“You should step back a little,” said Inui, the wildlife conservation officer sent to protect me. “Stray bullets might come into this area.”
“What do you mean by bullets?”
“Queerat wars these days involve not just bows and arrows, but also arquebuses. They are too fast for the eye to see, so you can’t stop them with cantus.”
I quickly retreated to a safe distance. As if they had been waiting for me to leave, the cries on the battlefield suddenly intensified. The two armies began to fight.
Arrows flew through the air, followed by harsh bangs and puffs of smoke.
I looked out over the battle field from the hill we stood on. Against the allied army’s line of archers and gunmen, the Giant Hornets attacked with long spears in a wedge formation. The allied army probably hoped to stop the Giant Hornets in their tracks with a unified assault, but their plan fell apart almost instantly. The Giant Hornets came straight at them through the hail of bullets without the slightest hesitation.
Looking carefully, I saw that the soldiers at the front of the wedge were holding strangely shaped shields.
“Those are deflecting the bullets,” Inui explained.
Although he was shorter and skinnier than I was, Inui had the energy and endurance to travel through the wilderness for days without rest. That combined with his extensive experience as a wildlife conservation officer made him the most reliable person in the Department of Health.
“The bullets can easily pierce normal armor, but if you look carefully at the shields, you’ll see that they’re made at an angle. That deflects the bullets to the sides.”
He explained that shields were first made with rows of bamboo arranged into a V, over which layers of stiff linen were glued and allowed to harden. Then the surface was covered with a thick coat of wax and, finally, metal pipes. The shields were apparently highly effective at deflecting bullets.
“The bamboo part of the shields are just like the ones used by the ancient civilization during the Warring States. But the addition of linen, wax, metal, and shaping to deflect bullets were all thought up by the queerats themselves.”
“I can’t believe it. I knew they were smart, but…”