Lóng er swished into her room. She skipped lightly to the Dragon's head, and stroked it's nose. She smiled as she imagined his eyes lighting up, head flexing and a real dragon taking place of the wood. She hoped it would happen someday.
She sat infront of her dressing table, and unwound her hair from each carefull twist. When it fell down her back again she smiled. She kept one iris sprig to pin back the hair that would otherwise fall into her eyes. She experimente with plaits and tiny braids in front of the mirror, until she settled into a simple single braid that was so small against the red of her night-black hair.
She wiped off her blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick. She wiped off the tiny pink and blue flowers that flew across her forehead. Her face went from deathly pale to a soft ivory. She smiled. She was herself again.
She thought of her father, Emperor Wu of Liu Song. How ashamed he'd be to know that she hated her handmaidens' work on her face, how ashamed he'd be to learn that she wished for a real adventure, not being stuck on a float and carted around, merely a beauty to be gazed upon. She wanted more than beauty. She wanted to live.
But he had Shouhang, if he wanted a pretty girl to present to his people. She was younger than Lóng er, but not nearly such a beauty. Today, Shouhang had dressed in a pink robe, similar to Lóng er's, that was meant to represent love. But everyone knew the people loved Lóng er.
She undressed, trying not to think of the awestruck faces she'd passed at the parade. She folded her robes into her dresser, and turning away noticed something most unusual.