"I was expecting a wasteland, but instead the place looks nice and lush. Right, Neo?"
"Yes! It's full of green!"
Neo jumps down from the back of the wagon with great energy, Glayna follows him down, and an exhausted Liana and I crawl down from the wagon after them.
"G-Gaadhir-san, pull yourself together, we have arrived..."
"Now that you mention it, Liana, your face is dead, too."
"I was born with this face―Wait, that's not important!?"
"Calm down, you're getting funny because Glayna's been playing with your face too much."
"Huhh!? Huff~ Calm down me, my face isn't naturally red and I'm not drenched in cold sweat."
"Yes, I was born with this face! ―Wait, head firm...!?"
"What are you yelling about all of a sudden? Come here!"
Mister Gibbett calls her and Liana rushes to him.
Poor Liana, she has been played with by Glayna along the way, and "I was born with this face" seems to have become an ingrained part of her identity.
It seems Mister are having a conversation with someone who seems to be a servant, but why is Liana, which was from the firm, the only one who has been summoned?
Well, I decide to wait for now until I am called, and look around the settlement.
As I had heard, there were only a few wooden buildings surrounded by a simple wooden fence, and a vast farmland that was out of proportion for a settlement of 30 people.
I felt depressed at the thought of having to work as a guard all the time in such a place where there was no entertainment or anything else.
However, I wonder if the men I see here and there are settlers or not, and even though it hasn't snowed yet, how could they be wearing such light clothes at this season of the year―no, wait a minute?
"Ah, it's not so cold. It's rather... warm?"
It was chilly when we left this morning, but now the temperature was much more comfortable.
Even though it's been a while since then and the sun is shining, I twist my head and wonder if it can be this warm.
"Mom, look at this!"
"Ara, ara, look at you, you're so excited, even though a while ago you were shivering!"
Well, it's not a bad thing for me to feel comfortable.
Seeing my son running around so energetically, I don't care about the trivial questions that pop into my head.
"―Well, I'm looking forward to working with you."
Those words reach my ears as I look at my son who is so excited.
I looked at Mister to see if they had finished their conversation, and I saw someone who looked like a servant walking toward the mansion.
I casually see the servant walking toward the mansion, wondering if she is going to call someone to the mansion.
Is it a storage or something? I thought she was going to call someone, but as I was watching the situation, I saw a young man come out of the hut.
He was a well-dressed man whom I recognized at a glance as an aristocrat, wearing fine clothes that did not look like a person who belonged to the hut.
While I was wondering what on earth such a man was doing in such a place, the man rushed toward me and stopped in front of Mister and started chatting with him in a friendly atmosphere.
I have seen aristocrats in my work several times in my life, and aristocrats are usually more overbearing or tense, but this man's atmosphere was much softer and different from that of the aristocrats I know.
"Gaadhir-san and the others, please come this way."
Now, Mister calls us and we line up in front of him.
"This is Gaadhir-san, who will be guarding the settlement."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Neil. I'm looking forward to working with you."
"What's going on? Is there something wrong with me?"
"Huh? No, nothing like that!"
I corrected myself in a hurry when I saw the man who called himself "Neil" became uncomfortable, as if I had done something wrong because I didn't respond to him.
"Uhh, as Mister Gibbett introduced me, I'm―uh, I'm Gaadhir, the settlement's security guard."
"Good, I was surprised to hear that there was something wrong with me..."
"No, not at all! I was just a bit preoccupied! Please accept my apologies!"
"Oh, I don't mind that much either, so don't apologize so much."
What's this? Why am I being bothered by an aristocrat? Isn't it the other way around? And, is he really an aristocrat to question his own inadequacy before blaming the other party, when normally the other party would have cursed me when I didn't respond to their question?
"By the way, Gaadhir-san, who are those two?"
"Ah, they are my wife and son. I told them I would be away for a while on business, but they refused not to come with me... I'm sure you don't have a place to stay if I suddenly show up with my family, so don't worry, I'll send them home!"
"I see, but we do have a place for them to live, if you want to move in with your family."
"Unfortunately, we don't have a standard family residence yet, but we have a room in the barracks if you like, and since no one is using it yet, you can use it with your family, Gaadhir-san."
"—Really? Thank you very much!"
Glayna thanks him enthusiastically, pushing away my reluctance.
"Wait, wait! What are you doing here! I'm not here to play, I'm here to work!?"
"I don't need you to tell me that."
"Then you know what I mean. This is a new settlement where monsters roam. It's not like going to the next city. And how dangerous it would be to live there."
"Isn't that why you're here? If you say that this settlement is dangerous, then you're not doing your job."
The nobleman smiles at me as I'm at a loss for words after being answered by Glayna with a sound argument.
"Well, you have a wife who speaks very frankly, Gaadhir-san seems to have a hard time."
In the end, I realized that I was saying to myself that I was useless if I put forward the reason that it was dangerous, so I couldn't say anything more and ended up staying in this settlement with Glayna and Neo.
After that, we were shown around the settlement by a servant who introduced herself as Diana, and finally we were led to a building larger than the others with many desks and chairs.
"What is this place?"
"This is the dining hall, since there is no kitchen in the barracks, you can basically eat here by ordering food, or you can use the kitchen in the house if you ask."
A dining hall. Well, when Mister Gibbett told me about the settlement, he mentioned that it was one of the few places where people could have a meal for recreation.
But a dining hall would cost a lot of money, of course, and it would be a place that we, a family who can't afford it, can't get along with.
"But today, Master Neil has kindly agreed not to charge for dinner tonight, so please take advantage of it."
"Oh, you mean free of charge?"
Hey, hey, what the hell are they thinking to give us a free dinner?
I was about to refuse when I thought there might be a secret to this. But...
"Please don't do anything to disrespect Master Neil's hospitality."
Oh no, she read my thoughts completely.
"I wonder what they're going to serve at the new settlement's dining hall? I'm looking forward to it. Neo, Liana, you all too, right?"
"Yes! I'm so excited!
Neo is still too young to be a problem, but Glayna and Liana's fearlessness is beyond astonishing.
"Well then, Narsht-san, I'll leave the rest to you."
As the servant calls out to someone, a man peeks out from the back of the dining hall, and upon seeing him, the servant leaves the dining room, leaving us alone.
"Come on, don't just stand there. Sit wherever you want."
The man from the dining hall urged us to sit down at a nearby table for four, but for some reason Liana was sitting at a different table.
"Liana, why are you sitting there?"
"No, because I didn't want to intrude on a family gathering."
"What's that? Don't be so reserved. Come here. I feel uncomfortable when you eat alone. It's like we're making you the hub of the family."
"That's right, don't be shy. Come here."
Liana sits down at her own table, and just as she is about to do so, a man comes over with a menu.
"Here is our menu, we have a wide variety of dishes, take your time to choose".
I receive the menu and am surprised at its contents.
The menu is more than twice as many kinds of dishes as those of ordinary restaurants.
Moreover, the menu includes not only common home-style dishes, but also dishes that I have never heard of, as well as dishes that would be served in a high-class restaurant reserved for aristocrats, and the prices are lower than those of common restaurants. Although the prices are higher for dishes that use a lot of spices, they are still definitely cheaper than what you can order at other restaurants.
"It's very cheap, but do you make a profit from this?"
"Yes, most of the vegetables, fruits, and spices come from our farm. We don't have any suppliers in between, so the price is lower."
"I see, but there are so many varieties."
"Take your time to choose. We don't have any customers other than you."
"No customers? The workers who worked outside?"
"Well, they're slaves."
The man's words surprised me again.
I had seen slaves many times before, but they were all despairing of a future with no hope in sight, always looking for someone to look down their nose at and live quietly.
However, I didn't feel such a gloomy atmosphere from the men I saw outside, and they seemed cheerful for slaves brought to the settlement, or at best they seemed to be complaining about working as settlers, but what in the world is the treatment of slaves in this settlement?
"Haha, you look like you can't believe it... Well, you'll learn to understand it in time if you stay in this settlement. So, the other three have already decided. What about you?"
"What? When did that happen?"
"While you're thinking about it. By the way, I recommend the steak of the day."
"Steak of the day?"
"The meat is from the hunt, so what you get depends on the day's results. If you're lucky you can get a great steak for a low price, and if you're not so lucky I can guarantee the taste is worth the price."
Steak of the day, one platinum coin, not cheap, but it's recommended, so I'll take it.
"I'll take it then."
"Okay, I'll be right back."
The cook then disappears into the back of the diner, and the rest of us are engaged in harmless chit-chat about the food and what kind of people are in this settlement.
Then the man came back with some workers and some dishes.
"Here you are, the food you ordered."
We exclaimed when we saw the dishes placed in front of us.
Glayna ordered a dish called Korma, a yellowish-brown dish of stewed meat and vegetables with lots of spices, Neo ordered pasta with lots of minced meat and tomato sauce, and Liana had the steak of the day in front of her, as I did.
One glance at the dishes placed in front of me tells me that the food was not placed on the plates in a random manner, but was placed with an eye to its appearance.
And with the aroma rising from the food in front of me, I knew it was delicious even before I put it in my mouth.
"Well then, let's eat."
I said, and everyone nodded, picking up their knives and forks without saying a word.
When I put the knife into the thick meat on the sizzling griddle, the clear juices flowed out from the cut.
The sight makes me gulp with bated breath, and I quickly cut the meat into pieces and bring them to my mouth.
The first thing I felt was the sweetness of the sauce. At first, I was surprised by the sweetness, but after tasting it, I found a certain saltiness and sourness behind the sweetness, as well as the delicious flavors of vegetables and spices that must have been included in the sauce.
When I bit into the meat, the juices filled with the flavor of the meat overflowed, mingling with the sauce and spreading the flavors of each other throughout my mouth.
"Wow... it's delicious!"
Surprisingly, I had never thought that I could eat such a fine dish for a single platinum coin.
Considering the taste of the sauce, there must be more than one or two spices in it, and considering the material cost of the sauce, which must be made of various ingredients other than spices, I would not complain even if I had to pay three or even five more platinum coins for the sauce alone.
And there is no doubt that the meat, which is as delicious as the sauce with such a strong flavor, is also an exquisite product.
"Hey, what kind of meat is this?"
"Today's steak of the day is Arboth."
Despite its muscular appearance, Arboth is light and can be easily lifted by a strong man, and its meat is very tender.
The meat has a rich flavor, but the aftertaste is as light and persistent as drinking water. Arboth, with its crisp, high-quality fat, was highly prized as a delicious meat that even the aristocrats enjoyed.
Its meat is so thick that, depending on the part, it may be worth a gold coin by itself when combined with the sauce, making my hands tremble as I hold the knife.
"How? I told you I'd recommend it."
"Are you sure we should be paying that kind of thing for a single platinum coin?"
"No problem. Master Neil told me not to take any money today."
"Then I guess it's even more important, Arboth isn't something you can just give away for free."
"Master Neil said it's okay, so it's okay. Eat it."
Seeing the man smiling so cheerfully, a question comes to my mind.
"Hey, did you make this dish?"
"Hmm? Yes, I did?"
"It's really delicious. You're really good."
"Oh, oh, what's the matter with you? You're all praising me all of a sudden."
I ask a question to the man who is puzzled by the sudden praise.
"It's good enough to be served to the aristocrats, if you're that good, why are you serving food to people like us in such a remote place? You can even stand in the kitchen of a high ranking nobleman, can't you?"
"Ah, that's what you're talking about all of a sudden."
"That's an important thing for a cook, isn't it?"
A noble cook is more valuable than a diner cook, a royal cook is more valuable than a noble cook, and a cook's status is always indicated by who he cooks for and where he is cooking.
If he was this good, there was no need for him to work in a diner in a frontier settlement with few customers, but I felt uncomfortable with the way he dismissed it with "I see."
"I used to work in the kitchen of a duke's family until about two years ago, the kitchen of the Duke Clement who is famous for his gourmet cooking, surprising isn't it?"
"It's surprising that someone like that's cooking here... but considering your skill... it's not surprising that you were in the duke's kitchen."
"...Tsk, stop getting carried away. The part where you say it's not surprising."
"Hehe, I'm sorry... but I have a tendency to say what's on my mind."
"Well, that's not surprising. Still, you have that kind of look on your face."
"What kind of face is that? Are you trying to say that I'm the type of guy who acts before thinking?"
"Isn't that right? Narsht-san, you're a good judge of people."
Oh no, Glayna's in the conversation.
Knowing that if I started an argument at this point, I would surely get blamed unilaterally, I urged her to move on and Narsht told me the story of his life so far.
Narsht told me that he used to work for Count Atmiras, that he was ordered by Neil, the leader of this settlement, to make a sauce, which was a great success and made him famous among the nobility, and he was invited to join the duke's family. But the fall that started from there, even his shameful past, which Narsht did not hide.
"―That's why I'm working here now."
"I see, I'm sorry for reminding you of something bad."
"Don't worry about it, for me, I've already digested the past, and I'm more fulfilled now that I can cook freely here without looking at anyone's face."
Narsht smiles at me, and I envy him.
He and I are similar, we had smooth sailing until we lost everything with a single mistake, and yet, the biggest difference is that Narsht is satisfied with the current situation, while I am still dissatisfied and clinging to past glories.
I wish I could have been as determined as Narsht, but unfortunately, I am not such a dexterous person.
"Why are you looking so grim, here, drink this."
Narsht says and holds out a wooden mug full of ale in front of me, which I wonder how long he has been bringing.
"I didn't order any ale."
"That's my treat, or are you a drunk?"
"No, I like a drink."
"Then drink up. Steak is a heavy dish and you need booze, right?"
I haven't had a sip of alcohol since I was injured and my income went down.
It was partly to keep my expenses low, but it was also to warn myself from acting too easily with the profit in front of me.
"It's okay, dear. It's just for today."
"I know you've put up with a lot for the sake of your family. So, remember?"
"That's right! It's a waste not to eat what's been served to you!"
"Well, once you start working security you won't get a chance to get drunk very often, so drink as much as you want tonight. But I don't want you to go down with a hangover, or I'll get mad at you for giving you so much to drink."
I can feel my eyes burning as the three of them say these warm words to me.
"Dad, you're crying, are you in pain?"
"Oh Neo... I'm fine."
Seeing my son looking at me worriedly, I wipe away my tears, not wanting him to see me looking any worse than I already do. I slurp down the mug of ale in one gulp, trying to push away the feelings stuck in the back of my chest.
"――Puha! It feels like it stings!"
"Yo! You're drinking well. Here, again"
The taste of ale makes me put aside all my worries for the time being.
I thought at first that working in the settlement would be a terrible job, but I've come to realize that it might not be so bad after all.
For your information, the current dining hall/restaurant is a hastily prepared one, and although it has a kitchen space, it is not yet equipped with a kiln and other equipment for cooking, so the food is cooked in the kitchen of the mansion through the back door of the cafeteria and then brought to the cafeteria.
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Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading.