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The next thing Shuu knows, the area is silent.
His bottom that’s against the ground is cold. As he tries to stand up—He noticed that his left arm, which should have been bitten, is intact.
There is not a single scar, but a sticky blue-black substance – the substance that had enveloped Shuu’s body in that room—is still clinging to the area around the wound. Something he thought he had peeled it all off.
Am I dreaming?
No, there is dried blood sticking to my body and a wolf is lying in a pool of blood. A sword is sticking in the back of its head from its mouth.
The sword is already out of Shuu’s hands, and the part where it was joined—where it meets the butt of the sword’s hilt—There is also a whitish sticky residue on the palm side of his hand, like the remnants of a torn rope or mushroom pith.
“What the hell is this……?” (Shuu)
I don’t understand. This is the first time in my twenty-three years of life that I have been attacked by a wolf or had something like this grow out of my hand. It is beyond comprehension.
At any rate, I try to get up – and realize that I am starving. It is an unbearably painful hunger.
(Oh man… I need to eat something… Right now…) (Shuu)
That said, this is a mysterious subway. Not a single blade of grass or tree around.
I glance at the dead wolf.
“…… Ah—wait……” (Shuu)
I realized I’m about to take a bite of it.
(What’s wrong with me? I was never this wild.) (Shuu)
(But truly… this hunger is too much…) (Shuu)
I need to put something in my stomach. I don’t know what’s right or left in this situation, but hunger is making me extremely impatient.
(I’ve never taken apart an animal before.) (Shuu)
(There is no water and no fire. Oh no, my hands are starting to shake.) (Shuu)
(I want to put anything in my stomach, even if it’s raw meat…) (Shuu)
“—The sporangium, are you going to eat it, squeak?” (Voice) [T/N: Sporangium a structure in which spores are produced, especially in fungi, algae, mosses, and ferns. This is from Wiki-sensei.]
A voice suddenly calls out to him from behind Shuu, and he jumps back involuntarily.
He turns around, but no one is there.
“I’m here, squeak.” (Voice)
When he lowered his gaze, he saw a squirrel under his feet.
Puffy white cheeks, bushy tail. Its fur is tinged pink, and on its head is a reddish spot, or rather, a small jewel. A little strange chipmunk-like creature. So cute.
It looks up at him and waves its paw.
“Hunter-san, can I get some of it too, squeak?” (Voice)
A squirrel taps his thumb. Its high-pitched voice clearly emanates from its tiny body.
The stress in his head has reached saturation point, and his brain explodes.
“Kyaaa! The squirrel is taking, aaaah!” (Shuu)
“Shut it you blabbermouth! The other beasts will come, squeak!” (Voice => Squirrel)
In the blink of an eye, the squirrel ran up to Shuu’s body, landed on his shoulder, and slapped him on the cheek. Somehow, it’s a little bit painful, for a squirrel slap.
“Since you are a hunter then you eat the sporangium all over the Metro, squeak! And I will take the leftovers, squeak!” (Squirrel)
“Huh… Hunter? Metro? Sporangium? I don’t understand what those are. Before that, how can a squirrel talk?” (Shuu)
“Forget the small details! Cut open the Ghost Wolf’s abdomen and take out the sporangium, squeak!” (Squirrel)
Its squeaking pierces my eardrums
I have no idea what it is, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need to eat something anyway.
“…we are just going to cut up its stomach, right?” (Shuu)
“Hurry, squeak. The other beasts are coming, squeak.” (Squirrel)
The talking squirrels tell me what to do, but I have no other choice. I’m too reluctant to do it, but I can’t turn my back on it.
(…I guess we’ll just have to do it…) (Shuu)
I’m going to mobilize all the knowledge I’ve read in books, just to see what I can see and do.
Shuu pulls the sword from the wolf’s head and stabs it into its lower abdomen.
The wolf’s hide is thick and tough. The length of the sword—about 50 to 60 centimeters long—was in the way, making it difficult to cut. Even so, he held it down with his foot and repeatedly pulled and jabbed at it, cutting it open.
“The ribs don’t need to be removed, squeak. Just reach around the lower abdomen, squeak.” (Squirrel)
Taking my time, I somehow manage to crack open the lower abdomen. The intestines spill out.
“There’s a round thing deep inside.” (Squirrel)
Wrenching my hand into its belly, I scramble through the intestines. Underneath, at the back, are two whitish spheres – unnaturally beautiful spheres for organs. They are about five or six centimeters in diameter. With my fingers, I carefully peel off the connective parts and remove them.
“This is bad, squeak! The other beasts are coming, squeak!” (Squirrel)
Although Shuu can’t feel their presence, it is easy to imagine that the smell of blood and flesh attracts the beasts. He hurriedly went through the first hole and blocked it with a reasonable amount of debris and rubble.
“Well, that’s a nice hiding place, large beasts can’t get in here, squeak.” (Squirrel)
“Wasn’t there always a hole here?” (Shuu)
“I didn’t notice, squeak, it must have been the metro changing yesterday, probably, squeak.” (Squirrel)
(The metro changing?) “I was sleeping here just now. Where is this place, anyway?” (Shuu)
“I’ll tell you later, squeak. Let’s eat the sporangium first, squeak.” (Squirrel)
As soon as I return to the first room, the squirrel urges me to eat the Sporangium.
However, when I look at it again, I realize that it is a raw organ that has just been removed. I am a little reluctant to eat it as it is. As a civilized person, I would at least like to cook it.
“If you don’t do it immediately, it will lose its freshness, squeak. Gulp it down, you slow-as-molasses pussy, squeak.” (Squirrel)
“Why are you cursing me at the end?” (Shuu)
I decide to do it and take a bite of it. A slightly elastic film on the surface is broken by my teeth, and then there’s something slightly chewy.
“…it just gave in…” (Shuu)
It is raw and sticky. Moreover, it is slightly bitter. Like a marshmallow? No, it might be closer to the shirako that my senpai made me eat at a tavern once. [T/N: Shirako is a fish sperm sac.]
Still, I cannot help but eat it. I am so hungry that my body is urging me to take another bite. I finish one side at a time without worrying about the stickiness around my mouth.
Suddenly, all the muscles in my body begin to stiffen and creak. For a moment I suspect poisoning, but there is no pain or discomfort, and after a few seconds it disappears in a breath. Nothing uncomfortable remains.
“I mean, my… body is…” (Shuu)
I am clearly feeling better. Partly because my hunger has vanished like an illusion, but also as if I am flooded with energy from the inside out. I wonder if the spores—Sporangium, perhaps—have a nourishing tonic-like effect. Even the drinks that claim to give you wings in the morning after the last train home don’t do this. [T/N: This might be about Red Bull. I never got wings from drinking Red Bull. It’s a hoax.]
“You might have leveled up, squeak.” (Squirrel)
“Level up?” (Shuu)
“The hypha inside your body grew. You, even though you are from the “Nation of Itokuri”, you are stupider than me, squeak.” (Squirrel) [T/N: Okay Itokuri could mean the spinning wheel or the guardian spirit in Nioh.]
The (Kinshi) in my body grew? Inhibition (Kinshi)? Thread (Kinshi)? Hypha (Kinshi)? [T/N: The squirrel said kinshi (きんし) which could mean (禁止)inhibition, (錦糸)thread, or (菌糸) hypha or the long branching thread-like structure of a fungus.]
“Thread? I don’t know, and I’m not a hunter. I’m a salaryman.” (Shuu)
“Salaryman? What a weak name, squeak.” (Squirrel)
“No, my name is Abe Shuu.” (Shuu)
The squirrel is nibbling on the other sporangium. After about a quarter of the way through the meal, it twitched, “Oh yeah!” and said, “I have leveled up too, squeak!” as it did a guts-pose. [T/N: It did a fist pump.]
“I guess the leveling system applies to squirrels, too.” (Shuu)
“I’m not a squirrel, squeak. I’m a magical beast, squeak. I’m one of the world’s famous Carbuncle, squeak.” (Squirrel => Carbuncle)
(Even though you end everything with a squeak) “A magical beast? A Carbuncle?” (Shuu)
The magical beast sat down flat on its haunches and licked the goo off its face while chewing the contents of its bulging cheek pouches.
“I’m already quite full, squeak. You can have the rest, squeak. Or I’ll feel guilty, squeak.” (Carbuncle)
“I thought squirrels were herbivores. Or are they omnivores? Oh well…” (Shuu)
Even though they are leftovers from the squirrels, they are still valuable food. I eat it up without hesitation. Then again, another physical buzzing occurs, which also disappears in a few seconds.
“The fact that you happen to level up twice means that you were rather weak for a human, squeak.” (Carbuncle)
“I’m weak, I just woke up… and I don’t know what’s going on… anymore.” (Shuu)
My stomach is full, and I have more energy, but then my composure returns.
I was supposed to be in the hospital, but I found myself in the subway, almost killed by a wolf, met a talking squirrel, and ate raw wolf entrails. It was a series of quite extraordinary experiences.
“Hey, Squirrel-san.” (Shuu)
“My name is Tamiko, squeak.” (Carbuncle => Tamiko)
“Tamiko, where are we and what year is it in the Christian Era?” (Shuu) [T/N: Seireki or the Current Calendar Era for the world called the Christian Era (CE) or Anno Domini/After Death (AD)]
“Where? We’re under the Outsuka Metro, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“Outsuka Metro? You mean, 50 stories underground?” (Shuu)
“What year in the Christian Era, squeak? I don’t know what you mean by Christian Era, squeak. If it’s Tokyo Era, it’s a hundred and twenty years, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“Tokyo Era? What is that a new calendar era?” (Shuu)
“The metro system has been in the process of upheaval, and the previous country had a huge earthquake a hundred years ago. I heard from my mom that it’s now called New Tokyo, the nation of Itokuri, squeak.” (Tamiko)
Shuu leans against the wall and looks up at the ceiling.
A/N:10/27: Abe Shuu’s birthday changed from 3/29 to 1/9.