Disclaimer: The story is owned by me but the characters' and their backgrounds do not. Enjoy.
Chapter One: Discover
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a wondrous land filled with fantastic creatures such as unicorns and dragons and the like. She was so radiant, the blossoms bloomed in her presence, the sun shone brighter, the birds sang, and the men cooed at her without fail. She was the youngest of three, only five years old, and her beauty already shone like a star amongst her cute features. Mildly intelligent, a wonderful sense of humor, and a witty character, she was admired from afar. Yes, she was the perfect princess, in every which way.
However, one day, a dark magician browsing the land spotted her in her private meadow singing a tune that caught his interest at once. Immediately, he planned to take the cute child away from her warm home and bring her to his citadel of darkness and cold. After several days of planning, he snatched her one day from her meadow and, with much protest, disappeared with her into his fortress.
There, he performed much horrifying spells on her, until she was no longer the cute princess she was before. She was different… totally different.
And little did her brethren at the castle, who had frantically searched for her until all hope had failed, know that she would return one day, when her name had already become a legend for all to ponder upon…
"You damn coachman, can't you do anything right?" snarled the second son of the Uchiha Family from Northern Konoha, coal-black eyes hardened in fury. "Turn left, man, turn left!"
Said fumbling coachman struggled to get a good grip on his reins, face beaded with sweat. A dark, crisply dressed figure seated next to the furious aristocrat pursed his lips in a mildly amused manner.
"Oh, come now, Sasuke. There is really nothing to be yelling at the poor man about—you don't have to go so fast now, Shinta, rein in the horses a bit, that's a good lad—there's nothing to hurry over." Heir to the Uchiha Manor, Uchiha Itachi, hair brushed back in a neatly tied ponytail and sharp black hat sitting on his temples, took his gloves out of his breast pocket and pulled them onto his wrists. "I'm sure Neji wouldn't much care whether you arrive at his doorstep at three or at four."
Sasuke, who had hurriedly seated himself back into his normal, noble position on the seat covers, twitched irritably. "I am a man of my word, brother. When I say I'll be there by three, I mean I'll be there by three."
Itachi huffed a little, due to the bitter cold of their land at the time, as it was winter. "Haven't you ever heard of the term, 'fashionably late'?"
"Not on my list." was the sulky reply from the younger Uchiha sibling, as Sasuke had just realized the coachman really wouldn't be going any faster. "The relations between the Hyuuga Family and the Uchiha Family are going to be even more strained now, seeing as we don't keep our word."
"Our relations are already strained; it won't kill them to be strained even more."
Sasuke said nothing, and the two elapsed into a bitterly cold silence. Peering out the window, the ghostly white branches of the pines and oaks became visible while the floor was powdered with the morning's snow. The cloudy, stormy skies added to the chilling aura and Sasuke was suddenly very thankful of the heating inside the coach.
All of a sudden, in the smooth, mostly docile trip to Hyuuga Mansion, the coach comes to a sharp, screeching halt, throwing both noblemen roughly into the wall. Sasuke, who had been knocked against the metal very violently headfirst, felt slightly lightheaded on impact while Itachi, whose face had remarkably lost its almost expressionless feel to one of mild shock and annoyance, smoothly picked himself after realizing what had just happened and opened the coach door.
"Good lord," he snarled very coldly to Shinta, the cowering coachman, in a dark, angry voice, "what the hell are you doing?" Sasuke, who had recovered, joined his brother in the glaring. They were in the middle of the muddy road; a desolated route most coaches avoided and thus devoid of human life, out in the cold. Seeing as both Uchihas bore bruises or bumps against their heads and were thus very angry, the future looked very bleak for Shinta the Coachman.
Shakily jabbing a finger in the direction of the front of the vehicle, he jabbered, "T-there's someone in the r-road, sirs!" After a few moments, Itachi growled in annoyance when he realized his damn manservant actually wanted him to come out of his warm, heated, coach compartment, gracefully slipped himself out of the coach, into the snow, and stalked to the front. Sasuke, who assumed this his brother had everything under control, became even more agitated at the prospect of this little roadblock to further delay his already late visit to the Hyuuga.
When Itachi approached the front, he immediately caught sight of what must be a person lying dimly in the snow, in the middle of the road. He whirled on the coachman.
"You didn't run him over, did you?"
"N-no! H-he was just laying there, and that's why I stopped, 'cause I didn't want to run him over, and I h-have no idea why he's there, sir, b-but he was just there, and you r-really can't tell if he's really a he sir, he could be a she and—" Before the coachman could blab on any further, he found himself being dragged off his seat. The elder Uchiha pointed at the figure. "Lift him up."
Seeing as he didn't want to anger his master any further, Shinta obediently rushed to comply. The cold form was shaken off its snowy coating, revealing tousled blonde hair matted with dirt and a skinny form threatening to just wink itself out of existence.
Itachi motioned impatiently for him to put in the guests' compartment along with him and his brother, and the coachman was hasty to obey. He quickly opened the door, threw the figure at a rather surprised Sasuke, and rushed back to his seat in the front. Itachi soon entered the coach afterwards and in no time at all the horses were reined in and the coach was off.
Sasuke looked flabbergasted.
"Speak up, Sasuke!"
Sasuke regained control of his mouth, suddenly frantic. "Brother, what the hell did you just do? We're going up to the Hyuuga in less then twenty minutes and you just all of a sudden drag a random stranger into our coach?"
Itachi gives his sibling in inquiring look. "And what was I to do? Leave him there in the road to rot? Come now, even I'm not that cold." Said figure lay limp and cold to the touch, thawing in the heat, sprawled across the floor of the coach. Sasuke wrinkled his nose in disgust, eyes gaining a nasty look him them as he edged away from the body.
"He could be dead, brother!"
"No, no, I tested him before I came in and he's got a heartbeat."
"Oh, stop your whining, Sasuke. Deal with it. We can get him investigated and such when we reach the mansion; for now, just let him be."
Sasuke, after years of being schooled after Itachi's behavior and limitations, bit his lip hard and restrained himself from hotly retorting something he'd probably regret later, instead staring out the window.
He was now about fifteen minutes late. Great.
Uzumaki Kyuubi was the Honorable Second Prince of the kingdom of Konoha, temperamental, brash, red-headed and very good-looking—the heartthrob of the Konoha Castle. His older brother, Uzumaki Arashi, had become the Honorable Fourth King of Konoha three months earlier and was now currently busy with all his new duties, leaving Kyuubi completely free of the caretakers that had plagued him since childhood.
Being only a year apart in age, Arashi had long taken up his heavy duty of "Older Brother" and had gone to stop all of Kyuubi's sometimes frightening antics, including some almost-murders and insane-bouts-of-madness. To say the least, Kyuubi wasn't the friendliest guy in the kingdom, at times. Thus, he had always had two caretakers attached to him by the hip to make sure he wasn't off somewhere starting a war with Suna or something.
But now… he was free! Free! Free to do whatever he wanted… well, not really. Arashi, knowing that his brother would be off immediately causing mayhem somewhere, had loaded him with the heavy, age-old responsibility of looking for their younger sister, who had gone missing eleven years ago. Of course, this was, in Kyuubi's mind, an almost impossible task. She was only five when she disappeared, so in these eleven years she would have changed a lot from what she had been so long ago.
Previous investigations have already revealed that it was believed the dark magician, Orochimaru, was responsible for her disappearance. Orochimaru had a horrible reputation of transmuting his victims with spells, so that sometimes they weren't even human any longer. It was something so repugnant, it was never mentioned at the dinner table at the Uzumaki household… ever.
But now, he was being charged to search for his little sister, and that was what he was going to do. Grumbling to himself sharply, he pulled a small, wallet-sized photograph out of his pocket of him and his siblings together—Arashi, eleven, bright, spiky blonde hair sticking every which way and intent blue eyes staring outwards, arms slung across his siblings' shoulders; Kyuubi, ten, orange-to-red fiery hair grown to about shoulder length, a mass of tangles and wind-swept curves that fell over his piercing yellow eyes, a mischievous smirk playing at his lips as he stared at the camera; and the youngest, a girl—Naru. Naru, five, light blonde hair—short and cut to her chin, large blue eyes, like her brother, small and carrying a fox plushie in her hands as she gazed, confused, at the cameraman.
Kyuubi's memories of his long lost sister were not fuzzy, but very vivid—she had an aggravating obsession with both ramen and foxes, insisting that feeding the foxes in the courtyard with ten dishes of milk each day was something normal and not at all unusual, and that ramen made her grow taller.
She had been energetic and alive, singing her wild, forest tunes and playing with the multiple foxes that gathered to sip at the milk she left outside. He used to tease her about the fact that if she cut her hair loose to right above her ear, she'd look like a miniature female-Arashi, usually ending up with a hissing little princess at his ankles while Arashi scolded them in the background. It was fun and wild—those times when it was just them three, the orphans of the Royal Family.
After Naru disappeared, however, everything changed.
Kyuubi grew even brasher, wilder, more violent, while Arashi became more uptight, more careful, more responsible. It was the brothers' way to cope. After several failed investigations spanning over the length of four years, hope had simmered down to but a small drop. If she had not been found, she may be dead—if she was not dead, then Orochimaru's experiments would've gotten to her by then.
Arashi had quietly told his brother once that he wished that if he had a choice, he'd prefer his sister dead. At least then he'd have the reassurance that Naru had died a human being.
But as Kyuubi did not often like to think of such matters, he pushed the thought to the back of his mind as he crossed the chilling winter hunting lands owned by the Royal Family for decades. With his crossbow strapped across his back and his sword tucked away at his belt, he felt confident enough on his white stallion to wander off familiar territory and onto the Hyuuga Acres. Being that he wasn't legally supposed to be on this territory in the first place, he quietly hid in the underbrush as he giddily sneaked around the trees.
It was no fun abiding by the rules. Breaking them was much more exciting.
Arashi's going to have a stroke when he hears of this, the Honorable Second Prince thought to himself happily as he carefully removed his crossbow from its scabbard. Spotting a possible prey, he carefully lead his horse towards some snowy bushes and leveled the cross-hairs on his bow to the innocent snow hare, never knowing what's coming after it…
Bam! The thing had darted away right before the arrow hit, on account of the loud screeching noise echoing about the wood, shaking the snowy foliage until white powder fell from their branches. Kyuubi cursed under his breath, looking sideways in an annoyed fashion at what had just scared his prey away. There—parked at the roadside, a midnight black coach and four stallions neighing nervously in the front—was the thing that had scared the rabbit away.
Before Kyuubi could let his rage take control of him and give the owners of the coach a piece of his mind, he saw the Uchiha Fan engraved on the back of the vehicle, dull white and red, and bit his lip. Dammit. He couldn't scream at the frickin' Uchihas. Besides, now that he thought about it, screaming at them would only reveal his position on Hyuuga land.
This day just gets better and better.
"You didn't run him over, did you?" drifts a cool, angered voice, and his victim babbles something incoherent. Kyuubi, being immediately interested, sidles up against a close tree and watched as the elder Uchiha—Itachi, he thinks his name was—order his coachman to haul up a body from the road… a blonde body…
Ding, ding, ding. Warning bells were going off in his head. When they first went off to search for their sister, Arashi had, though unwillingly, taught his younger siblings some tips to help find a missing person—if any mysterious people show up anywhere, if anyone has recently lost a memory, if someone appears uncertain about their past and if someone was obviously lying through their teeth.
It was a very low chance, but Kyuubi really had nothing better to do then shoot innocent snow hares and eat them for breakfast. This could, though he'd hate to admit it, get tedious after a while.
Thus, when the coach slowly drove off, making its way to Hyuuga Mansion, a large white stallion trailed behind…
Hyuuga Hinata had always been a rather docile woman. Being the quiet heiress to the Hyuuga estate, she often shuffled her way through the halls with a silent purpose, whether it was to help mend clothing or serve dinner, and, altogether, attracted little attention. Her cousin, Neji, was the true power behind the entire workings of the Hyuuga Family—she knew that she had become little less then a figurehead for the rest of the community.
Despite all this, however, Hinata found that she didn't mind as much. She knew she was a very kind leader—too kind, and much too submissive—and wouldn't have done well with ruling the Hyuuga Family. It was for the best; having Neji rule for her while she did much quieter, though not any less important, tasks in the household.
Such as now—the Uchiha brothers' acclaimed visit to the Hyuuga Mansion at last was now currently occurring in the first living room in the Hyuuga Main Wing, while she, as she always did these kinds of tasks, took care of their rather unusual companion.
"Lay the person on that bed over there, please," she very kindly commanded their poor coachman, who looked thoroughly harassed, "and fetch me that ointment over there. Yuri," the maid, the one that always giggled whenever her cousin passed by, without fail, "get me some hot water and some soap. Also tell the cook to send some soup and mild foods up here; this man over here is in desperate need of some pampering." Rolling up her sleeves in her own determined way, she set to work to reveal the figure from his layers of mystery.
First checking his person, she confirmed her hunch that he was not physically injured in any way, though there were two odd unidentifiable bulges about his head and an uncanny scent wafting from his being. The figure was about half a head taller then her, though seemed much more thin.
Cutting open his frozen clothes from his body with a pair of shears reveal that, indeed, the figure was a man, though terribly skinny and underfed. After taking a sponge and using the hot water to wipe the man down (he was now completely naked on the bed, much to the amusement of the maids that passed by), the dirt cleared and revealed tan skin and… something else.
Hinata, in all her years of working as the part-time nurse of her household, had never seen anything like it. Her face immediately turned crimson red and she quickly covered the man's nether regions with a towel and ran off somewhere to calm her beating heart.
After ten minutes, she returned, calm and as determined as ever, intent to ignore what she had just found and instead focus on the man's fever. The soup was brought over and she handfed him, careful to make sure he breathed and accepted the food.
After all that could be done was done, she wiped her hands on the towel next to the door, shuffled her way to the living room, and poked her head into the room in which her beloved cousin and his guests were currently staying.
"N-Neji-niisan, I-I've taken care o-of the m-man…"
Now, Neji is very different from his quiet, in-the-background cousin. Strikingly handsome, the brunette kept his sweeping chocolate-brown hair behind his shoulders and was known for his clipped, rather arrogant personality. Despite some grumbling from Main Family members who knew that Neji was behind every order Hinata gave, he was an excellent leader and had improved the Hyuuga's already powerful stance in their country by many degrees.
Not only did his leadership skills contribute to the Hyuuga's success, but his charisma was, to say the least, not at all bad. For example, he could hold a conversation with Itachi for more then half and hour and still appear to be nonchalant. Hinata, on the other hand, would just fall in a heap of stutters and appear flustered.
Neji, who had been lounging in his personal armchair, nodded at his cousin curtly, "Thank you Hinata-sama. Itachi-sama," he gestured towards the said Uchiha, "this is my cousin, the heiress to the Hyuuga fortune, Hyuuga Hinata. Hinata, this is Uchiha Itachi, the heir to the Uchiha Manor, and his younger brother, Uchiha Sasuke." Sasuke gave the other noble an acknowledging nod, looking slightly angry at Neji's choice to not address him directly.
Itachi clucked, amused. "My, look who's in charge here." Neji's expression hardened into one of quick anger, before quickly smoothing out to cover up for his error. Hinata shyly smiled at the younger Uchiha, before turning towards her cousin.
Neji asked, as if on cue, "So how is their companion doing?"
"Fine," was the small answer, "His temperature's still very high—a hundred two degrees, maybe—but he's fed and his breathing is normal. He is much underfed, however, and most probably needs intent care for the next two or three days. I've checked him over; he's got multiple scars running down his arms and legs, blonde hair, blue eyes, odd lumps some places, but that can be investigated later, and…" She shifted her eyes, feeling the rush of blood hurrying towards her face, "I found something… very interesting."
"Oh, do tell." Itachi remarked. Even Sasuke looked vaguely curious, eyes sparkling a little in anticipation although the rest of his face and body remained as aloof as ever.
Hinata looked uncomfortable, glancing at her cousin, to the guests, back to her cousin, and needed the confirming nod from Neji to continue speaking. "He's… he's… well, I checked him over and he's got… he has, well…" She clears her throat. "He has… both male and female parts."
Itachi's and Sasuke's eyebrows shot up into their hairlines.
"He's got vagina?" Itachi said, astonished, and Sasuke immediately jabbed his elbow into his brother's ribs, eyes stern. The elder Uchiha made up for his mistake by suddenly having a coughing fit in a handkerchief he pulled out of his pocket. Hinata's face was burning red and she, out of pure habit, attempted to hide behind the living room door.
"Y-yes… I do not know what is up, but all we can do is wait. Wait for him to wake up and, hopefully, inform us about his reasons for lying in the middle of the road…"
"Meanwhile," he gestured at the Uchiha brothers, "You are both welcome to stay at our estate for the night. You are our prestigious guests, after all."
Itachi nodded at him curtly, "I'll accept your offer, Hyuuga. My brother and I are tired and wish to retire early today so we can get a head start on our journey back to our manor tomorrow." He gave Hinata a flickered glance, "Also, the man we found. Sasuke and I would gladly take the responsibility of taking care of him, as we were the ones who found him."
"Oh, no," Neji waved it off, "he was on our land. We will take responsibility over him."
"No, no, no, I insist."
"Please. It won't be much trouble; he's already at the Hyuuga Mansion already."
"Neji-sama," Sasuke said, for the first time, respectfully, "My brother and I are currently free of any major duties assigned to us from our family, while I know personally that the Hyuuga are very busy right now. I think it is only fair for us, who have very little to do, to take care of this lone stranger."
Neji looked mildly defeated and Itachi, smug. Hinata wondered if she should leave.
"Very well then, Uchiha. We will let you take care of him. Nevertheless, I think it is only fair for my cousin to take care of him for tonight." He turns toward said cousin, who looked very, very frightened, "Right, Hinata-sama?"
"R-right," she confirmed quietly, before ducking behind the door and hurriedly shuffling down the hall.
"That's that," Neji clapped and a servant suddenly appeared, very quickly by his side. "Toshiro, lead these two to the guest rooms upstairs. Have a pleasant stay, Uchiha."
I don't like it how he only refers to us as one Uchiha, Sasuke thought to himself sulkily before following the servant upstairs.
Uchiha Sasuke had a tolerance for most things, utter disgust for a few, and unbelievable no-way-in-hells for some others. After being lead to the guest rooms, he had, very disconcertingly, found that there was only one bed.
"I find it very hard to believe," he said blankly as he stared at the giant king-sized mattress, overflowing with white bed sheets and coverlets, "that the Hyuuga only have one-bed guest rooms and that all the other guest rooms are full."
"The Hyuuga are very busy people," his brother replied coolly as he set their baggage in a corner. "Besides, you're never too old to sleep with your brother, you know!"
Sasuke wasn't so much as disgusted as annoyed. It was true—when he was younger, where the dark still scared the wits out of him and he still believed in cooties, he'd slept in his brother's bed many times, mostly due to Itachi's secret fetish for telling ghost stories at night. They'd also slept in the same bed that one time their parents miscalculated their stay at some foreign country and there were only two single-bed rooms left for the hotel to spare for the four-member Uchiha Family. Therefore, the prospect of sharing a bed with Itachi wasn't an entirely barbaric idea, though there were some things Sasuke had learned to dread. Itachi wasn't exactly the best sleep-partner in the entire world.
"What do you make of the he-she?"
"That man? Odd, but I can't judge him until he awakens."
Sasuke looked up to see his brother wearing a familiar blue robe with the Uchiha symbol sewed very neatly on its back. Their mother had a rather disconcerting hobby of sewing the damn symbol anywhere she damned please. It grew tiring after a while, so the brothers left her to it. That resulted in their socks being covered in the fans, all their shirts, their hats, even their underwear, for goodness' sake, and anything else that was cloth-related that she could get her hands on.
"Brother, that's mine!"
"It's too short for you, Brother. Give it back! Mother had one sewn for you too you know; yours is black. Where is it, anyways?"
"I let Kisame borrow it that time when he got massacred by geese at the local marsh."
"So you stole mine?"
"Borrowed," the elder Uchiha corrected him, before taking out some paperwork from his folder and setting it on the table situated against the wall opposite the bed, "I borrowed your robe."
Sasuke frowned. "And did you just so happen to borrow my pajamas as well?"
"No, they're too tight. Here, Sasuke, be a dear and get me some more ink, now, would you?"
"No." Despite what was coming out of his mouth, Sasuke found himself outside the door and walking down the spiraling stairs anyway. His brother was good like that.
Somewhere, in a brilliant white room, one blonde-haired hermaphrodite awoken with a start from a hazy dream that left his mind as soon as he tried to recall it. Breath heavy, eyes wide, he fumbled a bit in his bed sheets. Reaching a trembling, though sure, hand upwards, he ran it through his hair in horror, looking around.
Where was he? Who was he? What was he?
He said the first thing that came to mind.
AN: Yes... I know there are so many OOC's here, it's not funny. First attempt at a fairytale story! Yes... I know I suck at the whole Naruto thing . I am totally open for ideas on how to continue/end this. R/R but no flaming... and I can't really take critiques that well. So if you're willing to endure a tantrum from me, then by all means critique. Anyways... thanks for reading this far! Yay, readers... (Flight is hopeful someone will come along and review XD. Flight is even more hopeful that someone will come along and give her more ideas...)