I follow along with the other red ants, who themselves are following the red ant commander, and return to their nest.
I finally arrive at the innermost part of the nest where there is not much space. The red ants line up the crimson cocoons that they brought back side by side along the ground. I open up my mouth and spit out the cocoons that had been tossed into it.
Eugh, this feels rather disgusting. Ptui!
A total of forty cocoons were brought back to the nest. It would seem that the most red ants that the other nest could raise at any one time was forty. Shouldn’t it be possible to raise one to two hundred at a time? If they did increase like that, then they could have red ants covering the whole world!
However, if they can lay up to forty at a time, then why are there only two hundred in the nest? Is there a limit to how many eggs a queen ant can lay in her lifetime or does this desert have a high ant mortality rate? It might be quite some time until the next larvae hatch.
Of what was carried back, the red ants brought back twenty, I brought back ten, and Partner brought back ten… Huh? What’s wrong? Partner, hurry up and spit them out already!
Partner barks and opens her mouth, revealing nothing inside of it. No way, you’re kidding me, right?
I decided to quietly leave the cocoon vault and head to where the queen ant is. Let’s quickly give the queen ant our farewells and get the hell outta here.
As I enter the passage, I glance back just enough to look over my shoulder. The red ants move their forefeet back and forth ever so slightly as they count the number of cocoons, tilting their heads. I’ll pretend I didn’t see anything.
I remember where the queen ant resides, so I don’t need anyone to show me the way. I’ll raise alarms if I wander around without permission, and I really don’t have time for that right now.
I head straight to where the queen ant is.
There are two red ants next to the queen ant, one on either side of her. Upon seeing my figure, the two red ants stoop down in caution. However the queen ant objects to their actions and the two red ants withdraw.
((Thank you for your hard work, I heard the report. Ten soldiers injured this time with forty snatched cocoons.))
I promptly clear my thoughts and proceed to think about something else. I didn’t want news of Partner’s screw-up to leak out, if possible. Though, it’s only a matter of time.
The queen ant tilts her head curiously. It seems we’ve managed to not reveal it with [[Telepathy]].
((…Did your level rise to your satisfaction?))
The queen ant asks somewhat anxiously. She may have become anxious because I resisted her [[Telepathy]]. Let’s not do anything unnecessary from here on out.
I know that you’re wary, but you can be rest assured that I no longer have any intentions of attacking you. Though I feel I’ve been used, I expect this to be sufficient enough for my goals and I’d rather give you my thanks instead.
((I see. That’s a relief… Actually, I know of another red ant nest…))
((…No? I’ll set that aside then. ))
Are you thinking that you’ll be able to expand your army even more by picking up cocoons again?
I was suspicious about whether my real purpose was to crush the rival ant nest or not. Plus, the red ant queen over there did seem to know the red ant queen over here as well.
((This is a ridiculous thing to say to someone who attacked our nest, but you did help me as well… If there’s anything you need, call us. We’ll be there to lend you a hand.))
I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity to do so, since I’ll be leaving this desert soon. If anything, I feel her true intentions are really “I’m reluctantly lending you a hand. Please don’t take it.”
[Individual has acquired title skill [[Soldier Ant: Lv MAX]].]
[Title skill [[Soldier Ant: Lv Max]] has changed into [[Commander Ant: Lv 1]].]
[Level of title skill [[Commander Ant]] has increased from level 1 to level MAX.]
[Title skill [[Commander Ant: Lv MAX]] has changed into [[King Ant: Lv –]].]
Some strange skills popped up, but… well, it is like I contributed to overthrowing a sizable country. It would seem that within the red ant society, one can actually advance upwards through their own merits.
Becoming king of the ants and living underground… Yeeeah, I don’t know about that… but it does sound like it would be a little fun though.
…This is going to affect my evolution, isn’t it? That’s gonna be a little annoying.
After parting ways from the red ant queen, I left the nest and flew up into the sky. After flying around for a while, I could see a marsh in the distance.
The marshes in this desert are created by large slugs who usually hide behind a mirage and lure others in by showing them the illusion of an oasis. In other words, being able to see the marsh must mean that the large slug who lived here had been subdued recently. It’s very likely that Adofu did it.
I head toward the marsh and eventually see the figure of Adofu sitting on the edge of it.
…He doesn’t seem like one to be fooled by a mirage. No, is that the reason? Water is still water even if it is muddy. It’s still a better resting spot than sitting around in this hellish desert. He may have moved here after deciding that he could make this a decent landmark of sorts for me to spot.
Adofu looks up at me and stands up as I, in turn, land down in front of Adofu.
“The promised day is coming up tomorrow. So, you ready?”
I nod my head.
While nodding, I think. Is it really a good idea to take Adofu with me? Adofu’s arm is in no decent shape for fighting.
With Adofu’s testimony, there certainly is the possibility of pulling down that hero’s support. Although it’s a tall order, it’s worth a shot. At least, to some extent.
From what I’ve been hearing thus far, I think it’s much more likely that the hero will try to dispose of Adofu by preparing to sow distrust into the crowd, thus giving way to the possibility of forcibly manipulating the crowd. If that happens, then the only choice left will be to fight. If we battle in Adofu’s current state, then it’s possible that he could die in vain.
How about I head to Haranae alone and keep the hero at bay while retrieving both Adofu’s relatives and Nina? Wouldn’t something like that work better? However, that plan wouldn’t clear him of the false accusations, and could possibly leave him with a looming weight over his head for the rest of his life.
“Don’t look so worried.”
Adofu says while looking at my uneasy face.
“I’m sure I’ll tear down his support. Have some faith in me.”
He had no hint of hesitation in his eyes.
I nod while thinking about it anxiously. While it may not be realistic to separate the church from the hero, it’s also true that if we don’t so something about the problem, then we won’t be able to find anywhere for Adofu’s relatives or Nina to stay.