“Your Highness, the crown prince!”
At the sound of someone calling him, Damian snapped out of his trance-like state.
Sienna was looking at him with a wistful look.
“What are you thinking about, your Highness”
“You were making quite a scary expression and that doesn’t suit you, your Highness.”
Damian raised his hand and felt the tip of his lips.
His lips were stiff, barren of any smiles.
“You should laugh more.
You’re the hero of Winsor after all.”
“Hah, the hero of Winsor.”
Damian stared at the sea of people, the people of the empire who had gathered to see him.
He slowly shook his head.
He was well aware of his duty as the crown prince to protect and safeguard the empire’s citizens.
But apart from that responsibility, Damian would sometimes have certain thoughts.
‘What if I don’t help them.’
Now that he had cleansed beasts, they exalted him, calling him a hero.
…..would they be mercilessly discarded after the need for them disappears
Just like the Emperor now who wanted him dead but barely placed his life on the line for fear it would damage his legitimacy.
Sienna tilted her head.
“I thought his Highness would be happy to return to the empire.”
Well, is there anything good about coming to the empire”
“His Majesty, the Emperor probably dislikes you and most definitely hates me,” added Damian.
Sienna nodded her head and glanced sideways at the Emperor with disdain.
“You were sent to die, but instead came back with great achievements…how stubborn are you”
“Still, you always wanted to come back to the empire,” Sienna said perceptively, giving a faint smile.
Damian’s expression softened for the first time since arriving.
He felt his hands out of habit.
Not long after, a handkerchief appeared in his hand.
It was a handkerchief with slightly tattered edges, embroidered with lilacs that more or less resembled a bunch of grapes at each corner.
He gazed with longing at the handkerchief.
As if holding onto something priceless, he gently swept his fingers over the embroidered lilacs.
Sienna spoke with an inquisitive voice.
“That handkerchief, you’ve never let that out of your reach, not even for a moment.”
“Yeah, it’s very precious to me.”
Damian who answered firmly tucked the handkerchief back into his pocket.
Charlize saved him as a child and made him feel warmth again.
She was the only one who gave him back his happiness.
He had promised her.
To come back healthy and with a smile.
And he wanted to raise her to a position of greater honor than a princess of Rochester.
He had endured until now to keep his promise…
‘I’m finally in a position to fulfill that promise.’
Scarlet eyes shined with resolve.
In the distance, stood the Emperor and Empress dowager.
The Empress dowager was still in the process of wiping tears from her eyes.
But there was only one person in Damian’s sight.
Charlize looked at Damian with an anxious gaze.
Feeling his heart pounding, Damian swallowed his breath.
Eight years had passed.
Still, she was instantly recognizable.
Her elegant silver hair glimmered like moonlight and those lustrous lilac-colored eyes.
The last time we parted, she was definitely a small tearful kid….
‘…..when did she grow up to be so dazzlingly beautiful’
He felt choked up as his heart began pounding.
Damian was convinced.
He had never been so excited about anyone before.
And….there will never be another.
‘I want to hold Charlize in my arms right away.’
His heart was beating so wildly, that he wondered if he would collapse at any moment.
Damian jumped off his horse and smiled vibrantly at Charlize.
He hoped that his ardent feelings would reach her even just a bit.
Charlize paused, stiffening her shoulders, and quickly averted her gaze.
Damian’s face hardened.
‘What Just now, Lize…’
She seemed to avoid me.
As soon as he thought that, his heart sank.
And at the most inconvenient timing, the Emperor spoke.
It was a shrill voice that couldn’t hide its displeasure.
“I commend the crown prince for his outstanding accomplishments in cleansing the beasts of the North.”
“It’s all thanks to the Emperor’s trust and support.”
Damian who came to his senses bowed humbly before his Majesty.
Applause, cheers, and more cheers came pouring in.
The Emperor who witnessed such a warm welcome, felt his stomach twist.
Glancing at Sienna, the Emperor was unable to recover for even a slight moment and furrowed his brow.
“I would like to extend my gratitude to Antes, who has been at the forefront, heroically fighting the beasts for so long.
“Thank you, it’s all due to the grace of his Majesty.”
Sienna, who dismounted from her horse, placed her fists to her chest and bowed her head in respect.
A subtle expression crossed his Majesty’s face for a split second.
The reason being, her greeting was one not of a lady’s but rather one of a vassal’s.
She had no reason to conduct such a greeting unless she was next in line for the title of Marquess.
‘…..despite the appearance of a girl, she’s as arrogant as her father.’
The gall this child has, assuming she’ll inherit the title of Marquess.
The Emperor’s eyes narrowed.
However, no matter what the Emperor may have desired, the succession of said title was a right that belongs entirely to the head of a family and the chosen heir.
It was a matter that not even the Emperor could recklessly intervene in.