Metro Labyrinth Chapter 33: Test Paper–Level Check

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 As I have felt since yesterday, Yui seems to be a very high-class type of cat.


 If I try to touch her easily, I might be treated coldly. On the other hand, it would be harassment to force me to do so in a coercive and obnoxious manner.


 Unfortunately, I promised myself that I would only watch from afar. It’s such a big town, there must be a stray cat or two somewhere that would let me play with them.



 We finish eating until dessert. As Yui had said, Almond Tofu was superb, and we were so moved that we lost our spirits for a while.


 After the meal, they drink a bitter tea that looks like oolong tea. Tamiko takes a small lick of the tea and makes a bitter expression, saying, “It’s bitter, squeak.”



“Um, everyone,” Noa asks. “Do you have any free time after this?”


“I have nothing to do in my spare time.” (Shuu)


“Me too, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“We can make time too.” (Obuchi)


“Of course.” (Yui)


“Well, let us talk about it at the inn.” (Noa)



 When we returned to the inn, the futon was folded and placed in the corner of the room. The floor was a pale green tatami mat. After five years of living surrounded by rocks, I could lie on it forever.


 After receiving a pot of hot tea from the hostess, we all gathered around the tea table. The tea is Hojicha [A/N: Roasted green tea], which Tamiko seems to enjoy, but Yui doesn’t take a sip right away, probably because she has a cat’s tongue.



“Mr. Obuchi, Ms. Yui,” Noa then continued, “Can you please keep what I’m about to tell you between us?”


“Oink… It depends on the content, no, if that is what you desire.” (Obuchi)


“It’s the same with me.” (Yui)


“Can you swear to ‘God of Threadweavers’?” (Noa)


“…I’m sorry …but I’m not a big believer in the teachings of Metro. I don’t believe in the existence of God. So, I swear to myself and to Mistress Yui. I will never betray you, my benefactors.” (Obuchi)


“Then I also swear on myself and this pig. I also pledge the blood and fur of the proud  Cait Sith tribe.” (Yui)


“Thank you very much. I’m not interested in the doctrines of the church, actually. I beg your pardon.” (Noa)



 Noa then turns to me.



“Mr. Abe.” (Noa)


“Yes?” (Shuu)


“I’d like to know your level and your Fungal Class, if that’s all right?” (Noa)


“What?” (Shuu)



 Suddenly I feel puzzled by things suddenly being pointed at me.



“Level and Fungal Class? What my Fungal Class is? I feel like I haven’t learned much about it yet.” (Shuu)


“Don’t you know your own Fungal Class? Even with you having those kinds of Fungal Skills?” (Obuchi)



 Obuchi was surprised, but it is a pity, I could only nod.



“Before you go any further, Mr. Abe, could you talk to Mr. Obuchi and Ms. Yui? About the past five years and about yourself.” (Noa)


“No, but… it is difficult…” (Shuu)



 Can they even believe it?


 Although puzzled, I told the story of how I came to this point.


 Being a person of the Heisei era a century ago. When I woke up, I was on the 50th underground floor of the Outsuka Metro. With Tamiko, I gained strength there for five years, defeating the boss who blocked my path, aiming for the surface.


 It was only yesterday that I finally saw the sun on the ground, guided by Noa. That is why I am not familiar with the circumstances of this world and the common sense of the world.


 Obuchi, who had been listening without interrupting me, nodded his head as I finished my story. He shakes his head slightly to the side.



“Oink… It’s hard to believe… There’s no reason for Mr. Abe to tell us such a ridiculous lie…” (Obuchi)


“When it comes to people who have been alive for a hundred years. …There are only three people in this country right now.” (Yui)


“Oh, there are others? Besides me, there are three other people!?” (Shuu)



 Obuchi doesn’t answer me but instead turns to Noa.



“I finally see what you’re talking about. I also see why Ms. Ikari brought us into this.” (Obuchi)


“Yes, I found out that Mr. Obuchi and Ms. Yui are trustworthy people. I am sure they will be able to help Mr. Abe.” (Noa)


“I don’t understand.” (Shuu)


“I understand, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Don’t tell lies that can be exposed in an instant.” (Shuu)



 Noa took a sip of tea, pausing for a moment.



“I’m sorry, this may be a little complicated for you, but it’s for… Mr. Abe’s sake.” (Noa)


“For me?” (Shuu)


“Let me take you through the steps. First, let’s check your level and your Fungal Class.” (Noa)



 On the tea table, a sheet of paper about the size of a business card is laid out. It is a milky-white piece of paper that looks like an old-fashioned straw mat, with a circular mark on the edge to indicate where to stamp a seal and a scale like that of a ruler.



“This is a [Test Paper]. It can be used to determine the level of a hunter. Each sheet costs 30 yen at the Hunter’s Guild, for this one that can measure up to level 50. The one that can measure up to level 100 costs 50 yen per sheet.” (Noa)


“Um … I’m sorry for suddenly interrupting. What is Level in the first place?” (Shuu)



 The eyes of Obuchi and Yui show extreme shock. I’m sorry for my extreme naivety.



“No, well, I’ve heard roughly about the strength of the mycelium in the body. But to begin with, it wasn’t my time that there were levels to humans and beasts…” (Shuu)


“I talked about this a little yesterday,” Noa said. “The ‘Super Fungal Contamination’ a hundred years ago killed most of the existing human population, and only the creatures that adapted to it survived. The bodies of us humans, Magic Beasts, and Metro Beasts have mycelium in them that is resistant to the Super Fungus. Every cell—muscle, nerve, and brain—is covered with mycelium. The level is said to be an indicator of the strength, adaptability, and development of the sporangium.” (Noa)


“I see.” (Shuu)


“It is a common theory about the mechanism of level up and the acquisition of mycelial ability that preying on the sporangium of other species causes one’s own sporangium to react and grow, increasing the performance of the sporangium and increasing the ability to strengthen it.” (Noa)


“Oh, so humans also have sporangium. I did think we might have one.” (Shuu)


“It’s in the pit of the lower abdomen.” (Noa)



 Noa touched the area below the navel, around the pelvis.



“But cannibalism of the same species—human eating another human’s sporangium—doesn’t cause an increase in level or acquisition of any Fungal Skills. It’s scary to imagine what would happen if that were possible.” (Noa)


“Absolutely.” (Shuu)



 I’m glad I didn’t wake up to such a world. I mean, is that why I didn’t see cannibalism among Metro Beasts?



“I’m talking like I know something about it, but the details of how it works are still unknown. But the fact is, every time you experience a level-up phenomenon that makes your body stiffen and stiffen, your body becomes stronger and your Fungal Skills also become more powerful.” (Noa)


“That’s right.” (Shuu)


“So, it’s a very important indicator in the Hunter industry. It’s not only about level, but it’s also about the difficulty level for specific quests, and so on.” (Noa)


“So, you have a way to measure it?” (Shuu)


“First we’ll try it out on a piece of Test Paper up to level 50 over here.” (Noa)



 Noa pulls out a Hypha Knife from her palm and pricks her index finger with it. Pressing the bead of blood into the circle of the Test Paper.



 The red blotch crawls by itself, drawing a straight line all the way to the right. There is a kind of scale below it, and the progress of the blood stops just before the 25th mark.



“Twenty-four, huh? Yesterday’s Catoblepas raised it by one.” (Noa)



 Tamiko and I had our jaws drop. The blood-sucking paper is supposed to tell us the level based on the scale.



“Wow… how does this thing work?” (Shuu)


“I don’t really understand either.” (Noa)


“I heard that some kind of mycelium is used to make paper,” Obuchi said. “Only the Hunter’s Guild and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have the technology to make it, and they are the only ones who can do it.”


“Oh wow! I want to try it too, squeak!” (Tamiko)


“We can also check the level of Magic Beasts this way. To be honest, Metro Beasts can do it too, and there are people who use them that way.” (Obuchi)



 So, Tamiko tried her hand at it. She cuts her hand a little with Noa’s knife and puts her paw in the circle, like a Sekitori [T/N: A high-rank sumo wrestler.]. The line moves slowly, stopping exactly at the 40 mark.



“Ms. Tamiko is 40. You’re amazing… for someone young…” (Noa)



 Tamiko puffs her chest proudly.



“You have taken in the sporangia of the Ogres, Orthrus, and other powerful enemies. But, well, you’re just 41?” (Shuu)


“I think you may have made a mistake, squeak. I’m not a squeak fry!” (Tamiko)



 I can’t believe her at times like this, because she sometimes acts like a prideful idiot.



“Abeshuu, I want squeak of that.” (Tamiko)


“Just put some spit on it, it will heal.” (Shuu)



 Even though I say that I still give her a Healing Ball. Tamiko bites into it and wets the cut on her paw with the juice. Then she grabs the mycelial ball and packs it in her cheek pouch.



“—What?!?” (Obuchi)



 Obuchi’s eyes widen and he leans forward. The surprised Tamiko spits.



“…It was dark when I received it yesterday and I couldn’t see it well… No way, it wasn’t just [Healing] but [Holy Healing]…” (Obuchi)


“[Holy Healing]? I didn’t know its name, so I called it a Healing Ball. It’s just Tamiko’s snack.” (Shuu)


“…[Holy Healing] is just a snack…” (Obuchi)



 Obuchi was stunned and wiped the splash from Tamiko.



“So, is that the name of the Fungal Skill? Tamiko and I don’t know about it at all, so we gave it an appropriate nickname. Is there something like its official name? Or a common name?” (Shuu)


“Yes,” Noa said, “Except for unique and unidentified skills, there are names set by the hunters’ guild. We’ll check on that later.”


I’ll check on that later. Then I’ll check my level, too. I’m so excited.” (Shuu)



 Borrowing the knife, I pricked a small hole on my finger. It healed quickly, but I smear the blood on my finger on the sheet of paper with graduations up to 100.


 As Noa, Obuchi, and Yui stare intently at it, the line moves slowly, past 40, past 50, past 60, and then slows down at 65. It finally stopped after passing 65.



“68… Huh?” (Noa)


“Oh! Is that right? Two more than I thought. …I thought I counted correctly. Did it go up two or three at once?” (Shuu)


“Usually, people go up one at a time, but in the case of …… people, they usually start at level 1 to 5, so maybe that’s the error?” (Obuchi)


I see. The initial value in terms of race. I probably started at level 3.” (Shuu)



 I had completely had no idea about that possibility. I did not doubt that I started at level 1.



“My mother said that carbuncles also start at level 1 to 3, squeak. That’s why I’m not on the same level, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I see. I’m sorry I suspected you were being an idiot.” (Shuu)



 The fact that the initial value was off, means that this squirrel was looking at their initial value higher, just as it should be.


 I mean, I’d never heard that there was a default setting. This squirrel should have told me



“Since Abeshuu was a squeaking weak-sh*t, I didn’t expect you to be higher than level 1, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Yeah, I can’t deny that.” (Shuu)



 When I was told, even a goblin-sized Ogre infant was over 30 for Metro Beasts. In other words, that was the initial value of their level for their race. Maybe I should have applied that setting to myself as well. Well, it’s just a slight difference from the strong enemies of Outsuka Metro.


 At any rate, this clearly established my current level. I am happy to see the proof of my hard work in numerical form as if it is a recognition of my efforts. I, Shuu Abe, will call myself level 68 from now on.



 Obuchi and Yui have their mouths hanging open.



“Oink… how amazing. I saw it for the first time. A Test Paper with above level 60…” (Obuchi)


“That’s something, but a level 68 among the hunters? In this country? What is his position?” (Yui)



 I don’t mean to be modest, but I don’t know the scale of this world, so I don’t really understand the value of level 60.



“Oh, by the way, what are Mr. Obchi and Ms. Yui’s levels?” (Shuu)


“I’m 40 too. I’m the same as Tamiko.” (Yui)


“I’m 37. In the hunter industry, I guess we’re around the intermediate level.” (Obuchi)



 Tamiko is also an intermediate-level hunter. The squirrel chuckles to herself.



“It’s a long story explaining it in detail,” Noa continued, “For now, I can say that at level 68 you can be called ‘Master’ or ‘Master’ in the hunting industry. It is pretty amazing! It’s all right if you think so!” [T/N: She said it both in kanji and katakana.]


“Hmm… so what does [Master] class mean, besides sounding amazing?” (Shuu)



 To be honest, I don’t feel bad knowing.



“Now, now as your teacher, you must squeak your gratitude. Hahaha.” (Tamiko)



 As my teacher said, I would like to express my gratitude through lots of rubbing.



“…No… Everyone is watching, squeak…!” (Tamiko)




 Obuchi is looking at Yui with an envious look, but Yui pretends not to notice.



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