"Everyone, I have some good news and some bad news." Sarutobi told the gathered clan heads, elder advisers, and even Kakashi in the council meeting room. "Jiraiya came across some trouble while out on the field, more specifically at Kumo. There, he found the missing Uzumaki Naruto."
"Was my disgrace there too?" Hiashi asked. Since her absence, Hiashi had gone out of his way to avoid referring to Hinata by name or even affiliation to him, unless he was required to be specific on who he was speaking about.
"Jiraiya did not get the best look, but he is certain he saw a Hyuuga girl with the boy, among another person of note that should be important as well perhaps a danger to our plans." Sarutobi answered.
"So this means somehow Kumo was able to take a Main House Hyuuga and a jinchuuriki together?" Shikaku asked, knowing full well it wasn't as simple as that, but he had to keep in cover. Here, most of the people fit into the anti-Naruto faction, with only a few he did not know the stance of.
Hiashi and Tsume were clearly loyal to Namikaze, they had known him when he was younger and liked his ambition. They were in fact among the first to support him for becoming Hokage after the last war. Hiashi had been one of the Yondaime's closer friends in their youth, and the two bonded over a belief that both were meant for great things. Tsume was impressed by his power and dominance, and admitted she lusted for him on occasion. Rumor had it her marriage to her late husband only happened because her parents forced her to if she wanted to lead the clan. It would explain why Tsume's parents disappeared around the same time her husband did. No one from the Inuzuka clan thought to put two and two together on the matter, refusing to believe the clan head was responsible in any way.
Shikaku, Inoichi, and Chouza on the other hand were horrified by Namikaze's intentions. Such behavior was expected from Danzou, the man who made it clear he felt a ninja out of war was like a fish out of war. But Namikaze, when younger he spoke of how he loved his village and wanted to see it become the best in the world when he was hokage. They never would have imagined he meant the best by virtue of being the only village in the world. By the time they found out what he meant, it was too late, fighting him would have sparked a multiple clan massacre that like the planned Uchiha coup de tat could have sparked the next big war and given Namikaze exactly the opportunity he desired. No, their only choice was to keep their friends close and their enemies closer.
When it came to questionable loyalty, there were two clan heads that Shikaku could name. Aburame Shibi and Kurama Unkai. Even now, Shikaku couldn't tell whether or not those two were truly on Namikaze's side. The Aburame valued logic and knowing one's place in an organization, yet they were still more human than insect. Shibi had yet to give an opinion without being asked, and it was too risky for Shikaku to confirm it away from Sarutobi, lest he put the pro-Naruto people at risk. And Unkai kept to himself all the time, barely interacting with anyone outside of meetings. He was also one that simply couldn't be asked.
"This is where things start getting bad." Sarutobi continued. "From what Jiraiya gathered, Kumo had no involvement in the disappearance of either of the two youngsters. But instead, he claims it was Uzumaki Kushina."
"What?" was the collective response.
"That's impossible! She can't be alive!"
"Her body was eviscerated and burned, in that order. It would be illogical for any clone to experience that and not give itself away. But on the other hand she was a member of the Uzumaki clan. Perhaps Jiraiya didn't steal all of their powerful fuinjutsu and missed some false death tricks."
"What does this mean?" Shikaku asked. "We can debate the plausibility of it really being her later. The undeniable argument is someone allowed Naruto and Hinata to escape and remain unnoticed until now. What all did Jiraiya-sama learn of them?"
Sarutobi took a deep breath, wishing he had his pipe on hand. "For the time being, we must assume that despite how impossible it is, Kushina is in fact alive and has come back for her son. He has told him everything about the intended plan and his role in it, and the two have declared an intention to kill Minato before he gets the chance to kill them."
'The bitch wants to kill my man?' Tsume thought, allowing herself to feel a bit possessive. After all, she occasionally got to see Namikaze outside Konoha and get a little 'action' with him. As far as she was concerned, she was mated to Namikaze and would give him a proper heir, unlike what Kushina had provided. She just couldn't risk getting pregnant yet, not until he made his move against the other villages. It would be too difficult to justify the widowed head of the Inuzuka suddenly getting pregnant. 'No way, once I see her she's shredded!'
"What makes them think they actually stand a chance?" Hiashi asked.
"Jiraiya was unable to determine that. It seems that if Kushina does possess some sort of advantage, it has yet to be revealed. And considering the nature of her appearance, it would be unwise to assume that she is without some kind of plan." Sarutobi stated. "And while like the rest of you I am completely confident that we will win no matter what she is planning, I must admit I am curious regarding how exactly she intends to defeat us."
"It doesn't matter, we should just find them and get everything back on course." Danzou stated, getting some nods in the room.
"That's not as easy as we'd like it to be." Sarutobi countered. "For starters, Kushina is likely already on the move away from Kumo, but has also highly likely informed the Raikage of the plan. And even without proof, the current Raikage has a grudge against Konoha and will likely be convinced our village means his ill intent."
"But there's little he can do without violating the treaty and getting caught this time." Hiashi reminded everyone, the treaty that ended up killing Hizashi a thing he wouldn't ever overlook.
"Bah, treaties aren't worth the paper they're written on. They're just decoys to get your so-called allies into positions you can use to your own advantage." Danzou claimed.
Chouza gave the elder a dirty look. "You wish to rephrase that elder? Because I can take that to believe that this very governing body here would take advantage of my own clan or any clan here if it suited themselves."
The warhawk looked at the larger ninja like he had no right being offended, let alone voicing it. "Well have you anything to be afraid of?" He then added 'lard-ass' in his own head, not having the guts to say it to his face.
"Right now I have reason to fear the leadership of this village." Chouza replied. "Taking advantage of opportunities is one thing, I do not refute that, but when you don't even bother specifying that the allies within the village are safe from that approach, it will only lead to internal destruction. Like with the Uchiha."
"Which I still have my doubts regarding." Shikaku voiced.
"Indeed, they were promised something and waited for their promise to come to fruition but it never did." Shibi replied.
Sarutobi frowned. "You've been told the details Shikaku-san, if you still disbelieve them that is your problem. But also, Shibi-san they were told to wait a few more years and yet they refused. They waited for seven years, three more years at the most wouldn't hurt."
The Sandaime Hokage wasn't bothered by this without reason. The clan heads knew that Fugaku was supposed to become the Godaime after a couple of years had gone by, but what they didn't know was exactly how many years the late Uchiha head was supposed to wait. Sarutobi kept intentionally delaying relinquishing his direct influence over Naruto, not wanting Fugaku to take that from him. And after a while, Fugaku decided he had waited long enough to get what was promised to him.
Sarutobi had to persuade the clan heads that Fugaku's actions and the intended Uchiha Uprising was through no fault of his own, but rather entirely blamed on Fugaku's greed. The way he explained it, Fugaku intended to stab Namikaze in the back at some point and take his place as the rightful ruler of the world. The clan heads accepted this without much resistance, able to believe Fugaku was capable of such behavior, but Shikaku was to this day still skeptical.
"What do we do about the boy?" Tsume asked, sounding like she was hoping Sarutobi would give her permission to go hunt him down.
"For now there's nothing we can do. The spy networks we have are our only chance of locating him. Instead, we should prepare for the possibility he returns here to strike us directly somehow. Now normally, I wouldn't consider that a threat of any scale worth preparing for, but Jiraiya's claim changes things and thus we should be prepared for something worse than mere petty vandalism."
"Wouldn't they see coming here even for petty revenge as pointless?" Shibi questioned.
Hiashi silently scoffed. "They're both idiots. They'll slip up and do something stupid sooner or later. And I'll be there as soon as they do."
Inoichi frowned. "Missing nin or not, what kind of father are you to get excited about the idea of killing your own child?"
"That failure is no longer my child. Never say otherwise in my presence again." Hiashi demanded. "Besides, if Minato can kill his own bastard for the good of Konoha, I don't see why me killing her is any worse. And if I do enjoy it, so what? That's my right."
Inoichi had to use everything in him to refrain from reacting in any way. 'Any fighting between us might snowball and lead to things we don't want happening yet, but damn this man. Damn any person who sees their child as mere cannon fodder.'
"Meeting adjourned before things get out of hand." Sarutobi declared to prevent a fight too.
Everyone left, but Homura and Koharu remained. "Hiruzen, if you don't mind, can we say a few things?"
"I suppose, though why couldn't it be said around others?" He asked, trusting of his teammates but he had to admit he didn't always understand them. After all, in his own youth he was to his team what Jiraiya had been to Orochimaru and Tsunade. Homura and Koharu respected him more then Orochimaru or Tsunade respected Jiraiya, but they had the same rocky start and didn't always agree on issues. Though luckily they had always supported him of his plans for Naruto.
"It was apparent to us that a fight was increasing in potential, so we didn't want to add to it." Homura clarified. "What we say here isn't meant to be taken as insubordination, but constructive criticism. Isn't it time you try readjusting the plan now that Naruto's role has been compromised beyond repair?"
"What makes you think that? The original plan can still be salvaged. We can come up with something like an impostor pretending to be his mother to take advantage of him. He's a gullible child and won't know the difference." Sarutobi replied.
"No Hirzuen, it can't." Koharu countered. "The original plan called for Naruto to be completely ignorant and obedient, as well as here in Konoha carefully monitored. None of those conditions still exist, and instead it sounds like the opposite is true instead. He is aware, he is resentful, and Konoha has no idea where he is. Tell me, do you honestly believe you can acquire him and reeducate him to be back on track? Pretend these past few months never happened?"
Sarutobi frowned. "Are you doubting the course of action?"
"Doubt is important in planning. No true plan can be considered complete unless you consider how it might fall apart and what you can do in such an event." The elderly woman pointed out. "We have not lost any faith in you, we just wish to be informed on how exactly you intend to reach the objective now that things are changed. Surely you have some idea, we just wish to hear it. And if we point out any flaws, it's only to help you ensure they aren't exploited later."
"Minato has scouts looking for the boy, as do we. If he find him first, we will suppress him and bring him back here for proper treatment. If he needs to stay alive a bit longer, we will wipe his mind clean and keep him locked up to ensure he can do nothing until Minato needs to extract Kyuubi from him."
"And if he isn't needed alive?" Homura asked.
Sarutobi grinned a small bit. "Then we'll deliver him directly to Minato for him to handle."
Night came to Konoha and Haku was spending time with Hana after work again in a bar. So far she had adjusted well to the job, enjoying treating the animals and Hana was great company. Though her little brother bothered Haku a bit when he came by the clinic.
"Is there something wrong with Kiba?" Haku asked as they sat down.
"You mean physically or mentally? Because I can answer at least one of those." Hana asked, sitting down too and looking at the menu. "Physically he suffered from an attack to his gonads recently that he's still healing from. I hear he's taking testosterone supplements to make up for any biological lose, but personally I think that he could benefit from a little less. To be honest, it wouldn't surprise me if he were overdosing."
"Why would he do that?" Haku asked, also looking at the menu.
Hana shrugged. "He's a young teenage boy, he's got some rather immature ideas on what exactly makes someone masculine or strong. I think my mother's idea of the sex talk messed him up, giving him the idea that sex is pretty much all there needs to be in a relationship. Thank Kami-sama my father helped fill in the gaps for me."
"Wait, your mother said sex is more important than love and your father said the reverse is true?" Haku asked.
Hana nodded, putting down her menu. "Strange to hear, I know. I swear my mom's got a bit of nymphomania and my brother inherited it."
The Inuzuka girl turned, expecting a waiter but instead saw someone she knew. "Oh, hello Yoshino-san, what brings you here? Shouldn't you be beating the men with a frying pan again?"
Yoshino smiled and shrugged. "Sometimes I like to be the one with the night out and just for a bit stop being the only one in the house that doesn't hate being awake. Can I join you?"
"Sure." Hana said then scooted over, allowing the Nara matriarch to sit down. "This is my assistant Hasegawa Haku, I'm sure you heard of her through your husband."
"Ah yeah, the girl with a rather good recommendation." Yoshino replied. "Nice to see someone who enjoys helping living things instead of just hurting them."
Haku nodded. "Only the insecure delight in hurting something, or someone, weaker just to make themselves feel strong. I'm told I was born to heal, not take life, and when working I can believe it."
"It's a shame in places like this the other manner is the one more encouraged." Yoshino said. "I think that's why I never bothered to be more than a chuunin, and why I don't miss being on active duty."
"Hello Yoshino, I didn't expect you here." Kurenai said, walking up to the table with a drink in hand. From the look in her eyes, it wasn't her first one.
"Hello Kurenai, are you okay?" Yoshino asked, concerned for her friend but not exactly in the mood for her company. Rather now she wanted to be around other people who felt Naruto had the right to live, and Kurenai was rapidly becoming someone who would gladly kill the boy herself if she could.
"Oh I'm just great." Kurenai said sarcastically. "I just got told today that my team is considered removed from the active rooster unless we do joint missions with others, and that ass Asuma is trying to make sure no one wants to work with us."
"Well after what my son has said I can't say you're without fault." Yoshino commented.
Kurenai frowned. "And you're taking a child's side over mine?"
Yoshino frowned back. "That child is my son, and while he is lazy, he's never once lied to me. So when he tells me you tried to make two young girls quit their jobs and called them good for nothing, I don't have a reason to believe he's making it up. Especially when his teammates collaborate the story."
Kurenai looked hurt, offended. "And here I thought you'd agree with me."
"You thought I'd agree that a girl I've known since she was a baby had no future? I have watched her grow up and while I admit she's far from the model example of a kunoichi, I at least believe you can't judge someone that young. I know someday she will learn what it takes to do her job right, even if she just needs more time than some other girls do." Yoshino explained, referring to Ino.
She could still recall how hurt the platinum blonde had looked when she and her team had informed their parents of what Kurenai had said about her and Ami. While Ino could see that Kurenai was chewing them out for more than one reason, one of those reasons was her always trying to impress a boy instead working on her career. While the event had been incredibly harsh, maybe it had been the wake-up call she needed.
"If you really knew that girl you'd agree with me." Kurenai slurred.
Yoshino stood up, offended. "No Kurenai, you're the one that doesn't know her. You know nothing about Ino, you don't know a damn thing. All you know is she's not that Hyuuga girl."
Haku leaned to Hana. "Something I should know about?" She whispered.
"Just watch." Hana whispered back.
Kurenai looked offended. "Yoshino, because of our friendship I'm going to let that slide just this once. But don't you dare question my judgment like that again."
Kurenai and Yoshino had been friends when younger, bonding over shared feminist views and desires to be better than their male classmates. But the two had different views on how to express their beliefs. While Yoshino had always believed that women had a lot of power, she never believed that being a feminist meant she was required to hate men. Men were not inferior to women anymore than women were inferior to men, they were just different. No better no worse, and both genders should be allowed to be themselves as long as they weren't disrespectful of the other. To Yoshino, that's what a feminist truly was.
But Kurenai seemed to be the other type, the judgmental type of feminist. She judged everyone, men and women, though was more lenient and supportive of the latter. While under normal standards this wasn't by itself a bad thing, it was bad when she got condescending.
"Question your judgment?" Yoshino repeated. "If I doubt it, I have every right to question it. Your judgment of those girls is wrong, and I don't mean just Ino and your student. Even your judgment of the Hyuuga girl is wrong."
"Watch it Yoshino." Kurenai threatened.
The Nara matriarch however had other ideas. "No, this needs to be said. You don't know that girl at all, you never did. You never even really cared about her, she was just a substitute for you."
"That's it!" Kurenai said, infuriated, throwing down her glass letting it shatter on the floor with the contents spilling. If the red-eyed genjutsu expert had bothered to look down, she would have noticed that Yoshino already had a Nara shadow jutsu ready, just kept at bay until she made a move. Now that she had, Yoshino unleashed it.
"Gotcha." Yoshino said, linking her shadow to Kurenai and freezing her, using a single hand to perform the jutsu.
'Another one-handed ninjutsu user? This is interesting.' Haku thought, intrigued.
"Is there a problem here ladies?" One of the bouncers for the bar asked, coming up.
"No, this woman was just leaving. She wouldn't want to start a fight in public and risk losing her recent promotion after all." Yoshino answered.
Knowing she was trapped, Kurenai swallowed her anger. "Yes, but I can't leave until she lets me go."
Yoshino undid her jutsu and the bouncer remained merely to ensure no more fighting started. Kurenai moved some of her hair back into place then walked past Yoshino.
"You won this round, but unlike your clan I'm not too lazy for more to come." She whispered, then left.
Yoshino hid a smirk at that. The Nara may be lazy most of the time, but, when the time calls for it, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more persistent lot.
"I take it there's more to that than just that women being intoxicated." Haku mentioned when Yoshino sat down.
"Sort of. It's not exactly the sort of thing that needs to be exposed." Yoshino replied.
'I know how that feels.' Haku thought.
Hana shook her head. "I always wondered why Kurenai was so attached to Hinata-san. To be honest, sometimes, her behavior feels borderline-pedophiliac."
Yoshino quickly looked to the Inuzuka heiress. "Oh no, it's nothing like that."
"Then what is it?" Hana tested. "You said she was using the girl as a substitute. A substitute for what exactly?"
Yoshino sighed. "Get yourselves comfortable, because this is going to be a bit of a long story."
The two younger women listened carefully, and Yoshino told what she knew. "Years ago, while she was still a chuunin and relatively new at it, Kurenai ended up pregnant. She never told me who the father was, but insisted it wasn't rape or anyone I guessed it to be. Unfortunately she had a miscarriage and the experts tell her that unless someone on Tsunade-sama's level heals her, it's unlikely she'll ever have children again. I get the feeling that because she can't have her own child, Kurenai was using Hinata as a substitute for her dead child."
"That's... actually a bit understandable." Haku said.
Hana nodded, frowning. "It may be understandable, but that still doesn't excuse her actions."
Yoshino nodded as well. "Yeah, it doesn't. Kurenai means well regarding the girl, but she doesn't really know her. She just likes how Hinata makes her feel, she likes the outlet for her maternal side, and now she can't feel that way anymore. Kurenai likely takes Hinata leaving as a personal rejection, like her child dying all over again, and just wants to make someone feel as bad as she does."
Haku nodded, taking this in. 'I wonder what would happen if Hinata sees her again knowing all this? Would she be forgiving, or unconcerned?'
After she had her fun, Haku went home, but she wasn't ready for sleep just yet. Instead, she bit her thumb and performed a summons.
"Haku-chan, nice to see you again." Maiko greeted.
"Nice to see you too Maiko-chan. Could you contact Naruto and Hinata for me? I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to summon them directly just yet."
"Ah, in case they were doing something private?" The fox joked.
Haku blushed. "Don't put dirty thoughts in my head, just please let them know I need them here."
"Will do." The fox said before returning home.
Haku sighed. She wondered if liking to mess with others was a fox thing.
Naruto and Hinata must have been busy, since they didn't show up right away. In fact, Haku got comfortable on her couch before they showed up in her apartment, startling her and triggering her fight-or-flight instincts.
"Don't sneak up like that."
Hinata rolled her eyes. "Fine, we'll send you a note the next time you ask us to come here."
Naruto looked around, feeling uncomfortable. "I can't believe I'm actually back in Konoha."
Hinata took his hand in her own. "I'm sure it's for a good reason."
"It is." Haku stated. "I get the feeling I can't get the information you requested on my own. Not without drawing attention to myself, and with word of a murderer going around the Anbu are going to be more alert than normal."
Hinata and Naruto were both surprised by this. Apparently, things had gotten a little crazier in Konoha in their absence.
"Worst part is I know who the murderer is, but I can't do anything about it without exposing myself." Haku said.
"Let's ignore that for now. Naruto-kun and I will handle everything tonight, so you don't get exposed if we get caught." Hinata offered.
Haku shook her head. "I'm not sure about that. You see, there's much more of a risk to this than you understand."
"How so?" Naruto asked, wondering what the ice-user knew.
Haku sighed. "The long and short of it is that, on the outside, the security around the target areas seemed pretty lax, but that might be how it's supposed to look, as if to dare potential interlopers to come in. Even if I'm overestimating that, I still have no idea what the security on the inside is like. And if the outside security has been tightened, what does that say about the inside security?"
Hinata nodded in understanding. "It sounds like the kind of situation where the only way you can guarantee getting in is if someone's already on the inside to allow you to. And given the compounds in question, that's impossible for all of them. So instead, we need something big to draw their attention away from the compounds."
"I have an idea." Haku offered. "Reports of a murderer are going around, right? What if we give them a show?"
Naruto smirked a bit, having a bit of an idea of what Haku had in mind. "I'm all for pranking this village again."
At the Hyuuga estate, the noble ninja clan was getting ready for sleep, except for the branch members who had night guard duty.
Not all branch members were going to sleep. One such person was Hyuuga Yumi, sister-in-law to Hiashi and mother to Neji. That put her in a high position in the clan, though she constantly had to work at ensuring her reputation was sound. Due to past... circumstances Yumi was always watched with scrutiny, quick to be accused of not supporting the clan. Of not fitting in with how the Hyuugas ran things. None of the accusations were true, but in the Hyuuga clan you were never given the benefit of the doubt. You had to prove you were falsely accused, or suffer for it. Guilty until proven innocent if you will.
'I wish my parents had been smarter, then Neji wouldn't be fated to a life of servitude all because of me.' Yumi rued, having to be out walking around to get something she needed for tomorrow. Or at least that was the excuse she was giving, her real motive just getting some privacy to let herself be angry. 'Even with his great talents and connection to Hiashi, the elders still refuse to listen to me when I tell him he'd make a better heir than Hanabi would. I know it's because they think I'd use him for my own gain.' She closed her eyes for a moment. 'Would he be better off without me around?'
All of a sudden, something the size of a baseball rolled in front of her and stopped, making her stop too. 'What is that?' She looked more carefully at it. 'Is that ice?'
Then without warning, the ice suddenly erupted into a cloud of steam, covering her and heating up her skin. She tried to activate her byakugan to see, but her eyes were stinging from the steam and so her byakugan was actually out of focus.
She tried to rub it out of her eyes. Not only that, but, since she had gasped in surprise when the ice erupted into a cloud of steam, she was coughing while trying to rub her eyes.
Then suddenly she felt a familiar attack on her, a juuken attack that brought her to her knees.
"Nice, let's get out of here."
'I know that voice.' Yumi thought before blacking out, unfortunately too late for the Anbu to get to her or the smoke to clear and reveal her assailant.
When Yumi regained consciousness, the first thing she noticed was she was cold. Very cold. She couldn't even shiver, and when she tried it was like she was frozen.
"Hello Auntie. Miss me?"
"You!" Yumi hissed, now recognizing her assailant as her niece, former clan heiress Hyuuga Hinata. The young girl looked the same as always, except calmer and with her arms crossed, a condescendingly grin on her face.
"I'm not exactly thrilled about seeing you either you know. But at least this time, I have the upper hand." Hinata said.
"This time I'll kill you for sure." Yumi declared, struggling to lunge at the girl, only to see she still couldn't move. Part of it was because of the effects of the juuken she felt earlier, but now she could see her whole body below her neck was encased in a sheet of ice. And coming out of that ice was four poles of ice with a disk above her head. She had no idea why.
"I wouldn't do much moving if I were you." Hinata warned. "The ice isn't exactly thick, so you can break it, but if you do, the thing above you will drop directly on your head and knock you out. But on the other hand if you stay in there too long, the ice will chill you to the point of hypothermia. To put it simple Auntie, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't."
"We'll see about that." Yumi resisted, struggling a bit more, this time cracking one of the poles but not freeing herself.
"I must advise against that. You ever have a block of ice the size and weight of a cinderblock fall on your skull? Because that's what's going to happen to you if you keep that up." Hinata stated. "Also, that block in question right above your head, that's dry ice. So imagine how much more harmful to you it will be."
That made Yumi stop moving. It was decently well known that dry ice burned. Add that to a block of it the size and weight of a cinderblock falling on your skull, and you've got one nasty concussion. With effects that would go beyond blunt force trauma.
"Why are you back here?" Yumi asked.
"I'm just here to get something, not to chat. You're here because... I need a distraction. You're just the one unlucky enough to be chosen. Though to be fair you have given us both a reason to want you to suffer."
"Both?" Yumi asked, then got her answer when she saw Naruto appear, making her anger rise. "You piece of shit. When I get out of here-"
"Go ahead, show me what you'll do if you get out of the ice. Maybe you'll be lucky and miss the dry ice." Naruto taunted.
As angry as she was, Yumi didn't tempt fate. "You both refuse to know your places. You're the ones who deserve this cold torture. All I've done is know my place, and that's no crime."
Hinata glared at her. "What you've done is use fate as a damn excuse to quit, take the easy way out of facing your problems, torture others who don't deserve it, and turn your son, my cousin, into someone no better than you are!"
"And that was my right." Yumi said, unrepentant. "My fate was to make my son stronger than you so he could inherit the clan and finally your family would serve mine."
"So your fate was to change things in your favor but mine was to die so you could be happy?" Hinata tested, giving her a look that was both angry and disappointed. "Also, we know the real reason you hurt us both. And I have to say even for this village that was a very stupid reason."
"You have no right to judge me." Yumi claimed.
"I believe as your victim, I do... Hyuuga Uzume."
Yumi's eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare call me that!"
"And why not? It is your real name." Hinata asked.
"No it isn't."
It was the one part of her life Yumi was ashamed of, her real name was Uzume. Her parents were close friends to two now long-dead Uzumaki before and named her to honor their friends. Then came the anti-Uzumaki movement, which apparently affected her too because her name was a constant reminder of the clan. She changed her name to Yumi, but those that knew her old name still used it to demean her, and even accused her of being in league with the disgraced clan.
On a similar note, jounin Uzuki Yugao suffered a similar sort of persecution but she instead took it in stride. Telling people who disliked her name that it wasn't her problem.
Yumi was different, she didn't want anyone to look down their nose at her. In one attempt to prove to her clan that she had no connection or love for the clan, Yumi had to hurt the one Uzumaki still in Konoha at the time. Naruto. And she hurt him by breaking his arms and legs in a brutal painful way, then applying a temporary version of the Caged Bird Seal to him for Hiashi to use just long enough to cause pain without risking damage to the seal holding Kyuubi.
What neither Hyuuga knew at the time was that Hinata had seen the entire thing, and could barely sleep after that. If it weren't for Hiashi berating her and Yumi herself days before suggesting Hinata get sealed and Neji unsealed, the young girl would have done something about it.
Hinata rolled her eyes. "So you can change your name but not your fate? Isn't the fact that you were given that name at birth a sign that you were fated to have it?"
"Silence!" Yumi yelled.
"Good idea." Naruto said, then walked up and with a good hit broke another pole, putting Yumi at further risk. The poles that were still supporting the dry ice sounded like they were starting to strain under the pressure.
"What the hell are you doing, you little brat?!" Yumi shouted.
"Reminding you who has the upper hand here." Naruto told her. "Not so much fun being on the other end of an uncaring person picking on the helpless now is it?"
She glared at Naruto. "Just wait until I get out of this, Uzumaki brat! I'll make you pay dearly for this!"
Naruto grinned. "That might have actually scared me, if I was still the same little kid I was the last time we interacted. But no, I'm tougher and stronger now. I'd love to prove you wrong, but we've got more important things to do." He looked to Hinata. "Any last words to her before we do you-know-what to her?"
Hinata shook her head. "None that I can say in polite company."
Naruto's grin just grew in size. "So, around her and maybe me, it's alright?"
Hinata grinned in return, then kissed him. "I suppose so."
"So despite all our efforts to get you away from this demon, you still fell for him." Yumi complained.
"If anything your attempts to keep us apart only helped us get together." Hinata clarified. "Koh telling me to avoid him only made me want to know why. Your torment of him only made me want to do more for him. My scumbag father-"
"Don't you dare call him that!" Yumi demanded.
"I'll call him my grandfather's masturbation discharge if I want to, my point is his attempts to brainwash me only prevented me from acting sooner. If there's one thing and only one thing the Hyuuga clan did to me, it was give me a reason to be with my Naruto-kun."
"This is a funny way to show gratitude." Yumi noted.
"Oh, this has nothing to do with gratitude. This is simply... punishment."
Yumi narrowed her eyes. "PUNISHMENT?! For what?!"
"For everything you believe you deserve to be rewarded for."
Back in Konoha, the Hyuuga were getting upset. Yumi wasn't usually out this long this late. Two branch members went out looking for her. Normally most of the Hyuuga clan didn't care about her much. But she was important to Neji, therefore she was important to Hiashi. Due to this, if something had happened to her and Hiashi found out that they didn't give their best to find her, he'd have their heads on a platter.
"You see anything?" One of them asked, byakugan active to help in the search.
"No, but I do see a lot of Anbu heading to the center of town. That's strange."
"Ignore it, we need to find Yumi-san. Make sure she's not trying to contact the demon boy somehow."
"You really think she's in league with it?" The second one asked.
"He was close to Hiashi-sama's late wife and she supported the boy. Not to mention Yumi-san's parents liked the boy's clan, so it's always possible." The first once replied.
The second one shrugged. "Good point. But, if what she personally did to him is any indication, I highly doubt that she's in league with it."
"Unless it was an act."
"I don't know, the medical report from what I heard was pretty clear it wasn't an act."
Suddenly and Anbu showed up. "Good, Hyuuga-san come with me. Someone from your clan needs to see this."
"One of your own is being held hostage, and by someone accompanied by foxes."
That was all the Hyuuga needed to hear. They headed to the center of town, as did a lot more Anbu and village shinobi.
In the center of Konoha a brawl was breaking out, and foxes large enough to qualify as Inuzuka ninken were seen fighting the ninja. That alone explained why there were so many ninja involved in the fight, but that wasn't the only thing worth noting.
The foxes were surrounding three people that were trapped in ice, with blocks of dry ice carefully but barely held above their heads. One was Hyuuga Yumi, another was Touji Mizuki, and the third was Higurashi Tetsuiro, the adopted father of Tenten. All three were in the same situation Yumi was in.
Anbu were trying to save them, but a group of white foxes were fighting them off. Also, there was a single person who seemed to be fighting with them. They were wearing a mask and a hood, but no one had any doubts regarding who this person was.
All the Anbu drew their weapons and formed a perimeter, and not surprisingly the Hokage himself showed up along with Kakashi. The Hokage had been the one to shout out the name, but the large white foxes prevented any easy access to the subject in question.
"What is the meaning of this?" Sarutobi demanded.
"What do you think?" Naruto said in a muffled voice, due to the mask. Looking around he could see everyone gathered just itching to take his blood, holding back only because they feared he was using Kyuubi's chakra now. That and they were still under orders from two hokages to ensure the boy lived, but some of the Anbu looked willing to risk the hokage's wrath as long as the demon boy suffered their own first.
"Naruto, someone is deceiving you. Trying to turn you against the village you love." Sarutobi said, hoping he could play on Naruto's naivety.
"Nice try old man. But I know better." Naruto said, then did a set of one-handed hand signs. Right then the foxes responded and exhaled an icy mist that made the affected Anbu scream in agony and back away, albeit very slowly, requiring medic nin to assist them.
'What was that? It almost looked like he did a jutsu with one hand, but Naruto would never have the skill for that even if he was trained as long as I did.' Sarutobi thought, then frowned. 'It has to be those foxes. He just gave them a coded signal and they responded, and since they're clearly arctic foxes they know ice jutsu, like Yuki nin.'
Naruto did what looked like a wind jutsu and the icy mist spread to surround him, the foxes, and his three prisoners. In barrier terms it was rather flimsy, anyone could get through it, but those that tried kept screaming and collapsing, acting as if the mist burned to the touch.
"What's going on?" Sarutobi asked.
"I don't know, but my sharingan can't analyze it." Kakashi noted. "Whatever they're doing, they were prepared to baffle my eye."
A member of the Hyuuga came to the hokage. "Hokage-sama, I can see inside, and the demon brat... something's not right about him."
"How so?" Sarutobi asked.
"I think... we're actually dealing with an impostor." The Hyuuga answered.
"An impostor?" Sarutobi asked. "Then where is the real Naruto? And what's he planning?"
"Hokage-sama, the person right here is trying to kill the captives." The Hyuuga reminded the old man. "In fact, they just killed the academy instructor with a kunai to the throat. We must get Lady Yumi out before she is killed."
"Hokage-sama, you must take down that mist field." One of the medics advised. "The mist has frozen all the water in the bodies of the ninja who came in contact with it. Parts of their body are practically solid ice now and will have to be amputated because we don't have Tsunade-sama here to fix it."
"Get whatever wind jutsu users and fire jutsu users we have to neutralize the mist." Sarutobi ordered. 'Naruto, I know you're involved in this, but how, and why?'
Away from the commotion, the real Naruto was with Hinata, checking out the Hyuuga compound to help her steal some secrets. He had dozens, maybe over a hundred clones going through the compounds of the Senju, Uzumaki, and Uchiha at the same time, taking advantage of Konoha's distraction. He and Hinata however had to go to the Hyuuga compound personally, mostly because only Hinata knew where to find what she needed, and unlike the other compounds it wasn't practically deserted.
Sneaking in was easy, thanks to Hinata knowing the escape routes the Hyuuga had in case of emergency. And because there was no emergency yet as far as they knew, no Hyuuga had reason to survey it, so the two went in completely unnoticed. The hard part however would be remaining unnoticed while in the estate itself. Their kitsune invisibility genjutsu only worked if someone wasn't really focused on them to begin with, so if someone was looking for intruders here, odds were they'd see the two in some form.
'You know where to go?' Naruto mouthed to his partner silently, who nodded.
Hinata led them through the halls, not bothering with her byakugan due to the many anti-byakugan seals in the walls to allow a semblance of privacy in the house. 'I wonder if I should check my old room, just to see what they've done to it. Naw, on second thought I probably don't want to know. Just stick to the plan.'
The Hyuuga archive was easy for them to get to, not a lot of Main House Hyuuga did night patrols and the Branch House members who did were outside the house so they couldn't see what was going on inside. Reflecting on this Hinata could only shake her head in disappointment at how her former clan secured itself.
"Alright, what do you need?" Naruto asked when they were inside the archive that contained the written instructions for every maneuver the Hyuuga claimed as their own, as well as information to use against other clans if they ever had to.
"There's no time to sort any out, so let's take them all. Well decide what's worth keeping in Kuo." Hinata said, putting everything off the shelves and dumping it on the floor. Right away Naruto pulled out a scroll and worked on sealing them up as quick as he could.
"You!" Someone said, making them both stop and look at the doorway. There stood Hanabi in her sleepwear, and she looked offended with eyes squarely on Hinata. "So you finally came back."
Hinata had known ever since she left that someday she'd see her little sister again, and odds were it would be anything but a friendly reunion. In Hinata's absence, Hiashi and the elders would surely turn Hanabi against her sister more than they already did, to ensure that if Hanabi ever had the chance to kill her she'd relish the idea instead of avoid it. And Hanabi would eat it all up, since to her Hiashi and the elders were as she once put it, 'smarter than Kami'.
What concerned Hinata the most was how she'd feel when she saw her little sister again. Would she be angry and hateful too, just as willing to kill for one reason or another? Wold she be regretful, wishing she had been able to change the younger girl? Would she even try to reconnect in hopes that some part of Hanabi did want them to be sisters rather than enemies?
But looking at the girl right now, seeing Hanabi once again give her that 'You do not belong in my house' expression she gave Hinata hundreds of times, all Hinata could feel was apathy. As if Hanabi was just a stranger to her.
'That's all she really is.' Hinata grimly told herself. 'She may be my sister by blood, at least before my change, but I know nothing about her. Not that I didn't try though, but now, I'm done trying. She wants to be enemies, then maybe she needs to learn what happens when you have one.'
"Hello Hanabi." Hinata replied in an apathetic tone. "It's past your bedtime young lady."
The result was as intended, Hanabi was too angry to call for reinforcements even though Hinata and Naruto were still sealing away what they came for. "You have no right to be here."
Hinata rolled her eyes. "You've been saying that for years. If you have anything to say then at least stop repeating yourself."
Hanabi clenched her fists. "You've got some nerve speaking to me like that."
"You're the one with nerve." Naruto interjected. "You had a sister who cared about you, tried to be your friend, and what do you do? You ignore everything about her and listen to everyone else."
"You shut up you street urchin scum." Hanabi threatened. "You have no right to judge-" She was cut off by Hinata hitting her with the 64 Palm technique, made worse by Hinata using her kitsune claws to leave more than just chakra damage to the girl. Hanabi was too caught by surprise to properly counter or defend, and ending up collapsed on her back, wincing in pain she was unused to feeling.
Hinata stood over her sister. "You're still a child Hanabi, I can only hope this behavior and attitude you have is one you'll outgrow someday. Rest assured, the next time we meet, if you haven't, I won't give you another chance to prove me wrong."
Hanabi managed to glare. "You think you're better than me? You're not worth my sweat."
"And yet you're the one bleeding." Hinata added.
"We're done." Naruto told her.
Hinata looked at him and nodded, then looked at Hanabi. "Go ahead, tell the others I was here. I want you to. I want you to tell them that the disgrace of the clan managed to sneak in with the village pariah and swipe all their information, and all you did was stand there and take my hits. Go ahead, tell them what you saw and did tonight. See how much your precious elders like you now."
Before Hanabi could get in a last word, Naruto and Hinata disappeared in a puff of smoke but she saw Hinata with a vulpine grin and kissed Naruto on the cheek making him blush. Thus leaving the girl in a now completely empty room.
Back in the village, Haku, the one impersonating Naruto to distract the rest of the village, was getting ready to finish her role. "So, which one of you wants to try and convince me you deserve to live?" While she hated killing, she knew once she took the role in Naruto's plan that it was going to be inevitable. Ultimately, no different than when she had accepted being Zabuza's tool.
"How can you serve that brat?" Yumi asked, numb from the cold of the ice still encasing her and dreading the block of dry ice above her.
"I could ask you why are you against him, but your answer would only piss me off, like how mine would piss you off. So let's not bother with that." Haku said calmly, then looked at her other captive. "You going to say something?"
Tetsuiro, father of Tenten and normally a proud man, looked desperate. "Please, I have a daughter. I'm all she has. If you kill me, you'll be making her an orphan, again."
"How old is she?" Haku asked.
"Around your age. But please, I want to see her grow up and get married, know she'll live a happy life. I know you're not happy about what I did to the boy, but is killing me really the only option?"
"Do you regret what you did to Naruto?" Haku asked.
"Before I answer, tell me what exactly am I being punished for." Tetsuiro requested. "I admit I gave away weapons I knew were going to be used to hurt him, and I admit I encouraged my daughter to avoid him, but is that worth singling me out like this?"
"You don't remember?" Haku asked, sounding disappointed. "Tell me old man, what happened the day you adopted your daughter?"
At that simple question, Tetsuiro realized exactly what he was being judged for.
On the day he had adopted Tenten, she had asked him to adopt Naruto too. She had been his only friend in the orphanage and dreaded the idea of leaving him, but Tetsuiro refused, saying he wouldn't take them both. Naruto had gallantly told Tenten to go without him, saying better that one of them have a home then neither of them do and they wouldn't be apart forever, and reluctantly Tenten agreed.
What the kids didn't know was that separating the two had been exactly what Tetsuiro had wanted. While he loved Tenten now, at first all he was intending to do was take Naruto's one friend away from him and with the Yamanaka help her forget him completely to the point she was unaware she had ever been in the same building as the whiskered blonde. Once his friend was gone, it was much easier to force Naruto out of the orphanage and make him more desperate for the Hokage, and soon he naturally forgot Tenten even without memory manipulation.
Or so they thought.
"So... he never forgot about Tenten?" Tetsuiro asked.
"Not completely, just enough that he only remembered something happened but nothing too specific." Haku answered. "A little prodding with some memory jutsu his benefactor has however helped clear it up. And he was not happy."
"Bah, that boy has no right to be happy to begin with." Yumi commented, only to get some more cracks in the ice holding up the dry ice. Surely one more crack and it would come down on her.
"No one asked you." Haku warned. "Now Higurashi-san, tell me, was it just random chance that the child you wanted to adopt was Naruto's one friend at the time? Or was there a reason you separated the two?"
"I was just following orders. I was in a bad place, I had no friends, no family, and my weapon business was going down. I was told if I took Naruto's one friend away from him my shop and home would never be in financial danger again. I was just trying to keep my own life afloat, and it felt nice having a child to take care of." Tetsuiro pleaded.
Haku did not look pacified. "So you willing took away what little happiness an orphan had all because you felt you didn't have enough happiness of your own?"
"I gave an orphan happiness too." Tetsuiro defended.
"Hardly. You gave her a home but you made her forget him. Was that part of your orders? Make her forget she ever knew him? Was that going to earn you a little extra income?"
"It was for her own good. Had she remembered him she'd be seen as no different than the Hyuuga girl who ran off with the boy." Tetsuiro claimed.
"Where are they by the way? Why aren't they dealing with us themselves?" Yumi asked.
"You haven't figured it out yet? You're not the prize here. You're not what they came back for. You're the smokescreen, the 'abra kadabra', a distraction for what they really intend to do when no one's looking."
Yumi frowned. "I'm just a distraction?"
"Yes. And that very ego that blinds you to that fact is what led you to being here right now while the two you hate rob you blind." Haku told her.
"Whatever they're paying you for this, I'll double it if you release me and expose those brats to the village." Yumi offered.
Haku smirked under her mask, and finally broke the ice around her, causing the dry ice cinderblock to fall on her head and crack her skull. "Hyuuga-san, what gave you the idea that I was being paid for this? Did you ever stop to think maybe I'm doing this because it's right rather than profitable?"
Yumi couldn't answer, screaming from the dry ice burns while fighting off her growing concussion as she laid there on the ground.
Haku looked to Tetsuiro and broke the ice around him too, only in his case the dry ice stayed in place so he was spared. "I'll let you do unharmed this time Higurashi-san, as long as you tell your daughter what you've been hiding from her all this time. And if you don't, we'll know."
Before Tetsuiro could respond, Haku and the white kitsune disappeared, and the icy mist faded.
Sarutobi came in quickly, and the medic nin went right for Yumi. "What happened in here?" Sarutobi asked the weapon seller.
"I think..." Tetsuiro was unsure how to answer. "We've just been giving a warning of what's to come."
"Got everything?" Naruto asked as his clones gathered outside Konoha with him and Hinata.
"Here you go." They said while handing them three scrolls, each containing the written knowledge of the Senju, Uzumaki, and Uchiha. "Everything you need to learn about the rinnegan should be in there somewhere."
"Good, then let's go home." Naruto said, pocketing the scrolls and getting rid of the clones.
"Yes, home." Hinata replied, looking at Konoha as if to say 'which isn't here'.
The two reverse-summoned themselves and reappeared in Kuo, away from their cottage. After both went back to their hanyou forms, Naruto took a hold of Hinata's hands, getting her attention. "You know, I was thinking about that place in Konoha Kaa-san called the Forest of Death. Maybe when things are calmer in Konoha we can go check it out and try some training there, as well as get some more alone time like before."
Hinata smiled. "Naruto-kun, only you would ask a girl out on a date to a place where everything wants to kill her in a town where she's a wanted criminal."
"Is that a no?" He teased.
The white-eyed kitsune hanyou kissed his cheek. "Not even close. I'm looking forward to it."