Metro Labyrinth Chapter 141: Nakano Forest

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 For some reason, Yoshitsune, who had found lodging, said, “I’m sorry, we only got two rooms.”



“I’ll leave one room for the ladies to use, and the other room will be… it’s enough for me in the back of the stable or something.” (Yoshitsune)


“If that’s the case, I’ll take the back of the stable.” (Shuu)


“What a coincidence, I was just about to have a little camping experience myself.” (Kure)



 So I decided to let Kure have a taste of solo camping. However, he cried, “I’m sorry, there are too many mosquitoes.” For some reason, Yoshitsune looked nervous, saying, “You can think of me as air.”



 The next morning. Yoshitsune, who had left the lodging early in the morning, returns after breakfast.



“We are going to join a caravan of merchants on our way to our destination. It will only take us one day to get there.” (Yoshitsune)


“Caravan, a group of wagons of merchants that move together?” (Shuu)


“Yes. The caravan is not that big because it’s just a collection of people, and it’s a loose group of people who are willing to help each other.” (Yoshitsune)




 I’ve heard a lot about it along the way.



 Surrounded by Nerima, Ikebukuro, and Suginami, this area is called Nakano (or nakano forest) and is formally under the direct control of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. In reality, however, the area is dotted with villages mainly inhabited by Free Folk, and is not governed as a whole by an administrative organization. The only exception is the largest settlement, known as “Nakano Village,” which is our destination this time.



 Inevitably, it is a dangerous area with a higher incidence of bandits and Metro Beasts than the areas surrounding the cities. The neighboring tribes that trade with each other are struggling to ensure their safety.



 The traders that Yoshitsune has approached this time seem to be a collection of retailers from each city. They were staying at this inn in order to find other traders, join up with them, and recruit others in the same trade.



“Nakano Village is not a very economically developed town, but it is said to have easy access to rare materials for medicine and tool making. It is said to be a favorite destination for peddlers.” (Yoshitsune)


“By the way, what kind of place is it?” (Shuu)


“I’ve never been there before, but it’s like a town where ‘people live close to giant trees.’” (Yoshitsune)


“I see.” (Shuu)



 What I imagined is an RPG-like scene of a huge tree in the center of a town with lodges and cottages scattered throughout the forest like a forest campground.



 The troopers consisted of three horse-drawn wagons and two ostrich cars, including the pensive ones. They were a group of two or three, and one of them seemed to be a hunter or a fungus worker. However, Tamiko says, “It’s not much.”



 The six of us and one of the animals are all professional hunters, and Yoshitsune (and Aomoto) are rather big names. So, of course, they are welcomed.



“I mean, that person… he’s taking a young Carbuncle with him…” (Merchant)


“The unimpressive blank face… I can’t believe it, Sugamo’s golden rookie…” (Merchant)


“That person… ABe Squeak…?” (Merchant)


“Abe shususu.” (Merchant)



 Then, we all lined up and set off.





 I thought I would be assigned to the front of the line, which seemed to be the most dangerous, but I was placed in the middle of the line. I guess the point of this was to say, “No matter where we are attacked from, please respond.”



 As we were being rocked along a road with pavement worse than that of the West Road in Sugamo, I began to feel sick, I thought. In fact, thanks to [Immortality], I rarely get motion sickness.



“I wish I hadn’t drunk yesterday… Ugh…” (Sou)



 The person nearby, Utsuki, is on the verge of vomiting. I suddenly thought of Tamiko beside me. She was on the verge of vomiting, lying down like a furry sea cucumber.



“I think she’ll recover if she’s next to a good-looking guy.” (Aomoto)



 Aomoto is now sitting on the coachman’s stand.



“Well… that girl, [Charm] doesn’t work at all, does it?” (Aomoto)


“Don’t seduce your companions.” (Shuu)


“Originally, it doesn’t work well with younger people, even if you give them a casual touch or something, are not thrilled at all.” (Sou)


“I’m sorry for the sexual harassment.” (Shuu)


“I thought it might be the same with Kurekichi, but it doesn’t seem so. I’m sure there are those who are seeker-type sometimes. It’s still brand new… Is it the same as Abe?” (Sou)


“It’s a lowly guess. No, I’m not… Tamiko, don’t look up here.” (Shuu)



 The sound of the beasts came from everywhere along the way, making you feel as if I was on a jungle cruise. Even if I don’t have ears like Tamiko, I can feel its presence constantly close by.



 The prospect that the probability of being attacked is low in the light of day is shattered. The hungry monsters come one after another. Green goblins, trolls (sparsely haired, big-bellied monkeys), and the old-fashioned wolves. They have dark green body hairs and seem to be a species of Forest Wolf. Unlike the Ghost Wolf, they are packs wolves.



 As with all beasts on the surface, they are not much of a threat. To be honest, the merchants alone could handle them, but Kure and Yoshitsune, who had come to the front to push them out of the way, took care of them in no time. In a situation like this, it is best to let the battle freaks have their way.



 The carcasses of the beasts are dismembered on the spot. It seems that this will be another souvenir to take back to the village.



 Yoshitsune eats up all the sporangia of the beast he killed by himself. We might learn from his greediness as he stuffs his mouth full of low-level sporangia and murmurs, “I don’t need any more lunch…”



 We left before 9:00 a.m. and drove for six hours, including a short break,



“—Over there, it’s the village checkpoint.” (Aomoto)



 Peering out from the cart, we see at the end of the road a wooden gate and a log hut that look like the set of a period drama.


 As the convoy slowly comes to a stop in front of the gate, three men emerge from the log cabin. Their appearance is–



“The Old Abeshuu, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Right.” (Shuu)



 It’s short-sleeved shorts, probably for summer, but it’s got a wonderful fur-style. Judging from the color, it seemed to be the Forest Wolf’s fur from earlier, but for me, that concept was nothing short of nostalgic.



“The inhabitants of Nakano–” said Aomoto. “They say they live closer to the Metro and the forest edge than we do. Some people call them wildlings or country people, but neither of them is superior to the other. What matters is the fur–whether the inhabitants are happy there.”


“The real intention.” (Yodshitsune)



 I remember the owner of a second-hand clothing store in Sugamo told me something like that.



 The passengers’ IDs and permits were checked and their cargo was inspected, starting with the carriage in front of us. The ostrich carriage in which we were riding was the third from the front, but the first carriage did not finish, seems they were being checked very carefully. If you listen carefully, you can hear some light quarreling.



“Are they arguing?” (Shuu)


“It’s a tough place for outsiders. I hear that it is not uncommon for merchants to be turned away at the gate.” (Yoshitsune)



 The sun was gradually setting and the breeze was becoming somewhat cooler. The sun is gradually shading and the wind is getting a little cooler.






“…you…?” (Guard)



 The eyes of the Nakano men are glued to my shoulders as Tamiko and I step off the back of the truck. I then present Tamiko’s identification card.



“Tamiko, ten years old… you don’t seem to be from the village, do you?” (Guard)



 The arrogant attitude of the previous moment has been replaced by a more polite one. The actuality that the Carbuncles are more than neighbors to the people of Nakano seems to be true.



“I was born in Outsuka Metro. Now I am Tamiko of Sugamo City, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Eh, Metro? The most dangerous?” (Guard)


“There’s a lot of things that went–” I said. “Her parents were born there, so this time it’s like a homecoming after working?”


“I heard there’s a hunter with a carbuncle in Sugamo…” (Guard)


“Oh, it was a bit of a hot topic…” (Guard)


“I’m sure the name is…” (Guard)


“Abe Shususu.” (Guard)



 Yoshitsune offers to get there by nightfall, and the nakano men become stiff and eager. The fluffy factor seemed to have worked. When we departed, Yoshitsune bowed to the Nakano guards, Tamiko starts to look flustered.



 From there, it was a straight road. We passed by a few huts and fields, and passed by people of modest means.



 And then—suddenly, the forest opens up.



“……” (Noa)


“……” (Tamiko)


“…It seems that neither ‘Woah’ nor ‘Squeak’ is enough…” (Shuu)



 Tamiko and I got off the back of the truck and are stunned. Even the eyes of Noa, who is also talking lightly, are rounded.



 My prior imagination was shattered. When people are too surprised, they can’t even speak. I have experienced this several times since I woke up in this world, but this time was different.



 First of all, what I saw in front of my eyes was a mortar-shaped depression, or rather, a gigantic crater. It is several kilometers in diameter.



 At the center of the crater stands a tree that is also gigantic. It is several hundred meters deep, and it is almost as tall as the eyes of the awed viewers.



 Surrounding its roots, houses with colorful roofs are crowded around it. It is indeed a “town nestled among giant trees.”



 Among the scenery of New Tokyo that I have seen so far, it is by far the largest scale. If I had a smartphone, I would have taken pictures like crazy.



“That’s Nakano Village,” Yoshitsune said. “It used to be a metro area, and this hole was created by the giant tree that rose up from the depths of the earth. It is said that the giant tree is the third largest living creature after the Dragon’s Mushroom Den.”



 This is all very “serious,” but I am also curious as to what the second largest is.



“There are about 1,000 “People of the Thread” and thousands of carbuncles living in this town, protected by that tree.” (Yoshitsune)



 Shadows from the forest stretch out and the crater is covered in darkness.


 Then, like the awakening of fireflies, the lights began to come on.



“Over there… there’s father…” (Shuu)



 Tamiko’s murmur did not seem to reach the rest of the group. Tamiko gently patted her on the head and climbed into the back of the truck.



Soon, finally.



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