Metro Labyrinth Chapter 142: Tarochi

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 There is a row of guardhouses and stables by the hollows, where the ostriches are kept (for a fee, of course). We hugged their necks to thank them for their hospitality. So fluffy.



 From here, we rented a cart to carry our luggage down to the bottom by ourselves.



 The depression is not so steep as to be a precipice, but it is steep enough to make us want to take a lift and make a u-turn if we were on a ski slope. The hunter’s physical ability would have made it possible for him to go straight down, but of course, a carriage would have been impossible.



 The road, which was made by grinding and flattening the rock face, continued in a circle cutting through the slope. The car was towed down the road by human power. If it were just the group, we would have been able to go faster, but for some reason we were in the same order as we were on the road, so we had to keep pace with the others.



 It was a tough job for the “Peasants” in the caravan, but no one complained about it. No one complains about it, but they seem to know that’s the way it is.



“That’s nice… My quadriceps and soleus muscles are screaming…” (Kure)



 Kure plays the role of brake to adjust the pace as he pulls the cart, or rather, rolls on an incline (to be fair, the men played rock-paper-scissors.) They interpreted it as training, so they didn’t have to take turns.



“I wondered why they built the village there. Isn’t it very inconvenient?” (Sou)



 But I understand how she feels. The town at the foot of the big tree is full of fantasy and makes me want to live there at least once.



“That tree,” Yoshitsune said. I heard it is a sacred tree for the Carbuncle Tribe.”


“A sacred tree? It’s certainly big enough to be sacred, but it’s not just that.” (Shuu)


“Of course, that’s not all—” (Yoshitsune)


“Nostalgic, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 They look back together. To Tamiko, who was sniffling on top of the luggage.



“Nostalgic?” (Shuu)


“The smell is nostalgic, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Is it because it’s Tamiko’s hometown?” Utsuki said.


“But it’s your first time here, isn’t it?” (Yoshitsune)



 I wonder if there is something cared in her DNA. It’s like the smell of soy sauce for Japanese people.



“Somehow, I’ve smelled it, squeak. This smell.” (Tamiko)


“Huh? It doesn’t taste like anything.” (Shuu)


“Does that plain-face have a peepee in there, squeak? You can be such a dick you know?” (Tamiko)


“It’s been a long time since I heard you throw an insult.” (Shuu)



 “I just can’t… get enough…!” Aomoto finished drawing the scene in her sketchbook, and suddenly I smelled something through my nose.



“That… This…” (Shuu)



 It was definitely a smell he remembered from somewhere. The smell is hard to describe, but it is very faint. It was like the smell of chlorine in a swimming pool, softened and sweetened a little? Like bath salts diluted a hundred times?



“Perhaps,” said Yoshitsune. “Maybe the smell is coming from that tree.”


“What do you mean?” (Shuu)


“Some plants are—” said Noa. “When the body is injured, it produces a substance that inhibits the action of microorganisms, bacteria, and so on. It is a kind of self-protection function of plants, but from the human point of view, its smell is refreshing and has a healing effect.”


“Ah, I’ve heard something about that.” (Shuu)



 Was it something called phyton? I think I read it in a manga.



“I think I read in a manga that some mycelial plants have a similar effect, dispersing a special smell that keeps Metro Beasts away or calms their ferocious nature. That tree seems to be producing those substances as well.” (Noa)


“That’s a good answer, Ms. Ikari. But I wish I could have been the one to explain it.” (Yoshitsune)



 Noah grins and gloat (like saying, “I won’t give you the commentary character role”).



“…oh.” (Shuu)



 I suddenly had to stop.



“…I see…” (Shuu)



 I remembered.


 Tamiko was not wrong.



“… it smells like an oasis…” (Shuu)



 The place where I woke up in this world. The place where I met Tamiko.



 Outsuka Metro, 50th underground floor. The oasis that became a precious source of water for the survival of the two of us, the weakest people. We started there. The place of memories where I nurtured my friendship with Old Man Uni.



 The smell of that place is very similar to the smell of the oasis.



“The smell that keeps carnivorous beasts away, wasn’t that what they were saying about there too, Tamiko?” (Shuu)


“…come to think of it, squeak… my mom said something like, ‘This place smells just like my hometown’…” (Tamiko)


“…I see…” (Shuu)



 Tamiko jumps on my shoulder.


 The two of us look up at the giant tree.



“We were protected by the smell of your mom’s hometown, weren’t we.” (Shuu)





 As we descend the sloping road, the fur men once again inspect our luggage. However, it was not as awkward as the one at the checkpoint, and it did not take long.



 It is the turn of the “Shuu” group, and again Tamiko once again surprised them. When we explain that this is the first time for us to return to her hometown since she were born outside of the village, we are warmly welcomed. Sergeant Tamiko’s becomes uncharacteristically coquettish.



“By the way, do you know Carbuncle called Tarochi?” (Shuu)



 Tamiko’s father’s name is Tarochi. Her mother’s name is Kinko.


 The duo looked at each other and shook their heads.



“I’m sorry,” said Fur Guy A, “There are nearly three thousand carbuncles living here, and we don’t know the names of all of them…”


“Is that so…” (Shuu)


“I see, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“But if you go to the town hall, they might know. I’ll show you later.” (Fur Guy A)


“Okay, let’s go.” (Shuu)


“Squeak!” (Tamiko)


“Well, everyone,” Fur Guy B said. “This is your first visit here, so one last thing to keep in mind. As I said earlier, not only do we ‘“People of the Thread’ live here, but also the Carbuncle tribe. Their status and rights as citizens are almost the same as those of us. Please respect everyone’s families and friends equally, and ask for your cooperation not to cause any trouble.”



 The speech was rather serious and almost a reminder of the pressure we were under.



“And it is forbidden to approach the sacred tree without permission from… If you do so, you may be expelled from the tree. If you are not careful, you may end up being banished from the village, forever.” (Fur Guy A)



 Mine and the others tightened their lips and nodded.



 This is where we say goodbye to the members of the merchant caravan. However, it seems that there are only a few places where outsiders can stay overnight, so we will probably see each other again.



 Yoshitsune and the others decided to stay at a hotel, so we disbanded once again. Noa, Tamiko, and I asked Kumagai, a.k.a. the Fur Guy A, to take us to the town hall.



“The town hall is near the sacred tree, but it’s about to close. If there is anyone left, I’m sure you can find them and tell them what’s going on, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know.” (Kumagai)



 According to Noa’s watch, it is now 4:30pm. It’s been an ancient convention that most government offices close at five o’clock.



 It is almost as dark as the early evening enters. It is a strange sight: there is still light around the edge of the hollow, but only here it is as dim as the bottom of the sea. The air feels cooler than it does on the ground.



 The houses, which look like log lodges, are lined up in rows, and hanging lamps on the eaves of the roofs serve as guideposts. The street is not very popular, and the residents are modestly dressed and stare at us from afar. I could tell that they were not welcoming us.



“The houses are clustered on this side, the south side, because of the sunlight. On the north side are mushroom farms, livestock pens, and workshops. The merchants are mainly interested in that side, so they don’t often enter the residential areas on this side” (Kumagai)


“I see. So where are the Carbuncles?” (Shuu)


“That is–” (Kumagai)



 Then, my legs stopped.


 I feel something on my neck.


 Dispersing [Sensory Spores] and perceive the surroundings three-dimensionally. I brace myself.



(–above.) (Shuu)



 Something is falling–numerous somethings.


 It is a creature.


 I look up and sees its silhouette splitting the darkness.



(A bat?) (Shuu)



 Spreading a membrane under its armpits, it glides through the air, coming toward me in a straight line.



(No, flying squirrel?) (Shuu)


(No–) (Shuu)



“Stranger!” (Voice)


“Gooo!” (Voice)



 It’s a squirrel.






 A fluffy feeling sticks to my face. Without a pause, it clings to my head, shoulders, back, and all over my body.



“Now!” (Voice)


“Go do it!” (Voice)


“Go, go, go!” (Voice)



 They hit me with their palms all over my body. It didn’t hurt, but it tickled a lot. Then, they stroked my nape of the neck and ears with their tail, which made me giggle.



“I’m sorry!” (Shuu)


“If you want me to forgive you, give me sweets!” (Voice)


“Leave all your souvenirs here!” (Voice)


“Calm down! I understand, once we leave–Tamiko?!” (Shuu)



 Tamiko took refuge on top of Noa’s head one step ahead. Only her head popped out, and she timidly looked at what was clinging to me.



“Oh, there’s a child I don’t know.” (Voice)


“Really?” (Voice)



 The attacks suddenly stop. The things that had been clinging to me moved slowly and lined up on my shoulders and arms. Like sparrows perched in a line on a telephone pole.



“…You are young Carbuncles, right?” (Shuu)


“That’s right!” (Carbuncle)


“Uncle, is this your first time here?” (Carbuncle)


“That’s right, but stop with the uncle.” (Shuu)



 Feeling a strange presence again, I turned around.


 When I squinted into the shadows, Aomoto’s clenched lips were bleeding. [T/N: Swallow the urge Aomoto. Don’t get banned.]





 A chipmunk with a jewel on their head. They are children of the carbuncle tribe, smaller than Tamiko.



 This is the first time I’ve seen a carbuncle other than Tamiko’s, but I’m not surprised; they look exactly like Tamiko. Though, each of them seems to have their own fur color and stripes, some darker and some bluer than others, but they all share the same red jewel on their heads. They wear a cloak on their backs, and I wondered if they had spread it out to glide through the air.



“Where did you come from?” (Shuu)


“Let’s talk, come over here.” (Carbuncle)


“Ah, I…” (Shuu)



 Tamiko showed up, but was still shy and fidgety. She seemed to have no idea how to interact with her kindred.



“Oh, you guys,” Kumagai said. “They are our guests from outside, and we have an important matter to attend to–”


“Kumagai, what’s wrong? What are you doing?” (Voice)



 A sharp voice echoes from inside. Kumagai starts to stiffen up.



 A woman wearing a hunter’s jersey appeared with rough sounding footsteps.



 She is a large, muscular woman, reminiscent of the Shishkaba sisters. She may be larger than Mr. Giran, who is over one hundred and eighty. Her long reddish-brown hair is tied back, she has a large scar on her cheek, and her left arm is missing.



“She’s a hunter at Meguro Headquarters.” (Aomoto)



 Ms. Aomoto came next to me, but I didn’t look at her.



“Diana Wanda… She is a very famous person. I didn’t know she was here.” (Aomoto)


“Hey, you kids, it’s almost dark,” Wanda said. “Go home soon, or I’ll tell your fathers.”


“But Wanda, there’s a child we don’t know.” (Carbuncle)


“You don’t know?” (Wanda)


“Yeah, that carbuncle girl.” (Carbuncle)



 The woman named Wanda stared at me. With that as a signal, the mini Carbuncles all retreat at once with a “Pyaa!” Aomoto stretched out her hand and with a reluctant sigh.



“…who are you guys?” (Wanda)


“Ah, erm, I’m Abe Shuu. I’m a Sugamo hunter. That one is Tamiko.” (Shuu)



 Wanda’s gaze shifts to Noa and Tamiko behind her. Then her eyes widen looking quite surprised.



“An outside-born carbuncle? How unusual.” (Wanda)


“Hey Wanda, that child…” (Carbuncle)



 I looked over and saw that she also has a carbuncle on her shoulder. The stripes have a slight yellowish tinge to them.



“What’s wrong, Kinami?” (Wanda)


“That girl’s coat… She looks like… That girl…” (Carbuncle -> Kinami)



 From her tone of voice and tone of voice, she was probably a female. The child, who was called Kinami, also seemed to be quite shocked.



 Tamiko returned to my shoulder. Wanda and Kinami, I and Tamiko are now facing each other.



“Um… I’m looking for someone, her father, Tarochi.” (Shuuu)


“…No way… You, you’re Kinko’s!?” (Kinami)



 Kinami gasps.


 And then, at the edge of my vision, Tamiko trembled.



 *Knock, knock*, Wanda knocks on the door.



“–Yes, who is it?” (Voice)


“I’m sorry to bother you at this time of night, but it’s Diana, the head of the security team.” (Wanda)


“Oh… what can I do for you?” (Voice)


“I brought someone who wants to see you. Can you open it?” (Wanda)


“Ah, yes… Wait a minute…” (Voice)



 There was a small patter of footsteps,



“–Thank you for waiting.” (Voice)



 Then the door opens.



T/N: Finally Tamiko. You did it! I’m so fluffing happy for you.

Poor Tarochi. The meeting is going to be bitter-sweet.



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