Saturday, September 15, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 9 (4 of 5)

Chapter 3 Part 2

Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Ratorasepo

3


“… The talks continued for a while longer, but there wasn’t anything worth mentioning.”


Kaslan Lutim finished his detailed report.


I did my preparation work as I listened and exhaled the sigh that I had been holding in.


“Thank you for your hard work. Kaslan Lutim, your memory and the way you recount the entire meeting is top-notch.”


“You flatter me. I have covered all the important points though.”


“Yes, that’s good enough. Just understanding the content takes a lot of effort.”


I was the one who asked him to tell me about the meeting, but I didn’t expect the briefing to be so detailed.


We weren’t in the Fa house, but the kitchen of the Wu clan main house.


Ai Fa stood behind me as she listened to the report, while Leina Wu and Shela Wu were studying how to make hamburg steak further inside. I have decided to teach them how to make 『Kiba burger』 from today onwards.


“I consulted Kamyua ahead of time, but this is the first time I heard of the ‘Red Beard Gang’.”


“Yes. I only know that they were a bunch of bandits. Since we are not directly involved, he thought there wasn’t any point in telling us about them.”


“But I have never heard that name from anyone in town, and it makes me intrigued even more.”


The thieves of justice being forgotten by the people after ten years wasn’t anything surprising.


But since Kamyua Yost kept mentioning them… Were they a crucial existence?


And this was the first time I heard about the Banam envoys and the captain of the town guards.


They were probably the “people sort of like a political enemy of Pyschkurewuss” that Kamyua Yost was talking about. But from their conversation, the envoy sounded closer to being business competitors instead of political enemies.


“Yes, it’s great that he conceded the point on the branch house members, but to think he would blame us for Zattsu Tsun’s escape.”


“Yes. We have no excuses about that, so Graff Zaza could only suppress his anger.”


The situation wasn’t optimistic at all.


Pyschkurewuss claimed to have lowered the terms as a sign of trust; we, on the other hand, had shown our hand from the very start, pointing the forthrightness of Forest’s Edge. This was the best way we came up with after careful deliberation.


He definitely didn’t care about the branch house in the first place. However…


I already knew that Pyschkurewuss would make an outrageous demand, a trademark of the negotiation style of the city people. He was just displaying his authority towards the new tribal chiefs.


However, things changed a lot over the past few days.


Pyschkurewuss who continuously had been turning a blind eye to the Tsun clan’s wrongdoings was now suspected of being the mastermind behind a series of incidents.


Could Pyschkurewuss be a vicious man, and Zattsu Tsun’s gang was just coerced by them? Just how would this incident end?


At the very least, he wants to seal Zuro Tsun’s lips.


Tay Tsun once claimed that he was the only one aside from Zattsu Tsun who knew about Zattsu Tsun’s delusion of grandeur. He also said that the weak Zuro Tsun couldn’t inherit this will.


Even without this confession, as the clan head, Zuro Tsun could very likely have gotten hold of Zattsu Tsun’s crimes. The possibility of him knowing the relationship between Zattsu Tsun and Pyschkurewuss wasn’t zero. In short, he was an existence that Pyschkurewuss couldn’t ignore.


However, he just needed to accept the Forest’s Edge chiefs opinion and extradite Zuro Tsun into the city as a criminal. With Malfreed stepping in, Pyschkurewuss was probably feeling the heat, so there was no reason in dragging out the meeting.


But he was still insisting that we hand over all the members of the main house… Was he worried about his secret being leaked to them?


If that is true, this is no joking matter. How can we hand Yamiel Lei, Mida, and the others to this despicable man now?


After thinking about it this far, I finally finished cutting the meat.


I placed the Santoku knife onto the counter and then turned towards Kaslan Lutim and said:


“So, the next meeting is set in half a month’s time?”


“Yes. We need to decide before the 15th of the White month.”


Tomorrow was the 31st of the Blue month, so that would be half a month away.


He sure was taking his time.


“Why is he leaving such a large gap in between? Our tribal chiefs can consider this carefully, and Kamyua Yost can conduct more investigations. This is great for us, but what does Pyschkurewuss intend to gain by leaving so many days blank?”


“Don’t know. But I don’t think he is someone who will do something that doesn’t benefit himself.”


“Yes. Kaslan Lutim seems to really detest Pyschkurewuss, correct?”


Kaslan Lutim nodded seriously in response.


“I know I shouldn’t mix in my personal feelings in this, but even without being enemies, I probably won’t ever be friends with that man.”


Pyschkurewuss was actually so detestable and made others so wary. I had not seen him in person yet, so my impression of him was very vague.


However, I could understand what Kamyua Yost meant that they couldn’t bring Pyschkurewuss right now. No matter how suspicious he might be, there still wasn’t any concrete evidence.


From the circumstantial evidence, we could infer that Pyschkurewuss and his brother who was the captain of the town guards might have colluded with Zattsu Tsun and planned the whole thing.


Or maybe this entire thing had nothing to do with the people in the city, and Zattsu Tsun just wanted to barter the stolen goods for copper plates.


Or maybe… Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun were lying, and this was all the doing of the bandits.


Without evidence, anything was possible.


“Hmmm. Is his personality just twisted, or did he really exploit Zattsu Tsun to commit all these crimes… I don’t think we can continue to negotiate without clearing this up.”


“That’s right. Kamyua Yost also mentioned that we have to get the evidence during this period of time. In order to do so, he hopes the denizens of Forest’s Edge can lend him a hand.”


Kamyua Yost, huh.


That suspicious man with a retarded smile was having a private conference with the tribal chiefs inside the Wu clan main house. I wondered how much help the Forest’s Edge would be in this conspiracy-laced incident. I couldn’t imagine that at all and couldn’t calm down.


I wondered what Ai Fa who had been keeping quiet thought. When I was about to turn and look her way, Leina Wu walked up to me with a freshly grilled hamburg steak on a plate.


“Asuta, I made it as you instructed. Can you try the finished product?”


The meat patty on the plate was about 180 g, around the size used in a 『Kiba burger』, and grilled just right.


The color and tenderness were impeccable. Even though the patty didn’t have any condiments on it, it still should be incredibly delicious.


I relaxed my serious face, picked up a spoon and said: “I’m digging in.”


I cut the patty with my spoon, and a translucent liquid flowed onto the plate.


The inside of the patty was thoroughly cooked too.


I sent the piece of meat into my mouth, and the deliciousness I was expecting spread inside my mouth cavity.


“Yes, this is perfect. The amount of diced aria is just right, and the tenderness of the meat is outstanding… It’s been a while since I ate meat patty without any sauce; the kiba is really tasty.”


In the meat patty were just diced aria and a dash of rock salt and Pico leaves, but that was already incredibly delicious. I couldn’t help smiling, and Leina Wu also smiled happily when she saw me.


“I wanted to ask if you really mean it, but I feel relieved just looking at Asuta’s face. I think the meat patty is a little too big though.”


“Well, the meat patty will be stored inside Pico leaves before being grilled on the morning and will lose a lot of moisture. So we need to make it this thick at this juncture.”


“Ah, so that’s the reason. I understand. So… Can you let Shela Wu and I take on the task of preparing 60 meat patties?”


“Okay, I will leave this to you then. Please try to make them the same size, okay?”


Leina Wu replied with a smile: “Okay.”


It was a perfect smile, full of pride and confidence.


Leina Wu’s facial features had always been fine, but I thought she had gotten even more charming lately.


“Oh, Ai Fa and Kaslan Lutim, want to have a taste? If I leave it all to Asuta, he will be full before dinner.”


Leina Wu was always so considerate.


Kaslan Lutim nodded generously and took the spoon from me.


“Ah, this is heavenly. I hope the women in house Lutim can learn such skills too.”


“Ara, Ema Min Lutim’s hamburg steak tastes delicious too, right?”


Leina Wu smiled bashfully, and Kaslan Lutim scratched his head with a: “Haha.”


After seeing this warm interaction between them, Ai Fa picked up the spoon awkwardly.


She then scooped up a small piece and shoved it into her mouth.


Ai Fa said with a blank face: “Hmm… Leina Wu’s cooking has improved a lot.”


Leina Wu asked happily: “Really?”


“It’s encouraging to hear Ai Fa saying that since she eats Asuta’s cooking every day.”


Leina Wu who was all smiles and the expressionless Ai Fa looked at each other in silence for a moment.


Before this silence turned awkward, Leina Wu looked back at me:


“Well then, I’m going back to work. Thank you very much, Asuta.”


“Sorry for troubling you.”


Leina Wu turned back and returned to Shela Wu with brisk steps.


And… she didn’t seem to notice that I was a little worried about Ai Fa. It looked like she was trying to suppress her own emotions.


“… Hey, Ai Fa, are you alright?”:


I whispered to her quietly.


Is she going to tell me: “The hamburg steak you make for me tastes better than that!”? I felt a little uneasy.


Ai Fa scratched the tip of her nose; she moved her mouth as if she couldn’t hold it in anymore.


She made a face I wasn’t expecting… She looked very satisfied, with a proud and confident smile that was on par with Leina Wu earlier.


After surprising me, Ai Fa whispered to me with a smile:


“… She had improved a lot, but Asuta’s hamburg steak still tastes better.”


After saying that, she poked my sideburn.


“But her improvement surprised me a lot. Asuta, don’t fall behind now.”


I could only answer: “Yes…”


Compared to Leina Wu’s and Shela Wu’s, my hamburg steak wasn’t that far ahead… I felt a sense of shame as I thought that and decided not to tell anyone about this.


“Hyaa! Asuta, what goodies are you eating!”


I heard a sudden yell.


A tall and slender figure was standing at the kitchen entrance together with a petite person.


They were Kamyua Yost and Ludo Wu.


“Ara, thank you for your hard work. Your private conference with the tribal chiefs is over?”


“Yes, I finally got them to agree to my request. We should be able to grab Pyschkurewuss by the tail before the 15th of next month.”


Kamyua Yost answered as he stared at the plate in my hands.


Ludo Wu who noticed that walked right in and snatched the plate from me.


“Since it’s my house’s kitchen, can I have a taste?”


“Ahh, Ludo Wu, save some for me, at least a bite.”


Kamyua Yost was treating Ludo Wu so casually that it felt weird to me.


But Ludo Wu didn’t seem to mind this suspicious man and left just a bite of hamburg steak to him as requested.


“Oh, Kaslan Lutim, thank you for your hard work. Have you explained everything to Asuta?”


Kamyua Yost ate the bite of hamburg steak cherishingly as he said that to Kaslan Lutim.


“I have explained everything that I could to him.”


“That’s great. Let me add on to that.”


Kamyua Yost said with a leisurely smile: “Asuta, after listening to what Kaslan Lutim said, you probably think that Pyschkurewuss is a vicious man.”


“That’s right.”


“But Asuta, if you get a chance to meet Pyschkurewuss, your impression of him might get overturned. I hope you won’t think Kaslan Lutim’s impression of him is mistaken.”


“What?”


I was confused by his words.


But I could sense that Kamyua Yost, the man who was always pretending to be retarded, had very serious eyes.


“I’m sorry, I don’t understand you at all. Can you explain further?”


“Ah, my bad. Well, I’m sure of this only during today’s meeting. Pyschkurewuss looks down on the denizens of Forest’s Edge. Much more than I expected.”


“Looks down on the denizens of Forest’s Edge?”


“Correct. Those weren’t eyes one looks at a fellow man. Instead, it gave impression as if he was looking at a filthy animal beneath that of a man.”


Kamyua Yost said something dangerous offhandedly.


“Simply put, those are his eyes when looking at a slave. And… he is someone who doesn’t think of slaves as people. The slaves in the western kingdom are actually from the northern kingdom.”


“From the northern kingdom, that means…”


“Yes, where my mother is from, the enemy of the western kingdom, Mahildra. Pyschkurewuss has always loathed a northern mixed blood like me entering the city on Marquis Genos’ invitation. And, of course… he also looks at me as if I am some kind of filthy animal.”


“…”


“Genos is located close to the southern edge of the western kingdom. The people here will probably never meet anyone from Mahildra in their lifetime. But that Pyschkurewuss went out of his way to get slave merchants to travel here from the north to buy slaves to work for him. This is nothing special in the northern cities though. The captives from a hostile nation are either killed or enslaved.”


I felt more and more troubled as I listened.


But Kamyua Yost smiled cheerfully.


“But in actual fact, the people who work with slaves more, are less likely to treat them harshly. Many landlords reward slaves for their efficient work and even recognize marriage between slaves. Those who treat slaves inhumanely are the minority. And that Pyschkurewuss… belongs to the minority.”


“Why are you telling me this?”


“Well, after the conference today, I can feel that Pyschkurewuss thinks of the denizens of Forest’s Edge as an important labor force, but not his equal. I have always suspected that, and after seeing his murky eyes when he looks at the denizens of Forest’s Edge, I am now sure of it.”


Kaslan Lutim looked at Kamyua Yost calmly.


Noticing his gaze, Kamyua Yost smiled casually.


“There aren’t many people in the Post Station Town who look at the denizens of Forest’s Edge with such disdain. The townsfolk might not think of the Forest’s Edge denizens as fellow citizens, but they don’t think the denizens aren’t people.”


“I still can’t really understand slavery and the conflict between the north and west. But Pyschkurewuss’ eyes feel unsettling to me.”


Kaslan Lutim was still collected, but I was the opposite.


Ai Fa stood beside me; Kaslan Lutim, Ludo Wu, Leina Wu, and Shela Wu were here too.


They were all important people to me. To not treat these charming people as humans… That was beyond my comprehension.


“… And so, even though Asuta is a denizen of Forest’s Edge, your appearance is still that of a westerner. At the very least, you don’t have the features of a Forest’s Edge denizen or someone from the north. Pyschkurewuss might treat Asuta humanely, so I hope you don’t get confused by that.”


“Thank you for telling me this precious information. But… isn’t it possible that I won’t ever meet that Pyschkurewuss?”


“Yes, I can only pray that won’t ever happen.”


So there was still a chance.


What a creepy thought.


I took a deep breath, expelled the miasma in my heart, and faced Kamyua Yost with refreshed emotions.


“So, what is the request that you got the tribal chiefs to agree to, Kamyua? This is the first thing you asked for something from the Forest’s Edge, correct?”


“Yes. I don’t have even help this time, so I want them to lend me some men to look for someone.”


“Look for someone?”


“That’s right. I plan to leave Genos and search in the neighboring cities. The person I’m looking for is a survivor of the ‘Red Beard Gang’. Kaslan Lutim already told you about them, correct?”


I held my breath.


What was he planning?


“Actually, I already made a decision to search for that person. We can figure out what happened to the ‘Red Beard Gang’ ten years ago if the search bears fruit. I want to uncover Pyschkurewuss crimes this way.”


“Wasn’t that bandit gang destroyed a decade ago, with all the members executed?”


“Yes, but only that person somehow escaped the encirclement by the subjugation team. And she is also someone close to the boss, so she should know what actually happened back then.”


“She? That person is a woman?”


“Yes. She was the significant other of red beard Goram, the boss of the ‘Red Beard Gang’. She was a great fighter serving as the lieutenant of the boss and stayed home after giving birth. That’s why she wasn’t caught.”


The significant other of the bandit boss… Could they get a useful testimony from someone like that?


I better let Kamyua Yost be the judge of that. I had something else to ask him.


“You want the denizens of Forest’s Edge to help in your search? And the tribal chiefs actually agreed?”


“Yes. Donda Wu and the others feel that if Pyschkurewuss’ wrongdoings aren’t uncovered, the conference won’t progress. Even Graff Zaza feels a suspicious man like me is better than that Pyschkurewuss.”


Kamyua Yost said and smiled like a Cheshire cat.


“In any case, Malfreed can’t deploy his troops as he wishes, and he can’t leave Genos either. I’m glad you guys can understand our constraints. By the way… the Wu clan loaned me three men, and I’m teaching them how to ride a Totos right now. I plan to ride at dawn.”


Letting the denizens of Forest’s Edge travel outside of Genos on a Totos, what an unexpected development.


“Tch! That’s so interesting! If I don’t have to guard the stall, I want to go too!”


Ludo Wu said relaxedly.


I looked Kamyua Yost in the eyes and said:


“Kamyua Yost, can we trust you on this?”


“Yes. Uncovering the wrongdoings of Pyschkurewuss is closely related to a bright future for Forest’s Edge too, correct?”


The tribal chief of Forest’s Edge, Donda Wu has already agreed to this proposal anyway.


I could only put my faith in them.


“I understand. I will await your safe return. Will you be back before the conference…?”


“Yes. The hunters of the Wu clan have a vacation right now too, so the timing is just right. But… I want to return as soon as possible. I don’t know what Pyschkurewuss is scheming by pushing the conference back for another half a month.”


Kamyua Yost’s purple eyes lighted up clearly.


“I hope you guys can stay on your guard too, Asuta. Pyschkurewuss didn’t mention your business during today’s conference, which is a surprise. Since Asuta is the one who built a relationship with the Post Station Town, he should be an existence Pyschkurewuss can’t ignore. Well then… I’m looking forward to eating Asuta’s dishes again in a few days time.”


Chapter 4 Part 1


The next day, the 31st of the Blue month, the number of escorts increased to four.


This was because of the ominous warning by Kamyua Yost and Ai Fa’s comment that she could sense someone watching us.


The additional members were Shin Wu and a youth from the Wu clan branch house I wasn’t familiar with. Unfortunately, we couldn’t ask the head of the Lei house Rau Lei to be our guard so easily.


“And Rau Lei has a short fuse. Aren’t you worried about him interacting with the people in town?”


These were Ludo Wu’s actual words.


If Donda Wu was worried about that when making this decision, it was indeed an appropriate concern. I wouldn’t be surprised for the people of the city to use some sort of scheme in town.


We could only start doing the day’s work, with no idea how guarded we should be.


Aside from the possibility of Pyschkurewuss acting behind the scenes, there was another matter lingering in the corner of my heart.


And, of course, it’s about Shumimaru’s leaving Genos today and the issue with Vena Wu.


“… Vena Wu, is your leg fine?”


While attending to the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall I directed my question towards the 『Kiba burger』 stall, and Vena Wu responded calmly: “Yes… I’m fine…”


Vena Wu had finally returned to her job at the stall.


But the feet she was concealing had not recovered completely yet, so she couldn’t return to her job without a wagon ferrying her.


And with the guards here, there was no need for Vena Wu to stay with me. She had asked Mama Mia Lei to let Leina Wu and her to work at the Post Station Town on alternate days.


“Erm, when is that easterner coming?”


Lala Wu who was tending the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall asked softly.


“Who knows. Usually, he would be here by now.”


“Ah… I’m getting worked up over this. He isn’t proposing marriage, so why am I so flustered?”


I was flustered too, but I didn’t know whether it was due to the same reason as Lala Wu.


Speaking of which, why was Lala Wu so worked up?


“I don’t understand! But, do you think that easterner's intentions are so serious so he would propose a marriage? That’s why I’m so flustered.”


Lala Wu put her hand on her chest as she said that, and took a deep breath.


“It will be great if Vena-nee finds a good husband soon. Then things won’t become so troubling!”


“… Is it troubling for Shumimaru and Vena Wu to be together?”


“Obviously! By the way… I’m not too sure, but is changing one’s faith a serious matter in town?”


“I’m not very sure, but it seems so.”


“Ah, Asuta doesn’t know about the four gods in the first place. What an incredible tale! Anyway… Changing faith means cutting ties with their family, you know? I don’t want that!”


“Well, living apart doesn’t mean that you won’t see each other again… Ah, how do I put this… I better not say something irresponsible.”


“It’s the same everywhere; marrying away means living apart from one’s family. I don’t want Vena-nee to leave Forest’s Edge and not be a tribe mate anymore.”


Lala Wu lowered her brows slightly and bit her lips.


This strong-willed girl would occasionally show such a cute face.


“… What about a foreigner marrying into the Wu clan?”


“Huh? That’s good I guess? Then Vena-nee will still be my family.”


“Ah, so that works?”


“I don’t really mind. Mama Mia Lei probably won’t mind either. I’m not sure about Papa Donda…”


Donda Wu, huh.


I wondered what were his thoughts on this.


“He probably won’t agree. If the easterner marries in, he can’t do the work of a hunter properly. He does business in the Genos city, right? Why would such a man give up his lifestyle and marry into Forest’s Edge?”


“So Lala Wu wouldn’t mind?”


“Yes. I’m fine with anyone as long as Vena-nee is happy.”


Lala Wu resembled Ludo Wu not just in their expressions, but thinking as well.


Anyway, Ludo Wu wished his sister to be happy even if Vena Wu were to leave Forest’s Edge.


But their marriage isn’t that easy…


Abandoning one’s hometown, friends, and way of life, and marrying into Forest’s Edge… Even a foreigner like me could imagine how preposterous this was.


What about marrying out?


Vena Wu yearned for the world outside of Forest’s Edge too.


And the denizens of Forest’s Edge worshipped the forest as a god and didn’t display any devotion towards the four main deities. In that case, they were less resistant to the idea of changing one’s faith.


But I didn’t think this was such a simple matter. Even if the subject herself wasn’t resistant to this idea, she wouldn’t be able to live in the western kingdom and the Forest’s Edge, if she changed her faith.


Shumimaru didn’t have any family and ran a business. After leaving his hometown, he would tour around the western and northern kingdom for almost a year. He definitely couldn’t leave Vena Wu in Semu alone, since she didn’t know anyone there.


Then he just needed to tour the world together with Vena Wu…


No, that wasn’t realistic at all.


Shumimaru must have had considered all these, which was why he told me it was difficult.


Anyway… I can only hope that Vena Wu will accept Shumimaru’s gift.


With worry and tiredness rising in our mind, Lala Wu and I sighed.


At this moment, Ai Fa said coldly: “She’s here again…”


“How annoying! Is this your attitude towards a customer?”


It was the southern girl Dell.


Dell stuck her tongue out at Ai Fa who was acting like a bouncer and then stood before the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall with a smile.


“I’m visiting again today! Asuta, I have a request.”


“Ahh, welcome. Hmm…? If you are alternating every day, shouldn’t you be buying 『Kiba burger』 today?”


“Hmm? It’s fine since it’s tasty! Asuta is over here, so I want this one.”


Her first day’s attitude was like a lie. Dell smiled brightly, and Ai Fa crossed her arms and glared at me when she saw that innocent smile.


Actually, I told Kamyua Yost about this girl yesterday. It was very unlikely for Pyschkurewuss to be involved with a girl like her visiting my stall.


“Oh, the merchants from Zealand? I know them; they are the steel smith merchants that got invited to stay in Pyschkurewuss’ manor. Malfreed has already investigated the people visiting Genos recently. They are here purely for business and are neither the pawns of Pyschkurewuss nor will do anything to the denizens of Forest’s Edge.”


Kamyua Yost’s words wiped away my worries for now.


But the fact remained that they were involved with Pyschkurewuss, so I should still keep my distance. So I wore my professional smile and attended to this girl.


“Ah, smells nice! Can this be reheated in the stove?”


“Huh? But why?”


“I want the people in the city to try it too! They all say that kiba isn’t edible and won’t believe me at all!”


Her words gave me goosebumps.


“E-Erm, the dish will spoil after some time! It will be bad if you get food poisoning. So please don’t bring the dish into the city.”


“Huh!? Since I bought it with my money, I’m free to do whatever I want with it.”


Dell stopped smiling and puffed her cheeks.


“B-But many people in Genos don’t welcome the denizens of Forest’s Edge and kiba. You know that, right?”


“Hmm? I don’t really know, but there are many denizens of Forest’s Edge who look scary, so they are just intimidated by them, correct?”


Dell said as she looked at Ai Fa with loathsome eyes.


Ai Fa looked back at her icily.


“This is not that simple. The kiba is a symbol of disaster, so the denizens of Forest’s Edge who eat kiba get treated as the harbinger of catastrophe… And they also changed their faith from the southern god to the western one. Because of their heritage, people don’t see them as fellow citizens, and the relationship with the townsfolk didn’t improve after all this time.”


“What? That’s too strange! The denizens of Forest’s Edge abandoned Jaguar decades ago and still aren’t accepted as fellow citizens here?”


I was shocked; she didn’t even know that?


So that was the extent of what a foreigner doing business in the city would know. Despite being fellow Genos citizens, the people in the city and the denizens of Forest’s Edge had no proper interactions at all. Pyschkurewuss was the only exception, and I didn’t think he would take the chance to talk about the Forest’s Edge with merchants.


That’s right… someone in the city might never have the chance to meet a denizen of Forest’s Edge. The relationship between the Post Station townsfolk and the denizens of Forest’s Edge is of no importance to them.


This was a new revelation.


However, what kind of answer would denizens of Forest’s Edge get if they asked this question?


I decided to focus on the problem at hand right now and answered Dell:


“… Anyway, I can imagine the troubles that will be caused by bringing a kiba dish into the city. I still want to run my business in peace here, so can you reconsider?”


Dell moaned for a while and then answered disappointedly: “Okay.”


“I just want to surprise them. But… if it will cause trouble for Asuta, I will give it up.”


Her face looked like a puppy with droopy ears.


After thanking her, I tossed the meat and aria into the middle of the griddle.


“Just one? That will be two red copper plates.”


“Yes! I didn’t eat anything before coming, so make it tastier, alright?”


Dell cheered up and smiled gleefully.


As her infectious smile made me smile in return, I heard the voice of a new customer: “Ahh, long time no see!”


I turned back and found a westerner girl with long brown hair standing there with a smile as bright as Dell’s. Her figure was as thicc as Vena Wu, and her ivory skin looked rather sexy. She was Yumi from the 《West Wind Inn》.


“Ah, hello. It has been a while.”


“I have to work in the inn, so it’s hard for me to sneak out before noon! But I still came every day, you know?”


“Yes, I heard about that. Thank you for your regular patronage.”


She and Uncle Dora were westerner regulars which was rare in my stall. I had less chance of seeing them now, but I was still grateful towards them.


Will she… find trouble with western customers?


I looked away uneasily, and Dell put her hands on the counter like a dog begging for food. Her escort Lavis had already handed the money to Lala Wu.


“Ah, pardon me. I will make it right away, so wait a moment.”


“Yes!”


Dell smiled brilliantly. She was the world’s best in terms of the speed her face changed.


And, for some reason, Yumi stopped smiling and started observing Dell.


“I have never seen you before. Are you a friend of Asuta?”


“Hmm? We aren’t really friends though?”


Dell looked back at her puzzledly.


Yumi flicked her hair with a grunt.


“You are a regular of this stall then? I don’t remember seeing a southern girl like you.”


“Regular, huh. I have visited four days in a row!”


I shrugged quietly. She hadn’t paid for the first day yet.


But now wasn’t the time to take it easy. Yumi stared at me, her gaze turning icier with every passing moment.


“… Asuta, what’s going on here?”


“Ah? W-What do you mean?”


“Didn’t you say you use honorifics with me because I’m a customer!? Then why do you speak to a little girl that just came four days ago like a friend!?”


That seemed to have triggered Yumi.


By the way, I remember Yumi saying the same thing to a kid like Tara. She only relented when I explained to her that I got to know Tara before opening the stall.


“N-No, that’s… It became like this before I realized it…”


“Before you realized it? I don’t get you!”


“How annoying. If you are here to buy food, just eat it quietly.”


Dell took a bite of the 『Myam-roasted meat』 I gave her and answered calmly.


Did the pot just call the kettle black!? Even though I was thinking about that in my heart, Dell didn’t seem agitated about Yumi getting mad, which was a relief. It looked that Dell could deal with southerners and westerners reasonably.


“… Asuta, you have two choices.”


But Yumi was already fuming.


Yumi raised two tender fingers with an angry face and shoved them up to the tip of my nose.


“You can either stop talking to me in such a formal tone, or you can treat all your patrons the same way. Asuta, what will you choose?”


“Erm… It’s difficult to change the way I have been speaking for the past month…”


“So you won’t talk to me in a formal tone now, correct?”


Dell smiled angelically.


I didn’t know whether she would cry or get mad if I failed to meet her expectations, and just thinking about it put my heart in a turmoil. That was how her smile was.


So I could only answer: “Yes.”. Yumi yelled: “That’s too sly!” when she heard that.


“Don’t just bully me! And I have known you for longer than her, how mean!”


“You are too loud. I’m going to call the guards on you for disrupting his business, you know?”


Dell took large bites of her 『Myam-roasted meat』 with a satisfied smile, while I sighed without letting Yumi notice.


I only noticed an icy gaze staring at my right cheek.


I turned back and it was my beloved house head casting a sideway gaze at me.


I asked her why she was mad with my eyes. She answered with her gaze that I was being annoying.


We were of one mind, which showed the bonds within the Fa house.


“Erm… I can’t do this right away; we need to find a way to resolve this in a more peaceful manner…”


I said in an attempt to mediate, but Yumi leaned towards me with her brows raised high.


“Are you serious about trying to change…?”


“Yes… Erm… I will do what I can…”


Yumi sighed heavily and then put two red copper plates onto the counter.


“Thank you for your patronage… No, thanks…”


“I don’t feel you are trying at all!”


“I can’t change immediately.”


I started cooking the 『Myam-roasted meat』. She was better than Rau Lei who resorted to violence immediately.


Yumi looked at Dell haughtily.


“… Just who are you? It’s rare seeing a southern girl in Genos; is your family merchants?”


“Yes, I’m with a steel smith merchant from Zealand.”


Dell answered Yumi impatiently as she finished off her food.


“Fufu, a steel smith merchant, huh. That has nothing to do with me… But why are you wearing boy’s clothes?”


“Hmm…? How can I wear flimsy clothes in the Post Station Town? It’s me who should be asking you, aren’t you afraid of being targeted by delinquents if you dressed like that?”


“If I was afraid of delinquents, I wouldn’t live in the Post Station Town. You sure are delicate.”


Yumi looked down at Dell with her arms crossed.


When I first met this girl, she was with a group of delinquent-like youths.


By the way, she was wearing a tank top and had accessories that clattered noisily and a long dress that went from her waist to her ankles. This was a popular attire amongst westerners. Her feet that were showing under her dress looked really mesmerizing.


“Hmm, I don’t understand this custom. Since you are so cute, why don’t you grow your hair out? Otherwise you’ll get mistaken for a boy.”


Yes, I was one of those who were mistaken.


When I was just thinking that, Dell’s calm face started turning flushed.


“Annoying! I’m free to cut or grow out my hair!? Don’t tease me just because you look a little pretty!”


“Uwah!”


Yumi let out a weird scream.


I never expected for Dell to grab one of Yumi’s soft breasts with her right hand.




Yumi shook off Dell’s hand and sat onto the ground weakly with her face red.


“W-What are you doing!? Don’t surprise me like that!”


“Hmmp! So you are fine with that if I don’t surprise you? Shall I tell you in advance next time?”


Dell curled her fingers into a wriggly claw and went near Yumi.


Yumi backed away with her arms around herself.


At this moment, Ai Fa grabbed Dell’s slender shoulders and said: “Hey! Don’t cause trouble in front of the stall. Girl from the south, you are not reflecting on your actions at all.”


Dell looked back at Ai Fa in surprise.


And then, the young man Lavis who had been standing at the side like a shadow walked towards Ai Fa with his hand on his sword hilt.


“Denizen of Forest’s Edge, remove your hand from Dell-sama. If not… I won’t hold back.”


“Oh? So there are many southerners with no regards for the law.”


Ai Fa didn’t waver at all as she unhanded Dell.


Dell said a little agitatedly in a quiet voice: “Don’t be like this, Lavis.”


“It’s my fault. Asuta… I’m sorry.”


“Ah, it’s fine…”


“I apologize to you too. I… can’t help myself when people talk about my hair.”


“H-Hair…?”


“… My hair color is disgusting so it won’t look as nice as yours even if I grow it out. If not for that, I wouldn’t want others to mistake me for a boy too.”


Dell bit her lips quietly after saying that.


Yumi stood up slowly and walked to Dell with her hands guarding her breasts.


“… What’s so disgusting about it? Your hair color is just a little uncommon.”


“It is! It’s like the color of feral animals!”


Dell’s face twisted sadly as she ruffled her hair.


The color of her brown hair was uneven and did look a little like that of a cat or dog. But I didn’t find it disgusting at all.


“Is that so. But everyone has their own preferences.”


Yumi put her hands on Dell’s messy hair.


“But I don’t think this color is disgusting, that’s why I want you to grow it out. Sorry if that upset you.”


Dell lowered her head without a word.


Yumi had a sincere and apologetic face.


“… Y-You aren’t mad?”


“Yes. I was just surprised.”


“I see. It… felt really soft and comfortable though.”


Yumi ruffled Dell’s hair roughly: “Don’t say it out loud!”


Dell fled from her with a laugh.


“Sorry, I will be heading back now. I still have a job to do in the afternoon. Asuta… Can I come tomorrow?”


“Huh? Yes, of course.”


Dell left with brisk steps after saying: “… Thanks.”


Lavis followed her after glaring at Ai Fa.


“What a weirdo! But never mind… She isn’t a bad person.”:


Yumi said with a sigh.


“Are you alright?”


When she heard me, she guarded her breasts for some reason and glared at me with scary eyes.


“Hurry up already! I have work to do too!”


“Oh? Yes, my deep apologies…”


“Language!”


“Right! My bad!”


My manner of speech was like Mida’s right now.


Lala Wu held back her laugh as she turned away, while Yumi snatched the 『Myam-roasted meat』 from me in a rage.


“Really now, I’m here for formal business with you, but it got messed up… Well, Asuta, you are selling your food at the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 and the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》, right?”


“Hmm? Erm, yes?”


“So you adjusted the taste according to the preferences of the southerners and easterners, correct? For a westerner like me, which inn would you recommend?”


“Huh? May I ask the reason for your query?”


“Are you doing that on purpose?”


“No, of course not!”


Lala Wu’s shoulders were quivering, and Yumi sighed.


“Recently, I noticed we are losing westerner customers to these two inns. My dad has finally made up his mind.”


“Finally… What does he want to do?”


“I don’t know yet. Maybe he wants Asuta to make some karon or kimyusu meat dish.”


Yumi’s father, the innkeeper of the 《West Wind Inn》, seemed very wary of the denizens of Forest’s Edge and kiba.


But he wasn’t born and bred in Genos, and only moved here from another town when he was young. His hatred didn’t have any specific reason; he was just affected by the atmosphere in the Post Station Town. That was what Yumi deduced.


Which meant that Yumi was wary of the denizens of Forest’s Edge for the same reason too. Her hatred faded off after meeting me at my stall.


“Yes, but it will be meaningless if I don’t use kiba in the dish. Like I mentioned last time, instead of making money, I started doing business in order to let everyone understand how delicious kiba is.”


“Yes, I know. But my stubborn dad has sent me here to try your dish in order to ascertain Asuta’s skills. Not long ago, he got mad at me and my mom when I bought your cooking in secret! Isn’t that amazing?”


Yumi then leaned her face over the counter with a serious face.


“What happens next would depend on Asuta’s capability. If Asuta manages to convince my dad to try the kiba dish, we can smash that rock head of his into smithereens! Ah… Did I say something wilful again?”


“No, you are right. Just getting him interested will make me happy.”


Selling kiba for westerner travelers in an inn operated by westerners would be a big improvement.


If possible, I wanted to take this first step in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, but I couldn’t let this chance slip.


I also learned that the evidence of that incident a decade of ago wasn’t treated seriously. If Pyschkurewuss isn’t targeting Milano Mast, I can just talk about that incident openly in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》.


I showed a forthright smile towards Yumi as I thought about this.


“Thank you. If Yumi’s father is really interested, I will work hard to make him understand the deliciousness of kiba.”


Yumi opened her eyes wide.


Her ivory skin looked a little red, maybe because of the heat from the griddle.


“… So you can talk properly after all.”


“Ah, is that so? I might get conscious of it once I calm down though.”


“And… You remembered my name?”


“Huh? I remembered your name a long time ago!”


That might be so, but I never had the chance to call her by her name. Not just Yumi, I had not addressed Pops Balan and Arudas by their names either.
Yumi giggled and then pulled her body back.


“I’m glad…”


“Hmm? Glad about what?”


“Nothing! The 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 and the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》, which do you recommend?”


“Erm, well, I plan to change the menu slowly tomorrow, but the dish in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 uses a spice from Semu called Chitto, so the food from the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 should suit you better. By the way… Have you tried dishes made with Tau sauce before?”


“I never tried it before, but that’s a seasoning from Jaguar, correct? I heard that name before.”


“Is that so? It doesn’t taste as strong as Chitto, so I think it will be easier for others to accept. In any case, I don’t just focus on the easterners or southerners alone when I set my menu.”


“I understand. I will try the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 then! I’m looking forward to it.”


Yumi then smiled more brilliantly than before, which was great.


“Thank you. I won’t waste the opportunity given to me by Yumi and will work hard.”


“Yes! Do your best! But I can only tell the truth if it really does taste bad though.”


“Yes, I’m looking forward to Yumi’s thoughts on this.”


I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched the smiling Yumi leave.


I then felt a gaze on my right cheek.


Turning back, I found Ai Fa staring silently at me.


I asked with my eyes what she was being mad about.


She answered with her gaze that I was annoying.


Our wordless conversation wasn’t so cheery this time.


As I was thinking that, a tall cloaked figure approached us from the north.


It was an easterner. But it wasn’t Shumimaru or Sangjura. This person was easily over 190 cm tall, which was rare even for a Semu.


“Welcome. Do you want one?”


“No, two, give me.”


He replied as he pushed his hood away.


Aside from Shumimaru and Sangjura, no one else had ever gone out of their way to show their face.


“Asuta, me, you know?”


“Huh?”


“Me, ‘Silver Vase’ deputy bandleader, Radajiddo Nafashiāru.”


I didn’t recognize him at all. He had dark hair and eyes, and his long face was typical of a Semu.


But I did remember someone this tall amongst the members of the Silver Vase.


“So you are a part of the ‘Silver Vase’. Are you alone today?”


“Yes. Today, busy. Everyone, buy food, separate.”


With that, Radajiddo turned his gaze towards the 『Kiba burger』 stall.


“Asuta, Vena Wu, something tell you, I have.”


Vena Wu turned slowly towards him.


Radajiddo continued in a strong and booming voice:


“Bandleader Shumimaru, urgent matter. Will come late, Asuta, Vena Wu.”


I asked him: “An urgent matter?”


Radajiddo nodded at Vena Wu.


“Close stall, he come. Go 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, he will. Time come, bid farewell.”


“I see. As expected, he is busy on the very last day. Hmm… But does Shumimaru know that Vena Wu is in the Post Station Town today?”


“Knows he. Shumimaru, since morning, in city. But brethren, about stall, inform him. Shumimaru, knows.”


“I see.”


Speaking of which, it was almost noon and Pops Balan still hadn’t come.


The excitement of my conversation with Yumi started to subside.


“Shumimaru, come, definitely. Lunch, give him, I will.”


Radajiddo said as he returned his gaze back to me.


“‘Silver Vase’, ten people, come definitely. We, meet Asuta, thank you.”


“No, I’m the one who should be grateful for making your acquaintances.”


Radajiddo said emotionlessly: “Farewell, close stall, after.”


But I could feel a gleeful gaze similar to Shumimaru behind his squinting dark eyes.


2


Afternoon, after Rii Sudora arrived to start her shift, we set off for the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》.


I had already entrusted the jerky preordered by Pops Balan to Shela Wu. After asking the Wu clan and their six kin houses, and the five minor houses near us, we managed to gather 2 kg of jerky.


The revenue of 30 white copper plates was split amongst the twelve houses, so each house didn’t earn much this time. I gave priority to the minor houses the previous round, so I divided the task equally amongst all the houses this time.


And with permission from my house head, the Fa house also prepared a little gift for our regular guest.


The food I was researching right now was 『Kiba bacon』. I was trying to make the smoked jerky that was as tough as wood more tender.


The moisture was removed by covering it with salt, and the dried meat was then smoked with herbs. Forest’s Edge method of making jerky was basically the same as making bacon. But the priority in making jerky was its preservation effect, so the moisture needed to be completely removed. The end result was so tough that a weak person like me couldn’t bite through it.


There weren’t any chilling facilities here, and the weather in Forest’s Edge and Genos was like early summer in Japan, so it was only natural for them to prioritize preservation. However, I wanted to know if it was possible to make the bacon I was familiar with… Could I make it more tender by shortening its shelf life a little? Whenever the Fa house made jerky, I used a small portion of it for research.


Whether it was the amount of salt, the marinating time with salt, how long it was left to dry after removing the salt, the length of time used to smoke it with herbs, or other ways to improve the smoking method such as the possibility of using Pico leaves which could remove moisture efficiently… I tried all sorts of methods, but still had no answer at hand. Right now, I could only make bacon that was very close to being a jerky. I could barely manage to bite through it, and the shelf life was just a week.


It was still far from my ideal standard of a bacon. But if I imagined myself to be a traveler cooking it with poitan and aria, it would taste much better than normal jerky.


Jerky needed to be cooked until it turned into mush so it tasted like bland rubbery pieces of meat. But the bacon-like meat I made could retain its original flavor.


I used belly meat for this, as its fat had a thicker texture when made into jerky, so it greatly influenced the taste. I prepared 2 kg of such bacon meat for each group.


It had to be consumed within seven days and didn’t need to be cooked as long as jerky. This was a parting gift for their support of our stall for the past month, so they didn’t need to pay. I left the stall after telling Shela Wu about these three points.


Was doing this against the customs of the Post Station Town?


Even so, I still couldn’t suppress my feelings of wanting to present farewell gifts to Pops’ company of architects and the Silver Vase.


If I found out that Pops turned down the bacon when I linked up with the others, I would probably cry. With this unease in my heart, I went south down the stone-paved street towards 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》.


I was accompanied by Vena Wu, Shin Wu, and Ai Fa. Ludo Wu and the youth from the branch house stayed back in the stall.


Vena Wu sighed sadly beside me.


“… Vena Wu, are you okay?”


“Yes… I just want to settle this troublesome matter earlier…”


Her strides were brisk and favored her right leg a little. The profile of her face was emotionless, so, as expected, she was very melancholic.


Will she accept Shumimaru’s gift?


These words were stuck in my throat, and I managed to swallow them back.


Vena Wu had sort of confessed to me. Given my relationship with her, it wasn’t really convenient for me to ask her about Shumimaru.


Just what kind of emotions did Vena Wu have when flirting with me? What were the fundamental feelings she felt? Was it curiosity and obsession? Her yearning for the outside world? Or just pure feelings of love… I didn’t really understand, and Vena Wu probably didn’t either.


The denizens of Forest’s Edge probably relied more on instincts to choose a spouse, in contrast to my previous world. Mama Mia Lei already confessed to Donda Wu the second time they met, while their daughter Leina Wu fell for me very quickly.


Thinking that this was the custom in Forest’s Edge with just these two examples was probably jumping to conclusions. However, their family Vena Wu launched a more direct attack in an even shorter amount of time.


Just how did she think about Shumimaru.


What were her thoughts about Shumimaru’s feelings?


I didn’t really understand the way of this world, and couldn’t understand.


“… What’s the matter? You have been gloomy since just now.”


Ai Fa walked over and leaned towards me.


“If you are worried about something, don’t hold it in, Asuta.”


“No, I’m fine. I’m just thinking about something.”


I shook my head at Ai Fa, whose gaze was twenty percent sharper than usual.


“What about you, Ai Fa? Is that gaze still there today?”


“It’s gone now. There were just a few people staring at us yesterday. It will be great if that’s the end of it.”


If there wasn’t any concrete evidence, Ai Fa wouldn’t be able to relax.


But the next conference was half a month away.


The Wu clan which had started its hunting offseason was still alright, but Ai Fa couldn’t neglect her hunting work yet. Since there was less kiba around the Wu clan village, that meant the kiba was roaming in the other areas.


Due to the Tsun clan deserting their hunting duties, it disrupted the hunting cycle greatly. At the very least, the number of kiba around the Fa house didn’t decrease at all. The neighboring Fou and Lan houses were successful in their hunts too.


Ai Fa seemed to have understood what I was thinking and said: “… I’m thinking about hunting on alternate days before the 15th of the White Month. So I’m planning to take turns with the Wu clan to perform escort duties… Asuta, don’t cause any trouble while I’m not looking.”


“I got it. By the way, did I ever cause trouble in the Post Station Town before?”


“Weren’t you punched by a southern girl a few days ago?”


Ai Fa poked my shoulder like an angry cat.


Whenever we talked about Dell, Ai Fa would get upset.


“… You two are really close, Ai Fa and Asuta…”


Vena Wu muttered softly.


Ai Fa suppressed her anger and then turned towards her:


“You seem listless. Does your foot still hurt, eldest daughter of the Wu clan?”


“I’m fine… My heart just aches when I see both of you acting lovey-dovey…”


I was shocked by her words.


However, Ai Fa just tilted her head puzzledly:


“Doesn’t the Wu clan have many family members? Why would you feel that way?”


“Are you serious…? I really can’t deal with you…”


A giant question mark appeared on top of Ai Fa’s head.


Vena Wu looked weakly at Ai Fa from the corner of her eyes and sighed.


“Don’t mind me… It’s my own problem…”


Ai Fa nodded and replied: “Is that so?”


She then continued with a rarely seen troubled expression:


“Grandma Jiba and Rimee Wu are in the Wu clan. With these two that I know very well there… I think the Wu clan is a blissful family.”


“I understand… I cherish my family very much too…”


After saying that, Vena Wu covered her face with her long bangs.


I was probably the only one who heard what she said next.


“Just what am I hoping for…”


Vena Wu mumbled uneasily like a child.






Inside the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 kitchen, the innkeeper Neil said in a voice devoid of emotions: “Asuta, the contract will end today.”


He was a young keeper less than thirty years of age and medium build. He had ivory skin, as well as brown hair and eyes, a typical westerner.


“Thank you very much for today… I hope to sign a new contract with you tomorrow.”


“I’m honored by your words. However, like I explained just now, I will be switching the dish from tomorrow onwards and won’t be using pickled Chitto.”


I replied as I lay out the ingredients I brought over onto the counter, and Neil said to me: “I’m actually looking forward to your next dish.”


His sincere and friendly words didn’t match his emotionless face. This strange innkeeper had been trying hard to follow the customs of the easterners and didn’t reveal his emotions.


“I have done the seasoning, so I would like you to try the taste. I will be starting then.”


Today’s dish was 『Chitto hotpot』 which was modeled after the kimchi hotpot.


It was a simple dish made by cooking kiba and tino in water and then adding pickled Chitto and Tau sauce. So I was free before the water boiled and could use the free time to make the new dish.


It was the 『Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style』 that I asked Ai Fa and Shumimaru to try few days ago. A single portion was easy to make. I asked Vena Wu to watch the fire of the 『Chitto hotpot』 and then started working on the new dish quietly.


Ai Fa stood guard by the window, Shin Wu stayed at the entrance of the kitchen, and Neil stayed beside me to watch me cook. The kitchen in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 was the smallest of all the inns I had visited, and it felt cramp with five people inside.


When we were guarding against Zattsu Tsun’s attack, there were four escorts. Back then, three of them stayed outside to watch the surroundings, the back, and the front door. But there were just two escorts this time, so the two of them concentrate their forces indoors.


Naudiz from the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 was still a little afraid of the Forest’s Edge’s denizens, but Neil didn’t seem to be so. Engrossed in the Semu culture of the eastern kingdom, he felt sad about the differences and unrest between the four great kingdoms. The denizens of Forest’s Edge abandoned Jaguar and became citizens of Selva, so they were discriminated for their background. But he tried his best to treat the denizens of Forest’s Edge fairly and equally with no regards for all that.


He didn’t have the resolve to change his faith or make others change theirs, so he didn’t take an easterner as his wife. That’s what he said.


As expected, changing one’s faith in this world was a taboo.


The side that was abandoned would be unhappy, and the other side wouldn’t welcome him either. That was the reason why the denizens of Forest’s Edge were poorly received by the people in Genos.


What is the rationale behind this thinking? Do they think people who change faith can’t be trusted?


I heard that Kamyua Yost was a mixed blood of the north and west kingdom. His childhood was spent in the northern kingdom, and he moved to the western kingdom after his mother died.


Why would someone like Kamyua Yost be born between the enemy nations of Mahildra and Selva? I didn’t ask him the reason, but I knew he lived as a northerner with his mother in the past, and changed his faith to the one of westerners after his mother’s death. His strange experience had to be the key to molding his weird personality.


Kamyua once said he couldn’t find a proper job because of his heritage and that’s why he became a guardian. He felt a one-sided sense of camaraderie towards the denizens of Forest’s Edge who had similar experience as him.


Changing one’s religion wasn’t an easy decision for both Kamyua Yost and the denizens of Forest’s Edge, but they weren’t accepted by the western kingdom of Selva.


In that sense, converting one’s faith for the sake of marriage won’t bring them happiness.


I glanced at Vena Wu, who was standing silently beside the stove, and sighed quietly.


After the meat and aria were cooked, I poured the tarapa sauce I prepared into the pot.


“Is that the tarapa sauce you use at your stall?”


“Yes, it meshes really well with Chitto.”


“I see. I often add myam to Chitto, but tarapa is a surprise to me.”


“It would be too sour to add tarapa directly. It won’t taste too bad either way, but I recommend adding in diced aria to make it sweeter.”


The cooking was done as I was explaining to Neil.


The 『Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style』 was done.


“Please have a taste. I think this is as good as Chitto kiba.”


Neil picked up the spoon with a serious face.


He then bit into the loin meat covered in red sauce… and then covered his mouth with an “Ahh.”


“W-What is it?”


“I can’t… stop myself from smiling.”


“That makes me glad.”


I couldn’t help grinning.


There weren’t any Semu nearby, so there shouldn’t be any problem with showing his emotions.


“This is too shameful. Ah… It tastes really good.”


Neil twitched the corner of his lips worriedly as he ate the entire dish. He managed to keep a straight face, but his hasty way of eating showed how satisfied he was.


“Yes, the taste is impeccable. It will definitely be as popular as the previous menu.”


Neil put the plate he cleaned out back on the counter while saying that.


He then looked at me with his light brown eyes a little worryingly.


“But there is only one dish…? I requested for the dish to be alternated every day because I couldn’t choose between the two dishes you presented…”


“Yes, it’s a rare chance, so I was thinking of preparing two dishes too. But the new soup dish I’m researching still isn’t ready.”


I made Arrabbiata style soup with the same method too… But, compared to the vegetable stew I made before, I felt something was missing in this soup.


The main ingredient of grilled meat was the meat. The tarapa and Chitto meshed perfectly as a sauce that brought out the taste. But when they were made into soup, something seemed to be missing. Just kiba stock, tarapa sauce, and Tau sauce alone weren’t enough to complement the spiciness of the Chitto.


“Erm, you make the pickled Chitto by marinating it with salted maru, correct? So there is seafood inside, and its taste plays a huge part in making Chitto hotpot”


This wasn’t common sense, but the conclusion I came to from my memory of eating kimchi hotpot and Italian cuisine.


Even if it wasn’t seafood, adding Consommé or Bouillon would work too… In short, I felt troubled by the absence of the taste of ‘stock’.


For example, I could get thick stock by boiling kiba bones and use them. I could also cook several vegetables into vegetable stew too.


But that would take a lot of time and effort, and the ingredients would cost a lot too. The time limit was an hour, and the price would be two red copper plates for one dish. It was unrealistic to cook it that way under such constraints.


“Your soup is popular with my customers. They will complain if there isn’t any soup dish to replace it.”


Neil looked at me with sincere eyes and continued:


“Asuta, I have no complaints about the meat dish earlier. Can you alternate between this meat dish and the pickled Chitto soup?”


“Ahh, well… To be frank, I need to review the cost price.”


“Cost price? But why?”


“You see, the Forest’s Edge settlement has adjusted the selling price of fresh kiba meat. It was too cheap in the past, so it has been increased to a reasonable amount. But it is still cheaper than karon meat.”


When he heard my answer, Neil nodded quietly:


“That’s true. When I heard that you wanted to use pickled Chitto in your dish, I was worried whether you would be able to make any profit at all. Asuta, can you tell me how much are your profits now…? I won’t pry if you are not comfortable with sharing.”


“It’s fine. Right now… I earn nine red copper plates for every 30 portions of Chitto hotpot.”


It might sound staggering, but the price of the kiba I bought from the other houses increased by 85 percent. Neil also widened his eyes in surprise.


“60 red copper plates worth of cooking make you a profit of nine red copper plates?”


“Yes. When the meat was cheap, I could earn 30 red copper plates. I don’t really mind this, but I’m still running a business here.”


But the one who caused the price to increase was myself. This situation was a result of me relying too much on the cheap fresh meat.


On top of that, I was busy with work back then and didn’t have time to research my cooking. My only choice back then was to create this dish by taking inspiration from the kimchi hotpot and kimchi pork.


“But I know that now. I will continue to research my cooking, and before I come up with a new dish that you find satisfactory, I will continue supplying Chitto hotpot like before.”


“But Asuta, your profits will…”


“If the customers become unhappy because of this matter and it leaves a bad impression of kiba dish on them, that would be similar to putting the cart before the horse. I think this is the best choice right now. I just need to do my best and present a dish that others will like.”


I then added:


“However, the high cost of the Chitto hotpot is due to me buying pickled Chitto from Neil and using it in my cooking. If Neil makes and sells the Chitto hotpot, you can make a substantial profit, correct?”


By the way, Neil should be selling the kiba dishes to his customers at a profitable price now. If he took part in the cooking process, he could add the profit I was making on top of his current profits.


But Neil lowered his gaze sadly and shook his head.


“I’m confident of my culinary skills too, but I’m not sure that I can cook a dish as delicious as Asuta. If my cooking isn’t as good as Asuta, it will just make the customer’s unhappy.”


“Is that so… that’s a shame.”


“But Asuta, does that mean I can buy kiba from you?”


“Huh? Yes, of course.”


My heart skipped a beat.


Neil’s eyes of regret were suddenly filled with lights of expectations.


“Then I want to buy some kiba. Making the same dishes as Asuta will make my flaws more prominent, so I want to cook something original for my customers.”


Neil smiled after saying that:


“And I want to eat kiba too. Why should I serve it to my customers and only eat kimyusu and karon meat myself? I have been thinking about that recently…”


“Will you really buy kiba?”


“Yes, although I won’t be buying too much… it won’t be more expensive than karon meat, right?”


“O-Okay! Right now, I’m benchmarking the price against the karon meat sold in town. When this business gets on track, we might review the price again…”


“I’m really lucky to buy kiba while it is still cheap then.”


Neil made a gang sign with his fingers.


It was the gang sign the Semu people often made.


“Please sell me fresh kiba meat. I would like ten portions every day for now.”


Ten portions in the inn were about 2.5 kg.


The price was equivalent to karon meat, so there was a profit of ten red copper plates.


But there was finally someone who was willing to procure fresh kiba meat. I looked back at Ai Fa unconsciously.


Ai Fa remained expressionless, but she squinted her eyes happily as she looked back at me.


“Thank you very much, Neil. I’m really, really grateful.”


“I’m glad too. The flavor of the kiba is different from kimyusu and karon meat, and more people will like it with each passing day.”


After saying that, Neil suddenly said: “Excuse me.” and turned around.


He disappeared into the food store and then returned a moment later with a jar and a large cloth bundle.


“This is the salted maru used to make pickled Chitto.”


Neil said as he placed the jar on the counter and opened the lid.


I looked inside curiously and found it half-filled with small white translucent objects.


I couldn’t really tell the shapes. It was thin and about 1 cm in length, and was something like dried and salted krill.


“This can be caught in the western territories and isn’t a rare ingredient. Shops that sell myam and rock salt will basically sell this too. One jar costs around two red copper plates.”


“I see! So this is actually a snack that goes along with wine.”


This was like the equivalent of pepper squid. It probably wasn’t suited to be mixed with tarapa sauce directly. A precious marine ingredient that could be eaten in Genos which wasn’t near the ocean.


“Thank you very much. I plan to buy some today and see what food I can cook with it. And this bundle is…?”


“This is curd. A caravan from Semu came this morning, and I bought some as promised.”


“Ah, it’s cheese! And a lot of it too.”


“Yes, I bought five pieces. I will let you have this one, Asuta.”


The Wu clan wanted to buy some too. This one was about 400 to 500 g so I could split it cleanly in half.


I turned to glance at Ai Fa, and she suppressed a smile on her lips and glared at me.


Ai Fa really liked hamburg steak with Camembert-like cheese on top. Even though Ai Fa wasn’t a Semu, I was fine with it as long as she was happy.


“Thank you very much! The piece I bought previously is almost finished, this is a big help.”


“I’m glad that you like them… You must be even happier about selling fresh kiba, Asuta.”


Neil said with a hint of a smile on his lips.


“Asuta who is a denizen of Forest’s Edge likes Semu curd; I’m a westerner and love kiba. This might be a trivial conversation in an indistinct shop, but I think it is very meaningful. Please maintain a cordial relationship with me in the future too, Asuta.”


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