One afternoon, a while after the four newly joined the settlement, I was in my office doing some paperwork for the first time in a while when Diana came to me.
"Master Neil, I would like to talk to you about Gaadhir-san."
"Is there a problem with Gaadhir-san?"
"No, there is no problem."
Diana seemed to be somewhat indisposed, and I waited for her next words, thinking that it was unusual for her to speak so clearly.
"Actually, there's something that's been bothering me about Gaadhir-san's recent career."
"His recent career, what is it, the firm that Gaadhir-san belongs to... Uh..."
"'Banrai no Senpu (Battle Axe of Ten Thousand Thunders)'"
"That's right, did you find anything strange in his work at that Ten Thousand Thunders?"
"No, the work itself is legitimate... security and protection these days... and internally, he's been instructing new recruits."
Oh, teaching new recruits, I see. I guess I was right in thinking that he was used to teaching them.
"Then what's the problem?"
"His fighting style doesn't match his recent career."
"Oh, you mean, for a guy who's been a guard and a bodyguard, his fighting style doesn't match up?"
"Yes, his fighting style is that of a man who's been hunting for a long time."
That's amazing. I had seen Gaadhir-san training the slaves several times, but I didn't know that much about him, or to be more precise, I didn't pay attention to that part of his training.
"So, you're not going to tell me that I should hire someone else to guard the settlement, are you?"
"No way, there hasn't been a single attack since the last one. We haven't actually been attacked yet. It's too early to judge the situation as inappropriate."
Yes, we had been attacked by monsters in the past, and we had immediately sent out security personnel to prepare for the next attack, but as if to mock our efforts as futile, we have not heard of any monster attacks, or even of any approaching settlements.
It's not as if we've quit hunting, so it's not surprising that hungry monsters would come close to the settlements on the scent of blood if it's the same as last time... Although this is a strange feeling, there's nothing better than not having an attack.
"What then? Are you going to test Gaadhir-san to see his qualifications?"
"Yes, that's a good idea."
I said this half jokingly, but Diana's face turned thoughtful as if she was seriously considering it.
"Why do you doubt Gaadhir-san's suitability so much?"
"Because I felt some discomfort."
"You're being very vague again."
"I don't have any proof, so I'll refrain from stating it, but he probably used to be mainly commissioned for hunting and the like, but I wonder why he's recently been engaged in security and escort work for which he receives little reward."
"Is it too early to feel the limitations of old age? Maybe he has a family and has retired from dangerous work?"
"That's a possibility, but he would need to earn more money to support his family. If that is the case, he should earn more money by hunting than by guarding or escorting."
"But he probably already has enough money to support his family, and he's just trying to make a few coins."
"If that's the case, he wouldn't bother to accept a request to guard a dangerous settlement."
Although the reward is somewhat colored by the danger allowance in order to attract people, those who can handle hunting requests can make more money that way, and there are probably better requests for safer money.
However, it is difficult to say for sure, since it is possible that Gaadhir-san was offered the job by his firm before he volunteered for the job.
In the end, Diana didn't talk about the specific nature of her discomfort, and I didn't pay much attention to it, so I thought that the conversation was over... Then some time later, in the evening, I wondered if it was about time for Gaadhir-san to wake up, when I heard a knock at the door of my office. From there, Lewya came in, looking a little panicked.
I had a bad feeling about Lewya's appearance just when I was thinking about today's lunch and Gaadhir-san.
"No, actually, Diana challenged Gaadhir to a duel just now, saying she was going to give him a test."
It seems that my hunch was right.
"If there was talk of a duel, Neil would have come to monitor the situation, and since you didn't show up, I thought Neil might not have heard about it, so I came to inform you."
"Thank you Lewya, you've been a great help..."
Oh, my head hurts. What the hell is Diana thinking?
I'm pretty sure that Diana isn't doing this without a second thought, but I guess I'll just have to go check on her anyway.
I leave the office at a run and go outside with Lewya.
The buildings are still sparse and the area is still deserted, but there is no other place but the central square where we can run amok without worrying about our surroundings.
So I headed for the central square, and sure enough, there was Gaadhir-san and Diana, who were cutting across the square.
"Wow, for an examination, they're pretty serious guys, aren't they?"
I had expected that it would be equivalent to the training Gaadhir-san had given to the slaves, or at least a little more practical than that, but neither of them showed any signs of trying to stop the test with a few cuts.
Although neither of them had any intention of taking the other's life, both of them were completely determined that a laceration or two could be healed with healing magic.
As I was thinking that it would be better to stop them before an accident happens, Lewya comes to me and asks.
"Neil, how do you see Gaadhir?"
"What? What do you mean?"
I watched Gaadhir-san's movements carefully.
Diana had told me earlier in the day that Gaadhir-san's fighting style was that of a man who had been a hunter for a long time, and I observed Gaadhir-san's movements with a keen awareness.
Instead, he moves in small steps to disturb his target, and tries to sneak into the blind spot when he sees an opening.
Although he does not neglect his surroundings, most of his consciousness is focused on the prey in front of him, and Gaadhir-san is probably unaware that I am observing him here.
Both the way he fights and the way he devotes his attention are the movements of a true hunter, specialized to hunt the enemy in front of him, but for some reason, I felt a strange sense of unease.
I see, this is what Diana was talking about.
However, I still do not know what it is, just that I felt something strange.
"I am not familiar with long sword fighting, but is it like that? His center of gravity is very much on the left side of his body."
"Oh, that's simply..."
Wait a minute, does Gaadhir-san's fighting style make his center of gravity lean toward the left half of his body? Even though the hand holding the sword is on his right? His left foot is his dominant foot, and his left half of his body is always facing the opponent, so when he swings the sword in his right hand, there is not a small delay between the time he steps and the time he attacks.
At first, I thought that his dominant leg is on the left and his dominant arm is on the right, but this does not seem to be the case.
Perhaps to compensate for the time lag, he often makes only right arm movements, not using the right half of his body, and his thrusts are often fine stabbing thrusts, as if he is protecting something―
As soon as I realized what the discomfort was, the stalemate in their duel began to move.
Gaadhir-san steps forward, closes the gap between the two, and quickly thrusts his sword at Diana, but Diana easily parries his attack with her sword.
The attack and defense were repeated many times while I was watching, but it seemed to have become a pattern as it was repeated over and over again, and Diana's movement to receive Gaadhir-san's attack became less and less futile.
"What's the matter, you can't catch the opponent's with such a shallow movement..."
"Tsk! Too hard!"
Perhaps he thought that there was no way out of this situation, Gaadhir-san stepped forward with the force of pressing his body against Diana's body and thrust his left shoulder against Diana's body at close range.
However, Diana seemed to have read the blow, and she avoided the tip of the sword with her upper body movement, and grabbed Gaadhir-san's right arm as he passed by her, and pulled him forward with all her might.
A cry of agony escapes from Gaadhir-san's mouth even though his arm is just pulled, and he falls forward with the force of the pull.
As I rushed to Gaadhir-san's side, the slaves who had been watching from a distance rushed to him, as if they understood that the duel had been settled.
"Are you all right!?"
"Master Neil... yeah, I'm fine, I just wobbled a bit..."
"Don't lie to me! Gaadhir-san, you're hurt, aren't you?"
Gaadhir-san didn't say anything to my question, but I guess that's what he meant when he didn't argue.
The reason for my discomfort with Gaadhir-san's fighting style was the fact that he was protecting his physical injuries.
"Why didn't you tell us about your injury?"
"I guess he thought he wouldn't get the job if it was revealed that he was injured."
Diana, who had put away her sword, answered my question on behalf of Gaadhir-san.
"Perhaps the injury is some kind of aftereffect that cannot be healed by healing magic, and because of it you can no longer go hunting, and recently you've been asked to work as a guard or something like that, isn't that about right?"
"...Yeah, that's right."
"As I thought, then what can you do?"
Diana let out a sigh in a showy manner and then looked thoughtful as she pondered over something.
She is probably thinking about how to deal with Gaadhir-san.
If he is suffering from the aftereffects of the accident, he might not be able to do his job as a security guard.
They must be thinking that they should fire Gaadhir-san and replace him with someone else before something goes wrong.
"W-wait! Please don't fire Gaadhir-san!"
One of the slaves suddenly shouted, as if he sensed the atmosphere of firing Gaadhir-san, and all the other slaves started to beg at once not to fire Gaadhir-san.
"We are stronger because of Gaadhir-san!"
"Yes! And we can be even stronger with Gaadhir-san!"
"If this boss is hurt, we'll make up for it!"
"So please! Please don't throw Gaadhir-san out of the settlement!"
Seeing the slaves pleading so desperately, I was so taken in by the atmosphere that I suggested to Diana to let Gaadhir-san stay in the settlement.
"Hey Diana, is it okay if we hire Gaadhir-san as he is? There's no harm in having more guards, and from what he just did, I think he'll be a good asset."
"Yes? Master Neil and all of you are mistaken, aren't you? I never said anything about firing Gaadhir-san."
"What? But you said earlier that you didn't know what to do."
"That was in response to the firm's decision not to tell us that Gaadhir-san was suffering from a permanent illness. I don't know if Lord Gibbett knew about it or not, but at least the firm to which Gaadhir-san belongs must have known about the aftereffects. But since they signed the contract without telling us, we thought we could squeeze a lot out of them if we blamed them."
"Ah... that's what you mean."
I understand what Diana is trying to do, and I give her a vague answer as if I can't say anything at all.
A little dismayed by Diana's strong attitude, even against a firm partner, I confirm the situation with her as if to make sure.
"So, you mean to say that Gaadhir-san will continue to be employed at the settlement?"
"Yes, I mean, Master Neil is the one who has the right to make that decision, not me. I am merely confirming the facts."
That's true, but if Diana were to ask me to fire Gaadhir-san, I would accept her opinion because I can only defend Gaadhir-san on the basis of emotional arguments.
So I was quite relieved that Diana agreed to keep Gaadhir-san employed.
"However, I can't keep everything the same as long as he is suffering from the aftereffects of the illness. Considering Gaadhir-san's physical condition, it would be better to adjust the security time."
"What, that Diana is concerned about other people's health?"
"Master Neil, what does that mean?"
I cover my mouth with my hands and shake my head from side to side to show that I'm not saying anything to Diana, who asks me with a smiling face.
"Well, seriously speaking, it would be a problem if our personnel get sick because of it, and it would cause a hole in our security. We should make it a priority to take care of our personnel's physical condition."
Rather than prioritizing physical condition above all else, she is prioritizing physical condition as a result of giving the highest priority to the settlement.
This is a very rationalistic and Diana-like way of thinking.
After that, we all disbanded without incident and went back to our respective jobs and roles, but that night Diana told me something like this.
"Gaadhir-san is now the spiritual pillar of the slaves, and the choice to remove him from the settlement would be resented by the slaves. On the other hand, a friendly attitude toward him will not cause unnecessary animosity among the slaves, but rather will make them feel good toward us. Just by being kind to one human being, the others will be satisfied as well, so why not take advantage of it?"
Well, that's a very rationalistic and Diana-like way of thinking.
I think Diana is much more suited to be an aristocrat than I am, well, I guess that's why my father gave her to me as my personal servant.
I am aware that I have forced Diana to play a troublesome role because of my naivete, so that I can learn from her or to support her when I can't make a decision, but I just can't get used to the "common sense" of this world.
The reason why I don't feel like an aristocrat even though I have lived as one for fifteen years is because I don't want to adapt to the aristocracy in the first place.
I was aware of the fact that I was doing something extremely stupid to resist the common sense of the world, even though I have no cheat ability.
'I will! I will not change my way of life! I will not run away! And I'm going to stick to it to the end! I'll live out my life as an eccentric, which is rare in recent years!'
I remember the big mouth I once swore.
I have not the slightest confidence that I can live up to it. If I could have such confidence easily, I would not have become such a despicable person.
And I have never been so gutless that I would easily retract the words I once uttered.
If I didn't have the courage to move forward on my own, or the nerve to run away with my tail between my legs, then I would just have to go with the flow and do what I can do, I thought to myself as I looked up at the stars shining in the cold sky.
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