Sixteen Year Old’s Cherry Tomatoes
He wasn’t sure what he himself wanted to do. More precisely, he didn’t know anything other than being Her Majesty’s personal attendant.
“I’m a caged-bird right now. If you stay as my personal attendant, you’ll only be able to live here forever. I don’t want a young man, like you, to be locked in a cage, as well.”
That’s what Her Majesty said to him.
He could understand that Her Majesty held him in high regard after he calmed down. Her Majesty genuinely didn’t want for him to become a bird in a cage as she is. She certainly was a bird in a cage at the moment. She has such a huge world to fly around in and explore, yet she’s stuck in this small palace, where she’s relegated to looking to the North and spacing out. Her Majesty really wanted to go out. She had been separated from her family. She must really want to go and find them.
‘A bird in a cage…?’
He looked at the ring Her Majesty rewarded him. She wore a very lonely expression when she referred to herself as a caged bird. He wondered if there was nothing he could do as her personal attendant. As her personal attendant, he was meant to work hard to make her happy.
‘Is there nothing I could do for her?’
The wall in front of him once appeared so luxurious, yet it now resembled a cage made of gold.
He had no way of destroying the cage. He couldn’t even stay inside the cage so how could he destroy it?
‘Is looking at the Empress on the other side of the cage all I can do? Is watching the Empress, who I love, admire and like most, be stuck inside her cage looking up at the sky, hoping to spread her wings, all I can do? Her Majesty want for me to fly away, but how can I just watch Her Majesty suffer inside the cage?’
He didn’t understand what Her Majesty was thinking, and he didn’t want her efforts to go to waste. However, he couldn’t do anything about it. He wanted to stay by Her Majesty’s side even if he was a caged bird and even if he could never leave. He just wanted to stay by Her Majesty’s side!
He just wanted to stay by Her Majesty’s side, even if it was hell.
When the sun came up the next day, the young man was already on his feet and dressed. He faced the mirror and adjusted his clothes. His expression was particularly serious this time as though he was looking at his nirvana. Perhaps it was death that he was looking at. He gave the ring on his hand a gentle kiss, and then carefully placed it in front of his chest.
He used his body heat to warm up the cold metal.
He went to the kitchen to pick up Her Majesty’s breakfast. Her breakfast consisted of fruits and cherry tomatoes this time. Castell looked at the moist fruits and froze up. Her Majesty secretly ate cherry tomatoes behind her black veil when he first came before her. The reward he got at sixteen was a little sour. He would never forget the taste of that fruit.
“There won’t be any more cherry tomatoes after as they’ll be out of season. This must be the last time Her Majesty eats cherry tomatoes.”
His story at sixteen years old started with a cherry tomato, and the cherry tomatoes for the year ended here.
He carried Her Majesty’s breakfast to her room. She was already awake. He placed the food down in front of her. She raised her head up. Her bright morning face was brighter and warmer than the sun. That was the brightest light the young man had seen in his life. His sentimental throat budged. He sincerely and abruptly said, “Your Majesty, I do not want to leave.”
The Empress lingered for a moment then smiled. She responded, “Are you still talking about that? Didn’t I already explain to you that I needed to think about it?”
“No, that is not what I mean, Your Majesty. I want to stay at your side under another post. I am okay with being a cleaner in the inner court if not your personal attendant. A chef would do, too, as long as I can stay by your side.”
Her Majesty stood up. She touched his head and with a soft chuckle, replied, “Didn’t I explain that if you stay here, you will be stuck here forever. You’re still young, Castell, you haven’t seen this world. If you stay in the inner court forever, your horizons will only ever be so much. This world is truly very beautiful. Castell, if you can’t go and see it, you will regret it.”
“You are my entire world! I do not know how beautiful this world is! But I believe that it cannot be more beautiful than you!”
Castell raised his head up. That was the first time he looked right into the Empress’s eyes. Their eyes met. Her Majesty lingered for a moment. It had been a long time since she had seen someone else’s eyes. The young man’s eyes were firm as iron in that moment. His eyes carried persistence one at his age wouldn’t usually have. She dawdled for a moment and then chuckled softly. She extended her hand out to rub the young man’s cheek and softly said, “I’m very happy. Really. I’m very happy.”
“I… I do not mind being a caged bird… as long as I can stay by your side… And I do not want to see you become a caged bird. I want to let you feel comfortable in your cage, too…”
His courage vanished into thin air with Her Majesty’s touch. His heart started to beat faster. His face started to burn up. It wasn’t because of Her Majesty’s hands, but because of his instinctual shyness.
Her Majesty laughed as she looked at the young man before her. She gave his head a gentle rub then tilted her head and declared, “Make this cage more comfortable…? Castell, that’s some big talk… Not even I have the confidence I can do it. Make my cage more comfortable? I’m very happy. Honest. If you can do it, go for it. Let me see how you make my cage more comfortable.”
Castell looked up at Her Majesty’s smile with a baffled look. The young man was filled up like a pumped up balloon by her smile. Her smile was fluffier than a cloud. It was as if he was looking at the brightest treasure in the world. But nonetheless, it was true that Her Majesty’s smile was the most precious treasure to the young man.
“You want some?”
The Empress picked up a cherry tomato from the side and took a bite while she shared the rest with Castell.
The last cherry tomatoes he had when he was sixteen were a little too sour. Inside was a fair sweet taste. They even tasted a little salty, similar to tears…
It was vastly different to the first cherry tomato he received…
The scariest part about being a caged bird isn’t being in a cage, but not having a companion. He might not be able to be Her Majesty’s personal attendant, but he wanted the opportunity to be able to stay by her side. She allowed him to stay by her side. She allowed the young man to have his stubborn request.
That is why the young man continues to forge forth in the snow and winds towards that illusion in front of him. Despite being surrounded by darkness and turbulence, the young man felt that where Her Majesty was, was clear bright light…