Hanabi is a bit older here by about 3 years so she's only 2 years younger than Hinata. The absence of the Kyuubi jinchuuriki from the village changed a lot in the universe, so you can chalk Hanabi's age difference to that if you want, but honestly it just fits the story better. And again, I know how it looks, really. But I promise that not every intimate interaction with a girl indicates what the pairing is going to be. So don't think the pairing has been decided yet because of the events in this chapter, because it hasn't. Hell, I don't even know what it's going to be, I'm just experimenting at this point and seeing what works.

Sage Paths

Hinata looked down at her sister, distracted from her usual forms. Hanabi had been acting strangely recently. Where there had been hesitance and timidness in her movements before, there was now a newfound determination and aggressiveness. It was a welcome change, especially for their father who looked down at his youngest daughter approvingly, but Hinata had to question where it had come from. Just a week ago, she had feared that her younger sister would end up hurt or worse in the dangerous line of work of shinobi — she had worried for nothing, apparently. It made her question her own role as the bigger sister who had sworn all those years ago to protect Hanabi from taking on the role of leadership in the Hyuuga clan. Her eyes darkened as she remembered that cold night, when she had run away from home.

The night of the funeral, collapsing onto the cold streets with no one there to help her. Completely alone and helpless, she swore that she would never let that happen again, not to her or her younger sister when she came into this world. So forgive her if she were a bit protective over Hanabi and as a result the younger sister grew up a bit sheltered, but if that meant she wouldn't be exposed to the cruel nature of the world for a bit longer, that was fine with her.

But looking now at the person she had sworn to protect acting so strong, she wondered where that left her. There was only one thing to do, and that was test her.

Hinata stopped her movements, and Hiashi looked at her with a disapproving glare. She couldn't blame him, she had been sloppy today.

"Father, I'd like to spar with Hanabi." There was no change in Hiashi's expression, but he nodded his approval. He also wanted to see if Hanabi had truly changed her ways.

Looking across the wooden floor, Hinata noticed Hanabi's demeanor had completely changed from their usual spars. Normally she would be scared, apprehensive, and overall weak. There was no semblance of that here, only determination remained. However, she still lacked confidence in her abilities. It had only been a few days since the change, after all. But it could be improved in the future if she continued training this hard. Now all Hinata had to do was see if she really meant it or this was just a phase.

She took the initiative, charging forward with her dominant foot and swinging her opposite palm into Hanabi's guard which came up at the last second. In past spars, this move would've left the younger girl on the floor gasping for breath, unable to continue. So it was to Hinata's surprise that Hanabi grit her teeth and deflected the 'gentle' fist, absorbing most of the impact with her wrist. Her stance also never changed throughout her next counter which let her throw her entire weight forward into the older girl. HInata seemed shocked that she would so readily counterattack and was caught unaware when the tenketsu in her attacking shoulder were completely closed off. She had been overly aggressive, and was now paying the price for underestimating her opponent.

Now unable to use her left arm, Hinata reevaluated their positions. The fight would be much closer now, but she was still confident in her ability to win. One look at Hanabi told her she was right, that earlier lack of confidence meant she wasn't using this moment to capitalize on the fact that she currently had the upper hand. Hinata took that time to back off and look at her father, who was looking at Hanabi in surprise with something she hadn't seen on his face in a long time — and most certainly never directed at her — pride.

Hinata never did this for the approval, but it would've been welcome. To see her father at least give her the slightest bit of acknowledgement, even just a visual one such as facial expressions. Yet here was Hanabi who had never shown any potential, and now that she had finally done so their father seemed to take interest, Hinata couldn't help the feeling of jealousy that sprouted in her mind. She kept telling herself that the reason she became strong was to protect Hanabi, so shouldn't she be happy that she was finally able to protect herself? There was nothing more to prove, that counterattack had told Hinata and her father everything they had to know. Something had changed in Hanabi, and it was here to stay. And no matter how much she wanted to, Hinata couldn't accept that so easily. For then why had she trained so hard to protect her little sister if she didn't even need her protection anymore?

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hanabi finally making her move. It was slow, choreographed, and not at all as graceful as her own had been. But it was the first time she had ever taken the initiative in a fight. Her first strike missed, Hinata only had to move her torso slightly to the right. The kick from below was so obvious that she didn't even bother blocking it, and just ducked under. From there, Hinata began parrying all of her sister's attempts with her lone working arm. Now that she was no longer taken off guard, it had become almost laughably easy to win this fight even with only one arm. But she never took the finishing blow to end the fight despite how many openings she found in her sister's guard. She couldn't, not after seeing the look on Hanabi's face. It was so determined to win, or more so to just not lose that Hinata couldn't bring herself to finish the fight. Tears threatened to spill from both sister's eyes, one from frustration and the other from compassion.

She felt so foolish now for her earlier worries and envies. She and Hanabi were sisters, and nothing would change that. And besides, since when had she been getting stronger for solely her sister? Didn't she say all those years ago when her father found her in the cold that she didn't want to be weak ever again, to suffer alone? So if her sister got stronger, that would only benefit the both of them, as they watched each other's backs. With her mind set, Hinata finally broke through her sister's guard and forced her onto her back, with a hand raised threateningly over her. A little tough love.

She looked down at Hanabi who had a frustrated look on her face. She had really wanted to win, hadn't she. Hinata gave Hanabi a soft smile and offered her hand. "You'll get better. We'll get better together, as sisters."

She took the hand, and slammed into her sister with a hug, all wishes of winning temporarily put aside, "I love you, Hinata."

"I love you too, Hanabi."

As for the patriarch of the Hyuuga clan, he simply kept quiet and observed his two daughters, the only remaining reminders of his late wife. They were all he had, and so he pushed them to be the best they could be. Hinata made the decision years ago after his brother's funeral, and it seemed Hanabi had finally followed suit. He wouldn't question what had brought about these changes, but would simply take them in stride and hope for the best. This was the only way he had ever known, the only way he knew how to express that he cared. It was undoubtedly messed up, even he knew that, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Maybe once his time passed things would change, hopefully by his grandchildren's generation or even sooner. Looking at his two daughters embracing in familial love, it looked like things were finally starting to look up. Maybe sooner was indeed possible.

Hiashi exited the dojo, nodding to his two daughters that they could remain and train or talk by themselves. He walked through the gardens and reminisced of the times he had spent here with his wife. Simply walking and talking about their likes, dislikes, and dreams. Memories of those rare moments were what got Hiashi through the war, the Kyuubi attack, and his brother's death. He began to realize that perhaps his time was already nearing its end, that the next generation was already taking its first steps into the future. He had certainly had enough tragedies in his lifetime. He could only trust the future of Konoha in his children's hands. Only time would tell if they did a good job.

As people age, most realize that nothing really changes. Despite everything that happens, no calamity or disaster will stop the simple truths of the world. The world will keep turning, as it always has, and humanity will continue their path into the future. Similarly, a great new discovery or brilliant mind can do much to aid humanity, but in the end the laws of reality will remain constant. Things that all souls hold constant regardless of identity, those will remain constant as long as humanity still exists as it does.

But once in an eon, there may come an individual that has the power to overturn these laws, to challenge reality at its core. To bend common sense to their own ideals and completely alter the course of history and humanity. The Sage of Six Paths was one of these individuals. Someone who could quite literally shape reality as he pleased, and brought chakra down from the heavens into the human population. A God in every sense of the word to the common man. It could be argued that Hashirama and Madara had a similar role since without them the existence of Ninja villages would not be possible, and thus history would be vastly different. So there are different levels of influence that these individuals can bring even amongst each other. But their core similarities are enough to collectively put them into a singular group.

Jiraiya held no illusions as to his own place within history. He was a great man, and made no effort to hide that fact to any lady that asked (and the few that didn't, of course). But he was not one of these individuals, of that he was sure. The Great Toad Sage told him that much, that he would train that individual rather than be it himself. When he had first heard the prophecy, he had searched far and wide for that individual, his own student which would change the world. Funnily enough, it was Nagato who had searched him out first, and for a while Jiraiya truly believed that the Rinnegan wielding boy would be the one. That was until he received word that he and the other two orphans with him had all been killed.

What then of Minato, who had a secret legacy of power and was one of the only remaining Senju of the time? When Jiraiya had first heard word of Minato single handedly putting an end to the war, he for a moment truly believed that this was what the Great Sage Toad had meant. That perhaps Minato had saved the world from destruction from a war which had lasted for as long as Minato had been a student of Jiraiya's. It wasn't until Minato's death that Jiraiya had become increasingly worried. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was cursed, much like Tsunade's necklace. It was a terrible feeling to constantly outlive your own students, something that Jiraiya covered up with drinks and women constantly.

But he had to stop running eventually, and that moment came when his own sensei asked him to raise young Naruto. Minato's child. He wanted to refuse, worries that came from his last two students. And Naruto had both their traits, if only to make it worse. Minato's blood and Nagato's heritage, including those eyes. The Rinnegan. Undisputedly the most powerful bloodline in existence, yet that power had to come with a drawback, physical or not. Having a hand in actually raising Naruto did nothing to assuage his fears. If anything, it made him care more for the boy and worry even more. Connections were powerful things, but they could also be dangerous, especially in their line of work. Tsunade was a perfect example of someone whose career ended because of said connections. It was why she never wanted Naruto to become a shinobi, to never be put into the line of fire where she might lose another person she so dearly loved.

But Naruto had too much in his blood to not do something, even Tsunade admitted that much. So upon returning from Konoha, when Naruto expressed how much he wanted to see the other Hidden Villages, Jiraiya offered to take him on a training trip. Tsunade protested, of course. Cried even, although she denied it now to Jiraiya. So having just left Tsunade to visit Konoha, they were leaving once again, except this time it was only him and Naruto. Shizune would stay behind and help Tsunade survive while he and Naruto traveled. Their first destination was set for Suna, an ally of Konoha.

Farewells had already been made, and Naruto was excited to see the rest of the world. As much as he knew, he was still relatively sheltered. It was his job to remedy some of that.

"So you ready, brat?"

"You know it!" Such an excitable little kid.

"Well try to keep up, I don't want you to drag me down while I work."

Naruto wrinkled his nose. "Work? You mean going to bars and getting wasted, don't you?"

"Hey! You don't know this, but before you were born Tsunade was worse than me when it came to alcohol, and even worse with gambling!"

He just rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, doesn't change the fact that you're supposed to train me on this trip! Not get wasted or whatever you do."

Jiraiya huffed in indignance, "Hmph, I do have a spy network I need to check up on. Besides, what more can I even teach you? You already know all the basics, plus the rasengan."

"Yeah, but I want to go weird eyes mode like you!" Naruto whined.

Jiraiya almost laughed at how ironic it was calling Sage mode, 'weird eyes' mode coming from someone with the Rinnegan. It was also discouraging as a Sannin that the only thing left for him to teach Naruto was his trump card. He couldn't even teach him how to do it, that was something reserved for the Toads, which didn't help him feel any better. It wasn't his fault that Tsunade already taught him all the basics up to elemental training, and that he learned the Rasengan within a week! But it still put a bit of pride in him that he so desperately wanted to follow Jiraiya's steps and be able to go Sage mode. He still remembered the look in his eyes when he first showed the combination with Ma and Pa. It must've been amazing to see with the Rinnegan, incomplete as the Sage mode was.

"Maybe once the training trip is done, I'll ask Ma and Pa to train you. But you'll have to get Tsunade's approval first."

"Really? Thanks, ero-sennin!"

A tick mark appeared on Jiraiya's forehead. "Oi! I told you to stop calling me that!"

Naruto stuck out a tongue and laughed, "Hehe, not until you stop being such a pervert, ero-sennin."

Jiraiya sighed. What does a Sannin have to do to get some respect these days?

After a couple of weeks of travel, they had finally crossed the border from the Land of Rivers to the Land of Wind. Jiraiya was talking with Naruto about his past adventures on team Hiruzen when Naruto suddenly stiffened up and looked alert. Jiraiya immediately stretched his senses out and realized they were no longer alone. Not a moment later and they were surrounded by a squad of shinobi, all wearing Sunagakure's headband.

"You are approaching Sunagakure, state your name and business or you will be removed." The lead shinobi demanded. He seemed fairly nondescript, having generic brown hair and features.

But come on, to not know who he was? He gave a haughty laugh and pointed to himself. "Do you know who you might be talking to?"

The shinobi just gave him a blank stare.

Jiraiya looked over at Naruto and gave him a toothy grin, then began hopping on one foot and dancing.

"The title 'Frog Hermit' is merely a disguise." He stepped his feet forward. "I shall tell you my true identity." Wildly swinging his hair around in a circle, he continued. "I am the man who has no enemies in the North, South, East, and West…" He threw his large scroll in the air and formed a single hand seal. "Not even in the heavens! I am one of the Sannin…" There was a poof of smoke and jiraiya appeared on top of an orange frog with green markings roughly his own size. "White-haired frog tamer…" He then got uncomfortably close to the shinobi and looked him in the eye. "Even a crying baby would stare in awe… The great Jiraiya!" Finishing his dance with his signature pose, he proclaimed, "That is me!"

Distantly, a bird could be heard. Naruto just facepalmed. The shinobi in front didn't react whatsoever for the longest time, leaving an awkward silence. Then he exclaimed, "A-Ah! Jiraiya-sama, of course. Please excuse our rudeness, we didn't recognize you at first because your companion."

Jiraiya got over the disrespect fairly quickly, "Ahaha, don't worry. It's not every day the gallivant Jiraiya appears in front of your own eyes, after all."

"O-Of course… Please follow closely while we escort you to Kazekage-sama. From there, he will discuss whatever business you have with him." Jiraiya hadn't even stated his business, but whatever it was it had to be important. After all, it really wasn't every day one of the Legendary Sannin showed up in another Village's territory with a child in tow. And if whatever Jiraiya had to say wasn't important, well by then it would no longer be his problem. Shinobi just followed orders, he wasn't about to deal with anything extra like asking why a child was traveling with a Sannin.

They walked at a slow pace, similar to the one the two travelers had been going on before they were stopped. The head shinobi knew that any pace he took could be easily matched by one of the Sannin, but it would be rude to ask him to run when he was clearly in no rush. Plus, one of the sensor ninja confirmed that the boy traveling beside Jiraiya had very little chakra, if any at all. He would never be able to keep up, even with ninja training which he obviously didn't have if his men's word were to be trusted.

Baki was already waiting for them by the gate after the journey, having received a message as soon as Jiraiya had stepped foot into the Land of Wind.

He bowed politely to Jiraiya, "It's an honor to meet one of our ally's greatest shinobi. Kazekage-sama is currently busy, so for now please follow us and we'll provide you with a place to stay. Rest assured it will contain everything you could possibly need."

Jiraiya just nodded while Naruto almost gaped at how much respect this foreign ninja had for the pervert. He had of course heard stories from Jiraiya himself about how much he had accomplished in the Third Shinobi War, but they had only been stories and Naruto put little faith in them. Tsunade refused to talk about the War, so Naruto had only Jiraiya's words to go on. Suna and Konoha were allies both during and after the war, and this man looked old enough to have fought in it himself. And judging by how he treated Jiraiya, he probably had fought alongside him as well at some point. Which meant that there had been some truth in the pervert's words after all.

But Naruto also didn't miss the subtle looks he had been given, as if being inspected with brief glances by the shinobi all around the village as they were led through. And he could also feel the ones hidden in the shadows, their attention solely devoted to the two foreigners walking through the streets of their home.

Not even when they arrived at their hotel were the eyes gone, if anything they seemed to intensify. He was so focused on tracking every single chakra signature that he was surprised to find himself suddenly standing in front of a luxurious room.

"Well kid, we're gonna be staying here for a couple of weeks at least so try to find something interesting to do in the meantime. I'm basically free until the Kazekage wants to talk to me about some boring political stuff."

"Let me guess, you're going to go to some shady place, aren't you?" Naruto laughed at how Jiraiya reacted.

"Hey! I haven't done that in a while now, I'm trying to be a good role model for you, kid. Sheesh, no appreciation for the one who taught you everything you know."

Naruto raised a brow, "Everything? I feel like Kaa-chan would disagree."

Jiraiya just smirked, "Well, everything worth learning. Now, go out and have some fun exploring and be back before sundown. I trust in you not to get lost, so just don't get into too much trouble, yeah?"

"Yeah, don't worry ero-sennin." Naruto was out of the room almost immediately, not even bothering to look around too much inside.

"And stop calling me that!" Jiraiya called out but it was too late as the door shut in his face. Jiraiya sighed at the boy's actions and quickly summoned a small toad.

"Hey boss, what do you want?" A small orange toad with green marking popped out.

Jiraiya handed the toad some candy which he quickly took, "Follow Naruto for me, will you? Make sure he doesn't get lost and if he does, come to me right away. Same goes for if he gets in any form of trouble."

"Sure boss!" The toad gave him a mock salute and hopped away.

Despite trusting the young boy, Jiraiya couldn't help but feel that he was going to attract trouble in the way only a child of Kushina and Minato could…

"Hey Naruto, wait up!" A young boy with dark brown hair and deeply shadowed eyes called out, chasing another boy.

Naruto turned around and gave a cheeky grin, "I told you Kankuro, last one there is a rotten egg!"

Kankuro grew agitated and yelled out, "You idiot! You don't even know where it is!"

Naruto took a moment to pretend he was thinking about this new piece of information. Kankuro thought he was going to turn around and apologize for running off on his own, and began to feel a small sense of victory. That is, until Naruto turned around and pointed directly at the place they were going, and with a smile so bright it made the blistering sun of Suna look dim in comparison, said, "Sure I do, it's right over there, right? Come on Kankuro, I'm right, aren't I? Hehe."

Kankuro only grew angrier and began earnestly chasing after Naruto. Naruto noticed and began running away even faster, laughing the entire way. All the way in the back, Temari trailed behind them at a leisurely pace, laughing at their antics.

The boy had appeared in front of them without warning, startling Kankuro who knocked his sand castle over in the process. She still giggled at how angry Kankuro tried to be. But she could tell that even now he wasn't truly angry. How could he, when the perpetrator had a smile that bright? She had been surrounded by dull faces and expressions her entire life, and it was no doubt the same for Kankuro. Seeing this boy, no matter how stupid he might be for approaching the Kazekage's children, walk up to them and innocently ask them what they were doing was a fresh breath of air for them both.

Her and Kankuro quickly became friends with Naruto, their first mutual friend, and found out that he wasn't from around Suna which explained a lot. The two siblings shared a look at that piece of knowledge and silently promised to not let the knowledge of their heritage become known, lest he run away because of it. After that, Kankuro boasted that he knew the best place in Suna to go to, and that he would show Naruto the place to show he wasn't angry anymore for making his sand castle fall, which Naruto insisted wasn't his fault anyways.

But Temari was curious where Kankuro was talking about, since she only really knew one place where Kankuro might be talking about, but outsiders weren't allowed there. Even they, the Kazekage's children, couldn't be there without their father. Thankfully, they weren't going in that direction. They were on the outskirts of the village now, and it wasn't long until Naruto stopped in his tracks, met with a giant wall of sand which surrounded the entirety of Sunagakure.

Temari raised her brow and scoffed, "So this was the special place you were talking about, Kankuro?"

Kankuro smirked and laughed, "Heh, just you wait. I was gonna wait till later to show you, but this is as good a time as any, right? Get ready to be amazed!"

He walked up to the wall, and started prodding around until he found a section of the wall, which upon closer inspection, seemed off. He moved the camouflaged piece away, revealing a dark entrance to an alcove. He stepped inside, and Naruto moved to follow him quickly, clearly excited at such a discovery. He turned around before entering, noticing Temari's hesitant look.

Then he gave her that smile again, the one she found just never seemed to get old, "Come on, I'm sure your brother wouldn't take us anywhere dangerous."

She found logic in his statement, and cautiously followed behind him, putting her hands on his shoulders for support and keeping watch ahead. Naruto sweatdropped at the act of using him as a shield but said nothing.

When they passed the entrance, they saw Kankuro standing next to a small tree, dimly illuminated by sunlight which somehow slipped in through the cracks of the ceiling. There was also a small stream, although even that much was generous for the paltry amount of water coursing its way from one end of the alcove to the other. It was serene, and both were shocked to see such a place on the edges of Suna, almost feeling like intruders to this small sanctuary.

"Kankuro…?" Temari questioned slowly, in awe of the place which seemed so far from what she was used to. She had so many questions, the least of which was how such a place existed, much less how he had come across it.

Her brother noticed her curious look and smiled, "Chiyo-sobo showed me this place, it's where she gets the wood for her puppets once every ten years. It's a really big secret, so don't tell anyone, got it?"

For once in her life, Temari listened to instructions from her brother rather than the other way, and nodded, "Yeah…" She was still slightly shocked that her brother had taken her and someone who was a stranger moments ago to some place extremely secretive, in his own words. Speaking of said boy, Naruto was probably even more in awe of the surroundings.

"Wow, this place is awesome! You can feel the chakra saturating the very air, especially coming from that tree!" He rushed over to underneath the tree, where there was a small patch of grass, a rare sight anywhere a couple kilometers from Suna. He ignored the startled cry of Kankuro who was knocked off balance by his sudden speed and appearance next to the older boy.

"Hey, watch out! Be careful too, you better not damage anything." Kankuro had made a big risk bringing them here in the first place, his pride getting the better of him in the face of the boy who was now inspecting the sacred tree like it was some strange specimen.

"Hmm, if only I could see this with…" He mumbled for a moment, before seemingly realizing the other two were watching him curiously.

"Ah, sorry about that. I just get a little excited when I discover something I'm not used to, this goes double for anything related to chakra."

"Chakra? So are you a ninja?" Temari asked innocently, despite how that question might've been received amongst adults, she was still a kid who had no idea how dangerous a simple question could be.

Having lived most of his life amongst two of the greatest ninja to ever live, Naruto just sheepishly scratched the back of his head and laughed, "I guess you could say something like that, although I'm not an official one yet. I haven't even really gone to school yet."

"Really? How old are you anyway? I'm nine, Kankuro is 8."

"8 and a half!" Kankuro protested angrily. Temari just rolled her eyes.

"Me? I'm seven!" Naruto smiled.

"S-Seven? Huh, I thought you were older…" Temari muttered, seeing the young boy in a different light. When he introduced himself, he had seemed so vibrant and sure of himself she was sure they had been the same age or one year apart at the most, even maybe that he was older than she. Honestly, she didn't know how to feel knowing this kid was two years her junior. It didn't fit right with her perception of him, so she decided to not dwell on it and not treat him any differently because of it.

Kankuro had other opinions, "Heh, looks like you're still just a little brat, eh?"

"We're the same height," Naruto deadpanned, making Kankuro sputter. It was true, now that he mentioned it. He was quite tall for his age if he were telling the truth about his age, which was becoming harder and harder to believe. Maybe he was just an early bloomer.

"So anyways, we need to get back before sundown, but I thought that this was as good a place as any to hang out." Kankuro grinned at the two others who smiled back.

Following this, they just sat around the small tree, talking and taking in the calm setting. After a while and the exchangement of stories and laughs, they sat there in silence, just comfortable to be in each other's presence.

It was in this silence that Naruto noticed it, the strange feeling he had gotten when he first entered the alcove. It was stronger now with the silence and lack of movement. All he could feel was the ever so subtle swaying of the tree's branches and leaves, the sunlight soaking into his skin pleasantly, and the constant, almost silent stream of water passing by. He took a deep breath, and when he opened his eyes, it was like looking into an entirely different world. Things he couldn't even see with his Rinnegan alone were now clear as day, and the flow of everything physical seemed to make sense all at once, assaulting his mind with an overflow of information. But despite this, it didn't hurt and wasn't confusing at all. Rather, it just came naturally, and he accepted it without thinking twice. All the information, chakra, even this strange energy which was seemingly everywhere. He reached out and grabbed it with his own chakra, noticing how it reacted positively to his touch. It flooded into him, calming him and making him not want to move anymore. It just all seemed… so… slow…



Naruto was shaken out of his thoughts by the siblings, both with a look of concern on their faces. It was then he realized that he really couldn't move, even if he wanted to. He panicked, and looking down at his body, realized that his chakra coils were extremely close to just freezing him in that state forever. In what way, he didn't even dare ask. It took a few deep breaths and pushing chakra from his heart into the rest of his body and pumping it at multiple times the amount he was used to before the hold on his system was finally released, allowing him to finally collapse on his back.

"Are you okay? You just suddenly stopped breathing and moving, and we got really worried that something happened. Then you just kinda looked like you were panicking once we woke you up from whatever that was and now it looks like you're okay but also really exhausted and -" Kankuro was cut off from speaking any further when Temari stuffed her hand over her annoying brother's mouth.

She looked at Naruto with extreme care and worry, reminding him of Shizune-nee who always fussed over his safety first. It was nice to know that a friend he had only met a few hours ago already cared about him that much. Kankuro also showed similar levels of care, albeit in his own, panicky way.

"Are you okay?" For a moment, Temari's face changed into a more familiar blonde, another woman who considered his safety above anything else. He felt his breath hitch in his throat as he was reminded of the person he loved the most and how he had essentially left her behind.

Naruto shook his head, removing any thoughts of his family, before giving her a wide smile, "Yeah." After all, he had made this decision, and he still had Jiraiya, didn't he? Plus, he knew Tsunade secretly wanted this for him too. His deeper feelings concerning his adoptive mother, father, and sister showed through his smile, turning what was supposed to be a simple reassurance into an emotion filled message.

Temari was certainly not ready for him to look at her like that, with so much raw positive energy that she just stopped for a moment and blinked at him. If his smiles before had been almost enticing, this one was straight-up captivating. The look he gave her was familiar, at least once upon a time. From before she could even speak properly, before her third brother was born and nothing was ever the same again. It was selfish of her, but she had always wanted to see that smile one last time, as the only sibling old enough to remember it. Now that she had seen it, she couldn't help but want to never let it go. They both reminded each other of someone else close to them, although they didn't know how the other felt.

And so the moment passed, and suddenly the wall behind them exploded outwards, disintegrating into fine grains of sand, revealing their father staring at them sternly.

Just behind him, she could faintly see the moon rising in the background. They were late. Really late. Uh oh.

I know how it looks, but I swear that the pairing is undecided! Anyways… This chapter took forever to come out with. I could lie and say I was too busy to update, but honestly my muse was just completely and absolutely dead. It seems like I have shaken it from the grave, however, and will now be updating more hopefully. Please let me know what you thought about the new chapter as it gives me motivation to update. I've also been thinking of going to the first couple chapters and rewriting them, or at the very least adding some more backstory of what happened in the Valley of the End that fateful night. If you would like to see Hashirama awaken the Rinnegan in his final fight against Madara, please let me know and I will try my best not to disappoint!