“Roel, how about this one?”
“… It’s still too loose.”
Inside the fitting room, Roel massaged his temples with one hand while holding a pair of oversized pants in the other. There was a frustrated yet helpless look on his face.
Given that his initial clothes were too big and dirty, learning from Lilian’s example, Roel started looking through the wardrobes in the villa and soon found a few servant clothes. The only problem was that they were too big for little Roel.
“Senior, is there anything smaller?”
“That’s already the smallest one. It looks like we can only alter it.”
Lilian took the pants from Roel’s hand and cut off the excess portion with a sharp mana edge she summoned at the tip of her finger.
“Bear with it for the time being. We’ll be able to buy more fitting clothes for you once we arrive at the next town.”
“Don’t worry about me. This isn’t anything much.”
Roel plopped onto a chair and watched as Lilian altered the pants with a serious look on her face. He thought about everything that had happened thus far before voicing out the question that had been lingering in his mind ever since he heard about Lilian’s plans for them.
“Senior, do we really have to leave?”
It was a concise question asked in a soft voice. Lilian’s movements immediately came to a halt. She quietly stared at the pants in her hands for a moment before nodding her head affirmatively.
“Yes, we have to leave.”
“… I see.”
Roel didn’t pose any rebuttal to Lilian’s decisive words since they already had this conversation earlier, but his lowered head showed a hint of disappointment.
It wasn’t easy for him to overcome the dangers in the Witness State, and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet his loved ones. The notion of having to part from them without being able to bid them goodbye made him unhappy.
Lilian could understand where he came from, but she wasn’t planning to budge on her stance.
Still, looking as he kicked his legs unhappily left her with an awful feeling inside. With a sigh, she put the pants aside, walked up to Roel, and kneeled down to look him in the eyes.
“Roel, I don't have as much experience as you when it comes to dealing with evil cultists, ancient gods, and all those frightening entities. However, I dare say that there are few people in the world who know more about the Austine Empire and the ugliness of human nature than me.
“You might not feel anything much, but your plight is far more dangerous than what you can fathom. Should news about your power to bestow youth upon others spread, many powerful houses and organizations will go to all lengths to capture you.
“I know that you’re strong, but even if you do have the power to protect yourself, what about those whom you care about? If those organizations were to go after your loved ones in order to use them against you, are you confident that you’ll be able to protect every single one of them?”
Roel frowned upon hearing those words. He also understood how great the allure of regaining one’s youth was, and he knew that many would stoop to all means in order to obtain that power… or at least he thought he did. He realized that he had subconsciously neglected the safety of his loved ones.
Many of those whom he was close with were strong and well-protected, be it Nora, Charlotte, or Alicia. The same applied to Carter too; he was a strong transcendent with many knights under his command.
For many years, he was the only one who was constantly exposed to danger due to the Witness States and the threat of the evil cultists. Due to that, he thought that the best way to protect his loved ones was to, as much as possible, not to get them involved in his affairs.
But now that he was giving this matter more thought, he realized that his assumption didn’t hold, not to mention that there were many individuals who were in a far more vulnerable position compared to Nora and the others whom he cared deeply for too. The maid who had been taking care of him from a young age, Anna, was one good example. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to remain unfazed if Anna were to ever get kidnapped.
“But do we really have to withhold the news from Nora and Charlotte too?” asked Roel.
He still thought that Lilian was being too strict with the information lockdown here. Those two ladies would definitely be worried if he went into hiding without informing them beforehand.
“No, we can’t tell them about this.
“Even letting a roadside beggar know about it could pose a problem, let alone someone in the ruling class. You should understand that those in the upper stratum of society have the motive and power to deal with you. Yes, I acknowledge that the Ascart House does have the power and influence to deal with most enemies who try to go after you, but what if the one who covets your power is someone whom you deem a friend? Are you confident that you’ll be able to tell foes from friends?
“I know that you’re close with the two of them, but that’s only in the present. You don’t know how your relationship with them will develop in the future. It’s too risky to involve them in this,” said Lilian.
The prophecy she had heard from Artasia opened her eyes to the darker side of a romantic relationship, and that deepened her belief that neither Nora nor Charlotte was trustworthy.
She didn’t think that she was the only one with a darker side. Those two women might truly love Roel, but their love could grow twisted as well. There was no guarantee that they wouldn’t try to hurt Roel should their feelings for him ever turn into hatred, so it would be unwise to enlighten them of Roel’s weakness.
“I trust Nora and Charlotte. They will never do anything to hurt me,” replied Roel confidently.
Lilian sighed inwardly at Roel’s naivety, but at the same time, she admired his innocence to believe in others.
“Even if you do trust them, it’s far too dangerous to attempt to send them a message now. I know that such a measure isn’t satisfactory to you, but trust me this once and leave this to me,” she said.
There was a long moment of hesitation, but Roel eventually succumbed to Lilian’s worried and pleading eyes. Lilian heaved a sigh of relief, but at the same time, she felt conscience-stricken too.
She wasn’t lying when she raised those concerns, but she wasn’t being fully truthful to Roel either. For one, she was also motivated by the selfish desires sparked by her obsession.
She didn’t want to share this secret with others. She didn’t want others to see this side of Roel. She wanted to have him all to herself. She had no idea when these obsessions started popping up in her mind, but they had already grown to a point where she could hardly repress them anymore.
She told herself that this was a continuation from where they had left off from the Witness State.
We defeated the enemy together, so isn’t it only right for us to bear the consequences together? Why should we allow a third party to interfere in our private affairs?
Ironically, she was also aware that this was no more than self-justification, but she was more than willing to feign ignorance to it.
She planted a kiss on Roel’s forehead once more before heading back to her seat to continue altering Roel’s pants. Once she was done, she proceeded to find a simple shirt and a belt for him too.
Roel’s arms and legs were so thin that the oversized armholes and leg opening would catch wind, so she took the trouble to cut out a few strips of leather so as to tighten them up.
The clothes did feel much more comfortable after her alteration. The loose sleeves with tightened armholes created a puff sleeve effect that looked good on Roel with his long hair and beautiful face, making him look extraordinarily adorable.
“With this, you shouldn’t feel too cold when we travel at high speed.”
Lilian looked at the boy in front of the mirror and smiled, satisfied with the fruits of her labor. It was then that Roel suddenly thought of a question.
“Senior, how did you bring me out of the wine cellar yesterday?”
“I blasted a hole in the ceiling and escaped through it. It’s fortunate that no one saw us. Now that I think about it, it almost feels like we’re eloping.”
“I guess it does.”
Roel’s face reddened a little before averting his eyes. However, his unwitting action brought something unexpected to his attention—a small pile of clothes on the ground next to the bed.
Is this senior’s clothes? But that location…
Looking at the clothes scattered by the bedside, Roel blinked his eyes hesitantly before raising his doubt.
“Senior, where did you sleep last night?”
In the mirror, Lilian’s eyes widened upon hearing the question. She lowered her head slightly, as if contemplating something, but her face was slowly turning redder. A while later, she turned over to look at Roel.
It was like the two of them were having a silent conversation. Roel caught her drift and started to blush. Lilian thought that his reaction was rather cute, so she couldn’t resist the urge to lean toward his ear and whisper softly.
“We shared a bed last night.”