For the first time in weeks, Hyuga Hinata slept a dreamless sleep. When her body and mind were fully rested, she slowly awoke. Her eyes opened and her vision slowly accustomed itself to her surroundings. She saw the ceiling of what appeared to be a primitive hut. With a sudden jolt of awareness she shot straight up. She recognized her surroundings immediately.
She was in a Nimmori hut. That much she was certain of. However, she was not wearing Nimmori clothing. She was wrapped in a kimono a bit too big for her. It looked very much in the style of those worn by the Hyuga. Hinata realized it must belong to one of the Hyuga who came to the forest.
"Hinata?" said a voice. With a start Hinata looked to the source.
Yuhi Kurenai sat in the room, leaning back on a wall. Her arm was in a split but she seemed otherwise uninjured. Hinata thought otherwise, though, when the older woman winced slightly as she moved herself closer to her student. Elsewhere in the room sat Da Iri'ga. His arm was also bandaged, as was his stomach. He also seemed to have difficulty moving. Hinata had difficulty looking him in the eye.
"How are you feeling, Hinata?" she asked.
"I-I'm fine, sensei." Hinata answered. "Sensei, where are we? It looks like we're still in the Nimmori village."
"We are." Kurenai said.
"Where is everyone?"
"Scattered around the village. We're being kept apart so we are unable to collaborate."
"A-are we prisoners?"
"Kind of." Kurenai answered.
Da Iri'ga eyed Kurenai carefully but said nothing as she went on to explain the situation. They were being detained, but they weren't exactly prisoners. Kurenai and Da Iri'ga had remained close to Hinata, both fearing the others potential influence when Hinata finally awoke. The others were kept at different parts of the village. This, Kurenai suspected, was to make sure escape would be more difficult, if not impossible. So for the time being they were cooperating.
Kurenai further explained that, after their own fight, they had made their way up to the Plaza. By the time they had arrived, everything had already settled down. Hinata had been found lying on top of Naruto. Next to them the body of a man Hinata knew to be the Ki'ge.
Unsure of what to make of these events, the two enemies had managed to communicate each other enough to form an uneasy truce. The fact that neither was in fighting condition helped push that idea along. When others began to show, Da Iri'ga had communicated the cease-fire to the Nimmori while Kurenai filled in her students and the Hyuga.
Hours later, Naruto was the first to awaken. He explained the majority of what happened to Kurenai and company. Unfortunately, Naruto didn't speak the Nimmori's language so they had no way of explaining to them what happened.
"I was tempted then to just take you and run." Kurenai said confidentially, "However, this is our best chance to come to a mutual, and peaceful, understanding."
Hinata understood that well enough. Konoha already had the Oto-nin, the ninja of Sound, to worry about. A second enemy was not needed if it could be avoided. She also understood the only way a peaceful resolution right now was possible.
"Hinata-" Kurenai began before Hinata cut her off.
"I can still speak the Nimmori language." she said, "Part of the Purification was the implanting of the language into my mind. Otherwise I never would have had the mastery of it I had as Kashghyu N'ga."
"You spoke it more fluently than your own tongue." Kurenai observed, "but… had?"
"I can't recall every single thing, now that the purification is broken. However, what I do remember will suffice."
Kurenai nodded approval. She also noticed a slight change in Hinata's demeanor. But now wasn't the time. She moved back and allowed Hinata to see Da Iri'ga. The man had apparently taken charge in the wake of their old leader's death. She had no idea what the two said to one another. Nonetheless, Kurenai listened intently as they spoke. Kurenai had given no direction one way or the other, so she suspected Hinata was leaving nothing out. Telling Da Iri'ga the full story, start to finish, to the best of her ability.
"Then our Goddess is forever gone."
"……yes." Hinata answered reluctantly. Da Iri'ga let out a heavy sigh.
"This will be difficult to tell the others. However, I think this might be for the best."
"Huh?" Hinata asked in surprise.
"When the Goddess made her way up to the Plaza… I felt it… a terrible power. Left me chilled to the bone. The only other thing that did that, was the second flame within the Shee'nobie boy you fancied."
Hinata blushed a bit at that statement. Kurenai raised an eyebrow while Da Iri'ga simply smiled at the reaction before growing serious again.
"If our Goddess was such as what was inside that boy, I fear what the Nimmori would have done in her name. However, there is one thing I must ask, Kashghyu N'ga…"
"Hinata." she corrected.
"You will always be Kashghyu N'ga to me." Da Iri'ga said affectionately, "Just what was that other Flame?"
"I… I don't know." Hinata answered honestly. Kurenai, when asked, simply said that it was a matter of strict secrecy. Every person who did not already know the truth was forbidden to know. That included Hinata. Da Iri'ga gave no reaction to this information. He simply took his leave of the two young women. Hinata explained he had to break the news to the Nimmori.
"So what now?" Hinata asked.
"That depends." Kurenai said, "If the Nimmori take all this as badly as I fear, then we'll have to fight our way out. As for the others, we can only hope they handle their own escapes. However, with that man in charge I think we can count on something less violent. Which means we'll need you to serve as a translator long enough to get a temporary arrangement made. Something to last until Hokage-sama can officially send someone to negotiate."
Kurenai's prediction had been accurate. Da Iri'ga was able to keep the Nimmori from reacting violently, despite how angry they were over the events. Many were unhappy about the turn, prepared to execute the Shinobi, including their Kashghyu N'ga, on the spot. Fortunately, they heeded Da Iri'ga's warnings about possibly starting a war with the tribe whose warriors had stopped their Goddess. All agreed that, for now, peace was preferable.
Hyuga Riisen, with Hinata as translator, worked out the majority of the details. Though Da Iri'ga would have preferred speaking with Kurenai, leader of the group and one whom he considered an equal, Kurenai had deferred to the Hyuga because he had served in Konoha's diplomatic corps and was better suited to such negotiations.
In a matter of days, a temporary accord had been worked out. All nine of the Konoha-nin would return to their village. Upon returning, Hinata would be tasked with teaching the Nimmori language to diplomats who would then come to the Nimmori village for a more permanent arrangement. In the meantime, Da Iri'ga would have the Nimmori refrain from attacking any villages in the area for any reason; though mutually beneficial trade would be perfectly fine.
What the official diplomats would do was up in the air. The main goals would be to make sure the Nimmori would not be enemies of Konoha or the Fire Country as a whole. If possible, they might even make them allies. Hinata feared that a condition placed on the Nimmori would be the return of those who were in the past Purified like she herself.
With study, it was likely scholars in Konoha could figure out how to safely break the hold of Purification. However, Hinata could remember clearly the utter confusion she had experienced when Naruto had broken her hold. She had only been Nimmori for about a week. She feared the mental and emotional damage possible in someone who had been of the tribe for nearly a decade and a half.
Riisen had assured her that she would be able to make such recommendations later. She would have a major role to play in making peace with the People of the Forest. Hinata was relieved she'd have a say in things. But also a little frightened of the responsibility that would inevitably be placed on her.
The troop of ninja who left the Nimmori village kept silent as they walked. Partly it was caution. Not everybody was convinced that the Nimmori were friendly now. They feared possible traps or ambushes. Most notably, Shino, Kiba, and the Hyuga siblings, Tomoko and Uaishi, kept very careful watch. Kurenai and Riisen, having dealt with Da Iri'ga personally, felt relatively more assured. As did Hinata, despite all that had happened, didn't believe the man who had seen her as a daughter was a duplicitous man. Naruto was as carefree as ever.
Naruto… Hinata thought to herself. The two had not spoken even once since their battle on the Plaza. Part of it was simply Hinata being busy with negotiations. But even so, she had managed to make time for everyone. Kiba, Akamaru, Shino, her kin, to assure her she was all right. Everyone had visited her at least once.
The possible reasons why he would avoid her were, to her, numerous. She had nearly gotten him killed several times. Her choosing the Nimmori in that moment on the plaza, after all the work he'd done… he probably saw that as a betrayal. She hated the idea that the boy she admired most wanted nothing to do with her. It was one thing when he was ignorant of her presence. But the possibility that he would deliberately stay away from her tore her up inside.
However, those same events, those same betrayals, made Hinata feel just a bit bolder. She didn't want to let those feelings dominate her, make her cower in fear. She wanted to at least talk to him once more. If he said he wanted nothing to do with her… then so be it.
After taking a deep breath to ready herself, Hinata walked ahead to near the front of the line of Shinobi, where Naruto was proclaiming himself leader of the expedition home.
"N-Naruto-kun…" she muttered out.
"Hm?" Naruto turned to see who was speaking to him, "Oh… Hinata…"
No cheerful greeting… not a good sign.
"Naruto-kun… I just wanted to say-"
"I'm sorry." Naruto said, cutting her off.
"You're sorry? For what?"
"I haven't been to see you at all…" Naruto said, "I'm sorry. I… I just couldn't face you."
"Oh." Hinata replied, "I… I understand. I suppose I can't blame you. Considering what I did…"
"What you did? That's got nothing to do with it." Naruto said quickly, "I couldn't face you… because… because…"
That's when Hinata noticed. Naruto's left hand was clutching his stomach. Hinata understood at once.
"Your other Chakra…" she finished for him.
"Yeah… no doubt you know all about it by now…" he said, his voice expressing something Hinata couldn't identify. Doubt, sadness, shame?
"Actually, Kurenai-sensei wouldn't tell me anything. Da Iri'ga even asked what it was, but she refused to answer."
"Then you don't know?" Naruto asked.
"No. And I don't care to, either."
"Oh…" Naruto said, his head hanging down.
"It's not important, anyway." she said. Naruto's head shot up.
"What did you…"
"That other Chakra… I don't know what it is. All I know is that it's part of you, and probably has been for a long time."
"All my life." Naruto replied sadly.
"That Chakra is a part of you. And that part of you helped save me from making a horrible mistake. That is all I care about."
With that Hinata turned herself away, she could feel herself blushing and didn't want Naruto to see.
"Which re-reminds me…" Hinata stuttered, "I haven't thanked you properly for saving me. Thank you."
"Oh! Uh…" Naruto said, red tinting his own cheeks now, "Yeah… and… thank you, too, Hinata!"
"Huh? But what did I-"
"Your sixty-four handy thing." Naruto explained, "You used it to save my life, right?"
"Yes… but I shouldn't be thanked for that." Hinata stammered, "It was because of me your life was in danger in the first place!"
"Not completely you." Naruto said.
"No, it was me. All me! You wouldn't have had to do what you did if I hadn't… if I hadn't…"
Naruto understood exactly what she was referring to.
"Hinata, it's okay. I'm not mad about that at all."
"What!" Hinata asked in shock, "How can you not be! I nearly got you killed! I nearly killed you myself! Several times! I… I… I threw you off a giant tree!"
"Then how can you not be even the least bit upset?"
"How can I be?" Naruto asked, "Hinata… if it had been me in that position instead of you… I… well…"
"I would have done exactly the same thing as you!"
Hinata was shocked silent.
"I know how hard it is. Not being acknowledged, but wanting it so badly that you'll do anything for it. When you finally do get it, you'll do anything you can for whoever gives it to you! No matter what you have to do or who else gets hurt! How can I be angry at you when I'm no different."
"It wouldn't have mattered…" Hinata whispered.
"Huh?" Naruto asked.
"There's one thing I haven't told anybody else, Naruto-kun." she said, keeping her voice low, "Something that happened on the Plaza, after the Goddess took you. The Ki'ge, just before dying, revealed that the Goddess devouring my soul was what was to happen to me. I felt outraged when I learned that. I tried to tell him that I never would have done it had I known… but before I could finish, he asked me if it really would have mattered. I wished so desperately I could say it would… but… I know myself better than that."
"I really would have gone through with the ceremony. Even if I had known from the start, as Kashghyu N'ga, that doing so meant my death. Even if I knew the truth, at that moment on the Plaza, I still would have thrown you off of it. All because I simply didn't want to be myself anymore.
"I tried to change, Naruto-kun. I have never had a high opinion of myself. I wanted to change that fact. I wanted to feel stronger. After I faced Neji-niisan in the Chuunin exam, I thought I had done that. I felt different about myself. But… nobody else seemed to see the difference.
"I tried telling myself that it didn't matter what they thought. That I knew I was different and that was all that counted. But as more time went by, I began to doubt. I asked myself if I really changed at all. Was I still the same person I didn't wish to be?
"Eventually, Kurenai-sensei and my teammates noticed and tried to be there for me. But, by then, I see now that my confidence was so destroyed that I didn't hear words or see gestures meant to encourage me. I heard only attempts to coddle and comfort a weak child."
"But Hinata!" Naruto said, "None of that's true! You're not weak yo-"
"I understand that now." she interrupted, "My time as Kashghyu N'ga showed me a lot. I understand myself a lot better than I ever have. I have seen myself at both my best and my worst. I realized that I am strong. That I can be brave and confident. I also came to understand just how powerful my desire for acceptance was. In the end, it was because of that everything happened as it did.
"I could have fought their control, the Purification. I even tried, at the beginning. But then, Da Iri'ga and the Ki'ge, they showed me new ways of fighting. They promised me strength I could not imagine. Whenever I fell, they held out their hands to help me up. On the Plaza, when that control broke, I couldn't stand the thought of losing that. My weakness, my overwhelming desires… they got the better of me.
"But… that will never happen again! I know now that, even if I didn't change before, I have now! Because of my experience as one of the Forest, I've seen both my true strength and my greatest weakness. Never again will I let that weakness overpower me. Now more than ever, I feel that even if nobody ever acknowledges me, I can go on anyway."
"Well, that won't be a problem!" Naruto said, "You got someone right here for that!"
Hinata couldn't believe what she'd just heard. She thought for a split second that he wasn't being sincere. Just saying that for her sake. But she reminded herself of the promise she'd just made, and remembered Naruto's was not the type to be insincere.
"T-Thank you, Naruto-kun." Hinata replied.
Naruto answered with a big grin. Hinata herself couldn't help but smile back, a blush covering her cheeks for a moment as she did. The two walked side-by-side in silence. Several minutes went by before Kiba's voice broke it.
"What! That's it!"
Both Hinata and Naruto were a little surprised at Kiba's sudden outburst.
"Geez, you two, you had a real thing goin' there!" he teased, "Why are you stopping now! Are you gonna chicken out, Naruto!"
"What did you say, Toilet-Drinker!" Naruto yelled angrily.
A sudden voice interrupted the argument before it could progress into something more violent. It left Kiba dumbstruck for a moment before he began laughing himself silly. Naruto did as well, when he got what he had just heard. Even Shino and Kurenai had difficulty keeping a straight face. Though the Hyuga didn't seem to get the joke until it was explained.
With four little words, Hinata made sure the rest of the journey back home passed in high spirits.
"Shut up, Kiba-kun." she had said, with a wry smile.
FINAL AUTHOR'S NOTES
I hope you all enjoyed Ghostly Eyes (hiatus(es) aside). I enjoyed writing it and, if it's worth anything, at twenty five chapters and nearly or over 40,000 words, this is easily my longest fanfiction to date. I'm actually kinda proud about that. Now, here are some notes concerning the final seven chapters.
CHAPTERS 19 & 20:The Naruto/Hinata fight was something I was looking forward to from the moment I first started writing Ghostly Eyes. Some of it I had planned at the start (such as Naruto fighting in Hinata's form) other details I figured out as the story progressed and even as I wrote the scenes themselves (such as Hianta's using the Konoha no Shuriken to expose the real Naruto). I originally had the idea of Naruto shocking Hinata back to reality with a Harem-no-Jutsu - Hinata Version. But I decided against it as it didn't seem to fit what I wanted to happen next.
Also, once again, credit for the "Leap of the Grasshopper" techinque belongs to my friend toujin (though the Japanese name, Batta no Choyaku, I found via my English/Japanese dictionary)
CHAPTER 21 & 22: The conclusion to the Kurenai vs. Da Iri'ga battle was somethign I had some trouble with too. I wanted to end the fight in a good way but I couldn't think of anything really original for it. In the end, I decided I liked the idea fo Kurenai learning from her past defeat by Itachi and countering the same illusion that got countered back on her when they fought. From there developed the idea that Kurenai was using past experience to win.
For Hinata and Naruto, I had a second idea on just what motivated Hinata's actions. I thought maybe it could be a more heroic action. Agreeing to become the Goddess because the ceremony had hit a point of no return, meaning she couldn't NOT do it without a lot of destruciton. But I like the way I went with instead, as it helps to drive home some more powerful lessons to Hinata (I felt it was more dramatic that she come to reach both her highest and lowest points at aboutthe same time).
CHAPTER 23: With recent events in the Naruto storyline, I breifly considered making the Mori no Megami another of the Nine Bijuu (Tail Beasts). I was thinking of making it the Gobi (Five-Tails) a canine Youma that was supposed to live within a tree. Then I tought of making it a servant of the Gobi that got ambitious. But instead I gave the Goddess of the Forest her own unique design, making her essentially a lesser demon (when compared to Kyubi)in the process.
As for the Mori no Megami's ultimate fate, as much as I'd like I can't claim full credit for the idea. I mostly got it from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's second season titled "The Dark Age." In it, the heroes fought a demon that jumped into others bodies and defeated it by having it jump into the body of Angel, a vampire whose demon side was suppressed by the restoration of his human soul. Though we didn't get the "inside story" as I did with Naruto, Kyuubi, and Megami, the end result was the same (sealed off demon killing another). Still, credit where its due. The original idea came from Buffy, though I did my best to make sure I put my own spin/take on how it all went about.
CHAPTER 24: Here, I debated about whether or not to have Hinata use the Rokujuuyon-sho. On the one hand, it provided a good moment of truth and redemption for Hinata. A chance to make up for her turning on Naruto. I had also had it inmind from the beginning that I wanted their finalbit here to besomething of a mutual butt-saving.Naruto saved Hinata who, in turn, saved him. On the other hand, it felt just a bit out of place for the moment and perhaps just a bit cliche. I decided to go with my initial instinct and kept the scene as originally planned.
CHAPTER 25: This chapter went way longer than I'd originally planned. But it was worth it. You all probably already know, but Hinata's last remark is in reference to the story Kiba told Naruto in Chapter 8. I wanted to go out on a joke of some kind, to show things were more or less hunky-dory again. Originally, when I was thinking of using the Hinata Harem no Jutsu, I had Naruto being chased down by Shino and Kiba after they found out what he'd done.
RE: Dragon Man 180's review: Actually, I hada whole seperate story idea or two that would put some focus on our new Hinata. The idea focused on Hinata having tosingle-handedly rescue Hanabi when she's kidnapped. Another focusing on Hinata's attempt to reform the Hyuga clan.