Saturday, September 1, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 9 (2 of 5)

Chapter 2: A Guest in Forest’s Edge
Translator: Skythewood Editor: Ratorasepo

1


The next day, when I appeared in the Wu clan village with my wagon, a small commotion occurred.


I already informed Lala Wu and the others, so I was mentally prepared for this incident. The children cheered at my arrival, which scared me a little. But thankfully, no one cast any accusatory gaze my way.


Before entering the plaza of the village, I pulled the reins to make Gilulu stop. I then got off the driver’s platform and continued on foot.


“Welcome to the Wu clan, Asuta. So you learned to drive the wagon in just one day.”


Shela Wu ran over from Shin Wu’s house that was in front of the Wu clan main house.


“Yes. Ai Fa trained together with me this morning too, so I learned the fundamental skills. If I drive slowly down the path to town, it will be fine.”


And the price of that was Ai Fa chopping wood and foraging herbs alone.


I felt apologetic towards her because Ai Fa wasn’t too interested in driving the wagon. She only helped me with my training after I invited her earnestly.


After finishing the training, Ai Fa got off the wagon reluctantly when it was time to go to the Wu clan.


“From today onwards, I will pick up everyone with my wagon. First will be loading the cargo from Shela Wu’s place… But since there is a wagon now, I won’t need to borrow a pot anymore.”


After I bought a griddle, we had to go through a bit of hassle; I needed to put the tarapa sauce into pouches, meet up with Shela Wu at the Post Station Town, and then transfer the sauce into the pot she brought over. It would be difficult for Vena Wu and me to carry both the griddle and the pot, so we had to do it this way.


But now, I could bring as many things as I needed directly from the Fa house. The wagon had a pot full of tarapa sauce, the griddle for 『Myam-roasted meat』, 60 meat patties, 60 grilled poitan, 90 slices of meat marinated in the sauce. Also included were the meat for the inns and 2 kg of jerky.


That was quite a large number of things.


Aside from the griddle, Vena Wu and I needed to carry that many things.


It served as fine physical training, but I felt really happy that I didn’t need to bring all these things across that dangerous suspension bridge.


Anyway, I loaded the 90 grilled poitan made by Shela Wu onto the wagon and set off for the main house.


Over there, Rimee Wu and the Wu clan’s Totos, Lulu, were waiting for me.


“Uwah, a wagon! Amazing, Asuta!”


I walked towards Rimee Wu who was mounted on Lulu. This girl who liked Totos as much as Ai Fa started training on riding a Totos so early in the morning.


“Amazing, amazing! But it looks so heavy, thank you for your hard work, Gilulu!”


And of course, Gilulu just tilted its head with a dumb expression.


Lulu also stared blankly at Gilulu.


“Ah, Asuta. Welcome to the Wu clan. That’s all the firewood for today.”


Mama Mia Lei who came out of the house after hearing the noise outside laughed heartily.


Leina Wu and Lala Wu carried a large amount of firewood out from the back of the house, and we were all set.


“Let’s go then; everyone, get on the wagon.”


Leina Wu, Lala Wu, and Shela Wu climbed on board noisily.


I glanced at them through the corner of my eyes and then asked Mama Mia Lei: “Erm, Vena Wu hasn’t recovered yet?”


“That’s right. Even if you ferry her over in a wagon, she can’t stand for the entire day. Like I told you right from the start, it would be three days before she can work in town again.”


“Is that so? Then, what about the matter with the easterner Shumimaru?”


“Well, we have decided to invite him over for now. After the clan head and I meet this guest, we will think about letting him see Vena Wu.”


“I see. I can vouch that he is a trustworthy man. I will be in your care then.”


I breathed a sigh of relief and led Gilulu to the exit of the plaza.


The wagon started rolling, and the girls on board started squealing.


“Let us be off. It will be a little shaky, so be careful not to fall off.”


I sat on the driver’s platform and hit the base of Gilulu’s leg with the whip.


Gilulu started walking briskly. Even with so much load, its stride remained nimble as ever.


It was still early, so I decided to let Gilulu walk at a normal pace instead of trotting.


It would take 40 to 50 minutes to walk from the Wu clan village to the Post Station Town, but a Totos walking speed could cover that distance in ten to twenty-five minutes… Even when traversing a meandering road, it would take 30 minutes at most. We could reach earlier than usual just by driving safely.


“Asuta, is it fine for our wage to be the same even though you are taking care of us so much? I feel a little bad about this.”


Shela Wu’s voice came from behind.


There wasn’t anything dividing the driver’s platform from the wagon, so we could still talk freely if we raised our voices a little.


“It’s fine. The work will only start after we reach the Post Station Town, so please don’t mind what happens before and after that too much.”


“I see, but the traveling time got shortened greatly. We can gather more firewood if we reach home early.”


I smiled gently; Shela Wu was a serious girl.


But I changed the topic.


“We already have enough firewood. Shela Wu, would you like to do some other work?”


“Other work? Like what?”


As we turned a corner on the Forest’s Edge road, I raised up a proposal I had been thinking about for quite some time:


“Like making the meat patty for 『Kiba burger』 and tarapa sauce… or cutting the meat for 『Myam-roasted meat』 and its sauce. I’m thinking of handing one of these works to you, what do you think?”


Shela Wu seemed a little troubled and stayed quiet.


And I just waited patiently for her answer.


“But… If we interfere too much, there will be less way for Asuta to perform…?”


“True, but that is my objective. It might take some time to do so, but I have been thinking about completely handing one of the stalls over to the Wu clan.”


Silence again.


I continued:


“I have had this idea for a long time now. I signed contracts with innkeepers, prepared the dishes, and ensured the taste and quality was up to standard. I then made a profit after deducting the cost of the ingredients and stall rental. If you can do all this without me, then the earnings from that stall will belong to the Wu clan.”


“…”


“I had not discussed this with Donda Wu yet, and I don’t plan to rush this too. But as a precondition, I hope you all can learn how to prepare these dishes… What do you think?”


“B-But… why? Doing this will just reduce the copper plates earned by the Fa house and won’t benefit Asuta at all, correct…?”


Shela Wu’s voice was trembling.


A gust of wind brushed across my face, and I couldn’t help smiling.


“That’s not true. If I hand one stall over to the Wu clan, my job will be much easier. I can also expand my business in other ways… In order to do so, I need to work hard in studying and research.”


“Studying and research…?”


“That’s right. If things go well, I can cater food for more inns. Even if I can’t do that, I’m still planning to update the menu. The cooking time for 『Braised kiba』 is too long, and a dish that uses pickled Chitto costs too much.”


“Hmm…”


“I’m also thinking about new dishes for the stall. Right now, we have 90 portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 and 60 portions of 『Kiba burger』, a total of 150 dishes every day. But there are about ten leftover 『Myam-roasted meat』 every day, correct? Then it would be better to reduce the number of 『Kiba burger』 and 『Myam-roasted meat』 to 50 or 60 each and introduce a third dish.”


“Ah, you want to expand to 3 stalls?”


“Not really, this is just a thought. No matter what, I don’t want to increase the workload right now, given the situation. I will give it serious thought after handing one of the stalls over to the Wu clan.”


Considering the cost of the venue, stall rental and manpower, increasing the number of stalls would just reduce the profits. However, I planned to introduce new dishes slowly while continuing to offer the popular items.


If each of the three dishes could sell more than 60 portions, it would fulfill the objective of letting more people eating kiba. Another thing to consider was whether we could compete with the other stalls if we sold 180 portions in three stalls, instead of 150 portions in two stalls.


Anyway, our goal in selling kiba dishes wasn’t to earn money but to promote the deliciousness of kiba— selling not just dishes, but also kiba meat. This was a grandiose plan and also an exhibition of our merchandise.


“Like I said, I don’t plan to push this plan ahead quickly. This business has been running for just a month. With how turbulent the times are, we have to exercise caution… However, I don’t think the handing a stall over to the Wu clan will be that hard since I have seen the work everyone has done.”


If the Wu clan could run the business on their own, the goal of bringing prosperity to the Forest’s Edge would persevere even if I was gone… It was one of the reasons I had this idea.


No one knew when they would die. This was common sense in this world, and I might be gone at any moment too. So taking measures to prepare for that wasn’t a bad thing.


This might be one of the reason, but it wasn’t the biggest one.


One month ago, on the fifth day of my business, this thought came to me naturally when Shela Wu came to help me out. If Shela Wu was this capable, could I hand a stall over to her? So I was just saying what I had been thinking about for the past month.


Mama Mia Lei also asked me in surprise about why I always choose the route where I stand to lose out. However, the objective of the Fa house was bringing prosperity to the Forest’s Edge. Ai Fa’s intention wasn’t to gather all the wealth within the Fa house.


If this was a job that only I could do, I would give it my all. But if others could manage it, then letting them take over to free me up for other tasks would be the most effective way.


And those who were capable should be rewarded accordingly. Shela Wu had such a qualification.


“Erm… But, I…”


“I think there is no problem with your cooking skills. You have been in charge of the tarapa sauce all this time, Shela Wu, and you are good at making the meat patty for the burgers, right? The most important thing in doing business is to keep the taste the same. I plan to train you on this too.”


“...”


“By comparison, the 『Myam-roasted meat』 is easier to make, correct? Once you learn how to cut the meat, the rest is easy… But, honestly speaking, I would prefer you to learn the more complicated 『Kiba burger』.”


“It’s fine! I’m good at making 『Kiba burgers』!”


A voice answered firmly in a tone, different from Shela Wu.


I could already guess that was Leina Wu.


“Asuta, your myam dish has a stronger taste to suit the preferences of the townsfolk, correct? If so, it might be better to let the Wu clan handle the 『Kiba burgers』. It will be difficult for us to make a dish we don’t like ourselves.”


“Oh, that makes sense.”


“I think it will be hard for Shela Wu to have the resolve to replace Asuta. It’s hard for me to do so either. But If I work together with Shela Wu… we can at least be half as good as Asuta.”


“You think too highly of me. With your powers combined, you can make a dish that exceeds my capabilities.”


“… Asuta, it’s you who thinks too highly of us.”


Leina Wu continued answering in a firm tone.


“Sorry, Shela Wu, I have been the only one talking all the while, but I really want to give it a try… and see just how far I can go. If it works, not only can I earn copper plates, I will have the honor of being a chef just like Asuta, right?”


“Honor, as a chef…”


Shela Wu spoke softly, but she was no longer quivering like before.


Only the sound of the wagon rolling along could be heard… When we reached a bend where we could see the road leading into the Post Station Town, Shela Wu finally spoke:


“… Will Asuta guide us on what we are lacking?”


“Yes, of course.”


“Then… I want to test my abilities.”


I answered: “Thank you very much.” with gratitude and then pulled Gilulu’s reins to slow it down.






Nothing of note happened after reaching the Post Station Town.


We were permitted to park the Totos at the empty space behind the stall. But the Totos would eat the surrounding vegetation when it was tied up, so we needed to pay an additional 2 red copper plates of venue rental.


The stall rental was 1 red copper plate per day, but the fee for parking the Totos was twice of that amount. The pricing did seem queer to me, but since the rental was cheap in the first place, I had no complaints. Leaving it in a proper Totos stable for half a day would cost 3 red copper plates, so the price here was more reasonable.


Anyway, business was good.


The southerners and easterners started queuing early in the morning, and when that wave left, the westerners started coming slowly. The southerners and easterners each made up 40% of my patrons, and the rest were westerners. This ratio was still the same.


Despite that commotion, the number of patrons remains the same. I’m really grateful to my customers…


However, things were still a little troublesome.


Especially the western customers.


During this month, the easterners and southerners had mostly changed. There weren’t many of them staying in the Post Station Town long term like the Silver Vase and Pop’s architects.


But there were those who visited Genos after hearing rave reviews about the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 and the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》, who did in turn patronize my stall. This trend was even more obvious after I started catering for the inns.


On the other hand, the westerners were always the same few people. Some of them came from another town to work here, but the permanent residents were the majority.


Which meant, the 30-odd westerners that visited the stall daily were all regulars.


I had no idea how many westerners lived in Genos’ Post Station Town, but I recalled that Ai Fa said there were a few thousand. However, that was just outdated second-hand info.


Judging from how developed the streets were and the number of residential buildings, I would estimate there to be about a thousand to two thousand residents. It wasn’t to the extent of ten thousand, but a few thousand people was an appropriate way of putting it.


And of course, not all the residents in the Post Station Town would buy their meal in the marketplace. The customers were mainly travelers and people working nearby. Some of them dined at the inns too.


There were tens of food stalls in this vast marketplace— more than 50, maybe even 60 or 70.


I heard the sales for a stall was 20 to 50 portions a day, which was about 35 on average.


Assuming there were 60 stalls, multiplied by 35, that would be 2,100 people. And my two stalls garnered around 140 patrons a day, which was quite a substantial number.


So the problem was still the ratio of customers.


From the pedestrians traveling on the streets, the majority was westerners, making up 60 to 70 percent of the crowd.


Of the 2,100 estimated customers, at least 1,260 were westerners.


Less than 30 visited my stalls, which was below 2.46 percent.


Only that many westerners visited my stall unreservedly.


In contrast, of the 840 foreigners, 110 patronized my stall. That was 13 percent.


One out of every ten easterners or southerners visited my stall.


Only 2 out of every hundred westerners patronized my shop.


No matter how well my business was doing, this was the reality my stall was facing.


On top of this huge gulf, that commotion happened ten days ago. Even so, there were still many people who didn’t desert denizens of Forest’s Edge and continued buying kiba dishes from us. This was great, but I still didn’t know how to proceed.


… Well, I worry about this too much, that’s why Ai Fa thinks I’m very anxious.


As my thoughts wandered astray, someone tugged the waist of my T-shirt.


“Asuta, are you okay? There’s a customer.”


Leina Wu who was tending to the 『Kiba burger』 stall with me looked up at my face worriedly.


I nodded at her and tapped my cheeks lightly.


“Sorry, I was thinking about something… Sorry, and welcome.”


But my smile froze at this moment.


A beardless southerner was standing before me with a blank expression.


“Ah, hello… How may I help you?”


Leina Wu didn’t seem to notice that this was Lavis who visited the stall yesterday.


“I’m here to purchase your food. Will you still sell them to me, despite what happened yesterday?”


His face looked unhappy, but his tone and attitude were sincere.


I looked around me, confirmed that mischevious girl wasn’t around, and then answered: “Of course.”


“I was in the wrong yesterday too. So, one portion for you?”


“Yes.”


“But the dish here has a stranger taste then yesterday’s dish, and the texture is more unique. Some southerners don’t like this taste and texture, so would you like a sample before buying it?”


There were a lot less customers trying the samples now, and, if someone wanted a sample, I had to sacrifice some of my merchandise, which couldn’t be helped. The two red copper plates used to draw in new customers was a necessary expense.


But the young man seemed irritated when he heard what I said.


“Is that so… Is the taste of this dish that heavy?”


“Yes, but there are southerners who like this dish. But on the whole, the southerners prefer the myam dish over there.”


The young man tilted his thick neck and pondered aloud: “What should I do…?”


“Well, even if you ask me…”: I gasped mid-way through my sentence.


From behind the stout body of the southerner young man, a head with uneven brown hair and beautiful green eyes poked out.


“Ah, so you are here too. Erm… Apologies for what I said yesterday, I’m very sorry.”


I took off the towel on my head and lowered my head about 30 degrees.


The southerner girl Dell glared at me with her left eye.


“What should we do? Want to try a sample?”


The young was about to turn back.


The girl suddenly yelled: “Idiot! Don’t move! He will see me!”


“Erm, you already showed yourself, so why are you still hiding…?”


I pointed out gently, and the small visible patch of pale skin around her eyes reddened.


“… Aren’t you angry?”


“What?”


“I hit you twice yesterday, Asuta, aren’t you angry?”


“Well, I did offend you in the first place. I don’t agree with violence, but I was in the wrong, so I’m not angry.”


I didn’t show a kind and gentle smile, but still answered her manneredly. And it was true that I wasn’t mad.


“… Are you really not angry?”


“Yes, I’m not.”


“… But I’m still angry.”


“Ah, erm, I’m very sorry. I’m reflecting on it.”


“… Do you still think I’m a boy?”


“I wouldn’t dare! I thought there are no southerner girls in Genos. I’m reflecting on my actions, can you forgive me?”


My coercion probably worked, and that girl finally walked out from behind that young man.


She was as petite as ever, with a slim figure and cute appearance. If I knew right from the start, I would definitely see her as a girl. I couldn’t help wondering why the idea that she was a “boy that is as cute as a girl” appeared on my mind. Human psychology was hard to fathom.


If I was to say, she should have dressed more femininely if she didn’t want others to mistake her for a boy. Her sleeveless shirt and pants were just like the young man’s beside her, and the colors were plain too.


Be it the denizens of Forest’s Edge or westerners, the women all had feminine attire and extravagant accessories and showed a lot of skin. This girl’s body didn’t look very thicc, but if she dressed the part, she would definitely be cute enough to turn the heads of everyone who saw her.


“… That person is really a beauty.”


Dell looked at Leina Wu with serious eyes.


Leina Wu showed a troubled smile, tilted her head, and said: “What’s the matter?”


“That person is pretty too, and the red-haired girl is cute as well. Are there a lot of beauties in Forest’s Edge?”


“Well, it’s hard to dispute that fact.”


“… With so many beauties around you, someone like me will naturally be thought of as a boy.”


“Not at all! You are very cute too and won’t lose to them at all.”


I answered on reflex.


In the end, Dell’s fair face turned beet red, while Leina Wu narrowed her round eyes coldly, just like my house head.


“A-Are you stupid? You can’t say that even if you don’t want to upset me, or you will lose your credibility, you know? Asuta, you are really insensitive!”


“Yes, I hate myself sometimes too… Anyway, if you don’t mind what happened and are willing to try the sample, please do! I will cut the sample now…”


“There is no need for sampling… Will you really sell it to me?”


“Do I have any reason not to? I’m glad that you are willing to buy from me.”


With her face still red, Dell happily… really happily, smiled bashfully.


The moment I saw her smile, the last bit of grudge in my heart faded away. This girl might be a little mischievous in her words and actions, but she could face her emotions head on. If I had to describe her as examples using the people I knew around me, she was similar to Lala Wu.


And so… a smile on this sort of people was very charming. It reminded me of the first time Pops Balan smiled.


“Then sell it to me! How many copper plates?”


“Thank you for your patronage. Two red copper plates, please.”


“So cheap! Can you even break even like this?”


“Yes, this is on par with the other stalls.”


After Ai Fa started hunting again, I didn’t need to procure kiba meat from the other houses. The operation cost dropped drastically, but the other conditions remained the same as at the other stalls.


By the way, the meat today wasn’t bought from the Wu clan, but the Lan house. The price wasn’t 12 red copper plates for one kiba, but 120 copper plates. After Zwei spoke with Mama Mia Lei, I finally corrected the price of the meat.


The price was between 100 and 140 red copper plates, depending on the size of the kiba. Half a kiba would be half the price. Unlike the Wu clan which hunted several kiba a day, the smaller houses had to think carefully about how much they needed to eat.


“Then give me one! Lavis, are you really not eating?”


“Yes. I ate a light meal before leaving the mansion.”


The young man took out a pouch from his waist, fished out one white copper plate, and placed it on the counter with a thud.


“Thank you for your patronage, your change is 8 red copper plates.”


While I was making the 『Kiba burger』, Leina Wu handled the change.


But when Leina Wu handed the money over, Lavis showed no reaction.


Leina Wu seemed to notice something and then nodded before placing the copper plates on the counter. That young man then picked up the 8 red copper plates wordlessly.


He wanted to avoid touching the hands of the denizens of Forest’s Edge, huh.


When the denizens of Forest’s Edge moved from the Jaguar jungle into the Genos, they switched their belief from the southern god to the western god. There were still some Jaguar people who used this as an excuse to ostracize the denizens of Forest’s Edge.


But the number of southerners who thought this way was in the minority and didn’t approach the stall in the first place. So this was a rare situation.


Hmm… They aren’t bad guys, but it’s hard to deal with them.


I thought this as I handed the prepared 『Kiba burger』 to Dell.


“Sorry for the wait. Be careful not to spill the tarapa sauce.”


“Yes, thank you!”


She was completely in a good mood and was all smiles.


Unlike yesterday, she bit into her meal without hesitation and squinted blissfully.


“It tastes really good! There’s no need to sample after all! It’s as good as the dish yesterday, Asuta!”


“Thank you, I’m happy to hear you say that.”


“But this meat is a little soft. Is this kiba?”


“Yes, I made it by mincing the meat and melding them together before grilling it.”


“Hmm, this is great. To think that there are proper dishes in the Post Station Town too.”


Proper dishes, huh.


I felt a bit curious after hearing that.


“Erm, what do you really usually eat in the city? Are there extravagant dishes beyond that of the Post Station Town?”


“Hmm? How should I put it, the food is completely different…! But Asuta’s cooking is great too. Why is a meal that costs 2 red copper plates so good?”


She took another bite of the 『Kiba burger』 gleefully.


“This diced vegetable is tino, right? And the one inside the pot is tarapa, correct? Cheap tarapa is sour, but this one is sweet and yummy.”


“Huh? There are tarapa which aren’t sour? I cooked it together with diced aria to neutralize the sourness and also seasoned it with fruit wine and myam.”


“Fruit wine, huh. But that’s just cheap stuff too, right?”


“Fruit wine is cheap. A bottle like this is just one red copper plate.”


“One red copper plate! It’s laughably cheap!!”


How incredibly arrogant.


It was probably her nature to not have second thoughts about her words. I felt complicated about her praising the food but criticizing the ingredients.


“However, you made delicious food with cheap ingredients, which shows how high Asuta’s cooking standard is. Why is someone like Asuta doing business in a place like the Post Station Town?”


“Because I’m a denizen of Forest’s Edge. How can a denizen of Forest’s Edge do business inside the city?”


Dell drooped her brows when she heard that.


Her mood changed really quickly.


“Sorry. I said ‘a place like the Post Station Town’. I don’t hate the Post Station Town, you know? The atmosphere in the city is too strict and doesn’t suit my personality, that’s why I come out every day… But, I just bring myself to like the cheap food of the Post Station Town…”


“Ah, I don’t really mind that.”


“You don’t like others saying your ingredient is cheap, right… Sorry.”


“No, like I said, I’m not mad! Eat up while it’s hot!”


“… Yes…”


Dell looked worriedly at me for a while, and then finally recovered her mood and started eating.


At this moment, a group of cloaked tall men walked over, which almost made me sigh. The timing was bad… or was their timing fixed? As I thought, they were the Silver Vase.


Dell who was about to walk away from the stall stood stiffly in place when she saw the silver hair under the man’s hood.


“Asuta, five, give.”


“Thank you for your patronage… Erm, does what we said yesterday still count?”


I asked Dell anxiously, but she just replied impatiently: “Annoying.”


The girl looked up at Shumimaru angrily.


“Hey! Let me make this clear first!”


Shumimaru looked down at Dell silently, like an avatar of calmness and expressionless.


This difference in temperament was probably the reason for their hostility. Dell raised her brow irately.


But what came from her mouth was: “Sorry.”


“I don’t like Semu people, but it’s wrong of me to insult a Semu in the western kingdom. I’m sorry.”


An apology with the tone of admonishing others.


But for this girl, she had to work really hard to make this compromise.


Shumimaru’s face remained stoic, and he nodded gently.


“I always wait, Semu, Jaguar, end war. Hate Jaguar, I never.”


“I’m from Zealand, which is in the west of Jaguar so I don’t know anything about the war anyway… Ah, forget it! Don’t let me say so much! I will blurt out something rude again!”


Dell bit into the 『Kiba burger』 again, as if she was trying to stuff her mouth. She then stared at me, as if she was asserting that I shouldn’t have any complaints now.


And of course, I didn’t have any complaints. I thought she was a good girl who could apologize earnestly.


“… Yesterday, in city, yellow mansion. You, I see.”


Shumimaru said quietly as he waited for his 『Kiba burger』.


“Didn’t I tell you not to let me say too much…! Yes, I’m from Zealand so my family is obviously a steel smith.”


“Zealand, steel, famous. From Zealand, buy blades, I, no business.”


“Ah, you are the one who is forcing a sale to that old man? How unfortunate! In terms of knives and pot manufacturing, Jaguar is as good as Semu!”


She stuck out her chest proudly while saying that and then turned and looked my way a little worriedly.


“… That, doesn’t count as speaking ill, correct?”


“Yes, I’m not that sensitive.”


Shumimaru was the one who asked her in the first place.


They wouldn’t initiate a conversation with Jaguar people lightly, so this had to be important to Shumimaru.


“We, every year, sell blades. But, he say, no need… Because you, sell.”


“Hmm? Ah. My father signed a special contract with that grandpa. I don’t know the contents and won’t tell my competitors anyway…! So, are you a steel smith too?”


“No, steel smith. We everything, sell. Blade, jug, glass, cloth.”


“Oh? Then you will need to change your business direction! Steel is a specialty of Jaguar, and Zealand is a city that became prosperous because of steel! We won’t lose to a jack-of-all-trades merchant!”


Dell looked at my face after finishing each sentence.


But right now, I felt more relief than anger. And it was necessary for merchants to promote their products.


“I will work hard, make, good blade… But, say something, can I?”


“What? You sure can talk for a Semu.”


“Chat, I like. More western language, I want learn… Yellow mansion old man, promise break. Blade, waste prepare. Careful, you should.”


“Hmm? What are you talking about!? If your business fell through because there is no contract, then you can’t complain. How did you manage to run a merchant group?”


“I sign, contract. Contract, violate. He say, if want sue him, go city, make entry pass. Cannot, so give up, contract.”


When she heard what Shumimaru said, Dell’s face turned from cute to scary. Like a dog who got disturbed mid-meal.


“What is this? Is that old man such a problematic person? Never mind, instead of a noble, he looks closer to being a broke merchant. So, why are you telling this to a business competitor?”


“Why… No reason.”


Shumimaru then squinted.


It was a happy squint.


“Buy apologize, you did. I think, rarely seen Jaguar girl, you are. So, talk to you, I want.”


Dell averted her head and grumbled: “Hmmp! What’s so strange about that!”


She then glanced at Shumimaru:


“… Never mind, I will tell my father to be careful. I don’t know if this is true, so I won’t thank you for this.”


“Thanks, no need. We, make blades, work hard together.”


After finishing this line of questioning, Shumimaru ate his 『Kiba burger』 too.


I wanted to tell Shumimaru as soon as possible that he had been permitted to visit the Wu clan, but I should say that after that combative girl had left.


And so, I decided to make idle chat.


“Business in the city is hard too… By the way, are you doing business with the nobles, Shumimaru?”


“Yes. By chance, meet. Old man, many blades, buy. Vegetable knife, meat knife, buy many.”


“Ah, so the knives are for culinary use.”


The knife beside me was a high-quality vegetable knife that I bought from Shumimaru with 18 white copper plates.


“That old man is really engrossed with gourmet food! He had dealings with several restaurants, and even has a live-in chef! He also prepared rooms for us! His personality isn’t great, but he is a really gracious host!”:


Dell interjected strongly.


“You lived in that noble’s mansion? What a surprise.”


“It’s not too bad! If things go well, the soldiers in the city will buy their weapons from us… Ah, that’s confidential!”


I looked at the girl covering her mouth with a wry smile.


“Don’t worry, I won’t spread that news. We don’t want to get on the noble’s bad side.”


“Please do so, okay? That old man’s personality isn’t that great! To a noble, money is more important than the lives of peasants.”


After Dell said that, her eyes started sparkling.


“Oh. right! Why don’t I introduce Asuta to that old man? If you work for a noble as a chef, you will be able to rest easy for the rest of your life!”


“No need, no need! I’m more suited for the Post Station Town! I definitely can’t cook anything that a noble will like!”


“Is that so… I feel that Asuta won’t lose to the chef in that mansion.”


Dell puffed her cheeks unhappily.


“It’s better to not be involved with that scummy old man. It will be bad if he drags you in… I really feel like letting them try Asuta’s cooking. Those nobles will definitely be shocked by how delicious kiba is!”


The nobles in the city were a faraway existence to me. Just working in the Post Station Town was busy enough for me.


By the way… a scummy old man, huh.


I hated those types too, but I still wanted to see for myself.


“By the way, what’s his name? Erm… It’s fine if it’s not convenient for you to tell me.”


“Hmm? His name? What’s he called… Something like Zurun or Taran.”


I felt relief.


On the other hand, I also didn’t want to get involved with the nobles. And I didn’t want to suspect this girl who had finally warmed up to me as a spy.


Anyway, I didn’t even know how many aristocrats there were in the Genos city, and it couldn’t be so coincidental… At this moment, Shumimaru said: “No.”


“Yellow mansion, old man, is Count Turan. Turan territory, north of, Genos. Many field, for fuwano, fruits.”


“Yes, that’s right, it’s Count Turan! Erm, that’s the title, not the name, correct?”


“Yes, Turan Count house, Head, Pyschkurewuss. Genos, three noble house, one of.”


Shumimaru said quietly.


I looked up, and it was almost noon… I then sighed with all my strength.


2


“I, no know well, Lord Pyschkurewuss. Business with him, I do, through his delegate.”


On the way back to Forest’s Edge after closing up shop, Shumimaru who had been recognized as a guest got on the wagon with the girls and explained:


“Twice, Lord Pyschkurewuss, I see. No much speak. But… I think, let down guard, cannot. Else, promise, he no keep.”


“Is that so. He broke the contract and even asked you to request for an entry pass so you can sue him in the city, how vicious.”


“Yes. So, Lord Pyschkurewuss, I no do business, no regret. Break bad relations, I want.”


Breaking off such ties was for the best.


But, as the denizens of Forest’s Edge, we couldn’t break off such ties even if we didn’t like their way of doing things. We would finally be having a meeting with the people in the city tomorrow.


Kamyua Yost and Malfreed seemed to be doing something to dig up the skeletons in Pyschkurewuss’ closet, but they had not found the crucial evidence yet. Our goal was different from them right from the start. It would be possible for us to work together if Pyschkurewuss was confirmed as the common enemy of the denizens of Forest’s Edge and them… But right now, Pyschkurewuss seemed to be just a grey character that took advantage of the Tsun clan.


Leaving all these matters aside, Pyschkurewuss was a representative of the governing tier in Genos and even demanded the Forest’s Edge settlement to hand over all 39 Tsun clan members.


Aside from Zuro Tsun who had been judged guilty by the Forest’s Edge, Pyschkurewuss also demanded Diga, Doddo, Mida and Yamiel, Zwei and Aura— and even Tulu Deng, her father and all the branch family members to be handed over to Genos city.


Anyway, this problem will have to wait until the end of tomorrow’s conference… And someone related to this Pyschkurewuss just happened to be my customer.


According to Dell who claimed to be the daughter of a steel merchant, she was traveling with her father, who was the leader of a merchant group, and learning the ropes of running a business.


Her father was a rather wealthy merchant and had been doing business in Genos city for many years now. He even obtained a contract with a grand noble Pyschkurewuss during his last visit.


This time, he brought the merchandise ordered by Pyschkurewuss— a deal to procure kitchen knives, the same deal that Pyschkurewuss didn’t follow through Shumimaru— and reached Genos two nights ago. Dell, who was allowed to move freely on the second day, came to the Post Station Town with her escort Lavis and discovered my stall.


There wasn’t anything strange about all this. My stall was situated at the northern end of the Post Station Town and was easy for people coming in from the north side of the city to spot.


Even though this was just a coincidental meeting, I thought keeping an adequate distance from her would be the appropriate strategy. However, the problem was with Dell and what she thought about all this.


I carefully steered Gilulu as I sighed.


“Asuta, down, you seem to be. Worry, I am. Lord Pyschkurewuss, what about him?”


“Yes, it’s nothing, just that… for the denizens of Forest’s Edge, Pyschkurewuss is a familiar figure.”


“Familiar? Nobles in city, the denizens of Forest’s Edge, dealings?”


At this point, I decided to answer: “Yes.” If I was to say too much, Shumimaru could get embroiled in unnecessary conflict.


After a moment of silence, Shumimaru muttered: “I see” and then became silent.


And then, I finally saw the Wu clan village.


I parked the wagon at the entrance of the plaza and then alighted together with everyone else. We parted ways with Rii Sudora who needed to go shopping, so there was just Shumimaru, Leina Wu, Lala Wu and Shela Wu with me.


Most of the women and children in the village were working, be it sunning herbs, tanning hides, or chopping wood. They already knew that Shumimaru would be visiting, and there wasn’t any commotion.


However, the gaze on Shumimaru wasn’t warm at all. It wasn’t hostile or cold, but everyone’s gaze bore the same suspicion— why is an easterner visiting the village. It was the same for the children who cheered when they saw Totos and wagons.


Curiosity, doubt, and worry filled their gazes as they looked at the foreigner, unsure if he was friend or foe. Before Ai Fa told me to dress appropriately for Forest’s Edge, the other denizens also cast similar gazes towards me.


Just like the denizens of Forest’s Edge were judged by others in the Post Station Town, the townsfolk got the same treatment in Forest’s Edge. However, things were only so peaceful because this visit was planned ahead of time. If Kamyua Yost and others happened to run into them during their course of work, these men might have even drawn their blades.


There was still a long road ahead before the denizens of Forest’s Edge and the townsfolk could understand each other… This was a sobering fact.


“Hmm? Darum-nii?”


Lala Wu said loudly.


The person she was talking about walked out from the Wu clan main house right in front of us, approaching us slowly.


He was wearing hunter’s clothes and a set of large and small blades, showing readiness to hunt.


After the harvest festival, the Wu clan village entered the hunting offseason. For the next half a month, the hunters could stop their work and rest their exhausted bodies. However, Darum Wu was still in hunter’s garb, and it was the reason for Lala Wu’s befuddlement.


“What’s going on? Where are you going, armed like that?”


Darum Wu stopped 3 meters away from us.


He looked at his family and guests with subdued eyes.


“… The Zaza village. For the next few days, Wu and Sauti clans will be loaning them people in order to watch Zuro Tsun and his gang.”


“Huh!? So Darum-nii is going? But didn’t you just come back from the Tsun village recently!? Can’t we send someone from branch houses, for example, the Lutim or Lei house?”


“House Lutim and house Lei will send one man each. I am representing the Wu clan.”


“Why must it be Darum-nii!? Why is Papa Donda dumping all the troublesome matters on you?”


Lala Wu looked very displeased, Leina Wu seemed worried, while Shela Wu appeared more depressed than anyone else.


Darum Wu tilted his head puzzledly and then walked closer with the silent footstep of a hunter. After looking at his family members for a while, he said:


“This has nothing to do with father, I wanted to go on my own. Stop being so noisy.”


“You yourself? But why!? You just came back after half a month, and it hasn’t even been three days! You weren’t home… for my birthday too.”


Lala Wu was more violent towards this second son of the Wu clan than I imagined.


Darum Wu frowned annoyedly and then patted his sister’s head.


“The work this time won’t be for too long, assuming the conference tomorrow goes smoothly. Anyway… I have business with the Zaza house.”


“The Zaza house? What business? You don’t have anyone you know in the northern tribe, correct?”


“What’s with all your questions, so annoying. I’m just going to visit their stupid sons.”


After saying that, Darum Wu stole a glance at Shela Wu but looked away quickly. He then said “I’m going then.” and went off.


That pissed me off, so I yelled: “Wait!”


“You said you have business with Doddo and Diga, what happened to them? What’s going on here?”


I was worried about something different from Lala Wu.


Because of their escape attempt from the Dom house, Doddo and Diga were imprisoned again. There was no meaning for Darum Wu to visit them. I felt uneasy since I didn’t know what Darum Wu was thinking.


“… This doesn’t concern you, Asuta of the Fa house.”


But Darum Wu didn’t even look at me.


Feeling worried, I debated on whether to hand the reins to someone and give chase, but a hand grabbed my arm.


Shela Wu was the one who stopped me.


She whispered into my ear:


“Let him go, it must be very important for Darum Wu.”


“Do you know the reason, Shela Wu?”


I asked softly while staying vigilant of Lala Wu and Leina Wu’s gazes.


But Shela Wu just shook her head sadly.


“I don’t know what’s troubling Darum Wu either. But on the night of the banquet, Darum Wu said that he was weak… Not just physically, but also mentally. This weakness might be similar to the men of the Tsun clan who fell into depravity because of the reputation and prowess of their clan— Darum Wu said that.”


Darum Wu wanted to see Diga and Doddo in order to judge how weak he was.


It was hard for me to understand his feelings.


Anyway, I couldn’t stop Darum Wu who was heading towards the Zaza house with a mission. We could only go on with stifled feelings in our hearts.


I parked the wagon before the main house and tied Gilulu who was freed from its load to a tree nearby. We came before the door of the main house and Leina Wu opened the door. Someone unexpected burst out from within.


“Ohhh, you are finally back! I have been waiting for this!”


“D-Dan Lutim!? Why are you here today?”


I didn’t expect Dan Lutim.


Dan Lutim blocked the path and laughed out loud.


“Well, there’s a rare guest coming, so I’m here to take a look! We will need to discuss about tomorrow anyway!”


“Isn’t Kaslan Lutim handling this? Going by tradition, the house head or heir should stay at home, correct?”


“It’s fine, I will be going home tonight! I don’t need to hunt either, so I’m bored!”


Following the motto of “Going my way”, Dan Lutim brushed off my query and laughed heartily.


He then scratched his bald head and turned his sights to Shumimaru with a grunt.


“So you are that guest from the east!? Hmm! It’s been a while since I last saw a Semu, you people are as black as ever! But your hair is as white as an old man’s!”


This wasn’t in the realm of “Going my way” anymore, it was “No regards for anyone”.


My head started to heat, but Shumimaru didn’t waver at all.


“Easterner, ‘Silver Vase’ merchants’ bandleader, Shumimaru Jiz Sadumutino. Thank you, letting visit, me today.”


“I’m the head of house Lutim, kin of the Wu clan! You don’t need to be so formal either, guest!”


Shouldn’t a guest behave properly too?


But Dan Lutim didn’t care about all that and backed into the house while shouting: “Come in, come in.”


Waiting inside the house were the clan head Donda Wu, his wife Mama Mia Lei, as well as Jiza Wu and Kaslan Lutim.


“Clan head Donda, I have brought the guest from the eastern kingdom Shumimaru with me.”


Leina Wu announced on behalf of the group.


She then extended a hand towards Shumimaru.


“Guest Shumimaru, can you let me safekeep your steel, as I explained during our journey here?”


“Yes.”


Shumimaru pulled the cloak on his body aside, revealing clothes with swirly patterns similar to the attire in Forest’s Edge. There were all sorts of metallic and gem accessories on his arms and neck and also a crescent-shaped scimitar on his waist. Shumimaru handed the scimitar and his cloak with hidden pockets containing many needles and a pencil-sized dagger to Leina Wu and then bowed to everyone in the hall.


He was taller than Dan Lutim but had an incredibly slender body.


However, his long arms and legs were covered in muscles. His posture was proper, so he didn’t give the impression of being weak. This was the Shumimaru, the bandleader of a merchant group, who could withstand the rigors of long journeys across the continent. Shumimaru showed no fear before the powerful hunters from the Wu clan and Lutim house.


“Please come in, guest from the east. Let us get to know each other first.”


Mama Mia Lei was all smiles as she sat on the top seat in the hall.


Shumimaru and I took off our shoes and entered the hall. The girls who safekept our steel placed them and the cloak by the clan head and then left the house to forage for firewood.


“Easterner, ‘Silver Vase’ merchants’ bandleader, Shumimaru Jiz Sadumutino. Thank you, letting visit, me today.”


Shumimaru sat at the bottom seat and repeated what he said earlier.


“The one putting up airs beside me is the head of the Wu clan, Donda Wu. On the other side is our eldest son Jiza Wu. The one who welcomed you is the head of house Lutim, Dan Lutim, and his eldest son, Kaslan Lutim. I’m the wife of the clan head, Mia Lei Wu… Thank you for visiting us for the sake of our daughter Vena Wu, guest from the east Shumimaru and Asuta.”


Shumimaru and I bowed quietly.


Mama Mia Lei was all smiles, but Donda Wu still had a scary face. I couldn’t tell what Jiza Wu was thinking either. Dan Lutim was smiling cheerfully like Ebisu, and the calm Kaslan Lutim made me feel at ease.


“And so, I want to understand first. Dear guest Shumimaru, why are you so worried about Vena’s health? Leina might have asked you the same though. Vena isn’t hurt too bad and can go to town the day after tomorrow.”


“But, day after tomorrow, I gone. I, morning three days later, Genos, go from. Back next, half year… No meet day after tomorrow, no meet half year.”


“And how would that be an inconvenience to you? I heard that you two don’t really know each other well.”


“Inconvenience, no… Just meet, I want.”


Shumimaru sat with his legs crossed and looked straight at Mama Mia Lei.


Dan Lutim who seemed happier than Mama Mia Lei laughed loudly.


“I never thought that someone in town will be interested in a woman of Forest’s Edge! Anyway, you want to take Vena Wu as your wife, right, guest from the east?”


He was so direct that even a bystander like me broke out in cold sweat.


Shumimaru seemed to have made up his mind and squinted a little.


“Marry… hard. Vena Wu, me, different faith. I, Semu, Vena Wu, Selva.”


“Fufu, so you are saying you will marry her if you worship the same god?”


“Assumption, meaningless. Vena Wu, incredible woman. Semu, no have, like Vena Wu, charming girl. Definitely, because, denizen of Forest’s Edge, she is.”


“Right. But not many women in the Forest’s Edge have a figure like hers! So it’s only natural that she enamored you with her looks!”


Shumimaru tilted his head slightly and asked: “Looks? Looks, charm, unrelated. Vena Wu charming, because of heart.”


“Oh…? I didn’t speak with that girl much, so I’m not sure about her heart! But she is beautiful, right?”


“Beautiful… Vena Wu, appearance, beautiful?”


I was shocked.


However, Shumimaru had serious eyes.


“Semu thinks, slim, beautiful. Vena Wu, no slim. Semu, no think, Vena Wu, beautiful.”


“What!? She isn’t exactly slim, but that’s the perfect sense of meatiness for a woman! Dear guest, there is no woman in this world as tempting as she!”


“Please stop for a while, Dan Lutim. It’s awkward for me and the clan head to listen to you saying this as your old friend.”


“Don’t worry! I have given all my love to my late wife! I won’t remarry again!”


Dan Lutim said with a hearty laugh, while Mama Mia Lei sighed and replied: “That’s not the problem.”


At this moment, Jiza Wu spoke:


“Guest from the east, why are you so obsessed with my sister? Your relationship with her is superficial, and you don’t think she is charming enough to be your wife. So I don’t think you have any reason to be so obsessed with her.”


“I think, charming, she is. Vena Wu, amazing. Appearance, no pretty, but Vena Wu, cute.”
Shumimaru said calmly without showing his emotions.


“No, appearance, charming too. Vena Wu, beautiful eyes. Mesmerizing smile. Enchanting voice… Marry her, difficult. But Vena Wu, charming.”


“Even if you find her charming, there is no point in the relationship between man and woman if it doesn’t involve marriage. I don’t know what are the customs in town, but this is the reality in Forest’s Edge.”


“Yes! Jiza Wu, we actually thought of the same thing! I think so too! Friendship does bond men and women sometimes, but what are you seeking from Vena Wu, guest?”


Dan Lutim stroked his beard as he leaned forth.


“You neither plan to wed Vena Wu nor marry into Forest’s Edge; what’s the point of deepening this relationship? Do you want to be Vena Wu’s friend? Or have a one-night stand?”


Shumimaru was stumped for the first time.


He then replied: “Don’t know. But, see her, I want. Painful, I feel, if no see her. That’s all… Sorry, shallow thinking.”


“That’s so shallow! But your feelings are deep!”


Dan Lutim laughed cheerfully after saying that.


“Driven by vague emotions, someone from town visited Forest’s Edge. What a surprise! Donda Wu, just how charming is your daughter!”


“Enough with your blabbering. You are a guest too, so behave yourself.”


Donda Wu spoke for the first time.


He stared holes into Shumimaru with his fiery blue eyes.


“Easterner, for the past eight decades, no denizen of Forest’s Edge had tied the knot with someone outside our tribe. That is the case for westerners, much lest easterners.”


“Yes.”


“And the Forest’s Edge won’t permit ridiculous things like a one-night stand. Man and woman can only be bonded by marriage.”


“Yes.”


“If you understand, do with her what you will.”


After Donda Wu finished speaking, he stood his huge body up.


“As the head of the Wu clan, I’m grateful that you made the trip here out of concern for my daughter’s health… Hearth tender of the Fa house, are you here for Vena too?”


“Y-Yes.”


“Hmm… Hey, take them inside. I will continue sleeping until those guys from the Sauti and Zaza clans come.”


That last bit was directed towards Mama Mia Lei.


Mama Mia Lei looked up at her husband’s annoyed face and smile: “I understand, clan head.”


“What, you are sleeping? You sure like to sleep! Who is going to tend to us when you are asleep, Donda Wu?”


With the parting line “Annoying,” Donda Wu disappeared down the corridor to the right.


Mama Mia Lei stood up as she watched him leave.


“Dear guest Shumimaru, I will bring you to my daughter’s room. Jiza, please entertain our guests for a while.”


And so, we headed down the left corridor, opposite where Donda Wu went.


Grandma Jiba’s chamber was in the right too, so this was the first time I headed down this way. Just like what I remembered, the corridor extended 10 meters or so, with three doors along the wall. Mama Mia Lei knocked the door closest to us.


“Vena, the clan head gave his permission, so I brought our guest Shumimaru over. Asuta is here too, can they go in?”


After about 10 seconds of silence, Mama Mia Lei was about to knock again when the door was slid to the side violently.


“Yo, Asuta! It’s great that Dad didn’t punch our guest!”


It wasn’t Vena Wu, but Ludo Wu.


And he was holding Jiza Wu’s son Kota Wu in his arms for some reason. The infant’s pure and black eyes were looking at Shumimaru and me curiously.


“Hey, can someone watch over Kota for now?”


“Yes. Kota, come play with grandma.”


Mama Mia Lei smiled brilliantly and rubbed the cheeks of the toddler. Kota laughed happily in response.


“Yeah, I remember your hair that is as white as Grandma Jiba’s. Dear guest, I’m the youngest son of the Wu clan, Ludo Wu. Nice to meet you.”


“I, Shumimaru Jiz Sadumutino. Seen you, I have.”


“Well, I worked as an escort in the Post Station Town for a long time… Let me say this first, my father permitted you to see Vena-nee because he trusts you. If you betray his trust, I will definitely kill you.”


Ludo Wu tapped his waist.


Hanging there was the new dagger that he bought after that incident with Tay Tsun.


“You might be good, but you are no match for me. I heard that Semu use poison, so if you make any strange moves, I will kill you on the spot… Anyway, can you promise to stay more than an arm’s length away from Vena-nee?”


“Promise, I will.”


“Yes, please do. I don’t want to dirty my own house with blood… And that goes for you too; Asuta, don’t do anything weird.”


I won’t do anything like that… I thought and just considered this a mandatory process.


If my judgment of character was off, and Shumimaru was actually scheming to harm the Wu clan, then Vena Wu would be in danger because of me. Donda Wu’s arrangement actually placed a lot of trust in Shumimaru.


“Come in then. This is Vena-nee’s room, so it is really girly, hence, be prepared, alright?”


Ludo Wu backed away, and we finally entered the room.


There wasn’t anything very feminine about this place, but it was filled with flowery fragrance.


Just like Grandma Jiba’s chamber, the room was tatami big. There was only one big cabinet taking an entire wall, with daily necessities placed on it. However, this room still had the air and style of a women’s quarters, which made it hard for us to calm down.


On the other walls were brightly-colored clothes, decorated with flowers and a deep fragrance.


Women’s accessories were adorned on top of them. These were probably used for their banquet dress. From afar, they seemed to be sparkling metal or stones. The shimmering rainbow light must be from their veils and sashes.


Not only was there a cloth hanging on the wall as decoration, there was also flimsy cloth with swirly patterns there— probably the girl’s laundry.


This had to be the room she shared with her other sisters. There were plenty of clothes here, with most of them looking like lingerie or swimsuit. But this was the attire normally worn in Forest’s Edge, so there was nothing to be shy about… Yet, I still felt as if I had stumbled into a forbidden garden.


And the owner of this forbidden garden was lying elegantly in the room.


There were several cushions on the bed, and the thicc body lying on it belonged to Vena Wu.


She supported her head with her right hand, with her body facing us like a sleeping Buddha. There was nothing special about her posture, but it accentuated the curves on her body.


Her eyes were narrowed into a slit as usual, and there wasn’t any expression on her face. Her injured right ankle was wrapped in light grey bandages. There was some sort of herb medicine under it, and I could smell a faint refreshing and stimulating fragrance that was a bit unlike flowers.


“Sorry for my untidy appearance… My butt will hurt if I keep sitting down…”


“It’s fine, don’t worry. It’s really unfortunate, Vena Wu.”


I sat down in the middle of the room.


Shumimaru sat beside me, while Ludo Wu sat down very close to Vena Wu, opposite us.


“Vena Wu, visit, sudden, sorry.”


Shumimaru quietly lowered his head.


Vena Wu didn’t reply.


Maybe I was just imagining it, but her eyes looked a little annoyed. This atmosphere definitely wasn’t welcoming Shumimaru.


After that, silence engulfed the place. Be it Shumimaru or Vena Wu, they just stared at each other without a word.


Time crawled slowly like a snail, and Ludo Wu who couldn’t stand the silence finally said:


“Erm, didn’t you have business with Vena-nee? The Zaza and Sauti clans will be coming in a while, so I can’t stay with you for too long.”


“Time, no have?”


“There is still some time left.”


“Thank you, precious time, give me.”


But the silence continued.


“Erm… If you are not going to do anything, can you please leave…?”


Vena Wu said coldly.


Shumimaru tilted his head puzzledly.


“Thing, I am doing.”


“What thing… You mean… looking at each other without saying a word…?”


“Yes. I, morning, three days later, Genos, leave. Vena Wu, carved in heart, mind, I want.”


If he said it more fluently, this would be a great line.


But I thought this was the best that the introverted and honest Shumimaru could do to convey his true feelings.


However, Vena Wu looked annoyed.


“Fufu. When Vena-nee is able to walk by herself, she can go to town. That might occur the day after tomorrow. Wouldn’t this make a wasted trip for you?”


Ludo Wu said on behalf of his silent sister, while Shumimaru narrowed his eyes in a satisfied manner.


“Good, if we meet, day after tomorrow. Your injury, heal well, I hope.”


“I don’t understand… If it is a proposal, I can just turn it down. What should I do in a situation like this…?”


Vena Wu used her free left hand to fidget with her brown hair.


“You are not here to propose marriage… or a one-nightstand… or to be friends… Then why are you here…?”


Huh? I almost fell down from surprise.


However, Shumimaru’s expression remained the same.


Shumimaru stared at Vena Wu and then took off an accessory he was wearing on his right wrist.


“Vena Wu, gift, accept can you?”


“…”


“Stone, misfortune, keep away. Hope, Vena Wu, ever healthy.”


It was a silver locket, with several fingernail-sized pink-colored stones embedded in it.


The workmanship looked a little similar to the blue stone necklace that I gave Ai Fa.


Ludo Wu glanced at the silent Vena Wu and then said:


“… What will you do, Vena-nee? If you want it, I can safekeep it for you.”


Vena Wu propped herself up, exerting the same aura as Donda Wu did earlier. While seated sideways, she said quietly:


“But why…? I can’t accept a gift from someone I’m not close with…”


“Vena Wu, ever healthy, I wish you. Sad I will, if hurt, Vena Wu is, after leave.”


“…”


“Return gift, no need. Vena Wu, happiness, I hope.”


“Since he is giving it to you, just take it. If you don’t want it, just throw it away.”


Ludo Wu yawned, as if he was bored by this interaction.


Vena Wu whose head was slightly lowered glared at Shumimaru through her long fringe.


“… Are you mocking me…?”


Shumimaru blinked blankly.


“Mock? Understand, I do not.”


“Why are you wishing for my happiness…? I thought you’re not interested in fat women…?”


As I thought!


Ludo Wu scratched his blonde hair and mumbled: “The cat’s out of the bag, huh.”


These two siblings definitely eavesdropped on the conversation in the hall.


“Since I’m so fat… no one wants to marry me. I will just end up as a middle-aged woman who’s only good for her strength…”




“That’s not true; didn’t you turn down all those men who proposed to you, Vena-nee?”


“Yes… So leave me alone…”


Vena Wu leaned weakly onto the wall behind her.


When he saw her do that, Ludo Wu grunted and stroked his smooth chin.


“It’s almost time, dear guests. I’m sorry, but that’s all for today.”


Shumimaru replied “Yes,” and then lowered his gaze with the accessory clutched tightly in his hand.


He stood up, bowed quietly at Vena Wu, and turned around.






“Sorry about that. She had a fever yesterday, and even discounting that, she had been grounded at home for two days. That’s why Vena-nee isn’t in a good mood. However… she had always been frail.”


After leaving the room and closing the door, Ludo Wu started talking.


“She is especially bad at affairs of the heart. Because of her looks, Vena-nee had been wooed by tens of men before. That’s why… she would get incredibly depressed after turning down someone. In the end, she became a woman that no man dares to approach.”


Ludo Wu smiled and showed his white teeth as he spoke about Vena Wu’s sad past.


“But this is the first time Vena-nee met a man who doesn’t think she is pretty; that’s why she is so upset. She almost exploded with rage when she heard that while eavesdropping. So this is her limit for today.”


“… Yes.”


“Well, do you want me to pass this to Vena-nee?”


Ludo Wu looked at Shumimaru’s clenched right fist.


But Shumimaru shook his head and answered: “No need.”


“Day after tomorrow, Vena Wu, I give. If no meet, give up.”


“I see. Shumimaru, you sure are an interesting man.”


Ludo Wu said as he lightly tapped Shumimaru’s chest with his fist.


“It will be fun if you marry into the Forest’s Edge. But that isn’t a simple matter either. But… If you truly wish for Vena-nee to be happy, I can’t bring myself to hate you. Farewell then.”


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