Disclaimer: I unfortunately regret to say that I DO NOT own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters especially Kenshin...:(

Blood Pact

Young Kamiya Kaoru escaped from the clutches of the ladies-in-waiting as she slipped through an opening in the wall. Her small frame made it easier for her to move around especially when she wanted to escape. Only five, she has given most of the members of the House of Flowing Water a headache as she defied all rules of being a female.

The only person who didn't seem to mind at all was in his study.

Kaoru crept in and watched her father writing on his desk. As she approached the handsome young lord of the house, he lifted his head and smiled lovingly at her.

"Escaped from your nannies again, Kaoru-hime?" he asked playfully, moving his chair behind slight and helping his daughter settle down on his lap.

Kaoru grinned cheekily at her father, pulling his bangs to bring his face closer and whispered conspiratorially. "They wouldn't let me practice swords with the others so I escaped."

She sounded so serious about the matter that a joyful smile graced his lips. "I see. That wouldn't do, would it?"

She shook her head. "Papa?"

"Yes, my dear?"

"When is the boy coming to play again?"

Koshijiro looked at her, confused and then realised who she was talking about.

"Not for a while. He has to train to. His father is a busy man like me. Why, Kaoru-hime? Do you miss him?"

"It's just lonely here sometimes, papa and he's nice. I like him," Kaoru replied childishly, and looked at the table to see what her father was doing. Papers were strewn all over the table and her father seemed to be paying a lot of attention to them.

"Papa, what are these?" Kaoru asked as she turned to give her father her attention. Kamiya Koshijiro smiled at his only child and stroked her hair as he explained to his ever curious little gift.

"These are agreements."

Kaoru looked up, confused. "A-gri-me?"

"Agreements. Agreements are promises made between two men. When two sides have made and signed an agreement, they should not go against it. If it is a blood pact, the one who goes against it will be punished. The punishment is death."

"Why? Why should they be killed? If one wants to break the a-gri-men, can't they?"

"Well, normal agreements can be broken but blood pact has to be kept. Therefore, people avoid making blood pacts."

Kaoru nodded thoughtfully and looked back at the papers. Koshijiro leaned forward over his daughter's tiny body.

"You see this," he said as he showed the blank space after the lines of words. "This is where you sign your name."

"How do I sign my name?" Kaoru asked, curious as usual. Koshijiro kept a patient smile on his face. His daughter can be trying but he knew as well as his father that she inherited that from him and it was one of her most endearing qualities.

Picking up a quill, he held her hand and wrote her name on a blank parchment. K-A-O-R-U.

His daughter's smile as she saw her name was worthwhile.

The knock on his door signalled a visitor and he told them to come in. Standing flushed and flustered at the doorway, Tae visible sighed in relief at the sight of Kaoru sitting on her father's lap.

"I'm so sorry, my Lord. I'll take the young lady away at once."

"It's alright, Tae. Don't worry. I was looking forward for a break after all." Koshijiro looked down at his daughter and saw her concentrating on writing her name.

"Lady Kaoru," Tae called softly. Kaoru looked up and knew her time with her father was up. However, she was too excited with this new thing her father taught her to care. Leaning up, she pulled her father's face close and kissed his cheeks. He kissed hers as well and was amused to see her taking the parchment as she left.

Waving at her dad, Kaoru left the study with the parchment, determined to learn how to sign her name.

***

As the young lord continued his work, another knock on the door stopped him. Ever patient, Koshijiro told the man to enter and was about to continue his work when a messenger stood before him. Not just any messenger, but a messenger from the House of Fire Dragon. The red cape he wore had the symbol of a red dragon.

"What is your business here?" Koshijiro asked, eyeing the messenger sceptically. What does the House of Fire Dragon want with him?

"A message from the Lord of the House of Fire Dragon," the messenger announced as he knelt before Koshijiro and held up the red parchment.

Koshijiro thanked the messenger and sent him on his way. Opening the letter with curiosity, he was stunned by its content. Part of him was angry and extremely annoyed while another part of him was amused and amazed.

Shaking his head and remembering his conversation with Kaoru, he placed the parchment down and walked out to clear his head. He needed to know what to do next.

XXX

Young Kaoru slipped into her father's study, hoping to meet him. However, no one was there. Disappointed that she could not show her father her latest feat, she trudged to his large chair and pulled herself on it. She had really wanted to show her father her signature.

Looking at his messy table, Kaoru's eyes were instantly attracted to a red paper. It stood out among the rest and she wondered just how her father's blue ink might look on it. Leaning forward, she clumsily grasped the quill and slowly but carefully signed her name at the bottom.

K-A-O-R-U

She grinned as the words stood out on the red paper. It looked nice, she thought. The colour combination was nice.

Suddenly, a large crash caused Kaoru to scream in shock, the sharp end of the quill she was holding pierced through her skin and droplets of her blood fell on the paper. Stunned, she scrambled off and ran out of the room in both panic and pain.

As the door closed behind her, the red parchment slowly burned, flames eating it from its edges, until only Kaoru's signature was visible, and then the whole parchment burst into a small ball of fire and disappeared.

XXX

Kamiya Kaoru sighed at the amount of papers she needed to sign. Every day, she was faced with a mountain pile of work that needed her immediate and undivided attention. All the things she had learned had prepared her for this step.

To take over the leadership of the House of Flowing Water after her father's death.

And as far as she was concerned, she had done a splendid job for over a year.

Kaoru still could not believe her father had died. The sudden war that robbed the people of their peace had ended after the four houses had intervened but her father was unlucky. He had become sick and his assistance to end the fight ended his life.

He never left behind a male heir and as Kaoru was his only heir, she took his place.

For centuries, the only house which went against every rule put forth was the House of Flowing Water. As per their name, the leaders of this unique house bend every rule to get their way. As far as she knew, her grandfather had declined marriage to a daughter of the Lord of the House of Eternal Earth. It was unheard of as her great grandfather had arranged the marriage and children were supposed to honour their parents' wishes. Her grandfather went against him and married a pheasant instead.

Her father too had not bent to the rules. Everyone who knew him and the lords of the other three houses had advised him to remarry after her mother's death but he refused. He didn't care that he did not have a male heir but a female one. He did not bring Kaoru up dressed like a doll but he brought her up as he would have brought his son up. Education, politics, economics, and sword-fighting.

Kaoru was not going to start following the rules now. She was the first daughter to be born into the House of Flowing Water, who had blue eyes. She was the first female leader of her house (and among other houses as well), a master of the sword style taught to the people of her house, a bright educated young woman with a clear disregard to rules.

Another rule Kaoru had broken which made her house give up on her was Yahiko. A kid who she found on the streets, Yahiko was bullied and tortured daily but he had spirit and that spirit caused Kaoru to adopt him into her house. No one had been able to change her mind and with a smile, they let it be. She was her father's daughter and her actions have proved yet again that she was purely a lady of the house.

Rules are trying to get her to marry the second son of the Lord of the House of Quiet Wind. She knew Aoshi very well and had no desire to wed him especially since her best friend was in love with him. Misao, a member of the House of Quiet Wind, had been her childhood friend and trusted companion. Betrayal was not an option.

Kaoru was not ignorant to the ways of the land. She knew the ruling structure, who sits at the highest in the hierarchy and the duty of each of the four houses.

Each house has its own strength. The strongest, richest and most feared house is the House of Fire Dragon. It is the ruler, the one who determines everything.

The House of Quiet Wind provides fighters, soldiers to defend and amazing spies. Their spies move as silent and uncatchable as the wind.

The House of Eternal Earth provides financial security for the people. Over centuries, the finest book-keepers can be hired from any member of this house.

Kaoru's house, the House of Flowing Water, provides not only advice but also man power. Their skills in architecture and designs can't be compared. The members of this house are forbidden to kill. That's why none join the army. However, all who learn to use the sword fight well with it.

Unlike the other houses, the sword of Kaoru's house is made of water. It is hard enough to knock out a person, cause serious injuries and protect the wielder but at the same time it is soft enough to ensure not a life is taken.

The House of Fire Dragon uses the sword of fire. Its destruction ability is unimaginable. The House of Eternal Earth uses metal and the House of Quiet Wind uses everything they have. You can't put limits on the army.

Kaoru has come to know all these four houses very well. However, she has no desire to commit herself to any one of the three. She was determined to lead her house whether or not anyone makes a noise about a female leader.

This was why she was both surprised and curious about the message that was just delivered to her. The leader of the House of Fire Dragon has requested her attendance to discuss some private and important matters. What these matters could be baffled her and she hoped it was not another kind soul telling her to just marry a man and let him rule.

Yahiko sat with her, wondering as she was, whether this was another advice on getting hitched. He respected Kaoru's decision on ruling her house. No one else knew the house as well as she does. She had been trained over the years by her father. Although Yahiko never had the opportunity to meet the late lord, he had heard various stories from everyone in the house. He was sure that Lord Koshijiro would have agreed with his daughter's decision to rule.

"Well, I guess I will only know what this matter is when I go there. This is really getting tiring. Anyways, have you thought about it?" Kaoru asked as she flipped through the other documents demanding her attention. Yahiko looked at her guiltily.

"I can't, Kaoru. Besides, no one would agree."

Kaoru sighed. "Look, Yahiko, this is my decision and it's personal so I do not need anyone's permission. I am not asking you to drop your family name, Yahiko. I'm just asking you to accept mine so that I can officially call you my brother."

Yahiko shook his head in wonder. "I still don't understand why you'd choose me? I am not special and we fight a lot. I was sure you'd choose someone nicer to you."

Kaoru snorted. "I want a brother not some idiot that bows to me and calls me 'nee-sama'. Besides, you have spunk and I like that. And that would be the last praise you hear from me, kid."

Growling, Yahiko snapped back. "I'm not a kid, busu!"

"Yahiko!"

The stern voice made both of them turn towards the door. Tae looked disapprovingly at Yahiko making him squirm.

"Do not address your Lady like that. I apologise for his behaviour, Lady Kaoru," Tae said as she bowed at Kaoru. "I should teach him better."

Kaoru only smiled and waved her hand dismissively. "It doesn't matter. Don't worry. Tae, I will be gone for the afternoon, so please do not prepare lunch for me. I'll be back by nightfall."

Tae nodded and watched as Kaoru gracefully walked out with a wink at Yahiko. The little girl she had taken care of was now a 18 year old beauty with startling water blue eyes. She has made her house proud by the way she so successfully carried herself.

Kaoru changed and dressed appropriately before mounting her carriage. She just wants to get this meeting over with.

XXX

The House of Fire Dragon was magnificent. Then again, it was her people that helped to design it. Kaoru admired the splendid and luxurious beauty spread before her as she was escorted to the lord's private study. Apparently, the meeting would be held there. As she walked along the corridor, stunning figures of dragons decorated the pillars. Everywhere she turned, there was fire and dragons. It gave a person the feeling of danger.

Kaoru felt excited.

Her house was different. The colours were soft, soothing. Pillars were decorated with ice. Unlike these pillars that looked hot to touch, hers were cool and soothing.

Both houses were very different, she mused as she was led across stunning ballrooms and rows of other rooms. Kaoru thought it was odd that she did not felt overwhelmed by the richness surrounding her. Then again, she was never one for luxury. Any one in her house could testify that her favourite attire was her training attire, and even wearing the dress she was wearing now took lots of persuasion from her ladies-in-waiting.

The escort stopped before a large gold ornamented door with dragon handles. He knocked trice and a loud voice gave them permission to enter.

Kaoru nodded at her follower. She signalled him to wait as she walked into the room, unprepared to face the lord many feared.

The man who sat before her was huge. Dressed in a white cape and black attire, he towered over her small frame. His piercing dark eyes both startled and filled her with fear. His large muscular body could snap her into half if he so wishes it. Kaoru understood perfectly why so many feared him.

However, she was a Lady herself and it would not do to bow in fear and make a fool out of herself. Instead, she approached him gracefully and gave him a greeting bow. Even as she did so, her eyes never left his.

"Lord Hiko, a pleasure to meet you."

Hiko Seijuro watched the petite creature before him in both amusement and bafflement. This was the woman who had taken over Kamiya Koshijiro's place? Koshijiro was better off naming another heir. She looked so small and weak despite her obvious beauty. Well, she would be married off soon so it would not matter.

"Lady Kaoru. My pleasure. Are you aware of the reason of our meeting?"

Kaoru shook her head and sat on the chair before him. She did not wait for him to gesture her to sit. After all, they were equals and whether he accepted it or not, was not her problem. Kaoru was no idiot. She saw the look in his eyes. He felt she was not up to holding her position. Kaoru was bent on proving him wrong.

"Your letter could have been more helpful if more words were written on it," Kaoru calmly told him as she kept her eyes locked on his.

Hiko was taken back. No women, no scratch that, no one had ever spoke to him like that. At least, this girl has some boldness. His idiot of an heir would not walk all over her.

"I heard you are not planning to marry the lad from the House of Quiet Winds. I was wondering why?" Hiko asked as he leaned back and took in her form. Kaoru still sat stiffly. She knew this was about her marriage.

"My personal life does not affect the land so I feel no need to answer that. However, if there are more pressing things to discuss..."

"There is. Your marriage into my house."

He might as well have said she was invited to dinner for his tone was as casual as before. Kaoru did nothing more than stare at the man before her in confusion.

"Marrying into your house? Whatever for?"

Hiko's eyebrows twitched. She was obviously her father's daughter. "My heir has taken over for the past three years. It is time for him to settle down. As per your agreement, you are to wed him."

Kaoru was astonished and shocked. "Hold on a minute. Agreement? I never made any agreement with your house!"

As though talking to a child, Hiko's voice remained calm. "You made an agreement to marry my heir when the time comes, that is, when you turn 18. Your father was aware of this."

"My father never said a word, Lord Hiko and I'm unaware of any arrangement. I have never met any member of your house before."

He knew this was what she would tell. Smirking, Hiko took a large gulp of his sake. "I believe you'd recognise this?"

At that moment, a small burst of flame appeared before Kaoru making her move backwards. Before her, a red parchment appeared. Kaoru studied it carefully. The content of the letter states that the House of Fire Dragon was interested in the daughter of the House of Flowing Water and a union when the daughter reached 18 could hopefully be arranged.

At the bottom was Kaoru's childish signature.

Kaoru gasped and looked up. "I forgot about this. It happened years ago, Lord Hiko."

Hiko nodded. "Of course. I sent it to your father and you signed it. This makes you the bride of our house."

Kaoru valiantly shook her head. "You have got to be kidding me. This agreement was signed without my father's knowledge and when I was nothing more than a five year old child who knew nothing of its contents. I thought it was a piece of unused paper! You can't use this to make me marry your heir," Kaoru replied in defiance.

The tall man looked back at her. "You are to marry my heir. That's final. It's as stated."

Suddenly, Kaoru wondered about this whole thing. "Is this another method of friendly persuasion for me to get married? I assure you, Lord Hiko, I do not need a man to rule my house! This is a dirty way for you to make me marry!"

Anger flashed across his face. "Know your position, Kaoru. You have not only agreed to marry my heir, you have signed a blood pact!"

Stunned, Kaoru studied the agreement. Indeed, droplets of her blood were clear on the parchment. Unable to stop the headache threatening to consume her, Kaoru stood up to leave.

"If you'd open your eyes, Lord Hiko, you'd realise this whole thing is foolish. I will be taking my leave now."

"Then, I'll announce the engagement to all the houses," Hiko said calmly as he watched with interest the rage that appeared on Kaoru's face. At that instant, the sake in his jug swished and swirled in the container and the air felt a bid too humid.

"I am not some silly little empty headed princess that would fall to do your every bidding just because you're one of the richest and strongest houses around. You do not know me, Lord Hiko, and neither do you know my capabilities for ruling my house. If you think your high and might attitude would get me all frozen up and down at your feet, you're highly mistaken. I never agreed to marry into your house. I will do all I can to find a way out. Nothing short of death would bind me here!" Kaoru declared as she flung open the door and strode out.

Hiko waited for her to leave and the air became less thick. So, she had the power to control her natural element. She was definitely a good match. Koshijiro had trained her well. He could easily see her leading the House of Flowing Water.

"What do you think?"

A young man walked out from behind. His ember eyes were still fixed on the door. She was all he expected and more.

"I'm very interested in continuing my betrothal."

XXX

"Stupid lord and stupid rules! Stupid girl!" Kaoru fumed angrily. She was being forced to marry once more and she hated it. How could she have done something so stupid as to sign that agreement? Her childhood misdeeds were catching up with her. Sighing, she wondered how to get out of this fix.

Marrying into that house would leave her house without a ruler and she didn't want that. She didn't to marry either but a blood pact was a pact. The only way to back off would be by dying.

The sudden screeches of the wheels and the abrupt stop she came to broke Kaoru from her reverie. The horses went wild and there was a lot of noise. Warily, she looked out and realised they were attacked by bandits. Kaoru sighed. Could her day get any worse?

"Well there, look what we have here? A pretty little thing!"

Kaoru groaned in defeat. Apparently, it can. She sighed as her sword materialised in her hand and flung the idiot leering at her from the window with one firm strike. The woman that accompanied her in her carriage screamed. Ignoring her, Kaoru got down from the carriage and prepared to help clear the path.

There were many of them and few of her men. She wondered if they would make it as she knocked out yet another creep. Kaoru heard a woman screaming and realised she was the lady that kept her company for the trip. Kaoru had totally forgotten about her. She rushed towards the carriage and threw herself before the woman, sword poised high to block the incoming strike.

The man attacking her was relentless. He kept attacking her, cutting of her attacks so that Kaoru was forced to rely on her defences. She blocked the woman's hysterical scream as she concentrated on keeping her head. She watched as her attacker swung down his sword, aiming for her head. Kaoru growled and leaned forward, her sword breaking into smaller pieces of crystal. Just before she could use it to conjure a shield, someone pushed the woman towards her, breaking her intense concentration. Kaoru fell on top of her and watched as the sword came down without hesitation.

She expected to die. She did not expect to see a blur of red here and there. One moment, her attacker had his sword pointed at her, another moment, he was uncounscious.

Her saviour was a man she had never seen before. He had flaming red hair and deep gold eyes. The X scar on his face only enhanced his handsome features. He wasn't very tall. In fact, he could only be an inch or two taller than her. However, she had a feeling he was light on his feet and that made him even more deadly.

"Are you alright?"

Kaoru instantly realised she was still down and staring at him. Blushing, she nodded and prepared to get up when he offered his hand. He had long fingers and calloused palms, she thought as he hoisted her up. The noise and the danger surrounding them woke her up and the sword materialised once more.

"Thank you."

She didn't wait a moment longer. Pulling the woman up, she pushed her to safety and helped her men. This was not a time to be daydreaming about redheads. Even then, she could not help but glance at him from time to time, admiring his speed and strength as he knocked out most of the bandits. His stance screamed power and Kaoru had a feeling she had better stay away from him.

As they successfully chased some of the bandits away and captured the others, Kaoru noticed her saviour standing a few feet away alone. He was watching her closely and somehow, her heart begin to beat faster. Pushing away the thought of staying away from him, she felt she should at least thank him for helping them. After all, they will not meet again. She pushed away that voice inside of her that made fun of her logic. Trusting her men to take care of everything, she approached him.

He allowed his eyes to take its fill as she captured his attention. She was different. Her boldness despite the fear he knew she felt around his shishou was admirable. He never met a woman like that before. The way she held herself spoke volumes of her birthright.

"Thank you for your help. I do not think we could have survived this otherwise."

He only raised an eyebrow. "As the Lady of your house, should you not care for safety more? This was very reckless. If you were killed, what would've happened?"

Taken back at his sudden reprimand, Kaoru felt her anger rising above their limit. "There are more important people to protect than me. However, I do not need to explain myself to you. I will leave now but I still want to thank you for your help."

Then Kaoru concentrated on something she missed before. "How do you know who I am?"

He shrugged. Instead, he moved away from the tree and stood before her, so close that she could smell his spicy scent.

"Lady Kaoru," he said softly, his voice deep and husky. "This is for you."

Kaoru looked down at the box he held out to her. "What is this for?"

He shrugged and moved closer even closer. She took a tentative step back and cursed herself for being uneasy with the proximity. "Take this as an apology gift."

"Apology?"

He nodded. "There is nothing to apologise for. I'll be leaving."

"It's no ordinary box and it's rude for you not to accept this."

Kaoru sighed in frustration. This man was driving her up the wall. He might be good-looking but that is not enough for him to save his sorry butt if she decides to kill him.

"Look, no thank you."

"Accepting this would be your payment for my help."

Kaoru turned back. "Are you crazy? Look at that box. If you sell it, at least you can live more comfortably. I don't need it. You seem to need it more than me," Kaoru replied as she eyed his tattered clothing.

He shook his head. This woman was truly different. She wanted him to make money to live by selling the box instead of accepting it for free. You won't meet that many women who can look away from a pretty box. "You do. This box will answer all your desires."

Feeling more curious now but promising herself she only wanted to look, she inched closer. "Answer all my desires?"

He nodded. "Everything you want will happen as long as you do NOT open the box."

"Why?"

He smirked. "Otherwise, what should happen will happen."

She felt confused but as he held out the box again, she shook her head. Her saviour sighed in annoyance, grabbed her hand and put the box on her palm.

"Hey!"

"Take it and don't think of giving it back. It's yours."

Kaoru pursed her lips and fingered the box. She reluctantly nodded. Looking at him, she clutched the box tighter. "Are you sure you don't want to sell this? I can pay for it!"

"No, thank you. I do not want to sell it. I want to give it, to you."

"Alright. Thank you. By the way, what's your name?"

"Why?"

"It's only fair as you know mine."

"They call me Battousai."

In a blink of an eye, he disappeared.

Silent and without a trace. Kaoru shook her head. He most probably is from the House of Quiet Wind. Though he didn't seem so.

XXX

"So basically, this man appears out of nowhere, saves your sorry butt and gives you a box to make your dreams come true?" Yahiko summarised as he sat before Kaoru after their training. "It's the last part that I don't understand. Why give this box? If it makes dreams come true, shouldn't he be keeping it?"

"I don't know, Yahiko. It's mysterious and odd. What could be in that box?"

Yahiko rolled his eyes. "Who knows? Aren't you supposed to keep it closed? Your curiousity is going to cost you one day, Kaoru."

Kaoru nodded absently as her mind could not help but drift to the man once more.

"So, you're getting married?"

"Huh?"

"To that house?"

Kaoru sighed. Images of Battousai vanished. "I don't want to but a blood pact is not as easy to destroy. It can't be destroyed. That's my problem. I need some sort of miracle to pull this off."

Yahiko nodded thoughtfully. He too didn't want to lose Kaoru. She was the only one he was close with, in the house. He had looked at her for guidance and help and losing her would be hell.

"Maybe you can meet with the heir and act like a spoiled brat and he'll hate you and end the engagement. Or maybe that box can help to break off your agreement," he joked and Kaoru laughed.

"If only things were that simple..."

After dinner, she studied the box carefully. It was a beautiful box, longish. All four symbols of the houses were carved onto each side. Something warned Kaoru that the box was dangerous but she waved it off.

"Dreams come true, huh? I wonder...I want to meet Battousai!" Kaoru simply said and when nothing happened, she laughed. "Dreams never come true. This is stupid!"

"You should trust in me a bit more, Lady Kaoru."

Kaoru turned in shock to the balcony and saw Battousai leaning casually on the railing.

"YOU!!"

He grinned mischievously. "The box summoned me. I told you that it'll answer all your desires. Your desire was to see me and here I am."

Kaoru could do nothing but gape. He was right. It worked! That means...No more marriage proposals!

He watched as her eyes light up at her thought and the carefree smile graced her lips. She was beaming with joy and just a step away from doing a victory dance.

"You made my day," Kaoru said happily as she joined him on the balcony. Her long black hair was left unattended. She was too lazy to tie her hair up. He watched as her hair playfully whipped his face as the wind played with it. "I thought this day would be the worst in my life. Oh, wait. When my father died, it was the worst. This would rate second."

"Why?"

Kaoru shrugged. "Marriage. If I receive another marriage proposal or advice, I'd kill that person!"

"Not interested in commitment or men?"

"I have no issues with either one but I like taking care of my house and this is a privilege not many of my species can dwell in."

"Marriage is not so bad. Maybe you can convince your husband to let you continue caring for your house. Who are you betrothed to?"

"The heir of The House of Fire Dragon. Like that would happen. Take a hike," Kaoru muttered in annoyance. Battousai smiled.

"You never met the man, how'd you know?"

"With a cocky and arrogant master like that, how else would he turn out to be? A lamb?"

Battousai grinned, amused. She has the ropes to keep him interested for a long long time. She accurately described his father.

"He is worse than his master."

"Great. Double the party. What did I do to deserve this?" Kaoru wailed as she leaned against the railing.

Battousai kept his eyes on her, taking in her slim figure clad in nothing but a loose night robe. She had, after all, been preparing to sleep and it is her bedroom. His eyes darken when he watched her moon kissed face. Her porcelain skin glowed under the moonlight. Tracing each delicate features of her face, his eyes landed on her lips, which were free of any lipstick. He wanted very much to taste those lips, to know if it was as soft as it looked. At that moment, Kaoru shifted her eyes to his and gasped when she realised he was looking at her lips hungrily.

She had forgotten. She was alone in her room with a man she did not know and was not related to. Great!

"Em...you should go before someone sees you," Kaoru whispered as she turned away. Battousai inched closer and she slowly backed off.

"Hmm...Why?"

"This is not proper at all. And I can't believe I babbled like that. It has never happened before," Kaoru muttered as she took another step back.

She didn't want this, whatever this is. This is getting a bit out of hand. The scent of him filled her and she felt heady all over. This has never happened before.

Damn Kaoru! Summon your sword! Summon your shield! Summon anything! Aah, he's too close!

Battousai cornered her easily against the wall but he didn't do anything. He didn't reach out nor did he say a word. But his eyes pinned her against the wall and her heart raced as though she had been in a race.

Slowly he leaned towards her. Jasmine scent assaulted him and he knew he was in danger. Kaoru tried to pull back and push him away but he didn't budge. Instead, he caught her hands and pinned them above her head. Instinct kicked in and she struggled against him but he only tighten his grip.

"Let GO!"

He chuckled, a deep dangerous sound in her ears.

Kaoru felt three things at once. She was frightened, excited and reluctantly aroused. She had never been in this position before and was lost as to how she should handle this situation. Men had never been a problem before and she had treated this man casually. But being pinned against a wall is NOT casual.

He could feel her various emotions and saw how his feral grin confused her. She was innocence wrapped up in boldness and pride. She would make a good mate.

"Kaoru," he whispered near her ear, his breath fanning her cheeks. Kaoru blushed. He was so close and she could feel his body pressed against hers. Her think robe was no barrier against his hard body. His eyes lingered on her chest before making its way back to her lips and then her eyes. Taking a deep breath and letting her scent wash over him, he leaned closer. "As long as that box remains close, I'll not attack you even though right now I am so very tempted to feel your lips against mine."

Kaoru tried to think of something to say but not a word passed her lips. Her thoughts remained blank and her blush only deepen further making him growl. He abruptly let go of her and she slid to the ground, stunned.

With a feral smile, Battousai disappeared into the night.

He was playing with her and she liked it, Kaoru realised with a shock. Never before had a man been so bold and never before had she felt like she was going crazy when a man stood so close to her. Adrenalin had rushed in her system making her feel heady and dizzy and reckless.

She just could not get the man out of her head. Her eyes lingered on the spot where he disappeared and his words played over and over again in her mind.

I am so very tempted to feel your lips against mine.

He had wanted to kiss her and part of her was disappointed he hadn't gone ahead and kissed her. However, aren't things going a little too fast?

The DAMN box!

Kaoru picked herself up and entered her room, her body still tingling and shaking. She didn't know what to feel. She didn't know what to do. All she knew was that the answer was in the box. Ever since she got that box, her life has gone upside down and she was dying to know what secrets are in there. How was she to know the answer if she could not open the box?

"YOU'RE GOING TO DO WHAT?"

"Shush....! You're so loud, Yahiko! It's no big deal," Kaoru whispered conspiratorially as she leaned closer. "I think there is something in the box. No one will know if I open it or not!"

Yahiko gave a frustrated groan. "Kaoru, do you know who Battousai is? I've been asking around and it seems that he is THE man of the Fire Dragon. He is like super everything and he is their main weapon. Whatever this is, it is related to them and that dumb marriage proposal!"

Kaoru felt like she's been hit with a tonne of bricks. "He is related to them?"

Yahiko nodded. "It's a trap. Don't open it!"

Kaoru nodded. "I guess that's for the best. Thanks, Yahiko."

Yahiko smirked. "No problem, ugly!"

"Hei! Watch it, kid!"

"I'm not a KID! Oh, hell! Come on, let's go and get some practice."

Kaoru shook her head and nodded. "I'm going to kick your butt, Yahiko-chan!"

"Don't call me that, ugly!"

Kaoru whacked his head. "Who do you think you're talking to, Yahiko-chan?"

"Stupid ugly woman," Yahiko muttered and cried out as Kaoru hit him once more.

"I heard that!"

XXX

After her bath, Kaoru eyed the box curiously again. What could be so dangerous? It was just a box. There is no way anything bad will happen. He said only what is supposed to happen will happen. Whatever that means!

Kaoru mused silently, turning the box upside down to study its intricate designs. 'It has to be made by my house. No one else can design such a beauty.'

She paced up and down, studying the box so intently that she did not notice the edge of the rug. Kaoru's feet got stuck and she yelped as she fell down. The box flew from her hand, hit the wall and opened.

Gasping in surprise, Kaoru quickly retrieved the box and was about to close it when she noticed that inside was a letter. Against her better judgement and intense curiousity, she opened the letter.

Dear Kaoru,

Now that you have read this letter, it is my greatest joy to announce our engagement. I am willing to accept you as my wife and give you a day to settle your affairs.

Yours truly,

Kenshin

She blinked. Huh?

"You opened it."

The deadpan voice startled Kaoru, making her leap back and her hand gripped her heart. Standing on her balcony, amusement in his eyes was Battousai.

"It...it ...was an acc...ident..." Kaoru stammered, throwing the red paper to the floor. Instantly, it burst into flames and disappeared.

Battousai easily walked in, his strides reminding Kaoru of a cat preying on its dinner. She willed herself to stay still.

"You should not be here, get out!"

He laughed and stood right in front of her. He was too close but this time, Kaoru didn't want to seem like a coward by moving behind.

"I am here to ensure you keep your word and follow me quietly after tomorrow."

Anger filled her. She had entertained the idea that he might be interested in her. Instead, this man had been playing with her all along; leading her towards thinking he liked her when all he was doing was watching her in his master's place.

"I will do no such thing. You are just one of his lackeys, aren't you? You've been toying with me!"

Battousai gripped her arm firmly and pulled her against his chest, trapping her there.

"Not really, no. I'm not one of his lackeys."

"What is he paying you then? It must be a lot for you to take this risk!"

His grip tightened. "Stop it! He is not paying me anything."

"Is that so? Then, is this a ploy to get me to marry your lord? This is going too far to get me married. Are all of you so against a woman leader, huh?"

"This has nothing to do with you being a leader. You are the only one, the only woman among many chosen to grace the throne of the House of Fire Dragon," he said softly, staring into her eyes.

Kaoru ignored the beating of her heart. Suddenly everything seemed bleak. She was going to marry a man she didn't know, leave a house she knew all her life, and above all, stupidly got attracted to a man she didn't know. All in a span of two days.

"I'll follow you tomorrow. Right now, I want you out of my face and out of my room. Now."

Battousai didn't bother releasing her. He only stared at her. "I was not toying with you."

Suddenly, the air around them thickened so much that he felt slightly dizzy. It was as though water was concentrated around him, blocking the air he needed to breathe. She was not having any difficulties. As he released her, Kaoru moved back and slowly, he could breathe again.

"You're a dangerous woman to be around, Kaoru," he said as he took deep breaths of air. He had never met anyone with her ability. Then again, those from the Quiet Wind could possibly pull it off, if there are any pure bloods. It was obvious that Kaoru was a pure blood.

"Out."

He nodded and walked towards the balcony. "Till tomorrow," he said softly, his amber eyes glowed predatorily in the dark before he disappeared.

Kaoru slid down to the floor and rested her head on her knees. Her life was getting more complicated and she didn't know what to do.

She had heard women talk before. Misao kept going on and on about how whenever Aoshi was around, nothing seemed to matter. She could not think straight and did foolish things. Her heart would always pound non-stop at the mere thought of him or even a glimpse. Kaoru chuckled weakly. She had been entranced by Battousai, attracted to the strength in him. His eyes made her feel things she had never felt before.

He was her first crush.

Kaoru wanted to laugh out loud. How ironic was life. She had fallen in love with a man whose master was supposed to be her husband. Worse, he had just led her along. He knew his presence made her feel uneasy especially last night on the balcony.

What an idiot she was.

Leaning back against the wall, she closed her eyes and allowed the darkness to consume her mind and thoughts.

XXX

"I told you NOT to open the box!" Yahiko screamed at her as she related what happened last night.

Kaoru nodded. "I know but I didn't open it. It fell and opened."

"You shouldn't have read the damn letter!"

"It was just sitting there. I wanted to know what was written in it!" Kaoru growled back, annoyed that she was getting scolded by none other than a brat.

"Look where that got you. I told you that your curiousity would get you into trouble."

"Yahiko, if you're gonna just sit there and yell at me, get out. I need to think of a way to get myself out of this mess," Kaoru said warningly as she sat behind her desk.

Yahiko sighed and sat down in front of her. "Why don't you try talking to him? I am sure when he realises you are a loud, obnoxious, bossy tomboy with no figure, he'll beg you to let him go," Yahiko suggested and yelped when a large book hit his head.

"Shut up!"

Kaoru closed her eyes and thought for a while before a smile spread on her lips. "You know what...that might actually work!"

She got up, paced up and down as she worked out her plan. "I can talk roughly and loudly. If he tried to get close, I'll just hit the man and if he tries to block me...I can easily choke him. I will just act more of a guy than a refined woman...that might work..."

Yahiko stared at her as though she had grown another head. "I was just joking. You are not taking this seriously, are you?"

Kaoru raised her eyebrows. "Any other suggestions?" When he kept quiet, she smirked. "I knew it! So, we'll go ahead with this."

XXX

The elegance of the House of Fire Dragon did not interest Kaoru as she followed her new guide. She was taken through a different route, which showed of the house at its very best but none of it caught her attention. Instead, her mind was full her plan, which she was planning to execute.

Kaoru had started with toning down her dressing. She chose a very simple gown to cover her body and a shawl as a wrap. Her long glorious hair was pinned back into a tight bun that gave the impression that she was a stubborn woman. No makeup covered her face for she didn't want to give the man any ideas.

Her guide stopped in front of another large door, knocked trice and entered when he heard his master's voice.

Hiko Seijuro sat on a large chair, a smirk on his face when he saw her. Kaoru didn't want to give him the pleasure of seeing her displeasure, so she smiled serenely and nodded to him.

"Lord Hiko," she greeted with a nod.

"Lady Kaoru. I see you are ready to agree with the marriage proposal."

Kaoru tried hard not to snort. "I want to meet and talked to the current lord and discuss...some things with him."

Hiko frowned but nodded. He knew he could trust his idiot of a son to settle things but he wondered what Kaoru was up to. Her attire is a dead give away that she planning something.

"Very well. Kenshin!"

Kaoru held her breath, her eyes wondered around. From behind Hiko, a figure emerged and it took all of her strength, training, discipline and pride not to scream as she recognised him.

Battousai...

"Lady Kaoru, my son, Lord Kenshin."

The redhead had to give her credit for keeping her cool although the room suddenly seemed humid and dry. However, he could sense from her stillness that things were far from solved.

Hiko got up and moved to the door. "I'll let you to have some privacy."

No words were spoken. Kaoru didn't trust herself to speak at that moment. Anger and rage claimed her entire body.

Kenshin walked slowly towards her and stood before her calmly. He couldn't read her eyes as her bangs covered them. He lifted his hand, intending to brush her hair away when she did the unexpected.

SLAP!

Stunned, the redhead stilled. No one (except Hiko) had ever hit him before or even dared. However, he knew he could not blame her.

"Kaoru..."

"Shut up!" Kaoru said coldly, making him flinch. "You bloody hell lied to me!"

"I did not such thing," Kenshin replied calmly, knowing that she was beyond mad at the moment.

"You told me your name was Battousai."

"No. I told you people called me Battousai. That is just my title as I fought in the war."

Kaoru shook her head and turned away from him. The events of the past two days fell into place. "Everything was just a set up, wasn't it? The men who attacked my carriage that day were your men."

It wasn't a question but a statement. Kenshin knew he had to do some major damage control but he didn't care.

"I had to get to you somehow. You were so stubborn about the marriage and I wasn't about to let you go."

"The box was also a set up," she said emotionlessly.

Frustrated, Kenshin tried to explain. "The box was a means for me to get you..."

But Kaoru didn't let him finish. She laughed and laughed, pulling away when he tried to grab her, the tears in her eyes were kept from falling only because she was too stubborn to cry.

"You were playing with me all along. You were testing me, weren't you? What was I to you? A new toy? Couldn't you have found some other woman? Why me, damn you? Why me?"

His heart went out for her. He knew the pressures of running a house and it must be more so for her, being a woman. On top of that, he himself had placed pressure on her so that he could have her. As much as he knew he was selfish, Kenshin was not about to let her go.

He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her towards him and met her burning gaze. "If you ask me whether I would change this, I will still tell you I do not regret it," he told her calmly.

That was not what Kaoru expected to hear. She struggled against his grip, briefly wondering how a man like him could have more strength than her. "Let me go! I can't stand you!"

He growled at her words, his patience at its breaking point.

"No matter what, you belong to me and only me Kamiya Kaoru, even if I have to shackle you to my bed!"

Feeling cornered only served to spike her anger and annoyance. She didn't know how to deal with him, with this. Kaoru focused on the air, trying to choke him so that he would let her go.

Kenshin expected the move and countered it. He tilted her chin and saw her eyes widen with realisation.

"NO!"

It was too late. Kenshin lowered his head and kissed her. His lips claimed her almost aggressively, demanding her to give in. Kaoru refused to comply. She forced herself to remain still but he was having none of that. Kenshin slid a hand into her hair and a forceful move, unbound her hair, making her silk tresses flow down her back. He kept a firm grip of her head, tilting it more to gain better access as he caught her slim wrists and caged them with his other hand. Then, he bit her bottom lips.

Kaoru struggled against him. She panicked as she felt his hand holding her head and hands hostage. She couldn't move at all. In fact, she didn't know what she wanted. She was frightened and excited. Angry and aroused. Her head told her to find a way to escape but her body was enjoying this ruthless assault. When he bit her bottom lips, Kaoru gasped and Kenshin choose that moment to enter her soft recesses. Kaoru moaned as his tongue massaged hers softly.

When Kenshin felt her giving in instead of fighting him, he loosen his hold on her and allowed himself to calm down. He knew she was inexperienced and mentally cursed himself for forcing himself on her. But he knew as well that there was no other way. She would have cut off his air supply and escape.

Kenshin soften his kiss and gently held her. Kaoru realised that she wasn't standing by herself anymore. Kenshin's hand supported her. As they broke off for air, she leaned her head against his chest, breathing heavily.

"Kaoru, I have always wanted you. I've always loved you, Kaoru," he whispered softly in her ear. Kaoru stilled.

"We've never met. How could you love me when we have never even met?" Kaoru asked with a sad smile. She tried pulling away but his arms refused to budge.

"You don't remember, do you, Kaoru"

She looked up, confused. He chuckled at her confused expression and his eyes lingered on her red lips before he closed his eyes. Taking a deep breath, Kenshin kissed her forehead.

"Kenshin?"

He shuddered. "I like the way you say my name," he said huskily.

Despite her anger, Kaoru blushed. He laughed at that. "Don't you remember? I came to your house once, Kaoru, when you were small. I think you were four or five."

Startled and not at all expecting that, a long forgotten memory flooded her head.

Young Kaoru was running away from Tae as usual. She wanted very much to meet her father and ask him to teach her sword fighting again. As she ran, she tripped and fell. She looked around and saw that she tripped over a foot.

A boy looked at her, shocked. He instantly got up and held a hand out to her.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled.

"It's 'kay," Kaoru said cheerily. Then, she raised a hand touched his long red hair. "It's pretty," she said in wonder. "Looks like fire."

He didn't know what to say nor did he know what to do. Lost, he looked at the child before him and noticed her amazing sapphire gems looking up at him.

"I'm Kaoru," she said, holding out her hand.

Awkwardly, he took it and wondered at how small her hand seemed. "Kenshin."

"Are you new here, Ken-kun?" Kaoru asked as she sat cross legged before him, eyeing him with interest. This boy was so different than anyone she has ever met. He had long red hair and the most beautiful amethyst orbs that she has ever seen.

Kenshin nodded. He truly did not know what to do. He has never been around any children due to his training.

"Do you have any friends, Ken-kun?"

He shook his head and was startled when Kaoru came closer, balancing herself by placing both her hands on his lap and craning to look at his face closely. "No wonder you look so sad."

"I'm not sad..."

She laughed; a sweet sound to his ears. She settled herself against him, her small body fitted perfectly against his. "I'll be your friend. Do you want to be friends with me, Ken-kun?"

No one had ever asked him to be their friend. Kenshin felt a warm feeling spreading all over his body. He nodded hesitantly. "Yes."

She beamed and he felt as though he was seeing the sun. "Yay! Ken-kun, you have such pretty eyes," Kaoru said in awe as she looked closely at his eyes. Kenshin blushed, feeling extremely shy. No one had said that either.

"Yours is prettier," he said softly making her laugh.

"You think so? I'm the only one with blue eyes, you know?" she said as though it was a big secret. Kenshin found himself smiling in return. "Come, Ken-kun. Let's play!"

"Wha...?"

Kenshin found himself being pulled around by the younger girl and made sure she did not get hurt. He laughed silently at her attempts to hold the wooden sword she used for training. He found himself crawling in unexpected places and begging food with her in the kitchens. They laughed, they played and they had a lot of fun.

"Kenshin!"

The sound of his father calling him had his heart sinking. When he goes back, he will never see her again.

"I got to go, Kao-chan."

She looked up at him and gave him a bright smile. " 'Kay. Then, we can play again, right, Ken-kun?"

Kenshin didn't know how to answer her. He only smiled and walked away. Before he went far, he found himself tackled from behind. Turning, Kenshin was shocked when Kaoru tightly hugged him. Awkwardly, he hugged her back.

"Bye bye, Ken-kun."

He felt like dying right about then.

"Goodbye, Kao-chan."

He turned and left.

Kaoru's eyes widen as she looked up at Kenshin. "That was you..." she said softly, amazed.

Kenshin nodded. "When I got back, I was so quiet that my father finally asked me what was wrong. I told him I wanted you."

"WHAT?"

He chuckled at her shocked face and nuzzled her neck. "I couldn't imagine my life without you, Kaoru. I had never had so much fun until I met you. I didn't want to lose that. I didn't want to lose you. So I told my father, I wanted you. He sent a letter to your father, asking your hand in marriage once you turned 18. Your father was thinking about it. Imagine my father's surprise when he saw your handwriting and blood on the agreement paper. Both our fathers laughed about it. They said that it was destined. You are my destined."

Kaoru didn't know what to say. Her mind was reeling with everything that happened. "The box?"

"I wanted to woo you myself. You see, you had forgotten me but I could not get you out of my mind. I wanted you to want me...not just for this agreement. Your...response was very encouraging," he teased as she hit him.

"What if I still didn't want to marry you, as in the lord? What would you have done?"

Kenshin shrugged. "I would have proposed you as Battousai, married you and then told you the truth."

Kaoru hit him on the head. "You would lie to me?" she asked dangerously.

There was a mischievous glint in Kenshin's eyes. "I told you that I want you. I would do anything."

"What about the box?"

He smirked. "Your father told us that you are a very curious person. I was taking a chance. Either way, I'll still get you."

Kaoru could only shake her head. She gave up and relaxed in his arms. "I don't know my feelings for you, Kenshin. I know I feel something for you but whether it is love, I don't know. So...can we keep the wedding later? I want to know you first."

"You'll marry me?" Kenshin asked in surprise, inwardly thanking all the gods.

Kaoru nodded shyly.

Kenshin grinned and nodded. "I don't mind. We'll learn about each other, Kaoru. I can wait."

"My house?"

"I don't mind you leading it. Maybe...you can arrange for someone to look after it while you are here and refer to you for serious matters. That way, you can still be the head of your house."

"You really don't mind?"

"Nope. Anything to make you happy, love."

Kaoru blushed. She was not used to being addressed like that.

"Kaoru?"

She looked up at him and smiled. Her mind was clear and her heart content. Leaning forward, she brushed a tentative kiss on his lips. This time, when he deepened the kiss, she was prepared. She opened her mouth at his gentle coaxing to accept his full passion. Her arm locked around his neck, her fingers finding purchase in his glorious red hair. He was gentler with her although he was still slightly demanding and his hands were hard as he strained her closer to him. Her soft moan and the gentle curve of her body made him groan. Slowly, Kenshin moved back, nipping softly at her lips.

Kaoru opened her eyes, her glazed sapphire orbs making him groan helplessly before he kissed her again. This time, when she opened her mouth, he attacked her tongue and demanded her to play with him.

Kaoru was a quick learner and soon she was matching his passion. His hand kept a firm hold of her head as another hand stroked her back. Kaoru's body arched up as his ministrations drove her out of her mind.

A loud cough broke them apart. They both blushed deeply as they saw Hiko watching them, his eyebrows raised in question.

"It is not your wedding night," he said sarcastically. "Or are you planning to start an early one?"

"Dad!"

"And you...I suppose you're dead!"

Kaoru frowned as she looked at Hiko. "Dead?"

"Didn't you say nothing short of death will bind you here?"

Kaoru knew she most likely rivalled Kenshin's hair and hastily excused herself as she heard Hiko's sadistic laughter in the room.

XXX

"You told me we could wait," Kaoru said coldly, anger flashing in her eyes as she stood in the large, decorated room.

The room was beautiful. A large bed with flowers sprinkled on it made Kaoru feel ten times more nervous and the only way she could handle the situation was by being angry.

Kenshin sighed. He slowly walked and sat on the bed while he removed his shirt.

"I'm sorry, Kaoru. Somehow, my dad managed to arrange this and announced our wedding to everyone. I could not say 'no' without embarrassing him."

"I could."

"You don't really bother about rules, do you?"

Kaoru huffed. "Do you research, Kenshin. My family has a history of breaking rules. I'm not planning to change."

He noticed her warning tone and grinned inwardly. "You're going to throw colours into my life, love."

She blushed and looked down.

He laughed and watched his bride nervously fiddle with her gown and knew she was feeling extremely nervous. Kenshin leaned back on his arms after petting the space beside him. Giving up, Kaoru sat a slight distance away from him. He tried not to notice the space and kept his laughter in check.

"How did Yahiko take the news?"

Kaoru smiled at the memory of Yahiko's face. "He took it quite well, I'd say. He was so shocked I thought he was going to faint. He is a bit young but Tae will help him and I'm sure he will make a very good assistant. I told him it wasn't necessary to change his name but he insisted on adding my name. We will take care of that after the...ah...em...honey...moon," Kaoru ended so softly Kenshin could barely catch the last word. He could not help but feel his young bride's shyness was very endearing.

"Don't you feel stuffed in that gown?"

"Huh? What? No, it's comfortable," Kaoru mumbled hastily as she cursed which idiot that designed the gown.

Kenshin laughed. Pulling Kaoru, he kissed her passionately, taking her mind off his hands which removed the clips at the back.

The instant he released them, Kaoru broke away from the kiss to take a deep breath and rested her head against his head. "Sneaky bastard."

"Only for you, my love. Only for you." Then he laughed as a thought crossed his mind.

"What is it, Kenshin?"

"You won't be able to choke me anymore. It's a good thing marriage neutralises our power against each other. You would be able to kill me easily otherwise."

"KENSHIN!" Kaoru growled as she punched him. Kenshin laughed as he flipped her and towered over her.

"I love you, Kaoru."

Kaoru smiled serenely. She looked up into his eyes and sighed. The joy she felt was indescribable.

"I love you, Kenshin."

XXX

Author's note:

Hey all you! I hope you enjoy this story. It was something I thought of when I read about Pandora's box. Thank you all in advance for reviewing and I truly hope you enjoyed it.