I play fast and loose with canon here, especially timelines. There's really no other way to do it.
Dedicated to Erimies and Sumire. And a late Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Hiya rises from seiza, yumi held tall in her left hand, arrow poised along the grip. She slides her feet into position, stands tall and straight. Her breathing is slow and methodical. Her right hand grips the bowstring, not yet drawing it back, and her head turns to sight the target – the motion required even though her Byakugan renders its meaning void.
Steadily, she raises the bow, left hand extending away from the body even as her right hand pulls the bowstring back past her cheek. The bamboo quivers with the weight of the draw, but the tension on her muscles is negligible and she breathes out slowly, calmly, patiently.
The release, when it comes, is sudden and violent. The bowstring whips forward and the bamboo springing back to shape, losing its severe, asymmetrical curve. The arrow fires into the air, slicing down the open yamichi and into the target house, piercing through the straw target at its center point.
Hiya breathes out, lowering her arms, before sinking back down into seiza.
The motions are smooth and automatic, drilled into her for years, but far from careless. Under the watchful eye of the Hyuuga, even the slightest wandering of attention would be caught.
"Acceptable," her instructor says finally. He seems neither pleased nor displeased, face an expressionless mask.
Hiya mirrors it, betraying nothing at the comment. It's small praise for something so skilful and that she is five years old in body (if not in mind) makes it only more so. But she hardly expects anything more than that.
Slowly and carefully she completes the ritual, retrieving the arrows and wrapping the bow for transport, cleaning the dojo before they leave. Everything she does is rife with ceremony, the better to impress the nobles that will hire the clan.
"It has been decided that you will accompany the envoy to the Senju," Kaito Hyuuga says neutrally. "Hiatara-sama specifically requested I evaluate you for it."
Hiya knows as little as the rest of the clan about the meeting, baring the flurry of whispers and activity that have rattled through the clan ever since Tatemono Senju turned up at their compound bearing a white flag and a message. She hopes, however, that this is the beginning of an era that will change the world; that the Hyuuga will listen to a message of peace and believe it.
"My Taijutsu is inadequate," Hiya replies, voice equally monotone. Though she learns faster, with more skill than her age mates, two decades of peaceful, passive existence have not pre-disposed her towards Taijutsu. It is too fast, too crowded, not enough time to think and react, with instincts that choose the wrong response too often. Her Byakugan, too, is less suited to Taijutsu – adapted for long range distance work over the precision required to target tenketsu or the complete 360 degree area coverage important for close quarters combat.
Kaito does not dispute the point. "The envoy has a complement of guards. That will not be your role."
The obvious question to ask would be 'what, then, is my role?'. Hiya does not ask it. Her role is and has always been to do as she is instructed, no more or less. She can guess, easily, that she will simply be a demonstration that even the children of the Hyuuga clan are dangerous, a visible reminder that though the clan is attending as invited, they are not weak. That she is Branch House merely means that her loss will not be catastrophic, should things go badly.
They walk the rest of the way in silence, crossing the perfectly kept training grounds and into the long halls of the Branch Houses. Hiya washes up silently, and reports to the kitchen for her duties. The days of the Branch members are strictly regimented, split between training and working, all the better to serve the clan.
At six she is too small, too inexperienced for the work of the ninja - guarding the compound, patrolling the mountain slopes – and so is reduced to servile tasks of cooking and cleaning, washing and mending.
The other children are solemn and straight-faced, childish ribbing and joking snatched and hidden in moments when adult attention wavers. They are separated from her by the gulf of training, the way they struggle with what appears to come easily to her. There is no animosity, but neither can either side breach the divide.
After dinner comes the summons that Kaito had so obliquely warned her about, and she is escorted to the main dining room. Hiatara, the Clan Head, watches with steady eyes and she kneels in seiza before them. There are six families of the Main Branch, each with a head, single heir and corresponding Branch House. Hiya's is the Fourth House under Hinomoto, though she is so far removed from the Main as to be barely related at all.
"In three weeks' time you will accompany us to the meeting at Chokusha Point," Hiatara says with no preamble. "Until then you will work with Haibi to prepare yourself. All your other duties are suspended."
Hiya bows. "Yes, Hiatara-sama."
The envoy is a large one, Hiatara-sama, four Jounin and six Chunin. Hiya is conspicuously out of place.
They move slowly for a team of ninja, always alert, always careful, but Hiya struggles with the harsh pace. This is the first time she has left the compound and there is only so much that training can prepare her for. The others do not give the impression of slowing down for her, but she is never left behind, even when she falters.
They leave the safety of their mountains, cross the plains and skirt the forests. Even though the Senju have offered peace, the Hyuuga are not willing to walk so blatantly into a place where they have so much power.
The feeling that this is a trap is too prevalent amongst the older shinobi.
When Bikan, whose Byakugan has a near twenty kilometre range, spots the Senju camp, their travels slow even further. They check and double check and triple check for threats and traps and approach cautiously.
Hiya remains still and statuesque throughout the opening negotiations, face expressionless as the leaders parry back and forth. There are clever twisting of words, sly accusations, that Hashirama refuses to rise to, even as his clansmen raise hackles behind him.
He is dedicated to peace, he says, and whatever trap he weaves remains unsprung. It will have to do.
It is a hard to tell who is the most surprised when Hiatara-sama accepts the Senju hospitality. But the Hyuuga would not have come so far, not have risked so much if they had not been prepared to listen in the first place.
The Senju are not the only ones that tire of the constant war and fighting.
"You must be an archer," Hashirama Senju says, crouching down so that they are almost, almost at eye level. It is not such a wild guess, given that Hiya is carrying the tools of her trade slung across her back.
"Oh, really?" His face has such an open look to it. "What type of bow do you like best?"
Hiya hesitates, just a little. "Recurve," she admits. "The yumi is too big." It is not the most politic thing to say, especially with the clan head standing right next to her but she doesn't think Hashirama will mind.
He laughs. "It is, isn't it?" His hands twist on nothing, and between them, wood grows. There is a sudden freeze of stillness amongst the Hyuuga, and Tobirama hisses his name in irritation. "What do you think?" he asks, holding out the child sized bow to her. "Just the right size?"
Hiya takes it carefully, holding it out and drawing the string. It's made out of twisted vine, as much wood as the bow itself and she thinks that this kind of fine manipulation might just be as impressive as growing forests. The draw on it is heavy, the size slightly too big, but it is comfortable , familiar to her mind if not her hands. Almost certainly, in the clan of one thousand hands there is at least one who favours archery for him to be able to create something so demanding so easily.
She tries to hand it back but he laughs again. "No, no. It's a present, okay?"
A bow made with the mokuton of the man who would be the first Hokage is a present unsurpassed. "Thank you, Senju-sama." She bows low in respect.
"So formal, Hyuuga-chan!" His hand lands heavy on her head and fluffs her hair up. She tries not to think that that hand has probably killed many people, many children. He doesn't need to touch her to be able to kill her, not this man. Being close makes him no more dangerous than he was before.
Hiya returns to the clan compound in the mountainside, and is no longer part of the discussions that rage amongst the Main House for weeks. The Branch House members that serve food to the meetings do not speak of the content – as well they should not – but the entire clan knows what is being said.
It is only the outcome that is in question.
Hiya practices her archery, the formal moves of Kyuudo that the Hyuuga prefer, but also learns to make her recurve sing in her hands. Hiatara-sama had allowed her to keep it, with warning that it could be turned against her.
"Yes, Hiatara-sama," she had agreed, kneeling and bowing, without the comment that any weapon made of wood would hardly stand against Hashirama Senju, should it come to that.
It might be the only thing she possesses in this life that belongs to her and not the clan – it was a gift, given to her, and she cherishes it.
The outcome of the discussions is never announced, but a large portion of the ninja leave abruptly for the newly formed Konoha, to make their presence known and to stake claims and to assess it to see if it is truly safe to be part of it.
For the rest of them, training becomes more brutal. Hiya falters in taijutsu again and again, cannot see tenketsu, cannot cover her own blind spot. But she extends her ultimate range another hundred meters, can fire two arrows in under a second and her instructor grudgingly proclaims her adequate.
She is the youngest ninja on guard duty when the attack starts. The Hyuuga in the watch tower spot them coming ten kilometres out, and grimly alert the compound. The mountain is a natural defence, and the compound itself, for all it sprawls, is no weak target.
Grimly, Hiya knocks an arrow to her bow and waits until they are in range. Beside her Kaito does the same, and together they make the air sing with falling arrows.
The enemies are cunning however, and prepared. The force that creeps uphill towards them is only part of the attack. The rest races downhill from above, having crept around and remained out of reach, and uses jutsu to cover the distance faster than true preparations can be made. It is not a subtle attack, using numbers and brute force and speed, and will result in causalities on both sides, but they breach the houses.
They breach the houses.
Then they withdraw.
Hiya hardly knows this until after the battle. When the fighting has stopped and the fires extinguished, and the Main House members storm through the compound with grim faces, counting heads.
"Four," Hinomoto-sama says. "One from the Fourth House. One from the Fifth House. And two from the Sixth House." Her counterpart from the Sixth House looks almost grief stricken.
It is a grim day for the clan.
Hiya stretches the range of her Byakugan, watches the hills around the compound. Nothing moves.
"They've split up," Kaito says, voice as steady as ever. His eyes are sad. "Every man gone a different path. There are hundreds. We do not have enough ninja to follow." If the whole clan had been here, maybe. If the whole clan had been here, maybe they would never have succeeded.
Hiya feels the weight of the Caged Bird Seal on her brow. It is a cage, yes. But a cage is not just restriction. It is shelter and safety as well. It is protection.
She thinks about the things that await a woman of the Hyuuga clan in the hands of others. The clan is not perfect, it is harsh and strict and demanding. But outside the cage…
"I would rather die," she says.
"Yes," Kaito agrees, and puts a hand on her small shoulders.
They gather sombrely as Hiatara-sama completes the jutsu. Somewhere in the darkness, the lives of four Hyuuga women are snuffed out, soundlessly. It is not comforting, exactly, but for Hyuuga it is either rescue or death. They will not be left captive. It is something.
They mourn. They recover.
And a month later, there is another attack.
The move to Konoha is not undertaken with ease. The compound must be stripped of all essentials. All clansmen will be transported, the old, the sick, the very young. They will be travelling a long way, through lands that are not safe.
It requires planning and care and preparation.
In the end, they have a chain of caravans. Oxen pulling huge carts, piled high with belongings. Supplies enough to last them the entire trip, and beyond.
They make it to the bottom of the mountains before they are attacked. The ninja slide into formation around the caravan. Those that can fight at distance take lead – those like Hiya who have chosen weapons, or those who have mastered Jyuuken to the extent of the Vacuum Palm techniques.
Hiya fires, and fires, and fires. And then she runs out of arrows.
She does not panic, because a Hyuuga does not panic. She grasps empty air, mimics drawing an arrow. She fits nothing to her bow, pulls it and sights. She breathes. The motions are familiar, etched into her muscles with countless hours of practice. Her mind fits into the groove left behind.
Between her fingers, blue chakra blossoms and an arrow takes shape.
The Way of the Arrow, she thinks. One Shot.
It sails through the air, bleeding charka and loosing shape, until it strikes the target full in the chest. He drops, heart overloaded and rupturing beneath the skin.
She fires again, and again, and again, until black overtakes the edges of her vision and she can no longer sustain the sight of the Hyuuga.
"Acceptable," Kaito says to her, after the battle when he finds her slumped against the wheel of a cart. Her bow is clenched in hand, but she can barely raise it. "We will begin work on the cohesion of your projectiles."
They arrive to a village in construction, where boundaries are ill defined but crossing them can still lead to fighting. The Hyuuga compound is walled but unfinished, and they make do with a city of tents and the sound of constant hammering.
It is a downgrade from their compound in the mountains, even without the parade of enemies outside the walls, and it leaves ill-feeling in the air. They are a proud clan, and they do not like compromise.
"The ninja of the clan are the ninja of the village," Hiatara-sama says to the full congregation of the Hyuuga Clan. They kneel in the dirt and grass, because there is no meeting hall yet big enough for all of them. Hashirama stands beside him, to represent the village that they are swearing themselves to. "You will strive to defend the entirety of the village, its land and people, so that we may all live in harmony."
"This is the symbol of Konoha," Hashirama says, showing the headband that he wears. "The ninja that bear this symbol are your brothers and sisters in arms, your teammates and your comrades. Beyond clan lines, we are all one people now."
He smiles when he hands one to every ninja of the Hyuuga clan, and if his smile is sadder and smaller when Hiya takes hers into small, small hands, well. She pretends not to notice.
"Thank you, Senju-sama," she says. "I am honoured."
"As am I, Hyuuga-chan," he replies.
With the compound still under construction, there is no safely designated area for training. So they are forced to use the village grounds and mingle with the other clans. It may or may not be a purposeful move on part of the Senju, and though it makes no one comfortable, at least they begin to see each other.
Hiya risks life, limb, and the disapproval of her clan to pat one of the Inuzuka hounds, which is both massive and fluffy like some kind of Newfoundland cross. She bribes it with left over fish from her lunch, which is only a token attempt, because she is certain the dog is both smarter and better trained than that. But it takes it, lets her work her fingers along its coat, and across the field, Hashirama Senju catches her eye and smiles.
She doesn't smile back, because she is a Hyuuga, but she bows before she returns to her training.
"You're very brave, Hyuuga-chan," he says, coming closer.
She strikes the target with five arrows in quick succession. She is holding back, of course, because she is forbidden to practice more advanced techniques in sight of the other clans. But it is still important to stay in practice.
"Senju-sama," she says respectfully.
"There aren't many clans that approach each other, still," he says.
Around the clearing, there are people training, but they are segregated and watching each other warily. Hiya suspects that no one is really training, as much as keeping up appearances and watching each other.
"I like dogs," she says, which is a ridiculously flimsy explanation. The Hyuuga keep birds – homing pigeons and hunting hawks and beautiful songbirds – or useful animals like sheep or cows. Not dogs. Before Konoha, in this life, the closest she has seen are wild dogs or wolves. They are not the kind of animals you pet.
Yet Hashirama nods. "Yes," he says. "I do too." He stretches out his hand gently towards the hound.
It huffs, rises, and walks away.
He looks so comically disappointed that Hiya giggles. Only once, barely audible, and she stifles it behind an expressionless façade immediately.
But Hashirama still looks like he has seen the sun come up. He smiles. "You know," he says. "I'm putting together a team made up of all the different clans. Would you like to be part of it, Hyuuga-chan?"
"If it is your will," Hiya says diffidently. She will do as she is ordered. She can do little else.
"But would you like to?" He persists.
Hiya looks around the clearing, at Konoha slowly taking form under the hands of this man. "Yes," she says. "Very much so."
The Hyuuga agree to the Hokage's request, though only after deliberation. Hiya is not consulted on the matter, though she is relieved when they agree.
The 'team', so far, has only six members. Hiya is the youngest of them at six, though not by a wide margin. Kagami of the Uchiha clan is nine, the same as Sekiyu Aburame. Touryou Senju – the second son of Mito and Hashirama – is ten. Shikon Inuzuka is twelve (with a nin-dog confusingly also named Shikonmaru) and Torifu Akimichi is the oldest at thirteen. It is a very young group, though they are all skilled in their own ways.
In truth, the team does little beyond attempt to train together without maiming each other. Touryou is the only one of them with any experience fighting beside varying skills, such as theirs, and the others get in each other's way more often than not.
Hiya contemplates shooting a hole through Kagami the third time he steps into her line of fire. She is entirely certain that he does it on purpose. Torifu has 'accidentally' stepped on him more than once for much the same reason.
Hashirama appears to take the whole disaster in stride, and when the Akimichi give word that the Nara and Yamanaka are willing to listen, decides it is the perfect outing for his team.
The Hyuuga clan considers, deliberates, and Hiya is called to meet with the Clan Head.
She kneels on the tatami floor of the newly constructed meeting house and bows her head.
"The Caged Bird Seal may be activated at distance," Hiatara-sama says. "But the final sealing may also be initiated by the holder of the seal."
The order is clear. If Hiya is taken, is captured, and the clan does not know and cannot retrieve her, then her path is clear.
"I understand," she says.
The Caged Bird Seal is a cage. But it is also safety and protection. It is also an escape, should she have no other option.
Hiatara-sama has given her the key.
Hiya would like to live, but she does not fear death. It is a better option than some that would await her.
The Nara and Yamanaka are the first but not the last outings of Team Hashirama. The village grows, and the team expands with it. Hiya meets Hiruzen Sarutobi and Danzo Shimura and Homura Mitokado and Koharu Utatane and others besides. Hashirama begins to rotate who he takes with him, so that there are only three or four at a time.
Not all their missions go smoothly, and Hiya destroys her precious recurve when she's forced to use it to block a sword strike as they attempt to retreat from a clan that wants nothing to do with them. Kagami forces the man back with a blast of fire that singes the ends of her hair, and her following chakra arrows are clumsy without a bow to anchor them. The bow itself is not strictly necessary, but the mental discipline to shoot chakra arrows without it is a thousand times more difficult.
"I'll make you another one, Hyuuga-chan," Hashirama says kindly when they set down for camp. "You've nearly outgrown it anyway."
It was true, and in skill as much as in size.
"Another recurve?" he asks playfully, stretching his fingers.
Hiya considers whether it would be rude to ask for something so specific. It is, after all, a gift and one does not demand things when they are given so freely.
"Go on," he urges. "I could use a challenge."
Hiya takes a piece of paper and sketches the design she has been working on for weeks. It is unique and difficult, and she had doubted ever being able to find someone to make it for her.
"A challenge indeed," Hashirama chuckles. It takes him several attempts to complete it to satisfaction, though Hiya would have accepted any of them.
It looks more like a dream catcher than a bow, but she grasps it firmly and pulls back the string. The draw is tough and her muscles ache with it, but she concentrates and an arrow blooms to life. And then a second. And a third. And a fourth.
Way of the Arrow, she thinks. Four Shots.
She lets go. The arrows leave the bow, slice through the air and slam into four separate targets.
"Well done, Hyuuga-chan," the Hokage says, pleased. "Well done."
The Uchiha grow restless in the village, though Kagami won't speak to them about why.
The other clans are nervous, and the Hyuuga guard their walls more fiercely than ever.
Then Madara leaves and Hashirama follows, and from Konoha they can see the fire in the sky as the two fight half a country away.
The Hokage returns, injured and pale, his wife at his side.
Slowly, Konoha learns to relax again.
Mito is ill for a long time, and though Hiya knows why, she keeps silent. To be a Jinchuriki is no pleasant thing, even for someone so respected. Maybe especially for someone so respected.
Hashirama leaves the village less, instead sending Tobirama to negotiate with clans. Tobirama does not have his brothers golden tongue, and more and more often they run into trouble.
"We've found all the ones that want to join us," Tobirama says. "The rest are making their own alliances."
He's not entirely wrong. The other clans begin to band together to establish the other Hidden Villages, trying to equal the might of Konoha. It is a tense time, and Hiya is not particularly surprised when the First of the Great Shinobi Wars breaks out.
Not surprised, no. But even the ninja who are used to war are horrified as the scale of it reveals itself, piece by piece.
"What have we done?" Hashirama mutters, head bowed over a map of the nation. There are pieces and counters scattered here and there, representing troops and enemies and locations of interest. "It wasn't supposed to be like this."
Hiya can offer no words of support. The others of the team are no better. Sarutobi avoids the Hokage's eyes and suggests they block the pass.
"I'm going to be a big brother," Touryou says as they perch in the trees and stare down the mountain side. His presence is almost unnecessary, given that Hiya can see all the way down to the town at the base, but she appreciates the company.
"You already are," she says, watching a housewife hang out the laundry.
"Again," he amends. "You know, new baby."
"Worried?" she asks. Hiya watches his expression, even though she doesn't turn around – he thinks it's unnerving and has said so often enough.
He shrugs. "It's been… hard on her. More than Tenchuu was. She's been sick ever since the… thing."
"She'll be fine," Hiya says. Then pauses, attention drawn by something. There are men below that wear a mimicry of the Konoha headband. But not with a spiral. "Ah, you should alert the outpost."
Touryou snaps to alertness. "Incoming?"
"Yes," Hiya says. "A squadron from Iwa."
She draws her bow and moves to stand in the very tips of the tree, where she can reach open sky. Touryou nods and drops down, racing off to deliver the warning.
Hiya waits until the enemy is within her range.
"Way of the Arrow," she says, and makes the Dreamcatcher fill with blue until it is too bright to look at with normal sight. The Byakugan is immune. "Rain of Light."
She loosens the string, and watches as the sky starts to cry.
Hiya keeps watch outside the house where Mito gives birth. Her Byakugan can see the twisting red of the Kyuubi's chakra, straining to be free – can almost see the shape and form of it.
She tries not to focus on it too hard, instead scanning the forest around them. Once, she thinks she sees a flicker of red at the very, very edges of her range, but it is gone and comes no closer.
The baby is a healthy boy, and they name him Hibashira – Pillar of Fire.
"An apt name," Hiya says.
Mito smiles wryly, tiredly. "Hopefully not too apt."
The war bleeds on and on, travelling further and dragging more people into it. The Hokage takes to the field, and it does not always help.
"Hokage-sama," Hiya says diffidently. "Please allow me speak."
The look Hashirama casts on her is fond and amused. "Have I ever ordered otherwise?"
She hesitates for a moment longer, marshalling whatever reserve needed to make her statement. "We cannot afford to lose you," she says slowly. "You are the heart of Konoha. If you should fall in battle, we will crumble."
"Konoha will continue without me."
"Maybe one day," she agrees softly. "But that day has not come yet. Konoha is young, and will stumble like a new born colt if not guided properly. It is a fledgling that has not yet learnt to fly."
"I am not the only one that can lead, Hyuuga-chan," he refutes. "There are others."
"There are others," she agrees again. "But they are not you. Your honourable brother is keen of eye and sharp of mind, to administer the laws of the village. Hiruzen Sarutobi is brilliant in battle and can command your armies with skill. Danzo Shimura is ever watchful and questioning and will not be taken by surprise. Even I… even I have some skill at these things. But none of us, not one, dreams as you do, Hokage-sama." Beneath the Hyuuga stoicism, she is earnest.
Hashirama will admit to a small amount of surprise at the direction of her speech. "Dreams, Hyuuga-chan? Is that so important?"
"Yes," she says. "Who else could have united clans that have been warring for centuries? You have torn apart blood feuds as old as the land itself and as drenched in blood as the battle field. To have united the Senju and Uchiha is one thing, a thing that will make legends, but to then have repeated the process again and again… You cannot tell me it was done without a dream."
"Dream is too big a word for it," he replies softly. "I wanted my brothers to stop dying. I wanted my children to outlive me."
"You gathered us together," Hiya says. "You convinced us that maybe this dream was worth having. But the future is uncertain and the path it takes winding. We need you to lead us or we will falter."
"Are you trying to tell me to stay at home, Hyuuga-chan?" Hashirama teases.
She doesn't smile. "Today was too close, Senju-sama. Another ambush like that and I doubt that we would be returning home."
"What kind of Hokage would I be if I stayed in the village?"
"The one we need."
There are things that make Hiya regret following the First Hokage. Not many, but there are some.
Facing down the tailed beasts is one of them.
The rest of the team appears to agree.
It doesn't matter that they do little of the fighting, that they merely back Hashirama up as he locates them and fights. Simply being in the same area as a titanic battle is enough.
"Greatest man I know," Sarutobi repeats, as if trying to convince himself. He swallows as he watches the monstrous form of bijuu struggling against vines and branches. "He has a plan."
Hiya thinks that if they could see the fight in as much detail as she could, they would not doubt the first part. The First Hokage in action is a sight to behold. It is awesome, in that it inspires awe.
She would still prefer to be approximately half a continent further away.
"Well," Hashirama says, exhausted, once he's done. "That's two of them. Six more to go."
No one questions his math and asks where the ninth is.
The Five Kage Summit is kind of a disaster, but Hiya remains impressed that he managed to get them to agree to one while the war is still raging.
"So we'll split the tailed beasts up between the villages," Hashirama suggests. "As part of a peace agreement."
Which only leads to arguing about who gets what, exactly, and what a peace treaty means, exactly, and who is agreeing to what because they are currently winning-
Really. It's amazing they all walk out of there alive. Let alone with a signed treaty and the official end of a war.
"He had a plan," Hiruzen Sarutobi says shaking his head. "A crazy plan."
"That worked," Hiya says softly in agreement.
"A crazy plan that worked," Sarutobi amends.
"I can hear you, kids," the man in question says. "It wasn't that crazy."
"Coming training, Touryou?" Hiya asks her teammate, blandly. It's pretty clear that he isn't, given that he's carrying a small human being.
He rolls his eyes. "Chuuseki begged me to watch Tsu-chan for him. Apparently he hasn't had more than half an hours sleep since she was born." He shuffles the baby in his arms awkward. "I dunno. She seems quieter than Hibashira ever was."
Hiya peers down at the granddaughter of the First Hokage, who will one day become a woman feared across the nation.
Tsunade blinks back at her, yawns, and starts to drool.
"Impressive," Hiya says, straight faced. "Have fun."
"Try not to shoot Kagami," Touryou says in response. "Even if he deserves it."
When Hashirama Senju dies, it feels like the sun has gone out of the village.
Even the Byakugan cannot pierce the blackness left behind.
Hiya stands stone faced at his funeral, because the magnitude of this loss cannot be relieved through tears.
"Why did he always have to go?" Touryou says in frustration, afterwards. "Why couldn't he have just stayed in the village? I asked him. You asked him. Why did he have- why did he have to-" his voice hitches miserably.
"I know," Hiya says. "We tried-"
The words are damning and stick in her throat. We tried.
"The Jounin Council meets this afternoon," he says in defeat. "To see who will be Hokage."
It's too soon. It will always be too soon. But it is necessary. For the village.
"I'll be there," Hiya says. Tentatively, she presses a hand to his shoulder. It's bare comfort, just short of nothing.
Tobirama is by far the strongest candidate at the meeting. But to Hiya's surprise, Hiruzen Sarutobi is also considered, along with Kagami Uchiha. But both are still shy of twenty, and for all ninja are dominated by the young, they are still not quite ready to be thrust into leadership so suddenly.
There are others, notable members of other clans, and they are seriously discussed. The Jounin deliberate heavily.
Hiya hesitates before interjecting. She is not, technically, supposed to be here. But they were the students of the First, and ambassadors to most of the clans here, and have always slipped between the lines of 'technically'.
"I nominate," she says, carefully, "Mito."
There is a moment of silence as it is consider. Mito, so rarely considered unless alongside her husband, yet in possession of a great number of skills and abilities. No secret that she assisted him with much of the current ruling of the village, anyway. It was almost expected that she would.
"It implies a certain degree of… familial succession," someone points out carefully.
"So does appointing Tobirama as the Second Hokage," another counters.
"My mother," Touryou mutters quietly to his friend as the discussion takes off. "Really?"
Despite it being the first technique I invented for her, Hiya never got the chance to use Way of the Arrow; Ten Thousand Shooting Stars. I'm very disappointed.