Thanks to the onlookers parting ways as if witnessing a miracle, the man could comfortably make his way through the crowd. However, as he distanced himself from the chicken skewer stand, he became increasingly troubled.
“Hey, stop! Hwold on!”
“Mister, wait thewe!”
Izeline and Robert persistently followed him, loudly demanding his attention. As a result, people who were unaware of the full story began to murmur.
“Did he steal those kids because he had nothing else to steal?”
“He looks perfectly fine to me. Why did he steal?”
“You little brats. Should I give you a good scolding?”
Unable to withstand the cold gazes, the man eventually turned around abruptly and said to them.
“Dark-haired brat, should I give you a scolding?”
He retorted to Robert, who had caught up from behind him before raising an eyebrow.
“Who’s a dawk haiwed brat?!”
“Well, your hair is dark.”
As if displeased, he twitched one eyebrow. However, Izeline, who arrived shortly after, burst forth with confidence, smiling mischievously like a villain.
“Jwust hand over the button already!”
“Wanna try taking it with your skills?”
Despite him speaking in a quiet voice, the onlookers began whispering.
“Wow, look at his character…”
“He’s behaving like that over a button?”
“He’s really childish and mean.”
The man struggled to maintain a smile, but the bulging veins in his temple betrayed his growing frustration. Sensing the tide turning against him, he bent down and whispered softly enough for Izeline to hear.
“You’re quite clever.”
Taking advantage of the distraction caused by the people around them, she skillfully bound him tightly. She raised her eyes defiantly while Robert, feeling emboldened by her wit, aimed to provoke the man further.
Suddenly, a voice echoed through the crowd, startling both Robert and Izeline.
Unfortunately, it seemed that there was a maid who had come to the city for errands. The moment she recognized Robert, her mouth gaped open as if she had seen a ghost.
Izeline was taken aback, realizing that a wrong move could lead to a repetition of the incident that occurred during their hide-and-seek in the forest, like a déjà vu. Glancing instinctively at Robert, she also grasped another crucial fact in that fleeting moment, causing her eyes to tremble.
‘What a quick-witted person…!’
The button thief disappeared like the wind, gone without a trace.
“Run! Rwun away!”
Saying so, she grabbed Robert’s wrist and ran. Though it was regrettable to let the button thief escape, they had to leave this place before the maid caught up and reported the incident.
A cry of “Wait! Stop right there!” came from behind.
Izeline ran with all her might. When she glanced back, she saw the maid chasing after them swiftly.
“If we get caught, we’re dwone for!”
Frantically being dragged along, Robert belatedly regained his composure and stopped Izeline, who was about to turn towards another territory. After a momentary pause, the two abruptly changed direction and sprinted again.
He took the lead.
“Hwold on! Follow me!”
Like squirrels, the two children skillfully navigated through the crowd.
How much time had passed?
Having distanced themselves considerably from the scene of the commotion, the two of them leaned on their knees, panting heavily. After catching their breath, they lifted their heads almost simultaneously.
Their eyes met.
For a moment, they both smiled before Robert exclaimed in excitement.
“We did it!”
“Dwidn’t the maid’s expression looks funny earlier?”
“Hew eyes got so wide.”
“Did we swuccessfully run?”
“Yup! Let’s keep wunning!”
“I’m not gonna lose!”
After overcoming the crisis and raising their victory cups, the two fell into silence. They realized that time was running short.
With a serious gaze, Izeline spoke up.
“We have to awwive before the maid.”
“Come this way.”
As Robert gestured, they both climbed onto a passing cart. The reins were soon pulled, and the wheels began to turn.
In the meanwhile, on the rooftop of a building a short distance away, a man knelt down with one knee and rested his arm casually on it, calmly observing the cart as it left the bustling street. His hair fluttered due to the wind that blew from somewhere.
As if it would carry his voice, he whispered softly, “Let’s meet again, you little rascals.”
Heint, the butler responsible for the mansion, was on his way to the young master’s room, having received an unbelievable report from a maid.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Absolutely. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Susan spoke forcefully, though still somewhat uncertain.
The two faces that appeared from beneath the robes were undoubtedly Robert and Izeline, the children who had recently entered the mansion. How they could be in the city was still a mystery, but it could easily be resolved by asking them directly.
To do that, they first had to confirm their absence from the mansion.
Heint knocked on Izeline’s door. After waiting for a moment without a response, he opened the door.
Seeing the empty room, Susan sighed in frustration.
“Look at that. They’re definitely still in the city.”
Thinking about the two children who had exchanged glances with her and disappeared down the road, she clenched her fists. No matter how she tried to catch them, they were too quick and slipped through her fingers.
With no other options, she hastily returned to the mansion to report. It was urgent to confirm their absence from the manor.
Heint, making a low groaning sound, moved to the adjacent room. Even though Robert was a Krug patient, he was still the legitimate son of Duke Armaty. If anyone found out that he was repeatedly sneaking out of the mansion, it would be a disgrace to Heint as the overall responsible person of the mansion.
He needed to quickly gather information and search the city if they were not in the mansion.
“Young master, are you inside?”
Heint felt nervous, and Susan beside him fidgeted with her fingers.
Unfortunately, there was no response from inside the room. Clenching and releasing his sweaty palms as he made up his mind, he soon turned the doorknob. Inside the quiet room, he cautiously stepped forward, stopping at a certain point.
Susan’s gaze trembled slightly.
It was because Robert and Izeline were lying side by side, fast asleep on the bed. Seeing that sight, Heint briefly blamed Susan in a reproachful tone.
“Are you sure you didn’t see it wrong?”
“T-This is strange. I’m certain…”
“Do you really think those two children could have gone all the way to the distant city?”
“Well, I mean…”
Heint clicked his tongue as he watched her uncertainly.
“Don’t make unnecessary commotion and focus on your duties properly!”
Susan bowed her head deeply, not knowing what to do. Although it felt too vivid to dismiss as a mistake, it was true that it was unlikely for four-year-old children to secretly go that far into the city.
…Could it be some kind of magic?
She shook her head in confusion, realizing that she had wasted time over nothing, and followed behind Heint, who was expressing his frustration.
The door closed and after a moment of silence…
Robert opened his eyes, and in a quiet voice resembling the sound of the wind, he spoke softly. Izeline raised one eyelid, matching his tone.
Similarly, she replied gently.
Soon, the two locked eyes and started giggling silently.
“You pwetended to be asleep.”
“And you pwetended to be sleeping with youw mouth wide open.”
She imitated Robert’s exaggerated performance, opening her mouth wide. In response, he stretched out his arms and legs, imitating her sleeping habit.
“Hahaha! Lwook at me, you’we like this too!”
“You always do that.”
“It’s a lie.”
“It’s true! You sleep like this, like this, like this.”
Robert flailed around 360 degrees, vividly imitating Izeline, who turned into a mischievous rascal on the bed at night. When she didn’t believe his exaggerations, he felt unjust.
“I’m suffewing because of it, can’t you understand that?”
“And what about me? I’m suffering bwecause of you, too.”
Since she came to Armaty mansion, the two of them played together and fell asleep together every day. Of course, it was always him who knocked on the door and came to her room.
Robert couldn’t find a suitable response and made an annoyed sound. However, when Izeline cupped his face and pushed her face forward, his cheeks blushed.
“Are you sulking?”
“N-No, I’m not.”
“Even if you’re suffering…”
“I’ll take care of you.”
Instead of answering, he tightly pressed his lips together. It was a face he showed when he couldn’t find the words to speak, a face that appeared when he felt embarrassed. Seeing him like that, Izeline stared intently at his face, finding it cute.
However, the next moment, Robert made a sudden move.
Her eyes widened.
His voice sounded muffled as he tightly embraced her, burying his face against her chest.
Startled, she stiffened for a moment before silently returning his embrace. Her little finger traced through his black hair. Gently twirling the fine strands of hair with her index finger, she asked softly.
Robert remained silent for a while before he murmured softly.
“I don’t know. My heawt hurt.”
Surprised by his words, Izeline pulled away from him.
“What do you mwean?”
She examined his face with a concerned gaze. If his heart were hurting, it would be a serious problem. It could be a progression of Krug’s disease. With an expression that couldn’t be deciphered, Robert pursed his lips and retorted.
“I don’t mean litewally.”
“Are you worried? But dwidn’t you say you would stay by my side until I turn eight?”
Her green eyes shook slightly as he continued speaking.
“My father wouldn’t hurt you.”
“I’ll protect you. You should protect me, too.”
Izeline couldn’t figure out what to say in response to his serious words while Robert took her hand and hesitated for a moment before gently placing it on his chest. Underneath the luxurious fabric, she could distinctly feel the presence of rough scars.
She gazed up at him.
With a sunken expression, Robert spoke softly.
“I won’t die, swince I take the medicine.”
She already knew.
She already knew this fact, so why did her heart feel so heavy? Izeline forced herself to smile, trying not to show that her nose was stuffy.
“We’ll live together for a long, long time.”
His cheek blushed at her words.
The heat transmitted through her palm was warmer than before.
Setting down the plate of snacks, Susan glanced at Robert and Izeline sitting side by side in front of the table. Normally, she would quickly leave the side of the Krug patient as soon as she finished her tasks, but today, she hesitated instead of immediately leaving.
Observing Robert, who was munching on snacks, Susan spoke up.
Robert’s eyes widened in surprise as the maid, who usually treated him as a bug, initiated the conversation.
She continued speaking.
“You shouldn’t secretly leave the mansion, do you understand?”
It was about their encounter in the city a while ago. Of course, the two children would be scolded.
“Why awe you saying this now?”
Robert’s mood soured, furrowing his brow.
Then, she replied.
“Just in case. Krug patients shouldn’t harm nice people.”
As he stiffened, Izeline interjected with a mischievous tone.
As she extended her arms to frighten her, Susan shielded her chest and took a step back, stumbling and falling. Realizing that she had been played, she shouted with a distorted face.
“How dare the daughter of a maid speak so arrogantly!”
Unfazed, Izeline jumped down from her chair without blinking. The majority of the maids in the noble households would look down on commoners like her, so it was natural. However, there were exceptions to everything.
“I cwan’t do it?”
Izeline looked down at her and spoke.
“Even the Duke himself would show respect to me.”
Izeline quickly covered the maid’s mouth, and with a nonchalant expression, she brushed the crumbs from her hand onto her face. Feeling thoroughly humiliated, Susan trembled with embarrassment as she stood up.
“Just wait and see!”
Watching her leave with a defiant attitude, Izeline murmured nonchalantly.