Metro Labyrinth Chapter 133.i1.1: An Adventure Over Acorn 1

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A/N: Thank you for your patience. This is an extra chapter of “Outsuka Metro Arc”.

The summary and the cover of the first volume, which will be released on April 22, are now available.

T/N: I’m using the old Outsuka Metro terms because this is a chapter before meeting Noa and knowing all the standard terms.



 There is a mycelium plant called Acorn Dandelion.



 As the name suggests, it looks like an acorn attached to the center of a pretty yellow flower. It’s easy to say, but no matter how you look at it, it’s far from the conventional plant ecology.



 Acorns are the fruit (not the seed) of trees such as Konara (Quercus serrata) and Kunugi (sawtooth oak). Chestnuts are also acorns in the broad sense of the word, and I remember that acorns are a general term for the hard fruits of trees belonging to some family. As I recall, the reproductive strategy was to have squirrels and rodents bury them in the ground as a preserved food source, and then germinate the ones they forgot to dig up.



 As for the acorn dandelion, it is a mystery why the flower and the fruit appear at the same time, and it is also unclear why the dandelion would hang such a heavy object on its head since the whole flower is often dislodged by a familiar critter.




 On the other hand, as far as when I have tried to grow acorns in my hideout, they have never sprouted, even when I buried them in the soil and tried watering and fertilizing them by trial and error. So, I guessed that this acorn-like plant is not a fruit or seed.



 If so, how do they reproduce? Contrary to what you might think, even after the acorn-like tree has fallen and the flower has withered, it does not produce fluff. The stems and stalks will simply wilt, and that’s it (although it will respawn after a while).



 The ecology of plants and animals in the metro area is full of mysteries. To the untrained eye of a liberal arts major, they seem absurd or irrational, and one might ask, “Why do they have those colors and shapes?” “What’s the point of that?” It seems to me that it’s all absurd or irrational. It is as if the rational system that life on the surface has nurtured for hundreds of millions of years has collapsed, and the surface is filled with chaos, dark clouds, and absurdity.



 This was the new world transformed by “Super Fungal Contamination” and “Metro Flood”.





 It has been a little over three and a half years since I woke up to the new world. One morning while living in the Ootsuka Metro with Tamiko.



“Abeshuu! Hurry up and let’s find breakfast, squeak! I’m hungry! My cheeks are sunken!” (Tamiko)



 While I was washing my face at an oasis near our hideout, Tamiko, who had just finished picking flowers, came tugging at my clothes and rushing me.



“How long is it going to take you to clean up that dirty face, squeak? Stop being a slowpoke, squeak! Let’s go, come on!” (Tamiko)


“I know, just wait a minute. And don’t touch my face from the start of the day.” (Shuu)



 The water area, which the two of us called an oasis, was overgrown with colorful mycelium plants. There were flowers, shrubs, mushrooms, moss, and even things a little weird like coral and sea anemones.



 One of them was the acorn dandelion, a staple of Tamiko’s diet. Tamiko’s steps were exciting as she led the way to the area where the dandelion was growing densely.



“Freshly harvested is the best in the morning, although the ones that have been softened on the earth are hard to beat, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Aren’t you some gourmet? It tastes bitter for me no matter how many I try.” (Shuu)


“Heh! If you don’t understand the matureness of this bitterness, then you’re still a child, squeak! …Ah, I’m going to let you try some… I’m that…!” (Tamiko)



 The two of us looked around and our heads were full of confusion.



“…what?” (Shuu)


“…impossible, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 There were no pretty flowers with acorns attached to them. Normally, there should be at least two or three dozen blooming around here.



“…it’s a mess, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 As Tamiko said, all the flowers and berries had been ripped off, and the stems and leaves had been trampled to a pulp. As if a hoarding swarm of greedy critters broke out.



“Well… it’s a common occurrence in the metro, right…?” (Shuu)



 The rise and fall of the metro’s flora and fauna is dizzying. Although we can’t feel the change of seasons because of our location deep underground, it is not uncommon to see a familiar flower or plant suddenly turn into a creepy mushroom one day. Well, I guess they didn’t spring out of thin air, so the point is that plants and mushrooms are in a fierce struggle for survival.



“Um… maybe they’re blooming somewhere else?” (Shuu)



 Having said that, I searched all over the oasis and couldn’t find the same flower.


 After searching for a while, Tamiko stumbled and leaned on a mushroom. Her tail was limp and fell to the ground.



“Acorn… My acorn…” (Tamiko)



 He seemed to be so crushed that he had been told that the earth was going to end.




“No, well, there are other things we can eat, like mushrooms and wildflowers. The red ones like the gummy fruits over there are pretty good too. Didn’t you say those red things are pretty good too? They’re too bitter and not for me good at all.” (Shuu)


“…acorns are cruel, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“I’m sorry.” (Shuu)



 It’s a Metro plant, even if it’s completely dead. It decays quickly and revives quickly. In a few days, it will be back to its original state, appearing out of nowhere as if nothing had ever happened.



 –Two or three days passed while I was thinking about this.



 Unfortunately, the acorn dandelion did not appear again at the oasis. The trampled colony had been overrun by a newcomer, a purple clover-like plant, and there was no place for that yellow flower anymore.



 We searched for the yellow flowers on the side of the road, but could not find them, even after expanding our range of search.



“…Well, let’s just be patient and look for it. I’m sure we’ll find it sooner or later.” (Shuu)


“…That’s right, we’ll make a stuck pole, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Stockpile.” (Shuu)


“It’s times like this when you have to save as many, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“A treasure hunt in the name of acorns.” (Shuu)


“There should still be around a dozen more… Squeak?” (Tamiko)



 He rummaged around in the hiding place and gathered up a total of seven acorns.



“It’s not much, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“Even if it’s one a day, is it only for a week, huh?” (Shuu)


“But… there’s only so much I can do, squeak. I’ll eat them little by little until I find them in bloom somewhere, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko had been despondent since the disappearance of the acorn dandelion, but she seemed to have accepted the reality and looked forward to the future. She became an adult, I felt happy about her growth, and I couldn’t help but smile.



“Hey, Tamiko.” (Shuu)


“Squeak?” (Tamiko)



 I scratched my nose shyly and continued.



“Um… well you see, something happened.” (Shuu)


“Squeak?” (Tamiko)


“What if…the other day I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, and I was so hungry that I stumbled upon an acorn and ended up eating a few of them even if they were bad… Would you be angry?” (Shuu)



 The last thing my eyes caught was a small demon’s front teeth and murderous intent that was jumping at me. [T/N: LOL]





 Three days later.



“I’m home, Tamiko.” (Shuu)


“……” (Tamiko)



 When I returned from hunting to raise my level, Tamiko was still curled up on her back in the corner of the room where she had claimed. She was in full furball mode.



“I picked up some pinecones on the way home. I also caught a gecko, so I grilled it a little with a burning ball. I thought you said you liked the smell of roasted gecko.” (Shuu)


“…I don’ like ‘em, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 It was a slightly lisping reply. She was sulking and in mad baby mode.



“I’m sure you’re hungry though, right? I brought back some sporangia from nearby, and you have to eat these.” (Shuu)



 Tamiko did not look back and accepted the sporangia with her tail, a trick that made me wonder if she was using Sensory Spores.



 After she finished eating, she began patting the seven acorns she had laid out on the floor beside her lovingly. They were too precious to touch. It was a sad sight to see.



“Are acorns that good?” (Shuu)



 I have asked the same question before. According to her food review “The bitterest bitterness and fragrant”. She seems to be more tolerant/engaged by astringency and bitterness (tannins or something like that) unlike my tongue, and it is not so much about whether they are exceptionally tasty.



“…body wants it, squeak and the nose wants it, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I don’t understand.” (Shuu)



 In short, for these women, it is their “motherland’s taste,” rooted in their instincts and DNA. Just as Japanese people’s bodies are made of rice and Indian people’s veins are made of curry. [T/N: Ehem. East and Southeast Asian people are made of rice.]



“Abeshuu~~ …Give me an acorn, squeak~~ …I can’t stop my body from trembling, squeak~~” (Tamiko)


“That’s not it, you’re just a junkie.” (Shuu)



(Still…) (Shuu)


(If she stays like this, that’s it.) (Shuu)



 The goal of our group is to get off this floor. To do that, we need to get stronger, hunt more, and eat more sporangia. I can’t let her stay here forever.



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