Reward at Sixteen Years Old (Part 1)
Her Majesty had a puppy. At least she did back then.
He didn’t know when the puppy started accompanying Her Majesty but it wasn’t any expensive or brand item. It was the most ordinary type of dog with mixed fur colours. However, he was Her Majesty’s favourite puppy. As a matter of fact, Her Majesty liked her dog more than human beings.
The puppy was very small and very clingy toward Her Majesty. However, the puppy slept in the resting room of the Valkyries at the entrance of the inner court. It ran around in the palace asserting its dominance. Due to Her Majesty loving him, nobody dared to say anything. He even dared to go to the kitchen to steal the Empress’s food for the next day. The chefs couldn’t let him eat Her Majesty’s meat, but at the same time they couldn’t hit him. so they had to call for Castell whenever it ran in there.
For some reason, the dog was very close to Castell. All Castell had to do was tell him to leave, and he would leave. Maybe it understood that Castell was Her Majesty’s personal attendant, so he trusted the young man. Castell always picked him up and brought him to Her Majesty.
Her Majesty is very generous; more precisely, she had no interest in normal tributes. If the things other nations sent her couldn’t fit in the warehouse, she would generously gift it to those around her. A few days ago, the lord of Karnashun sent her a head cloth and silk from the desert. After taking some for herself, she gave the remainder to the court ladies that served her.
Castell didn’t get any, but that’s probably because Her Majesty felt that guys didn’t need that sort of stuff. Castell really wanted it, despite it not being something he needed, as it was a reward from her. He viewed anything she rewarded him as his most important things, as it was an indication that she acknowledged his work.
But nevertheless, she had never given him anything other than the cherry tomatoes when they met.
Whatever the case, though, he still had to complete his jobs. As long as he performed his jobs well, she would surely reward him. She will for sure.
That was how Castell comforted himself. When he got up from his bed and looked at the sun that had just come up outside, he cheered himself on before heading to the inner court after getting dressed. When he just got to the entrance of the inner court, however, he felt the atmosphere was a very different today. Usually, there are two Valkyries on guard duty here, while the other Valkyries behind them were hidden.
Now, however, there were lots of Valkyries at the entrance of the inner court. They all exuded murderous intent and a type of hatred as though they were teased. He vigilantly checked his surroundings. After a few minutes, another fully equipped Valkyrie group came over on patrol. There were so many of them that it was as though somebody were attempting to assassinate the Empress.
Castell felt a little nervous, so he quickly headed to the Empress’s bedroom only to find her talking to Alice about something.
The Empress sat on her chair with her usual one-leg-over-the-other posture and looked at Alice as she sternly said, “Yeah, the maids and court ladies lost their stuff. They lost a good number of things, actually. Even I have lost some things. How audacious.”
“I apologise, Your Majesty, it was our fault. To let somebody steal something under our watch as your bodyguards, I am very sorry. Your Majesty, we will definitely find the perpetrator in the shortest time frame possible and skin him alive before you.”
Alice’s voice contained hatred and murderous intent as she angrily spoke. Her two hands shook as though she just wanted to rip the perpetrator apart and eat him. That was indeed the most outrageous way to challenge the Valkyries. They put in every stop to protect the inner court, yet somebody was able to steal, nonetheless. That was basically the equivalent of smacking the Valkyries’ captain across the face.
The Empress looked at him then smiled and asked, “Castell, did you lose anything?”
Castell stopped to think and then replied, “No. I did not lose anything. Your Majesty, did you lose something?”
“Uhm” The Empress looked at him and nodded. She then hesitated for a moment and said, “The court ladies and maids lost a fair number of things, which were all things I gave them. My gloves and the head cloths I rewarded them have all gone missing.”
Castell’s first reaction was actually “a creep.”
‘Apparently, there’s someone who enjoys stealing female clothing. But on second thought, this is the inner court. Usually, nobody is allowed to approach it let alone enter. This is the place the Valkyries guard. The Valkyries wouldn’t accept any bribes let alone slack on their duty. How skilled must this thief be, to be able to enter the inner court and steal the Empress’s things without anyone knowing?’
‘Moreover, the Empress remained very alert even while asleep. She kept her sword by her side. She would notice any small sounds. If they could steal without alerting anyone then there’s no way this case can be solved. Further, if the thief was so skilled, what were they thinking stealing clothes, instead of sneaking into the Empress’s warehouse?’
Castell looked at the Empress. He hesitated for a moment before suggesting, “I think that it was an inside job.”
“Oh?” The Empress slightly raised her eyebrow then smiled and said, “What do you think happened then, Castell? Let me hear your opinion.”
Castell looked at Alice, who was next to the Empress, and Alice looked back at him with a degree of disbelief in her eyes. If anything, it was strong suspicion. Alice seem to share Castell’s thoughts; or rather, the idea pointed to himself as being the most suspicious.
“Your Majesty, I think that there is no way the Valkyries would have let someone enter. Safety in the inner court is guaranteed. Nobody from the outside would come in to steal…”
“You mean to say that someone from among us stole the items then?” The Empress looked at him with a smile then leaned into her chair and asked, “How did they steal my clothes then? Also, who can touch my clothes? Castell, are you suspecting yourself?”
Since it was an insider job, Castell was most worth suspecting. Castell, himself, struggled to defend himself as he was the only one who could touch Her Majesty’s clothes. Alice looked at Castell. She had a raging urge to incriminate him and butcher him right away.
Castell looked at the Empress and sincerely explained, “No, Your Majesty, it was not me. Your Majesty, what you lost was your gloves. It is spring now, though. I have not touched your gloves, and I have not washed your gloves. Further, I have never touched the clothes of the court ladies.”
Alice looked at him coldly and said, “But you’re the only male that would be interested female clothing.”
However, the Empress cut her off. She looked at Castell and with an odd smile, said, “Castell, you investigate the incident. I’ll leave it to you. Go and find out who exactly stole my stuff. Consider it a chance to clear your, name too.”
“Your Majesty, do you trust me?”
“I do.” The Empress looked at him with a smile. She added, “Of course I trust you. However, I need the others to trust you too.”
Castell went down on one knee, raised his head and firmly said, “I have a request then, Your Majesty.”
“Oh? Tell me.”
The Empress appeared to be a little interested. She sat straight up and looked at him.
Castell didn’t hesitate to request, “If I complete this job, I hope to receive a reward from you.”
The Empress hesitated for a moment. She then revealed a calm smile, then put one leg over the other and responded, “All right, you have my word. Once you find out the truth, I shall reward you with something of mine.”
“As you command!”