A. N: Thank you for reading this little one-shot. As I'm not an English native speaker, there might be some grammar or spelling mistakes. Sorry about that. I hope you like it, thanks for giving it a try!
Disclaimer: I do not own Akagami no Shirayukihime
The Queen loves tea
The tea was disgusting and bitter. Like tasting muddied water. But even if she wanted to contort her face in a grimace, Haki kept the faint smile in check while she listened to Lady Anmerst talking about the tailor's guild problems. After half an hour of gently prodding and asking, the conversation was –at last– running smoothly in the direction she wanted, and she didn't dare distract her interlocutor's attention. Not to say that it was unseeingly for the Queen to show her disgust towards a beverage offered by her visitor.
While Lady Anmerst talked, she glanced at the teapot, halfway full of pungent liquid. She would need to have another cup, as a show of attentiveness towards her interlocutor and her gift. At first, she'd been thrilled about the afternoon tea because she knew Lady Anmerst would offer, without being aware of it, a distinct insight within the merchant's faction of the city. After all, her sister was a master seamstress of renown, while Lady Anmerst's husband was one of the principal purveyors of fabrics in the city. Her delight had been complete when Lady Anmerst presented her with a marvellous gift: a luxurious blend of green tea from Tanbarun. She'd wanted to try the famous green tea since she arrived in the city, but she hadn't expected such a disappointing taste. Henceforth, she manufactured her best amiable expression and sipped with enthusiasm the unfortunate cup.
Her mask cracked for a tiny second, but it was enough for her husband to notice it. Izana searched around the room to find the cause of her slip, hiding his interest with a well-aimed question to one of the Tanbarun ambassadors. While he answered, his Highness identified the recipients of the dejected look in Haki's eyes: the attendants serving the afternoon tea to the group. He suspected what was going on, but he was not certain, so he saved his observations for later.
Meanwhile, Haki gathered her resolution and focused again on the conversation, which was treading on careful ground. One of the ambassadors signalled the tea while the servants served it.
"This exquisite green tea is from our southern plantations. Made from the highest quality leaves, it is one of our most prized products. We bought it as a token of our appreciation, as we've heard how the Queen enjoys it very much."
Both monarchs thanked the ambassadors politely, while Haki dreaded every minute of it. Why is life so unfair? she thought bitterly. The trend had been escalating during the last few weeks; wherever she went, they served her green tea, assuming it was her favourite beverage. Had she been too enthusiastic when complimenting Lady Anmerst's choice? She was known for being a gossiper, but Haki hadn't foreseen that outcome from their little meeting.
She sipped her tea, aware of the expectant gazes fixated on her.
"Lovely," she said. "It has such a unique taste."
Izana coughed, and Haki glared daggers at him. It had been a well-natured cough, not suspicious at all. But she could tell.
She continued to sip her tea, unamused.
He didn't want to be too obvious, so he waited a week to pounce. As they had grown accustomed to, they were playing a game of chess. They sat face to face, both consumed on winning. They had passed the initial stages of the match, where they talked while unfolding their strategy, and now a focused silence, seldom interrupted by small comments assessing each other's move, reigned. Therefore, when a rap at the door made Izana surface from his thoughts, he hesitated before remembering.
"Enter," answered Haki with a puzzled expression. Forth came a servant with some refreshments.
"I asked for something to accompany our game," announced Izana with his best practised blank expression. Still confused, Haki nodded and went to pour the drinks, but Izana stopped her.
"Allow me," he asked while he ceremoniously picked the teapot. "I have too heard of your love for green tea, and specifically asked for it."
Her glare was priceless; Izana chuckled and poured the beverage, which was a darker colour than what any green tea should be. He offered her the teacup, and she picked it up, suspiciously. An earthy aroma greeted her, revealing her suspicions that on her hands was a delicate blend of red tea.
"So, you noticed," she sighed. "I wasn't sure."
Izana neither conceded nor negated her point. But she didn't need the confirmation to understand her husband. She smiled faintly.
While the game went on, she sipped her tea contentedly, wondering which particular blend was gracing her tastebuds. Can I sway the court's opinion to make them see my preference towards this type of tea? She mused. Maybe, if I order a large quantity of it, and make sure some gossipy nobles get wind of it... Will that do the trick?
The statement brought her out of her absentmindedness. She looked up to see her husband gracing her with a faint smirk, which was the equivalent of a full-fledged satisfied smile. She narrowed her gaze.
"Well played, your majesty." And she meant so much more.
A.N: I hope you liked this little update! I had been toying with the idea of making this story a series of drabbles around Haki and Izana. I can't promise I'll keep updating this (since my last update was years ago, I guess you can tell), but there might be more stories to come.
I do have another drabble partially written. I meant to post it just before the first one, but something wasn't working out well, and I ended pushing it back. It is currently under revision, but I've got the bulk of it written. Will it see the light? I hope so, but I don't know. It is a bit different than these purely fluffy one-shots, and that might be what is making it weird.
On a final note, thanks to everyone who read and reviewed! If this update exists is thanks to all of your kind and encouraging words!