Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me… ash! Damn it! And neither does the story, this is an adaptation of the book "The Sultan's Bought Bride" by Jane Porter (Double Damn It!). No copyright infringement meant.

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The Daimyo's Bought Bride

PROLOGUE

"YOU'RE not going to go." Princess Ino tossed the heavy parchment paper into the garbage can.

"You just pick up the phone and tell the Daimyo—or Lord—or whatever he is that you're not doing this disgustingly barbaric arranged marriage thing again. For heaven's sake. Hinata, you're a woman—not a human sacrifice!"

Hinata's mouth curved, but the tight smile didn't touch her gray eyes, or her tense expression.

"He's wealthy, Ino. There's a chance he might be able to buy Kaori's freedom, and if this is the way—"

"It's not the way! Absolutely not the way. You barely survived one hellish marriage. How could you even consider another?"

"Because our country needs it. Our people need it." Hinata's slim shoulders lifted fell, as did her voice. "My daughter needs it."

Hinata's resignation killed Ino. Her sister had lost her spirit, her backbone, her courage. The last couple of years had virtually annihilated the elegant princess, the eldest of the Shinobi royal grandchildren.

"You have needs, too." Ino shot back. "And you need to be treated kindly, lovingly, with respect. Another marriage of convenience—to another playboy—will only crush you." Ino's emotions ran high. If Hinata couldn't light anymore, then Ino would have to do it for her.

"And I know you want to help Kaori, but your daughter needs to come home to Konoha, Hinata. She doesn't need another foreign country, another foreign culture, or another foreign nanny saying no princess, you can't princess, don't smile princess, we don't approve of laughter, princess!"

Hinata winced. "You're not helping. Ino."

Ino dropped to her knees, and wrapped her arms around Hinata's legs, holding her sister close. "So let me help. Let me do something for a change!"

Hinata's line dark brown eyebrow arched and she lifted one of Ino's long blond locks.

"You'll marry the Daimyo?" Hinata gently mocked. "Come on, Ino. You'd never agree to a marriage of convenience. And you're not even close to being ready to settle down. You're still sowing all your wild oats."

Ino pressed her cheek to Hinata's knees. "I'm not sowing wild oats. I'm just dating—"

Her sister laughed and lugged on the long blond lock. "You don't date, love. You hunt and destroy."

"You make me sound like the Terminator! I don't destroy men. I just haven't found Mr. Right yet."

"And how are you going to find the right man when you sleep with all the wrong ones?"

"I don't sleep with everybody."

"But you do like sex."

Ino eyed her sister thoughtfully. "Uh-oh, big sis doesn't approve."

"Big sis worries about AIDS. Venereal disease. Herpes. Pregnancy."

But that wasn't really what Hinata worried about, was it? Hinata wasn't thinking about Ino contracting a disease. She was worrying about her sister's reputation.

"Is this where you make the "Good Girls Don't" speech?"

"Well, Mother's not here."

"This probably makes you glad because Mother wasn't a Good Girl either!"

Hinata stiffened. "Don't speak of Mother that way, and more importantly, you know we all need to make good marriages. This has been the plan for five years."

Because their kingdom, consisting of two small islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Konoha would be split at year's end. Konoha would revert to French or Spanish rule if the royal Shinobi family couldn't pay their taxes and trade agreements.

Hinata had been the one to suggest marriages of convenience. If the three princesses all made good marriages they could save Konoha, infusing the economy with new money, new alliances, new power. So Hinata had been the first to marry to Daimyo Jiro Hamazaki of The Tea Country and it'd been a nightmare from the start.

So, no. Ino hadn't been overly anxious to marry, but that wasn't to say she wouldn't do her part.

"You don't think I can marry well anymore, do you?"

If Hinata had heard the hurt in Ino's voice she gave no indication. "I don't know anything about your reputation, but I do know we all have a responsibility to take care of Konoha. Succession depends on us. Konoha's security, and stability, must come through us. We are the next generation."

"I've never shirked my duties. While you've been gone I've taken over your charities along with mine."

"Charities are all very well and nice, but it's money we need. Millions of dollars. And you have had two proposals, Ino."

"Years ago."

"Exactly! And nothing since. Because all the European royals know you've been voted by the press as the Shinobi princess least likely to settle down."

The criticism rang in Ino's ears. It still raged Ino that Hinata continued to perceive duty... responsibility... as the best of personal virtues.

"You're saying your Daimyo, King Kazuri, would never propose to someone like me?"

"Well, he didn't, did he?"

Ino stared at Hinata for a long moment, realizing that even if duty-bound Hinata wanted to go to Baraka to meet the Daimyo, Ino wouldn't let her. Hinata had been through too much in the past few years. No one but Ino knew about Hinata's private hell. Even Sakura, their youngest sister, knew little about the abuse Hinata suffered at the hands of her late husband.

"There's no reason for any of us to marry the Daimyo," Ino said after a moment.

"We can get him to help us without giving up our freedom, and yes. I do value my freedom." Her gaze locked with Hinata's. "We'll get Kaori free. We'll bring her home."

Hinata shook her head. "Her grandparents will never let her go-"

"They will if pressured properly." Ino's gaze held her sister's. "They will if King Kazuri insists. You did say he was immensely powerful."

"And wealthy." Hinata whispered.

""So I'll go to King Kazuri and ask for his help. He won't say no to his future bride, will he?"

"Ino—"

"I'll go, pretend to be you, get him to fall in love with me—"

"Ino."

"He's a man, Hinata. I know how to manage men."

"It's not going to work. You'll never be able to pass yourself off as me. You're blond. I'm dark—"

"I'll dye my hair. As a brunette I could pass for you." Ino suddenly laughed, empowered. "I'll sneak in, sneak out. He won't even know what's happened."

"Oh, Ino, this is a disaster waiting to happen!"

"Not if I'm smart," she answered smugly. "Trust me. I can do this. I'll put together a plan, and you know me, Hinata. When I want something, I always win."