First Encounter

"I declare that the next female branch house member born will be married to my son, Neji Hyuga, in the hope of uniting both houses," Hizashi Hyuga, the current Head of the Hyuga Clan, announced. Surprise flitted across the Hyuga Clan members' faces. Both the main and branch house members were taken aback by this sudden attempt by Hizashi as the Hyuga Clan had been separated into two parts for centuries.

There was an undercurrent of low murmurs and hushed whispers – Is this considered good or bad news? Is this a joke? Why the unexpected move for a change? The noise level crept upwards as everyone started to question the people around them, weighing the advantages and wondering why Hizashi suggested this.

The buzz of chatter filling the courtyard ceased almost at once as Hizashi raised his hand. "I assure you that I will keep my word. The lucky one will be promoted to become a main house member as well as her family. This is only the start. I hope that by being the first one to implement this, all the other main house members will follow suit. I strongly encourage clan members to foster ties between main house members and branch house members," Hizashi explained, "We are all human beings, regardless of which group we belong to."

"You may be the lucky one if your wife give birth to a daughter," Hiashi's friend said as he wished him good luck and patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks," Hiashi Hyuga replied as he slowly sauntered past him, bidding goodbye. With a brilliant smile plastered on his face, he headed to his room where his wife was resting.

A round of muttering enveloped the once quiet atmosphere of the house as more protests filled the air. Eager with curiosity, Hiashi pattered towards the origin of the noise, leaning his ear to the door of the room.

"Silence!" One of the elders ordered as the talking ceased immediately. "I understand that many of you are displeased with the decision made by Hizashi Hyuga. It is disrespectful for him to abolish the rule set by our ancestors. More importantly, he had encouraged bonds between the two houses." At this point, many elders indicated their agreement.

"Being elders, our duty is to provide suggestions to the Head of the Hyuga Clan. Ultimately, we are not the one with the power but him, Hizashi Hyuga. So, all we can do now is to stop him from achieving his goal if we want to protect the rule set by our ancestors. Any suggestions?" Realization dawned on Hiashi – the noise was a sound of disapproval by the elders.

"I say, we should just eliminate the next female branch house member born. This way, Hizashi's attempt of uniting the two houses will be futile. Branch house members will be fearful and resent Hizashi's idea. It's killing two birds with a stone." Hiashi's eyes widened in utter shock at the surprising change of topics.

The room buzzed with conversations as everyone evaluated the idea. "Looks like everyone is satisfied with this plan. Alright then, we shall proceed with the plan and everyone present here is not allowed to notify Hizashi Hyuga." Horror-struck, Hiashi scrambled to his feet as he silently scampered to his room.

Hiashi's anxiety level steepened with each passing second as he paced back and fro outside his room. He slowly recalled what happened upon arriving in his room. Cries of distress and moans of pain could be heard as he entered his room. His wife was clutching to his arm, shouting for help - announcing the arrival of a new born life. Time passed in a blur and now, here he was, waiting as the doctor attended to his wife.

All of a sudden, the door opened and the doctor stepped out of the room, holding Hiashi's child in her arms. "Congratulations, it's a girl," the doctor announced as she passed the baby to Hiashi's arms and turned to leave. At this point of time, his mind was mingled with different emotions – happiness, gratitude, frightened and nervous.

Slowly, he walked to the side of his wife who was lying on the futon. Beads of perspiration trickled down her face as a subtle smile played on her lips. "You did really well, thank you for the gift," Hiashi whispered in her ears as he wiped the sweat off her face. Hiashi's wife smiled as she touched the forehead of her child.

"What's wrong, Hiashi? There seems to be something troubling you," she asked, noticing the sadness apparent on his face. "I heard the elders' meeting by accident," Hiashi replied, leaving his sentence hanging. Worried and not wanting to lie to his wife, he gave an account of what he heard.

"I wanted to report this to Hizashi but he is currently away on a gathering for the various clan heads. He will only return a few days later," Hiashi explained. "What should we do then? The elders will be heading here in a few minutes," Hiashi's wife asked nervously, worried for the future of her first child.

The knock on the door indicated the successful prediction. The elders entered with faint smiles on their faces. "Congratulations. Is it a male or a female?" one of them questioned anxiously. "Erm…" Hiashi's wife trailed off, not sure of how she should answer. "It's a boy," Hiashi lied, his voice tinged with sadness to convince them that they were disappointed too. "Oh… Better luck next time then," the elder said.

"Wait, let me check," another elder reached out for the baby. The parents felt a pang of fear shoot through them. No, it can't be. Is this the end? "Elders, Hajime's wife has given birth to a girl," a branch house member reported. In unison, the elders turned around and hurried to Hajime's room without bidding goodbye to Hiashi and his wife. Both of them heaved a sigh of relief, glad that they had prolonged the life of their child.

Tears seeped from beneath her eyelids as Hiashi's wife mourned Hajime's family. Sighing, Hiashi patted his wife on her shoulder as a form of consolation. He felt the burden of guilt weighing down on him. He had not been able to notify Hajime about what he heard as the elders were in the latter's room for quite a long time. To avoid trouble and suspicion, Hiashi decided that he should tell Hajime later. Darkness began to fall as he made his way to his friend's room. By that time, all Hiashi saw was the still and lifeless bodies of three people. I'm sorry. I should have informed you earlier, Hajime.

The elders' plan was successful. Upon hearing the news of the death of three branch house members, Hizashi's determination of uniting the two houses diminished. Hiashi had also not told him the truth, fearing for his own life especially since he had no evidence to prove that the elders were responsible.

"Your decision has incurred the wrath of our ancestors, Hizashi," one elder spoke, disapproval colored his tone. Hizashi was silent the whole time, defeated and resigned to the fate of the Hyuga Clan. Is there really no hope to change this?

It was a mainly clear sky with a couple of white fluffy clouds that were tinted pink with the glow of the rising sun. Hiashi had woken up already, preparing the garments for his daughter. His wife had passed away after giving birth to her second child and now, he had to play the father and mother's roles. After feeding Hanabi with a bottle of warm milk, Hiashi proceeded to wake his elder daughter, Hinata.

As he slide opened the door, the room is soundless only to be disturbed by Hinata's gentle breathing. "Hinata, time to wake up. Today is the Ceremony," Hiashi shook her slightly. Hinata strained to lift her eyelids and pushed the bed covers away. "Ohayo gozaimasu, otousan!" the young girl of four greeted her father enthusiastically. She grabbed her garments and scuttled to the bathroom to change, not wanting to depend or bother her father.

After a few minutes, the young child appeared dressed in the male ninja suit. "Okay, Hinata. What do you say when you meet the elders?" Hiashi asked while combing her indigo hair. "Good morning, elders. Hidaka Hyuga, reporting for the Ceremony," Hinata replied, recalling her name. "Good, good," Hiashi commented, patting her head, "Let's go."

"Wait, otousan. I don't understand…. Why…." The young child trailed off, afraid to offend her father. "Why can't I say my real name?" she finally inquired after mustering all her courage. Hiashi's expression softened and kneeled down. "Hinata, your life hinges on this secret identity," he slowly explained, hoping his daughter will understand. Although Hizashi had given up on his suggestion, there was no guarantee that the elders will not kill his daughter if they found out her true gender.

My life? Secret identity? Hinata could not see the link between the two. Thus, she stared at her father with confusion evident on her face, trying her best to grasp what he meant. Obviously, this information was of too high a level for a child of four to comprehend. Hiashi let out a sigh, "Never mind, I'll explain to you when you are older." A small smile appeared on his face as he led her to the room where the Ceremony will take place.

A small boy strolled along the corridors, his dark brown hair swaying behind his back. His father being the Head of the Hyuga Clan had important matters to attend to, leaving Neji all alone to find his own entertainment. As if he is ever free to spend some time with me. Hmph! I don't need his company.

His eyes scanned the surroundings with no glimmer of interest. After experiencing a few minutes of boredom, he came to a conclusion – Boredom is an extremely difficult feeling to tolerate or overcome as it dulls the senses and agitates the mind. Letting out yet another sigh, he wandered around the Hyuga house with no destination in mind.

All of a sudden, he heard a few sobs from a nearby room. Without hesitation, Neji dashed for the room. As the heir of the Hyuga Clan, he was brought up to care for his fellow members. Hence, explaining why he had rushed to the source of the commotion.

Upon opening the door, the pair of white eyes stared at the scene unfolding before him. In the middle of the room was another small little boy. His indigo bangs covered his eyes, obscuring a part of his face. He was biting back tears that threatened to fall but a few sobs had managed to escape his lips. Surrounding him are the elders with Neji's father sitting across from him. Another elder male was seated beside the young boy. Neji reckoned him to be the boy's father.

What Neji could not understand was why no one helped the young boy or stopped the pain. "What's happening?" Nejia questioned, moving swiftly to the boy's side. "Neji! What are you doing here? Leave immediately," his father ordered in a harsh tone. "No, I'm not leaving until I get to the bottom of this," Neji retorted furiously. "This is not something you can handle and it is definitely out of your control, Neji!" Hizashi shouted at his son, furious that his son was not obeying him.

Neji just ignored his father as his eyebrows knitted together, watching the boy. "It's... It's okay," Hinata mumbled almost inaudibly, having not much strength to speak due to the tremendous pain that the juin jutsu was causing on her forehead. "I'll be fine…" she assured him. Neji looked at him worriedly, not believing what he had said. The spinning of Hinata's head accelerated and soon darkness was surrounding her - she blacked out.

Neji shook the unmoving body of the boy, shocked and at a loss of what to do. "I'll take care of him," Hiashi spoke and carried Hinata out of the room after asking for permission to leave. Neji stared at the retreating figure of Hiashi as he left the room with Hinata in his arms.

"I apologize for the trouble my son has caused. Do not worry, I will keep an eye on him in the future," Hizashi stated to the elders and left the room. Keeping his eyes on the ground, Neji followed his father silently. What was I thinking, defying my father?

In no time, Neji reached his father room. Not needing to be commanded, Neji kneeled down in the seiza way. "Do you know that the Ceremony is an important matter?" questioned Hizashi. Neji was quiet, silent - speechless. "During this event, branch house members are branded with a seal. It makes sure that the secret of the Hyuga's Byakugan is safe as it seals the Byakugan after the wearer of the seal dies," Hizashi explained.

Only now do Neji fully comprehend the seriousness of the Ceremony. "But why are branch house members only the ones to be branded with the seal?" he asked. "We don't want them to betray us. They need to be controlled hence, the reason for the existence of this seal. This seal gives the main house members absolute control over the branch house members, because they can destroy the branch house members' brains with a simple hand gesture, or cause them great pain," Hizashi replied. Although he disapproved this, there was nothing he could do.

Ohayo gozaimasu: Good morning
Otousan: Father in honorific or respectful language
Juin Jutsu: Hyuga branch family seal, a cursed seal
Seiza: The formal way of sitting for both genders is kneeling

Read and review please! =] Pardon me if there are any errors but please give some feedback or correct my mistakes. Ideas are greatly appreciated too! ^^