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Cooking with Wild Game (LN) Vol 6 Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

To say that nothing of note happened between the seminar and the house head conference wasn’t really truthful.

We opened the stall in the Post Station Town one day after the seminar and sold two hundred meals.

Sales dropped on the very next day— because we only prepared 170 portions, which were sold out too.



After one day of rest, we opened for two days and closed for two more days. The irregular operating hours stimulated the demand for our merchandise. Before this, I couldn’t sell 150 meals even if I did prepare them.

Our customers were still mostly southerners and easterners, but kiba food was steadily becoming the talk of the Post Station Town. When we start selling food at the inn, the fame of kiba food would spread even further.

No matter what the schemes the Tsun clan had, we must make this business succeed.

As I worked hard with these feelings in mind, the 8th and 9th day of the Blue Month flashed by— and it was now the day of the house head conference.


 

「… The Tsun clan village sure is far.」

As I walked on the solid dirt path inside Forest's Edge, I whispered to Ai Fa.

Ai Fa walked with smooth strides like a leopard and answered quietly:

「The Tsun clan village is located at the end of the northern side, while the Wu clan village is situated in the middle of the southern side, so of course it’s far.」

The Forest's Edge settlement was a long piece of land that stretched from the south to the north.

A vast forest was between the Morga Mountain to the east and the wide territory of Genos to the west, resulting in such a shape.

Tsun clan village was at the extreme north end, while the Wu clan and Lutim house villages were to the south, with the smaller houses like the Fa house between them. From the bearings of the sun, I realized we had walked for two hours, but the scenery remained the same.

「Hmm… This means that the Tsun clan people actually walked so far on the night of the Lutim house wedding to pick a fight with us.」

After whispering to Ai Fa again, she nodded and leaned her face towards me.

「Yes, because they don’t perform their duties as hunters properly, they have that much free time. How infuriating.」

「That’s right. If they have the time to walk so far, they might as well go hunt kiba.」

「… By the way, Asuta.」

「Hmm? What’s the matter, Ai Fa?」

「Why are you whispering?」

Ai Fa didn’t know my intention but had been whispering to me all this while.

「It’s nothing serious. I simply think the atmosphere right now doesn’t feel good for an idle chat.」

We weren’t the only ones heading to the Tsun clan. We had set off together with the Wu clan and their kins.

The Wu clan had six kin houses related to them by blood. They were Lutim, Lei, Min, Mamu, Lilim, and Mufa. Each house head brought along a male follower to attend the house head conference. Together with the women helping with the hearth, we had a large group of 24 people.

The male attendees were strong elites too, so the term 「intimidating」 was very fitting. Everyone present had attended the banquet at the Lutim house, but I only knew three people, namely Donda Wu, Darum Wu, and Dan Lutim.

They were helping to carry the ingredients needed for the banquet tonight. No one had any complaints, but I still felt bad about this.

「… Sigh, I’m getting sleepy.」

Someone suddenly spoke loudly beside me.

I turned and saw the youngest man in the group yawning.

「I have not gotten up so early in a long time. Donda Wu, can I sleep for a while when we reach the Tsun clan village?」

「Whatever.」

Donda Wu replied coldly.

「Great. I will get up right away if anything happens, so give me a break… Hmm? What are you looking at, hearth caretaker of the Fa house?」

「Ah, it’s nothing, pardon me.」

「There’s nothing to pardon though, I just want to know what are you looking at.」

The youth didn’t look unhappy, but he didn’t seem to be the calm type either.

As I was wondering how to answer, the youth sped up and started to walk beside me.

「Speaking of which, I still don’t know your name. I’m Rau Lei. Hearth caretaker of the Fa house, what’s your name?」

「Nice to meet you, I’m Asuta.」

He might be younger than me, but I still decided to answer him with a humble attitude.

At this moment, the youth showed an unhappy face.

「Asuta, I’m seventeen. How old are you?」

「Ah, I’m seventeen too.」

「In that case, you don’t need to be so reserved, you can just speak to me normally.」

The youth said the same thing that Yumi did, but he had a dignified air about him.

His light-colored hair that looked almost blonde were tied behind him, the corners of his eyes were high and their pupils were light purple. With his high nose bridge and thin lips, he looked like a matured version of Ludo Wu. He looked androgynous and had a prideful expression.

He was a little taller than me and could be considered skinny compared to the other men from Forest's Edge. He looked young and wasn’t buffed, but the aura around him could rival that of the other men.

「Never mind, Kaslan Lutim mentioned to me that you are running a business in the Post Station Town, I’m not sure about the details though. But if the Tsun clan tries to pick trouble with you, I will do everything I can to help.」

「Yes, thank you very much.」

「… Didn’t I tell you not to be so reserved?」

「I didn’t mean to, it’s probably because of my business in the Post Station Town, so it’s more relaxing for me to speak this way.」

「I see. If you talk to me in such a formal tone again, I will punch you.」

「……」

「Are you really the hearth caretaker of the Fa house?」

The youth named Rau Lei leaned in close suddenly.

「When the Tsun clan barged into the banquet, didn’t you tell them off loudly? You are acting like a completely different person now.」

「No, I was just acting on impulse back then.」

「In that case, you should act on impulse today too. If the Tsun clan sees how meek you are, they will exploit you all they could.」

It seemed that this youth’s concept on how to deal with aggression was completely different from mine.

I thought the first thing that needs to be done during a dangerous situation was to calm down.

「Asuta, Kaslan Lutim taught the Lei house the techniques how to bloodlet and butcher the kiba. The kiba meat did become delicious, but it still couldn’t match the dishes you served at the banquet. What do we need to do to turn the meat into that soft and gooey form?」

「Ah, you mean hamburg steak? It needs mincing and molding the meat into a circular shape… That dish is hard to explain with words. The women from the Wu clan and Lutim house have learned the cooking method, you just need to learn from them.」

To avoid being punched, I answered in a normal tone, and Rau Lei turned to look diagonally back.

「Ema Min Lutim, teach the method to the women of the Lei house. I want to eat that dish at home too.」

Like everyone else, Ema Min Lutim was carrying a large bag of vegetables on her back. She bowed politely at Rau Lei.

「I understand. My skill is still lacking, but I hope the women of the Lei house and I will improve our skills together.」

「… Ema Min Lutim, how old are you?」

「Rau Lei, I’m 17.」

「In that case, your tone doesn’t need to be so formal, just speak casually like Asuta.」

「As a kin of the Wu clan, I can’t speak to the head of the Lei house in such a rude manner.」

This youth— was he the head of the Lei house?

「After becoming the house head, the attitude of the all women became like this… Asuta, you might be a hearth caretaker, but you are still a man, so talk to me normally.」

Looks like I got acquainted with a youth I wasn’t sure how to get along with.

I looked Ai Fa’s way quietly, but my house head averted her face nonchalantly.

「What’s the matter? Does the head of the Lei house like hamburg steak? I don’t think hamburg steak tastes bad, but spare ribs are the best, right?」

The head of the Lutim house interjected.

He walked towards us as he swayed his large tummy. Was he going to get me out of this mess? Probably not.

「Spare ribs, huh. They’re delicious— but isn’t it a pain to eat them together with the bone?」

「What nonsense! It’s delicious because we are eating it off the bone! If possible, I want to eat the kiba thigh with its bones too!」

Cooking the meat thoroughly seemed hard.

However, if I researched steam grill techniques, it might be possible to realize his dream.

「Those who like hamburg steak are mostly women and children. It’s admirable of you to become the house head at such a young age, but you still have a childish side, huh.」

Dan Lutim laughed out loud. Rau Lei immediately showed a sour face.

「Is the Lutim house trying to provoke the Lei house? Aren’t you going too far to treat a grown-up hunter as a child?」

「If you don’t want others to think of you as a child, then don’t complain and eat the spare ribs. That delicacy suits hunters the best!」

Dan Lutim didn’t care about the raging Rau Lei, and turned his large round eyes my way.

「Asuta! Did you prepare any spare ribs for us tonight? That myam and thin slices of meat might be savory, but they can’t compare to the tastiness of spare ribs!」

I see. Ema Min Lutim and Molun Lutim learned how to cook 『Myam-roasted meat』 during the seminar three days ago and used their culinary skills to prepare dinner immediately.

That was a wonderful thing, but I couldn’t help tilting my head puzzledly when hearing that.

「Some of the meat here is from the Lutim house, right? Are there any spare ribs?」

「I don’t know. Kaslan did tell me something, but I was too sleepy and didn’t hear anything.」

「… I see.」

「Just the thought of the Tsun clan tasting this delicious meat fills me with rage. But if that bunch will change their ways, I will let them off! If they want to eat delicious meat, they need to hunt down kiba seriously! I’m going to kick them in the butt!」

「No, erm, can you try to calm down…?」

「Hmm? Why do you look so worried? I don’t mean it literally, there’s no way I will act so recklessly!」

Was that true? Allow me to sigh quietly.

I couldn’t relax at all since I had seen him raging at the Tsun clan during that wedding banquet.

「… But if they lost their reason and tried to do anything to you, there’s no telling what I might do.」

Dan Lutim laughed heartily, and the face of a hunter flashed momentarily across his cheerful face.

「I have no qualms about going to war with the Tsun clan, but it would be pointless if you died. The most important thing is that you must live. Do you get that, Asuta?」

Dan Lutim seemed uninterested in my business in the Post Station Town.

He didn’t understand Ai Fa’s, Kaslan Lutim’s, and my goal of 「Letting the denizens of Forest's Edge live a more prosperous life」.

However, when Kaslan Lutim told him that 「the Tsun clan seemed to be targeting Asuta」, he was so enraged that he wanted to go to the Tsun clan village and tell them off. That’s what Kaslan Lutim told me.

I thought he was only infatuated with the taste of spare ribs and didn’t care about me at all. I felt ashamed for harboring such thoughts.

「Yes, thank you.」

In return to my embarrassed gratitude, Dan Lutim laughed loudly again and slapped my back hard.

「Don’t worry, the women will protect you in the stove room, leave the other places to us! Asuta, you just need to relax and prepare a delicious meal!」

His words were filled with strength, and so were his physical actions.

I thought I heard my ribs creaking, but fortunately, they didn’t fracture.

「Hmmp, there is no need to fear the Tsun clan, the ones we need to be wary about are their retarded kins. A scrawny man like you is no match for them, so don’t ever agitate those people.」

Even though Rau Lei didn’t mince his words, he still said that out of concern.

I never thought the kins of the Wu clan would be so friendly to Ai Fa and me.

Aside from Rau Lei, I had yet to speak with the others. Everyone else had a serious face, and despite the additional work I had imposed on them, no one had any complaints.

They had such an attitude because they didn’t want to let the Tsun clan act with impunity. Even though Ai Fa and I weren’t the kins of the Wu clan, but, judging from the atmosphere right now, everyone seemed to accept us readily.

Maybe the reason was the Lutim house wedding banquet Rau Lei mentioned just now.

When the three stooges from the Tsun clan gate tried to crash the Lutim house banquet, all the men were fuming with anger. And some of those men traveling with us now.

In order to defeat a common enemy, people will become united. This trope also applied to Ai Fa and me.

If that is the case, it will be even better.

There weren’t any misunderstandings between both parties.

I might not be a kin of these men, but our detest for the Tsun clan made us the same.

As I thought about these matters, Donda Wu who was walking at the head of the group muttered:

「The village is in sight…」

I cast my gaze to the front in a hurry and held my breath a little. I could see a vague image of an incredible structure on the other side of the trees.

No, that house wasn’t big enough for the term 「structure」. It looked like a huge pile of straws in the middle of an empty space. The appearance was similar to a half-cave building from the stone age.

But the scale of the house was exceptional. It had a dome shaped like an inverted bowl, with a diameter of over 20 m. It might look flat from outside, but the peak of the bowl was about two stories high.

The entrance was a rectangular hole in black color. The roof on top of the bowl was like a triangular hat, with a square hole right on top for ventilation.

The workmanship was crude, but considering the impoverished state of the Forest's Edge, erecting such a large building was a testament to the Tsun clan’s power and influence.

「That’s the Tsun clan’s Ceremonial Hall.」

Ai Fa explained.

The house head conference would be conducted in this hall.

With the Ceremonial Hall as center, more than 10 familiar wooden houses were scattered around the vicinity.

「… Welcome to the Tsun clan village.」

A man appeared before us nimbly.

This middle-aged man had his grey hair combed behind him and wore a grey beard. He had a buffed body but had a lifeless and quiet air about him. He was Tay Tsun.

「You are very early. I thought only the hearth caretaker would be here at noon.」

「Hmmp, how can the women carry so much baggage by themselves?」

Donda Wu answered Tay Tsun with a deep voice akin to a tremor.

「Take us to the stove room of the main house. We will greet the tribe chief after that.」

「Yes… Before that, can we collect the tusks and horns from everyone?」

When Yamiel Tsun and I reached an agreement, all the houses were notified to pay a tribute of one kiba’s worth of tusks and horns when they attend the house head conference.

In the Post Station Town, two large tusks and horns could bring in twelve copper plates. This wasn’t much for the Fa house, the Wu clan, and their kins, but for the smaller houses that could miss meals every so often, this was a matter of life and death.

Even though the forest had plentiful resources, the landlord of Genos forbade the denizens of Forest's Edge from foraging fruits in the forest or cultivating the land. They could only exchange the tusks, horns, and hides of kiba for copper plates.

After all the houses submitted the tusks and horns to the Tsun clan, the Tsun clan then passed this money to us, the hearth caretakers, as payment. I thought that  by asking a fee we only increased the burden on the smaller houses.

In order to correct the Tsun clan’s twisted ways, we could only go along with their plan.

In that case, I had to do everything I could to bring them hope that could make up for their losses.

「This way, please…」

Tay Tsun accepted 8 sets of kiba tusks and horns, strung them all up, and walked to the village.

He was as lifeless and meek

as usual.

By the way, I don’t think a hunter should be an usher, so why was this man always taking care of such trivial matters?

… Hmm? We don’t need to hand over our blades?

According to the rules in the Wu clan village, I had to hand over my kitchen knife before heading into the stove room. But the Tsun clan didn’t make such a request.

Never mind, that’s one less hassle to worry about, but it also made me realize that the discipline in the Tsun clan was very lax.

「… Still as creepy as usual.」

Rau Lei muttered when he walked by me.

Was he complaining about Tay Tsun or this village— maybe both? It was almost noon, but I didn’t see a single soul.

I heard no sound of wood being chopped.

Nor I saw anyone drying pico leaves.

There weren’t any women chatting idly or children running around happily.

It was like a deserted village.

As I looked closely along the way, I found the large Ceremonial Hall to be in terrible shape. The structure had been reinforced, but the walls covered in straws were rotting away. There was plenty of rain in Forest's Edge, so the design of this building wasn’t ideal. My guess is that the denizens of Forest’s Edge used to live in houses like this in olden times when they were still staying in the southern jungle.

When this building was erected, the Tsun clan was still a tribal chief clan capable of leading their people down the right path.

That was my personal opinion. Only the people from Grandma Jiba’s generation would know if that was true.

「Over here…」

Hidden behind the Ceremonial Hall that was like the corpse of a dinosaur, we could see a grand building on par with the Wu clan main house.

This had to be the Tsun clan main house. I started turning tense.

This was the home base of the enemy— the base of the nefarious Diga Tsun with whom we experienced numerous bad run-ins.

Tay Tsun walked in perfect strides like a robot and went to the back of the building.

「… This is the stove room.」

The stove room of the Tsun clan was just like the Wu clan, a small building situated behind the main house.

The scale matched that of the Wu clan too, they also had two outdoor stoves.

「Where are the Tsun clan’s women?」

Mama Mia Lei asked, and Tay Tsun bowed towards us with his usual hollow eyes.

「Please wait a moment, I will call them over.」

After Tay Tsun disappeared, everyone piled the ingredients at the entrance.

Over 90 kg of kiba meat.

More than 400 aria and almost 300 poitan.

Fruit wine and seasonings such as rock salt and myam.

Kitchen cutleries and fake rubber leaves to serve food.

When all the ingredients were piled at the same spot, the amount looked staggering.

There would be 79 people attending the house head conference, 41 people from the Tsun clan village and 9 hearth caretakers— adding ten additional portions for Mida Tsun, there was enough food for 139 pax.

On the surface, the men’s work had concluded. There was still two to three hours of free time before the house head conference began. They planned to stand by around the stove room for now.

「… Even after the house head conference begins, the Tsun clan branch house members can still move around freely. Asuta, don’t get careless now, alright?」

Ai Fa instructed me quietly. She had reminded me of this several times already.

「I understand. No matter what, I won’t act alone… Ai Fa, you be careful too.」

「Hmmp, I won’t be in any danger. But I think it’s a pity that Kaslan Lutim won’t be attending.」

That’s right, Ai Fa had to explain what led her to make the decision of having the Fa house open a business in the Post Station Town. According to the customs of Forest's Edge, the eldest son who was the heir had to protect the house when the house head conference was in session, so Kaslan Lutim was absent today.

Donda Wu and Dan Lutim wouldn’t be much help, and the second son of Lutim house wasn’t as well-spoken as Kaslan Lutim.

Speaking of which, Kaslan Lutim was the one who was too special. I had never met anyone in Forest's Edge who spoke as rationally as he did.

This was the nature of the denizens of Forest's Edge. They had strong feelings towards their kin and tribe, so I had never met anyone with a more realist trend in their thinking.  Among my small circle of friends, only Kaslan Lutim and Grandma Jiba was the realist type— Jiza Wu’s, Sati Lei Wu’s, and Ema Min Lutim’s personalities also leaned towards being realists.

「… It will be fine. The important thing is to convey your feelings to everyone.」

I whispered to Ai Fa.

「No matter how well-spoken people like Kamyua Yost and I might be, I won’t be able to convey my feelings to the denizens of Forest's Edge. You are a member of Forest's Edge, so you will definitely do better than us.」

「… How can you say that after spending so much time with me? I don’t understand. Never mind, at least you aren’t refuting my abilities.」

Ai Fa said brusquely, then rubbed her nose.

「I will do my best in my task… Asuta, it’s time for you to work.」

I followed Ai Fa’s gaze and saw Tay Tsun coming from the back of the house again.

Ten women followed him. One of them hastened her pace, passed Tay Tsun and appeared before Ai Fa and me.

「Ai Fa and Asuta of the Fa house, we have been awaiting your visit. The clan head Zuro and my brother Mida had been looking forward to your arrival.」

The eldest daughter of the Tsun clan welcomed us with these words.

This was the first time we met her inside Forest's Edge.

When Yamiel Tsun went to the Post Station Town, she covered her body with veils and shawls. And right now, she was dressed lightly before us, with just a tube top, cloth around her waist and metallic accessories on her wrists. Compared to meeting her in town, she looked more beautiful— and even more creepy.

Her brown hair was braided into dreads.

The corners of her eyes were high and her pupils were black.

Her body shape and limbs were long and slender, and her body figure was on par with Vena Wu. However, there was a strong rotting odor on her body.

Ai Fa and Vena Wu didn’t have such a scent.

The only thing I was better at than the denizens of Forest's Edge was my keen sense of smell.  The denizens of Forest's Edge not only had outstanding physical abilities, their eyes and ears were exceptionally honed too. However, my sense of smell was still a little better than theirs.

That was why Yamiel Tsun put me on edge the most. That might not be human blood, but the blood stench from her did obviously make me uncomfortable.

「… By the way, I need to inform you something.」

Yamiel Tsun said with a cold smile:

「The payment to the Fa house will be 36 kiba worth of tusks and horns instead of 40. Can I seek your kind understanding about that?」

「What…? We can only decide after listening to the reason.」

「It’s very simple. During this past year, the number of houses had decreased from 40 to 36. Four houses had died out, or joined other houses before dying out… Thus, you may decrease the number of portions to prepare by 8, and we hope to amend the remuneration to 36 kiba worth of tusks and horns.」

「… Compared to an increase, it is definitely easier to handle a decrease in numbers. But an agreement between denizens of Forest's Edge can’t be amended so easily, right?」

「Indeed, that’s why we are sincerely asking for your understanding.」

What sincerity? Don’t make me laugh. I shrugged. They definitely had a way of informing us once they knew the number of houses had decreased. Her words reeked of so much hypocrisy that I felt retarded for treating her seriously.

However, I could only fight within my own realm.

「We have no intentions of carrying this huge amount of luggage back either. However, we will need the Wu clan and Lutim house to agree to this, since we will be splitting the remuneration equally.」

「The money isn’t important. Let’s get right to work.」

Mama Mia Lei wasn’t fazed at all and walked in front of Yamiel Tsun.

Yamiel Tsun glanced at her coldly and seemed disinterested.

「Asuta of the Fa house, I will leave the rest to you. You can order these 15 women around as you wish.」

Fifteen, that was quite a big number.

I heard the Tsun clan village had 41 people, and they seemed to have gathered all the women. After looking at them…

I was dumbstruck.

… What’s going on?

It was a group of Forest's Edge women of various ages.

The eldest was around 50, while the youngest was ten. There was a mixture of wed and unwed women. There was nothing strange with their appearance.

However, all their eyes looked blank and hollow.

Be it middle-aged housewives or young children, their eyes were all murky just like Diga Tsun’s.

The women’s brown faces didn’t have any expression. I couldn’t feel the unique energy and life force of the Forest's Edge denizens from them. They didn’t seem to have any problems with their health and body. They didn’t look skinny or sickly. Instead, the women were lackluster and lifeless.

Be it the Post Station Town, or the world I was from— I had never met anyone as lifeless as them who resembled flawed mud dolls, standing blankly in place.

「I have other works to attend to, so I will take my leave now… Ah, the clan head is still resting, would the men please visit him later?」

Yamiel Tsun turned and left after showing a venomous snake-like smile.

As if it was expected, Tay Tsun followed her.

After seeing them off, Mama Mia Lei clapped loudly.

「Alright, everyone, go bring in the ingredients. Please start with the poitan!」

Tsun clan didn’t answer and walked slowly towards us.

They weren’t particularly slow, but the entire group looked like walking corpse.

「… Who was that disgusting woman?」

Dan Lutim muttered unhappily as he stood behind us.

Even though he seemed to be saying to himself, I still answered:

「She is the eldest daughter of the main house, Yamiel Tsun.」

「A woman from the main house, huh. She seemed more competent than the three stooges, but I don’t want to eat dinner with anyone who has such an awful stench.」

「Ehh?」

I looked up at Dan Lutim’s huge body in surprise, and he kept twitching his round nose.

「Why was the smell of rotting blood on that woman? She looked so scrawny and didn’t seem to be doing any skinning work.」

「… Dan Lutim, your nose is really sharp.」

「Hmm? When I enter the woods, I can determine where the kiba is with my nose. In the Lutim house, only me and my father Raa can do that.」

He shook his tummy proudly and rubbed his round nose.

「Anyway, I don’t like her. I despise everyone from the Tsun clan, but I find her exceptionally detestable. Asuta, you must never trust that woman.」

「Yes, I agree with you completely.」

I nodded and grabbed a sack of poitan.

I then turned towards Ai Fa.

「Alright then, I’m off to work… Let’s both work hard.」

Ai Fa nodded silently with a serious face.

The curtains to our battle at the Tsun clan were drawn quietly.


 

2

There were eight women from the Wu clan and Lutim house who came with me to the Tsun clan to help.

The Tsun clan dispatched 15 women to assist.

We had to prepare 130 portions of meal, so the numbers were adequate. The question was the quality of the helpers.

「Ermm, who here is from the Tsun clan?」

I asked after carrying all the poitan and cooking wares into the stove room.

As the stove room was too cramped for 24 people, I shifted my base to the entrance of the stove room.

Ai Fa, Donda Wu, and the others sat on the ground some distance away, keeping a close eye on the stove room as they chewed on jerky.

「… No one from the main house is here.」

One of the older women answered in a monotone voice.

「Is that so? That is troubling. For the sake of Mida Tsun, I wanted the women from the main house to learn how to cook these dishes.」

「……」

「What’s the matter?」

「… The women from the main house don’t need to tend to the hearth.」

「Ehh? Then who tends to their hearth?」

「… We tend to the hearth in their stead.」

「I see… But there are three women in the main house, right?」

Kaslan Lutim once told me that aside from the eldest daughter Yamiel Tsun, the Tsun clan main house had one more daughter. The third female was the spouse of the clan head.

That woman only repeated:「… We tend to the hearth in their stead.」

「Alright, I understand. Well then, let’s get started… First, start the fire in all the stoves. I only see four pots, can you get three more from the branch houses?」

The women from the Tsun clan didn’t answer and started moving slowly.

Vena Wu whispered to me as she looked at their lifeless figures:

「This is really unsettling… Maybe it will be more efficient if we just tend to the hearth without them.」

「Yes. But we can’t do that, which is a problem.」

There were many factors which made us decide to let the Tsun clan women learn my cooking techniques.

First, since Mida Tsun had no immunity towards delicious food, they would need to satiate his appetite.

Next, even though Asuta from the Fa house was capable of cooking delicious meals, it shouldn’t mean that I was a unique existence. We had to let the head of the Tsun clan Zuro Tsun understand this.

Finally, delicious food could bring more strength to the denizens of Forest's Edge and lead to a more prosperous life. We had to let all the house heads know this.

However, given how lifeless these women were, could I teach them how to cook?

Compared to the wedding banquet for the Lutim house, tending the Tsun clan’s hearth was an extremely arduous task.

「Please pour in water until the pots are six tenths full. Make the fire bigger… When the water boils, put in 40 poitan into each pot.」

There were five stoves in the room, and I assigned ten Tsun clan women, the three Wu clan sisters, and Tali Wu there.

I let the five Tsun clan women and the Lutim house ladies handle the two stoves outside.

This wasn’t just to instruct the Tsun clan women, but also for the Wu clan to watch their every move. We had to make sure they didn’t sabotage the food. As the Tsun clan would be eating them, so it was unlikely for them to poison the food. Yet, we had to be extra careful when dealing with the Tsun clan.

「When the poitan starts drying, please stir it, keeping in mind not to burn it… Alright then, let’s check the next steps.」

I asked Mama Mia Lei and Shela Wu to come to the stove room entrance.

「According to the plan, we should be using the branch house’s stove to make meat soup after the poitan is done. Vena Wu and Lala Wu will team up with me. Mia Lei Wu, Ema Min Lutim, and Molun Lutim will be in another team. Shela Wu, Leina Wu, and Tali Wu will be the third team, is that fine?」

「That’s fine. But you want to leave the dried poitan here while we are cooking soup, right? That worries me the most.」

「I feel uneasy too, but we can’t prepare such a large amount of food in one place. We can only check the taste of the dishes frequently to make sure they are not pulling any pranks.」

「That’s true… but why are all the women from the Tsun clan like this…」

Before Mama Mia Lei finished, the yell of men came from outside.

I followed the origin of the sound and found several unfamiliar men beside Donda Wu and the others.

「Uwah… what is that?」

Even from this distance, I could clearly see the weird outfit of that group.

Six men were yelling at Donda Wu’s entourage.

Four of them wore kiba hides over their heads, while the other two were actually wearing kiba skulls.

「They are from the northern side of Forest's Edge. The ones with hides are from the Zaza and Jean houses. The ones wearing skulls are from the Dom house… They all are the Tsun clan’s kins.」

「So they are the Tsun clan’s kins…」

「That’s right, in a sense, they are more troublesome than the Tsun clan. They are even more short-tempered than our clan head.」

「Ehh? They are more stubborn than Donda Wu!?」

After saying that, I thought to myself 「This is the end」.

The wife of the stubborn clan head laughed cheerfully.

「Their heads are as hard as rocks, and still swear their allegiance to the chief clan. The Dom and Zaza villages are at the northernmost end and some distance away from the Tsun clan, so they don’t realize how depraved the chief

chief clan has become.」

「I see… That’s really tricky.」

「That’s right, what a pain. They might even think the Wu clan and Fa house are disrupting the peace in Forest's Edge by going against the chief clan.」

That would be really, really problematic.

I had gotten cocky since the men from the Tsun clan main house were all mob characters. I even thought that Donda Wu and Dan Lutim won’t ever lose to them even if the Tsun clan acted with impunity.

The fierce and intimidating Tsun kins got right in the faces of the Wu clan’s men.

The men wearing hides and skulls were as buffed as Donda Wu and Dan Lutim. They looked like giant kiba standing on their hind legs because of the outrageous get-up they were in.

They showed no fear even though the six of them were going up against Donda Wu’s entourage of 15. I didn’t know why they were so agitated, but the atmosphere was really tense.

「Uwah, I already told you to be careful not to burn them!」

At this moment, Lala Wu’s panicking voice could be heard.

「You can’t just stir mindlessly! Enough, move over for now!」

「…Ohh.」

The other party responded lacklusterly.

I stole a glance at the stove room and saw Lala Wu snatching the spatula from a young Tsun clan girl and starting to struggle with the poitan in the pot.

「Sorry, Asuta! The poitan is badly burned! Should we move the pot away for now?」

「Yes, otherwise the charred part would be mixed with the parts that are still fine. Shift it down even if it’s not all done—」

「Uwah!」

At this moment, there was a sudden scream.

Followed by the sound of something heavy falling onto the ground.

It came from outside.

Mama Mia Lei and I rushed out and saw Molun Lutim sitting on the ground and Ema Min Lutim standing beside them with a troubled look. Most of the poitan in the pot had been spilled. Two Tsun clan women were standing blankly with a krilee stick used for carrying heavy items at the side.

「Ema Min Lutim, what happened?」

「Ah, Asuta, sorry. Our poitan have dried, so I asked them to bring the pot down, and this happened.」

While Ema Min Lutim was nursing her temple as if she had a headache, Molun Lutim who was sitting beside a middle-aged lady roared:「I was almost scalded!」. Her usually amiable face was now red with anger.

「Why is your posture so unsteady? How can you tend to the hearth if you can’t even move a pot!?」

She resembled her father when she was raging.

「Ohh.」

The Tsun clan women nodded with their usual lifeless expression.

「… This will be a long day.」

Mama Mia Lei sighed deeply beside me.

「The house heads are having a hard time, but we can’t spare the effort to worry about them. The Tsun clan women can’t even handle the simplest poitan, can we really ask them to prepare the meat soup and steaks?」

「That’s right. I need to rethink this.」

I wanted to see how capable the Tsun clan women were with this dish, but it seems that I couldn’t afford to take things so easily.

After stealing a last glance at Ai Fa’s group who were facing off against the Tsun clan’s kins, I returned to the stove room.

「Lala Wu! Bring the pot with the burned poitan here! And the ladle from the water flask too… Shela Wu, take over Lala Wu’s role and assist Leina Wu.」

「Alright.」

I placed the pot brought by Lala Wu and a Tsun clan woman together with the pot from team Lutim.

「Use the ladle to move the poitan that isn’t burned into this pot. Then bring another new pot, no, two new pots over. We will use one of those pots to replace the spilled and charred poitan.」

From the looks of things, It might be lucky that the Tsun clan canceled 8 orders of food.

We did bring extra ingredients in case any mistakes were made, but I didn’t expect such a huge mishap.

Are they doing this intentionally to hold us back? — Probably not.

It would make sense if they could shift some blame to us for the mistakes, but all they were doing was wasting food and getting all the blame.

I thought they were just hopelessly lacking in motivation.

「Alright, let’s use all the poitan we brought today. Lala Wu, please demonstrate and handle everything.」

「Yes, I don’t want to waste more poitan… Why are all of you looking so listless, just what do you think these important ingredients are? These are poitan bought with kiba tusks and horns, which the men risked their lives to obtain.」

「Sorry」

After Lala Wu lectured them angrily, the Tsun clan women apologized emotionlessly.

I walked back to the stove room with those not involved here. Aside from the pot Lala Wu was in charge of, everyone else had finished their tasks.

But Vena Wu and Leina Wu looked a little dejected.

「These poitan have dried up, right? Then please shift the pot outside to a sunny spot! Be careful and don’t spill it!」

A few seconds later, the Tsun clan women grabbed the krilee sticks.

When everyone brought the pots outside and Lala Wu finished the additional portions, I gathered everyone to the stove room entrance again.

「Poitan that had been dried needs to be sunned until all the moisture is gone. Meanwhile, we will prepare the kiba and aria soup. Before we work on the soup, I want to confirm the work we need to do… Would the ladies from the Tsun clan please come into the stove room.」

I glanced at the women moving silently, then grabbed a sack of kiba meat piled beside the door.

「Vena Wu, can you come with me? Everyone else, please watch by the door.」

Even though the Tsun clan’s stove room could rival that of the Wu clan, it was crowded with Vena Wu, 15 Tsun clan women, and me inside.

The other members who couldn’t squeeze into the stove room made faces that seemed to say 「What are you trying to do?」

I placed the sack on the working platform near the stove and surveyed the women who were lined up.

「This is the kiba meat we brought from the Wu clan and Lutim house. We will be cooking dinner with it.」

The Tsun clan women looked at me absentmindedly, their eyes were like dead fish.

「This meat had been specially processed to remove its stench. I am selling food made from this meat in a stall in the Post Station Town, have you heard about that?」

「… No.」

I asked a woman standing near me, and she answered.

「I see. Then do you know the background on why I who has no relations with the Tsun clan was asked to tend to the hearth here?」

「… I don’t know.」

「Okay. Ten days ago, the youngest son of the Tsun clan visited my stall and bought my food. He rather liked my cooking. And so, the head of the Tsun clan Zuro Tsun asked me to tend to the hearth, even if it was just for one night.」

The women didn’t have any reactions.

They didn’t seem to be very afraid of the members from the Tsun clan main house.

「I have to prepare food that will satisfy Mida Tsun. But that will be meaningless if it is only for one night, right? Since you will be tending to the Tsun clan’s hearth every night, I hope you can learn to cook delicious meals… Are you willing to do so?」

I passed the topic to another lady.

The older woman answered in an emotionless tone:

「… I have no reason to decline.」

「I see… do you want to try eating delicious food?」

「… I don’t know what that means.」

「I see, what about you?」

I turned my attention to the young girl beside her.

「… We need to be thankful for all the food, the taste doesn’t matter.」

This was the model answer in Forest's Edge.

Ai Fa, the Wu clan, and Lutim house all felt the same way in the beginning.

「You are absolutely right. But as you see, I’m from a foreign land. In my hometown, I worked as a chef. My job is to cook delicious food. As the head of the Tsun clan will be paying me, I have to finish this job no matter what.」

I looked at another woman.

「Will you help me complete this job?」

「… We have already promised Yamiel Tsun that we will help you.」

「Thank you, everyone… But things had blown up now, so not only do I need to prepare dinner for Mida Tsun and the main house of the Tsun clan, I also need to serve the participants of the house head conference too, as well as the Tsun clan branch houses— that means you and your family.」

And finally, I took out a pack of meat from the sack.

I opened the fake rubber tree leaves and laid out the meat covered in pico leaves onto the working platform.

This was a kiba’s right rear thigh meat.

「Vena Wu, can you heat the pot up with a strong fire?」

「Yes, got it…」

While she was heating the pot, I started slicing the meat with the Santoku knife.

Even though I bought the Semu made kitchen knife, I still needed to use this Santoku knife when cutting meat.

「You might be uninterested in delicious food, but my job is to let everyone enjoy a delicious meal. It’s fate that we get to work together, so I hope we can get along well.」

「… Are you angry because we burned the food and dropped the pot onto the ground?」

The oldest woman whose hair was half white asked in a calm voice.

「If that made you unhappy, I will apologize you. We will be more careful and not repeat the mistake.」

「You don’t need to apologize, I just hope everyone can work hard together.」

I observed that woman’s exhausted face.

「Why do all your faces look so lifeless? Do you hate tending to the hearth? Or are you unwilling to help a foreigner like me?」

「… No one is unhappy about this job…」

It felt like I was talking to an old dog that refused to communicate.

These women were just like Tay Tsun.

That listless and uncaring Tay Tsun who didn’t show any emotions.

Speaking of which… Tay Tsun and these women are from the branch house.

From what I knew, the Tsun clan main house members didn’t look so dead.

There must be a huge gulf between the main house and branch houses.

I didn’t know the reason, but if this goes on, our work would end in failure.

「…Asuta, the pot is heated…」

「Thank you.」

I put down my knife.

I then held a kiba thigh meat, which was about 5 mm thick, high up before the Tsun clan women.

「I’m going to grill this meat. I only seasoned it with pico leaves. The fats on the meat are equally spread out, I will grill it right now.」

I announced as I placed the meat into the pot.

There were 15 pieces of meat.

The aroma of the meat spread in the stove room along with white smoke.

「Vena Wu, a plate and spoon, please.」

「Yes…」

The slices of meat were thin and were cooked in no time.

I moved all the meat onto the plate and offered it to the eldest woman.

「Please taste one piece of meat. This is kiba meat after bloodletting.」

The woman ate the grilled meat with the spoon.

She didn’t show any emotions, but her eyebrows twitched a little.

The next woman had no reaction.

The third closed her eyes quickly.

The fourth opened her eyes slightly wider.

The fifth didn’t react.

Everyone had different reactions.

The one who reacted the strongest was the youngest girl who was about ten.

She frowned uneasily and looked at her kins on both sides of her.

But no one responded to her.

「I don’t know if this meat suited your taste, but you can tell it is different, right? The Wu clan and Lutim house think this meat is 『delicious』. In my time in Forest's Edge, I often heard people say that 『There is no distinction between food being tasty or not』. But I think if we are going to eat, we should try to eat delicious food.」

That was all I had to say.

They would need to experience the rest personally.

「We will be preparing more delicacies. In order to let Mida Tsun eat delectable food, I hope everyone can help… Well then, I want everyone to split into three groups to prepare the next dish.」

 

3

When I left the stove room, the men were gone.

Where did they go? As I was pondering about that, Leina Wu came over quietly.

「The men went to the Ceremonial Hall. There is still some time before the house head conference begins, but the kins of the Tsun clan were complaining due to them loitering around the village with blades on them.」

「I see.」

I nodded.

「Asuta, what should we do next?」

「We will stick to the plan and split into three groups to prepare 『Kiba meat soup』. From then on, I hope you all can let the Tsun clan women taste-test the dishes at every critical stage of the cooking process.」

「Taste-testing?」

「Yes. And please talk to them when you are working, even idle chatter is fine. The mood is important when cooking. If they continue to cook lifelessly, the dishes will taste bland.」

「Ah… I understand that. The dish will turn delicious if the one cooking wants to make the food delicious.」

「You are absolutely right.」

I nodded firmly, and Leina smiled blissfully.

「I get it. We are too tense because they are from the Tsun clan. As fellow women of Forest's Edge, we all wish for the men to taste delicious food. I will work with them with this thought in mind.」

Leina Wu was smarter and more considerate than others.

I told the same thing to Mama Mia Lei and Shela Wu and met up with my team members.

My team consisted of Vena Wu and Lala Wu.

「Well then, would the ladies from the Tsun clan please divide into three groups. Please try to team up with your family and people you are familiar with.」

We formed groups of eight, with 5 Tsun clan women and three people from our side in each group. We brought the aria and meat we needed and headed to the stove room of the branch houses.

「Let’s cut the aria. Please cut them into crescent shapes, like this.」

Every portion of 『Kiba meat soup』required two aria and around 150 g of kiba meat.

Each group would need to prepare 44 portions of meat soup, which was 88 aria and 6.6 kg of kiba meat.

「By the way, we are preparing ten portions for Mida Tsun because he is so big. But isn’t ten portions of soup a bit too much?」

I said to a woman from the Tsun clan. I was more cheerful than how I acted in the Post Station Town while operating the stall.

The woman cutting aria answered listlessly:

「Well… I don’t know…」

「Never mind, it’s better to have leftovers instead of having not enough. I planned to make the presentation better… Is Mida Tsun at home? Or in the woods?」

「Well… I don’t know…」

「I never met the head of the Tsun clan Zuro Tsun before. He is not just the head of the Tsun clan, but also the tribal chief of Forest's Edge. What kind of person is he?」

「…Zuro Tsun is a great man...」

Was this a waste of effort?

Vena Wu and Lala Wu couldn’t find anything to talk about either and turned quiet.

I decided to change my goal.

「Hey, what do you think about the meat just now?」

That girl who was about ten was in my group.

She chopped the aria mechanically and glanced at me.

「… It tastes completely different from normal kiba.」

「I know, right? We let out all the blood from a kiba before it dies, then took out its innards with proper steps. That way, we can eat the delicious torso meat on the kiba.」

「… Yes…」

「Does the Tsun clan discard the torso of the kiba into the forest too? Kiba thigh does taste nice, but there are many parts of the torso that are delicious too.」

The girl shook her head expressionlessly.

「… We don’t throw away the torso.」

「Ehh?」

「We eat the head and the torso… Compared to thigh meat, these parts have a stronger stench.」

「Oh〜 so that’s how it is.」

I said in an amiable tone, but a sense of dissonance was growing in my heart.

So even the Tsun clan branch house eats the head and torso of kiba… Isn’t that strange?

Ai Fa said the Tsun clan hogged all the prize money from Genos and didn’t fulfill their duties as hunters properly. This meant that the Tsun clan used the prize money to buy aria and poitan, and when they hunted down a kiba, they ate the entire thing. Was that their diet? In that case, they could minimize their work as hunters and spend their time leisurely.

But only the Tsun clan main house would do that, right?

Were the branch house of the Tsun clan living a lazy and depraved life too?

After thinking about it, this assumption was too unrealistic.

After I started running my business in the Post Station Town, I obtained the habit of calculating the expenses.

Was the prize money from Genos so

Genos so grand?

After taking on this job, I learned the number of people in the Tsun clan.

The Tsun clan main house had eight people, together with the 33 members of the branch houses, their clan consisted of 41 people.

Assuming none of them hunted any kiba.

The minimum requirement is two aria and three poitan a day. That would be 1.2 red copper plates.

For 41 people, that would be 49.2 red copper plates.

According to Kaslan Lutim, Genos gave out prize money every three months.

Three months was ninety days, and the Tsun clan would need 4428 red copper plates during this time.

In order to obtain the minimal amount of meat, they would need to hunt kiba. I included the meat into my calculation.

Assuming 500 g of kiba meat for each person, and 40 kg of meat from each kiba… They just had to hunt one kiba every two days to feed everyone.

If they sell the kiba tusks, horns, and hide, they can earn 24 red copper plates every couple of days.

That’s 360 red copper plates per month.

And 1080 red copper plates in three months.

Deducting 1080 red copper plates from the 4428 red copper plates, there would be 3348 red copper plates left.

3348 red copper plates every three months meant 13,392 red copper plates a year.

If the 41 people wanted to enjoy life every day, they would need such a huge amount of red copper plates a year.

Kamyua Yost once said that the prize money was trivial.

And Ai Fa responded:「That’s why the Tsun clan hogged the prize money.」

But — could this amount be considered 「trivial」?

And this was the sum needed for the Tsun clan to survive. The Tsun clan main house members weren’t living such frugal lives.

Doddo Tsun drank himself silly with fruit wine in the afternoon.

Mida Tsun had an allowance of ten red copper plates every month.

Besides, they also had to maintain their blades and buy miscellaneous items such as clothing too.

Hence, the Tsun clan wasn’t just surviving on the prize money alone, and also hunted plenty of kiba— but that girl just said that they would eat the head and torso of the kiba, which contradicted that.

Looking at it another way, if the prize money was lower than my earlier estimate, that meant the Tsun clan had to hunt more than one kiba a day. Then there would definitely be excess meat.

I felt uneasy.

The entire thing felt off.

I was starting to understand why the eyes of the branch house members looked so dead. I thought they were lifeless because the Tsun clan main house kept all the prize money to themselves, and forced the branch house members to keep it a secret. Maybe that wasn’t the case?

「… Asuta, the aria is done...」

Vena Wu’s voice pulled me back to reality.

「Alright, we will then take care of the kiba meat. I will use the kiba thigh meat and loin meat for soup.」

I shook my head slowly and focused on the task before me.

I didn’t know how much the prize money was, or how many kiba the Tsun clan actually hunted. I wouldn’t get an answer no matter how hard I thought about it.

But— I still saved this doubt in a corner of my mind.

「Like the meat slices I cut earlier, please distribute the white fats when you cut the meat, it should be about this thick.」

No one answered.

I suggested that we should chat idly with the Tsun clan women, but this was the first time we met, and they had such a lifeless attitude, so what should we talk about? I decided to play dumb and ask them about the situation within the Tsun clan main house. As I was thinking about that…

「Uwah!」

Lala Wu yelled.

「T-That surprised me! Who are you and when did you come in!?」

「I was here a long while ago. You are the one who is slow for not realizing my presence.」

She spoke with a sharp voice like birds chirping.

I was shocked too. An intruder suddenly appeared in the stove room that had eight people.

That was a petite girl.

I couldn’t tell her age.

She was a head shorter than Lala Wu, in other words, her height was at most 130 cm.

The limbs and body of the girl were skinny, but her head was disproportionately large. Her brown hair was tied at the top of her head, resembling an onion.

She had large eyes with small pupils that had a dangerous glint in them. Her nose and mouth were small, and her chin had a shape of a sharp triangle.

She was wearing a one-piece dress on her small body for some reason. The dress had swirly patterns, which were the type of clothing found in the city.

「… So you are the foreigner living in the Fa house?」

She stared at me with her sanpaku eyes.

「Hmmm, from your appearance, you are a citizen of the west, right? But you have the hair of an easterner, are you a mixed blood from the east and west?」

「No, I came from a nation even further away. Who are you?」

I could already guess her identity.

If the stereotype 『Tsun clan main house people are proud and arrogant』 was correct, the answer was obvious.

The girl’s answer was just what I expected.

「I’m the youngest daughter of the Tsun clan Zwei Tsun… Isn’t it basic courtesy to introduce yourself when you ask someone else for their names?」

「Ahh, I’m Asuta from the Fa house. Are you here to help?」

I just said that when the little girl called Zwei furrowed her brows a little and admonished me:

「Why should the main house member help in the stove room? That’s the work of the branch house, right? Don’t say something so ridiculous!」

「Is that so? So the Tsun clan had such a rule.」

Seeing that a member of the main house had shown up, I raised my guard to the highest level. However, the little girl was different from her siblings, and didn’t leave too bad of an impression on me.

She didn’t seem kind or honest, but her humorous appearance felt approachable. Just looking at her gave me a sense of deja vu. Wasn’t there a character like this in a manga or an anime?

「Hmmp! Very well, I forgive you since you’re a foreigner… Hmm? Is this the magical kiba meat?」

「No, I’m not a magician.」

「What are you saying!? Didn’t you sell the kiba meat in the Post Station Town of Genos!? The people in the city absolutely detest kiba meat, so you must have cast some spell on them!」

She screamed hysterically, then narrowed her eyes and glared at me.

「Are you… really a man who earned 200 copper plates in one day? I find that hard to believe…」

「In that case, then don’t believe that.」

「Enough idle talk, answer me properly! And don’t lie, I will know the truth if I just check!」

She might be approachable, but she sure is noisy.

How did everyone feel when watching a scene like this? I looked around me—

Vena Wu squinted her eyes sleepily and stared at the intruder’s profile.

Lala Wu frowned unhappily and glared at her too.

And— the women from the branch houses hung their head lifelessly and cut the meat quietly. They didn’t react when they saw Zwei Tsun.

「Hey… How long have you run your business in the Post Station Town?」

Zwei Tsun came near to pressure me.

「Mida started crying nonstop since ten days ago. Which means you have operated for at least ten straight days, right?」

「Around there.」

I actually worked consecutively in the Post Station Town for 13 days and took one day off in between. But I had no obligation to tell her all these details.

「Ten days in a row! Assuming you earn 200 red copper plates a day, you have earned 2,000 copper plates now!」

「No, half of our revenue is used to buy ingredients, and I didn’t earn 200 red copper plates right at the beginning either.」

I quickly corrected her, but she wasn’t listening.

The eyes of the girl had turned into a completely different person.

What was going on? Her eyes were shining with obsession, like a famished beast.

「2,000 red copper plates… That’s 200 white copper plates… And in silver plates? Two silver plates!」

「Ah, well, like I said,

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