Metro Labyrinth Chapter 35: [Immortality]

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A/N: 12/27 – Corrections are made along with the publication [A Squirrel’s Explanation on Fungal Class and Fungal Skills and The List of Fungal Skills of Each Profession].



 I hear the sound of tapping on the windowpane.


 I look up and see that the sky has turned dull before I know it. It seemed to be raining. It had been a pleasant sunny day in the morning.



 I turned my attention back to the test paper, which was riddled with red lines.



“Well… it looks like something amazing is going on, but… I’m not sure I understand it yet…” (Shuu)


“The first time I was sure—” said Noa, “I was first convinced of it when Mr. Abe told me he was a hundred years old and I actually saw his [Immortality] Fungal Skill.”


“[Immortality]? Oh, I feel like I’ve heard you say it before.” (Shuu)



 On the day I met Noa at the Outsuka Metro, she mumbled something like that.



“When I wounded Mr. Abe’s hand at the metro, I saw a bluish fungus covering the wound. It was the same [Immortality] Skill I saw in my great-grandfather’s notebook. That convinced me that Mr. Abe wasn’t lying, that he really was a hundred years old.” (Noa)



 My first Fungal Skill, Regenerative Mycelium. [Immortality] seems to be the official name for it.



“[Immortality] is a far more powerful regenerative ability than the more common natural healing enhancement, [Self-regeneration]. Most wounds can be healed instantly. Even torn limbs can grow back, and unless you are badly injured, you will not die.” (Noa)


“I’ve been pretty reckless, but I was healed every time.” (Shuu)



 I’ve done a lot of things in my life where my body was used as bait, and it was not uncommon for my limbs to be eaten off. The reason why I’m still in perfect physical condition is 100% thanks to this cheat skill.



“Not only does it heal wounds, but it also stops aging for the most part.” (Noa)


“Well, it’s true that I’m 130 years old now. But…” (Shuu)



 If I exclude the hundred years of hibernation due to mysterious phenomena, I am twenty-eight years old after spending five years in the Outsuka metro. I thought I must have become a dirty sad sack through my barren life in the cave, but when I looked in the mirror today, I was rather impressed by the fact that I looked “almost the same as when I was twenty-three”. I had no idea that the mycelium had even given me an anti-aging treatment.



“I think that the fact that Mr. Abe was able to sleep for more than a hundred years can be attributed to anything other than the effects of [Immortality]. Though, I can’t even imagine what caused him to fall asleep.” (Noa)



 I looked down at my palm. I think of the mycelium pulsing under the skin.



 When I woke up, my whole body was covered with blue-black mold. I had suspected it might be so, but without this power, there wouldn’t even be a bone left in my body by now.



“…Why did I wake up about 100 years later…?” (Shuu)


“I don’t know… In the first place, [Immortality] is an ability that ordinary hunters can’t acquire, and there is only rough information about it in the guild archive…” (Noa)


“You can’t ever acquire it through the basic or high-rank Fungal Classes,” Obuchi said, “On the contrary, the twelve [Master Threadweaver] had this ability without fail. The three [Master Threadweaver] who are still alive are said to be from the same ancient era as Mr. Abe.”


“They are the ones you mentioned earlier. Oh, that’s why they could live this long…” (Shuu)


“Oink, all of them are the highest amongst people. The governor of New Tokyo, the founder of the Metro Church, and the chief of one of the oldest tribes, the Nerima Tribe. They are living witnesses of history, living heroes who played a major role in the founding of New Tokyo.” (Obuchi)


“They are said to be almost ageless thanks to their [Immortality] Fungal Skill, and they look almost the same as they did a hundred years ago. They are just like Mr. Abe.” (Noa)



 I rested my elbows on the table. The unannounced movement sent Tamiko, who was standing next to me, tumbling to the floor. A squeak of protest rose from the tatami mats.


“…I see… They are survivors from the same era…” (Shuu)



 I’d like to meet them—I can’t help but think so.


 I want to hear about their lives, about the people of that time, about this world.


 I have so many things I want to hear from them.



(I have another goal.) (Shuu)



“Let’s return to the topic of  [Master Threadweaver]” Obuchi said, “In addition to the six systems of Fungal Skills, a [Master Threadweaver] can also use unique skills that only a [Master Threadweaver] can acquire, such as [Immortality]. Since they are named after the country, they are that special.” (Obuchi)


“How many Fungal Skills does Mr. Abe have?” Noa said,


“Um… 17 I guess?” (Shuu)



 Noa laughs in amazement, and Obuchi holds his head in his hands.



“I have three at present.” (Noa)


“I’m also three. You might think that’s not a lot from your point of view, but it’s a lot. The most common basic Fungal Classes usually learn four to six Fungal Skills over the course of their lifetime, and if they can learn more than that, they are more than happy. It seems that if it’s a High-rank Fungal Class, it’s around ten.” (Obuchi)


“I would have about five or six abilities that suit my aptitude… In addition, it is not possible to choose which skills you can learn. The most popular theory is that the kind of ability given will reflect the individual’s aptitude and experience cultivated up to that point, but this is still a hypothesis. No matter how much you cry ‘I want this ability!’, it is still unknown whether or not you will be able to learn it.” (Noa)



 In other words, a skill loot box. The maximum number for basic Fungal Class is around six, so it’s quite a tough situation.



 So far, I’ve used all my Fungal Skills other than my fourteenth, and I have three or four with cheat performance. If you are quite blessed with a loot box and brag about it on social media, it seems that your bones will be ground to dust.



“But seventeen… You are quite far from humans than I am, Oink.” (Obuchi)


“According to the notebook of my great-grandfather… a certain [Master Threadweaver] had twenty-eight Fungal Skills and was level 98. Perhaps the three people who are still alive are that capable.” (Noa)


“Seriously?” (Shuu)



 There is always someone better.



“That’s stronger and far more monstrous… The upper limit of basic Fungal Class levels is at most level 65, no matter how hard we try, you can’t break the limit.” (Noa)



 Is there a level cap for all Fungal Classes? If that is the case, then my level 68 is beyond the limit of the basic Fungal Classes, which is indeed “quite amazing!” I guess that’s what they meant before.



“Of course, the reason you were able to become so strong in such a short period of time (five years) is due to your own efforts, but I think it also has something to do you’re your Fungal Class. In the case of a typical hunter, if he can raise his level by three points per year, he is doing well. Of course, the higher the level, the harder it gets.” (Noa)


“The rest is thanks to me, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Yeah. I’ll pay you back soon.” (Shuu)



 Tamiko also moved from 12 to 40 in five years, so she seems to be in fairly good growth.



“Oink. The level of the metro beast that you’ve been dealing with before was also a factor. It’s not sane for a normal hunter to fight with over 50 metro beasts day after day. In terms of density, it’s multiple times more than normal. It’s also those things.” (Obuchi)


“It was a hellhole, though.” (Shuu)


“We almost squeaked to heaven.” (Tamiko)



 I give a deep sigh and sip tea from my teacup. It has become tepid.


 The rain was getting heavier and heavier. The sound of banging on windows and roofs fills the room as everyone falls silent.



“I don’t mean to be immodest… but why do I feel like one.” (Shuu)



 It’s too sudden for such a turn of events to really absorb it. It is like on my fifteenth birthday, my mother suddenly said to me, “You are a hero! Go on a journey!”


 In my previous life, there was nothing special. I was just the son of an office worker, not a hero. If we go back one more step, I am the grandson of a farmer.


 I was neither good nor bad in studies nor athletics, and I was just a bit above average in his university class. My sales performance was second, or rather middling, among the three of us of the same age. I was never particularly popular with girls. I was just an ordinary guy.



(… Why me…) (Shuu)



 It was thanks to this very rare Fungal Class that a mediocre person like myself was able to make it this far.


 It makes sense when you think about it, but is there any other explanation than calling it a trick of God to be able to work side by side with only twelve chosen beings?



“…I’m glad to know all this, even if I don’t feel it yet. Thanks, Noa.” (Shuu)



 She was aware of it, and she was taking care of things.


 She was also right; it was a very long story.


 If I had heard such a convoluted story in the metro, I might not have been able to get out.



“I was glad that Noa was the first person I met. I owe it all to Noa and her great-grandfather.” (Shuu)


“But… Mr. Abe and Ms. Tamiko are my saviors…” (Noa)



 Noa scratches her cheek shyly. I want to use her expression as an alarm or on the screen of my smartphone, especially with her blushing cheeks.



“I’m glad you said that, but actually… there is a more important part.” (Noa)


“Huh?” (Shuu)


“Squeak?” (Tamiko)



 Is there still more to it? To be honest, I’d like to organize it into a university manuscript.



“I think Mr. Abe needs to hide his Fungal Class from the public as much as possible because if it is known, there will be chaos.” (Noa)





 Taking a short break.


 Noa pours tea into everyone’s teacups. The teapot was already lukewarm, and no steam rose from it.



“I’m not going to go around telling everyone about… but what’s wrong with it spreading?” (Shuu)



 Tamiko and I can’t fully absorb the conversation and squeeze our heads together.


 I was listening and thinking about it from the very beginning, but why is it that bad? Certainly, when it is quite rare, it seems that I will be looked at with various gazes from the surroundings, and I understand that I want to keep it as secret as much as possible.



“The foundation of New Tokyo was laid by the 12 [Master Threadweaver]. They brought together people who had survived the destruction, created tribes in various regions, and rebuilt the country. Since then, there have been conflicts and infighting among the tribes, repeated attacks from the Metro Beasts, and the [Demon War] of fifty years ago.” (Noa)


“So, to speak, they have [Immortality] and yet they still died.” (Shuu)


“I don’t know who gave it that name… but it is just a name that is used by all living things, no matter how grandiose your name is. All creatures will die and return to the earth one day.” (Yui)



 The first time I fought the Boss Slime, I almost died because I could not heal my wounds due to lack of nutrition. So, there is a limit to the ability to regenerate, after all.



“In the eight existing tribes,” Noa said, “Except for the Nerima Tribe, the chiefs are mainly High-rank Fungal Class bearers. Basically, the chief is hereditary—a relative succeeds him or her. The Fungal Class also tends to be passed on to children randomly, but ‘Nerima Tribe’ was not inherited even by the descendants of ‘Nerima Tribesmen’. A [Master Threadweaver] has not appeared in any other family except for the first twelve.”


“I thought that the higher ranks were inherited from one’s parents.” (Shuu)


“That is most likely the case,” Obuchi said. “It is said that a hunter couple is likely to have passed down their Fungal Class, but it is also possible for the [Peasant]’s child to have one. It also happens similar to becoming a demihuman. It is inherited, but it can also be caused by mutation. I was a normal child until I was about five years old, but after that, I began to change rapidly, and in no time at all, I was similar to a piglet. There is even a theory that it is some kind of viral disease. Oink.”


“Wow.” (Shuu)


“Squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Anyway,” Noa said, “In that sense, the [Master Threadweaver] are the symbols that laid the foundation of this country, and they are still considered sacred to the people. The prestige of the Metro Government, the charisma and influence of the Church, and the extraordinary leadership behind the Nerima Tribe—all of these are in no small part due to the fact that the [Master Threadweaver]’s are at the top. I am sure that other leaders are not necessarily superior to the rest of the organization. …however, if the thirteenth [Master Threadweaver] were to appear now, how would each tribe react? I can’t even imagine it.”


“What do you mean…” (Shuu)


“I mean, Mr. Abe,” Obuchi said, “You may not be aware of it yourself, but you are not only a very rare person in New Tokyo, but you are also a possible political leader.”


“That’s an exaggeration…” (Shuu)



 So, I am a person who can influence the world whether I want to or not.


 How is it possible that such an ordinary, baby-faced ex-office worker could rise to the ranks of the super VIPs who cause such a stir?



“One can only speculate,” Obuchi said, “But I think it’s possible that Mr. Abe’s existence can cause chaos. If Abe’s existence becomes public knowledge, I wonder if the chiefs and executives of the other tribes will feel at peace. They may try to force you into their tribe, or worse, they may seek to eliminate you as a disturbance to the status quo…”


“Hey, stop. I’m really scared now.” (Shuu)


“Well, it’s just the worst-case scenario. This is unprecedented, so I can only imagine what might happen… Whether it’s the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or the Church, there’s no doubt that there will be a lot of noise from every direction. In anticipation of that, Ms. Ikari brought Mr. Abe to this town.” (Obuchi)



 Everyone’s eyes are on Noa.



“Sugamo is a city governed autonomously by its citizens. Even if a [Masther Threadweaver] were to become known to the public, the impact would be less than in a Tribe’s territory. Ms. Ikari took that into consideration when he brought us to Sugamo.” (Obuchi)



 Noa is looking embarrassed. The reason why she didn’t choose the Ikebukuro was not because of her concern for the wild wolf fashion, but there was a reason 10,000 times deeper than that.



“And it was for Mr. Abe’s sake that he had me and Mistress Yui present at this meeting.” (Obuchi)


“Huh?” (Shuu)


“For Mr. Abe’s future, you needed a well-spoken ally who knows the situation. The reason why I was here was because I am a peddler and I have a well-known face. This is quite an interesting situation. Moreover, I am honored that you trusted me.” (Obuchi)


“Well, I can’t do something like kicking sand on the face of the person who saved my life, right” (Yui)



 Obuchi and Yui smile wryly.


 I then turn to Noa.



“Why do this much…?” (Shuu)



 After knowing my true nature in that metro, she thought about my precarious position, brought me to this point, and she even chose to draw Obuchi and Yui to my side.


 She has only known me for a couple of days or so. Even as a way of repaying the favor of saving her life, she was willing to get involved in such a troublesome situation.



 Noa laughs a little and shakes her head saying, “It’s nothing.”



“The present is finally over. Let’s talk about the future.” (Noa)



 –The future?


 Tamiko is looking anxiously at me. I could only pat her head.



“…How do you plan to live in the future?” (Noa)



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