Anyway, I was reminded of how highly efficient Campy was.
While there was enough space to deploy Campy around where Mister Oni collapsed, there weren't any roads to drive on. Just when I wondered if I could put it away once…Campy disappeared! I panicked and begged, "Come out again~!!!" and then it came out again.
…It seemed that I could turn my skill on and off at will. That's amazin'.
I gathered the milk trout that were drained of their blood and my fishing tools as I headed towards Mister Oni. I brought out Campy again and fetched some camping tools. This time, I wouldn't be using Campy's kitchen but will be building a fire next to Mister Oni and cooking there instead. When nighttime rolls around, the temperature would drop, and although Mister Oni was dry now, he must have lost a lot of energy when he was submerged in the water. If he caught a cold from being in this place without any heat source, he could be in trouble. Additionally, while it would be fine to pile some rocks and create a simple kiln, I decided to use a campfire stand so I could easily manage the fire.
Well then, let's start building camp~. Umm… Pitch the tent, gather some dry driftwood and grass, and set up the campfire stand. That should be enough for now, right? I had to get as much done as possible while there was still daylight. Once it turns pitch black, I won't be able to see anything. But since I still had much to do, I decided to delay lighting the fire for later.
By the way, Campy's kitchen was a sight to behold. It was so amazing that it ignited my excitement as a foodie. In the storage space underneath the sink, there were kitchen utensils such as pots, frying pans, and knives neatly organized. There was even cooking wine and oil. On the shelves above the kitchen counter, there was sugar, salt, and a spice box. Moreover, casually placed next to the kitchen counter were appliances such as an air fryer microwave combo and a high-end rice cooker. I was even surprised to find little things like paper towels.
…Personally, I think that those "no-fry fried foods" are good as healthy food and for diets, but I can't shake off the feeling that I'm being tricked. Sorry, I don't think we can be friends… I don’t have any issue with the flavor itself. If someone told me that I was eating something "fried food-styled", I wouldn't taste any noticeable difference, but it definitely wouldn’t be "fried food"… Yeah…
W-who are you calling a fatty?! I-I'm just big-boned!!! I simply have a bit more meat around my chest and waist!!! These clothes are constricting!!! No… It's fine. I know… Maybe I'll aim to be a plump gagwoman…
Anyways! Let's talk about the kitchen!
"Let's see… Barley tea, shiro-dashi, men-tsuyu, soy sauce…and miso on the top shelf… Yay! There's butter! And wheat flour and rice!!!"
Inside Campy's refrigerator was a tsundere-styled note, saying "The contents are freebies! I-It's not like I prepared this for you or anything!!!", some unclouded barley tea, various seasonings, bags of wheat flour, and a transparent container about the size of a one-liter plastic bottle that held rice. For sauces, there was ketchup, mayonnaise… well, just an array of every seasoning out there.
"The top shelf has sugar, salt… and is that a spice box? This place really has everything… Below the sink, there’s alcohol, vinegar, tomato cans, salad oil, and olive oil…"
Under the belief that I should make sure I have a proper grasp of my inventory here, I rummaged through the kitchen…but I feel like I have everything that I would ever need! Wow, fantastic!
By the way, the labels pasted on all the ingredients and seasonings were messily written in Japanese in a variety of fonts. Could all of these have been made in Japan? How can I put it…? The miso and soy sauce came from my local brewery. The butter was the same one my father sent me as a souvenir from his business trip to the north. The mayonnaise was the expensive, bottled one I bought on my payday… It felt like Campy's inventory was based on the contents of the refrigerator and pantry back at my apartment…
I searched more afterward, but it seemed that that was the extent of the available ingredients. I was glad I could make staple food with wheat bread and rice, but the presence of butter was very fortuitous!
In any case, I filleted the milk trout with the pointed carving knife I found under the sink and cut it up into pieces slightly larger than bite-sized, leaving the skin intact. The skin was hard to remove, so I made sure to apply plenty of salt and pepper before skewering the fish to be barbecued since some of the salt would be washed away with the water and fat dripping off when I grill them. In truth, I could just make odori-gushi, but it doesn't seem possible with this size of fish. Well, it's fine either way!
I don't know how much Mister Oni can eat, but two fish only produced a sufficient amount. The remainder could be grilled and eaten at any time.
I filleted another fish, wrapped it up with a piece of paper towel, and placed it in the refrigerator shelf to ferment. I plan on using it in the near future to make sashimi or carpaccio. Survival Skill said that this fish can be eaten raw, right! And I could throw the head, backbone, and stuff of the saw-edged perch into a pot and simmer them to make a fish stock. I wonder what kind of dishes I could make with it~.
Now that I had prepared my ingredients, it was time to make the fire! I gathered grass first, then twigs, and finally thin sticks that would easily burn in a fire. I grabbed a piece of paper towel, lit it with a lighter, and threw it into the fire. In the blink of an eye, the fire on the paper towel was transferred to the dry grass, then the twigs…and finally the thin sticks. Once everything was on fire and the flames settled to a certain degree, I added thick branches.
Yup, things were looking good. The thick branches seemed to have safely caught on fire. If I continue to periodically throw more kindling later, the fire shouldn't go out.
I set the BBQ mesh on top of the campfire stand, and if I place the skewers diagonally in a hole a bit away from the flames, the fish should grill nicely. After grilling for some time, the unnecessary water and oil trickled down and created puffs of smoke when it touched the fire. This was the charm of cooking with live fire~.
The sun had long set by this time, causing my surroundings to be enveloped by a faint darkness. Only the area around the campfire stand retained its brightness. Even though I was so close to a dense, green forest, I couldn't hear the cries from any bugs or birds. Only the crackle of the flames and the sizzling of the fish echoed. It was kind of creepy in a sense…
I rotated the skewers to ensure they didn't burn, and as the amount of water dripping from them decreased, the skewers in their entirety turned a lovely color, indicating that they were done cooking. Trouts retain a lot of water, so they taste much better when you cook them well and drain them of that excess water.
I looked up, about to call out to Mister Oni, when I saw him get up from the other side of the fire.
"Ah. Are you awake? How do you feel? Do you hurt anywhere?"
"Aah… Okay. Well, I'm glad you're looking better. I just finished cooking them, so do you want some?"
It appeared that Mister Oni hadn't fully recovered yet as he still looked a bit dazed when he approached the fire. I held out a nicely-cooked skewer to him. He looked a bit wary, his gaze jumping back and forth between my face and the skewer. Well, anyone would be suspicious of the food offered by a complete stranger. But…
"Sorry… Thank you."
"No problem. We have to help each other when in need…"
Mister Oni yielded to the bellowing growls from his stomach. His eyebrows lowered as he accepted the skewer. After quickly exhaling, he promptly sunk his teeth in. For a moment, his body stiffened and his ruby eyes widened. However, he quickly took two and then three more bites of the fish. Was the reason his vigorous munching didn't look unpleasant because of his thoroughly refined looks? Well, I don't really know!
Now then. It was time for me to eat too! I grabbed a nearby skewer, blew on it to cool it down, and took a big bite! There was no point in maintaining grace and manners at a BBQ~.
The skin was crispy and crunchy from being cooked in its own fat, and despite the thick layer of fat, I wasn’t assaulted by an excessive fishy smell. Yeah. Just this alone made it delicious! When I chomped down on the light brown flesh grilled in the open fire, fragrant steam escaped from the opened cross-section. The outside had already begun to cool, but the inside was still piping hot. Exhaling the hot steam and taking large gulps of the cool air, I continued to chew on the fish. The first thing I tasted was a slightly pronounced salty flavor. But each time I bit, the flavor of the sweet fat filled my entire mouth, and the saltiness and sweetness blended together. Even though the smooth, white flesh of the fish had all the excess moisture removed and was thoroughly cooked, oil spilled out with each bite and the feeling made my mouth melt. Also the faint scent of milk reaching my nose at the end made me realize why the fish was called "milk" trout.
When the inside of my mouth began to burn, I drained in one gulp the cup of barley tea I grabbed from inside Campy's refrigerator! Pwah!!! My mouth instantly cooled down, and the saltiness and greasiness were washed down my throat. Wow, this was the best!!!
Soon enough, Mister Oni had already finished one skewer and was staring at me. I took the cleaned skewer and handed him another fish skewer. He looked dumbfounded again, but it seemed like he couldn't win against his hunger. He furiously chomped on it.
"Umm, please eat as much as you'd like. There's still plenty left."
Mister Oni didn't respond. He bobbed his head in acknowledgment, but he seemed completely engrossed in eating. In the blink of an eye, he finished one then two skewers without saying a single word. I felt like his sparkling eyes were singing praises on how delicious the skewers were, so I felt proud as the one who seasoned them! But, if he continues at this pace, there won't be enough skewers…
When I added more kindling to the campfire stand, I placed pieces of the fish directly on top of the mesh next. I would need to be more mindful of the flame's strength when cooking directly with fire, but this time was fine! As I ate the fish skewer in one hand, I managed the fire and grilled the fish with the other. During that time, Mister Oni continued to eat at the same pace. By the time I finished one skewer, he probably ate three.
To think that Mister Oni would quickly devour the grilled fish—roughly the size of half a milk trout—even after gobbling up a majority of the fish skewers in the blink of an eye. Finally satisfying his stomach, Mister Oni began nodding off while seated cross-legged across the fire.
Getting sleepy after filling your stomach, huh. I super get that. But he'll get cold from the nighttime wind if he sleeps here, and his body would hurt from lying down on stones. I'll lend you my tent, mat, and blanket, so please sleep there, Mister Oni. As for a sleeping bag…well, he wouldn't be able to fit the one fitted to me, so he'll have to do with just a mat and blanket.
"Um… Behind us, I have a tent…a single-person tent and a blanket prepared. If you'd like, please use it."
"…Mm…… Sorry…I'll…use it…"
I approached him and lightly tapped his shoulder. He looked completely dazed and out of it as he dragged his body toward the tent.
Hm, I wonder. I know I should be worried about strangers possibly running away with my stuff, but the loss of such things didn't seem that severe now that I know I have Campy with me. Of course, I'll still cry boatloads since I love my stuff…
But, that oni… He had the appearance of a soft-hearted person. How can I put it…? I mean, he didn’t seem like the kind of person to steal. Well, Survival Skill didn't give me any warning, so in my opinion, this should be fine enough, right?
Now then. It was time for me to sleep after I extinguish the fire! This charcoal extinguishing pot was so efficient. Yeah. Let's think of a way to use these ashes in the future.
I casually looked up at the sky and saw two moons floating in the empty sky. …Was this what was known as "binary stars"…? One was a crescent moon while the other was a full moon. I would have never seen such a sight back in Japan, so the realization that I really was in an unknown world slowly filled my mind. I quickly dumped the contents of the campfire stand into the charcoal extinguishing pot and rushed inside Campy's cabin to escape.
…I couldn't endure standing in that spot overflowing with otherworldliness…
I drew the curtains on the window closed, isolating the inside of Campy from the binary stars floating in the night sky. I sat down on the bouncy, spring-loaded sofa and slowly calmed my nerves which had tensed from the otherworldly sight.
Just several hours ago, I was certainly standing in my original world. I made a living using the knowledge I gained and found a place where I could belong. On my days off, I would hang out with friends or immerse myself in my hobbies to enjoy myself for a bit.
…But what about now…?
I had no job, money, knowledge, information, family, friends, teachers, seniors, juniors, clients, or patients… Everything associated with me doesn't exist in this world… Everyone connected to me doesn't exist in this world…
…What should I do from now on…?
My throat burned and my eyes welled with tears. As I tried to hold them back, my vision gradually dimmed.
Aah… If only this were a dream……
This silent whisper circled around my head before sinking deep into my consciousness…
By the way, the completely farm-raised rainbow trout you can fish in the controlled fishing ponds in Japan are parasite-free, so you can eat them raw. There are plenty of websites out there with more details, so those who are interested in such, please look them up! (・∀・) Personally speaking, I find fresh, chilled carpaccio using itadaki trout to be delicious (´￢｀)
Translator's Corner (i.e., where I explain stuff):
- Campy = Originally, this was "Mo-chan" which came from "motorhouse", but since I'll be translating the vehicle as "camper", it seemed more befitting to nickname it "Campy".
- Shiro-dashi = A clear soup base made from bonito fish, white soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. The reason to use this over regular dashi (soup base) is to avoid coloring the food since regular dashi is brown.
- Men-tsuyu = A soup base made from dry bonito flakes, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and kombu seaweed. It is typically used for soba and udon noodles.
- Odori-gushi = A Japanese way of skewering fish that makes the fish look like they’re dancing (odori) by forming waves when they are skewered.
- Carpaccio = An Italian dish composed of thin, usually raw, slices of meat or fish.
- Charcoal extinguishing pot = A ceramic pot used to safely extinguish kindling, typically charcoal, hence the name.
- Binary stars = A system of two stars that orbit around each other and gravitationally bound to each other.