“Hey, what’s all the commotion about, even some of the kids are crying, can’t you do anything by yourself, Armand! Did you make little Alfie cry again?”
A concerned Lobelia burst in through the door of the main room of the orphanage. There she saw a silent Armand just sitting there while Roland and Elodia were going through some documents.
“Good you are here Lobelia, could you stay and watch over the kids, I need to take care of some things at the city hall.”
“Big sis? Sure I can do that… but is something wrong?”
The half-elf girl was a bit confused about the situation. When she arrived the door to the room was being crowded by half the kids that lived there. It seemed that they were trying to listen in on what was happening inside. Thus she took it upon herself to see what was going on but inside she only found silence and strange looks.
“I’m not sure, I’ll explain after I’m back.”
Before Lobelia could ask for some answers both Elodia and Wayland were already walking out.
“You, what’s going on?”
The only person that remained in the room with her was Armand. Though he wasn’t very talkative either though it seemed that it was because of the small ears that were listening in on the conversation.
Lobelia would not let it end on this, if Armand wasn’t willing to talk with the children there, they just needed to find a better place.
“You, come with me and explain yourself!”
While Lobelia tried to get some information out of Armand, Elodia and Roland were on the way to the city’s hall. The last time he was here was when he was buying up land. The large plot of unused farmland luckily didn’t increase in price that much as it was still far away from the city.
Roland might have implemented the weekend system in his own shop but that wasn’t true for the rest of the city. Everyone was busy peddling their wares and shuffling their feet around the city.
The peddlers were peddling, adventurers in bulky armor and with heavy weapons were going for the next adventure. It was like any other day for them as life went on. Due to Roland’s tight work schedule, he didn’t really have time to enjoy the sights.
He saw the city somewhat differently than its citizens. For him it was like a slideshow of progress, each time he came here there was something new being built then finished. The never-ending expansion continued and there didn’t seem that it would ever stop.
But how this place looked was quite deceiving. The old buildings had been replaced by new ones only in certain sections. The people with no money were pushed into the slums where not even the guards ventured in at night.
Bernir told him tales of people getting robbed or killed there without end. Every day there was at least one brawl where a person could lose their life. He always complained that the guards tended to arrive late to only pull away the person that had lost the fight as it was far easier than confronting the one that was left standing.
The thieves guild continued to prosper and only people that had enough money to bribe them were on the rise. Anyone else had to watch out, getting their shops turned upside down for not managing to pay the monthly protection fee was a constant strain on their nerves.
While thinking about how life was unfair for the less fortunate he looked to his partner. Elodia was walking next to him while being quiet. They started the day hand in hand but now they were just silently treading along next to each other without talking at all.
“Are you okay?”
Roland asked as he knew that Elodia’s mind was probably filled with the impending eviction. He was able to look through the notice and the contract. In it, there was a clause of a situation like this happening.
Elodia now had at most three months' time to clear out the house before the city could force them out. He was sure that in this world they would not have problems in throwing orphans out to the street. The building would probably be turned into another inn or pub to serve the ever-increasing adventurer population.
“Huh, ah yes I’m fine.”
Her shoulders slumped forward slightly as she looked into the distance with an empty expression. He did not know what was going through her head but for some reason, he felt like this was the right time to place his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out…”
Roland emphasized the ‘we’ part as he spoke out. At the same time, he brought the smaller woman closer against his own body as he tried to reassure her that he wouldn’t let her go through this alone. His gesture seemed to have worked as he could feel Elodia grasping his robe between her thumb and index finger before meekly replying.
The moment she did, there was a strange feeling in his chest. He wasn’t sure what it was but it made him want to protect the woman next to him. For him, who had spent most of his time trying not to rely on others, it was strange.
What was the worst-case scenario here, the orphans would lose their home but what off it? They still had three adults taking care of them, both of which were upcoming gold rank adventurers. With the amount of money they were making, they would probably be able to relocate to another area.
But that was the problem, what would happen if they moved, could they even move to a big enough building to house thirty children of various ages? They certainly didn’t own any land to build one on and due to the city prospering the prices were astronomical now.
The most obvious move would be to place at least the youngest children at another orphanage like the one Sister Kassia was part of. The older ones could try finding apprentice positions at businesses but would probably get a bad contract that forces them to work there for peanuts.
‘Would she move to a different city if that was the only option?’
A strange thought passed through his head, what if Elodia decided to leave Albrook. She was talented enough to find a proper position at any other city, either in a shop or at a different adventurer guild. Armand and Lobelia were also gold adventurers who could find jobs elsewhere. It would be that hard for the trio to just move now if they really wanted.
When he thought about her leaving there was another strange feeling in his chest. This one wasn’t as fuzzy as the previous one. He already knew Elodia well enough to know that she would prioritize the children over anything else.
For him on the other hand, leaving this city was something he couldn’t go through. He had just started profiting from the secret room in the dungeon and that side entrance with the tier 3 monsters was also there, there was far too much here that he could profit from to leave.
‘Now I’m overthinking it, first, let’s see if I can find that person that signed off on that eviction notice…’
After some more walking, they finally arrived at the city hall. This building had grown in size as the city expanded. Inside there were many other people waiting in lines to fill out the proper forms.
Thus the waiting started, Roland and Elodia had to take a number that was written on a steel plaque. The ladies behind the counters would then call out to them when it was their turn. This system was apparently created so that people wouldn’t have to stand around for hours in lines.
This is when it started, one of the worst days in Roland’s life. It made the time spent in the mines locked with ant monsters seem like a vacation. After hours of waiting, he started hoping that a cult member could bust through the wall instead.
They were sent on a wild goose chase through the large city hall building. As their number was called out they were informed that they were waiting in the wrong line. They were taken on a tour through the entire building and only after eight hours of waiting they finally arrived at their destination.
“Ah yes, these are the inspection papers, everything seems to be in order.”
“Everything is in order? But there was no appointment given? No one ever saw this inspector…”
“Sir, that is highly unlikely the inspector had made a proper report about the building in question and they clearly agree that it is unfit…When the building is freed up the children can be relocated to other proper orphanages...”
The person before them was an old-looking man, he looked tired and unwilling to help them. From the paperwork, he pulled out it seemed that everything was in order. There were dates of the visit and descriptions of how the building was in bad shape.
“Even if there was a problem with the inspection it wouldn’t matter, a new law has been passed, Ms. Elodia would need to get a proper permit to run an orphanage which she doesn’t possess...
It seemed it was their word against the inspectors. It was clear that even if they took things to court they would not have much ground to stand on. They would need to prove that the inspector was at a different location than at the orphanage. Even then the inspector could just claim that the building looked bad from the outside and they didn’t see any reason to examine it further.
Then some strange law turned up that seemed to be custom-made to take over that building. If he didn’t know better he would think that the dwarven union is behind this. But if this was just a coincidence or if someone was just trying to cover all their bases was unknown.
The whole thing stunk of corruption, it was clear to Roland that someone just wanted to get their hands on the land the orphanage was standing on. The biggest problem here was that it wasn’t a proper orphanage like the sun one ran by the Sun church. This was also one of the points that the inspector went into in this document.
Roland wasn’t really that informed about the laws concerning that. By what the person explained it was a bit out of the ordinary to have a privately run orphanage. Normally to create one, a person had to go through the city or the church, otherwise, it wasn’t really accepted as one.
Normally no one would really care about those laws. If someone was willing to house unfortunate children then it was fine. If there was no incentive to get the land, the city officials would probably just be happy that the urchins were kept off the street. Now on the other hand they were given a pamphlet of the ‘proper’ orphanage run by the church.
“Someone really wants to get their hands on that house... “
Roland mumbled to himself while Elodia was left staring at this pamphlet. Both of them were not outside the city hall as it had closed down for the night. When he saw her staring at it, he decided to be quiet as he didn’t know what to say to ease her heart. The two then returned to Elodia’s house while remaining silent.
“I’ll be off then…”
“Ah sure, I’ll see you at the shop then?”
He wanted to give her some hope for the future but it seemed that the city hall officials would do nothing to help them. Roland’s standing in the city was also abysmal due to the dwarven union having it out for him. There would be no one willing to help him unless he probably turned up with an astronomical-sized sack of gold to bribe them.
Elodia entered her home and he received a wave from Lobelia that was standing on the side. He knew that look she was giving him so after a minute he joined her in the usual meeting spot when here.
“That idiot explained the gist of it, It didn’t go too well for you at the city hall huh?”
Lobelia was quick to pick up on Elodia’s saddened face and while Roland managed to somewhat keep a poker face, he also looked ticked off.
“You’re perceptive, think you can find out what this is all about?”
“Leave it to me, I’ll probably need a day or two, do you know how much time we have?”
“Three months at most but I’m not sure if they will wait that long.”
The eviction notice was delivered in a strange way. Probably if someone like Armand wasn’t living there, the merchant could have been planning to just throw them out without waiting. It was clear that they thought themselves above the law.
“I’d watch out, if they bought an official from the city hall, they could have guards on their payroll too. You should probably bring this up with Armand… otherwise he might find himself in a heap of trouble.”
The next time they came around they could even place some city guards among them. If Armand actually went against one of them, there would be consequences. Even his gold adventurer rank wouldn’t help him out.
“Don’t worry, I’ll knock some sense into him.”
Lobelia turned around and was about to head out to get more information but before that could happen she glanced to the side. Roland followed her gaze but he only saw some people walking around.
“Is there something?”
“... Must be my imagination… anyway, thank you for taking care of Elodia for me brother in law.`
“Could you stop calling me that, we aren’t married?”
“Yet you mean?”
Lobelia finished the sentence and skipped away to tend to her business. The half-elf started calling him brother-in-law after they got together. To her, they were already good as married but he felt like there was no reason to rush things. Then there were the orphans that were on Elodia’s mind which would probably keep her from wanting her own kids for a while.
‘There she goes… what do I need to do…’
It was already late so Roland turned around and headed towards the city gate. On his mind were some options for taking care of the problem. There were even some crazy ones in there, where he contemplated setting some tents upon his land for the kids to stay.
His own house would not be large enough to contain all those children. Then there would be the problem with his workshop, he could not have young kids running around in his compound poking the runic items.
The amount of gold he had was also minimal. Some of the precious metals he nabbed from the dungeon were already sold off after his return. He could not really afford to keep the kids there nor build a new home for them.
Seeing how it went for Elodia he would probably need to first get some kind of permit to make an orphanage. But if someone was bribing the officials then it would probably be a dead end.
‘Why does this always happen when things seem to calm down… I still need to deliver that golem to that lord...the lord?’
For a moment Roland looked back towards the city, there in the distance, he saw a bit of the villa that the lord was supposed to live in. He was a yet unfamiliar element in the city that might have not been affected by the various merchants.
‘To rely on a noble…’
This was a proper option as the city lord had the power to force a change. This was also not a law produced by the main Duke hose as it just concerned the city, the city that he was the leader of.
‘It might be worth a shot…’
While Roland didn’t like to rely on others, he was somewhat out of ideas. Either he asked the new leader to help him out or he could try helping Elodia to get another property. If they didn’t manage, the kids could also be moved to the Church, but knowing Elodia she would probably sooner leave the city to go look for another place to stay than to leave the children up to the church.
As Roland was close to getting home he realized that he was a lot more concerned about this situation than he should. In reality, he did not know Elodia for that long, normally he should have been fine with whatever happened. His position in the city was not in danger and he was about to make a breakthrough.
“Am I getting old?”
He gave out a sigh while shaking his head, maybe it was the newfound love or the dislike for change but he wanted things to remain how they were. Things had finally started to click for him and now he was unwilling to let it go. He had been running for his entire life and now he was more than unwilling to let others take what he had worked for.