A/N: I honestly have no idea where this came from. It just randomly sprung up in my mind while I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to write another story about Neji - and instead of Neji, I sat down and wrote the start to a story about Neji's mother (known as Nariko in this story, for future reference). I don't know how long this story is going to be, but I'm planning on separating it into several parts so it'll be easier to follow. Understand that there will be OCs and I will try to make everything as in-character with the Hyuuga clan as I possibly can. Neji will show up eventually, as he obviously needs to, and so will Hinata and Hanabi and maybe a few other regulars from the actual manga/anime, aside from Hiashi and Hizashi, obviously. I also don't expect a lot of feedback on this, but any that I do get will be greatly appreciated!

Mother: a story about the woman who captured Hizashi's heart and gave birth to Neji

Part I

When I was a small girl my mother would take me out on walks with her to the outer village, where we would shop for food and other goods that would tide us over until my father could garner enough money so we would be able to afford more. These shopping trips always excited me; my parents rarely let me outside of our compound, let alone the house unsupervised, and even though I had to accompany my worrisome mother, at least I was given the chance to see something unfamiliar for a change.

My mother would always grab me by the arm and hold me close; I kept my irritation at bay but my eyes on my surroundings, taking in what I could with as much additional detail for my memory. We lived at the back of the compound; our backyard, the small rectangle plot of grass and topiary, faced a large white wall with barbs on top. Nothing ever came in except the birds flying to the nearest branch and nothing ever went out, at least "out" involving the scaling of the wall. As much as I enjoyed seeing the birds flying free and watching the paint crack on the wall, I wanted to know more.

The outside of the house wasn't any better. A dirt road provided no entertainment, and neither did the almost identical homes that faced ours. Windows were always shut with blinds drawn, and any other members of our clan that I saw were dreadfully unexciting and so ordinary; long hair, pale skin, white eyes, and no expression. There were times when I hated being a Hyuuga; what good was the Byakugan when I couldn't even use it?

My father refused to allow me to enter the academy; he did not want a daughter fighting enemies and instead instructed my mother to make sure I was educated in keeping a proper household and other duties Hyuuga women would potentially need. I learned to cook at a very young age, and around the same time I was doing the family laundry, and not soon after that I was mending clothes and cleaning floors and whatever else my mother felt she could impose on me. It was tedious, but I did not put up a fight. Out of all my tasks I enjoyed cooking the most; that is why I would always bother my mother to go food shopping when I could. It gave me an excuse to cook, and it gave me an excuse to get away from the compound, if even for an hour at the most.

I was twelve the first time I realized my clan possessed some sort of a hierarchy. It was one of our shopping trips, my mother gripping my arm as she held me close and my attention diverted everywhere, when we saw them for the first time. I, assuming they were just another group of Hyuugas living in an unnaturally large and ornate home, paid them very little attention; it was my mother that gave me reason to think of them for more than a few seconds. "Nariko!" she hissed in my ear, pulling my arm even closer. "Look at that house, but try not to be too obvious."

So I looked. I pretended to be inspecting the rather ornate topiary outside the small gate leading up a winding pebble path to a large extended staircase, but it was what was on that staircase that I truly inspected. Three men, or to be more precise, one man and two boys, stood on the topmost stair. They were dressed in traditional Hyuuga robes that my family and many other clan members were never allowed to wear, and their faces all bore expressions so stern they made my father look friendly. All three were pale, with long dark brown hair tied loosely near the bottom, and their arms were crossed so firmly that they radiated a sense of intimidation – or was it arrogance? I couldn't tell.

At first I noticed nothing odd; they looked like normal Hyuugas, savor the expensive clothing, but a few extra seconds of closer inspection made me realize that there was something very odd. The two boys, who looked to be only a few years older than me, were twins. Identical even, from what I could tell despite the distance, in every way, except that one wore a white bandage wrapped around his forehead and his Hyuuga robes were a shade darker than his twin brother's.

It took me a few more seconds, seconds past the allotted time my mother had given me to view them without calling attention to my presence, to realize that all three were watching me.

I clamped my mouth shut around the gasp struggling to break through and looked ahead, pulling my mother out of the gate. The two Hyuuga guards nodded at us and then shut the gate at our backs; I caught my breath while my mother looked over her shoulder.

"Did you see them, Nariko?"

"Yes, Mother. Who were they?"

"The leader of the Hyuuga clan, and the main house, Shuhan, and his two sons, Hiashi and Hizashi. I had heard rumor that his wife had given birth to twins, but I never believed it until just now. It's a shame. This does not bode well for the younger twin."

"Why is that, Mother?"

She looked at me, and I was surprised to see that her eyes were heavy with sadness. "Whichever of the two is younger will be branded with the Cursed Seal – in short, he will become no more than a servant to the members of the main house. He will get to start a branch family – but all males born into it will be branded with the seal as well. It's a shame. I've heard talk that both boys are equally brilliant, but one will never be allowed to live up to the other because of clan tradition. It's a shame…"

She took me by the hand and led me towards a fruit stand. I stood by her quietly as she picked out fruit for us to eat as snacks. My mind was no longer on the freedom outside of the compound, but rather the prison inside the compound. How horrible it was for that poor Hyuuga twin! Granted, he was able to live a much more comfortable lifestyle that I, and many others in our entire village, could ever hope for, but to someday be subjected as a servant to his own family was far worse than anything I could come up with. I felt the smallest desire to spring into action, to want to do something for this unknown boy, but I knew I would not. Nothing I could do would matter – all I could do was be thankful that it was not me that had been born the younger twin in a set of males and that I would never have to become involved with anything so tragic.

I had barely turned eighteen when a Hyuuga guard appeared at our door one night. We had been sitting down to dinner, my father eying everything on the table with ravenous intent, when swift knocking caught our attention. I hurried to the door and opened it, quiet surprise passing through me when I recognized the Hyuuga was not only a guard, but a guard for the main house.

I hurried just as quickly back to my father, who went to the door with speed, but not without one last look at the meal whispering his name. My mother was chewing softly, and while her eyes were on her plate I knew she was straining to find words among the murmurs drifting in from the front door. I was too nervous to eat; the main house, the main house! What could they possibly want, and with us of all families? No one had ever done anything to upset them or catch their attention; we knew no one personally from the main house. It was a mystery I could only hope my father's return would solve.

The door shut and my father returned. He sat, his face expressionless, and began to eat. I waited, my plate still full, anxiety ripping through me. I wanted to speak out and ask him – but I had been taught to never question my elders. I had to wait for my father to choose to speak.

He raised his pale eyes to my face. "I have been asked if I would give my permission to allow Hiashi, son of Shuhan Hyuuga and heir to the main branch, to court you. I gave the young guard my permission. You will pack up your belongs and move into the main house tomorrow. Congratulations Nariko, my daughter. It seems that fate has smiled upon us for raising you so well."

I fought to keep my mouth closed as my mother shrieked into her hands, crying out, "Hiashi? But how is this possible? We don't know anyone in the main household…Nariko has barely ever been around the compound!"

"I expressed the same things to the guard who delivered the message. He said that Shuhan had seen Nariko walking with you before and he had asked around neighbors and close friends of ours for their opinions on her. He was impressed with the stories he was told, especially the purposes that we raised her for. The twins have reached twenty, and Shuhan would like his eldest to find a wife. It seems that he thinks Nariko might be able to be that woman for his son."

My father gave me the smallest smile. I tried to smile back, but my lips would not crack. Instead they trembled, not in sadness but in fear. As much as I wanted to I knew I could not fight back; it would disgrace my family, my father especially, and so I rose from the table and bowed instead. "Thank you for the news," I whispered, my voice cracking. "I am greatly blessed. I think I shall retire to my room and begin to get my belongings together." With that I left the table, and when I was far enough down the hallway I ran to my room and cried.

The main house was surprisingly plain on the inside. The long halls that seemed to run on for miles were a bland white, the rooms inside looked just as barren, and there was almost no color anywhere. The moment I stepped inside I felt a wave of melancholy hit me. This was not a happy place, and it was frightening how immediately apparent this was.

My parents kissed me good-bye, promising to visit soon. My mother's face was sad but her eyes were bright with hope – her daughter, possibly wed to a member of the main house, and not only the main house but the main branch as well, was by far the most exciting thing that could possibly happen to her. Anyone she told was immediately inflamed with jealousy; being in the main house for only a few short minutes, I would tell them to not be jealous at all.

I was shown to my room by a young Hyuuga woman; her face seemed kind, and I was relieved to find someone in this house that did was willing to offer me a kind expression. I had a bed that was comfortable enough, a dresser and closet for my things, a small shelf for anything extra, and a window. The window looked out into the gardens outside. Flowers of many kinds grew tall with deep purple and maroon hues. A small creek ran through it next to a path made from stepping stones; it looked pleasant. I would try to spend some time there.

I dressed in the finest robes I owned, combed my dark hair so it fell neatly over my shoulders, and gazed at myself in the mirror on the wall. My eyes and skin were just as pale as every other Hyuuga; I had a pretty face, but I had seen other clan women who were just as pretty as me. I saw nothing special, and I highly doubted that Shuhan Hyuuga had seen anything special either – he just wanted a good girl for his son. I guess I was that girl.

A knock on the door drew my eyes to the face of the young woman that had brought me to my room. She stood in the doorway, her hands folded against her stomach, and a bright smile upon her lips. She looked so sweet and friendly that I could not help but smile back.

"Shuhan would like to see you now."

I nodded and followed her out of the room. We walked alongside each other in silence, passing a few other Hyuugas doing busywork or wandering aimlessly around. I glanced at my companion. She was wearing the clan robes, but her hair was the color of an eggplant and she was too pretty to be an ordinary Hyuuga woman. She seemed too friendly. Our clan wasn't exactly known for being the friendliest clan in the village.

Upon closer inspection I noticed too that her eyes were not pale – they were a light gray. She couldn't have been fully Hyuuga, and yet she lived in the main house.

"What's your name?"

I seemed to have startled her; her face turned a deep red and she clenched her hands together. "Hanae Hyuuga," she muttered, her voice growing higher in pitch.

I couldn't help but smile at her shyness. I assumed she wasn't used to being spoken to in such a casual manner. "You are a Hyuuga?"

"Partially, yes."

"Are you a member of the main house?"

"No. I'm the daughter of a regular clansman. I was asked to work in the main house as an escort to any potential wife of the clan heir."

"So you're supposed to follow me around?"

"Essentially, yes."

I sighed. There was only something slightly amusing at the thought that the Hyuuga elder already seemed to believe that a marriage between his son and I would actually happen. I hadn't even met him yet, and while I doubted I could do much to avoid the marriage that seemed ridiculously inevitable I wanted to believe that I would somehow have a say in the matter somewhere in this proposed courtship.

We reached the doors to what was probably the main hall. I turned to Hanae. "Well, at least you seem friendly. My name is Nariko."

Her smile was warm. "Yes, I was told." We paused. "I hope everything goes well for you. Hiashi…he's…" Her gray eyes grew sad and her face tinted pink. "He's…quite wonderful, I think."

Guilt rushed upon me for reasons I could not quite gather, but I knew it was from the expression on Hanae's face. "I'm sorry," I whispered, though I did not know why.

She tilted her head, her smile returning. "It's not your fault." She placed her hand on the door and pushed.

The main hall was ornate; tapestries hung from the ceiling and nearly reached the floor, each one depicting a scene from the Hyuuga clan history. Armchairs furnished with gold were placed in between stained glass windows of multiple colors and ivy grew on the walls. A long purple rug ran from the entrance all the way to the middle of the hall, where a raised platform contained what looked like a throne of some sort. On the throne sat Shuhan, next to him on a smaller chair a man I surmised was Hiashi, and then on the floor, with facing us sideways, was the twin with his nose in a book. I remembered him from when my mother and I saw them a few years back; he was the twin who wore a white bandage around his forehead.

Hanae led the way and I followed close behind, keeping my posture straight and my head high and my face emotionless. She stopped at the platform and bowed low. I followed suit. Together we waited, our eyes on the members of the main family.

Shuhan gave us a thin-lipped smile; Hiashi shifted uncomfortably, glancing from his father to me and then Hanae, where his eyes seemed to rest for a few seconds too long; I heard her inhale sharply, and I could only hope she would not turn red. The twin lowered his book to his lap and turned his head; he allowed himself a good cursory stare at us both before rising to his feet and moving to his brother's side.

"Thank you Hanae, you may go now," Shuhan said, waving her off. Hanae nodded and bowed before turning swiftly and rushing forth from the hall. At the sound of the door closing Shuhan rose. He reached a hand out towards me. Not knowing what else to do, I took it and joined them on the platform.

Hiashi rose. "Welcome," he muttered, his voice low and his tone anything but welcoming. "I am Hiashi. I am very glad to hear that your father granted you permission for our courtship. My father and I hope that you find everything as comfortable in our home as you did in yours. Members of the branch family –" at this he quickly gestured towards his twin, whose eyes flickered briefly with what I thought looked like hatred " – are here to help you adjust and are at your service at all times. And then there is Hanae, and while she is not a member of the branch family or the main family at all, she too will help you with anything that you need."

"Thank you." I knew not what else to say. It was probably better if I spoke as little as I could.

Hiashi sighed. "Unfortunately I have business to attend to. I will see you later for dinner. Until then, I hope you find everything alright." He paused, catching the stern glare his father was giving him, and then he grabbed my hand and kissed it. He was gone before I even had time to properly react. Needless to say, I could not see at all what Hanae had meant she said he was wonderful.

I turned to Shuhan. He gestured at his other son. "Hizashi, help her back to her room." With that he returned to his seat.

The twin called Hizashi faced me. Although he was physically identical to his older brother, I noticed that there was something different about Hizashi. A sadness seemed to drift over him, and while his face was just as stern as his father and brother's his eyes seemed much softer, but it was a softness I doubted I would ever be given the chance to understand.

"If you'll follow me." He began to make way for the exit. I hurried after him, yanking up my robes so I wouldn't trip over them.

"You don't need to escort me back." We stopped outside the entrance to the main hall. He looked down at me; I hadn't realized that the twins were so tall. "I can find my way back. You don't need to do this."

"It's alright," he responded, but I knew it was anything but. "I don't mind. " Even though he didn't say it, I could almost hear his voicing adding on It's what I'm supposed to do. I am a member of the branch household.

Defeated, I followed him with my head low. Upon reaching my door he grabbed the handle and pulled it open for me; I stepped inside, unused to such proper behavior.

We looked at each other for a brief moment. "Thank you, Hizashi," I said softly. I gave him a small smile. I pitied him; I didn't see what was wrong in being friendly.

Hizashi seemed startled for a moment. "You don't have to thank me."

"I don't care. You're being uncommonly polite. It's…the right thing for me to be showing my gratitude."

His pale eyes flickered with surprise for a moment before going blank. "Well, it's appreciated, then. Thank you." He was sincere; something in his voice told me so.

We lingered in the doorway much longer than we should have. "Shall I see you at dinner later?" I finally asked, breaking the silence. "Or are branch members not allowed to eat with the main household?"

I saw the shadow of a smile play on his face. "Yes, branch members do not eat in the same room as the main household, but I am the twin of the heir, so my father allows an exception for me."

A nervous feeling burned brightly in my chest. "Well, then I will see you there." He nodded and shut the door without a reply.

I stood, staring at the wood. Something felt odd, something wasn't right, and I didn't know what it was. My mind in shambles from the feeling in my chest, I sat on my bed with a plan to sift through my thoughts and sudden emotions.

I hoped Hanae would appear soon. She seemed the closest thing I would be able to get to a true friend in this house, and I desperately wanted to speak with her. She was the only one who I could talk with, and the only one that could offer me help.

A/N: If you read this far, then congratulations: you've read this far! I hope you've enjoyed what I've written and will kindly tell me so in a review! I'd very much like to continue this, but I'd like to know that at least someone's reading it and wants to read more - so please review. PLEASE!

Totally random question from me: anybody think they can guess who Hanae Hyuuga is supposed to be? It's not that hard to figure out, but I just want to see if anyone has!