“That’s such a pity! Asuta’s Tatsuta-age is still the best!”
Rimee Wu shouted with a skewered Tatsuta-age in hand. A short moment after the banquet ended, we gathered in the small house next to the kitchen.
The tribal chiefs and nobles were still holding a conference in the dining hall. Having completed our cooking obligations, we could finally enjoy a late dinner with the escorts.
“I like this dish a lot. Cooling the meat after it had been cooked thoroughly feels so refreshing.”
“Yes, I like it too. However, it’s tastiness must be due to the shiru fruit juice, just boiling the meat and vegetables alone won’t make them so tasty.”
Shela Wu and Leina Wu were smiling happier than usual after finishing a big job.
On the dining table were all the dishes served to the tribal chiefs. Forest’s Edge denizens still prefer to have all the dishes at the same time.
“Hey, don’t just eat the Tatsuta-age! Rimee wants to eat more too!”
“Annoying. There’s still plenty left. If you eat too much, you will become as round as Mida, you know?”
“I won’t eat that much! Rimee you dummy!”
All the escorts were gathered here. As this room could be locked from the inside, they could rest momentarily.
The young men and women from Forest’s Edge sat on the chairs they weren’t used to, and dined at the table. It was rare, warm sight.
As Shela Wu talked about the dishes with Leina Wu, she timidly served a plate of okonomiyaki slice to Darum Wu.
Darum Wu thanked her stiffly and then bit into the okonomiyaki. Shela Wu stared at the side of his face with an expression of both bliss and sadness.
“… It will be fine, your side has way too much food anyway.”
Someone said impatiently.
He was one of our guests, Roy. Roy should be dining in another room with his colleagues, but he requested to eat together with us.
“The atmosphere there is like a funeral, nothing I eat will taste good.”
Roy mumbled as he stole glances at Leina Wu while he ate. But I decided not to ask him about that.
“You have so much left after giving half of it to Timaro. Do you even have room to try Timaro’s cooking?”
“I only gave half of the chef’s portion to Timaro. The men of Forest’s Edge have huge appetites, so I had to prepare this much.”
“I can see that… And who is that guy with a weird face?”
He whispered the latter half of that sentence to me.
His gaze was on another guest, Kamyua Yost. Kamyua Yost who was on the verge of tears wolfed down the kiba meat as greedily as the hunters of Forest’s Edge.
It had been a long while, so I forgot about Kamyua Yost’s habit. When he was moved, he would show an ominous death god like face. Other than that, he might look as if he was on the verge of tears.
“I thought I would never feel surprised about Asuta’s cooking again, but this is too delicious.”
Kamyua Yost said as he drank the kiba meat soup noisily.
The Forest’s Edge denizens keep to themselves, but they weren’t bothered by trivial matters, so the presence of Kamyua Yost and Roy didn’t spoil the mood at all.
Rau Lei and the others were seeing these dishes for the first time, and would sigh in awe after every bite. Ai Fa and Darum Wu ate expressionlessly without a word, but ate faster than everyone else. Rimee Wu, Ludo Wu and Leina Wu’s cheerful laughter brightened the mood in the room.
Compared to the banquet earlier, it was much more peaceful and harmonious here. If Marstein wanted to deepen his friendship with the Forest’s Edge denizens, he should invite young men and women to the banquet too.
“How is the kiba meat?”
When he heard my question, Roy who had sampled all the dishes scratched his head:
“It still taste very gamey, but it also taste really good. I thought it would taste more like wild mountain Gyoma meat.”
“Huh? Gyoma is found in the eastern kingdom, correct? Does the Gyoma from the mountains taste very gamey?”
“Instead of gamey, it just stinks very badly. That’s why strong spices like chitto would be used to conceal the stench. The Gyoma meat and curd found in the western kingdom are all made from Gyoma raised in the plains.”
I see, so the meat and milk of Gyomas from the hills and the plains would taste different, probably because of their different grass diet. The curd I knew of didn’t have any stench, so it must be extracted from plain Gyomas.
“This fried dish taste better than the kimyusu meat I tried last time. Timaro will admit his lost after he tried this.”
“Timaro’s cooking must be good too.”
I said as I looked at the small table by the side. On it were dishes made by Timaro brought over here by Roy and the servant boys.
“Alright, let’s try Timaro’s dishes, Leina Wu. These are the dishes from the city that you had been looking forward to.”
Leina Wu stood up and walked gleefully to the small table. Roy looked around for a moment before returning his gaze to me:
“But the guests from Forest’s Edge didn’t seem to like Timaro’s cooking? After the Landlord admonished him, Timaro look as ghastly as a zombieland saga zombie.”
“Anyone would feel hurt after being criticized like that. It even made me think that Timaro requested to cook for this banquet in order to be scolded like this.”
“Oh right, you were there. But that couldn’t be. Timaro merely presented his magnum opus. I don’t understand what made the Landlord so mad.”
Roy crossed his arms with a troubled face. At this moment, Shela Wu also came over, and Rimee Wu joined in after reminding Ludo Wu: “Don’t eat everything!”
“Fufu, all the dishes smell incredible!”
“Yes. We don’t use such herbs in the Forest’s Edge.”
The four chefs sat down around the small table. The hunters weren’t interested in the dishes from the city, so this was a sampling session for the chefs.
However— the taste testing session ended terribly.
Rimee Wu’s wail filled the entire room.
Rimee Wu tried the oatmeal like fuwano dish made with cheese and herbs.
This dish used a generous amount of karon milk and was like— bread crumbs soaked in milk, then boiled with fennel and lemon.
There were also curd that tasted like camembert cheese and pieces of beef loin-like meat. It was sweet and spicy at the same time, which numbed my tongue. The complicated taste was like a mixture of thailand and italian cuisine.
“This… will feel disgusting if too much was eaten…”
Even Leina Wu who was brimming with excitement just now had downcast eyes.
The one Leina Wu tried was the soup that had the fragrance of nyuushi and herbs. This dish used butter-like nyuushi and a large amount of herbs that tasted like cinnamon, rosemary and chives. Condensed soup cube readily available in this kitchen was added too, making the texture very thick.
The karon stomach was white and had a slimy texture, and was acceptable if one could tolerate that. But the taste was too complicated, so I couldn’t get used to it.
Shela Wu beside her had a complicated expression as she muttered: “Hmm…” Before her was the karon meat main course.
This dish wasn’t supposed to be served to the chefs, but since there was plenty of leftovers, so they shared some with us. After reheating it, the karon meat had a nice luster and alluring aroma. Ludo Wu was the only hunter looking our way curiously. He then got off his chair and came over.
“Only this meat looks tasty. Asuta, give me a piece.”
I cut the meat that was as tender as butter, and cut off two pieces for Ludo Wu and myself.
After that, we tossed the karon meat into our mouths— and the karon meat broke apart in our mouth as if it was melting.
However, the meat wasn’t just tender. It’s incredibly oily texture exploded in my mouth and startled me.
“What is this!? A lump of oil!?”
Ludo Wu backed away to the large table and drank a few mouthful of kiba soup to cleanse his mouth.
“Roy, could it be— after the meat was steamed, oil was added into the meat?”
“Yes, so you found out. This dish is made by poking countless holes in it with a needle as thin as hair, soaking it in karon oil, then steaming it together with vegetables and herbs.”
Roy said nonchalantly.
“If we didn’t do that, the meat wouldn’t be so tender and tasty. This took the most time of all the preparation work.”
“Is it necessary to make the meat so tender? The meat from the fuwano dish was tender and tasty enough for me.”
“The quality of this dabag karon meat is already great. In order to improve the meat texture, this is the only way to do so. In fact, I think this is an incredible method.”
The sliced karon meat had a peach colored gleam. The texture was comparable to high class beef, and the citric sauce on it was impeccable. Even though it was roasted, the meat was soft enough to melt in my mouth. The huge amount of vegetables and herbs also accentuated the taste and presentation of the meat.
However— I felt that this was overdoing it.
I was fine with junk food, but something still felt off here— something was amiss— and my stomach was protesting. As Ludo Wu had said, it was like swallowing a large piece of fat.
“Do the people in the city all eat so much oil? I think consuming so much oil would be detrimental to their health.”
“Hmm—? That Count— No, former Count didn’t place any restriction on the usage of reten oil and karon oil. This is a luxurious dish only the nobles can enjoy.”
Just eating such dishes would be enough to wreck havoc on Pyschkurewuss’ health. The amount of oil and salt used in these dishes worries me.
Leina Wu said with a comforting tone: “Oh, this dish taste pretty good.”
She was referring to the bright red vegetable dish that had Tarapa as the main ingredient. It was probably scooped out of that giant Tarapa. There was still a bit left in the iron pot.
I tried a bite, and it was impeccable. The flavor of the vegetables had been brought out, and the aroma of the parsley-like herb was very strong. The texture felt like the vegetable from a thick vegetable stew.
If it was me, I would probably add less salt and do away with those herbs. Aside from that, the other aspect of that dish was fine.
“Banam honey and sugar were used in this dish. In order to balance the taste, the quantity had been controlled carefully.”
Roy explained with a frown, and Leina Wu clapped her hands and said: “I see.”
“Aside from the herbs, there is a taste I’m not familiar with. Banam honey and sugar are a sweet seasoner used in desserts, correct?”
Roy lost his cool when Leina Wu stared at him:
“That’s right! You got a problem with that?”
“I don’t have any problem… I apologize if I offended you.”
Leina Wu bowed and apologized, then started sampling the dishes. Roy scratched his head and decided to shut his mouth.
Someone tugged my T-shirt. It was Rimee Wu who was holding a plate with a squarish fuwano on it.
“This… taste horrible…”
“Huh? Even Rimee Wu finds it horrible?”
Aside from Graff Zaza, even Rimee Wu who cheered at the sight of sugar in the kitchen said that. I didn’t expect Rimee Wu to hate it too.
It looked like a mille-feuille made by layering numerous fuwano, and didn’t seem to taste horrible at all. The texture was rich, and the pink Minmi looked adorable. It wouldn’t look out of place in a dessert cafe in my hometown.
“Even though it looks so delicious. I will take care of it… Ah, people who aren’t family can’t eat from the same plate, right?”
“…That’s only after she is ten and no longer a child.”
“Uwah, that scared me! What’s the matter, Ai Fa?”
“I finished my dinner. All the dishes are delicious.”
Ai Fa who was standing behind me looked right at the dessert on the plate. Ludo Wu and the others were still eating, and Ai Fa finished ahead of them.
“What a queer dish. It smells alright.”
“It looks fine too. Ai Fa… you want to have a bite?”
“I don’t want to eat the dish of that rude person.”
“Is that so. I will take care of it then.”
I patted the head of the teary eyed Rimee Wu, then took the plate from her. The moment I bit into the food— I understood why Rimee Wu disliked it. This dish was seasoned with something like brandy.
The wine used here might be the high quality wine Pops Balan gifted me. There were also several herbs and fruit juice mixed in, and it was hard to identify them all. However, this dish was definitely seasoned with wine.
Every layer of thin fuwano were soaked full of banam honey and karon milk, making it disgustingly sweet and thick, and had a fruit wine aroma. The wine’s flavor was even more prominent when I ate it.
“This texture is a little… it will take some endurance to finish this.”
“We got completely whipped by your team. I would have lashed out in anger if I didn’t try your dish.”
Roy seemed to have recovered from messing up with Leina Wu earlier and said:
“It’s true that your dishes are on par with Timaro. I think the food is great, but Timaro’s cooking aren’t bad either. Your dishes are… blander tasting and don’t use much herbs, so I think many people in the city won’t like your cooking.”
“Yes. Marquis Genos also said that my cooking is on par with Timaro. I have no objections about that, but…”
“But I think that the city— or maybe, Roy and Timaro’s dishes use too much seasoning. You might control the amount when using herbs, oil and dairy products to balance the texture, but it seems to me that your priority is focused on the seasoning… Like I said, don’t you think something feels wrong?”
“Hmm… Not really, isn’t that what cooking means?”
“My father never taught me that. When I was learning to cook, he told me that the seasoning is used to bring out the flavor of the ingredients.”
Roy stopped mid sentence. His freckled covered face looked troubled:
“… I’m just 19, but I got employed by the Count Turan House after working in three restaurants. Each time I moved, the amount of seasoning used would increase… The trust crux of the cooking I know is the ability to use seasoning well.”
“Yes, I can understand that.”
“Then what else don’t you get? A small restaurant only gives you access to limited ingredients, while the large restaurants allows you to handle extravagant ingredients to make lavish dishes, that’s what makes a first rate chef. That’s… what I was taught.”
“I see… it’s different from my hometown. I think the highest grade meat will taste the best if you just grill it simply.”
“Then why did you grill kiba meat and make kiba stew? Aren’t you confident in the taste of the kiba meat?”
Roy threw a fit like a child. I scratched my head and smiled:
“How should I put this. Because the kiba meat itself is delicious, so I feel that grilling it with some salt and pico leaves would be plenty delicious. Maybe all that work I did to enhance its taste was just a waste of time.”
Ai Fa poked my flank:
“Don’t worry about that. If you only make grilled meat for dinner, I will get angry.”
“I’m not worried about anything. I will work hard on dinner tomorrow too, so look forward to it.”
Ai Fa grunted, and someone knocked the door.
For some reason, Kamyua Yost jogged over to open the door. He removed the door bar and opened the door slightly to converse with someone outside. After that, he turned back to me and said:
“Asuta, Pyschkurewuss seemed to be conscious, you will have to wait until tomorrow if you miss this chance, can you prepare his dinner?”
“Yes, leave it to me.”
And so, it was finally time for my last job.
“Leina Wu, I will leave the rest to you. You don’t have to force yourself to eat all of Timaro’s dishes.”
“Alright. Asuta, be careful.”
Ai Fa stopped Ludo Wu who was getting up and decided to accompany me by herself.
But first, I had to reheat the dish in the kitchen. So Ai Fa and I left the room— and someone unexpected was waiting outside.
“Yo, Asuta, sorry for the trouble.”
I was shocked at the sight of the person standing at the fore of the group. The one who spoke with Kamyua Yost just now was Marquis Marstein Genos himself.
Behind him were Malfreed, Donda Wu, Lifuria and Sanjura who was flanked by two guards.
“Sir Donda Wu will accompany us as a witness. Your work for today will be done after this, Asuta. Thank you for your hard work.”
I clenched my fist and prepared myself for the final task at hand.
Pyschkurewuss was confined to a room on the top floor of the main building. It seemed to be the chambers of the former master of the house.
After going through a door watched by castle guards, we entered a side room. At night, the sentries would take turns to rest here. Marstein turned and emphasized to me again:
“Asuta and Lady Lifuria will serve the dish to Pyschkurewuss. We will go in together, but seeing so many people will startle Pyschkurewuss. Hence, the rest of us will stay behind the screen.”
In this room were me, Ai Fa, Marstein, Malfreed, Donda Wu, Kamyua Yost, Lifuria and Sanjura guarded by two guards— a total of ten. To be safe, Sanjura’s hands were tied, and one of the guards held the ropes. Marstein observed Sanjura quietly:
“Before the trial begins, this will probably be your last chance to see Pyschkurewuss. Sanjura… you still won’t say anything now?”
“Yes, I will hold my peace.”
Sanjura looked at Marstein calmly.
“Then why did you request to be present. Do you… want to meet him one last time?”
“No, I just, want be with Lifuria.”
“Can’t you use another way to relieve Lady Lifuria’s pain?”
“I can’t. Because, no proof. If proof, maybe I will.”
“… Are you talking about Sanjura being my older brother?”
Lifuria interjected calmly:
“Where did all that talk come from? Sanjura is just my father’s hired henchman.”
“He told that to the Forest’s Edge denizens himself. According to our investigation, Pyschkurewuss had been keeping a Semu woman in Dabag until four years ago.”
Lifuria looked at Sanjura with suspicious eyes.
Sanjura had a gentle smile I was familiar with.
“My mother, passed away before telling me anything. I don’t know, the details. I was taught from young, pledge loyalty to Pyschkurewuss.”
“Fufu… But your loyalty lies with me instead of my father.”
“Yes, I’m, Lifuria’s vassal.”
Lifuria shook her head of short brown hair and averted her face.
Ai Fa who was watching the both of them called out to Marquis Genos:
“It might seem ridiculous for someone of my status to request this, but can you allow me to escort Asuta?”
“Hmm? You must be Asuta’s house head, Ai Fa right? Don’t worry, there are two castle guards with Pyschkurewuss, and Pyschkurewuss can’t even stand up. You don’t have to worry about him doing any harm.”
“… But Zattsu Tsun who was in a worse condition than Pyschkurewuss managed to tear the throat of a Jean house man and set fire to the Dom village. He even lured in kiba to attack Kamyua Yost’s caravan. No matter who our opponents are, we can’t let our guard down.”
“It’s fine, the castle guards trained by Malfreed won’t lose so easily.”
Ai Fa bit her lips with a moody face. Marstein suddenly smiled at her:
“You are so worried about your family. If someone as gentle as Ai Fa was by Pyschkurewuss’ side, he wouldn’t have strayed from the path. The castle guards will stay with Asuta, so there’s no need to worry. You may go in with him if you wish.”
“Thank you very much…”
Ai Fa bowed slightly while Donda Wu remained silent.
“Well then, let’s go in. Pyschkurewuss’ condition is weak, so take care not to agitate him.”
One of the guards opened the door on Marstein’s instruction.
We went from the dim side room to the even darker chamber.
The chamber was large, but there was only one lit candle stand on the wall. We saw a large screen right after going in, which blocked out most of the light from the candle.
Marstein gracefully pointed to the other side of the screen. I nodded and pushed the trolley of dishes to the room inside. I walked with Ai Fa and Lifuria in the darkness for a while, and arrived before a large bed.
On either side of the bed were castle guards in white armour standing as still as a statue.
On the bed was a petite man.
A thin blanket covered up to his chest, and his body sank into the soft beddings. This was the former master of this manor— Pyschkurewuss.
His face was greenish black and sweaty, his arms on the blanket were shockingly thin. It had just been half a month, and Pyschkurewuss had withered like the mummy of a monkey.
“Is that Lifuria…”
A raspy voice came from his pale and dry lips.
“You are here… that means, Marstein is finally sending me to the execution ground, huh…”
“Before sending you there, you have to stand trial. Isn’t that the law of Genos?”
Lifuria answered calmly before his bed.
“I’m bringing you your dinner. Asuta of the Fa house, who is a Forest’s Edge denizen cum Migrant had made an exception, and cooked dinner for you, father…”
Pyschkurewuss’ eyes were opened a thin slit as he looked at me with dull eyes.
His venomous eyes were gone now, leaving just a light as dim as fireflies.
“Asuta of the Fa house…? What are you trying…”
“I’m just cooking dinner on Lifuria’s request.”
Marstein must be scheming something, but I had no way of knowing what he thought, and his plans had nothing to do with my job anyway.
“Lifuria hopes you can taste my cooking before going to hell. Pyschkurewuss, do you have the strength to enjoy my cooking?”
“… My body probably can’t enjoy any dishes anymore… the illness that had been tormenting me for years had finally shown its claws… No matter how much I struggle, this is the end of the line for me…”
“How disappointing, father. Where did the avarice in my father go?”
Lifuria said with a hint of human emotions:
“Father, you committed a heinous crime. Isn’t your thirst for power so strong that you even went as far as to frame others for your crimes? If you give it up in the end, then what is the point of all your previous efforts?”
“… I… I only obtained the power I was capable of handling… However, death will take all that from me… Isn’t that what life is…?”
“Are you saying that your pursuit of power at the expense of me and my mother suffering in loneliness is for nothing? Then why did my mother have to die from loneliness?”
Lifuria was aggressive as her gaze turned sharp. She had reverted back to her usual arrogance.
“I only had my mother, and my mother only had me. However, my mother passed away because of loneliness, leaving me by myself. You didn’t care about us, committing atrocities and accumulating your wealth. Father, are you happy to gather all those ingredients? I— I’m not happy at all.”
“… But you are still my father. No matter how little you think of me, I’m still your daughter. So I have prepared a last dinner to send you off.”
Lifuria glared at me.
“Father, please have a taste of Asuta’s cooking. I just need to scoop the food in the pot into the wooden plate, right?”
I took off the lid.
The aroma of the kiba meat soup spread in the stall air of the room.
Lifuria held the ladle, and clumsily scooped the soup into the plate.
“… Just what are you playing at…”
His eye slit that looked as if they were sliced out with a knife showed a worried expression.
“Bringing my daughter and Asuta of the Fa house here… Just what is that sly Marstein scheming…”
“I already said, this has nothing to do with Marquis Genos! I made this request to Asuta of my own volition! Whatever schemes Marquis Genos might pull off have nothing to do with me!”
Lifuria finally lashed out. With a wooden plate in her hand, she bend forward and glared at her father from close up:
“If you don’t look at me now, you might not be able to do so ever again! Father will be imprisoned, and I will be confined to this manor!”
“Asuta, sorry but can you prop up my father?”
I walked passed the guards to the bed, and put my arm between Pyschkurewuss’ body and the bed.
And of course, Ai Fa came over to help too, but Pyschkurewuss was so light that it wasn’t necessary. I helped his body that was like an empty shell up, and shoved a pillow behind him. The moment I backed away, Lifuria leaned in with her plate and spoon.
“Here, your body is frail, but you can still drink soup, right? Unlike the bitter medicine, this soup isn’t bitter at all. Please try the cooking of the Migrant Asuta, as my farewell gift to you.”
She scooped up the white and murky soup, and served it to Pyschkurewuss.
Pyschkurewuss looked at the angry Lifuria and slowly opened his mouth. The spoon slowly entered his maw.
“Is it good? Asuta’s cooking definitely taste great. After all, his cooking is even better than Timaro, the vice head chef of the Count Turan House.”
Lifuria’s tone turned agitated as she feed another spoonful to her father. She then turned and glared at me:
“Asuta, why aren’t there any ingredients in the soup?”
“That’s because you didn’t stir the soup and only scooped off the top of the plate. You need to stir a little before scooping up the soup.”
I took the plate from Lifuria and demonstrated to her.
“How would I know if you don’t tell me!”
Lifuria puffed her cheeks and snatched back the plate and scooped another spoonful of soup.
The kiba meat had turned ivory while the aria was translucent.
Pyschkurewuss chewed the food in his mouth weakly— he then started mumbling:
“What… is this… dish…?”
“It’s kiba meat soup. I boiled the thigh meat of kiba with aria, then seasoned it with salt and pico leaves.”
I answered calmly.
“Is it good? This is the first dish I made in the Forest’s Edge. The kiba meat is high quality, so just boiling it can make such tasty stock.”
“Kiba… I ate… kiba…”
“Compared to karon and kimyusu, you think kiba doesn’t taste good? I think it is as good as the others though. Everyone’s preference might differ, but the meat quality of kiba is definitely as good as theirs.”
I didn’t plan to reform Pyschkurewuss.
I just wanted to tell him all that.
“Like I said, just these ingredients are enough to make delicious food. And what you need isn’t lavish cuisines, but food that will improve your health.”
“… Just what is…”
“Everyone in this world wants to eat delicious food, but it isn’t worth it if your health suffers for it. Since your organs are failing because of that, you should consider what kind of food you need to eat.”
I knew it was too late to tell him that now, but I still had to say it.
His only interest was delicious food, and he went as far as to commit heinous crimes in order to gather wealth and procure expensive ingredients— There wasn’t any happiness in such a tragic lifestyle.
Bringing misfortune to others and throwing himself into the abyss of despair. There was no life more tragic than that. Pyschkurewuss— and Zattsu Tsun both led such lifes.
“Asuta of the Fa house… Are you misunderstanding something…”
Pyschkurewuss glared at me with eyes like ghost fire that were about to go out.
“To me, delicious food is my happiness… There’s no meaning in a life of unhappiness… So I…”
“Whether you are happy or not, we are talking about the same thing. Pyschkurewuss, is my cooking to your liking? Cooking delicious food does not require tremendous wealth. Just a dash of salt is enough to make such tasty dishes. True happiness is enjoying your meals with your precious family.”
“I think the denizens of Forest’s Edge you consider barbaric live blissful lives. It is pointless to tell a noble like you this… But I think delicious food isn’t something exclusive to the rich.”
Pyschkurewuss shut his mouth.
Lifuria stamped her feet anxiously.
“Enough, there’s no use in saying all that. Father, just hold on to your belief when you meet the god Selva.”
“… That’s right… It’s all over… My sinful soul would be grounded into pieces before Selva…”
Pyschkurewuss murmured weakly with a snarl.
“I don’t have anything to hide… And I won’t push the blame to Shileru… Shileru and I committed many crimes… hundreds had died because of our schemes…”
“I don’t want to hear that from you.”
“No, Lifuria, you must listen… And Marstein too… You must be eavesdropping from somewhere right, Marquis Genos…? I don’t have the strength to speak loudly, you won’t be able to hear clearly if you are too far away, correct…?”
A few dark figures appeared.
The person at their fore walked right up to the bed with confident strides:
“I don’t mean to interrupt your conversation with your daughter, Pyschkurewuss. Is there something you wish to tell me?”
“Yes… But before that, let me ask you… With Shileru arrested, who is taking charge of the Townsguard right now…?”
“The Commander of the Second battlion is now the acting Captain of the Townsguard. This might be exceptional times, but I couldn’t leave the Townsguard in the hands of the Vice-Captain or the Commander of the First battalion who has ties with you, even though these ties are weak.”
“You have good judgement… But that isn’t enough… If you don’t dismiss the Vice-Captain, First Battalion Commander… and the Fourth Battalion Commander, you won’t be able to rest easy… The three of them are accomplices… There will be more trouble if you leave them be…”
“So half of the top management of the Townsguard are implicated? Are you trying to attack the Marquis Genos house…?”
When he heard Marstein asking that in panic, Pyschkurewuss answered with a laugh: “Fufu…”
“So the ones disguised as Forest’s Edge denizens and attacking the farms are from the Townsguard too? I hope that isn’t so.”
“Of course not… Shileru was the one who gave the order, but people in the position of Vice-Captain and Commanders won’t get involved directly… Those are the doings of the delinquents hiding out in the Beetle town.”
“Oh, so you hired thugs to do your dirty work.”
“I did hire them… But that’s not all… There are also escaped death row convicts…”
“Escaped death row convicts?”
“About five years ago, the Townsguard captured the bandit gang ‘Tempest of Death’… the gang was sentenced to death, but Shileru released them, and made them work for him in secret…”
“After committing heinous crimes, they are still going to sin further? Releasing death row convicts is unforgivable.”
Malfreed who was standing beside Marstein said in a sharp voice:
“Furthermore, a death sentence must be carried out without delay. How did he deceive the prison guards and release the criminals?”
“Maybe he bribed them… Asked Shileru if you want to know…”
“Yes, I will do just that.”
Malfreed shut his mouth with a icy glare in his grey eyes.
“The former head of the Count Turan House, the Captain of the Townsguard and two of his Commanders— as well as the prison guards and the escaped death row convicts. So many criminals sprung out of nowhere… I’m at fault for these lapses in my governance.”
“That’s right… But all these crimes were committed three decades ago… If you want to pursue the matter, the responsibility lies with your father who didn’t stop the accursed bloodline of the Count Turan House…”
“Oh, so you are going to confess to the murder of the former head of the Count Turan House and his eldest son?”
“I will confess… but let me say this first…”
With that— Pyschkurewuss continued sitting weakly, but an intense fire burned in his eyes.
“The one who murdered my father and elder brother is Shileru… We are jointly responsible for the crimes after that, so we have to face the same punishment… However, Shileru is the one who planned and executed that terrible incident three decades ago… Please believe me…”
“Oh? But after the death of the former master of the house and the eldest son, you are the one who inherit the house, Pyschkurewuss. If this is Shileru’s scheme, then wouldn’t he target you, the second son?”
“Shileru… is born in the Count house, but not given any power. He loathed his position and hated our father and brother who did as they wish… my position was similar to his, so he didn’t hold a grudge against me…”
A fire burn in Pyschkurewuss’ dim eyes.
His eyes that were once venomous lost its light earlier, but now, it was burning as brightly as those of a Forest’s Edge hunter.
“On that night… Two years after my brother died after falling off a Totos, and my father was bedridden because of an unknown illness, Shileru said to me while laughing like a mad man… the wealth and power of the Count Turan House is now ours… Before Kamyua Yost said the truth, I already knew… My father and brother were murdered by the accursed youngest son of the Count Turan House…”
“Pyschkurewuss, you and your brother continued committing crimes in your pursuit of greater wealth and influence. Could it be— You are afraid of ending up like your father and brother if you don’t become an accomplice?”
“… Even so, I still committed numerous crimes… Harming others for the sake of self preservation isn’t permitted by the laws of Genos…”
“Yes, of course. However… why are you revealing the truth from three decades ago? No matter how heavy your sins, we couldn’t produce any evidence, so you don’t have any reasons to confess.”
“No evidence… That’s why I hope you can believe me… I did commit many crimes, but I didn’t do something as horrid as murdering my father and brother…”
Pyschkurewuss slowly shifted his gaze. His fiery eyes looked at Lifuria’s face.
“Lifuria… My daughter… In your veins flows the blood of the accursed Count Turan House… Your father and uncle are unforgivable sinners, and their brother and father are incorrigible fools… You committed abduction at such a young age because of this accursed bloodline…”
“It has nothing to do with bloodlines, I—”
“Listen… you can’t shake off the curse of your bloodline… You have to live on as a child of a criminal…”
Pyschkurewuss groaned as he reached out his arm.
His slender fingers held Lifuria’s hand, and her spoon fell onto the blanket.
“However… Count Turan House will lose its wealth and power… your soul will be liberated too… Without the means, you can’t harm others too… Congratulations on losing everything… And also…”
The next instant, I felt Pyschkurewuss look my way.
“… And… You can become a person who can be happy over a pinch of salt…”
“I don’t understand, I have always been a nobody.”
Lifuria pulled her hand away from her father angrily, then picked up the spoon and took a sip of the kiba soup.
“… It’s not perfect and a little bland, but it taste good. After eating something so good, you still don’t feel happy about it. Father is such an unfortunate person.”
“… Yes… Your father is very unfortunate, and very foolish…”
Lifuria bit her lips, glared at her father and then said:
“Marquis Genos, there isn’t much of this dish left, can you leave me and my father alone for a while?”
“I don’t mind. I will ask the castle guards to retreat to the doorway.”
Marstein turned and left, while Malfreed, Donda Wu and the others followed.
Lifuria watched their backs and called out to me quietly:
“… Thank you.”
I took one last look at the father and daughter clinging together and left the room.
This was definitely the last meeting between Pyschkurewuss and his daughter.
I couldn’t forgive that man. He killed Leito’s father and Milano Mast’s brother-in-law, then drove Zattsu Tsun insane. His crimes were unforgivable.
But even so— I still felt glad that I got to speak with Pyschkurewuss tonight.
“… Well then.”
Marstein and Malfreed conversed quietly in the side room.
Malfreed then left the room briskly, and Marstein turned to Donda Wu and said:
“I will arrest the deputy Captain and some of the Commanders, and dispatch troops to the Beetle town. It is very likely that the death row convicts had escaped to other regions, but we should be able to find some traces of them over there. If we can capture all the criminals, we can sleep easy at night.”
“I hope so too…”
“Yes. As the ruler of Genos, I promise you that I will spare no effort in apprehending the criminals. Well then, I beg your leave— wait, this is a good chance, so let me say something more.”
Marstein laughed heartily as he looked up at Donda Wu who was half a head taller than him:
“I admired capable men. Pyschkurewuss oppressing the Forest’s Edge denizens and threatening my position might be fate. The second son of the small Turan county obtaining such influence by his own abilities, isn’t that impressive in itself?”
“However, Pyschkurewuss lost to the Forest’s Edge denizens and Kamyua Yost. You impressed me, Sir Donda Wu. The Forest’s Edge denizens possess unexpected strength. I will be honored to call a powerful tribe like yours as my fellow citizen.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t interested in the denizens of Forest’s Edge before this incident. They accepted the unfair contract given by the Genos Landlord eight decades ago and let Pyschkurewuss manipulate them so easily. They are strong enough to hunt kiba, but are so awkward in front of others— that was how I see them.”
Marstein smiled, while Donda Wu stared at him expressionlessly.
“However, the Forest’s Edge denizens is a tribe that values strength and honor. From now on, I hope you can continue to work hard as a citizen of Genos. I don’t wish to reveal my true thoughts in front of my son and vassals, so please help me relay this to the other tribal chiefs. Finally, Asuta of the Fa house——”
Marstein turned back and said to me:
“Thank you for your hard work. The ceremonial ministers were troubled by this situation, but no matter where you are from, we welcome you to Genos. From now on, I hope you can continue to live in Genos as a denizen of the Forest’s Edge.”
“U-Understood. Thank you very much.”
“Also, your cooking is marvelous. I won’t summon you too often to the castle, but I hope you can cook for me once in a while. Let me thank you in advance…”
And finally, Marstein looked at me with an innocent smile before turning and walked after his son.
Kamyua Yost winked at me before chasing after them, leaving me with Ai Fa, Donda Wu and the two guards watching Sanjura.
“What a… reckless landlord.”
Donda Wu suddenly laughed, it was the laughter of a ferocious hunter.
“Since he wants us to seek out our happiness with our own strength… that suits me just fine. We will do things our way.”
His smile wasn’t telling me that he met a good master, but a great opponent.
After that, Sanjura walked before me.
“Asuta, allow me, offer thanks. You, saved Lifuria.”
“No, I didn’t do anything worthy of your thanks.”
“Yes, you save, Lifuria. Maybe… save Pyschkurewuss.”
He was definitely exaggerating.
Instead of me saving him, Pyschkurewuss was the one who chose his own path.
Pyschkurewuss was on a completely different road, and we would never cross paths again after this. That was all there is to it.
“Well then, let’s go back…”
Donda Wu turned and walked to the exit with his cape fluttering in the wind.
Ai Fa who had been quiet all this while looked at me and said:
“Thank you for your hard work, Asuta.”
“Yes, thank you for your hard work too, Ai Fa.”
And so, we left the Rock City and went back to the Forest’s Edge.
Five days later— the fifth of the Grey month.
Grey month, another strange name. The previous month was white, and the next would be black. And so, this month was grey.
Anyway, it was the fifth of the Grey month. Ai Fa and I finally received permission to return to the Fa house. Through the efforts of Malfreed and the others, most of the bandits of the “Tempest of Death” were apprehended.
The traitors of the Townsguard also confessed their crimes after Pyschkurewuss sold them out. Pyschkurewuss’ condition had finally improved, and he was handed over to the Genos City authorities. The trial will finally begin tomorrow. Marstein already gave his word to the tribal chiefs of Forest’s Edge, Pyschkurewuss would either be sentenced to life imprisonment or death.
After that trial, Zuro Tsun and Barcia would have to stand trial next. It had already been decided that Zuro Tsun would serve ten years of hard labor, and Barcia would be pardoned.
It would take some time before everything gets resolved— but we could finally go back to our normal daily lives.
“Ara, this is so nostalgic that I’m about to cry.”
I said as I prepared dinner in the Fa house’s kitchen. Ai Fa who just returned from her hunt sat down with her legs crossed a short distance away.
I was abducted by Lifuria on the fifth of the White Month. So it had been a month since then. I did make trips back in between, but Ai Fa and I would spend the night in the Wu clan— I couldn’t suppress the emotions in my heart.
And of course, Ai Fa came back to tidy the food store every day, so it probably looked the same to her. During the day, people from the Fou, Sidora and Dean house would visit from time to time, so I had a comfortable time in the Wu clan. However, the Fa house was still the place that I call home.
“The stall will finally reopen tomorrow. The trial isn’t over yet so we can’t be careless, but we can finally revert back to our usual daily lives.”
The castle guards, Kamyua Yost and the others would escort our stalls. All the criminals should have been apprehended, but Marstein advised that escorts were still necessary before the conclusion of the trial.
“The guards will watch from afar, while Zashuma and me will accompany you to the inns. Asuta, you can work with ease.”
That was what Kamyua Yost said.
After the trial ends, Kamyua Yost plans to leave Genos for some time.
“After escorting Sir Wellhyde back to Banam, I will look for a job there, and then tour around the western kingdom. This entire affair took three months of my time, so I want to travel for a bit.”
Kamyua Yost’s words concluded this incident. This wanderer with purple eyes had a smile that put me at ease as he continued:
“The next big task would be to sculpt the image that the Forest’s Edge denizens want to present to the people of Genos. The fate of Pyschkurewuss, Shileru, Zattsu Tsun and others had finally been righted. I plan to think about how everyone in Genos would be like when I visit again as I tour around the country.”
Kamyua Yost was right.
All the misunderstanding had been slowly resolved. The grudges between the Genos nobles and Forest’s Edge denizens were being slowly cleared, and all the wrongdoing exposed. Hence, now was the crucial moment.
After putting the criminals to task, the Forest’s Edge denizens were still a small conservative tribe with customs and values that differs from the townsfolk. How would the relationship between the Forest’s Edge denizens and Genos citizens develop— after eight decades, this problem took center stage once again.
However, the things I could do was limited.
“All sorts of ingredients will be available in the Post Station Town. Hence, the quality of the dishes sold in the other stalls would improve too. In order to compete with them, I need to come up with a new menu.”
“You will definitely complete your task.”
Ai Fa said to me with a serious face, and then lowered her gaze:
“Start with the work at hand first… I’m hungry.”
The sunlight shining in through the windows were already red. Ai Fa hunted a large kiba today too, which she carried home with great effort. She was exhausted after skinning and dismembering the kiba.
As the number of kiba had dwindled a lot, and had been hunting deep in the forest. Ai Fa said that the hunting off season would be here in a few days.
“By the way, aren’t you discussing with the Fou and Sidora houses about going into the off season together?”
“Yes. All this while, the off season for each house is different. The Sidora house head proposed that the houses in the vicinity standardize their off season together.”
Ai Fa rubbed her tight belly sub consciously and continued:
“Around the Fa house are the Fou , Lan, Sidora, Dean… and a kin of the Dean house.”
“Yes, the Leeds house right? I had never spoken to them before.”
“Yes, including the Leeds, there are six houses. We are discussing about these six houses going into the off season together. The Dean and Leeds are the subordinate house of the Zaza house, so Graff Zaza needs to grant his permission.”
“Oh, the Zaza house might be far, but the Forest’s Edge value blood relations over close neighbors, so this is the logical way to go about it.”
When the Tsun clan was their superior house, this proposal would probably get rejected. However, the denizens of Forest’s Edge had changed now. The proposals from small houses like the Fa and Sidora were given equal weight, and they could freely share their opinions with the tribal chiefs houses.
Be it Genos or the Forest’s Edge, both sides would usher in a period of change. After experiencing the catastrophe brought about by one of their own, what would the future bring for Genos and the Forest’s Edge— as a part of their group, I want to witness this change with my own eyes.
“Alright, it’s done! Sorry for the wait, house head. After stopping for a month, we are having dinner in the Fa house.”
I placed the plate before my house head who gave a big nod. Thanks to the Wu clan, the Fa house had gotten new crockeries too.
Both of us had one plate of soup, while the meat, salad and grilled poitan were each served in large plates. We both had small plates to take food from the common plates, handmade chopsticks, skewers and spoons. The food wasn’t too different, but everything looked much better.
After Ai Fa said her grace, she picked up the spoon with a smirk on her lips. She then looked at the dishes with a serious face:
“Yes, it’s hamburg steak.”
If I present a new dish at such a time, she would definitely strangle me.
I also tried something different with this dish. The reddish brown sauce was made from a variety of vegetables, nyuushi and baam honey, while the side dish was chachi, neenon and aria grilled over a slow fire. This was the proper hamburg steak that was very nostalgic for me.
“It has been a month since you ate hamburg steak, please have more.”
Ai Fa picked up the plate of hamburg steak with a serious expression. I sipped on my Tarapa kiba soup as I observed her.
Ai Fa cut a piece of hamburg steak and sent it into her mouth expressionlessly— and then opened her eyes wide. She looked startled at the cut section of the hamburg steak:
“Asuta, this hamburg steak—”
“That’s right. I added curd inside. Curd in hamburg steak.”
“Didn’t you finished all the curd this morning?”
“Actually, Kamyua helped me buy a little more curd from the Count Turan House. I heard the Turan house was troubled because they couldn’t use up the ingredients.”
For Ai Fa, putting the Camembert cheese-like curd onto the hamburg steak was a luxury. Embedding the curd inside the patty instead of over the meat must be a pleasant surprise for her. Banam honey complemented the hamburg steak just as well as Tarapa and fruit wine sauce.
“I prepared this dinner for you with all my heart, I hope you will like it.”
Ai Fa ate the meat and curd as she looked at my plate and face a little anxiously.
She then reluctantly put down her plate, leaned forth and patted my head.
“That’s wonderful, thank you.”
I answered with a smile. I won’t waver because of that again.
And then— Ai Fa took the plate of kiba soup from my hands, placed it carefully on the floor, went around the food between us and hugged me.
“I-I get it! The food is getting cold!”
Ai Fa hugged me with enough strength to crush my bones for 5 seconds, and then went back to her seat.
She carefully scooped up the curd dripping from the meat patty, and bit the chachi together with the meat.
“That makes me glad.”
“… Let’s continue later.”
“The food is getting cold.”
There wasn’t any change to Ai Fa’s face, but she seemed very happy.
Her blue eyes were sparkling like that of a child. On her breasts was the blue gem accessory I gifted her, shining brightly like her third eye.
What would the future hold for Forest’s Edge and Genos? I want to witness that together with Ai Fa in this ever changing world.
With that in mind, I picked up the wooden plate to savor the precious hamburg steak.
Mid Meal Snack: The Gathering at House Lutim
“The sky is getting dark. The banquet in the city should be starting soon…”
The head of the Lutim main house, Dan Lutim, sighed.
He was in the kitchen of the main house, where Ema Min Lutim and Molun Lutim were preparing dinner. The both of them were busier than usual today, as they tried to cook a more complicated dish.
“Just what dishes are Asuta and the others making? Just thinking about it makes my stomach grumbles.”
Dan Lutim who was standing at the entrance of the kitchen said to himself. Men would normally stay away from the kitchen, but the kiba hunt ended early today, so Dan Lutim dropped by the kitchen to find someone to talk to.
“If I was selected as an escort, I would get to eat those dishes… Sigh, why is Donda Wu toying with his old friend?”
Molun Lutim stirred the content of the simmering pot and answered with a smile: “He isn’t toying with you, the house head or the heir needed to stay home to protect the house, he is just respecting this Forest’s Edge custom.”
Molun Lutim was Dan Lutim’s daughter, aged fiftten. She had a chubby figure, and was a healthy and cute girl. She was as fierce as her father when she gets mad, but her personality was gentle and kind, and would seldom get angry.
“But during the noble’s conference Kaslan and I were both permitted to leave the house. So why do I have to stay home this time?”
“The conference was dangerous, and Father Dan’s presence was necessary, right? Since we have made up with the nobles, Father Dan didn’t need to attend this time.”
“But four hunters were sent to escort them, correct? Then sending me as an escort would be fine too.”
“You are so hard headed. Father Dan, do you want to eat Asuta’s cooking so badly…?”
In response to Molun, Dan Lutim puffed out his thick chest proudly: “Of course!”
“There aren’t many chance for me to eat Asuta’s cooking! Of course I will be unhappy that this chance got taken away!”
Molun Lutim smiled at her father:
“I’m working hard to cook dinner for my family, and you are so unhappy about it. It makes me sad.”
“No, I have no problem with your dishes… But this is different, you know?”
“That’s how it seems to me. What do you think, Ema Min?”
And of course, this was just a small joke between family members. So Ema Min Lutim also answered with a smile: “You are right.”
“I practiced so much, but we are still far from Asuta’s level. In order to satisfy the house head, I have to work even harder.”
“I already said that’s not true. Are you toying with me too?”
“Like I said, no one is toying with Father Dan. Dinner is almost done, so wait in the hall.”
Dan Lutim left the kitchen reluctantly. He was usually so cheerful, but was moody because he couldn’t eat Asuta’s dishes. Of all the kin of the Wu clan, Dan Lutim was a hunter on par with Donda Wu, but he had a childish side too.
“Really now, when it comes to Asuta’s cooking, Father Dan will get so noisy. Sigh, but I can empathize with him.”
Ema Min Lutim moved the meat marinated in tau sauce and fruit wine onto plates and answered: “Yes, Asuta’s cooking is really wonderful.”
Ema Min Lutim had married into the Wu clan for two months now. Her husband Kaslan Lutim, sister-in-law Molun Lutim, father-in-law Dan Lutim, and grandfather-in-law Ra Lutim were all her precious family now.
“We had finally made amends with the nobles, that is great. When Father Dan was involved during the last conference, I was so worried.”
“Yes, I was so worried too. We don’t know what schemes the nobles had, and we had to stay in the Wu clan village—”
Molun Lutim stopped unnaturally mid sentence.
“What’s the matter?”
Looking back, Molun Lutim’s round face was blushing as she shook her head and said: “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing… what happened on that day?”
“Nothing, nothing happened!”
Molun Lutim’s face turned even redder.
Seeing her like this, Ema Min Lutim remembered something:
“Speaking of which, the hunters of the north gathered in the Wu clan village on that day too.”
“This was the first time I saw them, they really are a group of outstanding hunters. I heard that they were as ferocious as the Wu clan hunters.”
“Yeah, t-that’s right.”
On that day, Molun Lutim chatted with a hunter from the northern tribe for a while. Her face was blushed like this back then too.
What was that hunter’s name— He was bigger than Donda Wu and Dan Lutim, and wore the skull of a kiba on his head. He was probably from the Dom house.
Could it be, she had fallen for that hunter?
But the Wu clan and its kin had been at odds with the northern tribe for many long years. The Tsun clan had fallen, but their relationship had not improved that much as to welcome marriage between the two. The future would be bleak if she fell for a hunter of the north.
That’s why Molun can’t say it. Even though the house head Dan and Kaslan won’t object.
But that was more the reason why Molun couldn’t say it. The Lutim house was the kin of a Wu clan, while the Dom house was the kin of the Zaza house. So marriage between the two house would bring much trouble to their superior houses.
At this juncture, Ema Min Lutim smiled at Molun Lutim:
“It is getting dark, let’s cook the kiba quickly.”
Molun Lutim smiled in relief.
It was dark outside, which made the fire in the hearth look more bright.
Shortly after, dinner was done.
When they brought the dishes to the main hall, Dan Lutim who had been waiting cried: “Ohh.”
“It’s finally done! I’m famished!”
“I will bring the other dishes in, please wait a moment.”
Kaslan Lutim went to the city as a follower of the tribal chiefs, so there were only four members left in the house. The former head of the Lutim house, Ra Lutim sat quietly beside his noisy son as usual.
“The room is so much bigger when Kaslan isn’t around! Now that I think about it, is this the first time I’m having dinner without Kaslan around?”
“That’s true. When Papa Dan and Kaslan-nii were away, the place looked even bigger.”
That was on the eve of the conference with the nobles. On that night, Dan Lutim and Kaslan Lutim had dinner in the Wu clan.
“Now that you mentioned it, didn’t Papa Dan eat Asuta’s cooking on that night? We haven’t eaten Asuta’s cooking ever since Kaslan-nii and Ema Min’s wedding.”
“What is it, are you still moody about it, Molun? Didn’t I tell you that there is nothing wrong with your cooking?”
Dan Lutim pouted like a child. Molun Lutim smiled at the sight of that and took her seat. Ema Min Lutim knelt down beside her too.
“Hurry up and dig in, didn’t you wait very long already?”
“Yes! I offer thanks to the forest for her grace, and thanks to Ema Min and Molun for tending to the hearth and extending our lives!”
He was probably the only one who said grace with such a cheerful tone. Ema Min Lutim smiled and said grace with an awkward smile too.
“Today’s dinner looked very sumptuous! And there are dishes I had never seen before too.”
“Yes, it’s the first time we tried making this dish, so please let us know your thoughts about it.”
Dan Lutim acknowledged with a laugh, and brought the wooden plate to his face. Ema Min Lutim and Molun Lutim scooped the soup from the pot into the plates as they watched him quietly.
Dan Lutim was smiling without suspecting anything as he took a large bite. After chewing for a while, his eyes opened wide:
“M-Molun, this is—”
“Really now, don’t talk when you are eating. Speak after you have swallowed.”
Dan Lutim continued chewing with a grunt. He probably wants to clarify something quickly, but was reluctant to swallow the delicious food.
And so, when the plate of soup was finally placed before him, Dan Lutim shouted: “What is this!”
“What, it’s just a kiba dish?”
“I know that! But this dish— taste as good as kiba cutlet!”
“Is that so? That’s great.”
Molun Lutim smiled gleefully and looked back at Ema Min Lutim.
“This is called Tatsuta-age. Like kiba cutlet, it’s made by deep frying in kiba oil.”
“Really!? But this dish wasn’t present during the banquet at the Wu clan!”
“They will definitely make it in the future. Asuta developed this dish for the sake of today.”
Dan Lutim took a second bite, and swallowed it after tasting it thoroughly. He then turned to Molun Lutim and said:
“Then, the tribal chiefs and nobles are eating these dishes too?”
“Yes, Asuta said that he plans to cook these dishes for the banquet. So we learned how to cook them in the Wu clan.”
Asuta was lodging in the Wu clan temporarily. As the Lutim house women would visit the Wu clan to learn cooking, they were taught by Asuta personally for the past few days.
“This dish is more tedious than kiba cutlet. We have to turn chachi into powder form, which is a lot of work. But it taste good, right?”
“Yes, it’s great! This is as good as Asuta’s kiba cutlet! There isn’t any sauce on it, so why does it taste so good?”
“That’s because the kiba meat had been marinated in a sauce ahead of time. Shiru fruit taste good even after the juice is squeezed out.”
Ema Min Lutim explained as Dan Lutim swept up the “Tatsuta-age kiba” while he nods. As Asuta expected, he enjoyed the chopped tino a lot too.
“Finish the other dishes too. We made so much of it for the sake of Father Dan.”
“Hmm? For me?”
“Yes, the dishes for tonight is the same as the ones Asuta will be serving in the city. This is cold shabu shabu, and this is okonomiyaki.”
The soup was “tau sauce kiba soup”. They couldn’t make Asuta’s “Chachi mochi” as they didn’t have enough chachi powder, but they managed to prepare the entrée with raw gigo. They couldn’t make the mayonnaise sauce for the okonomiyaki, but they managed to recreate all the Asuta’s other dishes.
“Asuta’s will taste better, but eating this will make Father Dan a little happy, right? I worked hard with Ema Min to make these!”
“Ara, this taste great! I can’t imagine anything tasting better than this!”
Dan Lutim’s laughter echoed in the room, and he suddenly turned towards the two of them.
“But why were you hiding this from me? Shouldn’t you calm me down by telling me this ahead of time?”
“Because you will be happier when you actually eat it?”
“Yes, and if you held any expectation before eating it, you might feel disappointed.”
“Who will feel disappointed after eating such delicious cooking! Both of your cooking skills had improved a lot!”
Dan Lutim had a satisfied smile. It was pure and innocent, as if he had cleaned off all his fatigue.
Molun Lutim smiled gleefully too, and she looked at the quiet Elder?
“Grandpa Ra, do you have any dish you don’t like?”
“No, they all taste marvelous.”
Elder Ra Lutim was a tall and slender old man. His white beard reached his chest and he had high brows and lively eyes. Aside from being bald and taller, he looked just like his son Dan Lutim.
“However… I might not know anything about cooking, but I still know making all these dishes took a lot of effort. Thinking back to the times when we can only drink poitan soup, this is such a drastic change.”
“Yes! I had almost forgotten about those days!”
“Yes… But I have lived in those times for almost 60 years. I won’t forget those days in just a few months.”
Dan Lutim opened his eyes wide and looked at his father:
“Father Ra, what’s the matter? Are you unhappy about the delicious food Asuta brought to us?”
“I have no complaints. However, after Asuta of the Fa house became a part of the Forest’s Edge, life in the settlement is changing at an amazing pace. Forest’s Edge denizens cooking meals and selling them to townsfolk is something I would never have imagined.”
It was rare for the quiet Elder to speak so much. Ema Min Lutim straightened her back as she listened.
“And the Tsun clan too. We had been building up our power for the sake of bringing down the Tsun clan one day, but the one who brought them down was actually Asuta.”
“Defeating them peacefully is a good thing! Father Ra, what are you unhappy about?”
“I already said that I have no complaints. But… the changes are just too abrupt for an old bones like me.”
Ra Lutim then narrowed his eyes, as if he was looking afar:
“I’m very grateful to Asuta for saving the Grand Elder Jiba Wu. He also gave the denizens of Forest’s Edge new strength with his cookings. For these old bones, this change is just too sudden. Asuta has suddenly became an irreplaceable person to the Forest’s Edge.”
“That’s too meek! Father, you will really turn old if you keep this up!”
Dan Lutim laughed heartily as he smacked his father’s back. In all of Forest’s Edge, Dan Lutim was probably the only one who would do that to the Elder Ra Lutim.
“Father, share this joy with us and walk down the same path! Jiba Wu is already 85, and she is still lively, correct? Be it children or old man, they are all equal before the Mother Forest!”
“Hmmp. How cruel of you to not let my old bones rest.”
“That’s because I’m my father’s son! How can I be so reserved with my precious family!?”
Dan Lutim sipped the soup as he said that:
“Asuta has been in the Forest’s Edge for three months now. So much has changed in such a short time! In one year, five years and ten years later, there will be even more pleasant changes! Father, it will be a pity if you don’t witness it and return your soul back to the forest!”
“That’s right, Grandpa Ra has to live a long life, just like Jiba Wu.”
Molun Lutim leaned forward with her hand on her grandfather’s thin lap. Ra Lutim closed his eyes and nodded. Ema Min Lutim watched this scene and felt blissed that she married into the Lutim house.
Even during days when her beloved husband wasn’t with her, she could feel such warmth. This was all thanks to the demise of the Tsun clan and the vicious nobles.
One year, five years and ten years later, what kind of lives will we be living… It is impossible to imagine.
However, Ema Min Lutim didn’t feel uneasy at all. Even with such drastic changes, she was surrounded by her friends and family. Hope and happiness were waiting in the future for them.
“There’s no end once we start chatting! Let’s eat this delicious meal before it gets cold!”
Dan Lutim passed the empty bowl to Ema Min Lutim, and Ema Min Lutim smiled at him in return.