“Your majesty, the guests and other matters have been settled. This is the schedule for the wedding this time. The menu catered at the banquet afterwards requires your inspection.”
Castell handed Elizabeth two sheets of paper. Elizabeth put one leg over the other, placed one hand on her temple like she was massaging it and read the document with that posture. She then chuckled and said: “I never thought that there’d come a day where you would allow someone to handle your jobs for you, Castell.”
Castell froze. He then bowed and asked: “What do you mean, your majesty?”
“Ah, I’m not finding fault with you or complimenting you. I was just making a remark.” Elizabeth spread the documents out, pointed at the different handwritings and explained, “Freya was the one who wrote the budget for the menu and delegated the workers’ roles, wasn’t she? Not bad. They’re properly and logically organised. That girl certainly is talented. She’s young yet she’s able to handle his majesty’s work and deal with the people around him. She must be the next you after my son becomes the emperor…… You’re the only high-ranking vassal that I can trust and rely on.”
Elizabeth smirked and revealed a somewhat pleased smile. She switched her legs over then looked at Castell with interest and said: “But my Castell would never let anyone else take over his work. This time however, you let someone else take over jobs for you which I find interesting. Castell, tell me what you were thinking.”
Castell looked up. Elizabeth placed her elbow on the table and rested her face in her palm. There was a trace of a smile and wickedness in her eyes she looked at him with. His heart thumped gently. He shook his head and replied: “Nothing in particular, your majesty. It was just that… it is his majesty’s wedding after all, therefore I felt that his majesty’s people should have a hand in it…… It definitely was not because I was tired. Your majesty, I will never feel tired!”
Elizabeth chuckled softly and then stood up. She walked over to Castell, reached her hand out and pressed her hand down on Castell’s head. Castell spaced out as he looked at her majesty who stood in front of him. It was then that he realised for the first time that he was looking right into her majesty’s eyes, her majesty’s black eyes that were like splashed ink.
Shocked, he wanted to kneel down, but Elizabeth grabbed his arm to stop him. She stroked his head and tilted her head a little. She used her hand to measure Castell’s height and noticed that Castell was now almost taller than herself. She smiled as she said: “I’m surprised you’re so tall already, Castell. I’ve only just realised now for the first time. You’re always bowing or kneeling before me. You haven’t looked into my eyes for a long time, haven’t you? Hehe, interesting. The young boy I held back then has become an excellent man already.”
Castell’s body shook a few times and his cheeks went a little red. He breathed in the empress’s unique fragrance. The fragrance she had on her hadn’t changed for countless years. That was the scent that once calmed him down. The fragrance he’d search for like crazy when he awoke from a nightmare pierced through space and the years, and hit him once again.
Her majesty virtually gave him no attention after his majesty returned. Despite understanding the reasons, he still couldn’t help but feel jealous.
“How truly interesting. My son virtually grew up in a flash as well. He’s just a kid in my heart, yet he’s going to be married in a few days’ time…… You’re the same, Castell. In my heart, you’re that stubborn kid who would rather work himself into the ground rather than handing off your work to somebody else. I never realised you’d grown so much as well. Am I still not popular? You’re my personal vassal and yet I didn’t notice your change.”
Elizabeth sat back in her chair. She looked at Castell, chuckled softly and went on, “Castell, you’re slightly older than my son, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I am older than his majesty by five years.”
Elizabeth nodded then looked at him and continued, “You should get married too then. My son is getting married and you’re older than him yet you have no family. Is it because I give you too much work and you don’t have time? That’s my fault. Castell, you should have a family as well.”
Castell went down on one knee. He looked at her majesty with absolute seriousness and hastily said: “Your majesty, I am still young. Having a family will distract me. I still wish to serve you!”
Serving her majesty was everything to Castell. If she were to tell him to leave, it would be no different to telling him “kill yourself”. If he was forced to leave, his purpose in life would be erased.
Realising that, Elizabeth waved her hand and responded: “Ah, no.”
She then bent over to stroke Castell’s cheek and explained, “I wasn’t getting rid of you. I just hope that you could have a family too. You can’t spend your entire life alone because of me now, right? You need a place you can rest at to return to as well. How about this: I’ll put in a word for you for whichever court lady you like or whichever daughter of whichever noble family you have eyes for.”
Castell looked at Elizabeth’s gaze. Her gaze was neither ridiculing nor disgusted. To the contrary, they were full of concern and care for him like she was looking at her child. Actually, it was the gaze she would look at her son with. Castell was slightly happy but bitterer than happy.
He tried so hard to be acknowledged by the empress. However, the acknowledgement he was after wasn’t the empress’s doting and love. Everybody considered him the empress’s favoured vassal and even her male pet. But he knew that he was only going to be her son’s substitute forever. All he got as a reward for his countless efforts were head-strokes. She had never loved him as a man before.
He loved her majesty more than anything in the world though. He didn’t want to get married to another woman and have a family with her because the one he loved was the empress who was the only one who could give him warmth when he was writhing in pain and had no home to return to. Despite knowing that his love would never come to fruition, that didn’t affect his love.
The empress loving someone else and him loving her were two separate things.
Castell bit his lip then looked at the empress and seriously said: “Thank you very much, your majesty, but I have a woman I love already.”
Elizabeth dawdled for a moment before smiling cheerfully. She stroked his head and replied: “Isn’t that a good thing? That’s great. Tell me if you have a girl you like. Castell, you’re a talented young man and my favourite vassal. No woman would reject you if you confessed. Or was it because you needed me to put in a word for you? That’s fine with me. Tell me, who is she?”
No woman would reject me?
Or does her majesty not realise that I love her?
Castell looked up at the empress and enunciated his answer word by word, emphasising every word: “Your majesty, I love you.”
Elizabeth froze up for a moment before twitching the corner of her mouth. Castell prepared himself to be scolded but then the empress laughed with joy. She rubbed his head and with a smile said: “Nice, nice, Castell. You’re getting smoother and smoother with your words now. But you don’t need to love me. Having my son’s love is enough for me. You don’t need to see me as your mother. I have no way of receiving your love for your mother either. What you need to do is love a woman. I have my son already, so I don’t need another son.”
The empress breaks people’s hearts sometimes.
Castell would be happy if she was furious.
Even if he professed his feelings……
She would only interpret it as a son expressing his love for his mother in a coquettish manner.
And he wasn’t her child……
Castell lowered his head and clenched his teeth. He held back his tears with all his might. He then faced his empress and in a soft and polite tone a vassal speaks with to sincerely respond: “…… Understood.”