A girl runs down the path, being chased by trained ninja dogs. It just so happens that she was running in the direction of Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi. Sakura, seeing that the girl was being bitten to death, runs out to help her out. Using the ninja blades, she scares off the dogs. The frightened girl runs away, leaving Sakura and the others stunned. Shrugging the event off, they continue their journey, which was also in the direction the girl ran off to.

Sakura is curious about the girl. She was hoping to see her again. As fate would have it, they see her captured by slave traders. The team rescues her and kills the slave traders, who were easy enough to beat. The mysterious girl thanks them for their trouble. Kakashi now becomes curious of who she is. The girl explains her name is Kanaharu Ashori, who is not from Japan. At the age of nine, her parents were in deep debt and sold her off to help pay the bills. Ashori became frightened and untrusting to anyone. The team offers to take her in. She reluctantly agrees.

At the village, everyone is stunned to see this girl, who is obviously not from any village they know of. They are especially curious of where she came from, but Ashori refuses to tell, only stating that her country is more civilized than Japan is. Kakashi and Naruto are not interested in talking with her, but Sakura is. She tells Kanaharu-san she has never been through anything like she did, but Sakura is willing to be friends with Kanaharu-san. After some discussion, Kanaharu-san accepts, and asks Sakura to call her Ashori.

Two months later, after plenty of be rest and health care, Ashori is finally well enough to go to the ninja academy for the first time. She receives some new clothes from Sakura as a gift for being accepted into the ninja academy. For the first time, Naruto notices Ashori. Seeing her ninja outfit, he immediately recognizes her as an eligible member of the group. After a heated debate with Kakashi, who warns that her training has not even started, Kakashi finally accepts her, but forces Naruto not to tell anyone, including Ashori, until she finishes her years at the ninja academy.

Although she is quite a few years older than the other learning ninja, she quickly becomes popular, especially with the boys. Naruto notices this and becomes unexpectedly jealous. He walks Ashori home everyday to prevent the other students from doing the same, especially Konehameru, who has taken a special liking to Ashori. After a few months of awkward conversations on the way home, Ashori realizes Naruto likes her. Not only Ashori, but also Kakashi, Sakura, and Lady Tsunade realize this also. Kakashi constantly teases Naruto in front of Ashori, and Sakura becomes slightly jealous because it was her Naruto used to chase after all the time. Lady Tsunade has better things to do than to meddle in Naruto?s life.

Kanaharu Ashori quickly becomes the top of her class. In one short year, she manages to graduate from the ninja academy; Naruto is pleased, if only a little jealous, because it took him quite a few tries to pass the ninja academy. On the final walk home from the academy, Naruto happily reveals that Ashori will become part of the group the following day. He tells Ashori of the celebration he has waiting for her at his house. Ashori whole-heartedly declines the celebration as well as the spot on the team. She explains that Japan is not the place for her, and that she only stayed to learn combat skills so that she will never become a slave again. She vows to find her parents and make them suffer as much as she did, although she still clearly loves her parents. Crushed, Naruto begs her to allow him to come with Ashori. Ashori unwillingly agrees.

However, that night, she gives Naruto the slip and immediately heads for Sakura?s house. Once Ashori and Sakura meet, Ashori bids a fond farewell. Sakura is miserable; because Naruto told her the previous week that Ashori would become part of the team. Sakura was looking forward to another girl on the team. Ashori states she will miss Sakura, and tells Sakura to keep Naruto in line. With that, she disappears into the night, praying Sakura a good life.

Meanwhile, Naruto hurriedly looks for Ashori. He had a feeling she would run away. He thinks of all the reasons why she should stay, and prepares to discuss with her these reasons. Naruto recalls a time walking home from the academy, when Ashori says it must be wonderful and terrifying at the same time to do missions, and that only the brave and strong could complete such remarkable tasks. Just then, Naruto realizes that the true reason why Ashori left: she is afraid of commitment, and afraid of herself. Doubling his speed, he heads for the direction of Sakura?s house, to see if she knows where Ashori went off.

Halfway there, he meets up with Sakura on the streets. She pleads with him not to follow Ashori, and that this is her choice, not his. Sakura says Naruto is holding Ashori back because of selfish reasons: he wants Ashori to stay with him forever. Crying, she asks why Sakura cannot stay with Naruto forever. Naruto is stunned by her speech and comforts Sakura. He says that he will never forget his first love, Sakura. However, Ashori is more than a love interest to him. She is also a friend, and a family of sorts. Ashori does not belong in the village, but she belongs with Team Kakashi. That is why they must bring her back. Looking at Naruto, she sees that he really wishes for Ashori to come back, and she also desires to find her, for the sake of Naruto?s happiness, as well as Sakura?s.

They inform Lady Tsunade of Ashori?s disappearance. Lady Tsunade says that if they find her, she will personally find a mentor for Ashori. As a side note, she states that Ashori has the potential to become the next Hokage, to which Naruto prohibits. Sakura and Naruto, along with Kakashi, set out to find her in the nearby forests. Kakashi uses a ninjutsu to discover that Ashori is heading west. He also says that bandits are steadily approaching her, unbeknownst to Ashori. He exclaims that they hurry, for Ashori is still a genin, and not yet able to handle Level B bandits yet.

Ashori leaps from tree to tree, wondering if she is truly doing the right thing in leaving the Sakura and the others behind. She speculates what her life would be like if she stayed in the village and became a member of Kakashi?s team. She wonders what it would be like if Kakashi and Lady Tsunade, who had always acted in the place of her parents, suddenly disappeared from her life. Ashori also considered the fact that her only friends, Naruto and Sakura, were being left behind, never to be seen again. Feeling remorse, Ashori decides to turn back, but she was not paying attention. At that moment, three bandits advanced on her, threatening her life. Frightened, she has flashbacks of when Team Kakashi rescued her from the slave traders, and realized they would not be here to help now. She resolves to fight on her own, and after an extended struggle, she was knocked unconscious. Grinning, the bandits advanced, until Naruto showed up, closely followed by Kakashi and Sakura.

TO BE CONTINUED? (and edited)