AN: Let me begin by saying that it feels wonderful to be back. Now, let me continue by saying that I've had this story idea rattling around in my brain (and on my Word processor) for a little less than a year. However, I never felt any need or want to upload this up on ffnet, and after coming to college five months ago, had even less of an inclination to upload this or even write. But I went back to this story a few days ago and remembered just how much I loved it and went on editing and revising it. And so this is what I have.
This will be yet another chapter fic. How long it will be, I have no clue. I'm writing this as I get inspiration, which, I admit, has been very stingy with me lately since coming to California. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy it and read and review.
Warning: Updating will be far and few between. Yes, this will take a long time. I'm even uploading this during finals. So enjoy, and I hope to reading your reviews!
In Which the Prince Finds Out About His Future Wife
If there was one thing Shikamaru hated about living in an enchanted world full of unicorns, magic, and the strange creature known as the Aho Crow, it was that the weather was always the exact opposite of what he was feeling. For example, today was the worst day of his entire twenty years of living, and the sun was blazing and the sky was clear and the birds were singing and the Aho Crow was nowhere to be seen.
Shikamaru hated his life.
Actually, he hated his father. For choosing such an inopportune moment to decide he was dying.
Count on his father to start dying now, when his mother was bent on getting him married and onto the throne. Now that his father was on his deathbed, it was only natural he choose a wife and get that damn crown on his head.
Well, alright, he was being a bit unreasonable, and if there was anything Shikamaru wasn't, and trust him, there were a lot of things he wasn't, it was being unreasonable. It wasn't really his father's fault, but he could still blame him for the mess he was in now.
It had started earlier that morning. Early for him, that is. It had been only a few minutes before noon when a servant came in to inform him he'd been summoned to the great bedchamber by the King, and that if he didn't get there soon, the Queen would arrive herself to take him there. And it would most definitely not be pretty.
That meant his mother would storm into his room and drag him out by the ears. Which meant his ears would never feel the same again. Which meant he had to get up and go to see the King, whether he really wanted to or not.
So he did. And when he got there, he was greeted with a sight he would have rather not seen.
His father. In bed. Not naked, which he would probably have preferred over the image he did see, but that wasn't the point. His father lay in bed, his face sickly pale beneath the darkness of his olive skin. His eyes were barely open, his beard scraggly and anything but the well-kept beard the King usually wore. It was a frightening sight, seeing the King, who just yesterday stood tall and whined about how his wife made him do unnecessary, troublesome things.
His mother, the Queen, stood only a few feet away from the bed, tired and distressed. Her head jerked up at the sound of Shikamaru's voice. "Don't call the King that!"
Shikamaru shrugged halfheartedly and took a step towards his father, scared to do much of anything. "Pops?" he asked again, his voice cracking.
His father turned slowly to look at him through half-lidded eyes. "Ah, Shikamaru. I thought I heard your mother's angry voice."
His mother scowled. "For a dying man, you sure know how to anger your wife."
He chuckled, a weak, brittle laugh that wracked his chest and made Shikamaru's hairs stand on end. "I'm glad you came on time."
"I have a simple request, boy. You see how I am. Will you do as I ask?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"No." That was his mother. Of course.
His father coughed into the comforter held up to his face. "I am dying. I don't know how this happened, but I awoke this way and I'm not one to argue with fate."
"Or anything," his mother muttered darkly.
"Like your mother said, I don't like arguing with much of anything. But I request one simple thing from you, boy. Please… get married. Take over the throne. Before I die. I want to see you married and in your proper place before it is time for me to go… Please… son."
Shikamaru was sure that those were the most words his father had ever spoken to him at one time. And he was absolutely terrified.
His father was just like him—only spoke when necessary, and when he had to speak, used the fewest amount of words to say what he had to say. Why waste breath you could possibly need for something else? In fact, why make such an effort when it was far from needed?
So the very fact his father had gone to the lengths of saying what he had said in the amount of time and breaths he took, Shikamaru knew this was very serious business indeed. His father was serious. His father was dying. The life he knew was going to change.
His father gave a wheezing cough, one that made Shikamaru's insides churn with disgust and fright. He knew he had only one thing he could possibly do.
"Okay, Dad. I will."
And so it began.
He sat in his room for most of the day. He couldn't face the outside world. He couldn't bear to see his mother pace the outside of her bedchamber, her eyes swollen with tears he had not seen her shed. He couldn't bear to see the servants run around, confused, shocked, and waiting for the inevitable to happen. He couldn't bear to watch the world he knew suddenly change right before his eyes.
It wasn't that he was scared. Okay, so it was. But he couldn't admit that. Now that he had finally agreed to his mother's long standing wish and his father's dying request, there was no way he could possibly go out to face the world frightened of the future.
He couldn't believe it. He was a man of principle—things he could see, he accepted. He was not one to argue with the factual, with the known. But this? This was unbelievable. Things like this didn't happen. They were things he heard about from servants, things he overheard through the vine, things Ino—his best friend for years he would rather forget—told him. But things like this didn't arrive at his front door.
He was just about ready to end his own life, because he knew whoever his future wife was would end up doing it anyway, when his door opened and in walked Ino, a very happy Chouji by her arm.
"I heard!" Ino exclaimed, slipping her arm out skillfully as she glided towards him, brilliant smile plastered on her beautiful fair face. "Shikamaru Nara is getting married!"
"Not by choice," Shikamaru reminded her, staring at her through his eyelashes. Moodily, like a proper whiner.
Chouji took a seat beside him on his large bed, the mattress shifting to accommodate the extra weight. "Well, Shika, it's about time you settled down. You're the future king."
"So I need a woman by my side?" he asked darkly.
Ino nodded vigorously. "Obviously."
Chouji patted his arm, always the mediator. "Shika, you have to see this logically. You're going to be the king. Your kingdom needs to see that you're mature. Sure, you can go out and battle wild boars and kill snakes, but that can only show so much of your bravery."
"And he's too lazy to even do that," Ino mumbled.
Chouji continued, "See, Shika. You need to prove to your people that you are ready to take up the throne. And people need a lot of convincing. You can promise them things and give them speeches, but they need to be reassured. You're a twenty year old boy. To anyone with a brain, you're not the wisest choice, regardless of your parentage. You have to show them, by marrying and by taking charge, that you are ready for the role."
"That is the stupidest reason for marriage I have ever heard," Shikamaru said, his distaste with the entire situation laced in his words. "I'd rather just not take over at all."
Ino's hand made a loud noise as it connected with the back of his head. "Don't you say that! You are our future! If people heard this—"
Shikamaru nodded lazily. "I get it, I get it. But this is a lot of pressure on me. I just don't want to marry some foreign stranger. Knowing my luck, she'd be blonde and loud. Like you."
"I like blondes…" Chouji whispered, trailing off.
Ino rolled her eyes. "Shika, you have to be sure. You're risking quite a bit when you say things like that. Are you ready to accept the responsibility of having to reassure an entire kingdom that you're ready for the job without using the easiest way to do so?"
Shikamaru paused. Ino was right; this was something serious. He had to be sure that it was all worth it. Not marrying this girl, upsetting his mother, going against his father's wish. Was he ready to face the repercussions? Was not marrying some girl worth it?
Ino nodded, a dark smile lifting her perfect lips. "Then we start the moment she arrives."