A/N: 10/5 – I added a little bit to the story. Details are in the end notes because they are spoilers.
~3rd Person Perspective~
Kawataro doesn’t know. He does not know about the tragedy that took place nine years ago here in the plaza on the fifth underground floor of Rikugi Metro.
One of the four hunters who were swallowed up by the attacking beasts was his younger brother, who had been separated from him in their hometown of Asakusa.
They had never been close brothers, but because of the notoriety surrounding their late father and brother, they could no longer stand each other and left their hometown. Kawataro does not know that his brother lost his life here. He does not know that his brother’s identification card, which sank to the bottom of the water, is still there, half-decayed.
What’s more, what’s happening right now–the plaza in the center of this floating city, and the six stone statues that surround it as if to protect it, were all destroyed without waiting for the Metro to restore them. There was no way he had any idea about the grudge-like trap that was activated to destroy the invaders.
So, at this moment, as Kawataro stares dumbfounded at the huge column of water while applying [Heal] to the laceration on his neck, he is not thinking about his missing brother, but those is still worried about him. He is thinking about his own poor luck draws.
(Every time I draw a blank ticket, I always end up with a poor one.) (Kawataro)
(Bad luck always wins at the end of the day, when it really wants to.) (Kawataro)
But whether or not he can interpret that as luck is another matter.
A strong tremor, as if it was coming up from below, made me involuntarily lower myself. Although I am a child of the earthquake-prone country of Japan, the tremors are so strong that I can hardly stand properly.
(Earthquake? At this time?) (Shuu)
(No, something’s wrong—) (Shuu)
Boom! A loud explosion sounded as the cobblestone pavement blew up behind the left side of the building, and water spurted out from there. A huge pillar of water shoots straight up toward the ceiling.
In the few moments that my feet stopped in confusion, a second explosion and a pillar of water erupts in succession. Just a few meters behind him, close enough to knock him off his feet with the impact. A massive spray of water soaked the plaza.
(I don’t know what it is, but…) (Shuu)
(At any rate, we’re in trouble if we stay here!) (Shuu)
The girl, Toroko, turns away and starts running. She grabs the head of Mujirami that I had just blown away and is trying to get out of the plaza. She has deactivated her sliding Fungal Skill, but she is just as fast. It’s a great switching speed after such a violent attack just a moment ago.
There is no need to chase after them, it doesn’t matter at this point how he and that girl ended up. I don’t even know why we were fighting in the first place.
Shouting out my partner’s name, I started running.
As per the plan that had been secretly discussed beforehand, Tamiko secretly switched places with her [Squirrel Avatar] on cue, using her [Camouflage] to ambush their commander, who was shooting smugly at the rooftop. While dealing with Toroko, I saw Tamiko fall to the square after a counterattack from Kawataro, who seemed to have been wounded out of the corner of his eye.
After that, it was clear that Toroko’s knife-handling accuracy had become clouded. The same was true for me, who was also getting worried. At that point, it was no longer a battle, and that was probably mutual.
I shouted once more. My voice was drowned out by the sudden disaster that spread throughout the plaza. I could almost see the area where she had fallen, so I ran my eyes over the area. About ten meters away, I spot a small body lying in the shadow of the cracked and raised cobblestone pavement.
The ground explodes and a column of water rises in front of us, interrupting everyone.
The wind pressure and the impact throws me backwards. If I had been hit directly, I would have been pushed up to the ceiling and knocked down to the ground, heading straight for the “higher, higher, death” course.
I tried to get up immediately, but my knees buckled. Here I am—fatigue and injuries have made me reach my limit.
“…damn it!” (Shuu)
I punched my shaking knees to make them do what I want, then I picked up Tamiko as I slide around the water column and onto the cobblestones.
“Tamiko! Hey!” (Shuu)
I poke her cheek pouch with my fingertip and received a muffled, sleepy reply. The pain is making her frown and her consciousness seems to be fading, but at least on the surface she doesn’t seem to be bleeding or badly hurt. I feel like slumping to the ground in relief.
The whole place is flooded, and the area around the center of the plaza is now like a pond. At this rate, the area where I was standing would soon be submerged.
The wind picked up and a gurgling sound came. Holding Tamiko in my arms, I quickly rolled to the side. The water rushes toward the place where I was standing.
“What the—!?” (Shuu)
Looking up, countless columns of water are wriggling around. As if they were living beings with a mind of their own.
The tops of them are falling. As if a water dragon with its head held high was about to swallow its prey.
Once again, I have dived to the ground to avoid it. It’s no longer a flash flood, it’s a water cannon, and if I get a direct hit, who knows how far I will be blown away.
(Well, that’s just ridiculous!) (Shuu)
(I mean, water coming at us, it’s not fantasy, it’s horror!) (Shuu)
It is the norm of the Metro so things cannot be said to be impossible. Is this also the work of some mysterious physical phenomenon of Metro or mycelial plants? Man-eating algae springing up in large quantities. Or perhaps it is the grudge of the beasts that died here, and my spine grows cold as I imagine this, but anyway, I flee the plaza. I had to get out of here as soon as possible… No—
“Oh fu—! It’s coming this way too!!” (Voice)
“Run away! Run away! Hurry up!” (Voice)
Outside the plaza, in the direction of the cluster of houses on the other side, a column of water rises, and a scream that seems to be human can be heard. It was probably one of the attackers from earlier.
(No way—) (Shuu)
Is this… Is it getting more and more widespread?
What if this whole floor sinks into the water?
The Metro’s style is to say that it’s impossible. If we are too slow, there will be no place to escape. Anyway, first of all, we need to get away from this blast site…
I thought I heard a sound that should have been inaudible.
It sounded like a gunshot.
A sharp pain shot through my calf. Unable to kill the momentum of running, I twist my body to the side and fall down so as not to crush Tamiko in my pocket.
“Ah, who, how……” (Shuu)
I groaned and looked up to see Kawataro standing on the roof.
I can’t read his expression because of the sunglasses, but his lips move slightly, and I think I hear a voice that I shouldn’t have heard. “My bad.”
“Fu, ack, gaaaaa!” (Shuu)
With anger transformed into strength, I stomp through the rubble and rises to my feet. With an animalistic roar, I rushed forward, only to be hit by a shock as if I had been rammed by a dump truck from the side.
(A direct hit.) (Shuu)
My vision goes white from the impact, as if my body is exploded into pieces from the inside. My body is not blown directly to the side, but upward.
A long time, in which even my thought ended. I thought I was going to hit the ground, but then my back, which had been flying through the air in an arc motion, made a muffled “Kaboom” sound. It seems that I jumped over the square and was dropped into a puddle somewhere.
When I open my blurry eyes, I see a submerged cityscape in the dim light. I move my arms and legs and try to reach the surface of the water, but the strong current of water is choking me, and I can’t move as fast as I want. Is this a phenomenon related to the water column?
A gulp of air spills out of my mouth.
My impatience turns to fear.
(I wonder if [Immortality] is also effective against suffocation.) (Shuu)
(No, well, it probably doesn’t make sense to think about it now.) (Shuu)
(A–aside from me… Tamiko.) (Shuu)
The faint warmth I felt in my bosom is almost imperceptible in the cold water.
Shrinking my body into a protecting position, I grit my teeth, trying to push down my fear.
First of all, calm down. It’s painful.
I’m sinking lower and lower. Oh no.
I’m not that good at swimming. I can’t breathe.
I have to get out of this current somehow. The water is in my lungs.
My whole body is falling apart. It hurts.
I don’t have enough blood. I have no strength left.
I really have no strength.
My wet clothes are heavy. There is not enough oxygen.
From fingertips to limbs, numbness slowly creeps up.
My thoughts flicker. As if to tell me that time is running out.
Still, don’t give up.
Even just her–
The darkness is growing in front of me. My thoughts are unraveling and melting into water.
And yet… my body is still struggling.
Not my head, but my soul is screaming.
It can’t end here.
It’s not over until it’s over.
I’ve learned that in the Metro.
Keep struggling—until it’s over.
T/N: If Shuu doesn’t kill Kawataro and his gang I am going to be super pissed.