Saturday, November 3, 2018

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 11 (1 of 5)

Chapter 1: Day of Change

Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Ratorasepo

1


The fifth day of the White Month.


Even in the morning itself, we didn’t notice any signs that things had changed.


Four days ago… In the first night of the White month, Uncle Dora was attacked by bandits. The next afternoon, Milano Mast’s daughter was harassed by ruffians, and that night, someone infiltrated the Zaza house. Then on the next night, we had to face the son of Goram, Geta, at the Fa house. So much happened just in the first three days of the White Month.


And, of course, we had to spend these days tensely. But as if it was a mockery of our nervousness, the fourth day of the White Month passed by without any incident. We then ushered in the morning of the fifth day feeling as if we had wasted our time.


As I was loading the cargo onto the wagon, Ai Fa reminded me with a serious face: “Asuta, don’t let your guard down. People tend to get sloppy during times like this.”


Ai Fa had already decided to perform guard duty every other day, and she was staying home today. I braced myself mentally, then nodded firmly and said: “I understand.”


“You be careful too, Ai Fa. The number of kiba in the area is increasing, right?”


“Yes. There will be even more kiba next month. Yesterday, a man from the Lan house was severely injured.”


“Really? That’s worrying.”


The morning sun and soft breeze were very comfortable; this was an incredibly peaceful morning. But we were talking about something morbid that didn’t fit this serenity.


“By the way, will the Fa and Lan houses have a hunting offseason like the Wu clan?”


Ai Fa who was gently stroking Gilulu’s neck looked back at me with a surprised grunt.


“As I told you before, the kiba migrates periodically to forage for food. After eating the berries, roots, and critters, they would shift from the north to the south, and south to the north frequently in search of bountiful pastures.”


“Yes. They will go down to the villages outside the forest sporadically and ravage the farmlands of Genos, correct? I still remember that.”


“Yes. During their constant migration, some parts of the forest won’t bear fruit after being depleted extensively. And the kiba won’t go to these places, and the hunters living in that area will rest during that period of time. This happens three times a year, so there aren’t any rules to say which house should rest in which month.”


“Oh, so every house will get to rest three times a year.”


“That’s how it is. The flora in the vicinity is being eaten rapidly. It will be our turn to rest in less than a month.”


“I see, that’s great.”


I couldn’t help smiling, but Ai Fa tilted her head puzzlingly.


“What’s so good about it? When the time comes, the Fa house and the neighboring Fou and Lan houses won’t be able to hunt kiba, so we can’t ensure there is enough meat.”


“The Wu clan should have started hunting again by then, so it will be fine. And in the near future, I should be able to procure meat from the Sauti clan. And so… Leaving that aside, I’m happy that Ai Fa can get to rest.”


“I will need to train during the offseason. It isn’t much when compared to hunting, but it’s nothing to be happy about either.”


Ai Fa was acting cold.


“And the issue with the nobles might not get resolved before the hunting offseason. Even if I rest my body, I can’t rest my mind.”


“Ehh, is that so… But if this problem is solved, Ai Fa can rest properly. The thought of that still makes me happy.”


At the very least, Ai Fa could take half a month’s break from the dangerous work of hunting kiba, which made me glad. But Ai Fa pouted for unknown reasons.


“It’s good if I don’t need to work as an escort, but I won’t have any excuse to visit the Post Station Town then.”


“Hmm? What’s wrong with that?”


“… It’s boring for me to be home alone.”


I was very surprised. I didn’t expect to hear that from Ai Fa.


“Ah, but… I can’t stop my work in the Post Station Town for half a month, right?”


Ai Fa leaned her head in front of me and said: “Of course.” For Ai Fa, this might just be a substitute for kicking my leg.


“I’m just mad that you are living your life without any regards of my opinion. You lack concern for your house head.”


“B-But I’m resting once every ten days. Since the offseason will last for half a month, it will overlap with my off day once or twice, correct? When the time comes, I will do my best to not let you feel dull.”


Ai Fa’s head stopped moving.


She then stared at my face from very close up.


“By the way, Asuta, your first off day will be soon, correct?”


“Yes, that’s right. The 7th and 8th day of the White Month, which is the day after tomorrow, and another day after that.”


“I will go to the forest every other day for that time then. I hunted two kiba the day before yesterday; it’s a little too tiring.”


“In that case, you should rest.”


“Yes, that’s right… I finally understand why you are so happy about this.”


Ai Fa said from a distance close enough for me to feel her breath and smiled brilliantly. I didn’t expect her to smile at all.


“Asuta, this is your first rest day since the House Head Conference, correct?”


“Yes, that’s true.”


“We worked apart during the House Head Conference, right until dusk. You were busy with food preparation for your stall before and after the Conference too. And you were in the Wu clan.”


I was moved that she remembered something that happened so long ago.


“Since that day, we didn’t spend an entire day in the Fa house… No, I needed to go into the forest before that too. Ever since we erected the stove outside the house, we didn’t stay in the Fa house from morning until night.”


“Your memory is incredible! That’s over two months ago, right?”


“Yes. It happened on the tenth day after I found you in the woods. Back then, I didn’t think of you as someone irreplaceable...”


She touched my head with a smile on her face:


“By the way, when I hunted together with my father, we spent time bonding during the offseason. When did I forget how that felt…?”


“Huh, i-is that so?”


“We have work that we must do. However… That is why we feel so happy about our off days.”


“Yes, I agree…”


“Right now, we are facing off against Pyschkurewuss, who is shrouded in mysteries. I hope we can have a good rest on that day.”


After saying that, Ai Fa moved away from me, her eyes sparkling like a girl that befitted her age. But her face remained serious like that of a house head, and she said in a firm voice:


“Well then, Ludo Wu and the others should be here soon. Asuta, work hard and be careful.”


“Yes, same for you, Ai Fa.”


I answered with a warmth rippling in my heart.


And so, we went to follow our own separate schedules early in the morning.


What trials and tribulations awaited us today? With no idea what today might bring, we bode each other farewell like usual.






When we arrived at the Post Station Town, a happy reunion awaited us.


We picked up the pushcart stall from the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 and then headed to the marketplace to buy vegetables as usual. Uncle Dora and Tara were there to welcome us with all smiles.


“Uncle Dora! Are you feeling better already!?”


“Oh, sorry for making you worry. Asuta and everyone, long time no see.”


Uncle Dora smiled gleefully.


Seeing him smile as always almost made me cry.


“Hey hey, what’s with that face? My injuries aren’t that severe to make you so worried, right? Didn’t my son tell you that?”


“Yes, but… It’s wonderful that you have recovered. Tara too, I haven’t seen you for a while.”


“Yes!”


Tara’s small face was brimming with a smile.


“It’s great that you are lively. I need the usual orders of vegetables, will that be fine?”


Uncle Dora took out a sack of vegetables bashfully.


Uncle Dora was his usual self, but a large grey cloth was bandaged around his right shoulder. He was attacked by ruffians pretending to be bandits and disguised in the garments of the denizens of Forest’s Edge. Uncle Dora had to rest for three days because of his wounds.


The greenish spots seeping through the bandage was probably some sort of medicine. It had a stinging smell, which was similar to what Vena Wu used when her ankle got hurt.


“Well, too be honest… I’m a little lost for words right now.”


“Didn’t I tell you not to worry, Asuta? It is only natural for there to be outlaws in a prosperous city. We have always been troubled by bandits and kiba all the while.”


“But it’s not often that you see bandits dressed up like denizens of Forest's Edge, correct? Anyway, I’m relieved to see that you are fine.”


Ludo Wu interjected with a serious face. Uncle Dora smiled at him gently:


“No matter how they are dressed, bandits will be bandits. It is the job of the guards to apprehend them; we don’t need to be concerned with them.”


“But…”


At this moment, the surroundings turned rowdy.


Ludo Wu turned towards the streets immediately.


Speak of the devil… Several guards in leather armor and armed with spears approached us.


The guard standing at the front said to me: “Denizen of the Forest's Edge, you are Asuta of the Fa house, right? We have business with you, please come with us to the guard house.”


He was short and looked very thin, but he had a pretty tassel hanging on his armor. There were five guards standing behind this short man.


“What exactly do you need from me? I still need to start my work later…”


“It won’t take too much of your time. I just want to check something with you.”


He was arrogant but not too brave. His gaze towards the hunters of Forest's Edge was obviously filled with fear.


“Hey, what do you want with Asuta? If it’s about the bandit incident a few days ago, my son already told them.”


Uncle Dora walked towards the guards angrily.


The short leader of the guards frowned after looking at him.


“Who are you? Are you the vegetable seller who was attacked by the bandits? This doesn’t concern you so stay out of this.”


“If it isn’t about the bandits, why are you harassing Asuta’s group? If you want to bring them to the guard house, make it clear right from the start.”


“It’s fine, Uncle Dora, they are looking for me…”


I stopped Uncle Dora hurriedly.


An unfamiliar voice came from beside me.


“That’s right, bringing someone to the guard house is as good as treating them as a criminal. What crimes did that guy commit?”


I turned back in surprise, but that wasn’t someone that I knew. There were five to ten people gathered around me. The short leader of the guards was starting to turn pale.


“W-Who are you people? This isn’t anything dangerous! Didn’t I say that I’m just checking a few things!?”


The five guards behind also braced themselves with a panicked face. A dangerous air was slowly spreading in the streets.


“So, what’s your business with him?”


“There is no evidence that those bandits are from the Forest's Edge, correct?”


“How suspicious. If you have any reason why he needs to come, say it clearly.”


Some of them might have visited the stall. Half of them were southerners, and the other half westerners. However, the southerners all dressed quite similarly, and I didn’t see any of my regulars amongst the westerners.


As if they were filling in the gaps between the two tense groups, a bunch of tall cloaked men was starting to gather too. And, of course, they were easterners.


The leader of the guards said with a red face: “What’s so suspicious about this!? We are simply performing official duties!”


A young guard who was still somewhat calm walked to his side.


“Captain, this will cause a commotion if this goes on. Our business with him isn’t that bothersome in the first place, why don’t we settle it on the spot?”


“Ehh, but…”


“It’s more prudent than forcing this mob back and bringing Forest's Edge denizens to the guard house. If you don’t mind, I can perform this duty in your stead, Captain…”


“Yes! I will leave it to you then, Sir.”


The Captain backed off, and a young guard stepped forth as he suppressed a sigh. It seemed the guards had their own troubles too.


“Denizen of Forest's Edge, Asuta of the Fa house. We want to confirm the case of a bandit attacking you on the 31st of the Blue Month.”


“… A bandit attacking us?”


These unexpected words almost made my heart jump out.


The young guard nodded: “That’s right.”


“The residents in the area made a report to the guard house. On the 31st of the Blue Month, when your group was passing through the residential area, a bandit wearing a cape attacked you with his blade drawn. The figure of the bandit was short, like that of a woman or a child, and had fiery red hair. Is there anything that didn’t match?”


The incident with Geta seemed to have reached the ears of the guards.


I clenched my fist and nodded: “… No.”


I could neither make testimonies against Geta nor commit a crime by stating false facts.


“Why didn’t you make a report that day? Leaving the bandit be means putting the other citizens in danger.”


“I’m very sorry. He seemed to be only interested in denizens of Forest's Edge, so he shouldn’t be a danger to others.”


I answered Sangjura in the same way last time.


And so, the guard responded in the same way as Sangjura:


“That isn’t a reason to hide this crime. If you leave him be, you might encounter the same thing again.”


“That’s right, but he has a good reason for hating the denizens of Forest's Edge, so we hope to resolve this by talking it out. If he is thrown into jail before that, we won’t be able to overcome our differences…”


The guard made a serious expression without saying anything.


The crowd looked at us with doubts and worry.


“… That’s your own problem. Brandishing a blade in town is already a crime, and not reporting this is as good as turning a blind eye to this violation and ignoring the laws in Genos.”


“Yes, I think we acted too rashly. However… He is just watching us from afar. He only retaliated because we pursued him; he wouldn’t have drawn his blade otherwise.”


“Deciding the seriousness of a crime is the job of the town guards and law officer. You are just a plebeian and have no right to pardon a criminal.”


It was our turn to be dumbstruck.


Uncle Dora said: “Hey, what is this…”


But he was cut off mid-sentence by the guards who looked even more displeased:


“We are not here to punish you for your crimes. But if you do it again, we won’t let you off. You all are denizens of Forest's Edge and also proper citizens of Genos, westerners. As the follower of the west god Selva, you have the obligation to follow the law and the right to be protected by the legal system. Don’t ever forget that.”


I nodded cautiously.


Uncle Dora and the crowd seemed surprised by the guards… But Ludo Wu and the others listened to the guards with cautious and narrowed eyes.
“Was there anything special about the bandit’s dressing? If you remember the finer details, we can put up wanted posters.”


“I’m very sorry, but I can’t remember that clearly… His messy hair was covering his face, so I didn’t get a good look.”


I decided to make a little false testimony for this part.


The young guard glared at me doubtfully and then shook his head: “Forget it. Anyway, red hair is a rare sight amongst westerners. And having a child-like figure is enough to put up a wanted poster. Was he wearing a cape made of hide?”


“Yes, but the color isn’t that common in Genos.”


“Aside from hunters, not many people wear capes made from hide. However… Hey, vegetable seller.”


He said with a glare at Uncle Dora:


“Were the bandits who attacked you really wearing kiba capes? The bandit who attacked these guys seemed to be wearing a cape with a lighter color and thinner patterns.”


“It was too dark for me to see. However… I’m very sure that they were wearing accessories made from kiba tusks on their necks.”


Uncle Dora looked displeased and reluctant at the same time.


“But, as I said, the denizens of Forest's Edge won’t commit banditry…”


“I know, don’t keep droning on about it so loudly.”


The guard waved his hand impatiently and then said in a louder voice:


“It’s a good chance, so let me tell you. Last night, bandits dressed like Forest's Edge denizens attacked the barn of another farm.


“What!”


I couldn’t help screaming.


I thought today would be as peaceful as yesterday, but a disaster happened somewhere else.


“There were three of them; their faces were covered with clothes, and they were wearing kiba capes. We still don’t know who they are, but they are definitely the same gang as the group that attacked the farm four days ago.”


The crowd turned rowdy too. Not just the tens of people who gathered in the beginning, there was a large group of bystanders too.


The young guard raised his voice so all them could hear:


“Since that incident four days ago, we increased the town guards’ night patrol. However, innocent citizens are still attacked, and precious provisions robbed. This is a serious issue. And… It’s committed by bandits wearing the garbs from Forest's Edge…”


“Hey, guard, but they are…”


The young guard said in a strong tone: “Silence. If they were denizens of Forest's Edge, they would have hidden their capes and accessories if they wanted to conceal their identities. But they didn’t do so, and just covered their faces, which is very suspicious. So we suspect this is the work of outlaws disguising themselves as denizens of Forest's Edge.”


A murmur came from the crowd: “Ohhh…”


“And, of course, the truth won’t be uncovered unless we bring the bandits to task. Please don’t be tricked by rumors. We won’t permit any commotions that involve the denizens of Forest's Edge. Please do not slander the denizens of Forest's Edge without any evidence… This is the message from the captain of the towns guard, Sir Shileru.”


These words sounded off the wariness in my heart.


Pyschkurewuss’ brother who was the captain of the town guards said something that sided with the denizens of Forest's Edge… I wasn’t that naive to believe these words.


The young guard surveyed the mob a little arrogantly. He seemed very pleased about being fair and magnanimous towards the fringe group in the Forest's Edge.


He might actually think so, but I was apprehensive of what the captain of the town guards really thought. I started making wild guesses.


What is he scheming this time…?


The crowd listened to the guard with doubtful faces. There were some who looked relieved and others who left after clicking their tongues.


I started feeling down upon seeing unfriendly reactions towards the denizens of Forest's Edge.


Was this Pyschkurewuss’ aim?


Giving the denizens of Forest's Edge preferential treatment and sowing mistrust in the townsfolk… Was this the goal of the bandit’s sloppy disguises?


It’s fine if I’m overthinking it, but…


If it was as Ai Fa suspected and Pyschkurewuss was trying to frame Kamyua Yost and the three hunters accompanying him, what should we do? What if they got accused of siding with the denizens of Forest's Edge in an unjust manner?


The suspicion that the denizens of Forest's Edge won’t get punished for their crimes would get seeded into the hearts of the townsfolk again. Uncle Dora and those who knew us should be fine, but the denizens of Forest's Edge might lose the trust of the townsfolk listening to the guards in relief— the people who took our side out of a sense of justice.


But, how would this benefit Pyschkurewuss?


I still couldn’t figure that out.


I realized a possibility after speaking with Yamiel Lei two days ago.


The hypothesis was that Pyschkurewuss wanted to reinstall the Tsun clan as the tribal clan in order to get a better control over the Forest's Edge.


If this hypothesis was true… then what Pyschkurewuss wanted was for the denizens of Forest's Edge to endure poverty without being understood by any outsiders and keep the status quo of hunting kiba madly in order to survive. In that case, there would be a big significance in cutting the ties between the Forest's Edge and the Post Station Town.


… I hope this is just my delusion.


If Pyschkurewuss wasn’t someone who could come up with such insidious schemes, that would be a good thing. I was just considering the worst case scenario to avoid being caught off guard. I intended to share with Zashuma and Donda Wu how delusional I was.


We had to win this battle.


2


And so, we started the day’s work a little later than usual.


First, we opened the stall like we always did.


The roster today were Leina Wu, Shela Wu, and Lala Wu. Unfortunately, Mama Mia Lei had yet to permit Rimee Wu to join the lineup.


It wasn’t that dangerous since there were guards, but Mia Lei wanted to continue observing before the next meeting, scheduled for the 15th of the White Month. I wasn’t sure how big a factor was Donda Wu’s doting of his youngest daughter.


“Hehe. I feel a little sorry for Rimee, but we can work as much as we want now!”


The one who said that was Lala Wu, of course.


She seemed reluctant to give up her work in the Post Station Town to her younger sister. I was very moved by the passion everyone felt towards this work.


“But Tara wants to meet Rimee too. I hope Rimee can work soon.”


When she heard what I said, Lala Wu scowled her face.


“Are you saying that you prefer Rimee? I’m on great terms with that Tara kid too.”


“I know, but you should care for her as an older sister.”


“Don’t talk to me like a child! I’m not bullying Rimee or anything!”


Lala Wu puffed her cheeks.


Ludo Wu added oil to the fire.


“Ah, you just don’t want to hand over the work to Rimee when Shin Wu is around, right? We probably won’t withdraw the guards before the meeting…”


“That’s absolutely not true! Not at all! I didn’t say that…!”


Lala Wu swung her fist with all her might, and Ludo Wu stepped back to evade. What a peaceful interaction between siblings.


Zashuma had already made his periodical visit earlier, and the dangerous topics were already covered back then.


Zashuma told me: “He wants to sculpt the idea that the denizens of Forest's Edge are innocent and then destroy it, huh? What a complicated hypothesis…”


“But Pyschkurewuss might have thought of that. I have never seen him before, but he is a cunning old man, right?”


“I have never seen him before either. I just think of him as a bad guy from a conspiracy drama.”


“Fufu. Not just your cooking is good, you are quick-witted too; that’s good.”


Zashuma smiled coldly as he stroked his suntanned cheeks.


“We have to be very careful. Actually… There is an important meeting in the castle.”


“What, an important meeting?”


“Yes, that’s right. From today until the 9th of the White Month, the nobles in charge of the governance of Genos will need to attend it for these five days in the castle. During this period, neither Pyschkurewuss nor his brother will be free, and we will have very limited contact with Malfreed.”


“I see. So we must exercise extra caution.”


“Yes, it’s more prudent to be careful than be relaxed. Originally… there shouldn’t be too many schemes from their side.”


Zashuma shrugged his broad shoulders as he said that.


“The ideal case would be the ‘Northern Whirlwind’ coming back, which will save us a lot of trouble. But to date, we don’t have any communication from him.”


“I understand. If I’m not wrong, Kamyua’s group is facing the most danger… So I’m still a little worried.”


“Yes, but it’s quite silly to worry about those guys. The ‘Northern Whirlwind’ and three hunters of the Forest's Edge, even if they get surrounded by the entire town guard, can break out easily. However… Doing that might lead to them being branded as rebels.”


If that was true, it would be a repeat of the “Red Beard Gang” subjugation that happened a decade ago.


Since Malfreed was watching, it shouldn’t be possible to repeat the scheme so openly. However, Pyschkurewuss was behind it. There was no telling what insidious thing he would do if push came to shove.


“Anyway, we just have to be more careful before the return of the ‘Northern Whirlwind’ and his group. You won’t be in much danger since the hunters of Forest's Edge will protect you, but don’t let your guard down.”


Zashuma turned and left after saying that.


Both Pyschkurewuss and Malfreed won’t be free for the next five days. That is kind of dangerous.


Since we already thought of the worst case scenario, we needed to be extra careful during this period. And the guards were acting weird early in the morning too.


I thought about all that while working hard at the stall, and Yumi, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time, appeared.


“Heya! Sorry for not visiting you more often.”


“It’s fine, I can only stay until noon because of my work anyway… What does your father think?”


“That rock brain has finally made up his mind!”


Yumi leaned in with a smile. She wanted to sell kiba cooking at her inn too, but the innkeeper, which was her father, objected vehemently, so she had been trying to convince her father.


“Can you come over to my inn either today or tomorrow? He wants to have a talk with Asuta!”


“Is that so? Yumi, you did great.”


Yumi waved her hands when she heard that: “I didn’t do anything…”


“I only ate Asuta’s delicious cooking every night and told my Dad my impression! What a blissful five days!”


“I’m happy to hear you say that. But… Have you heard about the attacks on the farms?”


I also told her how Milano Mast’s daughter almost got abducted. Yumi, who was listening with a smile, slowly turned gloomy.
“Oh… A lot happened these few days. The daughter from the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》… That ditzy girl, huh. That child can’t really handle violent people.”


“Yes. To be honest, I’m worried that this might bring trouble to Yumi’s inn…”


“What are you saying!? This sort of thing is always happening.”


Yumi smiled as she crossed her arms under her breasts, which housed a strong and confident heart. She then tilted her head back a little and looked at me sideways. A cocky smile appeared on her lips and she raised her eyebrows a little contemptuously. She had the expression of a delinquent similar to my first meeting with her.


“By the way, I never mentioned it, but my customers aren’t as well-behaved as the patrons of the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》. Ruffians often visit, and fights aren’t an uncommon occurrence. Being harassed by punks is normal at my inn.”


“Ah, is that so?”


“That’s right. Yesterday, I even splashed fruit wine on a drunkard trying to cop a feel of my ass. With so many ruffians in the Post Station Town, people will walk all over us if I can’t even do this much.”


She turned to the side with a cold smile. It felt like time had turned back to one month ago.


“So, don’t worry. But if Asuta can only cooperate with proper inns, we will have to call this off.”


“N-No, that’s not true. I will feel at ease if Yumi’s inn can defend yourself from the harassment of ruffians.”


“… Is that what you really think?”


“Huh? Yes, it’s true.”


“You are not regretting being acquainted with a girl like me?”


“Definitely not.”


“I see… That’s great.”


Yumi put her hand on her smooth forehead in relief.


She then looked up with her usual expression of a kind and hardworking girl:




“I already exposed myself to Asuta right from the start. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t hold back against men and had had more than a couple of run-ins with the guards… To Asuta, I’m probably not that different from the delinquents in this town, correct?”


“Not really. I’m just surprised since I haven’t seen you like this for quite some time. That’s another side of your true self too.”


I answered her.


Yumi made an ambiguous grunt and flicked her long hair.


“That’s right, I’m not trying to deny either side; both are my true self. I’m always cheerful in front of Asuta, so I thought you will hate me if I act this way… Is it really fine?”


“It’s fine, but I will feel more at ease if you are cheerful.”


“Hmmp! Asuta is also acting so gently, even though you are a denizen of Forest's Edge!”


She shouted with a glare. She looked bashful and seem really cute.


“So, are you coming? Either today or tomorrow will be fine, come visit the 《West Wind Inn》.”


“Well, there’s more work to do today, so tomorrow then.”


“Okay, tomorrow then. Ah… My Dad looks like a ruffian, so don’t be surprised.”


“Uwah… Is that so? Thank you for the heads up.”


Yumi smiled brilliantly.


“I will head back then. I will be buying my mother’s share too, so two portions.”


She then headed home with two 『Myam-roasted meat』.


Lala Wu who didn’t say anything tugged my sleeves with a: “Hey.”


“Is it fine for you to expand your business so fast? Including the Kimyusu something inn, that will be four inns catering your food, right?”


“Yes. I should be able to handle it.”


Three and a half hours of my afternoon’s work were booked. I spent an hour each in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 and 《Big Tree of the South Inn》, and the rest was spent teaching Milano Mast to cook.


If I took on the work for the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 and 《West Wind Inn》, my schedule would be very tight. But this could be improved without too much difficulty. My goal was to prepare the food at home and shorten the cooking time at the inn.


I already delegated the work of preparing the 『Kiba burgers』 to Leina Wu and the others, so I had quite a bit of time to finish my work at home. Once I finish researching a new dish, I could spend my time on preparation work.


But before that, I still needed to come up with a karon dish for the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 that could rival the kiba dishes, and convince the innkeeper of the 《West Wind Inn》 that loathed the Forest's Edge and kiba. These were the two most troubling matters on my mind.


And also that issue with Pyschkurewuss. Despite what Yumi said, I wasn’t keen on expanding my business before the meeting ten days later concluded.


I wonder what ploy he will use to belittle the denizens of Forest's Edge. At times like this, we need to figure out the situation carefully.


This could be a battle between us, who were trying to build a cordial relationship with the Post Station Town, and Pyschkurewuss, who wanted to destroy all that. I couldn’t be sure, but we had to build as solid a foundation as possible.


“Asuta, sorry for making you wait.”


I snapped out of my thoughts when someone suddenly called me.


Rii Sudora and a young escort from the Lutim house were standing beside the stall.


“Huh? It’s already noon?”


“Yes. What’s the matter?”


“Nothing, it just seemed that the time skipped to noon in a blink of an eye.”


Yumi who I had not seen for a while visited today too. But some customers I wanted to speak with still hadn’t shown up.


Dell said she wouldn’t be able to visit for the time being so it couldn’t be helped. But I didn’t see Michael and Sangjura either, which was a pity. I was hoping to learn about this world’s charcoal making from Michael, who worked in a charcoal shop.


Never mind, there’s always tomorrow. But… Where’s Sangjura?


Sangjura should be fine, but he didn’t visit these few days, so I felt a little lonely.


Has the wound on his right arm finally recovered, and he started working again? That’s a cheerful thought… But he’s a wanderer. He did say that he wanted to visit Forest's Edge, but I will feel lonely if he suddenly leaves Genos.


I started thinking wildly. I must have been mixing Sangjura and Shumimaru in my mind.


Shumimaru had silver hair, while Sangjura had brown; both were uncommon hair colors for easterners. Other than that, there weren’t any other similarities between them. But even so, I still liked the friendly and courteous Sangjura.


Are Shumimaru’s caravan and Pops Balan’s company doing well…?


I thought as I headed towards the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 with Leina Wu and the others.


The escort duties were handled by four people as usual. The stall was watched by the young hunters from house Lutim, while Ludo Wu, Shin Wu, and two branch house men I wasn’t familiar with accompanied me.


“Well, let me ask again, Vegeta won’t attack us again, right?”


Ludo Wu asked me as he watched the surroundings warily.


“Yes, at least, that’s what Ai Fa and I think.”


“Ku, then it’s back to being on guard without a clear enemy. It will be great if nothing happens, but it’s hard to feel motivated.”


Ludo Wu grumbled as he kept his eyes sharp.


The truth was, keeping guards for several hours without knowing what to look out for was an exhausting task.


The Wu clan and their kin would rest during their hunt offseason for half a month. Ludo Wu and the others spent almost all that time on guard duties. I sincerely hoped that Ludo Wu and the other guards could have a good rest for my two off days that would start the day after tomorrow.


“Okay. Shin Wu, I will leave the interior to you.”


And so, we reached the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 safely. Ludo Wu and the two youths waited outside, while Leina Wu and I walked through the door opened by Shin Wu.


“Asuta, I have been waiting.”


The innkeeper Neil welcomed us expressionlessly as usual. There weren’t any customers in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 today; it was very quiet.


Speaking of which, ever since I accepted the job in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》, aside from Michael three days ago, I had never seen any other customers.


“At this time, the customers are either out for lunch or at work. If not, I wouldn’t be watching the inn by myself.”


“Oh, I see. All the inns are probably empty now.”


The 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》 was the smallest inn I knew, so it felt even quieter.


“However, there are two guests who stayed behind on the second floor today. They had serious expressions and must be discussing something important.”


“Is that so. Erm… Are they ruffians?”


“No. One of them is a westerner in rather lavish clothing, while the other is an easterner with a warm attitude and a long-term client. Don’t worry, I have always been careful, so be at ease…”


I felt sorry for inconveniencing the patrons of the inn. Especially Neil who engaged the denizens of Forest's Edge eagerly, I felt more and more apologetic towards him.


“Ah, this is the meat for today.”


“Thank you very much.”


The loin meat I put in a sack together with Pico leaves weighed about 2.5 kg. Neil handed me the money on receipt of the goods and transferred the meat into jars filled with salt.


“By the way, as agreed, today would be 50 portions of meat; will that be fine?”


I asked as I prepared the dishes, and Neil shook his head with a “Yes.”


“I’m very sorry, but I want to amend the quantity. Apologies for the sudden request, but can you increase it to 70 portions?”


“Seventy? That’s quite a lot.”


“Yes. The simple kiba dish I made is well-received, so I feel that I can sell this quantity during Asuta’s two off days.”


That was wonderful. Recently, the kiba hunting of the neighboring houses of the Fa house had been going well, so securing the meat wouldn’t be a problem.


“Then I will prepare 70 portions for you. I don’t know how to thank you, Neil.”


“I feel the same too. Word of the kiba cooking has spread, and my inn is full during dinner for the past few days.”


Neil twitched the corner of his mouth a little. He was probably trying to suppress a smile. Neil couldn’t conceal his expression as perfectly as an easterner.


“I need to get help from outsiders during dinner. But even so, I can earn more than sufficient profits. And the thing that makes me the happiest is the customers’ satisfied faces.”


“I’m glad to hear that. I will be in your care after my two off days are over.”


“Same to you.”


At this moment, a deep voice came from outside the kitchen: “Is the innkeeper here?”


I didn’t sense the door being opened, so it must be the guests on the second floor. Neil signaled to us with a look, then turned his head and said: “Yes, I’m here, I’m coming”


“Well then, let’s get to work.”


Leina Wu nodded with a smile: “Okay.”


Shin Wu who was standing by the window moved quickly towards the kitchen door, probably to check if anyone was coming in.


And then… All of a sudden, a tall figure entered the kitchen.


“Be quiet.”


Leina Wu and I froze on the spot, and Shin Wu quickly lowered his stance.


But Shin Wu didn’t do anything else.


Two men entered the kitchen. One of them was grabbing Neil and holding a silver dagger against Neil’s throat.


“… Who are you people?”


Shin Wu asked with an intense fire in his eyes.


“I said… be quiet.”


That man tightened his grip on the dagger. He was pushing the spine of the dagger against the throat, but the edge must be touching the skin too. A faint red line appeared on Neil’s defenseless throat.


However, Neil didn’t move at all. He was unconscious for some reason.


“I know you have friends outside. If you make any strange moves, this man is dead.”


Just what is… I was speechless.


Neil who was just speaking with us was knocked out by villains and held hostage. This was too surreal.


Villains… I could only call them that. The two of them were covered by rags similar to Malfreed, and their faces were concealed.


They were also wearing a very plain cape and tunic. The hood on their head made it hard to discern the colors of their eyes.


But one of them was an easterner. He was tall and skinny, and the gaps of his cloak clearly showed the dark skin tone of his arms and legs. He had a sword on his waist and a dagger in his left hand.


The other person was probably a westerner. He was slightly shorter and fatter than me, and his skin was yellowish brown. The one propping Neil up with a dagger was this westerner.


“If you follow our instructions, we will release that man. No one gets hurt. Are you Asuta of the Fa house…?”


The fat and short man said to me quietly.


At the same time, the tall one kept watching over Shin Wu to keep him in check.


“My employer is extending an invitation to you to be our guest. Come with us. And we will release this man.”


“Employer…?”


Did he mean Pyschkurewuss? Aside from him, I couldn’t think of anyone else who would do this.


But they could be ruffians who hated the denizens of Forest's Edge, just like that time with Milano Mast’s daughter. But attacking the denizens of Forest's Edge so directly… Could they really dismiss such a clear violation of Genos’ law?


But I didn’t have time to worry about this. I had to calm my flustered heart and answer:


“You want to invite me as a guest? You are asking for too much. Who invites guests with drawn blades!?”


“… Enough talk.”


The man said coldly and held his dagger hard.


Neil’s blood finally dripped onto the floor.


“Stop! Don’t hurt that person!”


As my thinking capability gradually recovered, an uncontrollable rage seeped out.


Just how lawless were these people?


“You think you can avoid the law after doing something like this in the Post Station Town? My comrades are outside, and there are guards patrolling the town too!”


Will the guards let these villains go?


No, no one would dare commit such crimes in broad daylight. Like what the guards in the morning and Michael said, the guards at the grunt level wouldn’t follow Pyschkurewuss’ orders blindly. And there was also the townsfolk from the Post Station Town here, so the guards wouldn’t just ignore the law in Genos.


But despite all that, these two still attacked us… The hunters in Forest's Edge will retaliate even if there are hostages, correct?


Shin Wu was 2 m away from those two men. Considering the extraordinary physical prowess of the Forest's Edge hunter, he might be able to do something in this range.


And in terms of agility, Shin Wu was better than Rau Lei. He wasn’t at Ai Fa and Ludo Wu’s level, but he was above average for a young hunter.


As I was thinking about that, I glanced at Shin Wu from the corner of my eyes… But Shin Wu’s forehead was sweating profusely, and anger brewed in his eyes.


… It’s no good, huh?


I followed Shin Wu’s gaze, which was locked onto the Semu-like man. That man took a stance with his dagger nonchalantly, showing no fear towards Shin Wu’s aura as a hunter.


It seems that… Shin Wu is the one being intimidated...


But it was impossible for a Forest's Edge hunter to be intimidated by a townsfolk. Even the “Guardian” Zashuma and swordsman Lavis were no match for a hunter of Forest's Edge. Only a handful could rival the prowess of a hunter of Forest's Edge…


The thought of that alone sent a chill down my spine.


… Could it be…


I shook my head hard, it wasn’t possible.


“Come over here, Asuta of the Fa house. You just need to follow my instructions.”


That man sounded a little flustered.


That Semu just stood there silently.


“… Will you really let him go? Right here, right now?”


“Enough talk. Hurry up.”


“… Alright.”


I prepared to walk forward.


Shin Wu suddenly muttered: “Don’t go. Don’t go near those people. We can’t lose you yet, Asuta.”


“Yes… But, I’m sorry. I can’t just abandon Neil.”


I answered as Ai Fa’s figure flashed across my mind.


Sorry, Ai Fa, I won’t give up until the very end. But this is the only thing I can do...


I couldn’t let Neil die.


Neil should have seen the faces of the two villains. The main and back doors were guarded by Ludo Wu’s group, so these two must be the two guests upstairs who had disguised themselves.


Neil’s testimony can convict the two of them. There is still a chance to turn this around.


And I couldn’t think of any other way than following their instructions. If the two of them could overpower Shin Wu, Neil and even Leina Wu would be in danger.


“Asuta…”


Leina Wu cried out in tears.


I took a deep breath and took another step forward.


Shin Wu wanted to stop me, but the tall man kept him in check with his dagger.


“Good… Grab him.”


The tall man nodded and then grabbed me with his free right hand.


He didn’t use too much strength, but the dagger was immediately pushed against my throat.


“Enough already. Let him go.”


“Hmmp…”


The westerner man unhanded Neil with a grunt.


Neil rolled right onto the floor.


“Don’t make any false moves. My employer just wanted to invite you as a guest. If you follow our instructions obediently, you can return to your usual life tomorrow.”


His words weren’t convincing at all, given the dagger he had on my throat.


Raging fire burst out of Shin Wu’s narrow eyes, and he roared:


“I will never forgive you, villains… If you harm even a finger on Asuta, I will bring my wrath on you even if it cost me my life.”


The villain didn’t answer.


And the short and fat man reached inside his shirt and took out a cloth with a stinging smell.


“Don’t move.”


He said while shoving that cloth onto my nose.


It was damp, and a familiar sweet scent pierced through my nostrils right into my brain.


Meremere leaves…?


That nightmarish scene that happened in the Tsun clan village appeared in my mind. But that quickly turned into mist alongside my consciousness. The last thing I heard… was the voice of the villain holding onto me.


A voice, similar to Sangjura’s, came from the villain: “Asuta, you won’t be in any danger. Please, for my employer, show your talent.”


3


I had a dream.


In that dream, Ai Fa was crying.


Ai Fa was very angry.


Ai Fa was smiling.


Ai Fa made all sorts of expression and then disappeared. It was a chaotic, heart-wrenching and blissful dream.


I saw Ai Fa’s tearful eyes.


Ai Fa glaring at me with icy eyes.


Ai Fa looking at me with her warm gaze.


Stay by my side forever.


When did this happen?


Ai Fa held me tightly in the dark.


I promise to accompany you for the rest of my life.


I will make that promise as many times as she wished.


If Ai Fa permits it… and she doesn’t reject me, I intend to stay by Ai Fa’s side forever.


Only death can part me from Ai Fa.


I promise to be with Ai Fa until the god or fate, or the devil sends me back to the sea of flame at their whim.


… I don’t want to lose anyone again...


That day, I lost everything.


Because of my carelessness, I lost my father, my childhood friend Reina, and the previous life I made together with them.


I definitely couldn’t take such despair again.


So, Ai Fa…


Please, don’t let go…


I wandered in a daze inside the void and wrapped my arms around Ai Fa’s body.


But Ai Fa turned into mist in my arms and disappeared…


And then, I woke up.






“Huh…?”


When I came to, I was lying down with my hands around myself.


The clear dream I had, quickly slipped away from my memory, leaving only a vague sense of loneliness.


Just what was I doing here?


There was a white mist in my mind, as well as my restless emotions and thoughts.


What time was it…? Where was I?


My blurred vision slowly got into focus.


The first time I saw was an unfamiliar concrete ceiling.


I was lying on a bed.


The soft blanket was really comfortable.


“Bedding… Bedding?”


I sat up with a start. A sense of vertigo assaulted me, and I fell backwards again.


This was a bed, and a soft blanket was covering me. And it wasn’t the thick bedding found in the Forest's Edge, but a type that wrapped me up completely. It was a high-class bedding with a dreamy texture.


Fear ebbed away at my heart.


My mind thought it was impossible, but my heart was filled with doubts. Was I transported to another unfamiliar world?


I wiped the cold sweat on my brow and surveyed the area. As I suspected, I had never seen such a room before. The walls were built with white bricks with a tint of yellow, and there was a closed door to my right.


Tall screens blocked my visions on the other three sides, but, judging from the ceiling, this room was about 10 m2. Beside the bed was a small table with a vase on top and a chair. This room didn’t have any other furniture.


However, the table and the bed I was lying on had intrinsic carvings and looked luxurious. The soft bedding was probably filled with feathers or something, and the outside wasn’t normal cloth either, but a material similar to silk.


The picture of some sort of bird was sewn onto the blue background of the screen with threads of multiple colors. It was as vibrant as a peacock or a phoenix, with small teeth on its beak. It was a creature between a bird and a reptile. I didn’t know what it was, but the colorful sewing was eye-catching and well made.


There was a furry carpet on the floor. Should I call this Persian or Turkish style? The rug had a complicated pattern and struck a strange balance between plain and gaudiness.


An extravagant room.


At least, it wasn’t similar to a prison.


However… I didn’t know of any room that had such a style.


“Just where am I…”


This brick room was completely different from my homeworld, the Forest's Edge settlement, and the Genos Post Station Town. My unease started ballooning. I closed my eyes and knocked my dizzy head gently with my fist, and then braced myself to stand up.


At this moment, I heard a voice.


“Ara… Are you awake…?”


My heart skipped a beat.


I looked in the direction of the voice and saw someone appearing from behind the screen on my pillow side.


“I’m very sorry for noticing so late… How are you feeling…?”


The voice was slow and a little lazy, and I thought it belonged to Vena Wu. But she wasn’t Vena Wu, of course. This woman was taller than Vena Wu, and her face was more proportionate too. Her skin was porcelain white, even paler than Jaguar people. Her beautiful hair was a honey-like blonde, curvy and reaching her waist. Her pupils were purple, a similar shade to amethyst. This was the first time I saw someone other than Kamyua Yost possess such eyes.


“My name is Chiffon Chel, I’m responsible for caring for you… You must be Asuta-sama of the Fa house, correct…?”


Asuta of the Fa house…


So I was still in the world where I was addressed as such, huh.


I placed my hands on the soft bedding and relaxed my entire body.


However, I couldn’t let down my guard yet. I was abducted by unforgivable villains after all.


My confusion right now was probably a side effect of the strange medicine that drugged me. It should be the essence extracted from the Meremere grass that had sedative effects.


I thought with my dazed mind about Ai Fa, Shin Wu, and Ludo Wu, and grit my teeth. I couldn’t give in to despair. This was enemy grounds.


“Are you alright…? If you feel unwell, you should rest a little…”


“No need, I’m fine.”


I turned towards the person named Chiffon Chel again.


She was a beautiful woman. There was a depth to her looks, like that of a Nordic. The lines around her jaw were gentle, making her look graceful.


She was tall too, probably taller than me. On her feminine thicc body was a loose white dress.


There were many decorations on her hair, limbs, and chest, and her blonde hair matched well with her white skin, making her look like the goddess of Greek mythology.


How old was she? She was tall and had a calm air about her, and her expression felt innocent too.


“Erm, where am I? Is this… the Genos city?”


She addressed me as Asuta of the Fa house. After seeing this room, I could only ask that.


The heart of the Genos city was surrounded by sturdy walls… Only the nobles and those acknowledged by the nobles could enter the Genos city.


Chiffon Chel covered her mouth and giggled.


“Hmm… No one told you yet, Asuta-sama…? But I’m very sorry… I can’t speak too much...”


“Then, please get someone who knows the situation to come over. I was brought here forcefully at knifepoint.”


“Is that so… Let me bring you downstairs…”


Chiffon Chel walked to my side gracefully.


I braced myself unconsciously, but she stopped by the table instead of the bed.


Her fingers, which were like small white fishes, picked up a silver object from behind the vase. It looked like a bell with intrinsic carvings on it.


A clear ringing sound rang out, and the door was opened from the outside.
“Asuta-sama of the Fa house has woken up… I want to bring him downstairs...”


There were two guards outside the door.


They were neither fat nor skinny and had yellowish brown skin, so they were probably westerners. They wore decorative armor that seemed impractical for guards and had long thin swords hanging on their waist. Anyway, they didn’t seem to be the villains who abducted me.


Sangjura… Was that Sangjura?


I couldn’t tell if the voice I heard when my consciousness was fading was reality or a dream. But that villain had dark skin, slender build and the prowess to suppress Shin Wu, and… He was holding a dagger with his left hand. Sangjura’s right arm was injured.


But, why would Sangjura do that? Is he someone who will do something so shady?


The answer was still shrouded in darkness.


But this ploy wouldn’t work without knowledge of the relationship between Neil and me. Holding Neil, who was just a businessman, hostage, in order to get me to comply with them. Only someone who knew about my relationship with Neil could do that.


However, Sangjura was a regular at my stall and was lodging in the 《Cryptic Venerable Inn》. In that case, he could easily get hold of the fact that Neil was close to the denizens of Forest's Edge.


The more I thought about it, the more painful my heart felt. I was far away from my friends in Forest's Edge and my precious Santoku knife, abducted by villains with just the clothes on me. I might have been betrayed by someone I treated as a friend.


“Well then, let’s go...”


Chiffon Chel walked to the guards gracefully.


I suppressed the worries in my heart and followed. There was a corridor outside the door; it was still a brick-like building with carpeted floors. The ceiling was tall, but the passageway wasn’t that wide. There were only small windows to let in light, so the place seemed a little dim.


With the guards sandwiching us from the front and the back, we walked for about ten meters before reaching a stone spiral stairwell.


There was another corridor downstairs. The structure felt really secluded.


“This way, please...”


We finally reached a large door.


One of the guards pushed the door open quietly, and I felt a warmth enter my body.


What’s with this room?


There wasn’t any furniture here, and it looked like a real prison cell. The stone flooring was completely exposed.


But there was a large door right before us, so this was probably a waiting room of sorts.


… Is the one who behind this retarded ploy in there?


Aside from Pyschkurewuss, I couldn’t think of anybody else doing this. However, I heard that the nobles had gathered in the castle for a governance conference from today onwards. I didn’t think this was the heart of the Genos city… But what was the truth?


“Please…”


Chiffon Chel walked forth fearlessly.


The soldiers stopped and stood on either side of the door.


Chiffon Chel opened the door… and a strange warmth assaulted me like a flood from a broken dam.


I yelped out “Uwah…”, and cold fingers grabbed my wrist.


“Q-Quickly… The warm air is getting out...”


“W-What’s with this room?”


The doors behind me shut tightly. White vapor covered the room. I couldn’t see how large the room was as the mist was too thick.


And I could also smell the fragrance of plants. It was different from lilo, Pico leaves, and Meremere grass, and was similar to mugworts. I didn’t find the aroma offensive, but I still kept my guard up.


“… What’s wrong…?”


Chiffon Chel smiled at me through the white mist. She reached behind her, and her white dress slipped down to her feet. Her body that was whiter than the mist was unveiled completely to me.


“W-What are you doing!?”


“What are you saying… I have been instructed to tend to Asuta-sama’s dressing...”


She said as she removed the accessories from her limbs. She had something like a loincloth around her waist.


She was otherwise naked. If not for the thick mist, I would be 50% more confused.


“Here, please remove your clothes, Asuta-sama…”


Two pale arms reached for me like a pair of snakes.


I pressed my back onto the tightly shut door with a “Uwah!”


“T-Tend to my dressing, could this be… a bathhouse!?”


“Bathhouse…? This is a bath hall…”


My guess was correct. I heard that before the Edo period, steam baths were more popular than bathing in bathtubs. But even with this answer, I still felt uneasy.


“Anyway, you will need to cleanse your body… Come, put your clothes here...”


“I know this is a bath hall! I will clean my body as you wish! But I don’t need you to help!”


“Ara… But if I don’t do my job, I will get lashings...”


“Job? This is your job!?”


“Yes… Serving the guests is the meaning of my existence that has been bestowed to me…”


Chiffon Chel smiled as she drew near. She was about 5 cm taller than me.


“I’m very good at scrubbing, so, please, be at ease...”


Her fingers that were elegant like white fishes reached inside my T-shirt.


“Ara, Asuta-sama has skin as smooth as a lady… This is worthy of a scrub…”


I screamed for help from my very soul.


Aside from disturbing the mist in the bath hall, it was of no help at all.






About twenty minutes later.


The dirt on my body and my dignity as a person were washed from me, and I waited depressedly in the guard’s waiting room.


“… Are you still feeling unwell…?”


Chiffon Chel looked at me worriedly. I wanted to tell her that I was alright, but I couldn’t say so clearly.


I was wearing the new clothes prepared for me in the bath hall. A beige-colored sleeveless shirt and loose pants, I was dressed in white all over, and only my leather shoes were brown.


“Let’s go… The sun is almost setting...”


“Ah, wait. Where are my clothes?”


The clothes I was wearing were bundled together and placed inside a weave basket.


“Well… If you don’t mind, I can help you dispose of them…”


“That won’t do. These clothes are important to me.”


I took out my horns and tusks necklace from the basket and put it around my neck.


“Please keep the rest of the clothing too. I want to wear them when I go back.”


I said with all my strength, and Chiffon Chel smiled cheerfully.


“I understand… I will serve you again when that time comes…”


I stood up and said loudly: “You don’t need to worry about that!”


“Alright then, let’s be off…”


After meeting up with the guards, we continued down the corridor. We ignored the stairwell and continued onwards. After turning a few corners, we still didn’t enter any open space. This building felt very secluded, like a maze.


“This way…”


Chiffon Chel stopped before another door.


I would finally be coming face to face with the one responsible for all this.


Abduction at knifepoint and forced cleansing before meeting them; all these were retarded things only a noble would do. I needed to prioritize my safe return to the Post Station Town, but I wasn’t sure if I could suppress the urge of disgust in my heart.


However, I couldn’t act rashly. I had to make it through and return to Ai Fa’s side.


I thought as I entered the door but was caught off guard. I should have predicted this development. What awaited me wasn’t the room of an arrogant noble, but a place I was familiar with… a kitchen.


“Over here, please… This is the workplace of Asuta-sama…”


Since they caught a chef like me, their goal was to make me cook. Speaking of which, the villain who was probably Sangjura did say “Please, for my employer, show your talent.” But, would someone do something so retarded as making me cook without explaining the situation?


“What is going on here? Please explain in detail.”


The guards stayed outside, showing no intentions of coming in. So the one who answered me with a smile was Chiffon Chel.


“My employer wants to eat Asuta’s cooking… Please ask Roy-sama for the details…”


“Roy? Who’s that?”


“It’s a chef from this mansion who will help Asuta… Roy-sama, are you here…?”


Chiffon Chel raised her voice a little, and a gruff voice came from the half-opened door inside the kitchen: “Shut up.”


“So you are finally here, huh. I still have work to do, this is such a pain.”


At the same time, a young man appeared.


He was a westerner youth around twenty years old. He had a simple cylindrical hat on his head and white clothes like me. He looked just like a chef.


Under his hat were brown hair and an ivory-colored face full of freckles. His height and build were similar to mine, and he didn’t look buffed at all.


“Hmmp, so you are the temp staff for today, huh?”


The brown eyes of that youth were filled with suspicion as he checked me out. He had the face of a well-mannered man, but he looked very displeased.


“Forget it, it’s fine, hurry up and start working. If I don’t settle your work, I can’t start with my job either.”


“Wait. I was abducted here without being told anything. You want me to start cooking all of a sudden? What kind of joke is this?”


I started to protest, and the youth named Roy turned his head with a sour face towards Chiffon Chel and said:


“Hey, didn’t you explain anything to him? I was only told to help him cook.”


“I’m very sorry, Roy-sama. Erm… I already told him the content of his work…”


“But you didn’t tell me anything at all. As I said, I was brought here at knifepoint.”


Chiffon Chel and Roy didn’t seem like people who would do something so nefarious, which was why I told them that.


However, Chiffon Chel just smiled politely, while Roy averted his face disinterestedly. They wouldn’t do anything bad, but they didn’t empathize with my situation either.


“Please allow me to explain… My employer wants to taste Asuta’s cooking. And if you satisfy my employer with your cooking… That’s what I heard.”


“What if I refuse?”


“Then… There might be lashing…”


“Does Genos permit such breaching of the law?”


I replied a little harshly, and Chiffon Chel shook her head lazily: “It’s not permitted...”


“I will be the one to get it… My employer will think of this as my mistake…”


“What is this, why will you get whipped?”


After saying this, I received an answer to a doubt I had in my mind.


“You are Chiffon Chel, right? I apologize if I’m mistaken but… Are you from Mahildra?”


Chiffon Chel laughed strangely.


“I can’t say more… but no one can think of being from any other places...”


I sighed; it was just as I thought. People from the enemy Mahildra nation were enslaved in the western kingdom.


In that case, this was definitely Pyschkurewuss’ mansion. The Genos territory was very far from Mahildra, and Pyschkurewuss was the only one buying slaves… Kamyua Yost told me that before.


There’s a limit to how evil you can be, you bastard.


I scratched my head that was washed by this girl with a pitiful background and turned to Chiffon Chel:


“So I can go home after making one dish? That’s what the guy who abducted me said.”


“Yes… But you have to do your best for this job… If my employer says your cooking tastes too bad, you will be prohibited from doing business in the Post Station Town…”


“Damn it! Erm… I want to confirm something, is this the mansion of the head of the Turan house, Count Pyschkurewuss?”


No answer.


Chiffon Chel smiled as if she was cajoling a child, while Roy just shrugged.


“I just have to build on this assumption then. Or maybe… this is the castle of Marstein, the landlord of Genos?”


I was answered with a sarcastic snort:


“Genos castle? Are you retarded? I don’t know if you are a denizen of Forest's Edge or from the Post Station Town, but a lowly plebeian like you won’t be permitted in.”


“That’s great then. But Count Turan will be staying in the castle from today onwards, right? I don’t understand why I was brought here.”


“Asuta-sama… I’m very sorry, but I can’t say more…”


“So you are saying that I should cook without knowing who is the one behind this retardedness? And I will be complimented if your employer is pleased, and my stall in the Post Station Town will be destroyed if my dish displeases your employer?”


“No… Regarding your stall in the Post Station Town, I only said that as I wish for the best for Asuta-sama… But if nothing goes wrong, you won’t be punished…”


“But, how much someone likes a cooking is subjective to their own preferences, right?”


“Yes…”


Chiffon Chel tilted her head quizzingly.


“However, my employer just wants to eat delicious food… All this isn’t because of a grudge against Asuta-sama; my employer invited you because of Asuta-sama’s capability… So, you don’t need to worry…”


“So it won’t matter if the dish is delicious or not, and I can go home after making one dish? If it doesn’t taste too bad, you won’t interfere with my business in the Post Station Town?”


“Yes… That’s what I heard…”


“I can rest easy if I can believe your words.”


However, I couldn’t trust people I had never met before, and to top it off, people who resorted to abduction.


But… What kind of situation was this? Pyschkurewuss was a gourmet, but would he really do something like this while under investigation?


I might be a foreigner, but I called myself a denizen of Forest's Edge and started a business in the Post Station Town. So people might think of me as an eyesore, and gourmet might be curious about my culinary repertoire.


But, why now? Farms were attacked by bandits wearing garbs from the Forest's Edge, Milano Mast met with danger, and the guards suddenly made a show of siding with the denizens of Forest's Edge… Compared to all these ploys, what he did this time was too ludicrous.


No, abducting me to his own mansion in broad daylight was beyond ridiculous. With Neil’s and my testimony, we could definitely report this crime. With Malfreed who could match Pyschkurewuss in authority on our side, this matter wouldn’t end so easily.


Was Pyschkurewuss so retarded that he would commit such a moronic crime when he was getting heat from an investigation?


Also… If he wanted dinner for one night, he could have just asked the tribal chief of the Forest's Edge, In terms of status, Pyschkurewuss was above us, and, if he permitted guards, Donda Wu and the others wouldn’t turn him down.


I was sure that this was Pyschkurewuss’ ploy, but something still seemed off.


Roy said to me impatiently: “Well, can’t you just hole yourself up in that room? I will have less work to do if you do that.”


I considered this carefully as, indeed, this might be the right thing to do.


Michael warned me to not display my culinary skills to Pyschkurewuss. But I couldn’t be sure that Pyschkurewuss was behind this absurdity. Should I hole up in this brick room for the five days while Malfreed was busy?


“No, Asuta-sama… I’m not saying this for my own self-interest… But I think this is very dangerous…”


“Dangerous?”


“Yes… My employer’s wishes were fulfilled today, and they became overjoyed… But if Asuta provokes my employer, Asuta might receive a lashing…”


Roy said impatiently: “Hey, if you don’t shut up, you will get a lashing too.”


The unhappiness in my heart started boiling over.


“I get it. In short, I have to cook, right?”


I just had to get it over with.


My life was in the hands of my enemy after all. If I believed that Pyschkurewuss was to lose his standing under the combined efforts of Kamyua Yost’s scheme and hard work of Donda Wu and company, that would be the most appropriate thing to do. Once that happened, it shouldn’t matter whether Pyschkurewuss would get enamored with my dishes or not.


And… How can I stand not seeing Ai Fa for five days?


Ai Fa wouldn’t know where I was during these five days. The thought of Ai Fa’s pain and loneliness during this time was heart-wrenching for me.


I must return home.


And so, I decided to cook for the nobles in this mansion.


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