Saturday, November 4, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 2 Chapter 4 & 5

Culinary path of a Half baked chef
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Deus Ex-machina, Ruzenor


1


This day has finally come.


Tonight, the Wu clan will be hosting guests from the Lutim house for a pre-wedding celebration.


In Forest's Edge, during the seven days before the wedding, friends and relatives will usually hold a private celebration ahead of the main event.


Tomorrow, it would be with the groom’s family, the Lutim house. The day after tomorrow would be the bride’s Min house. The day after that would be with their closely related Lei house…


They will be celebrating several days in a row.


I felt like saying 「thank you for your hard work」 to the newly wedded couple. But personally, tonight was more important to me.
The first day of the pre-celebrations would be held in the house with the highest standings among all their kins—— which is the Wu clan that is hosting them tonight.


I had to tend to the hearth tonight, a heavy responsibility to bear.


On top of that, Ai Fa and I made a pact with Donda Wu.


If my cooking couldn’t satisfy Donda Wu and the head of the Lutim house, then the Wu clan and all their kin house would break ties with the Fa house.


If the Wu clan declare they would sever all ties with the Fa house, the successor of the Tsun clan Diga Tsun might assault Ai Fa again.


If Donda Wu follow through with his announcements and force Ai Fa to face such a terrible fate, then the Grand Elder of the Wu clan Jiba Wu will leave her house and become a Fa member.
The Wu clan’s youngest daughter Rimee Wu cherish Ai Fa deeply just like Jiba Wu, so there was no telling how much pain that would cause her.


With how messy the entire affair has become, I couldn’t help sighing.
But there was only one thing I could do now——


Prepare a delicious meal and earn Donda Wu’s recognition.






「Everyone, I will be in your care today.」


I bowed deeply to everyone in the Wu clan’s stove room.
A white towel was wrapped around my hair that had grown slightly longer. I wore a white T-shirt with an aladdin-like vest draped over it. Eight pieces of blessing glimmered on my neck along with a necklace of kili fruit. I had an exotic waistband and wore white shoes. My body had gotten used to this mixed dressing.


On the working table was the Santoku knife that had been imbrued with my dad’s soul.


All preparations were complete and I was revving to go.
Ai Fa stood beside me, with three ladies standing opposite us.


They were Donda Wu’s wife——Mia Lei Wu.


Their eldest daughter, Vena Wu.


And their second daughter, Leina Wu.


A total of three ladies.


「Only Leina Wu assisted me the last time.」


「Yes…! Today is actually Lala’s turn, but she felt unmotivated, and I hope Asuta can teach me more cooking skills… So I switched tomorrow’s shift with her.」


「That’s a big help, just having one more person understand the procedure would raise the efficiency onto a different level.」


I wasn’t saying that out of courtesy, but a logical reasoning. But Leina Wu blushed and Ai Fa shot her icy gaze at me sideways.


However, I had made up my mind and won’t be distracted.


And of course, I didn’t take things easily because of any distractions the last time I tended to the hearth. But I have decided to take on this challenge with an unfaltering spirit.


After all —— the fate of several people were tied to my culinary performance tonight.
「What? You mean we are not reliable? How rude! In terms of tending to the hearth, I won’t lose out to Leina Wu.」
The one laughing boldly was the spouse of that scary Donda Wu, Mia Lei Wu.


Her skeletal frame was big and she had a plump figure. There were bits of white hair mixed in her red hair, and her brown eyes were attentive and lively. The one piece long dress she was wearing signified her status as a married woman. She was a dependable mother.


Be it hair colour, eye colour, body shape and appearance, Vena Wu was completely unlike her mother. She was like the incarnation of sexiness, but she was just fidgeting with the fringe of her hair boredly right now.


Her eyes were sleepy, lips full and her body curvy and thicc, releasing large amount of pheromones. This big sister seemed to be born for the sole purpose of mesmerizing men.


When she saw me, her cheeks were no longer red, and she showed none of her natural flirtatious demeanour. Instead, her attitude was lackluster.


No matter what, from the way they looked, they probably didn’t know about the blood culling pact we made with their clan head.


「Alright then, I will explain the plan for today. The number of diners are the twelve members of the Wu clan, the three guests from the Lutim house, Ai Fa and me, a total of seventeen people. I would also be serving a special dish to Jiba Wu too.」


I started explaining officially.


「Dinner tonight would be the kiba soup pot and grilled poitan that was served last time, as well as a grilled kiba dish. I will prepare hamburg steak for Jiba Wu as dinner. Erm~ I would like to know, when you cook the kiba soup for dinner, do you prepare a special meal for Jiba Wu separately so she could eat it easily?」


「Yes, to make it easier for her to eat, I will finely dice the aria and cook it in a separate pot. We will shift all the meat into our pot, since the hamburg steak has enough meat for Grandma Jiba.」


Mia Lei Wu answered with a smile.


Leina Wu leaned forward seriously, as if she didn’t want to miss a single word I said. As if she was trying to balance out with Leina, Vena Wu sexily stiffled a yawn.


「I see, then I will follow suit. Regarding cooking—— who is better at preparing kiba soup, or grilling poitan?」


「Leina is the best at grilling poitan. The kiba soup doesn’t have much difference no matter who cooks it, but the worst at tending to the hearth is Vena here.」


「I see, then I will leave the poitan to Leina Wu, the kiba soup to Mia Lei Wu, then Vena Wu and I will prepare the meat dish and support the others..」


「… I will just be a hindrance to you. Should I change my shift with Grandma Ditto Min or Rimee…?」


This was the first time Vena Wu spoke today, and her voice sounded a little testy.


Simply put, she felt useless compared to Leina Wu and Mia Lei Wu who were proficient in the kitchen.


This big sister has a complicated personality. With that thought in mind, I smiled at her.


「No, no need for that. You are a woman of the Wu clan too, so let’s work hard together. I plan to finish my own tasks too.」


「……」


「Alright then, Leina Wu, can you please start grilling the poitan? Vena Wu, please help her carry the ingredients.」


Vena Wu really showed a testy expression this time, and left the stove room side by side with Leina Wu.


「Asuta, what should I do?」


「Mia Lei Wu, I have something to ask. Ever since I tended to the stove last time, grilled poitan would be served at dinner every night, right? When you cook the kiba soup, do you also add all sorts of ingredients from the food store in too?」


「Of course. If not, the taste wouldn’t change… Actually, we couldn’t remove the kiba meat stench in the kiba soup no matter what we did. So we needed to add tarapa or lilo to conceal the scent.」


「Eh? You even add lilo? Wouldn’t the fragrance be too strong?」


「Thanks to that, it could more or less suppress the kiba stench… Hey, what’s the deal with the meat you brought over? The hamburg is tasty, but that kiba pot that didn’t have any stench really surprises me! Just what magic did you cast to turn kiba meat so delicious?」


「I didn’t use any magic. I only use bloodletting immediately on the kiba I caught… But that’s not the job of the women, but the responsibility of the men.」


「I see… it can’t be helped then. Those stubborn men will never listen to you.」


I looked at the depressed Mia Lei Wu and continued:


「I heard that you would treat the guests more lavishly during feasts. In Forest's Edge, what is considered lavish? Do you use all sorts of ingredients in your store?」


「That’s right, we will put in loads of vegetables that are more luxurious than aria and poitan into the pot. But doing so without thinking will make the entire thing unpalatable.」


「I get it. You only decide which vegetable to add after tough and thorough thought… It’s fine even if it is your personal preference, but what do you think should be added into the kiba soup with less of a stench to make it tasty?」


「Ehh? Well, Tino leaves goes well with anything. If the soup doesn’t have any stench, then there’s no need to add lilo and tarapa… Gigo won’t work either. The entire soup would become very thick, just like adding in poitan. Even though it’s a little bitter, Pula would work too. But Ludo and Lala would probably sulk at the sight of them.」


This long string of words mixed the names of ingredients and people together. If I accidentally added Lala instead of pula into the pot, the Wu clan would be furious.
「So tino leaves and pula is better? Then let’s add these two for tonight.」


「Ehh!? Don’t do that! It’s a rare chance for you to come, won’t it be bad if my nosiness messed up the taste!? Our guest from the Lutim house will be here too.」


「It’s fine, we need to be more adventurous. If we don’t put in the effort to innovate, our cooking will never improve.」


I glanced at Ai Fa when I said that.


Although my words were the complete opposite from my previous time tending to the hearth—— Ai Fa still watched over me with her silent and strong gaze.


I told Ai Fa my plans for the cooking tonight right from the start.
Even though Ai Fa was surprised, she merely told me: 「I leave it entirely to your judgement.」


I want to repay her trust in me.


「… By the way, how is the clan head recently?」


Mia Lei Wu was moaning with a troubled face, but let out a funny 「Hmm?」 sound. She seemed to be simulating the kiba soup cooking process in her mind, and I felt sorry for interrupting her thoughts.


「You are asking how the clan head is doing? Didn’t you meet him just three days ago?」


「Yes, I want to know if anything about him changed. What do you think?」


「He is still the same… Now that you mentioned it, he looks a little grumpy since that night, and will visit Grandma Jiba in her room from time to time. Grandma Jiba has probably lectured him.」


No, that wasn’t it. Grandma Jiba knew Donda Wu’s character very well, since it has come to this, she would not lecture him. The sensible Grand Elder has already decided on her path, and would have nothing to say to Donda Wu.


In that case—— Did Donda Wu went to negotiate with Grandma Jiba, and want to dismiss this foolish competition of ours? I hope so.
Donda Wu, Rimee Wu and Grandma Jiba were blood relatives—— He wasn’t planning to destroy Ai Fa’s life for real—— I sincerely hope that was how he thought.
No matter what, the die had been cast.
Whatever the truth might be, the thing I could do, and the thing I should do remains the same.


I stiffened my emotions again and focused on my task at hand.
「Well then, I will start preparing the meat dish. After the poitan is done, we will start cooking the soup, there is more than enough time. For the sake of Grandma Jiba, let’s revise the cooking method for hamburg steak.」


After saying that, I opened the kiba meat I brought over. I only brought thigh and chuck flap meat last time, but I prepared meat from three different parts this time.


To be honest, because I worked too hard on my grill meat research, there weren’t enough quantity of some parts for everyone, so Ai Fa and me might have to skip out—— I almost fell into such a pernicious situation. I didn’t expect that two days ago, Ai Fa brought back that 50kg young kiba, and wiped my worries away.


And so, there were more than enough meat now. After carefully categorizing the meat, I laid them out on the work platform.
In the next instant, Mia Lei Wu asked worriedly:「Is that meat from the kiba’s torso?」


「This meat is tastier than thigh meat. We already know that the last time you tended to the hearth. However, the Lutim house will be visiting this time, isn’t it better to use thigh meat?」


「Eh? The Lutim house head don’t like eating meat from the torso?」


「I’m not sure about that. But since our clan head showed such a disgusted expression, then the Lutim house head will probably react the same way. And the Lutim house head is quicker to anger than our clan head, so it’s better to be careful.」


He’s more easily agitated then Donda Wu… how scary.


If we only use the thigh meat, there wouldn’t be enough to go around, and the variety of dishes would be more bland.


「But when you and the others did not resist eating meat from the torso that much, correct? Why does Donda Wu detest it so much?」


「I have no idea why either. But Jiza and Darum did not object to what the clan head said, so there must be a good reason why the men think this way.」


A good reason for the men…


I remember Donda Wu rambling that: 「Only the montas that feast on rotten meat will eat flesh off the kiba’s torso!」 For the honourable Forest's Edge hunters, they probably felt outrage that I even dare serve them that.


However, Ai Fa was a hunter too, but she had no hesitation about eating the kiba’s torso.


What exactly was going on? When I turned back towards Ai Fa —— my house head had an expression even more troubled than mine. She then said with a groan:


「Mia Lei Wu, there’s something I would like to ask—— Is house Lutim the next most powerful kin house right after the Wu clan?」


It was rare to see Ai Fa taking the initiative to talk to others. Mia Lei Wu looked a little happy as she nodded and replied:


「That’s right, the Lutim house can rival the Wu clan, their house head Dan Lutim is also an outstanding hunter. There is no question about this.」


「I see, that’s why—— they think the torso of the kiba is monta feed.」


After Ai Fa mumbled to herself, she showed a determined expression and said to me:


「Asuta, you don’t need to mind this and just follow your plan. If the head of the Lutim house hates the torso of the kiba as much as Donda Wu, I can convince them otherwise.」


「Eh? Ai Fa, you know the reason why they hate that body part?」


「Yes, I can understand… Anyways, you can’t finish your cooking without using these parts, right? In that case, you don’t need to worry about it and just do your best.」


Ai Fa showed no hesitation in her eyes.


In that case, I won’t hesitate either.
This wasn’t just my personal battle, but a fight that will affect the fate of the Fa house.


In order to not drag others into this decision we made ourselves and bring about tragedy, we had to give it our all.


2


A few hours later——


We finished the cooking with plenty of time to spare.


Of the four stoves, kiba pots were boiling in two of them. Going by my naming conventions, they would be 『kiba soup』. The soup has been brought to a boil, and mountains of poitan had been piled onto the plates. We just needed to wait for the guests’ arrival before grilling the meat.


「Sigh, Asuta… Is this really fine...?」


Vena Wu sat lazily with her back to the wall and one knee in her arms as she called out to me worriedly.
She plays an important role in my plans this time.
「The pre-wedding celebration feast is important… I don’t have any confidence…」


「It’s fine. There’s no problem at this point in time.」


「In that case, I…」


「Please proceed as planned.」


Vena Wu hugged her knee tightly, and glared at me grudgingly.
Her knee deformed her large breasts, and I could see the twisted shape even though there was a layer of clothing covering it, a truly erotic view. If everyone knew what I was thinking right now, they would definitely question my character.


「Asuta, are you… using me as a sacrifice so they won’t complain against you…?」


「What do you mean? I have no reason to do that to you.」


「Because… I’m a burden to you right…?」


The other ladies were resting outside the stove house to cool down.
That was why Vena Wu brought up this topic. I was a little frantic since the door was open.


「I-I don’t think you are a burden. Didn’t we talk about this before? My thinking remains the same. Vena Wu, I really hope you can abandon your strange thinking.」


「But… Even if I change my thinking, my feelings can’t be changed…」


Her smooth cheeks blushed a little again.
「You think everything I did is a scheme…? I’m already a 20 year-old virgin, you think I can do that…?」


「Noo, what I mean is…」


「Really now… the heir to house Lutim who is visiting today proposed to my family before, and is one of the men I turned down…」


She covered her face with her knees this time.


「If I messed up during this man’s pre wedding celebration… and the house head of house Lutim lash out at me… Ahh, I want to die...」


「I-I told you it will be fine! If you fail, I will take all the blame! It will all be my fault! But if it succeeds, then it will be your glory, alright?」


Vena Wu’s eyes were cast my way from the shadows of her knees


「You might say that now, but you are planning to betray me in the end, correct…?」


「I won’t betray you! I promise on this Santoku knife!」


After saying that, her brown eyes drooped a little, and there was a gleam of coquetry in them.


「How sly… How can I change my feelings now…? You are cold to me at times, and kind to me at other times. I feel like a puppet dancing to your tunes...」


Then what do you want me to do!?
At this moment, a cold voice came from behind me:


「What are you rambling about by yourself?」


It seems like I raised my voice unknowingly. I felt a chill down my back because of my carelessness.


Ai Fa stood at the entrance of the stove room, and alternated her sharp gaze between Vena Wu and me.


「The guests from house Lutim are here, it’s time, right?」


When I heard that, I became tensed.


I nodded, turned to Vena Wu and said:
「Good! Let’s begin! Vena Wu, please proceed as we planned!」






「Oh! So you are that outsider staying in the Fa house!」


When I carried the kiba meat soup out together with Mia Lei Wu, someone welcomed me with a loud voice.


He was an unfamiliar large man sitting at the seat of honour.
A tall and burly man, he was on par with Donda Wu seated besides him.


Aside from being tall, he was also broad and thick. He was wearing a vest similar to mine, but he was merely draping over his shoulders, and his beer belly protrude out wide.


By the way, he had a shiny bald head, thick brow and all his facial features were big. An orange beard grew from his wide chin. His brown skin matched his exotic dressing really well, and he totally looked the part of an arabian demon god.
He might be smiling now, but if he ever gets mad, not just Vena Wu, even I would want to die.


I placed the iron pot onto the stove used to keep it warm, kneeled before him and said with a bow:


「I’m Asuta from the Fa house, I will be tending to the hearth together with the women from the Wu clan.」


「I see. I heard the dinner you will serve is different from the other houses, so this will be a joyous feast, no? Kiba meat will all be the same after putting them into our stomach, but this will definitely be an interesting topic! I’m looking forward to you, Asuta of house Fa!」


「I hope dinner will suit your taste.」


I replied in rather sloppy polite speech, then got up after saying 「I will take my leave.」


I was just an apprentice chef in a family restaurant after all, not the head chef of a french restaurant or the lady boss of a high class Japanese restaurant. My family only taught me to say 「welcome」 when greeting the customers.
Mia Lei Wu who brought in the kiba meat soup with me stayed behind to chat with the guests, and I returned to the entrance of the room.


I used this chance to observe the other guests.


To the left and right of the seat of honour were an unfamiliar couple.
That should be the heir of the Lutim house and his fiancée.


I remember the groom’s name was Kaslan Lutim.


He seemed like a righteous man, and his body stature could rival the eldest son of the Wu clan, Jiza Wu… Or rather, Jiza Wu himself was seated beside him, and the two of them seated side by side could only be described as 「spectacular」.


The two fathers were too well built, and their heirs both had proportionate and toned bodies. They both had a quiet dignity about them, and their style and aura befitted their positions as the next house head.


Kaslan Lutim’s appearance was deeply influenced by his father, and all his facial features were large. His face was squarish with a chiselled jaw, and couldn’t be considered handsome.
However, his brown hair had been cut refreshingly short and tidy, and his deep blue eyes had a quiet shine. His figure looked competent and honest, and I guess that he would make a good husband.


On the other hand, I remember the name of the bride was Ema Min.
Amongst the kin house of the Wu clan, Min was behind Wu, Lutim and Lei, right in the middle. Grandma Ditto Min came from the Min house.
Which means, women would keep their family name behind their given name when they marry out of their house to show their birth origins.


After Ditto Min marry into the Wu clan, she became Ditto Min Wu. Seven days later, this lady would turn from Ema Min to Ema Min Lutim, and so on.
Ehh…


「Ai Fa- Tsurumi…」


A foolish delusion arose in my mind as I thought about this, a secret I would take with me to the grave.
If this day really comes, I would probably become 「Asuta- Fa」 instead. No matter what, delusioning about impossible things was a wasteful effort.
I looked at the bride Ema Min before me.


This girl wasn’t fat or thin, of average height and looked healthy. She sat really straight and looked like a girl with good upbringing.
Her black hair was bundled up high, and her light blue eyes shone brightly. She looked pure and serious, and didn’t seem intimidated at all as she waited quietly for the feast to begin.


She was about my age, but had such a mature air about her. Was this a calm demeanor all women about to be wed share in common? She made me and Leina Wu who was the same age look childish.


For a half-assed seventeen year old guy like me, I prefer pure and cheerful girls over those who looked more mature than their age suggest. If I had to be more specific, I like girls who would normally show a cold face, but has a straight personality, will kick other people’s legs, and has eyes like a wild cat—— I know, that’s not important.


No matter what, the young couple looked wonderful together!


And we were using their pre-wedding celebration feast to hold such a strange contest, which makes me feel bad.
And just like what his wife said, the subject who set up this match looked unhappy.


When I greeted the person beside him, Donda Wu averted his eyes and started taking large swigs of fruit wine.
Don’t drink so much that you can’t tell the taste of the dish. I prayed in my heart. When I continued walking forward, I felt a sticky gaze coming from the side.


—— It was the second son of the Wu clan, Darum Wu.


When we visited the Wu clan three days ago, he was the only one I didn’t meet.


Which means, this was a reunion after two weeks. He had an aura as fierce as a wolf, has a well toned body and inherited his father’s eyes.


If not for his fierce eyes and expression, he would probably be the most handsome man in the Wu clan. Because of what happened between Ai Fa and him, I couldn’t open my heart to this young man.


Hence, I glared back at him with a bit of force—— When I did that, he averted his eyes a little unnaturally.


Why did that happen? His stubborn profile looked dismayed and disgusted.


To his side was the youngest brother leaning his cheek onto his palm, and the third sister who got tired of waiting and turned her head to one side. The energetic youngest sister between them waved at me. I nodded at her and headed for the exit.


At this moment, Ai Fa, Leina Wu and Vena Wu brought in the other pot and a plate filled with poitan.


「Ohhh!? What’s that? Is that really food!?」


When Dan Lutim’s surprised voice came from behind, I was already on my way to the stove room.


The sky had already turned dark, but there were several candle stands along the path to the back of the building, providing safe passage.
When I finally returned to the stove room, I waited for the women to return with the nervousness of an imminent battle.
「Sorry, I couldn’t help chatting with them. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by that poitan.」


Everyone came back with the energetic mother of the Wu clan.


And so, the curtains were drawn for the opening battle——


「They will probably have plenty of comments. I will serve the plate to the seat of honour then.」


After saying that, I reached for the plate containing the main dish, but Mia Lei Wu stopped me.


「Hey, is that really fine? The clan head already look unhappy, I’m worried.」


Her face that was always lively and cheerful had an intimidatingly serious expression right now.


This was the dignity of a mother of seven in charge of all matters of chores within the house.


If my mother was still alive, the two of them would be about the same age. As I was thinking about that, I said:


「If I don’t speak up to defend myself, I will lose all ties to the Wu clan, and I don’t want that. This might be brusque, but I have decided to pick a quarrel with the clan head.」


Mia Lei Wu’s expression changed from surprise and dumbfoundedness—— to a smile.


「I get it! I can’t antagonize my own husband, but I will cheer for you and protect you from being murdered. Go quarrel with him as much as you want!」


She smacked my back loudly.


It hurts a lot, but it made me hyped up.


「I’m going then.」


Picking up the plate with both hands, I walked out of the stove room.


Ai Fa who was holding a similar plate chased after me.


「Wait, don’t go alone. If that bunch of burly men suddenly started raging, what will you do? You can’t protect yourself, so don’t act by yourself.」


「I’m going to quarrel with them, but not brawl with them.」


「If they suddenly hit you, do you think you can escape unscathed?」


「… I will probably die.」


「In that case…」 Ai Fa leaned in closed and said:「don’t leave my side.」


If a next life exist, playing the role of a princess wouldn’t be bad at all. Ai Fa’s face looked brave and reliable, just like a prince. That made me think up such a delusion.


Or rather, this is my next life right now.


This second life wasn’t bad either.
Such a thought actually welled up within me, making me feel that I was really blissed.


「Sorry for the wait, this is the last dish.」


I stepped into the hall alongside Ai Fa,.
Donda Wu and Dan Lutim sat at the seat of honour.


To their right were Kaslan Lutim, Jiza Wu, Darum Wu and Ludo Wu. Followed by Lala Wu and Rimee Wu.


To their left were Ema Min, Ditto Min Wu, Sati Lei Wu. Three empty seats for those tending to the hearth followed. Kota Wu laid in the cradle behind Sati Lei Wu and made loud baby noises.
Aside from this baby, eleven pairs of eyes welcomed us. Some were sparkling from expectation, a few looked displeased, and the others appeared unmoved.


Ai Fa and I headed to the seat of honour while basking in their gaze.
I presented the plate to the two house heads, and Ai Fa served her plate to the two heirs.
The instant they laid eyes on the contents of the plate——


Donda Wu’s eyes burned intensely, and Dan Lutim lashed out loudly:


「The heck is this!?」


3


「This is grilled kiba meat.」


Fortunately, he didn’t punched me.
He just glared at me with fiery eyes, and roared angrily.
The other three ladies also followed us into the silent room, and started serving the seats to the right. Even though everyone kept their voices down, mumbling voices were starting to become audible.
Ema Min whom I was meeting for the first time stared with her eyes wide and said 「Ara.」


Kaslan Lutim remained politely expressionless.
I didn’t serve any strange dish. Even so, it caused a huge uproar—— probably due to a certain ingredient. It was clear from a glance that I used 「meat from the torso」.


Intense flames burned in Donda Wu’s eyes.


Thick veins appeared on the bald head of Dan Lutim, and his thick lips were trembling slightly.


「Donda Wu! What’s going on! Explain this to me!」


His mouth wide as he roared for a second time.


He then quietly turned to us and said:
「This—— This kiba meat—— is from the kiba’s torso!」


As expected, the Lutim house only eat the thigh meat too.
This development was just like what Mia Lei Wu predicted.


「… It appears so.」


Donda Wu answered with a deep voice.
His emotion had transcended rage, and his agitation was clear from his sombre voice. Just hearing his voice was enough to make my liver shrink from fear.


「It appears so? What do you mean!? This is a pre-celebration of the eldest son of house Lutim! What are you trying to do, serving me monta feed! The kinship between the Wu clan and house Lutim is stronger than the other kin houses…!」


「I know nothing about this.」


Just the aura behind these words was enough for Dan Lutim to swallow back his accusations.
As if he was looking at something unbelievable, he stared at Donda Wu with his large round eyes.


「Know nothing… What do you mean, Donda Wu?」


「For the Wu clan, this is a joyous feast of the utmost importance. I merely ordered that brat to tend the hearth for this feast. I know nothing about anything that happens after.」


When he heard Donda Wu say that, Dan Lutim turned to me hard.


His movement was so intense that his cheeks wobbled for a bit.


「Hearth tender! The head of the Wu clan ordered you to tend to the hearth—— despite knowing that this is a pre-celebration for the Lutim house, you still served us monta feed!?」


「This isn’t monta feed. This is 『kiba steak』. I prepared meat from three body parts for everyone, which are the spare ribs, the shoulders and the thigh.」


As I was explaining, Mia Lei Wu and Vena Wu headed to the stove room to take the other plates. Leina Wu disappeared down the deep passage of the hall to bring Jiba Wu.


And——


There were large plates placed before everyone, and the dish in the plate were still steaming hot.


As I announced, this was 『kiba steak』.


Since they placed so much emphasis on the bite, I needed a dish that was full of that—— and I came up with this dish to fill that role.


And of course, this wasn’t the only reason why I chose this dish. However, speaking of the most common meat dish, spare ribs naturally comes to mind.
As this was spare ribs, I didn’t use any special cooking methods, and just carefully grilled them.
Like the name implies, thigh meat came from the kiba’s leg.


shoulders were the back and shoulders of the kiba.


And the spare ribs—— were the rib bone and the meat around it.


There were large rib bones with plenty of meat on everyone’s plates.
And so, it was impossible for anyone to mistake that for thigh meat.
「This—— monta feed——」Dan Lutim’s lips started trembling again.
For a non Forest's Edge denizen like me, the spare ribs look delicious.


The visual impact of the shoulders and thigh steaks were not far behind the ribs. They were about 2.5cm thick, a rather sumptuous serving.


Handling steaks of such thickness required an equivalent amount of effort.


Starting from the ingredient preparation, there were tendons in many parts, and I needed to cut them open before hand. The ratio of lean meat in the thigh was higher, so I was worried that it would be too tough after grilling. Thus, I knocked the thigh meat with a clean bottle to destroy its fabric.


Next, I sprinkled salt and pico leaves on one side of the steak, and after letting it sit for 10 minutes, the prep work was done.


After this, I toss some fats onto a preheated iron pot, and after rolling it over the pot's surface, I placed the side with the garnishing facing down into the pot.


When the gridded surface turned golden brown, I shift the steak onto a pot with weak flame.
Depending on the intensity of the fire, red meat juice would surface after a minute or two, which was the cue to flip it over.


Up til now, these were the steps to prepare a beef steak set meal (800 yen) in 『Tsurumi restaurant』 back home. However, the dish I was preparing was kiba, not beef. I was a bit worried that the center wasn’t completely cooked.  Ai Fa also said that 「half cooked meat is worthless」.


Normally, I will continue to grill the beef steak with weak fire until it was done. But now, I had to put the steak back into the pot with strong fire.
Since I didn’t just want to grill it to medium rare or medium, using a weak fire would take too much time. Well done steak wasn’t juicy in the first place, so the juices would be lost if I grill it for too long.
Therefore, I cooked the other side with strong flame too, and added in fruit wine at this point to cook it with steam. The heat would penetrate the entire steak, so I chose to use the same method I used for handling hamburg steak.
When the alcohol evaporates completely, I open the pot. When the other side turns golden brown, I would place the steak back to the pot with weak fire.


When clear coloured juice comes out from the grilled surface, the dish was done.


—— So the cooking method was decided.


After that was repeated experiments to find the thickness which this method worked best on.


If the meat was too thick, it would take a long time to cook the center of the steak. The juice would be lost slowly, and the meat would become dry.


But if it was too thin, then the dish would be no different from the grill meat usually served in the Wu clan.


The results of the experiments showed that thickness to be 2.5cm.


It was rather thick for a steak.
As the steak were completely cooked, it should be tough to bite, which wasn’t a problem for the denizens of Forest's Edge who always chew on jerky. Ai Fa confirmed that for me.
It was a kiba steak that challenged the limits of its thickness.


I had decided to decide the match with Donda Wu with this dish —— but before that, I needed to deal with the Lutim house head who was even more brusque than Donda Wu.


「… Only the monta who eats rotten meat would feast on a kiba’s torso!」


Dan Lutim roared again.


「Aside from monta, only weak households who couldn’t hunt the kiba properly would eat this meat!」


Dan Lutim yelled as he shifted his gaze to Ai Fa and said:


「Ai Fa of house Fa! I see many things hanging from your neck, are those tusks and horns just decorations!? Even though you hunted plenty of kiba, you still need to deprive the monta of their feed!?」


A rather scary expression appeared on Dan Lutim’s round face.


If he had a sabre at his waist, his fingers would definitely be on the handle.


「No, that is impossible. Which means, you are mocking my house? You think monta feed befits the Lutim house…?」


「Lutim house members are fellow denizens of Forest's Edge, Asuta and I have no intention of mocking anyone. Head of house Lutim, can you please calm down?」


Ai Fa’s voice was very calm in contrast.


Her blue eyes were colder than usual.


「I have a question for you, head of house Lutim. Do you think eating the torso of a kiba is an act of weakness? Is that why you are so agitated about parts from the torso being used for dinner?」


「Isn’t that obvious? If we hunters do our job well, just eating thigh meat would suffice for us! A hunter that needs to eat the torso of a kiba to survive is proof of a weak hunter!」


「As I expected.」


While Dan Lutim’s voice got more and more agitated, Ai Fa’s voice became calmer.


Not just calm, she was ice cold like a steel blade.


「In that case, the way the Wu clan and the Lutim house does things differs from the Fa house. This is ill consideration on our part, and I apologize… The Wu clan and Lutim house are resourceful and powerful, the Fa house can’t even begin to compare.」


In the face of the raging Dan Lutim, Ai Fa stared at his scary face and continued:
「For example—— when I was little, there was a time when my father Gill hurt his leg and couldn’t hunt. The tusks and horns we had decreased quickly, and we could only eat jerky towards the end. At this time, a young kiba fell into a sub standard trap set by me, so my Mother Mei and I carried that small kiba back home.」


It was rare for Ai Fa to talk about her parents.


As I listened with bated breath, Ai Fa besides me continued to speak with a quiet and strong voice.


「Back then, my mother didn’t only cook the thigh meat, she also cut off the meat from its back and grilled it for us. When you mentioned 『depriving a monta of its feed to survive』, this was how desperate such a lifestyle was.」


「… That’s right. Some of those famished people will even eat the kiba’s torso and head, the denizens of Forest's Edge can’t permit such acts of weakness!」


「I can understand. When our family fell into such a desperate state, it was true that he was a weak hunter then. Within that period of time, my father Gill wasn’t even qualified to be called a hunter. I knew how anguish my father felt, after all, weakness itself is a sin for the hunters of Forest's Edge.」


Ai Fa left these words.


And then —— she did something I never expected.
I thought she would become agitated like Dan Lutim, but the corners of her lips rose and she smiled instead.


「Head of the Lutim house, your kins disposed the torso of the kiba into the forest because they are worthless to you. You have already done your part as a hunter dutifully, so there is no shame even if you consume these meat. These meat are delicious, and suitable for such a joyous occasion. That’s why we are serving them to everyone here.」


「You are saying these meat are delicious and suitable for joyous occasions——?」


Before this burly bald headed man started shouting, his son calmly said:


「Father Dan Lutim, no matter what we are served, the food reflects the hospitality of the Wu clan, demeaning them goes against the law of Forest's Edge. Be it monta feed of rat intestines, the hearth tender will taste the same dish, and we have to feast on the forest’s grace.」


「But Kaslan...」


「If you think the fault lies with the other party, please raise it against them after having a taste.」


His voice was calm from the beginning to the end, but he kept his head lowered as if he was concealing the emotions in his blue eyes.
Speaking of which, when I tended to the Wu clan’s hearth earlier, Donda Wu didn’t complain before finishing his dinner. He only started making noise after finishing his food, saying that was monta feed and poison that would corrode his soul.
Someone once told me that tending to the hearth was to tend to life for that night.
Hence, since I was the one tending to the hearth, no one could complain no matter what food I served.
However, if the food being served ever tarnish the life and soul of the diners—— it meant the hearth tender had betrayed the trust of everyone, and need to be persecuted.
If someone tarnish the soul of his financée, what would this righteous youth do? Just thinking about this stresses my heart out.
「Thank you for waiting...」 At this moment, a raspy voice of an old lady could be heard.
Just like that night, Grandma Jiba entered the hall while accompanied by Leina Wu.
Although his face was still as red as a cooked octopus, Dan Lutim still grabbed his left shoulder with his right hand like his son and bowed. Ema Min did the same, but with her left hand on her right shoulder.
「Well then, the banquet will begin now. Everyone return to your seats.」


Donda Wu announced with an angry and serious voice.


4


「… We offer thanks for the forest’s grace…」


Donda Wu’s voice rang out once again.


This might be a banquet, but there’s no special speech and everyone started eating as usual.


「… We offer thanks to Mia Lei, Vena, Leina, Ai Fa, Asuta for tending the fire in the hearth, so our lives can be extended tonight…」


Everyone recited the same thing, but Dan Lutim and the others were on the verge of exploding with rage. We wouldn’t be able to calm his anger no matter what we said.
In order to let him learn the value of this meat, we could only do so by eating it.
The menu today were 『kiba steak』, 『kiba soup』 and 『grilled poitan』.


There were three types of steaks; thigh, spare ribs and shoulders.


We reduced the quantity of meat in the kiba soup, and including aria, we added three types of vegetables.
Replicating the plate lay out for these few nights, we placed all the poitan onto three big plates and piled it up high. Instead of okonomiyaki, it looked closer to pale coloured hot cakes. Each piece was made from two poitan, equivalent to one day’s worth of nutrition. The men could eat two to four pieces in one go.


Let’s dig in——


I was concerned about the reaction of the others, but I had to taste it for myself first.


I reached for the spare rib.


I picked up the fork I borrowed from the Wu clan meant for grilling meat to stab into the meat, held the bony part with my other hand, and bit into the meat that was still warm.


As it was well done, there wasn’t much juice in them.


The fats were almost all gone.


However, the ribs were where the fats was, so it remained juicy even after grilling it for so long. If I had to compare it to pork, this was the three layer meat we were all familiar with. As it wasn’t sliced thinly, it had a heavy taste.
The meat was slightly tough while the fats were soft. When I put it in my mouth, the texture felt just right and the bite it had felt great. I love pork ribs and Okinawa pork, so this was a wonderful taste.


I felt that the spare ribs were cooked really well.


I tried a bite of the poitan to rest my taste buds, then attack the next dish—— the shoulder roast.


It was filled with fats too.
However, it was a thick slab of meat unlike the ribs, so it had more bite to it.


And it was 2.5cm thick.


After putting it in my mouth and chewing it, the thick fresh taste spreads in my mouth.


Despite losing so much juice during the roasting, this type of meat had plenty of fats and wouldn’t dry up.


Meat! This was meat… That was the feeling it gave.


If my stomach wasn’t strong enough, the sight of it would probably turn me away.


But I still felt this meat was delicious —— my jaw was getting tired though.


Next, I enjoyed the kiba soup Mia Lei Wu served for me with satisfaction.


The two ingredients she picked for me, tino leaves and pula, were added into this soup.


I already taste tested it. Tino leaves were like roses made from lettuce. It had a faint taste of grass, but it was barely noticeable, and mainly added for the texture it had.


As for the texture, instead of lettuce, it was closer to cabbages. It turned soft and mushy after cooking, but it would absorb the soup and its wonderful taste. The taste was as good as aria which resembles onions.


On the other hand, pula had a rich bitter taste.


Its appearance was like thick ginkgo, about its size and had a dark green hue.


I didn’t think it taste good, but after trying it in a dish, its bitterness that other ingredients didn’t have made it an effective garnishing.


It didn’t soften even after cooking it. We already sliced it thinly, but it was still firm and chewy.


If I had to compare its unique taste with ingredients I knew, that would be green pepper.


No matter what, it enhanced the taste of the kiba soup.
As several vegetables had been added, the soup had a deep taste about it.


But if vegetables that didn’t mesh well were added to this kiba soup, it would definitely destroy its taste.


Even in this different world that wasn’t too concerned with 「eating」, mothers were still strong. The soup was this successfully thanks to Mia Lei Wu’s effort.


And so—— I tasted most of the dishes.


Only the 「thigh steak」 was left.


For me, this was a difficult enemy to take down.


But I still needed to try it first.


As I mustered my courage and was about to bite down——


At that instant—— a voice pierced the room.


「What… What is this!?」


It was a voice that had completely lost its reason.


The one who shouted was Dan Lutim.


He remained still with his hands on the spare ribs.


His large mouth was stained with oil.


「Hey! You! What meat is this!?」


He stared with wide open eyes at me who was seated at the lower seats.


Ara, I thought they would only comment after the meal? Even though that was what I thought, I still answered:「I already said, this is kiba rib.」


I then asked a little deviously:「What about this meat?」


「Ughh…」 His oil stained lips started to tremble.


「… Delicious!」


He said with a volume bordering on a roar and took a large bite of meat.


He was so aggressive that he looked as if he want to chew the bones too.


「Delicious! This meat is delicious! But why? Why is the ribs of a kiba… Even though this is monta feed!?」


「This isn’t monta feed. There is an animal similar to kiba in my country, and we will cook every parts of its body.」


「B-But, the torso of the kiba should have such a strong stench and is unpalatable...!」


「That’s because you don’t know the proper way to slaughter them yet… Or rather, you don’t need to learn the way to slaughter kibas. For the denizens of Forest's Edge, kiba aren’t hunted for the sake of eating them in the first place.」


I never imagined that I would need to explain this during the meal. Never mind, my jaw was getting tired so this suited me just fine.


「I heard that kibas are a scary and harmful beast. Even if 50 kibas were hunted every day, their numbers wouldn’t fall. In order to protect the farmland of the western kingdom, the denizens of Forest's Edge had to risk their lives to keep on hunting kibas—— hence, there would be left over meat no matter how much was consumed. That’s why the denizens of Forest's Edge think slaughtering kiba is a hassle, and will leave behind the torso that had a strong stench and think of them as monta feed. This habit probably formed naturally… However, all the parts of a kiba are delicious, that’s why I prepared these dishes in the hope that everyone can understand this.」


Dan Lutim was like a sleepwalker, listening to me with a blank expression as he took large bites of meat.


Donda Wu beside him didn’t seem to be listening as he chew on the steak quietly.


Everyone had different reactions.


Rimee Wu stared at me as she took small bites to satiate her hunger; Jiza Wu was probably alternating his gaze between me and the clan head, but I couldn’t be sure as his eyes were too narrow.
Leina Wu who was accompanying Grandma Jiba stared at me warmly, while the housewives ignored the shocked Dan Lutim and enjoyed their meal harmoniously.


Worth mentioning were the reactions of Kaslan Lutim and Ema Min.


As they ate quietly, their eyes would meet from time to time and smile at each other. This atmosphere brings to my mind the thought that 「Ara, it’s great that the two of you looks so blissful.」


And finally, Ai Fa——


Ai Fa bit on her meat as she carefully observed Donda Wu.


「… head of the Lutim house, Dan Lutim, have you tried the thigh steak?」


Giving a monologue by myself in a silent hall makes me feel like a retard, so I tried throwing out a topic.


「I’m eating it right now, the thigh steak is delicious too.」 the Lutim house head said and nodded.


His smooth head and beer belly made him feel like a giant baby, I thought quietly in my heart.


「The thigh steak don’t have any stench because of the same reasoning. Most of the stench can be removed by bloodletting. So a delicious meal can be prepared even with just thigh meat alone. However, my main goal is to let everyone know that the other parts of the kiba is tasty too.」


「Delicious! This is really delicious! I like this meat sticking to the bone! But the thigh meat is tasty too!」


His attitude and demeanour were completely different.


I felt a little embarrassed because of how forthright he was.


「If a house don’t have enough men, they wouldn’t be able to carry the huge kiba home, so they can only bring home the thigh. If the entire kiba is brought back to skin their hide like what the Wu clan does, but only the thigh meat is eaten and the rest treated as monta feed, I think that is a waste.」


「My house brings the entire kiba back too! I—— I actually left something so delicious to the monta…!」


He was too forthright and made it hard for me to keep up the conversation.


「And so, if everyone bloodlet the kiba when you hunt them, and slaughter them in the appropriate fashion after skinning the hide, everyone can taste this delicious meat. It’s not difficult, even a brat like me can do it. Anyone who put their mind to it can…」


「Why must we go through such a hassle?」


Someone interjected——


Donda Wu had finally spoken.


He actually finished all the meat in such a short amount of time.


I only took a few bites of the ribs and shoulders.


「Our goal is to hunt the life of the kiba, there is no need to spend that much effort. Hunters don’t need to do such unnecessary things to survive.」


His voice was rather composed.


The fact that this man could speak so calmly surprised me——


On a second look, everyone including the members of the Wu clan all had an expression of shock.


Rimee Wu and Ludo Wu were still chewing their food passionately, but everyone else had stopped.


That was how abnormal his actions were.


Which meant——


This was the crucial moment.


「… If it is only for survival, that is true.」


I could feel the sweat on my back.


This time, just increasing the flavour of the dishes would not be enough.


I needed to use  「words」 to make this man acknowledge my cooking, and feel satisfaction.


To be honest, this was too heavy a burden for a mere apprentice chef.


But I had to finish it.


This was for the sake of Ai Fa beside me. Her eyes were burning quietly.


「If we only eat and sleep, we will be no different from animals—— I won’t describe everyone this way. After all, the denizens of Forest's Edge don’t just eat and sleep. Everyone work hard and help each other in order to survive, and find happiness in our daily life. This lifestyle might be very different from life in my country of birth, but the foundations are the same… That’s what I feel.」


「Hmmp, what are you rambling on about, brat? You sweet talked my family with that nimble tongue of yours, and now you are trying to fool me?」


「My tongue isn’t nimble at all. To be honest, I have ran out of things to say. And I have no intention of fooling your family.」


I swept my gaze across everyone in the hall.
The twelve members of the Wu clan.


Two members of the Lutim house, and a daughter from the Min house.


And Ai Fa.


Except for Ai Fa, everyone else showed expression of doubts, and wasn’t sure what I was trying to do.


I was picking a quarrel.


And then I’ll apologize to him after coming to a mutual understanding.


That was my current thoughts.


「I wasn’t fooling your family. I’m just hoping they can feel happy after tasting delicious food. When I first started doing this, my intention was to encourage Jiba Wu to eat. However, Rimee Wu complimented my cooking, so I wanted the entire Wu clan to enjoy a tasty meal—— such an arrogant attitude appeared in my mind.」


「……」


「In the end, I received blessings from many people which made me rather happy. However… I felt frustrated at the people who didn’t praise my cooking. Especially Donda Wu, you disparaged my cooking so I detested you the most. I asked you to let me tend to the hearth once more because I wanted a rematch.」


「I know what you want to say, so you don’t need to keep nagging about it.」


「No, even so, please bear with my nagging. What I’m about to say is really typical, but I can finally say my sincere thoughts.」


After saying that, I changed my posture from sitting crossed legged to kneeling, and bowed deeply like I did three days ago and said:


「An immature chef like me actually made the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu consume poison that corrodes the soul of the hunter. I wish to apologize for this once more.」


5


「… What tricks are you trying to pull?」 Donda Wu’s deep voice echoed in the hall.


「This is no trick. I said the same thing three days ago, but I will say it again today more sincerely.」


I lifted my head while maintaining my kneeling position, and faced Donda Wu:


「For hunters, my cooking will really become poison. The eldest son of the Wu clan Jiza Wu told me this.」


Jiza Wu turned his head towards me in surprise.


It seemed that I wasn’t just a minor character since I managed to make this man panic.


「Like Jiza Wu said, the cooking I served that night is 『poison』 for hunters… That is too much of an exaggeration, isn’t it, I should describe it as 『might become poison』 to be more accurate.」


「Asuta, hold on. What are you talking about? What did I say to you?」


「Don’t you remember? If you eat this tender meat every day, you feel that your teeth will lose their strength and slowly fall off. You are probably right.」


「What!? I will become toothless like Grandma Jiba?」


Rimee Wu held her plate with both hands and remained stiff. I smiled gently at her and said:


「No, if it was just once or twice, it will not have much effect. Even if it was a hundred or two hundred times, it will be fine. Even a thousand or two times should be okay.」


「Huh! Then there’s no problem! That’s great…」


Rimee Wu sighed in relief rather forthrightly.




Be it a man in his prime or a seven, eight years old girl, everyone had actions that befits their age.


By the way, that bald old man who had regressed to a toddler was biting on the meat and nodded in agreement… For someone who didn’t know about 『hamburg steak』, this should be a topic that had nothing to do with them.


Anyways, I continued speaking with Rimee Wu:


「Hmm, there’s no need to worry… But Rimee Wu, did you remember what you said three days ago? You said you don’t want to eat anything else but hamburg steak for every meal, right?」


「Yes! Because hamburg steak is tasty!」


I stole a glance at Donda Wu.


The head of the Wu clan was still glaring at me with a fire raging in his eyes.


… That old man who kept nodding his head besides Donda Wu was really irritating.


「Rimee Wu, that’s not good. If you eat hamburg steak all day, your teeth might become weak. Even if your teeth are fine, you might give birth to a child with weak teeth. If that child continue eating hamburg steak all day, her child might possess even weaker teeth… That was how the teeth and jaw strength of the citizens of my country got weaker and weaker.」


I weaved in some lies into my vague memories.


I continued sincerely:


「Allow me to confess. For me, the meat dish is a failure… It is hard for me to eat.」


Everyone stared with their eyes wide.


—— Except for the men from the Wu clan, minus Ludo Wu.


「Because the meat is too tough. I can’t bite into it. I think the ribs are great, and I can still eat the roast shoulders that is filled with fats, but the thigh steak is too tough for me. If the thickness is reduced by half, it will be just right for me.」


「You’re lying! The thigh steak is chewy, but not that tough! I love this meat the most!」


「In that case, can you eat my share, Rimee? I haven’t touch it yet… I really can’t eat it.」


I returned my gaze back to Donda Wu, and found him still expressionless and silent.


This was the first crucial moment.


「That’s how weak my family is, so there is no way that I can become a hunter. For example, some of the people in my country took on jobs that are physically demanding erm—— it’s a sort of simulated battle. They don’t use swords or shields, but compete with bats and balls. These group of men earn a living by winning in this competition.」


Even if it was just vague words, I still hope to convey my thoughts to them properly.


What I just described was 「professional baseball players」.


「When they wield their bats and throw the balls, the men will use all their strength. When they do so, I heard that they will grit their teeth so hard that it chips or loosen. And so, they will put adequately strong fillings in their mouth and bite down on it in place of their teeth.」


What I was describing was a mouthguard.


I actually wasn’t sure what the actual fact was. But I often hear my dad talking about such tidbits of knowledge as he pretended to be an expert.


Therefore, teeth was important. Not just baseball players, boxers too—— the topic expanded even more.


And so, I expounded on the topic:


「—— There is another competition that is more direct, where two competitors hit at each other with their fist. To protect their teeth, they will also put strong fillings into their mouth. This is not related to what I am saying, but I heard the punching power is very much different if they bite down on this filling. They can exert more strength than normal when they can bite down as hard as they can.」


Everyone continued their meal a little hesitantly as they listened to me with a troubled face.


Donda Wu was still expressionless.


「And so, 『bite』 and 『exerting one’s full strength』 is closely related. Actually, the nutritional values of food will also affect the hardness of teeth, so it might not be adequate to describe this as 『teeth weakening』. However, if you keep eating soft food, then the roots of your teeth, biting power and jaw strength will become weaker. That’s why I have been thinking about what Donda Wu and Jiza Wu said—— that this is poison that corrodes the hunter’s soul. That eating this will cause your teeth to lose their strength and fall out. I have been thinking about the meaning behind these words.」


「……」


「And of course, Donda Wu and the others didn’t think this deep when they said that. Lala also mentioned that she hates soft meat, so this might just be personal preference. However —— if Donda Wu accepted my cooking and lavish it with praise, what will happen? Such thoughts surfaced in my mind.」


What I was about to say wasn’t the vague memories from my mind or lies.


It was my sincere thoughts.


My confession without any shred of lies.


I should have thought about this half a month ago before preparing the meal for the Wu clan.


「I used a technique that didn’t exist in Forest's Edge in my cooking. Thanks to that, most people complimented my dishes. But if everyone accepts my cooking unconditionally—— Maybe they will really eat hamburg steak all day. Just the thought of this gave me the chills.」


This thought has been on my mind for quite some time now.


Because of Ai Fa’s obsession with hamburg steak.


While it made me overjoyed, it also filled me with unease.


Aside from the hamburg steak, she would still chew on the tough jerky, so her jaw wouldn’t degrade so quickly.
Even so, obsessing over hamburg steak still wasn’t a good thing.


If the change of diet deprives Ai Fa of her life force—— I would want to hang myself. This also applied to the members of the Wu clan.


Fate brought me who was from another world into contact with the Wu clan, so I felt a strong urge to convey these thoughts to them.


Under such circumstances, I witnessed that scene three days ago——


In order to hunt kibas, the men headed into the forest with drive and determination —— when I saw how much wild energy filled their bodies, I was certain of one thing.


—— For the people of this world, my cooking might be a poison.


「My next example is something that happened in my home nation: if you gift wine to a tribe that has no idea what wine is, over time, more than half of the tribesmen will become alcoholic. I heard something so horrific had happened before. I’m not sure if my cooking is that powerful, but I still felt terrified. Because my food has the chance of being a negative influence to others.」


Did I convey my thoughts to everyone?


Rambling on like this wasn’t like me, so it was time to head for the climax——


「That’s why I wish to share my knowledge to everyone here. Eating soft meat all the time will risk weakening the teeth and jaw power. The torso of a kiba isn’t monta feed, and can be turned into a delicious meal with some effort. I hope everyone can keep this two points in mind and understand the joy of enjoying tasty food.」


On a closer look, Ai Fa had finished her meal before I realized it. She didn’t look Donda Wu’s way, but was staring at me.
I felt that her eyes were filled with a gentle light.


「Well then, it’s about time for me to reveal the secret. Actually, the only dish made by me today is the hamburg steak Jiba Wu is eating right now.」


「What!」 Dan Lutim shouted.


Aside from a select few, everyone started chattering.


「The poitan is made by Leina Wu, Mia Lei Wu prepared the soup, and the meat is grilled by Vena. I only instructed them the cooking method. Some of the meat got burnt, but it’s fine since I brought extra meat with me. I think this meal has been cooked perfectly.」


Everyone shifted their gazes around, many of them lingering on Vena Wu.


These were all looks of praise, but Vena Wu concealed her face with her long fringe, and I felt she was glaring at me right now.


「This dish only requires grilling steak and is really simple. But I spent a lot of time to figure out the ideal heat and steak thickness. After finding the answer, I can share it with everyone, and it won’t take as much effort as making hamburg steak. You won’t need to sacrifice the time for other work to serve this meal.」


I felt a warm gaze coming from somewhere.


But things like gazes were intangible in the first place. So I dismiss it as me thinking too much, but——


I felt that Grandma Jiba Wu who was seated beside Donda Wu seemed to be staring at me.


I ended my speech to Grandma Jiba, Donda Wu and everyone else present.


「This time, I tried thinking up a menu that is suitable for the hunter’s tribe—— the denizens of Forest's Edge. Even without me, this delicious meal can be cooked if the entire family work together. I hope this will deepen the bonds between the Wu clan. That way, an outsider like me will also be a medicine to Forest's Edge, and not poison—— With this thought in mind, I worked hard for ten days, trying out the methods to grill delicious meat.」


I put my knees together and said with a bow:


「As a chef, it’s really ridiculous that I can’t confirm the taste of my own cooking. In a sense, this result is a failure. However, I think these dishes are suitable for a family to enjoy together, so it’s a rather successful family meal, and I’m proud of that. I hope this dish can be a medicine for everyone—— My apologies for rambling on so much during such an important banquet. Please enjoy your meal.」


Final Chapter


I spent another night in an empty house located within the Wu clan village.


The three guests from the Lutim house would be heading to the house of Donda Wu’s nephew whom they were closed with to retire for the night.


However, there was still a party going on in the Wu main house.


After dinner, the Wu family members except for unwed women drank and make merry with the three guests.


After Ai Fa and I cleaned up the aftermath of dinner, we went together with Rimee Wu to Grandma Jiba’s room to chat, then finally returned here to rest.


I sprawled out on the floor right after entering the room and made an  「Uwah~!」 sound.


「Not only was the meat tough, I also made such a long speech, it made my mouth really tired! I can’t speak another word tonight!」


「……」


「If that is so, stop talking to yourself so loudly…… aren’t you going to retort like this?」


I turned back to look at Ai Fa. My mistress was sitting crossed legged by the wall with one knee up, and her expression was solemn.


「What’s the matter? In the end, Donda Wu didn’t give his comment, does that worry you?」


「……」


「It will be fine! If he didn’t acknowledge my cooking, he would have told us on the spot. And the guests from house Lutim looks satisfied, so there is no way the Wu clan can convince all their kin house to break ties with the Fa house.」


「… I’m not thinking about that.」


When we were at the banquet and Grandma Jiba’s room, her eyes looked so calm. But she was too quiet now, and looked glumly.


I really hate seeing her like this.


「What’s the matter? What are your thinking? Don’t dwell over it alone, you can tell me anything.」


I crawled towards her after saying that.


If it was the usual Ai Fa, she would angrily retort 「don’t act so disgustingly!」, but she didn’t react at all.


I felt like a retard.


But that wasn’t wrong either.


「Asuta, you——」


「Hmm?」


「Are you planning to leave Forest's Edge?」


Ai Fa said suddenly.


I was seriously surprised.


「What are you saying all of a sudden? I don’t get it at all.」


「The things you said at the banquet is like a farewell speech to everyone. You wish to leave behind medicine, not poison before you are gone—— to me, that’s what you are saying.」


The candle lighted up half of Ai Fa’s face as she slowly looked my way.


「Am I right?」


「Not really… But, something like that.」


It was unsightly to talk while lying down, so I sat crossed legged like Ai Fa too.


「Like I told you quite some time ago, my feelings remain the same. I don’t know why I have been thrown into this world, but since there are humans here too, I hope to keep a cordial relation with everyone. Instead of being harmful, I hope I can help everyone instead, and I was just explaining how I really felt.」


「……」


「But like I said before, since I got thrown into this world out of nowhere, I might get thrown back one day too. If I go back, I might get squashed by the house or burned by the fire. Therefore, I want to live without regrets since that might happen one day… I don’t really know myself, but I probably showed such an emotion, right?」


「… Do you think about this all the time?」


「No no, that’s impossible! I will get a mental breakdown! But this isn’t something I can just forget, so I will show these feelings occasionally.」


Ai Fa looked at me a little gloomily, then said with her head tilted slightly:


「… I have never thought about it.」


「Hmm?」


「I have never thought about you disappearing suddenly one day.」


Ai Fa said quietly.


Her reaction wasn’t cold—— she said it calmly.
「… Because you don’t think I’m from another world in the first place, right? It must be hard for you to imagine someone can disappear and appear just like that. Or rather, even I find it hard to imagine.」


「……」


「But, I won’t leave if such a ridiculous supernatural phenomenon don’t force me to! I’m afraid of being abandoned by you instead… That’s why, if I ever disappear without a trace, it must be the work of gods or demons, so don’t forget to wish me RIP in Peace when the time comes.」


Ai Fa opened her mouth, when she made the shape of saying 「I」——


But I didn’t hear what she said next.


Because the door was knocked.


Cock, cock, two knocks.


Ai Fa stood up slowly and stopped before the door.


「Who is it?」


「… Head of the Wu clan Donda Wu.」


He came.


The demon king himself.


I considered the possibility that he will come personally, but was still surprised when he really did.


Ai Fa removed the door bar silently, and opened the door.


A large shadow slipped into the room like a huge predator.
After saying 「sorry to intrude」, he started taking off his shoes.
I checked for a sabre on his waist.
He wasn’t armed, and had a bottle of fruit wine in his left hand instead.


Donda Wu wished to have a cordial meeting—— I probably could interpret it this way.


His huge and heavy body walked towards me, and he sat down near the candle stand by the window.


Donda Wu’s large eyes surveyed the room boredly.


「You two don’t drink, so what are you doing in the middle of the night?」


「We are about to turn in.」


「Hmmp.」


He bit open the cork and took a swig of fruit wine.


He just finished a drinking session and he started another one. He was good with alcohol.


As his face looked fierce all the time, I couldn’t discern his feelings, but he didn’t seem to be showing intense emotions.


His pair of beast-like eyes were lively and guarded, his gaze was probably always this strong.


He looked more composed than usual.


But we were too close.


He would usually sit in the seat of honour with an arrogant face, but our proximity was close enough to share the light from the same candlestand. I could feel enormous pressure from him just sitting there.


After replacing the door bar, Ai Fa sat at a place that formed a triangle with me and Donda Wu.


We were so close that our knees were almost touching.


Donda Wu pushed the bottle towards the tip of Ai Fa’s nose and said: 「Drink.」


「Drink it, and swear… swear that you will only speak your true thoughts.」


Ai Fa drank the fruit wine quietly without hesitation.


She coolly took a large swig of alcohol.


And then passed the bottle to me.
The mood right now didn’t seem to permit me who was underage to refuse. To avoid choking, I carefully tilted the bottle, and took a mouthful of fruit wine.


Ara, it tasted sour and sweet.


「… Brat, what are you actually scheming?」


Donda Wu started his talking:


「The Wu clan is not related to you by blood nor your benefactor. So why are you spouting nonsense about bonds with the Wu clan? Just what are you scheming?」


No matter how composed or quiet, he was still a burly man who looked like the incarnation of a kiba. His eyes were bright in the dim night, and his huge body emitted pressure.


I don’t have any schemes —— When I was thinking about answering that way, I held back and realized I couldn’t speak like that.


Since he forbid me from lying, the best option was to confess everything truthfully——


「Instead of scheming, I was driven by one thought. That’s to earn your acknowledgement, Donda Wu.」


「… Acknowledgement?」


「Yes. No matter what cuisine I served, I will only cook dinner for one night. I’m the hearth tender for the Fa house after all, and the Wu clan won’t let me tend the hearth that often. But if that is the case—— if I only serve you a delicious meal for one night, can you grasp the meaning and value of these cooking? I started to doubt that.」


I never thought I would be making another speech tonight.


But this was the reason behind everything I did today, so there was no other way.


「For example, if I put in a lot of effort to prepare a delicious meal, will you receive calm and satisfaction from that? If I’m a restaurant owner and you are a guest, then things might be settled like this. But if I barged into your house to serve you food because you said 『there’s no distinction of food being delicious or not』? And then you say adamantly 『it’s tasty, but so what?』 Then everything ends」


「……」


「You are the head of the Wu clan, if enjoying delicious food is something you did together with your family—— if the dishes are made by your family instead of some weird outsider—— if you yourself can tell it is delicious, I think your soul will be more serene and satisfied than ever before.」


「……」


「That’s why I prepared three types of meat, it’s a way to earn your acknowledgement. If I only prepared steak or hamburg steak, some might think hamburg steak is delicious, and will be unhappy if they can’t taste it again. In that case, I want these three type of meat dish to compete with the hamburg steak. That way, everyone will be able to easily understand what you and Jiba Wu meant by 『Everyone has different opinion on what is right, and what is delicious』.」


「Why exactly… are you doing this, what do you stand to gain? To bet the life of you and your house head for this?」


Donda Wu said with a deep voice.


I sighed and said:


「You are the one who said anything about breaking off ties, right? Ai Fa and I are more headstrong than you think… After all, we are so stubborn that we didn’t listen to Grandma Jiba’s advice, which probably had you worried too, right? If you announce that you are breaking off ties with us, Rimee Wu and the others will definitely hate you.」


Donda Wu’s knees shook.


Just that was enough to make me feel that I was in mortal danger. But I was furious about what happened this time and continued:


「I don’t know what your true intention is, and don’t want to ask you either, but please be careful about risking your bonds with your family. You think Ai Fa and I will flee if you bring up the Lutim house and escalate this incident? If we fail, the Wu clan will have to break ties with the Fa house, and there will friction in your relationship with Rimee Wu and your other family members, isn’t that serious? I can’t ask you to think much of an outsider like me, but if you make things difficult and arduous for others because of an idea you thought up on a whim, and risk the bonds with your family, that will be too foolish.」


「Brat, you little…」


「It’s fine for you to hate Ai Fa and me. But Rimee Wu and Jiba Wu cherish her deeply and think of her as family. Please don’t forget that… If you still think of yourself as the head of the Wu clan.」


I decided to tell him what I think was right.


If I had a bit of doubt or fear in my actions—— I probably would have lost control of my bladder, wailed out in tears or burrow my head into the ground.


That was how intense Donda Wu’s gaze was. He had already abandoned his composure and was burning up like a beast.


I witnessed these eyes three days ago. The group of hunters heading into the forest all had these eyes of a warrior.


「I—— still don’t understand Forest's Edge.」


As his eyes seem to be scorching my very soul, I put together my words subconsciously:


「All of you are different from the people I know… Honestly, I won’t be able to understand or empathize with you in the future either. However, I still hope to be a medicine, not a poison. That’s what I sincerely think. My only good point is knowing how to cook… I hope I can stay true to myself and live here in Forest's Edge.」


What kind of expression was Ai Fa showing?


The intensity of her gaze was probably as strong as Donda Wu—— but I couldn’t pull my eyes away from this large man to confirm.


「Like what I described earlier, chefs are not needed to cook a family meal. What you are after isn’t the cooking of a chef, but the serenity in your soul when you enjoy your time with your family—— If there is anything wrong with this conclusion I made, I will return all the blessings I received from the Wu clan to you.」


The shadow—— stood up slowly.


Ai Fa quickly stood between me and the shadow.


「… I will ask you again. Why are you willing to risk your life for this?」


Perhaps he was overwhelmed with rage, his voice lacked emotion and sounded cold. It echoed in the room like thunder.


「Because I’m a chef. Just like you being a hunter, I’m a chef… Although I’m just an immature half assed chef.」


I tried to answer humorously.


After a few seconds that seemed to last an eternity——


Donda Wu finally turned his back to me and said:


「I’m a hunter, I can’t fathom the thoughts of the likes of you.」


He muttered quietly without any emotions, then headed for the entrance.


He picked up his shoes with his right hand and didn’t put them on. After removing the door bar, he said quietly:
「… Speaking of unfathomable, that stupid old man from house Lutim wants me to pass a message.」


「Eh?」


「He wants you to tend the hearth for the wedding seven days later… The head of the Lutim actually said something so outrageous, looks like their house’s days are numbered.」


I couldn’t close my wide open mouth.
What was that old man thinking?


As I was in a daze, something rolled to my feet.


Donda Wu tossed something over from the entrance.


That was —— A tusk and a horn that was white as snow, with a majestic bend on them.


「Those are blessings.」 After saying that, Donda Wu’s large body disappeared into the darkness.
「… So this incident has finally ended.」


I picked them up, and handed one of them to Ai Fa.


My fingers were still shaking, how shameful.
.
Ai Fa accepted it in silence, and stood up to bar the door.
「Sigh… I feel like my lifespan has shortened by several years.」


Leaning on the wall, my eyes followed her figure.




I had been breaking out in cold sweat all this time.


However, I have finally —— put an end to this dispute.


It all started with my willfulness, a once in a lifetime battle of the tongues.


「However, is the part about me tending to the hearth for the wedding a joke? No matter what, that’s too heavy a responsibility! I have to turn this job down.」


Ai Fa didn’t answer, and walked back after setting the door bar.
She had been quiet for quite some time now.


By the way, Ai Fa didn’t speak at all when Donda Wu was here.
While I was looking at Ai Fa with doubtful eyes, she came towards me with smooth strides.


She then —— sat down right before me.


Her pink lips slowly formed the word 「I」.


「… I don’t want.」


「W-What?」


「I don’t want you to suddenly disappear.」


Her voice was calm as usual, and didn’t raise her volume.
There was no tears in her wild cat-like eyes either.


Her fingers didn’t touch me.
Her shoulders weren’t trembling.

Ai Fa just looked into my eyes quietly.


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