an English translation of the novel

Page 20-21

Somehow, it didn’t make sense. Normally, when a colony was attacked, the first thing it would do was to report it to us and apply for permission to retaliate. And yet, we had heard nothing from the Spider Wasps.

“In any case, it’s a problem if we leave the situation as it is. It’s interfering with the samples I need collected, and it’s disrespecting our authority.”

“You’re right. We’ll investigate it as soon as possible.”

“What will you do if you find the colony that launched the attack?”

“There will be some form of punishment at the very least. Either the Giant Hornets will be ordered to carry it out, or one of our offices will do it.”

Within the Department of Health, the Environmental Health and Pest Control divisions worked closely with us. If the latter was sent out on assignment, it meant that an entire colony was being exterminated.

“Still…” Satoru looked like he was trying not to smile.”

“What?”

“Nothing. You just seemed like the real department chief around here with the way you talk.”

We smiled at each other. The distance between us had disappeared.

At the time, I was happy that some stupid colony had given me and Satoru the chance to make up.

However, despite being the person in the town most wary of the queerats, even I couldn’t imagine the terrible future this event foreshadowed.

 

The monthly meetings at the Department of Health were always full of the same droning reports that bored everyone to tears. That’s why the attendants of the July meeting came as such a shock.

Three leaders from the district sat next to Hiroshi Kaneko, the head of the department. Koufuu Hino represented the Occupations Council. Shisei Kaburagi was consultant for the Security Council. And Tomiko Asahina, head of the Ethics Committee, was also present. The first two were known for being the most powerful and most skilled cantus users in the district, they were the very definitions of the words used to describe them. And of course, I don’t need to explain who Tomiko is.


Page 22-23

It was rare for the three of them to be seen anywhere, much less at our monthly meeting at the Department of Health. Maybe there was an outbreak of some new disease.

“We have a priority matter to discuss today, so we’ll skip the reports from each division.” Kaneko said, sounding more nervous than usual. “One week ago, six members of the Spider Wasp colony, who the researchers at the Lotus Farms rely on for sample collection, were attacked by an unknown party. Two of the six have perished from the poison arrows.”

People began to mutter. Not because they thought this was some huge event. They were wondering why the deaths of a few queerats was the most important topic in the meeting.

“At present, none of the exosp…queerats have been given permission to wage war, and there are no applications pending review. So this attack was a flagrant disregard for the law and grounds for disciplinary action. Two representatives from the exospecies are waiting in another room to give testimony so we can decide on the proper punishment. Before that, it will help if everyone is familiarized with the current power balance of the exospecies. Saki Watanabe, if you please.”

“Yes.” I stood up a little tensely. I went over to the whiteboard and turned to bow to the room. This was originally Mr. Watabiki’s job, but I knew more about the queerats than anyone else at the moment. “After a number of shifts in the last ten years, the various exospecies colonies in the Kanto area have settled into two factions of roughly equal power.” I drew a line down the whiteboard with my cantus and created a rough chart. Even though I was writing with cantus, my handwriting unfortunately still looked like chicken scratch.

“The first is the Giant Hornet faction. The Giant Hornets themselves have about a hundred thousand soldiers. The colonies under them are the Paper Wasp, Spider Wasp, Wood Ant, Ground Beetle, Tiger Beetle, Carrion Beetle, Praying Mantis, Dragonfly, Giant Stag Beetle, Diving Beetle, Cricket, Cone-headed Katydid, and Cave Cricket colonies. Altogether, they have about five hundred thousand warriors. They have proven extremely loyal to humans and are entrusted with important physical labor.”

“May I ask a question?” Shisei Kaburagi raised a hand. Although his hairline had begun to recede a little, he still looked as imposing as ever in his black sunglasses.


Page 24-25

“Please,” Mr. Kaneko said quickly.

“The queerats…or exospecies…what sort of bond holds these colonies together? Aren’t most groups monolithic in nature?”

“The Giant Hornet faction can be thought of as a feudal society. Each colony in the faction serves its own queen, and is pledged to the Giant Hornet colony. If one colony is attacked, it is viewed as an attack on the entire faction. Virile males are moved around the colonies, and a new queen is chosen from a different colony each time the current one becomes too old to bear offspring. In this way, blood ties are strengthened and treason is highly unlikely to occur.”

Shisei Kaburagi nodded.

“The other group is the Robber Fly faction. The Robber Flies have around 55 thousand warriors. When you include the Deerfly, Pyraloid Moth, Garden Tiger Moth, Armyworm, Blue Centipede, Orb Spider, Tachina Fly, and Leaf Hopper colonies, they are 250 to 300 thousand strong. They are also extremely loyal to humans, and have suggested for some time that they be allowed to share the work given solely to the Giant Hornets. …to answer your previous question, the integration of these colonies is far more complicated. Many colonies have changed their names to those of fortresses or military divisions.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“For starters, all the colonies have overthrown their queens by means of revolution. All decisions in a colony are made by elected representatives, and representatives from each colony convene to make decisions for the entire faction. The queen’s sole duty is reproduction.”

The muttering started again. Most people knew as much about changes in queerat society as they did about the movement of tectonic plates. They had no idea that these colonies were treating the queen like livestock.

“Almost all colonies have gravitated to one of the two groups, leaving almost no independent ones. The only one with any sort of power is probably the Millepede colony, which came from the mainland and has since been naturalized.”


Page 26-27

“I see. …so essentially, there is a high chance that either the Robber Fly or Millepede Colony was behind the attack?” Shisei Kaburagi pressed.

I glanced at Mr. Kaneko, trying to decide how to answer the question.

“…based on careful analysis of the evidence left at the scene, we’ve determined that the Goat Moths were the attackers.”

“The Goat Moths?” he said doubtfully. “That name isn’t on the list for either faction. And it’s not an independent faction either.”

“The Goat Moths have declared their neutrality for over a decade now,” I answered. “That’s why they are not on the list, but given the present situation, they can be considered allied with the Robber Fly colony. They are a special case.”

I couldn’t bring myself to say that it might have been Satoru and I who brought the two colonies together twelve years ago.

“I see. So that’s how it is!” Koufuu Hino said, a smile appearing on his large face as he looked around at everyone. His bald head shone a ruddy red. “In other words, the problem is this might not end with the extermination of just one colony. This could be taken as rebellion against human rule if the Robber Fly faction was involved in the conspiracy. We might have to stamp out half the queerat population!”

“Well…it’s still too early to say,” Mr. Kaneko said quickly.

But Koufuu’s words had changed the mood in the meeting room. Killing upwards of 300 thousand queerats was a huge deal. That was why the three most important people in the district were here.


Page 28-29

“I would like to summon the representatives of the exospecies. We have the supreme commander of the Giant Hornet colony, Kiroumaru, and the representative of the Robber Fly colony, Yakomaru. Does anyone have any objections? I would like to start with Kiroumaru’s testimony.”

The only person who spoke up was Tomiko, who had been silent so far. “As an observer in the meeting, I don’t intend to give commands, but I would like to suggest having both of them here at the same time. If their stories do not match up, we can have them confront each other directly to see who is telling the truth.”

“I see, I will do as you say. Well then.” Mr. Kaneko nodded.

Mr. Watabiki quickly left the room and brought the two queerats.

Dressed in a white robe and standing as tall as a normal human, Kiroumaru walked slowly forward. He looked even more imposing than he did fourteen years ago, but I could see a hint of old age in his posture. It seemed that queerats aged faster than humans, though not as quickly as naked mole rats.

Behind Kiroumaru came Yakomaru, also dressed in white. He was considerably shorter, but was in the prime of his life and looked dignified and full of energy. They stood apart from each other at the side of the meeting room, avoiding each other’s eyes.

“Well then, I shall address Kiroumaru of the Giant Hornet colony first,” Mr. Kaneko said in a stern voice. “The Spider Wasp colony is under the Giant Hornet faction, yes?”

“That is correct,” Kiroumaru answered a little hoarsely.

“One week ago, six soldiers of the Spider Wasp colony were attacked by an unknown party and two have since died. You are aware of this?”

“Yes.”

“Do you hold anyone guilty?”

“Based on what the survivors have relayed to me, the party immediately responsible for the attack is the Goat Moth colony.”

“Immediately responsible? So it is your belief that they were acting upon orders?”

“Yes.” Kiroumaru stared directly at Yakomaru. “The Goat Moth colony is part of the Robber Fly faction. So I assume the Robber Fly colony gave the orders.”

Yakomaru looked like he was itching to speak, but after looking at the humans sitting around the room, fell still again.

“Now I will address Yakomaru of the Robber Fly colony. Did you order the Goat Moth colony to attack the Spider Wasp soldiers?”