The journey proceeds without further incidents.
Once we reach the part of the system where we encounter our patrols again, I can truly feel safe, as we're officially within our own controlled territory.
No further armies or giant cave worms out to eat me.
After this point, it is a pure impossibility that anything could sneak past.
So I feel a sense of security that I just now started to truly appreciate.
Thus, it's only a question of time until we arrive at our destination.
Once we draw near, the first thing I notice is how incredibly vast the main tunnel is that leads in there.
Surely around thirty meters in diameter.
The moment we reach the end, I bear witness to a sight that puts me in awe.
What the heck did Honiu do here?
Gone is the base that was supposed to house us while we were attending the negotiations.
In their place, gigantic caverns came into existence, bustling with the traffic of thousands upon thousands of drones rushing from one tunnel to the other.
This princess apparently created a city below the city.
Do I need to worry about the structural integrity of all the buildings above?
At this extent, I'm not sure if the building agent alone will suffice.
After we passed some of these halls, our flesh carriage comes to a stop.
<While I'd like you to rest after this journey, I fear we are being expected. A delay won't be possible.> (L)
There's much to clear up, so for once, my state of rest isn't the top priority.
However, I have no idea where we are supposed to go now.
Coming from the fact that she isn't going anywhere, I assume Liseti doesn't know either.
However, it seems our confusion is about to be cleared up when I spot movement coming our direction.
A moderately large group of drones marches towards us.
Yet then they part and approaching us is... a human girl.
"Oh mye god! Finallye!" (Alea)
"Oh, rieght! Ahem!" (A)
<Screoh, scriek!/Princess Erys, Princess Liseti! My princess Honiu expects you in the upper reaches.> (A)
I have questions!
Especially, how she came and what she's doing here!
I remember how Honiu, well, basically abducted a bunch of orphans and started mutating them.
In particular, I can recall talking to this specific girl.
Yet I almost didn't recognize her.
Because the mutation shows.
She got a slightly darker complexion that looks a bit like a tan.
When she talked I saw something like a broken line in her mouth where her teeth should've been.
Also, and this might be a difficult-to-ignore topic, she has four tiny wings sprouting from her back that currently barely exceed her shoulders and sides of her torso.
As Liseti doesn't seem to see a need to respond, and I'm too stunned and afraid of messing up to do so, the girl gestures for us to tag along and walks in the other direction.
We naturally follow behind, but soon I can't hold onto myself anymore.
<The girl...> (E)
The issue is, that I have so much on my mind regarding her that I can't focus on a singular point first.
<I understand the direction of your pheromones. Yes, it seems like Honiu is utilizing human hybrids. Apparently to some success, as I can't find greater faults with this messenger.> (L)
I can identify her as one.
The pheromone marks are telling enough.
Not to forget the distinctive expression of Honiu.
She's officially marked as her brood.
A scent seal that will never fade.
<You're aware that I can hear you, right?> (A)
<Still, it evidently has some of the humans' particular characteristics. For once a clear disposition to their peculiar individualism.> (L)
Liseti doesn't even bother directly speaking to what she sees as a drone.
Since she isn't, at least I should try making amends and, even though belatedly, show better manners.
<I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. I was just surprised. You, you are really working here? As a messenger?> (E)
<Yes, I am. It's not too hard going somewhere and telling them what I was told. Most of the others are still all day in the 'crib', but being cooped up all day isn't for me and it certainly beats having to lead insect troops through the city searching for you.> (A)
I feel barely hidden disdain for that circumstance.
Should I apologize?
It's not like I did get abducted by choice.
Yet something else gets priority in my mind.
<Others? Do you mean they're still all there?> (E)
<No. By now, Honiu officially gave them the chance to leave. However, most chose to stay. Once you're used to it, two meals a day, a warm and comfortable place to sleep, and barely any repercussions are hard to best. That Gabe left nonetheless.> (A)
You are reading story Formicea at novel35.com
The last part is more of an afterimage of her pheromones.
She can't be all that proficient with them yet.
<Ehk, skrak!/And the others that stayed here? What happened to them?> (E)
<She stopped mutating each and every one of them because her nurse insisted on it, but everyone just has to say something and will directly receive the drink. It's not like it's purely negative. The dark vision helps quite a lot. Though, I still feel weird when they stare at my wings.> (A)
<So you decided to stay and... well, you're marked now. Seems like commitment.> (E)
The look and pheromones I receive as an answer just scream "Really?!" at me.
<Look at me! Do you really think I would find a good place for me on the surface? Settle down, marry, and have little children who may or may not sprout little wings?! I would rather call this 'lack of options' than 'commitment'> (A)
Okay, maybe I might as well need some more training.
<I sense a concerning degree of aberrant behavior from this messenger.> (L)
<Since she's actively ignoring me, can you tell her to just shut up?> (A)
I'm not sure if this would lead to anything good.
<Peculiar. As I said. Is Honiu tolerating this kind of behavior?> (L)
<She doesn't care as long as I'm doing what she says. Also, most I interact with don't give me shit like you do.> (A)
<So you're really following her command? I thought, well, don't you resent her for what she did to you?> (E)
<Honiu might be selfish, ignorant, a nutcase, and basically a social character flaw in itself, but she's the first that really cared for me. Also, she remembers calling me by my name and is polite and supportive whenever I'm doing the stuff she asks me to. She even granted me quite some requests for good jobs. Also, I haven't yet seen her becoming angry or hostile towards anyone. In terms of employment, it could certainly be worse.> (A)
That's probably the nicest thing anyone ever said about her.
Well, aside from her original brood.
Yet I wouldn't ask them if I want an objective assessment.
<What about the city?> (E)
<Mostly fine, albeit a bit repressed. The first week was chaotic, but then it settled down. Yet not as many on the streets anymore with the insect patrols going.> (A)
<Was it very bad? Can't believe the people just accepted what happened.> (E)
<Not like they had much of a choice. No one was really able to fight them before they were everywhere. Also, they held back. Nobody who didn't actively fight back was harmed and those who did turned into hard examples of why doing so wasn't a good idea. This limited fights in general quite a lot. It was probably the most peaceful hostile occupation ever.> (A)
Still doesn't sound very reassuring.
While probably the best I could've hoped for, what happened will likely make it difficult to return relations to how they were before.
<Hm, it might be an advantage that this messenger shows the initiative to convey information aside from just what it was instructed with.> (L)
Alea just rolls her eyes over this comment, which is probably for the best, as I can't see much good coming from engaging further.
After some time, there's a change in the halls and tunnels we're passing.
I actually need to recall my time before here to realize what it is and become irritated.
What happened is that, below the Formicean building agent, the base is no longer dirt, but stone.
The very stone of the royal palace.
It seems like Honiu expanded our territory right into it.
However, Alea now comes to a stop in front of a big door in a way that tells me we arrived where we were supposed to.
Yet according to my memory, we can at most be in the cellar of the palace by now, certainly not any of the meeting halls.
Yet then the door opens and I look at a great hall.
A throne hall.
Right when I'm about to start processing what I see, something throws me out of it.
"Eryees! Oh mye god you're baeeck!" (Farrah)
Literally, as she jumps at me and pulls me into a hug.
"H-hi, mum." (E)