Summary: AU. A long, long time ago, in a village by the sea, the head of a small fishing village was gifted with a beautiful daughter. [ Book I of III ]

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or its characters, but I did write this story.

Warning: The characters, for this part, are going to have different looks (some subtle and some not so much) from what you are used to. Everyone's names in Book I are also different and I will reveal who is who as they are revealed in the story. All of these things are intentional. This story is set in a quasi-ancient China-like setting, but does not retain all the issues of that time and culture.


Book I The Seaside Song


Prologue

A Seaside Village


A long, long time ago, in a village by the sea, the head of a small fishing village was gifted with a beautiful daughter. As she grew, it became apparent that she was blessed. Every skill she was taught she learned with exquisite grace: Song, dance, poetry, chess and even fighting. She learned everything so quickly and skillfully that the villagers soon came to believe that there was nothing she was not good at and nothing she could not be taught.

Her father and mother were both proud of her accomplishments. They sent for teachers far and wide to help their daughter grow. Her teachers were astonished at her talents and her fervor for learning more, and soon word of her excellence began to spread outside of her village. However, as the years went on, one other thing became quite obvious. The pretty girl child was growing up, and her beauty and charm were growing with her. Everyone could see that one day she would become breathtakingly lovely.

Her father's own business grew during these passing years. He had begun to invite entertainers and other merchants to his home. From their lips, as they left the village by the sea, they would speak of the quaint, growing town that housed a most exquisite flower. She had yet to bloom, but the men who saw her anticipated the day that she would.

The singers and poets who traveled there to entertain would leave to spread word that her hair was as red as liquid lava, that her eyes were as dark and green as glimmering beryl and that her skin was as silk white as the bright face of the moon. Soon, it was not her talents they sung of, but of her blossoming beauty. Her admirers claimed that soon, her lilting laughter and her honeyed voice would charm even the coldest of hearts.

The family lived happily, their growing influence and her growing renown enriching the village. Yet, a tragedy struck in her twelfth year, when a sickness came upon their village. The disease lasted only the winter, but by winter's end many villagers had passed, including the young girl's beautiful mother. Father and daughter grieved for their loss in different ways. The Father, who loved his wife as dearly as he doted on his daughter, began to spend more time working, sure that it was a lack of wealth and influence that made the discovery of a cure too late. His lovely daughter asked for tutors to teach her medicine, unwilling to experience again the helplessness of being unable to do more than watch a loved one die should illness strike again.

Without either one of them noticing, her thirteenth birthday passed and the lovely girl became a woman.

Several more years fell away. Her doting father found himself becoming more reluctant to part with his only child. Yet, as her loveliness grew with her and her talents came into fruition, suitors began to line up at his door. Each year the number increased and it became harder and harder to turn these uninvited men away. So his clever daughter proposed to her father that they would pick four subjects to challenge her suitors with. Surely this would allow her father to finally have a way to measure the worth of the men who begged for her hand in marriage. Should someone pass all the subjects, only then would she marry him. Her father discussed this at length with her and her tutors, and finally they settled on four particular challenges.

The first was literature, to test how well-read the suitor was. After all, no father wanted an uneducated son when his daughter was so well taught. The second was strategy, for her father wanted a clever man. After all, a son should not blunder through life and hope for the best. A son should be successful with a capable head and hands. The third was dance, for her father did not wish for a man who lacked the grace his daughter was naturally born with, nor did he want a weak, unhealthy man to claim her hand and give him weak and unhealthy grand-children. The fourth was music, for a man should know the worth of beauty and demonstrate that it resides within his heart, to prove to a doting father that the other could truly appreciate what a father such as he was giving up.

At first the suitors thought that it was only with each other they must prove their worth. They tousled and fought, bragged and demonstrated their skills. Yet, in the summer, the best four men found themselves facing the village head's own daughter. She was more beautiful than the songs that were sung of her, yet to their amazement, she surpassed them in all of the subjects. She was not simply lovely beyond words, but exceedingly well-read, clever in strategic games, graceful in dance and enchanting in song. Each man who went against her failed, and from that year forth the suitors came and went, like waves that surged onto the sandy beaches on the edge of the village, constant and seeking and yet always returning empty-handed.

The years came and went in this manner. Some of the suitors returned, claiming love had pulled them back. Others left, never to show their shamed and discouraged faces again. Then, one day, a beautiful young man washed up to the shores of the growing fishing town...


to be continued...


Special Thanks: To Cynchick, whose work inspired me to overcome an important issue in this epic. To Raina1 who is editing the chapters, listening to my rants, pointing out the OOCs, and pretty much holding my hand through this. Without these two, especially Raina, this story would not be what it is.