This cute child must be feeling jealous because he was afraid of losing his friend.
“Why awe you laughwing?”
“Just bwecause. You’we cute.”
“Oh, no. I’m not cwute, but stwong and cool!”
As he said that, he glanced at Michael.
Being two years older than Robert, Michael was much taller than him and spoke with accurate pronunciation. Remembering that Izeline had never called Michael cute, Robert tried his best to appear more grown-up.
“Awe you jealous? I always twake care of you every day though.”
Why did the child who used to sulk and throw tantrums suddenly act like this?
Izeline blinked in surprise.
“You’ve cwanged a bit, haven’t you?”
“Oh, no. I’ve always been like this. I’m cwomposed jwust like an adult.”
Without realizing it, she burst into laughter. Despite the fact that Robert’s expression was about to crumble, Izeline grabbed his cheeks with both hands and pressed them.
“You’we too cute.”
Having tried so hard, he felt disappointed when he heard that he was cute. However, seeing her smile broadly, his heart raced, and he couldn’t say anything.
At that moment, Michael, who had been pushed aside in the conversation, interjected.
“So Izeline likes cute things?”
“What about me?”
Curious, as Izeline quickly turned her head, Michael poked her cheek with his index finger, blinking innocently.
Was he trying to seduce her?
As the blond, handsome guy made cute gestures, it felt like rose petals were fluttering around him. What was this? He wasn’t just cute, but fatally cute and handsome…
“Rest is over.”
Her expression changed upon hearing Oren’s voice.
Even though she looked at her master with pleading eyes, hoping for a little more rest, Oren, as if he couldn’t see it, sternly pressed his lips together and clicked his tongue.
“I’ve never seen you acting like this before.”
Oren said to Michael.
Michael scratched the back of his head, looking embarrassed. Although Oren had said that, he secretly enjoyed the sight of his disciple acting like a child, he then threw something in front of the three of them.
It was a wooden sword.
Izeline’s eyes sparkled.
It had been days of boring physical training. Even though it was a practice sword, she felt a surge of excitement as she finally got to hold a sword.
At those words, the three of them moved in unison.
Michael, who had already held a real sword before, confidently grasped the hilt, while Robert, although a bit awkward, held the wooden sword steadily. While she could feel the weight, Izeline also gripped the wooden sword firmly with determination.
Oren demonstrated and spoke.
“Hold the sword at exactly this angle. Don’t extend your elbows completely, and slightly bend them. The same goes for your knees.”
The three of them assumed the exact same posture like triplets.
“Maintain this position!”
Izeline, who thought she could at least swing the sword up and down, became disappointed and frustrated. Though she maintained the rigid state for only a few minutes, her arms and legs started to tremble.
On the other hand, Michael and Robert remained completely still as though they had turned into statues.
Oren approached Michael and placed something at the tip of his sword. Now that she looked closely, there was a ring-like object at the end of his sword, Oren added weight to his sword.
Her sword was already shaking uncontrollably. Fortunately, Oren skipped her and turned to Robert. He then added weights equal to Michael’s.
Robert made a shallow groan and bit his lower lip tightly. However, he quickly regained his composure as he grew accustomed to the weight.
In a low voice, Oren said.
“Don’t use that yet.”
‘What was he referring to?’
Izeline looked at the two of them with a curious expression.
While Oren had an unusually serious expression, Robert blushed with embarrassment as if he had been caught trying to cheat.
“It’s about focusing your mind precisely. Gather all your senses at the tip of the sword.”
Robert’s wooden sword vibrated slightly, and as he stubbornly focused on one point, the trembling subsided.
Across her straightened sword, Izeline felt an intense aura she had never felt before from his sword. It emitted a concentration of energy that a four-year-old couldn’t possibly possess, sending an eerie thrill through her.
“Good. Keep surpassing your limits like this.”
It seemed like he was saying that the next limit awaited them.
That was how it sounded.
Under Oren’s stern instruction, beads of sweat formed on Robert’s forehead. Despite that he couldn’t overcome the weight, he gritted his teeth and endured. Unconsciously, Izeline found herself captivated by his appearance.
She couldn’t take her eyes off his focused face.
And in that very moment…
Suddenly, the added weight caused Izeline to lose her grip on the wooden sword. As she raised her face, Oren gazed down at her with crossed arms and a penetrating gaze.
“Can’t you focus, kid?”
Her teary eyes had no effect.
As a price for being caught off guard during training, Izeline had to do an extra lap around the training ground while Michael and Robert looked at her with sympathetic faces.
* * *
Izeline, covered in sweat-soaked training clothes, stared at the water in the bathtub that the maid had prepared. Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind, and she pouted.
‘Had Robert always taken a bath alone?’
Except for the times when Monica would come in to check on him, she had to bathe by herself. The maids didn’t want to intrude on the bathing area of a commoner, and Izeline didn’t really feel the need to request their assistance.
As a result, she always felt like she hadn’t properly washed her back. There were spots she couldn’t reach.
‘I should try bathing together with him.’
Although her mind was seventeen years old, her appearance was that of a four-year-old child, so she saw no reason why it wouldn’t be possible. When she was young, boys and girls would often share the same bath without any distinction.
And Robert was undeniably physically and mentally a four-year-old.
“Okwat, lwet’s do it. (Okay. Let’s do it.)”
Izeline put on a small-sized robe and headed towards Robert’s room.
There was no response from inside.
‘He must be bathing.’
Izeline turned the doorknob slightly and called out to her friend through the crack.
“Oh? Wh-what! I’m bwathing! (Oh? Wh-what? I-I’m bathing!)”
Hearing the flustered voice coming from the bathroom, Izeline made a suggestion.
“Shall we bwathe twogether? (Shall we bathe together?)”
There was still no reply.
“How abwout taking a bwathe twogether? Twere’s no one to scwub my back. (How about taking a bath together? There’s no one to scrub my back.)”
What was going on?
Why wasn’t he answering?
Unable to contain her curiosity, Izeline pushed the door a little further and peeked her face inside. However, she couldn’t even hear the usual splashing sounds from the bathroom.
As she pushed her head further into the partially open bathroom, she saw Robert, fully immersed in the tub, with only his chin above the waterline. His face was flushed, as if he had been caught doing something he shouldn’t.
“Robert, why is your face so red? Is the water too hot?”
“Oh, no. I-it’s not that. It’s just, just, my face gets red easily.”
“Why are you stwammering so much? Can I come in?”
Instead of answering, he lowered his head deeply. On the other hand, interpreting it as permission, Izeline discarded her robe and entered the bathtub.
“Look at this! Something’s sticking out on my back.”
When Izeline spoke in a teasing manner, Robert reluctantly turned his head to look at where she was pointing.
A few pinkish bulges protruded on her pure white back.
She explained casually.
“It’s because the training is too intense. It’s all because of the tweacher.”
“Is that so?”
Robert received the soap she handed him and started lathering up her back. His heartbeat raced as the soap was transferred to his hands.
“Are you tired, too? Michael is six years old, and you’re four, but you both twained the same way.”
She was referring to the weight of the weight ring attached to the wooden sword.
Izeline naturally expected him to say.
‘Yeah, it’s too much,’ and join in her complaint. But Robert’s response was unexpected.
“I… I like it.”
She blinked her eyes in confusion. Although she couldn’t see his face as he turned away, there was pride in his voice.
She stayed there and asked.
“Robert, do you enjoy sword training?”
After a brief silence, he shyly replied.
“Yeah. It’s fun and challenging.”
It was a simple but sincere voice.
Izeline put her face in the water, her thoughts swirling in a complex mix of emotions.
Why did he feel this way, even though it was tough? Was it because Robert loves it? Did that make him enjoy it? Lost in her own questions without finding answers, she turned her body and took the soap from his hand.
“Now it’s my turn to do it.”
Surprised, Robert quickly turned around. It seemed like he was surprised. Izeline realized she hadn’t considered his feelings. She thought she should be more careful during baths from now on.
She started lathering up, still pondering her feelings.
Bathing together was still unfamiliar, but then, Robert slowly and obediently turned his back to her gentle touch.