Metro Labyrinth Chapter 23: Tamiko in the Air

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“Pardon me, Mr. Abe.” (Noa)


“Hmm?” (Shuu)


“I’d like to get to town by the end of the day if possible, so I’d like to leave soon…” (Noa)


“Oh, sure.” (Shuu)



 I wiped my face while nodding before standing up.



“Of course. Sorry, I got to go tho the surface with you. And I showed you a messy scene.” (Shuu)


“That’s ridiculous. I’m sure we can talk more about it when we get to town.” (Noa)


“Are you going to the town, squeak!? Will we go to the human town, squeak!?” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko puffed with gusto. Her eyes lit up as if she were the youngest child whose mother had suggested that they go to D*sneyland next Sunday.



“That there on the right… Can you see the gate and the buildings between the trees?” (Noa)


“Yeah… oh, I see it.” (Shuu)



 When she told me, I could barely see it. But I’m sure it is a man-made structure. Tamiko also wanted to see it, so I put her in my palm and held her above my head.



“I see it, squeak! Is that the town, squeak!? Pigya!” (Tamiko)


“Calm down.” (Shuu)


Yes, that’s Sugamo City. And on the opposite left side… you can see a little more clearly, there is a big tower. That’s the Ikebukuro Tribe’s territory.” (Noa)


“Wow, Ikebukuro!” (Shuu)



 The nostalgic name restores the tension in the air. If the names of Sugamo and Ikebukuro are still around, it is only natural that they should also remain with the name of Outsuka still remaining.



“Oh, by the way, Ms. Ikari, I heard you said you belong to Ikebukuro Tribe, right?” (Shuu)


“Yes… I am a member of the Ikebukuro Tribe according to my family register. A hunter must belong to one of the branches.” (Noa)



 A slight shadow passes over Noa’s expression.



“Then, are you going to go to Ikebukuro now?” (Shuu)


“Oh no… let’s go to Sugamo City.” (Noa)


“Ikebukuro is closer, and the town is bigger, right?” (Shuu)


“That’s right… Still, I think going to Sugamo is better for Mr. Abe…” (Noa)



 Noa paused. I wonder why.



 Sugamo, also known as Harajuku for Grannies.


 Ikebukuro is a town where the youth and Saitama Prefecture residents gather.



 The distance from Outsuka is almost the same. It’s just one station away, and you can easily get there on foot. In fact, Ikebukuro is just a little closer.


 At a glance, it seems that Ikebukuro is a larger town than Sugamo, and that hasn’t changed in this day and age.


 So why does Noa recommend Sugamo? Why is it “better” for me and Tamiko?



(…Oh, I see. I get it now.) (Shuu)



 It’s because of this outfit. It’s because this full-body wolf look is too immodest.


 As a former citizen of Gyoda, the only things I can be proud of are lotus trees and ancient burial mounds. I think it’s too early for a wild child who just came out of a hole to have an audience with Ikefukurou [T/N: a great horned owl statue in Ikebukuro]. I thought the Jizo [T/N: Street in Sugamo] of Sugamo would warmly welcome me no matter what I looked like. Is that what you mean?



“Yeah, I understand. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.” (Shuu)


“Eh? Ah, yes. Then let’s get going to–” (Noa)



 At this time, Tamiko was still in my palm.


 And I have not sprayed any [Sensory Spores]. Tamiko is also in high spirits, completely caught off guard.



“Woah!” (Shuu)



 Woosh! Something passes right in front of my eyes. It flies out from a complete blind spot and soars high into the sky.


 —It was a bird.



“Eh, Tamiko!?” (Shuu)



 Tamiko has disappeared from my palm.



“Pigyaaaa! Help, squuuueeek!” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko’s scream is heard from above her head. Tamiko seems to have been snatched by a bird.



“Here! I’m in the air, squeak!” (Tamiko)


“Ms. Tamiko!” (Noa)


“Seriously?! Tamiko!” (Shuu)



 The bird was gaining altitude and moving further and further away.



(No, no, Tamiko is going to be a snack for the baby birds.) (Shuu)



“Sorry, Ms. Ikari! Please do this!”



 Handing over my luggage and cloak, I get ready.


 Focusing my consciousness on my back. A thread extends around my shoulder blade and forms a pair of arms. [Hypha Arms]. By the way, only that part of the jacket is torn off. My jacket became backless and sexy.



“What is that–” (Noa)


“I’m going ahead!” (Shuu)



 Crouching down, I jumped up using [Enhanced Leaping Ability]. Just before hitting the tree in front of me, I clung to the branch with my [Hypha Arms] and pulled myself up.


 I then leaped again. Like this, I moved across the tree tops like a ninja. With my level 66 physical ability and [Hypha Arms], I can do things that ordinary monkeys can do in an instant.


 The bird comes closer and closer. When the bird overlaps with the sun, I involuntarily hold up my hand—it sways in mid-air.



(Eh?) (Shuu)



 Then something happened as it flapped its wings. It began to shake and there is a scream, “KyuiIi!”


 Eventually, the silhouette in the sky splits into two as it falls. The bird with limp wings and a tiny ball of fur.



“Seriously!” (Shuu)



 I kicked up with full force against the tree trunk. Then I run through the treetops using my [Hypha Arms], leaping high and stretching out my arms. Tamiko, the furball, falls into my hand.



“Abeshuu!” (Tamiko)


“Oh! That was a nice catch!” (Shuu)



 Not thinking about how I would land, I plunged straight into a tree in front of me. The ball of fur, Tamiko, was caught by the branches of the tree and fell to the ground like a ripe apple.



“So… Tamiko, are you okay?” (Shuu)


“Pigyaaa! I’m squeaking scared!” (Tamiko)



 Tamiko began crying as she clings to my face. I cannot see in front of me.



“Why did you fall?” (Shuu)


“Just look at that, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Well, I can’t see it.” (Shuu)



 When I look up, I see the bird I saw earlier, caught on a branch. It was hanging down, and blood was dripping from its neck.



“I’m going to turn that bird into rust on my squeak! Sh-sh-sh! Don’t you dare squeaking mock me!” (Tamiko)


“Yeah, I see that.” (Shuu)



 Tamiko might look like this but she is a level 41 squirrel. Although her race is not suitable for combat, she has the power to kill a Metro Beast of level 30 on her own. She’s not a cute little animal that would be a treat for a chicken-winged douchebag.



“But he’s pretty big. It’s like an eagle or a hawk. Oh, man, I want some fried chicken.” (Shuu)


“Fried chicken? What is that, squeak?” (Tamiko)


“Chicken is fried in oil. It becomes crispy but the meat inside is still soft and juicy.” (Shuu)


“Wow… The sl*tface has fried chicken, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 She might have said the wrong words, but she is not wrong for being happy. If I feed her the real thing, she’ll be happier. [T/N: Chijo (Female pervert) sounds like Chijou (Above ground/surface).]


 We retrieved the dead bird, and soon after, Noa, out of breath, came running up to us. How did she manage to see us within this sea of trees?



“That was a… a Tetra Black Kite.”



 This is a black kite? But she called it a tetra(hedron), it certainly has a triangular head.



“It’s a dangerous Metro Beast on the ground… but as expected, Ms. Tamiko.” (Noa)


“It’s just around level 5, squeak. It’s nothing against me, squeak!” (Tamiko)



 I once saw on a TV show a video of a black kite snatching a tourist’s hamburger, but this one caught a beast of prey.



“You were caught and you peed yourself, though.” (Shuu)


“I did not pee, squeak! You virgin boy, squeak! I’ll squeaking rip your fur off!” (Tamiko)


“I’m not a virgin! You piss-squirrel!” (Shuu)


“I’m sorry, but raptor meat is not very tasty. The beak, talons, and windpipes can be used as ornaments, so let’s keep them. Are you listening to me?” (Noa)



 Whether it was Tamiko’s fault or my own carelessness, we have strayed from the path. The sun was slowly setting in the west.



” I hope the commotion earlier didn’t attract the attention of bandits… It’s a bit of a detour, but let’s take the southern road. That way we can get to Sugamo in relative safety.” (Noa)


“OK, let’s go.” (Shuu)



 I once walked from Outsuka to Sugamo when I was a student. It’s less than a kilometer away, and even if you discount the fact that it’s in the middle of the sea of trees, you can easily get there in an hour.






 As far as I could see from the hill, it didn’t seem that close. Was it my imagination?





 Noa led the way, and we walked on the shaded animal trail for a little while. She has a compass, but we keep moving along without looking at it.



 I kept walking while spreading [Sensory Spores] so that there is no such recurrence of the black kite. Soon, however, I realize that the sensation is different from before. The spores are not spreading in the way I would like.



(Is it because of the wind?) (Shuu)



 In the metro, where there was almost no air flow, the spores were scattered in a circular pattern around me. On the ground, however, there is wind. The microscopic spores are affected by the direction of the wind. They cannot fly in the direction they are supposed to, and the area I can detect is distorted.



(This is a blind spot.) (Shuu)


(Even though there is hardly any wind now.) (Shuu)




 While inside the Metro, it boasted cheat-level convenient performance, it has a surprising weakness.


 On the ground, it seems to be good enough if it can maintain a radius of about 10 to 20 meters. It might be a step behind in dealing with enemies who come at me at high speed in a straight line, especially If I am not careful.


 Still, it is better than nothing, so we walk while I continue to spread it. Tamiko’s ears perked up as she stood on my shoulders as if she didn’t want a repeat of the mistake she had made earlier.



“Oh, we finally got out. This is the highway.” (Noa)



 After walking for about 30 minutes, we finally reached an open road. It was a simple road with two lanes of cobblestone pavement. The direction of the road is roughly north-northeast and south-southwest.



“If you go south from here, you will find the Myogadani Metro, and to the west is the Gokokuji Metro. Both metros are for beginners and are the gateways to success for new hunters in the Ikebukuro Tribe. I trained there myself.” (Noa)


“So, Gokokuji has also become a dungeon?” (Shuu)



 When I was a student at a university in Iidabashi, I usually rode my bicycle to school to save money on train fare, but I would take the Yurakucho line when I went out drinking with friends. The only time I ever got off at Gokokuji was when I got sick from drinking too much and had to run to the bathroom. I remember that I ran out of steam only a meter from the toilet.



“It’s a straight road from here to Sugamo, and I think we can get there in three hours.” (Noa)


“Wait a minute. Three hours? To Sugamo?” (Noa)



 I don’t feel like walking through the woods, just walking on a flat road.


 Noa stared at me, then made an apologetic face and said, “Oh…”



“…That’s right, it was certainly written in my great-grandfather’s old notebook.” (Noa)


“What is?” (Shuu)


“He said that the distance between the old days and the present is very different.” (Noa)


“What?” (Noa)



 Noa takes out her notebook and flips it open.



“[Tokyo Judgment]—After the Tokyo metro’s collapse due to the Metro Flood, the metro continued to move and expand slowly. A hyper-localized crustal shift—as if the entire Tokyo metropolitan area above it were expanding its territory, or it is indiscriminately extending its mycelium. By the time the [Super Fungal Contamination] ended and people returned to the surface, the area inside the wall was estimated to have expanded more than a hundred times.” (Noa)


“Hundred times? That’s not just Tokyo! It’s the whole Kanto region! No way!” (Shuu)



 Once again, Shuu was exposed to the same unreasonableness that he had experienced over the past hundred years, and he fell to his knees in shock and despair.


 Noa looks apologetic, even though it is not her fault. Tamiko is absorbed in a roadside acorn dandelion, while her partner is wallowing in despair.



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