an English translation of the novel

Page 409-410

In order to quickly subdue the enemy, the Ground Spiders fumigate their enemy’s nest with poisonous gas.

There have also been cases where indigenous colonies will flood their enemies by drawing water from the rivers. But the objective of war is to capture and enslave the opposing colony, so tactics that would cause mass deaths are unsuitable. On the other hand, the wars on the mainland are mostly centered around acquiring and protecting limited resources, so killing the enemy might be more efficient in their case.

The gas that they used remains unidentified to this day. The remains of the gas dispersal equipment we found only tells us that the Ground Spiders built a furnace out of stones and mud upwind from the Robber Flies.

I guessed that the rotten-egg smell came from chunks of sulfur that they harvested from a volcano. When sulfur is burned, it creates hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, which are both extremely poisonous and heavier than air so they would be able to penetrate deep into queerat nests. However, it’s hard to imagine those two things alone have the power to exterminate an entire colony.

Satoru was of the opinion that the Ground Spiders went digging through abandoned cities for plastics that contained chlorine. For example vinyl chloride burns to create hydrogen chloride gas, which is also very poisonous and heavier than air. There are a plethora of gases that are lethal, and even more things that can be combined and burned to create them. Or, most terrifying of all, it could be something new that we have yet to discover.

 

Purging the gas from the Robber Fly colony took some time.

Even using cantus to displace massive amounts of air was not an easy thing. No matter where you tried to move the air, there would be a force pushing back on it. Creating a powerful whirlwind, Satoru churned up the polluted air closer to the ground and carried it far away, letting the clean air flow back in. The image he created for that must have been quite something.


Page 411-412

After the gale subsided, I saw the tranquil blue sky above us. In dazzling morning light, we were like two moles that had accidentally burrowed aboveground, squinting our eyes and filling our lungs with fresh air. Goosebumps prickled my skin as I was exposed to cold air for the first time in a long while.

Once he was accustomed to the light, Satoru looked upward. The hole in the ceiling shimmered and grew larger. He created a gentle slope in front of us, and as if using a mold, shaped the dirt into a staircase. They felt as solid as if baked from terra cotta bricks.

“I’ll go first.”

“Wait,” I held him back. “I’ll go look first.”

“No, the Ground Spiders might shoot you from afar.”

“That’s exactly why I should go first. If something happens and you can’t use your cantus anymore, then we’re done for.”

I didn’t say anything more and started up the stairs. Before exiting, I listened closely for any movement, but all was silent. Nothing apart from bird cries.

Keeping my body low, I poked my head out.

The whirlwind had flattened out the grass, but I still couldn’t see anything. I crept out quietly on all fours and slowly stood up after checking that the surroundings were clear.

Everything swayed gently in the breeze. There were no corpses, no wreckage, nothing.

Satoru came up behind me. “How is it?”

“There’s nothing around.”

Looking farther, more than a hundred meters out, I saw what I thought were queerat corpses. Maybe from the whirlwind. From this distance, it’s hard to tell them apart from humans. A shiver ran up my spine.

“They’re definitely around here somewhere. The wind couldn’t have killed them all.”

We stood motionless, carefully observing our surroundings. Someone like Shisei Kaburagi could create a vacuum lens in midair (the opposite of a normal lens, it magnified things using a concave surface), but of course Satoru didn’t have the skill to do that.


Page 413-414

“Look over there!” I pointed at a hill to the north where I had seen something move.

We both gazed intently, but nothing suspicious appeared.

“Sorry, it was probably just my imagination.”

“No…I don’t think so,” Satoru crossed his arms, still searching the area closely. “That looks like the best place to spread poisonous gas from. Since they’re on a hill and the gas is heavier than air, they don’t have to worry about it going the wrong way. And there are relatively fewer obstacles too.”

He pulled up a few blades of grass and let them fall to test the direction of the wind.

“There’s barely any wind, but it’s coming from the north. So I think we’re right. They have to be somewhere in that direction.”

“Then we should run south!”

Satoru grabbed my arm as I turned around.

“What are you saying? They’ll come after us for sure if we run and we’ll never know when we’ll be attacked from behind.”

“But…” I didn’t understand what he was trying to say. “What do we do then?”

“Isn’t it obvious? We attack first. Unless we exterminate them, we’ll never be safe.”

“But that,” I was at a loss for words. “It’s impossible. You’re the only one that can fight.”

“Even if it’s impossible, we have to do it,” Satoru said resolutely. “You saw what they did to the monk. Cantus is useless for defense. Using it offensively is the only way to stay alive. …but if you’re scared, Saki, you can run. Like you said, I’m the only one who can fight.”


Page 415-416

Now that he’s said that, I couldn’t run even if I wanted to. I tried reasoning with him, but in the end we still headed north. No matter how much power we had, if the attack came from an unseen location, we were done for. I acted as an extra pair of eyes for Satoru, prepared to warn him of any dangers.

“We’re most likely within shooting range now. Be careful. Let’s try attacking from here.”

We stood in the shadow of a large rock on the hill and looked up.

“Bullets,” Satoru sang out in a strangely euphoric voice.

Tortoiseshell cracks appeared on the top portion of the rock and split it into small pieces.

“Fly.”

All at once, the rocks rocketed toward the enemies.

Panic broke out at the top of the hill. Screams of fear and rage from the queerats. They seemed to be scrambling to battle formation. There was the metallic sound of metal on metal, and the twang of bowstrings as they fired back at us.

“Fools,” Satoru snorted.

The arrows that had been traveling in a shallow parabola turned in midair and sped back to the archers like faithful hounds.

More cries of pain.

“I wish I could make a wind scythe, but I guess I’ll have to make do,” Satoru said, sounding like he was making plans for some game.

He glanced back. Forty or fifty meters away, trees were ripped out of their roots and hung in the air.

“Go.”

Six huge trees flew toward the top of the hill. I thought they would smash into the enemy camp, but they simply floated above them threateningly.

Screams rose in a cacophony through the air.

“Hm. They look scared.”

Satoru’s attitude was the same as when he was playing with the pusher during the ball tournament.

“But this is kinda boring. …alright, burn!”

The trees burst into flame, turning into giant torches. Clumps of burning leaves fell onto the enemies.


Page 417-418

The queerats were thrown into disarray. The fire ignited everything it touched and pillars of thick black smoke rose toward the sky.

“Now’s our chance. Let’s climb up.”

We left the shelter of the rock and wasted no time running up the hill. The queerats who spotted us as we neared the top let out warning cries, but the next moment fell in a burst of white flames.

“Is that what they use to make the gas?” I pointed at a strange clay structure shaped like a mosquito fumigator.

Five or six of them had protrusions like elephant trunks pointed down the hill.

The nearest one exploded into a million pieces. The ones beside it followed. A troop of queerats were hit with the shards and went down instantly.

“Are you playing with them?”

The queerats hesitated when the saw their comrades fall. When the corpses rose like puppets on a string and started toward them, the troops scattered.

It turns out the only thing needed to crush the spirits of the belligerent queerats was to exploit their fear of the supernatural.

“I see…instead of using brute force, controlling them through fear is much more effective.”

Satoru put his newfound knowledge to use immediately. He started raising dead bodies left, right, and center. Queerats who were thought to have no human emotions lost their minds with fear and started attacking each other.

The ones who lost their will to fight and were trying to escape found themselves being choked to death by an invisible hand. In the end, the obliteration of an entire troop took no more than five or six minutes.

 

“It’s too dangerous to go straight through the field. We’re totally exposed to the rest of the forest where Ground Spider archers might be lurking,” Squealer reported to Satoru.

He was as polite as before, but his words were tinged awe. No doubt he now understood the terrible power of cantus.