Two days after the house head conference, the twelfth day of the Blue month, we safely restarted our business in the Post Station Town.
「Long time no see, Milano Mast!」
We went around to the back of the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 and greeted him energetically, and Milano Mast received us with his usual sour face.
「You are noisy so early in the morning. It’s just two days off, what’s long about that.」
「Ara, it felt really long to me, I will be in your care today too.」
「… I don’t remember ever caring about you. If you want to run your business, then hurry up and take your stall with you.」
After answering, I looked closely at Milano Mast’s unhappy face.
「What, you got a problem with that?」
「No, none at all!」
The Tsun clan might be behind the death of Milano Mast’s good friend, but they were destroyed now— at this point of time, I still couldn’t tell Milano Mast about this.
Even if I told him that, the regret in his heart would still linger. After all, the Tsun clan wasn’t punished for hurting the citizens of the Post Station Town.
I hope Genos castle can be impartial in the future— first of all, Donda Wu and the other new tribal chiefs of Forest's Edge had to form a proper relationship with the landlord of Genos.
I suppressed the feelings welling up in my heart and strode forth on the stone-paved road. Unlike the previous days, I was with Shela Wu, Vena Wu, and Lala Wu.
The wooden buildings on both sides of the road, the bustling travelers and merchants, the Totos Moa pulling heavy loads… All these felt so nostalgic that it didn’t feel like I was away for just two days.
「Asuta, you look really happy.」
Lala who was pushing the cart with me commented. She also looked really cheerful, Shela Wu and Vena Wu were also all smiles.
We were probably affected by the town’s lively atmosphere since the work in the Tsun clan village was too serious. For the denizens of Forest's Edge, the Post Station Town used to be an uncomfortable place or even the enemy camp. But they no longer felt repulsive of this place. I felt satisfied just looking at how cheerful they looked.
As we advanced along the stone-paved road, a familiar voice called out to me.
「Ah! Asuta-niichan is here!」
It was a cute girl with caramel-colored hair, Tara.
Uncle Dora was also standing under the canvas roof with a smile.
「Hi, Asuta, I’m glad you look well. What are you buying?」
「Hello, long time no see. Please give me two tarapas, 4 tinos, and 20 arias.」
「Alright, that will be 8 red copper plates.」
This conversation felt nostalgic too.
How should I put it, the homesickness in my heart was slowly fading away.
I’m really suited to running a business in this town after all.
Even though my time in this different world was short, I was still a denizen of Forest's Edge. The Forest's Edge settlement and the Fa house was my irreplaceable hometown in this world. Besides, even now, there were still some people in the city who didn’t hide their fear and disdain for the denizens of Forest's Edge at all.
In spite of that, this Post Station Town was a land I felt close to and could even call this my second hometown. I cherished the people I encountered on this land.
「Uwah, it’s incredible today too.」
After buying the vegetables from Uncle Dora, we got on our way and saw a crowd at the northern end of the marketplace. It was on par with the day of our highest sales four days ago.
With each day that passed, the atmosphere of this crowd felt calmer. The number of southerners and easterners kept increasing, but the westerner bystanders were gradually decreasing.
Time passed in a flash, and we had run this business for half a month now. Having customers lining up was no longer a rare sight, and the southerners and easterners no longer stirred up trouble. Hence, there was no point for the westerners to keep gawking at us. Only one guard from Genos was watching us, and he just stood on one side of the road with a bored face.
「Sorry for the wait! We will start preparations immediately, please give us a moment.」
When we walked over, the customers opened a path as if they prepared for it ahead of time. Even without any instructions, they started to queue up in groups of five in front of the two stalls.
「You’re finally here! We were getting impatient!」
Pops, Arudas, and the architects stood at the very fore of the 『Myam-roasted meat』 stall.
Pops was shorter than me, while Arudas was as tall and slender as an easterner. Their appearances might look stern and rugged, but they were a short and tall duo that put me at ease.
「Thank you for coming today too. I’m happy to see that you are well.」
「We are lively, but Pops has been naggy for the past two days. He kept saying he wants to eat kiba, and we had a hard time soothing him.」
「It’s this brat’s fault, he is the one who closed for two days. Hey, you can’t close the stall in the Blue month anymore, got it?」
「Yes, I will try my best.」
During our talk, the griddle got heated up.
This was the new kitchenware I bought six days ago, Jaguar-made iron griddle. Ever since my contract started on the 8th day of the Blue month, I had been using it to cook 『Myam-roasted meat』.
I put in some fats, stir-fried thin slices of aria, and then added in marinated loin and belly meat. After they were cooked, I added in more of marinating sauce. The next instant, the fragrance of the fruit wine and the garlic-like myam burst out, and the people in the queue started cheering.
「Hey, is it done yet!? I’m so hungry that my intestines feel as if they are going to snap!」
「Alright, coming right up.」
I pushed the meat that was done to the edge of the griddle instead of plates. This was something that couldn’t be done in a pot. As the fire would only heat up the center of the griddle, I could keep the food warm by moving them to the edge and not worry about them getting burned.
After that, I tossed tino shreds onto the crepe-like grilled poitan, wrapped the steaming meat and poitan with it, and it was done.
「Please enjoy, this will be two red copper plates.」
Lala Wu received the copper plates and handed out the 『Myam-roasted meat』 in that order. Arudas took his share and smiled at me.
「Are you going to start doing business at the inn tomorrow?」
「Yes, the plan is to start tomorrow.」
「In that case, we can enjoy your cookings in the afternoon and evening. Our efforts in making scenes in the inn have paid off.」
Thanks to Arudas and the southerners rave reviews of my cooking, the boss of the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 Naudiz decided to sell kiba dishes during dinner.
I bowed towards Arudas and kept cooking 『Myam-roasted meat』.
「I’m really grateful to everyone. I never imagined that I could expand my business in such a way.」
「Don’t mention it, we are not doing this for you. We just want to enjoy a sumptuous dinner.」
「That’s right! I won’t let you off if you don’t serve delicious meals.」
Pops might be rough with his words, but his eyebrows were raised in joy as he held the 『Myam-roasted meat』 with both hands. I couldn’t help smiling, and said with a smile:「I will do my best to meet your expectations.」
After that, we were locked in heated battle. The amount of food that could be cooked in a pot and a griddle was roughly the same; after cooking 15 portions twice, I cooked another batch to make up the shortfall, and the morning rush was over.
Everyone rested after that, ate a light meal, then switched stalls. The members of the 《Silver Vase》 appeared. It was the same familiar routine.
「Asuta, no see so long.」
「Ah, hello, thank you for your patronage.」
The band leader Shumimaru always greeted me this way. The young man with silver hair took off his hood as usual and bowed emotionlessly.
Unfortunately, the one tending to this stall with me right now was Shela Wu, not Vena Wu. Shumimaru bowed towards Shela Wu, and Shela Wu bowed politely in return.
「Are you having 『Myam-roasted meat』 today?」
「No, when stall close, I eat 『Myam-roasted meat』, today, eat 『Kiba burger』.」
He spoke like a foreigner, but his pronunciation was very standard. When the denizens of Forest's Edge said 「hamburg steak」 and 「Kiba burger」, they still sounded stiff. Their culture and speech style was probably very different.
「Asuta, kitchen knife, good?」
「Very good, I’m using it very smoothly now. How should I put this, this knife is sturdier than the knives from my hometown. As a half-baked chef, I’m very grateful.」
「Asuta, you half-baked?」
「Yes, my skills are still lacking, and this is the first time I’m running a stall.」
I answered as I finished my preparation for the five portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 for the band members.
Shumimaru opened his high cornered eyes slightly wider.
「Asuta, cooking, outstanding. I think, very tasty.」
「Thank you, I’m honored to hear that.」
「…Asuta, how you will be, when full-baked? I, in anticipation, tremble .」
Shumimaru narrowed his eyes slightly.
The expressions of easterners rarely changed, but just this subtle movement felt like a gentle smile.
After one of his brethren handed him a 『Kiba burger』, Shumimaru looked around him.
「She, today, not here?」
I tilted my head puzzledly, then understood.
「Ah, you mean my house head? She had to do some other work. After all, her main job isn’t to do business.」
「… House head?」
「The head of a house. She is the head, I’m a member.」
「House head, stone, happy?」
「Ah, yes… she was quite pleased.」
Seeing how flustered I was, Shumimaru narrowed his eyes cheerfully.
「Wonderful. If problem, find me.」
「Alright, thank you.」
After the 《Silver Vase》 left the stall, a familiar customer approached us with a smile.
「Hi, it’s crowded today too!」
It was a pretty girl with brown hair and ivory skin. Her thicc body was covered with just a tube top and a long dress around her waist. She was the daughter of the 《West Wind Inn》, Yumi.
「It’s been a while, you are by yourself today?」
「Yes, I have been helping out at home since morning. My stomach was rumbling, so I sneaked out.」
The meat which was kept warm at the edge of the griddle gave off a fragrant aroma, and the smiling Yumi sniffled.
「Smells nice! Isn’t that myam and fruit wine? This fragrance is more appetizing than the Kimyusu bun. This means that the kiba meat itself is very fragrant.」
「Yes, I think kiba meat goes well with myam.」
「That’s right, a lot of dishes make use of myam too… Asuta, did you come up with the seasoning for this dish? You’re amazing!」
「Not at all, I’m just a half-baked chef.」
I heard there were chefs in the castle town. That was probably why a half-baked chef like me could get rave reviews in the Post Station Town. I was happy to hear everyone’s compliments, but I couldn’t get cocky about it.
「There is still some time before noon, how many portions have you sold?」
「Hmm…? Well, about 40 to 50 each.」
「You sold 50 portions so early!? Your business is really good… I want three portions today, I will make my dad taste your dish, no matter what it takes.」
「Huh? You want to let your esteemed father try this dish?」
「Don’t address him so respectfully, he is just an inflexible and stubborn old man.」
Yumi crossed her arms over her bountiful breasts and pouted.
「He thinks kiba can’t taste good and even says that the tongues of me and my mother turned weird after eating kiba. He is still insisting on that. I will crush his rock brain today!」
「I-I see. Seniors born in Genos still resist the idea of kiba.」
「Not at all. My mom was born and bred in Genos, but my dad only moved here as an adult… Besides, only grandma’s and grandpa’s generation would be afraid of kiba. My dad just hates kiba for some unknown reason.」
She would need to spend quite a bit of effort to erase this ‘some unknown reason’ from his heart.
As I watched this westerner girl Yumi sparing no effort to overturn the bad reputation of kiba, I thought she was an irreplaceable existence for the denizens of Forest's Edge.
「… You will be starting work in the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 from tomorrow onwards, right?」
「Ehh? That’s right.」
「That is an inn where the southerners frequent, but they also have many westerners as clients. Once they start selling your dishes, more westerners will start eating kiba.」
Yumi told me her prediction, and I was grateful for that.
But her face still looked sullen.
「After everyone starts treating kiba as a common ingredient, the inns that don’t provide kiba dishes will fall behind. So I think I need to crush my father’s stubborn rock head right now.」
「You might be right… But it will take some time before everyone treats kiba as a normal ingredient.」
「Be it one year or ten years, we will need to keep up with the times. Furthermore, the 《Big Tree of the South Inn》 might win over our customers, so we can’t let our guard down.」
Was this the so-called business brain? Yumi was more reliable than I expected. Even putting the matter of kiba meat aside, if this girl finds a husband and the two of them inherit the 《West Wind Inn》 together, the future of the 《West Wind Inn》 would be bright.
「I’m going off now! See you tomorrow!」
Yumi left in large strides with three portions of 『Myam-roasted meat』 in hand.
「Okay, it’s almost time to grill the next batch of meat. I’m counting on you, Shela Wu.」
Shela Wu nodded with a serious face.
When the second half starts tomorrow, I will leave the stall for some time and head to the inn to prepare the meals. During that period, Shela Wu would be in charge of making the 『Myam-roasted meat』.
Shela Wu had a tense expression on her face. This job could earn her a salary double that of Vena Wu and the others. I can’t fail— her mind was supposedly filled with such thoughts. The denizens of Forest's Edge took an honest and serious attitude towards work, so I definitely could leave this work to her.
「Alright then, I will start grilling.」
Shela Wu placed the aria onto the griddle.
After the aria turned soft, she added the kiba meat and spread out the meat slices so they could be cooked more easily. So far, the amount of aria and meat was fine. She checked the tenderness of the meat and shifted the fillings to the edge of the griddle.
Shela Wu looked towards me as I picked up a piece of meat.
The cooking degree… was just right.
After saying that to her with a smile, Shela Wu showed a wider smile than mine.
「I’m really happy. I give thanks to the forest for letting me meet you.」
「Shela Wu, you are exaggerating. You already were very capable.」
「No, it’s thanks to you that I could find meaning and joy in tending to the hearth. If you didn’t come to Forest's Edge, I would still be wallowing in shame over my powerlessness.」
Shela Wu gazed into the distance.
「I will definitely be able to live more proudly in the future. And so, I’m grateful to Ai Fa for bringing you to Forest's Edge. I want to offer my blessings for you meeting Ai Fa.」
I answered Shela Wu honestly too.
If only Ai Fa never met you— people like Jiza Wu might think like that, but there were also people like Shela Wu who were thankful about my encounter with Ai Fa. I could be poison or medicine. I had to show my way of living to these two groups properly.
I sorted out my feelings and was about to chop some tino when a regular customer visited. He was the disciple of the elusive Kamyua Yost, Leito.
「Hello, two please.」
The boy was short, had yellowish-brown hair and was always smiling. I looked back into his light-brown eyes and greeted him.
「Hi, thank you for your constant patronage. Is Kamyua working today too?」
「Yes. He came back early in the morning and will probably sleep until noon. He will be shouldering a heavy responsibility and needs to take care of all sorts of preparation work.」
Was the preparation work for escorting a caravan that busy? Never mind, there wasn’t any point for me to probe about this. I had something more important to discuss.
「Sorry, can you help me pass a message? After I’m done with the stall, I hope Kamyua can spare some time for me.」
「Oh, that’s a surprise, you actually have business with him.」
Leito opened his eyes wide, the innocent smile was still on his face.
「Kamyua will be happy to hear that. I will tell him once he wakes up. He will stay in the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 for the rest of the day.」
「I got it. Thank you.」
The boy’s petite figure disappeared on the end of the road that was starting to get crowded.
When he was completely gone, Shela Wu looked at me worriedly.
「Asuta, you have to be careful.」
「Okay. He kept insisting that he respects and likes the denizens of Forest's Edge, so I won’t be in danger… I think.」
「Don’t guess like that. Forest's Edge can’t do without you now. Even if we ignore the other people in Forest's Edge, Ai Fa will be devastated if anything happens to you. Please don’t forget that.」
「Don’t worry, I’m just going to talk with him.」
Right now, there wouldn’t be any problem.
However, I wouldn’t know how things would develop in the future.
After the Tsun clan lost their power, what would happen to the relationship between Forest's Edge and the Genos castle? For us who were doing business in the Post Station Town, how would this change affect us? We could only probe around in the dark.
If anything happened to me, the business in the Post Station Town would stop. Maybe the denizens of Forest's Edge would learn the skills to run a business independently after some time. I had to hang on until that time comes before I could disappear or die.
This isn’t just my own life anymore.
I need to be more cautious than before— I also discussed this with Ai Fa yesterday.
The Tsun clan falling from grace didn’t mean that all the problems were gone. In order to atone for the crimes of the chief clan, we had to form a normal relationship with Genos castle.
「It’s almost noon, let’s work hard for the second half too.」
Shela Wu’s face still had a hint of worry, despite that, I said that loudly. I then greeted an approaching customer with a smile:
Two hours after midday, we started closing shop.
We sold two hundred portions the day after our day off, but we stayed open until the very last moment. However, we got sold out an hour and a half earlier today. We were closed for two days this time, so our business was better than usual.
No matter what, this was a successful new beginning. I headed to the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》 happily.
「Thank you for your hard work, Asuta. Kamyua is waiting for you inside.」
After we returned the cart and went through the doors of the 《Kimyusu’s Tail Inn》, Leito received us as usual.
I greeted Milano Mast at the counter and entered the inn together with Vena Wu. I asked Lala Wu and Shela Wu to procure the ingredients for tomorrow, so only Vena Wu and I were here.
「Heya, Asuta, it’s been so long. I’m glad you look well.」
Like usual, Kamyua Yost sat at the six-man table at the deepest end of the restaurant. But he wasn’t alone, there were two other persons beside him, which was a little troubling for me.
As their backs were facing us, I couldn’t see their faces. But no matter who they were, what I wanted to say wasn’t something I could say publicly to outsiders.
「Hello, thank you for your patronage earlier… Kamyua, are they your friends?」
「Yes, we were just talking about work. I thought you will drop by a bit later.」
Kamyua Yost showed his signature cheery smile.
There was still an hour or so before our scheduled closing time, so Kamyua Yost was right. Besides, I did hear him mention the word 「work」.
「Are you referring to that escorting job?」
「That’s right. We will be passing through the Forest's Edge settlement before taking the eastern highway, it’s a big project. This matter involves you too, so let me introduce them to you.」
After hearing Kamyua Yost’s words, the two of them finally turned our way.
I held my breath in surprise.
The face of one of them shocked me.
However, I didn’t actually saw his face. His head was covered in bandages, and the wrappings were even more secure than Darum Wu’s when he got injured.