Author Notes: This is another one of my vignettes (go to my blog -yes, I have a blog (that no one reads I must add)- and you can read about my theory on fiction lengths. I don't have any plans on continuing this, so it will not be a series. Anyways, hope you enjoy! Tell me what you think.

Disclaimer: The Rurouni Kenshin world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Watsuki Nobuhiro.

Tournament

By Hoshi-ni-Onegai

"This is stupid."

Sano frowned. "It's not stupid. It was your father's dying wish."

Kaoru rolled her eyes and tapped her nails against the armrest. "Then my father was stupid."

"God, Kaoru. Respect the dead a little."

Slouching back on her throne she shrugged, "Only when they start respecting the living."

Sano glanced over at his second cousin from his mother's side. He sighed. There was little he could say to convince Kaoru to take this as a blessing in disguise; then again he was of the same opinion as Karou: this was stupid. But he couldn't say that out loud. Not when his late king had demanded the tournament be held.

It wasn't that she was against the idea of a sword fighting tournament -she had participated in a good many during her life after all. No, it was the fact that she couldn't participate or watch. According to her father's stipulations, she was to wait on her throne while the tournament occurred on the sparring field.

"I'm bored," Koaru rocked her head back as she slumped further back on her throne. The ladies in waiting that stood near her side looked desperately toward him. They weren't sure if they should entertain her or fix her posture. Sano shook his head, it was better to leave the princess and acting queen alone when she was in this type of mood.

"The tournament just started half an hour ago."

"And it should have never started to begin with," she eyed him critically. "I don't see why you didn't just participate. You could have gotten this over with by now."

Sano frowned deeper this time, "Eww. I'm not marrying my cousin."

She rolled her eyes, "Second cousin. Also, I didn't mean it like that. I meant that you should have beaten all of them. Then I could proclaim that since no man is stronger than you, and since you are too close in bloodline to marry, I would rule and die as a virgin queen."

"Yeah, your great grad aunt tried to do that and she was killed by her subjects. Just suck it up and take a husband."

"What if I was hoping to fall in love one day?"

He raised a brow, "Seriously?"

She sighed, "No. Not really. But I feel like all princesses should want to fall in love with a prince from a far away land."

He knew she was kidding, since Kaoru had never shown any interest in the opposite sex -ignoring the fact that she was never allowed to show interest. She was a practical princess who cared about her people and her swordsmanship.

She had assumed that her father would live a little longer, choose a husband she could deal with and that would be the end of it. But the king had other plans. In the event of his death, he had requested a sword fighting tournament.

Instead of the usual bracket system, this was a battle royale -all participants fought each other all at once and the last man standing was deemed the winner, and presumably the strongest. And by the command of the late king, the winner would collect his prize immediately after. The prize being Kaoru.

All eligible noblemen across the land were to participate in the tournament, and unfortunately for Kaoru, this was not a pool of people she cared for. It was not the customary way to choose the next king, who would only act as a counterpart to Kaoru being that she was the true heir to the throne. But Sano knew why the king had planned it out this way. If Kaoru were allowed to choose, she would never pick anyone. And being that she swung a sword before she could walk, the king would need to be someone equally skilled, if not more so.

"How many people showed up again?"

Sano did the math in his head. He could only remember roughly how many from each region had shown up; counting by ten on his hand he looked up at her. "I think somewhere between two hundred and two-fifty."

"This is going to take forever."

That's when the throne room doors slammed open. There stood a man with long red hair tied high on his head. His eyes were shadowed by his long bangs, but Kaoru could feel them piercing into her. She frowned. She was not a fan of piercing looks, nor was she a fan of rudely slammed doors.

"And who are you supposed to be?" She gave the man a once over. He was short, probably barely taller than she was. He was very slim and his features delicate. When she finally caught a glimpse of his eyes she saw that they were amber. On his otherwise unmarred face was a cross-shaped scar. The only thing remotely masculine about him was the scar and his eyes.

He parted his lips to speak and his voice was soothing and much like the rest of him, delicate. "The tournament is over."

Sano frowned, how was that possible? With the amount of people on that field, he had thought that the battle would take all day or maybe even a couple of days. He had not expected it to be over in less than an hour.

Kaoru glanced over at her cousin. She gestured him closer and whispered quietly. "Already? I thought you said this was going to take a while."

"That's what I thought," he glanced over at the small man. "And I can't believe a guy like him would win."

Kaoru let out a short but loud laugh. Clapping her mouth quickly she shook her head, "Don't be an idiot. That's just the messenger. Probably the noble's squire."

Sano eyed the man in question again, "Are you sure? He looks familiar."

"Probably because he accompanied his master to court," she glimpsed at the once again. "Anyways, he's too pretty to be a swordsman."

"He has a sword at his hip."

"But look at him. He doesn't look like him came out of a battle. Not a single hair out of place and not single blood splatter on him."

He gave her a deadpan look, "The tournament didn't use swords. Only wooden ones for sparring."

"Whatever," she turned toward the small man. She caught his gaze and she was slightly taken aback. Steeling herself she stood up. "So who is your master?"

The man frowned, "Seijuro Hiko."

She turned the name over in her mind. She had never heard of the Seijuro clan. "And where is he?"

The man's frown deepened and he furrowed his brows, "Probably off drunk somewhere doing pottery. What does he have to do with anything?"

It was her turn to frown, "He won the tournament didn't he?"

"No."

Confusion ran across her face, "Then who did?"

The frown disappeared from the man's face and he allowed a smirk to creep across, "I did."

Without missing a beat she laughed, "Yeah right."

Sano went up to her, "How are you so sure?"

She glanced at the man then her cousin, "Like I said, he's too pretty... and young."

The red head spoke up, "With all due respect. I'm not as young as a I look. And I don't think it matters as long as I am not as pretty as you are."

Hearing his words she blushed. As a princess, she had heard her entire life that she was beautiful, but pretty? It was a downgrade if anything, it was only a step above cute. But coming from someone so... pretty, it made the comment all the more sincere and embarrassing.

"See he presumes to be pretty, he doesn't deny it." Shaking off the comment she stood her ground, "Fine. Let's say I believe you. What's your title?"

"I'm a knight."

She turned toward Sano, "I thought knights weren't participating."

He shrugged, "I don't see why not. Your father said any man with a title."

"Knighthood is non-hereditary."

"Doesn't make it any less of a title."

Kaoru eyed her cousin, he was awfully laid back about this guy. She looked at the man again, he couldn't be any older than twenty-two. If he had been dubbed she would have known, she had been present for all dubbings in the past decade -ever since her mother died. There was no way that her father would dub a boy, it was ridiculous.

She smirked. She had caught him in his lie. "And when and who dubbed you?"

"The late king, god rest his soul. Fifteen years ago," it was his turn to smirk.

Her eyes widened, "That can't be true. What? Are you going to tell me you were seven?"

"No, fourteen."

If possible, her eyes widened further. "You're twenty-nine?"

The number raced through her mind, there was no way that this slip of a man was twenty-nine. She turned to Sano, "He has to be lying. Beside the fact that he doesn't look like he's pushing thirty, my father never dubbed any fourteen year old."

Sano glanced at the man and back to Kaoru. He sighed, of all the nobles in the land, of course he would come waltzing in to take her hand. "The king did knight a fourteen year old once. It is the youngest knighthood that he ever gave out."

"What are you-" then it hit her like a ton of bricks. She looked at man in question more closely. Red hair, cross-shaped scar, golden eyes. He fit the description. "W-what's your name?"

"Himura," a predatory look crossed his face -he had caught his prey. "Himura Kenshin."

"Himura Battousai." She shook her head, "There's no way you're him. You're too-"

"Pretty?"

"No! Short!"

Kenshin frowned, "Sanosuke there is just unusually tall."

She turned her attention toward her cousin, "How does he know you?"

Sano nodded his head and gulped, "I was there, at the dubbing. I was five. It is Himura, that's why he looked familiar."

Kaoru didn't know what to say. She had assumed that she would end up with an overly pretentious duke. She would have challenged him to a duel, and after he had lost she would have dismissed him. But Battousai? The man that had swayed the tides of the war and saved their land? The man who was known to spill blood without even batting an eye?

She had always assumed that Battousai was much older and much much taller. She had never met him and her father would say little of him. She had started thinking that maybe he was dead, or possibly just a myth. Both seemed highly likely -that was until he was standing in front of her.

Kenshin stepped up toward her and she narrowed her eyes. "Don't be presumptuous. Keep your distance."

"But we are to wed."

Her eyes narrowed further, "I think you're too old for me."

"Before I was too young and now I am too old. What's an acceptable age?"

"Twenty-four."

He smirked, "Then I'm twenty-four then."

She back up, this man was dangerous. Not in the sense that he was going to start a massacre, but more in the sense that she may not be able to read him. This man irked her. She wasn't sure if it was his soul digging eyes, or the fact that his hair was prettier than hers.

He stepped a bit closer, then kneeled to the ground with one leg propped up, he rested one hand against his chest and bent the other arm behind his back. He bowed, and then looked up at her with a knowing and mischievous smile.

"I believe I owe you a proposal, princess."