King Lysander and his wife, the late Queen Dolce, Dogaressa of Soldano, had three children before her untimely demise some decade and a half past.
There was Gemma, strong and cunning. Lucien, tenacious and unwavering. Then, there was Victoria. She was pretty.
In all truth Victoria was the eldest, but the fact of the matter was that there was nothing to be said of her besides the fact that she was pretty. Even court gossip was stagnant around her.
Gemma was a warrior born, fast and strong, a master of tactics and the human mind. It had been a decade since anyone had been able to beat her in a fight and history had been made when she was appointed General of Imperia’s army at barely fifteen years old. Under her brilliance their army and navy had grown to unprecedented levels and surpassed all generations before them.
There was a small part of Victoria that blamed Gemma for this. And an even smaller part blamed their brother.
Lucien wasn’t as good at fighting as Gemma. He was far from a prodigy. Things didn’t come easy to her little brother, who had to struggle to perfect what came to easily to the two girls. Still, he worked harder than any of them, until he had earned their father’s respect, and the adoration of their people. He was not the youngest Legislature Paramount ever, but he had begun a legal reform that showed promise. The people adored him and his fair minded ways.
Victoria di Imperia was not anything so impressive as her younger siblings. She was, simply, pretty.
The daughter of a former Dogaressa of Soldano and the King of Imperia she had been expected to be brilliant. To be a leader for their people to follow in the era that lay ahead, where pirates reigned across the sea and the land was at constant change.
She was none of those things.
Victoria had never excelled at anything in this life. Her tutors praised her for trying , her suitors patted her hand and complimented her hair.
That was fine with her.
Long before she was a princess Victoria had had her time as a genius, in a lifetime she only remembered vaguely after so long. What she did recall of being brilliant, the predistal that that had placed her upon, well . She had no wish to return there.
Though, maybe if she had shown off more she wouldn’t have been where she was. Perhaps, if she had showed that she had worth beyond being a simple bargaining chip, she would not have been here.
That is to say, in a palanquin bound for a place she really, really didn’t want to be going.
A palanquin bound for her wedding.
It was hot in the litter, sunlight bearing down on the thrio that sat inside. Victory withheld her complaints, it would do no good. She couldn't even fan her face, or she might misplace her hair or the garland of crystal flowers that lay within the six curls that crowned her, leading back to the carefully coiled waterfall at the back of her head.
Traditionally she would have picked a garland of actual flowers from her parents garden the morning of her wedding for this, made up of myrtle, marjoram, and rosemary. The week she had spent on a boat before arriving in the city that morning made such a thing impossible. Instead she had worked with a jeweler and selected the gem and gold flowers that now graced her.
The bouquet was marginally less important, so local flora was acceptable for that.
At the moment, it lay in Aelia’s lap, where she sat to Victoria’s left, one of the two handmaidens that had accompanied her in it. The other four rode outside the palanquin dressed in leather soldiers armor.
“All will be well, princess,” Madelle promised. All of the handmaidens were nearly identical to Tori. Madelle in particular was a little less beautiful now-a-days, but when she had been brought into royal service twenty years ago it had been perfect. Her glossy hair was blue-black in the way the sea was at night, her face was porcelain and any blemishes were skillfully hidden under face paint. As they grew older the differences, while still small, became more apparent. Where Madelle’s cheeks remained wide and fell into a narrow jaw Tori had kept her heart shaped face, with the puppy fat falling off of high cheekbones.
With the right contouring they were still identical.
If she had been attending a wedding with anyone less dangerous it would have Madelle wearing the white veil that day, but they couldn't afford to risk getting on the bad side of these people. So there Tori sat, her hands clasped in her lap.
She knew she wasn’t supposed to move much, but she couldn't help pulling the curtain back to catch a glimpse of the building they were marching into. Her breath was stolen immediately. The New World was a weird place, but nothing would have prepared her for the sight of the Whole Cake Chateau.
It was a massive creation shaped like a four tiered cake, with shingles that looked like frosting and trees that gave it the look of birthday candles. It towered above her, higher than any building in the Novara archipelago. It dwarfed everything around it, from trees to the city that they had passed through on their way from the docks. A magnificent building that showed very easily who resided within in.
They passed through the from door, which was easily big enough for the entire precession to walk through. Inanimate objects with very animated faces watched them pass, singing about their purposes in life in a rather demented fashion that set Tori’s brows into a furrow. Madelle cleared her throat and Tori let the curtain fall into place once more. She had to stifle her nervous giggling with a delicate clearing of her throat.
She felt guilty when they began to ascend to the stairs, all the way up to the very highest floor. A garden on the roof, where the wedding would be held. The bearers of her palanquin were strong men, who were supposedly honored to carry their princess up to meet her groom. That didn’t mean that carrying three full grown women up nine flights of stairs was easy. If it wasn’t so improper she would have insisted on exiting the litter and walking herself, getting some of her nervous energy out and giving the poor men a break.
However, her father was leading the train of Imperian royalty, and he would not have it. He gave his daughter's many liberties, but this was not a time where he could afford to differ from tradition.
None of them, for their lives or for the lives of their people, could afford to slip up in this dangerous place.
At last they crested the final step to a rooftop garden. She could hear the hard breathing of the litter bearers and the horses that had fit so easily within the enormous building. It was a miracle that some nervous tick didn’t pop up. Her lips were only just painted today, but still she did not bite them. Her hands were soft with lotions and her nails meticulously cleaned and tipped. She minded herself not to pick at them.
Her head was held high and her gaze was fixed forwards as the litter came to a stop inside the courtyard. When the door opened she glided down the steps placed in front of her with a grace instilled in her from the day she was born into this world. Madelle and Aelia followed after in soft pastel yellow dresses that wrapped around their throats before falling formlessly to the ground.
She did her best to keep her face smooth, even if it was hidden mostly behind the veil.
Faces followed her as she walked slowly towards the grand doors. It was something that Tori was very familiar with.
In truth, she was glad for her beauty. That was all people saw when they looked at her. They saw she was beautiful and that was all. Not even her own siblings had ever delved deeper. It gave her a type of freedom, liberated from the scrutiny her genius had earned her when she had been Victoria Iverson. Everyone had been watching her then, to see what Ivy League college she went to, to see what world changing career she chose.
This was better.
Sometimes it was lonelier, she would admit. Never had it been more evident than when she was walking down the aisle in front her new family .
With all eyes on her, and Madelle falling further back as they neared the priest, Tori was filled with a sense of isolation.
It was a credit to her father's rigorous lessons in geniality and manners that she didn’t trip over her long skirt when she saw who was standing at the head of the aisle. A second son. That was… not normal. She had been expecting the thirtieth, twentieth maybe. The second was preposterous.
What was so important about her kingdom that she was to marry Charlotte Katakuri?
Well. Her life just got more interesting.
Tori turned a veiled smile up at him.
From the depictions in the manga she’d read all those years ago she had expected him to look like live action Scrappy Doo. What she got instead was a man. An enormous one, true, but a man nonetheless.
This did bring to mind a few… issues, they would have as man and wife. Standing in front of him at the alter she was well aware that she only came up to his mid drift, and that was in heels. Perhaps his devil fruit could shrink him. Or, given the fact that Gol D Roger was only four years dead and she and her husband were both in the middle of their twenties, maybe she would find that gum gum fruit for herself.
Tori listened with half an ear for what the bishop was saying. In sickness and in health. Until death do you part?
“I do,” she vowed.
She managed not to tense when the massive man before her lifted the long veil from her. A few of the people gathered gasped at her face.
She had heard some more romantic people refer to her as ‘enchanting’, ‘peerless’ and ‘artlessly’ beautiful. So she turned her most pleasant smile up at her new husband to prove them right. His eyes widened a faction before any thoughts faded from him.
“You may kiss the bride,” the Bishop declared. Katakuri leveled him with a narrow eyed refusal. Tori had almost forgotten.
He was sensitive about his mouth.
Well, she could live with that.
Victoria tugged his hand towards her, drawing his dark eyes back to his new wife. He let her lay her lips on the back of his hand.
“There,” she smiled softly at him. “Will that suffice?”
The bishop startled. “W-well. The man is meant to kiss the bride and-“
“Fine,” Katakuri lowered himself. Tori was truly surprised. He wouldn’t pull his scarf away just like that, right?
Right. He pulled her hand up and, maneuvering her with a grip tight enough to warn her not to do anything foolish, guided her fingers behind the cloth. She felt the barest imprint of a mouth before her hand was pushed away and he stood up. She saw nothing of his mouth. No one did.
As one they turned the challenge to the bishop, daring him to contradict them.
He was sweating profusely when he nodded quickly.
“I now pronounce you man and wife!”
Cheers erupted around them. Someone called for the wedding cake. While they ran off Victoria turned away from her husband to watch the line that was made up of Madelle, Aelia, her sister Gemma, a few ladies in waiting and a handful of courtisans that had come with her. After a bit of prompting from Civilla, her cousin, the Charlotte girls joined the line as well, looking confused.
Perhaps it was a tradition native only to her island, as opposed to the whole world?
Whatever the case Victoria walked to each of them in turn, kissed a flower from her bouquet of stephanotis, and carefully wrapped the vine around the wrist of each unmarried woman she passed.
“What are these for?” a rather unfortunate looking girl asked. A scar cut across her face, between her eyes and down the left. She was… Brulee. That was it. It had been many years since Victoria had seen One Piece. It was one of the few things she really tried to remember from her old self, seeing as how relevant it would be in a couple of decades.
“For a happy marriage,” she explained. “It’s a tradition.”
“A happy marriage… You don’t need to give one to me,” Brulee told her. Victoria came so close to tilting her head. The only thing that stopped her was a dozen of diamond drops in her carefully piled hair.
“Ah, if you don’t want to get married they can also instill the desire to travel. Good for pirates, right?”
“Don’t you see this scar on my face? It’s horrible. I wouldn’t get married happily,” she said all of this with a smile that was frankly unnerving.
“Well,” Victoria considered her words. “Just don’t marry a shallow person. Love has a way of dismissing imperfections. So keep the flower, please? For luck.”
“What would you know about imperfections?” one of the other girls challenged. Tori hadn’t been planning on having a conversation like this. This was way too deep for a first meeting.
So, she smiled at them in a way that made glitter look dull.
“Me? Nothing at all.”
She moved on, to the smallest girls, two little pink haired twins that got the very last of her bouquet. At the same time the cake was rolled in, bigger than anything that Tori had ever seen. Her Miss Congeniality mask slipped with her shock at the sight.
Brulee pushed her, not roughly, towards the table where Big Mom sat with her sons.
Tori lifted her skirts quickly to join her husband. Her father sat on her other side, looking the king he was in his fine suit and his golden crown. A small gold tiara sat in her own hair, with an identical stone as the one set in her fathers. A ruby.
Looking at the spread of deserts Tori found herself with a dilemma.
She was allergic to gluten. She couldn't eat anything in front of her.
Victoria thinned her lips to keep from laughing aloud. She was allergic to gluten, married to the minister of flour, and her favorite dessert was Mochi.
That was a problem that was easy enough to remedy. Married women in Imperia did not eat before their husbands, and given the fact that Katakuri wasn’t going to eat period in front of all of these people she was at no risk of having to eat anything in front of her.
For the rest of her wedding Tori watched other people eat, laugh and dance while she sat next to her stoic husband, struggling not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
What an interesting life this was!
When she came to understand who her husband was, she was struck with so many questions it was enough to make her head spin right off her shoulders, if she wasn’t careful. So blindingly fast did they fly through her brain that she was barely aware that she had been escorted the whole way to the bridechamber.
Katakuri, who was not soft spoken but rather rarely spoke at all, brought her the whole way without touching her once. He hadn’t made any contact since they had been wed, not through the reception and not on the brief trip between islands that took them to Komugi.
She had barely looked at the bizarre landscape they passed when they arrived, that was how preoccupied she was. Even the giant donut with a face wasn’t enough to draw her from her contemplations.
She didn’t know if she was nervous or not when it came to the idea of consummation. She wasn’t even sure if it would happen. If it did, would Katakuri keep his scarf up the entire time? Or perhaps he would insist that they turn out the lights? He might even blindfold her.
Now there was a thought.
Tori offered him a nod of thanks for his graciousness and stepped inside. The room was massive, as one might expect, though sparsely furnished. Her wardrobe would fit easily in the space of the of his hulking armoire. From here she could see the door to the bathroom open, and the tub inside. That was something she would enjoy.
The one thing that was truly off about the room was utter lack of anything personal. It was spartan perfection and spotless. Not ever a stray spiked boot.
She looked up at her husband, mouth poised with a question.
“This will be your room,” he said without promptly. “You are the lady of this house, you will be treated as such. If you are not, inform me. Goodnight.”
He was gone before Tori could gather her words.
For a long moment she stared at the closed door. Even though she knew he was self conscious and that there was a chance that they would do nothing, actually doing nothing on her wedding day was more than surreal. She had been preparing herself for months to settle for whomever she was coupled with and let her new husband do as he pleased that night.
To be doing nothing…
Tori looked around the room, pulling at drawers and testing the bed. It was evident that it was meant to be shared between her and Katakuri, seeing as everything there was twice the size of any furniture she would use.
Yet, her husband had left her to her own devices, given her her own room and disappeared into the massive mansion she was now to call home.
All because he was shy.
Tori couldn’t help it. She started giggling uncontrollably.
That was- that was cute!
Her strong pirate husband, feared son of an emperor, future holder of a billion beri bounty, was cute!