Metro Labyrinth Chapter 148: For Me to Be Me

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~3rd Person Perspective~



“You don’t have to be a f*cking joke!” (Carbuncle)


“Don’t talk nonsense, just jump!” (Carbuncle)


“Hihihi! *Hop, hop*”(Carbuncle)


“Look at you, your cheek pouch is shaking!” (Carbuncle)


“You’re hiding acorns, aren’t you? Get it out of here, you bastard!” (Carbuncle)


“Stop it, you guys.” (Carbuncle)


“Hey, uh, deputy captain!” (Carbuncle)


“I’ve told you a thousand times to stay away from the brats and civilians.” (Carbuncle)



 At the time, “delinquent-like behavior” was popular among the young carbuncles in the village, and Kinko herself, the unintentional initiator, was organizing them.



 The name of the group was “Acorn Battlefield,” which was called “Arena of Idiots”. The name was given by Kinko’s best friend and right-hand man, Kinami.



 Kinko’s skills were unmatched among the carbuncles of her generation, and she was allowed to join the adults in collecting from the third floor of the Metro in the village. She had gained Fungal Skills before Kinami and was looked up to as one of the leaders of the next generation of the tribe, regardless of her conduct.



 But–Kinko did not make a show of it. In fact, she even seemed to think it was something she dislikes greatly.



“…I wonder if there’s anywhere interesting.” (Kinko)



 Kinko would mutter something like that every once in a while, as she looked up at the leaf-covered sky.



 It was a time when her underlings of the “Acorn Battlefield” were misbehaving as they pleased, and the adults in the village were getting even more frustrated.



 Kinko tended to skip most of the meetings and parties, and instead frequented the village guard station.



 When Kinami asked her what she was doing, she replied,



“I’m just enjoying the stories of the outside hunters.” (Kinko)



 Kinko replied with a carefree smile.



 Some of the guards were hunters who had been sent from outside the village. Strangers always seemed to be shrugged off in this village, but once they became familiar with the village, they were sometimes treated as if they were old comrades. Kinko also became friends with them before they knew it, and would ask them to tell her stories about the outside world.



“It’s kind of like a fairy tale from another world, isn’t it?” (Kinko)



 Most carbuncles never venture outside the Nakano Forest–even more so after the plague that temporarily decimated the population of Kinami and her parents’ generation.



 The adults told them of the dangers of the outside world and their conflicts with the “People of the Thread”. The “fear” became a chain that bound the tribe to the village and a wall that separated it from the outside world.



“In Ichigaya, there stands a mushroom that is bigger than a sacred tree. How big can they be?” (Kinko)



 As Kinko happily shared her second-hand knowledge with her, Kinami continued to hide the uneasy feeling in her heart.



 On that day, some of the juniors went on a rampage, breaking the windows of the children’s study hall, causing the adults to lose patience with them. Kinko, the leader, rather than fight back, personally presented the culprits to the adults and bowed her head to them herself. Although she was disappointed and angered by her juniors’ actions, no one openly challenged her.



 And so, the “backstage front of stupidity” was disbanded. Kinko looked a little sad as she smiled, “It’s called graduation, isn’t it?”



 Kinami thinks that Kinko was bored in those days.



 The days were peaceful, but not much different from the days before. The closed atmosphere and customs of the village. The future of herself, who would live here for the rest of her life.



 The adults around her are relieved that she has grown up a little, and Tarochi, who has been watching over her from the shadows, is happy to see her rehabilitation, proposing to her every day only to be rebuffed. However, Kinami noticed that Kinko was spending more and more time gazing at the narrow sky, and she also felt a different kind of unease when Tarochi was ecstatic after being trampled on his belly.



 Even so, the days flowed without interruption like dripping honey—the year when Kinami and the others turned 18.



 That man came to the village.



 Usui Katsuo. The hunter of the “People of the Thread” who would later take Kinko out into the outside world.





“Long time no see, Kinami.” (Kinko)



 Kinko returns to her hometown for the first time in ten years and is a different person than she was back then.



 Even though it was a semi-fight breakup, but they actually had a hard fight, she was happy to meet again, as if to say, “It was a good memory, right?”



 For the past ten years, she’s been traveling around the outside world with Usui. She traveled around cities, met a lot of people, and dived into the metros–Kinami was more impressed by the sparkling expression she shared than the rapid succession of stories.



“Are you going out again?” (Kinami)


“I don’t know… I think I’ll take it easy for a while, but I might as well settle down here as it is, I’m old enough.” (Kinko)



 Kinami did not know if she really meant what she said.



 Tarochi continued to patiently wait for her return. He had not paid attention to other women, but had devoted himself to his work and accumulated a lot of money (he had also accumulated a lot of girth). Perhaps his single-minded devotion had been received–when Kinko came to report, “I’ve decided to get married, to that chubby guy,” Kinami involuntarily spewed out the entire contents of her cheek pouches.



 Looking back, those were probably the most peaceful times. For Kinami, too.



 “Aren’t you going to get married?” jokingly asks Kinko, who mounts Kinami during their fight. Kinami was spending peaceful days with her childhood friends like when they were young.



 –The one who ruined that time was, as expected, that man, Usui.



“–what about Tarochi? He’s your husband, isn’t he?” (Kinami)


“This is the last job, and I don’t want to keep him waiting long. If I let him give me some words, he’ll cry and cling to me.” (Kinko)


“…then what about me…” (Kinami)


“Eh?” (Kinko)


“…Kinko, let’s fight. A serious one.” (Kinami)



 Ever since they were children, they’ve been fighting over every little thing. They would not simply slap or scratch each other but would fight until one of them was unable to move. It was an unspoken understanding between the two of them that they would not go easy on each other, and it was a sign of respect for each other. They were best friends on equal footing.



 That day was to commemorate their 100th battle.



 Until they were about 15 years old, they were rather evenly matched. However, the difference in talent was cruel.



 Kinko had gained a Fungal Skill before Kinami, and she was able to keep up with her in terms of level, and at the time of their last fight ten years ago, she was barely able to keep up with her moves.


 And Kinko, having lived in a world that was incomparably harsher than the one in the village, was still stronger than Kinami could ever imagine.



“…I’m over level 35, and I might be in a matchless state among our race. But outside I doubt if I can win against a level 20 Metro Beast. This world is seriously unreasonable isn’t it?” (Kinko)



 Kinami, who had lost her hundredth battle in the most humiliating manner, could only cover her eyes with the palms of her hands as she lay on her back.



 Kinami didn’t know how long she has been jealous of her, but she thinks she has been jealous of her for a long time.



 She hid her inferiority complex from Kinko because of her superior talent as a carbuncle, but she still felt that she could affirm herself by standing shoulder to shoulder with her.



 Feeling frustrated and impatient with her growing admiration for the outside world, and disgusted with herself who has the same dream but lacks confidence and courage.



“But you know… you’re only 20 or so, right? I couldn’t learn any offensive skills, but you might still have a chance. Maybe you’d be better off as a guard than a gatherer?” (Kinko)


“…impossible, damn it…” (Kinami)



 Kinko sat down next to her. Kinami can’t remember when they were last lying side by side like this.



“I was bored. I was wondering if I would have to live my whole life as a furball at the bottom of a hole in this cramped village, far away from the outside world.” (Kinko)



(Is she talking as someone superior?) (Kinami)



“The outside world was really fun. There were so many things that made me feel like I was going to die, and I saw the dirty side of humans. It was free, the wind was nice, and I felt alive. Kinami. The world is amazing.” (Kinko)



(You’re bragging again, aren’t you?) (Kinami)






 Kinko pinched her cheek, and she turned her head to the side.



“The most comfortable place was next to you and Tarochi.” (Kinko)



 Kinko said and laughed.



“When I came back, I realized that this is my home… And because I have a home, I can do whatever I want. I love this village, I love this village where you and Tarochi are. So… I will definitely come back, will you wait for me until then?” (Kinko)


“…do whatever you want…” (Kinami)



 Raising her aching body, Kinami looked up at the sky. Ever since she was a child, she had watched the narrow sky of Nakano Village until she got tired of it.



“…Then, until you return, I will protect this village.” (Kinami)


“Haha, you’re reliable.” (Kinko)


“I will train hard and raise my level, and the next time, I will win. The next battle will be the a hundred and one, so whoever wins the next battle is the winner.” (Kinami)


“What is that rule?” (Kinko)



 On the night she learned that her promise to reunite and rematch could not be fulfilled, Kinami continued to look up at the narrow night sky until her tears dried up.





 Ten years have passed since then.



 In preparation for the coming rematch, Kinami knocked on the door of the village guards. She had been thoroughly training herself up from the half-baked state she was in.



 Before long, her level exceeded 30, and she rose to the position of deputy captain. Kinami came to not despise herself for being herself. She couldn’t wait to see Kinko again.



 And now, the person who exchanged fists in front of her—she was not the best friend she loved most in the world or the rival she had always longed for.



 This is the girl she risked her life to protect.



(That aside–) (Kinami)


(It’s unreasonable, seriously.) (Kinami)



 This girl who is like a living copy of her,



“Evil!” (Tamiko)



 Like her mother, Tamiko doesn’t know anything about moderation,



“Hiyaaa!” (Tamiko)



 Obviously stronger than the mother,



“Here hey, your legs are stiff, squeak! Are you ready to die, squeak!?” (Tamiko)



 Dozens of times more vicious than her mother.



 While desperately clinging to the girl who was much younger than herself,


 Hearing the sound of her accumulated pride crumbling,


 Still, Kinami is trembling with joy.



 She probably doesn’t know anything.


 But now, at this very moment,


 But right now, a promise made over ten years ago is about to be fulfilled.



(–So I.) (Kinami)


(Even more so.) (Kinami)


(I can’t afford to lose!) (Kinami)



 Kinami smirks as she slides back on the roof.



“–That’s about it, you little brat.” (Kinko)



 This is the skill created by the tenacity for that rematch.



A/N: All of them are squirrels.



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