"Lord Hiashi. May I speak with you for a moment?"
Hiashi paused in his training to cast a worried glance at his nephew. Despite the fact that he was in the middle of a kata, he straightened up instantly and nodded.
"Are you alright?" he asked, observing the way Neji was fidgeting with no small amount of concern. What could possibly be so bad that Neji would be acting so out of character?
Neji nodded jerkily in response, his eyes fixed on the wooden floor of the training room. Hiashi sank to his knees without preamble. Neji followed suit automatically, kneeling with perfect posture, despite his obvious anxiety. When he made no move to speak, Hiashi's concern began to ascend to genuine fear for Neji.
"Neji," Hiashi said, calmly and steadily, "What is wrong?"
Neji took a deep, shaking breath. His hands were visibly trembling as he clasped them in his lap.
"Uncle?" he began, licking his lips nervously, "Do you...Would you ever willingly activate my seal?"
Hiashi stared, startled. He didn't know how he was supposed to answer that question. If he told the truth, that he would if he had no other choice, then Neji would undoubtedly be very upset and wouldn't trust him anymore. On the other hand, if he lied and said no, it would burden his conscience, and, if the day came when he'd have to activate Neji's seal, he would have to deal with his nephew's accusing glare, and would also result in the loss of Neji's trust. In all honesty, he hoped that it would never come to that. He loved his nephew, but he had his duties to his clan. He quietly admitted to himself that he would likely kill himself if he ever had to torture his nephew.
The fact that Neji was worried about this led Hiashi to believe that Neji must have done something terrible indeed. He inwardly quailed at the thought, hoping that Neji's fears weren't going to come true.
"Neji," he said urgently, "What did you do?"
For a moment, Neji was silent. His hair hung down, obscuring his face. Then he muttered something imperceptible.
"Pardon?" Hiashi asked, leaning forward to hear Neji better.
"'mpregnant," he muttered, and Hiashi once again wondered why Neji was speaking gibberish.
"Neji, you need to speak up," he said, "I can't help you if-"
"I'm pregnant, OK?" Neji practically bellowed before realising his mistake and looking horrified. If anyone had heard him...
But the threat of somebody overhearing was the farthest thing from Hiashi's mind at the moment. He could still remember when Neji was a little boy at his father's side, a miniature genius even then, and so happy and innocent. It was as though somebody had torn the ground from underneath Hiashi's feet. Neji was...pregnant. He had officially left childhood and was now an adult in his own right.
If he can be doing things of an adult nature to get in that condition in the first place, Hiashi thought dazedly, then he left his childhood behind long before this little confession.
"Uncle?" Neji called worriedly.
"Please tell me this is some sort of a joke," Hiashi asked, rubbing his temples. Neji shook his head slowly, his eyes downcast.
"Look," Neji began, looking much more like himself now that had gotten that out into the open, "I know I've disappointed you, so can we get my punishment over with?"
"Punishment?" Hiashi asked, bewildered.
"Yes," Neji said, "You and I both know that it is shameful to conceive a child out of wedlock. The elders will almost certainly wish to punish me for my...indiscretion,"
Hiashi winced with sympathy.
"I'm going to ask you some questions now, and I need you to answer them truthfully," Hiashi said, his voice becoming more business-like.
"Alright," Neji said after only a brief moment of hesitation.
"Who is the father?" Hiashi asked, the fire in his eyes daring Neji to lie to him. Nevertheless, Neji wasn't going to give that information up without a fight, it seemed.
"I can't tell you," he said stiffly. Hiashi's frown deepened.
"Neji, if you don't tell me now, I will have no choice but to inform the elders and let them decide what to do about this situation," he said sternly. He felt guilty for threatening Neji like this, but he knew it would help his nephew in the long run.
Neji stared at Hiashi as though he had never seen his uncle before. Hiashi felt an immense amount of guilt for once again putting Neji in such an awful position, yet he had no choice. That man who had fathered Neji's child would take responsibility for his actions or else. A savage glint in his eyes promised retribution if this man dared to try and weasel his way out of it. This was for Neji's honour.
"Neji," Hiashi said as Neji continued to stare at him, "I don't want to pressurise you like this. But you're leaving me no choice. You will lose everything you have worked for if we don't fix this right now,"
"I very much doubt that you will believe me," he said, sounding almost calm now that he had gotten that confession off his chest, "Yet it seems I have no choice but to tell you that it was by Kazakage-sama himself that this child was conceived,"
As he spoke, his eyes became distant and bitter. Hiashi knew from experience that this look meant Neji was very upset about something. Apparently, the Kazekage had done something to hurt Neji. Yet all of this was but vague thoughts at the back of his mind as he reeled from yet another blow Neji had dealt him.
It was an odd coupling. There was no denying that. Yet, in his mind's eye, Hiashi was able to picture the two of them together, and he admitted (albeit grudgingly) that they would look beautiful together. Both were also in possession of sharp wit and powers of the elite. Their personalities, too, seemed compatible to Hiashi. Neither of them were exactly social butterflies, yet, somehow, they were able to command respect and charm a crowd with little effort. They would be a fit match, Hiashi decided.
"Very well," he said after length, "I will attend to it right away,"
"Attend to what?" Neji asked, his angled eyebrows meeting as he frowned in confusion.
"Marriage negotiations, of course," Hiashi responded, ignoring the way Neji stiffened, "He will take responsibility for his actions,"
"Marriage?" Neji asked, "No! I refuse! I will not marry him!"
"Neji, you have little choice in this matter," Hiashi said, his gaze tempered by sympathy, "You must marry, or face a hearing in front of the elders. They may kill you, or force you to have the child aborted. And I can tell that, already, you are fond of your child and could not possibly part with it,"
Unconsciously, Neji's hand went to his stomach in a protective gesture as though to prove what Hiashi had said.
"I wish there was another way," Hiashi said with a sigh, feeling wretched as he watched Neji demonstrate an incredibly rare display of vulnerability.
"You would have me marry somebody who feels nothing for me?" Neji asked harshly.
"Yes, if it meant that you will suffer no dishonour, and will live to tell the tale," Hiashi sighed, "I notice that you did not claim that you feel nothing for Kazekage-sama. It seems that you only have to make him return your feelings,"
Neji became visibly despondent at this. Hiashi attributed Neji's inability to conceal his emotions at the moment to great stress.
"That is extremely unlikely to happen," he responded stiffly. Hiashi nodded, not really believing that. He had always believed that anybody Neji married would be very privileged to gain such a partner. Kazakage-sama was not a stupid man. He would definitely realise how lucky he was. Especially since Neji was currently carrying the man's son or daughter. If anything, the Kazekage was unworthy.
Hiashi rose to his feet. Neji remained where he was, kneeling on the floor. His pale eyes stared off into the distance unseeingly. Hiashi took that opportunity to exit the room, leaving Neji to his thoughts.
After a quick shower, Hiashi left the compound with two Bunke Hyuugas as bodyguards, should negotiations turn ugly. He hated using the young men like this, but elders insisted upon it. He would do it if only to appease them. He highly doubted that any fighting would take place during this meeting, but it would not hurt to be prepared.
They arrived at Hokage tower in record time. Hiashi knew that he must have had an intimidating look on his face because every ninja he met in the mission room, including Jounin, leapt out of the way. He stalked deliberately towards Shizune, casting a shadow over the shorter woman.
"Would you please tell me where I may find Kazekage-sama?" Hiashi asked. Shizune seems taken aback but hastened to respond.
"He's currently in a meeting with Tsunade-sama right now, but-"
"Thank you," Hiashi interrupted smoothly, stepping around her and making it half way up the stairs before she came to her senses.
"Wait!" she cried, following him noisily, "You can't go in there!"
"I can and I will," Hiashi responded. The Kazekage was only scheduled to be here for a little while longer, and there may not have been another chance to talk to him. Hiashi was grasping this opportunity with both hands, as unyielding as a dog with a steak.
Nevertheless, he was a well-mannered individual when he wasn't worried about his beloved nephew, and he managed to calm himself down enough to knock on the door to Tsunade's office, rather than simply bursting into the room unannounced.
At the calm "Enter" from Tsunade, Hiashi wasted no time and flung open the door. Tsunade's desk had been taken out for this meeting, and she and the Kazakage, along with the Kazekage's siblings, the last remaining Uchiha and the young blond man Hinata was enamoured with, were seated around a round table. All glanced up with puzzlement when Hiashi entered the room.
"Lord Hiashi?" Tsunade asked with honest bewilderment, "Is something wrong?"
"I suppose that is one way of putting it," Hiashi responded, making sure to glare at Kazakage-sama for good measure. As expected, there was a flicker of understanding in the Kazekage's eyes, and he inclined his head towards Hiashi.
"I take it he did not kill it afterall?" the Kazekage said, drawing looks of confusion from the other occupants of the room.
"No," Hiashi said coolly, "I did not know that had considered that solution, but he seems to have decided on keeping it, despite the hardship he will suffer in the future because of it,"
The Kazekage nodded.
"What would you have me do?" he asked, and, to Hiashi, it seemed as though that question wasn't exactly rhetorical.
"It is by you that this came to pass, although I am sure that he is equally to blame," Hiashi said, the words tasting as bitter as ash as he pronounced them, "So I am here to implore you to take responsibility for your actions,"
"I have little choice in the matter, do I?" the Kazekage asked, smirking wryly.
"If I could have it my way, you would have no choice at all," Hiashi responded, uncaring that this man could probably kill him in an instant.
"So...marriage then?" Kazakage-sama asked. At Hiashi's nod, his smirk widened.
"I suppose he love you for that,"
"It will save his honour," Hiashi said coolly, "Aswell as your's,"
Far from appearing upset, the Kazekage actually appeared pleased with how events had turned out.
"I was hoping that this would come to pass," he said, "Not because I feel anything towards him, but because my conscience has been plaguing me since I found out. I can now fix the wrong I have done,"
"Fix it?" Hiashi asked, still smarting from the fact that the Kazekage had more or less just told Hiashi that he felt nothing for Neji, signifying that Neji had given his virginity to a man who saw Neji as nothing more than a conquest, "There is no way that you could possibly fix what you have done,"
"Alleviate it, then," Gaara conceded. Around them, their companions continued to look bewildered. Only Tsunade-sama seems to understand the exchange, and she was frowning to herself in deep thought. Finally, it seemed that the young blond man (Naruto, was it?) could not, and would not, contain himself anymore.
"Could somebody please tell me what's going on?" he burst out.
"It has nothing to do with you, Naruto," the Kazekage said. Naruto looked stunned, and the young Uchiha immediately sprung to his defence.
"You can't expect to have a conversation like that in front of the moron and not expect him to become curious!" he snapped, "You've always told him stuff before! Why not now?"
The Kazekage glared at him.
"Because," he said coldly, "This is not my secret to tell,"
"How soon could a betrothal contract be drawn up?" Kazekage-sama asked Tsunade, impressing Hiashi with his knowledge of Clan tradition, albeit against his will.
"Four days," she said at length, "Both parties need to specify their conditions and a wide array of other things before the document can be drawn up and filed. If Gaara-san would give me his conditions now, it would save even more time and I could have the contract drawn up a day earlier, provided that the Hyuuga Clan are able to settle on their demands within a day,"
The Kazekage nodded, and Hiashi sighed inwardly. Was he really making the right decision in forcing Neji to marry a man who had recently announced that he did not love Neji, simply to save Neji's honour?
Chapter 5 is what one might call pathetically short. Sorry about this, people. The next chapter will have Neji understanding his responsibilities as a parent, and coming to terms with his betrothal to Gaara. Gaara's in for a few shocks himself.
I hope this was satisfactory, despite being such a short chapter. More is on the way.
Ja ne, all!