Time passed quickly, and soon it was the day of the welcoming ceremony.
The weather was sunny, not a cloud in sight as if nature itself came to commemorate Damian’s triumph.
All kinds of colored petals and colorful streamers fluttered splendidly in the air, contrasting with the deep blue sky.
The sound of merry music and loud trumpets blaring intermixed with the roaring crowd.
The applause from the crowds was thunderous, shaking the whole world.
The people of the empire voluntarily jumped out into the streets, cheering and proclaiming.
“Long live Winsor!”
“Hooray, Crown Prince!”
All the people were ecstatic.
The Emperor and the Empress dowager stood in front of the Imperial palace, waiting for the procession of knights to enter the square.
I followed behind the Empress as her attendant.
While everyone was shouting with joy, only the Emperor had a bleak expression.
‘Wow, you look like you chewed on a rock.
Does your stomach hurt seeing Damian come back safe and sound’
Glancing sideways at the Emperor, I grumbled a bit inwardly.
A great cheer resounded.
The Emperor who furrowed his brow looked towards the side where the cheering erupted.
“Here comes the Crown Prince!”
“The hero of the empire, cleanser of beasts!”
I lifted my head slightly.
The knights were marching into the square of the Imperial palace in an orderly fashion.
It was truly a magnificent scene.
And among them, there was one person in particular who stood out from the rest.
My eyes popped wide open at the sight of him.
There he was, riding upon a large black steed, alive and well.
Without leaving the spot where I was, I stood before a charming and strong presence.
Gone was the boy, in his place, the stature of a young man.
A young man with dark blue hair gently fluttering over his forehead.
His scarlet eyes resembled a rising sun at the break of dawn, staring straight ahead without breaking focus.
‘….he’s grown so much.’
I used to imagine what a grown-up Damian would look like.
I thought Damian would look cool as an adult.
But Damian in front of me was something else, he was utterly beyond my imagination.
Indescribable emotions washed over me like a wave, I was standing there, as if stuck in time, completely blown away.
At the same time, a woman riding upon a white steed approached Damian.
Riding next to him, she spoke with a faint but visible smile.
For a brief moment, my expression became disarrayed.
An instinctive realization struck the heart.
‘It’s Sienna Antes.’
The heroine of this world, someone who monopolizes Damian’s love.
Unlike the slender women of the isles, Sienna was a stunningly beautiful woman as well as tall and slender-bodied.
Her ash gray hair, cut short to the point her ears were visible, caught my eye.
‘….maybe, she cuts it short because it gets in the way during battle.’
I remembered the original novel where Damian, seeing Sienna’s furious determination, fell in love with her even more.
I observed the two of them.
Damian and Sienna confidently led with their horses, they were a match made in heaven.
As I live now and till the day I die, I’ll never be like Sienna.
‘Somehow, I feel a little weird.’
It felt like I had a tiny splinter in my finger.
It doesn’t hurt much but every time I use my hand, it causes an irritating sting.
I don’t know this feeling.
It seemed or rather felt like the only friend I had, had grown further apart from me.
Is that why Will we no longer be as close as we were before
Feeling somewhat shabby, I involuntarily shrugged my shoulders.
Damian looked around with a strange expression.
His visage looked completely different from when he left for the North.
All around him, people were heaping praises upon Damian as the ‘Hero of the North.’
Seeing the enthusiastic response from the crowds, Damian seemed neither proud nor happy.
Instead, the atmosphere meant to welcome him…felt unfamiliar, almost alien.
‘…..before I made my mark, no one paid attention to me.’
The times he slowly suffocated in the deepest and darkest reaches of the Imperial palace remained vivid.
Of course, it wasn’t the people’s fault.
Only the Emperor was blameworthy.
Even though he was well aware of that fact, he couldn’t help but feel a great disillusionment.
Damian narrowed his brow at that moment without realizing it.