an English translation of the novel

Page 347-348

“Is this the Robber Fly colony’s nest?” I asked.

Squealer shook his head, “Our nest is where the queen lives, still quite a ways from here. This is one of our lines of defense against the Ground Spider’s assault.”

“Lines of defense?”

“Bunkers, trenches, slurry walls, tunnels, all used for defense. …Gods, could you possibly be interested in strategy board games like Shogi and Go?”

The question caught me off guard, “Well, I suppose. We learned both in school.”

To be honest, I thought they were fun at first, but quickly lost interest, so I’m still a basic level. The biggest reason I gave up was that there was always a couple people I couldn’t win against. One of them was Shun, which was understandable, but every time I saw Satoru’s triumphant face, I couldn’t keep going.

“Then this explanation may be better. We β★ë◎Å, I mean, queerat colonies fight each other in a style closer to that used in Go than in Shogi.”

I wondered vaguely why he used the word “queerat”.

Squealer began explaining the power struggles between queerats in a style reminiscent of the false minoshiro.

Queerats are descendants of the troglodytic naked mole rats from East Africa, living mainly in narrow underground tunnels. Even after humans helped to change their physique and raised their intelligence so that they could build their own culture, their basic societal structures are still the same. The dwellings are more or less vertical pits, with numerous branches to provide escape to the surface in case of floods. There are also horizontal tunnels running between the pits for transportation without having to go to the surface.

“For us, fighting above ground is a relatively new development. It’s obvious that being aboveground provides better maneuverability than being underground does, no matter how much armor you are wearing. That said, I don’t know how the other aboveground fighters feel, but I believe that in terms of discerning the opponent’s position, advancing aboveground is pointless.”

Page 349-350

“Why?” asked Satoru.

“The β★ë◎Å…our comrades underground can use sounds and vibrations to detect the position of the armies aboveground. At the same time, those aboveground can not detect enemies beneath them. Therefore, if we collapse the ground from underneath, they will fall onto our spears and be killed without any means to retaliate.”

Perhaps they’ve already used that tactic many times. Humans and queerats alike do not learn their lessons unless a sufficient amount of blood is shed in the process.

“In other words, it’s always more advantageous to be on the defensive,” Satoru said, looking self-satisfied.

“Precisely. The attackers have no choice but to travel underground, but even then the defense can still ascertain their positions beforehand and build up blockades, dig tunnels from above and drop heavy stones down on their heads, and set other traps. In other words, battling underground is more difficult for the offense.”

“Then what do you do?” I asked.

“{The usual pattern is that after an endless stalemate, the offense has to cut its losses and retreat.} But then the ingenious strategist, Ж◎Σ∴…Ioki appeared. Ioki received a book from the gods and was inspired; single-handedly creating a system for capturing entire colonies.”

“What book was it?” Satoru asked, his brows furrowed.

Why in the world was such a dangerous book not banned, but in the hands of the queerats of all things?

“Unfortunately, the holy book no longer exists. Only the title “Introduction to Go for Three Year-olds” is passed down to this day.”

We glanced at each other. We’ve both seen that book in the recreation room at Harmony School.

Page 351-352

“Ioki’s strategies are based on Go. First, aboveground troops are dispatched to the desired locations to dig a ditch and hold their position. Then communication lines are set up between bases and a vantage point1. Underground tunnels are created connecting the bases and the front line. In this way, the bases connect to the front lines which connect to the surface, increasing the territory under our control. The final goal is to trap the enemy in a small area, and for the defense to have a secure escape route. Once the enemy is locked in, we can cut off their food and water supply. In order to do that, we have to build bases in between the enemy’s bases, intercept their communication and set up our own. This is all, according to Go, things you must do in order to effectively trap the enemy, and then you can begin close-combat.”

I looked out over the clearing again. This time, the anthill-like towers appeared to be arranged purposefully.

“Ioki brought about a tactical revolution that spread amongst the colonies in the blink of an eye. Colonies that were thought to be impregnable fell one after the other, largely reducing their influence. Colonies that adopted this new way of thinking quickly rose to power while those that held on to the old ways were eliminated.”

“What happened to Ioki after?”

I was surprised at myself for being so interested in the tale of the queerat hero. Could Ioki, praised as the most influential figure, be the cornerstone of the Giant Hornet colony’s prosperity? Or maybe Squealer’s passionate tale was because Ioki is the ancestor who rebuilt the Robber Fly colony.

“Ioki lost his life in battle,” Squealer said sadly. “He was born in the Mayfly colony, a weak colony with around four hundred members. Because of this, he often had to be in the front lines to lead the battle. During a fight with a neighboring colony, the front line reached the enemy’s bridgehead and a fierce battle broke out. Whose communication lines would be preserved and whose would be cut off depended on the outcome of the battle. Ioki was well aware of this, and realized that by sacrificing one of his bases he would be able to destroy the enemy’s lines. But there was one problem. The base that had to be sacrificed was the one he was currently in.”

Satoru sighed.

This is really loosely translated as there doesn’t seem to be an English equivalent as far as I know. The term he uses, 竜穴, is used in fengshui to describe an area that has “energy” and is likely to prosper. I suppose in this case it means a place where they have an advantage over the enemy. If there is an actual term for this, please let me know.

Page 353-354

“Ioki sacrificed his own troop. They were surrounded by the enemy, but Ioki and six of his comrades fought bravely until, as he predicted, they were killed. Drunk on their victory, the enemy tried to turn on the rest of the troops only to realize that their group had been divided in two, cutting off all communications. They were trapped in their own vantage point and all their escape routes were lost. For half the troop, the supply line was cut off so they would die under siege. The Mayfly colony achieved a glorious victory.”

We were mesmerized by Squealer’s story. It felt like we were listening to the False Minoshiro telling us about history, even though the two of them sounded nothing alike.

“However, before they even had time to savor the intoxicating taste of victory, the Mayfly colony was destroyed,” Squealer said sadly, lamenting the colony that had disappeared off the stage of history leaving only a fleeting glow. “Since it was such a small colony, once the Mayfly colony lost Ioki as its trump card, it quickly became fodder for the neighboring groups. Even so, if the old ways of war had not changed, they might have been able to hold out just defending themselves. Ironically, it was through Ioki’s own strategy that the Mayfly colony was starved to the point that they had no alternative but to surrender unconditionally.”

“What happens to the queerats of the losing colony?” I asked.

It couldn’t be that they would all be massacred?

“The queen is executed and the rest of the members become slaves. As long as they live they are treated as less than scum, and when they die they are left out to rot and fertilize the fields.”

We were silent. When I think about it now, this too was probably part of Squealer’s plan. Satoru mouthed something silently. It looked like he was saying, “Ants…”

Of course, ants. On one side, queerats show a disposition similar to humans, but on the other, they also have the cruelty of social insects. The purpose for their wars on other colonies was the same as the amazon ants’ invasion of other anthills–to acquire laborers.

Page 355-356

“…to be honest, there is a reason I’ve been telling you about all this,” Squealer sat on the ground looking very dignified. “In the past few days of battling with the Ground Spiders, we have lost all the bases that allow access to the outside world. The special envoys we sent to request help from neighboring colonies have probably been caught and executed. In other words, it is a matter of life and death for our colony right now. The arrival of the young gods must be a sign from heaven that we will be saved from destruction. Just like Buddha returning to life from hell.”

Satoru gave me a fleeting look. The conversation was heading in the direction we least wanted it to go.

“I am fully aware that asking the gods to be involved in our lowly affairs is pure insolence. But I must ask for you to save our colony. Please bring down the hammer of vengeance upon these heretic Ground Spiders who fear not even the gods.”

Satoru cleared his throat, “We’d like very much to help you, but we can’t decide these things on our own.”

“Why not? With just one thought, you could destroy them all.”

Satoru chose his words carefully, “Queerats are a protected species so we can’t kill them arbitrarily. We have to apply for extermination of harmful wildlife at the town hall and with the Department of Health.”

“I understand, ” Squealer made a last-ditch effort, “but as it stands, we will inevitably be eliminated. Please have mercy. You don’t need to kill them all. Just a modest attack to break their siege on us, after that we will find a way. Please…”

As Squealer was about to speak again, a messenger appeared and whispered in its ear. His attitude changed completely and he listened haughtily to the messenger. Eventually, he turned back toward us with a slightly confused look.

“I understand. It is late now, so I will ask again tomorrow morning. The two of you must be tired, but will you please meet our queen before you rest?”