an English translation of the novel

Page 293-295

Rijin had been so close to the explosion that his body was now an unrecognizable mess. Since we couldn’t use our cantus to bury him, we simply covered him with dirt. That simple task made me want to throw up.

“Saki, look at this,” Shun pulled out something that had been deeply embedded into the ground and held it out.

“What is it?” I hesitated, not taking the object from him.

He held it up for me to get a better look. It looked like a disc surrounded by six sharp, feather-like spikes sticking out in alternate directions.

“Looks like a water wheel propeller.”

“It’s probably part of the blowdog’s spine.”

“Its spine?”

Satoru came and took it from Shun, turning it over in his hands.

“It’s hard as stone. And heavy too. If you got hit with this you’d probably die.”

“They’re shaped like this so that when the blowdog dies they’ll come flying out.”

“Flying out for what?”

“To kill its opponent.”

As I looked around, I saw many more of them sticking out of the ground. Goosebumps stood out on my arms. {The blowdog could do this much damage.}

Satoru brought the bone to his nose and sniffed it.

“What are you doing?” I imagined the smell of blood and grimaced.

“It smells kinda like fireworks.”

“Oh? I get it,” Shun said, seemingly to himself. “Blowdogs probably have sulfur and saltpeter stored in their bodies so they can make gunpowder. Just inflating themselves to the point of bursting wouldn’t create such a powerful explosion… some of its bones act as flint to create the spark that sets everything off.”

“W-wait. Are there really animals that have evolved to become suicide bombers?”

It wasn’t unusual for animals to try to appear larger in order to intimidate its enemies, but isn’t blowing yourself up when the enemy ignores your warnings extremely counterproductive?

“Yeah. Shun, you even said so before we came here. If blowdogs kept blowing themselves up, they’d become extinct in no time.”

“That’s what I thought. But I just remembered that there was an animal a lot like the blowdog in one of the ancient biology books I read,” he said.

“There are more of them?” Satoru and I said in unison.

“Yeah, and by analogy, I have a rough idea of what blowdogs really are.”

“What?”


Page 296-298

“Oh really? So is it a balloon, or a dog?” Satoru joked.

That was our reaction to shock–to lose our heads just a little bit.

“Stop talking about stupid things!” Maria finally exploded. “Do you even understand the situation we’re in? We’ve been abandoned in the middle of nowhere, and on top of that, none of us can use our cantus…”

We stopped smiling.

“You’re right,” Shun said, after a heavy silence. “In any case, let’s head back the way we came. We’ll have to sleep out in the open tonight.”

“Hey…!” Satoru said nervously, grabbing Shun by the arm. He jerked his chin toward the crater.

Following his gaze, we froze.

A group of silhouettes stood forty or fifty meters ahead, watching us silently. Queerats.

“…what do we do?” Maria’s voice shook.

“Isn’t it obvious? We march up and attack,” Satoru replied.

“Attack? How are we supposed to do that without cantus?” I shot back.

“They don’t know that. If we run, it’ll expose our weakness and they’ll come after us.”

“But if we go, we’ll be captured,” Mamoru said in a thin voice.

“Exactly! We have to run,” Maria said.

As I looked at the queerats, I was filled with conviction.

“They definitely don’t want to fight. They just want us to leave.”

“How do you know? If that was the case, they should have left first,” Satoru said stubbornly.

“Their burrows are over there.”

That’s why this group was here defending their burrows in the face of death. The blowdog must also have been…

“Okay, let’s all back away slowly,” Shun said. He only ever took charge when it was absolutely necessary.”Be quiet, don’t provoke them. We’re done for if they think we’re afraid.”

He didn’t need to say any more. We retreated as quietly as possible. Soon it became dark, and every time I heard the crunch of rocks being stepped on, I was filled with fear.

The queerats watched closely as we backed down the hill, but showed no signs of pursuing us.

“I guess Saki was right. They don’t want to fight,” Maria said, sounding relieved.


Page 299-301

“It’s too early to say that for sure,” Satoru said gloomily. “They might be waiting for us to let our guard down before attacking.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” I snapped. “Do you enjoy the fact that they’re afraid of us?”

“Fine, should I say something stupidly optimistic then?” Satoru retorted.

“…Satoru’s probably right,” Shun said unexpectedly.

“Why?”

“Saki’s right that they don’t want to fight over there. Maybe because that’s where their nests are. But once we get far enough away, who knows what they’ll do.”

“But…what’s the point in attacking?”

“Dude, did you not see what Rijin did earlier? How many queerats do you think he killed? They’re not going to be satisfied with just having one of us dead.”

Satoru’s logic was depressingly sound.

“But they probably think we still have cantus, right? They should be trying to avoid more meaningless deaths,” Maria said.

Shun shook his head, “Like Rijin said, they’re a foreign species. They might have been civilized in the beginning, but have lost contact with humans for a long time. Remember, that first scout that was caught? It didn’t seem to know what cantus was.”

“That’s true, but shouldn’t they have learned to fear it by now?” I said quietly, trying to think from their point of view.

“Yeah. That’s why they haven’t attacked us yet. But at best, they only half-believe in our powers.”

“Why?”

“They’re probably thinking that if they had the same powers we did, they would have slaughtered us a long time ago.”

There was a silence so heavy that it was hard to breathe.

“…what’ll they do from now on?” Satoru asked Shun.

“Once we get far enough from the nests, it’s very likely they’ll try to strike back.”

“And what happens when we can’t retaliate?”

Shun’s silence was answer enough.

“So how far away from the nest is far enough?” Maria asked worriedly.

“I don’t know for sure.” Shun looked uphill. “The most dangerous place is probably at the bottom of the hill.”