Cooking with Wild Game (LN) Chapter 3
Pact and Reunion
Editor: Deus Ex-machina, Ruzenor
「… I thought I would never see you two again.」
This was the Wu main house.
Donda Wu bit hard on black jerky and sat cross legged with one knee up. Behind him was a large, prominent and elegant kiba skull and pelt.
It had been eleven days since we left the Wu house.
Now was right around noon.
Only the eldest son Jiza Wu stood beside the clan head.
Aside from the clan head’s wife Mia Lei Wu who welcomed us in the beginning, we didn’t meet any other women. They were probably making rugs, extracting fats or busy with other work.
We handed over our blades and sat at the bottom seats. Donda Wu faced Ai Fa and me and continued:
「You two are actually here at a time like this. Head of the Fa house Ai Fa, can you afford to neglect your important work as a hunter?」
「It’s fine. I have hunted four kiba in half a month. There’s just the two of us in our house, so we can manage.」
By the way, one month was thirty days in this world.
There were twelve months in one year, and about 360 days. But there was a thirteenth month every three years, and I still didn’t really get how the calendar works over here.
Anyways, after hearing Ai Fa’s answer, Donda Wu just glared at her, exhaled and said:
「So? You don’t have any business with me, right? If you want to visit the Grand Elder, go on ahead.」
「Please let us visit her later. Before that, Fa house member Asuta would like to apologize to the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu.」
「… Apologize?」 Donda Wu said with his lips twisted grumpily.
I went into a seiza position, and bowed deeply:
「Some days ago, the meals I served displeased the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu. I offer my sincere apologies to the Wu clan. This is because my skills in tending to the hearth is still immature, so I would like to apologize to everyone for that.」
「Hmmp, what nonsense are you saying? I don’t understand at all, hearth caretaker of the Fa house.」
The malicious mocking came from the top of my head.
「You saved the soul of Grand Elder Jiba Wu, so I won’t pursue your crime of letting me eat food that would corrode the soul of a hunter. I already let the matter rest and you are still here to apologize, I don’t know how to answer you.」
「Yes, that’s why Asuta of Fa house have a request for the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu.」
I raised my head and straightened my back, then stared right at Donda Wu’s burly face:
「Can you let me tend to the Wu clan’s hearth one more time?」
「… What did you say?」
「The reason I tended to the hearth here last time was for the sake of letting Grand Elder Jiba Wu’s heart find peace. I’m happy to have achieved that goal, but my cookings made clan head Donda Wu and his family unhappy instead. I’m glad that you have forgiven my transgression, but I don’t mean to upset everyone.」
A fierce glaring gleam appeared in Donda Wu’s eyes.
He unleashed an enormous amount of pressure, and I felt as if I was facing a beast.
Even so, I looked back at him with tenacious eyes and said:
「Please allow me to tend to the Wu clan’s hearth again. This time, I will bring peace and satisfaction to all the members of your house.」
「Every member of my house, huh…After eating that rotten kiba meat, eight out of twelve members have already given you their blessings, and you are still not satisfied?」
Donda Wu’s voice surprised me.
Before I understand why I felt that way, a ferocious smile appeared on his face.
「Brat, food has no distinction of being delicious or not. Just eating kiba meat, and ingredients we used the kiba tusks and horns to exchange for is enough to bring peace and satisfaction to my soul. These two things were only lacking when you serve me that unpalatable dinner that night.」
「Yes. In that case… I promise you that I will make you feel more peace and satisfaction.」
「… Promise?」Donda Wu’s lips twisted once again.
「Brat, you want to make a promise with the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu?」
「If you don’t fulfill this promise, do you know what will happen to you, brat?」
「… Do what you wish.」
At this moment, the eldest son Jiza Wu interjected:
「Father, head of the Wu clan Donda Wu. Even though he said that, the Fa house isn’t wealthy and can’t compensate us with money. If they fail to keep their promise, they can only repay with their body. If blood is spilled over such a reckless matter, the reputation of the Wu clan will plummet.」
「Hmmp. That brat isn’t a denizen of Forest's Edge, but a pale skinned outsider, right?」
「But he is a member of the Fa house now. Even if he is a foreigner, he is still a denizen of Forest's Edge.」
He was worried about our safety—— that wasn’t the case.
Jiza Wu was very serious about the rules of Forest's Edge, and didn’t want others to tend to his family’s hearth, or for the clan head to perform any violent act.
「Hold on, I’m not that violent that I would make someone bleed because of the quality of food. On the precondition that they don’t serve me poison that will corrode my hunter’s soul」
A smile of a hunter who found his prey appeared on Donda Wu’s boulder-like face.
「But it is boring to set a promise without anything at stakes… Hey brat, do you have the resolve to serve the food you are so proud of to the people from another house?」
I didn’t get what he meant, so I tilted my head confusedly. The burly man before me who was like the reincarnation of a kiba showed a gleeful face:
「In ten days, the kin family of the Wu clan, the Lutim house will be holding a wedding. Three nights from now, the head of the Lutim house will visit here to arrange the wedding preparation. The Wu clan will have an extravagant feast to pre-celebrate the wedding—— I’m asking if you have the resolve to tend to the hearth on that day.」
「Clan head, that’s too…」
「Shut up Jiza.」
The Wu clan successor had an imposing aura about him, but even he couldn’t go against the clan head.
Jiza Wu narrowed his eyes and sighed. I glanced his way, and then asked:
「How many attendees would there be?」
「Not many, just three from their side. The head of the Lutim house, his eldest son and the bride.」
「Eldest son of their main house…」 Ai Fa muttered softly.
「That’s right, the eldest son of their main house.」
Donda Wu laughed and said:
「He’s the successor of the Lutim main house. He’s getting married, and this is the happiest affair for the Lutim house… By the way, of all the kin house of the Wu clan, The Lutim is the largest. Not only do they have many men, they have the closest relations with the Wu clan. If you enraged them, then the Wu clan will have no choice but to break off ties with the Fa house.」
「Break off ties?」
I turned towards Ai Fa.
Ai Fa listened quietly to Donda Wu’s words.
「The Wu clan will break off all interaction with the Fa house. Even if the Fa house come to the Wu clan for aid, the Wu clan won’t lend a hand… This don’t just apply to the Wu main house. Be it the Wu branch house or the six houses that are tied by blood to the Wu clan, over a hundred of our kin will break all relations with the Fa house.」
Ai Fa didn’t even bat an eye.
「Ai Fa of house Fa, you turned down the wedding proposal of the Wu clan before. But are you misunderstanding something? Did you think you can live so liberally in Forest's Edge because of your smarts and wits?」
Donda Wu leaned his arm on the knee he had propped up, and leaned forth:
「Those guys from Tsun clan only refrained from laying their hands on you because they think you have ties to the Wu clan. In the end, you didn’t marry into the Wu clan, but they still think you have relations with the Wu clan… Since it’s the delusion of those morons, you don’t need to worry about it. I’m not trying to sell you any favour, but since it will bother the Tsun clan people, I’m not so kind that I would clear their doubts. That’s why I didn’t give this matter much thought.」
Ai Fa tilted her head slightly.
The light within her blue eyes grew a little stronger.
「So?… So, if the Wu clan declares that we will break all ties with you, that means there will be nothing stopping those bunch of people from the Tsun clan from doing what they did two years ago. For them, bullying a little girl without any backing is easier than killing a baby kiba.」
「Does Forest's Edge permit such lawlessness?」
「Without power, what’s the use of talking about law? In Forest's Edge, abducting or bullying girls are taboo. But if the one breaking these taboos are the chief Tsun clan, then who can hold them accountable and punish them? Other than the Wu clan, which other house can match them in martial prowess?」
I maintained my kneeling position and clenched my fists.
My gaze passed through this burly man, and an emotion bordering killing intent towards the subject of his speech welled up within me.
「Furthermore, you don’t have any other family or kin, the only other member of your house is that outsider kneeling there. Even if someone abducts you, the residents nearby won’t even notice. That’s why that moron broke the taboo two years ago and barged into your home, right? After what happened that night, he will be back with a few other men next time.」
「… Who cares how many people he brings? I will defeat them all.」
Fire was finally spewing out of Ai Fa’s eyes.
She glared at the huge man who was like a beast, her eyes were as intense as the other party.
「Is this the conditions given by the head of the Wu clan Donda Wu? If my family Asuta can’t satisfy the members of the Wu and Lutim family, the Wu clan will declare that they will break off ties with the Fa house… I accept. As the head of the Fa house, I accept this condition.」
「Hey, Ai Fa!」
I yelled, and Ai Fa looked at me with angry fire in her blue eyes.
「What? Are you going to tell me that you’re not confident? I already told you to have the resolve to shoulder the reputation of the Fa house and accept the challenge.」
Ai Fa was furious.
After spending so much time with her, this might be the first time —— that she showed such rage.
She probably wasn’t this mad because of Donda Wu’s unreasonable request.
But because she had not depended on the sympathy of the Wu clan in all her time living in Forest's Edge—— she felt that her dignity had been trampled by him.
To be honest, I didn’t want to make this agreement with him.
Leaving the situation of the Tsun clan aside, we had finally started interacting with Rimee Wu and Grandma Jiba again. If we broke off all ties with the Wu clan, we would have to break all relations with the two of them again.
If Ai Fa could be saved by throwing away my pride, I wouldn’t hesitate in throwing all of it away. Using Ai Fa’s happiness and safety as chips in a match was too foolish.
Even if I run away from this challenge, Ai Fa wouldn’t be saved either.
I wouldn’t be able to save her noble and tenacious spirit.
If I back down here, Ai Fa would think I wanted to trample on her honour and pride instead and become raging mad.
「Asuta…」 she called out to me softly.
She stared at me with her blue burning eyes.
Her brows were furrowed in a deep frown, and after she called out my name, her lips were tightly shut—— and her shoulders started trembling a little.
Even you don’t believe me…?
I won’t give in to this, don’t you trust me…?
I could feel her fiery eyes telling me this agitatedly.
「… I understand.」
I muttered softly, then turned to Donda Wu and said:
「I accept these conditions.」
Donda Wu became expressionless.
Fingers as large as a baseball mitt brushed through his unkempt hair.
「You accept? Do you know what you are saying?」
「I accept these terms.」
I repeated myself firmly.
Donda Wu’s eyes were filled with rage, and he said:
「Very well, I will make this pact with you, hearth tender. If the thing you cook can’t satisfy me, then give the thing you are wearing so proudly on your neck back to the Wu clan… A fool who breaks his promise is not worthy of the Wu clan’s blessings.」
I remained calm on the surface and nodded in reply.
Was this really fine? I glanced to the side, and Ai Fa’s head was slightly lowered, her eyelids shielding her burning gaze.
If I wasn’t mistaken——
Her lips seemed to be raised in a satisfied smile.
「Oh, have you finished your discussion?」
After leaving the Wu clan’s hall, we saw two women about to walk into the house entrance with sieves in hand.
They were the wife of the clan head Mia Lei Wu, and the spouse of the eldest son Sati Lei Wu.
Inside the sieves were a pile of pico leaves, they were probably drying them in the sun.
By the way, the necklace of tusks and horns hanging on their chest numbered three again.
「Both of your faces are scary, did our clan head make some boring taunts again?」
Mia Lei Wu was about my parent’s age, and a rather plump mother.
Even someone from the relatively wealthy Wu clan had to work hard everyday. Even though I described her as plump, she wasn’t fat because of laziness, she was just big boned.
Other than being big boned, her body was filled with muscles, and covered with an adequate amount of fats. Her arms and shoulders were fleshy, even though she was shorter than me, she was definitely stronger.
I met this mother earlier, but it’s the first time I met Sati Lei Wu today. She smiled and said: 「Long time no see.」
「Welcome to the Wu clan, Ai Fa and Asuta of the Fa house. What brings you here today?」
The young wife has a head of bright brown hair and dark eyes. She was about twenty, and I couldn’t tell she was already a mother with her slim figure and fine features.
「Well, how should I put this —— Isn’t the Lutim house having a pre-wedding celebration three days later? I will be tending to the hearth that night.」
After I gave this answer, the two housewives leaned forth with sparkling eyes.
「Our eccentric clan head actually agreed to this!? But that grilled poitan made Donda dumbstruck after all. He probably wants to pretend that grilled poitan is invented by him, and boast about it to the Lutim house members.」
「Mia Lei, I’m looking forward to it! Leina and Rimee worked hard, but their cooking can’t compare with Asuta at all. And that tender kiba meat—— will you cook it for us again?」
「Please look forward to it on the actual day. No matter what, my cooking won’t lose to the previous time.」
The two of them were as gleeful as little girls.
I didn’t need to tell that discomforting agreement to these two innocent housewives. After all, my intentions was to not leave any shadow of disharmony in the Wu clan.
By the way—— The spouses of Donda Wu and Jiza Wu we just met were actually so cheerful and gentle. The thought of this makes me feel complicated.
In order to gift blessing onto the women for them to have a safe life, parents and husbands would gift them with kiba tusks and horns. The new tusks and horns hanging on their chest were probably gifted to them by their spouses.
The tense battle atmosphere just now was too different from the happy family scene before me, which made my head feel giddy.
「… Why do you look so troubled?」
Someone whispered into my ear and poked my flank.
Ai Fa was right by my side. She glared at me and said:
「Don’t worry, you just need to satisfy that eccentric man with your cooking.」
Even though she was glaring at me, her gaze no longer had those emotional fire, and her expression was warmer than usual.
She had already gotten over it, which almost made me sigh.
But—— Ai Fa really trust me, she wasn’t worried about me losing to Donda Wu at all.
If I lose, she would be dragged down along with me. However, she was already resolved to do so. There wasn’t any doubts or hesitation in Ai Fa’s face.
Damn it! Why are you so strong, Ai Fa?!
I thought while the depths of my belly was boiling over like a pot of kiba meat soup.
It wasn’t a negative feeling.
It was a soup that condenses my fighting spirit, and means: 「I definitely won’t lose!」
However, my real enemy wasn’t Donda Wu.
The adversary was my past self—— I had to defeat that shallow thinking and arrogant self, who caused this dissatisfying result, and take back my honour.
「… Don’t let out such an aura. If you are so hyped up now, can you last for three days?」
She poked my flank again.
We were close enough to whisper, so her long blonde hair had been brushing against my cheek the whole time.
After calming down, I finally realized that we were too close to each other.
Just as I was thinking that and shift my gaze back, the housewives were looking at us with innocent smiles.
I felt embarrassed and pulled an adequate distance away from Ai Fa.
「B-By the way, what is Rimee Wu doing? I haven’t seen her today.」
「Rimee? Strange? She was just with us, I even told her that you two are visiting us… Hey, Rimee?」
Mia Lei Wu shouted confusedly.
I looked around me, noticed that Ai Fa’s gaze was fixed in one direction and followed her line of sight——
A red head was peeking out from behind a wall to the side, but hid quickly again.
「Ara, she’s over there? Thanks for your help, Rimee. We are done over here, so you can go play with Ai Fa and Asuta.」
The two ladies bidded farewell with a look, and went off to the other end of the house.
Grandma Jiba was still napping, and it would be a while before she wakes. Hence, the Wu clan permitted us to stay for the time being. We spent an hour to get here, so I hope to chat with Rimee Wu a little.
But Rimee Wu only showed her fluffy red hair from the shadows of the wall, and didn’t want to come near.
「Rimee Wu, what are you doing? Is this some sort of game in Forest's Edge?」
After I asked that, Ai Fa looked at me with cold eyes and called out to her:
Rimee Wu remained unmoved.
「…Asuta, what’s that?」Ai Fa pointed behind me.
When I turned around, I heard the ‘patapata’ sound of footsteps.
When I turned back, Rimee Wu was hugging Ai Fa tightly.
Rimee Wu’s petite hands wrapped around Ai Fa’s slender waist over her cape, and her small head pressed against Ai Fa’s breasts.
「That hurts! Rimee Wu, stop.」 Ai Fa said with her face blushing a little.
Really? Though it didn’t look painful at all. That’s what I want to say, but I didn’t want to be kicked by her, so I held my peace.
「Rimee Wu, long time no see. I thought you will come and visit the Fa house. How have you been?」
I greeted her for a smile.
The next instant, Rimee Wu shivered, her back shaking as she stood stiffly.
「What’s the matter? Did you forget my face?」
Rimee Wu clinged tightly to Ai Fa’s chest, and turned slowly towards me.
She looked at me timidly, and her face —— was terrified.
She wasn’t just terrified, her face was redder than Ai Fa.
Rimee Wu’s round eyes were tearful, and her lips were trembling. She was very expressive as usual, very suitable for onomatopoeia. But did she look as if she was about to cry?
「Asuta, did you see me naked?」
I was shocked, as if the a bolt of judgement from the gods hit me right in the head.
「W-W-What are you saying, Rimee Wu? W-W-What naked?」
「…Asuta, didn’t you peek at the girls bathing? Did you use that chance to see Rimee’s naked body?」
She’s referring to what happened in the morning ten days ago!?
After that incident, I busied myself researching cooking every day, and had already shoved my memory about it into a drawer in my brain—— but it wasn’t so for this child?
No, no matter what, Rimee Wu was just a seven or eight years old little girl! Never mind the other girls, making such a young child show such a tearful expression —— I felt like a complete criminal!
I shouted with all my might once again:
「I only saw Ai Fa’s naked body!」
Ai Fa didn’t kick my leg this time, but my butt.
It was a roundhouse kick she put her weight into, and I thought my pelvic bone would crack.
A few minutes later, we headed to the stove room behind the house.
The men should have gone off to the forest by now, so I managed to avoid Darum Wu whom I had bad blood with.
「… Didn’t we already agreed? We can’t let Donda Wu or the other family members know about this, and you actually shouted so loudly right in front of the house!」
Ai Fa scolded me angrily. Rimee Wu was still hanging tightly to her left arm.
Her face was slightly red because these unnecessary memories had been dug up.
「I only claim to have seen you naked, so there’s no problem… Wah, sorry, spare me! If you kick me again, I won’t be able to walk any more!」
After looking at Ai Fa’s red face, Rimee Wu’s face turned even redder and said softly:
「Asuta, did you only see Ai Fa naked? Will you become Ai Fa’s husband?」
She spoke quietly, but it was clear to us.
「I don’t need a husband, and I won’t permit a jerk who breaks the taboo to be my husband!」
Give me a break. I will reflect for the entire day like a real criminal.
As we were chatting, we reached the back of the house.
After greeting Grandma Ditto Min who just finished chopping wood, we moved on ahead and found two girls in front of the kitchen, working hard on something.
They were the second sister Leina Wu and the third sister Lala Wu.
They had placed a large board onto the ground, laid a kiba pelt on top, then kept stepping on it with their bare feet. They circled in a clockwise manner, as if they were chasing each other’s shadows. This must be one of the tasks necessary for making fur rug.
As I was thinking that—— Leina Wu noticed us with her blue eyes and widened them.
Her lovely face was turned rose coloured.
Leina Wu had brown skin, so how could her skin turn rose coloured? Anyway, her face was beet red. Leina Wu bowed her head slightly as she stomped on, and the third sister Lala Wu appeared before us next.
She was middle school age (which doesn’t exist in this world). And she was always showing a haughty attitude, so she wouldn’t react so strongly —— this faint expectation I bore fell completely short.
Her face that was beginning to change from that of a child to a teenager turned red with an amazing speed. She furrowed her brows fiercely, bared her white teeth and reached for the knife on her waist as she came towards me barefooted.
「How dare you show yourself so shamelessly before us!? Your luck has run out, hand over your life!」
「Y-You can’t, Lala! Look, Grandma Ditto Min is right there! If you cause a ruckus, then… then what happened that morning will be exposed…?」
While Leina Wu was struggling to restrain Lala Wu’s arm, her face turned redder as she shy away even further.
Leina Wu tied her hair in a low twin tail, and was a petite, lovable and charming girl with a well proportioned figure.
On the other hand, Lala Wu tied her hair in a high ponytail, and was already taller than her elder sister. She looked as strong as a boy, and was a really cute girl.
The sisters whose appearance contrasted with each other were blushing and losing their composure because of embarrassment.
Even though I would be kicked, I want to use this chance to clarify the misunderstanding. When I was about to speak, Rimee Wu did so before me:
「H-Hey everyone! Asuta only saw Ai Fa’s naked body! S-So, we don’t need to marry him!」
The sisters froze in place.
Their faces remained red from embarrassment, with different emotions flashing in their eyes as one glared at me, and the other looked at me.
「It’s true! I only saw Ai…」
I was hit midway.
She hit my forehead with her palm, a refreshing new move.
It gave me a mild concussion, and I held onto the wall of the kitchen house and groaned.
「…Asuta, watch your tongue.」
I started reflecting on my actions after seeing Ai Fa’s expression from my blurry vision.
How could I sacrifice Ai Fa’s sense of shame for the sake of soothing the other girls? Who was the most important person to me? It was Ai Fa. Ah, I’m such an idiot. In order to protect myself, I relied on Ai Fa’s strong personality.
I wanted to apologize to Ai Fa properly, but I couldn’t do that as my world was spinning.
「…Erm, I’m really sorry about what happened a few days ago. I swear that I didn’t see any of you unclothed. But I wish to apologize again for the stress I caused to your mental well-being.」
Several seconds later, I bowed to the women of the Wu clan after I recovered from my concussion.
The three women, Leina, Lala and Rimee, stood in a row according to their age before me. All three had different expressions——
Leina Wu was at a loss.
Lala Wu was furious.
Rimee Wu smiled bashfully.
But despite their differing expression, all of them looked deeply embarrassed.
Leaving Ai Fa aside for now, I really didn’t see the bodies of these girls, so why should I feel so guilty then? It was a little illogical, but I still made these young girls panic, and that was a heavy crime. This only happened because of my carelessness and foolishness, I lowered my head in apology.
「E-Excuse me! Please don’t be so bothered by this, Jiza-nii already told us the entire story. You only acted that way because of Ludo’s prank, right?」
Of the three, Leina Wu appears the most embarrassed. I felt even worse when I saw her speaking up for me.
「Hmmp! Jiza-nii is too naive! He should have gouged his eyes out and leave him in the forest! The monta that eats rotten meat will finish him up cleanly, and we can pretend that none of this happened!」
Lala Wu said something really chilling, but her blushing face still stirred up my feelings of guilt.
「B-But Asuta isn’t a liar! He definitely didn’t see us naked…! This is embarrassing, let’s just take that he is telling the truth.」
What Rimee Wu said made me speechless. The thought that I caused some mental trauma in the heart of this little girl make me feel like killing myself.
「… Women of the Wu clan, let’s stop this. I can only apologize for my family member’s foolishness. I came to visit the Wu clan because I wish to tell you all something.」
After her blush faded away, Ai Fa’s face was colder than usual as she spoke to mediate.
「Ai Fa, you have something to tell us?」
The eldest of the girls present, Leina Wu asked. Ai Fa nodded a little and said:
「Yes. Before that, aren’t you working? I will feel bad if I disturb your work, so I hope you can listen to me as you work.」
「Alright, we will get back to our task——」 The elder sister patted away the dirt on her feet, and started stamping away at the pelt.
「Why are you doing that?」
When I asked that, Leina who had finally reverted to her usual pure and innocent self answered: 「Because the pelt will turn soft after we stamp on it.」
I wanted to learn more about making fur rugs, but we still have matters to attend to. The other party only permit us to stay until Grandma Jiba wakes up, so our time here was limited.
「It has been ten days since Asuta tended to the hearth. How are your meals so far? Is Jiba Wu lively?」
「Yes! Grandma Jiba will eat a lot and take many small bites… But our cooking still isn’t as good as Asuta.」
Rimee Wu answered:
「Everyone is good in grilling poitan now. But even Leina-nee can’t make that hamburg thing well. After grilling it, the meat will sometimes break apart, get burnt or remain raw inside… And it still have a stench! Both the grilled hamburg and the soup without poitan have the stench of kiba in them.」
「Have you tried washing the meat?」
「Yes! We did what you said, and wash the meat with salt water! But there will still be some lingering stench.」
I did tell them the way to remove the stench, but if bloodletting wasn’t performed when hunting the kiba, it will be hard to remove the stench completely. I have confirmed this in the Fa house too.
「How annoying! I think that Leina-nee will get better with more practice, but Papa Donda won’t permit it. He even chided us about wasting kiba meat to play, how mean. And so, we will only grill hamburg steak for Grandma Jiba.」
「I can’t do it as well as Asuta after all. Asuta, you are amazing!」
Leina Wu’s black pupils sparkled like a scene from a shoujo manga.
I felt honoured, but a stare coming from another side was pricking at me painfully.
「We still have so much meat left at home! Uggh~ I want to eat hamburg steak. I don’t want to eat jerky anymore, I want to eat hamburg steak all the time!」
「That’s right Rimee, I feel the same too.」
Leina Wu showed a lonely smile.
I felt a little scared when I looked at this pair of sisters.
How should I put this —— hamburg steak was much more addictive than I imagined.
Donda Wu and Jiza Wu didn’t like the hamburg steak, but Rimee Wu, Leina Wu and the others were completely captivated by it. For the denizens of Forest's Edge, the tender meat they knew of was the meat in kiba soup that had been boiled into a mush. When they tasted the hamburg steak, the new sensation and texture was too strong a stimuli for them.
My next dish will shatter their fantasy towards hamburg steaks —— such a thought rose in my heart once again.
「But I have something to ask you. When the Wu clan grill meat, how do you handle the meat?」
「Handle them? We just swish swish swish and cut them up.」
I didn’t understand at all.
Leina Wu helped her explain:
「Just like what you did, we will cut the meat off from the bones, slice them into thin slices and grill them. We will leave the white fats evenly on each piece.」
In that case, the way they prepare the kiba meat was the same as how pork and boar meat were prepared in my original world. Aside from the outer layer, the thigh meat of the kiba didn’t have much fats. If the meat were cut from the outside in like what Ai Fa did, only the lean meat would be left by the mid point.
「By the way, how thin did you slice them?」
「Ehh…? About this thin.」
It was slightly less than a centimeter. I could understand, it was hard to slice raw meat after all.
Also, she didn’t use one hand, but both of them to show the thickness of the meat, how sly. Because Leina Wu looked innocent and cute, she was very endearing when she acts like this. I couldn’t help smiling, and a sharp gaze pricked my cheek——
「Asuta, why did you ask?」
「Hmm? Well, it’s just for reference. Because I will be tending to the hearth here three days later.」
「Ehh, really!?」「Is that true!?」 Of the three girls, two of them were overjoyed like the housewives earlier.
Only the third sister had a look of disgust, and said angrily as she stomped on:
「What, that guy’s tending to the hearth again? Whatever, just don’t let me eat that mushy meat again.」
She was disguising her rant against me in the form of muttering to herself.
I turned my head towards her quietly.
But she was always on the move, so it was hard to meet her gaze.
The third sister of the Wu clan, Lala Wu. Of all the women, she was the only one who didn’t acknowledge my cooking.
I wouldn’t change my plan even if she told me her opinion. Even so, I still want to hear her thoughts.
「Lala Wu, I want to ask you. Instead of tender meat, do you prefer tougher ones like the men?」
She shot her gaze my way.
Her face had calmed down, but it was blushing a little again. So her eyes weren’t that frightening.
「What, peeping tom. Can you not talk to me so causally?」
「L-Let’s not talk about that for now. I might be an apprentice, but I’m still a chef. To me, what the customers think is very important. Of everyone here, your comments are the most specific, so I hope you can tell me what you think.」
「What do you mean, tending to the hearth is a woman’s job, right?」
「Not so for my country. Most of the chef there are men.」
For a short while, Lala Wu kept a straight face and stepped silently.
Finally, she glared at me with a red face and said:
「What!? Are you going to stay here until I say something!? I don’t want to talk to a peeping tom like you!」
「Ehh? I can apologize as much as you want for that incident! But, can you help me?」
「… No matter how many times you apologize, I still feel embarrassed.」
She lowered her head a little and bit on her lips.
Maybe… This girl was the same type as Ai Fa.
When I was thinking that, the gaze on my left cheek intensified.
My body broke out in cold sweat and I continued:
「I-I will be going home soon. Before that, can you tell me your thoughts? I remember that you said the grilled poitan and soup aren’t bad?」
「You are really noisy! I just hate that gooey meat! I think that thing sprinkled on top of the meat is like warm fruit wine and taste nice. The aria is crunchy and delicious! But the important thing is the kiba meat, the kiba meat!」
She yelled in reckless abandon and direct her piercing gaze towards me.
She was still blushing red.
「What do you want? Are you angry because I didn’t offer you my blessing? That can’t be helped! I really hate that meat… I wanted to bless you for saving Grandma Jiba, but if all the girls side with you, Papa will be humiliated! That’s right! In the end, it’s the fault of Leina-nee who was the first one to bless you!」
「Sorry, but sisters shouldn’t fight…?」
「You must have wooed Leina-nee when you two were cooking together, right? That’s why she gift you her blessings first. Leina-nee, you always look so serious, but act so underhandedly!」
「That’s not true! I really think it tastes delicious!」
「Erm, like I said…」
「I think it’s delicious too!」
「Rimee brat, shut up! Let me say this first Leina-nee. Men are only trying to get on your good side because of your thicc figure! If you don’t marry while your tummy is still flat, you will be left on the shelf.」
「W-Why must you say something so mean!? And right in front of Asuta too, how mean!」
「I’m not a brat! Lala you tomboy!」
Ahhh… They’re not stopping at all.
And the gaze on my left cheek turned sharper and colder. Was she pushing the blame for everything that happened today under my name?
「… What are you quarreling about?」
At this moment, the messiah appeared!
It was the youngest brother Ludo Wu!
「Guests, Grandma Jiba is awake… Enough already. That’s why I want you to pick one of them and marry into the family.」
「Shut up, Ludo!」「T-That’s rude, Ludo!」「Bratty Ludo get lost!」Even after hearing the choir of protest, Ludo Wu just waved his hand and said:「Ah～ noisy…」 and was unfazed. He gestured at Ai Fa and me with his chin, asking us to follow him.
His expression was solemn today. The quiver and bow slung on his left shoulder mean he was about to head into the forest.
I yelled at Lala Wu who was gritting her teeth:
「Lala Wu, I won’t serve mushy meat next time, and will prepare something with more bite. Look forward to it..」
「Shut up! No matter what you serve up, I will never gift you my blessing!」
With that parting shout, we headed to the entrance of the room.
「… Are you eying for a brat like Lala? She’s two years younger than me, and can only marry after three more years.」
「I-I don’t plan to do that! Can you please change the topic?」
The mistress of my house was staring at the back of my head now, and it felt just like a steel blade. Ludo Wu, even though you were the one who dragged me into this mess, I didn’t want to pursue your crimes. But please, stop using the term ‘marry’ right now.
「Hmmp～ whatever!」 After saying that, he used his lean and strong arm and put me into a side headlock.
「If you prefer Lala over Vena-nee or Leina-nee, then just lay your hands on her… But if you lay a finger on the brat Rimee, I will kill you.」
I could feel genuine killing intent within his quiet voice.
I could only pray that Rimee Wu’s future husband candidates may rest in peace.
And then—— when I walked casually outside of the house, I stopped in my tracks with a gasp.
Standing before the house weren’t the men from the Wu main house, but over 20 《kiba hunting》 warriors.
「Ludo, you are back—— Good, alright men! Like usual, we will plunder lives from the forest today!」
Ohh—— The men’s roar seemed to shake the very earth.
All of them wore kiba fur and a large sabre at their waist. Some of them brought arrows or javelins. There were old men and youths about Ludo Wu’s age. A few had bandages on their head, and there was even a man whose arm was bent the wrong way.
Without doubt, they were the hunters of Forest's Edge.
The young and the old, fit and wounded, all of them had a fire burning in their eyes like beasts. A glaring fighting spirit burned within them, and they headed into the woods.
And standing before them was of course, the clan head Donda Wu, but he ignored our presence.
「I’m going off now!」 Ludo Wu ran towards the group after this parting words. His eyes were just like a beast.
The figure of these hunters inspire valor just like a scene out of a mythological tale—— for a while, I couldn’t speak or move.
「… They are the men from the Wu branch family, they are also living in this village.」
Ai Fa put her hand on my shoulder gently.
I turned back unconsciously—— She was probably affected by the men’s aura, when she looked at me, there was a blue flame burning in her eyes.
「They are Donda Wu’s younger brothers and their sons, as well as the younger brothers of Donda Wu’s parents and their scions. All of them are led by the head of Wu’s main house, Donda Wu.」
Her fiery cat like eyes looked right into my eyes.
「And there are six kin house that follows the Wu clan. They are Lutim, Mamu, Min, Lei, Lilim and Mufa. Numbering over a hundred in total… Asuta, does that frighten you? What you are doing is taunting this group of men.」
「No—— it should be fine.」
I replied. I probably succeeded in squeezing out a smile:
「Don’t worry, I’m more convinced about what I need to do next. I probably —— am doing the right thing.」
Ai Fa raised her brow in surprise.
She then showed a brave smile, something she rarely did. She also did something she usually won’t do—— ruffling my head that was wrapped in a towel.
It was almost time to visit Grandma Jiba. They had permitted us to visit her, but it was a taboo to step into someone’s house without being ushered by a family member.
Maybe Rimee Wu was still squabbling with her sisters and was nowhere to be found. The older women who had gone to sun the pico leaves were gone too. Aside from Grandma Jiba, was there anyone else at home? With no idea how the situation was, I could only call out: 「Excuse me, is there anyone home?」
Someone was home.
We have not met three members of the Wu clan. Aside from the second brother Darum Wu, there were two others. After we called out, the two of them appeared after the door at the entrance opened.
One of them was —— the baby Kota Wu.
And the eldest sister Vena Wu who was standing at the other side of the door in surprise. Kota Wu was being held tightly in her voluptuous chest.
To me, this was an awkward reunion.
Before that nude incident, I rejected her temptation with all my might.
With how open she was, she shouldn’t be too embarrassed about someone peeking at her bathing —— When I was thinking about that, her cheeks that was as smooth as porcelain turned bright red.
Hey hey hey, weren’t you a femme fatale who took the initiative to expose your body to me!? While I was screaming futilely in my heart, Vena Wu used the baby wrapped in a blanket to cover half of her face. Her dreamy eyes had signs of shame, and her body started squirming as if she was trying to avoid my gaze painfully.
「Ah, it’s Asuta… Ai Fa too… I was thinking who was visiting, so it’s the two of you… I-I’m watching over Kota in Sati-lei’s place, and didn’t notice at all…」
Her voice turned high pitched.
Like before, her body gives off plenty of pheromones, filled with sexiness and charm. But, how should I put this? This sexy big sister was squirming her body from embarrassment, but trying her best to look nonchalant —— what troubled me was that she didn’t seem to be pretending at all.
「E-Erm… Jiza-nii told me what actually happened, so I understand… Sorry. Erm, can you not stare at me…」
Towards the end, Vena-nee even used the baby to conceal her entire face.
Kota Wu has his mother’s eyes. He looked straight at me, and made baby noises with his head tilt.
Don’t! Don’t look at the me today with such innocent eyes!
「Y-You’re here to visit Grandma Jiba, right? She is in her bedroom. This way please…」
Vena-nee didn’t walk with her usual sassiness, but rushed inside hurriedly.
I was surprised. When I turned back, I saw Ai Fa looking at me with an icy stare.
「L-Let’s go and visit Grandma Jiba.」
I didn’t think I needed to be this panicky, but I couldn’t calm my heart.
No matter what, we should visit Grandma Jiba first.
There were two passages to either the left or the right of room, and Vena Wu headed down the one to the right. The straight corridor wasn’t wide, allowing just two people to walk side by side. There were three doors along this 10 metres corridor.
If the left corridor had the same structure, then there would be six rooms in this house.
It was wider than I imagined. In that case, even a large family of twelve plus one baby could live comfortably here without needing to sleep in one large communal hall.
Vena Wu opened the innermost door and stood squeamishly before it.
「Grandma Jiba, sorry for intruding.」 After Ai Fa said that, she quickly went in.
Then I will—— As I was about to follow Ai Fa, something I sort of expect happened. Vena Wu grabbed the hem at my waist.
She acted so panicky to make me let my guard down, how was she planning to tempt me? I turned around guardedly to find Vena Wu with her head down. I almost couldn’t see her first, and her moist eyes stared at me through the brown fringe of her hair.
「A-Aside from the engagement promise, you have to follow the rules of Forest's Edge too, alright…?」
If I only heard these words alone, I would have thought this was a declaration of love.
But her movements looked so frail, like an inexperienced weak girl roleplaying as a femme fatale. I didn’t know how to react after hearing her declaration.
「Erm… Why are you acting like this since just now?」
In order to not let my voice be heard inside the other room, I kept my voice down and asked her back. Vena Wu’s shoulders trembled again, and she covered her face with Kota Wu once more.
Stop abusing the baby.
「I-I told you to not look at me… I-I will let you off today…」 Vena Wu squeezed these words out and hurried away along the passageway.
I was exhausted, and after entering the room with weak strides, I pulled the door close behind me.
Ai Fa was already chatting with Grandma Jiba.
「Oh, it’s Asuta…? Thank you for coming, I’m really glad…」
The Grand Elder’s eyes and her smile was as pure as a baby, which made the me today feel even more terrible.
And of course, I couldn’t tell her that. I walked forth and knelt beside Ai Fa.
The room was about six tatami wide.
As for furnitures, there was a large shelf, with unfamiliar fruits, faggots of twigs, animal bones, wooden mask and other decor. Aside from these, there wasn’t anything else.
Grandma Jiba sat on a bed with several layers of sheets, beautiful coloured shawls covered her shoulders and feet.
As the weather here was similar to a tropical rainforest, the temperature during the day was similar to Japan in early summer. However, the thoughts of such a petite old woman sleeping in such a barren room gives me the chills.
「… At night, Ditto Min will sleep here with me. Her husband passed away a long time ago…」
She seemed to have seen through my thoughts, which surprised me.
With the help of Ai Fa, Grandma Jiba sat up, and held my hand with her hands that looked like dried twigs.
She was an old lady filled with wrinkles, and looked like a small monkey.
Her stature should be rather small even before she lived to this ripe age.
Although her slit-like eyes were almost covered by her drooping eyelids, there was still a glimmer of sense in them. On her face that was like a prune, she showed a kind and warm expression.
Compared to the last time I met her, Grandma Jiba was more lively.
That makes me glad.
「Asuta and Ai Fa, thank you for what you did last time… since that day, I have been eating properly. It wasn’t as delicious as your cooking, but Leina and Rimee worked hard...」
「That is wonderful. I’m happy to see you acting so energetic too, Grandma Jiba.」
Ai Fa was still expressionless, but her eyes were unlike her usual self and filled with a warm glow.
When we ran into the Wu Clan going off for their campaign, Ai Fa’s eyes had an intense flame. But her expression was gone like a dream, along with the cold eyes glaring at me earlier.
「…It was rare to see Donda drop by. Are you visiting the Wu clan three nights later…?」
「Yes, we will be tending to the hearth again. Asuta will serve you something delicious!」
Ai Fa glanced at me.
「You are indeed a man who excels in cooking.」
She didn’t say 「only excels in cooking」, was it out of sympathy?
「I will do my best to serve you enjoyable meals!」 I replied politely.
「I’m glad… But that night is the pre-wedding celebration for the Lutim house, correct? Donda told me that with a smile…」
After saying that—— Her eyes that were almost covered by her eyelids shone with a clear light, and she alternated her gaze between me and Ai Fa.
「Ai Fa… Just what is Donda scheming…?」
「The head of the Lutim house and Donda have similar personalities, they both have brusque personalities, like the giant apes lurking in the southern forest… If you serve the same dish as last time before this group of hot blooded men, he will definitely be more triggered than Donda, and the feast will become a mess…」
「… He probably wish to see Asuta and me being humiliated? Because Donda Wu detest us a lot.」
「Detest… Because you rejected his proposal right, Ai Fa…?」
Grandma Jiba fixed her gaze on Ai Fa.
Ai Fa frowned a little painfully.
「It can’t be helped, women have the right to pick their husbands too… But Donda must like you a lot last time. If not, he wouldn’t have asked you to marry his cherished son. He probably admires the way you bravely fought back against the Tsun clan successor… But you turned down his proposals and insist on living on as a kiba hunter…」
「I’m not blaming you… You just need to live in the way you deem right… But Donda takes pride in being a hunter, and arrogant about being a man. He thinks the women’s job of watching over the family is important too… That’s why he can’t stand seeing you choose the path of a hunter even though you are a woman…」
「Ai Fa, that is an important night for the Wu clan, and Donda is asking you to tend to the hearth that night… what is he scheming…?」
Her eyes very clear, and after hearing her question, no one could turn her down.
Hence, Ai Fa bit her lips tightly like a child, and finally said:
「If we can’t satisfy Donda Wu and the head of the Lutim house, Donda Wu says he will declare the Wu clan is breaking ties with the Fa house.」
Grandma Jiba was silent for a moment.
Finally, she said quietly 「I see…」 She then closed her eyes and repeated 「I see…」
「Ai Fa, and Asuta, can’t you reject this condition…?」
「That’s impossible. We might be the ones who brought it up, but Donda Wu added this term himself.」
Ai Fa said with a firm and strong voice.
Grandma Jiba slowly turned her gaze towards me and said:
「I see… I didn’t expect things to get so serious. But it’s too late to do anything about it now. And I think this is necessary for the Wu clan.」
After thinking about it, I answered:
「I originally thought of such a tedious plan because of my competitiveness and my pride. But there is more reason than that now. For the sake of the Wu clan, I hope Donda Wu can acknowledge me… It’s difficult to express in words, but that was how I feel.」
「I see…」 Grandma Jiba muttered again.
「This must be the right path for you… In that case, my old bones… If that child Donda really act so heartlessly, I will leave the Wu clan…」
「I’m saying that I will abandon the family name of Wu… Head of the Fa house Ai Fa, if I do that, will you be willing to accept me into the Fa house…?」
「Grandma J-Jiba, what are you saying!? How can I do that!」
Of all the time I had spent with Ai Fa, I have probably not seen her look so frantic.
It was normal to react this way, I was surprised too.
However—— I could understand the implication of what Grandma Jiba said.
「Ara ara, are you going to turn away a homeless old lady…? If I leave the Wu house, and the Fa house abandons me, then my remains will just be exposed to the wild…」
「I’m saying you don’t need to do this! Why must you leave the Wu clan? That’s too strange!」
「It’s not strange at all… If the Wu clan declare that they are breaking ties with the Fa house, I won’t be able to see you like this again, correct? And the Tsun clan will be even more bold, and they might do terrible things to you… This old bones won’t allow that to happen...」
「Even so, you don’t need to leave this house! Even if you are here, those people from the Tsun clan will still——」
「The one I disapprove of isn’t the Tsun clan, but Donda who forced you to bear such a fate…」
Grandma Jiba said softly, but her voice was very clear.
「Donda’s father is my son, and my blood flows in my grandson’s veins. If he made such a declaration, it would force you into a terrible fate, I can’t permit him to do that… That’s why I want to break off my ties with the Wu clan, that’s all…」
「That’s too foolish… What about Rimee Wu? Leina Wu? Jiza Wu? Your blood flow in their veins too, aren’t they your important family members too?」
Ai Fa’s face was on the verge of tears.
「Of course, they are all my important family. Be it Jiza, Vena , Darum, Leina , Ludo, Lala, Rimee, Kota… Or the wife of the former clan head Ditto Min, Donda’s wife Mia Lei, Jiza’s wife Sati Lei, everyone is my important family… However, Donda is the clan head. If I don’t wish to follow the clan head’s orders, I can only leave this house…」
「I already said…」 Ai Fa was choking up by now.
A drop of tear she couldn’t hold back fell from her eyes.
「Donda says he will break off ties with the Fa house, and I will never allow that. Doing that is a huge mistake… As the Grand Elder of the Wu clan, I have to let Donda know this is the wrong choice through action…」
Grandma Jiba wiped away Ai Fa’s tears with the tip of her finger.
「And that’s why, leaving this house is my only choice… do you understand, Asuta?」
「I sort of understand.」
When I answered that way, Ai Fa glared at me with scary eyes.
But I didn’t intend to take back my words.
「No, you are an amazing person and I don’t think I can understand you so easily. However, if I switch places with you—— If my family wants to do something awful to a person I care strongly about, I won’t permit that either. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to leave my own family, but I understand why you think this way.」
「Asuta, you——」Ai Fa grabbed my shirt by the chest.
But her grip was weak. I covered her hands in mine and said:
「Ai Fa, Rimee Wu might think the same way as Jiba Wu. Do you think she will permit her own father destroying the life of Ai Fa who she likes the most? Rimee Wu will leave her family together with Jiba Wu —— even if she can’t do that, she will hate her father for the rest of her life.」
Ai Fa’s face turned green from shock.
Her sullen face breaks my heart, but I continued:
「We agreed to a match with serious consequences. If you don’t wish to see that happen, we should give up on this match even if it means humiliation. That will mean… we are only concerned with our own glory and life.」
Especially Ai Fa.
Ai Fa need to understand how much she was loved by the people around her.
“No matter what happens to her, no one will feel hurt or angry.” She spent two years believing such a fact.
I think her strong personality was impressive, and I respect her tenacious soul that remained uncorrupted despite her solitude.
However—— Ai Fa made a mistake.
Even if she ostracized herself, Ai Fa still cares about Rimee Wu and Jiba Wu. If that was so, then the other party might feel the same for Ai Fa as strongly too. Ai Fa needs to realize that.
Only someone who couldn’t care about others would obtain true solitude.
If she possess a heart capable of loving others, than she shouldn’t expect to live a lonely life.
「…Ai Fa, what we need to do remains the same.」
I grabbed Ai Fa’s hands tightly.
「We need to win this match and earn Donda Wu’s acknowledgement. Then no one will get hurt. Jiba Wu won’t leave her family and Rimee Wu won’t hate her father. I just need to cook a delicious meal and satisfy Donda Wu.」
If we apologize to Donda Wu right now, we might lose our honour, reputation and standing, but we wouldn’t lose Jiba Wu and Rimee Wu.
However —— I don’t think that was enough.
I hope to get along with the Wu clan in a better way.
After visiting then and meeting quite a number of them, this feelings had grown stronger.
「Asuta, can you tell which is the right way…?」
Grandma Jiba muttered softly. I turned to her and smiled as steadily as I could and said:
「I don’t know if this is the right way, but the only thing I can do is prepare a delicious meal. Jiba Wu, please look forward to dinner three nights from now.」