“How much farther?” Satoru tried to act calm, but his voice shook a little.
“It’s just over there.”
He wasn’t lying. Less than twenty meters later, the tunnel curved broadly to the right. Squealer fell prostrate and started crying out in a high-pitched voice.
The response was an earth-shattering growl. A low frequency wave rippled through our bodies like a strong wind.
“The queen is honored to meet you,” Squealer said.
Satoru looked like he wanted to say something but couldn’t get the words out.
“…the honor is ours. We are delighted to be in your presence. Tell her that,” I replied.
Squealer nodded and resumed his squeaking report to the queen.
Suddenly, the queen started speaking in human language, startling us.
“Grrrr…G-od-s ★Θ. Plea-se…ʃ△θ…he-ere.”
Her voice was a low rumble mixed with the strange creak you hear when you grind your teeth, but somehow I understood that she was inviting us in.
We looked at each other, then started forward slowly around the bend. The disgusting smell intensified until it was almost unbearable.
Squealer stopped at the bend, holding the torch. The light shining from behind made it hard to make out the queen’s appearance. However, from its silhouette and the intense heat it gave off, I could tell that the creature crouched there was of abnormal size.
“★☆…gagaga! □■! …◇◆!”
A gust of hot air washed over us. I instinctively turn my face away, but the sounds that next reached my ears surprised me again.
“Ggg…g-od-s. Welcome. Very-honored.”
The queen was speaking to us in falsetto so that the range of her voice was audible to humans. What was even more surprising was that the voice was unmistakably female.