“Are you serious? I can really go?” Nozomi gawked up at the nurse, unsure whether she should believe what she’d heard. This week had been one of the longest she’d ever endured, being cooped up in a small room. Sure, after some time she’d been allowed to walk, but it was only to keep her body active. However, she was still a patient, so the little bit of exercise meant nothing to the girl, who restlessly awaited her release.
Despite the fact that she was a stranger to Konoha, she was rarely ever left alone. Not just because of the nurses constantly bugging her, taking blood samples and checking her overall health, but also because of the daily visits from Uzumaki Naruto. For some reason the boy had insisted on hanging around every chance he got. Although he hadn’t come right out and said it, Nozomi suspected that he felt bad for getting her stuck in this place. Whatever his reasons, the blond seemed perfectly content just sitting there, talking to her. Even her brash behavior had done little to discourage his return - a fact that had left Nozomi more than a little confused. She tried not to think about it too much, telling herself that he was just a lonely kid looking for attention. Why else would anybody want someone like her around?
She’d been getting used to his visits (at least he could only stay so long before the nurses shooed him out so she could rest!), but then the boy had burst into the room with the news that she was allowed to walk again. Nozomi’s excitement was short lived, as the blond went on to explain that she’d been permitted to walk around the halls. That meant she still had to stay in the hospital and her mood had soured almost immediately. Adding to her frustration, instead of leaving her alone to sulk, Naruto had announced that he’d accompany her on her walks, in case anything happened where she needed help. Just like that, her days had been monopolized by an over eager blond who was determined to help, even when she didn’t need it. Over all, the week had been full of bossy nurses, less than amazing food and one overly enthusiastic boy.
“That’s right, Kubota-san.” The voice broke into her thoughts and Nozomi looked at the nurse, doing a slight double take. “Your vitals look good and your complexion is back to normal. You look much healthier now than you did before.”
‘Did I really look that terrible?’ Nozomi’s brows knit together in confusion, and the nurse laughed gently.
“Anyways, please wait just a little longer. There is some paperwork you need to sign, and once that’s done you’ll be free to go.”
Nozomi gave a nod and a small “Un!” as the nurse left the room.
A huge grin formed on the cat girl’s face as she gazed around her room excitedly. Her gaze rest on the rays of light that streamed into the room through her window. Her ears perked as she heard the soft ruffling of wings, and a surprised gasp left her as a bird came to land on the window sill.
Nozomi scoffed as it tilted its head, eyeing her curiously. “Yeah, yeah, I’m different looking.” She bared her fangs. “You got a problem with that?”
The bird cawed in reply before turning and jumping from its perch, its wings spreading out as it became airborne once more. Nozomi watched it enviously, wondering briefly if it had a destination, or if, like she herself, it was traveling aimlessly, searching for purpose. The brunette shook her head, clearing the thought from her mind almost as instantly as it had surfaced.
‘C’mon, that’s just silly. That bird doesn’t have any of the kinds of problems you do and you know it.’ She rolled her eyes upward, glancing back toward the window as she heard the bird caw again, this time sounding more distant. ‘Still, I wish someday I could be just as free as it is.’
Nozomi glanced up at the clock in her room and thumped her fingers against the mattress impatiently. It had been over an hour since anybody had come in, and she’d lost track of how long it had been since her nurse mentioned the paperwork. All she knew for sure was that she was getting sick of waiting. What had happened to her getting discharged? Had they forgotten about her?
The brunette gritted her teeth, narrowing her eyes as her ears picked up at the click of heels passing her door. Why wasn’t anybody coming to her room?! She resisted the urge to yell in frustration. ‘Come back, I’m still waiting in here!’
A few more moments of complete silence passed, agitating her further and she let out a long, drawn out groan. “They didn’t seriously forget me, did they?!”
The words had no sooner left her mouth than there was a knock on the door, and she looked up, startled. “Yes?” The door opened and a sigh of relief escaped her as she found herself looking at the nurse from before. “THERE you are,” she muttered, allowing irritation to seep into her voice, “I thought you guys had forgotten about me!”
The nurse flashed an apologetic smile. “Of course not, Kubota-san. There are just a lot of patients today. Please forgive us.” She held out a clipboard that contained several small stacks of papers, “Here are your discharge papers. If I can get your signature, you’ll be free to go.” She motioned to a few spots on the paperwork.
“Okay.” Nozomi eagerly took the pen she offered and scribbled her name on the dotted lines as she’d been asked. When she was finished, she threw the pen down and gave a self satisfied little smirk. “So, can I go now?”
“According to hospital guidelines, you are free to go now,” the nurse smiled. “Please just give me a moment to remove your IV.”
“Alright!!” Nozomi waited, squirming impatiently as the needle was removed from her wrist. She winced as her wound was exposed to the air and bit her lip, trying to hide her discomfort. Then, to her relief, the nurse produced a small bandaid from a drawer, placing it over the puncture mark. “There you go, you’re all set.” she said.
“Thanks.” Nozomi glanced down at the bandage and gave a grateful smile before getting up from the bed. She located her clothes, folded up on the visitor’s chair and snatched them up, heading into the small bathroom to change. A few minutes later, the door flew open and she burst back into the room. “Alright! I’m outta here!”
A smile spread across the nurse’s face at the young girl’s enthusiasm. “I’ve been asked to instruct you not to go far, Kubota-san. The Hokage wants to talk to you.” The woman paused and looked up from the clipboard she was carrying. “....Kubota-san?” She glanced around, bewildered. When had the girl left and why hadn’t she seen her go?
“..What a free spirit.” A sigh escaped her lips as she began to clean the room, getting it prepared for whomever would need it next.
“Hahaha! I’m free!” Nozomi pumped her fist triumphantly as she ran down the streets of Konoha. Her glee was obvious, from the skip in her step to the way she jumped and spun in circles as she ran. Her behavior had earned her quite a few curious looks but she could care less. She was FINALLY out of the hospital! Now all she had to do was walk out the gates; Konoha no more than a distant memory in her heart.
‘It’s almost too bad I didn’t tell that Naruto guy goodbye.’ She thought as she trotted at a brisk pace, observing her surroundings. She had just turned a corner when the village gates finally came into view and she grinned, her momentary pity for the Konoha boy vanishing. In its place rose determination and excitement as she quickened her pace. ‘Oh well. He’ll get over it in time.’
This was it. All that stood between her and freedom was a single gate. The brunette smirked to herself as she made her way to the village. She’d gone through tougher obstacles before, this would be a breeze! Now she could continue on her journey.
‘...A journey to where I don’t know, but anywhere is better than that place I used to call home.’ The brunette made a face at the thought as she continued on. She hadn’t set even one foot out of the village when she heard a voice call out to her. “Nozomi! Nozomi waiiiit!”
“Oh no…” Nozomi grimaced, flattening her ears. “What does he want now?”
She watched, shoulders tensing up as the familiar spiky haired boy ran up to her and hunched over, hands on his knees as he panted hard. “Naruto? What’s going on…?”
Naruto waited until he’d caught his breath to stand up straight, and he looked at her evenly. “That’s what I want to know.” He answered softly. “Nozomi, what are you doing?”
Nozomi raised an eyebrow at him, puzzled. “What am I doing?” She echoed, frowning at the boy, “I’m leaving, of course.”
“What? Leaving?! But-but-- why?!” The blond demanded, looking a little hurt. “I thought you were starting to like it here!”
Nozomi hesitated to answer, just staring at him. Despite the note of annoyance in his voice, she could detect a hint of sadness in it as well. Why did he care so much anyway? He’d told her that he had other friends. Why wasn’t he with them right now instead of bothering a nobody like her? The brunette’s gaze hardened before it shifted to the ground, and she kicked at a stray pebble in the dirt. “It’s hard to judge a village when you’re cooped up in a room all week.”
Naruto smiled sheepishly at the unimpressed look on the girl’s face and rubbed the back of his head. “Oh. W-well then, why don’t you let me show you around, yeah?!” He grabbed the cat girl’s wrist before she could protest, smiling. “Come on, just for a little bit, okay? Grandma Tsunade wants to talk to you, and she asked me to keep you company for the meanwhile.”
A deflated sigh left Nozomi’s lips as she slumped her shoulders, pulling out of the boy’s grip. “Ugh, fine…” She mumbled boredly. “I’ll stick around here and….” She broke off, realization sparking in her eyes. “Wait. Why can’t I just go see her now, if she wants to talk to me?”
“Nozomi…” Naruto shook his head, an amused smile on his face. “Do you really think you’re the only patient Grandma Tsunade had to take care of today?”
“What?” The girl’s eyes rolled upward as his words sunk in and she shook her head quickly. “Of course not, but doesn’t she have staff to help her? I mean, it’s inconsiderate of her to ask me to stick around if she’s busy - especially when she knows I’m raring to get going!”
Naruto frowned at the girl and folded his arms loosely across his chest. “Hey, about that...where are you going, anyways?” He asked seriously. “I mean, you seem so antsy to leave, you must have a place in mind, right?” There was a brief pause before he smacked a fist into his palm. “Oh! Maybe, did your time away make you lonely and you want to go home?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Nozomi put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes at the blond. “I meant it when I said I was never going back. As far as I’m concerned, I have no home.”
Naruto frowned sadly at her, his heart clenching painfully at the bitterness in her voice. “Well then, if that’s the case...where are you going?”
The brunette opened her mouth to answer, only to shut it again, averting her eyes to the ground. “Well….I’m not sure yet.” She muttered, kicking the ground with frustration. “Just...just AWAY, I guess.”
“Wait a minute..” Naruto’s eyes hardened and he stepped a little closer, dropping his voice to a whisper. “Are you in some kind of trouble? You must be, why else would you be running away?”
“You wouldn’t understand so just drop it!” Nozomi spat, something akin to panic lacing her voice. She frowned at his closeness, which she felt was way too close for comfort, and took a step back to put more distance between the two of them. “Besides, it’s none of your business anyways, is it kid.” The retort was a comment, not a question, but still Naruto found himself shaking his head slowly, frowning.
“No...I guess not…” He sounded hurt as he answered her. “I-I’ll leave it alone, but...shouldn’t we be on a name to name basis by now?” He paused, the hurt in his eyes obvious as he caught the look of indifference the cat girl was giving him. “Honestly, Nozomi, I sorta thought we were...kinda...you know…” He hesitated, searching her face for understanding and sighed, averting his gaze when he found nothing. “...Friends.”
The cat girl’s lips twitched upwards slightly in the smallest of smiles and she rolled her eyes again. This kid was too funny. He and her, friends? If anything they were just acquaintances at best. She HAD no friends. “Whatever you say, Naruto.” She allowed a sigh to leave her as she stepped toward him, though she still kept a safe distance between them. “So, um...where are we going first?”
The blond’s head shot back up and he stared at her for a long moment in silence, somewhat caught off guard by her sudden change in demeanor. This was just how she’d been the first time they met: cold and distant, wanting nothing to do with him or anybody, only to turn around the next minute acting somewhat timid, her behavior awkward, as if she were unsure of what action to take. It was as if she were an entirely different person. Was this just part of her personality or was it a quirk that came out when she got nervous? He figured it best not to mention it at this time and gave a big smile to the girl.
“Just follow me, I think you’ll really like Konoha!” He turned away and began walking, pausing as he saw a building, an idea forming in his mind.
“Hey, why did you stop?”
Naruto glanced back at the cat girl, who was regarding him with mild interest and smiled. “It’s nothing. Ne, Nozomi, how good is your chakra control?”
“It’s okay, I guess.” Nozomi responded, glancing disinterestedly at the claws on her fingers.
“Awright! We can take the scenic route then!” The boy bellowed, pumping his fist enthusiastically. “This is gonna be so much fun!”
“What are you even talking about?” Nozomi frowned, sweat dropping as she watched the blond run up the side of a building. Once he was at the top, he turned and grinned down at her mischievously.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Try to keep up!”
Her eyes widened at his challenge and the brunette shook her head vigorously. “You’re kidding me, right? I can’t climb that! I’ll just walk!”
“Why not? I thought you said your chakra control was okay!”
“It’s fine, I just don’t feel like climbing, that’s all!” Nozomi folded her arms across her chest, squinting up at him. “I’ll be fine, just lead the way from up there.”
The grin faded from Naruto’s face and he pouted. “Aww, but that’s no fun!” He slumped his shoulders, pouting for a moment. Then an idea hit him and he straightened up, shrugging. “Heh, guess I should have known you’d be scared!”
“What?!” Nozomi balled up her fists tightly, a vein popping as she shouted up at him. “I’m not scared!”
The spiky haired boy smirked, noticing the fury on the girl’s face. “Man, what a fraidy cat!” He jeered, struggling not to laugh. “I guess that’s why you have cat ears and a tail, right? Cause you’re a fraidy cat!”
The girl’s ears flattened against her head as she growled, her face growing redder with every word that left the boy’s mouth. “I am NOT a fraidy cat!” She shouted angrily.
“Well then,” Naruto folded his arms, laughing softly, “Prove it.” He gave himself a mental pat on the back as he saw the look of outrage on the cat girl’s face -she’d fallen for his trick!
Nozomi gritted her teeth together, ducking her head down so a shadow cast over her eyes. He was seriously challenging her now? Not only was she a little out of shape, after being on bedrest so long, but she wasn’t the best at chakra control. She should have just told him that from the beginning, but some part of her didn’t want the boy to know any more of her weaknesses. She really didn’t know if she actually could climb that building. In spite of that, the way this guy was mocking her made her want to shut him up and prove him wrong...if luck decided to be on her side for once.
“FINE, I will!” She shouted, shutting her eyes tightly.
‘Okay, Nozomi, concentrate! You can do this!’
The brunette lifted her head once more and ran toward the building, arms out at her sides.
‘I can do this...I HAVE to do this!’
Her feet pounded against the ground and with one final push she was off, running up the side of the building. Nozomi allowed herself to revel in the moment. She’d actually done it; with what little training she’d had growing up, she’d managed to channel the chakra to her feet, and she was climbing a building! Her father would have been so proud! If only he could see her now.
The cat girl’s steps faltered slightly and she gasped, feeling her control slip away.
‘No, no! Don’t get distracted, focus!’
Despite her valiant efforts to refocus, the brief distraction had done its damage. The chakra in her feet began to surge out of control, causing her not to stick to the building, but rather, to be repelled from its surface.
‘No! I was almost there!’ Nozomi grimaced as she felt a rush of wind ruffle her hair and she twisted her body so she was falling face first. She squinted her eyes shut, waiting for the familiar impact of hard ground against her hands and feet. A sudden jerk caused her to stop in midair, and she glanced up curiously. To her surprise, Naruto crouched against the wall, an arm outstretched as he held tight to the hem of her dress. Oh, so that was why she had stopped falling.
The blond grit his teeth together, knowing his own chakra control wouldn’t hold out forever, and that the sooner they got to the roof the better. “Nozomi, give me your hand-- I can’t hold on much longer!”
The concern in his voice caught her off guard and the brunette reached out, gripping tightly to his hand as he pulled her up. After a few minutes of shuffling along awkwardly behind him, they made it to the top of the building, and Nozomi gasped for air. “That was...crazy…” She panted.
“I’ll say!” Naruto sat down and frowned up at her, crossing his arms. “You should have told me you didn’t know how to control your chakra!”
His condescending tone agitated Nozomi and she stuck her tongue out at him. “I should have but you called me a fraidy cat and...I had to at least TRY!”
“Oh….yeah, I did do that.” Naruto rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Sorry, but at least I helped you in the end, right?” He allowed a snicker to escape. “I hate to see what would have happened if you’d tried that alone!”
A faint blush crept into Nozomi’s cheeks as she narrowed her eyes at him. “I’ll TELL you what would have happened- I’d have landed on my feet!”
“Uh huh. Really.” Naruto stared at her with an “I don’t believe that for a minute” look on his face, rolling his eyes.
“Look, it’s true!” Nozomi threw her hands up in the air and sighed exasperatedly. “Look, whether I like it or not, I’ve got these...features…” she glanced away uncomfortably. “..but they do give me certain abilities from time to time. Landing on my feet is one of them.”
“Really…?” The boy stared at her incredulously. “So...so does that mean that if I were to...I dunno, say push you off the roof right now...you’d land on your feet?”
“Exactly.” Nozomi folded her arms across her chest, frowning as his words sunk in. “Hey, don’t you dare do that though!”
Naruto laughed in response. “Oh, relax. I was just kidding!”
“Whatever.” Nozomi grumbled unhappily. “Let’s just go then, yeah?”
“Well you can’t control your chakra and you’re way too heavy for me to help you jump from roof to roof.” Naruto shrugged, not noticing the icy glare he received. “Guess we’ll have to walk after all.” He turned toward the edge of the roof, then looked back, holding out a hand to the girl. “Do you need help getting down?”
“No way, I’m too heavy remember?” Nozomi snapped, slapping his hand away. “Just worry about yourself, I’ll be fine.”
“Suit yourself.” Naruto frowned at the sudden change in her behavior but shrugged it off, hurrying down the building. When he’d reached the ground, he glanced up at Nozomi. “Come on, let’s go!”
“I’m coming already! Sheesh!” Golden eyes scanned the building before spotting a small balcony a little ways down, and she pointed to it. “I’ll be down shortly.” Not giving the boy a chance to respond, she hurried along the roof, coming to a stop just above the balcony and jumping onto it. Then, with grace only a cat could have, she climbed the balcony rail, jumped off it and landed on the ground crouched on her hands and feet.
“Whoa, that was really cool!” Naruto exclaimed, awestruck as he ran up to her. “Ne, Nozomi, can you teach me?”
The brunette glanced at him coolly, before shaking her head. “No can do. This kind of thing requires certain...conditions to be met.” She stood up straight and dusted herself off in a huff. She was still upset about his earlier comment, and even more annoyed that he didn’t seem to realize what he’d done.
Still, Naruto refused to give up. “What kind of conditions? I’m sure I can meet them!”
Nozomi rolled her eyes irritatedly. “Forget it. Only a Kubota demon can do it.” She muttered.
“...Kubota demon…? Wait…!” Naruto’s eyes widened as he looked at her in shock. “Nozo...you’re…?”
“Tch, what was your FIRST clue?” Nozomi scoffed bitterly, turning away. “Come on, let’s go already.”
“But wait, you don’t understand!-”
“Just drop it, Naruto...”
“But I’m trying to tell you something important!-”
“I said drop it, Naruto.” The brunette said through clenched teeth, shaking her head and walking away. “I’m not in the mood to talk about it anymore.”
Realizing that she was finished with the discussion, the blond sighed softly under his breath. He felt like he was beginning to understand her a little better. Nozomi had more or less admitted to being the host of some sort of demon. It certainly explained the random mood swings, and her refusal to disclose any details about where she had come from.
‘She must have had an awful time.’ He thought sadly. He could relate to her far more than she knew. Maybe, if she ever gave him a chance, he could tell her his story, and then just maybe she’d see that there was hope; that there was a way to get out from under the shadow of her inner beast. Maybe she’d even let him help her, as he’d so badly wanted to since her arrival. That desire only intensified now that he knew just how similar she was to him. He could only wait for now, and hope that eventually she’d feel comfortable enough to tell him her story. She may not trust him right now, but he hoped that she’d open up to him eventually.
“Hey, are you coming or not?”
Naruto snapped out of his thoughts and flashed a sheepish smile as he realized the brunette stood several feet away, staring at him suspiciously. “Oh yeah, sorry!” He called out, running over to her. “So anyways, I was thinking first I could show you some of my favorite places here! C’mon!” Without waiting for her answer, he grabbed her hand and took off running, ignoring her shouts of protest.
“Oi! This is taking forever!” Nozomi slumped onto a bench and threw her head back exasperatedly, emitting a heavy sigh. She’d been on this crazy village tour for at least an hour, and still there’d been no word from the Hokage. “Has she just forgotten about me or something?!”
Sweat dropping, Naruto took a seat beside her and gave a small, reassuring grin. “Ne, I’m sure she’s just busy. The hospital takes up a lot of her time. Not to mention she’s the Hokage! She has a lot of paperwork and….just..other stuff to tend to.” He shrugged. “She’ll send for you when she’s done.”
“Well geez, at this rate that could be tomorrow!” The brunette grimaced, closing her eyes tightly. She’d had just about enough of this - she needed to get going already!
Naruto frowned, noting the impatient thump of her tail. “It won’t take THAT long, just relax! Geez!” He still couldn’t understand her haste to leave. It wasn’t like she had anywhere she needed to be in particular - she’d said it herself!
To his surprise, the cat girl turned on him, her eyes flashing. “No, don’t you tell me to relax! I’m practically the hostage of people who have no business even caring if I live or die! How do you expect me to RELAX in such a strange situation? That’s not happening!”
Naruto’s brows knitted together in frustration as he struggled to find the right words. “No, wait...Nozomi, calm down for a minute. Let’s just talk about this calmly.” He reached out to her, wincing as she swiped his hand away and jumped to her feet.
“I will NOT just sit back and relax, Naruto. I have things I have to do, and I can’t just sit around here waiting forever for somebody who never even shows!” There was a certain finality to her voice as she edged away. “I’m out of here. Whether your Hokage likes it or not.”
“What kind of things do you even have to take care of? I thought you said you had nowhere specific to be right now.” Naruto stood up as well and faced her, waiting for her explanation. However, the brunette had other ideas. She took this moment to turn on her heel and bolt away, headed for the village gates.
‘Really? She’s really just gonna run away?!’ Naruto face palmed in disbelief before bracing himself and running after her. If she thought he was just going to let her leave, she had another thought coming. He’d bring her back no matter what, even if he had to use force. After all, it was his mission, straight from the Hokage, and he had given her his word.
Naruto sat upright in his chair, boredly looking around the Hokage’s office. He’d become all too accustomed to sitting here, waiting for punishment from the Third. This was one of the few times he’d been called in by the Fifth, and since he hadn’t gotten into any trouble lately, he couldn’t help wondering what she wanted.
He didn’t have to wait long, as the door opened and in walked the Hokage, her heels clicking lightly on the wooden floor. She took her seat behind the Hokage’s desk and folded her hands on its surface, looking at him calmly. “Good, you made it.”
“Of course, just like you asked, Grandma Tsunade. Um...” Naruto leaned forward in his seat, feeling impatience bubble up in him. He wanted to ask what he’d been called in for, but he wasn’t sure how to begin.
“Judging by the look on your face, I’m assuming you have no idea what you’re doing here.”
“Well, yeah...I usually get called here for a lecture.”
Tsunade smirked slightly at the somber look on his face, leaning forward in her chair. “Well, you’re not in trouble this time.”
With these words the blond visibly relaxed and she raised an eyebrow in amusement before clearing her throat, answering the question that burned in his eyes. “As for the reason I’ve called you here...As you know our guest, Kubota Nozomi is being released from the hospital today, and I want you to keep an eye on her.” She paused, letting her words sink in for the boy before continuing. “I have a hunch that she will try to leave, and there are still things I need to discuss with her.”
Naruto nodded in understanding, a big grin appearing on his face. “So you want me to keep her distracted then? I can do that. Believe it, there’s no way she’ll get out those gates on my watch!” The boy pumped a fist in the air excitedly and Tsunade resisted the urge to smile.
“Very good. You know more about her than anybody else at this time; should anything go wrong, I have faith you’ll be able to take her down once again.”
“Uh...yeah...I do know a weakness or two of hers.” The blond rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, recalling how he’d accidentally knocked the cat girl out at their first meeting.
“Very good. So your mission, as I’ve said, is to keep her in Konoha until further notice.” Tsunade nodded, confident that she’d picked the perfect candidate to keep Nozomi busy- there’d be no way she’d be able to leave undetected. “Dismissed.”
‘That’s right. I gave Grandma Tsunade my word, and Uzumaki Naruto never goes back on his word!’ Naruto reminded himself, speeding up. ‘I won’t let her down. I’ll bring that girl back no matter what!’
Nozomi was out of shape. This much was obvious, because as hard as she was running, he was still easily catching up to her. Perhaps his determination outmatched her own, or maybe she hadn’t really gotten as much exercise this week as she needed, and her muscles were weak. That, or maybe she just wasn’t a fast runner to begin with.
Whatever the cause was, he soon passed her and came to a stop in front of the village gates, smirking at the brunette. “Just where do you think you’re going?”
Nozomi scowled at his smirk and skidded to a halt just a few feet away from him. Didn’t this guy ever quit? “Get out of the way, Naruto. I’m out of here.”
“Ne, but I can’t do that. Grandma Tsunade doesn’t want you to leave yet.”
The brunette clenched her teeth, her fists balling up at her sides. “Yeah well, she already had her chance to talk with me. I’m through waiting!” she insisted.
‘This is good, she’s not moving anymore!’ Naruto realized, staring at the girl. ‘If I can just keep her busy long enough...maybe Grandma Tsunade will show up!’
Shaking his head, the blond clicked his tongue. “Well, sorry to tell ya but I’m not allowed to let you go. You might as well just forget it, unless you want me to chase you down and bring you back.” He paused for a moment before adding, “We both know I’m stronger than you, kitty cat.”
Nozomi’s eyes widened and she stared at him in open mouthed disbelief. Oh no, he had NOT just gone there. He had, and to add insult to injury, he’d called her that stupid name! Snapping out of her shock, the brunette bared her fangs at him angrily. “What, are you calling me weak?!” She demanded.
A chuckle escaped the blond as he realized how worked up he’d already gotten her. It sure didn’t take much to make her mad, did it? “I dunno,” he shrugged nonchalantly, “it’s just funny that someone claiming to be so independent and strong could be taken out by a tug on the tail!”
That did it. Now Nozomi was pissed, and seeing red as she narrowed her eyes at him. “Why you...I’d like to see how long YOU’D last if someone pulled YOUR tail!”
Her words made him laugh harder and he gave a toothy grin. “Hahaha, I don’t HAVE a tail, Nozo!”
This only fueled the fire in Nozomi and she scowled darker at him. “No DUH.” Lowering her head, she narrowed her eyes dangerously at him. “Get out of the way or I’ll MAKE you.”
She gave him no chance to respond, charging forward and barrelling head first into his chest. Naruto gasped sharply, the wind clearly knocked out of him as he reached for something- anything to keep him from falling back. He couldn’t fall, otherwise she’d get past him and he’d fail the mission. That was something he couldn’t bear to consider - not when the Hokage had trusted him so much! In spite of his efforts, he was losing to gravity and with one last desperate swipe, he managed to grip onto the collar of Nozomi’s dress. Well, at least now she would go down with him. That would at least delay her some, right?
Naruto grimaced as the back of his head connected with the ground, the impact doubled by the weight of the girl who’d fallen on top of him. The ache in his shoulder warned him not to take any more damage than he already had and he made a mental note to get it looked at later on. For now he had to keep this crazy feline under control.
The cat girl jerked backwards as she crouched on her hands and knees above him. She quickly realized that as long as he had a hold of her dress, escape was impossible, and she hissed in displeasure. “Naruto, let me go right now!” She swiped her claws at his hand, hoping to loosen his grasp enough for her to wiggle free.
“No. Not until you stop trying to leave.” Naruto ground out, wincing as her claws scraped the skin from his knuckles. Still he held on, refusing to give up. She had to run out of energy sooner or later, didn’t she? Gathering up all his strength, the blond lunged upward at her, trying to knock her off balance. This proved difficult as she quickly realized what he was trying to do and countered with her own attack. This went on for several minutes until finally one of Nozomi’s knees slipped and she fell, making Naruto the victor. He quickly took advantage of her clumsiness to roll over so that he had her pinned beneath him. The brunette snarled angrily and thrashed wildly, but was nowhere near strong enough to knock him off balance the way he had done to her.
“Why you! Let me up!” She growled, trying to headbutt him.
By now, Naruto was tired of this fight. He pushed the girl’s head back onto the ground, gritting his teeth to keep from crying out as she bit his finger. He was getting tired- a light sheen of sweat already coated his back and made his jacket stick to him in an uncomfortable way. The blond sighed heavily as the brunette swiped her claws at his face and jerked his head back enough to dodge before grabbing her hands and pinning them by her head. This girl was beginning to irritate him! Didn’t she know when she was beaten?
“Nozomi, that’s it--! Stop fighting- we’re finished here!” He made his voice as commanding as possible, applying more pressure to her wrists as she arched her back, trying to throw him off her. When she realized this wasn’t going to work, she gave up and heaved a heavy sigh, glaring silently at him.
Naruto sweat dropped slightly, averting his gaze. Geez, if looks could kill, he’d have been dead and buried! “Anyways,” he cleared his throat, trying to regain the authoritative tone he’d had before, “I’m not going to let you up until you promise to stop running away. Understand?”
The only answer he got was a stiff nod, accompanied by that same, hateful look and he grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Nozo. I DID warn you this would happen.” When she said nothing he swallowed nervously. “Okay...I’m gonna get up now. Don’t run away okay? You promised, you know!”
Nozomi still said nothing, watching disdainfully as he stood up, letting go of her wrists. Then, against her protests, he helped her to her feet, and she scowled at him. In return he just smiled again, shrugging. “So, all that scuffle made me pretty hungry! Why don’t we get something to eat?” He asked hopefully, glancing up behind them at a clock. “Maybe we could go to Ichiraku’s!”
He frowned, realizing she was being really quiet, even for her, and turned back around to face her, eyes widening in disbelief. “HEY!”
The brunette said nothing, nor did she spare another glance over her shoulder as she tore out the gates of Konoha.
“Aww…!” Naruto watched the blur of black and green get further and further away, and he groaned. “I guess ramen will have to wait…”
Taking a deep breath he ran out the gates after the cat girl, determination in his eyes. “NOZOMI!!”