“So… You want to become Hokage?” Boruto asked hopefully, though he wasn’t sure that’s what the Hyuuga meant.
Ansei shrugged. “You could say that,” he muttered softly. Boruto bit his bottom lip and sighed.
“Well, I’m really sorry,” he whispered. Boruto wasn’t sure how to react to what he had just been told. He stood and limped away from the Hyuuga. “Hey, Ansei,” he said after getting a few feet away.
“If you need to talk, or anything, I’ll be here.” Maybe a hint of kindness would help the poor child.
Ansei smiled at Boruto. “Thanks.”
Boruto went back to his place beside his sister, but sleep still didn’t come to him. The group was up and moving at the break of dawn, but their pace was slow considering they had someone with an injury. “I’ll carry you,” Sarada whispered as she fell back to walk beside Boruto.
“I’m fine. I want you to keep an eye on Himawari. I want to make sure she’ll be safe… no matter what happens to me.”
“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Sarada snapped. Boruto didn’t answer her. He dragged his leg behind him. Hinata hadn’t had the time or energy to heal the wound completely and now it was starting to burn a little. “Boruto,” Sarada whispered. “Nothing is going to happen to you, okay?”
Boruto grunted in response. He turned to look at Ansei. The boy’s story haunted the child. What kind of world did they live in that would treat a child as if he were nothing more than an object? What kind of powers did Ansei possess to back up his threats and dreams? Boruto wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.
The boy yelped as he was lifted from behind. “Alright, kiddo, you’re slowing us down,” Naruto said with a smile. He placed Boruto on his back. The boy pouted and Sarada giggled at him.
“I don’t need your help,” Boruto grumbled, but he didn’t feel like fighting. He didn’t sleep at all the night before. Instead, he rested his head on Naruto’s shoulder with a long side.
“Don’t need my help, hm?” Naruto teased. Boruto grunted in response. “You’re a funny kid.”
“You have no idea,” Boruto whispered sleepily. He closed his eyes and drifted off into a light sleep.
His peaceful moments were interrupted by the sound of harsh voices. Boruto didn’t open his eyes, but he recognized the angry tone of his father and the softer tone as Minato. They must be arguing, Boruto thought. He decided to try and get back to sleep. The midday sun was keeping him warm enough.
“I want you to understand,” Minato was saying.
“I do understand,” Naruto snapped quietly as to not wake up the child on his back.
“No, I don’t think you do, Naruto,” Minato countered. “I want you to understand why we had to do all of this.”
“You were preventing a war or something,” Naruto answered. Boruto felt the man shrug beneath him. “I get it.”
“No, you don’t! You’re still mad at me.”
“Of course I am, dad!” Naruto growled. “Am I supposed to forgive you?”
“That would be nice,” Minato grumbled.
“I’ll think about it.”
Boruto suppressed a giggle at Naruto. I guess I am a lot like my dad, he thought.
“In all seriousness, Naruto, I really am sorry about it all,” Minato continued. Naruto scoffed. “Don’t give me that, son,” the older man snapped softly. “If you would just listen-“
“Listen?!” Naruto snapped suddenly. Boruto didn’t move. “You want me to listen to you? Why should I?”
“Because I’m your father.”
“Some father you are…” Naruto grumbled. “And some Hokage. You and Obito were morons!” Naruto shook his head. “I can’t, dad… I just can’t believe you were part of this! You lied to me and mom about all of this and you sacrificed a child for this!”
Minato sighed. “We sacrificed one child’s happiness for the life of the village, Naruto, and I can’t apologize for that. Do you want me to show remorse for it?”
“I want you to show something.” Naruto hissed.
“I’m sorry about what I did to you and your mother, but I’m not sorry about what I did to Ansei,” Minato answered truthfully. “War is ugly, Naruto. Politics are even uglier. I won’t apologize for a choice we made that prevented what could have been a Civil War, but I will apologize for lying to you about it.”
“Too little, too late,” Naruto snapped suddenly.
Boruto stiffened. “What?” Minato asked.
“You want my forgiveness, don’t you?”
Boruto tried to stop the tears in his eyes. He recognized the condescending and hateful tone in Naruto’s voice…
“Uzumaki Boruto!” Naruto shouted at the bottom of the stairs. “Get down here!”
Boruto groaned and walked to the landing at the top of the stairs. “What?” he growled.
“Don’t you dare ‘what’ me!” Naruto snapped. “Get down here!”
Boruto scoffed and walked two steps down the stairs before stopped. Naruto narrowed his eyes. Good. He’s mad, Boruto thought with a smirk.
“I told you to come down here!”
“Yeah, I heard you,” Boruto said with a shrug. “What do you want?”
“I want you to walk down these stairs,” Naruto answered. Boruto had never seen his father this angry, and he felt somewhat bad about what he had done, but it had to be done! If being blasted perfect wasn’t going to get his father’s attention, then being the opposite might. Boruto walked a few more steps down the stairs. Naruto’s eyes widened. “Boruto!” he shouted.
Boruto walked down the rest of the steps and stood in front of his father, looking up at him with a deadpan expression on his face, trying to show that he wasn’t afraid to face the consequences of what he had done. “I thought I raised you better than this,” Naruto said finally.
Boruto shrugged. “I’m sorry, are you raising me?” he asked. He almost flinched when Naruto lifted his hand; not to slap him, just to silence him.
“I don’t want your attitude right now,” Naruto snapped.
Boruto laughed. “Then go do paperwork or something! I bet I’m talking to a clone right now, anyway!”
“No, son, you aren’t.”
It worked! Boruto thought happily. He finally had his father’s undivided attention. It only took some drastic measures.
“Why did you do this?” Naruto asked.
Boruto crossed his arms and leaned against the wall beside the stairs with a shrug. “Because I thought it would be fun.”
“Fun?!” Naruto shouted. This time Boruto did flinch. It had only been a simple prank, hadn’t it? “You thought that was fun? You have no idea what you’ve done, do you?!” Naruto shook his head. “I can’t believe you! I’m disappointed in you, Boruto!”
“Disappointed?!” Boruto countered, suddenly angry and scared. Had the prank gone wrong? Why was his dad acting like he had murdered someone? “You don’t get to be disappointed in me!”
“Excuse me?” Naruto growled.
“You don’t get to be disappointed in me when you’re never proud of me!” Boruto shouted. “I did this because being so damn perfect wasn’t enough for you!”
“Boruto…” Naruto reached to touch his son’s shoulder. Boruto pulled away violently, throwing Naruto’s hand away.
“NO! You don’t get to act like a father now!” Boruto shouted. He was shaking. Naruto was no longer angry at him. How bad it all gone? Was someone actually hurt? “You don’t get to pick and choose when you’re my dad! You’re not allowed to ignore everything I do right and then when I go and do something like this you are suddenly my father again! It doesn’t work like that! Why did you even have kids?!”
Naruto bit his bottom lip and sighed. “Boruto… I need to know what you did,” he said.
“Don’t change the subject! You don’t want to talk about it!”
“This isn’t about us!” Naruto shouted suddenly. Boruto shrank back. “I need to know who helped you do this!”
Boruto shook his head. “No! We’re talking about this!”
“Not right now!”
“Then when?! When I’m your age and we haven’t spoken in ten years?!” Boruto shouted, tears soaking his cheeks.
“This isn’t about us!”
“It needs to be!”
Naruto threw a punch. Boruto let out a loud shout as his father’s fist impacted the wall above him. “Boruto, this is more important than that! You put a lot of people in danger today and I need to know who else was involved in your little prank!”
Boruto glared at his father. It didn’t matter what he did, did it? The village always came first! He could vanish off the face of the earth and his father would be more concerned about Konoha losing a precious prodigy than he would about actually losing his son. “So, that’s it, is it?” Boruto asked. “Fine! I—“
“—hate you!” Naruto shouted.
Boruto jumped. He had missed the argument that had escalated to that final shout. Boruto turned to Minato. He hadn’t stayed to see Naruto’s face after he had yelled those final words, but seeing Minato’s nearly broken expression physically hurt Boruto. Naruto moved away from his father with Boruto on his back.
“Naruto,” Sakura whispered as she came up beside them. “That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?” Naruto scoffed. Sakura bowed her head, knowing that Naruto was as stubborn as mule. “Hinata says we should stop for the night. There’s a village not far from here and at this pace we aren’t going to make it to Konoha before nightfall anyway.”
“Fine,” Naruto muttered.
“Naruto,” Sakura said. Boruto wanted to stop their interaction.
She isn’t who you’re meant to be with! Boruto wanted to shout.
Naruto sighed and turned to Sakura, smiling sadly. “I’ll apologize to him later,” he agreed finally. “I’ll let him stew with those words for now.”
“Fair enough, I suppose,” Sakura said. She smiled and kissed Naruto on the cheek. Boruto dropped off of Naruto’s back, shouting as his leg hit the ground.
“H-hey!” Naruto said. “Don’t hurt yourself, kid! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” Boruto snapped. Sarada and Himawari rushed to his side.
“Brother,” Himawari whimpered softly. Boruto smiled and ruffled her hair.
“Don’t worry about me,” he told her. He stood and went to lift his sister in his arms, but Sarada stopped him.
“Don’t. You’ll only hurt yourself.” Boruto sighed.
“The village isn’t far,” Sakura assured them.
“Thanks.” Sarada said with a smile.
“I’ll walk to rest of the way.” He turned to Minato. The man looked completely lost. Boruto’s shoulders dropped. I’m sorry, dad… he thought.
The group stayed in silence until they reached the small merchant village. As they walked through the streets to the inn where they would be staying, Boruto looked around them. It was a poor village. Some kids ran up to them, holding their hands out for anything that could be given. Boruto frowned. The kids were skinny and their pale skin could hardly be seen beneath the layer of filth on their bodies.
Boruto turned to the others in the group as they shooed off some of the kids. Sakura reached into her pouch and deposited a few coins in a couple of the kids’ hands. Those who got some ran off with their offerings. Boruto looked at Hinata, who was offering a few pieces of food to some of the children. Boruto stiffened as two of the children ran up to Ansei. The image of the Hyuuga strangling his classmate flashed through the Uzumaki’s mind. Surely pestering children would be enough to make the unstable Hyuuga angry.
Ansei stopped and knelt before both of the kids with a biggest smile Boruto had seen on his face. He reached into his pouch and handed them a few ninja tools that could be sold, some soldier pills and coins. He also wiped some dirt off the younger child’s face, revealing a long cut that looked fairly new. Ansei did some handsigns and his hands began to glow with a gentle blue glow. He placed a hand over the cut, mending the flesh.
Boruto’s eyes widened. Wow… he thought with a soft smile. He suddenly felt lightheaded and dropped to the ground, but the smile never left his face.
Taiyaki sat with his legs swinging back and forth as they healed Boruto’s leg. It seemed he had lost too much blood and then had been ignoring the signs that he needed medical attention. He’s a weird one… Tai thought with a shrug.
He sighed and fell onto the bed in the room with a soft oof. “What are you doing?” Sarada asked. Tai blushed suddenly and rolled over to avoid her gaze.
“N-nothing,” he stammered. Sarada sighed and sat on the bed with the boy. “How’s your friend?”
“Boruto? Oh, he gave us a scare, but Hinata-san says he’ll be okay.”
“That’s good!” Tai said with a smile.
“Do you… like him?” Tai asked awkwardly. Sarada flinched slightly, then turned to the boy with a smile.
“He’s all I’ve got right now,” she said. “I wouldn’t say we’re exactly close… Our parents grew up together, though, so I guess we’re almost like cousins.”
“It must be nice,” Tai muttered.
“Surely you have friends.”
Tai shrugged. “I do, but not any really close friends.”
Sarada turned to the boy. “Why’s that? You seem pretty nice.”
Tai looked at the Uchiha for a moment before turning away. “I guess it’s because Ansho kind of thinks she runs everything… She’s basically been tormenting me since I can remember… But that’s okay!” He added with a quick smile. “I still have a good family, and a handful of friends that makes it okay.”
Sarada smiled along with the boy. “That’s good!” she said. “You shouldn’t let the words of others get to you.”
Sarada stood from the bed and yawned. “Well, I’m heading off to bed. Good night, Taiyaki.”
“Night!” Tai called. He sighed once she had moved to another room in the inn.
“What kind of sigh is that?” Sakura asked from the doorway.
“Hm?” Tai said with a start.
Sakura smiled and sat down beside her son. “She’s very nice.”
“Mom!” Tai cried, blushing. “She’s an Uchiha!”
“So?” Sakura asked.
“I’m too young to think about that stuff anyway.”
Sakura hugged the boy tightly, pulling him into her lap. “That you are.”
Tai leaned against his mother and sighed. “It seems like everything is falling apart, mom,” he whimpered.
“I know…” Sakura whispered. She hugged the boy tightly and rocked him. “I know it seems scary, but nothing’s going to change, don’t worry!”
“How can you be so optimistic?” Tai asked sleepily.
“Because I know that things get hard, but they can always get better, so don’t you worry about it.”
Tai nodded and closed his eyes, falling asleep against his mother.
When day came, the group continued on their way. The rest of the trip was done in silence, save for Boruto speaking with his group, and occasionally Ansei when the aloof Hyuuga would let them have a conversation with him. Tai stayed close to his parents for the remainder of the trip and Minato kept on eye on the group from the back, talking with Hinata and Neji about one thing or another.
Tai was happy to be back in the village when they arrived. Boruto was taken directly to the hospital while Hinata went with Naruto and Minato to discuss where the kids would be placed. Ansei returned the Hyuuga compound with Neji, even though Hinata had wanted him to stay with her, and Sakura had to go to the academy to get her job squared away now that she didn’t need the time off anymore. Tai was left alone for the rest of the day. He debated on going home, but decided against the idea. There was nothing to do at home anyway, so the boy went about heading towards the training fields. He stopped when he noticed Ansho and her cell in the fields as well. Taiyaki sighed deeply, deciding that training wasn’t worth being harassed by the other Hyuuga.
Darn the Hyuuga, Taiyaki thought angrily. All they do is cause trouble! They’re why dad and granddad are fighting! And why that kid got hurt! He frowned and turned to leave.
“Well, if it isn’t fish-bun!” Ansho called.
“Knock it off,” the Nara kid groaned softly.
“Yeah, Ansho, we should just keep on training,” the other grumbled.
Ansho shook her head and walked over to the smaller child. She grabbed his arm and he let out a soft yelp. There would have been no point in running, anyway. “What are you doing back?” the Hyuuga hissed. “You and my little cousin weren’t supposed to be back for a few weeks.” She gripped his arm tighter. “What happened?”
“N-nothing!” Taiyaki whimpered. Sakura had told him that he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about what he had seen during their mission, not even the Hokage.
“Something obviously happened! What was it?”
“Ansho, leave him alone…”
“Why should I?”
“Why do you hate my family so much?” Taiyaki snapped, trying to change the subject from the mission to the girl’s own problems.
Ansho scoffed and shoved the boy to the ground. “I don’t need to answer your questions!”
“And I don’t need to answer yours! The mission got cancelled, that’s all I know,” Tai lied quickly.
“Look, I don’t want any part of this,” the Nara groaned. He started walking away, grabbing the other boy as he left. Taiyaki sighed. Those two were just as afraid of Ansho as he was, it seemed, if not more.
Ansho smiled once her teammates were gone. She grabbed the boy’s salmon colored clothes and yanked him to his feet. “You want to tell me what really happened during the mission?” she asked.
“Nothing happened!” Taiyaki insisted. And even if it did, what business is it of yours anyway? He added silently.
“They don’t just cancel a month long mission out of the blue unless something happened! What was it? Did it have to do with Ansei?”
“No, it didn’t,” Taiyaki snapped. “I got sick, okay? They had to go home!”
Ansho narrowed her eyes. She punched the boy in the belly, causing him to double over in pain. “Nice try, but if you had gotten sick, the whole mission wouldn’t have been canceled. You would have been sent home with your mom. So, what happened?”
“It doesn’t matter!” Tai snapped. That earned him another punch, this time in the face. He stumbled back, dazed for a moment.
“It does matter!” Ansho snapped. “Was it Ansei?”
“Why do you care so much?” Tai asked. That, again, earned him another punch to the face.
This went on for several more minutes. Eventually Taiyaki tried to fight against his attacker, but she was relentless in her interrogation. Tai remembered thinking that she would be great for the interrogation and torture division of the village. Eventually he dropped to his knees, coughing and spitting blood. Why did she care so much?
I have to tell her something, he thought desperately. Mom said I can’t tell anyone anything I saw on the mission… Surely she only meant what Ansei did. Why would they care so much about the other kids? Maybe the Hyuuga don’t know they have a Jinchuuriki in their midst… That has to be it!
He sighed, relenting. “Fine… Remember those three kids I was with the other day?”
“Well, the younger girl… she’s a Hyuuga…”
“What?!” Ansho snapped. She grabbed Taiyaki’s clothes again. “Are you sure?”
“She activated the Byakugan,” Tai muttered. He was dropped back onto the ground. “I don’t know about the boy, though. They’re siblings, but he didn’t use the Byakugan.”
“Is that why the mission was canceled?”
“Yeah… I think so.”
Ansho smiled before turning and walking away. Taiyaki sighed deeply. At least she was gone now. He felt his nose to see if she had broken it, but she hadn’t. He would mark it down as a training accident so his parents wouldn’t worry about him.
I’m sure it’ll be okay, he thought. What’s the harm in letting the Hyuuga know about some other Hyuuga?
There are Hyuuga in the village that aren’t part of the clan…? Ansho thought as she walked towards the Hyuuga compound. Hiashi had asked her to figure out why the mission had been canceled so quickly. Apparently it hadn’t been Ansei.
Ansho sighed deeply. She wasn’t happy about ratting on some poor, lost kids, but if she came back with nothing, the elders wouldn’t accept that. She walked into the Elder’s room, bowing at the panel of Hyuuga who were discussing one thing or another.
“Have you found anything out, Ansho?” one of them asked.
The girl nodded. “I have…”