an English translation of the novel

Page 446-447

Most of the boulders flew over our heads and slammed into the ground behind us. The few that were closer thankfully went in the wrong directions.

“They don’t know where we are,” I said in a low voice. “Run!”

Amazingly, even at this stage, Satoru still refused to move.

“No.”

“But…!”

“If we retreat, they’ll advance with a full powered attack. In this situation, you can’t go anywhere.”

“So we’re just going to wait to be defeated?”

I looked through the bamboo stalks at the Ground Spider troop. Without breaking formation they advanced slowly but steadily, keeping a careful watch on their surroundings. They would be here in two or three minutes.

“If only we could throw them off the trail somehow,” Satoru muttered.

Something clicked in my mind.

“Satoru, how much longer can you use your cantus?”

“I’m not sure, two or three more times? Depends on how hard it is to create the images,” Satoru rubbed his temples as if he had a headache.

“Deflect one of the boulders that’s farthest away from us.”

“What good would that…” he suddenly understood. “Got it.”

Using cantus requires a clear field of vision, but if he got any closer to the edge of the bamboo forest, the Ground Spiders might see him. We retreated into the forest, trying to find an area with a good view of the sky. When we found a rocky area without any bamboo, Satoru took a deep breath. As if he were using his cantus for the first time, Satoru chanted his mantra with immense concentration, trying to unify his thoughts.

Suddenly a boulder appeared from the west. I couldn’t tell where it was going to land, or how far it would go, but judging from the height, it would be far enough away from here.


Page 448-449

The boulder stopped dead as if it had hit a wall. There were surprised cries from the enemy.

“Take this!” Satoru gritted his teeth and made a movement like he was hitting something on the ground.

The rock rocketed toward the ground like a meteor.

Since we couldn’t see the troops from here, it was a shot in the dark. Everything was riding on Satoru’s luck. I clasped my hands and prayed that it would hit.

There was a dreadful wail that filled me with foreboding, followed by excited shouts. Then there was the sound of clanging armor as the soldiers rushed about.

I crept forward. From between the dense growth, I saw three thousand heavily armed queerats running around in a frenzy. Not a hint of their perfect formation remained. In preparation for a cantus attack, they scattered themselves as much as possible.

I quickly found the place where the boulder landed. There was a giant crater in the ground, around which lay the corpses of numerous queerats. It seemed like one of the catapult troops had taken a direct hit. Judging from the angle, it was probably the troop that had launched the rock in the first place. I couldn’t think of a more fitting revenge. For the enemies, they probably really felt that they were battling with gods.

An even more ideal scenario would be if they lost the will to fight completely. But of course, that was just a dream. Once the confusion had settled, the Ground Spiders moved to counterattack.

They launched just as many boulders as before, and even more arrows tore through the air. The difference was that this time everything was concentrated on one small area.

“There’s no one there where you’re attacking,” I said, relieved that they had fallen for the trap. “We should escape while we can.”

“Wait. Let me do it one more time, just to make sure.”

Satoru took a deep breath and clenched his fists.

“Don’t push yourself.”

He was obviously having trouble staying on his feet. Sweat beaded his forehead.


Page 450-451

“I’m fine. Just one more time.”

We retreated into the forest again and looked up at the sky. It came. A huge stone, tracing a parabola through the air.

This time, he didn’t stop it, but sent it flying off in a different direction. There was a sharp warning cry. The rock disappeared from our view, and crashed noisily into the ground. It sounded like an explosion. Broken shards clattered as they bounced off the bamboo stalks. Is it possible for the debris to fly all the way here? I was a little worried.

“They’ve definitely taken more damage this time.” Satoru said triumphantly, but there was no energy in his voice. He was probably at his limit.

“Okay, let’s get out of here!”

The battlefield was to the north, if we came out through the bamboo forest in the south, the Ground Spider troops might spot us from the west. We turned east and started making our way through the shady forest. Quickly. Quietly. Making sure that we remained concealed.

We wove our way through the dense growths of bamboo. The ground was uneven and full of fallen bamboo and creeping vines that blocked our path. The branches scratched at our faces and snagged at our feet. Walking even a short distance was exhausting. When we had first followed Squealer into the forest, the path must have been cleared in advance.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry. We’ll definitely get home.”

“Mhm,” Satoru was just managing to stagger along behind me. His eyes were blank and he was barely talking.

Just a little more. Just a little more until we get out of here. Once we get out of this maze-like forest, we can return by our original path.

I came to a halt as I thought about how Shun and the others were doing. Turning toward Satoru, I put my finger to my lips.

Even without listening carefully, I could hear it. Conversation. The piercingly high-pitched voices of queerats.

We got down on our hands and knees and crawled into a depression in the ground. In front of us were broken stalks of bamboo entwined in dried vines. We were completely hidden from the queerats, but their sharp sense of smell worried me. I hoped that we were upwind.


Page 452-453

There. The Ground Spider soldiers were approaching. One…two of them. Along with what looked like a prisoner, though I couldn’t see him because he was in shadow.

There must be more units patrolling around. These two seemed completely relaxed so they must believe that we were stationed somewhere else.

We held our breath and waited for them to pass.

I looked at the soldiers through a narrow gap. They wound back and forth like a snake, struggling through the decaying forest.

The prisoner came into view, his hand tied to his waist and being led by a rope.

Squealer.

He looked like he had been badly beaten. One eye was swollen shut and there was dried blood around his nose and mouth. Even so, he was looking around restlessly and sniffing the air vigorously.

Although we had developed some sense of camaraderie after the last night’s events, I didn’t get the urge to risk myself to help him. After forcing Satoru to help so much, he had run off in the face of the enemy’s attack and abandoned us. Being captured by the enemy was getting his just deserts.

Goodbye, Squealer. I won’t forget you.

I bid him farewell in my mind. But he was still here. The Ground Spider soldiers tugged the rope, but he squealed in protest, still sniffing the air.

I was shocked. Squealer was looking this way. Since we were hidden in shadow, I thought it would be difficult to see us from his position, but he looked straight through the gaps in the fallen bamboo and right into our eyes.

He suddenly let out a shout and pointed this way.

Traitor. Anger and fear made my blood boil.

The two soldiers became excited. One pulled out a knife and the other unslung his bow and drew and arrow.

“…stop,” Satoru said from behind me.

The queerat with the arrow dropped to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. The one with the machete stood dumbstruck.


Page 454-455

Then, Squealer spit out a blade he had somehow hidden in his mouth. Gripping it with both hands, he came up behind the other soldier and cut straight through his carotid artery.

Blood spurted out of him like a geyser and he thudded to the ground.

Squealer put the blade between his teeth and deftly cut the ropes around his hands.

“Gods, thank you! Because of you I managed to escape death.”

I glared at Squealer as he rushed toward us.

“The only thing you’re good at is these kinds of lies. You tried to sell us out!”

“I would never think of doing that. It’s a misunderstanding,” Squealer said pleadingly. “If I had the chance, I could have dealt with one of them myself. In any case, aren’t the gods so powerful that these soldiers are mere trifles to them?”

I was about to point out Satoru’s current condition, but held my tongue.

“Even so, it is upsetting that I would be thought of as a traitor. Even if I did betray the gods, they would never go easy on me because of it. As a leader of the Robber Fly colony, once I am captured, my only fate is death.”

“But you can’t deny you pointed out our position to them.”

“I apologize. But if I had not done so, would you not have left me behind? Of course, something like that would not have happened, but worry got the best of me.”

The fight went out of me as Squealer hit bullseye.

“Even though you ran off earlier…” I muttered as a last retort.

“Yes. I have no excuse. I deserve nothing more than death for that. I was afraid. I am a coward. To the gods, I’m just a filthy worm. Less than the spit of a dung beetle’s larva. Lower than the maggots wriggling in a cesspool, vulgar, repulsive…”

“Stop already,” Satoru interrupted Squealer’s unending self-abasement impatiently. “The bigger question is, how do we get out of here?”