The leaves rustled in a forest just outside of Konoha. A lone ANBU darted through the air, intent on her target. She launched herself off of the tree branches with chakra- infused feet, the movement somehow coming off as graceful, like a fierce lioness stalking her prey. The fleeing missing-nin stood no chance against her, and he knew it. This ANBU, codenamed Shadow Fox, was the pride and joy of the secretive organization. Her skills exceeded most other shinobi's by far. And she was gaining on him.

The missing-nin ran as fast as he could, but it was no use. A black blur suddenly appeared in front of him, and he felt the chill of a kunai being pressed against his throat. His eyes were met with the sight of cold blue eyes, but that was all he could see behind the eerie fox mask. And then he was met with the quiet, but deadly voice of a huntress talking to her prey.

"Let this be an example to all those who dare to betray Konoha," she hissed. And then the traitor felt a sharp pain in his neck, and everything went black.

With a few quick hand signs, the black-clad kunoichi proceeded to burn the body. With her calm and calculating demeanor, not one person could even guess her true identity.

Shadow Fox then raised her fox mask to wipe the sweat from her face. Reaching for the back of her head, she released the cloth that hid her hair from view. Long, blonde locks tumbled down her back and reached her waist in a slightly erratic style that somehow suited her. With a foxy grin, Shadow Fox's cerulean blue eyes regained some of their trademark sparkle. The ANBU let out of a sigh of relief at another mission completed, and then replaced her mask and hid her hair once again.

No one (other than the Hokage) could know Shadow fox's true identity.

No one even suspected her of being Naruto Uzumaki.

It was a beautiful day in Konohakagure. The sun was shining brightly on the village, caressing every surface with its comforting rays. All of the villagers seemed to be exceptionally happy and carefree on a warm, summer day like this. But, who could blame them?

Two young women relaxed on a bench, enjoying the peaceful air and laughing as they talked. One had bubblegum-pink hair that was tied in a high ponytail with long bangs framing her face. She wore a pretty red summer dress and casual sandals. The other had long, shockingly blonde hair that blew about her, free and untamed. She wore an orange dress that was slightly different from her friends and had a swirl design on the back. Both kunoichi were eighteen years old. And although both women were good-looking, the blonde one was simply gorgeous. If it weren't for the kunai that she twirled around her finger, one wouldn't have guessed that they were lethal killers.

"Naruto-chan," the pink-haired one said, "have you gotten any good missions lately?"

"Yeah, Sakura-chan, a few," replied Naruto after a slight pause. "It's been relatively quiet, so nothing major." It wasn't exactly true, for she had received more than a few A and S-ranked missions, but she wasn't allowed to speak of them. Not even her good friends knew her ANBU identity, for that was considered to be top secret. Naruto really liked it that way; it was almost like being two different people. And she enjoyed it.

The two just sat there for a few moments more, in a comfortable silence, before they were interrupted.

"Naruto-chan," called a voice from behind them. Sakura flinched at the sudden appearance, but Naruto just turned her head. A dark-haired shinobi with pale lavender eyes had appeared beside the bench. It had taken Naruto years to stop feeling so creeped out when he looked at her with those blind-looking eyes, but by now she was used to them.

"Yes, Neji-kun?" Naruto asked the shinobi.

"Tsunade-sama would like to speak with you," Neji informed her in an emotionless voice. With a sigh, the blonde stood up.

"So much for my day off…" she muttered under her breath. It had been nice to have some peace and quiet for a day. However, any longer than a day, and she would have gone crazy from boredom. Although she didn't always show it anymore, Naruto was still Konoha's number one hyperactive, unpredictable ninja.

"I guess I'll see you later, Naruto-chan, Neji-kun." Sakura waved to both of them as she walked off. Neji then stepped closer to Naruto instinctively, drawn in by the happiness that always seemed to surround her. Surprised by the sudden close proximity to a cool and calm aura, Naruto glanced up at Neji. She then laughed and put a carefree hand on his shoulder. Naruto acted like this with all of her male friends, who, unknown to her, were actually jealous of each other at times because of her attention. Many people were secretly harboring a crush on Naruto. Trying hard not to blush, Neji performed a few hand seals and they both disappeared into a puff of smoke.

Sakura turned away with a smile on her face. She had been watching the two's interaction. She shook her head, thinking how sad it was that Naruto never noticed the most important things.

It wasn't exactly a secret that half of the village was in love with Naruto, and that included some of her best friends. Neji, Sai, and Kiba were all after her, but she was just clueless. The attention had started about two years ago when she turned sixteen, and since then she had been getting a lot of attention from the opposite gender. However, after their last encounter with Sasuke Uchiha two years ago, Naruto wasn't quite as carefree as she used to be. She still didn't notice the loaded looks that people sent her way. And she wouldn't have believed Sakura even if she told her.

[In the Hokage's office]

Tsunade, the Godaime Hokage, was sitting quietly in her office. She closed her amber eyes and sighed. Her desk looked like it had been infested with paperwork, which of course, it had. She truly hated that stuff. Definitely not one of the perks of being Hokage. Tsunade ran a hand through her pale blonde hair and smoothed out her Hokage robe. She was actually deep in thought at the moment, having just sent Neji out to summon Naruto.

Suna, the Hidden Sand Village, had just sent her a message. She was pondering the best course of action when Neji and Naruto poofed into her office. Sure, she was slightly annoyed at the lack of knocking, but didn't let it get to her. When the smoke cleared, Tsunade observed Neji standing very close to Naruto. When he realized this, Neji quickly jumped a little further away, trying to conceal his slight blush.

Totally oblivious, Naruto walked up to the Hokage. "Hey baa-chan!" she said with a lazy grin, "Why did you call me? Is it a mission?" Inside, she was incredibly excited. Truthfully, these past couple of weeks had been very boring.

Tsunade answered with a smile of her own. She had long gotten over Naruto calling her baa-chan, and even sort of liked it. However, had it been anyone else calling her that, she would have ripped their limbs off in the most painful way possible and then fed them their own body parts. Back to more pleasant thoughts.

"Naruto-chan, I just received word from Suna. Their council would like me to send a few of our best ninja to help out with security around there. Akatsuki has supposedly been active near there, and Suna has gotten info that they may be planning an attack.

"All you need to do is to stay there with your assigned partner for about two weeks and ward off any enemy attacks. Suna's council believes that your presences and reputation alone will be enough to avoid any contact with the enemy. And due to our good relations with the Hidden Sand Village at the moment, I am inclined to accept."

Naruto took all of this in with a nod. She could be serious when she really wanted to, the Godaime gave her that.

"Okay, so who am I working with?" she asked, letting excitement color her tone. At that precise moment, Sai stepped into the office. Sai was a good friend and a fellow leaf shinobi. He had very pale skin and hair as black as the ink he was known to fight with. And, although she had no idea (what a surprise xD), Sai was in love with Naruto. He met her eyes and smiled a bit too warmly, which didn't go unnoticed by the Godaime.

"Sai will be working with you. He hasn't gone out for a mission in a while either, and I'm sure you two will do well together." She smiled again. "And I already made arrangements for the two of you at a hotel in Suna. I'm sure you'll find that it's very… nice." Tsunade said all of this with a mischievous glint in her eye. Naruto was slightly confused, and looked at her questioningly, feeling like she was missing something. The Hokage only smiled wider.

Sai was ecstatic to have a mission with Naruto. Alone! Just him and Naruto for two weeks!!! 'This will be interesting,' he thought, chuckling inwardly.

"When do we leave?" Naruto asked, oblivious to Sai's constant glances her way.

"Two days. I just wanted to give you guys a heads up since it will be such a long mission and give you time to prepare yourselves."

Naruto and Sai both nodded gratefully, each super happy for their own reasons. Naruto, for a chance to finally get out of the village, and Sai, for…well…Naruto. After Tsunade dismissed them, both highly skilled leaf shinobi left her office. Naruto shouted a quick "Thanks baa-chan!" before leaving. Grinning like a madwoman to herself, Tsunade just shook her head. That had to have been the most clueless kunoichi in the world.

[Later that night]

Naruto, technically Shadow Fox at the moment, prowled the forest. She was once again in her ANBU outfit, and was in full stealth mode. The moon was full and hung over the trees eerily. A cloud passed over it, darkening the area, and Naruto's black ANBU uniform provided excellent cover. Of course, she didn't need that to hide. No, she could hide just as well in that hideous orange jumpsuit she used to wear in her genin days (*shudders*).

The Hokage had just got word of a mysterious man who had appeared at Fire Country's border. He was supposedly a very skilled shinobi, as noted by a few ANBU who had fled just before they engaged him, to report to the village. It was a good thing they ran while they could, since nothing had been heard from the rest of their ANBU squad. Shadow Fox felt a shudder run along her spine as she prepared herself to face the intruder. This was a shudder of excitement.

Shadow Fox had highly developed senses, due to being the Kyuubi's container, and could often sense chakra signatures that were cloaked from her team. Speaking of her team, they were all in different positions around the relative location of their target. Naruto was able to pinpoint the enemy shinobi's position and quickly relayed that to her team.

"Red Wolf, the target is approaching 300 feet to your left. Adjust your position accordingly." she spoke quietly into the radio receiver.

"Yes, Shadow Fox," replied a voice that was failing miserable at sounding indifferent.

Shadow Fox rolled her eyes. Kiba (aka Fire Wolf) was often a little bit too eager to follow her orders on missions. Sure, he was a great ninja, but he was just too eager on missions period, at least for an ANBU. Naruto Uzumaki was always excited for missions. Shadow Fox accepted them with little emotion.

She was suddenly glad that she was playing as squad leader tonight, for no one else seemed to be able to sense the approaching chakra signature. Yes, this person was definitely very skilled at masking their presence. There was something slightly familiar about this person's chakra, but Naruto (aka Shadow Fox) didn't think about it too much. She had been many places, and felt many different chakra signatures. It was nothing to get worked up about.

"Target spotted," said a timid voice over the receiver. This was the voice of none other than Hinata Hyuuga, a strong kunoichi who had finally gotten over her stutter. She really did make a fine ANBU, now that she had gained some confidence. Although, of course, tonight she was known as White Doe.

"Target confirmed," Red Wolf said, as he too spotted the person.

Once all three of them were within sight range, Shadow Fox gave them a subtle nod and a second later all three of them vanished. No leaves even twitched, the only movement was caused by a slight breeze. It was as if the ANBU squad had never even set foot there. It was their incredible stealth that was the reason they were truly called ANBU.

A tall figure, clad in a white robe with black detailing, was running through the forest. The robe parted around his chest just enough to show his well-developed muscles. He had to get to Konoha before anyone stopped him. He was definitely not in the mood to deal with shinobi who wanted very dearly to kill him. However, some things just couldn't be helped.

Two black blurs suddenly appeared in front of him and stood their ground, blocking his path. 'ANBU,' the missing-nin thought. He really didn't want to hurt Konoha, since it wouldn't exactly look good, but if he had no other choice….

The man pulled out a sword from it's sheath on his back. The silver blade was clean and shone dimly in the waning moonlight. Too bad it would soon be dirtied with these ANBU's blood.

Brushing back his raven-colored hair, the man glared daggers at the two ANBU. He released a good amount of killer intent, and he could tell they felt it, since one of them twitched slightly. 'These ANBU are strong,' he thought. If they could have seen his face, they would have been able to glimpse black, obsidian eyes beginning to glow red. As the missing-nin was about to engage these two shinobi, he felt something pressed up against his neck. Warm liquid seeped from the small cut on his neck. He was slightly shocked at the kunai pressed up against his neck. 'They're good.'

While Red Wolf and White Doe distracted the invader, Shadow Fox had managed to silently sneak up behind him and hold a kunai to his neck. Her stealth was superior to almost everyone else in the Leaf Village, so it was no surprise to her how the man straightened up when he realized the dire situation he was in. Surely he wasn't stupid.

"What business do you have with Konoha, intruder?" she asked, whispering almost intimately into his ear. Her body brushed against his as she tightened her grip on the kunai.

After getting over his shock that he had actually been caught, and so quickly, the man was about to speak, but closed his mouth. How could he explain himself? He had come to see someone who was…important, but would these ANBU understand? He doubted it.

"I have come to speak with someone," was what the missing-nin replied in a deep, confident voice. Truthfully, he had let himself be captured, since he hadn't put up much of a guard. Deep down, maybe this was what needed to happen.

"Konoha does not wish to bargain with dangerous enemies, such as yourself," Shadow Fox hissed. What was this man thinking? He turned his head, as if to glare at her, but her kunai stopped him when she pressed it harder against his neck, once again causing a shallow cut. Another twinge of recognition appeared in the back of her mind. She suddenly wanted to know who this man was.

"Who is it that you would like to speak with? Was it really worth your capture?" Shadow Fox asked in an emotionless tone. At the same time, she maneuvered herself around the missing-nin so that she could see his face. What she saw almost made her lose her grip. Almost.

The man was staring at her with blazing red eyes, eyes that only a select few still possessed. The Sharingan. A kekkai genkai found only in the Uchiha clan. Shadow Fox tensed. Could it be….

"Naruto Uzumaki," he replied. Shadow Fox stopped herself from leaping back just in time, before realizing that he was stating who he wished to speak to, and not calling her name. But…WAIT?! This man wanted to speak with Naruto Uzumaki? That was HER!

Then, everything clicked. The raven hair. The glare. The Sharingan. Him knowing her. This man…he was…