Alright, here it is after you all waited so patiently! The final part of Dark Side! I have decided I will be writing an epilogue to this as there is a couple more things I want to do, but after that I think I will be taking a break to revise some older stories and maybe write some Genin themed things! So hopefully you'll enjoy and look forward to the Epilogue!!
“Gaah!” Naruto cried out as he was sent flying, landing hard on his back. Momentarily stunned, he lay in the dirt, panting hard. He could feel it. He was running out of steam; it wouldn’t be long before his Nine tails cloak dissolved. Inhaling deeply to recover his breath, the blond got back to his feet. He wiped a small trail of blood off his mouth with the back of his hand and glared at the shadow cat who’d sent him flying. “Kurono!”
Something was off; her attacks were less focused, and didn’t do nearly the damage they’d done earlier, which made him wonder if she was more tired than she was letting on. A smirk tugged at the corners of his lips. “So, had enough yet..?”
Kurono narrowed her eyes at him, seething with anger. She had underestimated this kid. It was true that as a shadow creature, his attacks did less damage to her than they would a normal person, but, he too, was using demonic powers. To top it off, he’d gotten through to that wretched girl and strengthened her resolve, which had more than just weakened her hold on this body. Nozomi’s determination to regain control was so strong it was immobilizing her and delaying her recovery from attacks, leaving her defenseless.
The shadow cat groaned inwardly as the tugging began. This was it, the pulling on her very consciousness that would ultimately drag her back into the shadowy abyss she’d fought so hard to escape from. Kurono gave an enraged roar as the tugging grew stronger, and she fell to all fours, balancing herself with shaky arms.
Naruto looked at her, bewildered. Had his last blow hit her that hard? He was sure she’d blocked most of it. So...why did she seem so weak all the sudden? He braced himself for a counter attack as Kurono raised her head slowly, glowering darkly when she met his eyes.
“You win, brat…but I’ll be back…that brat can’t lock me up now that I have the hatred in that demon’s chakra to feed off of! If she does anything that requires a mass amount of chakra, she’ll exhaust her own reserves and have no choice but to use the demon’s chakra! When that happens I’ll return!”
‘Is she talking about the Ice Twister jutsu?’ Before Naruto could ask, Kurono collapsed, the shadows slowly detaching from her body. By the time the last shadow vanished, it was no longer Kurono the ground, but Nozomi.
Naruto’s heart did a flip and he resisted the urge to give a whoop of joy. Concentrating his energy, he relaxed and the Kyuubi chakra disintegrated, returning him to normal. Cautiously, he approached the brunette and knelt in front of her, smoothing his thumb across one of her velvety ears. “Nozo-chan..?”
After a minute, the cat girl began to stir, and she weakly lifted her head to look at him. “Naruto-kun!” Her yellow eyes lit up with happiness as she smiled warmly at him, the only thing keeping her from pouncing into the boy's arms was the intense pain from the condition her legs were in.
Overcome with relief, Naruto could only give a slight nod, gazing down at her as he folded his arms loosely across his chest. “You really scared me this time, Nozomi…” His voice grew hoarse as he began to feel overwhelmed by various emotions.
The smile faded from Nozomi’s face as she nodded. “I know…I’m sorry.” She grimaced as she became acutely aware of every ache in her body. She hurt all over no thanks to Kurono. That and the fact that she was AGAIN laying on top of broken legs. The cat girl was about to speak again but was cut off as Naruto leaned down and kissed her firmly.
All thoughts of pain vanished as she found herself caught up in Naruto’s lips, her eyes fluttering closed as she kissed him fiercely with every bit of passion she had. It was extremely out of character for her, she knew. Usually she resisted these kinds of things, especially in public. Even behind closed doors she wasn’t super touchy feely. It was a trait she blamed on her rough childhood, but she knew she shouldn’t use it as an excuse to keep people away. Especially not her fiancé. She refused to use it anymore to keep him away.
The two were so caught up in each other, they lost track of time. When they pulled apart, they were surprised to find that the sun was beginning to set.
A soft blush covered Nozomi’s cheeks as she caught Naruto staring at her and she beamed so hard it hurt. For a while, neither teen said anything, content to just stare at the other amidst the peace.
After a few minutes, Nozomi broke the silence. “Thank you, Naruto-kun.” she smiled gratefully. “You and your determination were too much for Kurono in the end and that’s why I was able to come back.” A wave of pain rushed through her body, forcing the brunette to stop and she moaned.
“Are you okay?” Naruto asked, worry in his blue eyes. He was sure he already knew the answer but he wanted to give the girl a chance to discuss how she felt if she needed to.
Nozomi winced, shutting her eyes as the pain continued to race through her body. She didn’t want to tell him just how bad it hurt, but she knew she couldn’t lie either. After a few minutes she found the strength to speak again, despite the searing pain in her legs. “When I was locked up, I thought I’d never see you again, and it just...” The girl’s voice faltered for a moment as she raised a hand to her face, wiping tears from her eyes (some of those tears from regret, the others from the pain she was experiencing).
When she resumed, her voice trembled with emotions that Naruto had only ever dreamed of her showing. “I kept thinking about how badly I wasted my time with you. Instead of making good memories together, we fought and I ran away. If only there were a way for me to know what was going to happen…I definitely would have done things differently…” The brunette lowered her head, her bangs casting shadows over her eyes as they filled with another round of tears.
“It took almost losing what is most precious to me for me to realize what a stupid thing I did. I never should have challenged Kumoraku...Now I have a whole new problem, because I was too stupid to listen to you.”
“It’s ok...don’t cry.” Naruto reached out, gently lifting her chin. He smiled softly at the girl, wiping the stray tears from her cheeks. “I’m still here, and you’re still here. Whatever this Kurono tries to do, we’ll get through it together, like we always do. You just have to have faith.”
The only answer he got from the cat girl was a watery smile and a nod as she dabbed at her eyes with the one sleeve that still remained on her jacket. “I know...I just wish I hadn’t been so careless..”
Naruto frowned and looked away, unsure how to respond. It was true; she’d been stubborn and refused to listen to him...but it wasn’t Nozomi’s fault alone that her dark side had been unleashed and he knew it. He’d had a hand in it too. It was, after all, his photos that had gotten her so riled up, and filled with determination to get away from him. That led to her hasty decision to take Kumoraku’s power, which had unfortunately led to the release of Kurono. When he thought about it that way, he was just as much to blame as she was for this mess.
“Nozomi…” He glanced back at her, eyes widening a fraction when he realized her head had dropped to the ground once more. She must have passed out. Naruto sighed, shaking his head. It made sense. Kurono had put her body through one heck of a battle. He should probably get her to the hospital now and get her recovery started.
Being careful not to irritate her awkwardly positioned legs, he scooped the brunette into his arms, holding her to his chest, and headed for Konoha.
“NOOOO!! WAH, IT HURTS! OW, OW, OW!!”
Naruto sighed heavily, wincing at the high pitched wails coming from his fiancée. Things were not going well for the poor girl. Once he’d gotten her checked into the hospital, she’d been X-rayed for internal wounds. Thankfully there weren’t any, but the X-rays had revealed that Nozomi’s demonic powers were already healing her legs. This would have been fine if not for one thing; they were healing in the twisted positioning they’d been left in by Kurono’s possession. The prognosis had been grim: the bones would have to be re-broken and realigned to ensure a proper recovery.
As much as Naruto hated it, he knew there was no other option, so he did the best he could to comfort the brunette, sitting at her bedside, holding her hand for support. He prayed this would be a quick procedure. It killed him to see her in so much pain, and he felt helpless knowing there was nothing he could do.
“MAKE HER STOP, NARUTO!!”
Naruto grimaced at the shrillness of his fiancée’s voice and glanced up sharply. “Grandma Tsunade, do ya have to be so rough?!” He frowned at the Hokage who stood over Nozomi and she glanced back at him, raising an eyebrow.
“Naruto, I haven’t even DONE anything but put her on the hospital bed! She’s just being dramatic!”
“…Oh. Well, then.” A drop of sweat slid down the back of Naruto’s head at this statement and he glanced over at Nozomi. “Nozo-chan it’s okay. I promise this is going to help you so just try to relax!”
The brunette averted her gaze, whimpering softly. “How on earth is THIS going to help me?!” As she spoke, her eyes filled with tears and Naruto sighed again. Nozomi rarely cried, which made him feel worse about what had to happen. It just wasn’t fair.
“I don’t get why it has to be this way! I swear this whole village just wants to hurt me!!” The brunette screamed, thrashing the best she could in her position.
Tsunade huffed impatiently, a vein on her forehead popping in anger. “Listen to me, Nozomi. Your legs were healing in the wrong position. This is the only way we can make sure they heal properly. I’m sorry it hurts but it’s for your own good!”
When the brunette’s lips puckered into a pout, the Hokage gave a tired sigh, sagging her shoulders. It just HAD to be Nozomi who came in with a serious injury. She was already iffy about doctors and hospitals. After this, Tsunade doubted the girl would even be willing to come in for a yearly check up! “I’m going to begin. I’ll be as gentle as I can, but I can’t make any promises that this won’t hurt.”
Nozomi whimpered again and Naruto gently held onto her hand, letting the brunette squeeze it for moral support. He watched nervously as Tsunade concentrated chakra to one fist, slamming it down onto one of Nozomi’s legs. There was a sickening crack and Nozomi screamed loudly, causing Naruto’s fox ears to flatten against his head in pain.
“That’s one down.” Tsunade muttered, charging up her chakra again. After a few seconds she slammed her fist into the girl’s other leg, eliciting another pained screech from the cat girl as her eyes rolled back and she passed out.
Naruto gagged, resisting the urge to run to a toilet and empty his stomach. He couldn’t leave Nozomi when she needed him. Instead he forced himself to focus on the brunette as Tsunade repositioned her legs, placing each on a splint and wrapping them in thick bandages.
When she had completed her task, the older woman turned her attention to Naruto, looking exhausted. “There, it’s finished. If she’s still hurting in a few hours, call a nurse and ask for some pain medication. Otherwise, keep her as still as you can.” Without another word, the blonde turned and walked out of the room, her heels clicking loudly against the tile floor.
It was nearly ten o’clock that night when she woke up again. The brunette began to sit up, moaning as she relived the pain from earlier. Naruto had been dozing off in a chair beside the bed while he waited for her to wake up. Her cry jerked him from his half-asleep state and he jumped up, placing his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back down.
“You need to rest.” He said firmly.
“Nnn..?” Nozomi squinted a little as her vision cleared, and she could fully see his face. “Naruto-kun!”
“Hey.” Naruto couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm that bubbled into her voice. He gently lay another pillow beneath her, to help her sit up a little without straining her legs. “How are you feeling…?”
A pained look came over the girl’s face and he sighed softly. “I’m sorry.” There was a brief pause as he collected his thoughts, deciding now was the time to say what he’d been about to say earlier. “I feel really bad, Nozo-chan. It wasn’t just your fault Kurono got out. You had extra reason to be mad when you left, and that just fueled her hatred more. By the time you got Kumoraku’s chakra, she was already getting ready to take over.” He frowned unhappily, bowing his head slightly. “It’s all ‘cause I couldn’t behave. I never should have took those pictures. I really hope you can forgive me.”
A small chuckle came from the hospital bed and Naruto looked up, confusion on his face. “What’s so funny..?”
“Oh, Naruto.” Nozomi laughed softly. “You said all this earlier, why are you putting yourself through this torture again? Especially when I already forgave you the first time.”
A drop of sweat slid down the back of Naruto’s head as he gave a sheepish smile in response. “Oh, well I wasn’t sure if you could hear everything earlier, so I wanted to make sure you heard it now.” His eyes lit up as the latter part of her comment sunk in. “You really forgive me?”
“Of course. Just promise me you’ll destroy those photos.” Nozomi smiled at the boy and he felt his heart soar. He’d do anything for this girl, and it was only fair to destroy the entire cause of their fight. He’d destroy them as soon as he got the chance.
After a minute, the cat girl cleared her throat, pulling him out of his thoughts. “Actually, I need to apologize too. I’m a horrible fiancée, Naruto. I claim to love you but always act like being around you is such a chore; I get mad at you for being perverted when I’m the one going around in such skimpy clothes. I constantly lead you on only to leave you hanging for whatever reason or excuse I can conjure in the moment.” The brunette broke off and sighed heavily, her golden eyes filled with regret as she stared at Naruto. “I’m sick of being this way, and I want to change. Please, help me become the future wife you actually deserve because the way I am right now, I’m not good enough for you!”
Naruto’s lip quivered a little as her speech hit him, hard. So she finally saw it. After years of working to better himself, so he’d be good enough for her (and doing pretty well, he’d thought) she finally admitted that she was the problem. Just hearing that, he knew that something in the girl had changed. His emotions overflowed to the surface again and before his common sense could catch up, he had lunged forward, hugging the cat girl tightly.
“Na-ru-to--” Nozomi choked out as she was grabbed so tightly the air flow to her lungs was cut off. ‘Don’t get mad, don’t get mad!’ She grimaced, biting her lip hard and inhaling through her nose. She’d just said she wanted to change. That meant not being such a spazz all the time! Shutting her eyes, the brunette struggled to stay calm, wrapping her arms around his neck in an attempt to reciprocate. This proved harder than she’d originally thought in her current position, and she groaned weakly.
After a few minutes of silence, Naruto pulled back, accidentally jerking the brunette up off the pillows and into a sitting position. “Ah!” He saw the pained expression on her face and let go immediately, staggering backward and falling back against his chair. “I’m sorry!” He stammered. “I didn’t mean to hurt you--really!”
Nozomi just stared at the boy as she waited to catch her breath. When she no longer felt like the wind had been knocked out of her she chuckled quietly. “I know you didn’t. It’s okay.”
Relief filled Naruto’s eyes at this and a big, goofy smile found its way onto his face as he stood again, gently taking her hands in his own. “I was just so happy right now, I completely forgot you’re in the hospital, recovering.” He paused, glancing down into the girl’s eyes. “Are you sure I didn’t hurt you at all?”
His answer was a smile and a shake of the head as the brunette responded, “I’m okay, really.”
Naruto stared at the cat girl for a long minute, eying her suspiciously before he nodded, believing her. “Okay, that’s good. I’m glad!” He released the girl’s hands, pulling his arms back behind his head and stretching. “So, about what you said. About wanting to change?” He paused as the girl nodded, urging him to continue. “I’ll definitely help you make the change! Just...on one condition.”
Nozomi frowned slightly. “What? Um...what condition is that?” She stared at the boy, confusion in her eyes.
Naruto wanted to drag on the suspense longer, but her face was too much for him and he ended up laughing, which slightly irritated the brunette. Here she was trying to be more patient, and he was already testing her! The cat girl was about to make a sharp remark when Naruto stopped laughing and looked at her seriously.
“Nozomi, I know you want to change, and I’m okay with that...but just promise me, you won’t change too much, okay?” He grinned as the frustration that had begun to show on the girl’s face reverted back to confusion and she tilted her head at him with a puzzled “Nya?”
“What I mean is, change, sure...but don’t change anything you don’t HAVE to, or else you won’t be the feisty Nozo-hime I’ve known and loved all this time!”
There it was again. That hundred watt smile that could light up even the darkest room. Nozomi blushed faintly as his words sunk in and her eyes shone with realization. “That’s your condition?” She frowned. “So let me get this straight. You want me to try and relax about things, but you don’t want me to fully hold back my temper because you LIKE it?”
“Yeah, something like that!” The blond nodded his head vigorously, grinning cheekily and Nozomi sweat dropped.
Of course, leave it to Naruto to say he liked her temper. It would be difficult to find a happy medium between being agreeable and knowing when it was okay to get mad. The brunette placed a hand to her head in exasperation and sighed. The whole idea not only stressed her out but she was beginning to get a headache.
Naruto could easily see by the change in her facial expression, she was getting overwhelmed. He hastily threw his hands out in front of him in protest. “Whoa, don’t over think it, okay? I’m here to help you if you start to lose your temper or get out of line! Still, at the same time...” His mouth turned downwards in a frown as he appeared to be deep in thought. “I’m not saying I want you to yell at me all the time, but...gah! I guess I don’t really know how to say it!”
The blond haired boy smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. “Just...don’t completely get rid of the stubborn kitty I grew up with. That’s who I proposed to, and she’s the one I’m going to marry someday.”
The cat girl had grown suspiciously quiet and Naruto tilted his head at her. Had he maybe said too much? Was she trying to fight back the urge to scream at him? He knew she hated being called a cat, but that had always just kind of been his thing when it came to her. He thought she’d finally understood that but maybe she was still angry about it? The boy gave an awkward laugh. “Nozo...? Do...do ya understand...?”
A warm smile etched its way onto her face as she gave a slow nod of her head. “Yeah...I get it, Naruto-kun.” She chuckled a little bit, raising a hand to her mouth. “I’m going to try and curb my attitude, but rest assured..I’ll always have my claws.”
“Oh...okay!” Naruto gave a relieved sigh, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. Phew! That was close...he’d really thought he had upset her! Her laughter had sounded a little forced, but she hadn’t yelled at him, so it was progress...right? He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted when a loud yawn erupted from the brunette, causing him to smile.
“You sound sleepy, Nozo-chan.”
A weak smile was all the cat girl could muster as she gave a small nod of her head. “Just a little.”
“Why don’t you get some rest then?” Naruto sat back on his chair again, folding his hands in his lap and Nozomi looked at him worriedly.
“But what about you…?”
“Don’t worry.” Naruto flashed the girl a thumbs up. “I’ll be here waiting when you wake up, ya know!”
A relieved smile found its way onto Nozomi’s face as she yawned again, nodding slowly. “Okay, if you really don’t mind…”
“Of course not.” Naruto smiled, gently pulling the blanket up over the girl. “Get some sleep Nozomi. I’ll be right here when you wake up.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead.
“Alright.” Nozomi beamed weakly at the boy, blushing faintly. “I love you...and Naruto? Thanks…”
The brunette’s eyes slowly fluttered closed, and she drifted into a light sleep, feeling more at peace than she had in a long time.
As she slept, Naruto knew what she meant, even if she hadn't elaborated. She wasn’t just thanking him for today, even though that was a large part of it. She was thanking him for loving her as she was, for and in spite of how she acted. Really, Naruto felt he was the lucky one here. Nozomi had come around when he’d really needed a friend. Despite her reservations, the girl had proven herself to be that and so much more over time. Just one smile from her could brighten his darkest days.
“I love you too, Nozo-chan.” He beamed at the girl and chuckled softly to himself. If Nozomi could see the way he was looking at her, she’d turn red as a tomato and get all defensive. Or maybe she wouldn’t? She had said she was going to change herself for him...so maybe it would be different.
The blond smiled as familiar purring noises filled his ears- a sign that his fiancée was completely asleep. The next few days would be interesting to say the least.