Saturday, February 17, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 4 Chapter 3

The Day of Deep Thinking
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Tokumei, Ratorasepo
1


The Fa house has decided to open a stall in the Post Station Town.
Even though the decision had been made, we still had a mountain of things to consider. As there were too many issues to address, I didn’t know where to start.


After thinking about it carefully, I summarized them into three main issues.


The points were as follows——


One, could we balance work and house chores?


Two, how would we transport the goods?


Three, what was the sales target?


I need to figure out these three questions before I could work on the menu.


To be honest, I already got a gist of the menu, and just needed to work out my plan based on which dish I would be serving.


First, could we balance work and house chores?


My schedule had not been consistent lately, but my tasks were centered around dawn and dusk. Till now, I used the time around noon to practice my cooking, so it wouldn’t be a problem if I filled this time to commute to work and open the stall.


However, if I were to spend too much time on preparing the food, I would need to shorten my operation time.


In order to run the business smoothly, I had to think of an airtight plan.


Next was how to transport the items.


This was a difficult one.


Since I wanted to sell steaming hot food, I had to bring the iron pot and firewood to the Post Station Town. I needed someone to help me, but it couldn’t be Ai Fa.


Ai Fa was a hunter, after all, so she needed to hunt and couldn’t stay in the Post Station Town for long. If she were to help me ferry the goods, she would need to make two trips to the Post Station Town. A one-way journey from Forest's Edge to the Post Station Town required an hour. I couldn’t let her neglect her hunting work for such a menial chore.


And so—— that's where things started to get interesting. I had to hire someone to 『work』.


No matter what, it was too risky to tend the stall by myself. I would need to leave the stall because of miscellaneous matters from time to time, and leaving the stall unattended in the Post Station Town where people discriminate against Forest's Edge was dangerous. There might be ruffians hostile towards the denizens of Forest's Edge who would sneak into the stall.


Hence, I needed to get at least one more person to help.


Finally, how should we set the sales target?


That was another tough question. I think it would be good enough not to lose money. Considering our long-term goal, the price of the merchandise couldn’t be too low.


One of our goals was  「let the people in the Post Station Town recognize the value of kiba meat」, we hoped that kiba meat could have comparable value with the other meat sold in the Post Station Town.


If not, we would disrupt the market prices.


If we set the price of kiba meat too low, it might force the other meat stalls to the brink.


And so, I arrived at a conclusion. No matter what my profits were, I would sell a product at the same size and volume as a 「Kimyusu meat bun」.


The last thing to consider would be the calculation of ingredient cost and profits.


In order to ask Kaslan Lutim for his opinion, I visited his room with the above plan early in the morning. I didn’t expect my actions to make him so confused.


「Asuta, I’m sorry. I don’t understand at all…」


「Eh? What don’t you understand?」


「I get what you are saying, but even if you ask me about revenue, price and working hours—— I’m at a loss too, and don’t know how to help you.」


It seemed that I explained too many unnecessary things.


Even if I asked him about operation hours and price setting, he couldn’t do anything about it, so I just needed to worry about them by myself.


「Sorry, you are right. I’m here to discuss with you about getting helpers to tend to the stall. If I want to open a stall in the Post Station Town, I will need helpers. I can’t transport a pot full of ingredients alone, and I also want someone to look after the stall at times. So I will need the help of the women in Forest's Edge. I can use kiba tusks and horns to compensate them for their time and effort.」


Kaslan Lutim’s serious face showed signs of hesitation.


I have never seen him make such an expression.


「That shouldn’t be a problem. But won’t Ai Fa be with you after opening your stall in the Post Station Town?」


「Eh? No, Ai Fa is a hunter, she has her own work to attend to, so she can’t help me. If Ai Fa were to stop hunting kiba, we would lose everything.」


「If you earn copper plates in the Post Station Town, you can exchange them for aria and poitan, right?」


「Only if my business is successful. If the business were to fail, we would lose all our savings. Besides, we will need to hunt kiba to get the meat for the stall.」


「House Lutim can provide meat for you. Like I said yesterday, we have piles of meat and can’t use them all.」


「Alright, when the business gets on track, I will be counting on you for that. But what we need right now are copper plates, we need them to buy the vegetables required for the dishes.」


I wasn’t sure why Kaslan Lutim had such a reaction, but I continued:


「It might not be easy to sell kiba meal in the Post Station Town, so it’s better to plan for the worst. It’s even possible to have no sales within these ten days. If that were to happen, we would lose all the tusks and horns Ai Fa had earned so far. And so, I think Ai Fa should continue hunting—— and most important of all, Ai Fa has no intention of giving up her job as a hunter.」


Ai Fa who was beside me nodded.


Kaslan Lutim sighed softly.


「That’s true. Asuta, you are right. You already set your mind on opening a stall in the Post Station Town and will go as far as to risk losing all your horns and tusks in order to achieve this goal. My thinking is too shallow… Unfortunately, house Lutim is short on women help, and we even need to get other houses to lend us their aid. Like I mentioned yesterday, house Lutim doesn’t have many women…」


「I see, then I will need to discuss this with the Wu clan—— considering Donda Wu’s temperament, he will probably turn me down. If we really can’t find any helpers, my only option will be to sell food that I can carry alone.」


「That won’t do.」「No way.」 The two of them said at the same time.


「W-Why not?」


Ai Fa who was beside me closed in on me angrily.


「Think about it carefully, if the business succeeds, can you walk around in the Post Station Town with copper plates on you? if the ruffians in the Post Station Town were to attack you, would you be able to protect yourself?」


「Eh… You are correct. But the women in Forest's Edge also need to buy things in the Post Station Town, right? If they are fine, then I…」


「… Do you think you are stronger than the women of Forest's Edge?」


I was dealt a huge blow.


I might not be as strong as Mama Mia Lei, but I wouldn’t lose to Leina Wu or Lala Wu—— at least I hoped so.


「Ai Fa is right. Even if you are stronger than the women of Forest's Edge, going about alone in the Post Station Town is still very dangerous.」


「W-Why, Kaslan Lutim?」


「In the Post Station Town, no one dares to use violence against the denizens of Forest's Edge. It’s the same for the elderly, women and children. The people in the city already learned what will happen to them if they laid a hand on the denizens of Forest's Edge—— we have already proven this point decades ago.」


Kaslan Lutim’s tone was calm, but his words were intimidating.


Could it be—— something incredibly terrifying happened several decades ago?


「… However, even though you wear the garbs of a denizen of Forest's Edge, your appearance is closer to the people in the city. If the ruffians in the Post Station Town were to think you are not a real denizen of Forest's Edge, you would be in danger.」


「I see…」


「Furthermore, you might run into the people from the Tsun clan in the Post Station Town. Compared to the ruffians in the Post Station Town, I’m more worried about them.」


After Kaslan Lutim said that, Ai Fa nodded firmly.


「I already considered this possibility—— but even the depraved Tsun clan won’t use violence openly in broad daylight when they are in the Post Station Town, right?」


「… Didn’t the second son of the Tsun clan Doddo Tsun brandish his saber in broad daylight that other time in the  Post Station Town? During my wedding day, he also drew his blade against us.」


「Well… You are right… But if he really were to hurt anyone with his blade, he would be punished too, right?」


「That is only natural. Both the city’s law and the rules of Forest's Edge forbid the act of drawing one’s blade and hurting others. Anyone who breaches this rule will have to pay for his crime with his life.」


Kaslan Lutim leaned forward unconsciously.


「If anything were to happen to you and the criminal is executed, that still won’t solve anything. We can’t exchange the life of a ruffian for your wellbeing.」


Kaslan Lutim’s eyes were troubled, and Ai Fa’s raging gaze made me realized how naive I was.


I was too unaware of the dangers.


「Of course, no matter how lawless the people of the Tsun clan is, they won’t commit such grievous crime so easily in public. They know this will lead to their own destruction… But Asuta, think about it. During your daily commute to the Post Station Town, there will be plenty of chances for others to attack you. If the ruffians were to ambush you during your journey from Forest's Edge to the Post Station Town——」


「W-Wait, even if I were to be in the company of women from the Lutim or Wu clan, our position would still be precarious, right?」


「No, the Tsun clan don’t have the guts to do so right now. If any kin of the Wu clan is harmed, all the pent-up rage Donda Wu is bottling up will explode.」


I noticed there is a stern light in Kaslan Lutim’s eyes that I have never seen before.


「If that happens, the Tsun clan will be destroyed, and the Wu clan’s kin will suffer heavy losses—— And it will be only a matter of time before the Forest's Edge settlement gets wiped out.」


「… Yes.」


「The head of the Tsun clan knows Donda Wu’s temperament very well. He is probably very unhappy that his sons taunted the Wu clan. After all, the head of the Tsun clan’s goal is to protect his own stable life.」


「… Those people actually barged into the wedding under such a situation.」


「Yes, they are too retarded, even going against their clan head’s will.」


This was the first time I heard this earnest young man showed scold someone so plainly.


I experienced many things for the first time this morning.


「According to my observations, even if the three sons from the Tsun clan are incredibly retarded, they still have no intention of bringing Forest's Edge towards destruction. The second son Doddo Tsun only brandished his blade during the wedding to intimidate you. I already said this before, but the Fa house isn’t a kin of the Wu clan. So the Tsun clan will lose control very easily when they face the Fa house.」


「Yes…」


「Since Ai Fa is capable of protecting you, I don’t think the Tsun clan would be a threat to you two. But Ai Fa can’t move together with you this time—— You can only rely on Donda Wu. If you can afford to pay and hire the women from the Wu clan, they would be able to ensure your safety.」


「I see… So there won’t be any danger if I employ the women from the Wu clan? I’m not worried about myself, but for the safety of the women from the Wu clan.」


「No—— I can bet my life on that. After all, I’m the most unwilling to see Forest's Edge head towards destruction.」


Kaslan Lutim’s eyes showed no hesitation at all.


Unlike the careless me, Kaslan Lutim was a great man, he wouldn’t show any openings to the Tsun clan. His unwavering eyes made me believe that.


This steeled my heart even more, but Ai Fa was still glaring angrily at me from the side.


「Asuta, you are too careless and don’t think about protecting yourself properly. I won’t let a frail man like you leave Forest's Edge alone.」


「Stop emphasizing me being weak. I know that very well…」


「It can’t be helped. Hunters will hunt, hearth tenders will take care of the hearth. The Wu clan and Lutim house have their own responsibilities too, which is to be on guard against the Tsun clan’s violent acts. The Fa house’s duty is to open a stall in the Post Station Town—— We might not be related by blood, but for the sake of a more prosperous life for everyone, we need to make up for each others shortcoming. That’s how things should be.」


Kaslan Lutim finally smiled.


「Ai Fa, is it the Fa house’s style to shoulder everything by themselves and not to rely on others? In that case, then you and Asuta are really alike. Both of you have no regards for your own well-being for the sake of achieving your goals.」


Kaslan Lutim was a great man as expected.


After all—— Ai Fa pouted her lips vexingly after hearing that.


This was the first time I have seen Ai Fa showed such a face to someone else.


While I was impressed by Kaslan Lutim magnanimity—— something akin to jealousy welled up in my heart.


Just how narrow-minded was I? I could only sigh at myself.


2


Before noon, we estimated the time Donda Wu would rise from bed, and left the Lutim house.


With our new pot in tow, we set off together with Kaslan and his wife.


「I want to see Kota Wu.」Ema Min Lutim used this reason and asked us to take her along.


「Didn’t you visit the Wu clan village yesterday?」


「I went to learn cooking and didn’t see Kota Wu.」


「But you will be visiting the Wu clan to learn cooking later too, right?」


「That’s right. All the women are attending; if I miss out, I would be the worst cook in house Lutim. Kaslan, are you fine with that?」


「But…」


「Also, if we don’t go to the Wu clan together, I will only see you at dinner. If you are okay with that, I can go back to house Lutim now.」


「I-I’m not saying you should go back.」


In these thirty minutes, we had the rare chance to listen to the conversation between newlyweds.


I could only say that I was envious.


We reached the Wu village as we chatted.


There might have been only three days since the wedding, but it seemed like it happened such a long time ago.


The women in the branch houses were doing all sort of chores. Upon seeing us, they all waved.


I spent six days in this village after all, so this was like my second home.


「Ara ara, what’s the occasion, you are actually visiting us together! Even bringing a pot too! The feast is already over, isn’t it?」


Mama Mia Lei received us cheerfully at the main house.


She seemed surprised and intrigued and had a happy smile on her face. Her smile felt very nostalgic.


「I’m here to discuss something with Donda Wu. Is he awake?」


「Ah, he is chewing on jerky in the hall. Jiza and Ludo are with him… I will safekeep your blades, can you put the pot around here, please?」


「Alright.」


Mama Mia Lei took Ai Fa and Kaslan Lutim’s sabres and also my Santoku knife with her strong arms.


「Alright then, welcome to the Wu clan… Clan head, you have guests!」


After entering through the door, we found the clan head and his sons sitting opposite to each other in the center of the hall.


「Hmm, Asuta, it’s you! What brings you here!?」


Ludo Wu stood up nimbly when he noticed my presence.


Only then did the clan head and his heir turn their heads slowly our way.


They—— seemed rather unhappy.


「What, it’s you damn brats again. Nothing good ever comes from seeing you.」


Kaslan Lutim bowed towards Donda Wu. The other party was obviously displeased, almost to the point of being hostile.


「Head of the Wu clan Donda Wu, sorry for intruding, but could we have a bit of your time?」


Donda who was in the seat of honor snorted, then sat up straight.


Jiza Wu and Ludo Wu also sat down opposite to us.


「Mia Lei Wu, I want to visit Sati Lei Wu and Kota Wu, are they in?」


「They are in their rooms. That’s right, let’s leave the troublesome matters to the men.」


After Mama Mia Lei placed our blades beside the clan head, she walked along the corridor to the right together with Ema Min Lutim.


「It’s almost time for everyone to head into the Forest, so I will be brief… The Fa house wanted the Lutim house to help with a job. But our house didn’t have means to do it, so we are here together to request for assistance from the Wu clan.」


「… A job?」
「That’s right—— Asuta, please explain.」


「Alright. I will be frank; I’m planning to open a stall in the Post Station Town.」
「What!?」


Ludo Wu shouted in surprise.


「What is this about! Hey, Asuta! Are you leaving Forest's Edge!?」


「No, I’m planning to set up a stall to sell kiba meat meals as a denizen of Forest's Edge… People might think this is ridiculous, but we have made up our mind. I’m here to discuss this with everyone… Because I hope the Wu clan will let me borrow a woman to help me.」


Donda Wu already had a displeased face, so his expression didn’t change much.


Jiza Wu’s thoughts were as elusive as ever.


Ludo Wu—— started laughing out loud.


「What? You want the people from the city to eat kiba? The people who mock and call us 《kiba eater》? You really are an interesting man! How did you come up with such an outrageous idea?」


「That’s complicated and will take a lot of time to explain… Donda Wu, what are your thoughts about this?」


「… Is this your idea?」


Donda Wu went straight to the point.


I straightened my back unconsciously.


「No. The one who suggested for me to do that was Kamyua Yost, the citizen of Rock City from last time.」


「I knew it. Did that fool show up at the Fa house as promised?」
「Yes. But I didn’t collude with him on this. When he gave this suggestion, I couldn’t understand what his intentions were. After hearing him out, I realized that running a stall wasn’t impossible, and decided to give it a shot.」


I thought Donda Wu would react more strongly.


If I had to say—— Jiza Wu who was sitting quietly at the side started emitting a dangerous aura instead.


「After I treated him to a meal at the Fa house, he commented that kiba was delicious, and it was a pity not to sell it. If we can barter kiba meat for copper plates, the lives of Forest's Edge denizens will be more prosperous. In order to let the people in the city understand how delicious kiba meat is, I need to open a stall in the Post Station Town—— that’s the conclusion I arrived at after our discussion. I also visited the Post Station Town to conduct plenty of research, and check if this incredible proposal is really feasible.」


Repeating what I told Kaslan Lutim yesterday, I explained my thoughts and feelings of the past two days.


Even if we sold kiba food in the Post Station Town, it wouldn’t upset people too much.


If it works, we might really be able to pull this off in the Post Station Town.


I still couldn’t understand Kamyua Yost, but it was true that he admired the denizens of Forest's Edge and had no intentions of deceiving us.


「What an elusive man. But your cooking is really delicious! I can’t wait to see the faces made by the city people when they try kiba meat!」


「Shut up, Ludo.」


Donda Wu snapped at him.


He wasn’t in a good mood, but his expression remained calm.


He might actually agree to this—— just when I was thinking that, Jiza Wu called my name:


「Asuta, you look just like a man from the city, and it wouldn’t be strange for you to do business in town… Why don’t you become a Post Station Town citizen, wouldn’t that simplify the matter?」


「Jiza Wu, I know how you feel. I also answered you before that I like Forest's Edge. Given two choices - either remaining in Forest's Edge or opening the stall, I would choose Forest's Edge.」


「Hehe.」


I heard a strange noise, and when I shifted my gaze, I found Ludo Wu laughing while facing away.


He had an incredibly cheerful smile on his face.


「… What a joke.」


Donda Wu muttered.


「I don’t think the people in Rock city will eat kiba happily, trying to barter kiba meat for copper plates is a ridiculous idea.」


「Yes. I can’t imagine earning any profits from the stall. But I still want to give it a shot.」


I leaned forward a little and stared at Donda Wu’s chiseled face.
「Just Ai Fa and I alone can’t run a stall in the Post Station Town. We will need helpers to operate the stall, and I have been advised that it is too dangerous for me to move around in the Post Station Town alone. I might also run into the Tsun clan, so it is better for me to enlist the help from the kin of the Wu clan.—— After listening to my words, will you please consider this?」


「Hmmp…」


「I won’t ask you to believe that this business will be successful. Be it success or failure I will pay the agreed remuneration. After discussing with Kaslan Lutim, I have set six copper plates as the wage for one day of work—— which is one tusk and one horn of a large kiba.」


I heard that two women needed half a day to make one piece of fur. The price of the fur was equivalent to two tusks and horns—— between eight to twelve copper plates.


Kamyua Yost said that the tusks and horns from one kiba were worth ten copper plates. After checking with Ai Fa and the others, I found out that the price of the tusks and horns would differ according to their sizes.


I needed a woman to help me for half a day, so I thought the price I was offering matched the market price.


「As the Fa house and the Tsun clan have had some bad blood in the past, please take that into consideration too. Kaslan Lutim told me that the Tsun clan won’t lay their hands on me as long as a kin from the Wu clan is with me. However, Doddo Tsun is reckless, and I can’t be sure what he will do if he gets drunk.」


「You don’t need to tell me that, brat… Don’t look down on the women from the Wu clan.」


「Clan head.」


Jiza Wu was stopped mid-sentence by Donda Wu.


「If I lend you my woman for half a day, you will give me one horn and tusk. That’s not a bad deal. The Wu clan does have the people to spare.」


「Yes.」


「I have a condition.」
「A condition?」


「If you conspire with that retarded blonde man to harm Forest's Edge, I will take your right arm.」


I felt a chill running down my spine.


I wasn’t looking Ai Fa’s way, but I could feel murderous intent from her.


「If you agree to this, I will lend you a helper.」


「… I don’t have any malicious intentions, but I’m not sure about Kamyua Yost.」


「If that man has any schemes, I will lop off his head. If you collude with him, I will cut off your right arm.」


A heavy silence shrouded the hall.


I gulped.


「I’m willing to swear that aside from the thoughts and feelings I described earlier, I have no other intentions—— However, if Kamyua Yost does have ulterior motives, I won’t be able to prove my innocence when his schemes are uncovered.」


「I don’t need you to be a smart alec. If you got fooled by him, I will just laugh at you for being retarded… Kaslan Lutim, head of the Fa house.」


「Yes.」


Kaslan Lutim answered quietly. Ai Fa was silent as she glared at Donda Wu.


An angry fire burned in her eyes.


「Do you believe what this brat is saying?」


「Of course. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have come.」


「What about you, head of the Fa house?」


「… Isn’t it obvious? As the house head, how can I not trust my own family?」


Her voice was trembling with rage.


Donda Wu was unusually calm in front of Ai Fa.


「If the two of them believe in your innocence until the very end, I will let you off. If they are certain that you have betrayed Forest's Edge, I will take your right arm.」


「I accept this term.」


I wiped away the cold sweat on my brows and answered:


「I vow to never betray the denizens of Forest's Edge.」


「Will you swear on your right arm?」


「I do, I swear on my right arm.」


The next instant, Ai Fa proclaimed loudly:


「Hold it; the Fa house is the one that decided to open a stall in the Post Station Town, not Asuta. If anything happens, the house head should be responsible.」


Ai Fa’s cat-like eyes burned with an intense flame.


Donda Wu stared at her silently.


「If I do anything against my conscience, I will give you my arm.」


「Hey, Ai Fa——」


「Head of the Fa house, I don’t need your arm.」


Donda Wu cut me off sternly.


「Someone like you won’t collude with the people of Rock city. But this brat came from a foreign land, I just want to know his true intentions and resolve.」


「But…」


「Didn’t he give his answer? I only want to know whether he will attempt to deceive us. He won’t lose his right arm unless he betrays us.」


The light in Donda Wu’s eyes intensified a little as he stared at the furious Ai Fa.


「He already made his resolve, are you going to trample over his efforts…? Or do you actually doubt him?」


Ai Fa tried to stand up.


I grabbed her arm in a panic.


「Calm down, Ai Fa. I won’t betray the denizens of Forest's Edge; it will be fine.」


This was probably an unnecessary precaution.


Donda Wu was the head of the Wu clan’s main house and had the future of Forest's Edge resting on his shoulders. He shouldn’t believe me so easily.


Even so, he was willing to let Kaslan Lutim and Ai Fa judge me.


Ai Fa and Kaslan Lutim were his tribe mates from Forest's Edge. Even if he didn’t trust me, he could trust them—— I felt that Donda Wu’s decisiveness was very straight to the point.


However… Donda Wu always hid his intentions with crude words, which I think was a bad point.


Even so, I still understood his actions.


Ai Fa glared at me for a moment, then sat down again.


She lowered her head to conceal her agitated emotions and eyes and bit on her lower lips.


「… Looks like we have a deal.」


Donda Wu muttered.


「Well then, who shall we send to help you—」


「Ah, the job includes transporting the ingredients and iron pot, as well as tending to the stall. My helper will need to be capable of traversing the hilly terrain with the ingredients and pot.」


「Hmmp…」


「Women from the main or branch houses are fine; I will leave the choice to you.」


As I was speaking, my heart turned gloomy.


I had yet to meet Leina Wu and Vena Wu since the wedding.


Vena Wu asked me to take her along and journey to a faraway place.


Leina Wu wanted me to leave the Fa house and become a member of the Wu clan.


I could fulfill neither of these two wishes.


I didn’t want to avoid them forever and hoped to build a stable relationship with them again. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know how.


Who would he dispatch? My heart raced as I waited for his answer— Donda Wu finally said:


「Let’s send Vena then.」


3


After a series of events, this was my third visit to the Post Station Town.


I was talking with Donda Wu in the Wu main house just a short time earlier.


After leaving the Fa house yesterday, we visited house Lutim, went to the Post Station Town, returned to house Lutim again and stayed the night there. The next day, I’m here at the Post Station Town after visiting the Wu clan—— my itenary was fully pack for these two days.


I visited the Post Station Town two days in a row.


I had slowly gotten used to the messy streets.


Ai Fa wasn’t with me today.


The Lutim house marriage was already three days ago, Ai Fa had to hunt the forest today, so she went home alone with the iron pot.


And accompanying me in her place— were Vena Wu and Ludo Wu.


An unexpected trio.


「Hee hee, it’s been so long since I came to the Post Station Town! This place is still so stifling!」


Ludo Wu said excitedly.


「I like the Post Station Town… But, I don’t like how everyone stares at me, it’s a bit unnerving…」


Vena Wu was all smiles too.


On the night of the wedding, when we were together in the stove room of Shin Wu’s house, Vena Wu begged me in tears not to be together with Leina Wu. Her figure back then was still fresh on my mind—— and Vena Wu was walking beside her brother on the stone paved path right now, her face showing a more cheerful and pure smile than usual.


On the other hand, I felt a bit tired.


In order to execute the plan in my mind, I had to visit the Post Station Town again. As Ai Fa couldn’t accompany me, Donda Wu lended me two members of the Wu clan. I was grateful for Donda Wu’s help, but he had a condition; he wanted me to introduce Kamyua Yost to the two of them.


As Kamyua Yost was too hard to understand, Donda Wu probably wanted the two of them to get to know his thoughts as much as possible.


Would the meeting between them and Kamyua Yost end smoothly? I was worried.


「L-Ludo Wu, don’t you need to do your work as a hunter?」


After asking that, Ludo Wu said that the Wu clan won’t be entering the forest today.


The reason was simple—— there were kiba everywhere in the forest.


With the increase in the number of kiba, the Wu clan already hunted enough for two days during their trip yesterday. A few men from the branch family and Darum Wu also suffered light wounds.


They already lost Ryada Wu, so they couldn’t afford to be reckless and risk losing more hunters. Hence, everyone gets to rest for a day, and not hunt kiba—— we just happened to arrive when the Wu clan reached this conclusion.


The situation in the Wu clan was even more dire than house Lutim.


This made me worry about Ai Fa who went into the forest today, but the brave huntress from my house wasn’t fazed as expected.


「This probably meant that the kiba group is slowly moving south. There are only smaller houses in our vicinity, so they couldn’t hunt all the kiba. After the kiba eats all the food in the area, they will continue moving down south.」


「I see…」


「When they had eaten all the food in the south, they will head to village and ravage the farms. This might be a worse disaster than usual.」


Ai Fa was calm, but angry flame burned in her blue eyes.


「I can only do what what I can to hunt the kiba and do my job… Asuta, go and do your job too.」


「I got it.」


Ai Fa and I act separately.


I headed to the Post Station Town with the eldest daughter and the youngest son from the Wu clan——


「Uwah, that’s a Totos, a Totos! It looks as funny as ever! Asuta, what does the Totos taste like?」


「L-Ludo Wu, don’t be so loud.」


「Asuta… I never thought that I would get to work with you for ten days in a row, this is like a dream… Thank you for giving me such a wonderful job…」


「T-This is work alright? You have to work properly okay? Please keep private and work matters apart!」


We just reached the Post Station Town, when the two of them started talking loudly.


The gazes on us were different from the previous two times I visited.


By the way, Ludo Wu was wearing his cape and dressed like a hunter as usual. Vena Wu had a different attire today. She had a translucent veil on her head, a shawl covered her shoulders and a cloth with swirly patterns covered her waist down to her ankles.


「Girls have to be careful. The people in the city aren’t our tribe mates, I can’t bare my skin before them…」


Her effort was commendable, but regrettably, such a thin piece of cloth couldn’t conceal Vena Wu’s thicc figure.


Her deep cleavage was very visible, and the slit down the cloth covering her waist revealed the beautiful curves on her legs, which was even sexier than baring them— the lusty eyes of the men were centered on her, surpassing those of disdain and fear.


「I don’t know if we will see those retards from the Tsun clan, but if they draw their blades in front of me, I will break their arms!」


「Don’t! Ludo Wu, please don’t make a scene!」


「What? You think I’m a retard who will create a trouble without being provoked?」


He wasn’t retarded, but he fulfilled all the conditions of starting trouble.


Ludo Wu was loud, have big movements and attract a lot of attention. But Vena Wu was on par with him.


However— I was happy about a certain quality Ludo Wu has.


In Forest's Edge, Ludo Wu was a carefree youth. He left a good impression on me, and I had never thought he was noisy or undependable. Instead, I think he had many good points, lively and pure.


The buildings and people in the Post Station Town were more densely pack, so for Ludo Wu, this town was too cramped.


He needed a big space for him to spread his limbs.


「Wah, it’s people from Semu! They are still so black! I wonder if he knows magic.」


But I really wish he wouldn’t point at pedestrians and shout!


「L-Let’s go! Let’s meet Kamyua first!」


I had to drag those two and hurried towards the 《Kimyusu’s tail inn》.


「Really now… Ludo, you are too loud, that makes us even more prominent…」


「What are you talking about Vena-nee! It’s because of the flirty way you walk!」


「Don’t say that, Asuta will hear you…」


This was probably the first time I hear them converse properly.


This scene calmed me down a little, but I still prefer enjoying such a heart warming interaction in Forest's Edge.


「Welcome… Oh, it’s you again.」


The owner of 《Kimyusu’s tail inn》—— I remember his name was Milano Mast—— received us with a sour face again.


「Oh~ so this is an inn.」


Ludo Wu looked around the room curiously. His actions made me nervous, and I asked:


「Is Kamyua Yost here?」


「No. He left early in the morning. I don’t know if he left for work or pleasure.」


He wasn’t here.


I felt relieved, but I was in a dilemma. I couldn’t carry out my promise with Donda Wu now.


At this moment, the boy Leito came out from inside the restaurant like he did last time.


「Asuta, you came to visit again…! And they are?」


「They are denizens from Forest's Edge, Vena Wu and Ludo Wu from the Wu clan.」
「I see, they are from the Wu clan.」


Leito smiled.


Seemed like Kamyua already told him their names.


「… And who are you?」


Ludo Wu squainted a little.


「Ah, I’m Leito, Kamyua’s disciple. Pleased to meet you both.」


「Disciple in what?」


「Disciple in being a 《Guardian》 of course.」


I still don’t understand the entire scope of Kamyua Yost’s job, but since he needed to ensure the safety of travelers, he probably gets embroiled into fights a lot.


「Kamyua is out to discuss details about a job next month. He left early in the morning, and won’t be back too lack.」


「I see. I will come over to find him after we finish buying our things.」


After giving this reply, I turned to Milano Mast who had turned his face to the side.


I had business with him today.


「Excuse me, Kamyua told me that this place handles the market place rental, and the lease of pushcarts. Can you lease a pushcart to me?」


「What?」


Milano Mast turned and faced me.


「If you are willing to pay, I will lease you my pushcart. What will you be selling?」


「I want to sell food made from kiba meat.」


The next moment, the man grunted unhappily.


「I don’t care what you are selling, but don’t make my pushcart stink, or I will force you to buy it. Can you accept that?」


「I will be selling food, so there will be some smell. Does this rule apply to the other renters too?」


「It’s fine if you sell Kimyusu or karon. But if the stench of the kiba gets on the pushcart, it can’t be used again.」


He mentioned an unfamiliar term in his reply.


What was a karon?


「You are really naggy, uncle! You don’t know how delicious kiba is, so don’t say so much alright? If you got a problem, then try eating some kiba first.」


Milano raised his thick eyebrow when he heard what Ludo Wu said.


「Then have you eaten karon or kimyusu before? You only think the stinky kiba is delicious because you have never tried them. If you don’t want to hear me nag, then don’t bring that meat into town!」


Even though Ludo Wu didn’t seem to be bothered, I felt that I should intervene.


「I’m sorry, but everyone has their own preferences, so there’s no point in debating about food you have never tried before. I tried Kimyusu a few times before, and I think kiba is on par with that.」


「… You used to be from the city right?」


「Yes, but I’m not a resident of Genos.」


「I can tell that much from your pale face. Even you think that kiba is delicious?」


「Of course its delicious. If not, I won’t be opening a stall here. I tried all sorts of meat back in my hometown. I think the taste of kiba is top notch.」


「… How is that possible. Were you eating Munto or Gizu meat?」


It was hard to get through to this uncle.


When I fell into deep thought, Leito suddenly interjected:


「Excuse me, Kamyua let me safekeep the kiba jerky he got yesterday. After trying it, the kiba meat is different from karon, and is tasty in a unique way.」


And of course, those were made from kiba that had been blood let. It was great that he likes them.


Milano frowned doubtfully.


He then shook his head and gave up on the debate.


「… Anyway, I’m running a business here. If you don’t stink up my pushcart, I can lease you as many as you like. The marketplace rental and pushcart lease will be two white copper plates.」


「That will be for ten days right? By the way, what are the dimensions of the pushcart?」


「Go look for yourself at the marketplace, there’s a few pushcart leased out by me there. My inn’s name is engraved on them.」


「Understand. I will come visit in a few days.」


I should leave for now.


「Please inform me when Kamyua returns.」


After I said that to Leito, I left the 《Kimyusu’s tail inn》 with my two companions.


「Asuta… you are awesome. You really are a man of the city…」


Vena Wu leaned close to me.


「I can’t get along with someone like that… I might lose my cool and punch him, just like Ludo…」


「Vena Wu, I’m hiring you to tend to the stall alright?」


「Yes… I’m willing to endure all sorts of humiliation for your sake, you know…?」


What humiliation?


Could I really work together with her for ten days? I already felt uneasy about the future.


「Let’s go shopping…? Hmm? What’s the matter, Ludo Wu?」


「Nothing… That kid just now…」


「Ah, you mean Leito. He’s a strange kid.」


「I don’t mean that— I think he is very pitiful.」


「Pitiful? Why?」


Leito’s mentor was a suspicious character, so I could sympatize with his situation. But Ludo Wu didn’t know how Kamyua’s character was.


「It’s fine, nothing to do with me. We should hurry. It’s been a while since I came to the Post Station Town, I want to shop for weapons.」


We set off on our incredible journey again.


I felt strange seeing these two walking so naturally in the Post Station Town.


「We are going to change for copper plates. Asuta, didn’t you rob those blessings from us? Are you going to use them?」


「Who robbed you…? Well, I was planning to use those blessings. But the tusks and horns you gave me aren’t on this necklace.」


There were ten tusks and horns on my necklace.


When Ai Fa and I splitted up at the Wu clan, he passed this necklace to me.


I was planning to use the tusks and horns I earned to buy the ingredients I needed in town, but Ai Fa was unhappy when she heard that.


「… You want to shoulder the entire burden yourself?」


「I’m planning to do that! Just ten tusks and horns isn’t enough to pay the initial cost right? I don’t want you to bear the entire cost.」


「… I’m the house head.」


「I know… But… If I don’t bear any of the cost, it will feel like I’m dumping everything onto you.」


Ai Fa fell into deep thought.


Ai Fa then took out a necklace from his cape. After adjusting the number of tusks and horns to ten, she gave it to me.


「Take this. Give me your necklace.」


「Okay… What do you want to do?」


「If the business in the Post Station Town fails, we will lose all our copper plates. I will then use your necklace to buy aria and poitan.」


Ai Fa put away the necklace I handed to her carefully.


「If the business is a success, we will get more copper plates. I will give you your necklace back then.」


「I see… I’m fine with that. But you—」


「It feels really awful to see someone shoulder all the responsibility. You made me realize that last night.」


Ai Fa’s face looked really scary.


「You don’t have any complains now huh… Besides, you don’t want to trade in the blessings Grandma Jiba gifted you for copper plates right?」


「Ah, yes, you actually knew. I don’t remember telling you that.」


「I can tell from your expression. I don’t know why you think that way—— but if it won’t trouble others, you don’t need to suppress how you feel.」


Ai Fa said to me. Her eyes had calmed down a little.


「… What are you thinking about…」


Something warm wrapped around my right arm.


「Do you feel lonely after separating with your beloved mistress…?」


While we were walking in the Post Station Town, Vena Wu clinged onto my right arm.


I wanted to pull my arm away, but as expected of a denizen of Forest's Edge, she wouldn’t budge at all.


「Excuse me! I told you just now too, I hope you can act properly when you work—」


「I know that… But I’m not working today right…? We are in the Post Station Town to buy our own groceries…」


She was right. Donda Wu already told me that I didn’t need to pay any wages to the Wu clan today.


「B-But, Ludo Wu is here too? Is that fine?」


After I whispered that to Vena Wu, she winked at me sexily like usual.


「It’s fine, Ludo wants you to marry into our clan… Asuta, do you like my dance…?」


「Dance?」


「The dance during the banquet… I dance so hard for your sake…」


What was she talking about?


I don’t remember such a prominent event during the banquet.


「After everyone finish all the meat, all the unwed women got together to perform a dance of blessing…? I always attract the attention of all the men, so I would usually abstain from such an activity. But I did so for you…」


After all the meat was eaten…


I was probably talking with Ai Fa and Kaslan Lutim during that time.


I received the necklace as remuneration, spoke to them a little then fell asleep. Ai Fa then carried me into the empty room.


After I fell asleep— the unwed women then performed the dance of blessing.


「Did you… not see my dance…?」


「Eh, that’s not it. I was really busy that day, and fell asleep right after I finished my work.」


Vena Wu was stunned. After she closed her eyes, she gripped my arm tightly.


Her monstrous strength was on par with a madarama snake.


But I also felt an indescribable softness.


「Too much… Asuta, you are too much…」


「It hurts! It hurts so much! My arm is breaking! Vena Wu, wait!」


I felt intense pain, and I seemed to have touched some places I shouldn’t have.


We were walking along the streets and it was broad daylight, so this wasn’t the appropriate way to act.


「… You must never tell Leina about this…」


「It hurts…! Ehh? What is that about Leina Wu?」


「Her dance was like the blazing flame… Leina is a docile child, and I never knew she had such passionate emotions in her heart… You have stolen her heart completely…」


Vena Wu released my arm nimbly, then sighed.


「Asuta, I have already gotten over the fact that you are not willing to take me far away. I was thinking that it’s fine for you to marry into the house… This is bad… Leina will hate me…」


She glanced at me sideways sorrowfully.


「… Sinful man…」


I don’t remember committing any sins.


I knew that Leina Wu harboured special feelings towards me.


Leina Wu hoped that I could join the Wu clan, but I couldn’t do that. How should I face her in the future, and how would our relationship be?


I looked up at the cloudless sky, but the answers weren’t written there.


4


Despite the complicated question without any answers lingering in my heart, I still needed to finish my work.


I need to find that old person with a toad-like smile, and exchange for copper plates at his shop.


「Asuta, you only changed a little.」


「Yes, we just bought aria and poitan recently, so this much would be enough.」


I had six copper plates in my hand.


I picked one larger tusk and horn, and got the funds I needed for today.


「You changed so many, as expected of a family of twelve.」


The duo from the Wu clan traded in five kiba worth of tusks and horns.


We had the same number of copper plates, but theirs were white, worth ten times that of the red copper plates.


「Fufu… This is just enough for three days worth of food…」


「Ehh? Then you need to visit the Post Station Town once every three days?」


I was right.


If they had manpower to spare, they would send three person to purchase five days worth of food.


The Fa house only had two people, so we could buy enough for twenty days. They had six times our numbers, so five days is the limit.


I calculated, the Wu clan will need 108 aria and 72 poitan.


The Fa house consume 120 aria and 80 poitan in twenty days, which was comparable to the Wu clan’s purchase.


「We still need to buy fruit wine for dad. I don’t understand what he likes them.」


「We have five red copper plates left… What vegetables should we buy…?」


It felt refreshing to discuss what things to shop for with the denizens of Forest's Edge inside the Post Station Town. It was the same feeling I had when I visit this place with Ai Fa.


The eldest sister and youngest brother were about the same height, and the way they were chatting looked so warming. When the people from the Post Station Town looked at them with fear and disdain, there was a sense of dissonance with this scene.


If no one provokes Ludo Wu, he won’t give off a dangerous aura like the other men from Forest's Edge. On a closer inspection, his face is likeable, and not scary at all.


Ludo Wu’s actions made me nervous at first, but I realized that I didn’t need to worry after all.


Ai Fa was Ai Fa, Ludo Wu was Ludo Wu. I knew they were full of charm. No matter what others think, this fact would never change.


I decided to not be bothered by other people’s gaze.


「Let’s shop for vegetables. There’s someone who runs a stall at the northernmost end…」


「Ah! Wait! I want to go to the weapon shop! Maybe there will be something interesting there!」


Ludo Wu parted the crowd and charged towards a stall.


More accurately speaking, he didn’t part the crowd, the crowd parted themselves.


「… Sorry. He is already fifteen, but still acts like a child… Never mind, I’m twenty and still unwed, so I don’t have the right to say that…」


In a sense, of all the time I knew Vena Wu, she look the most charming when she said that with a smile.


If she was so happy being with her family, then she didn’t need to yearn for the world outside— I thought to myself and walked to the stall. Ludo Wu pick up a machete and yell childishly.


「This is a machete? It looks like a murder weapon.」


「… Hahaha, during war, the army will need to bash through the woods as they advance. If they encounter the enemy, the soldiers will engage right away with these machetes.」


The uncle with ivory skin said with a slightly stiff expression.


Ludo Wu call this store a 「weapon shop」, but Genos was very far from their enemy nation Mahildra, so it was impossible for a battle to break out. This stall mainly sells blades for everyday use, such as machete, axes and knives.


「Ah, is this a cooking knife?」


I enquired from the side, and the uncle showed a confused face.


『Why is this pale brat wearing clothes from Forest's Edge?』 His expression was saying this clearly:


「This is a knife for cutting vegetables.」


The blade on this knife was thinner than my dad’s Santoku knife, but was incredibly sharp.


I had seen this knife in the stove room of the Wu clan and house Lutim, and I felt overjoyed when I saw it for sale.


Dad already used his knife for twenty years. If it cracks, I won’t be able to use it anymore. I can borrow Ai Fa’s knife to cut the meat, but I still want to buy a knife for myself one day


「… This knife is priced at four white copper plates and five red copper plates.」


The uncle said cautiously.


It’s about four kiba’s worth of tusks and horns


I will buy this knife when I have more money to spare.


「Thank you. Ludo Wu, it’s about time for us to shop for vegetables.」


「Hmm? Wait a minute.」


Ludo Wu walked out of the stall.


With the thick machete still in his hand.


「H-Hey, wait!」


He ignored the uncle’s shout, and stood on the road fiercely.


「Excuse me! Don’t come near me for now!」


Ludo Wu shouted. The pedestrians wouldn’t go near a man from Forest's Edge in the first place. They made a detour with sour faces.


「Asuta, Vena-nee, stay back too!」


Ludo Wu swung the machete after saying that.


He then pull the blade up with the sound of it cutting through the air.


As if his strike was burning the air itself.


The blade stall owner’s face turned green.


So did the pedestrians.


Some stopped in their tracks, while others turned around and leave.


Ludo Wu didn’t care about the troubled and fearful gazes on him, and continued swinging the machete quickly. Finally, he yelled:「I like it!」


「Looks like this machete can smash a kiba’s head in one hit! Uncle, how much is this?」


「E-Eight white copper plates.」


This machete was cost the tusks and horns of six large kiba, an extravagant price.


Considering the fact that eight white copper plates could buy sixty meals of aria and poitan, I realized once again how cheap these two ingredients were.


「Got it! Asuta, hold on to this, don’t let anyone buy it! I will be right back!」


Ludo Wu shoved the machete into my hands and ran off with haste.


The crowd splitted again, just like how Moses parted the sea in the ten commandments.
「… He is still a kid…」


Vena Wu smiled. I didn’t think a kid could wield this chunk of steel.


The machete was around 1cm thick, 10cm broad and 30cm long. It was sturdily built and the blade was curved slightly, weighing more than 1kg. This machete— could really smash the skull of a kiba.


… He was smaller than I am, how is he able to swing this machete?


The arm strength of a hunter was fearsome.


Ludo Wu charged back and bought the machete. After he secured it to his waist, we finally set off for the vegetable stall.


And of course, we visited Uncle Dora’s stall.


「W-Welcome!」


When he saw someone from Forest's Edge who wasn’t Ai Fa, his smile turned a little stiff. But he still welcome us cheerfully.


「So it’s this stall huh… I was right. There aren’t many stalls that sell sacks of aria and poitan after all…」


Vena Wu stood before the uncle, it seemed that this wasn’t her first visit.


「One hundred aria and poitan please…」


「Alright, the aria is two white copper plates, and the poitan is two white and five red copper plates.」


「Hmm? You are buying so many poitan?」


I whispered to Ludo Wu in surprise, and he replied:「Because Dad and Darum-nii eat a lot.」


According to Ai Fa, the denizens of Forest's Edge would consume three aria and two poitan every day. That was 「minimum number to stay healthy」, but a lot of the men from the Wu clan would eat three or four people’s share of poitan.


「Here, one hundred poitan and aria. Please check.」


The uncle placed the heavy sacks on the ground, and the siblings started counting them harmoniously.


I also used this chance to complete my goal.


「Uncle Dora, can I ask you something?」


「Y-Yes, what is it?」


「Can tino be eaten raw?」


Tino was a lettuce-like vegetable that had the shape of a rose.


It was about the size of a lettuce, and had the taste and texture of a cabbage.


「Of course. But I prefer to cook them.」


「I see, so do people usually cook the tarapa before eating them?」


Tarapa was a red fruit that had the size of a pumpkin.


It was very sour, and taste like tomato after it was brewed.


「Well, there are people who eat it raw, but it is too sour, so it needs to be cooked with other vegetables before eatng it. I like to make tarapa stew with aria.」


「Aria has a sweet taste after all. After dicing aria and frying it, you can bring out its sweetness by cooking it with tarapa.」


Dora opened his eyes wide in surprise.


「Y-You are very familiar with the vegetables.」


「Not at all, I don’t even know which vegetables can be eaten raw… By the way, can aria be eaten raw?」


「Of course.」


「Next is… Gigo. Does your stall sell gigo?」


「No, my farm isn’t suitable for gigo...Grandma Misill sells big and sweet gigo, they are popular around here.」
「Eh? Where is grandma Misill’s stall?」


「I-It’s in the central zone. Between the fine leather works and the cloth shop. A petite grandma runs a stall there by herself, you will know it when you see it.」


「I got it! Thank you!」


I was probably smiling unconsciously.


The uncle also showed a relaxed smile for the first time.


「Alright, the number is correct. Asuta, aren’t you buying?」


「That’s right. Uncle, I want two tino and three tarapa.」


「Ehh? You are buying so many tarapa?」


「Yes. I plan to use them to cook the food I will be selling… Oh right, after cooking the tarapa, must it be finished on the same day? And if I cut a tarapa in half, how long can I keep the other half?」


「Hmm~ After cooking it, you can keep it for two days at the most. As for the tarapa that has been cut, it will lose its moisture if you leave it for too long. But if you add water when you cook it, the taste will be the same.」


「I see. Thank you, you have been a big help.」


As the tarapa and tino were large, just five of them filled up the entire bag.


By the way, the price for one tarapa and two tino were both one red copper plate.


I was left with two red copper plate.


Only the gigo and fruit wine were left.


「Hmm~… What should we buy… How about another tino…?」


「The tino is too big! But something smaller.」


「… Pula then…?」


「Pula is unnecessary!」


「What should we buy then…? I like tino…」


「Buy chachi, chachi! Vegetable stew taste great if you add chachi in!」


「But chachi needs to be cooked for a long time before it turns soft…?」


Chachi was a vegetable that had the texture of potatoes.


The Wu clan used to cook kiba soup with strong flame in a short time. Cooking it this way would turn the outside of the chachi mushy while the inside remained crispy, and wouldn’t bring out its sweetness.


「Don’t worry. You boil the soul with a small fire right? The texture will be the same as the stew we had last time this way. Don’t wait for the water to boil before adding the chachi, please toss them in before you even start to boil the water.」


After I interjected, Ludo Wu shook Vena Wu’s shoulders triumphantly.


「See, even Asuta says so! Buy chachi!」


「Alright. If chachi can be cooked deliciously, I won’t have any complains… Hmm, so don’t wait for the water to boil before putting them in, we have to put them in before starting the fire…?」


「Yes.」
「Hee hee!」


Ludo Wu put his sister in a headlock.


「That hurts…」


Vena Wu squirmed her body sexily.


I didn’t know this pair of siblings were so close.


「… Huh? There’s no chachi here? You don’t sell them?」


「G-Grandma Misill does.」


The uncle replied timidly, then alternate his gaze between Ludo Wu and Vena Wu.


「Y-You two are really special. This is the first time I have seen the denizens of Forest's Edge pick out vegetables based on their own preference.」


「Huh? I hate pula! Sell chachi, don’t sell pula!」


「T-those are grown on trees, so it’s hard to grow them from the start.」


「Hmm, there are many types of vegetables huh.」


Ludo Wu and Vena Wu acted as they usually did, but the expression on the uncle’s face changed drastically.


He was stunned.


And then confused.


After that— he was all smiles?


Even though he feared the denizens of Forest's Edge, he was observing Ludo Wu carefully now.


When he heard the denizens of Forest's Edge discuss their preference for vegetables, he was so happy.


「Food has no distinction on being delicious or not」, these words filled me with regrets.


He must had felt the same as I did all this while.


While I was in deep thought, the voice of a girl rang out from my back.


「Ah! Asuta-nii!」


Tara was standing behind me.


She had a Kimyusu meat bun clasped tightly in her hand as she ran towards us with short strides.


However, she stood stiffly in place when she saw Ludo Wu and Vena Wu.


「Hmm? Who is this brat?」


「She is Tara, the stall owner’s daughter. I told you about her before right?」


「Ah, the brat you saved, who helped you later right?」


Ludo Wu took nimble steps towards the girl standing stiffly in place.


It felt like seeing a german shepherd approaching a kitten, which made me nervous. The poor uncle who had a surprised face was now turning green.


「Brat! You are about bratty Rimee’s size. How old are you?」


「Eight… Eight years old…」


「That’s the same as Rimee. But you are much thinner, so you look younger.」


Ludo Wu squatted down, and looked between the girl and the bun.


「Smell nice. Is it good?」


「… Yes.」


「I guess so.」


「You… You want to try?」


Tara offered the meat bun she was holding carefully in her hands to Ludo Wu timidly.


Ludo Wu tilted his head quizzically.


「Can I eat that?」


「J-Just a bite!」


「I see, then I will do that.」


After saying that, Ludo Wu bit down on the meat bun in Tara’s hand.


He bit really hard, as if he was trying to take off Tara’s fingers too.


The uncle screamed.


Ludo Wu didn’t chew too much before swallowing. He then scratched his yellowish brown hair and stood up.


「Well, it taste bad.」


「T-Taste bad?」


「Not good at all. Asuta’s cooking taste much better.」


「R-Really?」


Tara looked at me with a expression that seemed to be a mixture of smiling and crying.


I sighed, then walked towards them.


「Everyone has their own preferences. I don’t know if my cooking will be the city people’s liking, but I will be setting up a stall around here.」


「I see! Please let Tara try your cooking when you do.」


「As I will be running a business here, I will need to charge for the food… But I will let you and uncle have a try, please tell me your thoughts then.」


「Yes!」


What an adorable child.


Fortunately, Ai Fa wasn’t here, so no one would give me strange looks when I talk to other girls.


As I turned my head with that thought in mind, I found Vena Wu standing before the stall and watching me and Ludo Wu closely.


I really don’t get women.


「Well then, we only need to get fruit wine and chachi. What about you?」


「Hmm, I need fruit wine and gigo.」


「Ah, gigo! Vena-nee, let’s buy gigo too! Grilled poitan will only turn fluffy if you add gigo right?」


「Don’t worry… Even if we buy ten fruit wines, we will still have five copper plates left…」


Before Vena Wu could even finish, the last character made his appearance.


「Hi Asuta, I’m really glad that I get to meet you three days in a row. Have you finally made up your mind?」


Kamyua Yost appeared before us.


He walked out of the crowd without a word and came towards us with his cloak flicking in the wind.


「Leito told me about your visit, so I went off to find you. You are at Uncle Dora’s place as expected.」


「Yes, I’m already done with my chores. It’s good to see you, Kamyua.」


I stole a glance at Ludo Wu.


Ludo Wu was expressionless.


However— his fingers were tapping on the sheath of the machete on his waist rhythmically.


Vena Wu walked briskly over, and stopped diagonally behind her brother.


「Oh right, they are—」


「Vena Wu and Ludo Wu of the Wu clan. Leito already told me. I would hate to have missed you, so I asked Leito to stay put at the inn.」


His expression was as elusive as ever.


His purple pupils that resembled both an elderly and a child were filled with glee, as he switched his gaze between them.


「Ludo Wu, I saw you at the Wu village before. Allow me to introduce myself again. I’m Kamyua Yost, my job is a 《guardian》 that ensures the safety of travelers. I’m a citizen of the western nation that roams freely and calls all the Post Station Towns I visit my home.」


「Hmmp~」


Ludo Wu answered half heartedly.


He continued tapping on his machete.


「Milano Mast already told me what happened. He agreed to rent you his pushcart.」


「Yes. I will prepare the stall after I’m done with the menu.」


「You finally made up your mind, I’m so happy! I’m willing to visit everyday if I can eat your cooking everyday.」


「I will prepare alluring food to attract your patronage everyday.」


That was all I need from Kamyua Yost today, to report this matter.


After Ludo Wu realized this fact, he spoke nonchalantly:


「Kamyua Yost. My father, the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu has a message for you. Will you listen to it?」


「Of course! Do tell me.」


「…Forest's Edge will clean up after our own shame. If you interfere, I will lop off your head— That’s all.」


「Understood, I will keep that in mind.」


Kamyua bowed in an exaggerated manner.


Ludo Wu kept a straight face, then glanced my way.


「Asuta, let’s go buy chachi and gigo. The sun will set if we take our time.」


「That’s true… Sorry about that, Kamyua. Thank you for making the trip here to see us, but we still need to do some shopping…」


「It’s fine it’s fine! After you open your stall, we can meet for ten days in a row. Asuta, I wish you the best of luck in your business.」


「Thank you.」


After he appeared quietly, Kamyua went off silently.


Somehow—— I felt that Kamyua didn’t have much of a presence today, and was like a ghost.


「… That man pissed me off.」


Ludo Wu said all of a sudden.


「Huh?」


「My blade is meant to cut kiba, I don’t intent to use it against people— however, I still feel pissed off when I’m facing an opponent I can’t defeat. On top of that, he’s from the city.」


「L-Ludo Wu? What do you mean—?」


「Darum-nii and I isn’t a match for him. Jiza-nii probably can’t beat him either. Only Dad can cut off his thin neck.」


Ludo Wu clicked his tongue as he ruffled his yellowish brown hair.


5


An hour later, I finally reached the Fa house.


I had been away for more than 24 hours.


The two close siblings accompanied me. In order to prepare for her job in the Post Station Town, Vena Wu need to remember where my place was. More importantly, they were afraid that the Tsun clan might do something nefarious.


「Hmmp, looks like we won’t run into retards who gets drunk in broad daylight.」


Ludo Wu had the largest baggage out of the three of us. He checked the surroundings with keen eyes.


「… By the way, you need to cross such a deep valley from the Fa house to the Post Station Town. no wonder you need helpers.」


「Yes. If I head to the Post Station Town from the Wu village, I will have an easier time.」


The Forest's Edge settlement had several routes leading into the Post Station Town. The shortest path was from the Wu clan, and would take just 40 to 50 minutes., with no bridges and a comfortable road.


However, it would take an hour to travel from the Fa house to the Wu clan, a distance that makes me hesitate. On the other hand, carrying the goods and crossing the suspension bridge was much easier.


On the way home, we used the sacks of vegetables in the place of an iron pot, and did a trial run. If I could muster my courage, the two of us could really cross the suspension bridge with the iron pot.


This was our first try, and I spent quite a long time to gather my courage and resolve — if Vena Wu lose her infatuation with me because of that, I would have an easier time. But I’m afraid that I would lose her respect as a boss.


It was hard to tell if this was a blessing, but even after Vena Wu saw how terrified and unsightly I was, she continued to flirt with me.


「We are leaving now… I’m looking forward to the day when work starts…」


「Send Ai Fa our regards… Asuta, let us try your cooking once in a while, don’t just cook for the people in the city.」


After the two close siblings said that, they left.


Even though Ludo Wu was carrying 70 percent of the load, Vena Wu still had a hundred aria on her back. Her strides were nimble and quick, and didn’t miss a beat. As expected of a woman from Forest's Edge.


Ai Fa was right, I shouldn’t look down on the abilities of the women of Forest's Edge. Their muscular and skeletal structure must be very different from mine. Any women as tall as Vena Wu would definitely be stronger than me.


With the difference in the environment we were raised in, this couldn’t be helped— but I still couldn’t hold back my sigh.


If I eat kiba everyday, will my body change too?


I headed into the Fa house while lost in thought.


The sun was midway between its peak and the horizon.


It seemed that I had plenty of time to grill poitan.


Ai Fa was still hunting kiba in the forest. I had to prepare a sumptuous dinner for her. After sorting out my mood, I renewed my grip on the sack of tarapa and tino, as well as giant burdock gigo the stall helped me cut into a metre, then opened the door.


And— I saw Ai Fa’s cape on the wall.


「Hmm?」


It was still early, but she was already back.


She probably caught a kiba already, so I didn’t need to be alarmed. But where was she?


「Ai Fa, are you there?」


I called out as I walked into the food store.


I opened the door— and Ai Fa wasn’t there.


Setting aside the bounty I got today, I checked the other two storage room.


Ai Fa wasn’t there.


「Hmm?」


The new pot was already placed beside the stove.


There wasn’t anything that stood out besides that.


No—


On a closer look, I realized the sabre wasn’t there, even though the cape was there.


Unless she was sleeping, Ai Fa would always carry a knife with her. After she comes home, she would take off her cape and sabre, and lean it against the wall.


What was going on here?


She didn’t put on her cape, and only had her knife with her. Beside washing her clothes at the water source, I had never seen Ai Fa left the house without her cape.


Did she went to the water source?


No, the pots and water flasks were still in the room. We didn’t need to go to the water source unless it was early in the morning.


With a thumping heart, I charged out of the house.


Was she sunning the pico leaves?


No, I don’t smell the fragrance of pico leaves.


Instead, a stench entered my nostril.


It was mixed with rust— this was the stench of blood.


A chill immediately ran down my back.


… Where did this smell come from?


Where was the source?


Behind the house.


I hit my knee caps that was starting to tremble, and went to the back of the house.


It will be fine— I started deluding. Even if those people from the Tsun clan were lawless, it was impossible for them to commit such retarded acts in broad daylight.


Retarded acts—


No, I didn’t dare to imagine it.


When I realized it, my heart was beating hard, and I was out of breath.


It was fine.


Ai Fa would be fine.


It was impossible for tragedies to happen.


I kept telling myself that as I walked along the walls—


I braced myself and stepped to the backyard.


And.


— I saw a kiba that was hung up, completely skinned.


……


「Asuta, you’re home.」


Ai Fa was looking at the hanging kiba as she sat on the ground with her back against the wall.


I took big strides towards Ai Fa, bend forward, then grabbed her bare shoulders tightly.


「Don’t— Don’t scare me!」


Ai Fa widened her eyes confusedly.


「…Asuta, are you crying?」


「Who’s crying!」


I headbutted Ai Fa.


「That hurts.」


I heard her complaining, but I still press against Ai Fa with my head.


「Asuta, what’s wrong? Why are you so flustered?」


「Shut up! You made me so worried… Why are you skinning the kiba!? I was so terrified when I smelled the blood!」


「… Skinning is part of the hunter’s job right?」


Ai Fa replied displeasedly.


As we were too close, I couldn’t see her expression.


「The men from the Wu clan and house Lutim all take cares of the skinning work, but I haven’t learned it yet. That vexes me. I’m practicing with a kiba that I hunted. I have watched you skin the kiba several times after all.」


「If that is so… then tell me… I thought my heart was going to burst…」


「Just why were you so panicky?」


「… You don’t have your sabre with you, and I smell blood from outside the house. I thought something happened, and my mind was filled with ominous imagination.」


With my forehead sticking closely to Ai Fa’s forehead, I gave a deep sigh.


「I have my knife right here. Don’t worry, I know that ruffians might appear at any time, so I will always watch my surroundings.」


Ai Fa’s spoke in an irate tone.


「Were you imagining the Tsun clan men killing me? I won’t lose to those despicable people.」


「I know…」


「… You understand my feelings now?」


I was surprised, and lifted my head.


Ai Fa averted her eyes and pouted.


「Ever since I took a frail man like you into the Fa house, do you know how worried I was? If you know, then don’t act rashly in the future.」


「… Yes.」


「Getting worried over nothing is fine, but you even lectured me. I took care of such a tedious task, you should be thankful.」


「No, that... it’s my bad.」


「What I want isn’t your apology.」


「… Thank you?」


「Hmmp.」


Ai Fa stood up.


She crossed her arms arrogantly with a smug grin.


Could it be— she thought my eyes would sparkle after I see her skin the kiba, and tell her with wild joy and excitement:「How did you learn that? That’s amazing!」. When I see Ai Fa made that childish face, I couldn’t help deluding.


I sighed again, steeled myself and stood up.


I patted Ai Fa’s blonde hair and said:「good girl good girl」, and was greeted with a sharp strike into my solar plexus.


「I don’t know what are the next steps. What do I do after cutting open the stomach?」


While I was still struggling to breath, Ai Fa’s voice came from above me.


A few seconds after I fell into an oxygen deprived state, I got up again.


「That hurts…. You are asking because you want to carry out the entire butchering process?」


「The men from the Wu house had all learned the steps after this.」


She scrowled her nose and showed a scary face. It had been a while since she showed her cat-like expression.


「I got it, I will teach you… If you butcher the kiba in the future, that will lighten my load. But won’t the burden on you increase?」


「Don’t be ridiculous. What will happen if you go to the Post Station Town? Will you have time to take care of the kiba and poitan after coming home? I don’t want to drink the easy to prepare poitan soup any more.」


I fell into deep thought again.


I was planning to get up earlier to grill the poitan for dinner and the merchandize. But it would take me at least three to four hours to dismember one kiba. No matter how much time i have, it would delay dinner time.


Ai Fa always notice the finer details than me.


No, when Ai Fa acts, she really think of 「running the stall」 as a job that involve both of us.


I still hold the attitude that 『I shouldn’t over rely on Ai Fa』 deep in my heart. My values told me that this was correct— But I was in Forest's Edge now, not my world in the past.


I shouldn’t think about things through my own value.


I shouldn’t rely on her for everything, but I should do so at the right time.


What I should be doing was to go through thick and thin with Ai Fa.


「I understand. What you said make sense. Since you will be responsible for skinning and butchering the kiba, I will work hard on the other tasks.」


「Hmmp.」


「My house head is really dependable… In order to not get left behind, I will have to give my best.」


「Don’t joke with me. I’m just doing my work as a hunter.」


Ai Fa still looked a little unhappy as she pulled out her knife.


「No one can replace your work. You have to work hard in cooking delicious food.」


「I know, but——」


Not just me, Ai Fa’s work was irreplaceable too.


Ai Fa had to take care of the chores of the Forest's Edge women early in the morning, then enter the forest to hunt in the noon. In all of Forest's Edge, only Ai Fa was capable of doing that.


6


「… I did some calculations.」


After dinner, I told Ai Fa the plan I had organized in my mind.


「The ingredients I will be using are aria, poitan, tino, tarapa, and poitan mixed with gigo. Considering the issue of making profits, we can use the cost effective aria and poitan, but the people in town won’t want to buy that. So I decided to focus on how the people in town feels.」
「Yes.」


「Kamyua told us that we will be selling light meals to be eaten in the day, not dinner. I don’t need to be worried about the nutrition intake. And so, I will use aria to add to the fragrance, and use just one poitan for each portion. I will also throw in tarapa and tino. It should be as nutritious as the meat bun I tried last time.」


「Yes.」


「I did a rough estimate, one portion is about 0.65 red copper plates. As half a day worth of aria and poitan is about 0.55 red copper plates, it’s not too big a difference. Hence, I want to use other ingredients to garnish its taste and appearance.」


「… Ugh.」


「0.65 red copper plates is the ingredient fee for making ten portions a day, but making ten portion will leave a lot of tarapa over. If I make twenty portions, I will just need 1.5 times the tarapa. As tarapa is the most expensive ingredient, I can push the cost down to below 0.6 red copper plates if I make twenty portions a day. If we make 30 or 40 portions, the ingredient cost will gradually fall too.」


「…… Yes.」


「Next would be the other expenses. The venue and pushcart rental for ten days is two white copper plate, or twenty red copper plates. There’s also the wage I need to pay Vena Wu. We can’t dismiss this wage too. We are paying her a tusk and a horn for one day of work. That will be six red copper plates, and sixty red copper plates in ten days. The initial cost and her wages will be eighty red copper plates. Hence, we need to sell at least 40 portions, or we won’t make any profit.」


「Yes.」


「After setting the ingredient cost to the highest estimate of 0.65, we will need to sell sixty portions in this ten days to break even. That’s six portions a day. Most people in the Post Station Town have yet to experience the tastiness of kiba. Furthermore, the people in the city finds kiba meat repulsive, so the sales for the first few days might be terrible, we just have to wait to build our customer base through word of mouth slowly.」


「…Asuta.」


「Even if we sell just one or two portions in the beginning, we can make money if we can sell 20 portions in the last three days. I think the situation is favourable to us. According to my research, the a stall in the Post Station Town can sell between 20 to 50 portions a day. I hope we can achieve the minimum target at the very least.」


「Asuta, Asuta.」


「Even if the situation is in our favour, there is still risks. We can’t just compete on taste alone, the important thing is to improve the prejudice the people in town has towards kiba and the denizens of Forest's Edge. If that didn’t work, we might not even sell a single meal. So we shouldn’t overestimate ourselves, and just prepare ten portions for the first few days, and keep the ingredient cost as low as possible—」
「Asuta!」
「Yes? What is it?」


When I realized it, Ai Fa was leaning against the wall, tilting her head and glaring at me.


What’s with her? She wasn’t sitting cross legged, and she look really cute with her slanted sitting position.


「… Are you torturing me intentionally?」


「Hmm? What do you mean?」


I tilted my head in quizzingly.


As the room was dim, I couldn’t see very well, but I noticed Ai Fa’s eyes were teary.


「I don’t understand what you are talking about! My head is hurting!」


「W-Was my explanation too hard to understand? Sorry, I will make it simpler…」


「No need! I will leave it all to you! My head hurts!」


The way she throws her temper reminds me of Lala Wu.


Even though Ai Fa was very emotional, she seldom lose control.


「D-Didn’t you ask me to explain to you properly? This is our work, so you should know the details…」


「I said no need meow! My head hurts!」
Meow!?


Did she just say meow!?


J-J-Just what happened to her? Did Dan Lutim’s toddler regression virus got her?


As I was panicking, Ai Fa rest her forehead on the wall, and collapsed onto the floor.


「… My head hurts…」


「Uwah, are you alright!? Hey, Ai Fa!」


When I saw Ai Fa collapsed onto the floor weakly, I picked her up.


When I put my hand on her forehead, it felt rather warm.


「D-Did you overexert your brain? Hey, does it hurt? I will get you some water.」


「No need… You are too loud…」


Ai Fa frowned painfully, and closed her eyes.


「Don’t move… My head hurts…」


「I-I understand.」


I rest Ai Fa on my lap, and wait for her to recover slowly.


Under such circumstances, I obviously couldn’t have impure thoughts. But it was the first time we were so close together, and Ai Fa’s body warmth made it hard for me to stay calm.


「… Are you alright?」


「… Just a while more.」


She grabbed my t-shirt tightly.


Her breast’s covered in the garments of Forest's Edge started heaving hard.


She seemed to be in a lot of pain.


「I’m sorry being so detailed… You don’t need to worry about the accounting. After all, I don’t know how to hunt kiba too, so just leave these matters to me.」


Ai Fa didn’t answer, and kept grinding her head on my chest.


Her head was probably still throbbing.


「If the business fails, I will try my best to minimize our losses. I won’t waste the kiba that you hunt at the risk of your life.」


「… If the business fails, how many tusks and horns will we lose?」


Ai Fa asked, she had calmed down a lot.


I was relieved, and answered:


「If we can’t even sell one meal in the next ten days, we will lose twelve kiba’s worth of tusks and horns. It’s hard to imagine right?」


「It’s hard to imagine.」


「That’s right. The venue and pushcart rental cost less than two kiba. Half of the balance is the ingredient cost, the half is the wages for Vena Wu. If it comes to that, we can only cut the ingredient cost.」


「…Yes.」


「When I was in the Post Station Town, I didn’t see any stalls that only sell cooked meat alone. Some stalls will roast the thighs of birds and some vegetables, which seemed to be drinking snacks for the people in town. I have to compete with the other stalls with my light meal… If I just want to earn a quick buck, I just need to sell grilled meat or jerky.」


「There’s no point in doing that. We already have enough copper plates to survive.」


Ai Fa pulled her necklace with her other hand, which made jingling sounds.


The tusks and horns on her neck and in her cape far exceeds twelve kiba. The Fa house only has two members, if she could hunt a kiba every two days, we didn’t need to worry about copper plates.


This was proof that the number of kiba was increasing, and that Ai Fa was in even more danger. Ai Fa wished to use the tusks and horns she earned by risking her life, and challenged the citizens of the Post Station Town.


Our goal was to make Forest's Edge even more prosperous— The Fa house suffered in the past because of poverty. For the sake of the other tribe members suffering in silence in Forest's Edge, we had to give it a shot.


「I can’t talk about a grandiose dream like Kaslan Lutim… However, I won’t regret it even if we lose many of our tusks and horns. Asuta, you just need to try your best. Just like that time when you faced off against Donda Wu, and when you agreed to tend to the hearth for the wedding.」


「Yes, with the reputation of the Fa house on the line, I will aim to be the very best that no one ever was… Does your head still hurts? If you feel better, why don’t you sleep earlier today?」


「…Yeah.」


Ai Fa nodded in agreement, but she still didn’t move.


「Ehh… Should I put you down on the floor?」


「If you think I’m heavy, you can put me down.」


How could that be? Her weight only made me feel comfortable.


If she didn’t want to, I didn’t want her leave my arms.


「… When will you open the stall?」


「Four days later. Three days later, the Wu clan will head into the Post Station Town to buy groceries. I will work on the merchandize and improve it for this few days… By the way, your only comment is 『delicious』, anything else that needs to be improved?」


「No.」


「I see… That dish and normal hamburg steak, which taste better?」


「… They are both good.」


「If you have to choose one?」


「… Are you trying to make my headache worst?」


Ai Fa grumbled then turned on my knees.


She didn’t turn away from me, but towards me.


「If the people in the city thinks that dish taste bad, their tongues must be rotten. You should stop running your stall and just cook for me then」
「I will be happy to live like that too… But I will do my best to achieve success.」


「Yes.」


Ai Fa nodded.


「Asuta, when you are happy, I feel happy.」


「That’s right.」


「Seeing you succeed— makes me proud.」


Ai Fa mumbled. As she was lying on my chest, it looked like she was whispering to my heart.


… It will be fine.


There would be mountains of problems waiting for me after I set up my stall.


After all, we went into this battle so lightly.


For the past eight decades, the citizens of Post Station Town discriminated against the denizens of Forest's Edge and kiba, how far could I overturn this preconception of theirs?


I will do everything within my powers.


For the sake of the people I cherished and their hometown, I will do all that I could.


I hope that I could raise my head high and tell the entire world that I was a part of Forest’s Edge.


When I realized it, Ai Fa had already fallen asleep in my arms.


… As long as you are by my side, everything will be just fine.


I muttered in my heart as I feel the calming weight and warmth on my body.


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