AN: Yes, I know. I'm starting another story when I should be working on the old one, instead. Unfortunately, I haven't had much inspiration for Bebop Wizard over the past year and not many have been willing to help me work it out - conversely, I'm in the process of moving closer to family and, hopefully, should be able to find someone in the area off of whom to bounce ideas.

In any case, the idea for this came to me a couple of days ago (although I've read through and even discussed variations on the theme several times since I stumbled across the fandom) and began writing it up this morning. Hopefully, the OC won't become too much of a Sue as this progresses, but that's always a danger when authoring anything.

AN2: This story is blatantly AU. While I am aware of certain revelations from canon due to various third-parties, this does not require me to take all such elements into account when authoring stories.


Disclaimer: I don't own either of the Naruto series, its canon elements, the fandom, its popular or otherwise-known plot devices or any original characters you may recognize from other authors.


"By the way...I'm a boy."

Shocked by this sudden revelation, Uzumaki Naruto stared in dumbfounded amazement as Haku slowly disappeared into the distance. After spending the entire night in this forest glade training to climb trees using only his chakra, Naruto had awoken to the surprising sight of a very pretty individual leaning over him. With little delay, they had introduced themselves to each other and Naruto had then spent the following hour helping his new friend to gather medicinal herbs. Needless to say, learning that Haku was actually a boy running around in a girl's kimono was entirely unexpected.

Eventually, Naruto shook himself free of his stupor and turned away to resume his training. He had to get this figured out before that Zabuza guy got healthy again if he wanted to outshine Sasuke-teme and eventually become Hokage!


Another hour and an half had passed, and Naruto had made a good deal of progress controlling his chakra and climbing the trees. He had also noticed that he often felt a subtle, though sharp, stab of pain about his navel shortly before the chakra output from his feet would surge just enough to make him fall. This wasn't the case every time, but it happened often enough to make him suspicious.

Nearly two months previous, in a complex sequence of events, Naruto had learned that he was the living prison of a creature called the Kyuubi no Kitsune - the Fox of Nine Tails. Twelve years before then, on the day of Naruto's birth, the Kyuubi had attacked Naruto's home in Konohagakure no Sato - the Village Hidden in the Leaves. The leader of this village, a great ninja and Seal Master known as the Yellow Flash and holding the position of Fourth Hokage, had found a way to defeat the Demon Lord by sealing it within the body of a newborn human infant. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of his own life and, with him unable to tell the villagers of his plan in time, many of the civilians and ninja ostracized young Naruto, ignoring their savior's dying wish that the boy be treated as an hero.

Over the years, Naruto had occasionally noticed what seemed to be an elaborate tattoo centered around his navel that always disappeared soon thereafter. In those days, he had assumed it to be his imagination or, in times of desparate fantasy, evidence of some unknown Bloodline Limit he had inherited from his parents he had never met. Now, however, he knew it to be the seal his childhood hero had used to defeat the Kyuubi, having studied what little of Seals he could manage to in the Konoha Library. With that limited knowledge, he could only assume that the pain had something to do with the Seal. Considering his swift healing and overwhelming stamina, which even he could recognize as unusual, Naruto suspected the Seal might even be leaking some of the Kitsune's chakra into his own coils.

As Naruto again paused to rest in the middle of the glade and began to contemplate how to overcome this latest obstacle, he thought he heard noises coming from deeper in the woods. Focusing closer on the sounds, he thought he recognized branches snapping and leaves falling, as well as uneven footfalls. Finally, he noticed there were also stifled sobs and short cries of pain. He stood back up, settling into a comfortable fighting stance in case there was trouble.

A moment later, leaves rustled and a red-haired girl not much younger than Naruto stumbled into the glade and collapsed, wearing clothes that were filthy and shredded.


Light, heat, pain...fire...

She was scared, horribly frightened.

Noise, wind, debris...explosions...

She hurt. She felt lonesome.

Red...fur...blood...

White...pale skin...bone...

Her eyes and throat burned from crying.

Her sisters were already gone...

Her mother...

"Onee-san...Okaa-sama..."

"Ake..mi-cha..n...

She stumbled. She didn't know where she was going.

"Run...li-live! Find...your Otou..san... Warn him...or his...Host...Sha..ringan...Rinne..gan..."

Black, red, white...blue...white, black...red, black...purple, black...

Black, red, white...blue...pale skin, metal, magatama...black, lavender-indigo...orange...five scratches...

The trees' branches scratched her again. She gasped in pain.

Her mother struggled upright, facing their attackers.

"Okaa-sama!"

"Hurry, go now! Survive!"

The orange one stiffened. Akemi turned and ran as her mother charged. Tears flowed.

Akemi had never met her father, but she had heard stories. Her mother had told her tales of the Hosts, also, but she had never seen any. Not knowing what else to do or where to go, she had fled into the forest and just kept running.

Two days.

Two days she ran. Two days she cried. For two days, she did not stop, not even for food or drink.

Then she felt it.

She stumbled again, not recognizing it at first. It came again and she slowed, eyes narrowing slightly in fright and suspicion before they widened in realization, shock...hope.

A chakra signature - and one that felt familiar! Did her mother escape? Had one of her sisters survived, now searching for her?

No. She knew all their signatures by heart and, when this one came a third time, she still didn't recognize it. Despite that, she still thought it was familiar.

As the distant pulse of the intermittent chakra signature washed over Akemi yet again, she felt...humbled...kinship...the promise of safety and healing...

She turned and headed toward the source, hoping she would arrive to find help and that the monsters that destroyed her family had stopped hunting after her.

She never noticed that her tail had been raised behind her since the early twilight hours.

It would be hours yet before Akemi reached her destination, and she would be too exhausted by then to appreciate the event.


Seeing the girl fall, and the condition of her clothing, Naruto sprang toward her.

"Hey! Are you alright," he shouted along the way. Receiving no response, the whisker-scarred blond grew worried. When he reached the spot where she lay on the ground, he bent down to gently grasp her shoulder. "Come on, now. You can't fall asleep here like this; it's not safe!"

Had anyone been present at this time and when Haku awoke him earlier, that person would likely have reflected upon the irony of this statement. As it was, Naruto, himself, had a strong suspicion that this young girl's numerous injuries had not originated from training, like his own.

At that moment, Naruto's hand alighted upon bared and slightly bloodied skin where part of the girl's yukata had been torn from her shoulder, and he felt a stronger jolt of pain from where the Seal was inked. Almost before he could jump in startlement, he also felt a sudden familiarity and possessiveness concerning the redhead. Unfortunately, these sensations were accompanied by a slight headache, so he didn't care to examine them too closely and, furthermore, failed to notice his traditional senses sharpening and some of the girl's wounds closing slightly.

What he did notice was a quiet whimper emitting from where her head lay, reminding him of the situation. He decided it would probably be a good idea to move her someplace where he could check her for any serious wounds, but didn't want to injure her further in the process.

"I've got it! Kage Bunshin!"

With a slight popping sound caused by displaced air, five blond clones appeared in a burst of smoke.

"Henge!"

There was another burst of smoke as one of the clones vanished, a blanket stretched between two poles taking his place. The four remaining clones and the original Naruto carefully lifted their new charge onto the makeshift stretcher, then the clones lifted that by the poles as Naruto ran his hand through the scarlet locks in a motion he hoped was comforting.

"Wait a second..." he muttered as he felt a soft protrusion of flesh. "What's this...?" He leaned closer to inspect what he had found.

"Hey, Boss! You need to see this" called one of the clones.

Withdrawing his hand, Naruto walked around the stretcher to where his clone was loosely holding up what looked like a length of red fur near the girl's waist.

"What is it?"

"Well, Boss...I think it's a tail."

At this comment, Naruto jerked his head around to stare at the back of the girl's head. His mind was racing, as though he was fighting in a battle or planning or executing a prank.

If she has a tail, then could that bump on her head be...

Naruto ran back around the stretcher, making certain not to jostle or dispel either of the clones standing on that side. Carefully brushing aside scarlet strands of hair until he revealed what he had earlier found by accident, Naruto's expectation was confirmed.

An ear! An animal ear! He stared in shocked awe, before his thoughts began racing again. Wait...tail...ears...red fur...Kitsune! Naruto knew most of the villagers back home hated anything to do with the spiritually powerful shapeshifting foxes because of the Kyuubi's assault, even to the point they were suspicious of any normal fox found in the forests native to the Land of Fire, but he couldn't bring himself to feel the same way. Jiji had told him some of the older legends as a child, and had used others from the Library to teach him to read, so he knew they weren't all as evil and malicious as the Nine-Tailed Demon Lord and that many were pranksters, just like him. He also knew the hostility of those from Konoha for what they didn't understand, as well as how his teammates and sensei were likely to react to the knowledge of a Kitsune in the area, much less in their very presence.

I can't let them find out! His face shifted to a determined expression. I'll just have to take her somewhere safe and heal her, myself.

With a sharp nod, Naruto made three more clones and sent them back to Tazuna's house, then led the way to a waterside cave he had glimpsed when Team Seven arrived, keeping to the ground since it was unlikely he and his clones could all find even perches on the tree branches without endangering their precious cargo.


Akemi felt so tired.

For the past three hours, Akemi had been more exhausted than ever before in her life. She didn't even have enough energy to sense the pulses of chakra, anymore. Fearing more with each passing minute that she wouldn't make it to her possible savior in time, she kept pushing herself to stumble through the forest in the direction she had last felt the source, hoping it hadn't already moved again.

Please let whoever it is still be there... she prayed silently, fallen twigs snapping underfoot and branches tearing away cloth and skin causing her to cry out in pain.

Suddenly, there were no more trees or bushes to either help her stand or cause her harm. The last sight she saw as she fell to the ground and closed her eyes was a glimpse of the color orange.

There were noises, but Akemi had no energy left to try to understand what she was hearing. She knew she was dead, even if this monster left her there alone. It was all over.

A weight fell painfully on one shoulder, and Akemi whimpered pathetically. This was it, he was going to kill her. Then she felt a soothing heat flow through her body and a little of her energy came back to her. It was just enough for her to recognize that the heat was caused by that same vaguely familiar chakra signature, and Akemi found herself relaxing into unconsciousness as hands lifted her into the air and another stroked itself across her head.


AN3: Well, there's the first chapter. I'll try to work on and upload chapters for this and BW more often once I've settled in, along with new one-shots and prompts for Voices. Thanks for reading!

AN4: It has been brought to my attention that my tendency to alternate perspective can cause some confusion over the course of this chapter. For those for whom this is an issue, the end of the first Akemi segment is set when Naruto is training in the Tree Climbing Technique alongside Sakura and Sasuke and the second begins near the end of the dual Naruto segments at the beginning of the chapter, whereas the first Naruto segment begins just after the scene wherein he befriends and aides Haku in the forest glade containing the herbs needed to help heal Zabuza.

AN5: Anyone who wants to critique or to suggest future elements of storyline or plot is welcome to do so, preferably in a PM in the case of such suggestions.

Special thanks and appreciation go out to InsaneScriptist and DocNan for their help!

Hope you enjoy the story, everyone!

TTYL