• Tomorrow is our first day of work. Auntie put her feet up in the chair in our room and waved me away before I could even ask her to take me around town. When I stared at her, she snapped at me.

    "Today is the last day I have to relax! From tomorrow on, there are no breaks!" she shook her head. "I forgot how hard it is to work as a factory worker. If I had remembered I wouldn't have come! Go find your little friend or something!" Then she fell asleep.

    I twisted my scarf around my neck and wrapped my coat about me. As I put my shoes on out in the hallway, Diana passed by with a basket on her arm. I immediately asked her to take me with her. A few minutes later we were on our way.

    The Imperial City was a wonder of passageways and squares. Diana wanted to buy some food at the main market. It is so giant! Every nook and cranny was filled with the most mysterious and interesting people. Fortune tellers, people selling strange roots and herbs, and performers doing things on blankets that I never even imagined. A man twisting his arms around his back and back around to his front; a girl sitting on her chin with her feet pointed primly on her forehead like a crown! My head tried to twist like their's just to see it all!

    However, the most amazing feat of all was our strange ability to blend in. Not one person started at seeing us, our pale pearly skin, our shocking blue eyes. The shop keep didn't flinch when Diana grinned at his flirtatious joke and flashed him her unusual teeth.

    Laden with sweet red apples, we made our way in a loop around the square to get back to where we came.

    "I missed these," Diana purred, biting into one of the apples. The sweet juice dribbled down her chin and as she bit into it is aroma immediately flooded my nostrils as the inner soft white flesh was released. She didn't need the apple, you understand. None of us need food. "My guy introduced me to these last year. One of the reasons why I chose him."

    That is when I heard the most interesting sound. It was a high, unwavering instrument. It sounded like a bell, but it was as if it were continuous, a bell without the need to chime. As we drew closer, I began to hear the incredible revelation of words in the bell's tone:

    "Soulful Yoon-Sung, your handsome face of a chisled stone, your heart of a carved block of cold ice, hold it in my quavering grasp, I don't care if it draws coldness into mine own."

    A shock of shrill flutes sounded then, and a low drum thudded out a quick beat. Then the bell voice returned and my ears, which I was surprised to find had been yearning for more, perked up involuntarily.

    "Cold heart, be not so frozen that thine hands grab my neck and squeeze mine breath and life!"

    Miraculously, our path was to intersect with the source of the bell voice.

    My eyes flooded with swishing, shimmering thick silks embroidered with the water itself. My hungry eyes devoured and traveled above the sea of silks to discover golden spun hair the texture of cotton puffs cascading down and colliding with the burst of dancing colors of the woman's robes.

    "Yoon-Sung," her quavering bell tones whispered, "Yoon-Sung, my cold dear love, take these new cold hands and grasp mine soul instead."

    I was transfixed. The woman fell to her knees in a mess of swirling robes and cloth.

    "Yoo~n-Su~ng!" she gasped in the highest tone yet. I felt my heart would break for her right then, so in her performance I was.

    I was brought back by the insensitive crunch of an apple. I blinked a few times and looked at Diana, who was quickly consuming yet another apple.

    The drums were rolling now, the curtains drawing. I glimpsed the last sweet sliver of golden spun hair disappear behind them.

    "They'll want paying next," Diana huffed. "Still, he was quite something, wasn't he?"

    "HE?!" I cried in astonishment.

    Diana laughed at my ignorance. "Women are not allowed to participate in the operas on Neptune! That was an actor who specializes in playing a woman's roles."

    "There is no way that was a man. She moved as a woman does! Her gestures, her grief!" I cried.

    "I'll show you," Diana grinned. "You wait. When they come our with the baskets!"

    "You're wrong!" My eyes searched for a rustle in the curtains to signal a coming back. There was no way it could be the truth! But why would Diana lie? To put one over on me? To teach me another mysterious lesson? Still continuously my eyes searched, as if they alone had suffered their own terrible insult.

    Then finally it happened in a rush.

    "Gold! Fill it with gold!" a gruff man barked at the crowd, setting a basket on the stage. He went backstage for more baskets and others came out.

    "Taiki! Where is Shiroko?! I want to see Shiroko!!" various people started yelling in the crowd around us. "Shiroko! SHIROKO!!"

    "Must be a local troupe," Diana said, taking a copper coin our of her change purse and flicking it into the passing basket. "Come on, let's go..."

    Just as we turned around a wave of excited cheer coursed through the crowd and I couldn't resist turning around in their excitement.

    There on stage stood the most startling wonder I have ever laid eyes upon.

    It was a man. I could see his throat bump in the usual place. His chest was flat, his hips skinny. But his face was that of a woman's. There was no other way to explain it. His movements were gentle and dainty. And his smile... it was as innocent and pretty as a little white flower. His lips were full and blushed pink, even his cheeks were cutely plump and slightly rosy like a doll's. His hair was a very pale blonde, but his skin was even paler and as fine as the most high class woman's.

    "Shiroko~!" a man near us wailed. "I'll pay anything, please marry me!!"

    The gruff man laughed in his barking way and took the man who looked like a lady around the waist, drawing themselves close together.

    "You can't afford it!" he barked. "The Emperor himself loves Shiroko!"

    The most amazing thing happened next. Shiroko blushed. The snowy cheeks went full pink and the small dainty hands covered the dark blue eyes. The crowd surrendered in awe.

    "Leave Shiroko alone, you great hog!" a woman called to the man in the crowd. Everyone laughed. The gruff man gathered the baskets and the crowd dispersed suddenly.

    "Time to go," Diana smiled. "And I told you."

    I swear, if I have any free time at all I will go to the city tomorrow and try to catch another performance if there is one. Who knew such wonders existed in this universe.