Two Months Later…
Naruto was a wreck and it wasn’t getting any better. They hadn’t made any progress on the device or finding the one who created it. It had been months and still no one knew how it worked. You cannot seclude yourself like this, Kurama growled. Naruto was sitting on top of the Hokage monuments, staring down at the village. He could hardly function. Kakashi had taken over the positon of Hokage for the most part, leaving Naruto free to search for the creator of the artificial Sharingan, but any trail they found with the unnatural chakra quickly vanished, leaving them with nothing.
“I don’t need your help,” Naruto snapped to the fox aloud. “It’s going to take more than this to break me. We’ll find them.”
He sounded confident, but he wasn’t so sure anymore. They had no idea where there kids were and even though Boruto was a prodigy and Himawari was just as outstanding, they may not be able to handle themselves. They hadn’t even left the village alone. Naruto buried his head in his hands. “I thought I’d find you up here,” Hinata muttered. Naruto turned to her and smiled softly.
“Hey, Hinata,” he muttered.
Hinata sat beside him and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, rubbing it slightly. “Hello, sweetie,” she whispered. Naruto leaned his head on her shoulder and she placed her chin on his head with a sigh. “You okay, Naruto-kun?”
“Yeah, of course!” Naruto said with a forced smile. “We’ll find them, I promise! In fact, I should probably get going! That craftsman isn’t going to find himself!” Hinata grabbed his arm. Naruto turned to see that she was crying. He frowned. “I promise, Hinata, I will find them.” He whispered. “And I’ll kill whoever took them from us.”
Hinata leaned on her husband as she tried to hold the tears in from coming faster. Naruto ran his fingers through her hair and closed his eyes. He hated this… Not knowing. He felt helpless and he couldn’t stand it.
“Hokage-sama,” Shikamaru said as he landed in front of them. “There’s someone here to see you.”
Naruto blinked and followed his advisor. They all knew that most visitors were to report to Kakashi, so he wasn’t sure who would be calling on him at this time. In the office was a young man. He looked around nervously, trying to keep still, but failing.
Naruto walked up to the boy. He was young; probably around sixteen. “Well?” Naruto asked quietly. He didn’t recognize the boy at all. “How can I help you?”
“Th-the metal Sharingan…”
Naruto’s heart skipped a beat. “What about it?” he said, trying not to sound frantic.
“I… It’s mine…”
Boruto sat staring out at the garden of rocks as Ansei raked it silently. He had been living in the compound for a little less than the two months since the coup. At first they hadn’t been so kind to him and his sister, but after realizing that Himawari was a valuable fighter, they decided that the two kids might be worth their time.
It was a little after four in the morning and the sun was just coming up. The black and white haired child had been raking since dark. Boruto had watched him since the boy started. The whole process was long and methodical and Ansei hadn’t even begun weaving the intricate patterns with the rakes. The garden was a large rectangle with raised walkways surrounding it. Boruto wasn’t the only one observing the curse Hyuuga. While it was meditating for the one raking, the sound of the rakes on the fine pebbles was hypnotic. The pebbles were white and the massive rocks that were used for training were black
The sun climbed into the sky. Hyuuga got up and left, only to be replaced by others moments later, all wanting a calm meditation before their day. Ansei created the illusion of liquid and waves surrounding the larger boulders, statues and the few plants that were scattered amongst the rocks.
By the time Ansei decided he was finished, it was beautiful. Ansei stepped onto the wooden boardwalk and bowed to his work. Boruto was half asleep by that point. He had never seen a garden raked before, and had always thought he wouldn’t have the patience for it. “It’s beautiful,” he whispered to Ansei as he passed. The older Hyuuga looked down on his guest and sighed.
“Thanks,” he grunted.
“Do you want to spar later?” Boruto asked. He held no grudge towards the other Hyuuga and didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable.
“No. I have work to do.”
Boruto closed his eyes and nodded. He had seen the work Ansei did. The boy was up well before the break of dawn and would sweep, or clean, or rake the training grounds. He was their slave. Boruto watched the boy walk away silently. Boruto crossed his legs and sat in full lotus while staring at the garden that Ansei had spent hours on. It was one of the many gardens in the compound, and the largest. Students would train on the boulders, practicing balance and meditation.
After another half hour, the boy stood, wincing at the sting of blood returning to his limbs. He stumbled forward, his bare feet making the wooden planks squeak; a natural alarm system. In midday, the compound, especially around the main house, was alive with the faint squeak that sounded like a million birds chirping during the day. At night, that sound was much more sinister. Boruto wandered the compound aimlessly. He figured he should try to find Himawari.
The Hyuuga were treating them both surprisingly well, but he figured that was because they didn’t want either of them to cause problems. Himawari was training with Tori when she trained and Boruto often came to watch her. He had all but given up on seeing his family again, so Himawari and Sarada were all they had.
He hadn’t see Sarada in a while either. He wasn’t allowed to leave his compound and, from bits of conversations he had heard throughout, the Uchiha were just as stuck in their compound. With a Hyuuga as Hokage now, it wasn’t wise for them to do anything that might anger their leaders. Boruto found himself at one of the smaller training arenas in the compound. “Hima-chan!” Boruto called.
The young girl turned and ran to her brother, hugging him tightly. “Boruto-kun!” she greeted. Boruto wrapped his arms around her before kneeling in front of her. She had a slight bruise on her cheek. “Who hurt you?” Boruto asked.
“It was a training accident, nii-san,” Himawari giggled. Boruto narrowed his eyes, but didn’t think anything of it. They wouldn’t harm either of them… yet. Boruto kissed his sister’s forehead. She blushed and turned away with a softer giggle.
“Himawari, we need to train,” Tori called.
“Yes, Tori-san!” the young girl called. She turned to Boruto and frowned. “I want to go home,” she whispered. Boruto turned to Tori and stood.
“We will… I promise,” he answered. He would never give up on getting his sister back to their world, even if he had to stay here to do it. “You just work on getting stronger! Dad and mom will be so proud when you come back and you will have gotten stronger!” He patted her head and watched her run back to her teacher.
Boruto frowned. She still wanted to go home, but he wasn’t sure how he could make that happen. Sasuke hadn’t answered their call. Itachi still believed his brother to be dead, and had believed that for twenty years. It was quite possible that the man was dead, and even if they did find him, they weren’t even sure he could send them home. The Uzumaki sighed deeply and moved through the compound like a ghost.
Eventually he worked his way to a roof overlooking the busiest foot traffic area in the village. Boruto watched as the members of the clan went about their day. After a while, he spotted Ansei moving through the people with what appeared to be a bucket of water. Boruto stood, ready to go down and help the boy, but stopped as Ansei ran into a member of the clan. The water spilled all over the woman.
Ansei bowed deeply, apologizing profusely for the mistake. Boruto tensed, preparing to jump to the boy’s aid when the woman lashed out at their personal servant; but she didn’t even move to do anything. Instead she stood there ridged, ignoring the kneeling figure in front of her, and even when he began trying to dry her dress, she didn’t even acknowledge his existence. She moved away from the boy before he finished, kicking the bucket as she left.
Boruto had seen that scenario play out many times in the weeks he had been there. They truly acted as if the boy didn’t exist. Most of the time, anything he did went vastly unnoticed. Boruto sat down on the roof again, watching as Ansei hurried away. He sighed and jumped down to follow him. He wondered how much it hurt to not only be ignored because they were busy, but because no one wanted you to exist. He could only imagine it. He followed Ansei to the well where he was retrieving more water.
“You okay?” Boruto asked. Ansei jumped and turned to the young boy.
“I’m fine,” he snapped, but his voice cracked, proving that he was holding back tears.
“Hey, don’t worry about it! That woman is stupid, anyway!” He walked over to the well. “Here, let me help you…” He placed a hand on Ansei’s shoulder.
“Don’t touch me!” Ansei screamed, pulling away violently from Boruto like an animal that had been caged. Boruto backed away and stared at the boy in the face. So much pain twisted his expression.
“Alright. You sure you don’t need my help?”
“I’m positive,” Ansei growled. It was getting worse. Now the boy was getting violent. Boruto had wanted to talk to anyone who knew about the fox, and what he knew about it, it had fed on his father’s rage/ But daddy and the fox are friends now, Boruto thought as he watched the boy leave. He figured Ansei’s rapid downfall was because he was angry and the fox wasn’t making it better.
Boruto looked up at the sky. “You would know what to do, dad,” he muttered.
Sarada was worried about Boruto and Himawari. She didn’t like being separated; especially in this world. She stared up at the sky and sighed deeply.
“That is a rather loaded sigh for one so young,” Itachi said from where he stood behind her. Sarada turned to her uncle and smiled softly. He sat. “You are worried about your friends, aren’t you?” Sarada nodded. “Don’t be. The Hyuuga aren’t so bad.”
“How can you say that?” Sarada gasped.
Itachi sighed and let his legs fall off the side of the roof, waving slightly, almost like a child. “There has been great animosity between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha for several years,” Itachi grumbled. “Minato-sama kept it in check, however, making sure that it never escalated. The Uchiha were in charge of the police force while the Hyuuga had a leader in the Black Ops. He made sure the keep his council members from each clan even, and would consult both clans, even on matters that only affected one clan. He was good at keeping the peace between the two.”
Sarada nodded. “So, what happened?”
“Obito became Hokage,” Itachi muttered with a shrug. “He was the obvious choice. Minato had been prepping him for years and the Hyuuga didn’t even have someone that they wanted to become Hokage. They were too busy dealing with Hinata’s departure of the village. They were angry, however, that the balance of power between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. Obito could do nothing to appease, them. What could equal having a Hokage from your clan?”
Itachi bowed his head. “So they got angry,” Sarada inferred. Itachi nodded.
“They grew angry and restless. When Kushina got ill, we wanted the fox in our clan, giving that the Sharingan could control the beast. We felt it would be safer for the village to place it in a clan that could control it if it ever broke out. Obito understood that this was a calculated move, but he knew that the Hyuuga would not stand for it, so he denied our offer.” Sarada closed her eyes. “All was going well until Ansei entered the village. Only a handful of people were allowed to know that he was a Jinchuuriki…”
Itachi trailed off. At first, Sarada wasn’t sure what had stopped him, but soon she felt it… familiar chakra.
Itachi jumped from the roof to greet Sasuke as he came down the street, calling the older male. “Sasuke!” Itachi greeted happily. Sarada’s eyes widened. Sasuke was the one who had changed the most, it seemed. He looked less hardened. He wore civilian clothes and carried no standard ninja tools, save for a knife that he kept on his belt. He had on a traveler’s cloak, and underneath, he had only a tunic-style shirt.
Sasuke embraced Itachi, smiling happily. Sarada blinked. It made sense, she supposed, that this version of the man would be kinder. The Uchiha were alive and well in this world. She jumped down from her spot as well and moved closer to the two brothers. “I didn’t think you wanted me home,” Sasuke was saying, most likely answering a question about where he had been. “You never came looking for me…”
“Father told me you had been killed on a mission,” Itachi answered softly. “I wanted to look for you, but father was insistent that I not go. If I had known you were still alive, nothing could have stopped me from finding you!”
Sarada let out a small squeak and the two brothers broke their embrace to turn to her. “Well, hello there,” Sasuke said. “Itachi, who is this?” Both Itachi and Sarada came to the same conclusion. Sasuke thought she was Itachi’s daughter. She blushed.
“She told me she was your daughter,” Itachi said.
Sasuke blinked. “I… have no kids,” he muttered. “But I believe that you are the one who Obito-sama wrote me about, am I right?” Sarada nodded.
“I’m sorry I lied… I just didn’t want anyone to hurt me. I figured Itachi would have protected his brother’s daughter.”
“I wouldn’t have let anything happen to you either way, but the lie does not bother me.” Itachi said with a smile. “So, you have come back to take care of these kids, then?”
Sasuke shrugged. “The message was rather vague,” he explained.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Sarada said with a half-smile. This version of her father was kinder and gentler. She liked it. “My friends and I… we have some questions for you, if we could talk in private…”
Sasuke blinked, obviously unsure of what the intentions were of the mysterious kids he had been called to help. “Sure. Where are your friends?”
“Right now, the Hyuuga have decided that they would do a better job being leader of this village,” Itachi explained. “Her friends, who are Hyuuga born, are being held in the Hyuuga compound for a probation period. I was preparing an appeal for their release.”
“You were?” Sarada asked.
“Of course. Even though the Hyuuga aren’t evil, they are still very protective of their blood line and would not let anything taint it.”
Sarada nodded slowly. Sasuke looked between them. “I guess its good I came back, then,” he muttered. “Looks like we have a lot of work to do. I was never good at politics, brother.”
Itachi sighed deeply. “I know. Kidnapping them from the Hyuuga will only cause problems.”
“But if they aren’t safe…”
“We will handle this diplomatically,” Itachi interjected. “You were always so rash, Sasuke-kun.” He reached up and poked the man on the forehead, earning him an annoyed, but endearing scowl from his younger brother.
Night was worse. One would think that the days would be worse. During the day, he had to face it all head on; but at night, it was worse. It was more of a reminder of his loneliness. Memories of the day kept him awake, staring at the ceiling as if it held all the answers. Whispers that only he could hear made him toss and turn.
During the day he could forget. He could get lost in a task and try to forget how they treated him. It would be easier, he thought, if they did hate him. Hating meant that they thought about him. It meant that they had some sort of feeling; it meant that they knew he was existed.
But they didn’t treat him like that. They didn’t treat him with disdain or hatred; they treated him like they treated the wind. No… They treated him like he was a ghost; an entity that existed, but only in his mind. He was there. They could feel him, but they didn’t acknowledge him at all. They didn’t look at him. When he had murdered his victims, they never spoke to him about it. He merely was told, through a door, that he would not be punished for the action. He imagined what it would take to get their attention. Did he have to paint a room with the blood of their leader before they acknowledged the monster they had created?
Ansei rolled over on his pallet and stared at the wall. The room was small. It had enough room for the pallet where he slept. A small table was tucked away in a nook in the wall. During the day, the bed and the table switched places. There wasn’t enough space in the room for the bed and the table to be out at the same time.
There was a small closet in the room that held linens and other needed objects for daily life, including a tea set so that he may have tea without needing to bother anyone for it. They were kind enough to give him access to the finest green tea in Konoha. It was one of his few pleasures in life. He adored green tea. They gave him that, at least. His favorite food was steamed buns filled with a green tea paste. It wasn’t often that he got to eat it, though. His diet in the compound mostly consisted of clear soup and greens.
Ansei was a vegetarian.
The Hyuuga groaned and rolled over. How his thoughts had turned to food, he wasn’t sure. It was mostly likely when he rolled over to see the closet that held his tea set… his only real possession. The boy stood up from his bed and rolled it. It was just past midnight and it was becoming increasingly clearer that sleep would not, for the fortieth night in a row, come. Ansei moved to the nook and replaced the table with the bed and placed the table on the ground. He went into his tiny closet and pulled out the black stone, single-serve tea pot. It was beautiful and flat in shape. Despite its small size, it was heavy, even without the water. The pot was carved with weaving patterns that were painted white.
The tea cup matched. He used to have two, but Ansho had destroyed one in her rage. He picked up the small cup with care, handling it like a newborn kitten. He placed the cup on the table and then moved to a small door opposite the main door. He had to crawl through it. On the other side of the wall was a small garden. It had a small wooden platform that he could sit on and meditate when he needed it. He was the only one with access to the garden and it was full of flowers that only bloomed at night. He still had flowers that bloomed during the day, but at night, the garden transformed into a silver dreamscape.
It also had a very small rock garden that he could rake with a hand-held rake. It brought him peace. He moved to the fire pit that sat that the end of his sitting platform and started a fire, meaning to make him tea using the water from the well that he also had access to.
The garden was a demand by his father. “He needs something of his own!” Kabuto had demanded when he was only four. The Hyuuga had given him the space behind his room to do with it as he would. No one else was allowed in his garden, and most didn’t even know it existed. It’s just like me, Ansei thought as he looked across the small plot of land. He loved his garden, and while he loved raking the main rock gardens throughout the compound, his small one held a special place in his heart.
He crawled back into his room and went to his closet to remove the finely ground green tea powder. He smiled. It was one of the few enjoyments he had in life. He opened the container and placed two carefully measured spoons of the powder into the bottom of his stone cup. That deed finished, he crawled back outside to his garden.
“You didn’t set a cup for me,” a voice muttered from inside the room. Ansei sighed. He didn’t hear the other ninja come in. He picked up his teapot and moved back inside before pouring the boiling water in the cup.
“I only have one,” he muttered to the voice.
“Oh, that’s right. Ansho broke your other one, didn’t she?”
Ansei nodded. The visitor sat down. Ansei turned to look at him. His long hair
was bright silver, almost shining in a pale light from the fire outside. He
wore a black robe and a white blindfold covered his eyes. He sat down opposite
of Ansei at the table.
“Didn’t that make you angry?” Ansei shrugged and sipped his hot tea. His eyes never left the new person in the room. “It did… I remember.”
“What of it?” Ansei growled.
“Nothing.” Ansei sighed and stood, moving over to the closet. “What are you doing?”
He opened the closet. “If you’re here, I can forget sleeping the rest of the night. Might as well pass the time.” His visitor waited patiently while Ansei pulled out a shogi, set the board, and then killed the fire outside before lighting a single lantern inside the room, bathing it in an unstable, orange light. He knelt beside the table and nodded to his guest, offering him the chance to make the first move. He did.
The two played in silence for a few minutes because the guest spoke. “You are upset,” he observed as he moved his piece. Ansei stared down at the board.
“Is this anything new?” he asked, making his move.
“Not really. What’s wrong tonight, Otōto?” He moved.
“They don’t need me anymore.” Another piece moved.
“Nonsense. You think that just because they have what they want, your usefulness has been used up?”
Ansei shrugged. “They don’t need me. They have the power.”
The visitor laughed dryly. “You are thinking too small, Otōto. They didn’t need to gain power, they need you to maintain it. You’re too important.” He moved another piece. “This life is something you will never escape from.” Ansei didn’t react for a moment. He simply stared at the board, shaking slightly. “Do you know what a Jinchuuriki is…?”
“It’s a sacrifice, Ansei.”
“I know that.” He made another movie.
“I don’t think you do. Do you know what this means for you?” There was a click of wood on wood. “It means that nothing you do will ever matter. They have taken everything. Your future, your dreams. They won’t let you have children.” Another click. “You can forget every having anything.”
Ansei glared up at the speaker. “What of it?” he growled through clenched teeth.
“You are the ultimate in human sacrifice. You call that crippled child your doll, but all you are is a plaything for the Hyuuga. Your life belongs to them and them alone.” He made a move. “You will have nothing; not even a mention in the history books, probably not even a marked grave when you die. You and that child are one, but he will be the only one that will be remembered.”
Ansei moved his piece angrily. It always ended up like this.
“You will most likely raise his children. They will never know who you are; just who the elders want them to think you are. They’ll never know their real father, but what does it matter for you? You will always be the puppet and they will always be your puppeteer. You and I know there’s no escape, Ansei.”
“That’s a lie,” Ansei growled. Afterward, the only sound was clicking as the two players continued their game. Several minutes later, Ansei looked up. “I will have my revenge.”
“You will have nothing,” the other boy snapped with a laugh. Again, there was a lapse in their conversation. “You are nothing!”
“Get out,” Ansei snarled.
“Why? Are you going to kill me, Ansei, like you killed the others?” He laughed bitterly. “You say you did it to get their attention, but you know you did it because you can’t control it!”
“I said ‘get out!’”
“Quiet. You don’t want them to hear you.”
They continued for a while in silence. Ansei made his moves with angry slams on the board while the other player never lost his temper.
“What about that blonde kid?”
“What about him?” Ansei grumbled, annoyed. He moved again.
“Are you going to kill him too?”
“I could,” Ansei said with a shrug.
“I know you could. You are a monster, Ansei… A monster that can’t control his primal instincts. That’s why you’re so easily controlled… All you are is an animal… too stupid and too angry to think properly. That’s why you’ll never be free of this life!” Ansei felt hot tears stream down his face, crying softly. “Oh, stop it! You can’t have those pesky emotions! Whether you get your revenge, or you continue to be controlled, those emotions will get you nowhere!”
But Ansei couldn’t stop. He leaned over the board, holding his stomach as he cried harder.
“You’re pathetic. Get over it. This is the life you’ve been given.” He moved his last piece. “I won, anyway…”
Ansei didn’t move, even when his lantern had used the last of its oil and the only light was what moonlight seeped through the paper walls. Ansei’s side of the board was a mess… The other side had not been disturbed from its start position…Nights were always worse…