Metro Labyrinth Chapter 111: Sugamo Pride

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 The man in front of me, breathing hard with a [Katana] in his hand, is Karasawa Yushi.


 He is a level 55 [Knight], one of the most skilled and experienced hunters in Sugamo.



“Gaaaah!” (Yushi)



 Despite his bare fighting spirit, he is skillful with the sword. He trimmed down extra movements to the last possible moment, hiding his intentions by making slow and sharp movements, and then strikes the blow with his true intention. It is small, sharp, precise, and if not a peak strike, it is a trajectory that leads to a vital point.



 The second and third blows—are delivered in rapid succession, and while dodging the “reaching attack”, I do not take my eyes off my opponent’s movements for even a moment. The swing of the arm, bodywork, footwork, and timing of breathing. I can feel the skill he has honed over many years.



“Ha! Gaaaaa!” (Yushi)



 Although this was a simple mock battle in which both fighters were using only their [Katana], the difference in level was directly related to the difference in physical ability. Karasawa was already out of breath right after fighting at full speed, but I was barely sweating.



(But perhaps it’s not just a difference in level.) (Shuu)


(I have a feeling the black sporangium’s status boost is having an evident effect.) (Shuu)



 I am only barely attacking, yet he I am not letting even a single sword graze me. I am concentrating on evasion and defense. I dodge, parry, striking back, stepping back, and pushing back.


 It was not because I was convinced that I am superior. I am in the front seat observing all the skills that a veteran hunter has cultivated.



(Is that how you move?) (Shuu)


(I’m learning a lot!) (Shuu)



 I feel the gazes of the hunters surrounding the two of us, so much so that it pierces my skin. At first, there were cheers of “Go!” and “Do it!” from the junior hunters who adored Karasawa, but now they were watching the fight with bated breath.



“Guu!” (Yushi)



 Karasawa’s body staggered to the side at the moment he was hit.


 Reflexively, he gripped the hilt to seize the opportunity, but just before he did, I realized it was a feint. He lures his opponent in with a sweet bait that made me throw my hand in, buit he’d just connected a counter.



“Tsk!” (Yushi)



 With a click of his tongue, he twists his body and unleashes a strike that was supposed to be a counter. I stopped stepping forward and was able to dodge it with half a step.



“Raaaaah!” (Yushi)



 Karasawa took a ground-shattering step and then a full-force swing down. I caught it with my [Katana] and turned my wrist to flick it away knocking my opponent’s sword away.



“Ugh!” (Yushi)



 Karasawa guards against a blow that should have been enough to knock him unconscious by striking him in the chest with a knife hand, but instead he moves his left hand to his chest just before the blow.


 Karasawa’s mouth, covered with a gray beard, grimaces.



“Hng!” (Yushi)



 Karasawa jumps lightly, opens his legs and wraps them around my back. He grips my right arm firmly with both hands and pulls it to the ground to a choke position.



“…ngigi…!” (Shuu)



 I don’t fall. I pushed the ground with the soles of my feet and endured the pull with my core.



“This move… Reminds me of some pervert, so…” (Shuu)



 “Please don’t do that,” I added in my mind as I thrust my left fist into his opponent’s side. The moment the restraints are loosened, I pull my arm out and slam a fist into his chest, pinning him to the ground.



“……What a bummer……!” (Yushi)



 I moved the flat of of the sword on his neck, and with a declaration of surrender, strength is removed from Karasawa’s body. After confirming that, I stood up and wiped the sweat from my forehead with my sleeve.



“Thank you for the fight.” (Shuu)



 “Yeah” cheers, and applause rained down. I can hear lines lines. So please praise me more.



“…Damn, you’re a ridiculous rookie. I didn’t think you’d be this insane… You even handled my secret moves with room to spare…” (Yushi)



 Karasawa scratched his head in frustrationm. I was a little worried that he might have a grudge against me for shutting beating a strong veteran, but he shook my hand with a nonchalant smile.



“There was a guy I know who used a similar technique… But I am surprised to hear that Sugamo also has someone who uses a similar technique.” (Shuu)


“It’s just me and my daughter, but it’s almost useless on the metro.” (Yushi)



 If you don’t have the same skill as Kure, it may not work against Metro Beasts. Or rather, it’s definitely faster to them with a normal hypha weapon. If you don’t have a weird philosophy like Kure, there is little need to hone it. By the way, the lady is Aomoto. Some senior hunters call her that affectionately.



“–You’re very energetic, Mr. Abe.” (Aomoto)



 A voice from behind me made me turn around to see Aomoto standing there.



 The outdoor training field behind the Hunter’s Guild office. The space is about the size of a basketball court.



“Did you accompany the members of the guild during their training? As a representative of the guild, I am very grateful to have such a skilled trainer like you.” (Aomoto)



 She was so kind as to offer words of appreciation, but her eyes were firmly fixed on Tamiko, who had rushed over to me.


 On my way home from the library, I wandered over and was approached by her and agreed to buy her a beer. In fact, this was my third fight with Karasawa.



“They seem to be inspired… That’s good.” (Aomoto)



 The peanut gallery, which has grown in number since the beginning, is starting to get into the fights with their own hands. Immediately, angry yells began to fly around, and people passing by were sending quizzical glances.



“I learned a lot. Mr. Karasawa, who I just fought, is even better than me in terms of technique.” (Shuu)



 I have been self-taught and honed my technique against Metro Beasts easts, but compared to other hunters, my skills are rather rough. I am somewhat aware of it.


 I don’t think that the things I’ve accumulated in five years living a hellish life can be used at all just because I have changed. Nonetheless, it’s also true that when I was up against a veteran like Karasawa, or a master of interpersonal combat like Kure or Toroko, I am bound to find my rough spots standing out.



“I need to be able to anticipate my opponent’s actions and make my moves less wasteful. …It’s not good to keep relying on my level and Fungal Skills.” (Shuu)


“You were very worried that your legs were going to give when you were countered. It might be better to be conscious of when to relax your knees.” (Aomoto)


“No, it’s going to be an easy lesson. I think I’ll try learning swordsmanship in earnest.” (Shuu )


“…Fufu, you’re that strong, but you’re not arrogant and wish to aim higher. That attitude, I might have to learn from you.” (Aomoto)



 Putting Tamiko on my shoulder, Aomoto and I headed to the resting area in the corner. There is a wooden bench and table, and Aomoto puts her rucksack on top of it. A large rucksack like the one Noa carries on her back. It was filled with stuff.



“Ah, are you going somewhere?” (Shuu)


“Going, squeak?” (Tamiko)



 A dark brown cloak is sticking out of the backpack. I can think of only one place I would take such a thing in the middle of summer.



“Oh, I’m diving into the Metro for the first time in a while. Lately, I’ve been doing nothing but desk work, I’m going to have some friendly competition with the beasts and get rid of some of the rust that’s been seeping into my body.” (Aomoto)


“But didn’t you have to work until the end of the month? Things related to the festival.” (Shuu)



 This woman fluffing off a squirrel girl who had been caught in a corner while explaining why she was going to the Rikugi Metro.



“That’s right, but this morning, I finally got a reply from my opponent. If that’s the case, I can’t show a shabby display as a representative of the branch, right? So I consulted with other guild members and staff members and was kindly sent off. I am blessed with good colleagues.” (Aomoto)


“By the way, who is that opponent? Are they strong?” (Shuu)


“Yeah… he’s a big player worthy of the sixth fight, that is, the semi-finals. Actually, you know him well.” (Aomoto)


“Eh, no way.” (Shuu)


“That’s right… ‘King Slayer Silver Wolf’, Mr. Giran Taichi.” (Aomoto)


“Seriously?” (Shuu)


“Seriously, squeak?” (Tamiko)



 That devilish erotic wolf? Oh my.


 A master-class [Holy Knight] who manipulates numerous Fungal Skills, including [Flame Blade]. A national celebrity and a flamboyantly handsome man. He is certainly a guest fighter worthy of livening up the event.



“Ah, but… Ms. Aomoto is definitely on the same level…” (Shuu)


“Hmm? Oh, I’m just 52.” (Aomoto)



 I believe Giran is level 72. If the two are very different—it’s hard to say out loud, but I feel like it’s quite a mismatch.



“That’s right… there’s no shortage of opponents, or rather, to put it bluntly, I’d have zero chance of winning. But I would have preferred to be matched up with Mr. Giran myself.” (Aomoto)


“Why?” (Shuu)


“As I may have told you before, the Sugamo branch is less experienced than others, and the average strength of the guild members is also poor. It is even represented by a young woman like me. Nevertheless, it is one thing to admit weakness, and quite another to be content with weakness.” (Aomoto)



 Aomoto’s expression does not appear to be either enraptured by the heat of the moment or intoxicated by self-deprecation as she speaks.



“I love this branch, I love this city. I believe we can grow and become stronger. For that reason, we can’t just pick the lowest tile and be happy with a false victory, even if it’s on the big stage. Even if I lose, even if I am completely crushed, I must show my strength to those who are far stronger than I am.” (Aomoto)


“Huh…” (Shuu)


“Squeak…” (Tamiko)



 In her gaze, I can feel that the determination and resolution hidden inside are quietly lit. She’s taken aback, and she’s pinched.



“Well… On the other hand, I don’t have the gall to take pleasure in exposing my disastrous defeat to the public eye. With two weeks to go, I’ll struggle at best to close the gap, even if it’s only by one level.” (Aomoto)


“By the way, which metro are you planning to go to?” (Shuu)


“That’s… erm… I’m going to have to put myself in a tough environment. I’m not sure if I’ll be spoiled if it’s a place I’ve been used to going to. From what I’ve heard from you guys, the golems in the lower levels and the Metro Beasts on the new floor would be perfect for me to level up.” (Aomoto)


“Oh, you’re going to Ouji.” (Shuu)


“Oh, that’s right, it’s Ouji. Huh, what’s wrong? It’s not what you think. It is not about the Magic Beasts over there. Um, Xolo-something? I’m not going to fluff… Oh no, I’m just going there for training… Fluff, fluff… Right, I just want to make sure I didn’t forget to bring the jerky… fuhi-fuhihi…” (Aomoto)


“You ruined it.” (Shuu)



 I don’t know if the Xolotl will like this lustful miss, but I can only hope that they will have a meaningful exchange with each other. While thinking about such things, Aomoto wiped her nosebleed as if nothing had happened.



“Aside from what you have to say, what are you going to do Mr. Abe?” (Aomoto)


“Eh?” (Shuu)


“Have you made up your mind after thinking about it all night? Seeing your motivation just now, did you feel like accepting it?” (Aomoto)


“No, that…” (Shuu)



 What she was talking about was about the “Komagome Witch”—the sixth ranked legendary hunter in the country, Maria Hakuou.


 When I was approached about it yesterday, I was afraid that I would be accused of carelessness as a member of society if I took on such a serious matter so easily, so I held off on giving a reply.



“I’m still thinking about it… if you could give me a little more time…” (Shuu)



 Hearing Kaike’s plea and Aomoto’s enthusiasm, I was reluctant to refuse.


 However, I still need more thinking time. I’m not talking about consulting Noa, but I would like her to encourage me for the time being. I’m having a hard time because I haven’t seen Noa lately.



“I see… I’m going to leave town today, but please let Kaike know your response. I know it’s a crazy request. Even if you refuse, I promise you that no one will hold you responsible.” (Aomoto)


“Yes, I’m sorry…” (Shuu)


“Well, Kaike might be a little disappointed.” (Aomoto)


“Ugh.” (Shuu)



 Aomoto grinned. Damn it.



“Well then, I’m ready to go. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a crocodile bus.” (Aomoto)


“But first, may I have a word?” (Shuu)



 Aomoto picked up Tamiko from my shoulder and placed her gently on the table. Aomoto opened her luggage and rolled an acorn from his pocket onto the table. Tamiko, who had become hungry for acorns because of the illustrated book, bit into one without a care in the world. Aomoto, with her cheek on her palm, looks on happily. It seems that time is not a problem.



“Since yesterday, I’ve heard a lot about the ‘Holy Silver Puppeteer’… Like stories of her bravery or a fighting style.” (Shuu)


“Ms. Utsuki, I see. I’m sure he knows a lot about her, being from the same town.” (Aomoto)



 Not only that, but their relationship doesn’t seem to be well known.



“Then, just for reference… If you know the characteristics or abilities of other rankers, can you tell me about them?” (Shuu)


“I see, so that’s part of the learning process. It’s mostly just rumors or second-hand knowledge, but I’ll give you as much knowledge as I can.” (Aomoto)



 Aomoto said a few words to a nearby apprentice-like boy, and he rushed toward the guild office. Within a minute, he returns with a thin booklet in his hand, and instead of  handing it over, he receives a “thank you” from Aomoto. His face is as red as if it had been boiled, and I wonder if it is just because he has been running.



“This is the list of the top 15 hunters in the country. It is published every March, so this is last year’s list.” (Aomoto)



 She flipped through the pages, folded them up, and held them out to me. The ranking, affiliation, and titles are listed.




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