger is erased without a trace, just like a bonfire that was swallowed by a flood, in front of Shyemul. She has faint tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.
“You big idiot!”
“I thought you would really commit suicide! Do you understand!? How surprised I was!? I thought that you will really, really die! Thinking that you would die, I was so scared…”
Due to the appearance of Shyemul, who shouts at him while trembling slightly with all her fur standing on end, Souma feels like running away.
“… I-I’m sorry.”
Once Souma apologizes, Shyemul’s attitude makes a complete turn and she begins to feel flustered.
“R-Rather than that, is your throat really alright? Let me have a look. There’s really no injury, right?”
Shyemul grabs Souma by the collar and pulls him towards herself. Then she makes him forcibly expose his throat by lifting his chin.
“Wai-Wait a moment, Shyemul. It tickles.”
“Be quiet! Let me have a proper look.”
Once she brings her face close enough that the tip of her nose touches Souma’s throat, she stares at it intensely, opening her eyes widely so that she doesn’t miss even a single scratch. She only feels relief after confirming that, just as Souma said, there isn’t a single wound. Thereupon, the anger that she had briefly restrained comes roaring up to the surface once again.
So she hits Souma on the head again!
“I-It hurts, Shyemul…”
Shyemul opened her mouth widely all of a sudden and bared her fangs at Souma who protests while becoming teary-eyed.
“Shut up! To begin with, what’s with that blessing!? When were you given such blessing!? Or did you trick me despite having been given that blessing from the start in reality!?”
“I-I haven’t deceived you! Some time ago! Some time ago in a dream—”
“Why did you stay silent about such an important matter!? Do you trust me that little!? Am I not an unthinkable clown for not being trusted by my 『Navel Master』!? If you are going to make me live in such disgrace, order me to offer you my head at once! I will show you proof that the words that I would offer my everything to you are no lie! Come on, say it!!”
Due to the menacing attitude of Shyemul, who looks as if she’s about to draw her machete and do a repeat of Souma’s actions on herself at any moment, Souma’s facial color changes and he soothes her.
“Sorry, Shyemul! I apologize, so calm down! Okay?”
Once Souma soothes her by clinging to her body, the fur that was standing on end finally loses its strength and gently hangs down. However, she had still half-opened eyes that were filled with doubt.
“Are you really feeling sorry?”
“Yeah, I feel truly sorry.”
“… Next time I won’t forgive you, got it?”
“I’m really sorry.”
Souma felt relieved for having received her pardon at last.
Suddenly there’s a laughter at that moment.
When the two turn their heads in the direction of the laughter in surprise, everybody inside the room is guffawing at them. Only Garam and Banuka have sour expressions among them.
At that point the strained tension that dominated the place just before had vanished without a single trace.
“That’s unheard-of. For a zoan warrior to hit the head of their 『Navel Master』…”
Garam said with a bitter tone.
Shyemul, who came to her senses due to that, realizes what she has done and makes her body shrink while standing next to Souma.
“However, only this time it’s Sir Soma’s fault. He doesn’t understand how important of a decision it is for us zoan to choose a 『Navel Master』!”
It’s Banuka who said that. He glared at Souma with a resentful look that contained a personal grudge. Even Zurgu follows suit with that.
“Just this once I have to agree as well. Even I would want to cut off my head if I felt that I’m not trusted by my 『Navel Master』.”
Due to that, the zoan present demonstrated their agreement with wry smiles.
“… You lot, stop pampering 《Noble Fang》.”
Garam says over his shoulder with a glance at Banuka and Zurgu. And then he glared at Shyemul who was agreeing with their words by bobbing her head up and down slightly, as if saying 「Right, right!」.
“《Noble Fang》, now is an important time where we have to discuss what we will do about the human forces that are closing. And yet you…!”
“What, 《Ferocious Fang》! Let’s calm down. We will talk after things settle down!”
“Hoo… Certainly, even though it’s just us two siblings, we didn’t have any opportunity for a calm chat recently, did we? — Very well. let’s have a thorough chat between the two of us later.”
While his eyes are twitching to due to his strong anger, the expression Garam shows, who laughs as he shows his fangs, didn’t make it look like it would be a private chat between elder brother and younger sister at all.
The body of Souma, who had his name called out, trembles with a start as he’s also expecting to be scolded. However, in front of such Souma, Garam sighed quietly and abruptly revealed a wry smile.
“Many of our brethren were saved by you. The debt of gratitude for that and the fact that you gained nothing from it, we definitely won’t forget that. Even if you don’t do something like this, we plan to obey you.”
Souma blushed shyly due to Garam’s words.
Garam had seen through his act as the divine son of the Goddess of Death and Destruction where he tried to make everyone obey with fear.
“That’s right! You idiot!”
Souma showed an embarrassed smile at Shyemul who said that while lightly poking his head.
In the end it was trivial. He simply jumped to a hasty conclusion by himself and was frightened due to incorrect assumptions. Not only did he not believe in everyone while at the same time wishing for them all to believe in him, but on top of all that he tried to put on airs to keep everyone at a distance.
The look of Shyemul, who is still putting her wholehearted trust into him even though he exposed such disgraceful behaviour, made him happy and also embarrassed.
Even the lips of Garam, who watched the exchange between the two, show a small smile.
From Garam’s standpoint, Souma felt very unsteady.
Souma is poor at relying on others, or rather, he has an extreme tendency of hating to cause other people trouble or worries.
It’s still much better than him becoming arrogant due to his achievements, or him giving instructions without listening to us, but it would be better if he learned to rely on others a bit more, Garam felt.
From now on the things Soma must shoulder will rapidly increase. If he tries to bear everything by himself, he will definitely hit his limit someday.
And that…will cause something absolutely terrifying at that time.
It was premonition close to conviction. That’s what his warrior’s intuition told him, and he had refined it through many life and death situations.
For it to not turn out like that, he ought to get used to sharing the burden that he carries with others from now on.
While pondering about that, he thought that it might be a good fortune that Shyemul is at the side of Souma.
Even deducting the fact that an elder brother sees their younger sister in a favorable light, Shyemul is a nice woman who will thoroughly devote herself to a partner she has decided to be the right one for her. If it’s Shyemul, she will probably stop Soma yet again with a hit to the head, if he was about to take the wrong path.
Garam looked at Shyemul with a gaze that carried the love of a brother and his faith in her, but at that time Shyemul, who was trembling due to the remaining dread of recent events, didn’t notice.
Once she recalled Souma’s state at that time, Shyemul felt her spine freeze even now due to fear.
However, Souma’s state Shyemul is afraid of is not when he pressed a blade against his throat or when he slid that blade across his throat.
It’s when he was talking about his own blessing, about how he’s here to destroy the human army.
At that moment Shyemul had a vision of a city bursting into flames around Souma.
That city…is not this Bolnis. It’s a place unknown to Shyemul. Brightly burning flames lit the city like a bonfire, and the screams of men and women that were burning to death in the conflagration could be heard over the roaring of the flames.
That scenery, which was truly a picture of pure pandemonium, suddenly appeared in front of Shyemul.
And the face of Souma, who was surrounded by that illusion, looked like a dreadful monster to Shyemul.
In the next instant, as a result of her being stimulated by an incomprehensible fear, she unintentionally ended up throwing a punch at the illusion.
Oh no! Now that I think about, for me to do something that outrageous…, cold sweat streams down on her whole body.
Shyemul looked at the back of Souma who is spreading the map over the table in preparation for explaining the plan to everyone.
The person there is the usual Souma she knows well.
There was no trace or shadow of that incomprehensible illusion left behind anymore.
Shyemul laughs at herself for having seen something so absurd
I must be crazy to see my gentle Navel Master as monster.
However, Shyemul feels shocked by the words she was reminded of.
What is filling her mind is that announcement of that phantom-like girl she saw at night.
Shyemul fiercely swung her head left and right as if to banish that from her mind.
What nonsense! Are you telling me that what I saw just now is a glimpse of the dreadful monster that girl talked about!?
Shyemul strongly denies that image.
“What’s wrong, Shyemul?”
Once she looks up, Souma stared at her curiously. Shyemul waves her hands trying to smooth her previous brooding over.
“Ah, no. It’s nothing. Don’t worry!”
“…? I see. If it’s nothing, then I guess it’s fine.”
While saying so, Souma still couldn’t grasp Syhemul’s behavior in his mind. However, without time to probe further into it, he’s pestered by Jahangil with a「Hurry!」.
Reluctantly Souma clears his throat once and switches his thinking towards the meeting.
“It’s a counterplan against the approaching punitive force, but—”
Souma declared like this while being aware of everyone concentrating their looks on him.
“In the end I still believe that that we have to leave this city and ambush them.”
“Your Excellency, what might you be doing by yourself in a place like this?”
A single commissioned officer called out to Darius, who is taking a stroll through the encampment by himself without taking any guards along.
It was a young commissioned officer with looks that are unrefined and honest, far from masculine. Holding the helmet, which had an ornamental bird feather with a rich, flashy color, under his arm, the pure white mantle on his back swayed lightly in the wind.
The gaudy attire, which doesn’t fit his looks, is owed to him being a messenger.
Going by the sense of a modern Japanese citizen, a messenger is considered to be similar to a soldier running errands.
However, if you talk about a messenger in an era where wireless communication and such doesn’t exist, it’s an ornamental branch of an army admired by the young commissioned officers.
That’s because messengers possess the quick wittedness of making independent decisions depending on the situation, as they own the intelligence to understand and remember the order of the commander to begin with. Moreover they have to combine military prowess and excellent horsemanship to allow them to runthrough a battlefield, where enemies and allies alike are all jumbled together, as a single horseman.
Hence it’s an eternal rule in any country that messengers are allocated as elites that were singled out by choosing from among the brilliant young commissioned officers with great stamina.
Furthermore, messengers are given various special rights. For example, they are allowed to answer in front of the general while on horseback, and even if they slay anyone that might stand in their way while they are in the middle of passing on messages, they won’t be accused of any crime.
With only that it’s easy to understand how highly regarded messengers are.
Also, as if supporting that, the empire’s famous commander Inkdias admonished an emperor, who tried to abolish messengers because of a lack of riders in the past empire, by saying 「Your Majesty, are you telling us to fight while shutting our mouths, covering our eyes and plugging our ears?」. The abolition being annulled is a famous story.
“Marius, eh? — What, there are just a few things I want to think over for a bit…”
Darius replies while showing an intimate smile to the young commissioned officer who had walked up to him. That young commissioned officer, favored by Darius, is a young man called Marius.
He had become the guardian of Marius, who lost his father in the dispute with Romania and lost the deserted house he couldn’t succeed as family head while being a boy. This was due to Darius having been a close friend of Marius’ late grandfather, and Darius even now loved the young man like his own grandchild.
“Let’s see, I wonder what might be troubling you, Your Excellency? Is it the words of the residents of the liberated city? Or is it how to use the reward you were granted by His Majesty?”
It’s a joke based on the fact that he knew that it’s impossible for such trivial matters to make Darius rack his brain.
“That’s called 『Dreaming of an abundant harvest without even sowing any seeds』.”
The phrase Darius returned alongside a wry smile is essentially this region’s「Don’t count your chickens before they hatch」 .
“So, what might be troubling you then?”
“… I was pondering what kind of measures the rebels will take.”
Marius widens his eyes a bit upon those words. Going by his judgment, it seemed as if the the rebels have already no path left to take except for running away or holing up within the city.
Apparently that doubt became apparent on his face. Darius laughs lightly and turns his look towards the western horizon.
Marius knew that the city of Bolnis can be found over there, albeit they can’t see its appearance yet.
“I guess this is more a prediction than a hope.”
Darius vaguely felt that this would very likely become the last time he will fight at the head of an army himself. For this reason Darius hoped that it will be a formidable opponent, appropriate to decorate his last battle.
“I’m wondering whether the enemy won’t leave the city and try to ambush us.”