WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Boruto: Naruto Next Generations #37, by Masashi Kishimoto, Mikio Ikemoto and Ukyo Kodachi, on sale now.
In the Boruto manga, Kawaki's been hiding out in Konoha as Naruto tries to keep the young ninja away from Jigen, the series' main villain. The boy was engineered to be a weapon of mass destruction and Jigen's next vessel, but when he escaped, he began to soften and understand love, compassion, empathy and the concept of family with Naruto, Boruto and the others.
He and Boruto even established a brotherly bond, only for Jigen to arrive in Naruto's living room, ready to take his "son" back to the Kara lair. Now, while we've seen Kawaki sulking and brooding -- tough to the point he's basically the new Sasuke -- when this confrontation happens, Jigen breaks the boy in ways neither he nor Boruto's inner-circle ever could have imagined.
When Jigen and Naruto began their brawl, it became obvious the former was way more powerful than his assassin, Delta, who arrived and caused havoc a few chapters ago. Kawaki's very scared looking on at Jigen beating down Naruto, as the Hokage of the village clearly underestimated the power this tyrant held within. Seeing Jigen pin Naruto down with chakra rods, draining his essence, certainly shakes the kid up, to the point he wants to sacrifice himself to save his mentor.
He yells to Jigen to leave the Hokage alone, and that he'll go back with him if he spares Konoha. Kawaki simply doesn't want war to come to the village, especially now that he's grown so attached to Naruto's family after they adopted him. Kawaki is also tired of running, not to mention mentally exhausted, and seeing Naruto pummelled is enough to shatter his spirit and overall will to fight. His resolve has wavered deeply and he's begging Jigen for mercy, i.e. a trip back to the lab, knowing full well it's for the greater good.
It's in stark contrast to Sasuke who, in the past, never showed such mixed bag of emotions like fear and stoicism. More so, this is Kawaki truly lowering his defenses. "I'd rather be his prisoner again than lose you," he tells Naruto in a moment filled with sentiment, showing an exposed side of the shinobi we never saw before. He's petrified and willing to be alone again, dissected and facing death, all so he could stop this disaster, only to see his selflessness spur Naruto on even more.
The Hokage views Kawaki as a cry for help, no matter how brutish and defiant he gets, and it does remind him of all the other ninjas he met, rehabilitated and redeemed over the years. Sadly, Jigen quickly takes Naruto away using his teleportation skills, leaving Jigen scarred and near tears in the house. He's pondering his failure to protect the leader and also his next steps, knowing Jigen is pretty much unstoppable.
Even when Boruto, Sarada (Sasuke's daughter) and Mitsuki (Orochimaru's child) arrive on the scene, Kawaki can't compose himself. His mind, body and soul have been frightened to the core, and seeing this violence and aggression towards Naruto, he finally has a perspective on what all-out war really means in the free ninja world.
He'll have to recover quickly because the kids have to save the Hokage, but as it stands we can see Kawaki developing severe PTSD from this as he almost saw his father-figure murdered in cold blood. Boruto will have to grab him by the scruff of the neck, though, and convince him to jump into action because right now, Kawaki's filled with terror and doesn't seem like improving anytime soon.
Boruto #38 will be released on Sep. 20.