"...and with the northern trade route now permanently open thanks to Your Majesty, I propose that we-"
"Elsa! Just what do you think you're doing?!"
The doors to the conference room burst open, a redheaded wirlwind of fury and energy entering with a bang. The elderly members of the council quailed before her rage, but Elsa merely sent her a dismissive glance and turned back to the Trade Minister.
"I should think that would be self-evident. I'm in the middle of a council meeting, Anna. Now, please continue, Lord Daban."
"Don't you dare!" Anna hissed at the beleaguered councilman, instantly returning her attention to the object of her fury. "You KNOW that's not what I meant! WHAT. IS. THIS?!"
The Minister looked back and forth between the Royal sisters who had given him conflicting orders, one of whom was his Monarch and the other of whom it seemed it would be highly unwise to disobey at that particular moment, and promptly fainted.
Elsa sighed a long-suffering sigh. "Very well. Meeting dismissed, I suppose. Someone see to Lord Daban. Thank you so much, Anna, for terrifying my poor Trade Minister out of his mind."
Anna looked momentarily contrite, and whispered to the guards picking up the unconscious noble "apologize to him for me when he wakes up", but she would not be turned from her task. "You can't distract me with a guilt trip, Elsa. This needs an explaination. Now."
Elsa snatched the paper from Anna's hands and read through it quickly. "It all seems to be in order. What exactly is the problem?"
Anna's mouth opened in shock, but her face quickly hardened. "You're doing this on purpose. You know EXACTLY what I'm mad about. That's why you didn't tell me before you went and did it. That's why I had to find out from town gossip about my sister's marriage!"
"Leave us." Elsa told the remaining guards. When they were alone, she turned back to her sister. "Okay, fine. Yes, I knew you'd kick up a fuss about this, and that's why I didn't tell you. It's really not a big deal."
"Not a big deal?! What happened to 'you barely know him, Anna, you can't get married'? Now you're going to marry some random person you've never met who happens to be strong enough to win a tournament? Double standard!"
"Of course it's a double standard." Elsa replied, still calm in the face of her sister's wrath. "You're a princess, and I'm the Queen. A princess has some freedom, but the Queen belongs to the people. And right now, after all the wreckage I've caused, what the people need is stability. The kind of stability that comes from a nice, normal royal family."
"So court someone! You're holding this tournament a year from now, anyway! That would be plenty of time to court around a little and choose a husband you could really love. What if whoever wins is an ugly, horrible person who you could never fall in love with?"
"I can't. I've talked it over with my councilors. With the current instability, there is too much risk that the country of any foreign noble I marry will take it as an excuse to take over. Marriage to a commoner would be taken as a sign of weakness. It's a luxury well established monarchs of powerful countries have that I do not. And our own nobility is depleted. There are no good options there, believe me, I've considered everything. This way, the perceived strength of the tournament winner will mitigate the political weakness of marrying a commoner. It's the best answer."
"But what about true love?" Anna said fiercely. "You have to marry your true love, not some random strongman!"
Elsa laughed softly. "The truth about true love is that it's very, very rare. Most people never experience true love at all, and even for those that do, it's more likely to be unrequited than returned. And as for me, I've known since I was a small child that I would marry for the State. Father prepared me from a very young age for this. I'm happy for you and Kristoff, really I am, but you can't expect me to find that kind of happiness just because you have. True love was never in the cards for me."
Anna went quiet for a moment. Hesitantly, she said, "This is because I'm courting Kristoff, isn't it. If I were to court a noble-"
"No! Anna, no. This isn't your fault. It's no one's fault, and it's not your place to fix this. You're done making sacrifices for me. Done! Besides, it wouldn't help. Whether you marry your true love Kristoff and become happy or some random 'ugly horrible person' and are miserable, it wouldn't change the situation I'm in." Elsa heaved a longer, heavier sigh. "And besides that...I don't think true love is for me, anyway. Even if I wasn't bound by duty to marry for politics, that kind of love just isn't my destiny."
"That's bullcrap." Anna scoffed, her anger returning in full force. "True love is for everyone, and yes it is your destiny! How could it not be? With everything you've gone through, who is more deserving than you? You need to take back that proclamation. You aren't marrying someone based on some stupid tournament."
"Yes, I am, and no, I'm not reneging on my word." Elsa had steel in her voice. "And in this particular case, I can't even if I wanted to. The Monarchs of Arendelle are subject to precedent, and the tradition I've invoked is among the oldest precedents in our history, from when we were hardly removed from our barbarian days. Trial by combat to decide the spouse of the Monarch is a time-honored and well-recorded tradition that cannot be recanted once invoked."
"No! That's not fair, and it's not right! I won't let this happen! Mark my words, Elsa, I will find a way out of this for you, even if you don't want me to, even if it takes me the whole year! If you need me, I'll be in the royal library in the law section."
When Anna was gone, Elsa's mask finally crumbled. "Oh, Anna. Some day you'll see that this is for the best." She whispered. Then, even quieter, "Or maybe you never will, and that's okay, too."
A Frozen Tournament
The giant man and his son sat under the night sky, looking up at the stars. Rock spoke again. "You have been without a mother for many moons."
"Yes, but I have you, father." Bangoo replied.
"A father is good, but a father and a mother is better." Like a mountain rising from the earth to blot out the moon, Rock stood. "I will go to Arendelle. I will win the tournament. Wait for me, Bangoo. When I return, I will bring you a mother. Queen Elsa of Arendelle."
Ryu sat in meditation near a waterfall, clothes still dripping wet from earlier excursions. At the sound of approaching footsteps, he rose and clasped forearms with his best friend.
"Great to see you, Ken. What brings you out this way?"
"Hey, buddy. Always great to see you, too. I wanted to make sure you got the news. I would've called, but you know...you still don't have a cellphone..."
"Haha, right. I'll have to fix that someday."
"Let's not kid ourselves. I'm not holding my breath."
"Probably wise. So, what's the news?"
"There's going to be a World Martial Arts Tournament next year. Thought you'd be interested."
"Wow, during an off year. That's great news. I was just thinking I didn't want to have to wait for the King of Iron Fist Tournament two years from now, or the Tenkaichi Budakai in three years. Where's it at?"
"A little European country called Arendelle."
"I'm going for sure. See you there?"
"Yes, I'll be there to spectate, but I won't be participating."
"That's too bad. I'll miss the competition. Any reason why not?"
"I don't want the prize of this particular tournament."
Ryu laughed. "That's a terrible reason. I'm never interested in the prize money, anyway. The thrill of the fight is enough for me."
Ken rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "I'll rephrase that. I need to not have the prize, this time. If I even enter, Eliza would kill me. The prize is marriage to the Arendelle Monarch, Queen Elsa."
Ryu made a face. "I don't really want that prize, either. Oh, well. I'll just have to decline after winning."
Ken looked at him dubiously. "I'm not sure that's going to work out for you."
"Sure it will."
"Just...just do me a favor and make sure to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line, okay?"
"Alright, then. See you in a year, Ryu."
As Ken walked away, Ryu chuckled. "Silly Ken. He knows I can't read."
Drakken stared in rapture at the television. When the special report concluded, he rubbed his hands together in glee. "Shego! Do you know what this means?"
Shego did not look up from filing her nails. "I sure do, Dr. D! It means you've just come up with another hairbrained 'foolproof' plan. Now, if only you could come up with a 'youproof' plan, we'd finally get somewhere."
"Shego! What have I said about hurting with our words?"
"Grm, hrm, erm, frm! No! It means, I'll have you know, that in one year's time, we will be in Arendelle, and you will win us that tournament! And then we will use the power and finances of the throne to fund my other take over the world schemes! It's foo-"
"Foolproof, I know. I literally just said that. A couple eeeeensy weensy problems. One, I don't want to marry some Arendellan Ice Queen. Two, what makes you think she'll marry me even when I win? Three, Arendelle is a tiny, impoverished nation. They have like, no exports except ice. They can barely fund their own existence, let alone a SINGLE one of your failed take over the world schemes. And four, I don't want to marry some stupid, Arendellan royal!"
"Calm yourself, Shego. I have answers for you. Two, the television said that she'll marry anyone who wins the tournament. It did not specify men. And everyone knows the television is always right, so there. Three, I have plans to boost the power of the Arendelle throne until it becomes useful to me. And one and four, you are still a sidekick, and you will do as you're told!"
Shego's eyes and hands flared. "Care to run that last bit by me again?"
Drakken cringed back. "Oh, uh, I meant to say...pretty please? With sugar on top?"
Beep beep be-beep. Wade's face formed on the Kimmunicator. "Bad news, Kim. I've just learned that Drakken plans to enter Shego in the Arendelle tournament next year."
"Wait, what!? But, but, but the prize is..." Kim was flabbergasted.
"I know, right? Who knew Shego swung that way? She sure doesn't seem the type."
"I kid, I kid. If I had to guess, I'd say he plans to use the throne to fuel more nefarious plots. Shego's sexuality isn't really the issue, here. And chalk that up to another phase I never expected to say in my life. Wait, Kim, are you blushing?"
"I'm not! I'm just mad Drakken thinks he can get away with this. They won't be allowed to enter, right?"
"No, that's the thing. We can't do anything to stop them. Criminal status doesn't bar entry. Nor does Shego being a woman. Nothing does, as far as I can tell."
"Nothing? Not even, say, being a minor?"
"Not even that. Why do you-oh, I see where you're going with this."
"Sign me up, Wade. I've got a tournament to go to."
"Okay, okay, I get it, you want to beat Shego and stop them from getting access to the throne, but take minute and think this through, Kim. What happens if you two are the finalists? You'll have to win the whole thing to beat her, and that would mean..."
Kim sighed. "You're right, I didn't think of that. Maybe I can decline?"
"No, you can't. It's right there in the rules. The winning of the final bout counts as the completion of the ceremony. You'll aready be married by definition the moment you knock her out."
"Well then, I'll just have to hope it doesn't come to that. Besides, what are the odds we're the last two standing?"
"I mean...not super high...but what are you going to do if it happens? Will you let her win, or consign yourself to marriage to some frosty Queen lady?"
Kim was silent for a long time. "I don't know." She said at last. "I don't want to have to make that decision. Would it be worse to marry someone I'm not interested in, or to watch Shego marry her? I can't tell which is worse."
Wade didn't reply. If he noted that Kim had phrased it 'watch Shego marry her' instead of some other variety of 'let Shego win', he kept it to himself.
Naruto walked around the bar idly, waiting for his master to finish drinking and/or picking up ladies. Out of boredom, he read the news posts on the wall. His eyes widened. "Sensei, Sensei, look at this!"
Jiraiya had just finished getting shut down yet again, so he spared a moment for his exuberant disciple. "What is it?"
"There's a world martial arts tournament! So cool!"
"It's not cool, it's stupid." Jiraiya said dismissively.
"But why? Testing your strength against the best fighters in the world! Soooo, awesome! You could win and prove you're the strongest ninja ever!"
Jiraiya wasn't interested. "We're ninja. We don't participate in world martial arts tournaments, that would put us in the public eye. The whole point of being a ninja is to stay in the shadows. Yes, I could win, but why would I? I have nothing to prove. I exist to serve the village, not indulge in pointless self service."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Naruto agreed, disappointed. "The prize is stupid, anyway. You don't get any money or anything, you have to marry some Queen."
"Wait, what was that?" Jiraiya, who was almost fully immersed in his drink again, suddenly gave the notice his full, unwavering attention. When he was done, he said, "Naruto, my star pupil, I have your next task lined up for you. We're going to train for the next year, and then you're going to enter that tournament. It'll be great, exposing you to a wide variety of fighting styles."
Naruto's brow crinkled. "Sounds good, but what if I win? I'm to young to get married."
"Oh, don't you worry about that. You won't be winning. I'm entering too. To, uh, keep an eye on you. I may end up staying on after you get knocked out, though. Just for the heck of it."
"Cool, this is gonna be so awesome! But if we end up going against each other, you'll go easy on me, right?" Jiraiya didn't answer. "Right? Right?!"
Roshi and Goku were in town picking up supplies, when a town crier halted the hubub of the normal foot traffic to make an announcement regarding a certain tournament in Arendelle next year. The both listened intently.
"This is great!" Said Goku when the announcement was done. "Another tournament so soon! It usually takes four years, right? I'll win this one for sure."
"Now, hold on there, Goku." Roshi admonished. "I don't think you should enter this one."
"Because, uh...you might die. Yep. That's why."
"There's guys that strong going?!" Goku said breathlessly. "I'm definitely not missing this one!"
"No, you stupid ki-I mean, I said that wrong. It's because if you win you'll have to get married."
"What's married? Can I eat it?"
"No, it means if you ever try to fight again you'll have an angry harridan screaming in your ear. Scary. A fate worse than death."
"I can handle it. I'm tough." Goku said determinedly.
"Oh, boy. Maybe I can give him the wrong date or something." Roshi mumbled under his breath.
"Guys, guys! Look at this! Look what I found!" Usopp ran up to the crew, waving a notice. "There's a world martial arts tournament coming up!"
"Let me see that." Zoro immediately snatched the paper away, but after a brief once over, he flicked it back. "Tch. No edged weapons. I'm out."
Luffy stretched out an arm and grabbed it out of the air. "Hmm. Mhm. Mhm. Okay, I'm going."
"You are?" Said Usopp. "That's...surprising. I expected Sanji to be interested, considering the prize, but I didn't think you'd be."
"Why, what was the prize?" Sanji and Luffy asked simultaneously. Sanji's eyes grew bigger as he read for himself. When he got to the picture at the bottom, they popped out of his skull and transformed to heart shapes. "Oh, love, beautiful love! Wait for me, my sweet, we shall be together soon!"
"You just read it." Usopp told Luffy.
"Yeah, but I forgot."
Sanosuke bent to tie his sandals. Megumi glowered down at him with her arms folded. "So, you're really going?" She said scornfully.
"Of course I am. There's a fight, and I'm a fight enthusiast. It's what I do. Why wouldn't I?"
"Oh, I don't know. How about because if you win, you'll be married to some foreign queen? And probably have to stay in that country for the rest of your life."
He shrugged. "Let's see. Gain prestige, luxury, a castle, a beautiful wife, and on top of all that, get away from you? I fail to see a downside."
"Fine, then! Go! See if I care!" Megumi spat.
"Yeah, that's what I was planning on doing." Sanosuke said calmly. "See ya." He threw his pack over his shoulder and walked off.
Kenshin crept cautiously out of the house. Megumi sucked in a breath that sounded suspiciously like a sob. "Could you please go after him? Enter the tournament and make sure he doesn't win?"
Kenshin winced. "This one does not think Kaoru-dono would be especially pleased with that idea. Besides, even a sakabato has an edge. This one does not think it would be allowed at the tournament."
"You could use a bokkun."
"Yes." He allowed. "But it would be pointless. Sanosuke will not win the tournament, with or without this one's participation."
"There's no guarantee of that. Please. Just to make sure."
A heavy sigh. "Very well. This one will do as you ask. We must hope that Kaoru-dono does not find out, or there will be hell to pay."