After seeing the boy who was led by Moona into the carriage and saying goodbye, Miya approached me from behind.
"So, what's the matter that made you leave him to Moona, your employer, and want to talk to me alone?"
"Oh, was it that obvious?"
I think it's pretty natural to leave Master Neil to Moona... It's nothing new for her to have a good sense of things, and as long as Master Neil doesn't find out, there should be no problem. Also, my employer is not Master Neil, but my Lord, so there's no need to correct it. I turn to Niya and grin.
"How long do you plan on continuing this kind of lifestyle?"
"...What, is it the same old story?"
Ever since I met Niya and the others, we have been repeating this question and answer. And Niya's answer to my question was always the same.
"We like our current lifestyle to a certain extent. We've had this conversation many times before, haven't we?"
I told Master Neil that "we're not traveling because we like it," but that was because they wouldn't have gone along with my proposal otherwise. If Master Neil knew that Niya and the others were satisfied with the current situation, he would probably hold back and say, "Then you don't have to force yourselves to come with me." But that wouldn't be good for the development of the new territory or for them.
"Well, then you already know what I want to say in response to your answer, right?"
"That this kind of lifestyle won't last forever."
"That's right. I don't know what kind of life you guys lived in your original world, and maybe this current lifestyle is like heaven to you compared to that. But I know this world well."
That's why I can say this with certainty.
"I'll say it again, this kind of lifestyle won't last long. Eventually, there will be a limit, and if you wait until you reach that limit before taking action, it will be too late. Niya, you're smart, you should already know that without me telling you, right?"
Niya didn't answer my question. It's not like Niya is slow-witted enough to be unable to respond to such a simple question, but Niya and the others often fall silent like this during conversations. This seems to be something specific to Ihomono, given that it is common to all of them.
Since Niya and the others simply say "I'm thinking" when spoken to in this state, I took out some dried meat from my pocket to kill time until Niya returned to normal. As I took out the dried meat, someone who had been watching us from afar reacted and approached us, shaking her long white hair like a tail.
When I moved my hand with the dried meat left and right, she opened her eyes like a cat in front of its prey and chased after the dried meat.
"Do you want it?"
When I said that, she nodded, and I held the dried meat out to her. She munched the dried meat with a gulp and returned to her original position with light footsteps.
"Hey, Momoka isn't a pet, you know."
"Haha, sorry, when I see such a lovely figure, I can't help but want to cuddle her."
I was warned by Niya, who had returned without my noticing, and put the bag of dried meat back in my pocket.
"So, back to the topic, but before that, there's something I want to confirm with you."
"Confirm? What is it?"
"Ronald, did you tell that nobleman we're Ihomono?"
I didn't expect to be hit with that out of nowhere. Was Niya thinking about the possibility while I was silent? But Master Neil and I shouldn't have shown any signs of that in front of Niya. However, despite asking in a questioning tone, she seems to be speaking with a great deal of confidence. It's better to be honest than to try to deceive her.
"That's right, I told Master Neil about you guys. Why? Because I had a hunch about your true identities, and I revealed your identities on the condition that he wouldn't disclose it."
As I pile on the words, Niya's gaze becomes sharper and she begins to exude a dangerous aura.
"You broke that promise and told it to a noble of all people, what was your intention? Answer me, Ronald."
"Don't make such a scary face, I know I shouldn't have said it on my own. As for the reason, would you be satisfied if I said it was for your sake?"
As I say that, Niya keeps her stern expression and speaks up.
"I understand that you're acting for our sake. I can understand that this time too, but I can't agree with it."
There's no helping being asked for an explanation, so I tell Niya my thoughts.
"The truth is, the reason I came to meet you this time was to invite you to the frontier governed by Master Neil."
"To the frontier?"
Niya seems to be taken aback too, and the sternness disappears from her expression due to surprise.
"How did it turn into such a story?"
"You know about the story of the frontier in the Atmiras territory, right? There is a shortage of people in various positions, but the most serious one is the lack of capable personnel in the frontier. Such personnel are necessary not only for the progress of the frontier, but also for its defense."
"I know about that, so you want to gather people. But there are many things that are lacking in the frontier to gather people, and it has become a vicious circle where people have to be gathered to solve them, right?"
"That's right. Normally, we would solve it by buying slaves, but it seems that Master Neil hates using slaves and wants to solve it without buying additional ones."
"Even though he's a noble of the Empire."
"Yes, even though he's a noble."
After exchanging these words and staring at each other for a while, Niya suddenly relaxes her shoulders.
"I see, so you want to lure in hot-blooded people by preparing women?"
"Wow, Niya, you're sharp as ever. That's right."
"Even if we were to go along with that story, what do we gain from it? We've said it many times before, we have no complaints about our current life. What do we gain by giving up that life and going to the frontier?"
"Even if you don't have complaints, you must have anxieties."
"And the frontier would solve them?"
"At the very least, Master Neil, who knows about your situation, will do his best to make sure you can live in peace."
It seems that she understood my intention of revealing their true identity to Master Neil, with a smirk on her face.
"You act like an imperial aristocrat."
"Well, I'm not serving a noble for nothing, and besides, he’s cute enough for this."
"Using the person you serve and calling it cute...?"
Well, depending on the person I trick, I may be severely punished for using them, even if I can't complain about it. But Master Neil probably won't have a problem with it, though Diana will trouble me if she finds out.
"It's not just Master Neil who loses out. If you guys like the settlement, you'll work hard for its development, won't you?"
"What do you expect from a prostitute and her escort?"
"To be precise, I'm counting on Niya's intellect. I thought it would be reassuring if you were by Master Neil's side when he was in trouble."
"Become an advisor? There's no guarantee that I'll do as he says."
"There is. Master Neil acts with good intentions for you guys, and you can't ignore that good will. You'll definitely try to repay it in some way."
"How is that a guarantee? You're too overconfident in me. There's a good chance that I'll just use him unilaterally and be done with it."
"If that happens, I'll apologize to Master Neil for misjudging you. Well, Master Neil is very grateful that you guys came to the settlement. There's no problem."
The goal this time is to bring a brothel to the settlement no matter what. My thoughts are just something that could be achieved if that happens, but I am confident that if Niya and her friends come to the settlement, they will undoubtedly be a great help to it. On the other hand, there is a concern of taking in strangers, but considering the benefits that can be gained from Niya and her friends coming, it is within an acceptable range.
"You're really a meddlesome guy. What's in it for you, a mere coachman, to take care of strangers?"
"I just can't stand the danger. I know that your situation is so bad that even a mere coachman like me is worried. Do you understand?"
"I understand that much."
"You understand but still..."
So we both fell silent, and a stillness descended between us. While watching Momoka chewing on dried meat a little ways away, I suddenly remembered something I had overheard before.
"Come to think of it, didn't Mio get proposed to and turn the other party down?"
"I heard that Mio herself didn't seem entirely uninterested, but turned him down because she couldn't leave you guys behind and be the only one to be happy. That's so sad."
"What are you trying to say?"
With a sneering tone, I looked at her with a sharp gaze.
"What am I trying to say? You already understand that much, don't you? You five were able to survive in an unfamiliar world by working together, but now you can't do it without all five of you."
No one is allowed to leave, and they are all tied to each other. That's probably why Mio turned down the proposal. She thought it would be a nuisance to the other four if she were gone.
"Listen, it's about time you guys learned to rely on people other than yourselves. You guys are already a part of this world."
Niya, who accepted my words, closed her eyes in silence. Eventually, she opened her eyes and said resignedly,
"...I want to talk to everyone."
"Got it. Master Neil and I will leave the city tomorrow morning and come back to see you then."
With that, my story was over, and all I could do was wait for Master Neil to finish his business inside and come out while giving Momoka some dried meat to pass the time.
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