Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Naruto. I do own a large pepperoni pizza, which is currently sitting in my fridge. As someone who is currently starving, that sounds like a better thing to own.

... Although it is kinda late at the moment. I probably need to wait until tomorrow. Sadface D:

"Thanks for stopping by again, Kinuta-san!" Naomi stated, bowing towards her customer. "Come again anytime!"

Dosu waved goodbye in response as he finished walking out of the Eichū Café and Tea Shop and began to walk out of the shop. Upon entering the village streets, he began to walk towards his apartment. He looked up towards the sky, noting the unique cloud formations over the village.

'I wonder how everything is going in Kumo?' He wondered, a sigh escaping his lips. 'Must surely be more exciting than things here right now.'

Kinuta Dosu was lonely and bored. He was trying to not be bitter about not being assigned to the Kumogakure Mission – and he would acknowledge that he was being childish about it – but it was hard to ignore the fact that the majority of his friends had been assigned to the mission. The Kumogakure Mission was of great importance and Dosu felt that he would be able to help with it, so not being there was something he was having difficulty processing.

'As long as the mission goes well. As long as Akatsuki falls. It's fine.' Dosu told himself, taking in a deep breath. 'Things will be fine.'

In contrast to the tension he suspected was in Kumo, Konoha was very peaceful. The periods of time around a Chūnin Exams usually resulted in less missions; most clients like to wait until after the Chūnin Exams in order to gauge which village they should request the services of. As a result, Dosu was currently not completing any missions other than his word for the T&I Department and he expected to not receive any missions at least until the Hokage returned to the village.

'I suppose I can ask Ibiki-taichou if he has any assignments to do.' Dosu noted with a sigh. 'I just need something to do to kill this time.'

Dosu continued down his path towards his apartment, hoping that something would happen soon for him to alleviate his bad mood.

"Food here's pretty good, huh?" Anko asked with a smirk. Both Hinata and Shikamaru nodded their heads in response.

After her former students arrived in the village, Anko had made plans for them to have dinner together the next evening. The three enjoyed a meal at a delicious curry restaurant before walking back through the Kumo streets.

"It is." Hinata said with a sigh. "I've loved everything so far."

"You know how you can tell that place was good?" Shikamaru asked with a smirk on his face: "You liked it, Anko-sensei, despite how much you generally hate spicy food."

"Although, let's be honest Shikamaru-kun, I wouldn't call Anko-sensei's curry 'spicy'." Hinata added with a chuckle: "It was rather light."

"Yeah, yeah. Make fun of my taste buds some more." Anko grumbled, crossing her arms: "We'll see how funny those jokes are when you wake up with snakes in your bed."

"You know that threat doesn't work anymore, right?" Hinata said, her chuckling turning into louder laughter: "Because the Snake Clan wouldn't do anything to me."

"Bah. Fine. Then fire." Anko scowled. "You'll wake up to lots and lots of fire."

"Well if you're doing fire, then I got nothing to worry about." Shikamaru noted, bringing his hands behind his head: "As a fellow Fire Elemental, I'll feel right at home."

"And with my Water Affinity, I'll be able to extinguish any fire." Hinata added.

"Hmph." Anko shook her head: "Man, you all got a lot less fun now that you're jōnin and have actually developed skill sets. I miss when you all were tiny, impressionable genin."

"Don't get all nostalgic on us yet. Naruto isn't here to yell at you for being weepy." Shikamaru said with a smirk.

Anko looked as if she was about to respond, but Hinata spoke first: "Speaking of genin, though, how is Kurenai-sensei's team doing?"

"They're good." Anko answered smiling. "Had to beat some sense into them recently about the importance of training right now and getting them to move past their anxieties, but the training has been going great since. They're like sponges." She then rubbed the back of he head. "Also Yūgao is helping out now, so their training is getting even more intense."

"Yūgao, huh? She's related to one of your students, yeah?" Shikamaru asked. Anko nodded her head: "She seems… serious. She didn't speak much on the way here, unless you addressed her."

"She's always been somewhat like that, but it got worse since…" Anko shook her head, pushing away the thoughts about Hayate. "Anyway, she's probably just stressed out about Kazuo. She'll be back to normal once we're back in Konoha."

"Hopefully." Hinata said, a small frown on her face: "She seemed pretty miserable behind her serious expression."

"Just have to hope so. But you know how grief works." Shikamaru said, frowning: "It works differently for everyone."

The three grew quiet for a moment as they continued to walk back to their apartments. As they finally arrive, they were greeted at the entrance by Neji and Hiashi.

"Neji-nii-san? Father?" Hinata said, her eyes widening: "Are you two going out for the night?"

"No. We were waiting for you, Hinata." Neji said, frowning.

Hiashi's eyes moved to Anko and Shikamaru: "If you do not mind, we'd like a second to speak with Hinata."

"Yeah, yeah. Sure thing." Anko said, shrugging her shoulders.

"Catch up with us anytime, Hinata." Shikamaru said, smirking.

After waving goodbye, Anko and Shikamaru walked into the apartment and headed towards their rooms. Hinata was now alone outside with her cousin and father.

"Is something wrong?" She asked, frowning.

Neji bit his lip slightly in response, but said nothing. Hiashi, in contrast, shook his head.

"Theoretically speaking, no, but I suppose we must prepare for something just in case." He said. His eyes narrowed on his daughter: "Hinata, please accompany us for a meeting at 10:00 tomorrow."

"A meeting? With who?" Hinata asked. A scowl then developed on her face as an image of a man appeared in her face: "Is it with the Raikage?"

"No." Hiashi shook his head again: "We're meeting with the Yotsuki Clan."

"Yotsuki Clan?" Hinata's eyebrow raised slightly: "Forgive my ignorance, but I do not know who they are."

"The Yotsuki Clan is Kumo's most infamous shinobi clans. They are the first clan the Shodai Raikage recruited to join Kumo, after all." Neji answered, crossing his arms.

"You might not recognize the name, but you are familiar with the Yotsuki Clan, Hinata." Hiashi said. He sighed for a second as his eyes looked down: "At the very least, you should recognize the name Yotsuki Kashikoi, former Head Ninja of Kumogakure."

Hinata frowned in response. She was about to ask who that was, but an image appeared in her head of a man from her distant past. It was the image of a tall, slim man with black eyes, short black hair, and a black goatee. The man had a tanned skin tone, wore bandages over the top of his head, and wore a Kumogakure forehead protector over his right eye.

She had seen the man twice: once wearing the standard Kumogakure shinobi uniform and a second time, when he was wearing all black and had a mask over his face. Nevertheless, the image was burned in her mind forever.

"That's… that's him." Her eyes widened in recognition. A scowl developed on her face as she tightened her hands into fists: "He's the one who kidnapped me."

Hiashi nodded his head. Silence filled the air for a few seconds before Hinata shook her head.

"Why do we need to meet with his clan?" She asked. "Did you arrange this father?"

"I did not arrange it. We are being summoned to meet with them. Apparently, the Yotsuki Clan Head did not take the news of our arrival well… well, more specifically, my presence." Hiashi admitted.

"Are they going to try something?" Hinata asked.

"Theoretically, no. The Raikage is sending his 'right hand man' to observe the meeting and preventing anything from happening. Also, Kumo would be foolish to try anything right now." Hiashi said. His eyes then narrowed: "However, we cannot assume. Something may happen."

Hinata nodded her head in understanding. After arranging to meet with her family in the morning, Hinata finally walked in to the apartment by herself.

Her mind flashed back to her memories from thirteen years ago. She remembered the terrifying presence of that man sneaking into the night and grabbing her. She remembered the hopeless feeling as he attempted to escape into the night with her. She remembered the immense relief and gratitude when her father came and saved her life. She then remembered her horror when she found that her uncle was being sentenced to die because of this incident.

'I thought confronting Ē was enough to finally move on… but I guess I have one more thing I need to do. I need to confront that man's family…' Hinata told herself. She took a deep breath as her fists tightened: 'I don't know what you all wish to discuss, but you better not try anything tomorrow. I won't let you do anything to my family again!'

Han looked up into the sky as he left Bee's Mansion, taking note of the moon and the stars. He estimated it must have been 11:30 in the night. The rest of the jinchūriki were asleep after another long day of training, resting as they prepared for another day. He should be amongst them; however, he was unable to rest.

The Iwa jōnin continued to move until he reached Genbu's 'beach'. The island had no natural sand, which caused the 'ground' to appear like a cliffside that dipped into the war. Han looked to his right and made note of one of the Island Turtle's feet. He shook his head, chuckling.

'Sometimes, it is rather easy to forget this island is alive. Perhaps living here would be rather comforting.' Han noted. His eyes then narrowed: 'Now, focus Han.'

He took in a deep breath as he activated his Chakra Shroud, which quickly embedded into his body. He got into position, causing the gears on his arms to start rotating faster and the spigots to start releasing steam.

He then ran on the ocean world and encircled the island's potion. He then ran around the island multiple times over-and-over again. After a little over a minute, he finally stopped moving and returned to his start position.

'So roughly 90 seconds to run a thousand kilometers…' Han noted, frowning. 'I was hoping to be faster.'

"Do not be arrogant just because you can use my chakra, Han. You are still only human." Kokuō spoke in his head. "You need to acclimate yourself more to this power."

'I am aware. Why do you think I am training like this?' Han hissed in response as he got into position to run once again: 'If the Yondaime Raikage is supposed to be able to move faster than lightning with his Lighting Release Chakra Mode, then I should be able to do the same if I train more!'

Han charged forward again, pushing himself even harder as he circled Genbu multiple times. He finally stopped in the same position and began to breathe heavily.

'78 seconds that time. Faster…' He bit down on his lip. 'But not fast enough-'

Han tensed up slightly as he felt a familiar presence starting to approach. He waited a few moments as Yugito walked towards the beach, staring directly at him.

"What are you doing out here this late at night?" She asked with a yawn. Her eyes focused in on his chakra shroud: "All you're doing right now is exhausting yourself for training tomorrow."

"… I suppose you could make that claim." Han frowned in response. "However, the training I am doing is a bit different than the experimentation with techniques that we have been doing in the Bijū Temple."

"But it's still something you should be doing in the morning." Yugito replied, shaking her head: "We have time, so don't exhaust yourself when you should be resting. That'll be how you end up actually wasting time and energy."

Han's frown deepened, but the Gobi jinchūriki nodded his head and dropped his chakra shroud. He then proceeded to lie down on the ground, looking up towards the sky.

"I'll retire for the night shortly. Allow me a moment, though." He requested.

Yugito's eyes narrowed on him for a moment. A few seconds passed by as she stared at from afar before she walked forward. Han briefly glanced at her as she laid down on the rock next to him.

"I said I would return. You do not need to chaperone me." Han said, shaking his head.

"I'm not chaperoning." Yugito rolled her eyes in response: "It's not a crime to lay down."

Han hummed in response, but did not say anything. The two jinchūriki continued to stare at the stars together. They were both quiet for a few minutes before Yugito finally spoke her thoughts.

"Do you have troubles sleeping?" She asked.

Han's eyes narrowed on her: "What brings that up?"

"I'm more alert than you probably think I am. I know you stay up drawing at night downstairs. And I know that today isn't the first night you've gone on a 'late night training' expedition." Yugito stated, crossing his arms. "I ask, because if it is just insomnia, I know some herbs that might help with that."

"I can sleep fine when I desire to, thank you." Han shook his head in response: "No, I would just rather not sleep right now."

Yugito frowned in response: "And why is that?"

"Because I hate wasting my time." He answered.

Yugito's frown deepened: "I beg your pardon?"

Han was quiet for a moment as he turned his head back towards the stars. After a few seconds, he sighed in response as he brought his hands behind his head.

"I'm not certain how aware you are of my background, but I have a rather… trouble history with my bijū. That's probably the best descriptor for it." He said. "And as a result of that history, I am behind in regards to my strength as a jinchūriki."

"How so?" Yugito asked. "From everything I've observed, you appear on equal level with the rest of us. And you definitely have as good of a reputation as any of us in the Bingo Books."

He snorted in response: "On a superficial level, I suppose. But I know I am behind in regards to my skills as a jinchūriki, as I actively avoided using the Gobi's chakra beyond what was necessary." He shook his head: "I never willingly entered Version Two, for example. Therefore, I feel behind where I should be at this point and I need to catch-up."

"Hmm." Yugito's eyes softened on the Iwa jōnin. "I see."

"I'm not particularly fond of the idea of being the 'deadweight' in this fight." Han said, sighing. "So I've been trying to improve on my skills to the best of my ability at any given moment."

"I wouldn't call you 'deadweight' just because you were uncomfortable using your bijū's power." Yugito replied. "The power can be overwhelming at times."

"Quite." Han nodded his head.

"So there's no reason to beat yourself over it. You're where you are now and are able to your bijū's power at its fullest potential now. So, don't go and cry about not doing what you could have and just focus on the now." Yugito insisted. A smirk then developed on her face: "That is, unless you do want to be deadweight. Then by all means, keep obsessing over how 'weak' you used to be."

"Ha." Han chuckled in response as he turned his head back to Yugito: "You have a rather interesting way with words, Yugito-san."

"I've been told." She shrugged her shoulders.

The two jinchūriki were still for a moment longer before Han proceeded to stand-up. Yugito pulled herself off the ground as well and stared at the Iwa jōnin.

"For what it is worth, I do think you've been progressing at an incredible rate." She said, her smirk loosening into a gentler smile.

"I appreciate that." Han said, smiling back. "Thank you, Yugito. For talking with me."

"No need to thank me. I understand what you're going through." Yugito said. "Especially since I used to be somewhat similar, until Raikage-sama forced me to come to this island and train with my bijū constantly."

"Really?" Han titled his head slightly.

Yugito nodded: "I used to be a coward. I had an incident happen where I lost control of Matatabi's chakra on a mission and allowed myself to rampage." A forced chuckle escaped her lips as she crossed her arms: "Went through a bit of time where I thought I wasn't good enough to be a jinchūriki. Bee always had so much better control over the Hachibi, but here I was, fucking up and losing control of the Nibi the second a fight got out of hand. Felt pretty pathetic at the time and-"

"You hid from your bijū for some time?" Han spoke-up. Yugito's eyes narrowed on him for a moment before she nodded her head: "We have a similar background then. I, too, lost control of Kokuō's chakra. I left the incident scarred and afraid of ever channeling her chakra beyond what I was already capable of."

"Hmm." Yugito's eyes softened again for a moment before she shook her head: "But again, look at you now. You're able to use the Gobi's Chakra Shroud." A smile developed on her lips: "Despite the metaphorical scarring, you need to look at who you are now. And feel proud of it who that man is."

"That's true." Han nodded his head, smiling behind his mask. "And I am proud. Proud to have finally moved on from the biggest 'chip' on my shoulder."

The two jinchūriki proceeded to walk back to Bee's Mansion conversing about their own histories with their bijū and how they have grown since their early days. It was a comforting conversation that only added to Han's comfort, calming his insecurities down further.

As midnight rolled around Kumogakure, Shikamaru and Homura went out into the night to a secluded training ground in Kumogakure in the northern section of the village. They stood atop a cliffside that was flanked with clouds, blocking out the vision from everything around, below, and above the training ground.

Shikamaru had a Katsuyu slug on his shoulder and was already in Sage Mode, with his body starting to produce slime. Homura stood directly across from him, his arms crossed.

"As I mentioned on our way to Kumo, 'The Holy Barricade' requires Yin Release. You are simply going to will the barrier into existence." Homura explained. "Considering the shadow techniques your clan is famous for, I'm certain you are aware of the difficulties of using imagination to create something."

Shikamaru nodded his head. The 'Shadow Possession' Jutsu and the other related techniques of the Nara Clan relied heavily on Yin Release to create extensions of their shadow from their imagination. It was not some type of kekkei genkai that made their shadows 'unique'; it was a 'secret art' of their clan, utilizing a difficult and rare jutsu style in order to create extensions of their shadows.

And per Homura, his 'original jutsu' was similar.

"Ox-Dragon-Ox-Horse-Snake-Monkey is the order of hand signs. However, after using it once in a battle, you'll be able to use it again with just the 'Monkey' sign." Homura continued as he ran through the hand signs. After making the 'Monkey' sign, he looked back to Shikamaru. "Now, I want to emphasize a point to you. If you will, please try and stab me in the heart with a kunai."

Shikamaru nodded his head as he reached into his pocket. He then rushed forward at the Konoha elder, gripping his weapon.

"Ninja Art: Holy Barricade Jutsu!"

Just as Shikamaru was about to stab Homura, a light surrounded his entire body. The kunai, upon making contact with the 'light' was pushed back, as if it connected with armor.

"Well, the jutsu still works." Shikamaru noted with a chuckle.

"It did." Homura nodded his head as the light began to fade from his body. "It also did not require much chakra at all."

"Really?" Shikamaru's eyes narrowed: "I thought you said the jutsu requires lots of chakra."

"Because I only used it briefly, for a single 'block' of your kunai. Using the Holy Barricade for a single jutsu does not require much chakra." Homura explained. "However, if you were to have covered me in flames and I had to keep my barrier active the entire duration of the jutsu, that will slowly eat more-and-more chakra."

"Ah." Shikamaru nodded his head in understanding as he brought his hand to his chin. "So you're saying the longer I maintain the barrier, the more chakra it eats up."

The Elder nodded his head back: "Yes, and it can eat it up exponentially. Especially if use the 'Holy Barrier' to cover more than just yourself. For example, using it to provide cover for yourself, Hinata, and Naruto all together would eat up more chakra than just using it on yourself alone."

"I understand." Shikamaru noted.

"Now, let's work on you producing it." Homura stated. His eyes then moved towards the slug on Shikamaru's shoulder: "Please be patient with us, Katsuyu-san. At some point, Shikamaru is going to require more of your natural energy, so give him time. This will not be something he gets immediately."

"I understand. I will be patient." Katsuyu answered.

"Alright." Shikamaru's eyes narrowed as he ran through the hand signs Homura mentioned earlier: "Alright, let's begin training then."

"Very well." Homura smirked slightly as he clapped his hands together: "Fair warning, though; this training will be painful. I hope you have not been slacking on your medical ninjutsu, because you are going to need it if you do not figure out how to use the 'Holy Barricade' quickly.

As Homura had predicted, this was going to be a long and painful night for Nara Shikamaru…

Ten o'clock the next day, Hinata, Hiashi, and Neji walked into a conference room in the Raikage's Building. They sat down in chairs on one side of a large table.

The other side of the table had two chairs, which were both occupied. The first person sitting down was a man with short black hair, black eyes, and tawny brown skin, wearing the standard Kumogakure shinobi uniform. Sitting next to him was a young man who appeared no older than eighteen. He had tawny brown skin, long brown hair that was spiky on top, and brown eyes. He also wore the Kumogakure shinobi uniform, although he wore his forehead protector around his right arm.

Sitting at the head of the table was Darui. The 'right-hand' of the Raikage took a look at the Hyūga before glancing back to the other two Kumo shinobi, before he nodded his head.

"Well, everyone's here. Let's begin the meeting then." Darui said as he crossed his arms and leaned back into his chair: "Please do your best to keep this civil, alright?"

"Hmph." The young Kumo shinobi snorted as he looked over at Hiashi: "You have some nerve showing up this village, Hyūga Hiashi."

"Do I?" Hiashi asked, his eyes narrowing slightly: "And who may I ask are you?"

"Yotsuki Hosshin." The boy nearly snarled: "I'm the son of the man you killed over thirteen years ago!"

Hinata's eyes widened momentarily as she focused on the boy: "You're… his son?"

"Dam right!" Hosshin hissed as he turned his attention towards her. "You Hyūga are the reason I grew up without a father and I want some goddamn revenge!"

Hosshin looked as if he was about to jump onto the table and charge forward, but the other Kumo shinobi held out his hand and grabbed onto his chest, holding the younger man in place.

"The hell are you doing, Kiyoi-sama?" He hissed.

"Hosshin, calm yourself." The other Kumo shinobi, Kiyoi, said sharply: "You agreed to be level-headed here. That is the only reason we were even allowed to meet with them this way."

Hosshin stood still for a moment, gritting his teeth as if he was about to argue back. A few seconds passed before he finally calmed down in his seat and crossed his arms, continuing to glare at the Hyūga.

"Kiyoi is your name?" Hiashi noted, his eyes turning to the elder man: "So you are the Yotsuki Clan Head, yes?"

"Correct." Kiyoi nodded his head as he focused on the Hyūga Clan Head: "Unlike Hosshin, I know why you and the other Konoha shinobi are here, so I promise you that we are not here to start any serious fight. However, since we are finally here in place, I figured it would be beneficial for our clans to meet and discuss our history." His eyes then narrowed: "Specifically, why it was not your body delivered back to Kumogakure, but instead the body of your brother?"

"He has a name." Neji spoke-up, gritting his teeth: "Hyūga Hizashi. Refer to that man as such."

"We don't give a fuck who he was!" Hosshin growled as he pointed his finger directly at Hiashi: "All that matters is Hyūga Hiashi killed my father and he needs to fucking pay!"

"Your father tried to kidnap my cousin!" Neji shouted, gesturing towards Hinata. "Don't blame Hiashi-sama; that's the real reason your father was killed!"

"Don't say stupid shit!" Hosshin hissed in response. "Hiashi killed him in cold blood and never paid the consequences for it!"

"I already paid with the life of my brother, who I still miss each and every day." Hiashi replied, glaring back at the young man. "What else do I need to pay for?"

"In a perfect world, you'd pay with your life as well." Kiyoi spoke-up, glaring at the man. "An 'Eye for an Eye', after all. But I am aware that will not work." He then crossed his arms: "So perhaps we could-"

"Wait." Hinata spoke-up. Kiyoi stopped speaking as she turned her attention towards Hosshin: "What do you mean 'stupid shit'?"

"Everything about his death!" Hosshin growled in response.

"'Everything' includes my attempted kidnapping." Hinata stated, her eyes narrowing at the Kumo shinobi: "He tried to kidnap me here, so your village could absorb the Byakugan into your village. How does that not make my father killing him not justified?"

"Shut the fuck up!" He growled again: "He went to that village just following his orders and then your father fucking murdered him!"

"He was protecting me!" Hinata shouted back, her hands tightening into fists: "The Hyūga Clan was justified in self-defense." She then turned her attention towards Kiyoi. "I was unaware the purpose of this meeting was to discuss what our clan owed yours, but let me be very clear; the Hyūga does not owe your clan a damn thing."

"Fuck you!" Hosshin slammed his hands on the table, causing it to shake: "Want to fight, bitch?"

On cue, Darui started to lean forward from his chair, showing off his sword in the process: "Please, don't fight. I already asked you all to keep it civil and have been pretty lenient on my definition of 'civil' for the day. Don't make me have to use this."

The young Yotsuki turned to glare at the right-hand of the Raikage for a moment before he finally calmed down and sat back down in his chair normally. Darui immediately relaxed back into his chair and sheathed his sword once again.

"Sorry to interrupt like that." He apologized, gesturing with his hand: "Please, go back to where you all were."

"… Dad wasn't a kidnapper." Hosshin said softly.

"What?" Hinata asked, her eyes narrowing slightly.

"I… I said he was no fucking kidnapper!" The Yotsuki replied, glaring back at her: "He was a great dad! He took care of me all on his own when my Mom died. Always cooked for me, always let me sleep with him when I was scared, always trained with me. He… He was perfect. The ideal Kumo shinobi!" He then turned back to Hiashi: "And you killed him!" Tears started to fall from his eyes as his glare intensified: "You're… the reason I was alone! FUCK YOU!"

For a brief moment, it appeared as if Hosshin was about to ignore Darui's threat and jump over to attack Hiashi. As the three Hyūga tensed-up, preparing for a fight, the Yotsuki instead laid his head down on the table, sobbing louder.

'You… were alone, huh?' Hinata repeated the phrase in her head, frowning.

She was about to say something, but Neji gave her a look, telling her to stay quiet. Her frown deepened, but she nodded and stayed quiet.

After a minute of angry sobbing, Hosshin finally calmed himself and pulled his head upwards. Before he could continue on his rant, Neji cleared his throat, drawing his attention.

"I understand you." Neji said.

Hosshin's eyes narrowed: "The fuck are you getting at, you Hyūga shithead?"

"You're not the only one who lost a mother early in their life. Mine died on a mission when I was two. And only two years later, when your father came to Konoha for his village, I lost my father." Neji explained. His eyes lowered slightly for a moment before they narrowed again on Hosshin as his hands tightened: "Living alone without your parents love and guidance… it changes everything. Even when you have a clan surrounding you, even if your other relatives are alive… losing your parents who are always supposed to be there to guide you changes everything."

'Neji-nii-san…' Hinata's eyes softened on her cousin.

"It… does." The younger Yotsuki slowly nodded his head in agreement.

"Not having them around changes you." Neji noted. "After my father passed, I found myself looking for any answers to explain why. I turned to destiny, and misunderstood its role. I thought fate was absolute and was something no one could change. I allowed it to damage all of my relationships. I… understand now that I was only trying to cope with what happened to my father."

Hosshin was silent for a moment as he nodded his head once again.

"I won't lie; I blamed your father for my father's death. And I still do. But I'm understanding more that this situation is not his fault." Neji said as he turned to face Darui as he glared at him: "The fault lies in one man in my mind: the Raikage."

"You shut up, brat!" Kiyoi hissed in response: "How dare you talk badly like that about our leader! Raikage-sama-"

"Kiyoi-san, please calm down." Darui spoke-up. "Let him speak."

Kiyoi's eyes narrowed at the man: "How can you just sit there and let some Konoha shinobi talk about Raikage-sama like that?"

"You said the reason; he's not from here. These Konoha shinobi have a different relationship with our Boss." Darui replied with a shrug. "They have a right to say what they have to say. You all have been saying things about Hyūga Hiashi, after all, and he is right here."

Kiyoi narrowed his eyes: "Yes, but-"

"What do you mean?" Hosshin spoke-up. His eyes narrowed at Neji: "You say the Raikage is at fault for this?"

"Yes." Neji nodded his head. "He ordered the mission, after all."

"… The Raikage assigned the mission because he felt it was what our village needed." Hosshin answered, looking downward: "We are the village with the fewest number of kekkei genkai. Our village would have benefitted with the Byakugan. He was just following a precedent that our Sandaime had created."

"While all that may be true, that doesn't mean we should have let you all simply accost with my daughter." Hiashi said, glaring at the boy. "I would have killed anyone who stepped into my compound that night."

Hosshin was silent for a moment as he continued to stare downward at the table, as if trying to glare a hole into it. A few more seconds passed by until Hosshin pulled himself out of his chair and started to walk.

"Hosshin, where are you going?" Kiyoi asked.

The younger Yotsuki did not answer and simply walked out of the room. Kiyoi jumped out of his chair and followed him out, calling out his name.

The three Hyūga Clan shinobi and Darui sat in the room alone. Seconds turned to minutes before they came to the conclusion that the two Yotsuki shinobi were, indeed, not coming back.

"Well, guess that's that." Darui said as he got out of his chair and stretched slightly. "Sorry about dragging you out here just to end this meeting so abruptly. Hosshin basically demanded the meeting take place upon learning you were, Hiashi-san, so Boss felt like he had to have it."

"It's fine." Hiashi shook his head. "Although, I must confess I expected there to be more to this meeting. I had assumed they would have fought harder to get some repatriations for Kashikoi's death."

"They intended to, yes. But I guess you all gave Hosshin something to think about." Darui replied. His eyes focused on Neji as a small smile developed on his face: "I promise that this is just a topic that sets him off. He's a pretty chill shinobi normally."

Neji did not reply to Darui's comment and simply crossed his arms.

After another minute passed, Darui told the Hyūga shinobi that they were free to go before leaving himself. Once they were all alone, the three walked out of the building. When outside, Hinata turned to face her cousin.

"Neji-nii-san, you handled yourself well there." She said, smiling. "I'm… rather impressed, actually. At your ability to defuse the situation."

"Thanks." Neji nodded his head, a small sigh escaping his lips: "That was… rather illuminating to experience, though."

"In what regard?" Hiashi asked.

"… While I no longer resented you, Hiashi-sama and Hinata, for the incident all those years ago, I always resented Kumo. And I explicitly resented that man." Neji noted. A small scowl developed on his face as the image of Yotsuki Kashikoi entered his mind. He then shook his head: "But… I'm getting more of a picture of things. That man was only following his orders."

"That's a level-headed take on the subject." Hiashi said, frowning. "But I do disagree, somewhat. We all have orders, but such 'orders' are evil. Any man who willingly takes them, regardless of whether they were his idea or not, is no moral man."

"I agree. However, he is not the biggest monster here." Neji insisted as he turned his head upward towards the building, focusing on the very top, where the Raikage's Office: "It's that man."

'Ē…' Hinata mentally repeated the name, her hands tightening.

"… You are mature, Neji. Much more mature than I was at your age." Hiashi admitted, his frown turning into a gentle smile. "Hizashi would be so proud of the man you turned into."

"Father…" Neji mumbled, a small smile developing on his face.

The three Hyūga proceeded to walk back towards their apartments.

'Alright, what to focus on today?' Naruto mumbled to himself as he, alongside the other jinchūriki, walked into the technicolored training room behind the Nibi Statue in the Temple of the Bijū.

Yugito and Bee had another 'free session' planned where the jinchūriki would all work on their own individual techniques and experiment with the added benefits of their chakra shrouds. Upon entering the room, the group mostly scattered to different sections of the room to experiment.

'I think I figured out the secret to Kido's lightning style jutsu at this point, so I think I'm gonna try moving onto other things.' Naruto stated. 'Perhaps I can try flying.'

"Flying?" Kurama snorted in response: "You are referring to your darkness's ability, yes?"

'Yeah.' Naruto nodded his head as he bit his lip. 'Menma was able to fly, so I have to assume it's possible for me to do the same. Maybe your chakra will help me find out how I can.'

"You should do something else for now. 'Flying' would require a better handling of your own 'Wind Release' nature than anything else. Not something you necessarily require my chakra for." Kurama replied.

'You think so?' Naruto frowned in response: 'Because I'd think-'

"You alright, Naruto? You appear to be focused."

Naruto turned around to see Han standing behind him, dressed in his chakra shroud. A grin developed on his face.

"I'm alright, yeah! Just arguing with the fox about what I should be working on." Naruto said with a chuckle. "What about you? Do you know what you'll be working on today?"

"I have an idea of sort. I'm perfecting a jutsu that the G-" Han shook his head, frowning behind his mask: "… that Kokuō suggested. Allow me to demonstrate, if you will."

"Uh, sure." Naruto said: "Do you need a shadow clone?"

"That would be preferable." Han nodded his head. "Actually, a couple would be even better."

Naruto nodded his head as he made a hand sign. Five shadow clones appeared and proceeded to walk a few steps forward, away from Han.

Han took a deep breath in before he got into position to charge forward: "Boil Style: Steam Cataclysm!"

Han's body became encased in layer-after-layer of steam. After a second, Han launched himself forward.

"What the-" The first Naruto shadow clone could not even finish his sentence before Han's body collided against it, causing it to dissipate instantly.

Han barreled through four of the shadow clones with only the fifth managing to jump away barely. The Shadow Clone sighed in relief at avoiding Han's attack, but then he noticed the sheer heat of the air around him.

It was at that moment that Naruto shadow clone noticed that the ground underneath where Han had charged forward was now opening up like geysers, releasing a large amount of boiling water.

Before the clone could react, the boiling water spread out and splashed onto the clone. Immediately upon impact, the droplets of boiling water completely melted the clone, causing it to dissipate.

"Wh-Whoa!" Naruto's eyes widened as he turned his head back to Han. "What was that?"

"Basically, the ground underneath my feet was completely filled with steam, allowing me to make geysers and use the boiling water for my attack." Han explained. "I have a jutsu – 'Boil Style: Geyser Impact' – that is one of my strongest techniques, but requires time to setup. With the additional steam from my chakra shroud, I was able to create it with minimal 'casting time', but it also gave me in the inspiration for this technique."

"I see." Naruto nodded his head in understanding as his grin returned to his face: "You're gonna be able to kick so much ass with this, Han-nii. You could literally blow-up an entire battlefield if you got the chance to run around it."

"I suppose." Han chuckled. "I'm trying to increase the temperature of the boiling water with this jutsu, however. If you need me, that is what I'll be working on."

After waving goodbye to one another, Han walked over to his own corner, preparing to work on his jutsu more. Naruto, now by himself again, turned his attention back to Kurama.

'So you think my darkness was able to fly because he had better control of my Wind affinity?' Naruto asked, a frown on his face. 'That doesn't make much sense, though. I thought that he could only things that I was capable of, but wasn't doing for whatever reason.'

"Then perhaps you already had the required-level of Wind Release affinity, and just haven't used it in the right way." Kurama replied. "Again, not relevant for this session. You should work on something else. Perhaps work on 'flying' afterwards."

Naruto frowned in response: 'I guess…Fine, so I'll work on flying afterwards. What do you think I should work on right now?' Naruto asked as he began to walk over to his own corner of the room.

"I'd like for you to learn as many of my jutsu." Kurama explained. "You already know about the Nine-Tails Twister, so let's move on to the Nine-Tails Beam!"


"Tanuki, is it at all possible to get your experiment to stay silent for even a minute?" Kido asked, rolling his eyes.

The two former ROOT agents were camped out inside a clearing in a cave in Shimo no Kuni, two and half days away from Kumogakure. The inside of the cave was very cold and frost was visible on the cave's floor and ceiling, but the two men did not appear to mind and simply stayed there, killing the time.

Tanuki was in the center of the room with his giant chimera, Nue, sitting still in front of him. The creature had been stitched back together and was whole once again. While it was screaming periodically, it remained still as Tanuki continued to perform experiments on it.

"If you are concerned about the creature alerting anyone of our presence, I promise you that the silencing seals we set up are still intact. Nue will not alert anyone of our presence." Tanuki informed him.

"That's not what I was asking." Kido replied, glaring at the man. "It is hard to think with that creature bellowing every-"

"NUE!" On cue, the giant chimera screamed directly at Kido.

"Hmm." Tanuki smirked in response, chuckling lightly as he began to draw seals on Nue's arms: "It appears as if Nue just doesn't like you. Perhaps it'll quiet down if you simply leaved."

Kido scowled for a second, but did not reply immediately. His glare moved from Tanuki towards Nue, focusing intently on the beast.

"Did Tobi ever elaborate how he found Nue?" Kido asked. "The moment you described your creation, he was able to retrieve his body for you to put together."

"I'm not quite certain. I know Hatake Kakashi defeated it using some ability related to his Sharingan, but I have no idea where it was sent to, nor how Tobi could retrieve it." Tanuki admitted, shaking his head. "Nevertheless, I am not complaining."

The two agents were silent for a moment. After another five minutes, Tanuki finished drawing the seals on Nue's arms, which resembled the seal on the scroll he used to summon Nue. He took a step backwards and made a hand sign.

Dark purple, slender creatures – resembling snakes with no faces – rushed from the seals and started to fly around Nue's body. A grin developed on Tanuki's face as he made a hand sign, causing them to retract back into the seals.

"While the idea of Nue losing a fight was disappointing, I do appreciate the data I got from seeing it. It's given me the chance to perfect its design even further." Tanuki expressed.

"Understand that." Kido nodded his head as he reached into his pocket, pulling out a pill bottle. "I am still processing the data I received from my fight with the Kyūbi and Nanabi jinchūriki. Within the next few days, I should be able to enhance it further and amplify my own 'bijū powers'."

"Just in time for the Kumo invasion." Tanuki noted, a grin developing on his face. "The village will suffer greatly. And soon after, Konoha will face the same fate!"

"Indeed it shall."

Both Tanuki and Kido tensed in response to the voice. The two turned their heads around towards the entrance to the clearing in time to see Pain and Konan standing there, looking directly at them.

"Pain-sama. Konan-san." Kido said their names, bowing his head slightly. 'How did they manage to sneak in like that? The seals we set on the cave entrance should have at least alerted us to their presence.'

Tanuki made a series of hand signs. In an instant, Nue disappeared and all that remained in the chimera's place was a scroll. Tanuki picked up the scroll and raveled it before turning his full attention back to the Akatsuki members.

"How can we be of service to you two?" He asked.

"With the invasion coming soon, we thought it would be a good idea to speak with you both." Konan elaborated. "We haven't had the chance to talk yet, after all."

"Tobi and Zetsu handled everything with your recruitment, so I would like to personally vet you both." Pain said, his eyes – his Rinnegan – focusing on both men: "Why did you seek us out? Why did you wish to join us?"

"I thought we elaborated during our first meeting." Tanuki stated, scowling. "We want revenge for Danzō-sama."

"And that's it, hmm? No other reason?" Pain said, shaking his head. "I will confess I find your reasoning rather amusing."

Tanuki's eyes narrowed: "In what way?"

"You are following the Cycle of Hatred that defines my personal philosophy. When tragedy befalls a person and they finally understand pain, they seek revenge and to kill the person who 'wronged' them, only to then start the cycle again. Theoretically, I should welcome you both into Akatsuki as additional members, as you are two people who understand 'pain'." Pain stated. He closed his eyes for a second before reopening them, his eyes focusing on the two once again: "However, the person you are seeking to avenge is one who played a role in my own Cycle of Hatred."

Both Kido and Tanuki swallowed hard. Despite Pain's blasé tone of voice and the neutral expression in his eyes, they could feel a sense of hatred reverberating from his being. It was a strong, overwhelming killing intent seemingly directed towards them by proxy, to the point that it was nearly suffocating.

"… You were involved in the Amegakure Civil War." Kido noted, clearing his throat as he tried to calm his own dread: "You were against Hanzō."

"That is correct. Hanzō killed many of my allies, including our best friend." Pain noted.

Konan nodded her head, scowling – making no attempts to hide her own hatred and killing intent.

"He was able to do this as a result of Danzō's ROOT numbers." She stated sharply. "As a result of your leader and shinobi like you."

Kido and Tanuki were silent for a moment as they looked downward, unable to meet the eyes of the two Akatsuki members in front of them. The silence in the cave was deafening for a moment before Tanuki finally pulled his head upward and stared directly at Pain.

"I will not speak of Danzō-sama's actions back then, but I know the type of man that he was. Danzō-sama put the needs of Konoha before everything else, including his own morality. He did actions he felt were personally sickening in order to keep the village safe from any perceived threat." He explained. His eyes then narrowed as he tightened his hands into fists: "It is for that reason that makes Konoha's betrayal of him so revolting to us. And what has brought us to you."

Pain was silent for a moment as he stared intently into the man's eyes.

"Why are you so invested in Danzō?" He asked.

"I was an orphan who had nothing." Tanuki began, shaking his head. "My parents were shinobi who died on a mission and I was shuffled into the orphanage system in Konoha. I was treated as a number, with people around me who did not care. To be a shinobi or to be a civilian… the matron of the orphanage did not care. I was simply just another child who they were waiting to either get adopted or age out. That's all I was to them. Danzō-sama was the first to see something in me." He then gestured towards Kido: "Kido has a similar background to me."

Konan shook her head: "You were both orphans he took advantage of."

"Perhaps." Kido shrugged his shoulders. "Nevertheless, he gave us a purpose. And that is more we can say for most institutions."

"What are your plans once your 'revenge' is extracted?" Pain asked.

"Survive." Kido replied, shrugging his shoulders: "I suppose I have an interest in research I'd like to pursue, but my main goal is what it always has been. I'll survive, like my father told me to do before he passed."

"I do have desires to have a family, but I do not necessarily have a plan." Tanuki confessed. "I just have an obligation. Danzō-sama is the one who gave me a life, and I cannot move on until I officially have filled my obligation to him in the fullest. And that means getting revenge on his behalf."

Pain was silent for a moment as he stared back at the two of them. He then turned his attention to Konan. The two, once again, did not speak any words. Nevertheless, the two seemed to come to an understanding as they both nodded their heads and turned away.

"I believe we have a better understanding of you two and I feel as if you both can be trusted for this objective." Pain stated. "Remember that we are meeting in person within the week. Prepare for it."

With those words, Pain and Konan left, leaving the two ROOT agents to themselves.

Upon finishing up in the Bijū Temple, first eight jinchūriki went back to Bee's Mansion. Naruto, on the other hand, went exploring on the island, moving towards the back edge. He looked outward, noting Genbu's tail, before he closed his eyes and turned inwardly.

'Alright Kurama, how do you think I should approach this?' He asked.

"Wind Release is the ticket to flying the way your darkness was able to." Kurama answered. "I'm not certain how you should go about that, though."

Naruto's eye twitched in response: '… Well, you're useless.'

"Silence, brat! I'm giving you access to all sorts of techniques that a human should be grateful to have!" Kurama hissed in response.

'Yeah, I know. Sorry.' Naruto sighed in response.

The Uzumaki turned his attention to nature around him. He felt a calming breeze from the wind brushing against his cheek. He closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling, before he opened them once again.

"Perhaps I could think of this as something akin to walking on water, or going up a tree." Naruto noted.

"Do you think that will help?" Kurama asked. "I wouldn't really equate 'walking up a tree' to flying."

"I know, but technically speaking, you're not supposed to be able to do either of those things. But through proper chakra control, you're able to." Naruto said. His eyes lit-up as he, once again, felt the breeze hit him: "Maybe with the right chakra control and the proper release of wind release chakra around my body, I could fly!"

"Proper release? You mean you intend on releasing wind elemental chakra out of your chakra points all at once, and then keep the flow of chakra in balance with the air around you in order to obtain flight?" Kurama noted. A smirk developed on the fox's face: "Can't hurt to try."

Naruto nodded his head, grinning. He closed his eyes for a moment as he continued to get a feel of the light breeze of the wind. After nearly a minute, he finally opened his eyes. He narrowed them as he then took a deep breath and began to release Wind Release chakra out of his chakra points.

"Alright, let's do this!" He declared.

With another deep breath, he jumped into the air. After going up a few feet in height, Naruto continued to concentrate on releasing his chakra. He then remained stationary midair. A few more seconds passed by before he fully processed that he was, indeed, still up in the air and that he had not descended.

"Holy shit…" Naruto's eyes widened for a second: "I was right! This is how I can fly-"

On cue, Naruto fell to the ground. He hit the edge of the ground hard and rolled forward after impact, falling into the water.

"Blurghhh…" He gurgled as he pulled himself out of the water. 'That hurt!'

"You just plummeted face first into the ground with no warning. Of course that hurt!" Kurama rolled his eyes in response.

A minute passed by until Naruto pulled himself out of the water. He breathed heavily as water dripped off his clothes.

"You also should try not doing this training this close to the water. Find somewhere closer to the mansion." Kurama suggested.

"I know. I know." Naruto said, sighing. A few more seconds passed by before he stopped heavy breathing and began to grin: "Anyway, back to work!"

The Uzumaki began to go back to work, hoping to perfect how to fly as quickly as he could.

"Hinata? Wake-up." Hiashi called out.

The Hyūga Clan Head, alongside Jiraiya and Neji, stood outside Hinata's room in the apartment building. A few seconds passed by before she opened the door, dressed in her pajamas. She yawned.

"Is… something the matter, father?" She asked as she rubbed her eyes. "It's late."

"We were given permission for something important and… well, I suppose we could wait until the morning, but I thought it was imperative to go now." Hiashi confessed.

Hiashi opened his mouth and began to tell Hinata the details. Her eyes widened as she became more-and-more awake. A few seconds passed by before she nodded her head.

"Please, let me get dressed real quick. I'll be ready." Hinata stated.

"You have some time. Jiraiya-sama already sent a message to the toads that are training genin Team Nine to request Hanabi's presence for a moment." Neji stated. "By the time you get back, she will hopefully be here and we can all go together."

Hinata nodded her head as she rushed back into her room, getting dressed as quickly as she could.

"Summoning Jutsu: Edo Tensei!"

A coffin rose directly underneath the ground in front of Kabuto's position. The coffin opened up, revealing his personal 'favorite' Edo Tensei summon once again.

Orochimaru walked out of the coffin and took a look around the area once again. Upon seeing no one to fight or no immediate objective, he turned his attention towards Kabuto with a scowl on his face.

"Kabuto, is there a reason you keep summoning me like this? Because you like hearing my voice? Because you need my advice?" He stated, his scowl growing deeper with each word. "If you have any respect for me as your former master, stop summoning me like this."

Kabuto, who had been smiling at Orochimaru, immediately started to frown. He adjusted his glasses as he shook his head.

"I have not been trying to offend you, Orochimaru-sama. Although I suppose me choosing to summon you over-and-over again does come from a sense of familiarity. I know you and how your mind works, so summoning you and having you to discuss with is rather comforting." He stated.

"'Familiarity.'" Orochimaru repeated the word with a snort.

"You seem more tense than usual." Kabuto noted, sighing. "I know about you dislike being summoned like this, but you do seem more aggressive about it than usual. Why?"

Orochimaru was still for a moment, simply scowling in place. A few seconds passed by before the scowl dropped and was replaced with a grin as he chuckled.

"I suppose I was just in an irritable mood upon being woken-up from my eternal slumber today. My apologies, Kabuto-sama." He stated.

'Avoiding the topic.' Kabuto scowled in response, but shook his head. 'Whatever. Suppose I could force the answer out of him, but it's irrelevant.'

"So, may I, your humble servant from beyond the grave, ask a question, Kabuto-sama?" Orochimaru continued, his grin widening. "What do you wish to discuss today?"

Kabuto's scowl deepened further, but he took in a deep breath before speaking: "We are here to gather data. My first assignment with you is to have you roam the area. I wish to see the limit of how far I can keep you as a summon before you get dispelled."

Orochimaru's eye twitched momentarily, but the grin never faded: "So I am a test subject today, hmm?"

"Yes, but if that work appears demeaning to you, you might be more interested in what I have planned for you the next day." Kabuto stated with a chuckle. "I am going to have you infiltrate your old home."

Orochimaru's eyes narrowed: "And what do you intend on getting out of me going to Konoha?"

For a moment, Kabuto was silent. A few seconds passed before his eyes narrowed back at his former master.

"You are certain that Tobi is an Uchiha, yes?" He asked.

Orochimaru's eyebrow rose slightly in response, but he nodded his head: "I know that for a fact. The small trace of DNA that I acquired from him confirmed that."

"I intend on figuring out exactly who that masked man is, and I am going to have you help me with that." Kabuto stated. "You are going to get me samples of every Uchiha shinobi that has passed away since the Second Shinobi World War."

"Oh?" Orochimaru chuckled in response: "And what good would knowing exactly who Tobi is will do you? Do you intend on taking him on?"

"I want to know who he is." Kabuto replied, tightening his hands into fists: "And after I know, I can handle him accordingly."

"My, for someone who is apparently 'loyal' to Akatsuki, that's a rather interesting position to take." Orochimaru noted. "However, I must say, that is a rather daunting task to assume I'll be capable of obtaining samples of all the Uchiha shinobi you desire."

"You won't be the only Edo Tensei summon I use tomorrow." Kabuto stated. He then turned his head away as he made a hand sign: "But that's a talk for tomorrow. For now, let's begin my research."

On cue, Orochimaru started to run, moving away from Kabuto. As the Sannin continued to place distance, Kabuto began to track how far away he was and effective his control was.

'After today and tomorrow, I will be able to elaborate to Pain-sama exactly how effective I'll be in the invasion.' Kabuto noted. His eyes narrowed as a grin developed on his face: 'And I'll be one step closer to finally unmasking you, Tobi.'

'The Valley of Clouds and Lightning' was a valley in Kaminari no Kuni close to Kumogakure: only a twenty minute walk north of the village. The valley was filled with rivers and lakes and fog covered the majority of it, giving it cover from enemy shinobi who may not notice it. In the center of this valley was the Yotsuki Clan Estate.

Hinata, Neji, Hiashi, and Hanabi all walked into the valley, each of them holding a small bouquet of white lilies. After traveling and finally reaching the estate, they were greeted by Hosshin Yotsuki.

"I wasn't expecting you all to come right away." Hosshin noted, gesturing towards the moon in the sky.

"We couldn't wait." Neji said, shaking his head. "We need to see him."

"… Right." Hosshin nodded his head.

With a wave of his hand, he encouraged the four Hyūga to follow behind. The group then walked through the Yotsuki Compound until they reached a garden at the back of the compound. At the very back of the garden was a small gravestone.

"I'm… surprised you bothered to bury my brother." Hiashi admitted.

"Again, my clan's grief is with you." Hosshin confessed, glaring at the Hyūga Clan Head. "Your brother was not our enemy. He didn't kill my father. So, he deserved a proper burial."

There was silence for a moment as the group continued to walk forward until they reached the grave. Neji got down on his knees next to it and rubbed the gravestone.

"Father… Hello." Neji whispered as tears began to fall from his eyes. A small smile developed on his face as his tears fell onto the gravestone. "I… this probably all seems very foolish, but I can feel your presence. Finally. For the first time in years…"

"Neji-nii-san…" Hinata's eyes watered as well as she walked over to the grave and placed her white lilies in front of the gravestone: "It's… been a long time, Hizashi-oji-san."

"H-Hi, Hizashi-oji-san." Hanabi mumbled as she placed her own lilies down next to Hinata's. Her eyes were reddened, but tears were not falling just yet: "It's… It's nice to meet you, finally."

Hiashi stood still for a moment as he watched his daughters and nephew kneel at the grave. He turned his head to face Hosshin.

"Thank you." Hiashi stated.

"Don't. This isn't for you." Hosshin replied, his eyes glaring. He then turned to face Neji: "… But this is for him. Because he deserves to his see his father."

Hiashi nodded his head in response. Hosshin remained still for a few seconds before he took a few steps back. He, alongside other Yotsuki Clan Shinobi, would be keeping an eye on the Hyūga overall so long as they were in their clan estate, but they decided to give them the space they needed.

Now that they were alone, Hiashi walked forward and joined his family, placing his own lilies. Tears fell from his eyes as a wide smile developed on his face.

"Hello, Hizashi." He said.

The four Hyūga remained still as they finally got the closure they needed from the incident all those years ago. For the first time, they have gotten to visit Hyūga Hizashi's grave. And, for the first time, they all felt a connection with the loving brother, father, and uncle that was Hizashi.

Quick Note:

1: So, the 'Head Ninja of Kumogakure' has no name, so I gave him the name 'Yotsuki Kashikoi', like how I gave Hinata's grandfather the name Yoshikane. The Yotsuki Clan is a canon Kumogakure Clan, so I thought it would be neat to actually attach the name to the Head Ninja!

As for my use of him here... I mean, I do think that the Head Ninja is often used as a plot device in pretty much every fanfic. I mean, he's a background element in canon just to emphasize the Hyūga Clan divide, but the only times I've ever seen the Head Ninja reference at all are just in stories that discuss Hinata's kidnapping, usually done in ways to either prevent it and spare Hizashi. I just find it so weird how often this guy is treated as a footnote, especially given how impactful he ended up being on Neji's character, Hiashi's character, and Hinata's character (this might be my headcanon speaking here, but I always believed the kidnapping played a major role in her self-esteem and shyness around other people. Yes, she was shy before, but I think the situation made it exponentially worse, into what it was at the beginning of Naruto. So I actually wanted to make sure to name and give some more background into him!

Author's Note: Hey! Chapter 114 is done! :)

So, shit's been pretty crazy for me. I know i just posted the last chapter without much of an author's note, so I might as well mention that, shortly after posting chapter 112, I got into a car accident and completely totaled my car. That, um... resulted in me having to redirect funds towards getting a new car ASAP and also resulted in a bunch of extra anxiety and stress that I REALLY did not need in my life right now.

... That and I really need work to calm the fuck down for just a second or two, but that's irrelevant. Point being is that I've just been perpetually tired recently. I'm actually kinda stunned I managed to get this and last chapter written at the pace that I did; usually, when I get this exhausted with IRL stuff, my writing pace falls to shit and results in an awkward hiatus that I have to fight back.

... I guess that's partially where I'm going at with that. I don't intend on going on hiatus anytime soon, especially cause I really want to get through these next few chapters ASAP to move onto the 3rd Exam and the Invasion, but I guess if it DOES take a little longer to post 115, that's why. But I promise I'll be back. I'm always back XD

Uh... that's all I guess I had to say. I hope you are all doing well and staying safe. See you all when chapter 115 is posted! Until then :)