Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 8 Chapter 2

Thirteen Birthday Celebration

TL: This might sound strange, but I have to take a break from Cooking with Wild Game after volume 8. It is gaining popularity for unknown reasons, and there are murmurs saying it might get licensed, so I need to lie low for a while.

So things will continue as usual until Volume 8 is done. Cooking will then stop temporarily.

I will then work on Volume 4 of another light novel, Alderamin.
________________________________________________________________________
Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Ratorasepo


1

One day after welcoming our new housemate, the Totos Gilulu…

I was working hard at my stall today too. At this moment, Leina Wu from the Wu clan main house appeared in the Post Station Town. She was in town to procure groceries.

There wasn’t anything strange about that, but Leina Wu had a troubled look as she said to me quietly:

「Asuta, can you spare a bit of time for me?」

She seemed distracted. Shela Wu who was tending to the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall with me tilted her head puzzlingly too.

「No, erm… I need to go and work at the inn later…」

It was almost noon, and the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 requested me to cater dinner for them since four days ago. My working hours were becoming hectic.

「It won’t take too much time. Please.」

Leina Wu’s face still had a hint of childishness, and she looked at me with a sincere gleam in her blue eyes.

「… I understand. Shela Wu, can you tend to the stall for a while alone?」

「Alright. Rii Sudora will be coming soon, we'll be fine.」

Under Shela Wu’s worried gaze, we went to the woods behind us.

「Sorry for disturbing your work…」

「That’s alright. What’s the matter?」

It had been a while since I last met Leina Wu. Our last meeting was the night when Zattsu Tsun was apprehended by the people from the city. That was nine days ago. Recently, Vena Wu and Lala Wu who visited the Post Station Town frequently helped the Wu clan procure their ingredients, so the Wu clan seldom visited the town just to buy groceries.

Leina Wu was a girl who was seventeen just like me. Her hair was raven black, which rarely occurred for denizens of Forest's Edge, and it was tied into low ponytails. Her appearance was charming and cute; and, despite her petite stature, her thicc figure was a match for her elder sister.

She had kind and gentle personality, possessed great culinary skills amongst the denizens of Forest's Edge. She was a girl who stood out in all areas… But I still found it hard to gauge the appropriate distance between us.

「Just the thought of telling you this pains my heart… But I can’t suppress my emotions. Can you accede to my request…?」

「T-That will depend on what you are asking for.」

Leina Wu was petite and didn’t even reach my jaw, and she was looking up at me desperately. Our bodies weren’t touching, but we were so close that I could feel her breath.

「Actually…」

「Y-Yes?」

「… Tomorrow is Lala’s birthday…」

「Huh?」

「Tomorrow is Lala’s thirteenth birthday. And… I hope you can prepare a dish for her… Is that okay?」

Leina Wu’s eyes looked troubled again.

「Oh〜」

I was still confused and made a funny sound.

「Dish, huh. How many portions?」

「Twelve portions for the main house. We will prepare the poitan and soup; Asuta, I hope you can prepare a meat dish… It’s not possible after all, right?」

「Not really. Since it’s Lala’s birthday, I will accept this request.」

When she heard me acceding to her proposal, Leina Wu opened her eyes wide.

「I-Is it really fine? Not only you need to run your business at the stall, you also have to cater dinner for the inns. And recently, you decided to take care of the Totos too, right?」

「I will finish my work at the inn in the afternoon. The additional work I need to do at home won’t increase by too much. The Totos don’t need any special attention. If I can perform the preparation in the Wu clan stove room like last time, helping out once will be fine.」

「Really? Thank you…」

Leina Wu clasped her hands before her chest and sighed deeply in deep relief.

「Y-You are exaggerating too much, it’s not that big a deal.」

「Ehh? No, I just heard that you were very busy recently, so I thought you would turn me down. Lala will be so happy about this.」

Leina Wu smiled brightly.

Seeing her care for her family warmed my heart, but there was still a shred of doubt in my mind.

In other words, I was suspecting that Leina Wu might have ulterior motives.

No, I’m just overthinking it.

Leina Wu looked really sincere as she stood with a smile in front of me. She wasn’t a girl who would use her younger sister’s birthday for her own benefits. I reflected on my shallow thinking.
「Well then, do you need any special ingredients? If so, I can buy them today.」

We were some distance away from the stall, so it was impossible for Lala Wu to hear us. But Leina Wu still straightened her back and moved her mouth near my ears.

「N-No need, I just heard about this and haven’t decided on the dish yet… Besides, it’s too late to lower our voices now, right?」

「Ah, that’s true. Sorry, I got too excited.」

Leina Wu pulled away bashfully and appeared really squirmish.

I wanted to believe that she didn’t do that on purpose.

「You might think this is childish, but can you keep it a secret from Lala? I think she will be happier if it is a surprise.」

「That’s Okay. But wouldn’t the whole matter be exposed if she saw me going to the Wu clan village?」

「You just need to tell her that you want to discuss business matters with Mama Mia Lei, and it would be fine. I also got permission from Papa Donda.」

「I see… By the way, can I mention this to Vena Wu and the others?」

「Of course, but please tell them to keep it a secret.」

「Ah, you mentioned that I should prepare twelve portions, correct? What about Mida? If he is there, I would need to prepare twice that amount, right?」

「No. Coincidentally, Mida is dining at Shin Wu’s house since yesterday. Besides, Mama Mia Lei restricts him to five portions for a meal.」

I see, so Mama Mia Lei is limiting Mida’s food intake. What a wise decision… But even with the restrictions, he would still be eating five people’s worth of food.

Leaving that aside, what else did I need to check? After thinking it through carefully, I realized I forgot something important.

「By the way, I can’t let my house head watch the house alone, can Ai Fa dine with us too?」

A different light of sadness appeared in Leina Wu’s eyes.

「Of course. Asuta, you have never spent the night in a different place than Ai Fa before, correct?」

Nope.

We spent a lot of time apart in the day, but during the 60 days we have lived together, we dined and slept together.

「Well then, please send my regards to Ai Fa. Sorry for disturbing your work.」

Leina Wu left with a cheerful smile on her face.




「I see. Celebrating the birthday of the Wu clan’s third daughter, huh. I’m fine with that.」

Ai Fa accepted without any hesitation as she waited for me to prepare dinner.

「Let me check with you first. Even if they are the Wu clan, they won’t hold a grand birthday party, right?」

「Yes, it will be something like the pre-wedding banquet. Luxurious meals will be served, but the participants are usually just their family members.」

That might be so, but from past experiences, 「luxurious meal」 in Forest's Edge was just a kiba pot with more vegetables than usual.

「Leina Wu and the others would be preparing their specialty, the meat soup, so they asked me to make just the meat dish. So there won’t be too much burden on me.」

「I see. What dish are you going to serve?」

「Sorry, but this dish might not be new to you. I plan to use that ingredient I got from the innkeeper of the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》.」

That ingredient was rarer and more expensive than the Tau sauce I bought in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, my cherished store of ingredients.

「… So you want to use that.」

Ai Fa pouted a little. She loved that ingredient.

「Well, you know, it’s a rare occasion after all. When the Semu traveling merchants visit again, I will buy a great amount of it from them… So don’t pout.」

「Who’s pouting…! How old will the third daughter of the Wu clan be tomorrow?」

「I heard she will be thirteen.」

「Thirteen, huh. Boys start to learn hunting at that age.」

「Hmm〜. What about the girls?」

「The girls learn about being a bride before fifteen… My mother Mei passed away when I was thirteen, so I don’t really know either.」

「… I see.」

I drooped my brows a little, and, in the next instant, Ai Fa glared at me with dangerous eyes.

「What? You lost your mother ten years ago, so there’s no reason for you to pity me, right? So stop worrying about unnecessary things and do your job as a hearth caretaker.」

「Pouting one moment and raging the next, you sure are busy.」

「I’m not pouting, and I’m not angry!」

Ai Fa remained seated as she stamped her feet.

It might not be nice to describe her this way, but she was really too darn cute. Thanks to her, the atmosphere didn’t turn sentimental.

「Ah, I also heard that everyone will gift a flower to the birthday girl.」

「… You think I don’t even know that?」

「I want to check with you just to be sure. I thought the customs of each house will be different… Ah, we will be returning to the Fa house after dinner, right?」

「Yes, I don’t want to intrude on the Wu clan either.」

「Alright then, I will head straight to the Wu clan village after closing the stall, please take care of Gilulu.」

「Take care of Gilulu?」

「Yes, both of us will be away from the house, so you will have to let Gilulu in before leaving.」

Gilulu was also tied to the entrance today too, and it was laying its long neck on the floor. Ai Fa looked at its relaxed sleeping figure and then looked at me in surprise.

「Asuta, if we won’t make use of Gilulu, when do you want to do so?」

「Ehh? But it will be dark during our return trip, and there are two of us… Ah, we can just lead it back by pulling its reins.」

「What do you mean? We can ride Gilulu on the return trip.」

「I-It’s dark at night, so riding a Totos will be dangerous. The candle stand will be blown out too.」

「There’s no need for a candle stand. Gilulu just needs to run a little, and the Munto and Gizu won’t be able to catch us.」

「But Gilulu might have poor night vision. In my old world, we call night blindness ‘birds eye’.」
<TL: https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%B3%A5%E7%9B%AE>

「Oh? Totos have poor night vision? Even so, I can see in the moonlight. If the moon is covered, we will have to dismount and walk. So I should still prepare a candle stand.」

Does the candle stand only serve to repel wild beasts? I felt once again how powerful the denizens of Forest's Edge were.

「… Then there is only one thing that worries me. I haven’t tried riding a Totos before.」

「I will hold the reins, so it will be fine. You just need to hold on to me tightly, and you won’t fall off.」

I remembered Leito saying that a Totos can be ridden by two riders. But, could I really hold on tightly to the young and thicc body of Ai Fa?

「Let’s practice after dinner. I heard that it feels really good.」

Seeing Ai Fa saying that with an excited smile made it hard for me to turn her down.

「… So, is dinner not ready yet? I’m very hungry.」

「Yes, I just need to grill the meat, so hold on a little more. I made teriyaki roast meat with Tau sauce.」

「Alright.」

When dinner wasn’t hamburg steak, Ai Fa reacted plainly. She didn’t show any unhappiness; she wouldn’t express great joy either. Ai Fa had not encountered any dish that mesmerized her more than hamburg steak, and the new ingredient I got from the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 only complemented the hamburg steak.

「Speaking of which, I have known you for almost two months, so it’s only natural that someone in the Wu clan will be celebrating her birthday.」

「Hmm? I don’t get what you’re saying?」

「I mean, there are thirteen members in the Wu clan main house, including Kota Wu, correct? In that case, it won’t be strange for someone to have a birthday every month. There are twelve months in this world too.」
<EN: Analysis of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem shows that in case of 13 people and 13 months, more probable is a situation when several birthdays occur in the same month; consequently, some months should have no birthdays.>

However, there would be a thirteenth month every three years, and I still didn’t really understand how the calendar year worked here.

「You are weird. We are not kins of the Wu clan, they celebrating a birthday has nothing to do with us.」

「You aren’t wrong.」

「And it’s incorrect to say it has been almost two months.」

「Huh? It’s not too far off, right? I didn’t really keep track of how many days I have been here, but it should be around 60 days.」

After hearing my answer, Ai Fa rested her arm on her knee that was propped up and leaned her cheek on it.

「It’s not almost two months, tonight is exactly two months.」

「Ehh?」

「I met you in the forest on the 24th of the Yellow month. Today is the 24th of the Blue month, so it has been exactly two months.」

I was speechless.

Ai Fa’s eyes seemed to be looking far away.

「Two months ago during this time… I was cooking soup, right? You were wearing strange white foreign clothes and looked at the kiba meat that wasn’t bloodlet with sparkling eyes. You also said that it looked delicious.」

On the same day, when I first met Ai Fa in the forest, she pointed a blade at my nose and brought me to the Fa house… Two whole months had passed after that incident.

Be it two months or one month ago, I had been living without knowing what date it was. After I started my business in the Post Station Town, I became aware of the existence of dates, which led me to be taken by surprise right now.

「… We are not having teriyaki roast meat with Tau sauce tonight! We will have hamburg steak!」

「Ehh? Why are you changing the dish so suddenly?」

「It’s our two months anniversary, so we should celebrate it! Oh, I will use that ingredient, let’s splurge a little tonight!」

「It’s just two short months, what is there to celebrate? Besides, if you only start mincing the meat now, I can only eat dinner even later.」

「I have the meat patty for my business! And I can make more after dinner! The meat patty is small, so we can have two each.」

Seeing me standing up with a start and walking to the food store, Ai Fa looked up at me in shock.

「I don’t understand. Asuta, why are you so worked up?」

「Huh? I’m not worked up… On such a day, I want to cook your favorite dish for dinner. Is there anything you want to eat beside hamburg steak? I can make anything you want.」

「… I will only want to eat hamburg steak, of course.」

Ai Fa showed a complicated face, as if not being sure whether she should pout.

And so, before celebrating Lala Wu’s birthday, the Fa house held a mini party.


2

The next day, 25th of the Blue month.

I headed to the Wu clan village from the Post Station Town as planned and saw a strange scene.

「Uwah, what is that?」

In a corner of the Wu clan village plaza surrounded by seven houses, there was a strange pile of meat on the ground.

The small hill of meat was covered in clothes with swirly patterns, and young children were playing noisily around it. As I stood stumped on the spot, Lala Wu answered in the stead of the Wu clan women:

「It’s Mida, of course. What else could it be?」

I could tell it was him at first glance but didn’t get why he was collapsed in such a place. I continued walking forward with Lala Wu and the others until I could see what was actually going on, but I was still confused.

Mida laid sprawled on the ground covered in sweat and was panting hard while making wheezing sounds. His round belly rose and fell with his breathing, and the kids were trying to balance themselves at the peak of the squirming meat pile. Some squealed happily as they grabbed the meat pile, while others attempted to scale Mida’s belly, turning it into some sort of game.

There were five kids, three boys and two girls. They were all under the age of ten and dressed like children. The youngest girl looked like she was three.

「Erm… Are they tormenting him?」

「Does it looks like torment?」

「I don’t know either.」

At least the kids didn’t have any ill will in their smiles.

Mida was like a beached sperm whale, and I couldn’t tell whether he was conscious.

At this moment, a man walked towards Mida from the shade of a house.

「House member Mida, that’s enough rest. Let’s continue working.」

He was an unfamiliar man.

He was almost 40 years old, had a slender build, and wore a mustache above his lips. He got his long dark-brown hair tied behind his head, his dark-blue eyes were narrow like a Semu, and his face was long, sharp, and firm. He seemed to be a mature and dependable man.

「Water… Mida wants to drink water…?」

「Then draw the water yourself. You are the one who drank all the water from the flask in the first place.」

He wasn’t holding back with his stern and heartless voice.

Mida slowly propped up his upper body, and the kids climbing on his abdomen jumped off with happy screams.

「Uwahhh!」

At this moment I let out a cry that wasn’t happy at all. Because I felt something soft suddenly pressing onto my back.

「Sorry… I didn’t mean to do that… I just feel very uncomfortable…」

I wanted to protest when I felt the dangerous sensation on my back, but I found a pale Vena Wu when I looked over my shoulder. She couldn’t stand Mida at all.

「… Shela, you are back. Women of the Wu clan main house, thank you for your hard work.」

The middle-aged man shifted his gaze from Mida towards us.

At this point, I suddenly realized it. This man was Shela Wu’s and Shin Wu’s father, the former head of a branch house Ryada Wu.

On a closer look, he seemed to be dragging his right leg and couldn’t walk properly. The men were supposed to be in the woods now, but he wasn’t in hunter’s garb nor wearing any saber at his waist. The nerves of his leg got severed, so he couldn’t complete his work as a hunter and passed his position as head to his young eldest son, Shin Wu. He was also the youngest brother of Donda Wu— Ryada Wu.

Vena Wu was still sticking on to me like a ghost, but I still bowed as much as I could.
<TL: お化け>

「Ryada Wu, nice to meet you… Did I get the right person? I’m Asuta of the Fa house.」

I was the only one with such pale skin in Forest's Edge, so I probably didn’t need to introduce myself.

But the Shin Wu house had helped me previously, so I wanted to treat their former house head as politely as possible.

「This is indeed the first time we meet. I’m the former house head of Shin Wu’s house, Ryada Wu. My daughter Shela has been in your care.」
<TL: http://yabai.com/p/2843>

He seemed to think the same way and acknowledged me quietly with a nod. The air about him resembled Shin Wu and Shela Wu a little.

「What kind of work is Mida doing?」

「Hmm? He is going to gather lumber from the forest.」

Ryada Wu tilted his head puzzledly. I followed his gaze and saw a huge pile of lumber behind Shin Wu’s house. They were thicker than the ones we usually foraged, and the cuts were more obvious.

「Instead of hunting, he is gathering lumber?」

「Yes, he is strong but goes limp like this very quickly. He will just hold the other hunters back like this, so we let him handle other work for now.」

As I was speaking with Ryada Wu, Mida finally noticed our presence. Surrounded by smiling children, Mida remained lying on the ground and said in an unusually high-pitched voice:
「Huh…? It’s Asuta… You… came…?」

「Yes, Mida, it’s been a while since we last met.」

The next moment, Lala Wu retorted:

「Why are you being so polite to him? He is younger than Ludo, you know? From today onwards, he will just be one year apart from me.」

「But…」

I thought about it again mid-sentence. He was three years younger than me, so it would feel really distant if I was too polite.

「… Mida, I thought you were older than me in the beginning because of your large body. I will talk to you normally now.」

「… Hmm…?」

Mida’s cheeks trembled a little, he didn’t seem to understand my words.

He then breathed out heavily.

「Ah… After Mida sees you, Mida feels hungry… Mida wants to eat tasty food…」

He was the same as ever.

Nine days ago, when he saw Tay Tsun’s corpse, he was so sad, as if it was the end of the world. No matter how Ai Fa and Yamiel Lei consoled him, his tears wouldn’t stop… Fortunately, the gloom from back then had faded away.

「There’s still some time before dinner, so work hard for the sake of eating a delicious meal, alright?」

A gentle voice encouraged him. It was Shela Wu.

I was surprised, and, when I turned to look, I found Shela Wu looking at me with her eyes wide open.

「What’s the matter? Did I say anything strange?」

「Ah, sorry. I had never heard you speak in such a tone before… You sounded just like a big sister.」

「… I don’t get what you mean, but it feels a little embarrassing.」

Shela Wu lowered her head awkwardly.

After being looked at with Lala Wu’s icy gaze, I scratched my head and broke into a cold sweat when I saw Ryada Wu looking at me.

「No, erm… Sorry.」

「… I don’t know why you are apologizing, but we have to get back to work.」

Ryada Wu looked at the kids around Mida with a stern face.

「If you don’t have any chores, go play somewhere else. Don’t go near Mida when he is working, got it?」

「Yes〜」

「Mida, bye bye!」

「Mida, let’s play together again!」

「Yes…」

Mida’s cheeks started to tremble.

I couldn’t read his thoughts from his face, but his piglet-like eyes seemed to have a gleam of regret.

In that case, he wasn’t being bullied. I could rest easy and bade Mida farewell.

「Bye, Mida, let’s both work hard.」

「Ehh… Asuta, you are going back…?」

「No, I will be dining in the main house tonight. If there is time, let’s chat more.」

「Yes… Mida understands…」

And so, we left Mida who was getting up slowly and moved on.

Even though it was our intention, since Shela Wu and Lala Wu were carrying the pot from Shin Wu’s house, so they walked there, while I had to bring the wobbly Vena Wu to the Wu clan main house.

「Mida has moved into the Wu clan village over ten days ago. You still can’t get over your queasy feeling?」

「I don’t get why everyone can act so normally… Ugghhh, how disgusting…」

「If Mida works hard, he will be like a normal person in the future… No, that’s really difficult. Maybe he can become Donda Wu’s size.」

「… Can my heart hold out until that time comes…?」

As we were talking, we reached the Wu clan main house.

I greeted Sati Lei Wu who was watching the house and then headed to the stove room behind. When I was turning around the corner, I ran into Rimee Wu. More specifically, Rimee Wu who was riding a Totos.

「Ah, Asuta! Welcome! Welcome to the Wu clan!」

I had started living with Gilulu and obtained some immunity against Totos, but seeing one appear so suddenly still surprised me.

「Hi, Rimee Wu, can you already ride a Totos by yourself?」

「Yes! But Rimee still can’t make it run!」

Rimee Wu pulled the reins happily and made the Totos turn towards the way we were heading.

The two Totos were about the same size, but this one had a darker shade of color than Gilulu. There were spots of darker colored feathers on its body and neck, which sort of resembled a tiger’s stripe. On closer inspection, every Totos was different.

「What is the Totos from the Fa house called? This is Lulu!」

「Oh, Lulu, what a cute name.」

「Yes! Because it’s the Totos of the Wu clan, its name is Lulu!」
<TL: They are actually the Loo clan. To avoid toilet humor, I dubbed them the Wu clan.>

Did the Zaza house and Sauti clan name their Totos too? I answered while thinking about that:

「The one in my house is called Gilulu.」

「Gilulu and Lulu, that sounds similar.」

Rimee Wu looked satisfied.

「Ah, Vena, thank you for your hard work. Asuta, welcome to the Wu clan. Thank you for making the trip here today.」

Mama Mia Lei and Leina Wu were waiting in the stove room.

「Rimee, Asuta is here, rest time is over. Go tie Totos up.」

「Okay〜」

Rimee Wu rode Totos past the stove room.

Vena Wu also put down her luggage and was a little wobbly as she walked away.

「Thank you, Asuta… Lala didn’t notice, right?」

Leina Wu stood beside Mama Mia Lei and asked me quietly. I nodded.

「Speaking of which, it won’t be much of a surprise if she guessed that I will be staying behind to make dinner. We didn’t make any special mention of it though.」

「But with your great cooking skills, you can definitely serve a dish that will surprise Lala.」

Mama Mia Lei replied.

「No, after mulling it over, I’m worried that an unfamiliar dish might spoil her mood instead, so I just added some ingredient into a normal dish. It’s basically roast meat with tarapa sauce, so don’t expect too much.」

Despite my words, Mama Mia Lei and Leina Wu still looked at me with eyes full of expectation.

I was really adding just one new ingredient in, so I hoped they wouldn’t raise the bar too much. Anyway, I started to prepare the food.

I still needed to prepare the ingredients for tomorrow, and, to be frank, time was really tight.

「Sorry for the wait! Well then, Rimee will help Asuta… Ah, can Rimee help?」

「Yes, it’s part of my work after all. It would be hard for me to do this alone.」

Now that I thought about it, because of the massive amount of work, I couldn’t finish all the preparation work before dinner. If I closed the stall right on time, I would need to continue working after dinner.

But I didn’t plan to spend the night in the Wu clan village, so I wanted to clear all my work before dinner.

「Sorry, Mia Lei Wu, can you lend me some helpers? I will pay the same as for the work in the Post Station Town.」

「Hmm? In that case, let’s call Vena back. You have enough firewood, right?」

Oh right. If Vena Wu didn’t make a trip to the Fa house after we close shop, she usually made up for it by spending an hour foraging firewood for me.

「No, I want a helper who can assist me until dinner. Is there anyone in the branch house who can help?」

「In that case, one of us can assist you. The poitan has been grilled, so my side just needs two people.」

「Ah, that will be great.」

I breathed a sigh of relief.

「Okay, let’s work hard! What should Rimee do first?」

Rimee Wu came up to me and said with a big smile.

When she saw that, Leina Wu said in a panic:

「Ah, erm… I-I will help Asuta!… I-Is that okay…?」

Rimee Wu turned her head in surprise, and Mama Mia Lei shrugged her broad shoulders.

「I’m fine either way. But, since this will be paid work, it will be better to send Leina, who is skilled in cooking, to help you.」

「Eh〜! Rimee will work properly too!」

Rimee Wu puffed her cheeks.

「Rimee also wants to help Asuta work in the Post Station Town! You didn’t bring Rimee to the house head conference last time either, why are you always leaving Rimee out!?」

「Because you are still young. When you can carry a pot, I will let you take Lala’s place.」

When I heard that, an inspiration struck me.

「In that case, after the Fa house buys a wagon for our Totos, Rimee Wu might be able to help. I intend to come to the Wu clan village and ferry everyone into town.」

「Ehh? But wouldn’t that be the long route for you?」

「No, I will need to go across a suspension bridge when we go to the town from the Fa house, and the Totos won’t be able to pass through there. In that case, it will make more sense to meet up at the Wu clan village and go to the Post Station Town by the southern route.」

「Awesome!」

Rimee Wu jumped in joy.

Leina Wu looked at Rimee Wu and said a little squeamishly:

「Mama Mia Lei, you are letting Vena-nee work in the Post Station Town to stay on guard against the Tsun clan, right? In that case…」

「No, our relationship with Genos castle has become complicated, Ludo and the others have stopped guarding the stall too. Until the talk with them ends peacefully, I will need to let Vena tend to the stall.」

「… Yes, that’s right.」

Leina Wu was dejected.

「You too, Rimee. Until we can trust the Genos castle and ascertain they are not enemies, a child like you can’t enter the Post Station Town.」

「It will be fine! Papa Donda will teach them a lesson!」

No, that would be troubling for me. Anyway, we had to finish the work before us.

「Alright, let’s get started. Rimee, go help over there.」

Mama Mia Lei announced the start of work, and we started tackling our tasks.

「Let’s do some of the food preparation work for tomorrow’s business. We will start with the meat patty of the hamburg steak.」

「Alright, we will need to mince the meat and dice the aria.」

The next instant, Leina Wu’s expression changed.

She looked very serious. The denizens of Forest's Edge treated their work seriously, but she seemed too hyped up.

「What should I do? Or should all of us tackle the same task?」

「Yes. We will dice the aria first, and when that’s done, one person will fry the aria, and the others will mince the meat.」

「I see… The fried aria will need to be cooled, so that’s the most efficient way to go about it.」

What was with her?

Leina Wu’s 180-degree-change in attitude made me fearful, and I started dicing the aria with my Semu-made knife.

「… I heard this knife is worth 18 white copper plates.」

「Yes, that’s right.」

「That’s a ridiculous price, but this knife is really incredibly sharp. It appears even more so since you are the one using it.」

Leina Wu kept observing my hands’ movement as she chopped her aria nimbly.

「… What’s the matter? You are already very familiar with such work, right?」

「No, I can’t get too cocky. I noticed something during the house head conference. Vena-nee’s and Lala’s skill in tending to the hearth has improved.」

「I-Is that so? When we are working in the Post Station Town, only Shela Wu and I would touch the knife though.」

「I know that. I mean they have a better understanding of the workflow and how to make use of the extra time they have. It’s the same with Shela Wu, her knife work and heat control is getting more refined.」

Leina Wu was still chopping the aria perfectly as she explained to me.

「My cooking skills can’t catch up to Shela Wu’s anymore. That is to be expected since she has worked under your tutelage for a month.」

「T-That can’t be right.」

「It’s true. I’m still very childish, so I will feel frustrated over something like this.」

Leina Wu showed me an expression I had never seen before and then smiled.

Like what Leina Wu said, she was still childish in some ways. Even though she had a serious and gentle personality, there were times when she showed her forthright side. On the other hand, she could be very stubborn at times. Unlike the pure and innocent Rimee Wu and Lala Wu who expressed her feelings clearly, I needed to take more care when interacting with her. She was very girlish in that sense… That was my impression of her.

How should I describe her expression right now? Her face was filled with strong determination, competitiveness, and a vague sense of jealousy. Her determined smile had a hint of joy, making her look like a warrior who was preparing for battle.

Did she think of Shela Wu as a rival? Not in terms of love, but a rival in caretaking for the hearth?

「… Ah, sorry! I don’t hate Shela Wu, you know?」

Leina Wu reverted back to her childish expression and looked at her mother behind. Mam Mia Lei didn’t seem to have heard anything and was chatting as she peeled Chachi.

「I just want to tend the hearth seriously. Shela Wu is our important kin, and even if I feel frustrated, I will never treat her with disdain…!」

「No, I don’t think that at all. I think it’s important to maintain the will to improve.」

Leina Wu stared at my face for a short while and then showed a warm smile of relief.

Her emotions could be a little unstable, but I really wanted to support her, given the change in her mental state.

Shela Wu probably studied cooking seriously in order to find the value of her existence. She wanted to obtain wealth with her own abilities to help her family. Aside from that, the blissful faces of her family were also the motivation for her efforts.

Right now, Leina Wu didn’t show the forthright emotions of the denizens of Forest's Edge, and her feelings were a mess… She probably didn’t know what drove her to improve her cooking skills, and she was filled with frustration.

Maybe she wanted to improve her cooking skills because she wanted the recognition of others. I was no saint either, so I didn’t believe her motivation was impure. Such a reason wasn’t that rare in my world, and I thought everyone held such thoughts to some extent. And of course, I was no exception.

Simply put, I found something that resembled myself in Leina Wu’s thinking. We were just half-baked chefs who tied our cooking skill together with our pride, which brought us both joy and sadness…

「… What’s the matter, Asuta? Your hands aren’t moving.」

She showed a mischievous smile and chided me.

This was the first time I saw her making such a face.

Leina Wu might be facing a major turning point in her life, so she looked a little unstable.

Her every movement that seemed to herald a coming change was filled with charm and encouraged me.

I already said this plenty of times, these weren’t feelings of love between a man and a woman. If I was allowed to exaggerate it a little, it seemed like the debut of a potential rival, which made my heart tremble.


3

That night…

Before dinner began, her family gifted flowers to Lala Wu.

Lala Wu usually resided at the end of the table with Rimee Wu, but she was now seated quietly between the house head and the grand elder.

「… You are thirteen now. You are as tall as the other children your age, but you are still a brat on the inside.」

Donda Wu showed a straight face just like Lala Wu. When she heard his chiding words, the star for today retorted with a raised eyebrow:

「So annoying, I can’t even! I’m starving, so hurry up and finish it.」

「That’s why you are still a brat.」

Donda Wu showed a straight face and then, without standing up, he reached over and placed a big blue flower in her daughter’s hair.

「… Congratulations to my third daughter Lala for making through the year safely. May you be healthy for the upcoming year too」

「Alright, alright, thanks.」

Lala Wu scowled her nose and replied. The conversation between father and daughter felt really heart-warming.

Next, Lala Wu turned to Grandma Jiba seated on the other side and adjusted her posture. The 85-years-old grand elder Grandma Jiba stuck a red flower into her great-granddaughter’s hair with her twig-like fingers.

「Lala, congratulations… Stay energetic and lively in the future too…」

「Yes, Grandma Jiba, thank you.」

Lala Wu showed a forthright smile. When her father heard her cheery voice, he clicked his tongue softly.

And then, Jiza Wu, who was holding a red flower and a blue flower, walked over and knelt down.

「I wish to give my blessing to my third sister Lala. May you become a fair lady who befits the name of the Wu clan… This one is from Darum.」

「Thank you.」

Lala Wu thanked him with a respectful face. The second son Darum Wu was in the Tsun clan village right now, teaching the Tsun clan branch house members to hunt.

After that, the rest of the family members came before Lala Wu one by one.

「Congrats… If you don’t put on more meat, the boys won’t notice you.」

「Shut up, retard!」

「Congrats, you have a kind nature; it would be perfect if you are not so vicious with your words.」

「… I told you lot to shut it!」

「Congrats, may you stay true to yourself in the future too.」

「Yes, thank you, Grandma Ditto Min.」

「You are so pretty, Lala, I like the way you are right now. Congratulations on your 13th birthday.」

「Babu〜」

「Thank you. You too, Kota.」

「Congrats… You are already 13, how time flies…」

「W-What a big flower! Thank you!」

「Congratulations, may you stay healthy this year too.」

「Yes, thank you.」

「This is Mizora!」

「Thank you… I can’t even, the fragrance of the flower makes it hard for me to smell the food’s aroma!」

Even though Lala Wu was grumbling, she had a bashful expression. Her hair and chest were filled with flowers, and her blissful face made me smile.

「Lala Wu, congratulations. We aren’t your family members, but will you accept our flowers?」

And, finally, Ai Fa and I stood before Lala Wu.

「Yes.」

Lala Wu nodded, and Ai Fa stuck a flower on Lala Wu’s waist, while I put a red flower in the space I somehow found above Lala Wu’s ear.

Lala Wu’s fiery-red hair and eyes that were as blue as the ocean left a deep impression, so everyone chose either red or blue flowers.

Thirteen… She does look like that age.

I thought to myself quietly.

She wasn’t too short and had a slender build, delicate facial features, and a child-like expression. That was how mismatched a girl of this age was like.

She might be vicious with her words and look androgynous, but her charm would definitely rival her second sister in four years. In seven years, she would be a match for her eldest sister. Although my mind was filled with such rude comments, that was how likable a girl she was.

「Alright then, let’s start preparing dinner. Asuta helped us with dinner for today, you know?」

In order to serve soup to everyone, Mama Mia Lei stood up. Lala Wu shrugged her shoulders and said:

「As I expected, I knew you and Leina-nee were sneaking around. I’m happy about that, but don’t serve any weird dishes.」

「I don’t know if it will suit your taste; still, I hope you will like it.」

I walked towards the stove used to keep the food warm and picked up the lid.

The next moment, the hall was filled with the fragrance of tarapa.

「So it’s just tarapa, isn’t that the same as usual?」

The youngest son Ludo Wu complained.

Vena Wu always brought back the leftover tarapa sauce from the stall in the Post Station Town to complement their dinner.

「Sorry about that, tarapa is the most suitable sauce to complement tonight’s dinner. And this sauce is specially made by me.」

I didn’t want to use the leftover sauce from my stall, so I carefully adjusted the taste of this batch with the Jaguar-made Tau sauce and the Semu-made Chitto… By the way, Chitto had a strong taste that was like chili, so I only added a little for flavor.

The light-brown grilled chuck flap steak was soaked in the specially-made tarapa sauce. After scoping the steaks onto a plate one by one, I took the secret weapon from Ai Fa’s hands.

Of all the attendees, only Ai Fa who tried it in the Fa house and Vena Wu who accompanied me to the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 knew about this secret weapon. It was a Semu-made ingredient, which was so expensive due to its rarity that I couldn’t use it to make dishes for the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》. The portions being used today was my precious personal stash.

「What is that?」

Ludo Wu stared with his eyes wide open. The other women also looked intrigued.

It was a semicircle lump of white substance, about 15 cm in diameter and 5 cm thick. It was originally circular in shape, but because I often used it to make dinner in the Fa house, it became like this. Its surface was white, while the cut section was light yellow.

It cost 20 red copper plates for this wheel of cheese. This was an ingredient bought by the innkeeper of the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 for his own hobby, and it wasn’t being sold officially. I asked him to sell one to me as a favor.

「Poitan? No? Is this even food?」

「This is food. There’s an animal called Gyama in the eastern kingdom Semu. This is curd made from Gyama milk… My hometown call this ingredient cheese.」

I used the Santoku knife to cut the cheese into slices 7 to 8 mm thick.

I placed the pieces of cheese onto the steak covered in tarapa sauce, and the cheese melted immediately and gave off an incredible fragrance.

「Uwah, how should I put this… It’s an incredible smell.」

「Isn’t that so? I had never seen this ingredient in the Post Station Town, it is very nutritious and fills you with energy. Some people might be turned off by it at first, but there are people who will love it after tasting.」

The head of my house was an example. Putting a piece of cheese on a hamburg steak covered in sweet fruit wine sauce was the perfect dish to Ai Fa. I mentioned that the tarapa sauce complemented cheese the best only out of consideration of the head of the Wu clan who disliked sweet flavor.

「Well then, let’s start dinner.」

Donda Wu announced sternly and said grace. After we repeated his words, we finally started dinner.

The first one to give her comment was the star of the night, which was a great honor.

「Uwah〜, what is this!? It’s yummy!」

「Yes, it’s really good!」

Rimee Wu cheered alongside her.

I sighed in relief and chewed my own steak.

The sourness of the Gyama cheese was just like Camembert cheese. The taste was strong, but there was no stench. Be it the pale color or the thick sensation, it was really similar to Camembert cheese.

I didn’t need to explain how well tomatoes and cheese complement each other. Tarapa tasted similar to the tomato, and its sourness meshed well together with the smooth texture of the Gyama cheese, which brought out the firm taste of the meat.

I thought these two ingredients were most suited for hamburg steak, but the grilled steak wasn’t too far behind either. How savory, I couldn’t help smiling.

「Well, the cheese is delicious…」

Ludo Wu said reservedly.

Huh, he didn’t like it? I turned his way.

「But what is with this tarapa sauce? It tastes different from usual.」

「I spent some effort in seasoning this sauce and added Tau sauce and Chitto. I also adjusted the ratio of aria and fruit wine… Does the usual sauce taste better?」

「That’s not possible. This sauce is so delicious that it surprised me.」

Ludo Wu tore off a piece of poitan, dunked it into the sauce, and then ate it.

「Hmm, so good… Now that I think about it, I haven’t eaten your cooking for a long time.」

「Really? But when you were guarding us, I prepared snacks for you too. I also asked you to try the 《Kiba braised meat》 when I was researching it.」

「That’s not what I mean, it’s been awhile since you cooked a proper dinner for us, right? That’s why…」

Ludo Wu started stammering at this point.

Grandma Ditto Min urged him:

「Don’t hold back Ludo, just say it if you think it tastes good.」

「No, but…」

「Asuta, I’m surprised by how much your skills have improved.」

「Ehh? Is that so?」

「Yes. Thanks to your tutelage, we can cook all sort of dishes now. Leina’s and Mia Lei’s culinary skills have improved by leaps and bounds, and their dishes are as good as yours.」

「Don’t ask for the impossible, there’s no way we can match Asuta.」

Mama Mia Lei laughed heartily.

「I’m astonished too. Asuta’s cooking is really delicious. I made the dish with the same steps, so why does it taste so different?」

「Because the way we cook is different from Asuta. Be it heat control, knife work, amount of ingredients, adjusting after taste-testing, and little minute things that are hard-to-describe with words, all these are different from us.」

Leina Wu explained.

As Lala was in the seat of honor, Leina Wu was closer to us than usual. Her eyes were filled with admiration as she looked at us quietly.

「I’m really surprised. But Asuta has to prepare food for several hundred people every day, so, of course, his culinary skills will improve. But I’m still astonished.」

「No, hundreds is exaggerating too much.」

That might be so, but I did spend most of my time cooking. And I had been working hard to strive for perfection, so I felt embarrassed when hearing everyone praising me so frankly.

「Leaving me aside, Leina’s cooking has improved plenty too. Asuta, try the soup.」

Urged by Mama Mia Lei, I picked up the bowl of soup.

Tau sauce was added, so the meat soup appeared a little brown.

This soup was made by Mama Mia Lei and Rimee Wu. But the one to taste-test and do the final adjustment with Tau sauce and salt was Leina Wu.

After taking a sip, I yelled:

「Uwah, this tastes great.」

Leina Wu smiled happily.

「This soup was seasoned using a method thought up by Leina. She didn’t do anything complicated, so why is there such a big change in taste?」

There wasn’t any complicated seasoning… That was true.

After cooking the soup stock with kiba meat, it was seasoned with salt, Tau sauce, and Pico leaves. The only thing different was the Tau sauce, the cooking process remained unchanged.

The vegetables in the soup included aria, Chachi, and Gigo; they were ingredients similar to onions, potato, and herb.

I thought adding in slices of Gigo was brilliant. Ever since buying Tau sauce, I also added in Gigo frequently. The Tau sauce that was like soy sauce matched the Gigo very well.

This soup was really delicious. As this soup wasn’t cooked with any complicated methods, the taste depended on the seasoning, amount of ingredient, and the amount of heat. This meant that Leina Wu did well in all these aspects.

The key point was probably the Tau sauce. Speaking of which, I didn’t feel such an impact when I drank Leina’s soup ten days ago. There wasn’t any Tau sauce in the soup back then. After adding Tau sauce, the taste of the soup became richer… And as the number of seasoning increased, controlling the amount of each one became more important.

But that alone couldn’t explain how tasty this soup was.

I thought this soup was tastier than mine.

This meat soup had a deep flavor. Aside from the refreshing sweetness of the Tau sauce, I could feel a vague after-taste too. It made the soup feel really special.

「Could it be… Aside from raw meat, you also brew this soup with grilled meat?」

Leina Wu opened her eyes wide.

「Not just that. The soup has a hint of charred soy sauce… Did you grill the minced meat with Tau sauce before adding it into the soup…?」

「That’s amazing! How did you know?」

「Did I get it right? I was making a wild guess… Leina Wu, that is really impressive.」

「Asuta, you are the one who is incredible, I still can’t win against you!」

When Leina Wu said that, her eyes were sparkling with happiness.

What kind of face was I making now? This was probably the first time that I felt another person’s cooking to be delicious in this world.

And the dish was made using the food I was familiar with, without any southern or eastern ingredients I didn’t know about. To be honest, I was very moved.

「Hey, brat.」

At this moment, Donda Wu finally spoke.

I turned and looked his way before I could recover from the shock from earlier.

「We will be hosting a feast two days later to celebrate the kiba harvest. Can I ask you to tend to the hearth?」

「… Ehh?」

Donda Wu finished dinner faster than anyone else and was drinking fruit wine from a bottle.

Lala Wu observed his displeased profile carefully.

No, not just Lala Wu. Everyone stared at the fierce clan head with eyes wide open.

「C-Can I help prepare for the feast?」

「… That’s what I’m asking you.」

Donda Wu’s ever-ferocious blue eyes were glaring at me.

「On that day, all the men from the Wu clan’s kin house will gather and perform the Test of Might ritual. A piece of kiba meat will be presented to the winner. I want you to prepare that piece of meat… How about it?」

「… If you are fine with me, I will be glad to do so.」

I nodded and accepted before I could sort out my thoughts, and Donda Wu replied: 「I see.」




「Thank you very much for today! Asuta, your dish was absolutely fantastic!」

Dinner ended harmoniously. After chatting for a while, we bade our farewell from the Wu clan.

Lala Wu walked us out of the house. She was covered in red and blue flowers and had a blissful smile on her face.

「I really like that strange cheese thing! If Papa Donda permits, can you buy one for the Wu clan?」

「Well, it’s hard to procure it, so I will need to ask the innkeeper of the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》.」

「Thank you! Today is a memorable birthday thanks to you.」

When Lala Wu was really happy, she would express it clearly just like Rimee Wu. The sight of her face wiped away the hardship and exhaustion I felt for the entire day.

「By the way, I didn’t expect Papa Donda to ask you to tend to the hearth! I almost choked on your meal!」

「Yeah, I was surprised and happy about it too… Sorry for agreeing to it without consulting you, Ai Fa.」

「Don’t worry, you should be proud that the tribal chief of Forest's Edge, Donda Wu, acknowledges your culinary skills.」

Ai Fa said calmly as she held the reins of Gilulu.

Maybe it was just my imagination, but she looked a little peeved. Before I could bring that up, Lala Wu said to me cheerfully:

「That’s right! And that is the Test of Might ritual! Papa Donda or Dan Lutim will definitely win! He definitely asked you to tend to the hearth in order to taste a delicious meal. You are incredible!」

「Test of Might ritual, huh. If that is so, Mida has a chance too, right?」

「It’s impossible! Even Mida can’t defeat Papa Donda or Dan Lutim. Dan Lutim once lifted the eldest son of the Mamu house, who is bigger than he, above his head!」

「Ah, is the Test of Might something like wrestling?」

If that is the case, it is unlikely for Donda Wu and Dan Lutim to lose to Mida.

No matter what, I had to do my best and present the dish to the winner.

「Alright then, time to go. Lala Wu, I will be counting on you tomorrow.」

As we were about to go, the smiling Lala Wu tilted her head quizzingly, her gaze seemed to be looking past us.

「Ehh? It’s Shin Wu and Mida. What are they doing at such a late hour?」

I turned around and saw two people walking over from the other end of the plaza.

Mida was holding a candle stand, and the light illuminated his face from below like a scene from a horror movie.

「Hi, Mida, I wanted to go over and visit, I didn’t expect you to come over.」

「Yes… Ai Fa is here too…?」

「That’s great, Mida of the Wu clan, you look healthy.」

Ai Fa answered seriously and narrowed her eyes a little.

「Did you get a little thinner? Although your body is still incredibly large.」

「Ehh? No way!? He is still as round as ever!」

Lala Wu laughed happily after saying something rude. No matter which world it was, girls of her age were all cruel creatures.

「Asuta… Ai Fa… Sorry…」

「Huh?」

「Why are you apologizing? You didn’t do anything wrong.」

「No… But because of Mida, you can’t sleep in the Wu clan… Mida is sorry…」

Mida’s face kept trembling, and she remained emotionless.

「When Mida’s house is done, Mida will return that house to you… Before that, Mida is sorry…」

「Mida’s house?」

I asked in return, and the ever-calm youth with high-cornered eyes said:

「He is building his own house under the supervision of my father Ryada.」

「His own house! So that pile of lumber you gathered in the afternoon is for building a house?」

「Yes… Mia Lei Wu wants Mida to build own house… Mida is so, so tired, but Mida is working hard…?」

Mida was still staying in the empty house we lodged in before. That was why we didn't spend the night when visiting the Wu clan village. Mama Mia Lei was probably doing this out of concern for us, which made me feel really guilty.

When I was about to express my thoughts, Lala Wu stopped me.

「Don’t mind it, Asuta. We will need a new house anyway, Mama Mia Lei also thinks it is a good thing for a house member to learn new skills.」

「That’s right, according to the rules of Forest's Edge, aside from the eldest son, the other children who take in a spouse or marry out will need to leave the house. There are seven children in the Wu clan main house alone.」

「That’s right, aside from Rimee and me, everyone else is over 15 and will leave the house soon.」

「Lala can marry in two years too.」

I muttered, and she hit my back hard.

Mida didn’t seem to understand what we were saying, and he looked at Ai Fa.

「… When Mida’s house is done, will you visit the Wu clan more often…?」

「Don’t worry about such things. We will visit this village again two days later… And this job will give you more strength, so you have to continue working hard.」

「… Ai Fa, Mida doesn’t understand you sometimes…?」

「… I hope you can continue working hard in the future.」

「Yes… Mida will work hard…」

Mida’s face started trembling again.

If he became thinner, maybe I could understand his thoughts better. I would then be able to grow closer to this unfathomable existence.

「By the way, why are you here, Shin Wu? Do you have some business with Asuta?」

On hearing Lala Wu’s question, Shin Wu showed a troubled face.

Seeing his expression changing, Lala raised her brow.

「Why are you making such a face? Do you want them to teach you the 『Sacrificial hunting method』? Shela Wu is already earning copper plates, so you don’t need to do that anymore, right?」

「That was almost a month ago, please let it go.」

「Hmmp!」

Lala Wu turned her face away.

Shin Wu looked at the side of her pouting face and then reached out his right hand.

His fingers were holding a beautiful yellow flower the size of a palm. When Lala Wu saw the flower from the corner of her eye, she cheered:

「Uwah! Amazing! What a pretty flower…! Is that a Mizora?」

「Yes, this is the first time I found a yellow Mizora, that surprised me too. I noticed it during my hunt today.」

「Amazing! Eh〜, so there are yellow Mizora! I have never seen one before!」

Lala Wu leaned in towards the yellow flower excitedly and said happily:

「It smells nice!」

「Even though only family members can present gifts to the birthday girl… Will you accept this?」

「Huh? You are gifting it to me?」

Lala Wu raised her head quizzingly.

Shin Wu nodded lightly with his usual face.

「Lala Wu, you like yellow flowers, right? Since I found this flower on your birthday, I want to gift it to you… Will that make you feel troubled?」

His calm face was slightly red, probably because of the candle stand in Mida’s hand shining at him.

I couldn’t tell if Shin Wu was blushing, but Lala Wu’s face was beet red.

「… Did I ever tell you that I like yellow flowers?」

「Yes, when we were younger than Rimee Wu.」

「I see.」

Lala Wu answered softly and then moved one of the flowers from her head to her breasts. She then turned her head and presented the created gap to Shin Wu.

Shin Wu gently inserted the yellow flower beside Lala Wu’s temple. The yellow flower adorned on Lala Wu’s fiery red hair produced a clash of vibrant colors.

「… I wish you will have a blissful year ahead of you.」

「Thank you.」

Lala Wu muttered softly and looked up at Shin Wu’s face.

There wasn’t much time left. I jabbed my house head with my elbow.

「Well then, we should go. Lala Wu, I will be counting on you tomorrow too. Shin Wu and Mida, take care of yourself.」

「Ah, o-okay! Be careful on your way home! Thank you for today!」

With Lala Wu and the others seeing us off, we crossed the plaza together with Gilulu.

The moon was very bright and clear tonight.

「Ara, what a wonderful day. It seems that, recently, we will only visit the Wu clan village because there are troubles. It had been so long since it was so peaceful.」

I said sincerely, and Ai Fa merely replied: 「Is that so?」

Huh? I turned back and found Ai Fa pouting.


「W-What’s the matter? I noticed that you have been looking unhappy all the while, did something upset you?」

「I’m very displeased… What is with the soup that the second daughter of the Wu clan made?」

「Huh? That’s just a normal meat soup seasoned with Tau sauce. It tastes delicious because the taste has been brought out exquisitely.」

「… What’s with your stupid smile? Didn’t you feel anything after eating that, Asuta?」

「No, I wasn’t smiling… Why are you so mad?」

We stopped for a short moment after leaving the plaza. Ai Fa glared right at me.

「Asuta! Cook a more delicious soup tomorrow!」

「Ehh? What are you saying all of a sudden? I will work hard on it, of course, but the taste of the dish is subjective…」

「Stop nagging! If you don’t promise me that, I won’t let you ride the Totos! I will drag you back home!」

「I get it! I will bet my life on it!」

「… Don’t forget your words.」

I was puzzled, but Leina Wu’s culinary skills seemed to have astonished Ai Fa.

I was elated to see her fuming. I couldn’t congratulate Leina Wu’s growth and do nothing about it. After all, she was no longer a potential rival in the future but already an equal. My fighting spirit was burning brightly.

Ai Fa seemed to have felt something from my expression. She stopped pouting and nodded solemnly.

「It’s fine if you get it. Let’s go back then.」

「Alright.」

We would finally challenge riding the Totos together.
We practiced a little last night, and I finally experienced the refreshing sensation of riding a Totos. Besides, if Ai Fa wore her fur cape, I wouldn’t need to worry about sticking too close to her body…

As I was thinking about that, Ai Fa started undoing the button on her cape slowly.

「H-Huh? Esteemed house head?」

「What is it?」

Ai Fa placed the fur cape onto Gilulu’s back.

After that, she pushed off the ground and leaped onto Gilulu’s back majestically.

「Get on.」

「I-I will do that. But why did you take off your cape? You don’t need to put it on Gilulu’s back, it is comfortable enough without it.」

「Hmm? Because the wind will get into the cape and annoy me. It’s fine if I’m alone, but if someone is pressing against me from behind, the wind will be trapped near my shoulders.」

「I see. But it won’t matter since we won’t be running at full speed, right?」

「It’s not a big issue, but it still will be annoying. Enough with that, hurry on up.」

Ai Fa’s eyes were gradually showing off an unhappy gleam.

I had no other choice but to take her hand and mount Gilulu’s back.

I put my arms around Ai Fa’s delicate waist… and then shouted immediately: 「I can’t do it!」

But Ai Fa ignored me and kicked the side of Gilulu’s abdomen.

The next instant, Gilulu started trotting, and I hurriedly grabbed Ai Fa’s body. She was only wearing two pieces of cloth around her chest and waist. And she probably used the fruit that attracted kiba during her hunt, so her blonde hair that was tied up in a complicated manner gave off a sweet fragrance.

「The moon is bright tonight, I will make it run faster.」

Spare me! I wailed uselessly in my heart, and Gilulu started sprinting energetically. To avoid falling off its back, I had to hug Ai Fa with all my might.

On the day when Lala Wu turned 13, I found a rival in this world for the first time. That was how the 25th of the Blue Month ended.


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