Title: What's in a Name
Summary: [Rihito / Miku, Sariyah / Miku] Names, titles, it's the meanings behind the words that are important. In the wake of another failed Choosing Ceremony, Miku is caught trying to balance the intricacies of two worlds.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Notes: A Garnet Cradle category! JOY!

. o . o . o . o . o . o .

The banquet was just as lavish as anything Miku had come to expect from her time in Miftah. Exotic fruits, honey drizzled sweets, and polite, political small talk filled the hall as the handful of court nobles lingered after yet another failed Choosing Ceremony.

"Enjoying yourself, my Princess?"

"Rihito-ouji?" Miku jerked in surprise, sitting up sharply. The maids tittered softly around her as the motion sent pillows tumbling from the divan that had been set up for her use.

"Ah, pardon me. I didn't mean to startle you." Rihito hid a chuckle behind his hand, smiling kindly, as he knelt respectfully before her. "Perhaps, I should have announced myself?"

"No, it's alright." Miku quickly waved off the apology, not quite able to meet his eyes, she babbled slightly in embarrassment. "I was just lost in thought."

"Understandable. The responsibility of choosing the next King requires a lot of thought, I expect." The feel of a much larger hand enveloping her own had Miku's head snapping back up. A soft gasp escaping her lips as he caught and held her gaze, amethyst eyes twinkling mischievously, and bent to place a slow, lingering kiss on the back of her hand. His smile widened. "Your dedication is admirable."

Miku flushed.

"Senpai." Trying, and failing, to reclaim her hand, she leaned forward with a hiss. Her voice lowered to a private whisper. "I'm being serious... and please don't do that, it's horribly embarrassing."

"I am being serious." He told her, looking genuinely surprised that she would suggest otherwise. "Most in your position would have simply chosen a king and been done with it, would they not? You, on the other hand, have been most sincere in your efforts to make a fair selection."

"I don't know if it can really be called 'fair' when most of the candidates insist that they don't want the position." Miku mumbled, glancing towards the rest of the hall. Scanning the surroundings briefly for the other princes, her eyes fell wistfully on Prince Nasuru's back. And, not for the first time, she wished desperately that he was aware of what was going on. Sou-chan alwaysknew the right thing to do, where as she... Miku shook her head lightly, veil fluttering around her as her voice softened in confession. "I don't know what to do."

"You'll make the right choice." Rihito assured her firmly. "I know you will."

She smiled, comforted at the show of confidence, only to freeze as the deliberate brush of Rihito's thumb against her knuckles reminded Miku that he had yet to release her hand

"Although..." He added, drawing her attention back towards him with quiet insistence. "I'll admit that the decrease in candidates has bolstered my own confidence some. After all, it makes it that much easier to turn your heart towards me, my beautiful princess."

"B-but, that- Rihito-senpai!"

"Ah, ah," Shaking his head at her hushed scolding he corrected her softly. "Not senpai, it's ouji here, remember? Though, if you wished to drop the formalities entirely..."

Still cradling her hand, he stood.

"I would of course be honored if you were to address me by my name." Raising his voice for the benefit of the curious ears around them, he flashed Miku a dazzling grin that set her handmaidens to giggling once more. Rihito dipped his head politely. "Princess."

Oh, he was teasing her again.

Tugging her hand back indignantly, she blushed hotly. Flustered enough to call on Faraasha for an intervention despite the added taunting she was libel to get for it later, Miku risked a glance towards where she'd seen the older woman last. Only to pause as an all too familiar voice broke into their conversation.

"Perhaps the reason that she doesn't address you by name is because she's uncomfortable in your presence, aniue." The words were polite enough, but the tone was not. And, approaching the dais to stand next to Rihito, Sariyah frowned. His mismatched eyes narrowed suspiciously at the pair.

Rihito's grip on her hand tightened almost imperceptibly and Miku sucked in a soft gasp, eyes darting worriedly from her senpai to Sariyah to and back again.

"I would never claim to do anything to make the princess uncomfortable." Rihito said smoothly. His voice quiet, but firm as he turned his attention to the other young man. "Of course, it hasn't escaped my notice that our princess is on a first name basis with you, my darling little brother. But then, that has nothing to do with comfort does it?"

Miku shrank against the quick glance in her direction.

While it was true that she rarely called Sariyah by anything other than his name. He'd hardly acted like a prince when he'd hauled her from the waters of the sacred spring; rather Sariyah had been rude, overbearing, and more than a little frightening. Not to mention that they bickered almost constantly...

Clearly thinking along the same lines Sariyah gave a low, almost amused sounding snort.

"Perhaps, comfort is relative, aniue." The dark prince crossed his arms over his chest, the beginning hints of a smug smile curling at his lips. "After all, I was the one blessed enough to witness the Azura Sayaraan's arrival to this world."

Rihito's affable smile slipped, turning into something darker, strained, before stretching dangerously.

"Oh yes, that's right," he said lightly. "We're all well aware of the circumstances of our Azura Sayaraan's appearance. Though I must say, tying a woman to your bed seems a little desperate even for you, Sariyah."

Suddenly all too aware of the sharp hush surrounding them Miku quickly ducked her head in shame, cheeks blazing.

"Rihito-senpai!" Forgetting herself, she gave a pleading whisper before he could say anything further, but the damage had already been done.

"Then, you acknowledge my victory?" Sariyah shot back quickly, ignoring Miku's pained look as he pressed further. His voice commanding enough to draw the attention of the few nobles who hadn't already been eavesdropping over to their corner of the hall.

"Absolutely not."

There was a cutting sharpness to Rihito's tone that Miku had never heard before and, glancing up at him from behind the soft safety of her veil, she stilled at the darkened expression lurking in his amethyst eyes as he slowly turned away from Sariya to lock gazes with her instead. His voice lowered in a way that sent her toes curling inside her silken slippers.

"You may been first, little brother. But mine will be the last name to cross our beautiful Azura Sayaraan's lips."