Saturday, September 8, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 9 (3 of 5)

Chapter 2 Part 2
Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Ratorasepo

3


“Huh? Mia Lei Wu, is it just you alone?”


When I returned to the hall, only Mama Mia Lei was there.


“Yes, a large group of guests arrived. The house is too small, so I asked them to wait outside.”


A large group of guests?


But this was the Wu clan main house, which was big enough to house twelve people and a toddler. Even if Graff Zaza, Dali Sauti, and their followers came, they should be able to fit inside the hall.


“Aside from the two tribe chiefs, there were also some men that I don’t really recognize. They seemed very agitated too; I hope there won’t be any commotions… Oh right, Ai Fa is with them too.”


“Huh? Ai Fa?”


I felt even more lost.


Anyway, we retrieved the cloak and steel that Shumimaru deposited and went outside.


What awaited for us were fearsome Forest’s Edge men— more than ten of them. The main house was indeed too small for these many people.


Donda Wu, who was holed up in his room until this time, cast a sideway glance at us: “Done with your business?”


Standing beside him were Jiza Wu, Dan Lutim, Kaslan Lutim… as well as Dali Sauti and Graff Zaza who reached when I wasn’t aware. These tribal chiefs also brought followers along, so there were eight of them.


Ai Fa and six men stood on the other side, as if they were opposing them.


When Ai Fa saw me, she nodded as if she was saying “Thank you for your hard work”. I felt relieved from the sight of her calm face.


“Is that the easterner guest visiting the Wu clan?”


One of the three tribal chiefs, Graff Zaza of the Zaza house said it with his thick and hoarse voice.


No matter how many people there were, the men from the Zaza house were prominent with the kiba heads they wore on their heads. And this guy was as buff as Donda Wu too.


“The Wu clan is free to invite whomever they want. But we are busy now, so please leave.”


“Alright, I go. Clan head, Donda Wu, today, thank you.”


Shumimaru deftly evaded Graff Zaza’s gaze and bowed towards Donda Wu.


I grabbed Shumimaru who was about to leave by the arm.


“Wait, Shumimaru. Erm… Can we talk for a while?”


I didn’t know why I said that. But I didn’t want Shumimaru to leave just like that.


“Asuta, talk, no mind. Happy, I am.”


“Erm, what should we talk about…”


I couldn’t just leave Ai Fa alone in this situation either.


As I was looking around me, Shumimaru pointed with his thin fingers at the wagon parked beside the Wu house.


“I wait. Where can’t hear, but can see you.”


“Ah, thank you very much.”


As expected of a caravan band leader that traveled the world, Shumimaru walked undauntedly towards the wagon under the doubtful gazes of the Forest’s Edge men.


When he was far away enough, Graff Zaza faced the men I wasn’t familiar with again.


“… I got the gist of what you want to say. It’s regarding the number of people and the representatives we will be sending tomorrow, right?”


“Yes. Can you understand, tribal chiefs?”


The one who answered Graff Zaza was a small-sized man with a monkey-like face, the house head of the Sudora house.


On a closer look, I saw a few familiar faces. On the other side of Ai Fa was the head of the Fou house, and beside him should be the head of the Lan house. Were all of them from minor houses?


“We will submit to the decision of the tribal chiefs and won’t take the capability and judgment of the tribal chiefs lightly. However, we won’t just follow blindly like our time under the Tsun clan. We want to see what the tribal chiefs see, hear what they hear, and work hand in hand with them.”


The head of the Fou house continued where the Sudora head left off.


He seemed about Donda Wu’s age and was tall and skinny.


“Hmm, so not just the conference tomorrow, you also want the rights to discuss these issues with the three tribal chiefs?”


One of the three tribal chiefs, Dali Sauti said in a dignified manner that was beyond his age. His build was on par with the other tribal chiefs too.


On a second observation, I noticed that there was a prominent difference between the chiefs and the others.


First, the number of tusks and horns hanging on their necks was vastly different. Next was their attire. The clothes on the minor houses were a little worn out.


The biggest difference was their body shape and aura.


Including kins like the Lutim, the tribal chiefs were all buffed and full of might. In comparison, the minor houses might have the ferocity and intimidation befitting a hunter of the Forest’s Edge, there was an air of poverty about them.


The minor houses basically lived from hand to mouth, and it showed in their body and aura.


However, the smallest sized Sudora house head answered Dali Sauti without fear: “That’s right.”


“And we will convey the content of the discussions to the other house heads too. If we can spread the word to the north and south ends of Forest’s Edge, we won’t need to wait for the annual house head conference to learn the intent of the tribal chiefs.”


“Are you afraid of us falling into depravity like the Tsun clan?”


Graff Zaza said in a heavy tone. He wasn’t trying to intimidate others, but there was an indescribable tension in the air whenever he spoke.


But even so, the head of the Sudora house didn’t back down. He shook his head and answered with a shake of his head: “No.”


“The Wu clan, Sauti clan, and Zaza house will keep watch over each other, and it’s impossible for the three chiefs to become depraved at the same time. However, when we headed to the Post Station Town to protect Asuta of the Fa house together with the men from the Wu clan during that incident a few days ago, I happened to hear something.”


“And then we, the Fou and Lan houses, learned what the Sudora house head discovered. We heard that… Graff Zaza thinks we should cut off ties with the city and desert the Morga Forest’s Edge. Is that true?”


When he heard what the heads of the Sudora and Fou said, Graff Zaza narrowed his eyes.


“I didn’t say we must desert this place. But I think we should give up on life in this place if we have to throw away our honor of living as humans.”


The minor house heads started getting rowdy.


The head of the Fou house glared at Graff Zaza with serious eyes.


“This is a shocking revelation. To give up this land we have lived on for eighty years… Are the nobles of Genos so heartless?”


“I only spoke with an old man named Pyschkurewuss. The denizens of Forest’s Edge offered our blades to the Lord of Genos, not that old man… If that man holds our blades, I will not hesitate in taking them back.”


A carnivorous light burned in Graff Zaza’s eyes.


“I also think that if we don’t meet with the Lord of Genos and continue being shunned by others, we would fall into depravity like the Zattsu Tsun and Zuro Tsun too. Then giving up on the honor of being ‘kiba hunters’ and seeking a new land will be the right path to take.”


“To be so rash after just one meeting… I don’t think we need to say this, but Graff Zaza, you are also regretting your frivolous words too, correct? So we don’t need to worry about us deserting this place so hastily.”


Graff Zaza clicked his tongue after hearing Dali Sauti’s words.


“Also, Graff Zaza’s view isn’t completely baseless. If our goal doesn’t coincide with Genos, we won’t be able to work together with them. If the Lord of Genos refuses any compromise and continues supporting Pyschkurewuss, there will be no choice but to abandon the Morga Forest. However… We can’t come to a hasty conclusion without understanding the true intents of the landlord.”


“What kind of person is this Pyschkurewuss…? After hearing what you said, there is all the more reason for us to work closely together with the tribal chiefs. Not many people will be willing to abandon the Morga Forest without knowing what is going on.”


The Sudora head said quietly in a gloomy voice.


“And that isn’t all. We need to be on the same page with the tribal chiefs regarding the Fa house’s stall.”


I was surprised when my house was mentioned.


Ai Fa remained silent, while the head of the Fou house beside her took a step forward in uncharacteristic enthusiasm.


“Don’t the three tribal chiefs hold different opinions towards the Fa house’s business? The Wu clan’s members are employed by the Fa house, the Sauti clan is neutral, while the Zaza house is against it. Despite what the Zaza house thinks, the Fa house’s business won’t be forbidden, correct?”


“You got a problem with that?”


“No, I’m just thinking that the tribal chiefs need to know if their opinion holds water.”


The Lan house continued after the Fou head:


“I also think the tribal chiefs need to know our thoughts about this.”


The head of the Sudora said:


“Present here are six houses: Sudora, Fou, Lan, Latzu, Gazu, and Beim. Our homes are quite close to the Fa house, and, aside from the Beim, we all concur with the Fa house’s actions. We have also learned bloodletting and cooking delicious food from them. However, after the house head conference, the houses that live further away are living the same impoverished life as before.”


“There’s something wrong with that?”


In response to Dali Sauti’s calm words, the Sudora head replied: “Yes.”


“During the house head conference, we agreed to observe the Fa house quietly and judge if their actions are poison or medicine to the Forest’s Edge. But in just twenty or so days after the house head conference, our lives have changed drastically.”


“You are saying that the kiba sold by the Fa house has brought us a prosperous life?”


“It’s nowhere near prosperous yet, but the fact remains that we have obtained a staggering amount of copper plates. To be honest, I am doubting if it was right for us to get so much copper plates just by making that amount of jerky. And the head of the Beim is adamant that the denizens of Forest’s Edge shouldn’t earn this wealth.”


This was the first time I heard of the Beim house.


Aside from the kins of the Zaza house, they opposed the actions of the Fa house the most strongly of all the minor houses.


“The Fa house claims that they are doing business in order to bring prosperity to Forest’s Edge. This means that it will involve the whole Forest’s Edge. So parties from both the for and against camps should witness what the Fa house is doing and determine for themselves whether this will become medicine or poison for Forest’s Edge.”


It was slowly devolving into a monologue by the Sudora house.


The head of the Sudora house continued speaking to the tribal chiefs who were one size bigger than him:


“As a fellow denizen of the Forest’s Edge, I think the Wu clan, Zaza house, and Sauti clan are too wealthy. Wealthy people won’t understand the thinking of poor families, and impoverished folks won’t understand the worries of rich denizens. I think the head of the Fa house is unbiased because she experienced poverty in her youth and became wealthy by her own abilities.”


Ai Fa appeared annoyed when she heard that. My mistress didn’t take compliments from others well and was introverted.


“The thinking of the impoverished folks, huh. But no matter how wealthy a clan is, we won’t look down on impoverished houses.”


The Sudora house head looked with serious eyes at Dali Sauti who was tilting his head.


“Then let me ask you, Sauti clan head. Have you ever lost a child to starvation before? Have you ever had thoughts: ’If I let my wife eat the fruits hanging before her, she will be able to nurse my child’? Have you ever lamented your own failures as you watched your child wither away day by day?”


“… N-No.”


“Then can you understand our hatred for the Tsun clan? In addition to not hunting and splurging the bonus money in leisure, they even laid their hands on the grace of the forest. Can you, wealthy clans, understand how we felt when we decided to forgive them?”


Dali Sauti was silent.


The head of the Sudora house took a deep breath and said quietly:


“However, letting the tribal chief fall into depravity is the sin of all denizens of Forest’s Edge for being weak. I think what Donda Wu said is very just. During previous house head conferences, when the Wu clan was trying to bring the Tsun clan to task, I didn’t do anything to help… So I agree with Donda Wu. After hearing his thoughts, I have slowly come around to forgiving the Tsun clan. If I didn’t listen to his explanation and was simply told to forgive the Tsun clan, I probably wouldn’t have yielded to the demands of the three tribal chiefs.”


“…”


“I believe the tribal chiefs will lead us towards the right path. However, I hope we can also see what the tribal chiefs see, hear what they hear, and walk down the same path… The demise of the Tsun clan, the rise of the new tribal chiefs, and the Fa house’s business in the Post Station Town. With so many changes happening in such a short time, can our lives continue as before?”


After the Sudora head finished, silence engulfed the entire place.


The one who broke this silence was Donda Wu who had been listening quietly.


“… Simply put, your request right now is for a representative to participate in all tribal chiefs conferences that concern the future of Forest’s Edge, correct?”


“Yes, that’s right. Just like the tribal chiefs disseminating the information to their kin houses, we will also spread this information to the other minor houses.”


“You want all seven people here to join in?”


“Of course not, just two will be enough. If possible, I hope that the heads of the Fou and Beim houses can participate.”


“Hmm… I have no reason to reject.”


Donda Wu looked at the two tribal chiefs beside him.


“I’m only worried about one thing. Worrying about unnecessary things might affect your work as hunters.”


“That also applies to the bloodletting and cooking too. As we discussed at the house head conference, we can’t let our goal of leading a prosperous life dally our work.”


Dali Sauti answered quietly while Graff Zaza grunted without a word.


The proposal by the minor houses appeared to be accepted by the tribal chiefs.






“That house head suddenly came to the Fa house, saying that they wanted to discuss something with the tribal chiefs and asked me to come along.”


Ai Fa explained in the wagon.


“The heads of the Sudora and Fou houses seemed to have discussed the things mentioned just now a long time ago. When I heard they want to have a meeting in the Wu clan village, I became even more certain about that.”


“I see. This is the first time I heard of the Beim house; are they very against the Fa house’s business?”


I asked as I held onto Gilulu’s reins.


I could feel Ai Fa who was sitting right behind the driver’s seat shaking her head.


“Don’t worry. The Sudora house head said the Beim house only opposed so strongly because they felt uneasy about the recent drastic changes.”


“Is the head of the Sudora house really fine? It’s a bit late to say this, but the first payment we gave for his jerky was quite a tidy sum.”


“It’s fine. They understood that they earned that much copper plates that round because only seven houses took part in the jerky production. That’s why… He said we should let more houses chip in, and share the wealth.”


Dividing the wealth as evenly as possible… Mama Mia Lei and I both shared this opinion, and we had already conveyed this to the head of the Sudora house. His idea was also built on this opinion too.


“Anyway, I want to teach the other houses bloodletting, so the wealth can be distributed to everyone. Then both the support camp and opposition camp can judge whether this is medicine or poison for Forest’s Edge… We should also convey to the three tribal chiefs how we came up with this idea.”


“Yes.”


“I’m also curious about how the three tribal chiefs think too. We should also learn what their opinions are. That’s why we gathered in the Wu clan village.”


“Yes, I understand. This opinion really suits the style of Forest’s Edge too. I actually feel the same way too. In a sense, this is a brand-new way of thinking that has never occurred to the denizens of Forest’s Edge before.”


“The head of the Sudora house being a weirdo is probably a factor. The Fou and Lan house must have been convinced by him too.”


The head of the Sudora house, huh.


He had a small stature rarely found amongst the men of Forest’s Edge and a monkey-like face and belonged to an impoverished family with few members. His kin house had also died out… But even so, the gaze of this middle-aged man still was sharp.


His wife was helping me at the stall, and he also saved me from the hands of Tay Tsun. It remained uncertain whether Tay Tsun was really trying to kill me, but he was still my benefactor.


“But among the representatives of the minor houses isn’t Sudora, but the Fou and Beim house heads. I was so agitated, wondering if Ai Fa would get picked.”


“Fa house has few members and is busy with chores, so the head of the Sudora house said that he won’t burden me with such a heavy responsibility. He also couldn’t be away from his house for the same reason. He felt that there should be one house from the supporting and opposition camp, so the Fou house and Beim house were nominated.”


“Yes, that’s very true. The Sudora house head sure is quick-witted.”


The Fou and Beim house heads would be participating in tomorrow’s conference too. They were now holding the last meeting in the Wu clan before the actual event tomorrow, while the rest of the house heads headed south to relay this news to the other houses.


The Forest’s Edge tribe, that didn’t concern themselves with houses that were not related to them by blood, was now actively engaging with each other. This was an attempt to build a social network within this Forest’s Edge and its 500 odd-denizens.


They held opposing views, but the fact that the Tsun clan fell into depravity in the last decade due to a lack of interaction with the other houses spurred them to change their mindset.


“So you understand? Then it’s about time you answer my question.”


Ai Fa leaned forth into the driver’s seat.


“… Why did you invite that easterner to the Fa house?”


Ai Fa wasn’t the only one on the wagon, Shumimaru was there too.


Ai Fa didn’t suppress her volume, and Shumimaru, who was sitting in the wagon, was admiring the scenery outside right now.


“Well, many things happened. I want to cheer Shumimaru up, so I invited him over for dinner.”


Shumimaru was unexpectedly happy when I invited him.


He must have been depressed by how his meeting with Vena Wu went. If Vena Wu’s injury didn’t heal by the day after tomorrow, he would have to part ways with her for a long time without seeing her again.


“… You are not asking him to stay the night, right?”


“No, Shumimaru said he can’t just leave his merchant comrades be and spend the night elsewhere, so don’t worry. Ah… Can you send him back to the Post Station Town with Gilulu later? I can’t ride Gilulu at night yet.”


“Well, that’s better than letting someone I don’t know spend the night at our place. With this wagon, I don’t need to be physically close to someone who isn’t a family member too.”


Ai Fa seemed gleeful; she was probably happy that she could drive the wagon.


After twenty minutes of journey, the Fa house appeared before us.


Even though Gilulu shortened the journey greatly, we still stayed too long at the Wu clan and came back later than usual. Having another person dine with us wasn’t much of a problem though.


“We are here. Shumimaru, welcome to the Fa house.”


I was too embarrassed to call this ‘my humble abode’.


After alighting, Shumimaru looked at the Fa house which was two sizes smaller than the Wu clan.


“Everyone, as expected, southern style.”


“Huh? What do you mean?”


“House. Style, southern.”


Southern probably refers to the southern kingdom Jaguar.


But which part of it was like a southern style? The houses in the Genos Post Station Town would more or less use materials aside from lumber, but the structure was basically the same as the Forest’s Edge.


At this moment, I remembered. Most of the buildings in the Post Station Town were erected by the Jaguar people, and Pops and his architects also visited Genos to maintain the buildings.


Just like how most buildings in Japan are western style too. How intriguing.


I pondered as I carried the ingredients and pot into the kitchen. Ai Fa tied Gilulu to the tree and said: “Of course.”


“When our ancestors moved to this forest eight decades ago, they tried for a time to build houses with straws as we did in the dark jungles of the south. But there is a lot of rain here and the grass huts decomposed quickly. So they learned from the southerners staying in Genos how to build sturdier houses.”


“I see. Interested, I am.”


It was interesting indeed.


The round ceremonial hall building we saw in the Tsun clan last time was probably the traditional building of the denizens of Forest’s Edge. Let’s ask Grandma Jiba about this some other time.


“And, Forest’s Edge, clothes, eastern. Weaving pattern, from east, spread to Genos.”


“Huh? This pattern was chosen to make it hard for the kiba to spot us in the forest.”


“Yes. But, Morga Forest, big and rich. Source of fiber, wood, many. Denizens of Forest’s Edge, weave strings, cannot?”


“We used to weave our own clothes when we first moved here. But when we learned that the tree barks and fruits were the kiba’s food, we were forbidden from stripping the trees. Easterner… you really like to ask questions.”


“Sorry. Interested in Forest’s Edge, I am. Questions, unhappy, made you?”


“… Not really. I just thought that, contrary to your appearance, you sure can talk.”


“Southerner, daughter of merchant, same thing she said.”


“Daughter of the merchant?”


I grew stiff for a moment, but relaxed when I remembered that Shumimaru shouldn’t have seen me being hit by Dell.


Even then, I should tell Ai Fa about her. Leaving other matters aside, we needed to be wary of people who were close to Pyschkurewuss.


Anyway, even Ai Fa who was not good at dealing with others had no trouble talking with Shumimaru. It was a pleasant surprise for me.


90 minutes later, we dined in the Fa house which was a little dim.


“Sorry for the wait, I hope the taste is to your liking.”


I cooked dinner while preparing the ingredients to be sold tomorrow and finally finished dinner at the usual time. Roughly 30% of the food prep work wasn’t finished, so I would have to work on them after Shumimaru goes back. I didn’t need to sacrifice any sleep to finish the work, so it wasn’t a big deal.


“Fragrant, very nice.”


The meat dish was cooked in the stove outside. Shumimaru squinted happily when I brought the finished product in.


Ai Fa who was in the seat of honor sat with one knee up and frowned.


“… Asuta, I noticed that you used that red fruit again.”


“Yes, but I didn’t make the food too spicy, so don’t worry. It doesn’t look as spicy as 『Kiba Chitto』, correct?”


“It’s the same, it’s entirely red.”


“I told you it is fine. It’s red because of the tarapa.”


And as a special service, Ai Fa’s portion was made to be milder.


I smiled at the scowling Ai Fa, scooped up the vegetable stew I heated up at the stove in the house, and then returned to my seat.


The side dish was the usual grilled poitan and kiba soup seasoned with Tau sauce. I added thigh meat, aria, and Chitto into the soup. The taste was similar to Kenchin soup, and I wondered if this dish would be popular in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》.


The main dish was grilled meat with Chitto.


How should I name it? If I had to call it something, 『Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style』would be appropriate. This was the result of my research for a dish that was on par with the 『Kiba Chitto』 made with pickled Chitto.


Chitto fruit was an ingredient similar to chili in both color and spiciness. It was spherical and about the size of a soybean. Two or three of it were equivalent to one red chili, so it wasn’t too expensive either.


I sliced the Chitto and myam and then fried it with kiba oil over a small fire. I thought about using vegetable oil as a replacement for olive oil, but I couldn’t find any vegetable oil in the Post Station Town. I wondered if there was any inside the city.


The myam gave a nice fragrance when fried over a weak fire. I then shifted it to a mid-fire stove and quickly cooked the sliced kiba loin meat and aria. After the meat was cooked, I poured tarapa sauce that was stewing in another pot, and it was done.


When in doubt I would turn to tarapa. After the tarapa vegetable stew and 『Kiba burger』, I made the third dish with tarapa sauce. I wanted to add more variety, but, given how well the tomato-like tarapa meshed with the chili-like Chitto, this vegetable dish was the best choice.


If I let Leina Wu take over part of the preparation work, I could use my free time to try more ingredients. In short, if I could bring the tarapa sauce I made ahead of time to town, I could shorten the time spent in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 greatly.


I had to pay due care and attention to the heat strength. I needed to heat the Chitto long enough to bring out its spiciness and had to take care not to let it turn mushy. With that in mind, cooking it was a simple matter.


“I plan to sell this dish in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 next month. I will be delighted if Shumimaru can taste this dish before leaving Genos.”


“Happy, I am too.”


Ai Fa scowled her mouth, as if implying she was the only unhappy one.


But the dish today wouldn’t be spicy enough to make her cry. I added less Chitto into Ai Fa’s share and even removed the seeds, so the taste should be mild. I held expectations in my heart that this meal might make Ai Fa happy.


Ai Fa mumbled something quietly, while I said: “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.”; Shumimaru said: “Thank you for the meal.” and after all three of us said grace in our own way, we started to dine.


I scooped up a spoonful of the main dish and sent it to my mouth.


And I tilted my head with a: “Huh?”


The tomato-like tarapa sauce was cooked together with the diced aria and fruit wine, so the style and sweetness were just perfect. The fragrance of the myam and the spiciness of the Chitto mixed together harmoniously, giving it a texture that was on par with 『Kiba Chitto』.


The source of this thick texture was the kiba.


The loin meat known for its tenderness had great texture. The crunchy aria was a fine too.


But this taste felt less strong than I remembered.


It was spicy, but it was the milder version, closer to what I made for Ai Fa.


My taste buds had probably grown blunt after tasting so many different dishes. I was a little worried about my dish and stole a peek at Shumimaru.


“Erm, sorry, but does it taste too bland?”


“No, delicious it is.”


Shumimaru was already trying the tender grilled meat. I felt relieved after seeing him squint his eyes happily.


What about Ai Fa? I turned my gaze towards her… and found Ai Fa holding the plate with quivering shoulders.


“… Asuta, you lied to me.”


“Hmm? What’s the matter? It’s not as spicy as before, correct?”


After saying that, I noticed.


The dish I ate was the milder one.


“Ah, did I mixed up our plates?”


No, I couldn’t have messed that up. Aside from Shumimaru, whether this dish would please Ai Fa was the thing which was most important to me.


I tilted my head and wondered what was going on, and Shumimaru did the same.


“Asuta, Ai Fa, plate taste, different?”


“Yes. I added less Chitto in Ai Fa’s share…”


“Ai Fa, plate, switch.”


“Huh?”


“When Asuta, soup take, from stove, back face us. Ai Fa plate switch, then.”


“What!? Why did Ai Fa do that!?”


“Ash, from stove, Asuta plate, fell. Ai Fa, remove ash, plate switch.”


So ash from the stove fell onto my plate. Ai Fa noticed it, so she cleared away the ash and switched my share with hers, huh.


What a gentle house head!


The gods were cruel to let such a gentle and kind house head suffer like this.


“Sorry,  Ai Fa, this is your actual share… That hurts!”


She pinched my left cheek hard.


And she kept crying as she pinched me.


“It’s all your fault for changing the taste! Don’t do unnecessary things, moron!”


“But if it all tastes the same, it will be spicy for everyone… Hey, that really hurts!”


“I’m the one who is hurting!”


She was going to tear my cheek off.


But my gentle house head let go before the skin came off.


I was driven to tears just like my beloved mistress. This was all because we were concerned about each other; I could only lament this illogical world.


Ai Fa snorted like a kid beside me and wiped her tears with the back of her palm. Shumimaru said calmly while observing her cuteness: “Blissful, two of you are.”


“I, family, no have. I think, blissful, Asuta and Ai Fa is.”


“Huh? Shumimaru’s family had also passed on?”


“Yes. Mother, died, soon after I born. Father, passed, three years ago. I then, ‘Silver Vase’ leader, inherit.”


“Ah, so the previous band leader was Shumimaru’s father.”


After switching plates with Ai Fa, I endured the spiciness as I answered.


“‘Silver Vase’, my father, founded. I, ten years, work. Permission, work, Genos city, five years… I know Lord Pyschkurewuss, then.”


Ai Fa who was drinking the soup with teary eyes raised her eyebrow.


“Easterner, so you are acquainted with the noble Pyschkurewuss from the city?”


“Yes. Through chef, in city, know Pyschkurewuss. Since 5 years, Pyschkurewuss, buy blades, many.”


Ai Fa gave me a death stare, so I answered quickly: “I only learned about this today.”


But why was Shumimaru mentioning this again?


“Lord Pyschkurewuss, break contract. Many, rumors, bad. Rumors, I not sure, but friend chef, scared, Lord Pyschkurewuss. Lord Pyschkurewuss, powerful.”


“… And so?”


“Defy, Lord Pyschkurewuss, danger. I worry, denizens of Forest’s Edge.”


Shumimaru shouldn’t have heard the conversation with the tribal chiefs just now. But he probably sensed danger from the questions I asked during the journey back from the Post Station Town.


“Anyway… This has nothing to do with you, easterner. You might be Asuta’s friend, but that’s exactly why you shouldn’t get involved with some things.”


Ai Fa shook her head a little and picked up the plate with grilled meat.


“You are leaving the Post Station Town in a few days, right? Then don’t bother with all this and worry more about yourself.”


“Yes. I know… what to do, I need.”


Shumimaru lowered his gaze with a little loneliness in his eyes.


Ai Fa grunted softly and then put the meat covered in red sauce in her mouth.


She then started tearing up.


“Huh? Is it still spicy? I already added much less spices.”


“… The first mouthful was already painful, and it’s hurting me more now.”


Ai Fa kicked my knee while seated.


But she didn’t put down the plate but carried on eating as she wiped her tears.


“Hmm… I don’t know if it tastes good… If the first mouthful wasn’t so painful, I would definitely have found it tasty…”


“Really? That makes me really happy.”


I couldn’t help smiling.


She then kicked me harder many more times.


“I think, Asuta, Ai Fa, blissful.”


Shumimaru said the same thing again.


“This bliss, please treasure. I pray, you two, on journey.”


Ai Fa’s face turned as red as tarapa sauce as she said: “Annoying” loudly.


Time then passed slowly and leisurely until Shumimaru left the Fa house.

Chapter 3 Part 1


1


The next day, the 30th day of the Blue month.


After half a month, the second conference between the tribal chiefs of Forest’s Edge and the noble of Genos Pyschkurewuss occurred.


Not all things could be resolved today.


Or rather, this was the beginning of new troubles.


In order to correct the twisted relationship between Forest’s Edge and Genos and to uncover the schemes of Pyschkurewuss, Donda Wu and his tribemates came to town with the future of Forest’s Edge on their shoulders.


Did Pyschkurewuss really exploit the Tsun clan to further his own ends?
What was he trying to do by demanding for the entire Tsun clan to be handed over to the city?


What actions would Kamyua Yost and Malfreed take?


Could the denizens of Forest’s Edge continue to hunt in the Morga Forest?


Would the Fa house’s business in the Post Station Town continue?


This might not be the day when all these issues were resolved, but it was definitely a turning point.


In the end, what we needed to do remained the same.


As usual, we came to town and sold our food. Aside from the two hunters serving as our guards, everything else remained the same.


The townsfolk of the Post Station Town didn’t seem to know that such a conference would be held today, and the customer flow appeared the same. There were thirty-odd customers queuing before we opened the stall, and we took turns to rest two at a time after the rush hour was over. Customers visited every now and then during the off-peak period, and things were the same as usual.


“Dad and the others should be here soon.”


The one speaking leisurely at the back of the stall was Ludo Wu. To avoid spooking the townsfolk of Post Station Town, young people with mild faces were assigned as escorts.


The other guard was standing between the two stalls and sweeping the streets with her gaze calmly. She was the head of my Fa house, Ai Fa. Now was the hunting offseason for the Wu clan and they could afford to spare the manpower, but Ai Fa still volunteered for this assignment.


There probably wasn’t any need for escorts this time. Unless relationships between Genos and us fractured irreparably, the guards wouldn’t need to do anything.


On the other hand, the fact that escorts were assigned showed how fragile the relations between Forest’s Edge and the city was.


“Ah, it’s Ludo Wu!”


An energetic voice suddenly called out.


Then, a person ran towards the stall. It was the daughter of Dora the vegetable peddler, Tara.


When he saw her, Ludo Wu who was near the wagon answered: “Yo!” and approached her.


“Long time no see, brat. Don’t you need to work at the stall in the morning?”


“Yes! Papa asked me to run an errand at the inn!”


Tara, who had a caramel-brown hair and eyes, smiled cheerfully. She became a regular when I first opened the stall and was no longer afraid of the denizens of Forest’s Edge at the other stall.


“… Ludo Wu, don’t leave your post. You want to get attacked from the back?”


Ai Fa admonished him quietly.


But Ludo Wu just tilted his head puzzledly with a: “Huh?”


“There’s no need to be so uptight, correct? If we needed to be so wary, we would have sent 3 or 4 escorts right from the start.”


“That might be so, but isn’t it only normal to maximize the efficiency with the manpower available to us?”


“It’s fine. The Totos and wagon is the wall behind us. We will know right away if someone approaches us from the rear.”


“You… want to use Gilulu as a shield!? Never mind… I’m going to the back.”


From their conversation, it was clear that Ai Fa was the only one on guard the entire morning.


Unlike that time with Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun, we were not expecting anyone to attack us. And the conference was scheduled to start at noon, so there was no reason to expect any troubles in the morning.


I was worried about Ai Fa, so I left the stall to Lala Wu who was chatting with Ludo Wu and Tara and walked towards Ai Fa.


“Ai Fa, what’s wrong? You are acting weird since we came to town.”


Ai Fa caressed Gilulu who was tied to the tree and glared at me sideways.


“… I sense a strange gaze since morning. A malicious and hostile gaze, like poison needles.”


“Ah? Really? But… I thought no one looks at the denizens of Forest’s Edge with such eyes anymore?”


“That isn’t so. It wasn’t the gaze from the usual group. It’s from people I had never seen before.”


Was she implying someone was spying on us from the dark?


I hoped Ai Fa was mistaken, but from her serious expression, I wasn’t too optimistic about that.


“However, would the people from the city only spy on us now…?”


Before I could finish, I heard Lala Wu wailing: “Hyaa!”


“What’s the matter, Lala Wu!?”


I hurried back to the stall.


A tall figure stood in front of it.


However, Tara was standing right beside this person, and Ludo Wu didn’t adjust his position either. Lala Wu herself was just standing there with her hands on her hips, and there wasn’t any sense of danger at all.


“Ah, what a waste! Let me say this first, it’s you whose hand slipped. I won’t refund you the money, you know?”


What exactly happened?


I went over together with Ai Fa who was following me closely.


“Uwah, what happened here?”


I quickly found out the reason for her wail. A portion of 『Myam-roasted meat』 was scattered on the griddle.


The grilled poitan broke apart, scattering the meat and aria inside. To avoid them getting burnt, Lala Wu scraped them to a corner of the griddle with a spatula as she looked at us angrily.


“As you can see, this customer spilled the food! What a waste, I can’t even!”


My gaze rested on that customer.


His 1.8 m tall body was covered by a hooded cloak. His jawline that wasn’t hidden by the hood showed his dark skin. It was a customer from the east.


I thought for a moment that he was Shumimaru, but that wasn’t so. That man removed his hood and lowered his head apologetically. His hair, tied in a ponytail behind him, was brown, not silver in color.


“Sorry. I spilled it accidentally. You not wrong, I am.”


He spoke more fluently than Shumimaru.


Most easterners looked the same to me. He had a long face, narrow eyes, lips, and a high nose bridge, making the typical facial profile of a Semu. He had a tall and slender build and seemed very thin. But his light-colored hair and brown eyes were rare among the Semu.


And it was even rarer seeing the food being spilled onto the griddle.


This easterner customer squinted his eyes with a hint of sadness and uncovered the right side of his body. His thin but muscular right arm was wrapped in bloodied bandages.


“My right arm is hurt, so I wanted to take it with my left hand. Left hand a little clumsy, so spilled. Dirtied the griddle, apologies.”


He was still a little stiff, but he spoke western much better than Shumimaru.


And it was probably due to his uncommon hair color, but I felt a different air about him compared to Shumimaru.


Anyway, I felt a sense of goodwill towards this customer.


“Please don’t mind that. Can you wait for a moment?”


As the food didn’t fall onto the ground, I couldn’t just waste this 『Myam-roasted meat』.


But the crucial part of the dish, the poitan wrap was covered in oil and sauce from the griddle, and it would be difficult to revert it to its original form. By the way, one of the ingredients, the shredded tino was scattered all over.


Alright then, let’s mash it up.


I removed the filling from the poitan as best as I could and moved the poitan to the chopping board. I then diced them with a knife and shifted them to a sampling plate.


I moved the rest of the ingredients to the center of the griddle, added half a spoonful of myam and fruit wine sauce, and then mixed it. Once the cabbage-like tino softened, it was done.


After shifting these to the plate, I mixed the filling together with the diced grilled poitan.


“How does this look? It might not look pretty, but the taste should be about the same.”


It looked like a stir-fried dish from Chinese cuisines. It was acceptable to me, but how would he find it?


That customer smiled happily. I was shocked to see a Semu smile, since they thought that showing emotions was disgraceful.


“Thank you. No waste copper plates, I’m very thankful.”


The easterner clumsily held the plate with his right hand and used the spoon I gave him to eat the 『Myam-roasted meat』 bowl.
<TL: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E4%B8%BC#Kanji>


The smile on his face brightened.


“Very delicious. Kiba, very delicious.”


“T-Thank you for your compliment.”


By the way, as Semu people didn’t speak western well, this was the first time I talked so much with an easterner other than Shumimaru.


“My right arm, injured. Can’t work, for now. So copper plates, precious. I’m very grateful.”


After he quickly finished the  『Myam-roasted meat』 bowl blissfully, he said to me.


“I’m Sangjura. Can tell me, your name?”


“Yes, I’m Asuta of the Fa house.”


“Asuta of the Fa house. I will be in Genos every day, until I recover. Every day, I come buy from your stall.”


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


“I feel the same. I’m happy to know such a tasty dish.”


Ludo Wu stood beside Lala Wu, while Ai Fa was beside me, and both stared intensely at this smiling customer— the easterner Sangjura.


“Hmm, you seem really capable. How did you injure your hand?”


Ludo Wu couldn’t suppress his curiosity and asked.


Sangjura shook his head in surprise.


“I rode a Totos to travel. Totos, suddenly fell on a rocky path. I fell off the Totos, and my hand hit a sharp rock.”


“Oh, I see. That explains why such a deft person like you got injured.”




Sangjura blinked in greater surprise.


“I’m just a wanderer, not a swordsman.”


“Hmm? But you seem to be very strong.”


“… In journey, danger is expected. Bandits, beasts, dangerous. I have learned how to protect myself.”


Sangjura said as he smiled bashfully.


And then handed me the empty plate.


“Many thanks for today. I’m grateful to art father Selva of the west.”


“Huh? Sangjura, aren’t you an easterner?”


“No. My mother, easterner. But I grew up in the western kingdom. I, westerner.”


So Sangjura is a mixed blood of the east and west, huh.


But that brought another question, why was he speaking western so stiffly? But I couldn’t bring myself to ask that. In this world, being of mixed blood meant a complicated background.


“Well then, I will be back, tomorrow.”


With that, Sangjura put on his hood and headed south.


What a pleasant moment, I felt satisfied with myself.


However, I heard two voices discuss with intense bloodlust:


“Hmm, to think someone so skilled is in this town… Ai Fa, do you think you can take this guy?”


“If the terms are the same for both sides, I can. But I probably can’t afford to make any mistakes.”


The two of them were Ai Fa and Ludo Wu, of course.


When he heard Ai Fa’s icy response, Ludo Wu clicked his tongue with a: “Tch!”.


“Ai Fa, you are that confident of winning? I-I’m not sure… I feel like I might lose…”


“That’s not for sure, you are on the same level as that man.”


“If you put it that way, that means Ai Fa is stronger than me!”


“You don’t think so?”


The killing intent intensified.


As they were getting heated up, I dowsed cold water on the argument: “Wait, wait.”


“He is just a normal customer, can you not think about things so strangely? He might be capable, but isn’t he warm and gentle?”


“Well, we only spoke for a while, so who knows if he is friend or foe. You are the one who is too trusting.”


“Ai Fa is right. If the town is full of such people, two guards won’t be enough.”


After saying that, Ludo Wu ruffled his blonde hair.


“Anyway, we can tell whether there are more of such people after walking around town. That Kamyua Yost and the noble with grey eyes can’t be trifled with either.”


Speaking of which, Ai Fa and Ludo Wu both got into the elite eight of the Wu clan test of might competition. I didn’t know how well they would fare in actual combat, but since both of them regarded him that highly, Sangjura must be exceptionally skilled.


But anyway… I don’t think he will cause any trouble.


While I was thinking about all that, Tara who was left alone said loudly: “Tara needs to go home soon!”


“I want to order one 『Myam-roasted meat』 and three 『Kiba burgers』!”


“You are eating four portions? That’s incredible.”


“No! This is for the clothes shop owner and the pot dealer uncle!”


Tara said indignantly, and Ludo Wu laughed out loud.


The atmosphere finally brightened, and Ai Fa returned to the rear with a shrug. The moment she left, a customer came. They were Dell with uneven-colored brown hair and her escort Lavis.


When she saw them, Ai Fa stopped in her track.


“W-Welcome. Do you want to eat the dish from this stall today?”


“Yes! I have decided to alternate every day, so I will eat here today!”


Dell was all smiles. I could feel that Ai Fa was looking at her over my shoulder.


Actually, after Shumimaru left last night, I told Ai Fa about this girl. I thought I should tell Ai Fa that this girl was part of the merchant group invited by Pyschkurewuss to stay in his mansion, and since Ai Fa will be visiting the Post Station Town as a guard, they might run into each other. So I decided to explain everything before any misunderstanding arose.


I wondered if my judgment was sound and felt incredibly tense.


“Hmm… There seem to be more people today?”


Dell surveyed my stall suspiciously.


When her beautiful green eyes caught sight of Ai Fa, a fire of defiance started burning in them.


“That’s fine and all, but, that person over there, why are you staring at me? What did I do to you?”


“… You didn’t do anything to me, but you laid your hands on my family, girl from the south.”


Ai Fa said quietly and walked to my side.


This development made me break out in cold sweat.


“Or did Asuta make a move on you first? It’s rare seeing a young southerner girl in the Post Station Town though.”


“What? Are you talking about me hitting Asuta? What has that got to do with you?”


“It concerns me because Asuta is my family.”


I glanced at Ai Fa from the corner of my eye, and she didn’t look angry. She was just very unhappy, with a cold light shining in her eyes.


“I must admit that Asuta is at fault too, but I don’t think violence that will leave a mark is right. I hope you can be more careful in the future.”


“Family… What do you mean by family!? Are you two husband and wife!?”


“N-No, we are not married. We are just a family living under one roof. We are not blood-related, but she is an important family member.”


When she heard my answer, Dell looked even more agitated:


“If you are not married, what sort of family are you? Is Asuta owned by this woman? Isn’t slavery illegal in the western kingdom, aside from the north?”


“I-I’m neither a slave nor a pet. Erm, how do I explain this…”


“No need to explain. Anyway, girl of the south, if you don’t want others to speak badly of you behind your back, be more prudent with your actions and obey the law.”


“You are really annoying. I don’t want to hear you talk about Asuta this or Asuta that! I already apologized to Asuta, and he forgave me! Why are you still telling me all that!?”


“That’s why I’m just asking you to be careful in the future and not pursue this further. Why won’t you listen?”


It was becoming a chaotic battle.


This was also the first time Ai Fa argued with someone in town. I needed to step up and smooth things over… But, what should I do?


“Hey, calm down a little! Erm… Dell, I did something rude to you, and even though both of us had resolved things, your family would still complain a little, right? That’s how Ai Fa feels, and I hope you can understand.”


“Ah— but…”


“And Ai Fa, I’m happy that you are worried about me. But didn’t I tell you that I already resolved this amicably? We have both apologized and reflected on it. It’s fine now.”


“But…”


Both of them shut up with dissatisfied faces.


But peace didn’t even last five seconds.


“I was wrong for hitting you, but Asuta was at fault for saying rude things first! Asuta, what gives you the right to admonish me!?”


“That’s right, this problem was caused by you in the first place. You are the one who needs to reflect the most.”


Ai Fa then leaned in close and continued: “And… how does that girl look like a boy? Aside from dressing like a boy, she seems completely like a girl.”


She then kicked me plenty of times behind the stall.


“I was wondering how manly that girl looked since you mistook her for a man… Asuta, are those eyeballs just decorations on your face?”


“That’s too much, you are going too far.”


I rebuked softly, and Ai Fa turned her head exaggeratedly with a grunt.
When I realized it, Lala Wu was watching this scene with a smile just like Kamyua Yost.


“Y-You want one portion? Please wait a moment, I will prepare it for you right away!”


I pulled myself together and started making the 『Myam-roasted meat』.


While all this was happening, Ludo Wu observed Lavis who was standing behind Dell, and Lavis was watching Ludo Wu too.


The young man was probably wary of Ludo Wu and Ai Fa who were in hunter’s garbs and armed with machete and saber. He didn’t seem too tense about Ludo Wu and was merely returning an unfriendly gaze.


“Oh, Asuta, you are still at the stall!”


The architect’s group swamped in.


Arudas who was at the fore of the group laughed heartily.


“Welcome! Have you been busy lately?”


“Yes, this job needs to be finished by tomorrow. We will make a loss if we drag on for another day, so we can’t slack off.”


Arudas then drooped his bushy brows.


“Sigh, I want to stay in Genos forever to eat Asuta’s cooking. But after thinking about the cost of the inn and Totos stable, I can’t do that… Ah, what a pity! Unless there is some urgent job, I will only visit Genos once a year.”


“How many times are you going to say that? Your wife and kids are waiting for you back home.”


The grumpy Pops jabbed Arudas’ stomach.


He then turned towards me.


“Asuta… how much jerky do you have left?”


“Huh? Jerky? I only have this much left today.”


I have been preparing 2 kg of jerky every day.


After seeing the amount in the sack, Pops grumbled: “That’s not enough.”


“This isn’t enough. I want ten times this amount by tomorrow.”


“T-Ten times? What for do you want so much jerky?”


“Why else but eating them on the way home, of course? There are eight of us and the journey back takes half a month, so we need ten times more.”


Pops stared at me.


“Can it be prepared then? If not, I will just have to buy Karon jerky.”


“I-I think I can prepare them. But I can’t be sure unless I go back to Forest’s Edge and check.”


I already told the houses nearby that a big job might come in, and the Wu clan and Lutim house should have that much leftover fresh meat. With the mobility of Gilulu, transporting 20 kg of jerky from the village wasn’t too difficult.


“But Pops, I thought you don’t like the taste of kiba jerky? The taste of salt and spice in the kiba jerky is strong, so is the taste of kiba…”


“I know all that. Business like this doesn’t come often, aren’t you going to accept?”


Pops answered irately and scratched his messy hair.


“… After eating so much every day, I have gotten used to the kiba flavor. Since the price is the same as Karon jerky, I think kiba is fine too.”


“Ah, if I can’t eat Asuta’s dishes, chewing on kiba jerky can soothe my soul.”


“You are the only one thinking such retarded things!”


After lashing out at the picky eater Arudas, Pops scratched his head again.


“Anyway, prepare as much as you can. I will top up the balance with Karon meat. So… I might only drop by in the afternoon tomorrow, so tell the girls tending the stall in advance, alright?”


“Yes, so will you be coming at noon tomorrow?”


This might be the moment that we would part.


I took off the towel on my head and bowed towards the architect group.


“E-Erm, thank you for taking care of me all this time…”


“Don’t do that! We are not parting forever!”


Pops suddenly yelled and slammed two red copper plates on the counter.


“We will visit Genos once every year! Are you going to bid farewell so annoyingly every time? And there are dozens to hundreds of southerners going in and out of Genos every day.”


“Yes, but my regular patrons are a great source of support for me. I’m really… grateful to everyone.”


Pops looked like he wanted to say something, but he turned his head away without a word.


His companions behind him all laughed cheerfully.


“We will still visit after the Blue month! We will eat your share too, Pops, so don’t worry!”


“Annoying! You want me to send you flying with a kick!?”


“If you keep dallying, we can’t finish our work by tomorrow! Finish your food already!”


Some of them were hired locally too. Speaking of which, Pops said he was going back home with 8 other people, but this group had more than ten people.


Are these people mixed blood or permanent residents of Genos? Or freelancers staying in Genos?


There was no way to find out.


However, all of them were my important patrons.


“Hmmp, are you going back to Nerva?”


Dell who had shifted to the side asked curiously.


Pops who was quiet from annoyance scowled and looked back at her.


“Oh, it’s the girl from Zealand. What, you are actually eating kiba?”


“Yes, I tried it once and it was delicious! It was so embarrassing of me to complain about it being stinky and tough.”


“Hmmp, I made a bigger fool of myself in the past.”


Pops then glared at me.


His face looked displeased, but there was a gentle light in his green eyes.


“Asuta, we will be back tomorrow. I heard things are a little rough right now, but if you shut down your stall before we come back, we will go right into Forest’s Edge to settle things with you.”


“Okay. I will be happy if you taste my cooking next year too.”


I was tearing up before I knew it.


One year later… Would I still be able to see them again?


I wasn’t god and didn’t know, so I could only do the best on my part.


By now, the sun was high above my head, and the meeting between the noble of the city and the Forest’s Edge tribal chiefs would be starting somewhere in Genos soon.

2


Kaslan Lutim reported that the conference ended smoothly for today.


There were 6 participants from Forest’s Edge, namely the three tribal chiefs Donda Wu, Dali Sauti, and Graff Zaza, as well as Kaslan Lutim, the head of the Fou house, and the head of the Beim house. Basically, the followers of the tribal chiefs were replaced by the representatives of the minor houses.


Our side informed that there would be six attendees, and the people of the city only seemed interested in the tribal chiefs, hence we decided on this lineup.


The venue was the same as last time, Pyschkurewuss’ mansion.


However, it wasn’t located in the city. It was a vast orchard and mansion surrounded by rock walls to the north of the city. I didn’t know this place existed since I did my business in the south of the city, or that it was the territory under Pyschkurewuss— the territory of the Count of Turan.


And the grand Pyschkurewuss mansion was built in a corner of this territory. It seemed that Pyschkurewuss disliked inviting the denizens of Forest’s Edge into the city, so this mansion was used as the meeting venue when the Tsun clan was still the tribal chief clan.


It was a grand and extravagant building erected from stone instead of timber.


The tribal chiefs of Forest’s Edge waited in the hall of this building ahead of the agreed time for Pyschkurewuss’ group to arrive.


The agreed time was noon.


Kamyua Yost and Malfreed reached just before noon.


The exterior of the mansion was probably guarded by soldiers, but only three of them came into the hall.


Kamyua Yost was the same as usual, and Malfreed was dressed in his white armor too. Unlike the denizens of Forest’s Edge whose blades were temporarily confiscated at the entrance, the two of them came in with their swords.


And so, time passed by slowly, and the toll of the bell announcing the arrival of noon could be heard faintly… At this moment, Pyschkurewuss came into the hall under the escort of twenty guards. Kaslan Lutim then recounted slowly.






“Fufu… Sorry for the wait, everyone…”


Pyschkurewuss said as he sat in a large leather-clad chair.


We stood in the middle of the room. Pyschkurewuss’ guards held spears that were about their height, and half of them lined up against the wall to the left, right and rear.


The other half surrounded Pyschkurewuss, who turned his gaze towards Malfreed.


“Lord Malfreed, what a surprise… What good will it do for you to attend this conference…”


He showed his clear displeasure towards Malfreed’s attendance.


“I will rule Genos one day after all and don’t think keeping the peace in Genos is a trivial matter, Count Pyschkurewuss Turan.”


Malfreed answered.


It wasn’t my first time meeting him, but he was an incredible person.


He took off his helmet in the hall, and I finally got to see his face. He seemed older than me, had light brown hair and proportionate facial features, and looked just like a noble.


But his grey eyes… were as cold and clear as the moonlight, just like Asuta described.




I think he was quite formidable as a swordsman.


But I wasn’t as keen as Ludo Wu and Ai Fa in gauging this so I couldn’t be certain. I just felt that he couldn’t be trifled with.


Leaving that aside for now, Pyschkurewuss smiled coldly at Malfreed’s response.


Pyschkurewuss was always smiling.


He was probably concealing his emotions by smiling.


“By surprise, I mean the eldest son of Marquis Genos Marstein disguising himself as a plebeian with a dirty piece of cloth… Lord Malfreed, aren’t your actions overstepping your authority as the captain of the castle guards...?”


“You might not like my way of doing things, but rest assured that I won’t neglect my work. It is my freedom to do what I wish during my free time, Count Pyschkurewuss Turan. That aside… Holding a talk with the tribal chiefs of Forest’s Edge is your duty. How about completing your own duties first?”


Pyschkurewuss’ smile twisted even further as he cast his gaze towards us.


What a creepy man.


No matter how many times I met him, my impression of him remained the same.


He was dressed as elegantly as a noble, with soft, thin, and white clothes covering his entire body. Only his neck and limbs were bare. His neck and wrists had plenty of metallic and stone accessories, and his attire glittered like that of a woman’s gown.


Speaking of which, his stature was as thin and petite as a woman. Only his head looked big, which made his body look unbalanced. Instead of a woman, a child would be a more apt description.


His skin had a strange shade of dark blue and his eyes were bloodshot, resembling a face of a person at ill health.


Although Graff Zaza and the others called him an “old man”, he wasn’t that old. He was just skinny with an unhealthy skin color, making him look much older than he was.


However… On his lackluster and wrinkled face, his light-colored eyes were full of life.


Those eyes scared me.


More specifically, I felt strong disgust towards them.


I didn’t know the reason.


The tribal chiefs said: “Those were eyes of contempt, just like Zuro Tsun’s.”


I thought so too. But I felt this wasn’t the only reason.


An anxiety arose within me, as if I was facing a feral beast that I couldn’t communicate with words… or something like that.


Anyway, we feared Pyschkurewuss not because of the forceful nature of his words, but because of his eyes.


“Then I shall do just that then and work on this troublesome task… Tribal chiefs of Forest’s Edge, what punishment did you mete out to the Tsun clan who violated this serious crime…?”


“Our conclusion remains the same. We think that only Zuro Tsun who guided our tribe down the wrong path needs to be punished further.”


Dali Sauti answered.


Donda Wu and Graff Zaza had already lost their cool from rage and disgust, so, on that day, the discussion was centered around me and Dali Sauti.


Pyschkurewuss smiled impatiently.


“I already gave you more time then agreed on, and you are still so stubborn… So there was no reason to let your tribe deliberate further in the first place…”


“That isn’t true. We have considered it for many days and discussed countless times before coming here today with an even stronger conviction. If you feel our conclusion is wrong, then I hope you can guide us towards the proper path with your words.”


Dali Sauti was very calm.


Pyschkurewuss was still smiling.


“My thinking remains the same as the last few days, punishment for the crime… The seriousness of the crime between the mastermind and those who are ordered is, of course, different so the law officer in Genos will decide on the sentencing…”


“You said the same thing a few days ago. But doesn’t the Forest’s Edge settlement have the right to judge and punish denizens who transgressed the law by themselves? The people in the city have no rights to complain about how we deal with the denizens of Forest’s Edge in the first place.”


“That’s because the rules in Forest’s Edge are more strict than the laws of Genos… If you followed your own rules and scalped their heads, we would see no need to interfere…”


Pyschkurewuss said in a ridiculous tone.


“It is a known fact that the denizens of Forest’s Edge can govern themselves, and you also have the authority to sentence your own people too… So we can’t accept that you are punishing your own people in a more lenient way than what the Genos law dictates…”


“But why? Isn’t the punishment meted out as a judgment of the seriousness of the crime? That’s why we have chosen to punish all members of the Tsun clan in accordance to their sins.”


“And the criminals escaped and committed new crimes because you didn’t execute them like you should have…?”


And of course, he was referring to Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun.


“Not punishing the criminals justly and failure to maintain public order in Genos… The incident I mentioned proved this point, correct…? If the denizens of Forest’s Edge don’t have the resolve to execute the criminals, then let us handle it before more harm is done...”


I decided to interject here.


Because I could sense intense rage from Graff Zaza’s face.


“Please allow me to share my opinion. You mentioned the resolve to execute the criminals, but is executing criminals indiscriminately the correct resolve…? After careful consideration of the Tsun Clan’s behavior, we have decided to sentence Zattsu Tsun and Zuro Tsun to death, and guide the others back on the proper path.”


“Fufu… Isn’t it the unspoken law amongst the denizens of Forest’s Edge that the rules of Forest’s Edge are absolute…? I am skeptical about the weak attitude of twisting the rules to forgive the criminals, which is different from the style of the Forest’s Edge…”


“The rules need to be respected. But if someone was force-fed the grace of the forest, do you think they should be scalped? We don’t.”


Pyschkurewuss’ mouth twisted in a smile, and he looked at each of us one at a time.


“I have wondered about this since the conference a few days ago; you sure have a way with words for a young Forest’s Edge hunter… Why don’t we elect a talent like you to be the tribal chief and lead the denizens of Forest’s Edge to a bright future…?”


Pyschkurewuss often said things to taunt the tribal chiefs.


Before Graff Zaza burst out in anger, I answered:


“You are mistaken, I’m just speaking on behalf of the tribal chiefs. Just like you representing the Lord of Genos, Marstein.”


Pyschkurewuss was momentarily silent.


But a vicious smile returned to his face.


“It is our fault that Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun escaped, which put the townsfolk in the Post Station Town in danger. It is as you say, if we executed Zuro Tsun and Zattsu Tsun on the spot, the disaster a few days ago would have been avoided.”


If we kept lingering on the same subject, the problem wouldn’t be solved. I decided to answer him.


“But thanks to that, we have learned a lot of new facts too. Pyschkurewuss, what are your thoughts about that?”


“… What are you referring to…?”


“I refer to Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun assaulting the fake caravan group and confessing that they committed the same devious thing ten years before.”


Pyschkurewuss raised the corner of his mouth in a smile.


It was a displeasing smile.


“This is ridiculous… At best, this is a nonsensical rambling of a dying villain… We can’t believe such nonsense…”


“Yes, there is no longer any evidence of the crimes in the past. But there is no doubt that they attacked the fake caravan and that the same thing happened a decade ago. And… there have always been rumors that the culprit is a denizen of Forest’s Edge, correct?”


“Rumors are just rumors… They are not facts…”


“Is that true? I heard that an evidence that proved the murderer is a denizen of Forest’s Edge was found ten years ago.”


Pyschkurewuss was quiet for a moment.


The leader of the caravan died with a hunter’s necklace from the Forest’s Edge in his hands. I had never imagined that I will learn this truth.


Kamyua Yost and Malfreed who told us that stayed silent.


“And we also heard about the denizens of Forest’s Edge not being brought to task after committing countless crimes. Are these all baseless rumors?”


“Nothing more than rumors… To be swayed by such rumors, and you call yourselves denizens of Forest’s Edge…?”


Pyschkurewuss caught his breath and then started speaking:


“I don’t know what you mean by countless crimes, but I do know about the caravan being attacked ten years ago… However, the young hunter from Forest’s Edge, the culprit for that incident has already been executed…”


“I see, so that’s how it is.”


I already heard about this from Kamyua Yost, so wasn’t surprised at all.


Pyschkurewuss looked at me with a sharp gaze.


“The culprit for that incident was the ‘Red Beard Gang” whose base of operation is around Genos… Those bandits have all been apprehended and brought to justice…  Young hunter from Forest’s Edge, there is no reason to doubt this fact…”


“A bandit gang, huh. Then how do you explain the hunter’s necklace in the merchant’s hand?”


“How would I know such details… But the horns and tusks of kiba can be bought in the western kingdom. Doesn’t your tribe sell them in exchange for money…?”


Although kiba tusks and horns weren’t sold in Genos, they were peddled off to various cities as a type of materials.


After buying or stealing these tusks and horns anyone could make a hunter’s necklace.


“That caravan was planning to go through the Morga Forest and head to the eastern city… Did the ‘Red Beard Gang’ want to make the denizens of Forest’s Edge their scapegoats…? What a shallow scheme, and those who got fooled by this should be ashamed…”


“Yes, but it’s not an easy feat to convince the people in the Post Station Town though?”


Kamyua Yost spoke for the first time.


Pyschkurewuss glared at him with murky eyes.


“Speaking of the ‘Red Beard Gang’, I heard they were against murder and just robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. They were thieves of justice and very reputable. A decade ago, when I was a new guardian, their exploits had already spread to the neighboring towns. No one would have believed back then that the ‘Red Beard Gang’ wiped the entire caravan out and pushed the blame to other people.”


“… Calling them thieves of justice is a lie… They are just a bunch of outlaws…”


“That is true for the targeted nobles, but not the peasants. Thinking back, when the ‘Red Beard Gang’ that was revered as heroes got executed in place of the denizens of Forest’s Edge, that fueled the animosity of the people towards the denizens of Forest’s Edge.”


Kamyua Yost smiled retardedly as usual.


Pyschkurewuss was also smiling, but his bloodshot eyes were dripping with hate.


“Aren’t you Malfreed’s follower…? Since you are just his follower, know your place…”


“I’m speaking on behalf of my silent friend right now. If anything I said went against Malfreed’s thoughts, he would have stopped me, so don’t worry.”


Pyschkurewuss shifted his gaze onto Malfreed.


Malfreed remained silent.


“Continuing with the topic earlier, as the young hunter from Forest’s Edge Kaslan Lutim mentioned, there are rumors in the Post Station Town of the various crimes committed by the denizens of Forest’s Edge… such as abducting women, stealing crops, and assaulting travelers. The strange thing is, all these were pushed to the ‘Red Beard Gang’, and they were executed for them. Whenever a member of the ‘Red Beard Gang’ got executed, there were rumors of the denizens of Forest’s Edge committing these crimes. Even though the rumors coming before the execution would make more sense.”


“…”


“These incidents stopped in these ten years. It remains unclear whether the reason is the execution of the leader of the ‘Red Beard Gang’, or because Zattsu Tsun, the former head of the Tsun clan, fell ill.”


At this moment, Pyschkurewuss’ face changed drastically.


He was still smiling… but somehow, it felt like the smile of a munto that fed on carrion.


Although I have never seen a munto smile before.


“So… What are you trying to say, swordsman who resembles a northerner…?”


“It is as you say, I have the blood of a northerner. But the god I worship is the western god. Anyway… Leaving those trivial details aside, the denizens of Forest’s Edge are being accused of not getting punished no matter what crimes they commit. And they got away scot-free by sacrificing the lives of others… The ‘Red Beard Gang’ has faded into obscurity after ten years, and only these rumors remain. Until a few days ago, when Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun confessed to their crimes.”


“…”


“It was unnatural for the ‘Red Beard Gang’ to set an ambush in the middle of the Morga Forest in the first place, with all the kiba roaming around. If I were them, I would have attacked them when they left the forest, just before entering the city. This way, there would be less risk of kiba attack, and I could push the crime to the denizens of Forest’s Edge. It’s more natural to think that the culprit behind the attack ten years ago was Zattsu Tsun’s gang, isn’t that so?”


“There’s no point in debating this… Whether the criminal is the former head of the Tsun clan or the ‘Red Beard Gang’ bandits, all of them have been brought to justice… No matter how hard we try now, we won’t be able to find any evidence…”


Pyschkurewuss wetted his disgustingly discolored lips and answered unwaveringly.


“But, is there really a need for evidence…? There is no doubt that they were the culprits… The ‘Red Beard Gang’ were bandits that targeted the nobility and the wealthy, while the former Tsun clan head trampled on the grace of the Morga forest and even committed arson… All the criminals have paid for their crimes with their lives… and the issues have been appropriately resolved…”


Kamyua Yost snickered and then asked: “Appropriately resolved, huh. What about the devious crimes that happened after the caravan was assaulted ten years ago?”


He resembled some kind of animal when he smiled.


“These might be old news, but you didn’t forget them, did you? The envoy from the Banam city, which was closely related to Genos, got wiped out, and the former captain of the town guards was murdered. Can you say for certain that the ‘Red Beard Gang’ was behind both these incidents?”


“…”


“Speaking of which, there were rumors in town that the denizens of Forest’s Edge were behind this.”


“…”


“All this doesn’t add up. If the ‘Red Beard Gang’ did this, why did they break their principle of not committing murder? If Zattsu Tsun did this, why go after the captain of the town guards? Maybe attacking the envoy makes sense… But the captain of the town guards won’t walk around town with gold and other accessories on him.”


“That means the ‘Red Beard Gang’ is behind this… It is the duty of the town guards to subjugate the bandits, so it is no surprise if they hold a grudge against the captain…”


“No, no, pinning all this on the ‘Red Beard Gang’ was done after the new captain took the post. There’s no need to say too much… He is the younger brother of Lord Pyschkurewuss, captain Shileru.”


“…”


“Thanks to the work of the new captain Shileru, the ‘Red Beard Gang’ was subjugated. Zattsu Tsun and the others got away scot-free after all this got pinned to the ‘Red Beard Gang’, and the seed of suspicion towards the denizens of Forest’s Edge was planted deep into the heart of the townsfolk.”


“I never heard of something so outrageous before…”


“You might not have heard of this in the city. But this is the reality in the Post Station Town. After the ‘Red Beard Gang’ faded into obscurity, the townsfolk started to fear and ostracize the denizens of Forest’s Edge.”


Kamyua Yost said with a shrug.


“Like I said, thanks to Zattsu Tsun confessing to his crime from ten years ago, a wind of change is brewing… But this is really strange. The ‘Red Beard Gang’ was accused of pinning the crime on the denizens of Forest’s Edge, when in fact the ‘Red Beard Gang’ became a scapegoat for a crime perpetrated by a denizen of Forest’s Edge… The crime committed by Zattsu Tsun. What made captain Shileru so sure that all this was the doing of the ‘Red Beard Gang’? Were there any red beards left behind at the crime scene?”


“You can ask Shileru about that…”


“Malfreed already did. But he lacked enough evidence to convince my friend.”


Everyone turned quiet momentarily.


With a cold smile on his lips, Pyschkurewuss said slowly:


“I don’t know about that… Even so, all the criminals have been executed… Whether those crimes were committed by the Tsun clan former head or the bandits, what has that got to do with us…?”


“Yes, that’s the issue here. If all the criminals have been brought to justice, there is no point in bringing up old news. However, we can’t sit by idly if the mastermind behind all this is still scot-free.”


Kamyua Yost’s smile remained unchanged.


Malfreed was still expressionless.


“Zattsu Tsun was a denizen of Forest’s Edge and had almost no knowledge of the outside world. So it was strange for him to attack the Banam envoy and the town guards outside Genos.”


“That’s why this is the doing of the bandits…”


“Instead of the ‘Red Beard Gang’ breaking their principle of not murdering people out of the blue, wouldn’t it be more natural to assume that Zattsu Tsun had help from the outside?”


Kamyua Yost subtly cut off Pyschkurewuss’ words.


“By the way, external help is a must if they want to launder the goods they robbed from the caravan and envoy. Someone coerced Zattsu Tsun to attack… And that someone might also have the hidden agenda of wiping out the Banam envoy. Didn’t some of the people in the city think that continuing business with Banam would be bad for their trade?”


“…”


“And if this is pinned on the ‘Red Beard Gang’, you can also get rid of the bandits who were an eyesore to the aristocrats.”


“You are delusional, this is all nonsense…”


“Is that so? My friend had not interrupted me once. Anyway… We disguised ourselves as a caravan based on this deduction. We still didn’t uncover the real mastermind, but we managed to prove that Zattsu Tsun was behind the incident ten years ago.”


Malfreed stood beside the grinning Kamyua Yost and stared quietly at Pyschkurewuss.


Silence engulfed the hall once again.


There was a sense of danger in this silence.


Finally, Pyschkurewuss said in a strangely hoarse voice: “It’s as if…”


“It’s as if you are accusing me of being the mastermind behind all this…”


Kamyua Yost didn’t answer.


Pyschkurewuss was like munto hiding in the dark, with a dim glow in his eyes.


“High-quality mamaria and fuwano are grown in Banam... If we continue trading with them, at the very least, the orchard in my Turan territory will suffer a lot…”


“…”


“And the captain of the town guards is my brother Shileru, and I also continue to be the liaison with the Forest’s Edge… You are implying that if there is a mastermind behind these series of events, no one is more suspicious than me, correct…?”


Malfreed answered coldly: “There is no doubt that you are the biggest suspect.”


Pyschkurewuss slowly moved his sights onto him.


“What a surprise… Lord Malfreed, are you seriously slandering me…? Slandering me, the head of the Count Turan house…?”


“This is no slander. I’m merely stating the fact you are a suspect. I can’t pass judgment without any evidence.”


Malfreed used his grey eyes devoid of any human emotions to intimidate Pyschkurewuss.


This felt like a standoff between a Madarama snake and a munto.


“And of course, if there is evidence, a criminal is a criminal. It doesn’t matter whether they are a noble or a commoner. I will wield the blade of justice in accordance with the law of Genos.”


“If there is evidence… Splendid… Wonderful words from the captain of the castle guards, the ones who uphold the law…”


Pyschkurewuss seemed relieved.


He was like a munto retreating into the depths of the woods after seeing the Madarama snake had already eaten its full.


Malfreed and Kamyua Yost’s questioning ended for the day.


What followed was the negotiation between us, the denizens of Forest’s Edge, and Pyschkurewuss. Dali Sauti and I looked at each other, unsure who should speak first.


But Donda Wu acted before we did, moving his body a little as if he was wiping the dangerous air out of the hall, and said:


“… Is this your so-called law, representative of the Genos landlord?”


Donda Wu’s voice was very calm.


Pyschkurewuss slowly turned his head towards him.


“I don’t really understand complicated matters, but I can’t find a shred of logic from your words, representative of the Genos’ landlord.”


“What a shocking statement… Wavering because of baseless ramblings is a sign of foolishness, tribal chief of the Forest’s Edge…”


“Then can you prove that incident a decade ago was the doing of the bandits? The hunter’s necklace found at the crime scene, Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun confessing their crimes. With all that in mind, what is your reason for thinking that this was the doing of the ‘Red Beard Gang”?”


“… The one who judged them to be the culprits wasn’t me, but the captain of the town guards…”


“Isn’t that captain your younger brother? Then please call him here.”


The hall turned rowdy.


The spear bearing guards slowly lost their calm.


Probably because of Donda Wu’s aura.


Donda Wu sounded very calm, but a smile appeared on his face.


The smile he has when facing an enemy.


We weren’t moving at all, but the guards seemed ready to thrust their spears at a moment’s notice.


“Zattsu Tsun is suspected of committing grave crimes in the Forest’s Edge too. My Wu clan’s relationship with them was already very tense twenty years ago. But they didn’t commit their felonies openly, so we could only bear with them for the past two decades.”


Pyschkurewuss’ face didn’t change at all.


His body was as small as a child and weak as if he was ill. But this man had the guts to withstand Donda Wu’s aura.


Maybe he had met with Zattsu Tsun many times before Zattsu Tsun fell ill, and got used to the intimidating air of a Forest’s Edge hunter.


But droplets of sweat seemed to be appearing on his bluish-black smiling face.


“That is trivial compared to the recent incidents in town. I already said that those bastards from the Tsun clan are free to draw their blades and damage stalls in the Post Station Town without any repercussion. Even if they get brought in for questioning, someone from the city would settle the problem with money… Can you tell me the reason why the denizens of Forest’s Edge aren’t being judged as criminals?”


“This has nothing to do with me… Maintaining the peace in the Post Station Town isn’t under my purview, but the responsibility of the town guards…”




“That’s why you should get your younger brother to come over… No…”


Donda Wu’s grin grew even wider.


“Let’s call the Genos landlord over then. Or should we head over to the city to invite him?”


Pyschkurewuss put his arm on the armrest and leaned his body to the right.


I could feel that his mind was churning.


“Tribal chief of the Forest’s Edge… Marquis Marstein Genos has already entrusted the negotiations with the denizens of Forest’s Edge to me… Aren’t you being too arrogant, if you are asking me to invite Marquis Genos…?”


“We offered our blades to the landlord of Genos, not you. If we can’t resolve this with you, we can only escalate the matter up to the landlord.”


Donda Wu said in a booming voice.


His smile was gradually becoming that of a hunter.


“We didn’t have any proof, that’s why the Tsun clan was allowed to act out of line and trouble others. Not just the denizens of Forest’s Edge, they troubled the people in the Post Station Town too. We… don’t want to make the same mistake.”


“Which means… you don’t trust me, huh…”


Fufu… Pyschkurewuss showed a devious smile.


“In that case, tribal chiefs of the Forest’s Edge, I don’t trust you very much, so please let someone else be your representative… If I said that, would you understand what I’m thinking…?”


“What…?”


Donda Wu glared furiously.


The guards readied their spears, but Pyschkurewuss stopped them.


“I won’t say something so hostile… but I don’t really trust you that much… Heads of the Wu clan, Zaza house, and Sauti clan, whether you are qualified to be tribal chiefs… I have my doubts about that…”


Donda Wu restrained the enraged Graff Zaza as he asked: “What do you mean?”


“Tribal chiefs, I’m suspecting you… You didn’t execute the members of the Tsun clan who committed grave sins, and even let Zattsu Tsun got away… If you also allow Zuro Tsun to escape, no blood will be spilled… I’m suspecting whether this is all a scam…”


“Impossible! Are you saying we let Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun escape on purpose!?”


Graff Zaza finally roared.


Pyschkurewuss smiled cockily.


“I don’t want to suspect you either… But your actions are soft, unlike the denizens of Forest’s Edge. You forgave the criminals and let Zattsu Tsun who was to be executed to escape. Completely unlike my impression of Forest’s Edge denizens… And you even got fooled by lies and slandered me…”


“Is this your answer, representative of the Genos Lord?”


Donda Wu raised an arm to stop Graff Zaza who wanted to yell again, and said calmly:


“We can’t trust each other… So the talks are at an impasse?”


Then I can only ask the Genos Lord for his true intention with my blade personally… I thought Donda Wu would say that and, honestly speaking, I was very anxious.


Pyschkurewuss probably thought the same way.


After a short silence, Pyschkurewuss said in a more serious tone:


“It’s still too early to come to a conclusion, tribal chiefs of the Forest’s Edge… We have only just met… I think we need more time to build a strong relationship of trust…”


“Fufu. Then what do you think we should do? Repeat the same questions, like scratching the scar that hasn’t fully healed yet?”


“We need time to think, but going over the same content is meaningless… So I will take a step back as a show of trust and goodwill…”


Pyschkurewuss said:


“I will trust your judgment on the branch house members who violated the taboo under the coercion of the former clan head, and not pursue their crimes further… But I want you to hand over the clan head and the six other main house members… This decision is a show of my trust…”


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