Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine.

Chapter 7: A Sudden Meeting

"Thank you all for coming," Tsunade announced, standing on the small lectern in the front of the hall. In front of her were the assembled heads of the various departments and a large majority of the available Jounin. "The reason why I've called you all here is…"

A door banged at the back, and Hyuuga Neji hurried in, followed by Rock Lee. "My apologies for being late," the Special Jounin muttered, as heads swivelled to face his pale eyes. Rock Lee, as usual, positioned himself at the back entrance, guarding against any unwelcome eavesdroppers. His devotion to his duties was impeccable, even though his fashion sense left much to be desired.

Tsunade cleared her throat to regain everyone's attention. "As I was saying, the reason why I've called you all here is to discuss the new situation we now have on our hands. Last night, the Scroll of Kinjutsu was stolen by one of our very own Jounin. Hunter-Nin Team 2 has recovered his body, but he seemed to have been drugged and has lapsed into a mild coma. One of the Hunter-Nins has also been similarly affected. What is of more importance, however, is the fact that the team failed to recover the scroll. Apparently whoever had drugged our ninja has also managed to escape successfully."

Shocked whispers and murmurs arose from the assembly. They knew the implications of this, all right. "Hokage-sama, this cannot be tolerated! We must send out all our ninja to retrieve the missing scroll and punish the thieves!"

She sighed. "Unfortunately, it's not that simple. As many of you know, the alliance between the countries is slowly breaking up. There have been rumours of a conspiracy that is behind the misunderstandings we've been having with the other hidden villages. Furthermore, the Fire Country's Lord is also very old, and expected to die at any time. As the succession is not clear, the situation is ripe for political instability and chaos to erupt. With things as they are now, we need to provide the other countries with a show of strength. Sending out all our ninja to track down a scroll that had been stolen from supposedly the most secure place in the village would be a sure sign of weakness."

"What then can we do?" a voice arose from the crowd.

"Uchiha Sasuke, as head of Konoha's Police Force, I want to put you in charge of the investigation surrounding the theft of the Kinjustu scroll. Remember, secrecy and subtlety is important. We cannot let anyone outside of this village know that the scroll has been stolen – not even all of our own. The fewer people who know about this, the better."

Sasuke nodded, once, his brain already working on the task ahead, and planning his investigation. First, he would need to examine the scene of the theft, then interrogate the traitor ninja – didn't Rock Lee say something about Sakura being needed to treat him? – then scout around the area where the Hunter-Nin team found him…

"As for the rest of you, I want all Jounin to be put on alert for any sign of the conspiracy that is undermining the Coalition, while on their missions," Tsunade continued. "Furthermore, the number of missions will be doubled in order to reassure clients about Konoha's strength." No one uttered any protests. As Tsunade glanced around the room, she couldn't help but feel pride at the calm, determined faces that met her gaze. They all knew their duties as Konoha ninjas. Of such stuff were the shinobi of the Leaf made.

"Any further questions?" she asked. When no one raised their hand, she dismissed them. The assembled ninja quickly filed out of the room, leaving Tsunade alone. She sighed, and let herself slump on top of the lectern. This last act of sabotage was one in a long line of actions that she had been trying to trace. Things never got any easier, and the political manoeuvrings were beginning to wear her down. She could feel the dream of universal peace – the dream that she and all the previous Hokages of this village had fought for – beginning to slip through her fingers as the various countries were shrouded in a veil of conspiracy and growing mistrust. I'm getting too old for this, she thought. With another sigh, she remembered that she should check the patients at the Hospital, where – hopefully – Sakura would have found a cure by now. And after that, a meeting with the Hyuuga Clan, and after that…

Tsunade left the room, her head bowed down with the burdens of the Hokage.

Tenten dragged her feet to the forest clearing where she was supposed to meet her team. She had gone on for almost two full days without any sleep, first coming back from a late-night mission, then going for an exhausting training session with Neji, and finally having to attend Hokage-sama's meeting. Normally, it wouldn't have affected her so much, but she had been working hard throughout the month, trying to keep up with the three most energetic Genin that ever existed. The administration must have just balanced them according to ability. Somehow, she doubted that personalities had been taken into account when they formed the teams.

There was Inuzuka Hitaro, who was rumoured to be even louder than Kiba when he was at his age. He was brash, overconfident, and extremely arrogant. The dog didn't help, either. Instead of going for a small breed, like Kiba's Akamaru, Hitaro had chosen one of the largest and most impressive-looking puppies that his family raised. Sekumaru resembled a small wolf – and he was only half a year old as yet. As far as she could tell, he was as arrogant as his master. Between the two of them, they formed a small Mutual Appreciation Society all on their own.

Then there was Morino Aki, the son of Morino Ibiki and Mitarashi Anko. Those two names alone spelled trouble. Aki inherited all of his mother's drive and his father's intense personality. Which made him very, very scary. His bloodlust tended to overcome him whenever they were assigned to anything remotely resembling killing. He would stab, and stab, and STAB the target – long after there was nothing left to stab. All while wearing a half-maniacal grin on his face, too. His personality would veer erratically between being calm, cool and collected, to a half-deranged, bloodthirsty monster within a matter of seconds.

And the last member of the trio was possibly the most difficult to deal with. While Sarutobi Kaori didn't have much in the way of actual ninja talent, she was a holy terror at mischief. One minute, she could be smiling at you with that angelic face of hers, and the next minute you would find yourself drenched in water, covered in mud, and sunk 5 layers deep in the most embarrassing genjutsu possible. Tenten recalled vividly how she had nearly been tricked into walking down the main street of Konoha naked. If it wasn't for the fact that Kaori had very little chakra capacity to sustain the elaborate genjutsu techniques her mother had taught her, she very well could have made her sensei the laughing-stock of the entire village.

So to try and take the edges off their youthful energy, Tenten had signed them on for double the workload that most of the other Genin trios faced – which had led to the second problem. They absolutely loved going on missions! What had begun as a remedial measure to cure them of personality problems now became their drug of choice. Almost every day, they would pester her to go on missions, missions and more missions. It didn't matter what the mission was, as long as they did it quick and accurately. That was one thing she could be proud of – they had never failed a mission yet. And her team had the highest number of missions completed among all of this year's Genin teams. But still… being a shinobi of the Leaf wasn't just about completing missions. They hadn't yet learned the most important lesson of all. How could she teach it to them so that they would remember it forever? She continued to ponder as she entered the clearing.

Sure enough, the three of them were waiting for her, impatiently fidgeting and wanting to be off on their mission, even though it was half an hour before they were scheduled to meet. Tenten sighed. It was going to be a very long day.