Cherry Tomato at Sixteen Years Old
The post of an attendant could be considered a humble or a glorious post.
Actually, whether or not the post is humble has nothing to do with the individual or the environment the individual came from. It should be seen as a position that the holder has no say in. Try as they may, nobody will change their view even if you struggle with all of your might. Nothing will change.
The attendant post is conferred upon the individual by their master,
That means that Castell’s rank should be very high, as he was to be the ruler of the empire’s attendant. This empire has only been established for one year. As the palace had been renovated, the smell of dye still lingered around. The large and sturdy buildings looked as though they suddenly sprouted out of the ground. In the eyes of the people of Hilles City, the construction of the palace was somewhat abrupt.
The young man had a thin and small physique comparable a flame flickering in the wind as though he would fall over at any moment. He raised his pale face up and looked. He froze up when he saw the large golden letters above the door of the Royal Palace. The old servant led him by his hand and told him all sorts of details about looking after Her Majesty, such as what to do and what not to do. It didn’t look as if Castell minded.
“Long live Your Majesty.”
That was the only phrase Castell paid attention to that day, which became the phrase he said most, as well as the phrase he forever believed in.
It must’ve been a long time ago by now. Castell entered the palace at a young age. It’s been at least over a decade ago, right? Castell still remembers that spring day, the spring day in Hilles City. The blue, spring sky was calm as the ocean. The air on that spring day carried a faint scent of flowers. White petals floated all over the sky similarly to a torrential rain.
Castell still remembers that time and the feeling of the white cotton that landed on his face.
“All right, all right, stop here for a bit. Valkyries, please stay calm. This is the next personal attendant Her Majesty asked for. His name is Castell.”
He had arrived outside a palace with the old servant. Castell looked at the young girls who had their swords at his neck with his lifeless gaze. The eyes of the young girls burnt with an intense flame as though they would cut him down if he dared to take one more step closer. However, Castell wasn’t afraid. He looked at the sword before him, but his eyes didn’t budge. It was as though he was just seeing a butterfly spread its wings, a meaningless scene to behold.
Castell didn’t care, because he had gone through experiences more frightening than death. While in the prison, he experienced pain that felt akin to being torn. The pain led him to wish to be granted death countless times already. From his perspective, death wasn’t a form of punishment, but a release. If it wasn’t for Her Majesty, he might’ve rotted in that stinky prison.
The Valkyries took their swords back. Castell crossed through the long corridor and reached the interior of the palace. He crossed the long corridor. His footsteps echoed similarly to a clock in the lonely corridor. It was as if his footsteps were counting the young man’s long years of life.
Outside the windows, white cotton filled the sky. The sun was high up in the sky while the clear breeze whispered a melody as though it was heaven outside.
“Up ahead is Her Majesty’s private room for receiving guests. I will not be entering. You need to personally see Her Majesty. You just need to earnestly answer Her Majesty’s questions.”
Castell’s vocal chords shook, causing a muffled sound to come out from his mouth. The old servant knocked on the door and then courteously pushed it open. Castell entered the room and then the old servant gently shut the door.
There was nothing strange inside the private guest room. There was only one chair, one small desk. To another side was an additional small concave hole with a black veil on top to cover it. Castell could only see a pair of legs with one over the other. The tips of one foot swayed back and forth. The slender legs and toes that were gently flexed toward her shin hooked the young man’s heart.
The individual behind the black veil noticed Castell’s arrival. She put one leg over the other and then stopped. Her voice was similar to a clear breeze, blowing away the dense clouds looming over his heart.
Castell slightly lowered his head and quivered a little as he replied, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“You don’t have to be so uptight.” The Empress shifted around, then switched her legs, smiled and continued, “You’ll be my personal attendant from now on. Though I trust my old servant, Yate, very much, he can’t continue staying by my side due to his age and health. Therefore, Castell, you will be my fourth personal attendant from now. Make sure to do your job properly.”
“I understand, Your Majesty.”
“Yeah? It looks like you’ve learnt a fair bit recently.” The Empress seemed to be very interested in him; or rather, she was very interested in his work that was to come. However, she seemed to be doing something inside. She kept pausing as she spoke, “I’m very relieved to see your efforts. It looks like you’re not the type I used to meet. I’m very relieved to see your performance. You escaped from danger, and yet, were still able to handle such high difficulty work and training.”
“Everything was done for you, Your Majesty. You saved me. I will repay your kindness even if I must repay it with my life, Your Majesty!”
“Don’t say that, Castell.” Her Majesty didn’t seem interested in that response of his. As the Empress, she doesn’t lack warriors who’d be willing to die for her. There are countless who would exchanged their lives for loyalty. She paused again. Then she seemed to swallow something before continuing, “Dead people are useless to me. You’re my personal attendant, not my bodyguard. What am I going to do with a dead personal attendant? What I need is a well-organised personal attendant who can take care of my living needs by my side. If I need someone to die for me, I can just ask the Valkyries. Castell, keep your life and use it to take care of me properly. That’s how you repay me.”
Castell paused for a bit. He then looked behind the black veil and earnestly went on, “I will definitely do my best. It is just that… that… I do not have any experience. If I fail to do well, you can deal with me as you see fit, Your Majesty, I will not complain!”
“If I treat you however I please, then how am I any different to those who abused you? Wouldn’t that mean I saved you for no reason? Although I do kill people, I don’t kill people for no reason, unless I’m really unhappy. Castell, if you make me that upset, I will kill you. Therefore, you need to work properly, Castell. Hmm… Go and see your resting place first. Ah, right…”
The meeting appeared to be over now, but it seemed that the Empress still had something to say. Castell sat far in the distance and didn’t move. The black veil lifted up as though the wind blew it, bringing in the sunlight and warmth. The sixteen year old boy’s spring day’s flood of white cotton and sweet wind was revealed. The gloomy day had finally been pierced by the sunlight. In that moment, Castell felt that he had left the dark prison for the first time and spaced out at the sight of the sun.
The Empress pulled open the veil with a smile. Castell looked at her beautiful face that was warmer and brighter than the very sun, so warm and bright that it would take one’s breath away. It was as though the Empress froze time in that instant. The young man’s heart felt as though it was frozen in that moment. It was the first time he felt the power of beauty.
The Empress extended her hand out to him. He took it with a blank look. It turned out that the empress was secretly eating cherry tomatoes behind the black veil. It was a berry that resembled a peach exactly. The Empress had half. The remaining half shined brightly under the sun as though it carried with it the scent on her tender lips.
“Thank you, Your Majesty…”
The spring day when he was sixteen years old was filled with white cotton as if it was a day with lots of snowfall. The sun was bright to the point it felt surreal. The clear breeze blew over the vast plains, bringing along with it a sweet, fragrant breath it collected along the way…
The young man could remember his reward at the age of sixteen. He could remember the gentle sourness wrapped inside that soft sweetness.