Metro Labyrinth Chapter 5.3: After Six Months

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“Indeed, squeak, you are a capable companion now, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“You have never fought with me, though.” (Shuu)



 If her self-assessment of level 14 is true, she could be a good match against a Ghost Wolf. However, I don’t think she is suited for combat, and I don’t intend to let her do it from just imagining it.



“We’ve been doing this for a while, squeak, and it’s okay to play with the small fries for a little while more, and enjoy it, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“You don’t have much ambition.” (Shuu)



 Once I got used to handling the fire, I began to find life here more fulfilling.


 Warm foods such as grilled meat and mushrooms are an exquisite luxury for a tongue that is becoming accustomed to the taste of sporangium (the first thing I want right now is neither a refrigerator nor a smartphone, but seasonings).



 Even the fake tea made from dark-green mycelium plants dipped in hot water has added color to my gray Metro life as a luxury item (I made the water heater and other tools by hand-carving stone).


 I made simple jackets, pants, and socks out of dried wolfskin and straw twine. Through trial and error, I also made a bag and a water bottle using a bladder. I am now a capable survivor.


 However, for safety reasons, we cannot use fire freely at all times. Basically, I still live on a diet of weeds, mushrooms, and sporangia, and only indulge in such luxuries as roasted wolf thighs when I am mentally stressed.



“Even if I continue to hunt wolves at my current pace, how long will it take me to reach level 50? I really don’t want to be in the metro and be in retirement, so I think it’s time for me to take the next step up.” (Shuu)


“Abeshuu, that kind of mindset can lead to a dangerous situation.” (Tamiko)


“What?” (Shuu)


“Abeshuu is getting stronger and more skilled, squeak. The time between a newbie and veteran is the most dangerous, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“As a squirrel, you have the habit of talking a lot.” (Shuu)


“When you get a little stronger, squeak, you might want to focus on the Red Goblins, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Ah, those guys…” (Shuu)



 The image of the individual who was chewed to death by the elite wolf is strong, but still, presumably on the same or higher level than my current self.



“Goblins are nasty creatures, squeak. They are disgusting, obnoxious, and noisy, and they have a horrible laugh, squeak. They eat cockroaches, wolves, and anything else they can get their hands on, squeak. They have chased me around many times, squeak. I’m so squeaking pissed off that I’m going to squeak them out of existence.” (Tamiko)


“A personal grudge, but I’m the one who’s going to do it though.” (Shuu)



 A Blue Goblin is not a dangerous enemy if you are dealing with one, but what about if you are dealing with more than one? Then, there are Red Goblins that have a high probability of having Fungal Skills, I worry about what they can do.



“The Ghost Wolf’s territory is on the opposite side of the river from the Goblin’s territory, squeak. If you go there, you will be attacked by a lot of goblins, squeak. They are always hunting, so we have to be careful, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I see.” (Shuu)


“I’m worried that since we’re a little far from the hideout, squeak, we might run into something else that’s stronger, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Hmm, I don’t want to go without preparing… I’ll have Tamiko check…” (Shuu)


“I’ll leave it to you, Abeshu, squeak, so I have no choice but to properly search, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“I got another one. We’re making progress.” (Shuu)


“Abeshuu, eat it and don’t worry, squeak. I’m already full, squeak.” (Tamiko)


“Oh, you want me to eat the remaining ones. I’ll take it without worry.” (Shuu)



 It is an eating habit unbecoming of a modern human to eat the leftovers of squirrels, but common sense and manners are useless in a human-free space. As I finish the rest of the sporangium, my back suddenly feels hot. See, that’s why it’s not stupid.



“Oh! Hey there Tamiko! My back is hot, I got a skill again!” (Shuu)


“You did it, squeak! Abeshu, try it right away, squeak!” (Tamiko)



(Yeah, it’s been a long time and I’m really ecstatic.) (Shuu)



 It’s been about four months since the [Hypha Shield].


 I had stabilized from my initial low-level predicament, and instead, the pace of level advancement had slowed down, and now I was looking forward to the next level up.



 It is cathartic to be able to step up steadily in a tangible way and to have it feed back into one’s own physical body. It is a pleasure that cannot be experienced from the sidelines of the digital world beyond the screen. If there’s a salary increase came every month, it might feel like this.



“All right let’s get it out of the way. Tamiko, stay away from me.” (Shuu)



 Focusing on my palm.



(Get out… appear… my new skill, get out…) (Shuu)



 And then, the mycelium appeared and began to gather together, and a new one emerged.



“It came out! It’s a mycelial ball again!” (Shuu)



 It is a milky white sphere. It is about the same size as the Burning Ball. There is a red cross-like mark in the center.



“Abeshuu, try it, squeak!” (Tamiko)


“Ah, yeah. Throw, consume, feed, right?” (Shuu)



 It is possible that it is something that needs to be handled delicately like the Burning Ball, but somehow, I don’t sense any danger. I instinctively know that.


 I let Tamiko step back and release it with a flick to the ground a few meters away.


 The mycelium ball falls to the ground in front of Tamiko and me, who are protecting our heads. And then—nothing happens. At all.



 I get closer and check. The cocoon of mycelium has turned into a shriveled cocoon, and a stain is spreading on the humus. It was as if all the water in the cocoon had been drained out. I poked it with a tree branch, but there was no reaction. I poked and tore at it, but it just crumbled to pieces.



“I don’t think it’s for throwing.” (Shuu)



 So, should we either consume it or feed it to others? If it is poisonous, it would inevitably backfire, so I am sorry to say that I would have to perform animal experimentation.



 We quickly catch a mouse walking around (whether it is a mouse or a cockroach, we can catch it with our bare hands without any mental resistance). I take out the white mycelium ball again and bring it near its mouth. The mouse smells it and bites it. Chewing and munching. It looks a little bit cute.



“…It seems to be fine.” (Shuu)



 We return to the lair and continue to observe the rat we brought back. The rat trapped in the wolfskin pouch does not show any abnormalities after more than 30 minutes. On the contrary, they have become energetic and are squeaking and thrashing around. I feel sorry for it, so I let it out of the passageway.



“By the way, can Tamiko talk to it?” (Shuu)


“Don’t put me in the same room with that little sh*t. You should be talking to a rock you baby-faced sh*thead.” (Tamiko)


“The next animal experiment is us. Here, eat my ball(s).” (Shuu)


“Stop it, you’re abusive squeaker! Don’t you dare get those squeaking stinking balls near! Stop, stop—delicious, squeak…!” (Tamiko)




 Tamiko who takes a bite of the mycelial ball relaxed.



“Nom, nom… very juicy, slightly sweet, squeak… Is this is the sweets that Mother told me, squeak…?” (Tamiko)


“I doubt it.” (Shuu)



 I also try to bite myself. A translucent liquid spills from the mycelium, which tastes slightly sweet. It is certainly not bad, but there is still a mushroom-like rawness to it. It feels strange to be nibbling on something that comes from my own self.



“It doesn’t seem to be poisonous, but it’s not very tasty either… What’s this thing’s effect?” (Shuu)


“But I do get a little bit of energy, squeak.” (Tamiko)



 It certainly tastes a little medicinal, like it’s something good for you.


 I should probably test it out a little more. Incidentally, Tamiko’s face was also stuffed full like a bun with another one of my mycelial balls.


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