Mary covered her mouth with her hand while giving out an obvious fake coughing sound. Arthur looked to her and then back to Roland that had a confused look on his face. It took a few seconds for it to click but soon he did realize that he picked the wrong words.
“Ah, by ‘mine’ I meant that I wish you to become one of my retainers, of course.”
Arthur turned his head to the side, Roland could clearly see the young man blushing after making an awkward comment. While for any normal person being given an opportunity to work for a noble as a proper retainer was a big deal, for Roland it would not be anything that he desired.
The whole reason that he left the Arden estate was to be self-sufficient. Even in his previous life, he bounced around because of the whims of others. Parents, teachers, perhaps even the society that he was in, he felt as if he just followed a paved road that others just told him to tread on.
But as much as he wanted to refuse instantly he suppressed this urge. Arthur might have asked him to become a follower but this didn't mean that he would be something similar to the maid or the guards outside. Instead, he could just be something more like an exclusive blacksmith that gains some rewards for prioritizing his lord's orders.
Thus before he could make a decision, he needed to figure out the details of this deal. Roland had already gone through several contracts and was not against signing others depending on the deal. By this point in his life, he had already come to terms with this part of this world.
“You wish me to become one of your servants?”
“In short, yes but not quite what I had in mind, let me clarify. First of all, I’m aware of the problems you have faced, the dwarves and merchants must not have made it easy to survive in this city. But, even though they have tried you have managed to claw your way up!”
Roland looked to the noble that turned away from him and started monologuing about his achievements. It seemed that Arthur Valerian was impressed with what he was able to do in this short amount of time.
“And then there is this golem, it would be very disheartening if such a talented craftsman like you would be able to reach his full potential, thus I am willing to offer you an opportunity Mr. Wayland, become my personal blacksmith!”
Roland parroted the statement of the lord as everything was moving fast. He was somewhat expecting to get some kind of offer but becoming the main smith of a lord was not that simple. It carried a degree of responsibility towards that noble, in some cases, these craftsmen could be accused of purposely making faulty equipment which could spell death for them.
If he was responsible for making some personal weapons, he would be also responsible if they broke during battle. Even if it broke for good reasons some nobles would take out their rage on these craftsmen, punishing them in various ways. So, while the title would probably be quite the boost to his prestige in the city, it would also carry with it some drawbacks.
“Oh, is it such a surprise? or are you dissatisfied with the offer?”
Arthur asked while also looking away from the magical glass that was showing him the auction house beneath. It would be somewhat rude for Roland to turn down the offer, thus he was not sure what he should do now. The person here could make things really difficult for him if their relationship turned sour.
“Well, my Lord…”
“Speak freely, I can clearly tell that you have some reservations, I would not force the position upon you, I realize that working for such an insignificant noble like me might not be something that such a young and aspiring Runesmith would want to do…”
“Uh, my lord?”
Roland raised his brow while looking at Arthur that for some reason was commenting about his own low birth. While he knew that the noble was probably a bastard son that was sent here to get rid of, it wasn’t confirmed before he spoke out.
“Lord Arthur, why did...”
The car girl that was listening on the side raised her voice after hearing the ‘insignificant' part. She quickly stopped as Arthur raised his hand up though.
“It’s fine Mary, I’m not looking for mindless lackeys, it's best if Mr. Wayland knows what he is getting himself into.”
Roland just looked between the two while not saying anything, during this whole conversation he wasn’t really able to give much of his own input. It did seem that this young man valued Roland quite a bit and the only reason that he could come up with, was a lack of power. Perhaps the one with the leverage here was not the lord but him instead.
While the noble continued to talk Roland noticed some oddities in his tone and mannerisms. Arthur seemed somewhat nervous when he tried to ask some questions and for some reason, he was being overly truthful.
At first, it looked like it would be some kind of negotiation between them but suddenly the young man dropped the noble act. It was as if he wasn’t looking for an employee but a partner instead.
It also didn’t seem as if this noble had a good opinion of himself as he continued to talk down about his own standing. He was somewhat getting emotional as well, it was as if Roland was a piece of wood that he was trying to cling to after his ship had sunk.
“Excuse me my Lord… can I be frank?”
Finally, Roland gathered up some courage after hearing the man blunder about without getting to the point of it all. After the question, Arthur just nodded his head before he finally sat back down on his chair.
“Please go ahead.”
“I am not interested in becoming a part of any noble house. I am still in training, I’m also part of the adventurers guild which does take up much of my time, I don’t think I would be able to continue bettering my craft if I settle down as a personal blacksmith.”
Roland replied quickly, for normal craftsmen it was probably the ticket out of poverty. The nobles would supply them with materials and they could just craft away while progressing further with their craft.
Bettering himself as a runesmith was only a part of his future plans, this also included gaining levels and being able to protect himself from others with his own two hands. For that, he needed to fight monsters and create new items for that purpose.
“But… I am willing to hear your offer, I’m sure we can work something out. The lord already knows my situation with the dwarves and how they organized my removal from this auction house.”
“Ah, yes the dwarves, of course, you will be free to present your wares to the public at my auction house, I wanted to save it for later but it does seem that you have made up your mind Mr. Wayland.”
Arthur moved his hand towards his desk and brought out a small stack of papers. At first, Roland thought it was just another contract but after seeing the first page he noticed that it wasn’t his name that was on it, but it was Elodia’s.
“I see that you are surprised, I hope that it won’t sour our relationship but my people have looked into your personal matters.”
“These are… papers for the Orphanage?”
What he was looking at now were documents that stated that Elodia could keep the orphanage that she had bought a couple of years ago.
“Yes, the city official that signed off on the inspection has been removed from his position, he had been clearly taking bribes and didn’t cover his tracks well enough.”
This wasn’t all as besides them he also received a permit to sell items in the auction house. There was even a special card that was similar to the adventurer card which would give him some special privileges.
“Is this a golden supplier card?”
“I see that I want need to explain then, yes this was part of the offerings I wished to hand to you Mr. Wayland.”
The golden supplier card opened up the auction house to anyone having it. People with it wouldn’t need to bother with waiting in line, they could drop off their wares whenever they wanted. They would also pay smaller fees for their wares which sometimes went up to 30%.
Now with those two gifts presented Roland wasn’t sure what to do. Would Arthur snatch them away, he really wanted to help Elodia with the orphanage. If he stayed on Arthur’s bad side he could easily reinstate the old inspector and do the whole thing again.
But if he joined him, the merchants in the city would probably get the message that Roland had some backing. While he couldn’t force them to sell materials to him directly, he could indirectly pressure them in other ways.
Just like that, one city official gave a bogus inspection to Elodia’s orphanage, so could he order the same. The dwarves might find themselves with their materials being held up for many weeks by the guards.
Normally a city lord would not go against the dwarven union as they were paying a lot in tax money. But if he could somewhat replace them with his own people, then he would. Back in Edelgard, there was one bloodthirsty noble in particular that went with that option.
“You have my thanks but I’m not sure if I can just accept these…”
“Nonsense, I insist.”
“You would give me these? But I already refused your main offer…”
“I see it more as an investment, I’m sure with time you will see it my way, Mr. Wayland.”
“My Lord you are very…”
Roland stopped himself before continuing but Arthur decided to finish the sentence.
He somewhat quickly blurred out what he was thinking. The noble was investing in someone like him without any contracts or promises. This would normally spell disaster, there was nothing keeping Roland from moving out of the city.
“How dare you!”
After blurting out the word the cat maid that was to the side raised her voice. Roland turned his head to the side to eyeball her as it seemed that she could attack him at any moment. But before a brawl ensued the two heard a joyous laugh coming from behind the desk.
“Hahaha, naive he said? I think I like you even more Mr. Wayland, are you sure you don’t want to reconsider? I can’t offer you much in money but I can lower the margins for any auctions you take part in!”
It seemed that he wasn’t offended, which was good for him.
“Did you work for a noble before? You don’t seem intimidated by my name at all, the way you conduct yourself is also peculiar…”
While Roland was noticing elements about Arthur, he was doing the same to him. Roland was brought up in the modern world and also in the Arden estate. He did not conduct himself as a commoner that would probably be panicking at this moment if they were in his shoes.
“Ah… well, I apologize for being rude.”
He performed an awkward bow but this only made Arthur burst out in laughter even more. The maid that was on the side seemed to do the same as they both started laughing together.
‘Does this guy have a screw loose or something? It seems that instead of a runesmith he is looking for a friend or something, I don’t get it.’
If Arthur wanted to make a good impression on a potential retainer he had failed miserably. He was talking in a casual way and also just gave out the only bargaining chips that he had. Normally he should have made Roland sign a contract before giving him the papers for the orphanage.
‘Well, I don’t feel like he is lying to me at least.’
The person he was talking to was behaving strangely but this only made him seem more genuine. Was Arthur just good at acting and was hiding some kind of ploy that he would regret in the future?
“As I said before, I’m open to doing business with you my Lord, if you wish I will treat you as a priority customer.”
Artur rubbed his chin while thinking before slamming his hand down on the desk.
“I guess that will have to do, for now, I’m sure you’ll come around soon enough. Now, let us talk business, Mr. Wayland.”
It seemed that even though he had refused the proposal, Arthur Valerian was still willing to do business with him. This meant that he would keep the auction house privileges and also get the legal papers for Elodia. In return, he would be getting a new business partner that would probably ask him for some favors.
What ensued after was just regular business talk between the two men. Arthur was mostly interested in presenting Roland’s golems on display. In his mind, this was the most unique product that he could offer and he wanted to maximize on the monetary gain.
“Thus I would like to propose this divide…”
After some back and forth they agreed on a certain percentage. During the conversation, Roland was sure to mention his displeasure in the merchant's way of dealing with him. He did not mention that he was getting his materials from the thieves guild but even without asking, Arthur probably had a suspicion.
This was somewhat dangerous, Roland didn’t really save much money on buying from the black market but the city lost money in untaxable wares. If this was known, he would quickly be thrown into jail. Luckily his new associate was willing to help him out with that.
“I don’t think that would be a problem, Mary.”
“Yes my Lord?”
“Mr. Wayland, this is Mary, my personal maid, if you give her a list of the goods you require she will be able to get them for you, of course you’ll cover the cost of the transaction.”
It was a very simple solution. While Arthur could potentially threaten the merchants into selling to Roland, there was no need to. Instead he could use Mary as a middle man. The merchants would not be able to deny services to the lord’s personal maid, even if they knew that she was just dumping off everything at Roland’s house instantly after.
“Isn’t this deal somewhat one-sided?”
After everything was said and done, Roland asked this question. When something seemed too good to be true, it mostly was. Either he was getting himself into something that could backfire dramatically or he was receiving a deal of his lifetime.
Even after refusing the main request of becoming the lord's retainer, he was still getting all the things that he wanted. Access to the auction house, the right to Elodia’s orphanage, and being able to receive materials at the market price through Mary’s help.
There were also no binding contracts prepared, Arthur was just giving out gifts that were almost free. Not like he wouldn’t be working and creating more items either way, now he just had a better venue that could probably gain him more money and prestige.
“It might seem one-sided to you, Wayland but I think I’m a good judge of character.”
Arthur just smiled while Roland was handed the paperwork. The meeting was over and for the time being, they agreed on helping Roland present some runic items when he was ready.
He needed some time to figure out what the best model to sell would be as he would be opening himself up to a new market.
“Is that so, well then… I’ll see you when I have the prototype ready.”
With no binding contracts, Roland had ample time to work. But, even though the promise was made with words he intended to work diligently with this new noble. This was his chance to finally stick it to the dwarves and after three years of being kicked around by them, he was eager to out stage them.
“That didn’t go as well as I hoped for Lord Arthur, are you sure we can trust him? I did prepare a proper contract…”
After Roland left, Mary and Arthur were left alone in the room. The plan was to convince the runesmith into signing a contract with them, but for some reason, Arthur decided to go off-script.
“Didn’t you notice? That man is hiding it well but… I’m sure of it…”
“Hiding something? No… what is it?”
“Haha, well it doesn’t matter, I’m sure he will deliver on his part of the agreement.”
Arthur shrugged while walking back to the magical mirror, from it he continued to stare at the beginning of a new auction with a faint smile covering his face.