The young boy shivered in the winter air. It was an unusually warm day for December and helped spur the carnival nature of the Hidden Village of the Leaves. Today, the conflict between Konohagakure and Kumogakure would be snuffed out. The Yondaime Raikage A, had sent his most trusted Jonin Shimizu Den to negotiate a peace settlement. The citizens of Konoha were eager for an end to the stalemate. The Hidden Village of the Leaves had suffered so much in the past years. The Yondaime Hokage, the most beloved of all the Hokages had fallen defeating the hated Kyūbi that nearly destroyed the village. Kumo had taken advantage of the weakened state of Konoha and launched the latest war. The newly reinstated Third Hokage led Konoha brilliantly and A had made peace overtures. Sandaime quickly accepted and joy was overflowing in the streets.
Despite the overwhelming joy of the city, no one shared it with Uzumaki Naruto. The boy had been tossed from the orphanage that very morning. The caretaker had graciously allowed him to keep his ragged summer clothing and the thin blanket Naruto had clung to like a life raft. The neglected boy was freezing. Villagers had tossed buckets of water at the boy; Naruto was a stray to be chased away lest any kindness encouraged him to stay. The child's wandering had forced him to the edges of the city. He eventually found a quiet section of the city.
Naruto was struggling with a dumpster emblazoned with a Kanji encircled Ying-yang. "Open up! C'mon!"
The dumpster's top began to budge when a cry shattered the stillness of the night. "Shut up you brat!"
The blonde didn't recognize the voice and crawled to the edge of the dumpster. A Ninja! Naruto had never been allowed to see a ninja up close before. Whenever one had come to the orphanage, Uzumaki had been forced into a back room and told to stay quiet. It was then that Naruto noticed something was wrong. His hitai-ate didn't have a leaf on it! That meant he was a bad man!
What should I do? If I call for help, the villager's won't help me, they think I'm bad. Then bad ninja will hurt me when no one comes to help. Maybe, I should hide…
A small voice called out for 'daddy' and Naruto froze. The enemy ninja started looking around frantically. The orphan gulped and made his decision.
Shimizu Den panicked when the Hyūga girl cried out for her father. There was absolutely no way he could defeat Hiashi, especially an enraged Hiashi. Den's distress was causing a wave of phantom pain to shoot through his empty eye socket. He still hadn't completely recovered from where that Nara bastard had torn Den's eye out with his own shadow. The Cloud Jonin was dangerously low on Chakra after his single Raiton attack on the child's bodyguard.
Damn the Gentle Fist style! A flash of anger found its way to his single eye. The child cried out again and struck his shoulder with all the strength a three-year old could muster.
"Shut up!" Shimizu sighed as the hiss escaped his lips. At least that had stopped the Hyūga from hitting him for a few moments. He fumbled with the soldier pill and cursed as he dropped it. She hadn't done any real damage, but she was the Hyūga heir. Her father had already begun training her in Gentle Fist. All she had really done was make his shoulder a bit numb, but even that would ruin his already horrible chances at surviving any encounter with Hyūga Hiashi.
"LET HER GO!" The voice was trying so hard to be threatening that it was comical. Den growled as he felt the top of a trashcan crumple on the back of his head. A fresh wave of pain wracked the jonin's body.
Damn it, I'm not recovered!
A pair of tiny arms wrapped around his shoulders and was yelling a string of childish threats. Shimizu couldn't be delayed. He either had to get the hell out of Konoha or to the Uchiha district where his nominal allies would hopefully give him refuge. Den reached for his miniscule attacker and grabbed at a tuft of filthy hair. The strength of the child's grip was surprising even as it yelped in pain.
"I said let her go!" The voice froze the blood in his veins. That voice wasn't human. In fact, it sounded like Killer Bee when the Raikage's brother was angry.
Oh gods no! Den was being attacked by Konoha's Jinchūriki. The killing intent was palpable, but it was clearly and unmistakably directed at Den. In the distance, Shimizu heard Hiashi's frantic calls for his daughter. His frozen blood began to pump frantically when Hiashi and a number of other Hyūga stormed around the corner. The Jonin had to escape! His survival was next to impossible against the Hyūga head. Against the clan head and the Jinchūriki, even if the boy was wild and untamed, there was no hope. Den tightened his grip on the monster's hair and began to toss him away.
Then the bastard bit him! The Cloud Jonin screamed for the first time as the top of his ear was torn away. Den was fleeing as fast as he could before the boy even hit the ground.
Naruto skidded to a stop a few feet from the crying girl. He spit the foul taste of blood from his mouth and frantically wiped away the blood from his mouth. The orphan slowly crawled over to the other child. His chest hurt, but he had to check on his friend.
The girl looked up from behind her knees and nodded. Naruto smiled so broadly his eyes closed.
"That's good. I can't believe we beat a ninja!"
"W… We?" The boy nodded and caught his first glimpse of her eyes.
"Yeah! What's your names? Why are your eyes like that? They're cool!"
"Ano… Hyūga Hinata…" The boundless energy of the boy made it impossible to cry.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto!" A light danced in the boy's eyes. He met someone who didn't hate him!
The pounding of feet cut off Hinata's reply. Hiashi, Hizashi and four other Hyūga appeared from the shadows. Hinata ran to her father and leapt into an embrace. The young heir buried her face in her father's shoulder. She missed the flash of recognition that flashed across the rescue party's faces. The four Hyūga chunnin looked down on the Jinchūriki in digust. They were firmly convinced that his mere presence was polluting the purity of the heiress.
The twin heads of the Main and Branch houses had a very different reaction. My god, it can't be! Why is Minato's son an urchin?
The lost child of the Yondaime Hokage rose to his feet and swayed. The foxy grin never left his features.
"Uh… hi?" There was no time for response before the orphan slipped into unconsciousness.
Hiashi looked to his brother and nodded. "We need to get the boy to the hospital." The second his brother responded, the Clan head turned to his escort. "Get the Hokage."
An hour after Hiashi and his twin emerged from the Hokage's office, they returned to the Hyūga Clan Compound. Kō, Hinata's guardian, was waiting outside with the heiress sleeping soundly nearby.
The guardian immediately fell to his knees and bowed. "I submit whatever censure you deem necessary, Hiashi-sama."
Hiashi's eyes narrowed. Punishment? Why was Kō asking for censure? He, a freshly promoted Chunin, had charged the Cloud Jonin without thought for his own safety and defeated a pair of Kage Bushin before being disabled by a strange lightning attack from behind. Even temporarily paralyzed, he had clawed after Hinata's kidnapper screaming out for aid.
"I will pass judgment tomorrow. Take my daughter to her room."
Kō continued to bow as he rose to his feet. "As you wish, Hiashi-sama."
The Hyūga pride themselves on their emotional control. In this moment, Hiashi didn't care. His mask slipped as easily as his body slipped into the bench.
"If you do not need me, I will depart, Hiashi-sama." Hizashi bowed and started to walk away.
"Of course I need you! You're my brother!" Hiashi snapped. Hizashi stopped, but did not turn around. So, he was 'brother' now? Hiashi had activated the Cursed Seal only a few hours ago. Hizashi responded to his brother with silence.
"When did the clan beat us, otouto?" The voice was so small; Hizashi thought it was his niece speaking instead of his brother.
He finally turned around and faced his twin. "What?"
"Remember when we were seven? It was our first day in the Academy. Do you remember our promise?"
A moment passed in which Hizashi wondered who the man was sitting on the bench. Had nearly losing both his wife and daughter on the same day wounded him so deeply? "We swore we would change the clan. But that promise is empty, unless you have already forgotten activating my Cursed Seal and branding my only son with that damned mark!"
The head of the Hyūga Branch family finally gave voice to his rage. He was a slave because he had been born three minutes after his older twin. He couldn't choose his own path any more than a river could and after this morning, neither could his son. Hizashi could see the limitless potential in his son. Neiji was brilliant and should have the brightest future any Hyūga could dream of. Instead, he would be forced to stand behind those who deserved neither his service nor protection.
Hizashi hadn't known an individual with as much promise as his beloved Neiji other than the Yondaime. His son deserved to have his face on the Mountain, but with the cursed mark that path would remain a cruel dream.
Throughout the tirade, Hizashi had expected the seal to flare. Instead, there was nothing.
"I couldn't ignore the killing intent, otouto. She's my daughter. Would you have acted any different if our positions had been reversed? If you had left the womb first?"
"No." The Branch head sat quietly beside his brother. A lifetime seemed to pass as the twins simply sat on the bench. "What are you planning to do about Minato's boy?"
"We owe Minato and Kushina too much. Their son deserves more than the sky as a roof."
You can't be thinking about that can you brother? "The Elders would never allow it. You know as well as I do what burden he bears."
"I would think you would be eager to strike at the Elders for what they forced me to do."
Hizashi's Byakugan nearly activated in shock at what his brother was hinting at. "The Elders would move to remove you. They'd brand you like they branded me! The chances you'd survive are almost nonexistent! You'd doom the Clan to Civil War!"
"If they will not allow adoption, then what?"
Why the focus on family? Has the past week truly affected you so deeply? Hizashi's anger was melting. His brother's emotionless mask had never slipped this far, even when their mother had died.
"Patronage, but that is reserved only for smaller families or clans." Confusion and apprehension were driving the conversation, not rational thought.
Hiashi nodded and turned towards his twin brother. "Naruto is the only member of his family isn't he?"
This was happening. This wasn't a hallucination from the pain of the cursed seal. The head of the clan was going to drag the clan into civil war. There was no way the council would allow this.
On the other hand, Hizashi wanted, no needed, to support Hiashi in this. He could not remove the Seal from Neiji, but he could work towards a day when that damned mark was gone. Hizashi would get his revenge on the Clan and he would do so standing beside his brother in spite of the efforts to tear them apart. They would fulfill their childhood oath through Neiji, Hinata and the orphaned son of the Yondaime.
"We will need something to distract the Elders with. They can never know that we are guiding our children and Minato's son to bring down the Hyūga clan as it currently exists."
"I know, but if that child has a fraction of the talent of his parents, he will be Hokage one day."
Hizashi activated his Byakugan and only continued speaking when he was confident there was no one else within earshot.
"We will have to play to their arrogance, onii-san. The Elders are concerned we are falling behind the Uchiha. Fugaku has been parading the achievements of Itachi in front of the village and is bragging that his younger child will be just as gifted. Our Clan is concerned that we have no means to compete until Neiji and Hinata are older. But…"
"Extending patronage to the Jinchūriki and giving the appearance that we are making him loyal to the Clan…"
Hizashi placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. "They will not realize that instead of a weapon for the Clan and its traditions, it'll be a weapon against the traditions of the clan. He'll be a Hokage worthy of his father and support Neiji and Hinata's efforts to end the Cursed Seal."
Hiashi and Hizashi were brothers once again.
Kō had failed in his duty for the clan and had rightfully deserved some form of censure. Hinata-sama had nearly been stolen by Kumo. The Hokage had sent numerous protests to the Raikage for the breach of trust. Kumo had declared Shimizu Den a missing-nin for his actions and announced the Raikage himself would be arriving to finalize the peace agreement. If there were any positives in the 'Hyūga Affair' it was that Konoha was in a much greater position of strength.
Unfortunately, that incredible positive could not outweigh Kō's excessive punishment.
"Excuse me, which room is the K.. Uzumaki Naruto in?"
The old nurse looked up from behind the reception desk looked up. Pity was plain as day in her face.
"Room 418." Kō bowed politely and left.
The fourth floor was practically empty. The war's wounded and sick were crowded on the lower floors. The young Main branch Chunin was bemoaning his luck and almost failed to notice the man exiting Naruto's room.
"Hokage-sama!" Kō quickly bowed. His luck was truly horrible this week.
"Good morning young man. I am glad to hear you have recovered quickly. You are to be commended for your loyalty to Konoha and to your clan. If it were not for your actions, Kumo would likely be in possession of the Byakugan now."
Kō could not believe that he was being praised by the Hokage. "Thank you Hokage-sama. I merely did my duty as a Chunin."
The Sandaime Hokage smiled. "You are far too modest. Shimizu was an elite Jonin and was a close confidant of the Raikage." The Professor paused. "I am told you are to be responsible for young Naruto now."
It was a widely known fact that the Hokage favored the Kyūbi child. Hiruzen Sarutobi's public support of the child was the boy's primary protection against a village that hated the child. That same support had also helped the Council agree to Hiashi-sama's surprising Patronage proposal.
"Yes, Hokage-sama." It was a struggle to keep the distaste from the Hyūga's voice.
"Naruto is a remarkable child. I am sure that under your guidance that he will become a fine shinobi of the Leaf."
The Hokage is watching me? Does he want to see what kind of teacher I am?
"I will do my duty."
The Hokage nodded to the bowing Chunin and left. Kō took a deep breath and entered room 418. He wasn't prepared for what was waiting for him. He had honestly expected the room to be a wreck and the boy properly chastised by the Hokage. Instead, the boy was wearing worn out scrubs that were two sizes too big and a grin that was brighter than the light bulb in the room. Naruto was swinging his legs back and forth as he sat on the bed.
The boy never stopped smiling. "That's me! Who are you?"
Truly, Hyūga Kō had failed his clan to deserve this. "I assume Hokage-sama has informed you that you have been granted patronage by the Hyūga Clan."
The boy scratched the back of his head. "Jiji said that."
Jiji? Ancestors, preserve me. "I am Hyūga Kō. Hiashi-sama wishes to thank you for helping protect his daughter."
The whiskered child's face scrunched up. "Ya mean Hinata? She ok?"
"Hinata-sama is unharmed." Kō was thankful that the Jinchūriki caught the emphasis on the honorific.
"That's good, Hinatasama is really nice."
Kō took a deep breath. His life as he knew it would end after the next few words. "Naruto, you will be staying with me from now on. Hiashi-sama has tasked me with training you to be a proper protector for Hinata-sama."
Kō felt the impact before he even opened a single eye. "!"
Naruto had wrapped Kō's waist in a vice grip and was speaking a hundred miles per hour.
"Naruto…" The boy continued to ignore the necessity of breathing in order to continue thanking the Hyūga Chunin. "Naruto!"
The boy looked up and the joy in the child's eyes made him look away. "Do you have all your belongings? We will be leaving soon."
The true happiness faded. "They didn't give me my blanket back."
"I'll try to get it back tomorrow. Come on, let's go home."
Kō froze for a moment when the Uzumaki child looked like he was going to start crying. What had he said? He had no idea how to handle the boy.
"Ok!" Hyūga Kō frowned as the boy changed masks.
Kō lived in a small apartment in the Hyūga district of Konoha. He wasn't wealthy, but he was Main Branch and his connection to one of Konoha's most prestigious clans allowed him to live a bit beyond his means. Naruto bolted into the apartment as soon as he could squeeze through the door. The excitable blond was rushing between the small foyer, kitchen and living room as if every square inch was a work of art that begged to be inspected. Kō felt a pang of guilt that he was glad Naruto didn't have shoes when he got inside. Naruto flopped down on the carpet and theatrically sighed in comfort.
"It's time to eat. Sit down and I'll bring the food in a little bit."
"Ok…" Something was wrong. The Hyūga had only been watching Naruto for a few hours but knew the boy almost never let his exuberant mask slip. Kō turned his back and activated his Byakugan. Uzumaki Naruto was afraid of something. It was obvious on his features. There was nothing threatening in the apartment. Kō hadn't been short or angry with the child. What was so scary that the boy was trembling about?
The microwave beeped and Kō took out the two instant meals. He handed one to Naruto and sat down across from Naruto. The boy's bang's covered his eyes and for an instant, he looked a bit like Hinata after she scrapped her knee.
"You aren't leaving." It wasn't a question. Kō didn't know how to respond, because no four year old should sound so old.
"Of course not."
"I don't have to leave do I?" Naruto's face remained hidden behind his hair.
"Why would you have to leave?"
"At the orphanage, they never let me eat with the other kids."
Jinchūriki or not, how could anyone treat a child like that?
"You aren't in the orphanage anymore. Come on, you need to eat; we have a busy day tomorrow. I have a lot to teach you."
Naruto had fought a brave battle, but was utterly defeated. The tears flowed fast and free. Kō was panicking now. Had he upset the child so much? Was the Kyūbi going to take over the distressed boy?
"K… Kō-san… Can, can I call you nii-san?"
Kō was shocked into silence for a second. The second's pause caused Naruto's tears to fall even faster.
"You can call me nii-san, Naruto."
The orphan looked up and a hurricane of emotion danced across his eyes. "Thank you."
The pair finished eating in silence. Kō wrapped Naruto on a blanket and let him sleep on the couch. The Chunin finished preparing for sleep and sat in a chair near the boy. He had feared the moment Naruto went to sleep. He had been plagued with nightmares that the Kyūbi would take over the child at night. Instead, he was watching a young boy who had cried tears of joy because Kō had taken five minutes to eat a microwaved meal with him. A child who had literally begged Kō to be allowed to call him his older brother. There was no rampage or inhuman noises. There was only a steady rhythm of contented breaths.
If that made Naruto a demon, what was Kō?
Author's Notes: Oh my god, it's not a crossover! Reviews welcomed and encouraged even if it's to tell me I suck (constructively I hope).