Colors of Life and Death
Well, here it is everyone, the final chapter of book one of the COLAD series. I truly hope you enjoy it. But I ask that you please PLEASE read the closing author's notes as they will contain important info. Thank you.
Naruto's body lay in a small clearing near the training fields as he said goodbye to the Kyuubi. "So...I just wanted to say...thanks. I guess you're not such a bad guy after all," he said with small smile.
Kyuubi gave Naruto an incredulous look. "Of course I'm a bad guy. Haven't you been paying attention? Just because I've decided one of you isn't a waste of skin, doesn't mean I wouldn't kill other humans in a heartbeat."
Naruto's expression turned sour. "Hmpf! Isn't it time you left?" he said as he folded his arms.
Kyuubi smirked. "Good luck..." His body began to disappear. "...Naruto..." he finished as he vanished completely.
Naruto sighed. "I guess that's that," he said as he stared at the once again empty cage. He suddenly heard Hinata's voice.
"Naruto-kun, can you hear me?"
Naruto's eyes blinked rapidly as his consciousness settled itself back into his waking mind. He looked up at his girlfriend. "Yup, I heard ya. I was just saying goodbye to that stupid fox," he said as he sat up.
"Oh...Are you going to miss him?" Hinata asked politely.
"Hell no! That fox is so perverted, he makes Ero-sennin look like a saint!" Naruto said in disgust.
Hinata's eyes widened and she blushed. "I...I see."
"So, what's up?" Naruto asked with a smile.
Hinata was quiet for a moment. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I...wanted to show you something."
Naruto cocked his head to one side. "Hm?"
"B...but first, I wanted to ask you if you like long hair...on girls."
Naruto chuckled. "I don't think there's a guy alive who doesn't."
"Okay..." Hinata said quietly as she reached up to her hair. Very slowly, she took out the pins from her wig. She swallowed, and slid it off. As her hair fell downward Naruto looked on in awe. Hinata put the wig on the ground and waited for a reaction.
Naruto couldn't hear much over the sound of the blood pounding in his ears. "Wow..."
"Y...you l...like it?"
"You look...amazing," Naruto breathed.
A wide smile blazed across Hinata's face and she threw her arms around him.
"Naruto!" came Jiraiya's voice from the other side of the field.
Hinata and Naruto broke apart. "Can't you ever respect my privacy?-!" Naruto yelled.
"Ah, sorry sorry. But I have something important to talk to you about," Jiraiya informed the couple as he sat down on the grass along side them.
"Important?" Naruto repeated.
"Nhm. It's about your niji chakra. Tsunade thinks it's too dangerous for you to practice controlling it while you're still in Konoha. She's asked me to take you somewhere else to train."
"What?-! How long?-!" Naruto said loudly.
"Six months—And there's no getting out of it either," Jiraiya warned when he saw a defiant look enter Naruto's eyes.
Naruto grimaced and looked over at Hinata. He did not like the idea of being apart from her for so long. He noticed she looked like she was about to cry, so he held her.
Jiraiya sighed. "I'll...ah...just leave you two alone for a while. Naruto, meet me at the gates at eight, tomorrow morning."
Naruto nodded and broke the hug. "C'mon," he said as he knelt and grasped her hand, "Let's go do something fun before I have to leave."
Hinata nodded and stood, and the two young ninja walked off toward town.
He had been standing outside the training grounds for about fifteen minutes, watching TenTen and trying to decide if he really wanted to talk to her. He'd been avoiding her since their argument five days ago. Finally, Sasuke sighed and walked onto the field.
TenTen tensed in irritation when she felt Sasuke's chakra in the vicinity. "What the hell does he want?"
"TenTen," Sasuke said in an effort to get her attention.
TenTen ignored him. "Maybe if I don't say anything he'll just get the point and go away," she thought as she tossed another kunai.
Sasuke's eye twitched. "Is she ignoring me?" "TenTen!" he said a little louder.
TenTen sighed angrily. "What?-!" she spat as she flung her kunai behind her, hitting the target perfectly.
Sasuke arched an eyebrow at the girl's inhuman throwing skill. "I...came to apologize."
TenTen was taken aback by the very idea of Sasuke apologizing, but she kept her composure. "Why?"
Sasuke was confused. "What?"
TenTen took a few steps toward the young Uchiha. "I said why? Why are you apologizing? You honestly think I could be your friend after what you did?"
Sasuke sighed. "Probably not. But I thought if there was the smallest chance...I had to give it a try." He looked at the sky. "In case you haven't noticed, I can count the amount of real friends I have on two fingers, so when I actually make a new friend it's kind of rare."
TenTen made a derisive snort. "Gee, I wonder why?" she said sarcastically.
Sasuke frowned. "I guess I deserved that." He shrugged. "Well, anyway, I just thought it'd be nice to have another friend. But since it seems like that's not going to happen, I'll leave you alone." And with that, he began to walk away.
"Why did you get so psycho over one little laugh, anyway?" TenTen asked suddenly, not wanting him to leave just yet.
Sasuke turned around. "The only real answer I can give you...is that it reminded me of something very bad from my past."
"Is it...about your clan?"
Sasuke's eyes darkened and he turned his head away again. "Yeah."
TenTen sighed. "Well, I know what a private guy you are, so I won't ask for the details."
"Thanks," Sasuke answered as he began walking.
"Wait a sec," TenTen said. Sasuke turned around. "Maybe I can give it a shot. Everybody deserves a second chance, right?"
Sasuke closed his eyes for a second and gave the tiniest hint of a smile. "Right."
"Care for a kunai throwing match?" TenTen asked with a grin.
"Sure," Sasuke answered.
"So, where should we go?" Naruto asked Hinata as they strolled down the main street.
"Hmmm. How about dinner?"
"Nah. I wanna do something special." Naruto suddenly snapped his fingers. "I got it!" And before she could say a word, he grabbed Hinata's wrist and pulled her toward the other side of the village.
"Why are we at your house?" Hinata asked.
Naruto smiled. "Just trust me. Stay here. I'll be back in a sec," he said before dashing inside.
Nabiki looked up as Naruto ran past her on the stairs. "Naruto-kun?"
"Oh good! I was hoping you'd be home. Do you have a bathing suit that would fit Hina-chan?"
Nabiki's face twisted in concentration for a moment. "Yeah, I think I do. Why?"
"Remember that cave you showed me last week?"
A grin of understanding spread across Nabiki's face. "Oooooo, she'll love that! I'll go get the suit. Meet me at the front door."
"Kay!" Naruto chirped before continuing onto his room.
Naruto thundered down the stairs and into the kitchen, filling a backpack with snacks before running back to the living room. Nabiki stood there, holding a violet, one-piece bathing suit. She held it out for him to take. "Here ya go—and behave yourself," she said with a wink.
Naruto turned scarlet and glared at Nabiki. "Why does everyone think I...! Oh never mind," he said, taking the suit and stuffing it into his backpack.
"Get outta here," Nabiki said with a chuckle and a playful slap on his back.
Hinata's face gained a quizzical expression when she saw the backpack her boyfriend was carrying. "What's in there?"
Naruto patted the side of the backpack. "You'll see. It's for where we're going. Come on!" He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the forest.
After a few minutes of leaping through the trees, Naruto and Hinata landed on the forest floor and began walking.
"Will it take long to get there?" Hinata asked.
Naruto interlaced his fingers with hers. "Nope. Should only be another five minutes."
A tingle went up Hinata's spine as she smiled at the wonderful warmth of Naruto's hand.
The couple came up to a thicket of bushes and Naruto began to lead Hinata through the thinner spots. "Can't we go over these?" Hinata asked as she eyed the tree branches, hoping for an easier route.
"Nope. You have to go through these to get where we're going." Naruto pushed another branch out of his face. "Ya know, this'll probably sound kinda dumb, but I just realized how perfectly...our hands fit together," he said as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "It's nice."
Hinata blushed. "I th...think so too."
Naruto smiled and they came up to a concealed cave mouth. "It's in here. Watch your step," he said as he took out a flashlight.
As they walked, Hinata wondered just what Naruto had planned. The cave itself didn't seem very remarkable. "Naruto-kun...?" she began.
"Wait right there," Naruto interrupted as they stopped at what seemed to be the entrance to a larger cavern.
Hinata watched as he vanished into the darkness, the flashlight her only indication of where he was. She could hear the sound of running water and splashes as Naruto stepped. By this point she was very tempted to use Byakugan, but she didn't want to spoil the surprise.
"Ready?" Naruto called out excitedly.
"Nhm," Hinata answered in the direction of the bobbing light. In a very short period of time, a second light began to emerge and she heard rocks scraping together. Suddenly, there was loud crack of rock and a blinding influx of light that temporarily blinded her. When she could finally open her eyes again she gasped. "It's so beautiful!" she exclaimed in awe.
Where once there had been total darkness, there was now a sight that would dazzle just about anyone. It was a huge cavern. Lining the walls and ceiling were gigantic quartz crystals which had all caught the sunlight pouring in through the opening Naruto had made in the wall. The entire area was now lit as bright as day. And, as if that wasn't enough, the water Hinata had heard turned out to be the burbling of around a dozen large hot springs.
Naruto didn't even have to ask if Hinata liked it. Instead, he chuckled, opened the back pack, and held out the bathing suit he'd brought for her. "I thought you might want this," he said with a grin a mile wide.
Hinata looked around her. "Y...yes, but where can I change?" she said with a pink tinge to her cheeks.
Naruto pointed to a large rock jutting out from the floor near the back of the cavern. "Just go behind there. I promise I won't peek," he said with a reassuring smile.
Hinata took the suit and hurried over to the rock. "How did you find this place?" she called out as she began changing her clothes.
"Nabiki-chan showed it to me a week ago," Naruto replied as he put on his swimming trunks. "She said it's the source that feeds the indoor hot spring in my house."
Hinata came out from behind the rock. "How do I look?" she asked nervously.
"G...great," Naruto replied, trying desperately to command his blood to stay inside his nose. He also suddenly felt a bit self-conscious about his own physique, of which there wasn't much to speak of.
"You look nice t...too," Hinata said.
Naruto scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Thanks, but I'm still pretty scrawny," he said, making a pathetic attempt at a muscle. He patted his bicep. "See? Nothin' there."
Hinata's face suddenly became very serious. She walked over and stood in front of him. "That's not the part of you that I'm in love with," she said as she cupped his face in her hand.
Naruto smiled, shut his eyes and pressed his cheek into her hand with a sigh. "What is it then?" he asked softly. He took his face away from her hand and looked at her. "Why did you pick me?" He shook his head slightly. "I'm not very good looking, I'm a loudmouth, I'm dense, Sakura-chan is always telling me I eat like a pig..."
"Sakura-san is an idiot," Hinata suddenly snapped angrily.
Naruto blinked rapidly in surprise at her Hinata's outburst. "What do you...?"
Hinata suddenly looked a little ashamed of herself. "G...gomen. B...but I really don't think sh...she could be very smart. If she was, I would've lost my chance to be your g...girlfriend a long time ago. You are kind, strong, funny, sweet, handsome (She put careful emphasis on that one), fun, brave...and you never give up. Even before I loved you, I admired you for that." She grabbed his face with both hands. "P...please, don't ever think I'm wasting my time with you."
"Hina-chan," Naruto whispered just before leaning down and capturing her lips with his own. As they kissed, he suddenly realized that the thought of being without this kind of moment; without being able to kiss her, hold her, or hear her say she loved him, made him feel like he'd been run though by the chidori a thousand times over.
Hinata's eyebrows went up a bit at the suddenness with which Naruto had broken the kiss. "Naruto-kun?" she asked in a concerned voice.
Naruto, hands on Hinata's shoulders, stared at her as though seeing her for the first time. "I love you," he whispered with realization. Hinata made a small gasp and stared at him. Tears of happy disbelief created small rivers down her face. "I sorry I didn't realize it before now," he said, slowly stroking her cheek. "I just thought about what it would be like without you...and suddenly, I couldn't breath." His expression became forlorn and he hugged her tight. "I...I don't wanna go!"
Tears coated Hinata's cheeks. "I don't want you to go either. But we can write...and I'll be here when you get back."
Naruto let out a long sigh. "I know. It's just not the same though."
Hinata gently broke the hug. "Come swim with me. I want to have as much fun as we can before you have to leave."
Naruto smiled and nodded. "Yeah."
They ran to the water's edge and dove in. When he came back to the surface, Naruto jumped into the air with a whoop of joy. "Ah haaaaaa! This feels great!"
Hinata squealed, then giggled as some of the water from Naruto's exuberant display splashed her in the face. Using both hands, she shoved a huge amount of water at her boyfriend.
Naruto threw up his hands to deflect the water as it washed over him. "HA! Take this!" He clasped his hands together and punched the water sideways.
Hinata was knocked completely off her feet. She quickly got up, a determined look on her face. "KAITEN!"
Naruto's eyes widened to full capacity as an enormous deluge of water engulfed him. "AHHHHH!" he yelled as he tried to get away. It was a moment before he came sputtering back up to the surface. "No fair! I can't use jutsu right now!" he yelled with a pouting smile on his face.
Hinata giggled. "Sorry, Naruto-kun. I forgot." Suddenly she was drenched by another large splash.
"A ninja should never be off guard, Hina-chan!" Naruto said with a chuckle.
Hinata splashed him again. And so they continued their water fight, filling the cavern with the sounds of laughter for the rest of the afternoon.
Sakura reached forward and hugged her friend. "Good luck, Naruto-kun."
"Trust in your youth, Naruto-kun! It will not let you down!" Lee said with his nice guy pose.
Naruto snickered. "Sure."
"See you soon, Ototo," Sasuke said with an approving smirk.
"Nhm," Naruto replied.
"Don't let him corrupt you," Tsunade said as she jabbed a thumb in Jiraiya's direction. She gave him a large hug. "I'll miss you, brat."
"You too, Kaa-san."
Tsunade smiled at the rare show of respect. She walked over to Jiraiya and said in a low voice, "You take him to even one co-ed bath house and I'll cut off the top of your skull and use it as a candy dish."
Jiraiya's eyes were wide and the left one twitched as he quickly nodded in agreement.
Hinata stepped forward and pulled Naruto into a loving embrace. "I love you," she said softly while trying to keep her voice from breaking.
Naruto held her tighter. "I love you too." He swallowed. "I'll be back soon...I promise."
Tsunade looked at everyone who had gather to see Naruto off and jerked her head in the direction of the village, indicating she wanted to give the couple some time alone.
Naruto and Hinata kissed for a long while; when they parted, Naruto drew in a shaky breath. "I have to go."
Hinata sighed. "I know. Please...be safe," Hinata requested, concern clouding her features.
"Hey, c'mon. I'm indestructible," Naruto said with a wide grin.
Hinata allowed herself a small smile. "See you soon."
Naruto gave her one more quick kiss. "You bet."
Hinata watched as the boy she loved slowly disappeared from view and a single tear rolled down her face. She stared at the morning sky. "Please...protect him."
Naruto's heart was heavy as he took one last look at his home and the girl he loved. "Soon, Hina-chan...It's the promise of a lifetime."
...END BOOK 1
Two years and three months. Do you guys realize it's been that long? Thank you so much to everyone, but especially those who were there at the beginning and stuck with me. Some of you have become friends and even one has become my honorary brother.
I thank each and every person who reviewed from the bottom of my heart. Very often I've had an awful day and the only bright point, was reading your thoughts on my story.
Thank you so much to my betas: CrakBaby, RLnaruhina, Soriuju, Jckbrckn, Minnimerc, and Raging Hobo. You have all been an immense help to me and I hope you will continue to be for book 2.
Sequel News: Yes, there is a book 2! The sequel picks up after Naruto comes back from his training. It's called "Truth in Dreams" and you can find it in my profile. )
Radioplay News: Chapter 2 of the radio play is up! You can find it on the COLAD homepage. To be notified of when I finish a new chapter of the radio play, please sign up for my forums. And please please review the performances of the voice actors. They work very hard to bring life to the story and deserve all the feedback you can give.
Doujinishi News: I have 4 more pages to post. I've had them for a while, but I wanted to wait for the next four to get here. But since it looks like that may be a while, I will try to have the current pages posted by Saturday. And I'm always looking for more artists. :)
I will be adding many more reviews to my fave reviews page. I just haven't gotten around to it. (I'm mentioning this because some ppl have actually asked about it)
If you have some time, check out the My Little Pony versions of anime characters I've made. The link is in my profile. The Lee pony is pretty funny if I do say so myself.
I also make AMVs if anyone wants to give them a look. :)
I think that's it. I've truly enjoyed writing this story for you and I hope you will be with me for the sequel. Thank you for reading. :)