A/N: Welcome to this THING. It has been eating away at my LIFE. I've been working on it for quite some time now. Family trees, line of healers, medical facts concerning pregnancy and childbirth and a number of other things.
And yes, if you notice a resemblance to La Traviata (and by extent Moulin Rouge!) then you would be right. I started writing this the day after I saw said opera with my dad. He fainted during the second intermission so I never saw the end. Instead I got to ride to the hospital with my dad in an ambulance. Not fun...
So yes. To which show this is should become apparent eventually. As of now though I'm just gonna say that I don't own the Cirque, nor do I own La Traviata or anything that bears any resemblance to anything else.
BEWARE, THIS WILL BECOME A SAGA.
"This is a time of great uncertainty," said Noriko. "Is it wise for you to throw such a magnificent party?"
Michiko laughed and said, "That is why! We must lighten the spirits of our warriors, should we not? And what better way to do this than for a courtesan to throw a party or two?" Her friend smiled, and nodded.
"I do suppose you are right. Come, let us join them." The two women walked together back into Michiko's great hall, in which her party was continuing in a loud laughing mass. The warriors, the tattooed strong men, were dancing with women and their husbands were laughing together over a game of cards.
"Gracious hostess," laughed one of her guests, approaching Michiko. "There is someone I must introduce you to." Michiko unfolded her fan and hid slightly behind it.
"Come, I should like to see him," said the courtesan with a smile. He led her to where a young man, with a tattoo of high military rank was on his shoulder. He was speaking with Michiko's suitor, Baron Suzumiya.
"My gracious hostess, I should like to introduce Prince Akihito." The prince bowed to the courtesan, who curtsied elegantly.
"A pleasure to formally meet you," said the Prince. "I was just discussing with the Baron Suzumiya about how to best defend ourselves against the Kingdom of KÀ to the south. But thoughts of war have fled at the sight of your radiant face." Michiko smiled.
"I am likewise pleased to meet you, your highness. What I have been told of your handsome face does not come across to be a lie."
"Yes," said the guest who introduced them, Kaito. "And he is said to be a great admirer of yours." The courtesan's brows rose, and a smile came to her painted lips.
"Is that so, good prince?"
"Yes, I must admit it is," said the Prince. Her smile grew and she announced to the room at a whole,
"Come! Let us drink and be merry!" Servants served alcohol, and Michiko sat with Kaito and her suitor. "Now tell me about our prince Akihito."
Kaito smiled and said, "I told you about him some time ago, but he has always had an interest in you. When you were sick recently, he would ask me daily if I knew how you fared."
Michiko laughed and said, "My dear Baron, you have never been so attentive!"
"I have only known you a year," said the man in question. Michiko stood and said,
"And the prince has known me only a few minutes!" The Prince himself stood and said,
"That is true, but I am afraid I have been closely admiring of you for much longer, my lady."
The courtesan gave him a coy look and asked, "You have loved me for some time?"
"For a year now." She gave a quiet laugh and said to the Prince alone,
"I'm afraid that I am not very good at love." Then, to the room, "Come! Let us have a toast! Baron, perhaps you can summon a toast from the depths of your mind?" The man laughed and shook his head. "Then our regal guest. Let us have a toast!"
"Yes, a toast!" cried Noriko, raising her glass. Others followed their lead, and the prince said,
"This merry occasion seems more to a drinking song than an esteemed toast, dear friends. Do you know the drinking song from our eastern neighbor 'Libiamo ne'lieti calici'?"
"Of course," said Michiko. "Though…that is a love song as well as a drinking song."
"And yet one of the merriest." The guests all agreed with the prince, and the man began to sing, the musicians, who knew the song, joining. "Libiamo, libiamo ne'lieti calici che la bellezza infiora!" And on it went, Akihito and Michiko singing to each other while the guests sang in their parts. The songs from their eastern neighbor were well known and beloved by the upper class.
When the song came to a close the guests all applauded, and Michiko said, "Come, dinner should be ready and prepared." As she began to led her guests out, she suddenly stumbled. Akihito caught her, and Baron Suzumiya rushed to her side.
"Are you alright?" asked Noriko, not wanting to crowd her.
"Yes, just a bit dizzy. Go ahead, I just need to sit down for a bit," said Michiko, letting herself be guided to a chair. Her guests all went ahead, but the prince remained. "Your highness, you remain with someone who will not have you?"
He smiled. "I cannot abandon a lady I love. Are you quite sure you're alright?"
"Yes, I feel much better already. Yet you love me?"
"Yes." At her curious look, Akihito continued. "A year ago, I saw you. One day, but you caught me. This past year the face of beauty has been your face. I am aware it is shallow, but having met you I love you all the more."
"I am afraid, your highness, that I could only offer you friendship. I avoid love as I do not know how to love. It would be best, good sir, to simply forget about me and find a princess to love."
"Good madam. Is it truly wise to give advice to a prince without his permission?"
"I suppose not, your grace."
"Now we are at common ground. I daren't give you advice and you are not permitted to." The courtesan smiled at him.
"Come sir, I am feeling better. My doctor has been telling me I need to drink more water to keep from getting these dizzy spells. He says I may actually faint straight out and be bedridden. I do despise being bedridden."
"All do. If I may escort you to dinner?" Michiko stood and took his hand with a smile.
The two spent the rest of the party together, dancing and talking. The Baron Suzumiya knew his station and did not interrupt their laughing conversations. And the party went on for quite some time. When dawn began to color the east, the guests took their leave. Prince Akihito kissed Michiko's hand kindly before he too left.
Once she was alone, Michiko drifted up to her room, where her maid, Hoshi, helped remove her elaborate kimono. "Oh Hoshi, do you believe in true love?" she asked.
"I find it hard to find, madam," said the maid, smiling at her mistress. "I personally have yet to find a perfect match."
"But do you think it exists?"
"I know it exists."
"Oh? And who is the lucky man?" Hoshi hung up one of the layers and returned, removing the next.
"Prince Akihito. He was at my party this last night. Such a handsome, kind man."
"Well then he may be 'the one' for you." Hoshi, being very efficient, deftly removed the rest of the kimono and brought out a nightgown for her mistress. "Now will you be so kind as to change into this?"
Michiko moved behind the changing screen and did as she was told. "But Hoshi, what exactly is love? You of all people know I do not understand love."
"Love? Love is…I could tell you all the things the poets tell, but may I be candid?"
"I hope you will."
"Love hurts. It's deep in your heart, but then there are bursts of beauty and joy that make up for it. But they are sporadic and you can never tell when they're coming. Please, make certain that this love will have many of those bursts. I have known you for quite some time, five years now. I would be very displeased with our prince if he made you in the least unhappy."
"Well. Then I shall be forever flitting from pleasure to pleasure. I shan't remain pining for love."
"Nay, mistress. Love, when it is as you say yours is, can be wonderful thing. I wouldn't have you give that up for an instant. Keep your love." Michiko nodded, unbinding her hair and rinsing her face to clean it of the paints she wore.
Once cleaned, she kissed Hoshi's cheek. "Thank you for your advice," she said, yawning and going to the bed. Lying down, she fell asleep quickly.
"You look quite tired," said Princess Yoshiko. "Perhaps you should not go to this war meeting. I could go." Crown Prince Akihito gave her a look of unmasked annoyance.
"You may be my twin, but I have to decline," he said. "Besides, you have lessons."
"Ugh. Lessons. What use have I for learning baton dancing?"
"The first born daughter of the king must always learn baton dancing. It—"
"Is tradition, I know. But you simply must agree that I shan't have much use for it once married."
"And you think I have much use for learning how to fight handling a spear? We must each follow our customs. You know this."
Yoshiko sighed and waved to one of her maids, who came and immediately started to pin up her hair into the two buns on the top of head that a princess always wore. "So exactly where were you yesterday night?"
"My good friend Kaito from the military took me to a party arranged by the courtesan Michiko."
"So you went to a party? I am not certain how much our father will enjoy that fact, dear brother."
Akihito smiled at her and placed his crown upon his dark hair. "If he knows how I found the woman I shall marry there I believe he might."
"The woman you shall marry? And who is this woman?"
"The courtesan Michiko."
"Akihito, you saw her one day a year ago. You cannot decide…you have fantasized about her, have you not?"
"Not in the way you suggest! I merely held her as the embodiment of a fair woman. Nothing more."
"Very well. I hope that this decision is not one you will regret. Now remember, we are to meet with the Chancellor this afternoon." Prince Akihito nodded, and took his leave, leaving his sister to complain to her maid about baton dancing. Before the war meeting, he had to eat, or his stomach would be complaining the whole time and that would not do for a prince.
Returning from the kitchens with a peach in his hand, the Crown Prince made his way to the war room. Handing the pit to a servant to dispose of, Akihito entered the war room. His father, King Munehito, was already there, and speaking to one of his Generals.
"My son is no longer a child, good sir," he said tightly. "What he does is never in bad form to himself and to his family. Therefore I do not have to worry. I suggest that you refrain from insinuating that my son is anything but honorable." The general bowed, murmuring an apology, before moving to his seat. The king saw his son, and waved him over with a smile. Akihito approached and bowed to his father. "My son. Next time you attend a party, do not stay out until the sun is rising. It makes people talk."
"People do little else, father," said Akihito with a smile that matched his father's. The King let out a chuckle.
"Your mother very much enjoys saying that to me. Now come, we have a war meeting."
Unfortunately, Akihito had a bit of a hard time paying attention. His mind was drifting to think of the beautiful woman to whom he admitted his love. And she seemed rather accepting of his love so perhaps…and his father was hitting his knee. His father had been doing that since he first came at the age of thirteen and was unable to focus. It was a quick swat, but no one else could see it and it got the prince to pay attention yet again.
And so, the prince did his absolute best to maintain attention to what was occurring in the meeting. Not that it was going well. He simply could not focus. Thankfully, it was merely informing the two of the royal family of plans to protect them and their people. So Akihito was not expected to pay much attention. And he would get a transcript of what had happened anyway later in the day.
Michiko never had much she really had to do. That was the perk of being a courtesan. Aside from managing her estate, Michiko was completely free of all obligations. It was wonderful. So, she spent her day wandering her garden, holding a parasol to keep her skin porcelain white, thinking of her prince.
She had taken Hoshi's words to heart, and decided that she would love. And if she did it wrong then Akihito would tell her…right? Now when had she started to think of her prince by his name? That would never do! Prince Akihito would tell her if she loved incorrectly.
"Madam?" asked Hoshi. Michiko turned to the woman who had approached and smiled at her.
"Yes, Hoshi?" she said politely.
"A letter for you. From the Baron Suzumiya." She bowed and turned, heading off. Michiko went to a bench in her gardens, and read the letter.
My Lady Michiko Ran,
At your party this last night, I saw plainly the attraction between you and the prince of our land. And as such I have decided to retract my offer of marriage from the foreground. Should our prince be anything less than honorable in his declaration of love for you, then remember that I shall always consider it an honor to have your hand in marriage.
I deeply apologize for the bitterness this letter must convey. I feel no such emotion. I am quite pleased that our prince has found love with you, as he very well should given your fine character. I only wish to remain a fond memory, and perhaps a friend if I may be so lucky.
Your humble and everlastingly obedient servant,
Baron Taemin Suzumiya
Michiko smiled at the message her now former suitor wrote. He was very kind, she knew that from the year he had spent courting her, but it was unlikely that they would ever have any deeper connection than friendship. And that suited her fine.
Standing, the woman swore to write a cordial reply to Baron Suzumiya, and as such made her way to her study. For having very little connections to the actual royal court, she knew how to pen a very cordial reply to a very cordial letter. Which came in very handy.
"Madam?" ventured a young maid, opening the door and curtsying. "You have received another letter." Michiko nodded and handed the maid her letter saying,
"See that this reached the Baron Suzumiya."
"Yes madam." Michiko took the letter offered to her and was left alone again. As the courtesan read the letter her smile grew. Truly, her prince was quite sweet. Inviting her to a private dinner the day after he met her too! What would his father say?
Oh, look, he explicitly said what he assumed his father would say. A giggle escaped her lips. He certainly had a sense of humor too. When had the Crown Prince sent this, anyway?
Michiko penned the single most respectful letter she had ever sent, and sent it off to the Prince, rather terrified of what response she would receive. Not that anyone but Hoshi would notice.
The next morning, Prince Akihito found his sister sitting and reading a letter before she noticed him. When she did she merely smiled and said, "You certainly have chosen a polite woman to adore."
"You…you stole my letter!" said the Prince. Yoshiko smiled and held it out to her fraternal twin, who snatched it away.
"So, how are those defenses against KÀ going?" she asked, suddenly serious. "From what I heard from father we may actually go to war. And you know I am not allowed into war meetings. No place for a princess they say."
"Kishi," said Akihito, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Father and I are trying to protect us all. But there is only so much we can do. As far as we know, KÀ will not actually carry any threats out. They are a small, weak kingdom. Do you honestly think that they can conquer the Kingdom of the North?" Yoshiko smiled.
"No, I suppose not. I needn't worry with Father around, do I?" She stood. "Mother is expecting me to meet her in the gardens. And who am I to keep Queen Tamako the Serene waiting?"
"Her daughter who would like nothing more than to be a man and in the military like her brother," said Akihito with a smile. Yoshiko's face split into a wide grin.
"And I would be even higher ranking than you!" she poked at his tattoo playfully, before leaving with a grin. Akihito chuckled to himself, glad to have eased his sister's worries, and turned to the letter.
Michiko would come! She would be at the dinner the next day, and he was quite glad of that fact!
A smile crossed his own face, nearly as bright as his sister's at the prospect of teasing him, and he laughed in delight that the woman he loved would come to dinner and that he might be able to introduce her to his family.
A/N: So yes. I did actually take a duet from La Traviata. The song is titled "Libiamo, ne' lieti calici" and I recommend you listen to it. Especially when performed by Anna Netrebko (a singing idol of mine. WOW is she good) and Rolando Villazó n in Germany. LISTEN. ADORE IT.
The names of this royal family are all real. Emperor Toba of Japan used to be called "His Imperial Highness Prince Munehito" and his son, Emperor Sutoku was originally "His Imperial Highness Prince Akihito." Munehito married Empress Fujiwara no Shoshi whose personal name was "Tamako" Prince Akihito had six siblings and thirteen half-siblings. But one of his sisters was Princess Yoshiko, otherwise known as Kishi.
And yes, this is KA. But this chapter is...roughly more than five hundred years before the events of the show. Likely closer to a thousand to be honest. Yeah. This is a saga.
My dad gave me the name of the kingdom. I was ranting to him my theories and I said "uh...give me a name for a kingdom or something" and he responded "The Kingdom of the North." so yeah. Here we are.
I really hope you'll put up with this nonsense.