Metro Labyrinth Chapter 153: Long-Bodied Bastard

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 The forests of Nakano are dotted with countless small and medium-sized metros. They are valuable mining sites that support the lives of the local people, and the distance between people and metros is much closer than in cities (although of course they are also next to danger).



 The metro, commonly known as the Nakano Metro and named after this region, extends beneath the Nakano village. It is not very large, with only ten levels, but it is said to be filled with rare and valuable mycelium plants and minerals. Only the Carbuncle tribe and a few humans are allowed to enter.



“At least in the last few decades—” said Koyuki. “No one from outside has ever entered here. You two are the first two people to meet Sect Leader.”


“Well, it’s an honor, but…” (Shuu)



 While clinging to the rock wall, I glanced down and regretted it.



“This path was unexpected…” (Shuu)



 In the back room of the Sect Leader is a hidden hole under the floor. A vertical hole leading further down awaited the expedition team as we descended the ladder.



“I’ve done my fair share of rock climbing, but this is something I’ve never seen before…” (Shuu)



 After descending a few dozen meters down a pit, we walked down a passageway, down another pit, down another pit… and so on for the third time. In addition, the bottom of the hole that I am currently clinging to is just barely deep enough for [Sensory Spores] to reach (about 50 meters).



 The hole is at a slight angle, so even if I slip my hand, there is no straight line to the abyss, but this is scary regardless of the slope. The handles of the metal fittings are firmly hammered into place, so there is no need to worry about where to move my hands and feet, but I could not stop breaking out in a cold sweat if I accidentally slip and fall.



“Abe,” said Utsuki.


“What?” (Shuu)


“How many cups do you think I have? Don’t you want to touch and find out? (Sou)


“You’re going to ask me to give you a piggyback ride, aren’t you? I refuse.” (Shuu)


“Tch, I don’t like virgins with good intuition like you.” (Sou)


“Don’t use [Charm] in an enclosed space, Loli Hag! And I don’t remember admitting it even once!” (Shuu)


“Hey, stop making noise in a small space. It’s too loud.” (Wanda)


“Sorry.” (Shuu)


“Loli-sorry.” (Sou)



 After Diana reprimanded us, we concentrated on the road. The road was branching out in more and more complex directions, not only left and right, but up and down as well. It was such a maze that I would have cried if they had asked me to go home alone.



“The maze is not only complicated, but the narrow path is stressful as well.” (Shuu)


“Mr. Abe, it will continue like this until the eleventh floor, so please bear with me until then…” (Koyuki)


“I thought it was only up to the tenth floor.” (Shuu)


“The passageway we are on now is independent of the regular Nakano Metro, where the people of the village go in and out. It leads further down than the known lowest floor.” (Koyuki)


“I see that the hidden passageway leads to the hidden floor. That makes me a little excited.” (Sou)



 The only creatures we encountered along the way are insects, bats, and other small animals, and we do not expect to encounter a single Metro beast. The Nakano Metro itself is located directly under the Sacred Tree, so it is said that there were few dangerous predators to begin with. Even so, the rock climbing and maze-sprawling consumed more time and energy than I had expected.



“Well… How deep is the eleventh floor?” (Shuu)


“If I remember correctly… I’ve heard that it’s about 700 to 800 meters from the surface.” (Koyuki)


“Ugh…” (Shuu)



 Is it like going down the outer wall from the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree?



 Four hours after our departure, with several short breaks in between, we arrived at a large, empty space. It seems to be the eleventh floor as Koyuki said.



“Hmm, we arrived earlier than I thought. As expected of an active hunter.” (Wanda)


“Oh, I have bruises…” (Sou)



 Utsuki crumpled on the ground, and my arms are numb, but Diana is calm, saying, “We’ve worked up a good sweat.” Since she’s done so much climbing and descending with only one arm, I can’t help but admire her, even if her level 79 base physical strength is removed.



“Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve seen any of these.” (Shuu)



 A rail with sleepers crosses in front of me. It is a remnant of the existence of the Metro, a subway line. I remember that it has been less than six months since I left that Outsuka Metro. It is too hellish to reminisce, and I feel like throwing up, so I stop reminiscing.



“The Sect Leader is on this floor, about thirty minutes’ walk from here. There are no dangerous beasts along the way—” (Koyuki)


“Wait.” (Shuu)



 It wasn’t my [Sensory Spores] that sensed it. It was a crawl on my skin, or intuition, that detected a slight change in the air.



 The presence approaching from the darkness at the end of the tracks—I held my breath as the [Sensory Spores] convinced me of its existence.



(–what?) (Shuu)



 I can recognize its outline, but I cannot see its figure with my naked eye.



(Same as back then.) (Shuu)



 It’s the [Transparency] Fungal Skill that Susuyama (Fake) used at the closing ceremony of the Grand Tournament.



“…Kearu, are you there?” (Koyuki)



 Diana took a step forward and stopped me as I pulled out my [Katana].



“Abe, hold it. They are not an enemy.” (Wanda)



 As soon as the transparent shadow shuddered, it immediately took on color. It’s a large four-legged beast, just like its outline.



(A wolf—huh?) (Shuu)



 The scenery of the train tracks, combined with my suspicion that I was thinking of a wolf, but what appeared was not a dog, but a cat. It was a leopard with yellow and black spots. Its distinctive feature is the crested fins on its back.



“Kearu! It’s been a while!” (Koyuki)



 Koyuki jumped out of Diana’s shoulder and rushed over to him with Kinami. For a moment, my heart fluttered, but the ferocious-looking beast bent its front legs and brought its face close to them, purring and rubbing its cheek against Koyuki.



“Kearu, the Sect Leader’s only ‘Family’. The guard dog of this floor? A guard cat?” (Wanda)


“Sect Leader’s… ‘Family’?” (Shuu)


“It has higher intelligence and honor than humans, and although it treats those who are allowed by the Sect Leader in such a mild manner, it mercilessly bares its fangs to those who are not. When I first met them, they threatened to kill me with their eyes. I don’t know if even I could win if they got serious.” (Diana)


“Seriously…” (Shuu)



 Certainly, the supple and soft appearance seems to be different from the other beasts. There is even an air of sophistication that is equal to or greater than that of a unicorn, and their features seem somewhat noble.



“What kind of beast is it?” (Shuu)


“I don’t know, I haven’t seen them anywhere else.” (Wanda)



 The fact that even the most experienced of us haven’t found it suggests that it must be a very rare metro beast.



“Your Sect Leader… they can create ‘Family’.” (Shuu)



 Is it a kind of Fungal Skill? I wonder if a [Master Threadweaver] can learn it. Will I be able to build a fluff heaven someday?



 I let go of my [Katana] and tried to approach Kaeru fearfully. I put my hands up trying not to show hostility and forced a smile. I’d like to give you a fluff as proof of our friendship.



 Kearu lifted their head, turned their face away, turned on their heels and started walking. I chased after them with tears in my heart. [T/N: Bro, Tamiko is not here but don’t cheat. First Yui, then the Xolotls, and now Kaeru?! Fluff-harem bastard.]





 Ever since we entered this metro, I had sensed the smell of the oasis of the Outsuka Metro–the scent of the Sacred Tree that keeps beasts away. I had a feeling that it was fading little by little as I went deeper, but in this level, I could sense it more strongly than anywhere else.



 I wondered if Kaeru, who looked like a carnivore, would be okay with it. I wondered if he (or she?) would be okay with it.



“…whoa…” (Shuu)



 It was a large room. Tree roots hung wildly from the ceiling and tangled countless times around the floor and walls. The smell of the Sacred Tree as well as water is strong, perhaps because there is a pond in the back.



 A faded torii gate stands by the water. A large bench and round table are placed beside it. There is a tattered leisure sheets with frayed edges, a used rice container and pot in a piled-brick stove, and liquor bottles and bones of animals that appear to be leftovers lying around haphazardly. Except for the torii gate, the atmosphere was very similar to that of Ouji’s campsite.



“This is Sect Leader’s sleeping quarters,” said Diana.


“Well… where is the Sect Lead–” (Shuu)



 The sound of splashing water interrupted my words.



“–Nice to meet you.” (Woman)



 It was a young woman. The long white hair, dripping with water, her body without a stitch of clothing, and her bosom, which is so full that it is disproportionate to her slender frame, are all exposed.



 It takes a few seconds for my brain to correctly perceive her. Then I quickly covered my eyes. In the darkness of my palms, I make a dizzying comparison of the past and think, “This may be a new all-time high.” [T/N: Pervert.]



“It’s poisonous to virgins, isn’t it?” (Sou)


“Shut up, I have seen dirtier.” (Shuu)


“Oh, I’m sorry. I showed the guest something unsightly. Please bear with me.” (Woman)



 She came up and covered her naked body with the sheet on the sofa. She stood smiling with her hands on her hips in front of me, as I opened my eyes again.



“…just as I thought.” (Woman)


“Eh?” (Shuu)


“Very similar. That smell, that man…” (Woman)



 Her slanted eyes narrowed looking nostalgic. Her face is unbelievably clear, like something made up, and her red lips floating on her white skin attracted my gaze. She is a beauty that can be said to be peerless. But–



(I wonder what it is.) (Shuu)


(Looks like I’ve seen her somewhere before?) (Shuu)



“Eh, uh, you? You are–” (Shuu)


“Sect Leader.” (Koyuki & Kinami)



 Koyuki and Kinami stepped forward and bowed respectfully. Kaeru, who follows from behind, is also wagging their tail.



“It’s been a long time, please excuse me–” (Koyuki)


“Good, good. I have always said that I don’t need that stiff greeting. Let me touch your lovely fur as soon as possible. I can’t let the moon pass without fluffing.” (Woman => Sect Leader)



 She took them in her hands and happily rubbed them on her cheeks, burying her nose in their fur and inhaling. Diana, watching them, has an unusually calm and glazed look on her face.



(This person…) (Shuu)


(A surviving [Master Threadweaver]?) (Shuu)



 Of the twelve [Master Threadweavers,] three are women. Akame Asagi of Nerima is still alive, while Ayame Mei of Akabane and Kiwami Kai of Suginami are said to have lost their lives in the “Demon War”. Was she one of them?



“Sect Leader, today we have a guest…” (Koyuki)


“Ah, I recognized him at a glance. It’s the man from the newspaper, Abe Shuu, isn’t it?” (Sect Leader)


“Ah, yes.” (Shuu)



 I’m rather puzzled by the instant right answer.



“It’s unusual for you guys to bring a stranger.” (Sect Leader)


“Well… These people are envoys from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government… I’m afraid they have business with the Sect Leader…” (Koyuki)


“Okay, even if you did that, I don’t mind. So, that little girl over there… What about her?” (Sect Leader)



 Utsuki takes a step forward and kneels on the spot.



“I’m happy to meet you. My name is Utsuki Sou, Satou’s disciple.” (Sou)



 The smile fades from Sect Leader’s face. He wrinkles his nose and sarcastically exhales.



“…I doubt he was still alive, that he had long since become pickled fish, but to think that old, jaded fish is teaching a child of man.” (Sect Leader)


“Satou has left a message for me, saying that one day I will be able to see you, Lady Suzuki. He said, ‘Don’t be so cooped up playing with your fluffballs and remember our mission.’” (Sou)


“Hmph, what mission? I tore up such a silly thing, chopped it up, and used it as fertilizer for acorns and dandelions.” (Sect Leader => Suzuki)


“…Umm, Ms. Utsuki? Suzuki…?” (Shuu)



 I timidly asked while shaking off the questions flying overhead. I have only a bad feeling.



“That’s not my name. You humans just called me that.” (Suzuki)



 The Sect Leader answered.



“Did that little brat governor send you here without telling you who I am? It’s a difficult thing to be a servant of that brat, isn’t it? But seeing is believing, right?” (Suzuki)



 The sheet falls to the ground, exposing her naked body once again.



“–How many years has it been since I exposed this figure?” (Suzuki)



 With a throb as a signal, her delicate flesh and bones began to grow.



 The corners of her mouth parted to her cheeks, and the corners of her eyes became pointed, and the tip of her nose grows a sharp, wispy coat of hair that covers her entire body. The bone-white canvas is speckled with blood-red.



(She……) (Shuu)



 I kept my posture firm and desperately stopped my body from moving back.



(No way…!) (Shuu)



 I have seen the “overwhelming transformation into absurd forms” in the past. It was like the time of the “Demonic Disease” with the bandit chieftain, or the “awakened body” of Ouji’s demon. But now, the sense of intimidation exhaled from this monster clearly surpasses them.



“… oh, oh, oh, oh…!” (Suzuki)



 With a groan that seems to echo from the depths of the earth, it claws at the sky with its arcing claws. Sticky sweat drips, his ragged breath is clouded white, and his slender back, reminiscent of a serpent, slithered.



 Unlike any beast I’ve ever seen.


 And undoubtedly stronger than any beast it has ever faced.



 —No, the only one that stands in its way is…


 Utsuki’s master, the Beast King Satou.



“‘Fresh Blood Weasel’…the grand name you people use with awe is the one attached to this figure.” (Suzuki)


“…that’s now what I was expecting…” (Shuu)



 I was expecting a reunion with my fellow Heisei survivors. Damn you, little Tokyo Governor–a new beast king, of all things.



“‘A fluffball-loving long-bodied bastard’… not a bastard, you shark…” (Shuu)


“Did you just call me a long-bodied bastard? Did you come here to become fertilizer for acorns and dandelions?” (Suzuki)



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