Hyuuga Hanabi loved her sister more than she would ever admit, yet now as she watched her sister leaving before her, Hanabi could not find the strength to hold onto her. While Hanabi was a natural prodigy, deemed as the next to succeed the leadership of her clan, Hinata on the other hand was a letdown to the family. Yet the two of them were still after all sisters, while everyone recognised Hinata as a failure in her career, Hanabi saw Hinata as a kunoichi braver and kinder than anyone she had even known. Hinata had always made the right decision when it came to matters close to the heart, something deeply admired by the younger sister.

Despite what was happening around her, Hinata had always stood firm in her decision to stay by Naruto's side. Who, when Uchiha Sasuke left the village for Akatsuki, took upon the duty of protecting all of his friends, making sure that he would lose no one else. Even when the time was dark, and people became suspicious of Naruto due to his history, Hinata stood behind him, gently pushing the boy forward, supporting his weary body.

Indeed, when Naruto left the village at the age of 17, to give chase to his rival, Hinata knew that she would be going with him.

Donning her dark red plain gloves that reached up to her elbows with fur lining the edge, Hinata looked up to where her younger sister stood, holding the door ajar with one hand, still in her nightgown.

Hanabi's lips twisted, her grey eyes darting from one corner of the room to another, trying to find a reason to make Hinata stay while all this time unable to look right into the smile her sister was wearing. Refusing to look into her eyes, Hanabi found herself staring at the leather armour Hinata was wearing, the whole costume was made with the same leather materials, and in the right amount of light, the brown looked like the colour of dark dried blood. It was a simple armour, made for slipping in and out of places during the night, yet right now, it seemed to be an omen.

After putting on her matching sandals, Hinata was all ready, what was left was her hitai-ate, which for the first time, Hanabi witnessed her sister tying it around her forehead as it should be worn. It soon became apparent that this would be the last time she would be able to see her sister again.

Forcing her tears back, she took a few steps forward and wrapped her arms around the neck of her taller sister. Whispering into her ears, Hanabi offered her first and only request for Hinata to remain at Konohagakure.

Putting her gloved hand on Hanabi's head, stroking her silky black hair, Hinata hugged back with the other hand. Saying nothing, Hinata gently unwrapped her sister's hands around her, and walked out of the door while waving a simple farewell over her shoulder.

x

Three years later…

Hanabi carefully folded the letter, fitting it neatly back into the envelope before tugging it into her pocket. Not much had changed within the Hyuuga household, her sister's bedroom remained sparkling clean, as if anytime soon, its owner would return. Neji had since gotten closer to the main branch, having forgiven her father for what he did so many years ago, he now help the older Hyuuga in the running of the clan. For herself, she had her Chuunin missions to content with.

That particular day, Hanabi was wearing her usual mission gear –a black sleeveless padded bodysuit that reached from the neck down to slightly above her knees, and finally with a simple white flak jacket over it. Running her hand through her shoulder-length black hair, Hanabi took one last look at her sister's room, before leaving the Hyuuga compound.

x

Outside the forest surrounding the village…

The trio sat down at the roadside stall, staring idly into the forest marking the boundary of the Konohagakure, the hidden village of the Leaf. Konohamaru was now a healthy young man, still accompanied by his two best friends –Moegi and Udon. The three of them were just about to return home when they were ambushed by the mobile food peddler, exhausted and not in the mood to see the old hag Tsunade anytime soon, the three of them decided to spend some quality time filling their stomach instead, or at least most of these were Konohamaru's ideas.

Though now sixteen years old, Konohamaru remained forever as a child in heart, with still the same hopeless fashion sense, choosing to wear mismatched and oversized jackets and cargo pants, sometimes even Moegi just gave up on him. His hair was still in a mess, and the everlasting shine in his eyes remained clear and bright, and though not having his grandfather's charm and looks, he was unique in his own ways, although perhaps slightly influenced by an older boy who he had always looked up to.

Perhaps it was because he was at the normal age of teenage rebellious, Konohamaru was trying to conjure up a thousand and one reasons not to return home. Returning home seemed all too boring for the young man now, looking beside him at Udon and Moegi, he saw different opinions in their eyes. They did not realised how constraint the world was whenever they returned home, to be bound by rules, to be expected to do his very best for everything just because of his grandfather was the late Third Hokage, but then again, maybe it was just him.

Unlike Konohamaru, both Moegi and Udon seemed to have matured a lot more, while Moegi had grown up to be a charming young lady, Udon himself had recently established himself as a famous small-time writer, investing his free time in pumping out novels, his latest achievement being accepted by Jiraiya as his successor for the famous 'Come Come' line of merchandise. Other than his rather unhealthy side business, Udon turned out to be a decent young man with a decent size of female followers, sometimes, Konohamaru just had to ponder why among the three of them that he was the least successful. Konohamaru was suddenly reminded of how his first successful summoned monkey decided to stole his hitai-ate, and he had to pay a hefty administration fee for a new one, and there was no discount at all for being a descendant to one of the greatest Hokage!

Sighing the dreadful feeling away, Konohamaru patted his thighs hard before leaping up onto his feet.

"Ready to go, Konohamaru-kun?" Moegi asked looking up at him, thanking the old granny who came to collect the cups from the trio while Konohamaru dug out a coin or two without looking at the amount and dropped them on the counter. The old man behind the counter collected the money just as Udon stood up and gave him some flyers of the new publishing date of the next 'Come Come' volume. (The old granny gave a disapproving look at her old partner, then at Udon.)

As Konohamaru yawned loudly, Moegi suddenly pointed off in one direction while nudging Konohamaru with one hand, "Hey, isn't that Hyuuga-chan?"

Sure enough, when the two boys turned around, they saw Hyuuga Hanabi in the distance, carrying with her a travelling pack.

"Hey, Hanabi-chan!" Konohamaru called, waving his hand high above his head like an idiot.

Hyuuga Hanabi turned and looked at them, and frowned. The three of them appeared shocked, while Hanabi tended to be overzealous in her training and prideful of her heritage, she was no stranger to them, in fact, one might call her their friend.

"Hey, what does that mean?" Moegi asked, pouting her lips and folding her arms.

Konohamaru's adventurous nature surfaced, bringing a wide grin onto his face. "Let's follow her," he said in a low and serious voice, as if by doing that could make him sound serious and manly.

Instead, the two of them looked at him with horrified expressions.

"Don't you find it suspicious that she is travelling alone?" Konohamaru challenged, almost jumping excitedly at the potential seriousness of the deep and complicating mystery.

"A mission perhaps?" Udon rebuked as he sighed just as Moegi nodded her head in agreement.

"Alone? And with a pack that size!" Konohamaru said, pleased with the fact that he figured that all out by himself. Instantly, he found Udon and Moegi already ten feet away, travelling in quick light steps towards home.

Konohamaru scowled, saying, "Fine, I will do this myself!" With that, he turned about, and stalked off in the direction of Hanabi.

In the distance behind him, the two childhood friends looked at one another, admitting defeat, they slowly turned about before running to catch up to Konohamaru.