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A short walk to the north leads to a small hill from which one can see the surrounding area. I follow Noa into the forest.
The area was overgrown with strange mycelial plants, much like the ones in the metro. However, they are all massive.
A giant cattail that is as thick as a human arm, a leopard-printed foxtail, a sponge-like perforated marimo, and a thin tree with three eyes that resemble a traffic signal. Then there are colorful flowers, mushrooms, and ferns.
*Chi~**chi~**chi~*I can hear the cries of small birds. The flying insects are rather creepy, at the very least they are things I have never seen in Tokyo or Gyouda.
Tamiko, who is sitting on my shoulder is fixed, constantly looking around above her head with her mouth hanging open. Earlier, she had been calling out one thing after another that caught her eye, but now she too is silently observing, perhaps concerned about my lack of words. I feel sorry that I may have dampened her excitement.
Soon, the trail becomes steeper, and I have to move by grabbing a tree. It seemed to be an “ordinary tree” with a solid trunk, which I thought it might be. Then, I wondered if there is mycelium within the tree if I cut and split it.
“We’ve arrived, Mr. Abe.” (Noa)
We finish the climb in about five minutes. I stood at the bottom of the hill alongside Noa.
“…what is this…?” (Shuu)
It’s not a very high point, but you can see the whole landscape.
As far as the eye can see, a vivid forest stretches out in the sunlight. There are large undulations and glimpses of the river running between them. To the east, there are high mountains with exposed rock surfaces.
“The land is full of trees, squeak. Is this the whole forest, squeak?” (Tamiko)
“Yes, it is. This is the Tokyo Sea of Trees. It is a mycelial forest that covers almost the entire area of New Tokyo.” (Noa)
The whole area of Tokyo. This is it.
I crouched down and held my head in my hands. All I could do was laugh.
“What part of this is… Tokyo…?” (Shuu)
The concrete jungle has become a real jungle. It’s not a funny joke.
“How can it change so much in a hundred years? …I mean, Tokyo was destroyed, wasn’t it? Why is it like this? …What happened in that one hundred years…” (Shuu)
Tamiko rubbed my cheek with worry.
Noa sits next to me.
“He told me that a hundred years ago, Tokyo was as gray and crowded as this green forest and that many more people lived in this city compared to the present.” (Noa)
“A person who lived from the old world.” (Noa)
“Yes… He died eight years ago…” (Noa)
“Oh, that’s right…”
It should be the 107 in the Tokyo calendar now. Even if he was just barely old enough to have a developed memory in the Heisei era, he would have been over 100 years old. That’s a long life.
“You don’t remember what happened on that day one hundred years ago, do you, Mr. Abe?” (Noa)
“Yeah… just vaguely.” (Shuu)
Noa took an old notebook out of her pocket. The leather notebook is almost white and faded.
“This is the notebook my great-grandfather used when he was young. It contains information about that time. The handwriting is so dirty that I can only read bits and pieces of it…” (Noa)
“Seriously? A notebook from the same era as mine?” (Shuu)
The paper you flip through is also wrinkled and yellowed and looks as if it will decay at any moment.
There, the characters that made his great-grandchildren say are terrible are scribbled over many pages. It is so bad that it looks like a cipher to my eyes.
“I only know about it from my great-grandfather’s bedtime stories. But my great-grandfather remembers the ‘Tokyo Judgment’ very vividly.”
Mysterious happenings, some of which could be called supernatural phenomena, have been occurring in the subway tunnels of the Tokyo Metro.
Unnatural horizontal and vertical holes and fissures. The appearance of impossible branching paths. The leakage of gas that seems to be toxic gas, the shadow of a huge creature that does not seem to exist, and the disappearance of a Metro employee who went missing while out investigating.
At the time, the Internet and television were full of mixed information as to how much of it was fact and how much was fake. For me, it was only five years ago, but it feels like a distant memory.
And one week after the first incident was discovered.
(One week after the first incident, Two major catastrophes later called the ‘Tokyo Judgement’ struck Tokyo. The first was called the ‘Metro Flood’.)
A large local earthquake struck Tokyo.
Buildings were knocked down, and the surface of the Earth crumbled, sank, and raised.
It was caused by a sudden shift in the subway railway system that runs beneath the city. The metro overflowed explosively as if an embankment were about to break from the small and gradual changes that had occurred until then.
The collapsed Tokyo is said to have been surrounded by a wall.
“A wall?” (Shuu)
“The air is a little murky today with spores flying around, but can’t you see it faintly in the distance?” (Noa)
If you strain your eyes, you can indeed see it. A whitish wall, so faint that it blends into the sky, rises out of the forest ridge and stretches horizontally as if it is tracing the horizon.
“What… isn’t that wall really massive?” (Shuu)
“It’s a massive wall that’s over 500 meters high. It surrounds New Tokyo. It’s also said to be part of the Metro.” (Noa)
“Is that part of the Metro? I mean, it goes all the way around Tokyo?” (Shuu)
“Or, more precisely, ‘the old central part of Tokyo’? They say that it surrounds the center of the city. The explosive flooding of the underground metro, the collapse of Tokyo, the rising of the wall, and the separation from the outside world. And that it all happened in just one day.” (Noa)
“… then the people who were there…?” (Shuu)
“According to books, millions of people were killed in that one day.” (Noa)
According to her great-grandfather’s notebook, more than 10 million people still survived and were waiting for rescue from the outside world.
But instead of salvation, they were visited by a second disaster—
“That is, ‘Super Fungal Contamination.” (Noa)
“Super Fungal Contamination.” (Shuu)
“It’s sometimes called a biohazard or a pandemic, but in essence, it’s a massive flood of organisms and the destruction of civilization because of a ‘Super Fungus’.” (Noa)
“Is that what Tamiko was talking about first?” (Shuu)
“You don’t remember?” (Shuu)
The spores of an unknown fungus overflowed from the depths of the flooded metro. It quickly covered the inside of the walls. The spores were like a dense fog, so thick that it was impossible to see ten meters ahead. And then it destroyed everything.
“The fungi destroyed everything…?” (Shuu)
“According to my great-grandfather’s notes… ‘It was completely different from the existing fungi that are known as decomposers. Later named [Super Fungi], they decomposed everything on earth. It decomposed machines, paper, metal, electrical wires, glass, plastic, buildings, houses, infrastructure, knowledge, history, art, and communication networks. All of science and culture. It was truly a Decomposer of Civilizations.’” (Noa)
“Decomposer of Civilizations…” (Shuu)
“More lives were lost to the [Super Fungus] infection. Machines broke down, lifelines were cut off, knowledge was lost, and food was eaten by the fungi. It was not until ten years later that the fog of spores lifted, the fungus disappeared, and the [Super Fungal Contamination] came to an end. By then, Tokyo had completely collapsed.” (Noa)
“Ten years …”
The [Super Fungus] decomposed Tokyo, and the mold that had finished its work turned to dust to form soil, and Tokyo was covered with an abundance of mycelium plants. This is the Tokyo Sea of Trees that now spread out before us.
There were almost no traces of past civilizations left behind. Only a few graveyards of rubble and debris were found in various places. Tokyo thus died once and was reborn as a completely different world.
“But that means there were survivors, right?” (Shuu)
“That’s right. There were many survivors, including my great-grandfather, who were forced to flee their homes into the Metro after the [Super Fungal Contamination] occurred.” (Noa)
“In the metro? The [Super Fungi] came out from the depths of the Metro, right? Was it really safe?” (Shuu)
“I don’t think they were safe. The death toll continued to rise due to infectious diseases and food shortages. Still, some people survived. Somehow they had developed a resistance to the [Super Fungus] and adapted to the environment, which was on the verge of collapse while being parasitized by mycelium all over their bodies. They are the ancestors of our people, the beginning of the [People of Threads].” (Noa)
They survived by hiding in the vast metro area. They formed colonies, preyed on mycelium and metro beasts, drank the groundwater that flowed through the metro, and endured the long ten years.
“I also lived in the Metro for five years, but… the did it twice mine…” (Shuu)
It’s a little daunting to imagine if I had lived that life for another five years.
“By the time the ground was free of the fungal contamination, the population had dwindled to about 300,000.” (Noa)
If there were about 15 million people trapped in central Tokyo, that means only a tiny percent survived.
“Nevertheless, they survived the harsh and barren period and began to rebuild under the sun in an effort to bring the Earth back into human hands again.” (Noa)
And so began the recapture and settlement of the earth. Winning the territorial battles with the Metro Beasts, which were advancing on the surface at the same time, they cleared the land and built their homes.
Deep in the Metro, there were plants and animals for food and many valuable resources, and above all, the power derived from the sporangia was essential for some people. The Metro was both the source of the disaster that had befallen the place and the foundation of its reemergence on the surface. The people who took the initiative to conquer the Metro were the pioneers of the hunting profession.
“The people joined forces, gathered knowledge, and gradually rebuilt their civilization. In the process, they developed into several large settlements, which came to be called tribes.” (Noa)
As a result of the increase in the number of tribes in each area, there were not only friendly exchanges among the various groups but also conflicts over territory and resources. Some of the tribes were thus destroyed by human hands.
“More than a decade after the return to earth, an organization called the [Metropolitan Government] was established to unite all the tribes, and this place was renamed New Tokyo.” (Noa)
Conflicts gradually subsided and people focused more and more on the stability and development of their lives. They used decades to the fullest and slowly and carefully moved forward.
“…is the history of the end of Tokyo and the beginning of New Tokyo as described here. I don’t think my great-grandfather understood the whole story, but I think this is probably the way it was written. My great-grandfather himself was a living witness.” (Noa)
Tamiko’s mouth has been hanging open for some time now. It seems that comprehension has not caught up with her.
But, for me, I feel the tides of emotions. My head may be able to understand, but my heart has not caught up.
Still, there are a few things that bother me.
“…What’s going on in the outside world?” (Shuu)
In Noa’s story, there is no mention of the world outside the walls.
Suppose the [Tokyo Judgment] is a localized disaster only within the wall, and the outside world is safe. If the outside world were safe, this would not be a fantasy new world, nor would it be New Tokyo, but a restored Tokyo Metropolis of Japan.
In that sense, there are several possible answers. The question is which of them.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know.” (Noa)
“Umm, what do you mean you don’t know?” (Shuu)
It’s an unexpected answer.
“We have no way of knowing what is out there. We can’t go to the other side, and they can’t come in from the other side. We can’t go beyond the wall.” (Noa)
“Can’t you climb over it?” (Shuu)
It is true that it is impossible to climb a 500-meter cliff. But even if it were difficult to build helicopters and airplanes from scratch after the end of scientific civilization, it would be possible to build something easier, like a balloon or a drone.
“I’ve heard that it’s impossible for a flying bird to go over that wall. It’s not just a wall… We don’t understand it either… Anyway, it’s considered one of the impossible things in this country, that is, to try to interfere or go over the wall.” (Noa)
“I don’t understand, does that mean you can’t go over the wall and get information about the outside world?” (Shuu)
“Yes, that’s what it means.” (Noa)
Birds can’t cross. If this is true, does it mean that it is physically impossible to pass over the wall?
Is there some supernatural force at work? An invisible barrier or electromagnetic waves? I’d like to say it’s absurd, but the premise of the Metro, [Super Fungus], and the like is so far off reality that there’s no way to deny it now.
“…By the way, does Ms. Ikari know what an airplane or a helicopter is? Have you seen them?” (Shuu)
Even if the residents inside cannot go outside, it should not be surprising that there is interference from people outside. The “Super Fungal Contamination” that degrades even machinery has already ended, even more so.
“Yes, I know what they are, but I have never seen one. …I don’t think it has ever been confirmed that such a thing was flying in the sky outside. Maybe the Metropolitan Government or the Metro Church might know something about them.” (Noa)
Noa seems to be a little apologetic. She knew what the answer means to me.
“…Thank you, Ms. Ikari. I understand.” (Shuu)
I breathed deeply and nodded a few times.
I’m almost certain.
It may be due to the same event as [Tokyo Judgement]. Or it may be the aftermath. Or it may be due to a completely different event.
Either way—there is no civilization in the outside world that has any aircraft.
In fact, it is not even certain that the human race survives.
Or—in the worst-case…
“…I see…” (Shuu)
(Maybe it’s all gone… Gyouda and my parents’ home.) (Shuu)
One hundred years–that’s a tremendous number of years.
The world in which I lived has returned to the earth.
The place where I was born, the place where I lived, everything is buried in the earth.
In my head, I should have been prepared for this long ago.
But hearing it again, seeing it with my own eyes.
–It’s all gone.
Everything that had nurtured me. The things I loved. Some that I didn’t. Everything.
The only bit of emotion that spilled out of my eyes was the one where I’d lost everything about myself.
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