“You want to know the definition of lonely?” Natasha was yelling at her parents. She was twenty-nine, so she was allowed.

“The ideal body. Small waist, large hips, giant breasts, a little neck. Killer thighs, beautiful eyes. An okay personality. Driven, confident.”

Natasha showed herself off.

“But I have this long, masculine face, this deep voice, and hold the highest paying position in the kingdom, Guard Captain-Commander. I have. And that’s enough it seems.”

“What are you saying?” Her father, the ex-King, asked. His wife already knew exactly what the problem was.

“I am unapproachable, and I’m the kind of woman who prefers to be approached.”

Gwenhime, her mother, said, “Perhaps that’s the real issue here? You have a lot of options. You can find a nice artist, they really don’t care about income or masculinity. They are above all that, at least that’s what they fancy. You can give up and be lonely. You can be deceitful and pretend you don’t hold any accolades, although that might hurt the relationship in the future.”

“Yes, I have tried that. It is a plan destined for failure.”

“And finally, you can approach people and hope for the best. There are tens of thousands of people in the Kingdom, so it might work eventually.”

Natasha frowned, and then the Captain of the castle guard entered the throne room. He was a tall blonde man with beautiful piercing eyes.

“I apologize my interruption, but the Communist Emperor Hannah is here.”

The ex-King said, “The King is in her room, expecting. Send Hannah there.”

Hannah and Janna were very close, and would casually visit each other, completely ignoring all social and formal conduct that was expected of a King and an Emperor.

Vinth turned and relayed the message, then bowed on one knee. Before he could stand, Natasha strode over to him, fixing her hair.

“Vinth Lawrance, would you like to court with me?”

Vinth quickly turned blood red. All of him. He covered his mouth with a cherried hand and inhaled as much as he could, trying to cool himself down.

The three members of the Rhye family stood before him bewildered. No one had expected this from Natasha.

Vinth spoke.

“Excuse me,” He gasped, “you must have mistaken me for someone else.”

Natasha had the urge to touch his face, so she did. She put two warm, calloused fingers to his cheek, touching salt skin, and said, “Come now.”

She wasn’t asking him to compose himself, she was asking him to follow.

She lead her new suitor up to her room and sat him on her desk’s chair, facing the bed. Then she sat on the bed and stared at him awkwardly.

“I am not sure what I was intending to do once i got here.”

Vinth decided that he should start a conversation and said, “So, it seems that Janna has become friends with the communist leader.”

“Yes, maybe she can talk some sense into Emperor Hannah. I’ve heard the emperor is quite a brute.”

Hours passed, Natasha laughed a few times, Vinth became fervent over some issue he had with patrol routines. Natasha asked him something personal. Vinth asked her what novels she liked. They found common ground in their interest in alternatives for capitalism and tried to see if there were any that were superior to Janna’s new system of meritocracism.

And then Vinth went home. But, not before he stole his nerve and ask if Natasha would meet him again, tomorrow night. Perhaps in plain clothes. He then tugged at his uniform’s collar and exited. Natasha stared at the door for a long time, and then lay back in her bed, wondering what it felt like to have company there.

Daniel Triumph.

Finally, the romance I hinted at way back during Alice and Finch begins.

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