Title: Hyuga. Towards the Sun
Summary: Life is not fair, life is not easy, even less for a Hyuga. Self insertion
I don't own naruto
Maybe it was just me but my so-called mission seemed to make less and less sense as the days went by. I was not sure what I was expecting, what I got was not it. Looking back it was stupid of me to think that it would be glamorous or something. Ninjas or not, the Academy was just a school. Too many years had passed, I had forgotten how that really was. Whatever thrill I felt died fast when the reality sunk, I would be surrounded by five year old kids studying something I already knew.
I shook my head at my foolishness, following Grandmother without saying anything. It was the first day and first impressions were important. She had selected one of my best yukatas and spent a long time brushing my hair. I was glad that she did so because our little group caught more than one curious glance. It was not common to see a group of six Hyuga together outside the compound, three of them being children.
The Academy itself was huge, comprised of several buildings near the Mountain. Along with the classrooms, there was also the administrative area where the Hokage's office was, the missions were dispatched and the running of the village took place. I had already been there several times, even if I hadn't it would have been difficult to miss with that giant kanji for fire on the top.
Once inside the short introduction ceremony was held in one of the bigger classrooms. A large chamber with high ceilings, ninja didn't like small spaces, less room to maneuver in case of a fight. In front of the blackboard was a podium, where the Hokage himself stood flanked left and right by chunin teachers.
I hesitated, I was supposed to sit in the front desks with the other students while the parents stood at the back of the class but... I didn't get cold feet, some encouragement would have been nice though. Hotaru raised an eyebrow in askance, my brother just looked bored and I didn't get any more reassurance from my uncle or the Heiress´shadow, as I began to call her bodyguard in my head. It was the little girl at my side what gave me the pull to overcome my sudden shyness, she looked as intimidated as I had felt moments earlier. Without thinking twice I took her hand and walked to one of the last benches on the right. It was nice not to be alone.
That little good feeling I had become a heavy weight in my gut as soon as the Hokage began his annual speech. The will of fire and patriotism were sore subjects, more so in his lips. Lucky me, it was not a brief affair.
He mentioned the admission requirements and I couldn't help but be amused. Of the three, I didn't meet any. While I would love to help to preserve the peace and prosperity of my home town I couldn't affirm that I loved and was unconditionally loyal the Village, or its ruler. My mind would not yield, that much I swore, not to hard training neither to their way of thinking. I would have to live with it, a society where the child soldiers were not only a fact but encouraged was flawed and I refused to let a few pretty words blind me. I was healthy in body, not that they knew that. Of course it didn't matter, I was a Hyuga.
I was relieved when he left and the teachers began to call the children by name and sorting them in five classes.
"...Hyuga Hikai" That was me. I rose and took my place in the first queue quickly followed by the Heiress. Once the chunin finished with the list he led us to another classroom, just a bit smaller. That would become our classroom as long as we stayed in the Academy. I looked at my classmates.
It was as my uncle said. Shino Aburame, Choji Akimichi, Kiba Inuzuka, Shikamaru Nara and Ino Yamanaka were all there, so was Sasuke Uchiha. While he was not an heir, he was the second son of the Clan Leader. I was not sure why but Hiashi-sama also asked me to pay attention to the blond boy with the whiskers-marks, Naruto Uzumaki. The rest were all from civilian families.
Iruka Umino - that was the name of the teacher- gave us an overview of what we would need to know to begin that first year. I didn't pay much attention and he sent us home early.
It was the Shadow who was waiting for us. The walk home was a long and awkward silence. I wanted to break it. However I didn't know the girl enough to know what to say. I had the feeling that something like "It is a sunny day, no?" wouldn't take me too far. By the sidelong glances in my direction she seemed to have similar thoughts but was too shy to take action, a pity.
As the house came into view I waved them goodbye with a "See you tomorrow, Hinata-sama, Hyuga-san." And ran home.
Neji was in the yard practicing. He nodded at me and signaled inside.
"Grandmother wants help. She is in the kitchen." He said. I sent him a glare. I just arrived and he was giving me chores. It was unfair, he still had holidays! Second years would begin the classes a week later. On second thought maybe it wouldn't be wise to let him go near the kitchen. He was good with a knife but little more.
"How was your first day, child?"
"A bit boring. The teacher just gave us a lecture about the rules and stuff." I said while setting the table.
Neji came in and took his seat.
"Who is your teacher?" He asked.
"Iruka-sensei? He is awful! He will fail you for sure!" His pity seemed genuine. If I didn't know my brother as well as I did I would have worried.
I chuckled. "Liar!"
"Enough." Grandmother said. "Neji don't tease your sister! And you don't encourage him! Eat your lunch." And so we did.
I didn't want to think about the Academy. The first days were a bit confusing in the sense that I didn't know very well what to do with myself. I was supposed to fit in, to be just one more face among the crowd. It was not easy, not easy at all. I didn't know how to be a child much less how to interact with them as my peers. Hinata was a blessing. That first week I just sat at her side. We were quiet and shy together.
Surprisingly it was my boredom what provided the icebreaker I needed. I knew that whatever the subject was I would have already studied it. I thought that I could take it easy, it would be a good review yet I was not ready for the level that some children had. Not everybody knew how to read and those lessons were almost physically painful. I had to pay attention and be a good student but I felt myself unable to do so. At my side Hinata looked just as bored as I was still, she put a brave front. I let my eyes wander around the class. It was my duty after all to study my classmates. The boy with the dark hair in a ponytail, the Nara heir, was sleeping and next to him Choji Akimichi was eating a bag of chips, in the middle of a class. I smiled, it was cute and I didn't know why but I felt much better with myself. Aburame was just a few seats to the left in the same row as the four of us. It was difficult to see his expression with the sunglasses and the high collar. I doubted that the book that he had in front of him had anything o do with the current lesson. Inuzuka was too immersed in a conversation with his dog to pay attention and so was Ino, talking with the girl siting at her right. The Uchiha boy was looking to the blackboard without taking notes either. Uzumaki, by contrast, stared with an earnest look of concentration that became one of confusion as the class continued. He waved his hand a few times to call the teacher, he was ignored though. Soon he lost interest and began fidgeting in his seat. It was almost sad.
Without thinking I took my notebook and started drawing lines, no purpose in mind. In a couple of minutes I ended with a small sketch of the boy. Not a perfect likeness but well enough to recognize him. That gave me an idea. Why not? It was a good exercise to study my targets and fun. Discretely I took a new page and chose the new victim. Shikamaru would be the easier, he was still after all. If I had to draw his mouth slightly open and a bit of drooling it was not my problem. A ninja had to be accurate. I heard a quiet laugh over my shoulder. It was Hinata. My smile widened.
Choji was my next target and it was difficult to catch his hand in the right posture. The trick to draw somebody in constant movement is to be flexible, select a position to which he or she returns with frequency and be decisive in the right moments. Shino was easier yet I felt myself doing more of a cloth exercise than drawing an actual person. Annoying! I wanted to see his face. Kiba was a nightmare, he just couldn't remain still more than a second. I draw just the back of his head and Akamaru. The puppy did much better his role as a model. Hinata was a great help. She pointed me when something looked a bit off. We passed the time like that. It was enjoyable.
It was a bit strange that Iruka-sensei didn't say anything. Half of the class wasn't paying attention, but maybe he had already taken that into account. Everybody started with a different level. As long as we didn't bother those that needed the lesson he didn't care.
The bell sounded a bit too soon. I wasn't able to finish Ino.
"Wow! That is Akamaru!" A loud voice interjected. Kiba had stopped by my desk in his way to the yard. "And me!"
A few children came to see what the fuss was about and I made no attempt to hide.
"They are good, Hyuga-san" Shino said in a way too formal for his slight frame. Before I could say "Thank you" the notebook was out of my reach going from hand to hand.
"Look at that!"
"It is Ino-chan!"
"You have to finish it!"
"Draw me too!"
Just like that I became a curiosity, a circus freak, the girl who draws, and while my cousin and I sat in the same spot of the yard to have lunch that time we had a small cohort of admirers. Of course that wouldn't last but when one of the girls invited us to play ninja I didn't bother to mask my smirk. I was in.
On our way home there was something different. Something had changed. The silence that always surrounded us was not the same awkward one. It held a companionable note that before did not exist and that was good. Hinata-sama was a sweet girl whose shy and quiet manner made her look vulnerable, very difficult to dislike even I had been ready to transfer the strong dislike I felt for her father. I wanted to think myself better than that. You cannot punish the child for the sins of the father. Well, you could and in some ways the society I was part of did. It was fortunate that I had been born with another way of thinking. I mused.
"Nee-san?" I blinked. Older sister? That was new."You like drawing?" It was tentative, as if she didn't what to say, how to begin an actual conversation.
"Yes, yes I do." I said I paused a bit, not the best conversationalist myself. "What do you do for fun?"
"Really? That´s cool. Do you have a lot?"
"Hn." Her lips curled up a little. "Mama helped me. I have a whole book!"
"Wow! You have to show me sometime!"
She looked at me, eyes wide. I held her gaze. That tiny smile turned in full grin and she nodded.
I returned it still, at the same time, I wanted to frown. It was strange. She reacted like a child who was not used to others paying attention to her and that was stupid, she was the Heiress.
"I am sure that Hikari-sama would be elated to have your cousin, you must ask permission to your father, Hinata-sama" The Shadow interrupted. All of a sudden the mood seemed glummer.
At the end of the week I was summoned to the Mansion. I had to hand my 'report' to my uncle. To tell the truth, I was not looking forward to it but I strolled through the gates with determination, my new notebook under my arm. It was identical to my old one, this had nothing to with school work though, even if I brought it to the Academy and the sketches were done in class.
He was waiting for me in the same room of our last interview, sitting in a cushion admiring the scenery. That time I had not appreciated the sights. To the south there was a large empty area of white gravel. It was limited by the pavilions where the wards of the Main House slept. They were barracks incorporated into the outer wall. The bath house and small shrine stood near the lake. The trees were carefully trimmed to please the eyes, and to prevent them from blocking other visual elements. Their growth was controlled to give them more picturesque shapes. Many looked like an elder bowing to time, or maybe to the power of the man contemplating them. There was no freedom in being forced and constrained to bend, in order to provide shadows or better reflections in the calm waters of the two lakes connected by bridges and winding streams. It was artificial, unnatural, yet beauty nonetheless.
He didn't look at me but pointed toward the platter with the teapot and two mugs. Without a word I served him before poring my own and taking the empty cushion at his right. We remained in silence a long while. A bit unnerved, I sipped my tea trying to hid a grimace. Gyokuro. I was not surprised. It was considered a high quality tea, darker, sweeter, much more expensive than sencha, the one my father had favored.
"Report." He said.
I looked at him and handed him the notebook.
He frowned. "What-?" Images spoke for themselves. "Interesting. I was not aware of your... Artistic tendencies. It is good that you put it to good use. Anything to add?"
I shook my head. There he could see portraits of each of my targets, at least one per day, annotations of behavior, aptitude, etc. Everything I had observed.
"My daughter tells me that she would be amenable to a visit. You have my permission."
"Thank you, Hiashi-sama" I stood up and bowed, I was dismissed.
A servant was waiting in the corridor to guide me to the room where Hinata and her mother were. The two of them were kneeling in front of a low table too immersed in whatever was there to notice my arrival. I looked at my bare feet with the uncomfortable feeling that I was intruding.
"Oh! Here you are! We were waiting for you. Come here!"
I stiffened. "Hikari-sama! Hinata-sama!"
"None of that, child. I am just Aunt Hikari." She said and smiled. I stared at her, everybody put such emphasis in the rules that such request seemed alien in that house.
I didn't have time to fret about it because my little cousin took my hand and led me to her treasurers. Hinata was timid with people she didn't know or with those that intimidated her but that was not me, at least not any longer and I discovered that she could be quite adamant when she wanted. Every child has a little tyrant within themselves and she was not an exception. I let her.
"This is Amaririsu." She said signaling a pink funnel-shaped flower pressed into the page. "This is a white lily, and that is a bluebell..."
I visited the Main House at least once a week.
Those afternoons spent in the company of Hinata and Aunt Hikari-sama were if not the best at least the most peaceful. I developed a fondness for my little cousin. It was natural taking into account how much time we spent together and she was an easy child to like. I would not call it friendship because friendship is by definition a relation between equals and we were anything but. Maybe her own terms were better. Yes, somehow I saw myself as some kind of older sister. It was not the same feeling I held for Neji though, he was my brother after all, but the kinship was inarguable. My uncle should be pleased.
As sweet as Hinata was, at that time she was just a child and not the one that picked my interest. I was curious about the Lady of the Hyuga. Women in my family had a strong presence, my mother, my grandmother, even my cousin Kou. When you were in the same room it was difficult not to notice them. And I was not talking about their physical appearance, even if Hotaru was taller than many men and my cousin was well on her way to be the same. No, it was in the manner they held themselves, something intrinsic to their very being. At some point I thought that it was because they were shinobi, the confidence of a warrior. That was part of it I´m sure, but not everything. I have seen many shinobi since then and few had that quality.
Hikari Hyuga was different. In the company of her husband she was a pale shadow, easy to overlook. It was not as if she was plain, she had the classical beauty for what the Hyuga were known. But she was always silent, quiet and obedient, as the perfect wife should be, weak. That couldn't be everything though. A weak woman wouldn't have survived 20 years of marriage to Hiashi.
At the beginning I didn't know what to think about her, it was difficult to see her as more than that. Yet she had been a kunoichi, a powerful one to be chosen as the mother of the Heir. I tried to remember what I knew of her. She was of the same age of my uncle, selected from childhood to be the Consort. She had to be from a good family in the Branch House but with no close ties with the Main House. I wondered if she graduated in the same class as my father. She married Uncle when she was 15 or 16 and had a boy a year later, a boy that died. Her long list of miscarriages and difficulty to carry the desired heir was gossip all over the compound. The fact that she was with child again just added fuel to them.
She was gentle. Hikari-sama always had a kind word for her daughter and even for me from time to time and loved the gardens. We spent long hours walking or playing there. Hinata loved it. Each time that she found a new flower or a plant she didn't know she brought it to the Lady and she would tell her what it was and its meaning before adding it to their collection. It was a ritual between mother and daughter that I felt myself fortunate to witness.
While I enjoyed those visits I am not sure that I could say the same for the meetings with my uncle. It was a bit baffling to believe that one man as busy as he was made time each week to hear what a bunch of five year old did at school or to ask me about my lessons.
If I had to describe those interviews I would say that I found them interesting.
Oh! He was a manipulative bastard. He used the innocence of his daughter and employed her relationship with her mother to bind me to the Main House. It was effective, maybe because I never had much of a relationship with my own mother, and Hotaru while a great woman, was not the gentle and motherly type. I could only day: well played and admire him for that. He was interesting
On our second encounter the setting was quite different from the first, the main difference, the shogi board before Hiashi.
"Do you know how to play?" He asked.
I took the seat in front of him and nodded.
"Father taught me a little."
"Did he? I am not surprised. He was rather fond of the game. My own father taught us when we were a bit younger than you. I lost count of how many times we played with this same board." He paused. "Some say that many things could be learned about a person just watching him or her play. Care for a game? It would be interesting to see what kind of player are you."
He wanted to play? Well why not? I would humor him. It wasn't as if I could win. I knew little more than the name of the pieces and how they could move through the board. My uncle was no Nara but he was a well rounded player. He knew his game, and that made him a solid opponent. I was a rookie but I wouldn't make it easy for him. If he wanted win he would have to work for it I would fight every inch of the way. Three hours. Three whole hours was the time that our first match lasted. That was the kind of player I was.
It was not a bloodless win, he had to make sacrifices.
"When you are playing shogi it is likely to have to sacrifice pieces, even powerful ones. If the occasion comes don't hesitate, or the result would be worse. A timely forfeit can win the game and refusing to do so could mean defeat." He explained.
"So it is acceptable to give up a piece, a mere tool, for the greater good?" I asked.
"Of course, that is part of the nature of the game. Every piece is expendable except the king."
"Father on one occasion said that shogi was a game but a game based on the principles of war in real life. Is that true?"
"To a certain extent, yes. I suppose so." He frowned like he was not sure where this was going. I was not sure either and for the life of me I don't know what possessed me to say what followed.
"Are shinobi not tools? Then that makes it acceptable to sacrifice anybody to protect the king, no?"
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! What was I thinking? I was almost afraid to look at him but I did. I held his gaze and I didn't find the anger that I expected, just an expressionless mask.
"Indeed." He said and his tone was calm. "Under the right circumstances everybody is expendable."
"Even the king?" Even you? I was pushing it and I knew but I was unable to shut up. Too many years in silence. One part of me was sure that he would just stick me down.
He didn't. He did something incredible. His eyes softened in what I later would call Uncle´s smile because he never smiled. If it was a smile, it was a nostalgic one.
"Once a boy asked a wise man the same question. The wise man asked him what was the King in return."
"If you were the boy, who was the wise man?" I demanded.
"I was neither." He said sharply. "The boy was my teammate, you know him as the Fourth, the man was his predecessor, the Professor." He paused." When better men than me had asked the same question who am I to answer? But I will give you the answer you crave. Life is not a game and metaphors are only words. Yes, I would sacrifice anything for the good of the Clan, even my own life, especially my own life. And any Hyuga would do the same. You will be expected to do the same if the time comes. You don't have to like it, it just is. Go now." He didn't rise his voice, there was no need.
I bowed and left. If I was not running it was a close thing.
The next time I saw him he was waiting for me in the same spot with the same dam board before him. We played. He won. I didn't apologize. He didn't expect me to.
It was at the end of the game when he broke the silence.
"Do you know what nindo means?"
"The way of the ninja, Sir"
"Literally." He said. "But do you know what that means?"
"A personal and professional code of conduct among the ninja. Is it not different for each person?"
"Ah! Some would say that. A personal philosophy, a individual view of the world or a communal one that ties together a Clan, a Village."
"Like the Will of Fire?"
"Yes. That is an apt example. It is an inheritance from the founding clan, the Senju, from the First to be precise." He looked at me. "Ninja are tools, but only a fool would forget that we are humans too. Nindo is whatever form of thinking that allows you to deal with that reality."
"The Shinobi Rules that we are taught in the academy do that, no?"
"No. That is only is the text book answer to how "kill your emotions."The way of the ninja is not only that but a way of life. In the old days it didn't rule one single individual or one group but every being that called himself shinobi. In a world where alliances between Clans were as ever changing as the curse of the waters that unwritten code was one of the few reliable constants. Many have forgotten that, Hyuga have not. Did your grandmother hand you the scroll of the six virtues?"
I made a pause and took a long breath trying to conjure the words that I learned by heart. The scroll was just a recorded version of meanings that were transmitted through teachings and lists of precepts presented by clan elders and outstanding ninja.
"A shinobi should live by the way of the six paths, following the six virtues: Duty, Loyalty, Honor, Courage, Refinement and Excellence."
"Duty, Giri first and foremost. The web of obligations owed by a shinobi to the people surrounding him: parents, clan and friends along with superiors and inferiors. Those obligations and responsibilities demand of him to do what is expected of him in every facet of his life. It requires to obey and follow tradition, to execute any assigned tasks.
"Loyalty. It is a shinobi's duty to serve his superior, that superior been his commander, a feudal lord or the head of his Clan. It is not the place of a shinobi to question superior's orders. They are to be carried out immediately, to the fullest of the ninja's ability, even if that leads to sorrow or death. A shinobi's life doesn't belong to him. It is his Lord´s to command.
"Honor. There is no honor but for the Clan´s. A shinobi brings honor to the Clan doing the tasks assigned to him no matter the means. Excellence in every discipline, as well as acts in agreement with the requirements of giri, bring honor while inferior execution or inattention to duty do the opposite. "
"Courage. Courage is not just mere bravery. A shinobi is expected to face hardship at need, or following his lord's bidding, without qualm or vacillation. Injury is to be endured without emotion. He does not fear death. A death in combat is honorable. Yet a ninja should not be careless or reckless. To die without necessity is disgraceful. The best victory is one that has not been fought."
"Refinement. Refinement is expected of a shinobi in all things. Proficiency in ninja arts is called for by his profession. He is expected to develop an appreciation and proficiency those called belle arts. His behavior and etiquette must be flawless. "
"Excellence. A shinobi is expected to always strive to do the best he can, whatever his endeavors. This thrust towards excellence gives a ninja the determination to strive courageously and achieve his purpose?" I asked rather than say. I did not remember that part too well.
Hiashi seemed amused.
"I was expecting a summary not the whole text. That shows a good memory, an useful tool, but not comprehension. Do you understand what you have just said?"
"I believe so, sir."
"No, you don't. You can't. To understand this you have to live it. Maybe tomorrow you will be shinobi, but today you are just a little girl. Think about it tough. You can leave."
For the scroll of the six virtues I adapted the code of bushido. I have to thank my beta Colin Creevey