an English translation of the novel

Page 429-430

I tried to say something but was frozen with fear. Finally I managed to choke out “Satoru…!” but he didn’t hear me.  I looked back at the steaming swamp right as they caught the enemy. The queerats gathered around let out triumphant yells.

Three boiled corpses floated in the water. They looked more like frogs than otters, with well developed webs on all four feet.

“Satoru. Behind us…under the sand,” I whispered.

He froze. “Where?”

“One right behind us, about six or seven meters. Two to its left. One behind us diagonally to the right.

Satoru turned around at the same time the four diggers emerged.

In a flash, a spout of swamp water washed over them. The formation fell easily as the boiling water crashed down on their heads.

“Hmm. Were the frogs a decoy?” Satoru said as he wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Don’t get complacent. They seem to like using sneak attacks.”

“Satoru, aren’t you tired?”

“Huh? Of course not. This is nothing.”

“Still, you should rest a bit…”

Satoru just smiled in response.

I was concerned because he was drenched in sweat. At that time, I hadn’t thought beyond that simple explanation.

Cantus can supply infinite energy. But in order to do so, you needed immense concentration, and naturally, both our concentration and physical strength were limited.

 

“Look out!” I shouted as we stood before a bamboo forest.

Something was falling from high in the sky.


Page 431-432

“Don’t worry. Everyone, stay where you are!” Satoru stood as if rooted to the spot, staring upward.

The points in the sky gradually grew larger and larger. When I finally recognized that they were boulders, they flew back the way it came as if bouncing off a trampoline.

“They’re still coming!”

The second wave was even greater. Satoru sent all of them flying back.

“Shooting randomly isn’t doing any damage,” Satoru muttered as he broke three of the boulders into smaller pieces and sent them hurtling to where he thought the enemy troops were hidden.

With that, all was silent.

“Did you get them?”

“I dunno.”

The enemy attack stopped. Maybe our retaliation had been more effective than we’d thought. Just then, the third wave of attacks came.

This time they arrived above the forest in a low trajectory. One, two…Satoru deflected the boulders. The gap between sighting and impact was so short that he didn’t have time to block each one individually.

Then one slipped through his net and came flying into our midst.

My blood ran cold. The rock smashed into the ground, sending up huge clouds of dust. Two, three seconds later, sand and twigs came raining down. The remaining queerats scattered like cockroaches.

“Shit…!”

Satoru didn’t have time to check if everyone was okay. He blocked another boulder that came streaking in.

“Get back!”

We quickly retreated thirty or forty meters to avoid the rock. But as if it had seen us move, the next one came right toward us again. They were sniping us.

“Where are they?” Satoru yelled in frustration. “They’re watching us somehow. Saki, look for them!”


Page 433-434

The spy should be nearby. But how should I look for him? If they were disguised like the tree fighters, it wouldn’t be easy. I was at a loss. There was a break in the attacks; the fourth wave hadn’t come yet. They probably needed time to prepare the rocks.

I had a sudden realization. Just following our movements was useless. The spy also had to be able to relay our position to the soldiers.

“Satoru, fall back!”

We retreated another thirty meters. There was still no sign of the spy. But what I was really looking for was the signal.

“Over there!” I pointed to the top of the thicket.

A bamboo stalk waved as if in a breeze, but the movement was clearly unnatural.

“That’s how they know our position!”

I didn’t need to say any more. Flames erupted violently from the stalk and burned with thick black smoke. A blood curdling wail echoed around us.

“We have to move now. Should we retreat?”

“No, keep going.”

Satoru started forward, and all the scattered queerats suddenly reappeared and went into formation.

“Gods, gods,” Squealer panted, “thank goodness you’re unhurt. With this, victory is in our hands. Please bring the hammer of justice down upon these evil Ground Spiders.”

“Stop trying to butter us up,” I snapped at him. “You said this path was safe. How in the world is this safe? There’s been nothing but ambushes the whole time.”


Page 435-436

“I am deeply sorry,” Squealer bowed his head. “We sent out a scout earlier and he came back completely unscathed.”

“Isn’t that obvious? They didn’t want your scout, they were waiting for us.”

“That’s enough. We’ve come this far anyway,” Satoru said, grabbing my arms. “Let’s hurry and settle this so we can go home.”

Oh really, I thought. Something was off about him. In addition to being tired, I thought he seemed to be having trouble focusing his eyes. The boulder he had failed to block earlier came to mind. The usual Satoru would never make such a huge mistake.

“We cant keep going this way though. We still don’t know where the rocks are coming from,” I said uncertainly. “We should go back.”

“No,” Satoru shook his head. “The battle has already started. Turning back is suicide.”

“But if we leave the forest, we’ll be attacked by the rocks. And we can’t travel through the forest either because we don’t know what traps are here.”

“I will send scouts ahead,” Squealer said, as if trying to get back into our good graces. “We will find where they are catapulting the boulders from. And with the gods’ help, we can strike them down one by one…”

“Don’t make it sound so easy. Satoru is tired.”

Squealer threw me a deeply suspicious look. I realized I had made a mistake. Even though they might have suspected it earlier, now they probably knew for sure that I couldn’t use cantus.

Taking my silence as consent, Squealer started giving orders in his high-pitched queerat language. The Robber Fly soldiers spread out into the bamboo thicket instantly. Even though they had suffered extreme losses so far, their morale was as high as ever.


Page 437-438

But a number of them returned within two minutes and made an anxious report to Squealer. He turned to face us. Although I couldn’t read queerat expressions, it looked like he had serious news.

“On the other side of the bamboo forest is an open area unobstructed by trees. It appears that the enemy’s main force is spread out over there.”

“Then we have the advantage since they’re easy to spot, right?”

“That…how should I say this? Please come see for yourself. This time I am positive that there are no enemies hiding in the thicket.”

Dubious, we followed Squealer through the forest. After about forty or fifty meters, we could see through to the other side. We crouched down to make ourselves less visible and crept forward slowly.

There was an open area of a hundred square meters. The Ground Spiders had felled the trees near their colony to prepare a site for the final battle.

“Amazing…” I said.

The sight of the clamoring troops could only be described as spectacular. Their armor and weapons glittered in the midday sun.

“Three thousand of them divided into five troops,” Satoru said, awed.

“But they’re all in the open, so it’ll be easy to beat them, right?”

I thought Satoru would agree immediately, but he thought for a while.

“It’s not a given.”

“Why?”

“Look at that formation. The heavily armored foot soldiers are at the front and the archers are hiding behind them.”

It was the phalanx formation commonly used in ancient Greece. The frontline had heavy shields and spears, preventing the enemy from penetrating the troop. If that row falls, the one behind would take its place, like a shark replacing its teeth.

“And that’s not all. See all the rocks in the back? The group next to it is probably the catapult.”

“Catapult? Where?”

Then I understood.

“You mean the group itself is the catapult?”