…So, uh, my best excuse for it being this late is that I started playing a new game and got way too caught up in it… (Octopath Traveler is fun…Genshin has a new event…). Well, enjoy as I hopefully fix my release schedule…somehow.
“Un. It’s Giba meat. Isn’t it delicious? Let’s eat more”
Reina-Ruu too, was a little teary-eyed.
Rimi-Ruu was, while holding her bowl, spilling tears without a sound.
And, Ai-Fa was一一
Ai-Fa, stopped eating, and looking down slightly, tightly shut her eyelids.
“Then next, let’s try the meat alone shall we? This red is honey from fruit wine, it’s very sweet and delicious”
After a few bites of blanched meat, Reina-Ruu cut off a piece of “Giba・Burger”, and carried it to the old woman’s mouth as it was.
Probably, her front teeth have been wiped out. Opening her hollow-like mouth, grandma Jiba put the “Giba・Burger” into her mouth.
Monumonumonu, with a clear feeling of an increase in vigor, grandma Jiba chewed the meat.
“Truly delicious……it’s delicious……giba being this delicious……”
“This stuff, where is it delicious? Meat that’s this mushy and rotten, isn’t human food!”
A thunderous shout bellowed out.
It was the clan head Donda-Ruu.
Donda-Ruu who seemed to have finished eating his meal earlier than everyone else, threw forward his empty bowl, and gulped down the fruit wine as if desperate.
“Fruit wine is being poured over me, it’s so sweet I can’t even help it, and the arias are rotten and look soggy! Oi! These aren’t just giba thighs, but you also said that you used shoulder meat and back meat right?”
Letting his mane-like hair flutter, while carving terrible wrinkles on his stone slab-like face, Donda-Ruu yelled loudly.
“Those who eat the giba’s torso, are only the carrion-eating munto! I’m not a wild beast from the forest! I’m a human! I’m a proud hunter of the forest! Letting this great me eat the same thing as those muntos, what in the world are you thinking!?”
“Such a noisy child aren’t you. ……Then again, wasn’t it the same as before becoming the head……?”
The eyes of grandma Jiba that are hidden in her wrinkles, slowly turned towards the clan head.
Donda-Ruu, is the clan head一一but, at the same time, this giant man must also the grandson of the eldest elder.
To the old woman who seemed to be half his own size, the giant man glanced back with fiery eyes.
“……If this is munto food, then muntos are better off than humans……well unexpectedly, that may be the truth in the forest…… ”
Somehow, the old woman’s voice seemed to contain more strength than before.
“……But, if that’s what you think, then that’s fine, clan head Donda. Whatever you feel is right, is up to each person after all……for this old woman, this meat is right……”
“Amazing……granny Jiba, is speaking with vigor like she used to a long time ago……”
The one who murmured so, was Rimi-Ruu.
Grandma Jiba’s teary eyes, this time slowly turned towards us.
“Rimi also made this together with everyone right? ……It’s really delicious. Thanks, Rimi……”
“Uun!” saying that while nodding her head, Rimi-Ruu began to cry and stuffed the rest of her hamburger into her mouth.
After watching over her figure for a while, grandma Jiba “Ai-Fa……are you there?”, she murmured.
Right next to me, Ai-Fa’s shoulders shook with a pikuri.
“I’m sorry but, grandma’s eyes have already weakened. I can’t see anything in such darkness……if you’re there, won’t you come here and let me see your face……?”
Because Ai-Fa didn’t move, I said “Oi” and poked at her side with my elbow.
Ai-Fa, gazed at me with a terribly dangerous look, and then, slowly stood up.
For some reason, she was gripping my wrist tightly.
“Are? Oi! Wait!” while making noise, I hurriedly put down my soup bowl on the floor.
Dragged along with no questions by her strength, I decided to kneel to grandma Jiba along with Ai-Fa.
Donda-Ruu, was gazing at us with a fierce look.
“Jiba-Ruu. ……I am Fa clan’s, Ai-Fa. This one, is my family member Asuta”
Grandma Jiba, of course didn’t even look at me, and started to extend her wrinkled fingertips to Ai-Fa’s face.
Kasakasa, her fingers that had nothing but bones and skin, touched Ai-Fa’s smooth cheek.
“Aah……it’s been a long time hasn’t it……how many years has it been……I’ve always wanted to see you, Ai-Fa……”
Looking closer, grandma Jiba wasn’t a dried fruit after all, it was clear that she was a good person.
Her face and fingertips were wrinkled, her nose was big and engraved on her thin lips were crack-like annual rings.1
However, under her loose eyelids, unexpectedly clear blue eyes shined, and on her dried fruit-like face, an expression filled with affection floated up.
Such a kind face.
Such a soft expression.
An old woman with such a happy smiling face, this might have been the first time I’ve seen it since the beginning of my life.
“Reina-Ruu. You should also have this delicious meal. ……Ai-Fa, won’t you feed this old woman some food……?”
“……If that’s what Jiba-Ruu wishes”
Ai-Fa gently took grandma Jiba-Ruu’s arm, and as Reina-Ruu wiped the tears from the edges of her eyes, they stood up.
“What do you want to eat? Meat? Poitan?”
“Giba meat. ……This is truly delicious meat isn’t it……”
Ai-Fa, leaving no expression on her face, and with a slightly awkward hand carried the wooden spoon into the old woman’s mouth.
“Aah, it’s delicious. ……I heard that it was you who made this, Ai-Fa……”
“No. I was mostly just watching. This food, was made by Jiba-Ruu’s family, and this Asuta”
Saying that, her thread-like eyes, turned towards me. (TN: So it runs in the family huh)
Perhaps, that eldest brother Jiza-Ruu too, if we faced each other from this close, it would be possible to tell his emotions.
In the nearly unseeable eyes of the old woman, a light of joy clearly twinkled.
“Fa clan’s Asuta……you made this meal……?”
“Yes. I was asked by Rimi-Ruu. ……My old man, is a distant foreign country’s chef. I was just an apprentice helping him, but if you enjoyed it, then I would be very happy”
Grandma Jiba’s hand, shook as it wandered through the air.
Ai-Fa sent me a quiet look, and I hesitantly took her hand.
They were withered more so than withered branches, however, her dry fingertips firmly held heat in them, and they held my fingertips.
“Thank you……This old woman, was already finding living, to be tough to continue……I can’t walk properly, I can’t eat anything properly……I’m just an old woman who is troubling her family……why doesn’t god take this old soul to the heavens, everyday everyday I would be in sorrow……”
“What do you mean troubling……!” Rimi-Ruu shouted, but her red-haired older sister who was beside poked her on the head, and she fell silent.
“This old woman you see, at 5 years old, she came to this forest……Abandoning the southern god Jagal, and dedicating our souls to the western god Selva, I was one of the first 1000 people……”
“But, I didn’t like it in this forest……The southern forest, was very rich, and the only animals that would attack humans were the giant monkeys and poisonous snakes, but we could pick fruits whenever we wanted……Sometimes I would dig up insects from the soil, and roast and eat lizards that shined in the seven colours……I was despised by the people of the cities as a barbarian, but, still, I was very happy……”
Grandma Jiba’s eyes, no longer seemed to be looking at me nor Ai-Fa.
While staring at somewhere not here, her clear eyes again began to slightly tear up.
“But, our clan’s forest, was burned down by soldiers……We, fled to the west. Then we moved to this west’s forest. We hunted giba, and, ordered by the people of the western capital2, we were forbidden from touching the forest’s blessings……Even still, at first, everyone looked happy. We didn’t have to eat lizard meat anymore. We didn’t need to gather rotten fruits nor mushrooms. We could eat as much giba meat as we liked, and we could eat the blessings of the fields made by people……or so we thought……”
Maybe, I didn’t need to say anything.
This old woman’s eyes, were looking at a scene from the distant past.
“But, this forest is a terrifying place……In the first year, 100 men were killed by giba. The next year as well, another 100 men were killed. Many many men died, and then the same number of hungry women and children died. In the first few years, more than half of our 1000 brethren had died……”
“The Gaze clan perished. The Lima clan also perished. After that, the Sun clan and the Ruu clan led the people, and I was somehow able to build my current life……We hunted giba and devoured their meat, we sold their fangs and horns to buy blessings from the fields. Then, we were finally able to learn how to live in this forest, but……I’ve always, wanted to go back to the forest where I was born”
I noticed that almost everyone had finished eating, and were quietly listening to the eldest’s words.
“But already, our forest had burned down, and the people who knew our forest were also dying off, and finally I was alone……Lonely, sad, while I’m surrounded by so many family members, I’m always only thinking of the forest that’s not this forest………Giba meat isn’t the slightest bit delicious. The blessings that are harvested in the human made fields aren’t the slightest bit delicious. While I was thinking that, one tooth, then another tooth was lost and so on, and I could no longer eat giba meat. Aah, I’ve been touched by the wrath of the western god Selva……but now I can finally go back to everyone……I had thought such, quickly return me to the southern forest……I could only think of such things……”
Her dry rough hands, grasped my fingers with surprising strength.
Before I knew it, her clear blue eyes, were again looking at me.
“I could only think of my dead family and the burned forest. But today, I was able to think of my living family and this forest. My soul is no longer dedicated to the southern god Jagal, but rather the western god Selva. I am with a living family, eating giba meat and living……I have to live……Such a natural thing, I am finally able to remember it……”
“……I’m sure, that it was because you lost your teeth and couldn’t eat delicious food anymore, so you were feeling weak”
To my dumb reply, Ai-Fa had a slightly startled face.
It couldn’t be helped could it? I’m a common apprentice chef. I don’t have the skills to hold such a refined conversation with the forest’s eldest who has lived in harshness for 85 years.
“Being weakened until that point, the people today properly thought about it.3 Otherwise, Ai-Fa and Rimi-Ruu would never have been so desperate. They, wanted to help you from the bottom of their hearts, wanted to remind you of the joy of living, so I was able to lend you the negligible power that I have, is what I think”
Grandma Jiba kept silent, and looked back to Ai-Fa.
Ai-Fa bit her lip a little, while staring back at the old woman with a pained look.
“Please, tell the girls thank you. I’m already, very satisfied just by hearing that my cooking is delicious”
“It is delicious. ……It is truly delicious……This old woman who hated giba meat, this old woman who thought that poitans were not to be eaten by humans, I want to eat more…… I want to live in this forest……that’s what I’ve come to think……”
Grandma Jiba quietly laughed, then whispered “Ai-Fa, please take off this old woman’s necklace”.
Ai-Fa who still had a pained expression, removed her necklace as told, and placed it in grandma’s small hands.4
Her twig-like fingertips, while quivering, took some of the giba tusks and horns from the string.
“From the Ruu clan’s Jiba-Ruu, to the Fa clan’s Ai-Fa, as well as her family member Asuta, I give my blessing……please, receive it……”
Of the three only tusks and horns, one was presented to me and Ai-Fa respectively.
“Oi, old Jiba, that’s一!” to Donda-Ruu who was shouting so, grandma Jiba kept her back turned, and smiled.
“That which controls the lives of the people of the forest, are giba tusks and horns……May these tusks and horns, become the blood, and life, of the people to whom I give my great gratitude……The Ruu clan’s Jiba-Ruu, blesses your souls”
That, was the first time I had gotten it in this other world一一it was tangible compensation, for my own work.