Metro Labyrinth Chapter 2: Stand up

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–The Metro Flood.



 The words of a talking squirrel named Tamiko bring back Shuu’s memories. Memories from the time he was admitted to the hospital until he lost consciousness.



 A few days after his hospitalization, Tokyo was in turmoil.


 Mysterious tunnels were appearing frequently on the subway lines, and the Tokyo Metro was suspending service across the entire network.



 Thanks to this, my parents complained that it was hard for them to come to visit me. They could not use the nearest station, Shin-Outsuka Station, so they walked from Outsuka Station on the Yamanote Line, but there was a long line of people waiting to board the train that could not fit on the platform.



—I heard that the metro is flooding.




My mother said in a slightly agitated tone said that she had heard something about it from a TV show or something. My father was always saying that it would be better to transfer to another prefecture.



 A few days later. He was dozing off after dinner.


 There was some kind of commotion both inside and outside the hospital. A nurse rushed into his room and woke him up.



—Evacuate! Hurry!



 After screaming in a hysterical voice, she looked out the window and her face contorted.


 Shuu turned around with a pang—And… then?




 There was a big earthquake. The power went out and it was pitch black.


 There was a sound like a building collapsing. I felt as if the whole bed was falling.


 Then my consciousness was suddenly cut off. That is all I can remember.





“…Aah—-…” (Shuu)




 If this talking squirrel named Tamiko is not lying.


 If all of it is true.



 The Metro Flood is a real disaster that happened, and it is what brought Japan (or the entire world?) to the brink of annihilation. It means that everything was destroyed. And the country of New Tokyo was founded. Now I’m in the post-apocalypse, the world a hundred years from then.



 No family, friends, company, or anything else is left.


 It is impossible to imagine such a world. Even if this place where I am now is a part of that world.



“…This is impossible, right?” (Shuu)



 If I had been asleep for a hundred years, there would not even be a bone left in my body. And yet, I am alive. Not only am I not a skeleton, but I am as healthy as when I was before I lost consciousness, or rather, before I was hospitalized.



“Abeshuu, you are a human from the previous country right, squeak?” (Tamiko)


“I guess so, but… is that even possible?” (Shuu)


“I don’t know. Do humans even live that long, squeak?” (Tamiko)


“No, I don’t think we’d live that long.” (Shuu)



 Suddenly, I touch the blue-black sticky substance on the floor of the room. I was sleeping wrapped in it.



“It’s mold, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Mold? I got moldy?” (Shuu)


“Isn’t it a Kinnou?” (Tamiko) [T/N: Tamiko said きんのう or Kinnou. But Tamiko might be saying something like a combination of きん fungus and きのう or function or feature.]


“A Kinnou?” (Shuu)


“It’s tiring to explain things to someone who is ignorant of everything, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I’m sorry, Tamiko.” (Shuu)



 I’ll give you a belly rub as an apology.



“Don’t touch me so easily, you dummy, squeak! I’ll rip your finger off, squeak! Stop, stop… Oh, my gosh, that’s so good…!” (Tamiko)


“What’s a Kinnou?” (Shuu)


“It’s the ability to control the hypha, squeak. It’s also called a Skill, squeak. …… No, once you start, don’t just stop, squeak! More belly rubs, squeak!” (Tamiko)



*Rub* *Rub*



“Hypha huh, like in molds, the hypha of mushrooms. The ability to manipulate the hypha… so basically the ability to control Mycelium?” (Shuu)



 Both molds and mushrooms are members of the same family of fungi as living organisms and are roughly classified as “mushrooms” that produce fruiting bodies (umbrellas and stems) and “molds” that do not. I learned this in biology class. Mycelium is what makes up such fungi.



 What does it mean to have the ability to control mycelium? I can’t even imagine.


 Skills, levels, magic beasts. It is like a term from the world of video games.



“Me and also humans have mycelium growing all throughout our bodies. That’s why we can use our Skills, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Mycelium inside… means that the whole body is parasitized by fungus, doesn’t it?” (Shuu)



 Putting it that way, it is somewhat disgusting.



“I think Abeshuu was using Skills just now, too, squeak. That’s how you killed the wolf, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Oh, that thing…” (Shuu)



 Shuu looks down at his palms.


 Earlier, he had been completely unaware and had only wanted to not die.


 He doesn’t even know how to do it, but he tries to remember anyway. “Come out, come out, sword—.”



“Oh, Woah!” (Shuu)



 A white thread arises from the palm of his right hand, twists together to form a sharp blade, and then stretches out again. It nearly pierced his face.



“…It really came out…” (Shuu)



 It’s a single blade with a slightly milky white tinge. It is slightly warped and has no flange. The handle is thin and rounded. The joint between the handle and the palm of his hand is connected by a sticky spider thread.



“That’s the fungal skill, squeak. So that’s a [Hypha Weapon] that Hunters can use, squeak. It’s the first time I’ve seen one.” (Tamiko)


“This is mycelium? A weapon made of mycelium?” (Shuu)



 The mycelium secreted from the body gathered and clumped together to form a sword, perhaps. This is as crazy as it sounds.


 When did I acquire this ability? How did I acquire this ability?



(Am I really me?) (Shuu)


(am I no longer the same person?) (Shuu)


(Or maybe I’m not human anymore.) (Shuu)



 No answer would come to me even if I thought about it. I had no choice but to grasp the handle and try to pluck it off.


 The blade does not reflect the light from the moss. It’s a rugged, rough, dry blade. I shake it to test it, and it makes a whipping sound. The weight is not so heavy, but the blade and the sharpness of the tip are like those of a real sword.



“This is… my mycelium…” (Shuu)


“Oh yeah, squeak. The hard and pointy thing of Abeshuu, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“The way you say it.” (Shuu)


“Hunters from the Nation of Threadweaver, They raid the metro with their fungal skills, squeak. Eat the sporangium of the Metro Beasts and get stronger and bigger, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Is the sporangium… something like reproductive organs of metro beasts?” (Shuu)



 Then that means I ate a wolf’s balls. My stomach is churning, but I can’t throw up once I’ve eaten. Even if it is a pair of balls.



“It seems that there was a pandemic from the Metro before, and the Metro beasts are the creatures that survived, squeak. How they were able to survive, I don’t know, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Pandemic? That’s some scary word, you know?” (Shuu)



 As far as I can tell, it is some kind of bio-disaster that came at the same time as the flooding of the Metro Flood.



“Well… you mention this place is called Outsuka Metro. Outsuka, as in near Sugamo and Ikebukuro?” (Shuu)


“I don’t know, squeak. I’ve never been to the surface, squeak. I learned all about the language of the humans and the world from my mother, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Mother?” (Shuu)


“She used to travel together with a hunter too, squeak. She was very knowledgeable, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko looks sad and downcast as she says this. In the past tense, does that mean she is not alive, or at least not here?



“I see… Is the Metro not the same as the subway?” (Shuu)


“Subway? I don’t know, squeak. The Metro the is Metro, squeak. It’s the underground labyrinth of New Tokyo.” (Tamiko)



 An underground labyrinth – a dungeon, in other words. More and more like a game.



“We’re on the 50th floor… of the Outsuka hospital where I was hospitalized before…” (Shuu)



 Does this mean that I was knocked down to such a deep underground level by a disaster like the Metro Flood? And for some reason survived for a hundred years.



“…I don’t get it…” (Shuu)



 No good. Any more and the mystery just piles up. It only hurts to keep swallowing the indigestible little bones.


 Let’s think about the future. Instead of focusing on the mysteries, I don’t understand, I should be focusing my attention on the real issues at hand.



“…I need to reach the surface first.” (Shuu)



 As soon as possible, I will escape from this too dangerous underground space.


 I will see with my own eyes what this world is like now.


 That’s all I can do.


 For now, I have one goal. I’ll just think about that first.



“Tamiko, I want to go to the surface, what should I do?” (Shuu)


“Impossible, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Huh?” (Shuu)


“Abeshuu is really weak for a human, squeak. In this Metro, we have a caste system, you are just a tick within that pyramid, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“How do you know so much about castes?” (Shuu)


“If you leave here carelessly, you’ll end up getting clobbered all over the Metro by something like the Ghost Wolf just now, squeak! Moreover, it will be an instant kill, squeak. You will just become a victim and pooped out, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I don’t want to be poop.” (Shuu)


“To get to the surface, you have to climb a lot of stairs and fight against a lot of Metro Beasts, squeak. It’s impossible for Abeshuu, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 Certainly, it’s impossible. I almost died just now.



“Well, then, what are the chances of someone else coming to the Metro…? That person can help me…” (Shuu)


“The Outsuka Metro is quite unpopular? Hunters rarely go here, squeak. Abeshuu is the first human I have ever seen, squeak. That’s why I was quite excited. I didn’t know they had such a smooth face.” (Tamiko)


“I’m sorry I have a smooth face (My Complex). So, it’s not practical to wait for rescue.” (Shuu)



 Escaping on my own is not possible. No rescue is coming. I am trapped on all sides.



“But that’s just the way it is now, Abeshuu.” (Tamiko)


“Huh?” (Shuu)


“Improve yourself enough to be able to fight all of the Metro Beasts, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 Shuu stares at the sword in his hand.


 After Tamiko’s story, it seems so small, but this is all he has at the moment.



“Leveling up just means defeating that wolf-like monster from before and eating its guts, right?” (Shuu)


“Yes, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“How strong should I be if I level up?” (Shuu)


“I heard that my mother’s partner was a super-strong hunter, level 50 or higher, squeak. On this floor… I heard they fought with a lot of nasty Metro Beasts, squeak. I wish Abeshuu can be as good as them.” (Tamiko)


“Level 50 or higher huh…” (Shuu)



 Shuu leveled up twice earlier, so Shuu is currently level 3. Unless those were multiple level-ups going up at once.


 At the very least 47 more… He suddenly feels faint.



“…I-I wonder if I can do it alone. I have no preparation, no equipment, and almost zero knowledge.” (Shuu)



 I’ve never even been in a fight, let alone been on a hunt. I have never been involved in anything rough in my life.


 Even if I was suddenly thrown into a game-like world and told to fight monsters, I would not be able to do so.


 My only weapon was a sword made of mycelium, and I had no clothes, let alone armor, and I was still naked.


 At a loss for what to do, Tamiko stepped up to my shoulder and slapped me on the cheek.



“I will help you, squeak. I’m going to teach Abeshuu all the knowledge I got from my mother, squeak”. (Tamiko)


“I appreciate that… But why…?” (Shuu)


“I want to go to the surface too, squeak. I’ve never left the metro since I was born. I want to see the city, the sun, and humans, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko puts her hands together and looks up at the ceiling in rapt attention. Her longing for the surface world seems strong.



“But I can’t do it alone, squeak. My mother has been dead for a while, too, If I don’t do something about it, I’ll end up as a Metro Beast’s snack someday, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 I knew that Tamiko’s mother died. The past year means Tamiko has been surviving alone for a year.



“That’s why I want Abeshuu to become a strong and healthy human, squeak. So we can go out together to New Tokyo, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I see. It’s a win-win.” (Shuu)


“A peen, squeak? I’m female, squeak.” (Tamiko) [T/N: She’s mistaken win-win with chinchin (peepee/peen).]


“No, Um… forget about it. Anyway, thanks for helping me.” (Shuu)



 I woke up in this unfamiliar world, not knowing what was right and left, and I don’t know what was going on.


 To be honest, I feel like wallowing in despair for a few more days.


 I want to stay here, mourn the misfortune that has befallen me, and bask in my tragedy.



 However, the situation does not allow it.



 This is a very dangerous place, and there is no water or food. And I am naked.


 If I choose to die, it will be easy. They would come and make it easy for me.


 But if you choose to live, well…



“…I guess I’ll just have to try.” (Shuu)




 I have to accept reality and act.



 I will try to escape from this Metro or whatever it is called.


 With a mycelial sword in hand and a squirrel as my partner.



(How utterly comical is this adventure?) (Shuu)



 I almost laughed.



“But… this is my only choice.” (Shuu)


“That’s the spirit Abeshuu, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 Shuu holds out his index finger to the squirrel on his shoulder. Tamiko grabs it with a tug.



“I’m in your hands, Tamiko.” (Shuu)


“Nice to meet you, Abeshuu! I’m going to give you a good workout, and I’m going to make you tough, squeak!” (Tamiko)


“Go easy on me.” (Shuu)


“It’s all going to be okay, squeak. With Tamiko here, it will be like a baby manning a boat, squeak!” (Tamiko)


“We are going to sink.” (Shuu)


“You know, if I get serious, I’ll have you under New Tokyo’s Sun in no time, squeak!” (Tamiko)



 As it turned out, they would spend five years here.


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