Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 1 Prologue & Chapter 1

Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Deus ex-Machina, Rockgollem, ratorasepo



When I came to, I found myself in an unfamiliar forest.

I was lying with my limbs spread out amidst these unknown trees.

「Huh…?」

I propped myself up and surveyed the surroundings with giddy eyes.

This was a forest.

I was in an unfamiliar forest.

No, I grew up in a prosperous city, so I didn’t have a 「forest I was familiar with」 anyway. But this place felt like the Amazon rainforest and didn’t feel like Japan at all.

The trees with weird twists and turns.

Giant fern-like vegetation.

Exotic flowers that looked poisonous.

Bird calls I had never heard before.

Layers of leaf canopies blocked out the sky; I couldn’t even tell the color of the heavens.

Where the hell am I?

Most of my body was hidden beneath the thick undergrowth. I started inspecting myself.

I was dressed in white, with white chef uniform, apron, and shoes.

There was a black logo with words 『Tsurumi Restaurant』 on my chest.

My hair was wrapped in a bandana. Was this my usual attire?

Why was I lying here dressed like this?

I crossed my legs and sat down, trying to recall what happened before I lost consciousness.

And… while I was shifting my body, my hand touched something.

It was hard and smooth and felt like polished wood.

I pulled that thing out of the grass. It was a Santoku knife in a pure-white sheath.
<TL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santoku>

Its black handle fitted my palm well. The blade was 21 cm long.

I recognized the knife without needing to draw it out of its white wooden sheath. This Santoku knife was a prized product from the old knife shop in Kyoto 『Shop Sakaki』. My dad treasured this knife more than his own life.

The moment I laid eyes on this knife, I remembered the entire incident.


I’m Tsurumi Asuta.
<ED: 津留見明日太>

My family name’s kanji Tsu of Tsugaru, stay and see. My given name could be read as 「becoming fat tomorrow」.

Seventeen years old and in the second year of a public high school. Height 170 cm, weight 58 kg and not exceptionally fat. I was born in Kanto Chiba, not in Tsugaru city.

My family runs an eatery called 『Tsurumi Restaurant』. Our business wasn’t bad, or rather, it always had been good until those guys showed up last month.

The building beside us was set to be renovated into a composite entertainment complex, and the new owner requested us to sell the eatery to him.

On the surface, his reason was: 「I want to build a parking lot here」.

But his real thoughts were: 「I plan to build a food court inside the entertainment complex, and the popular eatery right beside it would probably be bad for business.」.

We had no reason to accept his one-sided request and rejected him firmly. But the other party wasn’t that simple and appeared to have connections to the underworld. There were rumors that he seized control of his building from the original owners through nefarious means.

And so, when the building renovation started, they started harassing us.

The vandalizing of the steel shutter of the shop with the words 「Horribly polluted」, constant silent phone calls, carcasses of cats being dumped at the shop entrance… In other words, they employed classic coercion methods.

Only one of their harassment methods kept up with modern times. They left comments on review websites, spreading rumors that 「Customers visiting this eatery often suffer from food poisoning」.

And of course, our usual patrons weren’t fazed by such rumors and dined here as usual. But the number of new customers and university students visiting after class fell, and this reflected in our account book.

Surprised by how much influence such websites had, I became depressed.

Even so, my dad still said with a smile:

「People actually believe such garbage. It is their loss to miss out on my dish.」

What happened sometime later finally took his smile away.

It occurred just a few hours ago.

Dad instructed me to prepare the ingredients for the evening crowd and went out to stock up supplies. While outside, he had an accident with a pick-up truck and was rushed to the hospital.

After receiving an emergency call from the hospital, I rushed there in my chef attire.

My dad was still smiling on his hospital bed.

He was smiling despite his legs having suffered complex fractures.

His arm and head were wrapped in bandages which were stained with blood in a few spots. A van traveling at 80 km/h collided with my dad. Even the doctor was surprised and said: 「It’s a miracle he survived.」

It was a hit-and-run. Many witnesses said the vehicle’s plate was removed, and the driver wore a knit cap and shades, concealing his face.

It was a carefully planned perfect crime.

Even so, my dad was still smiling. If they really wanted to kill him, they probably needed a dump truck.

「So, when I can be discharged?」

When the heavily injured patient asked with a smile, the young doctor looked troubled.

「No, well, instead of being discharged, you need to undergo a brain scan and operations on your legs…」

「Alright. But when can I be discharged?」

「I can’t really tell at this point… Both of your legs have complex fractures; who knows how long rehabilitation alone would take…」

「I see. I will leave this to you then, but I need to attend to my shop. I don’t mind using a wheelchair, but please discharge me as soon as possible. If I leave my shop to this dumbass, it will close down.」

The dumbass my dad mentioned was me, of course.

My dad was a man who would work to his death with his knife even if he needed a wheelchair or crutches.

Even I felt like laughing when I thought about that.

At this moment… I received a call from my childhood friend Reina.

She told me: 「『Tsurumi Restaurant』 is burning!」

When I told dad about that, the smile was gone from his face for the first time.

「Asuta! The knife! At least save that knife from the fire!」

I charged out of the room and dashed to the eatery at a faster speed than the one I had during my journey to the hospital.

Dad valued that Santoku knife from 『Shop Sakaki』 more than his own life. A real chef will be able to satisfy his customers no matter what ingredients or tools he has! Although it was dad’s favorite phrase, he would always say the following about the knife purchased at the traditional knife shop 『Shop Sakaki』 in Kyoto and passed down from the previous generation: 『But, I can’t do it without this guy』.

Only that knife… keep it safe.

Despite the harassment, truck’s hit-and-run, fractures in both legs and terrible business, my dad’s heart didn’t waver. But, after losing the Santoku knife from 『Shop Sakaki』, his heart would shatter.

That’s why I ran with all my might.

But when I reached the eatery, it was already surrounded by dozens of people, and the fire brigade was already putting out the fire.

However, 『Tsurumi Restaurant』 was still surrounded by flames, and the smoke rose into the autumn sky of June.

No matter how much more water was sprayed, the shop would definitely be burned completely.

The intensity of the fire was overwhelming.

Just like in a nightmare.

「Asuta-chan…」

Reina stood with a blank stare. When she saw me, she leaned on to me with a crying face.

I grabbed her slender shoulders and nodded… and then charged into the sea of flames.



Chapter 1. The Absolutely Horrendous Dinner

1

And now, I was here.

I shook off Reina and the firefighters and charged into the flames, and now I found myself in this unfamiliar forest alone. When I made it through the sea of flames back then, I reached the kitchen in a perilous situation and picked up the Santoku knife.

The next instant, the building made an intense sound and started to collapse… I should have been buried together with the Santoku knife and perished under the fire and smoke.

But there weren’t any burns or even a single scorch mark on me at all.

And I had the knife that should have been burned to a crisp with me in my hand.

「This… must be the world after death.」

I tried pinching my cheeks, and it still hurt as expected.

That was only natural. Even if this was the world after death, it didn’t feel like a dream or delusion.

A warm breeze came from the grass.

It was hot and humid.

I felt sweat dripping down my cheeks.

My hand perceived the smooth sensation of the wooden sheath.

… This was definitely neither a dream nor delusion.

「I’m really dead!」

I shouted and sprawled down on the ground again.

My death was pointless. Even while saving something, was it worth risking a life by charging into such an intense sea of flame?

However… I couldn’t just watch idly back then.

I only did something so foolish because I didn’t want to see my dad’s look of despair.

In the end, I couldn’t protect the Santoku knife and even lost my life. So it was useless.

A decade ago, his wife fell to illness. Now, the losses are greater- his shop, his son, and the Santoku knife from 『Shop Sakaki』. What should dad live for?

With the sheathed Santoku knife in my hands, I closed my eyes tightly and gritted my teeth.

If I didn’t do that, I think I would burst into unsightly tears.

Reina is probably crying right now…

I won’t be able to see my childhood friend, who was like a sister to me, or my only living relative, my dad, again. My dad lost everything, and everything was taken from me.

… Just what is the meaning of my life?

As I was thinking about that, I heard rustling from the trees beside me.

After that was a burst of 「Purururu」… That was definitely a grunt of a wild beast.

I stayed on the ground and slowly moved my gaze towards it.

From the shadows of the trees, there was a pair of crimson eyes burning.

What the… Is a ghost or demon going to come out?

It might look like a tropical paradise here, but maybe this wasn’t heaven, but hell?

I couldn’t help thinking that those eyes looked hostile.

Give me a break. I don’t remember doing anything bad in my previous life.

I got up slowly, trying my best to not agitate that thing.

And then… that thing appeared slowly.

Uwah…

It was a wild boar.

Or at least something that looked like a wild boar.

That creature was a quadruped that looked like a boar with a giant body weighing roughly 90 kg.

Its brown bristles that looked black were as hard as steel wires, and its mane extended from its head all the way to its back like a punk head.

It had short limbs, but they were very thick.

Two sharp tusks protruded out, flanking its flat nose.

Beady eyes were on both sides of its face.

Its large round body was short and fat.

The more I looked at it, the more it looked like a boar.

But it wasn’t a boar after all.

Because it had a pair of ivory horns protruding out from its forehead, which were as long as the tusks growing out from its jaw.

「… Uwah!」

I caught a glance of its hind legs kicking off the ground and charging at me.

From what I knew, boars could reach speed up to 40 km/h, but what about this guy?

As far as I knew, boars are omnivorous but don’t have the habit of eating prey alive. Is this animal different? These were my thoughts as I ran with all my might.


I had a hectic time running around when I was still alive, and I still needed to run despite being dead?

I’m dead, so I didn’t need to be afraid. But being stabbed by the sharp horns and tusks of beasts would probably be more painful than my cheeks being pinched.

And so, I was running for my life like a headless chicken.

With no time to look back, I jumped over shrubs, brushed aside branches as I weaved through the trees, running forward without stopping.

I ran and ran… and misfortune struck again.

「Uwahhhh!」

The ground sunk rapidly.

It was a trap hole.

The world started spinning and I felt a dull pain all over my body.

I fell into the depths of the hole in confusion.

「That hurts… Damn it, what the hell, that hurts!」

My body was lying at the bottom of the hole, and I lifted my head.

The forest scenery looked as if it had been cut into a circular shape. The pit looked roughly 3 meters deep.

If this was dug by humans, it was an impressive work.

「Damn it! This joke is going too far. Really…」

Fortunately, that boar-like creature didn’t fall into the hole with me. I kept the Santoku knife I was holding tightly in my right hand into my shirt and tried to stand up.

That instant, I felt a burning pain in my right ankle.

I seemed to have sprained my ankle during fall.

I was thrown into the depths of the forest in a state of confusion and ran into an unknown creature that chased after me. In the end, I fell into a hole and sprained my leg.

This was the worst bullshit. The situation was so bad that I couldn’t help laughing.

「No, now isn’t the time to laugh!」

As this was not the time to laugh, I tried getting mad.

「Damn it all! I don’t know if you are a god or the devil, but what did I do wrong!? Are my sins really that grave? The way I died might not be worth boasting about, but I don’t remember doing anything that deserves such harsh punishment! If you have a problem with me, banish me to an even harsher hell!」

「… You’re a really noisy man.」

I was surprised as if someone had hit the back of my head with a metal baseball bat.

In the circular piece of sky above my head, a dark figure appeared.

「… Why’re you being so noisy in a place like this?」

The other party spoke with a tone of a man but sounded like a young woman.

Her voice was a little deep and hoarse. Her tone might be cold but it sounded nice to me.

Sparse sunlight through the branches illuminated her from behind, which made it hard for me to discern her face.

So humans exist in this world too. I felt relieved and decided to reply first:

「As you can see, I fell into a hole. I don’t know who dug this hole or why they did it, but this prank has gone too far.」

After a moment of silence, the girl said with an even colder tone:

「… This trap was set by me.」

「Eh?」

「I can’t fill my stomach even if I catch a human. This is meant to trap kiba. You know how much effort I put into digging this hole?」

「Eh? No, this is… my bad? Should I apologize to you?」

「…」

「Hmm, but I’m really sorry about messing up your work. I will apologize to you, so could you help me to get out of this hole?」

「… It’s not so deep; you should be able to climb out yourself.」

That figure seemed to be leaving, so I continued in a hurry:

「No, I actually sprained my ankle when I fell! It’s not that serious, but I can’t leave by myself. Sorry to trouble you, but can you lend me a hand?」

「… Who cares. Just starve to death here.」

That figure vanished.

「Wait! That’s too cruel! Hey, save me!」

She didn’t answer.

Was she really planning to leave me to die?

「Hey! Please! I will really starve to death here! If you have even a little bit of conscience left, come back!」

「… You’re a really noisy man.」

I couldn’t see her, but I definitely heard that girl’s voice.

After that, something weird fell in.

It was a bunch of vines growing all over the forest.

Five of them were bundled together. I gave it a tug, and it felt really secure.

「… Hurry and climb up.」

Huh, so she was planning to rescue me from the very start.

What a cheeky girl. In modern terms, she was a 「Tsundere」.

No matter what, I felt her compassion; considering the grave situation I was in, her actions made me even more grateful. I should give my sincere thanks once I climb up… I thought as I stepped onto the wall.

My sprained ankle still stung, but it wasn’t unbearable. Although the crumbling dirt made it hard to scale, I still climbed with all my might.

But… this situation is really confusing.

If this was hell, why would a savior appear when I was at a loss? That was strange.

What I felt through my senses was very realistic too, just like when I was alive. I couldn’t tell that 「I am really dead.」

Nevermind, things would sort themselves out in the end. With the last bit of my strength, I finally reached the surface.

I escaped the pit safely.

Nightfall was probably imminent, and the surroundings were turning dark.

「That hurts… Thank you… for saving my life.」

I collapsed onto the grass and lowered my head in thanks to the girl, savior who rescued me.

That girl stood with feet apart, crossing her arms as she waited for me. She then quietly pointed the thing in her hand towards my nose.

It was a saber, with a glint in its silver blade.

2

「So, who exactly are you?」

The glimmering saber stopped right before the tip of my nose.

This saber was no joke, 80 cm long and 10 cm wide. It was ruggedly made as if it was modified from a hatchet. Even so, the blade was ground to a razor-sharp edge. With this saber, she could probably cut through the bones and sinews of her prey.

However, now wasn’t the time to be impressed.

「W-What’s the matter? Suddenly greeting me like this is dangerous! I already told you that I will apologize for messing up your trap!」

「Shut up. Hurry up and answer my question.」

The girl was calm and collected… But her cool demeanor was making me afraid.

I sighed and alternated my gaze between the girl’s face and the saber’s blade.

「I want to ask you first, where is this place? This doesn’t feel like the world after death…」

「This is the foot of Mount Morga, called Forest’s Edge.」
<TL: モルガ>

「… Mount Morga?」

「This is Western Kingdom Selva, the territory of Duke Genos… Where the hell did you come from?」
<TL: セルヴァ><TL: ジェノス>

I was completely lost.

But I could only answer honestly.

「I came from a country named Japan. Chiba prefecture of Japan. Do you know that place?」

「Japan… Chiba prefecture…?」

She never heard of that before. How could she have?

This world had nothing in common with 「Japan」 in all sorts of ways.

In the world I lived in, boars didn’t have horns and girls wouldn’t walk around with huge blades on them. Furthermore, that girl’s looks… I had never seen someone who looked like this.

Her skin tone was dark, as brown as dark chocolate.

But her hair was dark blonde.

And her eyes were deep blue.

That girl’s brownish-blonde hair was very long and tied up with straps into a strange pattern. In the dim light, her blue eyes looked strong and sharp.

Her facial features were well-proportioned.

The corners of her eyes were raised a little, like those of a cat’s. She had a thin nose and small pink lips… The lines around her cheeks were soft, making her look young. She should be about my age.

Her looks were really outstanding.

I wouldn’t hesitate in calling her stunningly gorgeous.

Personally, I thought her brown skin paired with her pink lips looked really sexy.

But what was with her attire?

A thick fur cape draped down her shoulders, and clothes with beautiful patterns were wrapped around her chest and waist.

The intrinsic patterns on these two pieces of cloth didn’t feel cheap at all, but her dressing was a little too sexy.

Aside from her clothes, she had a necklace filled with beast horns and tusks. She had bangles of nuts on her wrist, and a sheathed knife hung on her shapely waist.

That attire was all that she wore, and the rest of her smooth brown skin was laid bare. There were some strap-like things on her feet, which should be shoes.

Even though this mesmerizing and scantily clad girl was standing before me, my only thoughts were: 「She sure is scary」.

Although her facial features were cute, her expression was fierce.

A fire burned in her eyes, and, just like a real cat, her cute lips were pursed together tightly.

She was tall for a girl and appeared rather slender.

But she didn’t feel weak at all.

The girl bared her arms, legs, shoulders, and abdomen, and they were as tight as a whip, without a single bit of fat. There were also plenty of white scars on her skin, which reflected how tough her life was.

She was filled with powerful strength, or should I say primal life force. Modern men had become slaves to technology, and would never exhibit such power.

Even so…

What was that smell?

My heart was filled with questions when I came face to face with this extraordinary girl.

It was a complicated fragrance.

A bitter-sweet smell, akin to completely ripe fruits.

At the same time, it had a mysterious feel to it, like budding flowers on the verge of blooming.

The fragrance was refreshing and soothing, just like herbs.

But it had a violent nature, like a strong spice.

It also smelled like the meat and oil of animals, a bloody scent.

These scents mixed together in a complicated matter, stimulating my nasal cavity.

I didn’t want to brag, but since my childhood, my dad let me apprentice in the kitchen, so my sense of smell was keener than others. More importantly, this smell was making me hungry… While I was having these thoughts, my body seemed to perceive them, and my stomach growled.

The girl’s raised blade wavered a little.

「What are you scheming?」

「I’m not scheming anything… I’m just hungry.」

My stomach rumbled again.

How unsightly.

The girl raised her beautiful brow and showed a ferocious face.

「Hey, stop kidding around. Are you making fun of me?」

「I’m not kidding. This is a normal body reaction, I can’t help it. My stomach is reacting because you have a delicious scent.」

「What do you mean? I don’t have any food on me. Because of you, I couldn’t get anything today.」

「Well, I will apologize for wasting your efforts…」

My stomach went 「Growl」 again, overlapping with the end of my sentence.

My stomach was making too much noise.

Sigh, this was bad. The girl scowled her face further, and her shoulders started trembling.

Was I going to face death again for such a dumb reason?

「Anyway, I have no intention of making trouble on your turf. I got left in this place with no idea what is happening. I’m confused too. If you don’t like it, I can leave right away…」「Growl!」

This was really bad.

No matter how sincere my apology was, my stomach kept interrupting me.

As I was thinking about it… the girl suddenly turned her head.

Her right hand was still threatening me with her saber, but she was covering her mouth with her left hand.

Her shoulders were trembling harder.

「… What’s the matter?」「Growl?」

Her blade dropped onto the ground.

The girl’s face was blushed.

「Hey? Are you feeling unwell?」「Growl? Growl, growl?」

「Pfft!」: the girl made a strange sound.

She was staring at me with the tears in her eyes.

「Enough… Stop that…」

Even her voice was turning weak.

That worried me even more.

「Even if you ask me to stop…」「Growl. Growl, growl, growl…」

The girl sat down on her butt with her hand still on the hilt of the saber.

She then started laughing out loud: 「Bwahahaha!」

Hey, her smiling face looked so cute.

So she was simply trying to hold back her laughter just now.

After laughing for a while, she wiped away her tears and stood up. She pointed her saber at me and spit out these words:

「… I will kill you.」

「Why?!」

I was still sitting on the ground and backed away in a panic.

Yet, there was some distance between the maw of the hole I crawled out earlier and me.

The steel blade inched towards my nose.

「This is the most shameful moment of my life… I will definitely kill you.」

Even in the nightfall, I could see that her face was beet red.

Was this her feeling of shame? Or the ultimate in tsundere? That couldn’t be!

No matter what, I couldn’t die here.

When my hand touched the edge of the hole, I raised both hands in surrender.

「If my obnoxious stomach hurt your pride, I apologize! This is all the fault of my empty stomach! Speaking of which, I haven’t eaten since noon!」

「…」

「I’m really confused! I don’t know where I am and why I’m here; all of this just confuses me! I am completely befuddled… If you kill me, why the hell did I…」

Why did I jump into the sea of flames at the cost of my life?

When I thought about that, my throat tightened and the words didn’t come out.

I was at a loss and could only look back at the girl.

There was a sort of glint in the girl’s blue eyes as if she was looking at an unfathomable creature.

「… I don’t understand what you’re saying either.」

She lowered her blade a little.

「Aren’t you a citizen of the Rock city?」

「Rock city? Like I said, my home is a country named Japan.」

「… I have never heard of a country by that name. So, you’re not a citizen under Genos’ rule, huh.」

The girl finally lowered her blade after saying that.

But the doubt and suspicion in her eyes lingered.

However… I felt a complicated wavering emotion that seemed to be hidden behind her fierce eyes.

「… Tell me more.」

The girl said softly.

「Let’s head to my place. If you are not willing to come, I will leave you here.」

「… You’re willing to bring a man of unknown origin like me home?」

「Night is falling. I don’t have time to answer your question here… Let me tell you first: if you don’t prepare a fire beforehand, you will lose your life if you stay inside the forest.」

The girl picked up the leather sheath she dropped near her feet and covered her saber. I looked at the girl’s majestic figure and then supported myself with my hands and stood up.

「I understand, I will do as you say… By the way, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Tsurumi Asuta.」

「Suroomi… Yazuka?」

「No, Tsurumi Asuta.」

「Choorumi Yasuka…」

She was too cute.

Because the subject was saying this with a serious face, she looked even cuter.

「Hmm. If it’s difficult for you to pronounce, just Asuta would do. What’s your name?」

「… Ai Fa.」
<TN: アイ=ファ>

She said her name and turned her back to me.

She had a slender body, but she was shorter than me, around 167-168 cm.

Her height was approximately average and build - thin and slender, so how did she lift that scary saber with just one hand? Maybe she had different muscle or bone density, and the structure of her body was different from any people I knew.

As I was thinking leisurely about all that, the girl glared at me sideways.

「What are you doing? Don’t your feet hurt? Hold onto my shoulder.」

「Huh, is that fine?」

「Time is precious, hurry up.」

I was a little hesitant, but still put my right arm around Ai Fa’s right shoulder.

The next second, she elbowed my chest.
「I didn’t tell you to put your arm around me. I just told you to grab my shoulder.」

「Uwah… I see.」

I patted my chest softly as I grabbed Ai Fa’s left shoulder with my right hand.

I wasn’t hurt that badly, so this was enough to help me walk.

The girl was wearing a thick fur cape anyway, so I could only feel the rough sensation of her cape.

「… You’re hiding a knife on your chest, don’t you?」

「Eh?」

I stopped in surprise.

When I put my arm around her, my chest lightly brushed her back. How could she feel that through such a thick piece of leather?

Compared to her elbowing of my chest, this reaction was much scarier.

「Did you notice that during such a short amount of time? I have no intention of harming you, so don’t worry.」

「Why do I need to worry? If you want to hack me down, you can give it a try.」

Ai Fa glanced back at me and said with an icy gaze:

「But if you attempt that, I will cut your windpipe ahead of you. If you think I’m bluffing, you’re free to attack me… Asuta.」

3

And hence, Ai Fa and I advanced through the forest in the evening.

It was almost night, and the surroundings were dark.

「All because you wasted so much of my time. We need to leave the kiba’s activity zone quickly.」

My hand was on Ai Fa’s left shoulder as I took care not to strain my sprained right ankle and inched forward. I asked back: 「Kiba?」

「You set that trap in order to catch those things? Are you referring to that boar-like creature?」

「… Boar?」

「Yes. Dark skin, round and stout with horns…」

「That’s a kiba, you saw one?」

「I saw one, or rather, it was chasing me. That’s why I fell into that trap.」

「How laughable. When a kiba attacks, you should climb up tall trees. That’s common sense.」

「Like I said, I don’t know such common sense.」: I said as I looked at the shoulder I was holding. 「I want to ask, is that fur cape made from the hide of a kiba?」

「Of course. I’m a denizen of Forest's Edge. People of Forest's Edge routinely hunt kiba, eat their meat, and make a living by selling their horns, tusks, and hide.」

Ai Fa carefully pulled aside the shrugs and glared at me with annoyed eyes.

「… And those citizens of Rock city mock us, the people of Forest's Edge, as 《Kiba eaters》.」

「Hmm? But why? Boars are delicious.」

I wasn’t trying to brag, but during winter break during my second year in middle school, I participated in a farm life experience organized by hunting hobbyists and butchered boars and deer over there. The boar stew I ate back then was absolutely delicious.

「… It’s not a 『boar』, it’s kiba. Kiba meat is tough and smelly. They say the people of Forest's Edge who eat the kiba have the same stench.」

「You’re not stinky at all; your smell is very fragrant.」

Ai Fa’s eyes looked even more unhappy.

Well, girls around this age were hard to handle.

For the sake of Ai Fa’s reputation, I had to make it clear that she didn’t just smell like meat and oil. Her scent was mainly that of bittersweet fruits and refreshing herbs, which complemented the fragrance of the meat perfectly and kept stimulating the part of my brain that controlled my hunger.

「But seriously, my sense of smell is really keen. Kiba must be delicious.」

「… There’s no distinction between food being delicious or not.」

Ah, that was rude. I might still be apprenticing, but I was still a chef. Were those words a challenge against me?

But in this situation, it would be useless to preach about my worldview. So I kept my mouth shut and focused on walking quietly.

We walked in the forest like this for about 15 minutes… Suddenly, my field of vision became wide.

We walked out of the forest.

The sun was about to set.

The orange light illuminated the settlement in the valley.

Ah… So people really live in this world.

I was overwhelmed.

It was dark so I couldn’t see very clearly, but this stony area was made by clearing the forest, and wooden houses were spread sparsely across the place. Red lights could be seen inside of those lodgings, and white smoke from the cooking of dinner rose into the sky.

… See, doesn’t it smell delicious?

The fragrance of the spices and meat’s protein melded into the air.

In order to soothe Ai Fa, I tried my best to suppress my stomach’s growling.

「It feels serene outside the forest, not bad. Roughly how many people live here?」

「How would I know… Probably slightly less than five hundred.」

「Five hundred? This is an enormous settlement. I couldn’t tell that there are so many families.」

「… The settlement where the people of Forest's Edge live is a strip of land stretching from the north to the south, between Mount Morga and Genos’ territory. It would take at least half a day to travel from one end of the forest to the other.」

I understood. As the land was narrow, there would be quite a distance between houses. It’s more comfortable to live with fewer people, but I thought the way the houses were spread didn’t really fit with the term 「settlement」. I tried asking for more information, but an unexpected guest appeared.

「Yo, Ai Fa. Where did this weakling come from?」

A low male voice interjected suddenly.

That surprised me, but Ai Fa just clicked her tongue softly.

「… None of your business, Diga Tsun.」
<TN: ディガ=スン>

「Of course it’s my business. The Tsun House is the ruler of everyone in Forest's Edge.」

A large figure approached swiftly.

It was a young man who was dressed similarly to Ai Fa.

He was tall and well-built. Unfortunately, I could only use the measurement units of my world to describe it, and he was about 180 cm tall. His frame and muscles were lean, and his weight was roughly 80 kg.

His dark-brown hair was cut really short, and he had light-brown skin and a pair of blue eyes. Aside from hair color, he was similar to Ai Fa.

He wore a fur cape on his huge body and cloth material, as well as a large saber and a knife on his waist. Numerous beast tusks and horns hung from his neck, much more than on Ai Fa’s.

He blocked our path, stopping us from advancing and observed me without reservation.

「Hmmp, your clothes are really weird. Where do you live?」

His voice was rough, but he spoke slowly. Listening to him felt uncomfortable.

Although his eye color was similar to Ai Fa, his eyes looked murky.

He was the second human I encountered in this different world, but I didn’t feel any goodwill towards him.

As far as I could remember, I had been helping out with my family business. If a punk like that could rustle my jimmies, that meant I didn’t have what it takes to be a business man’s son. With that in mind, I wanted to be as friendly as I could…

「None of your business.」: Ai Fa said before I could reply.

「Let me tell you, Diga Tsun:, I don’t owe anything to the Tsun House. Not just that, you keep finding trouble with me. I don’t want to talk to you at all. Take your unnecessarily big body with you and disappear from my sight.」

「What did you say…」

Although that man’s face turned stiff, Ai Fa continued:

「Diga Tsun, if you have a problem with me, we can have a duel any time. If you don’t want a confrontation between us, don’t show yourself before me again. You are an eyesore.」

Ai Fa walked away briskly after saying her piece.

As I needed to hold onto her shoulder, I had to keep up with her by jogging. That young man was trembling with anger, and when I passed him, I still nodded in greeting.

「You ostracized weirdo! You better watch your back and don’t get mistaken for a kiba and get your head hacked off!」

The voice of the man who lost his composure echoed throughout the entire foothold of the mountain.

His yell completely spoiled the poetic scenery.

「Can I ask you a question? An outsider like me isn’t in a position to ask this, but shouldn’t you have cordial relations with your neighbors?」

「… The night my father passed away, that man Diga Tsun ambushed me in my room and planned to assault me. So after beating him up, I threw him into the river.」

「…」

「Because he will be the next tribal chief, everyone thinks I was the one that shamed him. No one in the settlement is willing to have anything to do with me… Do you want me to have cordial relations with such a person?」

「I take that back. Nodding at him was wrong. Should I punch him?」

After saying that, I relaxed my grip on Ai Fa’s shoulder and stopped. The next instant, Ai Fa grabbed my right wrist tightly.

Her slender but powerful fingers dug into my hand.

「What idiocy are you saying? Such a man is not worth your time to beat up.」

「But you have been shamed because of him, right? That is too unfair.」

「I am not living in shame. I don’t like interacting with people outside my family anyway, so this is more relaxing.」

She looked at me angrily. Her blue eyes had a strong light of righteousness in them; the previous man couldn’t hold a candle to her.

「However, since I brought you to the settlement, I would need to take responsibility if you harm anyone from Tsun clan. I might get exiled from the settlement because of that… You want me to live in the wild?」

「Ah… That’s true. I’m sorry, I didn’t consider your situation. I’m probably hungry, that’s why I got angry so easily.」

After my words, the stomach seemed to agree with me by growling.

Ai Fa was still grabbing my hand, and her shoulders started trembling again.

「… Are you doing that on purpose? Do you want me to dump you into the river too?」

「I-I’m not good enough to make my stomach growl on command! By the way, if you want to laugh, just do it.」

「Shut up!」

Ai Fa let go of my hand and walked off in large strides.
I grabbed her left shoulder in a hurry.

I watched her ears and the nape of her neck turning completely red and thought about something trivial… The humans in this world are the same too; their bodies feel warm.

4

After walking for another 10 minutes, we reached Ai Fa’s residence.

Like the other lodgings, Ai Fa had a wooden house built on even grounds with some shrubs around it.

From what I observed on the way here, all the houses were rather far apart. But Ai Fa’s house was exceptionally isolated. It was so quiet that it was discomforting.

However, from Ai Fa’s wild attire and the words 「denizens of Forest's Edge」, I thought her residence would be more primitive. On a closer look, the style of the house was unexpectedly nice.

「Oh, your place isn’t too bad.」

It wasn’t as fashionable as a cabin in a vacation resort, but this house was built delicately with bare boards and logs, was spacious, and felt cool. Space alone could match 『Tsurumi Restaurant』.

As the sky had darkened, I couldn’t observe too clearly. Anyway, the special thing about this house was its roof that tilted slightly from left to right. It seemed to be made as timber-frame construction, without using any nails or screws.

A ditch about 50 cm wide and deep was dug around the building, with a log bridging it and leading right to the entrance. Was it used to stop wild animals from entering? Or as drainage for rain? I started to think.

「… What are you doing? Hurry up, go in.」

「That’s right, sorry, sorry.」

The door at the entrance was a horizontal sliding door that felt really Japanese.

I followed behind the mistress of the house and entered timidly.

「Sorry for intruding…」

It was darker inside the house.

However, I could still tell that it was really spacious.

The floor was covered with brown fur. Ai Fa took off her leather slippers at the entrance, and I followed her lead.

I didn’t know what to do with my socks, but I thought it wouldn’t matter even if I didn’t wear them, so I took them off.

I walked barefooted on the rough fur, and it felt a little itchy.

A heavy thud came from behind me.

It was a sound of Ai Fa barricading the door to the entrance with a large piece of wood.

No one will rescue me no matter how much I scream now.

I prayed in my heart that it wouldn’t be necessary to do that and surveyed the room again.

The room was rectangular, about 12 tatami in size. The walls to the left and right had large windows. And, of course, the windows didn’t have things like glass; instead, thin vertical wooden bars which were about 20 cm apart served as a window grill.

The interior of the house was separated by a wall, and I could see three doors.

The ceiling was high and the supporting beams could be seen in clear sight. Like what I saw outside, the roof was tilted slightly to the right. I wasn’t sure, but this design was probably meant to block out the elements.

However… To be honest, instead of the visual information, I was more interested in what my nose was telling me.

Of the complicated fragrances on this girl, there were three of them that lingered in the house strongly.
They were the scents of meat, spice, and herbs.

「… Does your leg still hurt?」

「Eh? It’s not a big deal. It feels hot, but there’s no swelling. Even if it’s not treated, it should heal by tomorrow.」

「… I see.」

Ai Fa walked to the middle of the room and seemed to be thinking.
「I want to ask you some things, but I’m hungry as well. I will prepare dinner.」

「Please go ahead… Erm, I have no way of repaying you, but can I have dinner with you?」

「… If your stomach keeps rumbling, how can I ask you anything?」

She didn’t need to say that through gritted teeth though.

But since she was treating me to a meal without asking for anything in return, I was very grateful. With the fragrances in the house, I could faint if she forbade me to eat.

So, dinner preparation began. The moment I stepped into the house, I immediately confirmed the space that served as a kitchen, which was the area near the window to the right.

It was a square, the sides of which were about 2 m long. The kitchen was the only place that didn’t have any fur rugs but there were white stones covering the ground, and yellow stones formed a trapezoid base right over there.

The base reached to about my waist, and there was an empty black hole right at its front. And on top of that base was… a black gleaming metal pot.

Its design might be simple, but this base was definitely a 「stove」.

Beside the stove were bundles of small wood, which were probably used as firewood.

So this house had an inbuilt kitchen.

Everyone cooked and ate together. That might be their custom.

However… In this spacious house, there was just me and Ai Fa.

「By the way, is your family away?」

「… I already told you that my father is dead. My mother, on the other hand, has been dead for a long time.」

There was a water jug beside the stove. Ai Fa used a long ladle to scoop up water and poured it into the pot as she spoke.

I still didn’t know the common sense and reasoning of this world and could only answer: 「I see」.

While we were talking, Ai Fa started the fire in the stove.

How did she do that? I should have watched her actions more carefully.

Anyway, the room was gradually turning brighter.

「… Why are you standing there? It’s an eyesore, hurry up and sit.」

「Oh, well, where should I sit? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand this land’s culture and customs at all.」

Ai Fa stood up and looked at me in surprise.

「It’s just sitting down, what that has to do with culture? You are a strange man.」

I noticed a small light between her hands, which intrigued me.

It was a small plate-like wick stand with a handle.

After the saber and the pot, this wick stand was the third metal product I saw in this world.

The fuel burning inside had to be animal fats. A smell that stimulated my appetite started drifting inside the room.

Ai Fa walked through the room. After placing the wick stand at the left and right windows respectively, she slowly took off the fur cape she was wearing.

Ai Fa’s body line was illuminated by the new light sources in the room… I felt my heart pounding.

After all, she was only wearing the clothes covering her chest and waist right now. Aside from her necklace, her exposed skin was on the level of wearing a swimsuit or a lingerie.

She had a cold personality, but she was still a girl.

And a beauty at that.

Her body was slender, but looked well-trained and was as lean as a whip. Her elegant body line was very feminine, and these two characteristics were perfectly compatible. How should I put this… She was beautiful and full of charm.

After taking off that crude cape, her attack power doubled.


「… Hey.」

「Yes! Is there anything!?」

「No need to be so loud… Give me that thing on your chest.」

Ai Fa hung her cape onto the wall, leaned her saber against the wall under the cape, and then glared at me:

「A weak man like you can’t harm me even if you have a blade. But as a guest in someone’s house, you have to submit your blade to the owner. This is the rule of the people of Forest's Edge.」

I was dumbfounded.

Ai Fa narrowed her eyes and walked towards me with a dangerous aura around her.

Still, that knife was on her slender waist.

「I will say again. If you are sincere about following the rules of Forest's Edge, give me that knife.」

「Wait, what you mean is… Is this custom to confirm the trust between people?」

Ai Fa reached out her left hand towards me in silence.

After troubling over it for three seconds, I made my decision.

「I understand. But this is important to me. And instead of a hunting tool, it is meant for more delicate work, so please don’t be rough with it, alright?」

「… Are you mocking me? Everyone in Forest's Edge treats blades with care.」

「No, that’s not what I mean. I’m saying that you need to be careful when using that knife. It is hard to repair the blade if it is damaged. If you understand, I will hand it over to you.」

I took out the Santoku Knife that was in front of my collar and handed it to Ai Fa with the handle being in front.

Ai Fa looked at the black knife handle, and she was the one who stopped this time.

「… Is this knife a memento from your late parents?」

「Yes, you can say that.」

The one who died was actually me, but it was certain that I won’t ever see my dad again.

Ai Fa took the Santoku knife and walked deep into the house with it clutched tightly in her arms.

「… Everyone in Forest's Edge cherishes their family.」

She muttered while opening the rightmost door and disappeared behind it.

When Ai Fa came out, the Santoku knife was no longer in her arms and was replaced by a large number of foodstuff.

I walked to the stove curiously.

After getting closer to the pot, I realized the size of the pot was incredible.

The pot had a round bottom, diameter about 60 cm wide and 30 cm deep. It was a deep pot, like a sphere being cut right in half.

The pot was half full and about to boil.

「What’s the matter? Preparation will take some time, just sit down somewhere.」

「I’m interested in the food culture of this world. After all, that’s my family business.」

Ai Fa was doubtful, but she didn’t say anything and placed the ingredients near my feet.

「Oh, it feels rather luxurious.」

There were two unfamiliar vegetables.

One had a green luster, but the size was really close to an onion.

What about the other? It was a ball about the size of a fist with an uneven surface. If I really had to describe it, it looked a little like a potato. But it had cream color and there were no stems, so it wasn’t vegetable dug up from the ground.

However, a thick piece of meat overwhelmed the presence of these vegetables.

The meat was probably from the hind leg of that creature called kiba.

It was cut off from the hip joint area. It probably wasn’t the first cut, but there was still plenty of it to go around, and that piece alone was at least five kilograms.

Ai Fa had already cut off the hide, and she sprinkled something that looked like black sawdust, which had a strong fragrance of black pepper. That was definitely a spice serving as a preservative.

Beneath the meat was a large leaf that was as large as a banana leaf. Only the meat was placed on top of that smooth leaf; the other vegetables were placed directly on the floor.

Tonight’s dinner was definitely filling enough.

「… How is this luxurious? You don’t understand the daily lives of Forest's Edge at all.」

Ai Fa muttered disinterestedly and picked up that meat.

Holding it by the trotter, she lowered the meat into the steaming pot.

She isn’t going to dump the entire thing in, right? As I stared at her, she drew out the knife from her waist and started slicing the kiba’s meat.

She slowly sliced the surface of the meat, like the hawker selling Shawarma in the streets.

The thin slices of meat fell into the hot water.

Ai Fa seemed to be prioritizing in cutting away the place covered in spices. The red meat beneath the spices got gradually exposed.

No matter how I looked at it, that was a hunting knife, but a very sharp one.

The blade of the knife was about 20 cm long, 7 to 8 mm thick and the back of the blade had jagged teeth. The appearance of the blade was just like a survival knife.

Like the saber, the hilt of the knife was wrapped in leather that prevented slippage but had no guards.

She sliced thin pieces of meat with that hunting knife; what a pure cooking method.
I was the heir of an economically-priced restaurant after all. I wasn’t interested in high-class dishes, and I didn’t mind what method they used to cook, as long as it was hygienic.

The most important thing about the food was its tastiness.

In order to let the customer enjoy the meal, we should be mindful of how it is served. Because no matter how delicious the dish was, it would be meaningless if it was harmful to the body. That was why we emphasize on hygiene during cooking.

To express my thoughts in simple terms— just looking at Ai Fa’s practiced movement as she sliced the meat made me hungrier.

「… Why do you look so happy?」

「Eh? I just think this looks delicious.」

「… There’s no distinction between food being delicious or not.」

Ai Fa said something rude again and covered the pot with a lid. I called it a lid, but it was just a rectangular board. She put a rock on top of the board.

The kiba’s leg still had plenty of meat on it, so Ai Fa put it back into the food store. After checking the fire, she nodded with a: 「Hmm」.

She then turned to me:

「The meat will be ready soon… Before that, let me ask you a few questions.」

5

「That’s right, listening to my story after the meal might not be good for digestion. Let’s deal with the troublesome matters first.」

Upon hearing my reply, Ai Fa sat down beside the stove with a: 「Hmmp」.

She sat down cross-legged, with one knee propped up.

Ai Fa’s sitting posture looked authoritative, but girls who were dressed so scantily weren’t suited for such a posture.

「… I will relax a little too, alright?」

After announcing that, I unbuttoned my apron.

The temperature here was similar to early summer in Japan. Adding the ongoing fire, it was rather hot.

But after taking off the top half of my chef uniform and apron, I only had a T-shirt on me. The night breeze blowing in through the windows felt really comfortable.

「… Your attire is really weird. I have never seen such clothing even in the Post Station Town.」

「Hmm, well, it’s the same for me. I have never seen someone dressed like you before.」

I faced Ai Fa and sat cross-legged like her on the rough fur.

「Well? What do you want to ask me? To be honest, I don’t understand my situation too, so I’m not confident that I could explain things clearly though.」

「… Where did you come from?」

This was the second time she asked me that.

I was from a country named Japan, from Chiba prefecture in Japan… Even if I explained it that way, I wouldn’t be able to continue.

Ai Fa’s eyes had a gleam like a cat in the darkness. I looked at her and said:

「Ai Fa, not only did you save me, you even brought me to your house as a guest. Thank you for bringing me home, I’m very thankful for your compassionate actions. What I’m about to say does not contain a shred of falsehood.」

Ai Fa tilted her head, as if she was asking: 「And so?」

「That means, I will tell you the entire truth. I will let you decide whether to believe me or not.」

I was confused myself, but I still told her everything.

I lived for seventeen years in a country that was relatively peaceful.

One day, a misfortune happened, and I had to jump into a sea of fire.

I thought I was dead, but I unexpectedly woke up unscathed in that forest just now.

It might look similar to my world, but everything was fundamentally different.

「… Considering all possibilities, maybe I am still in my own world but ended up in a completely unknown place. I should be dead, so being still alive should be the biggest question. No, even if I ignore that, there are too many contradictions.」: I tried telling her the questions clouding my head. 「For example, the language I’m using now. Ai Fa, have you heard of a country named Japan before?」

「… Never heard of it.」

「Hmm, just this point confuses me. If you never heard of Japan, it’s impossible for you to be fluent in Japanese. So how are we communicating so smoothly?」

「…」

「Aside from Forest's Edge settlement, there are the Rock city and Western Kingdom, right? How many people live there?」

「… I have never visited Rock city or other cities, so I don’t know. I have only visited the Post Station town outside the Rock city in order to sell the kiba’s horns and tusk; I learned everything I know through hearsay.」

At this point, Ai Fa groaned a little and said quietly:

「I remember… There are several thousand people living in the castle town inside the stone walls; that’s the territory of the Western Kingdom Selva. I heard that Selva’s citizens living in their towns are as numerous as the stars…」

「I see. The scale is quite large… Do you know which gods the people in Rock city worship?」

Ai Fa looked surprised when she heard my question.

「Do you even need to ask? The citizens of Selva worship the God of the West Selva, of course. There are four major kingdoms in Amusehorn continent. Similar to the four kingdoms, there are four major gods. Without the protection of the four major gods, the people of Amusehorn won’t be able to survive. If the people lose their faith in the gods, they would be reduced to mere beasts… Asuta, are you telling me you don’t know such common sense?」

「Unfortunately, I really don’t know. I have never heard of this continent, these kingdoms, or these gods.」

I smiled wryly and scratched my head that was wrapped in a towel.

「Be it a tribe of 500 hunters or horned boars, if I never heard of such trivial matters, it would probably be due to my ignorance and never dabbling into such fields… But that explanation wouldn’t work now. It’s regrettable, but I have made my conclusion.」

I didn’t place much hope in that small possibility in the first place, so it wasn’t a huge letdown.

However, this meant I couldn’t see my dad or childhood friend again, and the reality of that hit me again.

I looked into Ai Fa’s blue beautiful eyes and said:

「I will tell you the conclusion I made… Maybe it’s the whim of the gods or some other reason, but I got thrown into this world from mine. Maybe the gods pulled some tricks, allowing me to communicate with you so smoothly.」

「…」

「I don’t know if this is far into the past or the distant future, or a parallel world that represents one of the possibilities of my world, or this is an entirely different world… Simply put, this isn’t the world I grew up in.」

「…」

「I’m a human who came from another world.」

After saying this unfamiliar term, I shrugged depressedly.

「Or I hit my head and am retarded enough to treat my delusion as reality. I think these are the only two answers.」

「… You admit that you are crazy?」

「I don’t think so. To me, the seventeen years of my life is my everything. If they are delusions, my existence would be a lie.」

I gulped down the sigh I was about to exhale and said with conviction.

I had no other choice but to accept this.

「Just to be sure, let me ask you one thing. Aside from me, no one else encountered the same thing, right? Or do all the people who die in my world get transported here…?」

「Such a retarded thing is impossible.」

「That’s true. If there was such a system, this world would be flooded by people.」

I mimicked Ai Fa and propped up one knee, placing my arm on my knee and supported my cheek.

「That’s all I can tell you. I will let you judge for yourself.」

「… I understand.」

After glaring at me one last time, Ai Fa stood up slowly.

「… Well then, it’s almost time.」

「Hmm?」

「The meat is almost done.」

Ai Fa then picked up the rock on top of the lid and took the lid off.

A white mist spewed out from the pot.

「Uwah, it smells delicious.」

I stood up hurriedly and looked into the pot over Ai Fa’s shoulder.

The soup and meat pieces were moving inside the pot.

A large amount of steam kept coming out from the pot, and plenty of foam appeared. There were so many bubbles, as if a bar of soap had been tossed in there.

「… I know dinner is important, but don’t you have other questions?」

When she heard me, Ai Fa glared at me from up close.

「You’re either from another world or a lunatic who completely believes in his delusion… I know these two things.」

「Even though you say that, but are you really willing to believe something so incredible?」

「… At the very least, I know that you have no intention of deceiving me.」

Ai Fa averted her face and picked up the vegetable by her feet. It was that onion-like object.

When she cut open that vegetable, the bright-green insides could be seen. The entire thing felt just like an onion.

Ai Fa only peeled off the dried outer skin, cut it in half, and then tossed it into the pot.

「You don’t look like a liar, so you’re probably a lunatic.」

Thomp, thomp.

She tossed 5 or 6 fake onions into the pot.

This scene was just like a 「hot pot from hell」. I stared inside the pot and muttered: 「Thank you」.

「What do you mean; are you happy to be called a lunatic?」

「That’s right. Instead of being called a liar, I prefer being called a lunatic. And this means you believed me.」

「… I don’t understand you at all.」

Ai Fa’s voice had a hint of anger. She picked up the cream-colored fake potato this time. She then peeled it and just tossed it into the water after making a cut on its surface.

The pot was deep, but the foam almost reached the brim of the pot.

Ai Fa picked up a thick wooden rod and stirred the pot, and then glared at me with ferocious eyes.

「… So, what do you plan to do from now on?」

「Hmm? Do? What do you mean?」

「I mean, what are your plans for the future? Do you want to search for a way to go back to your old world?」

「Well, should I really do that? If I return to my world, I might go back to that burning place. Turning into a ball of fire the moment I get back is as good as suicide.」

But if I could return the Santoku knife to my dad, it might be worth sacrificing my life. However, if I turned into a ball of fire, the Santoku knife would probably suffer the same fate.

「I still can’t figure things out. Or rather, no matter how much I worry about it, I shouldn’t get transported back to my world out of the blue. After all, I don’t know how I triggered such an interesting phenomenon or the logic behind it in the first place. So I won’t be fazed no matter what happens in the future.」

「… I see.」

「If you regret bringing a troublesome guy home, you can just tell me. I will leave right away. Fortunately, the weather is great, so it won’t be too harsh to camp outside…」

「If you spend the night outside the house, you won’t just be stomped to death by the kiba, your corpse will also become food for the wild beasts. By morning, only your bones would be left.」

Ai Fa said, as if she was trying to stop me from continuing.

「Also, Diga Tsun already saw you together with me. If a person who doesn’t even know about the four major gods commits any serious taboos, I would need to take on the responsibility.」

「Eh? But then…」

「Just stay within my sight for now and don’t move around on your own.」

Ai Fa said in an unhappy tone. While stirring the metal pot, she looked just like the witch in fairy tales.

「At the very least, you need to learn the customs of this world and the rules of Forest's Edge. After memorizing that, you can die out there if you wish.」

「I understand… Ai Fa, I’m very grateful.」

「Hey! Why are you thanking me at this moment! Are you happy about me telling you to die out there?」

「I’m happy. At least you aren’t chasing me out right now.」

I tried my best to make my tone sound less serious.

I then took a step away from Ai Fa.

If I continued to look at her from such a close distance, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hold back and hug her.

That was how uneasy I felt about my future.

After losing everything, that was how despaired I was.

But Ai Fa wanted me to stay here and even said that I couldn’t be a liar.

Despite the trials and tribulations fate had thrown at me, I was truly thankful that the first person I met in this world was such a caring girl who was also a little weird.

「… It’s done.」

Ai Fa said in an unhappy tone and turned her back to me.

She disappeared behind the door in the middle. When she returned, she had two sets of bowls and spoons and an oval ladle — the utensils for 「soup」. And, of course, all the utensils were made from wood.

The entire pot of soup was white from the heat and foam. Ai Fa used the ladle to scoop up soup, poured it into the containers, and then passed it to me in silence.

「Thank you.」

I was filled with gratitude, but my stomach was empty.

I received the container gratefully and sat onto the fur rug.

As I waited for Ai Fa to prepare her own portion, I inspected the content of the container intriguingly.

It was a bowl of thick and white soup.

It looked like butter clam chowder soup, but it had the fragrance of a boar stew.

I could catch a glimpse of the coffee-colored meat and green vegetables through the snow-white surface.

The fake onion broke down into an adequate size, while the fake potato… was gone? Did it completely dissolve in such a short amount of time?

Speaking of which, this bowl of soup, or rather, stock, was creamy in color, just like that fake potato.

They might look similar, but these are not real onions or potatoes. How do they taste?

Even though there was so much foam, Ai Fa didn’t scoop it away, which made me concerned. But when in Rome, do what the Romans do. Even though the foam would affect the taste, it also held the essence of all the ingredients. There wasn’t a need to get rid of it excessively.

This world probably has its own unique cooking method. A man from an alternate universe like me is not in the position to say too much.

As I was thinking about that, Ai Fa sat down beside me.

「Why aren’t you eating? Did you change your mind and now think that kiba is unpalatable after all?」

「That’s not it; in the world I was from, we have the tradition of everyone eating at the same time. This dish looks delicious.」

Ai Fa shrugged nonchalantly and started muttering to herself, as if she was chanting a spell. She then started to eat.

Seeing her dig in, I also said: 「Bon appetit!」 and picked up my wooden spoon.

I scooped up the white soup together with the coffee-colored pieces of meat.

This was my first dinner in this other world.


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