It was the fourth day since the stall opened.
Vena Wu and I reached the Post Station Town right on time, and headed straight to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 to look for the owner Milano Mast— who had a grumpy face in the morning as usual. After taking our pushcart, we headed for the northern end of the marketplace under the curious eyes of the crowd.
About ten or so meters away from our assigned spot, we could already see a big crowd gathered there. As I advanced tensely, the westerners who were just here to gawk quickly moved away to either side of the street.
The southerners with fierce eyes and the expressionless easterners stared each other down as they waited for us before our stall. Their numbers far exceed yesterday’s, totaling to about 30 persons.
A guard stood between as if he was mediating between the two camps. When we approached the rented spot, he glared at us:
「Hey, did you prepare enough food?」
「Yes. I have 40 portions for the first menu and 30 more for another dish, a total of 70 meals.」
I prepared 40 portions yesterday, and, contrary to my expectations, they were sold out before noon.
No one had the rights to complain about a product selling out, but there was a deep gulf between Semu and Jaguar, so they argued relentlessly because of my cooking, and it almost resulted in a riot.
If they continued to argue, my stall might be forced to stop operations. We hoped to avoid escalating things to that point, so I prepared 40 portions of 『Kiba burger』 and 30 『Myam-roasted meat』.
「Alright, let’s start off with the 『Kiba burger』. Vena Wu, please start the fire.」
Vena Wu seemed to be in a great mood.
She didn’t seem bothered by the bloodthirsty customers and guards at all. I felt at ease when I looked at her.
「Ahh, the fruit wine smells nice… Is that the new dish…?」
「Yes. Aside from the fruit wine, I also used a herb called Myam in it. I dub this dish 『Myam-roasted meat』.」
While I was answering, I picked up the sack with 6 kg of kiba meat and marinating sauce.
I loosened the opening and poured the sauce into another bag.
The meat was marinated for one hour, which just happened to be the time needed to walk from the Fa house to the Post Station Town.
「I will let you try the『Myam-roasted meat』 when business quiets down.」
「Alright… Fufu, I’m looking forward to it…」
Vena Wu stirred the tarapa sauce in the pot and laughed sexily. Her eyes that always looked sleepy and dazed were studying the content in amazement.
「Oh…? The fragrance in this pot smells different from the past few days…」
「That’s right, I added some Myam in. I wanted to experiment with different flavors, so I didn’t add too much of it. Can you tell the difference?」
「Hmm, it smells nice… I’m starting to get hungry again…」
Myam was a herb. The fragrance and spiciness of it resembled garlic. It meshed really well with tarapa, which was similar to tomatoes.
It might just be my imagination, but the Jaguar people seemed to be getting rowdy. The fragrance of the Myam and tarapa had massive destructive power, stimulating their appetite even further.
I didn’t mind their exaggerated reaction, but the crowd was getting bigger while we were preparing the ingredients.
「There are so many people… as if all the Jaguar and Semu people have been all gathered here…」
「I’m very grateful for their presence. From the looks of it, the first batch of 『Kiba burger』 will be sold out in no time.」
I have decided to rent another pushcart from tomorrow onwards and push out a new menu. I prayed quietly in my heart for us to make it through today peacefully.
「It’s almost time, right…? Then, let’s begin!」
Guided by the guards, the Jaguar people rushed to the stall. The southerners had brown unkempt hair and beard, stout body built, white skin, and a fierce face.
A middle-aged man stood at the fore of the group. He was the deputy leader of the architects, Arudas.
All the southerners had stout built and short stature, but this man was tall, so I couldn’t have been mistaken.
「… Hey, sorry for the commotion yesterday.」
「No, we were at fault for not preparing an adequate amount of portions. Please don’t take it to heart.」
「Yeah, it’s a negligence to only prepare 40 meals for such a delicious dish.」
Even though Arudas had a stern face, there was a hint of guilt in his eyes.
「… It’s great that they didn’t chase you out of the Post Station Town. Why did the guards blame you even though we started the incident?」
「Probably… Because we are denizens of Forest's Edge.」
I answered as I made the 『Kiba burger』, and his face turned sour.
「The denizens of Forest's Edge abandoned the god of the south Jaguar, so I can understand why the older southerners admonish you as traitors. But the westerners took you in, so why are they viewing fellow citizens like you with disdain? I don’t get it. If not for your efforts in hunting kiba, Genos won’t be so prosperous.」
I felt the same way.
However, I couldn’t discuss this with him properly while the customers were still crowding around. I could only serve him the completed 『Kiba burger』.
Arudas’ stern face broke out into a smile.
「Hey, why don’t you stay open until night time? I want to eat your cooking for dinner too.」
「Hmm〜 That will be difficult… It will be great if the inns sell kiba meat too.」
I probed casually, but Arudas just shook his head regretfully.
「The kiba meat is delicious, but the important thing is your culinary skills. Pops has been gloomy ever since our visit that day. When he heard us discussing your cooking, he was full of complaints. If you are willing to cook a dish with karon or kimyusu for him, won’t he leave his work behind and rush here?」
「I’m honored to hear that… But like I said yesterday, I will be selling a new dish starting at noon. Can you help me inform Pops, and ask him to try?」
「Hmm? Got it, I will tell him.」
「Hey, is it still not done yet?」
The customers behind rushed me while we were chatting a bit too long.
I then started making 『Kiba burger』 repeatedly.
No one requested for samples, so the 20 『Kiba burger』 kept decreasing. After selling them to all the Jaguar customers and a couple of Semu people, the burgers were out.
「Sorry! We will prepare the remaining batch of twenty, please wait for a while.」
Constrained by the size of the pot, we could only make twenty patties and sauce at one go.
I bought two tarapa on the way to work today. I chopped the tarapa apart and added it to the pot.
「Asuta, do you need strong fire…?」
I picked up two bottles and shook the lighter one thoroughly, then poured both of them into the pot. The lighter bottle was filled till one quarter with fruit wine. I then added some diced aria and myam that I fried earlier. To avoid making the sauce too thick, the other bottle was filled with plain water.
As I heated up the sauce, the Jaguar people were more or less gone, so the guards left reluctantly.
The onlookers also dispersed, leaving just the black, tall, and skinny easterners behind.
「Fufu… This reminds me of house Lutim’s wedding…」
「That’s right, the atmosphere is bustling just like that time.」
「I’m not good with tending to the hearth… But I like doing it with you…」
I felt honored by her words.
Vena Wu looked really happy when she said that, and there wasn’t any sign of her usual flirtiness in her eyes
I liked Vena Wu when she was working. I hoped we could continue to maintain this balance in our relationship— however, I couldn’t let down my guard towards her yet.
「Okay, it’s almost done.」
After adding a little bit of water, I seasoned it with pico leaves and rock salt.
I took out steaks that had been seared on the surface from a third leather pouch.
These leather pouches were expensive, each costing 15 red copper plates. But they had a large opening and were convenient to use. They were meant to carry fruit wine, and were specially made so that the smell of food wouldn’t linger on them. After discovering this convenient container, I made up my mind to sell 『Myam-roasted meat』 in my stall.
In order to not waste these expenses, I will definitely make this business a success.
「Sorry for the wait! We will now begin the sale of the remaining 20 burgers!」
The Semu people came over quietly when they heard my voice.
Most easterners preferred to wear hooded cloaks, but there were some who dressed casually, with beautiful swirly patterned clothes similar to the garments of Forest's Edge. They also had accessories made from stones and metal, and thin swords on their waist.
I felt that these Semu people bore some resemblance to the denizens of Forest's Edge. Not just their dressing, their quiet movement and lack of expression reminded me of the men of Forest's Edge.
But all the men of Forest's Edge were strong and powerful, and their skin had the color of chocolate milk.
Denizens of Forest's Edge like Shin Wu looked a little like these easterners. He was mature and quiet, and the corners of his eyes were high too.
While I was thinking about this, I sold twelve portions. We were suddenly left with eight 『Kiba burgers』.
Furthermore, there were ten Semu people in cloaks standing at some distance apart from the rest. Could that group of people staring at us be the 《Silver Vase》? As I was wondering about that, one of them took off his hood and approached us.
As expected, long silver hair appeared before me.
He was the leader of the 《Silver Vase》, Shumimaru— I forgot his last name.
「Kiba, not sell out, yet?」
「Not yet, there are eight left. I think I told you yesterday, I will be selling a new kiba dish later.」
Shumimaru fell into deep thought as he looked at me.
He then returned to his comrades, and five of them walked over. After seeing them place their copper plates quietly onto the counter, I thanked them and started making five 『Kiba burgers』.
Shumimaru came forth and asked again.
「Yes. What’s the matter?」
「… I wait.」
「I want try, new dish. Five men, have work, give up. Four others and me, wait.」
「I see. I will sell this new dish tomorrow morning too though.」
「Can’t wait, tomorrow. Want to wait, today.」
As I chatted with Shumimaru, a man taller than Shumimaru walked over quietly.
「Then, can I buy the burgers first? Asuta, two, please.」
Kamyua Yost appeared before us.
He always showed himself suddenly, so I wasn’t surprised anymore.
「Thank you for your support… Sorry that you made an empty trip yesterday.」
「Yeah! I had to buy snacks from another stall, it feels so empty eating that, it’s like not eating at all. I’m curious about the new dish, but let’s leave that for tomorrow.」
I explained what happened to Kamyua Yost when we returned the cart to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 yesterday.
Even though Kamyua looked very surprised, he probably already knew that things would turn out this way.
「Here, 『Kiba burger』 for two. Sorry for the wait.」
「Thank you. Work hard from now on too!」
Kamyua Yost nodded at Shumimaru, turned and left with nimble strides.
He seldom talked to me when I was working, probably because he didn’t want to disrupt my business.
「… That man, a friend?」
「Huh? Yes, I don’t want to say it, but he is my friend.」
「I see… Hair and eyes, northerner. Skin color, westerner. Unfathomable.」
I see, so the people from this world could deduce Kamyua Yost’s mixed heritage from his appearance.
I didn’t think that I should disclose Kamyua Yost’s personal information to other patrons and answered vaguely.
「… His heart, easterner. I can’t understand, his feelings, his thinking.」
Shumimaru looked as if he was deep in thought again.
「He smiles, but mood isn’t clear… Fascinating.」
I could only give the same reply.
Shumimaru was right. Both Kamyua Yost and him seemed elusive to me.
Leaving that aside, there was only one 『Kiba burger』 left, it would be bad if multiple customers were to come at the same time. It was about time to prepare the next dish— as I was thinking about that, a Jaguar customer visited our stall.
「Hey! It’s not sold out yet!?」
「Yes, there’s just one left.」
「Awesome! I overslept, and almost missed out on my meal!」
I only had a faint impression, but I think he visited yesterday too. I said to him warmly: 「Thank you for your continued support」, and used the last meat patty to make a 『Kiba burger』.
After sending off the gleeful customer, today’s 『Kiba burgers』 were sold out.
Less than an hour after the stall opened, and the first dish was sold out. The 『Kiba burger』 went out of stock incredibly fast.
「Okay, let’s pour the tarapa sauce into the leather pouch… Ah, we need to let it cool off first.」
「Hmm… There’s plenty of sauce left over today too…」
Ignoring the elated Vena Wu, I fell into deep thought.
「The 『Kiba burger』 was sold out in no time, so the sauce isn’t too thick yet. If I save this sauce for tomorrow, I can save a lot of ingredient cost.」
Vena Wu was on the verge of tears.
I laughed at the sight of her sorrowful face.
「I’m just kidding. Tarapa sauce by itself can be kept for two days, but this sauce already had meat mixed in, so it’s better to eat them today. Please take them home with you.」
「Asuta… How mean of you…」
Vena Wu puffed her cheeks.
So she would puff her cheeks instead of pouting when she gets mad.
「… How adorable.」
Shumimaru muttered at this moment.
「Huh? Did you say something?」
「She is adorable. And beautiful.」
Easterners would keep a straight face when they compliment women.
「Thank you very much…」
Vena Wu thanked him insincerely with a cold smile. She was probably used to compliments from the opposite sex.
Anyway, after I let the pot cool off for three minutes, I poured the tarapa sauce into a leather pouch. I then started cooking 『Myam-roasted meat』.
『Myam-roasted meat』 was easy to make, I just had to roast the meat, unlike 『Kiba burger』 which had a fixed quantity per portion. I had to decide how much 『Myam-roasted meat』 I required to prepare ahead of time.
It doesn’t look like there will be a crowd for the time being, so I should make just enough for the number of people who ordered, along with the samples.
I fried the sliced aria, then added in about one kg of marinated kiba meat. Just doing that was enough to make the fragrance of the myam, fruit wine, and roasted kiba meat explode and spread.
It was a pity that the street was deserted. 『Myam-roasted meat』 stimulated the noses of people better than 『Kiba burger』. Shumimaru also muttered expressionlessly:
「The myam smells nice.」
I scooped the fillings onto the plate, poured plenty of sauce that had thickened on top, then used a poitan to roll up the fillings and tino shreds.
「Ah, Vena Wu, can you take out the brazier for me?」
We had to take out the brazier when there weren’t any customers, or the inside of the pot would get burnt. Compared to making 『Kiba burger』, this was a bit more troublesome, but this would reduce the consumption of firewood, so there were pros and cons to this.
It would be great if we could use charcoal. I started making five portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』, and the rest would be the samples.
「Sorry for the wait, this dish is also two red copper plates.」
The Semu people nodded silently as usual, and they took out the copper plates with Shumimaru taking the lead. They had no intention of sampling.
They bit gently into the 『Myam-roasted meat』—— how did they find the taste? It was a bit inconvenient during times like this as they didn’t have any expression.
「… Delicious. Tomorrow, take turns to eat.」
「What? Are you taking turns to eat?」
「Yes. Both delicious, hard to choose. So, take turns to eat.」
In conclusion, they liked this dish.
They were really introverted. I couldn’t help smiling.
「Thank you. I’m happy to receive your praise.」
「I, very happy, to eat, delicious food.」
After Shumimaru said that, he suddenly looked at Vena Wu beside me.
「Asuta, can I, ask, one question?」
「Yes, what is it?」
「Asuta, she, wife?」
I couldn’t answer right away, and Vena Wu used this chance to cling to my arm.
「That’s a secret…」
「I see, excuse me.」
Shumimaru showed a hint of an emotion from the corner of his mouth.
The young silvered hair Semu man smiled a little— his face was quiet, steadfast and had a tint of sadness.
He put on his hood again and left with his four companions.
「Thank you for your patronage.」
I shouted at their back and shook off Vena Wu’s arm.
「Wait a minute! Vena Wu, isn’t that inappropriate?」
「Because… I will be troubled if an easterner falls for me… Do you think I should have shown off my sexy charm instead…?」
From the moment I got acquainted with Vena Wu, she had never stopped emitting her sexy charm.
However… it would be great if she continued to show her gentle and demure attitude when she attended to customers. I sighed.
「By the way, this is incredible… We just opened the stall, and had sold far more food than yesterday…」
「That’s right. But the customers all came at the same time because they were afraid that we will be sold out.」
After that group of customers left, it was completely quiet. That was too extreme.
「There are still 25 『Myam-roasted meat』 left. If we sell them all, I will carry out the plan I told you about yesterday.」
「You want to rent another stall…? My clan plans to lend you a woman from the main house, and another from the branch house…」
「Ah, the branch house will also send a helper over?」
「That’s right… Chores need to be done in the main house too, so we can’t lend you three people at one go…」
Vena Wu sighed softly.
「Sigh… This will be our last day alone together… these four days were so blissful…」
「I-It will be fine, even if there are other colleagues, right?」
「Because… Leina will be picked from the main house, right…?」
I had already braced myself for that.
The young Rimee Wu and elderly grandma Ditto Min couldn’t carry the heavy pot. Sati Lei Wu had to take care of Kota Wu. Mama Mia Lei was responsible for leading the Wu clan’s women, so the only candidates were Leina Wu and Lala Wu.
I requested for a woman proficient in tending to the hearth, so that was like asking specifically for Leina Wu.
Vena Wu was doing her job far better than I imagined. I hoped I could build a stable relationship with Leina Wu too.
「… The people from the main house will visit the Post Station Town soon, they will tell you who will be the helpers…」
「Hmm? Isn’t the Wu clan’s grocery shopping trip tomorrow?」
「Yes… But I asked them to do something for me, so they will come a day early…」
Do what? I was about to ask when Vena Wu cut me off.
「Oh… They are here already… That sure is early…」
I followed Vena Wu’s gaze and found two members of the Wu clan before us. This pairing surprised me
No, I wasn’t surprised by the appearance of one of them—
The two approaching us straight from the south was the second sister and second brother of the Wu clan main house.
「Long time no see, Asuta.」
Leina Wu greeted me first.
Her face was calm.
「Yes, it’s been a while… Ten days have passed since our last meeting.」
Ten days ago, the atmosphere was awkward when we parted during the Lutim house banquet.
Please leave the Fa house and become a member of the Wu clan— I couldn’t agree to Leina Wu’s request.
Even so, Leina Wu refused to give up when she left, so I wasn’t sure how I should interact with her. Seemed like I had to be firm and determined.
Leina Wu stood before us with a calm smile.
Her pure childlike smile was gone now.
「Vena-nee, here are the things you asked us to bring.」
「Ah, thank you… was it heavy…?」
「Not at all.」
Leina Wu placed the baggage on her shoulders beside the stall.
It was a large sack used to carry vegetables. It was filled with some hard objects, which made the sack look uneven.
「What’s that? It looks like firewood.」
「It’s firewood… I collected them in the past three days…」
I was confused.
「Work ended earlier than expected for the past three days… So Mama Mia Lei instructed me to work for you during my free time… So the only thing I could do was to pick firewood…」
「So that’s what happened! I’m very grateful. From tomorrow onwards, we will be using even more firewood.」
「We had to carry a lot of things to town every day, so I asked Mama Mia Lei to bring this over during their grocery shopping trip… She said that it’s just a trivial matter since we get to take the leftover tarapa every day…」
She threw a grudging sideway glance at me.
「Asuta, I wanted to give you a surprise, so I didn’t tell you… but you were so mean and teased me…」
「S-Sorry. I was just joking. I’m really happy about this, thank you.」
While I was apologizing frantically, the sound of a sack being dropped clumsily to the ground covered my voice. Darum Wu had taken off the load from his shoulders.
He had three sacks on his back, which was three times that of Leina Wu. It was less than an hour journey from the Wu clan village to the Post Station Town, but neither the women of Forest's Edge nor I could carry so much in one go.
「Thank you, Darum… Don’t you need to rest at home…?」
Darum Wu didn’t answer.
I couldn’t see his expression because a grey bandage-like cloth covered his face and head.
But the blue eyes he got from his father still burned brightly like a wolf. These eyes were the best way to identify him.