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The mood at the Security Council was oppressively gloomy.

“Does anyone have any questions about Satoru Asahina’s testimony?” The head of the council, Shisei Kaburagi, asked in a low voice.

A short silence followed.

This time, every important official in the district was present. Tomiko from the Committee of Ethics. Head of the Board of Education, Hiromi Torigai. Kofuu Hino from the Occupations Council. My mother, Head Librarian Mizuho Watanabe. My father, Mayor Takashi Sugiura. And Hiroshi Kaneko from the Department of Health, as well as the all of his staff. Head Priest Mushin, who was now over a hundred years old, from the Temple of Purity was absent, but two monks were there to represent him.

My father spoke first.

“Asahina-kun. I’d like to hear your theory about how the Giant Hornet colony was killed.”

Satoru licked his lips. “I really have no idea. Based on the sheer number corpses at the scene, all Giant Hornet soldiers, all I got was the impression of a one-sided massacre.”

“What was the main cause of death?”

“I don’t know that either. Many were pierced with arrows, but the majority were mutilated beyond recognition.”

“What sort of mutilation?”

“Many were cut to pieces, or shot full of holes as if they had been used for target practice.”

“What did you learn from the surviving soldier?”

“He only knew a couple of phrases, so things like, ‘Giant Hornets, killed’, ‘Massacre’, ‘Only Kiroumaru escaped’. I tried to ask what happened, but he started hyperventilating and screaming in his own language.”

“You couldn’t tell him to translate?”

“No. He died soon after that.”

Silence once again.

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“Chairman,” Tomiko said, looking up. “What were the results from the scene analysis?”

Everyone’s eyes turned toward Kaburagi Shisei.

“After hearing Satoru Asahina’s story, I visited the battleground yesterday, but unfortunately, it had already been wiped clean of any possible evidence.”

“Wiped clean? What do you mean?”

“The area was doused in some sort of oil-based liquid and set ablaze. Everything was reduced to ashes.”

People began to mutter.

“Doesn’t doing that suggest that they have something to hide…?” Hiromi Torigai said in her quiet voice.


For some reason, Koufuu Hino began to laugh raucously.

“Do you have any ideas what it could be?”

“I have a theory, but as I have no proof, I’d like to present it last,” Shisei Kaburagi said in an unusually solemn voice.

“I doubt they burned the corpses out of sanitation concerns. No doubt they were hiding the method of killing,” my mother said.

Tomiko turned toward her with a motherly look. “That’s something I don’t understand… Recently, queerat technology has been advancing so rapidly that I think they must have some source of information.”

“You mean a false minoshiro?”

“Yes. It’s possible there are still a few Automotive Archives of the National Diet Library around. The queerats could have captured one and extracted its knowledge.”

“If that’s so, then isn’t there a problem with policies we currently have regarding them? Making the subject of the false minoshiro’s existence a taboo is pointless if they still exist. It only serves to postpone dealing with the issue. Have you even made an effort to destroy the remaining ones?” Kaburagi Shisei said sharply.

Although his harsh words weren’t directed at me, they still made me shrink back instinctively.

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“To destroy all the false minoshiro would be to wipe out the last remaining artifacts of human intellectual history. The Committee of Ethics has agreed that this would be a loss to us all,” my mother replied calmly and firmly.

Tomiko added, “The Committee has indeed deliberated on this topic. The conclusion was that if a false minoshiro happened to be captured, so be it, but we should not purposely destroy them. This does not contradict our current policies. …Mizuho-chan, if the queerats managed to capture a false minoshiro, could they have found information on how to massacre the Giant Hornet colony?”

My mother thought for a moment. “…that knowledge would be under class four, subcategory three, which is forbidden to everyone.”

“The Security Council meeting takes precedence over everything else. If we can’t even discuss what we know, we won’t be able to move forward with the agenda,” Shisei Kaburagi snapped.

“We’re not asking you to open up the archives to the public. Just tell us what you can remember. This is an emergency situation. …does there exist a way to destroy a colony so thoroughly?”

Even my mother couldn’t continue to protest under Tomiko’s persuasion.

“There were many weapons of mass destruction in the ancient civilization. Using one of these, it is possible to instantly annihilate a queerat army. But I can’t think of a single one that could have been the weapon they used this time.”

“Why is that?”

“For one, none of the weapons can be built as quickly as this was. They all require highly sophisticated scientific techniques and industrial equipment that the queerats don’t have right now. Second, all the weapons that I know of leave some sort of trace when used.”

“For example?”

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My mother hesitated, but continued, “Nuclear weapons have the most power, but they would never have been able to find the materials needed to create one. Plus, if it had been used, the level of destruction would have been on the scale of the previous karma demon incident…” She glanced at me as if suddenly remembering I was there. “Anyway, since there was no residual radiation that comes from the detonation of a nuclear weapon, it couldn’t have been what they used. The next most effective weapon is poison gas, but it is almost impossible for queerats to produce it.”

“…but the Ground Spiders used poison gas before,” I said without thinking.

“The types of gas I’m referring to aren’t the kinds made from burning sulfur or plastic. Nerve gas, choking gas and the like could easily wipe out an entire town,” she said in a slightly reproachful tone.

Of course, I wasn’t a member of the Security Council, and had only been invited to the meeting in the event anyone had questions about queerats. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind that I had spoken out of turn.

“Similarly, biological weapons such as deadly viruses are difficult to make. They’re also not as effective as the two I mentioned before. Apart from these, there are also weapons like earthquake generators and lasers that can cause mass destruction, but not even humans can make them now, not to mention queerats.”

“So can we rule out all weapons from the past? Is there anything else you would like to add?” Tomiko asked gently, as if reading my mother’s mind.

“…aren’t supercluster bombs the only weapons that don’t contradict the evidence found at the scene?” she said in a rush.

“What are those?”

“Like the bombs dropped from planes, but instead of just one large bomb, the inside is filled with hundreds of smaller bomblets. When the main bomb breaks open, the bomblets are scattered over a wide area. When those explode, they spread even smaller bomblets that are filled with metal pellets. Each of the smallest bomblets can cover an area about 20 meters in diameter, and tears everything in it to shreds. There’s no crater left behind, and it could easily blow tens of thousands of queerats to pieces.”

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This wasn’t the first time I had questioned the nature of the humans from the ancient civilization, but just hearing this made me nauseous. What exactly were they thinking when they developed weapons like these? Compared to the cold inhumanity of bombs, blowdogs could almost be considered cute.

“But is this something queerats are capable of making?” Shisei Kaburagi asked the question that was probably on everyone’s mind.

“Of course they don’t have the skills to manufacture new ones. …but it is possible that there are supercluster bombs and other weapons of destruction currently in existence,” my mother said with a pained expression.

“You can’t be serious.”

The room was stunned into silence.

“It’s been a thousand years since they were built, so it’s almost certain they’re unusable. …still, it’s definitely possible that, if the queerats caught a false minoshiro and extracted information from it, they could unearth the weapons and restore them to working order.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this,” Tomiko said, brows furrowed.

“The information is passed down through the head librarians only.”

“So, where are these weapons now?”

“That is the only question I cannot answer here,” my mother said. “But I can say that it is not too far.”

Everyone started talking at once. If the queerats did manage to acquire such a weapon, and if, against all odds, it was still working, then the district was in grave danger.

“Kill kill kill. Eheeheeheeheeheeheehee. Kill the eeevil ratsss,” Koufuu Hino sang gleefully, rubbing his bald head.

“May I please have your attention. I would like to share my impression of the incident. I don’t believe it was done by a bomb.”

The room grew quiet once again.

“Shisei. Enough with the drama. What do you think it was?” Tomiko said, leaning forward.

“I will tell you, despite that insult. For, despite their attempts to destroy the evidence, I alone can tell. The Giant Hornet colony was wiped out by a human using their cantus.”