Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 3 Prologue & Chapter 1

Prologue: Gorge
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Deus Ex Machina
A terrifying scene appeared before me.


We were at a deep stony valley, about thirty minutes from the Fa house by foot.


After passing through the water source we always used, I looked up at the Morga mountain to the right and walked towards the steep hills, this majestic and terrifying sights appeared before my eyes.——


It was a gorge.


An unknown river appeared below the steep cliffs, and the sound of the fast flowing river could be heard.


The sound actually came from quite some distance away, at least 20 meters separate the edge of the cliff we were standing at and the river flowing below.


20 meters—— In the world I was from, that was roughly equivalent to a five storey building.


I was a little scared of heights, but it wasn’t the crippling kind. Just looking at the rapids from the cliff wouldn’t make my legs tremble.


The truly terrifying thing wasn’t the cliff.
It was the fragile hand made 「suspension bridge」 that made me panic.


「… Are you kidding?」


When I asked that, my beloved mistress tilted her head and asked: 「What do you mean?」


She’s actually asking what I meant—— I sighed.


This primitive suspension bridge was about ten meters long and one meter wide, built from old logs and brown dried vines.


Even though there wasn’t even so much as a breeze, the bridge was still shaking slowly. Just the thought of stepping onto this bridge filled me with dread.


「… I’m uneasy about the stability of this suspension bridge.」


I tried articulating my opinion.


After coming to this different world, this was probably the first time I showed such a tense face, and my mistress was getting more and more confused.


Ai Fa was a denizen of Forest’s Edge, and also the head of the Fa house.


It goes without saying that she was my benefactor, my housemate and a brave hunter.


Her long blonde hair seldom seen in Forest’s Edge was tied up into a complicated hair style.


Strong light could be seen in her deep blue eyes.


Her brown skin was as smooth as chocolate milk, and her slender body was like an intrinsic sculpture.


Although her height was average, her proportionate body was filled with dazzling life force and energy.


Draped on Ai Fa was the proof of a hunter —— a cape made from kiba hide, and brightly coloured clothes that only cover her chest and waist. On her slim waist was a large sabre and a knife, and her feet that had beautiful curves wore shoes tied with strings.


On her shapely bosom was a necklace filled with large numbers of tusks and horns, on her slender wrist was a bangle of kili fruit that repels poisonous bugs.


Ai Fa was dressed like usual.


Last night—— We completed our job of preparing the pre-wedding celebration for the Lutim house, and Ai Fa was not like herself when we were in the room allocated to us. But after one night, she was back to normal.


A happy ending.


It was great that she had returned to normal—— but did I convey my unease to her properly?


「Asuta, are you worried about this bridge?」


Ai Fa said quietly.


「If my guess is correct, then don’t worry. The vines used to build this suspension bridge are called Flehaba vines, it might look thin, but it doesn’t break easily. Even when it’s dried up like this, it is still as strong as human hair.」


Even if she compared it to hair which was unexpectedly strong, it didn’t ease my worries at all. Compared to the tough vines which looked fragile, I would prefer for the denizens of Forest’s Edge to use something thicker and sturdier to erect this bridge, even if the toughness was a notch lower. This way, my heart would be more at ease.


「… This bridge is here before I was born, and there have never been any problems with it, so it is completely safe.」


「No, even if there isn’t any problem before, it doesn’t mean that it will be safe today! And since this bridge has such a long history, that means it is really old, right!?」


「That’s why you have to carefully inspect the vines to check for damage when you cross it. Anyone who spotted any damage is responsible for repairing it. This suspension bridge only lasted for decades because everyone adheres to this rule.」


「… House head Ai Fa, I can’t wipe away the unease in my heart. Isn’t there a safer and more comfortable way?」


「… This route is the quickest from my house to the post station town. Going any other way would require twice as much time.」


That’s right, in order to exchange the kiba tusks and horns for food, we were on our way to the post station town.
Our aria, poitan and fruit wine were almost depleted. Ai Fa would usually head to town when there was more food to spare, but we were busy with the match with Donda Wu. That match finally concluded yesterday. We returned home early in the morning, forage for pico leaves and after finishing the minimum chores, we left our home.


It has been twenty days since I arrived in this different world, and I would finally step into the world outside the forest.
My heart was trembling because of the expectation and unease of the unknown world.


But right now, my body was trembling for another reason.


「Enough. If we spend any more time here, the sun will set before we accomplish our goal.」


「Please wait! Erm… Can I please hold your hand?」


Ai Fa frowned and rejected with: 「I absolutely refuse.」


「What’s the use of doing that? If we fall, you will still die even if you held my hand. If you want to grab onto something, grab the vines on the bridge.」


「T-That’s not it, this humble one yearns for a sense of security! House head Ai Fa, to this humble one, you are more reliable than these frail vines!」


「… Stop that annoying manner of speech at once, or I will cut off your tongue.」


「Sorry.」


「Anyway, there’s no use in holding my hand, so I refuse. If you feel that uneasy, then grab the hem of my cape.」


After saying that coldly, she walked towards the suspension bridge with her cape flowing behind her.


I grabbed a corner of her cape that flew up.
「O-Okay, it’s fine! Let’s go then!」


Ai Fa sighed heavily without even looking at me, then strode forth unhesitantly.


I could only move slowly like the auxiliary spacecraft in a 2D shooter game, and followed her slowly.


Ai Fa stepped onto the plank.


The suspension bridge shook a lot.


I made up my mind and followed her onto the plank.


The bridge shook intensely again.


「… Uwah〜」


「Shut up.」


「W-Wait! At least hold on to the hand rails! Both my hands are on your cape!」


「I told you to shut up!」


Ai Fa walked with her usual confident strides, advancing without any hesitation.


The bridge kept shaking and shaking.


I couldn’t even look down, I was afraid of my body becoming crippled if I did.
The suspension bridge was about ten metres in length, and while I was panicking, I had already covered five metres. If I continue staring at the back of Ai Fa’s head, I should be able to make it through.


However…


「… Hmm, this vine is breaking.」


When I heard Ai Fa said that unconsciously, the reason and sensibility in my heart flew off hand in hand into the horizon.


「Uwahh! Wahh!」


I yelled and grabbed Ai Fa’s body with all my might.


The bridge shook wildly, and my feet almost slip off the plank.


「Uwah! Uwah!! Uwah!!!」


「Moron! Unhand me! Do you really want to die!?」


Ai Fa’s angry roar reverberated in the gorge.

Her voice was like a ceremonial cannon that pulled open the curtain to this long day.



Chapter 1: The Post Station Town of Genos


1


Genos was a territory of the Western Kingdom Selva.


The Western Kingdom took pride in its vast lands, and Genos was situated on the eastern borders, slightly to the south. It was founded at the foot of Mount Morga, a city at the borders.


For the Selva Kingdom, Genos was located at its borders, but the territory was rather close to their friendly nations—— the Southern kingdom Jaguar, and the Eastern Kingdom Simu, and was an important trade hub.
It also had temperate climate, rich water sources and fertile farmlands.


The center of this territory was called 『Rock City』. The central city was protected by sturdy stone walls, and entry wasn’t permitted without a pass.


To the north of Rock City were the noble’s orchard, to the south were the peasant’s farmland.


A stone paved road stretched from the south to the north, splitting the Genos territory from the Morga mountain range—— and many citizens set up stores on either side of the road.


In the gap between the city and farmland was a post station town where travelers and merchants could visit freely.


And that was the Genos post station town.






「Uwah…」


I was dumbfounded right from the start.


After betting my life and overcoming that terrifying bridge, the world suddenly turned wide open after walking for half an hour. Even after adding in the time we walked from the Fa house, it had just been an hour.
Physically speaking, this felt about the same distance from our house to the Wu clan.


Despite that —— the world completely changed.


「What a huge surprise… This feels like another world…」


After recovering my speech capability, I squeezed out something unimportant.


That was how drastic the change before my eyes was.


「Don’t be so surprised. The denizens of Forest's Edge lived there in order to protect the farms of Genos from being destroyed by the kibas. That’s why our settlement is so close to Genos.」


Ai Fa still sounded unhappy in her reply, but such a one sided explanation couldn’t suppress my shock.


The denizens of Forest's Edge wore fur cape and hunt kibas in the forest for a living. And these brave hunters were actually so close to such a civilized land, it was hard for me to accept this fact.


The buildings here were built with wood too.


But almost all of them had two floors, instead of a single storey building.


Some of them even used stones and cement, and were sturdily built.


White stones paved the path beneath my feet.


This was the so called 『stone paved road』.


The road was about 10 metres wide, and was flanked tightly by buildings on either side, stretching in a straight line from north to south.
And this town was filled with people.


All kinds of people could be found here, but none were dressed like hunters.


A slightly plump man hurried down the street, with a small cylindrical hat on his head. He had a yellow shirt, loose cream-coloured pants and a large bamboo basket on his back.


One woman walked elegantly in the crowd, her chest covered by a piece of cloth and a wide shawl on her shoulders. A long skirt covered her waist to her ankles. She wasn’t as beautiful as Vena Wu, but was also very sexy.


A burly man walked slowly along the path, his shirt was cut out of a camel-coloured hide, and was clearly not from a kiba. A piece of cloth was wrapped around his waist and he wore leather sandals, so his clothing was similar to the denizens of Forest's Edge. On his waist was a hand axe and leather pouch.


There were a large variety of people here, and there was no way to describe the attire of each and every person.


A skinny old man in grey robes with a bandana wrapped around his head.


The children wore clothes made from tattered rags and ran around.


Strong well built men carried cargo half naked.


There were some men in hoods and cloaks that hid their faces.


Most of them had ivory coloured skin like that of a Japanese, or tanned yellowish brown skin. But their hair wasn’t limited to black, and mainly ranges between dark brown to chestnut brown. Their facial features were prominent, very much different from people of my hometown.


Aside from them, there were a small group that had white skin with a slight red tint, and another small group that had skin tones darker than the denizens of Forest's Edge.


They meandered busily through the streets, moving nimbly and taking care not to run into others.


Aside from the wide variety of people, the density of buildings and people was also shocking.


「Uwah—— What is that!?」


A thin object could be seen sticking out from the crowd, about a meter taller than everyone else. It bounced up and down slightly as it approaches us.


「That’s a Totos Moa.」
<TL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moa>


Ai Fa said nonchalantly.


Before my eyes was a huge bird 3m long, which looked like an enlarged ostrich.


Its long neck was just like an ostrich’s, and its round body was supported by thick legs—— but it was covered by dark brown feathers.


Leather belt was tied around its sharp beaks, and reins were tied to the bottom of its neck. A large man with yellowish brown skin held its reins, and the man only had a piece of cloth around his waist, and a cloth hat on his head.


Large luggage covered in cloth hung on either side of its body.


「There are only inns in this zone, the food stalls are further to the north.」


「Wait—— Wait for me, Ai Fa.」


Before Ai Fa could walk into the crowd, I grabbed her hand on reflex.
Ai Fa whose face showed hints of anger wanted to shake off my hand, but she suddenly came near me and asked:
「Asuta, what’s the matter? Your face is pale. Are you unwell?」


「I’m fine. I’m fine… Just give me some time.」


I could feel Ai Fa’s body warmth with my finger tips, and tightly closed my eyes.


It was hard to breathe as I wobbled my head. When I realized it, my heart was pumping intensely and the artery in my temple was beating strongly along with the rhythm of my heartbeat.


My sense of reason was rejecting this scene.


This place was too similar to another world.


Forest's Edge’s environment was very different from my world. After all, the people in Forest's Edge will wear the hides of their prey and hunt in forest. To me, such a lifestyle was no different from a story in a light novel.
But, how should I put this—— the denizens of Forest's Edge will use weapons forged from steel, erect wooden houses and cook food with stoves. They were civilized, but they live as one with nature. Instead of living in a different world, I felt closer to living in an uncharted land deep in the dense forest.


But this post station town was different.


They erect houses with planks, but the ground was properly laid and paved with stones. The eyes of the people didn’t burn intensely like feral beasts. They looked like they were enjoying a stable lifestyle as they meandered hurriedly along the road.


I was familiar with this scene.


This place was very similar to the world I was used to.


There definitely weren’t any electrical facilities in this town, and the development of their metallurgy was probably limited. The level of civilization was closer to the middle ages of my world.


But this was still very similar to me.


It might be similar, but it was also filled with the exotic style of a different world.


This wasn’t the city enclosed in stone walls, and was just a crude and messy post station town near the road. Even so, it was still a 「town」. These people didn’t need to hunt for a living, and could obtain food through the trades. That makes them 「townsmen」.


This place was too similar to my world, and that made me confused.


So this isn’t my original world. I’m in an unfamiliar different world, I—— can’t go back to my world anymore——


「Asuta——」


I felt a powerful force on my nape.


I felt someone pulled me hard to the side and shoved her mouth to my ears.


「Are you fine? If you are unwell, then lie down for a while. You—— you look like you are going to die.」


「I… I’m fine. Just a little dizzy…」


I answered unconsciously and slowly opened my eyes.


Ai Fa’s blue eyes were very close to mine, which surprised me.


My nasal cavity that had grown numb from the stuffy crowd was now filled with Ai Fa’s fragrance.


Ai Fa didn’t need to tend to the hearth now, so the smell of meat on her grew fainter. Ai Fa’s fragrance—— the smell of sweet fruit and refreshing herbs was stronger. Her scent was comforting, and gradually soothed my numb mind.


By the way… I still don’t know what that sweet scent is...


I could smell the fragrance of lilo from a lot of people and their homes in Forest's Edge, the stinging scent of pico leaves, and the smell of meat and fats.
However, I couldn’t smell this fragrance from anyone else.


What exactly is that? What an incredible scent. I think it’s some sort of fruit, but why do I only smell it on Ai Fa…?


When she held my fingers tightly, that thought slowly fade from my mind.


「Are you really okay? Don’t push yourself… Can you see me?」


「I can see you—— I’m really fine. It’s okay now.」


My vision suddenly turned clear.


Aside from her eyes, Ai Fa’s face that was blurred became sharp and focused. Ai Fa’s slender nose bridge, soft brown cheeks, pink lips and her blonde fringe covering her forehead were all reflected in my retina with a firm sense of reality. My right fingertips that Ai Fa touched was starting to heat up.


My wobbly legs could feel the hardness of the stone path once again, and I finally snapped back into reality.


「The light has finally returned to your eyes. What happened, Asuta?」


Ai Fa’s hand left the back of my neck, and she moved away.


But she still held my hand, allowing my exhausted heart to calm down.


「This is a little hard to explain. The atmosphere in this post station town is very similar to my hometown… Even though the atmosphere is the same, the streets and people are completely different, so my head was a complete mess.」


Ai Fa frowned, and looked like a grade schooler stumped by her teacher’s difficult maths question.
「I don’t really understand, but your face looked really bad. Don’t make me worry so much.」


I was surprised by her forthright words.


Ai Fa grunted and averted her eyes. She then quietly let go of my hand and said:


「Since you have recovered, we will now head to where the stalls are. Don’t ever leave my side.」


「Got it. If there is an emergency, I will hug you from behind again.」


I finally recovered enough to crack jokes, and Ai Fa kicked my leg hard mercilessly.


2


Contrary to my expectation, the street scenery didn’t last too long.


After walking for about ten minutes, the wooden structures were gone, and replaced by a market area set up like a flea market. Compared to earlier, this scene was incredibly messy.


The streets continued to extend northwards, and the trees on both sides of the roads had been cleared. In their place were stalls with wooden tables and makeshift roofs. There were stall owners who laid their wares on a rug on the ground. They peddle their goods to the pedestrians passing by.


「Wah, amazing.」


Most of the goods sold here were food stocks, mainly vegetables.


All sorts of vegetables I saw in the Wu clan food store—— including those that helped me a lot last night, like the cabbage like tino leaves, pula that looked like thick ginkgo leaves, a bright red fruit that seemed to be a hybrid of a pumpkin and tomato. Burdocks that was taller than me, and a disgusting vegetable that looked like a coiled up snake… All these could be found in any stalls.


On top of that, this was a post station town built along the road, and their customers were mainly travelers. The stalls also sold large chunks of smoked jerky made from an unknown kind of meat, capes made from hides, cutlery made from wood or steel, pots, daggers, bows and arrows.


The Totos Moa I met earlier wasn’t a rare animal, and it could be seen around these parts often. Some of these Totos even towed large wagons, and seemed to be the equivalent of cattle or horse in my world.


I was still a little dizzy, but I could observe this world from the perspective of curiosity and research now, not fear or horror any more.
And finally—— I realized one thing.


In this post station town, Ai Fa was more prominent than me.


As people of various skin colours and dressing were gathered in this town, I could understand why I didn’t stand out.


But even though Ai Fa’s attire felt wild and primitive, she shouldn’t stand out too much.


There was nothing strange about clothing made from hide, and there were many people with blades on their person. Many of the women had flimsier clothes than Ai Fa, and I even saw someone wearing the fur of a feline carnivore on top of their head.


But despite that, the gaze of many of them fell on Ai Fa, and their eyes weren’t friendly.


A middle aged man frowned and looked away.


A woman hid inside her stall after showing a shocked expression.


One of the men had a devious smile, and whispered to his comrade.


Some of the people walking in our direction that was surprised and detoured around us.


In this place, Ai Fa was more out of place than I was.
And of course, when they saw me sticking so close to Ai Fa, they also cast their curious gazes on me. But compared to their reaction after seeing Ai Fa, this was nothing.


A wolf walking amongst sheeps is a befitting description for this.


Ai Fa continued striding forth silently.


Her face showed no signs of anger, and she didn’t do anything to intimidate the people around her. She just walked naturally like a nimble leopard.


In this crowded town, there will definitely be some ruffians.


Such as scums that drink and make merry in the middle of the day, groups wearing tattered armour and picking out flaws in a merchandize loudly. I would catch occasional glimpse of such people.


But even they were not treated as coldly by the others compared to Ai Fa.


Is everyone… looking down on 《kiba eaters》?


If that was so, then it was really infuriating.


Or rather, I could feel a rage welling up within me.


I heard that the denizens of Forest's Edge migrated here from the Southern Kingdom, and had the blood of foreigners within them. Were they all citizens of the Western Kingdoms? Even if that was true, the denizens of Forest's Edge already offered their souls to the Western God eight decades ago, so they were actually comrades.


As someone from another world, I didn’t understand all this very well. But even so, it still made me so mad.


While I was still fuming, Ai Fa said 「This is the place」, and stopped before a stall.


It was a small wooden stall outfitted with a tented roof.


An elderly person was sitting inside, too old for me to discern the gender.
It was bright and sunny, but the elderly person still wore a hooded cloak, with a large number of accessories that seemed to be associated with curses wrapped around the fingers and wrist. They looked really weird to me.


I observed the face hidden under the hood, and found the person’s features to be unexpectedly flat, with one corner of the lips raised in a creepy toad-like smile. One of the eyes was completely white and seemed blind, the other eye stared at us with its light green pupil.


「Tusks and horns from kibas? How many beasts worth?」


Even after hearing the voice, I still couldn’t tell the gender.


This stall didn’t seem to be selling anything. Hides from all sorts of beasts were hung on the pillar behind the old person, with no other wares in sight.
「Four of them.」


Ai Fa answered, and took out a string of them from her cape’s hidden pocket.


One kiba has two horns and tusks. So four kiba’s worth would mean 16 pieces. However, Ai Fa already hunted five kiba in this half month, adding the nine blessings the Wu clan gave us on top of that, she should have plenty more left inside her cape.


The elderly person took the string and carefully scrutinized them with one sparkling eye. As the elderly person caressed the white surfaces of the horns and tusks, a creepy smile finally appeared on that elderly person’s face.


「There’s some good stuff mixed in here. Did you hunt all these?」


「Yes.」


Which meant that all nine blessings we received was still on her chest or in the cape.


I thought she would just exchange them in the order of receipt, but this discovery filled me with joy.


「Amazing, the foundations of our lives are built on skilled hunters.」


The elderly person said, then bend down and disappeared beneath the table.
The next moment, crisp clinking sound could be heard and the elderly person finally got up again with a small bag and three small metal slabs in hand.


The slab had turned black from oxidization, but I guessed it was bronze. Roughly 10cm long and 2cm wide, it was flat and about 5mm thick. There was some sort of emblem carved at the center, but the fingers of the elderly person blocked it, so I couldn’t see very well.


「This is my bonus for you. First will be four white and eight red, please confirm.」


Ai Fa accepted the bag, then emptied it onto the desk.


The slabs inside the bag were the same as the ones on the elderly person’s hand—— No, instead of slabs, they were closer to plates. The small plates clinked as it fell onto the table.


I could finally see the emblem, but they were just meaningless spirals to my eyes.
Ai Fa counted the plates nimbly with her fingers.


Four dark silvery plates.


And eight dark reddish plates.


「… Hmm, the numbers are correct.」


「Alright then, I will give you this too.」


The elderly person placed the red plates on top of the pile.
「It isn’t much.」


Ai Fa muttered, then returned those plates into the bag.


「It is getting dangerous around here, take care not to let anyone rob you. Really now, those people in town is only thinking about squeezing us dry. Haven’t they heard the phrase 『a dead Kiwi bird lay no eggs?』」


Sorry, I never heard that before either.


「I will make a move first.」


Ai Fa turned and left after saying that.


I wanted to follow, but the raspy voice of the old person stopped me.
「Hey, you are a townsman, but dressed like a 《kiba eater》. This is the first time I have seen someone like you… Is that beautiful female hunter threatening you?」


Even the old person trading with the denizens of Forest's Edge also discriminates them.


I was furious, but I used my natural social skills and said with a thumbs up:


「Kiba is delicious. Try it if you have the chance… I will make a move first then.」


When I left the stall, Ai Fa was waiting for me two metres away.


「What are you doing? Don’t leave my side. Those things on your neck are like copper plates. No one will be foolish enough to rob others of their tusks and horns in Forest's Edge, but we are on the Rock City’s turf now.」


「That’s true, I’m walking on rocks right now.」


I stomped the stone paved road with my heel, making a thumping sound.


By the way, my shoes were completely worn out.


「… Next will be aria and poitan.」


Ai Fa continued striding forth.


The crowd was thinning out.
The stalls were more spaced apart, and our field of vision widened.


「Ah…」


After that, I saw something amazing.


Looking in the direction we were headed, there were a row of trees behind the marketplace, and on the other side of the trees —— I could see a grey wall.


Even though it was some distance away, I could see bits of grey from the gaps in the trees.
「… That’s the stone walls of the Genos castle town.」


Ai Fa glanced that way, then said emotionlessly.


「The nobles lived within those stone walls and rule over Genos.」


「Oh~…」


I didn’t feel anything special.


I couldn’t help feeling enraged when I realized the people in there were the ones forcing the denizens of Forest's Edge to hunt kiba.


The denizens of Forest's Edge couldn’t forage for wild plants and fruits in the woods, couldn’t cultivate plants, and could only hunt for kiba—— Not just that, the people in the city even call them 《kiba eaters》  mockingly.


The people of Forest's Edge protect the farmlands of Genos, so the efforts of the farmers wouldn’t be destroyed by the kiba. Since they contributed to the prosperity of this town, why must they be treated so coldly? The denizens of Forest's Edge was not dissatisfied about this and still lived proudly, but I couldn’t accept this.


So the people inside are the nobles of Rock City… If possible, I don’t want to ever come into contact with them.


I muttered quietly in my heart as I strolled along the streets with Ai Fa.


As a mortal, there was no way for me to know—— after falling into this different world and finding a place for myself in a corner of the settlement of Forest's Edge, I will come face to face with the highest authority of Genos living in Rock city in the near future.

3


「… Oh, a customer from Forest's Edge.」


A middle aged man welcomed us with a stiff smile.


We arrived at a small vegetable stall at the northernmost corner of the market place.


It was a simple and plain stall. The owner laid a piece of cloth on the ground, and displayed his vegetables on it. The roof structure looked really frail.


Behind him was a large wagon with many full bags.
「Thanks for your patronage. If you all didn’t visit once every three days, the aria I picked would have dried up.」


He was in his early forties, and had a white cloth tied around his head like me. He also had a cloth on his waist, and wore sandals. His hair, eyes and beard were all dark brown in colour, and had yellowish brown skin. His body was well built, and he looked strong.


But his eyes turned as cute as a pom pom dog in front of Ai Fa.


「So, are you here for aria and poitan today too? The price is the same as before, how much plates worth are you getting?」


「I want two white plates worth of poitan, two white and four red plates worth of aria.」


「Wow, that’s a lot! I guess I can close shop for the day now.」


That man was warm and acted like a businessman, but the smile on his face was still very stiff.


When interacting with the denizens of Forest's Edge, the fear in his heart overwhelms his contempt.


「Two white and four red… Alright, please check.」


He placed a heavy hemp bag onto the grass besides the stall.


That’s quite an amount—— Just when I was thinking that, he placed another bag that was roughly the same weight onto the ground.


The bag was rather big —— it wouldn’t be strange to find it on the back of Santa Claus.


「Hey hey, Ai Fa, how many days of food did you buy?」


「Twenty.」


Ai Fa sat down crossed legged before the bag.


Looks like we have to count the amount of merchandize.


Ai Fa exchanged four kiba’s worth of tusks and horns. One kiba yields ten meals, so two people for twenty days would be forty meals, the maths worked out.
But if we eat three aria and two poitan in one day, twenty days would be… 60 aria and 40 poitan? 120 and 80 respectively for two people?


「Wait! Why are we buying so much? It will take an hour to walk home from here right!?」


As I was saying that, I realized that the concept of clocks might not exist in the settlement of Forest's Edge, but there should be sundials.


No, that’s not important at all. By my calculations, the aria and poitan was 200g each, which means——


120 aria weighs 24kg.
The 80 poitan was 16kg.


Considering the distance between Forest's Edge and the post station town, buying so many goods could only be described as rash.


「… Stop caring so much and count. If we keep staying here, other people won’t want to come near.」


Ai Fa said to me quietly as she counted.


The middle aged man pretended he didn’t hear that as he arranged his vegetables.


Given the current atmosphere, there was no way for the buyer or seller to change the quantity.


I sighed and sat down besides Ai Fa.


「Okay, the poitan is fine.」


I glanced at Ai Fa chugging the poitan back into the bag, and laid out the aria onto the grass ten by ten.


When I got to number 30, I stopped.


「Shopkeep, I think aria was soaked in water.」


He looked shocked.


But he made no attempt to walk to us.
「That’s impossible. I picked that two days earlier, and it will remain crispy for an entire month.」


「But the texture isn’t right. You can’t tell from its appearance, but I think it is rotten.」


「D-Don’t make any trouble here. Even if you are from Forest's Edge, you have to follow the post station town’s rules.」


「The post station town’s rules…? Hey Ai Fa, can’t we complain to the stall owner even if we bought rotten food?」


To be on the safe side, I checked with Ai Fa quietly. He was some distance away, but the middle aged man seemed to have heard that. He was still unwilling to come over, and said agitatedly:


「Hey! I-I cultivate those aria through hard work! I have eaten those that turned out sub par myself! If you have a problem with my aria, t-then don’t come again!」


He shouted fiercely and looked ready for a brawl.
Ai Fa frowned and took the aria from my hand.


「Hmm… it’s a little soft?」


「No, it’s inedible now—— Mister, let’s cut it open. If it’s rotten, can you change one for me? If it’s fine, I will apologize properly to you.」


「W-Whatever!」


After getting the owner’s consent, I used Ai Fa’s late father’s knife and cut that aria in two.


As expected, the bottom half of the aria had turned purple and soft to the touch. And so, the bottom half can’t be used anymore.


「See, it’s rotten. Sorry for troubling you, but can you exchange one for me please?」


I extended my hand his way to show him the splitted halves of the aria. The owner’s pale face immediately lost all its colour.


「S… Sorry! It’s my fault! You are right, please forgive me! I-I will give you back your money, please spare my life…」


The middle aged man prostrated onto the ground and offered us the metal plates.


He seemed to be emotionally unstable.


「…Ai Fa, what should we do at a time like this?」


「Who knows? We can’t accept the food if we don’t pay.」


「That’s right. Eh, mister, please raise your head. We don’t want the metal plates, but the aria. My teeth isn’t tough enough to bite through something that hard.」


Maybe Donda Wu could bite off the metal plates. I thought to myself as I shook the thick shoulders of the middle aged man.
「You… You’re not a denizen of Forest's Edge…?」


「My birth place is different from them. As you can see, I’m under the care of Forest's Edge right now.」


He looked up at me, his eyes were like a pom pom dog facing a pitbull.


「… You will forgive me?」


「If you exchange a new aria for us, we will forgive you.」


The middle aged man grabbed an aria displayed on his groundsheet, and hand it to us.


「Alright, thank you… This might be a bit nosy, but if you are very confident in your work, maybe you should confirm the situation before getting mad? Otherwise, it won’t be good for your business.」


「… If you are not from Forest's Edge, I would have already done that.」—— I seemed to hear the owner whispered that, but his voice was too whimsical for me to tell.


The other arias were fine, and the number was correct. So we stuff all of them into the bag.


Ai Fa then took out a bunch of dried vines from the pocket in her cape—— that should be Flebaha vines —— and tied the openings of the two bags tightly.


She then held on to the excess vines, compared the weight of the two bags, and heaved the bag of aria onto her left shoulder.


「Let’s go.」


Since she already bore the bag that was twice as heavy as mine, I couldn’t complain even if I was a frail hearth caretaker. I still sighed and wondered how I could traverse that bridge, and heaved that bag over my shoulder to act like an out of season santa claus.


「Well then, we will make a move first. We might visit again in twenty days, please take care of us when that time comes.」


The stall owner glanced our way with gloomy eyes, and didn’t answer.


My feelings were still wavering, and I wasn’t sure if I should sympathize with him or be angry.


「Asuta, including the bonus the grandma at the exchange stall gave us, we have quite a bit of copper plates left over. Do you need to buy anything else?」


Ai Fa stopped in a space between the stalls and asked me.


I immediately put my bag down by my feet and answered: 「I need fruit wine.」


「One red copper plate can buy one bottle of fruit wine. Even if we buy two, there will still be five copper plates left.」


「Hmm~ I don’t know the prices of things here at all. What about rock salt?」


「The rock salt would be three red copper plates… That’s true, we need to use rock salt aside from making jerky, so we should get some.」


I discussed about what to buy with Ai Fa while walking through the crowds, which felt incredible to me.


And of course, I didn’t dislike that at all.


「Well then, two copper plates left… How about buying some tino leaves and pula we tried in the Wu clan last night? I don’t know how much we can buy though.」


「I’m fine with anything, so you decide.」


She entrusted me with shopping duties.


While I was tilting my head in deep thought when my stomach grumbled cutely.


「Ah! Ai Fa, how about buying some snacks at the stalls for a quick bite?」


The stalls not only sell smoked meat, many of them also sell simple snacks that could be eaten right away.


When Ai Fa heard what I said, she widen her eyes in surprise.


「If you are hungry, I have some jerky with me.」


「I don’t mean that. Aside from visiting the post station town, we don’t have any other chance to try different food right…? Ah, is this a taboo violation in Forest's Edge?」


「We are free to use the copper plates we earned by trading in our tusks and horns, but there isn’t anyone in Forest's Edge who will spend copper plates for that.」


I see, that made sense. After all, there wasn’t any concept of cuisines in Forest's Edge.


Since you aren’t interested in the food, let’s go back after buying some tino leaves.」


「I already said that I will leave this to you. You can do whatever you want.」


「Hmm~ we used the money you earned to get poitan and aria, I will feel bad if we waste the rest fo the money on my hobby.」


「… What are you saying? I’m the head of the household?」


Ai Fa narrowed her eyes immediately.


I possess nine tusks and horns, but I didn’t use any of it to make payment, which gave me a sense of inferiority. Was my concern harming the dignity of the house head?


After getting peacefully all this time, I didn’t want to anger Ai Fa.


「Alright, I will use one copper plate to buy a new vegetable, and the last one to purchase some food that can be eaten on the spot, okay? To be honest, I’m curious about the food culture in this world.」


When she heard that, Ai Fa relaxed her brows and said 「Up to you.」


It seemed that when I was with Ai Fa, I have to play the role of the girlfriend being spoiled. Because our roles were the hearth caretaker and house head, this relationship probable made sense. But as a man from Japan, I still found it a little uncomfortable.


However, Ai Fa’s look of satisfaction was very soothing for me.


4


「Okay, let’s get going. Time is precious, so let’s pick something out along the way.」


「Yes, I will buy something that smells the tastiest.」


We went back the way we came, and brought rock salt and fruit wine along the way.


The rock salt was stuffed into my bag, and Ai Fa tied up the fruit bottle and carried it by hand.


As we continued along, I saw a vegetable stall and studied its wares.


It was too risky to buy completely unknown ingredients, so I should stick with tino leaves or pula. After asking the girl whose eyes were obviously wavering, I found out that a copper plate could buy two tino leaves or three pula. The price of these two vegetables were almost double that of aria and poitan.


Could I really buy something so extravagant? I looked up at Ai Fa, and before I could speak, she said 「Up to you.」


Since she said that, I chose the tino leaves.


Tino leaves were a vegetable that had a similar texture to cabbage, while pula had a bitter taste akin to green peeper. Both these vegetables had their own charms, but tino leaves were more practical.


After stuffing in the two tino leaves, my bag was bulging as much as Ai Fa’s.
「Let’s go.」


After Ai Fa turned around, I also rushed to follow.


The two bags might look the same, but the density of the contents were very different. Even though Ai Fa was burdened with 24 kg of weight, she didn’t slow down at all. I was impressed.


Her body must be really well built. As a hunter, she had to move freely in the difficult terrain of the woods, that’s how she trained her well toned body. Now, it’s finally time for the snack I was looking forward to——


「Ah, let’s pick that one.」


I stopped at the stall besides the smoked meat seller.


When I passed by here just now, this stall stimulated my sense of smell.


The business here wasn’t bad, and a little girl was waiting for her food there right now.


Ai Fa nodded, and walked towards the stall without hesitation.


「How much is the food here?」


The stall was tended by a plump middle aged woman with dark brown hair and brown eyes.


Her fat face frowned on the sight of Ai Fa.


「… The small one is one red copper plate, the big one is two red copper plate.」


「Give me a small one then.」


The woman didn’t answer and returned her gaze to her hands.


I looked over the head of the little girl in line, and observed the interior of the stall.


A something brown was stewing in a rather large iron pot. I knew nothing about the food sold in this stall, but I could see bite sized meat and vegetables in there. More importantly, the fragrance of the gooey stuff was appetizing, just like the smell from garlic. I never smell anything like that in Forest's Edge.


Besides the pot was a pile of ingredients that looked like grilled poitan.


It was whiter than poitan, and the texture seemed more chewy. There were two sizes, about 20cm and 30cm in diameter respectively, and about 5mm thick. After woman wrapped the content of the pot with this ingredient, she twisted the excesses at the top hard, making it into a shape of a deformed pouch.


If I had to to describe it with a term, that would be ‘meat bun’.


「Here, careful it’s hot.」


「Thank you!」


The little girl who was about Rimee Wu answered happily and reached out her hands.


I got out of her way for her to pass through easily.


The girl then turned our way energetically—— she was surprised when she saw Ai Fa, and stood stiffly in place. The bun she just bought fell from her hands because of its inertia.


「Uwah.」


She was lucky that I caught that bun on reflex. If I didn’t put down my luggage besides my feet, I wouldn’t have caught it.
「Here, careful.」


The little girl’s eyes were timid, but she still nodded, snatched the bun and ran off.


「… Your ordered a small one right?」


The woman said coldly and started making our share quickly.


Her skills weren’t bad, but from a customer service perspective, her attitude was discomforting.


After paying the copper plate, we found an open space to sit down.


「Hurry up and eat. We are going back when you are done.」


「Okay, I’m digging in.」


I finally encountered another unknown dish after Ai Fa cooked her kiba pot for me.


Back then, the kiba pot smelled really nice, but the taste completely went contrary to my expectation. Therefore, I didn’t dare to relax this time, and took a bit bite after bracing myself.
It taste——


Hmm…
「Is it good?」, Ai Fa asked disinterestedly.


As for me, I could only say 「average」.


How should I put this… It was so so.
It wasn’t delicious, but not nasty either, very normal.


From the fragrance coming out from the stall, it was clear that plenty of spices were added to this snack, and smelled like a mixture of garlic and parsley. It tasted different, but wasn’t unappetizing.


The meat inside the wrap was white, and the fats had completely melted. It tasted as bland as chicken breast meat.


The diced red and green vegetables were soft, and wasn’t much different from cooked aria. Maybe there was aria in there.


The brown gooey ingredients should be stewed vegetables. The taste was a little sweet, and wasn’t too unique to interfere with the taste of the other ingredients.


The white outer skin that reminds me of poitan was as chewy as they looked. Their texture was closer to compressed indian naan instead of buns.


The ingredients complements and contrasted with each other, forming an average taste.


「Well, it’s quite palatable, and satisfies my curiosity.」


The quantity wasn’t much, so I could finish it easily. And it wasn’t too unacceptably exotic.


If I had to pick a flaw, it would be it being too pricey, being equivalent to one bottle of fruit wine, or two tino leaves, or four poitan.


「Ai Fa, you want a bite?」


「No.」


I tried asking her, but Ai Fa turned me down.


「Hmm~ I ate something boring, are the people here actually satisfied by this? I don’t understand why they look down on the denizens of Forest's Edge and call them <kiba eaters>. Kiba meat is much more delicious compared to this.」


「…Asuta, did you forget the kiba pot you ate on your first night here?」


Of course I didn’t forget.


However, that was because the proper blood letting technique didn’t exist in Forest's Edge.


The people in Genos lived here longer than the denizens of Forest's Edge, did they not consider a good way of eating kiba meat?


「… Before the denizens of Forest's Edge moved here eighty years ago, a large number of kibas lurked in the forest, and would attack people and farmlands. For the Genos citizens back then, kiba represented disaster.」


They weren’t worthy of a taste because they were signs of disaster?


What a waste.
「I don’t know the details, but they probably had plenty of meat back then. That Totos we saw had plenty of edible parts.」


「What~ they eat birds like that…? It doesn’t look nasty to eat, but..」


「Anyways, the people in town fears kiba. They also fear the denizens of Forest's Edge that kills and feed on kiba. And now, they have forgotten the terror of the kiba, and the denizens of Forest's Edge is gradually replacing it as the symbol of terror… Grandma Jiba once told me that.」


「So it’s just a baseless discrimination. Why didn’t the denizens of Forest's Edge try to resolve this misunderstanding?」


「… Even if they fear us, we won’t be inconvenienced by that.」


Was that really true?


I didn’t think their unwillingness to resolve the misunderstanding was praiseworthy.


The denizens of Forest's Edge being treated coldly by the people in town was partly their fault—— I felt unhappy to come to this conclusion.


「But——」


When I was about to rebuke Ai Fa, I suddenly stopped because I noticed something in the corner of my eye.


—— It was that girl from earlier.


The little girl sat on the other side of the road by herself, biting into the bun I ate earlier.


There wasn’t anything special about that, but when I looked her way, she would turned her head quickly like a nimble squirrel.


She will then slowly look my way.


As the road was about ten meters wide, I couldn’t discern her expression in detail. But she looked really curious.


「… She probably think it is incredible seeing a pale skinned man like you in Forest's Edge get up.」


Ai Fa seemed to noticed the little girl and said so casually.


「I see.」


I answered as I watched the little girl from the corner of my eyes.


She was about Rimee Wu’s age, maybe seven or eight years old.


Her dark brown hair reached up to her shoulders, and her skin was yellowish brown. Her orange dress was a one piece, and not a cloth wrapped around her. She had a pair of leather sandals on her feet.


Her torso and limbs were thinner than Rimee Wu, and the way she bit into the meat bun looked cute too.


I tried turning my face her way again.
My attack was sudden, and the little girl couldn’t avert her gaze and remained still.


I smiled at her, and the girl looked as if she was choked by her bun. She then showed a gentle smile.


「… What are you doing?」


「Nothing, I just think that girl is really cute.」


「……」


「Hmm? You misunderstand! What’s with your eyes? Just what kind of person do you think I am?」


「Shut up. Don’t be so flustered… You like kids?」


Contrary to my expectations, Ai Fa’s attitude returned to normal. My agitated emotions suffered a sudden over shoulder throw.


「If I have to say, I guess I like them. Many children will visit my dad’s shop, because a lot of families will visit us.」


「… I see.」


Hmm? Did I misunderstand where this conversation was going?


I don’t want you to disappear suddenly —— Ai Fa said this uncharacteristcally last night. I was a little flustered when I recalled how she looked back then.


It would be better to not mention my original world for the time being.


Acting calm, I tried saying in a cheerful tone:


「By the way, it feels depressing at the thought of carrying so much luggage back home. Isn’t twenty meals too much?」


「I always buy this much. Or——」, Ai Fa suddenly averted her eyes and added:


「You don’t need twenty meals worth of food?」


「Hey Ai Fa——」


I can’t tell what my future will bring either…! Thankfully, I didn’t yell that out loud.


However, I couldn’t find something else to say.


Ai Fa lowered her eyelids quietly, unwilling to show me how she really felt.


「Ai Fa, I…」


I had to say something.


Before I could sort out my thoughts, I spoke——


But an unexpected roar and noise drowned out my words.


「Say it to me clearly if you have any complains! Aren’t you the arrogant citizens of Rock City!?」


It was a voice of a young man who had lost his composure.


There was also a loud sound of something being damaged, and screams.


Including the voice of that little girl.


「W-What? Something happened?」


I couldn’t understand the situation.


The remains of a broken wooden crate was scattered on the streets, along with an unknown yellow fruit. Two men was wrestling in the middle of the scattered items.


They were really close to that little girl.


The other people had retreated away to not get caught in the dispute, only that girl was sitting weakly on the ground with a fearful face.


「Hey, is that…?」


Before I could sound her out, Ai Fa had stood up deftly.


There was an intimidating gleam in her eyes as she glared at the men.


One of the two men fighting on the road in broad day light—— was from Forest's Edge.

5


It was an unfamiliar young man.


But he was definitely a denizen of Forest's Edge.


He had a kiba cape draped over him, a shirt and waist cloth with complicated swirling designs, and two blades on his waist. He was also wearing a necklace of tusks and horns.


He had a messy head of dark brown hair, light tanned skin and blue fiery eyes.
The man wasn’t too tall, had a body of solid muscles and a serious face like a stone lion.


This young man from Forest's Edge grabbed the chest of a plump man who seemed to be a merchant. He made that man’s round face turned red by constricting the man’s neck.


「Asuta, stay here.」


Ai Fa left these words and walked quickly into the crowd. She was still holding onto the bottle of fruit wine for some reason.


I couldn’t just watch idly by. I wasn’t suited to mediate a dispute between parties, but I couldn’t leave that poor little girl alone.


Ai Fa pushed through the wall of people and strolled into the center of the encirclement. On the other hand, I ran around the wall of people and quietly went towards the little girl.
「Say it again. Who is the 『stinky kiba eater』 you are referring to? You said 『even the food in my hand stinks now』 right? Say it louder so I can hear you clearly, oh great citizen of Rock City.」
This young man from Forest's Edge seemed to be drunk.


He held a familiar bottle in one hand, and his red face and shrill voice was definitely not because of his rage.
Someone is actually so drunk in broad daylight, don’t he need to hunt kiba?


I thought as I quickly rush towards the little girl.


I was five meters away from my goal when another series of screams came.


Along with an ominous shattering sound.


The man from Forest's Edge tossed aside the bottle filled with fruit wine, and pull out a knife.
It was a knife, but the blade was as thick as a machete, and about 20cm long. This weapon could even cut through kiba hide and meat, and was rather dangerous.


He actually draw his blade! That’s too unreasonable!


I couldn’t take my time going the long way around. I pushed aside the gawkers and charged out.


The girl’s half eaten bun fell to the ground, and the two men fighting trampled all over it. They were that close to her.


At this moment —— another sound erupted.


Ai Fa hit the back of that man’s head hard with the fruit wine bottle in her hand.


The bottle shattered and the fragrance of the fruit wine spread across the road.


That man stumbled and fell onto the ground—— I grabbed the little girl before he fell onto her.


「Retard, if you like wine so much, you can have my share!」


Ai Fa cold steely voice tore through all the noise.


「It is a serious taboo for the people of Forest's Edge to cause any trouble in Rock City. You are a disgrace to Forest's Edge.」


That man held the back of his head while he squatted. He lift his head and looked up at Ai Fa.


Intense hatred and grudge welled up within his murky eyes, as if he had seen something he loathed.


「You are the female hunter from house Fa… How dare you do this to me, you think I will let this go so easily…?」


「Who is the one that failed to follow the rules of Forest's Edge? There is no shame in my actions.」


「Uwah… What a cool girl.」


The one who said that wasn’t the man from Forest's Edge.


It was an unfamiliar man, who knelt beside me before I even noticed.


「This is the first time I have seen a female hunter. If that necklace is the real thing, that’s really praiseworthy.」


「W-What do you want?」


In order to not get in Ai Fa’s way, I got up and moved away from the center of the dispute, and asked the man following behind me.
「Me? I’m just a normal pedestrain. I wanted to protect that poor girl over there, but you got ahead of me.」


That man had a whimsical presence.


He had a head of golden brown locks I had never seen in Forest's Edge or the post station town before. His skin seemed untainted by the sun and was ivory in colour. His pupils had a tint of purple.


Because he had button up his long cloak, I couldn’t see his body. But he had a long face and immense height, and was slouching to bring his face near me.


He had a pair of drooping eyes, high nose bridge and messy hair and beard. His strangely coloured pupils had both the maturity of age and a childish glow, making it hard to discern his age.


「Ara, looks like the lazy officials have finally made their move.」


I followed the man’s extended finger, and saw a group of men with spears hurriedly moving through the crowd.


「What are you lot doing in the middle of the road!?」


The group of strong men wore leather helmet, leather chest protectors and had yellowish brown skin. From their professional dressing, they were probably the guards that maintains the peace within the city.


When I was about to sigh in relief—— I saw them point the sharp end of their spears at Ai Fa, which made me stood stiff.


The girl in my arms were trembling.


「Denizens of Forest's Edge… Hey! You are prohibited from causing any incidents in this post station town! Is the people of Forest's Edge trying to violate the agreement you made with Marquis Genos!?」


It seemed a prerequisite of being a guard was to not be fearful of denizens from Forest's Edge.


However, I feel that their eyes and faces were a little too agitated.


「… In order to honour that agreement, I even went as far as to hit that retard who broke this taboo.」


Ai Fa glared at the steel blade at her nose, and said emotionlessly.


The guards shift their gaze to the man squatting down.


That man—— showed an incredibly ugly expression.


「Guards of Rock City… I’m Doddo Tsun from the Tsun clan.」


His voice was like venom that dripped from his ugly lips onto the streets.


「Even lowly officials like you know me too right? I’m from the ruling Tsun clan of Forest's Edge… arrest that woman.」


The guards looked at each other confusedly.


The man who called himself Doddo Tsun glared at them and continued:


「That woman suddenly attacked me when I was walking along the streets! You can understand just by seeing this situation, right? I’m not at fault at all! It’s this dumb woman who violated the taboo of Forest's Edge, and broke the agreement between Forest's Edge and Genos!」


「It’s a Tsun clan member…」, I was taken aback when the guards retracted their spears.


Their spears were still pointed at Ai Fa.


「Woman, come to the guards room with us, we will interrogate you about your crimes… Son of the Tsun clan, we need you to make a trip down with us, do you agree?」


「Of course…」, Doddo Tsun stood up and licked his lips.


I couldn’t help but shout——


But someone did so before me.
It was the little girl in my arms.


「No! That man is the one who started the trouble, and that woman stopped him!」


The entire street turned dead quiet.


It seemed—— that there was something ominous about this silence.


「… Son of the Tsun clan, what’s going on here?」


One of the guards looked Doddo Tsun’s way with a stern face.


Doddo Tsun then said with a smile:


「This is baseless slander. Why don’t you ask the people around you. Since things had gotten this serious, there should many who saw how the entire scene unfold.」


Then, something unbelievable happened——


The crowd that was watching on all frowned and slowly left.


「Ara ara, that’s wrong.」


The man in a long cloak muttered dumbfounded.


He stood up straight and was almost a head taller than me as expected.


In terms of height, he should be comparable to Donda Wu. But he hunches his back and slouches his shoulders, and with his rather slender built, he felt like a frail mantis.


But that wasn’t important now.


「Damn it—— Oh right, where is that guy being grabbed by him…?」


「When that drunkard got sent flying, that guy left hurriedly without even saying thanks. This is a problem.」


I gritted my teeth and decided to confront the guards.


At this point, Doddo Tsun’s murky eyes gaze my way.


His face was twisted with glee, and it sent a chill down my spine.


「Guards of Rock City, that brat is a foreigner, but became a part of Forest's Edge recently. He is probably a comrade of this fool, is he forcing that girl to say those foolish things?」


The blade that was at Doddo Tsun nose earlier was now pointed my way.


「Hey, put down that girl.」


The next instant the girl grabbed my neck tightly and said:


「Don’t wanna! This onii-san saved Tara! That man is the one who did bad things, so why don’t you believe me!?」


「I will interrogate them in the guard house later. Enough, run on home.」


「Don’t wanna!」


「Well well, it’s because of this bureaucratic style that is stopping you from earning the citizen’s respect. You think it’s troublesome to deal with the Forest's Edge denizens, so you don’t spend the effort to seek out the truth. That isn’t encourageable.」


Someone interjected suddenly. And of course it was the cloaked man.


Everyone acted before I could, so I didn’t have any chance to speak at all.


「What do you want? Those not involved should just stand aside.」


「Unfortunately, I’m not involved with this incident, but I witnessed the entire thing. I might be just a bystander, but my testimony still have some value and reliability correct?」


After the man said that with grandiose, he continued:


「The fruit wine seller here and his friend who seemed to be a merchant were quietly pointing fingers and laughing at that gentleman from Forest's Edge. This gentleman became agitated, grabbed that merchant and threw that box of fruit wine onto the streets. The fruit wine seller fled and this gentleman yelled:『Say it to me clearly if you have any complains! Aren’t you the arrogant citizens of Rock City!?』, or something like that.」


The little girl snickered.


Because his voice was too lacking in tension.


「Hmm? Was my impression not good enough? Never mind… They then started quarreling. 『I-I didn’t say anything.』 『Liar!』 『It’s the truth!』 『I heard you say that, the ears of denizens from Forest's Edge are built different from rotten ears like yours!』 『S-Save me!』 『Say it again. Who is the 『stinky kiba eater』 you are referring to? You said 『even the food in my hand stinks now』 right? Say it louder so I can hear you clearly, oh great citizen of Rock City.』… That’s the gist of what happened.」


The shocking thing was, this man recalled their conversation completely.


The guards looked troubled, and Doddo Tsun glared at that man with eyes like wild dogs.


And Ai Fa——


This was the most surprised expression I have ever seen her made.


「This gentleman toss the wine bottle in his hand aside, and pulled out a knife from his waist. That sweet smelling thing over there is the remnants of the bottle, and his knife is right over here.」


Doddo Tsun and the guards shifted their surprised gaze to our feet.


And a knife without any crossguard was right there.


A leather sheath was still hanging on Doddo Tsun’s waist.


「At this point, that lady appeared on scene. She smashed her fruit wine bottle into the back of his head, then calmly said:『Retard, if you like wine so much, you can have my share! 』」


The little girl couldn’t hold it in any longer and laughed out softly.


His voice was really amusing.


Ai Fa’s surprised face suddenly turned gloomy.


「She then said:『It is a serious taboo for the people of Forest's Edge to cause any trouble in Rock City. You are a disgrace to Forest's Edge』… That should be enough. Gentlemen, can you take this into consideration when you perform your interrogation?」


All the guards showed an annoyed face. One of them turned to Doddo Tsun and said:


「Son of the Tsun clan, what that man described——」


「That’s all nonsense! Baseless slander!」


Doddo Tsun’s blue eyes turned bloodshot and he let loose a shrill yell.


But it seemed that —— the officials were not convinced.


「If that is so, then you need to have a logical explanation. You should be the only one here who refutes what I said. Since you claim that I’m lying, then explain the smashed box over there, the broken fruit wine bottle and why your knife is on the ground.」


He said something vicious, but his expression remained casual.


Unlike Jiza Wu whose thoughts could not be read, this man had an easy going attitude—— He was calm and explained his thoughts leisurely.


「… Enough. I will take all of you back to the guards office, so all of you have to report there.」


「What? That’s troubling. I have an appointment with Marquis Genos later.」


The man said something incredible.


The guards were scared shitless.


「It’s already passed the agreed time, I will feel bad if I go any later. If you want me to go with you, can you relay that to Marquis Genos first?」


「Why you… No, sir, may I know…?」


「Don’t be so afraid. I’m just a friendly commoner. I’m Kamyua Yost, a guardian that ensures the safety of travelers.」


After saying so, that man showed a necklace hanging on his neck from the gap between his cloak.


It was a silver chain with a brightly coloured stone similar to agate. It was an elegantly crafted necklace.


「I happened to be working as a guardian for Marquis Genos when he was traveling to the capital, that’s how we get to know one another. I don’t have any titles or peerage, so fear not… Ah, this is the Genos castle town pass bestowed to me by Marquis Marustein Genos.」


He then took out another item. It was a thin and flat glimmering silver plate, which was completely different from the copper plate I saw earlier. It was the size of a credit card, with unfamiliar designs carved on it, drawing attention to its glamourous status.


When the guards saw that silver plate, they stood stiff with their face pale.


At this moment, I noticed one thing —— This uncle was rather mischievous.


Even though everyone present were looking at this slender man who call himself Kamyua Yost with complicated expressions, he was still smiling easily and happily.


6


「So, isn’t it great that things are resolved smoothly?」


After the guards left with Doddo Tsun, the strange man named Kamyua Yost stayed behind with us.


We sat back at that empty place we were at earlier. Seated between the tensed Ai Fa and the troubled me was Kamyua Yost who was smiling carefreely.


「…Thank you for helping us in our time of need.」


Ai Fa said stoically, and lowered her head politely in thanks.


「You are really cautious.」 the man said with a smile.


「I didn’t help at all, I merely stated what I witnessed. As a citizen of the western god Selva, it is my obligation to do so.」


In the end, the guards didn’t bring us to the guard house.


They only took Doddo Tsun with them. However, Doddo Tsun wouldn’t be punished at all.


『It’s not that big of a deal right? A denizen from Forest's Edge did something unreasonable, and someone else from Forest's Edge stopped him. It was wrong of him to pull a knife, but there is no need to escalate this matter right?』


The guards agreed with Kamyua Yost and the incident was concluded.


They took away Doddo Tsun. Their official statement was to wait for him to wake up from his stupor, but they would probably just detain him for a short while.


Hurry on back to Forest's Edge—— the eyes of the guards were saying that to us strongly.
But we didn’t leave, and sat opposite this strange man we met for the first time.


「Erm… Don’t you have an important matter to attend to?」


「What?」


Kamyua Yost shook his head in response:


「You mean that matter with Marquis Genos? That’s a lie. I do have an appointment with him, but I just need to show up at dinner, and there’s still plenty of time.」


He was a sly man indeed.
A cunning smile appeared on Kamyua Yost’s thin face, and his eyes suddenly glanced to the side.


「That is quite a troublesome matter. Little Miss, are you hurt?」


「No! Because this onii-chan saved me!」


The one answering was the little girl who called herself Tara. And 『onii-chan』 meant me.


Tara bit into a bun with a big smile. Doddo Tsun trampled all over the bun she bought, so Kamyua Yost bought her a new one.


「Oh, right, this thing too——」, Kamyua reached inside his cloak.


And as if he was performing magic, he pulled out a fruit wine.


He uncorked it with his boney fingers, took a sip, then replaced the cork before handing the bottle to Ai Fa.


「As you can see, it’s not poisoned. Will you accept this?」


「… I have no reason to receive your charity.」


「You are really cautious! I’m deeply moved by your selfless act of protecting the order in the post station town and the rules of Forest's Edge! Can’t that be the reason?」


Ai Fa showed a disgusted face.


Kamyua Yost was still smiling as he gently patted Tara’s petite head.


「It’s the same for Tara. I’m moved by how this child muster her courage to help her benefactor, that’s why I treated her to a Kimilz meat bun… Tara, is it good?」


「Yes! Thank you uncle!」


「Uncle huh… it’s right to call me that, I’m almost thirty.」


So he wasn’t thirty yet—— I was a bit surprised.


Speaking of which, if he shave off his messy beard, he would look young… No, not at all. His expression and demeanour were casual, instead of an uncle, he looked closer to being an old man.
「So, what do you think? Will you accept this fruit wine…? Or are you still vexed about that brute not having to answer for his crimes? He is from the Tsun clan after all, I think it’s better not to escalate the matter.」


What he said shocked me again.


Was the situation in Forest's Edge within his grasp too?
「Hmm? What’s so strange about that? I have never stepped into the Forest's Edge of Morga before, but I still know the name of the Chief clan in Forest's Edge. I like this post station town a lot, and often see the denizens of Forest's Edge here… But this is the first time I’m speaking with a denizen of Forest's Edge.」


His big mouth under his long thin nose rose in a satisfied smile.


「On top of that, you are a really beautiful female hunter, which made me even happier. As a sign of respect to your beauty, I hope you can accept this bottle of fruit wine.」


I looked at Ai Fa’s face timidly.


Ah… She was beyond furious, and her brows tightly knotted in a frown.


「Hmm, did I say anything that offended you? I only praised your looks, said that you’re beautiful and compliment your noble actions.」


「……」


「It’s useless… Then, what about you?」


「W-What?」


「They call me 《Whirlwind of the north》, but you rescued Tara before I did, and I wished to show my respect and compliments. Will you accept this?」


Judging from the current mood, I shouldn’t accept.


「By the way, what does whirlwind of the north mean anyway?」


「That’s a nickname my colleagues gave me. This hair colour is rare in the west… Because my birth place is in the north.」


Ai Fa’s face changed a little when she heard that.


Her cat-like eyes stared right at Kamyua Yost with some lingering hostility.


「Kamyua Yost, Did you come from the northern kingdom Mahyudora?」


「Just call me Kamyua… Speaking of which, I still don’t know your names. It’s fine even if you make wild lies, can you tell me how to address you?」


His tone would definitely trigger Ai Fa. She raised her brow and said:


「I’m head of the Fa house, Ai Fa.」


「Ah, I’m a member of the Fa house, Asuta.」


「Ai Fa and Asuta huh. Nice names… Right, I’m from the north. My mother hails from Mahyudora while my father is from Selva. Since a century ago, the north and west bore deep animosity towards each other, and I’m a child born from these two nations. I spent my childhood in the north until my mother’s death before coming here to the west. I couldn’t find proper work because of my heritage, so I had to scrap for a living as a guardian.」


On Kamyua Yost’s waist was a sword that had a long and thin blade.


「Speaking of which, Ai Fa, your hair colour looked rather similar to mine.」


Kamyua’s purple eyes narrowed as if he was looking at something glaring, and he said to Ai Fa:


「I heard that the people in Forest's Edge are the descendents of refugees who escaped from the south. Given how far apart the north and south are, it’s unlikely for them to have any blood relations. So why do you have a head of blonde hair?」


「… There’s no special reason for this. People with this hair colour will appear in Forest's Edge from time to time, my mother also had blonde hair.」


「I see. It’s the same with my mother.」


Kamyua Yost smiled innocently, and Ai Fa turned her head away as if she was annoyed.
I felt that somehow—— Ai Fa’s attitude was a little strange.


「Anyway, I have been interested in the denizens of Forest's Edge for a long time now. They offered their souls to another god while they were still alive, there are few who have experienced anything like that. So I feel close to them one sided. Therefore, I’m very glad that the first people from Forest's Edge that I get to speak to are people like you.」


「……」


「So, what’s your business with us?」


Ai Fa seemed uninterested, so I had to interject.


「Thank you for helping us out of a bind, but we have work to do back in Forest's Edge. It’s about time for us to go now…」


「Is that so? It’s regrettable, so let’s get into the topic… Actually, I took a job to guard a caravan in Genos heading to the eastern kingdom. When the time comes, we hope to be granted passage through the Forest's Edge settlement.」


I was very surprised by this, but Ai Fa’s reaction was very cold.


「… The chief Tsun clan is responsible for this job.」


「Yes, of course I know that. But after meeting the son of the Tsun clan today, it was regrettable, but I dismissed the idea of asking them to do this. They aren’t trustworthy at all.」


He had an innocent expression, but Kamyua Yost didn’t mince his words.


「Well, I already warned Marquis Genos before that every time an incident happens in the post station town, it’s always because of the Tsun clan. The denizens of Forest's Edge keep to themselves and follows the rules stubbornly, but the Tsun clan are nasty and disregards the rules. This makes me wonder if the Marquis’ side are part of the problem too…」


「It’s the people of Rock City that made the Tsun clan so depraved.」


Ai Fa cut off Kamyua Yost.


A blue flame rages in her eyes.


「The people inside the city made the Tsun clan wealthy, which in turn caused them to discard the pride of Forest's Edge, not hunting kiba properly. They will drink and make merry all day and engrossed themselves in pleasures of the flesh. The people in the city needs to take full responsibility for this.」


「By making them wealth, do you mean the bonus paid out to them once every three months? That is such a meagre sum though.」


「The Tsun clan hoarded all of it. They spend that money on lavish pleasure.」


I was probably the one who was most surprised here.


Tara had a blank face after finishing her bun, while Kamyua Yost looked as if he already knew.


「I guess as much. That money is meant to be a reward for protecting Genos from the threat of kibas, but the chief clan didn’t share it with the people of Forest's Edge who devoted themselves to this work, and only benefited his own family to party… Why haven’t the denizens of Forest's Edge revolted yet?」


「We don’t need the charity from Rock City, we hunt kiba simply for the sake of survival.」


「What a noble personality…! You are really stubborn though.」


Kamyua Yost smiled wryly again as he ruffled his messy blonde hair.


「If you wish to restore order in Forest's Edge, I might be able to give you a hand.」


「……」


「And of course, I wouldn’t agitate the Tsun clan rashly, they are still the chief clan of Forest's Edge after all. If the power of Forest’s Edge to hun kiba wanes because they lose their chief clan, it will be terrible. The kiba will rampage in the Morga forest once more and destroy the farmlands… That’s why Marquis Genos don’t dare to act even if he can see that the Tsun clan is a little depraved.」


「……」


「Hence, I need to ask you a question. If the Tsun clan loses their standing, are there any other clans that can rule over Forest's Edge in their place?」


Speaking of a force that could rival the Tsun clan, the existence of the Wu clan immediately surfaced in my mind.


But Ai Fa didn’t say a word.


Glimmers of hate gradually shone in her eyes.


「After all, Rock City can only interact with Forest's Edge through the Tsun clan, so they cut off all negative news against them. Furthermore, they seldom appear outside the city walls, so a commoner who knows Marquis Genos like me, and someone who isn’t close to the Tsun clan like you, our meeting will be like erecting a bridge between Rock City and Forest's Edge.」


「What good does that do for you?」


Kamyua Yost laughed again when he heard me say that.


「Gains and losses aside, aren’t we all children of the western god Selva? In that sense, we are brethren, and it is only natural to lend a hand to a brethren in need.」


「……」


「That’s just pleasantries. Like I said, I have an one sided sense of camaraderie towards the denizens of Forest's Edge. I feel that way because of your virtuousness. I don’t respect lazy bums who got drunk at noon and don’t hunt kiba properly—— That’s how it is.」


I was confused.


His words are insincere —— I didn’t think that way, but he likes to act the goat too much, so I couldn’t tell what he was really thinking.


As for Ai Fa, a strong defiance was burning in her eyes.


「Kamyua Yost, you are from Rock City. If the people from Rock City wants to harm the denizens of Forest's Edge—— you will become an enemy of Forest's Edge.」


「Is that so, does that applies to the decadent Tsun clan too?」


「If the Tsun clan have to be punished, they should be by the hands of the Forest's Edge denizens. The disgrace of Forest's Edge should be cleansed by Forest's Edge itself. And finally—— It’s the people from Rock City that led to the Tsun clan becoming depraved.」


Ai Fa then spat out fiercely:


「The people of Rock City… cannot be trusted.」


Her fiery eyes signifies her pride as a hunter.


But even so, Kamyua Yost still said casually with a smile:


「You are really a noble and virtuous person. Ai Fa, you are beautiful.」


「… Are you ridiculing me?」


「I’m complimenting your beauty, how is that ridiculing you?—— Ara, look, you made Tara scared.」


I was surprised after hearing that. I turned my head and found Tara holding tightly to Kamyua Yost’s arm and shaking.


「Can’t be helped then, let’s call it a day. If we are too careless, the son from the Tsun clan might appear again.」


「… It’s just for today. Be it tomorrow or the day after, we won’t ever meet again.」


「Who can be sure? You can’t wait for a chance to come, you have to create one yourself.」


Kamyua Yost picked up the sword with his right hand, held the little girl’s hand with his left, then stood up and said:


「Ai Fa and Asuta, I’m really glad to have met you both today. I will place the fruit wine right here to commemorate our meeting today. If you don’t need it, then let it return to the earth… See you around.」


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