an English translation of the novel

Page 439-440

They were too far away for me to get a close look, but the group of queerats near the rocks were the most extremely morphed out of all the ones I’ve see so far. The tree fighters and mole troop didn’t even compare. They were huge; around three meters tall, with unbelievably long torsos that stretched and shrank like accordions and enormous muscled arms thicker than their bodies…

The ten members of the catapult troop working in tandem could throw a rock weighing hundreds of kilograms over a hundred and fifty meters into the air. Of course, I didn’t learn about this, or that they were called the catapult troop, until a long time later.

“Using cantus to wipe out the armored troop will take a long time. During that time, the archers and catapults will be firing, so we’ll have no choice but to block them. Then our position will be revealed and gradually the attacks will become more focused. In the end, we won’t have the time to attack and it’ll become a defensive fight for us.” Satoru sighed. “Actually, that’s not all. …something’s been weird for a while now.”

“What is?”

Satoru lowered his voice so that Squealer couldn’t hear. “It’s probably just because I’m tired, but I’m having a hard time concentrating. I can’t form an image properly.”

That was the worst. I looked up to the sky.

“Then, you can’t use your cantus anymore?”

“No, I can, but I’m at a disadvantage facing such a huge troop all at once.”

I knew that we should have run away after defeating the poison gas group on the hill. At that time, Satoru would have had enough energy left to beat the enemies that came after us. We could have escaped. But swayed by Squealer’s words and drunk on his victory, Satoru lost his powers of judgment. He shouldn’t keep sacrificing himself.

But there’s no use regretting something that’s already happened. Now, the only way to stay alive was to use our brains.

“Gods.”

At some point, Squealer had sidled up beside us. He called out to us with a concerned expression.


Page 441-442

“We’re thinking about how to defeat the Ground Spiders right now. Don’t interfere.” I glared at the queerat strategist, but he didn’t back down.

“My apologies. But it looks like the enemy is moving.”

“Huh?”

We looked back at the troops. The five groups were slowly changing their positions. The center group hadn’t moved, but the two on either side had advanced slightly. Then the two groups on the outside reduced the distance between each other by half. In other words, they had spread out into a V-shaped formation in preparation to attack.

Crane wing formation, called that because it resembles the spread wings of a crane. Originally a defensive formation used to surround attackers, the Ground Spiders probably had a different idea in mind. In other words, by stretching the frontline out to the side, they were decentralizing the targets vulnerable to cantus attacks while increasing their own angles of attack, making it harder for us to defend…

 

The reader might wonder how Satoru and I knew all the detailed warfare terminology we’ve been using. Of course, at the time, we had no idea. Books relating to war are either class three–forbidden, or class four–knowledge that must never see the light of day. The knowledge I’m writing about here are all things I learned much later on, discovered in the basement of the ruined library. “Invincible Conquests•A Complete Strategy Guide”.

 

Let’s get back on topic. In the face of the enemy’s impressive formation, we were at a complete stalemate.

“What do we do?” Shamefully, that was the only thing I could say. I couldn’t use my cantus, and I didn’t have the brains to come up with a solution.

“Well, we can only watch for now,” Satoru closed his eyes, trying to recover his energy a bit.

“Isn’t it better to run? Instead of meeting them head on, going into the forest…”


Page 443-445

“We can’t. The reason they’re not attacking us directly is because they’re afraid of our power. They still think we’re hunting them. If we run, they’ll see our weakness and come after us.”

Nonetheless, sooner or later the enemy will question our lack of aggression and go all out on us.

That prediction came true sooner than I expected.

One of the archers stepped forward and let loose the opening shot that flew toward us with a loud buzz. The arrow went way over our heads.

A rain of arrows followed. We covered ourselves, but we could hear the wails of the queerats behind us.

“Shit. Should we retaliate?” Satoru opened his eyes.

“Not yet!” I said frantically. “They’re looking to see how we’ll respond.”

“Then not responding will just make them more confident.”

“If we retaliate half-heartedly, they’ll figure out the extent of our power. On the other hand, not doing anything will creep them out. They won’t expect that we’re waiting out the attack.”

“But, at this rate…”

The lead troop of the crane wing formation was advancing steadily. What should we do?

“Squealer!” I called the queerat waiting behind us.

“Yes. How may I be of service?”

“Where is the enemy’s base…its headquarters?”

“It has not been confirmed, but I believe it is straight ahead in the woods on the other side. The last line of defense for every colony is always in front of the headquarters.”

“Satoru! Set those trees on fire!”

He understood my plan and focused straight ahead.

Usually, it would take but a second for him to set something on fire, but this time it took a couple of seconds. But as the leaves of the Japanese snowbell tree started smoking and burst into flames, the enemy stopped. The rear guard rushed back to the nest and started hacking into roots of the burning trees with axes. It was a primitive way of destructive firefighting, but a few minutes later, the flames went out.

“Should I burn it more?”

“Wait. Let’s see what they do.”

We had to prevent Satoru from using his cantus ineffectively and wasting his energy.

If the enemy advanced, we could threaten them by attacking their home base. But I didn’t know to what extent it would work.

For a while, the Ground Spiders did nothing and waited. Then what looked like a messenger emerged from the nest and they started moving forward again.

“The queen’s been evacuated through the underground tunnels,” Satoru whispered. “They’ve taken care of what matters most. This time they’ll come at us seriously.”

Squealer let out a high pitched cry and ran off. His subordinates followed.

“This is it, huh,” Satoru sighed.

Once again, volleys of arrows flew toward us. Compared to the earlier attack, this was much greater. The sky was filled with arrows that fell on us like hail.

At the same time, the five catapult troops started launching boulders.