an English translation of the novel

Page 407-408

“Yeah. It was quite a display. He took out seven of them.”

“That many? How?”

“First he lured them out with our scent and led them to the cave where the black widow mites lived. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The group broke apart as they all tried to run away. But Kiroumaru wasn’t done yet. He baited another group of mites and invaded the enemy’s camp. Without their guards, Yakomaru and the fiend were forced to flee again. But this time the plan backfired. Without anything to feed on, the mites started coming after us. That was also when we realized that although they couldn’t move around on damp walls, they could travel on water just fine.”

“Really?”

“They can stick together like balls of algae and float on the water. …still, the fact that they were all stuck together made it that much more easier to burn them all at once.”

As Satoru excitedly continued his story, I began to have doubts once again. How exactly was Kiroumaru able to kill all those queerats?

“Did he really kill seven enemy soldiers?”

“Yeah. But that’s only what I was able to see. There were probably more.”

“But didn’t he say that there were only seven in total at the very beginning?”

“As the underground troop was injured, more came from aboveground. Still, the ground troops probably didn’t have enough soldiers to make up for all the losses, so we think the underground team has five members now,” Kiroumaru explained, looking more like a golem every minute as the covered himself in muck.

“Hey, why didn’t you warn us about the Bobbit worm?”

Kiroumaru cocked his head. “What is that?”

“The bristle worm creature near the beach. Because of it, Inui…”

He let out a long sigh. “I didn’t think it was necessary to bring up the dangers that appear near the shores at night. Sorry, I might have if you were alone, but you had a Wildlife Protection Officer with you, one we call the ‘god of death’. Also, I did not know the identity of the creature. It’s true I lost a lot of my soldiers to it, but I never had a chance to see it.”


Page 409-410

Satoru placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me from interrogating Kiroumaru further.

“This is not good..” Kiroumaru said, his nose twitching. “It’s started raining aboveground.”

“Why is that bad?” Satoru asked.

“Usually it’s a good thing since it helps wash away your scent, but right now we want them to follow our scent trail.”

The sound of rain was finally reached our ears.

“This tunnel won’t flood, so don’t worry about that. There are dozens of tunnels deeper underground for the water to drain from…”

Rain was streaming through multiple holes in the ceiling. The sound echoed cacophonously throughout the tunnels.

“Hurry. We need to finish this battle as soon as possible.”

We followed Kiroumaru deeper underground, going from large, arterial tunnels to small, capillary-like ones.

He never seemed to lose his way even for a second as we went down the branching paths.

I could hear Satoru breathing laboriously. His wounds were taking their toll on him.

After a while, the tunnels started sloping upward. The stones became more and more slippery from the rain and we had to step carefully.

Just as I was wondering how long the slope was going to go on, we reached the top. We must have been close to the surface since the rain was much louder here. There was also a faint light coming from somewhere that might have been stronger if it weren’t pouring outside.


Page 411-412

“We’ll set the trap here,” Kiroumaru said.

I looked where he pointed and saw a hole in the rock three or four meters across.

“This was probably a tunnel made a thousand years ago. The good thing is that it goes on without branching for a kilometer and a half before exiting aboveground.”

“Why is that good? We’ll only have one way to escape,” Satoru said, grimacing in pain.

“It’s easier to calculate their distance to us when there’s only one route they can take. But there are enough complicated curves throughout the tunnel that we can try to stay ahead and out of sight.”

His remaining green eye glinted unpleasantly from his mud-covered face. Rain and sweat were starting to wash off muck.

“Still, although it doesn’t branch, there are still a number of small paths leading off from it. They are all dead ends though, so make sure not to go down any of them.”

“How do we tell the paths apart from the main tunnel?” I asked uneasily.

“They look completely different. They’re much narrower than the tunnel and are not rounded. You won’t get lost as long as you follow the main tunnel.”

His tone of voice suggested that he found it quite pitiful that I had no sense of direction.

“…but is this really the best place to do it?” Satoru asked.

“For our purposes, this is the only place,” Kiroumaru said confidently. “This wind is our greatest advantage.”

There was a breeze coming from up ahead. For some unknown reason, there were constant breezes criss-crossing through underground Tokyo, creating complicated airstreams.

We would be heading straight into the wind and the fiend would be downwind from us. That way, when we broke open the psychobuster, only the fiend would be infected.


Page 413-414

But would it go that smoothly? We all felt incredibly apprehensive, but couldn’t come up with a better alternative.

“This is a bad omen… The rain is heavier than I had expected,” Kiroumaru said, looking up at the ceiling, listening to sounds we couldn’t hear. “The original idea was to lure the fiend through the tunnel and use the psychobuster before we get to the exit. But I am beginning to think that may not be such a reliable plan.”

“Why not?”

“The rain is washing away our scent. We need to force the fiend to come after us no matter what. A better bait…no we need a decoy.”

“Hey, wait just a sec. What do you mean by decoy…” Satoru said, a note of doubt in his voice.

“Let the fiend catch sight of you, if only for an instant, then run into the tunnel. It won’t be able to control itself and come after you.”

“Are you insane? You want us to play tag with the fiend? We’ll be within its striking distance,” Satoru shouted. “It’s impossible. If we stumble for even a second and get into its line of sight, we’re dead.”

“You are both healthy adults. The fiend is just a child. You should be able to run faster than it.”

“Don’t be stupid!”

“There’s another thing. The psychobuster needs to be released at close distance. With all this moisture in the air, the powder won’t be able to travel very far. And if you don’t do it right, it might just stick to the walls,” Kiroumaru continued, ignoring Satoru.

“No way. It’s impossible,” I said, looking right into his eyes.


Page 415-416

“Impossible? What do you mean?” he returned my look coldly.

“I mean…”

“How many do you think have been sacrificed to get you this far?” Kiroumaru said harshly. “It is understandable that you do not care for the lives of my species. But how many people, starting with Inui-san, have given their lives for you? They all died so you could have this one moment, this one chance to kill the fiend. They trusted you enough to pay the ultimate price. Are you going to waste this one and only chance? Did you come all the way here only to back out like frightened children at the last minute?”

I hung my head in shame, unable to respond

“You still have the chance to kill the fiend and survive. A very good chance, in fact. You just need to have courage in this moment. …if you don’t, you will regret it for the rest of your lives. You may live a little longer, but sooner or later, the fiend will kill you. When that happens, the last thing to go through your minds will be overwhelming regret. Why did I waste the opportunity to kill the fiend…”

His words cut through my heart like a sword.

“…yes. You’re right,” Satoru said quietly. “We came here, ready to lay down our lives, with one goal in mind. Are we going to stop now because we’re afraid? …but what are you going to do? Are you just going to watch while we gamble our lives playing tag with the fiend? That’s convenient for you.”

Kiroumaru’s eyes flashed. “You sound like a spoiled child. ‘Why do I have to die but the queerat doesn’t? That’s not fair. It should die first.'”