Metro Labyrinth Chapter 32: Jizo-sama

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T/N: Jizou/Jizo/Jizo Bosatsu is the bodhisattva/deity who looks over children, travelers, and the underworld. This is from Wiki-sensei and Google-sensei. You can see “O-jizou-sama” alongside trails and weird places like in most Japanese media.



 Sugamo originated in the Sugamo Village of the Edo period [TN: 1603-1867] and prospered as a resting place close to the Itabashi Station on the Nakasendo Highway.



 Elderly people flocked to the temple praying for safety and longevity, visiting the Edo Six Jizo at Maseiji Temple and the Togenuki Jizo at Kogan-ji Temple, which was relocated in the Meiji period [TN:1868-1912]. This was introduced by the media and eventually led to the establishment of its name as “Harajuku for Grannies”.



 The above is from the book “History of Tokyo: Even Students Who Don’t Attend Lectures Can Understand” written by Professor Takenaka of the Faculty of Economics, Houji University. Incidentally, it is not available in bookstores and only seminar students buy it. It is sure to be out of print in today’s world.



 After leaving the clothing store and proceeding for a while, the street merges with what seems to be the main street, and from there, the number of people increases at once. Men and women of all ages, who seem to be citizens of the city, are bustling around the area. Stalls selling goods, snacks, and other items. The cheerful voices of the shopkeepers can be heard.



“There are a lot of humans, squeak…” (Tamiko)


“This is Sugamo after all, rather, it’s a human town.”



 It reminds me of the fair I went to when I was a student in Sugamo. It was quite lively even on a weekday, and the atmosphere was very friendly. I didn’t buy anything from the stalls except for pickles and dried potatoes, though.


 On the other hand, one cannot find any trace of the “Harajuku for Grannies” in Sugamo a century later. There are many young people and families. There are children, too. Some of them even look like hunters wearing cloaks like Noa. A lot of people moving from here to there.


 The townspeople’s clothes are more modern than I had imagined. Fashion is generally simple, with few patterns or designs, but skirts, dresses, T-shirts, shirts, and cardigans can be seen. As I had expected, suits and ties can’t be seen.


 The town is a prosperous trading post between the south and the north, and it is also a fortress surrounded by a dense metro area. Many young people from surrounding small villages gather here in search of work, and the town is fashionable, lively, and safe, thanks to the skill of the mayor, who is trusted by the residents. It is also a town where hunters and merchants gather. Yesterday, Obuchi told me this story on the road.



“Abeshuu, something smells good, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“It’s food from that street vendor. I’ll buy you something (with the money I borrowed).” (Shuu)



 I had left my wolf pelt bag at the inn. I’ve collected a lot of things on my way out of the metro, so I need to exchange them for money as soon as possible in order to live here.


 Yakisoba noodles, venison steaks, karaage skewers [T/N: Japanese fried chicken], and potato butter. They all look good. There are also oobanyaki [T/N: Bean paste pancake/muffin] and wataame [TN: cotton candy]. The cotton candy was 50 yen (by the way, all the signs were written in Japanese).



“Yeah! Sweet! Yummy!” (Shuu)


“Yummy! Squeaking yummy! My cheeks are melting, squeak!” (Tamiko)



 People on the street are giving quizzical glances at the weird man and squirrel who are excitedly eating cotton candy.


 Then, my eyes are glued to something standing alone between the two stalls. It is a reunion with something unexpected.



“Woah… You’re safe… Lord Jizo…!” (Shuu)



 My whole body shudders with emotion. Standing on a street corner, it is precisely a block of stone whose face and outline have worn away and become just a silhouette of its old self, something like a bowling pin, but it is definitely a Jizo. Though its small size makes me wonder if it is one of a group of stone Buddhas in a temple.



“It’s a hunter’s stone charm,” said the owner of the cotton candy stall.


“Stone charm?” (Shuu)


“When the Sugamo market was established, the stone was dug up from deep in the ground. When they decorated the streets with them, the number of animals that harmed them decreased, and people were very grateful for the stone charm.” (Stall Owner)


“Huh.” (Shuu)


“Stroking the stone charms that dot the city is a popular habit, as they are said to bring good luck for safe and successful hunts. Thanks to this, my business is prosperous, and I’m very grateful.” (Stall Owner)


“Tamiko, let’s stroke it! Let’s do it until it’s nice and smooth!” (Shuu)



 It is indeed a Buddha that has survived the collapse of civilization and is still alive and well after a hundred years.


 As I wandered around the city in search of other Jizo statues, I came to understand many things.



 The streets are not only made of stone and wood, but also of brick, plaster, and concrete. Many buildings have glass windows. The architectural style is relatively modern.


 Stores sell pottery and glassware. There are also many fashionable handicrafts. The clothes on display in the stores and the clothes worn by the people seem to indicate that weaving technology is also advanced.


 Agriculture, including livestock farming, seems to be thriving in the area. Vegetables, bread, rice, and dairy products. Meat that appears to be from Metro Beasts is also available.


 As for water, you can use plenty of clean water from the water areas. It seems that it was filtered by pulling it from the water stream running within the Metro under the city. It is said that sewage is also discarded down another stream. However, it is a mystery where the stream comes from and where it goes. The idea of coexistence with the Metro comes to my mind.


 A public laundromat like a coin laundromat has simple washing machines and driers made of wooden baskets. I’ve seen something similar in Amaz*n, an all-manual washing machine. It’s the kind that uses a hand-cranked lever or foot pedal to turn the tank and do the laundry.


 Some large houses have a water tank with a black acrylic panel [T/N: Like a solar heater]. This is probably a kind of hot-water system that uses solar energy. All of them are eco-friendly, utilizing nature and the environment.



(The process from collapse to revival of a civilization does not always follow the same path as in the past.) (Shuu)


(–right?) (Shuu)



 I remember reading that in some book.


 Now it has been proven. Even though the streets may be medieval or early modern, the modern concepts of dynamics, such as the use of human power and the extraction of energy from the environment, have been reused.



(But–something’s not right.) (Shuu)



 With such advanced technology, it would not be surprising to see the use of electricity—or at least some small-scale wind or hydroelectric power generation facilities. Gas and oil are only available if there’s a fuel source, but electricity should be rather easy to generate. There is no sign that this is being utilized.



(A tsukushi for light, an oil lamp, etc…) (Shuu)



 In the process of restructuring our civilization, has such knowledge been left out? Is it somewhere else?



(I’ll ask Noa later.) (Shuu)



 Sugamo is a large city with a population of over 50,000, so the fortified city area is quite large. The site, which is a little long from north to south, is likely to be three or four kilometers on a side.


 In the center of the city are the mayor’s mansion and the city government’s office. It is a fine wooden building.


 There are some scary military police walking around. They kept glancing at me. I wonder if I am being seen as some suspicious person, so I’ll leave before it bothers me.



“Mr. Abe.” (Noa)



 I hear someone call out from behind me. It’s Noa. Obuchi and Yui are behind her.



“You look very good in the hunter’s jersey.” (Noa)


“Yes? Really?” (Shuu)



 If a young lady praises me like that, I can’t help but feel elated inside.



“What happened everyone? Didn’t you go to the Hunter’s Guild?” (Shuu)


“Yes, their headquarters is near here. I’ve reported already to the military police and next the guild.” (Noa)


“Oh, thank you.” (Shuu)


“In explaining the situation to the military police. I’m sorry Mr. Abe. We reported that I took down the bandits… and Ms. Ikari and Mr. Abe assisted us in doing so. I’m sorry that I’m taking credit for your work… but it was Ms. Ikari’s suggestion saying that it would save Mr. Abe from trouble.” (Obuchi)


“No, it’s just perfect. That was definitely going to be a hassle.” (Shuu)



 The government is not going to ask me a lot of questions about myself. I don’t think they would easily believe that I had been asleep for a hundred years.



“There doesn’t seem to have been an official request, so there won’t be any rewards, but maybe the city will give me money instead. If that happens, I’ll give it to Mr. Abe.” (Obuchi)


“Ah, that would really help. I’m currently penniless…” (Shuu)


“There is a good restaurant nearby. Let us have lunch there. Of course, I’ll pay for it.” (Obuchi)


“Let’s go you squeaking slowpokes! Go! Go! Go!” (Tamiko)


“Thank you very much for your hospitality. My superior from before said that, too.” (Shuu)





 Three minutes’ walk down the street, I came across a small restaurant with the curtain “Sugamo Cafeteria” on the front. I thought it was a Japanese restaurant, but to my surprise, I was served Chinese food.


 Fried rice, gyoza [A/N: Chinese dumplings], and chili shrimp. There was egg soup, Chinese pickles, and stir-fried kikurage mushrooms [T/N: Commonly known as Wood Ear Mushroom].



“Fried rice! The rice is so soft! Super yummy gyoza! The light skin is super crispy!” (Shuu)


“Hafu, hafu! This hot thing is squeaking good! Hiii! My eyes are going to squeaking pop!” (Tamiko)


“That’s fried Mountain Caterpillar in chili sauce, you know? I’m glad it suits your taste.” (Obuchi)



 My chopsticks stopped mid-air as I was about to eat the Mountain Caterpillar in chili sauce. The people around me were chomping down on them without a single inkling of concern.


 I’ve often seen articles on the Internet saying that insects are the food of the future. They are healthy, high in protein, and rather easy to cultivate, which are all good things, except for their appearance and impression. I guess they have been supporting the food situation of the people living in this country.


 Pathetic, I was too hungry I nibbled on crickets inside the Metro, and I already ate a Metro Cockroach this morning. I was not about to be crushed by a caterpillar after all this time, so I decided to go ahead and put it in my mouth. Sure enough, it was good. Thick, juicy, but with a mellow taste.


 Incidentally, this Chinese culture has survived the “Super Fungal Contamination” and is now called “Chiyuka Cuisine,” which is also popular in New Tokyo. I am grateful to the old man at the Chinese restaurant (I imagine) for passing it on to future generations.



“But as expected… Century eggs are impossible for me…” (Shuu)



 I have eaten rats, crickets, and centipedes, but this devilishly colored egg is the only thing I can’t bring myself to eat. Even Tamiko, who sniffed them, said, “Stinky! Pee yew! Tamiko’s face contorted when she sniffed it.



“It’s not bad once you get used to it.” (Obuchi)



 Obuchi took one in his mouth, and Noa boldly challenged him. He chewed it and nodded his head.



“Noa, are you okay?” (Shuu)


“I’m fine. I like things that taste bad.” (Noa)


“Well, don’t say it out loud.” (Obuchi)



 The three of us and the two beasts were taken to a private room in the back of the restaurant. Obuchi is also a good friend of the restaurant. This pig-faced man is not just someone full of hot air. Incidentally, the wounds from being beaten up by the bandits are healing nicely with the [Healing Ball].



 Obuchi is a “Pigfolk, Orc,” a demihuman.



 According to Noa, a demihuman is not an “intelligent creature different from humans,” such as Magic Beast, but a “human who has mutated into a form combined with another species”. Demihumans have the same social status as normal humans, but there are still customs of prejudice and persecution in some parts of the new world.



“Mr. Obuchi, how are you today?” (Chef)



 An uncle in a cook’s outfit arrives. He speaks in a stiff manner.



“Master, we’re having delicious food today, too, oink.” (Obuchi)


“Thank you, aru. Today is you have a rare hunter’s companion aru. As usual, Happousai, more like Happoubijin, aru! Ha! Just a Chiyuka joke!” (Chef) [T/N: I didn’t get the joke. “Happousai/八宝菜” means “Chop suey” and “Happoubijin/八方美人” means “everyone’s friend/good looking in all angles” He’s saying “Chop suey, more like Mr. popular”. And what’s with the “aru” in katakana?]


“Wait, wait a minute.” (Shuu)


“What is it, aru?” (Chef)


“Excuse me, my name is Abe. Are you a foreigner?” (Shuu)


“What a funny question, aru. I was born and raised in New Tokyo, aru.” (Chef)


“Well, what is with the ‘aru’?” (Shuu)


“You’re from the country, aru? You don’t know the Chiyuka language. This is the traditional way for those who enjoy Chiyuka Cuisine. All the top Chiyuka restaurants in all the cities are like me.” (Chef)


“Oh. I understand.” (Shuu)



 I’ll back off honestly. I am sure that I will encounter these unpredictable traditions and customs many times in the future. If I touch them carelessly, I will only be called a hick.



“That human has a strange way of talking, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Yeah? Yes.” (Shuu)



 At any rate, the food was good. The food is as good as any Chinese restaurant in my era. That’s good enough for now.



“Little Tamiko, dessert is coming, so make sure there’s still space.” (Yui)


“Dessert, squeak?” (Tamiko)


“It’s Almond Tofu. The one here is slightly sweet and melts in your mouth.” (Yui)


“Seriously… You, are a squeaking good person, squeak…” (Tamiko)



 It was the same at the inn, but in this world, it seems that it is quite normal for animals or specifically Magic Beasts to sit at the same table at a restaurant. There is no particular problem or discrimination.


 I repeatedly glanced at Yui licking her egg drop soup. I was constantly looking for opportunities to get past the eyes of her guardian and build up our bond. [T/N: Yep cats are adorable.]



“Mr. Obuchi has a lot of contacts in Sugamo City, don’t you,” Noa said.


“Well, it’s part of my business,” Obuchi said.


“You have a business?” (Noa)


“To tell the truth, being a hunter is like a side job. I’m a peddler by profession. I go from town to town, collecting good things and selling them. That is my actual work.” (Obuchi)


“Wow, awesome.” (Noa)



 A hunter and a merchant, amazing.



“I became a hunter because it was convenient for me to go to the Metro to stock my goods on my own. I found I was good at it, especially with my Fungal Class, and in these times, you have to be able to protect yourself.” (Obuchi)


“You’re not capable of protecting yourself. You were beaten to a pulp by that ‘Udeochi’ bandit.” (Yui)



 Yui opened her mouth. She was cleaning her face in a “My, oh my” kind of way.



“It’s not good for a hunter to let someone become a hostage then do the bidding of such lowlifes. The two of you should have left us and run away by yourselves rather than fall into their hands.” (Yui)


“But, Mistress Yui…” (Obuchi)



 Obuchi’s eyes began to water.



“Don’t say that! I can’t live without Mistress Yui!” (Obuchi)


“Silence! You huge cowardly pig!” (Yui)



 Yui paws at Obuchi’s cheek. Obuchi’s snorting becomes more and more intense, although it doesn’t seem to be with much force.



“Oh, oh…! At long last, after three months and eight days, I got a paw slap from Mistress Yui! The elasticity of her paws, it’s like a drug, it’s so amazing! Oink!!!” (Obuchi)


“Hey! Don’t you dare touch me, you limp noodle white pig! Don’t you even dare breathe on me! You’re my slave!” (Yui)


“Oh, yeah, more! Curse me! Punish me with your toe beans! Enough to fill me up for tomorrow! Oiiiink!” (Obuchi)



 The passion inside me cools rapidly. I understand the desire to be a cat’s guardian/servant, but whether it feels good as I objectively look at someone who has become a literal “cat’s servant” in real life, it is a different story. [T/N: You went way too far Obuchi.]



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