A/N: This is a thought experiment where I want to put the lovely cast of OTRFK into a fairy-tale like setting with princes and princesses and so on. Real names of Japanese cities will be used in this "world" for convenience's sake so the places in this story will not resemble their namesakes in any way. I will try my best keep the cast as in-character as the setting allows so that they can still be recognized as our lovely characters.
A new city, a cat, and a random meeting
Yuichi breathed in the air of Tokyo appreciatively. He was no provincial boy, having grown up in one of the imperial cities and so been long accustomed to imposing buildings and busy streets. Still the capital with its stately yet graceful marble palaces and villas, its equally magnificent avenues and its exotic crowd captured the imagination of a youth like no other. Drunk from excitement, his feet itched to explore the place down to every single lane and corner, to seek for adventures and intrigues, to uncover dark secrets and rescue innocents and win the affections of a mysterious beauty.
Yuichi shook his head and laughed at his own childishness. Capital city or not, he did not come here for wild adventures. He had another, less interesting perhaps, but definitely more mature purpose. His mind turned the pages back to that memorable family talk a month ago in one of those visits of his older brother Shohei. It was decided then that he was of age to attend the Royal Academy to study administrative arts and everything a young man of his station should know. He was a son of the Kazuki, one of the most important noble houses of the land, and thus had high expectations to live up to.
Not that he was bad at meeting what people expected of him. On the contrary, he was the image of perfection ever since he was little. Well-behaved, charismatic, intelligent, and last but not least, handsome, he was the model son that every family dreamt of. He knew his worth and was proud of his achievements quite a bit. At times he could not help but feel that with time the burden had become heavier and heavier. However, the higher the challenges, the sweeter the rewards and so he toiled, delighting in the praises and admiration he received.
Still, it was his first day at the capital and Shohei, his temporary guardian, had said that he should enjoy himself before his work and everything else swallowed him whole. Knowing the man's tendency for the dramatics, Yuichi did not buy the horror stories one bit but why not? Knowing the ins-and-outs of where he was going to live for three years and possibly even longer did not hurt. Besides, he hated to admit Shohei was right when his brother described him as "puppy-eyed" for a tour around the city but his brother was on the mark. So he was out as soon as breakfast was wolfed down and wandered wherever his fancy took him. He had had a look at his alma mater in the very near future, the elegant design of which won his approval immediately. He had walked through the bustling commercial streets where he had caught the attention of a few people, mostly girls, to his mix of amusement and resignation. He had skimmed through the theatre schedule, idly noting the shows that sounded interesting.
At the moment, he was sitting in a quiet corner of the Royal Garden. Despite the name, the garden was opened to everyone as a gift from a king of a long time ago to the city and Yuichi gladly took the offer. Chewing a sandwich his sister-in-law packed for him, he lazily watched daffodils swaying in the cool breeze of early spring. It had been a good day. Nice weather, nice new place to discover, pleasant enough people. He closed his eyes and hummed a cheerful song as he often did when contented.
Everything started innocuously enough. Just a cat jumping out of a bush next to him. It was a handsome creature with shiny grey coat. The cat was definitely no stray for it had a pretty collar and was very familiar with humans. In fact, it looked at Yuichi high-and-mightily for a moment as if judging if he was worthy and proceeded to rub its head against his shins as naturally as only cats could do. Not an animal hater, Yuichi just laughed and scratched its ears, murmuring little nonsense humans often said when playing with their pets. It was not long until the cat invited itself to his lap and began its grooming there. He simply let it do what it pleased while staring at the map and thinking hard about where he should go next.
There was sound of someone calling something. Then there was sound of footsteps and without looking up, he could tell there was someone standing in front of him. Somewhat annoyed by the stare he was receiving, Yuichi raised his head but before he could throw out his "what do you want?" (well, not so harshly but something along the line), the stranger saved him the trouble.
"Uhm, excuse me, can I have my cat back?"
Oh, of course the cat had an owner and the owner must have been looking for it. Smiling politely the way he always did, Yuichi picked up the animal and handed it over to the person opposite him, a boy who was probably one or two years younger than he. The cat squirmed a little in his hands but did not protest much when it was back in the other boy's arms. To fill in the rather awkward silence more than anything else, Yuichi made a harmless general remark.
"Cute cat you have there."
The boy stared at Yuichi (really, was it only this boy or youngsters in this city had a habit of gawking at strangers?) but responded to his comment before long.
"Ah, thank you, I guess," a pause as if he did not quite know what to say. "Lady, her name is Lady."
Now it was Yuichi's turn to gawk. What kind of boys name their pets "Lady" even for a "girl cat" like his niece Takako would say? Then again, the kid did look rather girly. Yuichi's sharp eyes quickly appraised the unknown boy in front of him. Slender to the point of skinny, either younger than Yuichi thought or short for his age, fair complexion, slightly messy brown hair, huge eyes of darkest blue in the shade, heart-shaped face that could be model for a porcelain doll, the boy was... cute, if Yuichi might say so. His clothes were simple but of finest materials and despite the awkwardness, he was soft-spoken and polite. He had the air of the sheltered "young master"-kind of boy. Yuichi felt pleased with himself for being so clever. Right, it was not unlikely that a boy from a wealthy family went for a walk in the Royal Garden where high society passed their time.
As if he could read Yuichi's thought about the name "Lady", the boy blushed a little and hastily defended himself.
"Ah, my sister came up with that name, not me! Said it would fit the cat of a...," he trailed off for some reason and quickly changed the subject, uncannily focused on scratching his cat's ears. "I hope my cat didn't bother you much, Mister.-"
"Kazuki. My name is Yuichi Kazuki," Yuichi played along though he was puzzled by the boy's rather strange behaviour. A- what? What did the boy have to hide and why? Anyway, it was none of his business. He was curious, of course, but it would not do to pry into private life of strangers on his first day in a strange place. It was probably just strange fancy of a rich boy with too much time on his hands, Yuichi mentally shrugged.
"Kazuki? You mean Kazuki as in Lord Kazuki Count of Izu and Minister Shohei Kazuki?".
Yuichi inwardly winced. This was one of the biggest drawbacks of being a Kazuki. It went invariably thus: people heard his family name, called out every single person he was related to, and assumed they knew everything about him. Then all kinds of annoying fusses followed where his manners and reputation forced him to play along. Of course he could deny the connection but that implied he was ashamed of his family, something he hated even more. And really, who would be fooled? There was just no way out, he sighed exasperatedly. He had hoped he would have an easier time in a new place but it did not seem to be the case.
"Yes," he quickly cut in in case the boy wanted to recite the rest of his genealogy. "But please, it's not that big a deal, really."
The boy looked flustered. "Oh, I apologize. I was rude," he blushed yet again. "I didn't mean to offend you or something. Just that it has been rumoured Lord Shohei's younger brother would go to Tokyo soon, but, uhm, it was surprising to meet you here."
Yuichi perked up. Shohei. Now it made some sense and posed tons of new puzzles. It was not unusual that rumours flew around (though he was not sure whether to be flattered or insulted to be whispered about behind his back) but hearing his brother referred to so familiarly was not something he expected to get from this flaky-seeming boy. "Looks like my reputation has preceded me. But please tell me, who are you? It seems that you know my brother quite well."
The boy looked as if he were caught doing something he shouldn't and smiled sheepishly. "Please call me Wataru." The conspicuous lack of family name did not escape Yuichi's notice but he kept his silence. "And yes, I've met Lord Shohei several times. It would be far stretched to say I know him well though," the boy, now registered as Wataru in Yuichi's memory, laughed awkwardly. He carefully re-balanced the cat he was holding and offered his hand to Yuichi. "Nice to meet you. I hope you are enjoying Tokyo so far."
Wataru was horrible at hiding that he had something to hide yet at the same time he was stubborn enough not to let the cat out of the bag. Despite his annoyance at being kept in the dark so obviously, Yuichi had to smile. There was something cute about the boy's attempt at intrigue. So clumsy yet so earnest. Yuichi smirked to himself. Why didn't he play hide-and-seek a bit longer to see how long the boy could keep up? It would do no harm, except perhaps a bit of hurt pride for the kid. He could find out more about what his brother was like in this city (Yuichi had a healthy dose of brother complex but he would never admit that out loud). Also, Wataru was the first person in this city outside his family he had talked to about something other than directions and prices. He needed to oil his social skills for his upcoming grand debut in Tokyo and the boy was the right audience! Donning his trademark Prince Charming smile, he took the hand offered to him.
"Nice to meet you too. And Tokyo is so beautiful. I'm charmed."
"Is that so? I'm glad," Wataru beamed, clearly pleased with the answer. Yuichi hated to admit it (he hated to admit a lot of things) but for a moment he was stunned. When free of awkwardness, his new acquaintance had a bright smile, the carefree and infectious type that made others smile along. It lit up the already lively large eyes and transformed the features from cute to lovely. Yuichi was acutely annoyed that he lost his senses enough to openly gape in a few seconds. Blinking a few time to let the dazzle of that unwelcome pretty smile wear off, he hastily spoke the first thing that came to mind in an effort to regain his momentum.
"And you? Are you from around here? Do you often take a walk in this park?" He mentally kicked himself as soon as those words came out from his lips for sounding as if he was flirting. Concentrate, Yuichi, concentrate. He was the one to charm and lead, not the other way around.
Completely oblivious to Yuichi's inner struggle, Wataru smiled disarmingly again. "This place is really nice, isn't it? Karin and I can play all day here. Behave, Lady!" That was obviously for the cat, which was apparently bored of listening to human talk and decided she wanted to run free. The boy grimaced a little and held on to the cat a little firmer.
"I'd better be back with Lady before Mama notices I'm missing and makes a fuss about it. Enjoy your stay, Mister Kazuki! Goodbye!" Then just as Yuichi gathered enough wits to mechanically respond "Goodbye", Wataru ran off and quickly disappeared.
That was, well, random. Yuichi frowned a little. There went his plan to exercise his charm and to pry information out of the boy as much as he could. Then again, how the kid talked was all over the place. He seemed completely honest yet at the same time stubbornly hid everything about himself. Ah well. Yuichi shrugged. Let the weird kid be up to whatever he wanted. Time to go on.
A part of him, just a tiny part, was a bit sad that he probably would not have a chance to see that pretty smile again. However, by the time he hit the busy main street, that little complaint curled up into a corner of his mind and slept.