AN: This is a revised version of the original prologue chapter, as of January 2016.
"I'll be strong like my father, and I'll be kind like my mother!"
Those were the words that Hinata Hyuga had lived by for as long as she could remember. It had started as an innocent desire to emulate the people that her childhood had centered around. But on certain day, that simple phrase she had made up became the greatest goal for her to focus on, a source of clarity. Before that realization, everything had seemed far easier.
She was a happy, soft-spoken toddler, almost to the point of being considered shy, but her parents didn't seem to mind, despite her grandparents' concerns of her being too yielding. Her mother let her wander in the back gardens, showing her the different plants that grew and what they were used for. Her father read her books and taught her to write when he could make the time, patiently guiding her clumsy fingers to trace each symbol until they were memorized. He smiled when she recalled a kanji's meaning. Her father smiled much more back then.
Sometimes her Uncle Hizashi came to visit them, and she would play with Neji for a while, running around and throwing flimsy paper shuriken as they pretended to be ninja. Even at the age of four, her "big brother" always wanted to be a shinobi.
And then she turned three years old. There was a small birthday party held for her, but her father had taken Neji inside towards the end of it. He came back out again a few hours later with bandages wrapped tightly around his forehead and tears of pain in his eyes. The occasion gained an uncomfortable, darker feeling after that, and her uncle left as soon as he could. He was more bitter from then on, and couldn't look her in the eyes.
The next day, her father brought her to the dojo for the first time, with the intention of teaching her how to fight. She didn't question his decision, too excited about becoming strong like him to care about his reasons. Hinata was taught the first basic stances of the Gentle Fist style, and practiced every day after that with determination. Father was proud of her, and the other Hyuga Clan members were pacified by her progress.
Her mother started to teach Hinata other things that had been deemed important to know. She now had lessons on etiquette, clan history and traditions, and other noble pursuits. After being introduced to so many new concepts at once, Hinata finally asked her father why it was all necessary. He stopped their training session and sat her down, and explained, in the simplest of terms, that she was his heir and would one day have to lead the entire Hyuga Clan when he could not. She had to be capable of doing so when it was time to take over as head. His answer satisfied her, even if she had yet to grasp what being the leader really meant, and she continued to run through her stances without further complaint.
That was when it got harder. Her uncle died a few weeks later, after she was rescued by her father from a kidnapper in the middle of the night, and Neji never played with her again. His eyes turned cold, and she could feel the contempt he held when they unavoidably crossed paths. She couldn't understand why he hated her now.
Later, she learned that it was a Cloud shinobi who tried to take her, and in her mind, that village's symbol was tainted with distrust.
The once easy Gentle Fist stances turned into full katas, each one involving countless moves to perform. She was never fast enough to please her father anymore, no matter how hard she strained her limits. Ko, her assigned protector, tried to reassure her that she was only being pushed so she could succeed, but she wondered exactly what would happen if she never got better. What if she failed him completely?
Her mother's lessons became more difficult as well. There were so many rules to keep straight and so many ceremonies and delicate skills to master that it overwhelmed her at times. Her mother was more tolerant of her mistakes though, and willing to correct her every time she needed help.
On rare occasions, Ko brought her outside of the stark, traditional compound for a break, and they would walk around the village streets as he pointed out different locations, like the Ninja Academy and the Hokage's Tower. He told her that she would go to the Academy just like the older children in a few years. She faintly recalled a day when she saw a blonde haired boy around her age, yelling at the top of his lungs about how he was going to become Hokage someday. Ko took her back home after the boy ran off, telling her to stay away from him. She barely remembered his face now, but Ko's warning made the memory linger.
When Hinata was six, her mother passed away from an illness, leaving her one year old sister Hanabi behind. Both she and her father were devastated, even more so than after Hizashi's death. Without her mother's comfort, she grew more timid than before, as if in sync with her father's colder, more closed off personality. Feeling alone and abandoned, she struggled even more during her training over the years. After one abysmal sparring session, he started to train Hanabi too.
The day he had them spar each other was the day Hinata decided to change. It had gone terribly, with Hinata ending up on the cold wood floor, face down after receiving a jump kick to the chest. She got on her hands and knees again, trying to recover, when she saw her father shake his head and start to walk away. She had failed him one too many times, and he'd finally had enough. She could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks, proof that she was weak. Her mother had left her, and now Father was going to leave. She couldn't bear the thought of having nothing, all because she wasn't good enough. She felt like running away, but where would she even go? What would it accomplish in the end? Instead, she shoved that wounded and vulnerable part of herself deep within her, gritted her teeth, and got to her feet to face Hanabi again, the tears no longer falling.
"I'll be strong like my father!"
With an unexpected battle cry that made him turn back around to see what was going on, Hinata charged at her opponent for another round. Their second fight was intense, but Hanabi collapsed under her pressure in less than a minute. Hinata stood over her with raw desperation flickering in her eyes, like a candle's unstable flame. The rest of her face was an unreadable mask, just as she had been taught to do, but had never successfully held before. That was the first time she had chosen to bury her heart.
She cried herself to sleep in her room that night, where no one could see it. The way she had attacked her own sister played in her head over and over again like a broken tape. The sight of Hanabi sprawled out on the ground because of her left a harsh taste in her mouth, but there hadn't been a better option.
Hinata steadily improved from then on, pushing herself harder than ever before to get the approval she missed so much. Hanabi was always two steps behind her in progress now, stumbling to equal her sister's blooming talent. Hinata used that same mindset and applied it to her other lessons, impressing the tutors who had taken over for her mother. The hardened shell she had developed to hide all her weaknesses behind wasn't perfect yet, but she found herself giving in to her emotions much less now, and never in the public eye. Father was proud again, along with the rest of the clan, and they often praised her strength now. But Hinata always continued to train, for if she ever stopped improving, she feared the praise would evaporate once again, along with that strength she worked so hard for.
Just as Ko had promised when she was much younger, Hinata started to attend the Academy. Despite her newfound resilience, she was still smaller than the other children her age, so she was a favored target of bullies during the first week. They were creeped out by her eyes and quiet nature, and expressed it by pushing her around when no one was looking. Most of her other classmates completely ignored her presence. Her inability to make friends stung her, but she would never let anyone see it. She didn't need them to be a ninja anyway. She redoubled her school efforts and studied harder, burying herself in books and extra training.
She picked up the Academy's basic fighting style as well, and proceeded to defeat any girl with the misfortune to be selected as her sparring opponent after another six months of practice. She gave the boys a difficult time when she figured out how to merge some Gentle Fist movements into her form, beating most of them reliably once a few more years passed and they lost their inherent size advantage.
Her reputation started to precede her, and the bullies disappeared, afraid of what would happen if she fought back. When she sat at her designated seat, the people next to her scooted away a little. They avoided her like she was a hazard when they were let out for recess. Being alone at break time did give her a chance to practice her weapon accuracy and chakra control more, so she didn't mind. They were just distractions, anyway.
In the years leading to graduation, most students who knew of Hinata were either terrified of her, resented her, or had a grudging respect for the Hyuga Clan's heir. She considered none of them as friends, not trusting them enough to let them beyond the near constant wall she had created. It was cowardly, but she couldn't handle the chance of being abandoned once again. With power and leadership came loneliness, and Hinata accepted this as an indisputable fact for her.
AN: This is an AU story based on a flashback shown in Episode 166 of Naruto Shippuden and in The Last movie. The diverging point is that instead of crying and running away from her spar with Hanabi that day, and then being rescued from bullies by Naruto, Hinata finds her own motivation and defeats her sister, regaining her father's approval and her spot as Heiress. This changes her worldview and behavior drastically. She's not a completely different person now, as she still feels and cares for others, but she's a little more jaded about how things work. Please feel free to review and tell me what you think of this idea, of ask any other questions!