Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cooking with Wild Game Volume 3 Chapter 3

Preparation Work of the Half Baked Chef
Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Rockgollem

The next morning Ema Min visited the Fa house alone.


We were cleaning the cutlery, maintaining our blades and checking our food stock.


The timing of her visit reminded me of Rimee Wu’s visit last time.


「I can accept your proposal after confirming some details.」


We sat in the same position as last night, facing the guest together with the house head.


Ema Min asked calmly:


「Confirmed? What would you like to confirm?」


「There are too many matters that are too vague. I want to check the details, as well as the quality and quantity of the dishes. Cooking for a hundred guest is a huge undertaking.」


Ai Fa and I sat side by side and faced Ema Min. I told her the contents of what I thought last night.
「First, you just want me to serve the dishes I cooked the previous time. However, I don’t know how many people will be satisfied after tasting it, which leaves me worried. There are only five days before the banquet. There isn’t much time, but I want everything to be done as perfectly as possible.」


「Alright.」


「And so, since you are willing to buy my culinary skills, I hope you can buy not just that night, but these five days too.」


「That’s fine… What should we do specifically?」


「Specifically, I hope you can provide the ingredients and a place for me to research my cooking.  I need many stoves, prepared ingredients and firewood. Finally, people to taste test it for me… And of course, I can’t be the only one cooking on that day right?」


「Yes, going by past precedence, there will be more than ten women cooking that night.」


「That’s wonderful. In that case, I hope the women who will be tending to the hearth that day will help to taste the food. On top of that, I hope they can help me research the dishes without getting in their work, and learn the cooking techniques.」


「Alright, I can arrange for that, I think it’s necessary too.」


「Thank you. Next is the kiba meat, I need enough of them for these five days, and for the banquet. I can’t slaughter all the kiba by myself, so I hope the men from the Lutim house can assist me—— If you want to taste delicious meat in house Lutim in the future, then everyone has to learn this technique.」


「Yes, we want to ask you to do that too.」


「Well then, will you agree to my terms? Aside from the ingredients for these five days and the banquet, I also want adequate remunerations.」


「Of course. We are after your skills and knowledge, so we will naturally prepare the ingredients you need.」


She began each sentence by agreeing with me, showing this woman’s honest nature.


Ema Min then straightened her back, looked right at me and said:


「Asuta of House Fa, what is the price you are willing to accept in exchange for lending us your aid?」


「Yes. I—— hope to make this deal with you for the tusks and horns of twenty kiba beasts.」


The next moment, Ema Min’s cheerful face turned gloomy.


「Twenty kiba beasts… which is eighty kiba tusks and horns right? We can’t set a price on your ability… But the price is too cheap. Like we said yesterday, all of our kin will gift us a blessing each, and after gathering all that——」


「I can’t accept two hundred tusks and horns, I’m still a half baked chef.」


I scratched my head and added on:


「To be honest, I’m troubled too. I don’t think I can find anyone who knows what is a fair price for this job.」


「That’s true. There’s probably no one in Forest's Edge who will ask someone who isn’t their kin to tend to the hearth for their wedding.」


Ema Min smiled gently.


Not only was she a bright and cheerful girl, she also had a flexible tenacity about her. I felt this way about her once again.


「To be honest, I have something I wanted to buy at the post station town. I heard it cost 20 kiba tusks and horns, that’s why I decided on this price… But I feel that this is adequate payment, so I definitely won’t cut corners.」


I looked right into Ema Min’s eyes.


「I promise to do everything I can to prepare for this banquet for this remuneration. Are you willing to buy my culinary skills at this price?」


「We requested for your help because of this personality of yours.」


Ema Min smiled leisurely.


Her smile was filled with motherly love, making it hard to believe that she was the same age as me, Ai Fa and Leina Wu.


「Well then, we will use the tusks and horns of twenty kiba beasts to exchange for your capabilities——」


「Ah, hold on! I have one more thing to ascertain.」


I spoke while glancing at the side profile of Ai Fa sitting besides me.


She was sitting cross legged with one knee up, her expression filled with dignity.


「I’m the hearth caretaker of the Fa house, I don’t want to neglect my work in the Fa house either. That’s why… For the next five days, I wish to bring Ai Fa along with me to the house that will be hosting me for taste testing and dinner. I won’t ask house Lutim to prepare a bed for us, but can you reserve a seat for me and the head of my house?」


「I see, that’s part of our obligation too… Hmm…」


When Ema Min said that, she tilted her head slightly with her index finger on her cheek, and fell into deep thought.


Ah, so this kind of gap moe exist too—— Such a strange thought welled up in my mind, but my face was still serious.


「I think… that shouldn’t be a problem. After all, house Lutim is close with the Wu clan...」


「What? What has this got to do with the Wu clan?」


「The wedding will be held in the Wu clan’s village.」


Oh no.


「And the women of the Wu clan will be tending to the hearth that day.」


Oh no oh no oh no.


「Members from house Lutim and house Min had to prepare other things, so they couldn’t tend the hearth. You will be starting your research later today right? I’m planning to head to the Wu main house to discuss the details of borrowing the stove room and ask the women of the Wu clan for help.」


Oh shit.


「B-But, isn’t the Wu clan your 『Elder family』? Can you ask them to take care of such trivial matters?」


「We are doing this because they are our elder family. Taking care of the juniors is the job of the seniors.」


She was absolutely right.


But I would prefer working in a place without too much worries.


「Therefore, if your family wish to dine together at the Wu clan, you have to get permission from the Wu clan head Donda Wu. With how close the Wu clan and Fa house is, this will definitely be fine.」


No, there might be good relationships, but there were bad ones too.


Speaking of which, I said not too long ago to the Wu clan that 「home cooking should be left to one’s family」, so this development would be too ironic.


「Is that so? So you will spend this time cooking delicious meals? That’s a wonderful opportunity for the Wu clan. I’m so envious of the Wu clan women. Many of their kin will want to learn from the Wu clan in the future.」


I see, for the sake of Grandma Jiba and Rimee Wu, this might be a more adequate arrangement. Leina Wu learned fast, Grandma Ditto Min and Mama Mia Lei were just as skilled too. The three of them would definitely master the cooking techniques in five days.


Besides, I could use this chance to impart the bloodletting and slaughtering techniques to the Wu clan.


In a sense, wasn’t this the development I wanted the most?


But what should I do about Donda Wu, Jiza Wu and Darum Wu?


Dining for five nights with these dangerous people—— Just the thought of it filled me with worries.


In contrast, the shabu shabu last night was so relaxing!


… But this is also part of the job.


Considering the efficiency, since the women from the Wu clan will be tending to the hearth for the wedding, I should instruct them directly. It would be quite stupid to stop my research at dusk and return to the Fa house. I should keep private matters and business apart during times like this, and tackle the Wu clan’s dinner boldly.


Furthermore, aside from cooking the food for taste testing, the women also needed to prepare dinner—— Since I was considering about working in some other place, that meant I wanted to avoid the Wu clan.


Hmm speaking of which… I’m rethinking the menu in order to let more people enjoy my cooking. Hence, inflexible people like Donda Wu would be most suited for the role of taste tester. The same applies to Jiza Wu whose thinking is old fashioned, and Darum Wu who has a bad impression of me—— I have to do my best to make them acknowledge my cooking.


「Asuta… Are you alright?」


Ema Min leaned forward worriedly.


「I’m fine. We still needed permission from the Wu clan, but do you agree to the terms I mentioned—— and buy my culinary skills? The price is the tusks and horns of twenty kiba.」


「Yes. Asuta of Fa house, please give us your full support.」


Ema Min smiled gently——


It was a deal.

2


And so, I started my work.


The first is a lecture on bloodletting.


I need to explain the process of bloodletting to the men of the Wu clan and Lutim house.


The men will head into the woods at noon, and I have to take care of this task before studying for a new dish.
「You took on a difficult task, suffering a little in the beginning will make the latter part easier!」—— That seemed to be the arrangement made by god.


When my soul gets summoned back to heaven, I will beat that god up.


Even though Kaslan Lutim bequested this job to me, I had to explain to his family and be wary of the men from the Wu clan who opposed this work.


This job was really bad on the stomach.
「Yo Asuta, everyone’s here.」


Out of this entire group, Ludo Wu was the only oasis for my spirit. He told me this fact causally.


Standing before me—— were twenty odd ferocious hunters of Forest's Edge, including seventeen men from the Wu clan I saw a few days earlier.


They stood at the plaza in the Wu village, and emitted an air of feral beasts. Their age varied widely, but all of them were hunters with well built bodies.


They were about to head into the forest, so all of them had a sharp killing intent about them.


「… First, let me greet everyone here.」


Kaslan Lutim walked to my side.


「I’m the eldest son of the Lutim main house, Kaslan Lutim. Everyone probably knows that I’m requesting for everyone’s help to prepare for the wedding between Kaslan Lutim and Ema Min five days later. Thank you, head of the Wu clan, Donda Wu and my fellow kinsmen for heeding my request. I wish to thank you all once again.」


Donda Wu, standing to the right of the group, remained with his arms crossed and without any reaction.


He actually agreed to this proposition.


Maybe his high position meant he couldn’t turn down the request of his junior?


「I have requested Asuta from house Fa to care take the hearth during the wedding. As Asuta had no previous dealings with house Lutim, so I will buy his capabilities with copper plates for one night. And why did I do something that goes against the custom of Forest's Edge? I can’t explain this very well, so I won’t say too much. However, know that I made this decision as the eldest son of house Lutim.」


The men weren’t stirred by this.


Did they hold any grudge? Or any other emotions—— They were like beasts waiting to be unleashed, their eyes glimmering quietly.


Donda Wu’s brothers and their sons were here.


And the brothers of Donda Wu’s parents—— his uncle and their family were here too.


The thought of this filled me with fear. But looking at this from another perspective, everyone here were tied to Grandma Jiba by blood, and a relative of Rimee Wu.


「As for the preparation work for the banquet—— Asuta will be using the techniques he learned in his hometown to process the kiba meat used for the banquet in a special way. We need to perform this task before the kiba is completely dead. Asuta will now explain the details.」


It was finally my turn.


I nodded and walk to the front.


「I’m Asuta from house Fa, thank you everyone for your help—— I will get right into it. I would like everyone to help with 『Bloodletting』. That is to catch a kiba and before dealing the fatal blow, drain all of its blood. The place to cut is between the chest and head, closer to the chest side. Above the kiba’s heart is an artery, we have to cut it with a knife. Once the artery is cut, a lot of blood will spray out, so you can tell if you did it successfully. Please take care not to hurt the kiba’s heart or air pipe, that will kill it.」


Silence.


No reaction.


「Well… The important thing is to 『not let it die』. Even if you break its skull or deal a mortal wound, it can still survive for some time. If its artery near its heart is cut while its heart is still beating, 『bloodletting』 can be done swiftly.」


「I have a question.」


Ludo Wu raised his hand.


I felt my soul being healed and answered:


「What’s your question?」


「So I can’t cut the kiba’s neck? I always kill them this way, and it will make them bleed a lot.」


「If you do that, it might die before it completely bleeds out. If you are lucky and cut its artery without hurting its respiratory system, then it will be fine. If not, there might be blood residue in the veins of the meat.」


「… What are you saying, I don’t understand! So I can’t cut their throats? Hmmp~ the throat is no good, the heart is no good either. It’s difficult to capture a kiba when we encounter one.」


「That’s right, so don’t push yourself. Just capturing a few kiba will be enough to feed all the banquet guest. And it is foolish to risk one’s life just for the processed meat.」


「Asuta, only you will risk your life for something like that… By the way, why are you using such a respectful tone when you talk to me? It’s uncomfortable, don’t make me kick you.」


「Please don’t kick me… The next steps will be done after carrying the kiba home and skinning it. I will explain further during that time. That’s all I have to say for now.」


Aside from Ludo Wu, the other men didn’t say a word. More than half of them turned and left quietly.


They didn’t bid farewell, or shout together like they did five days ago. With Donda Wu and Jiza Wu leading them, the seventeen Wu clan men left the plaza quietly.


「I will make a move first. Asuta, I will be looking forward to a delicious meal on my return.」


Finally, Ludo Wu turned his head back towards me, a feral-like fire was burning in his eyes too.


This youth was petite and had an adorable appearance, but he could put on a hunter’s face instantly. I felt a chill every time I saw this, and also felt attracted to it for some reasons at the same time.


「Thank you, your explanation is easy to understand.」


Kaslan Lutim said with a smile.


Only five men remained, all of them were men from house Lutim. As the Lutim village was some distance away, they formed an elite task group to learn the steps to process meat from me directly.


「It is not my place to worry about this, but don’t the Wu clan members oppose this? Will this deteriorate the relationship between the Lutim house and the Wu clan?」


「Deteriorate? I don’t understand what you are saying. I asked the Wu clan for a favour as a member of the Lutim house, and since the clan head Donda Wu agreed to this, the men will obey his orders, there won’t be any problems.」


「I see. But there is no way for us to know how each individual feels right?」


「The feelings of individuals are not related to the will of the clan. The members will follow the decision of the clan head, and do their jobs. Hence, the Wu clan members will do their best. The Wu clan is powerful, so I’m not worried at all.」


「That’s true…」


「That aside, Asuta, I have something to discuss with you.」


Kaslan Lutim’s face was honest, and an even more sincere expression appeared on his face now.


「I asked Ludo Wu about the relationship between the Fa house and Wu clan. In order to save Jiba Wu who was losing her appetite, the Wu clan asked you to make a trip to their home. And you successfully saved Jiba Wu’s soul… Is that true?」


「Yes, she was pleased with my cooking.」


「I see. Jiba Wu was more energetic than I heard during the pre-wedding celebration! Asuta, thank you very much. I am grateful for what you have done.」


「Huh? Why?」


「Don’t you know? Jiba Wu’s daughter married into the Lutim house, so house Lutim and the Wu clan became relatives. Out of the six kin house, we have the longest relationship with the Wu clan.」


I see.


Which means—— As the heir to the Lutim main house, Kaslan Lutim was Grandma Jiba’s great grandson


「Yes. Jiba Wu’s daughter’s son is my father Dan Lutim. Jiba Wu’s blood flows as thickly in my veins as Jiza Wu and Ludo Wu.」


「I see…」


I should separate my personal matters from my professional conduct.


However —— Grandma Jiba’s blood flowed in the youth before me, so wishing him well for his wedding shouldn’t be going too far.


「Asuta, you once said that we don’t owe each other anything, but it seems that I’m in your debt. I’m very happy to have met you this way.」


Kaslan Lutim said as he reached for the inner pockets of his cape.


He took out a string of tusks and horns more plentiful than yesterday, held it to my nose and said:


「Asuta, please take this. It’s half the promised remuneration, the tusks and horns of ten kiba. I will give you the remaining half after the banquet.」


「It’s fine, you can give them to me after the job is done. Maybe I will—— well, die in a freak fire while cooking and not complete my work.」


I don’t know when I will return to my original world—— I couldn’t tell him that, so I made a joke instead. But Kaslan Lutim’s face remained serious.


「In that case, it’s the same for me too, I don’t know when I might succumb to the forest. And so, I’m giving the remuneration to you know as a sign of my trust in you. Please accept this.」


I regretted joking about it so lightly.


I couldn’t tell him the truth because of my personal issues. But I shouldn’t trample over this serious youth’s sincere attitude just to cover up that truth.


「I understand, I will accept this—— and work hard to repay your trust.」


Kaslan Lutim smiled gently and passed me the necklace.


There might be 40 tusks and horns from ten kiba, it didn’t weigh that much—— However, I could feel a weight surpassing it when I accepted that necklace.

3


When the sun was at its peak, I saw off the men heading into the forest, bid farewell to Kaslan Lutim, and finally started researching my cooking.


I went around to the back of the Wu house and headed for the stove room. Two women were already waiting for me there.


They were the wife of the eldest son Jiza Wu, and the third daughter Lala Wu.


「Asuta, we were waiting for you. The two of us will assist you today.」


The young wife Sati Lei Wu had short brown hair and black eyes. She was slender and had a pure face. She smiled at me maturely.


「Uwah, where did you get so many tusks and horns…? Who did you steal them from?」


Lala Wu, who was twelve, tied her ponytail at the top of her head. She was sarcastic towards me as usual.


「This is the downpayment for my job this time. Erm, where should I put this?」


「If you don’t mind, I will help you keep it in the house. It will be terrible if it falls into the stove.」


Sati Lei Wu took the necklace from my hands and walked out of the stove room.


She was thoughtful, but if she did that, I would have to be alone with this unfriendly girl.


As I expected, Lala Wu started speaking sarcastically:


「Hmmp! I thought the heir of house Lutim would be more dependable than the house head, but he asked you to care take the hearth for this important wedding. Is he mad!? House Lutim will become the laughing stock of Forest's Edge now. It’s troubling for the Wu clan who is their elder house too!」


「I see, then I have to do my best so they will laugh softer.」


I knew it was useless to be angry to the nasty words of a girl five years younger than me, so I could only joke about it.


Furthermore, I felt a little guilt towards the four Wu sisters, so I couldn’t do anything even if she hated me… It looked like I have to bear this cross for the rest of my life.


「No matter what, I will be in your care today… Don’t you need to take care of other jobs? I’m the one who asked for your help, but I didn’t expect the Wu clan to send two helpers right away.」


「I don’t have a choice! Mama Mia Lei decided this. I don’t want to see your face at all!」


Lala Wu suddenly showed a sinister face, frowned and took large strides my way.


「… Your tusks and horns.」


「Hmm?」


「Turned from eight to nine. Did Kaslan Lutim and Ema Min gift you with their blessings?」


「Well… I don’t know if I can say it… Erm, never mind that.」


「What! If you don’t tell me, I will tell Papa Donda what happened that morning!」


「T-That will be troubling for me… Your Papa Donda gifted this to me.」


Lala Wu boyish face burned with intense anger.


「That’s impossible! Do you know how much Papa Donda hates you? He will never gift you any blessings! If you lie about this, I will really make that day’s incident public!」


「I-I’m telling the truth. He didn’t ask me to keep it a secret either, so I will just say it honestly. After that pre-wedding banquet, Donda Wu gifted me this blessing.」


When she heard me say that, Lala Wu was still furious. But a short while later, her anger turned into surprise.


「… You are telling the truth? If you lie to me, I will confirm this with Papa Donda you know? If you lied, I will tell him what happened that day!」


「Ahh, then I can only pray that Donda Wu will tell the truth. I can only hope he isn’t someone who will lie for the the sake of his pride.」


「Could you be… telling the truth?」


「Yes.」


After I nodded, Lala Wu exploded again:


「I can’t even! This is unbelievable! I intentionally didn’t gift you any blessings because I was worried about Papa Donda’s feelings! Why did he bless you! That makes me look so stupid! Damn it! What is he doing!」


「Erm, please calm down… Papa must have done it through tough and thorough thought.」


「Don’t you call him Papa too! That’s disgusting!」


「Sorry… But gifting a blessing is decided by the individual. Even if Donda Wu gift me a blessing, you don’t need to mimick him too.」


「What do you mean!? You don’t want my blessing?」


My words infuriated this girl.


I was probably fated not to get along with her. After sighing, the girl suddenly shoved her hand towards my nose——


On her palm was a tusk or a horn.


「… The dinner you cooked last night was delicious. And you also saved Grandma Jiba’s life. So Lala Wu wish to bless Asuta from the Fa house.」


She looked really angry when she gifted me her blessing.


But I still took her white blessing with gratitude and said:


「Thank you, I’m really glad.」


「Hmmp!」


Lala Wu hmmped loudly and turned her face away.


She must really hate me. For someone like that to acknowledge my existence, felt just as exhilarating as someone who likes me gifting me their blessing —— I could feel this fact.


And so, I received ten blessings from the Wu clan.


Aside from the toddler Kota, only Jiza Wu and Darum Wu didn’t gift me.


I probably will not receive blessings from them for my entire life… As I fell into deep thought, Sati Lei Wu returned to the stove room.


「Sorry for the wait… Ara, you haven’t started yet?」


「Yes, we are going to start now. Can I take a look at the vegetables in your food store?」


「I understand… By the way, where did Ai Fa go? You two came over together right?」


「Yes. I still don’t remember the exact position of the Wu clan, so I asked Ai Fa to bring me here. She should be chasing kiba in the woods right now.」


「I can’t neglect hunting kiba during these five days.」


Ai Fa went home after saying that. There was still lots of kiba meat at home, and plenty of tusks and horns too. But even so, hunters still needed to do their best to hunt kiba.


If the hunters of Forest's Edge don’t do their job properly, the excess number of kiba will spill out of the forest and attack the farmland of the western kingdom. The duty of the denizens of Forest's Edge is to stop them—— That seemed to be the consensus of everyone in Forest's Edge, but the chief clan seemed to have forgotten that goal.


Kamyua Yost… I have to meet that man who likes pretending to be stupid, and listen to what he has to say


I plan to spend these five days in the Wu clan village up until the wedding day and research my cooking. Aside from hunting, Ai Fa also need to handle the Fa house chores such as managing the food store and collecting pico leaves. Hence, we will spend the night in an empty house at the Wu clan after dinner, and will then work separately from morning until evening.


Even Diga Tsun who got thrown into the river by Ai Fa didn’t come to seek vengeance against Ai Fa, which shows that the Tsun clan couldn’t act too nastily. But whenever I recall Doddo Tsun’s stray dog-like eyes—— I would still feel worried.


But even when I stayed in the Fa house, Ai Fa still needed to head into the forest to hunt, so we still ended up acting separately. So this wasn’t too different from our norm.


But I still didn’t think we should maintain this status quo.


「——Asuta, what’s wrong?」


I quickly snapped back to reality when I heard Sati Lei Wu called out to me.


「Nothing, let’s head for the food store.」


No matter what, I’m still working at the moment.


The remuneration I get from this job will naturally become the commonwealth of the Fa house. For Ai Fa’s sake, I have to make this work.


I entered the food store with the two ladies.


I couldn’t find any vegetables I knew displayed on the shelf.


I visited the post station town yesterday, so I was starting to become familiar with these vegetables.


Well then—— which vegetables will get along with us?


「I want to share my idea with you two.」


After inspecting each vegetable, I said to the women standing behind me:


「I want to subdue the poitan.」


「You’re saying… poitan?」


「Yes. I want to find a way to make poitan stew delicious. I think I need to start my research from here.」


「But why? Grilled poitan is tasty. I can eat several grilled poitan by itself without any other vegetables or meat.」


Ara, it seems that Sati Lei Wu was rather infatuated with grilled poitan.


I understand how she felt, but I still think this research was important.


「There would be many eldery people attending this banquet. If we served food that looked too strange, I’m afraid the guest will not be willing to accept them. I will still include grilled poitan in the menu, but I want to cook it in a way that both the young and the old can enjoy.」


「I see…」


Sati Lei Wu gave a short reply.


Her voice didn’t sound too surprised, so I will proceed with this plan.


「I think the end goal is to find ingredients to complement the poitan. Do you two have any recommendations? Or any ingredients you hate?」


「Pula.」


Came a crude voice.


And of course, it was Lala Wu.


「Hmm… Now that you mentioned it, I remember that you and Ludo Wu don’t like pula. Do you hate bitter food?」


「Shut up! I already answered you, why must I get nagged by you!?」


「Sorry sorry. Please tell me the food you hate.」


「… I don’t like Lilo, Tarapa and Zozo.」


「Okay. Lilo is a herb used in smoking meat, what is tarapa and zozo?」


「Tarapa is that giant red fruit, zozo is the brown lump beneath the tarapa.」


I looked in the direction Sati Lei Wu was pointing in, and saw that tarapa was a vegetable the size of a pumpkin with a rough surface. Zozo was like a coiled up snake, and seemed to be a fruit like a beehive.


I could remember them easily because of their prominent appearance.


「I see. Sati Lei Wu, what are your views on the tarapa and zozo?」


「Well… tarapa is rather sour, while the zozo has a strong aroma. I’m fine with these ingredients—— I think putting the tarapa into a soup without poitan will be tastier.」


「I see.」


「Tarapa is very sour, if you add it into soup without any poitan, it is smooth and easy to swallow. As for zozo—— It doesn’t matter if there is any poitan, if the meat has no stench, it will overwhelm the other ingredients and make the food nasty to eat.」


「Amazing! Your comments are very specific!」


「Because you showed me what is a 『delicious meal』. Before this, I didn’t even care what the difference between the taste of tarapa and zozo was.」


Sati Lei Wu smiled gently.


Lala Wu besides her had a raving mad face as she shouted:


「I can’t even! You don’t need me at all! You can just work happily with Sati Lei then!」


「Lala, even if you can’t describe your thoughts clearly, you don’t need to be anxious.」


Sati Lei Wu placed her hand gently on the little girl’s shoulder.


「You might be very sensible and observant, but you can’t express yourself easily. I might be able to say what is on my mind clearly, but my emotions doesn’t change as much. If we work together, we will definitely help Asuta more than we can alone.」


Out of all the Wu clan members, my relations with Sati Lei Wu was the faintest—— but I could tell she was a kind and mature girl from what she just said.


As expected of Jiza Wu’s spouse! I felt a chill when I thought this far. What kind of person would Jiza Wu and Sati Lei Wu’s child be nurtured into?


「Hmm? By the way, is Kota Wu a boy or a girl?」


They looked surprised that I asked that.


「It’s obvious from the name right? Kota is a boy.」


I see, he do have the air of a boy.


「Yes, he might be small, but he is a boy. We were childless for some time, so I’m glad that my firstborn is a son.」


Sati Lei Wu replied with pride and joy on her face.


And one day, Kota Wu will become the clan head, following the footsteps of Donda Wu and Jiza Wu.


How should I put this —— even after realizing this, my heart was filled with lament.


「… Ah, zozo has a really strong aroma. Instead of being an ingredient, it’s closer to being a spice. If it’s added into the soup, it will definitely wipe away the taste of the other ingredients.」


I pulled myself back into reality.


「Yes. If we can eat kiba without any stench in the future, it won’t be needed anymore. Lilo and zozo are mainly used to remove the stench.」


「I see, I will strike these two ingredients off the list for now. What about tarapa? There’s an ingredient called tomato in my home country that has the same colour, and it has a variety of ways to cook it.」


「Is that so. Tarapa smells nice, but I hate its sourness. I think it will taste better when added into a soup without any poitan.」


「Ah, that’s true…」


A soup with poitan in it was like flour water. I imagined adding tomatoes into the flour water to neutralize the taste, and felt the strength sap away from me.


There might be a myriad of ways to cook with it, but it couldn’t be of use this time.


「Then I will scratch off the tarapa. On the flip side, do you have any vegetables to recommend?」


「Hmm~」


They both moaned after hearing that.


「If it’s a soup without poitan, I can think of a few good ingredients. But if it is a stew with poitan…」


「That’s right. If we think it’s good, we would have added it into the soup in the past. In the end, no matter what you add in——」


Lala Wu turned silent at this point.


「What’s the matter?」


Sati Lei Wu asked gently.


「Nothing… It won’t change the soup’s taste… but I do have a vegetable I like.」


「Ara, what is it?」


「No, pretend I never said that! I don’t even know why I like it! The soup’s taste won’t change even after adding it!」


「I’m curious what vegetable you are talking about. Can you tell me what it is?」


Maybe I sound too anxious, Lala Wu’s face looked a little uneasy, unlike her usual rowdy self.


Her slender finger pointed to the innermost part of the food store timidly.


Huh, that? I was speechless.


This ingredient was placed quietly in a corner of the dim food store, waiting for its moment to shine—— It had an impressionable appearance, and could rival that of zozo and tarapa, burning a strong presence in my heart. It was the giant two metre tall burdock, called 「Gigo」.

4


A few hours later. When the sun was starting to move past its midpoint—— I could feel an out of place chaotic air closing in to the stove room fast.


When I was still troubled about that, a short figure charged in through the door that was open to facilitate air flow.


「Yo! Hearth caretaker, how’s it going?」


「Uwah, that scared me…! L-Ludo Wu, what happened to you?」


Before me was Ludo Wu who went into the woods earlier.


However, the men out for a hunt would usually return around evening, and right now, Ludo Wu was—— covered in fresh blood.


His blonde hair, kiba cape, round face and limbs were covered in blood.


The youth smiled, his fiery eyes of a hunter were still burning.


「This is the blood from a kiba and someone else, there’s no way I will get injured! Hearth caretaker, don’t worry about that.」


「Someone else… Who?」


「It’s the branch family’s Ryada Wu… He’s done for, the kiba’s horn stabbed right into his leg. Even if he lives, he can’t enter the forest anymore.」


My face probably turned very pale.


When he saw my face, Ludo Wu showed his feral smile again.


「Didn’t I tell you not to worry? This has nothing to do with the work you requested us to do! The kiba usually won’t herd together, but we were attacked by three of them at the same time today. Ryada Wu bore the brunt of their attack. My bow also broke and I almost died. I had no choice but to slit its throat. The kiba died immediately, so we couldn’t bloodlet it.」


「I see...」 That was all I could say.


On a closer look, Sati Lei Wu and Lala Wu who were waiting for the water to boil looked at their family member with a peaceful face.


They were glad that Ludo Wu returned safely, but were also mourning the misfortune that befell their kin— Their quiet aura made me realized that the denizens of Forest's Edge made a different kind of resolve from myself, and I could feel how strong they were.


Ludo Wu wiped away the blood on his cheek, and clicked his tongue disinterestedly.


「Hmmp! We gained many tusks and horns thanks to them. In order to bring the kiba and Ryada Wu back, five men had to return early… It might be the peak season for kiba, but there’s too many of them! Asuta, the Fa house is further to the north right? How is the forest there?」


He finally called me Asuta, and not hearth caretaker.


He was probably in an excited state earlier? The hunter with feral eyes had slowly turned back into an arrogant youth.
「W-Well, I don’t know about the forest. But I could feel that more kiba had been caught. Erm… In this ten or so days, we hunted four kiba.」


「Huh?」


「Hmm?」


「The Fa house don’t have other family members or kin right? Asuta, are you joking? How could you hunt four kiba in ten days?」


「Huh~? Did I remember it wrong? We came back from the Wu clan and erected a stove the next day—— So it should be about twelve to thirteen days, and we hunted four kiba.」


「That’s the same!」


He finally retorted fiercely.


After erecting the stove, Ai Fa hunted her third kiba, and caught another one a few days later, I definitely didn’t miscount it.


「Asuta, is it true? One person can’t surround and hunt kiba, and can only wait for kiba to fall into traps, or run into kiba in excited states like today. Or else, there is no way she could hunt four kiba in ten days.」


「No, not ten days, but twelve or thirteen…」


「I told you it’s the same…! Did she use the 『sacrificial hunting style』?」


When I hear this youth spoke so seriously for the first time, and I feel that my heart was beating irregularly.


「L-Ludo Wu, what is the 『sacrificial hunting style』? Is it a taboo in Forest's Edge?」


「No, it’s an ancient way of hunting that nobody uses anymore. If you are curious, you can ask your house head directly.」


I got it, I would do that.


At this moment, Sati Lei Wu said with a calm voice:「Ludo Wu.」


Ludo Wu turned and looked outside with one eyebrow raised.


「Huh, you are already back? How is Ryada Wu?」


Before I realized it, a few men was standing outside the entrance that Ludo Wu was blocking.


The youngest one with the smallest stature walked to Ludo Wu.


「My father Ryada will live. But the tendons in his leg has broke, so he can’t enter the forest anymore.」


「Right. Then you will be the house head tomorrow right? Shin Wu.」


「Yes, I will inherit my father’s house.」


The man who spoke looked about Ludo Wu’s age—— which means he looked younger than me.


He had a long head of dark brown hair, and deep brown eyes. His face seemed more mature than Ludo Wu, but their body was almost the same.


Ludo Wu turned and looked at that youth’s smiling face, then said:


「You are taking it so easily. You will have to support five people by yourself… Hey, aren’t you in a pinch?」


「It will be fine. My younger brother will be old enough in two years… Before that, I hope you can lend me a hand.」


「It doesn’t matter if it is before or after, aren’t we blood kins?」


Ludo Wu pretended to be mad and bump into the youth’s shoulder.


The next moment, a clumsy smile appeared on Shin Wu’s face, and he said:


「Ludo Wu. Thanks to you, my father Ryada managed to survive. I am proud to be your blood kin.」


「Don’t put it that way! You are so annoying!」


「… Leaving that aside, Asuta of house Fa.」


「Huh? What?」


「We brought one kiba with us. Out of the three kiba we hunted, only one got 『bloodlet』 successfully. We are to follow your instructions next, that’s Donda Wu’s orders.」


After saying that, Ludo Wu jumped up.


「Wait! I can’t work like this! I will clean myself up at the water source, so wait for me!」


Ludo Wu pushed Shin Wu away coldly, then turn to me and said:


「Listen up! Don’t start without me! I will punch you all if you do that!」


The bloodied youth then sprinted away.


The youth and men left behind by him stood outside the building and stared at me.


「Ehh, can you make the preparation for the skinning? I will be right there after completing my work here.」


「—— Understood.」


「Then, I will bring you all there.」


Sati Lei Wu walked out of the stove room.


Only Lala Wu and me were left, and Lala Wu who had been quiet said with a sigh:


「Really now, even Ryada Wu got attacked by a kiba. Only women and children are left in Ryada’s house, Shin Wu will have a hard time.」


「… How are they related to your family?」


「Hmm~? Ryada is Papa Donda’s youngest brother. Aside from Shin, there’s just his mother, sister and two younger brothers. Shin is the only man who can hunt kiba right now.」


Her expression was serious, but her tone was forthright.


She was sincerely worried about the future of that youth Shin Wu.


「Their sister should get a husband to marry into their house soon, or else their family will need to be taken in by another house. He won’t be able to watch over five family members after becoming the house head at sixteen.」


As an outsider, this wasn’t a problem I could interfere with.


However, since Ludo Wu had kins like Lala Wu, that meant this youth wouldn’t be crushed by the cruelty of fate—— I sincerely hope so.


「Well then, I’m going over first. This might take a while, so you can use this chance to grill some poitan for dinner?」


「… What do we do with these things?」


The results of my two hours of research was placed on the work platform made from logs, with faint steam rising from them.


With the gigo suggested by Lala Wu as the main ingredient, we tried pairing it with all sorts of vegetables, and cooked many pots of soup that uses poitan as the soup base.


To be honest… More than half of them was bordering on being strange food.


「Well, you can evaporate the really bad soup and make them into grilled poitan. We can’t throw these food away.」


Grilling the poitan that had been cooked wouldn’t make it more tasty, but I think it would be easier to eat it in a solid state.


「You are amazing, it’s the first time I see someone turn food into garbage.」


「I admit my cooking skills is still immature, but please don’t treat half complete works as trash! I will eat them properly!」


When I feel that the ingredient combinations was risky, I would just cook one or two person’s portion. But I never thought it would be such a hard sell.


There were so many prototypes left behind because Lala Wu refused to eat after seeing my painful expression when I ate them. I hope to share this sin with everyone together, so I should make rock-paper-scissors popular in Forest's Edge.


「Thanks to you, I have found the gist of the way forward, just a little more before I finish this. Can I count on you for the rest of the day too?」


「Hmmp!」


I left Lala Wu who had turned her head away behind, and walked to the kiba butchering room. The food store was next to the stove room, and the butchering was right next to the food store


I just stepped into room when Sati Lei Wu stepped out. After greeting her, I entered the room.


「Uwah… It’s a big one.」


A kiba about 90kg hung from a beam from the ceiling.


Its length was about the average height of a woman. Its horns and tusks protruding into the sky had a beautiful curve, it was a male kiba. They had washed the fur, as the dark brown hide was wet.


I had only saw the butchering from the outside before. It was a room without any decorations, with blades of various sizes hanging on the wall and a thick rope made from vines. There was just a stove that could heat a small pot, and no other furniture in sight.


Four men stood inside the room and looked at me silently.


They were Shin Wu, a man who was rather old and two men in their primes.


Aside from Shin Wu, everyone else had a burly body. They waited quietly for me to speak.


「Thank you for your hard work… Well then, let’s start off by skinning it. Ludo Wu should be back soon. When he returns, we will start dismembering the kiba.」


One of the man nodded and pulled out a thick knife.


「Wait… Can you let me take care of the skinning?」


Shin Wu said:


「My father Ryada Wu couldn’t move for the time being, so I have to skin the beasts by myself during this time. I know the steps to do so, but I want to use this chance to understand how tough this job is.」


The man who drew his blade turned towards the older man.


After seeing the older man nod, the man sheathed his knife.


「You have my thanks.」


Shin Wu said and drew his knife.


「Asuta of Fa house, can we skin it in our usual way?」


「Well, can you please leave as much fat on the meat as possible? Just to the extent of not damaging the hide..」


「—— Got it.」


The right hind leg of the kiba was tied with a rope, which hung the kiba up.


Shin Wu used his knife nimbly and cut from the inner right thigh all the way to the throat.


His blade glide across the limbs of the kiba. When the knife reached the trotters, he drew a circle around its ankles.


The steps he used to skin the beast was not much different from mine.


In order to dissolve the fats on the knife, they prepared hot water beforehand. Even for a culture from a different world, people still reached the same conclusion in order to achieve the goal of 「skinning」.


If not for the incredible numbers of the kiba, and if people were only hunting them to eat their meat—— they would definitely think about ways to「cook the meat deliciously」.


When the denizens of Forest's Edge were living in their old home in the southern jungle, they only ate lizards or bugs. After coming to the Morga forest, they had to hunt kiba to obtain tusks and horns, and to safeguard the farmlands. And now, I plan to improve their technology in terms of meat processing.


The values of someone from another world like me allowed the denizens of Forest's Edge to make this improvement, and realize the concept of 「eating delicious food will make one happier」—— the thought of this send a chill down my spine.


No one acknowledge my ways of doing this, no one admires my policies and no one agreed to my intent. I was just a lowly apprentice chef, while Forest's Edge have roughly 500 denizens. Will god really permit me to influence their food culture?


… If god doesn’t allow it, then send me back to the scene of the fire.


If I had permission, then I will continue live in my own way.


If I suppress my personality, drink nasty poitan soup everyday and keep foraging for herbs and firewood—— That’s not the life I want to live. I would rather die in a fire.


Ai Fa once complimented my cooking, saying it was 「delicious」. She claim she 「likes」 my cooking and ask me 「not to disappear」, she permit me to live in this world. I want to stay true to myself and live on with her.


While I was thinking that, Shin Wu already started to skin the kiba’s hide, exposing its white inside.


He might be young, but he was still a denizen of Forest's Edge, his arm strength was on a completely different level from me, and he worked really fast.


Before I realized it, Ludo Wu was already standing beside me with his arms crossed as he looked at his kin.


Shin Wu had pulled off the hide from the limbs.


Next would be the real test.


This was a 90kg kiba after all. If it was me, I would probably need to spend 2 or 3 hours to handle this. Even with the arm strength of a hunter of Forest's Edge, this was no easy task.


Even so, no one complained or left the room. In front of this youth who will be a house head starting tomorrow, everyone just watched quietly as he skinned the kiba hide tediously.

5


「Alright then, everyone will usually cut off the legs and throw everything else away correct?」


I stood before the kiba that had been stripped bare, and started explaining the butchering process.


「However, I want to use the meat from the torso in my cooking, so I will start to dismember the entire kiba. Right now, the most important part is taking out the organs.」


Ludo Wu, Shin Wu and the other three men listened to me with eyes so serious that it was bothering on being scary.


I didn’t feel any disgust or hostility from them. I don’t know the details, but I know these people wouldn’t show too much emotions when they were working.


Since the clan head ordered them to work with me, the Wu clan members would remain professional even if they bore any ill will towards me. They were so meticulous that I had to think it that way.


「The kiba’s organs are almost the same as that of a human. Heart, lung, liver, pancreas, kidney, stomach, large and small intestines and others—— Out of all these organs, I would like you to pay more attention to the large intestines, bladder and the gallbladder attached to the liver. If these parts got damaged, the bile and filth would leak and stink up the meat, and waste all the effort of blood letting.」


「…Asuta, I have only heard of the heart and stomach out of all this.」


「Yes, so you just need to commit them to memory after seeing the actual organs. Alright then, I will cut open its abdomen.」


「Wait, let me do it.」


Ludo Wu took a butcher knife hanging on the wall.


「You’re right. Then, cut from the abdomen to the chest… Ah, don’t cut from the bottom, but from the middle of the abdomen. The large intestines is in the lower abdomen, be careful not to damage it and just slice open the meat part.」


「Got it.」


Ludo Wu slowly push the knife tip into the kiba’s abdomen.


「Then slowly cut to the chest, be careful when cutting the lower abdomen.」


Beads of sweat appeared on Ludo Wu’s forehead.


Even though we opened the windows and doors, the room was very warm as there was a fire in the stove.


The room was filled with the stench of blood and fats, making it hard to breath.


Ludo Wu steadied the kiba’s body encased in white fats with one hand, and carefully moved his blade.


「Yes, that’s great. Then cut the diaphragm between the meat and the organs, yes, that membrane. You can eviscerate it after cutting the diaphragm.」


Ludo Wu nodded, then reached into the open cavity with his arm and knife.


He didn’t seem to be bothered about reaching into the insides of an animal.


This youth was surprisingly capable.


He wasn’t doing this for the sake of tasting delicious meat, but because of the deep respect he had for his work.


「I cut it. What’s next?」


「Alright, take out the organs, start from the bottom abdomen. The large intestines there don’t break easily, so just grab it out with your hands. Further in is the organ called bladder, be careful not to touch it.」


「Alright.」


He pulled the entire lump of intestines out.


The intestines got caught by the stomach mid way, so I cut it with my knife.


Ludo Wu carefully placed the intestines on a piece of fur laid out on the floor.


He then took out the heart, lungs, liver, testicles and bladder.


「Phew, the bladder breaks easily so be careful. If you have a small bag at home, you can cover the bladder with it before cutting it.」


The men nodded silently.
「Well then, we will start dismembering it. Since you have hung it up, let’s cut it in half… Ah, no, scratch that. We need to cut off the head first.


Shin Wu skinning technique was better than mine, he skinned the body below the head rather cleanly.
So it was better to cut off the head then cut the body in half.


「Cut the neck with a knife, then saw the bones. There should be a woodcutting saw around here right? Sterilize it with boiling water first.」


I didn’t know what germs or diseases existed in this world, but the denizens of Forest's Edge were very wary of raw and rotten meat. In such an environment, I had to pay attention to hygiene.


After sawing off the head, we cut the spine in half.


This was handled by the denizens of Forest's Edge who were stronger than I was, their movements were fast and precise.


Next, we cut off the limbs, cut across its waist. After dismembering the hip bones and other parts, the dismemberment were done.
「Next would be the head, cut off the meat at the neck and cheek—— Hmm, let’s challenge kiba tongue another day.」


「What’s kiba tongue?」


「The beast’s tongue. In my home country, many people loves to eat this part. I think the organs can be made into a delicious dish too, but I don’t know how to do so, or how long the pico leaves can keep it fresh. I have to leave such matters to another time.」


「Is that so? You even eat the organs huh. In that case, everything except the bones and hide can be eaten.」


「Not just that. After burning off the fur, the hide can be eaten too, and the bones can be used to brew soup. Now that you mentioned it, aside from the tusks and horns, all parts of it can be cooked.」


「It will be terrible if you guys eat the tusks and horns too.」


The entire room was filled with the suffocating stench of blood, flesh and organs, but Ludo Wu still laughed out cheerfully.


His smile is really brilliant. As I was thinking that, I continued 「Then—」 I used this term plenty of times today.


「That’s all for the dismemberment. As for the bloodletting, we will only know if it was done completely after we eat it, but the butchering is done splendidly. Just hunting another two or three kiba would be enough meat for all the wedding participants. But in order to serve one spare ribs to everyone, we will need to hunt even more kiba, so I will be counting on your aid from now on too.」


The men nodded quietly.


「Okay, let’s put the butchered meat into the pico leaves. Shin Wu, please cut off the tusks and horns.」


「Got it.」


「…Asuta, will the meat really become tasty like this?」


「Yes, if the blood letting is done properly.」


I nodded. We piled the mountain of meat onto a board, and carried it into the food storage.


「Let’s try it tonight, I’m looking forward to it.」


「…I bloodletted this one.」 Ludo Wu smiled bashfully.


「If the meat become delicious, doesn’t that mean I’m really awesome?」


「That’s right… Speaking of which, you two are really siblings.」


「Huh?」


「Your smile just now was just like Rimee Wu.」


The next instant, Ludo Wu’s face turned beet red.


「What are you saying!? I’m not like that brat at all! Don’t joke like that! Stu~pid!」


He was just like Lala Wu when he gets agitated.


Lala Wu who was very similar to him poked her head out from the stove room next door and asked:


「What’s with all that ruckus? Asuta, the poitan for dinner is done.」


「Oh, really? I will come over right after settling this…」


Before I even finished, another group appeared.


Jiza Wu and Darum Wu were carrying a kiba that weighed about a hundred kilograms.


「Asuta, we hunted three more kiba, but only this one was bloodletted successfully. What should we do next?」


「Huh, oh, please skin it first, I will be right there.」


「Got it.」


「Wait! Asuta, what should we do over here? We got lots of your trash like poitan soup over here!」


「Don’t call them trash! I will be there after finishing…」


「Asuta.」


Even Kaslan Lutim appeared too.


His strong arms were carrying a 50kg young kiba.


「I brought the kiba we hunted over, the bloodletting should be done correctly.」


I was speechless.


「I understand! We will deal with the two of them at the same time! Please use the butcher room there, and skin it!」


「Asuta!」


「I get it! Erm, please cook the soup for dinner tonight! I will come over to instruct you on cooking the meat later!」


After assigning the tasks, I finally stepped into the food storage.


「… Aren’t everyone back too early? And to hunt three kiba in just one day!」


「I don’t know about house Lutim, but the Wu clan hunted six already, and bloodletted two. We aren’t that stupid.」


「Getting six in one day is plenty. Your kins in this village number less than sixty right?」


「Including the main and branch houses, there are 38 of us. So just hunting four kiba will yield enough aria and poitan for us. But things will slow down after the peak season. Dad and the others are probably still inside the forest.」


I see.


In that case, there will be enough meat for the banquet in no time.


I can then distribute the excess meat to the Wu clan branch family, and let everyone understand how delicious blood letted meat taste. They would then be free to choose if they want to use this bloodletting and butchering technique in their everyday life.


This must be what Kaslan Lutim meant when he said 「show them a path」.


They would make their own choice.


Without forcing anyone.


「What’s the matter Asuta? Regretting about taking on this heavy job?」


The Wu clan’s meat storage space was three times that of house Fa, Ludo Wu leaned his face my way as he pull apart the pico leaves.


「No, I’m really glad to have taken on this job, although it’s very tough.」


Ludo Wu smiled gently when he heard me say that, and elbowed my arm as he said:


「I’m glad too. I’m looking forward to dinner tonight and the wedding. Asuta, don’t let me down.」


「I understand, I will work hard.」


The work for this first day was coming to an end.

6


And then—— the sun set.


This was the third time I ate dinner at the Wu clan.


The Wu clan family was already seated, and the plates laid out.
Dinner tonight was Chuck steak and thigh steak, soup brewed with chuck flap, aria and tino leaves, and a mountain of grilled poitan—— and also 『poitan soup』 prototype number one.


After Grandma Jiba finally got into her seat, I told everyone:


「This pot of soup near the bottom seat is the test dish I made for the banquet. Please don’t think of this soup as dinner, and whoever want to try it please do. To be honest, this is still work in progress, and I have not decided on the menu yet.」


「……」


「If no one tries it, my research won’t be able to progress. So I hope everyone will try it and tell me your comments. That will be a big help.」


「… What are you yammering about?」


The clan head said with an annoyed face:


「Lutim asked us to help… Lala, distribute the soup to everyone.」


「Ehh~!? Why me?」


「You are tending to the hearth today right? And you’re the closest to the soup, so give it out to everyone.」


Despite reluctance written all over her face, Lala Wu still poured the 『poitan soup』 into the plates swiftly.


「… Hearth caretaker of the Fa house.」


「Yes, what is it?」


「You have an agreement with the eldest son of house Lutim, and the Wu clan heeded to house Lutim’s request. That’s all, the Wu clan don’t have anything special relationship with you.」


「Yes, you are right.」


「… If you know that, then do your work properly.」


He was probably saying this to stop me from worrying about unnecessary things. As his words had his usual intimidating tone, it made me a little flustered.


I was probably holding back towards the Wu clan. Donda Wu saw through that.


Understanding this made me even more angry… I felt angry about my immaturity.


「… We give thanks for the forest’s grace…」 Donda Wu recited the familiar words.


「… We give thanks to Mia Lei, Sati Lei, Lala and Asuta that our lives are extended for this night.…」


And so, the dinner cum taste testing session began.


Because I had to help with the butchering of two kiba, dinner tonight was mainly done by the Wu clan members.


Including the hamburg steak for Grandma Jiba, I also instructed them on cooking the meat, but dinner was prepared by the Wu clan’s women.
Only prototype one was made entirely by me.


The first one to sound out was Rimee Wu:


「Hmm? Everyone only has one bowl?」


Rimee Wu leaned towards the iron pot that was placed at the bottom seat and asked in astonishment.


「That’s right, this is just a test sample, so everyone’s portion is about two thirds of a poitan.」


「Oh, I see.」


She didn’t look disappointed and put down her empty plate.


「How does it taste?」


「Hmm? Erm~ I don’t know.」


Okay, it couldn’t be helped if she didn’t know.


Poitan soup that had cooled taste even nastier. This idea had already taken root in everyone’s heart, so the Wu clan finished the sample as soon as possible.


I peeked at everyone’s expression—— Grandma Ditto Min has a face of doubt, Vena-nee was expressionless, the second daughter Leina Wu had a troubled face, and Ludo Wu had an obviously grumpy face—— This made me feel uneasy about the future.


By the way, the three hearth caretaker who had already taste tested it commented that 「something seems to be missing」.


I couldn’t predict how these men would think.


Ai Fa ate quietly like the others, then put down her plate.


On a closer look, she had finished the sample dish.


「Ah, Ai Fa, how does it taste—」


「Terrible.」


Weird?


She seemed angry.


As I spent the entire day in the stove room, and this was the first time we spoke since noon. Did something happened when I wasn’t around?


「… So, what did you add into this poitan soup?」


A few minutes later, when more than half the people finished their meal Grandma Ditto Min asked me.


「I’m researching on how to make the poitan soup more palatable. I only added Gigo, Tino leaves and salt.」


「You added Gigo? I can’t tell at all.」


I still didn’t know what Gigo was.


But I think it was very similar to 「Japanese Yam」.


Boiling Gigo in water would dissolve it, and turn it into a viscous Gigo soup. It might smell fragrant, but would taste very bland. And there were some fibres left as I didn’t ground it up.


When cooked together with poitan, its viscosity would overwhelm the powdery texture of the poitan, making it easier to drink. After several attempts to cook it with other vegetables, I chose the safest tino leaves, and seasoned it to taste with rock salt.


This was just the soup base —— Below were everyone’s comments:


「Well… It’s drinkable.」 Grandma Ditto Min said.


「I don’t hate it.」 Mama Mia Lei Wu added.


「It don’t feel like food.」 Sati Lei Wu commented.


「I don’t really know…」 Vena Wu said.


「It’s easy to swallow.」 Leina Wu concluded.


「It feels unfinished.」 Lala Wu said.


「… I still don’t know.」 Rimee Wu said.


This was just the soup base, so it wasn’t finished yet. But it was hard to comment on a dish that wasn’t delicious or bad.


Speaking of which, I also described the bun I bought in the post station town as 「average」.


「I don’t know. Why do I have to eat this. Don’t cook something so boring, I was looking forward to it.」


Ludo Wu complained, he seemed to be the most dissatisfied.


But he showed a bright smile immediately after:


「But this grilled poitan is great, I already ate three.」


「Ah, yeah! It’s tasty! It’s soft and bouncy, Rimee ate a lot too!」


Rimee Wu seemed bored and kept changing seats. She was beside Ludo Wu right now, and heaped on praise for the poitan.


「Well, I added Gigo in it. After grilling the failures of my research, I discovered that its texture turns smooth.」


Speaking of which, I heard that adding yam into okonomiyaki will make it more fluffy and soft. No matter what, this was an unexpected great find—— But the problem this time was poitan soup.
Everyone then praised the grilled poitan and the meat dishes, and had already stopped commenting on the test dish.


By the way, Ai Fa was helping Grandma Jiba dine, and Mia Lei Wu who was accompanying Grandma Jiba was still eating. Once she and Grandma Jiba finished dinner, then the meal would be done.


「This might just be a test dish, but I still apologize for letting everyone eat something so bland. I hope no one is fazed, and will continue your support tomorrow.」


I was planning to conclude the session with these words, but Jiza Wu who had been quiet all this while called out my name:


「Asuta, we are helping you because clan head Donda already made an agreement with house Lutim, so don’t worry too much. However… can I give you my opinion of that poitan soup?」


「Yes, of course.」


「I can’t tell if it is good or bad. But if you want us to eat that, you might as well cook the old poitan soup instead… the other dishes like grilled poitan won’t make me think that way.」


「I see…」


This dish was really unpopular.


Was my efforts being put in the wrong direction?


The room then turned silent. When Grandma Jiba finished dinner and Ai Fa was about to stand—— that voice rang out:


「… Why didn’t you add meat?」


It was Donda Wu.


I was stumped momentarily because of surprise, then I answered:


「T-This is just a prototype, my goal is to fix the soup base, that’s why I didn’t add any meat. I also didn’t consider if the soup will go well with the meat.」


「What do you expect to hear when you serve something so half hearted?」


He didn’t sound like he was admonishing me, but his voice was unhappy as usual.
「The denizens of Forest's Edge will put all the ingredients into the soup, because this is the easiest way to cook. Even if we grill meat, we will still put meat into the soup. We might eat meat by itself, but we will never drink soup that only has vegetables in them… Don’t serve such things to the table.」


Donda Wu slowly got up and said:


「Dinner is over… I’m turning in.」


That was the cue for dismissal.


The hearth tenders started tidying up, and the other family members returned to their rooms. As I was keeping the dishes gloomily, Ai Fa walked over, her annoyed expression could rival that of Donda Wu.


「Grandma Jiba is looking for you.」


After saying that, she grabbed her fur cape on the floor and quickly left the house.


Since Ai Fa wasn’t tending to the hearth tonight, she didn’t need to clean up, but didn’t she need to repay the host for the meal and board? Or was it rude for the guests to clean up the cutleries? No matter what, I had to ask her why she was so unhappy. With that in mind, I walked towards Grandma Jiba.


「Asuta, thank you for your delicious cooking today… Your food taste really delicious…」


「No, Mia Lei Wu cooked the hamburg steak today, and it used the meat that Ludo Wu slaughtered. I merely instructed them and didn’t do anything myself.」


「Is that so…? Mia Lei Wu didn’t mention it at all…」


「She probably is just too shy to say so.」


Or maybe she wasn’t the type to strive for credit.


In any case, that really suit that mother’s style.
「So it won’t be a problem tomorrow. Jiba Wu, you have to taste plenty of delicious food and live a long live.」


「I’m really glad… Asuta, I’m really really glad…」


Grandma Jiba held my hand with her bony and warm hands.


Leina Wu stood at the side so she could accompany Grandma Jiba back to her chambers later, and her eyes were moist.


「You brought light to the Wu clan. Not just me, everyone deeply feels the joy of living… The number of tusks and horns on your necklace is now ten. Did Donda gift one to you…?」


「… Yes.」


When I nodded, Leina Wu opened her eyes wide, and seemed to be sincerely surprised.


「Even that stubborn Donda acknowledge your strength… You are incredible, Asuta…」


「Not at all, I’m just an immature half-baked chef.」


When I said that, Grandma Jiba’s frail back suddenly started to tremble.


「What happened? Do you feel unwell?」


Leina Wu held on to Grandma Jiba in a hurry—— but to me, Grandma Jiba was just laughing.


「……Asuta, that’s not for you to decide, but for the people around you to consider… You just need to live as you please. Asuta, just keep things the way they are now…」


「Thank you.」


I bowed.


I will probably feel uncomfortable if anyone overestimated me. But when someone like Grandma Jiba says that to me, I could feel a warmth in my heart.


「… Next, about what Donda said…」


「Hmm?」


「For us, tossing all the ingredients into a pot is a representation of life… A young girl like Leina wouldn’t know, but when we drink the soup with kiba meat and the grace that had been exchanged with kiba horns and tusks, our lives get to be extended for another night… So when we taste a soup without kiba meat, it will feels like something is missing…」


「… Yes.」


「Asuta, if you want to cook a soup that old bones like us can enjoy… then you should factor this in too.」


「I will. Thank you—— very much.」


Something squirmed in my mind.


Meat, it was meat after all.


Maybe the denizens of Forest's Edge wasn’t seeking palatable soup.


Compared to the soup, the meat was more important to them. Without meat, there would be no kiba pot.


The key to the kiba soup lay with complementing the meat with the vegetable.
If I didn’t set the right way to go about my research—— I might not be able to complete the menu in 4 days.


「… I will take my leave now. Asuta…」


「Yes, good night, Jiba Wu.」


After bidding farewell to Grandma Jiba and Leina Wu, I tidied up the cutleries.


Meat—— meat, meat, meat…


I placed the emphasis on the vegetables, but had to go back to research on the kiba meat.


Kiba was a worthy ingredient in the first place, it tasted great and had plenty of uses.


… By the way, I never imagined that Donda Wu’s word would give me this hint.


I felt complicated, a little frustrated and happy at the same time.


In the end, only the second son Darum Wu kept quiet the entire meal, so this was a fruitful taste testing session. I would keep up this pace for the remaining days and work hard. With such intense emotions in my heart, I completed the clean up and left the Wu main house.


I lighted a borrowed candle stand I borrowed and walked through the quiet plaza.


Speaking of which, Ai Fa didn’t go to Grandma Jiba’s room, and returned to our room right away.


While I was thinking about that, I reached the house Ai Fa was waiting in.


I opened the door and found that the room was pitch dark.


「Hmm, Ai Fa, are you here?」


I raised the candle stand inside the room.


And Ai Fa was right there.


She was lying near the wall where the window was, with her back towards me.


Was she feeling unwell? Were there days when the energetic Ai Fa felt under the weather?


I felt worried, and rushed to Ai Fa’s side without even locking the door.


「Ai Fa… are you sleeping?」


No reaction.


I realized that Ai Fa’s back that was curved beautifully didn’t move at all.


According to my past experiences, people who were asleep would have larger breathing animations, but I didn’t know if this was correct.


Anyway, I was worried, and even though I was a little hesitant, I decided to wake Ai Fa.


「Hey, Ai Fa——」, my hand touched her bare shoulder.


The next instant, her palm hit hard at the back of my hand with lighting speed.


「That hurts! Are you awake? Then answer me!」


「… I’m sleeping.」


「You are awake! Hey, what’s with you? Are you unwell?」


No matter what, I felt relieved after hearing Ai Fa’s voice.
When I realized it, my back was drenched in sweat and my T-shirt was sticking to my back. I was more worried than I imagined. It was only natural for me to react like that, since Ai Fa had never acted so weird before.


If Ai Fa was really throwing a fit over something trivial, I will definitely protest. With such a thought in mind, I sat down beside Ai Fa.


「Hey, if you’re not unwell, then look at me. You are acting strange right now, what happened?」


「… I said, I’m asleep.」


「But you are not! Can you stop that, I’m going to be angry alright?」


「… You will get angry?」


Weird.
Was I imagining things? Ai Fa’s lean, beautiful and feminine back seemed to have an air of anger behind her.


No, it was just in my mind. Even though I could feel the rumbling of anger going 「Vroommmm…」, but that was impossible since this wasn’t a manga.


「… You say that you will get angry?」


Uwah.


She propped herself up slowly in a smooth manner, like a leopard.


As she had untied her hair, her locks flowed down her shoulders and back sexily.


But she looked really scary, and I couldn’t utter such praises.


「…I should be the one getting angry.」


Her glimmering blue eyes looked my way over her smooth shoulder.


Great, she hasn’t shown the eyes of a hunter completely yet.


But I could still tell that she was angry.


「W-Why are you so mad? We have been working separately the entire day right? I didn’t do anything to agitate you before we splitted at noon right?」


Maybe Ai Fa took a peek into the stove room before going back to our room when we came here last evening? I considered the possibility.


Even so, I didn’t do anything that would anger Ai Fa.


The three ladies stayed by my side, and I didn’t encounter anything special. Mama Mia Lei Wu who joined after that was the same as usual, and I got along well with Sati Lei Wu and Lala Wu too.


「Well, I didn’t do anything wrong! If you’re angry, then at least give me a reason!」


「……」


「Well? What is it?」


「……hamburg steak.」


「Hamburg steak? What about hamburg steak?」


「… You said that tonight’s dinner will be hamburg steak.」


What?


When I realized it, Ai Fa was already pouting like a kid.


Ai Fa’s eyes were burning with fiery rage, and her lips pouted childishly.


「W-Wait! When did I promised that? Ema Min came here early in the morning…」


「… You promised me on our way home yesterday.」


Ah.


I remember now.


On our way back from the post station town, when we passed the water source and was about to reach our home, I did say:「Let’s have hamburg steak tomorrow.」


After all, she asked me for this with the face of a child throwing tantrum like this.


「Y-You are right. Sorry! I was too engrossed in my research, and completely forgot about this. I had to explain the slaughtering process to the men, it was a busy day!」


「… I don’t want to talk to idiots who break promises.」


Ai Fa turned her back to me again.


「What breaking promises!? You’re exaggerating too much! It’s only hamburg steak, why you heff to be mad…? That hurts!」


When I placed my hand on her shoulder, she hit me again.


「Hey~! I apologize, it’s my bad! Tomorrow! I will cook it for you tomorrow! I definitely won’t forget! Ai Fa! Ai Fa-san!」


And that was that.


The first day of the wedding banquet preparation ended peacefully.


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