Encounter in the Forest

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The sixth morning of training...

As the sun rose, the birds began to sing. Some sparrows twittered and hopped about. One of them perched itself on top of snoring Naruto's chest, and another hopped up to sit on April's forehead protector. Once again, they had both collapsed and fallen asleep outside after training. It was very peaceful out there in the forest, but they weren't alone...


Sakura let out a huge yawn as she stretched on her way to the kitchen.

"Ah..." she said, stopping short when she realized she had already reached the room. She wiped the sleep from her eyes, hoping Sasuke hadn't seen. He was too occupied with eating breakfast to care.

"Naruto and April didn't come back again last night?" Tazuna asked.

"They've been climbing trees all on their own since they heard your story. Naruto's very simple..." Sakura said. She would have expected something like this from him, but she had thought April was a little smarter than that... Guess not. "They may have used too much chakra and died by now..."

"I hope they're alright," Tsunami said, concerned. "Two children all alone at night in the woods..."

"Don't worry, they may not look it, but both of them are true ninja," Kakashi said confidently. Even if they didn't come back to the house, he knew April would at least stop Naruto and make him take a short rest before it got too dangerous. Although she was eager not to fall behind the others, she at least understood how important it was to rest while doing such vigorous training.

"I don't know..." Sasuke said dubiously. "April might be fine, but it wouldn't surprise me if he was dead, that moron..."

"..." Inari stared down at the table in front of him.


A shadow loomed over April and Naruto as two strong but delicate hands slowly reached for them, hovering over their necks for a second before settling on their shoulders.

"You'll catch a cold out here," they heard a voice say kindly as they felt someone give them a shake to wake them up.

"Hn?" Naruto and April both groaned at having their deep and much needed sleep disturbed.

"Five more minutes..." April mumbled almost incomprehensibly, wondering why her body felt so sore as she rolled over. She was still in zombie mode—sort of awake, but not enough to be completely aware of what was really going on around her. Her recovery rate wasn't as fast as Naruto's, who was already opening his eyes.

"Huh?" he said, surprised to see a beautiful girl with long, dark hair looming over him. "Who are you?" he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he sat up. The girl just smiled. Naruto blushed a little. "Did you wake me up?" he asked a bit shyly. "By the way, what are you doing here?"

"Picking herbs," the pretty stranger replied.

"Herbs?"

"Yes, that's right," she answered with a smile. "It's to cure injuries and illness."

"Are you sure it's all right not to wake your friend up?" she asked while Naruto helped her pick some herbs after she showed him what they looked like.

"Yeah, it's much safer to just let her sleep..." he replied, sweat-dropping, as he remembered the last time he tried to force her awake before she was ready. Her reflexes were scary...

"Safer?" the pretty girl asked curiously.

"Ah, but you sure are working early, sis," Naruto remarked, changing the subject.

"You, too. What are you doing out here so early in the morning?"

"Training!" Naruto answered proudly.

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