an English translation of the novel

Page 419-420

“But the Ground Spiders are in the forest, aren’t they?” Satoru scowled discontentedly. “Attacking from here, we can’t see the enemies, and they’ll just get away. And the field is easy to clear too.”

“It is as you say. Imagine however, a single one of them escapes and, heaven forbid, shoots one of the gods with a poison arrow,” Squealer looked up fearfully at Satoru.

There was a gash on his nose and dirt was stuck to the blood here and there.

“Our own arrows only cause numbness, but the Ground Spiders are assassins; the poison they procure from their indigenous frogs are lethal. If you are even grazed by them, there’s no cure. Our spies have found a safe route, so please come with me.”

Once again, Squealer had appeared before us with impeccable timing. After exterminating the troop at the top of the hill, we were having a discussion. I was saying that there was no more danger of being pursued by the enemies and that we should leave as soon as possible. But Satoru was stubbornly insisting on killing all the queerats.

Why was Satoru like this? I was shocked when I looked at his face. The boy I knew so well, the one that hid his kind nature behind a facade of sarcasm and boastfulness was nowhere to be seen. I was looking at someone completely different.

Although he gave all sorts of reasons, like the canoes being hidden too far away, or that we had to strike back when we were struck, I knew from the strange gleam in his eyes that he simply wanted to kill more. No matter what logical argument I came up with, Satoru was unfazed. We had only vague memories of the location of the Ground Spider colony and had no idea where its core (the place the queen lived) was. With so little information, it was impossible to eradicate them. And more importantly, if Satoru was injured, then that would be the end of it.

My tenacity was working and Satoru was beginning to give in. From the bottom of the came a voice calling at us. Fearing a trap by the Ground Spiders, we looked down cautiously, and saw Squealer with the remnants of the Robber Fly colony prostrated on the ground worshipping us from afar. There were only fifty or sixty of them left, a testament to the efficacy of the poison gas.


Page 421-422

By Squealer’s explanation, it seemed as if the Robber Fly colony had all retreated deep underground at the smell of the poison gas had been wiped out as a result. (The Ground Spiders probably added the smell of sulfur to the gas, purposely using the queerats’ instinct to hide against them.) On the other hand, Squealer and his group of bodyguards were transporting the queen, and by choosing a higher location, had managed to escape with their lives.

Although their colony had just suffered a debilitating defeat, Squealer and his troop were in good spirits. For one, the queen was safe (as the queen in the sole reproducer, her death would mean the death of the colony), and for another, they had just seen Satoru defeat the despicable Ground Spiders with his powers.

The remaining Robber Flies were clamoring for revenge. Even the usually calm Squealer was no exception, goading Satoru with the fact that he had previously found out the location of the enemy queen until he had no choice but to agree to subjugating the Ground Spiders.

Let’s go back to the original topic. At Squealer’s insistence, we made a loop to the left at the field and headed toward the Ground Spider’s nest in the forest.

“Is this really safe?” I asked Squealer as we walked. Although it was detour, we were still taking a well-cut path through the undergrowth. If the Ground Spiders were so used to battle, they definitely wouldn’t miss patrolling a route like this.

“Please don’t worry. We sent a scout earlier and there were no signs of the enemy. They must believe that we have all been killed by the poison gas, so they won’t be anticipating an attack right after.”

Were the Ground Spiders such easy opponents? As of two days ago, I would have accepted his words without question. But after yesterday’s events, I was extremely suspicious.

I ordered Squealer to arrange some decoys. It was more for peace of mind than anything else, but Satoru humored me by playing along. Not ten minutes later, this proved to be the right thing to do.

The soldiers walking in front let out sharp warning cries. I had no idea what was happening, but when he looked and started shooting, I realized that we were under attack.


Page 423-424

“Gods, hide yourselves! It’s the Ground Spiders!” Squealer cried.

“Where?”

“In the trees…the decoy, they fell for it!”

The queerat I appointed to dress as Satoru was lying on the ground. I had chosen the biggest in the troop, but from far away he still didn’t look humanoid, so I had him wear two hats and a cape as disguise. There were now three arrows sticking out of him. The strange thing was that the arrows had no feathers on them, but were instead wrapped with string.

“Blowguns! Poison darts…watch out!”

Squealer had reached the same conclusion and shouted a warning. Where in the world were the enemies hiding? I scanned the trees but didn’t see any shapes that resembled queerats. I wondered if the shooters could see us as well, but it seemed like they were shooting the darts willy nilly.

There was a rustling in a big oak tree. I couldn’t see anything, but I was sure that something was there.

“Satoru! Shake that tree!”

There were four queerats lying on top of him as a living shield. Ignoring Squealer’s orders, he slipped out under them. As if blown by a storm, the tree swayed and bent. Leaves fell like snow and branches snapped loudly.

Something heavy fell out. At once, the queerat soldiers seized it.

“What is it?” I asked, looking at the thing.

What would be the best way to describe it? It looked like those stick insects from the south, or a relative of the sea horse called the leafy sea dragon.

It was about a meter in length and resembled a normal queerat. Looking carefully, its head and limbs were also like a queerat’s. The difference was that it was abnormally thin and had skin the color of the oak tree and green leafy protrusions growing from its body. It, the Ground Spider’s forest fighter, looked toward the sky and gave a birdlike cry. The Robber Fly soldiers stabbed it with their spears, killing it instantly.


Page 425-426

Judging from what just happened, they must have more comrades hidden nearby. I looked around at the trees once more. Now that I knew what to look for, it wasn’t half as difficult. In no time, I spotted three more of the camouflaged soldiers.

Before I had even finished pointing them out, Satoru released his cantus and brought them crashing to the ground.

“What the heck are these things?” I asked.

Satoru looked over the corpses with his brow furrowed. I couldn’t bring myself to touch them, but the protrusions on their bodies and the leafy structures didn’t look artificially made.

“It’s not too surprising though. When we ran into them last night, most of the troop members looked like monsters anyway.”

I thought of the scales covering Captain Pinecone.

“But…so, they can look like anything? Why?”

“I don’t know, but I have a theory,” Satoru covered himself with the hood again. “Anyway, we have to be careful from now on, since we don’t know what forms they might take.”

“We should just turn back. It’s too dangerous.”

“We’ve come too far, they’ll chase down us if we run.”

Satoru left no room for argument, so we kept going.

After a while, the path started curving to the right. We were slowly approaching the Ground Spider’s nest.

I reflected on our encounter with the tree fighters. Satoru had ripped up enormous trees and sent them flying through the air, knocking down more trees and bushes along the way.

Gradually, the dense growth thinned out. On the left was a marsh so full of duckweed it looked like it was covered in confetti.

“Wait,” I held Satoru back by the elbow. “I have a bad feeling about this place.”


Page 427-428

I wondered if Satoru was going to mock me, but he looked completely serious.

“You mean there’s a trap?”

“I’m not sure…”

I looked suspiciously at the swamp. Bubbles occasionally rose to the surface and I wondered what they were from. Satoru seemed to be thinking the same thing. He levitated boulders over the swamp, dropping them wherever the bubbles surfaced.

They fell with a giant splash and swampy water flew everywhere.

Nothing happened.

“It’s fine. Let’s go,” he said impatiently.

“…but.”

“Mammals can’t stay that long underwater anyway.”

Right now, Satoru had the last say in everything, so we continued forward slowly.

A strange popping sound came from the swamp.

Three otter-like heads floated on the surface, staring at us.

No one could react. The three heads drew out long pipes and blew their darts at us before slipping quickly back under the water, leaving only ripples in the duckweed.

“Damn it. They’re messing with us,” Satoru’s anger boiled over.

The two Robber Fly soldiers that had been hit died instantly from the poison.

“Fine, hide all you want. …I’ll boil you alive.”

The swamp water began steaming like a hot spring.

I’m not sure why I chose that moment to look away. Anyway, I turned to look in the opposite direction of the swamp and saw something unbelievable.

There was a patch of damp sandy ground full of weeds with a little bulge about twenty centimeters high. What was strange was that the swell was moving slowly, as if moles were tunneling underneath it.

I realized with a jolt that there were more than one of these bumps. Four in all were moving slowly but steadily toward us like sharks following the smell of blood.