Chapters: 1/? (I'm hoping between 5-10 chapters)
Summary: With Madara having all but wiped out most of the noble samurai clans of Konoha, the council have taken the last able bodied members of the remaining families to be placed into protective custody until matches can be made and new heirs are born. SasuHina, multiple side pairings.
Notes: This idea came to me in a dream. Some folks might find it similar to The Debut in concept, but it's got a lot of differences. For one, this isn't going to be some long drawn out drama. It's a romance story straight up. Hopefully, you all will like it. I'll upload it to FF once I feel I'm mostly through with the story altogether. Unbeta'd/WIP
The men had to admit, the council knew how to go all out on a project.
Immediately, servants ventured out from the shadows of the courtyard, shuffling quickly over to several samurai noblemen on their powerful steeds. Reins taken, the young noblemen, all from different clans and none over the age of twenty and two, dismounted, their gazes taking in the ascetically pleasing courtyard.
Freshly cut grass carpeted most of the yard, a karesansui - or rock garden - hailed to the far eastern side surrounded by perfectly trimmed hedges and trees. More shrubbery along with various flower beds littered the area in strategic places, although with only the moonlight to illuminate the area, most of the beauty was muted.
Another servant emerged from the main building, a very thin and unremarkable servant girl in a plain brown kimono. The horses were led away toward the stables while the girl, head kept down, walked down the stone pathway to close the distance between her and the men. She stopped a respectful distance away from the group and bowed low.
"Good evening, my lords." Her soft voice forced some of the noblemen to strain so they could hear. "I am Mika, and I shall escort you to your rooms. Your belongings will be brought in shortly, all preparations have been made. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to inform one of the servants." She bowed again, gesturing for them to follow. "Please, if you would..."
Upon entering, another servant, male this time, collected their weapons. While a samurai would never part from his short sword or dagger, the katana and any other miscellaneous items were removed from their person to be locked away in a cellar just outside one of the buildings - which one the servant would not say.
Inside, the halls boasted simplicity. The unique fresh scent of the tatami mats permeated the air as the males followed the slip of a girl. Numerous rooms were passed, all the sliding shoji doors closed on either side. The samurai in front, his features as bright as his orange and black kamishimo, grinned broadly. Pearly white teeth contrasted sharply to his naturally tanned skin, sky blue eyes shining with mirth as he turned his gaze to the other nobleman walking beside him.
"Not too shabby, eh Bastard?" Uzumaki Naruto asked, nudging a taller, raven haired male.
Dark grey eyes narrowed, sliding over to glance at the blond without actually turning his head. Clear disgust emerged on his pale but handsome face as he slid his hands into the sleeves of his dark blue and grey kamishimo.
"I have more important places to be." Uchiha Sasuke muttered, brows furrowed. "This silly venture is a waste of time."
"Hm." A taller, broader brown haired noble increased his pace, keeping just behind the blond and brunet. With his middle finger, Aburame Shino adjusted the dark glasses resting on the bridge of his nose, his posture and expression stony. "Pray tell, Uchiha, what is more important than securing your family's line? Madara has all but wiped out most of the highest ranking samurai clans. Why? Because that makes it all the more easier for him to take over our nation and become shogun. We cannot allow that to happen."
"I know, Aburame." The Uchiha noble growled, hands clenching to fists. For a moment, his eyes flashed crimson and he scowled heavily. "But I'd rather be out there, fighting Madara than doing...this."
Beside Aburame, a wild haired noble with wolfish features snorted, crossing his arms. "Whatever, Uchiha. You act like you're the only one who lost something. Stop whining. All you've done is bitch the entire time we've been on the road." With a pinky finger, Inuzuka Kiba began to dig in his ear. "Yer giving me a headache."
"As long as Madara is still alive," Uchiha continued speaking to Aburame, completely ignoring the other male who bristled at the insult "This could all be pointless. The moment he learns the rest of us are in one location, we'll be easy targets."
"Then we should act quickly to.... secure our position." Aburame agreed and Uchiha scowled.
If we just killed Madara, none of this would matter. He honestly couldn't understand why no one else seemed to grasp such a simple concept. Kill, then bring forth life. Uchiha felt it to be poetic justice.
Unfortunately, the decision was not his to make, so he continued on with the others, inwardly grumbling with every step that took him further into the compound.
"Your rooms, my Lords. Your belongings will be arriving shortly." Mika said low with a bow. Immediately, the raven haired noble brushed past her and took the closest room to the left, sliding the door closed behind him and shutting out the others.
He needed to be alone. Some peace and quiet for a change.
"Hey, Sasuke!" Came a shout from the room beside him. "Hey, we're gonna have a par-tay in my room! Come on over! Hey! You listenin', Bastard! Oh yeah, Mica...Mika...whatever! C'mere, we're gonna need you to fetch us some stuff..."
Of course, nothing else had ever gone right in his entire life, why would this?
Grumbling, Sasuke ignored Naruto and instead took stock of his room. To his left were several closed shelves at floor level, a higher one above that set and a wall closet in the corner. A quick inspection revealed the lower shelves to hold a thick futon and several blankets. The upper shelf and wall closet seemed to be enough to hold his more expensive cloths.
A small table sat in the middle of the room, dark oak with a sleek finish. A slender cylindrical vase held a small bouquet of rich purple bellflowers rested in the center, along with a small dish full of assorted fruits. Sasuke snatched an apple, munching absently as he continued his walk through.
He found himself highly disappointed. What he had initially believed to be a corner to perhaps another room offered nothing more than a small refrigerator, a wall mirror, and a small wash basin. No tub, no toilet, not even a standing shower.
Meaning all of those facilities would be in a...public setting. The thought of having to share a bathing area with those idiots made him shudder.
At this rate, I might as well just marry the first noblewoman I see. It's not as if I'll get any luckier if I try. He thought grimly and left the room, heading in the opposite direction of the noise next door. If nothing else, he could at least learn his surroundings, making getting around and avoiding people easier.
The estate grounds boasted three major buildings, all connected with wooden walkways. A short period of walking the halls led him outside, facing the outer courtyard. A small koi pond held the centerpiece to the lush green gardens. Perfectly placed stones dotted the landscape, the faint scent of mint drifted up, somewhat soothing his angry and chaotic thoughts. The new moon left any further inspection impossible until morning, so Sasuke continued to the next building.
An exact replica of the previous building greeted him as he entered, plain walls and closed doors. The monotony quickly bored Sasuke, who yawned as he turned another corner to encounter another bland hall.
Eventually, the sweet scent of cooking caught his attention, having him turn around on his heel back toward the source. He hoped he had finally found the kitchens, as he could use a bit of food in his otherwise empty stomach. Sasuke backtracked and ended up taking a door to his right, the scent growing stronger. Meat? Perhaps someone was making a late night stew...
His hand hovered at another door right as a sharp rapping sound erupted from the other side. A few startled feminine gasps followed, an elderly woman's voice cutting clear through.
"No, you silly child! That's way too much salt! Are you trying to give your future betrothed high blood pressure?"
"No, Obaasan..." The answering female sounded much younger, perhaps early twenties at best.
So then, the kitchens were occupied by the females, great. Sasuke refused to step inside to be bombarded - and possibly molested - by all the potential fiancée's who no doubt would have their eyes fastened on him.
Thinking of the entire affair put Sasuke in a sour mood. Only a few years ago had everything been perfect within their country. The noble samurai clans of Konoha worked together almost harmoniously, no inner wars for territory or power like the other countries. Because of their unity, Konoha grew, keeping their battles focused on real foes, expanding their territory with each victory. The Sarutobi, Namikaze-Uzumaki, Hyuuga, and Uchiha clans were at the top, keeping the land prosperous for generations.
Then Madara arrived. With his overwhelming forces, and unbelievable power, he wiped out almost every single major samurai family in every country, swearing he would unite the world under his rule as Shogun. In a matter of months, all the nations were left crippled, but not without Madara's own forces taking an unexpected major blow. He had underestimated his foes and in doing so, had been forced to retreat, leaving only enough behind to keep the other nations on their toes with skirmishes.
Now their major war was in a stalemate, both sides needing to replenish their numbers. However, the biggest concern of all to the Konoha council was rebuilding the noble houses. Unlike rebuilding forces, only noble blood could replace noble blood. In response to this crisis, all unmarried males would have to marry, immediately, and produce an heir to secure their house. Especially if they were last in line.
Uchiha Sasuke happened to be the only survivor of his clan. No siblings, cousins, older brother...Madara had slaughtered them all. Apparently, it had been personal, having been cast out from his clan decades ago for his disgraceful behavior and abuse of his subordinates. He understood having an heir was vitally important for his clan, but he would much rather have the traitor's head impaled on the business end of his katana instead. Much more satisfying than trying to appease a weak and useless female who would do little more than fawn all over him like some sort of cheap whore.
However, were he to die before killing Madara and without someone to carry out his revenge, his clan would never forgive him, so here he was. If he were honest with himself, being here made him feel like the cheap whore.
The council, in their wisdom, believed setting up an undisclosed area protected by the most powerful barriers currently known to the priesthoods would be the perfect place to set up some sort of matchmaking scenario. To make the encounter - embarrassment - even more intriguing - moronic - they turned it into some sort of sick joke of a competition.
Sasuke had laughed upon initially reading the scroll detailing the events, until he had looked up at the messenger and seen how completely serious he had been. Either the council was getting too old or they had a twisted sense of humor.
According to the old farts, what mattered the most was not a noblewoman's looks, but her poise, grace, and abilities. Sasuke had translated this to mean that they were trying to keep certain houses from being insulted by their daughter's not being picked, as one look at them would send a man running to the hills. 'Fair and balanced', or whatever. With his amazing luck so far, he would be a shoe-in to getting the most hideous, fanatical wife to ever exist. If he were extra lucky, he'd end up having to get her pregnant at least three times before finally birthing a son. By then, Madara would be dead, probably killed by Naruto of all people.
There was no time limit to how long all of them would be staying, the scroll had specifically stated 'as long as it takes to bear an heir'. Once born, the new family would return to their clan's estate and the male would be allowed to finally return to the warfront.
In short, the males were not actually allowed to choose the females based on initial glances, not that they would be allowed to mingle right away in any case. This was where the competition came in.
All the males would choose their initial potential choice through a series of events. The first one would be through food. A good noblewoman should be able to please her husband's stomach first and foremost. Dishes would be made for the men for a week, who would then pick out their most favorite. The numbers would be tallied and pairings would be put together based on how many times a specific female's meal was selected. Of course, none of the men would have any idea who had made what dish, only the matrons and cooks themselves would know.
Of course, the women would be conducting other tests of their own, which wouldn't involve the men at all. The simple fact of the matter was some females did not come from higher ranking noble clans and typically marriages were arranged based on position. Due to the desperate times, this social rule was being lifted, but only if the female could prove herself worthy of being a high noble's wife.
Most of it he personally knew little of, and had scanned over most of the information pertaining it, since he had no real involvement of how the matrons would be running the show. There would be a good chance of the lesser ranking nobles eating separately from the rest, to ensure no one married too high above their station unless they were either of extraordinary talent or it was absolutely necessary. Considering there were more female nobles than males, Sasuke doubted the latter.
The second event involving the men Sasuke still couldn't quite remember, his only recollection being that he would finally meet the leading potential female. They would talk, have dinner and even bathe. He would have to judge for himself whether or not the woman was marriage potential based on how she served him. If he did not like her, the second female on the tally would take her place the next day and so on. If he didn't choose a woman by the fifth turn, a wife would be chosen for him.
He distinctly remembered the scroll stating something along the lines of 'You don't want us to choose for you'.
An image of an incredibly grotesque woman with a belly swollen with child along with one hanging off a saggy teat had him shuddering. His gut churned uncomfortably and suddenly Sasuke no longer felt an urge to partake of dinner.
Better to choose his own wife, definitely.
Turning, he closed out the shouting matron on the other side and rounded the corner, sliding the door he had entered closed behind him. Well, he had explored most of the second building with no sign of a bath. He could either backtrack to the first building or continue on. Although Sasuke hadn't seen any signs of a potential hot springs upon arrival, the estate grounds were large and he had arrived after nightfall. He didn't care either way, as long as he was able to bathe regularly, something being out on the field didn't provide.
Finally deciding to continue on, Sasuke had just rounded the corner when he sensed another presence. Now distracted from his musings, he saw a woman come around from the other side. He didn't recognize her at first as her head was lowered and her face painted the color of porcelain. Thick dark blue hair had been pulled up into an elaborate style, complete with pins and jeweled combs. Pale lavender laced with gold wrapped around her curvaceous frame, a myraid of silver-lined flowers and multi-colored patterns had been painstakingly hand painted onto her kimono. She walked with the steps of a true high born noble, delicate hands resting together at her middle.
Upon sensing eyes on her, the lady raised her head, revealing white eyes tinted slightly with the same color as her kimono. Her oval face and straight cut bangs reminded him of one of those strange dolls his mother enjoyed collecting. Even with her lips painted blood red and all the other make-up, Sasuke recognized her immediately.
With the way her eyes widened, she obviously recognized him as well.
"Uchiha-sama." She stopped a respectful distance away, bowing slowly. "I did not...I-I mean the candidates aren't supposed to meet until..."
"I was wandering around." Sasuke said stiffly, tilting his head. "Hyuuga. I thought your father had already married you off." The Hyuuga were of only slightly higher ranking than the Uchiha, but not by much. He knew the girl, Hinata, although not on any real personal level. Sasuke knew her cousin and current heir, Neji, much better, had fought beside the man during the Second Seige before the massacre. The other Hyuuga was actually present on the grounds, although his group had arrived a day before. Sasuke made a mental reminder to visit, or else seem rude.
His comment made her flinch and she lowered her gaze once more, frowning. "My Lord died in a hunting accident before the wedding, Uchiha-sama. A year ago."
Oops. "Oh." Well, Itachi had been the one keeping up with all those meaningless current events with noble society, Sasuke could hardly be blamed for not keeping up with the times. "My, uh, apologies."
A small smile emerged. "I am doing well, Uchiha-sama, if that is what you mean."
Had she not said those words with her shy demeanor and genuine kindness, Sasuke would have thought she had just delivered a verbal slap for his lack of manners. Still, the implication miffed him, so he remained silent, staring her down instead. As anticipated, she looked away first, before glancing over his shoulder. He turned, but saw no one around the corner.
"Did you just come from the kitchens?" Her soft voice brought his focus back to her and he shrugged.
"I was hungry, but they're doing something in there, I guess."
Hinata nodded. "Yes, some of the girls um..." Her body shifted, as if she were trying to fight off an urge to twitch nervously. In the kimono, her gestures made her look awkward. "They're having remedial lessons. W-well all of us are, to hone in on the skills we're lacking the most in."
Even though he really could have cared less, Sasuke found his mouth opening for a question anyway "What skill are you lacking in?"
She actually blushed through the thick makeup, making her look even more like one of those strange, creepy dolls. "Entertainment."
Sasuke blinked and gave her a very strange look. "What?"
Realizing what he meant, she gasped, raising her hands and shaking her head as well as she could with everything weighing it down. "N-no! Not entertainment...I mean...music! Singing and playing instruments!"
Awkward silence. Hinata looked back down at her feet and Sasuke decided to find nothing on the far side of the wall interesting. He could just walk away, the highly uncomfortable conversation had ended and it was getting later. By now all of the idiots were probably drunk in Naruto's room, hopefully passed out. A bath could wait until tomorrow, once all the others had taken their turns. There would be food too, since the events would begin.
"Don't call me that." He snapped at her, feeling irritated for some reason. "We're pretty much equals, you can address me by my first name. I don't like honorifics."
"Alright, Sasuke." Hinata nodded in acquiesce and turned to point behind her "I have some snacks in my room, I could bring you some if you'd like."
He had opened his mouth to automatically reject her offer until she mentioned bringing them to him, as opposed to inviting him to her room. "Wouldn't that be cheating?"
"Oh! Well...no, not really." Her smile returned, which for some reason made Sasuke's discomfort increase. He suddenly wanted to be as far away from this woman as possible. "I didn't make the snacks, you see. Our rooms have a small refrigerator and they were filled with snacks and drinks upon our arrival." Hinata frowned curiously "The men didn't receive the same?"
Sasuke shrugged, not wanting to admit he hadn't actually looked. "There was some fruit and stuff when I walked in, but I had hoped for a real meal."
"Would you like me to bring you some of mine then?" she offered once more and he shrugged again.
"Do whatever you want."
With a nod, Hinata turned back the way she came and Sasuke remained in his spot, feeling like a real idiot since anyone could walk up on him. He should have simply left the woman to her own devices and returned to his room. There was probably some unwritten rule or punishment for seeing one of the candidates prior to main events.
Briefly, he wondered if she was a good cook.
"Here you are!" Hinata returned with her arms full of wrapped goods and Sasuke could not contain his shock.
"What did you do, clean out the refrigerator?" he asked as she handed him her burden. Hinata ducked her head looking sheepish.
"Well, you seemed hungry so..." She trailed off and he sighed, stuffing the goods in the crook of his arm.
"Idiot." He muttered, but his words held no heat. "I'm going now. It's late."
She seemed pleased despite his curt demeanor and attitude which bordered along the lines of rude. Hinata gave him a parting bow. "Good night, Sasuke."
Sasuke nodded once in her direction and the two headed off in opposite directions, the nobleman's mind whirling.