The next morning, I started to develop the land in earnest and instructed the men to clear the forests around the house to secure a place to build a house and to gather lumber.
Fortunately, one of the men had experience in building houses in the past, so I decided to leave the building of the house to him, and Diana and I set out to survey the area around the settlement.
I would have liked to leave this kind of work to the men, but unfortunately there were no experienced hunters among them, and I couldn't ask an amateur to walk in a labyrinthine land infested with monster. As for me? I had trained in sword and magic so that I could at least protect myself, so unless I encountered a very dangerous demon, I should be fine... maybe.
"Still... it's all very green..."
"It's a forest. Did you have a different expectation?"
"No, I just thought if it's so lush, there should be more nuts, mushrooms, that sort of thing."
"Most of those things have probably been eaten by animals. The only things that are left are things that animals won't eat."
"I see, I was hoping to gather nuts and mushrooms for food in the forest. I guess it won't be that easy."
The only food available in the settlement now is what my father prepared in advance and can be stored for a long time, and once that is gone, we will have to gather our own food.
If we can't gather enough food in the forest, we will have to farm and grow crops, or buy food from outside.
"Additionally, it is possible to hunt monsters and convert them into meat. The materials obtained from hunting can be traded for money, and vegetables and seasonings can be purchased to supplement our meals."
"Who will hunt the monsters, dismantle them, sell the materials, and go shopping?"
"Certainly, it is just you, Neil-sama."
"I'll die of exhaustion! At least help me out Diana!"
It's hard to imagine how many monsters that need to be hunted in a day, and in this forest where 'clones' roam around, it takes a lot of work just to kill and bring back a normal monster.
Furthermore, dismantling monsters, selling materials, and purchasing foodstuffs would take more than a day to accomplish.
"Well, if Neil-sama begs me to do so, I'm willing to do so."
"Diana, why do you have such a big attitude when you're supposed to be my servant?"
"Since Master Neil said you liked this type so much..."
"I never said anything like that and I've never had such a propensity!"
Well, if someone asks me if I don't feel anything when a beautiful woman humiliates me with sharp words, I can say that I do, but I don't want to say that because I think it will make Diana feel even more aggravated.
"Seriously speaking, we cannot leave the other work to the slaves, even if it's only dismantling."
"Even if they can't hunt monsters, can't they at least sell materials and procure ingredients?"
"So, Master neil, do you think that the slaves will come back to this settlement after I send them to the city with the wagons filled with materials?"
Ah, I see, they may not come back.
"But, I wonder if it was safe to leave the slaves here after all this time?"
Now there are only slaves in the settlements, and there are no eyes watching them.
I think they can run away as much as they want now.
"I'm afraid that won't be possible. This land has not been fully explored and it is not feasible to walk to the village. It may be possible to reach the city by carriage, but there are not enough carriages to carry thirty slaves."
"But one person can easily escape in a horse-drawn carriage, can't he?"
If only one person could escape easily by riding on the carriage that is left there, it would be very troublesome because there would be no carriage left.
My father would send someone to contact us periodically, so it would be possible to replenish the carriage and horses at that time, but until then, I would be stuck in the settlement.
"Of course, if someone wants to save themselves and only themselves, that is possible..."
"Hmm? What does that mean?"
"Master Neil, did you forget? All the slaves that we've gathered this time are those who chose to stay with their families even if it meant falling into slavery. They wouldn't try to escape by themselves."
"But no matter how small that carriage is... it can still carry a family..."
"Have you noticed? Why did the slaves are separated for men and women to work and sleep in?"
I see. That's it.
If the family is so united that they chose to fall into slavery, they must have thought of escaping together.
In order to escape from the settlement, the whole family must share the date and time of the escape, but there is no time to discuss it if men and women are separated in where they work and where they sleep.
"In addition, if they try to escape and make contact with other slaves, they will surely be noticed by other slaves. Not only would the other slaves lose their own means of escape, but it would also make it difficult for them to survive in this settlement."
"Well, if they don't have carriages, they won't be able to go to the city. And if the food supply runs out, it's usually a matter of life and death."
Of course, there is no way the other slave would keep quiet when he/she sees others discussing about escaping to the city.
They would definitely report it to me or Diana.
"So the slaves are being led to watch each other on their own."
That's a very harsh way of doing things.
It's as if everyone but family members are enemies.
"Neil-sama, if you don't already understand this basic information without needing to ask me, it will be difficult for you to succeed as a nobleman"
"Then I'm not a nobleman after all."
In the beginning, the idea of using slaves was a big rejection in my mind.
Since I can just barely tolerate it by treating them not as slaves but as ordinary workers, I guess I am not suitable for the aristocracy.
First of all, I have been an ordinary employee in my previous life.
I would be at a loss if I was suddenly put in charge of 30 slaves.
But, as long as I am expected to take over the reigns of the family, I will have to get used to it somehow.
"However, I was wary of this labyrinthine land, but there aren't as many monsters as I thought there would be."
"It's probably because of the wedge placed in the mansion. I think that's why the animals that escaped from the monsters are breeding here and devouring the forest's food supply."
"So if we want nuts and mushrooms, we have to go to the monsters' territory."
So, if we want to get food in the forest, it means that there is only me and Diana who can fight against the monster.
It seems I should prioritize the cultivation of farmland rather than building houses.
"Huh? Maybe that's a fruit?"
What looks like a fruit on a tree comes into view.
It looks like a kiwi, but the tree itself is not the same as the kiwi tree in the world where I used to live.
"That's an oran. It is a fruit that is very familiar among the citizens as an affordable sweet. It's considered a citizen's food, so not many aristocrats eat it."
No wonder I don't recognize it.
No, it looks like a kiwi, so it's very familiar to me.
However, I don't know myself, but I wonder if this is the place where the monsters are coming out soon, if there are still some Oran left like this.
As far as I can see, there are only two Oran left, so there is a possibility that they are simply leftovers, but let's be on the lookout for them.
"Have you ever eaten it before, Diana?"
"No, I have not either."
"Well then, there are just two of them, let's try them."
I say this, concentrate my magic on my fingertips, and wave my fingers toward the Oran on the tree.
I break off the stalks with my wind magic, and then I levitate the falling Oran with the same wind magic, pull them close to me, and offer one of them to Diana.
"I prefer not to, if you don't mind. Sweets are not really my thing."
"Oh, is that so?"
"It is acceptable for the fruit to be somewhat sweet, but when a tree has fewer fruits, the sugar and other nutrients are more concentrated in the remaining fruit, which can result in very sweet fruit."
"I see, so all the nutrition is concentrated in these two pieces."
That certainly sounds sweet.
Let's take a bite―
"As a side note, it is said that if there are fewer than 10 Oran fruit on a tree, the sugar content becomes too high and they can be dangerous to consume..."
"―that's the expected reaction, I was right not to eat it after all."
"W-water! Give me water!!"
"Here's some water."
I snatch the leather bag filled with water from Diana's hand, pour the water into my mouth vigorously, gargle carefully, and spit the water on the ground.
"So, what do you think of the taste?"
"Gobble, gobble... oh, I don't know what it tastes like! I lost all sensation on my tongue the moment I bit into it! It's something beyond sweet or bitter!"
At least it's not something humans, or any living creature, can eat.
I gargle repeatedly until the water in the leather bag is empty, wondering if this is the reason why it has remained intact and not been devoured by animals.
"Uh... Sh*t, you said you didn't like sweets and lied to me so that I would be the only one to eat them, didn't you?"
"It's not a lie. I don't like sweet things that destroy my taste buds."
"No one likes that!"
Damn it, I should have suspected it when Diana said no.
"Well, we've run out of water because of Master Neil, so let's wrap up our investigation and go back."
"Is it my fault?"
I'm not quite convinced, but it's true that it was me who used the water, but whose fault is it but Diana's?
I thought so, but I knew that if I complained to her, she would argue with me, so I didn't say anything more and turned back.
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