Chapter 144
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True to Lord Zion's words, nobody spoke to me in my last two activity intervals.
They are the only things I can use as reference points since there's no natural light anywhere close.
I prepare the eggs, they take them out, then they leave in return a still slightly too little amount of food, so I have to worry when my natural reserves will deplete.

On the bright side, Kyska has already substantially recovered.
The injury she suffered from was a shock to her system, but it was apparently never threatening to her body.
It closed quite quickly and there was never all that much blood.


<My princess, I already told you it wasn't a big deal.> (K)

<You lost a limb! Two even! That's not a trivial matter!> (E)

<There were even times when this was praxis in the swarm." (K)

<Are you serious?!> (E)

<I would never lie to you, my princess. Sustaining wings naturally affects the general consumption of a drone. If it wasn't necessary for the purpose one was assigned to, it only made sense to cut the need short.> (K)


This once again sounds like something I neither can nor want to accept.


<Just to be clear, this kind of thing won't ever happen to my brood!> (E)

<In this case, it's fortunate that our queen decided the same. While she still favors efficiency and values the fate of the many more than that of the few, she decided that the pain inflicted on a large scale wasn't worth the benefit the swarm gained from it.> (K)


Seems like the queen still has a soft side to her.
Well, on the large scale that is.


<Still, this must be terrible for you personally.> (E)

<I only regret that I won't be able to serve you any longer.> (K)

<What!? Who said this?> (E)

<My princess, I can't fly anymore. This means I won't be able to follow you while you're moving. A nurse that can't even accompany their subject is unfit to attend the very same.> (K)


Damn, I should've considered her mentality.
She thinks of herself as replaceable.
This means I have to deliver this straight.


<Kyska, your wings never mattered to me to keep you by my side.> (E)

<This is very kind of you, but you have to consider my capabilities.> (K)

<There's nothing to question about you being capable enough. Without your assistance, I'd be completely lost. There's no way I would ever do without you! No discussion here!> (E)

<If you say so.> (K)


She doesn't seem to be entirely convinced.
However, it's not like that's her decision or that she could leave me in our current situation.
Especially, as I still require her assistance.
Catching your own eggs while they're coming out of you isn’t really intuitive.
Or in other words, it’s a bit like making the kind of mess that happens if something falls in the kitchen and the more rescue attempts you do, the worse it gets, since panic doesn't help with performing the necessary controlled movements.
I can only imagine how the first Formicea princesses set up their hive without any assistance.
Yet now Kyska is at least operable again and nothing can keep her from assisting me.






We finish storing all the eggs in the small handbarrow they use to transport them.
I can only hope they'll be treated well.
Yet I doubt the facilities Kyska saw would exist if they'd just opt to smash them.
So I'll at least play along on for now.
If only to prove to myself that I'm not just some entitled brat that won't even undertake the smallest action for my brood.
So we push the cart to the door as usual and then have to move to the other side of the room.
Yet the moment the door opens, something unusual happens.


"Dang, dang, dang, dang"


Wait, don't be stupid Erys.
Those repeated sounds are an alarm.
And the one thing of value here is... Me!

But who is it?
The best case would naturally be the swarm, yet this could turn into an extremely bad hostage scenario.
In the worst case, it's the Koresoans.

Anyway, I have to act now.
Yet before I can reach the other side, the door is shut.
Should I still dare it?
But I shouldn't just jump headlong into the fray.
Instead, I move to the barred door window to peek through.
The soldiers in the fore room cell that separates my room from the rest of the hallway seem to be quite confused.


"What is going on?!"

"As if I'd know! I'm locked in here just as you are!"

"Men, you know our orders! Remain in position and don't let anything through!" (Morris)


Okay, there are four men.
Can I take down that many?
Should I take them down?
My kidnappers don't know about my hidden weapons yet, but what if it's just a false alarm?
I fear what they might do to me if they become aware of them.
That crazy lord already threatened to cut off my limbs.
And that might be one of the more pleasant things he has in store.
However, if I let fear govern my actions I won't ever get out of here.
Then all my plans to escape were nothing but illusory wishes I never had the backbone to follow up on.

I'm almost mentally ready when one of the men abruptly shouts.


"Wha-what is this!?"

"They're flying!"

"Monsters! Some kind of bug?"

"Don't panic! They can't reach us in here! Hold your position and prepare to kill them once they hit the bars!" (M)


I know that voice.
It's the unfriendly guard who always ridicules us.
I can't see what's coming because of the angle of the door, but something else is sufficiently distinctive once they're close enough.






They feel different from the usual.
More primitive, simple, but I still understand them.
And this is all the confirmation I need.
With a wet slitch sound, my weapons, which I haven’t used in such a long time, emerge from the slits in my hands.
I can't afford to waste any time, as they said they plan to kill my presumed rescuers.




With barely any resistance, my blades slide through the wooden door, creating a triangular hole in the middle.


"What!?" (M)


Okay, now I can see the situation.
The soldiers are pointing their weapons in the direction of their attackers.
Two spears and two crossbows while the officer wields a sword.
But what really puts me off is the nature of their opponents.
A bunch of flying, oval bugs with huge mandibles and a, given their small size, comparatively large, solid stinger.
Just like I imagined them some days ago.
But how is this possible?
There's no way the eggs would've been able to hatch in this environment, and without sustenance, the larvae would just perish.
But given the bloody crust on the dozen I see there, they're already very much able to fight.

However, unfortunately, they're slightly too big to pass through the metal bars, and with their rigid carapaced bodies there's no squeezing through.
At this rate, the soldiers will just deal with them with their weapons from the safety of this cage.
Yet now that I made my appearance, with my blades drawn, I got their attention.


"S-Surrender! Or you'll die!" (E)


Should I've just killed them?
But they're people!
They might have families.
I can't just slaughter them because they follow orders.

Yet then the officer raises a weird oval box.


"Bad mistake, princess!" (M)






The collar!
An explosion of pain!
Oh my god, it hurts so much!
I need to do something, get rid of it!


"She's trying to flee! Shoot her if that stinger gets out and seize her!" (M)


In hindsight, my thinking was naive.
Three grab my arms while one points the crossbow at me, all the while the collar still buzzes painfully.


"You won't escape under my wat-" (M)


Before he can finish his sentence, Kyska crashes into him from the side.


Not myee prieencEsssss!!" (K)


The crossbow wielder targets her, but with all the strength I can muster, I move the body bundle of annoyingly resilient guys clinging to me in the way.
Kyska is tangled with the officer, but being a weak not-combat-oriented nurse who's still recovering, it doesn't look good for her.
I need to help!


"Just let go already!" (E)




I stomped the foot of the one to my right but then there's a wet sensation and a slight ache in my heel.
I become even more confused when the man holding on there grows stiff and lets go of my arm.
But then I realize that there's a spike protruding out of my foot.
I have a hidden weapon down there!?!
B-but it worked!
Kyska already got thrown off so I don't have much time.
So I stomp one of the two to my left.




It seems the spike emerges according to my intentions.
It must be a strong paralyzing agent that instantly knocks him out.

But then I see how the officer readies his sword to slash Kyska.
Without thinking, I throw my arm blade in the direction to intercept it.
The strong acid works as it should and passes through the metal.
Yet apparently, I used too much force and am unable to stop it.
So the blade also passes through the man.

Before I can contemplate the gravity of what I just did, a bolt strikes my shoulder.
It's the one with the crossbow who looks as panicked as I feel right now.
There's pain, but I don't think it's a serious injury.
The carapace I have there helped quite a lot to mitigate the damage.
But he’s already reloading his weapon.
I can't let him finish!

The last man who still clings to my healthy arm is not much of an obstacle.
Lacking any better ideas, I push him with all I've got in the direction of the crossbowman.
When we crash into him, I push further until he’s pressed against the bars.
Yet once more it becomes clear that I didn't consider the consequences of my actions.
Because the bugs are still there and distinctly unhappy about what just happened to me.
They might not be able to pass through, but their mandibles and stingers can just reach inside, and that's more than sufficient to distinctively shred the man's backside.

In horror, from all the spilled blood, the remaining man lets go of my arm.
I think that was it.
I won!

I did it!
I... I just killed two men...


<My princess! You need to flee! Now!!!> (K)


Kyska's pheromones and, more importantly, the conveyed intent slam into me.
That's enough to push me out of my stupor.
I can't stay here another moment!

But first, I use my blades to free my neck from this collar and spare myself any more pain.
Who knows who else has one of these control boxes.
There's a momentary discharge, but then it quickly falls off.

After this is done, I use my blades on the bars and create enough of an opening to squeeze through.
There's a sense of accomplishment from the bugs that are clearly related to me, but they're not approaching, apparently aware that it's not over yet.
Rather they seem to await orders.


<Where's the next passage out of here?!> (E)


A window, balcony, door, anything at all!


<I know one!> (K)


Then Kyska's excursion had at least something good come of it!
We start running, Kyska naturally in front of us.
The spikes in my heels apparently got pushed back inside the moment I stepped with them on the hard ground.
I hear shouting from the hallway but don't turn in the direction.
Then there are suddenly guards in front of us, but those bugs assault them and enable me to just run past them.
A moment later, the bugs are again back at my side.
Yet not as many as before.
But I can't focus on this in my current situation.

I round the next corner and...

There is a window!
Now let's hope that my flight training works out.
Yet when I move there Kyska steps back.


<Kyska!> (E)

<My princess. I can't fly. Please escape. This is the only thing that matters.> (K)

<You can't be serious!> (E)

<I am. Please don't waste time.> (K)

"They went that way!"


Voices drawing closer.
I truly have no more time.

Ah, screw it!
I yank Kyska toward me, press her to my side, and throw us out of the window.
The tug on my arms is almost too much but I hold tight.
My wings frantically flap and flap, fervently working to somehow prevent me from falling to the ground.
The strain is so extreme and I'm not sure if I can hold us in the air, but then the bugs come to our aid.
They fly next us, grabbing onto me and Kyska, and give it their all to drag us upward.
This is at least sufficient to bring us high enough to get above the walls.
I already see crossbows pointed at us and worry if they can hit a flying target, but then I hear something relieving.


"Nobody shoots! If she dies, it's all over!" (Gioras)


Yes, from this height no matter how they'd hit me the drop would be fatal.
And they can't allow this as corpses don't make for good hostages while blackmailing a pissed-off insect empire.

Yet the next is not as nice to hear.


"Prepare the horses! They won't be able to fly too far!" (G)


He's right.
We're quite visible and they can just follow us.

I already see them readying their riders.
Together with the added weight from Kyska, I'll have to land soon and there's no way we can outrun those horses!
Suddenly, all the remaining bugs, except four, separate and throw themselves downwards to the courtyard.
The crossbowmen try to pick them off, but they're too small and quick to make for an easy target while flying swiftly through the air.
Thus most of the bolts miss, yet the few that get hit die immediately.

A moment later, those who remain reach the courtyard and start to attack what they can, while concentrating on the horses.
It's a fierce fight, too crowded for the ranged troops to fire safely.
Nonetheless, the human soldiers have the advantage.
Be it protective gear, general strength, or greater numbers, they have it all.

But despite that, ultimately the bugs accomplish their true goal and take out all of the horses.
They never had a chance in this fight, so instead they just wanted to keep the men from following me.

Eventually, the trained soldiers eradicate them all.
All I can do is cry while seeing my brood die.
However, I can't let their sacrifice go to waste.
I have to fly further, as far as my wings can carry me and Kyska.
With all the strength I have left, I will escape!
I need to, to honor their sacrifice.
That much I owe them.