Hail To The Queen, 5/? (2017-01-05)

(five: she who marries the heir)

They come for her in the morning.

7:28 to be exact, the hospital clock tick-tick-ticking alongside the monitors beep-beep-beeping Kakashi’s proof of life.

She and Sasuke and Sakura are all but camped in his room, notes strewn with extra blankets, hair ribbons mixed with whetting stones and arm guards.

Except for missions and hospital rotations, quick trips home for showers and changes of clothes, the three of them–four of them, to Kakashi’s continued reluctance–can be found in his room.

It’s an ignoble setting, but that’s where it begins.

A royal messenger from the Land of the Moon with full retinue–including the familiar stoic face of Captain Korega–come for her in the morning.

“Shikako Nara?” they ask, finery and coiffed hair so different from her research frenzied muss.

She uncurls from her spot on Kakashi-sensei’s bed, getting slowly to her feet. Sakura, blinking sleepily in a visitor’s chair, sits up; Sasuke, leaning against the wall, straightens out and readies his stance.

“Yes?” she says, before spotting Shizune beyond the cloud of silk and embroidery. Shizune nods, and so Shikako repeats more firmly, “Yes.”

The contingent exchange glances amongst themselves before, in unison, kneeling and bowing–bright flower petals falling to the ground.

She takes a step back, confused. Unnerved.

The leader looks up, meets her eyes, and intones,

“Long live Queen Shikako, first of her name, sovereign of Land of the Moon!”

A scant hour later, barely an eye blink, she finds the nightmare has relocated.

Shikako can hardly count the number of times she’s been in the Akimichi clan compound’s ceremonial hall, but it’s only ever been in two contexts: as her father’s daughter, or as Chouji’s friend.

The reason this time around is distinctly neither of those.

Chouza puts a hand on her shoulder, huge and warm and gentle even through the layers of borrowed kimono her mum hastily stuffed her into. It’s a welcome gesture of comfort in such an awful situation; Shikako tries to smile at him even though it’s the last thing she feels like doing.

The ceremonial hall can reliably contain dozens of Akimichi, Nara, and Yamanaka. Birthdays and receptions and memorials, the hall full to bursting; the parties spilling out to the courtyard where huge tables of food are spread. Music and laughter and chatter, children playing and elders gossiping. Noise and bodies and family coming together.

This is the exact opposite.

Silence ringing loud and the vast hall, strained and tense. Including the contingent from the Land of Moon, they are less than fifteen total. The royal messenger and his retinue, the Hokage and the three council members, Chouza and herself.

She feels her age keenly, borrowed finery weighing down on her heavily. Crushed beneath layers of silk and the realization that she has very little say in any of this.

And she’s supposed to be queen?

What a joke.

Technically, technically, technically. Everything comes down to technicalities.

Technically, Land of the Moon was in the middle of a revolution when she and her team stumbled into the mess.

Technically, King Kakeru had been overthrown–had been murdered–had lost sovereignty.

Technically, the monarchy follows the Tsuki bloodline.

Technically, Prince Michiru–and his son Hikaru–had abdicated by fleeing the castle.

Technically, Shabadaba–as minister and nearest kin to the Tsuki family–had inherited the title of king.

Technically, she had waged a one woman coup against Shabadaba.

Technically, she had won.

Technically, she had only turned over Shabadaba’s judgement and castle security to Prince Michiru and Captain Korega respectively.

Technically, she is queen.

And yet, the monarchy follows the Tsuki bloodline.

Her dad had rejected an arranged marriage to be with her mum. Had defied his elders, had given up leadership of the Nara clan to do so.

That was his prerogative, as man and heir both, to sacrifice his clan membership for the future he wanted.

Of course, events transpired such that he could have both, but still. That was his decision. He had a decision.

But clan matters are one thing. International relations are another:

Not even Chouza’s fierce support can match the will of the Konoha Council. No loyal Konoha shinobi can disobey an order from the Hokage. The contingent from the Land of the Moon do not even understand what it is that’s being argued.

There is no choice for her to make when there is only one option offered.

The farce of a negotiation ends.

The royal messenger and his retinue leave, returning to their lavish rooms in Konoha’s finest inn. Trailing at the end, Captain Korega had drawn near, murmured a quiet, gruff apology and, perhaps, at a later time she would appreciate it.

The Council had tried to speak to her, lecture her on the political opportunity available to her, but Chouza had waved them away, voice near to a growl. She has lost a battle on his turf, he will not let the scavengers pick at her bones.

Tsunade, last to leave, stands in front of her kneeling form, Hokage robes and hat ominous. She is silent for a moment, eyes sharp and searching, before nodding once at Chouza and exiting.

Even as Chouza draws close–protection and stand-in comfort until her parents can come–Shikako can feel a pang of betrayal. She thought Tsunade would be on her side. Would fight for her freedom. She knows she isn’t Naruto, darling and dear, but some arrogant part of her had assumed that she was worth a measure of special treatment as well.

But Tsunade is a good Hokage, a good leader, and Shikako is just one of her many soldiers.

No loyal Konoha shinobi can disobey an order from the Hokage.

Engagement party is a bit of a misnomer even if it is, technically, correct.

Her family weren’t the only ones waiting for the verdict.

Somber and silent and far too stilted, but the Akimichi clan are quick on their feet for this, and soon enough food is prepared for the gathering of her family and friends.

It might as well be a wake.

“Queen Shikako,” Ino says, teasing smile about a third as bright as it might be in any other context, “at least it’s not princess.”

Sakura, romanticism tempered by social acuity, nods with a shaky attempt at a smile herself.

Together with their help, Shikako is able to wriggle out of several layers of borrowed kimono. Mum was going to do it properly, but she had taken one look at Shikako’s face, hugged her tight, and stomped off to where Dad and Chouza and Inoichi were conferring.

Less encumbered, Shikako returns to the main hall where so many people turn and stare at her entrance.

This is hell.

For a widening, maddening moment, she can see this as her future: endless silks and constant stares and the crawling, impending feeling of being trapped.

Then her stomach growls, and if it didn’t break the tension so easily, she’d die of embarrassment.

“A hungry stomach at an Akimichi party?” Chouji calls out, diverting attention away from her. He’s standing by her brother, not too far from their dads, and she wonders how much of it they know.

“We can’t have that,” he finishes, prompting everyone to move around. Free food is enticing to any hardworking shinobi, but free Akimichi food is like winning the lottery, and she sighs in relief. She’d play second chair to food any day.

A plate is assembled for her, both not enough and far too much for her hungry, nauseated stomach.

It feels like a last meal, lavish and resigned.

Technically, she is queen.

And yet, the monarchy follows the Tsuki bloodline.

To resolve this dilemma, the cabinet of the Land of the Moon proposed an engagement.

Hikaru is the last of the Tsuki line, royal in blood if no longer, technically, by law. If she were to marry him, then that would reunite the halves, and their future child would be once more monarch in full.

She is lucky he is only a child, and that their’s will be a long engagement. With the engagement confirmed, Prince Michiru… Lord Michiru… as her future father-in-law can rule as king regent in her stead leaving her free to continue her career as a shinobi.

Until Hikaru comes of age.

It’s a neat solution for an untenable political problem, and she’d probably admire the efficiency if it weren’t about her.

As is, all she can see is the countdown looming in front of her, an additional set of tracks beyond her already railroaded life and hey, there’s a thought:

Maybe she won’t have to deal with any of this because the entire world will be too busy being caught in a massive genjutsu by a megalomaniac to care about one measly little kingdom.

She sighs, gustily, and someone helpfully refills her sake cup.

Shikamaru eyes it, glares at whoever poured it for her, but stays silent as she takes a swig.

It’s her engagement party and apparently she’s queen: she can do whatever she wants.

She has no idea how so many people have today off or aren’t away on missions, but with all of them around she can barely hear herself think. And, regardless of the reason why, she does appreciate having her friends and family around.

Shizune shows up a few hours into the party which has gone from awkward to giddily, desperately drunk. Or maybe that’s just her.

It makes playing Shinobi’s Rest difficult, but she’s actually doing pretty well. She’d suspect everyone was going easy on her except her friends are far too competitive to do that, and she’s not the only one who has been drinking.

With the alcohol and noise, she almost doesn’t catch Shizune’s arrival. If it weren’t for the determined stride directly to where the dad version of Ino-Shika-Cho, Shikako might have just dismissed it as Shizune coming late to the impromptu party.

But she comes bearing a scroll and, after handing it over, doesn’t leave despite the tempting array of food and drinks or the fact that Shizune is too busy and skilled for a mere delivery.

The dads look over the scroll, confer with each other once more, glancing her way every so often and now Shikako is more than just curious.

Wobbly, she gets to her feet, laughing and grateful for the help. “No, no, keep playing,” she says, waving them off, but Sasuke stands up to follow her and, spotting their trajectory, so does her brother.

Dad accepts her sideways hug and understands it for what it is, shifting so that she can see what is on the scroll, too. Shikamaru, less one for plausible deniability, just leans heavily onto Dad and looks over his shoulder. Sasuke, not exactly keen on cuddling, stands off to the side.

A missive from the Hokage’s desk, burn after reading.

No loyal Konoha shinobi can disobey an order from the Hokage.

Spoken or written.

By law, the Hokage and the Daimyo are separate entities–it’s why the Twelve Guardian Ninja exist, after all, to prevent conflict of interest. Too much power for a single person to hold.

Shikako has less than a decade to fulfill these orders, but if she can succeed…

It will be trading one throne for another–a crown for a hat, a kingdom for a village–but at least she’ll have a choice.

~

A/N: Hrm… For this anon from many months ago who wanted Shikako as temporary daimyo for a foreign country and @jay345sal28 who asked about Shikako becoming Hokage after the Moon Country arc, and I was unable to meet either of those requests as they wanted but this is all I could come up with so…

I wanted to play around more with the political ramifications of the Moon Country arc and ended up basically writing about Shikako’s deep-seated dislike of arranged marriage instead? :/

Also, since SQ posted Chapter 124 as I was writing this, I suppose the first bit is kind of… outdated.

(Also, which characters do I even tag for this, wth self?)

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