He scrunched up his already wrinkled snout, spitting in anger.
“I apologize for my outburst. We’ve put enormous effort into our defense, but we are not a strong group to begin with, so that is how we ended up in this position.”
“You mean, you’re losing?” I asked.
As if he had been waiting for the question, Squealer went on, “The situation is not so simple. I don’t know about a big colony like the Giant Hornets, but the Robber Flies only have seven hundred members. In comparison, the Ground Spiders have an estimated population of at least four thousand.”
I shuddered. Before he died, Rijin had “exterminated” at most a thousand of them. It had been overly optimistic to think of that as an annihilation of their group. There could possibly still be three thousand queerats remaining.
“Yesterday, we dispatched special envoys to three neighboring colonies requesting assistance, but it will take some time before they arrive.”
“Then, you’ll be defenseless if you’re attacked right now?” I blurted out without thinking.
Squealer looked at me suspiciously and I realized my mistake. A human with cantus wouldn’t be worried no matter how many queerats came after them.
“Yeah, what would you have done if we hadn’t arrived?” Satoru added without a moment’s delay, a skill he had perfected from having to dig himself out of his bluffs all the time.
“I am deeply touched by your concern,” Squealer bowed deeply. “However, our battles among colonies are unique, and even though the difference between our powers is considerable, it’s too early to jump to conclusions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Seeing is believing, as the saying goes. I will show you right now, so please follow me,” Squealer backed away with his head bowed. It seemed to be the sort of behavior queerats do when facing another queerat of higher status.
As we left the thickets, our surroundings opened up. The moon had already set, but I could see all the way across the clearing by starlight. It was dotted with towers that looked like anthills.