Naruto hung his head low, not meeting anyone's eyes as his shaggy hair overshadowed his face. The chakra-infused chains binding him to the cold steel chair seared his skin as he sat in the middle of the dark, foreboding town square. It looked as though it would rain soon. The Council of Elders rested comfortably in their high-built seats, as a group of vultures that would sweep down at any minute and begin to devour the remains of his dignity. He could feel the smirks on their faces, hear their muffled snickers. They had finally caught the demon boy.
The opportunity had arisen for him to get Sasuke back – again – and he had taken it with the same determination that he always had. Except this time, he had been pushed into transforming and lost control, injuring Sakura and Sai and nearly killing Kakashi. The Council had used this as an excuse to arrest him, saying that he was a danger to the village and needed to be punished. Kakashi, naturally, had immediately protested; but the Council still held some weight in the village, a bit too much, in fact. They were quickly able to silence his pleas. Tsunade was helpless in the situation. The Council had overridden her authority, giving them complete control over Naruto's fate, and she knew what they were going to do with him.
The only people who could help him now were the clan leaders, all of whom were required here. One of them could step up and defend him. However, this was a fleeting hope; the Council would just do to that clan head what they had done to countless others, as they had done to Kakashi. Curiously absent was the Hyuuga Clan head, whose usual punctuality was lacking.
It was a public hearing, so not only were all the clan leaders there but also anyone who wanted to come. Most of the Village had wanted to, and the trial had been moved to an outside arena to accommodate it. Most of the Rookie Nine was there already. Sasuke was still being held in a maximum-security facility and was unable to attend. All of Naruto's contemporaries and fans had shown up to show their support, though it would make little difference. Some people came to see the fox boy finally get what was coming to him.
The Sandaime's two old teammates and the current village Elders, Mitokado Homura and Utatane Koharu, were leading the charge. The decrepit man stepped forward, fully intent on punishing Naruto to the fullest degree possible.
"All Clan Heads being present except for one, we shall hereby begin the trial of Uzumaki Naruto. Does anyone wish to defend it?"
Nobody missed the use of that particular pronoun. Sakura, furious and near tears in the front, clearly remembered the conversation she had with her parents.
"If you let him die, I'll never forgive you!"
Chiharu and Fumio were the heads of the Haruno clan. Sakura, knowing what it took to help Naruto, had asked them to be his defense. They had point-blank refused, citing not only that he was a delinquent, perverted troublemaker but also exchanging dark glances when asked why they "really" hated him. Her mother had burst into tears when the subject of Sakura's aunt had come up (rather randomly, in the medic-nin's opinion), who had died in the Kyuubi attack.
That was a week ago. She had since started looking for an apartment.
A barely perceptible smirk curled his lips. "No? Then I suppose –"
"My apologies for being late, Mitokado-san." Hinata stood in the doorway, Neji, Kiba, and Shino flanking her like an armed guard, all four dressed in formal clothing. The three males quickly found seats, leaving Hinata to stride to the front alone.
Homura turned his head so quickly his glasses went askew. He frowned. "Hyuuga-san, your attendance here is imperative. Why were you so late?"
Hinata did not flinch at his harsh tone, nor did her own voice fumble. "I was held up by some business," answered the Hyuuga Head shortly. "Has it already begun?"
"I was just asking if anybody would care to defend the Uzumaki."
"Excellent," she replied. "I think I'll take that job."
His eyes widened. "W-wha – Hyuuga-san, do you realize the implications – your father wouldn't have–"
"My father is not here – I am. This has nothing to do with him." Her voice still carried that melodious lilt it always had, but now it was mixed with steel. The message was clear. You shouldn't have mentioned him.
Naruto had lifted his head up, staring at Hinata with incredulity. Someone,someclan leader in this gods-forsaken village was willing to stick up for him?
"I'd like a few minutes to speak with the accused."
"Request den –"
"It's not so much a request as it is a reality," interjected Hinata smoothly. She bent down towards Naruto while the Council muttered and whispered amongst itself.
"Hinata-chan, I really can't ask you to do this for me!" Naruto said immediately in a harsh whisper. "You're putting your whole clan on the line – your position in the village –"
"Are you telling me what to do?" She raised an eyebrow that shamed him into silence. "For goodness sake, I'm seventeen years old. I already have Neji clucking around me like a mother hen, Naruto-kun. Besides, all of the Branch Family support you. They know what it's like to have a mark you can't be rid of.
"I know you know that some things are worth the risk… like standing up for something you believe in. I believe in you. I always have. So this is not only something I'm doing for you, but also to prove to myself, once and for all, that I really have changed. Do you understand that much at least?"
He nodded slowly.
"Good. I need you to reciprocate, Naruto-kun. I need you to trust me. Believe in me."
"Hyuuga-san." Koharu's voice startled them out of their conversation. "It is time to resume trial. The Council of Elders of Konohagakure no Sato welcomes Tabuharu Ryuuta to make our case against the Uzumaki."
Ryuuta was a gifted public speaker, and Hinata could admit that he knew how to get an audience right where it hurt the absolute most. He cleverly skirted around Sandaime's Law, barely brushing on the topic of Naruto's odd powers before defiling his character once more. By the end of the speech, the anti-Naruto sentiment had increased too much for her liking. Ryuuta sat down with a smattering of applause from the Council and some from inside the crowd, too.
"Hyuuga Hinata, head of the Hyuuga Clan, will now make her argument for the Uzumaki."
Muttering, snickering, and quietly jeering, the crowd watched the utterly composed Hinata stand up. Naruto looked away with trepidation.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Council and the crowd… I do not come before you today with the intent to show you the moral soundness of Uzumaki Naruto's character. Anybody who really knows him knows what kind of person he is, and I could put any number of people on this stand to testify for him. I would ask that you make that judgment on your own time and with your own opinion. No. I stand here today to prove that the entire premise of this trial is completely unfounded."
The quiet talking grew louder. She waited patiently for silence before continuing.
"Mitokado-san," said Hinata, speaking clearly so everyone there could hear her. She pointed at Naruto. "Describe."
"Bain of our village," said Homura with a sneer. "Source of my troubles."
Homura snorted. "Hardly."
"So that's a no."
"That is correct. The Uzumaki is not a person."
Naruto felt a stabbing pain in his chest. Even if it was Homura…
"Are all of you in agreement?"
They chorused 'yes' loudly.
"And this is what you believed at the time of the arrest?" They answered in the affirmative.
"And do you also believe that Uzumaki Naruto's levels of power are so great that he is a danger to the village and everyone in it?"
They all nodded firmly, some calling out with a "Hear, hear!" Hinata waited until the noise had seceded and then began to speak again.
"Okay. Utatane-san, could you please tell me which law exactly was broken by Uzumaki-san?"
"It is one of our oldest laws, created by the Shodai Hokage himself," said Koharu with pride. "The Law of Hostile Conduct."
"The law itself is very basic, yes?" asked Hinata. Koharu nodded.
"It states: Any person/people found to be against and/or having harmed the village of Konoha shall be dealt with by the Hokage; if for some reason the Hokage is decided to be unable to deal with said person/people in all fairness, the Council of Elders may make ineffective the Hokage's right of involvement with a simple majority vote."
"That's exactly right, Utatane-san. I happen to have it here." Hinata smiled and gestured to Neji, who brought forth an old, thick book, bound by fading leather. "This is our family copy of the Konoha Lawbook. It says exactly what you told me. Actually, it has something after that part as well. Anything else clearly of greater power and/or skill than a person shall be dealt with by the Hokage and the ninjas of Konoha accordingly."
"I'm familiar with that part of the law as well," said Koharu. "I am confused by how it relates to this trial."
Naruto was looking at Hinata with wonder in his eyes. He had been the first to catch on, listening to Hinata's every word. She could… she could really do it!
Hinata's smile widened just a fraction. "Please allow me to explain. You see, in the law it says that you have jurisdiction over any oneperson–"
"NO!" shouted Homura. He had gotten the picture and breath heaved in and out of his chest in huge, gasping gulps as his ire rose. "Don't you dare say another word! I've waited too long –"
"And as all of you just said," Hinata continued, raising her voice over Homura's, "None of you think Uzumaki Naruto is a person! All of you were in agreement when you classified him as a thing -"
"NO! Shut up, you stupid little girl! You don't know what you're DOING!"
"And as your own law states, anything 'shall be dealt with by the Hokage and the ninjas of Konoha accordingly.' I suppose that would leave Naruto-kun under the command of Godaime Hokage Tsunade-sama, not you. And I also suppose that would make both this travesty of a hearing and your blocking of the Hokage quite illegal."
"Thanks, Hinata-chan, I can take it from here," said Tsunade with a smirk as she walked up next to Naruto's chair. She cracked her knuckles. "Where are my ANBU, damn it?!"
A large contingent of the masked warriors appeared out of nowhere, two for each of the fifteen council members. They were carried off, glaring resentfully at both Hinata and Naruto. Homura managed to escape the hold the two ANBU had on him and got right up into Hinata's face. Neji was already there, pushing the old man away with the butt of the sheath of his katana.
"You little Hyuuga whore!" screamed Homura, glaring furiously at her. "Do you even know what you're doing?! That monsteris a danger to this village! It needs to be killed!"
"No, sir," Hinata replied, ignoring the slight. "You are a danger to this village. Once you let your personal life twist the laws set down to protect innocent people, you've become the monster. I know that your son and his family were killed in the Kyuubi attack. But that certainly doesn't excuse you from your actions, all of which I've been documenting with the help of several others." Her voice was chilly. "Shall I name them here? Do I dare?
"Lying to both fellow council-members and the citizens of Konoha about Uzumaki Naruto; making it clear to the proprietors of the orphanage they would be punished if Uzumaki Naruto was not mistreated; having any Academy teachers of Uzumaki Naruto deliberately fail him with test questions that only chuunin would know, thus stunting his education; spreading rumors about Uzumaki Naruto practicing demonic rituals in the forest surrounding Konoha; organizing several assassination attempts against a certain person, including a mob that went on to chase and beat a six year old boy – Uzumaki Naruto!"
"Would your grandson have wanted you to treat his peer – someone he might have been friends with, even - with such hatred?" She continued, sounding incredulous and disgusted and completely merciless.
The older man found no reply for that. The ANBU were able to drag him away without further protest.
Hinata, sighing, turned around, only to be met with a rousing cheer as everyone who had been pulling for Naruto raised their voices in thanks. Blushing, she was about to respond when she collapsed onto the ground.
Naruto was about to rush to his savior's side, but Kiba, Shino, and Neji had beaten him to it. The genjutsu had faded off of Team 8, their dress clothes melting away to reveal three exhausted and mission-fresh ninja. Hinata seemed to have the worst of it, and soon began to cough blood.
"What happened?" demanded Neji.
"She had to take the brunt of it all on the mission," said Kiba. "She was the bait."
Neji looked displeased but did not respond. With the extremely minimized amount of missions Hinata allowed herself to go on, he had no right to complain. After becoming Clan Head, Hinata rarely, if ever, left the village, if not for some Hyuuga business.
"Out of the way," The Hokage ordered. Resentfully, Kiba, Shino, and Neji backed away. Hinata, lying on the ground, looked up at Tsunade wearily.
"How was the mission?" asked Tsunade brusquely, checking over her vitals.
"Difficult, but a s-sssuccess." Tsunade had accidentally poked her on a rather painful wound, causing her to hiss and stutter.
"I owe you a great deal," said the blonde, voice soft and grateful and inaudible to anyone but Hinata. The girl shifted uncomfortably.
"Not only did the Council get their ass handed to them, you also saved the life of my brother – or as good as." Straightening up, Tsunade began to bark out orders once more.
"Shizune, get Hinata-chan here to the hospital immediately. I want to start healing her injuries as soon as possible."
Hinata immediately protested. "Hokage-sama, that isn't necessary, I wouldn't want to trouble –"
"Nonsense. And you're not exactly in a state to be refusing medical care. Sakura! Run ahead and prepare a room for me and my patient."
"Yes, shishou! And Hinata-chan… you rock!" Usually, she would be upset at the grunt work. Now, she was just too happy to think of anything as petty as that.
While some medic-nin brought in a stretcher, Hinata closed her eyes and allowed a small smile to creep across her face. She had done it… Naruto was once again a free man. She felt so happy for him, so happy that she could help him, so happy –
Her eyes snapped open. "Naruto-kun?"
"That was – I guess I've – I mean to say that – well… thank you."
And then he smiled at her, a real, true, sincere smile that was so much more meaningful that his cheerful mask. Hinata was captivated by the look in his eye and the shape of his lips. He was letting this vulnerable side of him show through. She felt… honored.
"You're welcome," she said finally, as the medic-nin finally began to lift her up on the stretcher in order to take her to the hospital. She called one last thing after him.
"And do hurry up and become Hokage, won't you? This changing the Hyuuga thing is getting to be really troublesome by myself…"
Sooo... this was a prequel to a story that I was writing... and then I realized that it didn't really fit with what I was doing. So I posted it as a one-shot! Hooray. Anyway. Prodigals chapter is in progress and hopefully near completion. See y'all later!