Princely Plot Bunny
a modern story with old-fashioned flavors
A/N: This story will contain all of the canon pairings from both Junjou Romantica and Sekaiichi Hatsukoi (as well as a non-canon pairing too). I didn't mark it as a crossover as it is easier to locate the story if it's in one fandom or the other because of how FFNET runs.
Warnings: MPREG, Alternate Universe, Smut, Fluff, Drama and Angst - a little bit of everything, honestly, like a box of chocolates.
Chapter One: A Kingdom Alone
Akihiko straightened up his tie and sighed deeply, tucking a pack of cigarettes in the back pocket of his dress pants. Time to get to his day job; the manuscript he was honing would have to wait until this unpleasantness was handled. If he refused to stand in and do his duty, his father would no longer indulge the man's authorial habits, and given that Akihiko had had to negotiate strenuously to get the elder Usami to agree to his hobby, he was not inclined to lose his privileges.
Shortly after three in the afternoon was when the Crown Prince began holding his usual hearing session, representing his father, Usami Fuyuhiko, in matters personnel with the nobility of their realm. He typically dealt with petitions for land transfer and more intimate matters. Men and women of the higher classes needed to obtain his or the King's permission to marry, and it was also seen as good tactics to have one of the royal men approve of their children's names when they were born.
So, in the end, his day was filled with what he found mundane transactions, but that was what had been decreed for him.
Being that he was the sole legitimate child of the king, there were heaps of pressure put upon him to behave in a correct manner.
What if he didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps? It wasn't as if Akihiko didn't have dreams and aspirations of his own. By following orders he was giving up on what could easily lead to true happiness. His novels were extremely important to him. That was where his joy lay. Being able to write was not part of the "Grand Plan" that had been laid out for him though. Sure, he could do it on the side, but that wasn't what his heart wanted.
At present his heart was more immersed in what to do to the main character in his latest creation. The prince had a few ideas running throughout his head regarding the matter. The idea at the forefront of his brain was to involve the main character in an accident wherein the love interest would need to take care of the main character. During this time they could get closer to one another and learn about things that weren't what they had seemed to be to begin with.
It was a good idea and Akihiko almost wanted to turn around and write it down before he lost the thought, but he was stopped in the hallway by one of the meal planners.
"Well?" Akihiko asked, looking down on the girl.
"Sorry, your highness," she said with a deep bow of respect. "I didn't mean to stop you, but I need your approval to use green peppers in one of the dishes served tonight. I know his highness doesn't like green peppers, but your father specifically requested I put them in the dish and hide them from you. I didn't think that was..."
Akihiko smiled. He liked it when the staff ignored his father's request and let him in on the secrets of the dishes served. Like a letch he leaned in and about pinned her to the wall with a sly look in his eyes.
"I appreciate you telling me beforehand. Put in the peppers, but just let me know what dish has them so I can avoid it like the plague. Maybe I'll even reward you for a job well done later."
He had no intentions in following through with the offer, but the way she stammered and ran off without a second glance was a beautiful sight. If he wasn't allowed to play with the staff, then who could he play with?
Besides, Hiroki wasn't around at that particular moment, which meant he had to think of ways to keep himself occupied and entertained on his own.
Speaking of Hiroki, he was probably waiting for him. If Akihiko didn't want to end up under the slighter man's gaze again, he'd need to hurry and get his ass to where it belonged. Oh, the life of a monarch was not what he wanted.
Shinobu, when it got right down to it, had the capacity to be patient.
The problem today, however, was that he had already practiced being patient for nearly four years, and he was only human. It had to end sometime, after he used up his store of fortitude. A further accelerant was the fact that his sister and brother-in-law were finally, lawfully separated, and now free to remarry or pursue other interests. Shinobu hoped to be Miyagi's new interest, and additionally, his re-, and most importantly final marriage.
The teen had been madly, passionately in adoration of the older man before the first wedding, but the event in question had rendered him unable to profess his love nor act on it until this very day.
Afternoon found Shinobu loitering in the antechamber that led to the Great Hall where the Crown Prince held his hearings. He was going to ask permission to become betrothed to, and therefore propose to, Miyagi. He had not yet consulted with his intended, but it wasn't entirely necessary to do so given the laws of the realm. He had one great advantage on his side; he was from a very respectable family.
Whatever he might have opined about his family members, that he was a Takatsuki was, in of itself, a lucky thing, as it granted him a lot of privilege. His father was the king's Minister of Education, and his mother was from another noble house. He had been told that her great worth at the time of his parent's marriage had been a large dowry, as she had a brother to inherit the main estate. Nothing more romantic than that.
Shinobu also had one sibling, an older sister, but because he had been born a boy his claim took precedence over hers, a fact which deep down he had to admit tickled his sense of righteousness. If it had been the other way around, he would have been rather stifled by duty to her. As it stood, he could make the moves that he wanted.
Outsiders really wouldn't understand, but he didn't get along with Risako at all, and he would have hated for her to have a one-up on him with which to lord over his head (not like she didn't already try such devices, being the elder sibling). They'd had a rocky relationship since Shinobu was about twelve. He couldn't for the life of him remember how it had begun, but the biggest factor was when he was around fifteen, and she'd gone out and married the solitary person whom he liked for himself.
Shinobu was not the type of youth to have many 'crushes.' He didn't fall for a different face every week.
In fact before he had come upon Miyagi, he could not remember a single time that he had warmed to another human in that way. He had always been interested in other things. So when the incident had occurred, it had been a pretty powerful blow to the young lordling. To think that the one time he opened his heart, his chances were dashed, was incredibly disconcerting. Even more somber was the possibility of the marriage actually working, of seeing them grow old together, happy, raising a family - passing him right by. It had depressed him, but it had soon become apparent, almost a year in, that it was no love match.
His hope had rallied, and he'd resolved himself to endure, and to wait. Today, that waiting paid off.
Putting that all aside though, the reason his lineage was valuable in his romantic pursuit was that the law clearly stated that if a person of a higher status proposes to one of lower status, they have to agree to marry. Another factor was the permission of the Crown Prince or of the King himself. With that as a back-up, then no really could not be said. However, if the lower status party were to petition for an annulment of their engagement, then that was another story entirely.
Shinobu with all his heart did not want to have to take these considerations into play, but they were there all the same. Actually, he did not think he would have the stomach to force Miyagi if it happened that the man were to refuse to accept him. Convince him to fall in love? Yes. Coerce him to marry without his consent? Assuredly not.
While he was waiting, he spied a married couple who were first in line before him to see the prince. The pair consisted of a shorter man with jet black hair and round, chocolate-hued eyes who looked to be around Shinobu's age, and a towering cinnamon-haired man with an almost sparkling aura engulfing him. Though he wasn't looking per se, he could tell that the second would attract a lot of eyes to him, as he had traditionally handsome features, and wore a calm smile that made him seem eminently approachable.
Shinobu didn't recognize the duo from anywhere, but perhaps he would've if he were one of the types of courtesans who came to these hearings regularly, to fill up on gossip or suck up to the royal heir. Many of his classmates participated in that charade, but it wasn't his scene. Or maybe these two didn't attend the hearings either. He had no idea about their life.
The latter male was pushing a double stroller, rocking the contraption back and forth in a lulling motion. When Shinobu peered closer, he could see two sleeping infants riding in the stroller; both appeared to be girls by their outfits. They were swathed in matching pink velvet gowns with a similarly colored blanket tucked in over top of them. Both babies were wearing miniature lace caps over their head to keep warm, and Shinobu's heart started at the adorable sight without warning.
Someday he wanted to have children of his own and this was only cementing his determination to do so.
He turned his gaze away, only intending to wait his turn and not bother anyone, but he was feeling antsy, and that drew the others' attention onto him naturally. One moment he was hanging around, glaring at his feet, and the next, he heard the swivelling sounds of wheels coming his way, and saw the taller man from one place up in the queue rolling he and his daughters a bit closer.
"Good afternoon!" the man called out jovially, sweeping Shinobu a light bow.
Surprised, Shinobu made a return prostration and then straightened up again. When he looked, the black-haired male was headed their way, sporting a look of confusion that equaled the teen's at present. All in all the second man appeared uncomfortable to be here at all, and Shinobu wondered if this wasn't perhaps his first trip to a hearing. Or at the very least, he didn't frequent the court.
"Good afternoon," Shinobu echoed, and then, figuring he should at least introduce himself, he gave out his name.
"I am Yukina Kou," the brunet responded, "and this is my husband, Kisa-san."
At that, the named spouse rolled his eyes, as if Yukina had said something silly, and spoke. "It's nice to meet you, Takatsuki-kun. Waiting for the Prince to roll out of bed and hear your petition?" he quipped, eyes dancing mildly.
"Yes, I suppose," he answered, guardedly. "It's late in the day, isn't it?"
Kisa nodded his head thoughtfully. "Three is the end of a day for some people, so yeah, it's pretty late. Kind of makes you wonder what Prince Akihiko does with his days, if he won't show up until this time to say hello to the world. Anyway... so what are you here for?"
Just then, one of the babies in the stroller made a quiet mewling sound, having just woken up from her rest. Both parents flicked their eyes to her on instinct, but Yukina was the one to walk around the contraption and see what was amiss. He unbuckled her from where she was bundled next to her still slumbering twin and hoisted her into his arms, bouncing her slightly in mid air.
"Did you have a good nap, Kana-chan?" Yukina cooed, and somehow the tone didn't make him sound ridiculous, like it might've with anyone else but this sparkling prince type fellow.
"Ah, Takatsuki-kun, these are our daughters, Kana and Rui. That is, if the Prince approves of their names. That's what we're here today to petition about."
"So you had twins?" Shinobu directed this question at Kisa, as he was clearly the more delicate of the two.
"I did, actually!" Yukina stepped in, smiling luminously, not seeming perturbed at the mistake on Shinobu's part like Kisa showed he was.
"I was so excited when I learned that I had conceived Kisa-san's child. And then we found out there were two of them growing together, and that was a beautiful day as well. Of course when they were born was the ultimate highlight of my life."
"All I could really think was 'thank goodness they're girls,'" Kisa interjected quietly. "I don't know what I would have done with a boy. Things are already so pink in my everyday life that it would have been a major shock to the system."
"You are a wonderful father, Kisa-san, and that isn't dependent on gender."
"Careful now," Kisa finally perked up and jibed at his enthusiastic husband, "because I don't care what you say, Yukina. We are not having a third one."
"We'll see," Yukina replied contrarily, but in an agreeable sort of way.
Shinobu wondered how many children he would want to have himself, and if they'd look like Miyagi or not. He hoped they did, because he didn't really think his own looks were all that appealing.
He also hoped that he'd be able to have a son, because when he imagined it, he could easily see Miyagi teaching their boy about life, guiding him, and Shinobu thought that the old man might enjoy the experience. Boys were typically preferred to girls amongst the higher classes. For him it didn't matter either way to be honest. He wanted both sons and daughters if it was his choice.
Thinking about it made him yearn even more for the day that they were joined, and the youth clenched his hands into fists at his side, trying to suppress the urge a little longer. He needed to keep his composure and make the royal agree to his petition, or his chances would be much lower of having his dreams come true.
"So, Takatsuki-kun, what did you say your petition was concerning?"
"Good morning, old man."
"Good afternoon, your highness." Hiroki's lips smarted ever so slightly at the honorary title.
It was a routine for them to give that greeting, even though it had never realistically been a morning hour when they came together to hold council. Hiroki was his most trusted advisor, and the two had grown up by each other's side. The prickly lordling was descended from a long line of statesmen; among his genealogy were many Lord Protectors and Ministers of various designations, and the twenty-four year old did not tarnish the family name by his own considerable brilliance. To Akihiko, he was indispensable.
"Well, shall we crack on?" he put forth, an amused cant to his voice.
"Yes, so some people can go back to important work."
"Hiroki, you always sound so displeased to be here. Can it be that you've found some other passion in life that exceeds hearing these requests?" Akihiko rattled off dramatically, an undercurrent of sarcasm detectable.
He knew very well that neither of them enjoyed this part of the day, but in Akihiko's mind at least he had the fiery brunet around to make things a little less humdrum. Also, to listen closely when he might have feigned interest in someone's petition and not recorded a word they had said. Hiroki was meticulous and could be entrusted with tasks like that.
Hiroki scoffed at the notion.
"I don't have time to find another passion in life, because I am already busy looking after a certain overgrown toddler so that he doesn't lose interest and wander off in the middle of the proceedings. But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
Akihiko ignored the barb, kept it at that, and gingerly seated himself in his throne to begin the session.
After all, it was true that the earlier one began, the earlier one would finish. Perhaps the time intervening might drag on slowly, but in the space of actual hours each hearing lasted the same amount. Then, he could get back to his writing.
Ideas were swirling around his consciousness. He was considering a broken leg for the protagonist. It was serious enough to merit the healing time during which the love interest could grow to open up to the main character, but not so serious that it would impair him for life. A tragedy was not something he needed to be penning at this time.
Akihiko was thinking that perhaps this injury could be taken on behalf of the love interest, which is why they would feel obligated to care for the protagonist at all. 'Yes, that might serve...'
"First, for a petition of naming, Yuki- Ah, pardon me, Your Highness; there has been a change in the order of appointments, it seems. So now, seeking a petition for betrothal, Shinobu of house Takatsuki."
Into the Great Hall stepped a youth with straw-blond hair and luminous gray eyes, tall, with a slender body hugged by the tailored uniform he was wearing. By the looks of it, it appeared the boy attended studies under one of the renowned tutors here in the capital. Due to the time of the hearing, he must have just been released from classes before traveling this way.
Akihiko raised a brow at the teen's serious expression as he approached, and as soon as he had settled in and made the customary bow, the prince asked, "Just how old are you, Takatsuki-kun?"
"I'm eighteen, Your Highness."
"And already you are wanting to get engaged? That seems hasty of you."
"I've been in love with him for a few years, my prince, so I don't think it is hasty."
The boy's angular face seemed to be fending off a petulant look, and that appealed to Akihiko in a droll way. He found that, despite himself, he was curious to know the story behind it. The truth might end up being the same trite tale, of a teenage couple jumping on the marriage boat, possibly the girl even being pregnant which sped up the process, but there was that chance it wouldn't be. As an author, he did enjoy a captivating story where he could find it.
"Do your parents approve?"
"It doesn't matter if they do!" Shinobu responded quickly, a flush of color rising in his cheeks. "I'm old enough to make my own choice. I won't let them choose for me. It's my destiny."
Akihiko's lip quirked.
"And who is it you would like permission to marry? You know it is not necessarily required to have this permission. Only after a betrothal agreement has been made between you and your intended, then that would be proper time to make a petition."
"I will marry Miyagi Yoh." Shinobu's voice rang and quavered, though he surreptitiously glanced around, as if to challenge anyone to refute him.
In the chair next to - and slightly below - Akihiko, Hiroki's eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
On occasion, he worked with Miyagi at the capitol's university, and he was fairly certain he had never seen anything to indicate that this boy was infatuated with the man. Never once while he had been there had Shinobu been around. Though, it could be that he wasn't there enough. Truthfully, he hadn't been at the university much over the past few months, so perhaps it was a recent problem. Being Akihiko's advisor was time consuming. They spent a great portion of the day together; not that Hiroki minded, given his... inclinations toward the man.
Still, Hiroki recognized the boy's surname. Takatsuki. A respected noble house.
Was he completely off, or wasn't that the professor's ex-wife's surname? He was certain it was.
Hiroki started a new page on the ledger he kept with him, and wrote down this observation before handing the note over to the prince. It was more convenient to pass a note than to step out of the room every time he needed to discuss a point with his royal companion.
Akihiko eyed Shinobu before scanning the paper, absorbing the words. To Hiroki's slight dismay, the camber of the prince's lips deepened. The information, rather than becoming a concern, became a reason to delve further in his investigation.
It was times like now when Hiroki thought to himself that Akihiko desperately needed more hobbies.
"You are aware there is a large age gap between your ex brother-in-law and yourself?" Akihiko put forth. At the 'brother-in-law,' Shinobu outright grimaced, but stood his ground nonetheless.
"Yes. I've known that from the beginning."
"I see. Then, have you thought about who will have the children? He is after all, of lower standing..."
Several of the surrounding courtesan's ears pricked up at this, and a few, mostly females began to titter their own guesses amongst themselves. Shinobu eyed a few of them peripherally, feeling embarrassed. He could sense them sizing him up, and it did nothing to boost his confidence. Maybe he wasn't that much to look at, but they didn't have to gawk at him! He was aware that he wasn't too spectacular, but he at least was willing to make this sacrifice for his future husband. It would make him happy to have Miyagi's children.
"I will, of course!" he muttered resolutely.
"I am sure," Akihiko began, drawing upon his own experience, "that your father at the least would want you to attend university, as his heir. Would this not impede upon your studies? Having a spouse, and children is not something to be taken on lightly; it eats at the majority of a person's days, and so I hope you have given it some rumination. If not, I am afraid I cannot in good conscience grant your request. You are young and should think carefully about how you want to spend your youth."
"I have given it thought, your highness. If I have a baby I'll go to school for as long as I can, and then take time off. I'm not concerned about it."
Akihiko gave the little lordling a last glance over. He did seem resolute in his choice, and if he could stand fast even under this questioning, then perhaps that meant that it was the proper decision to grant his request.
"Very well, Takatsuki-kun, I will allow your petition."
"Thank you, my prince." Shinobu rocked back on his heels, seeming relieved. As soon as he'd composed himself, he made his exit, not sticking around to hear any of the other cases.
After the teenager came a few mundane petitions. One of naming, and a few were concerning some business transactions, including one revised will. Akihiko heard them all in succession, and made a final choice one way or the other on each. It was truly nothing out of the ordinary, and he spent most of his time stewing on other affairs internally.
Toward the end of the session though, some familiar faces emerged, and necessitated his attention. Neither of the two following petitions were held by people he cared for very much.
"For a petition of naming, Lord Isaka Ryuuichirou and his spouse, Isaka Kaoru."
Isaka was leading their eldest son by the hand as they walked in, the very tips of their fingers linked. He wore a sharp-edged smile, every inch the protective father. His gaze dared those around to so much as look at them in the wrong way, and their name would go on his list. And if Akihiko were trying to be impartial, he knew that there were some nobles that looked down on the man for having borne his commoner husband's child, when such a thing was considered 'unusual.' Some simply couldn't stomach the man, and that, the prince could identify with.
It was always difficult to ascertain the lord's mood, as he was the type to grin invitingly whilst plotting mischief in his mind. He put on many playful airs, but Akihiko knew personally just how calculating Isaka could be, beneath the surface.
The older child was his other father in miniature, with dark sandy hair and muted russet eyes - though he looked out through them with an expression of wonder that was not customary of either of his parents. Isaka Hideyoshi was sweet-faced and though Akihiko wasn't interested in the concept of having his own offspring, he did love the simple innocence of children. It reminded him of that which he felt he lacked in his own upbringing, and so he watched the boy stroll along. He would much rather deal with kids than with a noble like Hideyoshi's father.
Asahina followed behind them with a governess and the new infant, composed as ever. The prince's memory was like a steel trap, and he commented to himself that the man looked far better for the wear than his spouse had been with the first son. Perhaps there was something in the old wives' tale that when it came to men and childbearing, sturdier bodies fared better. With women, it was said to come down to hip width.
The posse drew up close to the throne, all bowing their heads and waiting patiently to be acknowledged.
Akihiko gave a nod and motioned for one of them to state their petition. He was glad that he only had to go through the charade for an hour or two a day; any longer and it would be tiresome, and the prince was already starting to lose his patience. He was yearning to return to his own chambers and take up something that interested him more than this infernal chore.
Isaka let go of Hideyoshi's hand, and motioned for the governess to step forward with the baby as if to showcase him.
"As you can see, Your Highness, Asahina has been kind enough to present me with a son finally, after I so graciously gave him one four years ago," Isaka lauded.
Akihiko noted with amused indifference how the lord continued to call his husband by the man's surname from before their marriage. It seemed to be akin to a nickname for the businessman, and the cogs of his brain turned and clanked, stowing the notion away for later. In a way it was an endearing practice, something that might serve very well for the characters of the novel the prince was penning currently. He could make use of it.
"And what would you like to name the child?"
"Kichirou is the name we have selected, Your Highness."
Akihiko nodded at this. In reality, it was all the same to him. Because he wasn't thinking about it in the manner of a parent, names came and went without his truly liking or disliking them. So long as the name wasn't ridiculous, or inappropriate, he accepted them without question.
"You may use that name," he responded with a tone of finality.
The less time he spent on it, the better. In any event, he only had one more petition left given that his allotted time period was almost over, and only one could be attended to in that period.
Isaka and his group, instead of leaving like others, shuffled off to one side of the hall, presumably to watch the last hearing. That in itself might have tipped Akihiko off about who was coming in, as whilst waiting outside, Isaka would have been privy to who was after him, but at the time the prince wasn't contemplating anything very carefully, the goal of leaving firmly planted in his crosshairs.
"And now enter the next subjects for the Prince's hearing, who seek a petition for marriage. Announcing Lord Usami Haruhiko..."
The prince's keen violet eyes narrowed. It was rare that he was forced to meet with his half-brother, and he had always preferred it that way. To tell truth, the two, though they shared their father's blood, shared little else in common, and their natures, when together, caused any peace to implode.
Akihiko had to acknowledge that this entrance surprised him. He hadn't known Haruhiko was courting anyone, and it would be fascinating to see what, or rather who, had caught the stoic man's eye, if only to satisfy his strange sense of curiosity. He drew himself up to full height in his seat, and listened closely to catch the name of the would-be fiancé, or fiancée, if his brother truly wished to throw him a curve ball.
"And his intended groom, Takahashi-"
His heart roiled, plummeted, and quite nearly ceased to beat. In Hiroki's, something was born.
A/N: Please, let me know what you thought of this chapter in a review! It's my birthday today and a review would be a lovely present.
This story will be conducted in several points of view as to cover the different couples' storylines, which intersect at some points and sometimes not. Chapter lengths vary and there may be chapters that are set in the past (such as with the Nostalgia couple when they're teens). I will clearly state when that happens.
Next Chapter's Title: "With No Love To Confess"