Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 2 Apéritif

The Way of the Hunter
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Deus Ex-machina, Ruzenor

1


Ai Fa’s father Gill concluded his life as a hunter, and perished in the forest.


It happened a month after Ai Fa’s fifteenth birthday.


Gill Fa was a strong man who completes his job as a hunter perfectly, and no one could match him.
Ai Fa was proud of him.


However, Ai Fa lost him.


It was natural for hunters to perish in the forest. In Forest's Edge, almost all men met their demise in the forest, with only a scant few living to a ripe age. Hence, Gill Fa who hunted kiba more than anyone else, and was gouged to death by the horns of a kiba lived his life correctly —— Ai Fa believed that was the truth.


However, Ai Fa was still filled with sorrow.


She lost her only family.


Her mother died a long time ago, and the Fa house didn’t have any branch family or kin. The Fa house’s bloodline had started diminishing decades ago, and now, everyone except Ai Fa had passed on.


How should I live my life from now on?


The moonlight shone into the dim house. Ai Fa leaned weakly against the wall with her late father’s hunter cape around her, and hugged her knees.


Her father would often tease her that her sitting posture was just like a child.


However, her father was gone.


The hunter’s cape made from the hide of the kiba, the sabre and knife that had gone through countless battles, and the pride of the hunter—— a necklace of tusks and horns. Ai Fa only brought these items back, and buried Gill Fa’s remains in the forest.
Gill Fa’s soul had returned to the forest.
He will now watch over Ai Fa with his other ancestors.


For the hunters of Forest's Edge, this was the correct way to treat death. They forbid family members from being overwhelmed by sorrow.


As a denizen of Forest's Edge, was it wrong for her chest to be filled with pain and sadness? Ai Fa was still young, and couldn’t even understand this.


Even if it’s only for a few more days, I wish my father Gill had taught me more about hunting… I actually have such thoughts. No one will permit me to live as a hunter…


She touched the necklace and leather sheath on the floor.


Did she have the rights to inherit her late father’s belongings? Ai Fa didn’t know.


On Ai Fa’s neck was the three tusks and horns gifted to her by her father.


The only hunting tool her father left her was a knife.


When Ai Fa was thirteen and old enough to venture deep into the forest, she started helping as a hunter. That include setting traps, locating kiba nest, masking one’s scent and how to use the dangerous 『fruit that attracts kiba』. She had already learned the methods to live on as a hunter.


However, Gill Fa still didn’t acknowledge her as a hunter in her own rights.


According to Gill Fa, because Ai Fa was a girl, she still needed more training if she wants to live as a hunter. Ai Fa thought so too.


When Ai Fa has the capability to become a hunter, she would need to bring a kiba she hunted home with her own hands, and ask the women from the neighbourhood to turn the kiba hide into a hunter’s cape—— Gill Fa once said so.


Just one last step.


Just a bit more, and Ai Fa would have enough strength and skill to be a hunter in her own rights.


Ai Fa pulled her knees in closer.


She didn’t have any family or kin, would she be able to live on alone as a hunter?


In Forest's Edge, was her decision correct?


She couldn’t figure out the answer.


My Mother—— Mei hoped I can live on as a woman. When I started helping with hunter’s work, my father Gill was overjoyed… which path should I take?


The gentle face of her elderly friend Jiba Wu appeared in her mind.


Just work towards the path that you feel is right—— When Ai Fa shared her aspiration to be a hunter with Jiba Wu, Jiba Wu advised her as such.


But even her idea of what was right and what she wanted to do was getting vague.


What should I do——


She buried her face into her knees, and felt as if she was wandering in a maze with no exit.


At this moment—— a strange noise erupted in the darkness.


It sounded like something creaking.


What is that noise?


Normally, she would stand up immediately and seek out the source.


But Ai Fa couldn’t squeeze out the strength tonight.


Her arms and legs were tired. Her heart was weak. Her father passed away just a few hours ago, and Ai Fa’s mind and body was still caught in a swamp of sorrow.


Did the kiba came to the settlement? The forest didn’t just want to summon my father’s soul, and wants to take me too?


And of course, even if a kiba entered a human settlement, it wouldn’t use its horns to ram into the hard walls of the house. But Ai Fa couldn’t stop her thoughts from going wild.


And then—— Something as incredible as kibas attacking the settlement happened.


The door inside the room was opened roughly by someone.
It was the storage room, which wasn’t connected to the door leading outside. Ai Fa always checked all the rooms whenever she got home, before she barred the entrance.


Even so, someone still opened the door from the room inside.


A tall man with a candle stand appeared before Ai Fa—— He wore the attire of a hunter, and was a youth from Forest's Edge.


「Yo, I’m here for a visit, Ai Fa of house Fa…」


His speech was slurred and sounded irritating.


He was an unfamiliar man.


He looked just a bit older than Ai Fa. He wore the clothes of a hunter, a necklace of tusks and horns on his chest, and a sabre by his waist.


「Who… Who the heck are you? How did you get into this house?」


「I’m the eldest son of the Tsun clan, Diga Tsun, the eldest son of the main house.」


The Tsun clan was the tribal chief house of Forest's Edge.


Since he was the eldest son of the Tsun clan, that meant he would become the tribal chief one day.


「I wanted to meet you about something. It’s a bit rude, but I came in through the window.」


The windows were covered with wooden grates.


Was the strange noise earlier the sound of him breaking the grates?


Ai Fa didn’t feel angry, and was just astonished.


「How foolish… leaving aside the fact that you damaged my house, it’s a serious taboo to barge into someone else’s house without permission from a family member. What are you thinking?」


「I’m thinking about taking you.」


The candle stand illuminated this youth from below—— a twisted smile appeared on Diga Tsun’s face.


At this moment, Ai Fa finally realized how perilous her situation was, but it was too late. Before she could pick up the sabre on the ground, Diga Tsun laughed out loud and pounced on her.


Diga Tsun blew out the candle crudely, and his huge body turned into a dark shadow.


The shadow tossed aside the extinguished candle and pressed down on Ai Fa’s body with both arms.


「I heard about it. Your father, who is also your only family member is dead. How do you plan to live from now on…?」


「That doesn’t concern you!」


Ai Fa kept struggling, but Diga Tsun’s thick fingers gripped her wrists tightly.


He pressed her down against the rug and straddled onto her waist. No matter how much she twist and turn, his heavy body wouldn’t barge.


Ai Fa was tall for a fifteen year old girl, and her body was toned from her harsh work as a hunter. But the difference in body weight was too great.


Diga Tsun rode on top of Ai Fa and whispered into her ears:
「Of course it concerns me. Ai Fa, I want to take you into the Tsun clan as a family member.」


「A Tsun family member?」


「That’s right, I will be the next tribal chief after all. I can’t marry a woman from the Fa house that is weak, but no one will complain if I only make you a Tsun family member. Houses that couldn’t sustain themselves have to rely on the strength of the powerful clans to survive in the first place.」


「……」


「So give up on the Fa name, and be a Tsun clan member. I can then take care of you for the rest of your life.」


Illuminated by the pale moonlight, his detestable face had a gleeful expression as he licked his lips.
Ai Fa felt her pulse beating intensely within her chest and glared at him.


「… Is it true that the Tsun clan don’t do their work as hunters properly, and spend all day drinking and playing with the reward given by Rock City?」


When he heard what Ai Fa said, Diga Tsun scowled his mouth menacingly and answered:
「If you want to know the truth, then become a Tsun family member. Once you are part of the tribal chief clan, you can live your life however you wish.」


「… And you call yourself a denizen of Forest's Edge!?」


Ai Fa roared and rammed her right knee onto Diga Tsun’s back.


As he was straddled on top of her, she couldn’t exert too much strength. But Diga Tsun didn’t expect the sudden attack and stumbled forward.


Ai Fa used a head butt onto his face.


「Uwah!」


Blood spew out as Diga Tsun wailed.


Her nose bridge was probably broken. Diga Tsun fell off Ai Fa with his hands on his face, and rolled around in pain.
「You are a man, but didn’t do your job as a hunter properly, violate the taboos and even assault women—— you don’t have the rights to call yourself a denizen of Forest's Edge!」


「Ugghh!」


Diga Tsun screamed and flee towards the entrance.


He pulled off the door bar, opened the door, and stumbled outside. Ai Fa picked up her father’s sabre and gave chase as she shouted: 「Stop right there.」


A rage Ai Fa couldn’t understand filled Ai Fa’s entire body.


As if the sorrow of losing her father had been turned into anger.


Why...


Why did an excellent hunter like her father died, but a despicable man like him still lives?


Why did the forest bring such an unreasonable fate to its denizens?


Diga Tsun stumbled around like a wounded beast under the pale moonlight, and Ai Fa chased after him. When she realized it, Ai Fa was already roaring out loud:


「Stop right there, criminal scum! Pay for the law you transgressed!」


「Hiii!!」


The sabre was probably too heavy, so Ai Fa couldn’t catch Diga Tsun.


However, when they crossed the flat ground near the Lante river bank, Diga Tsun lost his footing and fell.


He laid like that on the ground, panting hard as he looked at Ai Fa.


His face was twisted from horror and filled with blood and tears.


「W-Wait! I admit it’s my fault! Please forgive me!」


「Are you really a member of the chief clan… No, are you really a denizen of Forest's Edge?」


Ai Fa’s breathing was slightly ragged, she raised her sabre with both hands——


It was a heavy steel blade.


When he saw Ai Fa reached for the sheath, Diga Tsun shouted even more frantically:


「Y-You want to slash at a member of the chief clan with a blade? You think the Tsun clan will permit that!? Ai Fa, if you kill me, the Tsun clan will execute you!」


「Stop joking with me! Even if you are a member of the chief clan, you still need to be punished for breaking the rules!」


「W-What are you accusing me of!? I didn’t do anything! Killing the innocent is a serious taboo!?」


「… I see. It’s true that you didn’t do anything to me. You only made me lie onto the floor, I can’t ask you to give up your life.」


Ai Fa said with an ice cold voice and close in on Diga Tsun.


「But you entered a home without the permission of the owner. According to the rules, you must offer a toe to atone for this crime.」


「Hyaa!」 Diga Tsun screamed like a girl and crawled away on the hard rocky ground.


「Please! Forgive me! I just want to invite you into the Tsun clan! I can’t leave a beautiful woman like you alone!」


「You moron…」


Ai Fa’s voice was trembling from rage, but she realized that her heart was cooling rapidly.
This was a sabre used to hunt kiba. Left to her by her late father Gill Fa, an important blade used by hunters. It would be foolish to stain this blade with the blood of a despicable man like him.


「… Someone not worth killing. Does this term applies to a man like you, Diga Tsun of the Tsun clan?」


Diga Tsun slowly raised his head.


The bridge of his nose was twisted and his face covered in blood. He noticed Ai Fa’s hesitation, and a despicable smile appeared on his face.
「That’s right, even if you hurt me, your father won’t come back to life, right? I won’t snitch on you, just come with me to the Tsun clan…」


Ai Fa smacked Diga Tsun’s face with the sheathed sabre.


Diga Tsun’s weak yelp was dragged out, and his large body fell into the Lante stream with a ‘poop’.


「W-What are you doing! You eccentric violent woman! How dare you oppose the Tsun clan, don’t think this matter is over…!」


Ai Fa ignored Diga Tsun who was drifting downstream, turned around and headed home.


She walked with her bare feet on the stoney ground, and the sabre wrapped tightly in her arms.


The heavy hunter’s blade left behind by her late father didn’t tell Ai Fa anything.






Some time earlier.


The wail of a child echoed inside the Wu clan’s main house.


The entire family had gathered for dinner. Normally, this would be a happy time for everyone filled with laughter, but there was only sorrowful cries tonight.


The one crying nonstop was the youngest daughter of the Wu clan, Rimee Wu.


Rimee Wu was just six. She sipped on the white murky soup and bit the thin slices of kiba thigh meat, and had been crying since earlier. As she was consuming the life that had been hunted today, she couldn’t neglect the important dinner. Even though she was crying, she still kept eating.


「Hey—— that’s enough, Rimee.」


After her father uttered a deep voice that reminds others of a tremor, the crying stopped immediately.


But the sound of sniveling, uncontrollable sobbing and eating continued.


「Hey! I told you that’s enough, didn’t you hear me!?」


Her father—— the head of the Wu clan, Donda Wu finally exploded.


Rimee Wu shook, then looked at her father timidly, but the tears didn’t stop rolling down her smooth cheeks.


「Because… Because Gill Fa died… Even though Gill Fa is so young, and so strong…」


「No matter how young or strong, it isn’t strange for a hunter to succumb to the forest. It’s not wrong to mourn his death, but going overboard will tarnish his honour as a hunter.」


The one who answered wasn’t the clan head, but the eldest son Jiza Wu.


Jiza Wu stared at Rimee Wu with his slit-like eyes. He then tilted his thick neck a little and asked:


「By the way, who is this Gill Fa? I have never heard of this family name before.」


「Rimee and Grandma Jiba are close to a girl named Ai Fa, and Gill Fa is her father… But all I knew about him is his name.」


The youngest son Ludo Wu bit on his meat and turned to his brother beside him.
「Darum-nii, you have seen that old man before, right? You have been accompanying father to the house head conference since last year.」


「Yes. He is a weird man.」


Darum drank some fruit wine, then spoke disinterestedly:


「Even though he attended alone, he had plenty of tusks and horns on his chest. He looked unassuming, but is a suspicious character.」


「He’s not suspicious at all! Gill Fa is a powerful hunter!」


Rimee Wu yelled and her tears fell again uncontrollably.
「But he got killed by a kiba… Ai Fa will be alone now…」


「The Fa house is just that father and his daughter? In that case, his daughter have to marry into a kin house, and become their family.」


Jiza Wu answered calmly, but Rimee Wu shook her head hard, her reddish brown hair frailing about.
「The Fa house don’t have any kins… What will happen to Ai Fa…」


「No kins? How did that Gill Fa hunt kiba without the help of any family or kins? No matter how powerful a hunter is, he can’t hunt alone.」


No one answered this question.
After a moment of silence, the second brother Darum Wu muttered unhappily:


「That’s why I said he is suspicious.」


「He’s not suspicious! After Ai Fa turned 13, she had been helping him hunt! In this two years, their family hunts with two people, not one!」


「What? Why must a woman help to hunt?」


「That’s because…」Rimee Wu stammered a little.


「… Because Ai Fa wants to be a hunter, so she naturally started helping Gill Fa…」


「A woman becoming a hunter?」


The women of the Wu clan had been listening in quietly, but even they gasped after hearing this.


Except for Rimee Wu and Grand Elder Jiba Wu, no one knew much about Ai Fa. Ever since Jiba Wu got confined to her bed due to illness last month, even walking to the hall was too much for her to bear. Right now, Ditto Min Wu was accompanying her in her bedroom.


「What a surprise. Normally, when they lose their family and kin, he should have joined another family as a member together with his daughter. They might lose their family name, but life is irreplaceable.」


「That’s right. He even got his daughter to hunt! Unfathomable.」


「Didn’t I already said!? Ai Fa helped to hunt voluntarily! Stupid Ludo, don’t talk bad about Ai Fa and Gill Fa!」


「Shut up bratty Rimee, don’t vent your anger out on me!」


「Ludo is a brat too! Bratty Ludo! Stupid Ludo!」


Ludo Wu puffed his cheeks and wanted to rebuke her. But when he saw the pained expression on his sister’s face, he also showed a sorrowful expression.
「… But since her father died, then Ai Fa had to rely on other families. If she marries into a neighbouring house, she can live on like a normal woman, together with her father’s share.」


「That’s right. For the denizens of Forest's Edge, this is the right way to live.」


Jiza Wu’s words was the cue to end this topic.


Rimee Wu started eating dinner depressedly. And Donda Wu—— aside from lashing out at the very beginning, he didn’t speak again.
His blue eyes that was burning more brightly than anyone else had a thoughtful gleam about him. However, none of his family realized that.


2


「Ai Fa, what happened!?」


The one shouting was the daughter of the Von house who lived near the Fa house ——Celice Von.


Ai Fa don’t interact with others often, and she was one of her few friends.
「As you can see, I’m repairing a damaged window grate.」


Ai Fa answered crudely as she sawed some wood.
The time was between dawn and noon. Ai Fa finished her chores of gathering firewood and herbs as usual, and was working hard to repair the window grate damaged by Diga Tsun last night.


Ai Fa kept the hunter’s cape and sabre carefully in her house. Like Celice Von, she wore the simple clothes of a woman. Celice Von rushed to her side and said:


「How awful… How did it break so thoroughly? It’s like someone slid a sabre or something into the window and forcefully broke the window grates.」


「That’s probably how it was done. He did something absolutely barbaric and added unnecessary work for me.」


Even though her father just passed away, Ai Fa didn’t look any different than usual. Celice Von was relieved after seeing her like this, and a smile appeared on her skinny face.


But she frowned again and asked:


「Someone did something so mean? What was he trying to do?」


「Who knows? No matter what his goal is, I won’t forgive his actions. I didn’t cut off his toe, but I threw him into the Lante river.」


「I see… Did someone from the town sneak in here?」


Celice Von’s face turned a little pale as she fidgeted her hands.


Ai Fa stopped sawing and looked at the worried face of her childhood friend.


「How is it possible for someone from town to enter Forest's Edge? That lawless man claim to be Diga Tsun.」


「Diga Tsun… Eh? Ai Fa, isn’t that the name of the Tsun chief clan?」


「That’s right, that’s the name he gave. I heard the chief clan is extremely depraved, so it really is true.」


Celice Von’s face turned green.


「A-Ai Fa… Do you know what you are saying? The Tsun clan is the chief clan that leads the denizens of Forest's Edge. The eldest son of the Tsun clan will become the tribal chief one day...」


「Yes, that’s why that despicable man probably gave a fake name. Since he did something so lawless, he probably won’t hesitate in using someone else’s name.」


「T-That’s not true, Ai Fa! There are some people in the Tsun clan who might actually do something so barbaric! Especially the eldest son of the Tsun clan… Everyone says that he easily loses his reason whenever he sees a beauty.」


Beauty is such an unnecessary thing… Ai Fa showed an annoyed face.


「How can everyone permit such damnable acts? Wouldn’t the rules of Forest's Edge lose its meaning?」


「Because the Tsun clan is stronger than the other houses… The only other clan that can stand up to the Tsun clan is the Wu clan.」


Ai Fa’s expression became twisted, and she scratched her blonde hair hard.


「Then that damn thing is really the next tribal chief… How sad. That man doesn’t have the ability to lead the people.」


「N-Now isn’t the time to talk about this so casually! Ai Fa, did you really laid your hands on Diga Tsun?」


「That’s right, I threw him into the Lante river.」


Celice Von fell weakly onto Ai Fa, and grabbed her shoulders flusteredly.


As women’s clothing only covered their chest, Ai Fa’s shoulders were bare.


Celice Von’s hands are so warm—— Ai Fa thought to herself when her bare shoulders were grabbed.


「Ai Fa! Apologize to the Tsun clan! If that eldest son really committed the crime, they might forgive your actions… Anyway, just go!」


「What are you saying, I already showed him mercy. I only toss him into the Lante river, and has no reason to apologize. They should be grateful instead.」


「That reasoning won’t work with the Tsun clan! Find a reliable man to accompany you… Ah, but the Fa house don’t have any kins, right? What should we do…」


Ai Fa grabbed Celice Von’s slender shoulders a little frustratedly and said:


「Celice Von, thank you for worrying about me. But since I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t intend to apologize. Just ignore that fool.」


「How can you do that? He’s from the chief clan.」


「… If the rumours are true, then the Tsun clan are just a bunch of people who don’t do their hunter’s job properly, so there’s no need to fear them. If they come seeking revenge, I will retaliate and throw them all into the river.」


「But how… Even if you are strong, they just need to bring a few more men and there will be nothing you can do, right?」


「Who says I can’t if I don’t give it a try?」


Even if she couldn’t, she didn’t plan to give in.


If she couldn’t live the way she wants, then she should let her soul return to the forest.
Ai Fa might be thinking about it this way, but Celice Von still looked anxious.
… Am I strange?


Human—— the denizens of Forest's Edge should live like this, that’s what her late father taught her. Obey the rules, hunt kiba, live in the forest and die in the forest. That’s how a denizen of Forest's Edge should be, that’s how Ai Fa’s father raised her.
However, Celice Von stared at Ai Fa forcefully unlike her usual self, as if Ai Fa was a fool who didn’t understand logic. Celice Von was a kind girl, but the two of them often had clashes in opinion just like this.


Not just Celice Von, the Von house and Fou house were the same. They care about the Fa house even when they only had infrequent encounters, though they found it hard to accept Ai Fa and Gill Fa’s behaviour.


Their attitude was very obvious when they saw Ai Fa working as a hunter.


Women should do the jobs of women —— like gathering firewood, herbs, tanning hides, tending to the hearth and wait for the men to return from their hunt. Everyone shared the same opinion.
Ai Fa collects firewood and herbs, tends to the hearth, and although they didn’t have enough numbers to tan hides, she had been working hand in hand with her father. Without any regards to their gender, they finished all their chores together.


In the Von house, the men would help the women too. When it was the off season for hunting kiba, the men would rest, but also help carry the water flask to the water source or help chop firewood. Ai Fa had witnessed men doing the jobs of women several times already.


Even so, they wouldn’t permit a woman to be a hunter.


Women lack the strength to take on the job of a hunter —— that was the gist of their reasoning.


Ai Fa was not a hunter of her own right yet, but she was capable enough to assist in her father’s work. If she was taller and had more muscles, she was confident in wielding a sabre like the men. Her speed and agility had already surpassed her father, when a kiba suddenly appear before her, she could fend it off with a knife too. 「With some more training, your capability won’t bring shame to the title of hunter」—— Gill Fa who was not being polite once told Ai Fa that.


There wasn’t any rules in Forest's Edge that forbids women from being hunters.


Ai Fa certainly had the talent to be a hunter.


Even so, in Forest's Edge, only three people supported Ai Fa’s wish to become a hunter. They were her father Gill Fa, Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu.


「Ai Fa… What are you going to do now?」


Celice Von finally said these difficult words:


「Gill Fa was a brave hunter, but he had succumbed to the forest. You don’t have any other family or kin, how will you live now?」


「Well—」 Ai Fa closed her mouth mid sentence.


「Gill Fa was with you in the past, but now it’s just you, a lone woman. You can’t survive in Forest's Edge like this, you’ll have to marry into another house, or invite someone else to be your family… Those are your only choices, right?」


「But the Fa house will end.」


「There’s no difference of it being ended right now. Ai Fa, no matter how beautiful you are, no man will marry into a house that has no family or kin.」


「… I already told you not to describe my appearance with that term.」


Ai Fa pouted unhappily, and Celice Von finally smiled after apologizing.


「But it’s true, right? Ai Fa, you’re fifteen and is of marriageable age. There should be hordes of men asking for your hand, so I don’t need to worry…」


「I don’t plan to marry away. Instead of marrying away, I would rather become a member of another family and continue working as a hunter.」


「No one will accept a female hunter. Ai Fa, the job of women is to tend to the house, nurture the children and give birth to the next generation.」


Ai Fa said with a deep sigh:


「I don’t want to marry out, and no man will want to marry me. Celice Von, you must be mistaken.」


「Not at all. Ai Fa, you are a really charming woman.」


Celice Von smiled and grabbed Ai Fa’s fingers.


「Be it your light coloured hair, facial features and slender body, every part of you is beautiful… Ai Fa, how are you able to hunt even though you are so thin?」


「I’m not as thin as you… And Celice Von, someone already proposed to you, right?」


When she heard Ai Fa’s rebuttal, Celice Von answered with a blush:


「Yes… Ah, it’s not confirmed yet. But I will probably marry into the Fou house.」


「Fou house… Then you won’t be moving far at all.」


「That’s right, the Von house and Fou house are kins after all… Ai Fa, why don’t you marry into the Von house? Then we will become kins.」


After Celice Von said that, she frowned sorrowfully and continued:


「Before that, you need to settle that matter with the Tsun clan. If you have problems with the chief clan, you won’t be able to marry…」


「… What happened to the Tsun clan?」


A little girl’s voice suddenly came from below.
Ai Fa jumped aside on reflex, then glared at the person who spoke:
「Rimee Wu, I already told you plenty of times, don’t go near others while hiding your presence!」


「Heehee, you seem lively, Ai Fa! I’m relieved!」


The petite little girl with fluffy red hair— Rimee Wu, looked at Ai Fa with a cheerful smile and said:


「… So, what happened to the Tsun clan?」






Dinner at the Wu clan was rowdier than last night.


Naturally, it was because of the shocking news Rimee Wu brought for her family——


「Hmmp… That stupid son of the Tsun clan actually did something so foolish.」


Donda Wu was all smiles today.


His smile was like a predator who found his prey.


「This is too retarded to believe. Just how depraved does he had to be to do something so despicable?」


The eldest son Jiza Wu had a gentle expression, but said something rather vicious.


The spouse of the clan head Mia Lei Wu sat opposite him, and said with a sigh:


「That Ai Fa is such a pitiful girl. She encountered something so terrible the night her father passed away… Rimee, what happened next?」


「Nothing happened! One of Ai Fa’s friend advised her to apologize to the Tsun clan, but Ai Fa acted as she usually does. She said: 『I don’t care if he is from the chief clan, I only let a scum taste his just desserts』… Will Ai Fa really be fine?」


Rimee Wu’s eyes were already watery.


She will be fine—— No one dared confirmed that. For the past two decades, the tribal chief, Tsun clan had been on a downward spiral. The Wu clan could match the Tsun clan’s power, so the Tsun clan don’t dare to make any trouble openly. However, they would perform such cruel deeds in the dark, that was how despicable the Tsun clan was.


「Clan head, what should we do? Ai Fa might have an impressive spirit, but if she insist on her way, the neighbouring houses won’t want to take her in, right?」


「Oh… You think so too?」


Donda Wu opened his mouth wide in a laugh, while his wife put down her half finished plate and said gloomily:


「Of course. The Fa house, Fou house and Von house are all names I never heard before. Which means they are all minor houses, and not related to the larger clans, right? So it’s obvious that they won’t dare oppose the Tsun clan.」


「That’s only natural… But we have no obligations to help someone who isn’t our kin, and the Fa house is some distance away from the Wu clan too. Frankly speaking, we can’t help even if we want to, right?」


「That’s true. The Fa house isn’t our neighbours, and we can’t guard over their home either.」


All the women of the Wu house, with Mia Lei Wu in the lead showed worried faces.


They were not related by blood, but Ai Fa was friends with their cherished family members Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu. No one knew how deep their friendship was, but they couldn’t help rooting for Ai Fa when they saw how sad Rimee was.


「Darum, you are seventeen now, right?」


Donda Wu who was smiling like a beast looked at his second son.


His eyes were as sharp as his father. He nodded in surprise.


「In that case, you can marry now. How about taking in that wild girl as your wife?」


Everyone present yelped:
「Dad, are you serious? You want Darum-nii to marry that girl!? She’s from a small house without any family or kin!」


The youngest brother Ludo Wu questioned his father on behalf of his family.


「That’s right. You are just thirteen, and Jiza already have a great wife. In that case, Darum is the only man in this house who can marry her, right?」


「But…」


In Forest's Edge, blood relations were important to everyone.


Marriage was a means to strengthen a house in Forest's Edge. They would marry their daughter out in order to deepen their bonds with their kins, or to create new bonds with a powerful house.


「Clan head Donda, I don’t know why you are so infatuated with the Fa house… In that case, how about letting her marry into a branch house, or a kin house like Lutim or Lei? If we include the branch house and kin house, there are tons of men who have not yet married.」


「Is that so?」


When he heard what the eldest son Jiza Wu said, Donda Wu retracted his sneer.


「Jiza, you want to push the wild girl who hit back at the Tsun clan to our branch house or kin house?」


「Yes, I think we should pay more attention to the bloodline of the Wu main house. As the eldest son, I have married a wife, but regrettably, we have not produced any heir yet —— If this goes on and I succumb to the forest, then Darum will be the next head, and his children will inherit the main house.」


Jiza Wu’s wife Sati Lei Wu lowered her gaze meekly.


Donda Wu saw her reaction from the corner of his eyes, and snorted.


「It has just been a couple of years, don’t be so narrow minded… And that eccentric father daughter pair hunted plenty of kiba by themselves, so their bloodline should produce great hunters. Even without family or kins, just their powerful bloodline will be enough.」


「Clan head Donda, this is just a guess——」


Jiza Wu’s slit-like eyes narrowed even further.


「Clan head, do you have some history with that man Gill Fa? Aside from meeting at the house head conference, do you have deeper relations——」


「Not to that extent, I just have some run ins with him in the past.」


Donda Wu said impatiently as he waved his thick palms.


He then showed a cheerful smile, and looked at Darum who fell silent with a grumpy face.


「I know very well how great a hunter that weird man was. And I think there is merit in confirming whether his daughter is suitable for the Wu clan.」


After dinner, Rimee Wu visited Jiba Wu’s chambers.


The bedridden Jiba Wu laid on many layers of sheets, and looked at Rimee Wu’s face quietly.


「So… how do you wish things to turn out…?」


「I don’t know. I don’t want the Tsun clan to do anything mean to Ai Fa, but… I can’t imagine Ai Fa becoming Darum-nii’s wife.」


Rimee Wu was feeling suffocated by the pressure.


Jiba Wu used her thin fingers that looked like twigs, and closed it around Rimee’s small fingers.


「Only the people involved will understand the fate between a man and a woman… If fate wills it, they will be together. If not, then nothing will happen… We don’t need to worry, Ai Fa will definitely choose the correct path…」


「Well, if it is the usual Ai Fa, I won’t be worried at all. But after Gill Fa died, Ai Fa… looks the same, but feels different.」


After hearing Rimee Wu say that, the corner of Jiba Wu’s mouth trembled worryingly.


「Is that so…? Grandma has not seen Ai Fa for a long time, and have no idea how she is now… After losing her cherished father, Ai Fa must be drowning in sorrow…」


Rimee Wu and Gill Fa had met many times, but Jiba Wu had never visited the Fa house because her legs were weak. As the two houses were far apart, Jiba Wu and Ai Fa always met somewhere between their homes to deepen their friendship.


Jiba Wu first met Ai Fa four years ago. Rimee Wu was just two back then, and Jiba Wu took Rimee Wu who loves to stroll a bit farther than normal, and they met Ai Fa.


Two years after their meeting, Ai Fa who turned thirteen started helping her father with his work, so they met lesser than usual. Jiba Wu’s waist and legs were getting bad, so their usual monthly meetings became once every two months—— until Jiba Wu became bedridden.


Rimee Wu had grown, and her family permit her to roam outside and play by herself. She would visit Ai Fa’s place every fortnight. But Jiba Wu had not met Ai Fa for two months. During this time, Ai Fa lost her father.


「Rimee……I leave Ai Fa to you…」


Jiba Wu said suddenly with a weak voice.


Just her voice made Rimee Wu showed a tearful face.
「Leave her to me? I can’t do anything! Grandma Jiba, I can’t speak as well as you!」


「You don’t need to say anything… You just need to stay by her side… If you can accompany her with a smile, Ai Fa will definitely be fine…」


「How is it fine!? Grandma Jiba, please help Ai Fa too!」


Rimee Wu’s big round eyes finally started tearing up.


Jiba Wu gazed at the little girl crying weakly with her eyes that had grown tired because of illness.


「Grandma… might not make it. Even if I recover, I won’t be able to walk energetically again… I lost another tooth today…」


「I don’t want that! Gill Fa already died, I don’t want to see you go too! Didn’t you promise? You say you will live and witness my marriage!」


「I want to see that moment too… But it is only natural for the old to die first… I have lived longer than all the denizens of Forest's Edge, so I do not fear death…」


「I don’t know! Stupid Grandma Jiba!」


Rimee Wu grabbed Jiba Wu’s frail chest and wailed loudly.


Jiba Wu hugged her petite back with trembling hands, and muttered quietly:


「I have lived long enough… so, Mother Forest… If you are really our mother, then please let the young ones obtain happiness… You can summon the soul of my old bones early and bestow your strength to these children…」


3


The next day ——Ai Fa had unexpected guests.


It was the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu and his three sons.


「So you are the head of the Wu clan… I’m Ai Fa of house Fa.」


The blazing afternoon sun shone on Ai Fa’s neck, and she showed a stiff expression and acknowledged the other party with her gaze. They were standing at the entrance of the Fa house. She ran into three burly men when she was stepping out to dry pico leaves.


「I became friends with Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu of house Wu by chance. I heard that Jiba Wu is bedridden, how is she now?」


「Her illness is not life threatening anymore, but she had turned emotionally frail. It’s hard for her to walk by herself… Hmmp, you have guts.」


Donda Wu’s large body was twice Ai Fa’s size, and he sized Ai Fa up with his fierce eyes.


These men are powerful—— Ai Fa sighed in her heart.


Not just Donda Wu, his eldest son was almost his height too, with a body filled with strength. The second son was young, but he was tall and well built. His eyes were filled with life like a beast, just like his father.


The youngest son still had a childish appearance. He was in a hunter’s attire, but only had three tusks and horns on his neck, just like Ai Fa, and didn’t emit too much pressure. This youth should be thirteen, and just received permission to enter the forest.
If I was assaulted by such burly men two days ago, I wouldn’t have escaped.


This made Ai Fa feel flustered.


She couldn’t compare to these men at all. Ai Fa couldn’t fight them or even escape—— she could feel this very clearly.


Ai Fa felt that she could defeat the youth named Ludo Wu, but only because he was too young. Once he accumulated experience as a hunter for a year or two, he would become as strong as his brothers and father. Such a thought arose in her because she could feel the power budding within this youth.
「… So, why have you come to visit?」


Donda Wu stroked his beard that looked as thick as steel wires, and glared at Ai Fa.


「I see...」 He finally muttered.


「Your hair colour and face resembles your mother. But those eyes —— Hmmp, the blood of that eccentric man definitely flows in your veins.」


「Donda Wu, you know my parents?」


Ai Fa asked in surprise, but Donda Wu answered coldly: 「I met them a few times before.」


「I don’t have any deep relationship with them, and only met your mother once when I was young. In recent years, I will only see your father during the house head conference… Never mind that, Ai Fa of house Fa, I heard you have some bad blood with the Tsun clan?」


「Yes, but nothing worth mentioning.」


Ai Fa commented honestly.


Compared to the men before her, Diga Tsun was just a toothless giant rat. Men who couldn’t complete their job as a hunter would only possess such meagre power.


「It seems that I have underestimated you. So getting on the bad side of the chief clan is a trivial matter to you? But Ai Fa of house Fa, no matter how skilled your hunting skills may be, you are still a woman.」


「… You don’t need to tell me that.」


「In that case, act like one. If you do that, I will consider letting you marry into the Wu clan.」


Ai Fa was shocked.


Because Rimee Wu learned about that incident with Diga Tsun, so Ai Fa knew they would mention that sooner or later—— but Ai Fa didn’t expect what he just said at all.


「Clan head Donda Wu, are you mad? I don’t have any family or kin. What good will it do to the Wu clan to take someone like me in?」


「I’m the one who will decide if doing so is to the Wu clan’s favour. But this topic can’t continue if I don’t ask the opinion of the subject himself… How about it, Darum? Are you willing to take this wild girl as your wife?」


He asked his son that was second in height.


The second brother of the Wu clan, Darum Wu—— His eyes that was a bit more gloomy than his father narrowed a little, as if he was observing a sparkling object.


「… I don’t have anyone I fancy. If she is of help to the Wu clan, I don’t mind marrying anyone.」


「No, I…」


「However, if it was a woman engrossed in pretending to be a hunter like a man, then I will pass.」


Darum cut Ai Fa off and said his piece.


「The women’s duty is to watch over the family. If a woman can’t do that, I will think that woman is worthless.」


「That is very true. Ai Fa of house Fa, do you have the resolve to live on as a woman?」


Four pairs of eyes imbued with all sorts of emotions stared sharply at Ai Fa.


As if she was resisting their gaze, Ai Fa said:


「I will be the one who will decide my own life! This is the first time I have seen any of you, I don’t understand why must I be interrogated by you all!」


「I already told you, I hope you can marry into my family. What a helpless girl.」


Donda Wu laughed softly.


It was a rather infuriating laugh—— However, it didn’t have any malice or hostility in it.


「Ai Fa of house Fa, you have bad blood with the Tsun clan, and won’t be able to rest easily from now on. But if you become a member of the Wu clan, they will never lay their hands on you.」


「You might be right——」


「On top of that, you are already friends with members of the Wu clan. I can’t stand by idly and let the Tsun clan take away anyone who calls the Wus a friend.」


Another type of smile appeared slowly on Donda Wu’s face that was as rough as a crater.


It was a ferocious and feral smile.


「I will make an oath here —— Ai Fa of house Fa, if you become a Wu, we will protect you no matter what sacrifices we have to make. If the Tsun clan lay their hands on you—— we will destroy the Tsun clan.」


「You want to—— destroy the Tsun clan?」


「That’s right. About twenty years ago, the Wu clan failed to decimate out the Tsun clan. We will gladly take up arms to wipe away the shame of that failure.」


Ai Fa also heard about the feud between the Wu clan and the Tsun clan. The Tsun clan abducted a woman that was supposed to marry into the Wu clan, and killed her.
There was no evidence, so the Wu clan couldn’t make any moves.


The Wu clan and the Tsun clan were the two strongest families in Forest's Edge. If total war broke out between them, the entire Forest's Edge settlement would fall. Hence, the two sides lived these two decades begrudgingly despite the huge grievance.
The fury and regret burned in this burly man’s body intensely.
Ai Fa grit her teeth in the face of his intense aura.


He was —— an intimidating man.


It filled Ai Fa with fear. But the incredible thing was … This pressure also enchanted her.


A human… A hunter, can actually be so powerful and strong.


This man named Donda Wu not only surpassed Ai Fa, he might even defeat her father Gill Fa.


Her father Gill Fa who wasn’t fazed by anything, and Donda Wu who was like a raging fire. It was hard to tell who had the upper hand, but this man might be slightly stronger than her father. Even though Ai Fa only had half baked abilities, she could still tell that.


This man might be able to destroy the chief clan—— the Tsun clan


Was this the right course for Forest's Edge?


If the chief clan dies, wouldn’t it mean the death of the entire Forest's Edge denizens?


Ai Fa grit her teeth to stop them from clattering, and endured the chill flowing through her body.


If she didn’t do that, the pressure from this man would crush her, and leave her lying on the floor.


「…Ai Fa of house Fa, decide for yourself which route you will take.」


Donda Wu turned and left after saying that.
「I will be back three days from now. Make your decision before that day, bear in mind that we hope you can be a member of the Wu clan.」






Just what do they want me to do...


Ai Fa chopped wood behind her house. She had been troubling over this for an entire day.


After losing her father Gill Fa, she felt troubled everyday. This situation didn’t improve, and she became even more troubled with each passing day.


Should I live as a hunter, or as a woman… The Wu clan proposed to me before I can even decide this. Damn it, what is that man Donda Wu thinking!?


Marrying into the Wu clan was a completely unexpected proposition for Ai Fa.


If she gave up on being a hunter and make up her mind to marry —— she will live in the same house as her friends of many years Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu, and become a family. That was even more incredulous than Celice Von asking her to marry into the Von house.


The second brother Darum Wu also had Jiba Wu’s blood in his veins. If Ai Fa bore Darum Wu’s child, that child would have Jiba Wu’s blood too.


The idea was mesmerizing, but it also filled her with fear.


So that’s what becoming a kin is like...

Did every couple become wedded after making such a resolve?


She inherited the Fa bloodline of her father Gill Fa and mother Mei Fa, which would merge with the bloodline of Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu’s clan, and a new life would be bloodborne.


That would be a bliss.


It was so blissful that it felt surreal.


But...


She didn’t have any feelings for Darum Wu.


That was only natural, they only met today after all. She didn’t talk much with him, and obviously won’t feel anything special about him.


No, there were some who would wish for another to be their spouse at first sight. But Ai Fa didn’t feel that way when she saw that young man.


If she had to say, Darum Wu was the type that made her feel guarded, and his abilities as a hunter should be exceptional. Ai Fa thought he was arrogant, had a sharp aura about him like a blade, and his body overflowing with excessive power. Was this really the brother of that Rimee Wu? Ai Fa was suspicious of that.


She couldn’t imagine marrying that man.


The thoughts of becoming relatives with Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu filled her with joy. But the other party wouldn’t permit her to marry into the family for such a reason.


Furthermore, doing so might not make Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu happy.


For Ai Fa, they were irreplaceable friends. However, Jiba Wu had many family and kins, so Ai Fa should be a trivial existence to Jiba Wu.


She wasn’t doubting Jiba Wu’s sincerity. But aside from her parents, Ai Fa had no other relatives. Her mother two years ago, and her father died two days ago. The gulf in the standings between Ai Fa and Jiba Wu’s family was too huge.


For Ai Fa, Jiba Wu, Rimee Wu, and Celice Von were her few friends, and her emotional support.


However, Jiba Wu had ten or so family, about twenty branch family members and about 70 kins.


In terms of the all important blood relationship, Ai Fa’s existence was less important compared to them.


Even so, she didn’t care. Even if she ranked 101st in the heart of the person she cherish, their smile and words would still bring her joy.


We might not be related by blood, but we are still friends.


She continued to chop wood while thinking about this.


At this moment —— she felt a presence behind her.


Ai Fa deftly jumped away, tossed aside the heavy machete and grabbed the knife on her waist.


「Sorry, did I alarm you?」


The one standing there wasn’t from the Tsun clan or Wu clan, but the Fou house.


She didn’t know his name, but she remembered that he was the younger brother of their house head, a quiet man of about twenty.
「What’s the matter? Shouldn’t the men be in the forest by this time?」


「That’s right, well… It’s shameful, but I sprained my ankle yesterday while hunting. I can’t catch up with the kiba with my legs, so I had to rest for a day.」


This man was tall, but a bit thin.


After seeing the men from the Wu clan, this was even more obvious. Even the youngest son of the Wu clan was more powerful than this young man.


If it’s just this much, I don’t need to run, I can take him… No, that thinking is too prideful.


Since he was from the Fou house she was acquainted with, Ai Fa had no reason to defeat him.


But their dealings were shallow, so this young man had no reason to talk with her so intimately.


「And? You have some business with me? I’m working right now.」


「Erm… Actually, I saw the head of the Wu clan just now. The Wu territory should be further south… I was thinking if he was heading back after visiting the Fa house…」


He spoke slowly.


As someone from the Fou house, he should know that Rimee Wu visits the Fa house often. So it wasn’t a surprise for this young man to guess that much.


Ai Fa picked up the machete she tossed aside, then answered as she tapped the back of the blade on her shoulder.


「The head of the Wu clan and his family did visit the Fa house. I was surprised by his sudden visit.」


「I see… What’s the reason behind his visit…?」


「… It’s something I would rather not share.」


Ai Fa replied honestly.


When he heard her answer, a strong sense of unease appeared on the thin face of that young man.


「Ai Fa of house Fa, you can tease me if you want to, if my assumption is different from the facts—— but did they ask you to marry into the Wu clan?」


「How do you know that?」


Ai Fa couldn’t help asking back.


The young man’s face scowled depressedly.


「As I expected… Ai Fa, you are beautiful, so I thought this might happen… But…」


「Second brother of Fou house, can you not say that so frivolously? That is rude.」


Ai Fa suppressed her urge to click her tongue and complained. The young man then went near her and said earnestly:


「It’s not frivolously at all. Ai Fa of house Fa, you are a beauty. I have been thinking that since much earlier—— since several years ago.」


She was surprised, but Ai Fa didn’t permit this young man from coming near her. She kept herself more than an arm length away and kept backing off.


The young man’s sorrowed expression suddenly stiffened.


「Ai Fa, the Fou house is a weak an impoverished family. We have to work together with other small houses in order to survive. As a hunter, I’m not as outstanding as your father—— much lest the men from the Wu clan, I can’t even hold a candle to them.」


「… So? The size of one’s house doesn’t matter.」


「Ai Fa, if this is what you really think, I hope you can become a member of the Fou family. The second brother of the Fou house, Masa Fou would like to propose to Ai Fa of house Fa.」


Ai Fa stood stiffly in shock.


Even though she was an undesirable woman, why would anyone propose to her —— this wasn’t the only reason she was surprised. Because this young man shouldn’t be saying this.


「Wait, second brother of the Fou house, am I mistaken? I always thought—— that you wish to take Celice Von as your wife——」


「That has not been confirmed yet. If I cancel the engagement and apologize to the Von house properly, it won’t cause any trouble in the future.」


「You want to cancel your engagement with Celice Von!? Why!?」


Ai Fa unconsciously increased her volume.
The young man… Masa Fou’s gentle face showed a serious expression as he looked at Ai Fa.


「I have always admired you, but you said you wanted to live as a hunter. The truth is, you and Gill Fa hunted more kiba than the Fou house. To suppress my own feelings, I told myself that no matter how beautiful you are, you still have a soul of a hunter. However, the young Gill Fa succumbed to the forest, and you—— won’t be able to live on as a hunter.」


「……」


「And so, I can’t suppress my feelings anymore! The thoughts of you marrying another man… that someone other than me holding you in their arms… intense emotions burst forth just from the thoughts of that, as if my insides had caught fire! So I——」


「If possible, I want to live on as a hunter.」


Ai Fa’s strong voice cut Masa Fou off.


Masa Fou shook his head and said:


「Impossible, no one can hunt alone. Gill Fa was by your side in the past, that’s why you didn’t succumb to the forest. You are a woman, if you head into the woods alone——」


「If I die in the forest, then I accept this fate!」


Ai Fa hit the ground hard with the machete in her right hand.


The blade struck deep into the earth.


「You betrayed Celice Von’s trust. Even if I’m not a hunter, I have no intention of becoming your spouse. Second brother of the Fou house, scram! I—— hate men like you the most!」


For a short while, Masa Fou stood there quietly.


He then slowly turned and disappeared from Ai Fa’s sight like a depressed child.


And then—— from the opposite direction where that young man left, a weak voice was uttered.


「Why…」


Ai Fa turned around slowly.


She saw Celice Von whose face was as pale as the dead standing in the shade of the Fa house.


「Celice Von…」


Ai Fa was about to walk over.


「Don’t come here!」


The next instant, she screamed in a shrill voice.


Ai Fa stopped and looked at Celice Von.


Tears covered Celice Von’s face.


Her voice was hoarse from anger, but her face was covered in tears.


「…Ai Fa, it’s not your fault…」


Celice Von finally said in a trembling voice:


「It’s because Masa Fou is too soft hearted… And I’m too dumb… Ai Fa, it’s not your fault at all…」


Celice Von then disappeared from Ai Fa’s sights too.


Ai Fa raised her face and glared at the clear blue sky.


Her heart was a mess.


She had lost one of her few friends.


The sense of loss and depression stole the strength from her limbs.


But Ai Fa didn’t immerse herself in this emotion. She raised her right arm and punched at the wall with all her might.


「What kind of joke is this!? What did I do!?」


And so, Ai Fa stopped troubling over it.


4


「… Ai Fa of house Fa, is this your answer?」


Donda Wu asked in a deep voice.


This was the promised third day.


The place was still the entrance of the Fa house, and the clan head was also with his three sons today too.
Ai Fa merely greeted the other party, but Donda Wu realized Ai Fa’s intention from the way she was dressed.


Her attire—— a hunter’s cape made from the hide of a kiba, with a sabre and knife on her waist. This was the attire of a hunter.


On Ai Fa’s neck was the necklace from her late father Gill Fa. For Ai Fa, this necklace seemed to be heavier than a steel blade.
It was Gill Fa’s pride as a hunter! The price he got from the forest at the expense of his own life.


「I have decided to live on as a hunter, so I can’t marry into the Wu clan. I’m sorry for turning down your goodwill.」


「Hmmp… Looks like you are more foolish than I thought, Ai Fa of house Fa.」


Donda Wu was fuming quietly.


In order to keep herself from getting overwhelmed by his burning eyes, Ai Fa clenched her fists.


「Tending to a family and nurturing the children… You want to toss aside the work of a woman and pretend to be a hunter?」


「Yes. I will work hard, become a hunter on my own rights one day, and be acknowledged by everyone.」


「You think you can hunt kiba alone?」


「Before I was thirteen, my father Gill performs his work as a hunter by himself. He needed to take care of me and my mother Mei too, but I just needed to hunt for myself, so I will have an easier time.」


「… You think your father wants you to live like this?」


Ai Fa inhaled shallowly, then said:


「I don’t know what my father Gill thinks, but I chose this path by my own will.」


After Gill Fa’s soul had been summoned back by the forest, he might sigh and moan if he saw Ai Fa like this, thinking she wasn’t ready yet, and it would be too rash for her to head into the forest——


But that was all just her imagination.


Ai Fa’s mind was set.


What was right, what others hope she would do, what she should do—— She stopped all this troubling question, decided to focus on what she wanted to do, and made her choice.
She wants to live as a hunter.
This idea had been on Ai Fa’s mind since a long, long time ago.


She must live as a hunter, or she must live as a woman—— she tossed aside the term 「must」, and there was just one answer left.


She didn’t know what was the right thing to do, but she knew what she wanted to do.


Ai Fa wants to live as a hunter.


She didn’t want to stay at home and wait for the men to return. She wants to enter the forest and hunt for prey.
If she couldn’t live as she wished, she should let her soul return to the forest —— Ai Fa decided to live on with her father’s words in her heart.


If Ai Fa’s decision was wrong, the forest would definitely summon back Ai Fa’s soul. She still couldn’t wield a sabre properly, but the fifteen year old Ai Fa still decided to live alone as a hunter. If her decision was wrong, she would succumb to the forest.
「… There must be many who don’t wish for you to die, are you going to ignore their wishes, Ai Fa?」


Donda Wu said with a calmer voice.
However, contrary to his voice, his blue eyes was wild.


He probably thinks that Ai Fa was ignoring the feelings and will of his family.


Ai Fa quietly regulated her breathing and answered:


「There should be few who will agree to my choice. But I won’t change my decision because of other people’s thoughts.」


Would Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu wail in despair when they learn of Ai Fa’s decision? Or would they be enraged?


Even if they reacted that way, Ai Fa wouldn’t care.


Even if they accuse her of being foolish, there wasn’t any rules against women becoming hunters in Forest's Edge.


Maybe no one had such foolish thoughts in the past, so there wasn’t any clear rules against such behaviour.


Therefore, she didn’t need to feel any shame over the way she lived her life.


Apologizing to the brutish Tsun clan or giving up on her goals to marry into the Wu clan didn’t suit Ai Fa either.


I probably can’t meet Grandma Jiba and Rimee Wu again.


This was only natural since she had seriously angered the head of the Wu clan.


She wouldn’t be able to hold Jiba Wu’s shrivelled fingers or see Rimee Wu’s smile again. Just that thought alone—— made her chest felt like exploding.


Because Ai Fa was unwilling to apologize to the Tsun clan, the Von house and Fou house has started avoiding Ai Fa. Now that the Wu clan had severed ties with her, Ai Fa was truly alone now.


Even so, she still didn’t want to change.


Changing herself for the sake of appeasing others —— she didn’t think there’s any meaning in doing that.
If no one in this world would accept the way Ai Fa was —— She would live on by herself.


「You are the one who decides your own path… Ai Fa of house Fa, it seems that the path you seek doesn’t cross with the Wu clan.」


「Yes, it seems that way.」


Donda Wu turned and left after hearing Ai Fa’s answer.


His three sons followed their father in silence.
And so, Ai Fa was alone.


She started living in solitude.


The meat and vegetable lying in the food store and the tusks and horns hanging on her neck. She had to hunt a kiba before her supplies ran out, or she would starve to death —— This would be her first trial.


Since I’m the only one in the house, I just need to hunt one kiba every ten days. If I can’t even do this much, I don’t have the rights to live as a hunter.


However, what she needed wasn’t food.


Her clothes and blades were all bought with the money earned through the tusks and horns. She had her own knife, so even if her father’s knife broke, she could replace it. But there was only one sabre in the house. If it broke, it would set her back by 30 kibas worth of tusks and horns.


… Instead of worrying about breaking the blade, I should train up my strength in order to wield this sabre.


Ai Fa picked up the sabre and returned to her house.


Even though she could intimidate humans with it, she would lose her life if she tried the same in the forest. She couldn’t enter the forest with a weapon she couldn’t use.


Alright the, time to go.


It had been five days since her last hunt.


A feeling that was either joy or fear ran down her spine, and Ai Fa was about to step out——


A small figure stood before her.
「Uwah! Ai Fa, so you are going to be a hunter after all!」


It was Rimee Wu.


Ai Fa lost her voice momentarily—— right after that, she composed herself and said:


「Rimee Wu, what are you doing here?」


「Hmm? Because I’m worried about you, and I kept waiting until Papa Donda and the others leave! Papa Donda and Darum-nii has angry faces, so I knew you have turned down the proposal!」


Rimee Wu was all smiles, and kept running around Ai Fa.


「You look so cool! This is Gill Fa’s hunter cape, right? Ai Fa, it suits you!」


「……」


「By the way, Ai Fa, when you were still a kid, you wore the hide of a young kiba before, right? You looked really cute like that too!」


Rimee Wu laughed out loud.


Her smile made Ai Fa felt blissed.


A surprising amount of love almost exploded out of Ai Fa’s tightly sealed heart.


Even at a time like this, Rimee Wu was still smiling at her.


Everyone ostracized Ai Fa, but this little girl still think of her as a friend? Ai Fa was about to kneel down and hug the small petite and warm body with all her might.


She wanted to cry like a child with abandon.


But Ai Fa suppressed that urge just before it overwhelmed her.


It took all that she had to contain the bursting emotions in her heart. She then started walking again.


「Ah, wait! I finally get to see you again, where are you going?」


「… I have decided to live on as a hunter. It is already past noon, I’m going into the woods.」


「Oh, I see. Then be careful Ai Fa. I will pray for your safety with all my might!」


Ai Fa stopped, then said with her back towards Rimee Wu:


「Rimee Wu, don’t visit the Fa house again.」


「Eh!? Why!?」


From Rimee Wu’s breathing, Ai Fa knew she was standing still.


Ai Fa didn’t turn back and continued:


「I angered Donda Wu. As a member of the Wu clan, you should empathize with your clan head’s feelings.」


「What do you mean!? I don’t understand! Are you talking about making Papa Donda mad because you turned down the proposal? It’s fine! I’m not involved with that!」


「Not just that, I also got on the bad side of the Tsun clan. Everyone around me might be dragged into trouble too.  So—— you shouldn’t come near me.」


Rimee Wu was quiet for a moment.


She then said in an elusive tone:


「But… if you are bothered by this, you will end up alone.」


Ai Fa cast her gaze to the vast forest in the distance and answered:


「That’s fine too. I attacked a member of the chief clan, and turned down the goodwill of the Wu clan. Finally, I decided to be a hunter despite being a woman. There isn’t anyone who can understand how I feel, so I want to live by myself.」


She could live on alone.


And so, she didn’t want to involve anyone else.


Without compromising her resolve, to live in the forest, and die in the forest—— that was the only thing Ai Fa wanted.


「I don’t want that! I want to stay with you!」


Rimee Wu insisted stubbornly.


Ai Fa shook her head and stopped in her tracks.


「No matter what, I don’t have time to play with anyone now. Rimee Wu, go back to the Wu clan, and don’t come near the Fa house ever again.」


「I said I don’t want that! I will definitely come and meet you again!」


Rimee Wu’s voice was breaking up.


Just these words was enough to satisfy Ai Fa.


It’s fine even if she didn’t visit. Ai Fa was satisfied that she said 「I want to meet you again.」


Rimee Wu, that’s enough.


Even if their bonds were severed, she still had a wonderful time with Rimee Wu and the others in the past. The memories in the bottom of her heart would not fade away.


Celice Von made Ai Fa realize this.


Even if Celice Von hate or detest her, the smile she showed Ai Fa in the past would not become a lie. The warm sensation of her fingers were still lingering on Ai Fa’s shoulders.


And her father Gill Fa.


Gill Fa was dead.


She wouldn’t be able to meet Gill Fa ever again.


Even so, Gill Fa will probably never disappear from her heart.


Rimee Wu—— Grandma Jiba—— Celice Von—— my life in the past was only so blissful because you are all with me.


Ai Fa then hid her feelings deep in her heart and lived on.


Even though he had passed on, Gill Fa was still her father, and Mei Fa was still her mother. Hence, even if they were destined to be apart, Rimee Wu, Jiba Wu and Celice Von would still be Ai Fa’s friends.


As long as Ai Fa held on to this thinking—— She could continue to live on.


「Stupid Ai Fa! Unreasonable!」


Rimee Wu’s wail came from behind her, and gradually grew further away.


Ai Fa listened to the crying sound behind her as she walked into the forest.


Even though tears kept rolling down her cheeks, she didn’t have any doubts in her heart.



Two years later, a strange foreigner appeared in Ai Fa’s house.

End of Volume 2

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