Saturday, October 6, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 10 (2 of 5)

Chapter 2: A day in Asuta’s life, 1st of the White Month (2)
Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Ratorasepo

1


Afternoon.


During this time, I would let Shela Wu and the others handle the business at the stalls, and head to the inns to cater food for them.


I had to bring a cooking assistant along, so I hired Rii Sudora to tend to the stall in the afternoon. And as Leina Wu mentioned in the morning, the Lutim and Lei houses each sent two young hunters to the town so Ludo Wu and the three other escorts could accompany me to the inn.


And of course, my assistant was Leina Wu. She was envious of Shela Wu who would be managing the stalls, but she still felt that assisting me with my work at the inn was a worthwhile job.


The first inn we visited was the “Cryptic Venerable Inn” where the easterners often lodged in. Ludo Wu usually followed me into the kitchen, but Shin Wu took his place today, and the rest kept watch on the outside of the inn.


“Listen up, if that red-haired brat shows up, don’t rush at him alone. Blow your grass whistle and call for backup.”


The eyes of Ludo Wu who was giving the instructions seemed to be anticipating something. He seemed very curious about how capable the Marsala hunter who fended off Shin Wu was.


After bidding them farewell, we entered the “Cryptic Venerable Inn”.


“Neil, I brought the kiba I promised.”


I opened the bundle of kiba inside the kitchen, and Neil’s eyes lit up happily. Neil had finally decided to buy fresh kiba meat, so I quickly brought him a sample.


“Thank you very much, is this portion for sampling?”


“Yes. Different parts of the kiba have different texture, so I plan to set the price depending on the parts.”


I explained as I opened the bundle.


“But having less quantity doesn’t mean the quality is better. Each part has its own tastiness which doesn’t depend on the price, so I hope you can confirm it for yourself.”


“I see. Normally, the meat from the karon’s body is more tender and delicious than the karon’s legs. I would very much like to know.”


Neil looked at the meat on the counter seriously.


I brought 200 g of meat from four different parts today. They were the shoulder meat, loin meat, abdomen meat, and thigh meat. The lean loin and shoulder meat were limited in quantity and expensive, so I didn’t bring them along today.


“The kiba hind legs have the most meat, so I plan to benchmark it to the karon thigh meat. I will then use this benchmark to decide the price of their other meat.”


Neil wanted to buy ten portions of meat for dinner, which was about 2.5 kg.


So, the price was…


Thigh meat, 9 red copper plates.


Shoulder meat, 11.5 red copper plates.


Loin meat, 14 red copper plates.


Abdomen meat, 16.5 red copper plates.


“The taste from grilling and boiling it is very different, so please test them out. And of course, you can also buy a mixture of 5 thigh meat and 5 shoulder meat.”


“Thank you very much. By the way, which parts are suitable for grilling, and which parts will be good for stew?”


“Personally speaking, I find the thigh meat and shoulder meat a little tougher, so they are more suited for a vegetable stew. But if you knock the meat with bottles or sticks to break its fibers, cut the muscles and slice it thinly, the texture will become more tender.”


“I see, that’s worth a try.”


Neil said as he squinted his eyes happily.


Kamyua Yost once said that the dishes served in inns were just an extension of home cooking. But there were innkeepers like Neil and Naudiz from the “Big Tree of the South Inn” who put a lot of effort into their cooking.


They must have had a strong urge to let the easterners and southerners who traveled all the way to Genos to have a satisfying meal. Thanks to them, I could procure exotic seasonings at a slightly higher price, and a dubious character like me was permitted to sell my cookings in their inns.


“I will start doing my work for today then.”


With the help of Leina Wu, we started making 30 portions of “Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style”.






After finishing the work in the “Cryptic Venerable Inn” in less than an hour, we went to the “Big Tree of the South Inn”.


This time yesterday, we were attacked by Geta while walking down this road, but we reached the “Big Tree of the South Inn” without incident today.


“Oh, I have been waiting for you, Asuta.”


The innkeeper Naudiz welcomed us with a smile.


However, when I asked for his permission for the hunter’s of Forest's Edge to guard the inn’s entrance, his face turned gloomy:


“Something troubling happened again? Are the talks between you and the city people that complicated?”


After already having explained the incident to Milano Mast, Uncle Dora, Zashuma, Sangjura and Neil, I had to convey yesterday’s conflict for the sixth time.


Not only was our relationship with the city people strained; we were even attacked by someone with a hatred towards the denizens of Forest's Edge. That was why we wanted to increase the security in view of the danger. Naudiz’s face turned gloomier as he listened:


“Hmm… This sounds really complicated…”


Naudiz was different from Neil; I thought he was neutral towards the denizens of Forest's Edge. He neither loathed nor supported the denizens of Forest's Edge, but I could tell that he respected the denizens as important business partners.


So telling him too much might make him reconsider the pros and cons of working together with us… At least, he wasn’t asking us to get lost for the day.


Naudiz said: “I was thinking about that commotion two days ago, and how the people in the city didn’t tell us anything. The denizens of Forest's Edge and the city both made mistakes, so all involved parties should work towards avoiding the same thing from happening again… If they announced that, the people in the Post Station Town would feel more at ease.”


“It seemed that the truth has been uncovered, yet the feeling that some parts remained concealed lingers in my heart. I think that… it’s impossible for the people in the city to bring up their shame and failures.”


These words were often used to describe the miserable state of the relationship between the Genos city and the Post Station Town.


It had been one and a half months since I first stepped foot in the Post Station Town… and I had not heard the townsfolk of the Post Station Town say anything positive about the Genos city or the guards. The future ruler, Malfreed, was probably worried about this situation and wanted to resolve this.


“Leaving that aside, I’m looking forward to trying your new dish today.”


“Well, I will start working on it.”


The menu of the “Big Tree of the South Inn” was to change today.


Vegetable stew would be served today. Its name? “Kiba soup seasoned with Tau sauce” might do. Actually, this was the kiba hotpot I tried making for dinner in the Fa house.


Meat from three different parts of the kiba, namely, the thigh, shoulder, and belly, and four types of vegetables, which were aria, tino, chachi, and gigo, were used. After cooking them thoroughly, I seasoned it with rock salt and Tau sauce. Taking inspiration from kenchin soup, I made this latest version of kiba soup.


There was a large variety of ingredients, but I reduced the amount of each of them to minimize the cost. The efficiency ratio was 23% without the meat, and 60% if the meat was included. Since the braised kiba used a large amount of Tau sauce and fruit wine, the efficiency ratio of that dish was actually 5% higher.


However, this was different from the normal stew, as the lilo had been added when cooking the meat to mask its gamey taste. To be frank, there wouldn’t be any stench after the kiba was bloodlet. But the strong taste of the kiba, compared to kimyusu and karon meat, might not be acceptable to many people, so I included this extra step.


The selling point of this dish was the potato-like chachi and herb-like gigo. The chachi was boiled, while gigo was added after all the vegetables were cooked. This way, the customers could taste two types of vegetables.


“Alright. After I scoop up the foam, can you help me maintain a weak fire?”


“Yes, leave it to me.”


Leina Wu smiled brightly. Leina Wu’s skill in cooking vegetable stew was as good as mine so I could leave it to her without any worries.


By the way, for the vegetable stew, Ai Fa didn’t tell me specifically that “Asuta’s cooking tastes better.” In the end, her comment was “I can only say that both sides are even…”


Anyway, after entrusting the task to Leina Wu, I started making today’s sample dish. I hoped that Naudiz who was happy with the “Kiba soup” won’t need to worry about removing the “Braised kiba” from his menu. I intended to present the new dish that was supposed to replace the “Braised kiba” today.


“Have you named the dish yet?”


“Yes. I dub it ‘Meat chachi’.”


Naudiz widened his eyes in surprise.


“Instead of kiba chachi, you are calling it ‘Meat chachi’? Why the name?”


“Hahaha, that’s what this dish is called in my hometown. And I’m selling a dish called ‘Kiba Chitto’ in the ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’, so I want to differentiate them a little.”


However, chachi didn’t exist in my old world, only potatoes which had a similar taste to chachi. So this dish was equivalent to ‘Meat and potato stew’ in my old world.
<TL: 肉じゃが>


I made this dish plenty of times in the Tsurumi restaurant too.


Depending on the environment, the ingredients that would be used might change. Ingredient-wise, chachi and aria could replace potato and onions, but I didn’t have any soy sauce, sugar or mirin, so I had to use the Tau sauce, which resembled soy sauce, and fruit wine that was similar to red wine. The fruit wine was much sweeter than red wine, so I made the decision to cook “Meat chachi” and braised kiba.


Leaving the ingredients aside for now, I need to settle the issue of seasoning first.


I thought as I poured some kiba oil into the pot to fry the belly meat.


I tossed in aria and chachi before the belly meat started to brown, and, after stir-frying them for a while, I added in Tau sauce, fruit wine, and water.


“… Asuta, all that’s left is waiting, right?”


Leina asked me energetically as she asked about my work process.


“Yes.”


When she heard my answer, she replied: “This dish is really simple.”


“Yes, it’s easy to make. But the ratio of Tau sauce and fruit wine, cooking time and the intensity of the fire, all these will change the taste a lot.”


There weren’t any measuring cups and gas stove in this world. Without the instrument for accurate measurements, the instinct during cooking was very important.


“In my hometown, this is the representative dish of home cooking. But surprisingly, it is harder to teach this dish, compared to hamburg steak and braised meat.”


Leina Wu said with curious eyes: “Is that so?”


“Ah, the Tau sauce and fruit wine are really fragrant.”


Naudiz leaned his nose in.


“I also add fruit wine into my cooking, but I’m not as bold as Asuta. The sweetness of the fruit wine really suits the taste of southerners.”


“I heard there is sugar in Jaguar?”


I remembered Arudas saying that.


“It should be available in Genos too. But I have never seen it sold outside the rock walls.”


“Is it so rare that it’s only sold in the city? Hmm, the seasonings in this Post Station Town are really lacking. It’s the same with Tau sauce; you can’t buy any unless you have connections with the southern merchants, right? Aside from rock salt, what other seasonings are sold in the market?”


“I have to admit there aren’t any other seasonings. Some people use herbs like myam for seasoning though.”


I added firewood to the stove, nodded, and replied: “I see.”


“By the way, no one seemed to be selling Pico leaves and lilo. I only see them in the rock salt shop from time to time.”


“Around these parts, Pico leaves and lilo can only be foraged in the Morga forest. Having the freedom to forage as much Pico leaves and lilo as they wish can be considered one of the few privileges of the denizens of Forest's Edge.”


Naudiz chose his words carefully to avoid saying anything sarcastic or unpleasant. He must have put in a lot of effort in order to not give any special treatment to the denizens of Forest's Edge.


“So preserving meat in the Post Station Town can only be done by marinating it with salt, correct?”


“That’s right. It’s a chore to procure fresh meat every day, and the price will be high if I don’t buy in bulk. I will normally buy enough for several days, and preserve the rest with salt.”


“I see.”


If things went well, I could teach Milano Mast to cook with kimyusu and karon meat. I wondered if I could make an acceptable dish with something other than kiba. This was a stimulating challenge for me.


“Ah, excuse me for a moment.”


It was almost time and I removed the cover of the pot.


The steam gushed out along with the fragrance of the Tau sauce and fruit wine. The water submerging the ingredients had been reduced by half. I used the spatula to stir the ingredients and then used a krilee stick to poke a chachi.


The vegetable got penetrated without any resistance.


How about the taste?


I used the stick to tear off some chachi and then put it together with some belly meat into my mouth.


It was soft with a faint taste of sweetness. The chachi was piping hot and smooth. When I chewed, the sweet delicious taste spread in my mouth.


The sweetness is a little diluted so a thicker texture will be more ideal.


I poured Tau sauce onto the spoon until it was half full, scooped up stock from the plate, and poured it into the pot.


I carefully stirred to avoid mashing the chachi, waited for the stock to boil, and then tasted it.


It felt great. Like braised kiba, this dish tasted best when cooled, which allowed the flavor to permeate it. But the taste right now was already good enough right now.


I scooped up the content of the pot onto a new plate.


“Please have a try; this is half a portion.”


It had around 120 g of meat, half an aria, and a quarter chachi.


I thought about adding more chachi, but in order to keep the cost on the same level as “Braised kiba”, this was the limit. Chachi cost 2.5 times more than aria.


Compared to the cheap aria and poitan, they seem so expensive.


I pondered as I poured half a portion into another plate.


“Leina Wu, I will watch the fire for you, please try it too.”


“Ah, can I?”


Leina Wu was as happy as a child.


Naudiz had a smile as brilliant as Leina Wu.


And so, the two of them picked up a spoon and sent the dish into their mouths, and then exploded in happiness at the same time.


“Asuta, this is amazing!”


“Yes, this is just marvelous!”


Naudiz was smiling so much that the corners of his eyes and brows were drooping.


“Ah, it tastes really good. The soft chachi is great, and the sweet aria was a nice touch too. But the kiba is delicious as well… Compared to the braised meat, this dish brings out the taste of the vegetables more.”


“Thank you for your compliment. But unlike braised meat and the vegetable stew, this dish didn’t use any lilo. The kiba taste will be stronger, so I’m not sure if this will be to the liking of the southerners.”


“You don’t need to worry about that. Or rather, I think you don’t need to add lilo into the kiba soup too. The lilo is too strong, and just a little of it will affect the taste of the Tau sauce.”


That was an astute observation.


If the lilo meshed well with the “Kiba soup”, I would have added it in back at home. I only used it to mask the gamey taste.


Naudiz tilted his head with a smile: “I don’t think the kiba tastes too gamey anyway. I believe it's strange for any customers to dislike this taste.”


His movements were full of charm for a middle-aged bearded man.


“Or maybe they think kiba isn’t something normal people should eat? The texture of the kiba might be very different from karon and kimyusu, and the taste is also stronger, so that’s why some people might dislike it.”


Pops Balan was also misled by this when he tried the “Kiba burger”, and concluded that it ‘tastes bad’.


But a month later, he brought a large quantity of kiba jerky instead of karon jerky. Pops told me that he had gotten used to the strong flavor after eating it for a month.




“Asuta has worked at the stall for more than a month, right? Word that kiba is edible had already spread in the Post Station Town. The kiba’s taste is what makes it delicious, so there is no need to mask it at all.”


“I see. Your words… give me confidence.”


I smiled in reply to Naudiz.


“Would you like to buy this dish?”


“Of course! Ah… But it’s hard for me to give up on ‘Braised kiba’. Once every five, no, ten days will be fine, is that possible…?”


“I’m fine with that arrangement. Then I will prepare ‘Braised kiba’ on the first day of the ten-day contract, then alternate between ‘Meat chachi’ and ‘Kiba soup’ after that. What do you think?”


Naudiz wasn’t just worried about his customers; he also wanted to eat ’Braised kiba’ himself. Unlike Neil, Naudiz ate the cooking he brought from me as his dinner. The fact that he was willing to forgo the profits of one portion in order to eat it made me proud.


Anyway, the reason I’ intended to remove the ’Braised kiba’ from the menu was the cooking time. So I should be able to cope if it was just once every ten days. If I really couldn’t find the time, I would have to leave the stall early for that day.


Ah, but I can’t increase the number of guards in the morning in such a situation… I would really prefer to not need guards when visiting the inns.


As I was thinking about all that, Naudiz said to me with a thoughtful face:


“By the way… Asuta, you mentioned that you will be taking a day off after finishing this ten-day contract?”


“That’s right. So I hope the future contract will start after my off days.”


“I don’t mind, but… are you going to rest for the 7th and the 8th?”


“Yes, I’m thinking of studying my cooking too.”


Naudiz lowered his head and said: “I see…”


At this moment, Leina Wu shared a small portion of her ‘Meat chachi’ with Shin Wu.


After stealing a peek at Shin Wu squinting his eyes happily after taking a bite, I turned to Naudiz again.


“What? Is there a problem?”


“It’s nothing. But I have to do something about this.”


Naudiz then lifted his head and said:


“Asuta, you mentioned that you are willing to sell fresh kiba for me to cook myself. Does that still apply?”


“Huh? Yes, it does.”


“Then… I want to buy kiba.”


I couldn’t help asking: “But why?”


Naudiz wasn’t too enthusiastic about this proposal before.


“For the sake of business, of course. If I can’t sell Asuta’s cooking for these two days, my customers might eat at some other inn instead.”


“Y-You are overthinking it, correct? I won’t be catering meals at all during my day offs, so they can’t eat my food no matter where they go.”


“But, Asuta, you sold kiba to the innkeeper of the ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’, right? And you are planning to cater for the ‘West Wind Inn’ and ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’ too. In that case… these inns might come up with their own kiba dishes. That frightens me a little.”


“Hmm…”


“I don’t think the other innkeepers are as good at cooking as Asuta. But patron’s craving for kiba can only be satiated by it, correct? At least that’s what I think when considering things from the perspective of the customers.”


Naudiz then bowed deeply:


“Please sell me fresh kiba meat. I want to use the next few days to research a presentable dish together with my significant other.”


And, of course, I lowered my head and answered: “Thank you very much.”


My original goal was to make kiba itself the merchandise, not the kiba cooking. I was overjoyed that Naudiz made this decision right after Neil did.


Anyway, we didn’t encounter the red-haired Geta or any ploy from Pyschkurewuss today and finished our work in the Post Station Town without incident. Two-thirds of the meaningful first day of the White month was now over.


2


It was between noon and dusk and felt like 3.30pm to me.


After completing all my work, we set off from the Post Station Town for the Forest's Edge settlement.


The great thing was, despite losing the regular patrons from the “Silver Vase” and architects, sales didn’t drop significantly. 143 portions were sold today, and we would have been sold out if Shumimaru and Pops were still here.


Although some people had left Genos, others had come to visit. And their numbers were roughly equal to my stall’s customers who had left.


Anyway, the work for today had concluded smoothly. We parted ways with the young hunters from Lutim and Lei houses on the road back to the Forest's Edge settlement, and I picked up Gilulu’s reins. The unfortunate thing was, my wagon became full after Rii Sudora and the youths from the Wu clan branch house got on.


And there was a pile of ingredients and crockery like pots too, so I didn’t push Gilulu too hard and let it walk slowly. The road was full of sharp turns in the first place, so Gilulu’s burden was even heavier.


Despite all that, Gilulu towed the wagon energetically with a dumb face as usual. Even at this slower pace, it took less than 30 minutes to arrive at the Wu clan village.


After reaching the Wu clan village, I gave a few suggestions to Leina Wu on making the patty for the “Kiba burger” and then headed home. Unlike yesterday, I was escorted by Ludo Wu and Shin Wu on their mount, Lulu. When Ai Fa wasn’t accompanying me, they would escort me back to the Forest's Edge settlement.


Both Geta and Pyschkurewuss’ henchmen probably wouldn’t venture into the Forest's Edge settlement… But Donda Wu planned to play all the cards he has on hand. I was grateful for his consideration and hoped peaceful days would come quickly.


“Ah, Asuta, we have been waiting.”


When I reached home, there were six women waiting for me.


The Fou, Lan, and Dean houses sent two women each to learn cooking. I didn’t see Celice Lan Fou, but Tulu Dean and Jass Dean were here.


“Asuta, long time no see.”


Jass Dean, the elder sister of the Dean house head and a middle-aged woman with serious eyes, lowered her head quietly.


The ten-year-old Tulu Dean who was adopted from the Tsun clan by the Dean house lowered her head timidly too.


We had already put our differences behind us when Tulu Dean and I tried making offal dishes. But that was quite some time ago, so she had turned introverted again. My only option was to spend some time to warm up to her, so I smiled:


“The lesson today will be on making hamburg meat patty. Let’s work hard together, Tulu Dean?”


“Ah, y-yes…”


Tulu Dean lowered her head.


But her eyes weren’t gloomy anymore, and she looked up at me.


“I heard that it goes against the customs of Forest's Edge to grill meat in someone else’s kitchen. Is it fine to do the preparation work before the grilling here?”


“That’s fine. We have brought the necessary ingredients with that in mind.”


The Lan house women replied.


The Lan, Fou, and Dean houses all paired a young girl with an elderly woman. Including Rii Sudora and me, there were eight of us here.


“I will patrol the area before Ai Fa comes back.”


After thanking Ludo Wu, I went into my home together with the women.


“First, cook the poitan thoroughly to make it more sticky. If you don’t have enough time, you can add in diced gigo as a workaround, but that would cost money. So… we can cook this much poitan in no time. While we are cooking the poitan, let’s dice the aria first.”


There were more than two hours till sunset. I had already decided to do the slicing of the meat, which was needed for the stall, in the morning so I was free during this time.


So I taught them how to fry the diced aria with fruit wine and mince the meat while watching the fire. After teaching them that, I could work on my own studies.


My homework right now was to taste the vegetables I seldom came into contact with.


Be it the House Lutim wedding or the business in the Post Station Town, the first task I would take on was testing the taste of the new ingredients. That’s why I tried the taste of aria, poitan, tino, pula, tarapa, chachi, gigo, myam, and other ingredients. The variety sold in the Post Station Town was much larger than those bought by the denizens of Forest’s Edge.


There were some vegetables which I wasn’t sure of their use. Like poitan that confounded me in the past, I couldn’t find the connection between some of the vegetables with the food I was familiar with.


Some vegetables weren’t suitable for selling. They might have limited harvest, making it hard to procure the required quantity.


After excluding these vegetables, there wasn’t much variety left.


Hmm… I’m not that free today, so let’s get this over with.


I thought as I reached for a durian-like fruit that was orange and spiky.


It was about the size of a grapefruit and had the shape of a rugby ball. One of it cost 0.5 red copper plates, which was the same price as a chachi despite being heavier, which made it a suitable candidate.
It seemed to be called shiru. It was sold in many stalls in the Post Station Town but seldom bought by the denizens of Forest's Edge.


The spiky husk was hard, so I used the meat cutting knife I bought today to try opening it. This knife was actually suitable for cutting any ingredients, just like the Santoku knife. The knife recommended by Dell met my expectations perfectly and broke through the husk of the shiru.


The sweet and sour fragrance of the fruit permeated the room.


The inside was yellow.


There were clusters of juicy gem-like seeds in there, much like a pomegranate. I scraped them onto a plate, and the yellowish juice dripped on top of it, and the fragrance in the room became even stronger.


“… What a sweet smell.”


Tulu Dean who was mincing meat looked back at me shyly.


The children in this world were sensitive to sweet fragrance too.


“This is shiru, which is seldom seen in the Forest's Edge settlement. Want to try some?”


“Huh, can I?”


I grunted positively and scooped up some fruit juice with a spoon.


Tulu Dean whose hands were dirty because of the meat she was mincing looked at me troublingly, so I shoved the spoon right to her mouth and said: “Here.”


Tulu Dean’s face blushed as she drunk from the spoon.


She suddenly shouted from her cute lips: “So sour!”


“Hmm. That’s probably why the denizens of Forest's Edge don’t really eat this.”


It smelled like oranges, but shiru was as sour as a lemon. It was sweeter than a lemon, but at the same time, more sour than one.


Tulu Dean made angry tsundere noises as she waved her hands. She probably didn’t want to touch others with her dirty palms, so she kept hitting me with her elbow.


“Sorry about that. But if you drink it after diluting with some water, it should be quite tasty, right?”


“It’s not tasty! My mouth hurts!”


She yelled while turning her face away.


Jass Dean looked happily at Tulu Dean who was behaving in a way that befitted her age. The women from the Fou house and Lan house were also snickering.


“Asuta, is this fine?”


Rii Sudora pointed at the counter with a gleeful smile.


There was a nice pile of pink minced meat over there.


“Yes, that will do. Next will be mixing it with the diced aria, poitan, and stock. Ah, it will taste better if you add some salt and Pico leaves; I will share some of the Fa house’s salt and Pico leaves with you for today.”


After that, the other women also finished mincing their meat. The denizens of Forest's Edge were strong so they could finish the manual labor of mincing meat as quickly as me.


We might be able to finish ahead of time. I moved the plate of shiru juice to a corner of the room and decided to teach them how to make meat patty.


“By having a strong fire in one stove and a weak flame in another stove, it is possible to grill large meat patties. But it is difficult to control the intensity of the fire, so let’s start with the weak one. Take this much meat, meld it into a ball, and then toss it left and right to push out the air inside.”


I played catch with the meat patty between my left and right hands. This is a test of how nimble one’s hands were. Tulu Dean and Rii Sudora were quick on their hands, a reflection on their skills in cooking.


The women from the Fou and Lan houses grumbled “This is difficult” as they tried doing so happily. They seemed sincerely happy that they could finally challenge the complicated process of cooking hamburg steaks.


“… Oh right, I have something to discuss with the Fou and Lan houses.”


I recalled my conversation with Lala Wu this morning about the job rostering for the work in the Post Station Town.


I told the four of them about how the wealth should be distributed equally and whether anyone wanted to take the job in the Post Station Town in place of the Sudora house.


But their response was lukewarm.


“Work in the Post Station Town, huh… We have been in the Fa house’s care in all sorts of ways so we would like to repay your kindness.”


An elderly woman answered.


She had a serious face.


“Just tell us what you need us to do, and we will get it done.”


Lala Wu and Leina Wu’s smiling face came to my mind, and I said: “Ah, no, I’m not asking you to repay me in the form of work. I just hope you can enjoy work that is different from your usual routine.”


But their expressions remained unchanged.


Rii Sudora said calmly: “Asuta, are you short on people for your business in the Post Station Town?”


“No, there’s no problem now. There might be if the number of stalls increased to three.”


“Is that so. You can ask the Fou and Lan houses for help when the time comes. To be honest, unlike the large Wu clan and house Lutim, it’s hard for us to spare the manpower to work in town for half a day.”


Rii Sudora then said with a refreshing smile:


“The Sudora house has too few people, so the women are free. Even though the branch houses and kin houses had all joined the main house in recent years, there are still only four men and five women in the Sudora house. And… there aren’t any children that we need to take care of.”


After asking, I realized the Fou and Lan houses were short on women. They had to put in quite a bit of effort to make time for the cooking lessons.


They already earned quite a fair amount by selling meat to the Fa house, so there wasn’t a need to force the issue and get someone to take over Rii Sudora. But for the sake of the Fa house who had helped them so much, they had steeled themselves to endure more hardships.


“In that case, I will discuss this again if I’m really short on manpower. I want to share this with the other houses like the Gazu and Latzu too.”


“Is that so. Feel free to call on us when the time comes. We want to help the Fa house too.”


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


And so, the topic came to an end. However… there was still a girl with a gloomy expression.


That was Tulu Dean.


Before I even asked, Jass Dean said:


“The Dean house can spare some women. But as you know, the leader of our kin houses, the house head of Zaza doesn’t agree with the Fa house’s business. It pains me to say that I can’t repay the favor despite everything you have done for us.”


“Ah, it’s fine, don’t…”


If I had known this would happen, I wouldn’t have told this to the Dean house. The Dean house was a kin house of the Zaza house, and they were only permitted to learn bloodletting and cooking, but prohibited from taking part in the Fa house’s business operations.


Jass Dean said calmly: “… Tulu Dean, you want to help Asuta, isn’t that right?”


Tulu Dean shook her head along with her twin tails.


“I will obey the arrangement of the tribal chief and house head.”


Her voice was soft but filled with strength.


But she was tearing up.


“I will do my best to get acknowledged by the Zaza house head. When I’m allowed to seek help from the Dean house, I will come to find you again, alright?”


Tulu Dean answered with a nod: “Okay.”


We were still caught up with the issues of Pyschkurewuss and Geta, but I will work hard so that I could face the Zaza house head and the others one day.


Also… The heir to the Wu clan, which has rendered me the most support so far, Jiza Wu.


It’s been a long time since I had a heart-to-heart conversation with Jiza Wu. The last time I learned about how he felt was before the House Head Conference.


I don’t really dare to imagine this, but if something happens to Donda Wu, the Fa house will be in an awkward position.


Their kins, the Lutim and Lei houses, were friendly towards the Fa house so Jiza Wu couldn’t turn his back on us so easily.


But if both tribal chiefs from the Wu clan and Zaza house withdrew their support for the Fa house, there was no telling how things might turn out. I thought about how arduous the path ahead of me was and then said in a cheerful voice to brighten the heavy atmosphere: “Alright then.”


“The meat patty is taking shape. Lastly, let me demonstrate in the stoves outside on how to grill the meat patty for taste testing.”


The women became cheerful and stood up with a smile.


The meat patty for taste testing was made by Rii Sudora with the Fa house’s meat. I brought along a bottle of fruit wine along to steam the meat and opened the door.


And found my beloved house head Ai Fa standing right outside.


“Uwahh, that’s a huge one!”


I blurted that out before saying “Welcome home”. Ai Fa was carrying a male kiba between 70 to 80 kg on her back.


Ai Fa nodded with a grunt, the sweat on her face was glistening, and she was panting hard. That was only natural since she was carrying such a heavy load and trekking back home through the forest. Ai Fa dropped the kiba by her feet and then took a breather.


“It fell into a trap I set nearby. I let most of its blood out so it would be a pity if I left it to the munto. Hence, I brought it home. But… I’m a little tired.”


“Of course you are. Thank you for your hard work, Ai Fa.”


“Yes, you too…”


Ai Fa’s eyes were shining a little.


She must be happy that I came home safe.


But because of the women standing behind me, she kept a straight face to show them her dignity as a house head.


“Ai Fa, you are amazing! You took down such a big one by yourself?”


Ludo Wu and Shin Wu appeared out of nowhere and ran over.


Ai Fa turned back and acknowledged them with her gaze.


“You have been protecting the Fa house, thank you.”


“Don’t be so reserved. By the way, you really are amazing. That guy fell into a trap?”


“Yes. It fell into a hole, and I killed it off easily.”


“Anyone can kill it, but setting the trap in the right place is the ability of the hunter. And you dragged it out of the trap by yourself and bloodlet it? That’s incredible.”


Ludo Wu praised Ai Fa unreservedly.


But Shin Wu who was standing beside him… If I wasn’t mistaken, he seemed to be in deep thought.


In the past, Shin Wu wanted Ai Fa to teach him how to perform the dangerous “Sacrificial Hunting Method”. Even though he didn’t need to worry about money after his elder sister started working in the Post Station Town, the young 16 years old house head was probably dissatisfied with his lack of abilities.


Ai Fa, Ludo Wu, and Rau Lei who were about his size and age had extraordinary capabilities; also… he definitely was frustrated that he let Geta escape yesterday.


I think Ai Fa and Ludo Wu are well beyond standard levels, so Shin Wu has nothing to be ashamed of… But it’s fine for him to think that way too.


If my culinary skills lost out to someone around my age, I would definitely be too frustrated to sleep at night.


But I couldn’t help Shin Wu.


As I was wondering about all that, Ai Fa who was staring at my hands asked: “… Are these hamburg steaks for tonight’s dinner?”


“No, this is just for demonstration use.” After answering that, I quickly shook my head. “Then let’s have hamburg steak for dinner tonight! After seeing everyone making it, I feel like eating one too.”


Her eyes that had turned sullen started sparkling again, and Ai Fa muttered: “Is that so.” Ai Fa’s favorite food was still hamburg steak, and I felt relieved that I didn’t betray Ai Fa’s expectations.


At this moment, Ludo Wu tilted his head with a grunt.


“There’re sounds of Totos footsteps; it must be people from the Zaza or Sauti house.”


Ai Fa and Shin Wu nodded and then turned their gazes to the road.


I couldn’t hear anything at all. But less than 5 seconds later, a large Totos appeared. It charged right out of the forest and went right for us.


I yelled “Uwah!” and almost dropped my plate.


A few girls almost screamed too.


But that Totos didn’t run into us… It wasn’t fended off by Ai Fa and Ludo Wu either; the rider stopped it in the nick of time.


“Ah, sorry about that! I had too much fun riding and kicked the stomach of the Totos a little too much.”


A lively voice came from above us.


He wasn’t from the Zaza or Sauti house.


“Hmm? Rau Lei?”


“Hey, we haven’t met since the Harvest Festival, Asuta.”


Long blonde hair, bright-blue eyes, an androgynous face, and a smile that didn’t really suit him… It was the young head of the Lei house, Rau Lei.


“… I really hope you can restrain yourself a little. I thought I was going to die in a crash.”


Another voice came from behind him.


A husky and sexy voice… It was Yamiel Lei. She was grabbing Rau Lei’s back over his cape.


“Rau Lei, why are you riding a Totos? Did you borrow it from the Sauti house?”


Rau Lei shook his head in response to Ludo Wu’s query.


“This is the Lei house’s Totos. I bought it in the Post Station Town today.”


“Huh!? You bought it yourself? From a Totos shop in the Post Station Town?”


I was shocked too.


“Yes, that’s right.”


Rau Lei puffed his chest out proudly.


“It cost quite a lot of tusks and horns too. But it couldn’t be helped since I wanted to buy one, so I chose the cheapest one.”


Speaking of which, this Totos was one size smaller than the other four in the Forest's Edge. It was also young and not very used to being ridden on. Its feathers were a lighter shade than Gilulu, and its eyes seemed really sharp.


“As I said, it was my bad for scaring you. I didn’t mean any ill will, so I hope you can forgive me.”


Rau Lei dismounted softly.


He then looked at Yamiel Lei who was still on the Totos in surprise.


“What are you doing? Hurry on down.”


“Don’t make it sound so simple… I’m not a hunter.”


“What do you mean, it’s not that high up that you have to nag about it. Enough already, just jump down.”


“Hey, stop the Totos from moving.”


Yamiel Lei glared at Rau Lei with cold eyes.


But her fingers were hanging on the Totos’ feathers with a death grip.


Rau Lei remained very forthright: “You are really all looks and no substance. You look tall and strong for a woman but are actually as weak as a child. This must be retribution for the depravity of the Tsun clan.”


Yamiel Lei was weaker than normal women; I noticed that after teaching her cooking for a couple of times.


But she wasn’t so weak that she couldn’t manage the work in the Forest's Edge, so this was just her being a delicate lady… As I was thinking about that, Yamiel Lei glared at me with scary eyes for some reason.
“It can’t be helped. Here, come on down.”


Rau Lei offered his hand.


Yamiel Lei grunted softly, ignored Rau Lei’s hand, and then landed gracefully on the ground.


“Why you! Are you trying to shame your house head!?”


“So noisy.”


Yamiel Lei flicked back her long dark-brown hair.


Yamiel Lei’s figure was as thicc as Vena Wu’s, and had a sexy air about her that was different from Vena Wu.


Her hair was tied up in an intricate pattern which was rarely seen amongst the women of Forest's Edge. Her venom snake-like aura was gone, but her icy and dignified air remained unchanged.




But it was great that she was lively instead of gloomy.


Ludo Wu asked on behalf of all of us:


“… So, what are the two of you doing here?”


“Huh? I brought Yamiel Lei here to learn cooking, of course! The women from House Lutim had been teaching her, but if she needs to learn, it will be faster to get Asuta to teach her directly.”


Rau Lei then looked at Ai Fa with his hunter’s eyes for some reason.


“And I’m here to challenge the head of the Fa house! You might be a hunter, but you are also a woman; I’m vexed that I lost to you!”


Ai Fa tilted her head and sighed softly.


“It must be hard traveling so far, but I still have chores to do. I don’t have time for such annoying things.”


Rau Lei lost to Ai Fa in the Wu clan’s Harvest Festival. He looked really unhappy during that night’s banquet.


However, there was glory in winning in the test of might contest, but there wasn’t any shame in losing. Despite that, Rau Lei was still frustrated with his loss. He became more unhappy after hearing Ai Fa’s cold response.


“What do you mean by annoying!? Aren’t you done with your hunting? That is a nice kiba.”


“That’s why I’m going to skin the kiba and eviscerate it. I also want to learn to clean the offals.”


“Huh?”


This time, I was the one who was surprised.


Ai Fa glared at Rau Lei and said stiffly:


“Cleaning offals takes a lot of time. Asuta still needs to prepare for dinner and tomorrow’s business, so I have decided to share some of his work. That’s why… I have no time for you.”


“In that case, I too will help! And then you can use the freed time to spar with me!”


Ai Fa sighed again.


“It’s pointless for someone to help when I’m learning. Also… Like I said that night, the results will be the same no matter how many times you try.”


“What did you say!? Is the gulf in our capabilities that big!?”


There was a dangerous gleam in Rau Lei’s eyes.


Ai Fa squinted in surprise when she heard that.


“Head of the Lei house, I’m sorry to say this, but I don’t think I will lose to you at all. And it’s true… This might sound strange, but I can feel that you are stronger than the second son of the Wu clan…”


“That’s right! I’m confident of being on par with Darum Wu!”


“Hmm… Could it be...”


Ai Fa looked at Shin Wu.


“I’m sorry, Shin Wu, can you spar with the head of the Lei house?”


Shin Wu looked back at Ai Fa calmly.


“… Rau Lei is one of the eight braves; I’m no match for him.”


“That might not be so. I think you can defeat him.”


When he heard that, Rau Lei said before Shin Wu could respond.


“Alright! I will be your opponent! Ai Fa, if I win, you will spar with me!”


Ai Fa shrugged and said: “Whatever.”


And so, a match started abruptly.


After removing their hunter’s cape and blades, the two of them faced each other in the grass plains.


“Shin Wu, come at me, bro! I won’t hold a grudge even if you best me.”


He said all that so Rau Lei couldn’t relax at all.


That was only natural as this wasn’t a simple match. To the hunters, this was a sacred contest.


The raging fire of a hunter burned in Shin Wu’s usually calm eyes. He bent forward a little, and, to my eyes, the air of intimidation coming from him was as strong as Rau Lei.


It was hard to stay calm since I could witness a contest between hunters from so close. I gulped and looked at the two of them facing off.


But the contest was decided in an instant.


The moment Ludo Wu sounded off “Begin!”, Rau Lei grabbed Shin Wu hard… His arm then got twisted, and his entire body got thrown onto the ground.


“Huh?”


Rau Lei jumped up.


“Shin Wu, you are really fast. Sorry… can I have another match?”


“Okay.”


This time, Rau Lei’s chest was grabbed, and he was thrown by a standard small inner reap.


“What the hell, Shin Wu, you are hella strong! Why did you lose so quickly during the Harvest Festival?”


Rau Lei grumbled while seated on the ground, while Shin Wu looked at Ai Fa puzzledly.


But Ludo Wu was the one who muttered: “I see.”


“I know, I know. Shin Wu is fast, but, Rau Lei, you fought in the same style as Darum-nii and Jiza-nii even though you are thinner than them.”


“Huh? What are you talking about!?”


“Simply put, you are using brute force. Shin Wu and I don’t. Ai Fa probably didn’t defeat Darum-nii by brute force. We don’t stand a chance unless we make use of the opponent’s strength.”


“I don’t understand. Isn’t using your strength only natural in a contest? How is using your opponent’s strength a skill?”


“No, if you think about it the other way, this method will allow you to defeat an opponent who is bigger than you. Didn’t you defeat Jii Mamu too?”


“Yes, I won two matches out of three.”


Rau Lei puffed his chest out as he sat cross-legged in the grass.


Jii Mamu was a big guy amongst the Wu clan kins. Ai Fa and Mida both won against him, but Shin Wu lost to him.


“… Could it be… Head of the Lei house, were you bigger than the other children when you were young?”


Ai Fa fell into deep thought and asked with her arms crossed.


Rau Lei nodded: “That’s true.”


“I remember being one of the bigger children in the Lei village during childhood. After becoming hunters, most of them got bigger than me. And after a couple of years, they became all taller than me.”


“That’s why you keep competing with brute strength. I’m surprised that you won against an opponent bigger than you… But you can never defeat Donda Wu and Dan Lutim. It will be difficult for you to best Jiza Wu and Kaslan Lutim too.”


“I’m not thinking of challenging them yet…”


Rau Lei opened his aqua-colored eyes wide mid-sentence.


“Wait! Ai Fa, are you saying you have the confidence of beating Donda Wu and Dan Lutim?”


“I already lost to Dan Lutim. However… I think I can win a few matches if we compete a bunch of times.”


“Ah, I feel the same. I have not lost to Dad or Jiza-nii before. If I think I will lose, I won’t challenge them in the first place.”


Ai Fa and Ludo Wu who were conversing calmly had eyes that were shining with determination.


“I’m a woman, so my strength can’t win against a hunter in the first place. That’s why I’m always thinking about how to train the skills to perform my job as a hunter properly, and have been working hard all this time.”


“Hmm… I’m the same as Ai Fa. Because of my short stature, I have always been troubled about what I should do in order to not be a burden to Dad and the others.”


Ludo Wu continued with a fearless smile:


“In order to let dad and the others acknowledge me, I have been thinking about how to defeat them in a test of might contest. Ai Fa, you feel the same too, right? Your father had extraordinary strength as a hunter too.”


Ai Fa lowered her gaze and didn’t answer.


Ludo Wu looked at her with a similar expression, while Rau Lei cast a sideway glance at Shin Wu.


“Anyway, the three terrors of Morga are the following, correct? Barb wolf is stronger than a barbarian, a barbarian can beat a Madarama snake, while the Madarama snake will best a Barb wolf. Shin Wu is the wolf, Rau Lei is the barbarian, and Jii Mamu is the snake.”


“Why am I the barbarian!? And… What about Ai Fa and Ludo Wu? Donda Wu? Dan Lutim?”


“Dad and Dan Lutim won’t lose to a snake. So I want to win against Dad…”


Rau Lei rubbed his head angrily.


“… Speaking of which, I haven’t won against Ludo Wu yet. I think we have sparred two or three times.”


“Hmm. Sorry, Rau Lei, but I don’t think I will lose to you.”


“I suspect as much! Anyway… you want to say I’m not at your or Ai Fa’s level yet?”


Rau Lei got up with a start.


“Shin Wu! Can you have another match with me? No, not just once, but many times!”


“Erm, but… I didn’t win against Rau Lei easily either. I had to give it my all to defeat you. If I didn’t gain the upper hand right at the start, I might have lost.”


“Then go train up your strength! You won against me but lost to Jii Mamu, right? Don’t you feel vexed!?”


Shin Wu frowned, and said quietly: “Yes, I do.”


“Then go train up! You don’t have to hunt for now, so this is a good chance!”


As he said that, Rau Lei looked at Yamiel Lei who was standing around bored.


“And so, I will be training with Shin Wu! You go learn cooking with Asuta… No, since they will be cleaning the offals, go learn that too! The heart of a kiba is a delicacy!”


“Why is the head of the Lei house such a brutish person…”


Yamiel Lei sighed softly. Her face was showing a lot of expressions. I felt gleeful for some reason, then turned and looked at Ai Fa.


“Then I will leave the skinning and offal cleaning to you. I will teach everyone to grill hamburg steak first; we will go to the watering hole later.”


“Hmm? You are coming too?”


“Yes. I’m still a beginner with regards to dealing with offal. It just happens that a dependable teacher is here today…”


I looked behind me and opened my eyes wide in shock. The petite teacher Tulu Dean was clinging to Jass Dean with a green face.


Her big round eyes were filled with fear, and her slender shoulders were trembling. I followed her fearful gaze… and found it to be pointing at Yamiel Lei.


Yamiel Lei looked at Tulu Dean quizzingly with squinted eyes.


“Ah… You are that little girl from the Tsun clan branch house, right?”


“…”


“And you are from a former kin house of the Tsun clan?”


“Yes. I’m the elder sister of the Dean house head, Jass Dean.”


Jass Dean looked at Yamiel Lei with stern eyes. Her veiny fingers were supporting Tulu Dean’s slender shoulders.


Jass Dean’s younger sister married into the Tsun clan branch house and gave birth to Tulu Dean. After that, her sister was forced to follow the twisted rules of the Tsun clan that shouldn’t exist in Forest's Edge, and defiled the grace of the Morga forest… and ended up dying young.


Yamiel Lei shook her head, swaying her long hair as she did so.


“Yell at me if you want to; you have the right to do so.”


Jass Dean shook her head.


“Cutting off ties and living properly as a member of the Lei house is your atonement for your crimes. This is the decision of the tribal chiefs and house heads, and we will obey them. Is this fine, Tulu Dean…?”


Tulu Dean answered softly: “Yes.”


Her small face was still green, but she wasn’t quivering anymore… However, she was still staring at Yamiel Lei.


Rau Lei who was watching them laughed heartily.


“The Tsun clan has lost the right to lead our people, so it’s up to us to guide the Tsun clan and former members of the Tsun clan. Women of the Dean house, I will leave Yamiel Lei in your care, although she is a stupid woman.”


Jass Dean nodded: “I understand.”


“Well then, let’s get on with our jobs, Shin Wu. Oh, right...! Asuta, how does Yamiel Lei smell?”


“Huh? Smell?”


“Yes. It has been twenty days since the House Head Conference, so I have stopped smearing her with lilo juice. I think the blood stench on her is almost gone, can you help me check?”


“Ah, well, it’s fine, I don’t mind now.”


“Really? Smell it carefully. Hey… Yamiel Lei.”


Yamiel Lei sighed and walked towards me.


She then pulled back her hair and leaned her neck before my nose.


The smell of a denizen of Forest's Edge… The aroma of a young girl entered my nasal cavity.


“… How is it?”


“It’s totally fine!”


Yamiel Lei lifted her head and glared at me from close up.


Her icy eyes that used to be like a venomous snake looked at me a little flusteredly.


“I-I’m… I’m glad you’re fine.”


I blurted that out unconsciously.


Now that I thought about it, it had been half a month since I last saw Yamiel Lei.


The last time we met was half a month ago, when the body of Tay Tsun who died in the Post Station Town was returned to Forest's Edge to be buried in the forest.


Yamiel Lei turned away and said quietly:


“You too.”


3


“Sigh, what a busy day.”


After dusk, Ai Fa and I ate the cheese Kiba burger made from Semu curd and started chatting in the dimly lit room as usual.


“I met with a bunch of people I seldom see and made some headway in my business too… There’s no news on Geta or Pyschkurewuss yet, but this was still a really busy day.”


“Is that so?”


Ai Fa had a blank expression as she inspected the wine glass carefully. She seemed to really like the wine glasses Shumimaru gifted us. Ai Fa was also looking at them last night.


But her eyes were a little gloomier than yesterday. There didn’t seem to be any reason why she felt down, and I couldn’t read her emotions right now.


“Oh, right. Ai Fa, since we have nice wine glasses and good wine, why don’t we splurge a little and drink tonight?”


“Drink tonight?”


“As in drink wine. Ai Fa, you can hold your liquor, right? We have plenty of fruit wine in the food store anyway.”


But I have never seen Ai Fa drink such fruit wine before.


Ai Fa lazily let her hair down.


“But, Asuta, can you drink? It’s meaningless for me to drink alone. And the fruit wine is one of your cooking ingredients.”


“Don’t worry; Donda Wu drinks like a fish by himself too, correct?”


“… Are you saying that Donda Wu acts more like a house head than me?”


“That’s not what I mean. I just want to enjoy the well wishes gifted to us by others.”


I looked at her worriedly, wondering if she was unhappy as I grabbed two bottles from the food store.


One of them was the high-quality fruit wine Pops Balan gave us, while the other was the shiru fruit juice I squeezed out in the afternoon.


“I will drink this bottle. Ai Fa, you can drink whichever you like.”


“Isn’t that meant to be used for cooking?”


“Yes. But I didn’t have enough time to research my cooking today. It will spoil if left til tomorrow, so I was thinking about drinking it as a beverage.”


Actually, I was thinking about using it as a seasoning on grilled kiba steak in place of lemon juice. I was wondering if the refreshing taste and sourness could cover the gamey taste of the kiba and let them taste the delicious flavor of the meat at the same time.


Or I could add in fruit wine and seasoning to make something akin to lemon sauce. In short, I wanted to challenge making a kiba dish in a different way from usual.


But this research would have to wait till next time. I added shiru juice into my glass and diluted it with water.


The ratio was two parts water to one part juice. I dipped my fingers in to try the taste, and it was still very sour. In any case, this was definitely normal lemonade. If possible, I would have wanted to add honey and ice cubes too.


“Hmm, let me add some fruit wine for the flavor.”


I carefully added one spoonful of fruit wine into my wine glass.


Doing that increased the fragrance greatly. I couldn’t drink alcohol yet, but still enjoyed the fragrance of wine and rum.


“See, it’s only a wine glass if there’s wine in there.”


The shiru juice was light yellow, and adding in a little bit of fruit wine didn’t affect its color much. I shook the wine glass gently, and I could see the pulp from the fruit swirling through the light of the candle stand.


That probably intrigued her, and Ai Fa poured fruit wine into her glass too. Her cup was filled with a vibrant reddish liquid, with the side of her glass reflecting the bright red colors.


“So pretty…”


Ai Fa smiled.


I was overjoyed to see her smile after so long and picked up my wine glass. I knocked it gently against Ai Fa’s glass, and it gave a crystal-clear clink.


“Thank you for your hard work today.”


I raised my glass to my lips and took a sip.


Lemonade diluted with warm water and flavored with grape wine; that was the general gist of it. It wasn’t that tasty, but the atmosphere felt very comfortable.


Ai Fa shrugged and then gulped down the fruit wine. The glass that was 80 percent full was emptied in one shot.


“Hey, I did ask you to drink, but don’t push yourself, okay? The alcohol content is higher than in normal fruit wine.”


“Alcohol content?”


Ai Fa poured another glass with her head tilted.


“Wine that has higher alcohol content will make you drunk quicker. That’s why this wine is flammable.”


During the House Lutim wedding banquet, I used this high-quality wine to grill meat. I felt that the alcohol content of normal fruit wine was about the same as grape wine, while this fruit wine was as strong as brandy or whiskey.


“Don’t worry, I won’t get dead drunk. We might get attacked under the cover of the night after all.”


She drank another half of glass after saying that.


She drank it very boldly.


“By the way, Asuta, did Michael of Toran came today?”


“Oh, he didn’t show up.”


Michael of Toran knew about the misdeeds of Pyschkurewuss.


Shumimaru said he would show up in the “Cryptic Venerable Inn” one day, but that wasn’t today.


“What about Sangjura?”


“Sangjura came to buy food at the stall. He seemed worried and asked if we had told the guards about Geta yet.”


“… Is that so.”


“Ai Fa, you seem wary of Sangjura. Is there any reason for that?”


“Frankly speaking, there’s no special reason. But it will be bad if he turns out to be an enemy, so I can’t let my guard down.”


She emptied the other half of the bottle in one shot.


It seemed that Ai Fa could hold her liquor in the same way as Donda Wu. She crossed her legs and drank unreservedly.


“I have never seen such a formidable townsfolk before; the only ones on par with the denizens of Forest's Edge… are Kamyua Yost and that grey-eyed noble.”


“Grey-eyed, as in Malfreed? Oh… what about Geta?”


“Yes, he’s is on the level of a denizen of Forest's Edge. But… he isn’t as strong as Ludo Wu or me.”


Since we were on this topic, I asked: “What about Kamyua and Malfreed? Specifically speaking, how strong are they?”


Ai Fa took a sip of fruit wine a little unhappily.


“If I’m not wrong, Kamyua Yost is as good as Donda Wu, while the grey-eyed noble is a match for Jiza Wu.”


“So in terms of ranking, it will be Donda Wu, Dan Lutim, and then Kamyua. Kamyua seems like a surprise pick.”


“… Honestly speaking, that man is hard to fathom. I don’t think Donda Wu and Dan Lutim can win against him easily.”


“I see. But, Ai Fa, you can hold your own against Dan Lutim too.”


Then the top 3 would become the top 4.


Was Ai Fa really that strong?


Ai Fa stared at the wine glass and said:


“I don’t actually think that I can beat him… but I don’t think I will lose outright either. I might be able to edge out a victory and at worse, I can survive. Even if I can’t win, it’s still possible to run.”


“I see. So that Sangjura is on par with Ludo Wu? Hmm… By the way, how does someone on Ludo Wu’s level compare against Jiza Wu and Dan Lutim?”


“Why are you asking about that? I can only tell the strength of the people I had sparred with.”


Ai Fa grumbled as she took a sip of fruit wine.


She was taking care not to drink too fast. Her way of drinking like a kitten was really cute.


“In a real fight, the results might get reversed like with Shin Wu and Rau Lei today. So I would say Ludo Wu and Sangjura are on par. Jiza Wu and Malfreed will have a tight match, but I can’t tell how the fight between them will actually turn out.”


“Hmm, that makes sense. Ah… last two people then. What do you think about Zashuma and Lavis?”


“Hmm? Whose that?”


“Zashuma is Kamyua’s companion, the one that pretended to be a caravan leader. Lavis… is the southerner who is always with Dell.”


When she heard Dell’s name, Ai Fa frowned.


And took a swig of fruit wine.


“I don’t care about them. The youngest hunters in Forest's Edge can probably beat them.”


I see.


But Zashuma was a guardian who made a living by the martial skills, while Lavis was a swordsman who had overpowered a few bandits.


That means all the hunters from Forest's Edge were not to be trifled with, and Ai Fa was one of the top few amongst them.


That’s amazing, compared to Kamyua and Sangjura, Ai Fa is the most incredible one.


At this moment, Ai Fa suddenly leaned her face over.


“Asuta, what are you thinking about. Are you… thinking about that little girl?”


“Huh, little girl? You mean Dell?”


“Don’t play dumb. Or are you thinking about that western girl? You talk very casually with her.”


“You mean Yumi? I can’t help speaking informally with her. Ai Fa, didn’t you hear what we were saying?”


“Hmmp!”


Ai Fa took a swig as she glared at me.


“I don’t like noisy girls. And suspicious women like Yamiel Lei are out of the question.”


“No, that’s…”


“If you want a wife, I hope you can marry someone like Shela Wu. I prefer a quiet and gentle woman.”


I heard that before.


But that had nothing to do with me.


Ai Fa leaned in closer.


“Someone like Rii Sudora is fine too. Ema Min Lutim is a capable woman too. But Asuta, I think you are keeping your distance from quieter women.”


“I’m not thinking about that! And aren’t the two of them married?”


“So that’s why you are flirting with the unwed women?”


“I’m not!”


“Are you… harboring impure thoughts for the young girl from the Dean house?”


“Stop it! There’s something wrong with you. Are you drunk?”


“I’m not drunk.”


Ai Fa drained her glass and then leaned onto my chest.


“You are completely drunk!”


“You are annoying… I won’t get drunk from just this much wine.”


She blew her hot breath onto my chest.


Ai Fa’s body that was touching me was also very hot.


“… If you want to take in a wife, I hope you can marry a woman like Shela Wu…”


“No, as I said, I won’t marry anyone.”


“… As the house head, I should give you my blessing…”


“Didn’t I said it’s not needed?”


“… The house head must give blessings to their family…”


Ai Fa hugged me.


She was drinking, so her strength had waned. But I could hear my ribs cracking, which made me yell out “Ahh!”


“That hurts! It’s breaking! Wake up, Ai Fa!”


“… Asuta, are you rejecting me?”


“No! My fragile ribs are creaking!”


I tapped Ai Fa’s shoulders with all my might, and she finally relaxed.


But Ai Fa’s arms were still around me, and her face lay on my chest.


Her soft hair ground against my nose, and I sighed deeply.


“… My greatest happiness is to stay by your side, Ai Fa.”


I finally calmed down, so she could probably feel my heartbeat. At the same time, I felt Ai Fa’s heart pound too.


“So I won’t marry anyone. People get married because they want to be with someone forever… That’s why I won’t marry anyone as long as you are with me.”


No reply.


Did she fell asleep?


I sighed and quietly put my arms around Ai Fa’s back.


Feeling Ai Fa’s warmth directly made my heart race faster.


Because I have you, Ai Fa…


In these two months, I have met many people important to me. Be it the Forest's Edge settlement or the Post Station Town, I got acquainted with many people that I didn’t want to lose. I was supported by so many people that I couldn’t even count them all.


However, the one in the middle of my heart was Ai Fa. This feeling had never changed. Not just that, it had even gotten stronger over time.


Ai Fa definitely thought of me as an important existence too. Life was so precious and so blissful because of this belief I had… I knew this painstakingly.


I would never give up on this blissful life and marry another woman. But it appeared that I had not conveyed this thought to Ai Fa properly.


Just how old do you need to get before realizing that you are a charming person, Ai Fa? Why don’t you realize that?


I thought as I hugged Ai Fa a little harder.


And then… Ai Fa moved a little like a kitten and whispered to my heart:


“… If this is true, I will be so happy.”


I closed my eyes and rubbed my cheek against Ai Fa’s soft hair.


And this long day, the first day of the White Month, finally came to an end.




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