Metro Labyrinth Chapter 45: Thread is a Connection, Thread is Fate

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 Noa is waiting for us with lunch ready. Her beige apron fitting her is a dangerous sight.


 When we tell her I have passed, she is overjoyed as if it were her own. I take her hand in both of mine and shake it, then she hugged Tamiko.



“Oh, Sis. You look like you have bedhead everywhere, you know?” (Noa)


“Ex-squeak me… I’ve been squeak-jured…” (Tamiko)



 Even so, we received a large number of acorns stored at her office desk as an apology, well I think she’s a very weird person. I don’t understand why such things are always available, and I also don’t understand why she said to me, “It’s not yours, it’s Tamiko-shi’s. I don’t care much about any old cat.” I have to say that it’s quite something to see. Who in their right mind likes acorns?



“You haven’t had lunch yet, right? I’ll cook the noodles right away.” (Noa)



 The interview started at noon and ended at 2 o’clock. This is because the epic spar with Aomoto and my story about my (fake) background was prolonged. I forgive the young man who called me uncle since he waited quite a while.



 Noa cooked the dry noodles and stir-fried them with bacon and mushrooms.


 A peperoncini-like meal is ready. Its garlicky aroma smells delicious.



“Yummy! Salty good, *nom* *nom*! The taste is squeaky!” (Tamiko)


“Is it a little too garlicky? It might be too garlicky for me–” (Noa)


“It’s great, it’s quite delicious.” (Shuu)



 It’s actually good. The noodles are slightly al dente and you can taste the wheat flavor. The salt and pepper are just right, and the noodles are not as greasy even as shiny as they look. The crispiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the mushrooms are also good.



“You are really good at cooking, Noa.” (Shuu)


“Because I cooked a lot for my great grandfather.” (Noa)



 The first half of my fictitious personal background is based on Noa’s life when she lived with her great-grandfather. She was actually born in a village near Ikebukuro and raised by her great-grandfather, a hunter after she lost her mother. As for why her great-grandfather passed away, she is still unable to tell me, saying, “It was for various reasons”, and thus I still don’t know.



“Thanks to your great grandfather, I was saved. To be honest, it was a lot to lie, but somehow I managed to avoid being found out.” (Shuu)


“I’m glad to hear that. It was worth all the preparation.” (Noa)


“Oh, right… they said something strange at the end. The two of us have a beautiful marble or something like that. What did she mean by that?” (Shuu)



 The wooden fork falls from Noa’s hand.



“…No way… [Mind’s Eye] Fungal Nature…” (Noa)


“Hmm? What? Mind’s eye fungal nature?” (Shuu)


“Do you know if it was a Fungal Skill?” (Noa)


“I don’t know, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I don’t know.” (Shuu)



 As a matter of course, I grew up in Otsuka Metro, so I don’t know.



“Although it is sometimes called Fungal Nature or Ability, it is a different ability from the Fungal Skill some hunters learn.” (Noa) [T/N: It’s in katakana as アビリティ or abiriti or ability.]


“Uo, Ability! There is such a thing!” (Shuu)



 The Fungal Level, Fungal Skill, Fungal Class, and now a Fungal Ability. It is an assortment of game-like terms.



“How are they different from Skills?” (Shuu)


“A Fungal Ability appears on anyone, but it does not always appear on everyone who has a Fungal Class, and the conditions have not been known. Unfortunately, I do not have one… I want to believe that it will bloom someday. but…” (Noa)


“I hope it appears.” (Shuu)


“Ah, I’m sure you will have one! Sly Mr. Shuu, who has a lot of cheat skills and a broken Fungal Class!” (Noa)


“I’m very, very sorry.” (Shuu)


“Tee~hee~, it’s just a joke.” (Noa)


“It didn’t sound like a joke.” (Shuu)


“Yeah, Noa was squea-ry for a moment.” (Tamiko)



 Noa regained her composure and continued.



“The difference between Fungal Ability and Fungal Skill is not clear, but each person capable of having one, but it is not something like producing common hypha armaments. It is typically more like [Leaping] and [Herculean Strength], a buff-type ability, it could be a special perception-like ability like Sis’s Risk Counter, or a hypha weapon that is stronger than the others, or where it is less draining. There are many different types.” (Noa)


“I see. They are like an individual’s optional ability?” (Shuu)


“There are several types of abilities that have been confirmed, and they are listed in the book of Fungal Skills. One of them is the [Mind’s Eye].” (Noa)


“Oh, so Ms. Kaike has this rare ability? Was she a hunter?” (Shuu)


“About level 12, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“[Mind’s eye] is… a Fungal Ability that allows you to see the emotions of the other person…” (Noa)



 My fork now slips from my hand.



“…Is that really true?” (Shuu)


“Yes… it’s a super rare ability.” (Noa)



 Ability to see emotions. Is it something like the ability to read minds?


 A large amount of sweat crawled down my back in an instant.


 So—did she see my emotions with that power?



“… Maybe it was quite the magnificent lie, or it was all just unbelievable…?” (Shuu)


“No, I don’t think that’s the case. It can only capture anger, hostility, fear, sadness, and those kinds of emotions. It’s not the ability to read someone’s mind completely, so it’s going to be okay… Maybe…” (Noa)



 Even so, I think she must have found something in my feelings as I kept talking on and on about the unbelievable story. Perhaps I was feeling guilt, impatience, fear, and more.


 Or perhaps she had discerned the truth and my true intentions through my answers to her series of questions.



“In a normal interview, they would assess the person’s personality on the spot,” Noa said. “It’s not strictly possible to do so after just a short conversation, but that’s where such talent is valuable for any branch, and they have to balance that… but I didn’t expect that an interviewer with such super-rare abilities will appear. …it was completely unexpected…” (Noa)



 However, Kaike decided to pass my application. After seeing through my emotions.


 I wonder how she saw. How much did she catch and how much of it did she tolerate?


 What was her true intention?



“…I don’t understand… People’s hearts.” (Shuu)



 That’s it.


 After thinking a little, I can’t understand the feelings of a person with who I just exchanged a few words.


 Now I finally saw—what was actually scary was the causal girl than the female Yokozuna.





 The next day, I go up to the second floor of the guild and I was taken to yesterday’s waiting room.


 The young man from yesterday is also there. He, too, had passed the test.



“It’s a little early, but now that everyone is here, I’d like to start the training session for new guild members.” (Woman)



 It was not Kaike or Aomoto, but a woman with glasses.



“My name is Tanabe, an employee of the Sugamo branch. I will ask each of you to give a brief self-introduction. Please state your name and age.” (Woman => Tanabe)



 And so it was time for the newcomers to introduce themselves to each other.


 The young man who called Noda an “Uncle” was Kurano Atsushi, 18 years old. He is a farmer from outside the East Gate.



 Abe Shuu is a late-comer rookie. “I’m 28 years old.” “Hey, uncle,” Kurano said. IAs a senior in life, I vowed not to be accused of workplace harassment.



 And Tamiko, “Tamiko, 10-squeak-old!” For some reason, the staff members who gathered behind us gave her the most applause today. Aomoto who appeared before I knew was giving passionate applause behind us.



 After that, he hands me some documents. It seems to be for today’s class.


 The first one is about the law of this country, the Tokyo law regarding hunters, and Tamiko gets bored early and starts counting sheep. I promised Tanabe that I will make sure she will review it later.



 She says that the only law that pertains to hunters is the general framework of the Tokyo Law and that the rest of the rules are set by the head office and each branch. Even I from the Heisei era can understand these rules, which are within the bounds of common sense. I feel that the rules are a bit loose, or perhaps even toothless, but perhaps that is just the way it is in the post-collapse world.



 Mission Requests—How to get quests, receive rewards, and buy and sell hunt materials. It’s not too difficult to understand that.



 However, when it comes to taxation, things get a bit more complicated. Roughly speaking, two taxes must be paid every year: a membership fee to the guild, and a citizen’s tax to the city of Sugamo.



“The tax is based on the previous year’s income in the city of Sugamo.” (Tanabe)


“You have to fill in your income and expenses in your hunter’s handbook, then go to the tax office at the end of the year and do the taxes.” (Tanabe)


“If you’re found to have failed to file your taxes, you’ll be liable for additional taxes.” (Tanabe)


 Ah, taxes. I never thought I would have to deal with them after a hundred years from my time.


 They haunt us like shadows and make us feel sad like the darkness of night. That is taxation.


 As long as it is an analog world, I feel that there may be any number of loopholes. But I don’t have the confidence to show that kind of cunning, and I want Obuchi to teach me how to minimize taxes later.



“—That’s all for now. Last but not least, please take a look here.” (Tanabe)



 Tanabe pointed to a vertical picture frame. On the frame, there is a Japanese paper on which are written characters that look as if they are earthworms drawn by a brush.



“Can you read the characters in the frame?” (Tanabe)


“Abeshuu’s poop, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“It’s not poop. Those are letters.” (Shuu)


“Excuse me.” (Tanabe)



 I tugged at her cheek pouch.



“The founder of the Hunter’s Guild, the first Chief, left this book, although this is just a replica, it says: ‘Thread is a connection, the thread is fate’.” (Tanabe)



 —The thread is a connection, the thread is fate.



“We are the ‘people of threads’, carrying mycelium in our bodies. The threads weave the bonds between people and lead us to our destiny. …These words are filled with such meaning. The fact that we have met here, and that you have become hunters here in Sugamo, are all the ties of a thread that will be spun over time. …I hope that what will be spun in the future will be a path of good fortune and bounty, as fellow weavers of the same path.” (Tanabe)



 Secretly, my heart was unexpectedly moved, just a little bit.



A/N: Next chapter is the last of “Aokigahara Forest-Sugamo Arc”.

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