Chapter 1

I feel something cold and wet hit my face. Fluttering my eyes open, I tried to take in my surrounding. I was in an alley, and it seemed to be around mid-morning by how bright it was. I squint my eyes and realized rain was quickly coming down hard. My clothes stuck to my shivering body.

How long have I been here? I am exactly where that man had left me. My family didn't even look for me. For God's sake, I was only one and a half blocks away! Sighing, I pulled my weak, frail, and trembling body up and staggered to the direction of my house. Ever since mother disappeared, I haven't been able to feel at home in that mansion. I heard she ran away because she could not stand to live the Hyuuga life; what with all the proper etiquette, formalities, and social responsibilities. I heard mother was a really carefree woman. Father had met her on a business tree, and he fell in love with her independent personality.

I reached my hand up to ring the bell, but my body froze midway as I realized the gravity of the situation. What would I tell father? He would disapprove so much of my absence. . . . But then again, if he had actually cared, he'd have called the police or sent someone to find me. Oh gosh, and I also need to explain that I need to transfer out of Yondaime High! Oh, no, no, no, no. . . .

I touched where I hit my forehead just last night. It stung, but I didn't feel any scratches. I'm so stupid. Only one and a half blocks away, and I could not even make it. Hyuugas are meant to be physically capable, and here I was, arriving home after an attack. Not even an attack. More like a confrontation. And I could not even keep consciousness enough to make it home. Goodness, I am useless!

Regardless, I have no choice. I have to do as he says, or the status of the Hyuuga clan will be destroyed. I'll just—

"Onee-chan!" A young girl's voice called behind me; I knew that voice too well. I have been hearing it since I was four years old.

I turned around to face my sister: "Hello, Hanabi." Hyuugas do not say "hey"; it was informal. They're so strict it often reaches the point of absurdity.

"Were you somewhere last night?" She sounded worried, rightfully so, "I told father you weren't home, that you could be in trouble, but he just said," she mimicked his deep voice, "'Hinata is responsible for whatever happens to her. She should know not to stay up so late outside.' Father really is too HARDHEADED!" She yelled the last word, daring that Father would hear her comment. I didn't stop her, Father is hardheaded. "The strict Hyuuga laws should be ignored when it comes to family's safety."

I smiled at her. I was extremely touched by her words. But I corrected, "The strict Hyuuga laws should just be ignored."

"Yeah," Hanabi agreed, "You must be so relieved now that you are no longer the heiress. One day, I'm gonna stand up to Father and tell him straight to his big square face that I will not accept to bear that title!" She said confidently, "Then I'll be free to live however I wish." She smiled with her eyes and mouth closed, her arms in a Superman pose.

"Hanabi, you know it can't be that easily passed. Sometimes, I even regret having the name 'Hyuuga' written besides my beautiful first name 'Hinata.'" I said 'Hyuuga' as if the word itself tasted terrible coming out my mouth, and some passerby gave me a strange look. Of course it would seem nice from the outside. Big house, servants, nice food, barely any financial worries, it sounds like a stress-free life! But then there are the little things: etiquette, traditional dancing, speech, manners, ancestral history, big names, etc." All those things make me sick. Why do these things matter just because your family is rich? "Besides, I wasn't actually relieved that I am no longer the heiress. I was actually kinda sad," Hanabi gaped at me incredulously. "Not because of that heiress thing, but because Father has no pride in me; it just feels discouraging." It was nice to have someone to express myself to.

Hanabi silently agreed with me. Then she shrugged. "It can't be helped though. Anyways, the important thing right now is to get you warmed up inside, you need to tell Father what happened last night." The very thought that kept me frozen by the door. Seeing my reaction, she assures me, "Onee-chan, you know you need to do this sooner or later. Better to get it done and over now. You'll survive!"

"No . . ." I whined childishly.

"Hinata! Get inside! NOW!" It was a deeper, alto voice now. Oh, no. Father had heard me. He rarely raises his voice. He was clearly furious. My head hung low as I followed Hanabi into this prison of a house.

Once inside, Father ordered Hanabi to go to her room to do her homework, and I followed Father into his study. Once I was fully knelt onto the cushion, he began yelling. I didn't listen to his words; I've learned that was the most effective way to keep the tears from coming. After all, it's very rude to cry to your superior.

"Look at yourself!" He slapped my wet hair, "You look horrible! How could you present yourself in such a disorderly fashion? As a Hyuuga, heiress or not, you should know that presentation is everything. Hinata, have you no decency." I stared blankly at him. He was the one who instructed me to be in the study, not even giving me a chance to clean up. My body was trembling under the wet fabric from my clothes, but I tried to keep it from showing.

He was always so quick to blame others. He may be very respectable and successful in public, but behind closed doors, he could be so childish. I was chased down the streets, threatened, and possibly stalked last night. I was literally lying down in the streets unconscious, and it rained last night.

"Are you finished?" I whispered. I couldn't stand this anymore. Father is completely disrespecting me and dismissing my current plight. I deserve better than this, even as a Hyuuga.

He stopped and stared at me incredulously, as if I had just slapped him. I continued, "Don't you care the least bit of what went on last night? I haven't been home for nearly a whole day, and you do not even think for a second that I am in danger! All you thought was that I was out fooling around being irresponsible. Well I wasn't!" I took a deep breath, surprised of my actions, "I was stalked by someone." He still didn't speak. I breathed a small sigh of relief; I never thought I had such a bold potential in me. But before I could feel proud or guilty of what just happened, the image of my predator's smile flashed into my mind. Instinctively, I touched my forehead, not looking for evidence of damage, but remembering that what happened was very, very real.

His eyes flashed to my action, "How did you get that?"

Feeling a bit powerful, I kept my answer short and curt: "I ran into a wall." I just wanted to take a nice warm shower and then lie in bed, pretending nothing took place yesterday. At first, Father's reaction was one of disapproval and disappointment, and then his mind went back to what I have said. And, for a second, I thought I saw worry in his impression.

"Why?" His voice was of the voice I remembered as a child, "What happened?" It was the voice I would hear before Hanabi was born and before Mother disappeared. I often wonder if I will ever see her again.

"Father," I started, "I-I can't attend Yondaime High anymore. I have to transfer to Konoha High School. Ryo, my attacker, says he will take care of the expenses, but I need to do as he says."

"Absolutely not!" His voice was firm and hard. It seems like he's worried of my well being now, not my reputation. It was a mood I did not recognize. I watch him a little longer, knowing that I will probably never see him like this again.

"He knows . . . some information on our clan. . . . And he threatened to reveal them to the public."

Immediately, his emotion changed. After a minute of deliberation, he gave in, "I see, then there is no helping it. Since our house is not in their area, you will live in an apartment closer to the school. I do not want you commuting all the way to Konoha every day." He paused again, mulling over the possibilities of a solution to our predicament, but it was inevitable. "You are dismissed." His last three words were back to his business voice, the voice that I hated. Now that I've seen this side of Father, I wanted it to be permanent. I wanted the Father who loved Mother more than anything, including the Hyuuga clan: the man who was willing to give everything up for his love.

I left his study. How wonderful love must feel, to only see that one loved one in your eyes and nothing else.

I walked upstairs to my personal bathroom and took a warm shower. The warm water trickled down my cold body. It felt like a cleanse of some sort, from yesterday's problems. The air conditioning in my room was refreshing. I laid on my back on my queen sized bed—my hair still wet—then I slowly drifted into deep sleep.