We choose the same path we walked three days ago. We take the main path to the left, the route from the Wolf’s territory.
Tamiko’s [Enhanced Hearing] and my [Sensory Spores] allow us to detect approaching Metro Beasts with near-perfect accuracy. Unless something unexpected happens, we will probably not be taken by surprise.
However, after a few minutes of walking, we notice that an Orthrus is following us closely.
“What do we do, squeak?” (Tamiko)
“If we get caught in the middle of the others, we’ll be in trouble, so let’s do it while we easily could.” (Shuu)
I summoned my [Hypha Sword] and [Hypha Great Shield].
Orthrus is stopping a few tens of meters away. It seemed to be wondering whether to turn back or fight against us.
I bent my knees and used [Enhanced Leaping Ability] to close the distance in an instant.
Orthrus—between a size, one or two sizes larger than a Ghost Wolf, but their abilities are different. They are heavier, faster, sharper, and more cunning than other beasts, perhaps because they have two brains. With its four eyes, it also overcomes the narrow vision of predators. In addition, it can always breathe fire. Along with the Ogres, they are a candidate for the king of the 50th floor.
Still, I have fought with them many times and know their attack patterns, and I now have thirteen Fungal Skills. If we were to fight in a one-on-one fight, there would be no problem if I were careful.
My mycelium sword and its claws exchange a few blows. With my shield, I throw my opponent off balance thrusting my sword between the eyebrows of the right head. One head slouches and stops moving, but the Orthrus does not stop moving. The other head bites down even more viciously.
With my sword still in my hand, I bring out my [Hypha Hammer] and smash the jaw from below. Then I swing down with all my weight to the point where I leaned forward. With a thud, the Orthrus falls to the ground, motionless.
Phew, I breathed a sigh of relief. It only took a few minutes, so I didn’t have to fight too hard, but I am always nervous about a battle to the death.
“If there is an Orthrus, a Cerberus might be somewhere.” (Shuu)
“Cerberus, squeak?” (Tamiko)
“Cerberus. A three-headed dog.” (Shuu)
“Maybe he’s somewhere further down.” (Tamiko)
According to Tamiko’s mother’s information, the Outsuka Metro has been confirmed up to the 65th underground floor. Simple calculations indicate that there may be Metro Beasts of around level 65 at the deepest level. It is not the kind of place where you can think, “Okay, let’s go for a spin!”
I cut the belly of the Orthrus and quickly took out the sporangium. I put it in my bag for future use. I am not hungry at the moment, and my energy use was negligible. Tamiko recommends eating the freshly harvested ones as much as possible, but I have learned from experience that they stay fresh for two or three hours after being removed.
“We have to prepare for the boss as much as possible. I don’t know what’s going to happen.” (Shuu)
“Right, squeak.” (Tamiko)
We carefully recalled the path we had taken once but did not spend too much time on it.
After about two hours, the path suddenly widens and we enter a dark, dank, unlit area.
The rock walls were sore as if they had been dissolved by acid. The ground was devoid of moss, let alone weeds. It looks like an abandoned underpass, the kind of place that would look good in a zombie movie.
“…Abeshuu, over there, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“…Yeah, we finally arrived.” (Shuu)
There is a large tunnel in the back wall, and at the end of it is an ascending staircase. It is a staircase with a width that three or four people can pass side by side at the same time.
I peeked from the bottom, but could not see what was going on upstairs because there was a landing several dozen steps up and it turned to the side. It is out of range of the [Sensory Spores], and it seems that there are a good number of steps to the upper floor. The walls are dotted with firefly moss.
“…Do they ever come down, from the boss’ side?” (Shuu)
“I don’t know… I doubt it can get through here…” (Tamiko)
“Is that big…?” (Shuu)
I notice that my hands are shaking. A warm moist air flowing from the stairs feels really ominous, perhaps because I know the threat that lies ahead.
“…Let’s go, Tamiko.” (Shuu)
Step by step, we ascend as if we were stepping on a normal floor. The height and width of the step are suited for the size of a human, and except for the lack of handrails and the shiny moss, it looks just like a subway staircase.
(It’s been three years since I changed my job to a hunter, but going up these steps is like going back to my office worker days.)
How peaceful and carefree life was back then! I didn’t have to worry about tomorrow’s meal, and no matter how many mistakes I made at work, they didn’t cost me my life. It was only after I lost my job, that I realized how much I appreciated my ordinary, everyday life.
(If only I could get out of this place, I would be on the ground.) (Shuu)
I can’t imagine that such peace awaits me again after that.
Until I see it with my own eyes, I will never know what the world on the surface will be like.
Still, the only future for Tamiko and me now is a future out under the sun. Because other than that—there is only one route that we will eventually end up in this Metro.
On the fifth landing, I stopped and sat down against the wall. I took two sporangia from my bag and handed one to Tamiko.
“I’m a little tired, so I’m going to take a break. Let’s recover my strength just in case.” (Shuu)
“I’m not tired, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“You’ve been on someone’s shoulders all this time. I want to switch places even once.” (Shuu)
“I can drag you from behind if you want, squeak.” (Tamikop)
“I’m sorry, I’m just kidding.” (Shuu)
There are twenty-five steps from one landing to another. This was the fifth time he had climbed the stairs, which meant he had climbed up a hundred and twenty-five steps. I felt like I was still in the baseball club. I don’t even know how far it goes, because the structure doesn’t allow my spores to fly far.
“Maybe we’re halfway there, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“Half? Well, let’s go slowly. It’s not funny to be standing like a newborn fawn during the boss fight after struggling on the stairs.” (Shuu)
I don’t have to worry about my physical ability now that I am above level 50, but I want to challenge it in the best possible condition. When we finished eating the sporangium, I felt better. I put Tamiko on my shoulder and stand up.
Just she said, the tenth landing is no longer a landing, but a room with a high ceiling.
“…we have arrived…” (Shuu)
At last, we arrived. On the forty-ninth floor.
“Abeshuu, stop now, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“I know… there’s a huge one, ahead.” (Shuu)
“Maybe It’s squeezing itself over there, squeak. It might come down on us as soon as we get to the top, squeak.” (Tamiko)
I picked up Tamiko from behind and put her down the stairs.
“I’m going alone, and you stay here and watch over me.” (Shuu)
Even though it’s a trial run, I’m not going to cut corners. I’m going to attack it with my everything, assuming I reach a stalemate. I can’t afford to protect Tamiko.
Anxiously, Tamiko nods.
“Don’t squeaking mess up. If it gets dangerous, we’ll run away immediately, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“I know. I’ll keep that in mind.”
I put forward my [Hypha Shield] on my left hand and looked up at the end of the path.
Recalling all the information about the boss that Tamiko told me in my head.
“So, I’m going.” (Shuu)
Putting away my bag and running up the stairs.
Three years after waking up in the Outsuka Metro, I finally stepped onto the 49th floor for the first time.
The high ceiling is domed. It is a circular hall. It is more than 50 meters from here to the opposite end.
According to Tamiko, there is another doorway on the wall near the opposite side of the room, but we cannot see it now. But now I can’t see it, because of that thing sitting imposingly in the center of the room.
“…So huge…” (Shuu)
Hemispherical in shape, with the so-called steamed bun-like shape. From Tamiko’s point of view, it was a “Giant~ jiggle~ squeak.”, but I never thought it would be this scale. It was more than 10 meters tall and 20 meters in diameter across. In other words, it occupied the center of the room.
In a video game, it would have been more jelly-like, transparent, and slippery, but in reality, it was much dirtier and more vicious. The surface of the body is a muddy brown like muddy water, and you can see the slowly flowing debris of stones and animal bones that have been stuck in the body. The face, head, organs, limbs, and so on are not visible, at least not from the outside.
There is no expression on its face. But—jiggle, jiggle, the huge body of the creature jiggles slightly. I realized that this mysterious creature has already identified me as its target.
“Hah, hah…” (Shuu)
Just confronting it makes my breathing ragged. I can’t stop sweating. The other party is just a big mud ball, so why do I feel so oppressed and scared?
For a moment, the Slime shook. A tentacle swings above my head.
I quickly jumped back to the side. The floor shatters on the direct hit, and the impact throws my stance out.
I did not see the moment when the tentacle reached out. Not only was it fast, but there was no winding-up action.