This chapter vaguely covers menstruation. Nothing is explicitly described, but if that bothers you, jump down to the words "in taki" to skip the majority of it. There's some exposition to be had in this chapter, but it's not vital or anything, so if you'd rather just skip it altogether, then feel free.
Benihime lay on her side, her body aching dully. She curled in on herself, huddling underneath her threadbare blanket. She wasn't sure why she was in so much pain. She hadn't upped her exercise regimen or anything. Maybe, she'd eaten something bad? Did she have allergies? She didn't remember eating anything different from usual, though. She was also tired, despite sleeping through the night and most of the day. Fatigue had settled over her like a shroud, weighing her down for the better part of a week. It was like she'd run some kind of marathon but without any of the accomplishment.
She groaned loudly as she pulled herself up into a sitting position, her blanket wrapped around herself and her feet swinging over the side of her bed. Just doing that much had her aching.
Was she sick? Naruto never got sick, so she just assumed jinchuriki had super charged immune systems. Or was that fanon? She had a hard time separating the two, sometimes.
You're not sick, Choumei sniffed indignantly. As if my host would be so unlucky.
Well, that was nice to know. It didn't explain any of the symptoms she was experiencing, but it was nice to know it wasn't some kind of flu.
Wait…was she vaccinated? Did vaccines exist in this world? Or did chakra take care of all that?
Her thoughts fizzled out, the cloud hanging over her mind swallowing all coherent ideation.
She hadn't eaten yet. Maybe, if she had something in her stomach, she'd be able to think clearly.
She slid from her bed, the cold of the stone floor sending a shock through her system. It wasn't enough to wake her up, though. She stumbled through the hallway with her blanket wrapped around her shoulders like a cape, bouncing from wall to wall as she used them to prop herself up. As she neared the doorway to the courtyard, she could hear Roshi and Han speaking indistinctly. She stepped into the kitchen, sniffling pathetically as she pulled out some jerky. She would prefer a warm meal, but she didn't have the energy to make anything, so jerky would have to suffice. She pulled at the meat with her teeth, chewing glumly. She did feel a little better after swallowing a few mouthfuls, but her mind was still hazy.
A shower. That's what she needed. A nice, hot, steamy shower. Unfortunately, she hadn't had one since waking up inside a new body. She'd long gotten used to bathing with cold water and, while that might wake her up, it would do nothing for her aching muscles. If anything, it might make them worse.
"What's the matter, Hime-chan," Roshi asked, walking into the kitchen with a string of rabbits in his hand. "You've been asleep all day. You usually rise with the sun."
He placed a hand on her head, ruffling the curls gently but not enough to tangle them. Her head lolled on her neck, moving in tandem with his hand and flopping over when he let her go. She chewed at her jerky idly as he placed a hand on her forehead, Choumei chiming in that there was nothing wrong with her.
"Well, you don't have a fever or anything. How about you go outside while I make you something to eat? The fresh air might do you some good."
She had no reason to argue with him, so she let him pull her to her feet. She waddled out into the fading sunlight, plopping down into a cross legged sit right beside the door. She watched with bleary eyes as Han played a game of tag with a wild colt, the baby horse just as long legged and gangly as he was. The horses had become gradually more comfortable around the humans, spending more time in the temple than they usually did. By extension, the cows were around more, too. The monkeys which so kindly showed Beni which foods were safe to eat when she first arrived were also friendlier, letting them all closer but Roshi closest. Still, they couldn't talk to their animal counterparts the way she could. The horses didn't whisper secrets to Han and the monkeys shared no wisdom with Roshi.
That's because they're first generation jinchuriki, Choumei said, his gravelly voice coming in muffled through the cotton in her head. You remember Naruto's whiskers? He had those because he was exposed to bijuu chakra in the womb. You were, too.
Oh. That made sense. So, could her mother speak to beetles, too? Since her dad was a jinchuriki.
To an extent, Choumei confirmed. But she wasn't exposed to as much as you were, so she could only command a few breeds.
Huh, so Beni was just a powered up version of her mom? That was kinda cool. Wait, would her kids end up with even stronger bug powers?
An epiphany blew through her mind, clearing the fog that had taken up residence.
Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy Shit.
Her blanket slipped from her shoulders, pooling around her waist as she pressed her hands against her abdomen, a wellspring of tentative hope rising within her.
She knew the body she wore now was cis. Taking her first bath and finding Voldemort slain was one of her favorite memories. However, she'd never really stopped to consider what that actually meant for her. She was too busy just trying to survive to stop and consider the biological realities of her situation.
Before, she'd long come to terms with the fact that she'd have no children of her own. Her family wasn't very…welcoming. She wasn't willing to bring an adopted child into that environment, and she sure as hell wasn't gonna be…siring any of her own. No. She would be the cool aunty. It took a while and many tear filled nights, but she eventually came to accept that as her role in life. Maybe, if she one day gained the courage to cut off everyone she knew, then maybe she'd reconsider. Until then, though, she had convinced herself she was content.
After coming to this world, she hadn't had the time to stop and think about her future beyond tomorrow. Even after she'd managed to amass a stockpile of resources, she busied herself with improving her quality of life. She had things to do if she wanted to live well, and her chores were a matter of survival. Between that and all the drama with people trying to convert her to the colonizer's side, she'd clean forgotten about her uterus.
Ah, so you finally realized! I was wondering how long it would take you. I figured you'd be pretty excited.
She was! Well, beneath the general malaise affecting her mind and body. Although, she had a pretty good guess what was causing that, now. Unless she was completely wrong.
You're not. You've officially crossed the threshold into womanhood.
She was fucking nine.
In Taki, Choumei began, his tone more serious than it'd been in a long while. Your husband would be chosen once you began menstruation.
You wouldn't get married right away of course. He might even be swapped out. Hotaru's was, several times, as their families threw themselves into missions to gain enough merits to void the punishment.
Was…was marrying her mother a punishment? That was so fucked up.
Beni looked at the tattoos circling her forearms, legacies of a crime she didn't commit. Hell, Kakuzu hadn't even committed the crime he was punished for. Surviving a fight with the strongest shinobi of his age was something the village should have been grateful for, especially since Hashirama hadn't retaliated against them for their assassination attempt. Getting angry at Kakuzu for surviving an impossible situation made literally zero sense, and, yet, here she sat, bearing tattoos that marked her as his kin and thus untouchable.
Indeed, Choumei continued. That was one of the reasons her seal was broken prematurely. All her life, she was a perfect pawn, doing as she was told without question and never rebelling. To be fair to her, she wasn't treated as badly in the beginning. It was only after you were conceived that things started to reach Naruto territory.
Huh. That was…So, it was her fault her mother was dead?
No. Absolutely not. Choumei shut down that train of thought before it could leave the station. She chose to have you. You were the only choice she ever made and she was willing to bear the consequences.
That was actually super sweet. Or, it would have been, if Keiko hadn't lived her entire live underground, in a prison cell, rarely interacting with anyone other than her mother and the guards who fed her.
Yes. Hotaru loved you, but she wasn't…she didn't… The bijuu sighed heavily. She was brainwashed, plain and simple. She had the opportunity to escape, back in Kumo. Your father loved her dearly and the village would have gladly welcomed another jinchuriki to its ranks, but she left, anyway. You were her keepsake, her one memento of the life she could have had. Even after returning to Taki, she could have left at any time using the Nyoi Bo, but she didn't. I won't pretend to understand what made her so loyal to a village which chained her and her offspring so easily, but humans as a whole have often puzzled me. You're only my third proper host, you know, and I've learned more about the human mind from your memories than I have from your mother and grandfather, combined.
Beni also had a hard time understanding her mother's reasoning. If she had the power to leave, why didn't she?
Then again, that was a question lots of women were asked, often after it was too late for them to answer.
Just like Hotaru.
She shook her head, silently admonishing herself. Her mother was dead. Short of mastering the zombie technique from Shippuden, there was no way for Hotaru to defend herself, so Beni would let it go. Instead, she would pray that Keiko was with her mother, in whichever afterlife they favored.
A cup of tea was held in front of her face and she reached out to take it from Roshi. He sat down beside her, a bowl of soup in his hands.
"Well, feeling better?"
She nodded as she sipped at the tea. It was stronger than she liked it, but that was fine. Kindness was the best flavor.
"Any idea what's plaguing you?" He asked, stirring idly at the broth in his hands. "Do I need to lock you away for the good of the world?"
She chuckled a bit at his lame attempt at a joke then told him exactly what she thought was going on. His face paled beneath his beard and he suddenly looked very uncomfortable.
Oh. Oh. So it was that kind of culture. Well, then. It was too bad for him he was stuck with her, huh?