“What do you mean you can’t take them?” Naruto practically whined. He was in Kabuto’s office as the white-haired monk moved about, packing records. “They are orphans! You’ve never turned away children!”
Kabuto sighed deeply and paused to turn to the orange clad ninja in his office. “If you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of an evacuation,” he said. “I thought I told Obito-sama about this. Why did he send you here?”
“Probably because we left before the message was given. Or he just forgot,” Naruto added quietly. “But that doesn’t mean anything! Take these kids with you!”
Kabuto rolled his eyes. “I can’t do that, Naruto,” he said slowly. Naruto narrowed his eyes dangerously. “I’m just saying! These kids are lost and confused enough as it is! They have no idea how to deal with a full scale evacuation. Every other child in this orphanage knows Hinata and I and the other staff plus they all have friends. I won’t put three recently orphaned children through the stress of an evacuation with strangers.”
“So what am I supposed to do with them?” Naruto snapped. “I’m on my way to the Mist Village. I haven’t the time to take them back to Konoha.”
“Take them with you,” Kabuto suggested.
“And how is that any safer than sending them with you and your evacuation?” Naruto asked.
“The mission isn’t dangerous is it?” Kabuto responded. Naruto shook his head. This was merely a diplomatic mission. The only reason Naruto’s team had been given such a low-ranked mission was because they had been working this investigation for months. “Then they’ll be fine.”
“I’m pretty sure they are civilians,” Naruto grumbled. “I feel like they would be better off with you, Kabuto.”
“And I’m telling you they won’t!” Kabuto snapped suddenly. “I’ve worked with these kids longer than you have. Kids tend to latch onto people, especially after a traumatic experience. For whatever reason, those kids like you.”
Naruto shook his head. They didn’t have time for this. The mission wasn’t deadly in any shape or form and the three kids would be surrounded by ninja. “Fine,” Naruto relented.
“Good. Now can you do me another favor? You said that you were going to the Mist Village. Why?”
“They’ve had a few civilian village attacks like the ones we’ve been having,” Naruto explained. “We’re going to see if it matches our attacks’ patterns.”
Kabuto nodded. “Okay. I’ve noticed some interesting things about the last attack. I’d like to send Hinata with you and have her ask some questions for me.”
“You’re in the middle of an evacuation!” Naruto threw the man’s words back at him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to travel with Hinata, he just didn’t understand Kabuto’s reasoning sometimes. “How can you spare a set of hands?”
Kabuto sighed. “Then give me Ansei,” he said.
“I can’t do that,” Naruto reminded him. “Ansei is our medic, and I know Hinata’s a medical ninja as well, but if I’m going to have three civilians, I’d rather have two medics with me.”
“The twins, then.” Kabuto shrugged.
Naruto sighed deeply, but decided not to argue. The mission wouldn’t require any fighting and those kids were probably better off using their talents with Kabuto, “Okay. Deal. Just, if Obito sends back-up for you, don’t send them to the Mist village. I’ll pick them up on my way back.” Kabuto nodded. “Take care of them… and all the kids here.”
Kabuto smiled. “I always do. Hinata should already be packed.” Naruto turned and reached for the doorknob. “Naruto.” Kabuto said quickly.
“How is Ansei?” the medic asked.
Naruto turned to Kabuto and smiled sadly. “He’s doing okay.”
“Is the Hyuuga Clan treating him okay?”
“As far as I know,” Naruto said, “but I feel like this mission will be good for him. He needs to get out of that compound.”
Kabuto clenched his fists angrily. Naruto cocked his head. As far as he knew there was no bad blood between Hinata, Kabuto, Ansei and the rest of the Hyuuga Clan. Ansei was allowed to visit his parents whenever he wanted. “Just keep an eye on him, please. He seemed a little off last time he was here.”
“Sure thing.” Naruto promised. “Well, good luck with your evacuation. We’ll be back through here in a few weeks.”
“Yeah… Thanks, Naruto.”
“Hey, hey, Sarada!” Boruto called as he hurried towards the Uchiha. She was sitting on a rock outside of the gates to the orphanage while the others were rearranging their plans to accommodate their newest addition to the group; Hinata.
“What, Boruto?” Sarada asked, turning to the blonde child. “Where’s Himawari?”
“She’s off with your mom,” Boruto answered. He sat beside the girl on the rock. “So, I’ve been thinking.”
“That’s never a good sign,” Sarada grumbled. Boruto pushed her playfully and she smiled. “What about?”
“Well, what if this is a genjutsu.” Boruto suggested.
“Didn’t we discredit that?” Sarada asked.
Boruto waved his hand. “No, no!” he said. “Listen! Remember in history class they talked about something called The Infinite Tsukuyomi?”
Sarada raised an eyebrow. “You paid attention in history class?” she asked.
Boruto shoved her again, harder. “Stop it! I’m serious! What if this is something like that? A genjutsu designed to be unbreakable from the inside or something! Something we’re not supposed to detect as a genjutsu!”
“But wouldn’t you figuring that out make it not very effective?” Sarada pointed out.
“Well, maybe I’m supposed to know about it!” Boruto reasoned. “This all happened because I got mad at my old man and yelled at him and said some pretty mean stuff…” he trailed off.
“I don’t remember you saying anything about what you said to your father, but yes, I recall that being the reason we decided running away was a good plan.”
“Anyway!” Boruto continued. “What if I’m here to learn a lesson or something? What if this is punishment? Dad’s sneaky like that! He’d do something like this!”
“He doesn’t even have time to yell at you,” Sarada grumbled, “let alone set this up. Besides, if that’s the case, then why am I here?”
“I thought about that too! Dad wouldn’t want me in here all alone, so maybe you are part of the genjutsu too!”
Sarada’s shoulders dropped and she sighed. “You idiot. I’m not an illusion.”
“No, no! Hear me out! Of course you wouldn’t know if you were an illusion!”
Sarada closed her eyes and removed her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose. What Boruto said made sense, minus the part about her being part of the genjutsu. What didn’t make sense was how it happened and why. Did their parents just expect them to hang out in this dream world until one of them cracked? “Say you’re right,” Sarada muttered without opening her eyes. “Then how do you think we’re supposed to get out of this?”
“Well, I thought about that too! We have to fix this world!”
“Fix it?” Sarada asked.
“Yeah! Obviously your mom and my dad aren’t supposed to get together! And now my mom is joining this little journey! It’s like it’s setting up for us to make sure everything’s back in order.”
Sarada stared at her teammate through blurred vision. “You can’t be serious, moron!” she snapped. “What about them? They seem happy here! They even have a kid!”
“But this isn’t real!” Boruto protested. “None of this is real!”
“What if it is?” Sarada retorted.
“What if it isn’t?” Boruto grumbled.
Sarada looked at Boruto and then shook her head. She didn’t know what to believe at the moment. He could be right for all she knew. “What about my parents? We don’t know where my dad is.”
“This is my illusion, not yours, so I doubt we have to worry about finding Sasuke.”
“Are you going to operate like this is just an illusion for the rest of the time we’re here?”
Boruto shrugged. “Why not? It makes just about as much sense as ninja fighting on the moon, right?” Sarada giggled. Some in the village still didn’t believe that Naruto and the gang had actually fought on the moon.
“True, true,” Sarada grumbled. “But could you not treat me like an illusion, please?”
“I guess,” Boruto said. He sighed and looked up at the sky. “So, Naruto-san said we’re going to the Mist Village.”
“They aren’t dropping us off here?” Sarada asked. “Why not?”
Boruto shrugged. “Seems like there’s some evacuation or something. Apparently they think we’re civilians.”
“They wouldn’t if you hadn’t forced us not to pack our headbands,” Sarada pointed out.
“How is that my fault?” Boruto snapped. Sarada glared at the boy. “Besides,” he said quickly, “how would we have explained to the Hokage that we were Konoha citizens that he had never seen before? I saved us from that awkward encounter!”
Sarada sighed. “I guess,” she muttered. She rested her head on her hands and closed her eyes.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Boruto asked. “I’m sure Sasuke isn’t a criminal or anything here,” he assured her. “He’s probably just a traveler. If this isn’t a genjutsu, he’s our best bet to get home.” Sarada wasn’t amused by her friend’s attempts to cheer her up.
“Just shut up, Boruto.” She snapped.
“Hold up! Do you think this is my fault?” he asked. “I didn’t mean for this to happen!”
Sarada shook her head. “Whatever, Boruto. We need to come up with a plan to test your theory. How are we going to get Lady Hinata and Naruto-san together? How did they get together originally?”
Boruto thought about it for a moment, then sighed. “I dunno. Dad gets all mushy and stuff when he talks about mom,” he grumbled. “Something about a scarf and knitting.”
“So, we just have to give Naruto a scarf and pretend it’s from Hinata!” Sarada declared.
“Yeah!” Boruto’s smile faded. “But, we don’t have a scarf… and I can’t knit,” he grumbled.
Sarada narrowed her eyes in thought. She didn’t know how to knit either, and even if she did, they didn’t have any thread to make a scarf and they really didn’t have time to make one anyway. “What if we buy one?” she asked.
“With what money?” Boruto grumbled.
Sarada sighed. He was right. “It must be the thought that counts,” she said. “Mom told me that there were things that were far more precious than traditional gifts. What if we just made something for your dad? It’s the thought, not the actual gift.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Boruto said. “But what are we going to make for my dad? It’s not like we can make him a big bowl of ramen!” Sarada giggled.
“You know him better than I do,” she pointed out.
Boruto frowned. “Let’s see… He likes plants!”
“What?” Sarada lifted her head.
“Yeah! Dad’s got his own garden on the roof of the mansion!”
“How does that translate to a gift?” Sarada asked.
“Well, if we get him something special like that, then he’ll know that Hinata really likes him! Not many people know about his love of plants! It’s perfect!”
Sarada smiled mysteriously. “You’re right. But, if just Hinata gives gifts to Naruto, we will end up with Naruto thinking that Hinata is just hitting on a married man.”
“We could kill Sakura,” Boruto suggested. His comment got him shoved off the rock. “I’m kidding!” he gasped. “But if it is just a genjutsu-“
“And what if it isn’t?” Sarada snapped. “Don’t joke about stuff like that, Boruto!”
Boruto sighed. “I really was kidding, Sarada,” he promised as he replaced himself on the rock. “But you’re right. This has to be both of them. My mom is pretty easy to please, though. I think a good romantic setting will work just fine!”
Sarada nodded. “Yeah! So, let Operation: Get Your Parents Back Together commence!”
Hinata placed the last of her items in her bag and shouldered it. She was beyond angry. Ansei had seemed so out of it and she knew why. There was only one explanation; they had used that jutsu on him. She opened the door to Kabuto’s office and smiled. He was moving swiftly around the room as he packed the final things. “I’m leaving now,” she said coldly. Kabuto stopped and looked up at her with a soft smile.
“Good luck, Hinata,” he whispered. He seemed to notice how upset she was. “What’s wrong?”
“They used it on him.” She snapped. Kabuto dropped what he was doing and hurried to her.
“Did he tell you that?” She shook her head. “Then how did you know?”
“He was so vacant. It’s an extremely painful jutsu. One does not just get over having it used on them in one day.” She closed her eyes and sighed. “I don’t want to be traveling with him.”
Kabuto gripped her shoulders tightly, but comfortingly. “Naruto is just as in the dark about this as the rest of the village. There’s no reason to blame Naruto for any of this.”
Hinata snorted. “I doubt he’s as in the dark as you say. There’s no way he’s been Ansei’s sensei and hasn’t picked up on it.”
Kabuto smiled warmly. “He’s not the sharpest weapon in the pouch,” he pointed out. The comment awarded him a faint smile.
“Even if Naruto isn’t to blame for this, his father is,” she reminded him.
“Yes, but he’s not allowed to know that, and I am counting on you to not tell him anything unless we want this whole place to fall apart.” Hinata narrowed her eyes at him. Kabuto smiled and kissed her on the forehead. “Don’t give me that look. You go make sure there aren’t any other kids in danger and I’ll make sure the ones we have stay safe, okay?” Hinata nodded. “And have fun with Ansei. This mission came at the perfect time. If there are to start acting like they own Ansei, then he needs time away from the village.”
Hinata nodded in agreement. “Well, then, you be careful as well, Kabuto.”
Hinata embraced the white haired man and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Their relationship was far more professional than anything else, but their admiration towards each other was evident. The loss of Ansei to the Hyuuga clan, however, had driven a wedge in them, not enough to drive them apart, but the relationship never fully recovered. Kabuto stroked her hair and smiled. “Now, hurry up or they’ll leave you.”
Boruto was already forming a plan, even as they walked down the road. Their group had been told to move on and Hinata would catch up to them. Boruto hadn’t seen his mother yet and he was slightly nervous. What if she wasn’t the same here? Would that ruin their plan? He kicked the dirt path as they walked, letting to group get farther and farther ahead of him. Himawari was talking Naruto’s ear off in the front of the group while Sakura and Sarada spoke to Taiyaki. Boruto turned his attention to the Hyuuga that was bringing up the rear of their group.
Boruto moved over to the boy and walked beside him for a bit. He was shorter than the Hyuuga by a few inches. “So… Are you Hinata’s son?” he asked. The boy turned sharply and glared at Boruto. A shiver went down the young Uzumaki’s spine. He never liked having those eyes glare at him like that, though Boruto saw a lot of Himawari in Ansei’s expression.
“No. I am the son of Lady Hanabi and heir to the Hyuuga Clan,” Ansei snapped, holding his head high, but Boruto noted that he didn’t say it loud enough for Naruto and Sakura to hear him.
“That’s cool.” Boruto muttered. So, we’re half cousins, then? Is that even a thing?
Boruto looked up to notice that Ansei was staring at his pondering expression with a mix of annoyance and slight curiosity. “No-nothing,” Boruto stuttered.
Ansei laughed slightly and turned away. Yeesh, he’s worse than what dad described Sasuke as, Boruto thought. At least Mitsuki has the potential to be funny. Boruto looked at his sister with a mix of worry suddenly. What would they do if she decided to activate the Byakugan during this trip? She was still too young to fully grasp how to use the technique and they would be in a lot of trouble if they found out about their Hyuuga blood. Sasuke being out the village gave them a little leeway when it came to Sarada, but the Hyuuga were guarded about their bloodline. The fact that they were half-Hyuuga could cause problems if they weren’t careful.
“Naruto-san!” Boruto stopped and turned to see his mother running to catch up. His breath caught in his throat and he swallowed hard. Unlike the short hair she sported in their world, her hair here was long. It had been braided for the mission. He bit his lip. Instead of the soft but determined features of the woman he had grown up with, this woman had hard and fierce features. He bit his lip and bowed his head.
The woman stopped before him. “Are these the kids you were supposed to drop off?” she asked Naruto. Boruto almost flinched at the tone she was using with Naruto. It sounded so angry. How are we going to do this? He thought. This wasn’t being made easy for them. He turned to Sarada and she shrugged slightly. Himawari was the only one who didn’t seem bothered or annoyed by anyone. Again, she walked up to Hinata with a smile on her face. Boruto’s eyes widened slightly and looked between Hinata and Himawari, then between Ansei and his sister.
Boruto had inherited a lot of his father’s genes, but Himawari… there was no mistaking her for anyone else’s daughter. Boruto clenched his fists. He tried not look nervous as Hinata looked the youngest child over. “Is it such a good idea to bring on so young on this mission?” Hinata asked finally.
“I tried explaining that to Kabuto, but he wouldn’t really listen to me… You know how he gets sometimes,” Naruto said as he rubbed the back of his head, offering her a faint smile.
Hinata waved him off. “Yeah.” She patted the child ion the head and smiled at Boruto before joining the group at the front to discuss plans. Boruto grabbed Himawari. He was suddenly beginning to realize the severity of their situation. He motioned Sarada to join him in the back. “Don’t go far!” Sakura called.
“We won’t, Sakura-san!” Sarada promised. She ran to the back and the three walked slowly until they were out of earshot of the adults and Ansei. “What is it, Boruto?” Sarada hissed.
“We’re not safe here,” Boruto snapped.
Sarada lifted her eyebrows. “Why do you say that? We know all of them, and Ansei doesn’t seem dangerous.”
“No! I’m serious!” Sarada seemed to notice the fear in her teammate’s blue eyes.
“What if they find out that Hima-chan and I are Hyuuga?”
“We already told them I’m an Uchiha and hasn’t seem to bother them. Why would you being Hyuuga bother them?”
“Because the Hyuuga are more guarded than the Uchiha were!” Boruto snapped. “I spoke once to Hanabi. She told me how the Clan used to be before… If my dad isn’t the same person here as he was over there, we can safely assume that the Hyuuga clan hasn’t changed much! They won’t be happy having half-breeds running around!”
Sarada nodded slowly. “That… is a problem.” She turned to Himawari. “You cannot activate the Byakugan,” she said.
“But, daddy said that if I was ever in danger… Or Boruto-“
“Never,” Boruto snapped almost fearfully. He didn’t know what they would do to them, but he had heard the stories about the Caged Bird Seal. It was a jutsu that was forbidden now in their world, but he was sure it was still allowed here. He had heard what it did to people. He looked down at his sister. He couldn’t let that happen to her.
“But, nii-san,” Himawari whimpered.
Boruto knelt before his sister. “This is important, Hima-chan,” he said, holding her shoulders tightly. “You cannot. Not under any circumstances, even if I’m in danger, okay?”
“I know what dad said!” Boruto snapped. “But dad would want you to be safe, right?” She nodded. “Then you have to do this for me, okay? Sarada and I think we have a way to get home, but until then, you can’t activate the Byakugan, you hear me? I don’t need my little sister to protect me anyway,” he teased with a smile. He placed a hand on her head and ruffled her blue hair. “Promise me, okay?”
She nodded. “I promise!”