The Black Rose
A forbidden love between Princess Mai and Joey results in Serenity having to pose as the princess in an attempt to save both lives. (AU -SetoxSerenity)
(Disclaimer: Have I mentioned that I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh?)
(a/n: As this is AU, it's not set in a particular time period or place.)
One -The Spell
"It's not fair..."
Serenity Wheeler paused for a moment from flinging gowns and dresses from her wardrobe. On her bed lay the clothing in a spectrum of color and lace. The material was shoddy and at the hem of nearly every dress, dirt was visible. Her family was poor, but it didn't bother her. Riches were something she had never even seen, so there was no point in pining over it. She had hoped that by dumping the contents of her wardrobe in anger, her brother would reconsider his decision. However, it was to no avail. Her brother was as stubborn as a mule, among other things.
"Seren, don't be angry. I'll be back before you know it," her brother soothed, leaning against the doorway of her room.
"But I don't like the idea--"
The situation was ludicrous, yet outrageously typical. The peasant boy. The runaway princess. An evil wizard. A spell. The rift. And a mission.
As much as Serenity hated the thought of her brother risking his life, she knew he had no choice. His eternal love, Princess Mai Dauphine Valentine, had been cast into a spell of deep sleep. The only way to save her from transgressing into an eternal slumber was to retrieve the powder of the Black Rose, which only grew in the darkest depths of the forest, where even the sun was unable to penetrate. It was rare for anyone to emerge from the forest with a Black Rose in hand, and only one miraculous man had managed to accomplish the task.
"Listen, Serenity, I will get that rose and come back alive. For both your and Mai's sake."
"I need a favor."
"What is it?" Serenity asked, taking a step forward. "I shall do anything for you, brother."
Joey took in a deep breath and then released it meditatively, eyes closed. "Serenity, I need you to pose as Princess Mai."
His eyes opened. "Sis, I would never ask you this unless it was important," Joey pleaded. "Please. When I met Mai, she hadn't arrived at the Azure Palace. The King or royal family hasn't even met her yet! Mai is already a month late in arriving; people are becoming suspicious. Word will reach Mai's homeland that she failed to arrive and a war may erupt!"
"Mai is the King's fiancée, isn't she?" Serenity asked, although she knew the answer.
"Please, Serenity. For our kingdom."
"And what if Mai awakens?" Serenity asked. "The King will surely be able to tell the difference between the two of us."
Joey lowered his eyes, which had darkened to the shade of hardened mud. "You haveta somehow repel the King. Have the engagement broken off. Mai will return to her Kingdom once before we go off an' elope."
"No..." Serenity whispered, finding the plan selfish and risky, nonetheless impossible. Her? A princess? The concept made her blush more than it did laugh. On top of it all, inside of her ran words of negativity -scandal, pain, defiance, fraud.
Her worried countenance lowered Joey's spirits further and he kicked the rough stone floor of his sister's room.
"Never mind, Serenity. I was thinkin' with my heart instead of my head." He looked up and placed his hands heavily on Serenity's shoulders, as if trying to pass his own plights onto her. "I want you to be safe. I can't believe I even considered the possibility of you bein' trapped in that castle with the King...'Our Savior', what ridiculous notion is that? The man is a toad! I would never go to war for him! Anyway, I'm digressing." He patted his sister affectionately on the shoulders. "Take care of Ma for me, will ya?"
Serenity hugged her brother and nodded. Before he left, she packed him imperishable foods and prayed for his safe return. However, she did not know that one week later, she would see him again. Had she glimpsed into the future, she never would have taken it upon herself to listen to her brother and impersonate Princess Mai.
Serenity hadn't realized her brother's desperation until he mentioned his hatred for the King, which Serenity had forgotten at the moment. The subject of their Highness was rarely brought up in their home, only times when their mother would mention seeing his servants of Joey complained about taxes. No commoner had seen the King. He kept himself in isolation within the palace, causing rumors to start circulating about him. Some said that he was deathly ill, and others that he was hideous, a creature so vile that plants withered when he passed by. However, he was a good King, especially in relation to his father. The previous ruler had been a ruthless tyrant, and a vast majority of the kingdom was impoverished. Now, everyone bloomed in prosperity. The residents of the kingdom were overwhelmed with the desire to set eyes on their savior; therefore, when it was announced that Princess Mai was to be engaged to the King, everyone was overjoyed.
Princess Mai's kingdom almost paralleled their own, which was why the match between the King and Princess was so elatedly received. Their people placed focus on pride and banished magic, which was deemed as the devil's ensnarement. The King and Queen, Mai's parents, were overly protective of their daughter. She was their only child. The King had wanted to change the law in order for Mai to inherit the throne and become Queen, yet he knew it was impossible. Instead, Prince Yami, the King's son from the Queen's sister, would become King. Mai was still important to the Royal family, nonetheless, being their legitimate child. By engaging her to the Kong of Domino, Mai was able to retain her rightful place as Queen. She would be only a three month journey from her homeland and by that, the King and Queen were satisfied.
They hadn't, however, taken into consideration Mai's feelings. She was furious, and from what she had told Joey and Serenity, thrown a fit.
"I broke at least twenty priceless vases," she had said with a toss of her golden hair. "It gets boring after a while."
Serenity sighed from her reminiscing. Mai had been on her way to the palace when she alluded her guards and ran off into the daily market. That was when she had literally bumped into Joey. She had lied that her guards were villains desiring the worst from her and caused Joey to bring her into hiding in his blacksmith's shop. From there, they had fallen in love.
Serenity remembered Joey coming home, happier than he had been in a while. He was deliriously blinded by love, planning to make Mai his wife and have many children with her. Mai seemed equally happy, although there was this constant sadness which would overwhelm her at times she should have been overjoyed. It wasn't until Mai had ran into Joey's shop, disheveled, that he found out whom she truly was.
As it turned out, a wizard by the name of Marik was obsessed with desiring to destroy Mai's royal family. He had attempted to attack Prince Yami, but realized that no one really did care whether or not the illegitimate child of the King survived or not. And although Marik hated to admit it, Prince Yami had evaded his every move with surprising dexterity. Thus, Marik was forced to go after the weak point in the family, which happened to be Mai. For the past year, she had been struggling to prevent herself from being killed by him, and on that fateful day, Marik had found her and nearly accomplished what he desired. Mai had been in the forest gathering herbs when Marik apprehended her. He had fired several lightening bolts at her, but Mai had managed to evade him when one of the trees the bolts hit split in the middle, fell, and then knocked him out cold.
Mai was prepared to go back to the palace and forget about her love for Joey, but he refused, stating that he did not care whether or not she was a Princess and an insane wizard was after her. He desired to love and protect her for as long as possible.
The Princess, delighted, remained with Joey and they became betrothed. However, in her joy, Mai began to leave her defenses down. A week later, Serenity and Mrs. Wheeler arrived home to find Mai unconscious on the floor, a basket of mini-muffins scattered beside her. In her hand was a half eaten mini-muffin.
Joey, obviously, went berserk and ran around flailing until his friend, Yugi, shook him until he had calmed down. The muffins were later on examined and found to contain grinded moonstone, which caused the mind and body to ink into the depths of eternal sleep.
"Serenity?" Mrs. Wheeler called out, snapping Serenity out of her thoughts. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"
Serenity nodded. "I must, if we are to preserve our family's honor."
"I don't even know where to begin..." Mrs. Wheeler said, shaking her head. "A princess! Our princess! It's too much to even think about, nonetheless... do!"
Serenity, on the other hand, had an inkling about where to seek help. However, she was well aware that she would be worked to the bone in the process.
"Princess! We had been worried sick!" the steward cried out, pushing past the servants who had let Serenity and Tea inside. "Where have you been?"
"We were sidetracked," Tea said sharply, cutting in for Serenity. "The monsters are absolutely outlandish in these parts!"
"I'm deeply sorry for your troubles, Miss...?"
"Gardener," Tea said. "I am Serenity's nurse."
"You're a young one, aren't you?"
"Oh, don't flatter me," Tea exclaimed, following with a coquettish laugh.
"Well, as much as I would adore to talk to you more, I have a meeting to attend," the steward said, motioning for a servant to come their way. "Please show them to their rooms."
The servant nodded. "Please follow me, Princess. I must say that it is an honor to be finally meeting you."
Serenity inwardly gasped as two fingers pinched her on her arm and she suddenly remembered one of the rules she had been told: never be kind to people of lower status than you.
"I'm sorry, Tea," Serenity whispered as the servant led them further inside the palace.
"Just be more careful next time," Tea warned in a threatening tone. "And don't turn your head to talk to me! You should never have to exert effort to get attention!"
"Effort?" Serenity's whisper turned to a near yell and the servant stopped for a moment, turning around to address the 'princess'.
"Is everything alright?" he asked.
Once again, Tea answered for Serenity. "Of course it is!" she snapped in a tone that mirrored the one she used with Joey. The servant nodded and continued leading them thought the palace. Serenity struggled with herself to refrain from ogling at the spectacular artistry of the palace. The ceiling required a good craning of the neck to observe, decorated with strained glass designs of fantastical creatures that Serenity had dreamed of seeing, from fairies to dragons. There were high, pearly pillars, so pure that they placed snow to shame. The floors appeared so delicate, created from fine sky blue marble, that Serenity felt offensive even standing on it.
"We will send a messenger in when the King is ready to see you," the servant explained, stopping in front of a chamber with two large marble doors. "Have a good rest, Princess."
It took an even greater amount of effort by Serenity to prevent herself from gasping. The room was beyond anything she had even seen. It was at least ten times larger than the entirety of her home, and filled with such beauteous artifacts and decor that she couldn't even fathom the worth of the room. The windows were so massive that she could see the entire forest and further from that, the rolling hills of lush green and mountains.
Immediately, Serenity ran to the window but found herself unconsciously drawn to the drapes, which, once felt, was made of a delphinium shaded silk. Its softness caused Serenity to question the very existence of it.
A loud sigh broke into Serenity's thoughts and she turned to the direction of it. Tea was sitting on the grand four poster bed, a large canopy above her and rich, heavily embroidered quilts beneath.
"I think we need to brush up on our lessons," she said, smoothing out the bottom of her periwinkle gown. "Do you not agree?"
Serenity's breathing became restricted as her breath caught in her throat with the horrible remembrance of the hurried three days and night spent with Tea and her lessons. Having no one else to turn to, Serenity made the horrible mistake of asking Tea for her guidance and suddenly found herself being squeezed into corsets and taught how to act like a princess. As Tea was a waltz instructor, she was well acquainted with the high class society's way of life. Therefore, she made sure that Serenity mirrored everything expected of a princess. She was scrubbed with rough stone to remove her callous skin and dumped into a freezing bath in order to look presentable. Every time she spoke unlike a princess, reverting back to the slang she was used to speaking at home, Tea would bring out her pony whip and smack Serenity hard on the arm. Just the thought of it caused Serenity to reach her hand up and rub her most likely bruised limb.
"Serenity, you know I hate doing this to you," Tea said, taking Serenity's hands and gesturing for her to sit on the bed. "But if we are caught, it will be our death."
Serenity nodded. "I'm sorry. I am grateful for everything you have done for me." She did indeed look the part of a princess, dressed in a long over-sleeved ruby gown, embroidered with gold, which split in the middle of the skirt to give it a more fuller, regal appearance. The bodice's neckline was rather low, but Tea insisted that it was the style that the royals wore these days. Tea's attire consisted of a periwinkle gown, which had a high collar and she wore a caul headdress. She had managed to get a seamstress to create both dresses for a decent price, and Serenity couldn't have been more grateful.
"It was nothing. Now-" She clapped her hands together. "-Why don't you get some sleep, hmm?"
"I am too worried to sleep," Serenity said, frowning. She stood up and walked to the window where she could view the entirety of the forest. "My brother is somewhere in there."
"He will come back alive," Tea assured. Yet somehow, Serenity was far from relieved. She eventually pulled up a chair to sit by the window while Tea brushed her hair, complaining about how it was too brittle to be a princess's.
"Tomorrow, I'm washing your hair in honey," she stated, while Serenity grimaced but said nothing. Suddenly, their silence was interrupted by a knock on the door. Wordlessly, Tea stood up and went to answer the door, where she saw a young man dressed in the court's uniform, whom she assumed was the messenger.
"The King will see the Princess now," he said, eyes flickering to where Serenity was sitting. Tea nodded and excused herself, saying that the Princess was in need to style her hair before the meeting.
"You need to look presentable," she explained, rummaging through her bag until she found a golden chest, one which had belonged to Mai. Opening it, she pulled out Mai's tiara -a strand of gold which would encircle Serenity's head, with magnificent jewels surrounded by golden wings that would attached to her hair above her ears and had a crystal in the shape of a teardrop that would lay on her forehead. Serenity had never seen Mai wear it, but assumed that she looked beautiful. Once Tea had successfully attached the tiara, she opened the door and they followed the messenger to the courtroom where the King was waiting.
Inside, the room was filled with nobility, all wishing to catch a glimpse of the princess. Serenity blushed when entering and it wasn't difficult for her to keep her head down as she walked up to where she assumed the King was sitting. Her heart beat fiercely beneath her bodice from anticipation of seeing the King for the first time. People bowed down as she passed them and once she had arrived in front of the throne, she curtseyed perfectly alongside Tea.
"Your majesty," the steward announced, who was standing beside the throne. "This is Princess Mai."
There was a heavy silence as the King narrowed his eyes. Finally, right when Serenity thought that she would faint from her constricted ribs and the pressure surrounding her, he spoke in a velveteen voice. "I thought that she was supposed to be stunning."
Serenity's cheeks burned from the insult, but nonetheless, she kept her eyes down, focusing on the red carpet beneath her. She could feel the King's eyes on her as he examined his future bride.
"Look at me," he commanded, and it took a slight nudge from Tea for Serenity to carry out the action. Once her eyes landed on him, she nearly gasped at the sight of the King, who was far younger than she could have ever dreamed. He must have been only a few years older than herself! He sat on the throne looking positively bored, arms folded and one leg over the other. He wore a crown that was not massive, but nonetheless didn't suit him. He had a rather thin frame from what she could see despite the crimson cloak around his shoulders, and chestnut shaded hair. What enticed her, though, were his eyes. They were such a deep blue that she felt ensnared by them and couldn't look away.
"So she is to be my bride..." he mused aloud, lowering his eyes to scan over the length of her again. Their eyes met for a moment before the King broke the gaze and stood up. "You may return to your quarters."
"Thank you, your majesty," Tea said, curtseying once more and Serenity following suit.
Once Tea had led Serenity out of the courtroom, she released a heavy sigh and leaned against one of the pillars. "I thought I was near death," she breathed, panting heavily. "He is undeniably rude. I don't know how I'm going to manage being around him for lord knows how long!"
"I'm scared of him," Serenity admitted, folding her hands together in a fit of nervousness. "It is as if he...saw right through me."
"Don't be ridiculous," Tea scolded, standing up from the pillar. "Now, let's get you ready for bed."
Serenity nodded, but the fear inside of her failed to quell. This King was different from the rest, and she realized that this was going to be more difficult than she imagined.
(a/n: I know, it's really boring so far, but I needed everything explained or else nothing would make sense. So... continue, or burn it? *holds up a lighter*)