Nola’s flames were quickly snuffed but despite that, they had served their purpose. The Black Blood Ants were successfully angered though it was only several seconds later that we knew about that. From the section closest to the entrance, came a flood of Black Blood Ants that grew at an increasing and alarming rate. Finally, after ten seconds of growing, the entrance hole was more like a spurting hole than anything…the kind you would call a geyer.
(TL: I’m switching to Black Blood Ants from now on.)
Initially, the ants we fought were all ordinary worker ants and didn’t have much combat strength to speak of. Still, if these ants were to ever bite an ordinary person, that poor soul would probably spend a long time writhing in pain and perhaps even dying. Unfortunately, that didn’t apply to us at all; they might as well have been a buffet for us.
In a sense, they reminded me of Army Ants from Earth but since this was a world with magic, they were clearly more destructive than their Earthly counterparts, especially in a horde like this. However, their flame resistance was abysmal so when the wave came rushing towards us, pincers bared and glistening, all it took was a casual fire breath from Nola to thwart the oncoming ants. By swaying her head right and left, she blanketed the ants in a wide arc of sustained fire that easily roasted them to stillness in mere seconds. Immediately, I was hit by the stench of barbecued insect flesh…
The might of a Six-stars wasn’t so easily overcome, no matter how many ants they had to throw at her. Not only that, perhaps it was because she perfectly controlled the heat of her breath or perhaps those ants weren’t actually so easily burnt, but for some strange reason, the ants that died were roasted to a perfect doneness…in other words, they were edible as is.
“Can these actually be eaten?” For now, the ant horde had subsided probably because they were frightened by Nola’s might, or it could just be that they needed time to muster their main force.
No.3 bent down out of curiosity and used two of fingers to pinch one of the roasted ants. He gave it a thorough look before then bringing it up to his nose and giving a sniff. During all that, I saw his mouth open up wide as if it wanted to swallow the insect but had changed its mind at the last minute. “It just seems a little strange…are you sure they can be eaten?”
Taking after No.3, Big 4 picked up an ant and brought it to his mouth as well, eager and yet hesitant at the same time. He gave the devil standing next to him an apprehensive look, probably borne out of that strange stench that the ant was giving off at the moment, before nudging him and asking: “How about you go first?”
“Why do I have to go first? Why don’t you do it?” Previously in a daze till Big 4 abruptly nudged him out of it, No.3 gave Big 4 a dissatisfied glare that seemed to say ‘Do you think I’m stupid or something?’. “You go first.”
Big 4 eyed the ant in his hand once more, mind probably still stuck on the warning Nola gave us about their poison. His mouth remained open for a good long while but he still didn’t dare to eat the insect for real. Finally, he came up with some random excuse while trying to egg No.3 on: “You’re the one who picked it up first, so you go first.”
“I’m the one who met the Master first, I’m the most senior here so I’m ordering you now to eat it first.” Clearly, No.3 didn’t dare to eat the Black Blood Ant either. Thus, he came up with some excuse about seniority to try and pressure Big 4.
Normally, these two bodyguards had a rather amiable relationship with each other. This time however, No.3 attempt at coercing Big 4 with his seniority made the devil in question angry right away: “Spare me all that nonsense, we devils only recognize strength. I’m stronger than you so you have to listen to me.”
“HUH!? You’re stronger than me?!” No.3 glared at Big 4 in defiance: “We evolved at the same time so who knows which of us is actually the stronger one. How about we fight then? Let’s settle who’s the stronger one here!”
“Fine, as if I’m afraid of you!” Big 4 waved a fist at No.4. “Whoever loses will have to distance himself from the Master!”
“Hmph, you can forget about coming close to the Master, ever!:
Big 4, in a confident voice: “The one who will be losing is you!”
“I say…that’s enough out of you two. If you two have so much time to waste, how about helping out Nola instead?”
‘What’s with these two? They seem less and less reliable by the day…to think they actually got into a fight with each other…also, what’s with all that talk about the loser having to distance himself from me?! You two potatoes had better explain yourselves!’
“They are edible.” Having said that, Nola lowered her head and scooped up some ants into her mouth with a swirl of her tongue. As she did that, she nonchalantly stated: “Don’t worry, they aren’t poisonous after being roasted, it’s just…”
“Just what?” I asked.
Seeing Nola start eating, No.3 tossed the ant he was pinching right into his mouth in order to prove his bravery. Immediately, a loud crunch could be heard echoing from within his mouth, as if he had munched on something extremely hard; just hearing that crack was enough to make my teeth ache.
Clearly not prepared for that assault on his teeth, No.3 promptly covered his mouth with his hands and spat out the offending object, kind of like how one would do so when one munched on a stone while eating rice. “Why the heck is thing so hard…”
No.3 wasn’t the only spitting out right now, Big 4 was as well…in fact, Big 4 was a lot worse than No.3. In order to prove that he was braver than No.3, Big 4 tossed two ants into his mouth instead of one…he probably was trying to say that he was stronger than No.3 by doing that…the result was that he had to spit out twice as many ants…
“*ptooey ptooey*…what the heck was that, I almost broke my teeth there.”
Seeing the two stooges in pain like that, Nola had on a rather uncaring expression as she slowly continued what she was trying to say just now: “It’s just that…because the Black Blood Ants subsisted on rocks, there would probably some leftover rocks in their bellies that hadn’t been expunged…those things are really hard, seeing as the ants can’t even digest them and have to pass them out…”
“Why didn’t you say that earlier then?!” The two of them yelled in unison but that didn’t faze the giant salamander at all.
“I already mentioned that they fed on stones, isn’t it obvious that they would have stones in their stomachs as well?” She answered in a placid manner as if all this had nothing to do with her at all. “Besides, I was about to bring that up when you two decided to eat them right away, how is that my fault?”
“But we just saw you gulp down a whole bunch of ants, I don’t see you spitting them out at all.” No.3 finally grasped the crux of the situation with that statement of his.
Nola continued lowering her head to scoop up more ants. As she did so, she explained thusly: “Do you honestly think that these tiny things would even be able to pose a problem for me?”
“…” Looking at her almost mountain-like body and then looking at those ants that were merely the size of half a matchbox…I could easily tell that the two were clearly in entirely different leagues. For her, those ants were too small to even require chewing. Besides, even if she couldn’t digest those stones, she could simply pass them out.
In a sense, it was kind of like how humans took in a massive amount of dust everyday but because of how tiny the dust particles were, they weren’t harmful at all unless the amount was able to cross a certain threshold. Clearly those ants weren’t as tiny as dust particles but they might as well be, given how huge Nola was.
‘So Nola actually had such devious side to her…to think I actually thought that she was a thickheaded lug…’
Since they now knew that the Black Blood Ants might have stones in their bellies, Big 4 and No.3 knew to first take off the abdomens of the ants…more specifically, the parts closer to the butt. Having done that, they proceeded to munch down on the ants. However, upon eating the first one, the both of them promptly complained in unison about the taste…
“It’s safe to eat.” Seeing that No.3 and Big had downed their third Black Blood Ant, and after confirming that they weren’t suffering from any kind of sideeffects, Sinmosa finally had the confidence to declare as such to her husband. It had to be said however that from the very beginning, from that moment when the two of them picked up an ant, Sinmosa immediately turned her attention to the two potatoes. Thus it was after ensuring that the ants were edible that she finally allowed her husband to chow down on this rather sad feast.
‘I must say…that was rather smart of her…’ Mere moments ago, Sasani was also about to eat the ants just like No.3 and Big 4 but he was silently prevented from doing so by Sinmosa. By doing so, she had essentially turned those two into guinea pigs…in the end, her choice was right.
Because Cinderel was still young, I was rather concerned about whether or not she could even digest those Black Blood Ants so I decided to have her share in the souls later on.
Suddenly, the ground started to shake after which a giant horde of slightly larger than normal Black Blood Ants came swarming out, probably angered by our audacious actions. Not only were there soldier ants, who numbered over a thousand just by themselves, I spotted some winged general ants crawling out of the hole with bodies as large as rats.
Soon after climbing out of the hole, they immediately took to the air and started to form an irregular black mass in the air. Right after that, they charged at us without any warning whatsoever…
High above, there were the Black Blood General Ants. Down below, there were the Black Blood Ants. ‘So that’s what it’s like when the heavens and earth are covered…’