Saturday, June 2, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 7 Chapter 2 Part 2


Translator: Skythewood
Editors: Ratorasepo
4

My heart thumped in my chest.

Her scent and body warmth made it hard for me to think.

Ai Fa who was on top of me…
Climbed over my body and reached for the wall.

「Don’t move… If you move, the air will be disturbed.」

Ai Fa said under her breath and returned to her original position.

However, her hand was still covering my mouth.
And— her other hand was holding the saber that was leaning against the wall.

「Up until just now, someone was peeking in through the window. Now they are near the backyard of the house.」

I understood.

I felt drained for my retarded imagination, as if all my bones had been pulled out.

But now wasn’t the time to relax. A few days ago, we almost died when we were attacked while we were sleeping.

Who were the assailants this time? What were their motives? I couldn’t feel anyone’s presence at all.

「They are behind the room to the left. There is a window there… Two years ago, the eldest son of the Tsun clan broke through its wooden grates and barged in.」

That was an ominous coincidence.
However, Diga, Doddo, and Tay should have been sent to the Dom house at the northernmost edge of Forest's Edge. And since everyone thought their behavior was terrible and might be dangerous, their movements should be restrained, instead of being as free as Mida’s.

「I will take a look outside. You stay in the house. After I go out, bar the door quietly.」

I shook my head slowly. I didn’t say anything and quietly held Ai Fa’s hand.

Ai Fa’s eyes wavered a little anxiously.

「If they use that weird herb or commit arson, we will be in danger. Don’t worry; at most, there are just two of them. I won’t lose so easily.」

「…」

I stared at Ai Fa with my thoughts shown clearly in my eyes.

She smiled awkwardly this time.

「If they are more powerful than me, I will draw them to the Lante river and push them into it. No matter what, I can’t move freely if you are with me, so just stay here and pray for me.」

「…」

「It’s fine, I promise that I won’t die so easily.」

After saying that, Ai Fa removed her hand from my mouth.

Her freed fingers groped the space between her neck and her chest.

「Your wish will definitely beat off any calamity.」

The blue stone I gifted her should be dangling around there.

I still got up slowly while holding Ai Fa’s hand.
「… Let’s go. Don’t make any sound.」

Finally, a brave smile appeared on Ai Fa’s face, and she got up slowly. Her moves didn’t disrupt the air at all. But I wasn’t a hunter, and all I could do was move my body slowly and avoid creaking the floor.

Ai Fa headed for the entrance with fluid strides like a wild beast. She took out the door bar, handed it to me, then leaned in close:

「Bar the door after I close it. Don’t step outside unless I call for you.」

She then opened the door carefully, swept her gaze across the darkness, then left swiftly. I felt troubled after barring the door.

What’s going on?

The threat of the Tsun clan was gone, so why were unexpected guests visiting the Fa house? Were they the men from the Latzu house and Gazu house who proposed to Ai Fa?

No matter who they were, they were probably up to no good since they were peeking into someone else’s house in the middle of the night. After barring the door, I slowly groped my way to the stove.

The Santoku knife, kitchen knife, and utility knife were laid out on a board. I grabbed the sturdy knife left behind by Ai Fa’s late father and secured it to my waist.

It’s fine… No matter who they are, Ai Fa won’t lose.

「Uwah!」

As I was thinking about that, a man’s cry came from the backyard of the house.

I then heard a dull thud of something bumping into the wall and a moan like an animal being strangled.

And finally, silence.

I made up my mind, lit a candle stand with a Rana grass, and then headed to the door at the back of the house.

I opened the door on the left. This was the storeroom filled with things that weren’t used often in daily lives, such as wood being dried, lumber and saw. After opening the door, I entered the storeroom quietly.

The window was located on the wall opposite to the door. I walked over and shone the light at the window. Ai Fa’s face was unexpectedly close to the window, and her eyes were burning with the fire of a hunter.

「Asuta, you still came in the end… Never mind, give me the candle stand.」

I followed Ai Fa’s instructions and passed her the candle stand between the window grates. Ai Fa was looking at a dark corner and used her free hand to take the candle stand.

「Asuta, you definitely can’t come out. There might be others besides these retards.」

「A-Alright. But are you okay? And who are the retards…?」

I clung onto the grates and tried to follow Ai Fa’s gaze.

Someone was squatting in the darkness.

It was a man with a strong build. He wasn’t wearing a fur cape, instead, his attire consisted of swirly patterned clothes. He was a man from Forest's Edge.

「Shameless retards, I never imagined you would act so foolishly and trample over your only path towards redemption.」

「No! It’s not like this! We are not trying to hurt you!」

I heard the hysterical voice of a young man.

His voice was more hoarse than I remembered and sounded weak even though he was shouting with all his might. He was like a shadow of his former self… However, I won’t mistake his voice.

「You… What are you doing here!?」

Before I realized it, my voice was filled with rage. The man who was squatting with his back bent over in the darkness shuddered and said in a sorrowful voice again:
「B-Believe me! I didn’t escape here to hurt you… W-We are here to save you— for the sake of saving ourselves too!」

The man raised his head while kneeling and approached Ai Fa. Ai Fa pointed her saber at his nose, and he screamed and fell over backward.

The pale moonlight shone over the man's frail face which was covered in tears and mud. He was definitely the former eldest son of the Tsun clan main house.

「How retarded… You are beyond redemption. Since you can’t do your duty as hunters, face your death in the forest.」

「That’s not it! You are mistaken! We didn’t run away from the Dom house… No, we did escape from there, but it’s not what you think! Please, save us!」

「I don’t understand what you mean. Asuta, there is a bundle of Fuibaha vines in that room, give it to me. I want to tie up his limbs and hand him over to the Dom house.」

「Wait! If you hand me over to the Dom house like this, they will really scalp us!」

He screamed in fear. He looked around in the darkness, as if he was on the verge of losing his mind.
「I-I understand! Just tie me up! I won’t resist! I promise! I won’t escape from the Dom house again! But before that, please listen to our explanations… And let me into your house quick! A-Ai Fa, if that man chases after us, you might get killed too!」

「Who is that man? You are the only ones in Forest's Edge who will make an attempt on my life.」

「T-That’s not it! The Fa house caused the Tsun clan’s ruin, so he must hate you to the very bones! If you don’t want to die, let me into your house! That man is a monster… You can’t defeat him!」

「Who exactly is that man? Your words are illogical.」

Diga, the former eldest son of the Tsun clan main house showed an expression that was somewhere between crying and laughing… He then said with a trembling voice:

「Zattsu Tsun… The former clan head Zattsu Tsun! We escaped from him! Please! Let us in before he finds us!」




In the end, we still let these uninvited guests into the house.

There were two guests, Diga and Doddo. I couldn’t see Doddo from my position earlier since Ai Fa had subdued him with her saber and was stepping on his back.

The two uninvited guests sat on the floor sullenly. And of course, their arms were tied behind their backs, and their legs were tied up too, allowing them to take strides of roughly 30 cm, making it impossible to run.

And they were completely unarmed. They had neither blades nor hunter’s cape. They escaped from the Dom house empty-handed.

「Zattsu Tsun has been taken prisoner by the Jean house. Why do you want us to help you?」

Ai Fa sat in the seat of honor with one knee propped up. She glared at Diga and Doddo with sharp eyes.

「Z-Zattsu Tsun brought us out from the Dom house. He set fire to the Dom village and broke us out in the chaos… We escaped from the Dom house together with Tay…」

「So you wanted to escape after all.」

「W-We had no choice!? Zattsu Tsun threatened to kill us right there if we didn’t go with him! We would be dead if we resisted! That’s the kind of man Zattsu Tsun is…」

He was talking about his grandfather.

Leaving Tay from the branch house aside, it felt really weird to hear Diga address his close relative as Zattsu Tsun.

「Isn’t Zattsu Tsun deathly ill? He is all skin and bones, like dried-up food. People even worried that he wouldn’t be able to withstand the trip to the Jean house.」

「In recent years, he was too frail to even walk… He probably rejuvenated after hearing that the Tsun clan was in ruins… He is all skin and bones, but those eyes… they looked just like his eyes before he fell ill. He was on the verge of death, but he regained his strength…」

Diga quivered as he said that.

Doddo hung his head low in silence beside him.

Both of them looked pale and skinny and were covered in mud and leaves. There were no signs of their past arrogance at all. Did they lose all their energy in just three days? Or was it Zattsu Tsun who spooked them so hard? It was probably both.

「Zattsu Tsun said that he wants to claim back the Tsun clan’s ruling authority. He wants to betray all the fools who betrayed the Tsun clan, regain the title of Forest's Edge’s tribal chief, and make the Tsun clan great again…」
Doddo added.

He sounded depressed.

Did his voice change? Compared to his frail appearance, his weak voice was completely different from the past.

「T-That’s right! I thought he would rescue the other family members and leave Forest's Edge together… B-But I never imagined that he would do something so retarded…」

「If you think his actions are retarded, just tell him on the spot.」

「W-We attempted to persuade him with all sorts of reasons! The Wu clan is still in the Tsun clan village, and all the kins of the Tsun clan are now working together with the Wu clan. We can’t defy the Wu clan anymore.」

「And then… he laughed after hearing that.」

Doddo’s voice was shivering weakly. He used to glare at us like a wild dog with his dark blue eyes, but they were filled with pleas now.

「He showed a demonic smile and said… that he can seize back the proper order in the Forest's Edge with just the four of us… and he can rescue the clan head Zuro after getting back in power…」

「S-So we escaped while he was sleeping!」

「… The illness must have gotten into Zattsu Tsun’s brain. You can’t do anything with just four people, right?」

「I-I think so too. The only method I can think of is to attack the head of the Wu clan or you two.」

Diga switched his gaze between the two of us meekly.

「I-If that man learns the reason for the Tsun clan’s destruction, he will definitely treat the Fa house that exposed the Tsun clan as his greatest enemy. That’s why we…」

「So you came here to warn us of the danger, right? Why didn’t you just knock on the door then?」

「Y-You must hate us so much. I don’t think you will open the door, so we looked for a way to sneak in…」

「Are you hoping to gain the trust of others after acting so covertly?」

Ai Fa sounded just a little sterner, and that made Diga yelp and ball himself up.

Diga’s reaction was so funny that it was sad. The opposite was usually true, but that was the impression he gave us.

Ai Fa flicked her untied hair and looked at me unhappily.

「Asuta, what do you think?」

「Hmm? Well… I want to check something. What happened to Tay?」

「T-Tay decided to go along with Zattsu Tsun. So we ditched him…」

「Is that true?」

「I-It’s true! Even when Zattsu Tsun was laughing like a madman, Tay just looked at him in a daze… He probably can’t think for himself anymore…」

You people from the main house were the ones who pressured him to be like this. I was a little angry.

Furthermore, I still didn’t find the chance to ask Tay about who saved Ai Fa on that night.

Was he the one who rescued Ai Fa during the night of the house head conference?

If it was him… why would he want to endanger Forest's Edge now?

Bearing this complicated emotions by myself, I continued:

「How did Zattsu Tsun escape from the Jean house? Only Zattsu Tsun and Zuro Tsun were treated like criminals, so there should be people keeping watch throughout the night.」

「I-I’m not sure… Z-Zattsu Tsun’s face and clothes were covered in fresh blood, and he was holding a saber. One or two men wouldn’t be a match for him…」

A thin bony man covered in the blood of the denizens of Forest's Edge, standing in front of a burning village… Just imagining that scene gave me the chills. Diga was completely pale now, and his teeth were chattering.

「D-During the night, our hands would be tied to a pillar. But when the house we were in caught fire, the women from the Dom house untied our bonds. We charged out of the house and found Zattsu Tsun standing before us…」

「… He pointed at us with his saber and asked if we want to die here or run away together. The entire village was on fire, which attracted the attention of the men, but a few women should have seen Zattsu Tsun…」

Doddo seemed to be slightly calmer than Diga.

I sighed heavily and then turned to Ai Fa:

「… Basically, they aren’t lying. If they were trying to assault us, they would have brought Tay along.」

Diga and Doddo weren’t armed and couldn’t win against Ai Fa. However, if Tay appeared with a blade in hand, what would happen then? I didn’t even dare imagine.

Ai Fa remained calm from the beginning till the end. Even if Zattsu Tsun followed Diga here, she might think that it would save her the trouble.

She was filled with confidence. However, I wouldn’t want to see Ai Fa killing anyone.

Unaware of my feelings, Ai Fa glared at Diga.

「Well then, what are your plans? The most we can do is hand you over to the Dom house.」

「T-That’s fine! But we didn’t commit arson in the Dom village and only ran away because Zattsu Tsun threatened us. Can you help us to explain this the Dom house…?」

「I can’t vouch for you. Unless the Dom house women overheard your conversation, they wouldn’t know what actually happened.」

「How can that be! If nothing is done, the Dom house will really kill us!」

Ai Fa rested her elbow on her propped-up knee, then supported her cheek with her hand and sighed.

「Don’t you have any pride? You two scolded us so harshly in the past, and you are still shameless enough to come crying to me? If I were you, I probably would have scalped myself.」

「A-Are you still angry about the past? I will apologize as much as you want! I was just mesmerized by you back then! I really wanted to take you as my wife! I didn’t mean to harm you!」

「Oh? You threatened to push me off the cliff if I don’t marry you.」
「I-I wouldn’t dare murder a fellow denizen of Forest's Edge! I was just talking smack! Please believe me!」

Diga rubbed the rug with his forehead.

Ai Fa ruffled her hair again and then looked at Doddo with a stronger gaze.

「What about you? Former second son of the Tsun clan. You drew a blade against Asuta and the men of the Wu clan in the past, correct…? There is still a clear mark of your violence on Asuta’s stomach.」

「I… I couldn’t help it…」

「What do you mean that you couldn’t help it?」

「Once I drink wine, I won’t care about anything… I can’t forgive anyone who pissed me off… I can’t stand it…」

His voice was still gloomy. He resembled a skinny wild dog, and his eyes were glaring at me through his messy hair.

「E-Even if I say that, you probably won’t believe me… I was so relieved when I learned that I didn’t harm you while I was drunk… I-I’m not tough enough to commit murder nonchalantly…」

I felt a strong sense of dissonance when I heard that.

This could be a good chance for me to understand the true nature of these hopeless men.

「Diga, can you raise your head?」

Diga lifted his head slowly.

His face was plain and childish, despite his big body.

As for Doddo, instead of a wild dog, a depressed old dog would be more apt as a description. Since he had a small stature, he looked frail and weak without his violent nature. He didn’t look like a denizen of Forest's Edge at all.

The escape of Zattsu Tsun was a grave matter. After all, the denizens of Forest's Edge intended only to make Zattsu Tsun and Zuro Tsun pay for their crimes. We already informed Genos castle about this. If we couldn’t arrest Zattsu Tsun tonight, this would be a disgrace when negotiations with the Genos castle resumes in the future.

That was why the Dom and Jean house heads would never forgive Diga and Doddo. Donda Wu and Graff Zaza would think the same. I wanted to use this chance to understand the true nature of these two retards

「Diga, you mentioned that you would never kill a fellow denizen of Forest's Edge, correct? What about the residents in the Post Station Town?」

「The residents in town?」

Diga Tsun tilted his thick neck like a dull-witted bull.

「W-Why did you bring up the Post Station Town all of a sudden? I’m confused…」

「The denizens of Forest's Edge think of the Post Station Town as an enemy. So I think you can hurt them without any hesitation.」

I tried acting all casual.

Ai Fa narrowed her eyes in doubt. Fortunately, she held her peace.

「D-Don’t you get along well with them…? In the first place, you came from the city…」

「You are right, but I wasn’t born in Genos. To be honest, I hate those people in Genos who look down on the denizens of Forest's Edge. My customers are mostly southerners and easterners.」

「I see… I-I’m not sure. I don’t go to town often…」

「Ehh? But why?」

「Because… They are scary…」

「What?」

I forgot about my act and said loudly.

I was probably too loud, which made Diga squirm his shoulders in surprise.

「B-Because we are from the Forest's Edge, so they are always glaring at us angrily, right? If I’m too careless, they might drag me to a corner and beat me up… So I hadn’t entered the town in a few years.…」

His testimony left me speechless.

I tried to calm myself down and then looked towards Doddo:

「What about you? When I first met you in the Post Station Town, you drew your blade against a resident of the Post Station Town, correct?」

「… I hate the residents there. I think they are all enemies of Forest's Edge.」

「Yes, so you abducted women, assaulted travelers, and stole their crops?」

「Huh?」

Doddo opened his small eyes wide.

Speaking of which, his face was very similar to a lion-dog, broad and cold. But he was Diga’s younger brother, that meant he was around my age. A bewildered look with eyes wide open befitted his age.
<TL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komainu>

「I’m not interested in the town’s women. Anyway, how do I even steal the crops? The guards won’t ignore it if I did that.」

「Some of the villages don’t have guards though.」

「I don’t know where these villages are… The forest has plenty of food for us to eat, so I don’t need to go out of my way and steal food from them.」

「Hmm〜, but the residents of the Post Station Town all said that the denizens of Forest's Edge kept committing misdeeds.」

「That’s a long time ago before the Tsun clan stole from the forest. We were still young back then.」

「Yes, we were still eating aria and poitan too.」

Diga answered casually.

I understood… I fell into deep thought. Uncle Dora didn’t tell me in which era those things happened.

Besides, ten or so years weren’t too distant past, it wouldn’t be strange for rumors of Forest's Edge denizens stealing crops being passed down from then. Uncle Dora must have suffered too when he was young.

I didn’t need to think too hard about this. I just had to ask Uncle Dora to speculate the time when this happened.

「… Are you trying to find the criminal?」

Doddo looked at me with gloomy eyes.

「It’s Zattsu Tsun. Father Zuro is worried about the relations between the Tsun clan and Genos breaking down, while Diga and I hate the city. Only Zattsu Tsun will dare do anything to the townsmen.」

「Hmmp, are you trying to push all the blame to the former clan head?」

Ai Fa said coldly, and Doddo’s face turned stiff pathetically, but Diga nodded weakly.

「… You did expose our greatest sins. But we really have no reasons to abduct the women from the city or steal their food. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not… The landlord of Genos doesn’t have the resolve to pass judgment against the denizens of the Forest's Edge anyway.」

He was wrong. A few hours ago, I advised Kaslan Lutim to not let those crimes go unanswered.

But Doddo and the others didn’t know about that. They didn’t try to save their own skin because they didn’t know. Therefore, they were telling the truth.

「Enough about that, the Dom house…」

When Diga said that in a pitiable voice, someone rapped the door loudly.

Diga and Doddo looked as if they were petrified and stopped moving. Ai Fa grabbed the saber beside her.

「Head of the Fa house, if you are still alive, wake up. We are from the Dom house.」

The hoarse roar made me go weak from fear, and Ai Fa sighed softly.

Diga and Doddo looked deathly pale.

「The Tsun clan men set fire in the Dom village and are now on the run! Head of the Fa house, are you still alive?」

「We are fine! I’m opening the door now!」

Ai Fa’s voice was like an elastic whip. Despair clouded Diga and Doddo’s eyes, and they looked up at Ai Fa who had stood up.

Ai Fa walked to the entrance with determined strides.

「Thank you for informing me about this urgent situation in the wee hours of the morning. You said that the men from the Tsun clan had escaped, who exactly are they?」

Ai Fa asked behind the closed door, and the other party’s voice also calmed down.

「You are safe, huh. The Dom house can salvage a little of its reputation… The ones on the run are the three men from the Tsun clan taken in by the Dom house and the former clan head of the Tsun clan imprisoned by the Jean house. The Jean house man watching the former clan head got his throat bit open and his saber snatched away. After breaking out of the Jean house, the former clan head set the Dom village on fire and fled with the three Tsun clan men we had taken in!」

「… Hmmp, looks like you didn’t lie.」

Ai Fa muttered softly and crossed her arms.

「You said something? Is your family member fine too? If you are both alright, then rest easy. The men of the Dom house will guard the Fa house. We will wipe away this disgrace with the blood of the Tsun clan traitors!」

A group of bulky men wearing kiba skulls on their heads had reached the Fa house.

Diga was shivering as if he had caught a cold. Doddo seemed to have given up and hung his head low.

Ai Fa glanced their way, then said:

「I appreciate your gesture. However, I have something to tell you. I have captured the eldest and second sons of the Tsun clan main house.」

「What!?」

He roared in anguish again, and the door shook violently.

「Uwah…」

Diga groaned and lay prone on the floor.

「Is that true!? The traitors are in your house!? Head of the Fa house, open the door at once!」

「I will open it now. Don’t break my door, men of the Dom house… But before that, I hope you can listen to my explanation. These two didn’t come here to murder us. They did flee from the Dom village, but they only came here because they were too afraid of Zattsu Tsun.」

「What kind of joke is this! Open up right now! Hand them over to us!」

「Of course I will hand them over. But can you let the tribal chiefs investigate this carefully? Don’t cut their throats right now. They claimed that the former clan head threatened them with a blade, that’s why they fled. If they turn over a new leaf and return to the village voluntarily, do show some leniency in their punishment.」

「They tarnished the honor of the Dom house and trampled over our trust in them! Our only option is to chop off their heads! Enough talk, open the door!」

「If that is how the Dom house feels, I can’t open the door. Call the three tribal chiefs here. If their words convince me, I will open the door.」

Ai Fa turned her face away and looked at us.

Before we knew it, Diga and Doddo were looking at Ai Fa with their heads tilted.

I was near the seat of honor, so I could only see the back of their heads. Ai Fa looked our way with her arms crossed, and her expression became more and more scary. She finally yelled:

「Why are you looking at me with such eyes! Stop looking at me like that!」

5

The next day, or rather, sometime before the dawn of the same day, Forest's Edge was on high alert. News of Zattsu Tsun’s and Tay Tsun’s escape spread from the northern villages to the entire Forest's Edge.

The escapees were vicious villains. One of them tore open the throat of a man with his teeth and set a village on fire. The denizens of Forest's Edge could no longer call him a fellow tribe mate. The tribal chiefs declared that Tay would be given back his family name of Tsun, and both him and Zattsu Tsun were to be captured dead or alive. Immediately after dawn, half the men entered the forest and the other half stayed behind to protect their homes.

It went without saying that the ones staying behind had to perform surveillance on top of protecting their homes. They needed to watch the people of the Tsun clan and those who used to be from the Tsun clan.

Zattsu Tsun might abduct them. The men from the branch houses who were free to move around were locked inside a house, thus restricting their movements.

Not just the men of the Tsun clan village, those who had been taken in by other kins were locked up too. As they didn’t show any signs of resistance, their movements weren’t restricted in the first place. However, nobody knew how they would act if Zattsu Tsun appeared before them again— the prison break of Diga’s group made the other tribe mates wary.

Tulu Dean’s father was also taken away. They were bestowed with a new family name after much hardship but were arrested and sent back to the Tsun clan village just when they were going along the right path. Just thinking about how the father and daughter might feel was breaking my heart.

The former members of the Tsun clan main house were also shifted to a place that was easy to keep watch over. Yamiel Lei, Aura, Zwei, and Mida were imprisoned by the Wu clan. Diga and Doddo who almost lost their heads were taken as prisoners and sent to the Zaza house along with Zuro Tsun. The manpower was mostly concentrated in the Tsun clan, Wu clan, and Zaza house villages. As they guarded their family and kept watch on the prisoners, they prepared for Zattsu Tsun’s attack.

As for the Fa house…

Escorted by the elites of Forest's Edge, we headed to the Post Station Town to run our business.




「… Hey, what’s going on here?」

Milano Mast looked at us with sinister eyes.

This was only natural since we had twice our usual numbers, and the additional helpers were all hunters from Forest's Edge.

The four escorts guarding us were Ai Fa, Ludo Wu, Shin Wu, and Rau Lei.

To avoid spooking the Post Station Town residents, we chose hunters who were younger and had milder-looking faces. However, just being armed with a saber would give a very different impression to others. Milano Mast glared at Ludo Wu’s group with a dangerous gleam close to hostility in his eyes.

「Sorry, we have our reasons…」

「Reasons? What reasons can there be? There’s no need to do business while armed with a saber.」

「Genos castle should be notifying everyone shortly. Vicious criminals had fled from Forest's Edge, and we are not sure where they went.」

Milano Mast was stunned by my answer.

「Vicious criminals from Forest's Edge… you say?」

「That’s right, two vicious criminals who violated grave taboos in the Forest's Edge had escaped. There was some bad blood between us, so these escorts will be joining me.」

To be frank, we shouldn’t be setting up the stall during times like this.

But the Genos liaison ordered us to continue our stall operation. So we still came to the Post Station Town.

「People will find it suspicious for you to stop your business when a criminal appears in Forest's Edge. If you want to stop running your stall, then be prepared to be barred from doing business in the Post Station Town forever. Since you are not wanted criminals, just act as you usually do.」

That’s what Pyschkurewuss, the representative of Marquis Genos said.

I could vaguely guess what he was thinking.

「Pyschkurewuss probably wants to apprehend Zattsu Tsun himself. Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun not only violated the rules of Forest's Edge, they also transgressed the law of Genos. They want to prosecute the two vicious criminals officially.」

Kaslan Lutim accompanied Donda Wu and the others to meet Pyschkurewuss back then, and he was now relaying his experience to me with a bitter face.

「The guards will protect the city, so the denizens of Forest's Edge can continue to set up stall without worry… If we can’t do that, we can just stay in our settlement and forget about doing business in town… That’s what Pyschkurewuss is saying.」

Simply put, he was trying to use us as bait.

If we refused, he would bar us from running a business in the Post Station Town.

What exactly is Pyschkurewuss trying to do?

As I was gritting my teeth internally, Milano Mast said in a daze:

「The vicious criminals from Forest's Edge… A denizen of Forest's Edge has become a criminal…」

「That’s correct. Genos castle should be announcing their names and wanted posters before noon.」

It had been decades since Genos castle last prosecuted a denizen of Forest's Edge. In recent years, there were rumors that even if a denizen of Forest's Edge committed a crime, the people from the castle would cover it up. The death of Milano Mast’s best friend also ended without any proper investigation.

What kind of emotions were going through Milano Mast’s mind right now? He should be glad to see the people in the Genos castle prosecuting the denizens of Forest's Edge according to the law. But he should be frustrated that the death of his best friend was still ignored… If I was in his shoes, my conflicted feelings would send my heart into turmoil.

After a moment of silence, Milano Mast finally suppressed his emotions and swept his gaze across us.

「I understand the situation now… So the people in the Genos castle ordered you to continue doing your business?」

「Yes. We wanted to stop until the commotion is over, but…」

「Hmmp, you lot are fine baits. Just the sort of scheme the people in the castle would come up with.」

After saying that, Milano Mast turned and left.

Like usual, the two carts were at the back of the inn. We looked at each other.

「I thought he would react more strongly, but he accepted so simply. No matter how unhappy he is, he still can’t go against the people of the Genos castle.」

Ludo Wu shrugged disappointedly. Speaking of which, Ludo Wu had met Milano Mast before.

I held back my sigh and announced:

「Alright then, let’s go. We are running late, and the customers might be getting anxious.」

We set off for the stone paved road.

News of the vicious criminals had not been announced officially yet, but we were much more prominent than usual. Even though they were young and good-looking hunters, they still were hunters. Their eyes were more fearful and had less disdain. Such gazes stabbed at us from all over the place.

Is it really fine to do this…?

I couldn’t shake away that thought.

We couldn’t predict how the vicious criminal, Zattsu Tsun, would act.

No matter how anxious he was, there was no way he could restore power to the Tsun clan and take back the position of tribal chief clan again. In that case, he might attack his longtime enemy, the new tribal chief clan, the Wu clan. Or the kin house that abandoned the Tsun clan, the Zaza house. Or the Fa house that exposed the grave sins of the Tsun clan.

In the face of such serious threats, could we really enter the Post Station Town?

Wouldn’t that endanger the residents of the Post Station Town?

Going by common sense, normal people wouldn’t attack us inside the Post Station Town in broad daylight. Therefore, he would definitely strike during our commute from Forest's Edge to the Post Station Town.

However, not only did he hurt a fellow tribemate, he also set a village on fire. I suspected he had lost his sense of reason. If we were safe and the residents in the Post Station Town got hurt from the collateral damage… Thinking about that made my mood very heavy.

Milano Mast, Uncle Dora, Tara, Shumimaru, Pops, Arudas, Yumi, and Naudiz— they were the people I got acquainted with in the Post Station Town. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them. I never imagined that I would ever conduct business with such a heavy heart.

「Ah!」

At this moment, someone called out loudly. Tara was sitting beside her father as usual. Her eyes were wide open as she yelped.

「Hi, Tara, Uncle… I want to buy vegetables today too.」

「Same as yesterday? That will be eight red copper plates.」

It was the first time they saw hunters accompanying us, so he looked a little pale. But he still wore a smile on his face.

Tara didn’t look too scared either. The young girl just looked at Ludo Wu tensely.

「… Ah, little brat. We met quite some time ago. You are still so small.」

When she saw Ludo Wu smiling, Tara also smiled timidly.

「Y-You know, I chatted with Rimee Wu recently. Are you her brother?」

「Oh, I know about that. She kept talking about that during dinner. You two brats sure get along well.」

I glanced at the heartwarming reunion, then leaned towards Uncle Dora.

「I want to tell you that the city will be announcing something soon…」




After hearing about the entire incident, his face turned paler.

「T-This is a serious matter. A vicious criminal from Forest's Edge…」

「That’s right. They might not have any reasons to harm a resident in the Post Station Town, but don’t go near a man who is all skin and bones, as well as an old man with greying hair.」

「I-I understand. Even though they are denizens of Forest's Edge, the people from the Genos castle will still treat them as criminals. That shows how vicious they are. I won’t let Tara wander outside by herself today.」

「Yes. I hope you can tell the people you know too. Speaking of which, I have something I want to ask…」

I decided to clear the doubt that appeared in my mind last night.

In other words, I wanted to know the specific period of time when the denizens of Forest's Edge allegedly committed crimes.

「Ehh? Even if you ask me… Aren’t those ruffians causing trouble in the city right now?」

「Are you talking about drunk denizens of Forest's Edge drawing their blades in the Post Station Town or destroying stalls they don’t like? I want to know about more serious crimes. Like abducting women or stealing crops.」

「Hmm, let me think… It has been a long time since the denizens of Forest's Edge robbed our crops. That’s before Tara was born. Aside from that, I only heard rumors… You have to ask the people in the Genos castle for more accurate details.」

「The people in Genos castle?」

「That’s right. Some people might just shrug it off, but most people will still report it to the guards.」

It seemed difficult to get the answer. The people in Genos castle had been ignoring the misdeeds of Forest's Edge denizens all the while, they had to be trying to cover this up.

「Asuta, don’t get embroiled in too much trouble.」

Uncle Dora suddenly grabbed my arm.

「I know you are a good person, so that’s enough for me. Asuta, leave the criminals to the guards and just work hard in your job.」

「… Thank you. I’m happy to hear you say that.」

I only manage to sprout such cliche lines, but I was really touched beyond words.

After leaving his stall, our destination was just a short hop away.

I knew there would be a crowd at my stall, but there weren’t just customers, there were more guards on duty than usual.

「Uwah, the atmosphere seems terrible.」

Lala Wu whispered.

The atmosphere did seem hostile. The crowd was facing the guards with tense faces.

After we got closer, a guard with a plume on his helmet and who seemed to have the highest rank shouted: 「You guys are too slow!」

Although we left the Fa house early, we had to detour to the Wu clan village and enter the Post Station Town with our escorts, so we were half an hour late.

But the stall owners had the right to choose their business hours, so the guards didn’t have any rights to lecture us… I couldn’t tell him that so curtly of course, so I bowed my head and apologized:

「Pardon me, I will start preparations right away. Please wait a moment.」

Then something strange happened. One-third of the crowd dispersed immediately.

Their unnatural movements surprised me. The ones who left were westerners with yellowish-brown and ivory skin, and their faces were filled with hostility and fear.

The six guards watched them depart, then turned and left too.

「That’s all I have to say. You have no problems with that, right? If anything happens, I will really arrest you all.」

The head guard left with that parting shot.

The guests all looked indignant and kept quiet as the guards headed to the north. Normally, the guards would return to the guardhouse on the south. They were probably going directly to the northern entrance to patrol.

Could just six guards ward off the assault of the vicious criminals? I only had four escorts with me, but I didn’t think the six soldiers would be more effective than us.

「Hi, sorry for the commotion. Please don’t mind and start doing your business.」

We pushed the cart to our usual spots, and Arudas said to us with a smile.

He didn’t seem too guarded at the sight of Ai Fa and the others. That made me relieved and I asked:

「What happened?」

「Well, we were waiting for you to set up shop when those guards came over. They told us:『Felons had escaped from the Forest's Edge and might come near this stall. Those who value their lives should leave at once.』」

「… I see, so that’s what happened.」

They ordered the denizens of Forest's Edge to 「continue with business」, but warned the residents to 「leave at once」. So Pyschkurewuss just wanted us to play the role of bait and didn’t care about the tense relationship between the Forest's Edge and Post Station Town.

I became even more moody.

「We ignored them and continued queueing, but the westerners who heard them became agitated and demand them to bar dangerous individuals like you from the Post Station Town. My southern brethrens were enraged by this and refuted them, and the commotion intensified.」

My heart grew heavy as I listened.

Arudas laughed heartily:

「Don’t show such a face. We already resolved the issue, and no one was taken away by the guards. When they heard me shout:『You can’t eat the delicious food if you keep arguing』, all of them quieted down. Only the westerners remained rowdy to the very end.」

「Hmmp, the westerners are more timid than anyone else. They are fine business partners, but frustrating during times like this.」

Pops who was hidden behind Arudas’ large body suddenly popped out.

「They might have committed serious felonies, but there are just two outlaws, right? Why are they forgoing delicious food for those two? How retarded.」

「… Pops, think about it from our perspective. We can’t do any work if the guards take you away.」

Arudas said resignedly, and Pops grunted again.

「Enough about that, I have something important to say. Hey, brat!」

「Y-Yes!?」

「I ate the dinner provided by the inn! If I eat it together with fruit wine, the meal will cost me seven red copper plates!」

「Ehh? Isn’t one portion five red copper plates?」

「One bottle of fruit wine isn’t enough! What’s with that dish!?」

「… Is it not to your liking?」

I asked worriedly, and he yelled:
「That’s impossible!」

「Pops, don’t be so loud. What if the guards come back?」

「Who gives a damn about them!? Since you have Tau sauce, why didn’t you use it in the other dishes!? What is going on here!? You think it’s funny seeing us so confused?」

「I-I’m not trying to do that. I only learned of the Tau sauce’s existence after visiting the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.」

「What? You made such a delicious dish after using Tau sauce for the first time?」

Arudas was dumbstruck.

I chopped some tino as I shook my head.
「No, my hometown has a seasoning similar to Tau sauce, so I chose to make that dish. Do you like it?」

「I love it. To us, Tau sauce has the taste of home… But we have never tasted something so delicious back in my hometown.」

Arudas smiled with satisfaction.

Pops leaned forth from his side.

「Oh right, I don’t know your name. I’m Balan of Nerva.」

「I’m Asuta of the Fa house, a denizen of Forest's Edge.」

「Asuta of the Fa house, huh… Asuta, if you ever get the chance to visit Jaguar, do come to Nerva. Just mention the architect Balan, almost everyone there knows me.」

「Eh? O-Okay.」

「… And if you plan to build a house in the future, do contact me, I will build a grand house for you at a price better than the other architects.」

After saying that, Pops crossed his arm and held his chest high proudly.

「Alright then, when will the food be done? You made us wait for so long today, I’m starving!」

「Yes! Right away!」

Pops and the others had the same attitude towards us. No, after I started selling meals at the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, they seemed friendlier to me.

The customers behind were the same too. Be it the frank and forthright southerners, or the calm and collected easterners, no one thought much about the matter of Zattsu Tsun.

However, the gulf between us and the westerners had grown deeper.

Uncle Dora and the others were very worried about our safety. As for those who had been buying kiba dishes all along, they weren’t too concerned. However, the westerners who harbored doubts about the denizens of Forest's Edge were freaked out.

That might be so— but since we have decided to do this, we will have to do it properly.

News of the Forest's Edge felons had spread throughout the city. Since they had seen our shameful and unsightly side, we had to do our best to prove our innocence.

This line of thought was similar to the superficial words said by Pyschkurewuss. Since the denizens of Forest's Edge allowed the Tsun clan fall into depravity unabated, we had to take responsibility. With that in mind, this might be a tribulation that the denizens of Forest's Edge had to face— a road to redemption.

「… Asuta, can you really cook delicious meal with such a sour face?」

Ai Fa whispered into my ears.
「Don’t worry, if the vicious criminals appear, we will deal with them swiftly.」

Ludo Wu and the others had retreated into the woods before I realized it, and only Ai Fa was left behind.

I looked at Ai Fa’s brave expression and nodded:
「I understand. Shela Wu, I’m counting on you.」

「Yes.」

Shela Wu tossed the aria into the griddle, and we opened for business.


6

Right before noon, Rii Sudora reached the stall on time.

She brought four men from the Sudora house with her.

「Sorry for the wait, I will be in your care today too.」

Her face didn’t look any different but the house head standing beside her looked nervous.
「Head of the Fa house, there have been no signs of the vicious criminals so far.」

「It’s great that you are all safe.」

「Yes, we will protect our brethrens with our lives.」

The head of the Sudora house looked like a monkey’s, and his sunken eyes were burning. His spouse Rii Sudora showed a calm smile.

「House head, if the men from Forest's Edge show their hunting faces, the residents in town won’t dare come near. Please restrain yourself.」

「Hmm? We can’t be so relaxed. The former head of the Tsun clan is all skin and bones, but he defeated the men of the Jean house. During the house head conference, I also realized that man from the Tsun clan branch house is formidable too. We need to have the resolve to die in battle.」

It was true that the head of the Sudora house was shorter than his wife and had a small build. It was rare seeing a man with such stature amongst all the hunks of Forest's Edge.

However, there was a grim determination on his face. With the way things had turned out, he could have asked his wife to help out after Zattsu Tsun got arrested, but he didn’t turn this job down and suggested being the escorts. All four men of the Sudora house were here, and the rest of the women were entrusted to the Wu clan village to seek refuge.

「Head of the Sudora house, the men from the Wu clan are hiding in the woods over there. They had set the assignment to watch the road and guard the rear, do consult them on your role.」

After hearing Ai Fa’s words, the head of the Sudora house nodded and led his posse to the woods at the back. In a short while, Vena Wu and I would need to head to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, Ai Fa and her entourage of four would escort us there. The four men of the Sudora house would stay behind and guard the women in the stall.

After the men from the Sudora house were gone, the men from the 《Silver Vase》 approached us.

「Welcome, thank you for your patronage even at a time like this.」

「Yes, wanted notice, we see… Asuta, okay?」

「We are fine, please be careful too. The wanted notice should have mentioned how dangerous the felons are.」

「Fine, we are. I worry, you. Guards say, attack you, they may.」

What the guards said probably resulted in the obvious drop in westerner customers. Even the crowd on the streets was less dense than usual.

Uncle Dora visited with Tara, but other regulars like Yumi didn’t patronize us. If we didn’t arrest the vicious criminals, the westerner residents would remain fearful and uneasy.

「Thank you. We are really fine, there are many powerful hunters protecting us.」

I tried to answer with a smile, but Shumimaru’s gaze remained serious.

He suddenly shifted his gaze to Ai Fa who was standing beside the stall.
「… House head, me, 《Silver Vase》 band leader, Shumimaru Jiz Sadumutino.」

「Hmm?」

Ai Fa was standing between the two stalls and watching the people passing by, but she was looking at Shumimaru puzzledly now.

「By house head, you mean me? I don’t know you.」

「Asuta, tell me. You tell me, name?」

Ai Fa frowned and sized up Shumimaru.

「I’m Ai Fa of the Fa house. Sorry, but I don’t have time to chat.」

「Ai Fa, name good… you, Asuta protect?」

「… Yes, the house head has to protect her family member.」

Ai Fa answered and returned her gaze to the road. Ai Fa’s role was to stay on the front lines and look out for suspicious characters in the crowd.

「Please, Asuta protect. Cherish him, I, a lot.」

Ai Fa glanced at Shumimaru again.

「… I don’t need anyone to tell me that, I will protect him.」

「Thank you.」

Shumimaru narrowed his eyes a little, thanked her quietly, and then looked at the other stall.

Vena Wu was working hard as usual.

So she was special to Shumimaru after all.

Shumimaru didn’t reveal his feelings and left with his food.

「Asuta, that Semu man is very worried about you. Did you know him before this?」

Lala Wu was tending to the 『Kiba burger』 stall with me, and she asked me with an incredulous expression.

「No, we don’t really know each other. We got acquainted when he bought my food.」

「Hmmp, that’s weird… Never mind, your relationship with the Wu clan started in the same way. So it isn’t that strange after all.」

That’s true. My friendship with others always started with these simple dishes.

Shumimaru was very close to me, and I also cherished my friendship with Pops Balan, whose name I just learned today, and Arudas.

We only chatted for a few minutes every day, but that was still a bond between us. With the passage of time, our bonds grew stronger. And that was how I managed to survive in this different world.

After a short while, when it was almost time for me to head to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, Kaslan Lutim, Dali Sauti and a man from the Sauti clan appeared before us.

「Ah, good morning, how was the meeting with Kamyua Yost?」

「The work tomorrow remains unchanged. As expected, they claimed that they don’t need any escorts.」

「Don’t need escorts?」

Tomorrow, the denizens of Forest's Edge will guide Zashuma’s caravan through the forest. And, of course, we couldn’t halt this grand project. But why wouldn’t they need escorts?

「We don’t know what Zattsu Tsun will do, so we proposed sending all the men from the Sauti clan to escort them. But they said that they just need the denizens of Forest's Edge to act as their guides, so just the four men that were agreed in the first place will be fine.」

「But… wouldn’t that be dangerous?」

「Yes, but there are only two vicious criminals, so sending four men will be adequate. But when we suggested increasing the number of helpers just to be safe, they thought we were being too nosey and turned us down. I hate the Genos castle people after all.」

Dali Sauti answered.

He was taller than Kaslan Lutim and as buff as Donda Wu. Although his face looked kind and gentle, his outstanding looks made him suitable for the crucial position of tribal chief. He should be slightly older than Kaslan Lutim.

He used to give me the impression of being warm and approachable, but he tended to tense up during an emergency. It was difficult for him to negotiate with Kamyua Yost given the current circumstances.

「He has his own pride and self-esteem. After all, the job of a 《Guardian》 is to protect caravans, so he wouldn’t want others to get in the way of his job.」

「How unpleasant. Could it be that they are just like those people from Genos castle and want to apprehend the criminals by themselves?」

I wasn’t sure about that. I didn’t think that the relationship between Kamyua Yost and Pyschkurewuss was anywhere close to being cordial.

Did Kamyua Yost want to apprehend the Tsun clan felons by himself?— I couldn’t grasp the thoughts of that man who kept pretending to be retarded.

「Anyway, there would be five 《Guardians》 protecting the 18-men caravan. They probably don’t need to worry about just two vicious criminals… If anyone from the caravan dies or there is any damage to the cargo, the 《Guardians》 will bear full responsibility, so we don’t need to be concerned.」

「I see, since Kamyua Yost insisted on that, it should be fine.」

Kamyua Yost and that man who concealed his appearance with bandages, Han of Dabag… Aside from them, there were three other 《Guardians》. After adding in the four men from Forest's Edge led by Dali Sauti, they wouldn’t lose to the vicious criminals so easily. And if the two vicious criminals could really defeat them, then the escorts guarding the stalls wouldn’t stand a chance either.

「Well then, we need to report this to Donda Wu, so we are going back to Forest's Edge now… Asuta, please be careful.」

And finally, Kaslan Lutim looked at me with his strong gaze and left together with Dali Sauti and the others.

「Should we go as well?. Shela Wu, please hold the fort.」

「Yes, stay safe on your way there.」

Me, Vena Wu, Ai Fa, and the three hunters who appeared from the woods left the stall together. We bought the necessary vegetables on the way there and were basked in more gazes than usual on our way to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.

「We didn’t divide our tasks yet. We will need a sentry at the front and back entrances, someone to rove and watch the surroundings, and a bodyguard to go inside with Asuta.」

This was a surprise, but the youngest, Ludo Wu, showed his leadership skills while performing the escort duties.

「Ai Fa should stand at the front door, the rest can just take whatever roles that are left.」

「Wait, why am I the front door’s sentry? I want to go inside the building.」

「Hmm? But the westerners won’t dare to come in if we place a male sentry here, right? That uncle at the inn earlier also showed an annoyed face.」

We already reported the matter about the vicious criminals to Naudiz in the morning. I also informed him that the hunters from Forest's Edge would guard the inn just in case anything happened.

「But… I’m also an armed hunter. The westerners loathe all denizens of Forest's Edge and don’t discriminate between man and woman.」

「That’s not true. Ai Fa, men won’t avoid a pretty girl like you.」

「In that case, your face is as gentle as a woman’s too. And I’m taller than you.」

The air was getting tense; however, Rau Lei just laughed coldly:

「Head of the Fa house, that’s an interesting point. I’m the tallest among us all. I will get tired of staying in the same place, so I will be the rover and watch the surroundings. Decide on the other roles however you like.」

「This has nothing to do with height! Besides, I’m almost the same height as Ai Fa!」

「… I’m a bit taller than you.」

「And I’m about her height too.」

「Shin Wu! You are mocking my height too!?」

「I didn’t say that. You are a better hunter than me anyway.」

As they continued to argue, we arrived at the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.

「… I don’t want to go inside a Post Station Town building, so I will guard the back door.」

After Shin Wu retired from the battle royale, Rau Lei also disappeared after saying:「I will blow the grass whistle if anything happens.」

Only Ai Fa and Ludo Wu were left. They glared at each other, and the air was getting heated.

「… Hey, Asuta, you know the Post Station Town the best, so you decide…」

Vena Wu proposed reluctantly, and Ludo Wu shouted childishly:「He will definitely pick Ai Fa!」

We shouldn’t loiter before the inn, and they were pushing me to speak up too. I felt lethargic when I thought of Ai Fa’s feelings.
「If I have to choose, I think Ai Fa is more suited for the role outside… Is that fine?」

As I expected, Ai Fa was stunned and just stood there.

「… But why?」

「Like what Ludo Wu said, westerners often lodge in this inn, so I want to avoid agitating them. This was the reason why I asked you to stay in the stall earlier.」

「You are… right…」

Ai Fa’s face turned more and more sullen, and the strength-deprived eyes looked apologetically at Ludo Wu.

「… I see. I’m thinking only about myself and didn’t make the right judgment. It’s my fault for insisting on doing things my way.」

「Hmm? You don’t need to apologize for such trivial matters.」

「… But I’m still taller than you.」

「Shut up! So what!」

「Nothing. It’s painful for me, so I just wanted to jab at you a little.」

Ai Fa walked along the wall and sat down heavily about 3 meters from the inn entrance. She didn’t cross her legs and hugged her knees childishly instead. She looked at the streets with gloomy eyes.

「I will watch the streets from here… Asuta.」

「Yes!」

「… Work hard.」

「… Okay.」

Why was there a sense of guilt welling up in my chest?

I swallowed the umpteenth sigh of today, then pushed open the doors with the Wu clan siblings.

「Oh, Asuta, I was waiting for you.」

Naudiz was sitting at the counter and received us with a gentle smile. He already met the men from Forest's Edge this morning, and only Ludo Wu was left now, so he wasn’t tensed at all.

「Well then, I will be counting on you today too. I’m relieved that you have reached safely.」

「Sorry for the trouble because of our issues. And thank you for agreeing to the hunters of Forest's Edge guarding the premises.」

「You’re welcome, since the dangerous felons are on the loose, having people guard the inn will put me at ease too. As the felons are from the Forest's Edge, the guards from the Post Station Town won’t too dependable.」

He wouldn’t need to worry about Zattsu Tsun attacking his inn if he just barred me from entering. But he still wanted me to continue my work as per the contract. I felt guilty and moved at the same time.

「There wasn’t much time in the morning, so I didn’t tell you the details. But dinner last night was very well-received. They were completely sold out, nothing was left.」

「I see, that’s a relief. So you managed to sell it even after setting the price to five red copper plates.」

「That’s right, I followed your suggestion and sold half portions of 『Braised kiba』 without fuwano at two red copper plates. So people who had never tried this dish and were reluctant to fork out five red copper plates could order it easily.」

Naudiz had a face of satisfaction.

I laid out the kiba meat that was left here for safekeeping and answered with a smile:

「Speaking of which, what is the ratio of the customers? Did any westerner order that dish?」

「Of course. There are many westerners lodging here for the sake of the kiba dish… but I don’t know what will happen in the future though.」

I couldn’t tell either.

The number of westerner customers at our stall had plummeted too. They were worried about being dragged into trouble if they came near us. But this incident shouldn’t affect the sales in the inn too much. If the westerners discriminated the denizens of Forest's Edge because of this incident, it would have drastic effects.

「… Never mind, let’s bear with it before the felons are apprehended. Just the southerner customers will buy out everything. I’m counting on you in the future too.」

With that, Naudiz turned and left. He didn’t show it, but the presence of Ludo Wu still unnerved him.

「Sigh〜, who knows when the enemy will show up, it’s boring to just wait. And I can’t let my guard down either, my shoulder is aching from the tension.」

Ludo Wu stretched his back and started grumbling.

「It’s fine for just one or two days, visiting the town is fun too. But it will be terrible if this continues for ten or twenty days. The Sudora house will run out of food to eat.」

「It won’t drag on that long, right? It will be troubling if this goes on for ten or more days.」

「But they might die even before appearing before us. If they encounter a kiba and die, they will be eaten by the Munto. Then how long do we have to keep up with this?」

Indeed, that could be possible.

Spending a night in the forest was dangerous. The deathly ill Zattsu Tsun and the aging Tay Tsun didn’t have any supplies with them and could die quietly in the woods. If that happened, we would live in fear of their phantoms forever.

Just how much trouble did Zattsu Tsun plan to cause us? I didn’t stop my hands as I cooked and thought about what Yamiel Lei once said— 「Zattsu Tsun is like a venom…」




Two and a half hours later, my work in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 completed smoothly.

There wasn’t any good or grave news. When we left the inn and returned to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, the stalls were already there. Shela Wu and the others already purchased the necessities for tomorrow and were waiting for us.

「We didn’t sell everything today. The 『Kiba burgers』 were sold out, but we only sold about 80 portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』.」

The sales weren’t important, the important thing was that we made it through the day safely… That was what I wanted to say, but there was still satisfaction in my heart.
No matter what, we had to return the cart first. As I was opening the door, I heard hysterical voices coming from the inn.

「Stop renting your carts to those people! Everything will be fine if they don’t enter the Post Station Town, right!?」

I grew stiff.

『Those people』… They were referring to us, of course.

「The Genos castle people are spoiling the denizens of Forest's Edge too much!」

「We don’t want to be caught in the crossfire!」

「If you don’t rent them the carts, they won’t be able to continue with business, just refund them the cart rental fee!」

The voices came from a group of unfamiliar men.

When they all quieted down, Milano Mast used the chance to speak:

「… Even if I break the contract, other inns like the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 will rent them carts. Since the Genos castle permits them to continue running their stalls, there’s no point arguing about this.」

「Even so, we don’t need to let everything go their way, right!?」

「You want the rental fee that badly?」

「You are also… No, amongst us, you are the one who hates the denizens of Forest's Edge the most, correct?」

The next instant, there was a loud bang.

Someone hammered a table or wall.

「The incident with my friend has nothing to do with this! The ones pissing me off right now are you people, not the denizens of Forest's Edge! Are you done!? Then get lost! Don’t disrupt my business!」

I backed away from the door quickly.
The men pushed open the door from the inside and rushed out. They then yelped and stood there stiffly.

They had to be freaking out after seeing more than ten denizens of Forest's Edge lining up in front of the door. This group of men had yellowish-brown skin and looked like merchants. Their faces were twisted from despair, and they were quivering.

I was the only one who overheard them. Lala Wu and Ludo Wu who were beside me looked surprised.

「… Excuse me, we need to go in, can you let us pass?」

I tried to speak as calmly possible, and the men fled like spooked rabbits.

After watching them leave, I wanted to walk forth again, and the peeved Milano Mast opened the door from the inside and appeared before us.

「What, you done with your business already? Don’t crowd at my door, it gets in the way.」

「Yes, sorry.」

We didn’t need too many people to push the carts, so the four escorts and I pushed it to the back of the inn under Milano Mast’s lead.

「Excuse me… Will you still rent the carts to us tomorrow?」

I asked as I pushed the cart, and Milano Mast threw a sideway glance at me.

「I already told you before. If the cart gets damaged from any mishaps, you will need to compensate me. Anything else you need me to explain?」

「There’s nothing… Thank you.」

And of course, he grunted unhappily after I said that.

When we reached the warehouse at the back of the inn, a tall scrawny blonde man was waiting for us to come there.

「Hi, thank you for the hard work. And thanks for the delicious meal earlier too.」

「What are you doing here?」

Milano Mast asked in surprise, and Kamyua Yost smiled casually.

「Nothing, I’m just waiting for Asuta here in order not to miss him. If I rest in the restaurant, I might doze off.」

This was the first time I met Kamyua Yost today. Since he ate the food from the stall, he must have visited when I went to the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.

「I’m happy to see you, Kamyua. It seems that you can set off as scheduled tomorrow.」

「Yes, that’s why I’m here to greet you. We will be setting off first thing in the morning, and it will be at least two months before we come back.」

Two months… I had only been here for 50-odd days, so it was hard for me to imagine such a long period of time.

Recently, the relationship between Forest's Edge and Genos had become complicated. Was Kamyua Yost’s leaving a good thing? I couldn’t tell. No matter what, his departure was inevitable, so the people staying behind would have to settle these problems ourselves.

「By the way, I heard you turned down their offer to increase the manpower? Is it really safe?」

「Hmm? Yes, of course! It’s just two felons, there’s nothing to worry about…! Besides, the outlaws who lost their minds and fled from the Forest's Edge settlement don’t have any reasons to assault us, right?」

「No, it’s exactly because they lost their senses that we don’t know what they will do… And it is very possible that they will attack the caravan.」

「Ehh, why?」

Kamyua Yost’s eyes sparkled and he looked excited. But I was worried since Milano Mast was present too. This matter had nothing to do with him, but he might not want to hear me mentioning the criminals from Forest's Edge.

Milano Mast checked the carts for damage nonchalantly.

「… Someone in the Tsun clan mentioned something strange before. According to her, people live for the sake of earning copper plates, and since the richest clan in Forest's Edge is the Tsun clan, the head of the Tsun clan is the strongest brave… I think the former clan head passed down these twisted values to the members of the Tsun clan main house.」

「Hmm? It means that in the eyes of the former clan head, the caravan and its valuable cargo is the most suitable prey? What an interesting idea.」

「It would be great if this is just an interesting matter. However, the wanted fugitive, former clan head, said that he wants to 『Return the Tsun clan to power』. I think his goal is to obtain more wealth and not attack enemy factions like the Wu clan and Fa house.」

「Haha, but even if he gets more wealth, can he return the Tsun clan back to power?」

「That’s impossible. Only the former clan head is harboring such thoughts. Most of the denizens of Forest's Edge think excessive wealth is unnecessary and only want enough to sustain themselves.」

「How intriguing. I wish I could chat more with you before I set off to Semu.」

Kamyua Yost showed a lonely smile.

「I understand. So the former clan head who had turned into a felon might assault the caravan. I’m really pumped now… This might sound arrogant, but the job of a 《Guardian》 is to deal with such transgressions. It will be boring if the trip is too uneventful.」

He looked at the hunters of Forest's Edge with his purple eyes.

Ai Fa, Ludo Wu, Shin Wu and Rau Lei— they were observing every move of this man who was pretending to be retarded.

「The residents of Rock City might defeat the former tribal chief of Forest's Edge. You won’t hold a grudge against us for that, correct?」

「Of course, we won’t. It might be a little infuriating, but we won’t ask you to not defend yourself… No matter who your opponent might be, you probably can cut them in half.」

Ludo Wu replied.

「Not really.」

Kamyua Yost waved his slender arms.

「If possible, I want to take him alive. But my comrades are more violent, so I’m happy to hear you say that… But the former tribal chief might still attack Asuta, so let’s pray for the safety of both of us.」

「That’s right. Let’s meet again two months later.」

After I answered, Milano Mast finally left the carts.

「There doesn’t seem to be any damage… If there’s nothing else, scram.」

「Yes, thank you.」

Milano Mast didn’t even look at me.

As expected, he didn’t want to hear us mention about the criminals. I felt an ache in my heart and turned towards Kamyua Yost.

「Have a safe trip, Kamyua.」

「Yes, you stay safe too. Farewell, Ai Fa.」

Ai Fa acknowledged him with a cold gaze, and we ended the short chat with Kamyua Yost.

If one of us met with any misfortune, this would be a farewell for forever— but this felt unreal to me.

On our way back, a figure broke through the crowd and charged towards me. Ai Fa stood in front of me right away, but that person wasn’t the vicious criminals, but Yumi from the 《West Wind Inn》.

「Asuta, sorry! It’s because my retarded father won’t let me visit your stall!」

She charged over at full speed and clung to my chest.

「Ehh? W-What happened to your father?」:

I answered after noticing Ai Fa narrowing her eyes icily.

「It’s because of the commotion about the criminals from Forest's Edge! So my dad won’t let me leave the house! He went out just now, so I sneaked out, but you have already closed…」

「Y-Yeah, our opening hours are over.」

「That’s right. So I… uwah, what are you people doing!」

Yumi just noticed the presence of Ludo Wu and the others and clung even harder onto my chest.

We had not met up with the others yet, so there were only four hunters present. But that was enough to invoke fear and wariness in Yumi. She was usually strong and confident, but she was shivering and clinging to my chest right now.

「I-It’s fine. They are with me… Erm, this is a regular patron of the stall, she is the daughter of the 《West Wind Inn》.」

Ludo Wu and Shin Wu had dubious expressions, while Rau Lei showed a blank face. As for Ai Fa— she was expressionless, and her half-closed eyes were ice-cold.

Yumi looked at them timidly.

「Y-You are Asuta’s friends, right? Sorry, I was just surprised. This is the first time I saw so many men from the Forest's Edge…」

「The men of Forest's Edge don’t visit the town often… So what’s the matter?」

「Hmm? Oh right! I just wanted to apologize for not visiting today! It’s great that I got to meet you.」

She finally pulled away from me, but she was still grabbing onto my T-shirt and looked at me worriedly.

「Apologize…? You don’t need to do that for something so trivial though.」

「But I don’t want you to misunderstand! I won’t look at you any differently even if the other denizens of Forest's Edge commit misdeeds…! You will come tomorrow, right? You won’t disappear, right?」

「A-Alright. I plan to set up shop tomorrow too…」

「I see. That’s good… There are people who are stubborn like my dad, but there are those who can differentiate right from wrong too! Please don’t hate the Post Station Town because of that, okay?」

「… If someone tells me that, I won’t hate this place.」

Yumi smiled cheerfully.

Ai Fa’s gaze was sharp enough to hurt me, but I felt my heart being soothed completely.


During the 14th of the Blue month, there were signs of trouble, but the day ended peacefully… And finally came this day.

On the 15th of the Blue month, a 20-odd-men strong caravan would pass through the Forest's Edge settlement and head to the eastern kingdom of Semu.

The same day, I finally met a certain person.
This man was the origin of all evil, the reason for the depravity of the Tsun clan— the former clan head of the Tsun clan, Zattsu Tsun.


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chapter. Hopefully you can continue past vol 8, I love this novel.

    ReplyDelete