Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 7 Prologue & Chapter 1

Prologue
Translator: Skythewood
Editors: Ratorasepo

TL: This volume is 20% longer than usual, and the chapter lengths are all over the place. Chapter two is actually ⅓ of the entire volume.
I will keep to the usual 5 posts instead of expanding to 6 posts, as a thank you bonus for everyone’s support.
Posts 1, 4, and 5 will be quite long, while posts 2 and 3 will be normal in length.
Do note that the longer posts for this volume are not the norm.


「Asuta, what happened here!?」

Ai Fa’s hysterical scream shook the heavens, surprising me deeply.


We were staying in the familiar empty house inside the Wu clan village right now.


After the turbulent house head conference, we quickly returned to the Wu clan. It was between noon and dusk right now, and it felt about 3pm to me.


As we didn’t sleep much for the entire night, I washed up at the Wu clan’s water source and freshened myself. I just came back refreshed, and Ai Fa was holding her hands on her hips, standing inside the room with her legs wide apart, and quivering from fury.


「What is it? Why are you so mad?」


「You are asking me that!? Why you…」


Ai Fa walked towards me in wide strides. I stood in place helplessly, and she pointed at the center of my body.


「What is this!? Why is there a wound!?」


「Ah, this… is from last night when Doddo Tsun sent me flying with a kick. I was shocked when I took off my clothes just now too.」


After washing my T-shirt at the water source, I only put on the vest-like shirt when I came back. Hence, the patch of blue-black at the center of my torso was clearly visible.


I thought I got off lucky with such a trivial injury after getting kicked by a man from Forest's Edge. If I was hit anywhere else, he probably would have broken my ribs.


But Ai Fa still looked outraged.


「Why didn’t you tell me about this!? You said you were fine! Asuta, did you lie to me?」


「Ehh? Something this trivial is considered fine, right? It doesn’t even hurt if I don’t pay it attention.」


「… So that means, it hurts if you pay attention to it, right?」


Ai Fa squat down onto the floor, leaned in close to my belly and stared at the bruise.


「That damn second son actually did this to you… Damn it! I should have got him back before handing him over to Donda Wu!」


「No, I bit down hard on the back of his hand too. We are even, so you don’t need to seek revenge.」


Ai Fa bit her lips in frustration as she caressed my wound gently.


「… Does it hurt? Do you need medicine?」


「Not at all! The contusion will heal if we leave it alone. Thank you for worrying about me.」


「… I’m so frustrated.」


Ai Fa moved her hands away.


She hugged my body with her arms and put her cheek against the contusion.
I screamed in my heart:「Uwah!」 and didn’t dare to move.

「I-I-I’m really fine! You are worrying too much! This is just a scratch in the eyes of hunters, correct?」


「You are a hearth caretaker, not a hunter.」


「That’s true…」


Ai Fa tightened her arms.


I was getting stifled to death.
「… I don’t want to see you hurt.」


Ai Fa said quietly.


「Seeing a frail person like you get hurt feels more painful than me being torn apart… And I’m also frustrated because of my powerlessness to protect my family…」


「Not at all. After that huge commotion, we should be grateful that we all survived with our limbs intact.」


My mind was falling into panic mood, but I still managed to squeeze out that line.

「Ai Fa, I’m happy as long as you are safe. If Diga Tsun did anything to you, I will definitely lose my mind.」


「Yes. If I wasn’t woken up because someone force-fed me wine, it could be a little dangerous.」


Ai Fa exhaled with her cheeks on my abdomen.


Her warm breath sent a chill down my back.
「The Tsun clan is powerless to harm us now, but we don’t know how much hardships await us in the future. We have to be careful and keep our guard up.」


「Yes, I completely agree with you.」


So it’s about a time for you to let go of me— as I was thinking that, someone knocked the door behind us.
「Asuta, are you still not ready…?」


Vena Wu appeared at the door.


I still had to prepare for tomorrow’s business.
「Okay, in a moment…! Ai Fa, I need to go to work.」


「Hmm…」

Ai Fa relaxed her arms very slowly and stared at me closely.


「Asuta, is there anything I can help you with?」


「Yes, there should be. But don’t you want to sleep?」


「It’s still bright out, I can’t sleep. If there’s nothing for me to help with, I will forage for firewood.」


「Then come help me. Somehow, I really want to…」


I really want to be with you— I decided to swallow these words.
We will be working apart from tomorrow onwards. I want to spend as much time together with Ai Fa as possible.
「I understand.」


Ai Fa stood up and said to me with a satisfied face.





I spent some time to change my mood.
Tomorrow, I will continue my stall’s business. The day after tomorrow, I will be providing meals to the inns. But my mind was still filled with thoughts about the aftermath with the matter of the Tsun clan. So I had to switch gears and change my mood.

「We will need to prepare one hundred of each meal, right…? How should we go about it…?」

「Let’s start with the 『Kiba burger』. One hundred portions would require, erm~, 25 arias.」


I asked Ai Fa and Vena Wu to help me carry out the necessary ingredients from the food store. After that, Vena Wu diced the aria. Ai Fa watched her work and sighed in awe.
「Hmm…」


「… What’s the matter, Ai Fa…?」

「No, I just think your knife work is exceptional. I thought you aren’t good with tending to the hearth.」

「Hmm…? I had plenty of chances to help Asuta after all, of course my culinary skills will improve… Besides, I find caretaking the hearth to be quite a joy…」


Vena Wu’s sexy lips broke out into a smile.

「Speaking of which, Ai Fa, you often help out with the hearth too, but your knife work is poor… Is there a reason for that…?」

「Hmm? No particular reason. Asuta is the hearth caretaker of the Fa house, I will only make the food taste worse if I butt in.」

「I see… You’re a hunter after all…」

「Yes, you’re right.」


It was rare to see Ai Fa and Vena Wu chat for so long.


If the one helping today was Lala Wu, I would feel glad to see them talking. But this combination made me feel a little awkward.


As I was thinking about that, Vena Wu’s words went beyond being awkward.

「Ai Fa… are you really planning not to marry…?」

Ai Fa’s expression was calm, but she became annoyed immediately.

「I don’t plan to marry anyone. I already said that to Donda Wu many times.」

「Ignore Papa Donda for now… Besides, from the way they acted last night, they probably aren’t that stubborn about blood relations now and will treat the Fa house as the friends of the Wu clan and Lutim house…」

「… The relationship between the Wu clan and the Fa house turned sour two years ago, I’m happy that we can renew our bonds.」

「That’s right, I’m happy about that too… But never mind all that, you are still not planning to marry…?」

Vena Wu insisted, and Ai Fa furrowed her brows.
「No means no. Eldest daughter of the Wu clan, why do you keep asking?」
「Hmm… In that case, you won’t object even if Asuta takes in a wife, right…?」

「Wait! Vena Wu, what are you saying all of a sudden!?」


I couldn’t help cutting in. Vena Wu laughed.


「It’s just an assumption… If you marry into another house, it will be troubling for Ai Fa. But if you take in a wife as a member of the Fa house, she has no reasons to object, correct…?」


I glanced at Ai Fa timidly.
Ai Fa— she had a childish shocked expression.


With that expression on her face, she turned towards me.
「Asuta, is there any woman you want to marry right now?」


「No one!」

「I see, there’s no one.」


Ai Fa repeated my words robotically, then turned towards Vena Wu.

「Eldest daughter of the Wu clan, it seems he doesn’t want to marry anyone.」


「That’s what he thinks now… Who knows if that will change in the future…?」


Ai Fa nodded, then turned back to me again.


「Asuta, is there anyone you will want to marry in the future?」


「That’s impossible! I already told you before, that I don’t plan to marry anyone.」


「I see. That’s true.」


「… But feelings can change… Ai Fa, there might be a girl who wants to be Asuta’s wife in the future. If Asuta accepts her, will you give them your blessings as the house head…?」
「Blessing…」

Ai Fa blinked.


「Blessings… Blessings, huh…」


「That’s right… when a member of your house marries, you have to offer your blessings as the house head, correct…?」

Ai Fa’s mind seemed to stall and she didn’t move.


She appeared to be very troubled— I could almost hear the hard disk in her mind churning noisily.


「Ah! It’s Ai Fa!」


At this moment, an angel descended from the heaven to our rescue.

It was the youngest daughter of the Wu clan, Rimee Wu.

「Asuta, Vena-nee, welcome home! Did the house head conference go well?」


I quietly wiped my cold sweat away. I smiled in return to the nostalgic innocent smile before me:
「Well, it will take quite some time to explain it all… I will tell you the details when Donda Wu and the others come back.」

「Ehh? Papa Donda isn’t back yet?」


The three newly-elected tribal chiefs and their kins were still in the Tsun clan village and taking care of the miscellaneous affairs. The women and I returned to the Wu clan village first.

「I see. It’s great that everyone is safe. Ai Fa, let’s chat with Grandma Jiba!」

「No, I’m still helping Asuta with his work…」

「Huh〜! Ai Fa, you will be going back to the Fa house with Asuta tomorrow, right? Then I won’t get to see you for some time! We didn’t chat yesterday, so I want to stay with you today.」

Rimee Wu kept clinging on to Ai Fa like a puppy.
Ai Fa’s mind seemed to be still stalling, so I smiled at her:

「Don’t worry about us, go with her. Grandma Jiba must be hoping to chat with you more.」

「I see… Then I will go over for a bit.」


With these words, Ai Fa turned to Vena Wu with a cloudy expression.

「Eldest daughter of the Wu clan, about what you asked just now.」

「Yes, what is it…?」

「… I don’t know. I can’t sort out my thoughts and feelings properly.」


After Ai Fa and Rimee Wu left together, I glared at Vena Wu.

「Vena Wu! Just what are you trying to do!? Why did you ask these kinds of questions so suddenly…!」

「Because Ai Fa always looks so carefree, so it irked me a little…」

Vena puffed her cheeks.

「Me, you, Leina, and Darum all have our fair share of troubles, but only Ai Fa is being dense. Doesn’t it feel weird…? That’s unfair…」

「I don’t think this has anything to do with fairness.」


It had to be hard for Ai Fa to make the decision to live on as a hunter.


As a woman, she gave up on the route of marrying and raising children, choosing to wither away in the forest instead— it had to be a tough decision to make.

「… I wouldn’t feel this way if you and Ai Fa were related by blood… I still can’t accept this…」

After Vena Wu finished complaining, she showed a sorrowful expression.

「Sorry… This isn’t something I should bring up in the middle of work… I was wrong.」

Her reaction stirred my sense of guilt.

Lives always had to be filled with tribulations, but I still couldn’t find a way to build a proper relationship between me, Vena Wu, and Leina Wu.
Especially being with Vena Wu troubled me the most. When we worked together in the Post Station Town, I could feel strongly that we had built trust and goodwill that didn’t involve boy-girl relationships. That made me feel guilty.


She was a good friend of the opposite sex and a coworker… I wasn’t sure how to describe our relationship, but I cherished her deeply. If she fell for another man and decided to marry him, I would give her my blessings and think of it as my relative marrying out.

… I wonder how Shumimaru is doing
I thought about that silvered-haired young Semu man and sighed.


Vena Wu sighed too.


「Asuta, are you going back tomorrow…?」


「Yes. Thank you for accommodating me all this while.」


「I will feel lonely… Just thinking about what will happen tomorrow makes me feel like dying…」


「Y-You are exaggerating too much.」


「No, it’s not just about you leaving… I have an ominous feeling…」


「Ominous feeling?」


「… A member of the Tsun clan will move to this village, correct…?」


So that was the thing troubling her.
The members of the Tsun clan main house had to lose their family name and become members of other houses. Diga Tsun… no, Diga, Doddo, and Tay will become a part of the Dom house. Yamiel would probably join the Zaza house or Sauti clan.


The other three Tsun clan members, Aura, Zwei and Mida, didn’t commit any serious crimes.

「… Doesn’t it feel like the youngest son will come over to the Wu clan…?」

「Hmm〜 who knows? Since this is the Wu clan’s idea, you guys will take in at least one member of the Tsun clan.」

「That’s true…」

「Furthermore, only a powerful house could take Mida in.」

「That’s true…」

「… Also, Mia Lei Wu seemed fine with Mida.」

「Ahhh… I really want to die…」
When Vena Wu was sulking, sounds of commotion could be heard from outside the house.


Vena Wu and I looked at each other and sighed deeply at the same time.

We left the stove room and headed to the plaza. The scene before us wasn’t too different from what we were expecting. The group that stayed behind in the Tsun clan village had returned, and the women from the Wu clan branch houses were surrounding them.


Not everyone was back. I saw Donda Wu, Ludo Wu, and Dan Lutim, but Darum Wu and Rau Lei weren’t there. Only half of the house head conference participants have returned.

A few ex-Tsun clan members were before us.

They were Aura, Zwei, and Mida.

The Wu clan women were probably chattering because Mida’s alien-like appearance was too scary. Mida showed up at the Lutim house wedding before, but his appearance was too weird, so even those who had seen him before would still be shocked.

「Thank you for your hard work. You are back so early?」

As Vena Wu was standing stiffly beside me, I greeted Donda Wu. He turned his head away as if I was annoying, and Ludo Wu answered on his behalf:

「We have to bring the members of the Tsun clan over, so we came back. Darum-nii and the others are still watching the Tsun clan branch house members.」


About half of the Tsun clan branch house members were adopted by their kins, and about ten-odd people stayed behind in the Tsun clan village.


As the forest around the Tsun clan village had been picked clean, before new vegetables grew, the Tsun clan couldn’t hunt kiba in that area. Additionally, the Tsun clan members had not performed their duties as hunters for over ten years and lost their abilities to hunt kiba. Aside from providing assistance to them, we also needed to confirm if they had the resolve to live properly as a denizens of Forest's Edge.


After the main house members lost their clan name, the branch house members would be the key for the rebuilding of the Tsun clan. If they couldn’t regain their hunting skills, the Tsun clan’s name would die out.


「Yamiel isn’t here, huh. Which house would be adopting her?」

「Hmm〜? That’s not confirmed yet. The Wu clan and Lutim house are too near to the Fa house. The Zaza and Sauti aren’t willing to take her in too. We are locking her up in the Tsun clan for now and had sent men to keep an eye on her.」

「… I see.」

That was all I could say.
Yamiel was the mastermind behind this criminal act, so everyone would naturally be wary of her. I knew this couldn’t be helped, but my heart still felt heavy.

「Asuta, why do you look so down!? There are still problematic matters to resolve, but I will send Kaslan to the Tsun clan village tomorrow. And with that, things will be more or less settled. Just leave the troublesome matters to him!」

Dan Lutim laughed heartily as usual.

He then gestured with his thick fingers to call Aura and Zwei over.

「Lutim house will be taking them in. Our family doesn’t have enough women in the first place, so this works out just fine…! Asuta, you and Ai Fa are good friends with the Lutim house, so I brought my family over to greet you.」

「Ah, so they will be joining the Lutim house.」

This was a piece of good news. Zwei might have a mature personality, but she was just twelve years old like Lala Wu. It seemed a little heartless to make her live apart from her mother.


Once Dan Lutim finished saying that, Aura bowed deeply at us. Her blue eyes were still lifeless, but they weren’t murky like before. They were completely filled with sorrow.


Zwei clung to Aura’s leg and kept glaring at me. After all, my words led to the destruction of the Tsun clan, so of course she would hate me.


Even so, I still hoped this pair of mother and daughter could find happiness.
「Ai Fa, so you’re here too. Well, that’s how things are, we will be in your care.」


I was surprised by Dan Lutim’s words. I turned around and saw that Ai Fa was standing nearby without me realizing it. Rimee Wu was hiding behind Ai Fa, and she gasped with an 「Uwah」 when she saw Mida’s gigantic body.


Mama Mia Lei stood behind the two of them with a satisfied smile. Leina Wu, Lala Wu, and the others were probably still napping and weren’t here.


「We are going then! Donda Wu and Kaslan will head to the Tsun clan village tomorrow. I will tell him to drop by the Wu clan village on his way there.」

「Got it, I will head to Tsun clan again with him.」

「Alright then, let’s go!」


At this moment… Mida stood before Aura and Zwei.
He stared at his former family members, without a shred of emotions in his beady eyes, just like an animal.
「… Aura, Zwei, you are going…?」


「Yes… Mida, take care of yourself.」


Aura reached out with her slender hand and touched Mida’s trunk-like arm.

Zwei looked up at her former brother without a word— at Mida’s big body.


Mida’s cheeks started trembling.


「Mida… Mida will be lonely…」

「Yes. I will be lonely too… But there is no other way. We have to atone for our sins.」


「Aura, Mida can’t see you and Zwei again…?」

「Yes. The Tsun clan main house is gone. You will need to live as a member of the Wu clan now.」

So the Wu clan had taken Mida in.


Vena Wu who was standing behind me suddenly grabbed my waistband.

「Mida can’t see Yamiel, Tay… Diga, and Doddo again…?」

「Yes… even if you have the chance to meet them again, you can’t listen to their orders. You are already a part of the Wu clan and have to obey the Wu clan. You must forget the rule of the Tsun clan, and follow the laws of the Wu clan, okay? If you do so— you will definitely live a happy life.」

「… Mida wants to live together with Aura and Zwei.」

Mida collapsed heavily onto his knees and looked up at Aura from below.

Aura showed a sorrowful smile and placed her hand on Mida’s hill-like shoulder.

「Mida, you are strong and will definitely become an excellent hunter, and do what Zuro, Diga, and Doddo couldn’t do. You must live on strongly as a member of the Wu clan…?」

「… Mida…」


I couldn’t help holding back my surprise.

Mida’s disproportionately small eyes started tearing up.


「Man, give me a break.」

Ludo Wu fled to our side.

「Woooahhhh…」

The next instant, a weird sounding roar came from Mida’s mouth. His roar was shocking, with his high and low pitch harmonizing into a whirlpool.

If glass existed in this world, all of them would have shattered. This explosive sound was no different from a sonic boom.
「Shut up! Shut up! You already cried your heart out at the Tsun clan village! Restrain yourself!」

Ludo Wu covered his ears and shouted.

Mida’s deafening cries drowned out Ludo Wu’s shout. His tears flowed like two rivers down his cheeks, forming a puddle on the ground.

「Shut up, stupid!」

Even when Zwei kicked Mida’s legs, he still didn’t stop crying.

His first cry hurt my eardrums deeply. I covered my ears with a sourness in my heart. Mida’s expression was full of deep sorrow.

Mida’s fat body made him look like a monster, and he didn’t seem interested in anything but food. But now, his face was twisted as he kept crying. As Mida’s face was full of fats, it was hard for him to show any expression. But the heartbreaking sadness he was showing made him look no different from a baby.

「Mida… is lonely… Mida doesn’t want to separate from Aura and Zwei…」


He finally stopped his wailing and squeezed out this line between sobs.

「Thank you, Mida… But this is the way.」


Aura didn’t shed any tears, but her face was filled with deep sorrow.


When he heard that, Mida scowled his face again. But before he could cry out, an unexpected voice cut him off.
「Shut up! How long a big guy like you is going to cry!? Men can’t shed tears in front of others so easily!」


I was probably the most surprised person here. The one who said that and walked before Mida was Ai Fa.


「You think of those people who didn’t obey the rules as your family, correct? I can understand how you feel. But no matter how much you cry and shout, your fate won’t change. If you see yourself as a member of Forest's Edge, have some pride!」

Mida turned to Ai Fa in surprise.


His gigantic face was covered in tears, snot, and saliva, and Ai Fa was glaring at him with cat-like eyes.

「You all committed a crime, and losing your family is the punishment. You have to understand how serious that crime is… For you who have sinned, this is the only path you can take.」

「But… Mida…」

「I know how sad it is to lose all your family. It is on par with your body being torn apart, but there must be a way for you to overcome this obstacle.」

Ai Fa scowled her nose, and swiftly leaned her face towards Mida.


「Even though your family’s bonds had been broken, all of you are still alive. If you live on properly as a member of the Wu clan, and they live as members of the Lutim house, you can meet them again one day. Since there is still hope, stop crying!」

「… Mida can see Aura and Zwei again…?」
「We can’t let you meet with the eldest daughter and men from the Tsun clan. But you will have the chance to meet these two women. After all, the Wu clan and Lutim house are kins.」

Dan Lutim answered.
Even this heroic man seemed a little down.
「Mida… can see Yamiel and Tay too…?」
「That will depend on your efforts. You haven’t even put in any effort yet, so you can’t demand anything.」
Seeing Ai Fa glaring at him with a scary face, Mida muttered:「Sorry…」
「Ara ara, you are a step faster than me, Ai Fa… You really are an excellent house head.」
Mama Mia Lei walked to Mida with a smile.
「Even without blood relations, family is still family. If you live on properly as a member of Forest's Edge, the clan head will bestow you with the Wu family name. There’s no use in thinking about the past. You have to work hard and live on properly.」
Mama Mia Lei took out a piece of cloth and wiped Mida’s face.


「… Alright, let’s go.」

Dan Lutim looked at the departing figure of those two and then left the plaza with his kins.


Mida would become a member of the Wu clan, Aura and Zwei will join the Lutim house. Diga, Doddo, and Tay would become a part of the Dom house. As for Yamiel… Kaslan Lutim would figure something out.


The three new tribal chiefs of Forest's Edge would be responsible for liaising with the landlord of Genos. Four days later, the caravan that Kamyua Yost would be escorting would pass through Forest's Edge. Before that, we had to notify him officially about the demise of the Tsun clan.


There were piles of problems awaiting us. For the sake of a better future for Forest's Edge, our denizens would need to work together to mend the wrongs committed in the past by the chief clan.


「Well then, we should start preparing dinner.」


I returned to my work with the cheerfully smiling Mama Mia Le and the sighing Vena Wu.


Chapter 1: Business Reopens

1
Two days after the house head conference, the twelfth day of the Blue month, we safely restarted our business in the Post Station Town.

「Long time no see, Milano Mast!」

We went around to the back of the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 and greeted him energetically, and Milano Mast received us with his usual sour face.


「You are noisy so early in the morning. It’s just two days off, what’s long about that.」

「Ara, it felt really long to me, I will be in your care today too.」


「… I don’t remember ever caring about you. If you want to run your business, then hurry up and take your stall with you.」


「Yes!」


After answering, I looked closely at Milano Mast’s unhappy face.


「What, you got a problem with that?」


「No, none at all!」


The Tsun clan might be behind the death of Milano Mast’s good friend, but they were destroyed now— at this point of time, I still couldn’t tell Milano Mast about this.


Even if I told him that, the regret in his heart would still linger. After all, the Tsun clan wasn’t punished for hurting the citizens of the Post Station Town.


I hope Genos castle can be impartial in the future— first of all, Donda Wu and the other new tribal chiefs of Forest's Edge had to form a proper relationship with the landlord of Genos.


I suppressed the feelings welling up in my heart and strode forth on the stone-paved road. Unlike the previous days, I was with Shela Wu, Vena Wu, and Lala Wu.

The wooden buildings on both sides of the road, the bustling travelers and merchants, the Totos Moa pulling heavy loads… All these felt so nostalgic that it didn’t feel like I was away for just two days.

「Asuta, you look really happy.」


Lala who was pushing the cart with me commented. She also looked really cheerful, Shela Wu and Vena Wu were also all smiles.


We were probably affected by the town’s lively atmosphere since the work in the Tsun clan village was too serious. For the denizens of Forest's Edge, the Post Station Town used to be an uncomfortable place or even the enemy camp. But they no longer felt repulsive of this place. I felt satisfied just looking at how cheerful they looked.
As we advanced along the stone-paved road, a familiar voice called out to me.
「Ah! Asuta-niichan is here!」


It was a cute girl with caramel-colored hair, Tara.
Uncle Dora was also standing under the canvas roof with a smile.


「Hi, Asuta, I’m glad you look well. What are you buying?」


「Hello, long time no see. Please give me two tarapas, 4 tinos, and 20 arias.」


「Alright, that will be 8 red copper plates.」


This conversation felt nostalgic too.
How should I put it, the homesickness in my heart was slowly fading away.
I’m really suited to running a business in this town after all.
Even though my time in this different world was short, I was still a denizen of Forest's Edge. The Forest's Edge settlement and the Fa house was my irreplaceable hometown in this world. Besides, even now, there were still some people in the city who didn’t hide their fear and disdain for the denizens of Forest's Edge at all.


In spite of that, this Post Station Town was a land I felt close to and could even call this my second hometown. I cherished the people I encountered on this land.

「Uwah, it’s incredible today too.」


After buying the vegetables from Uncle Dora, we got on our way and saw a crowd at the northern end of the marketplace. It was on par with the day of our highest sales four days ago.


With each day that passed, the atmosphere of this crowd felt calmer. The number of southerners and easterners kept increasing, but the westerner bystanders were gradually decreasing.


Time passed in a flash, and we had run this business for half a month now. Having customers lining up was no longer a rare sight, and the southerners and easterners no longer stirred up trouble. Hence, there was no point for the westerners to keep gawking at us. Only one guard from Genos was watching us, and he just stood on one side of the road with a bored face.


「Sorry for the wait! We will start preparations immediately, please give us a moment.」


When we walked over, the customers opened a path as if they prepared for it ahead of time. Even without any instructions, they started to queue up in groups of five in front of the two stalls.

「You’re finally here! We were getting impatient!」



Pops, Arudas, and the architects stood at the very fore of the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall.


Pops was shorter than me, while Arudas was as tall and slender as an easterner. Their appearances might look stern and rugged, but they were a short and tall duo that put me at ease.


「Thank you for coming today too. I’m happy to see that you are well.」


「We are lively, but Pops has been naggy for the past two days. He kept saying he wants to eat kiba, and we had a hard time soothing him.」


「It’s this brat’s fault, he is the one who closed for two days. Hey, you can’t close the stall in the Blue month anymore, got it?」


「Yes, I will try my best.」


During our talk, the griddle got heated up.
This was the new kitchenware I bought six days ago, Jaguar-made iron griddle. Ever since my contract started on the 8th day of the Blue month, I had been using it to cook 『Myam-roasted meat』.


I put in some fats, stir-fried thin slices of aria, and then added in marinated loin and belly meat. After they were cooked, I added in more of marinating sauce. The next instant, the fragrance of the fruit wine and the garlic-like myam burst out, and the people in the queue started cheering.


「Hey, is it done yet!? I’m so hungry that my intestines feel as if they are going to snap!」


「Alright, coming right up.」


I pushed the meat that was done to the edge of the griddle instead of plates. This was something that couldn’t be done in a pot. As the fire would only heat up the center of the griddle, I could keep the food warm by moving them to the edge and not worry about them getting burned.


After that, I tossed tino shreds onto the crepe-like grilled poitan, wrapped the steaming meat and poitan with it, and it was done.
「Please enjoy, this will be two red copper plates.」

Lala Wu received the copper plates and handed out the 『Myam-roasted meat』 in that order. Arudas took his share and smiled at me.


「Are you going to start doing business at the inn tomorrow?」


「Yes, the plan is to start tomorrow.」


「In that case, we can enjoy your cookings in the afternoon and evening. Our efforts in making scenes in the inn have paid off.」


Thanks to Arudas and the southerners rave reviews of my cooking, the boss of the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 Naudiz decided to sell kiba dishes during dinner.


I bowed towards Arudas and kept cooking 『Myam-roasted meat』.

「I’m really grateful to everyone. I never imagined that I could expand my business in such a way.」


「Don’t mention it, we are not doing this for you. We just want to enjoy a sumptuous dinner.」


「That’s right! I won’t let you off if you don’t serve delicious meals.」


Pops might be rough with his words, but his eyebrows were raised in joy as he held the 『Myam-roasted meat』 with both hands. I couldn’t help smiling, and said with a smile:「I will do my best to meet your expectations.」


After that, we were locked in heated battle. The amount of food that could be cooked in a pot and a griddle was roughly the same; after cooking 15 portions twice, I cooked another batch to make up the shortfall, and the morning rush was over.


Everyone rested after that, ate a light meal, then switched stalls. The members of the 《Silver Vase》 appeared. It was the same familiar routine.


「Asuta, no see so long.」


「Ah, hello, thank you for your patronage.」


The band leader Shumimaru always greeted me this way. The young man with silver hair took off his hood as usual and bowed emotionlessly.


Unfortunately, the one tending to this stall with me right now was Shela Wu, not Vena Wu. Shumimaru bowed towards Shela Wu, and Shela Wu bowed politely in return.


「Are you having 『Myam-roasted meat』 today?」

「No, when stall close, I eat 『Myam-roasted meat』, today, eat 『Kiba burger』.」


He spoke like a foreigner, but his pronunciation was very standard. When the denizens of Forest's Edge said 「hamburg steak」 and 「Kiba burger」, they still sounded stiff. Their culture and speech style was probably very different.


「Asuta, kitchen knife, good?」


「Very good, I’m using it very smoothly now. How should I put this, this knife is sturdier than the knives from my hometown. As a half-baked chef, I’m very grateful.」


「Asuta, you half-baked?」


「Yes, my skills are still lacking, and this is the first time I’m running a stall.」


I answered as I finished my preparation for the five portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 for the band members.


Shumimaru opened his high cornered eyes slightly wider.


「Asuta, cooking, outstanding. I think, very tasty.」


「Thank you, I’m honored to hear that.」


「…Asuta, how you will be, when full-baked? I, in anticipation, tremble .」


Shumimaru narrowed his eyes slightly.


The expressions of easterners rarely changed, but just this subtle movement felt like a gentle smile.


After one of his brethren handed him a 『Kiba burger』, Shumimaru looked around him.


「She, today, not here?」

「She?」


I tilted my head puzzledly, then understood.
「Ah, you mean my house head? She had to do some other work. After all, her main job isn’t to do business.」


「… House head?」


「The head of a house. She is the head, I’m a member.」


「I see.」

Shumimaru nodded.


「House head, stone, happy?」


「Ah, yes… she was quite pleased.」


Seeing how flustered I was, Shumimaru narrowed his eyes cheerfully.


「Wonderful. If problem, find me.」


「Alright, thank you.」


After the 《Silver Vase》 left the stall, a familiar customer approached us with a smile.

「Hi, it’s crowded today too!」


It was a pretty girl with brown hair and ivory skin. Her thicc body was covered with just a tube top and a long dress around her waist. She was the daughter of the 《West Wind Inn》, Yumi.


「It’s been a while, you are by yourself today?」


「Yes, I have been helping out at home since morning. My stomach was rumbling, so I sneaked out.」


The meat which was kept warm at the edge of the griddle gave off a fragrant aroma, and the smiling Yumi sniffled.

「Smells nice! Isn’t that myam and fruit wine? This fragrance is more appetizing than the Kimyusu bun. This means that the kiba meat itself is very fragrant.」

「Yes, I think kiba meat goes well with myam.」

「That’s right, a lot of dishes make use of myam too… Asuta, did you come up with the seasoning for this dish? You’re amazing!」

「Not at all, I’m just a half-baked chef.」

I heard there were chefs in the castle town. That was probably why a half-baked chef like me could get rave reviews in the Post Station Town. I was happy to hear everyone’s compliments, but I couldn’t get cocky about it.


「There is still some time before noon, how many portions have you sold?」

「Hmm…? Well, about 40 to 50 each.」

「You sold 50 portions so early!? Your business is really good… I want three portions today, I will make my dad taste your dish, no matter what it takes.」

「Huh? You want to let your esteemed father try this dish?」

「Don’t address him so respectfully, he is just an inflexible and stubborn old man.」

Yumi crossed her arms over her bountiful breasts and pouted.

「He thinks kiba can’t taste good and even says that the tongues of me and my mother turned weird after eating kiba. He is still insisting on that. I will crush his rock brain today!」

「I-I see. Seniors born in Genos still resist the idea of kiba.」

「Not at all. My mom was born and bred in Genos, but my dad only moved here as an adult… Besides, only grandma’s and grandpa’s generation would be afraid of kiba. My dad just hates kiba for some unknown reason.」


She would need to spend quite a bit of effort to erase this ‘some unknown reason’ from his heart.


As I watched this westerner girl Yumi sparing no effort to overturn the bad reputation of kiba, I thought she was an irreplaceable existence for the denizens of Forest's Edge.

「… You will be starting work in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 from tomorrow onwards, right?」
「Ehh? That’s right.」
「That is an inn where the southerners frequent, but they also have many westerners as clients. Once they start selling your dishes, more westerners will start eating kiba.」
Yumi told me her prediction, and I was grateful for that.
But her face still looked sullen.
「After everyone starts treating kiba as a common ingredient, the inns that don’t provide kiba dishes will fall behind. So I think I need to crush my father’s stubborn rock head right now.」
「You might be right… But it will take some time before everyone treats kiba as a normal ingredient.」

「Be it one year or ten years, we will need to keep up with the times. Furthermore, the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 might win over our customers, so we can’t let our guard down.」
Was this the so-called business brain? Yumi was more reliable than I expected. Even putting the matter of kiba meat aside, if this girl finds a husband and the two of them inherit the 《West Wind Inn》 together, the future of the 《West Wind Inn》 would be bright.
「I’m going off now! See you tomorrow!」
Yumi left in large strides with three portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 in hand.
「Okay, it’s almost time to grill the next batch of meat. I’m counting on you, Shela Wu.」


「Yes.」

Shela Wu nodded with a serious face.


When the second half starts tomorrow, I will leave the stall for some time and head to the inn to prepare the meals. During that period, Shela Wu would be in charge of making the 『Myam-roasted meat』.

Shela Wu had a tense expression on her face. This job could earn her a salary double that of Vena Wu and the others. I can’t fail— her mind was supposedly filled with such thoughts. The denizens of Forest's Edge took an honest and serious attitude towards work, so I definitely could leave this work to her.


「Alright then, I will start grilling.」


Shela Wu placed the aria onto the griddle.


After the aria turned soft, she added the kiba meat and spread out the meat slices so they could be cooked more easily. So far, the amount of aria and meat was fine. She checked the tenderness of the meat and shifted the fillings to the edge of the griddle.

Shela Wu looked towards me as I picked up a piece of meat.


The cooking degree… was just right.


「Perfect.」


After saying that to her with a smile, Shela Wu showed a wider smile than mine.


「I’m really happy. I give thanks to the forest for letting me meet you.」


「Shela Wu, you are exaggerating. You already were very capable.」


「No, it’s thanks to you that I could find meaning and joy in tending to the hearth. If you didn’t come to Forest's Edge, I would still be wallowing in shame over my powerlessness.」


Shela Wu gazed into the distance.


「I will definitely be able to live more proudly in the future. And so, I’m grateful to Ai Fa for bringing you to Forest's Edge. I want to offer my blessings for you meeting Ai Fa.」


「Thank you.」


I answered Shela Wu honestly too.


If only Ai Fa never met you— people like Jiza Wu might think like that, but there were also people like Shela Wu who were thankful about my encounter with Ai Fa. I could be poison or medicine. I had to show my way of living to these two groups properly.


I sorted out my feelings and was about to chop some tino when a regular customer visited. He was the disciple of the elusive Kamyua Yost, Leito.

「Hello, two please.」
The boy was short, had yellowish-brown hair and was always smiling. I looked back into his light-brown eyes and greeted him.
「Hi, thank you for your constant patronage. Is Kamyua working today too?」
「Yes. He came back early in the morning and will probably sleep until noon. He will be shouldering a heavy responsibility and needs to take care of all sorts of preparation work.」
Was the preparation work for escorting a caravan that busy? Never mind, there wasn’t any point for me to probe about this. I had something more important to discuss.
「Sorry, can you help me pass a message? After I’m done with the stall, I hope Kamyua can spare some time for me.」
「Oh, that’s a surprise, you actually have business with him.」
Leito opened his eyes wide, the innocent smile was still on his face.


「Kamyua will be happy to hear that. I will tell him once he wakes up. He will stay in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 for the rest of the day.」
「I got it. Thank you.」
The boy’s petite figure disappeared on the end of the road that was starting to get crowded.


When he was completely gone, Shela Wu looked at me worriedly.


「Asuta, you have to be careful.」


「Okay. He kept insisting that he respects and likes the denizens of Forest's Edge, so I won’t be in danger… I think.」


「Don’t guess like that. Forest's Edge can’t do without you now. Even if we ignore the other people in Forest's Edge, Ai Fa will be devastated if anything happens to you. Please don’t forget that.」


「Don’t worry, I’m just going to talk with him.」


Right now, there wouldn’t be any problem.
However, I wouldn’t know how things would develop in the future.

After the Tsun clan lost their power, what would happen to the relationship between Forest's Edge and the Genos castle? For us who were doing business in the Post Station Town, how would this change affect us? We could only probe around in the dark.


If anything happened to me, the business in the Post Station Town would stop. Maybe the denizens of Forest's Edge would learn the skills to run a business independently after some time. I had to hang on until that time comes before I could disappear or die.


This isn’t just my own life anymore.
I need to be more cautious than before— I also discussed this with Ai Fa yesterday.
The Tsun clan falling from grace didn’t mean that all the problems were gone. In order to atone for the crimes of the chief clan, we had to form a normal relationship with Genos castle.


「It’s almost noon, let’s work hard for the second half too.」


Shela Wu’s face still had a hint of worry, despite that, I said that loudly. I then greeted an approaching customer with a smile:

「Welcome!」


2
Two hours after midday, we started closing shop.


We sold two hundred portions the day after our day off, but we stayed open until the very last moment. However, we got sold out an hour and a half earlier today. We were closed for two days this time, so our business was better than usual.


No matter what, this was a successful new beginning. I headed to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 happily.


「Thank you for your hard work, Asuta. Kamyua is waiting for you inside.」


After we returned the cart and went through the doors of the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, Leito received us as usual.

I greeted Milano Mast at the counter and entered the inn together with Vena Wu. I asked Lala Wu and Shela Wu to procure the ingredients for tomorrow, so only Vena Wu and I were here.

「Heya, Asuta, it’s been so long. I’m glad you look well.」

Like usual, Kamyua Yost sat at the six-man table at the deepest end of the restaurant. But he wasn’t alone, there were two other persons beside him, which was a little troubling for me.


As their backs were facing us, I couldn’t see their faces. But no matter who they were, what I wanted to say wasn’t something I could say publicly to outsiders.

「Hello, thank you for your patronage earlier… Kamyua, are they your friends?」

「Yes, we were just talking about work. I thought you will drop by a bit later.」

Kamyua Yost showed his signature cheery smile.


There was still an hour or so before our scheduled closing time, so Kamyua Yost was right. Besides, I did hear him mention the word 「work」.

「Are you referring to that escorting job?」

「That’s right. We will be passing through the Forest's Edge settlement before taking the eastern highway, it’s a big project. This matter involves you too, so let me introduce them to you.」

After hearing Kamyua Yost’s words, the two of them finally turned our way.


I held my breath in surprise.


The face of one of them shocked me.


However, I didn’t actually saw his face. His head was covered in bandages, and the wrappings were even more secure than Darum Wu’s when he got injured.



「Sitting at the far end is Han of Dabag, he is a 《Guardian》 like me. The one sitting further in is the leader of the caravan for our expedition to Semu, Zashuma. This is a denizen of Forest's Edge, Asuta. With him is the daughter of a powerful clan in Forest's Edge.」


The bandaged man was Han of Dabag. I had never heard 『of Dabag』 before, so that was probably the name of a place.


He was a strange person. He concealed his appearance with bandages, and his reptile-like eyes could be seen through the gaps, his cold and sharp glare made me wary.

He had snake-like eyes like Yamiel had in the past, but lacked Yamiel’s viciousness. However, his gaze was ice-cold without a shred of warmth and human emotions. A merciless light shone in his light pale eyes, like that of a blade on a guillotine.


He looked tall, had a buff build, and wore a cloak similar to that of Kamyua Yost that covered his strong body. Normal clothes and waistband could be seen through the front side of his cloak, but he was definitely anything but normal.

「Oh? You are the owner of that kiba stall, right? I only looked at you from afar, I didn’t expect you to be so young!」

The other person named Zashuma spoke.
He looked really suspicious. Although Kamyua Yost said that this person was the leader of a caravan, his face looked more like the head of bandits.


His yellowish-brown skin was tanned, his beard and hair were in a deep shade of dark brown, and his eyes were bright brown. His height was average, his body stout and he wore a sand-colored bandana on his head. He wore a sleeveless shirt, baggy pants, and had many accessories hanging on his arms and neck, and dressed like a wealthy man.

「Sorry, but let’s stop here for today. Going by our earlier discussions, there don’t seem to be any problems.」

After Kamyua Yost said that, Zashuma nodded and got up with ease.

「Since the 《Whirlwind of the North》 Kamyua Yost and 《Double Fangs》 Han of Dabag will be working together, we have nothing to fear! Let’s stop with these troublesome meetings and save our energy for the day we set off.」

After being urged by Zashuma, the bandaged Han also stood up slowly.

He then picked up the two blades leaning against the chair and tied them to his waist. They were probably the reason behind his flashy title 《Double Fangs》.
「By the way, you are really a beauty! The girls from Forest's Edge all have outstanding looks, but this is my first time meeting such a sexy lady.」


At this moment Zashuma leaned his face close towards Vena Wu.

「Want to stay in my room until tomorrow morning? For a beauty like you, I’m willing to pay 10 white copper plates.」

「… Are you trying to buy a woman from Forest's Edge with copper plates…?」

Vena Wu cast a flirty sideway glance towards him.


Zashuma wasn’t fazed at all and showed an evil smile.

「If you are willing, then of course I will buy. If I pay with money, the hunters from Forest's Edge won’t lop off my head, right?」

「Unfortunately… No woman from Forest's Edge will sell their body for copper plates…」

「I see. That’s a pity—! I will make a move first. Contact me if anything comes up, 《Whirlwind of the North》.」


「Alright, I got you fam.」


And so, the two men emitting a dangerous aura left the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》.
Kamyua Yost shrugged and gestured for us to sit in the now empty seats.

「Ara ara, I’m very sorry, their characters aren’t as bad as they look, they are just too beholden to their desires. They don’t have the guts to do anything unreasonable to the denizens of Forest's Edge, so don’t worry and laugh them off.」

「I see.」


I sat down where Zashuma was seated earlier, with misgivings still lingering in my heart.

Vena Wu remained standing behind me. The denizens of Forest's Edge didn’t have the habit of sitting in chairs.

「Well then, what do you want to tell me? I’m really happy that you took the initiative and came to me.」

Kamyua Yost rested his elbow on the table and leaned forward cheerfully.


I looked at his long face that was pretending to be retarded and continued:

「Sorry, but it’s not a pleasant topic. Currently, three tribal chiefs had taken over the Tsun clan’s position in leading Forest's Edge, and I’m here today as their messenger. Kamyua Yost, Asuta from the Fa house has a message from the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu, head of the Sauti clan Dali Sauti, and head of the Zaza house Graff Zaza. Will you listen to what I have to say?」

「… What a scary opening speech.」

Kamyua Yost smiled cheerfully and sipped on the zozo tea on the table.

「You have finally stripped the Tsun clan of their chief clan authority, huh? That’s a big matter.」

「Excuse me, Kamyua, I want to confirm with you first, have you never heard about this before?」

「How would I know? I’m not a denizen of Forest's Edge and don’t have the means of obtaining such information.」

「… Didn’t you peek at a wedding banquet in secret last time without anyone finding out? In that case, I think you can sneak into the house head conference that was held two days ago and observe the entire thing from beginning to the end.」

「Yes〜 I understand. I will be frank with you then. I know about the annual house head conference held on the tenth of the Blue month. A relaxed affair filled with alcohol is still fine, but given how tense the house head conference would be, I don’t have the confidence to remain hidden the entire time. So I didn’t go near the conference venue… Asuta, I’m not underestimating the denizens of Forest's Edge.」

Kamyua Yost’s face still looked as if he was pretending to be retarded.

「I see.」


I nodded.

「In that case, let me go on. We have judged that the Tsun clan was not qualified to lead Forest's Edge and relieved them of their authority as the chief clan. The Wu clan, Sauti clan, and Zaza house will rule over Forest's Edge in their stead. The Zaza house might relent this responsibility to their kins, but as of now, these three families will act as our tribal chiefs. I hope you can understand this first.」

「Yes, I got it. I told you before that I have doubts about the characters of the Tsun clan. I will cheer the denizens of Forest's Edge for making this decision.」

「You flatter us… The three tribal chiefs should relay this information to the landlord of Genos, but your party will be carrying out your mission in three days, so I came here to notify you first.」

「Yes, the Tsun clan did promise to lead us through the Forest's Edge settlement. How is their preparation going?」

「Well, first of all, we want to check with you whether we can call it off?」

「That would be troubling for us.」

Kamyua Yost spread his arms exaggeratedly.

「This plan involves a trade route between the western kingdom Selva and the eastern kingdom Semu, you know? Even the Marquis of Genos is keeping a close eye on the progression of this plan. We can’t stop it on a whim.」


The plan seemed to be growing in scale. I sighed in my mind. The entire matter wasn’t complicated, putting it simply— travelers who wished to commute between Selva and Semu had to make a large detour around the Morga Mountain. If they could go through the Forest's Edge settlement, it could shorten the journey substantially.

「On top of that, the south of Morga is a barren desert, while the north is filled with bandits that target travelers. Both routes are arduous, and people journeying between the east and the west have to risk their lives to do so.」

「I see…」

「If this trial works, we can open a brand new trade route. I think I mentioned this before, there was a group who attempted this, but it ended in failure. The large caravan with over 30 men passed through the Forest's Edge settlement, but when they exited the settlement and were passing the forest leading to the highway, they were attacked by kiba and got wiped out.」


Did he tell me that before?


I think I heard about this, but couldn’t remember the details. This must have happened a long time ago.

「Back then, the denizens of Forest's Edge were hard to approach, and the caravan wasn’t adequately prepared. We will use that incident as a lesson and will make complete preparations before heading off. We spent two months to prepare for this, and we can’t change the schedule now.」

「I see.」


I sighed.

「In that case, there is no other way. The tribal chiefs didn’t intend to go back on this agreement either. But if it won’t be too much trouble, we were hoping you can reconsider.」

「Alright, that’s great.」

Kamyua Yost smiled and took another sip of zozo tea.

「A member of the Tsun clan being our guide is a factor we are worried about. It will be great if another house can take on this role.」

「Regarding this, are you planning to enter the forest through the southern end of the settlement and make your way onto the highway? Donda Wu said that this was the plan you told the Tsun clan.」

「Yes, the northern end will lead to the territory of the bandits anyway. If we go in from the southern end, we can bypass the desert too. I already scouted it out by myself.」

「I see… it might not be nice to say that, but the Tsun clan didn’t plan to spend any effort on this and intended to guide you along without any plans. After all, the southern part of Forest's Edge is the turf of the Sauti clan and their kins, so the Tsun clan living in the north probably knows nothing about this.」

「Haha, in order to hog the rewards, the Tsun clan probably didn’t inform Sauti clan about this. The Tsun clan falling from grace at a time like this is a lucky break for us.」

Kamyua Yost stroked his beard.

「By the way, is the security in Forest's Edge okay? Even if their crimes got exposed, the Tsun clan wouldn’t give in so easily.」

「Yes, there is no need to worry about that. The new tribal chiefs will take responsibility for the management of the Forest's Edge.」

Later in the afternoon, the men from the Tsun clan main house will be sent to the villages in the north. Zuro Tsun will go to the Zaza house, Zattsu Tsun will be moved to the Jean house, while Diga, Doddo, and Tay will be sent to Dom house.


The former clan head Zattsu Tsun was deathly ill and couldn’t stand on his own. They didn’t have any reason to move him, but they realized that compared to the clan head Zuro Tsun, the branch house members in the Tsun clan village feared the former clan head more. So they put the former clan head onto a wooden board and shifted him to the Jean house.

Donda Wu said coldly:「If he dies, he dies.」 Unlike Diga and the others, Zuro Tsun and Zattsu Tsun retained their Tsun family name and awaited the day of their execution.

In order to get to the bottom of their other crimes— especially the damage they caused to the citizens of the Post Station Town, they held off on executing them. But no matter what happened, they wouldn’t be absolved from their crimes. Everyone has decided that the sin of 「stealing from the forest」 will be paid for with their lives.


My heart felt heavy at the thought of that. Kamyua Yost said with an easy smile:

「Alright then, it looks like I need to have a proper discussion with the Sauti clan. If possible, I hope I can meet them tomorrow.」

「Okay, just name the time and place, I will help you relay the message.」

「In that case, how about meeting in front of your stall at high noon? You can vouch for my identity, and the Sauti clan will feel more at ease, correct? We can then move to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 to discuss the details.」

After saying that, Kamyua Yost brushed the fringe of his blonde hair.

「When do you plan to tell all this to the Landlord of Genos Marstein? I’m glad that you care about my work so much, but shouldn’t you report this to him first?」

「Yes, the tribal chiefs had decided to visit the Genos castle the first thing tomorrow morning.」

「Is that so… You have heard about the way which the Tsun clan communicates with Genos castle, correct? Make sure not to enter from the main gate.」


I already heard about that. Even the Tsun clan couldn’t enter the castle town. They had to inform the guards at the rear gate and ask them to pass along the message.

「In the end, even those guys from the Tsun clan never met the landlord directly before. Never mind, that sounds exactly how the people from Rock City work.」


That’s what Ludo Wu said during dinner last night.

「Maybe I’m being too naggy, but I still wish to warn you; the landlord delegated the task of liaising with the denizens of Forest's Edge to a man named Pyschkurewuss. He has no respect for hunters, so please be careful.」

「… I understand. I will relay that to the tribal chiefs.」

Donda Wu and Graff Zaza were orthodox hunters. For them, negotiating with the Genos castle would be a more arduous task than dealing with the Tsun clan. The landlord of Genos had undisputed authority over the denizens of Forest's Edge, so we were basically powerless to defy Pyschkurewuss who was acting on his behalf.

「Alright then, that’s about it for today then. I’m curious about the crimes that led the downfall of the Tsun clan, but a mere peasant like me doesn’t have the rights to probe this far. I will ask the landlord on another day then.」

「… I don’t think any mere peasant can seek an audience with the landlord so easily.」

「It’s just a coincidence. That’s the strange thing about fate too… In this world, the only ones who have dealings with the Genos Marquis Marstein and the denizens of Forest's Edge, are probably just Pyschkurewuss and me.」

Kamyua Yost showed a Cheshire cat-like smile after saying that.


His tone seemed to be suggesting:「If you have any problems communicating with Pyschkurewuss, you can count on me.」

「…Kamyua, can I ask you something?」

「Hmm? What is it? Don’t hold back, ask all you like.」

「My job as a messenger is done. I’m now speaking as Asuta of the Fa house. Our bonds aren’t deep enough to call each other friends, but I still want to confirm one thing with you.」

「I do think of you as an important friend though… What is it?」

「Two nights ago, did you help Ai Fa?」

「Hmm?」

Kamyua Yost raised an eyebrow.

「Two days ago, you mean the night of the house head conference? Like I said, I didn’t go near the Forest's Edge settlement on that night.」

「Is that true? Since all the house heads were gathered, I don’t think you could hide and spy on us. But I think you can conceal yourself in the darkness and watch from afar.」

On that night, Ludo Wu and Shin Wu weren’t the only ones observing us, Zwei was also spying on us in the dark. The elusive Kamyua Yost could definitely do the same.

However, Kamyua Yost just showed the same expression and shook his head.

「I told you a long time ago that I want to build a cordial relationship with the denizens of Forest's Edge. After Donda Wu gave me that warning, he will chop off my head if I do anything excessive. You also said that you don’t need my help. Under such circumstances, there’s nothing to gain for me by going to the house head conference. And so, I suppressed my curiosity and slept in at the inn.」

「I see… Sorry for asking you the same thing repeatedly.」

「Well, I do feel sad that you think I’m a liar. But why did you ask? Did Ai Fa meet with grave danger?」

「Yes. If you were the one who lent her a hand that day, I wanted to thank you properly. But I think that possibility is rather low.」
So it was Tay Tsun who help… No, it was Tay who force-fed Ai Fa the wine and woke her up.


That pitiful man married his daughter to Zuro Tsun, and the Tsun clan main house members treated him as an errand boy.

「I get it now.」

Kamyua Yost muttered softly.
Looking closely, he was squinting his eyes a little, and a curious light appeared in his purple eyes.

「Unfortunately, I’m not Ai Fa’s savior. I don’t know who that person is, but you should thank him instead.」

「… Alright, I understand.」

His eyes reminded me of Jiba Wu and made me feel anxious. Hence, I decided to take my leave early.

「Well then, I need to go. See you tomorrow at high noon.」

「Yes, to celebrate the new beginning for Forest's Edge, I will quietly raise my wine glass in cheers. Send my regards to Ai Fa.」

3
We reached the Fa house right between noon and dusk.


I thought I chatted for quite a long time with Kamyua Yost, but we still reached about an hour earlier than scheduled.

「It’s been a long time since I last visited the Fa house…」


Vena Wu was carrying a sack of vegetables which she placed at the entrance.


I put down my baggage too, and when I was just about to thank her and bid her farewell, she made a surprised sound:

「Ara… the back of your house seems rather noisy?」

「Oh, that’s right. Starting from today, we will be teaching the men around the area how to bloodlet and butcher the kiba.」


Even after giving this explanation, I still had to check the situation. Vena Wu and I went around to the back of the house.

The figures of Ai Fa and six other men appeared before us. Strung up on a tree beside the stove was a kiba weighing about 80 kg.

「Ah, Asuta, you are back.」

「I’m home… That was fast, your group already caught a kiba.」

「Yes, this was caught by the men from the Fou and Von houses. We need to taste it before knowing if the bloodletting was successful.」

Ai Fa’s left arm wasn’t healed yet, so she couldn’t work as a hunter. But she promised the nearby households the day before yesterday that she would instruct them on bloodletting and butchering when they caught one.


The Fou and Von houses, huh. I remember that the Von house is a kin house of the Fou house.


As I was thinking about that, the shortest of the six men turned towards me.


He was a middle-aged short man with a slender build. He had messy black hair and a gloomy glow in his dark eyes. His dark-brown skin had deep wrinkles, and he looked a little like a monkey.

「Asuta of the Fa house, you are back early. Are you going to start preparations for dinner?」

「No, I have to start preparing the food for sale tomorrow and will only start dinner when I’m done with that.」

「I see. But the women can learn a lot just by watching you, correct?」


He might look a little gloomy, but he had a proactive personality. I didn’t dislike people like him.


But one minor thing bothered me a little. There were two tusks or horns hanging on the chest of this thin man.


The hunting yield by men from smaller houses couldn’t compare with Ai Fa, but it was rare to see any man with only two tusks. Even women wore three kiba tusks and horns to ward away danger.


While I was thinking about that, I answered:

「Yes, I will need to prepare a large number of ingredients for my business, so they can learn a lot by observing me.」

When he heard me saying that, he nodded firmly and looked towards Ai Fa:

「Head of the Fa house, before we learn the butchering of the kiba, can I run home and call my woman over? I might not look like it, but I’m quite fast. I promise it won’t take much time.」

「That’s fine, we will skin the kiba before eviscerating it.」

「I’m very grateful.」


With these words, the small-sized man sprinted right off. He was slower than Dan Lutim but still pretty fast.

「… He just can’t seem to keep still. Is he always like this?」


The head of the Fou house, a tall and lanky man asked.

「Isn’t he a kin of the Fou house?」

I probed and he answered:「That’s the head of the Sudora house.」


Now that he mentioned it, I remembered that like the Fou, Getsu, and Latzu houses, the Sudora house also supported the Fa house’s business. As the Ceremonial Hall was dim, I didn’t get a clear look at his face, but I did remember his build was really small.

「By the way, Asuta of the Fa house, will you be teaching us how to prepare dinner too?」

「Yes. I have my own work to do, so I can’t impart all my knowledge in detail. But if everyone can learn how to grill poitan, it would be a huge improvement.」


After hearing me say that, the expression of the head of the Fou house changed.

「Poitan, huh… Won’t it take quite a bit of effort to turn poitan into that form?」

「Well, it is more tedious than boiling poitan in water. But even if we remove the stench from the kiba, it will be all in vain if the poitan remains the same, right?」

Dishes like 『Myam-roasted meat』 and hamburg steak would need more practice before they could be served on the dining table. But in the beginning, just by learning to grill poitan and serving it with bloodlet kiba, dinner will become much more delicious.

「I don’t need to use the hearth much for my preparation work. If you bring your pots and poitan over, you can make grilled poitan here! It will require some effort, but it isn’t difficult.」

「… In order to live a prosperous life, the Fou house needs to learn the technique to make kiba tastier. This is for the sake of selling meat for copper plates, but not making dinner more delicious.」


The head of the Fou house said with a troubled face and drooped his brows.

「However… If it is not too much trouble, can I ask you to instruct the women from the Fou and Von house?」

「Of course. I’m going to teach the Sudora house anyway, so it won’t be any trouble at all.」

「Hey!」


A man dashed off after hearing his house head’s call.


We watched him leave, then Ai Fa asked with her head tilted:

「Are you done talking yet? I have not recovered the strength in my left arm yet, can you help me with the skinning?」

「Of course. Excuse me, I will take care of it right away.」

The head of the Fou house said and then surrounded the kiba with his kins before pulling out their knives.


My heart was filled with emotions as I watched these few houses gathered at the Fa house and working together.


Even though the Fa house wasn’t their kin, there were only 500-odd people in Forest's Edge, so everyone had to do their best to work hand in hand with their neighboring tribemates.

Dan Lutim and Mama Mia Lei called us friends. Kaslan Lutim thought the denizens of Forest's Edge should rebuild their bonds with each other. If our house could bond with the Fou, Von, and Sudora houses, it would be a wonderful thing. Despite Ai Fa’s awkward expression, I still thought this was the right thing to do.

「… It’s great that the Tsun clan has fallen…」


Vena Wu’s sudden murmurs surprised me.

「Ah, Vena Wu, haven’t you left yet? Thank you for your hard work today.」

「What do you suggest… That’s mean…」

Vena Wu lowered her head slightly and glared at me from below angrily.

「S-Sorry. I was lost in thought… Well then, Ai Fa, I will do the preparations inside. When the women from the Fou and Sudora house are here, please let them in.」

「Alright.」


I took a glance at the kiba that slowly started showing its white flesh and entered my house together with Vena Wu.

「Alright then, let me thank you for your hard work again. I will be counting on you tomorrow too.」

「… Why are you chasing me away…? Asuta, you are so mean…」

「Ehh? Y-You still have work to do, right?」


We closed an hour earlier today, so Vena Wu would usually spend another hour to collect firewood for me.

But she was fidgeting with her chestnut hair and squirming her sexy body right now.

「I don’t want to go home… The youngest son of the Tsun clan is in my home right now…」

「Mida is no longer the youngest son of the Tsun clan, you know? I know how you feel, but you should keep business and private matters apart.」

「Of course I know that… but I still can’t accept it…」

Vena Wu was devastated. She was as reliable as a man, but she seemed very weak to the presence of Mida.


However, the one who decided this was the clan head Donda Wu, Vena Wu could not escape from this fact. What should we do now? As I was troubling over it with her, a surprising group appeared on the road.

「Asuta, long time no see. Did you already come back from the Post Station Town?」

Kaslan Lutim stood at the fore of the group.


I naturally broke into a smile at the sight of this familiar and dependable figure.

「It’s been a while, I never thought I will meet you here.」


They did inform us that they will send an envoy to listen to the conclusion of my discussion with Kamyua Yost, but I didn’t expect Kaslan Lutim to come personally.


I couldn’t ignore the people behind them either.

The head of the Lei house, Rau Lei, and Yamiel were standing behind him.

「I was thinking of letting them wait for you in the Fa house, but I didn’t expect for you to be back so early. Have you met Kamyua Yost?」

Yamiel kept her down, intentionally looking away from us, which worried me a little. Even so, I still answered Kaslan Lutim:

「Yes. They are adamant about carrying out the expedition. If the Sauti clan is willing to be their guide, they hope to have a meeting with the Sauti clan tomorrow to discuss the details.」

I tried my best to relay Kamyua Yost’s words as accurately as possible.

After hearing what I said, Kaslan Lutim nodded in acknowledgment.

「I see, we will visit Genos castle first thing tomorrow morning and then meet with that Kamyua Yost. Things are developing as I expected… I will attend the meeting together with the three tribal chiefs.」

「I see! I can rest easy now!」


I said sincerely, but Kaslan Lutim just shook his head.

「That’s not true. I’m honored to hear you say that, but I’m just an uncouth man from Forest's Edge. I don’t know if I can use the right terms and words when we speak with the people in Rock City. That worries me.」


That might be so, but if any brutes like Donda Wu or Graff Zaza attended the meeting, I feared that blood might be spilled.


Besides… Kamyua Yost would finally meet Kaslan Lutim. Just what kind of impression would that suspicious man give the smart and honest Kaslan Lutim? My heart raced a little just thinking about that.

「Speaking of which, are you going to take in Yamiel, head of the Lei house?」


When he heard me saying that, the young head of the Lei house nodded firmly.

「It will depend on whether you will agree… And Asuta, watch your words.」


Oh right, this young man forbade me from using polite speech with him.


Leaving that aside, I was more curious about what he said in the beginning.

「Whether I’ll agree? Do you think the Fa house should take her in?」

「It’s the opposite. The Lei house village is closer to the Fa house than the Tsun clan village. This person made an attempt on your lives in the past, so the other house heads kept yammering about not letting her stay too near to your home.」

I didn’t know where the Lei house village was situated. I heard that Ema Min Lutim intended to teach the Lei house women to cook, so that meant the Lei house wasn’t too far from the Lutim house. No matter how close it was, it would still be more than an hour’s journey away.


Furthermore, the Tsun clan main house was destroyed, so she won’t ever harm us again.

「I don’t mind at all. She’s a girl, so she can’t be too dangerous.」

Yamiel raised her head in surprise.


Her dark eyes stared intensely at my face.

「… I see. I guess Kaslan Lutim was right.」

Rau Lei flicked up his blonde hair crudely.

「In that case, the Lei house will take in this wicked wench. Hey, if you do anything evil again, I will cut your throat. I won’t show any mercy even against a woman.」

「W-Wait… Kaslan Lutim, what is going on?」


After hearing my question, Kaslan Lutim lowered his head in apology.
「To be honest, if you didn’t agree to the Lei house taking in Yamiel, we would have to leave her to the Zaza or Sauti clan… They will take her in as a prisoner, not as a family.」
「Prisoner?」

「Yes. We think that a village from the south or the north, further away from the Fa house, should take her in. But Zaza and Sauti wouldn’t agree no matter what. They were only willing to tie up her limbs, and treat her as a prisoner.」

「How can they do this!? This is different from the proposal suggested by Donda Wu, correct?」

「If she showed a submissive attitude, they would gradually grant her more freedom… But since they weren’t taking her in as a family member, I suggested letting the Wu clan or Lutim house adopt her, but many of them objected to letting her stay in the same village as Mida or Aura…」

「And so, you chose the Lei house, who is the most powerful house right after the Wu clan and Lutim house.」

A fierce smile appeared on Rau Lei’s androgynous face, and he interjected:

「I’m fine with anything, but those people from the north and south are too noisy. Since you are the one who is most at risk, we decided to let you have the final say. On our way here, Kaslan Lutim was certain that you will agree, and he was right.」

「How can you decide a person’s future based on my words…」

「What’s the problem? This evil wench nearly twisted your fate with a single thought of hers.」

Rau Lei turned his sharp gaze towards Yamiel after saying that.

「Hey, heinous wench, I will confirm with you one last time. Do you swear to live according to the rules of Forest's Edge? Can you treat the Fa house, Lei house and the other people in Forest's Edge as your fellow tribemates and live a proper life?」

Yamiel lowered her gaze momentarily, then looked at me again.


There was still a strong stench of blood on her, which made me anxious.

「Asuta… I tried to ruin the Fa house before. Even though the ones who did the dirty work were Diga and Doddo, I was the one who gave them the meremere leaves and instructed them how to act. If you loath Diga and Doddo, then you should also hate me.」

「Hate, huh… I don’t feel such an emotion now. When that incident happened, I hated all of you to the very bones. But Ai Fa and I are both safe, so if you promise not to do it again, I won’t bear a grudge.」

Yamiel’s gloomy eyes started wavering as if she couldn’t suppress her agitated emotions.


She was still expressionless, but no longer had a venomous snake-like aura about her. Only when she raised the corners of her lips in a smile, she did look like a snake-like beauty.

「Hey, that’s enough time for you to think it is over. If you have no intentions of living by the rules, be honest about it. I will let you rest in peace with my blade.」

Rau Lei said impatiently.

Yamiel stared into my eyes and said:

「I will obey your words… Although I don’t think I deserve any salvation.」

「Hmmp, you are always saying annoying things.」

Rau Lei grabbed Yamiel by her slender jaw and forced her beautiful face to look at him.

「Well then, from henceforth, you are Yamiel Lei. If you dare commit any crimes, I will cut off your head using my authority as the house head. Keep that in mind and work hard to live on.」

「Rau Lei, are you already bestowing the Lei family name to her?」

Kaslan Lutim said in surprise. Rau Lei let go of Yamiel’s face with crude movement and grunted.

「I hate those bothersome matters. It doesn’t matter if I give her the family name or not, I will decapitate her if she breaks the law. I feel uneasy to have a family member without my family name, I don’t like that.」


He was still young and had a fiery personality.


What Yamiel needed now was someone who would push her forward. Hence, I decided to give Rau Lei my honest gratitude.

「Thank you very much, Rau Lei.」


The next instant, he struck the center of my forehead with breakneck speed.

He had the arm power of a hunter from Forest's Edge. I probably blacked out for a moment. When I came to, I was already lying on the ground.

「I already told you, I will punch you if you speak to me with an excessively respectful tone. I won’t permit such insolence from you two times in a day.」

「Rau Lei, please stop that. It will be bad if the head of the Fa house saw you do that… Asuta, are you alright?」:

Kaslan Lutim pulled me up with his powerful arm.


My vision was shaking.

「That hurts, I’m probably alright… Hold up! Even if you want to hit, hold back a little! I thought my skull was going to crack!」
「That’s right, just speak to me casually like that.」

Rau Lei turned his face away and stuck out his tongue.


I thought he was a more matured version of Ludo Wu… But I had to correct this evaluation, he was more childish than Ludo Wu.

「In that case, I will be candid. Kaslan Lutim is obviously older than you, but he also treats you politely. So why am I the only one who has to suffer? You are the house head, of course I should be more courteous in my speech.」

「Kaslan Lutim will speak in that tone even to a ten-year-old. He’s an unfathomable man and only relaxes his tone before the woman he likes.」

「Don’t say such things, Rau Lei. I will feel embarrassed too.」:

Kaslan Lutim furrowed his brows, this was the first time I saw him looking so troubled.

At this moment, I heard a 「Pfft!」 from somewhere.


When she noticed our gaze, Yamiel lowered her head immediately, concealing her mouth with her right hand to hide her expression.

「You are a woman with thick nerves after all…」
Rau Lei turned his head swiftly to the back mid-sentence.

Kaslan Lutim did so at almost the same time.


A group of Forest's Edge denizens was standing about 5 meters from us.


They were two men and four women with iron pots. The two men were the head of the Sudora house and a Fou house member who went off to get the women. I held my breath after seeing their hands on the hilt of their sabers.

「You are the head of the Lei house. Are you following the footsteps of the Tsun clan and decided to make an enemy out of the Fa house?」

The head of the Sudora house said coldly.


I didn’t understand what he meant, but Rau Lei just shrugged.
「Oh, you are talking about me punching Asuta, right? Don’t be mistaken, retard. Asuta broke a promise, so I gave him his due punishment. The bond between the Wu clan’s kins and the Fa house won’t be affected by something so trivial.」

Rau Lei suddenly put his left arm around my neck.

「As you can see, Asuta also acknowledged his own mistake. It’s all in the past now. If you understand what I am saying, then stop showing such dangerous faces.」

The head of the Sudora house and the Fou house member looked at me probingly.


I don’t remember admitting my mistake, but there was no other way but to give in.

「Yes, the relationship between the Fa house and the kins of the Wu clan remains unchanged, don’t worry… Alright then, let me teach you how to cook.」


The men finally let go of their blades, and the women sighed in relief.

At this moment, Rau Lei was still holding my neck as he asked:

「You are going to teach everyone to cook? What do you mean?」

「I’m going to teach the women from the Sudora and Fou houses how to grill poitan. Rau Lei, do you want to learn together?」

I was still fuming, so I asked him tauntingly. But Rau Lei’s eyes started to shine.

「The way to grill poitan! That’s great! We won’t need to make the trip to the Lutim house to learn it! Hey, Yamiel Lei, stay here and learn that skill! Then teach the Lei house women when you go back!」

「… Me?」


Yamiel frowned.

Her expressions became more varied than in the past.

「Only the branch house members of the Tsun clan can tend to the hearth. I will be more useless than a ten-year-old child.」

「In that case, you need to train more. You are no longer a Tsun clan member, but a Lei house member.」

Rau Lei finally let go of my neck and knocked my chest with his hand.

「That’s how it is, I will be counting on you. Don’t worry, if she does anything, I will kill her on the spot.」

「I’m fine with that. But you don’t have any poitan on hand, so you can’t make it for dinner tonight. The others are all planning to grill the poitan for dinner right here.」
「What!? That’s terrible!」

Rau Lei looked at the Sudora house and Fou house members frantically.

「Ah, excuse me, I’m willing to trade for any extra poitan in your house with these tusks and horns! Or you can lend me some, and I will return the exact number to you tomorrow! No, I can give you a few more back!」

「… How many poitan do you need?」

「There are 19 people in the Lei house! I need at least two for each person!」


That would mean almost 40 poitan.

The head of the Sudora house shook his head solemnly while the Fou house member whispered to the women behind him.

「… The Fou and Von house can lend you the poitan first. But it is a hassle to buy them from the Post Station Town, so we hope you can return the same number of poitan to us tomorrow.」

「I see! Then safekeep these tusks and horns, I will exchange them with the poitan tomorrow.」


「The Fou and Von houses, I owe you one!」
One of the women turned and ran back the way she came from.

Rau Lei had a satisfied smile, and even Kaslan Lutim was smiling wryly.

Yamiel still kept her head low, her long hair hiding her face.


「… I think your punishment of the Tsun clan is too lenient…」


I heard a soft voice from behind.
I turned around and was dumbfounded.

「Oh right, Vena Wu, were you still here?」
I then felt someone pinching my arm with all their might. And Yamiel who had gotten the Lei family name will live on as Yamiel Lei.

4

「Today was really tiring.」


After finishing dinner, Ai Fa laid down on the rug.

Ai Fa usually maintained a determined attitude until she fell asleep. It was rare seeing her showing such a lazy side of her. I cleaned up the dinner and asked:

「What’s the matter? You spent the entire day teaching the men from the Fou and Sudora houses how to bloodlet and butcher, right? Was there anyone who was hard to deal with?」

「Not really. No one looked down on me because I’m a young girl, so I worked really hard… which made me even more tired.」

Ai Fa laid on the ground lazily with her hair down and continued grumbling:

「After interacting with the arrogant men from the Tsun and Wu clans, I think their attitude is completely different from that of a major clan.」

「It feels wrong to compare the Wu clan to the Tsun clan… Ai Fa, you have mostly interacted with the people from the Wu clan main house.」


Before the Lutim house wedding, I spoke with the hunters from the Wu clan branch houses before, and the men from the Fou and Sudora houses had an aura similar to them. They were the typical quiet and forthcoming Forest's Edge men. I could sense their stubbornness from their actions and the sincerity they had towards their own work.

「With that in mind, the men from the main house of a major clan are somewhat unique.『Arrogant』 sounds a little dismissive, but I can feel the pride and confidence from their body… I wouldn’t ever want to make an enemy out of them.」

「Hmm. I would rather compete with them with my pride on the line. Anyway, this was really tiring.」

Her voice sounded so tired that I couldn’t help laughing. Ai Fa glared at me and asked:

「What’s so funny?」

「Sorry, sorry. People like that are called ‘heroes in turbulent times’. Just like Donda Wu who will only show his true abilities during a crisis.」

「… Don’t compare that brute with me.」

Ai Fa pouted and averted her head.


After I finished cleaning up, I sat down beside Ai Fa. I came home a bit earlier today, so I could finish my preparation work before dinner.

「That’s not what I mean. You haven’t hunted for a long time and can’t find a place to vent your energy… And no one had ever asked you for anything, so you can’t calm down when you have to work with others.」


Ai Fa who had turned her head away looked at me unhappily again.

「You looked a little too happy. Why are you so happy to see me exhausted?」

「Uwah〜 you are really in a bad mood. I wouldn’t do that, would I?」


Ai Fa spent two years alone, and I felt happy seeing her making friends normally.

The powerful hunters from the Wu clan, Zaza house, and other houses might be filled with contempt for Ai Fa. They thought a woman shouldn’t do the work of a hunter and felt repulsed by the idea of a female hunter. However, the people from the minor houses just treated Ai Fa as a house head.

After the Fa house started doing business in the Post Station Town, we obtained immense wealth. But long before that happened, Ai Fa already did her job as a hunter properly. The shiny snow-white tusks and horns before her chest were proof of it. Those who often endured the hunger knew best how difficult it was to hunt alone without the help of any family or kin.


If she didn’t possess the capability to hunt kiba alone, even if she used the fruits that attracted kiba, she would just end up dead in the forest. Ai Fa had shown her prowess as a hunter. The men from the minor houses didn’t take her lightly, and even respect her as an outstanding hunter.

「Ai Fa, you will get used to such a life after a while. In the past, everyone shunned you out of fear of the Tsun clan, which was abnormal. I think you have gotten back on the right track.」

「… Not really. The Fa house’s relationship with the other houses had always been weak. If not because of the bloodletting and butchering lessons, we won’t get involved with them either. Therefore, you are the one who created such a situation.」

「Oh, so I’m a bother to you?」

「I didn’t say that! I think you have brought happiness to the Fa house!」


She was praising me, but her tone was rather pointed.

Never mind, if she said that in a gentle tone, I would just get embarrassed.

「Oh right, regarding Yamiel… no, Yamiel Lei, was that really fine? I made the decision by myself, so I feel a little uneasy.」

「Hmmp.」


After hearing what I said, Ai Fa turned her face away again. She continued to lie on the floor, and her tone sounded disagreeable.

「There’s no point in me saying anything since it has been decided… Besides, that woman has already achieved her goal, so she won’t do anything dangerous.」

Yamiel Lei’s goal was the ruin of the Tsun clan.


For those who didn’t know her goal, she seemed more dangerous than Diga or Doddo. However, I didn’t think she had any reason for any further intrigues.
「Even so, you are really friendly towards someone who attempted to set you up in the past. I can’t understand why you did that.」

「I-I’m not friendly at all. My attitude towards her is no different from the other women.」

「Is that so? I think you were sticking very closely to her?」

「That’s because her culinary skill is the worst. As the Tsun clan main house let the branch house tend to their hearth, this was inevitable.」

Ai Fa kept her head turned away and glared at some direction.


The silence was quite unnerving.

「I told you before, Yamiel Lei has kiba blood stench on her. I had a hard time today since I had to become a mouth breather. I didn’t stand beside her because I wanted to.」

「… So it will be all settled if that stench is gone, right? The Lei house won’t permit her to perform the archaic ritual of pouring kiba blood over herself.」

「What’s settled? Ai Fa, I don’t understand why you are so mad.」

「I’m not mad!」

「Your face and voice tell me you are absolutely mad!」

There was no end if we keep arguing.

It was my fault. Ai Fa was already exhausted, so I shouldn’t have mentioned Yamiel Lei.
「Never mind, house Lutim and the others will teach Yamiel how to cook next time, I won’t see her for some time. Oh right, I have something more important to report.」

「What is it? My head is starting to hurt. If it is complicated, then tell me tomorrow.」


「It’s not complicated at all. I want to raise the wages for the women helping out at the stall. Are you fine with that?」


Ai Fa flipped over, and her body was now facing me.


「I will let you decide, but can you tell me the reason?」


「Okay. Our business had only started half a month ago, but the Wu clan women learn really fast. Not just Shela Wu but also Vena Wu and Lala Wu are indispensable employees. If I wanted to hire other women, I think it will be unfair to pay everyone the same wages. To make this difference distinct, I think we should raise the remuneration of the Wu clan women.」


「You are planning to get other women to help?」


「Yes. I need to tell you about this. It appears I was mistaken.」


This was related to the work in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 that would start tomorrow.


As Shela Wu could hold the fort in my stead, I thought I could head to the inn without any worries at noon. However, everyone advised me to not move around alone.


The threat of the Tsun clan could be gone, but there were still ruffians in the Post Station Town. These ruffians wouldn’t dare lay their hands on denizens of the Forest's Edge, out of fear of their retribution. But with my scrawny appearance, they might not think of me as a denizen of Forest's Edge— Kaslan Lutim did warn me about that when I first started the stall.


「Hence, when I head to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, I will be accompanied by one woman. However, there would only be one person tending to each stall, which makes me feel uneasy. So I decided to hire more helpers.」

Ai Fa stretched her upper body on the rug and asked quizzically:

「And then?」

「Since the helper just needs to come over in the afternoon for a few hours, I decided to pay them half the usual amount— three red copper plates for half a day’s work. I felt bad about the newbie getting the same salary as Vena Wu and the others. Besides, I always felt that the pay is too low, so I want to use this chance to improve the work conditions.」


When we just started the business, manpower cost was a problem. Well, well, well; how the turntables.

「First of all, Vena Wu is paid 6 red copper plates, I intend to adjust it to 9 plates. I was planning to increase Shela Wu’s wages to 12 red copper plates, but now, I want to amend that to 15 plates. What do you think?」


「I’m fine with anything, just do what you want… But whom are you asking to help? Another woman from the Wu clan?」


「No, the Wu clan is the new chief clan, and they have their hands full right now. Mama Mia Lei also thinks the wealth should be distributed equally, so I asked the minor houses like the Fou and Sudora to help… When I said that, the head of the Sudora house was the first to agree. He hopes he can send a woman from his house to help from tomorrow onwards.」


How should I say this, that small and gloomy house head had a strong urge to climb out of poverty. I could feel his strong urge to leave his impoverished lifestyle behind.

「Head of the Sudora house… Two infants from the Sudora house starved to death. Their kins got wiped out too, and if this went on, they could only beg for a house not related to them to take them in and become a member of another house.」


「I see. Then I want to give them this job even more. If there is a chance, I also hope the other houses can assist us.」


「…」

「Hmm? What is it?」

「… We faced many dangers, but we also gained a lot from the house head conference. No one will call you a poison of Forest's Edge anymore.」


Ai Fa’s voice that sounded a little peeved has reverted to normal.


「That’s hard to say. At the very least, Jiza Wu and Graff Zaza don’t think so.」


「Is that so. Let me rephrase that, fewer people in Forest's Edge think of you as a poison.」


It would be great if she was right.
But our future was still filled with uncertainty.


It had been half a month since the opening of our stall. Business was flourishing, but we haven’t reached our goal of 「Turning kiba meat from ready-sold-food into a merchandise」 yet.

「In order to not let them think of me as poison, I have to work hard. Starting with the new job tomorrow.」


「Yes.」

Ai Fa nodded, then pivoted on her elbows and moved her body closer to me.


She rolled on the floor and looked up at my face from a close distance.
「… I also heard that Donda Wu will be going to the castle town tomorrow.」


「Yes, I hope things end peacefully. I’m looking forward to Kaslan Lutim’s skills.」


「Yeah… But the people in the castle only know the depraved Tsun clan and will see Donda Wu and the others as a threat. That’s a headache.」


Ai Fa stretched her left hand towards me as she said that.


I tilted my head puzzledly when I saw her slender fingers pointing at my nose. Ai Fa called out to me:
「Hand.」

「Yes, that’s your hand.」


「No, I’m telling you to give me your hand.」


Give her my hand? What did she mean?
As I was thinking about that, Ai Fa grabbed my right hand with a slightly flustered expression.
She placed my right palm on the side of her head, on her temple covered by her beautiful blonde hair.
「My head is starting to hurt. Lend me your hand for a while.」


I didn’t think my palm had any headache healing properties, but after seeing the satisfied face Ai Fa was making with her eyes closed, I couldn’t find any reason to object.


She looked really exhausted, we should turn in for the day… As I was thinking about that, Ai Fa said quietly:

「It has been so long since I slept with you in the Fa house. The Wu clan treated us with hospitality… But this is still my home after all.」


「Of course. You spent 17 years in this house.」


「Yes, and you are also a member of the Fa house. Asuta, I can’t imagine life without you now.」


When I heard Ai Fa saying that, I couldn’t help feeling my heart racing.


Ai Fa continued in a softer voice:

「However… I will feel irritated if there are more family members. Can I act like a proper house head when the time comes?」

「More family members? What do you mean?」


I realized after saying that:
「Are you referring to what Vena Wu said yesterday? I have told plenty of times that I don’t plan to marry anyone.」


Ai Fa didn’t reply.


Because she stirred up my feelings, I couldn’t help continuing:


「If you say that, then it’s the same for me too… If you take in a husband, I also can’t give you my blessings and will feel that the future is pitch black. So we are even, right?」

Ai Fa opened and shut her mouth weirdly.


「I see. You are a really strange man.」


「Same to you.」


Was that really so? I lowered my head and thinked as I answered.
Under the constraints of many factors, I decided to hide my admiration of Ai Fa deep in my heart. If it escaped my bonds, I probably wouldn’t be able to suppress my feelings. And so, I decided to stay by Ai Fa’s side as a family member.

What were Ai Fa’s thoughts about this?


Just what kind of thought process prompted Ai Fa to tell me:「I don’t wish the number of family members to increase」?


As a house head, she probably just doesn’t want to increase her burden.
Never mind, this was better than her letting me take anyone I wish into the house through marriage. I decided to tell myself that.

As I was thinking about such things, Ai Fa was breathing steadily.


No comments:

Post a Comment