I do not own Naruto. All rights remain that of Kishimoto.
"Konoha." Jiraiya said in an emotionally-drained voice as the trio (and pig) walked listlessly towards the gates to the hidden village. "God knows how I'm going to explain this."
"Explain what?" A voice asked and Hinata's head shot up, staring at the figure standing in front of them. Her byakugan activated briefly, then she seemed to teleport forwards, impacting the figure so hard that the collision carried them five feet before they hit the ground.
"Ruuuuutooooo..." She half-shouted, half-cried as she buried her head into his chest. "You're alive!"
"So am I." Said another voice and it was Shizune's turn to teleport, glomping Tsunade so hard that they briefly parted contact with the earth before slamming onto the ground.
"Lady Tsunade! You're alive!"
"…how?" Jiraiya whispered. "How are you…?"
"Alive?" Tsunade asked and Jiraiya nodded, unable to speak. "You can thank Ruto. Shizune, let me up. Let's get you to the Hokage's office and then we can tell you how we survived."
"How…?" Jiraiya repeated, a huge grin forming on his face. "You… you're alive!"
Unnoticed, a black-and-white figure withdrew into the tree it was leaning out of.
"Welcome back, Jiraiya-sama, Hinata-chan, Shizune-san." Itachi smiled as the group entered his office. "As you can see since you were last here, Shizune, we made a few changes."
"It's… a tree." Shizune said in shock.
"Well, we are the village hidden in the leaves." Itachi said, earning several looks, then Hinata frowned.
"Sensei, your eyes…"
Itachi held out a hand and Shisui appeared, dropped a small bundle of ryo into it and vanished again. Hinata raised a querying eyebrow.
"We had a bet as to who'd notice Tsunade's handiwork first."
"Shisui managed to cure my phobia using his mangekyo." Tsunade shrugged, attracting their attention. "You're looking at the chief medic and administrator of Konoha Hospital, and the personal physician of the Hokages."
"That's nice." Hinata said absently, her attention still fixated on Itachi's eyes. "What happened?"
Itachi activated his sharingan, then the tomoes warped and flowed into new shapes. His left eye boasted a three-bladed shuriken with a red circle in which a four-bladed shuriken resided while his right eye had a three-bladed shuriken with a trio of overlapping ellipses in the middle.
"To enable us to protect Konoha better, Shisui, Sasuke and I all went through a special medical procedure." Itachi said. "My left eye used to be Shisui's while my brother gave me my new right eye."
"Oh, kamis above!" Jiraiya gasped. "You have the Eternal Mangekyo!"
"As do Shisui and Sasuke." Itachi confirmed. "Shisui has my right eye while Sasuke has my left."
"And Sasuke has Shisui's right eye while Shisui has Sasuke's left." Shizune realised. "A three-way swap."
"That is correct." Itachi confirmed. "I decided that with the amount of damage Konoha's forces took, having two fully-powered up Sharingans available for missions would be a highly-valuable asset."
"Two?" Naruto asked.
"The Hokage generally has to remain in Konoha." Tsunade said with a slight shrug. "As does the chief medic. Right now, having Itachi and myself here means that we are very unlikely to be attacked again, leaving you lot ready for deployment. Except for you, Shizune. The paperwork's already piling up and I need your help with it."
"Wait!" Hinata snapped. "Ruto-kun, you owe us an explanation!"
"Okay, okay, okay." Naruto laughed as he fished around in his kunai pouch before pulling out a three-bladed kunai. "Watch."
Naruto flung the kunai across the room, then vanished in a flash of pale gold, reappearing just by where the kunai was quivering in the pillar.
"You… used the hiraishin…" Jiraiya breathed and Naruto shrugged.
"Sort of. I actually summoned Shiromari and asked him to travel to Konoha via Mount Myoboku to ask the Hokage's Guard to get ready. He thought it would take him about ten minutes, so I waited fifteen minutes before dropping this Kunai to summon the Guard and they used their Hiraishin to bring us back to Konoha. From the report you sent ahead, I think we got out just as Deidara's technique took out the castle.
"Anyway, Shiromari said the other chameleons were curious about the Hiraishin, so I sent him back with a copy of the scroll and the next day, I was reverse-summoned to the Valley of Mists where I met the Great Chameleon Sage, who had read the scroll and worked out how the Hiraishin worked. Apparently the key is in the exact ratio of Yin and Yang chakra, which is probably why Jiraiya-sama can't do it."
"That would make sense." Jiraiya admitted ruefully. "I never expected that replacing half my Yang chakra with Spirit Toad Essence would bar me from using my student's technique. So, how did you do it?"
"The Great Chameleon Sage used his fuinjutsu skills to give me a special seal that does most of the work for me." Naruto admitted with a shrug. "All I really had to do was to learn how to work with the new sense it gave me and… Hiraishin complete. I've agreed to let the Chameleons use it too since they were responsible for me gaining the ability to do it."
"Fuinjutsu…" Jiraiya half-laughed. "Oh, wow. Why didn't I think of that?"
"The Great Chameleon Sage is one of the oldest beings around." Naruto said. "He was a fully-grown warrior in the time before the Sage of the Six Paths. His knowledge of fuinjutsu is… if I used a hundred clones daily to learn without taking a break, it would probably still take me over a century to get close."
"And did they help you with your chains as well?" Hinata asked.
"No." Naruto sighed. "They said I simply needed to practice, practice and practice."
"Practice makes perfect." Jiraiya intoned, trying to look wise.
Tsunade rolled her eyes.
"You failed. Tsunade still lives."
"What?" Deidara yelped. "But… I blew up the castle! It was a masterpiece of art!"
"How did she survive?" Kisame interrupted.
"We do not know at this time, but what we feared has come to pass." Pein's image stated. "It is no longer worth trying to kill her."
"And the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki?"
"He survived as well, you did not kill him." Pein replied. "Although certain portions of the plan need to be re-thought, the plan as a whole is still underway."
"Is this…?" Hinata gasped as they walked in through the outer gate and she saw the building for the first time.
"Our new home." Naruto aid, giving her a one-armed hug as he stood beside her.
Hinata stared entranced at the mansion set in its own gardens. The central portion stood three storeys tall (with a small windmill at the peak) and two wings arced out to partially enclose the entry courtyard.
"We have training grounds at the back and all of our scrolls and similar have been placed into the vault underneath." Naruto said.
"It's a super building." Tazuna said as he wandered up, looking proudly at the mansion. "I designed it specifically for you two. I even added a full onsen and the windmill pumps water for your own private bathroom."
"It's really cool!" Inari added as he ran to his grandfather's side. "Guest rooms, a huge hall, kitchens, the lot."
"But… how can we…" Hinata started before the door opened and a young woman in a maid's outfit appeared.
"Welcome to the Yurei Mansion, Lady Hinata." She bowed. "I am Tsuchi Kin and I have the honour of being the Chief Maid."
"She's a former Kunoichi who took a career-ending injury." Naruto whispered and Hinata nodded slightly in understanding. "I'm planning on hiring several other former ninja to help keep this place going."
"Do you wish for a tour?" Kin asked politely.
"What. A. House." Hinata sighed as she collapsed onto the bed. Naruto finished hanging up the last of the tri-blade kunai on the display wall before joining her.
"Hiashi-sama wants to meet with us tomorrow." Naruto said as he sat down and captured one of Hinata's hands. "Several of the Branch Family are interested in joining the staff of the House, helping to look after the place while we're on missions."
Hinata sighed contentedly, then giggled.
"I still can't believe that you gave Hanabi her own guest room."
"It's not like she'll be over every night, maybe once or twice a week." Naruto shrugged. "Besides, once the Great Chameleon Sage gives you the chakra-flow seal and instructs you in how to use the hiraishin, you'll be able to simply pop back whenever you want."
Hinata hmmm'd in contented agreement as Naruto continued to gently stroke her hand.
"We'll never be apart again." He whispered to her softly.
"Hokage-nii-san." Sasuke grinned back and Itachi's lips quirked in a brief smile.
"How are you finding your apprenticeship?"
"Well," Sasuke began, "I miss my old team. Sure, Sakura was a pain until Kurenai-sensei put her straight and Shino… I think he talked less than I did while I was going through my emo phase, but now that I only see them every so often… I find that I do miss them. That being said, I've learned more from Hiruzen-sensei in a week than I have previously in a month or more!"
"There is a reason that he is known as The Professor." Itachi confirmed. "How are you adjusting to your new eyes?"
"I need to work on my chakra reserves." Sasuke groaned. "These new powers are amazing, but they go through chakra faster than a starving Akamichi through a buffet."
Itachi nodded and Sasuke blinked at the sudden burst of light just outside the window.
"What was that?"
"Kumo collecting our reports on Akatsuki." Itachi said without bothering to look round. "So far, we are gaining as much information as we are disseminating and so we have a better idea of what, or whom, we are facing, although we still do not know their ultimate aim."
"Probably world domination." Sasuke sighed. "We need to get stronger. All of us."
"I have ordered the cost of learning from the Public Uchiha Archive to be reduced to a tenth of what it was." Itachi stated.
"That will help." Sasuke admitted. "It's always useful to have a jutsu or two that the enemy doesn't expect."
For a long moment, the two of them looked out of the newly-glazed window, their gazes resting on the areas of Konoha that were still being rebuilt.
"By the way," Itachi asked, "When do you wish to undertake that training trip to Kumo in order to study kenjutsu under Killer Bee?"
"I wanna study, without a doubt/ Have a chance to try my new sword out.
"Go to Kumo and earn my grades/ Under the master of the seven blades.
"But I gotta raise my game while I'm still here/ So maybe I'll go to him next year.
For a long moment, Itachi stared disbelievingly at his grinning brother, then he facepalmed.
"You were only friends for a week! How did he corrupt you that fast?"
Sasuke burst into laughter.
"Father." Gaara stated and the Kazekage looked up from his desk.
"Gaara. Is the seal holding?"
"It is." Gaara droned, then his tone hardened slightly. "Having a proper seal to restrain the Ichibi has allowed me to interact more with my peers."
The Kazekage flinched slightly at the reminder of how he'd come within a whiskers-breadth of completely ruining his son's life.
"I summoned you here to give you this." The Kazekage said, nodding to Baki who produced a Chunin vest. Gaara accepted it and held it up, examining it.
"Because with the help that Jiraiya gave you, you have proven yourself." The Kazekage replied. "You managed to defeat Suigetsu and during the invasion of our allies, you saved dozens of lives. You will still remain on the same team as your siblings, though."
"That is good, I have learned how to work with them." Gaara noted.
"And although it is not usual to do this, I am placing you in charge as I need Baki for other duties." The Kazekage added and Gaara's eyes widened fractionally.
"You… trust me that much?"
"I probably trust you far more than you trust me." The Kazekage replied with a slight twitch of his lips. "Dismissed, Chunin."
Gaara nodded and walked out of the room.
"Thank you, sir." Baki said quietly.
"I hope that in a few years, I will be able to follow my friend Hiruzen's example and retire." The Kazekage said. "If Gaara continues to improve as he has done, I think he will be able to take this damned hat within the next five years or so."
Gaara blinked as the small sand-ear that he had almost absent-mindedly placed in the office relayed the discussion to him.
"Gaara… the fifth Kazekage…" He mused.
Gaara turned and his lips quirked in a brief smile that could only be noticed by one who knew him.
"I just heard!" Temari grinned. "Congratulations!"
"Haku, Suigetsu! Front and center!" Zabuza snarled and the two genin darted forwards to stand before the Mizukage's desk. Behind it, Mei leaned back in her chair and steepled her fingers.
"You both did very well against your opponants. Haku, you managed to defeat a Hyuuga, not something that is easily done. Suigetsu, you held your own for a while against a Jinchuuriki. As such, and taking your actions during the Invasion into account, I am confirming you both as Chunin."
Mangetsu stepped forwards and presented them with their Chunin jackets, giving his younger brother an approving smirk.
"I'll be watching you." Zabuza growled. "Just because you've been promoted don't mean you can slack off."
Mei giggled as she reached out to stroke Zabuza's arm. "Darling, let them enjoy this day. It's not every day that one gets promoted, after all."
"Fine." Zabuza sighed, then he caught the look in Mei's eyes. "You three, scram! Go find something to do, now!"
The two freshly-minted chunin and the co-leader of the Seven Swordsmen darted out through the door as Mei rose from her chair.
"You know," She whispered into Zabuza's ear, "We have yet to christen this office."
"There aren't any curtains, Mei."
Mei whispered into Zabuza's ear and he nodded with a lop-sided grin.
"As you command, Mizukage-Hime. Kirigakure no Jutsu!"
"Omoi, Samui." A said as he leaned back in his chair, absently lifting a pair of seal-engraved dumbells. "Well done, you're promoted. Bee!"
"I'm so proud I could almost cry/ so full of joy I could reach the sky.
"Your chunin vests, well here you go/ You're now the pride of all Kumo.
"Ah knew a promotion would come your way/ And here you are, chunin today.
"Enough rapping, bee!" A roared. "You two, well done. Now go and celebrate, 'cause tomorrow you're gonna be working your asses off!"
"Thank you for your hard work, all of you." Itachi said as he faced the crowd of builders from Wave.
"Ah, the least we could do since you rescued us from Gato and delivered him to us." Tazuna said with a grin. "'sides, if Tsunami had heard you wanted help with building and I hadn't volunteered…"
Tazuna gave an exaggerated shudder, causing most of the builders to laugh.
"The bridge you built over Sharingan Lake is a work of art." Itachi said. "As are the floating houses that you designed."
"Well, if there's one thing I know above everything else, it's bridges." Tazuna shrugged, then he glanced across at the Tower Tree. "Though buildings formed from weird ninja-magic are a new one on me."
"And to us as well." Itachi agreed. "Team ten will escort you and your men back to Wave."
"Hmmm, did you say something?" Kakashi asked from his perch on the wall where he was reading an Icha Icha book. Itachi merely lifted an eyebrow and briefly activated his Mangekyo.
"Okay, team ten is ready to move out!" Kakashi said hurriedly, quickly stowing the book in his pocket.
"How?" Hiruzen whispered from his position just behind Itachi.
"I threatened to use Amaretsu on his books if he ever showed up late again." Itachi whispered back. "It seemed to work."
"You mean that all I had to do to get him to show up on time was to threaten his books?" Hiruzen gasped, then he facepalmed. "Now I know I'm getting old."
Hinata and Naruto stood on the wall beside the gate, watching Tazuna and his workers vanishing into the distance.
"I'll miss him." Hinata sighed, then she frowned. "Ruto, why are you being quiet like that?"
"Like you have something to tell me, but are waiting because you think it's funny." Hinata replied. "Tell."
"Okay. I gave Inari a carving to put on a shelf, the insignia of the Yurei clan. It contains a Hiraishin tag."
"So we can visit them whenever we want." Hinata realised. "Brilliant!"
"Well, once you get the seal applied so that you can learn it as well." Naruto nodded, then he made a quick handseal, causing two clones of Kurama to appear.
"I thought that you'd want to go and visit Hanabi and talk to Inoichi." Naruto explained. "That's why I summoned two clones, so that you could do both."
The two Kurama's looked at him, then at each other for a long moment.
Hinata started to giggle as the two nine-tailed foxes began playing paper-scissors-stone to decide which one got the belly rubs.
"Dammit! You win!"
"Excellent, I get the rubs!"
"You realise that original you will get all the memories anyway?" Hinata pointed out between giggles.
"Oh, that reminds me." Naruto said and he quickly ran through a few hand-seals, causing two people to appear behind him. "Hinata-hime, the alterations Jiraiya made worked. I'd like you to meet my parents. Mum, dad, this is Hinata."
Hinata found herself being embraced by the red-haired women.
"Oh, she's so cute!"
With a long-drawn-out creak, the tree slowly toppled over, landing in such a way that it straddled the stream that it had been growing beside.
The long-toothed animal that had been responsible for the tree's demise waddled round the jagged stump, then it seemed to freeze and collapse, a small bit of wood with fletching attached sticking out of its forehead.
"Yes!" Inari exulted as he ran over and picked up the deceased mammal. "This is going to be perfect for mum's new hat when we get home!"
Author's Afternote – And thus we hit the end of the Tsunade Retrieval arc and the story opens for adoption.
Not bad for a forced-muse story, but not as good as it could have been.
Also, I was informed that the story shouldn't have been M-rated, so I corrected that…
…by finishing with a gratuitous beaver shot!
You may have noticed that the chapters were longer than usual for my stories. I normally average 2,000 to 2,500 words per chapter, but all the chapters in this story were 3,000+ words. A 50% increase!
I hope you enjoyed it and that someone steps up to the plate to take on the task of doing the sequel.
Until next story…