The sky is clear and blue, and I stretch to wake myself up from sleep in the warm and comfortable settlement today.
I had just finished a small amount of paperwork just a few days ago, and with nothing better to do, I was on my way to the lab to make seasonings as I always do.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Liana standing there in front of the fence that surrounds the settlement, doing nothing.
I turn my head to look at her, wondering what she is doing there.
"Liana, what are you doing there?"
Liana did not seem to answer my call, and stood there staring blankly at the outside of the settlement.
I felt uneasy, so I grabbed her shoulder, shook her, and called out to her strongly.
Liana's body jumps up dramatically, and she turns around with a surprised look on her face, holding her chest with both hands.
"Huh, eh, ah? M-Master Neil?"
"Uh, yeah, what are you doing here?"
"What am I doing...? Well, I thought I heard someone calling me from over there."
"Someone called you?"
Liana pointed in the direction of the forest that stretched south from the settlement.
"There is no one there but a vast expanse of undeveloped land."
The only people who might be there are elves like Lewya, but I can't say that because the existence of elves is a secret.
If they wanted to talk to me, they would have told me through Lewya, so the possibility of elves is slim.
"What? You mean, Master Neil didn't hear it?"
"The voice calling for Liana?"
"Well, I've been hearing a very angry voice calling for Liana all the way from the store."
Just as Liana's face turned pale at my words, I heard the angry voice coming from the Harvest Hoe store again.
With a scream, Liana ran toward the store as fast as she could.
After watching her back, I turn my eyes toward the forest that stretches to the south of the settlement.
"A voice, huh?"
Not that anything has happened, but it would be troublesome if something did.
I thought in my mind at the time that I would ask Lewya, who knows about this forest, about the call that had called Liana later.
But I regretted it a little later when I received a report that Gaadhir-san and Glayna's child, Neo, had disappeared.
"Neo! If you're here, answer me!"
"We're done playing hide-and-seek! Where are you?"
Voices that sounded like shouts and screams were heard everywhere in the settlement, which had been peaceful until a few days ago.
When I received the news that Neo had disappeared, I stopped the work of the slaves and we all looked around for him, but unfortunately we couldn't find him.
"Neil, I've asked the spirits to search for him too, but it seems he's not hiding in the settlement."
If even the spirits, who have no physical presence and can enter various places, can't find them, it is highly possible that he has finally gone out of the settlement.
It is possible that the spirit may have overlooked him, but if Neo had gone out of the settlement, placing his trust in such a small possibility...
"All right, Lewya, get ready to go into the forest. Let's go look for Neo."
"I'm already prepared. But even if we are looking for him, it will be difficult to find him if we don't know at least the general direction of the area."
"Direction... No way."
The word "direction" reminds me of the call from the south that Liana had mentioned a while ago.
If Neo had heard the voice calling for Liana, it is more than possible that he was lured by the voice and left the settlement to the south.
"South! Ask the spirits if any children have left the settlement to the south recently!"
Lewya seemed to have doubts for a moment, but she understood that there was no time for doubts now, and she immediately asked the spirits as I said.
I thought it would take some time to confirm the answer, but the answer came back surprisingly quickly.
"Neil, you were right. The spirits confirms Neo's headed south."
"I knew it."
On the one hand, I'm guilty of thinking that I was right, and on the other hand, I'm annoyed at spirit, because if spirit knew, they should have told me when I requested them to search for Neo.
However, from the spirit's point of view, they were only doing as they were told, searching for Neo because they were told to search for him in the settlement, and they had no obligation to answer unless they were asked.
"Lewya, get Diana and that criminal slave to come south of the settlement."
"All right, Neil, you coming too?"
"We need all the help we can get, don't we?"
"But I'm afraid Diana's going to say something else."
"I don't care about my position as an aristocrat, a child's life is at stake here."
"Well, I'll get her right away."
Lewya runs to call them, and I head south to the settlement.
Since the attack, I have always carried a sword with me, and with no other equipment needed, I was already ready to head out.
While Lewya was waiting for the two people to come, I was staring at the forest to the south across the fence when a man came running up to me.
"Haa~, haa~―M-my son! Did you find Neo!?"
"No, I'm afraid we haven't received any report that he's been found yet."
It is already confirmed that he is not in the settlement, but since I can't explain how I know that, I just tell him that I haven't found him.
Gaadhir-san was shocked, but when he looked up, he asked me a question.
"What is Master Neil doing?"
"I'm going with Diana and the others to search outside the settlement."
"Then I'm going with you!"
"No, it's too dangerous to go outside the settlement with your body, Gaadhir-san. And it's not yet decided that he left the settlement."
"But I have searched! Everywhere I could think of! Still, I couldn't find him. I searched so, so hard...!"
After hearing that Neo was missing, he must have been running all over the clearing to search for him, not caring about his old wounds.
His breathing was erratic and his whole body was shaking slightly, indicating that he was already wounded to the bone.
"So, I'm coming with you!"
"I say again, it's too dangerous to go out of the settlement in such a state. We will find Neo safely, so please rest now and leave Neo to us."
"But! Neo is my child! I'm the one who has to go look for him!"
"P-Please calm down."
I try to calm down Gaadhir-san, who is talking like he's on a rampage, probably unable to think clearly due to excitement and exhaustion.
"If something happens to Gaadhir-san, Neo will be sad. I'm sure that Glayna-san would be sad too, and we can take care of this..."
"Then, if we leave everything to you, how can we be sure that Neo will be found safely? How can you guarantee that!"
I couldn't say anything for a moment.
Gaadhir-san is right, there is no guarantee that Neo will be found safely, nor do I have any confidence that I can bring him back safely.
After all, I am just a fifteen year old boy with a position but not much power.
I knew that the words I would say would be only vague "I will find him" and "Neo will be safe" and a list of wishes that I hoped would be true, but they would be superficial and unconvincing.
"We'll find Neo, we'll find him safe."
Understanding this, I said the same words.
How can I be sure that Neo will be safe? What guarantee do I have that Neo will be found?
No, I don't care about that.
I've already made up my mind that I'm going to do everything I can, and I have no hesitation in doing so.
"For Neo's sake, for Glayna's sake, and for Gaadhir-san's sake, I will not let you do anything reckless. If you still insist on going, I will use my authority as a nobleman to lock Gaadhir-san and prevent you from going, forcing the slaves to watch you."
"And in the same way, I'll use everything I have to find Neo."
"...Why are you going that far?"
I didn't know if this "why so much" was about trying to stop Gaadhir-san, or about finding Neo, or both, but there was one thing I could say for sure.
"I don't think you need a reason or a position to try to save lives."
Gaadhir-san's eyes widen at my words.
I don't know how Gaadhir-san took my words as a nobleman.
I don't know whether he honestly believed my words or whether he gave up on the idea of defying a nobleman, but Gaadhir-san sagged helplessly on the spot and said in a small voice, "Please take good care of my son," to which I replied, "Leave it to me."
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