After finishing work that comes up once in a lifetime—— house Lutim’s banquet, the next day——
Ai Fa and I walked on the solid yellow ground.
After ending the job that lasted six days, we bid farewell to the Wu clan village and headed home.
「Really now, I wanted to help clean up after the banquet too.」
I couldn’t help but complain on our way home.
I overslept and didn’t take part in cleaning up the aftermath of the banquet.
The sun would reach the top of the sky soon.
After coming to this different world, I followed its principle of sleeping and rising early. But I was too exhausted yesterday, and I felt really bad about not getting up.
Ai Fa walked energetically and glanced sideways at me.
「You’re still talking about that? Your job is to cook the dishes for the banquet, you don’t need to mind these trivial matters.」
「No, this has nothing to do with my responsibility, I just wanted to work together with everyone until the very end.」
When morning came —— which was just an hour ago, I woke up and rushed out of my rented room, but there was no trace of the banquet left at all.
The makeshift stoves made from stones, the stage for the newlyweds, the tall stands for the torches and the ceremonial fire—— all that had been cleared away. The space before me was vast and empty, as if the banquet last night was just a dream.
After asking Ai Fa, I learned that the entire village got up after sunrise to clean up the place after the banquet.
「It feels lonely after the rowdy festival ended, and now, I felt as if a hole had been opened in my chest.」
Furthermore, I would be bidding farewell to the Wu clan village that I had been staying in for the past six days.
In the past six days, I made many friends.
I didn’t know how to interact with the men from the Wu clan in the beginning, but after teaching them about the bloodletting and dismembering process, I felt it hard to describe the sense of closeness and trust between them and me. Even more so for the Wu clan women who worked hard to cook the dishes with me.
This made the depression I felt even stronger.
「Never mind, Ai Fa, as long as you are by my side, everything will be fine!」
After I announced how I felt loudly, Ai Fa who was walking besides me kicked my leg.
「It’s about time for you to change your mindset. There’s another troublesome matter awaiting us today.」
「Yes, I know.」
About an hour later, we reached our home after being away for six days—— There was a blonde man in a cloak waiting there for us.
「Hi, Ai Fa and Asuta, I’m glad that you both look well.」
The man was tall and skinny, just like a mantis.
Messy blonde hair with a scuffy beard to match.
A narrow face, nose, drooping eyes and an always smiling face.
This man had incredible purple eyes, the innocence of a child and the maturity of an elderly man.
This mysterious man of unknown origins was Kamyua Yost.
「I have come to visit as promised. Can you speak with me?」
「Yes, thank you for making the trip here, we wanted to discuss something with you too.」
Kamyua Yost replied with a happy smile in response to me.
「I’m glad for your hospitality. Beautiful female hunter, I hope that you are well too.」
「Please don’t spoil my house head’s mood… Let’s talk inside. I’ll take care of your blades.」
「I see. Is that a custom of Forest's Edge? That’s good. I couldn’t help smiling at the prospect of having my curiosity satiated.」
Kamyua Yost said carefreely, and removed the sword on his waist, and handed it to me, scabbard and all.
His sword was longer than the saber in Forest's Edge. But it was thinner, so it weighed about the same as a saber.
By the way, what was this sword used for?
「… This way please.」
Ai Fa, me, and the guest went through the door in that order.
The Fa house was still the same.
Ai Fa took off her shoes, hung her cape on the wall and sat in her usual seat of honor.
But she didn’t let down her guard. She placed her saber which she usually leans against the wall by her side.
I sat beside her, and placed the guest’s sword besides me just like her
Kamyua Yost showed no intention of removing his cloak, and sat at the bottom seat.
… What a strange uncle.
Kamyua Yost helped us when we were in trouble in the Post Station Town. After that, he created an uproar in the Wu village that almost led to bloodshed. This was the third time we met.
No matter how many times I meet him, I couldn’t tell what he was thinking from his frivolous smiling face.
「Alright then—— I would like to apologize to you two.」
As I tilted my head quizzedly, Kamyua Yost’s lips turned up in a smile.
「When we first met in the Post Station Town, I said many unnecessary things that confused you. I have no intention of being hostile to the chief Tsun clan without being provoked.」
He suddenly cut to the chase.
「And so, I hope you won’t think of me as an enemy, and misunderstand me as attempting to attack a denizen of Forest's Edge. I’m here to visit because I want to build a relationship with the denizens of Forest's Edge. Will you believe me?」
Ai Fa didn’t say a word, keeping one knee up as she sat with her legs pulled in, giving off a dignified aura.
I didn’t know what Kamyua Yost thought of the silent Ai Fa, but he continued talking smoothly:
「Back then, I progressed the topic a little too fast. I have always been curious about the denizens of Forest's Edge, and when I got the chance to speak with the two of you, and a beautiful lady like Ai Fa on top of that, I might have acted imprudently. I hope you can forgive me.」
After hearing that, Ai Fa remained expressionless and didn’t say a word.
This was the second time Ai Fa had met Kamyua Yost. She had already braced herself, and could ignore his frivolous words.
My job was to probe what he was really thinking through dialogue.
「Kamyua Yost, can you tell me what is your objective?」
「Just call me Kamyua… What do you mean by objective?」
「I know you are visiting Forest's Edge since you are in the vicinity for your work, but why go out of your way to visit us? You are not here just to chat right?」
「No, I’m just here to chat today.」
Kamyua Yost opened his eyes wide in surprise.
「I have always thought of the denizens of Forest's Edge as my own brethrens. But my feelings are one sided. To you all, I’m just an outsider of dubious origin. Of course, you won’t take my words on the rules of Forest's Edge and the depravity of the chief clan to heart. I’m here in order to deepen my friendship with you.」
Kamyua Yost took out a bottle of fruit wine from his cloak.
「It’s a little gift from me. Please try it tonight… Oh right, poison test.」
He took a sip of the fruit wine like he did the previous time.
「Hmm~I think you still haven’t answered my question properly. I don’t understand the reason and motive behind you getting closer to the denizens of Forest's Edge.」
「What? I just want to deepen my friendship with everyone, is there a need for motives and reasons…? If I have to think of one, it’s because the denizens of Forest's Edge were forced by circumstances in the past, and had to switch the god they worship. This resonates deeply with me. I respect how noble the denizens of Forest's Edge acts in the Post Station Town. I’m also intrigued and feel goodwill towards the two of you. My visit here is based on these three reasons.」
He had a way with words.
His thoughts were sound and orderly, but his expression and tone were frivolous.
「Since you agreed to host my visit, that means you are curious about me too right? After all, the people in town all fear the denizens of Forest's Edge, but I actually had the gall to come to Forest's Edge, so you couldn’t just ignore me right?」
「Thank you for articulating our thoughts… By the way, about the job you mentioned before, have you gotten permission from the Tsun clan?」
「Yes, I have reflected on my actions. If I skip the Tsun clan and contact the denizens of Forest's Edge directly, it would be a slight against the Tsun clan and cause unnecessary tension.」
This man’s job was the escort of a caravan that would be leaving Genos for the Eastern Kingdom Semu.
When the time comes, the caravan hopes to travel through the Forest's Edge, so he had to ask the Tsun clan for a guide, and settle other related issues.
「Even though you had a run-in with the Tsun clan, they actually gave their permission so readily.」
「Yes, even though I gave my name clearly, they accepted without any hesitation. As expected of the chief clan, even though they are corrupted, they are really magnanimous.」
Kamyua Yost had a smile of satisfaction.
It might be bad for me to say this, but I couldn’t trust him at all when he makes such a face.
「By the way, it will be quite some time before I set off for work. As it is a large caravan, the preparation work is tedious. And the members are very superstitious, so we will only set off on the 15th of the month. That would be twenty-odd days from today.」
I didn’t know the calendar of this world yet, so even if I hear him say that, I still have no idea what date it was.
In order to not let him realize that, I nodded vaguely and said:「I see.」
「When we set off for the eastern kingdom, it will take us two months to come back. That’s why I hope to deepen my friendship with the two of you as much as possible in these 20 odd days. Ai Fa, Asuta, thank you for accepting a suspicious man like me.」
「Our friendship aren’t that deep.」
「Solid friendships that are formed in no time are worthless. Only after going through a series of hardships will our friendship become sturdy.」
It might sound like he was saying something profound, but it just sound superficial when it came out from his mouth.
When I was at a loss and moaning, my stomach suddenly growled.
Ai Fa was staring at Kamyua Yost, but she was now looking at me coldly.
「Are you hungry? If this is meal time, you don’t need to mind me.」
「No, we didn’t eat much during the day, I was just too busy last night to eat dinner…」
「That won’t do! You’re too skinny Asuta, you should eat more.」
This thin pole was actually telling me. Despite the retort I made in my heart, this man might only look exceptionally slender because he was too tall.
As he had a long cloak on, I couldn’t tell his body type, but the wrist he was showing looked solid. If I wasn’t wrong, his long fingers and big palms didn’t lose out to Jiza Wu and Darum Wu.
「It’s just past noon. Hmm… it’s too unbearable to hang on until evening with meat jerky alone. Ai Fa, can I cook some meat and aria?」
「Up to you.」
When I heard Ai Fa’s reply, I walked to the food store.
At this moment, the eyes of the guest sparkled, and he called out to me:
「Wait, is the meat you are talking about kiba meat? If I’m right, can you let me try some?」
Ai Fa had been calm all this while, but she now showed a shocked expression.
「You are from Rock City—— but you want to eat kiba meat?」
「Hmm? Is that strange? Only the locals in Genos had the strange idea about fearing kiba and the denizens of Forest's Edge right?」
Kamyua Yost had a cheerful smile on his face.
「I’m not a local of Genos, or even this country. I think kiba is just a normal vermin, and the denizens of Forest's Edge are brave hunters that exterminate these vermins. Travelers from the east and south don’t fear you two right? Please don’t be so surprised.」
I couldn’t tell the easterners from the southerners apart.
I only remember—— most of the people who fear and view Ai Fa in contempt had yellowish skin.
「Aside from the denizens of Forest's Edge, no one else ate kiba. I don’t know about the south or the east, but in the western territories, the kiba can only be found in the Morga Forest. As a citizen of the western kingdom, this will be a fulfilling trip if I can taste some kiba meat today.」
His eyes were sparkling like a child
On the other hand, Ai Fa was clearly troubled.
In the last eight decades, denizens of Forest's Edge was viewed as 《Kiba Eaters》, and seen in contempt. This development shocked Ai Fa deeply.
「Ai Fa, what should we do? You are the house head, I will follow your lead.」
I bent over slightly and asked, then Ai Fa grabbed me by the chest suddenly.
I almost slipped, and Ai Fa leaned in so fast to me that I thought she wanted to bite my ears.
「I—— I can’t decide. What do you think, Asuta?」
We were so close together, but I could barely hear her voice.
She didn’t want the guest to hear this.
I pulled away in surprise and was stunned when I saw Ai Fa’s expression. Her icy expression was stiff, but her blue eyes were as childlike as Rimee Wu, and she looked at me uneasily.
She was that surprised by this.
Using my body as a shield, I blocked the guest from seeing her face and leaned near her ear:
「This wouldn’t violate any taboo in Forest's Edge, so it’s fine. Let’s treat him to kiba meat and aria as thanks for his fruit wine.」
Ai Fa grabbed my chest again and pulled me in.
「…Asuta, I will let you decide.」
Ai Fa’s lips touched my ear lobes, which made me blush.
I turned to the guest and nodded magnanimously in order to not let him see Ai Fa’s reaction.
「With the house head’s permission, I can cook you a simple meal. How large a portion should I prepare? This is to return the favor for the fruit wine, so you don’t need to hold back.」
「Then, I will have the same amount as you!」
He was acting like an old dog wagging its tail happily.
This might be a good chance. Eating the same food was a good way to get him to open up to us. I might be able to glimpse into the mind of this suspicious man. With that in mind, I headed into the food store.
During this time, Ai Fa had to face the rambling Kamyua Yost alone. She closed her eyes and didn’t make a sound.
「Sorry for the wait.」
It was still early, so I had no intention of cooking anything tedious.
I cut the kiba belly meat into thin slices, then fried it together with sliced aria. After seasoning it with rock salt and pico leaves, I poured in fruit wine, and this simple meat fried with some vegetables was done.
「Asuta, you are skilled in cooking. Did you work as a chef in the city before?」
「Yes, that’s correct.」
I handed the spoon and plate to the guest.
The portion was about a quarter of the dinner.
As there wasn’t much, he should be able to finish them all even if it doesn’t suit his taste.
「Ara, I’m so happy. I often travel around the western territories, and at times needed to journey to the eastern and southern kingdom. But I have never seen a beast like the kiba. I have always been curious about its taste.」
So there aren’t anything like the kiba in this world. In my world, aside from the wild boars in the mountains, the other species had also gone extinct.
Ignoring that for now, let’s have a taste.
「I will help myself then.」
Kamyua Yost nodded and picked up the plate with a smile.
He scooped up the kiba meat and aria, then ate them.
Kamyua Yost chewed the food, his jaw covered in a scuffy beard moved up and down. He then swallowed the food——
Kamyua Yost’s narrow face suddenly went expressionless.
I was shocked, and almost let my spoon fall to the ground.
When Kamyua Yost stopped smiling, his casual face turned serious, like that of a death god or killer.
His brows rose high, his eyes sunken and his cheeks were thin, as if someone had cut off the meat on his face. I had never noticed such details, which filled me with fear.
Ai Fa was calm when I was preparing the meal, but she was staring at Kamyua Yost now, not missing a single shred of change.
During this time, Kamyua Yost picked up his spoon and kept sending the food into his mouth. The plate was empty in an instant.
When I saw how he was, I put down the spoon after eating one mouthful.
「… What is this?」
He opened his thin lipped mouth slightly, and said suddenly. This was the first time I found his voice to be so deep.
「Didn’t I already said, this is kiba.」
「That’s right. This is the first time I ate such a meat.」
He stared at me with his purple eyes.
His gaze was sharp.
「This is incredibly delicious.」
「I see. You flatter…」
「This is kiba meat?」
「I have never tasted such a tasty meat before.」
「Guest! I’m sorry but you are making a scary face!」
「Eh? Really? Sorry!」
Kamyua Yost suddenly covered his thin face with his large palms.
「No no, I was too shocked and showed my hidden side! Don’t misunderstand, no matter which side you see, they are all the real me.」
I wouldn’t misunderstand, and I didn’t want to know either.
I thought we could know each other better by dining together, but I never imagined that it would make Kamyua Yost look more suspicious.
「Ara, this is really delicious! I’m really moved! The tribe in Forest's Edge is actually monopolizing such tasty meat? How sly!」
Even though his hidden side was concealed again, he was still as suspicious as before.
I looked towards Ai Fa who was besides me, and she exhaled deeply.
When I saw her let go of the saber by her feet, I was shocked.
The man before us emitted such a dangerous air, it made Ai Fa grab her blade tensely.
「The people in Genos didn’t know how tasty the kiba is, and actually mocked the denizens of Forest’s Edge, calling them 《Kiba Eater》. How retarded! Are you monopolizing such tasty meat to get back at them?」
「No, no such thing.」
I answered, then picked up my spoon to eat a second mouthful.
At this moment, Ai Fa tapped my knee with her fist.
「Asuta, the aroma of the food made me a little hungry.」
「What? Didn’t I ask if you wanted some when I was cooking just now?」
I scooped up some meat and aria with my spoon.
「Here, open up.」
I was hit in the head.
Ai Fa snatched my plate, ate two mouthful, then returned the rest to me.
That was mean, house head.
「Yes, I’m really moved! Asuta, thanks to your exemplary culinary skills, the food taste so delicious. This dish is seasoned just right, and the fruit wine made it very appetizing. Asuta, did you learn under a famous chef?」
「No, my home was a small restaurant.」
「From which country? I have visited many nations, but I have never seen such a cooking style.」
I never thought this would come up.
No matter who it was, I wouldn’t change my stance.
「It will take some time to explain the entire thing. I come from an island nation called Japan. Before arriving in Forest's Edge, I had never heard of the continent Amusehorn before. When I came to one day, I found myself inside a forest, at the foot of Mount Morga.」
「… You had never heard of Amusehorn?」
Kamyua Yost opened his eyes wide in surprise again
That was a natural reaction. If a foreigner in Japan says he never heard of the country Japan before, I would feel surprised too.
「What do you mean? From your appearance, I thought you were a mixed blood of the east and west nations.」
「Hmm? Are mixed bloods from the east and west common?」
「No, they are rare, but the two nations are on friendly terms. If you choose which nation’s citizen to be from the very start, you won’t be prosecuted—— Asuta, so you don’t even know such basic things?」
「Sorry, I don’t.」
We were busy recently, so Ai Fa’s lecture on the world of Amusehorn had stopped for now. After we would eat dinner, we would chat idly, and I would fall into slumber before I realized it.
By the way—— Because the Forest's Edge settlement was a unique enclosed space, Ai Fa couldn’t possess extensive knowledge in such an environment. Ai Fa was merely regurgitating the information her parents and Grandma Jiba told her onto me.
「I see. So even though you are a foreigner, you decided to live on as a denizen of Forest's Edge. The people from the west think the denizens of Forest's Edge are incarnation of disaster, and the southerners brand them as the tribe of traitors that forsake their gods. The northerners are the forsaken rivals of the western people—— That’s why I presumed that you hailed from the eastern kingdom.」
「My hometown was also called the far east island. Do the easterners look like me?」
「Not at all. The easterners also have black hair and eyes, but their skins are dark. You must have seen such people in the Post Station Town right? Those are the people from the Eastern Kingdom Simu.」
I see, my common sense wasn’t applicable on this land after all.
「I’m confused too, you can just think of me as a retard who believes in his strange delusion after hitting his head.」
「Got it, I will do just that.」
I didn’t expect that reply, and I almost fell over in surprise.
「Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think you are a retard. Hmm~ but I was still shocked, to think that kiba meat is so tasty… Word on the street of Genos is that kiba meat is stinky and tough, and unpalatable.」
「Someone must have tasted kiba that wasn’t prepared correctly, which led to such a rumour. Kiba is actually very delicious.」
「Yes! I could feel that point! Normally, only travellers will eat aria and poitan as their staple food, which led me to think that the denizens of Forest's Edge aren’t too concerned with food, and live ascetically. This presumption was horribly wrong. The denizens of Forest's Edge aren’t like that at all, it would not be arrogant to call yourselves the 『Gourmet Tribe』. Yeah~ I’m so surprised.」
「Ah, wait. Your impression of the Forest's Edge tribe isn’t wrong. I’m a foreigner, you can’t use me as the standard.」
「Is that so? After eating such tasty kiba meat, I can’t think of the denizens of Forest's Edge as pure-hearted and with little desire anymore. No wonder they can be satisfied with the cheap aria and poitan. Yeah~ this is so interesting!」
What should I do?
I didn’t plan to tell everything about Forest's Edge to this suspicious character yet. But he was acquainted with the Count of Genos, so it didn’t feel right to give him wrong information too.
「Kamyua Yost, sorry, but can you give me some time?」
「Hmm? What is it?」
「I came from a foreign country, and am not familiar with the taboos and customs of Forest's Edge. To be honest, I don’t know if I should tell you about the situation inside Forest's Edge. I need to discuss with my house head about this.」
「I see, no problem! After all, you are the only one talking to me, it will turn into my monologue if you keep quiet…! Alright then, I will leave for a moment. Actually, my scouting work isn’t finished yet, I want to take a visit to the south.」
「South… That’s where the Wu village is.」
「I won’t go near the Wu clan today. They don’t seem to welcome me, and I realized that I should be careful when I interact with the denizens of Forest's Edge.」
He actually had such a thought, looked like Darum Wu drawing his blade on him wasn’t a complete waste of effort.
But I hoped he would have realized that before the blade was drawn.
「But from the terrain, you will definitely pass through the Wu village if you head south. This is an elongated settlement after all, and there is only one path.」
「Don’t worry, I’m good at concealing myself. I hid myself pretty well last night too right?」
「I hid in a corner of the woods and watched that banquet quietly. When the young men from the Tsun clan showed up, I broke out in cold sweat. Fortunately, everything ended peacefully.」
Kamyua Yost gave a big casual smile after leaving with these words.
「I want to ask your opinion about that uncle?」
I asked Ai Fa as I boiled the poitan soup.
「When I talked in depth with him, I found him hard to grasp. Maybe we should stop getting involved with him?」
「… I don’t know.」
Ai Fa sounded tired.
「I have no intentions of mingling with the citizens of Rock City in the first place, but what that man said is right. Even though his attitude is so frivolous.」
「Which is to say, everything will be much easier if we can trust him… Although that guy and Jiza Wu are always smiling, their personalities are miles apart. I might not see eye to eye with Jiza Wu, but I know how serious he is.」
「And he—— ate the kiba meat.」
Ai Fa muttered, her eyes gloomy.
「That surprised me the most. I thought no one from Rock City would ever do that.」
「I see. I’m not born in Forest's Edge, and had only visited the Post Station Town once. But I agree with him on that point.」
「… What do you mean?」
「Ehh? My thinking is similar to that uncle, that only people who are from Genos would believe the superstition that kiba and the kiba hunters are signs of disaster. Genos’ farm is often attacked by kiba, so the locals would naturally have skewed views about kiba and have misunderstandings. But the other people don’t think much about kiba, and so they don’t fear them. Furthermore, it had been decades since the locals think of kiba as a sign of disaster.」
「Almost all the stalls in the Post Station Town are operated by the Genos locals, so when the denizens of Forest's Edge go there, they will basically come into contact with people that fear them. If there are more foreigners setting up stalls in the Post Station Town, and they don’t mind the aura of the Forest's Edge denizens and their preference to keep to themselves like that uncle, maybe there won’t be such a misunderstanding.」
「…Asuta, you are saying difficult things.」
Ai Fa couldn’t help saying in frustration.
That dignified Ai Fa actually said that.
「Even if you are not from Genos, you must be from Rock City. Your words are as unfathomable as Kamyua Yost.」
「Compared to Forest's Edge, my birth place is indeed more similar to the Post Station Town. However, even if the topic I’m talking about is difficult, you can’t give up on understanding each other——」
「You think I’m not putting in effort?」
Ai Fa’s weak voice surprised me, and I turned back.
She leaned against the wall near the stove, her expression looked unexpectedly and her eyelids were half closed.
「I don’t really understand you, but I still tried my best to do so. Are you blaming me because I understand too slowly…?」
「N-No, that’s not it! It’s my fault! Please don’t cry!」
「Who’s crying! Who did you think I am!?」
Ai Fa was saying things that was supposed to be my lines, and her face was blushed.
Instead of being on the verge of tears, this expression suited her better.
「Let’s decide on the steps first. How much of the truth should we tell that uncle? What must we tell him? What can’t we tell him? We need to decide carefully.」
After Ai Fa said that, she stood up slowly for some reason and went behind me as I continued cooking the poitan.
While I was wondering what happened, she placed her hands on my shoulders and whispered into my ears: 「Asuta, what do you think?」
As I was a little taller, she had probably straightened her back. Although she only touched my shoulders, I could feel Ai Fa’s body warmth on my back faintly.
「W-Wait! We already chased away that uncle, why do we have to whisper?」
「We can’t be sure that man has really left. He might be eavesdropping outside.」
Even if that was true, did she plan to stick close to me for the next few hours?
「W-Wait! The poitan has dried up, let me deal with that first.」
I felt the body warmth fade away quickly.
Really, her actions were more unnerving than Vena Wu.
I shifted the dissolved poitan onto a fake rubber tree leaf folded into a boat shape, and quietly wiped the sweat on my brow.
There were six poitan, or enough for three portions.
Kamyua Yost would be back before sunset, he suggested that we should dine together.
「I won’t ask to stay the night! But I’m very intrigued by the food culture in Forest's Edge! I’m willing to pay!」
I have no intention of soliciting payment from the guest that brought high class fruit wine as a door gift. Ai Fa showed a complicated expression, but she still acceded to his request. That was why I’m preparing dinner for three.
「Before our secret talk, let’s decide our dinner.」
I used a spatula to scrape away the charred remnants of the poitan, and turned to Ai Fa who had retreated behind me.
「What should we have for dinner?」「Hamburg steak.」
That was fast!
When she saw my stunned face, Ai Fa said again:「… Hamburg steak.」
You didn’t need to repeat that
「I see. On second thought, we need to consider our dinner carefully.」
Ai Fa walked over briskly, grabbed my neck so our heads were at the same level, then asked softly:
「What do you mean?」
She was actually serious?
「We shouldn’t let him think that the hamburg steak is a normal dish in Forest's Edge right? If we need to explain this dish, it will bring up our relationship to the Wu clan and Lutim house. We should decide what information we should make public first.」
I had to whisper to Ai Fa too. We were extremely close, and no matter how hard I tried to hold my breath, the fragrance still snuck into my nose. I just ate, but Ai Fa’s scent stirred my appetite again.
Ai Fa didn’t realize how I was feeling at all, her lips went near my ears again..
「Hey, since we aren’t saying anything important, there’s no need to whisper right!?」
Even though she answered that way, Ai Fa still leaned in with her ear.
I still need to whisper after all.
「Well, that uncle has a special status, he knows the Landlord of Genos right? If we gave him wrong information, it might lead to misunderstandings. Furthermore, he isn’t on good terms with the Tsun clan, so it’s inappropriate to tell him too much about the Wu clan and Lutim house right?」
「… That man already met Donda Wu, and knows that we are involved with that banquet right?」
Ai Fa whispered.
My right ear lobes felt as it was melting.
「That’s true. The important thing is… Given the chance, Donda Wu will bring down the Tsun clan. Can we say this to that man?」
A question worth pondering over.
I exhausted too much stamina, so I sat on the ground and poked at the aria that was waiting for its moment to debut.
「What is it retard, that scared me.」
「Y-You are the one scaring me, retard! Don’t whisper to me so suddenly from behind!」
「… You can’t even notice this much movement?」
「Regrettably, I’m not a hunter, and my senses are not that incredible! When you approach me, please do so from my field of vision!」
「What a naggy man…」
Ai Fa said unhappily, then squatted before me.
She grabbed my chin, turned my face to the side and leaned in.
「Since that man might approach Donda Wu in the future, hiding the truth won’t be of much help… But we are not obligated to feed him the information either.」
I finally realized that I had nowhere to run.
The gods must be trying to test my reason and humanity.
This was too troubling.
「I get it. Let’s tidy our thoughts. Ai Fa, what information do you think we can’t tell that man?」
Ai Fa groaned again.
Her face was 10 cm away, if one of us were to move, our knees would touch.
I couldn’t stay calm at all.
Ai Fa finally raised her head. I turned my face to the side in a panic, and she caressed my ears with her gentle whispers
「You actually have nothing!」
I almost whacked Ai Fa’s head on reflex.
In such a close distance, Ai Fa pouted as if she was throwing a fit.
「You are the one who suggested this secret talk, so you have something in mind right? Just tell me what you think.」
She turned her head away hard.
Strange, my fatigue was comparable to the huge project I undertook yesterday.
「You think the Tsun clan is the disgrace of Forest's Edge, but you can’t stand the people in the city criticizing them. Then—— if that uncle punished Doddo Tsun and the others for their crimes, would he become an enemy of Forest's Edge?」
Ai Fa frowned troublingly.
She didn’t lower her voice as she answered:
「If the Tsun clan violates the laws in the city and gets punished, then it is their fault. And naturally, the people in the city won’t become our enemy… However, if the people in the city try to pin a crime on them by saying they 『violated the rules of Forest's Edge』, that would be humiliating to us. If the people in the city mess with the denizens of Forest's Edge that way, I would think the entire thing is a scam.」
I see. It was a bit hard to understand what she said, but the gist was that when the denizens of Forest's Edge violate the laws in the city, they should be judged by the people in the city. But if their crimes were breaking the rules of Forest's Edge, their sentences should be meted out by the denizens of Forest's Edge.
「Hmm~… but the Tsun clan keeps breaking the rules in Forest's Edge right? No one in Forest's Edge are holding them to task right?」
「What are you saying, I have never turned a blind eye to the Tsun clan’s wrongdoing.」
「I know. I think you are incredible… But not everyone in Forest's Edge is like you, and dares to defy the Tsun clan right? When the Tsun clan came to pick a fight yesterday, everyone could only sit by and endure the Tsun clan’s tyrannical ways until Donda Wu and Dan Lutim took action.」
「Without permission from the house head, no one can defy the Tsun clan willfully. Since I am the house head, I can do what I wish.」
「What I’m about to ask might sound unpleasant… Do the smaller houses not related to the Wu clan have any choice other than suffer the Tsun clan’s violence quietly?」
Ai Fa bit her lower lips, raised her head and said while staring at me:
「Tsun clan is the chief clan, but if they openly commit such violent acts, the people will definitely lean towards the Wu clan. In order to prevent that, those retards will still restrain themselves.」
「Since they can’t do it openly, they will be discreet about it.」
「Ai Fa, you are strong. When Diddo Tsun and Doddo Tsun do bad things, you can punish them. But those not as strong as you can only suffer in silence—— when I think about this, I still can’t forgive them.」
「… My prowess are limited, so I can only stop the violence I can see with my eyes.」
Ai Fa grabbed my chest again.
Her actions weren’t violent, and she seemed to be leaning into me instead.
「I can only protect myself, that’s why…」
That was why she always lived alone.
That was why I might become a burden to her.
I nodded, and held Ai Fa’s hand that was at my chest.
「I’m sorry, I wasn’t blaming you. No one could accept such violent behavior. That’s why the Wu clan and house Lutim are so mad… By the way, is the Tsun clan really that powerful? Since they are on par with the Wu clan, that means they have close to a hundred kinsman, and all of them follow the Tsun clan’s lead right?」
「I don’t know. I don’t know all of the Tsun clan’s kin house.」
「I see… Those kin house isn’t as depraved as the Tsun clan right?」
「I have no idea… But if all one hundred of the Tsun clan’s kin were neglecting their hunting duties, then the kiba would already have overrun the entire forest.」
「That’s true. If a hundred of the five hundred denizens of Forest's Edge lived a depraved life, that would be——」
I remembered something I heard before in mid sentence.
「… Now that you mentioned it, Ludo Wu told me,『There’s way too many kiba.』 Kiba are normally solitary, but three of them suddenly attacked the hunters at the same time, resulting in Shin Wu’s father suffering a serious leg injury. He also asked me how the Fa house’s forest is doing…」
Ai Fa still held onto my chest, her expression turned serious.
「Asuta, I already mentioned this the next day after I met you.」
「You asked me, 『Forest's Edge denizens hunts kiba everyday, won’t the kiba go extinct?』 But then, I answered you that the kiba’s population won’t go down, and has been increasing instead.」
「The number of kiba is increasing. It’s the hunting season for kiba, but the numbers are still incredible… To be honest, with that many kiba lurking in the forest, I don’t even need to use the fruits that attracts kiba.」
「Eh? Ai Fa, you are not using 『sacrificial hunting style』?」
「Not for these past few days. Despite that, I still caught a kiba every other day.」
「I see. Hmm, that’s strange? So that fragrance isn’t from the fruit that attracts kiba?」
Ai Fa immediately blushed, and she put more strength into the fingers on my chest.
「When the fruit that attracts kiba get into my hair, it’s hard to get rid of it! Asuta, I have told you to not joke around with my body scent!」
「No, I’m praising you…」
「Shut up…! Anyways, the number of kiba has been increasing through the years.」
「Okay. Ludo Wu wasn’t sure of it, but he thought that was the case.」
「… The Wu village is to our south. The Tsun clan is to the north.」
Ai Fa’s cheeks were still a little red, and there were hints of fire in her eyes.
「You might not understand the relationship between the terrain and kiba. If the Tsun clan continues to neglect their work as hunters, the north of Forest's Edge will be affected the worst.」
「…Ai Fa, you think the number of kiba’s are increasing too?」
Maybe—— the situation is already much more serious than I imagined.
Leaving my insignificant sense of moral and justice aside, if everyone continues to turn a blind eye to the Tsun clan’s depraved actions, the meaning behind the existence for the denizens of Forest's Edge—— might be gone?
「…Ai Fa, this matter might be beyond our capability. Kamyua should build a relationship with the Wu clan or Lutim house, and not us right?」
「There’s no point in doing that.」
「Huh? But why?」
「Think about Donda Wu’s temperament. If the Tsun clan’s depravity goes beyond their limit, he won’t hesitate in using force to settle things. He will uphold the order in Forest’s Edge, and won’t depend on Rock City—— I can understand where he is coming from.」
Ai Fa sighed, and seemed completely different from her usual self.
「Because I know how he feels, I don’t want to ignite this dispute. If the Wu clan and Tsun clan start a war with all their kin, we will lose many good hunters, and the order in Forest's Edge would be on the brink of collapse.」
「Even if it comes to that, you still don’t want to depend on Rock City…」
I sighed too.
With how dangerous the situation was getting, Ai Fa and I met someone who was acquainted with the highest authority in Rock City.
There were only two members in the Fa house. Just what kind of burden did the gods or demons want us to bear?
As a weak hearted caretaker, the most I could do was mince the meat for the house head and guest.
「Hi, sorry for being late.」
When the guest sauntered back into our house, the sun was just touching the western edge of the forest.
「Even though there are just five hundred denizens, this settlement is incredibly vast. This is my second time visiting Forest's Edge, and I still couldn’t grasp the scale of it all.」
「Do you need to do that?」
「Hmm, well, the scope of my job is vast too.」
A few hours had passed, but Kamyua Yost was still very suspicious.
「Speaking of which, this smells really nice! Luckily, I restrained myself and didn’t eat any jerky! Ah, here’s my blade for your safekeeping.」
「This way please. I just finished preparing the food.」
I didn’t plan to disrupt my routine for the guest. If Kamyua Yost didn’t return in time, we would have started without him.
When I saw him return right before we were about to dine, I was worried he was eavesdropping outside just like what Ai Fa said.
It was fine for him to hear what we said, but I wouldn’t be able to take it if he saw how pained I was because of Ai Fa’s unintentional body contacts.
「Uwah, impressive! Why did the kiba turn into this round shape?」
「I minced the meat and moulded it into this round shape.」
「I see. Why did you bother to do that?」
「Because it tastes better this way.」
It seemed that dishes similar to hamburg steak didn’t exist in this world.
Or maybe this uncle didn’t know about it.
「Anyway, let’s dig in. We’re hungry.」
「Yes, let’s eat.」
I decided not to rack my brain over the menu, and let the guest eat a classic meal of the Fa house.
Which was the three following dishes: kiba hamburg steak, fried aria with tino and grilled poitan.
I hoped to get a new pot soon, so I could prepare one more soup dish.
「Hmm? Is this fuwano? I heard that the staple food in Forest's Edge is poitan.」
「That is poitan. What’s a fuwano?」
「The wrapped meat bun that Tara was eating back then. Westerners normally eat fuwano together with meat and vegetables—— Eh? This is poitan? Why? How can this be poitan?」
It seems like this way of eating poitan had not been invented outside Forest's Edge yet.
His reaction intrigued me, so I leaned forward.
「Can you tell me how the people in the city eat poitan?」
「No one in the city eats poitan. Poitan is normally packed for travels. Unlike fuwano, poitan could be preserved for a long time, and eaten right after cooking. It is cheap and suitable for long journeys… The only downside is its unappealing taste.」
After I answered, Ai Fa tugged the corner of my t-shirt. She must be reaching the limits of her hunger.
「Please enjoy your meal. I hope you won’t show your hidden side again.」
「I will do that... ! I will help myself then.」
「Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.」
The three of us got in place and picked up our plates.
I minced a mountain of hamburg steak just yesterday, but it’s been awhile since I tasted one. After grilling so many hamburg steak, I felt that my control over the heat had gotten better, which made me gleeful.
The hamburg steak today was huge, almost 500g. Eating the meat, which was beaten and then cooked in the fruit wine, made the juices come out with just a bite, stimulating my mouth comfortably.
When I chewed, the taste of the meat and fats spreaded throughout my mouth—— Ah, kiba meat was really suited to be made into hamburg steak. I realized this once again.
The seared surface and the tenderness inside had an adequate balance. After eating a large amount of hamburg steak, the mini hamburg steak couldn’t satisfy me now.
The aria side dish had the texture of onions, and the tino was like cabbage. Both of them complemented the meat really well. Tino would spoil within a few days and couldn’t be kept for long like aria and poitan, so we should consume them as soon as possible.
I lifted my head to observe the guest dining, and fortunately, he didn’t show a death god-like face this time.
But his face was wavering, as if he was on the verge of tears.