A boy of about four turned to the three year old from where he squatted, pulling a towel from the closet. “Hm?” the young boy asked.
“What’s it like outside…?” The black and white haired boy blinked and got back to his task. “Ansei!” the second child whimpered.
Ansei smiled softly. He stood and walked to his younger counterpart, placing the fluffy white towel around the poor boy’s deformed body. “It’s not as great as you think it might be,” he grumbled as he lifted the child in his arms.
“But what’s it like…?” he whined.
Ansei sighed. “Well, right now it’s hot out there,” he answered finally. “Hot and humid.”
“Well, what’s that like?” he asked, his white eyes wide.
Ansei thought for a moment. “You know how when I’ve drawn your hot bath and we walk into the bathroom and the air feels really hot and heavy?” The child nodded. “Well, it’s kind of like that, I guess.”
“It gets like that outside?!”
Ansei giggled. He opened the door to the bathroom where he would be bathing his cousin. “Usually right after it rains or right before,” he answered as he placed the child into the tub. He began rubbing the boy’s legs.
“I don’t believe you.”
“You should, Ningyo.”
The boy wrinkled his nose at the nickname. “Why do you call me that, Ansei?”
Ansei paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Because you’re like a little doll; all fragile and helpless.” He splashed the boy gently in the face. “Scrub your hair.” The younger boy stuck out his tongue before he started lathering his long, dark hair. The two remained silent for a few minutes. “What do you want to be called?” Ansei asked finally. “What does Lady Hanabi call you?”
The boy frowned, splashing absently in the water. “Mommy doesn’t call me anything,” he grumbled finally.
Ansei turned to the boy and stared at him for a long moment. He sighed and reached over, hugging the child gently. “Come on, you, let’s finish this up.”
He finished bathing his younger cousin and then dressed him in a silk robe. He put the child on his back and started back towards his room. “Why do they call you Ansei?”
Ansei smiled softly and shook his head. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “But don’t you worry about that, okay?” He turned the corner.
“Can we go outside, Ansei?”
Ansei shook his head. “No. Not today…”
The boy had grown up… Alone and without any more interaction than Ansei had been given throughout his life. While Ansei grew up outside, Ningyo had grown up inside. The small child hugged his mother tightly with his aching limbs as they hid in a safe room while the world fell apart outside.
She said no words to him. They acted like strangers. They had been forced apart by the elders of the Hyuuga Clan. Ningyo was a relic that could not be touched and his mother was not his caretaker. He loved her… he truly did, but that didn’t mean that he understood her unwillingness to visit him. Was she disgusted by his tortured body? Did it hurt her to watch her son crawl on the floor, unable to walk?
His whole life had been inside. Inside one room, and then inside another. Even when he went outside, it was never outside. He was brought to the gardens in a screened tent. He had never felt grass. They were ashamed of him. He wasn’t just a crippled child, he was also a reminder of their failure to Hanabi. They had been failing for years, and they had known it.
When you were inside, you heard things. No one minded the child behind the screen… the true heir to the Hyuuga clan. They discussed the woman that would have his children; children he would never see and a woman he would never get to know. The boy had heard them as they realized their mistake. They had known Ansei was dangerous long before Ansei proved it. They had known he was unstable. They had known, but they hadn’t done anything to save him.
The boy looked in the darkness. He had also seen his friend and cousin falling deeper, but he hadn’t done anything either. He buried his face in his mother’s shirt. “Mom?” he whispered.
“Yes?” she asked.
“What is my name…?”
Hanabi sighed deeply. “That’s a loaded question, my child,” she whispered. “And it’s not easily answered.”
“Did you not name me?”
“I did,” Hanabi whispered. “But… Hinata also named her son… but it wasn’t Ansei.”
“Ansei isn’t Lady Hinata’s son?” the child asked innocently.
Hanabi shook her head. “No, that’s not what I meant… Ansei is not his name. At least… it wasn’t when he was born. That was your name.”
“Then… what’s his name?”
It was several years later. Ansei wasn’t supposed to visit him anymore. After he had tried to kill his cousin, and then himself, Ansei had been forbidden to go anywhere near the child he had once loved. But that didn’t stop him from coming into his room one night.
“Ningyo…?” Ansei whimpered. The boy was around 12 that day. It was the day he had killed his classmate. The crippled child didn’t move. He sat as still as possible, staring out at the moonlit garden. “Ningyo, please,” Ansei cried, his voice cracking.
The child didn’t answer. He had to be the leader of this messed up clan, and he had vowed he would do a better job than everyone before him, but he couldn’t do that with a monster living in their clan. He ignored the Jinchuuriki.
“I don’t want to hurt people anymore!” Ansei cried. The boy flinched. The pain in his cousin’s voice hurt him more than anything else. “But they won’t make me stop!” He didn’t move. “Please, Ningyo! I am not a monster! Please, don’t give up on me too!”
Yes you are… the child thought, but his body shook with tremors.
“Please just look at me!” Ansei screamed as he fell to the floor in the deepest bow, his forehead touching the floor. The boy listened to the nearly hysterical sobs from the broken figure behind him as his own tears soaked his face.
Boruto stared at Ansei. One wrong move and this could end in a fight that he didn’t want to fight. “Ansei,” he said gently. “I can take you away from here… Somewhere the Hyuuga can’t get to you.”
“I’ll never be free of them until they’re all dead!”
“No!” Boruto retorted. “I promise. I’m not from this world! I’m from a place where you will be accepted!”
“I’ve been lied a lot to in my life, but that’s by far the most creative,” Ansei growled.
“Just listen to me!”
“Just get out of my way, Boruto. We don’t have to fight here.”
“I know we don’t,” Boruto answered.
“Then put down your weapon.”
Boruto blinked slowly. “If I put mine down, will you put yours down?”
Ansei nodded. Boruto squatted slowly and placed his kunai on the ground. Ansei dropped his, but before the weapon touched the ground, he threw Boruto into a tree. Boruto’s eyes widened and he rolled out of the way seconds before Ansei slammed a fist into the tree, shattering it. “Darn it, Ansei! I’m trying to help you!”
“I don’t need your help! I’m sick of everyone trying to control my life! I’m sick of being treated like I’m nothing! I will prove to everyone that I am someone! Someone they should all fear! And I’ll start by getting rid of you if I have to!”
Boruto shook his head and ran. He didn’t know where he was running to, but he also didn’t really care. What have I done?! He thought. I should have brought dad with me! Dad would be able to handle this! He gasped as Ansei jumped in front of him and round kicked him back the way he was come. Boruto created a shadow clone to throw him in a different direction and then another one to catch him and soften his landing. No use thinking about that now, he thought with a nod. If Ansei wants to play, looks like I’ll have to play with him. Maybe I can knock some sense into that thick skull of his.
He had heard about how his dad had not only fought with fists, but with words. Boruto doubted anything he said to Ansei would break through to him. He had to tire down the other boy first, then maybe they could talk like the civilized people they were.
Boruto sighed and stood slowly. “Okay,” he whispered. “Let’s fight, Ansei.” He looked around slowly. He couldn’t hear Ansei. The Hyuuga was a master at medical ninjutsu and Boruto had seen the devastation that combining Gentle Fist with Chakra Dissection could cause. Guess I have to keep my distance, Boruto thought with a slow nod. Ansei wasn’t an idiot, but neither was Boruto. He closed his eyes, trying to calm down. Letting Ansei anywhere near him would mean certain death.
Boruto’s eyes snapped opened as Ansei tackled him. Boruto struggled violently and hurled a fast into Ansei’s face, sending him flying backwards. Boruto was on the run again. Ansei knew his own strength and wasn’t taking any prisoners. Who thought it was a good idea to teach him that move?! Boruto growled. He ran until he came to the edge of a cliff and then spun around, putting his back to the edge, narrowing his eyes.
“Where is he…?” he whispered. His question was answered when the ground beneath him shook. Boruto cursed as the ground crumbled. He lunged towards the tree line, but was stopped by a kick in the face, sending him back over the cliff. Boruto’s eyes widened in shock as the water below rushed towards him. Hitting it would be like hitting concrete. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
He held out his palm and a small Rasengan was created. Just before he hit the water, he slammed the spinning ball of chakra into the water, breaking up the surface and making it a much softer landing. Ansei wasted no time. He was trying to keep Boruto on the defensive, it seemed. Boruto swam deeper in the water to avoid the Hyuuga. He closed his eyes and ignited and electrical, turning the water around him into a literal death trap. He heard Ansei’s muffled screams above and nodded, pinpointing his location and swimming away from it.
He hurried to the surface, gasping for air before pulling himself up onto the water, finding his footing carefully. Ansei stood opposite to him, glaring at him. Alright. Let’s end this, Boruto thought. He had to keep his distance; that was for sure, so he needed a long-range attack. He waited for Ansei to run out towards him, knowing that Ansei was more eager to get this over with than he was.
Boruto released the chakra keeping him on the water and sank just as Ansei ran over his. He created a small Rasengan and threw it at his opponent, smirking slightly. That wasn’t the attack, however. He didn’t make that one vanish in thin air. Boruto focused chakra to his feet and pushed off the water underneath flying in the air. Ansei dodged his first thrown Rasengan, and wasn’t paying attention to Boruto as he created a second, larger one and hurled it at Ansei, making it disappear the second it left his hand.
Ansei howled as the attack got him in the back. Boruto rushed at him, creating a shadow clone to assist in the following taijutsu attack. The clone kicked Ansei in the face, sending him flying back towards the real one. Boruto grabbed Ansei and slammed him into the water. He avoided attacks that would cause any real and lasting damage. He was just trying to talk, not kill the poor boy.
Ansei sank into the water and a second later Boruto was grabbed from beneath and was dragged under. He took a deep breath just before water was brought into his lungs. Ansei rolled over and grabbed Boruto’s throat under the water. He hadn’t had time to activate the Chakra Dissection, and for that, Boruto was grateful. Ansei went to the surface and got to his knees, focusing chakra so he could kneel.
Boruto struggled beneath the water, but he couldn’t get a hold. Ansei had him a few inches beneath the surface so any move he made distorted his vision and disoriented him. Boruto thrashed under the water, clawing at Ansei’s arms, digging into his flesh. Calm down! Boruto screamed at himself, but that was easier said than done. Panic rose in his chest as his lungs screamed for air, causing him to thrash more, which in turn caused more confusion. He opened his mouth in a wordless scream as panic took over every thought process.
His punches and clawing were dying down as his body became oxygen deprived. Boruto caught a glimpse of Ansei’s face during a placid moment in the surface of the water. The boy wasn’t there. His mind was somewhere else. His eyes were wide, reliving something traumatic…
Calm down… Boruto thought hazily. He closed his eyes and went limp in the water.
It would be easy. He had thought it many times in the past nights when he bathed the crippled child. Life, he realized, was fragile. One second you were alive and then the next, you were dead. It was that simple. There was nothing complicated about it. It was just something that happened.
He had tried it on a bug the first time. He wanted to test his theory. How easy was it to end a life? He took a spider in his hands, holding it by the body as it struggled between his finger and his thumb. He squeezed until the creature was killed in his hand. It stopped struggling. Life just ended.
He was fascinated by it. When the spiders no longer were interesting, he moved to birds. He was always quick about it. Slow deaths were boring. The victim had time to reflect on their lives. The fast deaths that came out of nowhere were the best. It was more interesting when they didn’t see it coming…
He knew the Hyuuga worried about him… and even more so when he moved from birds to cats. He only managed to kill one cat before they took action; but their idea of action was to make sure there were no small animals for their resident psychopath to murder.
After that, Ansei had stopped wanting to hurt things. It wasn’t as interesting anymore. He walked through the compound and people looked upon him with fear and disgust, if they even acknowledged his existence. He heard the elders talk about the child they had raised… the child that liked to kill animals for sport. It wasn’t that he liked it, per se; it was just interesting. He saw it as if he were doing them a favor. Why would anything want to live in this twisted world where a child could be crippled and another child raised to only take his place? What kind of world was that?
He walked into his cousin’s room silently, moving through it like the ghost they all thought he was. Ningyo tried to get him to talk, but Ansei would not break his vow of silence, no matter what. He took a towel out of the closet and picked up the child, looking down at him. Wouldn’t it be better if his little doll didn’t have to live in this world anymore?
He nodded at his unheard question and brought the younger boy into the bathroom. He locked the door, as he always did, and deposited the child in the bath where they went about their own business silently. Ningyo scrubbed his own hair as Ansei rubbed the knots out of his cousin’s twisted limbs.
Without a sound, he grabbed the child and pushed him under the water. Ningyo struggled against the assault, but with his twisted and weak body, he could do little to save himself. Ansei didn’t know exactly how long it would take for Ningyo to die. He figured that since he could hold his breath for a minute, it would take about a minute and a half. Holding Ningyo under the water was easy; so easy, in fact, that he could do it with one hand while stroking the younger’s hair. He just wanted the poor boy to be happy and he had concluded that there was no happiness to be found in this twisted place.
But it took too long. He held on as the struggling died down to weak spasms, then to nothing. Ansei’s eyes widened as he realized what he had done. Life was too fragile. He pulled Ningyo from the bath and got him to the ground before performing CPR on him. Ansei screamed as he worked, shaking violently. They came, but before they did, Ansei fled the scene.
He ran until he found himself at the Zen garden. He sat down, bringing his knees to his chest and cried. He stayed there for a long time before he reached into a weapon’s pouch. Maybe… they can be happy without me, he thought as he pulled out a kunai…
Sarada stared through half-closed lids as the inventor worked tirelessly on fixing the metal Sharingan. “Can’t Sasuke just get us there?” Naruto asked impatiently.
The Inventor turned to Naruto and shook his head. “It’s not that simple. These are artificial pathways. I don’t know how I managed to tap into an entirely different reality, and the odds that blindly getting there again are slim to none. Plus, there could be any number of universes with minor differences. We know this Sharingan links to that world, and we don’t know if Sasuke’s does as well.”
“Basically,” the man said with a shrug.
Sarada flinched when Naruto turned to her. “Can you tell me about it?” he asked quietly.
“About the world?”
Sarada sighed and sat up, pushing off her father. Sasuke kept his arm around her shoulder. “It was weird,” she muttered. “But similar. You were married to my mom…” Naruto blushed slightly, but Hinata merely shrugged. Naruto sighed. “And daddy was a civilian.”
“I don’t believe that,” Naruto said. “Was he really?”
“Yeah! He grew up in the Land of Waves.” Naruto smirked slightly and Sasuke glared at him. “Oh! And I met Uncle Itachi!”
Sasuke stiffened. “You met Itachi? Does that mean there are Uchiha there?”
“Yeah! The whole clan!”
Sasuke turned to his daughter and smiled faintly. Sarada grinned back at him. She settled against his side. Naruto turned to his daughter and wife. Himawari was sleeping in her mother’s lap, but Hinata was clearly agitated and worried. “What about Ansei?” Naruto asked.
Sarada sighed. “I don’t know. Boruto spent the most time with him. He was that world’s Naruto’s student. From what I gathered, he was Hinata’s and Kabuto’s son.”
Naruto coughed into his hand in what appeared to be an embarrassed gesture and an attempt to hide a chuckle. It was Hinata’s turn to blush. “Does he have the Byakugan?” she asked.
Sarada nodded. “I didn’t really get his story. All I know what that he was abused by the Hyuuga clan.”
“Why did my counterpart let that happen?”
Sarada shrugged. “I didn’t talk to him very much,” she repeated. She shifted uneasily. She didn’t want to be the one to tell Naruto and Hinata that the last time Ansei and Boruto had fought, Boruto was left with near fatal injuries. “I don’t really understand what was happening in that world. Obito was Hokage after Minato-san and apparently they made a mistake by giving a Hyuuga the fox.”
“Obito was Hokage?” Sakura asked. “I wonder how that went.”
Naruto shrugged. “He would have made a good Hokage.”
“Minus the whole thing about being a psychopathic murderer, sure,” Sakura grumbled.
“Let’s not point fingers,” Naruto retorted softly. He turned to Sarada. “Was he a good Hokage?”
“I guess,” Sarada answered with a shrug. “He seemed a little weird, but I guess that’s an Uchiha thing.”
“Definitely,” Naruto said with a half-smile. She knew he was trying to be strong. “How much longer?”
“I’m not sure,” The inventor answered truthfully. “It’s… possible that we won’t get there again.”
“What?” Naruto snapped. “How?”
“Don’t worry! I should be able to! We’ll get your son back, I promise!”
Naruto nodded slowly and settled back down, resting his head against the wall. I’m coming, Boruto, he thought, clenching his fists. Just… stay alive until I get there…
Boruto’s lungs hurt and he could hardly move. Drowning was painful. He wanted to open his mouth to draw something in, but he forced his mouth to stay closed. Calm down! His brain was telling him, but there was no longer any option. Boruto allowed his body to go limp under the water. With extreme self-control, he blocked his airway with his tongue and let his jaw slacken and his mouth to hang open.
Ansei wasn’t stupid either. He waited several seconds to make sure the deed had been done before his grip on Boruto’s throat loosened. The second that he felt Ansei’s grip slacken, Boruto focused chakra into his feet and hands. He effectively gripped the water beneath him, using it was a springboard and kicked Ansei in the stomach, sending a blast of chakra through his feet that sent the Hyuuga flying back towards the waterfall.
Boruto broke the surface of the water and gasped. He couched violently as he struggled and pull himself onto the surface of the water. His mouth opened and he threw up water that had made it into his stomach. Everything was blurry and his body shook as blood rushed through him, trying to give oxygen. He felt heavy, but he knew that this fight wasn’t over. Now he knew that Ansei would kill him and would not have any reserves about doing it.
Boruto thought about running back to the village, but he’d never make it. Putting himself on the run would be pointless. He didn’t know how fast Ansei was, and even then, it was a terrible strategy. To Ansei, this wasn’t just about getting away from the village. Boruto had been the only one that had seen Ansei as a person, and not a monster, or an entity that shouldn’t exist. To be truly free from all emotional ties, Ansei had to kill Boruto, because in doing so, he would finally kill the last amount of Humanity he had been clinging on to.
Ansei had failed in killing Ningyo and himself; the only two people that really mattered to him. Ningyo didn’t care about him anymore, or so he thought, but Boruto did.
Boruto stood shakily, breathing deeply as his light headedness made him stumble. This was no longer just about saving Ansei; it was about surviving. Ansei stood by the waterfall, his eyes narrowed. He had activated the Byakugan. Alright, Boruto thought. Fighting Ansei on the water could work to his advantage, anyway. He rubbed his bruised throat. He had to keep his distance this time. The only reason he had survived was because Ansei hadn’t had time to activate his medical ninjutsu.
He couldn’t afford to make that mistake again.
What does mom have? Boruto thought. He had been told he got his lightning release from her, and his wind affinity from his father. He had no idea of Kabuto’s skill set. Doesn’t matter anyway, Boruto thought with a hiss. This Kabuto is nothing like our Kabuto. No weird snake DNA. I have no idea what he was actually born with. So, it’s safe to assume that Ansei either as an affinity for Fire Release and Lightning Release. He thought about it for a moment and looked at the water that surrounded him. Let’s hope its fire…
He sighed deeply and formed several handsigns. He slammed his hands on the water and suddenly it rose up. He wasn’t quite as efficient with water release, having recently shown a talent for it, but he needed to know which one Ansei had. If he had a fire affinity, then he would dodge the attack; if he had lightning, then he would use the attack to amplify his own. Streams of water flew towards Ansei. It didn’t take a shape, as Boruto hadn’t gotten around to actually creating a jutsu with it. He was doing the equivalent of splashing Ansei in the face. The attack was harmless for the most part.
Ansei dodged. Boruto smirked. He has fire release, he said. He then created more handsigns and his hand sparked. He grabbed the stream of water flying at Ansei, electrifying it. He heard Ansei scream as his attack hit. This time Boruto wasn’t going to let up. He needed to finish this before anything else happened. He didn’t like the feeling of almost drowning and wasn’t too keen on trying it again.
Spamming Rasengan wasn’t going to work. He had to get in a clear shot and end this, but that meant setting up a trap. He looked around swiftly and in the span of a few seconds, he formulated a plan.
Ansei was on the move, running towards him. Boruto spun around and ran over the water. The Hyuuga have one blind spot, he thought to himself; a deadly one, in fact. He released the chakra on his feet and dropped into the water, swimming deep under. He knew Ansei could see him make the clones beneath the surface. He made three, distributing his chakra evenly amongst the four of them, him included, so that even the Byakugan couldn’t distinguish between them I gotta end this soon, he thought. Unlike his father and Ansei, he didn’t have a nearly unlimited supply of chakra. Two of the clones were created back to back and stayed in sync with one another. Ansei would think that only two clones had been created, not three.
Boruto’s clone grabbed the two other clones and hurled them into the air, then went with the real Boruto to the surface several meters away from Ansei. Boruto and his clone broke surface just as the two clones threw weapons at Ansei. Just as predicted, Ansei initiated Rotation to avoid the attacks. Perfect. Boruto nodded to the clone and it ran at Ansei. The Hyuuga stopped his rotation just in time for the clone, which he would believe was the real one, attacked with a kunai. Ansei spun, whipping out his own weapon.
Boruto nodded. He had calculated the exact angle Ansei had to be at to attack the clone, and then he positioned himself. He created a small Rasengan that was about the size of a gumball; a perfect size to infiltrate Ansei’s blind spot. Boruto hurled the Rasengan from his position in the air, timing it to where the clone would explode just as the attack hit…
And it did.
Ansei howled in anger and was thrown against the statue’s feet at the base of the waterfall. Boruto landed to his feet and sighed deeply. There was no way Ansei had walked out of that without getting injured. Ansei didn’t have time to build up medical ninjutsu in the attack spot. He probably didn’t even see it coming. Boruto thought. He kept his distance from the blast site. He backed away slowly from the area.
As the smoke cleared, Boruto’s eyes widened. The dust turned bright red and with a loud howl, the dust cleared, revealing the glowing Jinchuuriki and two tails whipping angrily behind him.