I had no clue how on earth that day passed.
The sense of duty to carefully examine what kind of person Walter was and bring him to our side if he seemed all right had long since flown away.
The same was true of the words I prepared diligently to persuade him.
It was a total mess.
I spaced out throughout the party. The voices of the people laughing and chatting just echoed in my ears, and my gaze continued to follow the expressionless Walter.
He didn’t even seem to have the will to melt into this landscape filled with diversity. He simply silently stood there with an empty gaze that contained no emotion at all.
I wondered if he was tired of this atmosphere.
The moment he appeared, all the nobles who had been sarcastically insulting him instantly shut up.
That alone was not enough, and they didn’t seem to dare approach him.
I didn’t hear Liam until after he tapped me on the shoulder and shouted in my ear.
When I turned my head and returned a vague answer, he narrowed his eyes suspiciously and glanced alternately between Walter and me before asking.
“What? Is he someone you know?”
Did I know him?
“I know… not that person.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m completely sober.”
I blinked blankly and responded one beat late.
My condition appeared to be very bad. Liam, who couldn’t bear to watch me, urged me to return to the assigned room in the palace.
Back in the guest room, I sat down on the bed and thought to myself.
‘He didn’t even look at me.’
He ignored me. Very thoroughly.
I couldn’t understand what the hell happened. Why did Felix look like that after three and a half years?
‘Is it magic?’
It was absolutely forbidden to change your appearance with magic or anything else to enter the imperial palace.
It was to prevent assassins from disguising themselves and breaking in to assassinate the emperor.
A device that could thoroughly filter such a person was in the palace, so they couldn’t even set foot in it at all.
However, from head to toe, Walter had no resemblance to Felix at all.
If I hadn’t seen those eyes, I wouldn’t have had such an absurd thought that he was Felix.
‘Am I mistaken?’
Couldn’t it be Felix?
Did I miss him so much that I had a ridiculous delusion about someone with a similar eye color?
Actually, it wasn’t just the appearance.
Each and every element that made up Walter was different from Felix, so it was illogical to believe he was Felix just by looking at his eyes.
‘But when I think of the devil, it’s not like there’s no possibility at all, so I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…’
With the power of the devil, he could change his appearance without utilizing methods such as magic or potions.
People wouldn’t be able to detect the power of devils since mana resistance hadn’t been taught properly ever since ancient times.
‘He’s called the killer of tens of thousands…’
Felix valued life more than anyone else.
The person who caught even a bug that flew into the room and placed it outside again was said to personally throw himself into the war and brutally slaughter and obliterate the lives of countless people.
If by chance, Walter was really Felix, I would feel so sorry that I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
I’d rather hope he wasn’t Felix.
I hoped that the real Felix found peace on another continent and was having a happy life now.
How terribly painful must it be for a person of firm beliefs to suffer alone until they turned into a killer? I felt miserable and guilty just from imagining it.
Nevertheless, it was contradictory, but I hoped that he was Felix. I was utterly selfish.
‘Why did you ignore me?’
After all, it was Felix who left me in the first place. Why would he pretend not to know me?
‘Then why did you come back?’
Rumors claimed that he was blinded by success. However, Walter, whom I saw at today’s banquet, didn’t socialize with anyone and seemed to have been forcibly dragged out.
‘Did you roll on the battlefield only to win a title? Or to get the emperor’s attention…’
In that case, if Walter was really Felix, then he must have returned solely to protect us.
I recalled when Felix had chosen to die and to disappear from this world.
He said he would use any means to achieve success. He said that there might come a day when he would trample on his own principles and beliefs. Even so, he said he’d die to protect me.
‘You left me to protect me.’
‘You came back to protect me.’
He was burning himself endlessly, without leaving any ashes behind.
* * *
The victory party was said to continue over three days.
And after the party was over, I heard that Walter would receive his title, surname, and land from the emperor and then set out again.
And for the final time in this invasion war, he would work for Lucas again.
The more I dug into his circumstances, the more I concluded that he had to be Felix.
But the only trace of Felix that I had found from Walter was his eyes, and our eyes had only met for a very brief moment.
“Sister, how many drinks have you had?”
It was already the last day of the party. Liam asked with a stern expression as he approached me, who was drinking alone.
“Hmm, three drinks?”
“As far as I can see, haven’t you had more than five drinks? Why are you drinking so much even though you’re not even a good drinker?”
“I’ve grown up. I’m not who I used to be.”
“Seeing that you’re talking like a drunkard, you must be drunk.”
“I’m not drunk at all.”
Look at this. My tongue didn’t even twist.
When I tried to speak again by paying attention to my pronunciation, a ridiculous reaction returned.
“Okay, I got it. Just eat this.”
As Liam said so, he quickly took away the glass of alcohol and shoved some finger food into my mouth.
The food prepared in the banquet hall was only decorated in a pretty shape but tasted like chewing soap. Usually, I would never let it touch my mouth unless I was about to faint from hunger.
“Ugh, it’s not good.”
As I chewed it with an expression of wanting to spit it out, I heard Liam click his tongue.
“You’re already weak, but since you’re drinking on an empty stomach, you’ll get drunk faster. Go get some fresh air outside on the terrace.”
He put a glass of cold water in my hand and drove me out to the terrace.
Even though winter had passed, my body trembled because of the bitter cold indicating that spring had begun.
I hunched my shoulders in the chilly wind and rubbed my forearms with my palms.
Now that I thought about it, it was the first time I drank to this extent with Irene’s body.
I usually drank a drink or two if I didn’t know the alcohol, but I guess my body was certainly much weaker compared to Kim Hee Soo. After all, I only drank cocktails with low alcohol content.
“Do you want to go back? Shall I call a carriage?”
“No… As you said, I’ll stay here until I sober up.”
However, I doubt the situation would change even if I became sober.
After beckoning Liam to leave, I sighed and leaned my head against the terrace railing.
There was a saying that life was a series of regrets. However, I previously never had any regrets in my life.
It was because I always tried my best, so even if the results weren’t good, I accepted it and passed on from it.
But I regretted it tremendously.
Why on earth didn’t I abandon my fears and grab onto him as he was leaving? Why didn’t I try to chase him even if my leg muscles tore? Why didn’t I even loudly call out to him?
I should have just fallen. Whether it was the bottom of the abyss. Or the pits of hell. Or even if I ended up cursing him to death someday.
I suffered countless times due to the wrenched choice of the moment when I faltered, and I desperately wished for time to rewind.
I countlessly mulled over what I would do if I met Felix again by chance. I guess this must be something that I deeply regretted.
But foolish Irene. Felix said it too. You could never pick up water that had already been spilled.
‘It was all talk. You spoke as if you would do anything for me.’
Felix pushed me away mercilessly, but in fact, he actually wanted me to hold onto him.
Whenever I thought like that, I would often feel miserable and heartbroken and wouldn’t be able to sleep.
Of course, there was no possibility of that, considering how quickly he vanished as if he was afraid of being caught by me.
Still, the human heart was not that simple.
Although I prayed against it, there were glimmers of instances where the opposite wish weakly coexisted.
Just like how I hoped Walter wasn’t Felix, but at the same time, I wished that he was.
I took out the red jewel that I always carried with me. The gem flickered as if it was a burning flame.
I held it between my thumb and index finger for a moment, watching it shine in the moonlight, and then relaxed my hand and let it fall below the terrace.
When the exquisitely crafted jewel collided with the floor, it shattered into pieces.
You might wonder what kind of jewel broke so easily, but that was because it was made to be broken.
“It’s a jewel that informs me of its location when it’s broken. Use it if something dangerous happens. I’ll go to where you are right away.”
As I recalled what Felix had once said, I rested my face on my arms for a moment and gazed down the railing.
The red jewel that I had carried with me ever since I received it disappeared in a flash. My eyes followed the fallen glimmer and then closed.
Before long, I heard a rustling sound of grass being tread.
I slowly raised my eyelids once more. Since I was drunk, I had to blink a couple of times to get rid of the hazy vision. I spotted black army boots trampling the grass mercilessly.
A man bent down for a moment to pick up the broken pieces of the jewel that had fallen on the floor and glanced up at me on the terrace.
I thought he didn’t have any emotions.
It was a cold blue light throughout the party, but the moment they looked at me, it began to take on the color of a deep lake.
I reached out and leaned over the railing as if I was about to jump down from the terrace. I then spoke with a wry laugh.
“Don’t stop and take me to the bottom now.”
Then I curved my eyes and affectionately smiled just as Felix had always done to me.
* * *
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