Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 1 Chapter 4

The Tiny Guest
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Deus ex-Machina


「Ugh.」


How many times have I moaned today?


The annoying poitan was rolling right before me.


It was noon, my fifth day in this different world.


Today, after we washed the dishes, took care of the food store and other routine chores, we made jerky.


This might sound a bit unnecessary, but these wasn’t normal jerky, but smoked jerky.


Let me explain further. We used rock salt and pico leaves to knead the surface of the kiba meat, then used the fake rubber leaf (speaking of which, I haven’t confirmed its actual name) to wrap it up. On the third night, we washed off the salt and herbs, and left it to dry til morning. The next morning, we hung the meat on a tree outside the house and lit a fire underneath it. Pico leaves and lilo were burned to smoke it until noon. And smoked kiba jerky was made.


This was the fourth morning of the smoked jerky making process. So Ai Fa didn’t ask me to forage for firewood or herbs, and asked me to smoke kiba meat.


My job was simple, to add firewood and herbs so the fire wouldn’t go out. But I need to watch it for several hours, and it wasn’t a relaxing task. Even so, there wasn’t any incident before noon and I successfully made a large amount of smoked meat.


Ai Fa went to the forest to forage like usual, and I stowed the smoke jerky into the food storage as I waited for her return, ending my job.


I worked until a bit after noon, and Ai Fa permitted me to study the poitan between noon and evening.


During this time, Ai Fa would head into the forest again in order to hunt kiba. Even though there were still piles of kiba meat, but in order to obtain poitan and aria, she had to hunt one kiba every five days. However, I didn’t have any experience with hunting kiba and would just be in the way if I went with her, so I got this period of time to myself.


Ai Fa haven’t hunted any kiba during this five days. Before I came here as a guest, she just needed to hunt one kiba every ten days, and hunting kiba wasn’t an easy task. We got one kiba five days ago (although it’s an accident). Ai Fa said that it would be great if she could hunt one kiba either today or tomorrow.


And next, regarding my challenge.


I was busy with the butchering of the kiba on the first day. In the next four days, I work hard on my study of poitan — But the enemy was tenacious


Simply put, I didn’t know what it was.


This plant probably didn’t exist in my world.


It looks like a potato, although it was a hue lighter than a potato, the texture on its surface and its shape was just like a potato. However, its inside was completely different.


I tried eating it raw, and it was bitter and powdery, completely unsavoury. As it lacked moisture, I suspect that it wasn’t even a plant.


As everyone knows, boiling poitan in water would dissolve it into tasteless muddy water.


I tried adding it into my 『Kiba meat soup』, but there wasn’t any improvements.


However, it seemed to contain nutrients necessary for humans. In the past four days, after we finished the meat and aria, I would add it into the soup before drinking it.


Using the soup from a hot pot to cook gruel should be exciting, but after adding in poitan, the entire pot of soup taste so nasty it felt like a kind of punishment game. Why do we have to drink this mud water? I was in despair.


That was why I was so troubled — I had yet to find a solution up til now.


Ai Fa permitted me to use one poitan a day for my research, but all my experiments ended in failure.


Boiling it in water would turn it into gruel.


Grilling it would turn it powdery and cakey.


It remained the same even if I soaked it in water.


When I fry it with animal oil, it produces a plate of powdery oil.


I even tried crushing it, frying it without oil, sunning it, I tried everything and still had no idea what to do.


「Ugh—」 I didn’t know how many times I had made that sound.


The next instant, someone hit my head from behind.


「Shut up. Can you be quiet when you are troubled?」


And the one who hit me was of course Ai Fa.


She still haven’t set off into the forest yet, and had been ransacking the storage room until now. But she seemed to have resolved the matter. She was dressed lightly as usual, with just cloth covering her chest and waist as she glared at me with her feet wide apart.


「That hurts. I don’t want to sigh like that either…」


Midway through my sentence, I discovered something under Ai Fa’s armpit. What was that? It seemed to be a bundle of beautifully dyed cloth.


Ai Fa noticed my gaze and spread out one of the cloth.


「These are the cloths my father left behind.」


I see. It was a sleeveless shirt with the front wide open. I should call it a vest. There wasn’t any buttons on it, and it had strings at the bottom that could be tied together. The design was simple, and despite the colourful spiral designs, it looks rather fashionable.


「Wah, that’s nice. It suits you」


Even though I said that sincerely, Ai Fa blushed for some reason.


「H-How can I wear this!? I might be the head of the house and a 《kiba hunter》, but I’m still a woman!」


「Ehh? I don’t mean you should just wear this.」


I couldn’t tell if this counted as a vest, but the front was designed to be open, just like the attire Aladdin wore. If she put this on without anything else — No no! That would be a slight against proper customs.


「If you want to wear this, you should put it over the clothes you are wearing right now! And you’re too beautiful for me to think of you as a man…」


「Shut up! I want you to wear this!」


It had been a while since Ai Fa turned so raging mad, and she threw the clothes onto my face.


「Your attire is too prominent! When I’m out there with you, everyone will look at us with suspicious eyes, it’s discomforting!」


Oh, I see. I also felt really prominent with my white attire at the water source in the morning.


And because I didn’t have a change of clothes, I would switch between my t-shirt and chef uniform every day. As for my pants and underwear, I would wash it and then put it on while it was still wet.


But then, it was rather hot here, and the clothes would dry in just a few hours. Even if I didn’t wash my clothes, it would rain heavily all of a sudden and drench me completely. Hence, I have already given up! But because I needed to work in the forest, I couldn’t help feeling down as I watch my white chef uniform getting more and more dirty.


And so, I bowed deeply to my enraged mistress to express my thanks.


「I will accept this gratefully. But this must be important to you, right?」


「… If no one wears it, it will just be rubbish no matter how important it is.」


Ai Fa reached for the knife at her waist with a sour face.


I took a step back involuntarily, but Ai Fa handed that knife together with its sheath to me.
「My father left this behind too.」


On closer inspection, there was another knife on Ai Fa’s waist.


「This knife… Can I really have it?」


「I’m just lending it to you! You always make my knife all oily, it’s troubling for me! If the blade rust because of your negligence, I swear I will cut your ears off!」


「I get it. Thank you. I’m very thankful, I will treasure your late father’s belongings. I promise.」


Ai Fa averted her face unhappily. But she didn’t leave and just sat down beside me heavily.


「… So, have you found a way to turn poitan delicious?」


「I’m stuck at a bottleneck. After all, there wasn’t similar vegetables from the world I was from. Kiba is similar to boars, aria looks like onions, but nothing is close to poitan.」


「In that case, you’re giving up? There’s nothing wrong… with staying this way.」


Ai Fa kept her head turned stubbornly and I looked at her profile from an extremely close distance.


「You’re satisfied with that? I’m not satisfied at all! The 『kiba meat soup』 is getting closer to my ideal, but this thing made all my efforts a waste! I might still be an apprentice, but it trampled on my pride as a chef!」
<TL: pride is in english here.>


「…Puraido?」


「Honour, or dignity.」


「I see… Recently, I have been thinking that eating delicious food is better than eating nasty tasting food. But you can’t keep wasting the ingredients.」


「Yes, I know that...」


「These horns and tusks can be exchanged for things other than ingredients. If a knife breaks, it can be used to get new ones. Be it replacing torn clothes or medicine when we’re ill, we will need these to exchange for them.」


Ai Fa touched the necklace on her chest.


「In the past, I just need to hunt one kiba beast every ten days for enough aria and poitan to survive, so I managed to save up some tusks and horns. But from now on, I will need to hunt one kiba every five days. I’m afraid my savings will deplete… in that case, we should cherish the ingredients.」


「I see, but you still agreed to let me use one poitan a day.」


That might be so, but I have already wasted four.


All because I was too useless.


「In that case, let’s not waste this poitan today. I can eat one less, and use it to research…」


「You can’t.」


Ai Fa’s voice was unexpectedly firm, she leaned in close.


「I told you many times, you have to eat two poitan and three aria every day. This is the minimum requirement for the denizens of Forest’s Edge to maintain their health. If you cut down on these, you will fall sick no matter how much kiba meat you eat.」


A blue fire seemed to be burning in Ai Fa’s eyes.


The ethical concept of Forest’s Edge probably didn’t allow people to sacrifice their health for the sake of research.


No — Not just Forest’s Edge. As a chef, I shouldn’t do so either.


If a chef couldn’t manage his own diet well, that would be like a doctor who didn’t pay attention to his-well being or a dye worker who wears white clothes.


Of course I know that...


Chefs have to provide customers with delicious and nutritious meals. No matter how tasty the dish might be, it would be meaningless if it was harmful to the body. However, it was pointless for food to be nutritious if it tastes bad. The objective of a chef was to take care of both these criteria. I didn’t know about other chefs, but my old man and I were chefs that took care of both factors.


And of course, some dishes prioritize the preference of the customers over nutritious value. I myself likes oily tonkotsu ramen.


But I couldn’t do that for normal meals.


We would only eat junk food occasionally, that was why it tastes so good and exhilarating.


Because food contains the nutrition human needs, our body crave for food. However, since humans didn’t live by our instincts, we might have lost this feeling — but even so, we shouldn’t go against this fundamental condition.


Kiba meat really taste great.


I could actually feel that it has the nutrients my body needs.


I could actually feel the nutrients merging into my flesh and blood.


There might be people who would mock me that this was just an illusion, but I was serious about this.


I want to continue making such dishes — Food that could give me such an impression.


I want the people important to me to taste delicious food beneficial to their body.


Eating poitan should be beneficial to the body. Ai Fa is the best proof of that.


Among the people I know, Ai Fa was the strongest and full of life.


If Ai Fa was nourished by the kiba, aria and poitan — then there must be a way to dine on them happily.


Poitan definitely contain nutrients beneficial to the human body…


...Hmm?


Beneficial nutrients?


Necessary for the human body?


Which means—


「I see! I see, so that’s how it is!」


I yelled unconsciously, and grabbed Ai Fa’s shoulders without thinking.


「I thought something was amiss! That something wasn’t there! Damn, so that’s it…!」


「… Why are you going crazy all of a sudden.」


When the troubled Ai Fa tried to move away I pulled her back my way unconsciously.


「Thanks to you, I found the answer! Ai Fa, you are wonderful!」


I swear all this was done unconsciously.


I hugged Ai Fa’s body unconsciously, holding her slender body that was as tight as a whip.


And of course, my head was hit repeatedly a few seconds later, but I was lost in the moment because of my triumph.




Part 2
「Ai Fa I will be challenging a new menu today.」


Even though I announced that after the sun set, Ai Fa just said  「Whatever」 with a sour face.


Was she still holding a grudge for the lapse in my behaviour in the afternoon? Well, my actions was a little overboard — And I would definitely lose the court case if she accused me of sexual harassment. So it couldn’t be helped if she became suspicious of my character.


「Although the 『kiba meat soup』 isn’t bad, you will still grow tired of eating the same things everyday. Ai Fa, I will give you a big surprise this time, look forward to it.」


「Whatever.」


「… By the way, I wore your father’s clothes right after borrowing it. How do I look? Does it suits me?」


「It doesn’t. Looks funny. I shouldn’t have loaned them to you.」


She was still throwing tantrums.


Nevermind, she will become happy when she eats delicious food.


By the way, it felt impractical to wear just a vest and a cloth around my waist, so I wore my t-shirt under my attire too. It might look a bit weird, but I was afraid of scalding myself when I cook, so I hope everyone could accommodate me. Please treat the white towel wrapped around my head as my standard equipment.


「Let me be frank then. I already prepared the poitan. It used up a lot of firewood, but I will pick more tomorrow, so please don’t mind me.」


Ai Fa was expressionless and silent. She couldn’t be bothered to even answer me.


After beating me up, she headed into the forest like usual. She shouldn’t have seen how I cooked the poitan, wasn’t she curious?


「Never mind, it’s still early, but can I start cooking now? If you aren’t hungry yet, try making yourself hungry.」


Unlike the stoic Ai Fa, I was feeling agitated. Because I was looking forward to challenging this new menu very much.


I plan to challenge grilling meat.


Not just a normal grill, I thought of many different ways of going about it, such as steaming it or grilling teriyaki style. But I wanted to try a dish I’m good at since I verified the poitan’s true identity, so I will try the other ways another time.


I have no plans on being a tease. The dish today would be 『Kiba meat hamburg steak』.


Or 『kiba steak』.


I walked to the food store as I hummed, and carried the necessary ingredients to the stove.


Kiba thigh meat and breast meat, 500g each.


Six fake onions, or aria.


Two branches of pico leaves.


Fruit wine.


Rock salt.


And the magical essence obtained from the poitans.


As the essence wasn’t much, I folded a fake rubber leaf as a container for it.


Well then, time to start cooking.


First, I took the thigh meat and cut off about a cm of fat from the top.


It was a bit of a pity, but I needed to use it as frying oil. All the fats on the fur had already been used to make candle, I will make sure to save some for cooking next time.


It has been five days since the butchering, and there wasn’t any sign of decomposition on it at all. The preservation effect of pico leaves were excellent.


Even though the pico leaves were effective, I heard the meat would slowly rot after 15 to 20 days.


By that time, the meat could only be preserved by smoking them. There was still a mountain of meat that I butchered five days ago, and I was troubled every day, wondering if there was a better way to utilize them.


Anyway, time to start cooking.


I started a fire in the stove and diced two aria while I waited for the iron pot to heat up.


After finishing that, I prepared the meat.


I cut the thigh and breast meat into small pieces, then dice them even further with the kitchen knife.


I started by using Ai Fa’s late father’s knife.
And then with the Santoku knife that represented my old man’s spirit.


Although there was about a kilogram of meat, it was a piece of cake. Hamburg steak was a popular dish in 『Tsurumi restaurant』, and I was already used to this kind of work.


In less than 10 minutes, the kiba minced meat was done.


I turned to look at Ai Fa, and she was looking at me unhappily with the posture of the reclining buddha.


She would usually sit quietly as if to show her respect for the chef. But it seems like her mood was terrible today. Didn’t she have any comment about the kiba meat turning into small pink piles?


Suppressing the unease in my heart, I checked the fire.


I drip one drop of water into the pot, and it vaporized immediately.


It was time.


I threw in a piece of fat, and used a wooden spatula (which I made myself) to spread the fats evenly in the pot. I then threw in the two diced aria.


Unlike a flat saucepan, I couldn’t toss the content of the iron pot. It was a bit tough, but I didn’t give up, and kept stirring the pot with my wooden spatula.


When the colour of the aria changed, I poured in fruit wine.


I stirred carefully until the alcohol evaporates.


After frying the green aria until it turned brown, I shift it into a container with the spatula.


When we made hamburg steaks in my shop, we would put in a quarter onion for every 200g of minced meat. Adding two whole onions for a kilogram of minced meat was a bit much. But kiba has a strong taste, so adding more aria wouldn’t be a problem.


As I needed to wait for the hot aria to cool down to proceed with the next step, I used the time to cut the remaining aria. I didn’t dice them this time and cut them into thin slices along the grain.


If I want to boil and soften it, I should cut it across the grain. But I want to bring out its texture this time, so I cut it this way.


I cut a total of four aria, and the pieces of aria piled on top of the fake rubber leaf like a small hill… This might be an extravagant wish, but I hope I could get a better container.


As I was bustling around, the aria had cool down. I placed the diced and fried aria and the kiba minced meat onto the fake rubber leaf.


I then sprinkled rock salt and pico leaf — at this moment, the magical essence made its debut.


I poured a certain cream coloured sticky substance onto the pile of meat.


Next, I just needed to mix it well.


After kneading it with my hands for a few minutes, the minced meat turned sticky as expected.


Even though I cut off the fats from the thigh meat earlier, the breast meat still had plenty of fats. Both the tenderness of the minced meat and its luster were impeccable.


Feeling that my triumph was at hand, I felt a chill down my spine.


Brushing off the meat patty from my palms, I rubbed the excess fats from the kiba onto my palm to prevent the patty from sticking onto them. I will be kneading it into shape next.


If the patty was too big, it would be hard to control the temperature accordingly. I squeezed out about one sixth of the minced meat and kneaded it into an oval. Splat splat splat, I didn’t forget to toss the meat between my hand to push out the air inside.


I made six mini hamburg steak, each was about 160g.


How cute. It was a beautiful pink colour, and I felt like biting it just like that.


Leaving that for now, how’s the fire?


Hmm, it’s a bit too strong. I removed some firewood to adjust.


I could only gauge the intensity of the fire by sight, which was the biggest difficulty in making this dish.


Using strong fire in the beginning and reducing its strength — I couldn’t make accurate adjustments like this, so I had a tough time. But it couldn’t be helped, and I had to use my brain to decide this match. I needed the flexibility and imagination of my brain, followed by my judgement.


I threw in a piece of fat into the iron pot, and waited it to turn crisp and release its oil. After that, I finally put the hamburg steak in.


With a sizzling sound that was music to the ears, an appetizing fragrance filled the house.


As this was a round pot, I had to be careful about not letting the steaks stick together as I placed all six pieces into the pot quickly, and waited a few seconds.


It would be a waste of effort if I failed at this juncture. Paying attention to the change in the smell, I used the wooden spatula to check the heat.


Seemed that there wasn’t any need to weaken the fire earlier. The steaks were about 60% cooked.


But that was better than burning the meat. Even if some juice leaks out, it could serve as part of the sauce. I believe that the kiba juice wasn’t that limited.


After another few seconds, when the heat side turned just the right colour of being cooked, I flipped the steaks.


Well, time to prepare for the next phase — When I backed away, I bumped into an obstacle.


Ai Fa was standing behind me and staring at the iron pot before I realized it.


「Uwah, you scared me! So you’re here, Ai Fa!」


「… Why would I leave my own house?」


「No, that’s not what I mean… Ah, sorry, I need to prepare a few things.」


I went around Ai Fa to grab the bottle of fruit wine, and the fake rubber leaf filled with arias.


I faced the iron pot once again, put down the bottle and checked the colour of the hamburg steak.


The surface was about 80% done, it was about time.


「Be careful Ai Fa, the oil might splash around.」


She didn’t reply, but I didn’t have time to hesitate. I poured the fruit wine into the pot and covered the lid.


Psshh, splat splay, loud dull sound came out.


This was a unique way of cooking 『kiba steak』.


When making hamburg steak, strong fire would be used to grill both sides quickly to prevent the juice from being lost. To cook the inside of the steak completely, it would be grilled slowly over a small fire, or toast the steak in an oven. That was the right way of preparing it.


However, it was impossible for me to use either of these methods, so I opt to steam it. By doing so, I could cook the inside thoroughly before the hamburg steak got burned.


Hence, the patty I kneaded was thin and small.


As I couldn’t tune the heat finely, and I needed to grill the surface of the steak with a strong fire — I had to go through the entire process with a strong flame. I had no choice but to knead the patty smaller and get it done quickly.


But even at this size, I would burn it if I tried to grill the entire steak until it’s completely cooked. In that case, I could only use steaming to accelerate the heating.


It was a simple and logical conclusion.


「Alright, it should be ready now.」


I opened the lid, and the fragrance from the fruit wine burst out instantly.


I tried to split one steak in half with my spatula.


The inside was a beautiful ivory colour, without a shred of red.


「Ai Fa, can you pass me the plates?」


I focused on keeping the other hamburg steaks from getting burned with my spatula. When Ai Fa heard what I said, she passed a wooden plate to me quietly.


I quickly scooped three hamburg steaks into the plate, took a new plate and rescued the remaining three steaks.


「Alright, only the aria is left now.」


The sauce made from the juice from the meat, fats and fruit wine boiled inside the iron pot.


I sprinkled in rock salt, and toss in pico leaves and the slices of aria.


I just need to fry the aria until it turns soft — and the job will be done.


「Ai Fa, pass the plates back to me for a while.」


When I said that, she passed the plates with the steaks back to me again.


Hmm? I was concentrating on the iron pot so I didn’t realize it, but was she holding on to the plates with both hands and waiting for me?


She sure was considerate. Despite how cold she normally acts, I could feel her sincerity and kindness from the things she does.


Leaving that aside for now, back to the topic.


I divided the aria between the two plates, poured sauce over it with a wooden spoon, and the 『kiba steak』 was finished.


「Ah, please sit a while and wait for me.」


I rushed into the food store and took out the poitan I had left there for a long time.


However, I don’t think anyone could tell it was poitan.


Ai Fa stared at the thing on the fake rubber leaf and tilted her head in confusion.


It was a flat, round, cream-coloured object, with signs of being grilled.


If someone from my hometown was to see this object, they might think it was an indian 「nan」, or an 「Okonomiyaki without any toppings」.


It’s true identity was a poitan.


「Let’s eat it while it’s hot! I will explain it to you later.」


Part 3


Let me start from the conclusion.


Poitan — should be a type of 「cereal」.


This was my speculation. I didn’t have any means to confirm this.


Anyway, after I made that assumption, I finally found a way to cook it, and succeeded.


The hint was 「nutritional value」.


It wasn’t complicated at all, a grade schooler should be able to understand.


Kiba meat represented protein and fats.


Aria was a yellowish green vegetable, representing vitamins and fibre.


Then, what about carbohydrates? This question was like a divine revelation.


I wasn’t sure how the body structure of people in this world was. But they looked similar to us, so I could use my common sense to probe this question.


Ai Fa was a healthy girl.


Her skin was beautiful and lustrous, and her body was like a sculpture, with arms stronger than mine.


Only a balanced diet could build a body like Ai Fa’s.


And Ai Fa eats meat. She also eat vegetables. In that case, it would be unnatural for her to not consume carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates were a source of energy.


Ai Fa’s energy could rival wild beasts, and she was always full of life. Therefore, I was certain she consumes carbohydrates.


「Poitan is a cereal, and a carbohydrate.」


Another factor leading to my conclusion was the poitan’s 「texture」.


When I first ate it, I thought it was 「just like flour water」.


Flour was made from grinding wheat, a type of cereal, into powder. A type of cereal powder.


I didn’t need to grill it, fry it or eat it raw. The answer was before me right from the start.


I should have paid more attention to Forest’s Edge’s food culture. Because 「boiling」 it was the only answer.


Doing so would remove the bitterness of the poitan, and dissolve it in water.


That would make the poitan edible.
But that would just turn it into tasteless mud water. Putting it in a more pleasant way, flour water.
Since that’s flour water, I just need to turn it into flour.


After thinking it through, I started attacking the poitan.


I boiled it with a small amount of water, turning it into sticky and thick poitan juice. I then heat it as much as possible, and when it was about to be burned, the poitan became a slime-like semi liquid state.


I then sunned it for about an hour, and it finally solidified.


I knock it apart and tasted it — it was tasteless and powdery.


As expected, it was similar to 「flour」.


In that case, I will just use it like flour.


My prediction turned true.


I dissolved the powdered poitan into water, and heat it up. It didn’t boil like raw poitan, but started to bubble and solidify, like an Okonomiyaki without any toppings.


I still had some sample on hand, so I tried grilling the semi fluid poitan that wasn’t dried in the sun. However, they wouldn’t solidify at all. After the water evaporates, only burnt powder was left behind.


The key was to dry it completely.


And of course, I didn’t know what kind of changes happened to the molecular arrangement of the poitan, and I didn’t want to know.


Anyway, I found the answer I was after.


And so — I finally conquered poitan, and while I immersed myself in the jubilance of victory, I also felt happy and hyped up. As flour had the 「binding」 property, the 「hamburg steak」 I wanted to challenge in the future was within my grasps.


Binding served to hold the minced meat together.


To do so, egg yolks and bread crumbs were usually used.


And of course, it was possible to make hamburg steak without the binding factor. I heard that adding ingredients to bind the hamburg steak was a culture unique to Japan. There was all kinds of theories, some say 「just adding salt will be enough」 and others say 「there is no need to add anything, just mixing it evenly would be enough」.


Even so, 『Tsurumi restaurant』 would still add binding ingredients. I would always add binding ingredients whenever I cook hamburg steak, so I wasn’t motivated to make this dish all this while.


However, it was another matter if there was binding ingredients.


I could challenge steaming dishes or teriyaki-style dishes whenever I wish, these cooking methods were simpler than boiling.


So I thought, I might as well make a hamburg steak.


Hamburg steak was a type of processed food. It was a meat dish that didn’t retain the original form of the meat. It was a common dish for me, but it would definitely look incredible to the people in this different world.


If I could make a hamburg steak successfully, how surprised would Ai Fa be — When I thought this far, my emotions got hyped up like a girl in love.






After several twists and turns, we started enjoying dinner on the fifth day.


「It might look completely different, but this is poitan. It doesn’t have any taste by itself, so you can tear it into small pieces and eat it together with the meat. You can accept this way of eating it, right?」


Both of us had three small 『kiba steak』 each, with a side of sliced aria and large amount of fruit wine sauce.


And there was also a round grilled poitan, that looked like an okonomiyaki. It was about 30cm across, and 1 cm thick.


「Alright, I’m digging in.」


Ai Fa drew a horizontal line across her mouth with her left finger, mumbled something and then picked up the plate and spoon. She stared at the  『kiba steak』 on her plate with a confused face.


As I peeked at Ai Fa, I cut open the steak with my wooden spoon.


Well, the toughness wasn’t a problem. The opened surface was juicy, it was well made.


But there was a problem with this hamburg steak, whether the ingredients meshes well.


People seldom make hamburg steak with boar meat.


Probably because boar meat wasn’t suited for cooking hamburg steak.


Boar meat was softer than pork, but this property would only surface when 「boiled in water」. I remember the reason was tied to how much fats it have. Anyway, boar meat had the property of turning softer the more it was cooked.


If it was cooked in another way, boar would be classified by humans as tough meat.


Assuming boar meat was processed and cooked in the right way, it wouldn’t be so tough and be as tender as beef or pork.


Hamburg steak was usually made with beef.


A mixture of pork and beef minced meat was a popular choice for hamburg steak too.


I seldom heard about pork being used to make hamburg steak.


Boars were a similar species to pigs, so the texture of its meat should be similar.


Boar meat was definitely not suited for hamburg steaks — and kiba meat was similar to boar meat. So how would the hamburg steak made from kiba fare? Even if it surprises Ai Fa, would I be satisfied with the results? — It was time to decide the match.


I scooped a spoonful of 『kiba steak』 and sent it into my mouth.


The juice was hot and spread in my mouth, almost scalding me.


My first impression was —「sweet」.


Why was it like this, the meat was sweet and tasty. The unique taste of the meat and the fragrance of the fruit wine spread — I think this dish was delicious.


For a hamburg steak, the texture was rather chewy. I already worked hard to mince it, but it still had such a texture.


But it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. Instead of being tough, it was closer to being chewy.


And with its bite, more juice would flow out, the freshness and juice spreads in my mouth,


… Oh no.


As expected, I prefer meat with unique taste more than other people.


Be it boar meat, mutton or duck meat, I really like meat with its strong unique flavour.


And so… I really think it was delicious.


I couldn’t judge it objectively.


In short, I felt this dish was delicious!


I sent another piece of meat into my mouth, together with the sliced aria and a large amount of sauce.
Delicious.


Super delicious.


I would probably give the same evaluation if I tasted boar meat hamburg steak.


I actually rated a dish I made so highly. It was embarrassing, but it was really tasty.


If I had to point out a flaw, that would be the thickness of the steak. It would be better for it to be thicker.


Compared to the cooked surface of the steak, the proportion of the juicy part in the middle was too little, this was the only point that dissatisfied me. I tore off some poitan and put it into my mouth, it tastes nice too.


Having rice to eat with this would be the most ideal. Meat needed a sides of vegetables and carbohydrates to complement it after all. Many nations wouldn’t match these food together, but my country and family would do so. I feel that vegetables and carbohydrates were the perfect match for meat. Each of these components was necessary.


It had been a long time since I ate such tasteless carbohydrates.


I could feel my craving for carbohydrates exceeding my imagination.


The grilled poitan wasn’t as soft as bread or naan, and it tasted like okonomiyaki that didn’t have any eggs or toppings. Even so, I felt it was delicious.


One grilled poitan was too little for the three hamburg steak. Because the 『kiba steak』 had a heavy taste, I should be able to eat two pieces of poitan.


Not so long ago, I thought poitan was such a hated existence, and couldn’t help laughing wryly. Someone retorted coldly: 「What are you smiling about?」


Ai Fa finally opened her golden mouth.


This wouldn’t do. I was too engrossed in dinner and didn’t realized Ai Fa’s action.


My appetite was too strong, and I reflected on that a little.


「Oh right, how does it taste, Ai Fa?」


I looked at Ai Fa’s way, and she had eaten more than half of the poitan and was about to finish her second  『kiba steak』. How fast, I just finished one.


After Ai Fa swallowed her food, she said 「it’s good.」


「Thank you very much... ! But can you describe your comments in more detail?」


When she heard my question, Ai Fa said 「Don’t wanna.」


「… Don’t wanna?」


「Don’t wanna. I don’t wanna tell you my comment.」


「Eehhh, but why? Are you still bearing a grudge over what happened this afternoon?」


「What happened this afternoon?」 Ai Fa tilted her head.


「Ah, you mean that mean thing you did to me because you got too caught up? I already forgot about that.」


「You forgot… Then why won’t you tell me what you think?」


「Shut up! I don’t want to talk about it, that’s why!」


Then something I couldn’t understand happened.


Ai Fa blushed, she lowered her head and covered her face with her plate.


「Enough! Stop looking at me!」


I didn’t get it at all.


Never mind, Milady’s emotions were a bit unstable today, I will ask her again a few days later. Despite her adamant refusal, she did say 「it’s good」 — Just these words made me very happy.


When I was thinking about that…


A voice came from an unexpected place.


「Hey, what’re you eating?」


Ai Fa and I looked that way in surprise.


The voice came from the window beside the stove.


It was dark outside — and a small face appeared behind the window.


「I’m asking you two something! It smells nice, is that kiba? What is that white thing?」


「Rimee Wu… I told you to stay away from my house.」


The surprise on Ai Fa’s face vanished. Seeing her answer nonchalantly made me sigh in relief. If she knew her, then it’s not a problem. We weren’t doing anything unsightly anyway.


By the way, who was this child?


As she was very short, I could only see her reddish brown hair and big round eyes through the window, but not her face.


「I don’t wanna! I finally get to see you, why do you have to be so mean…? Answer my question! What are you eating? What does it taste like? Who made it? Is that man your husband?」


「What nonsense are you saying!? Why must I marry this weakling of a man!?」


Her words stabbed into me deeply.


However…


Even though Ai Fa was shouting that, her face had turned extremely red.


Hmm.


Since I got to see her like this, I would pretend I never heard that.


「Hey, who is this child?」


Even though I was asking Ai Fa, the girl was the one who answered me.


「I’m Rimee Wu! Youngest daughter of the Wu Clan! I’m a good friend of Ai Fa!」


「Don’t joke with me. I don’t remember being your friend, Rimee Wu.」


Ai Fa picked at her last piece of hamburg steak and said in an exceptionally cold tone.


「I hate noisy kids like you. Scram on home.」


After she said that…


The kid called Rimee Wu’s eyes looked shocked.


The next instant, her emotions exploded.


「Uwaaahhhhhh!」


She started wailing loudly.


「Hey Ai Fa, don’t be so childish when you talk to kids…」 Even the sound of me admonishing Ai Fa was drowned out by her wailing.


Her wail was incredible, and my ear drums hurts.


「But I like Ai Fa so much ahhhhhh!」 I finally made out one of her sentence.


No matter what…


The young daughter of Wu Clan, Rimee Wu will have a decisive impact on my fate in the future. And that was how I met her.
Part 4
「I really like Ai Fa, and Gill Fa. When Gill Fa was still alive, he and Ai Fa would often play with me!」


A few minutes later…


The mysterious guest Rimee sat between me and Ai Fa and said with a smile.


She looked completely different from her wailing face earlier.


Anyway, in order to stop her from crying, we ushered her into the house. But no matter how we tried soothing her, we couldn’t stop her tears from falling.


But when Ai Fa nursed her temple and said as if she was suppressing a headache: 「… What I said was a lie, I don’t hate you.」, Rimee Wu stopped crying immediately.


「But I offended the Tsun clan, so it’s better for you to stay away from my house. I already explained that to you many times.」


「The Tsun clan is not scary at all! My daddy says so too! He says the Tsun clan successor is an idiot, and they will lose their position soon! The Wu clan will definitely become the leader of Forest’s Edge!」


「The head of the Wu clan, Donda Wu is combative, this will just worsen the situation. If the Tsun clan and Wu clan starts a war, the Forest’s Edge settlement might get destroyed.」


After Rimee Wu stopped crying, Ai Fa’s attitude turned colder than normal once again.


Even so, Rimee Wu was still all smiles.


Her smile was really cute.


Rimee Wu was probably seven or eight. She looked cute and petite, her height didn’t even reach my chest. Her reddish brown hair was cut very short, and looked fluffy like a dandelion. Her skin was chocolatey brown of course. Her eyes were the clear color of water, filled with light like the sky in spring.


She wore a large piece of cloth with beautiful patterns. It covered her right shoulder and waist, looking just like a mini dress with just a single strap. Her slender arms and legs were bare. As she was still young, this dressing looked pure and innocent.


A necklace swayed on her chest, with three pieces of either horns or tusks linked together.


I didn’t think a child this small could hunt kiba, so this was probably an amulet or decorative accessories.


「… Hey, you are an outsider, right?」


She stared at me with her big eyes.


Her blue eyes were really pretty.


Even though both of them had blue eyes, her’s were different from Ai Fa’s deep blue pupils that would look like they were burning from time to time.


「Daddy Donda told me before! A suspicious person dressed weirdly had appeared in the Fa House. He might be an outsider, and will bring disaster. Before his identity is known, I mustn’t go near the Fa House!」


「Is that so. But you are here even after he said that.」


Although half my mind was on the 『kiba steak』 that was getting cold, I still answered warmly.


「I didn’t come earlier! But I saw you wearing Gill Fa’s clothes today! So that means you’re not an outsider anymore.」


I had a feeling it was so, but Ai Fa’s father was really  「Gill Fa」 huh.


She kept bringing that name up, was it appropriate to do so? I couldn’t judge.


「I want to ask! Since you gave the clothes from your family to this man, that means you accepted him as a your family, right? But he is not your husband?」


「Who knows such archaic customs!? He was an eyesore with his shabby clothes, so I just gave him some spare clothes!」


Ah, that hurts.


But Ai Fa’s face was blushed.


I pray that her face wasn’t red from rage, but I got to see such a cute side of her, so I would just pretend I didn’t hear her rude remarks earlier.


「Rimee Wu, go home! I don’t want to start a war between the Tsun clan and the Wu clan. Go home and don’t come here again.」


「I don’t wanna. Daddy Donda only told me to not go near outsiders. Since this person isn’t an outsider anymore, it is fine.」


Rimee Wu was all smiles, and Ai Fa said 「whatever」 after glaring at her, then picked up her plate of food.


Rimee Wu’s naive face was filled with intrigue.


「Hey, what is that? Why does it smell like that? Is that kiba meat? What is that flat thing that has the same colour as poitan?」


Ai Fa didn’t answer and ate quietly.


Then me too — When I picked up my utensils, the girl turned her face my way with a start.


「You two carried a kiba back together, right? That kiba turned into this meat? Why is it this shape? Where is the poitan soup?」


「Erm… This is made by me… Its shape might be weird, but this is kiba meat, and that is poitan.」


My personality couldn’t ignore such an innocent child, so I answered her.


Curiosity flashed across Rimee Wu’s eyes once again, and she said something that I was already expecting.


「What does it taste like? I want to try!」


Suppressing a sigh, I turned towards Ai Fa.


「Ai Fa, is it a taboo to share my food with someone from another clan?」


「… There’s no such taboo.」


Although Ai Fa looked very unhappy, she didn’t stop me.


In that case, it should be fine to give this girl a bite. I was dedicated towards food, but I wasn’t that gluttonous. Besides, the opinions of a third party was valuable to me as a chef.


「Well then, I will let her have a bite. It should taste completely different from kiba meat, so don’t be surprised alright?」 After I said that, I offered my plate to her. But she just smiled and opened her mouth wide.


「Ahh.」


She wasn’t on guard against me at all?
I felt Ai Fa’s icy gaze on my right cheek as I cut a mouthful of steak with my spoon. I added two slices of aria and sent it into the girl’s small mouth.


The girl shut her mouth shut strongly with a snap.


She then started to chew.


Her blue eyes blinked a few times, and widened even more.


「Erm, how does it taste...」「Ah.」


She wanted more.


Nevermind, I could turn a blind eye to two mouthfuls.


But if she ask for more, it might affect onii-chan’s nutritional needs.


As I thought about all these, I scooped up the same food and tore off a piece of grilled poitan for her.


Rimee Wu shut her mouth with a snap.


Chew chew.


Swallow.


She blinked her eyes.


Her thoughts were written on her face, I seldom see a child who fits the onomatopoeia so well.


「Good...」


「Hmm?」


「It taste good!」


She grabbed me tightly.


Ah, I felt so panicky when grabbed by a person who had lost themselves. I started reflecting on what I did to Ai Fa earlier.


No, now wasn’t the time for reflection.


Rimee Wu’s small fingers grabbed my t-shirt, and she shook my body with unimaginable strength.


「It’s tasty! Very tasty! Why is it so tasty!? Is this really kiba? Why is it so soft!? Hey, why!?」


On the first night, I worked so hard to make Ai Fa say 「taste good」, but this little girl repeatedly said this phrase so easily.


But hearing her praise this dish felt blissful to me as a chef.


By the way, this girl has surprising strength. As a tribe of hunters, even the muscles of such a child was different from normal people.


「Stop it, don’t bother our meal.」


At this point, Ai Fa spoke out to save me.


Before I realized it, she had finished her portion. She pulled Rimee Wu by the back of her neck and pulled her off me with ease.
「Eating is for the sake of living. If you get in the way of someone’s meal, that is as good as threatening his life. That’s a taboo, didn’t your clan head taught you that?」


「… Sorry.」


Rimee Wu lowered her head and apologized as Ai Fa held her up in the air.


Her expression turned sullen suddenly.


「It is really delicious, thank you. Sorry for disturbing your meal, I...」 At this point, she tilted her head and blinked a few times.


Her actions really fits the onomatopoeia.


「… I don’t know your name. What’s your name?」


「I’m Tsurumi Asuta. If it’s hard to pronounced, just call me Asuta.」


「Chooroo… Asuta. I am very thankful to Asuta of house Fa.」


She seemed to respect me more now. I waved at her warmly.


「It’s fine, I was just surprised. Thank you for your compliment… Ai Fa, thank you for stopping her.」


Ai Fa sat back down with a hmmp.


After Ai Fa unhanded Rimee Wu, Rimee Wu sat down and hugged her knees in silence.


… I don’t get the denizens of Forest’s Edge at all.


This girl gets all excited over trivial things. But after living in this different world for five days, this was the first time I met a denizen of Forest’s Edge who didn’t shun Ai Fa.


The other denizens fear the Tsun clan and didn’t interact with Ai Fa. In contrast, Rimee Wu didn’t hide her affection for Ai Fa at all, which made me glad and I hope they could get along.


In the end, Ai Fa and Rimee both fell silent, so I had to eat my dinner quietly.


Although the food was cold, it still taste wonderful. Personally, I was satisfied with the results.


「I’m full… Well then, it’s already dark. Rimee Wu, can you get home by yourself?」


When I asked that, Rimee Wu who was hugging her knees seemed to remember something and raised her head.


I thought she would stand up with a start, but she knelt on the rug and reached out to me with both hands.


「Rimee Wu of the Wu clan has a request for Asuta of House Fa! Can you lend me a hand?」


I was troubled and glanced Ai Fa’s way.


Ai Fa got up on one knee and frowned confusedly.


「Please make this incredible meal for the Wu clan’s grand elder Jiba Wu… She will die if things don’t change!」


Large tear drops fell from Rimee Wu’s blue eyes.


But she didn’t wail loudly this time! Rimee Wu couldn’t stop her tears, she covered her face and sobbed.


Part 5
「…Asuta, are you going to the Wu clan?」


Night has fallen.


「I will be back tomorrow morning.」


Rimee Wu bowed to us and went off home.


She only said to me 「You can give me your reply tomorrow」 and 「I will convince my family tonight.」


I put the used utensils and kitchenware into the iron pot, and my job was done. Usually, we will chat and then sleep — But tonight, Ai Fa merely fell silent without any expression.


I had to learn the common sense of this different world. So Ai Fa would spend some time before we sleep to tell me about the rules and taboo of Forest’s Edge, legends of the kingdoms and the gods, or about the post station town in Genos’ territory I had not visited before. She told me many things, but she was silent tonight.


After maintaining this status for some time, she finally said those words.


Ai Fa leaned against the wall and didn’t look at me, her eyes gazing into the darkness outside the window.


The fire in the stove was out, and only the candlelight was left. I stared at her cold profile in the dim light and answered quietly:


「I want to go — That’s how I feel right now.」


Jiba Wu was the grand elder of the Wu clan, and Rimee Wu hope I could cook for her — even though all of Rimee Wu’s actions were exaggerated, what she described wasn’t complicated.


The elderly grandmother Jiba Wu was 85, and almost all her teeth had fallen due to old age, so she couldn’t eat properly.


And now, it took a lot of effort just for her to eat the diced kiba meat and boiled vegetable stew. And the amount she consumes decreases every day.


… There is no point in drinking these mud water-like thing every day in order to survive...


She said as she wept every day.


Despite being healthy a few years ago, she had grown weak and even her spirit was gradually weakening.


She really loved the youngest Rimee Wu, and her suffering must really hurt Rimee Wu.


When I think about how Rimee Wu feels, I want to make a trip to the Wu clan.


「But you don’t agree, Ai Fa?」


When she heard my question, Ai Fa answered emotionlessly:


「… Although the Tsun clan led Forest’s Edge for generations, the Wu clan could rival them. There had been bad blood between the two clans a few generations ago.」


「Bad blood?」


「About twenty years ago, there was a girl supposed to marry into the Wu clan, but people from the Tsun clan abducted her. The men from Wu were furious and stormed into the Tsun clan. The previous Tsun clan head said that the girl committed adultery despite being betrothed to another, and they had punished her according to the rules. The corpse of the girl was returned to the Wu clan.」


「……」


「The girl probably killed herself before the other party could sully her. But there wasn’t any evidence, so the Wu men could only curse and swear as they sheath their blades… If the Tsun and Wu clan fought, a war that would rend Forest’s Edge in two would break out. And both parties would suffer tremendous losses. If the Tsun clan don’t hand over the girl, the Wu clan would probably start a war anyway. But since the girl was dead, we won’t fight for dead people. The two clans broke off all contacts, and they had not resolved their difference even now.」


「How discomforting. Are all Tsun clansmen such terrible people?」


「Who knows. At least the men who inherited the bloodline of the clan head are all bad.」 Ai Fa didn’t change her expression as she said these in a cold manner.


「And when I got into a dispute with Diga Tsun two years ago, the Wu clan head suggested that I marry into the Wu clan.」


「M… Marry into the Wu clan?」


「Donda said to me with a smile:『That way, the Tsun clan won’t go after you. Even if they tried, I would end the Tsun clan』… I rejected his offer and cut off ties with the Wu clan.」


「Ah… So that’s what you mean when you say you 『don’t want to spark off a war』.」


「Even if the Wu clan don’t help me, I won’t yield to Diga Tsun. I shouldn’t have any dealings with either family.」


「I see. I understand now. From your position, since I’m living under your roof, you won’t tolerate it if I help the Wu clan.」


I sighed deeply.


Ai Fa then turned her head away, the corner of her mouth twisted as if she was mocking something


Such a smile didn’t suit her.


「But even so, you still want to help Rimee Wu, right? That’s the kind of man you are, Asuta.」


「Hmm…? That is true. That girl Rimee Wu looks like a good kid, and I want that grandmother to relive the joy of eating.」


「Yes. In that case, just do what you want to do.」


「Huh?」


「This is a simple matter. If you wish to help Rimee Wu and Jiba Wu, you have need to cut off relations with me. After that, you can just ask the Wu clan to take you in… It’s simple, right?」


「What? I can’t switch targets so easily, I’m not a frivolous girl.」


I shrugged, unable to understand what Ai Fa’s true intention is.


「I’m not as troubled as you think. I feel sorry for Rimee Wu, but I will reject her proposal.」


「… What?」


「Even though Rimee Wu is an endearing child, I just met her, and I have never met that grandmother before… You might think this is cold of me, but if doing this puts you in a difficult position, then I won’t be able to help after all.」


「… Why?」


Ai Fa snapped her head back.


She seemed to be very surprised.


「This expression isn’t like her」, I thought as I act natural.


「You are asking me why. Compared to someone I didn’t know and never met, you are more important to me… Don’t make me say something so embarrassing, dummy.」


「……」


「What is it? Isn’t it great that I won’t have anything to do with the Wu clan?」


「It isn’t anything important, but if you save a member of the Wu clan, Donda Wu might ask me to marry into his clan again in the name of repaying a favour. If I reject him again, he will definitely think I’m insulting his clan and vent his anger on me.」


「What a difficult old man… By the way, does the young men from Wu clan lack charisma? He wants you to marry Rimee Wu’s brother, right?」


I asked with half envy and half curiosity, and Ai Fa only answered coldly: 「I have already decided to live by 《hunting kiba》」.


「Women have to live a life weaving grass and tanning hides while waiting for their men to return. That doesn’t suit my character. I want to be a hunter that lives in the forest and dies in the forest. I decided that when I lost my father Gill.」


「Well, it’s a pity since you are so beautiful.」 She didn’t retort despite my sarcastic comment.


An unknown emotion lit the fire in Ai Fa’s eyes.


「Anyway, you don’t need to worry. I will reject Rimee Wu’s request, nothing will change. Even if I reject Rimee Wu, the Wu clan won’t bear a grudge towards me.」


Rimee Wu said to me just now 「I will convince my father!」.


Which means this request came from Rimee Wu’s own will. Even if she told her family about this, they might be suspicious about me and not be willing to accept my help.


「Why? If you end your relationship with me, you will be free to do as you please. In that case, why aren’t you doing what you want? Instead of being together with an eccentric person like me, you probably want to help the Wu clan more.」


「I don’t feel like helping them at all. You took so much care of me, just the thought of leaving you for such a reason to live with an unfamiliar family displeases me… Hey, you have been acting weird just now, just what do you want me to do?」


Ai Fa didn’t answer me.


So I stood up, and sat cross legged before her.


Ai Fa lowered her head, an agitated flame still burned in her eyes.


「Ai Fa, if you think I’m a burden and want me to go, I will do that. But you don’t think so, right? In that case, tell me what you really think.」


「……」


「I can’t tell what you are thinking, just tell me honestly. I will do what you wish, in a way you like.」


Ai Fa lift her head and stared at me straight.


Her eyes still had that blue flame — but she was a little teary.


「My father — Gill Fa passed away two years ago.」


Her pink lips formed these words quietly.


「Before father passed away, I was on good terms with Rimee Wu. Even though I didn’t have much dealings with the Wu clan, Jiba Wu dotes on Rimee Wu and I had seen her a few times when I was young.」


「… I see.」


My heart tumbled when I saw her tearful eyes, and could only answer this way.


Ai Fa frowned a little painfully.


「I don’t want to have anything to do with the Wu clan. But if Rimee Wu and Jiba Wu suffers… I will be sad too.」


「In that case… what you want the most is for me to break off my relationship with you and help Rimee Wu?」


When I said that, she grabbed me by the chest.


Her eyes burning with blue flames stared right at me.


And then…


A droplet slid quietly down from her tearful eyes.


「I also…」


Her voice was quivering a little.


「I also… don’t know what to do.」


How could she not know?


I just need to break my relationship with her, and I would be able to help Rimee Wu.


If she didn’t want to have any dealings with the Wu clan and wants to help Rimee Wu, this was the only way.
However…


Ai Fa’s fingers grabbed my chest tightly.


She seemed tensed, as if I would disappear if she let go.


「I see.」


I placed my hands on Ai Fa’s shoulders.


I felt her bare shoulders, her smooth skin and the warmth underneath that — and also her quivering.


I pulled her shoulders towards me.


Ai Fa’s slender body fell onto my chest without any resistance.


「It can’t be helped since you don’t know. But it would be more appropriate if I didn’t know what to do either.」


I could smell my favourite scent from Ai Fa, which stimulates my nasal cavity.


I felt that fragrance fill my heart, and said quietly:


「But, I know what I want to do the most… If you don’t tell me what to do, can I do it my way?」


「……」


「I want to help Rimee Wu. But I don’t want to leave you. So I will help the Rimee Wu and Jiba Wu you like so much officially as someone staying in the Fa house.」


After I said that, I patted Ai Fa’s hair that had been tied up into a complicated braid.


「The dispute between the Tsun and Wu clan isn’t important at all, right? Why should I abandon someone I cherished for such a stupid dispute? The important things related to the future of the settlement should be left to the old men who are responsible. Don’t overlook your own feelings for such things.」


「……」


「Let’s help Rimee Wu together. Who cares what Rimee Wu’s father says. If he brings up the matter about marriage again, just tell him to find a man more delicious than a kiba for you!」


Ai Fa couldn’t answer.


But her fingers grasped my chest tightly and her tears continued to to wet my t-shirt.


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