an English translation of the novel

Page 456-457

Satoru leaned against the bamboo stalks and close his eyes. I was worried about him. He should have reached his limit a long time ago, but since he was forced to use his cantus just now, he had to conserve his energy from now on.

“I agree, but for some reason the Ground Spiders seem to think that the gods are on the west side and are pouring all of their energies into surrounding that area. Because of that, I believe the safest way out is to the east,” Squealer said calmly, as if nothing had happened earlier.

“So there are no enemies to the east?” I wanted to make sure.

“Yes. All the elite soldiers are concentrated to the west. The ones left in the east are the useless ones, like the ones we just saw.”

The world around me darkened.

“So there are some…how many?”

“Altogether about a hundred to a hundred fifty. With little training and crude weapons, they might as well not exist to the gods. It will be just like traveling through uninhabited wilderness.”

I sighed. Our situation seemed to only get worse and worse.

“How should we proceed? If we are to go, we must hurry. If the elite troops realize that the gods are not in the west and decide to return, it’ll be a problem,” Squealer said urgently.

But our fighting abilities were already close to zero.

“Gods.”

Was this stupid queerat telling the truth? We were in a lot of danger. I didn’t want to imagine what he would do if he found out that we were essentially useless now.

“Gods.”

“Shut up for a second.”

“But, gods, the worst is coming,” Squealer coughed. “There seems to be a considerable amount of soldiers approaching from the west. Could you possibly be planning to break through their ranks?”


Page 458-459

I looked toward the west. I couldn’t hear the troops marching, but it didn’t look like Squealer was lying either. Since queerats had much better hearing than humans did, he might be right.

“What do we do…!”

“Head east immediately. If we must fight, that one is much easier, not to mention…”

“Sh! Be quiet,” I shut Squealer up.

I heard it. He wasn’t lying. Sounds of chopping and marching traveling faintly on the air. The careful and silent troops gave off an aura intense malice.

“Gods, there is no time! We must go!” Squealer urged, starting to move east.

Quietly and carefully, we approached the clearing beyond the bamboo forest. But there we ran into something much more frightening.

The Ground Spider patrol. Seven or eight of them just loafing around. They hadn’t noticed us yet. But if we kept going, we wouldn’t be able to avoid meeting them head-on.

“Gods, please deal with them. It would be best if done as silently as possible.”

I looked at Satoru, who shook his head slowly. He didn’t have the energy to do it.

“Gods, what are you doing? Gods?” Squealer asked uneasily. “There’s no time for uncertainty! If we don’t escape now, the troops behind us will catch up.” His voice gradually took on an unpleasant tone. “Gods, what are you doing? Why are you not exterminating them? Could it be that…” his eyes gleamed with a strange light I hadn’t seen before, “…you are no longer gods?”

Time froze. I stared back at Squealer.


Page 460-461

A loud whistle shattered the frosty silence.

As if a spell had been broken, we looked around.

“What was that sound?”

I heard it again. It wasn’t from the same direction. They came from different places, like signals being transmitted back and forth through the mountains.

“Gods, gods!” Squealer was beside himself with joy. “Good news! The footsteps are fading. The troop coming from the west is retreating!”

“Why?” I was more confused than relieved.

“Reinforcements! The conch sound is from the Giant Hornet colony. There’s nothing to worry about anymore. The Giant Hornet is the biggest colony in Kanto, with a force over twenty-thousand strong. They’ll crush the Ground Spiders in the blink of an eye!”

Before I knew it, the Ground Spider patrol had vanished.

Were we really saved? I snuck a glance at Satoru, and didn’t see a trace of happiness or relief on his face.

 

The Giant Hornet colony didn’t win through sheer numbers, but also through their fierceness.

They started out shooting from a distance, but once the arrows ran out, they flung themselves bodily at the enemy. One troop of lightly armored queerats ran swiftly through the concentrated phalanx formation, casting what looked like a net. Once the Ground Spiders were immobilized, the Giant Hornet troop stabbed them with so many spears that the corpses resembled a sea urchin.

Normal sized soldiers charged the three meter tall mutants. They hung on with their teeth as they slashed at the enemy with longswords. No matter what kind of monsters they were up against, the Giant Hornets dispatched them with ease.

“The enemy’s main force has been destroyed. Now all that’s left is to capture the queen,” the commander of the Giant Hornet army, Kiroumaru, said calmly after surveying the battle. “They looked so different that I couldn’t even consider them my own kind, but in end their monstrous appearance was just a bluff. They were not worthy opponents.”


Page 462-463

“Isn’t that slightly disrespectful?” Squealer interjected.

“Oh? What do you mean?” Kiroumaru looked down at Squealer, who was about two heads shorter.

Human names are only given to queerats in recognition for their outstanding abilities. Out of all the colonies, fewer than twenty have been named. Even though I didn’t find out about this until much later, I already realized that Kiroumaru had an extraordinary presence. He was taller than us, and outside of the queen and the mutants, was the tallest queerat I’ve ever seen. His long face and slanted eyes gave him a wolfish look befitting his name.1 Although his squinted eyes made it look like he was smiling, it was with the same expression that he tore into his enemy’s throat. Also, all the Giant Hornet members had tattoos on their faces and bodies. Most of them only had a stripe bordering their faces, but Kiroumaru was covered from his eyes to the bridge of his nose in complex arabesque patterns. It added to his strange appeal.

“The Giant Hornet soldiers are undoubtedly daring and resolute. However, the reason you won so easily against the Ground Spiders is that the gods already wore down their strength. If the catapult troop was whole and unharmed, they would have been a considerable threat…”

“The catapult troop was nothing special,” Kiroumaru said dismissively. “It was my first time seeing the weird creatures, but catapults have always been used in sieges. {Their archers were nothing but targets, and we swept the floor with them in hand-to-hand combat.}”

“Still, speaking like that…”

“You are just a civil servant and don’t understand the ways of war. Therefore, I will overlook your misguided pedanticism.” He looked coolly at us. “Although, the Ground Spider’s foolish tactics may well be due to the presence of the gods. As was their stupid plan to concentrate all their forces in front and have no defense in the rear. I, Kiroumaru, am deeply indebted.”

1 The second kanji in Kiroumaru (奇狼丸) means wolf.

Page 464-465

“Not at all,” I answered shortly. I was about to thank him too, but something stopped me.

Then a messenger arrived and spoke in queerat language.

Kiroumaru nodded satisfactorily. “The nest has been found.”

“Huh? Th-that’s wonderful…” Squealer looked like he wanted to say something.

Kiroumaru ignored him and turned to us. “I have an errand I must attend to. What will you do?”

I was about to refuse, but Satoru, who had had his eyes closed this entire time, answered, “We’ll go too.”

“Shall we go then? I will lead the way.”

We followed Kiroumaru out of the camp as he strode calmly through the bowing soldiers.

“Why are we going with him?” I whispered to Satoru.

“We can’t show him any weakness.”

Satoru kept his eyes closed. Just staying conscious seemed to cost considerable effort.

“But the Giant Hornet is the most loyal colony. Why do we have to be so cautious?” I asked, even though I  had some doubts about him myself.

“It’s because they’re the most loyal that it’s so important to be careful.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s hard to explain right now…” Satoru furrowed his eyebrows. “Look, ever since last night, we’ve walking the line between life and death, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“But I’d wager that this is actually the most dangerous situation we’ve been in so far.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. Bursting with questions, I turned back toward Kiroumaru.