Chapter 8:

Sakura was in the middle of a critical situation.

Well, to be more precise, she was in the middle of two critical situations—namely, her two teammates. She felt like the only remaining person on the opposite side of a Royal Rumble, and if that was a right analogy, she might as well add that it was a wrestling match in the middle of a snowstorm.

On the (imaginary) red corner, sulky and arrogantly silent as usual, sat Uchiha Sasuke. She just couldn't believe all the animosity she was getting right now over having him as a teammate. Sakura didn't have a way to react to that fact that couldn't be perceived to be bad. If she seemed happy over the unexpected turn of events—which she was not, mind you, his legions of fangirls would have reason to unsheathe their claws and attack her viciously with snide remarks of how she didn't really deserve to be his teammate; that she was there only to balance out the capability of the team. Remarks which Sakura didn't mistakenly interpret as "You're weak, that's why you're there. Don't be so conceited." If she looked angry or even a bit despondent over having him as a teammate (but really, who could blame her, when Sasuke's conversational skills were as sophisticated as a flea's), the fangirls would take offense on the derogatory reaction against their idol. So Sakura kept her face blank most of the day, even when she was receiving curious looks from everywhere.

On the blue corner, grinning at what she guessed was a mosquito trying to suck blood from a stone, was Sai. She couldn't remember ever hearing what his last name was. He seemed friendly enough, smiling at anything and everything, which was supposed to relieve Sakura of some of the tension she was feeling. Ironically, it was doing quite the opposite. Having been the reigning queen of guile herself not too long ago, she knew how to distinguish a genuine person from a fake one. And his smiles were that—fake. But for some reason, Sai had realized that she knew, and had been quite chummy—insert sarcasm here—in his replies to her polite queries. Questions of"How many siblings do you have?" were answered with "None that I'll be introducing to you.", all partnered with that constant condescending smile that was starting to annoy her.

And lastly, in the middle of the ring, was a measly girl. Well, she knew she was going to have to make all the effort to ensure their impeccable teamwork. She couldn't expect Sasuke and Sai to get along well, not if first impressions were accurate. Having only been introduced by Kakashi-sensei, they had stared a full three seconds at each other, Sasuke glaring and Sai grinning, and promptly ignored each other ever since. Sakura slapped her forehead with her palm. If only she wasn't here, if only Naruto—

Sakura sighed. There was no use thinking about it now. If she wanted to be mediator, she would have to start now. She thought it better to begin with Sasuke. They knew each other, had experiences that linked them personally, and she was on first-name basis with his back—a memory that started her blushing. She had now quite grasped how to act around Sasuke, which, ideally, was to remain silent. But that wouldn't help at all, would it? So she started on the next best subject: his passion for excellence. Maybe if she talked about something that would actually make him interested, like getting stronger or whatever, he'd actually listen.

"Sasuke-kun, do you mind if we set the training time for tomorrow to 5am?"

"Hn."

"Kakashi-sensei said we should just set the time ourselves and tell him later on what we've decided, but I think we should take his opinions into consideration. After all, he's the one training us, and therefore he's the one who knows how exhausting it can be. We can't ignore schoolwork as well."

"Hn."

"Are you listening, Sasuke-kun?"

"Hn."

"There's a bird coming at you, Sasuke-kun!"

Red flag there—bright, bright red. Sakura didn't bat an eye when Sasuke glared at her. Maybe she was growing immune to his glares. After three seconds, she flinched. Ok, maybe not. Well, at least she got an answer, just not the right one. Sakura sighed, and promptly heard a snort from the other side.

"I don't see you doing any better." She remarked with explicit disgust.

"You shouldn't try so hard. It really isn't impressive." All accompanied with the trademark smirk.

Sakura seethed. Sasuke's indifference was tolerable; thisguy was not.

"Maybe you can start shooting your mouth off after you contribute something productive to this supposed discussion of our future as a team."

"I can at least contribute more than you can."

"…" Sakura looked down dejectedly. 'I don't doubt it.'

And so, silence reigned once again.


"Do you think I should have left well enough alone?"

Kakashi blinked. He had been reporting on the status of the current S-class missions, but he knew that the old man was referring to something completely different.

"Sir, you are the Hokage. Even if I did tell you that, it wouldn't matter one bit."

Sarutobi chuckled. Of course, in a way, Kakashi had meant just that. "I don't quite think I did fair justice to that boy—giving his earned position to someone else, all for the benefit of the school."

Kakashi's visible eye narrowed. "Naruto can find his way to his team. I'm concerned about that boy we're putting with Team 7. He doesn't seem to mind at all that we know he's a spy. In fact, I don't think he even does anything to hide it."

"Of course he doesn't. It's his purpose."

"To what end?"

"That's what we'll have to wait to find out."


I'm really REALLY sorry to everyone who's been waiting for this story to be updated. I have NO excuses (other than the fact that I'm really uber duper busy with school, part time job, friends, performances, etc., which aren't really excuses since I think that all writers should finish stories they start). Fear not, I still love Naruto, and I'm still hanging on to every chapter released. This part has been done for quite some time now, I just didn't want to post it because it was still incomplete. But after reading a few of the reviews (thank you, Ynnah, and a TON of other readers I can't mention anymore), I decided to post this just so you knew I wasn't giving up this story yet. I can't promise when the complete Chapter 8 will be done, but I assure you that I'm still giving as much time as I can to keeping this story alive, one chapter at a time.

Thank you so much, and your reviews really inspire me! Thanks for continually telling me to update. :)