Chapter 184: Secrets.
“What is this?”
“What does it look like?”
“I mean… how did you get it? What did that noble ask you to do? Did you sign a contract? I… we could have found a different way, why did you have to…”
“Wait, calm down, why are you crying? I didn’t sign any contracts, just wait and let me explain…”
Roland was back home, the nice-looking vest was off and he had returned to wearing some loose clothes around his home. After the conversation with the city lord, he returned to his home where Elodia was waiting for him.
Thus after relieving himself of the new clothes he handed her the orphanage papers that he received. This of course caused a misunderstanding in which she believed that he sold himself to the new lord. It took some time to explain that the man named Arthur Valerian wasn’t like most of the other nobles.
“I’m not sure I understand the new lord but… he might just be a better person than we expected?”
“It does seem that way but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another reason for it.”
Roland commented as he wasn’t quite convinced. There could be various reasons why he decided not to use a contract, maybe he wanted there to not be any paper trails to lead back to him.
“Do you think they could be problems? Oh my, do you think he is doing something illegal and needs someone to be a scapegoat?”
“That’s a possibility but I’m not sure, he didn’t give me the impression of being the evil plotter type.”
He shrugged as from what he knew, the new noble really didn’t have much pull in the city just yet. At most he could control the Auction House and help him get materials. If he tried to strongarm too many people, the rich merchants could use some of their contacts to get revenge.
While he was dealing with commoners, they were rich commoners. Some of the merchants were in a better state than other nobles. They could probably pay some of them off to cause some trouble for Arthur in the future.
After living in the Arden estate for five years and reading up he heard about a few incidents. In those, some nobles caused incidents where they challenged others to duels for no reason. Then later they were given a costly gift from a rich merchant that the other noble insulted.
By the size of Arthur’s entourage, it didn’t seem that he had much pull in his own house. The name Valerian carried a lot of weight behind it, but only if it belonged to a proper heir or part of the family. If it was one of the bastard sons, they wouldn’t be taken as seriously.
“What do you think his real intentions are?”
“I’m not sure, normally if he wanted to gain power and prestige he should have gone to the union or the rich merchants. He could easily make their life easier while funneling some money towards himself.”
For Roland, it made sense to stick to the corrupt ways of the nobles. He could easily accept bribes while slowly increasing the wealth of the merchants in the city.
“On the other hand… if he really wants to own this city, he would need to get rid of them all, or at least make them work for him.”
Elodia nodded, the city belonged to the rich. Even though Arthur was the acting lord, he could be replaced. He wasn’t much more than a bonafide tax collector and judge. The real power belonged to the Valerian household that he didn’t seem to get along with.
“Though I’m not sure how he can go about this, a good way would be to find evidence of their hidden deals, if they evaded taxes in any way, it would be within his right as the city lord to apprehend them but even then, he could just put away one figurehead while another one pops up to take over the business from outside…”
Roland gave out a sigh before sinking back into the couch. Even though it wasn’t that late, he was feeling tired. The discussion with the noble went better than he could ever expect but he wasn’t sure what the future held.
“This might be over for now… but I think we should prepare.”
Asked Elodia while looking at Roland that he had some concern in his tone.
“Yes, we will have to look into other options, maybe find a better location for the children, aren’t some of them already working? Maybe we could find them an apprenticeship where they could live?”
Roland’s biggest concern now was to get rid of this problem. Even though Arthur helped him out this time, it was easy to make another bogus inspection paper to kick them out again. Some of the kids were older and could work.
It wasn’t strange for younger kids to live together with a master that taught them their craft. They would assist them in their work while being given valuable experience and also food. He went through a similar experience back in Edelgard but there he was offered his own small home.
While Roland was slowly blurring out words, Elodia cut him off as he didn’t realize that he was implying that both of them were working together.
“Did I say something wrong?”
He asked as he wasn’t sure what the problem was. At this point, it should already be obvious what his intentions towards her were. Would he be taking sketchy papers from an unknown noble to help her out, if he wasn’t at least somewhat serious about her?
“Did you think I’d kick you out or something? At this point?”
Roland chuckled while placing his hand on top of Elodia’s head, this of course caused the woman to blush.
“But… aren’t you worried that you are wasting your time and money with me?”
She answered while lowering her gaze down, it was clear that she didn’t want to ask for help and felt bad about dragging Roland into this.
“Wasting money and time? Well, I guess then we can waste it, together.”
While had made his decision about Elodia, he was not that keen about becoming a stepfather to so many orphans. Instead, his plan was to find them jobs after they reach a certain age. They could even work here as long as they wouldn’t live at his house where he needed to have his own space.
That being said, there was a stray thought that appeared in Roland’s mind. While he might have made his decision to go forward along with Elodia, he wasn’t telling her the whole truth. She was not aware of his past roots, if he really wanted to continue this relationship he felt that he needed to fess up.
“Elodia… I need to tell you something, you might want to sit down.”
He wasn’t sure why but he felt that if he continued to lie about his origins, that sooner or later something bad would happen. After spending so much time in this city, he became more comfortable with people around him, thus he would be inclined to stay true.
“Oh? Is something wrong?”
It was clear that the lady with glasses was confused as the atmosphere quickly changed. Roland leaned forward from the couch to press his palm against each other while remaining silent. He was deeply in thought and somewhat scared about pronouncing his origins but sooner or later it needed to be said.
At this point, he trusted Elodia to not pronounce his secret to the world. Not many people would actually believe that he was a noble. This information was probably more detrimental to his enemies, as they would now have to deal with blemishing the name of a noble. Even though the Arden estate wasn’t that known, it would be enough to throw them into jail.
“You probably have already noticed that I always wear this thing around my neck, even when we are around the house…”
The necklace that he was given by his gnome boss back in Edelgard was constantly around his neck. Even during his sleep, he kept it there out of fear that someone would examine his status and find out that he had a last name. Instead of pronouncing his real name, he removed the trinket from around his neck and placed it on the table.
“Go ahead, examine my status, those glasses should be powerful enough.”
Elodia looked at the item that was always around Roland’s neck. It wasn’t a secret that he was hiding something and she somewhat learned to ignore this part of him, but the curiosity never did die down.
Her knee-jerk reaction was to tell Roland to just put it back on if he didn’t feel comfortable with it. He on the other hand just looked at her very seriously, it was clear that he wanted her to proceed. It wasn’t like she wasn’t interested either, there had been many times that she questioned his origins but as she had somewhat of a past herself, she didn’t ask.
With the help of her glasses, she looked at him and used a pinch of mana to activate their effect. They momentarily started to glow with a blue hue as they presented the stats to her. Finally, she was able to see his full status screen and instantly she realized that the man that she used to call Wayland, wasn’t Wayland at all.
“Yes, that’s my real name but I’m sure that you noticed…”
She repeated his name again but this time it was the full one. Only certain people in this world possessed last names and they mostly belonged to one group, the nobles. Even rich merchants didn’t have them, it was a title given to the special. It was clear that now she knew that he wasn’t what he said he was.
“Um… is that it?”
Elodia asked while looking at Roland’s confused face. Instead of asking questions, she didn’t seem to perturbed by the fact that her boyfriend was lying about his real name.
“Wait… aren’t you mad?”
“Why should I be mad? Doesn’t take a genius to realize that you were using an alias… Roland… that’s a nice name, much better than Wayland to be honest.”
She just shrugged while complementing Roland on his true name. Roland on the other hand felt like he wanted to crawl under his bed for stressing himself out for no reason.
“You did behave more like a son of a rich merchant or a noble… or are you perhaps from some kind of knight order?”
“I… okay, let me explain…”
It seemed that Elodia had somewhat figured out that he was keeping a secret from everyone. As they continued to speak she revealed to him that he didn’t behave like a regular commoner which made her suspicious.
There was a certain fear that the commoners had towards people of noble birth. They were taught to feel inadequate compared to them and it was clear that Roland didn’t act that way. He had no problem with talking with nobles and when he did, it looked somewhat strange as if he was constantly restraining himself.
Roland didn’t want to beat around the bush so in short, he described his life. From the five years that he spent at the Arden estate to his arrival here. He didn’t forget to include the details about the cult that he once had a run in. But after so many years of them never showing up they weren’t considered a threat anymore.
Elodia didn’t comment and continued to listen, probably if she had a bag with popcorn it would have been all eaten when he was finished with the story.
“…I’m not sure what to say… “
“I thought you’d be more surprised but you already figured out some parts by yourself, you’re too smart for your own good.”
He smiled while looking at Elodia that was now sitting right next to him on the couch. From the looks of things, it didn’t look that she was as shocked as he expected. This played out differently in his mind, he was even expecting her to raise her voice after realizing that he was lying to her for all these years.
“I didn’t think that you’d be a runaway noble, at most a member of a fallen knight family…”
She chuckled while looking at him, it was clear that she wasn’t mad at all. It wasn’t that rare to find people from disgraced knight families, they also possessed last names and mostly came over to the adventurer’s guild to seek employment.
“But you certainly were daring in your younger days, I can’t imagine running away from home at ten, was it really that bad?”
To be frank, from Roland’s standpoint, no normal person would choose his way of living. Being sent to the knight academy was far better than living out on the streets as he did. A position in the army was guaranteed and if he was a noble’s son he might have even been stationed somewhere safe. The world was already filled with many dangers, being a soldier wasn’t considered more dangerous than being an adventurer.
“I didn’t expect this, I thought you’d be madder for me lying…”
Elodia smiled but then seemed to pause for a second before answering.
“Everyone has their secrets, even I have things that…”
It seemed that she was also hiding something, but just like she saw through him, so did he. It was somewhat strange to be opening an orphanage in a city like Albrook. When he arrived, Elodia was already living here but it was clear that they arrived at a later date. He didn’t want to pry into her business but it looked that now after he had shared his secret, it was time for her.
“… It isn’t anything spectacular like being a runaway noble but.”
“It’s fine, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…”
The moment she started speaking Roland could see some amount of shaking. It was as if she was scared to divulge information about her circumstances.
“No, you were truthful with me, I need to also be sincere.”
Apparently, she made up her mind, with a sigh escaping her mouth she finally faced the man in front of her and told the tale of her younger days. There was not much behind it, she had no glorious background as he did, it was the reverse, she was one of the many orphans roaming the cities.
Along with Armand and Lobelia, they spent their days out on the streets. They all lived together at one of the church buildings more on the mainland. The moment Elodia started mentioning her old living condition he did notice her slow down, soon enough he would realize what it was about.
“The priest did?”
“Regretfully so, he was quite the strong believer in the doctrine, he would punish us regularly if any of the children weren’t able to articulate the passages from the scriptures well…”
The main priest responsible for the church was apparently very pedantic about how the kids should be brought up. Sometimes they spent days out in the rain as punishment, with no food to fill their bellies.
But it wasn’t all bad, the three siblings stuck with each other from a young age. Armand started out adventuring at the young age of twelve and Lobelia followed him soon after. Elodia remained in the orphanage while also trying to look for some work but then when the incident occurred.
“He tried to do what?”
Roland found himself raising his voice as Elodia continued to tell her story. The older they got, the more aggressive the punishments became. Armand took the brunt of them but when he started his adventurer journey, the caregiver turned his rage towards the other kids. On one faithful day, it was Elodia’s turn. But this time around, he attempted to go further than usual and attempted to force himself on her instead.
“It’s fine, nothing happened, he wasn’t able to continue but that’s also the day that everything changed.”
As the story continued he was finally given the answer to why they were here. Apparently, during the attempted assault, Armand showed up after completing a mission together with Lobelia.
They were already somewhat older at this point at fourteen. They were close to an age where they could leave the church shelter altogether. The priest was beaten up to a bloody pulp after which they had to run. Even though the man was a failure of a cleric, he was part of the sun church. If they were caught, they would get into trouble.
They quickly packed up their things and escaped along with some of the other children from that orphanage. Then they traveled through the kingdom and finally ended up in Albrook with even more kids in tow.
“I see, so that’s what happened, you didn’t have it easy…”
Rolland commented but Elodia shook her head instead as she responded.
“What about you? I can’t imagine traveling all by myself.”
He just shrugged and with a smile on his face replied.
“Hey, well I guess we are good at running away from our problems.”
Soon the room they were in was covered with silence which was only broken by a large howl outside of the door. Roland was just about to wrap his arms around his partner but it seemed that his ruby wolf was tired of sitting outside. Even when he tried to ignore him, the howls and barking soon changed into door scratching, it was clear that he wanted in and wouldn’t take a no for an answer.
“Damn it Agni…”
Roland rolled his eyes while Elodia laughed out loud, soon he was forced to open the door to only get pounced on by his overly happy tamed monster.
“Stop licking my face!”
Replied Agni while jumping off and homing in on Elodia, it seemed that the licking was not yet over and soon one more person would find their face moistened up.