Metro Labyrinth Chapter 145: Sect Leader

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 Although I was very uneasy about leaving Tarochi alone, I decided that it would not be a bad idea to give the couple some time to cool down and leave the rest to the old couple.



 On the way to the inn where Yoshitsune and my companions were staying, I was soothing Tamiko, who was in a bad mood, on my shoulder.



 People are gathering in the street and talking to each other. When I stretched out my neck and looked at it, I said, “Excuse me, I’m a related person,” pushing through the onlookers.



“…What are you doing, Ms. Aomoto?” (Shuu)



 Ms. Aomoto is lying down. Wearing something like a robe with acorns stuck all over it.



“No… I was wondering if they were hungry… So, with myself, a souvenir.” (Aomoto)


“A bird burial, huh?” (Shuu)



 But the targeted carbuncles just stare from afar over people’s heads and don’t approach. Surprisingly, it seems like they are coming closer and closer.



“Hey everyone, I promised to give you acorns. I won’t do anything, so you can go get them you know?” (Aomoto)


“No, that person is scary.” (Carbuncle)


“Don’t take snacks from suspicious people.” (Carbuncle)


“A proper educating is needed.” (Shuu)



 I grabbed Sugamo’s embarrassment by the neck and dragged her along. Tamiko nibbled at the acorns, which saved Aomoto’s mood a little.



 They meet up with Yoshitsune and the others in front of the inn. I was about to ask them why they had taken their eyes off Aomoto, but when they replied, “She’s a representative,” I couldn’t take it anymore, so I swallowed it.



“Then let’s go. I’m just going to hand over the letter.” (Yoshitsune)



 The rest of the group, except for Kure, decided to go for a walk around the area. I was surprised to see Utsuki. I thought she was going to leave early, saying, “I’m going to go look for a nice guy.”



 Walking around the town as a stranger, I was met with suspicious looks from the residents. Guards also approached us, but after a few words from Yoshitsune, they let us through without hesitation. The destination seems to be located on the far side of the residential area, close to the sacred tree.



 I walked along, wondering what kind of tree this was, and soon after, Yoshitsune said, “This is the place.” It is a large, boarded-up building with a carved wooden sign that reads “Nakano Forest Town Hall”.



 The inside of the building is rather clean, but it has the relaxed atmosphere of a country town hall. Behind the counter, human employees are working at desks and reading newspapers. A carbuncle is also with them, which is characteristic of this place. He is sitting on his desk, giving orders to a man who is writing, or lying down and eating rice crackers.



 When Yoshitsune approached the staff member and exchanged a few words, the middle-aged man’s face changed and he hurriedly retreated to the back of the room.



 He returns shortly after and leads me to a private room in the back, saying, “Please come this way.” In the spacious room, there is a short, thin, elderly man and a carbuncle with dusky gray fur. His white eyebrows are bushy, fluffy?



“Welcome,” said the old man. “My name is Huri, and I am the head of the village.”


“My name is Alf,” said the carbuncle. “While presumptuous, I act as the chief of our tribe and a representative of our interest. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”



 Yoshitsune and Aomoto were seated on the sofa, and the others and I stood behind them. Alf looked at Tamiko and me.



“…I heard the news. That Tarochi and Kinko’s daughter has returned.” (Alf)



 Rumors spread quickly. As expected of a rural town.


 Tarochi is an employee here, which means that he is his boss.



“It will soon be known to the people of the village… it’s really a happy thing. I’m sorry about Kinko, but… still, you came back… I’m grateful for that alone… I will have to report it to the sect leader too.” (Alf)



 Alf wipes the corners of his eyes.



“Sect leader?” (Shuu)


“Oh… it’s the shrine maiden who serves the sacred tree. She lives in the shrine at the base of the sacred tree, and she expresses our gratitude to the sacred tree every day. She is much more beloved by everyone than I, the chief.” (Alf)


“I see.” (Shuu)



 The carbuncle shrine maiden–I was imagining a squirrel in a red and white costume when I felt a tug on my sleeve from the side. When I turn around, I see Utsuki with an uncharacteristically serious look on her face. I wonder if she has something to say.



“Even for us—” Yoshitsune said. “It was an honor to be able to accompany Tamiko on her way home. We have brought many souvenirs from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, so please enjoy them.”


“Thank you very much. Sake from the city is very well made, and I look forward to tasting it.” (Huri)


“So, getting straight to the point, here it is. Here is a letter from the Governor of Tokyo, Nemurogawa. He asked me to give it to Mr. Alf.” (Yoshitsune)



 A white envelope with 2 written in the corner was gently placed on the table. Is this the second letter?



“May I have the honor?” Huri asked.


“Yes, I have been instructed to do so. I don’t mean to rush you, but would you mind confirming it here and now?” (Yoshitsune)



 The two looked at each other. Huri slowly reaches over, breaks the wax seal, and takes out the letter. Alf leans on his shoulder and looks through it with him.



 For about five minutes, no one speaks. I watch for any change in their expressions but am disturbed by the sound of breathing on my shoulder.



“…I see…” (Huri)



 Huri, who raised his face while massaging his eyes, and Alf also had a somewhat grim expression.



“Mr. Yoshitsune, what do you know about the content of the letter?” (Huri)


“I know nothing. With your consent, I would like you to introduce me to the person to whom I deliver the third letter. May I show you the third letter, if you don’t mind?” (Yoshitsune)



 Apparently, Yoshitsune did not know the person to whom he was to deliver the last letter. It was a roundabout way of getting around the question, but why didn’t the governor tell him in person?



 Huri reluctantly offered the letter to Yoshitsune, and Yoshitsune skimmed through it.



“…According to this, it seems that the third recipient is the sect leader you mentioned earlier.” (Yoshitsune)



 Huri and Alf look at each other. Then they all shook their heads.



“…I’m sorry, but I can’t meet your request.” (Huri)


“What do you mean?” (Yoshitsune)


“We will take care of that letter. Depending on the content, we may be able to help you.” (Alf)



 Alf said and Huri nodded.


 Yoshitsune sighed and shook his head.



“I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. Lord Nemurogawa has asked me to give it to them directly.” (Yoshitsune)



 All three men have smiling expressions on their faces, but there is an atmosphere of awkwardness that is vaguely hidden. I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable.



“Um-” I said. “Is it not possible for you to take us to your sect leader?”


“Well…” (Alf)



 He hesitated and looked at each other again.



“Our sect leader has not been feeling well for some time, and has been bedridden for days. In order not to cause you any trouble, only a few of us here in the village are taking care of her.” (Alf)


“I will just give them this letter,” said Yoshitsune. “I will be leaving soon after that, so could you help me?”


“I’m sorry, but that is impossible.” (Alf)


“Why?” (Yoshitsune)


“…In the first place, we can’t let the sect leader meet outsiders.” (Alf)



 Alf said, his tone is clearly thorny.



“The former Demon War and the epidemic of thirty years ago… We carbuncles have been tormented by great calamities, and each time we have been forced to make many sacrifices. All of them have been brought about by the ‘People of the Thread’ who came from the outside. That is why, with all due respect… we cannot allow them to be exposed to the filth of the outside.” (Alf)


“Do you know?” Huri said. “In recent years, there have been many abductions of carbuncles by the outlaws of the ‘People of the Thread’. At that time, the Metropolitan Government only dispatched additional security personnel… but did little to help track down the criminals or recover the abductees. Even though it was right after the political upheaval in Ikebukuro… we were abandoned.”



 Tamiko’s dad also said something similar, but it seems that there is a historical feud between Carbuncle and the “People of the Thread” outside.



 The two said, “We will take care of the letter,” and Yoshitsune said, “I can’t do that.” In the end, he resigned once saying, “I’ll come again.”



“Yoshitsune, what are you going to do after this?” (Kure)


“Well… I’ll try again tomorrow. The mission is of absolute importance.” (Yoshitsune)



 I’m scared of all the smiling. All the more because I’m of the same race as Kure.


 I think that the story has turned into something strange. I would like to complete the quest quickly and calmly, and concentrate on mediating between Tamiko and her dad.



 As expected, Tamiko did not want to go back to her dad’s place, so she refused to go back to the old couple and stayed at the inn. While Noah and I were talking about what to do, night fell.



 For some reason, Utsuki and Kure did not return that day.



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