I do not own, or profit, from Naruto.
Family History (A Philosophy Story)
By Larry Huss
Hyuga Neji stepped out of the hotel into the cooling dusk and took a deep breath. He could taste the green life in the air, the scent of growing things he had missed during the three month long trip through the barrens of northern Plains Country. There were strips of planters, alternating with tall trees of types he couldn't identify, along the edges of all the streets and avenues of the city. He felt a little embarrassed at how much externals meant to him. Growing up under the shade of the forests of Fire Country had made him uncomfortable in the great barrens of Plains, far west beyond Earth and Wind. A month or so here for the trade caravan, then another three months crossing back over Hell, and he'd be home. He'd never been so far from it before, or realized how much he missed it.
The city was nestled against the great, muddy, slow moving river that gave it its life. Its purpose was being the place where East met West met South, and each tried to out-trade, out-cheat and out-spy the others. And where ever merchants and tricksters and spies met there was gambling. The Daimyo's chief business manager had said that he would be at the main casino tonight, and Neji was going to check up that the bodyguard team he had assigned to cover the bureaucrat wasn't getting distracted by the alien civilization around them.
When he had put together the security team (ninjas, soldiers and two spies disguised as camel drivers) Neji had made sure that they all spoke the trade language of the West. Knowing the language wasn't the same, though, as keeping your mind on the job after finally getting to eat fresh food, drink good wine, and take a decent bath after over ninety days on the road. Loosening up a bit was only natural, now that they were out from the bandit-prone plains. But loosening up too much was also the way clients were lost.
He entered the gambling hall and wended his way between the tables; gambling equipment along the walls and in islands on the floor, and optimists sitting at one game or another, or getting up to lose their money at a different one. Activating his Byakugan he quickly looked throughthe moving maze of people and located the Daimyo's representative. He went over and spotted his ninjas; not completely distracted by all the motion, the flickering lights, and exotic and pretty women with crimsoned cheeks and kohl-circled eyes carrying drinks and snacks to the tables where the big spenders were providing the income that kept the place in business. The pair didn't need too much of a touch up, a painful little tap on some of their Chakra Points to get them alert again was enough. Neji reassured them that their reliefs had already been informed when to show up, and began to weave his way out of the din and confusion. Avoiding one scantily clad waitress with a tray of liquid fire he managed to run into a (slightly) more modestly clad, slightly less stylized made-up woman that he had earlier noticed going from table to table making small bets.
She was as tall as Yuhi Kurenai, built like Mitarashi Anko, and had deep violet eyes. She gave a little pout and said, "You don't have to step on a girl's feet to get her attention, darling. You had me at first collision! I'm Erdeni." She ran her index finger down his chest, over his silk shirt, and a sharp, hot, feeling ran through his body. "I'm Neji," he replied.
He was ninety days from Tenten's last embrace, and it would be a hundred and fifteen more at least until the next; and on the great notice board over the main gate to the city was its famous motto: "What Happens in Sarai, Stays in Sarai!" In any case, on the long trip Neji had been thinking a lot about his relationship with Tenten.
She wanted a family, and so did he. Any child of his would undoubtedly have the Byakugan, and would be by law a member of the Branch line of the Hyuga, and marked as such. So far the clan's loyalty to Konoha had prevented the Kage from risking any change in their prerogatives, despite Inuzuka Sasuke and Nara Shikamaru having argued that the Caged Bird Seal was a danger to the village and the clan itself. Would the village laws be changed by the time they had children? Could he risk breaking her heart that way, having her babies born into servitude?
Right now he was ninety days from Tenten's last embrace, and at least a hundred and fifteen days away from the next one. A woman was leading him by the hand to a house on a quiet street; he wondered how much she would charge. Ah well, he was sure he had enough back pay to cover it. Even though he was a Jonin, and had responsibility, he was glad that he was also still young enough to be a fool sometimes. Her face was attractive in strangely familiar way, but also a touch exotic.
Afterwards, as they lay naked on the large bed cooling off, she still hadn't discussed her price. Instead she seemed determined to make sure that whatever it was he would agree that she had been well worth it. As she got up to get a drink her blue-black hair swung in two long braids, reaching the small of her back. She smiled, then lay herself down on top of him: lip to lip, hand to hand, belly to belly, leg to leg.
Suddenly he felt a thousand pins and needles pierce his body, and she slid off, running a hand regretfully over his body. "Hello cousin," she said. That was when he was able to finally see that allowing for the color of her eyes, and the way she wore her hair, the woman was the perfect image of a taller cousin Hinata. He tried to move, but not one muscle of his limbs or torso would obey him.
Ten Years Earlier
"This all started many years ago, before the Hidden Villages were founded. Does anyone remember why they're called Hidden Villages?"
"'Cause ninjas named them, and they lie!"
"That's right, ninjas lie; that's why we must never let them know the truth, because they'll promise to treat us well, and then betray us. That's why we must always use the Three Defenses."
One called out: "The glasses!"
Another replied: "The henge!"
And the little one said: "De eye dye!"
The grandfather continued: "On the great plains of Wind Country there was a man called Hamato, who ran an inn next to a well that had sweet tasting water. Nothing for ten days march compared, and so those crossing from the Land of Wind or the Land of Earth made sure to stop there, because the food and tea always tasted good, and their beasts of burden could drink and not get sick. He ran a full service Inn, and had several maids who also worked as Pillow Companions there…"
And the little one said: "Gre-Gre-Gramma!"
The old man nodded: "That's right. And one time, when a fierce storm was blowing dust, and sand, and rocks as big as your head around for day after day a ninja checked in to the Inn, happy not to be battered to death, or become lost in the dry storm. He was strong, and happy he was far from his family, for the clan heads were cruel. He stopped for several days there, and each night spent his time with Great Great Grandmother Erdeni, talking between times they pleased each other.
"When the storm finally ended he went on to the north and west to complete his mission. It was to find out about the great Rat-Cats, and he must have found them, because he never came back that way. They don't like ninjas much. He left behind my grandmother in the womb of the maid.
"Hamato was a kindly man, and when he found out that his best maid and most successful Pillow Companion would be unable to continue for a few months he didn't make her go into the wild, but allowed her to stay, and when she had her child, allowed her to nurse it and raise it at the Inn. That was Grandmother Oghul.
"She was quick and sweet and pretty, and except for Hamato's daughter everyone liked her, despite her oddity. When she was nine Hamato told his youngest son, Sartaq, he would have the pleasure of being her first instructor in Pillow things, and that when he said she was ready she would be allowed to start working for her dowry money; her mother had left with her new husband the year before. When Sartaq looked at her that night he saw she was even prettier than he had thought, but he told his father that a melon is best picked when it is ripe."
The eldest (a girl) asked: "What does that mean?"
"Sartaq meant that a girl of nine or ten, or even thirteen is probably a bit too young to be doing Pillow things. In this, as in most things, Grandfather Sartaq was wise. Being weak in body he always exercised his thoughts, and even then was thinking of the Disguise.
"For the next two years his father would offer Oghul to Sartaq, and each time he would say that the melon wasn't ripe. Finally, when Sartaq was leaving to go and study in Khanbalik, Hamato said that he should take Oghul with him. Hamato's daughter was growing crueler, as Oghul became prettier, and said she should be blinded as a witch and sold to some caravan. Hamato, of course, refused. Selling a free person was illegal; always remember that justice saved us, and the just should be honored!"
The middle one asked: "When do we get to our specialness?"
"Soon. Soon. Sartaq had been reading scrolls carried by travelers staying at the Inn. He would challenge them to chess matches, with him taking care of their animals for free versus him reading any scrolls they were carrying. He rarely lost, and his father was proud that even if his son was frail in body he was bold in spirit. In some of them there was mention of the spiritual essence called Chakra; and also of the bloodlines of the Ninjas. Oghul already knew a little of that, because her mother had, before she had left with her husband, told Oghul somewhat of the conversations she had had long ago with Oghul's ninja father.
"Now Hamato had really thought from the first time that Sartaq was Pillowing with Oghul, but had such affection for her that he didn't want to share her with any flea bitten donkey driver that came to stay for a night. The innkeeper thought that if his eldest son would inherit the Inn, it was only fair that his youngest should have a year or two of education, and a sweetheart for a while. Also, his daughter was annoying, and spiting her was a pleasure.
"It was true Sartaq was affectionate toward Oghul, but he hadn't been lying when he had said he wanted the melon to ripen. Instead, on the nights he closed up and cleaned the Inn he would teach Oghul to read and number things, and about what little he had learned about Chakra. With his help she had begun to access her power, and develop her strength. Now, what was her first Task?"
The eldest saw the subtle nod in her direction: "On the trip to Khanbalik a dust storm blew up when they were crossing the mountain pass, and they would have fallen off a cliff if Oghul hadn't looked until her eyes bled to see through the dust and sand to see the safe path."
"Do you know the second Task?" The old man asked his eldest grandson.
"When Sartaq was at a gaming house Oghul was sent to take him home, and through her shaded glasses she saw that the Noyen Berka was being cheated with dice fixed with Chakra strings, and she quietly told Sartaq, who turned the tables on the cheaters. Noyen Berka then helped Sartaq get a posting as a Junior Magistrate. "
"Now I will tell you of the Third Task." The grandfather paused, and then taking the youngest boy into his lap, continued, "When Sartaq became a full District Magistrate, living in the compound with all the private and official buildings of the local government, he soon developed a reputation both as being an unmatched solver of crimes…"
"'Cause Great-Gramma!" The smallest boy yelled.
"Because he was twice as smart and cunning as any criminal, educated or not. Also he had an earned reputation for honesty, and could not be bribed. His wife, the Censor's daughter, wanted an emerald necklace, and even though they were well off on his salary and some small investments he had made, she was greedy enough to enter into a conspiracy to make sure she got it.
"Also, the wife was unhappy because she could see that in Sartaq's eyes the melon was now properly ripened at age nineteen."
"Why did he have to marry the Censor's dirty old daughter, anyway?" The eldest boy asked.
"The Censor was a great official, and helped his son-in-law's career. The first wife of a government official couldn't be the child of a Pillow Companion and some wandering ninja; it just isn't done!
"So the Censor's daughter thought to make herself a rich widow, with an emerald necklace. She contacted a rich landowner who had a case coming up that he would certainly lose, and also a crime-boss who had suffered the loss of many of his thugs to Sartaq's detecting skills and broad knowledge of things. The landowner gave her gold, and promised her the necklace, to destroy the documents that would show he was in the wrong, and owed huge sums in back taxes. The crime-boss contacted a ninja assassin who was passing through… from Mist Country I think… to do the deed. He was also supposed to disfigure and then kill Oghul; the wife figured that if the husband had to die, why not make a clean sweep of it?"
The three small faces were turned in expectation toward the old man. This was the first time he was going to let them know about their Ancestress' Third Task. They knew about many other things she had done, as well as her children and grandchildren. This piece of their family story was now going to become part of their lives.
"It was a cloudy night. Oghul had only recently started to use the eye dye, and the irritation kept her from sleeping soundly. Since she was a senior maid in the household she thought that as she was up anyway, she should take a walk around and make sure everything was safe and secure. Her surprise at seeing the Lady of the House going quietly to the garden in back, and talking to a man who had just leaped down from the surrounding wall can be easily imagined.
"She used her Talent and saw the man was glowing with Chakra, and carrying many weapons. She knew he must be up to no good, and scurried to the porch outside her Master's bedroom, just as his wife closed the door behind herself, and lit a lamp inside to make sure the assassin would have his target well marked.
"Oghul used her Talent to spot the ninja approaching, and then let it turn off. She stumbled a little, as if she was drunk and knocked into the concealed intruder. He immediately recognized her from his briefing, but appreciating her beauty said he would kill her first, before he cut off her face, if she would pleasure him. Acting frightened; and it wasn't hard in that situation to do so; she agreed, and opened her robe. The ninja looked at her, and was lost in the sight of how well developed she was, and how she had everything where it should be and nothing where it should not.
"While he was distracted Oghul once more turned to her Talent, following advice Sartaq had once given her. There, in the middle of his chest she saw the brightest glow of Chakra. She gently put her hand on his chest, like a woman admiring a fine specimen of man, and suddenly gathered her own power and willed his heart to stop. He fell, without a gasp or time to move his limbs, the only sound that of his body hitting the ground. Then, she went into the bedroom to alert her Master; that's when the complications began."
The children looked confused. The ninja was dead; Great Grandmother hadn't been… Pillowed. What could the problem be? Their Grandfather continued.
"Sartaq's wife was… distracting him. And it would be unfair to say that she wasn't capable of doing that to a man. Having a more attractive woman coming into the room, with her robe undone was enough to disrupt that mood quickly enough. Then the wife saw the body lying out on the porch, and realized what was going on. Being who, and what, she was she went on the attack; in effect confessing without realizing she might have gotten off easier if she had just put up a different front.
"'I'm the Censor's daughter' she said, 'my family has been noble for ten generations, you'll never be able to prove anything against me, my father won't let me be shamed that way. Unless you accept this in quiet I'll divorce you and ruin you, and you'll be lucky to escape prison.'
"Oghul just looked at Sartaq, as he was looking at her. Fortunately, unlike the ninja, he could keep more than one thing at a time in his mind. He told Oghul to drag the corpse inside, and lay it next to the bed. Then he wrapped the ninja's hand around one of his ring-hilt knives, and as Oghul held her in place, stabbed his wife through the heart. They lay the body over the ninja's, and took Sartaq's sword off its place on the wall, and stabbed it through the ninja's throat. It didn't bleed much, he already being dead, but that wouldn't matter.
"Then, for the first time, Sartaq kissed Oghul, and told her to go to talk with the guard at the front gate, and look back in a moment or two and give the alarm when she saw a glow. She went out, much in a daze. She had helped him in some of his investigations, but had never seen that though he had a frail constitution he had the makings of such a man of action."
The old man saw his granddaughter was, at eleven, glowing at her ancestor's first exchange of passion. The boys, even the little one, were more excited that it had taken place over a pair of corpses.
"She went to the front gate house and woke up the guard and told him it was for his own good, as the watch would be changed soon, and it would have gone poorly for him to be discovered sleeping. Then complaining of the heat and insects she turned and saw that the Master's suite, with his bedroom, library and office was on fire. She ran to the central courtyard and began ringing the great gong there, alerting everybody in the compound that they should wake up. The guard ran to the burning building, though he might be a sleepy-head there was nothing wrong with his courage.
"There he saw his Magistrate, left arm bleeding and flames crawling up his night robe, trying to pull his wife off of the body lying beneath her, a sword stuck through its throat. Lying near her hand was a broken oil lamp, obviously the source of the flames covering the bodies. The Magistrate was pulled outside, struggling and protesting. trying to get his wife out of the building. Then, in the act that would get him his promotion to Constable-Sergeant, the guard ran back into the burning building and recovered the body of the Censor's daughter, noting that the blade held in the ninja's hand had pierced her heart.
"The rest of the staff was able to save all the other structures. The story the Magistrate told; how he and his wife were preparing to go to bed when the stranger burst into their bedroom. How as the man had lunged at him his loyal wife had thrown herself in the way and tried to hit the attacker with the lamp she was carrying. How her body pinned the assassin down long enough that the Magistrate could grab the sword and stabs the man in the throat. Finally how glad he was to have such fine people with him to help him in his time of grief."
"Why did he do things that way, Grandpa, why?" asked the eldest boy.
The man reached over to the low table with a tea set and a candle on it, and took a swallow from a cup of tepid tea.
"This way Sartaq wouldn't have to live with a murderous wife; after this she'd never trust him not to take vengeance, and so she would certainly try to kill him again. The Censor would be sad that his daughter was dead, but would accept it because she had proven to be a loyal wife and a hero. By having killed her killer Sartaq had not lost any honor, and kept the Censor's favor. That his left arm never fully recovered showed how desperate the struggle was, as did the scars from the fire. Being scarred was an excuse not to court another high-born wife. After such a tragic tale no one minded that he quietly took a pretty maid as a wife, and soon proved that only certain parts of him had been damaged."
His granddaughter was the only one to catch what he was getting at, and so only she blushed and got the giggles.
"The Magistrate managed to unravel all that had happened before his term at that District was over. The landowner was unable to pay all the fines for tax fraud, and ended his days as a laborer rebuilding the fortifications at the Swallow Pass. The crime-boss was picked up by military recruiters as a deserter, and sent to die in a failed campaign. After a few years Sartaq retired and began to collect scrolls in earnest, especially those on Chakra and its uses.
"He used them to train his affectionate wife and their five children in how to use their Talent, and also what other things they could do with the power. As he learned about Chakra he also learned about those who used it, and came to understand what Oghul's unnamed father had been complaining about those long years before.
"So that is why you cover your eyes with shaded lenses, and either use eye dye or a henge to give them color. Because if people don't notice you're different, there will be no stories to travel with the merchants and diplomats that come and go from the East. Nothing to let the cursed Main Branch of the Hyuga know that we have the Byakugan power. Nothing to let them know that we are free of their cursed seals and endless oppression.
"Always remember, though. While Talent and Strength is good, Cunning will usually win in the end. And that is today's lesson in Family History."
The Present Day
"How do you like being the slave of the Hyuga Main Branch, darling? I see by the way you've been branded, like a horse or cow, that you are theirs to do with as they please. Do you like it, darling? Does it make you feel that you are safe in their loving arms?"
Neji saw the veins at the corners of her eyes bulge, and called up his own Byakugan. Now he could see her Chakra flowing and the concentrating in her eyes. He tried, but failed, at forcing open his own Chakra points from the inside. He couldn't explain why he was frightened, and not out-and-out terrified. Then she bent over to where her clothes were pooled on the floor, and pulled out a single-edged dagger with a gold decorated blade, placing its tip five inches below his navel. Then he became terrified.
He let his Byakugan lapse, he didn't want to see what he was sure was coming next. The trouble was, that even though he couldn't move, he could still feel, and as the blade slowly traced its way up his torso he couldn't help give a shuddering sigh of relief. She smiled, leaned over him, and gave him a long and lingering kiss. Before he lost all traces of rational thought Neji realized that Jiraiya the Sennin would have literally killed to be in the situation he was in now.
As his pulse slowed to a relatively safe one-hundred and ninety beats a minute he realized that he could now move his head, and hearing groans coming from his mouth, that he could talk.
"Is, is that the best thing you can do, with the greatest blood-talent in the world… be a whore?"
"Cousin, darling, so cruel! Have I asked for a yen, a ryo, a yuan, a oblos, a bhat, a shekel? To say such things to your affectionate cousin, who hasn't cut your balls off… yet. To say such things to someone who has only made you happy!" She ran her eyes up and down his body; "Very happy indeed I can see!"
Neji hadn't realized that under certain conditions not only could he blush, but it could cover every inch of his body at once.
"Cousin, darling, aside from a few little souvenirs of your beautiful body I just want you to swear a little blood oath that you won't tell anyone that you found us, or where we might be. Is that too much for your pretty cousin to ask, really?"
"I'll think about it." Neji thought for one breath, then a second. "Yes! Just take this Jutsu off of me. I agree!"
"Little by little, darling. Little by little. That's how we make the big things happen."
The woman went to the dresser against the far wall and opened a drawer, taking out paper and a pen. She began to write feverishly, pausing every few words to consider exact phrasing. Finally she brought it over to where Neji was still trying to free himself from his paralysis. To his surprise it wasn't written in the trade language, but in his own tongue; correctly and with proper grammar. To his even greater surprise there didn't seem to be any hidden clauses or surprises. His silence (in all ways) for his life.
It was then that he realized exactly what this was about. Erdeni thought he was leading a Hyuga snatch team to kidnap her and her family. Since he wasn't, and there was nothing in the agreement that threatened his village, there wasn't a bit of conflict of interest for him. In fact, keeping people free of the Caged Bird Seal probably made it as good as than any of Naruto's best pranks; having to keep it a secret somehow made it even better.
At his agreement she held his right hand in hers (dagger still in the left one), her thumb pressed the right Chakra Points. As the ability to move came back into the hand she scratched his finger enough to draw blood, and dipped the pen into it. After he signed the document Erdeni gave a little whistle, and suddenly twelve small spiders dropped onto his wrist, one landing wrong and flipping over for a second. Their backs were brown, and the belly of the one who had landed wrong had a red hourglass marking on it. They arranged themselves in a line around the wrist, and then seemed to disappear into his skin.
While Neji had nothing against the Aburame… from a distance… he had no desire to rival them as host/carrier for a swarm of… things. Calling up the Byakugan he could barely see a thin line under his skin, with twelve evenly spaced beads. Stabbing the pen into her own hand the woman made a series of marks, upon which the paper burst into flames and disappeared, ashless. Then she smiled, and slowly freed up his body; a kiss at each point of blockage.
The next morning she explained more fully about the "souvenirs" she was expecting he provide.
"What! A different woman every other night until I leave here? Do you think I'm sort of a stud stallion?"
"But darling, after last night, is there really any doubt? You don't have to get them all... you know. An honest effort is all we can ask for, and you did agree, darling. Just the first time of the night to your… harem. After that it will be just you and me, darling. You and me."
Hyuga Neji couldn't help breaking out into a grin. Sure, he would have to impress on the members of the protection team that Tenten never hear about this, but that shouldn't be too hard, extreme pain had a way of focusing the mind and memory. It was just a bit odd, going to the ends of the earth and finding such interesting relatives. He just wondered why their eyes were so strange.
Twenty eight days later
Toregene Erdeni looked out from the crenellations of the gatehouse of the easternmost gate of Sarai as the caravan left for the Far East. She saw hundreds of men and beasts leave the city, but only one really interested her. Seeing that there was no one near, she called up her Talent and focused on the target of her desire. He was running around like some energetic dancer, getting his men back into their positions around the periphery of the caravan. They were out of the habit, and probably a bit out of shape, but they would soon be back in form, she was sure.
The family lore was correct; after a good bout of sex a man was easy to get talking, if you let him do all of it. Now copies of her gentle interrogations were in transit to the other family centers, updating the out-of-date family legends they had had before.
For someone complaining about being used as a stallion, Neji had shown considerable aptitude at the job. Ten candidates all married and discrete so there would be no scandal. Herself in addition of course. Six seemed to have caught, and her as seventh. Poor dear would probably think the next hundred days or so (the weather would be getting harsh from now on) of constant vigilance and lonely bed-roll a rest.
He and his Tenten would no doubt have a wonderful reunion. Erdeni wouldn't curse her; it wouldn't be fair. She just hoped that Neji would have enough common sense not to blab; as much as she cared for him, she had been obligated to make her spell sure and strong and deadly. It was a harsh thing, sometimes, to be the descendent and heir to the witch Erdeni, mother of Oghul, and protector of the family. At least now she was sure the Talent's strength would be renewed by fresh children, and the family would go on.
Set in the same AU as Philosophy of a Ninja and The Right Way….
With regular and missing ninja wandering all around the Elemental Lands, and who knows where else, I have trouble imagining that people living on the edge, of high prestige and with a lot of cash in hand, would not leave a few bundles of joy in unexpected corners.
The Caged Bird Seal is a danger to Hyuga clan. It can be activated by a hand seal, and even if you use a setting in which the Uchiha are mostly gone, something like that could all to easily be found and used to take out masses of the family at once. Madara Uchiha, Danzo, Kakashi and who know who else could find out how to do it, as there seems to be no indication it is bloodline limited.
Erdeni is, in fact, effectively a witch with the ability to use her Chakra as her power source. Think of it as a talent midway between most magic systems, Naruto Chakra systems and shamanistic spiritualism.