an English translation of the novel

Page 337-338

There were six queerats in all. They came forward slowly.

“Satoru, get rid of the spear,” I whispered in as normal a voice as possible. “They’ll kill us if we resist.”

Satoru shook his head, “They’ll kill us anyway. Listen, run into the forest while I fight them.”

“That’s ridiculous. It’s impossible to get away, but if we go quietly, they might not kill us right away. We can wait for help.”

“No. They won’t make it,” Satoru replied stubbornly. “And I don’t want to be locked up in a cage again.”

“Satoru! Please, don’t be rash.”

The six queerats stopped four or five meters away. Were they still on guard against us? That’s kind of strange.

“…wait a second,” I said, holding back Satoru’s spear-arm.

“Don’t get in my way.”

“I’m not…look, they’re not the same ones as before.”

“Huh?” Satoru replied dubiously.

Just when I thought the queerats would drop their spears, they suddenly all fell to their knees before us.

“What?” Satoru shouted.

I just stared with my mouth agape.

“Kikikiki grrr…k-gods,” the queerat in the center raised its head and let out strange sounds that resembled speech. “sssh…Robber☆Flyy colony…∈∂Å. Ground Spider…★brrr…danger!”

Page 339-340

I have no clue what it’s saying. But I saw something that looked like tattoos on their foreheads.

“We’re saved! It’s a colony that obeys humans!” I said, my knees going weak with relief.

Satoru still looked doubtful, but approached the queerats resolutely, if somewhat nervously, stopping about three meters away and looking at their tattoos.

“‘Salt 604’, huh. Does that mean ‘Robber Fly’ colony?1

“Kikikikiki…Robber☆Flyy! Robber☆Flyy!” the queerat who could somewhat speak replied to Satoru’s words, nodding exaggeratedly like a longheaded locust. “Gro☆Spider★…danger…Ground Spider★danger!”

We learned later that at that time, the Department of Health had already acknowledged the existence of the foreign colony and had named it “Ground Spider”. But compared to another foreign colony that had come over from the peninsula, called “Millipede”, the Ground Spiders were considered a mild group and not much trouble. This turned out to be an underestimation.

Incidentally, during the Yamato period in ancient Japan (different from the New Yamato period during the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire), “ground spider” was a derogatory term that referred to the indigenous Jomon people. After all this time, the fact that it’s now used as a name for a queerat colony, and a foreign colony at that, speaks to the ironic nature of history.

Anyway, we were led through the dark forest by the six queerats from the Robber Fly colony.

“We’re in a bad situation again,” Satoru sighed, looking grave.

“How come? We’ve been rescued. And these guys definitely won’t take us captive.”

“True, but I’m talking about now.”


Satoru gave me a pitiful look, “Why do you think queerats worship humans as gods? Isn’t it because we have cantus? They’re only being subservient right now because they believe we have that power, but what do you think they’ll do if they find out we’ve lost it?”

1 The first kanji in ‘Robber Fly’ means ‘salt’.

Page 341-342

Satoru talked quietly, hanging back. Maybe he was afraid of the queerats ahead overhearing.

“You’re over thinking it.” I was a little uneasy, but still felt like I should refute him somehow. “The Robber Fly colony is under our control, right? If they were to do something to us, and other people found out, the colony would be exterminated. They know that well. So they shouldn’t have any incentive to hurt us.”

“You can never tell what their motives are. Queerats may think like us sometimes, but they’re still rodents after all,” Satoru said, suddenly sounding much older than his years. “Anyway, we can’t be careless. I definitely won’t let them know we can’t use our cantus. You be careful too, Saki.”

How in the world am I supposed to be careful, I wanted to ask, but this wasn’t the time to argue.

But as we walked through the pathless forest, my uneasiness increased.

Would we be able to fool the Robber Fly colony? This new worry replaced my previous fear of the Ground Spiders, growing exponentially as time wore on.

How much more do I have to walk? Suddenly, one queerat turned around and shouted something, but I was so exhausted my mind was too hazy to comprehend anything.

“What did it say?”

“I didn’t really hear, but it was probably something about having arrived.”

Satoru’s words caused a ripple of anxiety to run through me.

Through a gap in the bushes ahead, a new queerat appeared. Its appearance was distinctively different from the six that we had been traveling with. A good size bigger than the others, it was wearing a helmet with a hoe-shaped crest and scaled metal ring mail. It was probably the same rank as Captain Pinecone from the Ground Spiders, or maybe even higher.

For a few moments, Helmet stood listening to the report from one of the queerats, then approached us carefully.

“Gods, welcome,” it said in astonishingly fluent Japanese, sweeping off its helmet. “I am a messenger for the Robber Fly Colony. Θξ%∞★∀∂ is my name.”

Page 343-344

Its name was a series of complicated, high pitched noises.

“But Squealer is probably easier, so please call me that.”

“Then, Squealer,” Satoru says calmly, “We’ve lost our way back to camp. We would be thankful if you would take us to the shore of Kasumiga Bay. After that we’ll be fine.”

“I understand,” Squealer responded quickly, and we went weak with relief. “However, it will be difficult to do so immediately.”

“Why’s that?” I asked without thinking. “Because it’s dark? Or…”

“My sense of smell is quite developed; I could move through the forest at night without any impediments. If you are not tired and wish to leave now, I will gladly show you the way,” Squealer answered respectfully. “However, this area is currently very dangerous. Because the foreign Ground Spider colony invaded our lands, we’ve been on high alert. A few days ago, they declared war on us, a native colony. Perhaps you’ve encountered them on the way here?”

I was about to reply when I saw Satoru’s expression.

“Nope, haven’t seen them,” he said with a straight face.

I thought I saw Squealer glance at the wound on Satoru’s forehead, but it was probably just my imagination.

“That’s fortunate. The Ground Spiders are a lawless group who would probably attempt to capture the gods out of ignorance of their own positions. Of course, to the gods dealing with them with cantus is nothing more than child’s play, but they’re not past doing cowardly things like ambushing others with poisoned arrows.”

Page 345-346

He scrunched up his already wrinkled snout, spitting in anger.

“I apologize for my outburst. We’ve put enormous effort into our defense, but we are not a strong group to begin with, so that is how we ended up in this position.”

“You mean, you’re losing?” I asked.

As if he had been waiting for the question, Squealer went on, “The situation is not so simple. I don’t know about a big colony like the Giant Hornets, but the Robber Flies only have seven hundred members. In comparison, the Ground Spiders have an estimated population of at least four thousand.”

I shuddered. Before he died, Rijin had “exterminated” at most a thousand of them. It had been overly optimistic to think of that as an annihilation of their group. There could possibly still be three thousand queerats remaining.

“Yesterday, we dispatched special envoys to three neighboring colonies requesting assistance, but it will take some time before they arrive.”

“Then, you’ll be defenseless if you’re attacked right now?” I blurted out without thinking.

Squealer looked at me suspiciously and I realized my mistake. A human with cantus wouldn’t be worried no matter how many queerats came after them.

“Yeah, what would you have done if we hadn’t arrived?” Satoru added without a moment’s delay, a skill he had perfected from having to dig himself out of his bluffs all the time.

“I am deeply touched by your concern,” Squealer bowed deeply. “However, our battles among colonies are unique, and even though the difference between our powers is considerable, it’s too early to jump to conclusions.”

“What do you mean?”

“Seeing is believing, as the saying goes. I will show you right now, so please follow me,” Squealer backed away with his head bowed. It seemed to be the sort of behavior queerats do when facing another queerat of higher status.

As we left the thickets, our surroundings opened up. The moon had already set, but I could see all the way across the clearing by starlight. It was dotted with towers that looked like anthills.