Summary • You know absolutely nothing about Prince Shouto, but as the princess of a neighboring kingdom, you’re going to marry him anyway. A conversation with a stranger in the palace gardens sheds some light on Prince Shouto’s personality, and maybe this marriage won’t be so bad after all.
Pairing • Mer Prince!Todoroki Shouto x Mer Princess!Reader
Word Count • 5.1k
Tags and Warnings • Mer and royalty au, arranged marriage, fluff, mer culture, kissing, and a wedding.
Note • A fic for @bnhabookclub’s Mermay event! The wonderful members of the book club helped me brainstorm, sprinted with me, and a special thanks to the lovely @rivendell101, @katsukook, and @sadistiks for beta reading this fic! I am a sucker for mermaid aus, so this was a joy to write.
The palace is large and luxurious, gleaming with wealth from top to bottom. Jewels and large pearls glimmer in the walls, and most of the decor shine of gold. Although you live in a castle too, you can’t keep your eyes from widening as you swivel your head back and forth to take everything in.
“This way, Your Majesties, Your Highness,” a mermaid says, bowing. She straightens up and brushes soft brown hair out of her eyes, smiling at you and your parents, her cheeks pink.
She escorts you and your parents to the wing of the palace where you are to stay for the week until the wedding is over. Your expression sours at the thought of the wedding as you sink into your bed, staring up at the ceiling that’s embedded with little shells. How are you supposed to marry someone you’ve never met before?
The only things you know about the Todoroki Kingdom are things you learned from your history tutor and from listening to your parents’ discussions. You only know a bit about the King and Queen, and absolutely nothing about your soon-to-be husband: Prince Shouto.
What is he like? Is he kind to his subjects? Does he only seek power and glory and fame? Or is he like your parents: caring and just?
You’re pulled from your thoughts as your bubbly, pink-haired attendant bursts into the room. “Why in the seas are you already in bed? Haven’t you heard? You have a welcome celebration to get ready for!”
You groan but push yourself off the bed, swimming to a stop in front of multiple woven baskets, all filled with clothes and accessories. “What am I wearing for the celebration, Mina?”
She starts digging through the baskets and you move to help her, lifting up various pieces of clothing and stuffing them back when she shakes her head.
“Aha! This one!” She pulls out long stretches of dark blue fabric that are the same rich shade as the main color of your tail, although your tail is sprinkled with silver scales that shine against the midnight blue. Like all traditional mer attire, the cloth can be assembled in different styles, draped artfully across your skin. Mina wraps one strip of fabric around your chest. She tucks the other pieces under the first one, letting them flare out behind you, swaying in the ripples that your tail makes as it gently fans back and forth, keeping you in place.
You’re quiet as she moves to another basket, pulling out strings of pearls and delicate shells. She drapes some around your neck, weaving others into the cloth so they glitter like stars in the night sky.
As a finishing touch, Mina sets a thin circlet of silver, sapphires, and pearls on top of your head that pairs well with the blue of your tail and the cloth. “There,” she says fondly, “You’re ready to go.”
As if on cue, a knock sounds on your door. Your father’s voice tells you that it’s time to make your way to the ballroom where the welcoming celebration is taking place.
You swim behind your mother and father, keeping your shoulders back and chin tilted slightly up. Although you never asked to marry someone you’ve never met, you will do it for your parents and for the sake of your kingdom, and you will do it in a way that will not bring shame to anyone.
A young merman with bright blonde hair and a dark stripe running through it bends at his waist to you and your parents. “Your Majesties, Your Highness, welcome to the Todoroki Kingdom. On behalf of the royal family, I hope you enjoy the festivities.” He straightens and pulls open the large doors, swimming out to the little balcony overlooking the ballroom filled with mer dressed in their finest outfits. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, esteemed guests from a neighboring kingdom: the royal family!”
All heads swivel towards you and your parents as you swim into the ballroom, down from the balcony to join the mer.
You stay by your parents’ side as you look around the ballroom. The floor, walls, and ceiling all reflect the light of the crystal jellyfish that float around the room. Glittering gems are embedded into the surfaces, an obvious display of wealth. A mat made of woven seagrasses and shimmery cloth stretches from one column to another, forming a surface that holds all kinds of foods and delicacies. Mer swim by and pick their favorites off the mat–ooh is that seaweed-wrapped cod? You perk up at the sight of one of your favorite finger foods and open your mouth to tell your parents that you’re going to go get some, when your mother hooks her arm in yours, and places a hand on your father’s arm before slightly tilting her head in the direction of three mer.
They’re all finely dressed—well, all the mer are finely dressed, but they stand out the most—and crowns of gold, rubies, diamonds, and pearls rest on their heads.
The royal Todoroki family. Or at least three of them.
The mermaid with soft white hair and a purely white tail seems to notice you first. She rests a hand on the older merman’s arm, drawing his attention. The younger merman turns to look at you and your parents, and you straighten up as you study him.
His hair is something you’ve never seen before, half white like his mother’s while the other half is the bright red of his father’s. And his tail is beautiful, a mix of red and white scales that form a pattern unique only to him. Your eyes trail up from his tail to stop on his face, and your gills stop filtering water for a moment. His eyes! One is a silvery grey, the other an icy blue, but both are narrowed at you as you take in the skin around his blue eye, red and puffy and scarred. He’s waiting for your reaction, and you can only tilt your head in his direction in a small nod to hide your embarrassment at being caught staring. It’s not that the scar makes him any less attractive—in fact, your face has grown hot from studying him—but you’re curious as to how he got it. Very few things in the ocean could get hot enough to burn skin badly enough to make a permanent scar.
You’re pulled out of your thoughts when they come closer and your parents move to meet them halfway, you swimming beside your mother. “Welcome to our kingdom,” the mermaid says, “We hope you’ve found everything to be pleasant so far.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, your majesties. You have a magnificent kingdom and we are honored to be able to see it for ourselves,” your father replies.
“Please, call me Rei. This is my husband, Enji,” she says, resting a hand on the older merman’s arm, “and my son, Shouto.”
Your eyes stray to the younger merman at the sound of his name. So he’s the one that you’re going to marry. Your father introduces himself, your mother, and you, then starts talking about the celebration and the wedding, though you tune him out as you continue your study of your fiancé. His tail keeps capturing your attention, although you had already looked at it once. Then your eyes move up to his torso, chest, and arms, and you watch as his muscles subtly flex with the small movements of his tail. He’s certainly fit, and the gold cuffs around his left bicep only emphasize that fact.
Your eyes move further up to his face, once again looking into his eyes. He’s staring right back at you and raises an eyebrow, his lips tilting up in the smallest smirk. You blink once, then turn your head away, now intently focusing back on the food.
As you mourn for the last piece of seaweed-wrapped cod that gets picked up by a passing merman, no doubt an important noble, you don’t notice your fiance’s eyes move up and down your body, from the silver circlet on your head to the deep blue tips of your tail.
Rei notices this interaction out of the corner of her eye and can’t help but smile softly at her son. Her future daughter-in-law certainly seemed to be attracted to him, and, well, it wouldn’t hurt for them to be attracted to each other.
Your parents draw deeper into a conversation with Rei and Enji, and you slip away from them to finally take a look at the food. As you swim, with the pieces of cloth floating behind you in an elegant trail, you notice some of the younger mer looking at you with curiosity, but the mermaids especially seem to have a bite of viciousness in their eyes.
You’re familiar with the type, so you keep your back straight and your head high with pride, letting a mask of indifference settle over your face.
Their whispers travel to your ears as you swim past them.
“That’s who the prince is marrying?”
“I’d be a much better fit than her.”
“I can’t believe the prince is going to leave this kingdom for one like that.” This comment bothers you the most. Yes, your family’s kingdom isn’t nearly as big as the Todoroki Kingdom, but it has its own culture and atmosphere that is special to it. But the mermaid who said that is right. Shouto would have to leave this place of splendor and wealth for yours. Since he isn’t the oldest, he isn’t the crown prince, and the arrangement your parents had made means that he’ll have to move to your kingdom and will take his place by your side on the throne.
The mermaids grow louder in the rude comments, and you force yourself to keep swimming to the spread of food. As much as you would like to snap back at them, it wouldn’t reflect well on you, your parents, or your kingdom, and would only enforce their opinions that your kingdom is full of “barbarians” and “savages.”
So you float near the woven mat that bears the weight of all the elegantly plated snacks and pick up one half of a mussel shell with glistening orange salmon roe resting on it.
“She’s such a prick, too, all rude and stuck up. His Highness doesn’t deserve to get bound to a sea hag like that.” High pitched titters sound behind you, and the water seems to press into you from all sides.
You need to leave.
Clutching the shell in one hand, you maintain your calm expression and perfect posture as you head toward a set of open doors that leads to someplace that is not here. To anyone else, it would seem like you were going out for a gulp of fresh water, but a set of observant grey and blue eyes catches the slightly faster flicking of your tail that gives away your unease.
The doors lead to a beautiful garden, with all types of brightly colored corals and seagrasses. Fish dart in and out of the swaying foliage and you forget your worries as you spin around in a slow circle, wonder filling your eyes. Like the rest of the castle, the garden is resplendent and well cared for. You swim further into the garden, stopping to peer at the more exotic looking plants.
A large rock rests on one side of a row of densely growing kelp and has been sanded down so it’s round. You settle on it, tail fitting into the dips and curves of the rock, and start picking at the salmon roe on your mussel shell.
You put one orange sphere into your mouth and bite down, relishing the pop it makes and the salty flavor that spreads on your tongue. You eat a few more, and despite the bit of joy it gives you, your mind wanders back to the mermaids’ comments in the ballroom.
Blowing bubbles out of your mouth in frustration, you start talking to yourself. “Sea hag,” you scoff. “Isn’t she the hag for saying those things? And my kingdom isn’t ‘uncivilized, undeveloped, and barbaric,’ it’s perfectly fine, thank you. Though it isn’t as large as this kingdom,” you gesture out in the general direction of the garden, “it has its own charm.”
“Size shouldn’t matter,” a voice says, low and calm from the other side of the seagrasses. You shriek and jolt off the rock, nearly losing your salmon roe in the process. “I apologize for startling you,” the voice continues, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your frustrations.”
“Who’re you?” you ask, settling back down onto the rock. It’s a little funny talking to someone you can’t see, but the mystery of it all fills you with excitement. “Are you one of the visiting mer from the other countries, or are you from here?”
“I’m native to the Todoroki kingdom, but I have been to many other kingdoms before, including yours, Your Highness.”
You sputter at the term, unsure how to feel about the merman knowing who you are. “Please, don’t call me that.” You hesitate for a second but make up your mind, so you open your mouth and tell the stranger to call you by your name.
“Are you sure?” he asks. “If someone comes by and hears, would that not be bad for your reputation?”
“Oh! You’re right.” It’s not like I have much of a good reputation to begin with, you think bitterly, but keep your voice lighthearted as you speak again. “You can just call me princess then! Your Highness is too long, especially since we aren’t in a formal setting right now.”
“Very well, princess.” The voice nearly purrs out the last word, making your face heat up like it did when you had studied Prince Shouto.
“And what shall I call you?”
“If you’re ‘princess,’ I suppose ‘prince’ will have to do.”
You laugh a little at that, then fall silent.
The stranger starts to speak again. “I meant what I said, the size of a kingdom shouldn’t matter. We all know the blue-ringed octopus isn’t a large creature, but its venom can take down a full-grown mer in minutes. You clearly treasure your kingdom and I’ve enjoyed the things I’ve seen there myself. So don’t let the displays of this one discourage you.”
Your heart grows warm at the words of the merman. “You’re right,” you reply. “And it comforts me to hear that you liked the things you’ve seen of my kingdom. I’m just worried that the prince, Prince Shouto, I mean, won’t be accustomed to my family’s palace.” You pause as you hear an awkward cough from the other side. “He’s the one I’m engaged to, though I’m sure you already know that. What’s he like, the prince?”
It’s silent for a long moment and you’re starting to wonder if the merman left you when he starts speaking again. “What do you want to know?”
Humming for a moment, you pop another salmon roe into your mouth. “How does he treat the mer of this kingdom?”
“Well,” the merman says, “he doesn’t look down upon them. He wants to do what is best for them, to keep them all safe, and to help them prosper. He visits as many parts of the kingdom as he can every year, and he’s argued with his father about doing more–” he cuts off, then adds on quietly, “He gave up the left side of his face for the kingdom.”
Your eyes widen and you sit up straight on the rock. “The scar?”
“Can you–” you stop. “Nevermind.”
“Can I tell you about it? I can if you’d like, though it isn’t a very pleasant tale.”
“No!” you exclaim, then wince at how harsh you sounded. “I just think it’s better to hear it from Prince Shouto himself. I’m grateful that you’re telling me these things, and I didn’t know that you’re so familiar with the prince, but something like this sounds really personal and I’d rather hear it from him. But thank you.”
The merman is silent. You wonder if you were too rude, or if you hurt his feelings.
“Don’t you think it’s ugly?” he finally asks. “The scar?”
The merman’s voice sounds a little strange when he asks the question, but you disregard it as you think carefully before answering. “No. It’s part of him, just like the sunspots we get if we stay in shallow waters for too long, or the dimples on mer’s faces when they smile. He shouldn’t be ashamed of it, especially if he got it for a reason as noble as saving his kingdom.” You pause for a moment, then add on quietly, “I saw him for the first time tonight and I think he’s really handsome, from his hair to his tail to his eyes.”
There’s no response from the merman. “Um, are you there?” you ask hesitantly. “I didn’t scare you away by saying that I think Prince Shouto is attractive, right?”
“I’m afraid I have to go. Thank you, princess.”
“Wait- wait, don’t go! I’m sorry if I offended you!” You shoot up from the rock, tail flicking powerfully to rise up above the wall of kelp to peer over the other side.
But the merman is gone. The only sign that he was there is the stirred up particles of sand that slowly sink back down to rejoin the others on the ocean floor.
Your face falls in disappointment. You had enjoyed talking to the merman. If you saw him again—or heard him again, you’d make sure to apologize for anything you did. Maybe you made him uncomfortable by talking about the attractiveness of your husband-to-be.
Blowing out bubbles in frustration, you turn around, only to watch a few orange spheres of the salmon roe fall onto the rock and into the sand. Does everything have to go wrong today? “Not only did I scare away an excellent conversation partner, I dropped my snack!”
It is about time for you to head back anyway, so you swish your tail and shoot up above the garden. Holding the now empty mussel shell in your hand to dispose of later, you return to the ballroom, gracefully swimming past all the other mer who were making fun of you earlier, no longer upset by their previous comments.
“Blue-ringed octopus,” you whisper to yourself as you rejoin your parents who are now talking to other visiting dignitaries and noblemer. Smiling pleasantly at them, you allow yourself to get swept into conversations for the rest of the night, traveling from mer to mer.
But somehow, whenever you look away from the mer you are talking to, you always catch a glimpse of red and white scales, sparkling under the light of the jellyfish. And you can’t help but think back to the conversation you had with that mystery merman, and think that maybe this arranged marriage won’t be so bad at all.
Little do you know, those same thoughts run through Shouto’s head. “It’s part of me,” he whispers to himself as he joins his older siblings, who immediately start teasing him about swimming off during a celebration to welcome his fiancée.
The rest of the week seems to pass by in a flash. Your days are filled with events, one thing happening after the other, all in preparation for the wedding.
You only get to see Prince Shouto a couple times over the days. Though you wish to stop and talk to him, Mina always catches you and rushes you to your next location. All you can manage is a nod and a smile before swimming on.
And soon enough, after days of parties and meeting all kinds of important mer and trying on your wedding outfits—why you need more than one is beyond you—the day of your wedding is upon you.
Mina bursts through your bedroom door well before the first rays of sunlight have struck the ocean, using her pink tail to flip the woven seagrass blankets off your sleeping body. “Wake up! It’s your special day, princess!”
You groan and bury your head in the soft sea sponge you had slept on, trying to block out her excited chatter. Her hands come down on your shoulders and pull you off the sponge.
“We have to start getting ready!” Mina drags your body through the water and out the bedroom door to another room two doors down where your wedding outfits are. She lets go of you to open another door in the room, poking her head out to call in the other attendants.
As the other mer swim in and start pulling out the pieces you’ll need to wear first, you rub the sleep out of your eyes and stretch so you’re more awake. Hands help you undress from your thin sleepwear, and start draping the layers and layers of pure white cloth in artful arrangements over your body. The cloth makes one loop around your neck before coming down to cover your chest, leaving a wide expanse of your back bare. Then they wrap around your waist and trail down around your tail, fanning out behind you like the graceful tentacles of jellyfish and sea anemone.
Mina helps you slip on thin, silver bracelets onto your wrist and attach silver cuffs around your upper arms. She pulls out strand after strand of small pearls and little shells and sparkling diamonds and threads them through the cuffs and bracelets, forming priceless sleeves that softly clink against each other when you move your arms. The other attendants weave more strands of pearls and diamonds into the pieces of cloth, which sparkle and reflect the light of the crystal jellyfish all over the room.
Finally, Mina removes a crown from a box. It’s made of white shells and more pearls, and it’s just as beautiful as the rest of your outfit. Mina swims before you, holding the crown gently in her hands. “I’m so happy for you,” she says, blinking hard.
“Are you adding to the ocean again?” you tease, though you’re also blinking rapidly.
Mina raises the crown above your head and gently settles it on you, using both hands to make sure it is in place. “There,” she says, then swims a tail length back. “You look perfect.” She looks at all the other attendants and thanks them for their hard work as they smile, nod, and exit the room. “If Prince Shouto’s jaw doesn’t drop to his tail, I’m gonna slap him with my own.”
She grins and flicks her pink fins before taking your hands in her own. “I’m so glad to have grown up by your side. Your kingdom couldn’t ask for a better princess, and I couldn’t ask for a better friend. It’s been an honor, Your Highness.”
“Oh, Mina,” you say, swallowing hard to keep your voice from wavering. “I love you so, so much.”
“Of course you do! Now come, let us go see your prince!”
As per tradition, the to-be-wedded parties are to meet at the entrance of the throne room. So you swim behind your parents, who are also dressed in elaborate outfits that glimmer when the light shines on precious jewels. They come to a stop in front of Enji and Rei, and the four of them converse, blocking you from seeing your fiancé.
Then the grand doors to the throne room swing open, and the Todoroki King and Queen enter the room. Your own parents kiss you on your forehead, and your mother tells you how proud she is, before they enter the throne room.
You get your first look at Prince Shouto in his wedding outfit, and your lips part as you stare.
He’s wearing the same silver cuffs and bracelets that you are, though they lack the strings of pearls, shells, and diamonds. The rest of his arms are bare, and your eyes trace over his sculpted muscles before sliding down his bare chest to where his abs meld with white and red scales. The only piece of clothing he wears besides the bracelets, cuffs, and matching crown of shells and pearls on his head, is a white cape that fans out behind him, mimicking the pieces of fabric of your own outfit.
“Wow,” you breathe, and his own eyes—which had widened as they traced your body—snap up to meet yours.
“I’m pleased to meet your approval,” he says, voice low and calm, carrying a hint of amusement. “You’re stunning yourself, princess.”
The purr sends a shiver up your spine and you stiffen in realization. “It’s you?” you exclaim. “You were on the other side of the kelp!”
Shouto nods, then looks at you with uncertainty. “Does that disappoint you?”
“No! Of course not!” You shake your head rapidly, unknowingly dislodging your crown with the movement. “That makes me feel a lot better. To know that I’ve talked to you before, and that we can get along, and that you truly don’t mind my family’s kingdom.”
You stop for a second, watching as Shouto looks at you with soft eyes. Then your own eyes widen in horror and you bury your face in your hands. “I told you that I think you’re handsome!” you wail. “And I’m pretty sure that scared you away!”
A gentle hand wraps around your wrist, and you let Shouto pull your hands away from your face. “I was flattered,” he says as he reaches to grab your crown that has started to drift away. “I was shocked to hear that my scar doesn’t bother you, and that you still find me attractive anyway. And I was especially overwhelmed to hear that from someone as gorgeous as you.”
He sets your crown back onto your head, and you smile as he concentrates on making sure it is secure. His hands move down to cup the sides of your face, and he runs his thumbs over your cheeks. Your own hands reach up and cover his own, and you smile and tilt your head more into his hands.
“I am honored,” you say, “that someone so caring and thoughtful and someone that would let himself get hurt for the sake of his own kingdom will be by my side and help me rule my own.” You let go of his hands and he lets his fall back to his sides, watching as you rest your hands on his shoulders. A small flick of your tail draws you two even closer together, so you’re pressed chest to chest, faces a mere scale’s width apart, and you lean in to press a gentle kiss to the scar.
Shouto’s eyes flutter shut, his chest both warm and tight with emotion. You slowly pull away, and his eyes open again, flames of passion burning in them. One arm slides around your waist, the other hand cupping the back of your head, and his red and white tail wraps around the dark blue and silver of your own. He slowly pulls your face back towards his, eyes flickering from your own eyes down to your lips, which part under his heated gaze.
“Can I kiss you?”
“Please do,” you whisper, and your eyes close as he leans in.
Warm lips press against your own, which soften and mould around his. One of your hands leaves his shoulder and slides up his neck and into his hair, tugging gently. A soft sigh escapes his mouth at the action so you do it again, the corners of your lips turning upwards at the sound. Shouto notices your amusement and takes it upon himself to kiss you harder, lips moving together until he nips just the tiniest bit at your lower one. Your squeak of surprise makes him chuckle, and both of you pull away slowly, lips darker and swollen.
An awkward clearing of the throat makes you jolt and turn your head towards a green-haired merman, who looks just as embarrassed as you are. Shouto turns slowly, unwinding his tail from yours, though he keeps his arm around your waist.
“Y-your highnesses, it’s almost time for you to, um, enter the throne room,” the merman says, sunspotted cheeks turning red.
“Thank you, Midoriya,” Shouto says, giving his long time friend a small smile and a nod.
The throne room doors slowly swing open, revealing hundreds of mer dressed in elaborate clothing, all who turn to face the two of you.
“That’s our cue,” Shouto says, and offers out his hand to you, palm up. “Shall we?”
“We shall.” You smile at him, which he returns with an upward quirk of his lips, then place your own hand in his.
Your tails flick in tandem as you swim into the throne room, with high ceilings and walls that glitter and gleam. Many crystal jellyfish float and bob around, illuminating the room. Strings of pearls and precious jewels stretch from column to column, scattering light. The mer clap and cheer, fanning and swishing their tails in ways that create millions of bubbles that brush past your skin on their way up, causing the cloth of your outfit and the cape around Shouto’s shoulders to spread out behind you, creating an elegant trail of white.
You see your parents, King Enji, and Queen Rei waiting at the other end of the room. Hand in hand, you and Shouto swim to them and stop before them.
As King Enji starts to speak, you tilt your head to look at Shouto who smiles softly at you, which you return brightly. Queen Rei swims to you and you watch as she threads a strand of pearls and diamonds from your bracelet to Shouto’s.
Rey swims back to her husband’s side. “With this, they are bound for eternity, even when they become one with the sea,” Enji announces, voice booming through the throne room.
“We are bound for eternity,” you and Shouto say together, “even when we become one with the sea.”
“And now, this promise is to be sealed with a kiss.”
You turn to face Shouto, who arches an eyebrow playfully. “Shall we, princess?”
As you pull him closer to you and twine your tails together, red and white against midnight blue and silver, you slip your untied hand to his dual-colored hair, and he gently cradles your neck, drawing your face closer to his.
When your lips are just about to meet, you smile at him sweetly.
“We shall, my prince.”