Perhaps it was fate, she thought, as she prepared to watch the spectacle before her which would determine whom of the men present would claim her hand in holy matrimony. It was her fault that things had come to this point. Her inability to decide whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life with had forced her father, the king, to take drastic measures.
What drastic measures, you ask? It's simple. All of the men on the stage below were her suitors, but more importantly, princes of their own respective nations, as well as highly skilled warriors, in their own rights. Since she, the Princess Haruhi Fujioka, could not decide on which of the famed princes she wanted to marry, her father, His royal highness Ryoji Fujioka, decided to take matters into his own hands, and arranged to have the princes fight to the death to claim her hand in marriage. Of course she protested, not wanting any of them to become injured because of her indecisiveness, but he would hear none of it, and made the necessary preparations. Now that the chosen date had arrived, all she could do was watch helplessly from the balcony as the combatants prepared to face each other in mortal combat.
"So tell me, Haruhi, have you decided on your groom yet? Now is your last chance before it's decided for you."
She simply looked on, not bothering to answer her father's question. They both knew the answer to it well enough anyway, but she assumed he asked for formality's sake. Her gaze moved from fighter to fighter, as she gazed upon them as if it were the last time she would see them alive and well. As far as she knew, this really would be the last time.
"Warriors! Are you prepared to do battle?"
Her father's words echoed in the coliseum as the many citizens of the kingdom cheered in expectation of what was about to transpire. It was an event that had attracted a great deal of interest amongst both the peasantry and the nobility alike. After all, it was not a regular occurrence to see the princes of various kingdoms assembled in one ring to do battle? Even the busiest of men would make it a point to come see this in person. The crowded stadium was proof of that. As those words were spoken, the six princes moved towards the balcony and stood before the king and his daughter. They were lined up nicely, and awaited only for the command of the king to begin their struggle to claim their desires.
Directly in front of the king, in his glistening blue armor, was Tamaki Suoh, of the Kingdom of Cornelia. A foreigner in every sense of the word, he was the only one of the warriors present that hailed from a kingdom not on their present continent, but rather from a faraway land on the other side of the world. He had apparently left the kingdom on a quest, as was customary of the princes in their kingdom, it would seem, and upon his return would assume the throne. One of his trials before returning was apparently to find a suitable bride, and that task had led him here, it would seem. At his waist was his holy sword, Braveheart. In one hand, his trusted shield, emblazoned with the symbol of his home country. In his other hand was his helmet, ready to be donned. His confident demeanor spoke of one who had seen many battles but was not one to boast of his victories.
In contrast to him, to his left was the Prince of Darkness, as he was often called, Hikaru Hitachiin. He received the moniker having studied the arts of the Black Knights, the famed warriors of the Kingdom of Baron from which he hailed, and utilizing them proficiently on many a battlefield. This led to a rapid expansion of the Kingdom of Baron a few years back, which was halted by the alliance of the other kingdoms present here. He represented his moniker quite well, adorned in his black armor, and carrying the Jet Black Sword, a legendary blade of darkness that is said to be the symbol of the Black Knights of Baron. His helmet rested suspended from the hilt of this blade. His face held a casual smirk, beaming with confidence at what he believed was a sure victory for him.
To Tamaki's right was the so called Prince of Light, Kaoru Hitachiin. In contrast to his twin brother, Kaoru was trained as a Paladin by Baron's White Knights. While the Dark Knights were the main offensive force of Baron, and thus were a large part of Baron's forces, the White Knights were a rare breed, as their only task was to defend Baron and the royal family. Kaoru also stood gallantly beside Tamaki, carrying a legendary blade of his own, the Light Bringer, the symbol of Baron's White Knights. It was said that Hikaru and Kaoru were trained in the arts of darkness and light, respectively, so that they could one day do battle for the throne, and prove once and for all if the White or Black Knights were greater. It would seem that this contest today is just their way of deciding that matter as well as securing a queen for Baron.
To Kaoru's right was the diminutive, but deceptively powerful Mitsukuni Haninozuka, prince of the faraway Kingdom of Zanarkand. At a glance he would have appeared to be a very weak individual, but the fact remained that this person was one of the most powerful martial artists on the planet, his fists a deadly weapon that could strike down any man. The belt around his waist, with the words "World Champion" emblazoned on it, which he won at the legendary World Martial Arts Tournament, an event held once every decade, was a testament to this fact. He was lightly clothed compared to the others, no doubt to enable for greater mobility in combat. He appeared, however, to be more interested in the battle to come than the prize at the end.
To Hikaru's left was the prince of a smaller, lesser known kingdom known as Fynn. A relatively young kingdom by comparison to the others, Fynn's royal family stems from the leaders of a group of rebels whom opposed an empire that was destroyed long ago, or so the story goes. This prince was named Takashi Morinozuka. Clothed in robes and lightly armored, he was carrying an assortment of weapons that hung from all over his body. Named the Wild Roses, the origins of these weapons were shrouded in mystery, and all that is known is that they were handed down from a knight of Fynn of long ago. Unlike the rest of the princes present, Takashi did not appear to be interested in much of anything, a blank, stoic look plastered on his face. Perhaps he was just trying to make his kingdom better known by marrying a princess of a well established kingdom, or perhaps his motivations lay elsewhere.
Finally, the final prince present at in the arena was the heavily armored Kyoya Ootori. He was a particularly well known prince, serving as the Judge Magister of the Archadian Empire. A prestigious role by any means, he was essentially the one who controlled law within the Archadian Empire, and answered to no one but his father, the Emperor. He carried with him the Death Bringer, a legendary Imperial blade passed from Judge Magister to the next. The blade's name spoke for itself, as it was used to execute criminals whose crimes caught the attention of the Emperor himself. It would seem that Kyoya also had the intention of passing judgment on those whom would stand in the way of him claiming his bride. In a rare display, the Judge Magister had removed his helmet before commencing the competition, a rare act according to the Imperials whom often visited the kingdom for diplomatic reasons.
They all appeared so very different then when she had met them. Back then they had the appearance of common nobles, like any other. She would never have guessed that, despite being royalty, they were experienced warriors who had witnessed many a battle. In fact, after hearing about some of their duties within their respective countries, she was considerably surprised. Just as Haruhi had finished her observations, the king continued his speech, now directed and the crowd that had gathered at the stands of the coliseum.
"My dear citizens, and respected guests, we have gathered here today at the Grand Coliseum to witness a battle for the ages!"
A resounding roar could be heard from the stands. The Grand Coliseum, located within their own kingdom, was the largest venue of its kind, and the resounding thunder that pierced Haruhi's ears was proof of it.
"Six princes have gathered here for the honor of winning the kingdom's greatest prize of all: my daughter's hand in marriage."
The reaction from the crowd was mixed. For the commoners present, this was fresh news. Only the nobles and foreigners were not surprised, as they had been informed beforehand so that they would be able to set aside some time to witness this momentous occasion. For many of these nobles, it was a chance to see which country produced a superior breed of prince. What made this event special was that it was not just a normal fight, in which two warriors, often brutish in nature, would duel to the death. This match would also employ tactics and strategies, and would be a clear display of which country was best suited at producing lords of greater caliber. It seemed that each of the social classes present had a different show to see, all from the same event.
"Now, princes, take your positions. Your combat will commence shortly!"
The princes all turned away from the king and walked to areas of the coliseum that had been designated to them. Tamaki, Hikaru, and Kyoya each donned their respective helmets, and with the exception of Mitsukuni, inspected all of their equipment. There would be no room for screw ups in a battle that was so important to them. Minutes passed, and one by one the princes stood in predetermined spots, letting the king know that they were all ready to go. With that he stood, and gave the warriors the command they needed.
"Very well. Then, let the contest begin!"
With those words, the arena below immediately exploded into a heated battle. Tamaki immediately locked swords with Hikaru, while Takashi and Kaoru did the same. Kyoya and Mitsukuni, who had moved further to the sides, stared each other down for a few moments, much to the wonder of the cheering crowd, when suddenly Mitsukuni dashed towards him. For his part Kyoya seemed exceedingly calm, though not much could be determined from behind his thick armor and helmet. Just as Mitsukuni was about to deliver a deadly punch to the judge's torso, Kyoya suddenly sprang into action, and with speed that seemed impossible while wearing such heavy armor, he blocked the punch with his blade, and attempted to retaliate with a well placed kick to the face, which was dodged by the small fighter.
Kaoru, for his part was having a bit of trouble with his opponent, who was in fair control of the situation. Takashi had managed to generate some distance between the two, and was busy firing arrows and throwing knives at the paladin. Kaoru, who could do nothing against the experienced ranger at such a distance, silently cursed himself, and would have to reveal a valuable trump card early to remedy the situation if things kept up like this. Seeing his brother and Tamaki close by, however, allowed him to formulate a quick escape plan, and he ran in front of Tamaki and slashed his sword. Tamaki was well prepared for such a surprise attack, considering the battle royale nature of the fight, and blocked the slash, his attention apparently drawn away from the arrow flying toward him.
This, however, was not the case. Quickly he slashed the arrow out of the air and kicked Kaoru towards Hikaru, who was now charging towards the both of them. Turning away from Kaoru and running towards Takashi, he managed to cover a significant amount of distance in a short amount of time, much to Takashi's surprise. The two immediately locked swords, while Hikaru and Kaoru did the same on their end.
An intense aura could be sensed around Hikaru and Kaoru. As the two blades of light and darkness clashed, the brothers faced each other down, their faces just inches from each other. Hikaru was the first to speak up.
"Brother, I would have gladly handed the throne of Baron to you. I didn't want it then, and I don't want it now. But I will not allow you to take her from me, even if it's you!"
A surge of dark energy emanated from his sword. Kaoru braced himself for the attack he knew was coming.
The black wave flew out of the black sword and raced towards Kaoru with alarming speed. However, he quickly dispelled the attack with a wave of his Light Bringer. The two treasured swords of Baron, it seemed, were designed to repel each other.
"I see, brother. If that is how it's going to be, then I'm afraid we're going to have to step up the pace."
Kaoru, for his part, seemed most displeased with the direction this was going. He knew his brother to be quite unreasonable when angry, and he seemed to be getting angrier by the second. Kaoru adopted a defensive stance, not yet having built up the determination to deliver a killing blow against his brother.
Meanwhile, Takashi seemed to be doing a good job of maintaining a distance from his opponent Tamaki, with a combination of his arrows and knives, and the occasional throw of his trusted axe for good measure. The remnants of thrown projectiles were littered all over the outer area of the ring, and it made Tamaki wonder briefly exactly where Takashi stored all of those weapons. Pushing the thought aside, he paused when he noticed Takashi had halted his barrage. He remained alert, however, not knowing exactly what the mysterious prince of Fynn was up to. He suddenly spoke, his deep voice clearly heard by Tamaki despite the distance between them.
"Your reputation precedes you, wandering prince. There have been many rumors about you in many kingdoms, some less pleasant than others. Although it seems the ones regarding your skill are all quite true."
Tamaki was not the least bit surprised by the remarks. He knew he had made a name for himself in many a kingdom, in some as a heroic warrior-prince, in others nothing more than a bringer of misfortune.
"Well, I'm glad somebody can appreciate my accomplishments, although your flattery won't garner any advantage from me."
Takashi smiled, a look that seemed foreign on the face of one who was always so serious.
"Do not worry. I would never disgrace an opponent in such an insulting manner. Come, let us bring this conflict to a close so that I may engage my next opponent."
Tamaki smiled confidently, and he responded in kind.
"Yes, we should hurry up and finish this. But I'm afraid it's going to me who shall be moving on to the next opponent."
Takashi's smile immediately disappeared, replaced once again with his emotionless visage.
"Let us see whose foresight is more accurate, shall we?"
With that, Tamaki sped towards Takashi as Takashi jumped back and prepared to fire an arrow. This arrow, however, was no ordinary arrow. A fierce aura surrounded it, no doubt an arrow imbued with a powerful magic. Tamaki, however, fearlessly charged forward directly into the arrow's trajectory. Takashi took careful aim, and with a resounding thunder, the arrow left the bow and flew true towards its mark. Tamaki could clearly see the arrow coming towards him, and raised his shield. It began to glow faintly, and as the arrow came closer and closer, the shield's light grew in intensity, until the arrow and shield finally met. An explosion of light covered the center of the arena, and for the first time since the contest began the cheering spectators quieted, waiting in expectation to see what had happened to the prince of Cornelia. Just as the smoke cleared, however, something unexpected happened. Pillars of light rose up out of the ground with alarming speed, headed directly for Takashi. Takashi, who was just now landing after launching the arrow, had neither the time nor space to maneuver away, and could only watch in horror as the light engulfed him. His entire world went white, and then suddenly black.
"Well, I guess that's one down."
Tamaki emerged from the clearing dust unscathed. He was missing only his shield, which, as the dust cleared, was revealed to be shattered in pieces on the arena floor.
"Oh well. A small price to pay to defeat an opponent of his caliber."
He made sure no one was going to take advantage of the moment to attack, and made his way over to inspect Takashi's body. He was only unconscious, it seemed, and would likely remain so for a time, enough to see this contest conclude, anyway. He looked over to the others still fighting and was quite surprised with what he saw.
Kyoya and Mitsukuni had been essentially engaging in a contest of hit and run, Mitsukuni giving his best attempt to land a decisive blow on the Judge with no such luck. They were moving relatively slowly around the outer portion of the arena floor. Kyoya was also largely unsuccessful in landing a decisive counterattack, and so the back and forth between the two combatants seemed almost like a game. However, this contest would end prematurely and in a manner unfitting of warriors of such prestige. As Takashi's explosive technique rocked the arena enough to cause a fatal distraction for Mitsukuni, who in his momentary lapse of attention stepped on one of Takashi's discarded knives. Tripping backward from having landed his foot directly on the blade, it was the only opportunity Kyoya required to land the killing blow, and he did, piercing Mitsukuni's unprotected chest with his Death Bringer. He watched the small fighter gasp away his remaining life, his features hidden by his helmet.
Kyoya turned towards the now standing Tamaki, as the crowd gasped at the first fatality of the contest. Even though it was technically a battle to the death for the princess' hand, to the crowd the thought of princes killing each other in such a manner was foreign to them, and so their surprise was not unexpected, but rather a natural thing. Tamaki stood wide-eyed, not believing that any of the princes present would actually go as far as to kill another. Kyoya stood in front of him.
"Why the look of surprise? This is a death match, after all. The taking of life in such a contest is a given, is it not?"
Tamaki's eyes sharpened in anger. This was exactly the type of person that he abhorred, one who disregarded human life for his own gain, simply for the victory. It was because of people like this that he had become infamous in certain regions, because he would always pick fights with them, regardless of their position of power.
"You know, First Prince Tamaki Suoh, you caused quite a ruckus in the Archadian Empire a few months back. You fled beyond our borders before the Judges could catch you, but I guess I should consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to judge you right here and now."
Tamaki did remember causing quite a bit of trouble by killing a number of nobles in a duel to the death. Of course he was chased after as a criminal in the Empire, but he managed to elude capture long enough to get well away from the Archadian Empire's borders, far beyond the reach of the Imperial Judges. He assumed it was fate, then, that the head of all Judges, the Imperial Judge Magister, stood before him now with the intention of prosecuting him and issuing his sentence.
"Well, that's enough small talk for now. We have an audience to entertain, Prince Suoh. Let us not disappoint them."
With those words Kyoya readied his Death Bringer, and Tamaki did the same for his Braveheart. The clank of their boots echoed in the arena as the crowd noise began to pick up once more. Oblivious to any of this going on, however, were the brothers Kaoru and Hikaru, who were engaged in combat on the other side of the arena, completely immersed within the world of their fight and their fight alone. The crowd was becoming increasingly eager to see the outcome to this already legendary of battles. With two participants already eliminated, things began to grow increasingly tense.
"Hikaru, we don't have to fight each other this way. Do you really believe I am here only to steal her from you? I love her just as much as you do! I am not here to stand in opposition to you. That is merely the result of us having chosen the same goal."
"You fool. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact remains that we are each here, trying to kill each other because we desire the same thing. You may not want to oppose me, but it does not change the fact that you are opposing me right now!"
Kaoru grimaced as Hikaru pushed him back, and the two returned to their original stances, in preparation of the second round of pointless sword clashing.
"Brother, do you really think I would kill you? Even for the woman I love I could not fathom the idea of taking your life."
Hikaru smirked, his gesture unseen under his dark helmet.
"Then that proves that I deserve her more than you, for I have developed that determination."
Kaoru was wide eyed at his brother's words. No, it was not so much his words, but the coldness with which he spoke them.
"Did you truly mean that, brother? Would you really take my life for her?"
Though Kaoru could not see his brother's face under the helmet, he could visualize his expression clearly as he spoke his next word.
It was a simple, yet powerful answer. Kaoru was crushed inside. After all they had been through together, he would abandon him just like that? He lowered his sword and his head, and spoke through a pained voice.
"Then you may have her brother. I will surrender quietly. Even if it meant losing my life, I would not ever raise my sword with the intent of taking your life."
Hikaru was visibly shocked at his brother's sudden change in demeanor. He had assumed that his brother was only here to settle the long standing grudge between the Black and White Knights by taking away what he treasured most. But it seemed that his brother treasured something just as much as he did, and he just failed to see it. He too lowered his blade and stood beside his brother. He removed his helmet and stood before his brother, face to face.
"No brother. It seems that it is I that is undeserving of her love. I will be the one to surrender."
Then, suddenly something unexpected happened to them. They were finally returned to the reality of the situation they were in.
"Since you both want to surrender so adamantly, then I will be the one to take the prize from you!"
As those words were spoken, the brothers turned their heads, their swords moving in defense of the incoming attack. But it was too late. The blades were already too close to their necks when they reacted. And in that instant, their heads came flying clean off, the result of Kyoya Ootori's latest kill.
"And that is two more down. Now it is just you and me Tamaki Suoh."
Tamaki scrunched his face in anger. He had avoided going all out on Kyoya, but he realized too late that this man needed to die. He was a dangerous individual that, regardless of whether he won or lost, if he walked out of this place alive he would spread more misfortune. From the observation booth, Haruhi was horrified at how the climactic battle was turning out. Already, three of the men she loved were nothing more than corpses. Her father was sitting quietly in his chair, already used to the bloodshed from having witnessed various duels to the death at the Grand Coliseum.
"Haruhi, if you must hate someone, hate yourself, for you are the one that brought this result about with your indecisiveness. You knew full well who these men were and what they would do if you drove them to this point."
Yes, she knew, but she still could not believe what she was seeing. Back down at the arena floor, Tamaki and Kyoya prepared for a final drive to end the battle and decide once and for all who would claim the prize. The corpses and unconscious body of Takashi remained strewn about on the coliseum floor. Though it seemed to happen quickly, in fact the day was almost drawing to a close, the warriors having been in combat for a good amount of hours. Already the corpse of Mitsukuni had bled out completely, and the brothers of Baron were already well on their way.
"Let's end this."
The two began to emit a tremendous amount of aura. Tamaki's light aura, shining brightly and giving him a somewhat heavenly look, stood in stark contrast to Kyoya's pitch black aura, which seemed to absorb the shadows around him. The sun was just setting, and Haruhi began to run from the observation deck and made her way down the arena floor, hoping to make it in time to stop the two from killing each other, as she was sure would happen, just from sensing the killing intent emanating from the two. It was almost a tangible, living thing, and it scared her. She didn't want any more people she cared about to die. As she stepped out onto the arena floor, she realized it was too late, as the two were already charging at each other, ready to deliver the killing blow.
She tried, even knowing it was too late to stop them, but to no avail. As they struck at each other, a massive explosion caused by the clash of their overwhelming power stuck like lightning and knocked her flat on her back. She temporarily lost consciousness, only to be brought back to reality by the sound of clanking boots amidst the settling dust. She could not make out the figure of the person who stood above her, but she could make out his hand reaching for her. She heard her name being called clearly despite the lack of sharpness of her other senses.
She tried to move and take his hand, but her body would not hear of it and stubbornly stayed in place.
"Haruhi, get up. It's time to go to school."
What? School? What was this voice talking about? She was truly confused now. Her world went dark around her as the hand that was reaching out for her disappeared from her sight completely.
With that, she awoke in her bed at home, her father shaking her awake. She looked around in search of her destined prince, but all she found was her plain room with open books lying all around, and her father looking at her with a semi-concerned look on his face.
"Haruhi, hurry and get up, you'll be late for school."
She acknowledged his words as she looked at her clock, sitting neatly at her desk. Indeed, if she wasted even a minute of her time she would be late for school. As she jumped up and began to get dressed, she pondered her strange dream as she looked over the books that were sloppily lying about. She then remembered that the Host Club had tasked her with the responsibility of researching various ideas for the next Host Club special event. Books about knights, empires, tragedies and romance all composed the vast material she read over the previous night. No doubt it had been the material of which her dream was based on. The dream served to give her some interesting ideas for the Club activity, and so it would be worth being late.
As she exited the door to head on out to school, she did wonder briefly who her destined prince had been…
A/N: If this story seems a big fragmented or it appears that there are a lot of pieces missing, it was intentional. I tried to design it more or less to fell like a real dream, in that it is often unrealistic and fragmented, often with the dreamer not remembering what it was they dreamt very well. Anyway, enjoy!