Report at Sunrise

A pack of wolves charged in as the tigers met them head on, Anko was kicking herself at how she could be so oblivious. The beast tore into each other Naruto shot down the few that broke through, an impressive feat really never wasting a single arrow. In spite of this he eventually ran out, Anko nailed one wolf at the base of the neck as it dove at him. Responding in kind he kicked up the kunai that had winged the tiger cub and shot forward; severing another's jugular vein before it made a meal of her. Once the dust settled the wolves retreated to lick their wounds deciding such small prey wasn't worth any more loss. Sighing heavily Naruto moved to retrieve his arrows looking over the tigers as they gathered around their cub again.

Nodding to himself that their wound would heal well enough on their own he went about skinning the twelve or so bodies left behind, storing away a couple of them to cure the meat later. The rest of them went to the tigers to keep up their strength they would be here for a while. He cleansed his arrows of blood as best he could and sat before the cub waiting for the predators he knew would be coming as night fell. Meanwhile Anko was feeling anxious with the darkness came exponential worse chances of survival here. "The intent you're projecting is making you a bigger target, you're a ninja the darkness is your friend." Growling through grit "How, do you expect to live through the night guarding the cub!" she was only more angered when she heard the distinct sound of chuckling "…if you can't rely on your eyes cast them aside, focus your other senses and react accordingly. It won't be easy, but baptism by fire should be nothing new to a ninja."

Strangely amused she steeled herself for what was to come "If we die here, I'll curse you for all time." "At least I'll have some company." It was with identical smirks they faced the next wave of predators, this night would prove to be quite the tale to tell in the legend that was Naruto Uzumaki. By morning the field was caked in blood and ever more fallen predators; the pungent stench of death warded off any more curious beasts. Terror was the only way to define the grotesque scene when all was said and done. Two figures stood predominantly, one before the only patch of earth not touched by blood where the small cub lay; surrounded by big cats, their fur nearly dyed rouge. The other stood in the thick of it all heaving breaths as the adrenaline wore down.

The figure near the cub pulled a rag from his pockets to scrub the caked blood from his face doing the same with his hands, revealing himself as Naruto. The other wiped its face using the inside of its coat showing Anko. Naruto ignoring his fatigue knelt down to examine the cub and was glad to see that the aloe/goldenseal wrap had worked like a charm. The cub wasn't a hundred percent but he could be moved, after handing the cub off to its mother he sealed his bow and made for the nearest exit; in his current state it would be wise to stay.

Anko trailed after him only to see him cover himself in mud and somewhere along the path dive into a stream, given his age she wasn't too surprised he didn't know how to walk on water. Luckily for Naruto he came up all but spotless, which left Anko somewhat miffed about being covered in blood and sweat. She watched him scale the fence casually strolling through the gate…to lose as she looked around the clearing surrounding training ground 44. Blowing off the blond for now, she made to report to the Hokage. Halfway to the village walls Naruto was running headed for the lands just behind the Hokage monument; keeping to the ground to avoid shinobi in the treetops. Working his way around he came into the village from behind curling up in his deer skin blanket in the shadow of the mountain.

About an hour later Anko was reporting to the Hokage her appearance set Hiruzen on edge, this sort of thing hadn't been seen since the last war. Gathering himself the old proved every bit the leader he really was as he demanded a report. Her story was troubling to say the least but the question was "…where is he now?" Anko looked away a moment before answering "I lost him, as soon as he left the forest it was like he disappeared." This disturbed the room even more, but Hiruzen took it in stride retrieving his crystal ball for the Toomegane no Jutsu (Crystal Ball/Telescope Jutsu 'oo' pronounced 'ou'). Focusing on Naruto's chakra signature the crystal ball revealed Naruto nearby resting behind the monument "Neko keep an eye on him, bring him to me when he wakes up." Around noon Naruto awoke to a familiar presence and waited for it to make itself known; seconds later Neko appeared in a swirl of leaves. Glancing up at the sun he greeted the Anbu "Afternoon Neko-chan, I take it the Old Man wants to see me?"

Nodding in reply to his question Neko watched him drape the deerskin over his shoulders and gather some burdock before returning to her side. Internally pleased to see that he had put the survival manual she left him to good use, she placed a hand on his shoulder and shunshined away. In the office Naruto faced down Hiruzen for a moment before relenting "…ask away." Tensions only rose during their little back and forth

"Anko tells me you've been inside training ground 44."

"…so the snake lady's name is Anko, and yes I was."

"You realize you could've-"

"Yeah Anko-chan lectured me too; I'm well aware.

The Third massaged his temples for moments "…why exactly were you there?"

"I decided to go camping for my birthday." The way he spoke made everyone in the room cringe.

In a more sympathetic tone the old man addressed some greater concerns "What about your ANBU detail?" A mirthless chuckle echoed through the office "I'm curious about that myself, for the elite guards of the village their response time is pretty slow in preventing a lot of the unfortunate accidents that I seem to attract; not to mention how easy it is to lose them, then again I have spent most of my life dodging your shinobi and villagers." Silence reigned, putting aside the fact that a seven year old was evading was ANBU level ninja that he had to was dreadfully depressing.

"Naruto, you seemed so well the last time I saw you and now this." he had spent the morning with the boy on his birthday.

"I'm just fine Old Man; I'd just prefer not to provoke people who seem hostile towards my very existence."

The Old Man grudgingly accepted that "…and your little adventure with Anko."

"Like you said it's do or die in there, I may accept it but I'm in no hurry. Her stray kunai nearly put down a cub, you know what came next. I lived with those tigers in the forest, I wasn't about to let one die if I could help it; every living creature deserves a fair shot at life."

Giving his 'grandfather' a moment to take that in he continued "Don't beat yourself up over this, the paperwork will pile up." Walking up to Hiruzen's desk he set the burdock down before walking away "…skip the tobacco and have some tea, it's better for you; we can finish this later." he spoke leaving the office. The Third deflated upon his departure his gaze falling on the burdock "…I hate to say it… but he's right." Out of sight, out of mind they say; the blonde's lack of public appearances in the last few year corresponded with a decrease in civil unrest. In his own way, he made the elder's job a lot easier, particularly with the council.

From the time he'd left Naruto made his way to the monument and sat just beyond the horizon. A wistful smile crossed his face as he realized he had gone full circle, departing from the monument into the forest and returning here when he couldn't remain any longer. Naruto spent the rest of the day meditating, taking in the world around and drawing himself inwards then reversing that process, envisioning himself as part of the flow. This introspection continually drew him to his chakra core and it flow in relation to everything else. 'Hey Kurama, do you think it would be possible to separate our chakras?' An intrigued fox considered the idea "It's not impossible, but such a task would take a great deal of time and discipline." 'No hurry'

The rest of that that month was much to the same with Naruto occasionally paying a visit to the tigers of the forest of death. In fact the only eventful thing was when he was called in to finish his story in collaboration with Anko.

"…so Naruto on with the story."

"You know I went into the Forest of Death to lay low for my birthday, before that I managed to find a shop that would take my business. I bought my bow there and later ran into a streak of tigers. They accepted me and I lived among them."

"Why the sudden interest in archery?"

"I've managed well enough gathering food in the woods, but to maintain proper health I need more than the occasional beef ramen and remains of dead prey. Unfortunately, there was someone else hunting in those woods; wasn't very good though…the deer was left to bleed out. I salvaged what I could and in my time in the forest worked so that I wouldn't make that mistake."

"That explains reports of your accuracy with a bow, why have you been foraging in the woods you haven't been squandering your allowance have you?"

"Honestly, I don't trust the merchants not to poison me and rip me off; I'm only able to forage now because someone was kind enough to leave me a survival manual after poisoned myself years ago."

Anko was beginning to like this kid, she had heard of that attack and it seems he took it all in stride. Looking after himself when everyone else was against him. Furthermore she had a great time torturing the bastard once he sobered up.

She was bought out of her thoughts when Naruto continued "I've just been saving up my allowance since I don't have much use for it right now."

"…Troubling, and your account of the battle."

"I got pretty comfortable while I was there, that didn't mean there was no danger though. Survival meant that I had to develop my senses further, even among the relative safety of the tigers. So when night fell I just closed my eyes and focused the rest of my senses outward-"


The next few hours they went panthers and even some spiders that were drawn out of their nest. Naruto maintained his guard positioning his body over the cubs' calming his mind with each breath he took in the scent of the creatures around him and focused his hearing listening for their hearts. As the panthers closed in on him he knocked three arrows, he would have to be quick or they would pounce so he resolved himself to take down multiple targets at once.

He was already drawing three more arrows twisting his hips around to fell even more as the panthers collapsed. A perimeter had been established and most of the panthers were wary of moving beyond it; but his arrows wouldn't last forever. By now he had already lost a fair amount of them warding off giant spiders, unable to target the weak spots of their exoskeleton without his sight and refused to project his chakra with the risk of Anko sensing it.

So he did what he could, scaring them off with warning shots. One bold spider charged him and he was forced to brace himself and guard with his long bow. Straining under the arachnids strength Naruto reached for one of his last arrows and felt around for a soft spot in its underbelly, once he found it he jammed the arrow in as hard as he could. The spider toppled with a screech drawing the others, acting quickly Naruto kicked it away. It landed in a pack of panthers which resulted in the spiders preying on the panthers. Faced with such a threat what was left of them fled; and the spiders once they were satisfied retreated to their nest just hours before dawn.

Flashback End

Summing up his tale Naruto added "…someone should clean that up by the way; the blood will whip the animals into frenzy making it even more dangerous." Anko nodded in agreement before speaking up "If that's all can we go now Hokage-sama?" at the Third's nod Naruto left the office with Anko taking him out for some dango.