Once, in Beijing, a young girl in a red gown huddled in a doorway.
Passersby ignored the frail, shivering thing, their eyes never dropping, their heads never turning. She might have been a doll in a window, or something someone left behind. She wasn't any of their business.
A little round boy with a little round face in his little grey jacket wrapped around his little round belly poked at the girl with his little round foot.
The girl, who wasn't much older than he, looked up from the protective valley of her arms and smiled at him. The little boy's heartbeat quickened, excited, delighted at the beautiful face, the gentle smile, like something he'd seen in book, once. A little girl who slept in a shop doorway and sold matches, a little girl in tatters. But this one was beautiful in a beautiful red dress.
He made a tiny bow.
"Your majesty," he said.