Saturday, September 29, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 10 (1 of 5)

Prologue: The Blue Month That Was Over
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Ratorasepo

Soon after bidding farewell to Shimimaru and Pops Balan, the Blue Month ended.

I only became aware of the calendar during the Blue Month. After hearing that “the House Head Conference will be held on the tenth day of the Blue Month”, I learned for the first time that the months of this world were named by color.


It had been almost 70 days since I came to this world. The month had changed twice before I even knew about that.


I seemed to have met Ai Fa in the Yellow Month. The Yellow Month was followed by the Green Month. The request by House Lutim to prepare for their wedding happened during that month. It was also the time I met Kamyua Yost and started doing business in the Post Station Town.


Those were turbulent days, but the Blue Month was even more hectic. After the House Head Conference, we had to deal with the aftermath of the incident caused by Zattsu Tsun and Tay Tsun, and we got to know Pyschkurewuss who was shrouded in mystery.


I thought the troubles with the Tsun clan would end with Tay Tsun’s death, but unfortunately, it wasn’t so. Another question floated out of the surface: whether Pyschkurewuss was the mastermind directing the Tsun clan’s wrongdoings.


Pyschkurewuss was one of the nobles that ruled Genos. The Forest's Edge of Morga lay within the Genos territory, so the Lord of the denizens of Forest's Edge was Marquis Marstein Genos. Pyschkurewuss was the liaison officer standing between Marstein and Forest's Edge. Pyschkurewuss interacted with the denizens of Forest's Edge as a representative of Marstein.


And this Pyschkurewuss was being suspected of controlling the Tsun clan from the dark. And the one who cast this suspicion was the eldest son of Marstein, the next landlord of Genos, Malfreed, and his associate, the “guardian” Kamyua Yost. Kamyua Yost told Malfred his suspicions about Pyschkurewuss, and it led to all this.


Kamyua Yost was a complicated man. First of all, he took in a boy named Leito as his disciple. Leito was the son of the caravan leader who died from Zattsu Tsun’s attack a decade ago.


And there was also the brother-in-law of the innkeeper Milano Mast, who operates the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”. His corpse being found grasping a hunter’s necklace was the beginning of everything.


And that was why there was a rumor in the Post Station Town that the culprit behind the attack was a denizen of Forest's Edge. The lawless antics of the Tsun clan in town only added to the townsfolk suspicion towards the Forest's Edge.


However, the nobles of Genos still didn’t plan to negotiate with the denizens of Forest's Edge properly. Not just the caravan attack incident, but also the death of the envoys from the neighboring Banam city and the demise of the former captain of the Genos towns guard seemed to be due to assaults by denizens of Forest's Edge. But all these crimes were passed off as the doings of the “Red Beard Gang” bandits.


“Red Beard Gang” had the principles of not taking lives, only targeting aristocrats and wealthy merchants, and sharing the robbed money with the poor. They were thieves of justice. Even though there was no evidence, the “Red Beard Gang” were still made scapegoats and got executed.


That was why Kamyua Yost was so certain that this was a conspiracy by Pyschkurewuss’ group. He coerced the Tsun clan to launch these attacks to get rid of people that were in their way and then pushed the crime onto the “Red Beard Gang”. Pyschkurewuss only got to his current position by keeping all of this in the dark… That was what Kamyua Yost deduced.


Kamyua Yost shared his deduction with Malfreed. Malfreed had the mindset that ‘all sins must be punished’, so he was determined to get to the bottom of this matter involving Pyschkurewuss.


But as there wasn’t any evidence that could prove that this was all a conspiracy of Pyschkurewuss, they came up with a plan to lure out the villain by organizing a fake Semu-bound caravan.


The plan worked and revealed the crimes of the Tsun clan. The former head of the Tsun clan that had fallen from grace after the House Head Conference, Zattsu Tsun, attacked the caravan with his trusted aide, Tay Tsun, and was apprehended.


Zattsu Tsun confessed to doing the crime a decade ago, cursed the world, and died in prison with a grudge. Tay Tsun also died because of the twisted fate brought about by Zattsu Tsun. And we cleared one thing up— the ones who attacked the caravan ten years ago wasn’t the “Red Beard Gang”, but Zattsu Tsun’s group.


Hence, Kamyua Yost’s group worked on this only lead to uncover Pyschkurewuss’ crimes and embarked on a search for the only survivor of the “Red Beard Gang”, the significant other of the boss.


So they made a request to the denizens of Forest's Edge and borrowed three hunters from the Wu clan branch houses. With these three hunters and Leito, Kamyua Yost set off from Genos on the last day of the Blue Month.


But on that very day, something shocking happened.


Someone claiming to be the son of that significant other of the boss appeared before us.


He claimed to be Geta, the son of the “Red Beard Gang” boss Goram. He was a youth with fiery red hair and yellow beast-like eyes. He came to Genos to get revenge on the denizens of Forest's Edge who made his father the scapegoat.


Kamyua Yost who was looking for Geta’s mother just happened to miss him; what a twist of fate. Geta refused to listen to us and disappeared.


Pyschkurewuss ordered the denizens of Forest's Edge to hand over all Tsun clan members who transgressed the law for sentencing by Genos. He demanded not only the house head Zuro Tsun, but also everyone in the main house. Diga, Doddo, Yamiel Lei, Zwei, Aura… They were forgiven by the denizens of Forest's Edge after they broke off ties with the Tsun clan, but Pyschkurewuss had his eyes set on them.


To submit or to resist? There was only half a month before the decision would be made in the next half a month. The denizens of Forest's Edge had to determine their own path by the 15th of the White Month.


Would Pyschkurewuss’ crimes become uncovered and the tables turned… During this crucial juncture, Geta appeared, marking an end to the turbulent Blue Month.


Would Kamyua Yost find Geta’s mother?


What was Pyschkurewuss true intention for demanding for the members of the Tsun clan main house?


And, why did he push back the conference by half a month?


Could the denizens of Forest's Edge come to an understanding with Geta?


We ushered in the end of the Blue Month amidst all these questions.


Chapter 1: A day in Asuta’s life, 1st of the White Month (1)


1


With all sorts of problems looming in the background, this day began peacefully.


We worked hard towards the goal of “bringing a prosperous life to Forest’s Edge” in our own way. No matter what conspiracies we got embroiled in, this remained our primary goal.


Speaking of which, our business had gotten on track, so my life had become stable. The atmosphere in the Forest's Edge and Genos was calm, so life was peaceful.


I had lived in the Forest's Edge settlement for 70 days, but I didn’t feel any change in the temperature or the length of the daytime. The climate was comparable to early summer in Japan. There wasn’t any clock here, so based on what I felt, the sunrise and sunset were around 6am and 7pm.


The Fa house ate dinner around dusk and turned in for bed two hours later. I usually chatted with Ai Fa before sleeping but would get drowsy if there was only the light of the animal fats candle to lit the room.


If what I felt was accurate, the Fa house slept at a very healthy 9pm. But I wasn’t sure if a day was 24 hours in this world too. As we didn’t have any clocks, I couldn’t tell how long we actually slept.


Even if the numbers were uncertain, the fact remained that we were living a very healthy lifestyle. After working for a day, we ate kiba, slept soundly, and got up well-rested and ready for the next day’s work. It was a routineus and meaningful way of living.


And so, this was the 1st of the White Month.


Ai Fa was already up when I opened my eyes.


“Ahh… Good morning, Ai Fa.”


I rubbed my drowsy eyes as I propped myself up, and Ai Fa responded “Yes.” with a nod.


She sat cross-legged in the middle of the room and was nimbly tying up her long blonde hair. I loved the morning that began with the white light shining through the window. Just the sight of Ai Fa was enough to spur me to work hard today too.


“Get ready too, we need to draw water today.”


“Oh, right.”


I stretched my back and walked to the storage room.


I went there to change my clothes. Normally, the Fa house would do laundry and clean up last night’s dinner at the same time.


I changed into a new set of cloth around my waist and a vest-like shirt inside the room which contained cracked boards, half-dried firewood and a saw hanging on the wall. I only had one T-shirt, so I washed it carefully every day.


On the inside wall was a set of white chef uniform.


It goes without saying that these were the clothes I was wearing when I got transported into this world. Inside the pockets should be my cleaned socks and underwear.


Ever since Ai Fa gifted a set of Forest's Edge clothes to me, I had yet to wear it again. This long-sleeved chef uniform wasn’t suitable for this climate, and there seemed to be a custom in Forest's Edge of treating people wearing swirly clothes as their tribemate.


However, this is Semu cloth in the first place. Shumimaru also wore the same thing under his cloak, and that will remain the same if he marries into the Forest's Edge.


I thought about the easterner I bode farewell to yesterday, the band leader of the “Silver Vase”, Shumimaru. No matter how the relationship between Vena Wu and him developed, it would have to wait until half a year later when he returns to Genos.


He should be preparing for his journey right now.


The architects from the south, Pops Balan, Arudas and the others should be preparing to do the same.


As I was thinking about all that, someone knocked on the door from the outside.


“Hey, did you fall asleep in there? I will leave you behind if you dally any longer.”


“Yes, I’m coming.”


I rolled my T-shirt and other laundry into a bundle, tied it onto my waist, and exited the storage room.


First, we carried the water flask and pot filled with food. I rolled the flask to the entrance, while Ai Fa carried the pot and followed behind.


“Yo, good morning Gilulu.”


When we went outside, Gilulu was already tied to a tree.


Recently, Ai Fa would take Gilulu first thing after waking up. I also suspect that she was combing Gilulu’s feathers in secret, but regrettably, I had yet to see this as I wake up later than her.


Anyway, we put the water flask and pot onto a tow board tied by vines and headed for the water source.


It would be easier if Gilulu helped us out here, but it would be embarrassing for just the Fa house to be so thick-skinned, and this also served as training for the weaker member of the household. Traveling to and fro the Post Station Town was already a breeze; if I also forego this training, I would regress to a modern-age weakling.


So as usual, Ai Fa watched out for any of the load falling off, while I dragged the tow board behind me.


The water source was a rocky area some distance from the Fa house. There was a stream branching out from the Lanto river here, and the clear water flowed over the uneven rocks. The flowing water formed a depression where people could draw water easily from.


There were already four women at the water source.


They were women from the nearby Fou and Lan houses.


These were the only two houses sharing this spot with the Fa house. The Gazu, Latzu and Bemu houses were further to the south, while the Sudora and Dean houses were to the north.


The moment we walked over, one of the women got up and said: “Ahh…”


The women around the vicinity often visited the Fa house to learn cooking, but there were still some of them whom I didn’t know.


Hmm… But I think I saw her somewhere before…


While I was tilting my head puzzledly, Ai Fa acknowledged that woman with a gaze silently.


But that woman clenched her fist and lowered her eyes feebly.


The other three ladies smiled at us.


“Ara, it’s Asuta and Ai Fa. We are already done drawing the water; please help yourselves.”


After saying “Thank you very much”, I pulled the tow board into the water.


The woman, who acted uneasily just now, ran off to the side as if she was fleeing.


Ai Fa remained expressionless and quiet.


For some reason, I could feel the unusual air between the two of them.


“Erm, Asuta, we want to learn cooking from you today, do you have time?”


The older Lan house lady asked, and I replied with a nod: “Yes, I do.”


“Rii Sudora will be coming later too, so it’s fine.”


“That’s great. Actually, we are thinking of challenging hamburg steak… But… Can we actually make it?”


“You will be fine. The most important thing is practicing daily. When I first started learning, I charred the patty badly too.”


“Really? That’s really hard to imagine.”


The women from the Lan house smiled.


They seemed to be smiling more lately.


And of course, being free from the tyranny of the Tsun clan was the main reason, but I thought their life turning prosperous also played a part.


The happiness was a mixture of obtaining wealth from selling the meat to the Fa house and the joy of eating delicious meals. This was exactly what I was hoping for. They were filled with bliss now and very interested in improving their culinary skills.


“The bloodletting yesterday was a failure. The kiba struggled too much, and we had to stab it to death.”


“The important thing is that the men didn’t suffer any serious wounds. After that, we washed the meat in salt water like what Asuta taught us.”


“Oh, was the stench removed?”


“Yes. The men already removed as much blood as they could. We then marinated it in fruit wine and myam, and the stench was basically gone.”


“It’s not good enough for sale, but we are fine with eating it ourselves.”


She said with a cheerful smile.


“I will be counting on you to teach us cooking then. I will tell the daughter of the Dean house too.”


“You mean Tulu?”


“That’s right. That girl didn’t get to see you much recently and is feeling lonely. She will be old enough to marry in a few years…”


I laughed in reply and stole a glance at my house head standing beside me.


Ai Fa was washing the plates quietly and didn’t seem to have heard our conversation.


The woman, who acted strangely in the beginning, started filling her water flask with a gloomy face.


After seeing her listless face, I suddenly recognized her. She was the woman from the Fou house who visited the Fa house previously… before the Tsun clan’s fall from grace, the person who gave us Pico leaves in return for the hides Ai Fa gifted them, Celice Lan Fou.


No wonder I couldn’t remember. That was when I first started doing business in the Post Station Town, which was a month ago.


And she was carrying a baby smaller than Kota Wu back then. She had to take care of the baby, so she didn’t have a chance to learn cooking or draw water. So that thin baby became healthy enough to not need constant care anymore. I was glad that the wealth brought in by the Fa house had such an effect.


“I will see you again after the day’s work is done.”


“Yes, I will be waiting for your visit.”


The Fou and Lan house women left together.


In the end, Celice Lan Fou didn’t say anything, and Ai Fa didn’t raise her head.


After finishing the laundry, next would be house chores and the preparation of the merchandise.


After hanging the clothes by the window, we busied ourselves with our own tasks. For me, that’s cooking poitan, blade maintenance for the kitchen knives, and inspecting the food store.


Incidentally, Ai Fa’s daily job was caring for her blades. Aside from that, she chopped firewood if there was a need, or maybe made some jerky or dried some Pico leaves. Today, she chose to do the latter.


I boiled the poitan into a goo and then laid it in the sun together with Ai Fa’s Pico leaves. After all the other chores were done, we walked to the forest to forage for firewood, herbs, and krilee fruits.


And of course, bathing was done daily. The Fou house and Lan house washed further downstream so we couldn’t run into them by the river.


After entering the woods for twenty minutes, we arrived at the Lanto river. The boulder which was as tall as a person marked Ai Fa’s and my bathing spot.


I let my house head bathe first, then leaned against the boulder and sat down. After handing me her hunter’s cape and necklace, she went around the boulder.


I could go forage during this time too, but Ai Fa didn’t really want us to be too far apart in the forest since some willful kiba might wander around at this time. I had been attacked by a kiba before so I couldn’t make Ai Fa worry.


But the forest is really peaceful today.


I sighed in relief as I leaned against the uneven boulder.


Wild birds tweeted above me, and light poured down through the gaps in the trees. A gentle breeze flowed through the morning woods, bringing the fragrance of the flowers and grass with it. The sound of Ai Fa bathing came from behind the boulder. For me, this moment was a precious treasure on a busy day.


“Nice weather today huh, Ai Fa.”


I asked her a little loudly, and Ai Fa replied with a “Yes.”


As long as Ai Fa was with me, it wouldn’t feel awkward even if we both stayed quiet. But I wanted to chat with Ai Fa right now.


I was thinking about a topic when I remembered what happened earlier.


“Erm… Ai Fa, do you have any special relationship with Celice Lan Fou?”


She didn’t answer right away.


That was rare for Ai Fa who always gave immediate responses.


She then said emotionally: “There isn’t any relationship to speak off…”


“… Just that, I knew Celice Lan Fou when we were young.”


“Ah! Childhood friends! Ai Fa actually has childhood friends!”


I was shocked.


But on second thought, it wasn’t that surprising. The Fa house must have gotten along with the neighboring houses before they got on the Tsun clan’s bad side.


“So, why are things so awkward between you two? There’s no need to worry about the Tsun clan anymore, so you can mend your relationship with her, just like you did with Rimee Wu and Grandma Jiba, right?”


“Can the relationship between people… be mended so easily?”


Ai Fa’s voice was emotionless but didn’t seem as strong-willed as usual. I reflected on my thoughtlessness.


Rimee Wu and Grandma Jiba didn’t break off ties with Ai Fa. Ai Fa was the one who avoided them in order to keep them away from trouble.


But the Fou and Lan houses were different. They chose to ostracize the Fa house voluntarily out of fear of the Tsun clan.


Even so, Ai Fa still secretly gave kiba hides to them. In order to avoid detection by the Tsun clan, she gave them financial assistance in the dark. Doing this was worth it, as the Fou and Lan houses concurred with the Fa house during the House Head Conference. They hoisted their flag of rebellion before the tyrannical tribal chief clan.


With the demise of the Tsun clan, the Fa house mended their ties with the other houses. The head of the Fou house regretted his earlier actions and lowered his head in apology, repairing his ties with the Fa house.


Everything seemed to have been resolved… And I never suspected for l personal differences still to be lingering. It never occurred to me that Ai Fa had a childhood friend.


Just what kind of feelings did Celice Lan Fou hold when she cut ties with Ai Fa? And how does she feel now?


Was she afraid of approaching Ai Fa because of her guilt…?


“Asuta, stop thinking about strange things…”


Ai Fa’s voice came again.


“The Tsun clan is just one of the reasons. There are no bonds between Celice Lan Fou and me now so our ties won’t be mended just because the Tsun clan has fallen.”


“… Yes. I also feel that there is no point in wasting effort on futile endeavours.”


I replied.


Ai Fa was a charming person, that’s why the Fou, Lan, and Sudora houses all gathered at the Fa house.


Although striving for a more prosperous life was their goal, I still thought that the Fou and Sudora house heads were drawn in by Ai Fa’s charm— by her capability as a hunter and her righteousness as a denizen of Forest's Edge.


So I was certain that there was no need to rush, and that Celice Lan Fou would return to Ai Fa’s side one day.


“You are so stubborn, Ai Fa. Can’t you take the initiative instead?”


I said quietly in order to not agitate Ai Fa.


But she poured cold water on top of my head the next instant.


I turned my head back with a “Uwah!” and found a dripping wet Ai Fa standing on top of the boulder with her hair down looking at me. I couldn’t see below her shoulders, but since her hands were extended towards me, it must have been her doing.


“What the hell, that’s going too far!”


“Who’s going too far? How dare you say your house head is stubborn?”


“Ah, you heard that… Huh? Your reaction is too fast though?”


“That’s right. I can sense when you are going to say something rude, so I waited in ambush to get back at you.”


“So you were already lying in wait! What were you going to do if I didn’t say anything rude!?”


“Who knows. This is all the will of the forest.”


Ai Fa shrugged with a straight face.


Her shoulders were also wet, so she probably didn’t even have time to dress in her hurry to get back at me.


“You are not wearing clothes behind that boulder, right? What if someone watches from the river bank on the other end?”


I retorted, and Ai Fa pulled her head back immediately.


“You wait right there. I will give you your punishment for your insolence just now.”


“Just get dressed already! I also want to take off my clothes and bathe!”


Faint laughter came from the other side of the boulder.


Did her mood change for the better after taking a bath, or did her mood improved after teaching her rude family a lesson? I didn’t know the reason, but it’s great that Ai Fa had cheered up.


After finishing our bath, we returned to the forest to forage.


First, we needed to forage for Pico leaves to preserve meat, lilo for making jerky and “Braised kiba”, and krilee fruit for bug repellant.


On the side note, I had never been troubled by the body odor of the denizens of Forest's Edge before. The denizens ate plenty of meat, bathed just once a day, and lived in such a warm and humid place, but my sensitive nose had not been stung by the odor so far.


The first reason that came to mind was the herbs and krilee fruit. The denizens of Forest's Edge wore these fruits as bangles to repel insects, and the fragrance of half-blooming flowers drifted into my nasal cavity.


The women would often come into contact with Pico leaves and lilo leaves too, and both of them had the refreshing smell of herbs. Dried Pico leaves became a spice similar to black pepper.


It might be the result of their bodies absorbing these herbs, or just the fragrance of the herbs itself… Instead of the odor of humans, the denizens of Forest's Edge smelled like the forest itself, with the fragrance of the trees, earth, and flowers.


On top of that, Ai Fa also used a “fruit that attracts kiba”. It had been many years since the ‘sacrificial hunting method’, which involved smearing the fruit onto one’s body, was last performed. However, the smell of that fruit was much stronger than krilee fruit, and when used to set up her traps, some of it would still get on her hair, body or clothes.


So Ai Fa had a fragrance that was stronger than anything else on her body. As we foraged in the forest, her freshly-bathed body started sweating, and I felt that sweet fragrance getting even stronger.


One time I joked that: “I want to pound you like a kiba!” and she kicked me hard several times.


Leaving that aside, we spent an hour every day foraging for herbs. After that was done, I could finally start preparing the food to be sold in the Post Station Town.


However, since the grilled poitan used for the “Myam-roasted meat” and the meat patty for the “Kiba burger” had been delegated to Leina Wu, I just needed to make the poitan for the “Kiba burger” and prepare the sauce for the “Myam-roasted meat”.


The poitan I left outside to dry before heading into the forest had solidified, so I soaked it in water before grilling them on the griddle. There were 60 grilled poitan for the “Kiba burger”, and it wasn’t too much trouble after getting used to it.


Which meant, I had an extra 40 to 50 minutes free today.


It was all thanks to the Wu clan taking on some of my chores and the wagon shortening the traveling time.


“But I don’t have anything to do even with the extra free time. I will chop some wood.”


Ai Fa who was chewing jerky said: “That’s my job.”


“If you did that, I won’t have anything to do.”


The Wu clan would be the guards for today, so Ai Fa was staying behind to housesit.


Usually, Ai Fa would idle until noon time and take care of miscellaneous chores after I left the house.


“Ai Fa, why don’t you sleep for a while? Don’t the men from the other houses also sleep until noon before getting up?”


“But I’m not sleepy at all. I have been sleeping and getting up at the same time for years. I can’t just change my routine so easily.”


After her mother died when she was 13, Ai Fa had been working from dawn to dusk, and worked together with her father until she was 15. No one else in Forest's Edge had worked as hard as she did.


“It can’t be helped then. This isn’t enough time to research cooking, and I don’t have any other preparation work to do.”


My job in the afternoon was cutting the meat to be used for the “Myam-roasted meat” and the dishes in the inn. After being liberated from the preparation work for the “Kiba burger”, my workload had been lightened significantly.


I could finish these tasks in 40 to 50 minutes— but I would need to cover the sliced meat with Pico leaves, and the meat’s moisture would get absorbed. This would waste the Pico leaves and change the meat’s texture a fair bit.


The change in texture didn’t mean the taste would turn bad. In fact, the taste would get stronger so I could research a way to make use of the meat patty that lost its moisture. However, I couldn’t stand the thought of using even more Pico leaves. The Fa house was already using a lot of Pico leaves to preserve the meat used for cooking, so I wanted to keep it within the amount we could forage in a day.


“… Oh right, instead of finishing the work early, I should postpone my chores until the next morning instead.”


I clapped my hands.


So if I postponed the work that I usually did one day earlier to the morning itself, I could free up an entire afternoon to research cooking. This was wonderful and I couldn’t help smiling. But Ai Fa looked at me with dubious eyes and said:


“But I will still be free today. So, is there anything else I can do?”


“Nope. If you are free, just rest… You won’t have time to rest until after dinner, correct?”


Ai Fa leaned against the wall and sat down, and then said:


“When I can’t sleep, I will rest like this. Not wasting energy is also my duty.”


“Yes. Thanks to Gilulu, we don’t need to carry heavy loads anymore. I’m a bit worried that my endurance and arm strength would regress.”


“… Endurance and arm strength?”


“Ah, that’s right. It’s nothing compared to denizens of Forest's Edge born and bred here.”


Ai Fa once said that I was as strong as a ten-year-old child in Forest's Edge.


I was throwing my temper a little. Ai Fa brushed back her bangs as she stood up and walked towards me without a word.


She then grabbed my arms silently.


“W-What? You mad?”


“I won’t get angry without a reason.”


She muttered quietly as she massaged my arms.


My T-shirt was still being dried, so I was just wearing my vest. She touched me from shoulder to forearm, and I felt complicated about that.


“Hmm… After feeling you up, I think you are stronger now.”


“Really? You said I was similar to a ten years old kid not too long ago.”


“Yes. You are comparable to a twelve-year-old now.”


“… Is that so?”


No matter what, having age of twelve years meant being almost old enough to be an apprentice hunter. If I had reached that level, that signified I had grown a lot… I should be happy about this.


“Then I can compete with Shin Wu’s younger brother, what an honor.”


“Yes, you might even win.”


So that was the extent of my power level.


I became depressed, and Ai Fa put a hand on my arm a little worriedly.


“What’s the matter? Did I upset you?”


“Not really. Being massaged like that feels a little good.”


“Massage?”


“That’s right, loosening the muscles and veins allows better blood circulation, so it will feel good.”


After replying “I see”, Ai Fa’s fingers moved towards my armpits.


I backed away with a “Uwah!”


“Why are you running away? Didn’t you say it feels good?”


Ai Fa hands stopped in mid-air and she looked surprised.


I started laughing loudly.


“Sorry, it was just ticklish. I’m not mad about it, but please spare me.”


“Ticklish? I don’t think it’s ticklish…”


Ai Fa tilted her head and tickled her armpit.


Of course, it won’t be ticklish if done by herself.


“… I remember getting beat up by Ai Fa just because I poked you a little.”


“Hmm? Did that happen?”


“And you hit me when I patted your head.”


“I was just unhappy that you treated me like a kid. I won’t feel upset about it now.”


Ai Fa continued walking towards me with a serious face.


“I’m not lying, you know?”


“Huh? I don’t think you are lying at all.”


“Then, give it a try.”


“… Huh?”


“Come on.”


What the hell.


What was with this situation… Ai Fa looked completely serious. Was there something I didn’t understand about her and it compelled her to become serious?


I didn’t want to upset Ai Fa so early in the morning, so I suppressed my embarrassment and followed Ai Fa’s instructions.


I put my hand on her head.


Her hair was dry now, and they were warm and nice to the touch.


I caressed her head and took care not to mess up her tied up hair, and said “Good girl”… Ai Fa suddenly laughed out loud.


“Yes, it’s not upsetting at all.”


Was that all!? I was so tense.


She made me all worried like a fool.


But getting to see her sweet smile made this morning a big victory… although I wasn’t sure what did I win. After dropping me into a barren dungeon, Ai Fa’s gentle voice was the thing that saved me from that hellish landscape.


“Asuta, I can’t go to the Post Station Town with you today.”


Ai Fa said as she held my left hand.


Her voice was gentle but her eyes were serious. I removed my hand from her head and nodded with a “Yes.”


“I was the one who decided to visit the town every other day. The Wu clan who was in their hunting offseason should be taking on the responsibility as guards, but I insisted on not leaving it all to them… So I decided to go every other day.”


“Yes, I know how you feel, Ai Fa.”


Ai Fa still had her job as a hunter to do. We had plenty of money and could procure meat from the other houses, so Ai Fa didn’t really need to hunt… But her pride as a hunter compelled her. It would make sense if there weren’t enough people, but the Wu clan were free now so Ai Fa performing escort duties would mean neglecting her work as a hunter.


So Ai Fa decided on the rule of going to the Post Station Town every other day. She probably decided on this as she could obtain the same results even after reducing her time in the forest by half.


She already told me about this a few days ago.


However, a troubling factor appeared, which worried Ai Fa.


That was Geta who attacked us in the Post Station Town.


The denizens of Forest's Edge decided to assign us escorts to guard against any danger posed by Pyschkurewuss. But the danger came towards us from an unexpected angle.


“Donda Wu was already informed about what happened yesterday. The Wu clan has plenty of men, so Donda Wu promised to send enough people to escort us.”




“Ah, I see.”


“That Geta yesterday wasn’t that great. That man from the branch house, Shin Wu, isn’t much weaker than him. Ludo Wu should be able to fend him off effortlessly.”


“Yes. And Geta got hurt badly by Sangjura.”


“… If that Sangjura is an enemy, Ludo Wu might be in danger. That’s why I asked Donda Wu to send more escorts. So, Asuta… don’t be reckless.”


Ai Fa’s innocent face from earlier suddenly turned serious. I could see how worried she was from her incredibly tense expression.


Despite that, Ai Fa and I still braced ourselves. She had to do her job as a hunter, while I had to work in the Post Station Town. Ai Fa held my left hand and I nodded firmly in response to her.


“I promise that I won’t be reckless. Let’s do our jobs and then come home safely.”


Ai Fa acknowledged with a grunt and then squinted her eyes with satisfaction… She then put my hand on her breasts.


I was surprised by that immediately, but she released my hand slowly.


“I believe you, Asuta.”


“Y-Yeah, don’t worry!”


I was all worked up early in the morning.


But I still committed to my duties.


I had to do my work in the Post Station Town.


And then return to the Fa house.


Not just today, but every day.


Just like how Ai Fa returned home every day after her dangerous hunt, I needed to return home safely from any danger Pyschkurewuss might have poised towards me.


And I had to try to subdue the youth Geta who claimed to be the child of red-haired Goram and bring him before Donda Wu and the other tribal chiefs. I also needed to work hard to build a cordial relationship with Michael of Toran that Shumimaru introduced to us. Since the Wu clan would be guarding me, I needed to do my job too.


I thought about all this as I invited Ai Fa to sit with me by the wall so we could rest and chat before our work began.


2


The sun rose to the spot between the top of the sky and the horizon… which felt like 9 am to me. I wore my dried T-shirt under my vest and started my leisurely journey towards the Wu clan village.


There were several routes from the Forest's Edge settlement towards the Post Station Town. We usually took the route with a suspended bridge that was closer to the Fa house, or the one that was closer to the Wu clan.


The shortest route would take an hour by foot to reach the Post Station Town. But we couldn’t drive a wagon there due to a suspended bridge along that route.


The route closest to the Wu clan would take almost two hours by foot. Heading to the Wu clan would require an hour, and heading to the Post Station Town from there would spend 40 to 50 minutes. But that time became shortened greatly by riding a Totos. I had slowly gotten used to driving a Totos’ wagon and could reach the Post Station Town in just 45 minutes.


Walking to the Post Station Town took an hour in the past, so it had only been reduced by 20 minutes. But we had always been carrying the heavy loads by hand, and the work we avoided by doing so was very significant.


And Vena Wu needed to visit the Fa house every day to carry these goods. By saving these two hours, she could work more efficiently.


And of course, these two hours were used to prepare the “Kiba burger”. Since Shela Wu was already making the grilled poitan, these two jobs meshed well together.


Furthermore, the two girls heading directly from the Wu clan to the Post Station Town would have a more consistent working time. It took 40 minutes to reach the Post Station Town from the Fa house, but just 20 minutes from the Wu clan. Walking would need 40 to 50 minutes, so that was 20 to 30 minutes faster. Including the journey back, that would save a little bit less than an hour that could be used to do other work.


In the terms of labor I set with the Wu clan, the only condition that needed to be followed strictly was the working time so I couldn’t let them work in the Fa house during this excess time. This was the warning Mama Mia Lei gave me. So I decided to use this freed time for preparation work, and if time and manpower permitted, I let them forage for firewood.


After settling on this new plan, I would be linking up with everyone at the Wu clan before heading down to the Post Station Town.


The members today were Leina Wu, Shela Wu, Lala Wu, the two guards Ludo Wu and Shin Wu from yesterday, as well as two other youths from the branch houses. The branch houses’ youths sat in the wagon together with us, while Ludo Wu and Shin Wu sat on the Wu clan’s Totos, Lulu.


“When Asuta goes to the inn in the afternoon, the Lei and Lutim houses would each send two men to guard the stall.”


Leina Wu told me on the way to the Post Station Town.


That would make 8 escorts in total… which was the same defensive set up as against Zattsu Tsun. This might be overdoing it a little, but with the threat of Pyschkurewuss and Geta who was hell-bent on vengeance against the denizens of Forest's Edge, this was necessary.


When we reached the stone-paved road of the Post Station Town, we were showered with more worried and guarded gazes than usual.


Having four employees and four hunters gave the impression of high security. Compared to Ai Fa and Ludo Wu being the escorts yesterday, I could feel that the townsfolk was much more panicky. We could only endure all this in silence before resolving the issue with Geta.


“Ah, good morning, Milano Mast.”


When we arrived at the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”, Milano Mast just happened to be outside.


Milano Mast nodded with a grunt and then went to the back of the inn ahead of us. I followed with Leina Wu, Ludo Wu, and Shin Wu to retrieve the two stalls.


“… Yesterday, the innkeepers held a meeting.”


Milano Mast said quietly as we pulled out the stall from a shed.


“Are you catering for the ‘West Wind Inn’?”


“Huh? That’s not firmed up yet.”


I answered in surprise, and Milano Mast averted his face with a “Is that so”.


“It’s the girl from the ‘West Wind Inn’ who said that. So I decided to visit the ‘Big Tree of the South Inn’ to see how good you really are.”


“I see. But that innkeeper seemed to loathe the denizens of Forest's Edge, so I’m not sure how things will turn out.”


I answered and shared my thoughts with him.


“And… I would prefer selling my dishes in the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’ first.”


“What? ”


Milano Mast widened his eyes in surprise.


“Are you kidding me? You want to sell your dishes in this inn?”


“Yes. If I’m going to sell kiba dishes in an inn targeting the westerner client base, I want to do so in the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’ first. And of course, the ‘Big Tree of the South Inn’ and ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’ have many westerner customers too… But their primary customers are still southerners and easterners.”


“I don’t understand. Why are you so adamant about my inn?”


“It’s because Milano Mast has been taking good care of us, so accepting the offer from your competitor will make me feel bad…”


Milano Mast stayed quiet with a grumpy face.


I looked at his face and continued: “However, I don’t plan to expand my business too much right now. I don’t want to cause trouble for my business partners because of associating with me.”


“What? No matter how complicated the relationship between you and the people in the city becomes, no one will disrupt your business, correct?”


I had already explained to my business associates, Milano Mast, Uncle Dora, Neil, and Naudiz the reason I needed to bring escorts.


However, I still felt that saying the name Pyschkurewuss would be dangerous and only told them that “there is a difference in opinions between us and the people in the city over how to deal with the criminals who defiled the grace of the forest.”


“That’s what I thought yesterday, but there has been a new development.”


“What is it, some new incident?”


“Yes Milano Mast, I already planned to tell you…”


I told him about the son of Red Beard Goram, Geta.


A decade ago, a bandit gang was executed for the crimes committed by the denizens of Forest's Edge. The son of that gang’s boss had appeared in Genos to seek vengeance.


This might reach the ears of Pyschkurewuss so I couldn’t spread this out. But I still wanted to tell this to just Milano Mast.


“The ‘Red Beard Gang’ huh. That's a name I haven't heard in a long time.”


Milano Mast muttered unhappily as he crossed his short and thick arms.


“There’s no need to risk injury over this sort of person. Just hold your chest up high and do your job if you don’t feel any guilt.”


“I might not be in the wrong, but the atrocities committed by the Tsun clan remain a fact.”


“The criminals have been punished, who has the rights to force an additional punishment on you?”


Milano Mast looked at me, Leina Wu, and the others as he said that.


“You lot were just a bunch of sniveling kids ten years ago anyway, how can he blame this on you? And you mentioned that Geta attacked you without any warning, correct?”


“Y-Yes.”


“That sort of behavior cannot be tolerated, no matter how much he hates the denizens of Forest's Edge. His father known for being a thief of justice must be sighing in the heavens over his son’s recklessness.”


Milano Mast seemed very angry.


Only Milano Mast had the right to be furious over Geta’s actions. He also lost his precious family over this matter, but Milano Mast endured this terrible fate in silence.


“Anyway, let the guards handle people like him. And there are no retards who will dare attack a stall in the Post Station Town. If anyone tries, let the guards stab them dead.”


“Okay… But Milano Mast, what do you think?”


“Huh?”


“Can I sell the dishes made by me in the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’? Leaving the issue with Geta aside from now, I want to cater food for the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’, or at least start doing so at the same time as the ‘West Wind Inn’.”


Milano Mast was so surprised that his mouth became a thin line.


He then said: “Impossible.”


“So it’s no good…”


“Obviously. What if my other dishes won’t sell at all after I start catering yours? I can’t accept such a dangerous proposition.”


“Huh? But not all the westerners will choose to buy the kiba dish, right?”


“Even if you say that, they won’t want to eat my and my daughter’s cooking after trying yours. This inn doesn’t depend on the profits from the dishes in the first place.”


Kamyua Yost told me before that because Milano Mast lost his wife young, the quality of the cooking in the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn” was worse than the other inns.


I clenched my fist to muster my courage and said:


“Then… Why don’t I teach you both how to cook?”


Milano Mast widened his eyes in shock.


“I’m very sorry for my sudden suggestion… I had never tried cooking kimyusu and karon meat, so I’m not sure what kind of dishes I can make, but I might be of some help.”


“W-Why are you doing so much for us!? Are you trying to con my money under the pretense of teaching us?”


“I won’t take your money for this sort of things. If I can sell kiba cookings in the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’ because of this, it’s a worthwhile venture. And… You have always been taking care of us, so this is my way of thanking you.”


“I don’t remember giving you any special treatment!”


“Is that so? Then Milano Mast must be helping us unconsciously.”


I showed a natural smile.


Milano Mast looked even more troubled.


“If things go smoothly, the job at the ‘Big Tree of the South Inn’ will end early tomorrow. I will then have time to visit the kitchen of the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’, will that be alright?”


After pondering over it for a while, Milano Mast answered: “I can’t answer without consulting my daughter.”


There were still two hours before noon… which felt like 10am to me.


We set off after getting the two carts from the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”, and visited Uncle Dora’s stall.


“Yo, Asuta, you getting the usual today too?”


“Hmm, I won’t need pula today. I will be changing the menu for the ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’.”


“Oh, I see. Taking away the price of the pula…”


In the past, I came to buy vegetables midway through the business or on the way back, but after getting my own wagon, I chose to procure all the required ingredients in the morning.


I needed 48 aria and 8 tino for the stall. The inn would require 100 aria.


I would also need 30 aria and 150 poitan to prepare for the next day’s business.


That was how much ingredients I bought at Uncle Dora’s stall.


Minusing the cost of the pula, that was 82 red copper plates in total.


“There aren’t many customers who buy so many aria and poitan like you. To be honest, I’m making a pretty penny thanks to you.”


Uncle Dora said with a laugh.


Tara was smiling beside him too.


The fat Dora and Tara, who was skinnier than Rimee Wu, resembled each other when they smiled.


“Normally, the aria and poitan won’t get sold out. After a period of time, when they are starting to go bad, I would sell them to the farm in Dabag as karon feed. It can only fetch half its price, so I have been making a good profit for the past two months.”


“It’s a great help that I don’t need to worry about your vegetables here getting sold out. By the way… will it be fine if I buy another 100 arias?”


“Huh!? You are getting more?”


“No, I’m not sure yet. If my business with the inns expands even more, I will need to buy that much more.”


Uncle Dora was visibly moved and nodded his round head:


“Then I won’t need to sell the aria to Dabag! Of course that will be fine!”


“That’s great then. Ah… but will that result in the price of the karon feed increasing and inflate the price of karon meat?”


“No, it won’t. I’m not the only one selling aria. It will just reduce the number of aria that didn’t get sold to the farm and had to be thrown away.”


“Then it’s all good.”


I answered while checking the amount of aria, and Uncle Dora who was also counting the copper plates tilted his head puzzledly.


“Asuta, you are always worrying about other people’s shops. Won’t it be a good thing if the price of karon meat increases?”


“Not at all, I don’t want the butchery and the other stalls to bear a grudge against me, I just want to do my business in peace.”


“Well, competition will arise naturally in the course of business, so I feel that you don’t need to worry about all that.”


“Yes, I feel that your thinking is correct… But as a denizen of Forest's Edge, I don’t want to earn the ire of others.”


When he heard my response, Uncle Dora showed a complicated expression.


“Asuta, you are doing proper business here. Don’t worry, there aren’t any criminals anymore, so things will change for the better now.”


I hoped for the same thing too.


But we would need to settle things with Pyschkurewuss and Geta at the very least.


As I was searching for the words to say, Tara who had been listening to us quietly tugged the Uncle’s apron and said:


“Erm, I don’t know what you are talking about, but don’t make Asuta onii-chan so troubled, Papa.”


“No, it’s fine, Tara. Uncle… Thank you very much.”


“I didn’t say anything worthy of your thanks.”


Uncle Dora waved his hands bashfully and then put a hand on Tara’s head. Tara probably still didn’t understand what we were discussing, but she showed a satisfied smile.


The father-daughter pair warmed my heart. I told them about the attack yesterday while hiding some of the details. I added that someone who absolutely loathed the denizens of Forest's Edge attacked us in broad daylight and expressed my wish for Uncle Dora to be more careful.


“Hmm, there would always be lawless individuals like that. We will be fine; you should be more careful, Asuta.”


I thanked him once again before leaving his stall.


And so, we opened the stall for today.


When we reached the northern zone of the marketplace, there were already 30-odd customers waiting there. With the departure of the ten “Silver Vase” members and the eight staff of the architect company, I lost 18 regular patrons. However, the numbers of customers we got in the morning remained unchanged.


The “Myam-roasted meat” stall was handled by Lala Wu and me, while Leina Wu and Shela Wu tended to the “Kiba burger” stall. We made this arrangement as part of the plan for the Wu clan to completely take over the “Kiba burger” stall.


“By the way, Rii Sudora has worked here for almost half a month, correct? She only worked half as long as us, but her improvement is very fast.”


After the morning rush hour was over, we finally got to take a break, and Lala Wu told me that.


“To be honest, she is as good as Vena-nee and me. Maybe you should reconsider her wages.”


“That’s right. She takes over my place at the stall when I need to go to the inns, so I had never seen her work, and have completely forgotten about this.”


I had already increased the wages for Lala Wu and the others to 1.5 times their starting pay, so Rii Sudora’s initial pay of 3 red copper plates had to be increased to 4.5 red copper plates… I should round it up to 5 red copper plates.


“Speaking of which, didn’t you mention that you wanted the minor houses to have equal opportunities to earn money so you intended to rotate the staff very often?”


“Yes, my plan is to switch every twenty days or so; it’s about time to scout for new employees. Thank you, Lala Wu. I’m thinking about new dishes every day, and these things have slipped my mind.”


“You’re welcome.”


Lala Wu said with a shrug.


“By the way, Rimee threw a fit again last night. She said that it’s unfair that Leina-nee gets to help out in the stall too.”


I see. Leina Wu got to work here because of Vena Wu’s injury, so the Rimee Wu was the only one of the four sisters who didn’t get to help out here.


“Well, how should I explain this? Originally, I wanted Leina Wu and Rimee Wu to stay put until the situation with the city has stabilized. There shouldn’t be any danger for Rimee Wu to come since there are guards with us, right?”


“Huh? You can discuss that with Mama Mia Lei. Having just the injured Vena-nee and Rimee at home will increase the workload of Mama Mia Lei and Grandma Ditto Min.”


In that case, should I discuss things with Mama Mia Lei again?


“But Rimee Wu and Lala Wu will need to work on alternate days. Won’t you mind that, Lala Wu?”


“I’m fine with working every other day. I like working at the stall, and if possible, I want to keep doing so.”


Lala Wu showed her white teeth with a smile, which resembled her brother Ludo quite a lot.


At this moment, a burly westerner suddenly appeared before the stall.


“Welcome…” I stopped midway through my sentence. He wasn’t a customer.


“Yo, your business is still as good as ever.”


He had dark brown hair and beard, light brown eyes, and tanned skin. There was a yellowish bandana tied on his head, and he wore a sleeveless shirt and long pants. The middle-aged man had a face like a bandit boss; he was the man who disguised himself as the leader of a caravan as part of Kamyua Yost and Malfreed’s plan— the “guardian” Zashuma.


“I have been waiting for you, Zashuma. I need to report something to you.”


Kamyua Yost and Leito weren’t in Genos, so this guy had taken over their duty of visiting the stall and checking if anything happened.


Just to be safe, three “guardians” were already lodging in the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”. But since Milano Mast already knew this guy, he took on this role.


“Hmm? Let’s talk behind the wagon. Ah… Wait, it’s suspicious to just walk away, come over here a short moment later.”


Zashuma left immediately after saying that. He was probably planning to go into the woods after going some distance away from the stall. Before that incident with Geta, he and Kamyua Yost had always been wary of the stall being watched by others.


“That man is really suspicious. But it’s understandable since he is a companion of that blonde uncle.”


Lala Wu didn’t seem to like Zashuma.


He took on the disguise of a caravan leader and was proficient in conning others, so he wasn’t popular with the denizens of Forest's Edge.


I didn’t feel that he and Kamyua Yost were similar at all. Zashuma didn’t appear as suspicious as Kamyua Yost… but he didn’t have the mysterious charm of Kamyua Yost either. In any case, he wasn’t as weird as Kamyua Yost.


“I will be away for a bit; please tend to the stall in the meantime.”


“Okay, be careful!”


Lala Wu waved at me, and I went around to the wagon behind us.


Shin Wu who was guarding the post there looked at me puzzledly.


“Kamyua Yost’s companion is here; I’m going to inform him about what happened yesterday.”


Shin Wu nodded and said, “Is that so.” His face was still a little bruised after getting hit by Geta yesterday.


After playing with Gilulu and Lulu for about a minute, Zashuma was finally ushered in by a youth from the branch house.


“Asuta of the Fa house, this man is Kamyua Yost’s companion, he said he had an appointment with you. Is that true?”


“Yes, that’s right. Thank you for bringing him here.”


The youth acknowledged me with his gaze and then left.


Zashuma laughed awkwardly as he watched the youth leave: “Ara ara.”


“This guard sure is wary. And even a young Forest’s Edge hunter like him is plenty intimidating. They have plenty of beauties, which is great too.”


His tendency to joke wasn’t well received by the denizens of Forest's Edge either.


Even though the denizens of Forest's Edge were rougher on the edges, there weren’t bad people.


“So? What happened? Everything looks peaceful here.”


For the third time, I explained what happened yesterday.


Zashuma stroked his sun-tanned cheeks and grunted in awe.


“The son of Red Beard Goram! The crucial character made his debut. However… the ‘Northern Whirlwind’ is seeking his mother. The son alone is not enough.”


“Yes. And he absolutely hates the denizens of Forest's Edge.”


“Fufu. He probably grew up listening to his mother telling him that his father was framed by despicable people. Ten years ago, her son was just three or four years old.”


In that case he was younger than me or Shin Wu.


His age did match his height… But I was shocked by depth of grudge he was bearing at such a young age.


His yellow carnivorous eyes shining through his messy red hair were as intense as the hunters from Forest's Edge.


“Zashuma, if his mother is also hiding out in Genos, Kamyua will make an empty trip. Is there any way to inform Kamyua about this?”


“Well, if someone rides with the resolve to tire a Totos to death, they might catch up, but there’s no point in doing so. The ‘Northern Whirlwind’ won’t return without finding the mother. So let them continue their search there, while we continue our investigation here.”


I see; that did make sense.


“But a Marsala hunter, huh… That would be a problem.”


Shin Wu looked at Zashuma when he heard that.


His ever calm and narrow eyes had the gleam of a hunter.


“Westerner, permit me to interject. Do you know about the Marsala hunters?”


“Hmm? I’m not very sure since I had never seen one before… But Marsala is a mountain that is three days Totos ride away from Genos. It is said that the Barobaro bird hunted in Marsala is a great delicacy.”


“Barobaro bird…”


“However, ferocious beasts known as Gaje leopards roam in the mountain of Marsala, so a half-assed hunter won’t be able to hunt Barobaro bird. Only a Marsala hunter that can kill a Gaje leopard solo is recognized as a qualified hunter.”


Which meant the yellowish brown hide worn by that youth was his hunter’s garb.


Zashuma looked at the bruised Shin Wu and continued:


“Gaje leopard is about the size of a man. The ability to hunt such a beast at just 13 or 14 makes him a formidable opponent even for the hunters of Forest's Edge.”


“Is that so. Thank you for sharing such a valuable information with me…”


Shin Wu acknowledged with a gaze, then shut his mouth.


Zashuma grunted, stroked his face, and turned towards me.


“Which means that the significant other of Red Beard Goram and her son have been hiding around Marsala for the past decade. If that significant other is still there… a trip to Marsala will take three days so we might not have enough time.”


The conference was in half a month.


The round trip would take six days, so they only had less than ten days to carry out their search… And there was no telling if Kamyua Yost’s group would make any detours before heading into the Marsala mountain.


“What should we do then? No… Geta might appear before us, so I want to avoid fighting and explain what actually happened. Is there another way?”


“There’s nothing more we can do. If we make his mother mad, the efforts by the ‘Northern Whirlwind’ will be all for naught. We have to resolve this as peacefully as possible. But… that kid got injured, right? It will be difficult if he gets taken in by the guards.”


“It would be very troublesome. If that Count is as despicable as I thought and that kid’s identity is uncovered, he will either get silenced forever or be used to ensure his mother’s silence.”


Zashuma said something dangerous as he shrugged his thick shoulders.


“But if that kid lives in an inn, I can track where he lives in no time. Marsala hunters aren’t that common in Genos.”


“Is that so…”


“Yes, my job is to drink at various bars and collect information. So there will finally be some tension in my work.”


Zashuma smiled deviously.


“By the way, you are close with that vegetable seller, right? Ever since the felons from the Tsun clan got executed, I often run into him at inns.”


“Huh? Vegetable seller, as in Uncle Dora?”


“I don’t know his name; it’s that man you buy vegetables from every morning.”


That was definitely Uncle Dora.


“What’s wrong with Uncle Dora? Did you drag him into some dangerous incidents?”


“Ask him yourself. Anyway… That vegetable seller visited the inn every night and talked to others about the denizens of Forest's Edge. He said things like the denizens aren’t bad, the felons have been executed and the rest are innocent, and how thankful he was to the denizens of Forest's Edge and all that.”


“…”


“He even got into a squabble with people who detest the denizens of Forest's Edge but not to the extent of needing to call the guards. But… That man owns a farm to the south of the Post Station Town, correct? He didn’t need to eat dinner at an inn in the first place.”


I could only squeeze out the words: “… Is that so.”


I wondered how much help I was to Uncle Dora and Milano Mast.


I had to suppress the warm feeling in my heart to avoid letting Zashuma notice.


3


I returned to the stall after finishing my report to Zashuma and saw two familiar girls glaring at each other with “Kiba burgers” in their hands.


Lala Wu who was tending to the stall looked back at me with a bored face.


“You are finally back. Asuta, do something about them.”


And of course, they were Dell and Yumi.


Dell was the daughter of a steel merchant visiting Genos recently, while Yumi was the daughter of the “West Wind Inn”. The former was a short-haired girl dressed like a boy, while the latter was a sexy girl wearing a very revealing attire, similar to the clothes worn by the women of Forest's Edge.


I was puzzled about why the two of them who had put their differences behind them seemed so tense.


“Erm, what’s going on here…?”


When I spoke, the two of them turned towards me as one.


“Oh, Asuta. It’s nothing… We aren’t noisy or troubling Asuta, right?”


“Fufu, then go back to the city. A fierce-looking girl like you wandering the streets will definitely trouble others.”


“You have a malicious face too, so hurry on home then!”


“I still have business with Asuta.”


“I also have business with Asuta.”


They were really loud.


And the air about them seemed to be electric, and I could almost hear the ‘bachi bachi’ sound.


By the way, the young escort Lavis who was standing beside Dell was glaring at Ludo Wu with guarded eyes, which made the atmosphere even more treacherous. Ludo Wu was pretending not to notice, but I could understand why Lala Wu was feeling so dull.


“A-Anyway, let’s move to the side first… So, what’s the matter? Didn’t you two made up yesterday?”


“Who knows. I just wanted to talk about the dishes I ate at the ‘Big Tree of the South Inn’, and she showed up all of a sudden.”


“Hmmp! I wouldn’t be so angry if you didn’t keep flaunting about it. I… also want to eat Asuta’s meat.”


Dell looked depressed, while Yumi flicked her long hair and said: “I can’t even!”


“That’s not what I mean. I was just too excited after having a delicious meal… Sorry if I made you mad.”


“No, my fuse is just too short… I’m just too envious. I’m sorry too.”


So that was what happened, I felt relief.


The two who were glaring at each other seconds ago were looking at each other bashfully before turning towards me with a smile.


“That’s the thing, Asuta’s cooking is too delicious! B-Brazzers? Is that how you say it? It’s super delicious!”


“I-Is that so. I’m glad to hear you saying that.”


“How nice. It’s a dish made with Tau sauce, right? I also want to try it.”


Dell voiced her desires as a child. The so-called brazzers was actually braised meat, a dish seasoned with Tau sauce that originated in her hometown in Jaguar.


Yumi looked at Dell’s slender waist with a wry smile.


“Give it a try then; you can’t come out of the city at night, right?”


“Yes. My father says that it’s too dangerous after dusk, and takes away my entry pass. And the drawbridge is raised at night. Erm… Asuta, can I eat your cooking in the daytime?”


“Well, I will only prepare the dishes in the afternoon. But you don’t need to wait until evening; the innkeeper will probably sell you a portion if you ask him.”


“That’s right! Then I can eat it if I don’t have work!”


Dell recovered her energy and smiled. Yumi also smiled in relief.


The small, young, and boyish Dell and the sexy Yumi, they were polar opposites but their smiles were equally charming.


“But this is the last day you are cooking that braised meat, correct? The innkeeper says you will be changing the menu today.”


“Yes, that’s right. Today’s menu is vegetable stew. I will be doing a taste test for the meat dish today. If it is accepted, I will be making that meat dish tomorrow.”


“Really!? Then I will try it later! Uwah, I’m looking forward to it!”


“Tch! That’s too sly!”


“Ahaha. Sorry, sorry.”


Yumi patted Dell’s head.


I was a bit worried about her getting mad about being treated like a child, but Dell merely puffed her cheeks unhappily. This duo was sure interesting.


“What about you? Don’t you have business to discuss?”


“Oh, right! I want to show Asuta something!”


Dell said energetically as she pulled out a knife from her waist. Today, it wasn’t a dagger for self-defense, but something else.


It looked like a cooking tool kept inside a sheath. Unlike my Santoku knife, the hilt of this knife was also steel. There were grooves on it, probably to give it more grip.


“Oh, is that the kitchen knife sold in your shop, Dell?”


“Yes! This is a meat cutting knife! It’s selling point is the easiness of cutting through the kimyusu bones with it!”


Dell handed it to me hilt first, and I took it curiously.


“Erm, can I draw it out?”


“You can’t tell if it’s good unless you do it, correct?”


Of course I couldn’t. So I pulled it out of its sheath.


The blade of the body was a beautiful white steel. The shape was like a butcher knife or a western kitchen knife and narrower than the Santoku knife.


The blade was about 20 cm long and, despite being narrow, the edge was thicker than my other knives. The hilt was from steel but wasn’t too heavy. Its handling felt similar to the Santoku knife when I used it.


“Hmm, this is a good knife.”


It was heavier than a Santoku knife and lighter than a hunter’s knife. The steel handle had a surprisingly good grip, and the entire knife was very well balanced.


“How is it? Want to try cutting with it?”


There was no reason for me to turn her down.


I wanted a meat cutting knife in order to take better care of the Santoku knife, which my father had poured his heart and soul into. I had already gotten permission from Ai Fa.


However, the knives sold in the Post Station Town didn’t intrigue me at all. My expectation became probably higher after purchasing the high-quality vegetable cutting knife from Shumimaru.


I took out the bundle of meat I was planning to let Neil taste test and opened it on the stall counter. Inside was belly meat covered in Pico leaves. I pushed the tip of the knife into the soft meat and cut a few slices off. All the meat slices were exactly 7 mm thick.


I kept mincing the meat and made a patty a short moment later.


It was impeccable. It was as good as my father’s Santoku knife in cutting meat.


“Yes, this is excellent. I can’t find anything wrong with its handling.”


“Really? Then you will buy it!?”


Dell leaned forward with her eyes filled with expectations.


“Yes, but you are selling this in the city, correct? Which means, it is very expensive?”


“Of course, it will be more expensive than the knives in the Post Station Town, but I guarantee it is worth every coin! The price is twelve white copper plates!”


Twelve white copper plates.


The Semu-made kitchen knife I bought from Shumimaru cost 18 white copper plates. The knives sold in the Post Station Town were basically priced between four to five white copper plates, and the hunting dagger Ai Fa was lending me cost six white copper plates.


Twelve white copper plates were roughly ten kiba worth of tusks and horns. It wasn’t cheap at all, but I didn’t want to continue exerting the Santoku knife that had been in use for over twenty years.


“Okay, I have decided. Dell, I want to buy this knife.”


“That’s great! Thank you for your patronage!”




Dell showed an incredibly cheery smile.


Yumi and I both grinned at the sight of her innocent smile.


“Indeed I’m looking for a good meat cutting knife, but why are you selling me one all of a sudden?”


“Huh? Because Asuta had never used a Jaguar blade before, so I’m not happy about that! I can see that vegetable knife is Semu-made, and the other one isn’t from Jaguar either.”


Dell inspected the Santoku knife on the platform seriously.


“This is a good knife; I don’t know where it is made, but it still surprised me. Like I said… In order to not lose to that knife, I chose one of the best from my stock!”


“Really? That makes me glad, thank you. But… Shouldn’t you sell this excellent knife of yours to a noble?”


“Hmmp! I think Asuta is better than the chef hired by the nobles! I just want the best chef to use the best knife.”


Dell said with a fearless smile.


All her smiles were charming and showed her emotions without any filter. I thought it was funny that she had an annoying smirk when I first met her.


“See you later then! I will come again tomorrow!”


“I need to get back to work too. Asuta, I’m looking forward to the dinner at the inn tonight!”


Dell and Yumi left some warmth in my heart and then headed to the north and south respectively.


The moment they left, the easterner with a western air about him, Sangjura, came quietly to the stall.


“Asuta, give me one.”


“Ah, hello, thank you for your patronage. Erm… Thank you very much for yesterday.”


“No need for thanks, this is my duty as a westerner.”


Sangjura smiled and pulled back his hood to show his long brown hair.


As my heart was being soothed by his smile… Sangjura said something incredible to me.


“The bandit kid, caught. Peace upheld, is great.”


“What!”


I stood there stiffly and felt the blood slowly flowing away from my face.


“W-Wait! That kid from yesterday got apprehended by the guards?”


“Isn’t that so? I no see wanted notice, so I thought he is caught.”


“Wanted notice…? ”


“Yes. When a suspect is wanted, the guards will put up wanted notice with sketches of the suspect on them. But I go there, no see. So… I thought he got caught.”


Sangjura tilted his head in surprise.


I exhaled the breath I was holding in.


“I see. Ah, that scared me… No, sorry. Actually, we didn’t report him to the guards.”


“You no tell guards?”


It was Sangjura’s turn to widen his eyes in surprise. His expression wasn’t that exaggerated, but it felt more incredulous because he looked like a Semu.


But now wasn’t the time to think about that.


“If others are violent to you, you must tell guards. If leave criminals be, others will be harmed.”


“Yes, it is the duty of a westerner to report such incidents. However… he is only targeting the denizens of Forest's Edge, so there shouldn’t be any danger to the townsfolk.”


“Then it is more danger to Asuta you all.”


“We will be fine. We have dependable companions to protect us.”


Sangjura looked at Ludo Wu who was standing guard by the stall with his light colored eyes.


Compared to that time when Ludo Wu was facing off against Lavis, Ludo Wu stared back at Sangjura with much more serious eyes.


“But… I think you should tell guards. Or, you have concerns?”


“Concerns?”


“Yes. I heard status of denizens of Forest's Edge in Post Station Town, complicated. I seldom come Genos, so no know well. But denizens of Forest's Edge is ostracized?”


Sangjura leaned forth with a sincere expression and said:


“But denizens of Forest's Edge, citizen of west god Selva. My mother, Semu, but I also citizen of Selva. Westerners all brethrens. Don’t need to be concern. I think you should find guards.”


It wasn’t that sort of concern.


However, we couldn’t approach the guards working under Pyschkurewuss’ brother for this case… and I couldn’t tell Sangjura who was just passing by all these complicated matters.
“… Still have other concern?”


“Yes, I’m very sorry…”


“Then need me go in your place? I also involve in this incident, so can inform guards.”


“N-No need! Doing that will just cause us problems.”


It would be hard to hide everything.


I scrambled to formulate my words.


“Erm, he has a deep grudge targeted specifically towards the denizens of Forest's Edge. So we want to have a proper conversation with him to resolve his misunderstanding. If he gets apprehended before that, we won’t get the chance to resolve his misunderstanding… That’s why we didn’t inform the guards.”


On second thought, the only person I had to keep in the dark was Pyschkurewuss.


Zattsu Tsun’s group committing the crime a decade ago, and the “Red Beard Gang” being made their scapegoat was already public knowledge, so there wasn’t any need to hide this. Or rather, we should let more people know about this.


However, I didn’t want to disclose Geta’s identity as words might spread to Pyschkurewuss’ ears.


Geta declared himself to be a son of Red Beard Goram in front of Sangjura, but Sangjura didn’t show any reaction to this name. Sangjura who wasn’t from Genos might not know about the “Red Beard Gang”.


Anyway, Sangjura didn’t pursue the matter and backed away with eyes that looked a little saddened.


“Is that so. You seem to have your reasons. Sorry for saying too much.”


“It’s fine, no need to apologize. Your concern makes me glad, Sangjura.”


“May peace be with Asuta and everyone. I hope you clear up misunderstanding.”


Sangjura finally left with a gentle smile and a “Myam-roasted meat” in hand.


“Hmm, that guy got some skills. But I don’t think I will lose to him unless his right arm heals up.”


Ludo Wu muttered as he watched that tall and slender figure disappear into the crowd.


“Don’t say that. He helped us yesterday, so he is our benefactor instead.”


“I know that. But having an opponent that I know I couldn’t best wandering around makes me uneasy. It’s fine if he is a denizen of Forest's Edge, but him being a townsfolk is…”


So that was how a hunter of Forest's Edge felt.


By the way, Ai Fa was still wary of Sangjura.


If we can build a cordial relationship with Genos, will she be less wary?


Would the day when the denizens of Forest's Edge treat westerners as brethrens ever come… Would the day when westerners think of the denizens of Forest's Edge as fellow citizens ever happen?


As I was thinking about all that, the sun finally rose to the middle of the sky.


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