an English translation of the novel

Page 357-358

“The queen?”

I considered it. On one hand, I wanted to see a queerat queen, but on the other, it was almost daybreak and so much had happened in the past twenty-four hours that I was completely exhausted.

“The queen is in a nearby bunker. She would be very delighted to meet the gods.”

“Alright, we’ll see her for a bit. But everything else waits until tomorrow,” Satoru said, suppressing a yawn.

We followed Squealer through the field. We stopped in front of a particularly large anthill-shaped tower, but I didn’t see the entrance anywhere.

“If you please. It looks dirty, but this is the entrance,” Squealer parted the dry grass, revealing a hole about a meter across.

“What? You go in through here?” I was filled with trepidation.

“It would be better if the queen could come up and meet us,” Satoru said, also sounding a little unsettled.

“I’m deeply sorry. But the tunnel is only big enough for the soldiers, the queen would not be able to exit through here. She is waiting in the hall below.”

Well, we have no choice. It would be a hassle to refuse an audience with the queen now, and since we didn’t have cantus anymore, I didn’t want to start a fight.

Satoru came in after me. It was considerably colder than it had been outside. The entrance was smooth and daubed with clay, and the tunnel itself was made of compact dirt mixed with dried grass, supposedly to prevent slippage. I was afraid I would fall down the vertical shaft, but thanks to the two queerats below us, the climb was easy. The queerats hung onto the walls of the tunnel and slowed our descent like fluffy cushions. The two of us realized that it would be pointless trying gain purchase on the vertical walls, so we basically had to climb down on the queerats’ shoulders.


Page 359-360

About twenty or thirty meters later, the tunnel suddenly opened up. We stood up and looked around, but it was too dark to tell how big the cavern was. The stench of mold and animals reached my nostrils, making my hair stand on end.

“Please wait a moment,” Squealer said from behind us.

Turning around, we saw only his eyes glittering in the darkness. I knew that wild animals had luminous eyes, but I couldn’t shake off the unpleasant feeling I got from seeing them.

Squealer struck a flint and lit a small torch. I was blinded by the light for a second. Once again, I realized how reassuring it was to have light.

“This way.”

I thought we were in a huge hall, but the light revealed it to be no bigger than a six tatami room. There were three horizontal tunnels going in different directions. Squealer led the way with the torch. The queerats walking upright cast strange, wavering shadows on the walls of the room.

“Please watch your head.”

The ceiling gradually lowered as the tunnel widened. The queerats probably usually ran through here on all fours.

As we walked through the dark underground with only the torch for light, a strange, unreal feeling came over me. I couldn’t quite believe I was here.

On the other hand, we became aware of an overwhelmingly realistic presence. It was the smell that had assaulted us earlier. The tunnel was filled with the odor of queerats and as we went deeper, the smell became stronger. It was the smell Squealer and the other soldiers had, but layered with another stench closer to that of decay. Moreover, it was so strong that it was almost choking me.

Next, a complex series of low sounds caught our attention. Listening closely, it sounded like a pair of bellows, with sounds of distant thunder mixed in. Irregular vibrations rumbled through the walls of the tunnel. Like something extremely heavy was crawling around…

I could feel the vibrations under my feet. My body seized up in fear, but I didn’t tell Satoru that I wanted to go back. If I showed weakness in front of Squealer, who knows what might happen later.


Page 361-362

“How much farther?” Satoru tried to act calm, but his voice shook a little.

“It’s just over there.”

He wasn’t lying. Less than twenty meters later, the tunnel curved broadly to the right. Squealer fell prostrate and started crying out in a high-pitched voice.

The response was an earth-shattering growl. A low frequency wave rippled through our bodies like a strong wind.

“The queen is honored to meet you,” Squealer said.

Satoru looked like he wanted to say something but couldn’t get the words out.

“…the honor is ours. We are delighted to be in your presence. Tell her that,” I replied.

Squealer nodded and resumed his squeaking report to the queen.

Suddenly, the queen started speaking in human language, startling us.

“Grrrr…G-od-s ★Θ. Plea-se…ʃ△θ…he-ere.”

Her voice was a low rumble mixed with the strange creak you hear when you grind your teeth, but somehow I understood that she was inviting us in.

We looked at each other, then started forward slowly around the bend. The disgusting smell intensified until it was almost unbearable.

Squealer stopped at the bend, holding the torch. The light shining from behind made it hard to make out the queen’s appearance. However, from its silhouette and the intense heat it gave off, I could tell that the creature crouched there was of abnormal size.

“★☆…gagaga! □■! …◇◆!”

A gust of hot air washed over us. I instinctively turn my face away, but the sounds that next reached my ears surprised me again.

“Ggg…g-od-s. Welcome. Very-honored.”

The queen was speaking to us in falsetto so that the range of her voice was audible to humans. What was even more surprising was that the voice was unmistakably female.


Page 363-364

For about five minutes after that, we talked with the queen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything about our conversations. Maybe because we were extremely tired and anxious, or maybe because what happened later was even more dramatic.

The catalyst was something trivial. The queen apologized for making us stand so long and called for two queerats to act as chairs even after we declined the offer politely. Squealer, still holding the torch, came along with the two queerats.

The bright flame of the torch lit up the cavern, and the queen.

Because the queen’s voice had been unexpectedly gentle throughout the conversation, our initial fear had abated somewhat. That’s why we were doubly shocked when we saw her actual appearance.

My first impression of her was of a giant hornworm with four short legs and a tail.

Pale, sickly skin from lack of sunlight and rings of wrinkles encircling her body made the resemblance all the stronger. But the defining difference was her face. Half of the giant head was covered in brown spots, though they would probably be red under the sun. Her eyes were tiny beads buried under layers of skin, and her sharp, chisel-shaped teeth were hidden behind strong, thick jaws. Around her neck was a necklace of crimson almadine, glowing fluorite, beryl, and cordierite sparkling in the light.

Her appearance exposed, the queen roared and charged. We flinched, but she was aiming for something off to the side.

She caught Squealer in her mouth and lifted him easily into the air, shaking him violently from side to side. Squealer shrieked and dropped the torch. The cavern was plunged into darkness. I could hear the queen’s angry growls punctuated by Squealer’s intermittent screams, and the two queerats shivering in a corner, scratching at the dirt with their claws.


Page 365-366

“Queen, wait,” I mustered up all my courage and spoke. “Don’t kill Squealer! He didn’t do it on purpose.”

Satoru squeezed my arm. It was a risky venture trying to placate the raging queen. But if a human god didn’t intervene in this kind of situation, it might arouse suspicion.

The queen was unresponsive for a moment, then casually dropped Squealer. Then she deftly changed directions (it was still pitch black, so I felt instead of seeing her movements), slipped by us and disappeared into the depths of the cavern.

Squealer lay trembling for a while, then gathered himself and turned toward us.

“Thank you for intervening to save my life.”

“That surprised us,” Satoru said hoarsely after a pause.

“But the queen never intended to kill you, did she?” I asked.

Squealer didn’t answer.

“…Gods, you must be tired. I will prepare sleeping quarters, so please rest well tonight.” Squealer picked up the torch and lit it again.

I looked at the chain mail he was wearing and shuddered unintentionally. Metal links had been bitten off and the leather armor underneath had large holes from which blood was seeping out. Squealer was obviously wounded, but was doing his best not to show pain in front of us.

 

“It’s definitely weird. There’s something strange about the queen,” Satoru whispered in my ear on the way to our sleeping quarters. “Be careful. You never know what’ll happen if you piss her off.”

They had just managed to avoid a malicious foreign colony, only to go home to the rule of an insane queen.

Why was the queen so enraged anyway? Even with that kind of appearance, talking to her was like talking to another female, so it wasn’t unpleasant. Unless it was that she didn’t want us to see her at all?