"What is this?"
Boruto felt his stomach sink into his boots as his father held his right hand aloft, the kote he had hidden under his jacket's sleeve now on display for the whole crowd, the whole world. His heart fluttered in his chest as his jaw worked up and down as he tried to think of something, anything, to get him out of his current predicament.
Boruto winced as his father's grip on his wrist tightened painfully. "I—this is…" Boruto said lamely.
"This," his father said, shaking his arm as he gestured to the ninja tool. "Is prohibited in the exams." His father released his arm, and Boruto struggled to resist the urge to rub away the pain in his wrist. His father loomed over him. "Using a ninja tool instead of your own chakra defeats the purpose of the Chūnin Exams."
Boruto raised his head to look at his father. He immediately dropped his gaze to the ground upon seeing the look of anger and disappointment he wore. His mouth was painfully dry as his nerves assaulted him. He was keenly aware that nearly the entire village was watching him, not to mention several hundred ninja from allied villages. He would never live this down.
Boruto opened his mouth to explain.
"—Lee," his father said, cutting off whatever he had been about to say. "Boruto is disqualified. Announce Shikadai as the winner."
Lee nodded and held a finger to his ear, turning on a microphone. "Boruto Uzumaki has been disqualified for using an illegal ninja tool! Therefore, the winner is Shikadai Nara of the Hidden Leaf!"
The arena was so quiet Boruto could have heard a throwing needle drop. From the box where the Kage sat, he could just manage to hear the Fourth Tsuchikage speak. She didn't even bother to whisper or speak under her breath. "So this is what it's like to have an idiot son who drags the Hokage's name through the mud…"
Boruto felt anger and shame bubble up.
The crowd erupted into cheers as the true winner was announced. Boruto's shoulders slumped and he could feel his face begin to burn from shame. He caught the screen out of the corner of his eye as his name faded to black and Shikadai's was lit up.
Boruto hung his head and felt very, very small. "You're disqualified for not following the rules," he heard his father explain imperiously as he reached forward with an outstretched hand. "We'll talk later."
Boruto's eyes widened as he realized that his father wasn't reaching out to grasp his shoulder, like he thought, but reaching out to take his headband. How dare he.
Boruto reacted violently, slapping away his father's hand and taking a few steps backwards. "We'll talk later? We'll talk later!" Boruto screamed. His knees felt weak. He was surprised he was even standing upright. "Do you even have time for that, dad? You're always so busy with the village that you don't even have time for me! If you had been a real father, I wouldn't even be in a situation like this!"
Boruto was aware how weak and hoarse his voice sounded. Great. So he was a cheater, and a weakling. He didn't see his father's hurt expression. Lowering his arm, Boruto saw his father steel his resolve. "Leave. We'll talk later. There are still matches to be conducted," he said.
Boruto swallowed his tears and ran. He refused to cry in front of these people. He would not be a cheater, a weakling, and a crybaby.
"Next match, Sarada Uchiha of the Leaf, versus Mitsuki of the Leaf!" Boruto heard Lee announce.
Boruto screamed into his pillow, even as tears ran down his cheeks. Of course, the only place he could go was home. He was twelve. Twelve. And his father had humiliated him in front of everyone. The entire village. All of the Kage. Their allies from the other villages. His friends.
He felt like he wanted to crawl into a hole and die. There was no way he could ever show his face in the village again. He would be a joke. The laughing stock. No one would take him seriously. He would remain a lowly genin—forever. Master Sasuke wouldn't continue teaching him. He was a disgrace.
Boruto took a long, ragged breath. His thoughts continued to run, each more depressing and soul crushing than the last. He was right. His father cared more about the village than his own son, his own family. It was no wonder he only sent a clone to his sister's birthday party. He didn't care about any of them. It was always the the village this, the village that. His father's family came last: not second, but last.
Boruto gripped his headband painfully tight and slammed his fist into his mattress over and over as the despair settled in. He could hear the faint cheering from the arena as the Chūnin Exams continued. He wondered what Sarada and Mitsuki would think. They would probably think he was a coward, Boruto supplied for himself. He could practically hear their voices.
Boruto tossed and turned. He was a nervous bundle of energy. He felt the need to act. To do something, anything. He swung his legs over his bed and sat hunched over, staring at his headband and the emblem of the Leaf etched on it. A single tear fell, staining the dark black fabric of the headband. Boruto brought up his hand and wiped at his face in a futile attempt to get his emotions under control. It didn't help.
Humiliation turned to sadness, and sadness turned to anger. In a sudden bout of rage, Boruto stood and violently kicked his computer chair, sending it flying into his wall on the opposite side of his room. His face was beet red and his breaths came fast and short.
Anger turned to hate. If his father didn't care about him, then he wouldn't care about his father. He wouldn't care about his village. He could still remember the sound of the crowd as they chuckled and snickered at his public humiliation. It wasn't all of them, of course, but it was enough that he could hear it over the thunderous applause Shikadai had been receiving.
Boruto acted on impulse. He vaguely remembered his Academy teacher explaining something about the events leading up to the war. How some ninja would disavow themselves from their village—permanently. Setting his headband on his desk, he ran a shaking hand through a drawer that caused its contents to rumble. He found what he was looking for. A small, but sharp, kunai. He gripped it tight, trying to steady his hand. With his free hand, he held his headband to the desk securely. He held the kunai over the metal band and his hand stilled.
He hesitated only a moment before cutting a long, jagged scratch across the emblem of the Leaf.
His breathing evened out as the reality of what he had just done set in. He had, in essence, just become a rogue ninja. He had rejected his village. Hate turned to fear. Rogue ninja were not treated well, nor looked upon favorably. Not that it mattered, anyway. Boruto scoffed. The whole village saw him cheat in the Chūnin Exams. It couldn't get much worse than that. He would be hard pressed to get a new headband. How would he explain the state of his current one? It wasn't like people went around and defaced the symbol of their loyalty to the village. It just wasn't done.
Boruto collapsed backwards onto his bed and held his head in his hands. Now he had truly made a mistake.
After a few minutes of wallowing in his emotions, Boruto heard a great cheer go up from the arena. Sarada's match must be over. He missed it. That meant the semi-finals were over. The finals would be next, and then his father would come for him.
Boruto couldn't bear that.
He ran to his closet, slamming the doors open. He found a large backpack on the floor, opened it, and emptied its contents on his bed. He quickly went through his closet, stuffing as many clothes as he could into it. Going to his desk, he grabbed several kunai and shuriken, as well as a handful of scrolls, and set them on top of his clothes in his backpack. With a moment of hesitation, he snatched up his headband and threw it in with everything else. Flinging open his door, he ran down the hallway and busted into his dad's office. Careful not to disturb anything—which was difficult with how much his hands were shaking—he sifted through the contents of the desk and pocketed a small sum of ryō. It wasn't much, but it would feed him until he could find a way to get more.
Boruto sprinted back to his room and hid the money under a shirt in his backpack. Rummaging through his closet again, he found a medium sized bag and ran downstairs. His heart beat in his chest so hard he could barely hear anything other than the sound of his own blood. He threw a few things into the bag from the kitchen, enough to last him a few days, maybe a week if he was prudent. Shoving his meager rations into his pack, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. His thoughts raced. Was he really going to do this? Could he? He didn't have a choice.
He grabbed a heavy yellow cloak out of his closet, threw it on, and drew the hood up. Grabbing his pack, he cast one last glance around his room. With a large intake of breath, Boruto turned and fled, making his way to the village gates.
As he expected, security was lax. Everyone was focussed on the Chūnin Exams.
That was the last time anyone saw Boruto Uzumaki in the Hidden Leaf.
Boruto walked through the thinning forest, basking in the light of the afternoon sun. It had been a whole day since he left the Leaf, and he was nearing his first destination. Boruto had struggled to think of where he would go, or what he would do, now that he wasn't a ninja of the Hidden Leaf. He just couldn't make up his mind. So, the answer was obvious. He would do everything! See everything, visit every nation, learn their techniques. It was perfect. A vacation he was never planning to come back from.
Light footsteps from up ahead drew Boruto's attention. An older man with graying hair was walking towards him. He wore plain clothes and a strange white sash with the character for "fire" emblazoned on it. The only way Boruto knew the man was a ninja was the bulge on the right side of his waist that belayed the presence of a pouch for shuriken.
He put on his best innocent smile and ran up to him. "Hey, sir! Do you know which way the capital is from here?" Boruto asked excitedly.
The old man looked down at Boruto and smiled. "Sure thing, kid. Just follow the path until you get to the main road. You're only about an hour's walk from the main gate," he said, pointing back the way he came.
"Thanks, mister!" Boruto said, dashing off down the path. Casting a quick look back, he saw that the old man was continuing on his way. Good. That meant he hadn't been recognized.
Upon leaving, Boruto immediately decided the first place he wanted to visit was the capital of the Land of Fire. It was a city of beauty, according to the rumors. The inner ring of the city was the picture of classical antiquity, where the Fire Lord ruled over the country, while the outer ring was a metropolis built upon the technological boom following the end of the Fourth War.
It didn't take long for Boruto to reach the end of the short forest path he had been on. Like the old man had said, he came upon a large road with men and women going to and from the capital. In the distance, he could see towering walls rise up, with even taller buildings beyond them. Even at this distance, he could tell the capital was massive.
Hiding behind a tree, Boruto watched the traffic for a few minutes. He found a suitable target: a young man in his early twenties with black hair and brown eyes. He looked common and had one of those faces that wasn't memorable. Hiding behind the tree, Boruto quickly flashed through the hand signs. "Transformation Jutsu," he uttered, picturing the man's appearance in his mind. A wisp of smoke drifted up from behind the tree as Boruto jumped out onto the road and made his way towards the main gate. Though the old man on the path didn't recognize him, it was entirely possible the guards at the main gate would.
The old man was right. It took Boruto almost an hour to reach the main gate at a brisk pace. As he grew closer, the city seemed to grow and grow until he had to crane his neck back to see the tops of the buildings. The traffic intensified the closer Boruto got, until he was shoulder to shoulder with people entering and leaving the capital. It was high noon, and the temperature combined with the mass of bodies made the heat sweltering.
Boruto walked right through the main gate with a bright smile on his face and a spring in his step. The guards didn't even give him a second look. There were too many people entering and leaving to search and question them all.
The capital was even more amazing than he imagined. Towering monoliths of steel and glass with bright, flashing neon lights of every color loomed over him. Signs extended over the road, each more elaborate and intricate than the last in an attempt to attract people. It was almost like a competition, in a way. Store owners battling for customers with the most eye catching advertising. The Hidden Leaf was great, but it was a military village; all utilitarian and no form. This was the big city.
Seeing a few kids his age running down the street, he jogged over to them. "Hey! Where's the nearest arcade?" Boruto asked.
The kids gave him a strange look. "Aren't you a little old to be going to the arcade, mister?" one of them asked. Boruto forgot he was wearing the disguise of an older, plain man. Examining his outfit, Boruto thought he looked rather like a laborer. He was out of place in the city.
One of the kids elbowed the other. "Be nice, brother," she said. "That way, mister," she added, pointing down a nearby alley that led deeper into the capital.
"Thanks!" Boruto said with a smile and jogged off in that direction. A few minutes later, after following several large neon signs, Boruto entered into a dark lobby filled with flashing lights, the dull roar of video games, and moans of displeasure as people lost and were forced to put more money into the machines.
Grinning, Boruto exchanged a handful of ryō for coins and went to play.
"Have you found him yet!" Naruto demanded.
The ANBU team in front of him stiffened. "No, sir," they answered. "We've checked the entirety of the village. He's not within the walls of the Hidden Leaf, we're sure."
Naruto scowled as his brows narrowed in worry. "Relax," Shikamaru said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Boruto is a smart kid. Maybe he found a way to hide. There's a bunch of secret passages and hideouts from the old days. Maybe he's hiding in one of them?"
Naruto glanced at the ANBU. "It will be done at once, sir," they said, bowing as they swiftly left the room.
With a heavy sigh, Naruto returned to the paperwork on his desk. "I hope you're right, Shikamaru. Just in case, prepare a notice to be sent out to every village in the surrounding area. If the ANBU don't find my son by tonight, I'll send teams out tomorrow morning."
"Sure," Shikamaru said with a nod, leaving to ready the messenger hawks to carry the notice about Boruto's disappearance.
"I'll go look too, Naruto," Hinata said, leaving his side. "The search will be faster with my Byakugan."
"Thank you, Hinata," Naruto said quietly as she left. Why had he been so hard on his son? He should've taken him from the arena before scolding him. He could have explained the situation better.
Naruto let out a weary sigh as the door closed behind Hinata. It had been a long day of stress and worry since Boruto ran away.
Boruto woke up late the next morning. It was nice, he had to admit, not having to be up at dawn for training every day. No one told him what to do now. He went to bed when he wanted. He woke up when he wanted. He ate what he wanted. He did what he wanted. It was perfect.
Snacking on some candy for breakfast that he had bought yesterday after leaving the arcade, he contemplated what he wanted to do for the day. Boruto decided to explore the inner circle of the city and the Fire Lord's castle.
Collecting all his worldly possessions, which amounted next to nothing, Boruto stood in front of the mirror and reapplied his transformation jutsu, once again taking the form of the young man he had copied yesterday. He made his way downstairs and out into the bustling city, heading towards the center.
The streets were full of people. Shoulder-to-shoulder, with barely a foot between one man and the next. Many were gawking, awkward tourists. As he walked from his hotel, the crowds slowly transitioned from city folk to wide-eyed tourists with flashing cameras. A guide was yelling at the top of his lungs as he led a train of tourists through the city and around the outer walls.
"And here you see the west gate to the inner city where the Fire Lord rules over our country!" the guide yelled, pointing to two large, towering gates made of a dark red wood that had the character for fire etched into them. Atop the walls, and in front of the gate, were no less than twenty ninja. Judging from their jackets, they were all jōnin or chūnin. "The Fire Lord is well defended around the clock, the greatest of his guards being the legendary Twelve Guardian Ninja!"
Cameras flashed as the tourists took pictures of the gate. Boruto smirked and moved on. Apparently the Fire Lord was not taking visitors, and even if he was, one look at that security and Boruto knew he would have been caught. His pride wouldn't let that happen at least for a month.
Boruto walked around the inner ring of the capital, admiring what he could. It was like the inner city was straight from a history book, all raised wooden structures with tiled or thatched roofs and paper walls with paintings of forests, mountains, and animals. Boruto tuned out the dull roar of the city and continued walking, enjoying the sights.
"—the Hokage's kid?"
That got Boruto's attention. "Yeah, it's gotta be. Boruto Uzumaki, ain't nobody else with that name 'cept the Hokage," a man was saying to his friend as they stood in front of a large wooden board. Boruto nearly tripped when he heard the man say his name.
"Yep. Even them Uzumaki clansmen in the Land of Whirlpools don't have that blond hair. Gotta be him," the man's friend said.
Boruto casually walked over to the board, trying his best to be nonchalant. It appeared to be some kind of bulletin board for public announcements, and his face was displayed prominently in the center of the board.
He paled. "Missing: Boruto Uzumaki, ninja of the Hidden Leaf. Blond hair, blue eyes, two identical birthmarks on both cheeks. Last seen leaving the Hidden Leaf village two days prior. One million ryō reward for information on his whereabouts," Boruto whispered under his breath.
Time to leave, Boruto decided, as he turned and briskly walked back through the outer ring of the city. Boruto's heart pounded in his chest as he half-walked, half-jogged through the capital. He was starting to imagine ninja casting speculative glances at him as they passed him. Or, maybe, they actually were. He needed to calm down. He was drawing attention to himself.
After an hour of nerve wracking walking, Boruto finally made it to the entrance of the city. Swallowing his nervousness, he walked through the gates like he owned them. After a few dozen steps without the guards calling out to him, he broke into a sprint.
Boruto didn't see two of the guards nod to each other before a ninja hidden in the trees began to follow after him.
Boruto sighed in relief as he leaned against a tree for support. He had spent the better part of the day running through the forest as he headed east. There wasn't much to do while running through the wilderness. Just make sure you didn't trip on any stray roots or slick patches of dead leaves. That left a lot of time to think.
And a lot of time to plan. His father had obviously alerted the nearby cities about his disappearance, so he was going to have to be careful about being near other people. That meant he had to hold his transformation jutsu nearly all the time. That was going to be a pain.
Boruto's first thought had been to go further west. He was a good two days away from the border of the Land of Rivers, and from there, he could continue even further west and go to the Land of Wind and the Hidden Sand. He had always wanted to visit 'Uncle' Gaara's village. But that was exactly the problem. His dad would have sent notice to the Kazekage that he was missing. For sure. Guaranteed. Uncle Gaara probably had ninja patrolling the borders just in case, anyway. The Hidden Sand was the closest ally of the Hidden Leaf. The only people he didn't want to see more than his own ninja were those from the Hidden Sand.
The solution? Head east. He would have to double back and sneak around the Hidden Leaf, but there were miles and miles of nothing but forest after that, dotted by small, inconsequential villages. Too small to warrant a hawk from the Hokage about his missing son. Once he reached the coast, he could run across the bay to the Land of Whirlpools, and from there, barter passage to the Land of Water. Or he could try running there. It was risky. He could run out of chakra and be forced to swim the rest of the way in the frigid cold waters. Maybe the boat wasn't so bad. Boruto sighed. He'd decide what to do tomorrow.
"Boruto Uzumaki?" a voice called out from the forest.
Boruto stiffened and zeroed in on the bush he thought the voice was coming from. A few moments later, a ninja walked into the small clearing he was resting in. She was a tall, thin woman with long, shaggy black hair held back in a ponytail, and her eyes were a bewitching shade of maroon. Judging from her jacket, she must have been either a jōnin or chūnin.
Stay calm. He was just some country bumpkin camping in the forest. Boruto took a deep breath. "Sorry?" Boruto said, doing his best to sound confused.
The woman raised an eyebrow. "Your transformation jutsu dropped, kid," she said.
Boruto looked down. The ground did seem a lot closer than it did in his disguise. He must have stopped channeling chakra into it while he was thinking. Boruto chuckled nervously.
"Look, kid, I'm just here to take you back to the village. The Hokage is worried about you," the woman said.
"Don't wanna," Boruto quipped, sticking out his tongue.
The woman smirked. "You don't really have a choice, kid. I'm just following orders, and my orders were to take you back to the village if I found you," she said.
Boruto scrutinized her for a moment. "Do I know you? You look familiar," he asked.
"My name is Mirai Sarutobi," the woman, Mirai, said, slowly shifting into a taijutsu stance.
"Ah! You're Konohamaru's cousin! Right—" Boruto exclaimed.
Before Boruto could even finish his sentence, Mirai darted forward, reaching out to grab him. Boruto yelped in surprise and jumped backwards, only to back into a tree trunk and come to a stop.
"Sorry, kid," Mirai said, aiming a well placed punch at his chin.
Boruto saw the punch coming and slipped into a Gentle Fist stance. He deftly swatted away her strike, his palm barely touching her wrist. Mirai hissed and withdrew her arm. He imagine her wrist smarted like it had been stung by a bee, and not slapped away by some kid.
Never had Boruto been more thankful to his grandfather for all those long, gruelling drills in the way of the Gentle Fist. Although he didn't have the Byakugan, it still was the strongest taijutsu style in the entire village.
Mirai glared at Boruto. "Don't make this any harder than it has to be, kid," she warned. "I don't want to have to be the one to explain to the Hokage why you're roughed up."
Boruto scoffed. "Bring it on," he taunted arrogantly.
Mirai shook her head. "Remember, kid, you asked for it," she said, sprinting forward. This time, she was light on her feet, ducking and weaving. She had no intention of finding out just how strong the Gentle Fist actually was.
Boruto rushed in, throwing palm strike after palm strike. Mirai dodged each one expertly with practiced ease, delivering a few counters here and there. After thirty seconds of fighting, Boruto could feel bruises forming along his ribs, arms, and chest. Thankfully, she was holding back, so nothing was fractured or broken. Or she was just really bad at taijutsu,he hoped.
"You're just a genin, kid. You're not going to beat me, a chūnin," Mirai stated.
Boruto frowned and his brows narrowed. No one underestimated him. He was tired of being seen as a failure. He weaved a few hand signs faster than Mirai's eyes could follow. "Shadow Clone Jutsu," he uttered. Two wisps of smoke erupted to his left and right, revealing two clones already in a Gentle Fist stance.
"No holding back, guys," Boruto instructed his clones.
"Right!" the clones answered. The three of them shot forward with unspoken agreement, each flowing through different forms of the Gentle Fist in a graceful but deadly dance.
Mirai avoided the first clone, as well as him, before striking the second clone with a well placed punch to the stomach. She was already turning to face him when Boruto struck her in the shoulder. He could hear the hiss of pain that slipped passed her lips. Boruto smirked triumphantly as he prepared for his next strike.
Boruto and his remaining clone leapt at the same time, a dervish of palms and pointed fingers. Mirai expertly dodged, weaving an arm towards the clone, and a foot towards him, as she defeated both with a simultaneous punch and kick.
His clone that was punched disappeared in a wisp of smoke as he flew back into a tree trunk. Boruto groaned as he blinked the stars out of his vision, his body automatically standing after years of training. "Come on, kid. Do we really have to do this?" Mirai asked.
Boruto sucked in a few fast, deep breaths. On the last one, he inhaled and held his breath, weaving the four hand signs as fast as he could. "Water Style: Water Bullet Jutsu!" Boruto exclaimed, shooting a thin but powerful jet of water at his opponent.
Mirai weaved through the hand signs for its opposite. "Fire Style: Fire Bullet Jutsu!" she exclaimed, sending a ball of flame towards the jet of water.
Fire met water in a hissing explosion of steam. Boruto jumped through the steam, swinging a palm at Mirai's head. She blocked, wincing, and Boruto could feel the Gentle Fist rattle the bones in her arm. It must have been an uncomfortable experience.
The two of them exchanged blows for nearly a full minute. By the end of their exchange, Boruto was gasping for breath, sporting several new bruises. "You lose, kid," Mirai declared, darting forward for the last exchange.
Boruto landed one last strike, abandoning all defense in exchange for offense. He delivered a precise palm strike to Mirai's thigh as the chūnin grappled him, smashing him into the ground and pinning his other arm behind his back. Boruto grunted in pain as Mirai tightened the hold on him.
Mirai jumped backwards on instinct as she felt Boruto's arm bulge. A moment later, he exploded into a wisp of smoke.
Mirai blinked several times before letting out a low chuckle. "Not bad, kid. Not bad," she said, wincing as she limped forward.
Nearly a mile away, Boruto smirked in triumph as the memories of his clone returned to him.
Edit: 9/23/2016 — I've gone back and touched up a few things this chapter. Mainly correcting a few spelling and grammatical errors, correcting spoken tenses, and other minor things. This chapter more accurately represents my writing style later in the story. The chapters following this one, up until 20 or so, may be of a poorer standard. If the quality is making you think of dropping the story, try to persevere until chapter 20.
The largest complaint that I have received is that Naruto feels, reads, out of character. This is intentional, and explained later in the story. If you're coming into this expecting Naruto to be the second coming of the Sage of Six Paths and an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient force of good, order, and justice in the world—like many of you seem to think he is—you're going to be disappointed.
So this is an idea I've had bouncing in my head for awhile now. It's a semi-alternate universe/spin-off where Momoshiki Ōtsutsuki does not interrupt the Chūnin Exams by attacking. This is not to say that the Ōtsutsuki's are not present in the world, just that they did not attack. They may appear at a later date, they might not. Instead, Boruto has to face the consequences of his actions. The natural course of action? He runs away from home. The New Dawn follows Boruto on his journey as he discovers himself and who he is, as well as the aftermath of the Fourth Shinobi World War. One thing I'd like to clarify is that Boruto's running away is different than Sasuke's, as you will see. I know a lot of people didn't really care for the whole Sasuke-runs-away plot in the manga, and how everyone is all angsty over his departure, and I just wanted to reassure people that it isn't the same thing here. It's not a rehash.