Akihiko could never really get into parties. He could see why people would like them. The bright and giddy atmosphere, the music, the laughs and the dancing….it was all nice but he couldn't get into it. It all seemed a bit annoying to him if he were honest. He found more comfort in the solitude of his room than being surrounded by people and having to act polite. The prince sighed, looking over the dancing guests with slight distaste.
The party was a last minute surprise to him, having only heard of it yesterday morning. It was obviously another ploy by his father to get his sons marry. Honestly he should just give up. Haruhiko was too stand offish to woo any sensible woman and Akihiko himself was not even attracted to women. This whole ploy was in vain and would end like all the others. In failure.
After another hour drags by Akihiko decided he couldn't stand just sitting on his throne. He gets up, ignoring his father's look and going down to step away from the commotion. "Jesus…" he muttered as he leaned against the wall, taking off his stupid crown. He closed his eyes, relaxing for a few seconds before hearing a familiar voice.
"Akihiko!" he looked to the right and saw his personal maid running over to him. "What do you think you're doing running away like that? You had the King worried, plus you're making a bad impression on the people!"
"It's not like it matters, I won't be taking the throne for a while. Besides I am sure father will choose Haruhiko over me and my 'daydreams' as he puts it." he shrugged, pushing his hair back.
"Idiot. You still need to make a good impression. You are the prince." she fiddled with his hair and tried to fix it. "Whether you gain the throne or not, you should still be nice to the people. It's your job."
"Miss Aikawa, please. You're making my hair worse." he waved her hands away. Before she could continue her nagging he heard his father calling everyone to gather round.
She looked at him, "You have to go out there. Please? After this you can leave I promise." she said, nodding and looking at him expectantly.
"Fine. But after the speech I am done." he huffed, putting his crown back on his head. She curtsied before pushing him back out and towards his throne. He smiled politely as some of the crowd members called out his name and waved. Even if he loathed being here, he at least knew to wave back when it came to the common folk. He had a soft spot towards them, anyways. Living such simple lives...must be pleasant not to be controlled on every detail of your life.
The King, Fuyuhiko, stood up elegantly. His back was straight and there was a warm smile on his face, automatically calming the crowd. "Ladies and gentleman, I hope you are all enjoying yourselves. It is a pleasure to have you grace my ballroom." he said, his voice light and polite. Akihiko resisted the urge to sigh and roll his eyes. His father was a good faker. After the crowd was done clapping he cleared his throat, "I must admit, this party was more than just for pleasure. As you know, I am growing older, and soon I will have to give up my throne to one of my sons." The two princes looked at each other before looking away, scowling slightly. "Tonight, I have invited princesses and noble women from all the neighboring kingdoms to attend the party. Ten will be chosen at the end of the festivities and will stay for two months to try and prove their worth as suitors to my sons. So, without further ado, I am proud to welcome the young ladies of the neighboring kingdoms." he motioned to the main door.
It opened slowly, revealing a group of women of all shapes and sizes waiting patiently. The crowd cheered as they all marched in one by one. It was easy to see where they came from simply by their clothing. Some were from the snow, others the desert or valley. Akihiko observed them idly, about to lose interest till he noticed one trailing behind all the others. She was taller than most yet just as thin and petite. Her hair was in a bun and, by her long dress, heels and thin fabric, no where near the cold climate. Either the valley or the desert he wasn't sure but it was one of those two. Usually he would look away but she stuck out so much it was a bit embarrassing. She was trying to look elegant, he'd give her that. Still, she had a bit of a delicate air around her which kept her from making a fool of herself.
After the introductions were over the party continued with the females starting to go try and talk to the princes. Akihiko took the chance to disappear just like before although for good this time. Hopefully. He decided his brother could handle all the women without him. So quietly he slipped away, making an excuse when he passed by one of the princesses and avoided being lured into conversation. He quickly walked down the halls, taking the long way to his room to avoid any more chance encounters. How was he going to live like this for two months? Having to escape everyone and avoid all the suitors? It was going to be hell to just walk out of his room- He stopped when he noticed one of them was standing in the hallway, looking over one of the vases in the hall.
Before he could turn on his heels and go the other way she looked up at him. "Oh." she straightened up and put her hands behind her back, bowing. "Uh, hi. I was just looking at..that." she motioned to the vase.
She looked awkward, too awkward for a noble woman. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be out there."
"I could say the same." she shot back, her voiced raised. She relaxed a bit, keeping her voice level, "I'm not one for parties. Besides I'm not all that interested in the...competition." she wrinkled her nose a bit.
"Then why be here?"
"All eligible women were chosen and my name was picked to go for my kingdom."
"The Valley Kingdom?" When she nodded he frowned, "What's your name again?"
She hesitated, her shoulders tensing up again. "Manami Kajiwara." she muttered, bowing again.
"No, you're not." he said suddenly, "I've met her before….you are not her." He remembered her clearly, it was the day his heart was broken. He remembered Takahiro, his childhood friend/love interest, introducing her to him. Takahiro had been a messenger then, but had found another job elsewhere. He still sent a letter once a month to see how Akihiko was doing.
The girl frowned, "Yes I am! You don't remember me-"
"For starters, her hair was longer, and her eyes were brown, not green." he took a step closer, watching her retreat back a step, "She was shorter as well. Now why don't you tell me who you really are? I know her boyfriend, and he will not be pleased to find out she was impersonated."
She stopped and looked at him with surprise. "You know my brother?"
She bit her lip before speaking. "I'm...his sibling. Misaki Takahashi." she said, looking down. "And he knows, sort of."
Akihiko frowned, he remembered Takahiro mentioning having a sibling. This must be his sister. He couldn't see much of a resemblance though. "Why are you pretending to be her then? You wanted to marry me?"
She scoffed and crossed her arms, "As if!" she seemed a little relieved though that he wasn't angry, "You see...they had called her up to be offered. She's engaged to my brother, but he doesn't have the money to marry her right now. And because of that, she was going to be forced to come here. So...I took her spot." she frowned and looked up at him, "Please don't tell anyone."
He smirked a bit, sighing, "I won't. I don't care about this competition. Besides I doubt you will be chosen." he began to walk away but was stopped by Misaki.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she pouted
"You aren't exactly a graceful flower. If Miss Kajiwara were looking for a replacement she should have found someone able to do the job."
"What a rude thing to say jerk!" she stomped her heel, "I'd like to see you walking in heels!"
He laughed and she just fumed. He would admit, it was a selfless thing to do for someone so young. She must care a lot about Takahiro. However she seemed to be ahead of herself. Well, hopefully she will be sent home and they can all laugh over this. She seemed too nice to really be in anything this cut throat.
The two argued a bit till relaxing a little, "But seriously, why aren't you out there. You are the prince." She asked. They were both leaning on opposite sides of the wall, keeping a good amount of space between each other.
"Because I don't like parties. Besides I'm not fond of my father's schemes to try and get us to marry. It's a waste of time and a bother to everyone involved." he ran his fingers through his hair.
"It's still rude to leave in the middle of it all. The least you can do is show some respect."
"Don't patronize me, kid."
"I'm not a kid!"
Akihiko laughed and was about to say something when he heard footsteps. "Akihiko! There you-" Fuyuhiko stopped when he saw the two of them talking. Misaki quickly straightened up and fidgeted a bit. After some silence the king straightened up and cleared his throat, "Come back to the ballroom. We are about to choose the suitors."
"No. I've been there for an appropriate amount of time. I can leave." he huffed.
Fuyuhiko frowned and narrowed his eyes a bit, "Don't be childish. Come back this instant. You're making all of us look bad. I had to leave my throne just to find you." he said, voice stern.
Akihiko glared but looked down when he noticed Misaki fidget nervously. He paused before nodding and walking past his father. Misaki trailed behind, her heels clicking against the floor quietly. Fuyuhiko sighed but went back as well.
Once they were all in their appropriate places, The king and the prince back on the thrones and Misaki down with the rest of the common folk, he started. "It's a shame this party has to end, however it is time for all of us to go home and rest. But before that, I will call out the name of the suitors. The first is a princess from the desert…"
It seemed to take forever for them to come up and accept the keys to their rooms. Akihiko was zoning out but a certain name caught his attention. He opened his eyes and looked down at Misaki. She seemed as surprised as Akihiko, slowly walking up to the stage, grabbing her key before standing with the others. She looked at him, obviously worried and a bit annoyed. He could understand why, after all she was only here because she was filling in for someone else.
Once all the guests left Akihiko went up to the room was Misaki in. He knocked on the door, sighing slightly.
"Come in." She called, sounding a bit flustered. She was sitting on her bed, her shoes kicked off but still wearing her dress. She looked at him with slight worry, "You said I wouldn't be called."
"Well I was wrong."
"This isn't something you can just shrug off! I'm not supposed to be here! I was supposed to be sent home!" she ranted, standing up and pacing around the room, "If the King finds out I'm not really Manami! I'll be punished for impersonating a noble! What do I do?"
Akihiko sighed and put a hand on her head, stopping her. "Don't worry. The whole point is to try and wed one of us. However as long as you don't try or draw attention to yourself it won't matter."
"But if they find out-"
"They won't. I'll keep it a secret because you're Takahiro's sister. Alright?"
She stared at him for a bit before nodding and looking down. "Okay. Thank you."
He smiled a bit before putting his hands in his pocket. "I'll leave you to be now. Night."
"Night." she watched him go before closing the door and locking it. After making sure he was fully gone she untied her hair and quickly took off the dress and corset, wearing nothing but pants.
"Shit...how am I going to get through two months like this?" Misaki flopped down on the bed and used a towel to wipe off the dumb make up. He hadn't actually thought he'd fool anyone with this disguise, but it worked. Maybe he looked girlier than he thought. Still, it was all last minute. He saw how sad he and his sister in law were and just acted irrationally. He didn't think he'd get this far.
"Well...At least Akihiko has my back...I think." Misaki pulled the blanket over his head and tried to fall asleep, despite all the trouble on his shoulders.
It was going to be a long two months…
((A/N: Please Leave reviews! It encourages me :3 Originally posted on archieve of our own.))