Well, I suppose it's about freakin time I updated. I had about 3/4 of this written for the longest time, got stuck, and stopped. In that time I wrote numerous DBZ and Phoenix Wright fics. Phoenix Wright is awesome. And hot.
Naruto exited the room and handed the key back to the numerous ninja attempting to open the doors. Naruto walked straight to Tsunade's office to report his findings to her, or most of them anyway. He hoped that he took long enough so that Sakura wouldn't still be there, but luck wasn't in Naruto's favor today. Arate was waiting outside the office door to ward off anyone who tried to go inside.
"Sakura won't say a word to us Naruto-san. Neji said that he saw everything through the walls with his Byakugan." Arate said quietly as Naruto nodded to him that he understood.
He walked in to Tsunade flipping through the file that Naruto had handed to Arate. From the look on her face, she had seen all the evidence but needed a confession from Sakura. Figures, now she shuts her mouth.
"Excuse me for interrupting. I have a report." Tsunade shot Naruto a look that said that she was disappointed that he would do this. At this point, Naruto wasn't about to discuss his course of action and didn't care enough either way. It's not over until it's over.
"I've received a verbal confession from the two Sound spies. The information gathered from Hangyakusha Uragiri was indeed accurate. They were using the same jutsu that Orochimaru uses to diguise himself by creating a false skin over him using the chakra of the person he's immitating to hide his essence. They confirmed that Haruno Sakura was recommended as their personal medic to conceal any secret of their true selves."
"Recommended by whom?" Tsunade asked immediately.
"By the man they reported to. But they claimed that they didn't know who he was. They said whenever they would meet with him, he would hide his face."
"Sounds like Orochimaru really thought this through. He wanted to make sure his spies only had indirect contact, in case we caught on. That person probably reports back to several others before the information gets to Orochimaru." Tsunade closed the file and stood up. Shikamaru then drew his own conclusions.
"We can assume then that if this 'superior' of theirs knew of Sakura and her talents, then he must know her, or is possibly in the village as well." Shikamaru made sense to Tsuande.
"Naruto? Do you have any leads?"
"I don't think we need to worry anymore, since no more of our information can leak out through them, but I'm willing to bet Yakushi Kabuto. During our first attempt at the Chuunin exams, he directly assisted our team in completing the second trial in the Forest of Death. He was there to gather information on Konoha ninja for Orochimaru. Though I'm certain his main concern was assessing Uchiha Sasuke, he gathered information about us as well." Tsunade couldn't deny the truth, but something didn't add up.
"Naruto, that was before Godaime even became the Hokage of this village and before Sakura had any training in medical ninjutsu. How would he know that she's a medic now?" Neji always asked the hardest questions to answer, but Naruto had already thought this through.
"Kabuto is a medic as well. As he gathered information on us using other Sound ninja as bait, Sakura displayed her extraordinary ability in chakra channeling, control and application. He could see that her abilites would take her far as a medic, and he also knew of how to manipulate her." Tsunade and Neji both nodded, satisfied with Naruto's explanation. Naruto sighed, wondering how he thought of all that and convinced them all. Tsunade then stood up straight and looked directly at Sakura.
"What do you have to say for yourself, Sakura?"
"Somebody once told me that those who break the rules are trash, but those who don't care for their friends are even worse trash."
"Sakura, there's a difference between helping those who need you, and helping a traitor who's assisting our enemies. From participating in all this, you're no better than them. You've deceived your village for the sake of a fugitive traitor and your actions will be cause for severe punishment. Neji, Shikamaru, Shizune. Escort her to a holding cell while I discuss her punishment with the counsil. Naruto, you stay here."
Neji and Shikamaru grabbed Sakura gently by the shoulders and walked her out of the room. Shizune followed behind. Standard escort procedure. Her hands were still bound, and in case she attempted to attack Neji or Shikamaru, Shizune would be there to stop her from the rear to attack her pressure point from behind and knock her out. As they left the room, Tsunade motioned to Arate to follow them. Naruto stayed where he was.
"Lock the door." Tsunade commanded as Naruto let out a breath and locked the door behind them all and came back to stand in front of her on the other side of her desk.
"I'm surprised at you, Naruto. Sakura quoted Kakashi just now."
"Are you suggesting that Kakashi-sensei would've been O.K. with the reasoning behind what she's done?"
"No. I'm suggesting that he would've been more sympathetic towards why she did it, but not agreed with what she has done. He would've tried harder to understand."
"So a traitor with good intentions isn't still a traitor then? Is that what you're saying?"
"No. A traitor is a traitor regardless of their motives, but Naruto, she'll probably never forgive you for this."
"I'm prepared for that. She knows that my ultimate goal is Hokage. The Hokage wouldn't watch his allies betray his family."
"The Hokage doesn't cast his friends aside!" Tsunade practically yelled, getting tired of him having the last word to everything she said.
"The Hokage knows who he can and cannot depend on!" Naruto yelled back, slamming his hands on her desk and kneeling down to get in her face. He calmed himself a bit before he continued.
"Sandaime cast Orochimaru away regardless of his feelings for his former student. But he did what needed to be done for the good of the village. Do you disagree that what you're doing right now to Sakura is no different?"
Tsunade didn't answer, but stared at him with a stern look in her eye. She was angry that he had compared Sakura to Orochimaru, and herself to Sandaime.
"I request no further missions for the rest of this week to fully recover from the poison."
"You can have whatever you want, just get out of my sight." Tsunade remained calm as she dismissed him, which surprised Naruto, but he simply nodded, bowed and walked out the door.
Once he was out of the Hokage's office, he didn't know where to go next. He could go home, and actually rest, but too much was on his mind now to sleep. He couldn't believe that he convinced them all with just common sense. He figured at least Neji would've caught on. Naruto supposedly, was a master of fooling Byakugan at this point. Had he done the right thing by not revealing to them what he truly had in mind? He still didn't know for sure if right and wrong was the proper criteria to base his decision on, so he simply continued walking, oblivious to where he was going until he actually got there.
One person who, at one time, was more confused than any he had ever known. Another person he managed to verbally beat sense into. Konoha's artist shinobi. Sai. Perhaps he did know where he was going, but came here on instinct. Naruto knocked on the door softly and listened carefully for shuffling behind the door. He had no way of telling if Sai was home either way. But he figured if anybody was able to set feelings aside and carry out his duty, it was him.
Sai had set aside his duty as a shinobi for a personal goal once, however, it was for the sake of another. For Naruto's sake. Naruto wasn't sure if Sai had made a smart decision, or if he was blinded by obligation. Perhaps he should've killed Sasuke that day, if he could. He and Naruto would probably not care for each other at this point if he had, but he always did hear adults say, "you'll thank me someday".
Sure enough, while Naruto was in thought about his friend, Sai had peeped through a tiny hole in the door and confirmed the identity of his visitor. He opened the door and greeted Naruto with a warm smile. The same smile he always had plastered on his face, but instead of it being a fake, emotionless grin, it was real. Real smiles were somewhat new to Sai, but he was getting better, as was his socializing skills. Naruto had to smile back, as this was his first time feeling happy in the last few days. Thinking back on meeting Sai, learning to get along with him, and all else they had learned from each other made him momentarily forget what had just happened.
"Good evening, Naruto. Please come in." Naruto laughed as he kicked off his shoes and set them on the mat inside.
"You know, nobody says "good evening". It's for geezers. Just say hi." Naruto informed Sai with a small laugh.
"I suppose you can't learn everything from books, then." Sai answered with a slight blush.
"Sure you can. Everything but slang."
Sai and Naruto shared a few more laughs as they sat at Sai's table and sipped at tea. Most of them were tales of various missions that were too difficult for Genin and Chuunin, but too easy for Jounin. Escorting mimes so they wouldn't be spit on was one of Naruto's chronicles that Sai found amusing. This continued until there was a silence between them. It was the silence Naruto was waiting for, but not anticipating.
"So, you heard, didn't you? Naruto said after a few seconds.
"About your most recent mission? I don't know about it in detail."
"To make a long story short, Orochimaru had spies stationed in the village and Sakura knew about them." Sai didn't seem phased by that, until he sighed loudly and shut his eyes, obviously to prevent from showing any emotion.
"Is that so? What a shame."
"They were using Sasuke to manipulate her, but I was disappointed she didn't do something about it sooner. She was the only person who knew."
"For a shinobi with a strong mind like her, it's a surprise they could do that so easily."
"Sai, she had a choice between the man of her dreams and her village."
"I suppose what the books say about a woman's heart are true then." Naruto felt he was ready to tell Sai.
"I found out, and turned her in." Naruto looked Sai in the eyes to see what he was thinking it before he spoke.
"I learned through Anbu that once you make a decision, don't think back on it. Just keep going that way. You chose that path, so continue. Don't backtrack to correct anything, or you'll just lose time. What's done is done." Sai finally said. Naruto learned the same thing through Anbu, but didn't find his advice to be helpful at all. Sai continued before Naruto could comment.
"Naruto, what you taught me years ago was the difference between a friend and an alliance. A comrade is somebody you're obligated to protect by common cause, but a friend is somebody that you would protect by any means necessary, no matter what. However, your problem and Sakura's problem seem to be the ability to distinguish a friend, from an alliance." Sai stopped and let this sink in.
"Friends come and go, Naruto. They move on, people grow apart, go their own ways. And that's just what happened. I admit you've probably had a better grasp of this than Sakura did. She thinks of Sasuke every moment of every day since his departure. If I remember correctly, you enlisted in Anbu for Sakura's sake, a promise you made to her to bring him back to the village, yes? You figured meeting with Sasuke would be more likely if you were a hunter nin, but did you really think of him every day while in Anbu?"
"Honestly. No, I didn't. Mostly, the mission at hand was my top priority."
"As it should be. Sasuke made his own choice. Sakura can make excuses for him all she wants, but that doesn't change the facts. Thinking back on your last encounter with him, would you really call his treatment of you that of a friend?"
"Do I really have to answer that?"
"It doesn't matter. He might've been a friend a long time ago, but now he's not even an alliance. He's a foe. But from what I've heard about him from others that knew him, he was always more concerned with his own motives than anything." Before Sai could continue, Naruto continued for him.
"Figures. The only time Sasuke ever did something for me, he said he didn't know why he did it. He said his body just moved. That was the same day that I was told that there were two types of shinobi. Users, and tools. I suppose in Sasuke's eyes, we were a temporary way of making him stronger. When a more convenient source came around, he deserted us."
"Which are you, Naruto? A user, or a tool?" Naruto didn't even need a moment to think, he answered immediately.
"A tool. I serve my village. Nothing else matters."
"Sakura is a tool as well, but not a tool at the disposal of her village."
Naruto knew what Sai was getting at. He really didn't want to hear anymore.
"I know what I have to do Sai, but I don't know if what I plan to do is right." Sai let out a short breath.
"I have to ask, Naruto. Are you sure it's him?" Any sign of understanding left Sai.
"Yes. Without a doubt." Again, without having to think of a response. He didn't need to know who Sai was talking about either. It was eminent.
"How can you be so sure?"
"He only thinks about one person. And that person's mission is me."
"So he stationed himself close to the village so he could wait for him to come after you again?" Naruto nodded.
"What are you going to do?"
"First talk, then decide what to do depending on how he answers."
"And if he refuses to talk?"
"Like I said, I'll decide then." Naruto still didn't know if his plan was smart, and hated having Sai ask so many questions he couldn't answer.
"Will you go alone?" Sai asked with a worried tone behind his voice.
"It's not what you think. It's not personal this time. It's duty." Sai seemed comforted by Naruto's answer.
"Good luck then. Take this with you." Sai took out a scroll and quickly wrote the word 'friend' in kanji and handed it to him.
Well, that all for now. Phoenix Wright is awesome. And hot.