Author's note: I have got to stop saying when I'm going to update next, since when I do, life goes crazy and I can't update. I hope everyone had a great holiday, and now for the update. This chapter was hard for me to write, but it works, I think. Please, read, enjoy, and review if you wish. I just don't need any flames! Great job to everyone who picked up on what I said about Yahiko and Ame last chapter.
Disclaimer: I own nothing to do with Naruto!
"Jiraiya-sama," Tenzo-taicho spoke up, "How sure are you that this is where Tsunade-sama is currently residing?"
Jiraiya stuck out his chest, indignantly replying, "Do you have so little faith in my abilities? Have I ever led us wrong?"
"Do you want me to get started?" Hyuuga Hitomi replied, wearing her ANBU gear and tanto. "I remember several stories I was told by your students and your teammate." She was also wearing her ANBU mask, to hide the fact she had a dojutsu.
Jiraiya just groaned. I understand why she had to come with me, but that does not mean I have to like it. "There is a big poker tournament going on this week here, and knowing Tsunade's love of gambling, I doubt she'll miss it."
"Unless she has had a complete personality transplant, she'll be here," Hitomi agreed, nodding.
The first place they stopped to eat in town was a bar, and they ended up causing quite a stir. The reason was because Hitomi and Tenzo were in full ANBU attire, which wasn't commonly seen. Hitomi had made quite a reputation for herself during the Third Shinobi War (especially because of that fight she had with the current Kazekage in which he was nearly killed by her and her partner Kitsune, Uzumaki Kushina), not to mention Jiraiya and his reputation.
A few minutes after the crowd had dispersed, Hitomi's sharp eyes saw a familiar blonde woman sitting at a booth in the back with another familiar young black-haired woman. The Hyuuga ANBU and mother made her way to them. Her old sensei's cheeks were a bit pink, showing that she had already consumed quite a bit of sake.
Tsunade glared at her, "Oh, did they finally reissue the Karasu mask and codename? I heard that they had retired the code names Kitsune and Karasu. Or was Sarutobi-sensei foolish enough to reactivate the wife of the Hyuuga clan head?"
"Tsunade!" Jiraiya called out, "It is so good to see you again!"
"Jiraiya, what are you doing here, and with two ANBU on top of that? Sensei finally get tired of your peeping habits and have you arrested?"
"No, they bring a message to you from Sarutobi-sensei, I just came along for the ride and to see my old teammate again. Karasu, will you the honors?"
Hitomi handed the scroll to Tsunade, who opened it and read it before tossing it away with a derisive snort. "He knows me better than that. I am never going back to that place. There is nothing left for me in Konoha."
"You're wrong, Tsunade-sensei," Hitomi spoke up for the first time to her sensei as she removed her ANBU mask. Her pale eyes were like ice, and her face appeared to be carved from stone. "Yes, you lost your brother, your fiance, and a student. I know all of that, but I also know you haven't lost everyone important to you, and that there is still something left for you in Konoha. Shizune, Sarutobi-sama, myself, heck, even Jiraiya-sama here. I have missed you, sensei. Please, come home."
Tsunade locked eyes with her former student. "Hitomi, it hurts too much. I can't face their ghosts. Whenever I am there, I keep expecting to see Dan come walking around a corner, or Nawaki practicing at a training ground. I can't go through that, not anymore. Training you and Kushina helped keep the ghosts at bay, but now..." The Sannin paused, and then blurted out, "I don't want to see Kushina's ghost as well!"
"What about me? Do you honestly think I don't know what pain is?" Hitomi shot back, her calm Hyuuga exterior cracking into pieces. "Kushina was my best friend, like the sister I never had! I lost her, my mother, and my father all on the same night! Three of the most important people in my life all died at the same time. But..." Hitomi paused and then continued, "Do you see me hiding from my pain? Am I running from everything that reminds me of what I have lost?" Tears began flowing from Hitomi's pale eyes. "That is not all I have lost. I left behind my husband and family to find the woman who was like a second mother to me and was unafraid to give her all to defend the home she loved, and not just because it was what her brother and fiance would have done. Instead, I find a bitter, sake-drenched old hag who could care less about the people who still, for some unfathomable reason, still want her in their lives." Hitomi turned her back on Tsunade, put her mask back on, and headed for the door. "Tenzo-taicho, Jiraiya-sama, let's go home. This had been a total waste of our time."
Tsunade, Shizune, Jiraiya and Tenzo stared at the disappearing form of Karasu, stunned into silence by her words. Shizune was the first to find her voice. "What was she referring to?"
"You need to ask Karasu about that," Tenzo replied.
Tsunade was staring off into space, completely stunned by Hitomi's words and tone. Even worse, she knew that they were true and deserved. She had seen Hitomi's face during the enmasse funeral after the Kyuubi's attack. Hitomi had been seven months pregnant at the time, and had to watch as both of her parents, best friend and best friend's husband were all buried. What else could she have lost since then? Tsunade then looked at the scroll again. "Can you all give me some time to think about this? Right now, I need to wring some answers out of a student of mine."
Hitomi heard footsteps following her and immediately knew who they belonged to. Refusing to remove her mask, she turned around, and spoke up quietly, "I'm not going to apologize for what I said. I will never apologize for speaking the truth."
"I'm not here for an apology, Hitomi-chan," Tsunade replied. "What else have you lost?" Hitomi turned away, not wanting to answer. Tsunade studied her former student, trying to figure out what was making her act like this. It was so out of character for Hitomi. The sake in her blood and brain wasn't making the task easier.
"Will you come home?" was Hitomi's eventual reply.
"I'll think about it."
"Sensei, I will tell you tomorrow. I'm not going to tell you when you are drunk or hungover. You'll get your answers when you are sober."
The next afternoon, Hitomi found her former sensei sitting outside in a public garden. Tsunade's eyes were clear and it was obvious the alcohol was out of her system.
Hitomi began speaking, "I was pregnant four times, and gave birth to two healthy, beautiful daughters. The other two pregnancies ended in miscarriages." She took a deep breath. "My firstborn is Hinata, and my second is Hanabi." Her voice began to tremble. "However, only Hanabi is waiting back in Konoha for me to come home."
"Where is Hinata?"
"I would give everything to know where she is," Hitomi whispered, "Hinata and Neji, Hizashi's and Megumi's son, disappeared from within the walls of our clan compound the day after Hinata turned three. Four other children also disappeared from Konoha that same day. One of them was Kushina and Minato's son, Naruto."
"Six children went missing all in the same day, including your Hinata and Kushina's Naruto?" Tsunade confirmed. "Were they kidnapped?"
"We believe so, but we don't have any proof. It was almost ten years ago, and we are no closer to answers than we were when it happened. Kakashi, Rin, and Hizashi spent two months undercover searching for them, but it was like they had vanished into thin air. We are still searching, and won't give up until we find out what has happened to them."
Tsunade wrapped her arm around her student's shoulders and gave her a gentle hug. "I know I have been selfish and absorbed in my grief, so I am so proud that you didn't follow my bad example."
"Sensei, will you come home, please? Konoha needs the Slug Sannin. I want Konoha to still be there so I can keep Hanabi safe, and if we find Hinata, so she has a home to return to."
That night over dinner, Tsunade spoke up, "Shizune, pack your bags, we are going home. We have some unfinished business there."
"What about your creditors?"
"Maybe the Godfather of my student's missing son will be willing to help us out," Tsunade replied, sending a glare Jiraiya's way. "Since in all the times he's run into me during the past ten years, he never bothered to tell me he was missing. I know he has more than enough money."
"Only if you'll go on a date with me when we return to Konoha," Jiraiya said.
"Do you want to pay me for medical treatment instead?" Tsunade threw back, "I just need enough of a payment to get them off my back for a while. Sarutobi-sensei will probably have me running the hospital and then with a steady income, I can finish paying them off. I'll even pay you back."
While the two Sannin bickered, Hitomi stifled her giggles while Shizune sighed and Tenzo looked confused. During a pause in the conversation, the Hyuuga ANBU spoke up, "Sensei, if you need accommodations when you return to Konoha, I would be honored to have you stay with my family at the Hyuuga compound."
"I am grateful for the offer, Hitomi-chan," Tsunade replied. "That way I can get to know your little firecracker."
"You have no idea how fitting the name Hanabi is for her. I have pictures of her, and some of Kakashi and Rin's new baby."
"They have a baby now? Boy or girl?" Shizune asked. She was the same age as Kakashi and Rin, and knew them well.
"A little boy, named Obito," Hitomi replied, pulling out the pictures.
"This is one of those strange things about women that we men will never understand," Jiraiya murmured to Tenzo, who nodded in agreement.