Genos was a territory of the Western Kingdom Selva.
The Western Kingdom took pride in its vast lands, and Genos was situated on the eastern borders, slightly to the south. It was founded at the foot of Mount Morga, a city at the borders.
For the Selva Kingdom, Genos was located at its borders, but the territory was rather close to their friendly nations—— the Southern kingdom Jaguar, and the Eastern Kingdom Simu, and was an important trade hub.
It also had temperate climate, rich water sources and fertile farmlands.
The center of this territory was called 『Rock City』. The central city was protected by sturdy stone walls, and entry wasn’t permitted without a pass.
To the north of Rock City were the noble’s orchard, to the south were the peasant’s farmland.
A stone paved road stretched from the south to the north, splitting the Genos territory from the Morga mountain range—— and many citizens set up stores on either side of the road.
In the gap between the city and farmland was a post station town where travelers and merchants could visit freely.
And that was the Genos post station town.
I was dumbfounded right from the start.
After betting my life and overcoming that terrifying bridge, the world suddenly turned wide open after walking for half an hour. Even after adding in the time we walked from the Fa house, it had just been an hour.
Physically speaking, this felt about the same distance from our house to the Wu clan.
Despite that —— the world completely changed.
「What a huge surprise… This feels like another world…」
After recovering my speech capability, I squeezed out something unimportant.
That was how drastic the change before my eyes was.
「Don’t be so surprised. The denizens of Forest's Edge lived there in order to protect the farms of Genos from being destroyed by the kibas. That’s why our settlement is so close to Genos.」
Ai Fa still sounded unhappy in her reply, but such a one sided explanation couldn’t suppress my shock.
The denizens of Forest's Edge wore fur cape and hunt kibas in the forest for a living. And these brave hunters were actually so close to such a civilized land, it was hard for me to accept this fact.
The buildings here were built with wood too.
But almost all of them had two floors, instead of a single storey building.
Some of them even used stones and cement, and were sturdily built.
White stones paved the path beneath my feet.
This was the so called 『stone paved road』.
The road was about 10 metres wide, and was flanked tightly by buildings on either side, stretching in a straight line from north to south.
And this town was filled with people.
All kinds of people could be found here, but none were dressed like hunters.
A slightly plump man hurried down the street, with a small cylindrical hat on his head. He had a yellow shirt, loose cream-colored pants and a large bamboo basket on his back.
One woman walked elegantly in the crowd, her chest covered by a piece of cloth and a wide shawl on her shoulders. A long skirt covered her waist to her ankles. She wasn’t as beautiful as Vena Wu, but was also very sexy.
A burly man walked slowly along the path, his shirt was cut out of a camel-colored hide, and was clearly not from a kiba. A piece of cloth was wrapped around his waist and he wore leather sandals, so his clothing was similar to the denizens of Forest's Edge. On his waist was a hand axe and leather pouch.
There were a large variety of people here, and there was no way to describe the attire of each and every person.
A skinny old man in grey robes with a bandana wrapped around his head.
The children wore clothes made from tattered rags and ran around.
Strong well built men carried cargo half naked.
There were some men in hoods and cloaks that hid their faces.
Most of them had ivory colored skin like that of a Japanese, or tanned yellowish brown skin. But their hair wasn’t limited to black, and mainly ranges between dark brown to chestnut brown. Their facial features were prominent, very much different from people of my hometown.
Aside from them, there were a small group that had white skin with a slight red tint, and another small group that had skin tones darker than the denizens of Forest's Edge.
They meandered busily through the streets, moving nimbly and taking care not to run into others.
Aside from the wide variety of people, the density of buildings and people was also shocking.
「Uwah—— What is that!?」
A thin object could be seen sticking out from the crowd, about a meter taller than everyone else. It bounced up and down slightly as it approaches us.
「That’s a Totos Moa1.」
Ai Fa said nonchalantly.
Before my eyes was a huge bird 3m long, which looked like an enlarged ostrich.
Its long neck was just like an ostrich’s, and its round body was supported by thick legs—— but it was covered by dark brown feathers.
Leather belt was tied around its sharp beaks, and reins were tied to the bottom of its neck. A large man with yellowish brown skin held its reins, and the man only had a piece of cloth around his waist, and a cloth hat on his head.
Large luggage covered in cloth hung on either side of its body.
「There are only inns in this zone, the food stalls are further to the north.」
「Wait—— Wait for me, Ai Fa.」
Before Ai Fa could walk into the crowd, I grabbed her hand on reflex.
Ai Fa whose face showed hints of anger wanted to shake off my hand, but she suddenly came near me and asked:
「Asuta, what’s the matter? Your face is pale. Are you unwell?」
「I’m fine. I’m fine… Just give me some time.」
I could feel Ai Fa’s body warmth with my finger tips, and tightly closed my eyes.
It was hard to breathe as I wobbled my head. When I realized it, my heart was pumping intensely and the artery in my temple was beating strongly along with the rhythm of my heartbeat.
My sense of reason was rejecting this scene.
This place was too similar to another world.
Forest's Edge’s environment was very different from my world. After all, the people in Forest's Edge will wear the hides of their prey and hunt in forest. To me, such a lifestyle was no different from a story in a light novel.
But, how should I put this—— the denizens of Forest's Edge will use weapons forged from steel, erect wooden houses and cook food with stoves. They were civilized, but they live as one with nature. Instead of living in a different world, I felt closer to living in an uncharted land deep in the dense forest.
But this post station town was different.
They erect houses with planks, but the ground was properly laid and paved with stones. The eyes of the people didn’t burn intensely like feral beasts. They looked like they were enjoying a stable lifestyle as they meandered hurriedly along the road.
I was familiar with this scene.
This place was very similar to the world I was used to.
There definitely weren’t any electrical facilities in this town, and the development of their metallurgy was probably limited. The level of civilization was closer to the middle ages of my world.
But this was still very similar to me.
It might be similar, but it was also filled with the exotic style of a different world.
This wasn’t the city enclosed in stone walls, and was just a crude and messy post station town near the road. Even so, it was still a 「town」. These people didn’t need to hunt for a living, and could obtain food through the trades. That makes them 「townsmen」.
This place was too similar to my world, and that made me confused.
So this isn’t my original world. I’m in an unfamiliar different world, I—— can’t go back to my world anymore——
I felt a powerful force on my nape.
I felt someone pulled me hard to the side and shoved her mouth to my ears.
「Are you fine? If you are unwell, then lie down for a while. You—— you look like you are going to die.」
「I… I’m fine. Just a little dizzy…」
I answered unconsciously and slowly opened my eyes.
Ai Fa’s blue eyes were very close to mine, which surprised me.
My nasal cavity that had grown numb from the stuffy crowd was now filled with Ai Fa’s fragrance.
Ai Fa didn’t need to tend to the hearth now, so the smell of meat on her grew fainter. Ai Fa’s fragrance—— the smell of sweet fruit and refreshing herbs was stronger. Her scent was comforting, and gradually soothed my numb mind.
By the way… I still don’t know what that sweet scent is...
I could smell the fragrance of lilo from a lot of people and their homes in Forest's Edge, the stinging scent of pico leaves, and the smell of meat and fats.
However, I couldn’t smell this fragrance from anyone else.
What exactly is that? What an incredible scent. I think it’s some sort of fruit, but why do I only smell it on Ai Fa…?
When she held my fingers tightly, that thought slowly fade from my mind.
「Are you really okay? Don’t push yourself… Can you see me?」
「I can see you—— I’m really fine. It’s okay now.」
My vision suddenly turned clear.
Aside from her eyes, Ai Fa’s face that was blurred became sharp and focused. Ai Fa’s slender nose bridge, soft brown cheeks, pink lips and her blonde fringe covering her forehead were all reflected in my retina with a firm sense of reality. My right fingertips that Ai Fa touched was starting to heat up.
My wobbly legs could feel the hardness of the stone path once again, and I finally snapped back into reality.
「The light has finally returned to your eyes. What happened, Asuta?」
Ai Fa’s hand left the back of my neck, and she moved away.
But she still held my hand, allowing my exhausted heart to calm down.
「This is a little hard to explain. The atmosphere in this post station town is very similar to my hometown… Even though the atmosphere is the same, the streets and people are completely different, so my head was a complete mess.」
Ai Fa frowned, and looked like a grade schooler stumped by her teacher’s difficult maths question.
「I don’t really understand, but your face looked really bad. Don’t make me worry so much.」
I was surprised by her forthright words.
Ai Fa grunted and averted her eyes. She then quietly let go of my hand and said:
「Since you have recovered, we will now head to where the stalls are. Don’t ever leave my side.」
「Got it. If there is an emergency, I will hug you from behind again.」
I finally recovered enough to crack jokes, and Ai Fa kicked my leg hard mercilessly.
Contrary to my expectation, the street scenery didn’t last too long.
After walking for about ten minutes, the wooden structures were gone, and replaced by a market area set up like a flea market. Compared to earlier, this scene was incredibly messy.
The streets continued to extend northwards, and the trees on both sides of the roads had been cleared. In their place were stalls with wooden tables and makeshift roofs. There were stall owners who laid their wares on a rug on the ground. They peddle their goods to the pedestrians passing by.
Most of the goods sold here were food stocks, mainly vegetables.
All sorts of vegetables I saw in the Wu clan food store—— including those that helped me a lot last night, like the cabbage like tino leaves, pula that looked like thick ginkgo leaves, a bright red fruit that seemed to be a hybrid of a pumpkin and tomato. Burdocks that was taller than me, and a disgusting vegetable that looked like a coiled up snake… All these could be found in any stalls.
On top of that, this was a post station town built along the road, and their customers were mainly travelers. The stalls also sold large chunks of smoked jerky made from an unknown kind of meat, capes made from hides, cutlery made from wood or steel, pots, daggers, bows and arrows.
The Totos Moa I met earlier wasn’t a rare animal, and it could be seen around these parts often. Some of these Totos even towed large wagons, and seemed to be the equivalent of cattle or horse in my world.
I was still a little dizzy, but I could observe this world from the perspective of curiosity and research now, not fear or horror any more.
And finally—— I realized one thing.
In this post station town, Ai Fa was more prominent than me.
As people of various skin colors and dressing were gathered in this town, I could understand why I didn’t stand out.
But even though Ai Fa’s attire felt wild and primitive, she shouldn’t stand out too much.
There was nothing strange about clothing made from hide, and there were many people with blades on their person. Many of the women had flimsier clothes than Ai Fa, and I even saw someone wearing the fur of a feline carnivore on top of their head.
But despite that, the gaze of many of them fell on Ai Fa, and their eyes weren’t friendly.
A middle aged man frowned and looked away.
A woman hid inside her stall after showing a shocked expression.
One of the men had a devious smile, and whispered to his comrade.
Some of the people walking in our direction that was surprised and detoured around us.
In this place, Ai Fa was more out of place than I was.
And of course, when they saw me sticking so close to Ai Fa, they also cast their curious gazes on me. But compared to their reaction after seeing Ai Fa, this was nothing.
A wolf walking amongst sheeps is a befitting description for this.
Ai Fa continued striding forth silently.
Her face showed no signs of anger, and she didn’t do anything to intimidate the people around her. She just walked naturally like a nimble leopard.
In this crowded town, there will definitely be some ruffians.
Such as scums that drink and make merry in the middle of the day, groups wearing tattered armor and picking out flaws in a merchandize loudly. I would catch occasional glimpse of such people.
But even they were not treated as coldly by the others compared to Ai Fa.
Is everyone… looking down on 《kiba eaters》?
If that was so, then it was really infuriating.
Or rather, I could feel a rage welling up within me.
I heard that the denizens of Forest's Edge migrated here from the Southern Kingdom, and had the blood of foreigners within them. Were they all citizens of the Western Kingdoms? Even if that was true, the denizens of Forest's Edge already offered their souls to the Western God eight decades ago, so they were actually comrades.
As someone from another world, I didn’t understand all this very well. But even so, it still made me so mad.
While I was still fuming, Ai Fa said 「This is the place」, and stopped before a stall.
It was a small wooden stall outfitted with a tented roof.
An elderly person was sitting inside, too old for me to discern the gender.
It was bright and sunny, but the elderly person still wore a hooded cloak, with a large number of accessories that seemed to be associated with curses wrapped around the fingers and wrist. They looked really weird to me.
I observed the face hidden under the hood, and found the person’s features to be unexpectedly flat, with one corner of the lips raised in a creepy toad-like smile. One of the eyes was completely white and seemed blind, the other eye stared at us with its light green pupil.
「Tusks and horns from kibas? How many beasts worth?」
Even after hearing the voice, I still couldn’t tell the gender.
This stall didn’t seem to be selling anything. Hides from all sorts of beasts were hung on the pillar behind the old person, with no other wares in sight.
「Four of them.」
Ai Fa answered, and took out a string of them from her cape’s hidden pocket.
One kiba has two horns and tusks. So four kiba’s worth would mean 16 pieces. However, Ai Fa already hunted five kiba in this half month, adding the nine blessings the Wu clan gave us on top of that, she should have plenty more left inside her cape.
The elderly person took the string and carefully scrutinized them with one sparkling eye. As the elderly person caressed the white surfaces of the horns and tusks, a creepy smile finally appeared on that elderly person’s face.
「There’s some good stuff mixed in here. Did you hunt all these?」
Which meant that all nine blessings we received was still on her chest or in the cape.
I thought she would just exchange them in the order of receipt, but this discovery filled me with joy.
「Amazing, the foundations of our lives are built on skilled hunters.」
The elderly person said, then bend down and disappeared beneath the table.
The next moment, crisp clinking sound could be heard and the elderly person finally got up again with a small bag and three small metal slabs in hand.
The slab had turned black from oxidization, but I guessed it was bronze. Roughly 10cm long and 2cm wide, it was flat and about 5mm thick. There was some sort of emblem carved at the center, but the fingers of the elderly person blocked it, so I couldn’t see very well.
「This is my bonus for you. First will be four white and eight red, please confirm.」
Ai Fa accepted the bag, then emptied it onto the desk.
The slabs inside the bag were the same as the ones on the elderly person’s hand—— No, instead of slabs, they were closer to plates. The small plates clinked as it fell onto the table.
I could finally see the emblem, but they were just meaningless spirals to my eyes.
Ai Fa counted the plates nimbly with her fingers.
Four dark silvery plates.
And eight dark reddish plates.
「… Hmm, the numbers are correct.」
「Alright then, I will give you this too.」
The elderly person placed the red plates on top of the pile.
「It isn’t much.」
Ai Fa muttered, then returned those plates into the bag.
「It is getting dangerous around here, take care not to let anyone rob you. Really now, those people in town is only thinking about squeezing us dry. Haven’t they heard the phrase 『a dead Kiwi bird lay no eggs?』」
Sorry, I never heard that before either.
「I will make a move first.」
Ai Fa turned and left after saying that.
I wanted to follow, but the raspy voice of the old person stopped me.
「Hey, you are a townsman, but dressed like a 《kiba eater》. This is the first time I have seen someone like you… Is that beautiful female hunter threatening you?」
Even the old person trading with the denizens of Forest's Edge also discriminates them.
I was furious, but I used my natural social skills and said with a thumbs up:
「Kiba is delicious. Try it if you have the chance… I will make a move first then.」
When I left the stall, Ai Fa was waiting for me two metres away.
「What are you doing? Don’t leave my side. Those things on your neck are like copper plates. No one will be foolish enough to rob others of their tusks and horns in Forest's Edge, but we are on the Rock City’s turf now.」
「That’s true, I’m walking on rocks right now.」
I stomped the stone paved road with my heel, making a thumping sound.
By the way, my shoes were completely worn out.
「… Next will be aria and poitan.」
Ai Fa continued striding forth.
The crowd was thinning out.
The stalls were more spaced apart, and our field of vision widened.
After that, I saw something amazing.
Looking in the direction we were headed, there were a row of trees behind the marketplace, and on the other side of the trees —— I could see a grey wall.
Even though it was some distance away, I could see bits of grey from the gaps in the trees.
「… That’s the stone walls of the Genos castle town.」
Ai Fa glanced that way, then said emotionlessly.
「The nobles lived within those stone walls and rule over Genos.」
I didn’t feel anything special.
I couldn’t help feeling enraged when I realized the people in there were the ones forcing the denizens of Forest's Edge to hunt kiba.
The denizens of Forest's Edge couldn’t forage for wild plants and fruits in the woods, couldn’t cultivate plants, and could only hunt for kiba—— Not just that, the people in the city even call them 《kiba eaters》 mockingly.
The people of Forest's Edge protect the farmlands of Genos, so the efforts of the farmers wouldn’t be destroyed by the kiba. Since they contributed to the prosperity of this town, why must they be treated so coldly? The denizens of Forest's Edge was not dissatisfied about this and still lived proudly, but I couldn’t accept this.
So the people inside are the nobles of Rock City… If possible, I don’t want to ever come into contact with them.
I muttered quietly in my heart as I strolled along the streets with Ai Fa.
As a mortal, there was no way for me to know—— after falling into this different world and finding a place for myself in a corner of the settlement of Forest's Edge, I will come face to face with the highest authority of Genos living in Rock city in the near future.
「… Oh, a customer from Forest's Edge.」
A middle aged man welcomed us with a stiff smile.
We arrived at a small vegetable stall at the northernmost corner of the market place.
It was a simple and plain stall. The owner laid a piece of cloth on the ground, and displayed his vegetables on it. The roof structure looked really frail.
Behind him was a large wagon with many full bags.
「Thanks for your patronage. If you all didn’t visit once every three days, the aria I picked would have dried up.」
He was in his early forties, and had a white cloth tied around his head like me. He also had a cloth on his waist, and wore sandals. His hair, eyes and beard were all dark brown in color, and had yellowish brown skin. His body was well built, and he looked strong.
But his eyes turned as cute as a pom pom dog in front of Ai Fa.
「So, are you here for aria and poitan today too? The price is the same as before, how much plates worth are you getting?」
「I want two white plates worth of poitan, two white and four red plates worth of aria.」
「Wow, that’s a lot! I guess I can close shop for the day now.」
That man was warm and acted like a businessman, but the smile on his face was still very stiff.
When interacting with the denizens of Forest's Edge, the fear in his heart overwhelms his contempt.
「Two white and four red… Alright, please check.」
He placed a heavy hemp bag onto the grass besides the stall.
That’s quite an amount—— Just when I was thinking that, he placed another bag that was roughly the same weight onto the ground.
The bag was rather big —— it wouldn’t be strange to find it on the back of Santa Claus.
「Hey hey, Ai Fa, how many days of food did you buy?」
Ai Fa sat down crossed legged before the bag.
Looks like we have to count the amount of merchandize.
Ai Fa exchanged four kiba’s worth of tusks and horns. One kiba yields ten meals, so two people for twenty days would be forty meals, the maths worked out.
But if we eat three aria and two poitan in one day, twenty days would be… 60 aria and 40 poitan? 120 and 80 respectively for two people?
「Wait! Why are we buying so much? It will take an hour to walk home from here right!?」
As I was saying that, I realized that the concept of clocks might not exist in the settlement of Forest's Edge, but there should be sundials.
No, that’s not important at all. By my calculations, the aria and poitan was 200g each, which means——
120 aria weighs 24kg.
The 80 poitan was 16kg.
Considering the distance between Forest's Edge and the post station town, buying so many goods could only be described as rash.
「… Stop caring so much and count. If we keep staying here, other people won’t want to come near.」
Ai Fa said to me quietly as she counted.
The middle aged man pretended he didn’t hear that as he arranged his vegetables.
Given the current atmosphere, there was no way for the buyer or seller to change the quantity.
I sighed and sat down besides Ai Fa.
「Okay, the poitan is fine.」
I glanced at Ai Fa chugging the poitan back into the bag, and laid out the aria onto the grass ten by ten.
When I got to number 30, I stopped.
「Shopkeeper, I think aria was soaked in water.」
He looked shocked.
But he made no attempt to walk to us.
「That’s impossible. I picked that two days earlier, and it will remain crispy for an entire month.」
「But the texture isn’t right. You can’t tell from its appearance, but I think it is rotten.」
「D-Don’t make any trouble here. Even if you are from Forest's Edge, you have to follow the post station town’s rules.」
「The post station town’s rules…? Hey Ai Fa, can’t we complain to the stall owner even if we bought rotten food?」
To be on the safe side, I checked with Ai Fa quietly. He was some distance away, but the middle aged man seemed to have heard that. He was still unwilling to come over, and said agitatedly:
「Hey! I-I cultivate those aria through hard work! I have eaten those that turned out sub par myself! If you have a problem with my aria, t-then don’t come again!」
He shouted fiercely and looked ready for a brawl.
Ai Fa frowned and took the aria from my hand.
「Hmm… it’s a little soft?」
「No, it’s inedible now—— Mister, let’s cut it open. If it’s rotten, can you change one for me? If it’s fine, I will apologize properly to you.」
After getting the owner’s consent, I used Ai Fa’s late father’s knife and cut that aria in two.
As expected, the bottom half of the aria had turned purple and soft to the touch. And so, the bottom half can’t be used anymore.
「See, it’s rotten. Sorry for troubling you, but can you exchange one for me please?」
I extended my hand his way to show him the splitted halves of the aria. The owner’s pale face immediately lost all its color.
「S… Sorry! It’s my fault! You are right, please forgive me! I-I will give you back your money, please spare my life…」
The middle aged man prostrated onto the ground and offered us the metal plates.
He seemed to be emotionally unstable.
「…Ai Fa, what should we do at a time like this?」
「Who knows? We can’t accept the food if we don’t pay.」
「That’s right. Eh, mister, please raise your head. We don’t want the metal plates, but the aria. My teeth isn’t tough enough to bite through something that hard.」
Maybe Donda Wu could bite off the metal plates. I thought to myself as I shook the thick shoulders of the middle aged man.
「You… You’re not a denizen of Forest's Edge…?」
「My birth place is different from them. As you can see, I’m under the care of Forest's Edge right now.」
He looked up at me, his eyes were like a pom pom dog facing a pitbull.
「… You will forgive me?」
「If you exchange a new aria for us, we will forgive you.」
The middle aged man grabbed an aria displayed on his groundsheet, and hand it to us.
「Alright, thank you… This might be a bit nosy, but if you are very confident in your work, maybe you should confirm the situation before getting mad? Otherwise, it won’t be good for your business.」
「… If you are not from Forest's Edge, I would have already done that.」—— I seemed to hear the owner whispered that, but his voice was too whimsical for me to tell.
The other arias were fine, and the number was correct. So we stuff all of them into the bag.
Ai Fa then took out a bunch of dried vines from the pocket in her cape—— that should be Flebaha vines —— and tied the openings of the two bags tightly.
She then held on to the excess vines, compared the weight of the two bags, and heaved the bag of aria onto her left shoulder.
Since she already bore the bag that was twice as heavy as mine, I couldn’t complain even if I was a frail hearth caretaker. I still sighed and wondered how I could traverse that bridge, and heaved that bag over my shoulder to act like an out of season Santa Claus.
「Well then, we will make a move first. We might visit again in twenty days, please take care of us when that time comes.」
The stall owner glanced our way with gloomy eyes, and didn’t answer.
My feelings were still wavering, and I wasn’t sure if I should sympathize with him or be angry.
「Asuta, including the bonus the grandma at the exchange stall gave us, we have quite a bit of copper plates left over. Do you need to buy anything else?」
Ai Fa stopped in a space between the stalls and asked me.
I immediately put my bag down by my feet and answered: 「I need fruit wine.」
「One red copper plate can buy one bottle of fruit wine. Even if we buy two, there will still be five copper plates left.」
「Hmm~ I don’t know the prices of things here at all. What about rock salt?」
「The rock salt would be three red copper plates… That’s true, we need to use rock salt aside from making jerky, so we should get some.」
I discussed about what to buy with Ai Fa while walking through the crowds, which felt incredible to me.
And of course, I didn’t dislike that at all.
「Well then, two copper plates left… How about buying some tino leaves and pula we tried in the Wu clan last night? I don’t know how much we can buy though.」
「I’m fine with anything, so you decide.」
She entrusted me with shopping duties.
While I was tilting my head in deep thought when my stomach grumbled cutely.
「Ah! Ai Fa, how about buying some snacks at the stalls for a quick bite?」
The stalls not only sell smoked meat, many of them also sell simple snacks that could be eaten right away.
When Ai Fa heard what I said, she widen her eyes in surprise.
「If you are hungry, I have some jerky with me.」
「I don’t mean that. Aside from visiting the post station town, we don’t have any other chance to try different food right…? Ah, is this a taboo violation in Forest's Edge?」
「We are free to use the copper plates we earned by trading in our tusks and horns, but there isn’t anyone in Forest's Edge who will spend copper plates for that.」
I see, that made sense. After all, there wasn’t any concept of cuisines in Forest's Edge.
「Since you aren’t interested in the food, let’s go back after buying some tino leaves.」
「I already said that I will leave this to you. You can do whatever you want.」
「Hmm～ we used the money you earned to get poitan and aria, I will feel bad if we waste the rest of the money on my hobby.」
「… What are you saying? I’m the head of the household?」
Ai Fa narrowed her eyes immediately.
I possess nine tusks and horns, but I didn’t use any of it to make payment, which gave me a sense of inferiority. Was my concern harming the dignity of the house head?
After getting peacefully all this time, I didn’t want to anger Ai Fa.
「Alright, I will use one copper plate to buy a new vegetable, and the last one to purchase some food that can be eaten on the spot, okay? To be honest, I’m curious about the food culture in this world.」
When she heard that, Ai Fa relaxed her brows and said 「Up to you.」
It seemed that when I was with Ai Fa, I have to play the role of the girlfriend being spoiled. Because our roles were the hearth caretaker and house head, this relationship probable made sense. But as a man from Japan, I still found it a little uncomfortable.
However, Ai Fa’s look of satisfaction was very soothing for me.
「Okay, let’s get going. Time is precious, so let’s pick something out along the way.」
「Yes, I will buy something that smells the tastiest.」
We went back the way we came, and brought rock salt and fruit wine along the way.
The rock salt was stuffed into my bag, and Ai Fa tied up the fruit bottle and carried it by hand.
As we continued along, I saw a vegetable stall and studied its wares.
It was too risky to buy completely unknown ingredients, so I should stick with tino leaves or pula. After asking the girl whose eyes were obviously wavering, I found out that a copper plate could buy two tino leaves or three pula. The price of these two vegetables were almost double that of aria and poitan.
Could I really buy something so extravagant? I looked up at Ai Fa, and before I could speak, she said 「Up to you.」
Since she said that, I chose the tino leaves.
Tino leaves were a vegetable that had a similar texture to cabbage, while pula had a bitter taste akin to green peeper. Both these vegetables had their own charms, but tino leaves were more practical.
After stuffing in the two tino leaves, my bag was bulging as much as Ai Fa’s.
After Ai Fa turned around, I also rushed to follow.
The two bags might look the same, but the density of the contents were very different. Even though Ai Fa was burdened with 24 kg of weight, she didn’t slow down at all. I was impressed.
Her body must be really well built. As a hunter, she had to move freely in the difficult terrain of the woods, that’s how she trained her well toned body. Now, it’s finally time for the snack I was looking forward to——
「Ah, let’s pick that one.」
I stopped at the stall besides the smoked meat seller.
When I passed by here just now, this stall stimulated my sense of smell.
The business here wasn’t bad, and a little girl was waiting for her food there right now.
Ai Fa nodded, and walked towards the stall without hesitation.
「How much is the food here?」
The stall was tended by a plump middle aged woman with dark brown hair and brown eyes.
Her fat face frowned on the sight of Ai Fa.
「… The small one is one red copper plate, the big one is two red copper plate.」
「Give me a small one then.」
The woman didn’t answer and returned her gaze to her hands.
I looked over the head of the little girl in line, and observed the interior of the stall.
A something brown was stewing in a rather large iron pot. I knew nothing about the food sold in this stall, but I could see bite sized meat and vegetables in there. More importantly, the fragrance of the gooey stuff was appetizing, just like the smell from garlic. I never smell anything like that in Forest's Edge.
Besides the pot was a pile of ingredients that looked like grilled poitan.
It was whiter than poitan, and the texture seemed more chewy. There were two sizes, about 20cm and 30cm in diameter respectively, and about 5mm thick. After woman wrapped the content of the pot with this ingredient, she twisted the excesses at the top hard, making it into a shape of a deformed pouch.
If I had to to describe it with a term, that would be ‘meat bun’.
「Here, careful it’s hot.」
The little girl who was about Rimee Wu answered happily and reached out her hands.
I got out of her way for her to pass through easily.
The girl then turned our way energetically—— she was surprised when she saw Ai Fa, and stood stiffly in place. The bun she just bought fell from her hands because of its inertia.
She was lucky that I caught that bun on reflex. If I didn’t put down my luggage besides my feet, I wouldn’t have caught it.
The little girl’s eyes were timid, but she still nodded, snatched the bun and ran off.
「… Your ordered a small one right?」
The woman said coldly and started making our share quickly.
Her skills weren’t bad, but from a customer service perspective, her attitude was discomforting.
After paying the copper plate, we found an open space to sit down.
「Hurry up and eat. We are going back when you are done.」
「Okay, I’m digging in.」
I finally encountered another unknown dish after Ai Fa cooked her kiba pot for me.
Back then, the kiba pot smelled really nice, but the taste completely went contrary to my expectation. Therefore, I didn’t dare to relax this time, and took a bit bite after bracing myself.
「Is it good?」, Ai Fa asked disinterestedly.
As for me, I could only say 「average」.
How should I put this… It was so so.
It wasn’t delicious, but not nasty either, very normal.
From the fragrance coming out from the stall, it was clear that plenty of spices were added to this snack, and smelled like a mixture of garlic and parsley. It tasted different, but wasn’t unappetizing.
The meat inside the wrap was white, and the fats had completely melted. It tasted as bland as chicken breast meat.
The diced red and green vegetables were soft, and wasn’t much different from cooked aria. Maybe there was aria in there.
The brown gooey ingredients should be stewed vegetables. The taste was a little sweet, and wasn’t too unique to interfere with the taste of the other ingredients.
The white outer skin that reminds me of poitan was as chewy as they looked. Their texture was closer to compressed Indian naan instead of buns.
The ingredients complements and contrasted with each other, forming an average taste.
「Well, it’s quite palatable, and satisfies my curiosity.」
The quantity wasn’t much, so I could finish it easily. And it wasn’t too unacceptably exotic.
If I had to pick a flaw, it would be it being too pricey, being equivalent to one bottle of fruit wine, or two tino leaves, or four poitan.
「Ai Fa, you want a bite?」
I tried asking her, but Ai Fa turned me down.
「Hmm～ I ate something boring, are the people here actually satisfied by this? I don’t understand why they look down on the denizens of Forest's Edge and call them 《kiba eaters》. Kiba meat is much more delicious compared to this.」
「…Asuta, did you forget the kiba pot you ate on your first night here?」
Of course I didn’t forget.
However, that was because the proper blood letting technique didn’t exist in Forest's Edge.
The people in Genos lived here longer than the denizens of Forest's Edge, did they not consider a good way of eating kiba meat?
「… Before the denizens of Forest's Edge moved here eighty years ago, a large number of kibas lurked in the forest, and would attack people and farmlands. For the Genos citizens back then, kiba represented disaster.」
They weren’t worthy of a taste because they were signs of disaster?
What a waste.
「I don’t know the details, but they probably had plenty of meat back then. That Totos we saw had plenty of edible parts.」
「What~ they eat birds like that…? It doesn’t look nasty to eat, but..」
「Anyways, the people in town fears kiba. They also fear the denizens of Forest's Edge that kills and feed on kiba. And now, they have forgotten the terror of the kiba, and the denizens of Forest's Edge is gradually replacing it as the symbol of terror… Grandma Jiba once told me that.」
「So it’s just a baseless discrimination. Why didn’t the denizens of Forest's Edge try to resolve this misunderstanding?」
「… Even if they fear us, we won’t be inconvenienced by that.」
Was that really true?
I didn’t think their unwillingness to resolve the misunderstanding was praiseworthy.
The denizens of Forest's Edge being treated coldly by the people in town was partly their fault—— I felt unhappy to come to this conclusion.
When I was about to rebuke Ai Fa, I suddenly stopped because I noticed something in the corner of my eye.
—— It was that girl from earlier.
The little girl sat on the other side of the road by herself, biting into the bun I ate earlier.
There wasn’t anything special about that, but when I looked her way, she would turned her head quickly like a nimble squirrel.
She will then slowly look my way.
As the road was about ten meters wide, I couldn’t discern her expression in detail. But she looked really curious.
「… She probably think it is incredible seeing a pale skinned man like you in Forest's Edge get up.」
Ai Fa seemed to noticed the little girl and said so casually.
I answered as I watched the little girl from the corner of my eyes.
She was about Rimee Wu’s age, maybe seven or eight years old.
Her dark brown hair reached up to her shoulders, and her skin was yellowish brown. Her orange dress was a one piece, and not a cloth wrapped around her. She had a pair of leather sandals on her feet.
Her torso and limbs were thinner than Rimee Wu, and the way she bit into the meat bun looked cute too.
I tried turning my face her way again.
My attack was sudden, and the little girl couldn’t avert her gaze and remained still.
I smiled at her, and the girl looked as if she was choked by her bun. She then showed a gentle smile.
「… What are you doing?」
「Nothing, I just think that girl is really cute.」
「Hmm? You misunderstand! What’s with your eyes? Just what kind of person do you think I am?」
「Shut up. Don’t be so flustered… You like kids?」
Contrary to my expectations, Ai Fa’s attitude returned to normal. My agitated emotions suffered a sudden over shoulder throw.
「If I have to say, I guess I like them. Many children will visit my dad’s shop, because a lot of families will visit us.」
「… I see.」
Hmm? Did I misunderstand where this conversation was going?
I don’t want you to disappear suddenly —— Ai Fa said this uncharacteristcally last night. I was a little flustered when I recalled how she looked back then.
It would be better to not mention my original world for the time being.
Acting calm, I tried saying in a cheerful tone:
「By the way, it feels depressing at the thought of carrying so much luggage back home. Isn’t twenty meals too much?」
「I always buy this much. Or——」, Ai Fa suddenly averted her eyes and added:
「You don’t need twenty meals worth of food?」
「Hey Ai Fa——」
I can’t tell what my future will bring either…! Thankfully, I didn’t yell that out loud.
However, I couldn’t find something else to say.
Ai Fa lowered her eyelids quietly, unwilling to show me how she really felt.
「Ai Fa, I…」
I had to say something.
Before I could sort out my thoughts, I spoke——
But an unexpected roar and noise drowned out my words.
「Say it to me clearly if you have any complains! Aren’t you the arrogant citizens of Rock City!?」
It was a voice of a young man who had lost his composure.
There was also a loud sound of something being damaged, and screams.
Including the voice of that little girl.
「W-What? Something happened?」
I couldn’t understand the situation.
The remains of a broken wooden crate was scattered on the streets, along with an unknown yellow fruit. Two men was wrestling in the middle of the scattered items.
They were really close to that little girl.
The other people had retreated away to not get caught in the dispute, only that girl was sitting weakly on the ground with a fearful face.
「Hey, is that…?」
Before I could sound her out, Ai Fa had stood up deftly.
There was an intimidating gleam in her eyes as she glared at the men.
One of the two men fighting on the road in broad day light—— was from Forest's Edge.
It was an unfamiliar young man.
But he was definitely a denizen of Forest's Edge.
He had a kiba cape draped over him, a shirt and waist cloth with complicated swirling designs, and two blades on his waist. He was also wearing a necklace of tusks and horns.
He had a messy head of dark brown hair, light tanned skin and blue fiery eyes.
The man wasn’t too tall, had a body of solid muscles and a serious face like a stone lion.
This young man from Forest's Edge grabbed the chest of a plump man who seemed to be a merchant. He made that man’s round face turned red by constricting the man’s neck.
「Asuta, stay here.」
Ai Fa left these words and walked quickly into the crowd. She was still holding onto the bottle of fruit wine for some reason.
I couldn’t just watch idly by. I wasn’t suited to mediate a dispute between parties, but I couldn’t leave that poor little girl alone.
Ai Fa pushed through the wall of people and strolled into the center of the encirclement. On the other hand, I ran around the wall of people and quietly went towards the little girl.
「Say it again. Who is the 『stinky kiba eater』 you are referring to? You said 『even the food in my hand stinks now』 right? Say it louder so I can hear you clearly, oh great citizen of Rock City.」
This young man from Forest's Edge seemed to be drunk.
He held a familiar bottle in one hand, and his red face and shrill voice was definitely not because of his rage.
Someone is actually so drunk in broad daylight, don’t he need to hunt kiba?
I thought as I quickly rush towards the little girl.
I was five meters away from my goal when another series of screams came.
Along with an ominous shattering sound.
The man from Forest's Edge tossed aside the bottle filled with fruit wine, and pull out a knife.
It was a knife, but the blade was as thick as a machete, and about 20cm long. This weapon could even cut through kiba hide and meat, and was rather dangerous.
He actually draw his blade! That’s too unreasonable!
I couldn’t take my time going the long way around. I pushed aside the gawkers and charged out.
The girl’s half eaten bun fell to the ground, and the two men fighting trampled all over it. They were that close to her.
At this moment —— another sound erupted.
Ai Fa hit the back of that man’s head hard with the fruit wine bottle in her hand.
The bottle shattered and the fragrance of the fruit wine spread across the road.
That man stumbled and fell onto the ground—— I grabbed the little girl before he fell onto her.
「Retard, if you like wine so much, you can have my share!」
Ai Fa cold steely voice tore through all the noise.
「It is a serious taboo for the people of Forest's Edge to cause any trouble in Rock City. You are a disgrace to Forest's Edge.」
That man held the back of his head while he squatted. He lift his head and looked up at Ai Fa.
Intense hatred and grudge welled up within his murky eyes, as if he had seen something he loathed.
「You are the female hunter from house Fa… How dare you do this to me, you think I will let this go so easily…?」
「Who is the one that failed to follow the rules of Forest's Edge? There is no shame in my actions.」
「Uwah… What a cool girl.」
The one who said that wasn’t the man from Forest's Edge.
It was an unfamiliar man, who knelt beside me before I even noticed.
「This is the first time I have seen a female hunter. If that necklace is the real thing, that’s really praiseworthy.」
「W-What do you want?」
In order to not get in Ai Fa’s way, I got up and moved away from the center of the dispute, and asked the man following behind me.
「Me? I’m just a normal pedestrian. I wanted to protect that poor girl over there, but you got ahead of me.」
That man had a whimsical presence.
He had a head of golden brown locks I had never seen in Forest's Edge or the post station town before. His skin seemed untainted by the sun and was ivory in color. His pupils had a tint of purple.
Because he had button up his long cloak, I couldn’t see his body. But he had a long face and immense height, and was slouching to bring his face near me.
He had a pair of drooping eyes, high nose bridge and messy hair and beard. His strangely colored pupils had both the maturity of age and a childish glow, making it hard to discern his age.
「Ara, looks like the lazy officials have finally made their move.」
I followed the man’s extended finger, and saw a group of men with spears hurriedly moving through the crowd.
「What are you lot doing in the middle of the road!?」
The group of strong men wore leather helmet, leather chest protectors and had yellowish brown skin. From their professional dressing, they were probably the guards that maintains the peace within the city.
When I was about to sigh in relief—— I saw them point the sharp end of their spears at Ai Fa, which made me stood stiff.
The girl in my arms were trembling.
「Denizens of Forest's Edge… Hey! You are prohibited from causing any incidents in this post station town! Is the people of Forest's Edge trying to violate the agreement you made with Marquis Genos!?」