A/N: HIII EVERYONE! LONG TIME NO SEE! Alright, lemme just quickly explain. Since this WAS my first story, I didn't even think about plot before I wrote it, so when I reached the chapter previous, I was unsure of what to do, and as you know, totally abandoned you guys. :( I'm so very sorry. Initially, I was going to trash this, but after seeing how dedicated you guys were and how much you guys wanted me to finish it, I thought I should for your guys' sake. :)
BTW, I've fixed the plot. BE PREPARED FOR MORE CHAPTERS.
Disclaimer: Oh, please.
Kiba kept running. Kept pushing himself. His heart dropped through his feet when he saw the sun peeking over the horizon.
"No no no." he mumbled. "No, please. Please. Please." He looked down at Akamaru. "They're gonna be okay, right Akamaru?"
Akamaru looked up and whimpered sadly. Kiba sensed the tension in his friend's eyes, before turning away and speeding up.
He passed through a clearing, tripping on something large and soft on the ground.
"Oof!" Kiba grunted, having been completely winded. A beat of sweat trickling down his brow, he reached for a kunai. And whipped around to come face to face with a translucent Naruto Uzumaki.
He paused, eyes widening as he gasped and slowly pushed himself away from the scene. Blood covered his entire face. His orange outfit was drenched in the crimson liquid. His body was limp and his eyes were deadened. The only sound in the entire area was the eerie whistling of the trees and the ticklish light bleeding into the surroundings.
The tree above Kiba swayed, and a large leaf dislodged itself from the branch. It floated down…down…until it landed on Naruto's face. And covered him off from the rest of the world.
Like a tomb.
"No!" Kiba screamed, jumping over and whipping the leaf away from his comrade. "Naruto! Naruto!" He pleaded, grasping Naruto by the shoulders and shaking him frantically. It was needless to say the sight disturbed him to no end. Naruto, the powerful one, the one who didn't give up...in this state...
Naruto's head lolled around, mouth daftly open as a stream of blood trickled from it.
"Oh kami…" Kiba muttered, running a hand through his unruly, now bloody spattered hair. He may have been the leader but he was at an utter loss for what to do.
At this point, he had two options. He could stay here and try and revive and heal Naruto, and then run back with Naruto at full speed, or as fast as they could go, to the camp. Or, he could carry Naruto as was now and get back to camp at a slower rate. But there were no guarantees Naruto could survive the journey.
It was a game. A gamble.
Kiba paused and squeezed his eyes shut, a prayer on his tongue. He opened his eyes and looked at Naruto's injured face. Regardless of earlier events, Naruto was a good person. He wanted to save him. He wanted to get their friendship back.
Kiba blinked and touched a cut on Naruto's face, gravely noticing the dusty rust left upon his fingers, before heaving Naruto onto Akamaru's back and motioning for his dog to follow him back to camp.
It wasn't difficult getting back to camp. The earlier trek Kiba had made had left a long series of damaged branches and disturbed foliage to follow back. Kiba and Akamaru switched carrying Naruto every so often.
During the journey back, Naruto slipped in and out of consciousness and coughed up blood every once in a while.
"…Water," he croaked, raising his head to stare desperately at Kiba. "I need…water."
Well, it just so happened Kiba didn't have any water. It was ironic; they were right on the coastline, by an ocean, and Naruto was dying of dehydration and kami knows what else. Along the way, there wasn't a single stream or creek in sight.
Naruto grew more and more desperate in his plea. His breathing pace had quickened, and his fist and bunched a handful of cloth on Kiba's shoulder as he tried to ask again. What alarmed Kiba was after a few minutes, Naruto's breathing had slowed and he stopped asking, scaring him enough to try and find a solution.
Kiba gently set Naruto down on the ground, propping his head up on a piece of moss covered tree bark, before unsheathing a kunai and swiftly jabbing it into the side of said tree. It was an old technique; not always known to work, which explained Kiba's earlier dismissal of the idea to retrieve water. He drove the hilt inward and wrenched the bark out of the way, grunting in effort and sweating from having carried Naruto so far. By the time Kiba's fingers were able to enter the pit midway, he pulled the kunai out.
The knife itself had dug a rather deep pit into the tree, almost reaching halfway through to the center. Insects scrambled out of the torn skin from which they were hiding. With his fist tightly wrapped around his kunai, Kiba anxiously awaited the result.
And a trickle of water began to stream out.
Kiba sighed in relief, running a hand through his hair and taking an opportunity to cup his hands underneath the water and bring it to his parched lips. It wasn't cold, obviously, having seen the conditions of where the tree was living, but despite its lukewarm temperature, it was fresh, and that was more than enough for Kiba at the time being.
Grabbing a large, waxy leaf, Kiba formed a cone shape of sorts underneath the hole, as his makeshift cup started to fill. At the halfway mark, he cautiously reached for Naruto's bloodied, trembling hands, and lightly placed the leaf in it.
"Drink," he ordered. His hands remained upon Naruto's, afraid that he might not have had the strength to hold it on his own.
Naruto nodded his weary agreement, but made no move to do anything. Obviously, his wounds must've been more severe than Kiba initially anticipated, causing him to tilt Naruto's head forwards an inch, and allowing the water to dribble down his throat.
Unresponsive at first, Naruto soon became eager in drinking down as much of the water as possible. He had almost two leaf-fulls, before he had the capacity to support himself and drink rather casually. Naruto took his time in drinking down the water; still unable to speak, his eyes spoke of their gratitude to Kiba.
Kiba bit on his lower lip nervously. They had been here for nearly ten minutes; and without news of Hinata.
"Naruto, we need to go." Kiba said firmly, although he filled the leaf once more and handed it to Naruto, before picking him up and setting him, this time upright, on Akamaru's back once more. "Hinata's…"
Naruto waved his hand, his voice having come back. "Let's go. I'm better as it is." He wiped his mouth clean as Akamaru started off on a jog again, speeding up by the minute.
Dammit, dammit, dammit.
"Out of all people, I get stuck with the one who dies after a couple days of meeting me." She muttered under her breath, crossing her arms meanwhile.
She was in a white room. With no walls, no door and no windows. It was an empty space. Keikoku didn't necessarily classify this as death, considering her obvious displeasure with where she was, as well as the fact she did not feel at peace at all.
"I must be in limbo." She wondered aloud, tapping her chin with her finger. Once again surveying her blank surroundings, she plopped herself cross-legged on the ground, face set in a slight pout.
A few silent moments passed, until a green hued light seemed to emanate from the empty space in front of Keikoku. Being a spirit, she was hardly surprised at the abrupt phenomena.
The air swirled around hazily in front of her. Leaning back on her palms, Keikoku idly flipped her hair out of her face, noticing from the corner of her eye something materializing from the lime smoke.
It became…a hand.
A pale, elegant hand, with manicured fingernails. Keikoku cocked an eyebrow, smirking a little at the strange sight.
The fingers flexed themselves, before a wrist and forearm formed and connected to it. Dangling off the slender wrist was a series of intricate bangles, all clanging when the arm shook itself out.
In a matter of moments, the rest of the iridescent dust had gathered and solidified. Keikoku saw each of the being's body parts materialize. It became…
A blonde woman. Tall, with flowing blonde hair and dark eyes. She was garbed in a set of ghostly white robes tinted with green, all of which floated around her even though there was no breeze where they were. Her skin was pale and perhaps strangest of all...she strongly resembled Tsunade.
Her red-painted toes brushed the ground gracefully. She landed softly, before blinking and smiling a pure smile at Keikoku. Then, she raised her arms high above herself, her long robes falling to her shoulders, and cried out loudly, her Tsunade-like voice echoing around the cavern.
"I am Seiko. Welcome, Keikoku!"
Keikoku stared. Moments of groundbreaking silence passed.
And Keikoku burst out laughing.
She pounded the ground her both her fists, trying to catch her breath from laughing and fiercely wiping away the tears that started to form. Her laugh echoed around the area, as she lay on her belly, her limbs splayed out and moving wildly from her incessant laughter. Seiko didn't move an inch from her previous position; arms still held high, eyes still averted up, even her mouth was still open.
When this had continued for nearly a minute, Seiko's eyebrow twitched. "Is there something…comical, to you?"
Keikoku shook her head fiercely, still laughing like there was no tomorrow. She sat up, answering in between her guffaws.
"Are you…freaking kidding…me?" She coughed into her hand, wiping away a few stray tears before finally calming down. "That's a riot, I gotta use that next time." She sat cross legged, examining Seiko up and down.
"I am Seiko. Welcome Keikoku." Keikoku mocked in a much deeper voice that Seiko's, using her hands for dramatic effect. She sighed. "I haven't laughed so hard since…last night."
Seiko just stared at her, before sighing patiently, preparing to cry out to the sky again, before Keikoku cut her off.
"Screw the intros, I need to know where I am." Keikoku yawned, getting straight to her point. "Are you a spirit too?"
Seiko seemed taken aback at her shrewdness, but nodded nonetheless. "I was the spirit of Mistress Tsunade long ago." Her eyes seemed to sharpen in anger, but then receded to their usual calmness.
Keikoku cocked an eyebrow, crossing her arms. Hinata hadn't told her much, but she had said that Tsunade was still alive, to some means.
"But Tsunade isn't dead. You should still be with her."
Seiko's expression turned sad. "No, she is not dead by physical means, not yet."
Keikoku found her interest piqued, as her features softened as she asked Seiko again. "So...why are you here?"
Seiko glanced at Keikoku, before sitting down formally on her knees, hands lightly placed on her thighs. "Keikoku, as you know, we are love spirits. We stay by our humans for as long as need be until they've found someone they love. Or until our humans no longer need love."
Keikoku nodded slowly. "I was sent to help Hinata fall in love."
Seiko let out a voice of agreement. "Years ago, before Hinata was born, I was Tsunade's spirit. She had fallen in love with…a certain teammate of hers. I urged her to take on the chances, make a risk to be happy, but she blatantly refused." She pondered this, before allowing her words to recoil. "Well, as opposed to blatantly refusing, it was more of, there was something standing in her way. Many somethings, as a matter of fact, including a raging war. The events at the time made it difficult for her to do anything. Some would say she was wise to abandon love at the time to focus on her duties. Although not me." Seiko's voice turned bitter.
"Tsunade paid me less and less heed with every coming day. And she found herself getting over, not only the person who had supposedly captured her heart for the majority of her life, but also the concept of love. After losing so many close to her heart, I guess she must've found it pretty useless." She breathed through her teeth. "And so, when she gave up on love, I left. She didn't need me, or want me anymore. I had no reason to remain."
Keikoku didn't move, thinking of Seiko's words. "Do you know what's happened to her now?"
Seiko shook her head. "I broke all connections with her that day. The laws of our very existence define us as spirits who can only remain so long as either our hosts wish to keep us, or unless they haven't achieved love and still want to."
Keikoku thought aloud, "So Hinata's in love, but just hasn't achieved it yet. But wait!" Keikoku voiced, a thought coming to her head.
"...What happens when Hinata achieves it?"
Seiko paused, before smiling sadly at her. "You will join me here. In limbo, because your mission has been achieved. And maybe, someday in the future, you may be lucky and be allowed to leave, and help someone else, although that is unlikely."
The blood seemed to drain from Keikoku's body. In…limbo? Alone…for kami knows how long. She'd never see Hinata again. Never hear of her again. And possibly never leave.
"S-so," her voice was timid and choked. "If Hinata were to give up on the concept of love like Tsunade…or achieve love, then I would be forced to leave."
Seiko's expression became even more somber at the fear splattered over Keikoku's usually bright face. "Yes, I'm afraid so."
And then the reality struck her. She already was in limbo. The worst had already happened. Keikoku felt sick to her stomach.
"No, not yet." Seiko read her mind, eyes brightening at Keikoku's surprised face. "I merely summoned you here to inform you of what is to come, since you were unaware of it earlier. This is just…to let you know of what your future will be. The truth is, you're not really here."
Keikoku blinked, her nausea subsiding. She slowly, cautiously, brought her own hand up, staring at the skin, until she noticed that although barely noticeable, her skin was almost translucent, and growing more transparent by the minute.
Seiko smiled at her. "Looks like Hinata is coming around."
Keikoku was, for once, speechless, her eyes glued to her fading limbs. "I..I-I" She breathed. "So Hinata isn't really dead?"
Seiko's smile grew. "No. Nearly, though. It would seem the Byakugan has more surprises than we anticipated."
Keikoku swallowed, before beginning to babble as she noticed her time in limbo was decreasing.
"S-Seiko, it'll be okay…" she rushed out, trying to comfort Seiko before she left. "I…I'm sure you'll be fine, I'll do what I can, I'll just-"
"We'll meet again." Seiko cut her off. "Now get back to work." Her voice joked.
Hinata's eyes snapped open, as she coughed and heaved up blood. She shivered and felt her jaw trembling from blood loss, until she noticed a familiar scent around her. She tried to lift her head, but was unable to, as something warm was also pressing against her crown. Her arms were a lost cause; completely immobile and far too weak to do anything.
A tanned, masculine arm was holding her around the waist, as another one clutched onto her shoulder and pushed her head into a chest that felt incredibly familiar. She was sitting in someone's lap, completely enveloped by their embrace.
He was crying, sobbing softly into her hair. His hold on her was a death grip; Hinata even felt Akamaru nudging into the side of her hip, whimpering as well.
"Please…" he whispered softly, but just enough for Hinata to hear. "Kami…I'm so sorry I couldn't protect you. I'm sorry Hinata. Please come back."
Hinata's eyes were pressed into her chest, and she closed her eyes as she let a stray tears slip from her eyes as well.
"Please, kami, no…" He abruptly kissed the crown of her head. "It can't end like this." His tears slipped down from her glossy hair down the sides of her cheeks, and she found herself pained at seeing him like this.
Hinata, being unable to say anything, just mouthed the words, "I'm sorry too." Her lips, which were currently present over his chest, moved forward and brushed the exact spot where his heart would've been.
"Hinata...I just...I didn't mean any of it. Everything. All that's happened, with Naruto and you and everyone...I'm just sorry. I'm...s-so sorry." His breath caught in his chest as another sob came out. "I'll...do anything. Just please, oh kami, don't leave me." He buried his face into her head."
Her mouth still over his heart, she pressed her lips against the beating underneath his skin.
He froze, and slowly pulled away to survey what the small movement was. Hinata's eyes cracked open, revealing the same old white underneath. Looking up into his eyes, she saw a pain reflected in his that she had felt her whole life, from when Hiashi abused her to when her foes stood over her, it was all the same; despair, and rejection.
She didn't want to leave him in this state, and she didn't want to be left alone in her state either.
His face was set in pure surprise, and before he could react, Hinata's small voice croaked,
"I love you too."
Using her remaining strength, she lifted her neck and breathed onto Kiba's warm mouth, before pressing herself upward as she brushed her lips against his, and pressing harder against his strong mouth. She initially feeling the surprise in him, before she felt his eyes close against her own eyelids, as he returned the kiss, fondness in his mouth and love in the way he held her.
This was what it was about.
Feeling at rest for what seemed the first time in forever, she allowed herself to pass into sleep, lips still pressed against Kiba's.
Before she slept, she faintly heard the sound of Keikoku cheering.
A/N: ...My crap attempt at fluff. :'( SORRY. I wrote this all yesterday because I read the reviews again and felt like "Wow, I am a TERRIBLE author." Either way, thank you so much reviewers for you amazing dedication and sticking with me thus far, I promise I'll work hard on future chapters and won't make you wait 4 months for more updates.
And kudos to anyone who reads my other works and realizes that Seiko is actually borrowed from a character in Seiten no Heki Reki. Review, no flames, please. :)