“Get up!” Ansei groaned, but before he could open his eyes, a foot impacted his side. “I said get up!” the voice snapped again.
“Yeah, yeah,” the boy grumbled, rolling off his pallet on the ground. He yawned and looked up at the stern face of his grandfather. “What time is it?”
“Three thirty,” the old man snapped. “You’re late.”
“I have a mission,” Ansei protested as he scrambled out of his night clothes and replaced them with his training garb.
“That’s exactly why you are getting up this early. You need to train,”
Ansei ran his hand down his long white and black hair, all the while glaring at his grandfather. He turned to his mirror and sighed before placing a bandage over the green curse mark on his forehead. “Let’s go, then,” he snapped. He tried to push past the elderly man, but was grabbed. He winced as the pressure threatened to break his arm.
“Know your place, boy,” he snapped. Ansei ripped his arm out of Hiashi’s grip. The two glared at each other, Byakugan locked with Byakugan. After a moment, the elder tore his gaze away from the teenager. Ansei smirked and turned away from his grandfather.
“I know my place,” Ansei answered with a smirk. “You might do well to learn yours.” He didn’t even expect the curse mark to be used, even though the old man could use it whenever he wanted. The boy scoffed and headed for the yard where his trainer would be waiting for him. He was too important to injure, even if he was treated like a slave in their family. He could get away with mouthing off to them because they couldn’t kill him. They needed him far more than he needed them. The mark was merely a formality. It had scared him once. Now, he bore it proudly, as a symbol of how weak they truly were.
They couldn’t cage a phoenix.
Ansei stepped into the training field to face his uncle. “Hello, father,” he said with a slight smirk.
“You don’t have to call me that here,” the man muttered.
“I don’t have to call you that anywhere,” Ansei pointed out. The older Hyuuga sighed deeply.
“I suppose you’re right. Let’s go, then.” The two lunged for each other.
Ansei was fierce in everything he did. Hyuuga were known for their elegant fighting style and their control. Watching them was almost like watching dancers. The beauty of Ansei’s attacks were not only the light-footed, dance-like movements, but also the power they concealed in them. A tap from that boy could send a grown man flying back several meters. Ansei was a prodigy in the purest sense of the word, surpassing even Neji’s raw talent. His attacks could be so powerful and broad, he could use his chakra to blow buildings to bits, or shatter a chakra system, or precise enough to severe a single capillary in the wrist. The boy was truly terrifying.
His uncle stumbled back after a particularly difficult training spar, but Ansei wasn’t finished. He lunged at his uncle, even after the man had called that he was finished. Before he could hit, however, blinding pain exploded in his head, turning his vision white. Ansei screamed and dropped to his knees, clawing at his bi-colored hair, ripping his scalp. Are they finally going to kill me?! he thought as he fell onto his side, howling.
Just as quickly as the pain started, it ended, leaving him gasping on the ground, shaking violently. When his vision finally faded back to reality, he looked up to see his great grandfather staring down at him. “Hiashi has been far too soft on you,” the eldest Hyuuga snapped. “We may not be able to kill you, boy¸ but we can make you wish you were dead.”
“Too late,” Ansei whispered. It was the first time in almost ten years he had felt the power of the mark. They had always been careful not to use it. No one could know he had the curse mark. He wanted to reveal it to anyone who asked, and it wasn’t even the fear of death the prevented him from showing them. It was what he knew they would do to him afterward, and not only that, but what they would do to his true parents. If it was merely his life at stake, he would gladly reveal to the village that he was a cursed Hyuuga, but there were far harsher ramifications than his own death if he ever revealed it. Fear was more powerful than any curse mark.
“Go wash up,” the elder snapped. Ansei nodded and walked away from them, shooting a glance at his uncle, who was merely watching him with sadness in his eyes. While he was glaring at the shy man left in the yard, he didn’t see his other uncle as he slammed right into him.
“N-Neji-san…!” Ansei gasped, bowing deeply to the man. He knew it tore the elders up when he showed more respect for the lower branch members than he did them.
Neji stared down at the child with cold eyes. “Hello, Ansei-sama,” he said quietly. Ansei flinched slightly, hating being called anything so respectful. He knew Neji knew he hated it as well, but the man had to treat him like that no matter if they were in private or public. It was the law. “I thought the Hyuuga had no blind spots.”
“My apologies, Neji-san,” Ansei said, bowing again. Neji sighed and waved his hand to show that he didn’t much care when the young Hyuuga did.
“How was your training session with Tori-sama?”
Ansei turned back to where he had left his uncle. The man was gone now, but the dirt was still disturbed from where he had hit. “It was beneficial.” Ansei grumbled. He wished Neji could teach him. The man was the only one in the Hyuuga Clan that could go toe-to-toe with Ansei. “Do you think you and I could spar?” he asked.
Neji looked down at the boy and shook his head. “I have other duties to take care of,” he muttered.
“What if I ordered you to?” Ansei challenged.
Neji narrowed his eyes. “You may be special outside this compound, but inside, you and I are equals. Don’t think for a moment that they care about you, Ansei-sama.”
Ansei sighed. He knew that the elders would rather he be dead or living away from the village with his parents. “Very well,” he snapped, pushing past the man.
“Ansei, you’d do best to just leave it be,” Neji called after him. “They don’t like it when you make trouble!”
Ansei narrowed his eyes. He hated it. They all told him that he should just let it go and move on, to accept the lot he had been given in life. He clenched his fists. No one even knew what it was like. He tugged on a handful of his own hair absentmindedly as he headed towards his room to get ready for his mission.
“Leaving so soon?” Ansho snapped from a branching off hallway.
“Leave me alone, Ansho,” the boy grumbled. He wasn’t in the mood to get into a fight with her.
“Why should I?” she asked. “Is it because you think you’re better than us.”
“I know I’m not,” Ansei answered.
“Oh, please!” Ansho snapped, stepping up to the boy. “Spare me your false modesty! I know you think you’re better than everyone here. Or, at least you feel like you’re the only one suffering!” She laughed and shoved him back. The boy clenched his fists tightly. He was a year older than she was and she knew not to make him angry. He put a foot behind him, ready to lunge. “You walk around this compound like you are the gods’ gift to the world! You’re not!”
“I know I’m not,” Ansei repeated.
“You are nothing,” she growled. “You are less than nothing!”
White hot rage overtook the boy and before he knew it, he was gripping her throat, holding her off the ground. A manic smile crossed his face as rage swirled inside him. Killing her would be easy. He could snap her neck without much effort, or he could send some his chakra into her throat and severe an important artery. He squeezed tighter and her cries for help or mercy were cut off. He could cut off her air supply and watch her die slowly.
He was sick of it. The Main Family hated him because he was part of the Branch family; better yet, he was the son of the failure who had been disowned when her rightful place was at the head. But he also found no love in the Branch Family. They all hated him because he was special to the Main Family. He was needed in a way that they weren’t needed.
His whole body shook as the rage he had hid behind a silent mask came to the surface. He’d show them…! He’d show all of them!
Suddenly his arm felt like it was being crushed. Ansei screamed as his arm contorted and twisted in pain. He brought the limb his chest. Ansho fell to the floor, coughing blood into her hands. Neji was by his daughter’s side in a second. No one made a move to help the boy as he stumbled back, howling as if his arm was being ripped apart. He looked down to see green marks glowing on the limb that was similar the curse mark on his forehead. The vine-like pattern slowly began to vanish, leaving the limb twitching and shaking with muscle spasms.
“Get ready for your mission,” Hiashi ordered. He turned to his nephew. “Take her to the infirmary.”
Neji nodded and lifted the child in his arms. He stopped once to look at Ansei as he passed him. Ansei jumped slightly. The look the man had for the boy that had tried to kill his daughter was not fear or anger, but profound sadness and pity.
“The boy grows more unstable every day,” Hiashi said quietly. “He needs to be trained better… Here, not out there with Naruto! Naruto has no knowledge of how to train a Hyuuga! He has potential that needs to be recognized!”
“We can’t do that,” one of the elders said. “Naruto and his team have been working on this for almost a year. If we were to pull Ansei out now, that would rouse suspicion with the village, especially with the Hokage. It would also break our agreement with Hinata. Ansei is supposed to be a normal ninja until his eighteenth birthday.”
“But will he last that long?” Hiashi asked. “Will he last without bringing more attention to himself? The boy can barely contain himself anymore! You saw what he almost did this morning! He can’t be trusted out there! He must be confined to the Hyuuga compound!”
“We promised Hinata-chan that he would live as normal of a life as possible,” Hanabi interjected between the two elders. “If we were to pull Ansei-kun out of this mission, he would be stuck here. We had a deal with Hinata-chan and we will not break that deal.”
“I understand, my Lady, but the boy-“
“The boy has a name,” Hanabi snapped firmly.
“Ansei must learn his place, Lady Hanabi,” Hiashi reasoned. “I am the guiltiest of this, but we have been letting him get away with far too much. He needs to learn who he is and where he stands in this Clan.”
Hanabi sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Ansei will go on his mission with Naruto,” she decided. “When he returns, we will discuss this matter further. The Leaf Village cannot become suspicious of us.”
“Lady Hanabi, with all due respect, I don’t believe that this is wise! Ansei is deadly and he can’t control it! We would rouse more suspicion if he kills one of teammates while on that mission!”
“Your grandson is not a murderer!” Hanabi snapped. “Have you so little faith in him? He knows his duty to his Clan.”
“If the child is to be an effective weapon, my Lady, he must fly under the radar,” Hiashi reasoned.
“And if we pull him out now, that will only draw attention to him!” Hanabi said to her father, glaring at him. “He will do his duty.”
“We don’t know what that boy will do! He is a monster!” Hiashi growled.
“That you created,” Hanabi countered with a dangerous edge to her voice. “My nephew will do his duty and he will go on this mission. When he returns, we will have prepared for this.”
Hiashi stared at his daughter for a long moment, then sighed, relenting. “As you wish, Lady Hanabi,” he said with as much respect he could muster.
Hanabi stood from her seat. The others at the table followed her in standing. They bowed as she walked out of the large chamber. Once she was out, she felt her whole body shake. She hated them all and how they treated her sister and her son, but she knew she had to do what was best for her Clan, and keeping Ansei happy and discreet was just that.
“How did it go?” Tori asked. Hanabi looked at her husband. He was so much older than her, but he was kind to her.
“As well as can be expected. How is Ansho?”
“She’ll be up and terrorizing the village before her missions today,” Tori assured the woman. Hanabi sighed. “What will they do with Ansei?”
“He’ll be leaving the village with Naruto for a month,” she answered. “Hopefully the time away from the village and this compound will be good for him. He needs to be free some times.”
“His problems won’t go away, Hanabi,” Tori muttered.
“I know. I just wish he knew that.”
“This will all be over soon, Hanabi,” Tori assured her.
“This will never end,” Hanabi whispered. “Not for him.”
Naruto was in trouble. Sakura hadn’t been too happy about him leaving the village yet again, and had been less happy when he suggested that she and Taiyaki accompany him and his team, but Naruto had already discussed it with Obito. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to spend time with Naruto, it was that he didn’t discuss it with her beforehand.
Naruto sighed. Their argument had been pretty tame. He hadn’t gotten too upset and she had relented quickly, realizing that Naruto was doing his best as a father and husband. Naruto had wanted to take Tai’s whole cell, but he couldn’t ask Konohamaru to leave the village with Moegi so close to giving birth to their third child. The others in Tai’s cell would be on smaller missions. It worked out anyway, since Konohamaru was planning on taking some time off to help around the house.
Naruto looked up at the sky. He had told the girls to meet them at the gates, but, like always, he had to go pick up Ansei. Sometimes the child got too into training and would be late. They were on a schedule and they had to be out of the village by seven that morning.
Naruto was greeted at the gates of the Hyuuga Compound by one of the Branch members who stood guard. He smiled and told the man his business before being led through the compound to where he could pick up Ansei. As they walked on the wooden patio that overlooked a beautiful rock garden, Naruto peeked into one of the open rooms. He stopped for just a moment. In the room was a child. He looked about Taiyaki’s age. Naruto had never seen this child before. He cocked his head. The boy in the room wore what looked like a hospital robe and a surgical mask over his pale and thin face. He stared out at the Zen garden with his pale violet eyes through a thin veil.
“Naruto-san, please keep up,” his guide called. Naruto nodded and looked once more at the child before jogging to catch up.
“Who is that?” Naruto asked.
“Oh, him?” the man responded. He waved his hand. “Just one of the children here. He is no one, sir.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yes, yes. His immune system is weak, so he cannot leave his room very often.”
“I see.” Naruto looked back at the open door. Poor kid, he thought with a shrug. He bowed to any Hyuuga member they passed and once they made it to Ansei’s room, Naruto knocked on it respectfully. “Ansei, are you ready?” he asked. The door opened to reveal the boy. Naruto looked him over and sighed. He always wore black, like he was mourning something. Even in the hottest months and trips to the Sand Village, the boy wore long sleeves and pants in pure black. He sleeves even acted as gloves, having two holes for his two middle fingers.
“I’m ready, sensei,” Ansei said with a bow. Naruto smiled.
“Then let’s go! We’ve got a long and grand mission!”
Ansei couldn’t help but smile at his teachers over enthusiasm. “Mist Village?” he asked.
“No,” Ansei said truthfully. “I’m ready!”
“Good! Oh, we also have a few extra people on the mission.”
“We do?” Ansei asked.
“Yeah, we do. We’re taking some kids to the orphanage and my son and wife are joining the mission squad.”
“Isn’t that too many people?” Ansei asked. “I thought that teams of four worked the best.”
“Well, we’re getting rid of three of them pretty quickly,” Naruto assured the Hyuuga. “Then we’ll go as one squad.”
“That’s still a lot of people,” Ansei grumbled.
“Sorry,” Naruto muttered. “But don’t worry! You like my son, right?”
Ansei shrugged. “I guess,” he muttered. Naruto sighed. Ansei didn’t really like anyone.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
“I’m not worried…”
“Good!” Naruto smiled and placed a hand on his student’s shoulder. The boy flinched slightly, but gave no other indication that he was uncomfortable with the touch. Naruto removed his hand and sighed. As they passed the open door with the sickly Hyuuga, Ansei turned to look inside the room. Naruto noticed the two Hyuuga lock eyes. The younger one nodded slowly as they passed, offering them a slight smile. Naruto didn’t see Ansei’s expression, but he noted that the sickly child’s smile faded into a troubled frown. “Do you know him?” Naruto asked.
“I don’t,” Ansei answered. He walked faster to avoid any more questions. Naruto sighed and followed his student silently after that. He closed his eyes. There was so much he didn’t understand, it seemed.
“Ansei!” Naruto and the young Hyuuga stopped.
“Lord Hiashi,” Naruto greeted, bowing deeply to the elder Hyuuga. Ansei bowed as well without a verbal greeting.
“Naruto,” the man greeted. “Ansei, may I have a word with you… In private?”
“Whatever you have to say to me, Hiashi-sama, you can say in front of Naruto-sensei.”
“Of course. I just wanted to tell you to be careful.”
Ansei narrowed his eyes. “I will do my duty, sir,” he said quietly. Hiashi seemed ready to speak again, but Ansei lifted his hand. “All of my duty, Lord Hiashi,” he added.
“Very well. I trust you two have a safe mission,” the Hyuuga said. Naruto nodded and bowed again. Naruto smiled down at his student, who merely offered him a half grin. Naruto placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and this time he didn’t flinch.
“We’re not orphans,” Boruto grumbled as they waited for Naruto to return. The others in their squad stood a ways from them.
“Shut up, Boruto! Do you want them to hear you?” Sarada snapped. “Who cares if we aren’t? We are here!”
“Why don’t we just tell them the truth?” Himawari muttered. She didn’t understand why those two kept calling this a game. Even at her young age, she didn’t think it was very fun. Now that she had calmed down, she was becoming more agitated with how those two bickered about everything.
Sarada turned to the child and her gaze softened. Himawari frowned. Just because she was the youngest of the three didn’t mean they had to keep treating her like an infant. “We can’t do that, sweetie. They won’t believe us.”
“Why not? It’s not like weirder things haven’t happened in our history,” Himawari reasoned.
Boruto smiled at his sister. Her mom had always said she had her father’s thick head. “I don’t think these guys are as used to what happened in our history as we are.”
“Yeah,” Sarada said. “I don’t think the War happened here, if Obito’s Hokage and all…” Himawari shrugged and looked back down at the hole she had been digging in the dirt.
Boruto sighed. “You’re going to get your clothes all dirty, Hima-chan,” he said. “Come on, up you go!” He lifted her in his arms.
The girl pouted. “I don’t need you to carry me, Boruto!” she protested.
“Fine, fine, but stop digging in the dirt.”
Himawari stuck her tongue out at her brother and walked away from the two, leaving them to fight like an old married couple. She walked over to Sakura and her son. “Hi!” she said, waving.
“Oh, hello!” Sakura said, smiling at the girl. “How are you three doing, hm?”
“We’re good,” the girl answered.
Taiyaki also smiled at her. They were siblings, weren’t they? Himawari walked over to the red and pink haired boy, offering him a hug. Blood rushed to his cheeks and Sakura giggled at her son’s reaction. After a moment, Tai sighed and stroked the girl’s head. “You have pretty hair,” he complimented.
Taiyaki smiled down at her. “You’re welcome. So, the blonde is your brother, huh?” Himawari nodded. “He seems nice.”
“He’s a mule,” Himawari said. “At least, that’s what daddy calls him sometimes!”
Both Taiyaki and Sakura fell silent. Himawari looked at them. Had she said something wrong? Sakura knelt before the young girl. “Do you remember your dad?” Himawari nodded. “What was he like…?”
Himawari sighed. She had to lie, didn’t she? “He was really nice… Kind of busy,” she answered as truthfully as possible. “But… I think he did his best for us. Boruto, though, was so mad at him…” She bit her lip. “They were so mad at each other. They yelled a lot.” She remembered that argument that made Boruto want to run away. Boruto had been so mean to their father and had said some hurtful things. Naruto wasn’t purely without fault as well. They had both lost their temper.
She felt arms wrap around her and looked up at Taiyaki. “Don’t worry, kid… It’ll be okay,” he whispered gently.
My dad’s not dead, Himawari thought, but she missed him all the same. Him and Hinata. She leaned into the hug and allowed the other boy to comfort her. She also felt a hand rub her back. Sakura too was comforting her. I don’t like lying to them, she thought sadly.
“Hey guys!” Naruto called. Taiyaki released the girl and Sakura stood. Boruto and Sarada came to stand beside Himawari and the two girls that made up the rest of Naruto’s team came to stand beside the rest of the team. They bowed to Ansei. Himawari looked at the boy and her eyes widened. He was a Hyuuga! She smiled and waved at him, but he merely looked down at the girl with disdain. Boruto stepped in front of his sister slightly, as if challenging the angry Hyuuga to try anything.
Naruto didn’t seem to notice the tension. “Alright, we’ll be dropping off these three at the orphanage before heading out.”
“Will we being staying there over night?” one of the girl asked.
“No,” Naruto said. “We’ll just be dropping them off. Are you all ready?” They all nodded and Naruto smiled. “Let’s go, then!”