This is conorlover here, with my first story.
This chapter is the revised (and hopefully better) version of the original chapter
Standard disclaimer applies.
Marriage of Convenience
Chapter 1: The Unexpected Decision
Breath pounding in her ears, Hinata ran as fast as she could away from the scene. In all her life, she had honestly never expected this. A scolding, perhaps. Maybe even a couple of slaps. At the worst, a furious tirade for some trivial mistake.
But this… this she had never seen coming.
The meeting with her father had been short, sharp and to the point. He had summoned her to his room, without any prior warning. The Hyuuga heiress had been training with Kiba and Shino then – for once actually training instead of watching her teammates going at each others' throats. So when the summons came, she had been wearing her training outfit, not to mention sweaty, covered in muck and drool (courtesy of Akamaru) and vaguely stinking of dog piss – basically in no condition to see her father.
Hiashi Hyuuga, however, would not suffer to wait for his so-called worthless elder daughter to change into appropriate attire. Fumbling nervously with her hands, Hinata had timidly entered his chambers, trying beforehand to remove as much of the muck as she could from her face and clothes. She attempted to console herself with the fact that at least her father would know that she was training.
Upon stepping inside, however, she found that Hiashi was not the only occupant. There were at least fifteen elderly men and women sitting beside him on cushioned seats. These were the esteemed elders of their clan. Hinata involuntarily shivered. Any meeting with the elders never seemed to end with her feeling particularly elated.
"What is with this disgraceful appearance?" snapped one of the old counsellors, an ancient woman with white hair pulled back in a bun, beady lavender eyes and a particularly nasty expression on her aged face. Hinata recognized her as Hyuuga Kiyoko, a distant relative on her mother's side, and an avid supporter of Hanabi from the very start. The woman seemed to have it in for her ever since she was a very young girl. Hinata vaguely recalled scoldings and admonishments. "Your attire is entirely inappropriate for someone who wishes to lead the clan. Are you trying to disgrace the whole bloodline? Now Hanabi, she would never allow this to happen…"
"Peace, woman," muttered another man with an irritated expression his face. "I am deaf enough already without having to listen to your voice grate on my ears."
"Enough," said Hyuuga Hiashi. Even though the command was said in a very low voice, all the hushed whispers amongst the assembly died down immediately. Their leader was not a man to be trifled with. "Hinata," he said, addressing his elder daughter now, "do you know why you have been summoned here?"
"N-no, father," whispered Hinata, stuttering and immediately hating herself for doing so. She risked a glance at her parent's face. He seemed particularly forbidding and stern today, even more so than usual. She took that as a bad omen. "Neji-niisan only t-told me that you had s-summoned me."
Hiashi sighed. "I thought so." Then his face became stern again. "The matter for which you have been brought here today is of utmost importance, both to you and our family. You have recently passed your seventeenth birthday, so we have deemed that now is the appropriate time to tell you of this issue."
Hinata mentally braced herself for whatever horror her father had planned for her. Hiashi picked up a scroll and unfurled it before him.
"This is a contract that was drawn 11 years ago, between two of the most important clans in Konoha," he explained. "The Third himself supervised the writing of this scroll, and the negotiations which had preceded it. The entire affair was conducted under utmost secrecy, for fear that enemy villages would get word and try to take advantage. This scroll has played a very important part in several important decisions made in Konoha."
Hinata nodded her head, trying to figure out the answers to 3 questions – one, what was the name of the other clan which had negotiated with the Hyuuga; two, how was it so important that the Third himself had to oversee it; and three, how was she connected to any of this? Coming up with a blank on all three accounts , she decided to shut up and listen.
"This scroll was an agreement between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha…"
Question one answered, thought Hinata smugly, trying to overcome her shock at having heard that the two clans, which hated each other right down into the fiery depths of hell and beyond, would stop going at each others' throats long enough to actually sit down and write an agreement.
"…and it was the first official accord we have ever made with the Uchiha since the dawn of time."
A bit of an over-exaggeration, thought Hinata, considering the fact that they didn't even know whether they had been around ever since the dawn of time. But it sounded impressive, and that was surely the intent.
"This document was very enthusiastically supported by the Third's former pupil and our present Hokage, Tsunade-sama. Its terms were thrown under doubt with the unfortunate calamity that was the death of the matriarch of the Uchiha clan."
Hinata had to fight very hard to control a snort when her father used the word 'unfortunate'. When the Uchiha tragedy happened, Hiashi had done all but strip down to his knickers and do the happy dance while screaming. 'I told you that the Uchiha were nothing but trouble. Demented assholes! See, their own son, the heirto their clan, has killed his own mother.' Unfortunate indeed.
"But after many discussions upon the subject with Hokage-sama, we have decided that the agreement must be upheld. However, we have been granted permission to slightly change the terms, with the blessing of Hokage-sama, of course. I will now tell you what is written in this document."
Clearing his throat slightly, Hiashi proceeded. " Under the supervision of the renowned Third Hokage, Sarutobi-sama, this document has been brought to life. It details the union of the Hyuuga and the Uchiha clans, with the hope of discovering a kekkai genkai which utilizesthe powers of both the Hyuuga Byakugan and the Uchiha Sharingan. This document, which is a culmination of the wishes of both the Hyuuga and the Uchiha clan heads, Hyuuga Hiashi and Uchiha Fugaku, states that for the above to happen, a marriage of convenience must take place between Uchiha Itachi, heir to the Uchiha clan, and Hyuuga Hanabi, the younger daughter of the leader of the Hyuuga clan. The council chooses these two individuals because if an heir wielding both the powerof the Sharingan and the Byakugan is born, then he will lead the Uchiha clan after Uchiha Itachi. If such an heir fails to make an appearance, and one with only the powers of the Sharingan is born, he will also lead the Uchiha clan after Uchiha Itachi. However, if an heir with only the power of the Byakugan is born, then the leadership will be stripped of Uchiha Itachi and will pass onto his younger brother Uchiha Sasuke. This marriage of convenience will take place immediately after the coming of age of both the individuals concerned. Signed, Kazuhiko Sarutobi."
During this recitation, Hinata's feelings had slowly transformed from surprise to disbelief to horror. "Do you m-mean to say that Ha-Hanabi-chan is to be married to Uchiha Itachi?" she inquired in disbelief. "Y-You can't do that! He is 10 years her elder! And what will b-become of her training, her b-b-bright future as a shinobi of K-Konoha? She will have to let it go! She w-won't be -"
"Silence!" bellowed her father, and Hinata immediately obeyed. "I will not tolerate any rude interruptions from you, Hinata! Disobedient child! How dare you question the authority of the elders? Have you no respect?"
Hinata closed her mouth and stared at the floor, tears pooling in her eyes. What was she supposed to do? Say 'Ooh la la, I'm perfectly fine with it, why don't you just marry off my 11-year old sister right now?' Hanabi was her only blood sibling, her darling little imouto. How could they expect her to agree to it so easily?
"Anyway," Hiashi continued heavily, "I have no intention to marry Hanabi off. You got one point right. What would happen to her future? Such a brilliant girl cannot be cooped up inside doing household chores, making beds, preparing food, ordering the servants around. She is a prodigy. She should be at the beck and call of the Hokage, willing to lose her life for the success of her mission and for Konoha's safety, and skilled enough to prevent anyone from defeating her. No, she will not marry Uchiha Itachi."
Hinata silently heaved a sigh of relief. So Hanabi did not have to marry a man 10 years older than her. Thank God. Everything seemed to be fine now. However, her apprehension came rushing back with the next words her father uttered.
"As I said before, some of the terms and conditions of this contract have been changed, with the permission of Hokage-sama. We have decided that this marriage must take place, but Hanabi will not be the one being wed. She is too important to the clan. No, we have chosen someone else to take her place."
Hinata felt her entire body stiffen. Was this what she thought it was?
"The reason for choosing Hanabi at first was that she is from the Main House. The marriage is to the heir of the Uchiha clan, after all. We cannot just pick some wench from the Branch Houseand thrust her into the position. No, the girl must be from our pure family line."
Hinata's palms were beginning to sweat uncomfortably now. What was he planning to do?
"We have decided who will replace Hanabi. The girl we have chosen is practically a disgrace to her clan. She is easily defeated by her younger sister, and cannot defeat even a Branch House member. Her skills with Taijutsu, Ninjutsu, and Genjutsu are practically nonexistent. She is a disgrace to her teammates and the Hyuuga, and is only good for keeping house." He fixed a scornful stare on his cringing offspring. "Originally, we decided that the Caged Bird seal would be put on her forehead and she would be stripped of her ninja status, sent to the Branch House and married to one of their members, to be a simple housekeeper, so as to not disgrace her family. However, Yamamoto-sama here so kindly reminded us of the agreement and the difficulty we were having in choosing an appropriate candidate, so we have decided to marry that girl off to Uchiha Itachi."
Hiashi had a very satisfied look on his face as he spoke next. "That girl is you, Hinata."
It felt like a thousand tons of brick had suddenly hit her. Married to Uchiha Itachi? This would mean losing her claim to the position of heir, and her place in the Main House. She would be an Uchiha, an unsuspecting and unwilling victim of this cruel and twisted plan.
While his daughter sat stunned at the ramifications of this news, Hiashi continued without bothering to notice her distress. "As you are not of age yet, you have another year to prepare for the upcoming nuptials. During this time, you will be taught all a prospective bride needs to know before marrying. You will give up your position as a shinobi of Konoha, and focus solely on how to become a proper housewife. The training will begin tomorrow morning. Your trainer will meet you in your room at 9 o'clock sharp. You will -"
"But otou-san," said Hinata desperately, "what of my position as heir to the Hyuuga clan? I can't just give it up-"
"Hanabi will be your successor as heir." The tone of his voice said that should be obvious to all concerned, and she was foolish for even asking. "She will be trained for the position. Now, as I was saying, you will follow all the instructions of your trainer without question. That is all. You may go."
"No," said Hinata.
Already turning back to other matters, the members of this conclave froze, speechless at this unexpected refusal. Their eyes gravitated over to the Hyuuga head, who remained sitting calmly. As calm as a thundercloud moving across the horizon.
"No?" questioned Hiashi, glancing at her with a stern expression. "What do you mean by 'no'?"
Her fists were clenched, and her eyes were blurry from the tears that had accumulated there. "N-no, I will not a-accept this," muttered Hinata through clenched teeth. She saw the elders' bewildered faces and her father opening his mouth to say something. She raised her palm, beckoning him to stop. The shock of the council members increased tenfold. "I was born first, and I am the r-rightful heir. I am the elder. How can you t-tell me now, after 17 y-years, that I am not worthy?"
"Hinata -!" her father began in a furious tone, but she stopped him again.
"I am not telling you that I am a b-better candidate than Hanabi for l-leadership. But I will sh-show you that I am!"
"And how will you do that?" inquired the elder who suggested that she be married off, Hyuuga Yamamoto, seeming more amused than angry. "How will you prove to all here that you indeed are capable of leading this clan?"
She turned her head to gaze firmly into his eyes. "I will fight her for it."
"Unacceptable," bellowed Hyuuga Kiyoko. "Who are you to dictate terms to us, vermin? This cannot be allowed!"
"Actually, I think this is a good idea," interrupted Yamamoto. "This will prove which girl is stronger, and therefore, better suited to lead the clan." He turned to where Hinata's father sat motionless. "Just think, Hiashi-san. We still have one more year before the wedding. We can have it after she turns eighteen. Meanwhile, she will continue to learn the household lessons. If she wins, she will become heir, and we will search for another suitable candidate. If she loses, well, she will be ready to marry Uchiha Itachi. Also, this way, nobody can accuse us of being biased."
Her icy parent seemed to ponder this argument, then gave a brief nod of acceptance. "Very well," said Hiashi coldly. "But be aware of this: you will not miss a single one of your marriage preparation classes. And you will have to search for a trainer on your own. Also, you are currently stripped of your position as heir. You will be given the opportunity to earn it back when you fight Hanabi. If you win, the title will be returned. If you lose, it will be lost to you forever. For now, Hanabi is heir. You are dismissed."
Cold and formal, Hinata rose and bowed to the elders, then stepped out of the room. Once the door had closed behind her, however, she sagged against the wall, unshed tears finally falling out. How could they do this to her? How was she supposed to become strong enough to beat Hanabi, the unquestioned Hyuuga prodigy after Neji?
She began to run as fast as she could towards her room, which brings us back to the present time.
Hinata was racing blindly along with head bowed down and pearl-like tears spilling from her eyes. The whole world seemed like a blur to her, so she didn't notice when, from a corner she was just about to turn, Neji stepped right into her path. He caught hold of her before they could collide, surprised at seeing his cousin sister so distressed. Tear tracks streaked her face, and her lips were twisted in a furious sob.
"Hinata-sama, whatever is the matter?"
Concern tinted his normally impassive voice. He was surprised when Hinata broke suddenly away and dodged past him, crying, "J-just leave me alone pl-please."
Neji sent a curious glance behind Hinata's rapidly disappearing form and walked on, contemplating the weird habits of the heiress.
For Hinata, this decision of the elders seemed almost worse than the day when her mother had died. How could they discard her so easily? If her mother was here, she would have never allowed it. But there was no such help to be found. Hinata entered her room and flung herself onto the bed, crying bitterly.
Eventually, she managed to calm down a little, enough to think clearly at least. Hinata sought to reassure herself with the fact that at least she had a chance of getting her title back. However, this reminded her that she still had to fight and defeat Hanabi, that she had no one to train her, and her prepubescent sister would have no trouble mopping the floor with her.
That brought the tears back. Sobbing uncontrollably, the discarded girl cried herself to sleep.
I look forward to hearing your comments on this chapter. And yes, that is a polite way of saying "Review".