Metro Labyrinth Chapter 21: Dazzling, Squeak

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 Fatigued but my sleep is shallow, so I tossed and turned several times.


 When the Firefly Moss turns into a whitish glow, Noa wakes up with a start and rubs her eyes, “Good morning,” she says.



“Good morning, Ms. Ikari.” (Shuu)


“You’re up early.” (Noa)


“I couldn’t sleep much, thinking about how it’s finally going to happen.” (Shuu)



 Tamiko is lying on the floor next to me, snoring softly. Her hand was twitching as if she was grasping the air. When I rub her belly, she wakes up immediately with a “Nnnya!?”



“Be-beast! To disrupt a maiden’s sleep! Stop it, stop now… is this the squeak-uel of the dream…?” (Tamiko)


“Don’t go back to sleep.” (Shuu)


“Let’s leave after having breakfast. I think we can get out while there is still daylight.” (Noa)



 A simple breakfast of dried meat and crusty bread was still a luxury after five years of my previous diet. After finishing their post-meal tea (hojicha [T/N: Type of Japanese green tea.], which even Tamiko can drink), the three of us leave the room of the hideout.


 There is still half a day to go on the Metro. We can’t afford to worry about any accidents that might occur on the way here, so I constantly spread the [Sensory Spores] around. Tamiko’s ears were twitching.



“I wonder if there are any other hunters here beside us?” (Shuu)




 It seems like there should be more people on the upper floor, but we haven’t seen any of them or any dead bodies (not that I want to see one).



“The Outsuka Metro is somewhat far from town and not very popular with hunters because of the lack of resources it gives. In the past, there were some brave souls who tried to take on Satan Slime, but they were either killed or barely escaped with their lives, adding to the bad reputation of the place…” (Noa)


“Is it such a scary boss?” (Shuu)


“I heard that they couldn’t subdue it even a multi-person party of over level 50 hunters or a famous duo of master class hunters. So honestly… Forgive me for having a hard time believing you beat it alone… I’m just shocked…” (Noa)


“Understandable, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Oh, I’m sorry. You have a reason.” (Shuu)



 If you convert the level as the fighting strength, it seems that the probability that a multi-person party can subdue the boss is higher than that me and Tamiko.


 No, it may be a matter of the compatibility of Fungal Skills rather than the level, and the characteristics of that slime. It might have been impossible to win without [Spore Light] and [Hypha Arms].



 Noa continues on her way through the complex maze of paths without a second thought. While scattering [Beast Repellent Spores], I occasionally blew away the occasional small fry with my [Hypha Hammer], and I was rewarded with the sporangium. Noa looks happy.



“Mmmm! This white, thick, bitter thing! I just can’t get enough of this luscious stuff!!” (Noa)


“I don’t think it’s that good.” (Shuu)



 We pass through a meadow of mycelium plants, cross a rushing waterway, cross a hill of stalagmites, and crawl on all fours through a pipe.


 Twelfth floor, eleventh floor, tenth floor. And then on the ninth floor, we’ve finally reached the single-digit floors.



 From there, I struggled to contain my excitement, my heart racing with each step, and I have no time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Metro. Tamiko, on my shoulder, is constantly fidgeting and flicking her tail.



 And then, reaching the second floor.


 A path that resembles the main path on the fiftieth floor and reminds me of a subway line. It has several branches. The smell of the air has changed, and I noticed it.



 The mustiness that was felt everywhere in the metro from the 50th floor to here has diminished considerably. I can feel a slight current of air on my cheeks.



“…are we almost there…?” (Shuu)



 Tamiko starts sniffing. I stroke her head and wipe my tears.



“—Let’s go, Tamiko. It’s the promised place.” (Shuu)



 The first floor is a large space reminiscent of the subway station. It is dimly lit with few firefly mosses, but there is light peaking at the back of the room. It is the final staircase.



 It was the 1814th day since Abe Shuu had awakened to the Outsuka Metro.


 A dazzling light envelops Abe and Tamiko as they pass through the staircase.





“Dazzling, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko got down on my shoulder and is looking up at the sky.



“That’s the sun… It’s making my eyes water, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“Ms. Tamiko, don’t look too directly at it. You’ve been in the dimly lit metro for a long time.” (Noa)



 It’s sunny. There is a faint haze-like cloud, but there it is, the brilliant sun of the afternoon.



“Woah… beautiful, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko spills a few tears as her tail and tiny back were quivering.



“The sun is high in the sky… Beautiful, squeak… blue, squeak… That is the sky, squeak… This is the surface, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“Ms. Tamiko…” (Noa)



 Noa gently touches Tamiko’s back and rubs it gently.



“Mother… I did it, squeak…! I finally got out, squeak…!” (Tamiko)



 I was—I’m stunned. Standing with my eyes and mouth wide open.



 I thought my heart would shake even more. I thought I would be in tears.


 Of course, I am moved. I am trembling with a sense of accomplishment. My body feels light as if it has grown wings, freed from the pressure of being bound to the underground world.



 But—I’m awed by the sight around me.



 —When I went above ground, the streets of Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, were not there.



 I was prepared for that.


 There were no asphalt roads, no rows of buildings, no streetcars. No electric wires cutting through the sky, no cars running on the street, no people walking on the street. They were not there.



 Tamiko’s mother used to say. Earth’s surface is a beautiful place.


 The sky is endless, the greenery is abundant, the mountains are high, there are big rivers flowing, and there are shining human cities. She told her that many people and many beasts lived there.


 I did not know how much I could believe in that story. Perhaps it was just a way of cheering Tamiko up.



 I doubted that there was any possibility of a continuation to the devastated, debris-strewn city. Or perhaps a barren desert, a surface of dirt.


 Because Tokyo had been destroyed and civilization had collapsed.


 Here we are standing in front of the entrance to the Outsuka Metro—a staircase leading underground.


 The area around us is covered in a blanket of green.



“This is… is it really Tokyo…?” (Shuu)



 After passing through the Metro Labyrinth, I was in a forest of bizarre mycelial plants.



A/N: “Outsuka Metro Arc” is done.

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