Another Way to Serve
She had always wanted to be strong like her father and kind like her mother. She had always wanted to be what they wanted her to be, expected her to be, trained her to be. She had always wanted to be their perfect little heiress with their perfect structured traditions and their perfect white eyes. She had wanted to be graceful, strong and confident, but they had never been her talents. At least, with her eyes, she could have continued to hope…
But one unfortunate accident, one malicious act, one unaccountable mistake, and everything changed.
One day, she had the kekkei genkai, and the next it was gone.
One day, she had been heiress…
…and the next she was no one.
Her mother had begged her father to leave her forehead unmarked, cried and pleaded in the privacy of their rooms. Her father had no choice but to oblige, to calm his breeding wife and to reconcile with his guilt. The elders had consented, for there had been no viable reason to mark her, to condemn her, when there was nothing left there to protect.
Her uncle had died in her father's stead to console their enemies, to stave off a war that was not of their doing, and a marked forehead had not been what her father could bring himself to cast after such tragedy and blood loss.
He had not been able to look at her for days.
Her mother had been the one to take her by the hand and lead her to the library.
She was never again to attend the academy, but had been confined in the house with superior and disdainful tutors. They had been masters in their subjects, but she had not. She had been subjugated to harsh words and several beatings for her lack of talent. She had been nothing in their eyes when she had useless eyes, nothing but a father who commanded for her schooling.
A father with little words and plenty of coldness; her mother and her mother's books had been her only refuge.
When her mother had died giving birth to her younger sister, her father had been unable to bear her any longer. He had turned his eyes from her and focused his everything on her younger sister, leaving her and her useless eyes to their own devices.
She had cried endlessly in the library, holding onto the large tomes her mother used to read from, used to teach her how to read from.
Her father had assigned her a caretaker, a gentle man who became an uncle to her.
When she had been unable to cope in the library, in the fading scent of her deceased mother, she went to the room filled with old clan records instead. It, too, had been filled with books, and also files on their history and their eyes. She had read them endlessly, if only to forget about the missing presence at her side, and drank in her family's past trade agreements, financial accounts and business endeavours.
Soon, another presence had found their way into the room.
Her father's mother had not scolded or berated her for reading through their clan's records, but had tested and questioned her on various topics and subjects related to their family. Her grandmother had not approved of her, but she had not cast her aside either. Instead, her grandmother had selected several files and texts for her to read.
Her eyes, although useless to the clan, had been useful in processing characters and information.
Later, her grandmother would stow her away in a wooden chest so that she may overhear the trade meetings between their clan and their partners.
Years afterwards, her younger sister had become heiress, her father had not been able to look at her, and her grandmother had convinced him to send her away. It had not been out of malice, but out of fondness. Her grandmother had arranged for her and her caretaker-uncle to reside in a civilian town, far away from their village hidden in the leaves, where a very prestigious and highly recommended high school was situated.
She had been five years her peers' junior, but due to her strenuous tutors and strict grandmother, she had far excelled the civilians.
Her eyes had been useless, but they had also borne a different sort of fruit.
She had never been a prodigy, not even in reading or writing. Instead, she had excelled in working hard and in memorization. As she had measured beakers in chemistry and solved problems in calculus, she had begun to map a route her grandmother approved of, and her uncle encouraged her to take.
When she graduated high school, she had been accepted to the most prestigious and sought-after university in the country.
She had been the youngest graduate in her high school's history.
She had been afraid and doubtful when she entered university; all her peers had the highest intelligence quotients and gifted talents in the country, and she had never been a prodigy. She had always been the no one with the useless eyes.
But a chance meeting, a brief conversation, she had been offered an opportunity of a lifetime.
In her second year, she had accepted an internship with the country's department of finance.
In her second year, the Fourth Shinobi War had broken out.
Her father had recalled her and her uncle back to their village, and for the first time in years she had laid eyes upon the buildings and found it in ruins. A man named Pain had destroyed the central district; his associates had decimated the outer rim. Even as she had been shuffled into the clan's commune, she had calculated the cost of the damage to be exorbitant, both in funds and lives.
Her father had not gone to see her. She had caught a bare glimpse of her younger sister before she had been locked away in the main house. It had been to keep her safe, and to keep her away.
For days she had studied the books she had brought with her from university. Weeks past and she had exhausted the clan's libraries. After months of being left behind, knowing that it had been her eyes that had kept her away from war and honour, she had entered the clan's finance department and began to read through the accounts.
She had begun to rearrange the files, make notes, and plan future endeavours.
Her grandmother caught her, and let her continue.
There had been no other use for her.
They had never needed her then…
Her eyes trailed to the Konoha scroll sitting on her desk.
…so why would they need her now?
A polite knock at her office door and a woman addressed, "Hinata?"
Hinata lifted her gaze, a dark brown, from the scroll to her assistant.
"The representatives from the Tea Country will be arriving in ten minutes," the woman informed her with a confident smile.
Hinata blinked and then, as if waking from a dream, she startled and abruptly stood from her seat, nearly knocking over the glass of water on her desk. She had forgotten about the meeting that afternoon, having been distracted by unfortunate memories, and hurried to gather her things. The assistant could only watch as her frazzled employer, almost a decade her junior, accidentally topple a stack of papers, scattering the sheets all over the tabletop. When Hinata's elbow came precariously close to upsetting the vase of tulips behind her, the assistant decided to intervene.
"Calm, Hinata," the woman soothed, quickly coming forward to pull the papers toward her and away from the young girl. "Breathe. You've done this plenty of times."
They've gone over this routine plenty of times too.
Hinata took a deep breath and swallowed nervously. With an encouraging nod from her assistant, she smoothed down her robe, fixed her hair, and checked her appearance, while simultaneously recounting the amount of rainfall the Tea Country had had this year alongside the Fire Country's rice harvest this season. As she straightened from the mirror, her face became still and self-assured.
She had done this plenty of times.
Her assistant smiled, almost smirked at the uncanny change. "Shall we?"
Hinata nodded. "We do not want to keep them waiting."
They stepped out of the small office, closing the door behind them with a quiet click. Her assistant locked the door and Hinata promptly forgot about the scroll altogether, her head filling with all the matters at hand—on numbers and figures, on assets and liabilities, on markets and commerce. She had a task to accomplish, an assignment given to her by her superior, although not the superior her family had expected her to have when she had been born.
She was the only one in her clan who could not serve her village the way she had been born to serve.
"Eighteen ryō," Hinata reminded herself, before placing a smile on her face and greeting the trade representatives from the Tea Country.
A Hyuga without her Byakugan was a useless Hyuga.