Month One

Initially, Hibiki hadn't really thought much about the techniques he'd been barred from using by Dante. Logically, Dante putting the hammer down on them made sense considering the context for the punishment - Hibiki frequently flew in the face of laws that, were anyone else to break, the best they could hope for would be getting arrested and interrogated, and being declared a missing-nin and being given a death warrant at worst. Hibiki was willing to bet that a lot of the arguments for him had relied upon the fact that he usually kept a clone or two in the village, but that still didn't eliminate the fact that he still left, and left frequently - and the Hiraishin, Shadow Clone technique, and Swift blood, were all his main and best tools with which to do so.

The problem was that he'd had all of those for so much longer than he hadn't - to the point where he was pretty sure he'd had the shadow clone technique for the majority of his second life! Using them for any reason had become something of an instinct, a matter of course, for the Senju. Being several places at once, getting several things done at the same time, getting tasks done so fast that a ten hour task could be finished in the time it took to blink, cutting down on transit times to his most frequented stomping grounds by teleporting there, these were skill he'd had for so long that, to be deprived of them wholesale, it felt like Hibiki had just run into a brick wall. As much as the world was still moving as fast as it always did, after a few days of his confinement to the village, Hibiki found he felt as though he were slow - like everyone else was moving freely, and he was weighed down by eighteen tons of concrete. His days passed by in the blink of an eye, and he found how little he got done now than in comparison to when he wasn't restricted, he chafed under it and felt as though he were failing something too abstract to pin down. A lifetime of being able to split himself off into as many copies of himself as he wanted, for these copies to be able to act at relativistic speeds, had left him so used to it that he'd actually managed to forget what it was like not to have that skill.

It was bizarre, and of course Dai caught on immediately. She noticed the barely perceptible edge that had settled upon him, the twitch and then noticeable restraint whenever he would instinctually push chakra to activate his Swift bloodline, or get halfway to a handsign for the shadow clone technique, before he had to catch and stop himself. To her credit, she knew it wasn't the best idea to constantly give him flak about it, but being who she was and their dynamic being what it was, she still let him know he'd almost gotten himself placed in prison about as often as she didn't.

Unfortunately, the first few days were the easiest - but it was after day five, when Gai came by and mentioned he'd missed training, that Hibiki had had his epiphany, and after that the realizations of how limited he was now, and had been in a life previous, just kept piling on. Hibiki felt he'd adapted quickly enough, settling into a schedule he thought could keep him occupied for the next six months - the earliest hours of the morning he spent with Gai before assigning him something to keep him occupied for the rest of the day, while Hibiki spent the next few hours after that either on himself or with his team, depending on what they wanted to get done, with the former case being an interesting exercise in re-learning how to train alone, now that he didn't have clones to beat himself senseless with.

Lunch was typically spent with Dai, as she was taking her 'minimum exercise' order to heart, not even physically participating in training her Genin unless it was absolutely necessary, and that meant that usually after lunch she'd unleash him on them with their orders simply being to not be found by him. It took Hibiki three days before he realized the sneaky, sneaky woman had managed to pull the rug over him - and was simultaneously training him in conducting some of his usual tasks, but without his most trusted tools.

The afternoon hours were spent filling in shifts at the hospital, which had the unintended side effect of filling him with a wave of nostalgia after a while and he'd gotten used to it - before now the clones he would assign to hospital duty had just been a single, small part of several other gigantic dosages of information coming in at once, but without that, with it suddenly filling every inch of his life and his mind, it reminded him of Back Home, when he would do the same as a second job.

The hospital would typically keep him occupied until sundown, at which point he would return home and lead a remarkably civilian nightlife - mainly just staying home, unwinding, and talking to Dai. The only variables in this came after the second week when his usual contacts realized how comparatively quiet he'd been, learned of his situation, and began leaving notes and letters at his apartment whenever they wanted or needed to see him.

This schedule worked well enough, but after three weeks, Hibiki realized something damning:

He was bored.

Getting so little done every day - having so little time to devote to the many and varied projects he'd picked up and put down over the years - had left him feeling bored of it all - and of course, the entire village, whether they knew it or not, had learned to worry when Hibiki Senju became bored. He wouldn't survive six months like this - he needed something to do that could pique his interest, but wouldn't require his customary five or six minds on the problem.

His initial idea had been to speak with Minato about that ninjutsu he'd somehow managed to pass onto Hibiki during the tournament, but that had been shot down immediately when Kushina explained that Minato was gone - he was conducting Kakashi's Jonin exam and he'd be missing for some time yet. That would have sent Hibiki scrambling for something else, some other project, to relieve his boredom - until he realized he was staring it in the face, and promptly found some time to speak with Dante about her father and uncle.

Dante, however, seemed not only to have been aware Hibiki would come speak to him about this, but also had been actively looking forward to it, given the grin he didn't even bother to hide when he told Hibiki that this particular issue was being dealt with between Village Heads, and then smugly assured Hibiki not to worry, he'd be brought in when everything was done and ready.

With Minato out and Kushina's relatives being handled on their own, and with Hoshigakure not even available to even begin for six months, Hibiki then settled on the only one remaining - Emi Miu.

Hers would be a difficult case, and especially without many minds on the problem, would occupy him long enough for something else to come up. Fortunately for the Senju who was currently suffering for the amount of lies and poor decisions he'd been caught in, she had been a part of Hibiki's report to Dante about the tournament, and while he couldn't tell how Dante felt about it due to the cold fury he was hiding behind at the time, the fact that Dante hadn't said no or tried to kill him when he explained how he'd managed to win his fight against the shinobi who was going for death-or-glory against him gave Hibiki at least a little confidence. He was willing to chalk it up to Dante having been trained over the years of wearing the hat to think politically, and realizing that giving Emi back to the rebuilding Rock village would go a long ways towards easing the tensions between the two - and also towards cleaning Konoha's image up towards the other villages, when it eventually became semi-public knowledge that when given the chance to stockpile a bijuu in secret, the village had instead chosen to give it back in good faith.

But that Hibiki had been saddled with planning the entire ordeal, including security, had probably been a sign of Dante's annoyance with him. Regardless, Hibiki at least had an advantage in one area - finding a neutral grounds would prove to be incredibly easy. Even if Teague was going to be operating somewhat in the blind for the next few months, when the time finally came for Hibiki to execute these plans, he was guaranteed an affirmative when he asked Teague if the Land of Rain could be used as a neutral exchange grounds.

Convincing Dante of this was the key - he had no idea about Hibiki and Teague's connection, so in his eyes, Hibiki was asking a favor of the man who had already gone out on a limb for their village by not having the entire world and his alliance come down on him like an asteroid. It took some time, but near the end of his first month of confinement, Hibiki was able to come up with a trade that Dante would be willing to approach Teague with - as far as Rain was advancing thanks to their access to Snow's technology and science industries, what they still lacked in was in high medicine, so Hibiki was able to solve two problems with one solution: He could return Emi Miu to her homeland and get Rain access to more complex and effective medicine, by offering the latter as a bargain for allowing them to trade the former. Dante was slightly resistant to the idea until Hibiki reminded him that Teague appeared to pride himself on knowledge for knowledge's sake - giving them access to some of Tsunade Senju's findings in the medical field, for such little an exchange as being allowed to use his lands for what equated to a prisoner exchange, would practically enthrall the man.

Everything after that was logistics - which Dante gleefully cited that Hibiki could handle, what with all of his newfound free time.

Tedious as it was, it did keep him occupied.

For a while.

Month Three

Hibiki's first project was a lot of start-and-stop from the word 'go,' due to previous commitments and developments that occurred during those weeks of planning. Halfway through the second month of his confinement was when the official ceasefire notice was sent out to the Shinobi Villages around the world, and was similarly when Konoha's forces made their triumphant return. It was no everybody-dancing-in-the-streets like after the end of the Old World's Second World War, but there was still celebrations to be had, a speech from Dante, official news releases explaining how the war had ended - omitting the Konoha trio's fuckups, of course - and introducing the people of the Leaf to Ame, Tetsu, and Yuki. Hibiki found his time filled more by the hospital during the first two weeks after the end of the Third Shinobi World War, as he was drafted by Tsunade to track down the vast number of shinobi who had accrued injuries during their deployments and had let basic first aid be the first and last authority on the matter.

Then there was Dai, who had clung onto the 'nausea and vomiting will pass' like a life raft, and was increasingly ready to murder her obstetrician the more time passed and the more it seemed she'd drawn the short stick in that regard. Additionally, despite a lifetime of work on her stamina as befitting her job, and despite often having gone days - once even more than a week - without sleep and being fine, she'd found herself completely sapped of energy pretty early on, and difficulty sleeping didn't help her at all, necessitating a lot of Hibiki's hours not dedicated to the hospital to instead be given to her as he did his best to help her, with the end results being he often would only get thirty minutes to an hour each day on the logistics for the Emi Exchange.

He would never forget the glee on her face when she realized she was showing near the end of his second month of confinement. Even accounting for how much more open she was with her emotions around him than around anyone else, seeing her entire face light up when she ran her hands over her stomach was something that had caught him off guard just enough to always be notable. Related to this was the people Dai had begun to surround herself with as the weeks grew on - as she wasn't the only one who had become pregnant. Tsume, as they knew, had as well, but during one of her visits to their home, she let the Senju matron in on the fact that she herself had learned during one of her meetings with the other Clan Heads that, in particular, Mikoto Uchiha had as well, in addition to Arjuna Kaguya's wife, and after suppressing a heart attack at the realization that Hibiki couldn't remember having gone to a single one of the meetings Tsume had mentioned, he - after being none-too-subtly suggested to do so by the two women - had offered up his home to what Tsume was calling her 'Pregnancy club.' Soon after, the four women - alongside Kushina the absolute second she'd realized that her extended families were getting ready to grow, that they were meeting frequently, and the only one among them not pregnant was Hibiki - populated Hibiki and Dai's apartment once every week or two, during which Hibiki was pretty sure he'd found where Dai got a lot of her information in the village - because those women could talk. It didn't matter what about, between the five of them they seemed to either know, or be able to find out, anything, and once they'd run the topics of pregnancy dry, that had been where they'd settled.

When his confinement was just about half over was when he'd finished his plans for the exchange - with an extra day or two being spent on alterations Dante requested, that Hibiki suspected were half genuine and half Dante having fun at Hibiki's expense, as Hibiki didn't see the point in why he had to move the position of one of the Anbu one foot to the North, or why he had to modify every single document and scroll to reflect this change, but he also wasn't an Anbu, so he figured there had to be some reasoning behind it beyond 'Hibiki's in trouble and he can't say no.'

Once that was finished, Dante took some small pity on him and let him in on an update regarding Ame's Uzumaki - they'd settled on the method of confirming their claims of lineage, and there was an exchange occurring soon under Anbu supervision, in which Konoha's Anbu would ferry a sample of Kushina's blood to Ame for their doctors to perform a paternity test on Had. They should have results in another week or two.

Before Hibiki could despair too much about a suddenly vacant schedule however, a new patient had come to meet him in the hospital - Minato. Kakashi had managed to give the Yellow Flash the business during their test, but Tsunade confided that everything Minato had gotten, Kakashi had gotten just as bad, and they both looked like they'd been through a war. More than one of Minato's bones had been dislocated and re-set, several had been broken, and though he refused to divulge how somehow the Namikaze had managed to shatter his pelvis - though in exchange, Kakashi had had a good percentage of his ribs broken, was suffering from a surprising number of chakra burns, and they both were exhausted and covered in more bruises than they were unmarred flash.

It was, in Minato's word, "A good test!", and like that Konoha had a new Jonin.

And from there, Hibiki found himself with his new project - Minato wanted to wind down from the marathon of testing all of Kakashi's skills, and figured finally getting around to explaining what had happened at the end of Hibiki and Ay's fight would be a good way to do it, so once he'd been medically cleared, Hibiki and Minato found themselves a training ground, where the latter showed the former what exactly it was he'd given to Hibiki to use against the Jinchuriki.

"It's not... Well, done, yet." He said, holding out his hand in front of him, palm to the sky, "I want to figure out how to add nature elements to it, but I've got to do that after I get used to actually using it." And as he spoke, chakra began to flow in his hand, rotating faster and faster, growing in density until it finally formed a sphere half again as big as a softball, hovering just above Minato's palm. "I call it the Rasengan!" He said, holding it up for the Senju to examine.

Hibiki gave Minato a snide grin as he leaned closer to it, "Spiraling Sphere." He deadpanned, "okay, Minato."

"Oh, and Turtle Destruction Wave is better?" Minato shot back, "what does it even have to do with a turtle? It's a bijuu-dama!" He said, though unable to look or even sound as harsh as he was trying to, with the grin audible in his words and visible on his face. "Just call it that!"

Hibiki blinked, and took the bait, "wait, you're kidding." He said, flipping on his Sharingan and examining the chakra ball closer. "Holy shit, Minato!" And it was - this thing in Minato's hand wasn't just structurally similar to Hibiki's knock-off bijuu-dama, it was superior - closer to the real thing than Hibiki's was! "How the hell do you keep it from exploding on you?" Almost fifteen years with his own replica and he'd never once figured out how to stabilize and contain it as well as Minato was doing here. "And - wait -" He straightened back up, a look of revelation dawning on his face. "I smacked Bee with a bomb!" His hands went to his hair, eyes wide as he realized what he'd done.

"Oh - oh, no, you used it the right way." Minato said, turning to a training log and demonstrating - slamming the blue sphere of rotating chakra into the stump, and practically disintegrating it for the few seconds before it exploded. "I haven't found a way to make it ranged like you did." He said, "and I only really got it to work with the, uh -" He twisted one of his fingers, "- the spinning. If I don't do that, it can't even start. I tried doing what you did for a while - just putting a lot of chakra in an enclosed space - but mine isn't dense enough to get it to work... So I added shape transformation to it, and that was when I started making real progress!"

Hibiki was more focused on the fact that the madman had made a bomb into a melee weapon, and he said as much, causing Minato to laugh, and shrug.

"That's where I think the nature elements come in... That might be able to do what the technique can't on its own." He said, "my affinity is more towards wind, so that's where I'll start, but I think lightning or fire might be a bit more successful in getting the blast wave you and the Jinchuriki do."

"Oh, yeah - let's charge a bomb with lightning." Hibiki scoffed, shaking his head. "I'm not sure what good adding wind chakra will do to something like this, Minato, kind of sounds like a dead end."

Minato didn't even disagree, nodding to the side and saying, "probably, but getting that to work will give me experience in getting other elements to work - here, you try!" He said, forming another one and then holding his hand out to Hibiki. "Once you get it up and running it's self sustaining - that's how I can hand them off like I do!"

Interest piqued, Hibiki held out his own hand, and Minato slid the Rasengan into it. Hibiki examined it for a moment, able to physically feel the chakra and its blisteringly fast rotations. He bobbed his hand up and down, trying to experimentally toss it in the air like a baseball, but finding it glued to that area just above his palm.

"Yeah..." Minato dug his hand into his spiky blonde hair, sheepishly itching at his scalp. "I've tried throwing it, it never worked."

"I'm curious as to what happens if you pump the brakes once you get it going." Hibiki said, looking up to Minato when he realized that particular phrase had no meaning to him. "Have you ever tried to stop the -" And as he spoke, he got a little ahead of himself and put his thoughts to action - pushing his own chakra into the sphere and trying to get it to stop spinning.

The result was he was interrupted by a wave of violently raging chakra slamming into his face, ripping into it, shredding the flesh and flaying the muscle from the bone, scorching it and cauterizing what wasn't torn away entirely. This assault from the translucent blue beam of chakra lasted for three seconds before the energy faded away and Hibiki, now blind thanks to his eyes having been either damaged or burned away, fell over backwards.

A second later, he felt a finger poke his chest, and through loud ringing, barely heard Minato say, "Hibiki, are you okay?" In a tone that was half concern, half barely-contained panic.

Hibiki tried to say 'yes,' but the damage to his head had been extensive enough that little but a raw groan could escape his throat. Minato was then forced to watch as the scorched skull, surrounded by damaged and burned flesh, was subjected to the healing abilities of the rest of its body. Muscles and tendons slowly slithered their way across the bones, his eyes began to fill themselves back in, and the raw red of deep muscle began to expand and grow until it turned to the pink of subdermal skin, and then to the tan of the epidermis, before finally bringing back the more recognizable, and less internal, image of Hibiki, whose first act once the process had progressed far enough was to rub his face vigorously.

"Oh... God that stings." He groaned, blinking the blurriness out of his vision, seeing a concerned-looking Minato stand up and offer a hand, and accepting it as his hair and eyebrows began filling back in. "Fuck, Minato!" He half-coughed, half-laughed, once he got back to his feet.

"What did you do!?" Minato finally let the dam break when he confirmed his friend was okay.

"You mean you seriously haven't tried to stop it from spinning?" Hibiki asked, taking a look at the hand that had been holding it, and then running it over his face again, parts of which still prickled.

"No! Why would I?!" Minato laughed, running his hand through his hair and taking a few steps away from Hibiki, "it never even occurred to me! Once I couldn't throw it, I just thought I'd have to hit people with it until I could add nature elements!" He held up his hand, formed another one, and then held the hand out in front of him, pointing it at the remaining training logs, before doing as Hibiki had done - pushing in enough extra chakra in on its surface, to disrupt the entire reaction and effectively hitting the brakes. Then, just as Hibiki's hands and fingers acted as a cage and a guide to focus the Kamehameha outwards, Minato's own hand did the same for his halted Rasengan - forcing the blast out forward instead of just exploding all around him and hurting him in the process.

Both of the training logs were destroyed, and a small fissure was left in the ground behind them for several meters before the chakra faded away.

"Whoa!" Minato looked back to Hibiki, blue eyes wide as, no doubt, as many ideas were flowing through his head as were Hibiki's.

Hibiki nodded to the side, "it makes sense, if you think about it..." He said, "you're recreating the same process the Jinchuriki, Bijuu, and I use to effect a Bijuu-dama." A beat, "hell, Katsuo was probably doing something similar, only trapping the chakra behind his eyelids. You just stopped a step short of actually letting it all out... So when you hit someone -"

"Those few seconds I spend shredding them are just the sphere bleeding its speed off!" Minato said, taking a step back and looking up at the sky, staring off into space. "When enough of it's gone, then all of the energy is released! It was right there the whole time!" He laughed, clapping his hands. "Hey - you try!"

Hibiki blinked, "huh?"

"Make yours, then see if you can't stabilize it!" Minato said, a manic grin on his face.

Hibiki hesitated a moment, then shrugged, "alright... But take a couple steps back. You're using -" He indicated the aftermath of Minato's two uses of it, "- a moderate amount of chakra and shape transformation to achieve the effect... I just dump an obscene amount into as small an area as I can until I can't contain it anymore. I can survive the aftermath just fine, but you don't heal like I do."

Minato's response was to vanish in a yellow flash, and then reappear a second later, "Shadow clone! Now let's go!"

Well he couldn't argue with that, lucky bastard.

Still, as an added layer of safety, for both himself, and the area around him, Hibiki trapped himself in the Susanoo's ribcage, and then rendered himself - and equally as important, his fuinjutsu-lined clothes - effectively invulnerable with the Lightning Cloak.

Hibiki then set himself up and initiated his Kamehameha, going through the motions - cupping his hands together, pouring his chakra into the cage made by his fingers, and increasing the density as high as it could until it hit critical mass. Then, instead of letting it rip, Hibiki slowly dragged his hands in front of his chest so he could get a clear look at whatever it was he was about to do. He knew the basic premise of shape transformation - every shinobi did - but he'd never tried it on this scale before. With no better idea in mind, he just added another flow of chakra to the edges of the sphere of light in his hands, pushing this new flow around the edges of the sphere like one would a ladle in a pot of water - and just like a pot of water, eventually this got the sphere to spin.

It also, however, flattened out, becoming closer to a disk than a sphere - and it became much more violent in his hands as a result. Hibiki's arms began shaking from the effort needed to continue to keep it contained.

Minato's, "no, no - a sphere! A ball!" Didn't help, and Hibiki could feel things falling apart - the gigantic explosive ball of chakra in his hands was destabilizing, spilling and lashing out from in between his fingers, carving into his chest, cutting apart the dirt at his feet, spiking out into the sky, Hibiki had to absorb the chakra back into him with the twin diamonds on his hand before things got out of hand and it blew up.

Shaking his suddenly sore arms, and feeling a cold sweat on his hairline, Hibiki gasped, "whew!" And shook his head, letting the Susanoo and the Lightning cloak fade away, "if I'd let go of that..." He shook his head, "holy shit." His heart thudded against his chest as he felt the new wound stitch together. "How'd you do that?" He looked at Minato quizzically.

"Well..." Minato shrugged, "I went through a lot of shadow clones at more than one point." He said, tapping his chin in thought. "New idea - give me your hand, the one with the dark release on it." Hibiki did so, and Minato created another spiraling sphere, "Okay, now absorb it!" He said, pressing it into Hibiki's palm.

Hibiki did so, and realized where Minato was going with this. When the entire Rasengan vanished, Minato looked up from Hibiki's hands to his eyes, "well?"

Eyes shut and face set in a concentrated frown, Hibiki closed his palm, never having used this particular bloodline as anything but a means of stealing chakra and refilling his reserves. Kenichi's notes said it was supposed to be able to replicate techniques, but the exact how of it was beyond him and Hibiki - who wasn't sure if it ever had in the first place, considering how often he used his Sharingan, he'd always chalked up ninjutsu replication to that.

"Do it again." He said, "I have an idea." He'd more than once wondered if he could use his Rinha blood alongside this bloodline as a means of absorbing only the data he considered necessary - in this case, the technique and its proper usage - but had never had a chance to try it out. Deciding now was as good a time as any, he accepted another Rasengan from Minato, and once Minato let go of it, Hibiki called on both bloodlines - absorbing the chakra with the dark release, and sampling it with the Rinha blood.

That showed him the money. Like a computer downloading a new file, Hibiki could physically feel this new data flowing into his mind, but without any extraneous data - like the life and times of Minato Namikaze. It still felt shaky, but he now had an operable knowledge of his Rasengan - enough to pull one of his own from his own chakra once the first vanished.

Minato threw his hands in the air, "alright!" And vanished into smoke, before immediately being replaced by a yellow flash, and the reappearance of the Alpha Minato. "Now we're getting somewhere! I thought you'd just absorb it through the Dark Release - I've seen that done before."

Hibiki blinked, and let his sphere of chakra fade away as he gave Minato a quizzical look, "you ran into a dark-user?"

Minato nodded his head, "on a mission with my team, a year or two back. Ended up winning when I realized that she could copy my Hiraishin all she wanted - but that didn't give her access to my anchors. So I threw a kunai into the sky, teleported up to it, and then another and another, then I teleported her up to that one, and dropped her." He said, matter-of-factly.

Hibiki snorted, impressed, but letting that one go. "So she replicated techniques with it? Wholesale?"

Minato nodded, "Kakashi had something he's been working on ever since he decided it was too difficult to work on this, and he tried it on her - she took it, and then a lot of Obito's chakra, to try and use it on me."

"You lead a colorful life, Minato." Said Hibiki, creating another Rasengan, trying to call to mind the words to describe the feeling of creating this technique not from scratch or even from memory, but from the data mined from the bloodlines.

"Says the guy who's already died." Minato punched Hibiki in the shoulder.

Hibiki nodded, eying the blue sphere, "says the guy who died." He murmured.

Hibiki didn't have as much time as he would have liked to spend on the Rasengan - though with what came next, he obviously wasn't saying this like it was a bad thing. He realized he knew exactly how to describe the process of creating the Rasengan he'd taken from Minato - he wasn't building it from scratch and with an intimate understanding, like Minato, but rather he was copy/pasting exactly what Minato had given him, exactly as it had been given him. This was a computer, or a cell phone, to him - he didn't know the exact inner workings and 'how' of what it did, only what he needed to do to gain the desired effects. Every single Rasengan he made from this method would be exactly the same - a perfect one-to-one replica of the one given to him in that moment by Minato. While this wasn't a bad thing, what this meant was that he only had access to the technique - he didn't understand how it worked, how to replicate it for himself, how to change, modify, or add his own flair to it.

So, ever the scientist with his interest stolen, Hibiki got to work reverse-engineering it, and after picking Minato's brain and comparing it to the one he could make, he realized the process was simple on paper, but difficult in execution. It worked on three basic principles - shape transformation, supplying the power, and then containing it. For Hibiki's Kamehameha, he found that in comparison to the Rasengan, he'd functionally avoided the first and last step and instead focused solely on the second. Hibiki avoided the shape transformation by cupping his hands, and contained it by trapping it in between his fingers, and while this was good for his own version of the bijuu-dama, to recreate Minato's, it came up lacking by a mile.

Hibiki's advantage was that despite their differences, they were structurally similar - with the Rasengan arguably being a more refined, elegant version of Hibiki's technique, and possibly only lacking the extreme density of chakra that made it a step down from a full-fledged bijuu-dama. In the pecking order, Hibiki's, despite its raw power, was at the bottom, and in order to refine his and in so doing effect the Rasengan for himself, he was basically forced to learn how to ride a bike again. He'd been doing this one way for most of his life, and now had to learn a different way entirely, and worse was that there was no avoiding it - after blowing himself up several times, he determined that the only way to figure it out was to start from the ground up, and that process was what absorbed the time freed up by the conclusion of the planning of the Emi Exchange.

He barely made any progress at all before he had to shelve it - he was only just beginning to grasp the surprisingly advanced shape transformation by means of again using his hands and fingers as a cage to keep his chakra contained, and then trying like mad to get it to rotate in a dozen different directions at once. By using his own method as a crutch, Hibiki's hope was that he could replicate it piecemeal and then put it together, but he had to put it away when he was called by Dante when he passed the midway point of his confinement.

Month Four

Arriving in Dante's office, Hibiki saw red hair.

He saw a lot of red hair.

Had and Po had come, and made it into the village, without him even knowing - but given that they all were here and not with Kushina, and the fact that his eardrums weren't bleeding, he was pretty sure they had just arrived, and had been sent here straight away. After brief, warm greetings from the two Uzumaki, Dante confirmed as much, and explained to Hibiki that the DNA tests performed on the two had been verified by Konoha's own medics in addition to Teague's - and they were legitimate. These two weren't just Uzumaki, but they indeed had direct, blood relation to Kushina. Per Dante and Teague's plans, to ensure no one could possibly trace the two to her and make the connection, they had travelled from Ame to Konoha under false identities, altered appearances, and had even, with Dante's sanction, signed into Konoha under these identities and appearances - and whenever they were in public, they would be moving under this false pretense, only ever letting their heritage show behind closed doors and to those either Hibiki or Dante trusted with the information.

And Hibiki was the one being charged with security during their time here - both in keeping them safe, and in keeping the village safe from them, if it became necessary. This was Hibiki's idea, so he was going to be the one to deal with it - at least until they met Kushina, who would be their final test. Dante had made sure that Kushina was in the village and not away on a mission when her father and uncle had arrived, and he knew exactly where she was to boot - Hibiki's apartment.

Oh... There's going to be more tears than just Kushina's. Hibiki realized, suppressing a groan and nodding to his Kage. Dai and the others were right in the middle of the hormonal changes in their pregnancies - he had absolutely no idea whether or not she or the others would keep it together or would break down at the sight of this, and with no time to warn them, all Hibiki could do was prepare himself to go deaf, and make sure the others present knew that they couldn't be spreading around what they were about to see.

His only request to Dante was to send a runner to Minato, such that he could get moving to Hibiki's apartment and, if not see the reunion himself, at least be there with Kushina for the night. Once that was granted to him, Hibiki took the two disguised Uzumaki through Konoha. He learned from Had that this hadn't been his first time here - rather he and Hana had been here once before, when Kushina had been selected to come here, so they could see the place for themselves. Had admitted that he'd forgotten how quaint the place was, and that he liked the warmth and dryness of the air in comparison to Ame, and the lack of salt in the air in comparison to Uzu.

Hibiki walked them through the village - both because they couldn't take the rooftops, and to give Minato time to get there ahead of him. When he made it to his apartment building, he had arrived just as Minato had made it - the Namikaze not even dressed in his usual attire, appearing as though he'd been dead asleep, and had thrown on the first shirt and pair of pants that he could find to make it here as fast as he could. He hadn't even thrown on shoes, leaving Hibiki chuckling mirthlessly at his appearance - at least he'd already made his first impression on the two.

"They let you in!" He gasped, shaking the disguised Uzumaki's hands, "oh Kami she's - she'll -"

"How about instead of predicting it, we go in blind?" Hibiki suggested, giving Minato a slight nudge in the direction of the stairwell.

He noticed, with every step he took, that Had and Po grew quieter and quieter, until they were deathly silent at the threshold to Hibiki's apartment. A look behind him showed that Had's hand was over his chest, his lips and eyes quivering, and Po's large hand was over his brother-in-law's shoulder, his entire beard twitching from the effort of keeping his emotions in check, trying to stay ahead of the anticipation of what was to come.

Luck was slightly on his side, in the sense that he could only hear two voices inside - Dai's and Kushina's. Either she was there of her own accord today, or the others hadn't arrived yet, and after noticing that Dai's voice had gone quiet, Hibiki nodded his head to the side, muttered, "showtime." And opened the door.

Inside, spread out on his couch and the chairs in his living room, he saw Dai, who immediately noticed the company Hibiki had and raised an eyebrow, one instant asking herself who these people were, the next instant asking him if he was seriously going to raise their apartment's occupancy that much if she was expecting company, and then in the next after that, seeing Minato and putting the pieces together. Kushina was in their kitchen, turning around with a full tea kettle.

"Whoa, you came back?!" She called out, "as in, on your own? You're putting yourself through this because you want to?!" She laughed, a vicious grin on her face and the tips of her hair twitching, as though reminding Hibiki how bad of an idea it could be to surround himself with four women not even halfway through their pregnancies.

"I'll have you know I've only missed one of your little people-popping-parties, thank you!" Hibiki sniped back, stepping inside, "besides, I brought some friends of my own."

"Minato what are you wearing?!" Kushina called out, the only thing appearing to keep her from rushing her husband being the kettle of boiling water in her hands. "Did you just wake up?!" She laughed again and approached the coffee table, setting the tea kettle down.

"Uh -" Minato stuttered, managing to nod and shake his head at the same time, " - I -" He gave up and stepped aside, allowing Had and Po to walk in, the latter appearing to do most of the walking for the former, whose legs failed him at the sight of Kushina.

"Oh, hello!" Said Kushina, as Hibiki retrieved Dai's jacket from the coat rack and gave it to her, before remaining next to her for the show to follow. "You two Hibiki's friends?" Kushina asked, as Dai silently thanked Hibiki, slid the coat on, and then fished out her sunglasses from one of its pockets, her other hand sliding around Hibiki's, a smile playing at her features.

"Uh -" Had grunted, "uh -" Words were failing him, but he ended up not needing any - for when Minato shut the door to the apartment and bought them their privacy, he finally fell to his knees in a puff of smoke, the false image fading away and revealing he himself.

His expression was one of awe and disbelief - this was the first time he'd seen this particular woman since she'd been a girl less than eight years old, and the sight of her, all grown up and even more beautiful than he remembered, made everything in his mind grind to an absolute halt, all of his brain power focused just on burning the sight of her into memory, as though this one look at her would be the last time he would ever get the chance. Had's big blue eyes were as wide as dinner plates, tears welling up in them as his jaw fell slack, lips just twitching up at the edges.

Next to him, still on his feet but only from how stiff his muscles had become, Po's appearance faded away too, revealing the rotund sealsmaster. His beard did nothing to hide his own expression - if anything it amplified it, his smile was wide enough to stretch clear from one side of his face to the other, his face wrinkled up and his own teary eyes almost shut from the size of his smile. His hand would have slid off of Had's shoulder if, like the rest of him, the muscles in his arm hadn't all but frozen solid. He, like Had, was hardly even breathing, as though any change whatsoever would shatter what had to be the most wonderful of dreams.

On the other side of the room was Kushina, who flinched at the sight of the two - her brain practically having to completely reboot as she was presented with information that it couldn't process. She blinked once, then twice, her chest beginning to quiver as her eyes snapped back and forth between her thin father and her giant uncle, her arms twitched, appearing to be fighting the urge to stay put and to lunge forward, the muscles appearing to know what the brain was not yet able to understand. She blinked a third time, her mind now appearing to begin to work again as her now visibly shaking hands came up to cover her falling jaw, her violet eyes growing as wide as saucers as finally the information being presented to her began to process, and she realized exactly what she was seeing.

She fell back a step, paused, and then pushed forward one, appearing to fall into each step, only her feet being there to catch her and keep her from dropping to the ground. Not a sound was made in the apartment, not even when Po fell to his knees, or when one step fell into another, became another, and another, and in the blink of an eye Kushina was there, falling onto her father and her uncle and sobbing as she brought them into bone-crushing hugs. They returned it, appearing to have rediscovered their motor control, and the three Uzumaki were embracing on the floor, all of them with tears streaming out of their eyes, all of them silent save just the sounds of air rasping through their chests.

Hibiki looked to Minato after a moment, and found that even the Namikaze wasn't immune to the display, with one hand in the pocket of his sweatpants and the other covering his mouth, trying but failing to hide the twitching to his cheeks or the glitter to his blue eyes all betraying his emotions. Hibiki looked down to Dai, who took in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out, leaning over to the side and resting her head on Hibiki's arm, and squeezing his hand with hers.

The apartment remained like this for several long seconds, no one willing to break the silence first. Kushina appeared to try once, leaning back from the two of them to look at them again, her face and eyes red with her tears, but she just lunged back forward again and embraced the two - which they gladly and gleefully accepted. This continued for a full minute before, finally, Kushina gathered up the strength to lean back, look between the two of them, then to Minato, and then to Hibiki, her question lost somewhere between her chest and her mouth.

"Ame." Hibiki grunted, a light smile on his face, as years of Teague's suspicions and work finally paid off with a satisfied sigh, and the dip of his shoulders, as though something had physically slid off of them. "Teague found 'em. Gave 'em shelter. Kept 'em safe. They found us when we went there." He wondered if Noboru was watching? What with how good he had gotten at keeping his Byakugan on for long stretches of time, it was very likely.

Kushina appeared to want to say something, but again found her words failing her, instead her face just grew a smile and she now appeared caught between wanting to hug her father and uncle again, and wanting to do her best to break Hibiki and Minato's spines in turn.

Pulling her away from this was her uncle, who smacked her father on the back of his head with, "go on, then!"

Po's action pulled Had out of his own reverie, and Had in turn pulled Kushina to her feet as he got up, his voice shaking as he said, "you look just like your mother, lovie."

Kushina almost broke out into tears again, but her father continued speaking, "you have no idea how much I wished I could have come here over the years. Ask anyone in Ame, I visit their shinobi stores every week for new bingo books - ever since I learned you were in it." He said, her arms held in his hands, his eyes scanning her face, taking in everything he could now that they were so close.

Kushina flushed a bit, nodding her head to the side and trying to play it off with a, "I'm only a Chunin, Tou-san."

As Po stood up, Had said, "given everything, that's a gift, lovie." He said, blue eyes locked onto hers. "I swear, if it had been possible, I would have come." He urged.

Hibiki flicked his eyes towards Po, his experiences as Teague letting him know well and good that while Had did know, Po had no idea Kushina was a Jinchuriki, and that Had had steadfastly refused to even so much as contact her over the years had been a source of such vitriolic contention between the two that, at times, the only reason Po hadn't left Had was that, for all their differences, they were family. While Hibiki idly wondered what would have happened had Teague never found them, he took solace in the fact that while it was still clear Po wasn't happy about the past, he wasn't going to mention that Had had been the decision maker with regards to that - for favor of just enjoying the unmitigated glee of finally having gotten his way, having finally seen his niece.

Kushina, for her piece, nodded, "I know." She whispered, hugging her father again, "I can't believe you're alive." She added, voice wavering with emotion. "I've - I've looked everywhere, I haven't found anyone!" She looked over to her uncle, an unspoken question passing between the two, to which Po just nodded, his smile stiffening a bit. Kushina shut her eyes tight, a fresh tear appearing in the corner of one, before she steeled herself and released her father, "you were hiding out in Rain?" She asked, looking between the two.

"Hibiki, please give our guests a seat." Dai spoke up, patting Hibiki's arm, and then indicating the two chairs they already had, "after all their journeys I would not wish to make them uncomfortable."

The three Uzumaki nodded their thanks to Dai, and Hibiki and Minato retreated to the kitchen to grab extra chairs, while Kushina took up a seat on the couch next to Dai, Had and Po took the two chairs already present, and Hibiki realized that this had just been Dai kindly telling Hibiki that he and Minato weren't going to be getting a comfy seat tonight. Minato caught onto it too, and the sly grin he shared with Hibiki was all Hibiki needed to know about how entertaining he found it.

They returned as Had began telling his and Po's story to those present, attempting at first to brush over how the initially large group of wandering Uzushio survivors had been split apart, but Kushina's insistence led to more specific details. He explained how there was initially a large group - several thousand - survivors being led by the son of Uzushio's village head, but they were hunted down by the cabal of shinobi that had sacked their village, and their de-facto leader, alongside a quarter of the survivors, had been killed that night, but they managed to push off the attackers. However, in the middle of the woods, with no idea where exactly in Fire Country they were, and with no one knowing where Konoha was, they had to make hard decisions - and one of them was the choice to break up the remaining survivors. Direct relations only, no groups, friends, or anything the like - the most valuable thing to their people was family, and so it would be family they would protect. Everyone had to run, the village had to die, and survivors had to hide.

Had and Po had been among the Uzushio shinobi who had stayed behind to fight the attackers and buy the fleeing Uzumaki time to flee, and while they fought as hard as they could, they couldn't use their greatest tricks - their fuinjutsu - without the very real risk of making the area they were in completely hostile to innocent travelers through Fire Country, be they merchants, civilians, or Konoha shinobi, so already they were at a disadvantage. Add on the wounds from the previous days of fighting and the enemy advantage in numbers, and their 'last stand' wasn't nearly as grand as they had hoped - they'd only bought the evacuees a few hours to run. Had explained that he himself had almost died, but Po had managed to drag him out of the corpse field the next morning and provide some emergency first aid with medical seals, and they chose Rain country as the best place for them to hide - it was already a wasteland thanks to the constant wars and fighting, and add on the extreme numbers of shinobi who had died there, whose corpses would still be leaking chakra - some potentially even for years to come - it would keep them hidden from sensors who may be on the hunt.

They'd ended up hiding out in a cave near one of the major battlefields, only leaving to steal supplies, and it had been like this for some time before Teague's transition of power in Ame, and his discovery of them. Hibiki knew this part of the story intimately - Teague's goal had specifically been to find Uzumaki survivors so as to tap their fuinjutsu knowledge for Ame and their alliance's development, but without any real skill in sensing chakra, he'd decided to brute force it and use Teague's Swift Release to search every single inch of the Elemental Nations until he found someone. Finding Had and Po so relatively 'soon' into his hunt had been an unexpected boon, but one Teague made use of regardless. He'd started things out slow, swearing on his honor that he wouldn't reveal their location and offering trade instead - offering goods for specialized fuinjutsu, and even willing to pay twice what the comparatively simple seals would have been worth, back when Uzu's exports had been in seals. The way Had told the story, Teague discovered that they had family in Konoha through context clues and gentle prodding during his many trade encounters with them, and after earning their trust, swore to them that if they came to live with him in Ame and teach a new generation of Fuinjutsu-users, he could get them the chance to see Kushina, but Hibiki knew the truth.

He'd heard Po refer to Had by name, and Teague sent the information back to the Alpha, who then retrieved a copy of the family scroll he'd given Kushina years earlier, confirming the names and faces of the Uzumaki he was interacting with, and from there, Hibiki crafted his master plan - to gain Had and Po's trust, to get them to formally immigrate to Ame, and, when the time came for Ame to go global, work things out with Konoha to gain the two visitation rights. The Tournament hadn't even remotely been the first idea, but when the war had begun, it had been what Teague settled upon as the best chance to end the war and get Konoha's attention. He then specifically tapped the two of them to inspect Hibiki's fuinjutsu when Hibiki had arrived to do battle, and from there, everything had solved itself.

After receiving their story, the rest of the night was spent with the reunited family exchanging more contemporary, less somber, stories. Kushina told them about Mito Uzumaki, about how she and Hibiki had learned their fuinjutsu from her personally, she told them about how she'd met Minato - and was then promptly corrected by a giggling Minato who asserted that their first meeting hadn't been at lunch one day at the Academy, but rather when she'd dragged some poor kid into the sparring grounds to beat the hell out of him, the act of which appeared to be so common that Kushina couldn't discern it between the numerous other times she had done so since Hibiki's Genin promotion. Many hours were spent on Minato and Kushina's life together, and Po found the events that had led to their eventual realization and reciprocation of each other's feelings uproarious, promising to buy Hibiki a drink when he could - up until Dai put the hammer down on that hard, firmly saying that Hibiki, despite his claims, had no handle on his liquor, and she didn't want to see what would happen if he went drinking with a full-blooded Uzumaki.

As the hours grew on, more stories were told, laughed were had, tears were shed, moments of silence were shared, and entire years of catching up were done in a handful of hours. The Uzumaki vitality made itself known well when the sun had long since set and even the moon was beginning to dip, and they hadn't even shown a hint of slowing down. Hibiki ended up taking the bullet - everyone present was fully ready and willing to stay up for days on end, this he knew, but of everyone present, one of them was currently embroiled in what her obstetrician generously called a 'dangerous pregnancy,' and would probably head the line of people who would try to murder him if they learned how late he'd allowed Dai to stay up. Dai, meanwhile, was either too polite to end the moment, was willing to take the risk, or - perhaps the most likely of the options - preferred to play into Hibiki's more apolitical tendencies and let him play the bad cop to her more politically conscious good cop.

Or she just wanted to tease Hibiki about treating her like she was made of glass. Anything was possible with her.

Regardless, she stayed quiet as Hibiki ended the night, citing her pregnancy as the main reason, before explaining that the two would be in Konoha for the next month - and since he'd been charged with their security, they'd all be getting ample opportunity to continue the night's reunion after a good rest. The Uzumaki of the room clearly wanted anything but to separate from each other, but Minato - ever the light in the storm - suggested that there was nothing stopping Had and Po from spending the remainder of the night at their home, if not staying there completely. Having successfully turned the entire mood back around from somber to joyous, Minato and Kushina left the apartment first, and after enough time had passed, Hibiki escorted the once-again disguised Uzumaki to the Namikaze home before returning to his own.

As he cleaned the dishes from the food that had been shared that night, he sensed Dai's return before he felt her slide her arms around him. "I know why you did that." She hummed, pressing herself tight to him, "it's the same reason I know you to this day are trying to tease out the puzzle of myself and my parents." He felt her chin rest on his shoulder, and her round belly against the small of his back. "And if I ever hear you question if you're a good person again, I'll remind you of tonight before I stab you, okay?" She said, with an all-too-innocent smile.

Hibiki rolled his eyes, and pressed his finger onto her nose, making a honking sound.

The rest of that month had been spent as that first night had been - with the reunited Uzumaki just reveling in being together again. The first week alone was just dedicated to them talking, practically all day and night - with the only breaks being those they couldn't avoid. Hibiki would enter and exit their endless, weeklong conversations as the sun rose and set. One day, while he'd been making use of Minato and Kushina's kitchen to cook the family some 'old fashioned' - read:Back Home - food, Minato, while helping, had mentioned that the redheads genuinely hadn't slept the last week - he with all of his own stamina had tried to keep up with them, but had despite that he'd found himself forced to give in and go to sleep on the sixth night, whereas his wife, her father, and uncle, hadn't even been slown down. It was anyone's first real exposure to Uzumaki interacting with each other, and Minato confided that it made him wonder if Kushina's sleep schedule was more an affordance she'd made to Minato than it was her genuinely needing to sleep each night. It made Hibiki wonder what it must have been like in Uzushio's heyday - if anyone in that fucking village ever slept.

On the seventh day, he got his answer - when he approached Minato's home and saw him lazily lounging on his porch, a book whose cover mentioned a 'gutsy ninja' in his hands. Minato's grin grew to split his face when he saw the tilt to Hibiki's head and the arc to one of his eyebrows, and without saying a word, he just nodded to his door. When Hibiki went inside, he realized what had entertained Minato so - the three Uzumaki were all unconscious at the table, in the deepest sleep Hibiki had ever seen. They'd literally spent all of their available energy and just zonked out right there, and unintentionally provided what Hibiki considered might be the most accurate answer as to how things went in Uzu - they just went, and went, and went, until they couldn't go anymore, and then one day out of the week the village was dead silent. He could only hope that the village had staggered its people's collapses such that the entire village wasn't asleep, but knowing the Uzumaki? He genuinely thought it was possible. The only one of them that seemed approaching sane had been Mito - and given his experiences with Had, Po, and Kushina, he was beginning to believe she was an outlier. It also made Hibiki wonder if a lot of his own stamina and chakra-related feats found their source more in his Uzumaki blood than anything else.

When they roused themselves back to consciousness - after a whopping four hours of sleep - of course Kushina's first act was to drag everyone to her favorite ramen stand, and promptly made the owner and his wife beside themselves with joy, when she promised that her two disguised friends had appetites just as deep as hers - and that Hibiki was going to be buying as recompense for not having bought her the stand yet. The Uzumaki trio managed to eat the family out of house and home, putting down so much ramen that, when they finally left, Hibiki overheard him say they'd have to remain closed until they got their next shipment.

The rest of the Uzumaki's time was spent by Kushina showing them around Konoha. She practically dragged them through museums and restaurants, to the academy, to her favorite training grounds, lamenting that, with Hibiki's confinement to the village, they'd have to delay going to Tanzaku Quarters until the next time they came to visit. As the second week passed and the final week arrived, the mood Hibiki had expected to turn somber instead turned ever more celebratory, as Kushina sought to make the most of her remaining days with her father and her uncle, and the both of them reciprocated eagerly. The final day was practically a party unto itself, with the Uzumaki and Senju in attendance for a ceremony they simply called the 'flight of the lamps.'

As Hibiki and Dai watched the Uzumaki, with their immaculate calligraphy, paint a whirlpool onto what Hibiki recognized as a sky lantern, he realized he understood what was going on. The 'party' they'd just thrown had been less of a party than it was an Uzumaki-style funeral - celebrating life instead of mourning death. He remained silent, attention initially stolen by the lamp that the Uzumaki let fly, before being taken instead by Kushina herself, who dragged Hibiki and his wife into a great group hug, as she embraced her family under the light of the lantern, lazily floating off into the sky.

Month 5

Hibiki's final month of containment was spent split between distinct goals: Dai's pregnancy, and the correspondence necessary to gain entry into Hoshigakure. As he'd expected, Tsunade and the obstetrician were ready to murder him when he revealed his and Dai's travel plans - and as he'd expected, Dai, ever-eager to see her husband squirm, had left him to give them the news. They made sure on no uncertain terms that he understood what he was courting with these plans - explaining the depth of Dai's previous injuries, how terribly fragile her pregnancy was to begin with, how due to this fact she could tolerate fewer stresses than other women, and how that this factor could very well lead to her giving birth prematurely even under the best of circumstances. Tsunade accused him of abusing Dai's trust in him to go on some idiotic quest for answers to a question he himself wasn't even sure could be answered, while Saburo accused him of having forgotten what it's like to be a 'mere mortal' with his well-known healing abilities, going so far as to question whether or not Hibiki even had a survival instinct anymore.

Dai chose that moment to step in, and as she ever did, she disarmed the entire argument with a single question - she asked the doctor and the medic which of them was pregnant. When they looked at her like she'd lost her mind, she confirmed for the room that it was her who had the baby in her, and thus, by all understandings, it was her who would be making the decisions in this regard. Hibiki had valid reasons to travel to Hoshigakure, just as she had valid reasons to accompany him - she had considered the risks and weighed them accordingly, and made her decision regardless. This meeting wasn't a cry for help or an attempt to be talked out of it, it was them informing them what the plan was, and giving the medical professionals a month to prepare them for whatever would be necessary during their journey.

Though they tried, Tsunade and Saburo realized just as Hibiki had more than a decade ago - that a battle of wits against Dai Senju was a battle destined to be lost. The Doctor and the Medic promptly impressed Hibiki into their ranks, and thus he was made a more active participant in Dai's prenatal care than he already had been. Hibiki's definition of the word 'thorough' was redefined by the efforts he and the medics went through to both ensure he and Dai were properly educated on how to continue her care during their sojourn, and through the sheer number of contingency plans they came up with if anything catastrophic occurred. Everything from giving birth in Hoshigakure, teleporting Konoha medical professionals to the wilderness between Fire and Bear country, Hibiki using Swift-release to run Dai all the way back to Konoha, all the way to putting Dai in one of the stasis seals Hibiki had crafted during the Loop if things got uncontrollably bad, it had all been considered, planned, and then drilled into Hibiki's head, to the point where Hibiki and Dai both were privately convinced Tsunade and Saburo were going overboard on purpose such that Dai would consider staying in the Leaf.

But, Dai was convinced to see this journey to the end, and as such she was there too to help Hibiki with his correspondences with Hoshi. As much as she loved watching Hibiki groan about the political game and as much as she liked to watch him flounder before pulling him out of any verbal fires he'd either started or walked into, she knew how important Hoshi was to Hibiki, and given that this was one of the few areas of his life where her own training and knowledge came in handy, she was there every step of the way, effectively being the guiding hand that put Hibiki and Hoshi on the same page.

Hibiki's initial idea had been to just straight-up send a runner to Hoshigakure's Shinobi office with a request to visit, citing to Dai their clear willingness to open back up to the world since they'd sent fighters to Teague's tournament. Dai shot that down with extreme prejudice, explaining that, even considering extenuating circumstances, Hoshi was already in hot water with both Teague and the Elemental Nations - and it was likely already under watch from other nations trying to figure out where Moshi and Ken came from and why they infiltrated the World Tournament under the false pretenses of a dead village. If Hibiki simply went there for no other reason than he wanted to, it was more than likely - it was downright inevitable - that the other villages would figure out and could put Konoha in their crosshairs, and with how Hot Water appeared to eagerly jump to Konoha's defense in the tournament - despite having no reason to - it could plant the idea in many a head that the two villages may have somehow coordinated Hoshi's infiltration of Teague's tournament.

So, Dai instead posed a different idea - one whose validity she confirmed through Hibiki's connection to Teague. With Hoshi's appearance on the global stage, it was simple to expect that the participating villages would either send diplomats or infiltrators, or both, to learn about the village, to discover what changed from its previous reputation as a bunch of stoners worshiping a rock to apparently a village capable of producing multiple shinobi able to fight S-ranked Jonin and Jinchuriki with apparent ease. Hibiki, as the head of the Senju clan, and Dai, as his wife, could easily contact the village under that auspice - especially since Dai, through both of her teams, was aware of the fact that Dante hadn't sent anyone to perform that particular task, and instead was working towards the peaceful transition of power to a new Hokage. It was likely, she surmised, that Dante, aware of Hibiki's own interest in the mission, he was waiting for Hibiki to be free to do so, and was instead focusing on what he deemed more important - getting a warrior out of the office that no longer needed one.

So, after Dai beat him over the head with the fact that he had to clear this with Dante if he didn't want to piss him off any more, that was the direction from which the two approached the problem. Instead of addressing the scroll to Hoshigakure's shinobi office, they addressed it to their self-proclaimed Kage, the less-creatively named Hoshikage. They used Hibiki's name to their advantage, writing that, with Teague's recent push towards inter-village communication and cooperation, Hibiki and Konoha each had recently gained an interest in learning about the village, and with Hibiki's own familial history of the same idea, he wanted to be the one to learn more about Hoshigakure's culture and history.

What surprised the both of them was the fact that the most difficult part of the ordeal was getting his letter out of Konoha, and not getting a response from the Hoshikage. Hibiki had had to pass his letter through six different layers of internal security before it got to Anbu, and yet less than a week later, not only had he received a response from the Hoshikage, the man appeared astoundingly eager to receive Hibiki, practically jumping at the chance and appearing to be ready to bend over backwards to meet any requirements Hibiki may have during his stay. If it weren't for the fact that Hibiki knew this particular missive would have passed through the same layers of security his had before reaching him, he would have been concerned and confused enough by the eagerness on display that he would have brought it to Dante. Even though it had passed through Konoha's own security, Dai had been convinced that there had to be something underneath it, and both her Genin team and the old members of Team Eiji all passed over the scroll trying to find what meanings the Hoshikage could have hidden inside of it, but they, like Konoha's codebreakers and intelligence corps, had found nothing. It was as it looked - not a man who called himself Kage responding to an inquiry of cultural exchange to the grandson and current head of one of the most influential and powerful clans in the world, but rather like a little kid getting a letter from their hero and leaping at the chance to please him.

Further correspondences between Hibiki and the Hoshikage, who quickly revealed his name to be 'Oritsu' did nothing to change this fact, much the opposite they only served to add to the consternation of everyone involved, not the least of which was the fact that appaently his name was literally 'Royal.' After a while, Dante was so put off that he genuinely told Hibiki to go in there as he would go into a village harboring Katsuo - they ceased to be able to reliably predict what they could expect out of this village, and Hibiki was so put off that, though he knew better, he genuinely considered switching sides and backing Tsunade and Saburo's request that Dai remain behind. There was something off with all this, everyone was expecting some kind of trouble with the sheer earnestness on display with every correspondence from Oritsu. Near the end, with the language they were using and how polite they were being, Hibiki was ready to swear up and down that this was the part of the movie where the overly nice zombie apocalypse survivors would be revealed to be cannibals luring people in with kindness, that was the feeling he was getting, and were it not for Dai, he was ready to speak to Dante about calling the whole thing off.

It actually took Dai convincing Hibiki to not to do so, with how badly this made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, though he expected it had become more her professional curiosity speaking than her desire to see him close that chapter of his life. Even if Hoshigakure wasn't necessarily hiding something, there was some nebulous thing going on beyond just the very real possibility that they could have been ground zero for the God Tree, and Dai's curiosity as an information retrievalist was pushing her towards figuring out what that something was. Hibiki's argument about this potentially putting her and their baby's safety at risk if they really were up to something shady, was given only a flat stare and 'You're the strongest man on Earth.' as a response. Dai would remain at Hibiki's side the entire visit - Hoshi hadn't even batted an eye at that - and even if she wouldn't, for whatever reason, Hibiki had a mastery of the shadow clone technique that no one else could match. Even without her own chakra, she and their progeny were safe as houses.

Realizing he was trying to fight Dai, and knowing where that would lead, Hibiki eventually gave in, and sent the last scroll to Hoshi, finalizing their plans and the logistics of their visit.

All that was left was to pack.