The Boy from the Woods

It has been now two days and Kakashi hasn't woken up yet, so Naruto had the boys busy with their physical training while...running laps on water as its harder than the Tree-Climbing anyway. Naruto on the other hand...

Was Dynamite Fishing.

Beforehand, she systematically kills Gato's goons nearby though. That, and she steals food because she knew full well the pain of hunger, until she found her mother's books and learned street smarts, and start using Henge while shopping, and ensuring no ninja inside to blow her cover. Thanks to learning street smarts, she's finally healthy, and have decent things to own.

But beside that...

' in kami-sama's name, did you steal straight from Gato's stores?' Tazuna asked Naruto incredulously, as she stole about ten sacks of rice, ten sacks' worth of condiments, seaweed, tofu blocks and she went as far as Dynamite Fishing to get all that fish.

'You can't expect your workers to work on a bridge hungry, can you?' Naruto drawled wryly. 'Have the women cook bentos or something for the respective families while we take care of...unwanted elements. That's all we can do until sensei gets better anyway. The boys will look after the construction, I look after the village.'

That was the plan, once the food was distributed out evenly. When its not enough, Naruto kept on stealing until everyone has food. As for the homeless, she and Tsunami opened a 'Kitchen Soup' booth, and cooked a chicken and egg soup with vegetables, tofu and meatballs. With food down their throats, and a real lunchbox for a change, the workers could work on the bridge with vigor.

On the third day, Kakashi woke up...and woke up to see an old face.

'Hey Kakashi, I can see now why your students asked for reinforcements!'

It was Gai. Gai came in and saw his state, even if he had heard beforehand from the kids. Injured muscles, fractures here and there, and chakra exhaustion that he couldn't even move.

'Wait...they asked for reinforcements?' Kakashi blurted out incredulously.

'To be honest, they have a good plan however, given who Zabuza is, it has only a 50 percent chance of working, and all of them will be maimed for life in the end. Well, Naruto-chan wouldn't thanks to her condition but Sai-kun and Sasuke-kun...' Gai sighed as they both have morbid scenarios in their heads. 'I came here alone as this is your mission to begin with. Unless you recover late, I will be the one dealing with Zabuza while the kids deal with the fake Hunter.'

'So they knew and figured it out on their own.' Kakashi smiled weakly. 'How they've grown. But...what is this...plan of theirs?'

When Gai told him, Kakashi palmed his face in incredulous dismay and disbelief. Sure that'll work, if only all three of them are at Naruto's level...but Sai and Sasuke are FAR from her level...they'll DIE!

Asking for reinforcements is indeed, wise. And for Hokage-sama to send Gai, Kakashi knew this case is as good as theirs and everybody lives.


'So kiddies, Maito Gai will temporarily replace me as your commanding officer. He is our reinforcement.' Kakashi smiled. 'And given his experience with weapons users, we have this in the bag and he's loads faster than Zabuza. So you three focus on the Hunter, OK?'

'With such confidence backing that up, then we can agree that we'll live after this week.' said Sai.


Fourth Day next morning...Gai joined Sai and Sasuke in bridge-guarding...with Gai helping out around and 'ordering' the boys to do the same instead of standing around, as a menial chore is also a good warm-up for the body, effectively making them instantly ready to strike without pulling a muscle...and practically spewing 'Springtime of Youth' propaganda that seriously freaks out the workers...

But they were definitely moving fast enough just so they can get him off their case.

In the meantime, Naruto was out sailing again to fish early that morning. They got too much rice but not much of meat. She caught Tako by loads, and had to stun them just so they can't escape while she's sailing for home base. On the way home, she came across a young girl picking up small plants to put in her basket. "This one apparently did NOT hear of the Kitchen Soup." she thought wryly. 'Nee, nee-san, are you from around here?' she asked, startling the girl while dragging two barrels of Tako.

'Er yes...?' the girl blinked, wondering what's in the barrels.

'I know things are bad in Nami no Kuni right now but since you're living off...grass,' the blonde cringed as she saw what's in the basket. 'I think you're not from the village I know.' Naruto deadpanned. 'You should pass by. You'll see a soup kitchen there and they give soup away for free, since nobody can buy food right now. Its loads better than...that.' she pointed at the basket.

'Oh, really? Thanks!' said the girl gratefully as Naruto opened up a barrel and took out three fairly-big Tako that freaked her out at first, and put them in the basket.

'Here, take this home with you...just be sure to whack them every now and then...they're smart little blighters who can squeeze in into anything just to run.' Naruto giggled. 'I have loads of trouble bringing them home in barrels...nevermind, kill them so they really wouldn't run.' she added quickly.

'Thanks, er...shinobi-san.' the girl smiled gratefully. 'But fishing...isn't that a job best left to men?'

'Gato took all forms of sea transport in a bid to choke the country into a slow death by starvation and poverty.' Naruto scoffed. 'They can't fish. Me who can walk on water can. I'm a shinobi after all. Well, they're counting on me for food, I gotta go, nee-san.'

'Thank you for the food, shinobi-san.' the girl smiled. 'By the way, I'm a boy.' s...HE added in a correcting manner.

Naruto stared. HARD.


The boy wasn't sure what to say to that, blindsided by that remark.


'I'm ba...hey! Not again!' that, was what everyone heard that morning, along with some whacks. 'Get back here!'

'I think you should help her out...' Tsunami choked out as the other ninja went to see what's wrong...and found themselves Tako-Hunting in the woods and thankfully, not far from Tazuna's house. After some trouble...

'Sheesh, you should have killed them after catching them.' said Sasuke wryly as they had one hell of a time catching wayward food. 'They're trouble!'

'I want them fresh!' Naruto protested. 'The pain's worth it!'

'If its fish its understandable but Tako are very smart despite how they look, Naruto-chan.' Gai chuckled. 'This makes me recall a D-Rank mission with my kids...we were hired to help out with fishing because a lot of people got sick that day and market stalls are empty...and we were unlucky enough to get Tako on our list...and we had to deal with this too. I remember Tenten spouting colorful language young ladies should not say...we better work on them fast after breakfast, they're more trouble than catching Tora!'

Needless to say, about three hundred octopuses got chopped up that day, and passed around.


'I'm back.' said the boy, pushing a small pushcart containing two bowls of soup with soup spoons and Tako Sashimi with soy sauce and chopsticks. Right beside it was sake, and coconut juice.

'Hm, that's something new from the usual slop you get.' Zabuza remarked from his bed.

'One of the genins I encountered by chance told me that there's a Soup Kitchen in Tazuna's village and they're giving away food for free.' said the boy. 'It tastes much better than what Mercenaries under Gato's payroll get, that's for sure...oh, she's even kind enough to give us some Tako, unaware of what I am, thankfully.'

'At least we get decent food for a change even if the soup looks weird.' Zabuza commented as he looked at the mild-yellow chicken and egg soup that has vegetables and meatballs. 'C'mon, let's take advantage in the next few days. After this, we're working and getting our pay. You're not the only one who doesn't like putting up with that midget's bullshit anymore.'


Since that day...the boy ensures that he gets encounters with Naruto a lot every morning, got to know their names and each other and she gives him something before she goes. Tuna, Sweetfish, Yellowtail, Halibut, and Salmon. And she gives him more than enough for two of them and they talk, and became somewhat friends. And just like Sasuke and Sai, Haku took notice of her legs due to her dangerously short shorts. When he asked why is she wearing such frighteningly short shorts is because she needed more movement freedom in her style, and some clothes get in her way. In time, she got used to being eyed at for her legs and she knows her teammates ARE looking, she's just pretending she's ignorant. Well, better her legs than her chest anyway.

Naruto unwittingly gave away information that Kakashi might not recover on time and they got reinforcements in Maito Gai. Whoopsie.


'Maito Gai eh? I've...heard of him.' said Zabuza tersely on the sixth day while stormily eating his food irritably.

'You know him how?' Zabuza was twitching in annoyance.

'Long before I met you and I was 16 back then, I have had the utter displeasure of teaming up with him on some mission before Yagura went crazy because our job happened to be similar and we both bit off more than we can chew at the time.' said Zabuza as he was shuddering. 'He just won't shut up about Springtime of Youth he keeps spewing, making crazy, pointless challenges, promising that if he loses, he does crazy consequences such as 500 laps in wherever we are on handstands, doesn't even know what a personal space is and a battery that never runs out regarding how much he talks. After dealing with him, I asked for a week off stress!' the boy sweatdropped. 'Why couldn't Kakashi ask for someone ELSE saner?!' that was a moan of exasperated complaint and the boy knew it, and Zabuza looked highly irritated. 'But despite how much of a loudmouth IDIOT he is...I hear he's become a taijutsu master and the fastest person in Konoha after the late Yondaime...I can't wait to quarter him to pieces just so I'll never see him again!'

'Zabuza-sama, your blood pressure is rising...' the boy squeaked worriedly while somehow staying amused. 'That's not good in your condition...'


And so, on the promised day...

'This is it you guys.' said Kakashi. 'Sai, Sasuke, you two will deal with the Hunter, Gai will deal with Zabuza. As a safety measure, Naruto will stay here and have a Kage Bunshin accompany you so if things get...downhill, she'll rush to reinforce you. But for now, we need a protector in the village.'

' of luck to both of us.' said Gai as the men left with Tazuna.

' sure about this, sensei?' Naruto asked Kakashi as she sat down with her teacher. 'The Hunter is unknown.'

'Yes but you're fast, don't worry.' Kakashi smiled. 'Because the boys forgot something important after we trained them hard.' he said, sounding disappointed and shook his head. 'They grew...overconfident of their abilities. And in the world of ninja, there's always someone better and stronger than you, so you should eat the humble pie while you still can, so you'll learn from mistakes and never underestimate anyone ever again. This is something a mission can teach them, you can't learn this from a sensei's lecture and nagging. I know you're well-disciplined considering Kushina-san's notes so I have no worries about you. No doubt she gave you the humble pie message in her diary and books.' he said, patting her head. 'You're almost ten minutes against me and you'll be soon only genin in rank only.'

'Sensei...' Naruto smiled rather shyly, embarrassed by the praise. 'You're too much.'

'I mean what I said. For now, stay focused and see if they'll need you or not.'



The Bridge...

'Hello again my youthful old friend!' Gai greeted cheerfully, causing Zabuza to twitch. 'It's been ten years but I hear you became an unyouthful nukenin? Why? I thought you wanted to be Mizukage? You can't do that while being a nukenin my youthful compadre!' his words surprised EVERYONE on the bridge.

'You think I have a choice considering how downhill the village went when the current one went crazy on us and killing off our bloodlines?' Zabuza growled. 'I need money to fund a goddamn rebellion to put someone decent on top! You think I enjoy working for that goddamn midget?!' he drew his sword. 'So for the sake of our rebellion, you will DIE.' Gai frowned as both men got ready into fighting stance.

'How unyouthful when ten years ago you were better than this!' Gai almost...pouted? 'Our interests clash this time old friend!'


'So uh boys, why not have a nice time with his young friend and have a jolly good time?' Gai grinned with his nice guy pose. 'If he's with Zabuza, I'm sure he's also the youthful character!'

Awkward silence...

'Youthful time...with him?' Sasuke blurted incredulously while looking at the Hunter and Sai...he was frozen stiff, unsure what to do. He never met Gai and just by hearing him speak blindsided the emotionally-impaired ROOT Agent with Gai the wrecking ball and Sai a concrete block that cracked.

'Er...can we make this quick?' Haku choked awkwardly. He had met many people in his life, just...not as weird as this one! And like Zabuza, he really didn't want to see him anymore after...this.


Three hours later...

'They're doing well...considering its been three hours now.' Naruto remarked happily. 'Its only thirty minutes to the bridge and its been quite some time now.'

'Hooo? Maybe they've seen how serious this is and took it seriously?' Kakashi mused hopefully. While over-confident, Kakashi knew he can count on Sai and his tactics to keep both of them alive.

However, right after she said that, she tensed. 'Oh, I need to go. My clone reported that they're running out of energy.'

'Go.' and Naruto ran off for the bridge at her best speeds. When she got to the bridge, she saw Gai and Zabuza duking it all out while she got there on time. Both of her teammates looked ready to pass out.

'Your arrival is...timely.' said Sai as Sasuke was passed out long ago and he was about to.

'Yeah...more training for you two when we get home...' Naruto smiled as she had two clones take them away. 'You did a good job lasting two and some hours. No ordinary Genin can ever achieve that unless they trained like then have a date with me.'

'So it would seem.' Haku mused in his mirrors while thinking, "Not good...if those two lasted long against me, what of her?" he was also on the verge of running out of chakra because his jutsu while horrifyingly effective, cost a lot. He would have to do other approaches. He shut off his mirrors to personally fight her.

'That're Haku, right?' Naruto mused thoughtfully as she got into fighting stance while holding a kunai. 'Never thought that cute kid would be Zabuza's partner.'

'As much as our interests was nice knowing you, Naruto-san.' said Haku. 'We would have been great friends.'

'That's then, shall we?' and next thing Sai knew, they were fast...too fast. He knew Naruto was fast but...THIS?

"It seems we are still lacking." Sai thought rather morosely. "Can we make it in time for the Chuunin Exams though?" he wondered aloud as the strongest in their team fought the Hunter she called Haku. They must have met when she's However, he saw one of his rats return and became an ink...warning on the floor. 'Naruto-san! Gato is nearby...with his army!'

'WHAT?!' Naruto and Haku burst out, startled by the revelation.

'I suppose that he wants to avoid paying us...we knew this was coming.' Haku swore. 'We just didn't want to believe it!'

'Well believe it now.' said Naruto wryly. 'We should ally for now in response to this...double-crossing?'

'I agree. I would but right now I'm out.' Haku sighed wearily. 'I'm just running on you on adrenaline.' Naruto groaned. That means she'll deal with this on her own!

'I can't count on the adults either so its just me. Hoo boy...' Naruto stretched and cracked her knuckles. 'Someone be there to pick me up after this.'

'Yes yes, we're still awake aren't we?' said Sai wryly as Naruto rushed into the mist...and next thing Haku and Sai knew, they heard...screams.

Screams of horrified men, that is, making them wonder what she did. But she came back...quite red all over in blood. But clearly not hers. Both boys' eyes widened as she came back victorious...but with a haunted small smile on her face.

'Looks like we'll live...another day.' and she fainted.