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Chapter 373: A Proposal.
“Is something wrong?”
“Well, I don’t know… have I been acting strange lately?”
“You mean stranger than usual?”
Roland glanced at Elodia, his lip turning downwards, as she started to chuckle. The two of them were finally able to relax after the recent events that had unfolded. The city was on the brink of a major transformation following the exposure of one of the crime bosses. Soon, Roland would have to fulfill his knightly duties by serving as a guard during the trial. Gareth, Morien, and Arthur would also be present, with Arthur acting as the judge.
Although there were officials a.s.signed to handle jurisdictional matters, the n.o.ble in charge of the land could also take on this responsibility. Typically, they refrained from involving themselves in the disputes of the commoners, but occasionally they would step in to resolve issues between individuals. This usually required requesting an audience with the n.o.ble. There were designated dates for people to bring up their concerns, but these matters were typically handled by a.s.sistants or public officials.
Roland's mind was consumed with thoughts of the impending trial, recognizing its significance in establis.h.i.+ng a potential precedent. The intention behind magnifying this event was twofold: to demonstrate to the people that criminals would face just punishment and to dispel any doubts about Arthur's leaders.h.i.+p strength. Above all, they aimed to rea.s.sure the citizens that the city was a safe haven, with the guards steadfastly standing by their side.
The underlying motive was to foster an environment strengthening commerce and to facilitate the expansion of wealth. By ensuring the safety and security of the populace, they hoped to attract the attention of reputable merchants who would be enticed to invest in the growing city. The infusion of their wealth would not only benefit the merchants themselves but would also be shared among the entire community, ushering in a new era of prosperity.
At least that was the plan, if they got there depended a lot on their relations with the thieves guild that he attempted to clear up yesterday. The woman named Hanako was a mystery and a potential powder keg waiting to blow up. From the conversation he partook with her, it was clear that she was being chased by someone or something. Her level was relatively high and perhaps soon she would even reach her second tier 3 cla.s.s which was a feat only limited to this world's elite. If someone like that was in fear of their life, then the opponent was probably someone quite influential.
“I guess yes, stranger than usual…”
Elodia contemplated as she pierced a small tomato with her fork. Her large eyes, framed by gla.s.ses, were locked onto his face, causing him to momentarily forget about the pressing matters at hand. In her presence, the problems seemed to fade away, a sensation he never antic.i.p.ated experiencing. Roland was typically not one to express his emotions, often keeping everything bottled up inside and refraining from burdening others with his issues. However, he had recently come to realize that trying to handle everything alone was exceedingly difficult.
“You have been wearing your armor a lot more recently but is that because of your knightley duty? I guess you’ve become more open?”
“Mhm, I didn’t think you’d allow a person like that to work here.”
“You mean Rastix? Has he been causing trouble?”
“Trouble? I wouldn’t say that but he is a bit, how do I say this, eccentric?”
Roland inquired, his mind drifting back to the encounter in the dungeon. He had made the decision to leave the gnome behind, entrusting him to the group of platinum adventurers recruited by Arthur. His new little friend had appeared soon after managing to hitch a ride with the dwarven miners. Apparently, he had talked Elodia’s ear off when he first arrived at their magic shop.
“He already has plans for the shop, I should have probably not mentioned that we were planning an expansion…”
“Oh? I hope that he isn’t causing you trouble, should I talk to him?”
“You don’t have to, he seems like a good person but I’m not sure how much it would cost to get all the things that he asked for.”
“He asked for things?”
“Yes? He made it seem that you two were already something like partners? I don’t know how many times he mentioned that he was a Master Alchemist…”
Elodia let out a sigh, her thoughts probably drifting back to a previous conversation. It was becoming apparent that Roland needed to have a serious discussion with his new ‘partner’. While he didn't mind Rastix having a place in his shop, it was still his shop after all. The only reason Rastix was there was because no one else wanted to work with him.
He conducted dangerous experiments that other alchemists didn't want to be anywhere near. Creating a laboratory for someone like him and ensuring the safety of others would come at a hefty cost. In return, Roland expected to receive a percentage of the potion sales, and perhaps even more. Before making a decision he needed to know what Rastix could actually offer him in return.
“Don’t worry I’ll have a talk with him but I need to take care of the trial first.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?”
“No one tried to kill me, or capture anyone here so it should be fine.”
Roland nonchalantly shrugged as Elodia visibly flinched at the ill-timed joke. Both of them were well aware of how criminals like Ivor operated, often targeting the loved ones of those involved in a case. Elodia, Bernir, and even the orphans could potentially affect Roland's judgment. Thankfully, he had taken precautions to ensure their safety by surrounding them with guards. Even Dyana and Bernir's home, as well as the orphanage, were heavily guarded.
"I can't help but worry about the children. Are you absolutely certain they'll be safe?"
Elodia voiced her concerns.
"They will be fine. Ivor didn't have many allies, and once he was captured, everyone distanced themselves from him."
"I truly hope so..."
"This won't drag on much longer, I promise"
Roland a.s.sured her, though the toll of his responsibilities as the Knight Commander was starting to affect both his business and his relations.h.i.+p with Elodia. Ever since he ascended to tier 3 and had to battle Emmerson the two didn’t really spend much time together. He spent more time in the dungeon than anywhere else and was bound to Arthur’s estate for more than he wanted.
One major obstacle they faced was Elodia's social status, which remained that of a commoner. While Roland was tied to the esteemed Valerian estate and held the t.i.tle of a Valerian Knight, Elodia had no such privileges. If something were to happen to Roland, he knew that help from outside could potentially come to his aid, but Elodia would be left with no one to rely on except him. There was one way to elevate her status, but it involved a decision that Roland feared, marriage.
“There was one thing that I wanted to ask you but I didn’t really have a chance yet…”
“Oh? What is it?”
His mouth went dry and beads of sweat formed on his forehead as Roland found himself hesitating. Doubts began to seep into his mind, fearing that Elodia would reject his proposal if he mustered the courage to make it. Despite others playfully referring to them as a married couple, their bond had not yet been officially solidified. There was a real possibility that she could refuse, and their relations.h.i.+p could become awkward and strained.
Roland realized that, in this moment, the fear and stress he experienced far outweighed any he had faced when confronting undead monsters. However, he knew deep down that he couldn't let things continue as they were indefinitely. If he continued to be indecisive and uncertain about their relations.h.i.+p, it would ultimately show a lack of respect toward Elodia and her willingness to stick by him. In his heart he already knew the answer that she would give them, so there was no reason for not to make it official.
“d.a.m.n, I’m not good at these things…”
“Just wait here, I’ll be right back.”
Although Roland hadn't taken any concrete steps to progress their relations.h.i.+p, he had given it considerable thought. He had even imagined several scenarios in which he would ask the significant question and contemplated the best approach. In this world, with its diverse array of intelligent races, different cultural practices were prevalent. Traditionally, a man would approach the woman's father to seek his blessing before proposing marriage. While Roland found this approach somewhat outdated and not particularly to his liking, he couldn't ignore the existence of tradition.
As Elodia didn't have a father figure to seek permission from, Roland considered alternative ways of asking for her hand. In the same manner as his modern world, n.o.bles often used engagement rings or other pieces of jewelry to propose. During one of his sleepless nights, Roland had contemplated this option and meticulously crafted something special for the occasion. The ring was made from a unique alloy, incorporating gold, platinum, and a mana-conduction gemstone nestled at its center. It was a carefully enchanted magical ring, imbued with its own special powers.
"It must be around here somewhere..."
Roland muttered to himself, searching through a hidden safe concealed within a secret compartment in the wall. After rummaging through the contents, he finally found the ring he had created. When looking at the piece of jewelry that should perfectly fit his bride-to-be’s ring finger, Roland found himself plagued by second thoughts once again. However, thanks to the recent strengthening of his willpower, he managed to push aside the intrusive doubts and focus on the positive aspects.
"Huh? Want to help me do the dishes?"
Elodia asked, her attention focused on tidying up the table.
Roland paused for a moment, taking in the sight of her diligently cleaning. This might not have been the most romantic setting to propose, but he couldn't ignore the restlessness building within him. He had already made up his mind, and there was no turning back now. He mustered his courage and approached her, gently requesting,
"No, but could you look this way for a moment?"
Filled with a combination of antic.i.p.ation and nervousness, Roland summoned all of his willpower to gather his thoughts and express his feelings. The engagement ring, safely tucked away in his right pocket, served as a reminder of his intentions. Standing directly in front of his potential wife, Elodia, he took a deep breath, ready to reveal his true emotions. Elodia's head tilted up, sensing that something was amiss. Finally, she realized that Roland was about to share something significant with her.
As Elodia turned to face him, Roland's heart pounded in his chest. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, wanting to express himself clearly and from the heart. He reached out and gently took her hands in his, feeling her warmth and the slight tremor in her fingers.
"Elodia, I have spent countless hours thinking about this moment, and I want you to know that you are the most important person in my life. I can’t really imagine a future that you aren’t together with me…
Elodia's eyes widened, a mixture of surprise and antic.i.p.ation filling her gaze. She squeezed his hands gently, encouraging him to continue.
"I know that life can be uncertain, and we have both faced our fair share of challenges. But through it all, you have shown me unwavering support, love, and understanding.”
Roland took a deep breath, feeling a surge of confidence. He could see it in her eyes and sense it in her reactions that she was willing to accept his proposal. However, just as he was about to reach into his pocket to retrieve the engagement ring he had lovingly crafted, the peaceful atmosphere was shattered by the sudden intrusion of two rowdy individuals bursting through the door of his home.
"Hey, Boss! Is this some kind of mistake? Why is this arrogant person here?"
Bernir exclaimed, his voice filled with irritation.
"What did you just call me, you imbecile?"
Rastix retorted, his face turning red with anger.
"Mr. Wayland, who is this disrespectful individual? Are you seriously considering allowing someone like this to work in our esteemed magic emporium that we are planning to create together?"
Roland was taken aback by the sudden confrontation between these two. He could sense the tension between them, realizing they must have had a disagreement earlier in the day. While normally he wouldn't be too bothered by their squabbles, the timing of their disruptive entrance couldn't have been worse. His carefully crafted engagement ring was still in his pocket, and he hadn't even had the chance to propose yet.
When he glanced at Elodia, she too was wearing a perplexed expression on her face. The intimate moment had been broken and the two idiots were too busy shouting at each other to notice that they were just having a moment. A sigh escaped his mouth as the feeling of both disappointment and frustration washed over him. After building up the courage to finally propose everything was ruined by this weird duo. The two weren’t even aware of their transgression which produced a big vein on his forehead. Soon he released Elodia’s smaller hand and stepped back, it was clear that if he didn’t diffuse the situation no one would.
"Enough! Both of you, stop this nonsense right now!"
His voice was backed by his runic authority skill. Even though his armor was not around his body, it was possible to activate this skill by using other runes in the vicinity. Bernir and Rastix finally turned to look at him, momentarily taken aback by his sudden outburst and the pressure that was building on top of their shoulders. They both seemed to realize their mistake and immediately quieted down.
"Huh? Were you doing something important Mr. Wayland? W-what are you getting angry about?"
Rastix replied while stuttering slightly. He was still new to this place and didn’t really know how things worked. His status as the Master Alchemist made him think that he was a lot more important than he actually was. This only caused the tension build up and the moment to be ruined to the point of not being revocable.
"I apologize, I didn’t think that I was intruding on something important, Boss. I shouldn't have let my emotions get the best of me."
Bernir added, his tone filled with regret as he now noticed the large frown plastered over Elodia’s face, something that he was not used to. The man could not be sure what the problem was but the piercing gaze made him feel in danger. There weren’t many times when the woman of the house was mad but when she was, anything could happen.
“Maybe you’re not as much of an idiot as I thought you were!”
Rastix was unable to read the atmosphere as he started laughing after Bernir started apologizing. To someone like him, it looked like Roland was directing his anger at the blacksmith and not the alchemist that had certainly more worth.
“Uh… I think we’ll need to continue this later…”
“I think so too… You mustn’t be late for the trial….”
The frustration of this entire situation continued to grow further as the two glared at the laughing gnome that had no idea of what he had done. Bernir on the other hand started to slowly remove himself from inside of this predicament before something voilent happened.
“Well uh Boss, I’ll see you later. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do…”
With a curt nod, he watched as Bernir quickly exited the room, leaving Roland alone with Elodia and the oblivious Rastix. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Roland turned his attention to Rastix. The gnome had finally stopped laughing and was now wearing a confused expression as he was now looking up at an annoyed Runesmith.
“What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Rastix, I need you to understand something.”
A large hand was placed on the gnome's head. The small Alchemist was half the size of Roland. Without much effort, he lifted up the small man who began squirming around. His short legs couldn’t reach the ground as he was brought up to face level for a stern warning.
“If you ever enter my house without knocking again, I’ll throw you right back into the dungeon where I found you, do I make myself clear?”
“C-clear as day Mr. Way… no Sir Wayland…”
“Good. Now, I have to visit the city for the upcoming trial, until then, you’ll have to find another place to loiter around.”
“T-that’s fine with me, I had some errands to take care of in the city anyway…”
After nodding, Roland released his tight grip on the gnome. Elodia, who had distanced herself from the situation, remained annoyed yet curious about what was happening. She couldn't tell if he was actually proposing or if it was something else entirely. Her disappointment was evident, but there was no time to address it now. They would have to postpone the discussion until after Roland finished his duties. Maybe choosing a more romantic location, without any troublesome gnomes nearby, would have been a better approach from the start...