Changing the Rules

Author's Chapter Notes

Team...I am trying to rekindle writing and finally it's working! (YAYAYAYA :D)
“So that’s it? This is what you’re giving me to tell me the rest of this story?” Mao looked at the heap of books in her hand, bound rather old-fashioned-ly with a four cross set of ropes with a knot on top. “You were quite the lazy storyteller Meisa, you never told me half of what I needed to know. I still don’t quite understand why things have turned out the way they have.”

Meisa looked at her god daughter with a humored expression. “Tell me Mao, don’t you think it would be better to hear this story from your mother’s own voice? Why she fell in love with Shota? I feel a bit wrong telling it to you actually.” Mao’s eyes flickered up painfully as she watched the old lady peer closely at her. “Mao, I’m sorry things turned out this way.”

“What could you have to be sorry about?” Mao muttered out as she shoved the books in the bag she’d brought with her. “I should just be happy you bothered to take me in at all-“ She kept her gaze away from Meisa because she knew what the older lady was apologizing for. If any of them had taken a moment to think of her, to think of the relationship her parents had- none of them would be here like this.

In the end, yes Toda Erika and Akanishi Jin were hurt by their separation but both moved on to create lives of their own that made them happy.

Right? They did live happily ever after in the end?

Somehow only she was here, sitting in the past, digging up treasures of memories that people had long decided to forget.

Why had no one ever thought of her benefit?

Why had her mother left her?

Why hadn’t her father forced his wife to let him raise her?

“You know...he was never that much fun to be around.” She blurted out looking closely at Meisa’s face for her expression. “I don’t understand why someone like you would love my grandfather. I mean I loved him, but even as a child I was always scared of him, I never needed to be of course. He loved me like he loved no one else and he was fiercely protective and happy around me...but I knew. I knew I was the exception not the rule.”

She expected Meisa to look hurt, somehow it was cruel of Mao but she wanted the old lady to appear as heartbroken as she felt right now at the imaginary family photo that kept entering her mind of her with her two parents. On the contrary, Meisa actually looked happy that Mao had brought him up. “Will you tell me a little about him?”

“Takuya ojii-chan?” Meisa’s nod was perplexing. Why, after all these years would Mukai Osamu’s Meisa care whatsoever about the man who had been intent on keeping her latched to him even if it meant snatching every shred of dignity she had? “He was irritating, eat this, do that, do your math, why are you dressing like that, don’t bring boys home, don’t bring boys to the backyard, don’t bring boys to my room either, don’t bring girls either in that way-“

“How many boys were you bringing home Mao?”

“Oh don’t you worry, between the two of us I’m sure you’re still the winner there.”

Meisa rolled her eyes and shook her head at the immature antics of her god daughter but regardless a smile rolled onto her face as Mao giggled. “Do you behave this way with your grandmother too?”

“No, but you’re not my grandmother are you?” She teased sticking her tongue out childishly.

“There is this thing called respecting your elders-“

“Why do you even care about him still?” It was the real question Mao had wanted to ask and she saw Meisa’s eyes widen for a second, the wrinkles lining the sides of her eyes momentarily flattening out as a result of the shock.

“Mao, I don’t think you understand how love works.” Mao was about to open her mouth and exclaim she knew exactly how love worked because she’d managed to love about two boys in her life (did Jun count if she’d loved him so much as a child apparently?) “When you fall in love with someone, you give them a small part of yourself that you never get back. When you break up that’s why you’re so hopeless “ you’re left by yourself to somehow take what this person has given you of themselves to rebuild yourself. When you’re together, that seems perfect. When you’re not together, it’s hell. You’re left to become yourself without that person. It’s a strange feeling.”

For a second, Mao stood there staring at her carefully. “You make no sense old-lady.”

“I will always love your grandfather…but it’s just as right to say that he was toxic for me and completely a representation of the worst decisions I made in my life.”

Mao felt a ball in her throat as she pondered what Meisa had said. She had never felt like that…well ever. She didn’t give herself up to anyone, and part of that had been seeing her grandparent’s strange marriage, but a lot of it had been abandonment issues. If you never gave yourself up to anyone, well you were never left behind by them either.

So when the silence was too deafening for both of them she decided to say the only thing she could say. “That’s fucking gross.”

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to then little one. Now! On your way!” She grabbed Mao by the shoulders and turned her around so she was facing the stairs-

But instead of falling headfirst down the stairwell Mao was faced with a luminescent tall figure of a man who blinked quickly and then shifted his head to look at the witch behind her. “Is this who I think it is?” His voice was deep, resounding and kind…the type of voice you heard at the end of movie trailers in theaters that left you with goose bumps.

“Yup and she’s just as irritating as I thought she would be.” Meisa voiced out from the back and Mao saw the man’s eyes flicker for a second with that sort of happiness that came from seeing something you used to love left in your drawer and you’d forgotten about.

“You’ve grown up beautifully Mao-chan,” Mao’s eyes widened and the guy immediately looked like he wanted to correct his statement. “I meant that in the most platonic way possible-“

“Hentai.” Meisa muttered shaking her head behind and Mao grinned nervously stepping away from Meisa’s hands watching the guy automatically move closer to his wife.

It didn’t take much to realize that this was Mukai Osamu. “I mean she’s a spitting image of Erika! I didn’t realize how much she would look like her.”

“Yeah yeah, I remember that first night you barely spoke to me.” Mukai blushed and Meisa fumed. “You didn’t seriously like Erika did you?”

“Of course not! Did I spend the whole evening talking to her or with you?” Mukai hollered back at her. “Ah, sometimes you drive me insane.”

“There used to be a time when that was a good thing.” She huffed and flipped her hair back in his face.

“Who said it stopped being a good thing?” He grinned down at her foolishly as Mao saw her god mother’s cheeks flush in a way that was reminiscent of a much younger girl. For a second, she felt like she was privy to the very innocent love story of two high-schoolers. As soon as their lips were close to each other, though Meisa turned her head to look at her god daughter who was grinning away cheesily.

“Don’t stop on my account,” She raised her hands almost arrogantly. “It’s cute seeing two old people in love. Look at you guys with your grey hair and wrinkly faces. Come on, just kiss!”

Meisa’s jaw dropped. “You little brat, you come here I’ll show you whose old-“

For the rest of their short-lived encounter, Mukai had to ensure that his wife’s still quite deadly nails didn’t puncture Mao’s skin as Meisa’s god daughter cackled away brightly.

-----------------

“Why are we here?”

“Your father overturned a vital law that they need our consent to return back to its original place, it’ll start with your succession which is going to occur soon. The government has deemed you’re ready to take on the throne so I’m to abdicate as soon as possible. After all, an empress can only rule for so long before her son-“ Jun raised an eyebrow at his mother.

“You’ve ruled longer than dad did. Some would say you did a better job too.”

“If you count the years I ruled behind the scenes, I’ve ruled longer than most people would think possible and certainly longer than many kings in the past.” Maki grinned tightly as she walked down the marbled hallways of their government office, her hands tucked into the shapely Dior suit she’d had especially stitched for occasions like this.

As she’d gotten older, his mother’s body had become more frail but her mind only grew stronger and her will more stubborn, there were chances for her to leave the throne before but it was only now that Jun had seen his mother start actively pursuing leaving the post she had desired and earned through marriage.

He knew the reason of course.

It had less to do with his preparation and more to do with an ultimatum his mother had received from the one thing that mattered more to her than the throne.

Eitherways, it didn’t matter to Jun. He’d been prepared for this role since his birth. Being treated specially, even having his super rich friends treat him differently because of his heritage “ it was all going to pay off today. “What’s the law about?” He questioned softly as they entered the elevator reserved for higher-level officials. As royalty, they didn’t come here to Parliament often but they were privy to use this elevator when they did just so they wouldn’t have to interact with too many of the workers and disturb the environment of the government.

Jun thought that it was unfortunate the way the role of royalty within their country had slowly been diminished. If he could “ he wanted to restore it to the fervor it had been when his father had taken the throne but he understood the delicate political stance of the monarchy as it was at this point. They couldn’t make too many moves too openly or the public would retaliate completely against them.

He saw his mother pull her sunglasses up to her forehead as she hammered away on her phone, probably texting the minister that they were on their way up. “Your father made a lot of special concessions for that foolish woman. She refused to accept herself for who she was.”

“Erika-san?” He muttered softly and saw his mother nod jaggedly obviously angered at the mention of her name.

To this day, when people spoke of Erika in public he’d seen people spit her name ominously as if trying to spell away a bad omen. She had become the ultimate figure of a temptress, the curse women threw freely at each other to call the other a cheater.

And yet, despite himself, all Jun could feel when he heard the name Erika was an overwhelming amount of happiness.

He knew that he should be the same as everyone else, after all Erika’s appearance in his father’s life was the reason his father was no longer alive. She was the reason his mother and father remained separated despite being married in the face of everyone in this country.

She was the reason behind a lot of things.

But she was also the first person who taught him to ride a bike, she was the only person who went swimming with him whenever he wanted to, and she was the first woman he ever remembered loving who wasn’t his mother.

In his formative years, while Maki loved him she had been focused on establishing herself as the powerhouse princess, not to be cast aside by Chiaki-sama. After his aunt’s death, she became even more rigorous with exercising her rights as queen “ and somehow her rights as a mother were left forgotten.

Erika was only too happy to fulfill them and Jun was all too happy to let her.

He wouldn’t quite call her a mother, because it never felt the same as it did with his mother but Jun knew that he had loved the woman. Not the same way his father had but Erika had helped give him the self-confidence he had today to be himself and not some puppet engineered by his country to behave perfectly.

It was the same reason he was sure, he would be able to return this country and his family to the place it deserved. “What sort of concessions?”

“She was married to him.”

“I thought you said that was only a ceremony.”

“That’s what I thought. That’s what he told me. But they were legally married- bound by a special law that allows emperors to take up to two officially recognized wives.”

“Does someone of Erika’s kin need to be present?”

“No…it’s a simple legal proceeding and thankfully for us her family has never bothered to make contact after they took her body away from us. Good riddance, like I would want her in the royal mausoleum.” Jun cringed, he didn’t like to think of the way his mother had handled her death but nor could he blame her for her actions. For every political step Maki took forward Erika had pulled her back three steps simply by living with the man she had married. Maki tucked her phone into the purse. “I’ll leave this up to you then Jun-“

“Hey, what if I want two wives?” Jun wiggled his eyebrows jokingly when he saw Maki look closer at him.

She froze as she came up to him with a threatening look that only his mother could ever truly muster. She glowered, her voice lower than before when she spoke now. “If you can joke about that after knowing everything that happened you are truly not ready to be emperor.”

“Then you should just hold onto the position a little longer like you have and I sure wouldn’t mind-”

“If I could I would ““

“But even for you there are things that are more important than this country aren’t there?” He saw his mother falter as she looked at Jun fearfully. She always did this every time he even brought the topic up.

To be fair to her, she had done a good job of hiding her relationship around the public but those in the palace knew full well that their empress never slept alone at night and had practically been married but four months after her emperor’s passing.

Widow she may be, but in mourning she most certainly was not. “I’m not quite as heartless as you seem to think I am.” She relinquished smiling softly at her son. After all these years, he could hardly hold it against his mother to have someone in her life who would support her into her old age.

“Did you ever love dad?” He muttered softly as the elevator doors opened and he saw his mother shrug as she walked out but not before turning around.

“He’s not the man you think he is Jun and unfortunately, that was never very important in our line of work Jun. Maybe that was why your father felt the need to create this law. No matter how hard I tried- Shota never listened. In the end, for him love came first. She came first.” Maki scoffed pushing her hair behind her ear as she marched ahead fully aware of her tall, handsome son following her in his footsteps.

Some days that’s all Maki felt he was. A pretty, dumb face “ but maybe that was her own fault. He was a reflection of her, a reflection of Shota and even a reflection of Erika.

Maki tried her hardest most days to not think of Erika…only because there were so few people in the world who knew the truth. And the less time the truth spent in her consciousness, the better it would be for all of them.

-----------------

Mao shuffled on her feet as she stood outside of Tegoshi and Ryo’s apartment. Two night she’d walk in feeling awkward but come out the next morning feeling on top of the world.

Were they even home?

Are you home? She quickly texted Tegoshi.

It was Ryo who answered. You can stop standing outside like a stalker, we can see you from the window on the side.

“Fine! Then just come open the door will you!” She barked out loudly embarrassed that she had to be caught in that awkward situation. She rubbed the back of her head, making a disarray of her hair just as the door opened and she was faced with Ryo who was looking straight at her so intently she had to look anywhere but at his face. “Can I just- get my stuf-“

“Right, felt a bit wrong to keep your bags outside.”

“Are you “ driving tomorrow?” She coughed out and he shook his head. “Phew.”

Ryo looked like he was irritated with that response as he scoffed rubbing his nose before he shoved his hands into the pockets of his grey sweatpants. In that moment she kind of hated herself, because she’d just glanced down at his crotch and then up to his face and he’d obviously seen because he looked like he wanted to laugh at her. “Is it that weird?”

He also looked surprisingly good today. In a dark grey t-shirt that hung tight and loose in just the right spots, a houndstooth necklace that hung low on his chest, black flip-flops “ he was the epitome of low-maintenance and Mao found herself gulping.

It’s like he knew exactly what she liked her guys dressed in. Would it be very fucked up to proposition him for sex again? “It’s really weird. Let’s be honest, any time naked grunting was involved it’s weird.” She managed to answer both him and herself. “Thanks for keeping my stuff safe.”

“Thanks for coming to pick it up.” He gruffly responded and she watched him turn around and pull out several suitcases. “Did Meisa tell you anything interesting?”

“Just “ stuff. I got these.” She flashed him diaries from her knapsack and he rolled his lips inwards and tried to smile.

It ended up making him look a little psychotic. “I guess that’s good?”

“It’s great.” She corrected.

“Amazing.”

“Fantastic really.”

“Wonderful.”

“Amazing.”

At that she laughed, because the spell of their banter had been broken. “You said that already.”

“I was running out of positive descriptors.” His smile was real this time and Mao felt gutted like someone had decided to take her insides and pull them out rather roughly. She felt like buckling to the ground as he reached for her hands and made her pull her suitcases out of his house. “I really hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“Me too.” She sighed.

“Hey listen?”

“Yeah?” She wanted him to say something good. Mostly she wanted him to say he was still into her and he was okay with forgiving her and-

When she looked at him now though, he looked really apologetic. “I’m sorry I said that about your mother. I mean I don’t really know her. No one really does at the end of the day.”

This apology was far better than what she expected and she was shocked to find it necessary because her heart felt lightened now that he’d admitted what he’d done wrong. “Thanks…I’m sorry too. I reacted like a baby.”

“Can’t be helped.” He teased.

“Really can’t.” She agreed.

“How unfortunate.” She could hardly hold back the smile as they started again.

“Truly a disaster.”

“Very distressing.”

“We could go on forever couldn’t we?” She started to walk away as she raised a hand to wave back to him.

She could only barely hear his response. “We could try.” She almost stopped but she shut her eyes and moved forward.

Nishikido Ryo was unexpected, and interesting, and obviously so magnetically attractive she found it hard to think clearly around him but he wasn’t her goal- and she couldn’t forget that she had a whole other chapter of her mother's life to uncover. The most controversial of all.

Ryo had been right. He didn't know her mother, not really, no one did but everyone cursed her. Everyone hated her- and especially now that she'd learned everything her mother had gone through she didn't feel like that was fair.

So she would make sure. She would make sure the truth about Toda Erika and Matsuda Erika was revealed to the world.

Author's Chapter End Notes

Guess what...no previews :D! BUT that's because I'm literally uploading the next chapter next :)

Thank you ichigoyamada for the lovely review :)!


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