It was a cold night.
The wind howled and howled and howled, it was deafening.
Winter was a merciless season. It was ruthless and intolerant, unforgiving even to the most faithful devotee. She sat patiently by the window sill, looking out onto the largest blanket of white she had ever seen. There was not an inch of the ground that went uncovered. Everything was covered in a thick carpet, hiding what was once the most beautiful scenery she had ever laid eyes upon.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror and was met with a pair of eyes that were just as white as the snow outside. She exhaled, the water vapor in her breath condensed into little water droplets trickling down the glass panel. Using her tiny hands, she wiped them clean and returned to gazing at the never-ending snow drifting away. Each snowflake dancing round and round with the wind. It calmed her, she didn't understand the feeling but she knew she liked it. It made her feel...warm inside. Despite the harsh coldness of the season, she found comfort in it. Even after such a long day like today.
It was her birthday.
She had just turned three and her family organized a well-feasted birthday. It was a special day, they said. She couldn't see how but some very important people were coming to Konoha. That was all that she was told. Hinata had no choice but to go along with it, even when she hated such noisiness. The only solace she had was knowing that her mother was there with her, holding her hands as they celebrated her third year of life with some very strange old men. All of them seemed to be older, much older. She had looked forward to seeing kids just like her, so they could play together and have fun. All she wanted was to make friends. Desperately so, though she was always too shy to confront anyone. But with her new baby sister, she vowed to change everything.
Still, she didn't know why so many adults were present at her birthday. And speaking with her grandfather. Even her own father seemed to forget that she was there. It hurt but okaa-san was there to comfort her.
If only things were different. If only she had a voice. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't feel so alone. Other children would ridicule her for her eyes, something she did not have any control over. Looking at them, she knew she was different. They were...normal, and that was what she wanted to be. Normal. She didn't understand why her eyes were the way they were, or why her whole family had the same quirk. She was told not to pay attention to them, that they only envied her for the clan's Byakugan, whatever that had meant. Hinata tried her best to ignore them but sometimes it would be hard. Their loud sneers, their restless jabbing and their mockery would have her running back to her mother, crying and in low-spirits. Until one day, a boy had saved her. A boy with bright yellow hair and amazing blue eyes. Ones that she had never forgotten ever since that day.
Sitting here, in this empty room as she was told until someone came to fetch her, she seemed so lost. A child, she was. She was growing tired of sitting. Everyone left her alone as they tended to some family matters she was too young to understand. She was too young to understand anything, they all said. That may have been true, but even so, there was no need to keep her away from the world. She was only just a kid. And what kid did not want to play?
There was nothing to do in this dull room.
Hinata wanted to go outside, where she could enjoy herself. The snow looked so soft all she wanted to do was to touch it, to swim in it. And to make snow angels as she had seen other children do, but Natsu- her maid- had not let her. She said it would soil her clothes and that she must appear clean and respectable at all times. However, there was no one watching her right now. What if-?
For the first time in her short life, Hinata dared to go against the orders given to her. It made her...happy. She lunged down and jumped to the floor. She hurried to side door that led to the backyard, where heavenly snow awaited her. Her small frame would not let her reach the door knob that seemed so high up. Jumping up and down several times, she finally caught on to the wooden knob and used both her hands to turn it- albeit, with difficulty.
Eventually, she managed to successfully open it and the moment she did, a gust of air welcomed her. She shivered at the instant blow of icy wind. With all the courage she had within her, she took her first step forward.
Her happiness was slowly turning into exhilaration. The flurries of snow had her smiling like a little girl, as she should be. She was so jittery about everything, she couldn't contain her excitement anymore. Not a care in the world, she ran to the backyard and stomped her way through. She didn't care for her white kimono, or for the lilac obi, not even for the scolding that she was bound to get when she would be discovered. The bitterness of the chilly air seeped through her clothes and tingled at her pale skin. She could feel it in her bones, but she didn't care for that either.
She giggled as she tried to catch the falling snowflakes. It reminded her of the warm spring nights when she would try to catch fireflies. Instead of the yellow glow, she chased after the little white flickers.
Time didn't seem to pass when she was enjoying it. Snowflake after snowflake, they had never ceased to captivate her. Pale against the numbing air, she was fascinated with the soft and dusty illusions that sat atop her eyelashes. She adored the snow, even more so when it was falling. Out of breath, she flopped to the smooth ground and gazed up at the moon. It was a beautiful night.
She struggled to catch her breath. Her face was flushed, from both the cold and her little fit.
Her little round cheeks puffed as her wide eyes roamed the sky, counting the glimmering stars shining down upon her. The images of that boy's smile echoed in her mind and every time she would remember him; she always recalled his spiky and unruly yellow hair, his green goggles and that tattered red scarf.
She began moving her short arms and tiny feet, swinging them up and down like an angel.
She chuckled at the feel of snow underneath her kimono, it tickled her, making her laugh even louder.
Unbeknownst to her, a man had been watching her every step from the shadows. He hid behind one of the oak trees, counting her every step and looking at her every twirl. There's no better time than now, he thought. And with that, little Hinata's joyful outing was cut short. The Kumo-nin- with his face fully masked and his sword unsheathed- sprang forward out of the darkness and snatched her off the floor roughly. He was in a hurry to meet with the rest of his envoy. The sooner they got this done, the faster they could get out of here.
It all happened within a blink of an eye. She couldn't tell how that strange man came out of nowhere, but she was scared. Terribly scared. He didn't look like he was part of her family.
"Let..me go!" She squealed, her little voice was shaking as she was about to burst into tears. She squirmed and wriggled underneath his grasp, but it was no use. He was far too strong for her weak body. That didn't deter her. For she hit him with all her might, clenching her hands into the smallest fists, she hit him, over and over and over. Still, it was no use. There was only one thing she could do, and that was to scream. Scream at the top of her lungs.
She wanted her father. She wanted to see his grumpy face again, his impassive demeanor, even his cold stares. She missed him. He was the only one who could save her right now.
"OTOU-SAN, PLEASE! Help!"
"Shut up little girl!" He snapped back.
"NO! LET..ME GO!" She flailed her arms around and shifted her weight over his shoulders, trying to put everything she could into pushing him down. Even so, she wasn't heavy enough and he shrugged her off with ease. Hinata would have kept fighting had she not felt a sudden dizziness over take her. Everything seems so...wobbly. Why?
The sky was turning upside down and the moon spun round and round like that ferris wheel she saw at the playground. The houses shrunk and were no bigger than working ants. She felt light-headed and wanted to vomit. It only just dawned on her that this scary man was leaping from roof to roof, taking her along with him. Her voice quietened down but he still persisted, she would never give up.
Because that's his ninja way.
"Leave me alone!" She shouted once more, though her voice was considerably weaker.
"I said shut up!" He reiterated, this time with more than just words.
Out of the blue, her consciousness began fading. She was beginning to see less and less of the world. Of this masked man. Of everything. And a part of her was glad she wouldn't have to see such darkness again.
Otou-san...where are you?
Her last thought before fainting had been that of her father's. Young Hinata was out cold from the blow the ninja had stricken her with. It shut her up, so she wouldn't have to cause much commotion for him anymore. He already had a difficult time infiltrating the Hyuga base from behind, there was no way he could take the same route back through the forest without being detected by the guards. His only choice left was to sneak through the dim-lit alleyways between buildings, snaking his way through the heart of the village.
A village they were supposedly coming to terms with. Or so they thought. Konohagakure wasn't really an ally of theirs, nor would it ever be. It was simply a disguise, a cover-up so they could get what they wanted. And they just did. The Kumogakure shinobi were elated, even thrilled, by the prospect of finally acquiring the Byakugan. Their Head Ninja was on his way. It almost seemed too good to be true.
And it was.
"Hand her over." The shinobi heard the warning long after the Hyuga Head had made his presence known. How long had he been-?
"Now." Hiashi Hyuga was no less menacing than he had appeared back at the festival that was held in the honor of the so-called treaty. He turned around to face the father of the girl flung over his shoulders, unconscious. This was the Hyuga Clan leader, he was no laughing matter. The Kumo-nin knew that. He also knew that he wouldn't have a chance against him if he did not escape within the next thirty seconds. His eyes tried to analyze his surroundings in every possible angle as fast as they could. Although, it did not matter how fast he could see or how far his eyesight reached, a Byakugan was faster, it was worthier; it was all-seeing for Kami's sake.
"I will not repeat myself." Hiashi gave him his last warning. The decision was his, and whichever he ended up choosing would ultimately seal his fate.
It was indeed a cold night. Fog had started to appear, masking what was once a beautiful shining moon. The clouds were thicker and the mist was growing hazier. It made no difference to the Byakugan wielder.
"No." That was his decision, his resolve. Standing on a roof of an old warehouse, both shinobi were ready to fight for what was theirs.
"Very well then." The father of two came to his own resolve, too. And that was to save his daughter, but above all, to protect and hide the Byakugan's secrets from these worthless and contemptible people. He took the stance, the one that had always struck fear within the hearts of whoever came in contact with a Hyuga.
One of them will die tonight, and it was not going to be Hiashi. He would make sure of it.
But tonight...tonight was different.
Because at the end of it all, it was not just a simple matter of who won or who lost, who was the strongest or who was the weakest, who was the smart one or who was the foolish one.
Because tonight, his daughter would live to see another day.
Tonight, a bird would be freed of its cage.
And tonight, a man would choose his freedom over his will to live.
While a man might lose his brother, a little boy would lose his father forever.