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Two days after making the red bean paste, I went to the forest to gather some wood. I had to make an usu and a kine, so that I could start making mochi.
The question was, what type of wood should I make them out of?
For a while, I just rode around on Swaying Bear, searching for suitable trees.
Was there a specific tree required for making an usu? If there was, it also might not be in this world, or simply hard to find.
It had to be wide enough that I could carve out an usu with enough space to place a lot of mochi in while also be sturdy enough to withstand the continuous pounding that would commence. For now, I should probably just try looking for a big tree.
After wandering around for a while, I finally found one that seemed to be large enough.
Would it do?
I got off Swaying Bear and stood in front of the grand tree. It had thick branches with many leaves lusciously growing out of them.
Without a second thought, I casted some wind magic to cut off a thick branch, making it fall straight towards me. In a panic, I had to jump backwards to dodge it. I should have probably planned a little more before cutting it.
After successfully felling the rest of the tree, I began to cut the trunk up into round slices, large enough to make an usu out of them. This should do, right? The slices reached just about reached my waist.
Next, I needed to hollow out a hole in the middle to make room for the mochi. How should I try to do it? Cutting it was simple enough, but carving a hole inside was bound to be more difficult. Could I maybe try using some sort of spiralling magic?
To test it out, I visualized a mini tornado and used it on the wood.
Oh, it did drill a hole but didn’t stop and pierced through the wood instead.
After a few trial and errors, I was able to make a nice, round cavity in the wood. Although I didn’t know what a real usu looked like, the one I made did look quite similar to the ones from TV. Well, it should be fine as long as it didn’t break when pounding the mochi.
I then used a plane to smooth out the exterior and it didn’t look half bad. I still had the remaining slices of wood left though, along with the rest of the tree, of course.
I couldn’t just throw them away, so with a bit of effort, I made four more usus. Because of my Bear Box, carrying them all wouldn’t be a problem.
Next, I needed a kine for pounding the mochi. Couldn’t I just make a large wooden mallet?
In theory, as long as I could pound mochi with it, anything would work. Would it be better if I commissioned a woodworker to make one? I should have probably discussed this with Tirumina-san or Mylene-san beforehand…. For now, I would just use some more of the downed tree branches to create a makeshift kine.
Once I was done, I gripped it tightly and swung it around a bit then tried tapping it lightly. It seemed to work just fine. Still, since I didn’t want it to break on me, I had ended up making it a bit larger than a normal kine would be.
I took off my Bear Hands to see if I could hold it up using my own strength, and, unsurprisingly, I couldn’t.
As I slammed the kine down into the usu, I realized something: who was going to flip the mochi while it was getting pounded by the kine?
Mochi pounding wasn’t a solo activity. The kine was heavy, so I was the only one who could wield it, with my Bear Hands on, of course. There was no way children could handle it, and even if they could, they wouldn’t be able to do it constantly.
I looked at Swaying Bear, which was sitting down to rest while I was busy. Flipping the mochi would be impossible for Swaying Bear, despite how impressive it was. I could only imagine its fur getting all over the mochi if we tried it.
Actually, since it was a summoned beast, maybe the fur stuck in the mochi would disappear if I unsummoned it afterwards? I didn’t think its fur was dirty, but I did wonder how sanitary it would be to eat it.
Was teaching Fina and the other children how to flip the mochi the only option I had left? I had seen children on TV do it before. As long as we didn’t try to copy the speeds of the pros, we should be able to do it.
As I racked my brain for a different solution, Swaying Bear came over and lifted up the kine.
Swaying Bear stood on its hind legs and lifted the kine up high in the air; instead of flipping the mochi, it seemed like it could do the pounding.
「Can you do it?」
Swaying Bear look at me as if saying, 「Leave it to me.」, then swung the pestle down with tremendous force.
「That looks a bit dangerous. Could you hold back your strength a bit?」
This means now I could do the flipping. I was a little scared of getting hurt, but it should be fine, right? I still had some mixed feelings, but giving it a try at least was probably the way to go.
Just in case Swaying Bear accidentally broke it, I decided to use the remainder of the tree to make one kine per usu, so we had spares in case they broke.
Once all the kines were finished, I returned to Crimonia and headed straight for the orphanage. I wanted to ask the Headmistress for permission to use the backyard to pound mochi. Also, if I were to summon Swaying Bear, it would be better to do it at the orphanage, where fewer people passed by.
「I don’t mind, but what are you planning to do?」
The Headmistress asked while also keeping her eye on the kids.
「I’m thinking of making some food.」
「You’re going to make it outside?」
「Well, I can’t make it unless I have a lot of space.」
「Bear-oneechan, what are you going to make?」
「Is it delicious?」
A boy and a girl, who looked to be around five years old, came over. They held Swaying Bear and Hugging Bear plushies in their arms respectively.
Now that I looked at it, there were quite a few children with the Bear Plushies in their arms. One of them was even taking a nap while chewing on Swaying Bear’s ear. The plushies seemed to be quite popular.
「Hmm, I guess so. I think it’s good. If I make some, will you try it for me?」
I definitely needed people to taste test the mochi.
「Can we really?」
「Yup. I would be happy if you did.」
I happily patted their heads and promised the children that they could try out the mochi.
I then arranged a date with the Headmistress for the mochi pounding event and left the orphanage. It was decided that it would be held on the shop’s next day off.
The Headmistress said, 「If you’re going to make food, then please do it on a day when the children don’t have work to do.」
That made sense, so I agreed. I would feel bad if the children were to finish their work only to find out that the event was already over.
I also invited Anzu, Morin-san, Tirumina-san, and some others, as well.
As I thought about it some more, I realized that there were a lot of preparations to do.
The next day, I asked Fina and Shuri to come over to my place to help me with the prep work.
I had already soaked some mochi rice in water overnight, so today we steamed it while also making large amounts of red bean paste.
「We’re done, Yuna-oneechan.」
We placed the red bean paste into the refrigerator and the freshly steamed mochi rice straight into the Bear Box. In my opinion, chilled red bean paste tasted better because the sweetness got milder. All together, we prepared enough for more than fifty people.
On the day of the mochi pounding event, I headed to the orphanage early in the morning, and, when I got there, the younger children and the Headmistress were the only ones to greet me.
「Where’s everyone else?」
Not everyone was here yet. I didn’t see Tirumina-san, Fina, Anzu… Did I come too early?
「They went to check on the cluckers.」
「They said that if they all went together, they could finish up quickly.」
Even though the store was closed for the day, they still had to take care of the cluckers.
It was probably smart to start setting up while waiting for everybody to arrive.
I asked the children to stand back since it could be dangerous, and they obediently followed my instructions.
Once they were at a safe distance, I took out all the usus and kines I had made.
I didn’t forget to also bring a bucket of warm water, which was very important when pounding mochi.
I finished up by summoning Swaying Bear and Hugging Bear, and the children immediately exploded in excitement and ran to them.
I tasked Hugging Bear to keeping them far away from the working area, since swinging the kines could get dangerous.
With this, everything was all set up, but Tirumina-san and the older children were still not back.
Hmm, maybe they would rush back if they heard us pounding the mochi.
Swaying Bear and I began, just like we practiced.
I took out the steamed mochi rice from the Bear Box and put it into the usu. With steam still rising from it, I kneaded the mochi rice with the kine and gently pounded it for a bit.
I didn’t think Swaying Bear could handle such fine movements, so I did it instead. Once the mochi rice was ground enough, I handed the kine to Swaying Bear.
「Alright. I’m going to flip the mochi as you pound it. Start off lightly, okay?」
I took off my Bear Hands and held the mochi.
The children looked at me with worried eyes. I shook the heat off my hands to reassure them.
That was dangerous, though. It was much hotter than I had expected. I knew I was a hikikomori, but I didn’t think my hands were this delicate.
I should really be more careful.
If I remembered correctly, on TV they would wet their hands and only lightly touched the mochi at the beginning.
I tried again with this approach, but it was still really hot.
I glanced at the Bear Hands I had left on the ground. The Bear Hands never got dirty no matter what I used them for, so I never had to wash them.
I put the Bear Hands back on and touched the mochi carefully.
Oh, it didn’t stick to my hands at all. What an unbelievable phenomenon.
With my Bear Hands, I flipped the mochi. It still didn’t stick to them.
These all-purpose Bear Hands were amazing.
「Swaying Bear, can we start off again?」
「Go.」 Pound. 「Go.」 Pound. 「Go.」 Pound.
We pounded the mochi in a smooth rhythm and I made sure to wet the mochi periodically.
Somewhere in the middle of pounding the first round, the children in charge of the cluckers returned along with Tirumina-san and Fina.
「Yuna-chan, did you start already?」
「Yeah, I thought I should try it out first.」
As I explained, we continued pounding the mochi.
「Go.」 Pound. 「Go.」 Pound.
「Is this a new dish?」
Tirumina-san looked into the usu.
「It’s a dish made from pounded mochi rice.」
「Are you going to sell it at your shop?」
Tirumina-san looked at me like she wanted to say, 「Again?」
「I’m making this for myself, so I won’t be serving it at the shop.」
Making mochi involved a whole lot of work. If I had a machine that could automatically pound the mochi, that would be fine, but obviously, something like that didn’t exist here. It was very physically demanding to make mochi.
Not to mention, most of my shop workers were children and women. It would take an entire day just to make enough for the shop, so mochi dishes were out of the question. After all, I couldn’t force the women and children to do labor like that.
Furthermore, mochi was not something to be eaten everyday.
Once I explained that to her, Tirumina-san looked quite relieved.
「Go.」 Pound. 「Go.」 Pound.
The individual grains of the mochi rice slowly disappeared as it transformed into a smooth texture.
Just a bit more, and we should be done, right?
Eventually, Morin-san, Anzu, and the other women from the dorm also came to see us.
「Yuna-san, sorry we’re late. We heard you were making a mochi rice dish, so we made some snacks.」
Anzu and Morin-san made some small dishes for us. It would have been sad to just eat mochi and red bean paste, so I was very grateful for this.
Still, now, there were too many people here. At this rate, we wouldn’t have enough mochi for everyone.
Pounding mochi would take too much time if only Swaying Bear and I did it. Could I maybe get Tirumina-san and a few others to help out?
As I pondered on what to do, some more reinforcements arrived.
「Yuna-chan, I heard you’re making a new dish. Can we join you?」
「Yeah, is there anything we can help you with?」
Rurina-san and Gil came here after hearing about this event from who knows where.
The next to arrive was the adventurer who drove other guys mad. It was Blitz, and he was accompanied by his usual harem of cute and beautiful women.
「Let us help out, too.」
The amount of men who could help out suddenly increased, so I quickly gave out instructions on how to pound the mochi rice.
Rurina-san paired up with Gil while Blitz rotated amongst his party members every so often.
Then, Anzu’s cooking team of women decided they wanted a go at it, too.
To top it all off, Gentz-san swung by and paired up with Tirumina-san. Fina and Shuri cheered them on from the sidelines, of course.
Luckily, the extra usus and kines I had made came in handy here. There was one slightly smaller pair, which I made sure to give to Anzu’s team.
Now that there were a lot more people pounding the mochi, we were able to pick up the speed quite a bit.
As it started to pile up, we distributed it to the children, accompanied with small plates of soy sauce, nori, and red bean paste. We made sure to also distribute the snacks that Anzu and the other women prepared. In total, there were now more than fifty people here, but we somehow managed to make enough for everyone.
I first tried the mochi with nori and soy sauce. It tasted delicious.
As we slowly enjoyed out food, we also took turns in making even more mochi, which ended up being stored in my Bear Box.
After a few hours the mochi pounding event finally ended with everyone full and happy.
The next day, however, Noa found out about what had happened and got mad at me for not telling her about it.
「Make sure you invite me next time!」
To appease her, I promised her I would.
This concludes the cooking arc, and a new adventure will start in the next chapter.
I haven’t really thought about it too deeply yet. w
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