Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 6 Prologue

The Busy Day Off
Translator: Skythewood
Editors: Ratorasepo

It was the next morning after finishing our ten days of business in the Post Station Town.


Inside my temporary lodging inside the Wu clan village, I stared mesmerizingly at the two items of kitchenware I bought yesterday.


Yesterday, I bought a Semu kitchen knife and a Jaguar-made steel griddle.


This was a vegetable cutting knife, about 20 cm in length and 8 cm wide. It was a thin single-edged blade, which didn’t have any curvature like utility kitchen knives or meat-cutting knife. The body of the blade was rectangular instead. It had an appearance similar to Usaba bocho which I was familiar with.


As the blade was straight, it closed tightly with the chopping board, making it ideal for cutting vegetables. However, sharpening it required special care as it was a single-edged knife, so I had to be careful. The blade was thin and cracked easily, but it was extremely sharp, worthy of its price of 18 white copper plates.


Next was the steel griddle.


It hailed from Jaguar renowned for its steel products. I heard that most of the steel products sold in Genos came from Jaguar.


The griddle was 70 cm wide, 50 cm long and 6 mm thick. The four edges of the griddle protruded 3 cm up, and there were no other decorations aside from the handles on either sides. The simple and manly design was mesmerizing.


I already did a griddle seasoning process yesterday which was heating up the griddle and then smearing oil on it. This made the griddle surface shiny and smooth.
<TL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasoning_(cookware)>


I had stayed in Forest's Edge for almost half a month. During this time, I grilled and roasted food by using a pot. Now that I had the griddle, it would be much more convenient. The efficiency in poitan and meat patty would also improve.


The pot I usually used was about 1 cm thick and weighed more than 30 kg. Compared to that, the griddle was only about 12 or 13 kg, making it more portable too.


Furthermore, the griddle being thinner meant it had better heat conductivity. It wasn’t as thick as the iron pot, but the griddle was already plenty thick. (The iron pot was actually incredibly thick in the first place). Given the practicality of using this griddle, I could cook a wider variety of food too. I couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of that.


The Semu kitchen knife that was as elegant as decoration and the incredibly practical Jaguar griddle. I ogled at these two items of kitchenware basking under the sun.


「… What are you doing, Asuta?」


Ai Fa who went to the water source early in the morning came back to the room, and I turned to look at her.


「Hi, you are back so early. How’s your left arm?」


「It doesn’t hurt at all, but it had grown weaker. It’s fine if my opponent is human, but I feel uneasy about taking on kiba with my condition like this.」


Ai Fa flexed her left arm that could finally move freely after six days. Ai Fa dislocated her elbow while hunting and was recuperating.


「My strength isn’t back yet, so my bones might shift out-of-place if I pushed myself. I will need to observe it for a few more days… Asuta, what were you doing?」


「I’m not doing anything, just zoning out and admiring the kitchenware I bought yesterday.」


「… Hmm?」


Ai Fa tilted her head slightly, then came over and sat beside me.


Her slightly damp blonde hair was tied into a complicated pattern like last time. Tying her hair up simply to the side had its charms, but an hairstyle in which it was easy to move suited Ai Fa the best after all.


「When I was cleansing myself and washing the utensils, were you just sitting here?」


「That’s right. This is the first kitchenware I bought with my own money, and I can’t get enough of it.」


My face was probably filled with love like a grandfather receiving his first newborn grandchild.


Ai Fa frowned a little sadly.


「Asuta, you…」


「Yes?」


「No, it’s nothing.」


「What’s the matter? It’s rare for you to be hesitant to speak, Ai Fa.」


「Nah, it’s fine.」


I turned my body towards Ai Fa.


「There’s definitely something. I’m curious. If you have anything on your mind, don’t hold back and tell me.」


「Even if we are a family, we can’t ignore social courtesy. That’s why it’s nothing.」


「No, you are making me even more curious! Didn’t we talk about this before? We shouldn’t keep anything from each other. Our thinking and emotions are a little different, so we need to be honest with each other about everything in order to understand one another better.」


After my passionate speech, the sorrow on Ai Fa’s face grew even deeper.


「It’s nothing that complicated. I just… don’t want to upset you.」


「It will be fine. Didn’t you say something like this? 『If I feel uncomfortable, I will just beat you up, so there is no need to hide how you feel』.」


「… Do you want to beat me up?」


「I wouldn’t dare do something so scary.」


「… Won’t you get mad?」


「If your words correspond to your beliefs, I will debate with you until I am satisfied with the conclusion.」


「I see. I understand, your argument makes more sense.」


Ai Fa sat on the floor cross-legged, straightened her back, and looked at me with a serious face.


「I just thought that you were a bit disgusting.」


「……」


「Are you mad?」


「No, not at all.」


I almost broke down in tears though.


「Anyway, your eyes were filled with love when you were looking at these tools made from steel and wood, as if you were looking at a human. That felt a little disgusting…」


「Ah, I understand very clearly, so no need to hit me when I’m down…」


「I see… Are you mad?」


「No, I’m not mad at all.」


「Okay.」 Ai Fa nodded.


She had an innocent smile on her face.


「I should say what I really think after all. I feel much better now, Asuta.」


「That’s great.」: I said with a vague smile.


If my sorrow could cheer Ai Fa up, then our fortunes and misfortunes would be balanced, and the world would be able to operate normally.


「You have cheered up a lot too. Your face looked so sour last night.」


「Ah, I have just gotten over it. I need to take care of the work before me in order to settle the troublesome matters.」


The work before me… Three days later, we will tend to the hearth for the house head conference held at the Tsun clan. We will have a seminar today to prepare for that.


The Tsun clan was the chief clan of Forest's Edge and was also infamous here.


They monopolized the money granted by Genos, indulged in leisure all day, did their jobs as hunters sloppily, and disturbed the peace in the Post Station Town. On top of that, they were also colluding with the nobles of Genos, so the crimes they committed in the Post Station Town went unpunished. These examples made it hard to imagine that they were the chief clan of the pure and righteous Forest's Edge denizens.


Milano Mast also told me one shocking matter.


Simply put, a denizen of Forest's Edge murdered Milano Mast’s brother-in-law who was also his good friend, but the criminal wasn’t brought to justice. Milano Mast’s harsh criticism against the denizens of Forest's Edge felt unbelievable.


I didn’t have any solid evidence that the criminal was a member of the Tsun clan.


However, my suspicion of the Tsun clan was steadily increasing.


The only thing I could do was to prepare as much as possible for the house head conference.


「Well then, I will visit the water source. Today will be a busy day too.」


「Yes. Will you be instructing the women in cooking?」


「That’s right. Additionally, I have to prepare for the stall tomorrow. And I will need to decide on a dish for the inn. Looks like I’ll be busy the entire day.」


「… I’m envious.」


Ai Fa pouted a little.


「I can only forage for firewood. My health is neither too good nor too bad, so it feels terrible that I can’t enter the forest.」


「Hey, hey, don’t get reckless now, alright?」


I warned her worriedly, and Ai Fa pouted even more.


「You think I’m that retarded? I will rest when it is time to rest. This is necessary for hunters.」


「Ah, sorry. You looked really unhappy about it though.」


「I might be unhappy… but I will only show this face to you, so stop complaining.」


I hoped Ai Fa could open her heart to more people— but even so, I felt as if my heart was going to explode from joy when I heard her saying that.


「… It’s so early in the morning, but thank you very much.」


「Why do you need to thank me?」


「N-No, it’s nothing! Why then, I will go wash up before I start work.」


The day off that was just as busy as a normal business day has begun.






「Alright then, we are holding this seminar for the sake of tending to the hearth during the house head conference. I have already planned the workflow for that day.」


There were two seminars, one in the morning and another in the evening.


If too many people gathered at one time, I wouldn’t be able to attend to them all. I didn’t want to ask all the Lutim house to come over early in the morning, hence the arrangement.


There would be eight women assisting me in tending to the hearth during the house head conference.


The roster was the following. The four helpers from the Wu clan were Vena Wu, Leina Wu, and Lala Wu. The branch house dispatched two assistants, Shela Wu and Tali Wu. The reinforcements from the Lutim main house were Ema Min Lutim and Molun Lutim.


Tali Wu was Shela Wu’s mother. On the day of the house head conference, this strong pair of mother and daughter will be away from the house, so Shin Wu’s place would be left unattended. Women from the other branch houses would go over and help instead. After the Lutim house banquet, not just Shela Wu, even Tali Wu’s culinary skill improved remarkably. That was the reason Mia Lei Wu recommended them strongly.


I met Molun Lutim once before. She was Ema Min Lutim’s sister-in-law— Kaslan Lutim’s sister and Dan Lutim’s daughter. She had a similar appearance to her father and was a charming and energetic girl.


Right now, five of the helpers had gathered.


They were three sisters of the Wu main house, Mama Mia Lei, and Shela Wu.


As Mama Mia Lei and Shela Wu would be the team leaders of this elite group, I requested for them to attend both sessions of the seminar. I looked at the five reliable figures and continued:


「Aside from the cooking, we have to let the women of the Tsun clan learn these cooking techniques. On the day of the house head conference, I hope for everyone to show as much as possible, and let the Tsun clan women do the actual cooking as much as possible. Like what I did the second time I tended to the Wu clan hearth.」


「Ah, you mean the pre-wedding celebration for the Lutim house wedding where you made me cook the steak for the house head to eat? We were the ones who did the actual cooking that time.」


Mama Mia Lei nodded vigorously on behalf of the others. She sure was lively today.


「But the number of guests this time is about the same as during the Lutim house wedding, right? Will that actually work?」


「Don’t worry, the menu won’t be as sumptuous as in the wedding, and we won’t need to worry about food distribution either… I’m planning for four dishes this time, which are 『Myam-roasted meat』, kiba steak, grilled poitan, and aria meat soup.」


「Huh? Are we not adding other vegetables to the meat soup?」


Lala Wu asked.


「Yes, we need to subtract the ingredient cost from the amount they are paying us. Aside from aria and poitan, we will also be using myam and fruit wine. Hence, I have decided to make the menu simpler.」


This was the agreement I made with Yamiel Tsun.


On top of that, the Tsun clan didn’t need to pay directly for the hearth caretaking— the 40 sets of kiba tusks and horns would be collected from the house heads attending that conference.


That sounded infuriating, but we had our own circumstances too and didn’t complain too much.


We wanted to use this chance to let the denizens of Forest's Edge understand the importance of 「delicious food」 and a 「prosperous life」.


No matter what the Tsun clan were planning, our viewpoints were right. We wanted to emphasize this point.


「Besides, if we serve food that takes too much effort, they would think that the food being delicious is a given. I think it will be more convincing if we let them taste dishes that can be easily prepared.」


「Hmm~ you have given it much thought.」


Lala Wu shrugged as if she was saying:「Do what you want.」


I smiled at her, then continued with my briefing.


「I plan to start with making grilled poitan on that day, then the kiba meat soup followed by other meat dishes. I don’t want to prepare different dishes at the same time, so we will do the dishes one by one. The grilled poitan and meat soup shouldn’t be a problem. As for the meat dishes, I hope everyone can practice until you are able to instruct the women of the Tsun clan by yourself.」


I looked at Shela Wu who was standing quietly by the side.
「Shela Wu, this doesn’t concern the house head conference, but I hope you can finish the 『Myam-roasted meat』 by yourself after the special training today.」


「Ehh…? But why?」


「We will be opening for business in the Post Station Town again tomorrow. When I’m not around, I hope I can leave the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall to you.」


Two days after the house head conference, which was the 12th of the Blue Month, I will be providing dinner for the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.


However, I didn’t have enough time.


If I started the preparation work for the inn after closing shop, it would delay my return trip significantly. I wouldn’t have enough time to prepare the meals for the next day in that case.


「Therefore, at noon when the 『Kiba burgers』 sell out, I will head to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 to prepare their meals. During this period, I hope you can tend to the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall.」


「… Can I do it? Controlling the heat is important when cooking 『Myam-roasted meat』, correct?」


「That’s right. If you overcook it, the meat will be too tough. If you marinate it too long, the taste will be too strong. I think you can do it after practicing for a few days.」


「Is that true…?」


「Yes. Since I will be increasing your workload, your pay will double too. I have already discussed this with Mia Lei Wu.」


Shela Wu looked shocked and turned her head towards Mama Mia Lei. Mama Mia Lei ruffled Lala Wu hair with a smug smile.


「I asked Lala and Vena for their opinion, and they both agreed that only you can accomplish this, so I have decided to leave this to you. After all, they are not very good at tending to the hearth.」


「Shut up, Shela Wu is the one who is too good! We can’t replicate Asuta’s cooking completely!」


「That’s right… I want to try too, but I lack the conviction to roast the meat at the stall.」


When the two girls were answering, the light of admiration was flickering in their eyes.


At this moment, the person who had been quiet all this time finally spoke:


「Mama Mia Lei, I think of myself as a capable hearth caretaker too… Will the ones going to town tomorrow still be Vena-nee and Lala?」


It was the second daughter Leina Wu.


Leina Wu held her hands in front of her breasts and looked at her mother with pleading eyes.


Mama Mia Lei showed a troubled smile.


「The clan head was the one who picked Vena at first. If both Vena and you are away, it will affect the chores at home, right…? And before we figure out the Tsun clan’s scheme, I think we should let Vena stay with Asuta. Your sister is the best at dealing with others.」


「But…」


「For example, if a man in a drunken stupor from the Tsun clan were to look for trouble at the stall, Vena could deal with him smoothly, right? After the decision to tend to the hearth at the house head conference we are confident that the Tsun clan won’t lay their hands on Asuta. However, the clan head might change his mind. Bear with it before that.」


「… I understand.」


Leina Wu puffed her cheeks slightly.


Vena Wu had a complicated expression on her face. She turned her head to the side and fidgeted with her chestnut hair.


And then Shela Wu looked at me with a face of determination.


「I understand. Asuta, I hope to meet your expectation to repay your trust in me. I will be in your care.」


「Thank you… Let’s start the practice then.」






The morning practice seminar ended without any incident.


After two hours, the session ended. I left the stove room and stretched my arms.


Rimee Wu and Grandma Ditto Min were sunning pico leaves and chopping wood.


「Hi, Rimee Wu, is Ai Fa still not back?」


「Yes. But she should be returning soon.」


Ai Fa went to the fringe of the forest to forage for firewood.


There was still some time before noon. I was wondering what to do during this time when an unexpected person came to me.


It was the eldest son of the Wu main house, Jiza Wu.


「Asuta, if you are free now, can I talk with you?」


「Do you — want to talk with me?」


I had not seen Jiza Wu around lately, but he suddenly came to me at this moment. Honestly, I didn’t think it was anything good.


Mama Mia Lei followed me out of the stove room, and she looked at the eldest son of the Wu main house a little suspiciously.


「Jiza, you actually have something to discuss with Asuta, what a surprise… Are you unhappy with the decision made by the clan head?」


「The clan head’s decision is absolute. Do you think I will violate this principle as the eldest son?」


His face remained warm and gentle.


When his slit-like eyes met Mama Mia Lei’s gaze, Mama Mia Lei sighed gently.


「Both you and Asuta still have work to do, don’t stress each other out.」


「Alright.」


Jiza Wu nodded and walked to the side of the house.


My only option was to follow.


「…Asuta, it’s been a long time since we last had a proper chat.」


「That’s right, since the morning of the Lutim house wedding banquet, we had not spoken at all.」


「Less than twenty days… In such a short period of time, the situation around us had changed drastically.」


Jiza Wu stopped and turned towards me.


He wasn’t wearing his cape or his blades, and only had simple clothes and a sash around his waist.


However, Jiza Wu was buffed and could take me down easily without any blades. When confronting him, I had to be as careful, as if facing a member of the Tsun clan.


「You are now the central figure in Forest's Edge. Whenever you act, the future of Forest's Edge changes too… I can sense this very strongly.」


「That’s not true. I know that many of the incidents were caused by me— but for better or worse, I can’t do anything with my powers alone. If not for the help of Ai Fa, Kaslan Lutim, and Donda Wu, I couldn’t be involved in the future of Forest's Edge at all.」


「Who knows? If you weren’t here, things wouldn’t have turned out this way.」


A formless pressure as heavy as a mountain assaulted me.


This was the lead-like pressure that the Wu clan siblings feared so deeply.


「You have a point. But I think the other people also wield similar influence. If not for Ai Fa, Kaslan Lutim or Donda Wu, the situation would be completely different. That’s how the world is.」


「…Asuta, you have changed.」


Jiza Wu’s voice became deeper.


「You were meeker in the past. You didn’t know what kind of existence you were and didn’t try to wield your power dangerously in a reckless manner.」


「I see…」


「However, you have grasped your own capabilities and are attempting to influence Forest's Edge with your powers.」


Was it just my imagination? Jiza Wu’s bulky body looked even more buffed now.


The pressure was gradually increasing.


「You are dangerous. You might be a foreigner, but can affect the future of Forest's Edge from the inside. Compared to Rock City’s Kamyua Yost, I think you are the most dangerous person.」


「You only feel this way because you still don’t see me as a denizen of Forest's Edge, correct?」


I replied. I wasn’t afraid, but an uncomfortable and suffocating feeling assaulted me.


「I sincerely wish to be a denizen of Forest's Edge. But my time in Forest's Edge is still short, so I feel uneasy about the drastic changes in Forest's Edge brought by decisions I had made. I decided that this is the best path only after consulting with Ai Fa, Kaslan Lutim, and Donda Wu… Jiza Wu, you don’t want the Wu clan to interact with the Post Station Town and Tsun clan in such a way, do you?」


「If you are asking my opinion— of course, I don’t want that. I think the future of Forest's Edge should be decided by the denizens of Forest's Edge.」


「Hmm… in that case, you can think of this as Donda Wu and Kaslan Lutim using me like a tool to forge open a path for the future of Forest's Edge. That’s how I feel anyway…」


「Even if you are just a tool, the one controlling you is neither the Wu clan nor Lutim house.」


Jiza Wu’s eyes were still narrowed into a slit and shone with a dark light.


The light was sharp, like a black blade.


「The one manipulating you is the head of the Fa house. Speaking of which, the head of the Fa house who doesn’t have any kin has the future of Forest's Edge in her hands.」


「You’re mistaken. Ai Fa isn’t the only one I hold dear to me. Besides, Ai Fa is acting in the best interest of Forest's Edge, not for personal gain.」


And that was why Ai Fa changed her mindset and decided to rely on the Wu clan and Lutim house.


The day after, Ai Fa even caught a fever from worrying too much — and even so, she still believes that Kaslan Lutim’s judgment was correct, and chose to accept his opinion.


To me, that was the Wu clan, Lutim house and Fa house working together to pave the future of Forest's Edge— but Jiza Wu didn’t think so.


「… This wouldn’t have happened if Ai Fa married Darum two years ago.」


Jiza Wu said in a calm tone.


「If Jiba and Rimee didn’t forge a bond with Ai Fa… If Ai Fa didn’t meet you in the forest…」


「I think these were happy scenes but are they an unfortunate occurrence to you?」


I tried to endure the formless pressure and mustered the strength in my joints.


「If that is true, it’s too sad.」


A stinging current seemed to be flowing in the air.


My knees felt like they would turn to jelly if I relaxed for a moment.


The pressure he was giving out was a match for Donda Wu when he gets mad.


The pressure Donda Wu exerted was the venting of his emotions. But I couldn’t feel any emotions in the pressure that was coming from Jiza Wu.


The core of this pressure didn’t stem from emotions like rage or hatred, but something that was the furthest from me— a sense of duty, a sense of belonging to the tribe, the pride of a hunter, etc.


Anyway, the pressure he was giving out was really scary.


I could only grit my teeth and endure, and not yield to this pressure.


I didn’t know how much time had passed—


Ai Fa’s voice came from behind Jiza Wu, disrupting our standoff.


「Asuta, what are you doing there?」


The pressure from Jiza Wu disappeared without a trace.


When he turned his body slightly to the side, I could see Ai Fa carrying a faggot of firewood tied up with ropes on her back.


「If you are free now, come help me. You will need more firewood tomorrow compared to yesterday, right?」


「Ah, yes, right… I understand, I’m coming.」


Ai Fa walked slowly to me.


Jiza Wu bowed at her, then shifted his gaze to me.


「I should get going too. It’s great that we finally got to talk after such a long time.」


I nodded slightly and couldn’t find the right words to say.


After Jiza Wu left, Ai Fa came over.


「Asuta, what were you doing?」


She had a scary expression when she was close.


「That was the first time I saw that eldest son emit such an intense killing intent. When I’m not around, don’t go near that man alone.」


「B-But he wanted to talk, and I couldn’t turn him down.」


「You have to reject him no matter what… I can’t tell what the eldest son is thinking, or how to be on guard against him.」


Ai Fa leaned in closer and looked into my eyes. Our noses were almost touching.


「Hmmp… I could never imagine how fearless you are when shrouded in such terrifying bloodlust. Your strength might still be lacking, but your courage has grown.」


「Hey, are you praising me or making a dig at me? Can you choose just one?」


「In that case, I will praise you.」


Ai Fa pressed her forehead against mine.


「Asuta, even a man from Forest's Edge would find it hard to stay calm under the incredible pressure emitted by that eldest son. For a weak hearth caretaker, you sure are cocky.」


「Hey—」


「I complimented you, so you can be proud of yourself.」


Ai Fa showed a fearless smile.


「Since you are so brave, then the men from the Tsun clan would be nothing to be afraid of. I can relax a bit more before the house head conference… Asuta, let’s gather more firewood. I need to let my dull body get back to its original condition.」


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