CHAPTER 1: THE MISSION AND THE NEW GIRL

Naruto and Hinata knew each other for awhile and eventually started to like each other. They dated and realized that they were in love with each other. Things were going smoothly for awhile, but that's when the relationship began to change slightly. After a time, Naruto asked Hinata for her hand in marriage and of course she energetically said 'yes.' A month later Hinata started to act strange, two months after that she called off the engagement with no explanation. She did everything in her power to avoid Naruto as much as possible.

Heartbroken: what was Naruto to do?

He was broken and had lost his soul mate, part of himself. He was at a loss for a long time and walked around the village like a zombie. Whenever he went on missions he'd either get in the way or make the mission a complete failure.

Though with the help of his friends, he was getting better. He would never be able to forget about the dark-blue haired, pale eyed, shy girl that was so much a part of his life before; but he was healing. The pain didn't hurt as much when he was around his other fellow Genin.

It had been about four months since the breakup and Naruto was doing much better. One day he was called to the Hokage's office. He entered and stood on the other side of Sakura and waited.

"I have a mission for the three of you," Tsunade, the current Hokage started.

'Three?' Naruto asked himself.

"There is an important document that you must safeguard and deliver to the Hidden Hot Springs Village." she stated.

Sakura looked at her hyperactive squad member on the left, and the timid girl to her right. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Lady Hokage," Hinata spoke up, "my father…"

Naruto's heart felt like it was going to break. He could recognize that voice anywhere. He was going to be on a mission with Hinata…

Hinata peeked around Sakura to find out the other team member. When she noticed it was Naruto she was in shock and quickly stood back up, trying to hide beside Sakura.

"But Lady Hokage, isn't there anyone else that can take the mission?" she was trying to avoid Naruto – again.

'And it starts,' Sakura thought.

"No," Tsunade answered her.

"What about Shikamaru?"

"He's in the hospital."

"What about Ino?"

"She left on a mission this morning."

"What about Kiba and Akamaru?"

"They are out training the new puppies."

"What about…"

She cut her off, "stop trying to back out Hinata! You're going on the mission with Sakura and Naruto. Now pack up and get going!"

The trio left the room, Naruto leading the way. Hinata walked slowly behind, Sakura slowed down to keep in pace with her friend.

"Don't worry Hinata; the mission shouldn't take too long." she tried to reassure her friend.

"I know Sakura, thanks for the help." she beamed at her pink-haired friend. Although she wasn't looking forward to enduring a whole mission with the guy she broke up with.

They had packed up their stuff, received the scroll, and headed out of Konoha. It was the beginning of their mission – a mission that none of them expected.

The trio had left the village a few hours ago and were a good distance away. At the steady pace they were going, they would be able to make it to the Hidden Hot Spring Village by nightfall of the following day. They continued on their way in complete silence.

Night was the worst. They were given a standard team tent, meaning that they would all be sleeping together. Naruto was sleeping in the very back of the tent, Sakura slept in the middle, and Hinata stayed by the door. Everyone could feel the tension that was rising, especially Sakura who was trapped in the middle of this whole mess.

In the morning, they ate a quick breakfast and took off again. The day went by with nothing interesting or exciting happening. They stopped for lunch, and got going again. They had crossed the border of the Land of Fire earlier than they expected. After going a few miles in is when things started to get interesting.

A girl was collapsed on the side of the road. She was shaking slightly and muttering to herself. The team ran to the girl's side and shook her. She uncoiled herself from the ball she was in and looked at the group of strangers.

Her amber eyes looked each of the strangers in the eye one at a time. A trickle of blood was flowing from her forehead; her black hair was full of dried blood. The t-shirt she had on was cut up and dyed with more red, so much so that you could just see that the original color was yellow. Her bare arms were covered in cuts and scrapes, her hands shaking. Other than a few nicks to the tan pants, her legs seemed relatively unhurt. Her right ankle in ninja shoes was a bit swollen, but the other was fine.

"Are you ok?" Naruto asked.

All the girl could do was shake her head no.

"Is there anything we can do for you?" Sakura asked.

"Help," the girl said weakly.

The trio got to work fixing the girl up. They had found a pond of warm water nearby and the girls got to work. Sakura and Hinata helped clean the new girl's cuts and bandaged her up. Sakura borrowed the new girl some of her clothes since her old ones were in pretty rough shape.

The three girls joined Naruto back at camp, where he had prepared dinner. He looked up at the incoming girls and looked the new girl over. His heart skipped a beat. After getting the dried blood out of her hair and her injuries taken care of, she was really beautiful.

Of course, being Naruto, he blurted out, "Wait, so you're a ninja?" He pointed at the ninja band that was now around the new girl's waist. There were three squiggly lines on the metal plate – the symbol for the Hidden Hot Springs village.

"Yea," She responded, a little stronger than when she had asked for help. She wasn't at full strength yet but she couldn't be a weak baby.

"Let's eat," Hinata said, to the point.

The ninjas talked over dinner. The Konoha ninja introduced themselves, and now it would be the new girl's turn. "So what's your name?" Sakura asked.

"Akemi," the new girl responded.

"That's really nice…" Naruto half mumbled.

"Yea, my parents…" but Akemi choked up and didn't continue.

"That means 'beautiful sunrise' right?" Sakura asked.

"Y…yea," Akemi stumbled over her words, looking down at her plate of half eaten food.

"So why were you injured like that?" Hinata asked.

"From the symbol on your ninja band, you're from the Hidden Hot Springs Village," Sakura pointed out.

"My village," Akemi looked up, tears welling up in her eyes, "was attacked."

"What?!" the three leaf ninja asked in shock. Akemi only nodded.

"But we're supposed to deliver this," Naruto pulled out the scroll, "to the leader of that village!"

"You won't be able to do that," Akemi said sadly, "I'm pretty sure everyone else is dead."

The leaf Genin were shocked into silence.

"Someone, from our own village, attacked to kill. My parents, both ninja themselves, hid me and told me to run at the next opportune moment. I did as I was told." Akemi's body started to shake from the tears she was holding back. "I was injured pretty badly, and ended up twisting my ankle in my haste to get away. I knew I wouldn't get too far, but I had to try."

"Do you know who?" Sakura asked quietly.

"Hidan…san…" Akemi responded barely over a whisper.

"Don't know him," Naruto blurted out.

"You wouldn't, he's from the Hidden Hot Springs village. He always seemed aggravated when I saw him with my dad…" Akemi continued, "I never really thought anything of his behavior at the time."

Sakura broke the silence that followed, "We need to go to your village."

"You don't understand! He might still be there! You could be attacked!"

"We're strong enough to take him on!" Naruto said in a cocky tone.

"You all can't be much older or advance than me; you won't survive!"

"We'll wait until tomorrow, then it will be safer," Hinata suggested.

Akemi was still worried; she didn't want to see any more bloodshed. Having to go back to her village ment she'd have to see everyone's dead bodies.

Sakura wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulders, "we'll be alright."

"We should probably get off the main road, just in case he comes this way," Hinata had another good suggestion.

The group of ninja traveled off the road a bit until they couldn't see it anymore. There they found an old abandoned building. They approached it with caution.

"Why…" Naruto started.

Akemi interrupted him, "there are places littered all over our country like this. They used to be small hot spring resorts. There should be some behind this old building. This one is small, so it's probably just a day stop. Don't expect many rooms or all that much from it."

"Better than staying in a tent," Hinata muttered.

They went in and found a main room with two branching off of it. A changing room and bathroom for each gender were set off the back wall of the room. It was indeed small.

The girls decided to take a soak in the hot spring first. That way Akemi could relax and have time to clean her wounds better afterward. They stripped and dipped into the hot water. Sighing and relaxing, the three all took different sides of the pool. Akemi leaned against the large bolder that was set in the middle.

"Finally," Hinata sighed.

"I could get used to doing this every day," Sakura commented.

"Living here doesn't make the hot springs all that special. I haven't been in one for a long time." Akemi pointed out, "It's not like we use them all the time."

The three girls relaxed for awhile. After some time Hinata and Sakura were overheating and wanted to get out.

"Don't worry I can handle the heat. I'm going to stay in a bit longer." Akemi responded.

"Ok," Sakura said as the two girls returned to the changing room.

Naruto heard girls' voices coming from their changing room. Finally it was his turn! HE ran into the guy's changing area, stripped, and ran to the hot spring.

Splash! He had jumped into the water. His wet blond head broke the surface, a grin plastered on his face. "Ah," he sighed as he leaned against the bolder.

Akemi was panicking as she continued to hide behind the other side of the bolder. She had caught a glimpse of the blond as he left the building and had hid as soon as she possibly could. She hadn't seen a naked boy before, and she didn't want her first time to be now. Her plan was to stay in, neck deep, until Naruto got out.

A few minutes passed in silence. The unexpected blond relaxed as Akemi tried to patiently wait. IT wasn't working out so well.

Naruto stood up and stretched, shaking the wet hair out of his eyes. He looked around; the pool was surrounded by bushes and trees. "I can't stay still!" he shouted, splashing down and spraying water everywhere.

Akemi giggled, she kinda liked the hyperactive blond kid.

He froze. Someone was nearby – a girl by the sound of it. Was it Sakura? There was no way it could be Hinata. His heart pained when he thought of his ex.

'Shoot,' Akemi thought as she dipped under the water. Hopefully her attempts at hiding would work.

Naruto looked around, but didn't see anyone. He wasn't about to take any chances, however. He got up and went inside to change.

After Akemi couldn't hold her breath any longer, she popped her head out of the water and peeked around the bolder. No sign of Naruto – good. She quickly got up and ran into the girl's changing room and got ready for bed.

The four teens were all in the main room. "So when do you want to leave tomorrow?" Akemi asked.

"I don't know," Sakura answered her;" we'll just have to see when everyone gets up in the morning."

"Well let's head for bed then," Hinata said, getting into her own sleeping bag.

Sakura and Hinata were sleeping close on one side of the room. Naruto was in his sleeping bag on the opposite side of the room – as far away as possible from the pair of girls. Akemi didn't have a sleeping bag; she had just grabbed a few of the forgotten towels from the changing room and laid them across from the door on the opposite wall, between the leaf ninja.

Morning came, and Akemi was the first to wake. Her dreams were filled with screaming and blood; she didn't want any more of it.

She stretched out and walked out the front door. The sun was just peaking over the tree line. Akemi sat near the door and leaned against the building, holding her legs to her chest.

Shinobi were supposed to be strong, never showing their emotions. She did a pretty good job in front of the other ninja, but she was alone now. Tears started to fall down her cheeks as she buried her face in her knees.

How would you expect someone to react if everyone they knew and loved were all murdered in one day? Akemi was alone, and a long ninja – for the village she once belonged to didn't exist anymore.

A hand on her shoulder shocked her back into reality.

"Sorry," it was the blond, "I don't know what it's like to lose your entire village. But I do know what it's like to lose a best friend. That is the worst pain imaginable." He sat down across from Akemi.

She rubbed the tears from her eyes, "was it in a battle?"

Naruto clutched at his shirt, over his heat. Clearly it was still painful for him, "Sorry," she muttered.

He shook his head, clearing the memory. "What was your village like?"

"Oh very nice," a smile played on her face, "there wasn't many ninja, because we were so small; but I liked it that way. There were four others in my class. The village was protected and a few ninja were even given missions to carry out."

"Sounds nice."

"It was. Things were so peaceful… I don't understand why everything happened."

There was a short pause of silence, "What are you going to do now?"

"I don't know," Akemi answered truthfully, looking to the bare earth between them.

"Come with us," Naruto suggested.

"What?"

"Yea, Grandma Tsunade will want to hear about what happened. And maybe she can help you!"

"You mean the 5th Hokage, of the Land of Fire? How?"

"You know, give you a place to stay, give ya missions." Naruto had a huge grin on his face, welcoming Akemi in. For some odd reason, he wanted to do all he could for the girl in front of him; more than usual.

She was taken aback by his openness. At seeing that smile she was actually blushing. For the first time in the teen's life – she actually recognized a boy and felt something for him.