Saturday, July 14, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 8 Chapter 5 & Chapter 6 Part 1

Offal and Girl
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Ratorasepo
PSA: Unappetizing stuff are mentioned during the offal preparation, so if you are eating, you might want to stop before reading on.

1


The next day after Lala Wu’s thirteenth birthday, 26th of the Blue month.


I was working hard at preparing the food for the stall when Ai Fa returned home with a kiba on her shoulder.


「Uwah, you caught another kiba. Amazing, you haven’t been back even ten days, and this is already the third one?」


「Hmmp. But this is a young kiba, and its tusks and horns can only fetch two copper plates each.」


It might be young, but it was definitely over 40 kg. Besides, even though the kiba was petite, it was really plump and had plenty of fats.


Ai Fa greeted the women from the Fou and Dean houses who looked at her with admiration, walked to the space in front of the stove, and strung up the kiba on the tree branches. While doing that, she said to Gilulu who was tied to the tree nearby:


「Gilulu, I’m home.」


It sure was peaceful.


We would be meeting with the people from the Genos castle four days later. How long would such a peaceful life continue?


As I was thinking about this, an elderly lady suddenly said in awe:


「Ahh, that’s done really well.」


I turned and saw Tulu Dean shifting a grilled poitan onto a plate. Their poitan didn’t have any Gigo, but it still turned out soft and fluffy. The light-caramel-colored surface made it look really appetizing.


「That’s great, Tulu Dean. You have a talent for this.」


「No…」


Tulu Dean lowered her head. Her expression didn’t change much, but the way she was blushing a little looked really cute.


This girl used to live in the Tsun clan branch house. She had long brown hair that was tied into two ponytails at her neck. Her eyes were blue, and her cute features were filled with melancholy and a little bit of lifelessness.


The Tsun clan village was bond by strange rules in the past, which made the girl timid. She would show an angelic smile from time to time, and I could feel her gentle personality from her minute gestures. If she had grown up in a normal environment, she might be as lively as Rimee Wu. I couldn’t help thinking about that.


「Tulu Dean, your technique in grilling poitan is great. Bring some kiba meat with you next time, I will teach you how to cook a meat dish.」


When she heard me say that, Tulu Dean’s face turned redder, and she said squirmishly:
「But…」


「Asuta of the Fa house, according to the rules of Forest's Edge, we should cook dinner using our own stove. We already grill our poitan here; if we even prepare our meat here, it would be an affront to the rules of Forest's Edge.」


Jass Dean, the elder sister of the Dean house head and also the elder sister of Tulu Dean’s late mother, butted in. She was a middle-aged woman with a gentle face and stern eyes.


「Ah, that’s right, there’s such a rule. So aside from the poitan, everyone learned to cook the other ingredients through observation… But it’s hard to learn the skill by just watching alone.」


「That’s true. But Tulu Dean was taught before by you during the house head conference, so her hearth tending skill is outstanding.」


Tulu Dean’s hung her head even lower when she heard these compliments. Her attitude made me feel awkward too, it seemed that she lost her immunity towards kindness and goodwill.


「Ah…」


Tulu Dean gasped quietly.


I followed her gaze and saw Ai Fa eviscerating the skinned kiba.


「What’s the matter?」


I tried asking, but her only reply was: 「It’s nothing…」


The Tsun clan village avoided hunting whenever possible and ate the torso of the kiba. In that case, they probably ate the offal of the kiba too.


「Offal, huh. There is a beast similar to kiba in my hometown too, and its offal tastes good. I wonder what the offal of a kiba tastes like.」


The thought of our conversation ending like that felt like a pity, so I continued talking. At this moment, Tulu Dean turned and look at me in surprise.


「A-Asuta, do you eat kiba offal in your hometown too?」


「Hmm? Not kiba, but an animal similar to it. The meat of both animals tastes the same, so I thought that kiba offal might be tasty too.」


「Y-You can eat offal!」


It was rare seeing this shy girl shouting. She blushed and hung her head low.


Jass Dean and the Fou house women stood stiffly in surprise.


「Ah, did the Tsun clan village even eat kiba offal?」


「… Yes.」


Her voice was whimsical.


「So you did eat kiba offal. The offal doesn’t look tasty, so the Tsun clan members hate hunting so much.」


Jass Dean looked at Tulu Dean sternly.


「No, in my hometown, the offal of animals is a delicacy, an important ingredient for us. Besides, the offal contain different nutrients from meat, which is another reason why we hold it in high regards.」


Half the reason why I spoke was for the sake of Tulu Dean, and the other half was because of my curiosity towards offal dishes.


「To be honest, I felt it was a pity whenever we discarded all the kiba offal. Tulu Dean, can you tell me how did you cook kiba offal?」


「Ehh…」


Tulu Dean felt troubled, and her eyes were wavering.


Jass Dean sighed softly and knocked Tulu Dean’s head gently.


「Asuta of the Fa house has shown you great kindness, right? This might be a trivial matter, but you should do whatever you can to help him.」


「… I understand.」


Tulu Dean nodded, and she raised her gaze towards me.


If I wasn’t mistaken, there was a gleam of happiness in her blue eyes just now.






「I don’t know any complicated techniques, I only know we should remove the parts that are too stinky and then wash the offal with water.」


We followed Tulu Dean’s instructions and headed to the water source.


We put all the offals into a pot and then carried the heavy pot to the water source. Jass Dean and the seemingly uninterested women from the Fou house also followed; there were five of us in total. Ai Fa was busy dismembering the meat and didn’t participate.


「First, we need to discard this part.」


Tulu Dean grabbed a lump from the pot.


It was spherical and about the size of a ping-pong ball. The color looked nasty, so this was probably the bladder.


「And this part of this organ.」


She grabbed a heavy red lump— the liver. We had to get rid of a small greenish-yellow bag on it— the gallbladder.


If the bladder or gallbladder broke, a strong stench would get on the meat, so we had to be very careful when removing the organs. The hunters from the past taught me the same thing too.


「When a kiba is pregnant, this part needs to be thrown away, but this kiba is fine.」


It was a white and curvy organ, and after hearing her explanation, this might be the uterus. This was a female kiba.


「I see. Then let’s wash it with water. Where should we start?」


「Ah, before washing it, we need to cut the surface of these two organs and remove the filth.」


These two organs… One was a narrow white organ connected to the pink and curvy large intestines and was filled with wrinkles— it’s probably the rectum. The other was a large bloated pink object— the stomach.


I see; this kiba was fat, so it must have eaten a lot of Forest’s grace when it still lived. We had to remove the contents of its stomach.


The rectum was connected to the anus, so it should be full of shit. We were still newbies in terms of preparing the offal; compared to the filth in the rectum, the possible contents of the stomach made me more uncomfortable.


「Erm… Kiba not only eat fruits and greeneries, but also snakes, lizards, and worm, correct?」


When she heard me said that, Tulu Dean tilted her head quizzically.


「Yes… Speaking of which, we once found snakes inside when we cut this open.」


「Uwah, so I’m right!」


「But they were just snake carcasses though. There were some that were venomous, but they were dead, so it wasn’t dangerous.」


「You are right, but…」


「Asuta, are you scared of dead snakes?」


Tulu Dean giggled.


What an adorable smile.


「In that case, let me handle it. Asuta, can you lend me your knife?」


「No! If I’m afraid of the contents of the stomach, I won’t be able to cook offal in the future!」


I braced myself and pulled out a knife.


I stabbed the knife into the stomach, carefully cut it open, and, as expected, fruits and grass that had turned dark green appeared in the stomach.


「There aren’t any snakes, right?」


Tulu Dean cleared the filth in kiba’s rectum as she smiled brilliantly at me. She probably didn’t realize that she had been smiling all the while.


By the way, the kiba filth was like balls of karinto and didn’t feel dirty at all. If I didn’t breathe through my nose, cleaning the filth or the contents of the stomach wasn’t tough at all.


Anyway, we successfully cleared the filth from the stomach and rectum.


We used the small stream flowing between the rocks to carefully clean the stomach and rectum and then worked on the long and curvy small and large intestines, followed by the uterus.


We washed the exterior of the thin intestines, cut it open, and then cleaned the inside and outside thoroughly. We got the other three ladies to help us with this phase.


It was best to clean away all the sticky fluids, but no matter how long we washed, we couldn’t get rid of them completely. The most efficient method was probably to wash it with salt, but salt wasn’t cheap in this world. So we had to overcome this problem with brute force through numbers.


「Alright, let’s use this chance to settle this part. Asuta, can you hold on to the front end and not let the water flow out?」


Tulu Dean gave clear instructions as she let in the water flowing between the rocks into the other end of the large intestines.


I blocked the other end as instructed, and the large intestine was filled with water, and the shape became like a large banana. Tulu Dean held on to the other end and scrubbed the entire length of the intestines.


She released the water, filled it again and repeated the procedure three times. She then used my knife and cut the large intestines into 10 cm chunks, turned them inside out, and scrubbed the exposed interior. Processing offal was tedious work.


When the five of us were finished with the large intestines, small intestines, and rectum, the beautiful pink and white chunks of meat were gathered in a small pile. In my mind, the offal had turned into an ingredient.


「Next will be this. Like the other organs, we will need to peel away this membrane first.」


Tulu Dean picked up a palm-sized, bean-shaped organ.


There were two with the same shape, and the organs that came in pairs were either lungs or kidney. This was probably the latter. I peeled off the membrane on the surface, and the reddish and smooth organs below got revealed.


「Asuta, can you cut it open from the side?」


「Understood.」


When I cut it open, white substance that was like fats flowed out.


「When we clean this organ, we would tear off this white part and dispose of it… It has some sort of stench.」


「I see.」


I remember the functions of a kidney was to filter the water in a body. So the poison inside a body was probably collected here.


I might not be familiar with offal, but I realized one thing. Tulu Dean probably liked tending to the hearth, that was why she had been showing such a happy face all the while.


The Tsun clan committed taboo by eating the grace of the forest, and it filled them with guilt. Their main house also ordered the branch house to 「hunt only the minimal number of kiba」, so they had to cook even the offal from the killed kiba.


Tulu Dean who was just ten must have known that the rules of the Tsun clan were abnormal. The main house probably reminded them time and time again to not let the other houses discover this fact, or they would be scalped. That was why their eyes were like dead fish.


Despite experiencing such a past, I thought Tulu Dean still loved hearth tending and was very proficient in this job. She even considered 「which parts to dispose of, in order to make a delicious meal」.


The denizens of Forest's Edge lived such simple lives that they couldn’t permit the existence of delicious food. They thought that spending too much effort on cooking would be a waste, but some denizens still had the potential to cook a delicious meal.


In the Wu clan village, there already were proficient hearth caretakers; Leina Wu, Shela Wu, Mama Mia Lei and Tali Wu were all showing their talent in cooking. I thought Tulu Dean was the same type of person as them.


Although the hearth caretakers of the Tsun clan were closely related to the breaking of the taboo, they could manage the hearth in a correct manner now. This was probably the reason why they could smile so blissfully.


「There are two more organs. You can cut an opening here and wash away all the blood inside.」


Unaware of my thoughts, Tulu Dean took out the heart and liver.


「No matter how much we wash, there would still be blood inside. But it tastes better after washing…」


「You are right. This is why the men have to bloodlet the kiba after hunting them.」


During these eight decades, the denizens of Forest's Edge had never thought about bloodletting. However, when the twisted rules of the Tsun clan forced them to consume offal which had a stronger stench than meat, they got closer to the truth that 「blood is the reason behind the stench」 in their pursuit to get rid of the smell. How ironic.


As I was thinking about that, I held the heart and Tulu Dean held the liver as we washed these organs in the stream and scrubbed them.


「The other parts can be washed with just water. We will fill the pot with water and rinse the organs there.」


Despite her words, there weren’t many organs left in the pot.


The lungs were in a light shade of pink, and the soft texture was incredible. There was also a long and thin organ covered in white fats. Through elimination, I guessed that was the pancreas. There was also a flat piece of meat, which was probably the diaphragm. I let Jass Dean and the others clean those organs.


「Well, that’s quite a lot of work… Tulu Dean, how do you eat these offals?」


「We usually boil them. But the offal has a stronger stench than the meat. So, we would boil it together with lilo and an unknown herb…」


Tulu Dean’s face turned gloomy. The denizens of Forest's Edge probably didn’t know the name of this herb, since it was part of the grace of the forest they were forbidden to eat.


「You will only boil it? What about grilling them?」


「Ehh…? Yes… Grilling the offals won’t remove the stench…」


「I see. But you are fine with offal, right?」


If she hated offal, she wouldn’t go out of her way to declare that she had eaten it before. I didn’t think she would bring up the twisted practices of the Tsun clan if she could help it.


「Yes… I don’t particularly dislike offal in the past. How should I put it… I like the nommy texture of offal.」
<TL: くにゅくにゅ, or kuniyu kuniyu, made up noises>


「Nommy, what an interesting way of describing it.」


I intentionally answered cheerfully, and Tulu Dean’s stern face turned red immediately as she lowered her head.


I felt a little bad about it, but this was better than letting her think about the past.


「Well then, I will let you try my way of cooking it. Don’t worry, the nommy texture will still be there.」


After saying that joke, Tulu Dean who was washing the liver made angry tsundere noises and shouted 「Enough already!」, and then bumped my chest with her shoulder.


2


After washing the offal, we returned to the Fa house and got back to our work for the time being.


That wasn’t because we were putting the offal on hold. I soaked the heart and liver in salt water and continued letting out its blood. Next, we added lilo into a pot of water and then lightly boiled the other offal. They were then added into marinating sauce made from myam, aria, and fruit wine.


After spending an hour to prepare the offal, my preparation for the tomorrow was delayed a lot. I quickly kneaded the patty of the 『Kiba burger』, sliced the meat for the 『Myam-roasted meat』, 『Kiba braised meat』 and 『Kiba chitto』, and finally finished my daily chores before dusk.


「Alright, let’s start cooking the offal.」


We walked to the two outdoor stoves. One of them was used to cook the soup for dinner, and the other was preheating the griddle.


「Huh? Are you going to grill the offal?」


Tulu Dean opened her eyes wide in disbelief, and I nodded in return:


「That’s right, with the seasoning available to the Fa house, grilling it will make it tastier. I will grill it with marinating sauce, similar to this 『Myam-roasted meat』.」


「You already boiled it just now, and you want to fry it again…」


The denizens of Forest's Edge didn’t have the concept of pre-boiling food and seasoning them for grilling. They were surprised to see me do that. In my old world, the pork intestines used in Horumonyaki would be pre-boiled before it was cooked.
<TL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horumonyaki>


Expression 「I thought」 probably sounded unreliable, but my family seldom ate out, so just like shabu-shabu, I seldom got the chance to try offal dishes.


My dad was probably uninterested in offal dishes. Whenever a regular customer suggested adding offal hotpot to the menu, he always replied: 「Maybe next time」.


Hence, I had to figure out the technique for cooking offal by myself. I didn’t pre-boil the heart, liver and kidney, and just sliced them thinly before soaking them in the myam marinating sauce. The heart was called Hatsu, the liver was called Reba… What was kidney called again? I would probably never know.


The other offal were pre-boiled and cut into large chunks. They looked just like the pig offal I remembered from my old world. I decided to challenge the other offal next. I grabbed the offal dipped in red sauce and then tossed generous portions of it into the pot. The sweet aroma of the fruit wine and the garlic-like fragrance of the myam spread out in a burst of white smoke.


「Uwah, smells nice.」


The Fou house women muttered happily.


「Asuta, thanks to you buying jerky from the Fou house, we have many copper plates to spare. We will try buying myam next time too.」


「That’s wonderful.」


I continued using the spatula as I answered, careful to not let the offal burn. At this moment, Ai Fa poked her head over my shoulder.


「Hmm, that looks weird.」


「But it smells good, right?」


「Isn’t that the smell of myam?」


She was right.


How should I put this? Would the grilled kiba offal suit the taste of the denizens of Forest's Edge? When preparation work was complete, the marinating sauce did its job and masked any lingering stench, so everyone should find it palatable. But I didn’t eat grilled offal too many times before, so I felt a little uneasy.


「Alright, the first battle is upon us.」


I pushed the cooked offal to the edge of the griddle.


I then scooped them onto a plate with a spatula and handed it to Tulu Dean.


「Please have some. We are the ones who suggested cooking the offal, so we should taste it first.」


「… Alright.」


Tulu Dean took the plate with an uneasy expression. If it didn’t taste good, the work for the past hour would be wasted…


That was probably what she thought.


We should take responsibility together. I put some of the offal on my plate and shoved it into my mouth without hesitation.


The familiar sweet and tangy taste of the 『Myam-roasted meat』 spread in my mouth.
Next, I started chewing the offal, and the nommy texture Tulu Dean mentioned really soothed the mind. The texture of the offal felt like chicken skin, very chewy and hard to tear apart.


It wasn’t bad.


There wasn’t any stench.


By the way, which part did I just eat? It wasn’t thick, so it should be the intestine or rectum. The dish felt average to me.


「Tulu Dean, how is it?」


I shifted my gaze towards her.


Tulu Dean held the plate and spoon, and showed a blissful smile:


「It’s very delicious… much better than the offal I ate in the past.」


I see.


Offal possessed a subjective taste, and everyone had their own preference. As I thought about that, I ate a large piece of offal. I kept chewing it, and a different taste spread in my mouth.


「Hmm? It tastes really good.」


「Isn’t that right? It’s delicious, huh?」


Tulu Dean’s smile broadened.


Why was that? I liked the chewy texture of this offal. The taste was more prominent than earlier, and I could feel the unique taste of kiba fat in this.


From its shape, I was probably eating a large intestine. It was amazingly delicious.


「Yes, it’s good. I can recommend this dish with confidence. Everyone, please try it too.」


As the amount was limited, I gave each house one plate of offal. The women from the Fou house took it timidly, while Tulu Dean filled another plate and handed it to Jass Dean with a smile.


I also offered my plate to my house head.


「… Is it really good?」


「It’s tasty. Well~, the taste of each part is different, but after trying some, you will find one that is exceptionally good.」


As I answered, I started grilling the heart and liver.


The liver looked exactly like a pig liver, so did the kidney and heart. The heart was much leaner though and looked closer to being lean meat.


While I was grilling the offal, I stole a glance at Ai Fa.


「How is it? It’s good, right?」


「Well, it’s not bad… But when can I swallow it?」


「To be frank, I don’t know either. Just chew it up adequately, I guess?」


As we were speaking, the heart and liver were done.


I tried fried pork liver with chives and chicken liver kebab before, but I wondered how this dish would taste. While Ai Fa was still chewing, I took the plate from her hand, scooped up the food in the griddle, and then tried the liver.


Hmm, yummy.


The taste of kiba liver was stronger than the chicken and pork liver I tried, but there wasn’t any blood stench. We didn’t prepare it too thoroughly, and the taste was very outstanding, which meant this was fine as a dish. I had never cooked offal before and had always tossed them away. I regretted doing that now.


The kidney had a similar texture to the liver. Even though the taste wasn’t as strong as the liver, the taste was smoother and the texture softer.


Next was the heart… It was no different from normal meat. The heart looked like grilled lean meat, but more tender than thigh meat.


「Hmm; tastes great and is easier to swallow than the other offal. Ai Fa, want to try some?」


「What is this? Isn’t it meat?」


「This is liver, that’s a kidney, and over here is the heart. The liver’s taste is more unique, but it’s full of nutrition. The heart is as delicious as normal meat.」


「The heart of a kiba…」


Ai Fa muttered a little uneasily and then tried the heart first.


「… It’s delicious.」


「Aren’t I right?」


「Yes, it’s delicious… Not just that, I can feel very strongly that I had consumed the life of a kiba.」


Ai Fa seemed satisfied.


The others showed similar expressions.


And so, the six of us swiftly finished the samples. The rest of the offal would be the Fa house’s dinner tonight.


The sampling session before dinner ended smoothly.


「How delicious… But the preparation is too tedious, right? The legs and torso meat are just as delicious, but they are much easier to prepare.」


After the sampling session was over, Jass Dean told me her thoughts on behalf of the women.


「That’s right, I think each house should decide for themselves whether they want to eat offal. The intestines are more troublesome to prepare, so eating just the heart and liver is another way… Tulu Dean, even if we cover the offal with Pico leaves, we can’t preserve it for long, correct?」


「Yes. It can be kept for a few days, but we always finished it on the first day.」


「As I expected. If time permits, the Fa house will eat all the offal. Since we learned how delicious offal is, I can’t bear discarding them, furthermore… When we sell meat in the Post Station Town, the price of the meat will increase too.」


Jass Dean and the others tilted their head puzzledly.


「Just a small kiba can cook such a large quantity of food, so a larger kiba will be able to provide one dinner for a family, right? After squeezing out one dinner, the excess meat can then be sold… Never mind, please don’t worry too much about earning copper plates.」


「I see… that’s true…」


「Another thing, offal can only be eaten on the day the kiba is hunted. From that perspective, it is a meal presented to the hunters as a blessing for their bountiful harvest. That’s the reason why I kept these parts to make these dishes.」


The thinking for everyone was different, so I didn’t plan to force my ideals on others.


「If there are no urgent matters, spending a bit more effort isn’t a bad thing. The offal also contains different types of nutrients from normal meat, since their texture is different from them too.」


「… I think the men will like kiba heart.」


Ai Fa said quietly.


「That must be food that hunters like. When I ate the heart, it felt as if the lifeforce of the kiba was flowing into my body, it felt really satisfying.」


「I see. Asuta of the Fa house, thank you for teaching us so much.」


Jass Dean said.


Jass Dean’s eyes might look stern, but she had a gentle expression on her face. She put her wrinkled hand on top of Tulu Dean’s head.


「The Dean house will cook offal in the future too. After all, Tulu Dean likes to eat it.」


Tulu Dean smiled with her face slightly red.


「The nommy taste is really good, right?」


「Enough already!」


I butted in, and Tulu Dean’s face turned even redder as she kept pounding my chest.


Under the icy glare of my house head, night slowly fell in the Forest's Edge.


Chapter 6: Wu Clan’s Harvest Festival


1


Blue month 27th.


On this day, the Wu clan village was scheduled to hold a harvest festival.


At the same time, our third stall lease term in the Post Station Town would end.


After closing the stall, we headed to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 as usual to return the cart, and I thanked the innkeeper Milano Mast:


「Milano Mast, I have been in your care… Sorry, but can you continue renting us the carts from tomorrow onwards?」


「I’m a businessman too; since you made a request, I have no reason to reject you.」


Milano Mast was checking the cart for damages and had a sour face as usual.


「You will continue working in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, correct? You can just rent a cart from them and save the hassle of running all over the place.」


「No, it’s no hassle at all. If it isn’t too much trouble, I will want to continue the stall lease with your inn.」


I was a bit worried.


「The space rental and cart leasing fee aren’t much, right? How should I put this, I feel bad about all the trouble we caused you… Will it jeopardize your position if you continue to work with us?」


「What a naggy fellow, how much longer are you going to pester? I already told you plenty of times, that I would have thrown the lot of you out if you caused me any trouble.」


Milano Mast turned to me after finishing his inspection and looked even more uneasy.


After that big incident with the Tsun clan, I didn’t sense much difference from Leito or Milano Mast. But Milano Mast’s eyes seemed less sharp nowadays and he spoke with us more often. Even such a minute change filled me with glee.


Speaking of which, it had been ten days since that commotion.


I couldn’t help feeling surprised.


The meeting between us and the castle people getting postponed to 30th of the Blue month might have played a part, but these ten days had been smooth sailing. Even though the Post Station Town residents still had reservations towards the denizens of Forest's Edge, and most of them looked at us with probing or dubious gazes, everything appeared peaceful on the surface.


The sales at the stall were stable, with about 140 portions sold every day, while the meals catered to the inn were all sold out. Could such a peaceful life continue… That would depend on the result of the meeting three days later.


「Enough about that for now. You are not taking a day off, and continuing tomorrow too? Normally, everyone will rest for a day at the end of the lease. You are not worried about money, right?」


Milano Mast crossed his muscular arms before his chest as he asked.


Money wasn’t an issue for us, of course. After setting up the stall for 30 days, our profits were 5,484 red copper plates.


5,484 red copper plates… That was roughly 457 kiba worth of tusks and horns.


Including the living expenses of the Fa house, we spent less than one hundred red copper plates a month. After buying the griddle, the kitchen knife,  and the necklace for my house head, we didn’t buy any other big-ticket items. The expensive ingredients, Tau sauce and cheese, were just ten to twenty red copper plates.


I would be collecting the wagon I ordered tomorrow. Costing 1,200 red copper plates, this was the most expensive items I had purchased so far. After deducting that, we still had 3,700 red copper plates on hand. We didn’t need to worry about food or clothing now and were troubled by how best to utilize this money instead.


Even though my wallet was full, there was a reason why I didn’t want to rest.


「To be honest, my regular patrons from the east and the south are about to leave Genos. So I don’t plan to take a day off before they leave.」


「The easterners and southerners, huh… By the way, I heard that you are selling food to an inn frequented by easterners too?」


「Yes. That inn is called the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》. The innkeeper is Neil.」


「Ah, the inn run by that weirdo influenced by the eastern kingdom.」


Milano Mast kept quiet after saying that.


He looked troubled for some reason.


Did he not get along with Neil from the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》? I felt a little worried about his reaction. But his mind seemed preoccupied with other thoughts.


「… May I know if there is anything wrong?」


Milano Mast seemed to realize something and glared at me with simmering eyes once again.


「It’s nothing! Since the things are settled, go away. I have work to do.」


「Sorry. I will be in your care from tomorrow onwards too.」


He seemed to have something else in mind, but Milano Mast already went inside his warehouse, so I had to let the matter rest.


With the griddle, pot, ingredients and four women: Vena Wu, Shela Wu, Lala Wu, and Rii Sudora, we walked towards the entrance of the inn. At this moment, Kamyua Yost blocked the way leading outside.


「Hi, thank you for your hard work, Asuta. I appreciate the delicious lunch.」


「Ah, thank you. It’s been a while since we last met.」


The last time I saw him was the day the Totos incident ended. It has been three days since then, although Leito did help him buy lunch at noon every day.


Kamyua Yost stood before us whimsically and showed his usual cheery smile.


「If possible, I want to eat your food while it's hot, but I had been busy preparing for that meeting and opening communication channels. Malfreed can’t leave this city so easily because of his status, so I had to run around in his stead.」


Running around and opening channels for the sake of the meeting.


The one who requested postponing the meeting was Malfreed, not Pyschkurewuss. It seemed that they were doing some covert operations again.


「That must be tough. I hope opening all these channels isn’t a scheme against the denizens of Forest's Edge.」


Kamyua Yost spread his arms in surprise.


「But why would we scheme against the denizens of Forest's Edge? Our goal is to expose the Pyschkurewuss’ past crimes?」


「Sorry, the last part is just a joke. I had been showing my dark side unreservedly when talking to you. I will reflect on my actions.」


「No; if that is your nature, I will be happy to see that change in you.」


Kamyua Yost ruffled his blonde hair.


「Never mind, Asuta, I have something to ask you… Is dinner in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 tonight grilled meat or hotpot?」


「What? It’s hotpot tonight.」


What about it?


「I see, thanks. I will have dinner at the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 tonight. If they served the same dish every day, I would just need to take turns visiting the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 and 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 for dinner. But now, I have to worry about this every day.」


「Ehh? You have your dinner at the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 and 《Big Tree of the South Inn》? Don’t you stay in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》?」


「Yes, but I can eat western dishes everywhere else, so I want to eat your kiba dish while I’m in Genos.」


Kamyua Yost smiled cheerfully again.


「There are many like me too. The 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 and 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 are crowded during dinner hours. There are many westerners there too, and not all of them lodge in that inn. I even saw a few easterners at the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 yesterday.」


「Thank you for your patronage… But you are a regular in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, right? Won’t that cause friction between you and Milano Mast?」


「The customers have the right to decide where to eat dinner. Milano Mast is not a petty man; he won’t get angry over such trivial matters… It’s not good to say this, but the dinner quality in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 isn’t high. As you know, Milano Mast lost his wife when he was young, and his daughter didn’t have the chance to learn to cook. Even if the other inns didn’t provide kiba dishes, I would still eat elsewhere.」


「… Kamyua Yost, I’m still not as mean as you.」


I didn’t understand how he could joke about Milano Mast’s circumstances so lightly. Furthermore, Milano Mast’s wife died young because of the Tsun clan’s treachery.


「And so? Are you trying to coerce me into catering for the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 and teach Milano Mast or his daughter to cook too?」


「I have no intention of coercing you. But if I can eat kiba dishes at this inn, I won’t need to make a trip to another inn, which will be less of a hassle.」


「… I still don’t know if the denizens of Forest's Edge can form a cordial relationship with the people in the Genos castle, so I can’t drag Milano Mast in recklessly.」


「Then it’s fine to drag in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 and 《Big Tree of the South Inn》?」


「Their circumstances are different from Milano Mast. Milano Mast is related to that incident a decade ago.」


I tried to cool down my head that was almost boiling and continued:


「I really want to repay Milano Mast’s kindness, but this will have to wait after the meeting in three days ends… I don’t think you are that vicious, but you won’t endanger Milano Mast for the sake of forcing Pyschkurewuss into a corner, right?」


「Do I look that cold and heartless? I set my sights on Pyschkurewuss and the Tsun clan for the sake of avenging Milano Mast and Leito in the first place, so I won’t get my priorities wrong… Don’t tell anyone, but there are three 《guardians》 lodging in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》. I did everything I could to stop Pyschkurewuss from reaching his claws here.」


「Tell me the important details before you joke next time. Will Milano Mast be in any danger? Should I sign my contract with the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 instead?」


「No, Pyschkurewuss won’t target Milano Mast. Milano Mast might be related to that incident a decade ago, but the hunter’s necklace clutched in the hand of his brother-in-law had already been submitted to the guards as evidence… By the way, if Milano Mast had any value as a witness, Malfreed would already have convicted the Tsun clan and Pyschkurewuss of their crimes.」


「In that case, why did you ask the 《guardians》 to guard him? If there isn’t any danger, you don’t need to be so cautious, right?」


「I’m just covering all the bases. If anything happens to Milano Mast, even I won’t be able to smile so cheerfully.」


Kamyua Yost still had the pretentious smile on his face, but the light in his purple eyes was wavering as he tried to conceal his emotions.


「Don’t worry, just do whatever you wish. If I can eat kiba dishes in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, I will be overjoyed, you know?」


「You are only asking for your own convenience, right? Besides, Milano Mast won’t be interested in learning to cook from someone like me.」


「Who knows? Going by his stubborn character, even if he harbors such thoughts, he won’t mention it to you proactively.」


After hearing him say that, I felt more worried about Milano Mast’s silence just now. Milano seemed to be suppressing his emotions back then.


I sighed softly and shifted my gaze towards Kamyua Yost’s whimsical eyes.


「Anyway, this will have to wait after the meeting ends smoothly three days later. No matter what, I can’t take on any more jobs before the end of the Blue month.」


「Alright, alright. I will do my small part to guide things towards a better ending… Ah, can you keep that thing regarding the 《guardians》 a secret? If Milano Mast learns about it, he might think I’m meddling too much and chase them all out.」


Kamyua Yost didn’t reveal any other emotions and kept smiling as usual.






「Ah, really now! You always talk so long, it’s already so late now!」


As we walked along a small path flanked by trees inside Forest's Edge, Lala Wu complained angrily.


I watched her red ponytail sway like the tail of a horse and answered: 「Don’t we usually return at this time too?」


「It’s fine if there is nothing else going on, but today is the harvest festival! The men from the kin houses should have gathered by now and started their test of might!」


「Ehh? The festival is already starting when the day is still so bright?」


「The feast will only start at dusk! How can we eat before the hunters finish their competition!? I can’t even, you don’t know anything!」


It was true that I didn’t know anything about the harvest festival. Only the bigger houses could host a harvest festival, so I didn’t learn much even after asking Ai Fa about it.


Never mind, Donda Wu only asked me to prepare dinner for the winner of the contest, everything else didn’t concern me. By the way, why was Lala Wu so anxious to return to her village?


「… For men, the test of might during a harvest festival is an important moment. For the unwed women, this is an important ceremony to choose a husband…」


Vena Wu whispered to me as she carried a large sack of food.


Her answer didn’t dispel my doubts.


「Lala Wu is just thirteen and can’t marry yet, right? This should have nothing to do with her.」


「I’m not too sure… Maybe there is a boy that she likes…?」


If there was someone that Lala Wu liked, she probably would want to witness his important moment.


At this point, I finally figured it out. I was really dense.


「Just to confirm, as a hearth caretaker, I won’t be dragged into the contest, correct?」


「Hmm…? Since we invited you to the festival, you probably can join in if you want to…」


「Definitely not.」


There wasn’t even a one in a million chance for me to win against a man from Forest's Edge. No matter what competition it was, I could only compete with Leina Wu or Lala Wu at the most. To be honest, I might be weaker than Vena Wu.


「Enough about that, Asuta… Do you not get along with that man…?」


「Huh? You mean Kamyua Yost? Not really.」


「Is that so…? But you looked angry just now…」


I thought I showed my poker face back then, but Vena Wu saw right through me.


「It’s really nothing, he said something that made me a little unhappy. When I’m facing that Kamyua who loves pretending to be retarded, I will try to be honest and not hide my thoughts and feelings. Or else, it will be hard to make him do the same.」


「Really… What a pain…」


Vena Wu seemed uninterested as she shrugged sexily.


After walking for 40 to 50 minutes along the steep slope, we returned to the Forest's Edge.


Following the widening path that led to the north, we saw the Wu clan village in no time. We bade Rii Sudora farewell at a short distance from the Wu clan village, took over the ingredients she was carrying for us, and stepped into the plaza that was rowdier than usual…
I was stunned.


The Wu clan village was more crowded than I imagined. Of the one hundred Wu clan kins members, more than half of them were gathered here.


Most of them were young, with equal parts of both genders. There were almost no signs of the elderly and children. People formed a wall around the plaza and kept cheering… At this moment, a large man was in an intense battle with Ai Fa in the middle of the crowd.


「A-Ai Fa, what are you doing!」


Cheers from the crowd drowned out my shout. The youth from the Wu clan were hyped from their battle and cheering loudly.


Ai Fa and her opponent were both unarmed. They didn’t have any blades on their waist or cape on their shoulders. This made Ai Fa’s situation look very dire.


Ai Fa’s opponent was a hulk as tall as Mida. Standing over two meters tall and weighing more than a hundred kg, he had long limbs and a thick chest and was built like a bull. This imposing giant was reaching out his long arms in an attempt to grab Ai Fa.


Ai Fa possessed extraordinary physical abilities so she wouldn’t be caught so easily. She just kept jumping left and right to evade that man’s fingertips, showing no intention to strike back. Ai Fa might be skilled, but the size difference between them was too big; it was reckless of her to duel with such a man without any weapons.


「What is going on!? Why isn’t anyone stopping this commotion!?」


「Ehh… But we can’t interfere with a hunter’s contest of might…」


Vena Wu looked at me in surprise.


「Contest of might? This is a contest of might? Isn’t this just a brawl? Besides, why is Ai Fa competing!?」


「How would I know… Don’t worry, hurting the opponent is a taboo…」


Hurting the opponent is a taboo?


The hulk continued waving his bear-like arms in pursuit of Ai Fa. Just one swipe would shatter bones.


「I can’t watch any longer! I will stop them!」


「Ahh, you can’t…」


Vena Wu was about to stop me when a cheer loud enough to shake the forest erupted.


I hurriedly shifted my gaze towards the two contestants; the griddle in my hand was almost falling off. Ai Fa who was backpedaling got tripped by a pothole and fell.


The hulk immediately closed in.


It was over.


Compared to that man, Ai Fa was so thin and fragile. I could imagine Ai Fa being sent flying and almost cried out in despair.


However… the off-balanced Ai Fa didn’t try to right herself up and kicked her right leg high instead.


When the hulk drew near, her toes touched his shoulder.


Ai Fa used the momentum of the hulk to jump further backward.


She wasn’t just jumping, she turned backward in midair, touched the ground with her right palm momentarily, and did a backflip— before landing perfectly.


The cheers were so loud that it shook the very air.


The hulk roared and smashed at Ai Fa with his head.


He closed the 7 to 8 meters gap in an instant.


He was about to grab Ai Fa.


Before his thick fingers reached Ai Fa’s breasts, Ai Fa suddenly vanished.


She had lowered her entire body.


While doing so, Ai Fa extended her right leg to her side and swung it backward. This was like the leg sweep often seen in kung-fu movies.


Ai Fa’s right leg kicked the hulk’s right ankle, making him fall backward.


She then stood up quickly, while that man hurriedly propped up his upper body.


「The match is over!」


At the same time, a sharp voice cut through the heated atmosphere.


「Winner, Ai Fa of the Fa house. Jii Mamu of the Mamu house, please leave the arena.」


Claps and cheers overwhelmed the stern voice.


The hulk roared with rage as he smashed his fists onto the ground.


「Amazing! She beat up Jii Mamu! Jii Mamu is a brave who can fight Darum-nii on equal footing!」


Lala Wu squealed excitedly.


I almost collapsed onto the ground with the griddle in my arms but somehow found my footing.


And then, Ai Fa walked towards us with thunderous applause.


「You are finally back. Asuta, why are you so late?」


「I-I’m not late at all! What were you doing!?」


「Why are you so loud? It’s a contest of might.」


Even though she had just been through an intense match, Ai Fa didn’t break a sweat.


「I had never heard of harvest festivals, but I’m familiar with the contest of might since I was young. Compared to my father Gill, that man wasn’t much at all.」


「Even so, you shouldn’t act so dangerously, right? We are the guests of the Wu clan here!」


「I didn’t intend to contest, but since he challenged me, I had a match with him.」


When Ai Fa was about to pout unhappily, she seemed to notice the gaze of Lala Wu and the others and kept a straight face.


「Ai Fa, I’m really surprised that you defeated Jii Mamu. You are a really capable hunter.」


Shela Wu who was carrying a pot together with Lala Wu mediated between for us.


「Asuta, the test of might between hunters is also called Battle of Skill. The rules forbid harming the opponent. The hunters can’t use weapons, and have to win by using strength and skills to overcome their opponent, forcing their body to touch the ground… I don’t like seeing the violent side of men either, but the Battle of Skill is not a dangerous brawl.」


Shela Wu’s voice was calm and steady and had the effect of soothing one’s heart.


The unease in my heart caused me to admonish Ai Fa. I reflected on my actions and scratched my head.


「That was my bad, I shouldn’t have yelled at you so suddenly… You will be helping me later, right? Or do you prefer to participate in this Battle of Skill?」


「I already told you that I didn’t join this competition willingly. That Jii Mamu said that a woman shouldn’t be a hunter and challenged me to a contest. Since he went that far, I couldn’t back down either and showed him my prowess as a hunter.」


Ai Fa shrugged.


「I will help tend to the hearth as promised. The kiba I carried over from our home is hanging right there.」


「Ehh? Did you hunt a kiba today too? That’s two days in a row.」


「When your luck comes, you can hunt as many as you want. And I didn’t use 『Sacrificial hunting method』.」


Ai Fa declared pre-emptively.


After her wounds recovered, her body was in top condition. Seeing how dependable my house head was, I couldn’t help but sigh.


「I understand, thank you. Well then, let’s start the preparations.」


「Yes.」


Ai Fa nodded seriously and then leaned her face towards mine. In order to keep Vena Wu and the others from seeing her face, she subtly adjusted the position she was standing in.


「Asuta, you really are a worrywart, a man of that level can’t best me.」


「That’s true…」


「No need to explain. You are worried about me, and I don’t blame you for that. It’s been a long time since I had a contest of might, so I felt like enjoying myself and didn’t turn him down… Please, forgive me.」


Ai Fa showed her white teeth with a smile from close up.


After seeing her smile, who would be able to pick any fault with her? I sighed again.


2


We were assigned to the stove room in the Shin Wu’s house today.


Donda Wu only asked me to prepare the meat dish for the winner of the competition, so that wasn’t an issue. Everyone else should be preparing dinner in the stove room of the other houses, under the direction of Mia Lei Wu.


Including the men participating in the competition and the women watching them, there were 70-odd people gathered here. That was how grand the harvest festival was.


With the sun high in the sky, the Wu clan village was like a simmering cauldron. After Ai Fa’s match with Jii Mamu was over, the hunters continued comparing their strength and skills in the center of the plaza. We looked at the wall of people surrounding the hunters and walked toward the Shin Wu house.


「Ah, Shin Wu! What are you doing here?」


Lala Wu said excitedly. Shin Wu and his house member Mida were sitting side by side at the entrance.


Shin Wu looked up at Lala Wu. He seemed a little down as he sat beside the panting Mida.


「I’m not doing anything. This is my house, so it’s not strange for me to be here.」


「I’m not asking about that… Did you lose already?」


「Yes. I still can’t win against Ludo Wu.」


「How retarded! Why are you always challenging the same person? Despite how Ludo looks, he is one of the top hunters amongst our kins! You can definitely win easily if you pick another opponent.」


It seemed that the contest used a knock out system. In that case, Ai Fa would be obligated to participate in the next round of battle too. I was a little worried.


However, the main characters right now were Lala Wu and Shin Wu.


「… I haven’t won against Ludo Wu yet, so there’s no point in challenging others.」


「It can’t be helped then. But can you not be so depressed?」


「I’m not depressed.」


「Yes, you are! There is glory in winning the test of might, but there is no shame in losing too! So just keep your head up and enjoy the festival!」


After Shin Wu turned dumbfounded because of Lala Wu’s words, he glanced at Mida.


「What about you? It looks like you entered the match too, right?」


「Yes… Mida worked hard too…」


The sweaty Mida looked towards me with ragged breath.


「Asuta… If Mida wins all the test of might contests, Mida can taste your cooking, right…?」


「Yes, that is the plan.」


「Mida is working hard… Mida can eat your cooking after winning four more people…」


「Ehh? You already won against two people? Amazing!」


Instead of admiration, Lala Wu appeared more surprised.


I didn’t really know the rules of the contest. After asking Lala Wu, I learned that the hunters had to fight many rounds. After winning the three preliminary rounds, the winner of the actual tournament will be crowned champion. The preliminary rounds were a random round robin affair, the first eight hunters who win three matches would qualify for the main tournament. Hunters who lost twice would be knocked out, so this was a survival competition where the ones who won three matches first could progress to the next stage. The tournament utilized a single match knockout system, and the person who won three matches would be champion. The preliminary matches might seem haphazard, but this was a system to pick the eight elites from the pool of 30 to 40 contestants.


By the way, Donda Wu and Dan Lutim already defeated three people. It was the nature of the denizens of Forest's Edge to challenge the strong right from the start.


Jiza Wu, Ludo Wu, Kaslan Lutim, and the other strong contestants also won two rounds. Lala Wu was surprised that Mida was on par with these elites.


「If you keep winning, you will need to defeat Papa Donda and Dan Lutim. That’s not an easy feat, so work hard.」


「Yes… Mida will work hard…」


Mida’s cheeks kept trembling.


Lala Wu nodded at Mida and then turned towards Shin Wu.


「And so? Have you given up? You just need to win three matches to become an elite eight, you know?」


「I didn’t give up, I’m just charging up my power.」


I didn’t know if he was telling the truth, but he stood up with determination.


「The others should have won their second match by now. I should go now so that I won’t fall behind.」


「Yes! Do your best!」


Lala Wu showed a satisfied smile.


But after Shin Wu left, she lowered her gaze a little worriedly. Thinking that I should make up for my dense reaction earlier, I said nonchalantly:


「Well then, let’s watch Shin Wu strut his stuff. There is still time anyway.」


「Huh?」


Lala Wu looked at me with her eyes wide open.


「Can we afford to take things so easily? Don’t you have to prepare the food for tomorrow’s business too?」


「You will be helping me later, right? Then I can finish it up easily.」


「You are too relaxed! If you serve any weird dish, Papa Donda will throw you out, you know?」


Despite Lala Wu’s words, her eyes were sparkling.


And so, we put the luggage we were carrying onto the floor and walked towards the human wall. At this moment, a tall figure blocked our path.


It was a lean youth who was half a head taller than me. This wild wolf-like youth was the second son of the Wu clan main house, Darum Wu.


「Ah, Darum-nii! When did you come back!? Thank you for the flower you gave me earlier!」


「Don’t mention it. The members of the Jean house will be surveilling the Tsun clan village, so I can finally come back.」


Darum Wu said to the rowdy Lala Wu and nodded to the quietly smiling Vena Wu, and then shifted his sharp gaze towards me… specifically speaking, to Ai Fa beside me.


「Head of the Fa house, Ai Fa, I challenge you to the test of might.」


「Hmm?… Sorry, I have to help tend to the hearth. Besides, I’m not a kin of the Wu clan, so I shouldn’t act too arrogantly here.」


「Are you going to ignore my challenge and run? Instead of showing your prowess as a hunter, are you placing more priority on working at the hearth? In that case, stop calling yourself a hunter and just tend to your hearth.」


Darum Wu said in a low voice and then walked towards us.


A deep scar went right across his right cheek, and his serious face leaned right into Ai Fa’s ears.


「If you win, I swear that I will acknowledge you as a hunter and won’t mock you ever again… If I win, you have to join the Wu clan.」


As I was standing right beside Ai Fa, I was probably the only other person who heard that.


Ai Fa glared at Darum Wu from close range and then answered in a suppressed tone:


「What will happen to Asuta then?」


「If you wish to, I can persuade my dad and let that hearth caretaker join the Wu clan too. You won’t have any complains now, right?」


Under the troubled gaze of his elder sister and a puzzled look of his younger sister, Darum Wu quickly left Ai Fa’s side.


「If you possess the honor of a hunter, accept my challenge. If you flee, I will never see you as a hunter.」


Darum Wu walked towards the center of the plaza.


Ai Fa sighed softly, and I grabbed her arm when she was about to stride forth.


「Hey, are you going to agree with his one-sided proposal?」


「Since he questioned my honor as a hunter, I can’t run away… That second son must have resolved himself when he said that.」


「Even so…」


「Besides, the Wu clan is now the tribal chief clan of the Forest's Edge. If we don’t form proper bonds with them, it might affect other people around us too. I think this is a good chance to improve my relationship with the second son.」


Ai Fa’s eyes were calm and steady, and the light of determination shone from the depths of her eyes.


「My relationships with the head, the eldest son, and the second son of the Wu clan main house aren’t too good. But thanks to your efforts, the clan head Donda Wu has eased up a lot. That’s why I want to form proper bonds with the second son.」


Ai Fa showed a strong and quiet smile.


And then… I wasn’t sure if she did so unconsciously, but her fingers grasped the blue stone necklace.


「Since we are battling on equal terms, you don’t have to worry about me losing to the second son. Just watch me.」


Ai Fa left.


「Hi, you guys are back.」


At this moment, Ludo Wu walked over nimbly.


「Darum-nii is with Ai Fa right now. Are they going to battle?」


「Seems like it. No matter how good Ai Fa is, I don’t think she can defeat Darum-nii.」


When he heard Lala Wu’s words, Ludo Wu grunted and flicked back her yellowish-brown hair.


「Alright then, I will just find another opponent. Even if we leave these two alone, they will still make it to the next round.」


「Ludo Wu! If Ai Fa and Darum Wu compete, who will win?」


I couldn’t suppress the unease in my heart and asked.


Ludo Wu shrugged and answered


「How would I know? In a test of might, even the strong might lose because of a tiny mistake. Unless there is a deep gulf in prowess, of course.」


「… Who is stronger, Ai Fa or Darum Wu?」


When he heard my rude question, Ludo Wu made a funny face at me.


「Who will tell you such things? Hey, Shin Wu is up next.」


Like what Ludo Wu said, Shin Wu and an unfamiliar youth entered the central plaza.


Ai Fa and Darum Wu stood quietly behind the tall old man who was acting as the referee— the former head of the Lutim house, Raa Lutim. They were the next pair of contestants.


「Hmm, that’s the youngest son of the Min house. Maybe Shin Wu can win… Huh? What’s wrong, Shela Wu? Shin Wu is competing right now, you know?」


Ludo Wu’s words surprised me, and I turned towards Shela Wu.


Shela Wu didn’t seem to notice Ludo Wu calling out to her. She wasn’t looking at her brother with teary eyes, but the two behind him.


At this moment, Shin Wu fended off the attacks from the youngest son of the Min house and subdued him. Basked in heated gazes and cheers, Ai Fa and Darum Wu walked to the middle of the plaza.


「To my right, Darum Wu of the Wu clan. To my left, Ai Fa of the Fa house. Show us your honor as hunters.」


Even with the cheers coming from all around him, Raa Lutim’s voice was still loud and clear as he announced the names of the two contestants.


Ai Fa and Darum Wu stood about five meters apart and faced each other.


Their height difference was half-a-head, and the weight difference was more than 10 kg. Even though Darum Wu was leaner than a normal man, Ai Fa was even skinnier than him.


Could Ai Fa really win against him?


You lose if your torso touches the ground; because of the simplicity of this rule, body build and muscle power weren’t enough to ensure victory. However, I thought Ai Fa was better matched against a hulk like Jii Mamu.


This example might sound extreme, but if the opponent was Mida, I believed Ai Fa could definitely win. Even Vena Wu could trip Mida if she had a krilee stick.


However, what if the opponent was Darum Wu? They were different because of their genders, but I thought Ai Fa and Darum Wu had a similar style. Both of them had the body as taut as a whip, sharp like steel, long slender limbs and possessed agility and tenacity… From their body build alone, Ludo Wu and Shin Wu were closer to Ai Fa, but on the whole, I thought Ai Fa was more similar to Darum Wu.


Although their type was similar, Darum Wu was one size bigger than Ai Fa. Such an opponent was probably difficult to deal with. An example would be a fight between two boxers whose weight classes were more than 10 kg apart.


When a boxer fought with a sumo wrestler, some battles would favor the contestant with a smaller build. The same applied when a boxer got matched up against a wrestler or a karate practitioner. The rules of the match would become the deciding factor, not the size of the fighter.


However, the rules for the test of might contest didn’t pose any disadvantage to both parties. Mida and the others might be hindered by these rules, but that didn’t apply to Darum Wu.


What did Ai Fa think about her chances of winning?


As I was lowering my head troubling over that, Raa Lutim announced the start of the match.


「Begin!」


Darum Wu lowered his stance a little.


Ai Fa did the same.


I was about ten meters from the middle of the plaza, but I could feel the intense bestial fire burning in their eyes. It was like a wolf and a lynx howling and staring down each other.


In a blink of an eye, Darum Wu reached out with his right arm.


Ai Fa swiftly jumped to the outer side of his arm.


Before Ai Fa could close in, Darum Wu quickly turned to face her.


Their agility was about the same.


However, their arm strength was different because of their body build. How would Ai Fa find a path to victory?


If this was really a duel between a wolf and a lynx, the one that injured the weak point of the other party, such as the eyes or throat would win. But this contest forbade the use of such attack which could overcome the difference in body build.


Darum Wu carefully punched and kicked, and Ai Fa fended him off. With Darum Wu one-sided attacks, time passed by slowly.


Before I knew it, the crowd had gone quiet. These two seemed to have infected the crowd with their tense atmosphere.


And then… the situation changed suddenly.


Ai Fa who was on the defensive suddenly charged into Darum Wu’s chest, her bold move felt a little reckless.


She lowered her head and attempted to headbutt Darum Wu’s stomach. Darum Wu twisted his body nimbly and tried to hit Ai Fa’s neck with his right elbow.


Ai Fa seemed to be able to see behind her, and she lowered her body even more to dodge the elbow strike. She then went around her opponent’s right side, and her arm reached Darum Wu’s back.


Ai Fa’s fingers grabbed the back of Darum Wu’s shirt.


「Ughh!?」


Darum Wu sneered angrily and then threw his right elbow towards Ai Fa behind him.


Ai Fa started moving too; she kept the same distance from Darum Wu, staying right behind him, so Darum Wu’s attack missed.


Ai Fa’s other hand also grabbed the back of Darum Wu’s shirt, with both hands grabbing the spots close to his shoulders. Their position was strange, like a centipede fight of sorts.


「What kind of joke is this! Fight me fair and square!」


Darum Wu yelled as he swung his elbow and roared at Ai Fa again.


From his position and angle, it was impossible for his attack to reach.


「Attacking the weak point is also a proper tactic.」


With these words, Ai Fa turned around.


Her fingers were still grabbing Darum Wu’s shirt.


When she turned around, her right leg kicked at Darum Wu’s left heel, making him lose balance. Ai Fa then bent over, and Darum Wu’s feet were airborne.


Darum Wu’s waist stuck closely to Ai Fa’s waist, and he flipped over backward and landed on his head.


Was this a back against back over shoulder throw? What a strange and terrifying technique. If this was a judo match, the referee would never allow such a move.
<TL: 背面からの背負投, the illegal version of this throw, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seoi_otoshi >


But they weren’t in a judo match; instead, it was the contest of might. Hence, Raa Lutim declared Ai Fa the victor.


「The match is over! Winner, Ai Fa of the Fa house! Darum Wu of the Wu clan, please leave the arena.」


Darum Wu managed to protect his head with his arms at the last moment, but he seemed to have a mild head concussion. He was groaning on the ground with his hands on his head.


Cheers erupted like a dam breaking. Ai Fa stood quietly in place for a moment and then finally squatted down beside Darum Wu with a worried face.


And then, Darum Wu’s right arm sprung out like a snake and grabbed Ai Fa’s left shoulder.


I was feeling relieved but stood up quickly in reaction.


But Darum Wu didn’t do anything else. He just laid on the ground while grabbing Ai Fa’s shoulder, and stared at Ai Fa’s face.


「Oh, he got utterly beaten by you! Darum Wu, you still alive?」


Someone walked towards us with large strides with those cheerful words. It was the head of the Lutim house, Dan Lutim, whom I had not seen in a long while.


After the house head conference, Kaslan Lutim became an advisor to the tribal chief Donda Wu and had to run all over the place. And so, Dan Lutim took on the responsibility of protecting his own house and the rest of the kin houses. Hence, Ai Fa and I had not seen him for half a month.


After half a month, he was still the same. His face was like a cheery Arabian demon god, with a bold, innocent, and happy smile.


「Aside from Donda Wu and me, I never thought that there is someone who can throw Darum Wu down like this! What an interesting match! Ai Fa, hurry up and win another match and then test your might against me.」


As Dan Lutim spoke, he reached his arm under Darum Wu’s left armpit and easily picked him up. Darum Wu was heaved onto Dan Lutim’s round body, and his hand finally left Ai Fa’s shoulder.


「No, I don’t want to disrupt the Wu clan’s festival any further. I still need to tend to the hearth, so I have to go now.」


Ai Fa said as she stood up, and Dan Lutim replied with a hearty laugh:


「You can’t do that! Amongst the hunting kins of the Wu clan, Darum Wu is one of the elites. Since you won against him convincingly, I must see the full extent of your abilities, or I won’t be able to enjoy this festival!」


「But…」


「This is a harvest festival, right? It’s a ritual where the hunters celebrate our harvest and display our might to the forest! Hearth caretakers have their job, while hunters have theirs! You are an outstanding hunter, so you just need to perform your duty as one!」


After that, Dan Lutim refused to listen to Ai Fa’s objections and returned to the wall of people with Darum Wu on his shoulders.


Deafening cheers surrounded Ai Fa again as she returned victoriously.


「… Thank you for your hard work. No matter what, I feel relieved.」


Ai Fa just sighed without answering.


A small figure approached us quietly from behind and jumped onto Ai Fa’s back.


「Ai Fa, you are amazing! Not just Jii Mamu, you even defeated Darum-nii! You are so cool!」


「… You are heavy; Rimee Wu, don’t cling to me.」


「Don’t wanna.」


Rimee Wu rubbed her cheeks against Ai Fa’s with a brilliant smile.


I remembered something that worried me at this moment and looked Shela Wu’s way.


Shela Wu closed her eyes tightly as she clasped her hands before her breasts with her face in desperate prayer.



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