Chapter 2: Living off the Land (Supply Procurement with Jungo)
Hiro: Hi, dear readers. I congratulate you for having the patience not to substitute this guide for firewood in the lieu of that slipup in the last chapter. Here I'm back with more top secret survival and beside me is my assistant for this chapter, Jungo.
Jungo: Hmmm, chawanmushi is almost ready…Would you like some?
Hiro: Not now. In this chapter, we'll teach how to procure supplies and-
Jungo: Try it.
Hiro: Later…and preserve those precious resources for future uses. Of course, foods are something of utmost and immediate-
Jungo: Just a bite.
Hiro: Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here? Wait, where was I?
Jungo: Have a taste. This is when it's the tastiest.
Hiro: Look, you say it's the tastiest, but this chawanmushi is the same thing that you've been serving us, since like forever…actually, why don't you try to add some more dimensions to it like…
Jungo: Hiro, your smile seems evil all of a sudden.
Hiro: Don't mind me. Don't mind me. Something just crossed my mind. Wouldn't you happen to agree that that the readers would very much enjoy being a hunter more than a scavenger?
Jungo: I'm not sure, if I…
Hiro: Hush, let's just say that we're going to spike that chawanmushi of yours with some very special ingredient…
JPs Tokyo Branch (Common Area) - 7.30AM
It started out as a random idea, seemingly harmless but nonetheless crazy.
Today, we should consider the option of eating demons.
Wearing an entirely serious expression, Hiro Kageyama announced their daily plan during breakfast.
A few seconds for the fact to sink in and his companions were thrown into an uproar. Their reactions, ranging from Airi's "You sicko!" to Daichi's "Hell no, dude," seemed to stand united in vetoing the idea.
It was the first time he saw them unified toward a single cause with such passion. Honestly, it was almost scary to stand on the opposite side.
In the end, feeling that he would rather not continue the day with Airi's footprint on his face, the idea ended up being scrapped to the basket as a joke.
But it was far too soon to give up.
"Hmmm, what to do? What to do?" Pacing around the common area in the JPs headquarter, Hiro voiced his thought aloud.
It wasn't like the JPs had an infinite or, at least, sustainable amount of ration to spare.
The storage size came up as one major challenge. Despite having their finger roped into probably every major private and governmental organization before the disaster struck, there was only so much supplies that the JPs could keep in stockpile without having to convert their entire headquarters into warehouses.
Food was more of a concern, being more perishable than the others basic sustenance. After six or seven years, having all the food in the world before the invasion wouldn't do them any good. The fresh ones would have been spoilt by then. The dried and canned ones would eventually follow.
No matter how careful JPs could or would be, there was a time limit slapped on their every supply case. The clock was ticking and who knows how long before the calamity would be over and humanity could normally resume food production. It wasn't like they could start tilling field in the jungle of concrete that was Tokyo.
The better option on hand would be to go with the more plentiful food source, in the other words, demons. If all would go well, a systematic hunting could provide a solution for the wide-spread starvation among the general populace. Convincing the rest, however, would prove to be a challenge.
He needed a plan, something to make the other share his viewpoint.
But, first, he had to find an accomplice. Luckily, he happened to know where.
Shinjuku City Plaza (Tokyo) - 9.00 AM
With another hour lost to recruit a reluctant Jungo and a grumbling Keita, the three set out on their hunt, armed with only bare fists, survival instinct…and a horde of bloodthirsty demons.
After working through a list of potentially "edible" prey, they'd concluded that it was best to avoid any humanoid demon and instead opt for one that resemble ordinary animal, so that the shock from the transition wouldn't be too strong.
Soon enough, they had their eyes fixed on the first target, a hare-like demon that was prowling the street of Tokyo.
Its appearance suggested harmlessness, but Hiro knew better than to underestimate these Hare of Inaba. One swift kick to Daichi's face in the past was enough to warn him that no mercy could or should be spared to these little critters.
The danger was all the more apparent when their target walked amidst two other Tenong Cuts.
Not something we couldn't handle, but I doubt our stomach could happen to digest a ghost.
"…We'll go in as plan. Jungo, Keita, both of you will circle around at the opposite side and initiate the fight with those Tenong Cuts. The hare would be forced to run toward me and I'll immobilize it for capture. Any question?"
"Are you kidding? A roundabout way is only for weaklings!" Without waiting for any objection, Keita rushed into the fight head on.
Two demons came to gang up on him at once, although luckily the hare had yet to join the fight.
…That insufferable bastard…
The Hare of Inaba was quick on their feet and would often run away when situation is not to their favor and it took a nerve of steel not to run away while watching its friend getting pummeled.
If at all possible, Hiro would rather not have his lunch running away and rushed into the fray.
Good, it was still preoccupied with Keita...
Drawing on his energy, Hiro waited until he'd reach the effective range and released the spell.
The hare immediately stiffened as the attack struck its weakness and dropped to the ground as a wave of paralysis overtook its body.
Soon enough, Keita finished off his opponents and was yelling at Jungo for an attempt to interfere. As unsociable as the boxer could be, his fighting ability alone had made it a good decision to recruit him.
When all became quiet once again, Hiro approached his fallen prey and took a deep breath to steel himself. In his hand was a large cleaver he'd snatched from the kitchen.
It was natural, something transcribed into the instinct by his many distant ancestors. There was nothing wrong…just butchering an ordinary animal to feed his stomach.
"Wait, wait! Don't hurt me please…"
Oh, right…These guys can talk.
"You have no idea how bad it is to be skinned alive by sharks and now I'm going being eaten by a bunch of humans? Just spare a little pity for this tiny little rabbit…Please…" The hare pleaded, its voice pitifully weak.
Honestly, I would prefer to meet the skinned version and save myself from a lot of guilt.
"Hiro, just let him go…" Jungo muttered with downcast eyes. "…I feel sorry for him."
"What are you saying, you moron, sparing a loser like this?" Keita apparently disagreed and, thus, the decision fell to Hiro.
"Pleeeassseee…." The rabbit begged harder with tearful eyes.
…Feeling that he would lose whatever human compassion remaining if he should bring down the cleaver, Hiro shook his head in defeat.
"Yeah, just let him go."
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sparing this little-"
"…Just go quietly."
Hiro sighed, exasperated.
He might really be forced to turn vegetarian, if he was had to listen to the hare's shrill begging for a second longer.
Great job, guilty conscience, you've done a damned fine job of letting my lunch walk away.
Sengakuji , Shinagawa (Tokyo) - 9.30 AM
The recent failure forced the three men to another discussion where a new "cuteness" factor had to be considered, eliminating more from their list of potentially edible and now "huntable" demon. Halfway during which Keita left the party, citing the reason of them being wusses.
Regardless of the decrease in the combat strength of their team, Hiro was determined to continue his plan.
"Before we're going after our next target, we should recap all the conditions we have…First, humanoid is a no…"
For good reason, unless I would want to turn us into a cannibal horde
"Next, anything can appear cute or defenseless is a not option as well…"
No way, guilty conscience, I won't let you mess with my meat-eating habit.
"Anything that doesn't resemble a living organism goes without saying."
Would anyone like an Ubelluris salad with a taste that is guaranteed to break your teeth? Probably not.
"So basically our list ends up with… all the hideous and creepy leftovers."
"…It's a progress. At least, we know what to hunt this time."
"Agreed, let just hope that we'll be successful. Demons often gather around Sengakuji. If we wait it out here, sooner or later we are bound to find something."
"Hmmm…Perhaps that one would be good."
Jungo's pointed finger led directly to a Legion was drifting lazily along the ground.
Taking another look at the demon, Hiro was somewhat skeptical.
"You're sure?" Hiro knew that none of the available demon look so appealing, but that didn't mean that have go for the extreme and choose this worst possible abomination.
Not humanoid… Check.
Fleshy organic mound…Check.
Cannot appear cute or defenseless…Check.
Ugly enough to destroy appetite…Double check.
Jungo, on the other hand, was confident. "It looks fresh…"
"…and dripping slime, I might add…"
Bah! It does look like meatball, I guess.
"…Just be sure to chop that meatball into fine little pieces. Faces or large tentacles on the plate do have tendency to spook people out."
"…Right. Then we'll go with this one." Jungo nodded, satisfied.
Nearly reaching the end of his patience himself, Hiro was less concerned about the process of choosing demon. The most important part was to get the demon into a pot, a pan, or any sort of cooking utensil in the first place.
Hiding behind an upturned truck, Hiro instructed his team to take their position. Unlike the hare, it was the first time they would attempt to take on an opponent as tough as Legion.
Hiro and Jungo took the lead in the assault.
However, having eyes facing every direction did certainly kept Legion immune from surprise attack. Soon enough, it noticed the hostile presences and began to cast a spell of its own, but Hiro was slightly faster.
The spell was lightly shrugged off by Legion.
Crap, this Meatball here is resistant to ailme-
"I won't let you hurt Hiro!" Jungo followed close behind and knocked Legion out of balance before its spell could come into effect.
The blast of ice missed Hiro by a hairbreadth.
"Nice going there, Jungo."
"Watch out! It still is trying something!"
Unperturbed by Jungo's ambush, Legion attempted to cast another spell. However, another interruption came in the form razor sharp shards of ice that rained down on the unsuspecting demon.
"Hee ho, you no harm my friend, ho." Coming to their rescue was Jack Frost, although its magic only seemed to succeed in ticking off Legion even more.
"Arghhh!" Acquiring a new target, Legion rammed Hiro and Jungo out of the way and broke through their flank. Apparently fed up that its spell was constantly interrupted, the demon resorted to physical strength instead.
NOO, Mister Frosty!
Hiro watched in horror as his Jack Frost was helplessly rolled over and flattened in what seemed to be a horrendously mismatched bowling game.
Bastard! You'll pay for turning Mister Frosty into shaved ice…
Legion hurled its mass forward, attempting to ram Hiro down again. This time, however, the result was different.
Hiro withstood the attack, although with a little of the shield spell he'd just casted. The small opening gave Hiro the chance to reveal his trump card.
"Target within kill zone. Alright, Botis, fry his ass!"
The said demon came out of hiding, ready to deal the finishing blow.
Multiple bolts of lightning struck down from above, leaving only split second for Jungo and Hiro to jump away before they would be caught up in the blast.
When the smoke cleared, Legion was incapacitated and, within moment, surrounded.
Then came the usual routine.
"YoU DOn'T HuRT MEEE! YoU DOn'T HuRT MEEE WItH KnIFE!"
Exchanging glance with Jungo, Hiro nodded in agreement. Both men had come to a unanimous conclusion.
"YEsssSSS! YEsssSSS! YoU LEt ME gO!"
"NNnnOOOO! LeeGiiOONN HuRTTT! LeeGiiOONN HuRTTT!"
THUNK! SLASH! CRASH!
And the deed was done.
JPs Tokyo Branch (Cafeteria)- 12.00AM
The last two and a half hours flew by in a flurry with all the preparation Hiro and Jungo had to make.
With some luck, they'd managed to transform the captured abomination into a portion size chawanmushi, albeit the process was not easy.
Legion's resistance to physical damage wasn't just for show. Cutting up the demon into bite size pieces was a huge and bloody labor. For a moment, Hiro contemplated finding an extra help in the form of Gozuki, but ultimately decided against it. There was no reason to wreck the kitchen anymore than they already had.
Long strenuous hours of cooking mishaps later and finally the fruit of their labor had been placed before respective seat of the lunch table. The no entry sign and a padlock performed their job nicely in keeping unwanted guests away…that was to say everyone else in the headquarter.
What little time they had left was used to destroy all remaining evidences so that the next person to enter the kitchen wouldn't be traumatized that their kitchen had been turned into a setting for a slasher film.
After dumping the remains into the waste chute, cleaning bloodstain off the kitchen, a quick wash up, and a change out of bloodied cloth, everything was perfect.
Being the first to arrive, Hiro watched patiently as his test subjects entered the room and took their seat. With the exception of Makoto, who was undoubtedly out on business, all of his usual crews were present.
Welcome to lunch and I, Chef Horror, will be your host for the day
Just to not garner too much suspicion, Hiro would begin to question just the few around him then widen his scope later on.
He took a glance at the seats to his next to him. Reminding himself to wipe the maniacal grin off his face, Hiro turned to address his seatmate.
"Hey, Io, how it's going?"
"Oh…Hiro-kun, you are early today…"
"I'm kind of looking forward to lunch. Quite a lot happened after breakfast."
"I see…You must be hungry. You were out since the morning, after all…"
"Yeah, I'm famished." Hiro replied and scooped Legion chawanmushi into his mouth in a brisk tempo. "While we are on this topic, what don't you try the chawanmushi?"
"…O-Oh, I'll give it a try…" Following his suggestions, Io took a few small sips from her spoon. "It is quite okay, I think."
"Does it seem any different from usual?" Knowing Io, he would have to give her a little push to get his answer. "You know you can tell me what's on your mind."
"Well…in that case, I'm not sure if it's just me, but this seems a little..."
"Different from the other days, you mean?"
"I'm not saying that it's bad or anything. It might even be somewhat better than yesterday's."
"Yeah, it's completely different from yesterday. Just when I was becoming tired of the usual meal." Daichi chimed in.
Lo and behold, Meatball, your performance is been utmost satisfactory.
Feeling smug, Hiro decided that throwing in a little hint wouldn't hurt. "The ingredient must've been fresher."
"Is it? How did you know that?"
"…Call it a hunch."
"I agree. It does taste that way." Io nodded in agreement after a few seconds of pondering.
"Either way, I really don't care whether it's fresher or not…The taste is all that matters!" Proudly proclaiming his simplemindedness, Daichi raised the bowl to his lips and scooped down the delightful mixture of egg and tender meat in one big gulp.
With a knowing grin, Hiro chuckled. "Just don't regret your words later on."
"Of course, I won't. Dude, you're acting strange. Is there something wrong?"
"No, nothing wrong, nothing wrong at all." Leaving the blissfully oblivious Daichi to work on his side dish, Hiro scanned the table from left to right.
Most have already finished the meal and none seemed to have caught on to this real nature of this menu. In fact, most even seem to enjoy this fresh meal better than the usual ration from JPs, a phenomenal success on his and Jungo's part. Now he just had to feed them a few more specimens before he could…
"Hiro-kun, do you know what meat is this?" Coming to taste Legion meat boiled to perfect tenderness, Io couldn't help but had a questioning looks. The traces of innocence untainted
Urgh, don't give in guilty conscience. DON"T GIVE INNNNNN!
"No…Nope...I don't…" Squeezing words through gritted teeth and twitching face, Hiro just felt as if he had committed a terrible sin.
Good job! Yayyy, I feel my bastardness leveling up after that!
"I think it is a little too tough for it to be pork and its smell is too different from lamb or beef…"
"It might be different type of meat. Maybe we are just not used to it."
"Well, you might be right…" Io muttered thoughtfully and scooped up another spoonful of chawanmushi, although she immediately froze as she peered down. "Uhh…um…Hiro-kun, I really think you should see this…"
With some hesitation, Io meekly showed her spoon that had just scooped up an offending article.
Laying limply on the utensil was a piece of slimy…flaccid…red…tentacle.…
A single glance was capable of causing Daichi to recoil backward in shock, his face growing paler by the second. "…Woah! What the hell is that?! What in the sweet name of Polaris is this thing?!"
"That's a good question. I would like to know what we have been eating as well." Hinako chimed in and peered down to observe the mysterious tentacle. Finding herself to lack even the slightest idea, she turned to the next person in line.
"Jungo, what do you think?"
Fools, what a futile effort,Hiro thought and quickly wiped the smug grin from his face. As my accomplice, Jungo's mouth is sealed shut-
"Oh, that's a Legion meat."
The temperature in the room seemed to have dropped a couple of degree.
Nice job, Jungo, against all the forces of common sense, you've just dropped the guillotine on both our asses...For this you shall be bestowed with the title 'traitor'
"I-I'm sorry can please say it again…I couldn't quite hear you." In a clearly disturbed manner, Io asked to confirm a certain realization.
"I said. It's Legion meat-"
A plague upon your ass, traitor!
"Oh, Jungo must have meant it's a special type of octopus! That's why there is a tentacle. Isn't that right, Jungo? Isn't… that… right?" Hiro intervened, sending a glare at Jungo to make him play along.
"Well, it does look like an octopus…But it has way too many faces and tentacles and was …"
TRAITORRR, May your arse be plagued!
Momentary silence ensued as the listeners began to realize the implication of Jungo's answer. By this time, the conversation had already gathered the attention of nearly everyone in the table who heard the word "Legion" and "meat" being said in the same phrase.
"..Hiro." Hinako narrowed her eyes dangerously.
"By any chance, would you happen to have anything to do with this?"
"It's a bit far-fetch to suspect me just because of what I said in the morning, isn't it? Besides, we are not yet certain that what Jungo said is true."
Calm down. They have no evidence to prosecute me.The bloodstain was washed away and we were careful while sneaking that fleshy ball of horror into the kitchen.
"…Yeah right." Airi's suspicious tone made it clear that she didn't believe him in the least. "Why don't you tell us where have you been since breakfast?"
Hiro didn't waver at her question. A well-made excuse should be able to get him off the hook, but before he could say a single word…
"We were out hunting demon." Keita answered in his stead.
A plague on your blabbering mouth!
"But before you would ask, I have nothing to do with these two morons and their idea of feeding us demon."
And your traitorous ass!
The dining table erupted in chaos. It was clear that all the hateful glares were directed at Jungo…and him.
Aww shit, time for a tactical retreat.
"Let's scram, traitor!"
"R-Right!" As the instinct of self-preservation kicked in, two realizations finally dawned on Jungo. First, he had made a grave mistake and, second, danger was approaching much faster than he could imagine.
Both men immediately jumped from their respective seat and darted for the door.
As a backup plan, Hiro already had an escape route ready. He intentionally took the seat that would lead straight to the exit. If he could just dodge the first blow then door would be within reach.
Of course, Airi wouldn't make things too easy for him.
"Like I'll let you get away."
Leaping across the table was Airi with both legs stretched forward.
However, with half of his attention reserved to prepare for her flying drop kick, Hiro's timing to duck was perfect.
Airi right feet passed through him and found its landing place…in the middle of Jungo's back.
Forcing himself not to look back, Hiro pushed on forward.
Forgive me, traitor...but a man have to save his own hide.
It was time to forget Semper Fi. Leaving no man behind would mean getting no one out alive.
The door was just ahead. The knob was just a few steps away from-
Just when the way out was so close, Hiro braked. There was already one other who used the commotion to beat to him the door, namely Fumi.
As always, her eyes were out of focus, but in each of her hand was laptop, the oversized one she usually lugged around and occasionally used as murder weapon.
He wouldn't need any more reassurance of how deadly, in quite a literal sense, she could be with this piece of equipment in hand.
"Look here, Fumi, you are smart so I know you would understand. I mean an innovator must keep his mind open for new radical possibility."
"While you are correct in saying that eating demon might have been possible, but experimenting by yourself without inviting me is kind of cold, don't you agree?"
Hiro shivered. All that he could see in her eyes was a complete indifference to the fate that awaits him.
Ahhh, the door was only a few paces away, but why oh why did it seem so infinitely far.
As the sound of numerous footsteps approached him, Hiro resigned to the fact that he had nowhere left to run.
"Got you both!" Airi proclaimed, flexing her leg muscle.
"Hiro-kun, I-I can't believe you would lie to us like that."
"That's not cool, dude! Absolutely not cool!"
"You better give us an explanation and don't you dare lie to us this time."
Very well, even if I should die here, my life will be used to further this cause.
"Alright, everyone, please calm down and let me explain. This is going take quite some time, so I would like to request your patience. I'd only find it fit to start my explanation by a saying that-"
"Save the excuse to yourself, you idiotic freak!"
The sole of Airi's feet dropped down like a hammer, nailed Hiro at the top of his head, and caused him to drop to the ground like a sack.
With murderous gleam in her eyes, the she-devil menacingly approached him and Jungo. "DIIEEEEEEE!"
"No wait, wait, WAIT!"
THUNK! BASH! CRASH! SNAP!
Their voices cried out in unison. The sound of their punishment raged on through the day.
…Needless to say, Otome was wise to have left the fray early on and prepared two more beds in the emergency ward.