“What is going on?” Naruto snapped as Minato and he moved to a more secluded place. Minato sighed. He hadn’t wanted Naruto to find out this way, but how long did they really think they could keep it a secret? It was a miracle that something like this hadn’t happened before now. “Why are you even here?”
“I have a seal on him that activates when he activates the fox’s chakra,” Minato explained slowly. “I am to gather someone that can activate the Dark Phoenix Prison and take them to him. Neji was the first one that I found.” Naruto glared at his father angrily. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“What is happening? Do you know those kids?” Minato shook his head. “I was in the meeting where it was decided that Karin’s daughter would have it! We decided to keep it in the Uzumaki line! This was decided when mom got sick! Karin was even moved into the village and given a house!”
Minato closed his eyes. “That was originally the plan,” Minato muttered. “We had already contacted Karin and she had agreed to it. Your mother agreed to it and it was all arranged, but things changed. There’s a lot of things I never told you about.”
“Well, now is a perfect time to tell me,” Naruto snapped.
“I guess it is. Ansei doesn’t really exist,” Minato muttered. Naruto blinked. “According to all records, Ansei, Hinata and Kabuto’s son, does not exist. He had been wiped from every registry. His birth was not even recorded.”
“But… Why?” Naruto asked.
“Because the Hyuuga wanted it. When Hinata gave birth to Ansei, the elders were angered that she had a male heir. They pushed Hanabi into an arranged marriage with Tori, who was considerably older. Obito came to me when he found out about them basically forcing Hanabi to give birth, but she said that she had agreed to it, and you know we try not to interfere with them as much as we can.” Naruto nodded slowly. Minato knew his son had always wanted to change the Hyuuga clan, but there was always a war to be fought and no time to clean up the problems in their own village.
“So, she got pregnant, but her pregnancy was laden with problems. She ended up in bed rest for the last three months, and her son was born a month early with multiple deformities and a weak immune system. He was a sickly child that they weren’t sure if he would live. It was, however determined that all his birth defects were not due to any genetic problems, so his genes are still good.”
Naruto bit his lip. “Why did she only have one son?” he asked. “Surely they would want her to have a child that did not have so many problems.”
Minato looked at his son sadly. “Her organs were damaged during the pregnancy. Her body was too young to handle the stress of carrying a child.”
“She can’t have any more kids?” Naruto muttered.
“No, she cannot. That child would be the only heir they would have. Around this time was when Kushina got ill and the doctors told us that there was nothing they could do. The Uchiha had already approached us about having the fox in their Clan, but we denied them to keep the rivalry between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha down. Giving the fox to either clan would anger the other.” Naruto opened his mouth to point out the obvious, but Minato held up his hand to silence his child. “Yes, you were in the meeting to decide where the fox would go and we were prepared to give the fox to Karin’s son, but the Hyuuga came forth and demanded we give the fox to Hanabi’s child. They believed that he would gain his strength with the fox.
“They were denied, of course, for the same reason that the Uchiha, but they were more persistent than the Uchiha. After the Uchiha asked, they let it die, mostly because they had an Uchiha as Hokage, but the Hyuuga needed the fox. They argued with us for weeks about it, until finally they came to the conclusion that they would leave the village if we didn’t give them the fox.”
Naruto’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Exactly… But we decided that we would rather have them as allies than enemies, so we agreed. However, it was determined that the child was too weak to hold the fox. The demon would be able to escape from such a weak vessel. We could not give the fox to the child.” Minato closed his eyes, debating on saying the next words. He didn’t know how Naruto would take it, but he did know the man wouldn’t take it well. “But there was another child from someone from the main branch of the Clan. They were only a year apart. The Hyuuga demanded that Ansei be brought to the village to basically become Hanabi’s son.”
Naruto took a step back, his eyes narrowed. “Hinata and Kabuto denied, of course, but the Hyuuga came to us with their same demands. Obito and I went to Hinata and Kabuto and said that if they did not send Ansei to the village, we would cut off all funding to the orphanage and brand them as traitors… and they would be treated as such.”
“You did what?!” Naruto shouted. “You would have thrown children on the streets to keep the Hyuuga in the village? How could you?!”
Minato frowned. “There are a lot of factors, Naruto. Had the Hyuuga left the village, they would have gone to another village. Their obvious destination would have been the Rock Village, and with them would go all our village’s secrets.”
“You would murder children!” Naruto screamed.
“We wouldn’t have murdered them,” Minato countered. “We would have treated them as traitors, and we knew that Hinata and Kabuto would agree to it.”
Naruto narrowed his eyes angrily. “You threatened an entire orphanage of children so you could use another child!”
“Yes we did!” Minato growled. “We did, and we’d do it again! Naruto, there are things you don’t understand about this world, and this is one of them! We didn’t want to use Ansei like that, but it was the only way!”
“There’s always a better way,” Naruto snapped.
Minato shook his head. “You are still that wide-eyed child that believed there is only good in this world,” he snapped.
“I’d rather be a child if this is what being a mature adult is!”
“It was a choice that we made! Ansei is one child! What is that one child compared to the hundreds that would have died in a civil war, Naruto?”
Naruto shook his head slowly and turned away from his father. Minato knew what was coming before the words were uttered from his son’s mouth. “I was on a mission when mom died…” he muttered. Minato felt tears fill his eyes. He had hoped he would never have to explain this. “That wasn’t an accident, was it?”
Minato stood in silence for a long moment before taking a deep breath. “No… It wasn’t.” Naruto clenched his fists. “We didn’t want to burden you with the truth, and you were still young back then. We knew you would speak out against it, or tell your mother.”
“So you sent me away,” Naruto whispered.
“Yes, we did.”
“And she didn’t know,” Naruto breathed. “I wasn’t there for her. I didn’t even say good-bye! I never forgave myself for that! Not being able to hold her hand and be there for her is the biggest regret of my life! I never got over that, and you let me feel like that this long?!” He ended in a shout. “You sent me away! I didn’t even get to say good-bye to my own mother because you wanted to use a child as a pawn!” He spun and punched his father squarely in the jaw. Minato stumbled back. “Why?!” Naruto screamed. “What’s the purpose of this?!”
Hinata looked at Neji, then to Boruto and Himawari, then to Sarada. Boruto was asleep now, his sister sitting beside and stroking his blood-streaked hair. Tears fell from her now blue eyes. Sarada was being drilled with questions by Sakura as she stood uncomfortably. “Dark Phoenix Prison,” Hinata muttered.
Neji nodded. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said gruffly.
“No… I should have known they would have done something like this.”
“Hinata, I didn’t want to do this to him, or to you,” Neji whispered. “But he could have hurt someone.”
“I know,” Hinata answered as she stared down at her son. He whimpered softly in his uneasy sleep. “I just wish it didn’t have to be like this.” Neji knelt in front of his cousin. “Naruto really didn’t know about any of this, did he?” she asked.
“No, he didn’t. He’s just as in the dark about this as the rest of the village.”
Hinata looked towards where Naruto and his father had disappeared. “Probably not anymore,” she muttered. “I spent all this time hating him for something he had no control over. He really was trying his best, wasn’t he?”
“I would imagine so,” Neji admitted.
Hinata closed her eyes. “What about the girl and her brother?” she asked finally.
Neji sighed and turned to the two children. “The right thing to do would be to tell the elders about them.” Hinata’s eyes snapped open. “But that would be the worst thing for them both,” he added quickly. “The best thing for them would be to keep it secret. Can’t you send them to the orphanage?”
Hinata shook her head. “No. Kabuto has evacuated the orphanage and I don’t know which safe house they went to. What are we going to do? If the elders find out about them…” she trailed off.
“They would take their eyes, most likely,” Neji finished. “At least. Killing them would be worst case. Should we tell Obito about them?”
Hinata shook her head again. “No. There’s enough tension between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. If the elders were to find out the Obito was keeping this secret from them, we could be looking at problem.”
“Then they’re most likely safest with you,” Neji admitted. “I believe this mission is over. Will you be heading to Konoha with them?”
“I will,” Hinata said with a nod. “I believe it’s time to speak with my own father about what’s going on here.”
“You might not like the results,” Neji said.
“I stood by and watched them treat Hanabi like an object,” Hinata snapped. “They wouldn’t even let me see her or speak to her. I will not let them treat my son the same way anymore!”
“Hinata,” Neji whispered. “It’s worse than that now. We’re too deep in. Things have gone to hell since Ansei and Hanabi’s son have switched. You probably shouldn’t be anywhere near the elders right now.”
Hinata narrowed her eyes at Neji. “What have they done this time?”
“I can’t say,” Neji muttered, rubbing his head. Hinata rested a hand on his arm to comfort him. “But we need to keep those children safe. No one can know about the Byakugan. The elders are already on edge. If they believe that someone has gone rogue and fathered these children, there will be no stopping them from doing whatever it takes to protect the clan line.” He looked at his sleeping nephew. “I will speak to the elders about this. They won’t like that Naruto knows now, but it will distract them from the bigger issue. You need to find out who parented those kids.”
Hinata nodded. She still wanted to speak to her father, but it might be easier for her to speak to Hanabi or Tori at the point. “I will do my best,” she muttered. She looked at Neji, her eyes wide. “Have they done something bad?” she asked.
Neji nodded. “There’s no turning back now, Hinata,” he grumbled, looking up at the grey morning sky. “And I’m sorry…”
Boruto wasn’t sure what to do anymore. They had spent the entire day recovering and then they would return to the Leaf Village in the morning. The mission, it seemed, was canceled due to injuries. Boruto’s leg still hurt despite his mother’s healing ability. When Naruto and Minato had finally returned, Naruto looked angrier than Boruto had ever seen him and Minato just looked dejected and almost confused. Boruto wanted to talk to his grandfather. He had heard so many great things about the man and to actually have a chance to speak with him was almost a dream come true, but the boy wasn’t sure that this Minato would want to speak with him.
The boy leaned back and closed his eyes, hoping for something, anything, to make sense about any of this. The pain had been real, but he could still try to pass this off as a genjutsu if he tried hard enough. He clenched his fists. How would he get his parents together if they hated each other? How would this possibly work?
Boruto turned to Minato. He stood slowly and limped over to the man. “Hi,” he muttered softly.
“You shouldn’t be up, kid,” Minato muttered. Boruto sat down in front of him and studied his face. He looked old tired, just like Naruto had in their world. “What?” Minato asked.
“Nothing,” Boruto said quietly. “I just… never knew my grandfather.”
Minato smiled warmly. “In this world it’s rare for children to meet their grandparents,” he said kindly. “What about your dad?”
Boruto’s shoulders dropped. “He and I… we got in a fight before this all happened,” Boruto grumbled.
“I’m sorry,” Minato whispered.
“Thanks…” Boruto wanted to tell the man what was really going on. Tears began welling in his eyes, but he didn’t want to cry in front of anyone. He had to be strong for Himawari and Sarada, and he couldn’t break down. Minato seemed to notice the look in his eyes.
He reached over and placed his hand on the boy’s head, smiling as warmly as he could. “I know it’s hard,” he whispered. “But, you can get through this, right?”
Boruto couldn’t help but smile. There was so much of Naruto in the older man. Boruto moved forward and hugged Minato tightly. At first he could feel the man stiffen, as if unsure why a child he hardly knew would hug him so kindly; but after a moment he returned the embrace.
Boruto couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. He buried his head in the man’s chest; a man that was his grandfather but would never know how much this hug meant to the child in his arms. Minato rubbed his back slowly, trying to calm the child’s tears. “It’ll be okay,” Minato whispered in the kindest voice he had. “Don’t worry about it.”
They stayed there for a few moments before Boruto broke away, drying his tears. They spoke to each other while the sun set, talking about anything they could think about. It wasn’t until the man had settled down for the night that Boruto stood and stumbled back to where Hima and Sarada were. They were asleep by that point and he settled down beside them, but sleep didn’t come to him.
He gave up on it after about an hour and he stood to move to another side of the clearing by himself. He stayed in silence until another figure came to sit beside him. “I wanted to apologize,” Ansei muttered. Boruto shrugged.
“It’s no big deal.”
“It really is. I’m really sorry.” Boruto sighed and closed his eyes, not wanting to talk to the other boy, but the other boy wanted to talk, it seemed. “I don’t mean to hurt people…” Ansei whispered. “At least, not when I was younger.”
“What changed?” Boruto asked, deciding that he should indulge Ansei.
“I don’t remember living with my mom and dad at the orphanage,” the Hyuuga started.
Boruto suppressed a sigh. I didn’t want your life story, he thought, but he decided that he should at least listen to the story.
“I was one when they took me away. I grew up as a ghost in the Hyuuga compound. No one would look at me as I played in the yards. No one spoke to me unless it was to correct my form. They trained me in near silence and they never looked at me unless it was to check a move I was working on. Even when I was being scolded, it was through a screen and I could not see who was speaking to me… but more importantly, they could not see me.”
Boruto blinked. Does he really want to talk to me about this? We hardly know each other. Sure, we’re technically siblings, but he doesn’t know that, the Uzumaki thought. He didn’t interrupt, however. He merely turned to the night sky as the words continued.
“When I was four, I finally met him… Hanabi’s real son,” he added quietly. “He was a weak little thing with skin that was like tissue paper. His pale eyes were almost as white as his flesh and if he moved, it was slow, like his body hurt him when he did. I learned how to take care of him. They taught me how to feed him, how to exercise his stiff and deformed limbs, and even how to bathe him and clean up after him. They all treated him like some porcelain artifact that would be broken if they even looked at him. He wasn’t allowed to leave his room.
“For a while, I came to his room and we would speak. He would listen as I described what the outside looked like. I told him about the feeling of the sun on the skin and how it felt to be slapped or to fall… And in exchange, he would tell me what it felt like to be spoken to… to be acknowledge, though they never treated him like a real person. He was just something they weren’t allowed to break; he was almost like a prized vase, a doll for display only; but he was my doll.”
Boruto turned to the other boy. He didn’t even seem to notice another presence beside him. It might make him feel better to be listened to, Boruto reasoned with a nod. He wasn’t sure what the purpose of this was. Why did Ansei want to tell his life story to a perfect stranger?
“I loved him… but like how a child loved a favorite toy. I looked forward to our meetings, but as time went on, I slowly began to resent my little Ningyo, and that resentment turned to hatred. I began thinking of ways to hurt him, but I could do nothing to him that his body did not already do because he lived in constant pain. I became frustrated with him, and then I stopped talking to him… That was when I learned what the best punishment was… I didn’t speak to him. He would get annoyed as I came in to bathe him without saying a single word. As the weeks wore on like this, he became more and more agitated… and even frightened. He would beg me to speak with him, but I didn’t. For the first time someone needed something from me. I had control over someone else.
“It wasn’t until a couple years later that I was bathing him and I realized how easy it would be to kill him. Life, I learned, was fragile.” Boruto clenched his fists. Now he was afraid to interrupt the story. “I held him under the water and watched as he struggled against me, but he was too weak to escape. I held him down there until just after he passed out. When I realized what I had done, I yelled for someone to come and I fled before they came.” Ansei wiped a tear from his eye and Boruto sat frozen in place. He wasn’t sure if he should stop the other Hyuuga or not. He probably wouldn’t even notice if I walked away, he thought with a shudder.
“I realized then that life could end in a moment, and I thought that maybe that was my way to escape. I would become a true spirit to haunt the halls, so I went to the garden in the dead of night with a knife in my hand. I could finally be free from their uncaring stares and anger… But before I could plunge the knife into my throat, an elder stopped me. He took the weapon from my hand as gently as possible and told me that my life was too valuable to throw away like that. In tears, I asked him what my purpose was, and he told me that I had a purpose far greater than anyone who had come before me…
“And for a while, they treated me like that,” Ansei continued, his voice barely above a whisper. “The main branch members treated me like one of them and the lower members treated me like a main branch. I wasn’t allowed to see my little Ningyo again, however. I was too busy anyway. They taught me things that only the head of the household would know; how to attend meetings, politics and other things I found to be boring. They also passed down to me attacks and abilities that were reserved only for the Main Family. For the first time in my life, I was happy. I didn’t fully understand what they wanted me to do, but I had been given something like a purpose and I was happy…”
Boruto sighed and looked up at the sky. Ansei was off in his own little world. I wonder how often he tells this story to the trees, he thought. He knew he should feel bad for the guy, but it seemed like Ansei had a better life now.
“When Ningyo turned nine, I was brought out into the village for the first time. It was when they wanted to present the Hyuuga heir to the people. Anyone who saw us bowed deeply, showing the upmost respect. I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t the heir of the family and it wasn’t my birthday, but when I tried, the elder pulled me aside and told me that I was not to speak to anyone in the village. He told me that if I was to be the savior of the Hyuuga Clan, I had to do everything they said without question. I was quiet the rest of the day, but I thought about what I was told. I didn’t like it.
“So, I tried to do something about it. I ran from my handlers and tried to find anyone who would listen. I was scared. When my handlers found me, they tried to restrain me, and something snapped. I took out a knife and killed one of them. The other knocked me out. It was then that they created the Dark Phoenix Prison and put it on me… I was ten years old.
“After that, no one spoke to me. I trained on my own. They sent me to the academy, but even there, I was royalty to them, so no one spoke to me, too afraid that they would offend. I was the top of my class; intelligent and powerful with grades that anyone would envy… But I was… unstable. I was back to being a ghost, but this time I didn’t have Ningyo. The elders would only speak to me to reassure me that I was the savior of the Hyuuga Clan… But I hated the Hyuuga Clan. The Lower Branch resented me because I was important… The Main Family hated me because I wasn’t one of them. Hanabi never forgave me for trying to kill her son… The village didn’t know what I was going through, and frankly, they didn’t care. I lived my life being hated by everyone around me, and then being told that I was meant to save them!”
Boruto jumped. After so long of a cold, soft, monotone narrative, Ansei nearly ended in a shout. “I didn’t want that destiny! I didn’t want the fate that they said I was given…! I hated the Hyuuga Clan, and that hatred festered and grew, until it climaxed and I strangled a classmate the day before our graduation ceremony. I watched her die in my hands and I remember pretending I was choking the life of the Hyuuga Clan. If they wouldn’t let me kill myself, then I would let Konoha take me away from them. A life in a literal prison was better than the hell I faced every day!”
Ansei laughed bitterly, clenching his fists as tight as he could. He knuckles turned white. “But of course the Hyuuga Clan made it go away!” he snapped angrily. “The cover up story was that it had been a training accident! The parents of that girl didn’t even get to see the body and the teacher that was supposed to be supervising us that day was fired, forced to move into the ANBU where he was most likely killed to keep what I had done a secret! And me… Well, they didn’t punish me at all! I got away with it! They let me get away with murder!”
Boruto shook his head slowly, trying to think of something to say to stop this, but he didn’t know what. Ansei had two murders to his name and another attempt, yet he was allowed to walk free! Why had Konoha let this happen? Why hadn’t they done anything to stop the abuse to this child before it had escalated to violence and murder? Why hadn’t they stopped this child?!
“It was then that I realized,” Ansei continued as if Boruto wasn’t even there, “that I was blaming the wrong people. Sure, the Hyuuga were terrible, and cruel, but I found that they were like a child that would throw a tantrum and break his own toys whenever he didn’t get what he wanted. He would scream and hurt people whenever he was told no, so the parents eventually stopped telling the child no… Can you then blame the child for acting like that?” Ansei snapped, staring at Boruto now. The blonde shook his head slowly, shaking slightly.
“No, you can’t!” Ansei continued. “It’s the parents’ fault for not disciplining their child! The child was allowed to get away with his actions without consequences! You can’t punish a child for the mistakes of their parents! It’s the parents that have to be punished!” He nodded. “I had finally found my purpose. Konoha would no longer let children fall through the cracks; to feel unloved, unwanted, and forsaken!”
Boruto swallowed hard and gripped the grass beneath him. Ansei, it seemed, had wanted to get this off his chest, and who better than a stranger who couldn’t run because of a leg injury? Boruto bit his bottom lip. How much did anyone know about the extent of Ansei’s abuse? They hadn’t even treated him like he was a monster; they had treated him like he didn’t exist. They had let this child’s mind fester in hatred this long…
“It was then I realized that my purpose wasn’t to save the Hyuuga Clan as the elders have told me my whole life,” Ansei whispered, ending in the same tone he had started. “It was to punish the parents… I was to bring Konoha to its knees… and rebuild it from the ashes…”