Disclaimer: the Naruto manga and anime series belong to Masashi Kishimoto
ANBU's Unforeseen Record Breaker
Summary: ANBU team number 37 was in need of the Byakugan. Under extraordinary circumstances, Hyuuga Hinata was the only available carrier at the time. The Hokage must make one of the most difficult decisions of his career. With startling results.
Her footsteps were light and fast and almost entirely noiseless in the night. She'd be leaving the cover of trees soon and her rapidly beating heart sped even faster in her anxiety. But the other heartbeat, the only thing that breached her world of darkness and gave her a light to follow, was so, so close.
She jumped from the last tree and landed low on the hard packed dirt, throwing caution to the wind and speeding straight through the gates without breaking pace.
They were following her now, after her abrupt appearance to their senses, shouting back and forth to each other. She hadn't a care for their words, just noise to her ears, nor their presence; she was just so close.
They were hot on her heels and gaining fast after recovering from their initial shock. She dodged their projectiles with an effortlessness that came from knowing their aim even before they did.
The heartbeat was so close, just a little farther, and then she was there, standing before it, the one clear light in her new world of darkness. And she spoke for the first time in weeks:
Hyuuga Hinata was content with being a member of team 8. Her Jounin sensei, Yuuhi Kurenai, was a woman that Hinata had known since her early childhood. And with an embarrassing amount of inward emotion, she thought of the older woman as one of the people she cared most for.
Her fellow Genin, Inuzuka Kiba and Aburame Shino, come from prominent tracking clans that Hinata's Byakugan could easily compliment; though it seemed kind of a waste for three such trackers to be on the same team.
The four of them had been a team for a month now and Hinata was beginning to feel despair sink into her small body. She hadn't understood it at first. They were kind, caring, and patient toward her, but as the days passed she realized that it was only toward her.
Kiba never argued with her like he did with Shino. Kurenai was never as harsh with her as she was with Kiba. And Shino was always watching her, as if making sure she didn't hurt herself. They even went so far as helping her with menial tasks when they thought she needed it, even when she didn't. It was borderline insulting.
They weren't treating her like an equal member of team 8; they were treating her like an invalid, like she couldn't handle the same things they could. Was it not enough that she graduated fourth in their class? One of her greatest fears was that, like her father, she'd never be good enough for them.
Hinata sighed and sat up in her bed to look out the window at the near full moon. Their actions told her that, just like everyone else, they thought she was pathetic. This knowledge didn't anger her, she was used to it, but it did fill her to the brim with hopelessness. How was she ever going to get stronger if not even her team let her get her hands dirty?
She fell asleep with the wish that things would change upon her lips.
When Hinata woke that morning, she was tired both physically and mentally. She finished dressing and headed downstairs to join her fellow clan members in the dining hall for a silent breakfast even though she wasn't hungry.
Hinata hated participating in Hyuuga daily meals. She would have rather starved than enter and stay in the tense atmosphere that overfilled the room. She also knew that she'd never be allowed to malnourish herself. Let alone the complaints she would get if the heir to the clan didn't show at all.
Hinata struggled to walk to her seat at a steady pace and not trip over herself. Even if her father barely paid attention to her any more, she didn't want to attract his disapproving gaze. When she neared her chair to the right of her father's at the end of the table, as per usual of the heir, she finally pealed her eyes off the floor and the instant she took in her surroundings, her face burned in shame.
It was an extremely rare occasion that the dining hall was ever over half filled. The Hyuuga were a Shinobi clan after all, and Shinobi had responsibilities outside the compound.
However, Hinata had been so uncomfortable entering that she had unconsciously shut down all her senses and failed to realize the distinct lack of people present. The few who were there were either too young or too old to be active Shinobi.
Hinata let out the breath she had been holding. Her father was not among the people present and neither were the elders. Though she was sure that someone in the room was assigned to watch her every move, the thought just wasn't as intimidating as the physical presence of her father. She allowed herself to relax and set her senses free.
Either the Byakugan was on high demand today, or her father had taken a large convoy to some foreign diplomatic meeting she hadn't been told about. She figured it was both.
'Hanabi', Hinata recognized her sister even before she casually strolled into the hall and sat across from her. The younger of the two confirmed her sister's musings about their father with a simple sentence, "Otou-sama will not be back until Friday." Today was Wednesday.
Hanabi and their father held a vigorous training schedule and so he was quick to inform her when there was a change of plans. She then reported to Hinata.
Hinata smiled and thanked her little sister for the information before asking, "W-would you like to train to-together this a-afternoon then?"
Hanabi immediately beamed at her older sister and nodded twice fast. She didn't understand why their father despised Hinata so much. She secretly adored her and basked in her motherly affections.
Hinata's praise was so much different from their father's. His were cold expectation, while hers were filled with warmth and congratulations. Everything was more fun with Hinata because she was allowed to act like the seven year old kid she was.
They finished their meal in relative silence with Hanabi fidgeting with excitement every now and then. Hinata couldn't shake her happy smile the whole time. All the gloomy thoughts from the night before were banished from her mind as she basked in her sister's love that was only revealed when their father was not present.
They left the hall together with Hanabi bouncing along in front. Hinata absently noted the arthritic ex-kunoichi watching from twenty-five and a half meters behind them. She had grown adept at knowing when she was being watched. Excluding of course when her father is around and all she can concentrate on is his being there.
They reached an intersection and Hinata was about to head off for her team meeting, when Hanabi suddenly ran into someone while saying her goodbyes. Neji was obviously in a hurry to grab something to eat before heading off for a mission. He was too preoccupied with the details of said weeklong mission to notice Hanabi.
His momentum took them both to the ground. Hanabi shrieked in outrage as they both climbed to their feet. "What the hell do you think you're doing branch? You should have watched where you were going if you knew what was best for your health!"
Hinata was already in motion when Hanabi's mouth opened but when she formed a seal and Neji's face began to contort in pain, there was no time to hold back.
A resounding slap filled the hallway as Hanabi was forced to the ground again, successfully ending the jutsu before it could fully start.
All was silent as Hinata stared at her little sister in anger, her hand still raised. She had never hit Hanabi so hard in her life. Not even when they sparred.
Hanabi's face flushed with shock, anger, and embarrassment as Hinata spoke. "How DARE you Hanabi? How dare you? Neji-nii-san is our family! I don't want to ever see or hear of you using that seal again. Do you understand?" stunned silence met her words. "Do. You. Understand?" She couldn't even stutter in her heated fury.
Hanabi looked down, absolutely mortified. Hinata, her big sister, just painfully struck her down. Hinata, her only source of warmth in this world, just yelled at her with such angry, disappointed eyes. All over something that was such a big part of the Hyuuga clan. Hanabi felt like she wanted to cry and indeed she already felt the stinging in her eyes.
Hanabi all of a sudden wanted Hinata to pay for the pain she was giving her. To hurt her sister as she had hurt her. Her head shot up to stare at her favorite person in the world, with angry, water filled eyes. Neji forgotten.
"I understand now," Hanabi said, "You may be no better than them but I am. Father was right. You are weak, and pathetic, and totally unsuited to be the Hyuuga's heiress. I hope he brands you and throws you into the branch house where you belong!" With that Hanabi got up and ran away. Hinata watched her go and the pain from the night before rapidly swallowed her up and threatened to kill her.
Neji didn't know what to feel let alone say, so he left his frozen cousin in the middle of the hall, to meet his team without breakfast.
Hinata ran as fast as she could out of the house and beyond the compound walls to meet with her team. She would not cry. She wouldn't! Crying would mean that she was sorry for what she did to Hanabi and she wasn't. She had deserved it, but…did Hanabi really feel that way?
Hinata sucked in a shuddering breath and shook her head to clear it. She refused to let her team see her any weaker than they already did. The pain remained however. Sharp, vicious, and constant.
She is the only one currently in the village that is an active Shinobi. Time is of the essence.
Is it impossible to suggest that one of them come out of retirement for this?
The Hyuuga are a proud Shinobi clan. Those who retire do so because they are unable to function properly anymore.
She is just a child.
She forfeit her right to a childhood when she became a Shinobi.
I too, believe it to be a necessary sacrifice.
Yes, you are right. I shall send for her, but keep in mind that if she refuses the mission. I will not force her.
Yes of course but as was said before, the Hyuuga are a proud clan.
Hinata was an expert at concealing pain, both mental and physical, so Team 8 completed 4 D-rank missions before noon, without a hitch. They decided that after a quick lunch at one of the small restaurants in town that they would complete the day with team training.
However, just as they were about to bypass Ichiraku Ramen in search of some other provider of substance, the Hokage's personal messenger dropped down in front of them.
He quickly handed a scroll to Kurenai and stated, "Hyuuga Hinata is requested at the Hokage's office as soon as possible." He then abruptly vanished in a generic puff of smoke.
Hirata turned to her sensei, who had still not opened the scroll in shock, with confused if somewhat frightened eyes. "You'd better get going Hinata, it's not wise to keep Hokage-sama waiting," Kurenai told her and in an attempt to offer last minute advice added, "Just be respectful and try to speak as clearly as possible."
With that Hinata took to the roofs at a fast pace in an attempt to both adhere to her sensei's advice and calm her nerves through physical exertion. Running had always managed to soothe her in the past and she just hoped it worked this time. Hinata had never been called to the Hokage's office without her team or father present, so to say she was a bit nervous would be an understatement.
When Hinata found herself outside the doors of the Hokage Tower, she was disappointed that the run hadn't cleared all her nervousness, but it did give her time to think. So before she stepped foot in his office she threw away her misgivings and resolved herself to trust her leader and do whatever he asked her to do to the best of her ability.
"Hyuuga Hinata, I have a mission of great importance to our village's safety, the likes of which your Byakugan would be a valued asset to. Due to a series of highly unusual circumstances, you are the only remaining Hyuuga within our village's walls on active duty and there is little time. This mission will be severely different than any you have completed so far. It will be dangerous…
(Darkness shrouds her as she runs desperately through the night. Her lungs burn and just when she thinks she can run no longer, she is forced to dodge out of the way of a precisely thrown kunai. To keep running is useless, she can't shake him, she'll have to stand and fight.)
"…it will be deadly,
(His blood splashes her face and chest as he falls. She turns around and hurls as she realizes that the metallic she tastes is his once life giving blood within her mouth.)
"…and I cannot guarantee that all of you will make it back alive. If you decide to accept the mission, bring a light pack of absolute necessities needed to survive for six days to debriefing room number 28 where you will meet your temporary teammates. If you decide not to accept," the grandfather in him added, "no one will think any less of you. I urge you to think your decision through carefully. You have two hours."
"Hai, H-hokage-sama." Hinata's voice was strictly polite and her face impassive. It was times like these that she was grateful for her Hyuuga etiquette training.
It was only out of respect for her Hokage's wishes that she left his office without immediately voicing her decision.
As she walked the brightly colored halls of the Hokage Tower on her way outside, she allowed her Hyuuga visage to drop and her breathing became a little less controlled. This was no kiddy mission like picking weeds or chasing stray animals. It was the real deal and she'll have to do it with complete strangers.
She suddenly needed air, or risk hyperventilating in the middle of the Hokage Tower. There was a window just across the hall. She ran to it and pushed it open with perhaps a little too much force before hurdling herself through it. It was only after she was pass the wooden frame did she realized that she was on the fourth floor and that landing on her face in front of the Hokage Tower, was almost as bad, if not worse, as hyperventilating within its walls.
She would have to make the landing impressive or hazard the possibility of having the humiliating event reach the ears of her father and that was just not acceptable.