Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 5 Chapter 1

Fourth Day - The Glutton
Translator: Skythewood
Editors: Ratorasepo
1

It was the fourth day since the stall opened.

Vena Wu and I reached the Post Station Town right on time, and headed straight to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 to look for the owner Milano Mast— who had a grumpy face in the morning as usual. After taking our pushcart, we headed for the northern end of the marketplace under the curious eyes of the crowd.

About ten or so meters away from our assigned spot, we could already see a big crowd gathered there. As I advanced tensely, the westerners who were just here to gawk quickly moved away to either side of the street.

The southerners with fierce eyes and the expressionless easterners stared each other down as they waited for us before our stall. Their numbers far exceed yesterday’s, totaling to about 30 persons.

A guard stood between as if he was mediating between the two camps. When we approached the rented spot, he glared at us:

「Hey, did you prepare enough food?」

「Yes. I have 40 portions for the first menu and 30 more for another dish, a total of 70 meals.」

I prepared 40 portions yesterday, and, contrary to my expectations, they were sold out before noon.

No one had the rights to complain about a product selling out, but there was a deep gulf between Semu and Jaguar, so they argued relentlessly because of my cooking, and it almost resulted in a riot.

If they continued to argue, my stall might be forced to stop operations. We hoped to avoid escalating things to that point, so I prepared 40 portions of 『Kiba burger』 and 30 『Myam-roasted meat』.

「Alright, let’s start off with the 『Kiba burger』. Vena Wu, please start the fire.」

「Okay.」

Vena Wu seemed to be in a great mood.

She didn’t seem bothered by the bloodthirsty customers and guards at all. I felt at ease when I looked at her.

「Ahh, the fruit wine smells nice… Is that the new dish…?」

「Yes. Aside from the fruit wine, I also used a herb called Myam in it. I dub this dish 『Myam-roasted meat』.」

While I was answering, I picked up the sack with 6 kg of kiba meat and marinating sauce.

I loosened the opening and poured the sauce into another bag.

The meat was marinated for one hour, which just happened to be the time needed to walk from the Fa house to the Post Station Town.

「I will let you try the『Myam-roasted meat』 when business quiets down.」

「Alright… Fufu, I’m looking forward to it…」

Vena Wu stirred the tarapa sauce in the pot and laughed sexily. Her eyes that always looked sleepy and dazed were studying the content in amazement.

「Oh…? The fragrance in this pot smells different from the past few days…」

「That’s right, I added some Myam in. I wanted to experiment with different flavors, so I didn’t add too much of it. Can you tell the difference?」

「Hmm, it smells nice… I’m starting to get hungry again…」

Myam was a herb. The fragrance and spiciness of it resembled garlic. It meshed really well with tarapa, which was similar to tomatoes.

It might just be my imagination, but the Jaguar people seemed to be getting rowdy. The fragrance of the Myam and tarapa had massive destructive power, stimulating their appetite even further.

I didn’t mind their exaggerated reaction, but the crowd was getting bigger while we were preparing the ingredients.

「There are so many people… as if all the Jaguar and Semu people have been all gathered here…」

「I’m very grateful for their presence. From the looks of it, the first batch of 『Kiba burger』 will be sold out in no time.」

I have decided to rent another pushcart from tomorrow onwards and push out a new menu. I prayed quietly in my heart for us to make it through today peacefully.

「It’s almost time, right…? Then, let’s begin!」

Guided by the guards, the Jaguar people rushed to the stall. The southerners had brown unkempt hair and beard, stout body built, white skin, and a fierce face.

A middle-aged man stood at the fore of the group. He was the deputy leader of the architects, Arudas.

All the southerners had stout built and short stature, but this man was tall, so I couldn’t have been mistaken.

「… Hey, sorry for the commotion yesterday.」

「No, we were at fault for not preparing an adequate amount of portions. Please don’t take it to heart.」

「Yeah, it’s a negligence to only prepare 40 meals for such a delicious dish.」

Even though Arudas had a stern face, there was a hint of guilt in his eyes.

「… It’s great that they didn’t chase you out of the Post Station Town. Why did the guards blame you even though we started the incident?」

「Probably… Because we are denizens of Forest's Edge.」

I answered as I made the 『Kiba burger』, and his face turned sour.

「The denizens of Forest's Edge abandoned the god of the south Jaguar, so I can understand why the older southerners admonish you as traitors. But the westerners took you in, so why are they viewing fellow citizens like you with disdain? I don’t get it. If not for your efforts in hunting kiba, Genos won’t be so prosperous.」

I felt the same way.

However, I couldn’t discuss this with him properly while the customers were still crowding around. I could only serve him the completed 『Kiba burger』.

Arudas’ stern face broke out into a smile.

「Hey, why don’t you stay open until night time? I want to eat your cooking for dinner too.」

「Hmm〜 That will be difficult… It will be great if the inns sell kiba meat too.」

I probed casually, but Arudas just shook his head regretfully.

「The kiba meat is delicious, but the important thing is your culinary skills. Pops has been gloomy ever since our visit that day. When he heard us discussing your cooking, he was full of complaints. If you are willing to cook a dish with karon or kimyusu for him, won’t he leave his work behind and rush here?」

「I’m honored to hear that… But like I said yesterday, I will be selling a new dish starting at noon. Can you help me inform Pops, and ask him to try?」

「Hmm? Got it, I will tell him.」

「Hey, is it still not done yet?」

The customers behind rushed me while we were chatting a bit too long.

I then started making 『Kiba burger』 repeatedly.

No one requested for samples, so the 20 『Kiba burger』 kept decreasing. After selling them to all the Jaguar customers and a couple of Semu people, the burgers were out.

「Sorry! We will prepare the remaining batch of twenty, please wait for a while.」

Constrained by the size of the pot, we could only make twenty patties and sauce at one go.

I bought two tarapa on the way to work today. I chopped the tarapa apart and added it to the pot.

「Asuta, do you need strong fire…?」

「Yes, please.」

I picked up two bottles and shook the lighter one thoroughly, then poured both of them into the pot. The lighter bottle was filled till one quarter with fruit wine. I then added some diced aria and myam that I fried earlier. To avoid making the sauce too thick, the other bottle was filled with plain water.

As I heated up the sauce, the Jaguar people were more or less gone, so the guards left reluctantly.

The onlookers also dispersed, leaving just the black, tall, and skinny easterners behind.

「Fufu… This reminds me of house Lutim’s wedding…」

「That’s right, the atmosphere is bustling just like that time.」

「I’m not good with tending to the hearth… But I like doing it with you…」

I felt honored by her words.

Vena Wu looked really happy when she said that, and there wasn’t any sign of her usual flirtiness in her eyes

I liked Vena Wu when she was working. I hoped we could continue to maintain this balance in our relationship— however, I couldn’t let down my guard towards her yet.

「Okay, it’s almost done.」

After adding a little bit of water, I seasoned it with pico leaves and rock salt.

I took out steaks that had been seared on the surface from a third leather pouch.

These leather pouches were expensive, each costing 15 red copper plates. But they had a large opening and were convenient to use. They were meant to carry fruit wine, and were specially made so that the smell of food wouldn’t linger on them. After discovering this convenient container, I made up my mind to sell 『Myam-roasted meat』 in my stall.

In order to not waste these expenses, I will definitely make this business a success.

「Sorry for the wait! We will now begin the sale of the remaining 20 burgers!」

The Semu people came over quietly when they heard my voice.

Most easterners preferred to wear hooded cloaks, but there were some who dressed casually, with beautiful swirly patterned clothes similar to the garments of Forest's Edge. They also had accessories made from stones and metal, and thin swords on their waist.

I felt that these Semu people bore some resemblance to the denizens of Forest's Edge. Not just their dressing, their quiet movement and lack of expression reminded me of the men of Forest's Edge.

But all the men of Forest's Edge were strong and powerful, and their skin had the color of chocolate milk.

Denizens of Forest's Edge like Shin Wu looked a little like these easterners. He was mature and quiet, and the corners of his eyes were high too.

While I was thinking about this, I sold twelve portions. We were suddenly left with eight 『Kiba burgers』.

Furthermore, there were ten Semu people in cloaks standing at some distance apart from the rest. Could that group of people staring at us be the 《Silver Vase》? As I was wondering about that, one of them took off his hood and approached us.

As expected, long silver hair appeared before me.

He was the leader of the 《Silver Vase》, Shumimaru— I forgot his last name.

「Kiba, not sell out, yet?」

「Not yet, there are eight left. I think I told you yesterday, I will be selling a new kiba dish later.」

「Eight…」

Shumimaru fell into deep thought as he looked at me.

He then returned to his comrades, and five of them walked over. After seeing them place their copper plates quietly onto the counter, I thanked them and started making five 『Kiba burgers』.

「Left, three?」

Shumimaru came forth and asked again.

「Yes. What’s the matter?」

「… I wait.」

「What?」

「I want try, new dish. Five men, have work, give up. Four others and me, wait.」

「I see. I will sell this new dish tomorrow morning too though.」

「Can’t wait, tomorrow. Want to wait, today.」

As I chatted with Shumimaru, a man taller than Shumimaru walked over quietly.

「Then, can I buy the burgers first? Asuta, two, please.」

Kamyua Yost appeared before us.

He always showed himself suddenly, so I wasn’t surprised anymore.

「Thank you for your support… Sorry that you made an empty trip yesterday.」

「Yeah! I had to buy snacks from another stall, it feels so empty eating that, it’s like not eating at all. I’m curious about the new dish, but let’s leave that for tomorrow.」

I explained what happened to Kamyua Yost when we returned the cart to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 yesterday.

Even though Kamyua looked very surprised, he probably already knew that things would turn out this way.

「Here, 『Kiba burger』 for two. Sorry for the wait.」

「Thank you. Work hard from now on too!」

Kamyua Yost nodded at Shumimaru, turned and left with nimble strides.

He seldom talked to me when I was working, probably because he didn’t want to disrupt my business.

「… That man, a friend?」

「Huh? Yes, I don’t want to say it, but he is my friend.」

「I see… Hair and eyes, northerner. Skin color, westerner. Unfathomable.」

I see, so the people from this world could deduce Kamyua Yost’s mixed heritage from his appearance.

「That’s right.」

I didn’t think that I should disclose Kamyua Yost’s personal information to other patrons and answered vaguely.

「… His heart, easterner. I can’t understand, his feelings, his thinking.」

Shumimaru looked as if he was deep in thought again.

「He smiles, but mood isn’t clear… Fascinating.」

「That’s right.」

I could only give the same reply.

Shumimaru was right. Both Kamyua Yost and him seemed elusive to me.

Leaving that aside, there was only one 『Kiba burger』 left, it would be bad if multiple customers were to come at the same time. It was about time to prepare the next dish— as I was thinking about that, a Jaguar customer visited our stall.

「Hey! It’s not sold out yet!?」

「Yes, there’s just one left.」

「Awesome! I overslept, and almost missed out on my meal!」

I only had a faint impression, but I think he visited yesterday too. I said to him warmly: 「Thank you for your continued support」, and used the last meat patty to make a 『Kiba burger』.

After sending off the gleeful customer, today’s 『Kiba burgers』 were sold out.

Less than an hour after the stall opened, and the first dish was sold out. The 『Kiba burger』 went out of stock incredibly fast.

「Okay, let’s pour the tarapa sauce into the leather pouch… Ah, we need to let it cool off first.」

「Hmm… There’s plenty of sauce left over today too…」

「Yeah〜」

Ignoring the elated Vena Wu, I fell into deep thought.

「The 『Kiba burger』 was sold out in no time, so the sauce isn’t too thick yet. If I save this sauce for tomorrow, I can save a lot of ingredient cost.」

「Ehh…」

Vena Wu was on the verge of tears.

I laughed at the sight of her sorrowful face.

「I’m just kidding. Tarapa sauce by itself can be kept for two days, but this sauce already had meat mixed in, so it’s better to eat them today. Please take them home with you.」

「Asuta… How mean of you…」

Vena Wu puffed her cheeks.

So she would puff her cheeks instead of pouting when she gets mad.

「… How adorable.」

Shumimaru muttered at this moment.

「Huh? Did you say something?」

「She is adorable. And beautiful.」

Easterners would keep a straight face when they compliment women.

「Thank you very much…」

Vena Wu thanked him insincerely with a cold smile. She was probably used to compliments from the opposite sex.

Anyway, after I let the pot cool off for three minutes, I poured the tarapa sauce into a leather pouch. I then started cooking 『Myam-roasted meat』.

『Myam-roasted meat』 was easy to make, I just had to roast the meat, unlike 『Kiba burger』 which had a fixed quantity per portion. I had to decide how much 『Myam-roasted meat』 I required to prepare ahead of time.

It doesn’t look like there will be a crowd for the time being, so I should make just enough for the number of people who ordered, along with the samples.

I fried the sliced aria, then added in about one kg of marinated kiba meat. Just doing that was enough to make the fragrance of the myam, fruit wine, and roasted kiba meat explode and spread.

It was a pity that the street was deserted. 『Myam-roasted meat』 stimulated the noses of people better than 『Kiba burger』. Shumimaru also muttered expressionlessly:

「The myam smells nice.」

I scooped the fillings onto the plate, poured plenty of sauce that had thickened on top, then used a poitan to roll up the fillings and tino shreds.

「Ah, Vena Wu, can you take out the brazier for me?」

「Okay.」

We had to take out the brazier when there weren’t any customers, or the inside of the pot would get burnt. Compared to making 『Kiba burger』, this was a bit more troublesome, but this would reduce the consumption of firewood, so there were pros and cons to this.

It would be great if we could use charcoal. I started making five portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』, and the rest would be the samples.

「Sorry for the wait, this dish is also two red copper plates.」

The Semu people nodded silently as usual, and they took out the copper plates with Shumimaru taking the lead. They had no intention of sampling.

They bit gently into the 『Myam-roasted meat』—— how did they find the taste? It was a bit inconvenient during times like this as they didn’t have any expression.

「… Delicious. Tomorrow, take turns to eat.」

「What? Are you taking turns to eat?」

「Yes. Both delicious, hard to choose. So, take turns to eat.」

In conclusion, they liked this dish.

They were really introverted. I couldn’t help smiling.

「Thank you. I’m happy to receive your praise.」

「I, very happy, to eat, delicious food.」

After Shumimaru said that, he suddenly looked at Vena Wu beside me.

「Asuta, can I, ask, one question?」

「Yes, what is it?」

「Asuta, she, wife?」

I couldn’t answer right away, and Vena Wu used this chance to cling to my arm.

「That’s a secret…」

「I see, excuse me.」

Shumimaru showed a hint of an emotion from the corner of his mouth.

The young silvered hair Semu man smiled a little— his face was quiet, steadfast and had a tint of sadness.

He put on his hood again and left with his four companions.

「Thank you for your patronage.」

I shouted at their back and shook off Vena Wu’s arm.

「Wait a minute! Vena Wu, isn’t that inappropriate?」

「Because… I will be troubled if an easterner falls for me… Do you think I should have shown off my sexy charm instead…?」

From the moment I got acquainted with Vena Wu, she had never stopped emitting her sexy charm.

However… it would be great if she continued to show her gentle and demure attitude when she attended to customers. I sighed.

「By the way, this is incredible… We just opened the stall, and had sold far more food than yesterday…」

「That’s right. But the customers all came at the same time because they were afraid that we will be sold out.」

After that group of customers left, it was completely quiet. That was too extreme.

「There are still 25 『Myam-roasted meat』 left. If we sell them all, I will carry out the plan I told you about yesterday.」

「You want to rent another stall…? My clan plans to lend you a woman from the main house, and another from the branch house…」

「Ah, the branch house will also send a helper over?」

「That’s right… Chores need to be done in the main house too, so we can’t lend you three people at one go…」

Vena Wu sighed softly.

「Sigh… This will be our last day alone together… these four days were so blissful…」

「I-It will be fine, even if there are other colleagues, right?」

「Because… Leina will be picked from the main house, right…?」

I had already braced myself for that.

The young Rimee Wu and elderly grandma Ditto Min couldn’t carry the heavy pot. Sati Lei Wu had to take care of Kota Wu. Mama Mia Lei was responsible for leading the Wu clan’s women, so the only candidates were Leina Wu and Lala Wu.

I requested for a woman proficient in tending to the hearth, so that was like asking specifically for Leina Wu.

Vena Wu was doing her job far better than I imagined. I hoped I could build a stable relationship with Leina Wu too.

「… The people from the main house will visit the Post Station Town soon, they will tell you who will be the helpers…」

「Hmm? Isn’t the Wu clan’s grocery shopping trip tomorrow?」

「Yes… But I asked them to do something for me, so they will come a day early…」

Do what? I was about to ask when Vena Wu cut me off.

「Oh… They are here already… That sure is early…」

I followed Vena Wu’s gaze and found two members of the Wu clan before us. This pairing surprised me

No, I wasn’t surprised by the appearance of one of them—

The two approaching us straight from the south was the second sister and second brother of the Wu clan main house.

2

「Long time no see, Asuta.」

Leina Wu greeted me first.

Her face was calm.

「Yes, it’s been a while… Ten days have passed since our last meeting.」

Ten days ago, the atmosphere was awkward when we parted during the Lutim house banquet.

Please leave the Fa house and become a member of the Wu clan— I couldn’t agree to Leina Wu’s request.

Even so, Leina Wu refused to give up when she left, so I wasn’t sure how I should interact with her. Seemed like I had to be firm and determined.

Leina Wu stood before us with a calm smile.

Her pure childlike smile was gone now.
.
「Vena-nee, here are the things you asked us to bring.」

「Ah, thank you… was it heavy…?」

「Not at all.」

Leina Wu placed the baggage on her shoulders beside the stall.

It was a large sack used to carry vegetables. It was filled with some hard objects, which made the sack look uneven.

「What’s that? It looks like firewood.」

「It’s firewood… I collected them in the past three days…」

I was confused.

「Work ended earlier than expected for the past three days… So Mama Mia Lei instructed me to work for you during my free time… So the only thing I could do was to pick firewood…」

「So that’s what happened! I’m very grateful. From tomorrow onwards, we will be using even more firewood.」

「We had to carry a lot of things to town every day, so I asked Mama Mia Lei to bring this over during their grocery shopping trip… She said that it’s just a trivial matter since we get to take the leftover tarapa every day…」

She threw a grudging sideway glance at me.

「Asuta, I wanted to give you a surprise, so I didn’t tell you… but you were so mean and teased me…」

「S-Sorry. I was just joking. I’m really happy about this, thank you.」

While I was apologizing frantically, the sound of a sack being dropped clumsily to the ground covered my voice. Darum Wu had taken off the load from his shoulders.

He had three sacks on his back, which was three times that of Leina Wu. It was less than an hour journey from the Wu clan village to the Post Station Town, but neither the women of Forest's Edge nor I could carry so much in one go.

「Thank you, Darum… Don’t you need to rest at home…?」

Darum Wu didn’t answer.

I couldn’t see his expression because a grey bandage-like cloth covered his face and head.

But the blue eyes he got from his father still burned brightly like a wolf. These eyes were the best way to identify him.

「Darum’s face and head got hurt when he protected a man from the branch house… His injuries were serious, and he couldn’t even walk three days ago…」

「Shut up.」

Darum Wu said in a low voice.

I didn’t see Darum Wu on the night of the wedding. Compared to Leina Wu, it had been even longer since I last saw him.

Besides, this gentleman seldom spoke before me, and the last time I heard his voice— was probably that night more than a month ago, when we argued for the sake of Ai Fa.

I heard he got injured seven days ago, but I didn’t know his injury was so serious…

About a month ago, I presented my view to Darum Wu on the spur of the moment. He had yet to pick any trouble with Ai Fa since then, so I was cool with him now.

So I lowered my head and thanked him without any reservation:

「Thank you very much for your kind assistance.」

And of course, he responded to me with a glare and unfriendly words:

「We are just giving you this firewood in return for your tarapa sauce, no need for thanks.」

「Really now, you are so stubborn… Are you going to mimic Papa Donda in such a way too…?」

Vena Wu laughed softly.

Darum Wu glared at Vena Wu, but that wasn’t enough to shut his bold sister up.

「It’s great that you can carry a heavy load now. You have almost recovered… and can go into the woods soon, right? Don’t push yourself too hard…」

「… I’m not that so depraved that you of all people need to worry about me.」

「Oh, you actually said something so cold to your elder sister… See, isn’t he adorable…?」

Vena Wu said to me quietly.

Only a relative would think Darum Wu’s actions were cute. If the Tsun clan that was on bad terms with the Fa house had just one person as intimidating as Darum Wu, I would feel 50 percent more at danger.

「…Asuta, Papa Donda and Mama Mia Lei wants me to pass you a message, can you hear me out?」

Leina Wu interjected solemnly.

「If you need more helpers tomorrow, the main house will send Lala Wu, and the branch house will dispatch Shela Wu.」

「Ahh… Lala Wu and Shela Wu huh.」

「Yes. I tried my best to get the job, but they didn’t accept my request.」

Leina Wu smiled gently.

Even when things didn’t go her way, Leina Wu’s expression was still so peaceful.

How strange, I couldn’t understand what she was thinking at all.

「…Asuta, is that your new dish?」

Leina Wu looked at the plate used for sampling.

「T-That’s right. Do you two want to try? It’s probably cold now, I will heat it up for you.」

「No need, this is made for the people in Post Station Town, right? I can’t eat their share. Asuta, I don’t want to disrupt your work.」

Leina Wu lowered her eyelids and smiled gently.

Vena Wu sighed lazily when she saw Leina Wu’s face.

「Asuta… Can I try it…? Can you make one for me now…?」

「Eh? Of course, no problem.」

I had an idea of Vena Wu’s intentions. I stuck a firewood into the slow fire of the brazier and put it into the cart.

As I was heating up the pot, Darum Wu called out to Vena Wu:

「Hey, did anyone from the Tsun clan show up today?」

「Well… Not just the Tsun clan, I didn’t see any other denizens of Forest's Edge here…」

「That’s true. No one would go out of their way to the edge of the town when they shop for grocery. The existence of this stall is probably still not known to everyone yet.」

「I see.」

Darum Wu continued staring at Vena Wu and nodded.

「What about that Kamyua Yost guy?」

「He came to buy Asuta’s food earlier… Maybe he is still hiding in the shade of some tree…」

「… Is that so.」

The flame in Darum Wu’s eyes intensified, and he glared at the woods behind the stall.

That man might really be hiding somewhere right now and eavesdropping on us— just the thought of that made me unhappy. That man once told me about his attachment to the denizens of Forest's Edge, but his actions seemed to imply that he had no intention of getting to know the denizens of Forest's Edge. Just when would we be able to discern if he was friend or foe?

「Alright, I’m making it now.」

I tossed the aria and the meat into the pot, and made one 『Myam-roasted meat』.

「It looks delicious…」

Vena Wu smiled happily after receiving it and took a bite.

「Yes, it’s great… How sweet… Papa Donda might not like it though…」

「That’s true, I used a surprising amount of fruit wine after all.」

「But it’s really tasty… I like it a lot. It’s on the level of a 『Kiba burger』 in my heart…」

After taking another bite, Vena Wu offered the 『Myam-roasted meat』 to Leina Wu.

「Leina… This is my share, so no need to hold back… Do you want a bite…?」

「Ehh, but…」

「If you don’t, I will eat it all…」

Vena Wu took another bite after saying that.

A childish anxious expression appeared on Leina Wu’s face.

That was the Leina Wu I knew.

「Then, just one bite…」

Leina Wu carefully reached out her hands.

She gently bit the 『Myam-roasted meat』— and couldn’t help smiling blissfully.

「It’s… wonderful. The taste is really strong…」

「Yes, I think the people in town prefer heavier seasoning.」

「Asuta, you are incredible… I really want to help too…」

Leina Wu lowered her eyelids. She had reverted to her old honest self.

「… This stall won’t close after just ten days. He can’t rely on the same few women to help him forever… Maybe it will be your turn soon…」

「Yes, that’s true.」

Leina Wu smiled shyly.

She then looked at me timidly.

「Asuta, when that time comes… I will be in your care.」

「Ah, yes. I will be in your care too.」

After hearing my answer, Leina Wu smiled brightly.

Her smile somehow made my heart ache.

At this moment Darum Wu said anxiously:

「If we are done here, then let’s go.」

「Oh Darum, want to try a bite…?」

「Who wants to eat that thing?」

After Darum Wu said that, he glared at me with his wolf-like eyes again.

「Hey… Why are you giving that look of pity? Are you pitying me after seeing my miserable state of getting injured and not able to enter the forest?」

「What? I don’t mean that! I was almost killed by kiba twice before, so I won’t ever think that when I see someone who got hurt while hunting kiba.」

I really don’t get along with Darum Wu. I thought to myself as I scratched my head.

Vena Wu then left the cart and clung onto Darum Wu’s swole right arm.

「You can’t do that. If you get agitated, your wounds will open again… If you want to recover sooner, you have to be more careful…」

「Shut up, don’t cling to me.」

Darum Wu shook off his sister crudely.

He then turned and left just like that towards the south. Leina Wu quickly apologized:

「Sorry for disturbing your work… Please take care of Vena Wu and the others… Asuta, you be careful too.」

「Yes, thank you. Please send my regards to Donda Wu and Mia Lei Wu.」

Leina Wu showed a blissful smile, then chased after her brother.

Vena Wu held on the half-eaten 『Myam-roasted meat』, and sighed gently.

「Am I being too much of a busybody… But my heart aches for her when I see Leina suppress her own feelings…」

「Hmm? W-What happened?」

「After the Lutim house wedding, Leina seemed to be lost in thoughts all the time… What happened between you two on that night…?」

「Well… Something did happen…」

「You don’t have to tell me what happened… Sigh, what kind of attitude should I be showing… I don’t want to see Leina in pain, but I would hate to see you two become lovely dovely even more…」

「……」

「Asuta… It’s about time you get married with Ai Fa, right…?」

What kind of face was I making now?

This was the first time I had seen Vena Wu making such a serious face.

「… Will things have a happy ending if I do that?」

「Yes… After your marriage with Ai Fa, I will be heartbroken, and can finally make up my mind to destroy everything…」

「What?」

「When that time comes, I will just need to seduce you, and we will leave Forest's Edge together. Ai Fa will never forgive us, so we can’t stay in Forest's Edge anymore… And Leina will give up on you after seeing our immoral actions…」

「That’s not a happy ending at all!」

「… I think this is the only way I can be with you…」

Vena Wu lowered her head sadly. Her words contradicted themselves, and I sighed exasperatedly.

「I already told you before that I have no plans to marry anyone. Your harrowing imagination will not turn true.」

「What will you do if Ai Fa proposes to you…? Asuta, can you reject her…?」

Of course— but I couldn’t give that answer immediately.

Ai Fa proposing to me seemed so unrealistic.

But what if that day will come?

I don’t know when I will disappear, so I don’t intend to take a wife. Even with that thought in mind, I still want to be by Ai Fa’s side until my life ends.

If Ai Fa proposed to me— what would I do?

Vena Wu watched the dumbfounded me as she fiddled with her chestnut-colored hair:
「Ai Fa might want to marry another man in the future… Let me tell you first, Darum is still hoping that Ai Fa will marry him… That child had turned down quite a few marriages in the past two years…」

「A-Ai Fa is just like me, she has no intention of marrying anyone or marrying into another family. That will never happen in the future.」

「A person’s heart can change easily… Ai Fa had broken all ties with all the other denizens, but she took you in as a family member now… Who knows how Ai Fa will change in another year or two…?」

「You are… not wrong…」

「If Ai Fa wants to marry you, will you reject her…? After you turn her down and she marries Darum, will you be able to give her your blessing…?」

I kept mum.
With the way Ai Fa was now, I couldn’t imagine her abandoning the lifestyle of a hunter.

However— the hearts of people can change drastically because of sudden events.

Besides, even if her feelings remain unchanged, she might suffer a career-ending injury like Shin Wu’s father Ryada Wu and retire from kiba hunting.

If that time comes— what should I do?

「Hey, you still aren’t closing your stall yet?」

An unfamiliar voice called out to me, making me snap out of my daze.

「The Semu and Jaguar people have all gone. Even if you continue to stay in the Post Station Town, no one else will buy kiba meat.」

An unfamiliar face said in an unfamiliar voice.

The other party was a man— a young man. He was about my age and looked like a delinquent.

He had ivory skin, a pair of beady brown eyes, and long light-brown hair. He was wearing a shirt that left his chest open, and a knife hung on his waist.

A group of people behind him matched his style of dressing, as well as age. The group had five members, and only one was a girl.

「… Welcome.」

I received him with a smile.

Even though their goal was to mock me, they were still westerners I had been hoping for since the first day.

Ai Fa’s figure was still clear in my mind, but now wasn’t the time to be worried about that.

「Kiba is really delicious, you know. How about giving it a try?」

I pointed to the plate with the samples, and the youth laughed out in disdain.
「How can westerners eat such things? Aren’t you a westerner? Why are you frolicking with a《kiba eater》 woman and selling kiba meat…? You already earned enough copper plates, right? Then scram back to Forest's Edge!」

That Uncle from Jaguar also complained like this two days ago. But the youth’s words were full of malice and hostility, and couldn’t be compared with him.

He probably came over to mock me because he felt fear and disdain for the denizens of Forest's Edge. Even though he said these words cockily, his gaze was wavering. He was smiling but didn’t look happy. From the air he was giving us, I guessed that these delinquents were here to test their guts by taunting the denizens of Forest's Edge.

I was waiting for this kind of customers. The issue now was to make them taste the kiba meat.

「I’m not born in Forest's Edge, but I do think that kiba meat is tasty. I opened this stall because I wish to share with the people of the Post Station Town how delicious the kiba is.」

When he saw my humble smile, the youth’s face cramped a little, and he snorted.

「Only the poor people from the south and east will think this thing tastes good! You are an eyesore, get lost!」

「Is that so? Only a few westerners had tried my food, but they think kiba tastes great. I guess people will have their own preference… Would you like to give it a try?」

I gave Vena Wu a look. Without needing me to tell her, Vena Wu had already put the brazier inside the cart’s compartment.

「… That’s interesting, go on and try it.」

The lone girl said excitedly and poked the back of the youth roughly.

It wasn’t on the level of Vena Wu, but this girl also had a sexy charm around her. She was about my age and only wore a tube top with a skirt that went down to her ankles on her waist. She was like the Post Station Town version of Vena Wu. But the girl didn’t have any veils or shawls, her bare skin was clearly visible. Her clothing had bright colors, and she wore many accessories on her neck and arms.

This sexy girl and the other youths all had ivory skin, while the skin of those who spend a lot of time under the sun had a skin tone closer to yellowish brown. Were all the westerners originally of the same race? I wondered to myself.

「Don’t joke with me, why do I have to eat kiba meat?」

「Why not? If it’s good, we will have some too.」

「Then you try it! If it’s good, I will eat it too.」

「How useless. After so much talk, you are actually still scared of kiba, huh.」

The girl flicked her long brown hair and showed a taunting smile.

So they were really here as a courage test. That suited me just fine.

While the youth and the girl were arguing like newborn puppies, the pot had been heated up. I grabbed a small amount of kiba meat from my leather pouch.

After putting the meat into the pot, a delightful sizzling sound erupted along with a strong fragrance.

The two of them fell silent the next instant.

As if they were pulled by invisible strings, the youths that just a moment before were snickering behind,suddenly gathered before the stall.

When the surface of the meat was seared, I scooped a spoonful of sauce and tossed it into the pot. White smoke gushed out, leaving a nice aroma behind.

「… So there is myam. Of course, it will smell delicious if you add myam.」

The youth who approached us first said this sarcastically, but no one supported him.

When the meat was almost done, I put the samples on the plate back into the pot. After stirring it carefully, I scooped them up into the plate.

Vena Wu quickly took out the brazier, and I put the krilee toothpicks onto the plate.

「How about giving this a try? You just need to eat a sample. Even if it is not to your taste, it will be an interesting experience to talk about later, right?」

The five boys and one girl all showed troubled expressions.

They must have been filled with worries and were in a dilemma.

They hated kiba, so they were not willing to try this dish, but they were proud, and not willing to let others think they fear kiba; they had no affection for the denizens of Forest's Edge, but were curious about the fragrant food before them. All these reasons complicated their feelings.

「It looks… really tasty…」

「R-Retard, that’s kiba meat.」

「That’s right! Normal people won’t eat the meat of a kiba.」

「My grandmother told me that we will grow horns and tusks of a kiba if we eat that.」

「He added myam, it smells so nice.」

「Right… But it really looks so delicious…」

「You are right! It looks really good!」

Hmm?

When I realized it, a caramel-haired head appeared among the youths.

It was the daughter of the vegetable stall peddler Uncle Dora, Tara.

「Asuta onii-chan, is this the new dish! The myam smells so good!」

「Oh right, Tara, do you want to try a sample?」

「Uwah~!」

After I put another toothpick onto the plate, Tara grabbed the toothpick happily.

As the group of teenagers stared at Tara, she cheered:

「It’s delicious〜! This isn’t as soft as 『Kiba burger』, but it’s also yummy! Asuta onii-chan, I want four!」

「Thank you! Doesn’t your dad and the others need a sample?」

「They told me to hurry up and buy it if I think the sample tastes good!」

I was very moved.

Thanks to Uncle Dora’s interference, the pot dealer and cloth seller became interested in kiba food.

And it was Vena Wu and Ludo Wu who helped in the opening of Uncle Dora’s heart to me.

I smiled at Tara as I was thinking all that:

「Okay! Please wait a moment, I will prepare them for you right away.」

「Yes!」

We put the brazier we just took out back and started frying four portions of aria and meat.

I thought I heard one of the teenagers’ gulps.

Now that I thought about it, my first Semu customer became only interested in our stall because he saw Tara buying 『Kiba burger』. Was this child destined to be our lucky star? I wondered to myself.

「Sorry for the wait! That will be eight red copper plates.」

「Yes! Thank you!」

Tara carefully held the four 『Myam-roasted meat』 to her chest and ran off.

I scraped off the remnants off the pot with my spatula and smiled at the group that was still hesitating.

「Would you like to try? The samples are free.」

「Okay… I will try it.」

The only girl in the group reached for the plate.

「R-Retard, you can’t! What if you grow horns?」

「How is that possible. You really believe in such superstition?」

Even though the girl was saying this, her expression looked troubled.

「T-That little girl ate it nonchalantly just now, we look retarded being scared like this. If you don’t want others to think you are a bum, then eat it.」

The girl grabbed the toothpick while ignoring the youth beside her who was yelling:「I-I’m not afraid!」

After glaring at Vena Wu and me, she put the meat into her mouth with deadly resolve.

After chewing a couple of times, she opened her eyes wide.

「Uwah…」

「H-Hey, are you okay?」

A youth put his hand on the girl’s shoulder, but she shook him off coldly.

She muttered:

「Absolutely… delicious…」

I sighed quietly in relief, and the youths started turning rowdy.

「What nonsense are you sprouting!? This is kiba meat! Are you right in the head?」

「Shut up! If you don’t believe me then try it! If you think it tastes bad, I will strip right here!」

Don’t do that, the guards would rush here. I hope she could spare me from that.

But our efforts were finally paying off.

A westerner I didn’t know ate a kiba dish and gave a positive feedback. We finally reached this point on our fourth day.

「Damn it! Alright…! But, don’t forget what you just said!」

One of the youths said menacingly and took a toothpick.

With a face on the verge of tears, he chose the smallest piece of meat and slowly put it in his mouth.

「Uwah...」

He opened his eyes wide, just like the girl did earlier.
「How is it? It tastes great, correct?」

The girl said arrogantly.

The other four took the samples too.

It tastes nasty. Fortunately, no one said that. All the youths looked stunned.

Compared to the southerners, maybe kiba suited the westerner’s palette better? Or was the 『Myam-roasted meat』 more acceptable for everyone than 『Kiba burger』?  It was impossible to tell now. But about half the people gave negative comments on the 『Kiba burger』 on the second day, so we have successfully taken another step forward.

「… Hey, one costs two red copper plates, right?」

「Yes.」

The girl asked me with a dangerous glare, and I answered warmly.

「H-Hey, Yumi, are you really going to buy?」

「Why not? This dish is delicious, there is no reason not to buy one, right? Or are you going to buy food from another stall?」

The girl named Yumi said with a stern look and put the copper plates down onto the counter forcefully.

「Ain'tcha buying? Let me say this first, I won’t share a single bite with you.」

The youth looked at each other confusedly.
The girl shrugged arrogantly and stared at me again.

「Hurry up, you are making me hungry!」

「Yes! Please wait a moment.」

As we had to shift the brazier in and out again, we were really busy.

But I quite enjoyed being this busy.

There was still some time before noon, so even selling one more portion would be great for us.

「Vena Wu, I will leave the brazier to you.」

I turned to her with a smile.

But she didn’t move at all.

Vena Wu narrowed her sexy and slightly droopy eyes, which made her look even more sleepy than usual.

「Vena Wu…?」

Was she actually dozing off at such a busy time?

No… When she narrowed her sleepy eyes, it had an unbelievably sharp gleam in them.

I never expected Vena Wu to show such dangerous eyes.

Why was she acting like that?

Moreover, she was looking at a direction I didn’t expect.

She wasn’t looking at me or the customer before us, or the bustling southern streets—Vena Wu was looking towards the ends of the north.

I slowly shifted my gaze.
So did the customers before me.

We both felt a sense of horror because a terrifying existence appeared in that direction.

He was about two meters tall and had a huge body like a human balloon. Was that a man or a ball of meat? He charged right at us with heavy strides on the stone-paved path.

He was the youngest son of the Tsun main house—— Mida Tsun.

3

「Uwahh!」

One of the youths screamed meekly and fell on his butt.

The others backed away with their faces pale.

The youngest son of the Tsun clan grabbed my cart with enough momentum to send everyone flying.

He didn’t pounce on me but at the cart.

「Huff~puff~」

Mida Tsun held the pillar supporting the roof and panted. He asked in a screeching voice:

「… What are you doing…? It smells nice… Just what are you doing…」

His voice was like a toddler, and his words were muddled.

「Hiee!」

The youth on the ground let out a frail scream. It was no wonder - Mida Tsun had a very disturbing appearance.

His face, torso, and limbs were all bloated, just like a human balloon. That might be just a tad abnormal, but when paired with his tall stature, it made him look like a monster.

His upper arms were thick, almost the size of Vena Wu’s waist.

The legs supporting his gigantic body were short and stubby, like that of an elephant.

His entire body was like a ball, making it impossible to discern where his chest ended and stomach began.

The familiar Forest's Edge garments covered his body, but that shirt probably used three large pieces of cloth that married women would use. The cape made from kiba hide was too short and couldn’t cover his body.


He didn’t have tusks and horns that signified the pride of a hunter on his neck. Instead, he had a large club on his waist.

The more I looked at him, the weirder he seemed.

Furthermore — his ugly appearance made him look even less human.

His face was bloated unnaturally, with his nose and mouth squeezed together in the center of his face. The top of his head was bald, with untidy black hair stuck close to his ears.

But even so, his face still had a hint of innocence.

No, instead of innocence, it was closer to a baby— no, an animal.

His eyes were extremely small, and his thick eyelids almost covered his eyes. His nose almost had no bulge at all, only two black cavities were visible. His lips were thick, but his mouth was small. His face was twice the size of a normal man, but his facial features were tiny, making the proportion all wrong.

This panting piece of living meat grabbed tightly to my cart’s pillar, and his beady eyes seemed full of life. Under the bright sunlight, the alien before us drew forth the fear lying in my heart.

「Ehh… Mida is hungry… it smells nice here…?」

The pillar kept creaking.

I snapped back to my senses when I heard that ominous sound.

「W-What are you doing!? Are you trying to destroy my cart!?」

「Mida… is hungry you know…?」

Mida Tsun looked down at me unhappily.

I felt as if I was facing a large animal like an orangutan or a lowland gorilla.

After screaming in my heart, I placed my hand on my chest and slowed my breathing.

Calm down— I had to handle this calmly.

「Do you know what I’m doing? As you can see, I’m selling simple meals… Before I go on, can you let go? If you continue to pull on my cart, it will break.」

What should I do if a member of the Tsun clan visited my stall? Obviously, I had discussed this with Kaslan Lutim and Donda Wu countless times.

In short, I had to follow the law.

If they did anything unlawful, I should call for the guards.

If I violate the laws of the city or Forest's Edge carelessly, the violent act of the Tsun Clan would be legitimised. That was the gist of the plan.

「Do you understand what I’m saying? If you want to eat my cooking, you will have to pay copper plates… And I rented this cart from the city. If you break it, you will have to compensate me with copper plates. So, let go.」

I explained with simple words.

Mida Tsun looked down at me; his face was hard to understand like belonging to some sort of animal.

This guy… is probably different type from his elder brothers who only know violence...

Then what type was he? It’s hard to explain, but I think he wasn’t malicious, he just lacked the ability to tell right from wrong.

If I didn’t say anything wrong, he wouldn’t turn to violence… I hoped my guess was right.

「……Tay Tsun has copper plates…」

Mida Tsun grumbled unhappily, but his fingers that were like giant caterpillars left the pillar.

「I see.」

I wiped away the cold sweat on my brows.

「Where is Tay Tsun? Did he come into the town with you?」

「… Yes…」

「Where is he now?」

「… Mida doesn’t know… Mida was with him just now…」

Weird, this felt like talking to an ignorant child.

「…Because Mida smelled something nice, Mida ran over… It smells really nice…」

Speaking of which, during the banquet a few days ago, Mida Tsun didn’t care about the situation back then and only reacted to the smell of the food.

As I was about to offer some samples to him, someone appeared.

「…Mida Tsun, what’s wrong?」

A Forest's Edge man who looked about 50 years old asked. That elderly man wore the attire of a hunter and appeared silently from behind the meat pile.

The next instant, Mida Tsun exhaled loudly.

「Tay Tsun…! Mida is really hungry…」

「I see.」

The middle-aged man looked at me and Vena Wu.

At first glance, the man was just like any other denizens of Forest's Edge. He combed his hair back and had a grey beard. He might be old, but his facial features were well proportioned.

His figure was average and had the buffed body comm amongst Forest's Edge men. He had clothes with swirly patterns and a cape made of kiba hide. The pride of the hunters shined brightly on his chest, and he had a set of small and large blades around his waist. He was dressed just like any other hunter.

For some strange reason, despite his normal attire, something still seemed out of place.

His black eyes lacked strength, and he was expressionless like a mud doll.

Even though his body was buff, he didn’t show any signs of life or power.

This was the first time I saw a Forest's Edge man that was so lifeless.

「… How much is this food?」

The man— Tay Tsun asked quietly.

「Two red copper plates… Are you buying?」

「Yes.」

「T-There are samples on this plate, you can try them first.」

「No need.」

There wasn’t anything strange about our conversation.

But that still gave me goosebumps.

Shouldn’t he be asking about some other things before enquiring about the price?

I was wearing Forest's Edge attire and opening a stall in the Post Station Town with Vena Wu, a Forest's Edge woman. Didn’t he have any questions or comments about this?

… Apparently not.

Tay Tsun wasn’t bothered at all, and turned to ask that meat pile:

「Mida Tsun, how much do you want to buy?」

「……Mida wants to eat loads and loads…?」

「The clan head only gave us one white copper plate. If you use it all now, you can’t buy anything else?」

「… But Mida wants to eat loads and loads…?」

「I see.」

Tay Tsun turned to me again and placed a white copper plate on the counter.

「Excuse me, I want five.」

「I understand… This customer here had already ordered, please wait a moment.」

That customer— the western girl Yumi was still trembling with a pale face. The other five youths were the same.

I held back my sigh, added firewood and put the brazier back into the cart.

Vena Wu was still staring at the two from the Tsun clan with the same eyes.

What is going on… This old man Tay Tsun is as suspicious as Mida Tsun.

Despite his age, he still acted subservient to Mida Tsun, so he must be from the Tsun branch house.
However, I had never seen any older men in the Wu clan village acting so subservient towards younger men. The men from the branch house would give adequate respect to Jiza Wu, Darum Wu, and Ludo Wu, but they were still treated as equals.

Between the Wu clan and the Tsun clan, which was the correct attitude that the denizens of Forest's Edge should have? I still couldn’t judge, but that Tay Tsun character felt creepy to me.

「… Uwah… It looks yummy. Tay Tsun, it looks yummy…」

When he smelled the fragrance of the roasted meat, Mida Tsun placed his hands on Tay Tsun’s shoulders and shook him hard.

「That’s true.」

Even with his body being shaken hard, Tay Tsun still answered calmly and quietly.

He hid his emotions even better than the easterners.

No— Did this man really have emotions?

Kamyua is probably going to sit this one out.

I hoped he won’t interfere.

If any other strange characters appear, my brain would definitely jam.

「Here, sorry for the wait.」

I handed the completed 『Myam-roasted meat』 to Yumi.

Yumi was still staring right at Mida Tsun, and received the merchandise unconsciously.

After I handed one of the merchandise to Tay Tsun, he immediately gave it to Mida Tsun.

「… Uwah…」

Mida Tsun’s beady eyes shone, and he prepared to open his mouth.

As his throat was deep in his chest, he couldn’t move his jaw. He had to lean his head back to open his mouth.

I was worried that his jaw dislocating or the corner of his mouth splitting— I shirked my shoulders a little as he tossed the 『Myam-roasted meat』 into his mouth.

He ate the 『Myam-roasted meat』 in one bite.

This was a scene right out of a nightmare.

Tay Tsun passed the remaining four 『Myam-roasted meat』 to him one after another, and the five 『Myam-roasted meat』 disappeared from this world.

「… Yummy… So yummy…」

「Thank you.」

I squeezed out a smile.

Once I accept payment, he was a customer. Even if he was from the hated Tsun clan, I will treat him the same.

「…Tay Tsun… Mida still wants to eat more…?」

「The copper plates are all gone.」

「…But… Mida wants to eat more…?」

「The clan head only gives you one white copper plate a month. Please wait until next month.」

His allowance was given monthly!

I was sorry to say this, but I was secretly sighing in relief.

Even if Mida Tsun had no nefarious intentions, he would still disrupt my business if he were to visit daily. That poor Yumi girl finally made up her mind to buy 『Myam-roasted meat』, but she was just standing there in a daze, unaware of what she was holding in her hands.

「…Mida wants to eat more.」

「Then come again next month.」

Tay Tsun voice was devoid of emotions. Finally, he acknowledged me with his gaze.

「Pardon our intrusion, we are leaving now.」

「A-Alright. Thank you for your patronage.」

Tay Tsun pushed Mida Tsun’s back towards the north.

Speaking of which, I heard the Tsun clan village was to the north. There might be a road there leading straight to the Post Station Town.

Even so… Did they make this trip to the Post Station Town just to buy snacks for Mida Tsun?

I was relieved that they didn’t cause too much of a commotion. I also felt depressed at the same time. No, it would be more than adequate to call it a sense of powerlessness.

Just what is with those guys…

Why is the kiba so delicious…! They didn’t ask us that, they didn’t even ask me what type of meat was used.

Did they know that I was staying in the Fa house?

Did they know that Vena Wu was from the Wu clan?

I didn’t know anything.

I tried expelling the sigh I had been holding in all this while, but Vena Wu was one step ahead.

「Sigh…」

She collapsed onto the ground, her trembling fingers grasping my waistband.

「Enough already… Why is the youngest son of the Tsun clan in town…? Ugghh… I feel like vomiting…」

「A-Are you okay? Vena Wu, get a hold of yourself!」

「How do I do that… I can’t stand that youngest son of the Tsun clan the most… Just looking at his fat body makes me disgusted…」

「Really? You looked so cool just now, like a man of the Forest's Edge.」

「I can’t let the Tsun clan see my ugly side… Sigh, I feel really uncomfortable…」

「… You are incredible, as expected of a woman from the Wu clan.」

I said from the bottom of my heart and sighed in admiration.

「W… Who was that monster just now…?」

Yumi muttered to herself.

「That’s a customer from Forest's Edge. Sorry to have disturbed everyone.」

After I answered, Yumi’s shoulders quivered.

She returned to her senses and stared at me.

「You… You look so frail, but you really have guts huh? All these guys were helpless and can only tremble at the side.」

「W-Who’s trembling!? You are the one who looks like you are about to cry!」

The youth sitting on the ground got up with a beet red face.

The other dazed youth also snapped back to reality.

「I saw him once before. I was very surprised when I saw him for the first time.」

I tried to mediate with a smile.

「Please dig in, it won’t taste good if it gets cold.」

「Ah, yes…」

Yumi stared at me as she bit into the 『Myam-roasted meat』.

She opened her eyes wide with surprise again.

「Uwah, it’s delicious… Is this really kiba? It’s tastier than karon.」

「Yes, this really is kiba. I’m glad that you like it.」

「Yeah… it’s very tasty.」

Yumi looked up at me with demure eyes.

「Erm… Sorry about earlier, we were mocking that stall…」

「Ehh? Please don’t mind, I understand that the people of Genos have a deep hatred towards kiba. I’m very happy to see you try kiba today.」

I used this chance to give her a friendly smile.

When she heard me said that Yumi who was munching on the 『Myam-roasted meat』 suddenly smiled at me sweetly.

She had a fierce demeanor, but her smile looked so innocent.

「What’s with you! Don’t flirt with men from Forest's Edge! They will abduct you into the woods!」

The youth who was on the ground earlier lashed out angrily, and Yumi glared unhappily at him.

「Are you retarded? Stop spouting nonsense. I’m just stating my honest opinions.」

She was right.

You heard that right, Vena Wu? Don’t stare at me with those cold eyes.

「And so? You all are still not buying? After saying so much, you are still afraid of kiba and the denizens of Forest's Edge huh? If that is so, then don’t approach this stall in the first place. Trying to act cool all the time, how retarded.」

「What did you say? Didn’t you mock this stall earlier, and said 『The denizens of Forest's Edge actually dare to open a stall in town』?」

「I didn’t know that kiba is so tasty… Besides, the ones I hate are those lawless denizens of Forest's Edge.」

The girl stole a glance my way.

「It might sound mean, but I don’t think this skinny onii-san will act so lawlessly. Heck, he is not even a denizen of Forest's Edge.」

Was I that skinny? I was depressed but still squeezed out a smile.

「There are all sorts of people living in Forest's Edge. Some are fierce, some are gentle and kind. I believe that the denizens of Forest's Edge that bullies the people in town are a small minority.」

「I-In that case, who is that monster just now!? He is also a denizen of Forest's Edge!」

Even in Forest's Edge, he is a unique existence— I was about to answer when someone interjected:「What are you arguing about? If you are not a customer, then scram. I won’t allow you to disturb this bro’s business!」

It was a Jaguar man who looked a little fierce.

「W-What’s with you! It doesn’t concern you, so get lost!」

「That’s my line. If you aren’t buying anything, then scram.」

The Jaguar man turned to me after saying those crude words.

The next instant, he was all smiles.

「So your stall is still open! I was working from morning until now and thought I will miss out on your food. I almost gave up.」

「Thank you. There’s still ten or so meals left. If I can sell everything today, I will open another stall tomorrow.」

I remember this man, he was here early in the morning yesterday too. He had a fierce face but was smiling gleefully now.

「It will be noon soon, ten isn’t enough! So you will be opening until noon from tomorrow onwards? Many people will be happy to hear that.」

「Ah, I’m selling this new dish today. Please try a sample.」

I stuck a toothpick onto the sample plate, but the Jaguar customer waved his hand firmly.

「No need no need, I know it’s good just from the smell. Make one for me right now, how much is it?」

「Two red copper plates.」

「So cheap! That’s a good thing for us. The other stalls will have no business now.」

He laughed, then glared at the western youth.

「You lots must be too scared to eat kiba, right? Don’t block the way and scram. If you are so scared of kiba, then go and eat your kimyusu and karon quietly.」

「I-I just told you that we aren’t scared of kiba! You are just a foreigner, how dare you look down on me!」

「What retarded nonsense is this, if not for us foreigners, the Post Station Town would have collapsed long ago! If there aren’t any foreigners, who will you sell your goods too…? Besides, you lot moved to Genos from some other city in the first place, right?」

The Jaguar man said impatiently and waved his hands as if he was chasing flies away.

「Whatever. If the westerners don’t dare to eat kiba, then we will eat them all. Bro, hurry and make one for me.」

「Yes, thank you.」

I was just waiting for the pot to heat up, I wasn’t distracted by their conversation.

It was about time. When I toss the diced aria into the pot— One youth placed his copper plates loudly onto the counter.

「Hey! Give me one too! I’m not afraid of kiba at all!」

At this moment, another youth walked forth timidly. He quietly put out some copper plates and looked at me as if he was hesitant to speak.

「Hmmp, I paid before they did.」

The Jaguar man gave a dangerous look.

「It’s fine! I will make three portions right now. Please wait a moment.」

「Ah… I want to buy one more.」

Yumi who finished her 『Myam-roasted meat』 gave me more copper plates.

「But why? You want that man from the Forest's Edge to fall for you that much!?」

「No! I want to let my mother try this! I will tell her it’s kiba after she finishes it and see what kind of face she will make.」

This girl seemed to be planning something malicious.

Even though she looked like a delinquent, but she was thoughtful enough to buy a light meal for her mother, which made me sigh.

「Thank you for your patronage!」

I tossed four portions of aria into the pot.

When I was putting the kiba meat in, the youth who was hesitant to speak told me quietly:

「I know that monster just now. He will visit the town once a month to buy light meals… If the food isn’t to his taste, he will damage the stall.」

「I-If he breaks other people’s stall so willfully, the guards won’t just watch idly by, right?」

「That’s right. But someone from the castle will always take care of things. They are afraid that the kiba will destroy the farms like last time if they angered the denizens of Forest's Edge.」

The youth said spitefully and looked at Vena Wu and me.

「I’m not scared of the kiba, but as long as Forest's Edge denizens who break the law are not punished, the Genos residents won’t accept you.」

「… Thank you, I will keep that in mind.」

Despite all that, this youth was still willing to buy my food.

My capabilities were limited, so I couldn’t take the Tsun clan to task— I could only fight in my own way.

I gave three portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 to the western youth, and one portion to the southerner, and was left with 11 meals.

The streets became more crowded as the sun ascended. There weren’t any other westerners who visited this stall, but we sold everything when the sun was at its peak.

In the Post Station Town, business was considered good if a stall sold between 20 to 50 portions. We sold 70 meals in just two and a half hours.

Only ten percent of the customers were westerners.

I didn’t expect Mida Tsun’s visit, but I still felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

「I can increase the number of stalls with east tomorrow.」

I said to Vena Wu as we cleaned up. She answered with a sullen face:

「Yes... but I’m worried about the youngest son of the Tsun clan… Asuta, be careful not to be abducted by him, okay…?」

「Abducted? Me?」

「Yes… That youngest son is capable of something that retarded…」

「… When the time comes, I will run away at full speed. Fortunately, I seem to be faster than him.」

「Yes. If he gives chase on the way home, just run off by yourself… I will try to bring the things back home somehow…」

We did need to be prepared for such a situation.

That Mida Tsun didn’t seem to understand the power of the Wu clan, maybe he didn’t even know that Vena Wu was from the Wu clan.

「Ehh, how disgusting… I can’t stand his baby like face and voice… Asuta, you know how old he is…?」

「I don’t want to know, don’t tell me.」

「… He is younger than Ludo, you know…?」

「I said don’t tell me!」

I felt a chill run down my back.

Furthermore— I felt that Tay Tsun was as terrifying as Mida Tsun. This had nothing to do with my own preference, they were just that creepy.

「We need to be more aware of the situation around us from tomorrow onwards…」

「That’s true.」

Opening a stall was quite a prominent matter, I don’t think the Tsun clan will continue to ignore us. We didn’t just need to be on guard against Diga Tsun or Doddo Tsun, but the entire Tsun clan.

This was a battle akin to walking on thin ice, we had to give it our all.

After renewing our resolve, Vena Wu and I pushed the cart onto the stone paved road which was starting to get crowded.


4

When Vena Wu and I returned to the Fa house, we ran into Ai Fa at the door.

There was still two hours before sunset. The stall was only opened until noon, but we only reached home at the time we scheduled as we had to prepare for tomorrow’s work.

Ai Fa was home early today. Vena Wu and I carried iron pot, while Ai Fa had a 50 kg kiba on her shoulder. This scene must have looked amusing to a bystander.

「Great, you returned home safely.」

「Yes, you too… Eldest sister of the Wu clan, thank you for your hard work.」

「Ah, yeah… Ai Fa, did you hunt that kiba…?」

「… Why else would I be bringing it home?」

Ai Fa was a little taken aback when she answered, and swiftly walked to the door.

The huge thing on her shoulder seemed incredibly heavy.

「I’m going to skin it, so I will be at the back of the house.」

「Got it, thank you for your hard work. I will prepare the food for tomorrow together with dinner.」

「Okay.」

I bought quite a lot of things today, and Vena Wu helped me bring them to the entrance.

With the predicted sales increasing, the ingredients we had to bring back from the Post Station Town also increased. The fruit wines and gigo that looked like gigantic burdock was especially heavy, so the things we load on our return trip was about the same as our trip to town.

I took out the items inside the pot and placed them in front of the door, exhaled, then turned towards Vena Wu.

「Vena Wu, thank you for today. I will be counting on you tomorrow too.」

「Yes…」

Vena Wu’s head was low and she seemed troubled.

「What’s the matter? Are you worried about something?」

「No, it has nothing to do with work… I just think Ai Fa really has her own way of doing things…」

「Eh? I-In what way?」

「The fact that a woman can hunt such a huge kiba is just unbelievable to me…」

Vena Wu sighed.

「Asuta, you said that you can’t imagine Ai Fa marrying anyone, and I understand why you think this way… Ai Fa looks outstanding, but she is more suited to getting a bride as a husband…」

Vena Wu was really good at imagining things.

Ai Fa was cooler than any other man. But despite her manly demeanor, she would show the face of a girl from time to time… I better not say more.

「Well, I’m going back then… See you tomorrow…?」

「Alright, thanks again.」

I went into the house, and checked the stores for people just in case, and carried the ingredients into the food store.

I didn’t come back early today, but I already grilled the poitan for dinner in the morning. I decided to prepare the aria used for making meat patty first. When I took out the chopping board and the Santoku knife from the bag, Ai Fa returned to the house.

「Hmm? What’s the matter?」

「I’m still in my hunting attire. I need to take it off to avoid the smell of blood and meat getting on it.」

The hunting attire refers to the cape made from kiba hide.

「I see. Ah, let me keep your hunting attire for you.」

「It’s fine, I already hung the kiba up, so I want to rest for a bit. There’s still some time before it gets dark anyway.」

「I see, do rest well.」

As Ai Fa loosened her shoes, I carried the aria out of the food store.

「You are back very late today… No, this is the time you are scheduled to return, right?」

「Hmm? Yes, this is the first time I returned on time.」

「It will take a lot of time to sell 70 portions after all.」

「Ah, that’s not it. I told you yesterday that I will be setting up another stall tomorrow. So I went to the Wu clan village to discuss the plans.」

Ai Fa hung her cape on the wall, scooped water from the flask to drink, then sat down beside the stove. She gave me an incredulous look.

「So, how was your business?」

「We sold everything right after noon… Oh right, the youngest son of the Tsun Clan Mida Tsun and a man called Tay Tsun appeared at the stall.」

「What?」

Ai Fa turned tense.

「I will tell you the details later. Looking at this another way, on top of Doddo Tsun, we will have to be on guard against Mida Tsun. These people from the Tsun clan is really problematic.」

「If the clan head is depraved, the entire clan rots with him… It’s great that you are safe.」

Ai Fa nodded sternly, then tilted her head quizzingly.

「By the way, you said that you closed the stall at noon?」

「Hmm? It should be right after noon passed.」

「…Did  you sell 70 meals that quickly?」

「Yes. Most of the customers were southerners and easterners, but three westerners who passed by bought our kiba food!」

I turned towards Ai Fa with a smile, but found her close to me. Her waist was slightly bent, and her right hand was reaching for me. She remained still in this weird position.

「… What’s the matter, Ai Fa?」

「Nothing, I almost grabbed your head unconsciously again.」

Ai Fa said seriously, then slowly lowered her right hand.

「That was close.」

I see.

She actually didn’t have to restrain herself.

Hugs weren’t good for my heart, but head pats would just make me a little embarrassed.

Besides, why did she described a head pat with the verb 「grab」?

「And so, I will be getting another helper tomorrow as planned. There will be four of us in total. Lala Wu and Shela Wu from the Wu clan will be assisting me.」

「Shela Wu?」

「She’s Shin Wu’s elder sister. Well, we met her in the stove room of Shin Wu’s place during the Lutim house wedding. Don’t you remember?」

「Ah… That coquettish woman with dark hair.」

「Coquettish」 didn’t seem like a word Ai Fa would use.

「She’s really charming, huh.」

「Ehh?」

「Her body is a little frail, but men want to marry such delicate girls, right?」

So even you were commenting from the perspective of a guy.

Never mind, I would be even more shocked if she started telling me about her ideal type of men.

「Hmm, her culinary skills are excellent, she is a perfect support. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.」

「……」

「Hmm? What is it?」

「Your look is completely different from your depressed self yesterday. Your eyes and face are both filled with strength.」

「Don’t bring up what happened yesterday please, I was just tired.」

I scratched my head and smiled wryly.

The next moment, Ai Fa suddenly knelt down before me.

Her face closed in on me quickly and stopped suddenly.

「A-Ai Fa, what’s the matter?」

「Nothing, I almost hugged your head again.」

Ai Fa nodded firmly with a serious face.

「That was close.」

I see.

Was she serious?

But there was no way she could joke.

「Don’t worry, I will restrain myself, and try my best not to make you uncomfortable.」

When Ai Fa touches me, I would resist a little not because I was unhappy.

I sighed, it seemed that there was a long road ahead before we could understand each other.

At that moment— when Ai Fa came near me, I felt an aroma enter my nose.

「Hmm… Is that the smell of the fruit that attracts kiba?」

The next instant, Ai Fa’s cheeks turned red.

「Asuta, how many times do I have to tell you—」

「No! I’m not talking about your body scent! You are using the 『sacrificial hunting style』, correct?」

Ai Fa pouted with her face still red.

「I didn’t use the 『sacrificial hunting style』, I just put it in the traps I set. That fruit has a strong smell, so it would get on me somehow.」

「I see… but since the numbers of kiba had decreased, you can stop using those fruits, right? We already made arrangements, if we run out of meat, the Wu clan will give theirs to us. You are already doing your part as a hunter.」

The kiba had already wiped out the food in this region and started moving south. Even so, Ai Fa still hunted one kiba every two days. She even got a kiba two days in a row today.

Hunting the kiba en masse could lower the damage to the farms in the west. But a hunter was said to have done their duty once they obtained enough tusks and horns for their family to survive. The Wu clan and Lutim house also followed this principle and estimate how many kiba they needed to hunt in a day.

There were only two people in the Fa house, so just hunting one kiba every five days would be enough. However, Ai Fa had hunted several times this amount in these twenty days. She didn’t have to use the dangerous fruits that attracts kiba—

Ai Fa still pouted unhappily.

「I already told you, I’m not using the 『sacrificial hunting style』. I have been using that fruit in my traps before I even met you. Don’t keep complaining.」

「I’m not complaining… When we visited the Wu clan, they told us that Darum Wu got injured, right? His wounds are serious, and he still can’t enter the forest now.」

「… What of it?」

「No, I mean… I’m worried about you getting injured.」

「Hmmp!」

Ai Fa averted her head.

She glanced at me sideways.

「Let’s discuss this when I really get injured.」

「But…」

「Before I met you, I often get injured. There are times when I can’t enter the forest for days… The duties of a hunter are to survive and hunt kiba. You don’t need to preach to me, I won’t waste my life.」

「I see.」

I could only nod in agreement.

「I understand. Sorry, it’s my bad… I didn’t have enough resolve.」

「… You are my family, of course you will worry. I won’t blame you over such trivial matters.」

Her tone turned gentle and her eyes were bright.

「However, stop mentioning about my scent. It makes me uncomfortable.」

「So that’s what you are concerned about.」

I couldn’t help smiling wryly.

「I was just surprised to smell the fruit that attracted kiba. You will be curious if I have a strange smell on me too.」

「… I won’t pay attention to other people’s scent.」

「I don’t either… But that fruit has a strong aroma, so I can tell right away.」

「I just told you! Stop talking about that!」

Ai Fa reached out and grabbed me.

Her face was red with embarrassment.

「In order to not make you uncomfortable, I have been careful with my words and actions, so why are you not doing the same!? Do you enjoy seeing me unhappy!」

「N-No, that’s not it. I’m not talking about your scent, but the fruits that attract kiba! You are overreacting!」

I raised my hands in surrender in a panic.

Ai Fa grabbed my chest and said in a low voice:

「… You are too sly.」

「Sly?」

「You are always doing what you want, so why should I hold myself back?」

「H-Hold yourself back? You mean not patting my head and things like that? You don’t need to…」

「… Then, I can do as I wish?」

Ehh?

What did that mean? Was she going to give me a tight hug?

「S-Since that cause such a burden on your heart, then do as you wish…」

Our conversation was too weird.

If I was listening as a bystander, I would definitely be laughing now.

「… Hmmp.」

Ai Fa unhanded me.

Was she going for a hug?

No— Ai Fa stood up majestically with a red face.

「I’m not like you. You are an unreasonable fool, but I will follow my own principle to the end.」

She was exaggerating too much.

I still apologized to her anyway:

「I’m really sorry. I will be more careful in the future and not make you uncomfortable… We should end this meaningless squabble and start on our work.」

「Hmmp.」

Ai Fa snorted, and walked to the entrance.

「What are we eating tonight?」

「Anything is fine. What do you want to eat?」

Ai Fa suddenly stopped.

After a while, she replied smugly:「Hamburg steak.」

Ai Fa seemed very pleased with herself for not giving an answer on reflex. But her answer remained the same.

「That’s right. We ate 『Myam-roasted meat』 yesterday, and shabu shabu the day before. Let’s have normal hamburg steak today then.」

「Yes.」

Ai Fa started wearing her shoes.

I could finally turn towards the chopping board and start my work.

Hmm, what was I doing… Right, preparing the meat patty for 『Kiba burger』.

I had to dice the aria.

Even if I started making the patty now, I could make it in time for dinner. I grabbed the Santoku knife that was kept in its white sheath.

The next moment— someone hugged me tightly from behind.

My arms and torso were held at the same time, and smooth soft hair brushed against my ear.

I almost screamed, but the other party quickly let go. The touch of her warm body didn’t feel unpleasant, I felt the opposite of that instead.

「Retard, you are full of openings.」

Ai Fa laughed cheerfully.

「If you are not careful with your words next time, I will make you experience this discomfort.」

No.
Dear house head, that wasn’t it.

I put my hands onto the floor weakly. The road towards us understanding each other wasn’t just long, but precarious too.


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