Status

Recent Statuses

11 days ago
Current I really need to figure out a way past the feeling my writing partners are better off penning the entire story by themselves- not because there is anything wrong with them, but with me.
1 like
13 days ago
It's going to be one of those weeks...
3 likes
16 days ago
Back from my trip, getting caught up with posts this weekend!
1 like
23 days ago
I will be out of town from July 1st through July 6th, but will be taking my laptop with my on vacation. There will still be posts, just a touch slower than normal. =)
2 mos ago
Entertaining taking on one more RP partner. =)

Bio

About Me:
I'm in my mid-30s, happily married with two young children. I've been role-playing since I was 14 years old, starting with AOL chatrooms and instant messenger (the dark days), before graduating to IRC, Gaia, RPNation, and then this website. When not roleplaying I am a GM of a raiding guild on Stormrage server, play on a couple breedable websites, listen to Kpop, consume small amounts of more adult-oriented anime, manga, TV shows (sci fi, fantasy, drama, Korean), and binge on romance.

I'd love to get to know other RP folks, especially if you're my age!

What I like/want in RPs:
Romance (necessity, I respect not everyone likes it)
At least 2 paragraphs per post
Sci Fi, (High, Low, Urban) Fantasy, Futuristic, Supernatural, some modern or psuedo-historical
Someone who plays male characters
Plots that allow me not to have to write realistic melee action (but I love to read it!)
Characters 18+
Players 18+
Intrigue/mystery in a story
Cooperative world building

What I don't like:
Players under 18
Children or teenage characters
Western or prehistoric settings
Plots with only action
Almost all furry/anthro pairings
G-rated romance

Message me if you think we'd be good RP partners for each other! Please note I do require romance, though I certainly do NOT want that to be the summation of the story. I also adore romances that have conflict and disagreement just like actual real relationships have. Some mundanes/players believe that all love stories develop "organically" in the story- but my real life experience has taught me you can have no chemistry with someone that would be great for you, all the chemistry in the world for someone you never thought you'd like, and romance is not 'organic' and predictable in practice. As a mundane/player we make the decision for romance because, quite frankly, we aren't the characters no matter how alive they might feel. They don't truly exist physically to have chemistry. If you feel differently we will not be a good fit for each other.

Additionally, I require players separate themselves from this characters. This should go without saying, but just because we write a romance together does not mean there are real feelings beneath. I am truly happily married. Please, please, please don't expect any fiction to translate into real life.

Most Recent Posts

After her unusual dream in which a part herself, disguised as her dead brother Edwin, suggested her more conscious self ought to take the medicine, she had been persuaded to do so. It was Luke's response to her innocent question about his work that chilled any desire she had to be agreeable. Even as princess elect she realized that the crown prince would have tasks that were not her business, something she accepted even before she won the contest and gained her status formally, but there was not a need to rudely respond to a vague query. It was frustrating that she was trying to be polite and yet he lacked decency. The former farmer pinched the cartilage of her upper nose between her eyebrows and tried not to let her emotions get the best of her. That he was able to converse with dignitaries of any nation without falling to petty insults spoke to how deeply the issue Luke had was with her on a personal level. Some of the candidates for her position would have counted themselves lucky to be such a unique focus of his contempt. Rhiane would have preferred to not be special at all.

That Luke had defaulted back to his aggravating attitude was not a surprise. What was unexpected was that he wanted to go somewhere 'nice and relaxing.' The princess elect knew the only reason that she was invited along to any location in his presence was the implant that had effectively made her into baggage he was forced to cart around. Why he had this sudden inclination was the true mystery. Luke had been insistent about the need to get work done and, seeing as she had done nothing more than sleep while he did, she could not be blamed for being a distraction. Idly she wondered if the court of public opinion was suddenly weighing more heavily on him than he might admit. Whatever the cause for his need to leave she doubted he would divulge it her willingly if at all.

Already struggling with the issue of the capsule she was enraged when he opened her hand, told her to be a good girl, and patted her cheek condescendingly. She watched as he turned and walked into a closet and was sorely tempted to crawl in the opposite direction. Not much could get through to Luke but the pain of the nanotechnology certainly could. Not many would respond to belittling with physical agony, especially if it imparted to themselves the same torment, but on this Rhiane had the slight upper hand. Not only could she brace herself for impact, and did she have a slight edge due to her gender's tolerance on an evolutionary level, she had learned to endure out of necessity for years. Luke might have had a stint in the military but she doubted that he had fear, neglect, or poverty that coerced him into labor no matter how sick or injured.

Fortunately for them both she was able to cool her temper. The princess elect put down the pill with a slightly shaking hand as she tried hard not to dwell on her memories. They had never gotten so far as to have the information on how both her mother and brother could have been cured. Even after they passed she did not know if an injection, or tablet, or set of transfusions would have saved their lives. By her own admission it was an irrelevant detail to fixate on but she could not help but imagine that this dose could have been the beginning of a regimen. Considering this particular pain medication had come from the royal doctor the price might have been comparable to that of rescuing peasants from the brink of death. Rhiane shuddered slightly and squeeze her eyes shut for a moment to chase away her morbid focus.

"Oh, of course your highness," she drawled as she opened her eyes and turned away from the pill and glass of water that waited on the bedside table. "I will make it a point in my interview to make certain everyone is aware that you have requested I continue to refer to you exclusively as your royal highness. I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. Don't you think your mother will be pleased to know that I still know my place in our arrangement?" The princess elect knew what she was proposing would do anything but appease the queen. To use honorifics on broadcast would all but declare that their romance was a farce. No true boyfriend or fiance would make such a formal demand. Not only would it expose their charade, Rhiane knew that it would also give the masses the cold truth, leaving little doubt in their minds as to whether or not their crown prince thought himself too elevated to even hold hands with the best of what their stature had to offer.

"Didn't you tell me yourself how I ought not to trust anyone? Taking this medication, or following you obediently, that smells of trust. I can't stop you from carrying me wherever you intend to go but if we're not going to have the pretense of civility I can make it as unpleasant for you as it is for me." She folded her arms and waited for what she was certain would be more derogatory remarks while evading any explanation.
"We should keep this ship as long as we can," Solae sighed. The sensation of the gel being rubbed into her bruises, which were fading much more quickly than they might have otherwise, was soothing. Although the topical treatment had been fashioned to both break down the blood beneath the skin and relax strained muscles, it was Rene's touch that was more appealing. Every action conveyed a protective tenderness that made her believe no matter what the universe thrust at them they would not just survive but flourish. Nobility was fond of the axiom mind over matter as a solution to any issue that may arise. It was not as applicable a thought as they professed but the marquise could not deny emotional and mental satisfaction hastened recovery.

"With all due respect, Lady Solae..." Mia began to object.

"I know it's not quite what you deserve, Mia, but there are benefits," the diplomat stated with a casual yawn. She was reluctant to do anything more than lay on the slightly lumpy bed and sleep an entire day away. What little slumber she had found in the last twenty-four hours was woefully inadequate compared to the lazy weekends she used to enjoy. "If we were traveling in luxury spacecraft it would be highly identifiable. The smugglers chose this one for a reason and it wasn't just price. A hobbled together exterior makes it less identifiable with all the other run down vessels on the fringes of the galaxy. If we can find a way to cover up the name it will be nearly impossible for anyone to recognize it from even a detailed description."

"I understand," the artificial intelligence replied with a slightly more sullen tone crackling through the nearest speaker.

"We'll need to refuel and get some supplies for repairs and upgrades, things we couldn't anticipate until the Bonaventure arrived," Solae admitted with a groan as she sat up. A line of pale purple, remnants of an altercation with slavers and slamming into the side of her console seat on take off, rippled with her movement. The diplomat did not bother to cover herself as it was abundantly clear there was no need for modesty in current company. "From the jump horizon what is the closest habitable planet?"

"Kasperth II has recently completed terraforming," Mia chirped happily.

"How recently? Has it been colonized?" the scion asked skeptically with furrowed brows.

"Records do not indicate that the infrastructure process has been completed as of yet. They are currently in Phase 3 of 17, which includes transport of raw materials in select zones for the construction of utilities for pre-planned central cities. It is estimated they will move onto Phase 4 in approximately twenty-nine days."

"What's the next closest option?" Solae asked. Theoretically a recently terraformed planet would have a minimal presence of any imperial militia. Without native settlers what few people would be on the surface would be laborers who were being paid to do all the less than glamorous grunt work necessary before any civilization could be established. They would be easier for Rene to overtake if the need arose but they wouldn't have the things that were needed to keep the couple moving towards central systems of the Stellar Empire. There was too much risk with almost no chance at any gain.

"Panopontus," Mia replied simply. "Approximately 82.39% of the surface is covered in water. Land masses include numerous self-sustaining archipelagos that govern themselves independently with imperial oversight. Exports include precious gems, algae, oils derived from sea creatures, varieties of seaweed, berthove stalks, both raw and processed, and eishrelas coral."

"Estimated time of travel?" she inquired. While Panopontus did not sound like an ideal destination she had no illusions that perfection would land in their laps. They would need to make at least a couple hops to obtain enough fuel to make the long journey to more firmly defended imperial space. With any luck they would find a communication array intact that would warn the empire before their arrival of the insurrection and spur a quick response. The more time it took them to get a message to authorities meant more damage done and more lives lost to rebellion and chaos.

"26 hours, 53 minutes, and 17 seconds. Would you like me to set a course, Lady Solae?" Mia sounded giddy at the prospect. Living beings might be happy being idle but a machine was hard-wired to value constant action.

"Yes, thank you Mia. Well, my dear fiance, what do you think of unpacking some of those crates? We have some time to make this feel more like a home away from home. Less than ideal I admit, but..." she started. The marquise paused as she realized that she was all but suggesting nesting. It was silly to think of a freight ship, one still half filthy, formerly manned by the dredges of the human race, to be a cute little lovers' bungalow. Had anyone else been in her company she would have scoffed at the insanity of viewing it as such an oasis. She hadn't packed any home decor to disguise their surroundings as a cozy abode, yet somehow just sorting what few things they possessed into storage felt like a wonderfully mundane intimate task to do together.
"You should have listened to him and taken the medicine," Edwin stated. In the world of dreams they were sitting on the wooden steps of the front porch. The pair of siblings sat comfortably with their shoulders pressed against each other though Edwin was half a foot taller. A winding gravel driveway meandered from the right side of the house and to a worn road in the distance. To their left was a flower garden that had been tended to by their mother while she lived, thriving under her green thumb, with one bloom or another always in season. Though they were poor and nothing in their life was luxurious there was still beauty. Rhiane found tranquility in knowing that the flowers would die by be reborn the same time next year and that the no matter what crops were in the fields, no matter how battered the land was by storms, there would be a reliable path leading them to the safety of town. The female farmer inhaled the fresh air of the countryside that was nothing but a conjured illusion of her subconscious.

"You know how I feel about it," Rhiane retorted as she leaned her head on her brother's shoulder affectionately. This was how she always remembered him. A pillar of strength that could endure anything without flinching. Only when the disease ravaged him had he seemed compromised, but the illness had not robbed him of his dignity even then. Rationally she knew that no one as as perfect as she made him to be in these projections but it was her place of respite. Here should be supported instead of supportive.

"I know how I feel about it because I am you," Edwin sighed. "Before you hated them because of what happened to all of us, because there weren't enough supplies and so they demanded payment for treatment, because you blame them for letting us die." With a tender smile he turned and took Rhiane's hands in his own. She tried to jerk away but found herself unable. As she was controlling both sides of the conversation, both halves of the dream, she could both attempt an escape and prevent it simultaneously. "But now you have a chance to live without those worries. You can just focus on being healthy instead of forcing yourself to walk each row of soy checking for signs of blight."

"I can't trust him," she grumbled, referring to none other than Luke. Edwin-self laughed and patted her hands with amusement.

"What's his angle? How does he possibly benefit in helping to alleviate your pain?" The male farmer stood and put his hands on his hips as he surveyed the plowed and seeded soil that stretched out of sight in front of them. Verdant buds had just begun to emerge from the ground in perfectly symmetrical lines. This had been a classic pose of the real counterpart of her psyche's remembrance. When he knew he had won an argument he would always proudly look away, as if disinterested, as he savored not only the victory but the frustration of the conquered as the realization dawned on them.

"I don't like him," she protested of her fiance. Even with his back to her Rhiane could sense his quiet yet firm disbelief. In the glimpses of compassion she had faltered and, while she was not even moderately infatuated, she did not hate him quite as fervently as she did before.

The scene was dispelled, vanishing instantly, as a handle gently shook her awake. Her abrupt departure from the mirage startled her and she jerked slightly under Luke's touch before relaxing. A hand absently rubbed at her eyes as she sluggishly started to process what the crown prince had said. Because she didn't remember falling asleep she was disoriented at the sight of the minimalist bedroom with the hypnotizing view. Slumber had been a godsend. It would take a few minutes to get her bearings but she was refreshed and her ankle's throbbing had subsided. The tremors of her good leg, which had been overtaxed bearing all her weight for twenty minutes consecutively, had disappeared entirely.

"Call me Rhiane," she insisted as she pushed herself upright, "Lowly peasant such as myself doesn't deserve to be called Ms. anything by someone such as yourself," she chided half-heartedly. It was more important he take on the habit of utilizing her first name so that their charade was not discovered for the ruse it was. No fiance called his dearest by such polite honorifics. "Did you get your work done? Is it time for my interview?" Rhiane continued, not getting the gist of his decision that they were going somewhere that was not on their formal agenda.
As expected Luke's bedroom was just as absurdly luxurious as the rest of his dedicated floor. Rhiane had a passing thought she had never seen a bed quite so massive, not even in vacation brochures, and had no notion why bigger was always better. Unless the crown prince was entertaining several women at a time- something that would not escape the tabloids- it was too wasteful to be impressive. Her gaze slipped over the space as she noted his minimalism and wondered idly if it was a reflection of who he truly was. Interviews and magazines did not give an accurate portrait of the royal. Given that he did not drift around the engagement ball for long and had a distaste for idle chatter she suspected at least socially he was a person who believed only in fostering relationships that proved themselves necessary. People that had no use earned his disdain as surely as furniture that had no function.

In response to her jesting Luke made a reference to a lizard she had never heard of, Godzilla, and then began to casually prattle on about a dog. The farmer was slightly intrigued that someone so emotionally distant had a pet. To keep one required care of a beast that possessed little objective value, yet that was unlike the condescending man who had been so insistent he did not need a commoner wife. It was hard not to be insulted by the implications the bearer of his progeny was less tolerable than a canine.

Her annoyance was short-lived. As he turned to grin at her Rhiane felt her good leg, the one not supported by a brace, crumple under the strain of her weight. Expecting to meet the cold, hard floor she was surprised to find that Luke had crossed the distance and instinctively grabbed her arm. The room was now spinning as she made a feeble effort to gather the offending limbs under her in hopes of steadying herself. It was the supporting arm of the prince that kept her upright as she leaned against him heavily. This moment was the culminations of weeks of trials that taxed her mentally and physically, a restless night of sleep, of a sore joint, of inadequate meals. The doctor had ordered her to her bedchambers to recover but had underestimated how uncomfortable she'd feel with the silicone sleeve, how unaccustomed she was to being up past sunset, how worried she was about the news coverage that she could no longer effect.

Swept up into Luke's arms she very nearly succumbed to slumber. Her eyelids drooped as both her breathing and pulse slowed to embrace the state of repose. The princess elect was too numb and drowsy to appreciate the tender way in which she was deposited onto the bedding rather than dropped. Even his chiding was softened. Being called a silly girl was not an insult, not for someone as sharp-tongued as Luke, and perhaps later she would realize he was not without compassion even for a peasant. Cally was neither naive or blindly placing her brother on a pedestal when she asserted he 'wasn't that bad.' There was still hope that the charade wouldn't be a mangled show of disappointment.

A tiny sigh escaped Rhiane's lips at his question. Caught between the waking world and the world of dreams as she was there were no inhibitions. She had been truthful when she stated she would not lie to Luke, that she would be sincere, but she was unable to deceptive even if so inclined at present. There was not the presence of mind to be anything more than forthright. "The pizza," she murmured, "It's hard to eat when I'm upset and... the marinara. They warned me to be careful eating too many things I don't normally, that it could give me indigestion, and that would have made us both miserable. At home we usually just had pizza with oil, keeps longer, easier to make..." The farmer would have balked at knowing she had just admitted that part of her decision making had anything to do with his benefit. Her outward projection was seeking ways to find Luke miserable rather than deftly avoiding them when it was minimally convenient.

Her eyes, which had glazed over, finally fluttered closed as she let out a soft exhale. Rhiane's features took on a more tortured, melancholy expression as she rolled on her side, not avoiding his latter inquiry but rather thinking of the subject before speaking. "Edwin," she breathed with yearning, "it should have been me, not Edwin. He was the best of us, should have inherited everything, would have... have made Dad proud. He always knew what to do," she confessed as her words began to slur together, "but he's gone." There was a finality with which she spoke that mad it clear that 'gone' did not mean he had moved, or run away, or traveled to a distant country with wanderlust. Edwin was clearly a sibling she idolized and had died, years ago from the furtive distance in her words, and whom she thought had been more worthy of being among the living.

Rhiane had joined the contest knowing the end result. In all the psychological tests and assessments they had brought up Edwin, her mother, her childhood, and everything else that conventional wisdom told them would have shaped her as a person. Not once had she given voice to the belief that the wrong child of the Black family had perished. She had known what conclusion they would inevitably arrive at: that she had extremely unhealthy views of her own mortality. It was her biggest secret and one she had just alluded to while drunk on the need for sleep. Oblivious, and still vulnerable to the inquiring mind sitting beside her on the bed, she started to ease into a light doze.
Rhiane didn't object to Luke taking a cannoli although she perhaps should have; a moment of compassion did not signify a sudden parting of the ocean of condescending arrogance. Rather than voicing a protest she rolled her eyes as he ate the entire thing in two bites, wasting the opportunity to savor the flavor, which she viewed as his loss more than his own. Truthfully even if he took his time he might not have enjoyed it as she did. The princess elect was but a peasant whose palate had not the opportunity to become refined over the years. She did not have the finest chefs in the kingdom creating every meal with her personal proclivities in mind and indulging her every whim. Even after she was officially royalty she wagered the menu would be dictated by the queen or her husband, who someday would become king, before she was allowed to give input that might contradict their taste.

As he fished for a second confection she snapped out of her rumination and pulled the box out of his range, forcing him to either abandon the wheel or his pastry quarry. Before Luke could make the decision the latter was more enticing she took a bite out of each cannoli to possessively lay claim to them. It was sufficient to make the royal disinterested if not disgusted by her petty action. For the rest of the trip Rhiane kept herself pressed against her window to artificially create as much distance as was humanly possible in the confines of a hovercraft. The cannolis were consumed more quickly than she had planned prior if only to secure that she did not starve between lunch and dinner. An appetizer alone was woefully inadequate to keep her fueled. The princess elect's newly appointed nutritionist had even admitted, after an exhaustive analysis of her metabolism and digestive system, that their initial plan for her 'diet' would have to be heavily modified. To let her become too thin would be unhealthy, cause a cessation in her menstrual cycle, and impact her fertility.

Rhiane knew she was a brooding mare to the crown. It was when she was given latitude with her breakfast items the day prior she had an epiphany they wanted her prepared for carrying a child as possible. Little did they know that Luke would probably himself do everything in his power not to touch his fiancee more than was necessary. Were he to lower himself to undressing in her presence on their wedding night she would be impressed. In the mean time, while their charade carried on, the farmer would take as much advantage as possible to eat luxurious and unhealthy desserts. There was no reason to correct their ignorance. It was not lying to fail to mention that they could be poised beneath her hips as long as they liked but that an immaculate conception would not produce an heir.

As they arrived back at the palace she sighed and frowned at the sight of both the nurse and wheelchair. Knowing that it would ultimately not matter to Luke one way or another she had failed to disclose her dislike of those in the medical profession. Though she had been nothing but cooperative, polite, and obedient with the royal doctor when her ankle had been twisted at an unnatural angle, there had been no choice in the matter except to comply. Having a nurse here and now felt superfluous. The presence of the wheelchair was adding insult to injury. No matter how much strain she had placed on the recovering limb she was capable and willing to walk to wherever it was she was to be escorted.

Luke anticipated her displeasure. She let the guard, who was innocent in this social tug of war, assist her into the wheelchair as she painted on a smile for everyone's benefit. Honestly she would have preferred the arms of the crown prince though not out of emotional attachment. Rhiane would not, could not, should not every let it be known, but there was something comforting about being carried like a princess, allowing herself to be protected rather than being the towering shield that sought to shelter her loved ones from harm no matter the cost.

News that she had been well-received was welcome even if the greeting party had not been. The faux smile planted on her lips grew to one of earnest pride that her performance had achieved success. Mrs. Viscomi's praise, after the adoration of the restaurant patrons, made her heart swell with hope that she might last despite Luke's inherent ability to torpedo his own public image. Should the queen share the opinion of the expert that was to handle them then they might see Rhiane as the best possible solution to the lack of appeal the crown prince had with the rural citizens. No one could completely save him from himself, for not even an implant could rob him of his agency, but if she continued to present herself flawlessly they would not see merit on a replacement.

The icing on the cake was hearing Luke chastised and encouraged to be more like her. It had to make his blood boil. He dismissed this advice out of hand and perhaps it was because he sincerely thought the woman misguided, but it would burn nonetheless. That anyone of status would see him inferior to her would be an infuriating blow to his massive ego no matter how erroneous he perceived it to be. During the rest of the exchange she rested comfortably in her seat as she imagined how he would react if his own mother asserted such a theory. Criticism was not something her firstborn accepted well. That a farmer succeeded when he faltered, or failed, was unimaginable.

This was Rhiane's truest victory, even more so than the contest itself, and she would relish it no matter how short-lived.

Upon entering the floor that housed Luke the nurse was dismissed and Rhiane leapt up from the wheelchair the second the attendant was out of sight. Being mindful of the ten meters that she was allowed before either of them were left writing in pain she looked around curiously. Her own accommodations were lavish but not this opulent. That he had his own private swimming pool was both astonishing and revolting in equal measure. The excessive wealth that was gifted to the nobility was breathtaking but made her insides churn when she thought of how destitute others were as a result. Just last year there had been famine on the opposite end of their borders when a monstrous storm destroyed so much farmland that humanitarian efforts had not been sufficient to supply the populace.

"I'm not taking any medication," she announced as she limped along towards the bedroom. Rather than enter it she paused to enjoy the scenic view allowed by the walls of glass. Jaded, tired, and in increasing pain from the throbbing of her ankle, she felt the next sentence catch in her throat at the dazzling light of day bouncing off the landscape beyond. From this tower it easy to forget all the filth of living in abject poverty and be lost in the beauty of New Rome's capital city. The princess elect did not know how long she stood there utterly transfixed before she lost her balance and barely caught herself before she fell to the floor.

"I wondered if a doppelganger had taken over, but I see you are back to your lizard self," she prodded. There was a comical conspiracy theory hundreds of years old that the upper echelons of society were not in fact human but some creature descended from alien bipedal species that had subversively claimed the earth. Every once in a while those still able to joke about their bad fortune would accuse the 'blessed' dripping in jewels and designer clothing of being this bizarre inhuman race. It was a jab at him but not overtly cruel. "If I rest on the floor do I not prove my pet theory rather and defy your command to act like a princess?" she asked as she rounded the corner with pronounced hobbling.
"Didn't I... ask you?" she blinked in confusion. Technically she had not. She had proposed a marriage, and perhaps proposed a proposal, but not actually proposed in the same manner that Rene did now. Her mind spin two or three different ways as she hung on the strange revelation before letting out a little bemused laugh that resulted in more chuffing that expelled errant ash. Frustrating as it was to ruin such a beautiful moment with a sickly cough the passageways were becoming more clear with each exhale and she knew the irritation would subside with chemical assistance. It took a few precious seconds to overcome the laughter at her own expense that co-mingled with the more forceful bursts of air heralding the end of her wheezing.

"Yes, yes of course I will," the marquise responded not wanting to leave him waiting any longer for a proper answer. He had to have known, given that she had initiated the discussion and made her feelings apparent, that there would be no refusal. Many men only lowered themselves to one ceremonial knee when they had explicit conversations about marriage in advance yet there was something gained in vocal affirmation. Allusion, innuendo, and coy remarks were no substitute for the profound potency of a simple declaration.

Had anyone of any status been observing they would have laughed at the absurdity of the two people so divorced from their stations engaging in a haphazard adherence to tradition. Garbage still littered the edges of the ship that had become so rancid that only putting it out an airlock had a chance to cleanse the odor of the room. The hull was stacked with crates tossed in at the last moment in complete disarray and obstructing a path to the rear of the vessel. Rene's vomit was on the floor only a few feet away from where the couple was embracing one another. Walls were mottled with filth that no one had yet had the time to wipe away. Everywhere they had stayed before this day was a more appropriate venue: Lord Armon's estate, Min Ho and Oanh's home, Amber Horizon, the sprawling yet gaudy plantation. Solae liked to think that it was so undignified it showed the depth of their connection. It took dedication, and a focus on the person rather than the place, to forge an engagement in a decrepit freight carrier.

"Congratulations!" Mia exploded over the speaker as she was no longer able to withhold the excitement she had been programmed to feel for this sort of event. The intercoms struggled to broadcast a prerecorded fanfare from a parade in which they could hear the jovial laughing and clapping of a crowd. The diplomat was so startled by the intrusion of the artificial intelligence she jerked in Rene's arms in alarm. Temporarily she had forgotten they were not quite alone.

"Thank you, Mia," she managed with a glance to the soldier who was less than enthusiastic about the interruption. "I'd like for you to.." she requested as leaned up with Rene's assistance, this time successfully, and let a brief bout of dizziness dissipate, "to run a diagnostic. Take an inventory of all the supplies that are internally stored as well. We're going to need to sanitize the living quarters if we're going to be traveling in space for the next few days at a minimum."

"I have located a cabin with a bed adequately sized for both you and Sir Rene," Mia intoned with a playful purr that was wildly inappropriate. The lights dimmed in the cockpit and the control screens winked out until the only real illumination was the distant sparkling of stars in an ocean of darkness. Tearing away her gaze from the glittering, breathtaking wonder Solae saw glowing strips appear on the walkway as the synthetic being tried to guide them towards what she sincerely believed to be what ought to follow an engagement.

"I'm sure Sir Rene would appreciate a shower, Mia. Is there one on board?"

There was silence and a soft clicking noise as Mia, who had already begun running the processes to comply with Solae's directive, tried to analyze the schematic. The Bonaventure had more limitations to its hardware than an opulent mansion's mainframe and thus Mia, firm and obedient ally that she was, was not living up to her previous capabilities entirely. "There is one shower directly adjacent to the captain's cabin and shared with the crew quarters. Unfortunately, only one of you will be able to utilize it at a time as it is compact by design," she said with obvious disappointment.

Solae laughed to herself and shook her head. They both needed to bathe, probably her worse than him given how long it had been, but she wasn't confident in her ability to walk more than a couple steps before falling flat on her face and causing her new fiance to panic. "How do you feel about a romantic evening of washing off the grime and checking my abrasions for me?" she jested. It wasn't what he probably wanted when he imagined proposing to a woman. She had only just escaped the clutches of respiratory distress, she was covered in sweat, she had a vague sensation of bleeding from more than one wound, and her hair was an unspeakable disaster zone that would have made beauticians declare it a national tragedy. It was, however, what they had, and she was happy for it all the same.
Much as she enjoyed the enthusiasm of the people waiting patiently in line to take a picture with her, Rhiane couldn't help but admit internally that she was starting to wear down slightly. The farmer had eaten so little that hunger was culminating in an unsteadiness of her limbs as the minutes ticked by. She cursed herself for not forcing the entree down her throat even if the stress of the date had made such a notion feel like an impossible feat of strength. Before they had left her quarters she had known that fatigue from abbreviated sleeping hours and poor rest would compromise her endurance. That now she was willing herself through something as silly as photographs was her fault alone. Fifteen minutes had passed and she regretted the snarky bravado that had made her feel compelled, at the time, to take the challenge laid unintentionally at her feet by Luke to grant everyone's request.

Buoyed by the experience alone she was still standing (albeit with her weight almost entirely on one leg) when Luke breezed into the room. The princess elect had drawn fortitude from all the smiles that were given to her so freely as arms were put around her shoulders or waist at her insistence- though she let only the women have this honor for she did not want to seem too familiar with men other than her fiance. Never before had so many people been so pleased to be in her presence. Sycophants though they might be she no longer felt like an ugly stain on the polished marble floor of the queen's throne room. That these people even thought to appeal to her, a commoner of low birth, someone who scrubbed bathrooms on her hands and knees, who had shoveled manure from the farm's few livestock, who had been almost stranded in muck during a storm that turned fields into quagmires, was nothing short of amazing. Empty platitudes paled in comparison to sincere flattery, but it was more than the nobility would give her. Had she believed herself capable she might have stayed at the restaurant's table until her literal collapse due to her reluctance to pull herself away from the fantasy. The cannolis were not the only gifts she was receiving in the dining establishment.

Surprisingly she did not protest as the crown prince picked her up. Rhiane made certain to wrap her box in her arms, flashed an apologetic smile at her admirers, and let herself be carted off. The reasons for this were two-fold. First, and most importantly, she recognized she was at a brink of physical ability even if Luke was motivated purely by his ego and impatience. Second, and of greater concern to the monarch of New Rome, she knew that thrashing or visibly trying to escape would mar their image. Her royal consort may not be horribly worried about how he was perceived by the masses but it was all the princess elect could truly contribute. Were Rhiane to falter and stumble, to prove herself a blemish rather a boon, it was not beyond the queen's capabilities to have her replaced.

"How did you...," she started to ask as Luke whispered she did not have to indulge the patrons if she was in pain. Blinking in shock she realized that not only did the crown prince take note of how her injury afflicted her he almost cared. It was hard to remember the last time anyone had paid attention to her as he did just now. Both her father and brother were fine men but they had become so accustomed to her shouldering the burden of everything they did not pause to consider her weaknesses. For them she had to maintain an illusion of being indestructible and unfaltering.

In that moment she actually liked Luke. He was the first person she could remember that made her feel it was okay to stop, to breathe, to be herself, even if it was fleeting. Even if he was going to be an unmitigated asshole for the next decade he deserved a reward for the glimpse of compassion.

As they passed by the media, who were poised for this exact opportunity, she leaned into Luke's chest and prayed he would not ruin the mirage she was about to bedazzle them with. Her face turned slightly towards him, a faint blush on her cheeks, was a portrait of an intimate couple that had just been caught inadvertently rather than intentionally on camera. The the hand not grasping her carton she lightly laid upon his clothing and let curl on the fabric. They were politically engaged, not in love, but the subtleties that Rhiane utilized made her the bride being whisked away by a protectively possessive groom. That his jaw was set and his visage cold only played to the narrative rather than against it. It might not be enough to salvage all that had gone wrong during the date itself but it would be the perfect finish that had been commanded of them and help ensure the leash was not tightened.

It was not until they were inside she relaxed. "Thank you," she said once they were alone. For what she did not clarify. In truth she had gratitude for more than one reason but she felt awkward announcing it to someone who held her in such contempt. Rhiane let her head lull against the window as she breathed in deeply and let out a slow exhale. The reception of their outing would be mixed sentiments as it was relayed by the audience at The Briks, but it would almost certainly escape punishment. They had a long way to go before anyone would be convinced of their charade. Last night she had only a bleak outlook on the future but were a glimpse of hope in the storm clouds. It was not beyond Luke's ability to show her respect or empathy as a fellow human being.

The princess elect sighed and opened her box, withdrawing a single cannoli, and ate it slowly. Weary as she was she wanted to savor the flavors and to make certain she got as few crumbs as humanly possible on the interior of the Austre.
Can vouch for Penny being an amazing RP partner!
It was hardly surprising that Luke objected to her offer to take a picture with the generous gifter. The princess elect had a plethora of reasons she could imagine for him doing so: he was dedicated to being contrary to her wishes, he wanted to make a hasty exit, he believed all the commoners around were beneath being allowed a single snapshot with his fiancee, he was in a poor disposition, he was unimpressed with his lunch, he wanted to control her every action as retribution for her defiance. As he had not showed himself to act with her best interests in mind she would not heed the warning. Were the crown prince a man who was legitimately concerned with her well-being she would have excused herself with profuse apologies. Luke's own hubris colored their every interaction as surely as hers did as well. Because he did not believe she could or would give advice that would work to their conjoined advantage she assumed it was because he operated with an exclusively self-serving motivation. Lack of both faith and trust defined their relationship.

Rhiane smiled at the manager who was all too happy to have more positive publicity in addition to what their visit had already generated. Perhaps it was silly of her but she felt an instant connection with the businesswoman. The former farmer had more in common with the manager of the restaurant than she had with anyone residing at the balance. While the woman may have had better circumstances as this area was more affluent than her home town they undoubtedly went through similar struggles. They worked positions of oversight, of handling vendors and employees, of organizing the premises, of negotiation, and neither were compensated adequately in comparison those that lived luxurious lives off trust funds.

Despite his arrogance Rhiane did not expect Luke's refusal to be as abrasive as it had been. That he had not hesitated before delivering the rejection did not help matters. With a smile still plastered on her face she tried to not let it dampen her mood as quickly as it had done to the patrons. No longer was he a charming man making apologies for a less than ideal date. The daggers in his eyes, his icy exterior, and flat tone more expressive than his visage.

"If you insist," she whispered back to Luke as he passed by. Since he was going to damn her either way she would capitalize on the sarcastic offer. Hopefully he enjoyed the exterior of the building for she would grant every request made in his absence. News outlets might make headlines questioning the sincerity and dedication of the groom but the bride would do everything in her power to be the beacon of hope the poor needed. She had to be proof of their value. There was no better way to vault the image of the poverty-stricken into a compassionate light than to ooze all the virtues conventionally held.

"Would you mind coming to my table?" Rhiane asked her new acquaintances once Luke had stalked outside. "I'm afraid I'm still sporting a brace from yesterday evening," she said with an apologetic smile and gesture towards the leg everyone had seen crumple under her yesterday on broadcast. There had been more replays in slow motion than she could stomach.

"Oh, oh of course!" The quintet almost overturned their chairs in haste to get to the table at which Rhiane and Luke had sat. The princess elect carefully picked up her carton of cannolis as the single very fortunate photographer was escorted into the room by security.

"Would you mind taking a picture of me with these gentlemen?" Rhiane asked the confused woman with a large camera hanging from her neck.

"No, not at your all Mrs. Black," she hurriedly replied as if afraid anything less than instant enthusiasm might find her replaced. There was a saying of not looking a gift horse in the mouth and at this very moment the photographer decided to respect the wisdom contained within the saying.

Six bright, jubilant faces were snapped in over a dozen flashes just to be certain that one captured the moment to Rhiane's satisfaction. The princess elect thanked her new friends again for their support and consideration once they were done and the photographer, still ruminating over her good fortune, handed them her business card. She had been about to do the same to The Briks store manager and Rhiane when the latter raised her hand in a gentle but firm refusal.

"Ah, before we do that... is there anyone else who would like a picture? Madam Manger, I would be remiss if I did not invite you as well. Please try not to think too poorly of Prince Luke. He is so busy with work and I am sure he won't mind if we are just a bit longer. In fact, I must confess what kept him so pre-occupied before is likely the focus of his attentions right now, and he will enjoy some time to focus." Another brilliant, sparkling grin that did not appear to be anything other than genuine. This was her chance to bask in the adoration that was given to royals at birth by virtue of simply existing. With no competition for the affections of the people she would lap up all she could receive so as to bolster herself later when the courts tore her down to a creature worth not even a shred of decency much less recognition.

"You are too kind, Ms. Black," the store manager said with a flush that gave her the illusion of youth. The waitress lingering by her side was slack-jawed with amazement that was mirrored on the countenances of other customers.

"Ms. Photographer, would you mind terribly?" Rhiane asked innocently as if she were imposing.

"Not at all!" This was the opportunity of a lifetime for the photographer. This exclusive guaranteed her sums of wealth that would secure her future for years to come; no one was a bigger endorser of the princess elect than the individual that stood to make a sizeable profit from her magnanimity.

"Let's form a queue," the store manager proclaimed as she clapped her hands together.
Solae had fallen unconscious although she would not be able to recall herself at what point the world went black. Her memory was scrambled and blurred by overwhelming sensations that had collided aggressively with medical distress. Inertia slamming her into one side of her seat (as it had done to Rene), deafening noises, vertigo caused by reckless acceleration and deceleration, and a litany of other stimuli had been too much for her body to handle. Unable to process the whirling images and sounds around her she had been ejected into nothing. The marquise did not dream for she was not asleep. Every mental process not dedicated to self-preservation had been shut down as if she herself was a ship focusing only on life support systems. She might have drowned in that void without waking had it not been for the timely intervention of the very man who had saved her many times before.

The injection of both adrenaline and anti-inflammatory medication was followed by the faint whistling sound of Solae's breathing, which was being forced through a swollen windpipe, morphing itself into a less troubling wheeze. Sputtering she began to cough up phlegm speckled with the unintentionally inhaled byproduct of combustion that had been the source of so much irritation. As restricted airways shrank back and allowed more oxygen color began to return to her cheeks. There were still injuries that would take more time to remedy, such as the hip wound that was perpetually strained to the point its healing failed to progress, but none were lethal. Solae would be uncomfortable but not in any true danger.

"Rene," she groaned. Eyes fluttered open a few seconds later; she had not needed to see the soldier to instinctively know his embrace. The diplomat tried to move herself upright but even with chemical assistance her muscles protested sufficiently she abandoned the attempt. Everywhere ached. Her legs were sore from sprinting, her hip throbbed where sutures barely held in place, her torso was bruised from both falling in the altercation with the slavers and them being tossed around in her console seat, her neck was damaged from the heat, and there was a gash on her cheek from a protruding sugar cane stalk, yet she was happy to be alive. They had escaped. Nothing that plagued her now had permanent consequences. Time, supplies she knew were on board, and rest would aid in her full recovery.

"Rene... let's get married," she proposed without any grace. Her head was swimming and she was disoriented, unable to focus on any his facial features individually, but she was not delusional. "If... if something happens to me you can inherit everything that passed on to me from my parents," she continued. Both of her cousins could object and stake a claim on the Falia fortune but it would take ages for them to have even a chance of success given the complicated legal system. Their names would be dragged through the mud due to their distance to Solae prior to the attack on New Concordia. Being labeled as greedy did not stop many, not when there were vast sums of money being contested, but it would do them no favors. Even now she could hear accusations of them being petty, not truly caring about their lineage, about being indirectly responsible for her family's passing for not intervening even if impossible, possibly how they did not deserve their status.

Although they were safe now, and the Stellar Empire was closer than it had even been before, the linguist was truly beginning to grapple with her mortality. She had enough brushes with death she had no illusions that she was invulnerable. The vessel on which they were traveling was not a carrier equipped for blazing speeds or equipped with communications that would immediately secure their future. Solae was internally pensive and scared of not only another attack of the rebellion but what would occur after she was gone. They might need to travel for weeks before finding the right general to listen to their report and in that time anything, absolutely anything, could happen. Between herself and Rene she was the weakest link.

While an engagement, and marriage, as preparations for her demise might be unpalatable she could not deny she had an ulterior motive. Speaking to the Syshin had made it apparent to her that the actual bond between herself and Rene was fledgling at best and had no proper name. They were not dating because there hadn't been a chance for romantic outings to the theatre, a restaurant, or a perfectly manicured park. Boyfriend and girlfriend were not applicable labels either since they had not had the need to have an explicit discussion for the few. Being a girlfriend suggested a more flippant attachment as the scions that utilized it were not seriously courting on a whole and instead were using one another for mutual gratification. Only a fiance and fiancee meant much of anything in the world of the elite as it was a contractual obligation to not turn on one another, not to discard one another so easily, that there was even a chance of something more lasting and meaningful. Solae did not fit into the conventional marquise mold but she was undoubtedly shaped by some of their social expectations and thoughts.

It was equal parts selfish and selfless. Perhaps Rene, kind and gentle as he was, would see only the latter. She had warned him to turn away from her before she was unable to let go. There had been no doubts in her mind she would become possessive and needy as both time and dire circumstances entrenched him more deeply in her heart. Now that he had refused to do so Solae found herself finding reasons to try to grip onto him in desperation.
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