Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
A/N: I absolutely intend to finish my stories, but at my own pace. Considering the time since the last update this may take a while.
In the Kazekage residence in Suna Kankuro made his way to the room of the 'Ambassador' of the Western Empire. Kankuro shortly knocked on the door before pushing down the handle and trying to open it. But the door was locked. Kankuro knocked.
"Hey great Ambassador, you there!?"
For a short while there was silence. Then Kankuro felt some shift in nearby chakra and he was sure that a sound barrier had just been disabled. Finally he heard the voice of Shikamaru shouting from the other side of the door, who had spent quite a bit of time in Suna in the last few months.
"What is it Kankuro!? I am busy!"
"We found a Leaf shinobi in the desert, possibly deserted from Konoha. He wants to speak to your Empress!"
"I will talk to him tomorrow!"
"It is Neji Hyuuga!"
Kankuro heard Shikamaru curse loudly and mumble apologies. Then he heard the rustling of clothes. After that Shikamaru's voice rang through the door again.
"Where is he!?"
"In the hospital! He is unconscious at the moment after coming into the desert completely unprepared! He was lucky that one of our scouting teams found him in time or he would have died out there!"
Two minutes later the door swung open and Shikamaru stormed out, while straightening his jacket underway. He just ran past Kankuro and down the corridor, presumably making his way towards the hospital as fast as possible. Kankuro looked into the room and grinned at his sister, who was still busy putting her clothes back on.
"Well, were your negotiations successful, Temari?"
"Shut it, Kankuro!"
Temari's look promised pain, so Kankuro quickly made his escape. But on his face was a huge grin as he imagined how well he could tease his sister from now on.
The Empire's most important family sat side by side at the new Ichiraku's Ramen stand. Two members of the family slurped down their ramen greedily, while the other two showed much more dignity. The Uzumakis were celebrating the fact that their two youngest members had managed to perform the henge no jutsu. The transformation jutsu allowed them to eat in peace now and it was going to allow the twins to spend time with other children their age unnoticed in the future.
Naruto finished his third bowl of ramen, Hitomi her second and Hinata and Minato were still occupied with their first bowls.
Suddenly Naruto's eyes went wide and he simply vanished. Hinata blinked. It was definitely unusual for Naruto to teleport away without a word, even if there was an emergency. Unsure what to do Hinata waited and sure enough Naruto reappeared ten minutes later, no longer disguised by a henge. Luckily there were no other customers in the ramen stand.
"Naruto, what is wrong?"
"It is Neji. I just brought him into the hospital. He looks really bad, his face heavily burnt. But Shikamaru said he will be live. Shizune-neesan is with him right now."
"How? Why is Neji-niisan here?"
"I don't know. I'll take you to him immediately."
Hinata nodded and Naruto addressed the twins.
"Hitomi, Minato your parents have to go to the hospital. If you want you can finish your dinner here and our clones will take you back home after that. Maybe you can visit uncle Neji later when he wakes up."
The children nodded and Naruto and Hinata quickly created one clone each. Then Hinata put her arms around him.
"Thanks for the meal Teuchi-san and Ayame-san. Children be good!"
And with that Emperor and Empress vanished.
Hinata spent the next hour at the side of her sleeping cousin, while Naruto went to speak with Shikamaru. A while later he returned, a contemplative look on his face. This didn't go unnoticed by Hinata.
"Shikamaru thinks that Neji ran away from Konoha. Otherwise he would have at least had a team with him. Additionally if this had been an official operation, Neji would have been properly prepared to survive in the desert."
Hinata thought about this for a while and then nodded.
"I think that is the only logical explanation. But for Neji-niisan to do that ... I wonder what happened."
"Yeah, but it also means that his life is in danger. So let me take a look at this."
Naruto removed the Konoha headband from the unconscious Hyuuga and unveiled his Caged Bird Seal.
Naruto had been unable to remove Hinata's seal a few years ago, but since then he had come a long way.
"I am quite sure I can remove this thing in a proper sealing room, given a few hours time."
Hinata nodded. What Naruto was referring to was a room where he could draw seals on the floor and possibly even the walls. These rooms were used when the surface area on a person's skin simply wasn't enough to draw the necessary seals. Hinata knew that for Naruto to estimate several hours of work despite his skills with sealing techniques and shadow clones, this had to be a very complicated procedure.
"But luckily I am quite certain that there is an easier way. I firmly believe that the key to unlock the seal is right here."
"What do you mean?"
"I think with the proper technique an unsealed Hyuuga can release the caged bird seal."
"You mean I can remove it?"
"Well yeah, if we knew the correct hand signs. But I think I can help you circumvent that step."
Naruto produced his sealing equipment and drew a small seal on Neji's forehead, surrounding the caged bird seal.
"Now just push a bit of chakra into the seal."
"Are you sure about this, Naruto?"
Hinata knew that by messing with the seal there was a chance that either the Byakugan was immediately sealed or worse the pain or even death trigger were activated.
"Yes, I am sure."
Hinata verified by looking at him that Naruto wasn't too nervous. She put her hand on Neji's forehead and poured chakra into the seal. Naruto's seal surrounding the Caged Bird Seal glowed shortly before dissolving. A few seconds later the cursed seal started disappearing as well. Neji showed no reaction like pain and by shortly pulling up his eyelids Naruto confirmed that his eyes were undamaged.
After Hinata saw that everything had went well she captured Naruto in a tight hug.
"Thank you for saving him, Naruto."
"Heh, anything for you."
They stayed a bit like that until they heard a quiet moan from behind them.
Tenten entered the council room where almost always one of Naruto's Paths was busy managing his nation. She had just returned from a mission during which she assassinated one of the Empire's lords, who had been planning a coup. After entering the large chamber she made her way towards the the middle of the room and shortly bowed towards the Path who was currently in charge.
"I have accomplished my mission and would like to give a full report."
"That can wait. I have a new mission for you and you have to take care of immediately. Please inform my friend Tenten that her former teammate Neji has defected from the Leaf and is now in our care."
Tenten stared at him in disbelief.
"He is stationed in our central hospital and still unconscious, but Shizune thinks he will wake up soon. Please bring Tenten this information as fast as possible."
"O - Of course! Right away!"
The young Anbu Captain actually ran towards the exit of the room, forgetting her usually calm and dignified demeanor while being in her Dragon persona. The Path looked after her with an amused smile.
It took one more hour for Neji to fully wake up. Meanwhile all members of the former Konoha twelve, who were now living in the Empire, had gathered in the hospital. Everyone was happy to see Neji again. In addition to his cousin Hinata, his former teammate Tenten was especially moved. After Neji was feeling well enough he told his story to the whole group. Hinata grabbed on to Naruto for support as she heard how her sisters' plans and hopes had been crushed by her father. Then Neji told them how he had escaped the compound after Hanabi had been taken down and that luckily nobody noticed him missing due to the confusion and the huge amount of dead branch family members. He lowered his head in shame, looking depressed. Tenten was sitting on his bed and she put her hand on his shoulders to support him.
"I am sorry Hinata-sama. I failed to protect both you and your sister."
"What? No way this was your fault Neji! This was all because of that asshole..." ... Hiashi. Naruto stopped himself before ending that sentence and glanced at his wife. Even though Hinata hadn't been overly fond of the man, he was still her father.
"Naruto you don't need worry about hurting my feelings in this case. That man is no longer my father and he will pay for this."
There was some approving murmurs from the group, but the mood remained grim.
"Well at least we managed to get rid of your Caged Bird Seal."
Naruto grinned at the others. With that elephant out of the room everyone relaxed a bit and Tenten hugged Neji, happy that he would be fine. After the commotion died down, Shizune threw them out of Neji's room to allow him to rest some more. Naruto had a few short conversations with some of his friends. When he noticed Hinata was nowhere nearby he went to find her. After a few minutes he found her alone in a room close to Neji's, just staring out of the window. Naruto approached her and put one arm on her shoulder from behind.
"You want to save your sister, right?"
Hinata just nodded.
"I'll get Shikamaru and we will figure something out. Don't worry, we will get your sister out of there."
The young Emperor let go of Hinata and was about to go and fetch their best strategist when she stopped him by grabbing his hand.
"Naruto we both know that preparing something like this takes time: weeks or months of planning and scouting. I am afraid of what they will do to her in that time. They might even execute her, because they need someone to take the blame for the massacre. And what about our invasion plans?"
Hinata took a deep breath.
"Maybe we can act faster somehow?"
She looked at him with pleading eyes.
"Wait! Are you asking me to just go with you to Konoha, break into the village and get your sister out of there?"
Hinata froze. Only now she realized what her request entailed. Going unprepared to Konoha was a complete suicide mission and she and Naruto would have to take part in it to give it any chance of success.
"Sounds like a great plan! They won't even know what hit them!"
"I - ... Naruto we can not do this."
"If both of us go to Konoha there is a good chance that we do not make it back. We can not risk Hitomi and Minato having to grow up without their parents. And what about your nation? I'm sorry I brought this up."
Naruto stared at Hinata and he could practically see how things would turn out. Konoha would hold on to Hanabi either as an important hostage or the one guilty for the Hyuuga massacre. And once they tried to attack the village or free Hanabi, she would simply die. Hinata would put up a brave face and pretend she was alright, but it would take a long time until she really was her old self again, if ever. This was the most logical outcome of the situation, it was fate, and Naruto despised it.
Naruto put his arms around her again.
"Hinata, I think this time you have to be selfish and risk everything or you will forever regret that you didn't try to save your sister. And I swore to always be by your side, so I am coming with you, of course."
"Naruto I still don't think we should do that. I think I can somehow bear with this, but not with abandoning our children."
Naruto contemplated this, grabbed Hinata's hand and dragged her into the room, where he knew their children were waiting. He signalled the two shadow clones watching over them to leave and addressed his daughter.
"Hey Hitomi. What would you do if some evil people took away your brother?"
Hitomi thought about this for only a second and put on a determined face.
"I would kick their butts and free him of course!"
"And what would you do Minato, if someone kidnapped your sister?"
"See Hinata, our children think we should do this."
"Naruto! That's not the same!"
"Shush love, it is exactly the same."
Then Naruto addressed his children.
"Mom and dad have to go and save your mother's little sister."
Hinata stared at him, while Naruto quickly gave both his children a hug. Then Hinata shook herself out of her stupor and kissed the forehead of each of her children.
"We will come back. I promise!"
Naruto nodded towards her.
"We will have to dispel our shadow clones and Paths eventually to make this work, but don't worry. We will be back in a day or two and then you can get to know your aunt Hanabi."
His two children nodded and Hinata bonked him on the head playfully. Then Naruto called their shadow clones back in to look after their children, grabbed on to Hinata and teleported them away.
Naruto and Hinata appeared in a large room located in the basement of the imperial palace. It was an armory, filled to the brim with weapons, armor and other combat gear.
"Should we take anyone else with us?"
Hinata shook her head.
"No, they would slow us down and you can easily get one additional person to safety with your Hiraishin, but not two."
"Alright. Then let's grab the best armor and all the weapons we need."
They rummaged through the supplies in the armory and both began to change out of their normal gear into sturdy battle armor.
"Feels a bit nostalgic, just like going on a mission."
"I feel like Kurenai-sensei is going to scold me, because I am not following orders."
"Heh! It's not like anyone could order you around now. But to be honest, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near Shikamaru when he learns about this."
"Once we are away one of your shadow clones should inform him about the situation. He needs to come up with an explanation why there won't be any of your Paths and clones running around for a while."
"Oh yeah, wouldn't want to cause a panic. But what could we tell the public?"
"Maybe a training incident? You completely over exhausting yourself? It may be slightly detrimental for your reputation, but I don't think anyone would it believe to be used as a cover up story."
"Heh. That does sound believable."
After they had both helped each put on their armor and then gathered their respective gear, they met back in the center of the room.
"Are we really doing the right thing, Naruto?"
"Well you did promise our children that we will be back. So there is no problem."
Hinata's facial expression changed from confusion into a small smile and then into determination.
"Because we always keep our promises. You are right!"
Naruto grinned at her.
"Of course I am! Ready?"
Hinata nodded and grabbed on to Naruto. The young Emperor teleported them to the teleportation seal in the city and from there to a hidden seal in Suna territory, next to the border of Fire Country.