Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 10 (3 of 5)

Chapter 3: Unforgivable Grave News
Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Ratorasepo



1


Many things happened on the first day of the White Month, but it still ended peacefully.


But the reckoning would always come. On the second days onwards, our turbulent times began.


And all these were just an appetizer of the big commotion that would happen later.


If Shumimaru’s brethren, the Semu astrologist was still in the Post Station Town, I wondered what kind of fate he would see.


Unlike the commotion several days ago, no lives were lost.


But blood still got shed.


And this would bring about a big turning point for the future of the Forest's Edge and Genos.


Judging from the results, this was a positive change for me— but the process involved a commotion as big as the last one and moved the hearts of many.






“Huh? Is Uncle Dora having a day off?”


Morning, in the Post Station Town, I visited the vegetable stall as usual to restock, but Uncle Dora wasn’t there, and his son was there instead.
Uncle Dora would take an off day after every ten days, and one of his two sons would cover for him on that day.


Uncle Dora and five farming families tended to one large farm, and he was in charge of the business in the Post Station Town. He spent half of his day in the Post Station Town, and the other part was used to manage the harvested vegetables. He spent his days working as hard as a denizen of Forest's Edge.


So this wasn’t the first time I met his son… But it seemed the reason for his absence was different today. His son who had a buff body and honest face whispered to me with serious eyes that wasn’t like his usual self:


“My father is injured, so he will be resting for these two days. Actually… our barn got attacked by bandits last night.”


“Ah!”


That exasperated gasp was my only response, and I couldn’t say anything else.


The barn was attacked by bandits… and Uncle Dora got hurt. This sudden grave news caused my brain to stall for a moment.


This young man who was Uncle Dora’s son and Tara’s brother said to me quietly: “Don’t worry, his shoulder just got hit by something blunt like a stick, which left a bruise. He will come to work in a few days.”


Even though he was about my age, this young man was very calm and friendly towards the denizens of Forest's Edge. But there were gleams of melancholy in his brown eyes today.


“My father has a message for you. The bandits seemed to be wearing mantles made from kiba hide.”


“Kiba… hide mantles?”


Mantle was a type of cape, so that was the attire of Forest's Edge hunters.


When they heard what we were discussing Ai Fa and Ludo Wu came closer with stern eyes.


“They were wearing a necklace of tusks and horns on their chest, but it was too dark so Dad couldn’t see anything else clearly… Which is to say, those bandits disguised themselves like denizens of Forest's Edge.”


“That’s really interesting. So… How did they look like? It should be clear from their face and skin color whether they are townsfolk or denizens of Forest's Edge, correct?”


When he heard what Ludo Wu asked, Uncle Dora’s son shook his head.


“They covered their faces with clothes. As for their skin color… townsfolk who are tanned look similar to denizens of Forest's Edge in skin color, so it was hard to tell. Anyway, it all happened at night when the illumination was poor…”


“Fufu, this is interesting.”


The raging fire of a hunter burned in Ludo Wu’s eyes.


The son of Uncle Dora took a few steps back in fear because of that look.


“So my father was worried about the denizens of Forest's Edge getting framed of being bandits. Asuta, please be careful. My father wants to check one more thing with you.”


He leaned forward nervously.


“Haven’t all the felons in the Forest's Edge settlement been brought to task? Would any of them commit banditry behind your back?”


“… The denizens of Forest's Edge were deeply shaken by the crimes committed by their former tribal chief clan and they vowed to live a proper life from now on. I had not seen all the denizens of Forest's Edge, but I don’t doubt their resolve.”


I finally recovered from the shock and answered.


As my mind cleared, anger gradually sunk down my heart.


“And, objectively speaking… after the Tsun clan’s crimes of defiling the grace of the forest have been uncovered, I don’t think the denizens of Forest's Edge will risk attacking a farm.”


“Hmm… That’s true. Sorry, but the other families working in the farm are suspecting that the denizens of Forest's Edge did this, so there had been some disputes. If the ones behind the attack are really the denizens of Forest's Edge, my father will be in a very dangerous situation…”


Ludo Wu butted in: “My father is the new tribal chief of Forest's Edge. I don’t think anyone in Forest's Edge will dare commit crimes behind his back.”


“There might be some who detest the townsfolk and want to attack a farm. But such a foolish thinking will dissipate when they think of the furious faces of my father and Graff Zaza, the other tribal chief.”


His tone was as casual as always.


However, the anger in his heart must be stronger than mine. Ludo Wu’s light colored eyes were already burning with the rage of a hunter.


Uncle Dora’s son backed away with a groan. When he saw that, Ludo Wu scratched his blonde head awkwardly.


“Sorry, did I frighten you?”


“No… Not really…”


“I wish to repay your trust in us. Please tell your father that we are thankful for his concern. Erm… Is that brat fine?”


“B-Brat? You mean Tara? Yes, Tara is taking care of my father. When my father’s wounds heal, she will visit the Post Station Town with him…”


“I see, thank you. Hey, Shin Wu…”


“Yes.”


“Sorry, please ride Lulu and inform my father about this.”


“Understood.”


The ever calm Shin Wu took Lulu’s reins and went back the way we came.


The only thing we could do was to start doing our own work.


And finally, Ai Fa asked Uncle Dora’s son.


“How many of the assailants were in Forest's Edge attire?”


“Hmm? My dad saw three…”


And that concluded our questions.






“How infuriating!”


After the morning rush hour was over, we started taking turns for breaks, and Ludo Wu grumbled unhappily.


Right now, the ones resting were Vena Wu and me, while Ludo Wu and Ai Fa guarded us. Since we haven’t eaten anything yet, all of us had half a portion of “Myam-roasted meat” in our hands.
Ludo Wu bit into his “Myam-roasted meat” ferociously and continued:


“No matter how I think about it, this isn’t the doing of the denizens of Forest's Edge. They should be concealing their Forest's Edge’s clothing before covering their faces! There are too many loopholes in their actions, isn’t that right, Asuta?”


“Yes. But it is very effective. The relationship between Forest's Edge and Post Station Town isn’t too stable, and if words of this spread, we will be repeating history again.”


I answered him as we had our meal in the empty space beside the wagon, right behind the stalls.


Repeating history— specifically, what the Tsun clan did. When Zattsu Tsun revealed the truth behind the attack a decade ago, the people in Post Station Town got engulfed in fear and doubts. After that, when Tay Tsun was executed as a felon in public, things started to be tense between the denizens of Forest's Edge and the townsfolk.


“By the way, Uncle Dora had no choice but report the truth to the guards, and his words will definitely spread in town. The problem is, how might the townsfolk interpret this? Also… if this is a trap to frame the denizens of Forest's Edge, who is the mastermind behind this?”


“Hmm? Isn’t it the noble, Pyschkurewuss? Who else can it be?”


“Isn’t there another person? Someone, who hates the denizens of Forest's Edge?”


“… That red-haired brat Geta?”


“Yes. Rationally speaking, framing the denizens of Forest's Edge in such a way fits Geta more, correct?”


Geta was furious that his father was executed for a crime he didn’t commit. In order to take revenge against the denizens of Forest's Edge, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he framed the denizens of Forest's Edge.


What I couldn’t imagine was, what Pyschkurewuss stood to gain from doing this. This scheme fitted Geta more than Pyschkurewuss, but I didn’t think this is just a simple provocation.


“… I’m concerned about there being three of them.”


Ai Fa who was resting with us voiced her thoughts.


“That is the number of hunters Kamyua Yost brought out of Genos. Is this a coincidence?”


“What are you saying? That old guy brought the branch house members of the Wu clan with him, right? Ai Fa, are you suspecting them?”


“No, that’s impossible. Calm down, Ludo Wu. I’m… just wondering if his goal is to frame those three hunters.”


That line of thinking surprised me.


For example, if the three hunters away from Genos were killed, we would never be able to prove their innocence.


On top of that, they were men from the Wu clan branch house. The Wu clan’s reputation would plummet if that happened, and Donda Wu might be pulled down from his position as tribal chief.


… Which means, is this a conspiracy of Pyschkurewuss after all?


Pyschkurewuss once doubted whether Donda Wu was qualified to be a tribal chief. To Pyschkurewuss, Donda Wu was an eyesore.


Furthermore, Pyschkurewuss knew that Kamyua Yost had left Genos with the hunters of Forest's Edge, so he must know that these hunters were from the Wu clan branch house.


I couldn’t understand, these were all just deductions.


Or maybe, the culprit was just a group of bandits unrelated to Geta and Pyschkurewuss who is trying to frame the denizens of Forest's Edge… With all these being nothing more than deductions, thinking too much about it won’t be of any help.


I sighed as I took a glance at Vena Wu who had been quiet all this time.


Vena Wu was leaning against the wagon with her head hung low. In her right hand was a half-eaten “Myam-roasted meat”, and her left hand… was caressing the pink stone hanging on her right wrist every now and then.


And of course, that was the bangle Shumimaru gifted to her to keep disasters away. Vena Wu has her own worries too.


Ludo Wu said angrily: “So what should we do then? Send people to guard the farms?”


“Guard the farms… I want to do that too, but the farms are vast, right? Just the denizens of Forest's Edge alone can’t pull this off.”


I answered as I felt emotions surging through my chest.


Of all the farms, the one Uncle Dora was managing got attacked. Was that a coincidence? I was concerned about that.


If he was marked because of his good relationship with the denizens of Forest's Edge, how could I face Uncle Dora… I would never forgive the ones behind this. As a westerner, Uncle Dora stood up for the denizens of Forest's Edge more than anyone else, so I would never permit him being sacrificed for such a conspiracy.


As time passed by, we gradually cooled down, but a raging fire began burning in my heart. I could feel my mind and the back of my head cooling down, but my stomach and chest felt like burning lava. This was the first time I got so mad since Ai Fa was taken away by Diga and Doddo.


“… Asuta, what’s with your eyes?”


Ai Fa suddenly grabbed my shoulders.


“Your job is to make delicious dishes. Leave the bothersome matters to us. Don’t show these hunter-like eyes…”


Compared to Ludo Wu and me, Ai Fa’s gaze was calmer, but there was still an angry fire burning in them. As I suspected, no one could forgive such a scheme.


As we were simmering in anger, the branch house youth watching the woods informed us that Zashuma was here. Ludo Wu returned to his sentry duty together with that youth, while Ai Fa and I went around to the back of the wagon.


Zashuma already learned of what happened yesterday. While we were busy with our business, the guards seemed to have told the townsfolk what happened.


“There were three bandits, all dressed in Forest's Edge attire; their true identity is unknown. Don’t do anything rash before the truth is uncovered… All these are standard announcements. Anyway, there is no evidence right now, and people who incite a commotion like what happened a few days ago will be prosecuted. I will be going into the city to seek the opinion of my client.”


Zashuma’s employer was Malfreed. Kamyua Yost drew up the gist of the plan, while Malfreed provided the necessary funds.


“Erm, can we provide guards for the farm that was attacked?”


“Guards? That’s the job of the town guard. Not just the farms, the entire Genos territory is under the purview of the town guards. Since they have reports of bandits attack, they should increase the security.”


“But isn’t the commander of the town guards Pyschkurewuss’ brother?”


“Even more reason for them to be vigilant. If they have any lapses, they will be suspected of colluding with the bandits. Hey… Just to be safe, let me warn you— in the future, there might be even bigger trouble in the Forest's Edge. Maybe their objective is to chase all the denizens out of the Forest's Edge settlement.”


“But…”


“Alright, alright. I will give a heads up to my employer that the hot-blooded denizens of Forest's Edge might form a self-defense group. If the castle guards get involved, the town guards will have to work doubly hard.”


Zashuma said as he looked at my face intriguely.


“You are really stubborn. Your eyes tell me that you won’t take things lying down.”


“… An acquaintance of mine got attacked; isn’t it natural for me to be mad?”


“Hmm. Anyway, leave the troublesome matters to us. The more actions our opposition takes, the more chance for us to grab them by their tail.”


Zashuma left after saying that.


I reached out both hands and slapped my cheeks, and finally suppressed the agitation in my heart before returning to the stall.


“Ah, Asuta! I will have one portion today too.”


Having no clue of the commotion that happened in the Post Station Town, Dell was all smiles today too. Since she was lodging in the city, she probably didn’t hear about that incident yet.
Tara aside, Yumi didn’t show up today either. During this time, the innocent smile of this girl who showed her expressions freely was soothing my heart.


“Erm, how long will you be in Genos?”


Dell who was eating her “Myam-roasted meat” tilted her head cutely with a “Hmm?”


“I don’t know. Business seems to be growing quite a lot this time. If it goes well, we might open a shop here.”


“Shop? I assume it’s not an open-air stall, right?”


“Yup. We will employ westerners to accept orders for the shop and inform us in Nerva, something like that. That way, we won’t need to come here and take the orders, right? It will be incredible if it works… But if we can’t make a substantial amount of profits, such a method won’t work.”


Dell had the face of a merchant as she rubbed her nose.


“That noble old man is really capable at this. But I feel uneasy about a noble getting so involved in business.”


“Uneasy?”


“Yes. Doesn’t it feel awkward to enjoy so much privilege from a noble of a foreign nation?”


I didn’t understand the common sense and customs of this world completely yet so I couldn’t answer. But the thought that Pyschkurewuss was the noble giving preferential treatment to Dell’s father wasn’t a pleasant thought.


“Anyway, that’s how things are. We will be busy from tomorrow onwards. We will probably stay in Genos for a while, but I might not be able to eat Asuta’s cooking in the future.”


Dell said depressedly like a puppy drooping its ears. I felt lonely just looking at her.


“Is that so. It can’t be helped if you are tied up by work… That’s a pity.”


“Huh? ”


“Hmm? What’s the matter?”


“Ah, because, you said it’s a pity…”


“Because it is. Do drop by if you are free, okay?”


Dell rolled her eyes up and down for some reason when she heard that.


“I-I didn’t expect that. I thought Asuta sees me as a nuisance…”


“Huh, but why?”


“You are still asking why!? It’s strange for you not to think of me as a bother, alright?”


What was going on here?


The first impression she gave me was terrible, and she even punched me in the face twice. She almost got into a scuffle with Ai Fa and Yumi and gave me a hard time… But she had been visiting my stall without fail every day and even went out of her way to bring me a meat cutting knife. I thought our relationship was already very strong.


“At the very least, I don’t think you are a bother anymore. Dell will be happy if others like your products, correct? So I’m pleased when Dell visits the Post Station Town from the city to eat my dishes, I will feel happy about it too.”


I answered reservedly.


And Dell smiled happily from the bottom of her heart; her jade-like eyes were filled with joy.


“Thank you. I never thought you would say that, so I’m really glad. I will definitely come again when I can take a break from my work…”


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


After saying that, Dell went home energetically too. Lavis who was silent until the very end followed her closely.


Sangjura then visited the stall. Ai Fa who was quiet as she watched with sharp eyes became even more guarded.


“Welcome, thank you for visiting.”


Sangjura was already a regular. This was his fourth visit in a row.


“One portion, please.”


Sangjura moved calmly as usual.


Or I should say, there weren’t any changes around the stall at all. In the past, news of bandits dressed like denizens of Forest's Edge would definitely make the townsfolk cast dubious gazes at us… But, unlike before, the impression they had of the denizens of Forest's Edge was much better now.


“Asuta, it’s great that you are fine. Bandit son, how?”


Instead of last night’s commotion, Sangjura was more concerned about that.


“He didn’t appear since that day. He is probably still recovering from his wounds.”


The escorts for yesterday and today didn’t notice any strange gazes or presences. That was a relief, but things wouldn’t progress without talking with him, so this made me anxious.


Also… If he was the criminal who attacked Uncle Dora, how should I face him? Someone who loathed the denizens of Forest's Edge for unlawful deeds enacted revenge through unlawful means. If we didn’t break off this vicious cycle, there would only be a tragic future awaiting us.


My face was probably showing my worries, so Sangjura drooped his brows a little sadly.


“Back then, was I in the way? Because I use left arm, power control not good.”


I hurriedly waved my hands.


“Sangjura did nothing wrong. Please don’t worry about this! But… how is your right arm? That looks like a serious injury.”


“Yes, no work, worry about money.”


Sangjura recovered a little and smiled.


Because he had the face of a Semu, he could show how he really felt with just a slight change in facial expressions. He had a smile that could put people at ease, just like Dell.


“That must be hard on you. By the way, what kind of work do you do, Sangjura? You don’t seem to be a merchant.”


“I can do anything. But instead of brain, I more brawn. So usually, help construction carry stones and material.”


“I see. So you drift from town to town while doing odd jobs to earn money, huh.”


Shumimaru mentioned that life was a journey, and the people born in the plains of Semu would travel. Sangjura might be a citizen of the western god, but the same blood flowed in his veins.


“Then what do you usually do in the day? Ah… sorry for intruding so much.”


“In day, I tour town, look for work. I want start work when arm heal. I seldom come Genos, so everything look fresh.”


As he ate the “Myam-roasted meat” with his left hand Sangjura tilted his head as if he had recalled something.


“By the way, I heard people can’t enter the Forest's Edge settlement as they please. The Forest's Edge settlement, prohibit entry?”


“No, that’s not true. But, aside from the laws of Genos, the Forest's Edge also has their own rules. That’s why the people in town advise you from venturing in.”


Sangjura said without any malice: “Is that so? I want to learn the rules of the Forest's Edge and visit them too.”


Ai Fa suddenly interjected with stern eyes.


“You are Sangjura, right? You won’t gain anything from entering the Forest's Edge settlement. Why do you want to visit it?”


“There isn’t any reason. I like seeing the life of other culture. I heard, denizens of Forest's Edge, tribe that hunt ferocious kiba. Kiba delicious, and denizens of Forest's Edge charming.”


Ai Fa was only wary of Sangjura because he seemed strong, so she didn’t have anything to say upon witnessing Sangjura’s forthright smile.


He continued smiling and said to the straight-faced Ai Fa: “First, I need to learn the rules of Forest's Edge”; after that, Sangjura turned and left.


Ai Fa scratched her head as she glared at me angrily.


“That man has a strange air about him. Why are there so many strange people around you, Asuta?”


“Hmm? There aren’t just weirdos. They are just more prominent out of the group.”


“But it seems to me that you get along best with the weirdest ones.”


“That is just how it seems. Firstly… aren’t you the big boss of all the oddballs? I met you before I got to know the others.”


I answered half-jokingly, and Ai Fa showed a complicated expression.


“I can’t refute that I’m strange. There aren’t many people in Forest's Edge who look stranger than me.”


“Is that so? Then I will admit I seem to attract strange people, and take pride in that.”


Ai Fa kicked me from behind the stall.


At this moment, a group of denizens of Forest's Edge came. They were Rii Sudora and the young hunters from the Lutim and Lei houses.


“Sorry for the wait, Asuta. I’m here for my shift.”


“Alright, thank you for coming. Erm… Is there anything different in town?”


Rii Sudora and the others probably learned about last night’s incident from Donda Wu. Rii Sudora nodded and replied: “Nothing of note.”


“It just feels a bit rowdier than usual, but the air wasn’t as tense as before.”


After handing things over to them, I left the stall. I then felt how accurate her statement was.


It was indeed rowdier than usual. I could also feel people casting worried gazes at us or turning back to look our way. But there weren’t any eyes of obvious fear or outrage.


They probably felt that it was unnatural for the denizens of Forest's Edge to cause any trouble at a time like this. They probably assumed the even if the criminal was a denizen of Forest's Edge, that had nothing to do with the people doing business in the Post Station Town.


No matter what, we didn’t feel any clear signs of danger during our journey to the “Cryptic Venerable Inn”.


We entered an alley from the stone-paved road and went into a relatively deserted residential area. But Geta didn’t appear today either. Was he planning to hide himself until the wound Sangjura inflicted on him recovered?


If we could resolve this issue, I would feel so much better.


There was a minor dispute when we reached the Cryptic Venerable Inn. Ai Fa and Ludo Wu had a difference of opinions on who should enter the kitchen.


Speaking of which, they quarreled over the same thing during that commotion with Zattsu Tsun. Ludo Wu’s opinion was that a girl like Ai Fa who agitated the townsfolk less would be more suited to guard the inn’s entrance.


However, this “Cryptic Venerable Inn” was in a place with scant foot traffic and few visitors. So Ai Fa didn’t need to stand outside the door. Ludo Wu who left the kitchen sentry duty to Shin Wu yesterday voiced his opposition seriously.


Ludo Wu seemed to think that standing guard outside was more important and had always taken on that role himself. But since Ai Fa who was more capable than him was here, he wanted to go into the kitchen.


“Aren’t you as cute as a girl too!?”


“In that case, Ai Fa is a super beauty!”


Their conversation brought a smile to my face, but they were totally serious about it.


And neither of them liked others commenting on their appearances, so the atmosphere became a little dangerous.


“Erm, how about letting Ai Fa enter the ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’ kitchen and Ludo Wu go into the ‘Big Tree of the South Inn’ kitchen? That will be fair, right?”


My suggestion appeased the argument.


Ai Fa looked elated, and Ludo Wu gave instructions to the other two hunters. It might not be nice to say this, but their childishness was what made them so charming.


We then went into the “Cryptic Venerable Inn” in high spirits, and the innkeeper Neil who was sitting in the reception area stood up: “Welcome, Asuta.”


But he didn’t usher me into the kitchen as usual but pointed in a different direction instead.


“Asuta, there is a guest waiting for you.”


“Guest? Looking for me?”


“Yes, someone named Michael of Toran. He said that you will know if I told you that name.”


Michael of Toran.


I became nervous; so he was finally here.


He was the man Shumimaru found and who knew about Pyschkurewuss’ crimes. The astrologist said that meeting him will bring power to the denizens of Forest's Edge.


As a mere mortal, I couldn’t understand the meaning of these words. But I wished to respect what Shumimaru and his brethren said.


“This way, please.”


I walked in the direction Neil indicated. That was the dining hall which I had never stepped into before.


I was surprised by the person waiting there.


“Dear guest, the denizen of Forest's Edge, Asuta is here.”


“Hmm…?”


That person raised his head a little impatiently.


He was a middle-aged man with a wrinkled face.


The shirt and pants he was wearing were a little dirty, but there wasn’t anything strange about his dressing.


However… that man was holding a bottle of fruit wine and seemed to be leaning back against his chair and seemed to be sleeping.


“So you are that delusional chef that is cooking with wild games… Aren’t you just a brat?”


His yellowish face was slightly blushed, and his tongue seemed a little slurred.


It was only noon, and he was already drunk.


2


Toran was the territory in the north of Genos that was ruled by Pyschkurewuss.


I heard orchards that were more valuable than the farms in the south were grown there. Wooden fences kept the kiba away, and slaves were employed to maximize his profits.


I was being prejudiced, but I thought the people there would be more arrogant than the people in the Post Station Town or farmlands since they worked the slaves hard while enjoying their lives.


But Michael was wearing clothes that were more worn out than the people in the Post Station Town and was drunk in broad daylight.


He wasn’t impoverished, but there was a strange black tint on his shirt and pants, along with a charred smell. He probably worked in a profession that dealt with fire.


Agewise, he looked about fifty. His body was fit for a westerner, but his face and arms were really skinny. He had a large build but was lacking in muscles.


His hair was white and unkempt, eyes were dark brown, and his skin was yellowish brown from exposure to the sun. His face seemed layered, like a sculpture of aged wood.


But his face looked drunk, and his eyes were bloodshot. He lay sprawled on the table and glared at us with her left hand holding a fruit wine bottle. He was a literal example of depravity.


“Fufu… I really wasted a trip.”


Michael said in a hoarse voice and then took another swig of fruit wine.


“Never mind, I only have one thing to say. Don’t go near Pyschkurewuss. Defying a noble will only lead to destruction. Farewell then…”


After saying that, he got up slowly.


“Ah, please wait.”


I hurriedly asked him to stay.


“You came to meet me by Shumimaru’s request, correct? I’m very grateful, but I won’t understand if you only tell me that.”


“There's no need to understand. I returned that Semu man’s favor… so scram, brat.”


I realized he was taller than me when he stood up. But his footing was unsteady because he was drinking, as if he would fall down at the slightest touch.


But even so, Ai Fa was still staring at Michael with her hand on the hilt of her dagger.


“… No matter what, Pyschkurewuss won’t bother with a brat like you. I don’t care if you cook kiba or whatever, just go on with your business.”


“No, I didn’t meet Pyschkurewuss as a chef. Erm… Didn’t Shumimaru tell you that?”


Michael of Toran propped his body up with his right arm and looked at me with drunk eyes.


“I heard that a young man selling kiba dishes and Pyschkurewuss had an unpleasant meeting, and he asked me to give you some advice. That’s why… I’m telling you everything I know. Don’t go near Pyschkurewuss.”


“If possible, we don’t want anything to do with him… But, have you not heard anything about the denizens of Forest's Edge?”


“Who else but the denizens of Forest's Edge would sell kiba? Judging from your looks, you are either an easterner or westerner, but that has nothing to do with me.”


Michael then looked at Ai Fa and Vena Wu disinterestedly.


“However… I’m surprised that you brought women to your workplace. You are an incredible chef, so continue enjoying your work.”


“She is my assistant, and that is my guard. I enjoy my work, but I can’t let my guard down.”


I answered a little angrily, and Michael said with a swig of wine: “Who gives a shit.”


I suppressed the rising urge to retaliate in my heart and said as politely as possible:


“Well, since you know about Pyschkurewuss’ crimes, Shumimaru thinks you can be of help to the denizens of Forest's Edge. If you don’t mind, can you share it with us?”


“You really like indulging in wild delusions. Even if I told you, it’s not a fun matter.”


Michael’s tone was pointed, but he slowly sat down in his chair.


When he saw that, Neil called out to me softly:


“I will wait for you all over there. You can start with the day’s work after you have finished chatting.”


“Oh, sorry about that. I will try to wrap this up quickly.”


I nodded at Neil and then sat down in front of Michael quietly.


Ai Fa immediately moved to my side.


“… Pyschkurewuss loves to eat.”


Michael said with a wine bottle in hand.


“He hired several chefs and even opened a rather high-class restaurant for them to work in… Not just that, all the chefs in Genos will get involved with Pyschkurewuss in some way. Everyone wants to eat a delicious meal, but that man is completely obsessed about this.”


“Fufu, Pyschkurewuss is actually that engrossed with delicious food, huh.”


“You don’t even know that? Basically, all the chefs in the city are working for the acknowledgment of Pyschkurewuss. Getting his approval means you have made it in life. Those who don’t think so will eventually lose their reputation and standing.”


“Lose their reputation and standing…”


“Inept chefs will be forced to shut down their restaurants, and the capable chefs would be headhunted by Pyschkurewuss. Those who are capable and refuse to work for Pyschkurewuss… will either be exiled from Genos or have the nerves of their hand cut, rendering them incapable of cooking again.”


“What the hell. Does the city condone such illegal actions?”


A furious fire raged in my heart.


Michael smirked intriguely.


“Pyschkurewuss is a noble second only in standing to the landlord of Genos, Marstein. For the past two decades, his influence and status had never been shaken. Isn’t this the result of the nobles and the denizens of Forest's Edge colluding together?”


“Huh?”


“The Banam envoy being wiped out ten years ago… On top of that, the murder of the towns guard captain. Aren’t these the results of the denizens of Forest's Edge working for Pyschkurewuss to get rid of anyone who opposes him?”


I was shocked by his words.


“Why do you know all that?”


“One of Pyschkurewuss’ guards let it slip in a bar. Alcohol loosens people’s lips.”


Was he talking about a guard who was present during the conference between Pyschkurewuss and the tribal chiefs?


Not all the guards swore absolutely fealty to Pyschkurewuss, so this was a good chance for us. I was surprised by what Michael said, but he made me feel that everyone in Genos should learn the truth behind this terrible affair.


“As I said, there isn’t anyone in Genos who wants to bring Pyschkurewuss to task. As long as he doesn’t drag the other nobles in, getting rid of a chef or two is trivial for the aristocrats.”


“What a harsh way of putting it, just listening is enough to give me goosebumps.”


“Fufu. There aren’t any chefs within those rock walls who dare defy Pyschkurewuss. They just need to be obedient to succeed in life. If they use Pyschkurewuss’ crockeries and ingredients to make dishes that satisfy him, they can live an easy life. Only a fool will defy him.”


“In that case, I’m a fool then. I don’t want to cook for that man.”


“… Pyschkurewuss won’t ever crave for kiba dishes, so you don’t need to worry.”


Michael seemed to be wanting to drink his fruit wine and that’s why he attempted to take a sip of it with condescending eyes.


But his bottle appeared to be empty, so he put it back on the table with a grunt.


“No matter how much money you earn in the Post Station Town, it’s a trivial sum for the nobles. And they won’t even look at a whippersnapper like you. So I’m telling you to not worry and continue working hard.”


Ai Fa suddenly interjected: “Why are you slandering Asuta’s cooking without even trying his dishes…?”


“I’m not slandering him, I’m just telling him to relax. He won’t ever catch the eyes of Pyschkurewuss.”


Michael wasn’t afraid of Ai Fa, who was a hunter of Forest's Edge, at all.


“Pyschkurewuss looks down on dishes made from kiba and cheap vegetables. However, any ingredients can be made into delicious dishes with the right hands. But, this brat?”


“You are slandering him.”


The eyes of Ai Fa’s emotionless face were burning with flustered rage.


“Forget it, Ai Fa. We are worried about something else. So… Is that everything, Michael of Toran?”


“Yes, what else do you want me to say?”


“I see. No, I’m very grateful that you made a trip here.”


So no shocking information surfaced. Michael of Toran wasn’t interested in the denizens of Forest's Edge in the first place, so it was only natural that he didn’t have any useful information for us.


The only noteworthy things were that someone in a bar in Toran not only badmouthed the denizens of Forest's Edge but also spoke ill of Pyschkurewuss. But it was meaningless without proof, which was the reason why Kamyua Yost waged this information warfare.


Anyway, Shumimaru also took action without knowing the situation of the denizens of Forest's Edge. So this result is only natural.


But what did that astrologist’s prophecy mean?


He said that meeting with this man will bring power to the denizens of Forest's Edge.


Could it be that instead of the information he had on hand, the meeting with him would have a positive impact on the fate of the denizens of Forest's Edge?


But that was a meaningless explanation, and the prophecy added no value at all. I thanked him again and prepared to get up.


At this moment, Michael looked at me with malicious eyes and said:


“You are just a chef from the Post Station Town, can’t you even rebuke someone who is mocking your culinary skills?”


“What? Well… I’m not cooking for the nobles anyway so I am content with just the people of the Post Station Town liking my dishes.”


“Then can you satisfy me? Even though I’m just an owner of a charcoal shop.”


Michael taunted me with a gesture from his left hand.


His fingers had a black tint, just like his clothes. There was even dirt from charcoal in his nails. The charred smell on him probably came from charcoal.


“Charcoal shop, huh. So Genos has charcoal too. I didn’t see it in the Post Station Town though.”


“The people in the Post Station Town and farmers won’t go out of their way to buy charcoal. So… how about it? Can you make something that will satisfy me, brat?”


“… Kiba has a strong gamey taste. There are some that hate it, so I can’t be sure.”


There was no point in being taunted by this drunkard. And he was introduced by Shumimaru, so I couldn’t act rashly. Hence, I answered him in an appropriate manner, but he mocked me instead:


“Your ambitions are so limited. That Semu man thinks so highly of you, but you are just a small-time chef.”


“Hey, aren’t you going too far?”


Ai Fa poked the table with her right hand, with anger in her eyes.


“Ai Fa, don’t get agitated. Well… Everyone has their own ambitions, correct? Is agreeing irresponsibly to make a dish that can satisfy everyone a sign of ambition? I don’t think so.”


“Fufu, looks like you are more skilled with your tongue than with your hands.”


“I don’t think that I’m that good with words. If you are interested in my cooking, you can buy the dishes I’m catering for the ‘Cryptic Venerable Inn’. I’m also selling food at a stall, please try it if you have time.”


So I decided to end this conversation.


But he had no intention of concluding the argument.


“Then serve up your dish! If you can satisfy me with your cooking, I will acknowledge you as a qualified chef.”


I knew I wasn’t qualified yet… But things would only get more complicated if I said that.


“Alright, please wait a moment, I will serve it right up. Please ask the innkeeper regarding the cost.”


“Fufu, you are really naggy for a brat. Hey…! Another fruit wine!”


Neil slowly entered the dining hall with a fruit wine bottle in hand.


Why did things turn out this strangely?


This reminded me of my meeting with Dell.


Anyway, starting my work haphazardly would affect what happens next. Milano Mast and her daughter agreed to let me teach them cooking.


Since his daughter agreed to let me teach them to cook, I should be able to work in the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn” from now on.


But today’s menu was “Kiba hotpot”. For this dish to become finished, Neil would need to cook it for 30 to 40 minutes after our scheduled leave. This would take too long, so I decided to make a portion of “Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style” with the brought spare meat.


“Sorry for the troublesome guest.”


I fried the meat as I apologized to Neil, and he replied: “Don’t worry.”


“Anyone who pays is a customer. Getting to sell another one of Asuta’s dishes on top of the usual 30 portions is a profit for me.”


After saying that, Neil looked worried and said: “But…”


“Speaking of Pyschkurewuss, isn’t that the head of the Count Toran house? I think it’s dangerous to get involved with nobles like that.”


“Yes, it is… If possible, I don’t want anything to do with him, but he works closely with the denizens of Forest's Edge.”


This meant that the possibility for Pyschkurewuss to taste my cooking should be nearly zero. The aristocrats didn’t really visit the Post Station Town, and we couldn’t enter the city without an entry pass.


If he was still interested in my cooking despite all that, he could do something by using the privileges of a noble. However, there weren’t any signs of that yet. If what Kamyua Yost said about him not thinking of denizens of Forest's Edge as humans was true, Pyschkurewuss probably wasn’t interested in kiba dishes.


As I was thinking about all that, the “Kiba sauté- Arrabbiata style” was done.


“Let me tag along. I will feel bad if he says anything unwarranted.”


“Alright, sorry for troubling you.”


I entrusted the job of watching the fire of the “Kiba hotpot” to Vena Wu and went to the dining hall with Neil and Ai Fa.


“Fufu, that’s fast.”


Michael downed the second bottle of fruit wine as he looked our way.


“This is the dish Asuta is catering for our inn. It costs 3 and a half red copper plates without fuwano, and five red copper plates with fuwano.”


“It’s still too early for fuwano. I will be fine with fruit wine.”


He said with alcoholic breath as he placed the copper plates on the table.


Neil put down the meal and took the 3 and a half red copper plates politely.


“Fufu…”


Michael picked up a spoon.


The plate was steaming hot, filled with kiba loin meat covered in the chili-like Chitto and tomato-like tarapa.


I heard that many westerners liked the spiciness of Chitto, but I didn’t know whether Michael was fine with it. In any case, he didn’t seem to be mesmerized by the fragrance.


He was probably drunk. Michael picked up a piece of meat with trembling hands and put it in his mouth.


A lightning seemed to suddenly flash across his eyes.


Michael carefully chewed the meat and drank some fruit wine. He then stared at me with a bewildered look.


“… There’s diced aria in this tarapa?”


“Yes. I’m using it to cover the sourness of the tarapa.”


“This taste… it’s fruit wine and myam, huh. And… Tau sauce, right?”


“Yes, for the subtle taste.”


I was shocked; he could actually tell through the spiciness of the Chitto. His sense of taste seemed very sharp. He might have the sharpest tongue out of everyone I had met in this world.


“Kiba is really high-quality meat. Kimyusu and karon thigh meat will definitely lose to this chewy texture. Hey… Brat.”


“Here.”


“Don’t go near Pyschkurewuss.”


“Huh?”


What happened next made me dumbfounded.


Michael reached for my chest at incredible speed… and Ai Fa grabbed Michael’s arm at an even faster speed.


“Michael, please stop your imprudent actions!”


“Hey, that hurts. You are breaking my delicate arm!”


Ai Fa let go of Michael’s arm crudely.


Michael clicked his tongue and hit the table with his freed left arm.


“This won’t do. If you want to live a peaceful life, don’t display your culinary skills before that black-hearted noble. But… if you want copper plates at the expense of being toyed till you break, do what you want.”


“… I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you.”


“Who cares about compliments. I’m just giving you a warning for the sake of that strangely outspoken Semu man.”


Michael’s eyes were very fierce. They were like boiling pots of kiba soup, bursting with emotions.


“There are plenty who think of money as compliments for the chef. I won’t have anything to say if you are one of them. However… If you are not, don’t ever go near Pyschkurewuss. If you can’t trade your pride for copper plates, the only thing waiting for you is ruin.”


“A future of nerves being severed, correct? That is hard to accept.”


“Yes it is. Life will feel as if you are dead.”


Michael answered in a hoarse voice and slowly raised his right arm that was under the table to my eye level.


His palm that had a tint of black stopped right before my nose.


His fingers were bone-thin but unexpectedly long.




His fingers… the pinkie and ring finger moved a little.


“Only these two fingers work on my right hand. I can’t hold a kitchen knife with this hand anymore.”


I gulped in shock.


Michael suddenly looked at me with his eyes that were filled with regret and said:


“If you don’t want to become like this, don’t go near Pyschkurewuss. Just leave Genos. This isn’t a place where a normal chef should stay…”


3


After the work at the “Cryptic Venerable Inn” and “Big Tree of the South Inn” ended, I fulfilled the promise to Milano Mast to teach him and his daughter to cook at the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”.


There was less than an hour before the stall closed. We spent quite a long time talking with Michael of Toran, but there was enough time for a preliminary lesson. For the first few days, I should familiarize myself with karon and kimyusu meat first.


I thought about a lot of things after speaking with Michael, but I still needed to concentrate on work. If I neglected my work due to lack of focus, Ai Fa would definitely admonish me… I pondered as I stole a peek at my house head and found that Ai Fa had a gloomy face too.


“… Hey, Ai Fa, what’s wrong?”


I called out to her softly as we walked along the stone-paved road. Ai Fa cast a helpless gaze at me and looked frail, unlike her usual self.


“Nothing. My feelings are just complicated after hearing Michael’s words.”


“Ahh, what’s bothering you? Are you worried that the nerves in my hand will get severed?”


“I will never let anyone do that to you, retard. Don’t say something so foreboding.”


“Then what’s bothering you? Ah… Are you afraid that I will follow Michael’s advice and leave Genos?”


Ai Fa shook her head when she heard that.


What a childish movement.


“There is no way that you will abandon the Forest's Edge and leave Genos. Worrying about that is a sacrilege to your pride and resolve.”


“Ah, that’s true. I’m relieved that you are not worried about that.”


“… However, I’m worried that I don’t have the charm to make you stay.”


Ai Fa tugged at the bottom of my T-shirt casually.


Ludo Wu, Vena Wu, and the others were walking ahead of us without knowing anything.


“You got acquainted with all sorts of people, but the one who had known you the longest is me. I’m wondering if being with me is a blessing for you… Whenever I think about this, I can’t help worrying.”


“Erm, like I said…”


“I know. Whenever I have doubts, you reassure me. I’m not questioning your sincerity. But I will still have such worries because I’m weak…”


Ai Fa said and then lowered her head meekly.


Last night, I told Ai Fa that staying by her side was my happiness, but maybe she was drunk and didn’t remember. Or maybe she just couldn’t stop worrying. No matter what, I had to ease her worries.


“Don’t worry, I will never leave, Ai Fa. No matter how troublesome Pyschkurewuss is, there is nothing to fear as long as Ai Fa and the others are here, correct?”


I held Ai Fa’s hand that was tugging my T-shirt.


After looking at my face, Ai Fa shook her head hard.


“I let you see my weak side. This is shameful for a house head.”


“There’s no shame in that. If Ai Fa is in danger, I will be very worried too.”


Actually, I haven’t met with any danger yet. Michael just said that Pyschkurewuss might think of me as a capable chef if he tried my cooking, and told me to be careful.


But I couldn’t imagine Pyschkurewuss being interested in kiba cooking, and he was in a half-opened warfare with the next landlord so didn’t have the time to be bothered with someone like me.


“But you have been acknowledged by that man who used to work as a chef in the city. Asuta, you should keep that in mind.”


Ai Fa’s face finally reverted back to the dignified expression of a house head, but she continued to tug at my T-shirt.


“This is an honor, but I won’t ever see Pyschkurewuss in this lifetime.”


I replied with no idea how optimistic I was.


Even though Pyschkurewuss had no plans to do so, there was no telling what the god of mischief had in store for us… I only learned about this sometime after.


Anyway, the work for today wasn’t over yet. In a short while, we would reach the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”.


“So we didn’t meet anyone in the end. So… Ai Fa, I will go in this time?”


Upon hearing Ludo Wu’s words, Ai Fa became on the verge of pouting. But she held it in and stood some distance from the entrance of the inn after saying: “I understand.”


Shin Wu and a youth from the branch house went to the back of the inn, while I went in together with Ludo Wu and Vena Wu.


“Oh, you are finally here.”


Milano Mast stood up at the reception area.


I replied “Sorry for the wait…” but stopped mid-sentence when I noticed Milano Mast’s expression that was different from usual.


“W-What’s the matter? What happened, Milano Mast?”


“Nothing… I wish I could say that.”


Milano Mast looked as if he was suppressing his rage. In addition to being angry, he was pale too, making him look frail despite his rage.


“My daughter went shopping just now and got surrounded by a bunch of thugs… and was almost abducted.”


“Huh!? I-Is your daughter fine?”


“Yes. A customer lodging at my inn happened to be there. The guards came because of the commotions, and the thugs fled.”


The one who protected her must be a guardian disguised as a customer. I thanked Kamyua Yost in my heart as I gasped in relief: “So that’s what happened…”


But it was far from over.


“Back then, the thugs said— ‘Shameless people colluding with the Forest's Edge, your reckoning will come!’”


“W-Why would a thug from town say that!?”


I placed my hands on the counter and leaned close to Milano Mast.


Milano Mast answer in a voice trembling from agitation: “ There are still some people who think of the denizens of Forest's Edge as enemies. Those people are discriminating the denizens of Forest's Edge for no reason… Now that I think about it, that red-haired kid who has a proper reason for loathing the denizens of Forest's Edge is more reasonable.”


“Could those people be Geta’s comrades…?”


“Impossible. I think they are just jobless mercenaries picking fun at the denizens of Forest's Edge.”


Was that so?


Last night, Uncle Dora was attacked by bandits disguised as denizens of Forest's Edge. So this incidence didn’t feel like a coincidence at all.


However, when Milano Mast heard what happened to Uncle Dora, he shook his head and said: “This is a coincidence.”


“My daughter wasn’t attacked by thugs disguised as denizens of Forest's Edge. Their target are denizens of Forest's Edge, but the contents are completely different.”


“But in both cases, the impression of the victim are the same, right? Getting involved with the denizens of Forest's Edge will bring misfortune…”


“What good will this do for anyone? The nobles? Remnants of the ‘Red Beard Gang’? What good will it do to disrupt the relationship between the Post Station Town and the denizens of Forest's Edge?”


It was as he said.


The incident involving Uncle Dora seemed like a conspiracy to discredit the denizens of Forest's Edge… But what would attacking the daughter of Milano Mast achieve?


The only thing I could think of was disrupting my business. It was an unpleasant thought, but if both Milano Mast and Uncle Dora stopped their dealings with me, my business operations would be hit hard.


It might become hard, but it wouldn’t be a complete loss. There were plenty of shops to buy vegetables and many inns to rent stalls. If they wanted to make me give up my business, they had to make it so that all the shops won’t want to do business with me.


There should be a more efficient way of disrupting my business. Or did they find it hard to lay their hands on the denizens of Forest's Edge directly, so they targeted the townsfolk instead?


“Anyway, just leave those thugs to the guards. Their job is arresting criminals. We just need to concentrate on doing our business.”


Milano Mast said as he turned around.


“Let’s get started then. My daughter isn’t in the mood so I will be the only one learning today.”


“Erm, Milano Mast, do you want to set this matter aside for now? If you or your daughter get attacked again, I won’t know how to face you.”


Milano Mast said softly with his back towards me: “Are you telling me you will shift your contract to another inn? Or… You will stop doing business in the Post Station Town?”


There was a flash of rage on the back of the stout Milano Mast.


“Then will you hide in your Forest's Edge settlement and stop interacting with outsiders? Will you be happy with that?”


“No, but…”


“If this is a conspiracy set by nobles or bandits, you think they can bring you down? This is the Post Station Town, a place of commerce. I won’t let such people disrupt my business.”


With that Milano Mast entered the kitchen.


I was at a loss, wondering if I should follow him in. At this moment, Ludo Wu pushed me from behind: “Asuta, come on, go inside.”


“Didn’t Ai Fa tell you that your job is to cook a delicious meal and make your business in the Post Station Town a success? Leave the other things to us.”


Ludo Wu smiled as he usually did.


“Wasn’t that Uncle’s daughter saved? Kamyua Yost’s companion did that, correct? If you give up on your business, won’t you be letting down the trust and expectations?”


“… I understand.”


It wasn’t just Ludo Wu and Kamyua Yost. Uncle Dora and Milano Mast also mentioned that before. They lent us a hand with the resolve to stay true to their path, no matter how perilous it was.


What would I do if I was in their shoes? Would I think this wasn’t the right time, and that I should keep my distance to confuse the enemy?


I probably wouldn’t think so. The victim would become emotional and not give in so easily.


… Which means, everyone, including me, is just being emotional. And an advanced stage at that too.


I thought as I stepped forth.


Milano Mast was waiting in the kitchen with his arms crossed.


“… You said that you will be trying the karon and kimyusu meat today, right? I have already prepared them.”


There was a large jar by his feet.


Instead of a jar, it was closer to a bottle. The opening was large and full of rock salt that had a blue tint.


“Okay, before starting the lesson, I need to understand the kimyusu and karon meat, so I will start from that.”


“Alright. Then… I will be in your care.”


Milano Mast took off his conical hat and bowed deeply.


I took a deep breath, cleared out the unease and wavering in my heart, then lowered my head to the same level and said: “Please take care of me.”


“First will be karon.”


Milano Mast reached into the bottle and took out a red piece of meat.


It was a piece of cut meat 15 cm long, 5 cm wide and 1 cm thick. It was mostly red and didn’t have any fats. But I could see the white meat fiber spread across it like a web. This was the first time I saw an uncooked karon, and it was bright red like beef.


“Hmm, so the ‘Kimyusu’s Tail Inn’ sells stewed karon meat? Those sold in stalls are grilled.”


“The stalls don’t have plates. Even though the karon meat is tough, it is still quicker to grill them.”


“So the thigh meat of karon is tough. Pardon me…”


Rather than it being tough, there were just too many fibers. Instead of the beef thigh, it felt more similar to a calf or shoulder meat.


“There are plenty of fibers, is the meat usually sold like this?”


“No, it’s sold in bigger chunks. To store it easily, I cut them into thin slices and preserve them in salt.”


“I see. If there is a chance, I want to take a look at the bigger chunks. Maybe the meat can be cut in a better way. To start things off… please beat it with a stick.”


“Beat it?”


I received a thick stick from the frowning Milano Mast, covered it with a clean cloth, and then started tenderizing it carefully.


“By breaking the fibers this way, the meat will become tender.”


After tenderizing, the 1 cm meat became half a cm, and it should be soft enough.


But it still seemed rather tough, so I slapped it with my meat cutting knife. This was necessary, but over-tenderizing it might cause the meat to break apart.


“Okay, try grilling this. By the way… is it necessary to grill the karon meat?”


“No, I heard that karon meat can be eaten fresh. It doesn’t need to be grilled for long like kimyusu meat. Grilling it for too long will make it even tougher.”


“I see.”


Anyway, I put a large piece of meat into the pot and scooped it out when the redness was mostly gone.


Appearance wise, it was no different from grilled beef. The aroma was also similar, making it fairly appetizing.


But when I popped a small piece into my mouth… the texture was dry because of the lack of fats, and the fiber even got caught between my teeth.


It wasn’t any tougher than kiba, but there were too many fibers. It was still not suited for grilling even after tenderizing it for so long.


But despite the dry texture and numerous fibers, there was a delicious taste of meat behind the overwhelming saltiness. Stewing it would be the best way to bring out the taste.


“Hmm… I tried karon at a stall before, and they sliced the karon even thinner, so it wasn’t too unpalatable. How did they manage to slice the meat so thin?”


“I can’t say for certain, but they probably sliced it after grilling. Raw meat can’t be cut that thin.”


“Oh, I see.”


A kebab stall I saw in a fair at my hometown flashed across my mind. They probably sliced it off a grilled chunk of meat in a similar way.


Let’s see how thin I could slice the meat.


I laid a piece of karon meat on the counter, lining up the grain of the meat vertically, parallel to my knife. Going as fast as I could, I cut with a pulling motion.


Milano Mast muttered: “That’s impressive knifework.”


I asked Milano Mast to try it with his own knife, and he managed to achieve a thickness of 8 mm. Even if Milano Mast might not be an accomplished cook, he still worked in a kitchen for many years. To be honest, his knifework was better than most women in the Forest's Edge.


And so, we cut the meat we took out into shreds. The meat was already flattened to half its thickness, and it was now long strings.


“Okay, let’s grill it with fruit wine and myam.”


The myam was diced and grilled with the meat, and fruit wine was added in the end to season it.


I scooped up the dish into a plate, and it looked like shredded meat with green pepper without the vegetables.


“It should taste better than grilling it normally.”


Milano Mast opened his eyes wide from shock after taste testing it.


“To think it tastes this good with just fruit wine and myam… To be honest, I can sell it as it is.”


“Karon meat tastes great by itself, so it meshes well with myam. If you fry it together with aria, pula, and tino, it will become even more palatable.”


The idea I came up with at the spur of the moment might lead to a good dish.


However, the taste could still be improved. For example, by marinating the meat like “Myam-roasted meat” or adding other seasonings… Also, the texture felt a little loose, probably because he didn’t use Pico leaves to preserve it.


But Pico leaves aren’t free in the Post Station Town. I can only procure Tau sauce through Naudiz too.


This was a valuable ingredient.


But the research on karon had to stop here due to time constraint.


“Alright then, let’s try the kimyusu meat.”


Milano Mast nodded and reached his thick arms into the bottle again.


He pulled out a white piece of meat which was faintly pink.


“This one is from the body, and this is from the thigh.”


The thigh meat had bones and looked similar to a largely sized chicken drumstick. But the meat from the body… didn’t look like that of a fowl, and was closer to a four-legged critter cut in half. The size was similar to a rabbit.


“There are only two types? In my hometown, the wings are also a delicacy.”


“Wings? You mean the meat from the wings? The head doesn’t have much meat, so I left it at the kimyusu shop. The feathers can be sold for money too.”


“Head? You left the head and wings to the kimyusu shop?”


“The wings of a kimyusu are on its head after all.”


The wings were on the head of the bird.


My imagination was too limited to picture that.


Conceiving how a live kimyusu looked like wouldn’t improve my culinary skills anyway.


“The kimyusu meat is usually grilled?”


“Yes. Kimyusu meat isn’t as tough as karon.”


Kimyusu meat was white like chicken breast meat, easy to handle but lacked taste.


The breasts and thigh didn’t have much fats, and it had been skinned. So it would be bland even if grilled or stewed. I heard that the skin of a kimyusu could be made into leather, so kimyusu meat with skin was very expensive.


In that case, it’s better to marinate it in something. Poking a few holes with a skewer would make it absorb water better, thus improving its dry texture.


But there were only a few tens of minutes left, so there wasn’t enough time to marinate kimyusu meat.


I thought about a new method to cook it… and inspiration struck.


“That’s right! Milano Mast, do you have extra gigo?”


“Gigo? Yes, I have some left over from the ones used for the karon.”


So he was cooking the beef-like karon meat together with the herb-like gigo, huh. I never tried that before, so I wondered how that combination would taste. I thought about stew beef fiber dishes, so this might actually be a good method.


Anyway, I needed to handle the kimyusu meat for now. I would try making stew when I have more time.


“I want to try something. Can you start a fire in a stove?”


I minced 100 g of kimyusu thigh meat, mixed in some gigo and then melded it into oval spheres.


I then tossed them into the heated pot, and the pink meat quickly changed color. As I didn’t add any oil, I had to be careful not to break them while stirring.


“How’s that. Milano Mast, please try this.”


The texture was good.


It wasn’t sticky enough with gigo alone so it would break apart easier than the meatballs I knew of, and it was a little bland as the only seasoning was salt.


But it had a refreshing taste, well worth the effort.


“Isn’t this the same dish you sell at your stall? This soft texture is unique, and some might like it… But those who had tried your cooking might not be satisfied by this.”


“That’s true. But if you work on the taste, it will have a deliciousness different from that of a hamburg.”




This could be resolved by using Tau sauce and making it teriyaki style… But my only seasonings were rock salt and fruit wine, and it was hard to achieve that with just myam. Tarapa might be the best condiment for this, but it would make its difference from “Kiba burger” more prominent.


I realized again how much the potential of the kiba saved me. Kiba was tasty with just salt and Pico leaves, and strong seasoning didn’t overwhelm its original flavor. That was why I could make acceptable dishes despite the lack of seasonings.


In comparison, karon and kimyusu didn’t have much fats, so having access to kiba oil in this Post Station Town where there wasn’t any cooking oil gave me a big advantage.


“I will keep this as homework. I will shop around the marketplace to find a herb suitable for the kimyusu.”


“Herb?”


“Yes, I think the plain taste will go well with the delicate flavor of herbs.”


If I could find a herb similar to green perilla, I could make these meatballs even more delicious. After mincing that herb and mixing it into the meat, I could either grill or boil them.


Or maybe, was there something like the plum? If I couldn’t use Tau sauce, making it Japanese style wasn’t a bad choice.


“I would like to try a sauce made with fruit wine next. I think it will suit the kimyusu meat that has a faint sweetness. Ahh… maybe the sourness of shiru juice will be good too. I’m studying how best to use shiru right now.”


“… You look really happy.”


Milano Mast shrugged.


“Just focus on your job like this. You should be grateful to the gods that you can work in a field that makes you happy.”






After leaving all sort of homework for myself, I ended my work in the “Kimyusu’s Tail Inn”. At this rate, I should be able to come up with a presentable menu in a couple of days. It was strange for me to work on a dish that could rival kiba cooking, but it was undoubtedly a meaningful task.


And I can clearly feel that kiba is definitely a higher grade of food compared to kimyusu or karon.


Which means, kiba is the highest grade of food available in the Post Station Town.


And compared to the karon and kimyusu raised in farms, kiba were more limited in numbers. If we could ease the townsfolk’s bad impression of kiba and the denizens of Forest's Edge, we could increase the value of kiba. With this satisfaction in my heart, I picked up Gilulu’s reins.


We met up with the group that had closed shop, and I said: “Let’s go back to Forest's Edge.”


The unpleasant encounters that Uncle Dora and Milano Mast’s daughter had, the information I got from Michael of Toran, all these were heavy topics. I could only fight in my own way alongside my brethrens in Forest's Edge.


“I will ride ahead. Don’t fall too far behind!”


Ludo Wu went forth on Lulu’s back. Ai Fa sat right behind me on the driver’s platform, and the youth from the branch house sat at the back of the wagon.


However… we encountered something unexpected at the very end. We only got onto the road leading back to Forest's Edge for a few minutes when Ludo Wu shouted “Uwah!” and ground to a halt.


Fortunately, we were moving at walking speed, so I managed to stop Gilulu by pulling at the reins without running into Lulu.


“Asuta, back off!”


Ai Fa roared and pulled me into the wagon. She took my place instead at the driver’s seat, picked up the reins and yelled: “Ludo Wu, what’s wrong!?”


“An arrow beside my foot! From above!”


Ludo Wu said as he pulled out his machete. I looked and found an arrow embedded deep into the ground beside Lulu’s feet.


“Who’s there!? Come out! Show yourself, despicable villain!”


Ludo Wu looked up aggressively.


The leaves near the top of the trees shifted.


And then… “… Damned denizens of Forest's Edge…” a grudgeful voice came from above.


Ai Fa regained her calm with her steel-like mentality and shouted to the top: “This voice, is that Geta? Show yourself! And… listen to what we have to say.”


There wasn’t any answer.


“We don’t want to harm you. You can draw your blade if our talks fall through.”


Silence.


“… Hey. Are you bearing a grudge because your father was executed as a scapegoat for Forest's Edge? If that is so, please hear us out.”


Influenced by Ai Fa, Ludo Wu suppressed his agitation.


“I’m Ludo Wu, the son of Donda Wu, the new tribal chief of Forest's Edge. The criminal is the former tribal chief clan of Forest's Edge, the Tsun clan. If you bear a grudge against the Forest's Edge, can you speak with my father Donda Wu first?”


Silence.


“We didn’t realize the grave sins committed by the Tsun clan until recently. So as penance, we swear to not commit any more crimes and to live proper lives. We won’t avoid taking responsibility for the Tsun clan’s wrongdoings, but we hope you can give us a chance to make up for this.”


“… Then why are you doing business in the Post Station Town…?”


An angry voice reverberated in the woods.


“… Killing tens of merchants and then framing my father and his comrades for the crime. How can you still show your face in the Post Station Town gleefully…?”


“As I said, we want you to know what we really think. If you can’t forgive the denizens of Forest's Edge…  let us do battle to the death. We don’t want to be killed for no good reason.”


Ludo Wu lowered his machete and continued:


“We don’t want to neglect your opinions either. So, before you forgive us, can you please have a talk with the new tribal chiefs?”


“… The denizens of Forest's Edge are my enemy…”


The voice seemed to be getting further away.




Was he retreating after his ambush failed? I leaned out of the driver’s seat on reflex.


“Wait! Were you the one causing trouble for the townsfolk related to us? If so, I hope you don’t drag the innocent in!”


The branches shook violently.


I could sense the wavering of the person hiding within them.


“It’s fine if that wasn’t you. Sorry for the aggressive tone, but…”


A breeze brushed past my nose, caused by Ai Fa swinging her saber before my face.


“Don’t say such unfathomable things… Why would I do that…?”


The voice was filled with anger, as if the one shouting was gritting his teeth.


Feelings of fear and unease mingled together, sending a chill down my back.


“I’m sorry for suspecting the wrong person! I just want to make things clear. I can’t forgive those who involve the innocent the most.”


“Can’t forgive… The one I can’t forgive the most is you, dark-haired kiba eater…”


The air shrieked again with his words.


Ai Fa wielded her blade again, felling an arrow this time.


“Stop! Are you going to direct your hate towards Asuta!?”


Ai Fa who just cooled down exploded emotionally again.


“Asuta only joined the Forest's Edge a few months ago! He has nothing to do with that incident ten years ago! You have no reason to seek vengeance against Asuta!”


“Don’t be retarded… If not for him, you people wouldn’t be walking nonchalantly around town… He is the shameless man who gave denizens of Forest's Edge the audacity to…”


“Not everyone in the Forest's Edge is a felon! Just how much do you know about that crime ten years ago? Do you know all the culprits have died?”


When he heard what I said, the branches shook even more violently.


“All of them… dead…?”


“That’s right. That’s why we want to uncover the truth without making the same mistakes. The denizens of Forest's Edge involved in this crime have been brought to justice, but the mastermind who gave them the order is still scot free!”


“How can that be… you won’t trick me with these lies…”


“I’m not lying! So we want to work together with you! Not just you, but with your mother too!”


After a long silence, the branches started shaking again.


“… I won’t forgive my father’s murderer…”


This time, the voice was clearly fading into the distance.


He must have been leaping from one tree to another.


Ludo Wu clicked his tongue: “There’s no point in chasing him.”


This was already the edge of the forest. With the dense vegetation here, it was hard to navigate the area without sticking to the path that was already made.


And so, our second encounter with Geta ended without even seeing his face.


“But he seemed ill-informed. He didn’t seem to know about Zattsu Tsun either. He couldn’t have been in Genos for long.”


Ludo Wu said as he put the machete back on his waist:


“He will listen if he knows what actually happened. Anyway, Ai Fa, be careful of arrows being shot through your windows when you sleep.”


Ai Fa concurred with a grunt as she sheathed her blade and stared at me.


“Asuta, don’t panic. No matter what anyone says, your presence gives strength to the denizens of Forest's Edge.”


I nodded.


Geta’s words stabbed deep into my heart. But I wouldn’t change the course I was heading in.


Zattsu Tsun committed unforgivable sins. But that doesn’t mean all the denizens of Forest's Edge have to live in shame.


The issue with the Tsun clan, the nobles and the denizens of Forest's Edge… I wanted to let Geta learn all that. Only god would know what that youth would think after that, but I had no intention of being enemies with Geta who held such a deep-seated grudge at just 13 or 14 years old.


I pondered to myself:


I want to talk properly with him before there is any bloodshed…


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